Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Writing the Unwritable (Or: Three Strikes and You're Out)

You have to be tough in life, to develop a hide that will repel blows, both to the body and to the ego, otherwise you end up crumpled (or crinkled, as my gay friends playfully suggest).

Seems that in the last thirty years, I have met every manner of maniac and weirdo there is to meet, though every now and again I meet a Newfoundlander who stil throws me a curve.

Sample of Newfie humour, usually directed to the Ontario guy's general incompetence:
"You're so stupid, you'd f*ck up the Lord's prayer--if you knew it."

And: "My mom was too poor, so me auntie had me."

But deep down, when push comes to shove, it is the Newfie I would rely on both for friendship and a sense of humour that goes beyond ordinary bounds of taste, forget political correctness: "I don't care if it rains or freezes.
"I'm pissed off with the works of Jesus."

A Newfie somehow gets you back to sanity, even if he does it like a chiropractor--by snapping your spine.
Humour in a sacriligeous vein. They been here 400 years, most of it hard luck and they seem to know how to spit into the very jaws of Moby Dick. And all the while just hankerin' to be back on the boats, that Squid-jiggin' ground. Up and down the waves, the only life worth living. Or dying for.

So it was the Newfies that brought me back to sanity after meeting a series of real assholes, who ragged me, bagged me, and darn near shagged me.

Thirty years ago, I lost wife, money, kids, jockstrap and sanity when I went off to Mexico to write a novel, coming back with a hypoglacemic girlfriend from California whom nobody liked, though she was the spit image of a young
Natalie Wood and had had enough therapy, enough belief in pleasure as therapy to put up with my demented demands.
Was I happy with the sylph?
No, no, I had to do more: I had to fall down all the way. All the way to Hades, where I would meet some real assholes, who would come into my house, screw my wife, violate my dog and wreck all the furniture.
Still have that middleclass ennui, Bunky? Phone Ivan. He'll introduce you to some real assholes.

The first one was Beetlejuice, a PhD from the London School of Economics and later the Juilliard School of music.
I had done some teaching at universitie and liked to refer to the two of us as a pair o' docs.

The relationship was shortlived. We definitely were a paradox.

Sober, Professor Beetlejuice was the very model of sophistication and upperclass reserve, but drunk, he was impossible to be with. A real redneck.

Standing up at the bar of the Grey Goat, the two of us drinking near some black folk, he would make sure he would use the word motherf*cker quite a bit, would say things like "I'm so black, I come soot, man," and and all sorts of irritating things that would drive most black folk crazy.
But these people were civilized and realized that this was coming from a drunk and a hick. There were no fisticuffs.

What a Jekyll-and-Hyde character!

He would introduce me to the Juilliard school of learning jazz, the demonstrating on the fingerboard only once-- never mind the tablature,--and almost by osmosis, you would get it, right down to the encyclopaedic intricacies of the riff. ..Oh how I would loved to have gone to Juilliard!

On the complexities of Hegel, he would explain to me that the whole system was one of intellectual yokes and pulleys, that it was, finally, like a tree upside-down and that all Marxism was based on it. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Brilliant bastard.

But when drunk, watch out.

He also had a drug habit.
Thirty four and f*cked.
There was a coke habit I didn't immediately cotton onto and I realized from my snug vantage point of a mere 44, that this guy was gone. Gone at 34, all that brilliance and musical genius notwithstanding.
Thirty-four and fucked.

I saw him one last time, the men in white coats hauling him away. Hauling him away to rehab, from which he never returned. Took a swan dive from the fourth floor of the hospital.

The other "arsehole" I met was more of the Goth girl sort in the cartoon movie, Beetlejuice.

We were in a temporaty employment office, tweny foldaway chair facing a dispatcher who would every so often deride us for being a bunch of losers.
Said the loser next to me, "Oh no. Not a Paki! I'll kill him."

Prisoners and "Pakis", the whole bunch of us, looking for the holy grail, writing, huge, sprawling equations on the washroom wall, footnoted by a cartoon of a bearded Pakistani, gleefully masturbating while saying, "No, my friend, no work today."
The hell of it all was that everybody was a genius, and what in veritable Hades were we all doing here? Seemed like Jean-Paul Sartre territory. NO EXIT.

"We are the runts of this world," my newfound friend was saying. "We are the stunted and the disinherited." Then an unexpected segue:

"How often do you masturbate?"

"I don't I had offered. "I've got a girlfriend."

"Never mind the girlfriend. I didn't ask you that. How often do you masturbate?
"Oh, about four time a week."
"Masturbate or you'll go crazy," said my newfound shrink. What you need is an education.
That evening, we went to a conference on "Sex Education and Information", featuring a Dr. John Rich and authoress June Callwood.
"I like doing It," Ms. Callwood had said. "But I don't understand it very well."
(Ms. Callwood is now dead, but I wonder if she ever really got it. I did at verious times have a drink with her husband, Trent Frayne who seemed a very nice, very attractive man...What was she doing at all those sex conferences?).
Dr. John Rich, who, strangely, after the conference during which time I asked questions, went off in a sailboat and drowned himself.

I had been heretofore convinced t it was we, the runts, the disinherited of the world who had all the bad luck, but apparently not.
Adultery kills. And blasphemy too; you watch!
All that Sex Education and Information was bullshit. They all seemed hellbent on justifying their embroglios.
Like me and my friends.

I finally parted company with the Goth guy, who really was the best of my Damon-Runyon set.

" Stop displaying all that inferiority. You can't be good at everything. I like you.
"You are trying to be Renaissance man, jack of all trades, master of none.

It is time go get out of this hole, to write your Roman à Clef, your book.

Months later, I went to work with the Newfie.

"I have the solution to your problem," said the Newf.

"You will take your manuscript and we'll put it into the dumpster. Together.
Then it will bother you no more."

So we took the laborious typescript to the dumpster, and there we buried it, but not without cermony.
On the edge of the dumpster, the Newfie just up and died.

I am starting to think I am one lucky son of a bitch.



the walking man said...

Ivan, this essay resonated with me in a way most will never understand. Maybe it should say the disinherited will inherit the ability to say maybe I am one lucky son of a bitch.

I think it's the Newfie music that keeps them real.



eric1313 said...

We could all use a spine snapping newfie in our lives.

Actually, he sounds suspiciously like a few people we know.

It's pretty sad (read: fucked) that if we had given up on creativity to save us from having to work real jobs, we might be ruling the world, deciding who actually gets paid, and who gets a 250 dollar smack on the ass.

Well, done, Ivan, these last few posts have all had a good arc to them: "Come one, come all, and witness the depraved doings of a starving artist. Watch him dance a tango for one on the lip of a trash bin. Watch him decide between the electric bill, a bag of groceries or a case of ripple. Come for the freak, stay for the laughs and go home thankful that you don't have enough spark in your bourgeois head to set gasoline ablaze." said...

I guess we've been along some of the same paths. Once disinherited, I had to spend some time in the trades.
But yes, there was that Newfie music. And "Lard Tunderin' Jeezus" it was it was stirring!
"Oh this is the place where the fishermen gather." said...


I swear that there are days when your commentary is better than my text!

Shesawriter said...

"...violate my dog"

Um, I was chugging along, reading your post, but this stopped me cold. I'm very tempted to ask, but I think I won't. I think I'd rather not know. said...


I guess I got carried away with my own rhetoric.
For all they did, they may as well have poked my puppy too. :)

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Josie said...

Love those Newfies.

I'm just here to say a very quick hello.

I'll be back. :-) said...

Butterfly. :)

Josie said...

As I flutter by... Heh said...


...Say that quick without mumbling.

Shesawriter said...

Oh, okay. Thank God! LOL!

benjibopper said...

fantastic story. great ode to the newf. your friend beetlejuice reminds me of my friend the polarbear, real addiction to addictions that one. said...


Tee Hee.

Ivan said...

Hi Benji,

I guess being out in Halifax, you can almost feel the Newfies all around you, though still far to the east.
...But then they've all gone west now, to work in Calgary for $50,000 a year, roughneck basic rate. And perks!

A Newfienism: "Never mind the lobster pots Momma. Johnny's come home with the crabs.: :)

H.E.Eigler said...

My first 'real' boyfriend was a Newfie. I was 16 and he was 19 - and did I mention a Newfie?? It was an interesting experience.

the above statement was written with sarcasm....... said...


In Newfese:

"I guess you were 'side-by-each" fer a while."

Hold her Newt, she's headin' fer the rhubarb! said...

p.s. to Heather,

I just realized you live in Calgary, to where all the Newfies now go.
Heh. Watch out!

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Nice post Ivan.

Tara is doing what she is told. I feel like a dog and someone saying, "Good doggie".

Trevor Record said...

I've only met a couple of Newfies. One is a writer. All the rest were basically drunks. One got shot by some kid who was mugging him, from what I've heard (might not be true).

But I haven't actually met any of these joke-telling newfies you're talking about... said...


Charlie Brown is all flustered. said...


A Newfieism:

"Son--and I call you 'son' because I knew your mother well..."

Donnetta Lee said...

Well, I've seen my share of "Jekyll and Hydes." No thank you.
Donnetta said...


Not for nothing did Arthur Conan Doyle write a lot.
Those British cats knew something.

...But then old Sherlock Holmes was something of a Beetlejuice, no?

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