STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN

Stop arguing with people who don't want to know.
Look at the small print.
Listen to your heart.
Stop yearning for what is gone.
Look out for children.
Listen to what is not said in a conversation.
Stop worrying about tomorrow, you may not be here.
Look into someone's eyes to view their soul.
Listen to the silence just before you drift off to sleep.  
Stop pushing for things you don't really need.  
Look and learn. There's a lesson in everything. 
Listen to your inner voice. If something doesn't feel right,
it isn't. 
Stop the wars fought for nothing.
Look after yourself.
Listen to the warm.


(c) Frank Howson 2017


photography by Vanessa Allan.

ALL I KNOW IS THIS.

All I know is this. Politicians, mostly, stand for one thing, and one thing only – being elected.  Those who genuinely dare to make a difference and can’t be bought – are in danger of their lives. And will either be killed by a bullet or a smear campaign.

 

All I know is this. Jesus, whether he was the Messiah, the Son of God, a gifted rabbi, or just another madman in the wilderness, preached a message of love and forgiveness – regardless of the translations, the interpretations or the Chinese whispers – his message, and the price he paid for it, are worthy of my respect, and love.

 

All I know is this. Shakespeare has the perfect quote to describe any condition of human nature. So does Bob Dylan.

 

All I know is this. They no longer make films for mature audiences.

 

All I know is this. It is alright to love something – but you are damned if you love that thing too much.

 

All I know is this. Today we have at our fingertips on the internet more easily accessed information than any previous generation that inhabited this planet. And yet the ignorance level has never been higher.  Who the hell is Paul McCartney?  Go fuck yourself.

 

All I know is this. Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t shoot J.F.K and the men who did got away with it.

 

All I know is this. None of us have any real idea what’s happening in the world at the moment. We have been purposely misinformed for many years now because the only way to keep the public in line is to have them in a constant state of confusion and chaos. Oh, and hopefully, on drugs.

 

All I know is this. The War on Terrorism is as calculatingly and cynically futile and convenient as the War on Drugs.

 

All I know is this. Two of Hollywood’s greatest geniuses, or genii, Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles, were both run out of town. Does that tell you something?

 

All I know is this. Children’s theatre and pantomimes were the first introduction of many kids like me to the magical world of theatre. And once hooked on it we continued to go back in search of other magical nights. It built a whole future audience for stage shows. Sadly, what we knew as children’s theatre is now as dead as the Wicked Witch. Ding dong.

 

All I know is this. We owe more than we know to The Beatles. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

All I know is this. The more you see of Life, the less you think you know.

 

All I know is this. Humility is the open road to God.

 

All I know is this. More lives had been lost or damaged through manmade religions than all the wars since the beginning of time. God is great. But his organized fan clubs are run by the ignorant and the flawed.

 

All I know is this. You can’t judge somebody by the colour of their skin, their gender, the size of their wallet, or their religion.  We can only truly be judged on the fabric of our spirit.

 

All I know is this. You can’t make somebody love you.

 

All I know is this. Success comes to those who persist. If you lean against a closed door long enough eventually it flies open.

 

All I know is this.  Some of the old clichés have become clichés because they hold the truth. Everything in moderation. If you eat, drink, do, or take too much of anything it will harm you.

 

All I know is this. Anthony Newley was a genius that the world has largely forgotten now.

 

All I know is this. Everything you learn you learn in the first five years of your life. Then it may take a lifetime to overcome that.

 

All I know is this. Any battle is hard won.

 

All I know is this. Much more is achieved by a smile than a threat.

 

All I know is this. Every mistake we make is an opportunity to learn something. Those of us who don’t learn are destined to repeat it over and over again. Some, sadly, are stuck in Groundhog Day all their lives.

 

All I know is this. You never lose a friend. They live on in your heart forever.

 

All I know is this. We’re not here for long, so be kind to each other.

 

 

 

(c) Frank Howson 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAPOLEON IN DEFEAT

I don’t know where I’m going

But I’m starting here

I dueled with my demons

And conquered my fear

I’d reached a place

Where I was at peace with myself

And the joy that that brought

Meant more to me than wealth

To sit in the garden

and feel the sun on my face

Was to reach an unknown destination

And yet to know this place

But you crashed through my door

With your bag of moods

And a bottle of water

That you’d stolen from Lourdes

Escaping from a man

That’d unfriended you

And his songs of misery

That’d all come true

I don’t know where I’m going

But I’m starting here

All the things that I treasured

You smashed them, my dear

 

 

(c) 2015 Frank Howson

 

 

 

 

 

P.F. SLOAN

it was the season of youth
when the music was sublime and everything was filled with
wonder
and
possibilities
even for a poor kid who hated school
if the music hadn’t saved me
i may’ve realized how dangerous my future looked
in the eyes of the realists
and those who suck the joy out of everything
but lennon’s voice sneered in their ear
and defended me
and paul sugar coated it
so even
the establishment unwittingly accepted the
revolution
while sweet George
played the guitar breaks that
implanted themselves
in our psyche
ringo conjured up beats
that shouldn’t make sense
but made us all want to dance
then a song
“eve of destruction”
came on the radio
and foretold us all
what the truth was
that
there were shadow people
who didn’t
dance
and
hellbent on
destroying our world
and us
a brave man must’ve written
this
song
i feared they would make him pay
and
they did
i looked for his name under the song title
on the record
it was
p.f. sloan
i loved the name
even
and i then after noticed
that he had written
so many songs
that i’d loved
that he must be the fifth beatle?
maybe?
he could’ve been
thought i
but i was just a kid
and the soundtrack of my life
was being written
by
giants
whose like we wouldn’t
much
see again
i even bought his own record
the 45rpm
p.f. sloan was now in bigger letters on the label
of him singing
his own song
“sins of a family”
on dunhill records
and he warned me again
of the world
and what can happen
to
those whose
innocence and light
distance you
from the
shadow makers
and that the
enemy may’ve even infiltrated
your own
family
but
he had said too much
rocked the boat
sang in a voice
that raged
and was defiant
he must be
a
communist
said the men of darkness
we can’t categorize him
which
makes him a threat
to what we know
and the system
of
counting beans
and labeling tins
and there were others
envious of his talent
and light
and
youth
so the people who gave him to us
eventually took him from us
one of his publicity photos
shows him holding his guitar
as though it’s a machine gun
little did I know
he was caught up
in a battle
of a war
that no one wins
then oneday
p.f.sloan went away
disappeared
became a mystery
he took something of me with him
that day
i eagerly awaited
his return
checking the writing
credits of every record
just in case
but alas
gone
no more
i waited 40 years for his return
in the meantime
his legend grew
even his protégé
jimmy webb wrote a song for him
about him
“i have been seeking p.f.sloan
but no one knows where he has gone…”

if jimmy couldn’t find him
how could i?
then
one night
in los angeles
when I was lost
and at bazza’s place
i surfed the internet
and typed in his name
that magical name
and there he was
we met
we became friends
like it had always
been
destined
that we would
we
talked
and found
that we had
traveled a similar
road
he had been banished
from the industry for 40 years
me for ten
we were brothers in hurt
and strength
and
every minute i spent with him
inspired
me
enlightened
me
and
even when we
were far apart
half a world away
we
still felt connected
in song
in spirit
and…every day
when i think of him
i smile
he
came back into the world
reborn
with one last album
“my beethoven”
and a book that explained it all
“what’s exactly the matter with me?” (written with Steve Feinberg)

then…

he disappeared on us all

again

beyond his control

but this time we may not have to wait so long

to meet up…

and one night

in that other world
we’ll
sit at dan tana’s again
over a martini
and without a word
connect
for there is magic
if you believe
it
so
and
i do

(c) Frank Howson

DEATH TAKES A RIDE

It was a black night and the only thing visible was the winding road lit by the high beamed headlights.

Jeffrey Marshall had been driving for 18 hours now and was still a day away from his destination. His car radio had long lost any connection to local radio stations and he was beginning to talk to himself. Well, he thought he was. Perhaps his one-sided conversation was only taking place in his head.

“I’ve never seen a night so dark.” It was impossible to make out anything except the road ahead. It was eerie. It was like the only things that existed in this world were him, and the throw of the light. Before the radio died the last news bulletin warned about the possibility of a serial killer. It was the only thing that could explain the disappearance of 12 people in and around this area over the past few years. Jeffrey didn’t want to think about that. He hated to dwell on things that were unexplainable. All he knew was that people were capable of very bad things. Even good people. And that there were no answers to anything. Well none that made sense anyway. Things were what they were and it was best not to send yourself nuts looking too deep into stuff. He checked his petrol meter and still had half a tank. This was not a place to run out of fuel. He picked up the speed as though wanting to leave this night behind him.

He turned a bend and suddenly there was light and smoke. And a shadowy figure waving him down. Jeffrey was tempted to keep going but it looked like the man had misjudged the bend and his car had landed in a ditch on the side of the road. Jeffrey, against his better judgment, pulled to a stop some distance from the crash. In his rear view mirror he saw the dark figure slowly walking towards him. The man moved in a way that was unnerving. He almost glided in slow motion. Jeffrey hated himself for stopping but he had no control. It was as though he was giving in to the inevitable, and there was a liberating feeling to that sense of free falling.

Finally the stranger reached Jeffrey’s car and tapped on the side window. Jeffrey hit the button and the window came down. He looked into the stranger’s face but the night, and the hood the man was wearing, hid most of his features.

“Can I get a ride with you to the next town?” asked the stranger.

“Of course,” replied Jeffrey.

The stranger opened the door and got in. Jeffrey started up his car and they continued weaving through the black night.

“You misjudged the turn back there huh?” said Jeffrey, stating the obvious in an attempt to kick start a conversation. But the stranger said nothing. He looked straight ahead as though mesmerized by the light and the road.

“Are you okay?” enquired Jeffrey.

Again, there was silence. Just as Jeffrey was about to charge ahead with another question, the stranger answered, “Yes. I’m okay.”

“Have you ever seen a night like this? It’s pitch black. Not a star, not a moonglow, nothing,” observed Jeffrey out loud.

“There is a light. Out there.” The stranger pointed to where the dense forest was to their left.

“A light?” asked Jeffrey.

“Maybe lots of them,” answered the stranger.

“But that’s impossible. There’s nothing out there. I know this area well,” answered Jeffrey.

With that, the stranger slowly turned his head to look at Jeffrey. Suddenly Jeffrey could see his features, his sunken dark eyes and a smile filled with the conceit of somebody talking to a stupid child.

“I know what I saw.” answered the man.

“I’m just saying that there’s no town or energy plant or anything that would be generating a light. That forest is very dense. It’s a death maze. You got lost in there you’d never get out. So, where would a light be coming from?”

“Do you believe in aliens?” asked the stranger.

Jeffrey looked at the man and suppressed his desire to answer, “Well, not until now.” But he didn’t. Instead he gave one of those answers you give when you can’t be bothered considering such things. “I only believe what can be proven.”

The stranger smiled again and said, “So how do you explain the light?”

Now it was Jeffrey’s turn to go silent and stare at the road ahead.

After some time, the stranger added, “And how do you explain 12 people gone missing from around here?”

“Oh that I can explain.”

The stranger waited for the driver to elaborate but instead Jeffrey steered his car to the side of the road and turned off the engine. He shut down the lights and got out of the car walking slowly around to the passenger side and opened the door.

“What’s this then?” asked the stranger.

“I don’t really know. It’s just something that happens and, like your lights in the wilderness, can’t be explained. Now get out of the car please.”

The stranger got out and rose to his full height. It was several seconds before he realized he’d been stabbed. Then again. And again. He felt the blood with his hand just to be sure. Then he looked into the face of Jeffrey Marshall. But there was no trace of conceit, or pleasure, or any discernible emotion on Jeffrey’s face. The most unnerving thing was the sheer nothingness of what he felt and saw.

“Why?” asked the stranger.

“I stopped asking that a long time ago. It just is what it is.”

Four hours later Jeffrey was back on the road. He was exhausted from the ditch digging and pushing the stranger’s car off the road and someway into the forest. His clothes were muddy. He’d have to stop at a motel, clean up, have some sleep, get dressed in some clean clothes and throw his bloody muddy ones into a nearby river. He felt some tingling of satisfaction watching them rush off towards the sea and wishing it was him. They were clean and free. Yet he was chained to this dirt. He had tried many times to stop but it was no use. He was good at it and it calmed him for a time. Then whatever it was inside him would build to it again. He had long ago accepted that this was his lot in life.

It was almost nightfall again by the time he got back on the road. It was another black night. He kept looking for answers in the final expressions of his victims but the truth is there was nothing. No anger, no fear, no confusion, nothing. Strangely, there was a peace. If anything, a relief that it was all over. Jeffrey justified his deeds as acts of compassion. If you believed in a God then wasn’t it destined that Jeffrey and his victims would meet on such a night? And that he would play his role as well as they played theirs. Wasn’t Judas just as chosen as Jesus?

He suddenly thought about the lights in the heart of the forest that his most recent victim, Number 13, had seen. Had he been hallucinating? Was it a premonition and he was glimpsing the lights of heaven? “It doesn’t matter. And it don’t do any good to think about such things,” said Jeffrey to himself.

Jeffrey had never seen a light in the darkness. Only a road. One that bends and goes on forever and, occasionally, along the way, things would happen.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

WEST OF EVERYWHERE

You won’t find it on a mapquest
You can’t reach it via phone
You might glimpse it on the ones
Who stand and stare
It’s a town without a signpost
No zip code for this zone
East of Eden
West of everywhere

You can’t leave here on a highway
Or a greyhound in the night
You’re stuck here all at sea
Without a flare
No train you can escape on
No transatlantic flight
East of Eden
West of everywhere

I saw the sun rise and die in her eyes
She followed my ghost to the garden of all our goodbyes
From Bombay to the badlands
Forever on the run
I’ll live by the light of her love
Till this battle is won

You can’t chain me to an office
’cause I’ve burned my Sunday clothes
I don’t need no tender lovin’ prayer
You may think that you can find me
But nothin’ ever shows
East of Eden
West of everywhere

Just think of me with outlaws
’round the campfire ev’ry night
Livin’ every day without a care
You may hear me in the laughter
When someone picks a fight
I’ll take my chances
West of everywhere
West of everywhere…
West of everywhere…
West of everywhere…

Recorded by Stephen Housden.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

PENSACOLA, FLORIDA 1986

In 1986 I’d gone to Los Angeles to attend the wedding of my dear friend John Capek and his long time girlfriend Candy Cole. Marc Jordan and I both served as best men. Well, the best they could come up with anyway.

After the lovely wedding and the rousing L.A party it was decided that the Capeks would hire a van and head off on the long drive down to Florida to have a separate wedding reception with all of Candy’s relatives. I was invited to come along for the ride.

The Coles had booked a lovely beach house across the road from where they lived and that’s where, John, Candy and I would stay. Johnny and I had been drinking cognac all the way down to Florida so we were feeling no pain on arrival. It was certainly a beautiful house, one of those ones that are situated right on the beach.

Not wasting any time, I changed into my swimming trunks and ran down the wooden steps that led to the beach, dropped my towel on the sand and took a running dive into the crystal blue ocean. I came up for air and swam until my arms began to feel tired. I treaded water, closed my eyes and lifted my face up toward the sun to feel the warmth of its rays penetrating my skin. I was in paradise. I thought of the Dylan lyric, “…this must be what it’s all about.” At that moment, I certainly couldn’t conceive of there being anything better.

That’s when I saw it. A fin. No, there were four or five of them, but who was counting. They appeared to be circling me. Heaven had turned to Hell within the blink of an incredulous eye. Hadn’t Candy told me that they’d shot some of the scenes for “JAWS” at this beach? I’d thought she was making small talk, but she’d obviously been trying to warn me. I looked to the shore, Candy and John were now sun-baking on the beach. I frantically waved. They waved back! My God, it was all over. Goodbye Lynn…Thanks Mum…Hello Maker. I remember hoping that Jaws 1, 2, 3 & 4 would leave enough of me to be sent home for some sort of burial. The return journey was looking relatively inexpensive. I’d have guessed that a postpak would suffice.

Suddenly, the obsessive need to produce another film seemed brain numbingly trivial.

But hold on, I wasn’t about to give up without a fight. Never have, never would. I drew a deep breath and started for the shore. I swam like someone in fast-forward. Without missing a beat, I was out of the water and my feet were thumping down hard on sand. I ran in an exhausted, manic sprint towards the house. As I passed the Capeks I heard Candy’s voice…

“Aren’t the dolphins beautiful, Frankie?”

“Yes, yes…yes they are,” I heaved, without dropping my pace. My only hope of saving face was to continue as though I was practicing for the next Iron Man contest. I think they bought it.

Later in the afternoon, when my lungs had stopped convulsing along with every other muscle in my body, I ventured back onto the beach to sun-bake. Exhausted after my “training” I drifted off into a deep sleep. After about an hour I woke with a start. As I sat up and my eyes found focus through the sleep and the glare of the white sand, I saw two angels walking along the beach toward me. It was an amazing vision. For a moment I wondered whether I really had died in the water. But this time my eyes weren’t deceiving me. These angels weren’t dolphins or penguins. They were nuns, dressed from head to foot in white habits, walking along the deserted beach. It was like something out of a Fellini movie.

(c) Frank Howson 2014