Friday, February 15, 2008

"Know thyself"--as a giddy bastard?

Not too long ago, on a strange misty night in Toronto's funky Queen Street West, I wandered the streets drunk, with a great, sprawling novel in my head.

The idea was to clear the logjam of ordinary teaching and writing, wash away all the floatsome and jetsam of ordinary reality and attain once more that sense of being able to see around corners, to stand under trees and smell the blossoms, to be--say it on!--young again and reach for the laurel leaves of the poet that I once imagined myself of being.
Acid? you might ask.
No, it was the way I was as a young man. Crazy. And the college was publishing all my poetry and the professors were jealous. "Take you out to the squash course and beat your ass."

So here I was, forty years later, stumbling along Philosopher's Walk, Trinity College, not quite an alma mater--I just had to take an extension course there to get my degree. But the philosophy had been interesting, who doesn't get intoxicated over old Play Dough and his underlying pictures of real stuff under all the B.S. we are shown by the Powers that Be. Myth of the Cave. Yes. We are shown one thing on TV and something totally different is really happening.

Ah, drunk, and thinking you can see around corners, while an old Greek, himself probably drunk, had it all taped
2,500 years ago.

Gnôthi Sauton. Know thyself.

Well, yes. Know thyself for a a randy, drunken fool.

I visit my editor in the course of my wandering.s "Man, are you spaced. This is a good time for you to write." John always had this knack for getting to the heart of the matter.

I was a firehose of words and someone had crimped the hose.
The crimp of ordinary reality that gets in the way of things you want to say.

Back in your Spadina Avenue loft now.
Bang-up against the publishing company that had rejected you.

Ah publishing for the college magazine was one thing.
But real publishing involved agents, government, maybe even the CIA.

Jerzy Kosinsky with his stunning "Painted Bird", so much like my own first novel, "The Black Icon."
Kosinsky knew how to play the game. He was also a CIA asset. Oh how naive we ae with our philosophy and our sophomoric intoxications.
Yet it was Jerzy who put the Winn-Dixie plastic bag over his own head and offed himself.
Or did some Russian get to him?
No matter. My imaginary rival was dead. I was alive.

Gnôthi Sauton. Know thyself.

Yes, yes, but knowing thyself is the most difficult thing of all.
We never really know ourselves.

The older I get the more I realize that I am no great shakes, one time leaving the scene of an accident without telling anybody, weasling my way out of complicated divorce procedures, stealing once, from my father.

Know thyself. Maybe as a weasel and toad-stabber! The self ain't always pretty.

Ah, but love, something I don't think Plato rally knew, though he wrote an entire Symposium about it.

Your lover tells you a story.

Once there was a man. He was very beautiful.
But he came across these five girls who were hitchhiking.

My lover then goes into great detail as to what the man did with the beautiful women and what the did to him.

She was inventing porn for me. Knew what I liked. Gauche, no?

WEll, that's true love. Whispering porn to your lover. Lol. Well, that's an experience I'm sure Plato never had.
Unlimited in ideas. Limited in sex.

I am wandering the streets of Toronto, my glorius, stunning novel still in my head.

Gotta get it out. Gotta get it out.

Maybe a little LSD would actually do it.

Frig it.

I whistle down a bottle of Scope.

Give myself not an anima, as Jung would say.

But an enema.

I had walked like a novelist. Nice feeling.

Ah, he laboured mightily.

And ended up pulling the Loo chain.

Nice reverie anyway.

Now it's back to the keyboard and actual work.
Of all things, this is the most difficult.



Monique said...

You are, as always, selling yourself short.

You were a writer and you are still. Just keep going


Monique said...

Hey ... I just realized ... I'm first ... And second!

Monique said...

And third ... LOL :-D

benjibopper said...

you got all that from Queen West? amazing. all i ever got from Queen West was a spicy Italian sausage with sourkraut, which I can't even spell.

ever listen to Lowest of the Low? the Trana rock band? I think, since you like succinctness, that you'd like them. They put it this way:

"I wanna take a streetcar downtown
read Henry Miller and wander around
'cause my UI cheque has just come in
ah, where you been?"

of course that was before Orwell changed unemployment insurance (UI) to Employment insurance (EI).

another passage comes to mind:
"your debutante just knows what you need
but I know what you want."
-B.Dylan (again)

One last thing: stay off the Scope. That stuff'll kill you faster than crack. they won't even sell that stuff in the vicinity of a homeless shelter.

Donnetta Lee said...

It always comes down to facing the keyboard, doesn't it? Sometimes the most difficult thing to do.
Donnetta said...


Home run!

Appreciate the comments. said...


Yep, Lowest of the Low seems my kind of band.

The Dylan quote is profound!
No news that old Zimmermann is a genius.

Scope: There is a cheap mouthwash called Lander. Hey, peppermint taste. Has Listerine beat, though I hear Listerine is not bad with a bit of Vodka.
...I am truly surprised I have any brain left...So is my "ex", I guess...Thought I was totally fried! said...


Yep, just you, the keyboard and the screen, though I have recently gone back to yellow pads...about the only thing I have in common with Rudyard Kipling.
Kipling says that when you "kipple", it's you, the paper, the eraser and whatever else you've got on your desk...The materials seem to produce the stuff.
Why shouldn't I believe him? He wrote some of the best stuff of the l9th century, though he was definitely a military man.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...


My most favorite. I shake my head when I read your writings like this. You know that you have the ability, but like Monique said, "You are selling yourself short." Course, she is more polite than I am going to be.

Ha! Think I am going to yell at you? I might, I should! You make me want to write well, brilliantly. You makes others want to write well, and then you write something like this. Something that makes you sound desperate. Maybe that is what you are Ivan desperate, but again, maybe that is also what you need to be.
I am finding lately that the more I pity myself, the more I realize by doing so I am throwing in the proverbial towel. You are much too good for this and I know you know this. Sometimes I think you are waiting for someone to let you go, to say, "Ivan, you can stop now, no one believe in you anymore." Well, I am sorry but you will not hear that from me. I am not your out.

Why can't you see that although you may have lost everything, you are never too late to find that path again. You need only try, have faith, and do what you do best. WRITE!

Ahh Ivan... let me give you a ::hip shake::...Don't know if that will help, but its worth a try.

Soft love,

P.S. I prefer paper to the keyboard! said...

Just passed a period this February when the organism felt as if it had had it.
Little red warning lights, as if on a cockpit instrument panel.

Snow-covered bridges and the sense of having gone one bridge too far.
I guess there is just too much snow, and I'm out in it a lot.
This condition can usually be cured by a good steak dinner I think, maybe with someone nice.

Okay. I'll eat and drink.

And watch you shake it. :) said...

Just passed a period this February when the organism felt as if it had had it.
Little red warning lights, as if on a cockpit instrument panel.

Snow-covered bridges and the sense of having gone one bridge too far.
I guess there is just too much snow, and I'm out in it a lot.
This condition can usually be cured by a good steak dinner I think, maybe with someone nice.

Okay. I'll eat and drink.

And watch you shake it. :) said...

Whoops! Darn Google.


Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...


Charles Gramlich said...

It's fucked up how our writing brain gets into a rut and we have to do something to shake it up, to help us see around corners, or maybe through them. I've used booze for it, sometimes loud loud loud music, sometimes a fast motorcycle, sometimes a walk in the woods at night. They all have their costs, though. said...


Old Willie Faulkner used to say, "a little alcohol, a little tobacco, and the thing will get done."

It worked for me as a young man, but yes, there was this price.

Anonymous said...

For Immediate Release: Feb 14 2008
RE: Editorial

Committed group ‘makes poverty history” with first ever action forum in York Region to focus on poverty reduction.

The Poverty Action for Change Coalition (PACC) is pleased to announce that a series of non-partisan “square-table’ meetings, co-paneled by leading politicians from all levels of government in Northern York Region with the goal of reducing Poverty in the region, is set to begin with the 1st in the series of quarterly’s to be held at Newmarket’ s Magna Centre on Feb 20 2008.

The idea was broached in Oct 2006 at the first ever (PACC organized) rally against poverty in the region - at The York Regional Newmarket headquarters front lawn on International Day for the Eradication of Poverty from where it received various committments including regional councilor to be at the time – John Taylor - and ultimately MP Belinda Stronach - with the stipulation that it lead to action. The idea was then presented to the provincial ministry via a meeting with Minister of Community and Social Services Madeleine Meilleur and senior staff, which gave a luke - warm reception to the idea but who were receptive to further communications in its regard at that time.

The electing of MPP Frank Klees who gave support to the idea almost immediately, as well Georgina Mayor Rob Grossi, who also pledged support last Oct 17 at the PACC organized International Day for the Eradication of Poverty event at Newmarket’s Fairy Lake Park, and as well former Mayor of Aurora and future MP candidate Tim Jones, were the final touches to make for a grouping with some “teeth”.
In order that the forum is most affective, it has been agreed that representatives from all levels would need to participate and that with Northern York Region having unique issues differing from the south, it would concentrate on this geographical area at this time

States PACC Chair Tom Pearson, “ It took awhile, but we feel we have a group of gutsy community leaders who have shown their leadership by committing to finding ways to specifically reduce poverty- and in the past it has been hard to even get York Region politicians to even admit there was a problem, and in fact some still hide from it as witnessed by some non-responses we received, or rather didn’t. They should all be commended for their actions – but not too much yet, as there is work to be done!”

The first closed door meeting will be used to formalize the set-up and procedures the forum will take and will eventually receive information from everything from the private sector, agencies, individuals, education boards, and organizations - to possibly hearing from other forums such as campaign 2000 which has the added bonus of having economists information specific to Ontario in relation to poverty. The group may also add to the panel should they so choose, for the duration of the quarterly meets.

“ We have a lot of desperate people - families, children, counting on us to make things happen’ says Mr. Pearson, “ We hear almost daily from families, mostly single moms desperate to avoid things like eviction and which our system relies on homelessness prevention programs that do not provide help to the poorest, as they don’t make enough income to qualify which is ridiculously ironic. But really, we are but a conduit for the politicians who ultimately have to make those changes happen.”

Media release by TP Entertainment & Media said...

Hey Tom Pearson,

I spoke at the last anti-poverty rally at Fairy Lake, Newmarket.

Okay, okay, I wasn't a Mayor, but at one time, I ran for Mayor...Some days, in my megalomania, I convince meself that I won the election ("Claim fraud!" says Niccolo Machiavelli. Heh).

So even though I wasn't a mayor, you had invited me to speak anyway.

Enjoyed doing that and I especially enjoyed the free lunch.

Good luck!

Josie said...

"I was a firehose of words and someone had crimped the hose."

Ivan, you crimped the hose. You still have it all inside you. But you are being deluded into thinking that being drunk will make it all better. It won't. Did you ever see a play by Clifford Odets called "The Country Girl"? You are Frank, even to the point of drinking cough syrup (which he did).

You are afraid of success, so you hide behind your booze. Sober up and dig deep inside you, and write, write, write.

Tara has hit the nail on the head with her comments as well.

Don't look to us for your pity party.

...this is your Dutch Uncle talking!

Lana Gramlich said...

The work is always the hard part, unfortunately. Thanks for the Torontonian reminders (although you can KEEP Spadina! Gads, the traffic!!!) said...


Can't I at least have a go at the Crest? :) said...


Yeah, the traffic on Spadina.

They were going to widen it about thirty years ago, but the famed garment merchants said no.

the walking man said...

Ivan I don't think you'd have to work so hard, before you pull the chain on the loo, if you put the scope up the other hole instead of down the easier one.



Monique said...

How are you doing on your keyboard?

Ivan, I watch this programme on t.v. early Saturday evenings. Canadian truckers (Huge bearded men, enormous trucks and their gigantic loads) driving over the ice road. I find this fascinating because on the map shown there are those wonderful names. said...

Hey Mark,

Josie is a medical person.

I'm sure she'll agree that injecting alcohol a' posteriori works only too damn well.
Messy though! said...


We lose that ice road every so often because of so-called Global Warming.
The Road is back, as are the sardine beds, but no one is supposed to tell...Why ruin Al Gore's action, heh.

One of the things our CBC does right is to run "The Royal Canadian Air Farce", a wonderul troupe along the lines of your old Goon Show with the late Spike Milligan.
They had a skit, years and years ago about some Baffin Ilanders wanting to separate from Canada, and they had already written their national anthem.
The anthem goes exactly like "God Save the Queen", but the lyrics are very repetitive, viz.,

Baffin Island
Baffin Island
Baffin I-s-land!

Seriously, without that ice road, communities would be badlly under-supplied.

monster paperbag said...

"Of all things, this is the most difficult." --> i second that. said...

Monster Paperbag,

Interesting comment.

I have had a look at your blog and see that you are serious about writing exercises, and you have some valuable suggestions.

Me? I have been to a critique group years ago, where some lady pointed out that I should try some writing exercises of my own...Shoud learn to "draw hands" sort of thing.
This, after I observed she had lifted the entire chapter of her first novel From Maxim Gorky and his excellent passage on Russian Easter.

Little did the poor woman know that there was a "Rusak" in the room and he had read at least half of Maxim Gorky.
The little thief seemed to turn on me.
...Or maybe I really needed writing exercises?


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