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Thursday, December 29, 2011

MOUNT ROYAL excerpt: Hockey and homo-erotic masochism

The novel is in its final editorial stages. Scary. No more last second changes. Time for her to get up and walk the walk. C'mon, baby, do daddy proud!


Below is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, Mount Royal.
Johnny, the protagonist, and close friend Slim are talking about the masochistic aspects of pre-1967 expansion era professional hockey, the horrific injuries suffered especially by goaltenders in order to earn what was then a meager living as the often semi-literate bonded serfs of the legitimized gangsters who controlled the game and the men who played it...

from the novel
MOUNT ROYAL
Excerpt title: Hockey and homo-erotic masochism

Legendary pro hockey goaltender Terry Sawchuk
When a brain-squeezer migraine rousts me around noon, Slim has a tall glass of cool water ready, along with four aspirins. I down it all and she trades me the empty glass for a cup of coffee.
After the beer tent boondoggle last night, Al went home and I returned to the Balmoral. A couple hours later Slim recognized my boots under a stall door in the men’s room. She said she’d called out my name and when I didn’t answer, climbed over. After dragging me back to my place, she’d held my forehead as I threw up then put us both to bed.
She's even returned this morning’s pager calls, letting me get some badly needed shut-eye by telling my clientele there's nothing around right now and I'll get back to them this afternoon, once inventory is re-stocked. I feel a bit guilty letting people go sick but what the fuck. They won't have to wait all that long and exercising one’s patience does build character. Her ministrations complete, Slim shows me an old yellowed paperback. Hockey Is A Battle: The Autobiography of Punch Imlach. Hennessy had bought it for my birthday at the Sally Ann on Saint-Antoine.
“You and your hockey hang up,” she says, studying the cover. “I was reading some of it while you were asleep. This Imlauck guy was a real jerk.”
“It’s pronounced Im-lack and of course he was a jerk,” I defend the legendary Maple Leafs coach. “He had to be. Players then could handle it. Not like the pansies today.”
“If they’re such pansies, why are you so fascinated by them?”
“I don’t love these new guys with their steroids and gay haircuts. What they do is interesting because of the whole S/M, B&D homoerotic element in contact sports but, really, I like the pre-expansion old timers. The guys who made shit money and played hockey cuz they couldn’t do anything else. Y’know, the sort of guys who looked enviously at a plumber or electrician, somebody with a real trade.”
“Okay, so one of those working class tragedies you’re always crying about.”
“I’m not always ‘crying’ about them.”
Slim closes the book and gives me her undivided attention. It’s patronizing but I can live with the way she does it. “All right, Johnny. Go ahead and tell me.”
I sit up and face her to better describe the thing. “Terry Sawchuk is a classic example. He was a brilliant goalie but had a wicked ulcer, like all goalies back then. Who wouldn’t? None of them wore a mask, mostly because it was considered effete. All they had on were some joke pads to protect against these maniacs firing frozen pucks at their heads. Sawchuk and the other goalies, they were always one shot away from death or disfigurement or being left a vegetable. So, him and a drinking buddy of his, a forward called Ronnie Stewart… or maybe he was a defenseman… Anyway, they both played for the New York Rangers at the time. In those days, players  made like eighteen dollars a week and sent most of the money back to their wives and seven kids or whatever. Basically, they were bums on skates. I mean, they lived in fucking roominghouses!”
“Just get on with the story.”
“Okay. So Sawchuk and this other guy, they didn’t want to waste their cash in a bar so they’d buy a bottle of some rotgut and get drunk out on the street. The two of them were boozing in Bryant Park. Y’know, on 34th, behind the Museum of Natural History.”
“Byrant Park’s behind  the main library.”
“Yeah  – one of those massive Gotham buildings. Anyway, they start to play-fight and roll around - but pretty hardcore. Remember, these are tough, semi-literate bonehead hockey players. Stewart accidentally boots Sawchuk in the guts while they’re grappling. That bursts his ulcer and smashes up his liver and long story short, it ends up killing Sawchuk. And he holds the record for the most career shutouts in NHL history. Nobody’s even close and the fucking guy died with nothing, a drunk in some park!”
Slim’s not moved. “They sound like clichéd losers.”
“Yeah… I guess… Dream comes true for small town hoser who gets used and abused by cigar chomping boss archetype. A few years later the player is tossed onto the scrap heap.”
“This obsession of yours, Johnny, it seems kind of regressive.”
“Yeah, I know. Listen, do you think continental European guys are lousy lays?”
She rubs her eyes, running out of patience. “What’s that got to do with Sawcheck and his friend?”
“It’s Saw-chuk – and it’s got nothing to do with him or Ronnie Stewart. It’s this anti-rock’n’roll theory Al and I were talking about last night at that stupid beer tent festival. Don’t you remember? I’ve told you about it before.”
“Yeah, I suppose…”
“Anyway,  the basic idea is that because continental European guys don’t get rock’n’roll and since Nazis were continental Euros and fascism is a Euro concept, that would naturally mean, y’know, they don’t get irony, which means they can’t really rock’n’roll, and that makes them useless lays because a rockin’ and a rollin’ is really just another word for fucking.”
Slim’s had about enough. “Johnny… please.”
“No, I mean it. Seriously, I’m asking what you think.”
Cheeks puffing out, she goes mock cross-eyed for a sec then forces herself to consider the notion. “Um, all right… uh… yeah, I’ve screwed some European guys while I’ve been over there, and some I met here...”
“I don’t mean UK guys, they’re not really European.”
“I dunno… as a group they’re not much different than guys anywhere. We’re talking straight hetero guys, right?”
“Yeah yeah, of course, strictly hetero.”
“Well, most strictly hetero men are pretty mediocre as it is. I mean, some of them are nice people  – or do you mean just their sexual technique?”
“No, not only technique. Anybody can learn that, more or less. I guess whether they get the whole kind of complex structure built around what’s basically attempted procreation. Y’know, the weird irony of there being so much devoted to it - your own energy, the world’s. But it’s not about having children. It’s about identity, libido, ego, fuck, who knows, lots of shit that has zero to do with procreating and in fact, that’s considered a negative result almost all the time.”
“Well, you’ll never wrap it all up in a one-liner. I guess that’s why sex and death are endless subjects and people never gets tired of them.”
I’m not too satisfied with this outcome. “Yeah… maybe…”
“Sorry to poke a hole in your hypothesis, darling.”
I put on a mad professor shtick with a cartoon German accent. “Ha! Zey laughed at me in Prague!”
 Slim smiles with something bordering on fondness. She runs her fingers through my hair. “It’s nice you woke up in such a good mood.” The phone rings. We both groan.


Road hockey: Saint-Henri, Montreal, spring 1990
Doing my Terry Sawchuk impersonation

photo: Dee Lafontaine

Friday, December 23, 2011

Insane Men We Have Known + Loved

Christmas can be a special time, particularly for fathers and sons who share a deep affection for Canada's national game, hockey...


"What do you want?"
"I called to see how you're doing."
"What do you care how I'm doing? When you were living here you never came around so now you're calling from spic land to see how I'm doing?"
"Look, Dad, I didn't call to-"
"I bought you your first car, you know."
"Yeah, I know. It was a 1968 Fiat shitbox with a rotten floor you got off some secretary for fifty bucks."
"So what? I bought it for you."
"Okay, I guess I forgot to thank you. Thanks."
"And you remember the AMC Ambassador? I gave you that car."
"You'd blown the engine and it was almost scrap. Me and Gus and Sam fixed it and it drove for like three months."
"So what? I gave it to you."
"Okay, thanks for that too."
"Y'know, you're lucky I made you play hockey."
"Yeah whatever. I don't need to hear all this again."
"It's the only reason you're not a TOTAL faggot."
"Just out of curiosity. I mean, I don't really care anymore but why DID you tell people I was a faggot?"
"Because you WERE a faggot! And if you didn't play hockey, you would have been a real lube-assed cocksucking whore of a faggot!"
"Okay, thanks for that too."
"You could have been good. Really good. Not great but good enough. Not like Chris Chelios maybe, but look at those faggots Nick Mastroyannis or Chris Ioannou. They weren't any better than you! They weren't any tougher than you but they stuck with it and played in the pros for over 10 years each and made a lot of money and made their people proud. They retired at thirty-five, thirty-six years old with no worries and they support their parents."
"Yeah yeah."
"Yeah yeah? Nick Mastroyannis was all fucking mouth! You remember you cleaned his clock when you were playing for Wexford? Remember that?! After you had him on the ice, out cold, I fucking spit in his old man's face - that Macedonian cocksucker! You kicked the shit out of him and HE went onto the fucking pros and made millions and you became a fucking drug addict! You were good but you weren't smart. You were drafted in the 4th round in the Ontario Major Juniors, for fucksake! Remember?!"
"Yeah yeah, I remember."
"You remember... You stupid faggot - do you know how many boys your age would have given everything for that chance? If you'd played Major Junior for three years -LIKE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO - you'd have been drafted by the pros for sure. And THAT was when the league was expanding like crazy and they needed good hardnosed players. Hockey is a game of-"
"-intimidation. Yeah, I know. Do we have to-"
"You don't know anything, you moron. You would have been drafted in the first 5 or 6 rounds - FOR SURE! You could have played for one of those new teams then- Anaheim or Colorado or Dallas, brought our game to the American south."
"Oh, Christ... not this again."
"Don't give me your bullshit! I gave you the OPPORTUNITY. I toughened you up. You could have had respect and money and people would have looked up to you. Instead you listened to your stupid mother."
"Leave her out of this."
"She kept you soft, like a fucking girl, like a fucking faggot. All of you, Sam, Gus, Marco - you were all tougher than so many of these faggots who made it to the pros. Any of you could have been good solid players. Okay, not big fancy stars but something better. You could have been the fucking BACKBONE every team needs to win! You could have been the foot soldiers every coach needs to win!"
"Yeah, okay. I've heard all this shit a million times."
"Too bad it didn't get through your thick skull, you stupid asshole. I gave you the best years of my life, waking up in the middle of the night to drive you to fucking Midland or Bancroft in the snow to play good teams so you could compete against the best, become the best. Now what are you doing? Living down there with a bunch of spics and some whore and doing drugs. I hope you're having a great time."
"I am, me and my whore and my drugs, we're living it up. I've never felt better. So are you going to go into the Bayview Lodge or what? Mum can't handle you anymore in the condo. Anyway, she's gonna be in the hospital over Christmas and you're too fucked up to be there by yourself."
"What do you care what I do? Your stupid brother's been pushing me to get out of here, trying to get me into fucking diapers. I'll go when I want to go and don't worry about your mother. She's fine. She's not that sick."
"She's dying, you idiot."
"Dying. Yeah, she's been dying for 15 years. She's outlive us all."
"For fucksakes... Okay, I gotta go."
"Yeah. You always have to go. Thanks for calling."
"Go into the fucking home, will ya? Just do that for her, at least that."
"You handle your women and I'll handle mine, okay? Go fuck your whore and your faggots and do your drugs. Don't worry about me."
"Merry Christmas."
"Yeah, you too."

Friday, November 25, 2011

WRITERS AS LIARS: EXPERIENCE + IMAGINATION

I  saw a video on openbooktoronto.com recently, a poet reading about the terror of drowning while a couple of musicians quietly played an accompaniment of jazz. The reading was appropriately grim.
As an 11 year-old kid I very nearly drowned in the Aegean and it wasn’t like that for me. The terror was not in the drowning - it was the rescue. I remember being surprised at how quickly I gave in. After a brief, panicked struggle a kind of immutable logic took over and I realized there was no sense fighting the sea. I was being caressed and all the clichés were true - the warmth, the boundless love and euphoria.
It was after being saved the nightmares came and they went on for years and still return sometimes, and they're always about being ripped back to the stark screaming sun, the hysteria of women's voices, men yelling, strong hands and arms hanging me by the ankles - which was the accepted manner back then of dealing with near drowning victims, to hang them by the ankles and let the water run out of their lungs. None of that fey pumping of the legs and knees while the victim's on their back.

The problem is no amount of metaphor, adjective or other artistic wordiness has ever done experience justice. Others who've been there tell me of a similar reaction - the sobbing and trauma are about the rescue, not the drowning. You can try to describe that without going through it and you might produce some very good work but in the end, it's just too big for words, for art, for anything. We're are talking about the sea after all.

That makes me question the whole idea of writers strictly using their imagination to write a piece of fiction about a particular subject while having no personal experience whatsoever. A book I read recently that brings this issue to mind is Toni Bentley's paean to sodomy, The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir. The book purports to be drawn from deeply personal experiences. It’s funny in parts, awkward and pretentious in others, but it can be pretty smart, sexy and titillating yet ultimately it feels imagined. The fellow who teaches her about this "holy fuck", whom she christens "A-Man", is so perfect he has zero personality and zero real impact, which is fairly ironic.

Toni imagines this incredible lover who can go on for hours and hours, a pure sensualist, constantly attending to her most sublime whim. He makes the authors of the Kama Sutra seem like rank amateurs. He profoundly grasps every wince and twist of her sexual awakening, often before she does. Without demeaning Toni, he teaches her the exquisite art of fellatio. He's gorgeous but not vain, he's sensitive but not weak, he experiments but he's not flaky, he's worldly but not snobbish, he's brilliant but not stuffy or academic, he’s manly but not macho. In other words, he doesn't exist and that fact pained Toni Bentley enough she went ahead and created him.

Throughout the book, she revels in the surrender, in her submission to his power, to always be beneath him every time they perform “the act”, which she carefully enumerates. But Toni, darlin', you can sit on top - that works too and in fact, puts you in better control of the actual movement and it's even politically neutral. However, under all this Cosmo mag style naughtiness is something sadly reactionary. Toni Bentley's need to become submissive to a male, to “reclaim what was lost to the bitter gains of modern feminism.”
But how to do that without coming off like some brainless neo-con housewife? I know, sez Toni. I'll make him into a man so perfect, so in tune with a woman's needs he's practically a woman himself, except for his "lusciously sculpted manhood!"


A novel by GG Award winner David Gilmour called A Perfect Night to go to China has a similar issue. This time the narrator, a young father, slips out for a quick beer and his son is abducted. When I read it, something seemed deeply made-up about the premise: Father loves son, father puts son to bed. Father dashes to corner pub to see all-girl band and have one quick beer, just one. Father returns, father checks on son, son is gone.

Okay, so the protagonist gets home and sees his son has disappeared. What happens next is very strange. Rather than describe this crucial scene - how the father reacts to realizing his son has vanished, Gilmour writes this: “I’m not going to go into all the details of what happened next. I simply can’t go through it again and I’m sure you don’t want to hear it, either.”
Gilmour actually hadn’t described it earlier since the above quote comes just a few pages into the novel. He leaves it to the reader to imagine the scene. But I would like to hear all about it. I do want to know what goes through a father’s mind and heart and body. Yes, I want to know all the precise details, beyond the obvious.

It made me wonder if Gilmour realized there is no way he could know the deeper truth of what he would have to describe. His avoidance made me think of an entire novel where all pivotal plot points are ratcheted up with breathless tension, only to be quickly deflated with lines like: "Well, you know how it is, you get it."
The editor of Gilmour's novel told me the consensus was it didn't sell very well because women are the vast majority of book buyers and women don't want to read about an unresolved child abduction, that they find it too depressing. That seems pretty condascending. Perhaps readers just didn’t believe Gilmour's take on the subject. Maybe some things cannot be fully imagined, regardless of how much research you do.


Another book in this vein - but which was a best-seller - is Room by Irish-Canadian writer Emma Donoghue. It's written from the perspective of a five-year-boy being held captive in a small room along with his mother. Sound familiar?
Donoghue wrote it after hearing about the bizarre Josef Fritzl case in Austria. This monster kept his daughter as a sex slave/prisoner in a concealed basement apartment. She was 42 when the story broke in 2008. Among the seven children she bore by him, one was a five year-old boy called Felix, the “inspiration” for Donoghue’s novel.

Room has won several awards but there's something hideous about the whole thing. The level of exploitation seems brutal. Can any of that story be truly imagined? Who has the right to tell it? Yes, Donoghue's book is very well crafted, very sympathetic and very poetic but that's beside the point. She could write it like Shakespeare but that doesn't change the fact she used the horribly traumatic experiences of this boy, his mother and his siblings to write an award-winning novel.

The problem is that Donoghue does not tell the truth. She can't. She imagines the truth and she might be right but then again, she might be completely wrong. For me, writing about a subject I have no clue about or not knowing anyone who does - it seems impossible but that just might be my own limitations. That can work with factual events and subjects but what about the emotional truth? Perhaps that's where listening to the stories of others comes in - and accepting them as such - not as your own experience but reporting the memories and impressions of others.


When dealing with a tragic event - like a child abduction or the Fritzl case, how would it be possible to have a specific frame of emotional reference. Donoghue and Gilmour would have both had to imagine that part of their stories, or acquired a version of it through the media. Is something like Room a media-driven narrative posing as the truth? Perhaps that's why it's so popular. The language is familiar, an acceptably benign dialect which can distance the rationale reader from the truly irrational and truly evil.



So are Toni Bentley, David Gilmour and Emma Donoghue liars? Is any writer who totally imagines a narrative a liar? No, they're not setting out to mislead anyone but they are making it up. Maybe you don't need to experience an actual event to write about it but then what are you writing about? Do authors have the right to guess, to create whatever they wish, even if it’s entirely imagined? Of course they do - and that is the point where it’s up to the reader to decide whether the author has indeed told some kind of truth.

Insane Women We Have Known + Loved - Part 1

I run into a guy I used to hang out with, Mitch Farrango. Hadn’t seen him in decades - literally. Something about drying out over night in the Barrie bucket, late summer during the late ‘90’s, back when Sauble Beach was a big hang-out.

“What you been up to, Mitch?”
“Been making time with this woman I used to know and met again not long ago. I think you probably knew her. Percy.”
“Percy?”
“Persephone.”
“Jesus…”
“Exactly.”
“She Greek?”
“No, you kidding? I ran into her in Kensington a few months ago. She was working in some coffee place near the corner of Baldwin, where they used to kill the chickens right there in front of you. Remember that? Thwack, off comes the head! Like they do in the Philippines with dogs. The Pork Chops who ran those places were always hosing down the pavement to get rid of the blood - this was before they banned all that shit after the granolas and Stroller-Nazis took over. Like they don’t eat chickens?”
“Yeah, my neighborhood’s full of Stroller-Nazis now. Them and their perfect little Aryan super children, they march in paying big cash for these goddamn shacks, throw up their fucking cafes and condos and galleries and health food bullshit and bistros and yoga and dog grooming places, and the lilywhite cocksuckers act like they’ve been there for twenty generations then look at ya like you’re some piece of shit. I love idling down their streets in first gear, high rpm - and the bike's so fucking loud, so much resonation, their goddamn car alarms go off! One, two, three in a row! What a fucking laugh. Some fat lawyer type with his hag and his mutt and his stupid kid, he yells at me, says-”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. Aren’t you gettin' kinda old for that?”
“No. Fuck them, the bastards. I want a revolution.”
“For fucksakes… Anyway, lemme tell ya about Percy. She’s a real fashion plate, right? I don’t mean this week’s bullshit - more classic. It makes sense. She works in movies doing wardrobe an all that, gets real expensive stuff for next to nothing. And she’s got a great face and these wicked green eyes.”
“Still going for green-eyed women, huh?”
“What, you like ‘em too.”
“Get on with it.”
“Also, Percy’s got great tits. Maybe a bit too big for her body. She’s always complaining about backaches. I picked up her bra once and man, I just admired it.”
“They can’t be that big.”
“Why not?”
“Well, what is she, some circus freak?”
“No, I’m just try to explain how big her tits are.”
“Okay. Go on.”
“I think her backaches have more to do with the incredible high heels she wears. She’s about 5 foot four but wears probably five or six inch heels. I mean like Jesus fucking Christ on a high-heeled crutch! You wouldn’t believe fucking her in those heels - it’s a real trip. I mean she digs it like hell, right - and what guy’s gonna say - ‘No, I’d rather not’? Horniest goddamn thing I’ve ever been involved in. But the high heels, they’ve given her bunions, which are pretty ugly but bunion surgery’s no big deal these days. Half a winter on your ass and both feet are done.”
“Yeah, there’s something to be said for a woman leaving her shoes on - well, if they’re great shoes. Actually, I think I like biker boots instead.”
“You would.”
“Y’know, those engineer type boots with the squared off toe and heavy duty leather ankle straps with the ring. And knee high. Talk about a fuck magnet.”
“I dunno. Too macho. I like those long pointy stilettos, like you’d slit your throat on them and die happy.”
“Yeah… I guess… but I’d rather have her with bare feet. I mean, c’mon, a woman with really hot feet?”
“It’s true. You can’t beat it. And you know what gets me?”
“What?”
“There’s some incredible unfucked feet out there.”
“Whaddaya mean?”
“You think all these bullet-headed guys with tribal tattoos and giant Ford pickups, you think they ever even considered fucking their woman’s feet?”
“They must have.”
“Not a fucking chance. Ask any chick out in the suburbs, in Mississauga, wherever. They’ll tell you. Sure, the bullethead dude, he likes her nice soft feet all manicured ‘n’ shit but has he ever actually fucked her feet? Wouldn’t cross their pea-sized brains, the goddamn retards!”
“What are ya getting all fire up about? So they don’t fuck their women’s feet. Leaves more for you.”
“What?! You think I’m gonna go around seducing Suzy Subdivision so I can waste half my fucking life teaching her the mind-blowing thrill of foot fucking?! FOR-get it!”
"Actually, the whole manicured soft as butter feet thing, I dunno, man. I'm gettin to like a woman with feet that have been around, a bit rough around the edges but still with great arches, like feet that could do something if they had to - walk through some bad terrain barefoot, that kind of thing."
"Sounds like you want hooves instead of feet."
"No, you don't get it. I mean feet that have character, experience, not some dainty mincy feet that need to be helped up craggy stone steps or whatever."
"Yeah... I guess..."
“Anyway, so what about this Percy characte?”
“Right. First of all, she’s not a ‘character.’ She’s high style. Every time she goes out the door, her entire outfit and accessories are completely thought out, even to go to the store. She wouldn’t be caught dead in some Juicy crap or fashion hoodie. Like I said, she’s high style. Any woman worth a damn has to be.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“You wanna go out with Little Miss Nice To Everybody Always With The Bland Smile and Limp Hair, that’s your hang-up. I like my women good looking, high strung and kinda bitchy, like you know they’ll rip a new asshole for any jackoff who gives you a hard time.”
“Sounds like a lotta trouble.”
“So? What are you - retired? Anyway, Percy lives just off College Street - on the stretch that got trendified about fifteen years ago or whatever, full of those clip joint cafes, bistros, gallery-bars, all that. Percy likes to eat at these places - see and be seen. I don’t mind. Women are into that. And because she gets all these clothes due to her movie jobs, she’s been getting me dressed up pretty good too.”
“I can see that.”
“Yeah. Check out this Union Nationale suit. Easy three grand. It’s supposed to be some fag’s ironic nod to those sharp-dressing Duplessis thugs from the ‘50’s, right? Those guys mighta been Nazi shitheads but they knew style.”
“Like Hugo Boss.”
“Hugo Boss?”
“Yeah, that wop designer way back. He designed the Gestapo uniforms or something - or maybe it was Italian fascist uniforms, something like that.”
“That shit was corny. This is class. I’m the same exact size as the actor who wore this thing - like only three times. He played a hip vampire dude in one of those shitty Canadian TV shows that got canceled after five minutes. Percy finagled it for like two hundred bucks.”
“Uh huh.”
“Yeah, she likes for us to get all dolled up and go out and eat. We never - or hardly ever eat at home.”
“Isn’t that expensive?”
“Christ, you’ve turned into a real flathead, haven’t ya? What - every lousy dime you make you gotta spend on some dirty used motorcycle part and that’s it? Besides, I’m making good money now and I like to spoil my girls. Anyway, Percy pays sometimes too.”
“So what happened?”
“Well, last Friday - oh, I gotta tell you - she’s got this weird blood-sugar thing. I don’t know what its called but it can make her nuts. Anyhow, last Friday night it was hot as hell and humid and there were tons of people out on College Street, lineups everywhere - I mean everywhere - Virgilio’s, the Freemason’s Club, the Pentagram, Jura’s, The Cap - even Bar Mode - all packed.”
“I’ve never heard of any of these places.”
“You wouldn’t have. So Percy starts to bitch and whine as we’re driving up and down College in this little rental car she’s got from the movie she’s working on. She’s in the passenger seat, gawking at the crowds like a wild animal. She starts to slap at the window, shrieking about how she’s so hungry and can’t take it, her body chemistry, it makes her nuts.”
“Yeah, you already mentioned that.”
“I’m just quietly at the wheel, y’know, trying not to say much, calm her down, the way you do with a really aggressive dog. ‘It’s okay, baby, it’s okay.’ But Percy turns it all on me, fangs out like she’ll claw my face off, crying her eyes out, make-up all a mess. Jesus.”
“Okay, so what did ya do?”
“Well, at the red light at Euclid she jumps out and starts running down the street yelling ‘I’M HUNGRY! I’M HUNGRY!’ I tried to follow next to her with the door open, begging her to get back in the car. All I need is some fuckin cop sticking his oar in - god knows what she’d tell them. So Percy comes whipping round to the driver’s side and rips the door open, screams she wants to drive, calling me a fucking asshole. At this point I’ve had it.”
“No shit.”
“I jump out of the car and flag down a passing cab and get in, tell the guy to go. Percy’s at the cab in a flash, pulling at the door like a maniac. The driver’s saying, ‘I think she knows you.’ And I tell him, ‘Fuck, no, never seen her in my life! She’s some lunatic. Just go, for fucksakes!’”
“So what happened to her?”
“No idea. Haven’t seen her since.”
“Wonder if she got anything to eat…”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Insane Women We Have Known + Loved - Part 2

I've been busy with a number of things lately, like getting ready for an extensive trip to the far east. But I thought I'd add one more installment of the series that some people couldn't stand and wanted censored or couldn't get enough of. Insane Women We Have Known + Loved - Part 2 is back to being entirely dialogue, unlike Part 3, which was more about the prose. Anyway, this blog is really about riffing, trying different things on to see how they run, that sort of deal.
So here is it is...


“Hey, Mitch, what’s going on?”
“Weird fuckin thing. You remember that friend of mine, Carey?”
“Hold on, lemme get a beer… So yeah, your friend Carey.”
“Pretty weird situation. Not like movie weird but weird weird.”
“Okay, so?”
“You know who I’m talking about right - Carey, that friend of mine who used to live in Pollock Town.”
“Yeah, the killer black-haired babe. What is she - about 47 or there abouts?”
“Closer to fifty now but looks better now than she ever did. That nice dark olive skin, really exotic.”
“I always thought she was from like New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, one of those outback hicksville white people places.”
“She is. From Bathurst, N.B.”
“So why’s she so dark?”
“Who the fuck knows. Her sister Molly’s blonde and blue eyed like a full-on Aryan milkmaid but Carey – she’s smoky. Some genetic thing. Maybe some Jew or Arab snuck ashore from an old three-master passing through those waters and got it on with a few of the local chicks. Had to be something like that.”
“Yeah, I got a couple cousins back in the old country - one of them is white blonde and has the bluest fucking eyes - like turquoise – freaky, and the other one could pass for some babe out of a Mogul’s harem.”
“Anyway, Carey calls me up a few nights ago, right. I hadn’t seen her in maybe five, six months but you know we’ve been friends forever, get it on once in a while, that kinda deal. It’s always been very copasetic between us, no pressure or bullshit.”
“Yeah, I always knew you two had a solid thing.”
“Really solid. You can’t crowd a woman like Carey. She’ll get into it with who she wants when she wants where she wants, that’s her thing. You know she got married a couple years ago, right?”
“No. She got married? Why the hell would a woman like her get fuckin married?”
“Who the hell knows. The guy kept telling her how he got off like crazy on her making it with all these different guys and chicks, that he dug the shit out of it. And she’s a straight up woman so she accepted his whole trip at face value.”
“Smart chick. Dumb move. You see a lot of that these days, every woman’s gotta have her idiot in the backroom some place.”
“Tell me about it. Me and everybody else told her the guy’s a flake. Of course soon as she marries him, his big hardon for her bangin whoever she wants goes soft as yogurt. Suddenly he loves just the idea of her doing all kinds of people.”
“Okay, so she calls you.”
“Yeah. I was - I don’t know what the fuck I was doing - nothing important so she phones and says what are you up to, feel like dropping by? No shit, Sherlock. Not like these young chicks who figure they’re so gorgeous they can just lie there and gift themselves.”
“Yeah, I know. I hate that shit, wondering to yourself, ‘Am I really gonna do a couple hundred push ups on top of this broad for no good reason?’”
“But a woman like Carey, well, you just go running when she calls.”
“Fuck, Mitch, you’re a lucky bastard.”
“Yeah. I am. Okay, so I go over there and at this point Carey and her husband, Phil - that fuckin creep, they been married like two years or so and she’s had it up to the eyeballs with his bullshit. See, after he got his tenure and so on, he starts to get uppity with her. As if to pat her on the head then give her some spiel about her being a 'media dupe.' Of course she wasn’t too much of a media dupe to support the guy while he was getting his Ultra Egghead Status but once he got into the big coin and big letterhead, well, then Carey’s wee brain power didn’t count for shit, right?”
“This Phil puke could use a real fuckin-“
“Not the beatings. Or running him over with a car or bike or whatever. Please? Just lemme tell the fuckin story.”
“Okay okay. Go on already.”
“So she invites me over cuz Phil is away at some How-Many-Angels-Can-Daisy-Chain-On-The-Head-Of-A-Pin type Conference. So I get all dolled up and run over there. Things were totally relaxed and cool, of course, the way they always are with her and she’s good cuz she’ll say to me, ‘I’m grumpy and sick of giving orders at work. You tell us what to do.’ And believe me, I’ve got plenty of ideas when it comes to what I want to do with her.”
“Hey, who wouldn’t?”
“Like, for instance, Carey sometimes keeps her socks on, right. It’s a funny thing with her. Not that she doesn’t have great feet, it’s just kind of a joke between us that developed ages ago when I’d made some comment about how sexy her bright orange ankle socks were and it became one of those private gags. But a few nights ago when I went over, her socks were purple - but she let me pull them off so I knew things were damn serious.”
“I know about that kind of thing. It changes the whole vibe.”
“Oh fuck yeah. So I’ve got her bent over the end of her big leather sofa, She’s drinking a glass of wine and smoking a rollie. She likes to gab while we screw. She’s telling me about some super hot young dude she met on a plane going somewhere and fucked him in the can at a million feet or whatever and the way she tells this kind of thing, man, it gets ya shattering hard, like it was you in that plane with her.”
“Man, you know the primest fuckin women. I don’t know how you do it, Mitch. You’re an ugly old fuckin junkie without a pot to piss in-“
“Hey, man, that’s not even true. I got where-with-all. Nobody suffers. Besides, I quit that shit a couple years ago.”
“Don’t try that on me. I know you, remember?”
“Anyway, lemme finish my story. So we’re going easy and relaxed, I’m watching her back twist this way and that, her long wavy black hair roll across her shoulders - pretty much a perfect goddamn scenario. We’re slowly building up to something really strong when her stupid horn-rimmed husband, Phil, he comes waltzin in.”
“Really?! Hahahaha!”
“Of course Carey knew the doofus was on his way home when me and her started to get it on and she timed it perfectly. You gotta hand it to her, the chick’s got wicked timing.”
“So did he freak? Did ya have to punch him out?”
“No, I didn’t have to punch him out. Actually, he stood there all aghast doing a victim trip, I mean like the heavy duty injured party. Carey reaches round and grabs my ass with one hand and says, ‘You stay right where you are.’ So I kinda just shrug at Phil like saying, ‘Hey, you heard the woman.’”
“Okay, so what did he do?”
Y’know, I think Phil’s problem is he’s never been able to get over his own good looks and has always seen himself like he was in a movie, no matter what’s going on - the angles, the lighting, his facial expressions, which profile. Plus he’s a couple inches shorter than Carey so that’s always been hard on him.
He didn’t swear at her and storm out. He didn’t curse me and say he’d cut my throat or anything. He didn’t punch the wall or any of that shit. What Phil did was lay his knuckles on his hips and - get this - look at the ceiling. His eyes start watering. He shook his head like this was the heaviest kind of betrayal, more than even sexual or anything to do with their marriage - as if he felt sorry for Carey, that she was such a dumb, uneducated animal. I mean, really - the fucking guy just couldn’t stop talking down to her, even right there and then.”
“Incredible... what an asshole.”
“But Carey played it cool. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that woman raise her voice - except when she’s getting off really big, or laughing at somebody. This time she just looked at her husband and said: ‘Phil, if you’re not going to come over here and stick your cock in my mouth, then go away.’”
“Ho-lee fuck… No shit... Wow... She is fucking awesome, Mitch. I mean like fucking AWESOME!”
“Too much, eh? I mean, you gotta love her.”
“Shit yeah!”
“So that completely threw him. He got choked up, begins to blubber then bursts into a full blown weep while stumbling into the next room - some kind of office - and falls into a chair. From where we were, I could see the bottom half of his legs as he sat in there and bawled, wailing and sucking up huge lungfuls, as if he’s some Sicilian hag trying to throw herself into her husband’s grave. So Carey looks round at me like what the fuck? ‘Hey, Phil!’ she yells over her shoulder. ‘If you’re going to do that, go outside or go upstairs. You’re being a real drag.’
He kicked the office door shut but we could still hear him moaning and sobbing in there. But, y'know, I think Carey was really hurt by all that. Here she was finally offering him the most valuable fucking thing - the thing he’d hinted and begged for all during the time they were married and when she offers it to him, right there on a silver fuckin platter - he shits all over it.”
“Amazing… What a fuckin loser.”
“I know. Unbelievable. That was only like three weeks ago and Carey’s already got the divorce lawyers gutting the stooge. She told me she hasn’t seen or spoken with him since that night and has no clue who or what he really was.”
“Maybe he’s one of those people who’s just nothing at all.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

Open Book Toronto...

Open Book Toronto has accepted my blog so I'll be posting there as well. I figure I'll keep this blog to post more profane type stuff since people of all ages can access Open Book Toronto.

I have to extend big kudos to the Managing Editor of OBT, Clelia Scala (is that one helluva name or what?). She's been so pleasant and professional and helpful, the woman is a dynamo.

One thing that's kind of strange, there is a page on OBT called Author Blogs, and it lists all the writers who have blogs on the website. The most recent posts put the writer's photo and a headline at the top of the page.
So if you blog all the time, your posts appear at the top. The problem is, a lot of these writers on OBT start out posting all the time but eventually lose interest so their last post is sometime months, even years old.

Me, I write obsessively and constantly, using the blog to get out material I wouldn't use in a manuscript about a specific story. So the end result would be that my blog posts would always be at the top of the Open Book Toronto Author Blogs page, as if I'm some kind of "blog hog." People will start asking: "Who is this guy with the black cat and why is his shit always at the top?"
It's a weird dilemma. Well, I guess we'll see how it works out...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reading out loud...

I've been busy as a one-armed paper-hanger lately, as the old expression goes. Mostly I've been rehearsing the hell out of the stuff I'm going to read this Monday night at The Painted Lady.
Of course, I'm nervous as hell, always terrified of causing a single yawn. The way I figure it, I owe the audience a great deal for making the effort to come out and hear me. No, they're not paying money but they are paying the most valuable thing they own - their time, their precious time, willing to spend what they will never ever get back.

I feel an enormous sense of responsibility. So the goal is to make sure what I'm giving them is even remotely worth that slice of time - what I'm giving them is somewhere within the realm of the other acts and experiences they could have taken part in or carried out instead of coming to see me.

In the end I just want to distract people from their daily grind for a few moments - take them away from their dull routine - cuz we all have a dull routine. As a long gone friend of mine used to say, 'Life is mostly maintenance' and man, was she right. So much time spent on self-upkeep, and then a quarter to a third of your existence spent unconscious so that doesn't leave much - three-quarters of a century at the very most, a mere sliver of time, gone before you know it.

So I rehearse and rehearse, carefully re-write the passages I have chosen to be read aloud, when much of the descriptive linkage can be left out. No need to say a character shouted or sighed or whatever, I can do that while reading to the audience. So the manuscript must be altered slightly to eliminate that kind of redundancy, make it more visceral and less literary - re-create that world in three dimensions.

After doing a couple readings in the past 7 or 8 months, I'm still in panic mode while rehearsing, feeling as if I can barely breathe, stammering, ready to burst into tears. But when I get on stage, it all melts away and as long as I concentrate on the words, I'm fine. I guess that's the key, don't let your mind wander, stay inside the story, the scene, live that world...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mount Royal novel excerpt for March 28th reading...

As I keep telling everyone, I'm doing a reading on March 28th at a bar called The Painted Lady. I've been trying choose which passages to use from Mount Royal, the novel Tightrope Books will be publishing. In the next day or two I must decide on what I'll be reading since I have to get down to rehearsing the shit out of the thing in order to provide some entertainment value. Here's one of the two excerpts I'm thinking of...
INTRO/CONTEXT:
At this point, the protagonist, Johnny, has been anointed the neighborhood dealer by The Man after they meet at a local bar. After The Man leaves, Johnny goes into the men’s room to do a shot of the start-up sample he’s just received from his new boss. When Johnny comes back out, Slim has arrived…

Coming back out to the front of the bar, I see Slim wander in with her latest dudeski. He’s a rebuilt musicologist gone urban cool. His name’s Bob, of all things, a vested yokel that’s grown a little phony-tail. I’ve heard he’s on a first name basis with the door apes at the hottest clubs. He takes Slim along as an all-access pass to private album launch parties and exclusive interviews with taciturn, ego-heavy art rockers. Bob works hard. He maneuvers to get caught in candid magazine shots with Slim on his arm.
And she does wash up well, an effortless switch from old and busted jeans to chic sophistication in her little black dress, the elegant jawline, the white-blonde hair, her long graceful fingers - she requires no cosmetics.
Slim sits at the bar while Bob takes a table with the rapidly ascending Dred Blanc, rag-headed leader of The Fuss. Bob will collect incisive quotes and awe-inspiring anecdotes then spiel long and earnest in Montreal’s weekly alternative paper, The Mirror.
I go over and join Slim. “So, how’s it going with Bobbo? Charity drive winding down or what?”
She gives me half a smirk. “Shut up, Johnny.”
“I’m taking over from Tony.”
“Way to go,” she deadpans. “When’s this supposed to happen?”
“Right now. I’ve got a nice sample.”
That makes her swivel round and shove a knee between my legs. Bob shoots us distracted looks. He can’t concentrate on the interview that’s supposed to turn into a scarifying indictment of the local alt-music scene. I can see the hot vein of doubt wind round his throat. He tries to ward me off with a lame glare but his whole withered way is being lashed to a gurney and wheeled out. Dred Blanc instantly picks up on it, quickly cuts off Bob’s exclusive and goes over to join his band, who sit around drinking shots and beer.
I’d seen Slim and Bob on the Main a couple days ago. Bob’s worried face had scanned over the shoppers and sidewinders. He’d peered up the street as if there was a place they could go where Slim would wear his license plate. But she’d only lanked along beside him, not doing anything to prove he was more than random.
He shuffles over to us, hang-dog, grumbles something to Slim with an aggressive whisper then goes off to try and exercise damage control with Dred and his crew. After a minute, Slim tugs on my arm.
“C’mon, let’s go.”
I’d bet serious money that once we left, Bob looked around from his intense one-on-one with The Fuss and was gutted to see the two empty bar stools. After-action reports will verify that he pulled a face while Dred and his band half sung, half talked a sneering, off-key version of Slip Slidin’ Away. Bobbo’s street cred is instantly napalmed. Okay, you, back to covering the environment beat.
He eventually works up the nerve to demand answers and storms across the Main. Slim’s got my cock in her hand when we hear the door buzzer go off repeatedly with long angry bursts.
I look up. “What the fuck…”
“Just ignore him.”
Bob starts to pound. Bam Bam Bam. Then silence. He’ll scramble into the overgrown lot behind Schwartz’s just in time to look up and see Slim’s light go out. Without the sheer stupid bollocks to boot down doors or come up the fire escape, Bob returns to the bar to drink and stew and occasionally gaze up at Slim’s attic from across the road. He runs through everything he’ll tell her, all the razor sharp afterthoughts that would cut her to the quick if she actually gave a shit.
Going to the can to take a piss, Bob unzips but there’s nothing to pull out. Gone! Cock, balls, the works, even his asshole’s disappeared, all of it smooth as a Ken doll. The wily slut, he realizes, she did this to me!
Bob finds an illegal Viet Min doctor with a falsified veterinary license who rewires his plumbing. Despite a support group of similarly afflicted victims quickly forming around Bob, it all ends badly when La Cabane staff are horrified to discover him head first in a toilet, drowned. Since Bob turns out to be the scion of a prominent Anglo-Quebecois publishing family, a brass memorial plaque is mounted on the stall door.
Slim wriggles out of her dress, the best piece of clothing she owns, and carefully puts it on a padded hanger. Underneath she wears nothing but panties. No lacey bra or silk stockings or frilly garters or any of that shit is necessary. She looks down and examines the length of her body with a shrewd appraiser’s eye, judging the minutes that drag along the flesh, indomitable force of gravity working on anything left alive. She’d once told me her few stretch marks are from taking the pill too young.
Descended from Scottish jailbirds given a new lease on life in the colonies to go forth and build the suburbs from whence their willful daughters may emerge. She took along a memento of finding Pops alone in the midnight basement, pants around his ankles, old fleshtone magazine held at his belly; part of the collection he’d thought so well hidden in the rafters, never to realize she’d added a headless shot of her own body to his scrapbook. She would quietly close the laundry room door, leave the poor bastard with a fistful of himself and catch his eye just before the latch clicked shut.
She sat at her teenage vanity table and studied the adolescent breasts in the mirror, worried about her thin lips and limp blonde hair and regretted never seeing the desperate shadowy men her step-mother had warned were right outside the window, in the empty fields across the road, the step-mom who forced to her to use a pad instead of a tampon.
Those shadowy men must be out there, she’d thought as the Open City glimmered in the distance across the Saint Lawrence. Then eventually go back down to the basement to coax Pops out of a wide-mouthed slumber while the CBC played the national anthem to end the night’s telecast.
Her main indictable offense was reading too much and correcting inane and erroneous statements at the dinner table. This resulted in ultimatums that would eventually mean no more speechless meals of canned ham, rice-a-roni and re-runs of The Tommy Hunter Show, all of them living around Pop’s rotating work hours because there wasn’t a better pension plan to be had in the whole province.
There would be no more five dollars in an unsigned greeting card for coming home with straight A’s. No more grounded for six weeks at a time for crimes never even considered, to lie in her room, endlessly jerk off and wonder about those desperate shadowy men.
When she left to catch a city bound bus, step-mom watched from the front window as Pops was in the backyard, engrossed in the engine noise of his lawn-tractor. She phoned a few weeks later from a group home. They said hardly anything and their silence sounded like nothing more than relief. Now, a decade later, Slim still has no trouble coming. It’s what to do with the body afterwards.
“Bob’s probably crying at the bottom of your stairs.”
Slim squats next to me on the bed. “Bob’s ridiculous. He thinks I’m orgasmic because of him.”
“So what are you gonna do with the poor slob?”
“I dunno. It’s a real drag. Too bad he can’t relax, he’s got a nice cock on him.”
She leans into me, her index finger traces down my chest and finds a small black bruise beside my right nipple. There’s a nasty hemorrhage under the skin.
“This one looks new. Is Jane back?”
“No, it’s Hennessy’s.”
Slim pushes on it to bring up a jolt of pain. “Must have really hurt.” She moves on and gravitates to her favorite scar, the one running down my ribs.
“Hi there,” she murmurs and begins to nip and bite to re-open the wound.


Afterwards, we’re sitting in her kitchen, pretty much naked and drinking beer, semi on the nod, bullshitting some more about Bobbo. Even from the rear of Slim’s apartment we can hear the over-loud, booze and drug-fueled conversations outside La Cabane and Bar Saint-Laurent across the Main. It’s a familiar, comforting noise.
There’s a soft knock at the back door fire escape. Slim squints at the interruption.
“Shit. I hope it’s not Bob.”
She goes to answer and for paranoia’s sake, I reach back and pull a big carving knife from the dish drainer. When she opens up, I catch sight of a young guy with curly black hair, acne scars and a scraggly bit of beard, most of it below the jaw line - the hairy chinstrap. He wears a formless blue windbreaker, as if he’s here to read a meter. The doofus carries a small bouquet of cheap convenience store flowers. Slim wears nothing but my long-tailed shirt hung open. I’ve got on exactly one sock, a paint-splattered American Devices t-shirt and her ex-boyfriend’s Montreal Royals ballcap.
The guy at the door, his face erupts with stunned elation until he notices me in the background. His mouth turns into a big trembling O. Slim pushes away the proffered flowers with an eviscerating nasal boredom.
“I’m busy.”
He slowly backpedals. She closes the door and sits back down.
“Who is that?”
“Some guy. I met him at one of the bars. I think his name’s Gamil.”
“Slim, you gotta cool it with the mercy fucks.”
She lays her forehead in her palm. “Yeah, I know…”

An hour or so later I get dressed and going out the side door, I almost trip over the flower guy. He jumps to his feet.
“What are you doing?” I confront him. “She’s not gonna be too happy with you loitering down here.”
“Uh… I, uh, just want to talk to her,” he says with a slight Joual accent. “Are you her boyfriend?”
I’m in no mood for this asshole ruining my red letter night. “C’mon, man. She fucked you once or twice. Isn’t that enough? Don’t stalk her. If she wants to see you again, she’ll find you.” I poke him in the chest. “Don’t fuck with her or you’ll fuck with me, understand?”
“I am not stalking her!”
“Look, why don’t you just get the fuck outa here.”
“Don’t tell me to fuck off,” the guy bridles and puffs up a bit, as if he’s ready to throw down.
Now I’m really not in the mood. I slap him open-handed, hard. My palm stings. He reels backwards and grabs his face with genuine shock.
“Hey! Why did you do that!?”
“Get the fuck away from here and don’t come back.” I snatch a dusty wine bottle from a case of empties by the door. “You small time piece of shit, I’ll slit your fuckin’ throat!”
He glares at me, still hanging onto his precious mug, scoots off at high-speed then yells back. “You are ignorant! Read Celine, if you can read! Read the quatrains! Nostradamus knows who I am! He wrote about me!”
Oh, he’s one of those guys. The war book reading, Illuminati and UFO-obsessed, Star Trek loving techno-feeb who never got laid in high school and wants the whole fucking world to pay for it.
“Sure thing, Chinstrap! Time for you to go home and suck Hitler’s pecker again. Why doncha join the fucking army? Your fellow closet-cases await!”
He cocks an imaginary pump action shotgun, fires it at me then shouts, “Boom!”
I’m tempted to go after him but he’s broken into a trot, already a good thirty feet away. I stamp my foot as if I’m about to give chase. Chinstrap jack-rabbits and he’s gone.
Goddamn Slim, balling these shitheads when she’s too drunk and too high to see straight. I’ve always told her she’s too good looking to screw these low-brow gomers. They can barely get laid for money, let alone get laid by some total knock-out like her. It literally blows their minds. They become puppy dog psychos and believe that her fucking them actually meant something.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Writing about writing...

I've heard various theories on writing about writing. Some say don't bother, you'll just look for ways to rationalize things that shouldn't be rationalized. Perhaps you don't need to analyze. Better to spend that time and energy actually writing.
A young, aspiring novelist recently asked me what he should write about. It made me think of some blues or jazz great, maybe it was BB King or someone like that, saying that the real music was notes you don't play - or in a similar idea - the music is the silence between the notes.
Whichever it is, that can be applied to writing. As in a lot of it is what you don't write...

Me, I tend to write a story or a novel from the middle out. I hadn't done it for ages but the same instincts prevailed. I began with a few ideas, a couple of characters hanging around with nothing to do. It's almost as if you walk into a place out of The Iceman Cometh or crew quarters of the SS Nostromo and everyone looks up at you, expectant, ready to do something, bloody anything, they're so fed up.

I guess it's the idea of being dropped into the center of a vast swamp with only a few words, some ideas, a couple scraps of dialogue, some of it makes little sense, other pieces don't fit and never will. The prospect of panic seems close, right up there on your sweaty brow, perched like a neurotic gargoyle, ready to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation and blindly dash for the first apparent exit - which would of course be a giant glob of quick sand and pffft - there goes another story down that sewer...

I sometimes imagine a kind of head space, a frame of mind, a highly discplined mental exercise where you can begin writing on Chapter 1, Page 1 and then the sound of plastic keyboards being feverishly whacked by fingers for many  hours on end and finally, presto - 'the end.' The novel is done, from beginning to end, no typos, all grammar very cleverly arranged, etc. A compelling little tale with plenty of back cover blurbs...
"...couldn't put it down, stuck to me like flaming napalm..."
"...he's full of shit but spins a decent yarn..."
"...I'd sick the dogs on him but the chicks dig my act when I've got this volume tucked under my arm..."

Gad, imagine, a finished book, just like that. One draft, beginning to end, the perfect 88,000 words that agents/publishers/etc require, movie rights built in de facto and action figures on the way. A whole world, book, movie, toys, games, action figures, all built and consumed inside a small black box filled with much circuitry. What more could you ask for?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Old friends...

Last night I was telling my beauty about an old friend of mine.
I said we've known each other forever,
since we were children practically.
I told my beauty that my old friend and I get together
sometimes, get kinda drunk and fool around.

My old friend got married for some reason,
actually I know why - to punish the guy,
or so it seems, the way she likes to punish most men.
She uses her height and crow's wing black hair.
Mostly she uses her white teeth and rosy tongue.
One helluva smile, a real showstopper.

So I tell my beauty, my old friend and me,
we're half in the bag on white wine and she's bent
forward over the end of the sofa,
something she wanted to try for comfort's sake.
What the hell.
I don't ask, I'm just glad to be there.
So I didn't know she knew her husband was headed home
and she was preparing for him, testing a thesis, she said later.

He walks in and his stupid jaw slam the rug,
his eyes well up.
I told my beauty, get this:
my old friend says to her husband...
either come over here and stick your cock in my mouth or go away.

He went into the next room, sat in a chair and cried quietly.

My old friend slowly looked round at me, grinning, and said - kinda loud,
I told the stupid asshole you and me are very old friends.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Power of Elizabeth Smart

I met the writer Elizabeth Smart when she was in her early 70′s, maybe four or five months before she’d passed away. It was fall in Toronto, a rainy day. She was in that used bookstore that had been on the northeast corner of Queen St. W. and Augusta. I forget the name of the place. I was 27 or 28. I had no idea who she was. She eyed me through the front window as I walked past. I did a double take then did a 180 on my heel and went in – as if a fisher’s hook had snagged my cheek. She was alone in the store.
Without cosmetics, wearing an old sweater and out of fashion jeans, running shoes, one of them untied, she twirled a pink flower in her fingers and wagged side to side a little in a battered office chair. Her smile, that light in her expression. She was the most erotically charged human being I’d ever laid eyes on. I suddenly felt high. We flirted and I flushed red, stammering. I was smitten and she knew it. She reveled in her sweet power.
The spell was broken when the clerk returned a few minutes later with some other guy. They got all protective and this other character led Miss Smart away, saying they had to be somewhere. She looked back at me, lips a bit pursed and mouthed the words another time.
Some months later, in the spring, I saw a black cloth laying in the window of that bookstore. On it was her book, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept and a black and white portrait of her taken not long before she died, the dates of her birth and death noted beneath. I felt a soft blow in my chest. It was her – that ageless nymph, wanton desire and loving whispers, so much sweet sweet promise, all of it twisting together in a smoky, intoxicating potion.
It’s been a bitter and enduring source of regret there never was another time. I surely would have fallen endlessly, hopelessly in love.
That memory has remained with me all these years and decades later. I used that brief encounter in something I’ve written. It’s important to hang onto those ephemeral moments that have so much lasting impact. There was a purity to our meeting, serendipity, sure, but something fated too – having no idea who this older women was, astounded at her sheer corporeal power, the openness and lushness of her desire, unencumbered, untainted. Perhaps that was Elizabeth Smart’s genius; How did it happen that someone so committed to the idea of being fully, beautifully human was not defeated by the deeply oppressive constraints of her background, the era from which she emerged? Is that the true power of love?

The war...

I came across a war by accident.
Had no idea it was going on.
Well, it was already a police state by the time I found out about it,
the poor fucks living in the place so heavily taxed they hardly raised their heads.
Everything was of course gloomy as hell,
the main drag of the main town almost totally empty on a Friday afternoon,
most people working their ass off serving the reputed tough guys who ran this police state.
A lone waitress worked in the only cafe.
Tall and not young but not old either,
all the time her mouth almost verged on some kind of conspiratorial grin.
She brought over a cup of really thin looking coffee.
"I'm supposed to drink this?" I asked.
She finally did smile and shook her head. "No."
I glanced round at the dead street then looked up at her.
"Say, what's going on here, anyway? Where are these supposed tough guys?"
The waitress didn't answer my questions.
She picked up the coffee cup and pitched the contents into the cobblestones at the edge of the patio.
"Come help me with something."
She took me back behind the bar into the darkest fucking room I'd ever been inside.
I truly could not see my hand in front of my face.
I felt blind and the sensation made me sort of panicky.
I felt her fingertips on me, her breath warm and close.
"We'll just take our time," she said.
And that's what we began to do,
just go slow and easy and take our time.
My knee felt the edge of a bed and we fell onto it sideways.
She grabbed my hair with both hands and said,
"Oh, fuck it. Let's just get our clothes off."
And I could hear her quickly kicking off her boots,
unzipping and sliding out of stuff.
I never wear underwear or socks and told her so.
She said something about not needing to tell her that.
And man, in that utter and complete darkness my eyes could not adjust to -
it just stayed all black, like being eyeless -
she fucked me like I'd never been fucked before,
like the world was ending.
It had.

When we came out into the daylight,
I squinted at the street and despite the rain people were out walking,
a pair of teenagers kissed in that slow, astounded way only kids can do with any honesty.
A newspaper tossed on one of the cafe tables ran a war-sized headline:
TOUGH GUYS ARE HISTORY

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reading Mon Mar 28 - 7:30pm The Painted Lady

The latest reading is confirmed for Monday March 28 at 7:30pm at The Painted Lady
in Toronto. It's at 218 Ossington Av at the corner of Dundas St. West in that newly groovified neighborhood of Brockton Village. So c'mon out and have a few drinks, a few laughs. No grimsville poetic jacking off allowed at this deal. The only goal is to amuse the audience, maybe give them a break from their daily grind, not remind them of their daily grind... And big thanks to the women who run The Painted Lady, Nicky & Sam, along with bar manager, Jen. You guys are the best.

 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rough notes from...

new novel-in-progress Thracian Tales

Note 1

Whenever I quit using for a while, all the suppressed stuff floods in - but never in the front door. It’s surreptitious, leaking through cracks here and there, oozing up from between the floor boards while I’m day dreaming, or asleep, half asleep. Unexpected and twisted ideas, they’ve been backed up in a traffic jam of undirected psychosis for too long now.
Like that life sized doll of Countess Erzsébet Bathory, from a long line of Huns, the disappeared people of the Steppe. After I see her standing in the doorway of her citadel, everything turns to black and white - even blood.
It all becomes a malevolent force through the bending of time - attracted by my new lack of deep intoxication, the soul/mind portal that’s opened now that I’m completely weak, too un-stoned to resist her.
Her ideas and images are absorbed, her teeth rend victims, the flesh of a young girl’s breast bitten and torn away.
And yet I lust for her.. for her nobility, her madness. She was one of the last powerful Protestant hold-outs, the anti-Papist artistrocracy. They called her the female Dracu, the female Impaler, the woman vampire. But there is too much contradiction. I find myself in the old Austro-Hungarian courts, piles of books the size of coffins, takes two arms to open the cover. Her trial in detail. She turned her lands and her palaces into hospital for soldiers wounded fighting the Turk, for the ill peasantry on her lands. How did she shift from that to a blood drinker? Or was it once again the power she would not cede, her name and position attacked through propaganda. The Protestant Countess.

Note 2

I’m in a wheelchair - not needed - more an affectation, a statement of power. I choose to ride a wheelchair but I am not infirm. A plush old theater, crushed red velvet, gold painted filigree, but rundown and somewhat abandoned, dog-earred and Soviet and untenable.
There are people coming and going, some offer to help me but it’s a grating, wide-eyed pity, which causes profound irritation I cannot verbalize. I tell them the wheelchair is a gag, a prop. They nod, unfazed and continue on.
Long sweeping ramps from mezzanine level to ground, Persian carpeted ramps rather than stairs, with a wide elaborately carved banister, painted gold and silver and red.
I roll down the ramp in my wheelchair, picking up speed and almost out of control, going too wide, may crash into outside banister, the brakes are questionable, toy brakes that begin to squeal.

A life-sized version of myself in 18th century central European, Austro-Hungarian dandy type outfit. But a grim and unquenchable, amoral me - dark-eyed and dark haired, not a shred of sentiment.
I hear the larger than life me say: “Sympathy is for fools and old women.”
The wheelchair rattles along now on the ground floor of theater. Going toward the sunlight of the leaded front doors, I roll past an elaborate old billiard table. The 18th century version of me lays on it. I’m large, about 6 foot 5, eyes closed but clearly awake and alert.
One of the wheelchair’s handles hooks onto larger than life-sized me, gets tangled up with petticoats, capes, tweed, houndstooth, wide Hassidim fedora head gear. I realize the L than L me is a Golem, my old Golem from a time forgotten in youth, a young, good looking me doing a fashionable impersonation of Dr. F. Then remember I’d auditioned for part and got fleeced when Kenneth Branaugh got it and I still hate him for that duplicity, his fucking connections. But my Golem was left behind, untouched and forgotten. The wheelchair’s handle tears away part of the Golem’s sleeve, disturbing him, waking him.
He rises with a great deal of hatred, aggression, mad-eyed but cold blooded, threats to eat all in sight. I jump out of the wheelchair, moving backwards, trip backwards on carpeted ramp. I’m on my back and kick Golem in the chest, send him sprawling but he comes at me again, undeterred, his expression remains determined and monstrous. I kick him again, he comes at me, relentless, tries to grab my leg as I’m prone, to tear it off. I squirm and pull my barefoot away from his strong hand. I wake up kicking.

Deep, inherent evil, something that was there already, waiting to be awoken, provoked by my reading about Erzsébet Bathory. Matrilineal? Patrilineal? Thrace - that mystery of heading into the dark heart of northern Thrace, away from the warm, blue Aegean, the laughing sun, into the dim, wet hills, poverty stricken, where suspicion rules and no one raises their voice, only the wind and the call of a lone crow.
What force is this? Internal? External?

Note 3

I remember me then, long black hair, white coveralls, nothing else, maybe barefoot. Wolf’s tooth around neck.
NYC street
level racism.
Well dressed black guy, wearing a camel coat, in Washington Sq., middle of the night. Asks: “Ya think I could sleep here?”
“Uh, no. Not unless you wanna get robbed.”
“Y’know,” he says. “My people got lynched and fucked over, but your people - your people, they got fuckin’ well wiped out!”

Note 3A

A tall, gorgeous native guy with long silky black hair and a black leather blazer, a beaded bracelet but no other goofy accessories. I get an instant crush on him at a party at Jen Weymouth’s new apartment at Bernard and the Main. We’re introduced. He’s an artist. I flirt with him - someone mentions I’m Greek.
“Creek?”
“No, Greek.”
“Oh, I thought you were Indian.”
“Yeah, I get that sometimes. It’s my Mongol blood.”

He looked at me, blank. Okay, so he’s not book-smart, I tell myself, but geez, he’s so pretty and I love his hands. I spied downward. Everything looks nice’n’tight. Hmm.
We talked about Oka, the Mohawks, the Warrior’s society and their Mercier bridge occupation, the Surete battling with rednecks on the north end of the bridge.
“Listen, man,” he explains. “I’m not interested in that. I just want to paint and hang out, get next to some women. This other stuff’s too serious for me.”
I nod and wonder what I’d need to say to get him into bed but he seems decidedly hetero. I don’t broach the subject. Too bad. Some airhead blonde sidled up to us, chin down, grinning up at him. She’s already imaging them naked together. I think about a threesome but she’s only got pussy eyes for him.
Goddamn, he’s purty, ain’t he, sister?