Camptown Ladies

 

 

I spent the entire summer trying to get Marlene Gorman to leave me alone. She followed me everywhere, and I really had no interest in her whatsoever. She seemed nice enough, but there were the braces, glasses, the weird, chop shop haircut, and acne, all which seemed appropriate accessories for her scrawny, pasty skinned body, and I was, at 14 years old, an incredibly shallow kid. But Marlene was simply a pain in the ass, always buzzing around like a mosquito that you just seem to catch, but you know you want it gone.

I was spending my time with Suzie Pressman, the owner of long, dark hair, a tantalizing smile, and deep blue eyes. I suppose her insanely large breasts also had something to do with my burgeoning passion for her. We spent all of our time together, sneaking out of the camp and wandering off into the adjoining Government Fish Hatchery where we entertained ourselves with drugs, nudity, and a cruise to Muff Island. or to the nearby town.

Every evening, Suzie would come by my cabin, and wait for me to come out, pretending that we would be attending the camp;s programed social activity of the night. Suzie and I prefered to engage in activities of our own design, and would disappear into the night armed with just a joint, a blanket, and the dream of taking home a gold medal in the sexolympics. The trick, as always, was to elude the ever present stalking of Marlene Gorman.

The camp was packed on visitors’ day, with hundreds and hundreds of parents arriving to spend a few hours with the kids they sent away for the summer. My parents arrived in the first wave, and with Suzie busy with her family, Marlene took the opportunity to hover around me and my parents. My mother brought gifts of food, and as we sat down to eat, Marlene began pacing in a circle around us. “Do you think if we tossed a piece of chicken over there”, I asked, “she’d run to chase it?”

“It depends on how well trained she is.”, the old man answered. “But there’s always a chance that she’d just go get it and bring it right back.”

“Stop it!”,my mother demanded. “That’s a girl, not a dog. You two should be ashamed of yourselves.” To be honest, I felt absolutely no shame, and I doubted the old man did either.

“That girl”, I tried to explain, ” has been following me all over the place. Everywhere I go, she’s there. Its like having another shadow. It’s driving me crazy.”

“Its because she likes you.”, my mother replied. “There is never a reason for being mean or hurtful to her. Never.”

Dr. B., the camp director and well known sociopath announced that Visitors’ Day was over, and requested that all families depart from the camp grounds. I said goodbye to my parents, and as I turned to leave, the old man slipped $20 into my hands, “Do something nice with your girl.”, he said.

“What girl?”, I asked.

“The one over there under the tree.”, he said, using his head to gesture over at Suzie and her parents as they were saying goodbye.

“How do you know?”, I asked.

“She keeps looking over at you, and to be honest, that’s who I’d be chasing around here.”, he replied as he walked off to catch up to my mother and head home. I think that was the first and last time I ever truly felt close to the old man.

There was this small, but wonderfully seductive waterfall about a 20 minute walk out of the camp grounds which was forbidden for campers to attend. Everything was forbidden, as Dr. B. reminded us on a daily basis with his announcements over the P.A. system, but most of us at this camp, just didn’t give a shit. Suzie and I frequented the forbidden falls regularly, settling in the small pool of cascading water, undressing each other and then banging like bunnies. We headed there after visitors’ day had ended, and after smoking a joint, began the spiritual rite of waterfall sex. The sound of something stirring in the bushes behind us was of little concern at first as we writhed in passion to the sound of Blues Image’s ‘Ride Captain Ride’ playing on the portable radio we always took along. “Is there an animal there?”, Suzie asked.

“No.”, I told her. “Its probably just Marlene.”

:I’m gonna kill her.”, Suzie said, as she grabbed a rock from the side of the pool and threw it into the bushes.  I put my shorts on and walked over to where the noises had come from. I could see Marlene scurrying through the bushes away from us, like a rat in a maze. “Can’t that bitch find a guy of her own?”, Suzie asked. I didn’t want to say it, but I was almost certain that she couldn’t. Not with the braces, the acne, and the ‘Scout Finch’ haircut.

When the summer ended, I said goodbye to Suzie and, despite the fact that she lived 5 hours away from me, we promised to keep in touch. We really didn’t. There were a few letters and even fewer phone calls for a month or so, and then nothing. I suppose that’s just how it is. Time passes, memories fade, and life moves forward. Years later, when I was attending University, I went out to one of the on campus bars where I was introduced to an insanely beautiful woman. She was tall and incredibly hot. She introduced herself as Margot, and we sat around for hours talking. At some point in the night I asked her out. She said no. “You just don’t remember. do you?”, she asked.

“Remember what?”, I inquired.

“Me.”, she said. “You don’t remember me, do you?”

“Trust me, if we had met before, I’d remember you.”, I suggested.

“Oh, we’ve met before.”, she insisted. “Five years ago at Camp Ramah. I’m Marlene Gorman.”

“Oh hell.”, I blurted out. “You’re gorgeous.”

“I know.”, she replied as she stood. “And if you weren’t such an asshole to me, all of this could be yours right now.” I sat in silence as she walked away, realizing that my mother was right. Hell, I had been cruel and hurtful, and I was ashamed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Silence Of The Yams

 

After an ill fated attempt at minimalist living, my wife had forged ahead and dug her heels into a newfound healthy eating lifestyle. It seemed that she had gone vegan. Just like that. The announcement came as a surprise to the entire family. “She’s gone crazy.”, one of my daughters voiced at the secret meeting we held in the backyard.

“She’s not crazy.”, I told them. “Let’s just give it a try.” Desperately hoping that this too would die a quick death, we joined her in the madness of a meatless life.

Every day she would send us pictures and recipes of meals that she found on the internet, each one captioned with “What do you think about this?”, or “Doesn’t this look good?”, in an attempt to involve as many of us as possible in the meals without meat campaign she had launched. We never responded, not one of us.

“What is this?”, I asked as we sat down to dinner.

“Portobello burger.”, she answered. “It tastes exactly like beef.” She was wrong. She was very wrong. It tasted nothing like beef, and even with all of the barbecue sauce, mustard, horse radish and onions, the taste of the mushroom still jumped up and shouted “This isn’t really a burger.”

And then, after reading an article on their health benefits, my wife discovered sweet potatoes. She figured out how to incorporated them in almost every meal. There were pies, and casseroles, and pastas. There were salads, and soups, and stews. After a few days, the rest of us were growing restless, feeling helpless against the onslaught of beans and vegetables, so when she went out with friends one evening, the rest of us headed off to Napoli Vince and dined on the meat lovers platter. There was veal, and sausage, and lamb and steak, and not a bean or a yam in sight. And it was so good! “Why can’t we do this all of the time?”, a daughter asked.

I knew why, but I didn’t want to ruin the obvious joy that illuminated my children’s faces. “Why don’t you just tell her we’re not going to eat veganese any more?” my youngest daughter asked. Why not indeed!

Upon my wife’s return I was ready for the showdown. “So what did you guys do tonight?”, she asked.

“Not much, really.”, I answered.

“How was dinner?”, she continued, as she headed into the kitchen. We all started to panic. We forgot to get rid of the meal she had left for us, sweet potato and lentil stew, in our haste to return to our primal inner carnivores. “So, what did you eat?”, she stated as she returned to the living room. My daughters left, like rabbits running from the fox, leaving me alone to face the Spanish Moroccan in a one on one battle to the death. She was already wearing her battle gear, that ‘I know you did something you shouldn’t have’ face, with those dark, unblinking eyes, arms folded across her chest, and her left leg a little turned out with the foot below it repeatedly tapping on the floor in 2/4 time. I took my position directly across from here, careful not to seem too confrontational while at the same time, demonstrating a complete lack of wrong doing. My hands were in my pant pockets, and my eyes were intentionally avoiding any eye contact with her.

“Well”, she said, “what did you do?”

“Can we sit down and talk?”, I asked.

“You can sit if you want.”, she stated, “I think I’d prefer to stand.”

“No.”, I replied. “I really need you to sit down so we can talk.” When we were both seated I realized that she looked even more upset than when she was standing, but there was no way I was going to ask her to stand up again.

“We don’t want to be vegans.”, I told her. “We just can’t live on rice, and beans, and sweet potatoes.”

“Millions of people eat like that.”, she replied. “What do you mean you can’t?”

“We don’t like it.”, I answered. “We just don’t like it.”

“Well”, she answered, “I could change a few things around, and maybe use different spices.”

“No”, I told her, “its not the seasoning or the spices. Its the lack of meat. I appreciate you trying to keep us healthy, we all do, but we have to come to some sort of compromise. You can’t just dump all of this on us at once.”

“Okay”, she responded. “I guess you’re right. It is a big change to have to deal with all at once. So what did you guys eat tonight?”

“We went to Naploi Vince’s.”, I told her.

“Did you bring me anything back?”, she asked.

“Actually, no.”, I informed her. “But there is a veal on a bun that just needs to be heated up, and its all yours if you want it.” She hoped out of the chair like a jack in the box, and dashed to the kitchen, placing the sandwich in the oven, and I swear I could hear her salivating from the other room.

“We should do this a couple of times a week.”, she said.

“We can.”, I replied.

“Its so good.”, she added, with a mouth full of food, savoring every nuance of this most perfect of sandwiches. I watched her as she continued to eat, taking in all of the sounds that indicated just how much she was loving it.

“Food sex, right?”, I asked her.

“Uh huh.”, she said between bites. And while she continued to eat, I disposed of the lentil and sweet potato stew she had left for us. When she had finished her sandwich, we headed to bed and laying there, I heard her say “We have to go to St. Lawrence Market tomorrow morning and pick up some veal. Oh, and we should get some hot Italian sausages, and beef ribs. I want beef ribs.”

“Okay.”, I said.

“And on the way”, she continued, “we should drop off all of the bags of beans and legumes in the donation bin for the food bank.”

“Okay.”, I repeated. As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but thinking that I had just dodged another bullet, well not just me, but my kids too. I haven’t seen a sweet potato for a few months, and everyday I am grateful for that. I do however, spend some time, usually at night when the insomnia takes over and leaves me awake and agitated, wondering about what frightening idea from the lunatic fringe she will embrace next.

 

 

 

 

Harland Chesterfield & The Magic Bullet

Shit happens. It almost always does. The year that should have been, never was. We had big plans. Plans that we were certain would change our lives forever. Plans to attend ten Yes concerts in 15 days during the band’s ‘Close To The Edge Tour’, but nobody had heard from Harland Chesterfield since the weather changed that September. The search for him took several days, but he was found in a motel room hours away from home, draped over the side of the tub with an empty six pack of Labbatt’s Blue and a crumpled pack of Players scattered on the floor.

Harland Chesterfield had always been one weird, little guy. He was usually hanging out at Wilmington Park in what seems like a lifetime ago, roaming around, struggling to find somewhere to fit in. He seemed a withdrawn, but  he was usually also pretty wasted.  Harland didn’t have many friends, and kept to himself most of the time. He lived his life through music, and that seemed to be the only bond he would, or could share with others. He knew his stuff though.

One Friday night, at a house party at the home of one of the many teenage tarts who prowled Wilmington Park in search of drugs, love, and sex, Harland had discovered that the best way for someone to take their own life was at a Yes concert during the ‘I get up, I get down’ section of  ‘Close To The Edge’. He thought it was absurdly brilliant. We just thought he was messed up. He had reason to be. When he was nine years old, his mother seemed to have lost her mind and stabbed his father to death in the kitchen, after he informed her that the soup she had served him was not hot enough. She looked at him, smiled, and inserted an eight inch blade directly into his heart. He was dead before he hit the floor. She was institutionalized, and Harland was sent to live with an aunt, a divorced woman who lived on my street and whose bedroom I had the privilege to visit on more than one occasion.

After the police had found him, Harland was taken to the hospital and released a few days later, apparently in good health. It seems that he had simply drank himself unconscious. The trip was back on, and we were set to depart for Waterloo the following afternoon. Harland didn’t want to talk about what happened in that motel room, and the only comment he ever made about it was simply that he had a great sleep. We attended the Waterloo show completely messed up on peyote, and  followed it with concerts in Toronto and Ottawa.  Montreal was to be the last Canadian date, before we were to set out for the second stage in Flint, Columbus, and Erie.

During the Montreal concert, dead smack in the middle of ‘I Get Up, I Get Down’, amid the dry ice and flashing lights, Harland Chesterfield fell face first onto the floor. When we couldn’t get him to move, we called security who removed him from the concert floor and took him somewhere inside the bowels of the arena. We followed the security detail, and waited outside a room they had taken him to. Paramedics arrived quickly, and they seemed to be in there for hours. Finally, the door burst open, and they rushed Harland down the hallway, strapped to a stretcher, and into the back of the waiting ambulance. Harland passed away, in fact he was already gone by the time the paramedics got him into the ambulance. He was pronounced Dead On Arrival at the hospital. An autopsy identified the cause of death as suicide by poison. Traces were found in his blood and on his hands. Harland Chesterfield had administered the magic bullet that took his life at a Yes concert, with twenty thousand fans cheering, amid the spectacle of ‘I Get Up, I Get Down’, just as he had said he would.

We didn’t finish the ten shows in fifteen days. None of us really wanted to continue. Harland’s funeral was small and short, but those who attended gave him a send off we were sure he would have appreciated. The following summer, as I dabbled around the North, neck deep in drugs and damsels in a dress, I listened to Close To The Edge every day. It continues to live on in my playlist, and everytime I hear any track by Yes, my mind drifts off to remember Harland Chesterfield.

 

 

 

 

 

The Body In The Courtyard

The view from my terrace is wonderfully tranquil. I look directly into a forested area that, in Autumn, turns into a myriad of colors that regularly takes my breath away, and a courtyard enjoyed by the 4 buildings that make up this community. But that morning, it was different. Something had happened to shatter the peace that often came with a morning on the terrace.

I stepped out onto the terrace at about 5 in the morning, coffee and cigarette in hand. The lights that illuminated the courtyard below brought the entire area into view. There was nothing out of the ordinary. At 7:30, I returned to the terrace to find 6 police cruisers parked on the courtyard. There were strands of bright yellow police tape roping off an area near one of the other buildings. And there, on the ground just beside a neighboring building, was a body. It was covered with an orange tarp, and guarded by one of the officers. Several bicycle cops, dressed in the standard issues yellow jackets, and short blue pants arrived on the scene, and were relegated to directing the public away from the area. A black sedan pulled up, and 2 men, wearing suits and sunglasses got out, and walked over to the corpse. It seemed that the detectives had arrived. This was a local CSI.

They wandered around the site, and headed into the building. From my vantage point I watched as it all unfolded. I could see the detectives step onto an 11th floor terrace of a neighboring building, and, after rummaging around, peer over the edge of the terrace. Within minutes they departed the building, spoke to a uniformed officer, and left the scene just as inauspiciously as they had arrived. “Probably suicide.”, I said to my wife.

“What if he was sleep walking and fell off.”, she remarked.

“No.”, I told her. “Either suicide, or someone was high as fuck, and thought they could fly.”

“Really?”, she questioned. “Does that even happen?”

“It does to me.”, I informed her. “Many times. But usually the gargoyles wandering around the terrace keep me inside.”

It didn’t take long for the Forensics Unit to arrive. Two Officers lugging a briefcase full of evidence gathering equipment, and a camera. Pictures of the scene were taken, and the orange tarp was lifted in order to take photos of the corpse. Once completed they headed inside the building, up to the 11th floor terrace, and began taking pictures there. They returned to the scene on the ground, and rounded up what I suspect were bone fragments, and placed them in a bag. Once they were done, the Coroner’s Office arrived, in their black van, instructing the bicycle cops to keep away, and a Sergeant on the scene dispensed the short panted cyclists to other duties off the site.

The corpse was rolled and lifted onto a series of plastic coverings, and placed on a stretcher. It was wheeled to the awaiting black van, placed inside, and driven off. I looked down at the site, and noticed an enormous pool of blood. One of the maintenance workers from the complex came to wash the blood off of the concrete slabs that creating the walkway around the courtyard itself.

“I wonder if it was a man or a woman?”, my wife inquired.

“I think it was a man.”, I said. “Pretty big corpse for a woman.”

“Well that seems a little sexist.”, she stated. “There are big women, and there are small men.”

“Indeed there are.”, I agreed. “But it took three men to lift the body onto the stretcher, so I’m going to have to go with it was a man. Secondly, I am not sure that jumping to one’s death is a method women generally make when they contemplate suicide.”

“We don’t know it was suicide.”, she reminded me. “Maybe she was thrown off the terrace.”

“Well”, I added, “The detectives were in and out in about 15 minutes. The forensics team took about 30 minutes and then left. I would suspect that if foul play was suspected, there would be an investigation going on right now. I think they found a suicide note in the unit, so, that’s it.”

The Police began to remove the yellow tape, and once this task was completed, they left, like a convoy. It was 10 o’clock, and after 2 1/2 hours, the scene was completely restored to its previous pristine condition. We all seem to react to these kind of things differently, and my youngest daughter, who had been busy taking pictures of the event, began sharing them with her sister who now lived in the suburbs, informing her that there was a vacant apartment down here that was available. My wife found it completely disrespectful. My daughters found it funny. I just found it sad.

I have seen a lot of shit go on down here. There have been multiple stabbings and shootings, drug overdoses, and a serial killer stalked his victims not too far from where I live. The intentional taking of one’s own life saddens me. We still have no idea of what transpired. There was no information in any media outlets, and no one who lives in the area has any more information than I do. I suppose that we will never know what really happened. Perhaps my wife is right. Maybe some one was sleepwalking and fell over the railing. Or perhaps someone tossed the victim over the edge. I suppose, any scenario could be possible at this time. My guess, as I informed my wife, is that the gargoyles on the terrace had left, and the dude, who was high as fuck, simply wanted to fly. It happens. In any event, I hope the poor soul finds some peace now.

Lost With A Moral Compass

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

Following my expulsion from a private, religious school which my parents truly believed would set me on a clear and direct path to a cabana on a pristine beach in the after life, I entered high school as a free man, and left as one incredibly fucked up high school graduate. Over the course of four years, I am almost certain that I was wasted every day. As a result, most of my high school memories have dissipated, much like a fog bank settling over the shore line.

While the regular cast of thousands roamed the bleak, concrete hallways, engaging in self deprecating mating rituals with assorted cheerleaders in short skirts and knee high socks, who brushed them off with a flip of their hair and a turn of their head, I was  engaged in a psychedelic lunch break with draft dodger turned English teacher and drug dealer, Mr. N., or some bizarre sex ritual in the back of a Jeep Wrangler with Madame S., the French teacher who I am certain worked part time as a stripper at The Algonquin Tavern.

I suppose it was just my good fortune to have entered the corridor at the exact moment head cheerleader and dating expert Marilyn Garland, bent over and displayed her upper middle class, wonder bread ass to Fitzroy Simmons, a science nerds who had stopped to gawk. “You can keep looking.”, she said, “but you’re never gonna get this.” After a cursory glance, it occurred to me that nobody around wanted to get that.

“Don’t flatter yourself.”, I told her as I walked by. “No one wants that pasty white, bony ass. Put it away.” Fitzroy laughed. Marilyn stormed off with her band of mindless, professional virgins who I have been led to believe went on to find success as frigid wives of suburban accountants, and I was once again in the office of school Vice-Principal, Mr. Brackett.

It was the usual exchange of ideas, one that we seemed to continually rehearse. Mr. Brackett sat behind his desk, tapping his hand with a yard stick, pointing out that I was  disrespectful, immoral, and destined for a lifetime of failure. I disagreed, and expressed my concern that he was ignorant, belittling, and an asshole. I was suspended for three days, and the customary call to my parents was made. As I went to retrieve my belongings from my locker, I ran into Madame S., and I told her what had happened. “You’re just so adorable.”, she told me. “Let me give you a ride home.” I met her at the Jeep. “You drive.”, she said as she tossed me the keys. Now, if you have never had a blow job while driving a manual transmission Jeep with the top down, I suggest you try it at least once. It was wonderfully fulfilling.

My father’s only concern was that he had been called by the school. It didn’t matter to him what I had or had not done. He really didn’t care. He just did not want to be called. “I don’t understand why you keep getting caught.”, he said.

“I don’t get caught.”, I informed him. “I just choose not to run away.”

“Well”, he advised, “that’s getting caught.”

“Not really.”, I replied. “That’s surrendering. I am trying to make a point.”

“Which is?”, he asked.

“That I am right, and they are full of shit.”, I told him. We never understood each other. He neither shared my sense of justice or responsibility. The battle was fought over many years, with his frequent reminders that he just didn’t understand me. I let him know that it was alright, I wasn’t really looking for understanding, anyway. What I was really seeking was the freedom to think my own thoughts, and to live my own life. His only request was that I lived a moral life.

Many years later, following a night out, when the paranoid delusions invade the deepest recesses of my thoughts as I attempt to sleep, I realized that I had very matter of factly pissed away most of my life. Wallowing in the effects of years and years of uninhibited hallucinogenic consumption and random acts of various erotic mayhem, I realized that I was plagued with a sense of melancholy. I had discovered, much to my father’s chagrin that morality is a sham. Behind a facade of transparency, it has been driven into the shadows under a veil of secrecy and deceit. It manifests itself as the law of the land, but in reality it is merely the masturbatory fantasies of those who sit on the far right. I have participated in enough protests to have discovered that those liberal, left wing social democrats who take to the streets and gather in the squares to voice their disapproval, wind up being corralled like cattle and detained in the name of decency and public safety. I have come to understand that morality is a word used to dupe us into conformity. It is used to stifle self expression, and entice the masses to join in and march in the great military parades. Morality is insanely immoral.

We are, after all, human beings with the freedom of choice. So whose morality are we being asked to accept? Morality does not stop us from hurting others, but in fact encourages it, provided those we wish to harm are without morals. It is not morality that should prevade our existence, but responsibility. Responsibility to ourselves, and to our fellow man. We all have a responsibility to take care of each other, that is the essence of being human. Morality gives us the option to fuck up those who are less fortunate and marginalized, once we convince ourselves that they are immoral. The white shirt, suit and tie bufoons who reign supreme by virtue of their ability to make promises that they have no intention to keep, dictate what is moral as they shove the poor and destitute deeper into the holes that have been dug in an attempt to bury all of the unwanted refuse this society has created.

Where is the responsibility we have towards our fellow man? Where is the sense of duty to help those in need? These qualities, an integral part of what makes us human beings has been relegated to land fills across the planet in order that the rich and powerful may continue to be rich and powerful. I  don’t profess to have all of the answers, but I do know that I do not screw others because it is immoral, but rather because I have an obligation to help, not hinder, to enlighten, not confuse. I don’t want what others have, nor do I need it, but the constraints of morality force even the meekest of men to become sinners. The new found morality will not lead to happiness, or peace of mind. Happiness will be found in doing what you love, and being who you really are, without seeking acceptance from anyone other than yourself. Those who expound morality are immoral.

I regret nothing, although there are times when I wish I could have said something a little more appropriate than “Go to hell, you fucking whore.”, at the settlement hearing with my first wife, but it was said and done. I have tried to spend my life as a champion of the underdog, the guardian of those who are unable to help themselves. When no one wanted to hang out with Fitzroy Simmons, who was taunted, teased and bullied his entire academic life, I looked out for him, and offered my friendship. Madame S., well, she needed to feel love, and I desperately wanted to be the one to give it to her. My refusal to knuckle under to the intimidation tactics of Mr. Brackett served to demonstrate to others that authority exists only because we give it permission to.

I went on, after University, to work with children and adolescents with mental health and behavioral issues, guiding them to a life of self reliance and self acceptance. Not bad for a disrespectful, immoral, failure. Recognize your responsibility and your duty to give back, and stop listening to the moral right. They’re all just fucktards.

Remembering Charlie Garrick

by Solomon Tate

“I guess it hasn’t really been that bad.”, Garrick said to Dr. Perlmuter, the cardigan clad Psychotherapist who bore a striking resemblance to Tim Curry. “I mean there have been many potholes, and a whole lot of wrong turns, but it’s really been pretty good.”

“So why are you here?”, the doctor asked.

“Well, out there may be okay”, Garrick answered. “But the shit in my head freaks me out.”

“Well, we’ll have to pick it up right there next time.”, he said matter of factly, “I’m afraid we’re out of time.”

The good doctor was right. They were out of time. Two hours and seventeen minutes later Garrick stepped in front of a train at the St. Patrick subway station, ending the life of a good man.

Charlie Garrick was 54 years old. He spent 30 years as a reporter for a group of small, community newspapers. He had written a book, but came to the realization that he could say everything he needed to say in 2 or 3 sentences. ‘The Decline of Modern Culture’, which he wrote in 1998, consisted of 250 pages, of which 249 pages were left blank. On the 2nd page Charlie wrote “The tyrannical web of deceit that has circumvented the universe has been left to run amok, unattended for far too long. Stop the fucking lying”. He was right about it,I mean  he really didn’t need more than 2 or 3 sentences to say what he needed to say. ‘Stop the fucking lying.’, pretty much said it all.

Charlie Garrick was my friend. We served two tours of duty together in rehab, during which neither one of us could muster the courage to achieve any measure of success. During our conversations, usually held over a couple of pitchers of beer and numerous tequila shots, he spoke lovingly about his children, and passionately about Taoism. Charlie believed that life just is. Nothing more needs to be done. If we could all accept our lives, commune with nature, and seek and want nothing, all of the world’s problems would cease to exist. I don’t really understand much of it myself, but he was certain it was right. “Be like a river.”, he said. “All it ever is is a river. It flows, and nothing more. And in doing nothing but being a river, it carves through solid rock, creating valleys, and massive canyons. Pretty impressive for doing nothing.”

We sat at The Brunswick House one afternoon, many years ago contemplating life’s purpose, as 2 incredibly naive young men were prone to do. I was a psychology major, infatuated with opportunities to delve into the psyche’s of troubled souls, and help them change to live more fulfilling and positive lives. Garrick, reluctantly chose his major in his 3rd year. He opted for a combined major in history & English. He stated that since man was destined to repeat the past, someone should know what the hell had really happened, and be able to write about the dangers of repetition.

Although  customary in these instances, Charlie left no note, leaving the usual culprits to ask why. All that they could do was to ponder circumstance and speculate in an attempt to rationalize what had transpired. I’m not sure if even Charlie knew why. More important and  certainly more relevant is  how  no one noticed the anguish and desperation that was consuming Charlie. He had friends, and family and it just didn’t make any sense. It never did. Something was eating away at him, from the inside out, and it had probably been going on for years and years.

I hadn’t spoken to Charlie in a few years, and I suppose that should have been some sort of warning that things weren’t right. But we always assume the best, I suppose. People get busy, and their lives twist and turn like a river, taking them where ever the river leads. It wasn’t unusual for Charlie to disappear, but he was pretty consistent in letting us know that he was okay. There was always some kind of smoke signal, a letter or a telegram, and more recently, a text message or an email, simply stating ‘All is well. Glad you’re not here’. But there had been nothing over the last few years.

Charlie had once told me about the time he headed north and spent 2 weeks alone in the wilderness. He said that when one removes himself from the human race, even if only for a short time, it becomes evident that you never really belonged, and no longer wish to be a member. Isolation was liberating, and in isolation, he was able to truly know himself, and to become himself.

But even in his reluctance to be a part of humanity, Charlie Garrick was always there for me, and scores of others. When my wife became ill, Charlie was there, and when my first daughter was born with a disability that required her to undergo 11 surgeries in 7 years, Charlie sat with me at that hospital every single time. He was a loving and caring man who always seemed to put others before himself. Sadly, most people didn’t notice as Charlie acted within the realm of silence and anonymity. He hated the recognition and notoriety that often went hand in hand with doing the right thing so much, that he had refused to attend 3 separate award events in his honor. Few people knew that he sat on several committees that dealt with social issues, or that he taught a creative writing course for marginalized youth in the city core. And that’s how he wanted it. He did what he did, like a river, doing nothing more that just being, and he carved a life of good deeds, touching so many.

And now that he’s gone, I regret for not being a better friend. I regret that I was not there for him when he needed someone. I feel guilt that I didn’t take the time to find out what the hell was going on so that I could at least try to help. I will miss him. I will miss the way he argued with the server at Szechuan Palace that Peking Duck is really only a chicken that swims and flies. I will miss the way  beer came streaming out of his nose like a fountain when he laughed. Most of all, though, I will miss his friendship. I will miss the commitment and dedication he devoted to being my friend. I will miss Charlie Garrick.

Fielding Goodfellow Speaks

 

This is an excerpt from an interview with Fielding Goodfellow published in ‘Psychedelic Psecrets’, in June 2016.

I met Fielding Goodfellow at a small Middle Eastern restaurant just north of the city. I had been advised by his publicist that he does not talk about politics or religion. I arrived a few minutes early, to find him already seated at a table, drinking Turkish coffee. The following has been transcribed from notes I took at this meeting.

MAG: You’ve written short stories, a few novels, and a screenplay. No one seems to know much about the screenplay. Where did that come from?

FG:  Oh, ya. ‘Free Swim In The Gene Pool’. My foray into film. It was, by the way, a resounding piece of crap.  I wrote it on a dare from a friend.

MAG: ‘Free Swim In The Gene Pool’? I’ve never heard of it.

FG: Well,  I’m not surprised. As I said, it was crap.

MAG: Did you always want to be a writer?

FG: No, I never thought about being a writer. I wanted to be a super hero. The writing thing I think was always there, laying patiently in wait. And then one day, it just all started to fall out.

MAG: There are numerous references to your days at University in most of your work. What was your major?

FG: Well, as I remember it, my University days were quite the Space Oddity, so I suppose there was Major Tom. Oh, and there were the majorettes.

MAG: Sex and drugs. Right?.

FG: Pretty much.

MAG:  Both seem to be recurrent themes in your work. What’s your take on the upcoming recreational marijuana laws?

FG:  I have no opinion, really. Drugs are simply a great way to travel to far off places without having to put my pants on.

MAG: You once said that the writing process and sex are pretty much the same. Care to elaborate?

FG: I probably did say that, but I have this weird ass writer friend in Detroit who said it first. But ya, I think its true. The only difference is that with writing, I never have to apologize for finishing early.

MAG: You don’t seem to take much seriously, do you?

FG: No, I don’t. Its pointless. Life isn’t a serious venture. Its a divine comedy. A burlesque revue at best.

MAG: And for those who can’t seem to find the humor?

FG: Get the fuck out of the house. Just live life. Here’s the problem. When I was 13, I was riding my bike around the streets, having incredible sex with the neighborhood housewives. At 15, I was listening to The 13th Floor Elevators, smoking a joint, while getting a blow job from Wendy Phillips. Today, I rarely see kids outside. They’re busy sitting in their rooms, alone, playstation powered up, engaged in some fantasy bullshit with 4 other virginal nerds from assorted parts of the planet. Life isn’t fantasy. It’s life. Go out and fucking live it. Travel. Experience shit. Its wonderfully funny out there.

MAG: Are there any other words of wisdom for our readers?

FG: Stop listening to people who don’t know anything. The world is filled with ignorant twats who are selling information on things they really know nothing about. Why would you trust someone who has never raised kids to teach you how to raise kids? And yet, they write their books, appear on TV talk shows, flogging their insights into child rearing, all with no experience raising kids. They’re full of shit. If you want to know about raising kids, talk to someone who has raised 5 or 6 of them. Stop believing the so called experts.

MAG: So, what’s next for Fielding Goodfellow?

FG: Well, I think I’m going to order the chicken shawarma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Night To End All Nights

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

On Saturday night, or most probably early Sunday morning, I sat in Bemelman’s. An upscale Bistro on the corner of Bay & Bloor, it catered to the glamorous, those with celebrity, the nearly famous, and those that knew them. It had become a regular occurrence in the early days of January or February, 1981. It was the time that followed the death of social protest. Lennon was gone, and Dylan was still ensconced in his shroud of born again Christianity, which he wore like a super hero.  It was a time of excess. We indulged in far too much alcohol, inhaled and ingested far too many drugs, and stayed awake for days at a time.  And, I ate far too many eggs benedict. Bemelman’s served some of the best I had ever eaten. There was no longer any dissent. It had faded from our collective consciousness just as it had arrived, over a few beers with an opium chaser.  There were no longer any placard holding, mob scenes, with bra-less socially inept co-eds storming the campus administrative offices. There were no longer marches through the streets, gaining momentum and fervor with every step. And as I sat looking around the infamous eatery, I realized that we had all been had.

Something had gone terribly wrong. It usually did. It seemed as if the world had gone deaf, and possibly blind. The system was corrupt, filled with micro minded Harvard graduates who had been assembled with excess small parts, and suffered from incurable image envy, and no one seemed to notice. And with the future of our little corner of the universe teetering precariously over the proverbial edge, the wolves in sheep’s clothing had convinced most of us that we would not fall into the abyss waiting below, while they had removed themselves from the rapidly approaching cataclysm, by grabbing a pitching wedge to make the short chip shot to the green. And with that shot muffed,  the boisterous call of ‘Mulligan’ echoed across the galaxy. And yet as we hung on to the edge for dear life, not a single call of ‘Mulligan’ was heard. The current status quo of our planet had to have been a mistake, certainly worthy of a do over.

And there I was, mesmerized by the fragile egos of pseudo rock stars, artists, film makers, writers, and actors,  far too large to measure. And me, well, I was left wing. Several years at a Liberal Arts University had propelled me into a life of burgeoning Socialism, with an almost phobic distrust for systems, and a fondness for women who wore glasses.  I found myself sitting with a local music legend, who shall remain nameless, doing lines of coke at a table in the back, mixing it up with shots of Jack Daniels. A few celebrity hangers on had congregated by our table, listening to whatever words of wisdom came from this legend’s mouth, and interjecting random statements in order to validate their own existence. We did some opium right at the table, and in the haze I realized that I was just as full of shit as the rest of them. What the hell was I doing here? Perhaps it was the coke, or the opium, or the alcohol, or the combination of everything I had just sent coursing through my veins into my head, but I knew it was true. I was also sure that using Pez dispensers to dispense pharmaceuticals was one hell of an idea. What could be more fun that pulling a Valium, or a Xanax, or a Percodan right out of Superman’s mouth. There was a great deal of interest at Bemelman’s in starting up Pez Pills, and so another glorious idea was born. But like everything else, the nouveau bohemians were excited about, it waned as quickly as it was born, replaced with a new found  interest in spray on tans.

Sitting with a beer or two, while the opium turned the neurons in my head on and off, I noticed Felix Bergman, a music writer and former promoter who had fallen out of favor with the Bemelman Bohemians over  the Great Corn Flake debacle of 1979. The story goes, that Felix had booked a band into one of the top local concert venues. The singer/guitarist of the band as it turns out, was the offspring of a legendary musician, and  demanded Corn Flakes in his dressing room. However, he simply called it the ‘flakes with the cock on the box’. To make a long story short, Felix had purchased some bizarre sex toy and presented it to this budding star. The ensuing dispute resulted in the band refusing to perform and Felix having a 9 inch silicon penis inserted rather forcibly in his anus. A trip to a local hospital was required. As the story circulated among the music community, names were being bandied about, referring to Felix as ‘butt fuck Bergman’, ‘anal Felix’, and the ever popular ‘bend over Bergman’.  We invited bend over Bergman to our table, and after getting him significantly wasted, realized that it was not the Corn Flake fiasco that had ostracized him. He was a dick. Ironic, but true. And not just any dick, but a 9 inch silicon penis that had been forcibly inserted into someone’s anus. That kind of dick. He was ignorant and arrogant, patronizing and pompous, and criminally boring. The legend didn’t like him much either, so we excused ourselves, and left Bemelman’s for the safety of the stretch limo that was at his disposal. He had invited a couple of young ladies to join us on our way out, and well, if you’ve never had a blow job traveling at 120 kilometers per hour, while fucked up on whiskey, coke, and opium, you should definitely try it, at least once.

The night began to wind down, and I was convinced that tbohemianshis life was no better than what was being offered by the douche bags out there on the golf courses, holding their putters in their hands. It was all just smoke and mirrors. There was contempt and disapproval, judgmental assumptions, and ideologies that could be found in every suit and tie country club. Power and greed corrupt absolutely, even if it it is only imagined. Shortly after this night to end all nights, I stopped hanging out with wannabees, and the pseudo stars, and I gave up drugs. Many years later I ran into the legend at a music conference. He was broke and alone, and had a significant drinking problem.  He depended on the kindness of his old friends to help him out. I introduced him to my wife, and he hit on her. It was funny, yet incredibly sad at the same time. But, as it turned out, the legend was also a dick. But, I wasn’t surprised. We’re all the same, really. We just keep chasing the dreams that continue to frustrate and derail us. I have never wanted to play with the Ivy Leaguers. I have always been content to hang out with the bra-less, socially inept co-eds who wore glasses and marched off to the Campus Administrative Office shouting “Mulligan”. And, for the best part of my life, I have been married to one.

 

 

The Clown Of Fenlon Falls

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

I met Neanne sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, but I can’t be certain of anything any longer.  I was caught somewhere between the excessive drugs and a a chronic reluctance to accept and adapt to the bullshit that was falling around me in the guise of manna from heaven. When both  joy and despair  danced around my head like Fred & Ginger, tugging at my sanity to a degree that would make any bipolar disorder envious. The effects of the copious amounts of hallucinogenics I had been dabbling in were wonderfully bizarre. Every now and again there would be a flying burrito doing figure eights above the kitchen sink,  or the chameleon who lived next door would bring home a penguin he had recently started dating. And when it all seemed about to implode, she wandered into my world.  She was tall, blonde, and exactly what I needed at the time.

Neanne came from a small town north of the city, and she was a prostitute trying to get out of the life. She was the perfect distraction at a time when I longed to be distracted. We became friends, and when she left the business a short time later, we began a relationship based entirely on each one of us getting their needs met. She needed someone to love her, and I needed someone to keep me safe from the Blue Meanies. She turned me on to all kinds of weird ass sex, and I got her into all kinds of weird ass drugs. Our entire existence as a couple revolved around sex and drugs. In retrospect we were the Sid and Nancy of the bagel crowd. We were either getting high or getting laid, or more often than naught, getting both.

I was working for a small, local record label in those days, working on projects with some larger Independent labels, scouring the land for marketable talent. Neanne went with me to a small community just North East of the big smoke, where we rented a cottage on the lake. We traveled around the area, catching shows at various bars while insanely stoned, and returned to our rented rooms to engage in coitus stupendous. On the third day of our talent search, we ran into an older gentleman, dressed in a suit, looking like a lawyer, or perhaps a bank employee. And while neither Neanne nor I had any idea of who he was, he was certain that he knew Neanne. It seems that during one of his sojourns to the big city, he had enlisted the services of a sex trade worker, and he was sure it was Neanne. Before long, the entire bar was looking over at her, and she was being propositioned by most of the men present, with the server delivering notes and drinks to her. It was becoming overwhelming for her. I on the other hand, was devising a plan to send the giant lizard men who were standing by the car in to eat the little bastards. “I want to leave.”, she told me.

“Okay.”, I said.

As we drove back to the cottage, she had asked if I would take her to her parent’s home, about an hour or so away. I agreed. She talked the entire time, relaying tales of how this sort of thing happens regularly. There was always an ex client who recognized or remembered her and was seeking something now. She had had enough of it, and wasn’t sure if she could stay around the city. Even out here, in cottage country, she was being recognized. I felt bad for her, but man did I want to take her now. It occurred to me that I was getting for free what everyone else had to pay for, and that seemed pretty cool, with a cloud of opium sifting through my brain.

We spent 24 hours at her parents’ home, giving Neanne time to settle down, talk with her parents, and try to come up with a plan to move on with her life. She had decided, with the help of her father, who went off to work each day with a lunch pail in on hand, and a bible in the other, that she was going to find God, and devout her life to helping others. A noble quest, indeed. But the only thing my drug soaked brain could focus on was how would this interfere in my getting laid.

I understood her need to find something more. I myself, had traveled down that road on more than one occasion, seeking God, or a reasonable facsimile. I searched everywhere I could think of, at the beach, in the mountains, at the bottom of a box of Fruit Loops, but found nothing. But Neanne was determined, and I was certain her father had the address to some secret location where God could indeed be found.

I stayed with Neanne until she figured out that she wanted to be a  clown. “Are you serious?”, I asked her.

“Yes,”, she said. “Its perfect. I would make people happy.”

“It seems to me that your previous occupation made people happy too.”, I replied.

“I can’t do that anymore.”, she said. “It didn’t make me happy. And besides, I think I love you.”

The sarcastic laughter and comments from the giant lizard men sitting in the back seat of the car, startled me at first. “I really need to stay straight long enough to know what the hell I’m doing.”, I thought.

We parted ways shortly after, I mean I didn’t love her. I loved the sex. And while, at the time, I didn’t know there was a difference, I figured it out. Neanne did indeed venture into the world of clowning. She got pretty good at it, and eventually started her own business providing floppy shoes, baggy pants, and big, red noses, to parties, school events, and children’s hospital visits. I saw her a few years later, and she was happy. I was happy for her. I traveled on, discovering new ways to antagonize the universe, and simplify my life.  I moved on to new worlds, discovering that while there was no need to search any longer, it was still wonderfully exciting to look for the prize in the box of Fruit Loops.

 

 

A Holiday Miracle

 

“You’ve got to be kidding!”, I said.

“No.”, my wife replied. “I’m pretty sure he took it all home.”

“Why the hell would he do that?”, I asked.

“I don’t know.”, she replied. “Except we always give him stuff.”

“Did you give it to him?”, I asked.

“No.” She said. “I just assumed you did.”

“”I’m not doing this again.”, I stated. “From now on, we go to someone else’s place.”

And so ended a rather precarious night. It began several hours earlier, when all of the kids and their partners came over for another of our bi-annual family fun fests, filled with festivity, frivolity, and food. They arrived en masse, marching in like the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea, tossing jackets down the hallway and into the living room,  wandering into the kitchen, opening the fridge, and re emerging for the customary hugs. “I don’t know why you still can’t hang a jacket up.”, my wife said as she picked their coats up off of the floor.

“Just leave them.”, I told her. “No body eats until they hang up their coats.”

“What are we having?”, one of my daughters asked.

“Did you cook or are we ordering in?”, another one inquired.

“They didn’t cook.”, a son stated. “I already checked.”

“Well”, I said, “None of you will be eating until those coats are hung up.”

The traditional Chinese food for the holidays meal was becoming near impossible to coordinate. Someone was allergic to shrimp. There were prohibitions to beef, pork and chicken, garlic, and broccoli. There was even a Vegetarian. “It was so simple when they were little.”, my wife said.

“I know.”, I tried to console her.

“They were happy with fish sticks and fries.”, she continued.

“Just order what ever you want to order. They will eat, or they won’t.”, I advised.

The food arrived, and everyone found something they could enjoy. I settled in to hot & sour soup, while my wife tackled the order of ribs that lay before her. There were noodle dishes, beef dishes, and chicken dishes. For the Vegetarian, who would not eat from the Chinese restaurant, there was vegetarian pizza. Dinner was followed by board games, lemon coffee cake, blueberry pie, and an assortment of goodies covered in chocolate, all served to a background of assorted Progressive Rock.

“What the hell are we listening to?”, someone said.

“It’s the old man’s stoner music.”, one of my kids blurted out.

“Are you high?”, someone asked me.

“He’s usually high.”, my wife responded. “For as long as I’ve known him.”

“Actually”, I responded, “I’m just comfortably numb.”

“And there’s the Pink Floyd reference.”, one of my son’s acknowledged.

“Does anyone want coffee?”, my wife asked the throng of trolls still hovering around the table.

Over the course of the next hour or so, each one of my kids wanted to speak to me in private. To be honest, I was scared. It was never good when they want to talk to me. It usually involves them asking for money. But this year, it was different.  One son was leaving his partner after 4 years. Turns out she’s a bitch. A daughter wants to have her her in-laws committed. Apparently, they are insane. My other son is having problems with his wife. It seems that she requires far more maintenance than he had anticipated. And finally, one of my daughters merely wanted money. It seems that she had a significant credit card debt that she wanted me to pay off. For the record, she was told no.

“And now”, I said to all of them, “I want you all to go home and think about which one of you will be taking your mother and I in, when we get too old to take care of yourselves.”

“I thought you were going to a seniors’ home.”, someone said.

“We’re not going to any home.”, my wife stated, as they hastily put on their coats and boots. And somewhere in the confusion of which jacket belonged to who, and where did she leave her purse, the Bermuda like triangle in my living room opened up. As we closed the door behind the last one to leave, we notice the barren table.

“Where is all of the stuff?”, I asked.

“I don’t know.”, my wife said.

“Well”, I continued, “It was all here just a few minutes ago.”

“Its not there now.”, she advised, stating the obvioust the obvious.

“Well”, I continued, “It didn’t just walk away on its own.”

“You’re starting to sound like your father.”, she informed me.

“Well, sometimes he was right.”, I replied.

“I think one of the kids took it home.”, I was told. “Probably Terry.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!”, I said.

“No.”, my wife replied. “I’m pretty sure he took it all home.”

“Why the hell would he do that?”, I asked.

“I don’t know.”, she replied. “Except we always give him stuff.”

“Did you give it to him?”, I asked.

“No.” She said. “I just assumed you did.”

“I’m not doing this again.”, I stated. “From now on, we go to someone else’s place. I think you should call the boy and ask him what the hell he thought he was doing.”

“It’s not that big of a deal.”, she said. “It was only the coffee cake, and the pie.”

“Well, you may want to sit down for this.”, I told her. “But he took all of the chocolate-cashews, and the chocolate pretzels.”

“What the hell.”, she bellowed. “What’s wrong with him.”

“Oh”, I reminded her, “Its not that big of a deal.”

“You’re right.”, she said. “Its okay. It’s just nice to have everyone down here so we’re all together. Everyone is healthy, and they have such a good time together. It’s a miracle.”

“The fact that we never put the little shits up for adoption”, I stated, now that’s the real miracle.

“You don’t mean that.”, she said, as she put her arm around my waist. “You’re just upset that he took your coffee cake without asking.”

“It was lemon coffee cake.”, I reminded her.

“Let’s go to bed.”, she said, as she gave me a gentle tug towards the bedroom. “I’m pretty sure you’re going to get lucky tonight.”

“Wow.”, I said. “Another Holiday miracle.”