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Responsibilities and Illusions

March 8, 2018 Leave a comment

My father’s eldest brother was, by default, the head of the extended family. He was well worthy of the responsibility. He arrived in Canada with his parents and three of his four siblings. My father, the youngest in the family was born in Canada shortly after their arrival on the shores of North America.

The family was clearly respectful of the eldest son. He worked hard and studied hard and became a corporate lawyer. He had earned a million dollars while he was still young, and was wiped out in the crash of 1929. Undaunted, he continued his work ethic, and climbed back into wealth. Even as a respected lawyer, he carried his lunch to his office to which he walked until he had earned again his respectable fortune.

Many years passed, and he was always looked to as the family patriarch, leading us into respectable lives. As the patriarch, he was our religious leader as well. We did not see him often, but we followed his example all the same. We respected the religion which he advocated, and were satisfied that we were doing right.

There came a summer weekend when I was a young father. My father had bought a lovely lakeside cottage on an island in the Great Lakes for he and my mother as well as I and my brothers and our children to enjoy. I went to the island on a weekend when all the other members of our immediate family were otherwise occupied. I took my son and daughter and one of my nephews for a weekend of swimming, fishing, and sitting around a fire.

There was a phone in the island cottage through underwater lines. It was the 1960s, and there was not yet satellites circling the Earth, and cellphones would not be heard of until several decades later. The phone rang unexpectedly. When I answered, it was my father. He called to tell me that my uncle, my father’s eldest brother and the religious leader and patriarch of the family had suddenly died.

I asked Dad if I should pack up the kids and drive the three hours back home for the funeral and other rituals. To my surprise, he said no. He told me that my uncle had left written instruction in which he stated that he only acted the role of religious example for the family because he felt it was his responsibility. In his true, personal beliefs, he was an atheist, and wanted all of the religious rituals to be disregarded, and to just be simply cremated. Cremation is against our religion, and that was a strong statement of his personal beliefs.

The kids and I were left to enjoy a happy summer weekend. More importantly, my brothers and I, and our children and cousins were free to follow our own personal beliefs. I have always been an atheist, at least since I was about 18. It’s comfortable to be free of the burden of the absurdity of religious rituals.

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30 Successful years in the Wrong Profession

March 6, 2018 2 comments

I was a taxi driver, which is a job in which I was barely competent. I can drive very well, and I know the city well, but I was not sufficiently interested to learn where and when are the best places to be to pick up fares. I preferred to take it easy, and pick up fares that seemed to need the ride more than others. Driving a cab was a job for which I was ill suited, but not the one of which I write.

I was put on the right track by a wonderful YMCA Guidance and Counseling test. It told me I should be a writer and could excel in show business. I’m a grade 10 dropout, and this information seemed misplaced in a bad cab driver. My counselor pointed out that as I had a family to support, I should get into writing advertising to begin making a living.

I knew nothing about the world of advertising, so I took the yellow pages phone book and looked up ad agencies. I began calling and calling. Finally, one day I called a guy that had one writer ill and another on vacation. He was desperate, and so he called me in. As I walked out with an assignment, I looked at sheets of copy on other writers’ desks and saw what a sheet of advertising text looks like.

I know how to type because I took a typing course in high school to avoid a course in German. Luckily for me, I had a gift for writing ads, and especially television commercials. In a fairly short time I learned TV production and excelled, as the Y test had suggested. After a couple of years of success, I took the education I earned making commercials and used it to create a television series which I wrote and was able to get produced by a national network. The series aired across the country in reruns for about 30 years.

This was the profession that was wrong for me, even though I was something of a wiz at it. It was wrong because I don’t belong in advertising. It’s full of mendacity, politics and liquid lunches. I don’t do politics, I don’t do mendacity, and I never drink. I also didn’t dress properly. Corduroy pants, sometimes well worn, sneakers and garishly printed T-shirts. So the “regular” sort of people in the creative departments didn’t like me, and I didn’t like them. However, I was able to knock the clients’ socks of, reliably, time after time. As well as being a round peg in a square hole, I was able to produce more top creative in less time than all the rest of the department put together.

It’s a gift, and I can’t really explain it except that it’s very easy for me. I think that my life as a “regular person” enables me to relate to the wants, needs, hopes and aspirations of the average consumer. In any case, I was just so happy to make a living at something that was so much fun compared to driving a taxi, I didn’t give a damn what my so-called co-workers thought of me. It paid well too.

Eventually I became fed up with the baloney and backed away from the profession that was fraught with superficial values. Now I hate the interruptions by commercials in any program I might be enjoying. I regret all the commercials I made for so many well-known national brand products. My innate talent brought me success in a cesspool, and my innate moral values took me out of it.

    Sight; Sound; Scent; Touch

January 31, 2018 Leave a comment

(SESTINA) A form in which the last word of each verse must be the last word of the first line in the next verse.  Also, all the other lines must end in the same words as the ends of lines in all the verses, in a predetermined sequence.

 

Beauty can be found in a million forms

Throughout nature, in all things seen and heard.

A lazy lagoon, still water, sun’s warmth

On tan sand is inviting to the eye.

Forest surrounds the lagoon, deep and lush,

Filling the day with fragrance and bird songs.

 

Anchor the boat and be still.  Hear the songs

Of the forest dwellers, sung in all forms:

Call of cricket, twitter of finch add warmth

To the day.  Strip down – I’ll avert my eye –

Dive in, swim to shore.  Cool water feels lush

As you pass through it.  Another splash is heard.

 

I, too, dive from the deck.  My splash is heard

In the quiet cove, arresting the songs

For but a moment, ‘till they well up lush

Again in the fragrant air.  Supple forms

Glide through the clear water beneath us.  Warmth

Awaits us on the sandy beach we eye.

 

You slip into shallows and stand.  My eye

Feasts on your glistening flesh, wet and lush

As you dance, dripping, up the beach.  While songs

Of birds and bugs celebrate, they are heard

From every side as you lay down on sand’s warmth

To dry.  The beach displays our footprint forms.

 

While you lay on the soft sand, your shape forms

A fitted nest in the beach.  The sand’s warmth

Comforts you until you open an eye

To watch me approach, dripping, while the lush

Foliage emits bird and insect songs

To envelop us, the only sounds heard.

 

Alone here, now, our breathing can be heard

Rising and falling, while affection forms

Between us.  Oblivious to the songs

Now, we are lost together in the warmth

Of the place and time.  I don’t see the lush

Surroundings now.  Only you fill my eye.

 

Beauty is born in the beholder’s eye,

While in the ear, great beauty can be heard.

Share these moments and life becomes more lush.

                                       ~o~

SUMMER DAYS

January 9, 2018 Leave a comment

Poetry form: (PROSE 1)

[1]

NOT A BEACH DAY

Round stones and dark, loose dirt forced several inches of backslide after each step upward. The struggle was an essential part of the adventure for the pubescent girl, and she laboured up the long abandoned trail almost every day of every summer at Sanctuary Bay. Her thin legs, seeming too long for her tiny torso, carried her upward in a staggering rhythm as she picked spots to place her feet.

[2]

SURRENDER IN THE FOREST

The higher up she struggled, the darker and cooler the forest became. The trees closed in close around the narrow trail, and the thrill began to permeate every cell and sentiment within the child. Her heart pounded in her narrow chest, the blood rushed in her ears, and she almost trembled with ecstasy as she gave herself up to the comforting security of aloneness. Minute sounds and scents were clear and rich to her in this aroused state. She let the familiar feelings fill her, thrill her in that peculiar way that she was certain no other person ever felt. She tingled somewhere down inside. She felt the heat flush in her pale cheeks; felt the burning of her ears.

[3]

SANCTUARY WITHIN

She lay down on the warm, dry carpet of golden brown leaves. It was thick and springy after centuries of accumulated autumns. The rich, pungent fragrance of ancient forest filled her little lungs, enriched her coursing blood. Thirty meters above, the leafy canopy swayed in the high lake breeze. Flashes of sunlight flickered over her slight, prone figure. She closed her eyes and felt the peace of sanctuary descend upon her.

Individual Liberty

November 29, 2017 2 comments

I have a lot of life behind me. Not only because I’ll turn eighty next year, but because most of those years have been lived “out of the box”. I’ve had wives, children, mortgages, businesses, family vacations and all that stuff. That was one part of my life that was the most wrong part. I should never have been a regular suburban husband and father. I did it pretty well, although it took great effort because I was not really suited to the role.

I now realize that I should have followed my bohemian instincts. Instead of living inside the box of affluence that I was in with my parents and brothers, I should have left the family home, acquired a job of some kind, and earned my way through Art College. It was my error, my weakness. My father provided me with sports cars, speed boats, tailors, charge accounts and all. Not many eighteen-year-olds could walk away from that. I think, in some ways, I’d have lived a richer life if my parents had been poor and mean, but they weren’t.

Now I realize I should have worked pumping gas, or in a convenience store, or as a waiter or parking lot attendant. I would have met a variety of characters, girls who shared my creative nature and guys from varied backgrounds. I wouldn’t have to spend so much time now, in retirement, teaching myself how to draw.

Don’t struggle to live the life your parents want you to live, if it’s not the life you’d choose for yourself. In the end, staying true to yourself is the only path to personal satisfaction and inner comfort. I followed my own path after I finally broke free of my heritage, and have had many satisfying decades of life, more varied than that of most people with a PhD. Still, I wish I’d claimed my individual liberty earlier in my life.

The Dealer’s Place

October 31, 2017 Leave a comment

The only interesting thing about the dealer’s place was the people who gathered there most evenings. The time I saw them, they had gathered to enjoy “Star Trek” together. I am uninterested in Star Trek, but I lingered to observe the group. I admit that in my case, I was there to buy some grass from the dealer. The dealer was a very nice, shy guy, about 6 feet tall, 30ish, and considerably overweight. His name was Gregory.

Greg also had a small travel agency, where he struggled to make a living. He didn’t like dealing grass, but the travel agency was barely getting by. I later learned that he’d been orphaned while in his teens, and had been making his way in life as well as he could. His disadvantage was that he was not cool… not smooth. Greg was awkward, and that was probably why his apartment was ground zero for a group of socially awkward people.

The most visible person was David. He was noticeable because he talked a lot, always  with unnecessary urgency. One could almost see him vibrating, so tense was he. I later learned that his mother was severely depressed, and drove him crazy. I’m thinking, he’s about 30, why is he with Mom? He expressed shame that he worked at selling ‘diamond futures’, knowing full well that it’s a worthless product and he’s bilking people. His weirdness kept him from getting a regular job, so telephone hustling is the best he could do.

There were two females, as different from each other as possible. They were not together in any way. Sitting on a black bean-bag chair was a very pretty girl in her 20s. She was dressed in Goth style, all black, some veils, thigh-high boots of black leather and a black shawl. She smoked a joint, did not pass it around, and shrunk back into an obscure corner at the back of the room.

Every person in the room was facing the television set. I sat on a straight chair to the side. On the sofa, Greg joined the two that were already there. Next to Greg was a young woman midget. She appeared to be tiny, seated by large Greg. On her other side was Nick, a rather good looking man in his twenties. He planned to be a rock star singer with a band. He was in the process of auditioning bands. Good luck with that.

Awkward people gathered together, perhaps for safety in numbers. The midget asked me to fetch her a coke. Why me, I thought? I rose and stepped toward the kitchen and turned at the apartment entrance hall and left the apartment.

2 Books, 2 Authors, 2 Plum Trees

October 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Two books that I consider to be among the best are: A Confederacy of Dunces and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Two more books that follow the life of Lisbeth Salander followed the latter. A Confederacy of Dunces stands alone. There will be no more books by Stieg Larsson, who wrote the Salander books, nor from John Kennedy Toole, who wrote the Dunces book.

Both books met with immediate acclaim when they were published posthumously. They are, in fact, fabulous stories brilliantly told. Anyone who enjoys reading strong, earthy, beautifully written books must read these four – the three by Larsson and one by Toole.

Films were made of the Larsson trilogy, I’ve not heard of a worthy one for Toole’s book. The American versions of the Salander story, to me, are not worth the time of day. The Swedish versions, with subtitles, are brilliant. The casting, the acting, the script, every scrap of them is great.

Ignatius Jacques Reilly is the morbidly obese and endlessly pompous star of A Confederacy of Dunces. He is unique in literature, and is purely wonderful. The lead character in the Larsson books and films is Lisbeth Slander, the most fascinating and exciting hero you’ll ever read.

You might well wonder where the plum trees come into this story. I used to own a hobby farm in the mountains where I kept horses and sometimes pigs and cows. There’s an ancient apple orchard behind the house. It’s very picturesque, with the old, gnarled trunks and untrimmed limbs.

At far corners of the orchard, diagonal from each other were two, old, sterile plum trees. For years, while the apple trees were bursting with huge, antique apples, the plum trees appeared to be little more than four inch wide sticks in the ground.

Suddenly, one spring, the plum trees came to life. To super life, I want to say. Both trees burst forth with volumes of perfect, beautiful, Damson plums. Bushels of them. Sweet, firm Damson plums from trees that we thought were long dead. They produced a vast amount of wonderful nourishment, and then they died dead. Forever.

Similarly, both Stieg Larsson and John Kennedy Toole burst forth with brilliant books. They created stories and characters unparalleled in modern literature. They nourished readers’ minds with intrigue and excitement. Then they died.

Stieg Larsson died suddenly, of a heart attack at fifty. John Kennedy Toole took his own life at forty-four. I like to think that, like the plum trees, the effort to produce such a fine result was more than life could sustain. They gave their all, the plum trees and the authors. We have their books, and they are as much a blessing as were the plums.

John Kennedy Toole

Stieg Larsson

Toole (top) – Larsson (bottom)