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?"
Whaa...

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.

##

9 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Hunting "tigers under glass." I'm fascinated with this metaphor. Not sure what it means but it evokes...something.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

It was a favourite phrase of the late and great Mordecai Richler.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Hello Ivan,

it looks like you have been busy contemplating, complaining, smiling, fighting off the beasts of this world, and writing well. Glad to see you busy. Just thought I would pop over and give ya a wink and a well deserved hug. {{{}}}}

soft love,
T

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Ooh.

the walking man said...

God damn! I knew I shoulda paid more attention in school!

But then even in my own road I was referred to as "here comes dickhead" so maybe I was a success in the creative arts of pissing off people without all of the folderol of higher education. I was always representational of the dickhead sobriquet. I admit it, it did fit like a well used *ahem* glove.

Ivan, you should have built on the raconteur reputation and rented the student to Hugo...maybe by the minute. Just think of what your press would be..prof pimps student, gives her A(ss) away.

That is the stuff of tabloids and sells books. In the grand scheme of things though it's better to be under the glass with the tiger than to hunt in safety...no? At the least the tiger never went hungry.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Me as Dr. David Profumo the British solicitor of hookers for famous Canadian parliamentarians?

The prof pimp in Canada?

Hey, I see by the papers today a generation later, that pimping for Members of the Canadian Parliament seem to be alive and alive and well.

Jeez. I should have kept my basement studio as a place for an escort service. I would have made money!

I think I for one, must have ended up in the wrong trade.
Oh, wait till the bosomy lady sings!

There's an alleged happy French hooker in Canada who is about to write a book and tell all about her affair with our Foreign Affairs Minister.(Yep. Foreign Affairs Minister).

Move over, David Spitzer.

Go for a dump, Larry Craig.

MP's (Congressmen ) getting laid on my dime.
I knew for a long time that what Canada needed was a good scandal.
I can just see our now-defrocked Foreign Affairs (sic!) Minister picking up his cell phone during Question Period to the sound of "Yoo-hoo. Poopsiekins! Ding! Dong!"
And a touch of Mata Hari too!

News item:

Canada's Foreign Minister Resigns
Canadian foreign minister Maxime Bernier resigns
By ROB GILLIES Associated Press Writer


Canada's embattled foreign minister resigned after leaving classified documents at a private residence, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Monday, calling it "a breach, breach "a serious error." (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Tom Hanson, File)
(AP)
Harper said that he accepted the resignation of Maxime Bernier, who came under fire in recent weeks amid reports that a former girlfriend had previous relationships with men linked to the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang.

"Mr. Bernier has learned and informed me that he left classified documents in a nonsecure location. This is a serious error," Harper said.

Harper said that Bernier's controversial relationship with the woman was not a factor in the resignation.But it was announced as Bernier's former girlfriend, Julie Couillard, was preparing to go on a French-language television station to say that Bernier had been careless with classified documents.
"It's only this error. It's a very serious mistake for any minister. We must always accept responsibilities for the documents that are classified. The minister has immediately acknowledged the gravity of this mistake," Harper said.

The documents were left at a private residence, Harper said in a statement. He did describe the documents, say if they were shared with others or provide other details.

Bernier wrote in a letter of resignation that he became aware Sunday night that he had left behind classified documents at a private residence. He wrote that he asked for a thorough review of the situation.
"Prime Minister, the security breach that occurred was my fault and my fault alone and I take full responsibility for my actions," Bernier wrote.

In her interview, Couillard said Bernier left a document at her home, which she declined to describe.

"Maxime came to see me and he left a document behind," she said, adding it was returned to the government.

Couillard insisted she was doing the interview to re-establish her dignity and credibility after intense media scrutiny.

The former model said she told Bernier about her involvement with Quebec motorcycle gangs. "Maxime knew about it," she said...

Ooh. Juicy.

Donnetta Lee said...

There's progress and then there's progress. How about the progression of the soul? Such is the path you have been down. Then, you look back and you reflect. Was it good? Some of it felt like it. Much of it didn't. Maybe the times that it didn't feel good were really the times when it was! Ironically.
Donnetta

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Yes, Donnetta,

Throughout all the hard times I recall I was writing and publishing.

But something you said about the soul...It seems to take a long time to catch up with you once you'd done something really awful.

I think Jung called it "the worm squirm after the sin"...
"Sin? I though it was something only Eastern Europeans were concerned with, my old prof used to remark.
Ah well, though a good friend who got me into a Master's program, he seemed comfortable with his relativist wasphood.
...But then he got divorced too.

Asks Matthew Arnold, a major poet (and a former inspector of English schools): "The ancient philosophers described the state known as happiness Laeticia, sweetness and light, but there was a worm at bottom.
That worm was sin."

Ah, we Eastern Europens. But Arnold was, I think English.

Seems that even toffs get the blues.

Freya West said...

Idioms are always interesting and amusing because of their symbolic meanings but some idioms are really tough to understand. Love to read this post, again.
Thank you,
Freya, UK