Door Perceptions

Door Perceptions

1

there is a difference

between blocking a door way

& making a grand entrance

it all depends on the width of the doorway

one doesn’t want to get

clothes caught on anything

it also helps

to some distance for the stride

the right stride

will make any entrance 

2

do you want to make an entrance

of merely suck all the attention

in the room to yourself

does it matter if the crowd

is buzzing with who is that

or with laughter

3

he gave me a look

that was hands-on-the-hips attitude

I gave him my patented

kick-in-the-ass response

<>

this wasn’t a stare down

as we both looked away

at the same time

enough attitude had been delivered

for those around us to see

there was nothing left to say

anyway

<>

it had been years since we actually spoke

often we didn’t even

glance nosily in each other’s direction

we’d both seen it all 

most of it didn’t deserve a second glance

let alone a first one

<>

we had better ways of wasting time

than looking at each other

as anything more

than exit doors

1

America’s Next Top Model taught me that there is a big difference between going into a room & making a grand entrance. Opening my front door & going into my house usually requires a different energy than stepping on stage, than being announced at the portals of the grand ballroom at the White House. If my scarf gets caught on my front door it’s annoying but no big deal, but if snags that candelabra at the top of the stairs leading to the grand ballroom it can be a disaster. But Top Model teaches us that if you walk with the right attitude even toppling that candelabra becomes irrelevant. 

There is also a difference between blocking a subway door while glued to any hand held device & having the sense to step out of people’s way as they get on & off. So don’t give me that ‘how rude look’ because I brush your elbow as I get on, or off.

2

Of course dragging a candelabra down a flight of stairs will certainly you attention, almost as much as wearing a dress made of meat. Many singers seem more intent on having their look remembered even when their songs are forgettable. 

3

Based on a true story! This happened at a gathering of writers decades ago. Shortly before this I had featured together at a poetry event where this guy insisted he go on first – getting the longer time spot because he was already more established than I was, don’t you know. He did his set, got applause. I did my set & had people laughing in the aisles & enough applause that the host asked for an encore. The established writer never forgave me, as far as I know. At another reading he pointedly left the room when I went on stage. LOL

4

Wait there’s no fourth! These pieces were written separately, on different days, as I tired to develop something for this particular rule, that had something to do with entering a room quietly. Rather than title them individually to create more of a differentiation between them I opted to lump them together to give readers a chance to create a story, where, in fact, there is none. 

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Taking The Bait

Back in the BS (Before Sobriety) days I was a fountain of opinion, often rather uninformed, but that didn’t slow the flow. The less I knew the more dismissive & cynical it would be. I felt obligated to have something to say. In recovery I eventually realized that I didn’t have opinions just smart-assed one-liners that could shut-down any dialogue so my lack of thoughtful insight would remain hidden.

Over the years I have learned to stop taking the bait to be dismissive & cynical, particularly with things that are irrelevant to me – you know I frankly don’t care who wins an Oscar, which political party is in crisis mode, what newsworthy figure looks amazing in a jaw-dropping anything. If anything I more dismayed that some of these things are worthy of taking up so much space in the media.

One good thing about not taking the bait is that I hardly notice things that once would have got me wisecracking or disturbed. Even things that I know something about I can step back & think – Is it worth it to wade in? How important is it, to me, in the long run? Am I saying things to appear smart, intelligent, witty to be smart-assed or to add something constructive to the dialogue? In a culture where being critical, negative is a sign of intelligence & to be positive, non-judgemental is to be delusional or stupid – it can be a challenge not to mouth-off.

Through spokenword performances I’ve learned that what I say & what you hear are often two different things. I’ve stopped apologizing when people choose to take offence when none was intended – the fact that my piece about my Dad triggered bad memories about yours is not my fault. The fact that my gay sex positive outlook is a sign of the moral decay & destruction of family values isn’t my issue.

When people ask for my opinion what they hear isn’t what I say but what they feel is in accordance with theirs, if it isn’t then I’m being argumentative or shaming, or am just not as hip, sensitive, liberal, conservative as they are. They don’t want my opinion they want to educate me as to how right theirs is. Then again that’s only my humble opinion.

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Buried Moons Drums and Caramel 

Over the past year of so I’ve rediscovered some of my childhood treats at a local supermarket – things that Shopper’s never has on their shelves. I can’t say that I longed for them but trying them again after decades did bring back some sweet memories of growing up in Sydney.

I can remember buying the individual Half-Moon’s at Flubs (I think that’s what it was called) a family run corner store (St. Peters Rd at Ashby). Cellophane wrapped & merely a sugary cloud with nearly no texture or much flavour. There was also a chocolate version but Preferred the bland vanilla. The current version is smaller, has less cream filling & remains relatively flavourless.

I was allowed one a week & would usually buy it on my way home from school. It took less than a minute to eat but was totally satisfying. For some reason there has never been a 100% whole wheat version lol. Flubs also had home-made molasses candies I loved & super moist molasses cookies.  

Another one is Ah Caramel – the name of which I forgot until I saw a package on the shelf – these are smallish squares of cake with a ring of cream filled with caramel on top & all dipped in chocolate. They came in cello packs of two, so you could share one. Like the half-moons these are smaller than I recalled. Thanks to the chocolate & caramel they actually have flavour & though the chocolate shell is too thin to give it much of a texture.

Then there is the Drumstick – ice cream filled sugar cone dipped in chocolate & the top rolled in peanuts. In my day there was only one vanilla kind – now there is a range with chocolate, crushed oreo cookie, fillings but still dipped in chocolate & rolled in peanuts. I’ve tried them all but I prefer the traditional. Sadly another one that has been sized down but still large enough to satisfy.

Finally, one that I haven’t found is Buried Treasure – orange sherbet & vanilla ice cream on a plastic stick. As you ate the ice cream, a figure, your buried treasure, would appear on the stick. As I remember it actually tasted like orange! I wish I still had some of my treasures – I loved the circus lion. Buried Treasure is no longer available 😦 I guess it is not the sort of hand-held device to keep children amused.

What were your favorite childhood treats.

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Did anyone every send away for these gifts?

(Buried Treasure/Popcicle images sourced from internet)

The Sound of Awen

As I learn more about Wicca I’m a bit disappointed that there are no mentions of music. Some of the ceremonies involve chanting but it seems the actual ‘melody’ is up to you. I’m a great believer in music setting a mood, beta beats that are sonically engineered for mediation. But none of what I read indicates anything – not even the motion of a hand drum (whew). It appears solitary practice is also to be silent?

I have done some research & search into music that has been created for the various solstices & equinox. Much of which is new age mournful recorder or aimless harp, or both. As much as I may like that Celtic sound I wanted something more specific.

So I have created some playlists of my own based on music already in my collection & added some things sourced from iTunes & Bandcamp. Searching things out was fun & results improved as I refined my search terms. Be warned ‘wicca music’ leads to a lot of heavy metal bands, whereas ‘wicca meditation’ results are better 🙂 also try Druid mediations & see where that leads you.

Out of my personal collection I pulled out some obvious choices – Wendy Carlos’s Sonic Seasonings – each suite is devoted to a season – soothing. Of course, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Debussy offers ideal impressionistic moods. Moonlight Sonata is great for tuning into the new moon. Alan Stivell’s Ys, from 1972, is a great starter & is the template for nearly all new age music with its sound of waves & harp. A couple of pieces I’d recommend are Awen by The Mind Orchestra; Wisdom of the Druids by Spiritual Awakening. 

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Small

Small

I am small in public

I try to take up as little space as possible

my stiff arms are held

as close to my body 

as my muscles can make them

I do not brush up against anyone

I don’t look them in the eye

I sit were I am out of the way

I make room for others

others whose right to the air I breath

is greater than mine

I am infringing

on the need of more valuable people

to take up all the space

they deserve

I shun attention

<>

I am large in private

I dance around the room

I sprawl on chairs

spread my legs wide

take up as much space as I can

I breath

I laugh out loud

I don’t watch where I’m going

my shoulders brush the wall

I can make contact with anything

in private I am free

in public I am caged

The endless rules for Buddhist monks cover in detail nearly every aspect of their lives & many merely refine the previous one. But we humans have our own set of unwritten rules of behaviour that are more cultural conditioning than anything else. 

All of these rule poems were written pre-covid & some of them seem prescient about social distancing, masking in public – cages to control behaviour, that even as restrictions are lifted, some people are happy to maintain. I, for one, often felt that restaurant tables were mashed in too tight – so tight I sometime knocked over drinks on one table while squeezing into the next one. In some situations one can’t make themselves small enough. Don’t stand next to me, or if you, don’t breathe.

It’s also about the ‘mask’ we often wear. Being nice to people who we can’t stand, demeaning bosses, manipulative romantic partners, attention & energy vampire who count on us maintaining some mask polite behaviour that becomes approval of their actions. To speak up becomes being ‘a wet-blanket’ ‘not sense of humour’ ‘don’t be so judgemental’ or ‘like or lump it.’

Social conventions are cages to protect us from each other, I suppose, & like clothing, they hide our private thoughts from the world.


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Malfunction

Malfunction

it was a costume malfunction

not that I was wearing a costume

but the phrase

has become a catch-all

for any apparel slip-up

a top with

too much cleavage

for the airline

shorts that allow 

the balls to dangle

when sitting down

a mini that prevents

the wearer from bending over

without revealing

more than panties

<>

the source of the phrase

costume malfunction

resulted in a corporate shaming

of a black female entertainer

she was shunned

her records her videos banned

who often revealed even more

than that malfunction made public

took the opportunity

to retire from the public light

she was sick tired bored

of no longer being a person

but a product

whose packaging

had replaced the contents

<>

not that my malfunction

revealed anything in public

it was reserved for private

to invite my carefully chosen view

to put his ‘fun’

into my malfunction

When I was younger, slimmer, more adventurous I had a oversized, mechanic’s one piece work coverall , that buttoned up the front. I would hit my favorite gay bar dance floor wearing that with just a jockstrap underneath. I found wearing it made me feel incredibly sexy. It was fashion look that didn’t catch on though – gay guys were more into little satin shorts & tank tops. 

There some who sported black leather, buttless chaps. But even in these somewhat private spots that naked ass was as bare as men would get. I never saw anyone wandering around with dick out for all to see. Even in my few visits to the baths – towels on outside of one’s room, or the showers, or the actual steam room, was enforced. Men could be on their beds in those little rooms, door propped open enough for passers-by to get a good look at what was offered. 

The showbiz manipulation of body image has a long history for exploiting the assets of its female ‘stars’ but when it came to males it was slightly different. Shirtless was fine but some male stars were discourage from bathing suit shots unless they wore loose trunks. Costume designers were tasked with making sure pants, shorts would never betray what lay beneath. Male actors were tucking their tackle long before drag made it mandatory. 

Body shame runs rampant though North American culture with celebs being praised for looking astonishingly good at 62 in their bathing suits or getting lavished with praise for losing weight & finally looking astonishingly good in their bathing suits. Lists of what not wear over a certain age, in public, unless you looking astonishingly good in a bathing suit.

One of my disappointments in Tarzan, or Beach Party movies was the lack of male bulge. Today’s male superheroes have dynamic abs but Ken doll groins.We can’t frighten teen-age fan boys & girls with such offensive sights. Her superhero bodysuit reveals camel toe while his reveals how well he can tuck.

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Good Looks

Good Looks

I wasn’t looking at you

I wasn’t looking at anyone

no one is looking at anyone

<>

we don’t even look at ourselves

expect through a lens

of memory

of perception

of cultural filters

of digital accuracy

<>

I don’t want to see anyone

not directly

so as not to give rise

to inaccurate expectations

to misinterpretation of the glance

<>

we all just want

to find our place

without bumping into anyone

without having to look 

where we are sitting

<>

look up

is to make unwanted contact

visual acknowledgements

are not to be allowed

they lead to

well

no one knows what they lead to

it is better not to take that chance

<>

I’m not looking at anyone

at anything

no one looks at me

life is serene

Many years ago a discredited televangelist was accused of giving another man a ‘homosexual’ look in a spa locker room. Decades ago a man in Australia was found not-guilty of murderer because he experienced a ‘homosexual panic’ because of the way another man looked at him. The eyes have been weaponized.

Sexual harassments suits have cited the way other employees looked at the accuser – focused too long on legs, buttocks, chest. I’m not sure how long ‘too long’ is – the punch line ‘my eyes are up here’ underlines the need to direct our gaze anywhere but at the anatomy. Yet not looking someone in the eyes is seen as hiding something, of being shifty – looking them in the eye is being accusatory or invasive of their privacy. 

Hence the power of hand held devices to avoid those treacherous waters. Soon, like modern cars, they’ll have a proximity alert to let you know how close you are to bumping into someone, or something, because   they are in our blindspot. Maybe they’ll develop a way to give people who are too close a slight shock to alert them to ‘get back.’ 

As a kid I remember wishing I had Superman’s x-ray vision that allows him to look through things – though unlike x-rays he saw them as objects not outlines or ghosts. I always wanted to send away for x-ray glasses I saw in the back of comics that supposedly did the same thing so I could use them to see through clothing, or through walls to watch people undressing. Google tells me some were merely plastic glasses filled with cardboard that had a depiction of the things you could see if you had x-Ray vision 😦 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-ray_specs)

I’m sure if I was wearing them in public my eyes would be covered so no one would accuse of giving them a homosexual look. I’ll stick to my wrap around sunglasses.


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Gunn Mann

Soundtrack composers are easy to dismiss for the mass appeal of their work – populist & therefore shallow. Henry Mancini is one such composer. The range of his musical ability is staggering when one looks at the span of his career. Academy awards only testify to the popularity of his work not of its quality.

Also with time, even his timeless pieces have taken on a sort of nostalgic campy quality. A song like Moon River seems quaint. I have always loved his music for Peter Gunn & have the original TV soundtrack. When you get past the Arch of the Cue Balls you have a fine, state-of-the-jazz art album that can stand with anything by, say, Horace Silver.  Quincy Jones Plays Mancini is a great set of covers. I love Baby Elephant Walk.

I guess I am a Herbie Mann fan, at least of his work up to the mid-70’s. The first Herbie Mann I heard was Push Push way back in 1971. I loved it & the use of harp in jazz was a revelation. I had that lp & replaced it with the cd. I found the double lp Evolution of Mann remaindered at Zellers & it covered the earlier part of his career, eventually I did the conversion from lp to cd. Stone Flute, & Gagaka I also had as lps at one time & both are stunning sets.

As mp3 I have by Herbie Mann:  Flute Flight 1957, Flute Soufflé 1957, Do The Bossanova 1962, The Complete Latin Band Sessions w Chick Corea 1965, Impressions of the Middle East 1966, Gagaku & Beyond 1976, Two Amigos 1990 w Dave Valentine, Beyond Brooklyn 2004 w Phil Woods. Stand-alones: lp to cd transfer of Evolution of Mann: a sort of hits collection; Stone Flute 1969 meditative with strings includes stunning take on The Beatles ‘Flying’, Push Push 1971 w Duane Allman Gene Bianca on harp. 

Mann was a world music fan before it was on trend. He explored Latin, Japanese, Northern Africa music with musicians from those areas. He steeped himself  in the sound & sensibility & co-created memorable music. I love the Gagaku work. Where to start? I’d go with Push Push. Don’t let his hairy shoulders put you off.

Rounding out the Mann mp3 cd compilations are: Wes Montgomery: Fingerpickin’, Moving’ Along. Early work by Wes with his trademark fluid jazz guitar. Stanley Jordan: Magic Touch – modelled after Wes, another deft guitarist. Art Pepper: The Trip – excellent sax with more of a hard bop edge. Some mid 50’s sleaze adventures, where you feel the tassels twirling around your nose as you listen: Strip Tease 50’s Classics: by the likes of Dave Rose, Sonny Lester – songs like Strip Poker, The Stripper; Buddy Bregman: Swinging Kicks. Burlesque A Go-Go: various rock-a-billy for peelers.

Perhaps the ultimate Bond soundtrack by John Barry: Goldfinger. Shirley Bassey delivers the best Bond title song of all time. Finally as a break from all that:  Don Slepian: Electronic Music From The Rainbow Isle – a moog, computer music pioneer; Szatvari Csaba: Galilei’s Nightmare – new ageish sound textures.

Take The Plunge

the room was full

maple leaves sumac oak

aspen poplar beech

more leaves than the eye could see

could gave names to

rose lilac no flowers just leaves

stacked

each one tagged 

ready to be discarded

<>

leaves fluttering chafing rustling

at each breath I took

whispering to each other

that I was there

shuddering 

at the sight of my rake

they feared the rake

<>

the brown big bag behind my back

wasn’t going to hold them all

I’d need more bags

more rakes

<>

the leaves trembled in anticipation

to be stuffed crammed

longing to be taken outdoors

to become compost

for future leaves

<>

I didn’t know where to begin

were there stairs

the house was crammed

floor to ceiling

nothing could be seen

leaves crumbling 

stumbling 

over one another

more arrived every minute

squeezing though cracks in the wall

down the chimney

<> 

it was an endless task

I began raking 

pulling them from under chairs

bag after bag

line the curb

yet the house never emptied

all around me 

the swirl of leaves

green red black pointed waxy

I couldn’t get down the stairs

my rake was useless

they no longer had fear

no bags left and there were more

<>

catalpa palm smoke tree

I climbed out to the porch roof

the street was an ocean

the bags I had tenderly packed

had all broken open

children where running and playing

diving through the leaves

never touching the ground

unaware of the dangers

beneath the glorious tempest of leaves

<>

I took the plunge

(2008)

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Just A Sip

Just A Sip

how kind

a cup of blood for me

fresh 

warm to the touch

I can’t thank you enough

has it been checked

I mean I don’t want to sound

ungrateful

but even the starving

have to show some caution

these days

<>

I once

broke out in hives

from contaminated blood

things like that happen

when you are starving

you lose all sense of caution

of self-preservation

in my younger days

I could smell the blood

& tell how pure it was

<>

now all it smells of is

drink me

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The Late Charlie C Petch

I suppose I should start with the disclaimer – I’ve known Charlie over 20 years. We met when I immersed myself in the Toronto spoken word scene in 1999 at the Renaissance Cafe (now a butcher shop) when Valentino Assenza’s Cryptic Chatter was in flower. At that time Charlie hadn’t embarked on the arc of a life that took him from female cultural gender drag to his present trans masculine reality. An arc that can be on going.

The pieces in ‘Why I Was Late’ follow some of that arc. I’ve heard several them many times over years & appreciate Charlie’s ability to rewrite what you’ve just read with a closing line. This is writer who knows the power of the right ending – as opposed to the obvious ending. Charlie never takes the easy way out, never underestimates the intelligence of a reader to understand.

Directly or indirectly the pieces deal with growing up while living in a rigidly gendered culture – one in which even colours are not allowed to be neutral – i.e. pink for girls – serious writers wear blacks, greys & purples. But colour coding & print fabric condemnations are another post. 

Charlie’s piece about being a lighting rigger shows how females in traditional male occupations have to struggle with the cultural acceptance that it is the females fault if men find them attractive. They become as adept at fending off uncalled for male attention as they do at doing their job. I suspect many females avoid those professions, not because they can’t do them but to avoid dealing with men’s rampaging testosterone.

Simple, direct language makes these pieces accessible to everyone. This a book of lived-in experience not of abstract musings on the silence of snow or the lambent light on prairie wheat but of people enjoying, struggling with the demanding emotions of self-realization, of stepping out of the culturally dictated colour codes & into the power to be.

Now in its second-printing this Brick Book publication is available from Brick Books as well as at most major & independent bookstores. Get it.

Bloody Footprints

the movie opens

on a busy sidewalk

someone with a knife

stabs a stranger

keeps on going

while the victim collapses

remember the knife

the flash of it

the thrust

blood blood blood

<>

people stepping in it

as they step over the body

on their important way

bloody foot prints

quickly splotching the sidewalk

as the camera

pulls up up

the police arrive

the credits roll

over the expanding trail

of bloody foot prints

<>

steps lead to smart shops

to offices

into elevators

down marble corridors

over carpets in hotel hallways

cafe floors

washroom stalls

<>

blood gets on hands

trying to clean shoes

the fingerprints on mirrors

coffee cups

documents

dried flakes fall between 

keyboard keys

smear smart phones

traces tracked undetected through 

airport screening machines

splotches on luggage

the blood travels around the world

<>

the sidewalk

with the outline of the body

is a pool of blood

after crime scene photos have been taken

after cellphone photos have hit the net

city works come to clean it up

<>

the camera looks for the stabber

pushing through crowds

roving over heads shoulders

no faces

hands washing

blood pooling in sinks

almost dripping down the walls

of apartments

seeping out of TV screens

<>

bloody footprints

lead up to a door

the bell rings

you reach to open the door

the closing credits roll

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