Sunday, August 16, 2009

Boris and the unhappy hooker



Dear Patient(captive?) Audience:

I thought I'd try this on you.
Watch out. It's rococo.

Don't worry abut being critical...It's already been rejected by a huge, huge publisher. This has caused me to feel not so huge, though still somehow cocky. I mean, would you touch a story like this even if you were a ten-foot Pole? Or thought of yourself as such?
--Ivan Prokopchuk




Holding down two jobs and trying to keep and unhappy hooker happy can take the brain right out of you.

Trouble was, both jobs were writing-related, a one-way thing. Writing and teaching about writing. I had no hobbies save for the unhappy hooker. That and what Irishmen call "the Creature", that is to say, Gibson's Irish Cream.

The hooker was unhappy because of "Marko and Luigi", who, I suppose was her dyarchy of pimps.
It was definitely off-putting to be spending some time with my unhappy hooker while Luigi seemed to be tramping about outside, muttering, in Sicilian, probably, "Not too long Joanne, not too long."

There were days that I supposed, Luigi in his zeal, would become so impatient as to do a Ron Jeremy on old Ivan and have me half-speared before I even finished the business at hand.

Low-rent, no?

"Write about squalor," says Esmee in a J.D. Salinger story.

Squalor would come to visit Ivan. Quite a bit.
Not entirely Ivan's idea.

But Ivan was in a tough creative spot.

There was the newspaper column he had to produce every day.

Writing for money. Four-and-a-half typewritten pages every day, not a word less.

I would sometimes have short paragraphs, use lots of white space, make the printer work and put lots of lead in where there were so few words.

The linotype operator, always a gay guy, would entertain me with entire stanzas of The Walrus and the Carpenter, beginning with "You are old (brother Ivan)."
Did this mean I was showing my age, bitch?
He got a laugh out of that.

At least the paper had hired two of my students. One wrote really well; the other took pictures. Seems I could show the kids how to whore around in publishing.

But my unhappy hooker wanted in. Into my coterie of he published.
In a different way.
The hooker was unhappy because she was really a writer, not a hooker, and the day job she had as cover to keep the constabulary at bay was at Ronald's Printing (nowout of business) which was really a daytime house of ill repute. Randy salesmen cud walk up to he second floor where she had her in glass cage, like a teller. Ooh, but what went on behind the glass door!

The printing business was real, very real, there were millions of dollars in TIME Magazine reprintings and miles of advertising flyers. But there was a sub-enclave in the office which very nearly resembled a night-time massage parlor, and all doors seemed to lead to Joanne, in her ONE WAY ONLY glass cage to which happy, singing Italians would come.
They came out even happier, singing, "Oh what a friend we have in Joanne."

I had to "catch- as -catch -can."

Embarrassing to meet Joanne after work, the sweaty Italian still a little heated after his rapture, and everybody trying to act normal.

Sleazy, no?

But the woman could write.

She gave me a story based on her father, a Flower Class Corvette captain during the Second World War.
I was tempted, in my own giddy way, to ask, "Was he a rear admiral?" But the way poor Joanne was walking at the time, I let it ride.

The story was good.

It was about loneliness at sea. A terrible storm. And at about the time the sailor realized who he was, and among whom he moved, the meaning of his life, an answer out of loneliness--that he was swept of the deck, never to be seen again.

How many stories there are of loneliness.

It is, some say, a barometer, your barometer. In a condition of profound loneliness, you are being told something.

What did you do to arrive at this condition of loneliness? Whom did you hurt? What did you do with the money?
Why are you 47 and all alone?
I was forty-seven, and, in the process of going through a divorce. All alone. How did I get this way?
Seems that once you puzzle that out, you may well have touched on the Christ Principle and emerge a new, better person.

But the Sea has not time for solipsism.

It can sweep away the popular and the lonely.

My attractiveness to the unhappy hooker stemmed from the fact that she used language really well, she was vaguely English with that impossible-to-copy Peterborough accent, she was not writing in her third language as I was, and the stories that came out of her were natural and pure, straight trom the mother tongue. She was a kind of lady Shakespeare without the Elizabethan inflection. She came from Prince Edward County in Ontario, where all the good Canadian writers come from, Toronto be damned.
What is a woman from a good Ontario family doing in her entertainment of Little Sicilians?

And some of them were quite kinky.
Big-booted Italy kicked little Sicily?
The mind boggled.

She said one night at the Grey Goat that she seemed to be in the movie, Naked Lunch.

I took it as a joke, and wondered all the while how director David Cronenberg ever managed to turn an inanimate typewriter into a talking anus.

But it was my poor Joanne who was the talking anus. So many Sicilian construction workers taking up astronomy, looking for Uranus.

The stress of our "relationship".
Hertz rent-a-chick and half the time I had no money. She would accept a new VCR.

And all the while, the two jobs. Newspaper columnist by day and teacher of writing at night.
She would always come to my classes. But there would be the mysterious Marko in the wings. He too, had registered...Just keeping an eye on things.

I had told her, in a moment of honesty, that after reading her material, and noting her excellent poise and elocution when she read her own or other people's stories--that she was a class act, and, quite frankly a better writer than myself.
This gave her a sense of control.

She soon seemed to delve into every aspect of my life, was obsessed with me (as I was now becoming obsessed with her)--and one day, as one of my feature stories appeared in a magazine distributed everywhere, she had complained, "You were doing this story all this time--and you didn't even tell me!"
--So I should reveal every aspect of my thought and writing processes?
Like many another hooker who liked to be wined and dined, she was fast becoming a control freak. Quite a bold one, really. "I know you better than you know yourself."

My relationship with Joanne began to affect the class. They knew.
I had made Joanne my TA, my teaching assistant and she was very good at it, reading each submitted story out loud, no author actually named, just the material discussed...a good way to go; saves the critique group writer some embarrassment if the story reallly clangs.

Afterwards the pub nights. She would show up in something gold lame' and shimmering, but always long-sleeved.
Always in long sleeves.

So that was it. She had to stay near her sources, and Marko and Luigi were the sources. "Do this for me, or I will pull your plug."

I was soon a second-hand addict, as she used me as a sounding board, tried to control me, as addicts will often do, while it was her habit that controlled her.

I chose direct intervention. Behind her back.

But she would disapper then, sometimes for three weeks and be the same manic-depressive Joanne.

Like I was fast becoming a manic-depressive Ivan.

I could no longer handle the mind games, to be used as a sounding board by a beautiful addict.

The relationship was getting in the way of my work, of my teaching.

And the Dean caught on to what was going on.

Soon I was out of the college job and the newspaper had just been sold; new editors. Now this job too was going fast.

Suddenly, no job, no girlfriend (funny how quickly they leave when you turn out "no good").

Driving a cab in my loneliness.

Realizing all the while that I had somehow escaped.

The sea wave was benevolent. I had prepared my lifeboat.

7 comments:

JR's Thumbprints said...

I never understood Naked Lunch -- the book, the movie, Burroughs either.

ivan said...

JR,

You gotta be an addict, I guess.
Then you'd understand Burrough's asides to the reader when he does something really weird as an addict. Really weird... to do anything with anybody anywere for a fix. "Wouldn't you?"
I'm not sure I'd do what my poor Joanne had to do for a fix.

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't think I've ever had a woman obsessed with me. More's the pity.

ivan said...

Charles,
Modesty!

the walking man said...

I get the pathos of the story. I would have written it differently, making Joanne the more sympathetic character and the narrator more of an aside to the story. Or maybe even tried it in the second person narrative.



Are you sure you should use huge and cock(y) in the same sentence?

"... huge, though still somehow cocky..."

I mean I know you're practicing for the winter pole vault in the VC Olympics but really old man how high is that bar going to be?

ivan said...

Mark,

Your response makes me think.

Were the hero a man, he'd probably be like the Great Gatsby to the narrator Nick Carroway.
Perhaps I should have been Nick Carroway in my Visions of Joanne.

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