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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.

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You Can’t Come Out Of Nowhere

December 5, 2017 Leave a comment

Technically, that’s not true. In my own small way, I came into television out of nowhere. But I’m a very lucky person. I got an original idea for a children’s television series and wrote up a presentation. I went to the first appointment I could get (I forget who it was) and was rejected. The guy liked the concept, except for this and that and so on. I went home and made changes to eliminate the guy’s “exceptions”.

After two rejections followed by two improvements to the concept, I was beginning to think I might not make it. That’s a terrible thing to do. Never let a negative vision enter your mind.

I went to the CFTO-TV studio in Toronto. I was there on my day job, producing a television commercial. During a break, I was walking through their vast reception area when I noticed a familiar face. He was standing at the reception desk speaking on the telephone. I couldn’t remember how I knew him, so I asked the receptionist who he is. She told me he was Ed Marcel, and I remembered him from the neighbourhood when we were kids. I remembered that I had heard he was the producer of their sports programs.

When he got off the phone I approached him and asked he remembered me. He did, immediately. I told him I had this series presentation, and would he look at it and pass it on to the right person if he thought it was worthy.

I heard nothing for several weeks. Finally, I saw Ed and the studio cafeteria and asked him if he’d read the presentation. He replied that he liked it, and had sent it on to Arthur Weinthal, director of CTV network programing. I felt great, and settled down to wait again. One day, I felt I had nothing to lose if I take a shot. I wrote and mailed a letter to Mr. Weinthal and asked that he not reject my presentation without speaking to me.

A few days later Mr. Weinthal’s secretary called me and said her boss would see me at 3:00pm on Wednesday next. His office was not up north at the studio. It was downtown, on St. Charles St. not far from my office. I did no preparation, I believed I was there to make CTV believe that I could deliver them a good series with good, original scripts.

When I was shown into Mr. Weinthal’s office, I took a seat across his desk from him. The first thing he asked me is who was I and where did I come from. I was pleased, because my family name was quite well known in the city, and I’m often asked if I’m related to this uncle or that cousin, or even my father.

I just started talking. I spoke about my life, my family, my children and my philosophy. Mr. Weinthal took two Granny Smith apples out of his desk drawer and handed one to me. We ate the apples and talked. At the end, I’d finished the apple and so had he. He said he will arrange for me to conduct some tests. My concept, in the end, required some technological tricks that had never been tried before.

I prepared myself for the call that would mean I should go to the studio. It was a deliciously exciting thought. The feeling of exaltation enveloped me on the drive home. I went into the house and looked at the mail. There was an envelope from CTV. I tore it open. It was a rejection of my concept. I knew from the date on the letter that it was mailed before I met with Mr. Weinthal. My shot in the dark to get a meeting had overturned the final rejection.

Do not give up on your dream. You have not lost until you quit. If you never quit, it means you’re still working at it. You might come out of nowhere.

A Most Infectious Virus

November 30, 2017 Leave a comment

It spreads like hate. The source is unknown, it infects young children who grow up and sustain it. The virus is perilously infectious and permanently spreads through families. Fathers and mothers tell sons and daughters about it, and so it spreads. The virus is destructive and insidious. Millions of people pass away every year, carrying the virus until their death. Specialists that minister to the infected wear cloaks or uniforms to signal their specialty.

Good parents work to prepare their children for life. Children are warned that fire is hot, do not touch it. Stay away from water because it can drown people. Be sure to look both ways before you cross a street. We are Christians, we believe in god and Christ. And so the child is ‘told’ the virus. If you had not been told your religion and your beliefs, would you have that religious belief? The loving parents that prepared you for some realities in life told you your religion and your beliefs.

I was told I was a Jew. I went to a synagogue school to learn the Jewish language. I had training to perform in Hebrew at my bar mitzvah, the ritual celebration when a boy reaches the age of 13, and he is taken into the Jewish fold as a man.

Immediately after my bar mitzvah, I quit the synagogue, the Hebrew school, and all the ritual nonsense about what to eat, what to not eat, how to behave on certain days, when to fast, how to honour the Sabbath and so on, to ridiculous extremes.

Common sense tells me it’s all bunk. The priest with the funny hat, long gown in brocade fabrics, holy water, candles, smoke, scrolls – it’s all baloney, be it Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and so many other false gods.  It’s all made up bunk by superstitious old people far in the ignorant past. There is no god and religion is a con.

Looking For My Unique Woman

October 30, 2017 Leave a comment

There are some amazing women in literature. I need to find a woman as fascinating and desirable as Lisbeth Salander is in Stieg Larsson’s ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’. To find a woman like her, in my reality or in my fiction would be exciting beyond imagination. I need to find a woman equally unique about whom I could write.

In ‘The First Deadly Sin’ by Lawrence Sanders, a bold, sensual woman named Celia Montfort was unlike any other woman I had ever met in a story. She was completely different from Lisbeth Salander and fascinating in different ways. Both characters had large parts of their lives hidden. Not out of fear of attack or anything like that. It just was more comfortable for them to keep themselves to themselves. There was not a lot of soul-searching and plotting to be as unique as they are – it was just the way they are.

All characters one creates must quite naturally be based on characters one has known in life. Usually, one takes characteristics from several acquaintances and weaves them together into one interesting character. I am pondering my unique woman as I begin to create her. I remember a time several decades ago, when I found myself in a huge rockabilly nightclub in Savanah, Georgia. Center stage there was a young blonde woman singing and shaking. There were two physical characteristics of that woman with which I will begin my search for my unique woman.

She was more than six feet tall with a gorgeous avalanche of lively, radiant, bouncing blonde hair flowing out from the ten-gallon straw hat she wore. Her shape was hidden behind her large bib overalls. The effect was enticing, because her large breasts, narrow waist and parts of her hips flashed creamy white skin through various openings in the overalls. Bare feet projected out of the long legs of the overalls.

I hope to use her as a framework for my uniquely exciting woman. If I can properly imbue her with unique characteristics, I might be able to write stories about her as a heroine or anti-heroine. I expect a challenge because of her unique size. Admittedly, it does give me an open opportunity to use her size to justify some of her unique characteristics. At the same time, it might go against my ability to make her sexy or intimately appealing. I will just have to start a story and let it lead me to answers.

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)

The Sheeny Man

October 10, 2017 Leave a comment

Sheeny man

In the 1950s, one could still see horse-drawn carts on the city streets. Some were the bread men, some were the ice men, some were the milk men, and some were the sheeny men. My sheeny man was Mr. Mintz, and his old horse was Annie.

I say he was my sheeny man because he was the only one I ever met or spoke with. Not too much speaking, of course, because I speak English and he spoke Yiddish. I worked on the weigh scale at a large scrap yard. Mr. Mintz came with Annie and the cart full of scrap about once a week.

It was not good scrap, in fact we’d really rather not have it. It usually consisted of old rusty bedsprings and tin oil cans. It cost more to have two men take it off the cart and throw it onto the scrap heap than it was worth. However, Mr. Mintz was a quiet, poor, religious man, so we accepted his scrap, doubled the weight and paid double the value.

One Friday afternoon, Mr. Mintz clopped through the scrap yard gate and positioned Annie so the wagon was on the scale. I weighed the wagon with the load and Mr. Mintz guided Annie to where two of the yard workers could drag the bedsprings, tin cans and rusty pieces of metal off of the cart and onto the scrap heap.

It was the end of my day at the yard. I weighed Mr. Mintz’s empty cart and subtracted the light weight from the loaded weight and paid for the difference. As usual, we cheated in Mr. Mintz’s favour and gave him double the value of his load. I realized that Mr. Mintz would be eager to get home before sundown, in time for the evening Sabbath prayers.

I left the office in time to see Annie and Mr. Mintz clopping along Carmody Street. I had always wondered what Mr. Mintz’s life might be like. Where does he keep his cart? Where does he keep Annie? On impulse, I decided to track Mr. Mintz to his lair. It was a mild evening, I was only 18, and Annie was slow. I could follow him on foot for as far as he was going.

I was surprised that it was barely six blocks to Mr. Mintz’s destination. At first, I was surprised that he went to Bellaire Boulevard, a wide residential street with large, elegant mansions on both sides. These mansions had long since ceased to be single family dwellings with servants. They are rooming houses, divided into small flats, but still, the boulevard is elegant, with old, large maple trees overhanging the street, casting cool shadows.

Annie crossed Bellaire and clopped past the street of mansions until she turned right into a back lane that ran behind the walled, mansion properties. Most of them had old sheds, garages, or parking areas accessible through the lane.

The horse stopped at a row of sheds, taller than the others around it. Mr. Mintz climbed down from the wagon and led Annie a bit farther on before he went to an overhead door in one of the sheds and had the horse back the wagon into the shed. With the wagon in the shed, and the horse outside, Mr. Mintz took the tack off of Annie and opened a swinging garage door to lead the horse into a spacious stall.

Mr. Mintz had seen me following him all along. He looked down the lane at me and waved me over. I stood near him as he saw to Annie’s bedding, grain and hay. She had an open window that looked out on the yard of the mansion beyond it. Mr. Mintz asked if I would like to see inside. Obviously, he perceived my fascination, and I jumped at the chance. He closed Annie’s shed and led me to a pedestrian doorway in the third shed.

One large room was neatly laid out and maintained. A small bathroom contained a toilet and old-fashioned bath tub on claw legs. A small kitchen area with a 4 element stove and small refrigerator covered a wall. A Formica counter carried a sink and dish drying rack, with a large window that looks out at the garden behind the mansion.

There was a full bookcase, but there was no television. An easy chair beside a reading lamp completed the room’s furnishings. I asked where he slept. He opened a door in the wall that faced Annie’s shed. There was a bed between Mr. Mintz’s shed and Annie’s shed. He said he liked to sleep close to her. Her body heat gave him comfort, and his presence gave Annie peace.

I walked back to my car, contemplating the life of Mr. Mintz, the Sheeny man. He was as happy and satisfied as anyone I ever met.

The Burden of a Creative Spirit

October 6, 2017 Leave a comment

One who is filled with the creative spirit is always alone. When driving to work or riding public transit, the creative spirit is working within the mind. The face of the old woman in her kerchief would be nice to sketch, one’s mind thinks. The kid with the striped beard might be from the city’s wealthiest family. He might have ostracized them because they did not believe in his yet-to-be-discovered talent. The creative mind is relentlessly working, painting pictures or writing stories.

Those creative spirits among us are in inevitable conflict with the surrounding community. That’s why ‘creative communities’ develop, where the eccentricities of bohemian personalities are a comfortable norm. That’s fine for those of us who reside in cities or towns where such a community exists, but what of those who lack access to like-minded companions.

An old woman on a remote farm might be developing some wonderful paintings. A young man in the military might be writing admirable short stories. Those people, in their inappropriate environments, are likely to be regarded by the community around them as ‘peculiar’, or at least ‘different’. The constant desire to experience things of all kinds keeps the creative spirit working within the creative person.

The secret inner life of the creative person is a mystery to the surrounding community. Often, I am presented with problems that need a creative solution. Over the decades, I have learned to trust my instincts and just execute the ideas that form within. I no longer worry that I might have missed the mark.

It is always a bit of a surprise to me that clients don’t think of the same idea on their own. On the contrary, they seem blown away by the idea that is simple and quick for me. I recall a time when I created an entire newspaper campaign in my head, while driving home from the meeting. I presented it to the client the next morning. It was approved and put into production.

Creativity is a mystery to everyone, including those with the creative spirit.