Sunday, June 29, 2008

The search for the accomplice

When you meet your own double coming through the rye, you'd better take care to do a little rattle-shaking
and general conjuring to purge yourself of what surely is some kind of spell, and a portent of bad things to come.

There is, of course, the German idea of the doppelganger, "double-goer", ("secret sharer" in Joseph Conrad)--usually a very bad portent.

But this I fear, is my own doublegoer who is telling me, as to Melvin Mole, the elusive burrowing criminal escapee out in an old MAD Magazine: "YOU"VE DUG YOUR LAST HOLE, MOLE! YOU'RE UNDER CONTROL. WE ARE PUTTING YOU INTO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT!!

Well, I have been in something like solitary confinemen for the past few years. There has only been one relationship and poof! the dancing woman was gone again.

Back to your own devices and living inside your own head.


I have not even a single toothpick with which to dig my way out of my prison, which was Melvin's sole talent in MAD #2.

I had written to Willie Elder, creator of Melvin Mole and he was gracious enough to say, "You are now one of us."

This, following my admission that I had written a thesis on MAD Magazine and specifically on the character Melvin Mole," A Man out of Control.

Kind, gentle genius, Mr. Elder.

But he wrote of the Underground Man.
Like Dostoevsky. Yeah.

Well, the only thing I have in commmon with either Melvin Mole or Dostoevky (and his own eerie sermon) is that I've been totally out of control all this week, and on top of it, sick as a shark with broken teeth.

Too many extractions are like a shot to the head.

I am hallucinating and frequently in pain.

But this afternoon is no illusion.

I met my doppelganger, or doublegoer, and this encounter has scared the daylights out of me.

On the surface, it wasn't much of an event. Just someone who happened to have the same last name as my own. First name was Leonid.

Here was someone the same age as me, with the same last name, and probably the same life experience.
Well, I really have to give my head a shake. Though my name is rather unusual, the woods out here are suddenly full of Prokopchuks, usually hard to find in a Wasp and Dutch comunity, but it is true that the nearby Holland Marsh, for the past two generations, had been full of hardscrabble Ukrainian and White Russian farmers.

"You are a "Boyar", a big-wig," Leonid has said, seeing the way I was dressed and the way I carried on.

"Used to be. But went for a dump."

"Well, that's how it goes. You make a fortune and then life changes."

Leonid Prokopchuk was a pharmacist, and he filled my prescription.

I came back to the apartment feeling as if I'd somehow seen ghost..

Saw my doppelganger?

I shuddered at the feeling of someone walking over my grave.

Could have been the vodka I'd been swilling to hold off the pain? Vodka can lead to flights of the imagination, images of Percy Bysshe Shelley and others who had fired magazinefulls of pistol shot at the doublegoer in the window; Thomas Mann.

Certainly not the fault of Leonid Prokopchuk, who looked a hell of a lot like me, and unlike me, an apparently very nice guy.

But draw a circle round him twice. And damn the pain killers. I'm reaching for another bottle.

I gotta have a talk with God.

Or maybe I will.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Some mysteries solved.

Ah well.

Like the S&M Guy wryly said,

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me.

I have had more sticks and stones thrown at me last week than enough, but there was support too:

To wit, one from the Regional Councillor, who, I suppose would be like a senior assymblyman in the U.S.:

Mr. Prokopchuk is correct. Train whistles in Newmarket and all over Ontario are a regular annoyance to many people.

He suggests the town of Newmarket should have done more by exceeding the Regional poicy guidelines for whistle bans from ten p.m. to six a.m.
It is important to understand, however, the daytime whistles starting at around six a.m. and running thought the evening are GO train whisles that fall under the jursidiction of the province.
GO will not participate in a whistle ban at a station crossing and its operatiors will will sound a warning at their own discretion, regardless of municipal or reginal bylaws.

Regional Councillor

Well, in pipes the GO, saying see? We toldja so. There was a lady killed at the crossing. We'll blow our whistles as we like. It's for the protection of pedestrians at level crossing.s"

Well, whistles or no, the poor lady was offed.

The "Toot" is moot.

Ah whatever. I have yet to see nearly an entire letters section devoted to chastising Ivan.

Hit me, says the masochist. No, says the sadist.

Probably get my next orgasm from a train whistle--. If I'd have been a fan of Leipold von-Sacher- Masoch, name-giver to the condition of Masochism.

I am really reminded of a cartoon where the vacuum cleaner taunts the fan. "Blow me."
And the fan responds: "You suck."

Ah. Talk about the elegance of self-expression.

Didn't want to be in this play anyway.

I was supposed to say, "Hark, the train!"

Instead, like No-good Boyo, out of Dylan Thomas, it seemed to have come off like "What the f8ck was that?"


Addendum to the last blog, the green box sorting maze, by John Dowson:

Oh dear oh dear,
Headline in today's Era-Banner, Newmarket:
"Green bin program his major setback":
"York Region has resorted to incinerating one third of its organic waste in what may be considered a major setback to the celebrated green bin program. Composting of curbside collected green bin material is the preferred process. Instead, 500 tonnnes of the 1,500 tonnes of organic waste cellected weekly in York Region is being shipped to Covanta Niagara L.P. in New York State, where it is burned to create electricity and steam in the Niagrara area.
John Dowson: After all the scrupulocity, you may have been wasting your time.
And the cover story with the Niagara Falls plant:"Generating steam and electricity"? A likely story. What in hell is a mammoth garbage incinerator doing at beautiful Niagara Falls?
Ah, Tony Soprano. He fix. And we dweebs are so careful to sort and categorize the garbage. And it all goes to one big fire volcano.. .And befouls the resort area air. "Generating electricity and steam."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Come on train!--Sophomoric ramblings from an old underground newspaper editor.

If you think I have gone mad, I'd say the above accidental blogger picture of Australin fauna would, uh, make you, uh, cassowary to the fact. But the above, is, I think, an emu.
Ah, if we knew what the emu knew. Today, I feel somewhat bird-brained. (Pam from Australia took the picture, and she does have an eye for the important moment).
What up, Roo?
Let's go to the hop!
For me, this has really has been a day of "tie me kangaroo down, Sport."
I am definitely off my roll.
Ventured back into journalism and they kicked my ass.
Ah well, when you make yourself a target, somebody is going to throw a stone..
They no- like what I wrote.
I think I see howls of protest all over the pages of the Newmarket Era-Banner.
Reminds me of my days in theatre.
I was sort of the director's whipping boy.
Every so often, the director would take me to one side and call me prick.
"Hey, I knew that. Now teach me something.
So in effect, the letters in the Newmarket Era-Banner are calling me a prick.
I did a story on overly- loud commuter train horns. And their point was that loud horns actually scoot pedestrians off the level crossings-- is moot. Somebody threw herself under the wheels anyway, despite loud horn, flashing lights and trembling wim-wam gates.
Seems that every PR man and woman of Canadian National Railways was mobilized to shoot me down. Why did you have to print that whistle-blow story now, at the worst possible time? We say all that claxon noise clears the track.
Well, not quite.
Jeesus. I think a chip hit me in the eye.
I guess when you make $120,00 a year just for public relations, you don't let a fuzzy-eared freeelance journalist criticize any aspect of your operation....I sing his song whose bread I eat.
How dare the unemployed punk knock the railroad?
It did hit a nerve with me though. I bruise facts. Fact bore me. I set them down in a perfuctory manner. "Dog bites man", when Imean to say "Madman bites dog."--inversions like that can sure trick your story. Ah, if you knew what he emu knew!
Some of my friends are dyslexic. "Is there a dog?" they sigh.
No wonder the great philosopher Immanuel Kant decided one day to shoot himself.
He had postulated:
'A priori;
'A posteriori.
(You have this notion about something.
You finally prove it thorough the scientific method....That makes it 'a posteriori).
Well, my critics in the newspaper world are certainly giving it to me an 'a posterori.
Got three critics on me.
Like the submarine captain in the movie" Gray Lady Down", I feel like a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest.
Well, like they used to say, when I edited an undergroung newspaper ( not as good as the old Georgia Strait out of Vancouver) :
--"If the bastards can't take a joke, pee on them."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who's to know if I put green garbage in a sealed bag?Guest blog by John Dowson.

Must be the full moon.

My picture file has been corrupted again.

I had intended to show the image of our good- looking correspondent, John Dowson, but it appears that I had unintentionally mooned him.

Not to worry. John is an area politician (ran twice) and a magazine writer. Writing for York North Magazine, he offers a new take on exurban living.

So much so that the last time I ran one of his vignettes, responses came in from as far away as the American Midwest. Ah, exurban and suburban life. It's everywhere, it's everywhere!

Dagwood and Blondie. But Dagwood no more. Women are great organizers in this new system of scrupulously organizing and collating the suburbanite's garbage.

"Blue box" concerns. Put the green stuff in the green bin. Orders. Orders. We must follow orders!

It's our newly regimented life and welcome to it.

John Dowson

Our household eagerly awaited the arrival of our new Green Bin, for months leading up to September we had been told that our Green Bin was on its way along with a new garbage collection system, the day finally arrived and our brand new Green Bin was delivered. We were like kids opening a Christmas present. We ripped off the sticky shipping notice, flipped open the lid and peered inside. “Hey” I said “there’s a small plastic container, some information papers, a large fridge magnet and a fold out with instructions”. “What do we do with this stuff” I said. “Read the instructions” said my wife, and we sat down to find out what goes where.

The first order of business was to decide where to put the Green Bin, the little plastic container, the garbage bin and the blue box container. Before the Green Bin, we had two containers under our sink and now we had to find room for three. Previous to all this I’d been trained to haul the garbage bags to the curb each week and every other week I’d add the Blue Boxes.

Just like Pavlov’s dog I followed this routine, and now I was forced to learn a new routine. I not only had to remember what to place at the curb each week, I also had to learn what went in the Green Bin, the garbage bin, and the Blue Box. This was heady stuff, after years of sorting garbage and becoming skilled at reading the triangle on the bottom of each container for the blue box, I now had to learn to three stream the garbage, and figure out, what went into each bin. We pored over the instructions, which were so small we had to use a magnifying glass. Pre-Green Bin.

Green Bin on the brain.

In the past, after dinner, before all the elaborate recycling process, we just scraped off our plate, dumped the scraps in the garbage and washed the dishes. My mother had drummed into us “Clean off your plate after dinner” and we did. Now after eating we have to consult the directions on our fridge to find out, what goes where..

“Where do fruit and vegetables go?” Iasked . “In the Green bin” said my wife “What about my napkin”, “Is it soiled?” she wanted to know.

" Do you mean did I use it?!”

"Hm. Let me read the instructions” she said. (The fold- out is pasted on our Fridge for reference).

” I think it’s Green Bin” she decided as I'd put it in the little plastic container under the sink.

“What about plastic wrap?”

“Garbage” she answered, “Paper."

"Is it shredded?”"

“Yes” had I said as I tore it into small pieces,

"Uh. “Green bin, I guess. ” Are you sure it’s not in the Blue Box? I asked.

“If it’s small and shredded you can put it in the green bin” she said. “It says paper goes in the Blue box.” “Green Bin” she finally declared,

“Well what goes in the garbage bin?" “

"Don’t argue with me. Just put it in the Green Bin” she said as she stormed out of the kitchen.

Meal time use to be a pleasant affair, now it’s like 20 questions, what goes where, is it animal, mineral or vegetable; I shudder to think what happens at dinner parties. Before the Green Bin arrived.

Garbage was a Guy thing, but this Green Bin is a woman thing. Try this simple test, ask any woman what item goes where and she’ll rattle off the correct bin. Meat.. Green Bin, Coffee.. Green Bin, Gum…Garbage, Milk bags.. Garbage et cetera. I think I’ll just put everything in garbage bags and put them out every two weeks, who’s to know!!!

--John Dowson.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cat's got my blog. Poetry on the nog.


I can't find my images on blogger. Just the gif numbers.

Picture file corrupt. Just like the blogger himself.

I'm tired of trying to be smart and pick, pluck and pray at the numbers, hoping an appropriate image will come up.

All that supposed ingenuity to bring up the image I want, and I get the same sleepy cat.

Cat's got my blog.

Lassitude's got my nog.

Ah well. A poem from the past when I was young and in love.


You caress the rosewood

of the silver-fretted cherry-black guitar

It rings

to a thousand life-songs

It sings

Of two lovers frisking on the bank of a life-bestudded river

It scatters


of colour and light -- that other side of sound

As if to mock our inability

to mimic not only life

But steel and wood


...And Blogger will not reprduce the poem the way I would like.

But some people have said they liked the poem.

Not so much when I was in the Service.

"Hey Homer, I hear you're a real homo."

Ah well. Those were different times.

Not all of them bad.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Become an old poet and let it all hang out.

Broken down old poet invited as writer-in-residence at an American university. Stud value for Ole Miss or somewhere. Not Borges at the University of Oklahoma, for that was truly a class act for that school back in l964, but maybe some rust-belt school seeking prestige by taking on a fahsionable European to boost the English department.
Or a top-drawer science fiction writer to augment an English Department's sci-fi classes.

He is a type. Usually from England, a widower and fond of velveten jackets of a mauve colour, fond of epiphets like "base born!" and "Scoundrels!" when referring to current writers. For he has written all the poetry, has gleaned all the prizes and he does not care. But he cares for the memory of his wife, who would have scolded him for the lint on his lapels; there was no one to dust and gussy him up now. So he drank and lectured, lectured and drank.

There were accidents. He would throw parties in his apartment. Serve out baked ham. Serve himself Scotch. Pass out on the floor in the middle of quoting something. Or worse, bring up all over the dress of an unsuspecting faculty member's wife and say "excuse me." But no one would complain, even as he tried clumsily to wipe the spot on the front of the dress with his white silk handkerchief. The incident was ignored. For he was Professor Ronald Dunn, famous poet, and he could do anything outre an no one would mention it.... Just make sure he was invited to your own party. For when you invited ProfessorRonald Dunn to your party, all the faculty and half the students would be there.

There was the poetry, sometimes scatological. About his trip to the Far North and his drinking there and the need to go to the bathroom. But there was no bathroom.
There is a ritual. For in order to have a dump at Nunavit in winter, you will need to have an Inuit boy armed with a club to go with you. Huskies have this thing for human waste and the little guard would have to be like Leonidas at the pass, fighting off the huskies as they snapped at the poor old prof's derriere. Not for the fainthearted a dump in the woods.

Perhaps through all his travels, he had picked up a certain laissez-faire.
There came a coarseness, the product of his travels through revolutionary Africa.

Dog is a specialty in the old Congo.

"Ever have dog?"

Stories of broken-down old academic poets are legion.

As are stories of once famous science fiction writers tuuned prof, loved by the students, as an intelligent teacher, but not intelligent about himself.

I have one in my van. I needed to pick up a little culture and was so glad to meet and drink with Professor Ron Dunn.
I was so glad to drive the famous man home.
But suddenly, unexpectedly, I saw him rise from the passegenger seat and make for the back of the van.

He said he was sick and would I mind if he went to the back of he van for something.
Well, it was something like the Yellow Polka Dot Biikini. But with a way, way different twist.

"He was afraid to come out of the cube van
And a blanket around him he wore.

"I'm in deep trouble, Ivan."

"I think I have crapped my drawers."

Oh-oh. Of such stuff is greatness?!

Ha ha ha ha ha. I must learn to crap my drawers at once.

Perhaps I already have.
Very likely, I was that prof. And I was just projecting.
Oh how we old degenerates sometimes dump in our nests.
Ah well. It was good enough for Rabelais.
But I do give a shit.
What will I tell the public?


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Down the Styx Railway

Busy these days as a journalist. Name in print again.

Does it count?

Piece on the editorial page on loud trains causing seniors living along the track, many of them British, choke on their breatkfast kippers as the train seems to run throught the middle of the house.and shake the building.

What is it with commuter trains? said one homeless guy along the track: "That CN engineer was blowin' that whitle so hard, I sweah he was a queeah."

Noise. Noise. Anybody living along the track of the GO commuter trains going north and south between Newmarket and Toronto, is all-too-famiar with a series of spine-thumping blasts early morning and late afternoon, and onto dinner time. The anti-noise bylaw is surely violated. But this is GO. Government of Ontario, and we're surely feeling a Queen's Park presence. You can hear the whistle anywhere int the 16-square- miles of the town. An even then you have to cover your ears. It's not a regular noise. It encompasses a full hearing range and beyond. Likely white noise too, and and damaging to ear and spine.
It blanks out the morning and evening news on television, grannies drop their dishes as they put their hands to their hears, still wet ffrom dishwashing.

The soul of a suicide rises up from a level crossing.. The whistle is supposed to clear the track. But the suicide is ingenious, will go right past the wim-wam, the barrier and walk right into the front of the locomotive. Agh.
Horrible industry. Anything but the old-age home? I'm sure sociologists will write theses. Closely footnoted.
And the poor old ladies will keep offing themselfs on the track. And newspaper protocol is not to publicize suicide. Back into it: "Police have ruled out foul play in level crossing death."

Jane Doe dead in her tracks. Flowers up on the flashing light support beams.
I am trying to comfort relatives as they put up their flowers.
Newspaper guy. Something of an ogre. Getting the story. The sadness of the relaives at trackside is palpable. And the locomotive god will keep on thundering. And life will go on.

Piss on your technology and your efficiency. It could not stop the woman from dying. Depresson? A cross-over of medication? We don't know. So honk your whisle as if nothing happened.

Train song.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Blowing your first seminar

Ah, the last thirty years of misplacing my car, my spouse, three houses I'd had title to, three adopted families, eight girlfriends and even the old college jockstrap.

Happily, the motel owner was a Pole, and here in Canada, uncharacteristically, Poles and my own tribe get along, for we'd all seemed to have had the same hard times.
"Yes," said my motel owner. "Doesn't take long sometimes. You can lose everything overnight." She had been letting me stay at the motel for free, as long as I laid low and didn't use the telephone. Talk about being held incognito. Sweet prison.
Always a woman. Luck is a woman.

The strangest things happen to you when you're down and out. Somebody had discovered my book, Light Over Newmaket ("Lord was there any?"I kept muttering to myself just before the TV studio called).
There I was on the motel TV, a week later, giving off the impression of class and money, successful author, though I had put the book out largely at my expense, and that was one of the reasons I was now broke.

But the gambit had worked. First the newspaper interview (Thank God one of the guests of my book-signing was a reviewer) and then a notice about me in Toronto's Globe and Mail...(being noticed by the Globe was the first sign of literary success in Canada) --and soon I became fodder for newspaper columnists, one of whom had said, "Ah, Ivan gets this call from a big California publisher, but he's holding out for a million and no less."
"Prokopchuk Protests" read the headline and "Asks what time the ocean opens in California" read the next headline.

"Ivan's got an ocean pearl!".

Well, they could have their fun. Any publicity is good publicity.
Suddenly I had a little money, and my landlady reconnected the phone.

Jesus. A whole lot of women on Mr. Bell's invention..

Well, yes. I may have looked good on TV, but I couldn't pay my motel fare.
The landlady and I were getting chummy. More like Rasputin, I suppose, but the holy Pole may be in. your...?
There were worse ways of selling your body, bony as it was. I recall at my old Alma Mater, that a part time prof had gotten so impoverished. he took up the style of a male hooker. .
Ryerson fired him, not because of any inability, but because a teacher is supposed to be a role model and you can't really blow your first seminar. Think I'm lying? Go google "Ryerson Prof. 'I'm a hooker"

Sure made the dean choke on his breakfast kippers. And the head of the journalism department hiding behind his typewriter when all the TV stations came to call. "I'm a shy guy," my friend Don Obe had said. "I ignore the phones and the TV interviews and just send out memos and explanations. Jeesus, what a mess. I have a hard time facing the public over this guy."
And then the headline come out. "Hooker prof says it's now easier to get clients, at the age of 51."

Got that one from Gerald Hannan, the happy hooker himself. He was now doing his own publicity.

Well, Don Obe had no choice but to fire him.

Ryerson was the best technical university in Canada.

Couldn't have the hooker prof talking about erections all day.

Yet students defended the prof. "He was the best media writing teacher I'd ever had," said a co-ed.

Ah, to each his own, even if it'll get you fired.

The prof tried a redress of grievance (cross-dress of grievance?) but to no avail. A Ryerson professor had to be perfect as a role model.( Little Richard: Oh baby, gonna have me some fun tonight...And Little Richard when he got over being gay: 'God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"' Oh Baby.

"Long tall Gerry's built for speed. He's got everyting that Uncle John needs."?

I don't think I'd like to have been the prsident of Ryerson in the late eighties.

Stress and distress.

The line between political correctness and the reputation of the university.

Well, that was all in the past. Last time I came across the hooker prof, we were both at temporay office help. Lord, I was thinking of his sales presentations! No, no sales display kit. Just the blow job!

"Failed at everytying?" asks Jonathan Swift somewhere.

Hit the road. You'll meet them all, the long and the short and the tall.

And along the road, I had met Gerald Hannan.

No, I didn't have any money.

I had my Polish motel owner.

And we were Hunky-dory.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine. A rake's progress?

The more I move around in my new nether-world of Guys and Dolls and other Damon-Runyon optimists, I am starting to think criminals are pretty intelligent and not without courage (it takes balls to hold up a bank) and a Russian mobster must be pretty smart to quickly grasp not only the Roman alphabet, but how to obtain a victim's pin number and accesss to his bank account. And they all very quickly learn how to talk so hip "Foxy chicks, gotta get...Get one for you.."

But hip is not really smart (or why all the drug addicts?) for it takes some acculturization and some time to get a real grasp of this country.
So when I sat at a table in a swell restaurant and met Hugo the Yugo I swear I was meeting Balzar Conehead in the flesh.
I was with my beautiful neighbour after a creative writing class which I was conducting at nearby Seneca College.
We stopped for a drink and a dance, because college teachers too can be Damon-Runyon characters and not all that smart when it comes to their personal lives.

Hugo the Yugo sat alone at a linen-covered table at the bistro and sidled up to my right shoulder. You are Slavic, no?. I can tell. Ukrainski.. Life is hard, no?" "Life is hard," I answered in Russian since he had chosent that language. (Ukies, always bilingual like most Europeans, seem for some reason, always adopt the language of the interrogator. Probably because some are Gulag alumni).

And then his shot in the dark. "How much do you want for voman?"

I was reminded of a line out of that old movies Tom Jones, where upon the highwayman's "Stand and Deliver" was answered by an aristocrat lady's "What do you take me for? A travelling midwife?"

I presumed that back in Russia it was not uncommon to take up the practice of "Hertz Rent-a-Wife".
I mean, in admiral Peary's North Pole expedition, years ago he did take up with a "country wife" and so did his black lieutenant, so it is no uncommon on Ellesmere Island Island to meet a "brother" or an Eskimo rapper.

But hell, this was whitebread Newmarket, Ontario, and though some town councillors agreed that with my late night teaching, subsequent "choir practise" in the bars and general womanizing, I should adopt my true calling of not only a raconteur of the cocktail circuit but perhaps "a pimp."

Heaven forbid that my office, with its shingle, outside, "Creative Writing, Ivan Prokopchuk. M.A." (Hey, you had to make aliving!)--should be a den of iniquity. Of course, when you were employed and had a private practice on the side, you were something of a professional man. At the colletge, they called me Doctor.
But when I went to the local bar and carried ont he way I used to do, the salutation was more anatomical.
There was also this power, and I began to understand the Spitzers and Clintons of this world.
Like in the bar, I'd ask some woman the direct question, and she'd sometimes answer, "Not until I met you, you smooth-talking bastard."

The atmosphere of class and money.
Sure can lead a po' boy to the house of the rising sun.

But when I took the young lady to the Bistro, I was still married, it was all on the up-and-up, and the Yugoslavian's offer made me do a double-take. Hey, maybe I'd suppressed my true calling.

I had always imagined myself as kind of a literrary spy, "The Scarlett Pimpernell".

He's here. He's there.
They seek him everywhere.
Those damn Frenchies.
They seek him everywhere!
The Scarlet Pimpernell!

Pimpernell all right.

I was no Norman Mailer but some critics used to say Mailre wrote just to get laid.
Good on both counts. Great writer. Great stick man.

It was up to an intelligent southern lady, Norris Church to "make a man" out of Mailer. Get him off the bottle and off the other women.

Heaven forbid that those years of self-denial led to writing for money and sex, especially sex, and as I woke up one day in a convoluted position on my cot in the studio, I realized I was no solitary reaper.
"Stop talking to my feet."
"I am Donald. I am a poet. I have dactyllic feet."
"What is it with you guys that you make jokes in bed?"

Small wonder that Leonard Cohen once wrote something callled "Beautiful Losers."

I was no Leonard Cohen, but I was certainly becoming something of a loser.

Must have been developing a rep. Why else would Hugo ask me how much I wanted for" my woman"?

Too much too soon.

And all of it by thirty.

I had a Carravaggio hanging on my wall. It had a man in it, who seemed to have given up he pen, the canvas and the lute to become Stupid Cupid.

Had the sneaking intimation that one had better get back to the draft table or become another rake.

Funny thing. Once I got back home that night, Wifey said, in her nighgown: "Look. It's Norman Rakewell."

She gave me a good inspection, even a sniffing.

"Hm. Smell like Charlie.

"You'd tell me if you were up to anything, wouldn't you?"

"Just hunting tigers under glass. Took some students out."

Ah, the roads to hell are full of good intentions....

There had been an episode of dissipation.

When I came back to the college, the dean called me a prodigal son.
"You shold be teaching at York."
I knew what he meant. Toronto's York Univesity was well known for randy profs.

...For the grace of God.

Irving Layton on his deathbed, still mumbling "Lass, I want to grab you by the ass."

Of such stuff is literary success.

And now we are all out here. Con men, doing cons on each other.

Well, we hope the poetry was good.

Even if we weren't very.


Monday, June 09, 2008

"Not cool at all when dealing with the insane.

My picture file is "corrupt".--that's what is says in the little talk balloon.

I am corrupt.

He, she, it-- is corrupt.

My government is corrupt. Afghanistan on the brain.

Egad, since I lost some teeth, I feel not only currupt, but also depraved.

Certainly looking like that with my gap-toothed smile.

Now, with my Damon Runyon appearance, I seem to be attracting every psychopath and loser on the block. People who look like me get taken a lot.

I am wating for a bus, snaggle- toothed and wing-weary, acase of beer empties in hand. A natural mark.

"Hah," the corner psychopath must have said to himself. "A loser. I wonder how I can exploit him."

So he come to me and says he will sell me a bus ticket for $2.50, where the regular fare is $3.00.

"Well, yeah. OK," I say as we board the bus.I give hime three dollars and expect change. "I'll get your change in a minute, he says.

He does not give me the ticket, but deposits the ticket he said he would sell me-- in in the farebox and immediately goes to take a seat at the back.

"How about the fifty cents you owe me?"

"Toldja up front. I'll see if it can find the change."

But he empties his pockets, turns them inside out. There is only the three dollars that I had given him.
"Told ya I'd just see if there was any change in my pockets.

Looks like he had been making this an issue with a lot of people. Now we have an argument, and it's all my fault.

He is convinced he is intelligent.

"What's the problem, Bud? You would have paid three dollars cash anyway. See, it goes like this..."

"I know how it goes," I say. "Now give me my fifty cents."

He now goes off on litany." See, you had intended to pay three dollars cash fare anyway. So we are both on our way and nobody loses. You did not understand that I told you I would look for your change, not necessarily find it."

&*&^%^-ing high level metaphysics.

He explains it to me again.

"But you conned me out of fity cents."

I swear I am back in Quebec, hearing another litany.

Je vous change. Tabernac. Je concur.

There are stupid bastards on both sides of the border.

All this mental energy, all the metaphysics, over fifty cents! He is convinced, like any con man, that he is smarter than me. But two sentences from him would convince anybody he is deranged --and does not know it.

Ah, but I have been to the school of repartee. There is almost a drumroll as I am about to speak. I have been to the school of repartee!

And now the utterance.

"F*ck off, asshole"

(Took years of university for this.)

Now the guy is a six-footer and has the build of an athlete. I don't care.
Cut off stupidity at the pass. Always.

So this is how wars start!

And now his elegant reply. "You fuck off. I told you I would look for the change; didn't say I had it.

Made me think of a poem about a sadist and the springtime robin.

"I smiled sweetly at his song
And as there passed a lull
I gently closed the window
And crushed his F*cking skull.

How did this asshole walk into the middle of my good mood?

Was all this worth fifty cents?

Crikey, next would come the cuture derby and the short hair count.

All right. Woof her out. We'll see who has the biggest one.

But he slunk off at the next stop and got off.

Upbraid not a fool and he will think himself wise.

Upbraid a fool, and you will make him vain in being noticed.

It was all very Dostoevkian. The left-going zax and the right-going zax.

I am convinced tht Dr. Seuss was not writing for children.

Simplicity always overcomes complexity.

But which one of us was complex?

I do not like green eggs and ham.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Would you take a used story from this man?

Problems. Problems. I can't access my artwork for Blogger. And a bout with the dentist has left me frustrated and annoyed. Where is it written that a dentist can screw up your creative faculties?...and wreck your pictures?

Nevertheless, like "Clark Bent" hobbling from spitoon to spittoon in a MAD Magazine parody,
I'm just watitng for Lois Lane to lay a backhander on me an yell, "Creep!"

Hm. When a writer plagiarizes himself, he's in trouble.

I am plagiarizing myseld below. (Yeah, I've been doing that too).

When my Marjorie came out in Ryerson University's Fifth Page, a reviewer said it was a good thing that I wasn't seen around the cafeteria for a while. "What an awful story," he had said in the college's yearbook. Maybe it's a good thing that Ivan disappeared." ...Hah. Found a way to get me!
But I like to think that I had created and he had reviewed.

Women did not like the story, especially my girlfriend then, whe said I had shown a shadow side.
I had countered that unless you can kill a character in a short story, you probably will not do so well as writer. I mean, look at Dostoevky. Seems hardly a chapter goes by without a rape, an incest or a murder. "Yeah, but you write like a factory worker."
She got me on that one. I was 27 , out of the factory and trying to be a writer.

Anyway, I felt I had come alive in '65 with my first consciously crafted short story.

I thought it was good, but all the critics missed it.

Ah well. A Toronto Star editor had a peek and gave me a summer job.

So here is the story.


I'd spent the last two days crawling from bar to bar, from dive to dive, and then when my money ran out I hit the wine. I just didn't give a damn. Blown my job, lost my wife and there didn't seem to be any point in trying anymore.
God, I'd loved my wife, Marjorie with her plump round little face and those solid hips. Now she's gone. Married to her for three years; nice home in the suburbs - and now I haven't got a damn thing. Sitting in the diploma-studded office talking to you. About all I have is this goddam hangover .
Marjorie, Marjorie. She used to treat me well. Good cook; sense of humour; a regular aphrodite in bed. Just the odd time she'd complain that I drank too much. But I told her it was only nerves and she needn't worry. What the hell, I was bringing home the bacon, thought I was keeping her pretty happy in every way and didn't see how the odd little drink was going to hurt me.
Hell just about everybody in the advertising game drinks. They just hide it well, that's all. Lot of pressure on executives and copywriters whenever a big account is at stake. I was no exception. I drank. You see my job kept getting on my nerves; took a lot of fine concentration. After a while I found myself missing little details that meant a lot in the big picture. I'd get chewed out by the Creative Director. I'd get frustrated, angry. I'd get together with a buddy and hit the bars. But after a few weeks of this the guy's wife would clamp down and I'd do a lot of drinking by myself.
I was still a pretty good ad man though. Even with the drinking, I'd sometimes hit on an idea that really sold. Like the Billing's account; netted us a quarter million. Hell, let the hacks worry about details, I told myself. When it came to big moves I could make them.
But the harder I applied myself, the more I drank. Things got to the point where a good binge gave me more satisfaction than a well-executed job. In fact, pretty soon I couldn't imagine anything better than sitting at the bar and staring at the world through whiskey-filled glasses.
"What the hell", I'd say to myself in the bar mirror, "What was I doing in the advertising game besides making a whore out of my abstract little mind? What did the whole game matter? What did anything matter? Seemed like the world was run by people not much different from myself: men not overly brilliant, but highly motivated. Only difference was a weird ability to string ideas and words together. The whole bag was a poker game with ad men dealing the cards. But then that was the way the game was played. Why should I worry about it? Nobody else with any money or position did."
I was really quite lucky, I'd say to myself. I had intelligence. I could stay on top of the heap without being a drudge like everyone else.
When I had a real load on, I'd sit on the bar stool and contemplate my success in life. Christ, I was a young god; member of the elite; a respected man in my community. I could do damn well what I pleased and probably get away with it because of my position.
I'd sit in that bar and go on for hours just telling myself what a winner I was. But as I'd get really drunk, I'd began to get sentimental and start thinking about by wife. Marjorie's face would loom out at me through the drink and I'd finish my shot and go home anticipating our warm bed all the way out to the suburbs. When I'd get home she'd be lying there like a warm puppy. God, it was like stepping into a warm bathtub.
But by degrees, things started going wrong at home. By the third year of our marriage I found her getting more and more tense and over the months I found her lovemaking becoming dutiful, unenthusiastic. Sometimes she'd become downright bitchy. One morning I woke up to find her staring at me with an expression of disgust on her face.
"What's the matter?" I asked her .
"If you only knew," she hissed, "If you only knew how much I wanted to scratch your eyes out last night when you passed out in my arms."
"Oh God, I didn't really do that?" I asked in horror.
"Yes you did," she insisted, "right in the middle."
I fought off a sick sensation in my bowels and felt my face working, demanding some direction from my panicked brain. I worked up a grin and tried to pass the whole thing off as a joke.
"Guess I was just hors de combat, hard work and all that," I said, pathetically hoping for a laugh.
"You're turning alcoholic, darling," she said seriously. "And it's showing up in your performance - your total performance."
"Oh hell, honey," I scoffed, "Me an alcoholic? Ridiculous." I told her I could handle my liquor and besides, I never drank before sundown.
"Yes, and you don't usually come home until midnight," she snapped back. Well, we argued about that for a while and finally let it hang.
But as the days went by, I kept experiencing a vague sort of feeling I'd never had bcfore, a tightening of the abdominal muscles and a sense of helplessness. Whatever pet theories a man has on sex, whatever his thought processes, it tears him up to realize he's useless to his wife.
But I rationalized the whole thing and told myself I was just working too hard. No need to worry, I told myself. Hell, I wasn't doing too badly at work. The little slip-ups I'd made didn't really matter. After all, I had settled the whole Billing's account single-handedly and felt pretty sure Art Jennings would have to move me up to Media Director pretty soon.
So I consoled myself with the thought that a busy man has to make certain sacrifices if he's to succeed. Hell, Don Juan's make poor executives, I told myself. And what if a man takes a little drink every now and again to settle his nerves? Christ, you have to settle down somehow.
But one night while I sat alone in the bar I started thinking of Marjorie and found myself wanting her like never before. Somehow I knew I could really do her justice this time. The urge to go home and make love to Marjorie was overpowering; it was even stronger than the urge for more liquor. I downed my whiskey sour and made off for home, pornographic ideas running through my mind. I was virile, young, I was Apollo, a young god in pursuit of my Daphne. Hurriedly, I phoned for a cab.
Inside the house, I started taking off my clothes even before I reached the bedroom. When I got to Marjorie she looked at me as if I were a madman, but after a while she didn't put up any resistance to my approaches. Trouble is, I wasn't much good. She began to tremble after the first time and just kept sobbing in a corner of the bed, not letting me touch her. Well, I was still half-lit and didn't let it worry me too much. I shrugged the whole thing off and went to sleep.
But the next day in the middle of work, I found my fright returning. I was afraid Marjorie was beginning to hate me. I kept worrying about this while I worked, and it was beginning to throw off my performance.
It was a pretty rough day. I was designing a display kit for Jennings, a rough job that I had to submit by the afternoon. I knew it was coming along pretty sloppily and a good part of the copy was full of clich├ęs, but I couldn't seem to get organized or think straight. So I just designed and typed away to get the thing out of my hair. Had a lot of misgivings about the whole business before I handed the kit to Jennings. He wasn't happy.
"God, Conlan, is this the best you can do?" he snapped. "Look at your display type - hell, I wouldn't use this in the morning paper. And the wording on that promo sheet – ‘For superior excellence’ - ?"
I just stood there and weathered the blast.
"What the hell is happening to you man - is this the Conlan who gave us 'A Galacti Goal for Glidden'?" He told me I'd better try the whole thing again, but for Christ's sake to hurry up and meet that Monday deadline.
That got me pretty upset. I picked up the display case, mumbled something, turned toward the door and slunk out of the office. I was angry; angry at myself, angry at the advertising business and sick of my mental and physical impotence.
When I got back to the projects room I found Reagan from Market Research sitting at my desk. It took me a while to realize what he was doing there, but then it dawned on me that I'd made a date with him to do a little pub crawling that night. He couldn't have come at a better time. Better boozing buddy I never had.
“Hey, you look as if you're going to chew someone's ear off," he said.
I told him that I'd just had my ass chewed off and he'd better be in a mood for serious drinking because tonight I needed a shoulder.
So we went down to that Greek's place - you know, where they have that insane guitar player.
We sat down in the red leather furniture and got down to business. I was flustered, unsettled. Everything, everyone seemed to be against me.
The waiter came and kept running up with the rounds after Reagan gave him a dollar tip and I poured out my troubles. Reagan was a good listener and made me feel a bit better. Reagan had had his run-ins with Jennings too, and after a few whiskey sours we were both cursing him out, our own inadequacies cheerfully forgotten.
We had a few more rounds and I told Reagan about the other matter, my sex problem. I told him about how Marjorie wouldn't let me touch her - and about another time when just before I reached climax she had said, "for God's sake do something to bring me on."
Reagan laughed when he heard all this. I got offended and asked him what the hell he thought was so funny. He said was pretty naive for a married man of three years and should have picked up a few tricks over that period. I asked him what he meant while the waiter brought another two whiskeys and Reagan said I was probably too orthodox in my lovemaking. "Orthodox?" I asked him, "What the hell do you mean?"
He said I ought to have kept up with my reading. When I asked him, what reading, he said reading that would open my eyes to a few sexual facts.
"Why not try a bit of de Sade?" he asked, "especially the sexual philosophy?"
I told him I thought de Sade was a madman who happened to be a writer and Reagan called me a Philistine.
"Look", he said, "1 know just what's wrong with your love life... you're just too conservative. You don't come on like a tyrant in the bedroom. That's what you should do. The reason your wife is beginning to hate you in bed is because you're too damn lovey-dovey - you're not enough of a man. Next time she cries out in the middle of the night about you not being able to satisfy her , give her a good swipe across the .ear or at least bite her somewhere where it hurts. . . No don't protest. I try it with Jean all the time and I've never been better treated."
I told him he was off his stick and all that sadist business was for college kids to kick around in pubs.
"Look bud," Reagan said, "just try it... try it tonight and see if you don't get a better time than you ever had in your life". I told him he was out of his mind as the next round hit us.
But there was no stopping Reagan. He was drunk past the point of subtlety or reason and began talking enthusiastically of whips and razors.
Then he went into Guy de Maupassant's murder and sex stories and I found myself listening with some enthusiasm. The liquor took hold while Reagan's macabre stories focused my mind on gloomy landscapes, windwashed, stormpounded beaches and bloodsoaked, murderers' hands. Murder had always held a strange fascination for me.
We kept drinking and talking till the bar closed and stumbled out for a coffee before taking a cab home. But I seemed to have blacked out and couldn't remember anything till I found myself stirring on my doorstep, Reagan and the cab driver looking anxiously down at me.
The two of them finally drew me up, found my key and took me inside. Reagan himself was weaving so badly that the cab driver was forced to look after him now.
"Think you'll be able to hack it all right?" the cabbie asked me while he kept Reagan from falling.
I said "Yes" despite the hall's merry-go-round motion.
I remember falling on the floor immediately after they had closed the door. I stumbled down the hall, opened the living room door but tripped on the rug and gave myself one hell of a crack across the head against the edge of the open door.
Anger, pain, hatred and frustration welled up in me as I entered the living room and called for Marjorie. She didn't answer. I staggered through the rooms looking for her, calling her name. Still no answer. Finally I walked into the bedroom and found her looking up, disgusted at my drunkenness.
I don't know what possessed me, but all my anger, all my frustration seemed to direct itself against Marjorie and my bottled up rage fed on her disgust.
The anger built up as I took off my clothes. She didn't say anything while I fumbled through my undressing, but only rolled over when I got into the bed.
I remember grabbing her shoulder, spinning her around and lashing out with my best backhander. She gasped and that excited me. I hit her again, feeling a righteous thrill go through me. I struck her again - just before I passed out.


The next day I woke up with a hangover that screamed to God. I reached for Marjorie… was going to wake her up and tell her to get me a Bromo. But I only found myself groping in an empty bed. I raised my head and looked around the room. The drawers were disarranged; nylons and towels were strewn all over the place.
I peered at the vanity and found a piece of paper. Marjorie had typed out a "goodbye" and said she was leaving for good.
A shock like fire went through me when I read the note. The thought of losing Marjorie was unbearable. I read the note over and over again.
I wondered why she had typed rather than written it out. I couldn't recall her ever typing anything before. But the shock of her absence obscured any attempt at thought. My life was going to pieces. My wife was gone, I was an alcoholic and my job was probably the next thing to go. What the hell was the point in trying anything anymore? There was only one thing to do: get drunk and stay that way as long as my money held out. After that, nothing would matter. Let them put me in the tank.
I put on my clothes and rushed out of the house, fighting off the realization of what I had actually done to Marjorie during the night. But I told myself there was only one important thing to consider and that was if I had enough money to drink myself into a limbo. I hit the nearest bar and waited shakily while that damnably slow bartender poured the drink.

Well, you know the rest. After I came back from my two-day bender I found the house guarded by two plainclothes men who asked me my name and then arrested me.
Doctor, I realize I was Drunk, but do you think I really killed her after that drinking bout with Reagan? Do you really think I hid her body? I couldn't have. I love Marjorie.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Portnoy's Peak. A story for twisted guys.

My friend Willle the Schizo has some strange pronouncements.

He can't help it. He's from the Canadian East Coast.

I had complained to him that I was procrastinating.

There were stories to write for the press, which took discipline and hard work.

"I am letting it all slide," I was saying. "I am poking the puppy."

"Well," he said, his bushy brows arching (like Dr.. Rath in The Professor and the Blue Angel when he catches Marlene Dietrich making it with somebody else) :"Nothing to crow about."

"Discipline," he said like Humpty-Dumpty may have said to Alice.
Certainly like the Caterpillar, for he smoked huge stogies, the smke of which would often rise up in halos, so much like in the Disney cartoon.

Yet he was from the East Coast and the humour there was not subtle as with The Egg Man or the Caterpillar.

"Procrastination is like masturbation. You end up screwing yourself."

Yep. That was me. Onan the tentmaker.

Oh how mucn easier it was to blog, to flog, to spill one's id all over white computer space.

The old fisherman continued:

"But real writin', especially for money, takes clarity, elegance, tact, not just self-expression."

(Hm. Pretty sharp for a squid-jigger...Uh, I knew the old joke about anybody finishing grade eight in Newfoundland was considered "gifted" but this guy had some brains. Did become a chiropractor once, but drank the practice away...Now he was snapping my spine. Like Kierkegaard...(When you read Kierkegaard, you swear somebody is pulling out your spine. Like the line, "Of course he in love makes moutains out of molehills; you're supposed to make mountains out of molehills when you're in love.")

"Anyway," he continued.

"Nothing is really interesting unless it's well researched. It's got to have depth and breadth.

"You can't just write off the top of your head and expect publishing results."

You have to rewritre, edit, rewrite again. Like Heminway, who said first drafts are almost always crap.
"Good writing. is rewriting."

"So how do you know all that? You've never published a a line.".

"I read a lot," he offered.

Well yes, he obviously had.

But then writing or just reading could be compared to real sex and masturbation.

I have heard it said that some writers are so intese that with them, it's almost a sexul act.

Deatail, detail, detail, climax. And then the Grand Pollution at the end. Wow. The self-made genius.

But for someone who is just reading the book, it's like watching somebody do the actual writing.. You know how to do it, you've seen it done, but you can't quite do it yourself.

Like remembering somebody out of university who was a self-confessed follower of the Marquis de Sade.

One could write about Walter.

Walter, gloomy genius and Saddy-Massy, was known for his essays on masturbation for astronauts and his asserion that all male writers were arse bandit.
"Speak for yourself, Walter," the other students would chide the sunken- eyed Walteer, who though young,was nevertheless pretty twisted.

Walter! Chinese food for ya. Cream of Yung Gai!

"Hey Walter. I hear you're getting into politics. Student Council.
"I hear they want to make you party whip."

Not a hint of a smile from Walter.

He finally did lighten up.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones.
"But whips and chains excite me."

Oh what a party whip Walter would make.

And I havejust produced this bit of drivel off the top of my addled head.
"Hey, that's not writin'. That's typin'."

But then genius Leonard Cohen had some twists.

In his old novel Beautiful Losers, he has his hero crash his car right through a billboard, muttering obsessively, 1-2-3-4, and then... JACK OFF!".

Now that was a climax.

Well, for Leonard.