Saturday, May 22, 2010
An epistle to St. Matthew
Doesn't it always come that way?
In the middle of of the journey, you suddenly stop, surrender the vows and say that's it. They have dumped on me in this city. I am going to move to another city where I can be the writer I am, to be around other writers, to be appreciated by my peers, to get out of this ghetto which is Shankvillle.
Well, a lifetime ago, I moved out of another kind of ghetto, an academic one and now, having done the Gaugin, I am sort of Gogol-eyed. Mad little Russian.
You say you want to get out of town.
Loopiness. Murder and mayhem. Gangsters....admittedly not a good place to live.
I wonder, when I compare your decision to mine years ago, whether I too was among gangsters. I was among teaching masters, but they seemed gangsters all the same. Intelligent thugs whose jibes could be like a shank in the ribs, who would not stab, but hurt you badly. Wreck your career.
Let's get off thread a bit.
I will tell you of my situation those many years ago.
I reached your impasse at about age 39. I was very successful on the short essay stuff. I was getting $175 oldfashioned dollars as a salaried d freelance writer. My essays and columns in TOPIC Magazine (later to become absorbed by the Newmarket ERA) --were bringing in money, but the wife had said, "Make more money. Be a prof!"...So I gathered up whatever paperwork I had (Ryerson Pyromanical Institute (B.A A). U. of T. in Slavics--hey, I had to make my ethnicity pay off--my thesis could be my novel, and I was on my way to becoming a doc.
But damn, it was my wife's prodding.
I was so happy as a paid freelancer in writing. But who could live on an income, which in todays money was about $12,OOO." Make more money"....She was becoming "liberated" in any event. "You want a traditional marriage? Make more money."
College teaching. There is the misconception of some students that teachers are kindly men and women. With some exceptions they are assholes on the squash court and assholes in the faculty lounge where the game is a headhship "Im gonna build me an empire boy, with my own department, a secretary, and important professional contacts". In short the madrechigados carried knives this long. Fuck your friend and go for a headship.
Head of medicine said, "Ivan, you gave up your column? Now you're an ordinary teacher like everybody else. You're fair game."
Presently it wasn't the students you were devoting your energies, to it was fending off the knives.
Head honcho and gameplayer in my department said, "Look at him. He's Hamlet...Doesn't know whether he's coming or going. And that Ophelia of a wife of his. We have hurt him. Gimpy now."
They were certainly getting to me. I was running out of energy. Students absorb energy. And it took so much more energy to ward off the blows...I was running out of gas.
And then the unexpected prostate problem which led to a lot of bullshit, prodding --up the urethra with the old umbrella...they found nothing and there was in the last count nothing wrong with my prostate. I think they finally broke my prick. But pissing blood and trying to teach and working with idiots was getting to me.
Parallel situation, but later in life?
Okay, I did my thing. Did a Gaugin, f*cked up, and spent thirty three years in the wilderness until, I think, intellectual maturity at 62, when I began to pull it all together.
Damn, skeet shooting is hard. You got to lead the target, and it takes a long time to learn. Like maybe golf.
You are reaching intellectual maturity.
And its natural to stop.
I like it when Hunter S. Thompson would say, quoting St. Paul, "If they shit on you in one city, move to another city."
F*ck it.Be a real asshole and poseur writer. Live in the subdivision, but like Elvis, you might have to cut your hair and like a Frenchman here, Moudelawn. "Grass is getting a little high there, Mathias. You have to keep up with the Joneses. Shapiros?
I think you once took a creative writing course at the local State university.
Take another...But there are so many unpublished assholes teaching creativewriting. Go to a course whose head is a writer's name you can recognize.
In a word, you might not have to leave town. Just go where the serious writers go. Like maybe Steinbeck who had practially zero education, enrolling in a writing course at the local California State university.
Go where the writers go. But don't leave town. I augur you are not in any shape to travel, though I know one guy in a wheelchair, also a graduate of old Ryerson Polytech, who went to South Aftrica, tried to write his own "Down All the Days," f*cked it up, became a parliamentary reporter in Capetown, f*cked that up too, and was eventually dumped by the Boors, steerage class, back to Toronto and called a prick.
So many times I have been dumped and called a prick. Like the third time I tried to get back to Seneca College fulltime.
Damn don't these things happen pretty well the same way all the time? Then it takes years, decades to rebuild.
I am not Bruce Cockburn for sure. But he said somewhere, into his mike, "Don't follow me."
Actuallly, you have been going flat out for years and years.
People used to tell me, how can you crank out those little masterpieces for years and years and not get mental blocks?
"Years of self-denial," I would say.
And wife would pipe in, "Hah. You never denied yourself anything. Ever.
Enroll in a course. You might meet some real people. Again.
Don't change too much. They'll like you just the way you are, the way your adoring public loves you.
Anyway, things come together. But it takes so long. Decades. And I am not sure if you (or I) can survive the waiting game.
Get a brochure, I would say. See who the instructor is.
Check her out...You had a positive result with Michelle. There might be another Michelle...And the paperwork from the university won't hurt...And they surely have a press, like I found out with my alma mater, Ryerson U.
Living with assholes. It can get you down. Working with assholes--can also get you down.
I would say, don't do a Gaugin.
Stay in the U. S
"I'm gonna move babe.
To the far side of town..."
To lighten up, Seems in these years of chasing each other around--in poetry anyway--
I sometimes wonder who is whose role model.
Take care, Matt.