Death and the Trout

Franz Schubert (1797–1828) – I remember first hearing Schubert’s Death & the Maiden. It was love at first listen. I was sometime in the late 60’s. I had ordered it from Record Club Of Canada, which dealt with inexpensive reissues &, as it turns out, pirated cassettes. It was not the classical music I was accustomed to, that sweet, romantic Mozart stuff. This was strident, rhythmically challenging & almost rock’n’roll. Relentless & emotionally demanding.

In my collection I have a bunch of lp to cds that include Minutes/ Lieder/ Tanze; Lieder; Tanz/ Dances/ Valses; Waltzes/ Lieder; Waltzes/ Quartet/ Tanzes. The piano pieces were transfers of Vox box sets – sadly I didn’t note who played them. The lieder were sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. 

As stand-alones I have Wanderer Fantasy & over paint music; Trout Quintet & other chamber music; 12 German dances & other orchestral work; Complete Symphonies & overtures;  The Last Four Quartets (includes Death & The Maiden); Works for Violin & Piano; Auf den Strom & other vocal pieces.

No, this is not the complete works 🙂 But the bulk of it. The solo piano music is pretty to romantic. He wrote music for over 600 lieder! I only have a small selection of these – which I picked up only because of the Trout Quintet which was based on one of the lieder. I would love to hear a less concert set of the lieder – all version I have heard are too controlled & polished. Museum pieces.

His chamber music is delightful & comes from a time when people would host salons to listen to this music – or families would learn the pieces to play for themselves. The symphonies & melodic, sweeping & satisfying. Some of his work is surprisingly modern: songs for soprano, French horn & piano! 

If you are unfamiliar with Schubert I’d suggest the Trout Quintet to start as it is fun, the string quartets are good springboards to the rest of his work. He wrote an astonishing amount of amazing music & died at the age of 31 – 31! Did he write in his sleep?

This story goes back to mid 80’s. Dot-matrix print helped to date it, plus the subject matter. I was involved in the early days of ACT & some of it reflects the resistance of bar owners to become activists for safe sex. 

Cooler

“This beer isn’t cold.”

“Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!” Carl replied. “Hardly opened & already the queens are bitchin.”

“It tastes kind of weird too.”

“You should know.” Carl, standing on a stool in front of the upright cooler, turned to look down at George. The cooler was about seven feet high, & as wide as two refrigerators.

“Try it, if you’re so smart.”

Carl finished wiping the sign over his station & stepped down, pinning on a Play It Safe button he had found on top of the cooler. He was pleased, having worked at Matthew’s for only about a month, he already had a sign over his station. The pink-on-black sign read:

CARL’S COOLER

cooler than most

“Well,” he sighed stepping down. “What seems to be the problem George.”

George, usually his first sale every night, dropped in on his way home from work to unwind & unload. Carl had gotten used to life stories. He discovered that there was something about his size, a smidge over 5’4”, that made men want to confide in him. He sort felt like everyone’s little brother.

George handed him the beer. “You tell me.”

Carl took a sip & spit it out. “Jez! That’s piss.”

“You should know.” George joked.

Carl had never tasted piss, but the instant he held the bottle the word flashed in his mind. That flash was something he had gotten used to since he started working here, as the names of regulars he had never met, popped into his head, along with their favourite brands.

“Holy fuck.” Carl turned to his well-stocked cooler. “Has Jack been playing games with you babe? We’ll see about this.”

After giving George a fresh beer, he ducked through the entrance way under the bar & went looking for Jack, the manager & resident clown. If there was something funny happening, Jack’d be behind it. Of all the staff, Jack was the only one who rubbed him the wrong way, mainly because Carl wouldn’t rub him any way.

Jack was in his usual haunt, chatting up Barry, that week’s coat-check boy. 

“What’s up frost bite? Let’s not get political!” He ripped the Play It Safe pin off Carl’s t-shirt. “I had enough of that crap with Will, & now that he’s gone we’ll have no more politics, thank you.”

“Staying alive is more than politics.” Barry butted in.

Jack gave him a quick, dismissive glance. “We’re not going to discuss it. As I said, before I was so rudely interrupted.” He dropped the button into an ashtray. “What’s up, ice box?” He smiled pleasantly at Carl.

Carl handed him the bottle. “You tell me.”

Jack sniffed. “Well?”

“Piss. I guess.”

“Huh?”

“Some creep put a bottle of piss in my cooler.”

“You on the rag or what?” Jack replied.

“Full moon tonight.” Barry added cheerfully.

Carl was getting a bit steamed. He really liked working in gay bars, but sometimes these fucking queens got a bit too ditsy to tolerate. Even though this run-in with Jack had lasted less than five minutes, Carl knew he wasn’t going to be able to put up with any more if it.

“Just letting you know, boss,” He squealed to imitate Hervé Villechaize. “Don’t want any trouble on Fantasy Island.”

“Okay. I’ll check with the others. You get back to your cooler.”

Carl’s cooler, facing away from the dance floor, was in one of the darker corners of the bar. Being close to the men’s room it got a lot of traffic. George was waiting for another.

“Find out anything?” George asked.

“Yeah. Ghostbusters are on their way over.”

The first week at Matthew’s had been a bit rough, but once he got into the routine it wasn’t bad. One of the other staff had helped rearranged his cooler one night, so that the most popular stuff was always at hand. He discovered that stepping on the right spot on the floor the cooler would open for him. The beer he was reaching for was always the nearest. Tips were all right, & he did get to meet nearly every available man around. After two months he was comfortable there. Even Jack wasn’t hard to take, in small doses.

Other than the few regular early birds, things were quiet until after eleven. Carl was chatting with Dan, a somewhat intense blond, who didn’t drink but had a rare passion for tiny perfect men.

“Here’s my number.” Dan said encouragingly, giving Carl his number written on a corner torn from a page of the book he was reading. “You won’t regret it & I know I’ll enjoy myself.”

Carl was used to drunks hitting on him, looking for sympathy & to be humoured, but for someone sober to show an interest was unusual. Dan had been telling him about a play he had seen earlier, & Carl, for the first time, realized he was missing a big section of night life by being this part of it.

“I’m just a deep-in-the-sleazy-dark barmaid.” He laughed to Dan.

“You’re still alive, honey, so can’t have been all that sleazy,” Dan replied.

“I guess staying alive is more important to my sexual identity than sex.” Which was true. Despite the more than ample supply of available men, Carl had always been cautious. Even before AIDS, he hadn’t been one for sleeping with anyone just because they wanted him. He liked Dan, & felt his hormones beginning to hum. He folded the number & put it in his wallet.

“So give me a call. I’d like to see you in the daylight.”

“So would most of the guys here.” 

 part 2 next week

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Burned At The Stake

Burned At The Stake

this is not 

what I started

not what I expected

I didn’t ask for it

I don’t know how to stop it

no one does

<>

yet I get blamed

from so many sides

that push me to be

responsible

for being born male

for being born white

for being gay queer nonconforming

<>

if I don’t use

what ever entitlement I have

to advance the agendas

of those who fault me

I remain an enemy

but that is fate

my lot in life

<>

it doesn’t matter

who burns me at the stake

they all have legitimate reasons

who am I to complain

I’m getting what I deserve

not what I asked for

I’m not sure at what age I realized I wasn’t good at fitting in. Perhaps it was when I was 8 or 9 when my Dad began his move from Manitoba east across Canada, finally settling in Cape Breton. We hopped, skipped & jumped from place to place, including a few months in Wales with my mother & her family, for a year or so – staying in some places long enough for me to go to school for awhile. I was a frequently dislocated child.

Even when we settled in Sydney there were moves from one neighbourhood to another, one school to another. It was an adventure at the time but I really had no choice, I couldn’t stop it. I meet kids with stable living conditions – some living in the houses one of their parents were born in. I arrived there with no history & only the family I had was in a house new to us.

I did try at times to fit in, finding playmates to hang out with, joining in laneway baseball games – I even had my own baseball glove, joined cubs, boy scouts, went to the YMCA – none of which turned me into a butch boy. I wasn’t a great joiner – which really hasn’t changed.

I was, without realizing it, resistant to the insistent heteronormative inculcating that was the agenda of these things. This is what boys do, this is what girls do. I was mocked by gym teachers, parents of the kids I hung out with, even my own Dad, for not fulfilling these agendas. Blamed for not cooperating – for not living up to my potential – for not eagerly participating in things that were for my own good, things I didn’t start but didn’t know how to stop. 

I survived nicely & happily – occasionally got burned at the stake of public opinion but that is the lot of us abominations unto the face of the Lord & those who turn that righteous face in the directions of their choosing. In the end I’m not sure what I was asking for then – some sort of emotional guidance which never came. What I did get is the self-acceptance I deserved, which is better than being burned at the stake.


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Picture Perfect 52

Picture Perfect 52

“Fascinating, isn’t it.” 

Dan was startled to find Winston beside him

“Yes. I didn’t realize there were three Hippos.” Dan said. 

“Yes, most children didn’t think that largely. Your interest seems to be more than casual.”

“I hope you don’t mind me taking pictures?”

“Please, that’s what we’re here for. To bring back memories while preserving them as best we can. Do you want to take one of me shoving a pie at you.” He mimed pushing a pie into Dan’s face.

“Really?”

“Oh yes. Not that’d I’d say no to doing it but pie in the face is a professional service not a freebie.” Winston laughed.

“This museum an amazing concept.”

“Convincing the government was more amazing. My folks had all this stuff in storage all over the place. The storage fees were eating up any money they made and were truly eating up my inheritance when they passed away. I had a useless MA in fine arts and the debt to go with it. One bleak morning I got a bill from a storage depot. My synapses pop and eureka out popped Museum.

“To be honest I had spent some time at the Ringling Brothers Museum in Sarasota. I thought I was going to do a book on circus art but there was enough them already. One of curators there said I should think regional. When she heard about my background she sent me packing back here.” He held hands up in a ta-da motion. “So what about you? What family links bring you here?”

“Family links?” Dan asked.

“Off-season visitors don’t just wander in.”

“I’m here as part of the Quintex team.”
“The missing children? I thought you looked a bit familiar. Dan James? Right.”
“Yes.”

They shook hands.

“I was wondering if you would drop by. Not that we know anything about those disappearances but your dad is Richard James?”
“No denying that. He took a picture of your high-school graduating class?”

“No but … What you see here represents only a tenth of the materials I’ve unearthed so far.” Winston explained. “Let’s go my office. I’ll just let my assistant know where I am.” He sent a text.

Dan followed him through the Carnie Food Land.

“Hold on.” Dan said. “I really have get one of those Hippo Dogs.” 

“Original recipe.” Winston laughed. “this is a training test batch. Not to difficult?” Winston asked a young woman who carefully took one of the Hippo Dogs out the deep frier.

“And still cholesterol free too I bet.” Dan said biting into the deep fried shell of the battered hot dog. “Mmmm better than I remembered.” He then dipped the Dog into a little plastic cup of catsup and ate another piece of it. “Mmmm.” He went to wipe his mouth on his jacket sleeve when Winston handed him a paper napkin.

“Thanks.”

“Still our biggest seller. They are better now you know. Original batter recipe but the quality of meat has improved. Trust me though, they are still no better for you. But …” he stopped.

“But what … the contain traces of cocaine to addict people?”

“No. One of the files I found contained endless complains about the old Hippo Dogs. I was shocked at the numbers off people who got sick from eating them. I don’t mean over-eating. There was some toxin in them one year that literally made some people very very sick. Law suits were settled out of court. Seems my Mom put a lot of energy into dodging local public health officials.”

“Oh! oh!” Dan groaned, rolled his eyes and rubbed his stomach.

“Not any more. These are beyond public health standards. I’ve found some the butcher store bills for the old dogs and to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were made of old dogs.”

“Considering what hot dogs are supposedly made of that wouldn’t surprise me.”

“If it wasn’t the dogs it was the oil. Seems that was changed every other location stop.”

Winston’s office walls were covered with more flyers and photographs of various barkers, rides and performers.  Hen took a folder out of the filing cabinet in the corner. Dan recognized the James Photography logo on the envelope. “I found these not too long ago. Both my parents were pack rats you know but with no sense of organization. They needed a curator then. I’ve found items from the 1950’s mixed in with stuff from the ’20’s. Nothing annotated with anything helpful like dates or locations.”

“My Dad was the opposite. You should see his travel records. Dates, distances, money in, money out. How many cups of coffee ha’d had. But sometimes I still don’t know what he’s recording.”

“The parental secret code. These at least have dates on them.” Put linen gloves on and slid the photos onto the desk. “These seem to be the only record of the number two show in the summer of 1983.”

He handed Dan a pair of the gloves.

“Thanks.” Dan forced himself to look carefully at each picture. He fully expected to see the woman in the s and m pictures he had discovered.

“Do you recognize anyone in these?” Winston asked.

“I was only a kid at the time.” Dan said. “He didn’t take us kids on this shoot either. He sometimes did take us, if he thought we’d behave and have fun too.” He checked the date stamp on the outside of the envelope. “I was still in school. These were taken in April.”

“Just before our season really started.” Winston said. 

Dan took his loupe from his shoulder bag to examine the pictures more carefully. Some were of men and women sitting around a table, others were of the same men tossing balls or aiming rifles at various games of chance. Others were of the the women being balanced overhead either horizontally or vertically.

“I figure these were the special for the number three. That year the Flying Romonovs were touring with show three. It was the biggest of the shows.”

Dan was making double sure that none of these were the people in the smut shots. He was pretty sure they weren’t.

“We could do facial recognition if you want?” he said.

“Facial recognition?”

“Yeah, my sort of magic. I can scan these and then run them through a program that’ll match them to any other faces in the known world. It’ll take a few hours.”

“Your sort of magic?”

“I work in photo restoration and forensic examination, which means I find information in photos beyond what you see.”

“What do these tell you?”

“This was informal. No one is wearing white shirts, ties or even dress shoes. The location isn’t a house but could be like a hotel ball room. Something like that. The carpeting just isn’t house style. Nor are those tables in the back ground.”

“Cool.”

“You have more like these?”

“Not that I’ve found yet. But there are another two storage lockers yet to be dealt with. They’ve been opened and emptied into a container that is here in the basement waiting to be really cracked open.”

Dam checked his cell for the time. “Crap I have to get out of here. I was slipping away for the morning, not the whole day.”

“Here’s my card.” Winston gave him his business card. “Call me. I’d be happy to show you more of the hidden collection.”

“I’d like that. I’d also like to see more of what you already have in the exhibits too. But I can’t say when. Maybe I can talk the producers into doing something here?”

“Sounds good. But be warned Cross-Canada Cooks is doing an episode here this summer. Though camera crews fighting for shots would make great three-ring clown act.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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Kindle Garden

Before I get to the Kindle here the ‘real’ books I’m currently reading: brother to brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men ed Essex Hemphill (1988). I bought this re-issue as it is the only Hemphill in print. I did attempt to get his out-of-print poetry collection but it got lost in the mail & I had no way to prove that & so lost the $ I paid for it 😦 Anyway this is an excellent collection. Sadly some of the racism that black gay men experienced then is still happening. The chapters on HIV are heartbreaking & brought back memories of may work in palliative care.

I’m working this the box in Brick Books 50 books for $30.00 offer. I alternate one of those with the Whitman on my Kindle. I now reading monkey ranch – Julie Bruck. Excellent contemporary poetry. I loved this deal but at the same time it reveals the financial rewards of being a published poet. 

My kindle presently has Escape From Baghdad! – Saad Z. Hassain Set in Baghdad during the US invasion. It feature religious fanatics, mercenaries, occultists, soldiers & an ancient watch that doesn’t tell time. Gritty, no one can be trusted. The ‘science’ around the watch is more compelling than the ‘war’ elements. I enjoy the setting but so many shifting characters, shifting allegiances it gets a bit confusing.

Looming Low Vol. 1 – ed Justin Steele & Sam Cowan. This is an amazing collection of eerie short stories. Atmosphere over gore can’t be beat. Simple off-kilter setups lead through multilayered stories. The old Twilight Zone influence only adds to the power of these stories. Highly recommend. 

Complete Poems – Walt Whitman. Who knew Walt wrote so much! I was somewhat familiar with Leaves of Grass – but that about 10% of what he produced. I try to read a certain % of it then alternate it with something else. 

I also am working though: 12 Books – Steven Leacock; Complete Fiction – H.P. Lovecraft & 120 Bonus Poe stories; Slavery: Not Forgiven, Never Forgotten; Complete Works: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Works of Hall Caine; Complete Works: Emile Zola; The Ultimate Collection: novels & essays Mary Shelly; 51 Classic Works: Mark Twain; The Complete Works of Bram Stoker.

The Leacock & Twain are delight. Lovecraft good in limited doses. Slavery is a massive set of writing by early Black writers: poetry, novels, biographies. Doyle gets a bit dry with his historic romances. I read about Hall Caine in a biography of Bram Stoker. Hall was, at one time, the best selling novelist in the British Isles & a known homosexual, so I had to read him – very much of the period. As is Stoker’s fiction which gets a bit dry one the blood sucking stops. Zola is a writing God & one of my inspirations. Mary Shelly is interesting enough but is also caught up by literary styles conventions of her time.

Collections from Story Bundle one of World SciFi novels & anthologies & one of horror/ghost novels & anthologies. Seeing the future by non-North Americanized eyes is worth the effort. Some of these are the closest I get to reading contemporary fiction, as well, other than the occasional novel I’ve downloaded written by friends.

cerise

Your Eyes

what color are your eyes

really 

you know that’s my favorite color

honestly

well not really

I guess my favorite color is 

a sort of cerise

<>

you know the red of sherry 

when you spill it on an off white rug

just as it soaks in a little

I love that red

can’t get enough of it

<>

though I do really like the contrast 

of a suddenly spurt of blood 

on newly fallen snow

blood warm enough to melt sink

clotted crimson in a thin gleam of ice

that is a sweet color too

<>

or the tinge of a bruise after the third day

when the blue black is ebbing out

to that green blush along the edges

till finally it becomes as faint 

as a finger print on a knife hilt

or a the kiss of a rose 

trodden underfoot in a muddy field

after the police have searched for days

looking for clues

the dark deep brown of fresh dug earth

or ground recently patted down

to a sort of smooth quality

like skin untouched for a year or so

dried in the corner of a basement

who knew Aunt Sally was down there

we thought she had gone back to Florida]

<>

I love the color of her eyes

what was left of them anyway

a beige blackened

with whites jellied dried pink rose petals

<>

so I love the color of your eyes

yes that has to be nearly 

my favorite color in the whole wide world

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In The Night

foggy night from my back steps
the same foggy night – Greenwood Towers – not UFO’s in formation
snow on the forsythia in front of my house
TTC Greenwood switching yard
the lonely phone booth
spooky backdoor
laneway behind Carrot Common
would you take this shortcut?


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Nu-Disco Goth

One of the TV ‘reality’ talent showed I enjoyed the most was So Your Think You Can Dance. Thanks to pandemic & the plethora of other talent shows Can Dance came to an end. The show introduced me to many great, non-mainstream, musicians. Much of this CD compilation are such musicians. 

 

Nick Monaco is electronic music DJ who founded Unisex Records. One of his tracks came up not ehh how & glenn I saw a video of The Stalker on tumblr. Homoerotic is putting it mild. Here I have The Stalker ep; Veni Vidi Vogue ep; & Naked is My Nature. Bouncy, inventive & great keystroke music. Not emotionally draining & sweet. 

Bright Light Bright Light is Welsh nu-disco creator. The fact that he’s Welsh was a plus. I have Life Is Easy, Make Me Believe In Hope. Similar to Monaco but with more vocals. Uplifting, sex positive, danceable. Lyrically easy to understand & emotionally non-demanding without being banal. Good fun & great keyboard music.  

Somewhat different is Rozz Williams who was a goth who moved into a sort of punk cabaret sound. Rock music that doesn’t blister the ears. I have tow of his posthumous cds Accept The Gift Of Sin, Sleeping Dogs – they feature originals, live tracks & cover versions of Lou Reed & David Bowie. Great stuff & worth tracking down. 

Christophe Filippi is another one I never would have heard of if it hadn’t been Think You Can Dance. I have his Movements. This music for reaching out with one arm slightly lifted to a distance hopeful fray of light on a horizon. Deliberate, almost ponderous with longing vocals. 

Finally: Dirtybird Players a dance and electronic Music compilation by the Dirtybird label that includes Nick Monaco. If you want a state of the art (2017) of this genre this is a compilation for you. There is a nice diversity of sonic textures here & yet another good key stoke set of tracks.

 

The Allegory of Love 3

“He’s not going anywhere. Brian’s my guest. He’s my friend.” Steve called from the living room.

Ron stomped to the living room. “Some friend.”

I followed, pulling on my sweatshirt, afraid of how I might do if Ron continued to get physical. My intuitive reaction was to kill.

“Since when can’t I have a friend here?” Steve rushed at him. “You have enough of the.”

Ron pushed him back. “Since it was this trash. He insulted me without cause. You were there.”

“So, that’s it. Some girls can’t take as good as they give.” I thought. Even though I couldn’t remember what we said to each other that time years ago. I knew my words were as spiteful as his. The fact that I found Steve so attractive was probably what he remembered. My mind flooded with cruel defensive remarks, but all I wanted was out, before I became as unmanageable as Ron.

“I don’t want to make your life difficult, Steve. This isn’t worth fighting over.” I felt I had to say something, but didn’t want to feed into Ron’s anger by saying too much. He seemed too enraged to listen.

“You are right. Trash like you isn’t worth fighting over. He admits it. Now get out of MY home. Never show your face or that tired ass here again.”

I wanted to ask him why he was so frightened. I didn’t think I was a real threat to to their relationship. I never made complicated demands on Steve. Never pursued him. A simple little tumble every now & then was all I wanted. Maybe the fact that Steve enjoyed my ‘no demands’ was threat enough.

“This is my home too.” Steve shouted.

“Good. Great. I’ll be out of here in the morning if that’s what you want, & then you & your trashy friends can fuck your brains out all you want & get AIDS & die for all I care.” Ron’s voice rose to a scream. “But while I’m here I don’t want this piece of trash where I can see it.”

“You’re like this with anyone I like. Why do I have to friends you approve of?”

“Why do you live like this?” I thought, knowing it impossible to reason with anyone this angry. All they  want to hear is their own anger. “Someone should rescue you,” I thought, admitting that that someone wasn’t me. Steve would have to rescue himself, that is, if he wanted to be rescued at all.

“I’m going. Call me.” I said. For me the only way to deal with their anger, without become a part of it, was to walk away from it.

Ron stood by the door, arms crossed over his thin chest, glaring intently at me. Steve sat on the sofa, slumped forward, arms hanging between his legs, looking at me. I almost said, “Come with me” but wanted him to say that himself.

I waved goodbye. Ron shoved me out the door. If he had hit me with half the force he slammed the door with I’d have been flat on my back. In the elevator down I wondered if this is what love became – fear & procession.

I muddled the scene over the next day, looking for a right thing I could have said or done. I had just started to write Steve telling him how I felt, when it dawned me that I had been used. Steve hadn’t asked me back to his place to get in my pants, but to annoy Ron. Ron’s anger proved that he cared enough about him to be hurt by me. I doubted if they were even aware of what they were doing to each other. And me? I wasn’t using my head if I expected them to change just to satisfy my teddybear longings.

And as Steve brushed by me tonight, with that hook in his thigh, I long to take the bait, but I don’t do more than look. I’m not going to piss in that wind, tonight.

“Not again!” I reluctantly pushed Steve’s roaming hand away. “Don’t start something you’re not going to finish.”

“He’s not going anywhere. Brian’s my guest. He’s my friend.” Steve called from the living room.

Ron stomped to the living room. “Some friend.”

I followed, pulling on my sweatshirt, afraid of how I might do if Ron continued to get physical. My intuitive reaction was to kill.

“Since when can’t I have a friend here?” Steve rushed at him. “You have enough of the.”

Ron pushed him back. “Since it was this trash. He insulted me without cause. You were there.”

“So, that’s it. Some girls can’t take as good as they give.” I thought. Even though I couldn’t remember what we said to each other that time years ago. I knew my words were as spiteful as his. The fact that I found Steve so attractive was probably what he remembered. My mind flooded with cruel defensive remarks, but all I wanted was out, before I became as unmanageable as Ron.

“I don’t want to make your life difficult, Steve. This isn’t worth fighting over.” I felt I had to say something, but didn’t want to feed into Ron’s anger by saying too much. He seemed too enraged to listen.

“You are right. Trash like you isn’t worth fighting over. He admits it. Now get out of MY home. Never show your face or that tired ass here again.”

I wanted to ask him why he was so frightened. I didn’t think I was a real threat to to their relationship. I never made complicated demands on Steve. Never pursued him. A simple little tumble every now & then was all I wanted. Maybe the fact that Steve enjoyed my ‘no demands’ was threat enough.

“This is my home too.” Steve shouted.

“Good. Great. I’ll be out of here in the morning if that’s what you want, & then you & your trashy friends can fuck your brains out all you want & get AIDS & die for all I care.” Ron’s voice rose to a scream. “But while I’m here I don’t want this piece of trash where I can see it.”

“You’re like this with anyone I like. Why do I have to friends you approve of?”

“Why do you live like this?” I thought, knowing it impossible to reason with anyone this angry. All they  want to hear is their own anger. “Someone should rescue you,” I thought, admitting that that someone wasn’t me. Steve would have to rescue himself, that is, if he wanted to be rescued at all.

“I’m going. Call me.” I said. For me the only way to deal with their anger, without become a part of it, was to walk away from it.

Ron stood by the door, arms crossed over his thin chest, glaring intently at me. Steve sat on the sofa, slumped forward, arms hanging between his legs, looking at me. I almost said, “Come with me” but wanted him to say that himself.

I waved goodbye. Ron shoved me out the door. If he had hit me with half the force he slammed the door with I’d have been flat on my back. In the elevator down I wondered if this is what love became – fear & procession.

I muddled the scene over the next day, looking for a right thing I could have said or done. I had just started to write Steve telling him how I felt, when it dawned me that I had been used. Steve hadn’t asked me back to his place to get in my pants, but to annoy Ron. Ron’s anger proved that he cared enough about him to be hurt by me. I doubted if they were even aware of what they were doing to each other. And me? I wasn’t using my head if I expected them to change just to satisfy my teddybear longings.

And as Steve brushed by me tonight, with that hook in his thigh, I long to take the bait, but I don’t do more than look. I’m not going to piss in that wind, tonight.

“Not again!” I reluctantly pushed Steve’s roaming hand away. “Don’t start something you’re not going to finish.”

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Fear Walks In

Fear Walks In

some people

bring fear into a room

ideologies that I am expected

to accomodate

without knowing

<>

they prejudge me

for prejudging them

merely because of who I am

of who I appear to be to them

<>

I am an enemy on first sight

without having to say a word

or take any action

other than being there

of being unlike them

they feel unsafe

because I am not invisible

and it is my fault

<>

all my fault

for not understanding

what they haven’t told me

At a recovery meeting, when we could meet face to face, after a step had been read aloud – going from person to person around the room – a member shared on their difficulty with the hetero male normative language. When they read their section they de-gendered the language & as did some of the others who read. They implied that those of us who did not, lacked sensitivity to important gender issues. 

I gave an inner shrug – I’ve been around recovery rooms long enough that I am not unsympathetic to this but at the same time I’m in recovery to recover not to deal with linguistics or how to do the gender appropriate reading aloud of the literature. 

Referring to God as a him is off putting to some people, referring God at all is off putting to some people – if I don’t take pains to make the proper substitutions I make them feel unsafe. What can one do. Stop reading aloud? Ask for a show of hands, before reading starts, of people who feel unsafe because there are cismales in the room who don’t mind being called he? Online some people are including their pronouns as part of their names. (By the way my pronouns are it or that.)

After reading at an lgbtqia open stage an audience member spoke to me about enjoying my pieces but wondered if such sexually explicit material was appropriate because many in the community were triggered by such material. I had introduced one of pieces as being explicit but I guess I hadn’t allowed people enough time to leave the room. I’ve spent enough energy in saying my ‘partner’ & avoiding gender specific pronouns so as not to offended delicate hetero sensibilities that I’m not going spare lgbtqia by suppressing myself. I’d rather not perform than get trapped by self-censorship.

The fact is I’m not all that sensitive.

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Picture Perfect 51

Picture Perfect 51

Dan could smell popcorn even before he had opened the front door of the Maritime Circus Museum. As he opened the door, calliope music announced his entry. Man, that must get irritating for the people who work here, he thought.

The inside lobby was a ceiling to floor front of a circus tent – a ticket booth in the middle, a partially opened tent flap, & two large canvas posters on either side of the ticket booth. They had to be at least twelve foot high. The ones on the left were for ‘Cora! Queen of the King Cobras’ – it showed a wide-eyed, smiling woman clad like a bellydancer, charming a king cobra by staring into its eyes. ‘Cora can charm the most dangerous of poisonous snakes. Think of what she can do with mortal man.’

Beside it was one for ‘Sharko – The Fish Man’  A thin man in bathing trunks was half twisting to show the fin on his back, his legs were covered with scales and there appeared to be gills under his jaw. ‘See his scales, his fin. Watch as he dives deep and stays underwater longer than humanly possible.’

On the other side were posters touting first, ‘Fireball.’ It showed a man putting a flaming touch into his mouth. He was wearing a flame painted costume with a what appeared to a lighting bolt of flame flashing from his crotch. Beside the ‘Fireball’ was one for ‘Madama Cabanalla’: a Gypsy woman staring out at him with a crystal ball floating over her palms. ‘Madama Cabanalla sees all! Tells all!’

A sign on the ticket booth invited him to ring for service. An arrow pointed to a rope that he followed with his eyes as it went through a series of pulleys to a fire-station type bell on the wall behind him. A group came in the door as he was about to pull the rope. Two adults and six children.

Dan pulled the bell rope. The alarm rang loudly for a minute and then res & yellow balloons shot up from the roof of the ticket booth with a loud bang. The children screamed and laughed. Dan shook his head in amazement.

A man dressed in a red blazer, with a striped yellow vest and black check pants stepped out from the tent entrance.

“Welcome! Welcome.” He reached his hand out to one of the adults. The adult was leery and squinted as if expecting a hand buzzer as they shook hands. Nothing happened.

“Welcome one and all to Chamberlain’s Maritime Circus Museum. I am Winston Chamberlain. The Happy Hippo Travelling Circus has been in my family for several generations since 1899 when Grant and Isabelle Hill started it. It toured the Eastern Provinces changing with the times over the years until it could no long keep up with the times.”

“You are free to explore the exhibits and the grounds as you want to for free, or you can take a guided tour with ME.” He pulled a bouquet of flowers out of his coat sleeve and presented it to one of the young girls in the family group. “The cost of the tour is your soul … just kidding. It’s a mere $10.00 each.”

“How long will that take?” One of the adult asked. “An hour.” Winston answered. “An hour you will never forget.”

“Can we Daddy?” one of the children asked. “Can we?”

“Is there a children’s rate?” The man asked.

“Only if their feet never touch the ground.” Winston answered. “And their hands don’t touch an exhibit, unless instructed to.”

Dan laughed at Winston’s spiel. He saw that it disarmed the parents of the children, who reluctantly paid the admission fee. 

“And you kind sire?” Winston asked Dan.

“I think I’ll explore a bit first. It might be quieter.”

“I hear you.” Winston nodded. “If you want the printed guide to the exhibits that’ll be $5. Which you can pay to my lovely assistant right though here.”

He lifted the tent flap wider and tied it back so they all could enter.

“That included with the tour Mac?” The dad asked.

“Nope.” Winston said. “But you each do get a free bag of popcorn.”

Dan went into the tent and bought the guide. The assistant was an automation pirate that dropped the booklet down a slot & out into his waiting hand. The museum was divided into several areas. One that dealt with the history of it, one that had a display of the various flyers, posters, costumes; another that devoted the various carnival games and food; in an out door area were rides dating back to the first years of the circus. Not all of them were functional and the ones that were would cost $10.00 each to ride or any three for $20.00.

“We’ll start with the Carnival Food Fair,” Winston said to the family, who were joined by several other people. 

Dan went in the opposite direction to the first of the exhibit rooms. The guide book gave a concise time line of the carnival, explained the difference between a carnival and a circus. A circus always had animals, lions, tigers; always had performs like clowns, trapeze or tumblers; rarely had rides. Whereas a carnival had more games of chance; rides; some would have freak sideshows such as The Fish Man; large ones might have simple animal acts like dogs or the occasional snake charmer like Cora. Animals always slowed down travel time and over the years were phased out as the rides became a bigger draw.

The exhibit hall Dan went into had a map of the Maritime provinces filling one wall. There were different coloured and sized circus flags representing the decades and places various carnivals had traveled to when they were on tour. The Happy Hippo was the only one based the wartime’s but a couple of the bigger ones, like the Conklin, sent touring midways to Halifax every summer. The larger the flag the more frequently it visited a particular town or city. 

Some would get an annual visit, others every two or three years. It would rarely stay longer than a week at any one place unless there some other festival or event going on at the same time. 

There where three Happy Hippo touring shows. Dan hadn’t realized this before. He’d always assumed that there was just the one he recalled from his childhood. Each of them had different rides, games of chance. The larger the town or city the larger the carnival would be, hence the three different shows. It also meant three of them could be on the road at the same time and participate in more than one local festival at a time.

There was a computer interface with the map where one could input year, month and see what locations which show was performing. It would also tell you what rides, sideshows and specials where appearing with it, how long it stayed. But not how much money it made.

Dan typed in the month they had left for Toronto. All three shows were on the road. The one nearest Stellerton was the smaller number 3. It played in Truro the week before and had moved on the day after his family left. He saw that a Madam Cabanalla was featured in all three shows. So there must have been more than one of her. Though perhaps her psychic power allowed her to appear in three places at the same time. He’d have to ask Glaucia if the was possible. The Truro special was Cora Queen of the King Cobras in the Court of King Tut. He took pictures of the various pages before they disappeared.

Was Cora why he was so disappointed in not getting to the circus that last weekend? He had been so into Tut that summer for some reason. Following links on the computer screen he found a flyer for that area’s carnival. It also said that the actual flyers could be found in Exhibit Hall two. He consulted he guide to see where that hall was.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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Games

Growing up we had a frequent Sunday night family game with card games & board games. I don’t recall exactly when it started but may bother & sisters were included. We would play in the dining-room, which we rarely used for dining. The table was large enough & was usually clear of stuff. Card games were simple enough Hearts, Crazy 8s. I was told by my Dad not to try too hard to win to my siblings had a chance.

We graduated to Rummoli. I checked it out online & the fold out board is familiar but the rules for the various elements boggle the mind. I recall Cribbage mainly because keeping score was a pain. Gin Rummy was another but that too was a point counting challenge. I usually let someone else keep score for both.

Although we had Monopoly & Scrabble, the board games I recall best are Stock Ticker & Careers. Both were dice games with playing pieces. In Stock Ticker one bought & sold shares as they went up & down with rolls of the dice. The game had its own paper play money. It could go on forever, I think. Or maybe it was over when all the play money was gone or someone had gone bankrupt. The one with the most money was the winner.

Careers was a sort of Monopoly variation. Rolling dice. Moving your piece around the game board & landing on good or bad squares. There was also a form to fill in of what you wanted: fame, money etc. The winner was the one who first fulfilled what they filled in on their form. I was fond of going for all love or all fame as $ wasn’t as lasting 🙂

With the lockdown I hope more families are trying to this old school games. I have tried the computer/video versions of some of them but I like the simplicity of the hard copy 🙂 Card games are too fast even if the computer keeps score. The electronic sound of dice rolling or cards shuffling isn’t as satisfying. Besides you can’t ask the desktop to get you a sandwich while it’s up 🙂

(games photos sourced via yahoo images)

Eggs Rule

there were more eggs 

than the eye could see

they stretched from one door to the next

from one telephone pole to the next

balanced on electric wires

dangling from the tips of tree branches

<>

eggs of all colors and sizes

robin’s blue so simple and pure

lumpen grey brown emu 

shells that couldn’t be cracked 

shells that cracked at a slight breeze

eggs in mailboxes on street corners

rolling around with nothing to do

aimless without purpose

loitering without intent

<>

eggs looking to be scrambled

to be fried by the right pair of eyes

the temptation to let them all hatch

had to be resisted

too many feathers

the gritty remains of shells under foot 

was irritating enough without 

moulting and feathers in the equation

feathers that held microbes mites diseases

eggs were harmless

as long as they remain intact

it was hard to avoid them

<>

eggs on the subway

leaning over your shoulder 

hinting they wanted to sit down

trying to nestle in your pockets

for warm incubation

eggs on tv telling 

newsmen what to say

controlling the weather

refusing you a loan at the bank

spinning dizzy

at any hint of being interested 

in anything you say against them

<>

eggs rule the world now

we might as well accept that

put down that spatula

don’t go near that whisk

eggs are in control

so surrender

this is their world now

it always was

we have been forced out of denial

the truth can finally be told

<>

eggs invited the light bulb

made the first Atantic crossing

landed on the moon

all history books are to be revised

to reveal the awful inadequacy of humans

in the face of facts

that showed our greedy eagerness 

to hog all the fame acclaim glory

that belongs soley to the egg

the egg that wrote the ninth symphony 

the gg that found the first the rose

the egg that invented the book of love

and now wants 

to tear out all the pages

wants to break our hearts

to serve them sunny side up

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See You Again Never

I took this set of photos a couple of summers ago when this hoarding art sprung over the course of a couple of weeks. I loved the message, the style, the use of found objects & how it reprised what was already on the hoarding. 

It’s on the south side of Danforth,  east of Bastedo Ave. The remains of it are still there. Bits & pieces hav been torn off but it hasn’t been obliterated by the city even for Destination Danforth. My only disappointment is it didn’t inspire more of the same on other hoardings.

Oh yes – the hoarding protects an empty pit waiting decades now for redevelopment. At one time there was a hardware store there. The store caught fire & was totally incinerated. Going through the remains the fire inspectors found human remains & evidence that the fire had been set by the deceased.


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