Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blogstar Man is back-and it's not pretty

Now, after having been away from the blog for quite a while, I've returned and just pasted up something that I'd written down somewhere along the way. I'm suddenly under pressure, having noticed that Google doesn't list the blog. And, I must confess, blog readers, that I'd started the blog because the same entity, which has grown into a corporate goliath, had stopped listing the site that displays my artistic efforts. The site is called Dreamscapes. I even have a manifesto, and a mock interview given at the bathroom mirror. Now, I've been carrying around this back pack with about fifty pages of printed copies of some of my sundry scribblings. and I admit that I've spent hours on my computer, trying to find them on the hard drive, with no success. I've had just too many distractions lately.

An hour ago, I was sitting at the Arts Cafe, with good ambiance, moon waxing full, decent music playing, some Algerian reggae by a group called Cafre. Then who shows up? First Mitch, then Tom and Alex. And each of them has their own personal issues. Besides, I've always had a sociable side. I' d just e-mailed Tom some more of my monoprints, since he's in control of the website where my artwork is posted. I'm still trying to write something, while Tom is complaining about the colors I'd employed on this piece depicting milkweed pods in a late summer field. He has a good point there. I don't know how that pink color had intruded into my picture. I can see that it is more of a late fall feel. The milkweed pods are dark brown, the little silken seeds have long been blown away by the wind. The monarch butterflies that feast on them have departed for that valley in Mexico where the Monarchs congregate. If I only had wings, or money for an airline ticket, I would join them.

Now, Alex, the young Greek Canadian, is going on about his film project, and Mitch, whose always waiting around for a phone call from his erstwhile love interest, gets to talking about his visit to Haifa back in his teens. He's kind of a fallen Jew, religionwise. His brother lives in Jerusalem, is a Hassidim and prays at the Wailing Wall. He's a secular zionist, of the David Frum era, who votes for Harper, particularly after Harper's statement about the bombardment of Beirut by Israel being "a measured response" to the kidnapping of a couple Israeli soldiers. But, I never talk much about politics with him. We have other intellectual fish to fry. Mitch is troubled, in many ways, that I can't go into for lack of time, space, and even inclination. Now, as I said, the full moon is upon us, the roommate is mumbling in the bedroom about me and my "stupid blog". She's taken a sudden interest in it, but I don't want to speculate why.

Meanwhile, as I finally get into writing a bit, my kid calls. She's now going to McGill University and as I'd written elsewhere, she's now an anti-religious zealot. And, it must be the phase of the moon, she wants to keep me on the phone while she expounds upon her theories, which in this age of information overkill have been reduced to a bumper sticker of the "I believe in Science, not Religion"variety. It reminded me of my father, my good ol' Canadian father, who went to the best universities, graduated from Wharton Business School, and was an agnostic. However to his credit, he never rammed his agnosticism down my throat, like our contemporary anti-religious zealots. My father was also rather conformist, unimaginative and dull. It comes with the terrain. He grew up in the prairies. Not the prairies of Black Elk's visions, but the prairies of amber waves of monocultured, genetically engineered grain, now dotted with strip malls and missal silos. Of course, my dad was a proud veteran of WWII, from the "praise God and pass the ammunition" school. I was a product of the Vietnam era, and well, not wanting to follow in the old man's footsteps, I decided to become a gnostic. It seemed logical at the time. Besides, what had Western civilization-it's science, philosophy and technology brought us? Affluenza? Hiroshima? Ecological collapse, collective hysteria? Fear and loathing, to borrow a phrase from Hunter S. Thompson.

Anyhow, once my dad called me from the states. It must have been my birthday. Now, we'd never really talked much in the way of heart to heart conversations. He always seemed a bit awkward in that area. He'd ask me some neutral question, usually about politics. The last time, he'd called me just when the U.S. was about to shove the free trade agreement down the throats of Canada and Mexico. This Harvard educated white collar criminal named Salinas was in power in Mexico, and a corporate flim flam artist name Mulroney who worked for American mining interests was in power in Canada.
"So, son, what do you think of free trade? As you know, I'm an old free trader, anti-protectionist, etc..."
"Well, dad I've only got two things against it."
"What's that?"
"It's not free and it's not trade."

So, likewise, with my kid. I agree with her. However, most of what passes for science today was scientifically suspect a hundred years ago, and most of what is preached from the pulpits bear no resemblance to the teachings of someone who preached a gospel of love. But, deep down she knows that, and I told her that we didn't have time to go into anything in detail, since I'd been trying for two days now just to write something to post in the blog. Then she tried the tack of parental neglect, insinuating that I didn't have time to talk to my daughter who only calls once a day, while she is getting ready for bed, so that I have to listen to her talk while she's flossing, and gargling and brushing her teeth, and sometimes yelling at her mother who needs to get up at seven, and is telling her to get off the phone and will later admonish me for keeping my kid up. A lose/lose situation if there ever was one.

Arts Café Scribblings

Now, back to the here and now…whatever that means…I’m at the Arts Café, after a two month hiatus, brought on by the broken ankle…it’s the end of September…A Sunday night, after a rather dark and drizzly day, but with a warm southerly flow brought on by a hurricane off the east coast…I’d just been to the little Laundromat down the street, across from Fairmount Bagel…(I've included the video, where blogstar man is playing the flute while Chris is doing a dance. Needless to say, it was all of the guys had a cell phone, and the rest is history...Chris has a radio show and soon after was off to northern Quebec to report on a stand-off at Barrier Lake, where the local natives are still trying to keep the land from being clear-cut and bulldozed. )

Fairmount Bagel is located in one of my favorite corners in the city…it has this village atmosphere, and what with the view of the mountain looking up La Rue Fairmount …perhaps, I’ll try to describe the scene better…it’s just maybe a certain ambiance…the little Laundromat that is kept spic and span by the two ladies-the interior fifties New England, their pace and demeanor a rather large and fearsome looking woman with a pit-bull face and thick glasses, but a heart of gold and the other, who looks like an ex-nun, about seventy, with a polyester print dress. looking so dainty... yet every night, she's there, cleaning out the dryers, the old industrial numbers, where you have to crawl half way in just to clean it out. The laundromat has a cozy quality, with it's sign, OUVERT, glowing in pink neon, interior freshly painted in light turquoise, Formica counters where I can unload my wash and see, through the plate glass window, the ovens of the bagel place glowing orange.

How many winter nights had I stopped there to just feel and smell the soothing heat of the burning maple and the aroma of hot bagels fresh from the oven? And I'd watch the Sri Lankan guys, Ali and Mohammad, two mustachioed Bangladeshis-Ali, always smiling and joking, flashing his perfect white teeth, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, reminding me of the days when I'd stand in the alley next door, playing a flute, plaintively, serenading my lady fair and foul, who lived in this studio apartment next to the alley. Ali appreciated the music, he loves music, particularly the flute. In short, he was one of my few flute fans...Mohammad more serious, casually and gracefully wielding the long wooden paddles, shaped like the oars on the rowboats back home....and they'd be nonchalantly working the ovens, sliding the paddle into the long open grill, pulling out a string of bagels, then flipping them into the zinc holding tray, next to the huge Jamaican, Stanley, who was a foot away, slicing rows of bagel dough with a razor sharp, long kitchen knife, breaking off pieces and twisting them into shape in one fluid motion...

Yes, it's an assembly line of sorts, but a jazz zen assembly line where each member of the group is doing an endless variation on the theme of bagel...and scattered about on the street, are parked cars, with their blinkers on, owned by suburbanites who'd left their comfortable homes, for a little break from the boredom of living the suburban American Dream. And I came from a former whaling village on the coast of New England, where I'd spent many a cold night sitting in front of a wood stove, and now I'm in an apartment with electric heat and stove and everything.... And when I'd watched them flip those bagels off the pallet I could remember the glittering fish flipped out of the nets after we'd catch bait fish in the nets that we'd fashioned out of screens from the old screen windows we'd salvaged.....way back when I was a kid..

Sometimes, I'd wonder how many thousands of times have they performed these motions...who knows, but it's with a certain rhythm that's both slow and quick, never rushed....a pre-industrial rhythm, you could say...the buildings along the street, some of them with gables, old stone and brick buildings, in a state of comfortable decrepitude…a little piece of Europe, afloat in the North American mallscape.

I had a taste of that other world yesterday…I’d gone with the writing machine over to the Arts Café…I should have been suspicious, since there was the owner, Michel, in his meticulously clean red sports car unloading a few cases of French wine from his trunk…I’d sat down and Daniel, the waiter, just out of theater school, informs us, with a theatrically impeccable disconsolate expression, that they’re closing in five minutes…private party…batchlerette party thrown by Jean Francois' fiancee from Eugene Oregon...her daddy's rich, so the wine is French, Chateaux Whatever, as Paris Hilton would say...

I noticed that it was one of those temperate early fall nights, and the sun was about to set, and Hassids were hurrying by in very clean and starched clothes, off to celebrate the end of Shabbat…on the corner of Avenue du Parc, across from this old two story with gabled roof, floating in a sea of fall foliage from the mountain behind…the sky opening up- a soft blue sky, clouds that promised to become rose colored cherubs from a Titian knock-off…one of those evenings with a note of melancholy, darkness setting in early, leaves starting to spread on the sidewalk, some trees already bare, others still green…
So, I sat in a chair, a red molded plastic number that is sitting outside this new condo/pharmacy/fashion/makeup complex that had sprouted on the corner, one of the tentacles of the suburban octopus that is swallowing the country and the city...(.the city is the only place where displaced villagers can try to live now).... anyhow, the sun finally set over the mountain, the chill of evening set in... and I'd already received two or three visits from uniformed staff dressed like cruise ship or airline staff, with a fashion nod to Dairy Queen…

And it being a Saturday evening, where the streets are going to be crowded with restless animals let out of their cages and cubicles for the evening, and I want to keep the usual low profile that I've tried to retain for the last forty odd years...I took the machine inside, and it was like an upscale supermarket mall deli, with polished imitationCarrera marble veneer, track lights, blazing in the reflections of polished marble, wood,'s high end Italian deli, motif no. 231, with all the faux rustica extras, the post-modern melange of high gloss executive class mixed with Hand-Hewn Rustic, ground out in a Thai short, it's one of the reasons that the Arts Café is popular, it being "artisanal", as they call it, meaning that most of the furniture has been salvaged from old schools and greasy spoon restos that have been either upgraded or shut down.

Back at the mall cafe, there's this long high butcher block table with people sitting on high chairs, working their computers...sullen looking people....people who've staked their territory, have their habitual spots, and now are staring into their screens, shopping on EBay, getting a celebrity fix or a stock market tip, online dating,etc...and there I was, wanting to sit down and write about a friend who'd been thrown in the psych. wards of a local hospital...a reject from the assembly line of comfort and resigned servitude.....I tried vainly to find a comfortable niche, but, what with the piped in mall muzak and the constant hum of the deli refrigerators, and whirr of coffee grinders, I gave up and packed it in, resigned to another night alone at the apartment, at the desk by the window, next to the old maple tree, now stripped of leaves.

Back at the caféJazz Mon Oncle on break

Back at the café, and Francois, the bassist, is going into this nifty little solo on "Summertime"…Jacques the guitarist is now letting the drummer work some magic on the brushes…they’ve got this after-joint-in-the-alley energy that’s flowing…Francois never smokes, but feeds off the others' altered states…a good moment…of course summertime seems like a dim memory, tonight being frosty, and the first real cold night of the fall…where the world of warmth, and life, greenery, flowers is sliding into the Canadian winter…and it’s a long, cold winter…and the people, well, anyone living in this climate have to become closed up…they are not Russians…what do they know of saunas, and a little birching on bare buns to stimulate the blood? Earlier, I rode over to the Batory Restaurant for a plate of bigos. There’s nothing like some Polish food on a cold night. Alas, if only I could have had Jazz Mon Oncle playing in the background. Marek, owner and chef, seems to exhaust his subtlety in the food. The music is late industrial FM torture tape stuff.

I did have my copy of The Idiot to read. It was one of those rare pleasures, that I can afford only once or twice a month. At the Batory, I can get a plate of bigos with Cole slaw and salad along with a couple slices of fresh Polish rye, for about four fifty. And the food is always impeccable. Marek, who was the former cook on the passenger boat, the Stefan Batory which used to run from Gdansk to Montreal, does everything to perfection. It’s not haute cuisine, simple peasant food, but he cooks it all with subtlety. His pierogis, are not too heavy, the pastry is light and thin, the ingredients are flavored just so, the mushrooms are always sweet, the farmer’s cheese fresh. Even the Cole slaw is not vinegary like the locals prepare it. The same with the sauerkraut. It is sweet, Polish style. If you get it elsewhere, it is generic Germanic. German’s are not known for lightness, in food, thoughts or deeds. Even the music is a bit heavy, a kind of pork and sauerkraut for the brain. I don’t want to go on in that vein too long and be accused on being Teutonophobe. Perhaps, it is connected to running into lovely Rhea at the café earlier. Rhea had her copy of Heidegger with her. Pork and sauerkraut for the brain. More on that later.

And now…back again at the Arts Café….Jazz Mon Oncle back on stage…with the vocalist…
Catherine, is her name…I have her card in front of me…and she’s singing, “You don’t know what love is..” and it brings back memories of the time I’d been desperately in love with Asza…and she’d disappeared. And “when you face each dawn with sleepless eyes..”…and yes, I remember, entombed in that apartment in Outremount, sleeping on the futon in the front room, on this street devoid of charm, just a monotonous row of identical brick buildings, with an equally monotonous row of black maples, trimmed identically, lining the street…and it was November, like now…and it had turned cold, and gray and dark…and she’d disappeared on Halloween. I guess that I’d chosen to ignore the warning signs…that I had fallen in love with a mirage, with a person that existed in my imagination, and existed equally in the imaginations of others…
And I’m starting to have flashbacks…of the long, cold, gloomy Montreal winter…where I seemed to have died a thousand deaths…where I guess the only way to fall in love here, is to fall desperately…the climate, physical, and emotional lends itself to desperation…

And now, I’d just gone outside, had a few tokes…came in while the group was doing “Angel Eyes”, one of my favorites…pulled out the little Cuban piccolo and discretely blew some notes…it felt good…yes, Joanna sang, and I played the concert flute in the band…and she mostly improvised…when she was on, well, it was sublime..she’d light up the room…when she was off, well, they'd call the riot squad...drastic mood swings, they label it, I believe.
Back to the here and now, Catherine just went into a decent rendition of “Lover Man”…not bad for a Frenchy…not the throaty melancholy of Nina Simone or Cassandra Wilson…more bouncy with some post-Ella scat tossed into the musical salad…meanwhile, one of her lady friends arrived. I suspect North African influence…here friend is a living doll…luscious long black hair, alabaster face, large ebony eyes…and those lips, Mediterranean Modigliani…I’d also gone out and smoked a little M39 as they call this brand of hydroponic..and it had put a slightly comic edge on the melancholy…yes, there is a cloistered feel to the francophone women…you can tell the ones with a Moroccan background. The women are more at ease with members of their own sex…for myself to even get her attention, I mused after a couple of tokes…I’d have to pull out a foot long wiener, then it would have had to sing a capella in three languages, metamorphizing magically into a sacred lingham glowing phosphorescently atop a Brahma Bull elephant garlanded with lotus blossoms, balancing on one foot while astride a sacred rat with a ruby-encrusted saddle. After that, I’d have to land her a gig on Canadian Idol.

That's Progress

Who’d have thought? Thought what? That Doug would be still sitting around, stoned, at his laptop… before it was a Toshiba, before that a 386 black and white model, before that it was a manual made in thirty-eight…the technology has definitely been on the upslope, but old Doug, he defies all logic….his computer works ten times as fast as the first one, but old Doug, he pretty much moves at the same speed, spends endless hours writing novels in his head, and ends up with no time to write down the thoughts…what happened?

Several reasons can be put forward…different philosophies…the Calvinists, the protestant banking class would say that he’s simply lazy…they would be right…the Buddhists might say that he’s working off some heavy karma…and that would be also correct…there are the different schools of psychology, philosophy, metaphysics, armies of psychologists, from industrial to Jungian, along with the experimental rat crowd, who’d have me running around on wheels, pressing reward buttons, and pain buttons, like I’m some sort of combination party hack and detainee in Abu Ghraib…there are an incredible variety of schools and sects describing my behavior…well, in many ways, it’s my non behavior.

I lack drive, motivation, ambition…at any point in my life, I could have retired to some little cabin in the woods, and spent my winter’s nights sitting by the woodstove, puffing on a pipe, with a good book in my hands. I guess that’s it…I’d gone into early retirement, sometime in my twenties.

The Vietnam years, where I spent a half dozen of them being eligible to the draft, and every six months was required, on pain of imprisonment in a federal pen , if I’m not mistaken, to take an army physical. And each time, if I wasn’t drafted, I was given another six month reprieve. I'd gotten into the bad habit of living in the moment. Of course, sprinkled into that time frame, like pixie dust shaken from Tinkerbell’s Wand, where these psychedelic experiences which had brought out the essential immateriality of the material world.

If you delve deep enough into anything in the universe, from the microcosm to the macrocosm, you see that Newton’s Clockwork universe like Darwin’s blind Watchmakers… well, we’ve been fed a reality that is one big cuckoo clock, with a brail attachment and wheelchair access. Deep, deep into the atom, the particles disappear, buzzing in and out of the ether, the electrons becoming vibrational fields, rings within rings spiraling in musical mathematical perfection-in the pure Zen sense of the word…and out into the far reaches of galaxies where infinity curves back inside of itself, into the great well of Maya, which in Sanscrit means to Measure. The world of measurement is Maya. The Science of Maya. The Art of Maya. Now is all that exists, and will ever exist. And what does it mean, to exist? I'll have to grapple with the deep existential questions in future posts. Right now, as we'd say back home on the coast, Nature calls.