Recap June 2022

Most popular post in June was Wentworth Perk Perks Up Sydney, that I originally posted in 2012 & reposted the link & boom! over 150 hits – making it the most popular post of the year so far. On some Fridays I have been going back into my archives to ten years ago to resurrect these old post. https://topoet.ca/…/25/wentworth-perk-perks-up-sydney-2/ 

Picture Perfect:  123 sections, about 174,000 words posted so far with at least 12,000 to be edited then posted. I say ‘at least’ as I am nearing the end & discovered that I merely made notes for the next two climactic scenes so there could easily be another 20,000 words yet, much of them being ‘fresh’ writing.

Started a new Wednesday format, giving the monks a rest for the summer. It’ll be called Summer Reflections 2022 where I post about my old clothes, recovery memories, Wicca, & whatever comes to mind.

Watched a slew of forgettable movies & a couple more memorable ones – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967). Wow! I can’t recall when I saw this last but wow what a fabulous film with a vibrant performance by Robert Morse, who starred in the Broadway original. The set & costume work is spot on perfection in candy colours. The songs are fun, I love ‘I Believe In You.’ Fossey-esque choreography. Recent revival had Daniel Radcliffe in the lead, another Nick Jonas.

Equally memorable is Chinese Roulette directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Vivid colours in this turgid, painfully artificial & seemingly endless psychological drama that had me snickering at everything from the hairstyles, makeup, set up & particularly the soundtrack music. It also features an amazing performance by Andrea Schobe as the ultimate manipulative child. 

In June I re-read ‘Loving Man: A Photographic Guide to Gay Male Lovemaking – Mark Freedman Ph.D., Harvey Mayes – 1976 – 1st Edition’ Hardcover. I bought this book while I was still living in Sydney. I think I got it via The Playboy Book Club, as it was considered porn by customs & couldn’t be sold in Canada. It made my decision to escape Cape Breton very easy.

Reading it now I love the innocence of it – pre-HIV, pre-WWW, pre-apps – it reflects how things have changed & how they haven’t changed. Back in the day we used ‘looking for connections’ ad sections in gay magazines to meet outside of noisy smokey bars. Street cruising is now done with apps. Our current era of acceptance is still as fraught with prejudice & ignorance. Rainbow flags appear on businesses not because of inclusivity or to show support but to invite our gay dollars. 

from a past production

The less said about Hamlet the better – the best part was the amazing weather for the drive there & back lol. (Dull In Denmark https://topoet.ca/2022/06/24/dull-in-denmark/ )

Upcoming reviews: Rocky Horror Show (Stirling Summer Theatre! – yes Rocky is now safe for small town Ontario); Stratford: The Miser, All’s Well That Ends Well, Hamlet 911.

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Quicksilver Spirit

It’s easy to think groups like King Crimson, ELP ‘invented’ progrock forgetting about the California explosion in the late 60’s. I am talking about two bands in particular: Quicksilver Messenger Service & Spirit. Adventurous, challenging & timeless. Though at the time I didn’t see them as ground breaking merely as interesting & psychedelic. I have two mp3 cd collections that pair them.

By Quicksilver Messenger Service I have: Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968), Happy Trails (1969), Shady Grove (1969), Just For Love (1970), What About Me (1970), Maiden Of The Cancer Moon (Live 1983). The first two & the Live ‘Moon’ reflect the more experimental side of the group with extended explorations that transcend standard pop into a sonic avant gard. On the other three lps they have added keyboard genius Nicky Hopkins to the group & the songs become more pop oriented with a more ELP sound. Some great moments but not as adventurous in the same way.

Quicksilver were progressive in an experimental way while Spirit went in a jazzier direction that influenced groups like Weather Report. Here I have Spirit(1968), The Family That Plays Together (1968), Clear (1969), Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970), Feedback (1972). There is a definite change as the band matures. I loved the first two lps with amazing production work & jazz-rock instrumentals. One of the few non-folky bands at the time with a strong ecological message ‘Uncle Garbage.’ They even managed some radio friendly hits.

To round out this look at the psychedelic sound I’ve included the much more radio friendly Jefferson Airplane’s Live At The Fillmore East 1968 (released 1998 – just after After Bathing at Baxter’s was released this a great live lp. Finally the Electric Flag’s A Long Time Comin’ (1968) grounded by Mike Bloomfield’s guitar this was an ambitious mix of soul, blues, rock & horns. Not radio friendly though & over shadowed by Bloomfield’s work on Super Session.  

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I Love My Shirts

A few months ago I watched a British series ‘ Stitch In Time’ in which the fashion historian host, with her team of specialists, replicates clothing worn in famous oil paintings – giving us a context for the painting & the fabrics used etc. Sometimes they went to an archive that had actual clothing made in the period in question. It led me to think of the oldest clothing I now owned.

My mother was a seamstress, making clothes for herself & my sisters most of the time. She wasn’t fond of the construction of collars or putting in button holes but I did get her to make me a few shirts. On my semi-regular trips from Sydney to Halifax I would buy albums & fabric. The stores in Sydney didn’t carry ‘fun’ prints & as far as I remember, there were stores dedicated to fabric just departments at Zellers etc. I found these at a sort of Fabricland in Halifax.

I had two of the movie star shirts. This one in blue with the brown insert & one in brown with blue insert – both in this sort of western style. I made sure it had the Frankenstein monster pocket. The fabric is a heavy cotton, almost denim. I loved wearing these because of the campiness of the print & because they echoed my job – I worked at the Famous Player theatres in Sydney. This one still fits me, if I don’t button it up, but the thread is ‘delicate’ with age.

The dashiki style with the racing cars still amazes me. I love this kids pj print, though it is cotton not flannel. I also had another with a cowboys & stallions print but has been lost to time. My mother liked this pattern because it had no collar or buttons to bother with. I’ve kept my eye open on visits to Fabricland or something similar without success. Truly vintage I guess. this one doesn’t fit & the fabric itself is now delicate with age.

The tie is made from another of my Halifax fabric finds. Another cotton print that I may might have had a dashiki made of too. I have worn this tie a few times to perform at poetry readings. My mother wasn’t too sure of the construction of ties so it lacks the interlining fabric that keeps the tie in shape so it never really knotted properly so it proved not to be practical for tying someone to the bed 😦

In Sydney at this time men weren’t wearing prints expect plaids. Shirts were nondescript in mild colours. Mine were attention getters. I see now how these print choices were a part of my coming out at the time with their tres gay sensibility.

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Picture Perfect 123 

Picture Perfect 123

In his Depot work lab Dan opened the calendar template and printed out a daily diary for 1984. He often found that working by hand – pen to paper – would make things clearer to him. The dates of events of that summer had become more & more unreal to him. He couldn’t figure things out in his head like the number of days between each abduction. He’d been through the information many times already he hoped doing it this way might reveal something he had missed.

Starting with June 1 he made notes of where his father’s travel journals placed him. Dan included the distances between places travelled & approximately how long it would take to drive those distances. He no longer believed his father had anything to do with the cases but these locations & distances would help in judging the actual locations.

He then entered where the Happy Hippo’s three carnivals had been during June, July & August. Next he put in the dates of the abductions as reported by the parents, as well as when they contacted the authorities. If there was Hippo near on those days he added a red plus sign & the distance between where the show was set up & the location of the abduction. He circled the date they left for Toronto. Finally he put in the dates when Cora was still in the carnival & the date of her death & the date of her obituary.

One fact jumped out him. All the abductions had taken place on a Wednesday. They were usually reported within thirty-six hours. Except for Paula which took seventy-two. Happy Hippo was within a hour’s distance from each of the abductions. The Wednesdays were all the second day of the Hippo’s run in an area. Most of the runs were for six days. A couple were for two weekends. Other than the Wednesday’s no other pattern appeared. It was never two Wednesday is a row. There was no relation to how long the Hippo was in the area. Six days or ten days. He’d need the Chamberlain records to know just who was performing at which of the shows. The fortune tellers, Tut handmaidens & belly dancers moved between the shows randomly. The records should tell him when Cora left the show. 

Would they also show when the various mummies were added to the Tut sideshow? Would they tell when Winston was doing repair work? Or did he move from to show constantly, not travelling with any one in particular? He did know when Winston was in Truro thanks to Teresa’s pictures. 

Even with data missing he saw that it was possible for someone with Hippo to do the abductions. Someone with transportation. Which Winston had. Someone with a motive. Surely making mummies wasn’t the driving force behind these acts.

Robert Warszawa came into the work shop.

“I thought you might want to see this.” He handed Dan a file folder.

“I have so much data now I’m not sure I can take any more. Give me some old wedding photos to restore for a change.”

“It’s the coroner’s report on Cora Murchison’s death.” 

Dan read it twice. “Self-inflicted?” he said. “How?”

“My thought exactly. There’s no toxicology report so I assume it wasn’t poison.”

“So she what? Jumped off a building? Cut her wrists?”

“There are some photos too. Not pretty. She’d been dead five days before they found her.”

“Okay.” They were standard black and white shots of Cora’s remains on the mortuary table. “No visible bruising. No bullet to the head. Water in the lungs?”

“Doesn’t say. The organs were sound.”

“Then how did he conclude it was self-inflicted.”

“There was a note.”

“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?”
“I wanted you to view these without that filter.”

“Fair enough.” He read the note. 

“Mom & Dad,

I’m sorry for the pain this will cause you both but you always wanted what would make me happy. I’ll be happy leaving all this behind.

Corrie”

“They made sure this was her handwriting?”

“Yes, they had her diary.”

“Diary? I’d love to see that.”

“No trace of it. It must have gone back to the family when they were done with it.”

Dan read the report again. “This doesn’t mention that she was pregnant.”

“Perhaps she had aborted. Bled out and died.” Warszawa suggested. “Wouldn’t have been the first time.”

“There’s no mention of vaginal tissue damage here. We both know that’s a must for any female corpse.”

“Right.” After a few minutes of silence Warszawa said. “They weren’t as through when there is no visible signs of struggle.”

“There’s always something missing.”

“Beside motive?” Warszawa said.

“Right. I have hope that I’ll find what I need to know if I look hard enough at what we have now.”

“Sometimes you see better when you stop looking so hard. Why don’t you take a break and get away from this for a little while?”

“I wish I could. When I’m not here, I’m at Quintex recording new voice overs for the show to work in what’s been discovered since we finished the shoot. They had me shoot a new intro for the old Cold Canada show that started it all. They’ll be repeating that episode before the new series airs. At least I talked them out of doing it in my living room as I watched that show. Seems like years ago.”

“I’ve had cases like that too. They take up so much of your thinking you lose track of what life you had at one time. Lose track of that life, lose track of that wife.” He took a deep breath. “Lose that wife.”

“Shit, yeah! That reminds me I promised to take Peter for a drink after work. Want to join us?”

“For a drink only.” Warszawa said.

“The Crown & Broken Anchor isn’t too far from here. It is straight enough for you, isn’t it?”

“It’s is called the Crown not the Tiara.”

<>

Warszawa only stayed for a beer at the Crown. Dan was sleepy after another one. Peter was ready for a third.

“I’m going to get us a cab.” Dan said. “I’m not waiting around for a street car feeling like this.”

“Feeling like what?” Peter laughed squeezing Dan by the forearm.

“I get the message.” Dan said. “I want the massage too.”

“Yes, sir.” Peter swallowed his beer. “All you have to do is ask.”

Dan couldn’t keep his hands to himself once they got into the cab.

“Dan! Sir, you should have a few drinks more often.”

“I’ve been cooped up with the Cold bunch for the last sex, I mean, six months, or is it weeks. Your trip to Moncton was pretty much pointless from a lust point of view. Jeremy is a tease. That guy in Sydney was like a bull and I was a china shop. Yes, so I’m ready to rumble.”

“What guy in Sydney?” Peter asked as they got out of the cab.

“I’ll ask the questions.” Dan opened the front door and pushed Peter into the house.

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s more like it.” He pinned Peter to the wall by the front door; undid both their pants and pushed his to his knees.

“Thank you, sir.” Peter kissed him

“This is how you thank me.” He refused the kiss and pushed Peter to his knees. “I haven’t showered all day. So better lick me clean first.”

“I will sir. I will.”

Dan held Peter there then pulled him to eye level and kissed him. While they were kissing he reached between Peter’s legs and Peter gasped. Pushing his fingers deeper Dan crouched and sucked the head of Peter’s cock. Peter tried to push it in further but Dan would only allow the head.

“Sir! Sir! I’m going to … oh.”

Dan let the come fill his mouth and without swallowing stood to kiss Peter again.

“Thank you, sir. That was so … unexpected.”

“Upstairs.” Dan slapped Peter’s ass, hard. “Now. Shower.”

“Yes.”

“Make sure your ass is washed before I get there.”

“What!” Peter stopped part way up the stairs.

“You heard me. I want something from you I haven’t had for awhile.”

“It’s all yours, sir.”

When his cell buzzed he was tempted to ignore it. He answered without even checking to see who was calling.

The connection was bad. “Dan! It’s Sergeant Coster. 

Inspector Robert Warszawa said to call you. Winston Chamberlain’s body has been found about an hour ago. There’s evidence with it about the missing children you have to see.”

“I can get there in the morning. If I can get a flight.”

“No! You must get here as soon as you can. There’s a flight in an hour.”

The line went dead.

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Dull In Denmark

 

Took another Stratford day-trip Wednesday to see Hamlet. First the good news – we had lunch at the re-located Features & were happy with the bright, spacious location. Same menu (on new a menu folder). Same staff. Best part, the washrooms are no longer down a slippery flight of rickety stairs into a dark low-ceilinged basement.

Now for the bad news, something was dull in the state of Denmark & it is hard to know where to begin. Perhaps it was the long pandemic delay that gave them too much time to simmer this production – a simmer that turned it into flavourless Hamlet.

The opening was promising with funeral organ music & the dead king in a glass coffin already on stage. Guards were contemporized into a dark suited security detail – earplug communicators etc. The ghost work was nicely handled. But after Hamlet ‘swears,’ I got sleepy & missed some things, including the To Be soliloquy. A sure sign of how dull the performances & staging where. I perked up when the travelling players finally arrived. 

from a past production

Overall it was, to me, an uninspired production, though the staging had some good elements. The use of the balcony mirrors & projections was interesting, as was hidden body mic on Ophelia. The costumes were street wear – as if the cast had arrived late & rushed on stage without changing out of their street clothes. I can’t even remember what Hamlet wore. Costumes should help define the characters & so everyone here was defined as nobodies. Laertes in sweatpants? How regal.

from a past production

Amaka Umeh in the lead works hard, saws the air at every possible moment but never found a character. The King lacked any sense of threat. Ophelia lacked wispiness & seemed more peeved than heart-broken. None of the principles felt that invested in their characters, none of them seemed to be enjoying being on stage.

In the end we were left with a dull silence.

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Richard and Maria

In my classical collection I have a few stand-alone cds of Richard Wagner (1813-83). I am by no means a fan of German opera. I have seen pieces of his operas on DVD but well my only real knowledge is from Bugs Bunny. One of the cds is a sort of orchestral hits: overtures & preludes from the operas. 

The other is an lp to cd transfer of Glenn Gould’s piano transcriptions of things like Love-Death, The Siegfried Idyll. This is luscious romantic & well worth adding to your classical collection, if you don’t have it already. My partner has all the operas on DVD & CD so I’m saving them to appreciate in my old age.

Next to Wagner is another German composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) who is also noted for his operas, none of which I have in my collection or have knowingly heard. Wiki tells me he was a major influence on Wagner. In my collection I have three stand alone cds. Two are lp to cd transfers one of the opera overtures; the other are of individual concertos for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn. Third is of Symphonies 1 & 2 with suites for him operas. Unlike Wagner, Weber actually wrote more than opera.

The music is romantic without being overwrought – no one would confuse Weber with Beethoven 🙂 I certainly enjoy them when they come in rotation to be played but I don’t feel the urge to play them otherwise, unlike Beethoven whose works I go back to frequently. 



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A Nod To The Numb

A Nod To The Numb

in the club

the music was so loud

it nodded your head for you

it was like walking into

a room of parrots

each head bobbing

<>

men moved

from perch to perch

eyes dart for eyes to lock on to

conversation was nearly impossible

to shout

made what was said

sound either angry

or desperate

<>

with every nod of the head

it was hard to tell

what the response was 

meant to signal

yeah let’s go

or get lost

<>

I left the cage

unsatisfied

by any of these

nodding acquaintances

Yes this is based on real experience. One that I repeated more times than I care to recall. I know many gay men went though, & still go through, this conundrum though the venue has pretty much changed from the club to the internet. I know of men who get trapped in the endless scroll & hunt through apps in search for the elusive.

Businesses built on hope will fail if they fulfill that hope. As long as customers hope to get lucky they stick around & drink. The sooner they get lucky the sooner they leave. I can remember going out to my favourite – no not favourite but – well I’m not sure what to call the gay dance club I frequented the most often – getting dressed, picking the right jeans, t-shirt. Juggling the right time to arrive & leaving sweaty from dance & reeking of smoke in the morning. On line one does have some control over the music & how loud it is.

At least on line there is no last call rush to connect 🙂 Usually no icky slippery bathroom floors either. Pictures on line often represent the profile one clicks on, but just as often they are photoshop fantasy or ten years old or etc. Even in person one may not being getting what one sees. Bar lighting is designed to hide not accentuate. There is also the distortion of booze goggles. lol.

Starting next Wednesday & for the next several weeks I’ll be giving the Monks a rest. I’ll be doing a series of Summer Reflections in which I ponder some of the shallower mysteries of life.


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Picture Perfect 122 

Picture Perfect 122

The next morning they gathered for coffee in the Moncton airport before their flight.

“What exactly did you see in your trance?” Jennifer asked.

“That I was getting my picture taken. I was seeing things through Dorothy O’Connor’s eyes.”

“So you were the Dorothy as she appeared in the picture. You got no sense of what she did next or what she had for breakfast.”

“Nope, just the moments of the picture itself. I was worried about what I was wearing then the real me said she looked fine.” Dan said. 

“You mean you changed from her to yourself?” Peter asked.

“Yeah.”

“That must be why she reached out to you.” Jennifer said. “You had contact with her when she was alive.”

“When you sense things, Jennifer, what comes to you.”

“It’s like smelling something in a room. I put on the emotions like a sweater but I rarely see faces. It helps when I handle the objects. My connection is much stronger. If that’s what you mean. I can see the bruise but can’t tell what caused it.”

*******

The day after their return to Toronto Dan met with the RCMP task force. Sergeant Coster from the New Brunswick detachment was summarizing their progress so far.

“The Chamberlain records of the time have manufacturing information on the props, costumes for the Tut exhibit. The principle ones of Tut are both a wire fabrication. One of the others was a mannikin. They were made by a theatrical props company in Montreal. They arrived already attached to their stands or coffins. There is no mention in the records of mummies other than the principal ones.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “The other five contained human bones. Children’s bones that we in process of identifying. We can name two of them already. Dorothy O’Connor & Timothy Dunlop. Those families have been informed.

“Winston Chamberlain knows nothing about the other mummies except that they were delivered at random times and then they were integrated into the dioramas. As fr as he knows none of the women work in the exhibit had any contact with them. They were handled by the carnies.”

“The forensic team has examined the bones.” Warszawa took over. “Other than connecting wire frame the mummies of the children contained bones only. There was little flesh and scant traces of any other tissue. No internal organs, no brain matter. The coroner found cuttings in the skull that were similar to those found in actual Egyptian mummies.

“Most of the wrappings on each of the children were linen that had been cut into long endless strips from a single bed sheet. Each mummy was a different sheet. Different in weave. Fabric matches were found with different manufacturers. Apparently some of the clothing of the children was included in the wrappings”

As the reports were being read the profile of the killer was becoming clearer to Dan. It would have been an exacting process. Someone with surgical or butcher knowledge assisted in preparing the bones. Also someone connected in some way with the Happy Hippo. 

Dan felt that if he shook his head hard enough all this information would fall into the right place. The scattered pieces would form a face.

“Special Investigator Daniel James has some new information for us.”

Dan filled them in on his conversation with Janis Hadley about Cora Murchison.

“Why do you feel this Cora Murchison has something to do with the case?” Warszawa said as he read over the notes in Dan’s file. “An affair with the owner doesn’t actually make her a suspect.”

“It’s … call it a gut reaction. When I saw this footage of her …” He passed his pad around so they could see her performing with one of the snakes. “My gut responded. To her, not the snake.”

“Thanks Daniel.” Coster said. “We’ll look into this. Winston Chamberlain is a more likely suspect with his history at the time. It’s not a big step from underage girls to murder.”

“I’ve studied the timelines. Unless he was in two places at once that’s impossible.” Dan said.

“Perhaps he wasn’t working alone.” Coster suggested. “Cora was having the affair with his father, why not with Winston, too?”

“That’s possible.” Dan said. “While she was with the Hippo she was responsible for the Tut sideshows. They were her idea. Maybe she made those other mummies?”

“Have you tracked her down?” Costner asked.

“The Cold East research team has found an obituary for her. It did not spell out the cause of death. She was 32, born in Stellerton, left a father and mother.” Dan said. “Maybe they’re still alive.”

“What would the motivation be?” Warszawa asked. “The cases are so random. Only the fact that they were children links them together.”

“They were opportunity.” Dan said. “I don’t think they were selected. It isn’t difficult to find unprotected children in small towns. In farming communities.”

“What do you think Corporal?” Warszawa asked Costner. She had been studying the files. 

“I think we have reason to believe she is a person of interest in this case. I also find it curiously convenient that the carnival has such detailed records of its doings but then blank spaces for that summer. Mostly around the Tut exhibit. There is no record of where the snakes came from. No import documentation. Maybe they were smuggled into the country? No record of where the additional mummies came from. Cora Murchison is not on the payroll after 1983 yet she clearly is in those photos from 1984.”

“Nothing concrete.” Warszawa said. “We need more than gossip.”

“How about this?” Dan showed them a photo he had found in the Hippo archives of Winston helping a child onto her seat in the ferris wheel. “Here he is, at the time, with one of the missing children. I’m pretty sure that’s Madeline Forestier.”

“I wonder if this Cora affair is why Winston Chamberlain gets so defensive.” Dan said. “Maybe she did she sleep with father and son?”  

“Even if she did that doesn’t explained how or why the remains of the missing children showed up at the Happy Hippo.” Warszawa said.

“The connection between the Hippo tours and the children is now very clear.” Dan said.

Corporal Costner’s cellphone buzzed.

“Sorry,” she said then answered. “Corporal Costner here.” She listened a moment. “What! …. Yes I understand but … Okay I’ll return to the station on the next available flight.”

She put her phone on the table.

“That was Brian McKillop, my division captain. There was a fire at the Chamberlain Museum last night. Mainly in their archive storage.”

“Anyone hurt?” Dan asked.

“No but …. Winston Chamberlain can’t be found. His car is in the parking lot. His … uh …. personal effects are in his office – cell phone, car keys. Even his shoes. But no sign of him. They are currently searching the property & the surrounding woods.”

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