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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Death and the Trout

Franz Schubert (1797–1828) – I remember first hearing Schubert’s Death & the Maiden. It was love at first listen. I was sometime in the late 60’s. I had ordered it from Record Club Of Canada, which dealt with inexpensive reissues &, as it turns out, pirated cassettes. It was not the classical music I was accustomed to, that sweet, romantic Mozart stuff. This was strident, rhythmically challenging & almost rock’n’roll. Relentless & emotionally demanding.

In my collection I have a bunch of lp to cds that include Minutes/ Lieder/ Tanze; Lieder; Tanz/ Dances/ Valses; Waltzes/ Lieder; Waltzes/ Quartet/ Tanzes. The piano pieces were transfers of Vox box sets – sadly I didn’t note who played them. The lieder were sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. 

As stand-alones I have Wanderer Fantasy & over paint music; Trout Quintet & other chamber music; 12 German dances & other orchestral work; Complete Symphonies & overtures;  The Last Four Quartets (includes Death & The Maiden); Works for Violin & Piano; Auf den Strom & other vocal pieces.

No, this is not the complete works 🙂 But the bulk of it. The solo piano music is pretty to romantic. He wrote music for over 600 lieder! I only have a small selection of these – which I picked up only because of the Trout Quintet which was based on one of the lieder. I would love to hear a less concert set of the lieder – all version I have heard are too controlled & polished. Museum pieces.

His chamber music is delightful & comes from a time when people would host salons to listen to this music – or families would learn the pieces to play for themselves. The symphonies & melodic, sweeping & satisfying. Some of his work is surprisingly modern: songs for soprano, French horn & piano! 

If you are unfamiliar with Schubert I’d suggest the Trout Quintet to start as it is fun, the string quartets are good springboards to the rest of his work. He wrote an astonishing amount of amazing music & died at the age of 31 – 31! Did he write in his sleep?

This story goes back to mid 80’s. Dot-matrix print helped to date it, plus the subject matter. I was involved in the early days of ACT & some of it reflects the resistance of bar owners to become activists for safe sex. 

Cooler

“This beer isn’t cold.”

“Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!” Carl replied. “Hardly opened & already the queens are bitchin.”

“It tastes kind of weird too.”

“You should know.” Carl, standing on a stool in front of the upright cooler, turned to look down at George. The cooler was about seven feet high, & as wide as two refrigerators.

“Try it, if you’re so smart.”

Carl finished wiping the sign over his station & stepped down, pinning on a Play It Safe button he had found on top of the cooler. He was pleased, having worked at Matthew’s for only about a month, he already had a sign over his station. The pink-on-black sign read:

CARL’S COOLER

cooler than most

“Well,” he sighed stepping down. “What seems to be the problem George.”

George, usually his first sale every night, dropped in on his way home from work to unwind & unload. Carl had gotten used to life stories. He discovered that there was something about his size, a smidge over 5’4”, that made men want to confide in him. He sort felt like everyone’s little brother.

George handed him the beer. “You tell me.”

Carl took a sip & spit it out. “Jez! That’s piss.”

“You should know.” George joked.

Carl had never tasted piss, but the instant he held the bottle the word flashed in his mind. That flash was something he had gotten used to since he started working here, as the names of regulars he had never met, popped into his head, along with their favourite brands.

“Holy fuck.” Carl turned to his well-stocked cooler. “Has Jack been playing games with you babe? We’ll see about this.”

After giving George a fresh beer, he ducked through the entrance way under the bar & went looking for Jack, the manager & resident clown. If there was something funny happening, Jack’d be behind it. Of all the staff, Jack was the only one who rubbed him the wrong way, mainly because Carl wouldn’t rub him any way.

Jack was in his usual haunt, chatting up Barry, that week’s coat-check boy. 

“What’s up frost bite? Let’s not get political!” He ripped the Play It Safe pin off Carl’s t-shirt. “I had enough of that crap with Will, & now that he’s gone we’ll have no more politics, thank you.”

“Staying alive is more than politics.” Barry butted in.

Jack gave him a quick, dismissive glance. “We’re not going to discuss it. As I said, before I was so rudely interrupted.” He dropped the button into an ashtray. “What’s up, ice box?” He smiled pleasantly at Carl.

Carl handed him the bottle. “You tell me.”

Jack sniffed. “Well?”

“Piss. I guess.”

“Huh?”

“Some creep put a bottle of piss in my cooler.”

“You on the rag or what?” Jack replied.

“Full moon tonight.” Barry added cheerfully.

Carl was getting a bit steamed. He really liked working in gay bars, but sometimes these fucking queens got a bit too ditsy to tolerate. Even though this run-in with Jack had lasted less than five minutes, Carl knew he wasn’t going to be able to put up with any more if it.

“Just letting you know, boss,” He squealed to imitate Hervé Villechaize. “Don’t want any trouble on Fantasy Island.”

“Okay. I’ll check with the others. You get back to your cooler.”

Carl’s cooler, facing away from the dance floor, was in one of the darker corners of the bar. Being close to the men’s room it got a lot of traffic. George was waiting for another.

“Find out anything?” George asked.

“Yeah. Ghostbusters are on their way over.”

The first week at Matthew’s had been a bit rough, but once he got into the routine it wasn’t bad. One of the other staff had helped rearranged his cooler one night, so that the most popular stuff was always at hand. He discovered that stepping on the right spot on the floor the cooler would open for him. The beer he was reaching for was always the nearest. Tips were all right, & he did get to meet nearly every available man around. After two months he was comfortable there. Even Jack wasn’t hard to take, in small doses.

Other than the few regular early birds, things were quiet until after eleven. Carl was chatting with Dan, a somewhat intense blond, who didn’t drink but had a rare passion for tiny perfect men.

“Here’s my number.” Dan said encouragingly, giving Carl his number written on a corner torn from a page of the book he was reading. “You won’t regret it & I know I’ll enjoy myself.”

Carl was used to drunks hitting on him, looking for sympathy & to be humoured, but for someone sober to show an interest was unusual. Dan had been telling him about a play he had seen earlier, & Carl, for the first time, realized he was missing a big section of night life by being this part of it.

“I’m just a deep-in-the-sleazy-dark barmaid.” He laughed to Dan.

“You’re still alive, honey, so can’t have been all that sleazy,” Dan replied.

“I guess staying alive is more important to my sexual identity than sex.” Which was true. Despite the more than ample supply of available men, Carl had always been cautious. Even before AIDS, he hadn’t been one for sleeping with anyone just because they wanted him. He liked Dan, & felt his hormones beginning to hum. He folded the number & put it in his wallet.

“So give me a call. I’d like to see you in the daylight.”

“So would most of the guys here.” 

 part 2 next week

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