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Ephemeris  September 2011

 

Sept 30, 2011: Robert Johnson's Hellhound on My Trail (that I have begun playing after a fashion on the guitar) had the run of my brain, as I lay in bed, post-dream state. The lyrics, too, and never mind the apocalyptic tenor of the music, swirled about somewhat ominously, and I assumed they were part and parcel of the blues classic, until it hit me that, no, they must be Amanda J's, seeing as I had, the evening before, attended a poetry reading in which she featured. This fiction persisted a while, but that then, slowly - belated recognition scene - I began to know the lyrics for my own. They are part of a poem I have just completed—Oh well. Her truffles in Verona, Italy, her vichyssoise in New Orleans—And so forth and so on. And the day keeps remindin' me, there's a hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail—I blame the after-effect of the indifferent and probably lethal stout had at Hurley's, Crescent Street, for this muddle. The reading itself occurred at the Atwater Library, a venerable and endearing edifice. It was 'dear old' to Leonard Cohen, circa 1964. The last time I was there - a year and half or so ago - it set off a few lines of verse, no, an entire poem sequence that has yet to see the light of day or enjoy its five minutes of fame. A line or two in this sequence painted a portrait of the librarian as an endangered form of fauna and public intelligence as an equally endangered species of flora—Amanda Jernigan, in any case, showed herself to be a true poet - for any number of reasons, all quite genuine, but even 'true poets' write verse that, on later reflection, they would just as soon not have written, or at least not published. Perhaps, for a 'true poet' every poem - good, bad, downright ugly or indifferent - simply has to be written, but they need not be inflicted on the dear, old public—Even so, she chose not to read from that part of her book about which I have reservations, and she read, instead, from that part (with its Homeric allusions) which contains her exquisite Vessel poem—It was when the other reader on the evening's bill launched into what he characterized as a 'riff', a variation on a theme of, a divertissement of sorts, all to do with Rilke's famous poem Archaic Torso of Apollo, that my early warning systems began clanging and getting riotous. Sure enough, in due course, one of the age's major poems which it is of serious spiritual import was reduced to mere parlour cheese and titter. A bomb may as well have been set off. The usual and predictable CanLit predilection to misapprehend and mishandle and intentionally or otherwise cheapen and belittle—I was livid, if not homicidal. If the man thought he had hit upon a reason to satirize Rilke's poem, that would have been one thing, and if done right, it might have briefly enlivened a rather musty part of poetic discourse such as academics have around their spiritual water coolers; but no, I really do not believe the gentleman in question had any such intention, however much he desired to broaden our intellectual horizons. Howsomever, an evening of it ensued at Hurley's. It was all very convivial, spirited, pleasant enough despite the din of TVs and hockey and the hockey crowd. Amanda J suffered my palaver with grace and forbearance, so I thought. After midnight, and MH and I found ourselves marooned in the cold and rain at Vendôme station, waiting for this bus that was evidently enroute from Ulan Bator. A debate took place, one with metaphysical implications. Should we continue waiting for this mythical unicorn of a bus or walk a few paces over to the taxi rank and part with some pretty shekels and so, bypass our discomfort and arrive home at a civilized hour, no worse for wear? MH put it to me that a cab would be extravagant. We just blew 40 bucks on beer, or so I would remind the woman—At any rate, poor and humble and honest artists that we are, we were obliged to huddle so as to keep warm. She was all for that —

Sept 29, 2011: Morning. Nikas. My war with Alexandra the waitress continues. It is a war of sorts, one not so much to do with the acquisition of territory but how life in the territory shall be conducted. She hopes to wear me down through attrition - the radio, its decibels, the bad music. I hope to eventually annihilate the speaker on the wall with a mere withering glance—As I explained to someone recently, I cannot be asking her every day to please turn the volume down: we both weary of my hauteur, and each will accuse the other of pettiness. She believes her liking of the music renders her 'cool' in the eyes of her daughters who are very fashion-conscious. It only signifies that she is targetable and targeted. I am unable to conveniently forget that she has been moody and sullen since her father died suddenly - last spring, I think. Clearly, she regards me as some sort of effete snob, in any case. Clearly, Larry the software entrepreneur agrees with her, he who regards Eric Clapton as a god. Ah well, this is what one can say of the cheap seats, as per Tacitus relating how Vitellius came to his end after his brief lark as Roman emperor, 69 A.D., and I paraphrase: they loves to love you, they loves to hate you and c—p all over you when the worm turns—In other words, the hoi polloi. The mob. The masses. Who, no doubt, had, have and will always have their reasons. Tonight, I go to a poetry reading; it may or may not improve my mood. The blurb on the back of Amanda Jernigan's book of verse, Groundwork, Biblioasis, suggests that she is a messiah of sorts come to redeem Canadian poetry, if not poetry at large. I suppose the title of one of the book's sections on a theme of the Garden of Eden - First Principals - refers to the world's first worthies as opposed to, say, moral precepts or principles—Clever.

Sept 28, 2011: For many people, success is a kind of pinnacle that, once attained, and one has 'made it', releases them from any further Darwinian struggle to 'get somewhere', the rest of life a get out of jail card, a vacation, a hoot. In the writings of Tacitus success is not necessarily a boon: it inconveniences and complicates. It compromises character, bringing out the worst in people as they begin to believe they have powers and talents they did not have in the first place; as they begin to indulge themselves; as they find excuses for shabby behaviour that, in earlier days, they would not countenance in anyone else. Just thought I'd mention it. It was a Sandbaggers evening, last evening, and the girls found the episode entertaining; inasmuch as Burnside, their favourite man that they love to hate (and still find cute), got tripped up for a change in his own machinations - office politics. Labrosse's admiration was and is all for Wellingham, Permanent Undersecretary to Something or Other, master of events within and without. But this must be boring for you—Well then, afterwards, we went for our usual nightcap at 'bratwurst', and in a somewhat chilly breeze, descended into feeling autumnal on the terrasse, what with A about to take her leave of us for a certain city on the coast and its population of technocratic, raw fish-eating leprechauns. We have failed her. We have failed not only her but E as well, who, gadding about Montreal-NDG, is equally blind to her fate. And there then is the nub of tragedy - that no power on earth (not even a memory of hard knocks still rattling in the heads of wise, old men) can avert what it is this or that darling has in them to live out, however much progressive hubris dictates otherwise, such hubris having no truck with destiny and fate. In any case, apropos of nothing, I see that P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here, has been inserting a fair bit of literary allusion into his venting of late. Yesterday, it was Cervantes and the quixotic as a metaphor for the state of the union. Before that, as an expression for the recent passing of his wife, he quoted Tennyson, to wit: I sometimes hold it half a sin / To put in words the grief I feel - - - - The sad mechanic exercise, / Like dull narcotics, numbing pain—As I read these words I was, at the time, giving the gears to the Olson-Duncan-Creeley triumvirate of poets, and I said, "Aha, in a crunch, Carpenter elects for Tennyson, the Victorian hangover in him notwithstanding, and he cold-shoulders those others, those ayatollahs of the American mind—" Well, I was in a mood. I do aim to expend some words on Amanda Jerningan's just released book of verse entitled Groundwork, from Biblioasis; that is, once I can pick my way through the minefield of the language of praise relatively unscathed. The language of literary praise has become so hopelessly corrupt that I have become perhaps overly wary of saying anything good about anything. One might say I over-compensate. Really? Say what?—I will say, given the nature of the verse in the book - its craft and classical tenor - that the book's title strikes me at first blush as too neutral, too politic, so, as it were, morbidly Canadian, lest anything like genuine intelligence rear its unseemly head and declare itself for what it is - nothing more, nothing less. No doubt I could exchange this view for another, should what there is of the Canadian in me start exercising options—

Sept 27, 2011: There is a scene in The Shawshank Redemption that I always find dodgy. Dufresne, one of the prison inmates, has somehow gotten hold of the PA system while he is playing a recording of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro on a phonograph, his heart swelling up with bliss. The PA system, having picked up the music, brings the female voices of the 'duettino' to every part of the prison, including the exercise yard. And each inmate, without exception, it seems, is duly enraptured - irrespective of race and cultural background. For a brief moment, they are free; they are not caged. Is it possible? One would like to believe it so - that beauty is as universal as all that. Perhaps the Red Redding character, having already spent the better part of his life in this institution, is closest to the nub of things when he remarks, more or less, that one does not want to know what the words are saying: some things are just better left unsaid. And having said as much, he guides us past the Scylla and Charybdis of post-modernism—Last evening in Nikas, Labrosse observed that hockey season is upon us, and if there was anything serious to discuss it had best be discussed tout de suite. For instance, he was exercised by the news that the Dead Sea Scrolls have just been put on-line. He assumed that I have read them (as it would seem I have read everything). So then, what had I to say on the matter? Not much, truth to tell. Myself, I might have wished to discuss the burning of the Capitoline Temple in the year 69 A.D. This - according to Tacitus - was the greatest single disaster that ever befell the Roman empire. Which seems a stretch until one stops to consider that when it comes to gauging the health of a polity, it is the intangibles that count the most, not a record of troop movements; not a graph illustrating trade deficits or income distribution and such. In other words, consider 9/11. Or say the White House goes up in flames: would there not be a great many glassy-eyed Americans running around, even if government were to soldier on as per usual?—Be that as it may, it does not look like I am going to have this discussion any time soon, what with hockey and other matters pressing, say, DW's prediction that Current Prime Minister - his ducks almost all lined up - is about to take us all on a hard turn to the right. This prediction was delivered earlier in the day at 'bratwurst', MH in attendance. MH did not really know what DW got up to in the course of a working day, so he filled her in on this score. "I teach first graders," he said, "abused anglo first graders, abused in every sense of the word, and so forth and so on." MH: "That bad?" DW: "Oh God, yes." Next, some words on ADD by way of a description of 'comfort-structures' or mental constructs by which people might reassure themselves that everything that can be done has been done; in other words, label a child with ADD (attention deficit disorder), and there's one down and who knows how many more to go, the system overwhelmed. Next: MH complained of the mercenary aspect of art and how much she loathed it. How to stick a monetary value on a painting? By the square inch? I noted that it was ever thus, Vasari's Lives of the Artists being one of those innumerable books I apparently have read. DW: "And who rules the world? The square-inchers, of course." (But enough of this. Back to Nikas and Labrosse and David the trucker and Nick the waiter and A in the rear of the restaurant reading aloud to John, a legally blind man whose chief passion in life appears to be naval history. Alright then. And now we can return to 'bratwurst' for a nightcap—) Where A and E joined Labrosse and I along with A's roommate; and it was this roommate who observed that there is culinary symbiosis between Jews and Chinese, especially on holidays. Whence her authority on this matter? She speaks not only French and English, but Hebrew, as well, and she has just landed herself a job, cooking at Benny's up Decarie somewhere, around Queen Mary—And while this roommate had recourse to her electronic thingamajig, her discourse on pork and shellfish completed, A attempted to pay the 'bratwurst' proprietor Jamal for her beer with kisses. It seemed an inspired gambit. E informed me that she had finished reading my play in which she figures as a major character, and when I asked if she thought the play had any possibilities, she replied that, oh, she had not read the play as a play, but as gossip of a kind; she was most concerned with how much she was in character. Ditto for a few other stalwarts also in the play (two of whom are dead and gone and buried now). Well, there you go. This E sitting across from me at a picnic table on the 'bratwurst' terrasse - was she E in character with the E of real life, or was she Moonface in character with the Moonface of the play? A, entirely in character, then interjected that she liked her men sweaty and not at all deodorized. She announced she intends to move to Vancouver. She had been dreading breaking this news to Labrosse and me in particular, as she knows in what regard I hold Vancouver. Not very high. But hey, she is not getting any younger and she wants to make a play and have some sport before she becomes saddled with marriage, kids, et cetera and et cetera. Tequila-based concoctions, PC, cynicism and lots of fetish - this will be her lot for a while. A: "Uh huh. See? I told you—" Labrosse then chivalrously noted that he was jealous of her spirit of adventure, given that he is getting on and wants to stick close to home. Lastly, what music would I care to be listening to when they drop the bomb? A, for instance, just to spite me, no doubt, opted for Kenny Rogers. I draw the line at Kenny Rogers. E: "Oh no, Motown, to be sure." Received: one book of verse just out from Biblioasis by a certain Amanda Jernigan. There will be words here in respect to the poetry in coming days—

Sept 26, 2011: I had a listen, yesterday, to Baez singing The Great Silkie. It set off any number of recollections. Chief among which was my old coffeehouse days and my friendship with a woman whose rendering of the same song was the best I ever knew. For starters, her voice was 'purer' than Baez's - if 'purer' actually signifies anything. It was certainly less theatrical, however much Baez herself refrained from unduly 'emoting'. But rather than compare apples and oranges, I will just say that Kris Robinson's voice was perhaps better suited to the nature of the song - which is both unearthly and fatalistic. She had a prodigious memory for ballads: her working memory consisted of some three hundred of these ballad-epics each with their innumerable verses. With some prodding, she could bluff her way through yet another three hundred. I blame her for snagging me for poetry at my tender age of 16 or thereabouts, long before I was acquainted with that unholy triumvirate of Yeats, Eliot and Pound, and long before I walked away from an even less holy trinity of Olson, Duncan and Creeley - imperial boors, if savvy magi with slick podia and lots of Knowledge to distribute. Kris Robinson chose never to record, and she had had offers. Her voice had such uncanny power, it could literally levitate a roomful of transfixed people from their chairs as she scratched out her chords on the tiny old Washburn that was her 'lady'. A birth defect left her with a debit of two fingers for each claw-like hand. So that, as she stood before us, singing, the combination of the voice and the near klutzy, weirdly rollicking 'having at' the strings as she picked out the notes, I used to think of her as a guitar-playing crow with long red hair and the voice of a terrifying angel. Something akin to a siren or Lorelei. Her life was otherwise a perpetual shambles. Messy. A slew of kids, all but one of whom came into the world with the same birth defect. Lots of fathers, none of whom were bad sorts, just itinerant. I was often called upon in the years ensuing to extricate her from one jam or another, usually of a financial nature. But there were also the 'hangovers', or the emotional consequences of yet another break-up. On top of everything else, she also had to bear up to a form of diabetes, and we got used to the sight of her fainting in the middle of delivering a song. To be sure, she saw me through the odd rough patch. Unlike her, I lacked the courage 'not to publish'. She could easily have made a good deal of money on the strength of her voice, but she thought it a sin to sell out her undeniable gift to mercenary claims. In a fit of whimsy, she took herself off to the Orkneys (which is where the song The Great Silkie originates), and so far as I know she is still there, baking her bread in some ancient stone oven, folk music be d—mned. I also suspect that, deep down somewhere in her agonies, she figures she has had congress, as per the song, with some male of unearthly aspect, and she awaits his return. She was the only person I have ever known who could cause me to forget that, early on, I ceased to take Robert Graves and his White Goddess schtick seriously, though I will always respect his grasp of Roman history. Speaking of which, I continue on in Tacitus. The pretender Vitellius - consummate wishful thinker - nonetheless is somewhat sensible of the fact that Vespasian has gotten the upper hand in their contest for the Brass Ring, and that there is likely to be no good end to Vitellius's short-lived lark as Master of the Known World. Evening, and I wound up watching The Shawshank Redemption. Some critics deem it a 'great American movie', and perhaps it is. Good, bad or ugly, it is, however, quite watchable; one of my favourite scenes being the one in which the old lifer Brooks, about to be released back into society and dreading the prospect, bids his pet crow farewell that he has been feeding for God only knows how long. Shortly thereafter, Brooks attempts to cut the throat of a fellow inmate so as to garner himself another spell of incarceration, another stay in the only life that makes any sense to him. From our point of view, an ill-advised gambit. And yet, apart from all political considerations, one might conclude that sometimes there are better people to be found within prison walls than outside them. And one asked: how long would Jake the crow last, back in a real-world society of crows and having to feed itself?


Sept 25, 2011: I read the sentence a number of times, unable to get a handle on its full import. That it was all casual utterance masking terrible realities. Tacitus then: The imperial power was thus passing into new hands amid world-wide convulsions—Well, perhaps 'world-wide' was stretching truth a little—And somewhere in the picture that Tacitus dourly paints of the Roman universe in the year 69 A.D. is the fact of Vespasian and his generals, the generals riding his slipstream and fighting among themselves for who rated the best reward for services rendered. One wonders how much the historian exaggerated for effect and how much was true enough; how much was what is to be expected when one rolls out of bed in the morning—One wonders about Current President and his generals—Like herd animals informed by instinct, winter just around the corner, Labrosse, DW and I sat out on the 'bratwurst' terrasse, yesterday afternoon, for a last bit of foraging. Even MH joined us in this endeavour, though she may have wished she had not as, soon enough, Labrosse and DW began ragging on Catholic schools and their horrors of which they each had some first-hand experience, MH's experiences in that regard happier. Myself, I was given up to the thought that if the 50s - the years of Ike and golf and suburban kitchens - were characterized as spiritually and intellectually somnolent, despite the advent of the Beats, compared to what is currently on tap in this the second decade of the 21st century, the 50s were tantamount to a golden age. Despite the Beats, they wrote better poetry back then, and even some of the Beats had their moments—It was noted that our favourite 'rubbie' was just then making his way up the street opposite. DW: "That one? He's got a twinkle in his eye. Not like those others sitting around Drunkin' Donuts who are all fried—" Labrosse: "You never see him drunk—" MH: "Who are you talking about?" Sibum: "See him - the old fellow there - in the coat and oversized rubbers, all his worldly goods in those sacks he totes around?" MH, always thinking: "Maybe we should pick his brain for tips on how to survive in this city when you're not part of the consumer classes— " And so forth and so on. Later, MH and I wound up watching a movie, a sad lark of a thing entitled Georgie Girl. With Lynn Redgrave, Alan Bates, James Mason, and a formidable and young Charlotte Rampling stuck with the role of 'bitch'. I assumed I had seen it before but as it turned out, I had not, in fact, seen it; and I was struck by the bravura performances of all the players, the playful and wonderfully delivered dialogue; the candour with which certain dilemmas in the lives of the players were treated; and especially by how unapologetically Rampling, now that she had just brought a new-born into the world, rejected both it and anything remotely to do with motherhood. Disgusting concept. It might not have made her much of a human being (pleasure-seeking all she wanted from life), but there was no wibbly-wobbliness in her, either, of what she best ought to do; no political agenda with which to justify her selfishness—D—n if she was going to attend to that - that brat, to hell with the decencies—Deeply comical was a scene in which Mason, getting soused with his butler, weeps crocodile tears over the memory of his recently deceased wife, a woman for whom he had not one shred of love. Sibum: "A movie like this can't be made anymore. No one would know how." MH: "Yes. Remarkable, isn't it."


Sept 24, 2011: Believe me, I had every intention of committing the odd word to the notion that self-esteem for women is an industry. To be sure, remove this industry from the play of market forces and the economy would collapse in an instant. Said I to MH at supper, some TV ad in progress: "I think I'll revert back to being an outright male chauvinist pig." Indeed, I sat there, waiting for the inevitable retort, something along the lines of since when have you not been such? Eschewing the cheap shot, MH mildly enough opined that it was probably MCPs who had scripted the ads I find so offensive, just as she finds them very much off-putting. Then a dark suspicion or two led me to conjecture that it is women who dream up those ads, women hanging on to self-actualization by their gaga fingernails. Once again, MH refrained from the cheap shot she was thoroughly entitled to employ. Her silence indicated to me that I was either beyond redeeming or that the matter, in the last analysis, bores her. She is one of those terrifying persons who are easily bored—Also, (to judge by the concatenations of various human-interest sound-bytes one is pleased to suffer with one's local news), every second sentence that issues from the mouths of babes and those within striking distance of receiving their pension cheques irrespective of gender, smack of 'epiphany', the revelatory. It is all so absurd. It begs the question: does anyone take time off to just live and content oneself with the empirical - as in, eh voila, the leaves are beginning to turn, have you noticed? Because, do we truly need to know that a combination of social media and marathoning has engendered in the unprepossessing streets of Montreal-NDG a new religion, some brew of mysticism as compelling, apparently, as the Eleusinian rites of ancient days? Just that those darlings did not do nearer my God to thee in fancy running togs—In any case, I had intentions, but I wound up shooting pool at an obscenely late hour in Maz Bar. E had managed to obtain a ringer for herself in the person of a pedagogue cum musician who keeps Fellini hours as opposed to principessa hours; whereas my partner was distracted by the attentions of his sweetheart. Heretofore this woman had always struck me as a sober, serious-minded member of the architectural community; now she was only a love-sick puppy looking to drag her swain off to some puppy lair. So that my hour in the sun was quickly and mercilessly enough extinguished in short order (though my partner and I did fluke one triumph over and against an elderly and venerably wise Filipino who was blissfully drunk but who, unhappily, had to make do with a partner such as mistook himself for Minnesota Fats). Earlier, a Literary Thug of my acquaintance promised to provide me with boxing lessons, something I have always wanted to have and never got around to acquiring. At 'bratwurst' then, he related to me his own adventures in the 'manly' art, and, as he does write about the sport, he went on about the recent Mayweather-Ortiz bout that was so controversial. (You may, if you wish, switch over to the links page on this site where you can alight upon his BestBoxingBlog so as to get the sweet low-down on this matter.) London Lunar reports that he has lost any vestige of respect he might have had for Current President, given the man's apparent 'stances' in respect to the recent execution in the state of Georgia of a certain Mr Davis and the Palestinian bid for statehood, and given the fact that he wants a second term in office. It would appear then that, in London Lunar's mind, every once in a blue moon, principle ought to trump considerations of pragmatism. It is an argument I have been having for some time with a certain Mr Carpenter who writes political commentary on a daily basis to the south of here. He blames the present political crisis on the fact that people of all persuasions have been too slavishly devoted to their principles—"Principles?" I would answer, on the verge of stooping to a Cheap Shot—

Sept 23, 2011: The Americans, simply because they have made so many movies, no doubt have the honour of having made the worst of them. The odds favour the possibility. At least they did, until last night when, random occurrence - TV, and I was confronted with a travesty called The Lost Treasure of (Something or Other). For peculiarly Canadian reasons, it is truly awful, this made-for-television thing that must have gotten some financier or another a tax break and accorded a few actors and actresses a stipend of some duration; and perhaps there was economic trickle-down for Kamloops and Cache Creek in the whereabouts of which the travesty was filmed. A putative adventure flick. Semi-Indiana Jones. Very semi. A lost valley (canyon) in the southwest. Aztecs. Especially Aztecs who have a fetish for ripping the still-beating hearts out of the chests of their victims. A Quetzalcoatl cum bad-tempered beastie whom the priest-ridden tribe must humour with sacrifices, a deity that was quite likely googled by the scriptwriters so as to engage the flimsiest of concerns for plausibility. I am assuming it is a Canadian production. (The internet will not provide me a straight answer on this score, just that the TV guide advertises the movie as 'Canadian'.) The writing, the acting, the directing - beyond salvaging, beyond hope. Beastie sets about devouring our intrepid heroes one by one, but first the women of the crew must sort out gender politics before applying brain matter to the problem of overcoming a direct threat to their well-being. And the men must look deep into each their closets where all their inadequacies lurk, and the women might overlook a deficiency of Boy Scout training and other competency, given the circumstances, depending on how they are feeling in the morning and how much they are up to dealing with extra degrees of difficulty. And despite such an unpromising context for it, romance is not entirely out of the question, just that it is not going to transpire until a quite lengthy round of negotiations has run its course. It gets so bad that, as it turns out, the bitchiest of the lasses (her cohorts eventually make good their escape and return to civilization) winds up staying behind so as to get it on with some lusty young male thing of a throwback. As if the only reason she was a bitch in the first place was that she had not had decent sex in a million years—In other words, the only entities who get to enjoy a free pass from the burdens of PC are those who trade in the commodity in the first instance—If the people responsible for this excrescence were put in charge of running the world, we would all go mad from workshopped life strategies, from the inanities of 'correct behaviour'. Come to think of it, these people are in charge of running the world and it explains somewhat that we are all of us gone mad, hence my on-going sense of unreality—But enough said. Morning. Nikas. Enter Larry the software entrepreneur. It does not take long, and now he is saying that Clapton (Eric) is a god whereas I aver that the music of which we would speak - the blues - is no longer blues in his hands but a demolition derby. Then again, at least we two have a bone over which to contend, given that so much of what passes for 'popular culture' has little to do with culture and a great deal to do with market forces and bizarre political agendas. I say something to the extent that the separation of high art from the street has been fatal to both. It has been fatal to what used to be an exchange of idea, energy, enthusiasm, inspiration, the cliché in all this being how it was a 'composer' might hear a snatch of something in the street and how a milk man—But here, my interlocutor, putting me somewhat in mind of an unprepossessing minor industrialist, a factory-owner, say, of the 30s, fascism in the ascendancy, raises a hand, and the hand says: "I get your drift - I agree - but I need my coffee - man, do I ever need my coffee, and then, peace of mind, and then, hey, maybe we can do some Puccini—"

Sept. 22, 2011: Larry the software entrepreneur tells me he was just in Atlantic City. He lost twenty-eight bucks there. Can Atlantic City afford the likes of him - spiritually or otherwise? Alexandra the waitress here in Nikas will insist on that drivel morning radio serves up. I hear about a famous poet who has lost his zest for the hijinking that is life. Moreover, it turns out that local pot dealers had not in fact stolen the van of my correspondent in the vale (Eastern Townships). No, what happened: a nearby wedding party got out of hand. It was decided to perpetrate a lark on Miss J. Country living, eh? Perhaps I can chance upon an account of such in the verses of Tibullus. It has been decided that Current President shall get tough on Republicans. Not even Horace at his most droll could have bent a few dactyls bluesy enough with a view to highlighting such an unheard of political development. The other day, I turned a page in the novel Staying On and chanced upon The winds of march that make my heart a dancer, / The telephone that rings, but who's to answer? Why I thought these words T.S. Eliot's beats me, as these words, but of course, feature in a tune called These Foolish Things, the sort of tune that Nat King Cole aced not all that long ago, but in another universe. Perhaps what we have here is the beginnings of a campaign theme song—Great literature or no, it was a lovely page, this page sixty-eight, in which a woman named Minnie puts it to a fellow named Ibrahim on what it is that worries him, and he, in post-raj times, answers, Sadness of world. Myself, I have begun to write a new poem. Ought to have my mind examined. Alexandra's left heel maims a big black spider on the Nikas parquet and now it, in its attempt to perambulate, keeps spinning around on its remaining good pins. Most mornings I can take the overriding banality of the culture in stride. Other mornings, however—To Larry the software entrepreneur I say, as I am by now furious, Virgin Radio pretty much a bottomless slough of noxious bilge: "One of these days we ought to take pop culture so-called and shoot it, put it out of its money-grubbing misery—" "I hear you, brother," he responds. What, can he actually mean it? (The lengths to which some dears will go to humour a splenetic poet—) Life reduced to a sound-byte and a quiz, the radio's best foot forward is the sort of programming that is designed, no doubt, to keep the brains of office staff everywhere a soggy, sodden, malleable mess—

Sept 21, 2011: It was A, the little wretch, who noted that 'poontang' - as a word - is degrating (degrading) not to women but (to) human language (as well). I have not heard the word put through its paces in years, and I do not recall how it came up in the conversation, last evening, that followed upon a viewing of a Sandbagger episode, one in which Burnside idly muses over the advisability of 'taking out' a cabinet minister a la the yanks who presumably do this sort of thing on a regular basis. But back to poontang: A is right: it is a grotesque word the origin of which I am ignorant; and were I to 'google' the d—n thing I fear I would only invite to my computer screen a tsunami of junk mail and porn; and I doubt that the word is available for analysis at the local library that is, in any case, in dire straits, the last I heard. And what is poontang? I will leave that to your tender sensibilities for the sorting out—I do read, this morning, of a book that has just been released, one written by a certain Mr Susskind (as if on cue - this in respect to the post previous) in which it is asserted that Current President is a good luck bad luck kind of guy. The good luck is the fact of his presidency, given that he is black - in America. The bad luck lies in his choice of economic advisers most of whom have done him wrong, which is why the banks have gotten away with stealing the cheese while the middle class and the working class complete their vanishing acts. The implication is that Current President has by now dug himself such an enormous hole (into which he has pitched head first) that he may have quite a lot of trouble extricating himself in time for the next election. Also as if on cue, Mr P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, wrote yesterday of a president besieged, but that this president now has the moral high ground, and one may now speak of the politics of political 'release' as opposed to the politics of political restraint. But why bother with any of this? I certainly am no political thinker, the fact of which is often pointed out to me. Because 1) I am not a political thinker, and 2) I am not a political thinker. On the other hand it has been a considerable drama in and of itself - the nature of this presidency and its relations with any crisis you might care to mention. What happens to people who get a hold of the Brass Ring? A great many of them are rolled by the fact of the power they wield and they cave on principles. One wants to believe that Current President wishes to do right where he can— At 'bratwurst' then, doing ourselves right, we sat around - Labrosse, A, E and I. Sweater weather on the terrasse. E was certainly in high spirits, feeling herself resplendent in her new sky-blue tights. She had also just divested herself of an observation for the benefit of we oldsters - Labrosse and myself, to wit; that it must have been something, indeed, to have lost in the span of six years or so, to the assassin's bullet, a president, a presidential nominee, and a civil rights leader who was something of a visionary. (Labrosse did not reply but I grunted in the affirmative.) Then A went hyper, and here is why. It seems she has taken to moonlighting - for the extra shekels. A waitress-barmaid sort of sinecure at PJ's which it is a piss-up joint on the fringes of Montreal-NDG territory that has no member-nation status in the Security Council, and has little hope of attaining such—What got stuck in A's craw, amongst other travails that have beset her of late, was the fact that the management there had, for some reason or another, gone temporarily slipshod and there was a lack of tequila on the premises which it is a staple for the booze hounds who congregate in the place in their hordes; which made things awkward for A, to say the least; which resulted in various tables skipping out their tab; which put A on the negative side of the ledger when it came to tabulating whether or not she had actually arrived at profitability for her labours—But, said I: " My God, if you can't get satisfaction at PJ's, then we really are in trouble as a functioning civilization—" At which point, Labrosse having taken his leave and gotten his good night buss on the cheek, an elderly crazy man of a sudden materialized at another table, and there he was talking gibberish at E who, out of the kindness of her heart, with no hint of premeditation in the gesture to come, tossed the fellow a cigarette. An addled prophet sighed and cooed his pleasure—The attempt to translate Prophetic Vision, expressed in the language of poetic truth, into a metaphysical blue-print, expressed in the language of scientific truth, has two untoward effects. It forces us to direct our attention from what is essential and momentous in the poetic truth of Prophetic Vision to the trivial and intrinsically insoluble question of its relation to scientific truth; and it substitutes a provisional report for a timeless intuition. Even if we could succeed in translating poetic truth into scientific truth at the risk of robbing it of its meaning and value, our scientific formula would no sooner have been drafted than it would be already obsolete—Toynbee. Once again, an addled prophet sighed and cooed his plaisir. A sort of angel hummed in hymnal fashion. A little wretch contemplated her unlit cigarette which she has not smoked in over a month—

Sept 20, 2011: At one point in the HBO Rome series, second season, Mark Antony remarks that glory is all well and good, but life is enough. "Easy for him to say," a bottom-feeder might retort, "he's had his taste." I suppose I ought to reacquaint myself with Shakespeare's version of the man (which would have been partly Plutarch's). Even so, the production in question gives us an Antony who is more than just another action hero; Cleopatra, by the same token, is more than just an entrancing slut or frustrated suburbanite. In any case, it has been in my mind to suggest that one life is as rich or as threadbare as another; that a great deal of so-called happiness is entirely dependent on one's capacity for self-delusion; that few people are genuinely at peace with their lot irrespective of their station in the scheme of things, and so forth and so on. To say as much, of course, invites a host of clichés to come and drown one in truths and other potboilers of mind, including political potboilers; including American verses to do with keeping one's nose on the right side of one's fence—Well, empire obliges the high-born to strive, the low-born to scramble—But had Egypt ruined Mark Antony and his 'Roman' vigour, turned him into a clown, party animal and sex hound? Then again, he was always that, so it seems from the record. The record also hints that he was a less attractive figure than fiction would have him; but I suspect, record or no record, that he would have had little patience for stuffed shirts of the Roman persuasion - senators and policy wonks - as well as Egyptian eunuchs and the like; or that the niceties of the court - the decorum of the palace - would have induced in him something like claustrophobia. That he bore up must say something for the Egyptian queen. If women, boys and wine were all well enough, the point of life was the battle field. Hold that thought, as it is not far from there to a caricature of those unofficial militias such as lurk in the woods of America with modern weapons or with period pieces—Howsomever, the romantic in me, politics aside, would like to believe that Mark and Cleopatra did have quite a little time of it, a glorious and grand dalliance. You can't agree? Oh dear—I dimly recall from my readings in Byzantine history of the perpetual waxing and waning of territory which the state ruled or presumed to rule at any one time. Likewise the US, what with its extensive network of bases and clandestine missions here, there and everywhere. This state can drop a few billion (tax payer gleanings) on the making of what is virtually a minor megapolis (in Baghdad) and then walk away from it, no hard feelings, the game having slipped out of hand—In this way the immediate present comes to have the savour of old Penguin editions of, say, Polybius—It has perhaps become a commonplace to ask if Current President has signed on for these sorts of adventures or if he is simply powerless to object, should he have a mind to object. A writer such as Mr Hedges will claim that the man is a sell-out; the man even threw his own pastor to the media wolves. A writer such as Mr Carpenter will counter that Current President is a man of integrity; it is just that he has been undermined at every turn not only by the GOP but by operatives within his own party—I have been attempting a go at Sporting Life Blues. It was a staple once of certain blues men I worshiped back in the old days of the coffeehouse circuit, of wandering minstrels crisscrossing the continent against a backdrop of civil rights and Vietnam - all that; and these fellows, privileged whites to a man, had nonetheless managed to master this sort of material with respect and aplomb while eschewing massive infusions of guitar-testosterone and other malaises that came to make playing the blues a sick joke—

Sept 19, 2011: London Lunar tells me the bailiffs are out, their target the gypsies in the area. "They (the gypsies) are not a pretty lot, but theirs is a way of life, and it's going to disappear." And now, here in Nikas, Albanian Waitress with the Startling Eyes, says: "Oh, it's happening everywhere in Europe." Her tone of voice suggests that what is happening is a kind of zero tolerance or Arizona solution—Perhaps she was a liberal in her motherland. Perhaps her view of Canada is somewhat ironic, now that certain notions she might have entertained in respect to the place have been squeezed by reality. Perhaps. What has she seen of Indian reserves? I was happening by 'bratwurst' yesterday morning on my way for groceries when a fire truck pulled up there. 'First Responders'. A reason for some concern. On my return, I saw that an ambulance was carting someone or other away. "Bratwurst' kitchen staff then indicated to me that it was Jamal the owner who had been carted away. Later, his daughter told me that 'internal bleeding' was the cause. Ulcers then? The immigrant experience? Jamal about to sign a new lease, under some pressure to close earlier in the evening? (The noise factor - to which I myself have contributed now and then.) Jamal about to renovate the premises? He and Flora seem to have taken over the raising of their daughter's newborn, the father having abdicated. For all that, Peter MacFarlane's runt of a tree directly across the street in front of the liquor store is doing well, this year. Past years, and it had been touch and go, Peter - a runt of a man himself - ensconced on the 'bratwurst' terrasse and exhorting the thing to get a grip and flourish, he shaking his cane at it. Old school. Peter, as has been noted in early posts on this site, is no longer with us, ex-pat Brit around whom I built something resembling a novel, some new form of such, however inadvertent —Now what immediately follows is not likely to interest you much - it is not something that keeps me up at nights - but, grab your socks: The Second Battle of Cremona, a la Tacitus. And in Tacitus's account of the affair and the subsequent sack of the town - it had been quite a prosperous little burg given to hosting fairs, just as this burg hosts conventioneers and other hopefuls - one is reminded that one's own kind - fellow Romans in this case - are quite likely to come off even more vicious and rapacious than the so-called barbarian that everyone fears— Labrosse invited me to avail myself of an interview in the Globe and Mail, that yuppie rag in which review section not a few poets look in vain for their names to appear. Be that as it may, the interviewed featured an ex-prime minister of Canada and how he would save the world economy. Well, by coming to its rescue. There you go. In one fell swoop—To be sure, the man probably knows whereof he speaks. Yes, and here is the Albanian waitress with the startling eyes working in a restaurant perhaps solely because she has a degree in architecture. And there is her husband working in another restaurant who has a degree in electronic engineering. The world economy. There are dues to pay. There are certain friends of theirs who are 'racists' in regards to gypsies. The way things are going there will be lots of dues to pay, lots of gypsies to go around, bailiffs having plenty to do—My correspondent out in the 'vale' (Eastern Townships) informs me that her van was stolen over the weekend - right out from under her nose. The cops told her they believe this bit of thievery is directly related to the local pot trade, the van an ideal vehicle for moving wares about. The world economy, such as it is. I watched, courtesy of the HBO Rome series, second season, the Octavian-Mark Antony showdown that was a long time coming, and, fiction though it be, there might well have been such an event as led to Mark Antony's removal to Egypt where Cleopatra had  plans for him. The question arises: Mark Antony was something of a pleasure-seeking brute who disliked stuffed shirts and had no apparent interest in micro-managing the affairs of Average Citizen, whereas Octavian (soon to be Augustus Casear) certainly did have such an interest - so then, who between them was the greater arsehole? Antony, in my estimation, was unlikely to believe that one could legislate sex and spiritual intangibles—And then one idly watches some silly spate of sci-fi whilst idly plunking on the guitar, Tacitus in the back of one's mind; and one wonders with whom the the weight and full tilt of history most lies: with the likes of a dour and disillusioned chronicler of corruption in high places or with some screenwriter who larks himself to sleep at night with ideas of how to best overturn the physical order to which all earthly life owes fealty, never mind aliens. Enter Irish harpy and retinue - husband and world-weary son. Some days, and I do not know which order cherishes them most as their most prized savants, but it does seem that for them talk of the Emmys is a legitimate breakfast club occupation, however much it bores the living crap out of each

Sept 18, 2011: They are what I call 'Rachmaninoff specials', those movies the orchestral scores of which go ludicrously and oppressively heavy on the piano. (I mean no disrespect to the aforementioned composer and piano-virtuoso; the movies were none of his doing.) Lana Turner features in some of those flicks, she who always looks better than she has any right to look - to the point of absurdity; to whom men are always saying ridiculous things - of a soulful cum romantic nature. Even so, and despite the fact that at one time in my life I would not have credited her with much - that she was but one of the high priestesses of all that is shallow in American life; and despite the fact of how she was directed and made use of as cinematic raw material, I found, last evening (the movie come across by chance) that I liked her. She as 'Madame X' put me in mind of some of her other performances, none perhaps of the highest thespian quality, but that something genuine came through now and then; something that indicated she was not a stuffy human being in her off-camera life; did not keep principessa hours and pretend to be 'real' on some Charlie Rose Show; and she even had range, if 'range' it is that allows for both the suburban perfect housewife and the floozy cantina drunk to riff a la Shakespeare with immortal dialogue. I know nothing of the woman's life story, and have no desire to know it; no craven urge to 'google' the subject and so, expand my horizons and discover for the nth time how it is enlightenment just rolls on forever: all it requires are restless keyboard fingers that have no need of a siesta. Lana Turner may have been an utter creep, for all I know. No matter. Otherwise, I have stalled out in a couple of novels I mean to finish up: Paul Scott's Staying On and Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter. Looking more neglected by the day where it gestures hypnotically at me from its resting place is Andersonville. I am duty-bound to read this opus and have been avoiding the labour, as I expect it to be relentlessly grim, as if Solzhenitsyn were to swallow a jarful of 'unhappy pills' and then decide to take on the American civil war for a writerly project. I have elected to waltz about with Tacitus—I am also attempting to cobble together the various sections of John Fahey's When the Springtime Comes Again, a lovely guitar piece; and I cannot, for the life of me, fathom how he meant the first section to be played and so, I am reduced to faking it, the other sections straightforward enough. I wonder how often this sort of faking it occurs on the concert circuit? I forsook Labrosse and DW yesterday at 'bratwurst' so as to have a civilized supper with MH. I had been at table with these two friends of mine while in a somewhat heavy-hearted mood. Terrasse season is winding down, reason enough for the mood, the chill in the air quite distinct. There was also this: that DW is aghast at the prospect of a Perry presidency, the odds for which ought to be mired in the negative, and they are not; and they are improving by the hour. It is, in any case, shaping up to be a close race no matter who the GOP will eventually insert into the contest, and it looks like, in those states where the Republicans run things, they will avail themselves of some proverbial fancy footwork and do gerrymandering. It could make for an even closer race—Every once in a while I get a signal from London Lunar to the effect that I have gone overboard with my apprehension of this, that and the other, and that I risk coming off American-o-centric - is that a word? - in everything I think and do. Well, am I not a Citizen of the World? Things are likely worse in Britain where there are security cameras everywhere you look; where the politics are just as shabby; where the PC (the sort of PC that does nothing but engender more rightwing loons) is even more egregious; where the economy is probably in even a more precarious state. Et cetera and so forth and so on. And London Lunar happily soldiers on—I have no idea why, but it runs very deep this 'grief' for something that is barely more than an abstraction to me; that is a 'country' that no longer even exists; not to mention this apprehension for something that is quite unknown, or the future. Moreover, I am not a political animal, so much so, that in the 60s and 70s when every breath one drew was 'political', I chafed mightily against such assertions: they only proved, in the end, to prefigure the PC and 'lifestyle' extravaganzas that overtook us; that ended thought in a category of how best get through a day.

Sept 17, 2011: London Lunar puts it to me: Are you becoming a guitar bore? What is it about men who hide behind guitars? The cheek. What impudence. Such signal lack of comprehension of one of life's great pleasures. That he plays guitar with all the finesse of a charging moose is no reason for me to second-guess my attempt to reacquaint myself with the instrument—Oh I suppose he means well—Morning. Nikas. Alexandra is back on the floor, returned from her month-long sojourn in Greece. She is freshly tanned. She looks pensive. Perhaps it is shock. In light of which, yesterday, I noted something new in the commentaries of PM Carpenter, the fellow whom I frequently refer to as Distinguished Political Commentator to the South of Here. Generally, while making his canny observations and shrewd guesses in respect to the 'scene' (and now and then his gift for satire and outright ridicule threatens to unhinge his otherwise, how shall I say it, professional's demeanor), his syntactical hijinks are just that - highly playful - to the point that I sometimes lose the sense of what he has to say. But yesterday? What was this? Lincolnesque gravity? Such sobriety of tone. No posturing. A genuine sense of imminence. And what is imminent can be safely characterized as nothing pleasant. No doubt the recent passing away of his wife contributes to this new note as well as the deepening political crisis such as will have repercussions world-wide; and yet, when I queried him on it, he responded that it was most likely the 'sedatives'. Now here is a man whistling in a graveyard. I continue reading Tacitus and re-viewing the HBO Rome series, second season. MH, however, could not be bothered with Cicero's death agony, his executioner Pullo admiring Cicero's peaches just beginning to ripen on the tree; his ponce of a slave ludicrously attempting to take on Pullo in a fight so as to protect the life of the master he reveres—Be it a fiction or not, few men were ever dispatched as courteously as was Cicero, even if his severed hands were nailed to the door of the Roman senate house. And I suppose something like symmetry was put through its paces when Brutus dies of multiple sword thrusts at Phillippi, given that his had been the last pile-on hack at the body of J Caesar back in Rome—The record has it that Brutus, down to four legions, committed suicide in the hills and cursed Mark Antony while he went about doing so—The battle sequence was not all that convincing, in my estimation, but what was driven home was how it was the world was truly changed now, Octavian well on his way to becoming Augustus Caesar. And Mark Antony, savouring the smell of victory - blood, s—t and rotting flesh - was, nonetheless, well on his way to his doom.—Note: the links page on this site provides a link to Mr Carpenter's commentaries. I understand that it is a convenience, that it is one of the great features of web-site perusal, but I dislike reading through web articles that sport a 'link' after every other comma, an aesthetic quibble and so, for the most part, I refrain from employing them. I delude myself that I am still writing for the 'page'—

Sept 16, 2011: Tacitus cared about the Roman state. But on the face of it, to say as much is not saying much. And for those of you scratching your heads - who's this Tacitus guy? - he was a fellow who wrote history. His was not a decline and fall, strictly speaking, but an examination of how it is people behave when the exercise of power has become not only corrupt but whimsical. He was something of a prig, this Tacitus, and now and then his class prejudice peeps through his relentless adding up of the motives of, say, a Galba or a Tiberius, and the mindless 'masses', as it were, the plebs in the street, only seem to complicate rather than help matters. Extra degrees of difficulty. But then, that is what a state is for in theory - the accommodation of want and need. Tacitus might write that the state could not survive the fact of both Otho and Vitellius - a pair of would-be Caesars - within a single year. It is a little like saying that the American state could not withstand eight years of Bush and that it will very likely give up what remains of its ghost should a Perry presidency come about. Writing of the second battle of Cremona, the forces of Vitellius and Vespasian having a go at one another, the civil war in continuance, Tacitus relates how it was a son inadvertently applied a mortal wound to his father, each fighting unaware of the other on the opposite side. But recognizing his father, horrified now, the son stops everything, begs his father's forgiveness, and when his father dies, the fighting still going full tilt around him, he buries his dad right then and there. A typical Tacitean flourish ensues: With these words, he took up the body, dug a grave, and discharged his last duty to his father. Some nearby troops noticed this, then more and more; and so throughout the lines ran a current of wonder and complaint, and men cursed this cruellest of all wars. However, this did not stop them killing and robbing relatives, kinsmen and brothers: they said to each other that a crime had been done - and in the same breath did it themselves. Eh voila, ain't it the truth—Socrates, God bless him, had it wrong: knowledge does not necessarily make for a better human nature—Me, I have arrived at a first: I have done up a little piece for the guitar. I call it Pessimistic Blues. I make mention of it because a handful of readers of these posts are going to get mirthful as they read these words. They may even go so far as to chuckle. I dreamed I was presented with an essay to edit, one written by a certain London Lunar. The editing went smoothly enough, but it did not come about without accompanying dread: London Lunar would eventually have to see the result. Must he? Was there not some way of removing his sorry carcass from the picture? The dream had no bright ideas. So much for dreams. Morning. Nikas. Larry the software entrepreneur and I might pool resources and buy the restaurant and turn it into an old fart's leisure club. It would serve breakfasts and feature dancing girls and a well-stocked library and wine cellar, too, among other broad thoroughfares to bad habits. And well, why not? Since no one nature or state either is or is thought the best for all, neither do all pursue the same pleasure; yet all pursue pleasure. And perhaps they actually pursue not the pleasure they think they pursue nor that which they would say they pursue, but the same pleasure; for all things have by nature something divine in them—Aristotle, and what was in the bottle. Last night, Labrosse and E had themselves a beer at 'bratwurst' at the conclusion of E's Nikas shift. I however contented myself with a re-viewing of the HBO Rome series, second season, and was reminded of its excellence. Once again, I was struck by the portrayals of Mark Antony and Brutus and Cicero and even Octavian (he characterized as something of a prig and a policy wonk. And what does one get when one joins a policy wonk to absolute power? One gets Augustus Caesar, if not Ronald Reagan.) As for the epic pique Atia and Servilia conducted between themselves, it may not have resulted in much by way of collateral damage but it was every bit as vicious as any horseplay between the men folk.  (It might be worth noting that Atia's portrait is not drawn from anything that resembles the historical record.) Now Larry the software entrepreneur is clowning around. He parodies a rap performer. He has just eaten the best toast he has eaten all day. Oh, and he has won the lottery, he says. He will loan Eddie the owner-cook a hundred grand so that Eddie the owner-cook can go down and take over the running of Cooba, or Cuba to you. This then is the beating heart of Montreal-NDG. Such droll gladiators—

Sept 15, 2011: It was another Sandbaggers evening, last evening. The episode in question explored the notion of loyalty, especially that of the 'boss' in respect to his subordinates. That it is a two-way street. That one cannot ask for that which one cannot supply in turn. I am told that loyalty, as such, no longer exists in our mercenary age. Afterwards, to 'bratwurst' where Labrosse lit into E in a little matter of her diffidence regarding her French studies. How does she expect to acquire excellence if she does not avail herself of every opportunity to discourse and otherwise kick the can around in his mother tongue? Labrosse was adamant; E was taken aback; and I was a little alarmed. E is lazy, to be sure, but, all my suspicions aside, that she is guilty of living an out and out fantasy life - this is something else again. From 'bratwurst' to Maz Bar (Labrosse having retired from the fray), which it is a hellhole. And it reeked of depressed bar maids and video poker and funny tobacco and perhaps there was 'crushed ritalin' about, or the poor man's cocaine. We sat outside in relative safety, and launched into a discussion of 'art'; and her tender sensibilities notwithstanding, I gave vent to my prevailing sense that it is finished; at least that which art officialdom considers art is finished, the Titanic going down. They want 'concept' Somehow, to their way of thinking, 'concept' is what gives bang for the buck. I would just like to see a little poetry in art. I know the odd painter or two capable of such poetry but they do not get any respect, and do not expect to receive any for a long time to come —We switched to politics, the American strain of the virulence, and it was mutually noted that Current President is, by the hour, losing credibility and regard; that he has very likely become a creature, not of state so much, but of a mentality that lurks behind the scenes that wishes no alterations to the status quo and has not wished for any since - since when? Korea? Vietnam? The man is very likely in hock to any number of Wizards of Ozzes. To E's digs situated above the guitar shop one of the proprietors of which is a guitar snob, something of a jerk, but no matter. On the back porch, sweatered up against the chill, we discussed more art and how it is I wonder if I am not losing heart; that though I have always been a pessimist, the fact that I would preoccupy myself so much with the writing of verse good, bad or indifferent, did speak to faith of a kind and hope of a kind, not for myself necessarily, but for the idea of what it is that makes life worth living: civilization in the better sense—That I seem have done a pratfall, falling into music. Music as a refuge. As protective colouration—That I do not know if this is healthy—E said she wanted to write. She blushed. I retorted, "Well, write then. Just do it. Every day. No exceptions. No excuses. No exceptions. You can't sit around waiting to become gifted." And then to more generalized talk in respect to where things might be headed. Such silliness on my part, I know. As, who can know where things are headed? Who can anticipate how they will react to this or that kettle of fish? Options, they are always saying. Options being one of those words that persons still deluded enough to believe they can control things like to spew and spout and sputter forth. I made mention of the fact that I once spent some time hobnobbing with retired McGill U professors in Westmount coffee shops but that I found their company boring; that I much preferred Labrosse's company: he has at least seen the real world or the business parts of it up close—He also takes a great deal of pride in the fact of Quebec's 'social revolution'; he is an optimist. E remarked that Quebec feminists were, to her mind, of a different order than your average every day feminists elsewhere, given to what extent the church used to lean on the minutest of the minutiae of female existence, and so forth and so on. And then, as if to refute Labrosse's charge that she is indifferent or irresolute in respect to the French language, she began an ad hoc paraphrasing of an essay she just read, one written by one of those Quebec feminists; but that it was no diatribe against the inadequate sex. In English then, a rather intricate meditation began to take shape on how one might derive pleasure from this particular time of year that is no longer summer but not quite winter. At the finish of which expatiation I said, "Good God, girl, maybe there's something of a poet in you, after all."

Sept 14, 2011: What follows is one for the 'It Beats Me Department'; or that I have just read that Gertrude Stein, the American writer and champion of Picasso, was perhaps a closet Nazi, an admirer of Hitler and in cosy with the so-called Vichy Regime. Well I never—Can it possibly be true? I might have enjoyed the chit-chat of her Paris salon, and the wine and the cheese, but I am not an enthusiast of her work - it always gave me claustrophobia and the sensation that there was no oxygen to breathe. But to understand - what? - to understand - I do not know what there is to understand - that she, a feminist, a lesbian, too, was a sucker for a uniform? And then there was Ezra and there was William Butler - they had their pin-up, their Mussolini. We are, I believe, headed for such times again when it will be easy enough to be taken in by the promise of the Strong Hand over the petty criminalities and sleazy vulgarities of Chaos, so I ought not condemn the aforementioned luminaries by the criteria of the present hour, even if it is on the verge of knuckling under to madness. We have had the boon (until comparatively recently) of a semi-functioning democracy in which, for the most part, any contender for the Brass Ring who claims he or she can make the trains run on time is not necessarily a monster. I suppose I can overlook Ms Stein's political confusion, if not her writing, whereas in respect to Mr Pound and Mr Yeats, I have other difficulties. For instance, if, between the two of them, they wrote some of the best poetry in the language ever, how could they have been so blind to the Fascists and their lethal twaddle? On the other hand, it has been possible to loathe Eisenhower for being Ike, and then turn on a dime and revere the same man for having rendered up the speech of a lifetime on a theme of the evils of the military-industrial complex—Morning. Nikas. Larry the software entrepreneur is breaking in a new waiter. Larry the software entrepreneur likes the idea of trains running on time. The intimidated waiter scurries about, the proverbial chicken sans head. Enter Irish harpy. With retinue. Retinue consists of one mild-mannered husband endlessly patient or endlessly insensible. Irish harpy likes a uniform. Likes a clear and simple program. Hang the bastards. We have been reared and more less suborned to adhere to a certain principle, or that law trumps the whims of men. Law is not going to save us. Law, after all, is a product of the whims of men, some of which whims were and are excellent. But whims, by their very nature, can be conveniently dispatched to nether realms far from the light of day and never head from again. Even in Montreal-NDG which itself may constitute a nether realm west of Decarie, by the looks of it on some days—

Sept 13, 2011: Certain matters have come to light that I am not at liberty to discuss. One such items involves - in broad strokes - the nature of happiness; how it is beautiful and intelligent people can come to grief for no other reason than that they age and life exacts its dues by way of attrition. So you didn't marry. And all your props, one by one, have been removed—The other item has to do with poetry as a social endeavour irrespective of the fact that it is a solitary pursuit. Or else Homer's epics are, after all, products of decision by committee, such as were followed by wine and cheese parties at which certain darlings of one kind or another put their best foot forward for five minutes at a time. That is to say, they read; not only that, they iambed aloud, and audiences swooned —Otherwise I could talk European banking crisis to my heart's content. As if I knew all the ins and outs of subprime this and subprime that. The climate then? Colony collapse? There was some excitement in Montreal-NDG yesterday, the police having given chase to a trio of inept bank robbers who crashed their car just a couple of blocks away and then resumed their lark on foot. Apparently guns were much in evidence, the fact of which, five will get you ten, failed to make much of a dent in any number of on-going interior monologues as are also in evidence on our noble boulevard at any time of day—Eddie, one of the two owner-cooks of Nikas, just now reports that he wants to wind up on the news as one of the good guys who has saved the day. I cannot ascertain whether his tongue in his cheek. If it is not, then where is it? In the soup? The Albanian waitress with the startling eyes has no clue, she dancing a tarantella with a mop. (I have just quoted one of my own poems that came to pass in another lifetime independent of committees and anthologies that take the Long View.) You may glean from my wisecracks that I have not much respect for the poem-making species. Well - yes and no—It is my contention that 'poetry' as such ought to own the age in which it happens to find itself and not be owned by it. Another way of saying it is that poets ought not mimic the behaviour of Wall Street brokers and corporate fat cats; that poetry, like government, is not a business model—And yet, though you would be hard-pressed to find a poet who can make a living from his or her work, there are plenty of bureaucrats who do collect wages from 'poetry', some of whom are able to vacation in the south of France—

Sept 12, 2011: Morning. Nikas. It smells like rain. It is going to rain. It will, of course, rain at some point—For all that, George is back from a month's long sojourn in his motherland, or Greece, he being one of the two owner-cooks of this restaurant, his passion football - the European kind. I am sure he often imagines himself delivering the perfectly struck curling pass that results in a goal - yes, especially when he is standing over the grill, frying up Larry's spuds and bangers—Larry the software entrepreneur is just now either entertaining a client or browbeating one of his employees, Larry having imparted to the notion of entertainment broad parameters—He spends a lot of time in the U.S. Business, you know. The first John Fahey album I ever purchased was entitled Dance of Death & Other Plantation Favorites. Earlier this morning on the guitar, I had a go at his Dance of Death, a little tune that haunted me in my twenties. It is perhaps a strange sensibility, this amalgam of Tacitus and John Fahey that I harbour in some off the beaten track portion of my brain, but there it is; and it inhabits my silence like a lone blues note—I do feel myself going silent to some extent, no poem on the horizon, all the horrors ascendant. In light of which, I understand that the wife of PM Carpenter, political commentator of note to the south of here, died the other day. I never met her, let alone laid eyes on her. My communications with Mr Carpenter were restricted to an intermittent exchange of electronic missives generally brief and sardonic in nature, and yet, by way of them, it was obvious he was deeply in love with the woman he married and that her sickness was partly what motivated his politics - health care, and he was not just whistling to hear himself whistle. He was delighted to see that his daughter was not only reading, but enjoying Shakespeare - at age eleven. Unheard of. In any case, something tugged at me when I received the news of this death, and I do not know why. Otherwise, MH and I had ourselves a beer yesterday at 'bratwurst', a fine afternoon in progress, a great many women about outlandishly garbed in exotic shoes and hats. I remarked to MH, and it is to be hoped I will not wear out the epithet over the course of time, that it sure is getting Fellini-esque around here; and for once, she agreed; and I was not just a poet succumbing to hyperbole. Even so, I was dangerously close to getting philosophical about stuff, and she would only have wrinkled her nose in disdain. I am not ignorant that the ultimate conclusion to be drawn from true and perfect philosophy is that we need not philosophise—from Leopardi's Timander and Eleander. I do suspect that the ghost of Leopardi wrote the liner notes for Fahey's album jackets—Later, MH and I watched a movie on TV with Tommy Lee Jones in it, a thing called In The Valley of Elah. It is not a great movie but it is not a write-off, either. It has to do with soldiers going bad. It has to do with soldiers going bad in a culture going bad. It has to do with soldiers going bad in a culture going bad in a country perhaps gone bad—

Sept 11, 2011: I pick up the guitar and cannot seem to put it down. There are bloody stumps where once unassuming, workaday fingers used to go about their business—I am attempting to expand my repertoire of John Fahey compositions with On the Sunny Side of the Ocean, Stomping Tonight on The Pennsylvania-Alabama Border and divers other tunes. It is September 11th, an anniversary of sorts. Nothing has changed since the birthing of the death of the republic. The best and worst of humanity on offer - but I am not going to pile on. Just that one horror has led to countless others and still there is no coming up for air—Perhaps I will write a poem again, though it is the guitar that is getting me some respect of late. Perhaps I will sit at 'bratwurst' and nurse a beer and palaver with friends whilst we watch the September hornets buzz about. Even if DW loathes pigeons I will toss a certain bird the odd peanut or two. The one who has a nest at the back of the sign above our heads knows I am good for it. "Be kind to the pigeons," I said to DW yesterday, "there may come a time when we may have to eat them." DW: "Let's eat them now - let's foie gras the hell out of them—" Unaccountably, as he has an opinion on everything, Labrosse had no opinion on this matter. He was content to complain of the autumnal bite in the air, his sweater distressingly thin. At one point in the proceedings a tall and very anxious looking, mournful-eyed woman, passing by, was keen to show off her infant to Labrosse; to which skeptical face peeping out from a swaddling blanket Labrosse cooed the appropriate sounds. Labrosse, in the aftermath: "Recently I started speaking to that woman in the elevator. She lives in my building. My impression is it's the only conversation she gets. I don't think there's a father in the picture. She talks to me now at every available opportunity. She used to cycle as a sport. Olympic quality—" Some people will worry a source of kindness like a puppy will a shoe—Even so - The pleasure of the eye is the beginning of love—Aristotle. And there is something to be said for the pleasure of the ear—

Sept 9, 2011: The feud that always is and never was has passed: a summer's squall line. And A patted my back and and I patted hers, amity occurring there in the evening dark on the 'bratwurst' terrasse, Mr J Daniels in evidence in modest measures, Current President's jobs speech a thing, too, of the past; not that it could have hoped to engineer a miracle cure for what ails the body-politic, or that it will insist on electing idiots to offices high and low—P.M. Carpenter, one of the more distinguished political commentators to the south of here, suggests that should Perry bag the nomination, it will be a great day, a hallelujah day, a day to sing praises to unsuspected deities, a day to flood all American ambience with hosannahs, as the fact of the man will hasten the discreditation of the loony right and force the GOP, if there is an GOP extant, to reconsider who and what is electable in their behalf. I have seen boys who in a similar manner would convince themselves that a certain girl really loves them and not the jerk who is patting her bottom—Yesterday afternoon, again at 'bratwurst', as I sat with Labrosse and heard out his brain wave - or that I should go and 'interview' the soul of Quebec, a certain Gilles Vigneault and write him up, I came near experiencing an epiphany such as I experienced once before. Yes, in that same spot at a similar time of year. A fine day of sunshine, no humidity. The street busy but not hysterically so, the Schopenhauer in me wise enough to pretend that the Bitburger is nectar of a kind. The girls going by. Smug women. Greying men in their inner agonies, the ambitions of their heart of hearts thwarted, and it is too late now—One sees this writ large on the unguarded countenances of those who are scolding themselves in the light of day—About the only sincerity left in life that does not cloy or cause one's eyes to roll over—The epiphany then. It had been equal parts laughter and tears and uncomplicated gratitude for the insane beauty of it all. And while Labrosse made his case, and as I watched my Fellini girl (who, more likely than not, is a burned-out ex-junkie having unaccountably stumbled upon a last efflorescence as a sex goddess, and she is inimitable, what with her signature high-heeled sandals and wide-brimmed hat, her shoulders thrown back) pacing back and forth between Drunkin Donuts and the SAQ, cell phone clapped to her ear, a new epiphany threatened to take hold of yours truly; and I suspected myself of being too greedy. In any case I have been attempting new Fahey tunes. Requiem for John Hurt. Uncloudy Day. Steel Guitar Rag. Sail Away Ladies. Fahey's arrangement of Sea of Love. And Beverly, a lovely blues composition, an assemblage of different blues styles each set in a different rhythm, and yet, each segment flows as easily as kiss my hand one from the other. Fahey had a knack for arranging—I had meant to include in the post previous to this some remarks made by my Vale Perkins correspondent out in the Townships to the effect that there is something different, this year, in the ceremonies and reconsiderations to do with 9-11, and I believe she is right on this score. Some belated acknowledgment of the fact that a wrong turn, a wrong course set, and—But I have no desire to hector and preach, nor did she. Too busy stuffing pickles in jars—

Sept 8, 2011: So who, or rather, what is Vitellius? Tacitus describes him as making his triumphal entry into Rome in the company of assorted low-life - clowns, jugglers, dancers, perhaps the odd versifier or two, and whores, no doubt, of all genders; an 'unwieldy mob' of the aforementioned plus slaves and all the retainers of the officer class—Tacitus now and then, like a ghost in a haunted house, lurks between his sentences as something of a prig, something of a snob—Vitellius, in any case, was one of the pretenders caught up in the roiling waters of a situation, that year of the 'four emperors'; the Julio-Claudian 'house' a thing of the past, the Flavian dynasty not yet installed. Who wished Vitellius success and long life? Who wished him the worst? And there, there is 'history'—And who, or rather what, is Rick Perry - you know, the Texan? Yet another one, by gum. Ah, a Contender for the Brass Ring, one whose clown spots root for and cheer on the loony right; that champion the Somewhat Unscripted, as Scripted, of course, is Respectability; just that, as Andrew Jackson had it once upon a time in America's deep past, such respectability is very often a cloaking device for hypocrites and slitherers and the otherwise contemptible - and, let's go and round us up some redskins - let's claim the land—Morning, Nikas. The Albanian waitress, she of the startling eyes, was late to work, and she is tearing around, seeing to things. Still, one can impart to her a witticism of a kind and she will come to a tearing full-stop, stand there before one, and, hands on hips, giggle away - and from her heart, too; she is not just humouring a sleazy customer—It is gratifying, somehow—It was a Sandbaggers night, last evening, the latest episode of the old British spy series devoted to questions of moral - as opposed to institutional - responsibility. Personal 'initiative' in contradistinction to a smoothly operating chain of command or - 'decision by committee'—That it was the hey day of the Cold War may or may not have anything to do with what the word moral may or may not signify. Labrosse chuckled throughout episode, he an old hand at 'dilemma' and 'crisis' in a category of 'covering one's arse'. E was in receipt of something like a revelation as she oh deared this and oh deared that. Her friend, new to the proceedings, thought it all so much chit-chat, or that she was merely seeing in miniature what is writ large in the office where she is employed; where, presumably, she routinely terrorizes staff and overlords. A was AWOL, as she is in a state of feud, and her interlocutor in this feud is me, I, myself, and she has her reasons, to be sure, and I have mine. E however mildly put it to me that A, though she is, to be sure, in a state of feud, was also in a state of physio, given her rugby battles and so, here was the cause that had brought on the effect of being delinquent. Like I said: morning. Nikas. I sit here, scribbling in a notebook. We are, it seems, in election mode. What sort of year will it be, this spate of time that separates the immediate moment from a moment of truth in November, 2012? A year all kabuki and nothing but? Is 'democracy' as such still democracy as such, enough so that one is allowed to help choose which implement as will most expeditiously bring off one's spiritual suicide? For, no question, democracy as such remains the best and worst of stratagems; that it makes provision for the clearest thinking on any matter of X,Y and Z; that it provides ample scope for the most delusional of delusions—Enter Irish harpy and that baggage train of husband and son and fair weather friend as attend to her most mornings here at the oasis—I rest my case.

Sept 7, 2011: A Literary Thug of my acquaintance has now attained semi-respectability, and in the interests of semi-accurate characterization I can no longer refer to him as thuggish. So, The Moesian it is. Or have I already written this up in a previous post? Can't recall, but if I have done so, then apologies. However the other Literary Thug of my acquaintance, though he is an earnest father; though he trucks with solid, common sense notions when it comes to the education of the young whom he believes are being badly short-changed by their educators, will continue to be represented as thuggish, unless some parliamentary committee or another should happen to give him a dingle and ask that he form a task force by which to deal with the farce that is 'education'—Fat chance—Otherwise, we had an evening of it, last night, kicking the political can around, a can that, at first, featured the name of Current President, which brought on a discussion of his travails; but which soon enough gave way to Canadian luminaries. Rae and Broadbent came to light, Trudeau, of course, Mulroney, Mackenzie King, Laurier, Bouchard, Blaikie, Dave Barrett (of what were some glory days once upon a time - BC). And then a query: who is Harper, really? Ah, Avenging Angel who wishes to decimate the Libs and all traces of their party redounding to the fact that the Libs have ever been a reality in this, shall we say, nation-state that, according to a Literary Thug of my acquaintance, is less a country and more an economic arrangement. I scored a sentimental point or two when I suggested that the NDP should always have confined itself to opposition: more honour in honest opposition than in forming the government through the avails of mediocrity as would have got it elected. "Government is not a business model," said MH. This got her a point or two, as well. "But," said the Sole Remaining Literary Thug east of the Kootenays (to the west of which are hyperborean phantasms known only to the odd explorer or three) "Trudeau did fan the flames, and west and east do not meet - not in these parts. A besetting problem." We briefly touched on literary matters, and I produced a four page document redolent with observations that London Lunar had written down in respect to those matters. I read out a few choice passages to general approval; and it was wondered why London Lunar chose not to have the document made public, and I said, "Well, that's Lunar." As if I had just explained how it is a black hole behaves, bending light—We ended the evening on an open-ended note; to wit, we would meet again soon and continue a more in-depth discussion of the American and British literatures and how the Canadians figure in relation to each. American literature is Literary Thug's main love, whereas for myself, though there is much in that literature I dearly love, I have grown disenchanted with its more recent products. I cannot account for it, except that it seems to me that American writing has lost something of its balance; has been too much inside what it believes is its American-ness; it is as if every feature of the writings of Mark Twain were being aggressively appropriated and pushed to an improbable aesthetic extreme—The Moesian was noticeably quiet, his thoughts perhaps percolating at some deep level of consciousness and not yet ready for the light of day. Or else the wine had gotten the better of him. Or else he thought me a flake—Earlier I had accompanied him to the porch when he would smoke a cigarette and I would have a fleeting puff of the evil - for one epicurean reason or another, and I made mention of the fact (besides conversing, we had watched a few minutes of a Frontline special TV presentation that reprised events leading up to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq) - I remarked that the past ten years have been, in retrospect, more a dream than anything actually lived; but that, of course, those years were not a dream: we did not imagine our visceral loathing of the Bush-Cheney Brigade and its double-time march into infamy. I said that when, over the years, I have read accounts and histories of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia and Fascist Italy and so forth, I would wonder what it would have been like to have lived in those places at those times. Silly question because - one, why ask for such trouble? - and two, reflect back on the past ten years so much closer to home, and one has had a real enough inkling—Not the one thousand dollar dinner plate campaign contribution to history's Full Monty, but an inkling—And how many inklings does it take before one finds oneself on the broad river of a nightmare reality? But this difficulty in distinguishing, to the satisfaction of one's intellect and senses, between life and dream - is it not an instance of the dragon beginning to devour its own tail, given that the dragon here in question serves as metaphor for both life and the history of that life - or the dream, if you will? Row row row your boat gently down the stream—My interlocutor blinked. What sort of clown did he have on his hands? Was there an escape route conveniently located - just in case this odd duck gets dangerous? Yes, and does one say O-ray-tor or Oar-A-Tore? As in the one who orates? He is semi-respectable now, the Moesian—By chance I have come across a few remarks that John Fahey, guitarist-composer, uttered in times past, one of which remarks bespoke his loathing of folkies; how the music of his heroes - delta bluesmen - was not meant to be an occasion for ological necromancy and the like - it was meant to be danced to, pure and simple—Just that I have committed the very sin he railed against, that of having imbued his music with mystical qualities—I have been no better than those nuts who go on about Wagner—And so, when I am muddling my way through the playing of Springtime in Azalea City, I am, as it were, partaking of a mystery—

Sept 6, 2011: Silver-haired Labrosse, man of the business world, of the Trudeau-Lévesque generation, contends that we are, in fact, in crisis. It is not necessarily the economy, though the 'economy', as such, is a sick puppy. The crisis, he says, is political, and he has the American scene in mind, that scene which has the potential to affect us even here in Montreal-NDG, which it is a neighborhood not unlike neighbourhoods in Bhutto or in Fellini's imaginary Roma. Just kidding. But Current President, so Labrosse put it to me, last evening in Nikas, Nick the waiter sporting his Cuban tan, must stake out a position vis a vis jobs, vis a vis the middle and working classes, and stick to it, even if it means electoral defeat for him and his party, or else the body-politic is going to have more reason to believe it has been hijacked and sidelined, rendered irrelevant, and the Palins will have more funny oxygen to breathe—I am reading, and perhaps you are, too, that technology - whatever that word signifies - I keep seeing chimpanzees noodling with sticks - is not only destroying the book trade but the notion of 'book' itself as well as that of 'authorship' - that unsavoury, unholy business (but then, without 'authorship' post-modernists would not have Shakespeare to kick around); and it may be also affecting how it is we read - to the point of destroying 'reading'. The argument that would counter all of the above is 'enthusiasm'. Or that enthusiasm sells books, sells authors, no matter the lie of the land, no matter corrupt reviewing practices. Stuffs flowers in the barrels of guns. Well, I never. Just that enthusiasm for Verlaine did not cause me to read Verlaine at age twelve; rather it was this voracious desire to read everything that was at hand - from comics to Plato and much else in between; and I read, and I read, and I read—And I still read, though with a much warier eye, and through drugstore lenses. Even so, I have yet to meet among young writers a similar appetite for 'reading'; they have such busy lives, I am told, and reading is so - what - so much been there, done that. In any case, I have been reading in Tacitus's The Histories an account of the 'first battle of Cremona' which had the effect of clearing the field for Vitellius at the expense of Otho, two rivals for Head of Empire, in the wings Vespasian who would soon enough prevail and take home all the marbles. But as I am reading the particulars (my third time through in the last couple of years, no car chases anywhere in the prose), my attention does drift, and drifting, it sidles sideways to Libya and Libyan oil; to Iraq again and the cover-ups - how it is the yankee brass knew that its grunts were quite capable of breaking down the doors of houses and shooting up whatever moved inside them - for the hell of it; to how it is 'rendition' got to be big business, so much so companies sue other companies for unfair business doings; to how it is we must needs take a nuanced view of the business of torture; to how it is the ruling classes are going to get more nervous about things - they have got their billions - whence, then, the source of their insecurity? - and well, there will be blood; and finally, though she cannot act her way out of a paper bag, I always find a certain actress sexy, if only because she has about herself the air of a woman who can only do seduction for so long before the giggles overtake her. Is it such an awful thing to say? (And were I to publish her name I would never hear the end of it from certain parties) But back to Tacitus— A few were buried by kith and kin, but the vast majority of the dead remained lying where they had fallen—This after a coolly dry and understated account of things—And then - what - a ' literary effect'? And though Tacitus has nothing to do with, say, union-busting in Wisconsin; or with whether or not your average Greek has oodles and oodles of cash-flow, albeit cash-flow of an underground economy aspect, the government busted, I continue to read the man over and above contemporary historians because contemporary history writing is so often turgid, so often weighed down with its research, and it never ventures to hazard the likes of the following, or that: It is harder for a man to observe moderation in success when he thinks he will not enjoy it long—Symes and Braudel (and they are not even, strictly speaking, contemporary) are two among the few moderns whose history writing keeps me wanting to keep my eye clapped to the page—

Sept 5, 2011: I remarked to Labrosse at 'bratwurst' yesterday, as we sat there in between squall lines, that the American poor had best starting selling their babies as appetizers to the one per centers, as per an ancient suggestion of Jonathan Swift in regards to the Irish once upon an economic crisis. Labrosse did not blink an eye, assuming, as he did, that I was not all that inventive and so, must be 'referencing' some entity or another. "Yes," he said, "there's a squeeze play in play—" Labrosse, hockey man to the core, nonetheless is familiar enough with baseball— Morning. Nikas. The waitress with the startling eyes swabs tables with a cloth while a pop singer pules on the radio. It is one of those voices that believes itself to be the centre of the universe, what with the pain of self-love - or is it that the girl has a perpetually ingrown toenail? You are acquainted with such voices, I trust? I have begun reading Staying On. It is a novel about the Brits in India, post-Raj. It is a very droll novel about the Brits in India which I am enjoying so far, and I expect it will lean heavily on the Comedy of Life at the expense of the Evils of Imperialism. In other words, it seems the novel is no closet diatribe—London Lunar is hungover, and in light of this fact, cannot be expected to contribute much to today's palaver. But I can tell you that he goes hard against the notion that poets ought to conduct themselves as 'best in show', as performers then, popularity bearing some relation to lack of substance. On the other hand, why bore to the point of excruciating discomfort? One conceivable response to the above is that true poetry, real poetry, no matter the merit or lack of merit in a poet's delivery, does not bore—

Sept 4, 2011: MH suggests it was the post-war boom that made it possible for so many artists to more or less simultaneously have at 'art' this past half century or so; but that it is over and done with and is not likely to be repeated, not as some case in point, at any rate, for future ologists to quantify and classify and generally fie on it all. Oh, and I remember when the CBC was the best little broadcaster in the western world; when it did not lack for culture but did not put on airs. Then it got yuppified, which means there must have been power lunches and strategizing and such; and now, so as to justify the immediately above, and forestall the tax-payer getting wroth, the commuter-drive home is lubricated with some overly clever, oily-voiced male-bimbo enabler of one's little enbubbled, enjello'd existence. (I happily enough admit that 'yuppified' is a word that says everything while defining nothing.) Meanwhile, I keep telling London Lunar, even as he does not care to hear it, that he is the genuine article of an author, as he has, count 'em, verifiable book sales, even if the sales are less than what might be considered respectable - which puts the kibosh on the prospects for the next book - what publisher would risk it; whereas I am just a clown with no sales to speak of. Moreover I am clown who fools with poetry that has no niche and will have none, ever; and I would even be more so the clown were I to expect people to give a toss for this miserable little fact, but I do not expect anyone anywhere to give a toss and so, I do not hang about with arts committees; as it is, I no longer even bother to write the poetry stuff for other poets or even friends, which it is the great levelling criticism that has long been brought to bear against 'modernism' - that it has been nothing more than poets drivelling for other poets. I simply write so as to hear perhaps a slice of my own self-doubt in the grand echo chamber of my own head. It is rather like the drowning swimmer who re-emerges into the air now and then before eventually subsiding altogether. And you want to be a writer? Cool. I despise writers who sit around and strategize and plot and scheme for cachet, for market exposure and such, for what was once characterized as fame and fortune, as when Dr Johnson remarked that only a blockhead would write for any other reason (clown - blockhead - I rest my case), and yet, who can blame those rather anal types who perpetually obsess over items of which they deem themselves to have insufficient portions - you know, fame and fortune? To say that I write for the love of writing only tells you how ridiculous I have been, or that I talked myself into such a shabby rationale in the first place—And then to consider aesthetics? Who can afford aesthetics, let alone render up a discussion of them? So I am sitting around yesterday afternoon, minding my own business, when I get a phone call, and it is Someone I Know who is in Nikas with Someone Else I Also Know; and they have blundered into the district from their own tonier district for to play the new Steinways at the piano shop across the street. Would I come see them? Well, why not? They are stalwarts of a kind. So I go see them, and in a trice, before you can say Bob's your uncle, or, is that spittle on your lower lip? we are on about doom. As the one interlocutor is American and the other is semi-American, and what with me being what - a clown with transplanted spots - it is soon apparent that Current President is political toast, and the economy will belly up inside of a year, two at most; and, and—And here it comes, one of life's most inviolate truths: that when it comes to doom scenarios, and even though the underlying dynamics of said scenarios are all pretty much the same, one prefers the doom of one's own fancy—At which point, Labrosse blundered in, but from within his own neighbourhood, or Montreal-NDG where the brave and the Fellini-esque band together - here and there, like a house on fire; and he would soon enough suggest that there will be no doom, just a long slog until, one fine day, eh voila, and we have sustainable growth or some such animal back from the brink of extinction. As if the state of money is the only reality. And perhaps it is. Well, you just might find me busking at a metro stop one of these halcyon days, yes, to make my simple ends meet, me banging away at 'Desperate Man Blues', and at my age, which is unseemly. But now, let us now count the ways that shall bring us, if not doom, than a new flavour of muddling through. Yes, here it is a culture of quicker than instant (instant being far too slow) gratification. Here it is a culture of diminishing attention-spans, so much so, we will hit on ways of going without it. At last, no more poetry readings. What took so long? But then, how will this loss of attention-span affect sex life, given that it has been a point of order that some nominal attention be paid to the needs and wants of one's bedmate? Oh, I figure some bright person somewhere along the line will finesse a way to eliminate the middle man or the middle lass in this regard - as has already happened, in any case, in some instances); and well, you can glean your own conclusions from that great diaspora that is the life of the mind, and et cetera. So that we are headed for a spectacle comprised of the shadows of shadows of shadows performing mummery for no one in particular and calling it meaningful existence. In other words we have long since passed the point where the breath one draws is anything more than a parody of the breath what was previously taken in—

Sept 3, 2011: Tacitus, in his history writing, now and then devotes sentences to prodigies and portents and strange doings. I am unable to say - as I cannot get on the blower and ask the man - whether he believed statues of Roman VIPs were, of their own volition, animated, enough so that they could turn their heads and look west instead of east; whether oxen could speak; whether pigs could fly. Perhaps he was attempting to amuse himself, to break the monotony of the stranglehold that political corruption and doom had on the tale he had to tell. The corollary in our day to his penchant for prodigies is our appetite for conspiracies, the most prominent of which has been the talking up of what really went down when the trade towers in New York collapsed from the impact of the jet liners. I confess to a lack of interest in physics and chemistry such as would explain that no army of operatives could have had a hand in the destruction of the real estate in question as well as what intangibles remained to the spiritual life of a republic, beyond the fact of the airplanes themselves. What interests me a great deal more is the extent to which Bush-Cheney and the rest of the aggregate were simply par for the course, if somewhat incompetent, in their hour, or whether they were anomalous, on the order of a freak show. (As if anything in the history of American politics and political discourse has not been all too often a freak show—) Nothing I have read on this score satisfies me; but that everything I have read only increases my sense of unease that worse is in the offing—Tacitus somewhere opines that belief in 'prodigies' coincide with times when 'men are afraid'. So too with conspiracies, one imagines. There are plenty of dark shenanigans on the go at any one time without having to pile on with loony tunes—Nor am I making a pitch for reason, which it is that 'reason' has got us into not a few pretty passes that we currently have the benefit of—I have it mind to write a poem, a mock-eulogy of one Tigellinus from the addled mind of a cultist of the current hour, one whose mind is part satellite-dish, part egghead, part fetishist of the antique with a dash of Norman Bates. But - who was Tigellinus? Well, he was a vicious high-roller in the Roman world whose rise coincided with that of Caligula (though Caligula had him banished for hankypanky, or that they both enjoyed the favours of the same woman, that woman being one of Caligula's sisters). In any case, Tigellinus managed to survive a few Caesars, including Nero whom he 'coached' in vice; only that, at last, Otho - for reasons of state - cornered him and obliged him, in the end, to apply a razor to his throat. The point of the poem would be this: that one, in our day, does not associate mediocrity with high octane villainy, with the panache and stomach to commit outrages - that this is behaviour one attributes to 'unusual or exceptional people' however misguided. I suggest otherwise. Mediocrity, as such, has as much intestinal fortitude as any other kick at the can; is as subject to evolutionary  pressures as any other form of life, such as the obligation to survive; and God only knows that the shelf-life of an obscure if excellent book of verse has been rendered as nebulous as that of a mayfly, whereas bestsellers are - what? - bestsellers—Perhaps Tigellinus's most notable victim was Petronius Arbiter, courtier and poet-novelist, a force for political good, no hack he. Yes, this sort of thing does not escape my notice, for whatever my 'notice' is worth; how a man like Tigellinus was probably intelligent enough to recognize Petronius's true worth and so, all the more reason to preempt and 'do him in' or, at the very least, incommode. One phenomenon, among others, to observe in nature is that of darlings who have no conception whatsoever that they are not only predators, they are assassins and murderers and whatnot. Quite astounding, to be sure—Morning. Nikas. The Albanian waitress, the one with the startling eyes, wonders if I will write something nice about her. She is a dear, but she has, I believe, a husband, and he works in the kitchen—She is a woman caught up in the tumult of a world changing on the fly, as it were, the one little straw that she grasps, besides the straw of family, being that straw which boasts the name of Mozart and assorted culture. She has much in common with E, the Sudbury creation, who also works shifts at Nikas; who has also an abiding interest in culture, even that culture which CBC has not yet succeeded in despoiling—But is she willing to die for art? Life in Tirana, life in Montreal-NDG - from one point of view it is arguable that there is not much that is different between them: you get born, you putz about, you die. On the other hand, there is every difference, and the Albanian waitress sees people all too often in the restaurant who perhaps take too much of what they have for granted. What does E see? I find that I lack sufficient moral courage at this instant with which to address the question—Good fortune will elevate even petty minds and give them the appearance of a certain greatness and stateliness, as from their high place they look down upon the world—Plutarch. Or that guy from whom Shakespeare got a lot of his life of mind—


Sept 2, 2011: Yes, London Lunar perhaps has a point - however miraculous his having a point might seem - when he says that if one can no longer partake of the 'divine' it does not necessarily follow that there is no 'divine'. He was speaking, by way of an analogy, to the problem of the poet who, for one reason or another, no longer has a poem in him but who is still every molecule of him a poet; whose temperament, passion and critical acumen are remain geared - not to prose but to another order of language altogether. Which is to say there really is such a thing as poetry out there, however much the evidence might stack up to the contrary—Oh well. So it goes. And if Libya had no oil? (For all that, an argument might be made that suggests that the Libyan Average Joe may get more out of the 'Arab Spring' than any other Arab; may find his or her lot improve once the hash of Colonel G is settled one way or another.) Yes, and then, given the political winds that are blowing about everywhere, extreme segue: what is a good man? A good woman, for that matter? So then, just for the hell of it - Tacitus, by way of an idle observation, and in light of unstable times: Success probes a man's character more keenly. Men put up with bad times, but prosperity spoils us—Meaning what? That getting to coast through life is not living life at all? —Nero will always be missed by the riffraff. It is your task and mine to see to it he is not missed by good men as well—The words immediately above are also those of Tacitus such as he puts in the mouth of Galba to direct at Piso in The Histories, Rome staring at the abyss, things getting pretty hairy, Nero having been checkmated and forced to die like an artist—And Nero, in this instance, a very loose instance, to be sure, puts me in mind of a certain American politician-cum-cautionary-tale who was once known as The Decider and about whom it was conjectured that he managed to do a lot coasting, and then, ah, a mission reared up in front of him, and a mission was duly accomplished—Yesterday there was an unplanned for meeting of the minds at 'bratwurst' - Labrosse, DW and I. DW was quick off the mark: "China, you know. China wants and China has got Africa. A lot of China's population is expendable. But not all of it. So, too, with the U.S. of A., but for different reasons—" Sibum: "Yes, it can't even do imperialism anymore— " DW: "Like you say, it can't even do imperialism anymore. But it can still make executive decisions and tell So-and-So, 'Guess what, you don't count any longer and we don't care. If you have to live in a cardboard box, that's your problem'—" Labrosse: "Well, accurate up to a point, but let's not get carried away with our metaphors—" DW, surveying the terrasse: "And those women there (Persian lasses) - they look so much like the Parisian women of the 70s, don't you think, when everything was, was so Godart? So Belmondo? And, and - who am I thinking of? - come on—" Labrosse: "Beats me." Sibum: "Jean Seberg, possibly?" DW: "Good God, we're dated—" Three old farts (some of whom have read some Marx - and Schopenhauer) with cell phones. And so forth and so on. DW: "And now that I've become, at long last, a pessimist—" Sibum: "Pessimism has unsuspected depths—" Labrosse: "There he goes—" But when does it all begin to fall apart? It fell apart for Rome the day no one any longer took Rome (the imperial centre) seriously and there came to be a building project in a little s—thole by the name of Byzantium—Constantine then. Constantinople. And what does it mean to be young? To have a lot of sex one does not deserve - But whoa - wait a minute - let us back up and start again - start with an obvious truth: that there are times that come around now and again, and then everything is a conspiracy—And so, Larry the software entrepreneur. He in Nikas, this morning, assailed the SAQ (which it is an arm of government that has a monopoly on liquor sales in La Belle Province) for its so-called offer of a sale: 10 per cent off for every hundred dollars spent. "And people lap this stuff up - like they're really getting a deal, when an American company, for example, can sell you better wine at much better prices—" He was just in DC. He reports that a lot of people there go about muttering inanities to this effect: there ain't no more fizz left in the bottle. Which it is a metaphor for the thrill that has defected.

Sept 1, 2011: Morning, and I walk into Nikas, happy enough to be doing so; but then I am bushwhacked, first thing, by TV footage of a skirmish on hockey ice, the inevitable attempt of one player to divest another player of some part of his apparel; and it seems that this footage has been frozen in time for the past however many years; that one sees it over and over on TV screens everywhere north of a certain parallel; that one is weary of it. The soul of Canada. One need not look any further for any other metaphysic, as this soul will do for one's own. Yesterday, in my peeved state, I wrote to London Lunar a somewhat peeved message, something to the effect that there is no wrong; there is no wrong-doing; there is only the world and what boots it - namely filthy lucre and life's comedy, in whichever order of precedence one prefers. I only half-believed it. The fact that I only half-believed it suggests there is some part of me that one might characterize as a closet moralist, however uncomfortable I am with the notion of 'moralist'. Well, is there or is there not wrong, wrong-doing, wrong-headedness? Then again, against this sort of backdrop of perfidy and haplessness on a scale of 1-10 such as is to be applied to your average human clown, the likes of an Ovid is always suspicious of the likes of a Dante, sniffing in the Christian a prig, if not a prima donna; whereas Dante, coming on like a Solzhenitsyn with a bad case of wind, sweeps all penny ante oxygen-sucking pagans aside with a single hoot of contempt—Whence all this? Simply that, a couple of nights ago, I had been to a bar and had not liked its crowd - for no particular reason. It was just a bar and the crowd was just a crowd - like any other, just people muddling through, youngsters of such a protracted adolescence that they were already looking at middle-age and resenting the prospect (as well they should); and there was E at one with this lot, soaking up the adoration conferred upon her by all the sex hounds, and there were lots of those hanging about; and well, great to be popular - a nice revenge for what one got put through in high school - but still, is there not a limit to the fibs one is telling oneself in order to better believe all the outright howlers one is being fed? In any case, a certain Roman period piece that I have at last finished reading has sent me back to The Histories - Tacitus - which I intend to reread; as the author of the period piece in question would have read it as part of her research for the broad political strokes of the world she attempted to imagine. And there is not much history writing as chillingly dramatic as Tacitus's account of the 'Year of the Four Emperors', just that the novel wound up all melodrama. The thing is, I see in the Rome of Tacitus our own times much more compellingly expressed than in the pages of the New York Times Book Review or in the self-serving civic-mindedness of bobbleheads in the loop on The Charlie Rose Show—At least once upon a time when Iggy, who recently blew an election north of a certain parallel, used to park himself on that TV show and tell his whoppers - all to do with the war in Iraq and why it was cool, man - one was mildly interested—At any rate, I have scribbled a few words in my notebook; I have had my coffee; and I am about to leave when I see at table a fellow I know quite casually, scion of a prominent family hereabouts who has taken on various literary enterprises with varying success or decided lack of it; and he announces to me that he intends to take up writing full time, against the better judgment of others. "There is always that," I more or less say to him, "the better judgment of others. For all the misery writing will get you - but if this is what you really want to do - then the chances are good that somewhere in you you'll be happier for it. Good luck."



Two geezers having at a game of petanque




 

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