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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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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Recap March 2021

Over the past year by TOpoet.ca following blog grew to 487! The only stat WP doesn’t give is where the followers are located but WP map does show my hits have come from 30 countries around the world. That USA tops the list is no surprise but that India & Bangladesh are in the top 4 is interesting. Ireland, Japan in the top 10!  Most popular post for March was Attention Span (https://topoet.ca/2021/03/28/attention-span/). My Tumblr is at 311. It would be higher but this past month I‘ve blocking a flood of banal anime sex sites. Twitter 231 followers.

Picture Perfect is moving along with 61 sections, nearly 90,000 words, posted so far, with 95,000 words approx to be edited, then posted. Yes finally at the half-way point & know there are major cuts yet to be made. That the joy of writing without worry I know I can chase a subplot knowing if it doesn’t pan out it can be chopped.

I continued working through the archived files of short-stories, poetry, even plays. Some date back to the mid-seventies. My typing & handwriting haven’t improved much over the decades. I’m enjoying the array of paper, scrap paper, that I used. It helps to date some of the work, as does the typewriter used, the colour of ink, & of course dot-matrix printouts – some of which hadn’t been separated.

I watched lots of great movies this past month including two wildly different movies about witches. The first is a version of Susperia – based on the original Dario Argenta movie but not a remake. I love the original despite the distracting loud soundtrack. Both are set in a dance school. I enjoyed this fresh take in which dance took a major role. The music & choreography & even the theory of dance were spot on. The music was moody, never intrusive. Performances were great – Tilda Swinton was fine. The bloodbath scene was gory but then …. sadly they added an endless, pointless coda that turned an A movie into a C.

The other witch move was ‘The Juniper Tree’ from 1990. It could have been a lost Bergman film with its stark Iceland setting, shot in stunning black & white. Mystical, poetic & magical without any special effects & solid compelling performances. Ethereal music & a realistic ending. Well worth searching out. 

As break from the macabre I watched, for at least the 3rd time, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This was the fully restored print with stunning colour & a pristine soundtrack. This is a masterpiece of film making. The set decor is breathtaking, stunning & a feast for the eyes. The cast is good, Deneuve is stunning too. The men are tasty Gallic eye candy. The music is lush & the singing is perfect. All the voices are dubbed – so this is a live-action animated feature 🙂 They sing like ordinary people – I’m so used to the over-singing of songs in which every one has to have a heart-rending emotional climax. 

Another truly amazing film was Diamonds In The Night – Czech black & white – follows two young men, escapees from transport to concentration camp during WWII. A touch surreal, intense, compelling & rewarding. 

We’re finally watching The Crown, season 2. The Aberfan episode is one of the most amazing chapters of a serial I’ve ever seen, right up there with The Queen episode of Castle Rock. An emotional tour de force that left me tearful. Heart-rending without being cloying or over-the-top.

from the archives – sometime 1985

‘let’s swim to the moon’

Jim Morrison

last night I dreamed of the dead

they weren’t looking very well

the endlessness of the past

was worrying them

as there was more past every day

their worries were constantly growing

at this point as expected

things got a little confusing

the cafe of experience

was flooded by Symbolists

our meals became metaphors

which left us hungering for reality

an allusion of symbiotics

were looking for a new quantifier

they wanted pride

by lions had already cornered that one

they asked to join us for coffee

but no one had a measuring spoon

mystic sixties retro music on the juke box

left us even more unsatisfied

reminding us of old frustrations

we had matured out of long long ago

we were speechless with despair 

none willing to swim anymore

there was no room for miles

the stars repeated their menu

soup song of sorrows in the heartbreak hotel

pulling up to the gas pump

in an early model Chevrolet 

revved up the effortless drive of love

to fuel the furnace of art

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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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Past of the Future

In my pandemic purging I came across unused paper for dot-matrix printers. Also in my writing archives were pieces I semi-dated because they were in dot-matrix print. In telling more than one friend about this I was a little surprised to find out they had no idea of what dot-matrix was! They had never seen anything printed in it, nor had they seen that printer paper. I showed it to them & one asked me, seriously, if it had any collector value!

If you are one of those to whom dot-matrix is a mystery – it was the computer printer method before ink-jet became the standard. Wiki says: “A dot matrix printer is an impact printer that prints using a fixed number of pins or wires. The pins strike an ink-coated ribbon and contact between the the paper, so that each pin makes a small dot on the paper. The combination of these dots forms a dot matrix image.”

At that time many publishers refused submissions that were printed in dot-matrix as the print itself can be a challenge to read after a couple of pages. The ribbon ink wasn’t that consistent. I have some things that have pretty much faded, some where the ink has matured to blue, some where it looks as good as the day I printed it out. Much like typewriter ribbons it would wear out but quicker. We got rid of our printed when we moved up to ink jet. Ink jet is faster & not as noisy:-)

When someone doesn’t know who a classic rock group, such as Procol Harum, is, I’m not that surprised but these days there people who don’t even know what a desktop computer is, thanks to their cell-phones. Guys I know with iPads or such don’t even have printers anymore. I show them my flip phone & they are like ‘wow! that’s so retro.’ I wish I had a rotary dial phone to scare them with 🙂

speaking of retro – here’s a poem from the archives – 

August 1962 (Broad Cove, Cape Breton)

even though it had rained all night

I didn’t stop to think

just how quickly

I’d be soaked by still dripping fir

as I clambered unsteadily

through the campgrounds’ pine thicket

juggling binoculars in one hand

my life in the other

<>

I was out to hunt spies

to search the ocean for pirates

from my evergreen look out

inconspicuous in a yellow rain-slicker

I exploded stealthily

through the trees

suddenly falling

head-over-heels

ten feet down in terror

of the deadly rocks beneath

that turned out to be

a new york family

spreading their towels

on the beach

<>

their peach-fuzzed son

a few months older than me

was quick to show off

the benefits

of his American education

He’d always felt sorry for King Kong

<>

the very next day

between furtive cigarettes

and timid first wrestling

I tried my best to be monstrous

growling & leaping about

<>

his mother found me a show-off

his father found us fondling

they left that night

<>

at fourteen

he was too old for me

anyhow

September 1973

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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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Mummy Wrappings

In the continuing pandemic lockdown I’ve been using some mornings to clean up & clean out the basement, which has become as cluttered with relics as an Egyptian tomb, only no mummies (yet). A repository of what is essentially junk saved for a rainy day. So donning a set of sweats dedicated to housework, & for the basement, a face mask to deal with the dust, I’ve been venturing down for an hour or two at a time.

Here are choice items that have been holding their own (as well as dust & cobwebs) for some time. These first are laundry room decor. This portrait of  H M Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) is by Salomon van Abbé. Yes, I did a bit of research. It was in the basement when we moved into the house over forty years ago. It was in the remains of frame & already water stained. There is probably a companion portrait of the King. These were found in nearly every school across Canada at the time. I remember a similar one of the current Queen in Sydney schools. Every class room had one.

Beside her is a paint-by-number I picked up, framed, at a yard sale. Paris? in the rain. At least Chez TonTon suggests Paris, as does the shape of the kiosk with the posters on it. I’m not sure of the horse-drawn cart in front of TonTon – it does suggest a time before autos. Where they getting a delivery of bread?

Under Paris is this marvellous velvet painting that I found on the street in Montreal in the late 90’s. I used to visit Montreal a week or so every summer for a bilingual AA round-up. Even though the painting is signed ‘Ramon’ (I think) it is clearly out of a painting sweatshop where ‘artists’ would go from one canvas to the next – one artist specialized in clouds, another in water ripples etc.

Finally, for this visit to the underbelly, I found this placemat. It was wrapped around some plumbing fixture & held in place with an elastic. I guess there was a mummy after all 🙂 I unwrapped the fixture & was happy I did. I love this prime example of late sixties graphics. Coarse fabric, no makers tags, & it washed up a treat. I had never seen it before but my partner had a very vague memory of it. The mummy was tossed but its wrappings were resurrected.

resurrected from the vaults – from October 1978 – I moved to Toronto in May 1978 – I was living in an apartment on Sherbourne near Isabella.

The Pause

the pause


not to reflect

but to hesitate

even here

where the cards are on the table

where it’s all below the belt

we use

the pause

for eyes to flash away

for eyes to consent 

even

after the rite of second glancing

after the facts of being here

there is

the pause

the fear

the guilt the frustration the fury

fury that descends to depression

depression that fears

the pause

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Marilyn, Jayne and Other Dolls

I like Marilyn Monroe’s voice. Could she sing? Yes but I doubt if she could have carried a Broadway show. On the mp3 collection I have the Some Like It Hot soundtrack & Very Best of Marilyn. Best includes her sweet River of No Return & her sexy Heat Wave – I’ve always wanted to say ‘Pablo! Chico!’ & have those hot men come to me 🙂 She did her own singing in films – no Marni Nixon for her. She could have had a chanteuse life a la Blossom Dearie but, I suspect, liked confidence in her vocal ability. 

Another blond bomb shell who did her own singing is Jayne Mansfield. Here I have ‘Too HOT to Handle!’ Can she sing? Does say, Katy Perry sound okay without studio production? Jayne recorded a few lps & did sing in some of her films & had the confidence to keep singing. Her songs are sexy, suggestive & fun. She’s more rock-a-billy than rock & good campy fun.

Sticking to the movies I added the soundtrack to Singing’ in the Rain – which has great songs, not all of which were written for the film by the way. Ooh its Gene Kelly splashing in the rain 🙂 His voice is appealing in the same way Marylin’s was. A bonus is the Broadway Melody ballet complete.

Now we go deep into the Valley of the Dolls. I have the soundtrack which was fine though the title song here is sung by Dory Previn. None of the actresses in the movie did their own singing though. But Patty Duke did realize an lp of her own singing  Songs from Valley of the Dolls – it is clear why she was dubbed in the film 🙂 A workable voice & in those days they didn’t have producers who could have autotuned her into Madonna. Finally I do have Dionne Warwick’s lp  Valley of the Dolls which includes the actual version of the title song. It was a huge hit for her & is the stand out track on this lp.

Haven’t seen the film? Watch it asap & then search out Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls for more delicious music & overwrought emotional soap. Both perfect pandemic escapism.

Cooler Part 3

“What the fuck is this?” It was Jack. Just after twelve Jack liked to do a cash pick up. He didn’t think it wise to have too much cash floating around. He was holding Will’s can. “Check your bright ideas out with me first, asshole.”

“You said …”

“Never mind what I said. You knew I was just trying to get rid of that drunk jerk. Jesus!” Jack shoved the can on top of the cooler.

“You on the rag, or what?” Carl said.

“What’s it to you. You … oh shit.” He dropped the bills he was trying to count. He bent down to pick them up.

Carl was handing a customer a beer when Jack stood & knocked the beers with his head. One spilled on him. Carl laughed. Jack was enraged.

“That does it, to dum faggot cocksucker.” He swung his fist fast Carl, the cooler door popped open & Jack’s hand slammed into it, skinning his knuckles. “Oh fuck.”

The door shut on its own. Carl grabbed for some paper towels, but Jack shoved him away.

“Leave me the fuck alone.” He started go. “Keep that hospice shit out of sight. All this talk about AIDS AIDS, fucking AIDS, is making me sick. The guys come here to get away from all that. Jesus, Carl, this a place for escapades, escape, not fucking reality.”

“Hey man, this beer tastes weird.” Frank banged his bottle on the counter. “The first swallow was fine but then …”

Instantly Carl knew. “More piss.”

“You fuckers are up to something.” Jack looked from Carl to Frank.

“Hey!” another guy Carl had just sold a beer to exclaimed. “This bottle is hot!”

Jack grabbed the bottle & dropped it. “Jesus. It burned my hand.”

The cooler began to hum loudly with a high-pitched squeal. Electric sparks flew from the sides into the crowd.

“Christ, my cock ring is freezing my nuts off.” One guy unzipped his pants.

“Oh God!” Another shouted. “Something is pulling my tit clamps off. My …” 

What he was saying was lost in a louder groan from a man whose leather harness was shrinking & biting into his skin.

“Unplug the fucking cooler.” Jack snapped.

Carl was reaching to do so when an electric flash lifted him & sent him flying over the bar. He blacked out.

He came too with Jeff pressing a damp cloth to his head. He glance at his watch: 12:33. He figured he had been out for about five minutes. The music was louder, faster & slightly distorted. He could hear Jack cursing & sputtering on the other side of his station. With Jeff’s help he got up.

“What the fuck is going on?” Carl mumbled, pushing men away to see over the counter of his bar.

Jack was on his back. The cooler door was wide open, with Jack’s feet jammed into the bottles on the bottom shelf.

“Get me up.” Jack thrashed about.

“Weird witch vibes.” Frank crossed himself.

Jack’s button-fly buttons popped off one by one.

“It’s a floor show.” Someone yelled. “Take it off, Jack baby. Let’s see that meat.”

“This is no fucking floor show, you assholes. Get me out of here.”

Carl tired to get under then over the counter but was pushed back.

“Get it up yourself, honey.” Someone called.

Jack’s jeans tore along the inseams & up to the crotch. His shirt was yanked open. His face went white as teeth marks appeared around his nipples. Blood oozed from fresh bites on his chest that were working their way down.

“What the fuck do you want?” Jack screamed, as the bites got closer to his cock.

The cooler vibrated & Will’s can fell, landing on Jack’s chest.

“Is that it?” Jack gasped. “Is that all? We’ll fill the bar with them.” He sobbed. “I’ll do it.”

The cooler shuddered & a deep moan came from it, “Swear!” There was a puff of frosty steam. It repeated. “Swear.”

“I swear. Fuck. I swear. I’ll give condoms with every beer. Anything.” I line of ice raced up each his legs hitting him in the balls.

“Swear.”

Jack writhed.”I swear, as long as I live I won’t forget this.”

His feet dropped out of the cooler. The door shut.

There was a smattering of applause.

“David Copperfield, he ain’t.”

“Interesting, but needs work on the ending.”

Jeff helped Carl pull Jack to his feet. The music got louder as Jack unsteadily crawled out from behind the bar.

A leather guy was banging on the counter. “Who does a guy gotta whip to get a beer around here.”

Carl ducked back under. Opened the cooler door and pulled out an Export. “Here you go Dutch.”

“Have we met?” Dutch asked.

“I don’t think so.” As Carl answered he saw that Will’s can was back in place. The sign on it now read:

Will’s Hospice Fund

As long as there’s a willy

There’ll always be a way

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Recap January 2021

Over the past month my TOpoet.ca following blog grew to 455! The WordPress map shows my hits in January have come from 91 countries around the world. Mainly USA & Canada with Bangladesh (হ্যালো) & Malawi (Moni) in the top 10. The most viewed was my post on board Games, https://topoet.ca/2021/01/15/games/ with Ghost of a Chance https://topoet.ca/2021/01/02/ghost-of-a-chance/  close behind. My persona fave is Burned At The Stake https://topoet.ca/2021/01/25/burned-at-the-stake/.

My Tumblr following is at 300. Twitter 230 followers.

Picture Perfect is moving along with 52 sections, about 78,800 words posted so far, with 111,000  approx to be edited, then posted. I generally try to keep the sections at about 1500 words.

I found another cache of old short stories & starts on others. They were in the file cabinet that I use to store Bushwack posters, photographs & articles I had cut from magazines. I haven’t really gone through these files in the 2000’s beyond searching out the posters I designed for my theatrical productions. 

I remember writing some of these stories but in some cases have forgotten the contents. I also neglected to date many of them but there are clues that place them in decades, as opposed to actual years. Some are in dot-matrix printout – we stopped using that in late 80’s – early 90’s – which puts them back into the early 80’s Some are typed or carbon copies – which puts them back into the 70’s, 80’s. Lack of technology dates them – no cell phones, computers or even answer machines. I’ll be serializing them for including them with my music collection post – the music collection is essential an archive too, so it is a fitting pairing.

Stay-at-home covid19 lockdown has ‘forced’ me to start clearing out our basement. When you have a house stuff collects in the basement. Stuff that is now finding the light of garbage pickup 🙂 The shop vac is getting workout. Bye-bye cobwebs. It is so gratifying to see things carted away, sometimes taken by scavengers before garbage guys can pick up them. There’s enough to keep me bust for another couple weeks. The best way to spend a couple of morning hours indoors when the wind chill drops to -20C. 

Day and Night

day never holds me 

as fully as the night

in light there is always

a part that doesn’t get revealed

doesn’t get illuminated

turn as fast as I can

part of me is always in shadow

<>

light is not the total lover

it always leaves one part untouched

night covers all

holds me in toto

comforting tender complete

caressing even where I cannot see

I was submerged and protected

no night burn for me 

for being too long naked in its glance

<>

if I had to make choice 

between night and day

as to which would be the better lover

I couldn’t decide

day brings flowers

night brings stars

both return despite 

my placid display of cliches

tender is the night

bright is the day

as one retreats 

to make way for the other

I am saddened

I want to hold them both

straddle those slippery moments

when one gracefully steps aside

<>

they do not fight 

to see who will be next

there is no resentment

that I have taken each 

in their own time

that I give myself equally to them

give myself without question 

without doubt

so do not make me choice

<>

when I die

will I go into the light

or merely roll over 

into the comforting dark

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