Friday, December 27, 2013

The house still stands, seventy years later, Standard one-storey, square, nearly windowless Ruthenian structure of plastered white adobe and a roof that had been thatch, but now in rot.
Nobody lives there anymore. but the house stands by the creek that used to flood and had often threatened the very edifice itsel.It had taken so long for my young father to build. For a near stripling of a lad, he would show 'em.. And he did. There it stood on its slight rise over the creek. It did not have tile or a tin roof, the very model of wealth in Ukraine; a peasant house, but not bad for just turned twenty and newly married.
"Marry Dmytro, for he has golden hands." Well, didn't he?
But a great war came and the machine gun and cannon shells would whoosh into the house. But the walls were thick. Though the roof burned, the house would not crumble or burn. It was made of clay brick.

We had to abandon the house for the real fear of Communism.
My uncle went back recently to roport that the house still stood, empty "for they all had gone to Canada."
Nobody lives there save for an old hobo lady who begged she not be reported.
Would I dare to go back?


(To be continued)

Friday, December 13, 2013


It is Friday, Dec.  thirteenth.
 
Oddly, it's always been a lucky day for me.
 
I got my job with the Toronto Star, and then Seneca College on Fri. 13, finished a novel on that date, resulting  a creative writing fellowship in San Miguel, Mexico (a division of U.C.)
Why should today's  Friday 13 seem uncharacteristically ominous, like fishing in a vat of worms?
 
It's probably because I'm  now into my76th year  and the old chassis is starting to rock...But I still chase old ladies.
 
Seems to me that in the past, every  bout of sickness seemed to have a morning of healing, an  on this Friday 13, I'm still   placing any bets on waking up refreshed and renewed, born again tomorrow.
 
But there had been warnings.
 
 Just last year, I collapsed on the street tin ninety degree heat. Happily, a postman walked me home. "What day is it,"
I asked groggily. He sai,d "Friday 13, 2012"
 
Happily on this day the postman cometh again. Hopefully wich cheques.
 
Not too long ago, I fully expected the man with the scythe.
Good things still happen on Friday 13?
 
Yes!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mentally blocked. Agin



Things seem to run in seven-year cycles.
 
Fourteen years ago, on a cold November morning,
I gave up writing. This after a publishing streak where I went national.
(John Cleese: For every success, there is a corresponding failure). At the moment of my success, I suddenly became a crashing failure in keeping the success up. Suddenly, the "helpless, can't write!" syndrome.
I did eventually pick up, but there had been  a seven-year drought. "I am a blocked writer, Martha!"
A fireman with no hose, a traffic cop with no whistle, a smoke shop with no matches.
For seven years,  I was dangerous to myself and others..
Try as I might, I couldn't be at least as good as my last piece. In fact, I got a severe mental block and couldn't get past "See Spot run" because spots seemed suddenly before my eyes. Blank paper. And for years.
It began to affect my teaching. Students began to notice my  by-now apparent loss of identity as a writer (I couldn't get it up, editors jeered).
There was only the palliative of teaching.
...And the student
s knew.
"You don't know who you are, jeered the Newfie chick. "I come from a family of twelve--and at least I know who I am. Stop wandering aimlessly. Stay on topic."
I had given up writing, surrendered the vows, was close to losing my identity.
I went to a shrink, and he suggested I was "success shy" and kept writing on his pad.
"But Doctor, this is what I do. And now, I can't do it any more."
From my Liverpool doctor, the answer was laconic: "Do some weed. Become a communal farmer, become a real asshole."
I knew I was already good at this. Just ask my  wife.
I was at least blessed with a wonderful partner. We were soon at an island cottage, where even there, I would stare at blank paper. "I am a blocked artist, Martha." "I know." She was a patient woman, but I could almost read her thoughts. All artists are assholes. Why did I marry one? Such a success at college. Such a success at teaching. And now turning over a new leaf only to find it was the same old leaf. And soggy.
"You're going to have to get  a job, baby.
The artist thing isn't playing itself out. You've dug your  last hole, Mole (I think she got that from Willie Elder, the MAD genius).
Well, at least there was the driver- instructor thing after the college burnout. This I could do. Seven years of it, till we moved back from the cottage,  back to the house. I found some old envelopes in our  dusty attic, where I kept searching for something.I began to write on the  dusty back of them.
Migod, a short story. I had to tell Martha.
My wife loved the script and  was soon carrying  a copy in her purse. Her father was a published writer.
I got the call from the Globe and Mail exactly seven years after my breakdown.
The recovery was complete.
 
But it has now been another seven years, and the chassis is starting to creak!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Mentally blocked. Agin


Things seem to run in seven-year cycles.
 
Fourteen years ago, on a cold November morning,
I gave up writing. This after a publishing streak where I went national.
(John Cleese: For every success, there is a corresponding failure). At the moment of my success, I suddenly became a crashing failure in keeping the success up. Suddenly, the "helpless, can't write!" syndrome.
I did eventually pick up, but there had been  a seven-year drought. "I am a blocked writer, Martha!"
A fireman with no hose, a traffic cop with no whistle, a smoke shop with no matches.
For seven years,  I was dangerous to myself and other.
Try as I might, I couldn't be at least as good as my last piece. In fact, I got a severe mental block and couldn't get past "See Spot run" because spots seemed suddenly before my eyes. Blank paper. And for years.
It began to affect my teaching. Students began to notice my  by-now apparent loss of identity as a writer (I couldn't get it up, editors jeered).
There was only the palliative of teaching.
...And the studens knew.
"You don't know who you are, jeered the Newfie chick. "I come from a family of twelve--and at least I know who I am. Stop wandering aimlessly. Stay on topic."
I had given up writing, surrendered the vows, was close to losing my identity.
I went to a shrink, and he suggested I was "success shy" and kept writing on his pad.
"But Doctor, this is what I do. And now, I can't do it any more."
From my Liverpool doctor, the answer was laconic: "Do some weed. Become a communal farmer, become a real asshole."
I knew I was already good at this. Just ask my  wife.
I was at least blessed with a wonderful partner. We were soon at an island cottage, where even there, I would stare at blank paper. "I am a blocked artist, Martha." "I know." She was a patient woman, but I could almost read her thoughts. All artists are assholes. Why did I marry one? Such a success at college. Such a success at teaching. And now turning over a new leaf only to find it was the same old leaf. And soggy.
"You're going to have to get  a job, baby.
The artist thing isn't playing itself out. You've dug your  last hole, Mole (I think she got that from Willie Elder, the MAD genius).
Well, at least there was the driver- instructor thing after the college burnout. This I could do. Seven years of it, till we moved back from the cottage,  back to the house. I found some old envelopes in our  dusty attic, where I kept searching for something.I began to write on the  dusty back of them.
Migod, a short story. I had to tell Martha.
My wife loved the script and  was soon carrying  a copy in her purse. Her father was a published writer.
I got the call from the Globe and Mail exactly seven years after my breakdown.
The recovery was complete.
 
But it has now been another seven years, and the chassis is starting to creak!
 
                         -30-

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My little apochrypha

I am something of a cultural hermaphrodite. Name any culture (though not all cultures)-- and I'm there.
 
In Denmark, I'm great Dane, ordering an "Ein hof" with the rest of them in the swell, woody  bar, where people stand up on wppden benches and salute each other.
 
In Germany, I'm "ein  prositing" with the rest of the lederhosen set, demanding fire.
 
In Greece, it's raising the philosophical question, 'To Ti?" as I shine flashlights in caves.
 
In Egypt, I am black, always have been black. It is black cuture, really, is it not.
 
I Crete, I wait for earthquakes, even now.
 
In Tel Aviv, I am Hebrew, pondering the mischief of chutzpah.  "I have killed my mother and my father. Pity me now. I am an orphan."
 
People say a split personality is the result of early childhood abuse. This is true with me, as I seem to have been abused by friggin' near everybody in the course of The Second World War, that great F-up, resolved only by nuking civilians.
Now we are still nuking civilians. I think I myself have been somehow  nuked.
 
Over this wr this way, one foot in the grave, I am wondering how, so far, I have outlived it all. Do the mad live forever?
 
The closest clue as to my condition comes from an obscure note in Carl Gustav Jung.
 
Dare I write it?
 
It is the image of God shitting on a  cathedral.
 
##

Saturday, October 12, 2013


My original intention was to write "Diary of a Newmarket Madman," following my famous countryman Nikolai Gogol, whose play adaptation of his famous book is now making huge waves in St. Louis, Mo.
What came out instead was my"Light Over Newmarket," a nutty enough book in its own right, but nowhere near the great Gogol.
Nevertheless, LON was reviewed by the late Dick Illingworth in the ERA and I managed to cop an Ontario Arts Council grant.
Yet I was still Ivan and not Nick Gogol, who was a Ukrainian, and probably the father of all Russian 19th century literature.
And in York Region, there were other, bigger guns.
So I had to stop running for being Nikolai Gogol of Newmarket, settling instead for maybe Roy Green.
And what the hell. Today I was so proud to learn that the wonderful Alice Munro got the Nobel Prize for Literature!
(I myself have never been a fan of the Canlit crowd, and neither, probably was Ms. Alice.
She did it all on her own. In her own way.
And good on her).

But as for me, what to do?
I can't nearly write as good as Alice Munro. I don't think anybody in Canada can.
Is it too late have a sex change?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I am probably turning senile, but I'm beginning to think my advanced age is not an age, but a dimension.
Take writing and music. In the same dimension? Well, maybe in the same family, for I seem a crashing bore, though enthusiastic, at both writing and music. Suddenly it seems, at 70+, that the music is taking me over.
It became clear to me at the hysterically young age of seventy-three that I may have been wrong in killing myself at writing these past fifty years. (The financial reward was paltry while it seems at music, you not only get a sort of instant gratification, but more often than not, somebody at least will supply the beer); seems that with writing, you are to one buying the beer, for agents and prospective publishers. With music, more often than not, you'll get a beer sent to both you and your companion if a performance was particularly good.
 
It has struck me that I may have been losing at writing of half a century, while music seems easy, and somehow helps your soul to catch up with your body after all that sin and muddlement.
That or it's just some death angel, possibly from Dixie, and though I try to be John Prine in my music, It is just an imitation of that musical tiger.
 
So where is your own song, old Ivan?
Hopefully, it's in my novels, but it seems lately that if you blow on the words, they just seem to fade away.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

/The old goat


Egad. I had paid my dues, had stopped getting rejection from publishers, and was making some kind of splash in NAIN ROUGE, an online magazine out of Detroit.
Ah, but de debbil.
There was a quarrel betwee NAIN ROUGE and its parent, WHITE CAT PUBLICATIONS.
NAIN ROUGE had suddenly ceased publication.
 
....Now what am I going to do with this story I had sent NAIN ROUGE?
 
Here is what I had sent in.
 
Submission to NAIN ROUGE magazine.
 
 
 
THE OLD GOAT.
 
A story
 
by Ivan Prokopchuk
 
Ivan Prokopchuk
540 Timothy St. Apt. 304, Newmarket Ontario, CANADA. L3Y5N9
 
Suggested pin number l235
 
email address:
 
 
 
THE OLD GOAT
 
In an old  prairie dugout, there lived a goat.
Goats seem eternally peeved, that peeved expression, but Andreas the Goat was not really peeved; quite happy, really. Did he not have what he wanted, the supply of scraps  at the nearby junkyard, the good feeling  he got from the Jimson weed and chicory,  the late middle age  age which had now  cooled his passion, True,   the young  she-goats still showed interest, though this more for his  old daddy goat appeal than anything else. He was a handsome old goat.
One day, another goat  passed his way. A young-old nanny .. She still had a prance to her gambol, as if very young, but a little gray in her dapple showed she was almost as old as Andreas.  The old goat regarded the new arrival  with some interest. Meeehh. There was the Mee-ing response. Hello,come closer. What's   is your name, little  she-goat,what's your name? Come closer.
"Yasmine." she blated. She clacked along the gravel to his hideout and came closer. He could now see her face. The cutest little snout, though he could could see by the reddened blacks of her comma eyes that she had been into something.. Funny weed? Perhaps a bit of fermented barley down by the sump pump. She had certainly was on something. Oh not again, the old goat thought. These kids, always grazing on those devil weeds. And the adults just as bad.She was now right up to him and went to almost pass him, though rubbing a little along his rough hide.
It had struck Andreas that it had been so long, so long since there had been a horn-to-horn.  Or even close contact with a female.
But just as soon as she had come up, she suddenly turned on a cloven hoof and seemed about to run away..
But he followed and trotted beside her.
 "What's your last name," he asked.
"Springbok."
"Springbok??
"Yes. Yasmine Springbok."
":Icelandic," he asked.
"No, South African originally.
And with that, she seemed to just spring away from him, as she had done just before.,soon to disappear through silver-and-green Russian olive bushes.
 
These spacey drug freak nannies, they're all the same, the old goat thought. So much into power plays, games, control. Use you as a sounding board. Tease you and run off.
But her scent, the recent  nearness of a female, had awakened something in Andreas.
 
For some time, the old goat had noticed his thouhts were more in the past than the present, manger scenes, back in the days wheh he'd had a family, kids, barns, chickens. All gone now. All grown up. Or maybe worse. He winced at the thought.
Always the new she-goat. that's how it had always been up until he grew old. Never mind, Yasmine Bleat, or whatever your name is, I will tend to my grazing, see my reflection in the old glass windshields  around the garbage dump. What a fine old goat I am. I don't need anything or anybody.
But Yasmine kept coming around.
At first she seemed to ignore him as she gambolled past, but he had to admit she was raising old goat passions in him, not only the hint of an erection he was starting to feel along his scrabbly belly,  but alsosome sort of  promise that Yasmine seemed to hold.
One day she came right up to the old goat and said,"I will give you whattever you want. Anything at all. Whatever you want, real or imagined. "Nutcase," he decided. Off-the-wall she-goat probably Iberian. Gypsy.goat. Best keep to myself."
But on the third day she came back with an old soup can  can in her mouth, which suddenly, inexplicably, turned into a flower.
The old goat pawed at the ground, but here, suddenly was a bunch of carrots. "How you doo dat?" the old goat asked, trying to show casualness, not the sudden, strange supernatural fear.
I am she-goat, mistress of goathood. I can make you horny. I can make you magic. I know you better than you know yourself."
. Never met a goat like her before.
 
They took to running around together, past the trees, past the birds, past the clucky  stampeding  chickens, through the yard and into a grove of Russian olives, spiky and hard to get near, let alone eat.  "Got something to show you, said Yasmine. Come." Andreas followed, followed her down a glade to the hollowed-out stump of an old oak tree, ancient, thick, though the inside was rotted out, leaving a circular ruin all around. One end was open, and inside, there was  spacefor two or three goats, as if in a pen.  There, inside the old oak stump  there was a nest of spiders, just babies really, scrambling for cover. Yasmine suddenly went to stomp them, and in fact, trampled a couple. The others got away. Andreas was surprised at this sudden show of atavism. Who, what was she really? Andreas had a sudden feeling of unreality. the hollowed oak stump  seemed suddenly  alive, all ashimmer. . Do not be afraid, said Yasmine. This is only a show of my power. I can give you anything you want. Anything at all. And then she knelt  on her front legs and produced the vision of a  past manger  scene, the old goat's former mate, the kids,  the chickens. All he had to do was walk into it and there he would be.But Andreas just stood there tranfixed, wondering at the unreality of it all. And just as soon as the scene dissipated, she scrambled for a wall and was suddely gone.
It took a long time for the old goat to return to the dugout.
He was  much changed old goat.
Seven  years of rooting around the old dugout that he had lived in
And for the first time, he'd learned something. But what was it?
He yearned to see the youn-old she-goat again.
One morning, he saw two goats up on the rise, a fine billy and along with him, Yasmine.
Son of a wanton  goa! he thought. I should have known.
But the following day she was back, alone, her mysterious companion not there.
"I want you to love me," she said, rather matter-of-factly. I want you to love me. Spiritually, like a goat-knight.
I will give you anything you want." And suddenly, between them, there sprung a clump of olives. Andreas had a taste. Not at all like stale Campbell's soup. Something in those olives though. He could feel, sense the ramaining baby spiders in the stump's walls. Could see them spinning their little gossamer webs, and the mother now nearby.
He made to tell Yasmine how he was feeling, but she was not there now.. She was gone again..
 
She came back that evening, and, after some rubbing against him,  unexpectedly, presented herself to him. Andreas was in goat heaven. He took her from behind, as is the way of goats. And afterwards, without much ado, she went to run off again. "Stay," said
Andreas." But she gave him a quick nuzzle and she was again gone.Seven days went by. No Yasmine.
He saw the mysterious he-goat again, alone this time, up high on the knoll. Soon another goat joined the handsome stranger. Sean Connery goat. It was Yasmine. Andreas could see by the familiarity displayed between them that they were, it seemed, still in  love. "And me, what about me?"
She showed up alone the following evening.He was half-made with jealousy and woe.
Explain.
"You can't get everyhing from just one goat," she asserted. I am with him, but I love you."
"Yeh."
And she was gone again.
Nights were now spent in fits of jealousy and discontent. He would do this, he would do that. He would butt heads with the mysterious lover.
And one day he did. He saw the two of them up on the rise again and ran right up. "You got a problem? said handsome Sean Connery goat. "Yeah, I've got a roblem. You." And with that, he gave the handsome stranger a pretty good grazing. The stranger did not fifght  back. "Leave him alone," Yasmine bleated. "Leave my husband alone." Oohh. So that was it.
Andreas walked back down the hill, to his shed. He had a sense of clairvoyance. He thought, as he had run away that he heard Yasmine say, "There is a reason for everything. I had come to you for a reason."
He sulked in his "apartment." So that was it. They are married. Well,he had his pen, he had his food and he had his certainties. It was an episode, a learning experience, old as he was.
Yasmine did not come around again.
One morning,something compelled him to leave his pen, and leave fast. There was the sound of heavy machinery just above. He was out just before a massive bulldozer razed his home.
And high up on the knoll, again, he saw Yasmine. Alone and about to leave for home. He had no idea why, or what he would do, and could he do it. But he followed.
                                                          -3O-
 
-                                          

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ten years in the wilderness, but, seemingly, not the only meatball out there

Jesu Cristo.
 
I have been blogging for some ten years and except for small press publishing successes (They like me in Saskatchewan) I seem hardly improved over the place I first began.
 
This reminded me of Jack Saunder, U.K, who, ten years ago seemed in the same position.
Here is what Grumpy Old Bookman (U.K.) had said about Jack Saunders a decade ago:
 
 Jack Saunders: an underground legend
 
Jack Saunders is a man who writes a book a month, and posts them, as he writes them, on The Daily Bulletin.

Now of course 'book' is a relative term, and some of Jack's books are 10,000 words long. But even so, the industry is impressive.

Whatever else Jack may be, I don't think you could call him egocentric, because you have to work hard to find his name anywhere on the front page of The Daily Bulletin. All you can see at first is the work. However, if you want to know more, you can find his c.v. set out in the format used by Contemporary Authors:a volume from which he is, he tells us, excluded.

Jack and I are pretty much the same age. He is now retired and fills his day with writing. As, modest cough, do I. I really like the c.v. though. 'Publishers, rejected by: most of the larger ones.... Literary agencies, declined representation by: all I have enquired of.....Jack Saunders has been writing for 33½ years, without selling a word to New York or Hollywood, winning a grant, a writer-in-residence position, or a literary prize. He is working on a 40-year roman-feuilleton, or saga-novel, that is too large for small presses to publish and too outspoken, freewheeling, and vulgar for the mainstream commercial houses.' And all like that.

I like such people. It's eccentric of me, I know. But hell, I'm English. Goes with the territory. I may not like or admire everything that such people do, but that's not the point.

I gather that Jack is working on an anthology of underground writing. This will include 'not just writers I have known and worked with for 30-some years in the small press, mail art, zine, ezine, and blogger scene, but also folk artists, roots musicians, indy film makers, and repertory theater people who produce their own work and sell it through nontraditional distribution channels (hand-to-hand and word-of-mouth).'

I look forward to it.

The conclusion of the anthology is already completed and Jack kindly sent me a draft of it because it contains a reference to On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile. Entitled 'Disintermediate Now!' this is as striking a defence of the status of the amateur-professional, independent/self-published writer, as I have ever read, or am likely to read. Bold, passionate stuff, and I couldn't put it better myself.

'Disintermediate now,' says Jack. 'Don’t wait for permission. Start from where you are. Get better by doing it. By and by, a cult will form around you. You’ll be respected by your peers. You’ll be known in the narrow world of what you do as a mensch. A stand-up guy. A soldier.'

Hear, hear.

In the meantime, if you prefer to hold something in your hand, you can nip over to Amazon.com and buy Jack's Bukowski Never Did This: A Year in the Life of an Underground Writer & His Family. Or you can buy it cheaper, direct from the publisher.
.................
 
To which I replied To the Grumpy Old Bookman blog:
 

3 comments:

Ivan Prokopchuk said...
Grumpy Old Bookman:
You sure have a way of engaging interest.
Jack Saunders. Yeah. Maybe Ivan and his Anglo namesake should hang around together. Or maybe not.
There is the British snobbery of U and non-U. I am hardly British, but anglicized enough to know the difference (many of my profs were Brits). Non-U writers can be a pain in the butt. Sometimes my pen-pal Gerard Jones is a pain in the butt. There is this "underclass" desire to conrol, almost sociopathic. And self-defeating, bucause how much can you control if you're a delivery parts driver, say with a weekend crack at dispatching. Then, full of positive thinking and on faulty information, you go on to control. Or try to. But you don't know that its a world of quantum mechanics, in science and in human relations; you may be at your strongest when you think you were at your weakest and someone's style of self-eprecation is not a statement of fact, but a style. Our Larry Zolf, s sometime writer out this way (very old now) is a master of self-deprecation, but the man is an achiever in humour, writing and radio. Try to control a guy like that, parts delivery driver.
So what can we make of the little bit I can see of Jack Saunders?
Well, something of an original thinker, in his own mode. Attractive way of thinking. You almost end up aping his style.
But the Sysiphian task: The same ball of dung rolls right down the ramp and into your face. Been there.
I have this far had three-fourth of my Black Icon novella published in a provincial magazine because I was friends with the editor. I had a column in the self-same TOPIC magazine and it made things infinitely easier. After that, nothing. Twenty years. Nothing.
That's about the time Jack and I should maybe have started hanging
around together. Then a blip. I submit a novel to the old House of Anansi Press out here and it gets rejected. I get drunk with a girl from the Ontario Culture ministry and she says I have some money to give away to writers. "I have to give it all away or I won't get any more money to give away to writers. Go back to Anansi and get them to okay it so I will have a budget next year." Back I go to Anansi, and surprisingly, the editor, James Polk, say he will okay the grant.
I go to the Ontario Arts Council.
Here I meet a bureaucrat, more or less of my own backroung, but just off the boat.
"I got job. You no got job. Four hundred dollars will hardly get you drunk." (I related this story to another blogger and she said I was a xenophobe. Me? Against my own kind, though a tad arriviste?).
Anyway, I got the money, but still no offer to publish. The editor sent me to an agent who was no longer in business.
Jack and I hanging around together, I suppose.
Ten more years of drought.
I somehow got my hands on some money and printed my Light Over Newmarket through a company I'd set up.
Surprise. Reviews, two of them in the Newmarket Era and York Region News. I ran for public office and got two more good reviews. But still no publishing house, still no cigar.
Now I am online, and though there was an initial excitement, things are very quiet.
I must say that during these dull periods I did land a privat docen't job as creative writing instructor on the strengh of my modestly published work. I was good at it, but no tenure, and no novel published by any real house.
I was, I suppose, U, that is to say, university trained and kind of IN. But not in enough to crack the Canlit egg.
So I guess now that I am old bedraggled and dumpster-diving, maybe Jack wouldn't even want to hang around with me.
Scratch one dreamer?
Well, maybe not. As you observe, you can start a small cult, a supporting army. It's there, but they are all saying, "We're counting on you. Where the hell is the magnum opus, published by Knopf, say?"
I guess it's again at this point, that Jack and I have to hang around together.
The book, she is writ.
But hardly anybody is noticing it.
Shades of James Branch Cabell, and his observation that among writers,
 the rain seems to fall on the published and the unpublished.
(Or am I misquoting from Dubliners?)
Cheers,
Ivan

##

Friday, July 26, 2013

Both Sides Now

At my advanced age, I am once again in the writing-submission-rejection crapcan.
Once having been sort of notorious as a writer in my home town of Newmarket--and making oodles of money at it--I am now trying to engineer a comeback in the local paperrs, but not so fast, grandpa.
There is a new generation of editors on the scene (kids when I was publishing stuff)--and they remind me once more that journalism is a business and not a creative outlet, though I beat those odds a generation ago and very nearly made the big local paper a creative outlet, back in the days when they still took good writin' over factual analysis.
I got my own column, titled, after my favourite singer, Joni Mitchell--"Both Sides Now."
It was  largely about trying to be a hippie, a communal farmer and musician, and the disappointmet with both pursuits.
The goats would stand around wanting you to do something and you were so banged out with work and drugs, you hardly knew what you were doing. Communal farming was still farming, and that was damn hard work and, yes, it did take brains to make a living off it.
In my group, partially founded by the Canada Council for writers, it was expected of us not only to farm the rocky moraines of Killalloe Ontario, but to produce a book.
Hardly any one of us produced neither harvest or book.
Bunch f*cked up old hippies. And on the government dole. Producing neither truck nor trade.
But after the farming experience I had to take matters into hand. I was already a published writer, a professional, mind you and if I couldn't herd goats  I could at least ride herd on overground writing.
I went to Gerry Barker, owner of TOPIC magazine in these parts and gave him a pitch for a column of my recent life and hard times. It worked. Gerry minted me as a new columnist and paid me $167 oldfashioned dollars a month. It was enought in those days to pay the mortgage and keep my two kids fed.
I lasted a long time, won and Ontario Weekly Newspapers award, and felt kinda superior to all those formr friends, the communal farmers, whe in recent years, had published boo-all for all that grant money.
One thing led to another, I went back to school part- time, won a professorship at the local college--and seemingly, had it made for life.
But on day, (I suppose with Kipling),
I pitched it all for a game of pitch and toss.
Oh, what a loss.
Now it's trying to get back in, in  a different generation, Kids. Spermy hands, probably, clutching my manuscripts.
Foo the wuck are you?
Well, goldurn it i have forgotten more about writing than you'll ever know, spermy editor.
People are online now. The game has changed.
And yet, after thirty years, it is somehow run by dirty old men.
Gimmy back my column.
Gimme back my sexy women editors.
Christ, I want back in!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The postman cometh

In two months, it'll be Friday, Sept. 13.

Oddly, that thirteenth has  always been a lucky day for me.
 
I got my job with the Toronto Star, and then Seneca College on Fri. 13, finished a novel on that date, resulting  a creative writing fellowship in San Miguel, Mexico, a division of U.C.
Why should the coming  black Friday seem uncharacteristically ominous, like going  fishing in a vat of worms?
 
It's probably because I've just passed my 75th birthday and the old chassis is starting to rock.
Seems to me that in the past, every sickness seemed to have a morning of healing, but after last Friday 13, 2012 I'm no longer placing any bets on waking up refreshed and renewed, born again.
 
I collapsed on the street that day  in ninety degree heat. Happily, a postman walked me home. "What day is it,"
I asked groggily. "Friday 12m, 2012"
 
Happily on that day  day the postman came..
I fully expected the man with the scythe.
I am hoping that black-robed bastard  will not come around again on the coming   Friday 13.
And that there will be at least a Haphaestus  postman.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

It is Friday the thirteenth.
 
Oddly, it's always been a lucky day for me.
 
I got my job with the Toronto Star, and then Seneca College on Fri. 13, finished a novel on that date, resulting  a creative writing fellowship in San Miguel, Mexico, a division of U.C.
Why should today's black Friday seem uncharacteristically ominous, like fishing in a vat of worms?
 
It's probably because I've just passed my 75th birthday and the old chassis is starting to rock.
Seems to me that in the past, every sickness seemed to have a morning of healing, but on this Friday 13, I'm no longer placing any bets on waking up refreshed and renewed, born again.
 
I collapsed on the street today in ninety degree heat. Happily, a postman walked me home. "What day is it,"
I asked groggily. "Friday 13, 2013"
 
Happily on this day the postman cometh.
I fully expected the man with the scythe.
Good things still happen on Friday 13?
 
 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Joni Mitchell, bitch genius. I wanna break your lovely fingers


I'm gona write this fast, 'cause I've got a load in the wash and a hangover that's screaming to God.
So, nervous wreck might as well write some dreck.
"I like corn flakes. Can you swim?"
Nothing like avoiding non-sequiturs.
And avoid, cliches. "Grab the bull by the horns, and let the chips fall where they may."
I recently had the pleasure of seeing genius Joni Mitchell interviewed on CBC TV.
More talent in one finger than I have in my aging, addled body.
Oh, jealousy. Night and day you torture me!
She wrote "Both Sides Now" at twenty- one.
I wrote my first novel at about thirty. And it wasn't all that good.
 
Bitch genius. I wanna break her lovely fingers.
It's not fair,  I tell ya.
 
Oh Joni, when I first saw your gallery.
I definitely liked the ones of ladies.
 
Maybe I should have written a book on laddies, just to be trendy.
 
Maybe that was my publishing problem.
When I first met my publisher he seemed more excited  than Richard Simmons at a sportswear display.
And I was captain of the stupid local hockey team.
Ah. Both sides now.
And I am no closer to wealth or piety.
Old Dostoevsky said somewhere, "We should have all been engineers and not writers."...Leads to degeneracy.
 
But it would have been nice to have been the real thing straight off.
 
Like Joni Mitchell.
Who can avoid loving the bitch genius?
 
Today, I broke my keyboard

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Little big genius man

It was fun being a genius.

At the North York Mirror, where my novel was reviewed, and later at the college, people would say,"There goes Ivan the genius.
Anybody at the staff lounge could glance at me and Newman Wallis, dean of arts, and immediately deduce who the important person was.

My wife couldn't stand it all.

"Okay genius, here's a mop. The kitchen floor has a superhighway on it, full of cigarette ash from where you do your nightly pace after class, drinking cheap beer and all alone on top of that."

"But I am an artist, Martha."

"Artist isn't too far off from another word that starts with an a."

Sigh. Back to the "artists" we really are.

It all came from a slim novel that gained a large cult following. It dealt with survival and had a catchy title which somehow, years later, interfaced with the computer world: THE BLACK ICON.

The success was almost immediate. CBC interviews, offers from the Sunday Sun, an editorial stint with the late Martin Lynch, poet of typography and legend at The Globe and Mail, my own newspaper column in TOPIC (Bradford ON), a call from the college and I was on my way.

But then genius is something a family develops over many generations. I seemed to have had few antecedents.

Dropped in a potato field in Ukraine many moons back, I knew my first cousin was a potato and sensed for sure that my family crest could have contained two crossed hoes rampant on a potato field. What I was receiving was the fruit of Mr. Trudeau's idea of muliticulturalism, a kind of affirmative action fostered by a generous society. I knew I wouldn't last. And I didn't.

I picked up a whiskey habit and a pin-sized hooker who told me things I liked to hear.

"We have IQ's of 140," said Lana the Hooker, whose day job was systems analyst."We can create things, make them sing and dance. People hate us."

The future, as always, was the dead past and all its wise men. I was caught up in biblical wisdom. Suffice to say there was a snake in the garden with a punk haircut and if the garden was the marriage bed that's all you need to know.

It took a long time to fall, to meet kindly Wanda the Welfare Lady who said it takes a lot of detail to make up a life story, life being long and one slim book doesn't do it all. "There's more," she said.

She knew of what she spoke. The life story soon included me in somebody else's novel, a Damon-Runyon world of pimps, priests and police. How the hell did I get into THAT novel?

Someone was now writing me.

Never mind Margaret Atwood (with whom I sometimes communicate). I was now involved the THE HOOKER'S TALE and I wanted out.

I am finally clean and straight.

But like another seeker in the vintage movie Deliverance, I wake up in my home in the middle of a subdivision and wonder what being a seeker (Genius?) was all about.

I had all the perks of being a genius long before the genius came. Because of good families on both sides and the healthy society we had in the Seventies, the money and the fame came, it seems, before I even put serious pen to paper. I had been the new Superhero: AFFIRMATIVE ACTION MAN...MULTICULTURAL MAN.

It takes a family, and I had tampered with commandments, become a spoiled brat, satisfying all appetites, while the family waited for accomplishments.

They finally came, thirty years later, but in dribbles and in bits.

In today's world, you can almost put Humpty-Dumpty together again, but it will still be a patchwork.

Po' egghead.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

In The Crook of Her Arm


IN THE CROOK OF HER ARM
(or, An Exploration into the nature of eschatology)

No one saw him leave home. No one saw him on the train where he had reconsidered the wife of the bright yellow day to whom he had just said goodbye. No one saw him leave for Mexico City on the early morning plane. No one saw him land at Mexico City Airport. No one saw him getting on the bus for San Miguel de Allende. Only God saw him.

He had felt for the first time in his eye yesterday's tear, and it was still only yesteday to him as he moved ahead into time, and he wondered how this could be. He knew he was racing so far ahead of himself as to reach the point where a soul could not ever catch up with the body if the body ever stopped moving, towards that new flat land of a Dali, perhaps, a surreal field of shot horses and fallen women. But he had to move, to escape the dreams he had been having, the apartments of horror where there were staring Medusa faces. And and white hotels with burning women standing outside, though the burning women were never consumed.

No one saw him going upstairs up a curving ballustrade to rent his apartment, no one saw him in his room with the wood fireplace for heat, sitting at his typewriter, no one saw him there in San Miguel de Allende, where the grass was dream grass and his clay house an old Grandee's house of pale smoke and history.

Then he saw her, or, rather, she saw him. There, where southwest was another part of the world. There, where the girls were tall and slightly knockneed, a touch of Cherokee, perhaps, certainly Tarascan, local Indian... And like a lonesome woman she came to him, felt his loneliness and they had found each other.

Yet on the train, he had considered himself a still-married man, who had so recently said goodbye to a wife of the bright yellow day, to soon rent a monk's cell, to sigh in a kind of relief at having left it all, to immediately be plunged into a precipice of silence, for there was a vacuum here, and a vacuum is either death or great power.

And soon there was an entaglement with the Cherokee woman. There were sparks among the bougainvillea and the flowers, and fights, and love again. But very quickly, they fused together.
It was then that he decided to write his beautiful novel in two parts.

This began to do.

Then he and the Cherokee woman separated again.

And when he got home there was no one there as he walked past the dog, past the bird, past the blighted tree around which the lilacs had all died, but the phlox and the daisies were out, where his wife appeared to him, now an ochre stranger and her dark-eyed lover a worse shade.

And he knew not what to do, save go insane, and he was not ready for that and he sent for his Cherokee love out of Mexico by way of Montana and California, for that was where she had lived, and she came to him carrying to great wicker baskets and an enormous quilt.

And so they now settled in Toronto and every five days he would see his heartbreakingly beautiful children, take them to theatres and sunny hills and dells and the Cherokee woman would come with them and she would look after them, fuss after them and bring her gifts and read them stories and check out the advertisements for the best children's plays, for she appeared to love him, and so, them.

And it soon became apparent to him that he had made a dreadful mistake, that she was not the one, that he should never have gone off to Mexico to write his beautiful novel in two parts, for he had done nothing more than to fall into a strange bed, though the Cherokee womand did love him, he knew. For they had separated, he'd left her there in Mexico as he ran back home and he had felt a deep loss, there had been a fusion and both of them had felt the tear.

And yet on the road, in his car, on the way to his old teaching spot, he would be seized with longing, regret, pain for want of the wife of his youth, calling her name, going mad behind the wheel of the car he had retrieved as part bargain in the failed marriage, yet it had not been his car but hers, as it had not been his own life but hers.

And he felt, as two rook-like birds along the road seemed to pick at him, his liver, spleen, brains that he was in some Hieronymous Bosch fantasy, the birds were eating him and he was near to exploding.

"You are going crazy, said the Cherokee woman. You need an analyst."

And soon there was the analyst, who merely shook his head and recommended a stronger doctor and the stronger doctor recommened an insane asylum where the grass was again dream grass, there where the mind turned to oceans of pepper and the Cherokee woman was on another side of the world, and all the songs were about the Hotel California.

And while in the Hotel California, he felt entire pieces of himself being ripped away, entire chunks of Laura, her body, her breasts, her vagina, old sepia-toned family portraits of their trips to the Barbados, their bearded elders, their children, all ripped away by an adultery that screamed to God even though it had been all so easy, for it had no conscience, this sex thing, though this experience somehow led to the terrible triangle of God.

And here, he crossed himself.

And presently, they appeared to make a vegetable of him, "this is how we make an asshole", filling him with doubt,guilt and religion and so mutated, he was soon thrust out into the world as a good tailor or taxi driver before he had hardly learned how to cut cloth or read a map.
And all the while, the Cherokee woman had been writing and telephoning him, "Doofus, wake up," but he had already gone into the nearly fatal confusion that is madness, and it had been too late. And the Cherokee woman was forced to go to Idaho City, Idaho, there with the potatoes, his cousins now, out there where West was another side of the world.

And then, in a parallel universe of strange books like Solaris, there appeared a third woman who somehow promised to repair all, to answer his every wish, including the need to go home again.
And this third woman had something of the man in her and she seized him by the woman inside and gave him a harrowing and a shaking, though he yet came inside her mouth and so enslaved her.

And presently, he met another woman. He was impoverished now, because he had gone off the scale, one woman after another and not women to marry; he was on a rollercoaster, a series of rollercoasters on which beside him had sat differeint women, the last of which had robbed him of everything he had, all fifty thousand of it.

And this woman saw that he was poor while she took him into her mouth and tasted him and did not like it, did not like him, did not like to see his ears down there between which was death on two legs and the song in his head may well have been Queen. And she left him to marry a dealer in real estate and lived happily ever after.

While he again became a teacher.

Teacher? Adulterer. What is left after a man reaches the stench of the tomb? Down among the criminal elements, down among the losers, alcoholics, thieves. The garden of Eden is the marriage bed and the fiery angel will punish.

And he took up with a lounge dancer whose mouth had had again violated, causing her too to leave in disgust, but not before he say his own dirty pants hanging on the wall, which he soon picked up, dressing himself in the messy trousers.

And as he put on his drousers, he realized that the typewriter had been gathering dust and grime for a long time now and he realized that it was at this time that he had to complete his novel in two parts.

And barely before had completed his novel, he was again hired by the local university to teach, for he needed an income, and it was here that he met the She, even before he finished his novel in two parts.

She was as beautiful as a star, as fine as a mother's body, a star of 1930's films, the IT Girl, Clara Bow, blonde as Greta Garbo, sexy as a girl standing against a wall in the sun, her head back, inviting a lover.

She would not let him get too close. She would only respond to him part way and he had to content himsel with sleeping in the crook of her arm. He was harboring a love. In the crook of her arm.

But in the crook of her arm had been a pinprick, a deep one.

It was the cocaine she loved first, and then him.

And she tried to make him come along, and he spat it out and was soon off to another trip to Mexico.

Where he would write his beautiful novel in two parts.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

 For the first time in years, I have had no answer at all from my friend the local editor-in-chief of the local newspaper.
 
Maybe she thinks I have finally fallen out of my tree.
 
This is what I sent her: 
 
 
Hi Debora Kelly, Ma'am.
 
 
Just doodling a bit here...But it could be edited into a guest column. But watch out.  :)
 
, March 09, 2013

My computer is wonky. I have become schizoid...And so Am I :)

My old computer is wonky.
 
I am wonky.
 
He/she/it/ is wonky.
 
My semi-girlfiend wants to bandy words with me, even if she can't find the words to bandy.
Ain't been the same since that hospital addiction to Vicodin, and I'm sure she hasn't shaken it yet. Generic heroin?
 
"When dat horse kick, you you do the hucklebuck."
 
(From old Chubby Checker):
 
Wiggle like a stick wobble like a duck
That's what you do when you do the Hucklebuck.
 
 
Now she just wanders from room to room, looking for wine.
 
None of us have any money. Addictive relationship. Could have been defined as a dope ring, but lately, we're just a couple of dopes.
 
Joe Cocker on the FM station:
 
"You can leave your hat on
You can leave your hat on
You can leave you hat on."
 
Friend come to visit, "Ivan, you've become quite a whoremaster since I saw you last."
 
Little does he know that I haven't had any action since last year.
It's all pose. Miss Viv and I are well over sixty, and wonky, like our computer. He wants to leave his hat on too.
.
"Wiggle like a stick wobble like a duck
That's what you do when you do the Hucklebuck."
 
I am in front of the mirror, doing the hucklebuck (I been in hospital too...cross addicted).
 
Miss Viv is trying to feed her 18--year-old cat. Nothing doing. Cat can't eat without being fooled with a coating of cat treat.
We agree it's time for last rites, administered by "Elvis Priestly", who when not conducting service, will give you a pretty good Elvis imitation.
Father Priestley comes to bless the cat.
The cat seems to have recovered today,
but we are still doing the hucklebuck. Durn cross addiction.
 
There was a time when I was married, with young children, I would wander around the cottage dazed. This was no way to live, with responsibilities and children.
Had to take a job. Try to hide the fact that daddy is a freak, a writer.
People are saying "See that farmhouse, with the smoke rising from the brick chimney? Looks peaceful, idyllic there.
But a madman lives inside."
 
So I took a writing job.
Wrote about my dog, Ulysses, "When My Ulysses comes home, woof-woof, wag-wag." Gonna shoot the sonafabich.
 
This gives me an Ontario Weekly Newspaper Guild award and I get my fifteen minutes.
 It was fun being famous, at least in York Region, here in Central Ontario.
 
But fifteen minutes soon over, wife gets disgusted, "Out, damn spot. Yes, you!"
 
Loose dog in the boonies. More like the old movie, Fritz the Cat.
 Jesus, you meet characters who make you say, "You do weird shit, man."
 
You end up with Miz Viv.
Wandering from room to room, wonky, like your old computer,doing the hucklebuck.
 
A teacher whom I once deeme a bad teacher, told me once, "All talent and no judgment."
 
I can't trade on my craziness forever."
 
We're all getting long in the tooth, and what was once cute, has become pathetic.
 
Miz Viv seems to have straightened out her medication.
 
I gotta get myself straightened out.
 
After breakfast every day
She throws the want ads right my way
And never fails to say
Get a job

Sha na na na - sha na na na na
But my computer is busted. I am busted.
 
Good time Charlie's got the blues.
 
 
(I have been told that all my novels are on three levels. 1). A man's job dissatisfaction.
                                                                               2). His madness.
                                                                               3). A real source of evil.
 
,,,Could I have added the author's drinking)?
 
 
 
 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I don't think it's alzheimers--oh say it on!--senility--but I seem to be repeating myself in these pages.
Anyway, here we go again: 
 
 
It has become almost cliché  among sentient people to agree to agree with old T.S Eliot, with the startling realization that what you have been thinking for years has already been well explored by somebody else. But better.
 
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." 
 
Afer fifty years of writing, performing, caurousing, whoring, I am something like a mole with a very tender nose. Seems nobody ever told me to go around! But one is mole-like, and it seems that there are certainly burrowing tendencies, probably the result of the last world war, where you had to dig, dig, dig, or be exploded.
 
When I wrote my European wartime novel, The Black Icon, I was blissfully unaware that the writing of that book was just the first step of a journey, easily, of ten thousand miles, with no real goal in sight, save that of one book, then another, then another probably to show how good I thought I was.
 
But I found over the years, possibly agreeing with old Willie Maughan, that there was only one book in me, and the second, third and fourth was just burrowing around.
 
After fifty years, I think I have come to he end of my tunnel. Like a Kafkaesque character drawn by my once-pen pal, Willie Elder in Mad Magazine, "YOU'VE DUG YOUR LAST HOLE, MOLE!
 
Seems today, I am right back where I first began with writing what my creative writing prof  had said was  one brilliant flash in the pan, THE BLACK ICON.
 
Jesus. Hundreds of thousands of wasted words, the babysitting with your toddler son tugging  at the paper in your typewriter, the years of surely masochistic starvation where you had quit  a perfectly good paying job the humiliation over what was probably deliberate failure just to experience what that was like.
The answer surely lies in humour, where
TV ole boy Jethro says to the rich artist, "You're supposed to suffer if you're an artist.
"Well, you're sure going to suffer when you find out some drunk backhoe operator loaded a ton of sand into your kidney-shaped swiming pool."
 
I've had the houses and I've had the pools, but there was this almost adolescent artist thing. "Have I, have I, have I made the grade?"
Too young to know I had made it, made it very early, and now like the nervous amateur thespian who only had two lines to say, "Hark! Cannon! I have ended up,at the end of my rope, like that nervous actor,  blurting out, "What the fuck was that?"
 
Goldurn it.
After fifty years, I am back where I started.
 
And to work again at that "dead art", as Ezra Pound said?
 
Look out. Once again I am going to rewrite, for the tenth time, my failed second novel, THE HAT PEOPLE.