Picture Perfect 71

Picture Perfect 71

“How is Teresa? I haven’t heard from her for centuries.”

“A bit rough for wear but …”

“We used to caller her Teresa Tear-Off-A-Piece-A. She tell you about that?”

“This wasn’t a … social meeting. I was interviewing her about Timothy Dunlop.”

“Is that why she gave you those pictures?”

“That was the context, yes. We did reminisce some. She had lots of pictures of that summer. Whatever become of the ones you took. I didn’t find any in Dad’s archives.”

“To be honest I never keep them for long. I gave most of them way to whomever was in them. Dad was appalled when I told him I had discarded all the negatives too. I never saw myself a photographer anyway. Least ways not like he was. I didn’t realize that I was going to stay in the business.”

“Oh?” 

“Yeah, there’s a lot you don’t know about me. I really wanted to get into fashion. Don’t laugh because I know what a cliche that is.”

“I wasn’t going to laugh. Teresa didn’t remember the names of the men in the photos. Do you.”

He took his tablet out and pulled up the photos.

“There’s this one of me and Kevin.” She pointed to the one that Dan had added to the group. “He was the older man that Dad was rescuing me from that summer. Mom really disliked him for some reason too. You sort of got along with him, didn’t you.”

“All I remember is his name. Kevin. What was his last name?”

“O’Neill. Big Catholic family. Maybe that’s why Dad didn’t approve. He never could get into the Catholic school system to do class photos. Catholics only were allowed to do that.”

“These others?” He scrolled to the picture of the girls with the circus guys.

“That’s Terry with one of those circus guys she was so crazy about. Rocky, no Stoney! or some such. They usually had forgettable names. I think this the guy with the …”

“Big … reputation?”

“Yeah. Heard some nasty rumours about him too. But you always heard that about the circus people in general.”

“I remember that Kevin was one of those circus people, too. That’s what you always told me after we moved here.”

“Did I now.”

“What about the one of you and this other guy?”

“You mean Kevin? He was some friend of Stoney’s.” She dipped foam out her coffee with her finger. “They ran one of games of chance at the Happy Hippo. Games of fat chance. They practically showed us how they were rigged.”

“Linda you are the most accomplished liar I have ever met. Even when I was on the force no suspect was as convincing as you are when you are evading the truth.”

“What did you mean?”

“This,” He pointed to the picture of her and Hank’s circus buddy, “is not Kevin O’Neill in the other photo. Not unless you dated two guys called Kevin O’Neill.”

He put the photos of the men side by side.

“They don’t even look alike.”

“Then I must be mistaken. I don’t know. That first guy is definitely Kevin.”

“According to Teresa this other guy is.”

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

“This is the back of that picture. I think that’s your handwriting. It says: Me and Kevin O’Neill.”

“I …” she was silent.

“This is the man,” he pointed to the other picture, “you brought home. You told us he was Kevin O’Neill. He was not. And you wonder why I have lost all trust in you.”

“It was all so long ago.” she teared up. “I didn’t know what to do. I was … pregnant. The real Kevin refused to meet the folks, refused to do anything in fact.”

“So you thought bringing a substitute would make things better?”

“No, not better. I was going to say he’d left me. That getting married was too much for him to face. I did’t want to just be pregnant without … I was ashamed. You don’t know what it was like. For girls. Even Terry didn’t know. So I brought this guy over so they wouldn’t think I’d gotten knocked up and the the guy had run out me.”

“Which is what happened? The real Kevin deserted you.”

“No. He hung around but refused to marry me. While I was here and you were traveling to Toronto I lost the baby. Honest. I didn’t do anything to terminate the pregnancy.”

Dan got up. “Linda. I don’t know what to believe.” He glanced this cell phone. “I have a plane to catch.”

He had a taxi drop him off the his house and wait while he got his carry on. On the way to the airport texted Peter a goodbye. Approved the Depot plan to give a 15% discount to anyone with a hundred dollar gift card from the Carafe. Texted a thank you to Jeremy for the pizza. Switched to his Quintex cell & texted Baxter that he was on his way back. By the time got out of the taxi he felt he accomplished something over the past couple of days. When he got to his seat he put both phones to silent & put his sleep mask on & tried to stay awake.

When he exited the plane in Moncton Sergeant Coster met him in the arrivals lounge.

“Leaving the area during a criminal investigation is a chargeable offence Mr. James.” she said to him. “Obstruction of justice.”

“Only if one has been informed of their need to be present for said investigation Sergeant.”

“You’ve been in court too many times for me to put a scare into you.” She shrugged.

“Probably. Why are you here?”

“I wanted to say I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot last week.”

“I know protocol Sergeant. I know it too well to be that upset by what happened at the Waterside, Did you ever find out what was on those DVD’s in the bathroom ceiling.”

“Other than standard porn on the top three all the other’s were blanks.”

“Did you check the bathrooms of any of the other cabins?”

“Only yours.”

“Not the rest of the crew?”

“Yours was the only one specified in the tip.”

“I didn’t know which one was going to mine until I checked in. I hadn’t even opened my bag when you came busting in. So …”

“Whomever it was may have planted something in every empty cabin? That takes this beyond a crank call.”

“What investigation?”

“Huh?”

“The one I skipped out of?”

“The accident that resulted in Roberto Hajla & Glaucia Vidro’s death. It is now a double homicide case.”

“Right.”

“The evidence points to tampering with the electrical system. What happened to the vehicle was not a ‘manufacturers’ malfunction. Not was it caused by the storm.”

“Interesting.” 

“We’ve checked out all the other rentals and this is the only one that has been tampered with.”

“Targeted is more like it.”

“Clearly someone wants to derail this TV show.”

“Killing me wouldn’t derail the show.” Dan said. “Unsolved Cold is already running a promo with footage from the accident. My death would have turned into hype.”

Dan spotted Cameron entering the lounge.

“My drive has arrived.” He nodded to Cameron.

“We need an official disposition from you regarding the cars. How you ended up in the one you were driving.”

“I’ll try to get to the division as soon as I can. Can we do it on line?”

“That’s possible.”

Cameron came over to them. “Baxter was more than a bit ticked at the way you beat it out of Dodge. He sent me to make sure you did’t slip out of his control again. Car’s outside.”

Dan put his carry on in the back seat and got into the front passenger side.

“Is this the same car I left in Halifax?”

“That’s why I’m ticked, having to haul ass there to pick it up and get here for you was a lot of endless driving.”

“Sorry.” Dan said.

“We’re back at the Waterside for tonight. Hope you don’t mind?”

“Any schedule changes?”

“Nope. You’ll be talking with that guy from the Museum in the morning. Then we’ll meet Jennifer Devereaux at the hospital to interview Mrs. O’Connor.”

At the Waterside Dan was glad to be assigned a different cabin that he’d had the last time. He couldn’t resist checking the ceiling tiles in the bathroom. Nothing but dust.

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Membertou First Nation

Growing up in Sydney Cape Breton I was barely aware of the first nation population in the area. In my teens I heard stories of Membertou ‘The Reserve’ & once my drinking career was launched I was aware of it in the context of bootleggers. At least one booze buddy spoke of have an Indian girlfriend, whom we never met. The Reserve was also a place where some guys, maybe even my Dad, went for cheap cigarettes.

https://membertou.ca, http://eskasoni.ca/home/

The Reserve population was MikMak – I only heard it called that so, not sure it was actually spelled – MicMac? An anglo corruption of Mi’kmaq. Some spellings weren’t taught in school. Its place in the history of the region was never mentioned. We did learn about Louisbourg – the conflict between the French & English. Alexander Graham Bell in Baddack. 

The other Cape Breton reservation was in Eskasoni on Bras d’Or Lake. I also heard of one in Shubenacadie on the mainland. But I never visited either of them. On my last visit to Sydney I went through Membertou with my sister. Lots of houses selling ‘smokes.’ A museum with artifacts & compulsory dream catchers. I don’t recall seeing anything about the Residential Schools but, thanks to wiki, I know the only one in the Maritimes was in Shubenacadie. It closed in 1967.

I don’t recall ever meeting anyone who lived there. Sydney, as small as it was, was very strongly segregated. There was a sizeable black community in one area that rarely went beyond its boundaries with its own schools, churches (one of the first Black churches in Canada). The same held true for the First Nations’ towns. I do recall that one of the Eskasoni high school boys sports teams (probably hockey but maybe basketball) had a reputation for being good players but rough.

I write this memory in the shadow of the recently discovered bodies of children in Kamloops. So many levels of dismay resonate in me – not merely the racist nature of this but also of the way children, all children, have been treated for their own good, by various legal systems. In the USA the separation of immigrant families & how the parents of a number of those children can no longer be found; stories of European war orphans shipped en-masse to North America. 

Children – those pure innocent possessions that get marched out as excuses for not exposing their tender sensibilities to sex education, same sex affection, etc. One of tenants of a current USA conspiracy theory is a secret childproof cabal – if you deny this conspiracy you are clearly a pedophile.

There is no easy wrap-up for this post. History is often a wound than will never heal.

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Sibelius Smetana

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) is a Finnish composer. I have as stand-alones Finlandia 2cds; Kullervo; Complete Symphonies 5cds; Violin Concerto. Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) is Czech composer. I have as stand-alone My Fatherland on 2 cds which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer’s native Bohemia.

I love the Slavic patriotism that runs through the work of these two composers. Stirring epic melodies, masses of strings with what often sounds like thousands of musicians. With an occasional soprano floating in the mix. There is little North American classic music that has this sweep. Copeland manages that at times but not like these guys.

I don’t remember when I first heard Finlandia or The Moldau (from My Fatherland) but when I heard them on lps they were instantly familiar. I must have heard them as music in movies or on TV. Romantic, flowing, uplifting & with a definite sense of place – one doesn’t hear Finlandia & think – hey, this sounds like Peru.

Both were symphonic composers. Sibelius’s Violin concerto is a masterpiece. Smetana’s opera The Bartered Bride is frequently performed. Neither dabbled in chamber music or piano pyrotechnics. This is concert hall, not drawing room, music that takes listeners on journeys on cool winter days along rivers & fjords. Grab your fur & hop on the troika.

out of the archives – written in mid80’s – original draft in dot-matrix print.  

Voodoo Secrets Revealed!!!

part 1

Pins went into his left ear, through his left eye, over the bridge of his nose, into his right eye & came out his right ear. Flecks of red at the tips. Was that blood? I looked closer. Rust. I turned the picture over. His name was neatly printed on the back – Donald McGraw – 1964.

The photograph was in a tin Players’ cigarette box. It was the last thing in a box of my past my mother had shipped to me for my birthday. She wrote it was time I took of the ‘museum.’ Now that she had grandchildren to keep track of I was responsible for my own past.

A bundle of old report cards, class photos. Even some scrap books I had filled with pictures I had cut from movie magazine of Annette & Haley Mills, a couple of Paul Peterson. Even then I felt he looked better than Annette.

The real find was several original Beatles’ fan magazines. These would buy me a house today, if I could find the right market. Under all this was the thin metal box. In the box was the hex I had cast on the boy who lived across the street.

Turning over the picture I peered at his face. I couldn’t remember how I got the photograph. It was a close up of his head & shoulder. He was wearing a dirty white tshirt. I could see it clearly in my mind. A dirty white ash & a dirty mouth. He was the first person I could recall calling me a fruit.

I was about twelve. We had just moved into the neighbourhood. He & his gang watched from across the street. They smoked & flicked the butts into the street.

“Hi kid! What’s yer name?” One of the the gang brawled from the porch.

I didn’t think of myself as a kid, so I ignored him. I was carrying in a cardboard carton of my treasured Hardy Bothers books. I knew instinctively this bunch of unwashed threats weren’t interested in books.

Donald was suddenly beside me. I could smell cigarette & cornflakes on his breath. I was a good boy. I would never smoke, boys who did that were trouble. I knew that. I glanced at him & went into the house.

“Ah shit. He’s a fruit!” Donald hollered to his gang as he want back to them.

My heart pounded. I hoped my Dad hadn’t heard, & hoped that he had, so he could do something to protect me. I didn’t know what a ‘fruit’ was but by the tone of Donald’s voice I knew it was something I would regret.

Any chance they got they would throw that word at me. If one of them was in the corner strobe when i was he would mutter it underlies breath. ‘Hey fruit fuck off.’ Riding my bike home I would hear the same. ‘Hey Fruit fuck off.’ Sometimes I wouldn’t even see which of them it was. 

Over the next year the antagonism got worse. At times I was trapped in Hell. I always found new ways to get to school that avoided him & his gang. Luckily none of them went to my school. The McGraw’s were just a poor Catholic family. As I look back now I realize how ordinary they were. A drunk father. Two unwed older sisters with babies. The mother cleaning houses & offices.

My family was the opposite. Clean. Protestant. Wholesome. I was a twelve-year-old, only-child. In the next three years they made up for lots time & I quickly had a brother & a sister. I wasn’t crazy about them but I was too busy hating & being afraid of Donald & his gang, to get too distressed about the instant family.

part 2 next week

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Recap May 2021

Over the past month by TOpoet.ca following blog grew to 492 so I should hit 500 by the end of the year! The WP map shows my hits have come from 31 countries around the world. That the USA tops the list is no surprise but that Italy & South Korea are in the top 10 is a surprise. Most popular posts were Small Word (https://topoet.ca/2021/05/17/small-world/) & The Flirt (https://topoet.ca/2021/05/29/the-flirt/

My Tumblr is at 326 followers – the latest being a cryptocurrency trader (we have so much in common 🙂 ). Twitter is at 226 followers.

Picture Perfect: 69 sections, about 100,000 words posted so far with  approx 85,000 to be edited & then posted. 

The rollercoaster of the Ontario lockdown measures continued its ups & downs almost in keeping with the weather’s ups & downs. Hot one day, frost the next night. As usual Toronto jumped into summer with a week of hot dry weather which has been great for my garden which exploded within a week.

Apparently travel restrictions (for those who feel such restrictions apply to them) will result in travel money going into gardens & home improvements. Waking up at your office because you are working at home has made many tired of seeing the same furniture 24 hours a day. I’ve seen a bounty of desks, sofas, dining room tables dragged to the curb.

Rewatched our dvd of Fellini’s Amacord which I enjoy more & more with each watching. It captures a sense of nostalgia that transcends time & place. The cinematography is stunning – the floating puffballs, the snow, the amazing moment when the peacock lands during the snow to open its tail. The music is delightful, the performances are on point. 

In one of the extras someone says that the movie may not be a historically correct memory but it is a true one. The past is always a selective reconstruction. The Crown, as excellent as it is, doesn’t hesitate for a good story. I was surprised to find out that, in fact, Princess Margaret never met LBJ on her USA jaunt. I love the show but don’t mistake it for factual.

Inputs from hard copies of old poetry & short stories nearly finished. Found a paper folder full of old scripts to input next. At times it feels endless but also reflects that I wrote constantly for many, many years. I did have many of these backed up on disks but none of those disks are readable any more 🙂 I did try a few years back, before tossing them all, & found that even if I could up load the word processing programs couldn’t be read to even translated, as it were. 

I’ve been posting the stories on Thursdays along with talk about my music collection. Some of the poetry will be blogged over the summer on Wednesdays with my comments & memories of writing them. All are from between 1972-77. Wallowing in the past? Not me.

a poem inspired by the last time I watched Amarcord 

Fog Tarantella

<>

for too many years 

I was in a tree top

shouting out for love

I didn’t care where it came from

the louder I shouted the less I heard

the higher I climbed

the further I got away from it

yet I didn’t think of climbing down

I wanted the love that was in the air

not the common stuff of the earth

not knowing then

that was where love grew from

<>

one morning during a snow storm

the first after a long hot autumn

of yelling myself hoarse

give me love  I want love

blood flecks dappling the leaves 

the snow at first a few darting specks

then a steady scrim hush

to cool my eyes

flakes on my fevered tongue 

letting the sky satisfy 

as best it could 

but the sky doesn’t love back

except with echoes

<>

while the snow cloaked me

my own limbs mantled like branches

a peacock

clumsily descended

a bird that at a distance has stunning beauty

but this close it was motley 

squawking as it settled by me 

our eyes met

his tail opened

the breathtaking fan of feathers

stopped my shouting

I reached out to touch 

fell

earth bound by beauty

at the foot of the tree

<>

a mist arose around me

through the winter fog 

came men dancing

their arms around wisps of white

the imagined bodies of lovers

caressing the backs

touching the hair

making it as real as they could

kissing empty haze

could I join them

should I

was this all I could expect on earth

or would I be bold enough 

to allow one of these dancing men

to dance with me

before I climbed a tree

lost in the fog

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Picture Perfect 70

Picture Perfect 70

“Pizzas here!” Peter called. “or is that pizzae?”

“You plan on feeding an army?” Dan looked at the stack of pizza boxes on the dining room table. “One each for each of us! I’m lucky to finish two slices in a large. These have to be extra large.”

“Be grateful I didn’t order the Super Bowl party size.” Jeremy said.

Ashley spread the boxes over the table, flipped open the top of each. “Pepperoni classic with extra cheese where are you. Nope this one is – what is it?”

“Looks like shrimp and lobster to me.” Peter said handing Jeremy a plate and a carving knife. “No enough pizza cutters to go around.”

“This one has sausages and bacon.” Ashley said.

“Meat Lovers.” Jeremy explained. “there should be ground beef and salami under the extra cheese.”

“Daddy did you order one for me?” she opened another boxx. “Oh here it is. Give me that pizza slicer. Got bigger plates?”

‘“Nope.” Dan said. “We only have plates for people with normal sized appetites. And this one is,” he opened the last box. “Spinach, egg plant and I’m not sure.”

“Avocado and sun dried tomatoes. That one also has feta for those of us who get tired of mozzarella or cheddar. Crust is gluten free, too.” Jeremey explained. “The vegan deluxe. You’ll never miss the meat.”

“Oh yummy,” Peter said, “There’s nothing more tempting than cardboard with hot spinach.”

“Try it, you’ll like it.” Jeremey said before he pushed the tip of the sea food pizza in his mouth.

They each managed to try, of not fully eat, a slice from each of the pizzas. 

“I hope everyone is stuffed.” Peter said. “If they are thank the man who paid the chef. Those of us about to explode with goods salute you Mr. Moxham.”

“My pleasure.”

“I’m sleepy.” Ashley announced.

“It is getting late.” Jeremey checked his watch. “We’ll head home in half an hour, princess. Need time for the dough to settle.”

“You can nap in my room.” Peter said.

“Your room?” she said. “You don’t live here! Dan does.”

“True. But unlike you I am a guest who stayed for longer than dinner.”

He went upstairs with her.

“So he is really house sitting?” Jeremy said. “I thought that was was a euphemism for sleeping together.”

“No, it isn’t a euphemism. But yes we are sleeping together.” Dan collected the dirty plates.

“Oh!”

“You mean you’ve been celibate all these years?”

“No but …”

“The lobster pizza was pretty good.” Dan began to combine remains of pizzas into two boxes. “I wasn’t sure about it at first. The idea of putting seafood on a pizza struck me as being more inventive than tasty.”

“Like the idea of gay men courting?” Jeremy asked.

“You mean inventive or tasty? Sorry, I didn’t mean that to sound as sarcastic as it did.”

“I’m a little confused.” Jeremy said. “You know I find you attractive.”

Just then Peter came back into the room. “Did I miss something, sir?”

Dan massaged his forehead with the palm of his hand. “I came home to deal with business business not emotional business. I’m not looking to be courted. I’m not looking for a replacement for Sanjay. Not yet anyway. I don’t know where you got it into your head I was I husband hunting.” He went down to his study and shut the door.

His head throbbed. His study smelled of Jeremy’s cologne. All he wanted was to be free of emotional encumbrances for a while. Yet, everywhere he turned there was another opportunity, another someone trying to attach themselves to him. It wasn’t as if what that great looking or even had a big fat thick dick. Ordinary. He was ordinary.

There was knock on his door. “Ice cream?” Peter said.

“I’ll be right out.”

On his way up to the FairVista store in the morning Dan wished he had exercised more restraint when it got to the ice cream and brioche. Neither of which did anything to dispel the awkwardness of acting normal with Ashley in their midst. Once Jeremy left with her Dan went directly to bed. Peter had enough sense to let him sleep alone.

In the morning he was glad he had turned the message alert off before going to bed as there was three texts from Linda. The first sent at midnight, said “wlcm hm thnx 4 pics.” The second sent two hours later said “pics r exclnt.” The third was sent an hour ago said. “Must talk asap.”

As she hadn’t sent Hamid to pick him up he didn’t he didn’t think her asap was that urgent. Peter had already left for work when he got up with an ice cream hangover. His stomach felt bloated from the excess of glutenated products they had eaten. Cold sea food pizza made for a good breakfast though. 

The FairVista hadn’t changed. There were some discreet Halloween decorations here and there but this wasn’t where anyone shopped for costumes, monster makeup or candy to give away. Christmas was the serious season. He could smell the coffee when the doorman opened the mall door for him.

“Lovely morning Mr. James.”

“Yes, it is.”

Linda was at one of the Cuppa tables with a coffee and biscotti in front of her.

“Smell it when you came in?” she asked.

“Couldn’t miss it.” 

“I read how movie theatre would pump the smell of popcorn to the street so people would get the craving for it when they passed. Bakeries do with the fresh bread too. Have one?”

“Water for me.” He took a bottle of water out of his shoulder bag. “I’m here. By the way I had supper last night with Jeremy Moxham.”

“Then you already know what I wanted to talk to you about. Saves me the trouble of having to explain it to you.”

“No explaining to do. It’s your business now.”

“I want your guarantee that you won’t pull Lifend out of here.”

“Why would I do that Linda.”

“You know why.”

“Oh that! Lifend has their own system of checks and balances. You can’t accidentally add their name to anything.”

“I’ve gone over the store’s contractural agreement with them.”

“And?”

“How flexible will they be on some of those stipulations.”

“Not at all. No discounts. No trade-ins. They own the stock until it is sold.”

“FairVista wants me to capitalize even more of their name though.”

“You can use the logo on site as much as you want to & when you advertise my product demonstrations & workshops. They aren’t concerned with getting their name out there beyond that.”

“It makes it hard to sell them. People expect discounts at some point.”

“That’s what exclusivity means.” Dan said. “They sell what they want, at the price they want. There are not seconds, discontinued lines or even knock-offs. They are paying enough for the square footage they are using here. Plus they pay for the amount of window display they get. Those you can expand, at no cost to them, but cannot reduce it, to make room for another Cuppa’s coffee table.”

“FairVista …”

“Fuck FairVista, Linda. They know their contractual obligations to Lifend. Lifend doesn’t want its own store. They want a single North American site where people can buy period. They sell to people who can afford to fly to Toronto to make face-to-face purchases.”

“I get that.”

“Then why bringing Jeremy Moxham into this?”

“I was hoping to bring him in as a business partner. Without the Depot …”

“Partner? Really! Are you serious?”

“It makes sense to me. We need someone with a name value to the public & to FairVista. Something that can do more for us than this rinky-dink cable crime show of yours.”

“Teresa sends her regards.”

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

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The Flirt

The Flirt

<>

I don’t flirt

unless I mean it

a compliment is not flirting

unless you feel

insecure

a compliment is not a threat

is not a come on

but sometimes

it is another condescending 

patriarchal comment

based on cultural imposed definitions

of what is pretty 

handsome 

acceptable

<>

so I often say nothing

that might reflect an opinion

it is less complicated

when you don’t have an opinion

you aren’t responsible

for defending it explaining it changing it

I can be a little more open

to what is around me

it is easier to negotiate the traffic

when one isn’t preoccupied

with an inner monologue

about the driving habits of others

I get to pay attention

to what I am hearing 

as opposed to formulating

a response

to what I think someone is saying

by the way

I was flirting

Working with language one learns to say what one means – not that ambiguity or unreliable narrators aren’t useful tools in fiction & poetry – but in conversations with real people ambiguity can be treacherous: ‘That’s not what I meant’ ‘You took that the wrong way’ “I was just joking.’ 

Which can be complicated by the person who hears what they want regardless of what you say, or who reads more into what you say than you mean, or take offence at simple things – “Good morning – What’s so good about it?” “Have a great day – You don’t care what kind of day I have.”

It’s a wonder people have relationships at all with the often unreliability of language itself. To spare one another’s feelings, or merely to be likeable we end up snared by codependency. Rather that saying ‘no – never’ we say ‘not now.’ People say ‘just sex is fine’ while hiding ‘let’s fall in love’ so as not to appear too demanding.

At times we over-compensate to be ingratiating or cheerful. “Nothing fucking rainy day. – Oh, but rain is good for gardens.” You get the subtext 🙂 These are all examples from my life. I learned the ‘don’t flirt’ many years ago. In the queer world sexualizing language is easy & considered sort of campy & clever. A guy I did this sort of word play with took it as a serious come on. I was only interested in the word play & was pissed when I told him that. So I stopped that sort of interaction, unless I mean it.


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Maria Muldaur

Maria Muldaur’s career spans decades starting with her work with Jim Kweskin Jug Band, with her husband on Geoff & Maria: Sweet Potatoes. Then solo. I have her early 70’s lps: Midnight At The Oasis, Waitress In A Donut Shop, Sweet Harmony & the later Heart of Mine (2006) of Bob Dylan love songs. Plus some of that jug band with Jim Kweskin: Relax Your Mind, Unblushing Business.

Like many my introduction was Midnight with its very jazzy tempo & evocative lyrics. The solo albums cover a range of styles & eras. Suggestive “Don’t Touch My Leg” to almost gospel “Sweet Harmony.” My favourite track is Waitress that is a perfect 40’s movie musical in under four minutes. She was one of several female singers  at the time like Linda Ronstadt or Emmylou Harris or even Bette Midler – who were ‘groomed’ for major careers.

Each took very different routes though & Maria’s never hit the heights of Linda’s. Perhaps the ‘glamour’ didn’t appeal to her after her politically charge folky years. The earlier jug band work is, as one would expect, rootsy, Americana with a strong anti-capitalism undertone. It is great fun & covers ragtime, big band (without the big band) & traditional with hippy fervour. Kweskin is worth seeking out if you are unfamiliar. 

I love the lilting, light quality of her voice which over time became less smooth but still emotive  & sweet. Her later work becomes more bluesy & some of it is Christian based. According to wiki she’s still alive, torquing the folk circuit & heading back to the studio soon.

Finally Steelyard Blues (1973): Soundtrack with songs written by Nick Gravenites and Mike Bloomfield – some feature Maria Muldaur on vocals. They movie is a mediocre counterculture ‘comedy’ that isn’t as good as its soundtrack. Skip the movie get the soundtrack 🙂 

the final section from this short story I wrote in 1977

Chopin

3

We walk on silently, breathlessly, towards my place. She allows herself to feel, again, David’s desire to be there, to be there with her. We cross two empty streets, pass a ballgame, round a corner. Three houses down, I stop without warning. She stumbles against me, our faces touch.

Will the neighbours think we kissed

“Home at last. Be it ever so humble.” Lazily unlocking the door I lead her in.

“Ooh this is nice. Very nice. It is so much bigger than your other place.” She is glad she accepted his dinner invitation. Here she can read signs in his plants, confessions in the paintings he hangs, thoughts from the books he is reading. “There is so much more you here.”

“You think so?” Safe. I am safe here. “I’m glad you like it. It took quite a bit of work to get it this far. I sanded the floors myself.” David is rapidly opening the lp he bought. “I wanted it to be more than a place you eat & sleep.” I need to hear Chopin. “I tried to express things without being too blunt.” The lp is now. I want its newness. Jean is new, here. “It is very good seeing you again.”

Jean sits on the long couch, watching him wipe the static off the new album. “You’re still so very careful with you records. I’m amazed.” She wonders if those hands will still be as careful with her.

“I look on these as an investment to be protected.” As they protect me. Piano fills the room. David sits beside her. “I wish I could take back some of those ugly things I’ve said.” I blurt, looking quickly away from her. “Do you really like what I’ve done with this place?”

She turns slowly, her eyes moving over plants, carpets, records. A planter, hanging in the window, casts irregular shadows across her face. She squeezes his hand, the pressure to convey he acceptance & understanding of his blurted apology. The shadows ripple like fingers over a keyboard. A fantasy in lust & dark.

“I’m jealous. My place is such a mess.”

David is watching shadows play around her lips, into the creases of her calculating eyes. Yes, there is more than a chance for us.

“What are you thinking about,” she asks, her hands wanting to push his hair back. her eyes wanting to search his body for further information, for a sign she can trust & follow.

“Food,” I laugh, getting up.”What would you like?”

“Oh, anything. Let’s see what you’ve got.” She laughs, following him into the kitchen.

The kitchen is so small we keep bumping into each other as we prepare a light summer supper. There is mayonnaise on her cheek, I reach out to wipe it off by stop.

“I …” David wants to explain there is no motive but knows that such an explanation is a step towards the motives I would be denying.

“Yes?” She looks away, wiping her cheek, glancing out the window at his tiny little backyard garden

David leaves the kitchen, leaves the image of her standing, holding a dishcloth to her face. A perfect moment. Safe. Complete. I turn the Chopin over, add his Waltzes to be played next, turn the stereo up & let the music thicken enough for two.

She comes into the room, softly asks. “How can you bear to living alone?”

“I can’t.” I turn so quickly David’s look of unalterable longing reaches her before I can control it.

She blushes.

I kiss her.

She pushed him away. “Please, don’t”

I kiss her again. Harder. She responds.

I stop suddenly.

“I’m sorry.” David steps back, Chopin throbbing in my temple. Is this fair to either of us?

“Don’t be. I was afraid romance had died. Apparently it has only lost some of its former grace.” She laughs, putting her arms around David, pulling him closer.

“Maybe it has merely been replaced by desperation.” I whisper. My hands fumble to open buttons, hooks, buckles & zippers. The carpet is coarse, yet soft under my skin. Her shoulders are brown, well-tanned, except for straps of white flesh. For an instant David recalls the tanned shoulders of a more urgent body but that instant passes into piano winds brushing our hair as we roll with & into one another.

Bound by a stunning rush of cadenza I, for the moment, escape the need for safety, the worry of fairness. Safety from that clear hunger I am tempted by but am unwilling to understand.

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Snapped

Snapped

some people

are just asking for a slap

you know what I mean

so I snapped & slapped 

it was so fast

I hardly felt it

but it worked

it shut them up

for a few minutes

a few scant moments of bliss

of silence

<>

there wasn’t even an echo

of the slap

my hand hardly felt it all

you know what I mean

if it doesn’t hurt me

it surely didn’t hurt them

beyond a bit of humiliation

in front of the others

<>

I know to be slapped

is more of a social thing

if we were alone

I doubt if a slap would have happened

but with an audience

what else could I do

to teach them a lesson

about what I won’t to put up with


boundaries have to be established

so I slapped

<>

I would do it again

only harder the next time

you know what I mean

“some people/are just asking for a slap” says what this poem is about. No subtext, no secret message or even an analogy. A slap is always a slap. In this case it isn’t meant to punish, hurt or teach a lesson but to express frustration. It is an expression of displeasure that is stronger than merely saying ‘Get of out here Veda’ & stepping away, but saying that with a slap confirms ‘I mean this, pack your bags & go.’

A punch is anger, a shove is control but a single quick slap is a statement. A punch is assault, a slap is insult. More than one is escalation & usually invites revenge. It doesn’t even have to be that hard to get the point across but hard enough to be felt. 

In movies I’m often dismayed that the blows exchanged in fist-fights seems to have no real impact – yes, I know it is stage choreography & no one actually gets hit. But I see body blows that would break an ordinary person ribs, or that wold damage the hands of the puncher – why do you think boxers wear gloves? 

I have never slapped anyone as an adult. As a kid I got in one to two slap fights with other kids that we’re more emotionally, than physically, bruising. I’ve never seen a fist fight, not even one in a boxing ring. I guess I’ve lead a very sheltered life 🙂 I have smacked a few asses, on request, which how I know the slapper’s hand hurts as much as the ass.

But as the first line says “some people/are just asking for a slap” which is why I don’t watch the news 🙂


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