Modest Mojo Monae

I bought my first Modest Mouse cd on sale at HMV. That was the moon & antartica. I subsequently added Everywhere & his nasty Parlour Tricks, Good News For People Who Love Bad News, We Were Dead Even Before The Ship Sank, No One’s First & You’re Next. All of which I have as stand-alone cds. In a way they are reminiscent of the Byrds with jangly guitars & sweet harmonies. 

Their sound is a mix of emo & indie-rock. Lyrics are wry romantic commentary with a dash of political. Great word play – as the cd titles reflect. Sort of nerdy, sometimes a bit funky & dare I say – often pretty. Songs that show in for sensitive moments in romcoms & crime movies to give them a ‘hip’ echo. I always enjoy these when I hear them but rarely do I get the mood to pull out for listen.

Mojo, which I think is still publishing, is a British pop music magazine that usually had a cd included. Sometime the cd was a collection of recent releases, sometimes it was one they had complied of covers of songs by James Brown, The Who.  This one from 2007 is Sgt. Pepper lp covers by groups such as Simple Rid, Dave Cloud & The Gospel of Power. These the magazine commissioned. I love Sgt. Pepper & the still obscure groups do a great job with these songs & some actually re-invent rather than re-create the originals. 

I kept reading raves about Janelle Monae. I caught a video of one of her songs, then accidentally saw her live on some daytime talk show as I skipping through channels. I like her retro look & was intrigued by the sci-fi subtext of her videos. So I picked up ArchAndroid on sale at HMV & enjoyed it. Then eventually added Dirty Computer. Great production values, interesting songs & a great voice.

A short story discovered in my archives. It goes back to pre-1995 as the original printout is dot matrix 🙂 I’ve done minimal editing. It is based on a real incident.

The Allegory of Love

2

He laughed, stumbling into me.

“So, what’s the promotion mean?” I asked, steadying him with an arm around his shoulder.

“More money, more responsibility.”

“A good worker like you deserves it.”

He turned. “You always say nice things about me.”

I was nonplussed. “Why not? People deserve all the praise they can get. You’re pretty good people as far as I’m concerned.”

“You never let me down,” he want on, quite serious.

“Let you down? I don’t understand.” I resisted adding, ‘I don’t see you enough to let you down.’

“You’re always the same. You treat me kind. So many guys are just … mean for the sake of being mean.”

“I like you, Steve. That’s the way I treat people I like.” I put my other arm around him & kissed the top of his head. “And you I more than like.”

“I’m sure.” He blushed. “Well, I see 1708 still has a light on.” He was squinting up at his apartment window. “I hope that doesn’t mean what I think it means.”

“And if it does.”

“Come on,” He pulled out his keys & we went in.

“This is still a gays only building?” I joked.

“I suppose,” he answered flatly.

At his door, he fumbled with the keys, dropping them twice. “Shit shit shit” he cursed under his breath.

“Well, here goes,” I whispered as we went in. I headed for the living room. A glance over my shoulder down the short hall & I saw that Ron’s door was slightly ajar. Next to it was the bathroom & then Steve’s bedroom.

“So far, so good,” I thought as I sat on the sofa in the darkest corner of the room.

Steve went into the kitchen & got a beer. He unbuttoned his shirt & sat next to me. There was a rustling sound from one of the cages behind us.

“Ofeelme is preggers.” Steve explained, sitting up on his knees & gingerly putting on hand into the cage to brush the fur of a swollen hamster. “How you doing little mama?” He whispered gently.

“How’s Hamlet?” I asked. 

“Proud as can be. I separated them because the last time Papa got a bit jealous & ate some of the babies.”

“Gross, Steve. You really know how to turn me on.”

He laughed, lifting Hamlet out of the other cage. “He’s happy to see you. Say Hi to Uncle Bri.” He sat holding the hamster gently in his hand, lightly stroking the fur between its ears. “You always love me, don’ you Hamlet? Food in the same place is all you ask. You know,” he turned to me, “he goes back time & time again to the place where he got food hoping to get fed again”

I kissed Steven the shoulder as he put Hamlet back.

“Let’s go to bed.” He gave me another of his wonderful, sloppy kisses.

I darted past Ron’s room to Steve’s just on the other side of the bathroom. As I pulled off my sweatshirt the dark hall echoed with the slap of barefoot on hardwood. It was suddenly flooded with bright light.

“Steven! How dare you! You know I have to work in the morning, you know.” Ron exploded with an exasperated whine. There was the sound of a smack.

I held my breath as the bare feet came directly to Steve’s room. The sound of that smack reverberated in my mind. The last thing I wanted was some domestic squabble. The door was shoved open hard & I was caught in the intrusive hall light. 

“And how dare … YOU? I told Steve never to bring you into my house.”

He clenched his fist & hit me in the chest. “Get out of here, you trash.”

Not much of a punch,” I thought. The glaring light kept me from being distracted by his hairless naked body.

“Get going, now.” He handed my jacket & shoved me toward the door.

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My Editing Riot

So I’m editing this old short story, from the mid 80’s, so I can air it here on the blog & I get distracted by this show of force in the US capital. Do I want to see what they do or do I want to correctly punctuate a sentence? As they climb over barricades & breaking windows I’m breaking down paragraphs. Are they protestors or terrorists. A rampage of white entitlement that eventually fizzles out. No one even shit on the podium. Death by stress & no change in the results, the forgone conclusions.

In my story there is a change in names, a clarification of motivations but the same result. The story results as comedic as the clumsy crowd of echos lurching up & down the Capital building stairs, bumping into each other as they attempt to get the perfect backgrounds for selfies of their righteous bravery. Everyone seems disappointed at the lack of blood on the floor, that there isn’t any burning buildings for truly dramatic context to tweet.

Already that narrative is being rewritten so that every side is at fault as they insist they are upholding the fine principles of democracy, capitalism & freedom of selfie speech. My characters don’t have that much freedom, even as I change their size & shape they tell me what they should do in the situation I created for them. I allow them to be frail, vacillating & only threats to themselves. As much as they are under my control I end up surrendering them to spellcheck & word count – or should I say word re-count. Even when the story is finished it is not certifiable 🙂 but part 1 was posted here with my music blog on Thursday. https://topoet.ca/2021/01/06/jonesing-for-joplin/

Satisfied

in movies about a future

with few survivors 

that stumble across an abandoned store

with canned food on the shelves

not much

watching we think

how desperate they feel

how sad

so when i go into a supermarket

today

i think

even if what want isn’t there

there is still lots there

there is enough

<>

at one time

thank you

wasn’t enough

there had to be praise

adulation

thank you

didn’t go far enough

i had to be grateful

that i was even allowed

to say thank you

<>

i didn’t look

when the food was served

i kept my eyes unfocused

as i ate

i didn’t ask what was on the plate

i didn’t look to cut

i trusted

each morsel was what

i was supposed to have

i didn’t question

i ate 

taste was surpressed

pleasure was not the point

the point was to eat

whatever was served

not to judge

or comment

to eat silently

then

get the fuck out

so the next person could

be satisfied 

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Jonesing for Joplin

Quincy Jones is a chameleon. His work with others is classic without a sense of his personality over-shadowing theirs. He lets the artist shine & I’ve heard anything he’s been involved with & thought ‘that’s a Quincy Jones production.’ He is not a revolutionary like, say, Phil Spector.

I have a couple of lp to cds of his ‘solo’ work: This Is How I Feel About Jazz, Plays Mancini, Ndeda. The first I found in a remainder bin & it is smooth bop. Ndeda was double set I bought used, that is a compilation of some of his soundtrack music (In The Heat of the Night) & instrumental things like Soul Safari. The Mancini is sweet & they are a perfect match. If nothing else Quincy Jones is a tasteful, elegant producer.

Near Jones is a set of lp to cd transfers of Scott Joplin music performed by Joshua Rifkin, Southland Stingers, Canadian Brass & New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble. Joplin almost became a footnote, his music relegated to music scholars until the movie ‘The Sting’ that made his rags universal & they were resurrected by so many ensembles one lost track & sometimes couldn’t tell who was playing which one. I enjoyed them in small doses 🙂 

Most of the recordings are too respectful, treating them like Chopin Etudes, some are jazzier & some are more in the line of sweet polite salon orchestras. So many artists recorded these I’m surprised there isn’t a Tomita version 🙂 Unlike many early 1900 blues performers there are no historic recording sof Joplin actually playing but there are some player piano rolls he made which are fun & can be found on YouTube.

A short story discovered in my archives. It goes back to pre-1995 as the original printout is dot matrix 🙂 I’ve done minimal editing. It is based on a real incident. 

The Allegory of Love

1

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

He squinted up at me, uncertain & a bit drunk.

I leaned in to speak directly into his ear. “Just because I don’t like being used doesn’t mean ‘stop so soon’.”

“Used?” He took a deep swallow of his beer. “What do you mean?” He stepped back & bumped into a man in leather.

The bar’s music was so loud I couldn’t hear myself. “Call me. I can’t talk here.”

Steve nodded & disappeared into the crowd. 

Thank God I thought, breathing a sigh of relief & dismay. I do like Steve, but too much to continue with pointless flirtation.

I suspected that time a couple of weeks ago was our last encounter. It had been under the same circumstance. Me feeling the lure of the full moon & Steve feeling the lull of enough brew. We’ve had fun many times before & I always look forward to what I called ‘rubbing our two sticks together.’ 

Steve shared an apartment with Ron. When I met them both several years ago at a mutual friend’s birthday party. I was instantly attracted Steve. They were introduced to me as friends not as boyfriends. Ron was a bitch, or so it seemed. Ron & I got into clawing at each other for some reason. Something we’re all too good at, I suppose.

I ran into Steve a few nights later & came on to him like the proverbial ton on brick. It was a meltdown in the sack & has been nearly every time we got our sticks together. Usually at my place but sometimes at his, if Ron wasn’t in. Over the years sex was so good, & Steve comparable enough, I would have set up housekeeping with him, except there was that Ron in the ointment. 

Steve never described them as being lovers, but Ron seemed to run more of Steve’s life than anyone should run anyone’s. But who am I to judge?

I was open with Steve about my affection for him. He wasn’t displeased, but I could sense that emotions frightened him. Staying with Ron seemed to be his way of keeping scary feelings at bay. For lat couple of month I felt their relationship was about to change, but our last encounter made me see things differently.

I’d arrived at the bar later than usual & was making my first foray into the smokey land of men, when Steve reached out of a dark corner. He grabbed me by the belt & pulled me in for one of those long, sloppy kisses that turn me to jelly.

“Good to see ya, Brian.”

“It’s been awhile.” I laughed. I knew he was a bit looped; he usually was to be so bold.

“Watcha’ been up to? The photo biz still keep you in focus?” He teased, running his free hand over my stomach.

“Things are developing well enough. And you? Getting anywhere in men’s wear?”

“Got a promotion.” He said proudly.

“Things must be going well.” I gently bit his ear.

“We’re opening a new branch since I took over.”

“Great! Soon you’ll be Queen of the Reduced to Queers.”

He giggled. “I really like you. You make me laugh.”

“You make me …” I squeezed his bunds.

“Same here.” He returned the squeeze, while draining his beer. “I’ll be right back.”

He darted off for another beer. As I watched him merge into the crowd, I wondered if this was going to lead to one of our meltdowns. Short, stocky & hairy, he was the perfect teddy bear for me to curl around tonight.

Back with a beer, he hugged me affectionately. “You know my little wang goes ‘boink’ whenever I see you.”

“That’s nothing to complain about.”

“How am I in the sack?”

Feeling a little insecure tonight?’I thought, as I replied. “You’re great. I keep coming back, don’t I”

“You treat me so …” he took a swallow of beer.

“Tender?” I offered.

“Yeah! Like you cared.”

“Why shouldn’t I? You deserve it. Just one thing.”

“What?”

“Often we’re too rushed. I want to savour what I enjoy. I hate to eat & run when the food is so good.”

“Thanks.” He pulled me in for another fly-popping kiss. “Let’s go.” He said pulling on his jacket.

“The coast is clear tonight?”

“Ah, who gives a fuck? It’s my home as much as his.”

“You’re sure? You know I …”

“You coming?”

“Sure.” I felt a slight misgiving. “What the hell. We can go to my place, if you’d rather.” I suggested as we walked along. “You really don’t a nose-bleed going that far north.”

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Nine

Nine

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio TV newspapers

that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

expected of my gender 

<>

O when I was nine

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the boy my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

<>

O when I was nine

I learned to swim

looking at the differences

between boys and girls

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of the gender of the object

<>

O when I was nine

I don’t that I was making waves

as I waded from nine to nineteen

by the time I left nineteen

I knew

these were dangerous waters

at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

I heard on a TV documentary about children that our sense of self was basically formed by the time we are ten years old. By then we have absorbed the ‘teachings’ of TV behaviours that inform our subconscious. So, back in the day, I was aware of what the culture of the time expected of my gender. I was also aware that it wasn’t the right fit but I hadn’t developed the language for that beyond feeling it was the wrong fit. Today thanks to instant communication children have a greater knowledge of gender variations. I doubt that at the age of five I would have understood what a faggot was, children today do know what it means. 

Where was I when I was nine? We had just settled in Sydney, Cape Breton after moving across Canada for a couple years. My mother & I had spent some time with her family in Wales during this time as well. I remember ‘living’ in Moncton, Stellerton or was it Truro for short periods of time & going to schools there, briefly. Finally in Sydney, were we lived in three different neighbourhoods before my dad bought a house in Ashby.

One result was that I spent those formative years as a displaced person – someone who was different. My Dad prodded me into things that could show me how to ‘fit in’: cub scouts, YMCA. I did the best I could but felt like an outsider &, as I recall, was fine with that. I did get these weird mixed messages ‘why can’t you be like other kids’ then when I wanted some fad item ‘why can’t you think for yourself.’

I survived partially by hiding in booze & partially by writing & painting as I gradually found language for what I was. Though then that language was loaded – an abomination unto the Lord – sort of stuff. Today I know the tragic flaw wasn’t my sexuality but the way culture regarded not only lgbtq but sexuality itself.


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Ghost of a Chance

Has this ever happened to you? It’s a bitterly cold, but dry, night & you’re just relaxing after supper & checking your email when the phone rings. Oh yes, rings, my landline. How quaint, a landline. I answer & it is a fwb ghost from the past. He was in the neighbourhood & could we meet for a chat. I think a moment & say sure – in five minutes at the Greenwood Station.

I get dressed, walk over & he’s pacing, masked. in front on the station. I recognize him by the pace & the hefty backpack that was his trademark style when we first met some, I’d say, nearly twenty years ago. We do a loop south down one block & up the next & back to the station.

We first the ‘catch up’ – he’s in the same profession but now in the private sector – from Crown Prosecutor to criminal lawyer for hire. He called on a whim, a polite term for ‘horny’ & had been meaning to call me for some time now & felt this was the right time. He apologized for our last conversation, which I didn’t recall at all, (but which I did blog about) & also for the way things ended many years ago, which was essentially him disappearing.

https://topoet.ca/2015/05/08/the-ghost/

He wants to renew our sexual acquaintance. I am flattered but not that interested. There other men whom I have been unable to see thanks covid who I would much rather renew acquaintances with 🙂 Being the polite Canadian & feeling a little sorry for him I say I’ll think about it. He wants to drop by now that he’s in the neighbourhood. I firmly decline & we part company.

An hour or so later he calls again to apologize for coming on so strong earlier. I am flattered but indifferent. Beside, to me, this is a red flag of neediness. I say no problem & agree that he can me later in the week, knowing that if he sticks to his usual form I’ll hear from him in 2025 at the earliest.

Boo Hoo Hoo

the fact is I don’t care

I know this comes as a surprise 

to make matters worse 

I never did care

I listened out of politeness

struck the right pose of concern

a sweet smile of encouragement

my look of worried affection

that you found so comforting

allowed you to feel cared for

that someone loves you

but to be honest

I never gave a shit

about your tedious victories

good job reviews weight loss 

or whatever cheered you up that day

I also never gave a shit about

your weary tribulations either

that diagnoses 

that lost wallet

replacing all your credit cards and ids

oh boo hoo hoo

stop acting so shocked

life happens to poor little you

stop dragging your tired trite daily events

in front of me

the thought of me hearing about them

puts me to sleep

the sleep of the righteous

<>

I fake human compassion

only too well 

when I want to slap you

up the side of the life

take that drivel somewhere else 

the sex isn’t worth it

can’t remember if it ever was

so please shut the fuck up 

I don’t care

no one does

oh boo hoo hoo

<>

that’s not what you expected to hear

it’s not my worry 

that your cellphone headset never worked right

that your mother is dying

that you love those new shoes

that you had some deep insight 

to your inner tender core

you feel on top of the world

getting ahead of the curve

whatever

so whoop-de-do

who gives a flying fuck

certainly not me

so wake up and smell me gone

oh boo hoo hoo

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Moby Grape

Their 2nd release was the double lp Wow, Grape Jam – which were eventually also released as separate albums. Its gimmick was a track (featuring Arthur Godfrey) recorded to play at a 78 rpm – I rarely heard it then as I was too lazy to change the speed. The other gimmick was the Jam album of live jams with the likes of Mike Bloomfield, to prove their musicianship.

 I can remember getting that first lp from the Columbia Record Club as there was no retail store in Sydney that carried much non-top 40 music. The same for Wow. I really like the art work & the titling for 2nd lp Grape Jam etc. Very clever & trippy. I enjoy that jam music now more than I did then. I replaced those early lps & the two subsequent ones with mp3 downloads. I had never heard Truly Fine Citizen or 20 Granite Creek until I downloaded them. Booth were critically well-regarded but not hit parade material 🙂

The band was plagued by internal conflict & major management issues & that was reflected in the music they produced. They never developed a cohesive sound – having 5 lead singers may have influenced that. The music is rock with some psychedelic touches. Their sound was never distinctive but each lp has great tracks & some unexpectedly pretty moments. Even a few classics: Omaha, Murder In My Heart. 

Truly Fine Citizen, 20 Granite Creek are more cohesive if undistinguished. They move from a rock sound to a more country-rock sound. I have downloaded the re-issues of the first lps which come with lots of bonus tracks. The group apparently is still together with some of the original members. If you are unfamiliar that first lp is an ideal one to start with & it is a classic of the late 60s California sound.

The Wings Of St. Martinia

Last night Hank Grebly did me the great honour & pleasure of taking me to the Maple Valley Rialto Cinema – it is a shame that this fine building is now only opened on weekends for our film going pleasures. 

I can remember a time when it would be busy seven days a week, offering us the finest in Hollywood films and fresh roasted peaches or tasty caramel bark corn.

Every time I enter the Rialto I am taken back to a distant era – the mirror balls in the ceiling reflect the many spot lights around the floor. The zig-zag carpeting & lame seat coverings make me long for simpler times.

The film Hank took me to was “The Wings Of St. Martinia.” Many of you are familiar with the local tales of St. Martinia & the font at St. Sufferer’s. Those are her blood spattered wings holding the baptismal tub in the centre of the nave. Not her actual wings, but representations. Not many angels would have had five sets of wings.

Like the Rialto this film is also a relic of another time. Recently discovered in the vaults at College of Arts and Reconstructionist Designers, we were first treated to a lecture by Rudgar Quartz, the Professor of Cinema Studies there, who gave the history of both the film, St, Martinia and the Rialto itself. A very educational evening, leavened by the delightful film itself.

The story is a simple one of suffering and repentance through suffering. Martinia, born out of wed-lock to the daughter of silver smith and troupe of travelling carnival workers, had to face the disgrace of her family and neighbours all through her life.

She saved her fellow orphans from the rain of comets in 1879 by waking each and every child, and leading them to safety. Sadly she wasn’t able to get back to rescue any of her teachers. She comforted the children, as they heard the screams of the staff, who had been trapped in locked rooms in the upper quarters of the orphanage.

In leading the children through the swamps to safety she also rescued Button, a Labrador retriever and her recent litter of puppies. This is why the suckling Labrador retriever has become the representation for St. Martinia. When they say, she of the many teats, they are referring to Button and not to St Martinia.

A fact that I was not aware of either.

The movie follows her travails in the garment trade, being abducted by pirates and finally her mission to Mongolia where she single handedly brought the word of good to those unhappy and dirty mountain people. Her attempts to show them the joys of body wash brought tears of joy to my eyes.

If you have a chance to, get in to see this delightful movie. Tell them Dolly sent you, and you may get an extra dollop of moose mustard on your red hots. 

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Picture Perfect 48

Picture Perfect 48

Back in his motel room Dan logged on for a video call with Peter

“How is it going sir.” Peter asked.

“Good. Great. Now I nave a cohost though.” Dan typed Glaucia Vidro into search. Peter was able to see the results too. 

“A psychic!” Peter said. “At least she doesn’t have a 1-800 number for instant tarot readings. What did she tell you about the case?”

“Nothing much but we’ve only just started. She seems … grounded enough though. Didn’t take any bs from Baxter.”

He told Peter about the war room and the list of suspects.

“Alien abduction? You have to be kidding. I … miss you, sir.”

“Good.” Dan found it hard to be so curt with someone else’s emotions. Sanjay was expressive at any opportunity. Love wasn’t about asking permission. Peter was the opposite. Asking him to housesit had been a no brainer. 

“How are things there?”

“Nothing I can’t deal with sir. Mr. Kumar has come to the house twice to pick up his mail. I denied him entry as you instructed. I didn’t have to use the court order either. Just mentioned the name of your lawyer.”

“Sorry about that.”

“Don’t be. I don’t think he was prepared for me to be so … truculent, as he called me. He did threaten to kill me if we ever got married though.”

“No worry on that count Peter. It’s proving hard enough to rid myself of a man I wasn’t married to. Makes me grateful that I never tied that knot.”

“I understand. There is nothing to report from the Depot either. I stopped in at lunch and again before I came to ther house. Sandy says things are running smoothly but not as smooth a they would if you were there. “

“Sounds like Sandy.”

“Are you still planning to come back at the end of next week?”

“Yes. We’ll be moving the centre of operations, as Baxter calls it, to Stellerton after the first ten days. It’s more central to the other incidents. I’m sticking to my role as air personality as much as possible. If I’m not around there’ll no chance for them to get me to lug anything.”

“Heard anything more from Corporal Tyler?” Peter said. He pulled off his tee shirt. “Is it getting hot in here? Or is it just your eyes?”

“Nothing further from them. Warszawa has talked to the regional Staff Sergeant. I know enough about the politic of divisions that they’ll be more circumspect in future. He said they aren’t divulging anything about the tip that brought them to my door though. He’s not sure if there was a tip. They would have gone from cabin to cabin until they found the Daniel James they were looking for.”

“What!” Peter slid off his belt. “Why would something like that?”

“Probably pissed about the original Cold show that found connections they hadn’t realized where there. The studio didn’t alert them to it either.”

“So they found out the same way you did. When the show first aired?”

“Nope. When it was rerun a week later. Qunitex was forced turn over everything they had on the cases. Which wasn’t much as it turned out.”

Peter slowly unzipped his fly.

“Not yet.”

“Yes sir.” he pulled his fly back up. 

“It’s nearly time for me to check in with my sister.”

“She hasn’t been to the Depot since you left.”

“Perhaps not in the flesh. Put your tee shirt back on.”

“Yes, sir.” 

“I’ll call later if I get a chance.”

“Yes, sir.”

The screen went blank. Dan tapped the icon for his sister. He had made sure he would have electronic access to all transactions at both shops. Severing the contractual connections between the two branches wasn’t going to be as simple or as inexpensive as expected. 

Looking over the figures he found himself nodding off. 

…….

Dan stood to the left and just behind Glaucia as she rang the door bell to the trailer. It took him a moment to realize that the foghorn sound was coming from inside. He could hear a radio or TV being turned down. The lace curtain in the door widow was pulled aside and a face peered out at them. The face smiled and the door opened sightly.

“You’ll have to step back for the door to open.” 

He and Glaucia stepped down two steps to let the door open. 

“Sorry about that.” The woman said. “Who ever designed this model didn’t think it through. Come in.” She held the door open for them. “Sometimes the wind will catch it and whack it against the trailer. That’s why there’s so many dents there. If I had known, about the wind, I mean, I never would have settled in here.”

Followed by Francie and Mike they squeezed past her and into the trailer.

At the front end there was a living room area with a couch, an armchair and a TV. The TV was on the weather channel but muted. 

“I get all the news I need from the weather channel.” The woman sang. “Paul Simon – before your time I guess.”

“Yes.” Dan said sitting in the armchair. The couch was just large enough for two people. He didn’t want to be that close to Glaucia.

Clearly Stephanie hadn’t checked Mrs. McKay’s trailer for filming. 

“Mrs. McKay, we’re from …” Glaucia began to explain.

“It’s Miss and I know, from the cameras, you’re from that TV show. I was told you were coming. My that’s a lovely shawl you have there Glaucia. I can call you Glaucia can’t I. I’ve read some of your articles in the Mystic Gazette. Is it from Richter’s. They make such lovely things there.”

“Yes, it is.” Glaucia answered.

“You must be Daniel James? You don’t look much like your father though. Then again, second-borns usually don’t. The first often do though. He’s passed away I gather.”

‘Yes but …” Dan began.

“Here, I’ve made us all some tea.” She stepped past Mike to the kitchen area of the trailer. “I baked scones. I do prefer the savoury ones, so I hope you don’t mind. It make them feel less like desserts. These are spinach and rosemary.” She put a tray on the coffee table.

Dan bit into one of the scones. It was still warm.

“You knew my Dad?”

“Not too well but he did come to McDonald Secondary for many years taking those student portraits. I only remember because the company that he sold out to sent such an idiot the next year. That man was a drunk. You know, he would show up smelling of alcohol at that time in the morning. He’d snap at the kids to behave when all they were doing was being kids. He only lasted that one year. So many of the schools complained. I don’t remember his name though. Your dad was so professional. Knew how to treat the children. I guess that came from being a father. It took us ages to get the pictures from the new company, too. They must that been sending them away to Scotland to be developed. Your Dad did his own work, most of the time, though maybe he sent stuff off too because there would have been thousands of him to look after so he wouldn’t have time, right.”

“Right.” 

“You certainly like lighthouses.” Glaucia admired the lighthouse sun-catchers in the window.

“Oh, yes, ever since I was a little girl I wanted to live in one.”

There were various lighthouses around the trailer. Paintings, throw cushions embroidered with them, door handles on the kitchen cabinets, woven into the rug, even the table lamp in the corner.

“I know, it’s such a Maritime cliche but so am I, really. The spinster school teacher who never went further than a hundred miles from where she was born. It’s not that I didn’t want to travel mind you but once I graduated with my license I thought this is where I needed to be. I had parents to look after anyway. Plus I really did like the children. I couldn’t imagine moving away to leave these families behind. I mean, I did get to know the families. Often taught the mother, the father then the children, then the children’s children. Goodness me I knew some of them better than their own relatives.”

“How do remember them all?” Glaucia nibbled at her scone.

“Oh Glaucia I don’t. I only remember these because of what happened to them. It was terrible. When school started again that year the other children were so … scared … I tried to get them to talk about it but, well, we didn’t have any way to offer them emotional support. Things have changed, haven’t they, with all those school shootings in the States. Why one of the girls in my class started crying one day. Turns out her family was moving to Arizona and she was afraid she’d get shot in school. Imagine.” She got up, brushing crumbs off her lap onto the floor. “Don’t worry making a mess. Cleaning up will give something to do later.” 

She went toward the back of the trailer. “I’ll get my file for you.”

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MISSING: 2020

I miss the smell of the restaurant – of food cooking, of someone serving the meal & taking away my dirty dishes, of being able to ask for suggestions. Taking your chicken souvlaki out of a paper bag and finding out it is pork isn’t the same as seeing it on the plate & sending it back right away. I miss plating – the art of someone else arranging food on your plate.

I missing being able to give your order at a coffee shop without having to shout through your mask & over-enunciate words like ‘sweet & low’ & having to repeat yourself as they still don’t hear clearly over the music. I miss paying for things with cash. What do people without plastic do?

I miss wearing shirts to public events, because there are no public events to wear them to. I have a wardrobe based on public appearances, even if the appearance is meeting someone for lunch or doing a feature in front an eager audience of poetry fans. The face mask has replaced the shirt, the t-shirt for now.

Shopping has changed here in Ontario. Not that I spent a lot of time in stores but I miss the sense of destination, of discovery as I browsed the aisles looking. When I do shop I am focused on what I want but there are times when going through the tables of remaindered books at Book City, or even Indigo, results is amazing discoveries. 

Not that I mind online shopping for most things & I sure do love packages showing up at my door but I miss the hunt. No more impulse shopping. No more checking every aisle in the grocery store for specials, now it’s all about following the right arrows to maintain social distance. 

I missing not knowing what day of the week it is because I’m no longer doing what I used to do every Wednesday that took me out of the house. My cell phone now tells me what day of the week it is. I think this is Monday.

Old Feet New Shoes

it’s never a fresh start

there is no clean page

no expanse of innocent white

to start in on

there is always a past 

something to remember to avoid 

lessons learned

something to escape from

to forget

to write over scribble out 

<>

new shoes always go on old feet

we stand on what we are familiar with 

bring the same skill set 

to each fresh opportunity

to do the same thing in a different place

yet how different is the place 

a chair is always a chair

lights are always lights

<>

different shades fabrics 

but new jeans are still jeans

same hair changed style

anxious for the new

as if the old 

was worthless inferior

<>

why should things last at all

the longer cars last 

the fewer cars get sold

the fewer cars get sold

the economy grinds to a halt

people are out of work

it’s all your fault

you fucking pedestrians

we’ll make narrower sidewalks 

to discourage all that walking

<>

nothing new in this same old rant 

about the same pointless crap

words won’t fuel the economy

who reads 

who listens 

who cares

nobody wants a fresh start

just new shoes

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Joni and Ancestors

 On an mp3 collection I have by Joni Mitchell: Live at Club 47 – 68, Clouds, Ladies on the Canyon, Blue, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira. as well as: Mimi & Richard Farina: celebrations for a grey day; Malvina Reynolds: Sings The Truth (Little Boxes): Melanie: Candles in the Rain. As Joni stand alones: For The Roses, Court and Spark, hits 1. Plus Herbie Hancock’s jazz homage – The Joni Letters.

I enjoy Joni Mitchell but I am not a huge fan. I certainly respect her as an artist & love her willingness to follow her musical muses regardless of commercial appeal. But if I never hear ‘Both Sides Now’ again I’ll be fine 🙂 As I look over the rack listings for the lps I have my favourite remains ‘Songs To Aging Children Come’ which, as I age, becomes even more pertinent.

I never really followed her career’s ups & downs, or her private life so I hear her songs without that baggage. There are cuts on each of these lps I love, some lps that I can’t name a track from. I find that one of the lps suffer from a mix that buries her voice in such way that it is lost, to my ears. Tracks slip into one another – if there were no silence between them I wouldn’t know when one ended & another began.

Unlike similar female artists, such as Laura Nyro, she survived in the  male-dominated & dictated music industry. She didn’t get buried for forging her own path or for not selling zillions of singles. 

On this mp3 collection I put her into context with other California folkies. Mimi & Richard Farina: celebrations for a grey day – this is sweet, folk-rock with a tinge of jazz, bluegrass. Richard’s early death turned him into a legend. 

Malvina Reynolds: Sings The Truth. Best known for the hit Little Boxes (the precursor in a way to Big Yellow Taxi) this is protest music in a fun 60s way. Almost traditional folk this a lost treasure full of sharp social commentary. The New Restaurant is timeless, as is Little Boxes – some things never change. 

Melanie: Candles in the Rain. Melanie owes a lot to all the above. She managed some top ten hits then sort of faded away.  Lay Down owes much to the Edwin Hawkins Singers for its success. ‘Look What They’ve Done To My Song’ is a classic but in her case it’s also come ‘’Look What They’ve Done To My Career’ when her label dropped her for refusing to produce lps on demand.

The Grinding

Festive readers, I am pleased to bring you a wrap up of the week-end’s events.  The highlight of which has to be the annual Lighting of the Trees. Held in several locations in the hills about Crab Apple Corners the horizon is illuminated by the first official rite of the season.

I choose to attend the ceremony at Hijil’s Farm – they had obtained two of the remaining stand of ancient red wood sycamores and had them flown in for the occasion. Trees so large they needed two helicopters to carry each of them.

The first flame was applied to them by our local Miss Pig Driver, Tanis-Lotus Flatly. The trees did us the great honour of being slow to ignite, but once they had been engulfed in flames the look of joy in the faces of the children was worth the wait.

Once these two trees were in flames, burning torches were taken to the sites where other trees were ready for the ceremony. The Great Maple at McCracken’s of Daw Hill was the next to be torched and quickly one could see similar fires all across the country side. Hijil’s Farm perched atop Green Bluffs gave us a splendid view of the various tributes to the season.

Once the first two trees had been burnt to cinders our parish Vicar Father Frank did The Grinding and was quickly joined by the other men who were of age, to participate in this ritual.

I was thrilled to be offered by my one and only Hank Grebly the fruits of his grinding. A jar filled with these delicate ashes and moose fat can sit proudly on any mantle piece. There will be enough here to guarantee me a year of fertility and good weather. After all, it only takes a pinch a day, tossed into the wind to catch the eye of the spirits for protection.

The carolling at St. Sufferer’s Cathedral was once again a thrill, especially now that the bells have almost been tuned. The climax of each verse is a ringing of these bells that echoes though our happy valley and shimmers through the fragrant smoke produced by the Lighting of the Trees.

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Genius

Genius 

if you won’t trust

someone who won’t drink

with you

then you’ll never trust me

<>

if all your close friends

smoke up with you

we’ll never be close friends

<>

if you only respect 

someone who’ll do a line with you

shoot up with you

share a bowl with you

then I have no role in your life 

we’ll never bond

over self-destruction

<>

if only self-destructive writers

are real writers

then I’ll always be a fake

a wanna be

who really doesn’t warrant

your attention

<>

I’m just one of those shallow dilettantes

a hanger-on

without the guts

the stamina

the creative genius

to deal with life through

a haze of booze 

drugs

<>

you are clearly better off with me

I’ve heard variations of this more than once: ‘I’ll never trust someone who won’t drink’ or sometimes to the effect ‘someone who won’t take a drink with me.’ You can replace ‘drink’ with ‘toke’ ‘line’ or any other substance. There are men & women who will only party-and-play – if there’s no drug involved they aren’t interested.

The history of destructive addiction & creativity is deep. Considering Dostoyevsky’s alcoholism, gambling habits & writing by hand I’m amazed he got so much written 🙂 For many writer’s i.e Hemingway, Dylan Thomas their drinking is seen as an unfortunate flaw that somehow enhances their reputation. They didn’t have rehabs in those days.

I’ve been involved with workshops, readings etc where there has been a very clear division that occurs when I decline a drink of excellent triple malt scotch. It seems I say ‘no thanks’ without sufficient apology. Ditto for declining to slip out for a toke or do a line. 

Then again that division may come from the fact that I’m not super-social in most situations to being with – by super-social I mean I don’t share stories about my medical condition, children, recent escapades – I’m just there to write, maybe read on the one mike. Nothing to prove, nothing to lose. This piece is more an observation than a complaint though. I am more amused by this equating of a drink with trust. Though I’d rather be judged by my work than the quality of the scotch I decline. 

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