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The Burden of a Creative Spirit

September 12, 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.

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2 Books, 2 Authors, 2 Plum Trees

May 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.

Toole (top) – Larsson (bottom)

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07. THE LAND OF MILT AND HONEY

May 9, 2017 Leave a comment

Chapter 7

A courier delivered the invitation. Milton Korn took it from the old woman at the door, signed her pad, and opened the envelope. Honey Freed had enjoyed some creativity with her idea to invite Milton for dinner. The date was the following Friday evening. The invitation was made of a photograph of one of Milton’s best-known paintings. The text read, “The artist will appear in person, for a discussion of his future plans.”

Milton took a taxi to Honey’s apartment. The building was high on the side of a hill, with a view of the busy city, spread to the horizon. Her apartment was a small penthouse, with direct access to a small garden on top of the building that she cared for. A houseboy answered the door. He was perhaps 5’2” tall, a bit plump, and shockingly, an albino. It was not possible to discern his age, because his hair was white as was his skin, and his eyes were almost transparent, with a hint of pink.

He showed Milton through to the garden, where Honey was waiting, looking out over the city. Brightly lit bridges spanned the river, beyond which a multitude of buildings lined a complex network of streets.

“Honey,” said the albino. Honey turned and smiled broadly when she saw Milton. Milton was surprised when the man addressed her by name. A servant wouldn’t do that.

“Welcome to my nest,” said Honey. She strode to greet Milton. “This is my friend, Mitch. He’s my assistant.” Milton shook hands with Mitch, who went inside. Honey led Milton to a garden table that was set for two. They sat across from each other.

“I didn’t see much of your place, but it seems very comfortable,” said Milton.

“I’ll show you around after dinner,” she said. “What do you like to drink?”

“Coffee, thanks,” said Milton.

“Coffee, before a meal?” said Honey. “No aperitif?”

“No thanks. I don’t drink.”

“An artist who doesn’t drink,” said Honey. “That’s rare. Do you at least smoke grass?”

“Yes, I do. Do you?” said Milton.

“Would you like cappuccino?” said Honey. Milton agreed to have cappuccino. Honey pushed a button on the edge of the table, and said, “Two cappuccino, please, Mitch.” She released the button, and Mitch’s voice came back.

“I’m on it,” he said, cheerfully.

“You have a very nice life here, Honey. Why do you want to leave?” said Milton.

“I’m just ‘making do’ here, Milt,” said Honey. “Do you mind if I call you Milt?”

“No, it doesn’t matter,” said Milton. “Why leave here, when life is so nice?”

“We each have just one life, Milt. I want to live mine in my ideal way. Don’t you?”

“Alright, I’m with you, Hon. Do you mind if I call you Hon?” said Milton.

“Actually, yes, I do mind.”

“Okay, Honey. Call me Milt, I’ll call you Honey,” said Milton. “Now, let’s get down to business. Let’s see the paperwork on that wonderful piece of country.”

Honey went across the room, while Milton noticed her very attractive shape in the tight jeans she always wore. He was intimidated by the thought of being alone, in the country, with this beautiful, bright woman, living under the same roof with him. Time will tell.

Honey returned with a file folder full of papers, and an ashtray with two joints and a lighter in it.

 

(continued soon in 08.)     encourage authors – If you like this, please ‘LIKE’ it.

The Woman With Her Kite

April 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Sunday morning dawned sunny and warm. I went out to the porch with my coffee and sat to look at the old park across the road. Huge, ancient maple trees dotted the broad, grassy clearing in the centre. Further along, there were the high fences of the tennis courts, and a children’s play area.

I finished my coffee and took the empty mug into the small kitchen. When I went back to my chair on the porch, a woman had appeared in the park. She had a large kite, and she was trying to get it up into the morning breeze. She was too far away for me to see just what she looked like, but I could see that she was very tall and slim. She moved like she was an athlete or a dancer. I went down to the street and across to the park

I sat in the sun on a bench that faced the clear area where the woman was working with her big, red kite. She was getting frustrated. Frankly, so was I, watching her try repeatedly to get the kite to fly. It just flopped along on the grass, while the woman ran across the clearing in vain. I stood up and took a step toward the kite.

“Perhaps I can help,” I said.

“I don’t want no help,” she said, in what was almost a snarl. I stepped back and sat down again. I’m an average sized man, about five-foot-eight, and the woman was considerably taller than I am. I didn’t want to antagonize her. She looked tough and sounded tougher. I watched for a while longer as she helplessly laboured with her kite. After another half hour, she was clearly dejected as she walked over and sat on the other end of the bench.

“Would you like a cold drink, or coffee or something,” I said. She was sweating and breathing heavily. She looked at me with hard eyes. I could see, now that she was close, that she was perhaps in her thirties, and had suffered some hard times. Her face was attractive, although somewhat lined and stern.

“Coffee would be great,” she said, perking up a bit. He voice was softer, but still tough.

“I live just over there,” I said. “Bring your kite. You can sit and relax on the porch while I start up a fresh pot of coffee.” I strode briskly away to my place without looking back. Once on my porch, I glanced back to see that she had rolled up her kite string and was following me, with her large, red kite carried like a warrior’s shield in front of her. I decided to think of her as a warrior

I was setting up the coffee maker when I heard her behind me. She stood in the kitchen doorway and leaned on the door frame.

“Why did you offer to help me?” she said.

“Because you were trying so hard, and failing,” I said. “You were trying to do alone what is really a two person job.”

“Nobody has ever offered to help me before,” she said.

“What, to fly a kite?” I said. “How do you take your coffee?”

“Black,” she said. She went back to the porch. I followed soon after, with two mugs of black coffee. We sat together in silence for a while, until she turned to me.

“May I stay with you tonight?” she said. I didn’t expect that, and I was wary of the situation. The woman was a stranger; she was bigger than me, and in much better physical condition.

“Why?” I said.

“You might not believe this,” she said, “but your offer of help was something I’ve almost never heard before.”

“That’s difficult to believe,” I said.

“I’m not often around people like you,” she said. She looked into my eyes. “I want to see what it’s like to be held, gently.”

“You’re bigger than I am,” I said. “Do you think I can give you what you seek?”

She stayed the night. I taught her gentleness, with caresses and kisses in special places. I made us Eggs Benedict in the morning. We kissed goodbye, although I was uncomfortable that a woman had to bend down to kiss me. She left, and I’ve never seen her again. I don’t know her name, and she doesn’t know my name. However, the big, red kite is still here. Perhaps she’ll return for it someday.

THE LAND OF MILT AND HONEY – 2

April 8, 2017 Leave a comment

Chapter Two

          The night was warm and humid. Honey Freed had two more days of shooting her production in this town, and she was lonely for home. She had a tuna salad and a Perrier sent up to her room. She ate alone and watched television news. She went to bed at nine-thirty, but was unable to sleep. She tossed and turned a few times and became fed up with wasting her time in bed. She rose, dressed, and went out into the night for a walk.

There was a gentle mist in the air. The street lamps glowed with brilliant haloes that reflected in the street. She was unfamiliar with the small city, with no known place to visit. Without really planning it, she wandered toward the site where she had been shooting a scene. The lights were on in the Art Gallery Communicate, like a brilliant lure amid closed, darkened stores. Honey Freed, moth like, was drawn to the light.

Through the storefront window, she watched several people mount paintings on the white walls. All the paintings were obviously by Milton Korn. His style was unmistakable, although his subjects and his media varied. There appeared to be several large sculptures that were covered by sheets. A few smaller statues were being placed on pedestals.

Honey was eager to get inside and see each painting properly. She went to the door and tugged at it. It rattled, but did not open. The woman to whom Honey had spoken earlier in the day, came to the door. She waved off Honey, and spoke through the glass door.

“Come back tomorrow,” she said. “We’re closed now.”

“Would any of you like coffee, or something to eat?” Honey said. The woman inside turned, and said something to the others. Honey could see them look up, smile and nod. The woman turned back to Honey.

“It seems to be yes, thanks,” the woman said.

“I’ll be back in five minutes,” said Honey. She strode away purposefully, heading for an all-night donut shop she’d noticed on her walk.

Within five minutes, Honey returned with a boxed dozen assorted donuts, and a cardboard tray of coffees, some sugar envelopes, sweetener envelopes, and cream tubs. The owner let her in, and declared a coffee break. People took seats on the floor and on some chairs and chatted.

“Which of you is Milton Korn?” Honey asked. Milton said nothing, while all the other men pointed at him. “I am fascinated by your work,” she said. “I hope to get a break in my shooting schedule, so I can come to your vernissage.”

“Thank you,” Milt said. “What kind of shooting is it that you do?” Honey crossed the room to take a seat on the floor beside him.

Milton Korn fascinated honey. He was tall, lean, and good looking, in a tousled, unkempt way. Honey looked at his work, and back at the artist, and decided that she was going to know this man, very well.

All My Friends But One Have Died

March 29, 2017 Leave a comment

It’s something one is unlikely to think about until one is very old. The people and pets that have occupied your life begin to die off. Several pets pass during our lives because their life span is about 15 to 25 years. Cats, dogs, horses, fish and birds live a full life in fewer years than do us primates. I admit that I enjoy being older than most people, and I love the phrase I stole from Gloria Steinem: “Most people my age are dead.”

I suppose my condition will decline before I pass away, but for now, on the cusp of 80, I’m okay. I walk, I drive, I played with my Doberman until last week, when she died of old age, at twelve. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones who inherited good genes. It’s true that I take 16 pills a day, but in my defence, I never felt the need. Each medication came into my routine when doctors had me tested during annual examinations. One of Canada’s true blessings is the health care system. They apparently realize it will cost a lot less to strengthen the age-weakened than to let them fall apart and then have expensive care to keep them going.

So Joey died first, leaving a troubled wife with three young children. He was extremely, morbidly obese, and it killed him. I believe his food addiction was because he was only about 5 feet 4 inches tall, and might have led him to take on size in the wrong direction. We’d sometimes meet for lunch in a favourite deli. My bill would come to six or seven dollars – his bill would be about ten or twelve dollars. He once told me that when he had business lunch appointments, he’d go early, eat first, then eat again when the associates arrived. That’s not all. After the lunch meetings broke up, he’d stay and eat again, alone. He was a witty, humorous friend, and I did my best to get him to control his diet, but it was impossible, and he died at 44.

Mitch died next, at seventy. He had lived a tough guy life, had been convicted and jailed when a young man, for robbery and again for marijuana marketing. He was a wonderful, colourful guy whom I completely trusted. He had much higher moral standards than do many police personnel. His wife had died from cancer decades before. One of his sons turned out to be gay, and voluntarily disappeared from Mitch’s life. Very sad. His other son, however, is a fine, handsome man, married with children that thankfully Mitch got to know before he died. The son is a successful television writer and producer.

Dave died most recently. He was never quite right, emotionally. Although very intelligent, remarkably articulate and good-looking, he could never have a typical relationship with a girl. He liked girls, and they certainly liked him, but somehow, he couldn’t ‘feel’ the mutual emotion. Frankly, he enjoyed prostitutes, and felt friendly toward them. Obviously, they represented sex without emotional stress. He declined as he aged, as I heard when I lived in a distant city. He spent 10 years like a vegetable on his aged mother’s sofa. He had been a late life child. His two older brothers and one older sister didn’t sympathize with him, which is something I never understood.

The oldest brother took over the family business, a successful retail store in a priceless location. Jack Nicholson once shopped there for things to wear in “The Last Detail.” The eldest was really just golfing while letting the business die.

The second brother was a successful pharmacist with a thriving store. Both brothers were, bright, humorous storytellers, as was Dave. The sister was just cold. She had married a foreign hustler, lived with him in Rome, in luxurious accommodations while driving around the ancient city in a Lincoln Continental convertible. The hustler husband eventually got nailed and was jailed. His wife, the sister, came back to Canada and existed as an obese welfare recipient.

I had a hobby farm in the mountains when in my sixties. I kept horses there. Dave had always been a riding fan, and had even owned a horse and beautiful tack, saddle and all. I heard he was living on his mother’s sofa, so I got in touch with him and brought him out to the farm. I gave him simple chores in horse care, in which he’d been educated, and set out to restore him to normalcy. I kept him there for six years, paid him, housed him, got him his drivers’ license back, paid income taxes to gain him pensions.

Dave declined even at the farm, doing the work he dreamed of. Finally, I gave up and took him back to his oldest brother. I drove away and have no idea what happened after that. Somebody sent me an obituary on Dave. I’d never seen one like it. There was a big photo of him, smiling, in a suit jacket and shirt and tie. I’d never seen Dave dressed like that in thirty years. I’m baffled by where the photo came from, and why. Why was he dressed like that, and why had an emotionally challenged failure gained this final notoriety? I’ll never know, and I’ll always regret that I was unable to re-light his life.

My dearest friend is still very much alive. We live about 350 miles apart, and speak on the phone two or three times a day, sometimes for more than an hour. He’s 8 years younger than I am, at 72, and we share a tenuous connection that stretches back fifty years. He and I are the survivors. I will likely go before he does. Although my mother lived to 94, his grandfather lived to 109. He’s also very active. He plays tennis almost daily, and in winter, is a successful competitive snowboarder.

I’m much more sedate. In our day, we were both amateur race car drivers, and I’ve done a lot of wilderness camping. I even lived in a wilderness cabin for four years, lacking telephone lines, cell towers or Internet. It’s a pleasurable, all day job just to survive out there. Now, in my home in this small farm village, I just draw pictures, sculpt clay, paint canvas, and most of all, write stuff like this to relax.

I’d Prefer to be a Seagull

March 29, 2017 Leave a comment

When I was a kid, I used to stand out at the end of the pier in front of our cottage at Thunder Beach, on Georgian Bay. I’d stand with the wind at my back, so the seagulls could hover in front of me with the wind beneath their wings, so to speak. They’d line up in tiers, five or six levels high, dozens of wings gleaming in the summer sun.

I’d toss bits of bread up in the air to them. One golden beak after another would snap my gift out of the air and zoom off, while the next gull filled the space. It was a wonderful feeling, standing less than 3 feet from a soaring cloud of gorgeous birds.

They weren’t always soaring; sometimes they were walking on the beach. Waddling, actually, and picking up tiny edibles from time to time. Sometimes they were floating, comfortably bobbing over the waves. At will, they would rise from the surface and gracefully power themselves to… anywhere they want. They can literally go anywhere in the world. They can fly on a breeze, and if they’re tired they can sit on the water. If they want to avoid a storm, they can walk under a tree. If they’re hungry, they are capable of either scavenging or hunting. So, I’d Prefer to be a Seagull.

I’m a seagull on a weekend, walking along the beach at the foot of Toronto. Not only is this a lovely place, where people can stroll together on the boardwalk, but also, a law protects us seagulls. People can go to jail for hassling us. Cool, eh?

There’s a lot to eat along the boardwalk. People drop pieces of hot-dog bun, or a kid drops an ice-cream cone, and there we are, earning our keep. We pick up and consume the dropped things of others. When we’ve had enough, or some kids bother us, we just glide out to sit on the cool waters of Lake Ontario. The water’s clean, with things for us gulls to hunt, as well as scavenge.

The only thing wrong with the Toronto Beaches neighbourhood, which is gorgeous, by the way, is that winter comes to Toronto. It’s not serious, like Montreal or Buffalo, but it’s winter, and Lake Ontario freezes in places. I’d rather not stay by the city and live uncomfortably, even though there’s plenty to eat, even in winter.

I spread my broad, beautiful wings and lift off. I could go to Spain, or Australia, or anywhere. It’s no problem for me, the seagull. I can stop anytime, anyplace, to rest or eat. I think I’ll glide over to Malta for a few months. I’ll be “The Maltese Seagull.” Take care of yourself.