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Maz Writings

 

Excerpts from Our Night at Maz Bar, part 5

 

Failed Metaphor

[A fine evening of it was had by Marko, Labrosse and me, Moonface on the Nikas floor in an upbeat mood. She was finding her clients exemplary; how it was they were contentedly dining and enjoying ambiance. Animal House Table chatter was verging on the sublime, Marko keen to pick my brains for what he ought to read so as to improve himself as a novelist. What ancients should he read in particular? (Herr Professor within me fluttered.) I responded that, if Marko was reading Montaigne, he was already doing pretty well; and that, given his Serbo-Croat background, he might consider reading himself a good history of the Byzantine realm, Norwich’s book, for instance; or he might have a go at a primary source like Michael Psellus, Marko half monk, half voluptuary in his mental make-up. At one point, Labrosse astonished me, his visage quite ruddy from the wine, his grin altered by a missing tooth that had lost a battle with a tough almond, Labrosse saying that Marko should get used to the idea that he would see civic turbulence in his time, even in Canada. Had wine gotten the better of Labrosse’s intellectuals? At another point there I was going on about Italy – Venice, Rome and Naples in particular, even Palermo; Marko intending an Italian junket; and I am afraid I got quite nostalgic for my various sojourns there; just that Italy would survive this silliness on my part. And here was Moonface gadding about in her lime-green sneakers, tippy-toeing at each of her tables, hands behind her back, seeing how things stood; and she was happy. She was happy when, at the end of her shift, she joined us and we all of us repaired to ‘bratwurst’ for nightcaps; and we joshed her, and she was tickled to be joshed. But when she and Labrosse went out for cigarettes, Marko said to me: “Do you know what I think about Moonface? And, by the way, she does have a sort of Moonface face, I can see it, she has this ridiculous idea that men are attracted to her.” I answered, “Well, are you going to disabuse her with the brutal truth?” Marko said, “Never.” He added that Moonface was not unintelligent and she was pleasant company. “Good,” I said. I kept to myself the fact that I figured Moonface needed male worship, what with her troubled upbringing; just that she was also very greedy and did not always hold up her end of a conversation. She and Labrosse returned, Labrosse reported that the reason Annette does not ‘read’ is that Annette considers reading too slow in respect to how fast her brain works. I must have serious words with the wench. One can imagine Lunar chiming in: “Words? Only words?”]

Maz Bar—That that night and that venue for end-of-the-worlders, so far as ‘Maz’ pertains to these writings, is not so much a matter of a failed metaphor but that I did not pursue it as metaphor aggressively enough. I have not quite made of Labrosse, Moonface and Annette ciphers not only of the life of the mind but of what some have been pleased to call ‘interiority’, and were perhaps overplaying a hand, modernism apparently defunct. Still, after a fashion, there is a quantifiable geist out there insofar as it smacks of the public realm and its climate of general and amorphous discontent overlaying all sorts of less visible but deeply palpable nastiness. Did I not write – either in the novel or in Lunar Encore – that Moonface is both a pinup girl for Latin studies and for the Virgilian as applied to the American imperium and its need to get the scratch to maintain those 789 legion forts worldwide? Annette, a shepherdess, too, has come late to the party; and I believe she does have an iota of an inkling as to what the party has been about and where it might be headed, this knowing over and above the antics the wine cow tends to inspire – her pretend marriage to Labrosse a for instance. Just that, being fairly sound but infinitely lazy of mind, I have not attempted to acquaint Annette with too many current events as it would only render her deep-set lanterns of the soul overly glassy; make her well and truly glassy-eyed. The night she sang Black Velvet to scag-addled mentalities (whatever the scag of choice) at Maz Bar, we were simply following some Arcadian creek whichever course it took between its grass-clad banks of gambolling nymphs and truckers; and if, as she sang, I ‘saw’ the future, I saw I could not express it; and if I saw myself for what I am yet – a creature still of lust-love with a poet’s antsiness in respect to life’s transience – I saw that I am pretty well written in stone. All this in a corner of the world that has seen better days; and if the 21st century was to be Canada’s, well, maybe in the 22nd Montreal will regain its old savoir faire. Apart from parts of the canon, the writing that most permeated my brain in my youth, a few passages’ worth, was that of Proust depicting Charlus as taking his pleasure while the bombs were falling on Paris, WWI; and something in me observed that, in one way or another, I would see this, too – a great falling apart of things, however much we might or might not muddle through, a girl like Annette in her in-between hours of the baby fat she will soon enough leave behind and the fears she may never shake.

Old Pages

I opened the book and with astonishing certainty I knew at that moment that I was only the person anywhere in the world about to nose into Dmitri Merezhkovsky’s The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, a monumental historical novel. I sneezed. The first few pages seemed devoted to 15th century Tuscan turf excavations, the hunt on for long-buried marble Aphrodites. Classical ground. I sneezed again. [A bit of research – Wikipedia – incoherent contribution: but that Merezhkovsky was a classicist – religious anarchist – ‘God-admirer’ and so, as such, an object of scorn – would the Russia of Dostoyevsky extend a hand to the France of Pascal? – was misunderstood, and what man isn’t? – was sceptical of the Bolshies, the communists even if they weren’t all power-trippers – the 3rd Testament or a religion of the Holy Ghost? – to discover a tempting vice in the greatest of virtues and the greatest of virtues in the tempting vice – Legacy: nine times nominated for the Nobel? –just a boring writer who made a lot of noise – Fawcett would’ve dissed him, as did Trotsky—] I have been talking my folly for some time now: the novel, Lunar Encore, and Our Night at Maz Bar; and I can only conclude, all considerations of insufficient data aside, that the moments such as we live to varying degrees of intensity can only be imperfectly rendered by way of language, if not mutilated; and the moments that, in their aggregate, redound to a geist, and for all that the geist generates commentary – the George W Bush years for example – are but so many scarlet pimpernels. So why bother? Because writing is a habit. And because, well, one was angry, enraged. One was going to get on one’s hobby-horse and demonstrate that one would not be juggernauted by all that ‘mission accomplished’ malarkey as it pertained to bottomless war and perpetual wealth-transfer. And perhaps, due to ego, all one succeeded in demonstrating is that one had gotten one’s proverbial knickers in a twist. Even so, the moment, the geist, it has as much to do with the way the new waitress (she is not so new now) moves about Nikas as it does with how the sight of Bush’s mug and the sound of his voice curdled the blood; how a poem might fail this time around as opposed to the failure that was in hock to the Reagan years; and yes, what’s with the leather armband on Steff’s wrist – it looks like something some falconer-crackhead might wear? The quality of light on a drear November morning. Outside, it pours. I have not seen Labrosse, Moonface and Annette in a while. Will their faces in time just fade from my view? I have not been availing myself of the wine cow. Have not had a cigarette in seven months apart from the odd puff. I do not believe that, for all that we know, we do not really know why the Germans of the 30s went so bizarre, surreal and worse; just as it seems now that whatever it was it is has been sweeping across the what me worry faces of Americans for quite a while—

More Swimmingly

Mr Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator, has been tying himself up in verbal pretzels, defending rationality and Mr Obama against defeatist progressives. Drawing up beside his chariot in a race out of Ben-Hur, Mr Hedges in his chariot continues to rail against liberals for their sell-out that has been nothing recent; and Hedges, applying the whip, calls for civil disobedience, if only for its own sake, the President beside the point. Lunar, I should imagine, has nothing to say for all this, he intending to take in Cilea’s Adrianna Lecouverer at the opera, this evening, London time. Opera aside, the one thing one can say for Lunar is that he never climbs aboard bandwagons, no, not ever, as he is half Polish and wholly obtuse; and if in some village in Poland the villagers have erected the world’s tallest statue of Christ made of fibreglass, well, there you go – mulishness; and I find it grotesque – not the Christ-worship but the kitsching-up. As for Xerxes, his forces put into disarray by uncouth Greeks, he went and lusted after his brother’s wife, as if lust will follow defeat more swimmingly in a chain of cause and effect and harem intrigue; and then, he goes and lusts after the daughter of said brother and wife; and it comes to no good end – it comes to a very bad end for the brother and brother’s wife. One wonders – though modern scholars will argue it, this, that and the other thing – if Xerxes was one of those half-competent twits who seem so much more lethal than full-out twits; but whose outsized ego and vainglory more or less subsumes the competent part. My own view of historical forces lines up more with Thucydides and Tacitus, but there is in Herodotus a dark enough spectacle, if one about which the summing up bears some affinity with Robert Duvall’s graveside perorations in the epic western Broken Trails, to wit: from the sweet grass to the packinghouse. Kind of chillingly poetic, this characterization of life’s, any life’s, course. Yes, and Duvall was about as Nestorian as any American can ever get.

Violence on the #105

A young man offers me violence on the #105. He would just as soon slit my throat as order out for a pizza. I look into his eyes, into tunnels at which ends there is no possibility of light. Downtown, I meet up with Cowles. Cowles is in a mood. And over the course of lunch at the old-fashioned diner on St Catherine’s and over beers at Ziggy’s, he tells me that happy days are finished for NYC. He has been spending a great deal of time there over the past year or so in the hopes of expanding his client-base for the fine-art photographs he has to sell. Gradually, his discourse gathers steam and gets more rapid fire – “Culture is passive – it can’t defend itself – who do you think educated Cleopatra? – why, the slaves – artists are slaves – the system collapses, the gangsters take over – casino capitalism – Obama is toast – he had a window of opportunity, he’s a footnote in history – nice man, smart, but – no one in NYC mentions his name in polite company – everyone’s in despair – after the collapse, well? – but it’s coming, you know, and you know it is, and everyone down there senses it – what happened in Germany? – Germany was civilization once upon a time – nothing else in Europe is working except for Germany where they’ve been through so much s—t they’re not going to put up with neo-nazis, unlike the Dutch or Belgians – those guys that just walked into the bar, they look like skinheads with baseball caps, only it’s hockey – anyway – Germany, what happened there was that the gangsters took over and got political – I mean, what was he thinking, that he was going to extend the hand of friendship to the people who destroyed the country, I mean, Jesus – there’s lots of rich people with stinking amounts of money who spend it on trash – New York? – it’s basically falling apart – no, Letterman’s not New York, he’s the tourist trade – those guys look like they want to wipe the floor with us, we don’t look like jocks, well maybe you do – no, it’s finished – what’s left to argue? – well, how’s it going to pan out? – where’s it happening in the world? – China, India, Germany – forget the US – when the Chinese figure the Americans have become a liability rather than an asset they own, then look out –“ Cowles is on a roll but the decibels in the bar are incrementally rising and drowning him—

True Civility

Via Labrosse and Jamal, from Mehdi the long haul trucker, a cd of lovely Persian music. A collection of what I understand to be folk melodies collected under the rubric of Those Days that perhaps hearken back to better times. Piano and violin. And on one track something like an harmonium, one of those instruments that wheezes air. I see that in my notes I have attempted a description of what evil is, as when grand temperaments behave shabbily; otherwise, shabby is as shabby does. Orson Welles’ portrayal of the corrupt sheriff in A Touch of Evil? Fawcett once held that there is no such thing as evil; there is only dysfunction. What he thinks now I have no idea, but I might ask, that is, when I am up to risking his scorn. I napped through the one o’clock hour and have come down to Nikas late, Alexandra on the floor. She and I share no secrets, but now and then I get a look from her which suggests we do. Perhaps with the exception of family and close friends, I have some notion of the extent of her grief; and that little smile of hers – once a much bigger smile – is her recognition that I do, indeed, understand. A note from Amanda J acknowledging my ‘wonderful letter’, and she will reciprocate in due course. Lunar will be jealous. He, I think, at noon London time, had tea with the ‘CHC’, the Canadian High Commissioner at Grosvenor Square. Evil? Evil is that which makes us sometimes bombastic and self-righteous and morally ascendant as when we would keep track of incidents of torture, for instance, and the ways and means by which the one per centers transfer wealth to themselves in ever increasing amounts. Or does any of the above in any way shape or form signify not evil so much as a slippage of gears? I see in myself a kind of Elmer Fudd sputtering with indignation. Oh dear, but here is the Hockey Groupie who has been a bane to Animal House Table, especially when Eggy was still with us. She is no doubt as kindly as she seems to be, she apparently a nurse. But she has the personality of what, I can’t say, just that she’s a loon who, once given her inch has her mile-wide smile. It is quite possible that she is entirely unaware how lonely she is and how unloved, for all that that smile beggars her countenance. I will have to exchange civilities with her as I cannot avoid passing by her table—Ah, there it is, the word I had in mind earlier, today, for reasons that have escaped me now. I should think that true civility does not preclude incidents of mirthful tease, even a bit of roughhouse between strangers who recognize that they will have much to do with each other eventually. That other civility that has more to do with ritualized prostrations is simply a method for sterilizing the passage of time.

Economies of Motion

In the endless dream-novel of my sleeping hours (what else can I call it but that – this perpetual saga?) a voice comes to the fore; a voice that has not completely lost all self-respect but is on the verge. It says, “It’s been a long while since I’ve known love.” Immediately, a countering voice, one irked beyond all reasonable bounds – beyond belief, as we used to say – snarks, “Love? You were loved as recently as last night. Why so greedy? What’s with you hosers? This never-ending puling about love. I never—“ The presidency appears to be in a shambles, the administration seemingly lurching from one walk-back utterance to the next; and still, President the 44th would double-down on his penchant for bipartisan acts of legislation, and wisdom suffuse the land and moderation carry the day. Does the condition of mind of a Maimed King become our minds, too, all that breathes and locomotes infected, even the cinder blocks of construction sites? One answers, of course, in the negative, seeing as most people pay no notice and schlep along on their treadmills; and some are darlings and some are sweethearts, even as Irish harpy and retinue decidedly are not. Nikas. Morning. And they have hunkered down – harpy, husband, noodge son – as ever; and already they are deep in it, whinge-ing and complaining and backhanding unseeable go-between spirits (such as cause the gods to sigh, such as plague our souls) into submission. I do not know what binds these three individuals, these magi of a kind, and it might be love or a stickier sort of familial glue. Mutual loathing? Still, Irish harpy has her moments of break-through counter-intuitives, as when she reports that cancer rates have only increased since the hour when ashtrays disappeared from elevators. Well, is she right? Is she on to something? Steff is our waitress of the moment, she a grinning Cinderella staring at the outer edges of grim middle-age, she thirty-seven. And tall in stature, she is wearing a skirt and black leggings; and she is not unwilling to please and meet a soul half ways just so long as it does not, on her part, necessitate extravagant outlays of energy. Which puts me in mind of a woman I once lived with about whom a friend remarked that she had a profound sense of the economy of motion, she being a soft-spoken southerner of languid manner. In fact we were man and wife, I four years her junior at age seventeen; and she went about without undue fuss even if she was deeply panicked in some existential sense and social justice burned red hot in her. It was inevitable that we would part ways sooner or later; and we did, and it was an amiable parting, almost business-like. I have no idea if she ever had anything like a well-being that took in her soul – I was witness to some of her attempts at procuring happiness – but she would have deserved it. She would have loved this president had she lived, he her kind of man. Bookish, athletic, courtly style.

Martinis and Sergeant Major

There is sentiment in a sentence of Herodotus which states how a certain point on the Greek mainland was the closest the Persian army got to the setting sun. One can imagine Patrick O’Brian having written it. Otherwise, yes, it goes hard on morale to have knowledge and yet lack the power to act, and one is dashed. Annette phoned, last evening. Labrosse clearing his throat in the background, Annette’s voice tumbled through however it is a signal gets transported, these days; hers the invitation that Harman and I should step over and play cards at her place. Harman declined. But I was to go and play with my little friends, even so. Whereupon, at Annette’s, Labrosse poured me out an immense martini which he said would challenge the workings of my tongue in due course. Instead, the effect of the potion was to sufficiently clear my brain of unimportant thoughts and I was thereby able to crush my opponents in a game of 8-5-3 or Sergeant Major. For all that, I put it to Labrosse that it has been reported – though not substantiated – that the head of the French nation-state is cosying up to the head of the Israeli state, so much so he is making a benefice of war planes and perhaps other items, Netanyahu tickled. Labrosse nodded as if to say that no such tidings could surprise him. Other tidings have it that the American Secretary of State is kicking in war planes, too, as a sweetener, her objective being a settlement freeze, peace talks pending. French head of state just deposed his defence minister in favour of a more conservative cabinet member—Stars wheel about the sky, honouring the fact that life goes on, Annette a chubby seraphim with a punk-blonde hairstyle and stunning deep-set eyes. Her digs have the touching air of the young in search of identity. So years fell away as I sat there, drank, shuffled and dealed cards; arranged hands in their suits; laid down my winners without too much the extravagant manner of a Xerxes; offered up my sacrificial victims so as to pursue broader strategies, Annette and Labrosse both nimble-minded players. They had spent the day shopping and confusing people with their pretend marriage. Moreover, at a certain venue, staff got to thinking that one or the other of them was famous; management was summoned, and Labrosse was duly serviced, and then he spilled it that he was but Annette’s elderly chauffeur who nonetheless required two pair of jeans, as he is always elegantly coiffed and attired. Elsewhere they were alternately man and wife and father and daughter and Bonnie and Clyde. The years fell away. Annette glowed. Labrosse had the look of a man who was happy enough to have completed a marathon, never mind winning it. There impinged on my mental processes the memory of a time when I and a friend – in his first Seattle digs – would drink gin, play cards, listen to Ian and Sylvia (country music duo, Albertans, I think); then Holst’s The Planets, then the Cream. With any luck, this friend would fry up some potatoes, bacon and eggs. Let the good times roll. A regular symposium of two. Earlier in the evening, before Annette’s call, I received a call from Young Master, the import of which I will discuss at a later time. Again, Mr Obama as Maimed King? What of Hedges and his contempt of liberals and obsequious academics who have had a hand in stilling the life of the mind and dissenting opinion, the McCarthy days the prototype for this sort of behaviour? What of Mr Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator, centrist in his defence of the President who is all we have got between us and a nasty, nasty bunch of cretins? In this the magical martini was not much help. Head goes one way, heart the other. I am a liberal temperament who also holds liberals in contempt for their sell-out to lifestyle and art as therapy. “What’s Maz?” Harman asked me, yesterday. I answered that it was a bar down the street of manic-depressives and embittered sorts, neglecting to add that it is also a state of mind; one that we might have to endure if not embrace, no place else to run to, nowhere to hide and all that.

More Beer, More Sausages

They were talking Schopenhauer at the adjoining table in ‘bratwurst’, last night; that trio consisting of a professorial-looking chap approaching middle age and two young minxes, his ‘students’. The women had exotically tinted hair; they had pleasant visages; just that it was impossible to determine, by their demeanours, whether they were whistling dixie or had real knowledge in respect to the subject of their discourse. The one with the lavender tresses was ludicrously, because ever so sombrely, holding forth on the Schopenhauerian ‘mind-set’, and I wanted to bellow or belch – as in garrrp: “Beer and sausages, girl, that’s all. Beer and sausages and time to kill and a somewhat melancholic disposition, one that generally indicates higher than average intelligence.” But I bit my tongue and swallowed the gas. We were drinking chilled Bitburger, Labrosse, Moonface and I, Moonface perpetually running her hand through her hair. The clocks had recently been set back. It was a time when suicide rates spike. Earlier, Harman and I listened to a lecture given by Bill Moyers on a Boston campus just before the midterm election; we got blue and more blue as we listened. There was no need for me to say, “See, it’s what I’ve been saying all along,” my voice rising to some wounded pitch, I one of the countless numbers of the long-suffering. My silence told all. It was web cast, this lecture, and Moyers was no great shakes as a speaker, this man who served the offices of Kennedy and LBJ and did God knows else; who came to have his own show on TV; who has done a little preaching; who was St Paul-like, extolling the writings of Howard Zinn the historian; this man who knows nothing about poetry and less about art but who was intimating that the crunch had arrived. In any case, something like a whale in me surfaced and rolled over and I was restless with unwanted despair; and restless, I kissed Harman and said I was going out, and if she wished to join me she knew where she could find me; and she, sensing my true state of mind, passed on the invitation; her attention devoted to the Q & A that was following upon the lecture. At ‘bratwurst’ Labrosse and I immediately fell to debating the business world, something I know nothing about and he does, as he used to whiz about on corporate jets. Moonface rolled her eyes. Sibum: “There’s more than one business world; and there is that business world, the most esoteric of them, that owns the senate down there, for instance.” Labrosse, gravely: “Yes, that’s true, but even so, you’re wrong. There’s only one business world, and all it wants from government are clear rulings as to how it’s to conduct itself in making a buck.” Moonface rolled her eyes some more, the structure of her face a conundrum as it’s long and narrow, and it ought to make her look shrewish – like the Wicked Witch of the West, pointy chin and all that; and it does not. I shrugged some more, full of the absurdity of myself. It was a feckless argument in which Labrosse and I were good-naturedly engaged; but that it would go nowhere. And now it was even more feckless as Labrosse suggested that, given the economic realities to the south, Ottawa – despite the rightwing tinge of its sitting government – must be getting increasingly nervous as it is primed for a squeeze, the Americans doing it dirty. It was only too probable, I supposed. Moonface, grinning, up stretched her arms, and made a show of her charms. She was going to become a translator, come hell or high water, French to English and back again. For a moment, however, we alighted on Chaucer, and she said, exuding pleasure, “A Parliament of Fowls”; and I swatted the shuttlecock back with, “A Parliament of Birds”; and hers was the Valentine, mine the mere stab at Sufi mysticism. Now Jamal the proprietor was playing Iranian music videos on the ‘bratwurst’ TV. Labrosse turned around in his chair to look, and he said, bizarrely enough, in a rather poorly thought-through attempt at humour: “Women like that, you know, and they get their lips cut – with razors over there.” “No,” said Moonface, her tone a truly curious admixture of being tickled and getting alarmed. Jamal only laughed and waved his arm at us no-nothings and said he would look up the truth of the assertion on the internet. Labrosse was more or less stopped in his verbal tracks, shoulders hunched, his sixty-eight year old lips gone disconcertingly slack. By then the table of Schopenhauerian aficionados had departed, sensing perhaps that our table was consecrated to barbarism. Now I write these words down, morning in Nikas. Only that Bilko has entered and is in fine form, hooting and whistling and stamping his feet and flinging his arms about, disturbing my peace, Bilko the ex-Israeli fighter pilot. Larry the software entrepreneur, spotting my displeasure, amused, motions me over to his table in the front dining area of the restaurant. We fall to talking, fellow stragglers on the long path of life, one crowded with pilgrims whose behaviours are beyond our control, you gotta love ‘em. No, I do not know much about Bilko’s life. That he was an ex-fighter pilot could be pure supposition. The rumour of it has just stuck to him somehow. Alexandra is feeling quite poorly due to the death of her father. Steff the new waitress, filling in for Alexandra, today, is somewhat of a flake, especially as suddenly she crows how much she likes greyhounds; and out she goes to the street where there is a greyhound on a leash waiting to be petted. Yes, those of us who regard ourselves as sane are only the more mad for thinking it. There we were, last evening, Labrosse, Moonface and I out on the ‘bratwurst’ terrasse in the wintry rain, those two having their smoke break, I having a single puff for I have otherwise quit; and though I dislike the sound of the words for their being somewhat cold and Bauhaus-ian, I reckoned that there was such a thing as the architecture of desire; that the eyes do the building; and I spoke to Moonface about her Marilyn Monroe eyes, and Labrosse guffawed and she bellied up some burbling laughter, pleasantly irked to hear it; and I was happy enough to have got it said; enough said; and I buggered off, went home. Letterman was inane.

The Maimed King

Alexandra, Nikas waitress, wife to Mike who sold his share of the restaurant to Eddie, is going about the place with no cosmetics, a face down to her knees. Such newly-incurred pallor. Her eyes seemed to have moved closer together, as if to unmistakably express inconsolable grief, their colour washed out. She is just back from Greece where she helped bury her father. Relentless sorrow all too evident in her demeanor, it could be that what is sinking in, apart from her father’s death, is the fact of her having returned to Canada, a country with which some portion of her being is perpetually at odds, if only for reasons of climate. It is morning, a few customers wondering what they have done to deserve Alexandra’s disinterest in them. Otherwise I recently dreamed the following words: love was the dream, reality the crucifixion. We will always choose the dream, always and every time. It is what makes us human and so cruel. And when earth is more than earth; a stone more than just a bit of rock; and a tear-stained cheek—Perhaps someone or something is to be praised that the dream ended when it did, dream-drivel in the offing. Harman and I went out to the cabin for an over-nighter, the sky grey, the creek running high. Full-throated water flashing white over black, mossy rock—(Alexandra’s mood is worsening, an air of menace to her, a shiver in the heels of her feet, as if she intends to pounce—)And yes, what about those Patrick O’Brian novels? Isn’t imperialism of the British variety such good, clean, healthy, wholesome, high-spirited fun? And yet the man writes excellent sentences; and every once in a while, a pairing of them undercuts the exercise, and imperialism is suddenly a shabby, filthy, bloody, futile enterprise. And then it is another hundred pages or so of sea-ramble, and sharp’s the word and quick’s the action (do I have that right?) until the next summing up. In any case, Harman and I holed up for an evening and a night, and then in the morning, the dying language of liberal radio; and then it was lunch in North Hatley with Crow and Charlotte, the leaves all blown away from the trees. An hilarious story of a nearby neighbour’s sexual antics on the verandah, the woman declaring to all the world the affliction one must endure when the male has ‘come’ too fast; and one might have thought that he at his age, divorces and a stroke under his belt, should have gotten the hang of it by now. It hit me just then that I might address a poem to the so-called mask of Agamemnon, the one Schliemann dug up. Current President as Maimed King as per the Authurian legend – any takers? It is a thought that nags. Saw Labrosse briefly, last evening in Nikas; and we were joined by Annette in punk-blonde mode. Were she and I at sixes and nines? “No,” she answered, “of course not,” she astounded to hear of it. But I did not think she was so astounded as that whereas Labrosse the fox merely looked innocent. I pleaded that I could not hang about with them and get drunk, however appealing the option. Now here are Irish harpy and husband. It does not take her long. Irish harpy, ever the busy-body, has drawn it out of grim Alexandra. How her father had a heart attack, eating and drinking, being so alive—

Creation Myths

November, so Harman and I have decided, is the dreariest month on the Montreal dance card. The sun seems to throw in the towel; winter will not be cheated of its innings. In the meantime, chill rain. Otherwise, here is a question that so far seems to have defeated the best minds of a generation: why is it that so many Canadian films are invariably stocked with creepy characters of all genders, the female gender typified by empowerment gone bad, no new wrinkles in the abominable male? I am fairly certain that some prescient beaver must have held his or her nose at the first encroachments of the colonists; but that original sin did not really take here until narratives were wanted for the passing of long winter nights. The first poet to have received a Governor-General’s award? The answer to this query seems shrouded in the mists of history, just as it is not clear whether Noah was a mere social drinker or a truly committed boozehound. I adjust, I suppose, to new levels of awfulness south of here; just that Crow, from his deep country nest in the Townships, enjoins me to write savage satire. And I might, seeing as by now – over the course of the past ten to twelve years – satire has gotten to be the first breath I draw when I pop open my eyes in the morning, and I am much too old for this sort of thing who used to be a lyric poet. Two days in a row, and in Nikas, Steff the new waitress has on a skirt. Harman is contemplating a return to skirts; was at it all day yesterday, putting in time at the sewing machine. What gives with women? Lunar worries that the prose of George W Bush’s soon to be released memoir will exceed his own in excellence. Silly Lunar. If the former president worried that the White House had been under the chemical-biological gun, cataclysm’s clock ticking away, Lunar has worried the fate of civilization itself, his Dick Tracy two-way all static, atmospheric disturbance. Or has anyone noticed that Lunar cares? He has been invited to partake of tea and perhaps some other stimulant with the Canadian High Commissioner in London. Well, half the sentence above is accurate. I leave it to you to determine which half. Sibum quoting Sibum: But I must say I never/Went to bed with Maggs, her eyes a lovely blue./She was ravishing in her gown/The night she came to speak her mind./’Who’s Aristotle?’ she asked/And asked for what was in the bottle. Now perhaps only his hairdresser knows for sure what sort of man Current President is, but one thing is apparent to me: he has a hero-complex that just might deepen into something more problematic that we hold in association with crucifixions. It is to say that for all his vaunted pragmatism and his love of wielding power, he wishes to be remembered to posterity as one who defied the odds, seriously steep odds, he having rescued the country from the worse, most scrofulous angels of its nature. What is troubling in respect to this analysis is that here we have an instance of a man prone to outsmarting himself; that this is a man of abundant natural talent – he can write and shoot jumpshots and seemingly whip off a few foxtrots at the ball – who nonetheless will hector himself at every turn to focus, focus, focus. This inward nagging is commonplace among athletes who always seem promising and who perform erratically, now absolutely brilliant, now a complete duffer. I am myself a writer who was once in possession of a lethal jumpshot, and I can see the pathology in the man’s jaunty gait, one that does not easily register tsunamis. He will be the last to know, the last to hear the final buzzer going off. I shall let Mr Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator, prove me wrong. If it must be done, I would rather let him apply the cudgel or the dunce’s cap to my person, as he seems a kindly pedagogue or a student prince, indeed. Even so, my dreams worried it all night, how it is that Augustine, had he to do it in these parts – bring off a church plus deep musings – would have been defeated by the climate, the sublime trumped by the ridiculous; or that a flotilla of ski bunnies on Owl’s Head just do not cut it as a sufficiently distracting and sinful spectacle, no, not like the goodtime girls of ancient Milan.

 

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