Monday, October 29, 2007

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Drunk




I draw the most response when it seems I'm blogging for my life.
I notice this when visiting The Walking Man's blog. Mark does seem to be writing for his life as well.

He has been smacked by SUV's, doctored unto coma, unlucky in the good health sweepstakes, and, almost litereally f*cked by fate, though he proves with every blog that fate herself might be f*cked.
I was genuinely sorry when I read The Walking Man today. Seems that the man with the scythe is very nearly cutting him to pieces and it's really time for "all the king's horses."

I join Mark, though metaphorically.

I am blogging gor my life. My professional life.

There is room for five people at the top of the Canadian writing heap. I pulled slightly ahead of the pursuing pack at the age of forty, but it was a false lead.


Treacher of creative writing. Novel published in large local magazine, a chapter at a time.
Good enough, but it was not the Governor-General's award, neither was it the Giller Prize.

My wife at the time wanted me to get those things at age 33 or I was just plain not good enough, that my talent would not be strong enough to carry me. I you don't succeed at literature by forty--the deadline decade--you would not succeed at all, seemed her reasoning.


Oh yes, there were palliatives. A positive review of my Black Icon novel; A new university degree (largely financed by Wifey's money), an award-winning newspaper column (had to share the award with another writer); some crackerjack features in the Toronto SUN that won me Mr. Andy Donato to illustrate my stories ( Andy Donato is the best illustrator and cartoonist in Canada); all the things you do "instead of" --instead of writing and publishing your Great Canadian Novel..

I had written my first book, The Black Icon so tightly that it was editor-proof, fool-proof.

In what I hoped was my Magnum Opus, THE HAT PEOPLE, I wrote so loosely and so awkwardly (I could never, like a painter "do hands") that there was lots and lots of room for editing. I finally hired an editor, paid him, he did a bad job, but it was good enough to merit me a printing of one chapter hearabouts in TOPIC Magazine. The job was botched, but the botch was what was needed. He had watered down my novel. Watered it down to the point where it could be accepted by a bland magazine.

All this was writing success--sort of. With a little help from my mercenary friends, my bad editors-for-hire.

Now, thirty years later, I am back at Square One.
Or maybe back a bit behind Square One.

I had written a novel of passion, The Fire In Bradford, the fire largely in the hero's pants.
I sent it to an important house. Success, I thought, would bring me a Giller nomination.

It all fell through. My friends in the company were gone, and soon, it seemed, so was I.
The new editors said my book was not up to the standards set by their new line-up of authors.
Ouch.
Double ouch.

Well, like many another egotist, I had made THE FIRE IN BRADFORD rejection-proof.

Before submitting to ANANSI, I went to the owner of my favourite watering hole, RICCI's SPORS BAR and asked the nighclub owner straight out if he would be my publisher. He said he was in the business of booze and cooze, but since I was such a good customer and played guitar for him nightgs, sure, he would humour me. He would be my publisher.
So I put LIGHT OVER NEWMAKET out under the imprint of RICCI'S SPORTS BAR.

Published by Ricci's Sports bar. At least I got somebody else to publish it rather than myself-- my sorry practice up to the point of the magazine serialization that I was lucky enough to get.

Portrait of the Artist as a young drunk.
But again, this was a palliative. I had to get that Giller, I had to get that Governor-General's award.

It was, of course, not to be.
My life style had indeed been that of a drunk and profligate, the university professor getting drunk with his students at the Grey Goat, precursor of RICCI's Sports Bar, eventually to become THE MAD HATTER, a pub placard that was curiously in nomenclature anyway, in synch with my big novel, THE HAT PEOPLE. There was a synchronicity here, but I don't really have the intellectual finesse to propersly describe it.
All in all, I was not a clean-living writer, neither did I stand up for AIDS or all the chi-chi causes. I was, in a word, not Governor-General's Award material as a writer.

What did it matter. My book had been rejected by Anansi, the important arts publishing house. I had failed at this. There would be no Giller, no Governor-General's award.

Creeping up to age seventy, and back at Square One.

How I identify with The Walking Man, who, though younger, is now himself back at Square One, or so he perceives himself to be... Keep writing Mark. But remember it has to be proof copy. No room for the loosey-goosey, the heartfelt expletives.

But over here, I am once again at Square One.

I did send the novel to an important theatre director in my town and here, got the strangest revelation.
"I've got your FIRE IN BRADFORD." "Yes, and...?"
" I am starting to mark it up.".
Marking it up? Me, God's chosen, who writes so tightly. Marking it up?
"Marking it up. There is room for improvement, as is the case with all of us."

Holy crap.
You mean Anansi rejected me because there was "room for improvement"?

Very likely the case.

Oh the ego. Keening, squealing like a trapped jackrabbit.

Still want to be a writer? Wanna quit now?


##

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Feebleminded Professor in Mexico



The feebleminded professor has been dogging it.
Poking the puppy.
Pounding the hound.
Everybody knows it.

Josie, a correspondent, says AntiQuark (me) is not showing sufficient leadership for the Quarkettes, some of whom have lapsed into doldrums, though one is working assiduously on a rewrite of a long novel for Amazon.
Ah, but there are readers from the United States, notably Eric1313 who says he wants to read more of the professor's travels through Mexico.
So, still dogging it, I will reproduce Chatper Three of my novel, Light Over Newmarket.


Chapter Three

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 bumhood 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.

........end chapter

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A moral holiday in Mexico with an American woman




My intention this week is to do a series on "American Woman", the politically correct term for that bitch-goddess of songs by The Guess Who and Lenny Kravitz.

But I'm lazy today and will give you an already finished account of a holiday in Mexico.

To be in Mexico was to be in the thirties, right down to the way things must have been during the Great Depression. The 30 per cent unemployment; the art deco furniture, the complicated plumbing, the styles of life, the camposino coming back to town for the weekend, getting drunk, thrown in in jail, bailed out by his relatives; the upper-class Mexican, like the depression land baron, whiling away his life in a cloud of hash smoke and a fantasy of sexual possibilities.

And I was in the thick of it, here in Guadalajara where Valerie and I had gone on a sort of honeymoon to celebrate the test and maintenance of our love. Mexico in the thirties for sure. The medium priced hotel was exactly l933, the room with its imitation Persian rug, worn and ochre-coloured; the saggy but well made bed, the wallpaper busy with its charging cavalry of bold flowers, the clinical-style high intensity bed lamps in clusters of three, the tin plaque on the wall, an advertisement of Jugo de Naranha, orange juice with a l930's Gatsby couple sampling that great drink.

Mexico was very much in the thirties, perhaps because its real industrial and political revolution began there, along with a construction and stylistic boom, an effort to catch up with the civilized world. The revolution had been half-successful with the nationalization of the major utilities and railroads. Still, foreigners continued to invest pennies in Mexico to get their investment back in dollars.

But there was a spiritual dividend in Mexico, something that any Gringo worth his sould could recognize after some time in the country. The sun, the landscape gave you a visual orientation; the rarified air opened up your soul to intimations, veritable visions that the poets of the middle ages considered routine and the poets of today consider pure madness. Mexico puts you into a spirit of high renaissance. If you are a painter you begin, after a few months, painting like you'd never painted before. The same for a writer. And even more so for the lover. Mexico could be lightning-quick and there was a word for it in Spanish, RELAMPAGO. Lightning. And I had been looking for magic light itself over my quasi-New England town of Newmarket, Ontario.

Mexico. I was in love, and was beginning to perceive the world in love's newfound clarity.
Mexico seems to have a chronic shortage of men. When a woman loves you, she will do anything for you and ultimately, you for her for to be loved, deeply loved, is to be enchanted, and lying on that hotel bed, I was deeply enchanted, there among the cheap furniture, the landscape prints on the walls and the stunning girl with the hypnotic eyes and the high cheekbones.

Mexico, Mexico. How many foreigners miss the revelations of this fascinating land after first finding in sex the ultimate high.
Yet it was much more than sex with Valerie and me. It was a rebirth for both of us, myself realizing that I was not at all washed up physically, that I was gathering strength instead of losing it; there was something in North American life that made nances of men and shrews of women; perhaps it was the increasingly abstract and fine work that was demanded of the highest skilled workers and even of the lowliest, for all good work requires artistic ability, even laying out a garden, and there is no such thing as a ditch digger any more, no such thing as the iceman and even the garbage man has to operate sensitive and complicated equipment.
A new start, a new way. And I owed so much of it to Valerie. What had happened over those ten hard years back there? Had I been asleep? Who had I been, really: how had I missed so much of life?

My wife Loren hardly seemed real to me now. She was somewhere in the past. I'd kept a portrait of my two children in up on my Spanish colonial dresser in my Americanized apartment. They looked so heartbreakingly beautiful, their in their full fair colour in front of a green-painted backyard swing, with flowers and trees, lilacs all around. Sweet Michelle, a pixie of only four and son David, exquisitely featured (it seemed to me), seven. Their large eyes stared at me almost accusingly. I had always turned the picture face down when Valerie was in the bedroom. Fading away, my past life.

That night I had a dream of Loren, lying on her side, nude in all her compact womanhood, resting easily on her right elbow and forearm, one fine redhead's breast spilling almost voluptuously toward the crook of her right arm, the other straight out to follow the contours of a body that was soft, wide-hipped and lush. She was femininity itself , my wife, my home base. Like Venus bathing, she lay on the bank of a river but the river kept ever widening, and I seemed in the dream to be swimming ever farther away from her. I had no thought of swimming back to the bank where she lay.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"I simply love aircraft carriers," gushed the lady naval astronaut Enterprisingly--Tom Swift and his electric vibrator


Back in the days when I was a weekly feature in a magazine hereabouts, I used to be charmed to find that just about all my readers were women, and they would say things like, "Yes. That is exactly the way I feel."

Most flattering.

What local Ovid wouldn't want an audience of lovelorn women?

This led to a teaching job in creative writing, and all the women came.

One had now to be careful of what one was saying. You were in a differeint medium now, the spoken word and the students might be copying down what you were saying.

For example:

Just for a joke I remarked that a video of New Guinea showed men with remarkably large penises.

There was a stir in the room.

"Ladies, ladies, I chided. "The boat for Port Moreseby doesn't leave till Tuesday."

Every night class has at least one clandestine faculty member and at least one mountie. You never know about those commie instructors.

I was hauled up on the carpet for the New Guinea remark.

Ah. Homeland security. It started a long time before 911.


Happily, the company finks weren't around when I'd hit a difficult episode in my life.

"I don't know what's wrong with the instructor tonight," I complained, gauging that my performance was less than exciting. I couldn't seem to set my students on fire.
"Maybe the instructor just needs to get laid."

Four hands went up.

Oh-oh. Power corrupts.


I have an unusual reationship with some women correspondents on this blog.

Say it on: Some want to get laid.

I think of a cartoon dialogue. A chicken is asking:" Do chickens get laid?"

"Certainly,' replied the wise old hen.

"Do people get laid?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Because the're chicken."

Well, this here blogger is a chicken.

You never know what you're going to get. She might come by wearing a diaper, equipped with handcuffs and duct tape and a mind-f*cking you'll never forget.

Siting here in humble solitude watching dirty movies.

You are not a man, you are degenerate.

Ah, portrait of the artist as a young degeneratte.

Oh-oh. Something just came in.

"I simply love degenerates," some woman writes in.

What's a poor onanist to do?

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

On a serious note, pick up Alannah Myles old video, "A song instead of a kiss" on YouTube.
I really did intend to offer you all you lady readers a kiss, but it seems to have come out in a bawdy song of mine.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Better a busy fool than a crazy one


Seems one can't write anything unless one's balls are hanging like a pawnbroker's emblem under an old pawnshop awning.

Like everytime I go to borrow money ( usually from a lonely guy who hasn't talked to anybody for days) he will make a social deal out of it. He also knows you're weakened, and you know he will presently segue into his superiorities, the culture derby, the short hair count and the inevitable, unspoken question.

Is he

a) Smarter than me

b) stronger than me

c) less weird

Then (and this is probably an explanation for his loneliness), he will ask you to tak Jesus Christ as your personal saviour.

Jesus. What a hard way to borrow ten bucks.


You need to be really broke to finally see where you are and among whom you move.

Yeah, yeah, you've got the Prince Vlad stake through your tum, but it suddenly strikes you that everybody has money and you don't. Even the Jesus freaks and the crazy people. Everybody's got money.
We are all making money, making money.

It has been a long standing joke of mine until I got that Bob Dylan "How Does it Feel", um, feeling:

Steal a wheelbarrow from an Italian, turn it upside down and run it up and down the street.
There has got to be a disability pension in thre for you, and it will be larger than your McJob take-home pay.

Those crazy bastards know what they're doing.

I must find a wheelbarrow at once.

Better a busy fool than a crazy one.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Friends, Romans and Assorted Abyssinians





Ah the old days of easy publishing.

A story was told around Ryerson Polytech, my old college, that the Daily Ryersonian was so short on copy that anybody could get in as an author, even if he/she were to publish a football schedule with the "author"'s name under it.

Those days are, of course gone as Ryerson has now become the prime radio and TV arts college of Canada and you almost need a pedigree to just get in.

Ryerson has become the royal road to Hollywood, networkd broadcasting and media writing.

So, staying with that older tradition of easy publishing, and with tongue well out of cheek, I will now offer the following "football schedule" instead of a blog .(The actual schedule is that of an anti-poverty rally in Newmarket, Ontario, where I was asked to make a few brief comments.

Here is how it all worked:



Hello Ivan,
My name is Tom Pearson, I am Mabel's son. I am hosting an event at Fairy Lake Park on Oct 17, The International Day for The Eradication of Poverty. Please see attached to get familiar with the day/event. I'm looking for someone to speak from a seniors perspective (about 5 minutes) about living as a lower income senior and I have in the past respected your comments/thoughts in regards to local issues (via the newspapers), and thought this type of opportunity might befit you.
I realize it's short notice however the other person I had slated to speak from a seniors perspective is a little aprehensive about speaking with a crowd, thus my call to you. You can check out more about the group organizing this (and the event history), PACC, of which I am the Chairperson at http://www.povertyacc.com/

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


Itinerary Oct 17 Part II

Speakers / (new) program, agency, advocacy/aid groups/ announcements

6:10 - Senior’s Speaker – Author, longtime Y.R. resident, Ivan Prokopchuk

6:15 – 6: 20 – Rep - York Region Alliance to End Homelessness update/introducing Brent Mackinnon - Street Kids International - Streetjibe

6:20 - 6:25 - (Councilor) Victor Woodhouse – RE: Inn From The Cold program

6:25 – 30 - Rep from Mulock Village Development Committee speaks about the toy gun exchange and programs (as featured on A Channel). Group dedicated to enriching the lives of lower income residents. Featuring single mom and son who inspired the idea.
6:30 – 40 – York Regional Police – Free Youth initiatives – 1 & 3 district Youth Coordinator - Constable Sarah Jane Riddell and youth commission members

6:40- 45: Betty – Mother of homeless family as featured recently in The Newmarket-Aurora Era-Banner

6:45-50 Announcing! “Operation Sparrow”- Rep speaker Chris Robinson –- Brand new fund offering opportunities for kids and youths of lower income families residing in Newmarket and Aurora – to participate in organized activities such as drama, karate, and sports - including transportation!

6:50 Kristine, community development facilitator, will speak about the community development projects and the new alliance between (soon to be) 4 lower income neighbourhoods, forming a group united to better the community development in York Region’s lower income communities

6:55 - Final Feature Act - “Hurricane” Mike Thompson

7:05 to 7:30 - Open Mic for walk-on speakers and performers (related to poverty).

7:30 Final word by Host Tom Pearson

Please note times and itinerary may be subject to change


Well, I came, I saw and I spoke:

"Friends, Romans and assorted Pakistanis..."


Well, it wasn't quite like that though I did come out with my favourite anecdote about the poor in Keswick, Ontario who tried to smoke whitefish in a l973 Datsun up on blocks...but you know me.


Ivan

Monday, October 15, 2007

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pig



A pig is an animal with dirt on his facehis shoes are a terrible disgrace
He has no manners when he eats his food
He's fat and lazy and extremely rude
But if you don't care a feather or a fig
you may grow up to be a pig

(Old Broadway song)


"Pork-ois?" I said to the landlady when she inspected my quarters and sniffed at me for being a bachelor and a pig.

Portrait of the Artist as a young-old pig.

One was disgruntled.

"Me, a pig? Me? God's chosen?"

She may have been part of the Chorus in the famed Charlie Brown, song:

"Yes you!"

Okay, so the walls are sooty with cigarette smoke, the bathroom floor leaks to give the poor Chinamn downstairs a tsunami--and that's a landlord problem; my kitchen walls are greasy and my floor carpetting mays as well be from The House of the Rising Sun. Paisely and stained with something. Old crow lives here. No chick.

Egad. I hope she didn't see the dirty videos.

She did see my old Jane Fonda exercise tapes and asked, casually if I did those exercises.

"Faithfully, I had answered. " The young Jane Fonda does her thing I and I exercise right along with her.
"Hones Injun!"

"How was I to know you would be in this morning to inspect, with me rolling cigarettes from butts, and beer bottles all over.

"Okay, okay, you have arrived at the Bay of Pigs, but please, next time, give some notice."

The pittrice said nothing. And finally, "You'd better get this cleaned up before the Super comes tonight.


Migod. Treated like a young porker.

This is what I get for living in a Seniors' apartment.

They treat us like children.

And we may grow up to be pigs.


How to explain?

I have become a blogging addict, a serious addiction.

Blogging is my crutch.

I do not feel good all day if I don't blog all morning.

Blogging builds up my optimism, makes me lose my sense of my awful self. It is a great enemy of the blues.

So while I blog, and blog, things build up. Dust gets into the rug. The beer bottles pile up. It is like an alcoholic relationship, though there is only bouncy Jane Fonda on the old video for company.

I did for a while write some letters to an old girlfriend in the tradition to Proust writing his letters to Marie Collette,
complaining of the difficulties he had with his own Madame Bovary and saying all the time that he missed Marie.

Marie, having read the letters, soon showed up at his doorstep.

"F*ck off," she grand master was supposed to have said. It was the Marie in his head that he had been writing to.
Ecce Homo.

And so, here I was, in my not-so-magnificent obsession, blogging, blogging, blogging letting things around me go to helll and the naughty movies in my rack. My own sort-of girlfriend showed up and I hardly noticed. She added a line or two to my blog and went home...Maybe it was because of my filthy apartment.

Disgusting, no?

Certainly disgusted the landlady.

Come to think of it, a man really is a pig.

You only need to know one to find out his disgusting sexual habits.

"All men are perverts," the old girlfriend used to tell me.

"Guilty," I had admitted, realizing that I was talking to her feet.


Ah, but one likes to think of oneself as a classy pig. I mean, I actually studied Classics-- got in through the back door of an Oaktree- studded university--Toronto. Here, it was explained to me that the greek phrase Peri-oi-koi meant "those from around here."

Well, here I am. A peri Oink-Oink. And I'm from around here.

I have become a singer of The Bay of Pigs. Swine Lake is in my repertory.

An astronaut contemplating the constellation Pig-asus.

Chubby, porky surfer.


Looks like I'll have to get busy with the mop and pail instead of Jane Fonda.

Makes me think somehow of The Globe and Mail, where I have been sending some of my pig stories. About a clean-living man forced by financial circumstances to be a pig.

One story was taken, the rest rejected.

She didn't say or write it, but I swear I heard between the lines of her rejection letter, "You did what?
"Why, you swine!"

##

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Phombus Pucker Does "Borges in Love"


Phombus Pucker here (Got the word from Bob Dylan's much underrated novel, TARANTULA).

Phombus Pucker trying to write an essay on hearbreak.
He begins:


It abounded on all sides with high, unattainable windows, above a tiled floor, on which there was a trap door, leading to a cell or pit.

The Borges scholar in love. Trapped in a Borgesian image. Trapped by a lover already lost who was torturing him with "I just want us to be friends."

I am writing down the Borges thought in a Spanish that is dimly remembered, awkward in its construction, but the substance of it is there.

Abundaman en todos costados ventanas viejos y abas el derribar debuhan adelante una cella o pozo.


What a pit we get into when someone is with someone else and not us, and is nevertheless keeping us on a string.

You discuss this plight with a friend.

He surprises you.

"You will win because you have read Borges."

What?

Is it possible, is it just possible that the maze of the Argentine master's fiction has to do with unrequited love?

"Yes," says the friend. "Borges did not marry until his seventies, and even that did not work out. He did contemplate suicide. 'All my work has been done.'" But Borges, as always was a survivor.

So it is unrequited love I am dealing with here as I write the Spanish words on a blackboard in a classroom, long ago. The students are out playing.

One of them, a girl of Mexian backround, peeps into my classroom through a half-opened door. She looks at what I have written.

My, what a lovely spiderweb, she says.

I go to chastise her. This is adult stuff. Not meant for kids.
And yet, she insists.
"It is about a spiderweb."

All that Borgesian scholarship, all that thought about Borges building Russian dolls, the biggest mold outside, then one slightly smaller, then smaller again...or, the old Borden's milk can label, with Elsie the Cow holding a can on which there is the image of Elsie the Cow, who is holding a can on which there is the image of Elise the Cow holding a can, on which there is the image of...

Zeus and IO

IO, the simple cow-girl with whom Zeus is in love, turning IO into a heifer so his wife won't know.

"The infection, the infection," IO the cow laments. She is followed by a montrous bee that is out to sting her.

For his own arcane reasons, Zeus has created a bee that would follow IO everywhere, stinging our cow-girl.

"The infection!"

And so it goes.

Says Confucious: Two people should be together, but because of social circumstances, they can not.

And so, the lover who has been left alone finds herself in a "cello o pozo"-- in a cell or pit.

But if you read Borges far enough, it may be a false cell or pit.

It may merely be the library of someone's mind and if you look up high enough, there are windows.
High.

Unnatainable

But windows.

# #




Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Borges Borg


Every so often, in every writer's life, there is this Big Break, where he's finally fought his way up the mountain and sees before him a wide plain. He (or she) has finally landed a contract.

He has worked for years, had reached a level of extreme fitness, mentally and physically. This is finally it.
The big leagues.

And suddenly, unexpectedly, The Flash.

Immobilization. A sudden stoppage. ( Elizabeth, a correspondent here, calls it fear).

Not only are your frozen at the switch with the go-ahead on your story, but, as in the case of marital separation, simple things are suddenly impossible to do!

The magazine wants you to fax the contract back with your signature. Your hands are, suddenly, like dowels, unable to slot the faxed contract back into the machine. You are a big raw nerve, incapable of doing anything. You are experiiencing The Flash.

The phone rings. You look at it. "What's that?"

Synapses seem gone with the sudden, unexpected success.

Well, thank God there is someone around you who can unscramble your butterfingers and put the paper in the right place. the contract goes back, signed and your are on your way.

But now you have to produce the story.

Oh shit.

The Flash has you hallucinating in technicolour and there is a touch of Ferdinant the Bull as you envision buttercups and meadows.

"Hey, it's just me that's about to get this national exposure.

"I am an asshole. I mean, ask somebody."


Nevertheless, the deadline looms up.

You are supposed to write a major piece on the earthquake in Mexico.

You have all the facts in--Mexico City is really built on a floating island-- the fatalities, the rubble the tremors again and again, the skyscrapers built on gimbals and springs so they would not fall.

But as the deadline comes up--nothing.

It is now that you will have to pay for all those superiorities you held as a writer on the way up.
This is the moment of truth, bunky. You either got it or you ain't.

The newspaper approach. Kipling's Five Stalwart Men.
WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? WHY?


Yes, yes, you apply all this, but it looks like just another newspaper account-- UPI, l946? It is cryptic. It is garbage. It is not a magazine feature, first-person.
Deadling time. And still nothing.

"How are you doing with that?" comes the phone call from the editor.

"Two hours, John....Just two more hours."


Oh, you have the piece drafted out all right. The facts are there. But the writing, the writing!
There is no style, no magic, nothing to differentiate the piece from a thousand others.

I mean, what would Jesus do?

I close my eyes.

I try an old est technique. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a cave. There is a wise thing down there. It will tell you what to do.

I close my eyes, and I see not Jesus, but Jorge Luis Borges, his aristocratic Spanish face, the Argentine fighter's resolve. He is saying something, but it is in Spanish with an Argentine inflection I don't immediately get.

The vision fades.

And suddenly it comes to me.

"On the night Beatrice Viterbo died in the earthquake, they were advertising one or another brand of cigarettes.

Carramba.

This is now what I would write, but this was the way to go. My Beatrice, an old love, is dead.

Now I will have to, metaphorically, go through the rubble in Mexico City to find her.

A man will have to go through the l985 rubble of Mexico City to find the one he loved.

Son of a bitch!

By Jorge, I've got it!

I conjure up the vision of the great Jorge Luis Borges again.

He says something. "Por nada!"

And:

Esto que yo hacere.

That's how I do it.


I complete my story. I put the -30- at the end.

I take it to the editor. He reads it.

"Top drawer," he says.

The thing has worked.

I stumble out of the office, the accountant's cheque in my hand.

Okay. I got away with it.

But there will be another Flash the next time, the feeling of panic, of immobilization.

I conjure up the image of Borges again. He is giving me a kind, Borgesioan smile.

"Eat Bazilian beef," Borges seems to say. It's good for you. Clears up the logjam.

The Canadian stuff is mierdo!

I sincerely hope that the Great Borges will be there for me next time I'm in a pickle like this.

But somewhere along the line, I will have to stop leaning on him and strike out on my own.
As in the final lecture on philosophy at Trinity College:
"You can no longer lean on us. You will have to now find your own way."


# #


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pathos and Bathos


I saw my old newspaper publisher on the street the other day.

He looked like a lonely, frightened angel.

Oh what the hell. My wings too, are singed.

Brings to mind a cartoon of the novelist and the banker.

"See that screwed up looking guy doing all he can to place one foot in front of the other?...That's the novelist.

"See that screwed up looking guy walking behind him?..That's his banker."

I don't know how many publishers and bankers I have given the chills to, but after a number of libel suits and bankruptcies nobody of any artistic power or real money wants to go near me with a ten foot pole....Maybe it's because I am a ten foot "Pole".

"Better hang onto tha private income, Ivan," the late top editor Gerry Anglin used to tell me.
"I don't think anyone in town will want to hire you. You're a loose cannon."

So what if I called the father of the baton twirler a psycho. (He used to have the poor girl practising all night in a basement, hitting the rafters with her baton, the thing bouncing back towards her, knocking out one tooth, then another, till finally the father outfitted the poor aspiring champ with a hockey mouthguard). What is the matter with people? The ambitious mother bringing her poor 11-year-old to the Big Shot movie producer, well known for abusing children.

Ah, the stories we had to produce for $175 a weed ($1,750 in today's money).

I was either lacking in intellectual finesse or I couldn't stand half my story subjects.
Journalism is chores. No job for the sensitive.
I never made a very good paparazzo.

Now the paparazzi are hounding me and and I make a lot of old editors nervous.

I have written a lot of letters to the editor, some good, others a headache for editors, with the result that
they will do anything to tell me to lay off, even to the point of reviewing my books, if only I would shut up and leave politics to the politicians. So many closets, so many skeletons...And as an old paparazzo, don't I too have skeletons!

Irate makers of plaster elves and church gargoyles, inventors of the snowboard, bankrupt restaranteus, operators of 7-11 stores, people you wouldn't want to have in your social circle who nevertheless now have the Indian sign over you because you erred in a fact or two of their stories and they want to sue.

They go back to your old blogs, slap your around in their comments, call you a pr*ck.

Have they no idea of the kind of person they slight?

Are they blind, lazy, or just stupid?

I am most good, most kind, most modest.

But I've got to make money. "I am making money, Martha...We are all making money!"

Outside, men rake leaves.

Nowadays I too, rake leaves.

Landscaping. What a drag.

I recall a past where after receiving a number of scholarships at the University of California, I was sudenly not in favour any more as a writer, turned down by Stanford on a scholarship and was reduced to raking leaves to keep a family going.

Stories are told of graduates of MFA programmes forced to distribute telephone books.

Maybe it's a disease of denial I have.

I hate wearing a suit.

"This is too good for me."

I noticed my old publisher too, has taken to wearing dungarees.

People say, "There goes Ivan, the f*cked -up writer."

"And there goes Fred, his f*cked up publisher."

Maby we are both condemned.

Me for trying to tell the truth, and him for taking the responsibility of printing it.

##

Monday, October 08, 2007

Connie the Con Lady





Take my photo off the wall
If it just won't sing for you
'Cause all that's left has gone away
And there's nothing there for you to prove
Oh, look what you've done
You've made a fool of everyone
Oh well, it seems likes such fun
Until you lose what you had won
Give me back my point of view'
Cause I just can't think for you
I can hardly hear you say
What should I do, well you choose
Oh, look what you've doneYou've made a fool of everyone
Oh well, it seems likes such fun
Until you lose what you had won
Oh, look what you've doneYou've made a fool of everyone
A fool of everyone
A fool of everyone
Take my photo off the wall
If it just won't sing for you
'Cause all that's left has gone away
And there's nothing there for you to do
Oh, look what you've done
You've made a fool of everyone
Oh well, it seems likes such fun
Until you lose what you had won
Oh, look what you've done
You've made a fool of everyone
A fool of everyoneA fool of everyone

--by JET


Small wonder that blogger JR places the group JET over my White Stripes.
Damn insightful song here.

About l00 per cent of what the current feeling state is among the bloggers today. What say you Josie, Eric 1313 and all the others?

Damn.
Beautiful , manipulative people out to f*ck up other beautiful, maniipulative people. Russian doll syndrome.
Point to a object and talk about it, Borges-like. Call it love. But how is love an object?

So I leave what I have to say to JET, who so well articulates it. (above).


Out of cigarettes on a Canadian Thanksgiving.

Ah well. It makes you go out and do something.

Like point to an object. Like pointing to a picture of JET


Ivan

Thursday, October 04, 2007

One Mo' Time: Publishing the Unpublishable


The situation was hopeless, nobody in his right mind would want to be in it, a love triangle (rectangle?) wherein an unattached man is involved with a woman who is married, but nevertheless still has another lover and not the hopeful swain.

Enter the unpublished novelist, whose sole friends besides his "Britney" are the people in the publishing house who had rejected him. They won't publish his book, but they like having him around, for he's always in bizarre situations, and since each publishing executive is probably a frustrated writer, there might be some material here.

"Look at my life," says the editor. "My former wife went on to be a superstar in Canadian publishing, my only companion at night is this little mouse who has given notice in the first place, I make the scene with the magazine for entertainment, I am turning pigeon-grey and I work in these pigeon-grey offices.

"You, on the other hand, are publishing something in your magazine every week, you go on these mammoth drunks, you play guitar at nightclubs and you're involved in a menage-a-trois.

"Trade you lives."


Well, I wasn't sure. The man had had two major pieces published in Harpers, wrote a beautiful thriller about an aboriginal heroine from Oklahoma who had turned detective, was now editor of this house-- and the RCMP were hounding him for draft-dodging.
Always the "quiet" American.
Canadian publishing is quietly American. Tale out of school.

Nevertheless, I had somehow begun a career in "the pain industry", that is to say a situation where one was a half-shagged fox in a forest fire and all he had gotten from the lady was a probable roll in the hay one night, though he had been drunk and could barely remember.


I had gotten her smell, and was now following this little Britney around like James Joyce who had a hand job in a theatre one night, and liked the experience so much he had followed the lady around for years, dark glasses and all.

But the situation. The situation.

Besides the husband and lover, there was "Marco" and "Louis" and she kept talking of Willam Burrough's Naked Lunch and I was becoming convinced she was the blow job queen of the Mafia.
And I had to play guitar in that stupid nightclub where she'd frequently come, accompanied by her marginally gay husband. I had built up a sizable bar tab at the club, could not pay it, and the owner, another Italian, said I could pay off by individual performances. "That song was worth five dollars. Your rendition of Stan Getz's Samba Triste was shit. I won't pay you anything for that.

Then there was the scene where my guitar conked out, I had to do a strip tease and my shorts ended up in the owner's beer. My catch-up act may have thrilled some of the ladies, but the owner was not amused.

I got fired as a lounge singer.

"You're depressed all the time because you are a loser," said my East Indian faithful companion, himself known as "Paki Elvis" and a great collector of vegetables and dixie cups on the nights he was off his game.

Ah well. I still had my Britney to sit with, to play kneesies with, the husband sometimes joining in. I would talk loudly,, brag, throw wild promises to the wind; I would outline my great sprawling novel.
This would make the lady's eyes bat, like Tammy-Faye's, the husband would reach for my balls and I was in my glory.

And then the drive to their neat white cottage withe the mock cyprus trees in front, the huge picture window
behind which we'd perform some perversions that purists might term" refinements", the huband passed out upstairs--or was he peering through the peep hole? Yuppies are crazy.

And so was the midnight balloonist high up in his basket, probably the other lover of my Britney.

Ivan thought he had figured it all out, had won the set-piece, he thought.

But low over the house was the observation balloon.
But more realistically, he was sitting in his BMW pimpmobile watching two silhouettes on the shade and building up a jihad that would finally see Ivan doing a swan dive out of his second-story apartment; half-f*cked fox in a forest fire.indeed.

And still I had followed her. Pulled the pimp out of the sleek-assed car that had looked like an old Jaguar, beat the crap out of him, she was dialing the police and I had to run away.

Crazy and in love, in love with someone who now no longer wanted me.

"I thought he was a nice guy, but he's a
"smart" turned asshole and I want no more of him."

"I don't want to see you any more," she was saying on the phone. "Yeah, I had answered. "But what's your point?"

"You've got to get over this enfatuation with me," she was telling me as I ambushed her on her way to work.
"Keep this up, and I'm going to call the cops. I'm not kidding."

Well, that puts a damper on the "relationship".


I retreated to my apartment, my brain awash with Greta Garbo; images of Britney. My little Helen of troy
The face that launched a thousand ships.

Back to the typewritter. Back to the great sprawling novel.

But then, unexpectedly, a letter.
"I have included a self-addressed envelope. If you should choose to avoid communication, you can send this back."
She had outlined all our good times together, the struggle with " that old obstinate old Mustang", her car, the the making of warm, strange love on a far corner of the moon, the prim virgin pose she would take in the morning, saying to me, "I hope you don't think I'm a loose woman."
"You have to understand my intention.
"What do you want, a permanent relationship or just a roll in the hay?"

Weirdest and most untimely offer of marriage I had ever had.

I went back to cranking out my novel, the one that would surely be rejected (again) by my "friends" in publishing.

I outlined my plight to the editor the next day.
He had read my script, laughing in altogether unexpected places.

"This is a tragicomedy," he was saying.
"It's still not our kind of book, though I can see it between covers-- like from Grove Press, in New York.
"Could I suggest a title for you?

"Shoot," I had said, still a little depressed.
"How about Naked Came the Ukrainian"?

"Never mind," I had said.
"I don't think your "Homo Hotpants" was any screaming hell either.

Three months later, I finally decided that I would marry that woman.

But by this time, she was trapped in Holland Landing by Luigi the pimp, the mad balloonist whose Mongolfier was moored to one of his totems on the farm that adjoined Britney's cottage.
"SELF-SERVE" was a Crowley motto in a metal arch over the entrance to his property. To one side of his totem-studded yard was a little chapel with its own sign on the door. "Chapel of Our Lady of the Chain."

Jesus Christ..

Poor Ukie, out of his depth. Involved in a menage a quatre. The Italian pimp ballonist and his yardful of satanic totems, to one side of which was a chapel dedicated to "Our Lady of the Chain."

"Naked Came the Ukrainian" indeed. Still obsessed by her sweet memory.

Pounding the Hound through Hell would be a better title for his novel.

Ah, magnificent obsession.

Now I had to prove my mettle. I was in the middle of a classic Gothic novel. ( The heroine lives is in a castle, trapped by a Dracula, usually Italian)

Ah. Naked comes the Ukrainian!

Watch out, Luigi. And if I catch you, you get a piece of this.

##

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tell me a story.


Tell me a story, my heartbreakinly beautiful granddaughter is blithely demanding.

Though only four, she could have been a happy, selfconfident woman who is just a little bored in a swell resturant. We are in a bistro.
She tugs at the peak of her little baseball cap, puts it at a fetching angle, the blonde hair streaming down from the racy hat to tumble all around her shoulders
Her top is turquoise as is the way of kids' clothes today. Her little dungarees are a wine colour. Everything on her is Kid-Zone. Her tiny shoes are Gap. She is sitting, or rathter moving around a little expectanly on her slightly creaking wicker chair
She likes you and want to hear more of you and about you.

"A story," she gesticulates with an open hand toward you, while passing the ice cream dish to her father, who has a little taste, with his own spoon to see if her dessert had been any good. She has had quite enough of the kid-coloured stuff. "Tell me a story!
"I want you to tell me a story."

"Well," I begin, "There once was a litttle prince, an alien really, but a really cool alien. He came from the asteroid Z-2007, a really tiny asteroid on which there were two volcanoes, one active, and the other inactive.
"On his asteroid too, was one flower. The flower liked to talk a lot and it had fears of being attacked. "'But I have my three thorns. I have my three thorns to defend myself with.'

The little prince would tend to the the flower every day with his watering can and then he would examine his two volcanoes, one active and the other inactive.

"But what the prince really wanted was a sheep to go with his flower. He had to acquire a sheep at once.

"The little prince did some yogic flying and came upon a man whose airplane engine had broken down and the man was frantically trying to tighen a bolt on his motor so all the oil would not pour out like it had had the last time, causing him to make an emergency landing.

"The little prince levitated over to the man.
"The man looked up from his work.

"Draw me a sheep," the little prince demanded.

"'I cannot draw you a sheep right now, said the pilot. 'I am trying to fix the engine on my airplane, or I shall be stranded on this mesa forever.'"

"Draw me a sheep!"

The man again examined the little prince from the tiny planet Z-2007, on which there were two volcanoes, one active and the other inactive and the flower who kept insisting she had three thorns to defend herself with should the little prince bring a sheep.


This is getting a little too detailed for the granddaughter . She takes off her hat. There is a barette in her hair to keep the lovely long locks from her face, which is round. She has a nice high forehead like all Ontario girls seem to possess. She shakes her hair. I am losing her attention.

I go on.

"The little prince said to the stranded pilot, "Draw me a sheep. Not just an ordinary sheep, but a really nice sheep!"

There is now not much progress with the engine repair.

The little prince has produced for the pilot something like a piece of white parchment, on which the pilot draws a really spunky sheep, a sheep with attitude.

"What's attitude?" my little granddaughter wants to know.
"Well, it's not altitude," I say. The pilot can't get off the ground.
"What's altitude?" She give the six-year-old brother a little slap on the shoulder. "What's altitude?"
The brother, who is darker in colouring, says "Altitude is high. He had been listening to the story.
"Is the little prince's planet bigger than one of the moons of Mars?"

"Smaller," I say. Even smaller than Phobos."

"I know Phobos," Dylan pipes up.
"Gee, It must have been a really tiny planet."


Ah, it is too late now. Aislinn is toying with a soda straw.

"Tell me another story."

"You didn't like that one? I was jut getting to the part where the little prince finally gets his sheep and the flower is in a panic.
"Ah, but she had her three claws to defend herself with," Dylan pipes up.

Dylan wants to hear the rest of the story, but Aislinn picks up her hat and playfully throws it at me.
I toss it back.
She is amazingly adept. Catches it right away.

"Let's go to the playground."

We walk to the playground where there are machines to dig dinosaur bones up with.

Dylan wants to hear more about the planet, the one with one active volcano and the other inactive.

I am trying to finish the story while we locate Albertosaurus bones.

Aislinn is having some trouble working the little front-end loader that digs up the bones in the sand.

I help her. Left hand and up is to scoop. Right hand and up is to shake the sand up.

The park by the river is full of sunlight. The river is bathed in green.

Does it really matter if I finish my story or not?

We work the little front-end loader.

"This place is just full of dinosaurs," Aislinn says.


Ivan