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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Remains

Remains

months later

the body hasn’t been found

snow 

flies 

dances around a backyard

ground frozen hard

shock dissipated somewhat

we know all the details

we’ve been allowed to know

how they met, why,

the history of both men

the deceased and the accused

made manifest

all that’s missing is the corpse

<>

bleached bare bones 

found years from now

when everything is forgotten

his name

the innocent till proven guilty

my name

I’m not naming names

don’t want anyone remembered

for how they died

his life is more than that

<>

his life has to be more

than a cold case years from now

more than a denial from the accused

more than just another queer

who go what he deserved

<>

years later

and the body hasn’t been found

the estate can’t be settled

some people still can’t sleep

don’t feel completion

whatever the fuck that is

I don’t want completion

revenge or justice

I want this 

to never have happened

<>

I want to forget

where the remains

can be found

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Danforth Potholes

In Toronto we’re at the edge of post-covid19 life as the retail world returns to life, within safety protocols, that is. Stores have signs that say maximum capacity 121, while others say no more than 4 at time. Some say ‘for rent’ not having survived the prolonged lockdown. I suspect some took the lockdown as a sign to close up a business that was merely breaking even. 

Some that did close were fairly popular coffeeshops that subsisted on their takeout business anyway. Maybe the per sq. foot costs weren’t being covered by the sale of elevated cupcakes? Some places that survived have cut back their hours – no longer opening a 9 a.m. but at 11 a.m., or in some cases not until 2 p.m. Others are ‘by appointment only.’ I suppose the $ saved in operating costs helps their bottom lines.

Several have been replaced by similar business, chains like A&W or Burger King. The most invasive had been, what I call potholes. Marijuana dispensaries – that have taken over video, buy-your-gold, stores. Some have obvious names – High Time, Natural High, Neighbourhood Joint – others aim for a different ‘class’ – Canvas, Tokyo Rose (?). At least one has gone ‘native’ naming itself after one of the original land-owners. Cultural appropriation or perhaps the owners are natives? I don’t care to find out because even if they are, it is still a marketing ploy.

Last summer I did several photoblogs of ghosts – stores that had shut down due the pandemic – without cash flow they didn’t survive. I stopped taking those pictures as it become increasing depressing to see that covid19 wasn’t merely killing people but also opportunity. I’d say killing ‘the economy’ but lets face it big pharma is raking in the bucks. 

As for the potholes that have shown up all over Toronto – I guess they are better than abandoned storefronts.

Kharis 

<>

is this the last wrap

or the first

the first wrap was a tissue

of lies

‘oh i’m fine’

I used that wrap

over & over

until the tissue

was a layer

layer after layer of

‘oh i’m fine’

‘i don’t mind’

‘how can i make you happy’

walking away

rather than add another layer

hoping nothing had caught

no thread was snagged

on a expectation

an exception

on resurrecting love

<>

I was protected

entombed by safety

by the fact

that all anyone wanted to hear

was ‘oh i’m fine’

‘this bandage solution will do’

‘you deserve to be fixed first’

<>

bound tight

peering at life though the slits

surrendering to the weight of history

pushed along by an unquestioned past

by ritual expectations

controlled by the clasp of gauze

layer upon layer after layer

some turned to dust

some turned to scar

some turned to face the sun

reaching for release

<>

decayed tissue 

dust motes settling in the moonlight

‘how can i make you happy?’

‘how can i unravel the book of life’

can i survive

without another layer

of this tissue

this scar tissue of lies

‘oh i’m fine’

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Sign of the Beast

Sign of the Beast

I wondered

is it a neon sign

something hand-painted

sprayed on a subway car

does it swing on a board 

over the door of a pub

or at a street corner

like a stop sign

<>

will I see it

at the bottom of a contract

does it come between

aries & scorpio

a wave of the hand

to say

here I am

I’ve saved a seat for you

is it an early warning for cancer 

<>

I don’t think I’ve seen it yet

they say you’ll know it

when you see it

there’ll be no question in your mind

you can’t ignore it

when you see it

it’s too late

to do anything about it

<>

no matter what you do

to avoid it

you will see it

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Orange Sprinkles

Before heading to Stratford on September 30 I checked to make sure certain stores would be open as many across the province & Canada were closed for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. They weren’t but if they were I was ready with alternative plans. There were many people with orange t-shirts’s when we got to Stratford, even in the audience. Both acts of the show opened with a land acknowledgement – something the Festival has been doing for a couple of years now. https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html

In June I blogged ‘Membertou First Nation’

https://topoet.ca/2021/06/06/membertou-first-nation/. Since then there have been increased protests – toppled a statue of the founder of Ryerson College here in Toronto – as the anti-native actions of historical figures are revealed. Streets are being renamed for the same reason. Some of this reminds of 1984 int which the past is constantly rewritten so make the people of the present comfortable. I saw a documentary on the Russian Bolshevik revolution in which figures were removed from photos when they were no longer considered good party members.

A National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an important step – though why September 30 isn’t clear? Why not co-opt the already existing Victoria Day?  A chance for the colonized to dethrone the colonizers. My fear is that like Remembrance Day it will become one of ceremony as opposed to a call to action to end war.  Will we get people selling lapel dreamcatchers to raise funds? Will wearing that be enough to assuage our personal guilts.

I see that Tim Horton’s is selling a time-limited orange sprinkle donut with proceeds going to native organizations: http://news.timhortons.ca/orange-sprinkle-donut-supporting-the-indian-residential-school-survivors-society/ . I’ve tried them – they are sweet, flavourless & without real substance – a # donut.

Psycho Zombies in the Rain

it was raining ballerinas

you know

rain so heavy

each drop created a splash tutu

as it landed

on its one toe

to join the corps du puddle

a literal rain dance

<>

wet ragged gene mutated zombie

staggering down the street

skin stinking in the rain

crumbling for the lure of brains

grabs a light pole

flings aimless decaying arm

drops into the gutter

eyes washed but not cleaned

lightening strikes

the unlucky char

washed down the sewer drain

<>

the rain not a sheet but a curtain

a shower curtain

lightening cuts through it

an electrified knife

stab stab after stab

screams drowned out by the rain

rain so heavy

we can’t see across the street

can’t see 

through the car window

wiper blades not cutting it

smearing rain like blood

on a steamy bathroom tile

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I Don’t Know Him

I Don’t Know Him

he was sure

we had met before

he knew my name

where I lived

what I had for breakfast

<>

I was sure he was mistaken

the name he called me

wasn’t mine

I never lived at that address

I skipped breakfast

<>

he was puzzled

he wants to know

why I pretend not to know him

he wants proof

of not being who

he is sure I am

<>

I walk away

I’m not showing some stranger

anything

that would identify me

he’s not getting a glimpse

of my credit cards

my health card

I’m not even going to tell him

where I live

where I’m going

<>

now he wants to know

what I’m hiding

what am I afraid of

he said I was never this paranoid

that I need help

people are gawking at us

<>

I control my anger

I don’t want his blood on my hands

but I want him

to shut the fuck up

to get out of my space

leave me alone

<>

I don’t know him

I don’t want to know him

I want to call the police

but what will I tell them

how long will I have to wait

<>

I stop answering his questions

I walk as fast as I can

dash across a street 

just as the lights change

he’s right behind me

<>

car wheels screech 

thud

thunk

I keep going

he’s not behind me

I won’t turn back

I don’t know him

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Valley of the Bras

After reading Stephen Rebello’s Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! I was keen to see the movie, again, & had planned watch it on my own on a rainy day but after seeing the excellent ‘Hitch’ which was based on Rebello’s ‘Alfred Hitchcock & the Making of Psycho’ my partner read ‘Dolls! Dolls! Dolls!’ also wanted to see it again. So we dug out the 2 disc ‘Special Edition’ – loaded with great extras. I had reread the novel earlier this year so I was eager to rewatch the film.

Where to start? The movie pales in comparison to the novel & I understand why fans were disappointed in the adaptation that removed 3/4 of the book. The characters are reduced to stick figures – gone is the fact they women live together for a time – in the film there isn’t one scene of the three of them together. Gone is Anne’s friendship with Helen Lawson – in fact Helen is almost excised from the script – Hayward’s performance jump starts the movie whenever she appears.

Don’t get me started the those songs – we get a glimpse of the Lawson’s Broadway show number ‘I’ll Plant My Own Tree’ & it is clear that no one involved in the film every saw, or was involved with a Broadway show. The song is clunky & staged with all the Broadway stage reality of a Busby Berkeley number but absolutely no sparkle. Hayward lip syncs it well enough. No Broadway set designer would ever ever use a mobile that covered the star’s face constantly.

Patty was not pleased to be dubbed & as result released the lp Patty Duke ‘Sings Songs from the Valley of the Dolls.. Yes, I have it thanks to iTunes & it fits perfectly with the music misfire of the movie. It did nothing to enhance her reputation as a singer 🙂 Nor did the film do much to enhance her reputation as an actress. In fact none of the cast’s career potential was increased by the film. Such is the harsh reality of life in the valley of the dolls.

I felt for Barbra Parkins when I saw those beige ‘office’ costumes when they matched the beige every wall she stood in front of. I laughed at the fab cosmetics commercial montage – a product supposed for any woman while she looks like an alien. But as she climbs the ladder to success her costumes do improve even as they remain impractical. 

Patty Duke bravely & brazenly barrels though Neely without taking a breath. Her few scenes with Hayward are rich – Duke noisily claws the scenery, Hayward demolishes it by simply putting on a scarf. Yes, this movie needed more Lawson. Sharon Tate is nearly invisible as her story line is gutted by the screenplay. 

How these actresses where treated by the industry is worse than how the characters they play are treated by the industry. I really think the guys who made Feud should consider this Making of Valleys as their next project. Oh yes my title ‘Valleys of the Bras.’ There is nothing lurid in the film but Parkins, Duke & Tate, at different points in the film, spend an inordinate amount of time emoting in bra & half-slip. 

Ready

it turns into a trade

this is what I want

this is what it’ll cost

is that the price I’m willing to pay

is the sacrifice worth the result

<>

why can’t I have it my way

is that too much to ask

I’m willing to compromise some

but when is enough enough

can I say no 

to losing more of myself 

to gain something I expect to get

by saying yes to

what I want to say no to

<>

can I say yes and no 

at the same time

how will you do

when I say yes I want what you offer

but not with the conditions you offer it with

do I want to give up

the comfort of abstractions

for the sake of superficiality of the concrete

if I’m ready for my close up

do I want to stand in front of the camera

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Easter Summer

Easter

without a doubt

the slimmest hope

is held on to longest

that ghost of a chance 

that finds a ledge

to balance on

awaiting the opportunity

to dash into view 

when all the chips are down

can’t you just hear

his heavy footfall

up the stairs

or tripping over a chair

with a drink in one hand

resurrection in the other

1975

Ending this look back with something humorous. I’d say funny but the ending is a bit too sardonic. I’ve written similar pieces in which I play with clichés in unpredictable ways. I enjoy the way this poem twists around language &, hopefully, takes the reader by surprise with the unexpected ending image.

The poem a bit didactic with the almost aphoristic opening about holding on to hope. How long will Trump hold on to his unsubstantiated conspiracy theory? Pride keeps some holding on rather than letting go & moving on. Slim hopes: like ‘this time it’ll be different,’ ‘he/she didn’t really mean it’ etc. We find it easier to continue to invest in hopeless causes than move on.

Lessons learned can be quickly forgotten or ignored with the promise of resurrection. Red flags ‘heavy footfall’ ‘tripping over a chair’ are ignored with that promise ‘I’ll change.’ Or we get caught in being the nice guy afraid that by establish & maintaining a boundary we won’t be liked. ‘If you love me you’ll forgive me.’ ‘Don’t you trust me.’

Alcoholics often continue to drunk, well aware of the consequences – often there is no event, consequence or loss painful enough to get them to stop. In fact that pain becomes an excuse to keep on drinking, the promise of forgetting. Doing the same thing over & over expecting a different result. 

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Welcome To The F Files

https://topoet.ca/2021/06/26/welcome-to-the-f-files/