October 28, 2012
All of us were delighted when Rocky Balboa survived his boxing match with Apollo Creed. Since then and before there have been a flood of movies about people overcoming odds and winning. At something. And yet this is not what happens in life. In life we all lose. Even when we win. I know that I’m faster than Jesse Owens. Today. A real insight into what it means to be a human being is much more complicated than a Hallmark card.
So why don’t politicians tell us the truth? Why don’t they say that the economy will take longer to recover. Or that we cannot continue to live such an expensive life style. Because we can’t take the truth.
We want the fairy tale. That we’re number 1. That we have been chosen by God to rule the world. America. Canada. Europe. The West. We don’t have confidence in ‘reality’. We want the ‘the shining city upon a hill’. Let’s not pretend that there weren’t people living on that hill when we arrived. Or that we hadn’t enslaved another group of people to build that city.
This is not liberal guilt. Its history. There are huge problems ahead of us. For our kids. Our grandchildren. All of our grandchildren. And there is the mystery of life itself. Why are we here? As a species. As individuals. If you cannot look death straight in the eyes then you’ve missed the point of being alive.
October 27, 2012
There are no more facts. Everything is opinion. And opinion is the folly of all democracies. Because everyone has a right to one. And even in the face of facts, opinion wins out. Advertising does this. Always the emphasis on the ‘me’. News channels (except for FOX) with their emphasis on ‘fairness’ do this. (FOX has managed to avoid ‘fairness’ and ‘facts’.) Beware of political figures who temper their judgements based on public opinion. Any society that builds policy based on opinion is headed for disaster.
And now if you would turn your attention to page 121 of the prayer book we will sing Instant Karma.
October 27, 2012
A friend of mine has been writing a log/diary for several years. He keeps going back over it, filling in the details as they appear to him. He is like a voyager through the past. Trying to get his bearings. Trying to make some sense of his life.
I tried writing a memoir. I got bored. With my life. I started to lie. Which means that I started to write fiction. Fiction is for liars.
My friend wants to find some wisdom. Some truth. I live in the fog of the future. Like an airplane through clouds. Every so often the fog thins. And I see other planes.
October 26, 2012
Someone on the television during the Republican primaries referred to the fall of the American Empire. He denied very vigorously that any such thing was happening. But he didn’t deny that there was an American Empire. When would it have started? After World War 2 I suppose. Empires aren’t lasting like they did in the old days. The Roman Empire lasted a thousand years. The British about a quarter of that. The American? 50 years. Is this reflective of the pace of change? Perhaps the next empire will expire over one long hot summer.
October 25, 2012
I have been incommunicato. For a week. Computer down with the sniffles. Strangely enough I’ve had more readers since I stopped writing. The election is the USA has become tighter. Which makes it more dramatic. Which creates more viewers for all the media. Almost as if it was planned that way.
By the way I have made an important discovery about Mitt Romney. He’s a Norman. Not a Bates’ Norman. But the arch enemy of anyone who calls himself a Saxon. Like Donald Trump.
October 14, 2012
As a follow up to my book ‘murder‘, I thought I might write a book about a film. Not just the film, but those involved in the making of the film, and the world that had spawned the film. I went out scouting films like pre-production people do scouting film sights. It came down to two Bogart films, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. Casablanca was my favourite film, so I decided on it. But then I walked into a book shop and there was a sale of books. I fell upon the script of The Maltese Falcon. There were pictures of the different scenes. And well I fell in love with the film. Once again. I was doing a lot of falling in those days. I decided to call the book The Black Bird.
This is an excerpt from The Black Bird. Black Bird on Kobo.
excerpts from bogart’s diary #1-37
huston decided to hold a costume ball before we began shooting the falcon . we call john the ambassador of dreams eyes in envelopes, umbrella prays for rain (so she won’t feel so useless) . bullet proof ears. he cannot hear death—he only knows it by smell he met each guest at the door. dressed up as fatty arbuckle & holding a jar filled with oysters anyone know i asked. the ambassador winked winked & sprinkled stardust on each of us as we entered while singing WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WHO YOU ARE. i was dressed up as the invisible man . no one noticed … sydney stayed close to the bar or was it the reverse . he looked like the election returns . he said he was disguised as mt. everest . several young starlettes were clustered like small villages around his feet. one was wearing skis and reciting the koran . backwards . another wore two tablets and a long beard that began below the waist … mouth open oven a creampuff danced around the room looking for horny dps especially tall first lieutenants from toronto who read ts eliot. jeffery longstreet said he had a cake for her throat. unleavened, bruised, and circumcised… lorre sat at the piano playin’ popular tunes with a german accent. dressed up as hitler’s bitch in heat. his tail kept falling off. the great dictator received his instructions from his dog . the bitch would open her mouth and hitler would bark … the apaches are waiting at the edge of the desert waiting for the storm to pass . dying of tb . & learning how to square dance … cattle lena in a tux. practicing her courses. digging a plot in her pocket. spitting out cigars. & pinching any ass that grazes by… a pageant of people bursting with beginnings . yankee optimism . parmenides was right we never leave the beginnings, unless you put up your wrist and slash for permission to leave . there is only this solid mass of oneness . we are like creatures, extinct, & frozen in me NOW … why do i always feel like i’m sitting on the edge of the world spitting seeds into the emptiness, flushing the nothingness out of my soul … two colored girls showed up. or was it a costume . everyone gathered around to see them make love in the potato salad. i spent some time in a closet with one of them . she had eyes like a cathedral. i felt like st. francis begging on the front steps for one chance to light a small red candle. i told her she was very tight. she said she felt claustrophobic . being colored is like living in a box. all white women should be blind, peeling off her skin she placed it on a hanger. that i could hardly control … someone handed me a manhattan. i finished a cigarette and flew around the room , solo. i was hoping that it wouldn’t rain. i asked if everyone would mind cease burning their words until i could clear up this mystery. i ran into sydney who was rehearsing as a zeppelin in a bath tub. he asked me to leave . he already had some passengers . easy flo said that she now understood . everything i promised had been part of some plan . to lay her out like an airport and then land… laughing from the chandeliers tequila dorothy in feathers that fell off like snow swung above the drifts of faces. raymond the parrot told her to be careful . someone else screamed — melt … is there any alternative to feeling haunted . a little kid staring out through dusty windows, broken glass on the floors . mice in the rafters . eaves troughs filled with tears. perhaps it is my work . am i nothing more than a series of poses. movement is the illusion they love. i am the offspring of magic and mechanics . cameras have cataracts. they see only what they wish to see … is god some machine projecting home movies in his basement. he is in almost every shot. boring us with the details . all i want to know is, if i slept with you would it make any difference … i feel layered. schizophrenia is an oversimplification . consciousness is not the census taker asking embarrassing questions about your health & the brand of toothpaste you wear. consciousness is a series of skins . i am the latest skin . the snake is crawling back toward paradise
another cigarette … another drink … who is this woman leaning on my arm dressed up as robespierre . she says leave everything to me . i have sharpened my teeth. the basket is ready for your disbelief … i hardly know how to love . only the innocent can love. the rest of us are just flushing out our hearts … a guy called trotsky served champagne. said the revolution was a mistake. people’s stomachs were bored . there was nothing for them to do … beyond all this negativity i keep looking and smiling . smiling has become a task. my agent says that when i laugh on the screen it looks contrived . he wants to have my grin lifted … people swallow answers like pills . kills the pain for a while . once in a crowd of fans i was almost swallowed whole … all i want is flesh between my teeth. fingernails tracing the veins in my vanity. something fragile and warm . a dress thrown over a chair. legs wrapped around my spine . feel the darkness sleeping beside me … is comfort all we are to each other… a child star dressed up as a fire hydrant showed up with her mother. the mother was bela lugosi . huston said that he was offered the kid spread eagled for the weekend if he could find room for her in the falcon . said the mother had a bunker between her legs. louie said it was a machine gun nest … mary asked if i read the script . one scene was being cut. censorship . would i like to shoot it privately.., dash showed up. a head like a silver porcupine, he was not in costume . all he talks about is the war. hitler is the devil’s fallen angel . acting ,he remarked ,was protracted suicide. burying yourself six feet beneath someone else’s dream … does anyone still believe in the self … i remember the first time i gave up myself. she was a big girl . i was seventeen, said i was a saint as i knelt down beside her. i could not stop praying … someone asked me to dance. my feet ran away…
October 10, 2012
Money often has the power to make people honest. Their true colors rise when they have something to gain. Mr. and Mrs. Kowalski were like any older couple who had managed to survive marital bliss. They used to say that in the past people divorced less often. Perhaps because people died much earlier. If humans are able to survive to 150 (as some predict) how many of them will still be on their first marriage.
THE LOTTERY TICKET
Mr. and Mrs. Kowalski. On their magazine subscription. Woman’s Daily News. On their Christmas cards. Written in golden ink. On white satin. They were an odd couple. Old and odd.
She was short. And round. Like a pear on toothpicks. With small squinty eyes. Something forsaken. Like she’d been staring. For a long time. Out at the ocean. For her true love to be returning. Sorrow. With big feet. Like pillows. She loved to dance. Light on her feet, elegant on the dance floor. Like an elephant. On tip toes.
He. Was estranged. Tall, more than a foot taller than his wife. Maybe two. And skinny. Like a flag pole. With the flag at half-mast. He was bald. Wisps of grey hair swept back on the sides like wings. And from his eyebrows. Like he was constantly facing down wind. He loved to play golf. A hook in his drive. His iron shots all sliced to the right. But his putting was neat. Tidy. Right in the middle of the hole. As were his affections. For Mrs. Kowalski. Or so he advertised. In the locker room. Or the ninetenth hole. Or down at the corner. Rub and tug.
The Kowalskis were always together. Sometimes they would bring their own chairs. To the plaza. Sit outside the hardware store. Watching the coming and goings. They would bring a small radio. Battery operated. And listen to the ball game. Mrs. Kowalski was a big Blue Jay fan. Mr. Kowalski liked to meditate over the great questions of life. Like. Why didn’t the plaza provide benches to sit on? The consensus was that old man Mr. G., who owned the plaza, didn’t want the extra expense. Next, they’ll be asking for bicycle stands, he was heard to utter. By several witnesses. At different times. Who didn’t know each other. But could have collaborated on their answers.
Besides sitting in their own lawn chairs. In front of Bob and Tom’s Hardware Store. And listening to the ball game. Drinking sodas. And soft ice cream. The Kowalskis bought lottery tickets. They would spend a considerable part of their day scratching the cards. Sitting in their chairs. Scratching away. Usually they lost. Sometimes they won. Small sums. Just enough to buy more tickets. And they always laughed when one of them scratched a card and won some small sum. Mr. Kowalski shook. Mrs. Kowalski jiggled. Said they go out and buy that dream home. If they won. The big one. Or go on that cruise they had always promised themselves.
Ah, they were in love. That’s what everyone said.
“Forty five years,” Mr. Kowalski would brag. Saying 45 years to anyone who passed them and pointing at himself and his wife. With his thumb. Like they were in the plaza hitching a ride.
“Forty seven years,” his wife corrected him. She didn’t bother to point. Her hands were busy scratching the lottery tickets. Or scoring the ball game. Or tugging at her green dress. Which kept riding up on her pudgy knees.
“Three lovely children,” Mr. Kowalksi would say then turn to his wife. “It was three, wasn’t it?”
“A lawyer, a school teacher, and an artist,” Mrs. Kowalski added. “And twelve grandchildren.” She gestured toward her husband. With a cock of her head. “The artist comes from his side of the family.”
Mr. Kowalski shrugged his shoulders. He did not like his family to be referred to as the artists. Thought his wife was just getting back at him for the painting his aunt Thelma had given them. Singing Stream, it was called. Streams don’t sing, Mrs. Kowalski argued.
“Just like your brother Ernie, he is.” Mr. Kowalski said referring to his son, Peter. Who he loved. In a resentful sort of fashion. Why would any man go into fashion design? Mr. Kowalski blamed his wife for Peter’s sexual depravity. Which neither of them dared to discuss. Or admit to each other.
“Don’t talk about Ernie. He’s had some bad luck. Anyone can have bad luck. Not that a good woman. Couldn’t change.” Mrs. Kowalski was always defending her brother. Who turned out to be a postal employee. An honorable enough career, except to the Kowalski’s. Who lived for a short period of time in New York during the reign of the Son of Sam. And were marked forever by the experience. To this day, Mrs. Kowalski would not open the door to the postman if a package was delivered that demanded a signature.
And then it happened. By the mail box. Outside the drug store. They hadn’t as yet made their way up to their customary space in front of the hardware store.
“What did you do with the card?” Mrs. Kowalski asked. She was carrying a bag of oranges that had wrapped itself around her wrist. Her fingers were growing numb.
“What card?” Mr. Kowalski responded.
“What do you mean what card? The one you were…” Mrs. Kowalski’s mouth dropped. “You won!”
“I…” Mr. Kowalski responded but did not finish his sentence. Sweat rolled down his back. His shorts began to tighten.
“Hand it over!” Mrs. Kowalski insisted, ready to swing the oranges at her husband’s head. If she could have reached it. But there were other targets.
Mr. Kowalski was silent. Biting down on his lip. His eyes on the sky. Anywhere but on the mouth of his wife.
“You won big!” Mrs. Kowalski howled.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, dear.”
“You know very well what I’m talking about, Stanley. I want to see that card. And I want to see it now.”
Mr. Kowalski bit down on his lip. That turned blue. His ears began to plug up with wax.
“It’s my card. I bought it. I should be entitled to the earnings.”
“That much! You won that much!”
“What’s the amount got to do with it?” Mr. Kowalski responded.
Mrs. Kowalski placed her hands on her hips. The bag of oranges swung by her side. Like she was holding a head. By the hair.
“If you don’t give me that ticket right now, I’m going to rip… something very personal off your body.”
Mr. Kowalski looked around. The timber of his wife’s voice had attracted the attention of the other customers walking through the plaza. He looked down at his wife.
“You don’t have to use that kind of language, Estelle.”
Mrs. Kowalski held out her hand and waited.
Sheepishly Mr. Kowalski reached into his pocket and pulled out the ticket. He handed it to his wife. She looked at the ticket. And then kicked her husband in the shin. Mr. Kowalski cried out as he danced around in a circle, holding his leg.
“This is only five thousand dollars,” she screamed. “I thought it was the big one.”
“It’s more than we’ve won before,” her husband muttered through his pain.
“Holding out on me for five thousand dollars.” Mrs. Kowalski shook her head. “I’m disappointed, Stanley. I think I’m worth more than that.”
With that she turned and walked back into the drug store. With the lottery ticket. To cash it. Mr. Kowalski limped behind.
“It’s too large, Estelle. They won’t cash it here.”
“They’ll cash it!” Mrs. Kowalski insisted.
She was wrong. They would not. They would have to make a journey downtown to the main lottery office.
“I’m not going all the way downtown for a measly 5 thousand dollars,” Mrs. Kowalski declared.
“We’ve got to cash it,” Mr. Kowalski said.
“You go!” his wife insisted.
“Why do I have to go?” Mr. Kowalski cried.
“Because you bought the ticket,” Mrs. Kowalski argued. “It’s your responsibility.”
“I…” Mr. Kowalski was struck dumb for a moment. He tried to think. But nothing was there.
Mrs. Kowalski, hands on her hips, stared at her husband for several moments.
“Be back in a couple of hours,” she said. “I know where you live.” and walked out of the drug store.
Mr. Kowalski walked toward Kipling Subway station. When he had boarded the train he began to laugh. Reached into his pocket. Looked at the ticket. A half hour later he had cashed it in. And bought a train ticket to Winnipeg.
October 9, 2012
The stories of Day Shift, Afternoon Shift, and Graveyard Shift are based on rhythms. The story lines are hostage to the movements of the body. The hips. Fingers snapping. The dance. As if there were secret tales in each of their riffs. Simple stories. On the edge of catastrophe. Or salvation.
AN ARGUMENT AGAINST THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Bea pulled up her skirt. Lace panties. Tucked in her blouse. Drew a finger across her lips. Looked in the mirror. Everything presentable? Buttons straight. She loved her eyebrows. Lorded over them. They turned up at each end. Like an owl. On time. Like she was going to ask a question. Kept people on their toes. Made them feel – uneasy.
Make-up. A soft brush across the cheeks. A touch on the lips. Eye liner. Make the eyes look bolder. Powder on the nose. And the chin. Where a few days before she had spotted some migrant hairs. They were gone. Out of sight – out of mind. She thought for a moment. Who thought up that phrase. A phrase she enjoyed mulling over in her mind. It made her feel… thoughtless.
I dim all the lights and I sink in my chair.
Bea did a side step. Promenade. A fox trot out of the washroom, down the hall, and into the kitchen. Oh God, it feels great to be a woman. Who is light on her feet. If her appearance had matched her dancing, men would have thrown themselves at her. Size nines.
The smoke from my cigarette climbs through the air.
She turned the coffee maker on. It smelled like Artie Shaw.
The walls of my room fade away in the blue.
And popped some frozen pancakes into the microwave. Laid them out on Brian’s plate. Like corpses in a morgue. They would dry out. All he had to do was to pop them in the toaster. If he got up before noon. If he didn’t go out for lunch with his friends. If he didn’t… Bea shook her hair.
And I’m deep in a dream of you.
Rustling like leaves in the fall.
God, there is something crazy in the air.
Bea laughing. Out of the blue. Out of desperation. And her heart fluttered. Like a butterfly in her chest. She couldn’t continue to worry about her son. He was twenty-six years old. She moved. Two steps backward. Slowly. If only he could hold down a job. Quickly to the left. One step. Why was it so difficult to show up on time? Two steps forward. And then a promenade. And why did women have to dance backwards? Was it because men couldn’t manage it?
A smile gripped Bea’s face. Like a vice. She was no longer pretty. Maybe she never was. But she had been young. One time. And loved it. Carefree. Her hands in the air. Shaking her curly hair to Hendrix. Really mixing it up.
Bea stepped out of the house. Like she had a thousand times. After locking the door behind her, she stepped jauntily around to the driver’s side of her Honda. Sprightly. She smiled when the motor turned on. Dance lessons again that night. Where was she going to get the money to buy another car when the Honda finally kicked the bucket? Maybe she’d start taking cabs. And giggled.
Why didn’t we take out more life insurance, Mel? Bea smiled. Most of the students at the dance class were women. Men are such cowards. But still she loved to move around the floor. Even if it was in the arms of another women.
Mel wanted to take out much more insurance. As if he knew his days were numbered. And wouldn’t she have been in the peaches. If she had agreed. But she wanted to take dance lessons. She should have listened to Mel. Or was that just guilt? She was still alive. And where was Mel? On a couch somewhere. Up there. Watching television. Asleep.
Bea backed down the driveway and waited for the street traffic to break. She looked back at the house.
At least the mortgage is paid off.
Just as she was about to back into the street, she heard the bang. Like a midnight backfire. From some kid’s jalopy. And then the left side of the Honda sagged. Depressed. Giving up the spirit. She got out. Looked at the flat tire. Crossed her arms. And wished secretly that she could sing.
Taking out her cell phone she called the drug store to let them know that she would be late.
Late. Don’t know how late. But late.
She wondered if she could manage changing the tire by herself. Or should she call a service station? Or should she wake up her son and ask for his help? She shook her head.
No. I can’t face him this early in the morning. And opened the trunk of the car and took out the jack and the extra tire. I’ll have to go back and change.
Bea threw her arms up into the air and laughed.
“There is no God!” she cried. Took the jack and smashed in the front window of her… car.
October 9, 2012
For those who think that less government is always the way to go. Beware. We (Canada) have a crisis with out beef. People are getting sick from burgers. And steaks. It is not “a beautiful thing.” And it is directly related to less supervision over the industry. So if Romney wins the Presidency be prepared to be spending a lot of time on the can.