With my AA anniversary this week (43 years on July 6) I’ve done some reminiscing about my early years in recovery. My memory is helped by the journals I kept at that time – this was before keyboards & morning pages. Handwritten & for the most part more a listing of events than reflections on those events. In my poetry archive I have pieces that I wrote then which are more about discovering the gay world than exploring sobriety.
One artifact I have is a cassette recording of my 5 year anniversary from 1983! I’m not sure if I have heard it since it was first recorded. I also have a photo taken of the occasion, plus some of the cards I was given! The photo brings back some memories. I listened the the tape a few months ago though before passing it on to the Archives for preservation as mp3.
It is, I’ve been told by the head of that committee, a piece of gay recovery history that shouldn’t be lost. I had to hear it first before letting it go. It was a bit embarrassing to hear myself praised, to hear my actual ‘acceptance’ remarks. It was bittersweet to hear these voices of members who, for the most part, are no longer with us. Dead friends. So many dead friends.
Some murdered by HIV, some who died of life itself, some who moved away to Vancouver or Calgary to struggle with their sobriety in different surroundings but didn’t make it, deaths I heard of eventually. Voices I still recognized. Voices that I was happy to hear again. I even recognized laugher of people in the audience.
I do recall the tape being made but don’t remember who made it. Side A says ‘Duncan’s Fifth – Key unknown – 7 July 1983.’ Side B ‘‘Duncan’s Fifth in AA major – 7 July 1983.’ Printed by the hand of the taper. I love the Beethoven reference. It is the entire meeting from opening serenity prayer, passing the basket & the closing prayer.
I was a little surprised that it played at all. Cassettes often dry out, loose their ‘dynamic tension,’ tape ends become disconnected from the spools. One of the reasons I was so happy to to move to from tapes to cds. There was nothing more dismaying than having the tape on your Walkman jam up & pulling it out with endless feet of tape dripping out of it. I may wait another 43 years before hearing it again though 🙂
This is a piece I wrote in Cape Breton back in 1977 when I was deep into my alcoholism.
The camera started. It had been years since Dan had done this sort of flash reading of a picture. The first one was of a child in a rain coat stooping over a plastic wading pool.
“This top one is commercial. Lighting is controlled. Colors too perfect. It was taken with a Hasselblad, using 1/100 settings, color was tweaked.”
“You can tell tech stuff from looking at a picture.”
“Modern stuff is easier in someway. This was actually shot on film stock as well, not digital.”
The next was Stephanie shaking hands with Brad Pitt at a film opening.
“This is a composite. You were shopped into this picture.”
“What!” Mike glanced at Stephanie. “You told us …”
“How can you tell that?” she asked.
“All in the lighting. Shadows on your face are totally wrong for the shadows on his face. Same with shadows on your clothing.”
“That’s amazing.” she said.
“Basic training.” Dan explained. “Look to the light first. But good job all the same. Nearly seamless. Jack do this?”
“Yes. Are you psychic. Wait! You saw this picture before didn’t you?”
“Never. But I know he specializes is celeb match ups like this.”
“That alone is worth two-fifty an hour.” Mike laughed.
“Okay. Okay.” Stephanie said. “We’re getting way off track here. Take a look at this last one.”
It was of a young girl in a pretty white dress, veil, hair done up in curls, holding a book in one hand. The face was familiar to Dan. He studied it a few minutes.
“This is one of the children. Paula Morrison. The book is the Catholic missal. Her first Communion? I’m not sure how old you have to be for that. Or is Confirmation? Small cross on a chain around he neck. Her parents were probably quite attached to their parish church.
“Behind her is dark wood panelling. Maybe this was taken in the church itself. Her look is of someone being told to stand still.”
“Spot on.” Stephanie said. “Cyrtys was right about you. You are the real deal. Don’t worry about all this side talk we’ll edit it out.”
“Look I thought you were here to ask about this case not how well I do my work.” Dan got up from the desk. The camera followed him. “It’s not that I mind talking about it but what are you after?”
“Sorry, I guess we got side tracked” Stephanie shrugged. “You never know when some lead will turn up.”
“Then let’s get this back on course. You know Timmy Dunlop?” John asked.
“We were friends. We met one summer when my Dad stayed in Stellerton for work. We’d see each a few times years. A few times he came to say with us in New Waterford.”
“Do remember when this picture was taken? Take us to that day.”
“We’d been therein Stellerton, since the previous Monday. This was a Monday. We’d been playing cowboys and Indians and robbers. That’s why I had on my cowboy outfit. It was Timmy’s turn to be the sheriff, that’s why he was wearing my badge.”
“What time was this? Was it the last time you saw him?”
“I guess just before supper that day. He went home and we were going to meet the next day to go to the Happy Hippo again.”
“Happy Hippo?” John asked.
“One of those travelling circuses. Small potatoes really. Rides, shooting games, some side shows. Snakes, monkeys.”
“So you went to the circus the next day?” “No. I didn’t see him. He never called for me like he promised. I was mad and figured he’d gone on his own without me. We left for New Waterford Wednesday. In a bit of a rush.”
“I never understood. My Dad really didn’t explain much.”
“Was that when you heard about Timmy going missing?” “I never heard about that till I saw it on your show. I spoke to my mother this week and she says that was part of the reason. All those other children and this being someone so close to home. To be honest I didn’t even know about the other children. We didn’t have amber alerts in those days.”
“So the police never spoke to you about it then?”
“No. Would they have? Maybe they talked to my Dad?” More questions about their move to Toronto came to Dan as they spoke.
“Your Dad took this picture?”
“Yes. He was always taking pictures of me and my sister. I even found a home movie with Timmy in it and …” He’d become completely unaware of the camera on him and was almost going to mention the saucy pictures.
“And what?” John asked.
“I never got my sheriff’s badge back.”
“Good.” Stephanie said. “I think we got enough. Even though you were a bit difficult downstairs before, you were really warm on camera.”
“Difficult?” Dan asked.
“That release bullshit.”
“Business is business.” Dan said. He glanced at his cell phone. “That was three hours ten minutes and counting. I’ll invoice you before you leave.”
“You weren’t serious were you?” Stephanie said.
“Will that be cash or credit card.”
“Neither. I can’t expense this like a lunch. About that home movie footage. Of you and Timmy.”
Dan printed out an invoice for her. “When this gets paid we’ll talk.”
She took the invoice, nodded to the crew and they left.
“Think they’ll pay?” Sandy asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine.” He took out his cell to check the time. “Anyone for a coffee?”
“I’m fine.” Ushio said.
“I’ll be at the Carafe if you need me.” Dan needed to get outside to clear his head a little. He hadn’t eaten since his bagel in the morning.
“Jill around?” He asked Peter as he sat at one of the window tables.
“Nope.” Peter put a coffee in front of him. “She took off early today. I sometimes let her have a little time off.”
“Decent of you.”
“I … you know I want something but I don’t what it is?”
“The human condition.” Peter laughed. “Let me surprise you.”
“I’ve had my share of surprises for one day.”
“Try this anyway.” He put a plate with an oat-crumbled topped square on it. “Strawberries, dates and pecans. Enjoy. I’m on clean up duty so call out if you need anything.”
Dan had finished half the square when he heard the cafe door ding open. He looked up and it was Robert Warszawa.
“Ushio said I might find you here.”
“Some people hang out in cheap bars after work I hang out in designer coffee shops.”
“There’s been some talk about you and that TV show.” Warszawa sat. “It might not be a good idea for you to get too involved in it.”
“It’s not as if I asked them to air that photo of me and Timmy. I didn’t even know about that till I saw it. That’s pretty much the extend of my involvement.”
“Their researcher has been asking around.”
“Yes. She mentioned that you suggested she might find out more from our files.”
“I did not suggest anything like that to her. She interviewed me this afternoon, as a follow up to my call to them. My Dad did take that photo you know. Not that I knew much then about what was happening around me..”
“I’m sure you didn’t but there’s those who wonder what’s going on.”
“Are they afraid Unsolved will find out something they missed and make the Force look bad?”
“Don’t get pissed at me Dan I was just letting you know, that’s all.”
“Thanks for the heads up. Then I’ll be on my way.” He went to the door.
Warszawa followed him. “Can I offer you a lift home?”
“Nah. I got my bike here. I’ll be careful. I won’t do anything to sully the good reputation of the RCMP.”
As he peddled home he wondered what the Division had to worry about. It was an old cold case. They usually welcomed fresh light to help get them solved. Unless there was some ‘discrepancy’ in the initial investigation that would throw a bad light on them. Perhaps force those old files to be reopened for public examination.
He’d have to speak with Cyrtys and Stephanie to find out what what actually going on. He certainly never suggested to Stephanie that she talk to the Force or that she use his name if she did. Considering his history there that wouldn’t have been helpful at all.
After his year at Quantico was hired by the RCMP. His photograph analysis abilities were quickly recognized and he was a rising star until a complaint of sexual harassment was lodged against him. To protect the complainant his identity was kept from Dan. But the fact that the complaint had been lodged was known by many. The investigation found that the complaint was groundless but by then the damage had been done, as far as Dan was concerned. He never found out who the complainant was.
He wasn’t willing to make sure there was always a third person in the room when he spoke with a colleague as was suggested to him to make such allegations never arose again. He opted to leave the service. Some felt he left because he was guilty and the accuser was silenced out of favouritism. A cloud of suspicion never disperses even when there was no grounds for it in the first place.
I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it.
A souvenir of the writers’ workshop/retreat at Loyalist College in Belleville. There was also a painters workshop at the same time. One morning we visited the painter, saw their work, then read some our aloud to them. I swapped one of my Renaissance anthologies for this painting. Int he area many houses have a large bed of orange flowers – at one time to signify it was the home of Orangemen. Yes gardens were once tools of political & religious importance.
One of my role models 🙂 Tweety could get away with tormenting Sylvester with the dog ready to rescue him. The brass cymbals were a gift many years ago. I ring them on the full moon. In the windowyou might notice a stained glass Cape Breton Island sun catcher.
The patron saint of writers – St Michael – the only saint with a sword. I bought this Broughton’s – a religious items store not he Danforth, just east of Woodbine. They have since gone out of business. I bout this ceramic figurine at their going out of business sale. It hovers on the plate rail over me by the computer. The bearded guy under his foot is part sea serpent. The Welsh plate beside it is a nod to my Celtic roots. It might have been gift or I may have found it at a 2nd hand store.
Photos of photos 🙂 The first by my niece before she she became branded as Betty Rocksteady. I love the triple exposure effect & its surreal Man Ray vibe. Check her out on Amazon.
The other is by my friend Kyle Andrews – driftwood in sunset on the coast of Nova Scotia around Canso Causeway.
My lunchbox collection. These are from various years of FanExpo & were included as part of the deluxe package. Supposedly limited editions – but what does that mean? Were unsold ones destroyed?repurposed? repainted as Terminator XIX lunch boxes? The photo, one of my favourites, is of no one I know. I found it on one of my walks, leaning on a garbage bin. I couldn’t resist it.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953), is best known for a short movement in his Romeo & Juliette ballet suite, which I do have but was never that taken by. I have a double cd collection of The 5 Piano Concertos. As well as an 8.8 hr mp3 collection that includes his Complete Piano Sonatas, Complete Symphonies, & the Ballet Suites: The Buffoon, Love For Three Oranges, Waltz Suite, Romeo & Juliette.
At one time I had the Piano Sonatas as a MHS box set & an lp of one of the concertos. I upgraded to the Sonatas mp3 & found a double cd set of the Piano Concertos. I love piano music & Prokofiev straddles the gap between romantic & modern nicely. Not as lushly melodramatic as Tchaikovsky the concertos are excellent, the sonatas are emotional, lyrical but with a more mathematic sense of structure – not as florid as Chopin.
The Symphonies, which I have as mp3, become more modern & sweeping like Shostakovich but not as dissonant. Like many Russian composers Prokofiev makes use of stirring Russian folks songs that us delightful, somewhat patriotic & satisfying. If you are unfamiliar start with the piano concertos.
One thing I enjoy about many of many eastern European composers is the use of their folk melodies to create amazing, emotionally commanding music that even without being from there myself I am filled with a sense of losing & nostalgia. I have found little North American classical music does that to me. Is there an epic, sweeping symphony based on, say, Native American musical themes?
“Apples bin Irish peace.”
“Yes. Go on.”
“I can’t think of anything more.”
Dr. Clarke put down his pen. “I see.”
“Is that a problem?”
“I don’t know. You tell me?”
“I wish I could think of more. Really. Sometimes my mind just goes blank … or so many things flash that I can’t grab them all. Don’t know which ones to say and as I start saying them the others darken. Disappear. Blank. I’m left with a blank.”
“That can happen. Try to relax. Green?”
“Peace. Did I say that already? I’m so afraid of repeating myself that I can’t think of anything to say. Nothing comes to me. I want to go.”
“You can leave anytime. If you want to get well you have to try harder.”
“I don’t see how this helps.”
“It helps me to find patterns of thinking. What does peace mean to you?”
“Peace? I’ve never thought about peace. Really. I guess it means like gardens and butterflies. Quiet. No, maybe some birds singing. Yeah and kittens chasing the butterflies around. Yeah, that’s what peace means to me.’
“That’s a postcard picture of peace but go deeper than a picture.”
“Peace isn’t perfection, is it? that’s what you want to me say isn’t it. Peace is impossible, it only exists in my imagination not in the world out there. There is no peace. Never ever going to be peace. Peace would be boring as fuck anyway. You know that, don’t you? Impossible.”
“Take a breath. That’s not what I mean but peace has a cost. In your picture who mows the lawn? Who plants the flowers? Peace isn’t an abstract thing.”
This garage/body shop on the Danforth near Donlands has been abandoned for a few years now. Work started but stopped abruptly. I suspect they discovered toxins underground. I have seen soil testers taking samples in front once then a few moths later more soil testers along the side.
I did step inside at the back but wasn’t sure how structurally sound the floor, ceiling were & wasn’t ready to scarce more than my time for art 🙂
I’ve blogged a few times about how my relationship to world was changed by my cameras. I started taking pictures when I read that blogs with photos get more hits. I didn’t want to use photos I found online – copyright mainly but also I didn’t want to spend time hunting down the right photo.
I have a decent eye for composition but I am a point & shoot photographer. I didn’t want blog of typical images which forced me to be more selective & almost fetishistic in what caught my lens’s attention. Texture & pattern are my prime subjects – texture found in things usually thrown away – shoes, clothing, toys, dishes etc.
I love finding cast off doors, art, empty frames, bathtubs, aquariums, ironing boards & specially lps. Or objects one wonders why they have been thrown away, or perhaps left for the scavengers. I hav passed stuff on my walk & it was gone on my return in less than an hour. But with bed bug scare somethings just remain until garbage men remove them.
The pictures I post on my blog are somewhat random. I don’t look for the right picture to go with the content – too much work. I figure people will make their own story around the pictures anyway. Because, as the song says, every picture tells a story. But the pictures here rarely tell you anything about me, even when they are pictures of me.
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee at Capturing Fire 2020 – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet
For the first time my local stretch of the Danforth – from Greenwood to Coxwell – participated in Nuit Blanche. There was nothing between Greenwood & Linnsmore. In fact there was no Blanche on the southside of Danforth until one got to the Roberston Parkette where there was a long set of tables for an early scrabble game.
The bulk of the action was along the north side – with musicians, window displays & lots of people taking photographs.
Scrabble in the wild
Make Love Not War
Red Rocket window – I liked the way the actual cafe lighting became a part of the piece
you cannot have that unmentionable dessert in a public place
only the privacy of your home
only if you are a registered eater
you cannot display that obscenity
on the Internet
works of fiction that deal with the
making of or consumption of
the aforesaid unmentionable pastry
will be seized and burned
one must not display such an item before the face of God
pastries were denied a place at the last supper
it is all there in the scriptures
beware the uncircumcised
beware the fluffy flaky graham cracker shell
damnation and everlasting suffering
is in store for those who countenance
the unnamable pastry
in fact all desserts are suspect
anyone who might enjoy a cookie
could be led down the path of degradation
to the unnamable pastry
that must never happen
this is the only way to get it under control
the very fabric of our culture
will collapse under such a threat
So we come to the last piece in the chapbook – flow is always important to me so the pieces follow one another for a reason. In this case things go from political personal to political global to politics of love to political silly and ends with political satire.
There was an actual incident that inspired Pie, the politician’s reaction was pretty much as described. I merely spun the context to its logical conclusion by seeing pies as gun control and then into the need to control period. People who won’t be controlled deserve to be taught a lesson. Queers getting beaten up for holding hands in public: they are just asking for it – right.
That need to control branched out into other things people have attempted to control with the law and how illogical & unsuccessful that control has been. Pie-phobia killings of course reflects a long standing (& in some parts of the world still-standing) criminal defence that says assaulting a homosexual is justifiable if one makes a pass at you or if you even think one is about to make a pass at you.
Biblical scholars have speculated on the story of the bread & fishes. I tend to agree with the theory that Jesus actually handed out pumpkin pies. The first carved pumpkins in fact were to honour him and this miracle. Those heretical pagans have co-opted the true religious significance of the pumpkin but whenever I see one in a window or have a piece of pumpkin I am participating in this yummy Christian miracle.
So it’s not a great leap to pies crumbling our traditional values, then to religious justifications of that – yes, JC did share bread with his disciples but unleavened bread is not pastry, or perhaps it was a kind of shortbread? There are endless passages in the scriptures about the uncircumcised as well. Lemon meringue is my favourite pie. I do prefer the uncut crust 🙂