Monday, September 29, 2008

Warning: NIce Ladies and Children should not read this blog. But Wallabees and Rheas can..




Some say the blues is getting up in the morning and stepping into the toilet bowl.

Well, it's one of those mornings

I am a caricature out of MAD Magazine #2, "Prince Violent", (picks up bow, drops bow, drops chain mail pants).

And even then, I look down at myself to find I have an extra belly button.

This is the goldenrod that once thrilled a bevy of beauties?

But, said one," I wish the rest of you were as good as your legs."

Well, I'm fancy!


Ah, Lothario turned into old goat.

It's a MAD, MAD world.

I think of "Clark Bent", hobbling from spitoon to spittoon, flies buzzing around him, the last frame in MAD having Lois Lane give him a backhander and yellinng, out of her talk balloon, "CREEP"..

Obviously in a funk this morning. Picking up my geetar. Thinking not so much of Transom-window belly to Leadbelly.


In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And you shiver when the cold wind blows


Woo. That indeed gave me a shiver.

Well, Norman Podhoretz says when a man has done some good writing, he feels like masturbating.

Says a friend, "Well, you can see the essence of his work."

Well, he did title it "Making It", but it seems all he had made was himself.

But it made him rich.


"Brilliant but broke doesn't cut it any more," says Mr. Podhoretz somewhere.

Well, I am certainly broke. And obvioulsy, not that brilliant.

I am working on another novel. Felt good to finish Chapter One, but I fear I am becoming like my contemporaties, all content and no style. Damn. It could have been a football schedule for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Scratch one chapter.

Gets pretty desperate when you strive for dullness, just to satisfy some fuzzy-eared editor going over my stuff with probably spermy hands. "Write something people want to read."

Well, Ive tried everything, though I must admit Philip Roth got off to a good start with a magazine piece titled (sic)
WHACKING OFF, later retitled to Portnoy's Complaint.

Ah poor Alexander Portnoy and his valentine notes to the family's grocery liver.

Ah well, to each his own.

And yet, and yet, I sometimes get e-mails from bemused guitarist Liona Boyd and old school pal way back.

"Hee...Ivan, are you still writing about masturbation?"

She goes on to say they were some really weird people In San Miguel de Allende.

Er...


Thinking of this old cartoon chickens looking like Al Capp shmoos:

Chicken to other chicken:

Do people get laid?
No, people are chicken.

Why, that's it.

Rooster has become chicken.

But then rooster once spent $40,000-- to very nearly get aids.
Ya never know.

"How come the young girld don't go with me any more? I ask a friend in the building.

"You ain't got no money, honey."

Ah, back to the geetar.

In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun never shines.
And you shiver when the cold wind blows.

Oh Lord.

I am not built for tragedy.

I am built for comedy.

Tear up that first chapter. Start a new book

"Naked Came the Ukraiinian."

That's it

Envy is ignorance.

And imitation, especially imitation of dull work, is suicide.

But then a man from another ethnic group, Norman Podhorets has beaten me to it

Well, damn it all, Saul.

Have you ever tried women?

Not so lonely that way.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A publishing opportunity just for you



Damn, damn and double damn. My intention was to begin with a novel opener by the late John Fowles, a real master of writing. I had used the opening paragraph of his mastepiece, The Magus, I added much to it in comment-- and zap! my entire blog was snapped up into cyrberspace. Gone. An hour of work was gone....And I had so marvelled at the power of my computer to find that exact novel opener--and to have it taken from me just like that.

So like the old scribes of Alexandria, who could not make one mistake for the copy was final, almost chiselled in stone, I had to start again, for there was no room for error at all in the library of Alexandria.

So now I have to start all over again, though, of course, I am frustrated and annoyed. Here is how John Fowles begins his novel.

I was born in 1927, the only child of middle-class parents, both English, and themselves born in the grotesquely elongated shadow, which they never rose sufficiently above history to leave, of that monstrous dwarf Queen Victoria. I was sent to a public school, I wasted two years doing my national service, I went to Oxford; and there I began to discover I was not the person I wanted to be.


I had long before made the discovery that I lacked the parents and ancestors I needed. My father was, through being the right age at the right time rather than through any great professional talent, a brigadier; and my mother was the very model of a would-be major general's wife. That is, she never argued with him and always behaved as if he were listening in the next room, even when he was thousands of miles away. I saw very little of my father during the war, and in his long absences I used to build up a more or less immaculate conception of him, which he generally — a bad but appropriate pun — shattered within the first forty-eight hours of his leave.


Well, how about you?

If you were to begin a an autobiographical novel, how would you start?

Give us a paragraph or two.

You migh be surprised at how quickly you will be able to clear any logjam in your first novel, if that is the kind of novel you intend to write.

Go ahead.

A publishing opportunity.

We don't mess around here.

This is Island Grove Press, registered in Ottawa, and we have ISBN numbers.

So pull the bushel off your head and let her rip.

Your turn for a fresh start.

Bang!

##


Ho-ho, here comes something from Donnetta Lee, about old things, old memorites and bones. A coming of age story. A maiden in a midden?

I had asked for a couple of chapters, but this piece by Donnetta is so good, I think Ill run it at some length.

It's untitled, so I'll provionally title it "Strange and Familiar Things in a Freshly- dug cellar.


Chapter One


It was early spring, 1944. The sun warmed the backs of the two men as they labored, sweating, even though the morning was cool. Oklahoma spring was like this: crisp and sunny with the light smell of honey suckle in the air. The cellar should have been completed a long time ago. Mr. Breeze was glad to be finishing it now.


"Jess," Mr. Breeze called to his brother. "Be sure to keep that dirt in one place under that tree." He motioned to a pile under the apple tree behind the house. His younger brother Jess was a good man but sometimes required direction to get things done right. Mr. Breeze didn't mind telling him what to do, and Jess didn't mind being told. Jess wanted to please his older brother since he would have little work without him. Jess lived in a room downtown over the drugstore. He did odd jobs for anybody in need of help and was grateful to get them.


Chloe watched the men from her back bedroom window of the new house. She sat in the middle of the oversized four poster bed, folding clean laundry as her mother had instructed her. She didn't mind folding laundry so much, as long as she could do it this way. It was better than doing some of the other household chores Mama often had in mind for her. It was peaceful in her room, surrounded by her own things. Things that had come from her home in Clinton.

Clinton, Oklahoma, was where she was born. Clinton was where she had been happy; that is, up until three years ago when Daddy died. Daddy was a lot older than Mama. He had become ill following what Mama called a stroke and passed on in his sleep in the hospital where Mama worked as a dietitian.

Everything changed after that. Mama worked longer hours at the hospital. When she was home, she stopped humming as she had done before..

Chloe spent more time in their apartment alone, usually passing the day by playing the upright piano that Daddy bought her. Although the piano lessons stopped after Daddy died, Chloe continued to play. Her piano teacher commented once that she played quite well for a nine year old. Daddy said she played like an angel.

Then, one day, about two years after Daddy died, Mr. Breeze appeared at the front door of the apartment, asking to see Mama. He had met Mama through friends. He was a railroad man, a depot agent, just like Daddy had been. From that time on, there was no looking back at any part of the old life. Things were never the same again.

Mr. Breeze married Mama. Mama was no longer Mrs. Morgan. She was now "Mrs. Breeze." All of this made Chloe really sad. But, for Mama's sake, she tried to smile, to be polite, and accept the life she found herself living. With Daddy gone, it was almost impossible to do.

She found herself, a year after Daddy died, away from Clinton and her friends smack dab in the middle of this family that wasn't her family. Mr. Breeze insisted that they bring the
piano along to the home in Willow. He said it looked nice in the living room and hoped Chloe would play it sometime, but she didn't have the heart to play it anymore. The piano reminded her too much of Daddy.


Chloe folded more clothes. Some of the clothes belonged to Mr. Breeze. Chloe found herself folding his clothes a bit carelessly. She thought he probably wouldn't notice anyway.

She gazed out the window through the lace curtains. Mr. Breeze and Jess worked steadily. The cellar had to be completed quickly before the spring weather had a chance to bring thunderstorms, hail storms, and tornadoes that Oklahoma was known to have.

The men secured the heavy cellar door and its counteracting cement weights. It was tricky, but it looked to Chloe they it neared completion.

"Chloe," Mama called from the kitchen. "Almost done with that laundry?" Her voice was happy

"Yes, Mama." Chloe folded the remaining items neatly and placed them on the very top of the laundry basket.


"Come in here and set the table for lunch when you're done."

The smell of fried okra and fried chicken teased Chloe. She was certain Mama would make mashed potatoes and chicken gravy. Mama might bake angel biscuits today. They were called "angel" biscuits because they were so light they could float. And they really did melt plumb away in your mouth without hardly chewing. Chloe's mouth watered just thinking about them.

The biscuits were one of the few things Chloe liked to eat. Mama made them often in an effort to encourage Chloe to eat more. She sometimes fussed at Chloe saying if she didn't eat more she would "dry up and blow away." Mama said she looked like a sapling tree with spindly arms and legs resembling twigs.

The men come in the back door straight into the kitchen.

"George," Mama scolded, "don't you dare track that red dirt on my clean kitchen floor."

Mr. Breeze said something to Mama to tease her, but he and Jess went back into the yard where the water spigot was in front of the new cellar and knocked the dirt off their boots and washed their hands. They wouldn't risk missing out on one of Mama's home cooked meals.

As the men trod back into the kitchen, Mr. Breeze instructed Chloe, "Be careful of the
things on the table on the porch. Every thing's old and falling apart." He used that voice like a teacher uses, telling her what to do. Daddy never used that voice and she didn't like it much now.

Chloe muttered, "Okay." She wondered what could be so important that it had to be displayed on the table on the porch. The porch was actually a small room added on to the back of the house. It had a twin bed in it, a chair, and a table. Sometimes, when Jess was in town working with Mr. Breeze, he stayed the night out there. Other than that, it was hardly ever used.

Mama served up dinner as everyone took a seat in the dining room. "What all have you put on that table anyway, George?"

Bones," Mr. Breeze grinned a big old toothy grin. He enjoyed teasing Mama, and Chloe wasn't sure how to take that. Her daddy never teased the way Mr. Breeze did.

Mama's eyes widened as she rubbed her hands dry on her cotton apron. "Bones? What kind of bones?"

"I'm not too sure. But I think they're human bones. And there are pieces of an old blanket. Looks to be an Indian blanket of some kind."

Jess filled his plate generously. "You know, Maggie," he added, "I think there are a few animal bones, too. Looks like maybe horse bones to me."

Mama made a face. She didn't like the idea of old bones being inside her house.

"Oh, mercy," she fussed. "What are those bones doing in my house?"

Jess grinned. He knew she was fussing playfully at his brother. "Why, those are special bones, Maggie. Might be real old."
"Special bones?" Mama's voice went up in pitch. "What in the world could be special about a pile of old bones?"

Mr. Breeze opened his napkin and set it across his knees. "I'm gonna send some of those bones off to the college up in Stillwater and see what they think. Meantime, just let 'em be."

The men ate, discussing where those bones might have come from and why they were there. Then, the talk turned back to the cellar and how it would be done by the evening with the weighted door in place, ready for use when a storm blew up.

They finished it just in time.




************************************************************************




The wind blew all day long. At first, in the early morning, it started as a warm breeze. Mama hung the clean laundry on the clothesline behind the house early that morning. Good thing, she thought, as it would have been whipped to death later in the day with the wind gaining momentum. Chloe sat on the edge of the new cellar keeping Mama company as she hung out the clothes.

By ten that morning, the laundry dried and Mama took it in the house The wind's force kept growing. By noon, it was hot and stung when it slapped your face.

Off toward the south, the sky had a purple cast to it. It was the sign of an approaching storm. By late afternoon, clouds gathered ominously and a few sprinkles had set in. The wind now came in strong, short gusts and the air grew cooler by the minute. The sky took on a greenish cast as an ominous feeling settled over everything.

Mr. Breeze came home as usual from the depot at four in the afternoon. A strong gust blew him in the front door of the house. He clutched the screen door, locking it behind him as he came in. Laying his wet grey rainjacket on the floor, he wiped the moisture from his face.

"Maggie," he said. "It's blowin' up a big one. Best get ready. Is the lantern in the cellar?"

"Yes and blankets, too." Mama tried to sound matter of fact. Knowing how Chloe was afraid of storms, she didn't want to alarm her any more than need be.

The cellar had been completed for a week. It was clean, dry, and didn't have a musty odor like cellars do when they get old. Chloe hoped it wouldn't be too dark down there if they had to go. Mr. Breeze hoped the walls would be sound and not leak. Mama wanted everyone to be safe.

The house shuddered as the wind was increased in force. Chloe peaked out the living room window, parting the venetian blinds with her fingers. The green sky deepened and black clouds began to swirl in a circular pattern. The air was heavy.

Mama and Mr. Breeze went from one room to other, securing the windows. "Chloe," Mr. Breeze used the teacher's voice again. "Get your rain slicker on. We're going to the cellar."


***********************************************************************


The heavy rain hurled erratically applauded by great claps of thunder. Lightning lit up the sky in spurts serving as a spotlight showing off the tumultuous sky. Mr. Breeze held the cellar door open while Mama and Chloe ran from the back door of the house. He closed the cellar just as the hail commenced to pelt. The ice balls sounded like stones hitting the tin of the cellar door. Chloe was relieved that they made it safe and sound below.


The cellar was outfitted with a small square table and two chairs, a bench against against the west wall. Mama outfitted it further with a wooden box containing blankets. A kerosene lantern sat on the table as the only source of light with the cellar door closed. It smelled like rain and dirt.


...to be continued (a work in progresss)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An epistle to the Quarks



Hi Quarks (fellow travellers to this blog)

Oh Gawd.

After Saturday Night Live's fabulous performance last weekend, I felt like saying what I used to say abou MAD Magazine. Oh MAD, poor MAD, something's hung you up and I'm feeling so sad.

SNL sucked a hotchee last night.

Darryl Hammond was badly used as John McCain in something called "McCain Voiceovers", it was too safe a satire, there were only photos of Barrak Obama and not an Obama character with something called "McCain Voiceovers"-- and Kristin Wiig's talents were entirely wasted where she played the part of a group of reporters to be sent to Alaska, ultimately eaten by bears and run over by snowmobiles.

The musical group Kings of Leon performed "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody."--and they sure used us in two totally flat performances. No sign of Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin....Are hey afraid of a lawsuit or something?

But no. They hinted on Palin's husband making out with their children and how they got away with that spoof, I'll never know. If I were Sen. Palin I would have sued. Bad taste. Ecch!

Always the same in the performing arts. One huge success in an episode and then a corresponding failure in the next.

Should have wartched MAD earlier.

It's edgier. Not like the print magazine today. Or, last night, SNL.

I too am losing my edge. Ideas and opportunities come, and I just say, "Ah well. There goes another idea, another opportinity. Sent something to the local paper and got a really nice hello from Debora Kelly, editor, but someone had already done the story on a theme I had in mind. She at least inquired about my health and I guess that door is still open.

Well, if SNL can blow it entirely I guess here and there I can too. And those cats used to make fabulous incomes. You wouldn't believe how fabulous. Had kept John Belushi in dope for years, until he had that last snort.

Maybe it's producer Lorne Michaels' anti-drug policy now. They used to really get it on in the late Seventies, when almost everybody in the cast but Jane Curtin was on drugs. Remember John Belushi in the "Samurai Deli", the part when a customer didn't like a submarine sandwich and Belushi, as the Samurai Deli owner went to commit hara-kiri with his sword. He had "lost face". Hee.

And there was a parody of the "Point-Counterpoint" segment of the news program 60 Minutes, Curtin portrayed a controlled "liberal", Politically Correct viewpoint (referencing Shana Alexander) vs. Dan Akroyd, who (referencing James J. Kilpatrick) prototyped the right-wing view, albeit with an over the top "attack" journalist slant.
Curtin would present the liberal "Point" portion first, then Aykroyd would present the "Counterpoint" portion, sometimes beginning with the statement, "Jane, you ignorant slut."

Egad.

I'm afraid the good old days are gone forever.

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

Got some tomatoes out of the garden.

You mean tomatoes, usually from California, don't have to taste like kaopectate?

Delicious.

It's harvest time in Ontario and everything's great.

Hope Pam's spread in Australia got some rain.

Spanking, gorgeous days out here. Had to go and catch the sun. 'fore it's gone..



My Marigold grew to seven feet. (sic!)

Ah woodsman, spare that marigold.It had become huge, and aged. Had to do a logging expedition and cut the thing down; it was robbing space from all the tomatoes; I've never seen a flower grow so tall. That Miracle Grow is wunderstuff. Gee, I wonder if I can get any bigger if I take some. Heh.

Ah. Fun in the garden with Ivan. Never trust a naked marigold.

Holy cow.

There might be life after rejection.

##

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rocking the library



I would be sitting on the little stage, having turned the lights on myself, lounge singer. Still trying to be pope, Ratsinger, I guess.

There is a killer guitar player in the audience. I wink at him. "I'm rusty. I'm not as good as I used to be.

Shoots back Fast Eddie: "Which wasn't very."

Of all the careeres I'd had, music seemed to be a constant. But you could get rusty. What is this shiny thing in my hand, with all the strings on it?

I peer back at the really fast guitar player through the smoke.

There is a sudden sense of inferiority.


I blurt out:" What am I doing up here?"

"You're a rock star, you asshole."

"Oh."

Jeez. Fast Eddie calling me a rock star.

I stop fiddling with chords, and break into "I can' get no

Satisfaction."


New people have come to the foyer of the bar. They seem enthused. They file in.

It's that Stones riff, wheher borrowed or not, cerainly copied by eveyrone. And it's catchy, almost addictive, bringing people to the dance floor..

Fast Eddie unpacks his Fender. He joins me in the riff. Behind me theres a man and wife team ding back-up.

"I can't get no..."

Holy cow. Fast Eddie backing me. But he is picking u the pace. The song is now too fast. He is out "fasting" me.

F*cking competition among Nemarket guitar players. Last time, he knocked off my modem to leave me sputtering in the middle of a G augmented (demented?) seventh.

Stars collide.

I keep up. There is applause.

Eddie almost Hey Rubed me. But it's my gig tonight, not his. I could fire him.

But he was up here doing terrific lead. It would be bad form.

And what the hell. I han'f felt like playing anyway, and I wa soaking up his energy.

Jesus, I think I need another job. Night after night, having cranked oneself up on beer and cigarettes. Bank lady says you look like hell. You should get another job.

I was first of all a writer. What the hell. Writing, music, it's all in the same familly

Beaux arts. But my arts in music weren't so beau.

There was always someone in the audience that could play cleaner and stronger than me.

But I could sing. All the fast guys would say, It's nice to get behind somebody good."

Still, I was getting burned out. Turn from a normal, sort of dull guy into a musical maniac, cranking yourself up on coffee, booze and dope. "You're a rock star, asshole."

Thinking of Curt Cobain and his overdose.

Nirvana.

It blows.


I packed up my guitar that evening and called it a night.

I was not Cobain, of course, but I had some idea of what happened.

Gave my soul for rock and roll.


Now a writer. That was something else. You held the guitar without actually playing. And songs and sounds would come out trhough the ether.


I had to go back to being a writer.

Ha. Not so fast. Everyting takes longer, much longer than you think.

And after the scene with the hamhock and bad beer, and the angry landlord, you might come just out with a symphony.

Well, it's been ten years. Ten years probably wasted. All the turtes running along side me were in the same field.
It was becoming clear to me that I might not have been talented enough at this, nor smart enough, or not lucky enough.
Should have maybe stayed with the music. Rejection, it seemed all around.


I made the standard move.

I published the book myself and gave it to a library.

In the mail in the morning, there was something nestled in among the ads.

I opened the letter.

Here is what it said:

THE CORPORATION OF THE TOWN OF NEWMARKET.

OFFICIAL DONTATION RECEIPT FOR INCOME TAx PURPOSESj.

GENERAL LIBRARY FUND
Receipt No. L618

Date of Donation. Auguist 11, 2008

Received from Ivan Prokopchuk
54O Timothy Streeet
Newmarket, Ontario L3V 1P9


Eligible amount for gift tax purposes...................19.95
(fair market value of property)

Description of Donation:

Novel--The Black Icon, by Ivan Prokopchuk.

Date receipt issued August 22, 2008

Authorized signature L. Peppiatt, acting C.E.O.

Treasurer, Nemarket Public Library.


Ah what the hell. A publishing is a publishing.

Rocking the library




would be sitting on the little stage, having turned the lights on myself, lounge singer. Still trying to be pope, Ratsinger, I guess.

There is a killer gutar player in the audience. I wink at him. "I'm rusty. I'm not as good as I used to be.

Shoots back Fast Eddie: "Which wasn't very."

Of all the careeres I'd had, music seemed to be a constant. But you could get rusty. What is this shiny thing in my hand, with all the strings on it?

I peer back at the really fast guitar player through the smoke.

There is a sudden sense of inferiority.

I blurt out:" What am I doing up here?"

"You're a rock star, you asshole."

"Oh."

Jeez. Fast Eddie calling me a rock star.

I stop fiddling with chords, and break into "I can' get no

Satisfaction."


New people have come to the foyer of the bar. They seem enthused. They file in.

It's that Stones riff, wheher borrowed or not, cerainly copied by eveyrone. And it's catchy, almost addictive, bringing people to the dance floor..

Fast Eddie unpacks his Fender. He joins me in the riff. Behind me theres a man and wife team ding back-up.

"I can't get no..."

Holy cow. Fast Eddie backing me. But he is picking u the pace. The song is now too fast. He is out "fasting" me.

F*cking competition among Nemarket guitar players. Last time, he knocked off my modem to leave me sputtering in the middle of a G augmented (demented?) seventh.

Stars collide.

I keep up. There is applause.

Eddie almost Hey Rubed me. But it's my gig tonight, not his. I could fire him.

But he was up here doing terrific lead. It would be bad form.

And what the hell. I han'f felt like playing anyway, and I wa soaking up his energy.

Jesus, I think I need another job. Night after night, having cranked oneself up on beer and cigarettes. Bank lady says you look like hell. You should get another job.

I was first of all a writer. What the hell. Writing, music, it's all in the same familly

Beaux arts. But my arts in music weren't so beau.

There was always someone in the audience that could play cleaner and stronger than me.

But I could sing. All the fast guys would say, It's nice to get behind somebody good."

Still, I was getting burned out. Turn from a normal, sort of dull guy into a musical maniac, cranking yourself up on coffee, booze and dope. "You're a rock star, asshole."

Thinking of Curt Cobain and his overdose.

Nirvana.

It blows.


I packed up my guitar that evening and called it a night.

I was not Cobain, of course, but I had some idea of what happened.

Gave my soul for rock and roll.


Now a writer. That was something else. You held the guitar without actually playing. And songs and sounds would come out trhough the ether.


I had to go back to being a writer.

Ha. Not so fast. Everyting takes longer, much longer than you think.

And after the scene with the hamhock and bad beer, and the angry landlord, you might come just out with a symphony.

Well, it's been ten years. Ten years probably wasted. All the turtes running along side me were in the same field.
It was becoming clear to me that I might not have been talented enough at this, nor smart enough, or not lucky enough.
Should have maybe stayed with the music. Rejection, it seemed all around.


I made the standard move.

I published the book myself and gave it to a library.

In the mail in the morning, there was something nestled in among the ads.

I opened the letter.

Here is what it said:

THE CORPORATION OF THE TOWN OF NEWMARKET.

OFFICIAL DONTATION RECEIPT FOR INCOME TAx PURPOSESj.

GENERAL LIBRARY FUND
Receipt No. L618

Date of Donation. Auguist 11, 2008

Received from Ivan Prokopchuk
54O Timothy Streeet
Newmarket, Ontario L3V 1P9


Eligible amount for gift tax purposes...................19.95
(fair market value of property)

Description of Donation:

Novel--The Black Icon, by Ivan Prokopchuk.

Date receipt issued August 22, 2008

Authorized signature L. Peppiatt, acting C.E.O.

Treasurer, Nemarket Public Library.


Ah what the hell. A publising is a publishing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And the road flows on, without the slightest splash


Jesus. My ego might as well be a screaming jackrabbit in a trap.

The Chinese proberb says "Crisis: Opportunity", but perpetual crisis can wear you out. Gotta do something.

Call for action in a crisis, you will do this, and this, and that.

But where do you start again, and in each direction, the road goes on and on, with frequent turns and many laborious terraces where there is a mountain.

Well damn. Give from the need, give from the panic.

There are other people out there in crisis, and they too, are writers.


Like my friend Tony MacGregor, lately of Bangkok.



RIVERWEED ON THE CANAL

By Tony MacGregor




I dream often in the Thong Poon Hotel.

It is always the same dream. My father, his frantic face and shrunken body enclosed in a transparent egg, rolls and twists on a riverbank. His maddened blue/gray eyes shriek out to me. He is trying to warn me of something - but he can't say what it is - and I am floating comfortably on the river, disconnected - while the egg twists and rolls and my father's face grows more and more frantic.



What is he trying to say to me? Why does he come to me here in the breeze of my electric fan as I sleep naked in the tropical heat in this erratically pulsating hotel on the banks of the Bangkoknoi canal where great chunks of floating green bushes float up or downstream, depending on the tides, before drifting into Bangkok's mighty Chao Phraya River.



My father was a wanderer, restless, driven, always grasping at tiny straws of peace that kept him going.



When I look up from the typewriter to the mirror, I see his blue/gray eyes, still young and intense, powerful, staring at me from a 63-year-old face with skin hanging loose from my neck and a forehead that now stretches to the middle of my skull.



My temples are still suffering from an attack of rosacea or acne that erupted in my last months in Korea. What remains now are scars and redness.



I am here by accident. Officially I'm here studying for a degree in Buddhism, but really I'm recovering from three years of a frantic life Seoul - too much happiness and sadness, too much work and too little sleep, and a lot of pain from falling in love with the wrong woman.



I had planned to study at a university in Myanmar, but the military government wouldn't let me in because I'm a journalist so I ended up here on the banks of this canal.



The canal is peaceful in the evenings and I often sit in the hotel's open-air restaurant on the river bank. I'm usually the only one there and I like that. I can't speak Thai so I can't speak to the staff but that doesn't bother me. I haven't tried to learn Thai because I'm studying Pali, a dead language similar to the one the Buddha spoke and the language in which his words are recorded. I don't want to attempt too much.



So I sit there alone in the dark next to the brown/gray shimmering canal listening for the thruup of a fish's tail in the water. The water gives off a subtle smell of wet weeds and cool living fish skin. Occasionally, from further up the canal, the compelling, honey-like scent of an orchid searching for an insect floats by.



The high-heeled shoes of the waitresses in their slinky, black, full-length gowns with a slit up the side, click on the plank floor. They smile at me a lot.



Their attire contrasts with the generally run-down appearance of the squat brown hotel surrounded by scrubby unkempt municipal land. Three guards in dark blue uniforms loll around in the languid heat at the gate to the entrance of the hotel, eyes half closed, barely awake.



Now I'm in my room waiting for Nok, the girl who works in the snack shop, to arrive. I didn't really mean to ask her to come to my room. I was just being friendly because I'm going to be here for six months at least and I will be seeing the hotel staff every day.



I said I would help her with her English. Then she said she would come to my room after she finishes work. When she said that her eyes softened and she smiled. Does she want to sleep with me? I don't know. She has large, dark Asian eyes with thick pink lips and dark hair sweeping over her forehead.



I bought four cans of beer, two of a brand called Season 3 with the picture of a sexy girl in a red dress on the cans and two Singha beer. Singha is a Thai word that comes from the Pali siha, lion. I have laid out some snacks – peanuts a sweet roll cake and a chocolate cake.



I'm doing my homework while waiting for her. I have to make a presentation on the life of the Buddha. I chose that topic because I need to understand the essentials. My classmates, almost all Buddhist monks, know them already.



I'm trying to focus but Nok's face keeps interrupting. She smells of chocolate and raspberry syrup. Her thick lips taste of strawberry pop and her hair smells of sunlight and blue, perfumed soap.



The truth is a man is what he believes as well as what he thinks and eats. What do I believe? Nok is young enough to be my daughter and I'm not looking for a long-term relationship.



After the Buddha achieved enlightenment he is reputed to have said,



"Vainly I sought the builder of my house

Through countless lives I could not find him

How hard it is to tread life after life!

But now I see you oh builder!

And never again shall I build my house.

I have snapped the rafters,

Split the ridgepole

And beaten out desire.

Now my mind is free."



Who is the builder of his house? Who is he talking about?



I met Adrian on my second day here. A friendly Australian who was born in Scotland - red face, shiny blue eyes - I rarely see him without a can of beer in his hand. He is kind, and drunk or sober, tends to his five-year-old son Johnny like a mother hen.



Last night he told me the story about a former resident of the hotel – a virtual hermit, he said - who collapsed after a taxi ride and is now in hospital in a permanent vegetative state. The matter-of-fact way Adrian told the story unsettled me.



Adrian says the Thong Poon Hotel is a state of mind.



The homework tires me out and I fall asleep. I dream the same dream, the dream of my father.



How I long, one day, to be able to call out to him from the river and say, "It's OK dad. I understand. I know what you want to say.

--Tony MacGregor

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I didn't want to be in this play in the first place.


I have taken a chapter or two of my novella, the Fire in Bradford to a local theatre director to assuage my ego, after having this chapter and another rejected.

I expected sympathy, but the verdict was, "It needs work. We all do."

Oh-oh. You mean the publishing house was right?

A phrase from Newfoundland. "Buck up, f*ck-up!"

I now have a play version for out director, something I've been working on for some time, and have maybe tired out the "quarks", our club from a constant tinkering with, and displaying of this story.

But I'll reprint the novel chapter here, since it looks like nobody else is going to print it just now

My concern is that this chapter is too wordy. Any comments on this would be appreciated.

So here goes:


CHAPTER ONE
Lana appears before you while you are rolling your own cigarettes, the 1920's Vogue face, the bobbed hair, a Drew Barrymore fallen into the rye on one September day, though I knew in future September days it was not a field of rye that Lana would fall into, but a baroque field of dreams, of opium, and then the rush of cocaine that would make her thoroughly modern, thoroughly Chicago out of 1930.
Yet it was l986.
I was a newspaperman with a predilection for French authors, because they were so maddeningly thorough, the linchpin of real writers and so well did I get to know twentieth century authors in French that I soon got to teach a night course in it. Ah, the French penchant for the absurd, the splayed-out mysticism of an Andre Malraux and the incredible clarity of image and idea that only Frenchmen possess, and they'd be the first to tell you. Despite the utter incomprehensiveness of their humour (Fat man wears mop-wig--ha- ha) the French are somewhat superior and they know it. Celine, for instance, or, for that matter, Celine Dion.

Enough that I was a teacher of French authors and she walked in one day with no hint of the Vogue beauty that I would later know, no inkling as to the heaviness of spirit that would later come to oppress me, no clue at all as to the beautiful woman who resided in the suburban Mam's overalls, the little white tee shirt with the red apple monogram, the closely cropped hair like Celine Dion in Las Vegas.

Thoroughly modern.
But not me.
I was an old hot-lead linotype newspaperman just getting over a divorce, getting my love out of imagination, tossing the I-Ching, seeing my love in the allure of print until she walked in.

We had actually met the very first time on the stairs of Sacred Heart School where Seneca had a night class. She was on the way up and I was on my way down. She had looked different then, walking right up to what seemed the middle of a Goethe fantasy of mine. How these screwball women with their multiple personalities and costumes do attract one: She was the very image of Kathschen Shonkopf, Goethe's firs love, the nice high forehead so many girls from Ontario possess, the hair severely back in a bun with the neatest little bonnet atop, large haunting eyes like your mother's, straight nose somewhat probing, delightful little crooked lips and the cutest overbite.
She did encourage my Goethe fantasy. I saw another image of Lana, but this time with a pre-Victorian dress exquisitely corseted, nice breasts, waist hardly existent at all. And Granny boots!
So there were at least two Lanas that I already knew about, and after the years, many, many more.
But on this particular autumn evening, she was in to study French authors, a fascination for the Bastille, I guess, the French Revolution, socking it to the Bourbons (who would return a generation later to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing)--all that stuff of high drama for a fairly active imagination, constrained somewhat by a husband she imagined as pesky. She did seem to know her French authors, but largely of the Victor Hugo mold and a lot of Dumas, the adventure, misery, suffering, cell-to-cell signaling. Was there a dungeon in her life?...Lord knows what the suburbanites in Bradford were up to these days.
I always found myself charmed to find that in spite of possibly rococo lifestyles up there in Riveredge Park, hardly anybody in my class, largely women, had ever read real novels like Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina, the substance of all those adventurous, adulterous wives who think their problems will end by leaving old hubber, only to find with Chekhov, that their problems were just beginning. Or was old Mr. Chekhov just a prig and a spoilsport who knew nothing about real swingers, a Wayne Newton who didn't know the first thing about Shania Twain. I don't know how I'd ended up at Lana's house.
A somewhat raffish untenured professor who enjoyed drinking with his students after class, I had no objections at all when she asked through a third person if she could come to one of the pub nights, and could she bring her husband. Hubby was handsome as the night is long, like a European Wayne Gretzky, his manners continental, but no accent at all. Dracula in a hockey jersey, liked by all immediately, sweet as a pimp.

I could not help but marvel at the Vogue beauty of Lana now before me. What had happened to the closely-cropped hair? How did it reach lovely 1920's back-cut modishness in the scant three weeks that I'd seen her last, before she'd begged to get a little time off from her classes to go on a "camping trip"? A wig, of course, but it made her look more like Drew Barrymore, though Lana had a deeper beauty, more English, the inner glow, the hint of Viking.

I was lighting my cigarettes backwards. I had no idea how this present-day Julie Christie out of the Twenties had even broached the threshold of my life and wondered why she seemed so interested in me. I also wondered, as a veteran of not a few affairs, how many others had been pole-axed in the same way. She'd obviously been charming men for a long, long time, the blue eye shadow, the absolute blondness, pint size and everything about her fashioned, turned, just so. Sheer elegant femininity, and you could bet your granny boots there were at least three other guys playing here besides old hubber. Unnatural elfin beauty. A setup for loners and stoners. The husband's name was Leif. Leif the Lucky. Or was he?

I balked at first when they poured me into their red SUV, to be carted home with them. Drunk, I was babbling, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his goods, nor his ass. Leif seemed somehow intrigued by this last reference to Immanuel Kant.

Enough that we somehow got to a neat white cottage in Holland Landing, the husband unexpectedly retired rather suddenly, passed out in the bedroom and Lana and I were left to ourselves in a shag-rugged and Danish-style living room with its U-shaped chesterfield facing an immense picture window with the drapes not yet drawn. And the chess table in the corner. And suddenly I became aware of how lonely I was, me the divorcee and frequent near-separado from my subsequent live-ins, the man of many wives and master of none. It seemed I was suddenly curved up in a ball of loneliness, vulnerability, want. I just wanted her, anybody, anybody like her, to hold me. "Just hold me," I was beginning to keen. Very deliberately, she put an open palm and extended, graceful fingers to the seat of where she saw the trouble to be. Maybe just a lonesome woman not sure of herself , or someone used to certain kinds of men, or maybe this had to a a wham-bam-thank-you ma'am, and that would be my fifteen minutes. Earlier, she had gone to the hi-fi to put on an LP and I noted she kept bending over to reveal a beautiful pear-shaped derriere that she seemed rather anxious to display. Was she a virgin, the wife of some Ruskin, who was found years later to still possess her hymen after a lifetime of marriage? A lesbian? A lady of the night? Or maybe a lonesome woman. A lonesome woman suddenly not sure of herself because of a husband's imbroglios, or homosexuality, or extramarital affairs, or all of the above. In any event, we settled down. She had put on, of all things, my favourite Bob Dylan LP, the "Bringing It All Back Home" one. Pop nihilism , but what an articulate and haunting nothingness. "It's all right ma, I'm only crying," the great American genius rasping it all out, sharp trick-of-the-trade F-chord penetrating the D tonic, then quickly to a G and then back to the D, doom-da-da-dadda dum. Holy mackerel! She was right on my frequency.


...end chaper.

And here, just for fun, is my play version of Act Two, Scene One. The heroine's name is now changed to Celia.


ACT II Scene One............................
Setting: Main Street, with Lief's red Toyota SUV in front of parking meter.Celia and Lief have the professor between them. He is very drunk.They are walking towards the vehicle
.PROFESSOR( who is babbling): Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his goods, nor his ass.
LIEF (gigggling as he tries to hold up the professor'sright shoulder) "Nor his ass?"
PROFESSOR: I know your're a fart smastard, Lief. I know you've read Kant.'A Posteriori. One of Kant's propositions.
CELIA ( who has the professor's left arm, begins to giggle as well) David, what did you just say?
PROFESSOR: Kant. Immanuel Kant. What did you think I said?...And if your pronoune Goethe like Goth again I'll lay a Johnny Rotten on you.
CELIA: You're lucky I like the things you say. Even the rude things.Celia's head is now almost underneath the professor's arm. Lief fumbles in his right-hand pocket for the keys.They steer the professor around the front of the car to the sidewalk, so they can dump him in the back seat.Lief starts the SUV. There is a pause.Lief turn back towards the prof, who is screwing up lighting a cigarette.
LIEF: Threre is an ashtray in front of you. Pull it back.PROFESSOR: Fuck you, good friend Lief. The world is my ashtray!
LIEF, (to Celia, almost whispering): This guy's a professor? He's not even middleclass. Listen to him! Boy, you really pick them!
CELIA: He's a brilliant writer.
LIEF: Well, I don't care if he's a brilliant writer. I'm from the west. I know we laugh at Newfies here in Ontario, but over in Alberta, we used to call them Ukies. The guy's a boor, a horse's ass!
PROFESSOR: I heard that.I may be a horse's ass, but I noticed, when I said something to you back in the bar and grabbed your knee for emphasis, your moved right into it.(This brings a laugh from Lief). He turns back to the professor.
LIEF: Fast reflexes.
Professor: I don't know what you guys have in mind, but I've got no other place to go right now. And they are off.

...end Scene One

....



Ah well. Typing away some time.


##

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Afta suppa muddafukka


Like many another vain, empty, and bullying body of our time, I have been running for President these last ten years in the privacy of my mind, and it occurs to me that I am less close now than when I began. Defeat has left my nature divided, my sense of timing is eccentric, and I contain within myself the bitter exhaustions of an old man, and the cocky arguments of a bright boy. So I am everything by my proper age of thirty-six, and anger has brought me to the edge of the brutal.


Well, I'm nearly twice thirty six and I should like to say, less elegantly than Mr. Mailer, that I am pissed. Don't know why I should be though. Robertson Davies, the late world class Canadian novelist, rumor goes, was rejected by the same house for "belle-lettrism." Go figure.Either my lettres are too belle or not belle enough. One good thing I can say for Margaret Atwood, is that she can sure write a bell lettre. I have seen her tribute to John Updike. The chick can write when she wants to get it on.


Maybe I am just too wordy.
Or maybe I scared the living crap out of them.

*Ah, but lookee here...It does seem to get darkest before the light.

Here is old Norman Mailer, for years in the stratosphere with his Naked and the Dead and suddenly rejected on another novel, The Deer Park. Rejected all over New York. Happens to everybody, even to the most important writer in America.
He had so start all over again.


Part of his account in the debacle. The long and weary road though seven rejections.

The eighth house was G. P. Putnam's. I didn't want to giive it to them. I was planning to go next to Viking, but Walter Minton kept saying, "Give us three days. We'll give you a decision in three days." So we sent it to Putnam, and in threee days the took it without conditions, and without a request for a single change. I had a victory, I had made my point, but in fact I was not very happy. I had grown wild on my diet of polite letters f rom publishling houses who didn't want me, that I had been reeady to collect rejections from twenty houses, publish the Deer Park at my own expense, and try to make kind of publishing history.

Said Putnam's proprietor at the time, "I was ready to take The Deer Park without reading it. I knew your name would sell enough copies to pay your advance."

Success for Mailer, my hero.

But it came at considerable cost in emotion and energy.

Mailer goes on:

Now I've tried to to water this account with a minimum of tears, but taking The Deer Park into the nervous system of eight publishing houses was not so good for my own nervous system nor was it good for getting to work on my new novel.
In the ten weeks that it took the book to travel from Rinehart to Putnam, I squandered the careful energy I had been hoading for months: ther is a hard comedy as how much of myself I could burn up in a few hours of hot telelphone calls. I had never had any sense for practical affairs, but in those days, carrying The Deer Park from house to house, I stayed as close to it as a stage-struck mother pushing her child forward at every producer's office. I was amateur agent for it, messenger boy, editorial consultant, Machiavelli of the luncheon table, fool of the five o'clock drinks....


Yes, all that time and energy spent when you're smarting and on the edge of, face it, failure.

And it does not end here for Mailer. One reviewer:

"Crommy. Sordid. A bunch of bums."

Jesus. Tha would do me right in. In my writing carees the worst criticism was right here in this blog, where in a comment, some anynymous publisher's cipher called me a failure.
Felt like answering, "Well, identify yourself mother.ucker. Have you got three million words in commercial print? Well, have you?" And if you're a publisher, how many in your stable of authors can say that?"

Well, Mailer did something like that. Took out an ad that had the reviewer quoted. Said it cracked him up.

And then, a few years later, he produced the finest journalism in the world with his Fire on the Moon and Armies of the Night . And five fine novels after that.

Why am I on this antique Norman Mailer kick? The man is, after all, dead, though I am, I think, alive.

Because it made me feel better when I was down.

Mailer, the best American writer next to Updike, went through that?


And I am smarting over having two chapters rejected by Anansi?

Well. Afta suppa muddafukkah!


##

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Notes from the underground...or have I lost the function of elimination?


Snapped continuity. Like videotape become snapped and unspliced.

Ones life of snapped continuity.

Mislaid things, people, houses.

Where the hell is everybody?

Willie Nelson:

Two broken hearts lonely looking likehouses where nobody lives
Two people each having so much pride inside neither side forgives
The angry words spoken in haste such a waste of two lives
It's my belief pride is the chief cause and a decline
In the number of husbands and wives

Well, Willie should know.
And the tragicomedy of life. (Quote supplied here by Eric Mercer) : "My dick died before I did."--Willie Nelson.

So what does it matter if you get her back.
Old air force joke. You've become a colossal fossil wih a docile tassle.

Still think you know something about life?

A man will chase a woman for thirty years, even if he gets nothing out of her.

And he finally lands her. And, says my Greek friend, " still gets married to an asshole."

Ronnie Hawkins. "She drove that cat until he flipped his lid."

A little bit sexist, I suppose. That particular part of anatomy is not resrtricted to women or men.

Well, the gay guys get their Burroughs and Ginzburgs. Talk with such dismissiveness, almost sneering at "heterosexual love" as if their family was already homosexual while ours was still in the trees. Yeah. The ascent of man.
The nobility of making it with a dunghill.

Heh. How now, brown cow?

And today, you can marry one.

Jeez. How many emperors, how many kids, how many new clothes.

Culture of storm and stress. What had been up had to be pulled down.

And other things wrong with the old Democrats.
And only the babysitter is in there pitching.

I mean, when I was in college, I sincerely wanted to be a homosexual. I wanted to be outrageous at parties. I wanted to tell it like it is.

Turned out to be captain of the stupid hockey team.

Well never mind. The things that go one beween men and women can be so godawful that you may be lucky if queer.
You may be gay and on the radio, but but if straight, your patrner may be operating in mega-hurts. Drive ya nuts.
Drove that cad untill he flipped his lid.



Well, I once frippped my rid.
Tried to do it all for them. Not so much for me.


Be a novelist. (Well, not so fast).

Be a teacher. (Done)

Lay me a golden egg. (Done with some grunting)


The law now says that all men should be women.

Goddam, sorry Semaytha, Sam.. No can do.

Procrustes' bed. Prokopchuk's bed.

Maybe if I dyed and spiked my hair. But then I'd alraady done that as a rock star.

She now likes gay guys. "You are so limited." Limited?

Dikey independence fantasies. And she was smart enough to know it.

Married a taxi driver who beats her often.

John Prine. "Beats her up with a rubber hose."

I guess there's erotica in some kind of pain.

I frip my rid.

Whatever turns your crank. Maybe even Crank.

Culture of storm and stress. Sturm und Drang, to coin a phrase. What has been up must now be pulled down. Post-modernism. The devil's due.

And we are no closer to success nor piety.

Damn. Give me back my wife. Give me back my youth.


Our cat was such a Phizer.

##

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I am a frustrated gag writer


Literary blogs.

They're out there by the thousands.

A lot of talented, accomplished people running them, actually.

And it seems, week after week, once the bloggers hone their finest expository writing.

And they wait for agreement, comment, engagement.

Zero.

No comments.

The literary blogger checks his inbox, his computer, his comment space. Something must be wrong.
I mean, I got such and such a prize. I have an advanced degree. . I am certifiably brilliant.

A month goes by. Still no comment.

What on earth is the matter? I know that I am beautiful and talented. Don't these unwashed clods see, appreciate this?

Check the comment box and still a dougnut.

Ah, my pedigreed friend. You wrote but you did not entertain. Writing, after all, is not all content. It is largely entertainment. Content is content, but style is style. Any J-grad will tell you that you not only need not only to inform, you need to entertain.

My favourite Sean Connery story is Connery being asked the meaning of a word. "Conundrum." Define," says the prof.

Connery: "Conundrum?" Why that's like a puzzle...Aw forget it. Your mother is a whore."

That's entertainment. Jay Leno uses something like this a lot. And somebody has to write his stuff.


I am, I suppose, a frustrated gag writer. I would have loved to have written for Royal Canadian Air Farce, but, sadly, they are now gone. Too many spoofs of Prime Minister Harper as stiff robot. Mr. Roboto?
Well, hes no Daft Punk, but he still walks like something out of that video. If fishes were to swim with icepacks on their backs, you'd get the idea.
Policy wonk. Wonk. Wonk.
Yet the devil is still going to win with a majority, because here in Canada, as in the U. S., you can never underestimate the stupidity of the electorate.

I mean, who doesn't go ga-ga over Sarah Palin. I know I do.

Like in the old Air Force joke, I wouldn't throw her out of bed even is she were gassy.

But to base ones political judgment on a canny trick by that Scot McCain is to be duped for another four years of the Bush admistration,.

But you gotta admit it. She is cute, and very, very smart.

And a mother.

Why do I think of Detroit? :)

"Your mother is hot."

But I'm getting off topic.

I feel for the ignored literary blogger.

Book publishing is a different game from publishing on the fly; for writing humour and history on the fly, is wit and not always literary wit. There isn't too much of this around, that's why you have People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight to tell you Jennifor Anniston is here in Toronto right now, and who wants to read a paper or magazine? They're all here in Toronto for the last day of for TIFF, the internationl Film festival with their Zohars and unfunny funny movies and the latest lineup of Hollywood dogs. Here is perhaps where the literary blogger should focus. Why have there been no good movies in the last twenty years? Legally Blonde getting three stars? Jesus Christ.
And I say that religiously. Movies like that are sacrilige. Political correctness elevated to something like drama.
And there is a whole spate of them at TIFF right now.

One good Canadian movie is up. Pascheandaele. Sounds like Passion-Dale, doesn't it.Maybe it'll go just by the title till the audience find out that it's about one of the set pieces that began to define Canada as a country. We paid in blood. But what the hell. Happy commercialdom is all around us.
TV tells me to have a happy period.
##

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cassowary to the fact. Or is it Rhea?


Nihilism is in this year.

This is a time when every dog-f*cker, garbage picker and negativist writes a novel about being down--and-out, down so low that it seem like up to him, along with the late Richard Farina, and, lately with much-decorated and praised Cockroach novel.

Being a cockroach is the thing. You look in the mirror, admiring your mandibles and little claws. How cool to scuttle across the ceiling, all six feet of you, panicking the boarders.
Only your sister in there pitching in with her broom, leaving you alone in a corner of your room, careful not to sweep you away.

Every so often, with your stomach rumbling with bad pizza (or in Ontario, withe equally bad beer) you get into this nihilstic mood and write something. Kafka did and out of the crap came a kind of dark flower.

With me, these moods do not last so long, and if they persist, I write something a little Kafkaesque, though as my mood improves, there comes, at the end of the story, the oddest sense of catharsis, of being born again, for it is really morning now and the birds are beginning to twitter.

Just below is something I wrote for the Globe and Mail's FACTS & ARGUMENTS section, reserved, I suppose for literary writers.

In Canada, a best-selling novel sells about 10,000 copies; we have a small population.

But if your story hits the Globe, why, you hope the 90,000 people who buy the paper every day have a gander at your work of work even if it may depress some.

Down and out in Newmarket, Ontario.

Where the hell is Newmarket, and where the hell are you? In the dumpster, that's where. And 90,000 pepole are going to read about it.
And you can take that, you literary snots and hound-pounders so busy with your Kafka and Max Brod.
Maybe your own home thought from a Brod.

Well, one must be chary of an outburst like this.
The last time I stuck it out just long enough to win, there was no response at all.
I had reproduced some of my already published short stories, poems, essays.

I waited. That'll show 'em.
Those unpublished little poseurs and their worrying over plot and character. And you worrying you with their snarky remarks as you try to say something constructive about their writing. "This is my blog, Clod." "And don't come back."
Sheesh.
Touchy.


Holy cow. No response to my fussilade of reproduced, published work
Only here and there a snipe from some cipher in the publishing business who assures me I am a failure and he will blacklist me in the business if I go on in my smallminded way to attack really successful fellow-authors.

I don't make a practice of this.
But when someone takes a dark mood, makes a whole novel of it and tells you life is shit and will keep on being shit, well, I'm from the old school; I like to elevate, inspire. Dante's hell was only one night, and you can pretty well bet your inferno of stomach acids that you will be born again in the morning.
So, trained in the art of minimalist writing, I pare my words and go like this.

Ivan Prokopchuk
The Globe and MailFacts & ArgumentsNovember 16, 1999Artwork: Leon Zernitsky

It was fun being a yuppie till the job died.

After employment insurance and on the brink of welfare, I was forced to spend time with lower-level social workers who would say "between you and I" all the time, while polishing their community college diplomas.
"Whom are you?" asked one, showing she'd been to night class.
I guess she'd never met a drunk or a real Master of Fine Arts before, not necessarily in that order.

Suffice to say that I soon lost my second string job and then I lost the welfare too, thus becoming the world's last free enterpriser, out behind the Tim Horton's where the big dumpster and the garbage cans were. Some time later, I tried the IGA where my girlfriend has her own dumpster "business".

It wasn't bad.

I dove for food while Daisy-Mae dove for furniture. She had an apartment at least; I had moved out of my 1981 Dodge Omni "home" at the shopping plaza and I fancied myself as a star writer for Ladies' Home Companion.

We chose dumpster diving because the food bank was low again, and chips and diet cola just weren't going to do it for us. We left the food bank not bothering to pick up the instant-popcorn-making kit.

Still there was the stigma. I was old, poor and dreadfully out of shape. At 59, you're not as supple as you think you are. What a time to start a war!

Here is a typical day.

I'd made a scramble for the dumpster rim, but got hung up on top. Time for dumpster humour.

"You know you're white trash," I yelled to Daisy-Mae over at "the other shop," "when you skin your elbows going down into the dumpster."

"Never mind," I heard my girlfriend's hollow bleat from somewhere deep inside, "I think I've fallen all the way in."

How low the mighty have fallen.

My girlfriend used to be an heiress. I had been a writer and a municipal politician.
Hard to get that Trinity College stuff out of your head: "Take whatever you can get," said old Nick Machiavelli. "And when you lose an election, claim fraud."

On the way home (she still had a car), we passed a man who was trying to smoke whitefish in the trunk of his 1983 Datsun sedan.

"We got a long way down to go yet," I breezed while noticing that, in her tumble, she'd put her toes through the ankle part of her pantyhose. If she hadn't been barefoot before, she was now.

And then, that evening, she said she might be pregnant.

Who invented my life? Who invented her life?

We seemed suddenly very much like a dope ring of two and no one was doing any chemicals.

For this I worked so hard to get an MFA?

Come to think of it, master of what?

There is an upside, even though the girlfriend threw me out when she discovered she wasn't pregnant after all.

I retreated back to my Dodge and to show all the world that I was a damn fool. I tried being a busy fool by hauling furniture for refinishers just down the road. But that collapsed when I blew up the transmission on the owner's truck.

Maybe now, in a low-rent-humour way, I could get a real job. Just think of the headline: "Local driver blows gearbox in plaza."

I needed a miracle and one was soon forthcoming.

People with whom I chummed at a restaurant would come to me with trays of food. About half a dozen women from the area would bring me gas money and food on the cold nights. Someone from the Good Shepherd brought a quilt and a pillow. The manager of the Swiss Chalet would be there some nights with takeout chicken.

At Christmas, three generations of women - grandma, daughter and little granddaughter - came with turkey and Christmas cake. It was their second try that Christmas Eve, since the other time I wasn't "home".

And my girlfriend finally offered me a place on her Goodwill couch, "since you don't seem much good for anything else."

Hey, best country in the world, eh?


.......

Well, it ain't Harper-Collins.

I did not make an entire novel of this down period; maybe I should have.

In my paranoia, I swear people are aping me with their novels of hopelessness and despair, and no way out.

There is a way out. There is always a way out.

It's a quantum leap from dark to light.

And I am seventy.

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