Thursday, April 23, 2009
Would you get up in the morning to this chapter?
For the first time in my life, I refuse to get up this morning and face the day. Most of my life I have had more discipline than the Marquis de Sade, though his seemed more through the back door. And a contemporary had said he had known the late Marquis as just a young whippersnapper.
But this morning, discipline is gone.
I have really badf teeth, my mother is sort of fading away at the Home and I can only taste half of my Martini because of the novocaine.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
This was not always so. Car breaking down, hitchhiking to the college, "Why did you have such a Protestant ethic?" asked the Dean's secretary. "You could have called in with the problem."
Protestand ethic gone this morning.
Pull the covers over your head.
Tried the oven, but it's electric.
Black is the colour of my true love's mood.
I have forefed a chapter of my novel, THE HAT PEOPLE to poor ChuckerCanuck 2.0 blog.
I realized through the cutting and pasting that it was small wonder that one editor in the past had said the book had no commerical value.
The style is jejune. I had only scratched the surface of the work I really had in mind, the tragicomedy of a culturally displaced person trying to hold it all together.in Toronto.
Buck up, f*ck up!
Ah well. ChuckerCanuck 2.0 had esablished a thread in his blog. Much of it was a rant against our Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for having the gall to ask for outrageous public funds at a time when everybody's economy was bad, bad, bad, and the CBC was no screaming hell when it came to giving Canadians what they wanted. ...Like did I really want to watch Little Mosque on the Prairie?
Throughout the writing of my novel, I had had much contact with CBC executives, some of whom drove me to drink not only in Toronto, but, in, of all places, Copenhagen where I was doing some work as a war correspondent.
Egad. First down and out in Toronto and then down and out in Denmark. But everything is material, and I included my ins and outs with CBC types in a novel chapter, changing all the names.
So here is Chapter 26 of The Hat People, the "Hats" being CBC types.
Seven Canadian journalists, John Lazarowych among them, arrived at the Hotel Haslev in a town in Denmark of the same name. They came in two olive green European Fords rented by the Canadian Forces for the purpose of transporting the newsmen to the various mock battle sites around south Zealand and Lolland Falster, where 11,000 NATO troops were to take part in an exercise. Canada, England and Italy had sent upwards of 1,000 troops each to Denmark, there to meet Danish soldiers in an exercise called RED ARROW, designed to test the rapid development of NATO troops in the event of attack against one of the member NATO countries by "an unnamed hostile power." Public relations officers from the three branches of the Canadian forces had been on hand to meet the Canadian newsmen as they arrived at the military airport. As for the freeloading journalists, there was CBC newsman Sean McKnight and his cameraman Fritz Van de Geer, Jacques Outremont, a young UPI photographer and Olaf Hansen a CBC Winnipeg newsman on vacation in his native Denmark and taking advantage of the companionship and freelance possibilities on Service junkets such as this one.
In the second car were a PR major, a naval petty officer, and the remaining three journalists, Mac Brown of CTV in Ottawa, John Smith of the Hamilton Spectator and John Lazarowych.
Lt. Kevin Robertson, dreamy, tall lanky, sensitive, had driven the lead car and had succeeded in getting the party lost no fewer than three times enroute to Haslev. He kept talking of yoga and peace.
After two hours of enroute boozing by the newsmen (booze supplied free by the army) the party finally arrived tired from the flight and a little drunk at the Hotel Haslev. At the inn, a low chateau-style building, white, impeccable and scrupulously neat, the journalists were shown their rooms, where they stayed just long enough to dump their suitcases before joining Major O'Hare and the two other PR men for a drink. After an hour of war stories offered by the major, increasingly incoherent talk, and frequent trips to the washroom, fatigue and alcohol began affecting everyone. Sean McKnight, CBC Toronto began tales of the Congo where one year he and a camera crew were stranded during the 1964 Katanga uprising. "We started to starve. Ever eat dog?" McKnight was handsome like an afternoon is long. Gone through five wives and was about to divorce the sixth, he demanded a got homage from the group. Major O'Hare suggested they go downstairs for a few more drinks before a late supper and to a man they left, all except John. He knew if he had one more glass of akvavit or two more of the potent Danish beers he would pass out where he sat. He made for his room, tried to sleep there but couldn't. Strange country, strange place, strange people. One ego trying to outdo another in a joke or in topping a story of a previous trip. A young media type, he was a child along children.
When he came downstairs, the six were seated in a dining room, spotless with white tablecloths and oak panelling. The food hadn't come yet and the group was still drinking. Sean McKnight noisiest and most affected by the booze, was carrying on a discussion of Portnoy's Complaint with Lt. Kevin Robertson, who was trying to impress McKnight with the fact that he hated the army, had a university degree in sociology and English Literature, and that he wished like hell he'd never heard of a plan called the Regular Officers Training Programme. McKnight and Olaf Hanson, the vacationing CBC newsman embarked on an akvavit drinking competition, belting down the pleasant tasting overproof stuff as if it were orange juice. It was a hard scene to take in without one's self being really bombed. McKnight and Hansen may well have been two drunks emptying the radiator of a bulldozer. McKnight was beginning to lose the competition, slowing down, holding back a retch. Hansen laughed at him. McKnight poured off before McKnight smashed a jigger against the glass Hansen's held. Then he threw it at his head. The laughter stopped. Both men were stone drunk. McKnight, feeling that he had won, but hardly able to stand up, moved towards the stairs and somehow made it to his room there to pass out immediately. Hansen, dazed, too drunk to really feel affronted, stood up and also made for his own room. He was seen two hours later passed out in a bathtub, a trail of vomit behind him.
After the last newsman went to bed. John Smith of the Hamilton Spectator woke up screaming at 5:30 in the morning and had to be sedated with a swig of rum by young Outremont, who never did get his proper sleep because McKnight had got up from bed, called him in a sleep state a "stupid fucking Frog" and gone back to sleep. At 5:45 a.m. Hansen opened his eyes to see whom he had just punched to find Sean McKnight trying to fondle him.
At six a.m. the First Battallion of the Canadian Guards landed two miles south of their intended position ending up on the edge of a squadron of 'enemy' tanks, and according to exercise referees, losing 60 percent of the Canadian force.
At eight a.m. a surprisingly alert Major O'Hare woke everyone up, issued little Canadian lapel pins and said something about every Canadian being and ambassador of the country he came from. After two days of army snafus ending in the total wipe-out of the Canadian continent, the journalists were on their own time. In four more days, an air force Yukon would take them back home. The seven journalists made for Copenhagen.
Once in the city, John split. He didn't want to see them again until they were all collected in the Yukon that would take them back. Free and alone at last, John walked out of his hotel room first thing in the morning to find a city like he's never seen. No high rise Toronto, no polluted Montreal, Copenhagen suggested cleanliness order a renaissance style of beauty. The Carlsberg art museum rich with French impressionists, awe inspiring sculpture and whole Egyptian tombs. Girls on bicycles, blond and leggy. Whole streets built entirely for pedestrians. Handsome, fair people, tall intelligent, most fluent, marvellously fluent in several languages. And the immense sculptured fountains, which spoke from the earth and spewed their message. And buildings like Durer woodcuts. By the second day, John began to feel, in the face of this great northern civilization like a country bumpkin. All these years of writing about culture purely through the acquisition of an essay style borrowed from Montaigne and Eric Hoffer, all the lofty pronouncements on the state of the arts-all without having been to Europe since the first time around, when he and his family had run across it, always behind retreating armies. Only his origin was European. He was yet another gawking American tourist, a colonial sheisskopf. By noon, he was sorry that he'd left the others. After years of saying yes to the philosophies of Arthur Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, about the desirability of solitude, about the need to avoid the marks that people leave on each other, he found he didn't like being alone in a strange and obviously superior culture. He the self styled philosopher, home-grown Kierkegaard and cultural critic. He thought he'd go to the park, near the waterfront, to see the mermaid there. He had to see people in the worst way. He passed a sex shop, and like any good Canadian boy, bought a packet full of four colour jerk off photos. Feeling the erection hot in his pants from the first look at the healthy robust orgyists. No cheap Montreal porn this, no stocking over face. Smiling healthy people, eating each other out, having sex sideways, backwards in every position. But there was composition, here, an attempt at art. John forgot the mermaid and the park and went to his hotel room to jack off. By midnight, he ripped up his pornography into little pieces, the old Catholic guilt haunting him. Had he kept it, he was afraid he'd lose his sight. Here was art edited to elicit only one response from the beholder: the power to masturbate five times in an evening without flagging. Perhaps of such ilk are many would-be intellectuals. The next day, John was back in the streets, wandering around. He felt a mild panic. What's the matter with me? Here I am in the sex capital of the world, in the prettiest city in the world, Copenhagen everybody back home talked of this city as an experience. Why am I so spooked? He wanted to be with people. He felt add with his little Canadian flag on his lapel his ready smile and his dependency in restaurants and stores. By the third day, he continued to feel self-conscious and alarmed. He met an American girl at a sidewalk café. Back home he would have probably been able to take her to bed, let alone just have company as he needed now. Dark, about 29, tiny and from New York, she sensed the growing panic in him. She had initially caught his eye, she was the first one interested. But when he began to speak, the hesitant words, the tentative sentences cooled. He could not order her a drink and she walked away from the table five minutes after he had come to her. It wasn't `till yeas later that he realized he'd met Erica Jong.
That night he sat in his hotel room alone and drank a bottle of akvavit he had bought. As if to punctuate his sense of self consciousness and visceral culture shock, he had looked at a red lettered light to the left of the elevator after he got off. It read I FART. Next morning he looked up his newspaper buddies. He would be gross, drink to the point of being sick, would ogle girls and make stupid, crass comments. He would bring up in washrooms. Anything, anything, just to be with his own kind, in company again. On the plane back, he joined a lineup of soldiers, all with newly bought pornography in their pockets, and all standing lined up half way across the Atlantic to get into that private cubicle and masturbate.
Style is jejune, isn't it? A litle precisous. I am an artiste, Martha!
...Ah well. One response from ChuckerCanucks 2.0 blog anyway:
Ivan,I just read your Chapter 1 and I can't wait for the next episode....This is much more enlightening than J.R.Sauls'ramblings. (John Ralston Saul aspires to be the top philosopher in Canada).
Hm. "If you could reach just one person..."
Think I'm finally going to get up this morning and hope to find more reviews.
If you can reach just one person...