Picture Perfect 31

Daniel was falling asleep on the couch when Sanjay called just after 8 p.m.

“Hi Sanj. I didn’t expect to hear from you. How are things for the grand opening?”

“The expected state of confusions and miscommunications. I needed to talk to someone who wasn’t asking me to make a decision that they could ignore.”

“It’s like that is it?”

“Oh, yes. Even Sylvan wants my input.”

“Oh?”

“He’s invited me to become a partner.”

“Great!” 

“I think he’s afraid of me leaving with all his secrets.”

“Sylvan has secrets?”

“Every business has them, Dan. Don’t tell me you don’t have some of your own?” 

Dan thought of his Dad’s saucy pictures.

“Maybe a couple.” Dan said.

“We have to talk when I’m in Toronto Monday.”

“You are coming home for sure?”


“Yes. I told Sylvan I couldn’t make any financial commitments without discussing them with you.”

“Financial?”


“Dan, you didn’t think I could be come a partner for free. It’s not like a firm of lawyers where you work your way up. It’ll cost about five hundred grand.”

“What? That’s a lot of jalebi.”

“Very funny.” Sanjay laughed. “That’s what I’ll want to talk to you about.”

Dan remained silent. 

“Sylvan says with your stores doing so well it would be easy for us to swing a loan.”

“Sylvan isn’t my accountant. We are covering expenses but any further capital outlay will take a few more years.”

“Oh. The house worth at least that much. You’ve paid off the mortgage.”

“Like you said we’ll talk Monday.”

“I should be in town around noon.”

“I’ll book off another couple of days so we can discuss this. I’ll meet you at the Depot. Bye.”

In the years he and Sanjay had been together money had never been an issue. They kept separate bank accounts for personal expenses and pooled their resources for major purchases like the car or for trips. Their accountant didn’t think filing as a common-law couple would provide any tax benefits either so they had never done that. The accountant had also suggest having the house in one name would make property taxes simpler. So it was Dan’s name on the deed.

On paper he was an employee of James Family Photos Inc. even though he was part owner. As Daniel James he was a freelancer who leased space from James Family Photos. As Dan James he was glad to have an accountant who knew how to balance the books for the various enterprises involved and keep everything legal. He would need the accountant’s okay before he would venture into restaurants.

But if Sanjay was talking about partnerships did it mean he’d let go of the notion of moving back to India? That was a good thing. Perhaps they would have more than finances to talk about on Monday.

Monday he was to get that proposal from Baxter. Which of his corporate entities would Quintex be hiring? Something else he’d need legal input on – did he need an entertainment lawyer. Yet another tax-deduction, as if he didn’t already have enough of them. 

<>

Sunday afternoon he had to go further than the back patio. He started out on his bike but peddling with one eye was too much of a logistic challenge for him and his neck, so he walked it back to the house and locked it in the garage.

He made sure the patch over his eye was secure before heading out again. The day was bright. Or maybe just seemed bright after being indoors for so long. He walked over to nearest grocery store and picked up salad fixing. His sister had been generous with meats but even KFC needs a salad to be digested properly.

What he really craved though was the Carafe’s onion bagel. That meant about a forty minute walk in bright sunshine. Twenty minutes if he caught the right combination of bus and street car. He took his groceries back the house, got one of the James Family Photos baseball caps from the hall closet and began the walk to the Carafe.

After about twenty minutes he’d wished he’d worn shorts and put on some sunblock. At least the brim of the cap kept the direct light away from his eyes. A bit of color wouldn’t hurt him.

He was sweating when he reached the cafe. Shorts definitely would have been in order for a day like this. It took his eye a few minutes to adjust to the dark of the cafe.

“Looks like you caught us boss man.”

He recognized Sandy’s voice from behind him. He turned to see her and Ushio sitting at a window table.

“Who’s minding the store?” Dan asked.

“We are.” Sandy and Ushio said in unison. Ushio gestured to the laptop on the table. It showed the front doors of the Depot from the point of view of the main display area.

“Someone touches the door and motion sensor will ring in here and we see them right away.” Ushio explained. 

“I go though here.” Sandy went out the rear entrance of the Carafe and moments later was on the laptop screen. “Can I help you?”

Dan laughed. “I have to give it to you two.”

Ushio shut the laptop. “Our break time is over anyway.”

Dan sat at the vacated table and took his hat, glasses and patch off. He was flushed from the walk.

“You need more exercise.” Jill said putting an iced latte in front of him.

“Tell me about it.” He scooped an ice cube out of the latte and rubbed it around his eyes. “That’s better.”

“Hurts much?” Peter asked.

“Only when I stare at the sun.” Dan said. “What I really wanted was a couple of those onion bagels. I hope there are some left.”

“Lots.” Jill said. “First really warm day and people want ice cream not bagels. I’ll have to get patio ready by the end of the week.”

“You know you’re always welcome to the roof. The solar panels offer great shade in the summer.”

“Climbing three stories is more work than most people want to do even for a great view.” Jill said. “That Baxter guy was here a couple of times looking for you.”

“We talked yesterday.”

“I could see why you were avoiding him. Weirdly pushy. It was almost as if you had told him to get me to tell him where you were.”

“Sounds like him.” The latte ice cube was making his face sticky. “Crap.” 

“How old are you?” Jill snickered. “Never play with your food.” 

He tried to wipe his face off. 

“Here.” Peter took his hand away. “Close both your eyes.”

Dan felt a face cloth gently wipe his face. He instantly got a hard on. He hoped the table covered him.

“Thanks.” He leaned forward to sip his latte. 

“No problem.”

Once he’d finished his bagel and he no longer had an erection to worry about he got up to leave.

“Thanks Jill.”

“Take care. When are you back to work?”

“Probably Wednesday. Sanjay is back from Bobcayjeon tomorrow. We have things to discuss.”

“I can give you a lift home, if you’d like Mr. James.” Peter said.

“I thought you walked to work.”

“Mostly, but I have my Dad’s car this week. He’s getting back from Calgary in the morning and I have to pick him up at the airport.”

“Sure. I have to check in next door though. Make sure the mice aren’t playing too much.”

“You know here to find me.” Peter cleared the table.

It took Dan about twenty minutes to let Sandy know the store was hers till Wednesday. Up in his office he sent an email to his accountants at Dell and Strong Financial Services to see if he could book an appointment Monday. He also got the missing children’s files.

“That was quick.” Peter said as Dan sat back at his table.

“Suvi and I can handle things here Peter.” Jill said.

Once he got directions from Dan, Peter nattered on about The Walking Dead all for most of the drive. He parked in front of the house.

“Thanks Peter. I really appreciate this.”

“No problem, Mr James, really.” He patted Dan’s leg then let his hand linger. “I could do with a cold drink, though.”

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Sense of Faith

Week Twelve of The Artist’s Way talks about faith – a sense of spiritual connection that isn’t tied to any particular region or dogma.

‘spirit of the universe

guide me

infuse me

with your dynamic productive energy

as you create through me

works

writing

emotions

that helps open others to

spiritual hope

direction fulfillment

thank you for all’

I wrote the above as one of the Artist’s Way tasks – to write a prayer/affirmation as part of the process of making thought into an action. I recently had a conversation with a friend about prayer. He was concerned that as he held no organized religious beliefs, was his use of prayer hypocritical. Was he  agnostic atheist heretic blasphemer? I told him those terms were based in a Christian construct. As I said that I thought about what Toni Morrison said about the nature of the white gaze which dominates so much of our thinking without us realizing it.

The past few weeks I have been realizing how much of my spiritual ideology is still seen though a Christian gaze, even though I don’t consider myself Christian. The prayer about was written with that gaze over my shoulder, an invisible editor that bargains with the universe in this trade off – like the Biblical trade off in which if you’re good you go to Heaven – we have to be bribed. Why can’t one be good for the sake of being good.

Why can’t I have ‘dynamic productive energy’ without bargaining for it by being of good to others as a result? Can I develop a sense of faith that steps out of the Christian gaze? Even though I say ‘spirit of the universe’ I see that I am engaging with it so as not to appear selfish, or self-serving. That my creativity is only of value if it feeds into the needs of others. Not that I expect faith to exist in a vacuum isolated from culture but I’d like one that doesn’t depend on a culture to approve or validate it. I have faith that that faith is possible 🙂

from Aug 2013

Five Calls

<>

the phone rings

what is it this time

time after time the same

never enough to last a week

if only hanging up could break a jaw

<>

the phones rings

how soon

see you in an hour

the heart dances

faster that the clock ticks

<>

the phone rings

how did you get this number

I don’t want to talk to you

there’s nothing left to say

that’s the price you have to pay

<>

the phone rings

stirring me from dreams

into the charms arms hold

everything to anticipate

nothing to resist

<>

the phone rings

have you heard

didn’t expect to be the one

left here dial tone dangling

cold receiver of sobs

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M M M

Mano Solo: La Marmaille Nue (1993). This is a pleasant stand-alone cd that I picked up in Montreal back in 1994. The music is frisky – a perfect combination of Kurt Weill & Jacques Brel with a dash of the musical Cabaret – sort of what Rufus Wainwright was aiming for 🙂 Songs about love, beer & man’s indifference to man. A great introduction to French music.

Then there’s Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch: Music For The People (1991) a great introduction to music by guys who looked good in underwear. Was he decent rapper? Who knows. The album itself is brilliantly produced. The borrow of Good Vibrations featuring Loretta Holloway – works because the original is a dynamic & Marky rides that piano wave. The same for his re-imagining of Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side. What ever happened to the Funky Bunch? I guess they didn’t want movie careers.

More M with Gay Marvine: Secret Fixes Mixes; It’s Bath House Etiquette! A couple of very queer dance collections remixed by Marvine. He has an ear for old school disco & I love his tracks. These are part of a 7.3 hr mp3 cd collection that also includes – Boots: Aquaria – electro dance;  Disclosure: Caracal (Deluxe) – more fun electro dance; Ab Soto: Mr. Soto electro dance with a latino funky beat & great queer, sex-postive lyrics; Julio Bashmore: Knockin’ Boots – guess what: gas positive elctro dance music;  Manila Luzon: Eternal Queen – one of the many dance diva drag queen discovered by Drag Race. Higher energy & I love ‘Bitch I’m A Bottom’ 

Finally on this collection is the retro-classic Joe Bataan: Anthology – more of that high energy stuff with a real latino grounding & less electronic. Bataan reaches back to the early days of disco. Yet he fits in perfectly with the more recent work by Ab Soto.


“We thought he had just left us. Abandoned us for decadent western living. That’s what the authorities told us. That our Dad couldn’t cope with his responsibilities to the State. He didn’t love us enough to come home. They showed us letters from him that said that. Our mother didn’t recognize the handwriting. We sent Christmas cards but now I doubt if he ever got our letters or cards to him. Once he had defected that was it.”

“But he did care for you. I remember he was so proud to have sons, and was so sad that he couldn’t be there with you.”

“Then why did he leave us there. We never really understood then. Going though his papers here I find that he spent a lot of time trying to get them to let us join him here but they blocked him at every turn. Your government didn’t help. I doubt they even tried.

“Not my area, as they say. There’s a point were everything is classified, so who knows what the truth is. Could have been some bureaucrat didn’t trust him and that was that.”

Vasili nodded. “Yes we have learned how much was suppressed over the years. It helps a bit now but then we thought it was all his fault. Particularly when our mother died. We had no one. We expected him to show up at the funeral. I don’t know if he knew she had passed away.”

“Things have changed. I hope.”

“Not that it is much better here in the long run. Do you know anything about that time he was assaulted.”

“Not much, just that it happened.”

“He ultimately died from his injuries from that assault. In his papers there’s a letter from the country prosecutor stating that they don’t press charges because the men involved would claim he had sexually interfered with them.”

“What!”

‘It went on to say that even if this wasn’t true, such an allegation would be difficult to disprove and did he want to have this taint on his public reputation. He could be deported.”

My Dad’s remarks about Mr. Razov now made sense to me.

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Distant Shadow Dance

Distant Shadow

where is the mountain pass?

<>

I need you

but the mountain

is in my way

<>

if I cross

I can never return

for I am the mountain

while my need for you

is the mountain pass

Oct/70

I love the way this piece doubles in on itself – a spiral that rewrites what you have read by the time to get to the end. I had been reading books on Zen by this time. Partly to step out of the culture I felt trapped in & partly to seem more intellectual than I really was. I’m not sure how much I understood of them at the time but they sure looked good on my book shelf. 

It’s another poem to a non-existent ‘you.’ The shadow was perhaps the fear of coming out? There’s also a realization that we often stand in our own way & until we learn to get over ourselves there is no progress. Maybe getting older was the shadow because as we age we can only remember but never get back.

Persephone Danced

I hear carousel music

when I want a lullaby

a dreamy hand to cover

this melody I can’t control –

who will I kill today?

<>

Persephone danced for Gauguin;

Medusa carved for Rodin;

ears bled for Van Gogh;

children laughed for clowns;

who will we kill today?

<>

let’s hang the clown,

railroad the circus out of town;

leave him sway till he rots;

who will we kill today –

ha, let’s hang all the clowns

JN76

I am a fan of Gauguin. I had prints of his painting hanging on my walls. The adventure of his life, the escape to the Pacific, were ideal fantasy fodder for me. If I had gone to French Polynesia it certainly would have been the native men I would have fallen for. I read & reread a biography I had of him. I had the Time-Life art series ‘The World of …’ so I was familiar with the works of Rodin; Van Gogh. They were thwarted geniuses – just like I was 🙂

I’m not sure how this poem segues from verse to verse – dance music painting sculpture – all fine arts, I suppose, but the connecting tissue is lacking. I’m also not sure where this penchant for hanging, or for clowns came from either. Maybe the face painters present to the world is a painting hung on a wall – like clowns presenting their painted faces to the world?

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Picture Perfect 30

Sunlight streaming on his face woke Dan. He groped for his wrap-around sunglasses and slipped them on without opening his eyes. For the sun to come in the window like that meant it must be midmorning. 

He went to the bathroom, came back to the bedroom, turned on the cd of yoga meditation music and went through the routine he had learned from Sanjay. The music was more a hum with gentle tabala counting the time.

The door bell rang. Well, he’d have to face up to it sooner or later. He pulled on sweatpants and went down to answer the door.

“Hamid?” He’d expected it to be either Curtis or one of his minions. 

“Good morning Mr. James, or should I say good afternoon.” Hamid was holding a cardboard box in front of him

“Come in.” Dan stepped on to the porch to see if anyone was lurking in their car on street. “My God! Is it that late in the day?”

“It most certainly is.” Hamid took the box into the kitchen. “You sister has sent some food for you. Without your cook to look after your meals she felt you might need some help. Has your cook left you?”

“She was referring to my partner Sanjay. He has not left me but is merely working out of town for a short time.” Was Linda sending Hamid to me as a temptation?

Hamid started to take containers out of the box.

“Thank you but that won’t be necessary.”

“Yes sir. She particularly wanted you to know there was some KFC, original recipe in there. What does it mean, Original Recipe?”

“As a marketing ploy they changed to a supposedly more healthy … coating. I’m not sure what to call it, they dip the chicken in spices before they deep fry the nutrition value out of it. It may have been better for people but didn’t prove better for their profits.” Daniel was amused by the way Hamid stood there smiling and watching as he spoke. “But I suppose you don’t have much of a cultural context for my childhood memories. Let’s just say KFC was a favorite of my Dad’s and ours when we were growing up.

“Thank her for me.” Dan went toward the front door to see Hamid out.

“It is no problem.” Hamid followed him. “I volunteered.”

“Thank you too, then.” He stuck his hand out for Hamid to shake. Dan didn’t want to appear to be cold nor overly -friendly. With men he didn’t know that well it was hard to tell what they might read into a simple conversation.

“Yes.” Hamid stepped into the living room. “I like to see how people live in Canada. In Toronto. In some ways it is so very different. In others very much the same.”

He stopped in front of a large silk panel painted with an image of Ganesha. “This is very good. Sanjay is the artist.”

“No. We picked that up some years ago in India.”

“He is very traditional sort of man. I can tell.”

“In some ways.”

“I must be going back to FairVista. Thank you for letting me see some of your home. I hope to see more of it sometime.”

“Yes.”

“I do not mean to seem out of place, I mean, out of line, but I have no family here. It is very hard to make friends.”

“You have family in India?”

“Most were massacred in the uprisings when I was a boy. I lived in an orphanage and then on the streets for a time.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Thank you again.” Hamid opened the front door. “If you wish help with anything please let me know.”

“I will. When Sanjay gets back we’ll have you over to dinner.”

“Thank you. I would like very much.”

Which uprising was Hamid talking about? He’d have to ask Sanjay about that. That is if Sanjay returned.

After he’d put away the takeout food that Linda had sent he relaxed on one of the chaises on the shady end of the back patio. He set his phone timer for twenty minutes. He wrapped a towel he had put in the freezer around his eyes. It was cool without being cold. He could get used to this. Doing nothing while looking at nothing. When was the last time he hadn’t gone into the Depot on a Saturday? Being his own boss he’d always found it hard to give himself time off.

The alarm went off. He took the towel away from his eyes. Put a folded bandana over them and then the sunglasses over that. He stood up and the bandana remained in place. 

He spent the afternoon with his vision blocked. It was an adventure groping around his house. He stubbed his toes a few times but as long as he moved slowly he was fine.

He felt accomplished once he’d done a load of laundry and hung it. He’d wait till later to see how well he’d hung it though. He listened to some TV, some cd’s, heated up something Linda had sent. From the feel of it in the container he knew it was rice. Probably from some Chinese place.

His injured eye didn’t ache as much. When his cell announced 4 p.m. he removed the bandana. The world revealed was not shiny and new or all sharp glints and irritating. He’d have to not see it for longer than a couple of hours

It was time to deal with Curtis now that his anger had faded. He changed the ‘unavailable to this caller’ setting on his phone. No more hiding from that beast.

Sure enough the cell beeped after ten minutes.

“Hello, Mr. Baxter.”

“Oh, Daniel! Thank God you are alright.” Curtis gushed. “When you didn’t answer my calls I was so worried. Almost frantic. Did you get the flowers I sent?”

“It’s Mr. James to you.” Dan said. To get control of this situation he’d have to be firm with boundaries.

“Don’t be like that.”

“If you want a business relationship with me that’s how it’s going to be.”

“I see. I can’t blame you after the way I’ve behaved but I when I get so enthused about a project I won’t let anything stand in the way of getting it off the ground.”

Dan remained silent. 

“You do understand that I never expected Kilpatrick to fly off the handle that way.”

Dan remained silent.

“When I told him about the possibility of a new series he … assumed he’d be involved and when I told him otherwise he … well, you know the rest.”

Dan remained silent. He knew given the chance Baxter would spin doctor himself into a corner.

“This is where we stand now. Quintex will probably approve the new project once we have the whole package ready for them. I want you to be a part of that package.”

“Probably?” Dan said. “The last time we spoke you presented it as done deal. If you want me to be part of a package I want to see the particulars in writing.”

“Why don’t you draft something? I can present it as your idea.”

Dan remained silent.

“After all that’s what Kilpatrick already believes. I had to present it to him that way so he wouldn’t think I was trying to sever ties with him. He’s become more unprofessional this past season, you see. Drinking, being sexually inappropriate with some of the female make-up technicians.”

Dan remained silent.

“When do you want a written proposal Mr. James?”

“By Monday morning. But, Mr. Baxter, if you spin it to look like it was my idea then count me out.”

“But it was.”

Dan remained silent.

“Alright. But you inspired it.”

“That I can’t deny.”

“There’ll be good money in it for you.”

Dan remained silent.

“More as co-producer?”

“Mr. Baxter, I have money enough now. I don’t need the exposure. What is in it for me?”
Curtis’s tone of voice changed. “You were in love with Timmy Dunlop. You want to find out what happened to him!”

Dan felt a sudden stab of pain around his eyes.

“I’m not lacking in sensitivity, Mr. James. I could tell from the way you talked about Timmy, you may have been childhood pals but you had feelings for him. Didn’t you? I bet his was the first dick you diddled. Just be grateful he was only year older than you and not ten years older.”

Dan remained silent. This kind of honesty was not the spin he was expecting.

“You know, Mr. Baxter, now that you’ve cut out the b.s. I think we might be able to work together.”

“Good. You better be worth it.”

“Keep in mind my hourly rate when you send me the proposal and I’ll let you know. Bye.”

Eyes closed he went to the fridge for an ice cube to rub around them. His Dad would have been proud of him sticking to guns like that.

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Fab Forty 1965

Dave Chritchton

I came across this CJCB Dave-a-go-go-Fab-Forty list in my social isolation covid cleaning frenzy. Although it is from April – many of these were songs of the summer. Daydream; Nowhere Man; California Dreamin’; These Boots. Going through the list I was surprised at how many of these songs I could hear in my head. Some of them I can’t get out of my head either 😉 

Some I have no recollection of – He Wore The Green Beret? Listening to Leslie on YouTube I have no recollection of this song – it is, as expected an answer record to Sgt. Barry Sadler’s hit. This is also the only song with a political agenda. Eddie Rambeau? 

I had many of these 45’s & lps. Now I have many of them at mp3s. Even those one-hit wonders – Elusive Butterfly; Magic Town. As expected the hits are all very pop with a few unexpected r’n’b, soul tracks there: Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett. First hint of psychedelic is the Yardbirds Shapes Of Things.

I remember the radio dominated by the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits but this chart is mostly USA top 40 fodder – no CanCan as far as I can tell. 

A bit of research tells me that the Liverpool Set were Canadian but they only released three singles. 

I can remember turning some of these songs up (19th Nervous Breakdown) & others down (Young Love) on my radio as I did my homework. I was always eager for my favourites to get played & I phoned in my votes to keep some things up there in the top ten. My music collection includes lps, singles by at least 30 of the bands/performers on this list! My retro collection is so full of good memories but trust me it has stayed relatively contemporary. It was tracks by the likes of Ramsey Lewis that open the doors to jazz for me. As Jim Morrison sang, at one time ‘music was your only friend.’ That wasn’t fully true but music is one of the only friends I have from high-school.

from August 2007

I’ll Scratch Yours

it’s hard to accept 

enough is never enough

I can scratch an itch

then minutes later 

need to scratch again

to get what I want leads to wanting more

if one-on-one is great 

a threesome is impossible to resist

<>

I’m a guy who can say no

but when I deny myself

I long to be praised

for not over indulging

on my way to sainthood 

when I want to gorge myself

the smug satisfaction of drawing a line

and sticking to it isn’t as rewarding 

as giving in one more time

<>

could be it that scratch

isn’t the solution to itch

should I try that zen approach

when the itch is ready 

the finger will appear

if only all it took was only a finger

can I learn to live with that itch

for another cd another man in the sack

better car bigger house

whiter teeth faster downloads

snappier sneakers flashier T-shirts 

all calling  scratch me now

or forever regret the opportunities 

missed by resisting

<>

even when I look away

I sense those glittering beacons

behind me just out of reach

straining teasing demeaning me

until I’m on my knees

too weak to do anything 

except beg for some relief

<>

to live with hunger

goes against our get-it-now culture

admitting that I don’t really want to scratch

is met with disbelief

what’s wrong with me

I gotta get with the program

whatever the fuck that is

but how do I get rid of the itch

isn’t there a way to feel free

be comfortable in my own skin

without the need to satisfy some urge

is this need to be free

just another in the long list of itches

<>

scratch my back

I’ll scratch yours

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July 2020 ReCap Pro

Over the month my TOpoet.ca following grew to 381! The July WP map shows that my hits have come from around the world. That India still tops the list is interesting  but that Romania has jumped to 4th spot is a surprise (Bună ziua cititorilor mei români). One day alone I got 60 hits from there. But Kenya has dropped out of sight 😦 My Tumblr (topoet) is at 287. Twitter (@TorPoet) up to 227 followers.

I’ve posted 29 chapters of Picture Perfect so far, nearly 45,000 words, with 143,000 words yet to be edited. I’ve been enjoying the challenge of writing about my Distant Music pieces. Sifting though that archive has let me see how much & how little my philosophy of writing has changed. I also sense how trapped I felt by cultural sexual norms. With so many pieces about hanging I’m surprised I survived.

Other July news: bought a new airmac Pro. My present airmac heats considerably after 30 minutes or so of certain use – zoom for one thing. It’s several years old & the drive can no longer be upgraded – I guess it has been archived. It was cheaper to buy the latest than get it repaired. 

There will a change in the frequency of my blog starting in August. I find I am putting so much energy into generating new posts that I am, in fact, writing less! I have an idea for a new novel – based on the flash fiction series I’ve been posting on Fridays with the music blog. But where’s the time? So the new routine will be Sunday – photos; Monday: – whatever; Tuesday – Picture Perfect; Wednesday – poetry talk – currently working through Distant Music; Thursday – my music collection. No posts on Friday & Saturday. 

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Mandrill Fudge

I put these two American progrock groups onto an mp3 cd filed under M for Mandrill (out of Brooklyn, NY.) They are paired with the much better known Vanilla Fudge out of Long Island, NY. NY is the only thing these bands have in common 🙂 

Vanilla Fudge’s slow extended heavy rock arrangements of contemporary hit songs established them as a progrock band. Baroque organ, pile driving drumming & often overwrought vocals laid the ground work for decades of heavy metal bands that followed. 

I have their first Vanilla Fudge; The Beat Goes On; Renaissance; Near The Beginning; Rock & Roll; their return in 2015: Spirit of ’67. The first is my high school soundtrack & I’ve had several copies of the lp. I loved polarized yellow & red cover & of course the ‘meaningful’ music. I hated ‘The Beat Goes On’ the followup, which is turns out they hated it too – a pretentious mishmash  they blame on their producer. I edited it down to just the music.Renaissance is perhaps my favourite & their most progrock lp despite it’s hideous cover art. Season of the Witch get’s worked over. By the live Near The Beginning – their sound had become sludge & predictable with now aimless drum/organ solos; with Rock & Roll – tempo picks up, more original songs appear but their moment had passed. They made a decent return in 2015 with Spirit of ’67 – an excellent collection of re-imagining of songs like The Letter.

There was a wide range of progrock that sprung from Vanilla Fudge: Deep Purple, ELP, Yes. But these were rock. Then there was Mandrill out of Brooklyn, NY. Their’s is an rootsy, soul, r’n’b, African mix that took prog in a different funkier direction. I have mixed in with Vanilla Fudge – Mandrill; Mandrill Is; Composite Truth; Just Outside of Town; Energize.

Their sound is a gritty version of Chicago – full horn section, percussion, rock guitar. Great vocals. Songs about love, ghetto life, racism & hope. Long extended jams, almost jazz explorations & of course a couple of pieces that cover one side of an lp. They never really had a hit single (that showed up on the Cape Breton charts anyway.) There are dozens of these lost bands & this is one worth searching out of you want your progrock on the soulful side. 

“So you were one of his new family?” Vasili pushed the beer bootle in the pool of sweat that had formed around it.

“Not for long. He coached the chess club for a few years. I was part of the team for the last few months before … he stopped.”

Vasili pushed his hair back with one hand – the hairs on the back of his hand almost as black & thick as the hair on his head. We had chatted briefly at the viewing. Only a few people had come.

“He would write us long letters about new his life here in Canada. How hard it was for him not to have us with him. After he defected we were taken from our mother least she leave with us.”

“I didn’t realize he was that important.” 

“Oh yes. He was … someone the government was proud of, a hero to the people, like … a cosmonaut. I later found out we where held as a threat. They told him would be harmed if he didn’t come back. We weren’t, you know, harmed. At least not directly by them. We kids were never told what happened. One day we were living with our mother and when we came home from school militia put us in a car & drove us to the farm where we grew up. No explanation. We didn’t get his letters until years later. Many years later.”

I wanted to say ‘how sad’ but there seemed nothing I could say that didn’t sound weak.

“He showed us pictures of his family. He missed you and …. didn’t know how to do anything.” 

Pushing my memory back those twenty years wasn’t easy. I’ve had so many of my own issues to stumble over and forgot Mr. Razov after a year or so. “Teenagers can be so self-centred.”

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