Into the Van

Continuing to listen to the heartbeat of Van Morrison I have Wavelength 78, Into The Music 80, Beautiful Vision 82, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart 83, A Brand New Sense of Wonder 85, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher 86, Poetic Champions Compose 87, Irish Heartbeat 88, Avalon Sunset 89, Enlightenment 90, Hymns To The Silence 91, Too Long in Exile 93, Days Like These 95, Duets: Re-working the Catalogue 2015. 

So you could say I’m a fan 🙂 Some these I had as lps, some as cassettes & now some are stand-clones & others mp3. Wavelength was Van going out his period of transition & into what I consider his prime with a series of spiritually complex &  musically compelling albums with often astonishing lyrics. He accomplished the sort of mystic poetics that band like Moody Blues failed at.

The albums from 78 up to 91 follow an increasing Zen sense of being with assessable lyrics & sweet music. There are some tracks full of memories of his Irish childhood that become universal – who doesn’t remember listening to the radio late at night, who doesn’t remember poets who raved on to open them to new thoughts. Van plays his sax in some deceptively simple instrumentals on some of these lps. He fully embraces his Celtic roots on Irish Heartbeat. 

The later albums are more reflective of his musical career & he is clearly aware of his legacy, which he continues to add to. He always followed his own muse, there is never a sense that he is out to create hit songs. This is adult pop – like Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne – to name a couple – who make music they want to make not what the market demands. 

This is a piece I wrote in the early 80’s.

Down The Drain

1

“It’s time we talked.”

“About what?”

“What do you think. About us. About what is going on & what’s to come of it.”

“About life & the superficial way so many people deal with it?”

“Don’t make fun. For once let’s be serious. Or does that make an unbearable demand on you?”

“I’m listening.”

We’d had this conversation once before. Then I’d only known Jim for almost four months, for me a remarkably long time. More than amazing was that nearly a year had passed since then & for the past few months I’d been expecting him to start another ‘serious’ talk.

Sitting on the sofa I pulled him close to me. 

“I’m listening.” I brush this moustache with mine, quickly darting my tongue along his lips. “Sex is all I can seriously think about when I’m with you.”

“I’m not complaining about that.” He pushed me away from him.

A vague tiredness came over me then, a sort of dismaying boredom, this time I knew he would corner me. I was used to slipping away. It wasn’t going be easy on either of us.

“Neither am I. Shoot.”

Jim seemed a bit surprised to find me receptive. He knew I preferred to avoid, or at least to cloud, emotional issues between us.

“Do you know where to begin?” I asked.

He shook his head. 

“Well, what it is? Does it something to do with me flip fucking you last night?”

“No.” He took a deep breath. “Weekends aren’t enough. You know I’d move in, we could …”

I silenced him with a finger on his lips. “Impossible. I couldn’t do anything with you around all day.”

“Fuck impossible! Do you know what it’s like for me when you aren’t around. You & your privacy. Selfish fucker you are.” He went to the window. “Sometimes I feel that what I want & what I feel aren’t really important to you, that this is all you want from me.” He gestured to his crotch.

“Okay, I’m selfish. I admit it. I want my own way, my own time & space. I can’t …”

“Jesus, Donald.” He punched the window frame.”You know how difficult it is for anyone of us to … You should understand …” Futility fused with a trace of tears challenged his usually placid composure. “I …I’m not blind. It’s not as if …”

He moved quickly, suddenly. My eyes blinked for the moment the back of his hand cracked against my cheek. I thudded heavily into the couch, my shoulders twisting as my head rebounded from his blow. I bounced a little into the next, slammed into the full force of his fist. I could taste blood.

The inside of my mouth was bleeding.

Silence.

I heard my breath.

Lungs bursting I inhaled blood & anger. Jim was crying, staring at his hands.

I wanted to talk, to say I understood his anguish, to explain how I invited this fury but I couldn’t. Words disappeared even before they could be conceived. I wanted to make a joke of this but I couldn’t.

Touching my nose I was relieved to find it wasn’t broken, merely bleeding. My left eye was numb, vision fuzzy, my bottom lip felt inches thick. Blood was dripping onto my t-shirt.

I tried to talk but gagged, spewing a self-swallowed mouthful of blood. Dazed I stood slowly. Jim backed away shocked & frightened.

(part 2 next week)

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Next Time

Next Time

the sex was good

but at this stage 

good wasn’t enough

I craved more than contact

<>

he certainly enjoyed 

the flesh on flesh

but not nearly as much

as he enjoyed the down low

the secret assignation

<> 

his exploration of excitement

of things his wife didn’t provide

I was his walk on the wild side

that made the cultural box

he felt he had no way of avoiding

bearable

<>

the sex was good

I was a non-threatening opportunity

that had nothing to do with me

as a person

as a spiritual entity

he only wanted the release

when he wanted it

<>

his travel here

often took longer

than we played together

play that was clearly more than good for him

but a vitally needed contact

<>

the sex was good

but for me

good wasn’t enough

I want desire

chemistry

there wasn’t enough chemistry 

for me to want more

not enough chemistry

to get an yen for him 

I knew enough about him

I didn’t care

<>

now to tell him

the next time he calls

and I know he will call

they always do

A guy I saw decades ago once joked ‘How long before I show up in one of your poems?’ He never did but he was aware that writers, poets in particular, often write about their lives – it is a way of processing our experiences & a way remembering them. I didn’t tell him that poetry is a fiction that reflects the truth without telling it – reflections are often distorted by the light, by time & the surface that sends back the reflection.

Some of my pieces are composites of real events that I’ve experienced or that friends had told me about. This is one of those composite pieces that reflects that balance between lust & opportunity. One would think with changes in cultural mores men (or women) wouldn’t feel so bound to fulfill the roles of husband or father but many still do.

Whether out of a sense of not letting down the folks, or maintaining their ethnic standards they find themselves in domestic relationship boxes – often though, as in the case of the married man here, he felt little conflict in maintaining two lives. He also enjoyed the ‘sneak’ of meeting up to spending time with me – overtime, going to the gym tonight, etc.

Things between us developed beyond this stage as we talked about our lives outside the bedroom. Not that he was going to leave the missus or anything stupid like that but a mutual fondness was strong. But fondness is no mask in these pandemic years. So I haven’t seen him in over year now; we email occasionally but, to be honest, if we never meet up again, life will go on. He’ll be a sweet memory not a heart ache. He texted that he’s had his vaccine so I know he’ll call.


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Paper Ghosts

Thanks to the pandemic I’ve been purging my past. Papers, first drafts, photographs & memories. A basement full of lumber, bricks, paint, nut & bolts saved, salvaged, kept for another day now gone, with out regret. Stage set pieces from Bushwack Theatre finally seeing the light of day in the back of a junk removal truck 🙂 

I have seeing my history in the paper I used for writing on. Scrap paper recycled from Famous Players old daily multi-coloured sales report forms – pads of which became redundant as they were updated. Colour coded for filing & mailing purposes. Flyers for movies, for theatrical productions. Lined or blank loose leaf, pages torn out of scribblers, note book of various sizes & even shapes. Notes, poems, fiction typed on various typewriters, hand written in various inks & pens, dot-matrix print outs that had never been separated. https://topoet.ca/2021/03/16/past-of-the-future/

The ‘See Europe’ was one of several road show productions that travelled around the maritimes with special presentations – this was Travel, another was Alpine Skiing – the most popular was the in person show by Raveen – a hypnotist, magician – I wish I had some of those flyers. The travel shows weren’t big draws mind you but they were rentals – in this case Tony Smith was in charge of his ticket sales. We got the rental fee plus sold lots of popcorn 🙂

The various papers help date when some of these pieces were written as many of them were undated. The Famous pages are before I moved to Toronto in 1978. Days Of Heaven is from my first year here. The Famous Players form bring back memories beyond what I had written on the blank sides. One of my jobs there was to type details onto them. There was carbon paper between the pages that were 4 form thick so one had to hit hard to make sure the bottom one was legible. A mistake meant whiteout on all copies before re-entering. A total pain. Life before computers & data entry. 

This piece was typed on the blank side of a ‘Days Of Heaven’ flyer

My Left Hand

he gives me a call

a peace offering

an invitation

an offer

to nail my left hand

to the floor

but he has no camera

<>

he calls

on days

when his memory

is fading

the echo of the moon

in an old well

he speak

French threats

innuendos

of vague violence

I cannot resist

<>

I cannot confront

direct violence

I have a fear of pain

pain as in death

facts to face

I am afraid

I’ll enjoy the nail

relish each thud of the hammer

<>

I remember

the bite of his teeth

even when I cannot

recall the feel

of his lips

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Astral Van

I have been a Van Morrison fan since Moondance. Over the decades I have built a fairly complete collection, so large that I’m splitting it into two posts.  The first song of his I was familiar with was Gloria – though at the time I didn’t connect it with him. It was a cut on The Blues Magoos’ Electric Comic Book. 

His music journey has from from Irish garage-band rock with Them, to his early searching solo years after Astral Weeks, then Moondance, a return to traditional Irish, a transcendental mystic time of great spiritual discovery, to his present sense of looking back – even re-recording some of his early work. Each period has great work by this restless musical spirit.  

There are several books about him. I have read Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 which is an excellent look at the pop scene of the time & his formative US years. Many of the songs it discusses are found on Bang Masters (67). I picked this up in February 1993. Brown Eyed Girl was his solo break-though. Mostly good solid soulful rock. The Bob Dylan inference shows on some tracks.

I have as mp3: Astral Weeks Expanded Edition 68 – which has extended versions a few tracks. The jazzy/chamber music setting is sweet &, at the time, quite revolutionary so radio stations didn’t know what to do with – musically a clear influence on the chamber rock of groups like Antony & the Johnsons. 

A stand-alones I have Moondance 70, His Band and The Street Choir 70, Tupelo Honey 71, St Dominic’s Preview 72, Hard Nose The Highway 73. At one time I had them as cassettes & upgraded to cd. Moondance remains a classic, timeless album. A more commercial recording than Astra Weeks. The music is celebratory, romantic & fun. The next ones are less hit-song driven, his sound changes from one to the next, choirs on one, more horns on another. I had most of these as cassettes at one time. Also mp3’s of Veedon Fleece 74, A Period of Transition 77.

Listening one can sense how his real life is reflected in his music. The end of his marriage, the wrestle with booze & drugs, his spiritual longings & his search for ways to express though lyrics & music his need to balance his expectations, fame & friends. In some ways a male version of Joni Mitchell but with a more rock sensibility. All of these are great albums but if you are unfamiliar start with Moondance & then Astral Weeks. 

More Van next week.

Anticipation 4

It was as he said ‘I want to know’ that he realized he did, in fact, accept The Book. It didn’t matter what he did, he couldn’t avoid his fate so he might as well start living to enjoy it. It didn’t matter what he did as long as he did something. The idea of making a decision that was not escape frightened him. That was also in The Book – ‘Martin will make the fearful choice after death.’ He regretted that it was someone else’s death.

So, this was the day. Overcast & slushy. No Michelangelo skies. As he dressed he wondered exactly what he would be doing at the moment of impact, the fulcrum of healing? Saving a drowning child? Taking a good shit? ‘What becomes the healing the world the most?’ he inhaled ‘God’, held it; breathed out, ‘Thank you.’ Then reversed the order.

Recently he had been pre-occupied by what would become of him after that moment. The Book ended with ‘On that February 14 Martin will begin the healing of the world.’ Nothing followed. Not that The Book had even been helpful in any important way. He had frequently wished it had said things like ‘Martin will become a doctor, or ‘wear those blue shorts to the beach.’ It only commented ‘… will then no longer feel lost.’ The horoscope in the newspaper was more helpful.

He hoped that once he got the healing started he could begin to live his own life for himself.

A list of To Do Today on the fridge had only one item on it – ‘Replace plug on corner lamp.’ That meant a trip to the hardware store, people, uniformed sales clerks. All the things he’d rather avoid.

The elevator in his building wasn’t working, again. Luckily he only had a six flight walk. In the carpark he discovered his arial had been snapped off, again. At least this time they hadn’t scratched a map of the world on his roof.

He went the hardware store in the mall. Found what he wanted quickly then went over to Finest Burgers in the food court. Ordered one with works & found a quiet spot that faced the dining area.

He looked at the hamburger & the fries. Fries overcooked to just the brownness he liked. The first bite was perfection. He knew it wasn’t the most healthy food but the combination of salt, ketchup & grease exploded in his mouth in the most satisfying way. A way he knew alfalfa sprouts couldn’t come near.

The molecular structure of the grease changed & the cholesterol deposits in Martin’s arteries began to dissolve. 

Brenda’s doctor looked at the test results. “Gone! Completely in remission.”

Charles put the gun down.

Brian decided he could look after the kids without her.

The blood sample on the slide mutated, the helper cells began to win.

Sylvia decided not to have that last donut.

Martin glanced up & saw that it was just after one. The healing had begun! He looked around expecting to see transformation. All he saw was people eating. He bit into his hamburger, Perfection again. And so it should be, after all wasn’t this a perfect day. The first perfect day ever.

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Apocalypse Postponed

The covid pandemic hasn’t been like the post-apocalypse movies – you know, those end-of-the-world scenarios where panicked mobs take the streets to pillage stores & hunt down one another in the struggle for survival. At least not yet. People have gotten steamed up, some reactionary noisiness about masks, vaccines with finger-pointing blame & some calling out profit mongering. Let’s face it if the pandemic wasn’t making someone lots of $ it would be ignored.

People are confused by science. One day one of the vaccines isn’t safe for over sixty, then another day it is safe but not safe for under 50’s, or at least not safe if you female between the ages of 30-40, but now safe for over over 60’s regardless of gender. Were safety protocols rushed to get it on the market? No, that would never happen.

Here in Ontario the numbers are confusing & ultimately ignored. The number of vaccines given hasn’t brought the numbers of infected down, in fact it has gone up. The biggest jump has been in schools but we can’t close them because parents need to work now that more businesses are being reopened because we have to get the economy moving so the tax base is large enough to pay for the vaccines, or something like that.

The economy has to recover so politicians can be re-elected with enough of a majority that can protect the profit margins of those already making $ off the pandemic. You know those banks who get a fee every time you use your debit/credit card because most retailers no longer accept cash because cash is riddled with potential disease. You pay a fee & the merchant pays a fee – win/win for the banking industry. How much do they pay into the tax base?

I did get my vaccine as soon as my age bracket was allowed. Booked it on line but first entering my postal code, it directed me to the nearest temporary clinic where I continued the process with birth date, health card number & it was done. Took about fifteen minutes. I did that on a Saturday & appointment booked for Tuesday, 10:20 a.m. Got there on the Tuesday by 10, lineups moving fairly quickly. More registration confirmations etc. Got the shot by 10:30.

I was given the vaccine info after the shot. I got the Pfizer – apparently the #1 rated, so far. Sat for 15 minutes, was given a receipt for the shot, next one booked for July. No side effects not even the sore arm many have experienced. I’m not sure whose profit margin I have helped but at least I didn’t have to use my credit card 🙂

Puppet Theatre Time (2008)

the theory is that

our leaders are all puppets 

figureheads

who are invested

in the illusion of power

unaware they are hollow images

taking the heat for the real powers

a hidden consortium 

who make the real decisions

they exert the right squeeze

so little leaders slump out 

to take the blame 

because leaders are just frail men

with no will power to wield

no clout to get the job done

not even attractive to look at

so they are more believable

<>

politics is now 

a form of entertainment

media fodder

to hide the real holders of power

we are amused  numbed

by the constant barrage 

of sound bite cell cam videos

of presidents getting photo ops

when they should be 

getting our boys out of 

wherever the hell they are 

because even where they are

isn’t the real war zone

but a more elaborate movie set

with real lives being lost

to keep our attention away from

what is really going on

<>

no one is sure what is really going on

it isn’t what we accept as the truth

there is no money in truth

only diverting statics

from the struggle for freedom

from Tibet to Kensington market 

upscale name branded 

divisive tactics

sometimes I believe this 

sometimes I don’t care

where do we place our faith

what is worth the energy to change

if it can be changed

revolution has been copyrighted 

by este lauder

the latest scent 

a mix of blood oil jasmine

with woody undertones

<>

if it isn’t making someone money 

it isn’t going to happen

war happens because it is big business

cancer continues to make a profit

going green isn’t happening 

the profit margins are too low

most people don’t earn

enough to save the planet

from who holds 

the reins of the illusion power

or so the theory goes

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The Kenton Experience

There is a genre of classical music in which pop music is turned into ‘serious’ music. There are lps of the Beatles done as Bach. The Vitamin Quartet has made a career of interpreting the likes of Coldplay, Lady Gaga, even Led Zeppelin as string quartets. All of which I have tucked away in my collection. Of these cross-covers one of my favourites is The Kennedy Experience. 

Led by violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy this Experience tackles – you guessed it – The Jimi Hendrix Experience. But instead of turning Hendrix into classical music it stretches into an exploration of wider musical horizons. Some meditative, Third Stone From The Sun; some rock out, Fire. All are fantastic & resonant. Music to treasure.

Near by on the shelf is Stan Kenton: 100+ Classic Greats: includes West Side Story. This high quality easy listening jazz. Instrumental music falls into so many categories – some of Kenton’s work falls under exotica, some nightclub, some late night cafe stuff, all good stuff though. This is a jumbled assemblage of a dozen or so lps dumped into a collection. I’ve arranged some of the tracks back into their original release lps, some I left randomized. The Latin tracks were easy to sort, a set of blues, one of show tunes, one of jazz standards.

Kenton is not a challenging band leader but is never boring either. You want challenging try Coltrane 🙂 You want boring try Kenny G. My partner had Kenton’s West Side Story as lp & I enjoyed it enough to replace it with mp3 version & when I checked it out on iTunes up popped this massive collection of 100+ Kenton, for under $10.00. So I bought it. Well worth it.

Another similar massive collection was ‘Songs You Know & Love.’ Songs I knew from movies, some my parents favourites & some from the radio. Performed mostly by original artists. Things like McGuire Sisters: Cuddle Up A Little Closer; Dean Martin: When Your Smiling; Eddie Cantor: Ma, She’s Making Eyes at Me. Another great public-domain jumble from iTunes for under $10.00. 

As I listen to these I wonder how long it’ll be before there are similar mp3 jumbles of today’s stars?

Anticipation 3

Another day Martin would never forget was the day he finally believed the prophecy. As a child he didn’t question the truth of what his parents had told him. At about fourteen he began to doubt, within himself, this weird reality that his parents had forced on him.

The doubt crystallized during a school seminar on ‘The Future.’ Because it had been set out for him ‘to heal the world’ he had never given his future much thought. He had no concept of what he wanted to be when he grew up. The Book made no career references, no hints as to whether he should become a doctor or a garbage man. What profession would suit the healer of the world the most?

His listened to other kids talk about how they had discussed their futures with their parents. Futures that included colleges, marriages; futures that had real plans. All he discussed with his folks was how was school today. He realized how abnormal his parents were. Maybe even a little crazy. The Book, The healing of the world! What a crock! They didn’t even go to church.

He carried those doubts for the next few years. Those years of believing his parents were insane were the worst. He spent days plotting to have them legally committed. He never spoke to his parents about his fears of their sanity. After all, there was food on the table. Rarely any shouting or fighting. A very normal family in all ways but this one little wrinkle – The Book. He pulled away from them & their crazy notions.

His best days were those on which he forgot the prophecy. Sometimes he even had weeks of that blissful forgetting, in which he was just a man plodding through his life as best as anyone else.

The worse days were the ones when he felt painfully trapped by a fate he couldn’t alter. A fate he didn’t particularly care for & which he had tried to escape any way he could.

“What if I die in an accident?” He once asked his mother. “Then what happens to the world? Huh?”

“You won’t Martin. You won’t die.” She admonished him gently.

So he became a daredevil. Drinking hard, playing even harder, fast cars, high mountains. Seeking to escape but always being faced with what couldn’t be changed.

Though his twenties he couldn’t make decisions. He turned his will & his life over to any escape he could find. Alcohol, heroin, women, men. It didn’t matter. His life was charmed & cursed both at the same time.

One fateful night he had a car accident. A little stoned he hit an icy patch, swerved into another car, & rolled his own. He lived. He needed steel pins to put his leg together. Three people died in the other car. He was unconscious for two days.

His mother was there beside his bed. The Book on her lap. As he opened his eyes, she read, with a calm flatness, “Even as a vegetable Martin will fulfill the prophecy. The decision is his.”

“Hell. Hell. Hell.” he muttered painfully. “Why doesn’t it tell me more. I want to know what to do till then.”

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Motherly Love


On the shelf by the Mothers of Invention I have: Freak Out 1966 MOFO Project includes original plus out takes etc; Absolutely Free 1967; Only For The Money 1968; Cruising With Ruben & The Jets 1968; Uncle Meat 1969; Weasels Ripped My Flesh 1970; Live at Fillmore East 1971; The Grand Wazoo 1972 – big band mostly instrumental; Bongo Fury 1975 w Captain Beefheart. We’ll get to Frank Zappa when I get to ‘z’ 🙂

The Mothers expanded my music consciousness with their humour, their sometimes complex engineering, their fearlessness & their musicality. I can still hear ‘Susie … Susie Creamcheese.’ The endless layers on ‘The Money’ is a headphone extravaganza. The lyrics are timeless – who are the brain police – what’s the ugliest part of your body – brown shoes don’t make it.

Musically they veer from doo-wop, to rock, blues, avant-guard, Motown – sometimes all in the same song 🙂  One of few really prog-rock bands that continued to grow & show their listeners radical political & musical theories. I have to admit those first three lps were my favourites & can still be challenging to listen to today. the MOFO reissue of Freak Out is excellent. It includes full tracks of the pieces that were edited down for the lp. 

Absolutely Free defines the anarchic hippy counterculture in a way no other band at the time does. It spared no one, including the hippies themselves. ‘Money’ from its all out cover attack on the Beatles is sonically stunning, lyrically merciless & musically stunning. Plus Eric Clapton on guitar, if you can find him in the mix.

Ruben is a tribute/parody lp of doo-wop & bubblegum pop that verges on being the real thing. I love it. Uncle Meat is a sprawling mixed bag highlighted by the King Kong variations with Jean Luc Ponty. The cover is wild, but not as visceral as the cover for Weasels Ripped My Flesh: mix of live & wild studio work. If you are unfamiliar with the Mothers start with Absolutely Free.

Zappa’s musical influence is reflected in there work of Plastic People Of The Universe Czech rock band from Prague 1968–1989: Apokalyptikej Ptak (Live), Co znamená vésti koně (1981). A video of their’s turned up in my Tumblr feed so I tracked them down. This is an amazing, radical band that I dig. Check them out of YouTube.

Anticipation 2

Even today, just thirty-one years after that first reading of The Book Martin could still taste that vomit. He rinsed his mouth out with hot water & spit it out. ‘Oh God, why me?’ he thought. Inhaling ‘Thank You’ held in, breathed out ‘God.’ After nine breaths reversed the sequence.

Towelling down he recalled that by the day of his tenth birthday he had forgotten all about The Book. He had his first bicycle to look forward to. A fire-engine red two-wheeler. The Martin Flyer he had named it weeks before even asking for it. He ran alway home from school in anticipation of that bike. Sure enough it was there on the front veranda. A big red bow tied to the parcel carrier. In the house there was a cake on the dining-room table.

“Did’ja get ice cream, Ma?” He asked. “Let me go to the store & get some. I’ll ride the Martin Flyer & be back in a jiffy.”

“We have plenty.” She laughed. “But …”

“Yeah, Ma, what?”

“It’s not important.”

“What Ma?”

“Well, I thought maybe you should meet Dad down at the bus stop. He may have something for you to carry home.”

Martin was out of the house by the time she said bus. Much to his disappointment his Dad was at the front gate already.

“I was just coming down to meet you!” Martin exclaimed.

“Well, don’t let me stop you.” His Dad laughed, “I could still be there waiting for you, too.”

“Ah, Dad.” Martin half-laughed.

“You’re home early dear.” His mother came to the door & kissed his father.

“Well, I wanted to be here when …” He stopped & nodded at Martin.

Martin suddenly remember The Book. His stomach began to ache.

“I don’t want to know,” he said louder than he intended. “I need to know what any weird book says about me.”

Now looking at himself in the mirror he still didn’t want to know. Strangely he really didn’t know anymore about it all than he did then. Except that he would finally know today, at 1 p.m. All would be revealed.

It was several days after that birthday he finally rode his Martin Flyer. The ache in his stomach turned out to be his appendix. An ache that was not in The Book. At first his parents thought he was reacting to what had been written for him in The Book.

He, Martin, would heal the world. The phrase ‘heal the world’ made him dizzy for many years. No mention of how. Just the bare fact of when – ‘In his 41st year on February 14, 1 p.m.’ That ‘when’ was finally here. Or would be in a couple of hours.


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Morphine Machine

The Music Machine: Turn On! Yes, let’s turn on to 1966 with this amazing garage band. This was one of the first lps I remember buying. Still in high school & ‘innocent.’ I loved the hair, the black leather gloves they wore on stage, the turtlenecks. The front cover is reminiscent of the Beatles but the music is not, even though they do a cover of Taxman. I dug them 🙂 Listening to it now it is well produced with good studio use of echo, even a touch of flute. Reminiscent of early Steppenwolf or Grassroots. 

The lp was worn grey. The band was lost in the wake of the British Invasion & my interest was washed away by Hendrix, the Stones – you know, music that wasn’t built around Farfisa organ & bass. Definitely teen boy music. I bought the cd in September 1994 when I was deeply involved with Bushwack Theatre. I remember walking from the Lab on Britain St. to Sam’s on Yonge St & looking for this in particular. It was there but as a high-priced import, with no bonus tracks. I think I went back to Sam’s twice before I gave in & bought it. That year I played it over a dozen times for the powerful nostalgia it brought. I do not have any specific memories to go with it though 😦 except of me loving it in 1966.

The first track I heard by Morphine was either Honey White or French Fries With Pepper. I don’t remember where I heard it but I loved the sax driven sound. I was also taken by the lyrics & the voice of their lead singer; he reminded me of Tom Waites in delivery & the jazzy sound was perfect for me. I have Cure for Pain; Yes; Like Swimming; B-Sides & Otherwise. All are my favourites 🙂

Because of its instrumentation Morphine is considered ‘alternative.’ It’s definitely not U2 but the music is not that challenging or abstract. Solid, propulsive, hummable & relatable; adult music not teen-boy pop. They were on the verge of going mainstream when their lead vocalist died of a heart attack onstage in Palestrina, Italy, on July 3, 1999. What a way to go. If you are unfamiliar, start with any of their lps.

This piece goes back to late 80’s.

Anticipation 1

The electronic alarm bubbled. He took several deep breaths. Inhaling he thought “Thank you” held it, breathed out “God.” Then reversed the sequence. He didn’t want to feel he was breathing God out but inhaling the strength that his feeling of God gave him.

The telephone burbled. He thanked God for electronics. No more thought jangling ringing. The telephone continued to burble. Now, was that one burble or two? He wondered, as he picked up the receiver.

“Good morning, Martin.”

“Mother?” What did she want?

“That’s right dear. You remember what day this is?”

Martin glanced as the read-out glowing on his clock. “February 14, 19 …”

“Now Martin don’t tell me that you’ve forgotten …”

“To send you a card? Of course I did but …” Then he remembered. “Not that February 14?” Shit! Shit! Shit! This was not going to be such an ordinary day.

“That’s right Martin dear. The prophesy will be fulfilled today.”

God Thank You God Thank You God, he breathed in & out deeply. “Thank you, Mother.”

“One o’clock.”

“I know! I know! I’ve lived with the damn thing for … ”

“But you forgot.”

“As was foretold. ‘His mother would remind him.’ Isn’ that what it said in The Book. Thank you Mother. Now can I take a shower before …”

“It doesn’t matter what you do, dear. The prophecy will be fulfilled today.”

“Please, mother, give it a rest. Good-bye.”

As he hung up he heard her say, “Christ be with you.” 

Thank God, he breathed in, I’m not, he held his breath, a Christian, he breathed out. He repeated that nine times on his way to the shower. With the water almost too hot to tolerate he remembered the first time he had read The Book. 

It was a week before his tenth birthday. The Book was kept in a chest under his bed since he’d been born. He knew it was in there from having seen his parents look at it late at night when they thought he was asleep.

For the few months before his birthday he’d felt an urge to see it. As soon as he thought they were asleep he pulled the chest out & lifted up The Book. It seemed to resist him the way like poles of a magnet repel each other. It wasn’t very thick but took all his strength to lift it. The cover, as thin as it was, resisted his effort to open it. Once he had it open the heaviness was gone.

In the half-light of the moon he couldn’t make out what was printed on it. The typewritten pages, ragged along the edges, were covered with finger smudges & circle stains where cups had been set on them. As he turned the pages they became clearer & easier to see & to understand.

His heart beat faster & he uttered a little cry when. at the top of one page he saw, in capital letters, MARTIN. His eyes skimmed the page & fell on ‘At ten years of age he shall be told, but he will already know. He will want to escape, but he will never stop knowing.’

Suddenly fearful, he shut The Book & shoved it back inside the chest, pushed the chest back under his bed, ran to the bathroom & vomited.

(what else is in The Book – tune in next week for another trilling episode)

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Future of the Past

The endless lockdown is making people long for things to get back to normal, to the way things used to be. Their sense of the future, of hope for themselves & their careers is cloudy. Before the pandemic their futures were relatively clear – career opportunities were promising but now that new office is whichever corner of your apartment are you going to work from home in.

One friend misses his coworkers presence – not that he misses them as people but he enjoyed being part of a team with whom he had casual physical interaction. Working at home you are your own annoying coworker – there is no one to shrug to after a phone exchange with a client. He can’t remember when he last wore a shirt & tie. His job is secure but he doesn’t feel he has a real future if it is going to be spent in his apartment all day & night. His solution is to look for a new apartment to be trapped in.

I’ve been inputting things out of my writing archive – some pieces going back to high-school, some from the mid-70’s before I moved to Toronto, before I ‘came out.’ As I reread these pieces I try to sense my frame of mind at that time, try to sense what I thought my future would be & how this writing figured into that future. With my fiction I dreamed of being a gay Stephen King at times. 

Stranded in the east coast I really didn’t have a vision of the future until I escaped in the late 70’s. But at least I sensed there would be a future that would be an extension of the comfortable present of the times. Now my friends are facing a future that isn’t as comforting, comfortable or secure. Anxiety has replaced hope. No matter how fashionable masks become the reason for them remains.

Incontrovertible

it’s all open to interpretation

no fact is provable

the side you aren’t on 

views that suits the truth you feel 

is the most suitable to your purposes

<>

no image tells all there is to tell

it’s all in the lighting

viewed often enough 

everything  changes

was that a head bounce off the ground 

or an attempt to get up

was that a punch back 

or a hand up to block a punch

was he asking for it

was that a look of distain

depends on the camera angle

the time of day

the race of the looker

<>

what other news feeds do we have

who decides what the news is

which aspect of the truth to report

can we deny what we broadcast yesterday

why not

who remembers yesterday’s news

the past is fiction 

there is no truth too incontrovertible

that it can’t be recast 

to something more dire

more trivial

which truth will get the most viewers

which is truly entertaining

which is merely information

does it matter if it factual

one study says yes

the other says no

<>

the methodology of studies

cast the questions

so there is no one answer 

to what is being asking

but one answer is all you are allowed

yes no

<>

do your believe your eyes

your ears 

what you read in the paper

is it real until it’s been on TV

until someone has been interviewed

do we wait till the the 11 o’clock news

to know what is going on

is it safe to go outside

<>

we are an endangered species

drowning in a sludge of facts and data

that tell us nothing

but fill us with fear or indifference

it may not matter 

what side of the bed you get up on

you haven’t actually sept

that was all in your mind

maybe because there is only your word

you slept

that night cam footage could be faked 

do you remember sleeping

you didn’t use the can

that wasn’t your piss 

splashing in the bowl

all in your imagination

you have no grasp on reality

<>

when nothing is real

nothing can be proved

the past is revisionism 

the futures can’t be photographed

so it doesn’t exist 

then again 

neither do you

you aren’t real 

just a demographic

irrelevant and unbroadcast

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Scriabin

 By Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915) Russian, I have stand alone double cd sets: Piano Sonatas 1 2, Symphonies 1 2; lp to 4 cds transfers of solo piano music that includes mazurkas, etudes etc. As mp3: symphonic poems: Prométhée, Le Poème du feu; Le Poème de l’extase; Piano Concerto. 

The lp transfer were of a VoxBox 3 lps set. Much of this is influenced by Chopin & delights, if you like Chopin. Romantic, sometimes a bit cloying but never as over-the-top as, say, Liszt. He doesn’t say too far from the various forms & like all Russian composers incorporates fold melodies. They don’t break new ground. The Piano Sonatas – the early ones are traditional but as he ages they become more sonorously challenging when he moves into atonal scales. Dense & brilliant.

Scriabin invented the light show! He was influenced by his synesthesia, and associated colours with various harmonic tones. Some of his orchestral works were meant to be performed with coloured lights proved by a colour organ – which created an effect similar to the aurora borealis. This did give rise to a resurgence of interest in him during the trippy 60’s, 70’s. 

So when I listen to his Symphonies or symphonic poems I try to imagine colours. The liner notes to the cds might have clues but I’d rather let my own slight synesthesia take over. Symphonic tone poems was/is popular form in which the composer creates a mood. Debussy’s La mer is a prime example. They are often impressionist & without really reaching a dramatic climax. Scriabin’s tone poems – Prométhée, Le Poème du feu; Le Poème de l’extase – are more moody than anything else. Relaxing, ethereal & spiritually up lifting. Try them.  

Just a reminder that this story goes back, way back, to the mid-70’s, when I was living in Cape Breton. I have done minimal editing for things like spellings, punctuation & name consistency. As you may gather I was not out at the time but clearly wrestling with the process.

No Fanfare 4

I sat back in the chair & pulled on my other boot. He want angrily back tot he stern & shoved on the record. Soft, blurred guitar hovered in the silence between us.

“I didn’t …” Afraid that I had lost this chance, I wanted to explain what I intended but couldn’t rationalize his feeling of being used inot a scene in which that wasn’t true.

“Oh, shove off. I’m bored with apologies.” He sat at the piano & began playing along with the album.

“Do you want me to leave?” The sting of tears had become an anger; an anger I tried to keep out of my voice. Anger toward myself for not cutting clear enough through my confusions, anger for expecting easy motions, anger with him for turning his back on me. I felt I had to stay; not ‘had to’ but ‘wanted to’. I’d been so involved with my own inner struggles I hadn’t expected to find someone else with them & was willing to open up about them the way I wanted to to be about mine. Jean always claimed to feel she was the closed one but I’m sure she even realized what was troubling me. Perhaps she was more afraid of confronting me with it that I was on telling her.

“Do you want me to leave?” I repeated louder, to make sure he heard me over the music.

The muscle sun his back poised to continue as stopped playing. “Whatdo you think?”

The bitter edge to his voice made me look up as I was unlacing the one boot I had tied. “I think I’d like one more for the road.”

“Why bother?” He bristled, once again picking out the melody of the piece on the stereo.

“Because,” dropping one boot, “I’m” dropping the other “scared. Afraid that if I leave I may no be able to face myself for losing this opportunity. Maybe this is using you. I don’t know. I hope it isn’t.”

Determinedly I went to him, still unsure of how to my words but needing to reach him, unsure of where to put my hands but wanting to touch him. I sat on the bench beside him. Keeping his back to me he straddle dit with the same easy motion of his leg.

I had expected to be coaxed not to coax. Putting my arms around him from behind I pulled him closer, one hand feeling his heartbeat, the other rubbing the tightness of his stomach.

“What am I suppose to say? I’m no rapist, either.”

Steve put his hands on mine, caressing them.

“You seem to be saying more than I thought you could.”

His caress became a squeeze as he pushed my hands down.

“I still think you haven’t realized just way you have to come to grips with.”

There was a light laugh with ‘grips’ as he pushed my hands down to his bulging crotch. 

“I realize I should know better but if this going to be the start of your voyage, you’d better understand that this is the point of no return.”

He pressed my cupped hands onto him. I felt him become as aroused as I had already become. I recalled my easy appraisal of his corduroy stretching equipment when he stood before not so long ago. Minutes that now seemed a long, distant, embarrassing yet fondly recalled memory. The meeting in the park seemed to stretch further into the past.

“So you’ve never touched another man, eh, Dave? How does it feel?”

He released my hands. Savouring this new anticipation my fingers moved gently over this zipper, timidly down the sorrows of the corduroy that separated them from actual contact with his flesh.

I bit his earlobe & whispered. “It feels alright. Super.”

Turning slowly, he stood to face me, pulling me to my feet, his hands touch me as mine were touching him. 

“Does this conflict with your image of yours?” He chuckled huskily.

We were face-to-face. 

“Yes.” I kissed him quickly. “Did you expect it not?”

I kissed him again, slower. Although I didn’t completely fathom this, I knew I wanted him. Not out of loneliness or love but out of lust. Me a man, wanting this man,I wold have to accept & experience this even if I never fully understood. Understanding wasn’t a solution anyway.

He stepped back, unbuttoning my shirt. “See, there’s no fanfare. No thunder. No hell fire.”

Our eyes met as I began unbuttoning his shirt.

“At least the fear has gone for your eyes.” He said.

“It might be,” flesh touched flesh, tongues again, “but not from here,” I Laughed, patting my heart. “Let’s have that drink.”

Steve was right, there was no fanfare, no earth shaking. Even the sense of relief I’d expected had only been enough to make me laugh. It seemed so foolish. Poor Jean, all the confusions & hurt because of a part of me, an awkward mortalness that I’d let hurt because I was afraid it would hurt me more.

Even if acceptance didn’t make anything easier, it would, I hoped, bring some form of ending, a feeling of completeness. Once I learned the scope of lust maybe I could even cope with love. All I see now is a beginning, a start. At least I see that much. 

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