Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Drunk agin. And in the classroom!


I am replaying the tapes of my life. Bastards won't stop.

Especially after a couple of drinks.

Again, no future, but what a past.

Many years ago, I attened the Instituto Allende as a graduate student in Writing. At the time, the Instituto was a satellite campus of the University of California. It would have been nice paper to get. Almost as good as the great writing programme at Irvine, because all the good instructors were finally there. Vance Packard, Bob Sommerlott, Tom Mayer and the like, all producers of best sellers.
But there was trouble at the ranch. A dispute with the owner of the instituto, and suddenly the pro writer-professors left in a huff.
No profs.

So they recruited me. I had taught in Toronto, had the paperwork, and suddenly, il prefessore. Again.

Well. A flash of performance anxiety. What would I teach the kids?...well, adults really, most of them on the GI bill; they had to stay in school fer to keep collecting the money.

So I sort of told them about myself, my own quest, teaching the course through telling the students who I was, my influences and publication credits.

And my fascination with the fictional character of Phoebe Zeitgeist.

Hegel says Zeitgeist is the spirit of the age. Well, this character was certainly the spirit of the age. Cold war age.
I told them about the late Michael O'Donoghue, an alumnis of SNL and former editor of Evergreen Magazine and his creation there of Phoebe Zeitgeist.

Actually, I had a drink before my lecture, always a mistake, for you will ramble and shout wild things, and somebody might even decided to call 9ll.

Anyway, here is how my virgin lecture went.
Drunken virgin.

" It was Norman Mailer who first posited the novel as "The Great Bitch. "The Great Bitch , La Belle Damme Sans Merci, that unattainable Helen of Troy that gets you just about there, but not all the way, and leaves you howling at the moon, sometimes for years. You go to pursue. You scheme. You plan. To no avail. You will never be with her.
I do feel that I have been chasing The Great Bitch all these years with the feeling that I was the only guy in town who couldn't get laid in a Ho-house. Now Mailer is an experienced enough artist to tell the novice writer that getting laid is not really the the point, it's producing the book about almost being laid, as in the original version of John Fowles masterpiece, "The Magus". At least that's what I got out of Mailer's "An American Dream," for all its gaucheries and crudities. ( Not to say, ever, that Mailer is gauche or crude, it's just that the embittered PI in the piece seemed gauche and crude. And violent. Treated women like the Russian whoremasters of all the 'Stans today.. Was it the woman or the unattainable novel that I sought? So I went looking for someone who had a theme, a historical theme and a plan. Well as always thoroughout my misguided education, I had to go back to comic strips.

My quest started in the late Sixties. I found, in a magazine, a comic book collaboration between geniuses Michael O'Donoghue and Robert Springer, "The Adventures of Phoebe-Zeitgeist", a gorgeous drop-dead Moonbeam McSwine, almost out of old All Capp, perhaps, but nothing McSwinish about Phoebe- Zeitgeist. She is beautiful, especially when drawn nude and in extremely stressful situations. She is a Serbian debutante, an aristocrat, really .
Phoebe-Zeitgeist, the belle of any ambassadorial ball, is suddenly kidnapped and captured by a series of bizarre characters, such as crazed Eskimos, Nazis, Communist Russians, Chinese foot fetishists and lesbian assassins. She does have a hard time of all this. She is variously rescued, recaptured and rescued again.
Hey, former soldiers, wouldn't you have loved to have rescued Phoebe from the clutches of those evil Red Chinese, Russian Communists and all the assorted rejects of Katmandu.
( I was fresh out of liberal arts school, still high on old Hege;'s notions on the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, that old German shepherd seeming more abreast of the times even today, than he was during Bismarck's reign, where a united Germany seemed to be the actual zeitgeist. And Hegel had all the brains). Of course, right now America seems to have it all. But brains?

Bob Dylan: Don't let Henry Kissinger tie you in a knot...When you gonna wake up?).

But cut to the chase: I was inspired inspired by the best art of my time, like Howl, by Allen Ginsburg, Advertisments for Myself by Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac and, especially Michael O'Donoghue. His was the "Mr. Bill", plasticine puppet on Saturday Night Live, always being dismembered by some sadistic ogre-puppet .("Oh, Oh, no! Ooooh!)

I was half in love and on the way to writing a beautiful novel about Toronto, and if not that, at least meet my personal Phoebe-Zeitgeist. A naked woman in chains, political correctness be damned,was a huge turn- on for a young horny fool who wanted to write. I had to be as good as Micheal O'Donoghue. I had to find a love object as beautiful as Phoebe-Zeitgeist.

Three novels later, I found myself in the unenviable position of an old balding guy in love with a woman who may well have been out of an erotic coming book, myself the very epitome of some pimply guy with a guttering candle stuck his head, looking for Paris Hilton.

Always the Phoebe- Zeitgeist comic strip in Evergreen, Grove Press and even Playboy . Michael O'Donoghue's perfervid imagination, a Diogenes not with a candle in his hand, but with a candle on the top of his head, the picture of his chained porn queen firmly embedded in te demented seeker's brain, and he had to get her. "Gotta get!"
I had somehow stumbled, after my three novels upon this untenured professorship and the porn queen seemed to suddenly appear live as you or me. Professor and the Blue Angel.
I was not aware, in those days that women who went to night school risked the House of the Rising Sun, if not serious marital difficulties.
But my Phoebe was more than a graduate student. She was, in fact, an alumnus of the House of the Rising Sun. Seem lately, there were so many former hookers in Toronto are taking Creative Writing Classes. Or so it had seemed to me. And why not? What are you going to do with a plodding statistician husband, and you with all the imgination?
She told me she was an actress--and what an actress, I later found out as I checked out her VCR tapes. I was in love with the BJ queen of Holland Landing.

Ah the professor and the Blue Angel. Uncle Vanya and Phoebe-Zeitgeist.

There was a dungeon in her basement. We would visit it on her off days, when the pimp was away dealing drugs in Edmonton out of little red Toyota trucks. But it was not me that she sought. It was the idea of me, the tweedy prof, raconteur, classical guitar player (Learned it from Liona Boyd, at least some Ponce preludes).
What she really needed was a new pimp, at least one who didn't have to dress up in her clothes, put on her panty-hose, high boots and somewhow finally get himself off.

I was seriously out of my league. She dumped me for a new pimp. I hardly had the resources. She stopped bedding me, of course, terminating what passed for sex between us. I still had her in the hippocampus of my groin. I had her smell. "Better easy conquests, said old Herodotus. Better that, or your body will drive you mad as you seek the unattainable." Yet there I was, in middle age, the candle on top my head, a character, suddenly out of Michael O'Donoghue.( Mr. O'Donoghue was by now dying of cancer quitting his Saturday Night Live position).
Why him? He was, after all, the genius of my quest, the explainer, the interpreter of our time. I was just a follower...( With the candle on my head).Yeah, yeah, it's fun to be a genius, of course, but keep that old candle before the cart. Listening to Bob Seeger all this time.

Twenty years
Where'd they go
Twenty years, I don't know.
I sit there wonder some times
Where they'd gone.

I beat up the pimp and have scattered the foot-fethishists and lesbian assassins. The PI side of me. Had to break it up. Hero in my own novel. But to me she would still not come. She went to others. Still the candle on my head.Art imitating life?...I had the spookiest notion that she was art and I was life, not the other way around.I sit here on a rock, along with my old Bob Seeger and Julian Lennon tapes, my old walkman with me. Daydreaming in the park."Sittin' on a pebble by the river playin' guitarWonderin' if we'll ever get that far."Doing the Ivan-man.


I was surprised by the applause, but I will never teach drunk again.

Uh, or write a blog drunk agin.

##

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ivan,

How about a post on the passing of Norman Mailer? Back when, I used to
regard him as "the man." I guess I grew up, and he didn't. He was about
as close as we were ever going to get to another Ernest Hemingway. Think
of anybody that comes close nowadays? Mailer, after a tiff with his wife
in the midst of a his campaign to be mayor said, "You can't stab your
wife and be mayor of New York City." Norman sometimes got the concept.

Tom

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Thanks Tom.

I will do that in anothe blog.

But Mr. Mailer is partially covered in the above blog.

Thanks for staying interested.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

"My hands have not touched pleasure since your hands, --
No, -- nor my lips freed laughter since 'farewell',
And with the day, distance again expands
Voiceless between us, as an uncoiled shell.

Yet, love endures, though starving and alone.
A dove's wings clung about my heart each night
With surging gentleness, and the blue stone
Set in the tryst-ring has but worn more bright. "


know this? Just something to make you smile.

T

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

It doth touch.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Forsooth.

Monique said...

Time eh? It flies when you're busy, it stops when nothing is happening. Where have my last thirty years gone? Probably with the wind

Josie said...

Ivan, I am always surprised at how much time writers write about writing, rather than actually writing... Did that make any sense? I have known a lot of writers who do that. I think you are a fabulous writer, and your children's short stories are beyond amazing!

I would love to see some of your little stories here.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Monique,

The children, ah the children.

And from a perusal through Facebook, these were lovely creations.

The kids are all right.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Josie,

Thanks.

Sounds like a project.

But for some reason, I am burning myself out in this blog series.

I think I'll veer into a little journalism now and maybe put up a children's story. These are hard to write, because kids can't be fooled.
You gotta fire up their imagination.

W. Somerset Maugham said somewhere that writing should not be about the artist, unless in a kind of confession like "Summing Up."
But lately everybody's writing about writing. It's true.
And I'm sure it's bad for the writer. Sort of like watching your fingers while they dance on the keybord, a kind of solipsism, something else Maugham knew something about. It's not about the writer!
I have just re-read Antoine St. Exupery's The Little Prince.

How good you have to be to write children's literature!

You can't fool them with second-rate work.

Thanks for being interested in a series of projects like that.

I shall give it a try.

Josie said...

Ivan, yes, write, write, write, rathe than writing about writing. I think the writer should be the observer and narrator of the story, not the topic, don't you? Fire up your imagination, and try to stop looking in the rear view mirror.

Write! Write! Write!

ivan@creativewriting.caa said...

Well, I tried this one on Liz, and she laughed.

Bang!

"Miss Scarlett, the war's over!"

Tara!

...Just me, the Rhett Butler of condensation. No wonder the Reader's Digest hired me once. But just once.

Well, yeah,Reader's Digest is something you read in the can, but they have some terrific children's stories there. Condensed from really good children's stories of full length.

Right now, in springtime I am imagining giving someone else a crafty length, but it's all in my head. Dog -chasing- cars syndrome.

Mailer used to say its the writing, the writing.

Guess you are right...what was that?
Alliteration?

Donnetta Lee said...

Twenty years and gone. The old ghosts come back and haunt us time to time. We think we hold them at bay and SURPRISE here they come back again. Good to write about it and periodically purge yourself. Probably healthier than holding it in. Nothing quite like memories. Be they good or not so good.
Donnetta

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Gotta watch it, me.
Yeah. Memories. Starting to think like an old man. "If only. If."

Comes out the same on this side.

Jack was nimble, Jack was quick.

Saw a lot of candles guttering.

Heh. Great balls of fire!

Charles Gramlich said...

The one thing I tell myself I won't do drunk is play chess. But I have broken that rule more than once, to my everlasting chagrin.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

I remember playing chess while drunk, with my son.

"The king can so move two spaces!
I am your father. I know these things."

Never give a kid an even break. :)

the walking man said...

Ivan

Now old man I have been reading here for awhile, not as long as some and longer then others, I've read your posts, plays and rambling thought about your present and your past.

The question that pops up when you touch on your past and bemoan your future is; what the hell was so venal about the past? Seems to me that you had a hell of a ride so far. You've adventured and lived larger then most folks and now you aren't where you want to be.

*shrug* Fuck it. The future is the great variable no? Working to regain prominence and fortune may or may not happen.

Yet even if it never does you have had a hell of a ride and this moaning in the present tends to negate the past and make you sluggish.

stop.

I've walked, ridden or drove through every state in the lower 48, Canada from coast to coast, from Moose Factory to New Orleans, Cape North Nova Scotia to San Diego, Chilliwak to Key West, they weren't the best days though. And I can't do them anymore.

I've worked hard enough to bring a thousand dollars a week home. I enjoyed the shit out of tormenting my formen and power structure, Winning a few losing more than not but all in all it was great, but not the best days. I had fun but I can't do it anymore.

I have three children, all adults now. I really didn't do anything to raise them other than pay for what they needed and wanted. Our relationship is about what you would expect. I love them all and my grandchild that I have seen 9 times (she is 9) but I am not going to moan about it. I did what was right at the time.

They are all close to their mothers and I am rather immune to the wall we have built. I was there when they needed me to be there and I fixed the immediate problem. It was good but not the best of days eh?

I've blown out 5 discs in a neck that was broken twice, herniated three more, and had a low back fusion. I survived two major auto accidents more intact than I should have.

They tell me I am in chronic pain. OK I believe 'em but fuck it. No drugs no pain. They put me off my jobs and said I could not work again. Cut my money in half and won't offer reasonable employment to my wife. Fuck 'em we get by.

OK so now I do the only work that I was ever praised for; which is write. But even so yesterday was not the best day, even though I greatly enjoy doing what they tell me not to. all language is mine and I will use it as I please and am able heh? But even what I wrote yesterday did not make it the best of days.

Today old man, Today is the best and only day. History is a wonderful thing, but thats all it is a thing of memory.

Tomorrow is not an inescapable conclusion...it is what it is, a blank canvas. Put on it what you will but do it tomorrow, for you only have today. If you want to get more pinpoint you only have this beat of the heart. Better to use it wisely. Eh?

Great peace to you professor.

mark

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

There is a lot of truth in what you say, Mark.

Maybe my major goal was getting to seventy, which is two months away.

I was heartened to meet, however, my widowed older sister's new boyfried. The cat is a hysterically young 74, and he still dances. At least to "Whispering Hope." They dance they have fun.
This is a revelation.

the walking man said...

I pray you dance your way to a hundred and five Ivan.

Peace

JR's Thumbprints said...

Clap, clap, clap.

Sip, sip, sip.

Drip, drip, drip.

Burn baby burn.

Oh ... and howl.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Mark,

Thnx.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

JR,

Remmember Professor Irwin Corey out of the Seventies?

Wigged-out prof.

Josie said...

Ivan, Mark has given you the best advice yet. Don't look through the rearview mirror, just look ahead. Who knows!!! Your best work may be ahead of you, if you stop living in the past.

You've got everything it takes!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Thanks Josie,

Lucky to have the Quarks to cheer on .

Just walking down our less- and -less polluted Holland River, which flows almost ouside my door. There are paths.

Saw a man standing at the bridge.
Real Estate Guy. I remember trying to do a business story on him years ago. I could not get it up to do a puff job on a businessman for magazine money. Guess it wasn't in me to glorify real estate brokers. The story was turned down.

Anyway, thirty years later, the man apparently lost the businees and is now working for Coldwell Banker like everybody else in North America. And failing.

I recognized Doug in the dark, and said, "You have changed your appearance."
"So have you," he answered.
It is thirty years later.
He had meant to be the big realtor; failed.

My dream had been to be a novelist: Marginal.

Jesus, talk about Waiting for Godot.
There was certainly the stunted tree up on the hill.

Well we stood on the bridge, and just to break the silence with a joke, I said 'Jump!"

He said something about not enough bridges over this beautiful river.
Said all the paths and bikepaths were parallel to the river; not enough bridges going across the Holland. "You don't realize the force of the water."
I don't know whethere we were talking about zen or bridges and paths, but then I always sem to hear more than the band is playing.

Then he turned right around took off into the woods.

I heard a loon going nuts in the midddle of the river.

I think we were both going insane.

Which was the most valid dream being a tycoon or novelist?
Seems to come out all the same.

Ah well, there I go, being maudlin again.

Alanis Morisette:

"What it all come down to my friends
is that
Everything's gonna be fine, fine fine.
I got one hand in my pocket
And the other one's making a peace sign.


And thanks for the encouragement, folks.