The Late Charlie C Petch

I suppose I should start with the disclaimer – I’ve known Charlie over 20 years. We met when I reimbursed myself in the Toronto spoken word scene in 1999 at the Renaissance Cafe (now a butcher shop) when Valentino Assenza’s Cryptic Chatter was in flower. At that time Charlie hadn’t embarked on the arc of a life that took him from female cultural gender drag to his present trans masculine reality. An arc that can be on going.

The pieces in ‘Why I Was Late’ follow some of that arc. I’ve heard several them many times over years & appreciate Charlie’s ability to rewrite what you’ve just read with a closing line. This is writer who knows the power of the right ending – as opposed to the obvious ending. Charlie never takes the easy way out, never underestimates the intelligence of a reader understand.

Directly or indirectly the pieces deal with growing up while living in a rigidly gendered culture – one in which even colours are not allowed to be neutral – i.e. pink for girls – serious writers wear blacks, greys & purples. But colour coding & print fabric condemnations are another post. 

Charlie’s piece about being a lighting rigger shows how females in traditional male occupations have to struggle with the cultural acceptance that it is the females fault if men find them attractive. They become as adept at off uncalled for male attention as they do at doing their job. I suspect many females avoid those professions, not because they can’t do them but to avoid dealing with men’s rampaging testosterone.

Simple, direct language makes these pieces accessible to everyone. This a book of lived-in experience not of abstract musings on the silence of snow or the lambent light on prairie wheat but of people enjoying, struggling with the demanding emotions of self-realization, of stepping out of the culturally dictated colour codes & into the power to be.

Now in its second-printing this Brick Book publication is available from Brick Books as well as at most major & independent bookstores. Get it.

Bloody Footprints

the movie opens

on a busy sidewalk

someone with a knife

stabs a stranger

keeps on going

while the victim collapses

remember the knife

the flash of it

the thrust

blood blood blood

<>

people stepping in it

as they step over the body

on their important way

bloody foot prints

quickly splotching the sidewalk

as the camera

pulls up up

the police arrive

the credits roll

over the expanding trail

of bloody foot prints

<>

steps lead to smart shops

to offices

into elevators

down marble corridors

over carpets in hotel hallways

cafe floors

washroom stalls

<>

blood gets on hands

trying to clean shoes

the fingerprints on mirrors

coffee cups

documents

dried flakes fall between 

keyboard keys

smear smart phones

traces tracked undetected through 

airport screening machines

splotches on luggage

the blood travels around the world

<>

the sidewalk

with the outline of the body

is a pool of blood

after crime scene photos have been taken

after cellphone photos have hit the net

city works come to clean it up

<>

the camera looks for the stabber

pushing through crowds

roving over heads shoulders

no faces

hands washing

blood pooling in sinks

almost dripping down the walls

of apartments

seeping out of TV screens

<>

bloody footprints

lead up to a door

the bell rings

you reach to open the door

the closing credits roll

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Nyro Redux

I first heard a Laura Nyro (1947–1997) song without knowing it was hers. That was Stoned Soul Picnic performed by The Fifth Dimension – then When I Die by Blood Sweat & Tears. These were songs that stood out from the other work by these groups. In Cape Breton her lps weren’t easy find as she had no hits beyond these cover versions. I think my first lps of hers was Smile & Nested – amazing comforting music not as melodramatic as her earlier works.

I have either as mp3 or strand alone: The First Songs 1967, Eli & The 13th Confession 1968, New York Tendaberry 1969, Christmas & The Beads of Sweat 1970, Gonna Take A Miracle 1971, Smile 1976, Season of Lights live 1977, Nested 1978, Mother’s Spiritual 1984, Angel in the Dark 94-95, Essential 2000, Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro 2014.

She started as a powerhouse hits writer, but by her 1970 she was running out of stream & also wanted to move her music is more introspective direction. So there was five year break where she retrench, married, had children, divorced, moved out of New York city & returned to the studio for two of my favourites Smile & Nested – sweet gentle warm music that didn’t sell well. She lost interest in the music business. Settled down with the love of her life, another woman. I’ve blogged about Laura before & she was a music genius the music business couldn’t dictate to & like some others from the them (Janis Ian) she followed her own muse. The Essentials is a great place to start – or get the Fifth Dimensions Hit 🙂

The mp 3 collection also contains: Burl Ives: 20th Century Masters including – Ghost Riders In The Sky – a favourite of my Dad’s which I had to have. A couple by Ian & Sylvia: Nashville – Ballad of an Ugly Man, Full Circle – Women’s World. I loved these when I had them at vinyl. Two of the best Canadian lps you’ll ever have.

More Canadiana with Gordon Lightfoot’s first that included Ribbon of Darkness. Just for fun Donovan: The EP Collection. The Ep format was very popular in Europe – 4 to 6 songs on a small sized 33.3 – some never released on lips & some with different mixes. Finally Myke Mazzei’s Live At Amsterdam Bicycle Club, includes Nobody’s Saviour. This goes back some 10 years ago & it a sweet set by a talented Toronto singer/songwriter. 

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Remains

Remains

months later

the body hasn’t been found

snow 

flies 

dances around a backyard

ground frozen hard

shock dissipated somewhat

we know all the details

we’ve been allowed to know

how they met, why,

the history of both men

the deceased and the accused

made manifest

all that’s missing is the corpse

<>

bleached bare bones 

found years from now

when everything is forgotten

his name

the innocent till proven guilty

my name

I’m not naming names

don’t want anyone remembered

for how they died

his life is more than that

<>

his life has to be more

than a cold case years from now

more than a denial from the accused

more than just another queer

who go what he deserved

<>

years later

and the body hasn’t been found

the estate can’t be settled

some people still can’t sleep

don’t feel completion

whatever the fuck that is

I don’t want completion

revenge or justice

I want this 

to never have happened

<>

I want to forget

where the remains

can be found

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Picture Perfect 89

Picture Perfect 89

“You are right. There isn’t much residual energy of her here. Too much testosterone in this room since she was last here.” Jennifer went to the window. “Is that the tree she liked.” A tall maple dominated the view from the window. “I mean the one behind the maple. That maple wasn’t there when she was here.”

“What about the leaf in the envelope?” Dan asked.

“One of the twins put that there.” 

“Seal.” We planted two maples when they were born. We cut one down. But I …I don’t think she had a favourite tree. Paula was more an indoor child. Now that you mention, it I don’t think she had a favourite anything. No dolls or stuffed animals she had to have near her. Same with her clothes. What she wore was never a big thing.”

“Until the Banshees.” Dan said.

“Yes. That last year she became more … I guess the word is ‘aware’ of herself as a woman. She knew how much it aggravated her step-mother as well.”

“She wanted the attention.” Jennifer said. “I doubt if she was a real fan of any band. This one worked. If it hadn’t she might have tried Madonna to get the reactions she wanted.”

“I need a break.” David said and left the room.

“This is a wrap for now.” Brenda said. “Take, say, an hour. I’ll talk with Mr. Morrison and see what’s up.”

The camera crew went downstairs. Brenda motioned Dan & Jen to stay in the room.

“Do you think we’re getting anything here. I mean neither of you seem to be picking up any vibes or clues. No new information.”

“Perhaps not but he does confirm the ineffective way the constabulary dealt with things.” Jennifer said.

“We already know why these children were never found. That isn’t strong enough.”

“So we’re back to stretching things out for 90 minute episodes.” Dan said. “You want me to accuse him of molesting his daughter which forced her to run away.”

“My God.” Jennifer paled. “You mean she might not be one of the victims after all?”

“Abuse is something the RCMP would have suspected. They do that in all cases of missing children.”

“Now they do. Did they back in the eighties?” Brenda asked.

“I’d have to see the actual case file. You know, the files that the division has been unable to locate. I don’t get that vibe from him.”

“I don’t get that from the house either.” Jennifer said. “But the minute you suggested that it give me the sort of chill I get when an ugly truth is revealed. Someone was seriously traumatized in this house. Perhaps this room. But the weird shape of this house does things to energy.”

“He’s right about pyramid power?”

“Oh yes. This shape attracts and channels an energy your average house doesn’t.”

“I’m for talking with him some more.” Dan said. “At least to find out who saw her after she left here. Maybe, she did go the reserve. She’s the oldest of the children that went missing and was clearly more involved in a world outside of the home and school.”

“I’ll talk with Mr Morrison and see how he feels about going on.”

“I’m going to take a stroll around the grounds.” Jennifer said. “Do your eyes only work on photographs?”

“No. It took me a few years after I left the force to stop seeing all rooms as crime scenes. I don’t know if I want to get back into that head set.” 

They walked down to the first floor & outside.

“Did you ever wonder why it is your photo eye is so acute?” Jennifer asked. “You’ve had specialized training but you make connections that go beyond training.”

“You suggesting I might have some psychic powers?”

“Strong intuition …”

“I just remembered something.” David Morrison joined them. “Follow me.” They walked over to one of the domes. “When the RCMP decided to follow up on our fears they found her bicycle at her cousins. That’s when they concluded she had run away with them.”

He opened the door into a dome. 

It was stacked with plastic storage boxes, chairs, sofas, a covered rack of clothing, gardening equipment. He stepped aside to let camera man into the dome to take a shot of the interior.

“It’s back here. Give me hand with this.” With the help of the other camera person he slid the covered rack away from the wall.

Dan coughed with the dust and left the dome when the dust got into his eyes.

“It’s been decades since I moved anything around this far back in here.” David said. 

Dan’s eyes began to water as he sneezed repeatedly.

“You alright.” Jennifer asked him.

For a moment he couldn’t see anything. “I’ll be okay.” He blinked his eyes but they didn’t clear up. “I think I better wash my eyes out. That dust has done a number on them.”

Brenda lead him to the remote truck. “I’ll see if they have any water.”

“Bottled.” Dan said, “I don’t want to risk the well water.”

“How does that feel?” Brenda asked.

“Better. The stinging is gone.” He blinked tentatively. Things were clearer. One of the crew handed him a towel. He carefully dried his face and around his eyes. He could hear coughing and hacking as the others exited the dome. 

“Sounds like I’m not the only one.” he said.

“No.” she said. “Everyone had to get out of there thanks to that dust or whatever it is.”

“I hope it isn’t toxic.” He opens his eyes more fully. He took a deep breath. His heart was no longer racing. Cameron was placing a wet cloth over his eyes.

“Fuck!” David sat on the bench beside him. “Sorry about that. I guess there had been some pesticide stored in there. But I did find the bicycle.” He sneezed & his nose began to bleed. “Shit!” He dashed into the house.

“Maybe we should call it a day.” Stephanie said. “I’ll check with Morrison to see if he’s ready to go on.” She went into the house & came back a little later.

“What did Morrison say about continuing the interview?”

“If we can wrap it up today. Seal will be here tomorrow, Wolf the day after. It’s their birthday and this year they’re coming home to celebrate. Neither wants cameras around.”

“Let’s do it then.” Dan said.

He & Jennifer went into the house with the camera crew behind them. 

“Mr. Morrison.” He called out.

“Up here Dan.”

Morrison was in the glass peak of the house reclining on a day bed with a pyramid awning to protect it from the sun. It was in the centre of the room.

“I come here to focus the energy on me.” he said though an iceberg on his nose. “It works.”

“What about the bike?” Jennifer asked.

“I was found close enough to Whycocomagh for the investigators to assume she had been there before she took off. They also thought the guys were lying – you know the way native’s can’t be trusted. Talk to them.” He got up carefully.

“You might want to talk to her cousins.” Morrison walked down the stairs.

“The one she supposedly ran away with?” Dan asked.

“Yes. By the time they came back to the reservation no one wanted to question them about her. They did tell the RCMP that she wasn’t with them. They hadn’t see her that day either.”

“I’ll suggest that to the producers. We still have another family to interview. Once they are all done we’ll see where things stand for needing more information.”

“Okay. Stay in touch regardless.”

“Before we go I was wondering if you had any school photos of Paula. You know those portrait sets.”

“I don’t think so. I’ll ask my boys when they get here. They were so keen on her. In fact Seal has her notebooks. So he might have those pictures too.”

“Stephanie will be in touch with you if we need more for the interview. You touched on the same things the other parents did. The lack of cooperation on the part of the RCMP seems to come up a lot.”

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Danforth Potholes

In Toronto we’re at the edge of post-covid19 life as the retail world returns to life, within safety protocols, that is. Stores have signs that say maximum capacity 121, while others say no more than 4 at time. Some say ‘for rent’ not having survived the prolonged lockdown. I suspect some took the lockdown as a sign to close up a business that was merely breaking even. 

Some that did close were fairly popular coffeeshops that subsisted on their takeout business anyway. Maybe the per sq. foot costs weren’t being covered by the sale of elevated cupcakes? Some places that survived have cut back their hours – no longer opening a 9 a.m. but at 11 a.m., or in some cases not until 2 p.m. Others are ‘by appointment only.’ I suppose the $ saved in operating costs helps their bottom lines.

Several have been replaced by similar business, chains like A&W or Burger King. The most invasive had been, what I call potholes. Marijuana dispensaries – that have taken over video, buy-your-gold, stores. Some have obvious names – High Time, Natural High, Neighbourhood Joint – others aim for a different ‘class’ – Canvas, Tokyo Rose (?). At least one has gone ‘native’ naming itself after one of the original land-owners. Cultural appropriation or perhaps the owners are natives? I don’t care to find out because even if they are, it is still a marketing ploy.

Last summer I did several photoblogs of ghosts – stores that had shut down due the pandemic – without cash flow they didn’t survive. I stopped taking those pictures as it become increasing depressing to see that covid19 wasn’t merely killing people but also opportunity. I’d say killing ‘the economy’ but lets face it big pharma is raking in the bucks. 

As for the potholes that have shown up all over Toronto – I guess they are better than abandoned storefronts.

Kharis 

<>

is this the last wrap

or the first

the first wrap was a tissue

of lies

‘oh i’m fine’

I used that wrap

over & over

until the tissue

was a layer

layer after layer of

‘oh i’m fine’

‘i don’t mind’

‘how can i make you happy’

walking away

rather than add another layer

hoping nothing had caught

no thread was snagged

on a expectation

an exception

on resurrecting love

<>

I was protected

entombed by safety

by the fact

that all anyone wanted to hear

was ‘oh i’m fine’

‘this bandage solution will do’

‘you deserve to be fixed first’

<>

bound tight

peering at life though the slits

surrendering to the weight of history

pushed along by an unquestioned past

by ritual expectations

controlled by the clasp of gauze

layer upon layer after layer

some turned to dust

some turned to scar

some turned to face the sun

reaching for release

<>

decayed tissue 

dust motes settling in the moonlight

‘how can i make you happy?’

‘how can i unravel the book of life’

can i survive

without another layer

of this tissue

this scar tissue of lies

‘oh i’m fine’

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Nutini Doin’

This mp3 cd compilation covers styles, countries, & generations. Filed under ’n’ for Paolo Nutini: These Streets/Caustic Love. The name suggests Italy but he hails from Ireland & is described as blue-eyed soul. His singles & lps have repeatedly topped the British charts in the 20teens. So this is also ‘modern’ pop. He has a good voice, writes well, sings well & the music is engineered perfectly. 

Skiffle star Lonnie Donegan goes back to the mid 50’s. I have 100 Original Tracks (all of them are not on this cd) His first big hit Rock Island Line & he had over 30 chart toppers after that. A prime influence on nearly every British group in the 60s including the Beatles, the Stones. The songs are fun, some border on music hall. Skiffle is a sort of rock-a-billy sound. The recordings are now public domaine which why the 100 cost me 5.99. 

Another retro sound, out of the USA, is surf rock as played by The Trashmen: Tube City (the Best Of). Best known for ‘Surfin’ Bird’ this a fun collection if their instrumentals – think a looser version of The Ventures with a sense of humour.

Peter Gabriel’s Security was his US market breakthrough. Up to it he was a sort of cult favourite after leaving Genesis. The sound is vaguely ominous & dark almost Goth. The songs are elegant, gloomy yet uplifting at the same time. I have the German version in another cd compilation. Both are worth having.

Velvet Underground: White Light White Heat bonus tracks. There was an extensive reissue of this a few years ago filled with out-takes, different takes & a set of live recordings. The live sound is okay with an almost endless version of Sister Ray.

The Toys: Complete Studio Recordings 1979-80. The Toys are a short-lived British power pop band about whom I know nothing. The songs are competent & fun.

Scott Matthew: Unlearned – includes ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ done as a tender folk-emo waltz. The video sold me on this take & the lp continues the mood of troubled romances, longing & hopes from a gay male point-of-view. Sweet & romantic – good mood music for a first date.

We’ve been to Ireland, Britain, USA & now our last stop on this mp3 cd is Africa with Michael Olatunji: the Nigerian percussionist. His African Drums includes ‘Shango’ & a rich assortment of traditional Nigerian & other tribal music. He broke into the USA market in the mid50’s & introduced world music to the world. A good starter for anyone exploring African music.

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Sign of the Beast

Sign of the Beast

I wondered

is it a neon sign

something hand-painted

sprayed on a subway car

does it swing on a board 

over the door of a pub

or at a street corner

like a stop sign

<>

will I see it

at the bottom of a contract

does it come between

aries & scorpio

a wave of the hand

to say

here I am

I’ve saved a seat for you

is it an early warning for cancer 

<>

I don’t think I’ve seen it yet

they say you’ll know it

when you see it

there’ll be no question in your mind

you can’t ignore it

when you see it

it’s too late

to do anything about it

<>

no matter what you do

to avoid it

you will see it

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Picture Perfect 88

Picture Perfect 88

“Do you have any other photos for me?” Dan asked.

“There’s albums full of them. Most after the boys where born. Madeline wasn’t fond of pictures where as Rosemoon was.”

“Can you remember if there was there anything going on at that time. In the area I mean.” Dan asked as he looked over the family photos.

“Festivals.” Jennifer explained. “That sort of thing.”

“Happy Hippo?” Dan stopped at one of the photos. It showed Paula being helped into a ferris wheel seat. The helper was Winston Chamberlain.” 

David took the album from him to check the photo. “That was in Sydney. Hippo never stopped at small places like this. They’d put up flyers as they drove through but never pitch a tent. This was the summer before anyway. I don’t even remember if they came through that summer.”

“If they had we would have skipped it anyway. We did go back to Sydney though but for a couple of funerals at Eskasoni.”

“The reservation outside of Sydney?” Dan asked.

“Yes. Some teens were found dead. Alcohol poisoning we were told. Come to think of it they had been reported missing too but were found in the woods a few weeks later. Rosemoon knew the family.”

“I sort of recall that incident myself.” Dan said. “We lived in New Waterford. My mom said ‘let that be lesson about drinking’.”

“Break time.” Brenda came into the house.

Dan glanced at his cell. He didn’t realize how much time had passed. He stood and stretched.

“They are right.” David said. “You forget about the cameras quickly.”

“If it’s a good interview you also forget about the passage of time. How do your sons feel about their past?”

“They were cool about it. Wolf started to write a book about Paula. The truth about the past made him too uncomfortable and so it turned into Gone Sister.”

“Yes I’ve read some of it. More about a sister who was never there than one who vanished.”

“Yeah. For me that was the one weakness about the book. You never knew anything about her. How she disappeared. Not even what happened after she disappeared. It felt incomplete. But critics loved it. The anti-mystery one of them called it. I found it anti-climactic and told him so.”

“I’ll have to read it for myself.” Dan said. “How much of break do we get?” He asked Brenda. 

“Half-an-hour. We’re changing the set up for another location.”

“I’ll be outside if you need me.” Dan walked around the green-house domes. He contacted Warszawa.

“Robert can you find information about child deaths in eight-four? I don’t mean just suspicious ones but for any reason? …. It’s just a hunch but maybe missing children aren’t the only ones this killer came in contact with …. And could we find out about native children? Would they be included or are their records kept separate? … Yeah I know too many toes to tread on. I’ll be getting our researchers on it too.”

He went back to the porch. This time they were set up outside with a couple of the domes in the background.

“You going to tell people what these are?” Jennifer  asked. “Otherwise they’ll think we’re on the set of some scifi movie.”

“All we need is an eye superimposed over the pyramid we’ll look like we’re on the American dollar.” Cameron said.

“True but the proportions are wrong.” David said. “The Eye of God on the dollar only takes up about tenth. My roof is exactly a third. It is the only part of the house that maintains the Egyptian ratio. The base isn’t pure. But the house does keep my razor blades sharp.”

Dan looked at Cameron then Jennifer for some sort of understanding of what David had just told them.

“What no one here up on their pyramid power?” David laughed. “Beside channelling energy to make plants grow, to keep me from growing older any faster than I am, true pyramids supposedly keep razor blades sharp.”

“How about your piano playing?” Jennifer asked.

“I don’t … oh I get it you’re pulling my leg.” David giggled. “Good one.”

After a fast dusting by make-up they were ready to continue.

“You were telling us about the days before Paula vanished?”

“Other than the tiff between Rosemoon and Paul it was fairly routine. Looking after twins was more of a challenge than we expected. Paula was too young to be of real help. The boys were squalling and sleepless. Paula had been much easier to bring up.

“It wasn’t any worse that their usual set to’s. I had become used to them by then and had learned not to come between them but to take the boys out of the house. Doors were slammed and Paula left the house. Her last words” … he faltered … “were ,’You never see me again.’ We never did.”

“Do you have any of her things? Clothes. Toys. Doc Martins?” Jennifer asked. “Dan can read photos, so can I to a certain extent. But it helps to be near things she actually handled.”

“Sure.” David got up. “I should have thought of that. The boys took over her room. Some of the furniture is still there. Bookshelves. Her desk. It took me a couple of years to dispose of her clothes. Even if she came back they wouldn’t fit her anymore.”

“That must have been difficult.” She followed him into the house.

Cameron hoisted his camera to follow them. Dan followed Cameron with Francie on camera behind him. On the wall by the stairs leading up to the second floor was a large framed photograph of a picnickers at a table by a lake over shadowed by a sheer mountain ledge. It was very familiar to him. None of the faces were distinct. The clothes set it in the later 40’s, as did the car parked on the grass. 

“You coming up?” Cameron called down to him.

“You see something” Francie asked. She got a good shot of the photo.

“Not sure.” Dan shrugged. 

<>

“Paula’s old room is where my sons stay when they visit.” David opened the door.

Jennifer ran her hands along the bookshelf then sat at the desk. It looked out over the grounds.

“Much there?” David asked. “It’s been decades and lots of other butts and books have been in and out of this room.

“The desk used to be over there.” Jennifer said. “She liked it in that corner facing the door and the window. She needed to see who was coming into the room.”

“Right.” David said.

She pulled the desk away from the wall to look at the back of it. “This would have faced into the room.” She gently brushed that side of the desk. “Can I?” she sat and pulled out one of the drawers. It didn’t come out completely. She ran her hand on the underside.

“Paula liked to hide things, didn’t she. She needed her secrets.”

“Don’t we all.” David said. “She became more … introverted after her mother died. That’s one of the reason I remarried.”

“Find something?” Dan asked.

She pulled out an envelope. It was sealed. 

“May I open it?” She asked David.

“Sure.”

The two camera operators swooped down to her hands as she opened it.

‘Oh.” She frowned & shook the remains of a maple leaf into the palm of her hand.

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