Saturday, May 29, 2010

An Epistle from Mark







Ivan,

Tovarich

There has been no change in my health or medication (Lipitor for cholesterol, Insulin for Diabetes, Vicodin for pain and Valium for fun).

I woke up one day last week and saw futility. Hell of an ugly creature it is, I allow that nothing in the apocalypse chronicles even compares in horror, to the heart of a man who sees there is no value left in anything, not life, not gold, not silver and especially in my case--words. Have no fear though, I am no Brautigan or Plath, I am not going to nor am I in the mood to choke on the shotgun. I am not that cowardly or afraid of succeeding as a poet and I have settled my childhood history a long long time ago.

I have returned to a place where I have been before, before blogging and writing every day and making friends over the world and looking for that elusive book that told truth as it is, not as I saw it. It is that same place in the desert where Stephen Crane saw his creature, that same place though, lovely in the way he worded it. where Bukowski came to when he wrote his Confession and that same place where Whitman wrote his ode to his own loss of mortality and the silencing of his voice, where he ends it.."to have been here--it is enough" That place called The Land of Disconnect. Unplug from everyone and everything and stick to the spatial boundaries of my physical self and simply allow my being to isolate and get through the days as best as I can.

When I shut The Walking Man down it was without much prior thought, I had been getting well over three thousand page hits a month (including the 2994 times I opened it) and had nothing left within my soul to put down that day and saw that what was there was, to me, had become drivel. Words that meant more to others than to me. I knew who and what my audience wanted and being of similar mind was more than willing to supply it them every day. It is easy for me to take a scene and write a poem about it. If God gave me a natural gift it was that he allowed only one of my eyes to be blinded 30 years ago to preserve my ability to write words. But I was also tired of believing "my own press clippings" the heaps of praise were a burden I did not want to shoulder anymore.

I so much want to leave here, go on a walkabout, but I know deep within my core that it would end badly. Joann has even encouraged me to rent or buy a vehicle that could go as far as I wanted to go (New Market for example) and take as much time as I needed to take but I feel it would end badly. Detroit would eat her alive while I was gone gallivanting around looking for small town North America again. (She does not have the heart to pull the trigger on the 16 gauge while I am near praying some bastard tries to kick in my door.) I would bring her and the dogs with me, lock the house up drum tight and rely on the insurance to pick up the tab but she has no desire to go and her job which she works three days a week never gives her more than four contiguous days off. She is content to stay home and putter round the yard while I am have come to a place of apathetic indifference. Even to my dear and lovely friends The Talls. They have gotten from me everything they needed and still want me to go out with them but I just seem now to think it more a pain in the ass to spend more than a little time with them while they live their youth without me being the director of their sane (if they are such) actions. They have in the past year matured and looked at themselves and see where they were and now have come to understand that there is more for them than they thought. It is time for them to move away without a thrice their age old man as their shield and protector.

Maybe I have lived too much life to early and these past ten years of forced retirement have shown me that the best I can hope for is to fight the city administration for a new sewer insert and cap in front of the house so when they finish the road paving job we won't have to spend the next 21 years sweeping water to the sewer like we have for the previous 21. (A fight I lost by the way but with assurances that if at anytime in the next 25 years it fails to drain they will tear the old out and put in the new, seems rather stupid to me but then that may just be the futility of rational thought talking.)

I thought of checking myself into a psychiatric facility for a neck up check up but I have known for decades that intellectually those haughty pin point focused fools were and are no match for me and I have no desire to watch them squirm anymore as I tell them the truth of my life as they nod their pinheads and say "uh huh, I see, so tell me again how you really felt about your mother?" . And no more desire to tell it them in either case.

So I don't know where the road leads from here, not to any physical disaster but you can assure the fine friends of the editorial board and anyone else who inquires that this too shall pass and at some point in the future even though I may remain silent I will re-connect to the world as it is and maybe, just maybe, by then I will again be able to see some of the beauty and worth of this place but for now--I am pulling out, stepping back en toto and moving on through Jon Dos Passos' USA trilogy to see what the hoopla about the great good of the socialist wobbly common working man was all about from that (so far) seeming horses ass.. So I put my chair on the porch, sit silently in the sun and read all of the litter-a-ture I should have read when I was 15 (If I can get some peace and quiet that is) and look for a door to a place of peace of mind.

Be Well Ivan

mark


TO WHICH IVAN REPLIES:

Mark,

Your burdens, existentiallly and artistically, have been greater than mine.

Here the parvenu carpetbagger somehow clumsily writing his way into a fortune and the klutzing his way out of it, possibly aping Mark just to see who he can be. It ain't pretty. That ugly dwarf that is the self.

You no ugly dwarf. You put others ahead of yourself no matter what.
A gift. For sure a gift. And you look not just inward, but outward.
I would say it's because of your damn intelligence that you are now not like other Americans. I used to hold Americans as durn nice people, but they have in their heads something like the tuning fork of an FM signal that cuts off the tops and bottoms off the frequecy in their heads, so that the only hear the loud middle, the tonic. Republicans?
Somebody once said that all writers are somehow Europeans, and therefor foreign to the mass of North Americans.
So away with the coffee house poet, more Fifities and Sixties style than now. Life has changed. The oil is out of the lagoon, there is a sensibility shift, a big one, and who knows what the sythesis will be. Enough that the past fitfy years have been years of nihilism as that oily thing has been polluting our souls--seeping into the cultural/intellectual attitude and now the incubus is out in the open, and it is hideous. Meanwhile, in Russia, it's even bigger totalitarianim
Perhaps I lean too heavily on old MAD Magazine out of the Fifties when satire, burlesque and nihilism could be bought at the drugstore. For better or worse, I wrote my thesis on MAD. It was Dada. Dada, putting urinal up as work of art, painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa.
But there is no Dada up now. We have Entertainment Tonight and Sex and the City. Women obsessed with enwhorement and the boys sort of liking it. In the word of Neil Postman, entertaining ourselves to death. And meanwhile, in the wings, people are being snatched and mugged left and right, like robed pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem during the various Crusades, grabbed, frisked and bumfucked in the bushes much as any naive crusader today.
What is it that I mean to say?
Perhaps it's that you're the real deal and I am a tourist in all this.
To attain wisdom, you have to take the hemlock, and I always hated the taste of pine needles.
Like Bassanio, let me play the fool.
But a busy fool. "Better a busy fool than a crazy one," another fool once told me.
"Keep busy, or go mad," said Hegel.
And find ein gutest bier.

Perhaps you have decided to stop playing the fool and have started to take yourself seriously. As you should.
The fame you already got. You've got a huge cult audience, we at Island Grove Press have published you and a wider publishing is surely around the corner.
Ah, but the price, the price. The god has a price. God has a price. The god wants us to find the evil and beat it with a stick. Let us get back to writing about good and evil.
Let us go back to writing about God vs Evil.
And the hell of it is, like one of your correspondents may have pointed out, that evil has this way of winning.
Jesus playing chess. I can't see it.
We go a lot of work to do.

I was once addicted to valium and dalmane.
Seems I only had mental clarity for one hour of the day. I could hardly write. Had to lock myself up to get off.

Came back as a badly patched up airplane.
But free.

Take care, Mark.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

An epistle to St. Matthew



Matt,

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.
So 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

Ray Charles,
"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.

I

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pimp my write





Durn. I did it again.

Wrote what I thought was a blog full of ubanity and wit, including references to myself as The Scarlet Pimpernell of publishing and zog! Lost the whole thing in cyberpace.

A monomaniac, I wrote the column again from scratch--is it my pinky hitting the wrong spaces?-- and lost it again.

I remember my days in Air Force basic training.

Sgt: "Buck up, f*ck-up!"

Well, at least the F*ck-up has some pictures--actually a great one of a l790 Scarlet Pimpernell. Ooh. Simply!
But my intention, really was to be a book pimp.

No, not a Detroit pimp--Sorry Mark I really meant to talk about your book, but I found something on the internet that was hilarious. To wit:

Dwayne pimps 3 ho's. If the price is $85 per trick, how many tricks per day must each ho turn to support Dwayne's $800 per day crack habit?

I digress, but I'm still chuckling over that one.

Anyway my vanished blog was about pimping books.
My friends' books and one of my own.

I lost the damn blog to do with this, but you can at least check out the artwork above.

--Ivan

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

One more use for dead cats




My friend -- we'll call him Seymour-- was a mass of contradictions--and he had a really short fuse.

In the middle of a drinking bout, he's pipe up and say, "You know, Ivan you bring out in this feeling of inferiority/superiority in me. Sometimes you piss me off."

Well, I noticed that wine sometimes brings out the Jekyll and Hyde in you, certainly an old girlfriend, but never Seymour. At least, not till tonight.

I try to change the subject. Talk about writing. Where it leads to...And Seymour had for years been so supportive. For instance, he started, without my prodding, "The Black Icon Fan Club", after I published that zippy little book... Fans from Detroit to L.A.
Seymour, a computer whiz, had said, "You now have fans all over the world," for which I thanked him.

But something was going on with Seymour He was surely not himself. Something wrong with his family? A touch of petit-mal, borderline epilepsy? Seems that of late, anything "left"-- lefthanded-- that he had to do, was leading to pain and disorientation. Certainly when he turned left to look at me.

He seemed tired, irritated by the things I I was saying.
Drink in hand, Seymour goes to my work station. Boots up the computer.

Somehow, he finds my blog.

Flat out he declares, "Creative Writing... Nice. An ugly man has created a beautiful blog!"

I wonder what he meant by that.
I said I knew he wasn't feeling well and I was going to avoid an instictive response. Seymour and I had been friends from Mexico to Copenhagen, to L.A.

But he did not desist. "Look at you. Shot nerves. Trying, almost visually, to feel better. Rumpled suite and baggy Polack pants.
He smiles. "You're not from L.A."

"Well, Bukowski sort of was."

"But you're not Bukowski. Not even close.

"Your latest novel was about a guy who was nothing but a big raw nerve. Everything in life was pissing him off."

"Seymour,I could say something..."

"Say nothing. You've lost your wife-- who is a nice person-- your money and your sanity over some damfool 'artistic quest'. "
I gather friends around me who are of use to me. To me, you're a shadow of your former self. Almost a dead cat. Useless."

Oh Seymour, Oh Seymour. I fear you might be on your ninth life yourself. You seem to have a stroke coming on.
Otherwise, I'd kick your ass right now.


I emailed Detroit recently.
Poor Seymour did have a stroke, a big one. Anything left to him was nigh onto impossible.

I weep for a friend, a productive, intelligent, hardworking friend,family man,who, I think, has gone mad. Certainly very ill.

And we dead cats somehow clasper onto a tenth life.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Act V, Scene VII, THE FIRE IN BRADFORD--The final curtain



INT. NIGHT..

WE ARE IN THE PROFESSOR'S APARTMENT.

THE PROFESSOR AND ROSIE ARE IN BED IN VARIOUS STAGES OF UNDRESS.

SUDDENLY THERE IS A DOOR OPENING. NO KNOCK. SLIGHT CREAK.
THEY LOOK TO SEE CELIA, COWLED, IN THE DOORWAY.

ROSIE,

What the hell is going on? Who are you?

THE PROFESSOR:

Celia. You devil.

CELIA

Your devil. Your devil alone. I know you better than you know yourself. You didn't tell me about this woman.

PROFESSOR,

Why should I? You're off and married. I should have stayed home and brooded?

ROSIE,

What the hell is going on? Who are you?

CELIA

I am Celia.

SHE REACHES INTO HER SHAWL, AND SUDDENLY PRODUCES A KNIFE.

SHE GOES TO STRIKE AT ROSIE, WHO IS STANDING AT BEDSIDE HALF-UNDRESSED.

THE PROFESSOR GOES TO INTERVENE, BUT IS CUT ON THE ARM.

PROFESSOR,

Death, you bitch. You are death.

CELIA

Your death.

SHE STABS AT THE PROFESSOR. HE HAS HIS HANDS IN FRONT OF HIM, SO HE AVOIDS A FATAL CUT.

ROSIE HAS TAKEN THE LAMPSHADE OFF THE LAMPSTAND . THE ROOM SUDDENLY BRIGHTENS. SHE PICKS UP THE LAMPSTAND, AND WITH EFFORT, LIFTS IT, SWINGS IT INTO AN ARC AND BEANS CELIA ON THE HEAD WITH IT. CELIA FALLS TO THE FLOOR.

ROSIE (YELLS)
David, where did you find this monster?

THE PROFESSOR.

Monster for sure.

Call 911. Tell them there has been a home invasion.

ROSIE IS DIALING. SHE IS TALKING TO THE 911 DISPATCHER.

ROSIE

They are telling me to stay on the phone.

CELIA IS BEGINNING TO STIR.
SHE OPENS HER EYES, REALIZES WHERE SHE IS, SUDDENLY GATHERS HERSELF...AND IT JUST AS SUDDENLY,IN A RUSH OF TAFFETA SKIRTS, IS OUT THE DOOR.


ROSIE ON THE PHONE.

Yes, she just got away....

SHE PUTS THE PHONE DOWN

You all right?

THE PROFESSOR

Yeah. You?

ROSIE.

No real harm done. But she really fucked us up tonight...

THEY SIT ON THE BED.

ROSIE

Where do you find these people?

PROFESSOR

You tell me.

ROSIE

Yes, I'll tell you.

Lots of Celias in the world. And lots of Gambinis. Not so many Davids.
The Celias and Gambinis hear other voices in other rooms.
...But yours is different voice.
So they want to kill you.
Yes, kill you. Right from the get-go. But your so-called intelligence protected you.

(SHE SMILES)

And all us broads.

CURTAIN

Monday, May 03, 2010

The professor's self-portrait








ACT IV SCENE V THE FIRE IN BRADFORD, A play.

INT.NIGHT.
THE RESTAURANT DIRECTLY UNDER THE PROFESSOR'S OFFICE-APARTMENT. THE HONKY TONK GIRL, ROSIE AND THE PROFESSOR ARE HAVING AN ELABORATE THREE COURSE MEAL OF SURF AND TURF. THE PROFESSOR NOTICES SHE LOVES TO EAT.... AND WITH HER SOOTHING PRESENCE HE IS HUNGRY HIMSELF. THEY TUCK INTO THE LOBSTER.IT IS QUITE A BIT LIKE THE EATING SCENE IN THE MOVIE TOM JONES. THEY ARE ATTRACTED TO EACH OTHER, ESPECIALLY AFTER THE WEIRD SEX UPSTAIRS IN THE APARTMENT. . ROSIE AND THE PROFESSOR ARE DRINKING WHITE WINE BEFORE THE NEXT COURSE. THEIR EYES ARE ON EACH OTHER OVER THE LINEN TABLECLOTH AND THE CANDLE LIGHT. THE WINE IS BEGINNING TO AFFECT THEM. THEY GET A LITTLE MUSHY. THE FRIENDSHIP IS BECOMING COMFORTABLE

THE PROFESSOR INDULGES A LONG, GAZE AT ROSIE ROSE WHILE HAVING HIS OWN RUM AND COKE.

PROFESSOR(MAKING A SOUND OF CONTENTMENT)

Hmmm.

ROSIE (ANSWERING)

Hmmmm!

PROFESSOR

This is such a cool place...Must be the seafood. Reminds, me, somehow, of my student days near a fishing village in Mexico.


ROSIE

You been to Mexico?

PROFESSOR

Sure, hasn't everybody?
I've been lots of places. Professional student, I guess. Protracted adolescence. Alway in the creative writing courses. Getting scholarships, fellowships. It seemed so easy, right up into my thirties.

ROSIE.

Wow. I knew you were a writer, but I thought you were just a dabbler, your French course being your bread and butter.

PROFESSOR,

Oh, I write lots. Probably too much.

A lot lately, especlially after my go-around with that Loreli,
Celia.

ROSIE

Alway the Celia....Don't you know well enough that you should never mention the previous dutchess on a date?

PROFESSOR

Yeah, I've been talking about her too much. Sorry.

ROSIE

I see you're fiddlng with what looks like a manuscript . It's sticking out of your left breast pocket...Kinda destroys the lines of your outfit. What have you got there? It looks as if it's in stanzas. Poetry?

PROFESSOR

Yeah, it's poetry. I am really getting too old, too full of negative capability to write poetry. It seems open-ended. Dr. Doolittle's Push me-Pull you. That, or it's just too fine a form for me...I think I'm basically a journalist.
Hell, in any event an editor of something called Fiddlehead has said it right on in something I'd submitted. "These are not good poems."...How about that for a prof?

ROSIE

Maybe you had to suffer some. You know, the country song thing. Hurtin' poetry. Ya got hurtin' poetry?

PROFESSOR:

Heh. I thought you'd never ask. Yes, I have hurtin' poetry!


THE PROFESSOR REACHES INTO HIS VEST POCKET AND PRODUCES A TYPESCRIPT, FOLDED OVER ONCE.
HE LAYS THE WORK FLAT AND PASSES IT OVER TO ROSIE ACROSS THE RED-AND-WHITE BISTRO TABLECLOTH.

ROSIE IS ABOUT TO READ, BUT SHE IS SUDDENLY DISTRACTED BY SOMETHING GOING ON BEHIND THE PROFESSOR.

SHE PUTS THE SCRIPT DOWN AND HAS A LONG GAZE PAST THE PROFESSOR.


ROSIE:

Behind you. Don't look now.


PROFESSOR:

Wha...?



That woman behind you, by the telephones, wearing a a hood. Really medieval.


PROFESSOR (HIS MOOD NOW SLIGHTLY BROKEN)

What's a strange woman got to do with anything?

ROSIE

Look at her. She is right out of the sixteenth century. Lorna Doone, you'd think.

PROFESSOR

Woman in a hood?...Oh yeah. There she is by the door....Where are we Sleepy Hollow? That's downright gothic.


ROSIE

I think I know her from somewhere.

Whoops. She's gone now.

ROSIE NOW TURN HER ATTENTION BACK TO THE PROFESSOR'S MANUSCRIPT.

ROSIE

Mind if I read it aloud?

PROFESSOR.

Of course not. Spoken word. It's better that way.

ROSIE BEGINS TO READ

He saw the teardrop on the rose
And again he saw the teardrop on a rose
And he knew he could never melt the teardrop
And he knew this was already the end.


So he kissed the face of the evening wife
As he had kissed it before, in all its varying forms
And again said hello to the precipice of silence
A precipice of silence
For his eighteen months of loving.

The Queen of Swords is crossed over
And all the king's horses and all the king's men
Are trying to get her together again
Like me
To no avail.

Gigolo and Gigolet
This side of the Lake of Mutilation
Strike a match
And the hotel burns.


There is only this path of silence
As we dump our gods
And become like them.


ROSIE PAUSES. LOOKS UP.

Jesus, professor. You are not only a poet, you're prescient, I think. Somehow seems to me a death wish for both of you.

Listen prof, I think we should go upstairs and fuck.
Hoods. Bell book and candle. That woman is death.
We might have to fuck all night just to stay ahead of that Red Queen.. ..Or is she black?

THEY GET UP, THE PROFESSOR A LITTLE AWKWARDLY. THE PROFESSOR GOES TO THE CASH WITH ROSIE.

BUT NOT BEFORE GETTING ANOTHER GLIMPSE OF THE MYSTERIOUS WOMAN IN THE HOOD THROUGH THE FRONT WINDOW.

.....end scene