Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pettiness, Thy name is Ivan


Every so often, a slightly gassy mother of three will sit down and start a literary blog.

The poor mother is in deep menopause, is convinced that she is a writer and will produce endless
instructions on the art of writing while herself not even near the "Famous Writers' " method of just letting one word follow another.
In fact she has failed three creative writing courses (How do you fail Creative Writing?...but she managed it).

But onward and upward. She goes on to parse sentences, establish rules.

Other bloggers are reading. This chick knows something.

But as time goes on the other bloggers go on to being published--at least on other people's blogs and the
gassy blogger keeps writing more and more about rules, methods, the do's and don'ts.

She finally produces something that looks like the opening of a fantasy, but it is so disjointed, so wordy,
that a veteran writer begins to think she must surely be good for something, even if it's the perverted image in his head.

What keeps up this delusion? Is there a cure?

It has been my experience that there are a lot of powerless people out there, and if it is true that absolute power corrupts, an absolute lack of power seems to corrupt absolutely.

So in every instance of an established writer trying to make a point on her blog, she will start badgering him or her to the point of driving the published writer right off a blog
. Especially established women writers.
Cat fight.

And dare a male writer tell her something?

"Take that, you supercillious bastard, and furthermore, I'll kick you in the balls."

I have met so many of these gassy chicks throughout my travels.

Abysmally ignorant, unlettered, they nevertheless know how to f*ck up an artist.

It is their only talent.

But the woman does pick up a pointer or two on writing blogs. She has been at for years and years by now, and in fairnesss, the blog is interesting and arresting. We all want to improve. Sometimes you can take lessons from your waitress or hairdresser. Talent hides in the strangest places. Here and there our gassy blogger has picked up bits of writers' wisdom, the need to write to a plot, phrasing, timing.

Sounds by now like she almost knows what she is talking about.
But it's all from how-to books she has been reading; none of it is from her.

There was a time when I felt the professional is alwalys safe among amateurs.

Not any more.

They are manipulative, envious, dangerous.

Best to let sleeping mares (I was going to use another word) lie.

....end rant.

Monday, January 29, 2007

It's a MAD, MAD World.


It was bound to happen.

I am now officially an ancillary member of MAD Magazine's staff.

"You are now one of us," writes famed Willie Elder, creator of the now famous, MELVIN MOLE, A MAN OUT OF CONTROL.

But, warns Willie, Don't forget what Groucho Marx said, "I wouldn't want to be part of any club that would have me as a member :-)


Myself a man out of control for some time, I strongly identified with that truly underground comic book hero of the Ffties (file-toothed, rat-faced, bepimpled) whose sole (perhaps only) tallent consisted of tunneling his way with incredibly cunning underneath all obstacles, accompanying himself with obsessional mutterings: DIG! DIG! DIG! HUH! DIG! DIG! DIG!.

The scene, as I recall, opened with Melvin having dug himself into the Last National Bank.
But the omniscient police had placed waiting guards there. Melvin is dungeoned.

"You slippery little rat," his keeper grates, while having a KFC.

But the guard has discarded a toothpick, which Melvin seizes,and he is soon tunneling:
DIG! DIG! DIG! HUH! DIG! DIG! DIG!

But Melvin can't see and he surfaces in the middle of a Policeman's Ball.

There's more, much more to the story of Melvin Mole, but I certainly identify, certainly when it comes to my quest for hardcover book publishing.

DIG! DIG! DIG! HUH! DIG DIG DIG

I seem to be surfacing not at some literary party on Madison Avenue, but the policeman's ball.

But there might be a spoon they would discard there and I would use that spoon.

DIG! DIG! DIG! (HUH!) DIG! DIG! DIG!

My underground hero does eventually emerge just alongside and electric chair, atop of which a coffee is boiling merrily. "You've dug your last hole, Mole."




I am getting to the age where I should be thinking of my epitaph.

I am composing it.

"FINALLY STOPPED PAYING DUES."



I have had for twenty years a publisher himself recently fallen upon hard times.

People on the street would say, "There goes Ivan."

"Who is that man just behind him, so ragged and depressed?"

"That's his publisher."


My publisher, now homeless and staying with me, has brought in some of my remainders reviews, press clippings.

I am like an aging Hollywood starlet, poring over the clippings and photographs.

How grand the reviews.

But I stupidly used the fame to run for office.

What maginficent failure at politics! Politics is always a mistake for an artist, certainly me the comic artist.

Ah, but how grand it all was, the klieg lights, the spotlights, the tuxedo, the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd. Got nothing else to do? Feel insignifacant? Run through the streets, functionlally naked as a person. Run for office. You'll get your fifteen minutes!


Ten thousand dollars out, virtually dungeoned in my basement office, I started looking for a plastic spoon to dig myself out with.
The spoon came in the middle of the night. I still had some property-- no, not literary property, forget that!--I still had a nest egg.

Spending the nest egg. Taking $40,000 to make myself famous.

It worked.

On television all the time, pontificating, bullshitting. I was reselling my books.
Thank god for cable TV!

But it doesn't take long to spend forty Large.

Ah dungeoned again.

I could just se my alter-ego, Melvin Mole. "You've dug you last hole, Mole! You're under control!"


Lately, I have taken to mischief journalism.

The brickbats are now flying.

I can just see the future. "You slippery little rat," my keeper may keen, with some admiration. "You've dug your last hole!"

"Now we're going to make you chairman."

Thus might perish the last of the hardcore hardcover book aspirants.

But tragedy sometimes ends with a laugh.

"In the end, he was MAD."

Friday, January 26, 2007

A labyrinth before I read Borges


Correspondent Richard Cuyler has reminded my of labyrinths I had to travel.

Talmud:
Life lays down strange paths for men to tread upon in the dardk.

This brings to mind Jorge LuiIs Borges and his famous labyrinths.

I had not yet read Borges when I wrote this Chapter 10 of my "Light Over Newmarket", published variously, the latest reprinting done on line by www.sooey.com and http://www.grandinite.com (sites change all the time, so the highlighting may not work).

I wish I had read Borges first before I wrote the Chapter 10 below.

But then someone on the internet says I might be recounting the sins of the fathers anyway.

So here we go with Chapter 10, Light Over Newmarket.

I think Liz, already published online by my Island Grove Press would enjoy this. She too is no stranger to labyrinths and dreams of labyrinths.


If you look out at your world, Kevin Logan, you will observe that for the past ten years, mankind has been hotfooting it back to the dark ages.

Children of God, sorcerer's apprentices, encounter groupers, radical feminists, touchy-feelers, worshippers of the almighty IS in the Eberhard seminars--all of them are clamoring for your attention and all of them are on a sprint back to the dark ages.

We live in dangerous times. All of society's icons have flipped over and the scene is ripe for any demagogue with sound business training to slouch not only towards Bethlehem but also towards Santa Barbara and Inuvik and Toronto.

Snapped continuity. You can feel it as surely as you have felt the death of that blues music you were so attracted to, for the blues are an antidote for cultural oppression and the Irish aren't exactly the least repressed people in history.

Something oily and corporate has encrusted itself on men's souls. You know this as surely as you know that you are a part of a business civilization that has stopped being a civilization proper, and is therefore in trouble. Corporations are immortal while we are not, and that's a large part of the problem. We serve a clacking electronic god who is becoming suddenly very aware of his godhood. Man remains man.

We feel a lack. An important religious element has vanished and we are left to our own devices, rationalizations, social experiments, totems, while psychiatrists commit suicide and our children overdose in the plazas.

And in the wings, black hoods and candles, bells and books.
Join the gathering inquisition? Burn the infidels, books, state capitols? Certainly a temptation for the powerless people who sense that they are indeed powerless and have therefore nothing to lose through a cathartic release of emotion, of the loosing of the bonds that make a civilization one of work, one which gives us the feeling that we are important, self-sufficient, aristocratic and inevitable. Ah, but then there's this Devil. The Devil, it would seem, has a human face; he can be beaten with a stick and be driven out by fire. The burn-the-devil movement has appeal. It's the cosmically conscious, the spiritually beautiful against the narrow and Faustian professionals who are about to give up the reins anyway.

And yet how helpless the cosmic people seem unable, more often than not, to even feed themselves, unable to exist without a dimly understood technology, unable to resolve family anxieties or personal problems in a society that endlessly promises relief and never delivers.
We watch Third World high priests giving lesson to grown people on how to make love, how to experience emotion, how to be assertive, how to survive. Protestantism and technology has somehow erased the basic wisdom that any peasant outside the west possesses. We appear to be a culture of children, adolescents at best, dangerous toys in our heads, leading us down the garden path for the hundredth time.

Yet as the middle ages encroach upon us, the encroachment is hastened by an awakened Third World, which, curiously retains many of the values, folkways, icons so deeply hankered after by those in the west who have lost such things. Most of the world remains in the middle ages. It is only our island culture that can produce the hippie, the Jesus freak and the unmolested radical student. Basic survival is not a problem with us, while spiritual survival is a vary urgent necessity. The hope of a growing segment of North American civilization seems to lie in the Third World itself, which remains in the dark ages so narrowly averted by a lucky historical turn in western civilization.

And yet can a society of the electric toothbrush, digital toilet and television cope with a Third World where men are, after all, men, women women and the peripheral misfits left to their own devices? The Third World peasant is the ultimate free enterpriser, who has no support or technology whatsoever and makes scratch, more often than not in an economy that would baffle the architects of the New World Order.

The cat is really out of our bag. The Third World does see the manual helplessness, moral ambiguity and spiritual confusion of the North American and the local swamis are only too happy to lead the North American into the deepening night.

We have created a culture of storm and stress where whatever has been up is now being pulled down, where the truck driver feels completely equal to the brain surgeon, where woman wants to be over man, where the sexual acrobat has equal standing with the Pope, and the alcoholic, madman and homosexual is a high literary figure.

The Third World is upon us, and we are not resisting. We welcome the dark ages--we had the technology, the savvy, a can-do attitude, but not the wisdom. Wealth used to bring the gift of time, time to think, read, play musical instruments, reflect, develop.

The gift of time has only made alcoholics, drug addicts and mystical basket cases out of us; produced two generations of people who do not know what a conscience is, what shame is, what love is, what compassion is, what rejection, failure and pain are as the new unholy trinity, what the silent keen is to shout out loud, "Behold, I am a man!" or "Behold, I am a woman!"
And the children: only the babysitter is in there pitching. We relinquish to institutions, to governments. Men flee from women, women from men; the therapists are having a field day. Engineers from MIT are incapable of raising an erection. A Philippine shaman has to teach the inventor of plastic hearts how to play hanky-panky.

So we move from excesses to emptiness, personal and cultural. There are hardly any new songs; light shows are going out; the theatre is obsessed with young men who suck the sweat off horses and the music has returned to the Fifties in a dangerous retro that signals a dissatisfaction with the present, and a cultural vacuum that Europe cannot fill any more. We have no confidence in the present and this is a bad state of affairs for the key culture in the world.

And so the sensitive, the moody and the mystically inclined are leaving the established institutions opting for communal farming, transcendental meditation, cosmic awareness. Empty-handed soldiers are coming home, home to the middle ages. And while this happens, the unestablished and the unlettered are slowly filling in the spaces left by capable idealists, and we see the universities teeming with writers who can't write, mathematicians who can't add, systems analysts who can't do math, all of this leading us to the dark ages.

Perhaps it's for the best. Societies become stagnant; peasants scratch the ground around pyramids. Yet it may be sad to see mankind failing its final examination and never reaching the end of night. For many of the world's problems can now be solved and most of its inhabitants can now be fed...There's only this...devil.

And then the voice stopped. I moved from the table to lie beside sun-hot Valerie. I felt a deep shudder.

.......end Chapter Ten, "Light Over Newmarket".

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Black Dog (der Schwarzehunde)


Winston Churchill had it.

Ernest Hemingway had it.

To some extent, the late and great American columnist, H.L. Mencken had it.

Black dog.

Depression.


Black dog

.Melanie Long, of Newmarket, Ontario understands why some of the most noted leaders and writers of the world had this pet name for this particular illness.

Like Mr. Churchill and other notables, Ms. Long has lived with her own Black Dog for years. She is the mother of five children of various ages. Her depression began at age 21 when her father died of cancer.

"I didn't know how to deal with my dad's death," Ms. Long said. I just didn't have the coping skills". This is where the depression set in.

And like the British prime minister, she too, finds is difficult to explain how bleak, painful and disabling a chronic depression and anxiety disorder is.

Some people refer it as disappearing into a dark hole.

"It's an accurate description," Ms. Long says in an interview with the Era-Banner newspaper, who had sought her out as a depression survivor..

"There are days when I can't get out of bed."

Lately, however, life has taken a positive turn for the atractive 47-year-old mother. So much so that Ms. Long works with the Canadian Mental Health Association to put a voice and face on depression and to educate others about the often-misuderstood condition. She is also working with the Salvation Army, helping others while herself getting help.
She has also found a creative outlet.
"I felt as if I had no hope, that last time, she said.

"I felt I was without value. But there was a little spark. I love to paint."

There is a corner of her warm and pretty living room that is her place, a place to dream and plan.


The story was written by Joan Ransberry, and I'm just alluding to it obliquely, but haven't we all known "that place where the faces turn so cold", as Richie Sambora had put it in "Dead or Alive"?

I had the double whammy recently. An Either/Or situation (We could all benefit by reading that other manic-depressive, Soren Kierkegaard).

Myself, I am at different times greatly elated, other times depressed.

But there are people with few periods of elation, of real mental clarity and those are the ones I feel sorry for.

What, no corresponding high from the low?...Like everything is black, black, black, all the time?

This, I couldn't handle.

My depressions usually tell me something I am like a hen over a nest. Something is boding, that's why the depression.

But this depression, this one before me, is a doozer.

My "Fire in Bradford" seemed to be accepted locally by theatre folk as a play, but when I went to an important publisher in hopes of putting it out hardcover, I got a flat rejection.

What, no foreplay?

Apparently no foreplay.

"We hope you approach other publishers with your work."

Depression

This after forty years of writing, after hailed by some teachers at York University as the best post-modern novelist in Canada? My :"Black Icon"l novella has been used as lecture material by the University of Ottawa, and probably, on the sly, by York University.

Is this what is bothering you, Bunky?

All right, all right. Rudyard Kipling says you should never breathe a word about your loss, but what the hell, it hurts like the Dickens, and when it comes to Kipling, WTF, hardly anybody reads Kipling anymore; nobody "Kipples" in the twenty-first century.

Black dog.

Ah, but we "rounders" find a way around it.

Some do it legally, some illegally; others find that the grape is infinitely better and less damaging in side-effects than the pill.

Drugs, legall or illegal, make short work of depression.

Drink a whole pot of Tim Horton's coffee. Swig it down with a cigarette or two. Hang the smoke and nicotine nazis!

Still depressed?

Lady, you got it bad.

I am starting to enjoy my depressison. I got a whole whack of Tim Horton's coupons; won something for a change. Suddenly, almost inexplicably, the room brightens.

I am anticipating the sunrise around the corner.

'Cause I hate to see that evenin' sun go down."

-30-

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Love and Loss


Josie's recent blog about a marital reconciliation has moved me to reprint this old chesnut of mine about love and loss.

Watch out, it's dark.


--Ivan


At first, the separation was amicable.

"I'm not sure how you're going to fare, head in the clouds and all. You can't seem to focus; you don't get things."

She had vintage Bob Dylan on, Idiot Wind.
We Can't even Feed Ourselves.

I had been a writer and a money-making writer at that, for ten years. Then I stopped. She took over the bills. Then she stopped.
We Can't Even Feed Ourselves.

Now two slightly incompetent people with dwindling bank accounts. Characters in a Willie Nelson song.
Two lonely people each looking like houses,where nobody lives.

There was enough residual money around for the kids to get an education, for her to keep the house and she even a acquired young bricklayer, whose relationship with her I could never fathom . She was certainly no Loreena Bobbitt. And I was no Brad Pitt, not shy with my Angelina Jolies.


Ten years of rutting lust, travel, songs guitars, Malagena Salerosa, Girl from Malaga, girl of the red room, girl from California,
girl from Frank Sinatra. We'd ride in limousines their chauffeurs would drive. Girls on the spike, how big those needles seemed to be and how quickly the girls would put on the side effect of endema. Gorgeous calendar girls, legs suddenly grown elephantine. Girls with pimps away on holidays. "You've got me all to yourself"; girls into alcohol,

It's all the same; only the names are changed. And every day, we're just wastin' away

. All the liquor bottles piling up, fights, Charles Bokowski scenes. You ruin everybody you touch; No, you ruin everybody you touch. No matter. We ruin each other.

Parallel scenes. Again the rich banker's daughter, the supporting older sister,
Can I Have This Dance for the Rest of My life?

Well no. All my relationships are now poisoned. I can neither go back to the well nor stay with the wreck. And if I am a good cocksman it is really your bounty and not mine. You are beautiful. That is what they all told you since you were a little girl. And now you've had too much assertiveness training and too much group therapy and though your memory is still good enough to remember lines on stage, you are utterly fucked. Two husbands. Snapped continuity. You got through your hell through therapy, I am doing it through fucking, drinking and fighting. No Good Boyo and all that high school play for voices. I am sitting in a lifeboat, drunk, Ginny crack corn, and I don'tcare..

And then the separation got nasty.

If you know how badly you hurt me after what you've done.

He: If you knew how badly you hurt me when you joined that swingers club, and you didn't even tell me. Night school. Yeah. All those nights with me babysitting and you were out there with your randy prof in your legal house of the rising sun. Good thing the old c*ck***ker died. Served him right."Lass, I've got you by the ass" indeed. Fucking old fraud whose poetry won't last the decade. But mine will, because I copy. Copy the best and this will last forever.

Well, I can still write, I think. It's the damn piddly- assed details that are starting to get to me.

Separation makes it hard to focus. Simple things are almost impossible to do. My short story is accepted, again. The contract is sent out by fax. I have to put my signature on it and return it by fax. I have no fax. I finally get to a print shop where there is a fax. I have to glue things together. It is too robust a piece of foolscap. Chads. The contract will not go through the machine. Reluctant to show helplessness and dependence, I ask the printing girl for help. Self-confidence is an emotion. Self confidence is an aphrodisiac. I am losing it. And almost losing the contract.
The story comes out. The Star gives it big play. Wine-stoned cowboy. Women on the phone. Self confidence back. "Lights in Georgia"
even a local success. "You are a success in your own home town, the young girl says. And editorial witer chuckles, , "Smith will be given a huge California publishing contract. But Smith will protest. 'I want Hollywood, or I want nothing'"

"You are just trading on your looks, you asshole," says a friend I can trust. "You charmed the ass off that publisher's girl and that's how you got the contract." Yeh.

The separation is getting really nasty. Now there is talk of divorce.

The furor over my book has almost peaked. Forty thousand dollars is a year's income for most people.

Divorce. That hurts. But perhaps there will be a settlement says Chutzpay boy.
Who can love Duddy Smith?

It's older women now. There is no impotence here. They know how to get you off, whether you're in the mood or not. "I am a nymph," she says.
I think of the old poet who had riffed my wife. "Are you a wood nymph?" "No, I am just a nymph, and you know what that means." Not-so-still life. Painting with nymph. And satyr.

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you or me

Tearing through these quarter in the utmost misery.

I have seen the Johnny Cash movie and I too, am trashing my hotel room; she is trashing the hotel room. Rape of the Sabine Women. Paganism. We rape each other. Two passionate people. All I need is Norman Mailer's knife. Thank God we both are so weak and small.

I need a garret. I have rented a garret. She follows me. Sends me letters. "If you have better things to do, like cleaning lint off your navel or looking after that pot roast, you can stop reading this...

" Still reading? Heh. I though you would be..."

There is production in the garret, actually an industrial unit. There is work immediately outside at a furniture shop where I ply some of my father's talents. There is income, there is hope.
My ex-wife visits me, looks at my curcumstances, gets into her Honda and takes off. The final indissoluble antinomy had been reached. I am alone.

The sex chucks. What do you do about the sex chucks. I watch CityTV. Cycle Sluts. Going down with Moses, the CityTV founder.

All that talent and greatest success as a purveyor ofsoft-core pornography. Like me. He whom the gods would destroy, they first call promising.

Time. Time. Time. The professianal uses time. You can not knock down a professional. The word- man. The walrus.
I am going to read my stuff and bring a flood of applause upon the house of the rising sun.

I'm walking to New Orleans.

In the wet.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

THE OLD GOAT

I had force-fed this story upon poor H.E Eigler's comment space about a year-and-a-half ago. Heather had asked for a piece of flash fiction, challenging her correspondents.
I had copied and pasted the Goat story below, but when I put it into Heather's comment area, I held the V button down too long and out came about 20 copies of the same Goat story.

I thought Heather would be furious at this display of insensitive selfishness and outright clumsiness with my new computer.
She was not, and in fact kept all twenty dittoed goat stories in her blog for a long, long time.

I must say I wouldn't have written the story, had not Heather suggested a theme.
I have not written anything decent since.

Here then, is my "immortal" GOAT


THE OLD GOAT


In an old prairie dugout, there lived a goat.
Goats seem eternally peeved, that superior expression, but Andreas the Goat was not really peeved; quite happy, really. Did he not have what he wanted, the supply of scraps at the nearby junkyard, the good feeling he got from the Jimson weed and chicory, the late middle age age which had now cooled his passion, True, the young she-goats still showed interest, though this more for his old daddy goat appeal than anything else. He was a handsome old goat.

One day, another goat passed his way. A young-old nanny .. She still had a prance to her gambol, as if very youthful, but a little gray in her dapple showed she was almost as old as Andreas.
The old goat regarded the new arrival with some interest. Meeehh, he bleated, almost out loud. There was, inexplicably, a Meeh-ing response
. Andreas did a slight double-take, but he composed himself. Always be cool around females. "Hello. Come closer. What's is your name, little she-goat,what's your name? "

"Yasmine." she bleated.

She clacked along the gravel to his hideout and came closer. He could now see her face. The cutest little snout, though he could could see by the reddened blacks of her comma eyes that she had been into something.. Funny weed? Perhaps a bit of fermented barley down by the sump pump. She had certainly was on something.
Oh not again, the old goat thought. These kids, always grazing on those devil weeds. And the adults just as bad.

She was now right up to him and went to almost pass him, though rubbing a little along his rough hide.
It had struck Andreas that it had been so long, so long since there had been a horn-to-horn. Or even close contact with a female.

But just as soon as she had come up, she suddenly turned on a cloven hoof and seemed about to run away..
But he followed and trotted beside her.

"What's your last name," he asked.

"Springbok."

"Springbok??

"Yes. Yasmine Springbok."

":Icelandic," he asked.

"No, South African originally.

And with that, she seemed to just spring away from him, as she had done just before.,soon to disappear through silver-and-blue Russian olive bushes.

These spacey drug freak nannies, they're all the same, the old goat thought. So much into power plays, games, control. Use you as a sounding board. Tease you and run off.

But her scent, the recent nearness of a female, had awakened something in Andreas.

For some time, the old goat had noticed his thoughts were more in the past than the present. Manger scenes, back in the days wheh he'd had a family, kids, barns, chickens. All gone now. All grown up. Or maybe worse. He winced at the thought.
Always the new she-goat. that's how it had always been up until he grew old. Never mind, Yasmine Bleat, or whatever your name is, I will tend to my grazing, see my reflection in the old glass windshields around the garbage dump. What a fine old goat I am. I don't need anything or anybody. I am a rock. I am an island.

But Yasmine kept coming around.

At first she seemed to ignore him as she gambolled past, but he had to admit she was raising old- goat passions in him, not only the hint of an erection he was starting to feel along his scrabbly belly, but also some sort of promise that Yasmine seemed to hold.

One day she came right up to the old goat and said,"I will give you whatever you want. Anything at all. Whatever you want, real or imagined.
"Nutcase," he decided. Off-the-wall she-goat probably Iberian. Gypsy. Best keep to myself."

But on the third day she came back with an old soup can can in her mouth, which suddenly, inexplicably, turned into a flower.
The old goat pawed at the ground, but here, suddenly was a bunch of carrots. "How you doo dat?" the old goat asked, trying to show casualness, not the sudden, strange supernatural fear.

I am she-goat, mistress of goathood. I can make you horny. I can de-goat you if I choose. I can make you magic. I am Isis-goat. I know you better than you know yourself."

. Never met a goat like her before.

They took to running around together, past the trees, past the birds, past the clucky stampeding chickens, through the yard and into a grove of Russian olives, spiky and hard to get near, let alone eat. "Got something to show you, said Yasmine. Come."
Andreas followed, followed her down a glade to the hollowed-out stump of an old oak tree, ancient, thick, though the inside was rotted out, leaving a circular ruin all around. One end was open, and inside, there was space for two or three goats, as if in a pen. There, inside the old oak stump there was a nest of spiders, just babies really, scrambling for cover. Yasmine suddenly went to stomp them, and in fact, trampled a couple. The others got away.
Andreas was surprised at this sudden show of atavism. Who, what was she really? Andreas had a sudden feeling of unreality as . the hollowed oak stump seemed suddenly alive, all ashimmer. . "Do not be afraid," said Yasmine. This is only a show of my power. I can give you anything you want. Anything at all. And then she knelt on her front legs and produced the vision of a past manger scene, the old goat's former mate, the kids, the chickens. All he had to do was walk into it and there he would be.But Andreas just stood there tranfixed, wondering at the unreality of it all. And just as soon as the scene dissipated, she scrambled for a wall and was suddely gone.

It took a long time for the old goat to return to the dugout.

He was much changed old goat.

Seven years of rooting around the old dugout that he had lived in
And for the first time, he'd learned something. But what was it?

He yearned to see the young-old she-goat again.

One morning, he saw two goats up on the rise, a fine billy and along with him, Yasmine.

Son of a wanton goat! he thought. I should have known.

But the following day she was back, alone, her mysterious companion not there.

"I want you to love me," she said, rather matter-of-factly. I want you to love me. Spiritually, like a goat-knight.
I will give you anything you want." And suddenly, between them, there sprung a clump of olives. Andreas had a taste. Not at all like stale Campbell's soup. Something in those olives though. He could feel, sense the ramaining baby spiders in the stump's walls. Could see them spinning their little gossamer webs, and the mother now nearby.
He made to tell Yasmine how he was feeling, but she was not there now.. She was gone again..


She came back that evening, and, after some rubbing against him, unexpectedly, presented herself to him. Andreas was in goat heaven. He took her. And afterwards, without much ado, she went to run off again. "Stay," said Andreas.

But she gave him a quick nuzzle and she was again gone.Seven days went by. No Yasmine.


He saw the mysterious he-goat again, alone this time, up high on the knoll. Soon another goat joined the handsome Sean Connery- goat. It was Yasmine.
Andreas could see by the familiarity displayed between them that they were, it seemed, still in love. "And me, what about me?"

She showed up alone the following evening.He was half-made with jealousy and woe.

"Explain."

"You can't get everything from just one goat," she asserted. I am with him, but I love you."

"Yeh."

And she was gone again.

Nights were now spent in fits of jealousy and discontent. He would do this, he would do that. He would butt heads with the mysterious lover.
And one day he did. He saw the two of them up on the rise again and ran right up. "You got a problem? said handsome Sean Connery- goat. "Yeah, I've got a problem." And with that, he gave the handsome stranger a pretty good grazing. The stranger did not fifght back. "Leave him alone," Yasmine bleated. "Leave my husband alone."
Oohh.

Andreas walked back down the hill, to his shed. He had a sense of clairvoyance. He thought, as he had run away that he heard Yasmine say, "There is a reason for everything. I had come to you for a reason."

He sulked in his "apartment." So that was it. They are married. Well,he had his pen, he had his food and he had his certainties. It was an episode, a learning experience, old as he was.I will be a rock. I will be a hill. I will keep to myself.

Yasmine did not come around again.He grew to be his old self again, his certainties, the "key" his pen.

One morning,something compelled him to leave his pen, and leave fast. There was the sound of heavy machinery just above. He was out just before a massive bulldozer razed his home.

And high up on the knoll, again, he saw Yasmine. Alone. She was making moves to go back down to the other side of the knoll. She had almost disappeared now.. He had no idea why, or what he would do, and could he do it. But he suddenly made to follow.Soon, he was up on the rise, with Yasmine still in sight.

--Ivan
-

----- Original Message -----
From: Ivan Prokopchuk

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"The Crush"--Guest story by E.A. Monroe

When I went to spend the summer of ’66 with my best friend and walked into her bedroom, she jumped up and down and said, “I’m in love!”
Photos clipped from the latest teen magazines of all her favorite guys — John, Paul, George, Ringo, and a new group I had never heard of, Paul Revere and the Raiders — plastered the whitewashed bedroom walls.
“The Raiders are the coolest guys on Planet Earth — next to the Beatles, of course! Fang is absolutely the cutest! I adore him!”
The contagion of my best friend’s excitement swept over me. Forget the Man from Uncle. Forget Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuriyakin. They were kid’s stuff, history .Curious, I stared at the faces, my first encounter with an collage of guy's pictures cut from magazines, taped and tacked to my friend’s bedroom wall; she introduced me to the new guys — Drake Levin, Phil “Fang” Volk, Smitty Smith, Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere. “I’m in love with Fang! Oh, don’t you absolutely love Mark! Tell me you love him!” How could I not? One look into those soulful newsprint eyes left me gazing into a mirror. I was Mark Lindsay’s younger twin; surely his long lost, teenage girl soul mate! My friend and I cast aside dull ordinary her and dull ordinary me, and during the summer of ’66, she became Salty Smith and I donned the guise of Silky Revere.After I returned home, Salty and Silky kept in touch, writing adventurous letters in which we described our antics as Smitty Smith’s and Paul Revere’s kid sisters and those of our loves — as much as any small town, naive fifteen-year-olds could know about such things.We reinvented ourselves and the fantasies we spun from teenage imagination sustained me through the trenches of teenhood, family moves to new towns and new high schools, separations from childhood friends, graduation, and growing up. I look back upon those halcyon days of summer and the homemade, ice cream flavor of first love, innocence, and time spent with a dear friend who has remained true, despite separation as we each tread our life paths and the distance between the towns where she and I lived.
High school social activities sucked us into busy lives, and one day Salty Smith’s letters stopped arriving in the mailbox.
During the middle of my junior year, my family moved from our small Oklahoma town to a larger town and a larger high school than the smaller towns where we had always lived and the smaller schools that I had attended, where the kids were related to each other and most of the teachers had taught the parents, if not the grandparents of their students.
One hot July, during the drudgery of cleaning the garage, I boldly announced to my mom, “I am going to marry Mark Lindsay!”She laughed!I was crushed.But, the truly desperate never give up trying to meet their teenage heartthrobs! I had read how one could send a fan letter with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to a favorite celebrity. Okay, I could do that. Better yet, what if I sent an entire box of stationery and at least half of the envelopes stamped and addressed to me?Brilliant!
I bought a box of white stationery laced with a delicate edge. I wrote my adoring fan letter to Mark Lindsay, tucked the letter into the box of stationary and the stamped, self-addressed envelopes, and sent the package to an address I had found in a teen magazine.

As hard as it was, I went on with my life, until one day I received one of my return envelopes in the mailbox. I held the envelope to my nose and inhaled — California, sand, surf and a whiff of cologne, Sandalwood — the scent I imagined him wearing. I savored that envelope. I wanted to lick its sweetness. The letter had come from him; he had touched it! Mark Allen Lindsay! Wow!
I tore open the envelope, more excited than I could remember ever feeling — even more exciting than Christmas, birthdays, and the Fourth of July. A photo fell from the opened envelope. No letter; only a photo — a wallet-sized, black and white glossy autographed photo.I suppose that was my first disappointment, but I put his photo in my wallet and carried it everywhere. I lost count of the times I pulled out the photo and marvel at how wonderful and beautiful he was in the black and white glossy photo. Any day, I expected the arrival of another stamped, self-addressed envelope, a personal letter written on lacy white stationary and tucked inside.
The days slid into weeks, and the weeks disappeared into months.
My mom pressured me to date. I was in high school, but I was not interested in boys or dating. After all, I was in love and I was going to marry him! Whenever a boy called, I always said, “Sorry, I can’t,” or “I have to go to my Grandmother’s house this weekend.” My mom was furious when she discovered what I had done; mothers in small towns talk to other mothers.

Eventually, I dated; I even went on-and-off steady with a boy from my high school and I went to all the teen hops and movies. The feelings weren’t the same though, for I could never love anyone else as much as I already loved him. But, like youth and summer, love fades when the expected letters never arrive in the mailbox. Life drifts into tomorrow, and a teenage girl sets her gaze upon the horizon where the final year of high school and college looms. She grows up.One Saturday night, after cruising the Boulevard, I sat in the passenger’s seat of a car with my girl friends at the PowWow Drive-In. All the kids parked their cars and hung out at the PowWow, because eventually all the high school kids, and kids from nearby towns, who were cruising the Boulevard that night would make the rounds.Music crackled through buzzing speakers tucked beneath the PowWow’s tin awning that covered the parked cars — Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. Otis Redding crooned the mood I felt that night as I watched the cars packed with teenagers circle the PowWow, and listened to boys and girls shouting to each other, their laughter raucous and carefree, car hops delivering orders, the slam of car doors, the blare of a car horn, wheels peeling out on gravel.
Sitting there, feeling the future rolling toward me upon a wave of departing summer, I knew I was never going to meet Mark Lindsay, much less marry him. I was a teenager headed toward graduation and college.
Somewhere, beyond the PowWow Drive-In, my future waited and my future wasn’t a black and white glossy photo that I carried around in my wallet.I don’t know why I did it. Maybe I needed the liberation. I took his photo from my wallet, pinched its edge between my fingers, and gazed at his face, an unchanging face captured in time.A warm breeze, smelling of cheeseburgers and limeade sodas and whistling the late-sixties music of the PowWow Drive-In, floated through the open car windows. I leaned my arm out the window, lifted his photo to the breeze, and opened my fingers. Mark Lindsay fluttered away upon a summer wind.
“Hey! Look! A photo of Mark Lindsay!” a girl screamed to her friends. Debby. I remember her name was Debby, one of the popular girls, and I remember the joyous rapture that brightened her face when she held up the black and white glossy photo of my long-lost soul mate.And I smiled.I have often wondered whatever became of the photo. Perhaps Debbie carried him around in her wallet, and from time to time, she took out the photo, looked at him, and remembered how she found the photograph blowing across the gravel beneath the awning of the PowWow Drive-In. Did she ever wonder where the photo had come from? Someday, I may ask her.On that sweet summer’s night, I let go and never looked back.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

What is the plural of Mongoose?



Sunday morning coming down.

I feel like B.O.S. this morning, you know, Bag Of (familiar Substance).

It probably has to do with those cans of high octane beer. The label is Mongoose, and it is made in Hamilton, ON, probably by incompetents. Who else but the city of Hamilton would boast, "Our product is people."
Well, you may be good people but you can't make beer worth squat. In fact, I am again pulling the loo chain.

If only this beer were as good as the picture on the can of that vicious weasel putting the death bite on a cobra.
"Drink enough of these and you'll soon be envying the snake," says one liquor guy in NOW Magazine.

I am envying the snake.

But then you don't see any cobras in my backyard either.
I have, I must confess, seen them. "And what did the cobras say?" you might ask.

A frustrated sports and nature writer, I would dearly love to describe and encounter between a mongoose and a cobra, the cobra towering over the mongoose, the mongoose feinting, dodging, bobbing, weaving..
The cobra, towering, standing on its tail, so much like bas-relief out of Ur or Egypt, like the Bush administration ready to invade Iraq, but the mongoose is faster, smarter, more assessive. It takes a nip, the cobra lunges.Misses. The mongoose makes anotherer feint. The cobra again lunges.
The mongoose has no natural defense. Only speed, agility, cunning.
Four misses and the cobra is wearying. The mongoose makes a feint for the head. Again the lunge from the cobra.
A few rounds like this and the cobra is wearying. It makes one more weak grab for the mongoose, but the mongoose has already bitten into the side of the cobra's head. The mongoose avoids frontal combat at all times.
Cobras don't bite. They chew. And chew again. With many, many fangs.
And soon the cobra is dispatched.

Well. I have dispatched my three magnums of Mongoose beer. Tastes like hops and honey with a can of antireeze thrown in.
But while you're drinking it, does it ever get you there. You want to take on that cobra. Bring 'em on!
You'd make it with a snake if it weren't for the game warden!
Go after a rockpile if you thought there was a frog underneath.

Ah, we redneck weasels!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Guest blog (story) by H. E. Eigler


Every so often, I float over to one or another literary blog and find something I really like.
Like H.E. Eiglers bit of flash fiction below.

--Ivan


BURNING BIRDS

byH.E. Eigler

I was split years ago, I don't feel the pain anymore but sometimes I awaken from a dream to the smell; the smell of burning from deep inside myself. It was lightning that hit me, split me and I've not been the same. Not really.The surface wounds have healed and the moss holds me together. Most days I don't even notice that my innermost self is out on display for the world to see. Most days I can feel like I used to. Quiet, reserved, stately – what a tree should be. But recently, there has been activity down in the crevice. There is now life where the burning used to be. Birds. They've nested inside and I can feel their wings flutter. At first I was anxious about their presence. I would worry there wasn't enough room for them, that I couldn't provide what they needed. But now I wonder if I will miss them when they are gone. When it is just me and the moss and the quiet will they think of me as home?Until then, I wait and feel them with me. I listen to their songs and cherish the company because even in a forest, life as a tree is lonely. I used to think it was what I wanted. Solitude. But since the birds came, I know I want more.

Published online by Island Grove Press. H.E. Eigler retains all copyright.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Obituary


On the night Diantha Caryophyllus died, the weatherman was prediction one or another kind of disaster for Vancouver.

Diantha Caryophyllus died in Newmarket, Ontario of frostbite, in her eleventh month, wich included an unnaturally warm January during which time Diantha thrived and garlanded herself with dark-red flowers to the very end.

Diantha Cryophyllus, also knowns as The Carnation--And Reincarnation (she kept flowering well into January), was of Spanish aristocratic background, with a lineage that goes back to Greek ceremonial crowns.

During her life, she was often invited to grand dances by men in white sports coats.She was everybody's symbol of romance.

Carnation is survived by three garlic plants, which are symbols of Ukraine's national flower for one Ukrainian named Ivan, who grew both the carnation and the garlic, the latter not yet succumbing to the sudden cold.

"Garlic good," said Ivan.

"But Carnation's death has led to disintegration. I have a separation anxiety," Ivan moaned.

"I loved Diantha, all through December and into January. Diantha was deceived to the very end, thinking it was still August.


Funeral services for Diantha Caryophyllus will be held on Ivan's third-floor balcony, where Ivan will perform an eulogy from "Bittersweet," by Noel Coward.

The eulogy refers to "the love that dare not speak its name" between Oscar Wilde and Lord Albert Douglas, or "Bosie" to that inventor of the original Gay Nineties.

"Nothing gay about my relationship with Diantha," said Ivan.

Diantha was female, he insisted.

"I am not queer," he said, scratching himself with one finger.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Donning gay apparel and riding bike in fake spring

It might as well be spring.

The trees are bright and silver, the way they are in spring.

The Christmas just past may has well have been Oklahoma. Flowers were faked out, there among the hemlocks, the pines along the Holland River where I bike a lot.

Today, I am biking with a group led by a man called Fish. He is seventy and can pass for fifty, younger even.
Though his face is parchment, his fine legs are ageless, almost gay in his tight shorts as he easily rounds the corner of the bikepath and turns his helpeted head to urge the rest of us on.

Wle are an eclectic crew. Frigginbunchaneurotics.

The effort of biking has freed us from pedalling against another load, a pushcart fulll of pain that many of us had been pedalling against, often backpedalling against the awful weight of it all. Everybody in the group is ushing or carrying something.

Baggage from another marriage, the great sprawling novel that hardly any publisher wanted to take, the smoky air of distant barrooms, the white line on the asphalt bikepath reminding you of other lines you had done, and somehow recovered from.

There is the real hop of a steamer on the horizon--that we shall be rescued from this Raft of the Medusa by a jovial, somehow Germanic sea captain. Santa Claus from the season just gone by?

One must be chary of such a notion.

Recovery is miraculous and dramatic. It may come this spring, or it may not. The local Indians will tell you that it is all on the whim of the Creator.

In the meantime, the Indians will tell you to stay away from waterfalls, great confluences of water. And large lakes, like Simcoe, for there is an agepogee in each one, each with its own monster.

We ride side-by-side, some of us. Then uncouple to ride along somebody else. We talk of family, hopes achievements, cycling achievments, dreams.

What has brought us to this bikepath, along a river, along these aspens, along these larches known in Canada as tamaracks. Tamaracks seem to the greenhorn like so many reddened, discarded Christmas trees, but they are not, for these conifers will regain their needles and will again be bright and bushy.
Hopefully like us.
I am talking to a lady lready in capri pants and white sneakers.

Like me on this almost-springtime January, she is a little whimsical, vulerable and kind of shy. But she is in there pedalling for all she's worth, like an out-of-wedlock teenager pushing a baby carriage. Maybe she does push a baby carriage.
God and good people. The people are still good, but this is a dark age and the liberal sentiment proclaims one thing and then practises its opposite. Randy ministers and gay Conservatives.
They have stolen the welfare money. First sign of the Mob getting into government.
They have probably taken my riding partner's welfare money. Lazy woman? No.. Decided to work at McDonald's and they have taken away all her benefits. She barely gets eight dollars an hour now and daycare is hard to get.
She gulps air and keeps her beautifully eyebrowed visage straight ahead.

I move to another party.

And entire family, father in tights and shorts. Helmeted mother in ski pants and yellow top. Little ginger-haired daugher in shorts and sandals, doughtily holding up the rear.

We are all pedalling, moving, moving, past the trees, past the bird, pst the pair of discareded horses of green clay and other small bits of rubbish aling the Holland River. We seem, in all this dormant vegetation, to be already moving toward spring.

Ahead of us is the ringing of Fish's bell. He has seen something on the path. He rings again.
There is a huge snapping turtle on the path. Not impressed by us. Moving in that robot-like slowness. But just stick your toe out!
All turtles were once birds.
Like us.
It is going to take a very long time to fly.

--------30-

BlogStory Ivan....And Then My Story

All right, all right Jaye Wells.

I'll play your game of "blog story". But then you have to put up with my novel fragment just below the actual game instructions and my tiny one-word input.

Yeah, it's my Black Icon again. Gee, some of us have a hard Icon to bear!

Beware of Ukies bearing gifts?

I'm really into potato famines, rejection, failure, pain, war, pestilence, hunger --the good stuff.

But I'll start with the instructions for the game.

Let’s write a blog story. Here’s how it works. I start with the first word below. Then you take that word and add another one and post it to a blog entry on your blog with these instructions. Then add the link to your part of the story to another person’s blog comment area like I did with the link to your blog added to the list. Anyone can end a sentence, but whoever does must start the next sentence with the next word. Please keep it family friendly. My adverb, "as" is so original! LOL Keep the story called BlogStory YOUR NAME - so we can track it through Technorati and/or Google.

Start of story:

Dark as ebony, cold as

End of Story

Story participants:

http://www.snarkthenews.com/
http://misswritenow.blogspot.com/
http://www.eamonroe.blogspot.com/
http://www.jayeblahg.blogspot.com/
http://www.creativewriting.ca/

I've probably effed it up, but at least I tried.
(I am told drunks can actually regenerate a part of their brain, the part used for hard thinking, even if drunk. Ha).


So, that done (I think), here is Chapter Fourteen of my magnum opus, THE BLACK ICON



Chapter Fourteen


Krakow, the bustling, nervous railway terminus was the first stop for the Galicians who wanted to go to Germany. From here on, there was a continuous connection clear to the German heartland. In the days following their arrival, dozens of Galicians, Roumanians and Hungarian civilians would be at the freight yards to pester the authorities about places and trains. In two days, Sophia managed to board a boxcar and win a corner for herself and the children. Once more the doors were shut and they were off.

Genyk got his nightmares back and Katerina would comfort him. Sohia would put some lard on the boys head, which had broken down into louse nits that were beginning to fester. At night, while the rails thumped under them, Genyk would hear Katerina crying softly. He would put his arms around her, and in his turn, in his inept young way, lisp out a story to her.


Katerina, now thirteen, intelligent, sensitive, eyes set wide apart, quietly nursed her new curse for the next five days. She said nothing to Sohia whose own inner world was in danger of collpse. There had been Danilo, the blond roofer, his hair alwalys falling over his eyes. How good it was to see him working on the roof, sixteen years old, brown forerearms like longbows. He would tease her. And she hated him. For minutes at a time. Where was he now? Dead? Running like her own family? She moved toward the crack of light, and put her face to it, as much as the vibration of the car would allow.

For the next four days, Sophia and the other families in the car practised the most basic communism possible. Everything was shared, including food and clothing. A system of sanitation was worked out, there was pot duty, and despite cramped quarters, darkness and endless motion, the families arrived in Bohh-Rhineland in surprisingly fair health and spirits.

Genyk, tired but curious, could not get over the recurring arches over every factory window the boxcar passed. The bricks were fanned out like the fingers of an uplifted hand. How can they arranged bricks like that without having gaps in-between the top parts of the arch? It wasn't until a few years later that Genyk realized that the bricks were irregularly-shaped to accommodate the arch.

Sophia's German, though very poor, was good enough to apprehend passersby and asking them about Michaels's adddress in Bonn.

After endless questioning and begging for rides, the family arrieved at Michel's front door; lousy, tired, slightly diseased and very hungry.

He was there to meet them, scratching his head and wondering how to respond. It had only been a few days since he had, by a miracle, been released from the concentraion camp because of repeated petitioning from his former boss, George Vogel, who insisted Michael was desperately needed at Mercedes-Benz, and that no one could replace him, and it would be a shame to murder a valuable man like that, valuable to the German war effort.

Geny could not get over the way his father had changed, how disheveled, how ordinary-looking and, say it on--how morose he looked.

Two years ago he had been such a god, such an exotic person. Now the overalled man who faced him was small, balding a little, tiny eyes, red, tired. His left hand was badaged and appeared useless.

And Michael, seeing this group of ragged, miserable migrants, somehow could not identify them as the healthy, sun-browned family so often on his mind. He kissed Sophia and the children. Mechanically, almost. He bade them in. The reaction on both sides had been a kind of shock.

He led them inside the house where his landlady was frying up potatoes. Three stomachs suddenly churned. Food. Eat. All sentimentality was forgotten in the frantic request for food.

After they had eaten and bathed, Michael, without any further niceties, demanded to see all his old clothing, his suits.

"Suits" Sophia asked in amazement. "Suits?" You're lucky enough to have us here in one piece. It was hard enough getting our bodies into those boxcars, let alone anything else!"

The children retreated inot a corner of the room, the impromptu spat new and frightening to them.

"You cold at least have packed them into tight bundles and brought them along."

"Fool," Sophia hissed at Michael.



Michael found work for Sophia in a restaurant, and economically, all seemed well. It was after the first week of the family's arrival that friction between Michael and Sophia flared up once more.

Michael came in one evening smelling of Schnapps. Before the concentration camp experience, the life of the single man had agreed with him and now, with the arrival of the family, he was completely unsettled.

"Where's supper?" he demanded of Sophia.

"Did St. Peter tell me that you would be in so early?" she snapped in reply.

"Never mind St. Peter," he shouted. "Where the hell is my supper?"

"Look, be reasonable," she said levelly. It is just now being cooked."

"You should have had it ready. You know how hard I work. I need my nourishment."

"Go to hell," she said, disgusted with him.

"You go to hell, you bitch. Here you come, bare-assed into Germany, you don't bring a single suit of mine or trace of our belongings and you dare to tell me to go to Hell.
"I'll bet you were the biggest whore in the village after I was gone. Go to Hell indeed! You wait. I'll question Genyk and Katerina about the men you were carrying on with while I was slaving away iin Germany, dying in the concentration camp."

"I don't know what you're talking about," she answered. "Unless you feel guilty about all the whores you'd been seeing while I was in the Ukraine and working my fingers to the bone, and starving when you didn't send any money...and you call me a whore, you bastard."

Michael said nothing. He began shuffling around the room, finally setting his oyes on a pot in which some meat was boiling.

"What's this garbage?"

"It's swill. Garbage for pigs like you to eat."

"Well, you can shove this garbage right up your ass," he said as he took the pot by the handle and yanked it off the stove, spilling the contents ofn the floor.
She nailed him across the shoulder with an aluminum pan.
There was neither supper nor rest that night for Michael, Sophia and the children.

.................................end Chapter Fourteen, THE BLACK ICON.



My what a domestic!
No wonder now and then I get into fights with bloggers.
Ha.

Ivan

Friday, January 05, 2007

How to screw up a TV script



This will be the last bit of fudging on my part until we resume the posting of the last few chapters of my Black Icon novella.

Lord, it takes forever to get serious in the fist week of January.

Some years ago, after being intereviews on Cable TV over my Light Over Newmarket, I befriended a "grip", a cable-puller on Rogers Television and the grip said, "Don't write another book, write a TV program.

"Can you have it aired?"I asked.

"Sure. I know everybody," said the grip. "Just give me a half-hour script for your proposed program.

Still high on the relative success of my Light Over Newmarket, I got something like buck fever and produced almost an instant script.

Result: Total Failure. The grip said I used too much copyrighted movie material, the station was going regional, and the producer had said we coldn't take a chance on a program like this. And besides, and besides...

Shortly after, the grip got fired as the cable station went regional with the usual offering of food, fitness, boosterism and sucking up to police and fire departments.

Ah well. Here is the script I produced.



My address here





UNDERGROUND ON MAIN STREET


PROGRAM TITLE: " POINT THIRTY"




Music in bg. Up............................................WHERE ARE THE ANGRY YOUNG MEN NOW?
WHERE ARE THE ANGRY YOUNG MEN NOW?
I WONDER WHAT BECAME OF THE ROCKERS AND THE MODS
I GUESS THEY'RE ALL MAKING IT, THEY'VE ALL GOT STEADY JOBS
AND I WONDER WHERE THEY ALL ARE NOW

--Ray Davies and the Kinks
Copyright 1969, Davray Music
Performed by Mumble Ducks,
Newmarket



Announcer......................ROCK USED TO BE POLITICS IN THE SIXTIES, THE FILMS of JEAN-LUC GODDARD, THE MUSIC OF BOB DYLAN, JOAN BAEZ, THE FILMS OF ROBERT ALTMAN, THE VIETNAM PROTEST AT KENT STATE, THE SHOOTING OF STUDENTS BY LOCAL POLICE.

File footage here of Sixties phenomena to..................................................



Announcer.........................WE ARE AT POINT THIRTY, THIRTY YEARS AFTER THE SEXUAL

REVOLUTION,
THE POLITICAL REVOLUTION, THE YIPPIE-DIPPIE DROPOUTS THE JESUS
HAIR AND CLOTHING STYLES THAT AMOUNTED TO COSTUME
DESIGN

POINT THIRTY, AND BEYOND IT, POINT-THIRTY-FIVE, A PERIOD IN WHICH YOU
KNOW, INTELLECTUALLY AT LEAST, THAT YOU, WHO HAS ENJOYED
LIFE AND SAMPLED SOME OF ITS PLEASURES, ARE GOING TO DIE, AND ALL
OF LIFE'S ILLUSIONS MAY WELL BE IN THE SONGS OF JONI MITCHELL...


Music in bg: Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, perfromed by the Mummble Ducks to............



Announcer......................BUT THERE IS A TWIST TO THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE, A WARP IN THE ZEITGEIST, AND SUDDENLY WE'RE IN THE EIGHTIES AND THE NINETIES, WHERE GUNS'N"ROSES
FLOURISH, WHERE NIRVANA BLOWS.


Cut to: Footage of Mummble Ducks performing Sweet Child of Mine. Cut to:

Footage of Kurt Cobain performing "I apologize."

Cut to:

Seal, performing Kissed by a Rose on a Grave...to Announcer

Announcer...................KISSED BY A ROSE FROM A GRAVE. ALL THE ROSES ARE COMING BACK
IN THE ENLESS WHORLS OF TIME.
LIFE IS SHORT, ART IS LONG, AND POP
MUSIC WILL GO ON FOREVER. to....................

Mumble Ducks Performing "This Will Go on Forever" by Jimmy Clanton. To break.



...................................


Announcer..................HI. WELCOME BACK TO POINT THIRTY, AN EXPLORATION OF SOME OF THE
MUSICAL AND CULTURAL TRENDS OF TODAY. WE'RE BROADCASTING OUT OF
MAIN STREET NEWMAKET, WHERE ALL THINGS SEEM TO SUDDENLY HAPPEN.

MARGRET ATWOOD TALKS OF CANADA HAVING A GARRISON MENTALITY.....WELL, WE'VE GOT SOMETHING OF A GARRISON MENTALITY HERE IN NEWMARKET,
ALL OF US COMING FROM DIFFERENT PLACES, DIFFERENT CULTURES, ENDING UP HERE IN A BRAND
NEW SOCIAL MIX AND THAT MIX SIGNALS DIVERSITY, CREATIVITY, I MEAN, LOOK WHAT WE CAN DO.

Cut to: The Mummble Ducks doing Bob Dylan's Masters of War...Cut to.........

Announcer........................MAIN STREET NEWMARKET. IT USED TO BE A REAL HUB OF ENERGY,
WEIRD AND WONDERFUL HAPPENINGS WELL INTO THE SEVENTIES.


Cut to: Rick Hoyles, local multitalented musician, playing the sitar, dressed in India-style billowing shirttsleeves and jewelled tunic. He stops playing the sitar to play an oud, a Turkish instrument, then a soprano saxaphone, then a classical guitar from which a combination of flamence and Bach issues.


Announcer ...THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, NEWMARKET WASN'T HAIGHT-ASHBURY, OR PARIS,
OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. NEWMARKET WAS JUST ANOTHER ENCLAVE OF THE PEOPLE
KNOWN AS HIPPIES, AND LATER, PUNKS. THE MAMMOTH DRUG SCENES, THE PARTIES,
THE WELFARE CHEQUES...AND NOW WE'RE ALL BACK TO OUR MORTGAGES, OUR
MONSTER HOMES. WE ARE MOMMIES AND DADDIES AND GRANDPAS.
AND STILL WE YEARN FOR THE NOSTALGIA OF THE SIXTIES, THE BIGGEST FLOWERING
EVER


Back to ....... THE MUMMBLE DUCKS doing

Where are the agry young men now
Where are the angry young men...

Announcer.....THANK YOU FOR WATCHING OUR SHOW. MY NAME IS IVAN AND I'VE LIVED IN
THESE PARTS FOR THIRTY YEARS.


WE'RE GOING TO CLOSE THIS SHOW WITHITH SOME MAIN STREET FOOTAGE OVER THE PAST THIRTY-FIVE YEARS WITH SPECIAL AMPHASIS ON MUSICIANS AND ARTS. HOPE YOU'VE ENJOYED THE SHOW.
NEXT WEEK WE PLAN TO HAVE EVEN MORE OF OUR LOCAL MUSICIANS AND ARTISTS ON. THE NEWMARKET RENAIISANCE IS UPON US. I LIKE TO THINK WE' RE RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.

WHAT, YOU NEVER HEARD OF GLASS TIGER, THE BARENAKED LADIES, DAN HILL? STICK AROUND.
I DON'T THINK YOU'LL BE DISAPPOINTED. THAT'S POINT THIRTY FOR NOW.

To end.



Thursday, January 04, 2007

Light Over Newmarket. Chapter Three...da big novel.


She was lying face downwards on her terrycloth towel, a breeze toying with her fine blonde hair. I reached out to stroke that hair, so spanking clean, and the woman turned to face me with her full pale blue eyes, wide apart and a little crazy, the high California cheekbones and a mouth as wide and pretty as an idyll's.
We were lying in the grass before a Mexican spa, one of a dozen in the central plateau, the hot springs of Los Antes, lush and tropical in a benign late February sun. Before us steamed a pool, hot as a bathtub, fat old tourists squatting therein like latter day versions of souls being cleansed in Dante's purgatory.
What a far cry this was from frosty Canada, from the sense of hopelessness and death that comes every February, when nothing seems to break the gloom, the threatening darkness, the pallor of one's skin. Canadians are more like Finns or Norwegians, not at all in temperament like the "slow Americans" that someone had labeled them.
Like the Finn, the Canadian drinks to excess in the course of a long and oppressive winter; he entertains gloomy and destructive thoughts on the worst of the snowy or slushy days, building up slow, smoldering resentment against one's wife, one's children, one's dog.
I hope I didn't come to Mexico just to escape winters, I was thinking, my plans, my equations, my diagrams now not meaning very much at all. I was conscious again that I was in possession of a body, mine and that in the end, back there, no gain, no gain at all was worth the loss of one's health.
But how little it had taken to turn it all around. The sun. O that sun! No wonder the Aztecs had worshipped it.
For two thousand years and more, the Indians in this north central region of Mexico had made their trips to the hot springs of the Ancients. Not Aztecs these, but Toltecs, older and fiercer, and Chichimecs and Tarascans. And long before them the Prototoltecs who may not have been Indians at all. For this was an archeological zone known as Mesoamerican, where for years dozens of cultures large and small clashed against each other to leave artifacts that would later stun the scientists, stun them because many of the vases, clay pipes and jars were of unmistakably Chinese origin, and that gave the theorists plenty to think about. Cloissone in the desert, among clumps of chaparral and mesquite.
Still, all the cultures worshipped the sun and they believed in cleanliness to the point of fanaticism, making daily trips, it is said, to the many hot spring sites, rubbing themselves with gourd soap to maintain their health or to heal themselves whenever and infrequent illness passed through the region. For the waters of the ancients were magic. Slightly radioactive, they could cure the gout and aching joints and hernias and muscle pains. They could even ease the gloomy depression which seemed to affect every lord and tribesman in the late February days, those days so warm at noon only to turn cool by evening, turning to nights of near-frost. The sun was in danger of being lost by the time Venus shone bright and threatening in the western heavens. Human sacrifice would have to be performed, or else this upstart furnace may yet flare up and usurp the sun, the moon, the earth.
The sacrifices would bring back the sun, would diminish Venus, and life would continue among the Toltecs, the Tarascans, the Chichimecs, who would, depending on the time and period of contact, raid each other for suitable sacrifice victims. There was sacrifice, of course and there was stupidity Better a maid or stripling from another tribe.
With the Toltecs long gone, it took the Spanish Conquistadores exactly one generation to render the remaining Tarascans and Chichimecs syphilitic and smallpox ridden, diseases that the magic waters of the ancients could not cure. Little by little the hot springs of the ancients, the same ones that my newfound California girl and I were so fond of, were abandoned, save as a water source. Eventually, the hot springs of Lost Antes became a bathing spot for the Spaniards, the Indians having to content themselves with the smaller, hotter natural springs and pools that abounded in the area.
But a generation later, the waters again attracted the old, the lame and the sick who gathered around the stonewalled pools and elaborately built bathhouses of the ancients. For among the Spaniards, the waters of the Ancients were anything from a cure for impotence, to a retardation of old age. The waters of the Ancients, some said, could well have made up the fountain of youth so long sought by Ponce de Leon and other dreamers.
With the weakening of Spain's control over Mexico, the Indians reclaimed the waters as their own, and over the years, the healing waters of the Old Ones regained their renown as a cure for virtually any ailment, some going so far as to say that a combination of prolonged exposure to the sun and frequent soaking in the night-shining water could even cure venereal disease.
I recalled talking to a doctor back in Canada who said that the sun, over a long term had the curing power of the best antibiotic. And I began to believe it these first few weeks in Mexico when I felt the pain in my groin subside. The doctor had, in his evasive way, not really admitted what the case with me was, and I had not dared to ask outright. Enough that the problem was "very nasty" and the antibiotics were not getting it.
Now with the sun, with the healing waters, whether through wishful thinking or not, I felt myself healing. I was feeling the restless energy of an organism that had had enough of confinement, that wanted to get out of the sickbed and walk in the sun. Over the weeks, I began to feel as if I were shedding whole blocks of years and it was Valerie, as well as the waters, that made me feel so.
"I love you, I am saying to the bikini-clad long-legged slightly knock-kneed but pert form lying beside me, and I play with her hair. I am, I know, perhaps the thirtieth. Times change. This isn't the fifties, where an entire generation seemed to have spent its life in a penal colony. Still, something of my Cabbagetown gutter language slips through the onion letters of my personality. She's lovely, but if she had as many pricks sticking out of her as she's had sticking into her, she'd be a goddamn porcupine. But that's adolescent talk that even the slum kids don't use today. Everybody's gone cosmic.
A flashback come. From guilt. Guilt over leaving Loren. My god, how will I ever come to terms with this?
Sex was really nothing in l977. You can have sex, lots of sex in this sexy decade. But in the case of Valerie, I realized that it wasn't the sex at all. She was a sister, like a twisted sister of my own, twisted but now socialized, perhaps overly socialized. I had never been nuts, but I was listening very carefully to her take on me, getting me in touch with who I was, what I felt, where I had been and where I was going. I just loved to hear her talk and seemed to be finding out about myself and her. I was growing to love Valerie only in the space of a very few weeks.
I looked over the modern pool at Lost Antes, through the flattened, crabbed greenery of thorn and pepper trees, their roots in the warm earth, branches spreading out and threatening to drop to the ground completely, the gardeners propping up the limbs with thick deadwood tree crotches, giving the trees a surreal look, like those enormous distended brains in the Dali paintings, these too supported by their inverse slingshot crotches.
Above the pool, the grass and the distended trees, a rich sky of a very dark blue, the blue of the thin Mexican sky. Most of Mexico was about seven thousand feet in altitude. No wonder so many of the Gringos seemed to be half-intoxicated all the time. The rarified air, the instant aristocratic status afforded to any North American. This was the place to be, to finally face the thing that had bothered you for so long back there, up north.
It was all so easy. All one had to do was to leave the scene of ones misery. "Abandon you creeping meatball." That's what Jerry Rubin had been saying and it had at the time made so little sense to me, there in the late sixties, in the university, with my blackboards and my equations, seeing under my very nose a generation that was truly like no other one ever on the face of the earth. I had at first laughed. A passive generation of Christs led by a so-called youth activist hardly younger than myself. Yes, the creeping meatball. The job, the departmental politics, the killer instincts of those around me, the illness, the cancer that thrives so well back up there, cells crying out against the rigidity of their form in a culture built on speed and abstract work.
All one had to do was leave. Or was that all there was to it?
I stroked the woman's hair again, moving my hand to her deeply tanned back, hot now in the sun. This morning I had made love to her twice and she had risen from the bed like a thing young and free and I told her to wait, not to leave, and I'd love her once again.
Valerie, from Santa Barbara, drying out from her drugs, her past life, her divorce. As in my own case, it seemed to take the Mexican sun no time at all to restore her to a brown, healthy vitality, to take her mind off herself and to restore it to the world. My world.
Had I been a younger man, I would have been content to merely gape at Valerie in mute reverence. She was lovelier than any dream. And she was attracted to me, who was balding and carrying a spare tire, me who was supposed to be the mad scientist gone over the hill, at least in my wife's estimation, and in the estimation of my doctor, far worse.
I'd met her shortly after arriving in Mexico. She was everything and she was nothing. Tall, stunning a traffic stopper, she was indeed beautiful, yet the simplest in psychology and makeup. She tended to talk like a hairdresser or a commentator on those eye-on-entertainment television shows, something of a bimbo, but what a bimbo! She had been an actress and a good one. I could tell. She had a memory. Could read two pages, close the book and relate it all to you. Then tell you that words were mere traps for fools and emotions was where she lived. You could see what happened to her. Somewhere, because of her divorces, she had lost the snap between logic and emotion and some therapist had spotted it. Yet she was still the empath the gorgeous Lorelei. And I was so lonely that I would do anything, anywhere just so as not to be alone. And it was my luck to end up with a Candice Bergen.
How does it come to a man that he adopts a strange bed in a move that seems congruent with some failure in his life, the failure of a scientific project, a creative project or a whole life wrong from the start?
I had decided on a town called Manuel Hidalgo in Mexico, a lovely hill community recommended to me again and again by some of my fellow professors who had gone there on sabbaticals to work on private projects or just to rest up and re-evaluate their lives and careers.
I had arrived at the town square, triumphant and exhilarated at first, exhilarated by the palms, aches, porticos, blue hills and the sense of having nothing to do for the rest of one's life. Lordships are still so easy to buy in this upside-down century.
Yet, by about the fourth day, I felt very self-conscious and very alone, there among the arches and the palms. Try to come in cold into a culture of strange customs, strange 17th Century churches, strange casual people, and you will feel yourself diminished, a nobody.
I had been somebody back home, the professor, the hundred-dollar-a-day intellectual. But here in the terraced restaurants, in the flowered Jardine, the flowered town square, with its boat-tailed grackles and rubber trees, I was nobody, still one more middle-aged fuckup who had had the sense to avoid ultimate embarrassment and failure by leaving my immediate surroundings. Kevin Logan talking to all the aging expatriate hippies, some hardly younger than himself, Kevin Logan talking to anybody and everybody, spreading himself thin (this was not the familiar university, professor), nervous, vulnerable, alienating himself and finally reduced to drinking in the cheapest and easiest spots to talk with the people, for you needed no social skills down in the pulque bars and dives. The tequila and the smoke usually carries you to a lower order of existence than you had anticipated, the scary Lost Weekend feeling, and after a while, as long as you were drunk, you really didn't care.
I sat with old men, American and Mexican, finding them congenial. The younger ones were dangerous, many of them, frontier-fashion, carrying guns. The old Americans of Manuel Hidalgo were an unusually approachable breed, younger in spirit than their counterparts back home in the old age lockups and the VA hospitals. The old men of Manueal Hedalgo had, many of them, come to Mexico to escape the bedpans and the smell of urine and death. These were men who were still really young enough to even undertake new projects, who resented the cult of youth back home, the cult that would not recognize healthy seventy-year-olds who could be as puzzled over existence as men of thirty-two, as sensitive as adolescents and as scared of the future as the youngest intellectual in the increasingly tight patriarchy that is Latin America.
In my loneliness and my drunkenness, I poured out my troubles to the old men, taking my turn, after they had poured out their troubles to me. Men, young and old, are indeed strangers on this planet. It is the business culture of work and competition that keeps men away from the real issues. In Mexico, with these elements absent for the visitor, people tend to talk about ultimate concerns: "Who, what, where am I and what is the meaning of my life?" People frequently huddle together when they ask such questions of themselves and others. So I huddled with the old men. And the old men were offering their observations.
"You think that you have left your wife for just a little while," one of the old men was saying. "That's what you think. You have left her for good. You are on a rollercoaster, boy, and it's going to take you some distance by the time you decide to get off.
"No, you're never going back. Never."
There were a number of good hotels in Manuel Hidalgo. I had registered at the San Fernando, paying a Gringo verdura's price for lodgings and food. I'd learned of this expression later as I got to know more and more Americans. The passing of the dope culture had put the label of verdura on North Americans. Not norteamericano, not Gringo, but verdura--vegetable--and it somehow made sense. Only North Americans can initiate the lifestyle of the hippie, the communal farmer, the encounter grouper. Yet, I was thinking to myself, am I any better, taking two thousand dollars of the money I'd unconsciously saved for just such a venture, dropping everything and probably very much contemplating the style of the dandy, of the hippie, before the clamps of society and old age itself came down. Clich├ęs are true. You only have one life.
Yet who knows what Loren would do once it was plain that I had found not old men, but a woman and that I may be gone for good?
I had met Valerie while I was having dinner with my usual bottle of brandy, there among the arches, porticos and cathedral ceilings of the hotel, a splendorous dining hall with its banana palms, its bougainvillea reaching up to the thick skylights, a salon really that amounted to being an eighteenth- century greenhouse, a scene straight out of a Kubrick movie like Barry Lyndon, a Fieldingesque setting crying out for heavily-rouged aristocratic whist players or gamblers; yet it was different in Mexico. It was more Mariachis and domino games and the heavy colonial hardwood tables, kerosene-finish Mesquite chairs in their plush red upholstery.
The brandy was having its effect. Everything was turning rosy in the afternoon. The scientific paper? The definitive unified theory between quantum physics and the way people behave? That seemed so far away now. The mind works best while gathered into itself for contemplation. Plato, old buddy, I'm entirely with you. Beauty. truth, yeah, maybe even love. I kept pouring the brandy.
She had made the first advance, ambling over to me in that charming pigeon-toed walk of hers that I would later grow to love, asking me for help in translating an entree on her menu. "My Spanish isn't so hot."
I know some French and Latin and the Spanish was beginning to make sense to me.
I explained the menu to her and then, in my loneliness, on a whim uncharacteristic of stodgy Canadians, I asked her, so very cool and Californian, whether she would join me.
To my surprise, and without much ado, she did join me. Just like that. Saucy fellow.
I observed her, sitting beside me, there with her long hair, her smooth femininity, the long fingers and that helpless-independent air she had, so typical of intelligent women who cannot come to terms with the fact that women, are, on the whole, more analytical than men, but they had not yet learned, like my scientist friends, to think in modules. They think realistically, in structures of relationships, while the world is a very queer place, as many a cosmologist will attest, the most solid assumption often resting on the flimsiest spider web. Or did I have Hawking confused with Fitzgerald?
Men are dreamers; women have discovered the sharpness of their wit. This is the meaning of 1977. People used to think it was the other way around. Only now are the fetters surrounding women being removed. For traditionally, it was the man who was adventurous, explored continents, was shot off int space. Now it is the woman's turn, and it is a healthy development if women can pick up the facility for dreaming. For without dreams, in cold logic alone there is the Russian woman astronaut, the Chinese garbage man-woman. Totalitarian societies (like our own?) have a habit of giving women what appears to be emancipation, but what is in the end the oppression of both sexes. We cannot believe, with the rest of society that we operate in a democracy. It took a genius like Arthur Miller to develop a view sophisticated enough to see the Democratic and Communist systems as being nothing more than competing bureaucracies. Who knows where our trends, fashions, styles emanate from. Stay alert. Use your head.
These flashes were leaping around as I examined Valerie and suddenly it dawned on me that intellectuality itself was an escape, that we were sentient, but relatively helpless, mutually dependent animals and I suddenly realized how lonely I was, how my life overnight was heaped up into a ball of loneliness, the life of snapped continuity, habit, familiarity. I had to come here, I know, to put an end to the twenty years of hard research, the set-up of my computer centre, the interdepartmental politics, the heavy smoking the drinking, the forced-smile faculty dos. I had succeeded in Canada, but there was a price to it. I was realizing, here in Mexico, that this was the end of the social climber trying so hard not to be a misfit, here at this junction on the slope side of one's thirties. This was the end for a man who had to work so very hard at nearly everything, a man for whom nothing really came too easily, who was so relieved to find the computer crutch, who, in the absence of parental savvy, had to learn very nearly everything for himself, for an insane mother and an abstracted father could not be trusted from a very early age. Punishment for nothing, and this plays havoc with a child's sense of security. The world become your tutor., I had learned well, learned ultimately (perhaps somehow through my father, hidden from me) that the world is a wonderful and many- faceted place beyond imagining once your neuroses and personal conundrums are worked out. A day really comes when you see the world for the first time. Yet there was the loneliness that may yet lead to even more confusion if you end up in someone's bed. Married man. Plain old-fashioned Sin, the evil that many priests had warned me about back in my Separate School youth. Something always thwarts our efforts as we incline towards truth and beauty, says Matthew Arnold somewhere. And that something may be Sin. Biblical matrix. Five thousand years of living.
I didn't care. My loneliness had reached the stage of doing anything anywhere, with anybody just to lose one's sense of ones lonely awful self.
Valerie and I introduced ourselves and we eventually made quite an inroad into the brandy. I was about to order another bottle, the conversation going well. I was trying to impress my mystique upon her, and it seemed that I was having some success.
But she was more sober that I, perhaps more assessful. She thought a bit about another bottle. Alcoholic relationships are so seductive until the brandy bottle pile up, until the squalor sets in, the blanked-out evenings. She had a past. Yes, yes, in the cold light of day, before the coffee, one suspects that one has finally slipped into bum hood and it is only the alcohol that greases your optimism, makes you look good to yourself, while to the world, especially if you do drugs too, you have a snake crawling out jof your mouth and you are a stumbling social disaster. Or graduate to the spike.
She thought a long time before finally saying, "Meet me at my house at nine. Here is my address." She had scribbled it on a napkin with the heraldic town emblem on it. The napkin did have the look and feel of leather. She may as well have written a new constitution for my life.
I could not believe that first night. After all the clubs, after all the Spanish music, Malagena Sale Rosa, country girl of the red room, yes, how red and plush the room were, she a fantasy in her her long white gown of a peasant cut, the red-and-blue flowers on each side of her halter, the amber haze of the drinks, the dancing, and later, the two of us quietly sitting across the table from each other, the light a warm yellow and our gazes warmer still, it seemed. She looked at me, a medium-sized mousy-haired leprechaunish man with bright blues yes that tended to fix, and I regarded her, yes, also of blue, but pale, like the natural paleness of her skin, a fragile aristocratic natural paleness that so many California girls possessed in that part of the world nearly devoid of aristocracy save, perhaps of the movie stars. And Valerie, to my gaze, was every inch a move star, and I was probably half right, though lord knows what kind of movies she may have been in. Gorgeous, graceful woman all the same.
She continued to gaze at me with those large pale blue eyes under long lashes, natural, like Greta Garbo's. You could almost pull at them. High cheekbones. High forehead. Face held high, maybe a little too high. Our gaze held. We had found each other.

Back to Title Page Chapter Four

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

January Angst


I don't know why I'm putting up this Chapter Two of my novel, Light Over Newmarket.
Probably jogged by pal Josey's need to take a January vacation.
Here is one exurbanite's prelude to The Big Vacation in January.


Chapter Two

"Our class of people don't do this sort of thing," my wife is admonishing me. "Oh sure, it's the way the rich behave, but not us. Not we professional people."
A supply teacher of mathematics, though a frustrated painter, she looked so beautiful in the prisming light from all the varicoloured objects in my living room where we'd sat over brandy. It had been the night of Loren's middle eastern history class, sweet wife Loren suddenly turned student and I had babysat. It was the last time I'd do this. I'd already picked up my passport. I'd be leaving Toronto for Mexico within a week. Loren didn't really believe this was happening, that I was leaving, solo, abandoning her and the children to work on some nebulous scientific project of my own that would purport to put just about everything in a final perspective, a Stephen Hawking attempt to go beyond the beyond. I did realize that the whole idea seemed immature and not a little insane. Maybe I was going to Mexico to look for something else altogether. Could I really say why I was leaving? All I knew was that something had seized me in a grip and I had to go along with it.
I remember the room and the halo of my wife impressing themselves upon me. This will probably be it for us, the end of the Victorian house on the well treed exurban side street and the way we'd lived for the past ten years. This is how I used to live, here among the bric-a-bracs from all over the world, in this woody, carpeted balustraded living room, the Danish figurines, the batiks, the antique colonial furniture, the kitchen, all art nouveau ochre, with its yellow-panted antique chairs, the sun streaming through a Williamsburg-paned window, bringing up the yellow in the furniture, turning the kitchen yellow, streaming through the doorway and into the living room. Mellow yellow. And I'm leaving it all. Why?

My wife, with her strawberry hair and white patrician complexion, like that of a very young Audrey Hepburn, is adding to the light. She is tall, poised, somehow Victorian at her full age of 29 and she can make labyrinthine objects out of wire, nails and string. Quetzalcoatl Mexican snakes, medieval knights, batiks. She would have liked to have struck out as a serious artist, yet she never did. Secretly, when in her cups and not in possession of her usual presence, her good humour, she had admitted to our friends that she hates her life and her plodding statistician husband (myself and my own dream) and she is going to a psychiatrist. Like many a Toronto area woman, she is nervous, high strung, high on the Darwin scale, but temperamental as a thoroughbred. She is allergic to any number of things. She is sometimes given to fits of compulsive scratching when she's sure people aren't watching and her whole makeup, when her poise is down is that of a tall, lovely woman, the envy of anybody on the block, who is violently uncomfortable inside her own skin. Was it I who made her so?
Yet she was telling me not to go. I'd announced the news earlier. Right up to tonight, Loren didn't know how to handle it. "One more of your dreams, delusions."
Loren was shrugging things off. People didn't do the kind of thing I was announcing. That was for artists, for the unstable, for the very rich. We weren't rich, but we were very, very comfortable. But Loren knew that I was serious and she knew that secretly she had dreamt of doing something grand for some time, to leave dull old me, the two polite but energy-draining children. To just pack up, to just go.
"Kevin, you stupid ass. I'm very fond of you. Don't go."
"I have to. It's something I have to do. I can't seem to talk myself out of it either."
"You'll be sorry. I know you will be."
I sipped my brandy. We had, over the years become like brother and sister. We were very fond of each other now but the love was gone and we were both near to exploding.
"Go, for God's sake," the male colleague had said, the friend the head of the art department at my university. I'd always been partial to artists. They followed their own natures. Scientists were a little like clerks. No one cared how inept they were in any other area save for that position behind the Bunsen burners, the test tubes, the fruit fly colonies. Given the talent, the life of the scientist was quite safe and remunerative, because much of the time, no one was watching you.
Still, the art department head had found his own Mexico right where he lived, in his own community of artists, students. He was mature; he didn't need to press on the accelerator of his own life to speed him out of his own sense of emptiness, drudgery, boredom and slow death. And he the artist had been around, had been, perhaps, where I was going.
"Go. I have a friend in your condition, not a physicist, but an artist (and you might be be beginning to realize that today we are not so much different)...Hell, not one friend but at least four of them. They all reached your crisis, but failed to respond to them.
"Take Bill Friedan. I went to art school with him. He painted for a while, then packed it in and started a furniture business. At 37 he looks 57 and he's had a vasectomy and his legs swell up, and he hates his yacht and he hates his destiny. He was going to pull out just three years ago, sell everything, slow down his scale of living and just take off, either by himself or with his wife and children if they wanted to follow.
"And while he was planning it al, his wife got pregnant (got under the wire just before the vasectomy). And soon they needed a better house and he went into the thick of business once again, working harder than ever and he died last month of a coronary."
"Why are you doing this?" says a school chum of thirty years' standing. "Going to Mexico. Some kind of spiritual Trotsky. To Mexico to write the definitive work between, sort of, politics and astronomy a sociological field theory. You'd done much the same thing back in you university years, locking yourself up in a northern cottage for a year to write what you were sure was going to be the definitive thesis on black holes. You ended up cribbing all those Nobel laureates, especially Stephen Hawking, because you weren't sure of your own research. You're not a kid any more. What are you doing?
"Here you are a university professor, after all those in the slums, $100,000 in the bank, a wife who loves you, two beautiful children and you want to go off like some sort of Bunsen burner Castaneda looking for (who knows) some sort of Indian sorcerer to apprentice yourself to. No good, old buddy."
Saint Jack., He had helped me out of the slums. The genius chain store manager who couldn't, wouldn't help himself. But he had helped others to get out. Philosophers shoot pool in the strangest places. The gods of transition and change hide everywhere, though sometimes we want to shoot them dead. Everywhere the Jackal-headed god Anubis leads you through the centre of hell, around the mountain and out. But this Saint Jack had already done the job for me, had led me out of the hell of Cabbagetown and worn brick, that famous road, to a better way of life. In our youth, in the slums, it was always Kevin and Jack against the world. Saint Jack wasn't happy with backward progress.
Remember our mutual friend Fred Egglestone? Remember how he started looking fo the holy grail at seventeen? Got tied up with a black hooker at eighteen in Vancouver and was s certified, booze-blossomy bum by 20? See the way he looks today, back in the Cabbagetown he can't even remember, the whole area now built up by the rich, trendy professionals, all of them urban activists and all of them looking like Dada storm troopers with their leather jackets and their poodles? His old haunts remain, here and there, Canada House and the Wheat Sheaf, the Queen Streets pubs. He lives there, on Queen Street West. You should see the way he looks today, down among all those philosophers, losers, thieves. The face, the skin, the bad teeth. Bad diet cheap booze. I want to know why you are opting out for bumhood."
My parents, still alive, cagey and rational. "What are you doing? Seven months in Mexico? To write some dram book on God knows what? Your father is a janitor and you're a professor and you're chucking it all away. In one month you and Loren will bypass each other, you'll end up like two different people. She will go her way and you will go yours. This will be the end of your marriage. Kevin, don't do this please."
Mother dear, how can you advise me, you who nearly cracked my collarbone that one day way back when you'd come down on my with your heavy soup ladle after I'd told you there was no God.
And Father, who, in your dreams and reveries, was incapable of crossing the street properly, trying all your life to tell me how to conduct my life, learn a trade. I have learned my trade in spades, and it isn't enough, Dad. You had no idea what lay beyond the trade, what lay beyond success and money. Still, I love you.
"Son-of-a-bitch," says sister-in-law.
"When childhood is over, the things of childhood should be put away," says the third friend, the veteran of Mexico, the eternal wanderer, Don Juan on the face of Latin America. Not a scientist, but an author, talented (he has sold three books) and Crazy Irish too. "For you, Kevin, there is only one way to go. Mexico is a sleepy, dangerous country, but that is not your problem, at least immediately. Your problem is that you will not, cannot be a hero. It is not in your traditions. You are, after all, an applied scientist, a step up from armor-maker. You're just nearing forty, and like any fairly sensitive man at that age, you are suspecting that all is not right with you as a person.
"But you will bring your problems with you to Mexico. In that sleepy, exciting, revealing country you will find that there are only two ways for you, and two ways only: a woman or a bottle. I know. I've been there. Stay in Canada where you belong. You will not find what you seek in Mexico."

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