It's push and shove And Christmas Eve You stole my heart Now I wear it on my sleeve And I'm standing here Where a boy once stood When he dreamed of worlds That lay beyond the woods... Daniel Boone and Peter Pan Davy Crockett and Spiderman We fought together Blood brothers every one We used to save the world Before each day was done... It's winter now On Nelson Street The shadow men Celebrating my defeat Never been afraid And not about to start So they stole my dreams Don't mean they broke my heart Daniel Boone and Peter Pan Davy Crockett and Spiderman I fought beside them Blood brothers every one We used to save the world Before each day was done... And I'm wishing hard On every star I see That you'll find a place In your heart for me... It's Silent Night And final drinks I'm too far gone To hear what anybody thinks Now I'm walking home Can someone tell me Where that is? Somewhere someone wakes To a Christmas kiss Daniel Boone and Peter Pan Davy Crockett and Spider Man I fought beside them And with Zorro I would run We used to save the world Before each day was done... Before each day was done... It's done... Cc) Frank Howson 1998
I saw a crazy man in the heart of the city cursing the people he passed, cursing the buildings, cursing someone long gone, cursing God for this Purgatory.
People reacted in different ways. Some froze and willed themselves to be invisible, some scurried away in the opposite direction, some watched in that detached zombie way people stand transfixed at car crash sites, fascinated by the sight of real disaster and yet non-reacting as though watching a movie play out.
So what does it take to make someone just crack one day? One huge life tragedy too much, or a series of small ones too close together that defy our idea of logic and fairness? Perhaps if we raise our voices above the rumbling wearing down drone sound of the busy city traffic, God will hear us?
Why does our Maker withdraw his grace and allow us to free fall through darkness and scorn so far from home? Or are we meant to always be alone in search of ourselves in others, a perilous journey not for the fainthearted. Or the dreamers.
Maybe the crazy man in the street had been chosen to heed his inner calling to join the wild throng and it is therefore in the madness that lies the ultimate truth?
Was Don Quixote mad because he chose to see the world as it should be? Or were the people who gathered to ridicule and laugh at his expense the mad ones?
John Lennon, during his time, was called mad by many, especially the press and the conservative establishment. But his brutal death at the hands of, ironically, a mad man has now elevated him to the status of martyr and messiah. Today, his human flaws have been sanitised to fit what is acceptable in the gospel of his life. The nobody mad man who shot him for a shot at immortality got a life sentence, while the famous mad man got death. And then in death, rose again.
When you look closely at it, most of our true heroes in history were called mad during their lifetimes because they attempted to do something different. To shine a light into the darkness that most of us are afraid to acknowledge. To take us where we would never have dared go if not for them. To make us think and, more importantly, to make us feel. In achieving this, a great many of them paid with their lives so that we may live.
So next time you see a mad man or woman in the street, spare a few seconds to ponder the forces that shaped them. And perhaps in those seconds we may awaken the humanity in ourselves.
(c) Frank Howson 2017
I cried when they took away all the things I had loved and lived for.
My voice became ravaged and ragged when my spirit was broken and the walls came down to reveal my soul was really 500 years old. It was God’s way of humbling me which is the only way to Him/Her.
I wandered the wastelands in search of a reason to find a way out. It took years to think of one. But I thought of you long before I met you.
I have no agenda other than to do my work and treat other humans with kindness and respect. I will be damned for this and smirked at by those with no backbone or chins.
I look around at all the lost souls who act in an arrogant way, telling you things that are not true in order to impress, swearing on bibles that simple songs are too complex to play, manipulating situations that are really of no importance, protecting their over-inflated egos at any cost, convincing themselves that guests arrive to see them and not the hosts and, still, I feel sorrow at their ignorant pathetic-ness. Wasting their lives and their opportunities for inner peace by waging a war to defend their hollow delusions which are, and always were, meaningless.
We live in a world where the banks own you now. They can afford to be arrogant and rude to their customers because they need no longer keep up the pretence of performing a service.
I hope in my time I live to see the public rise up against them. Yes, there will be blood, long time coming.
The plague will descend from ourselves and inhabit the dull-eyed crowds that linger in the shadows of that which cannot be spoken. Friends, whom we thought were friends, will try and entice us to visit them whilst they are contagious so that they can infect us and watch us weaken and die as they feast on our souls. Spiritual vampires pretending to be human will survive by repeating things they have overheard in order to make small talk and fade into the scenery undetected. No empathy. No conscience. They will devour anything, anyone that gets in their way. For the mere existence of real people will torture them until they have succeeded in extinguishing the flame.
I feel like I’m dying as a result of the most selfish man in the world who gives you guilt trips if you don’t risk your life paying homage to him by breathing in his environment – and his disease. Nothing you offer as a sacrifice is good enough because he has been denied attention for 40 years and his desert is calling.
“Thou shalt not worship false gods!” I scream as I destroy his overcrowded temple to his own ego.
His family call him their stalker as they continue to feed his insatiable hunger for attention and a limelight that no longer shines and in fact only ever did in his dreams.
Thank you for weakening my already troubled heart. Your play acting concern was less than convincing to the children present and has been noted in the Book of the Dead.
My last glimpse of this world will be of my best friends clammering to be photographed with the man who destroyed me. I see they are all smiling.
(C) Frank Howson 2017.
A friend asked me to pick my 10 fave books of all time. The 10 best of anyting is a hard ask but here’s goes. I have chosen those 50 books that moved me the most and had the biggest influence.
1) THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
2) GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens.
3) THE DISENCHANTED by Budd Schulberg.
4) THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by Oscar Wilde.
5) NODDY IN TOYLAND by Enid Blyton
6) A LIFE by Elia Kazan.
7) CRAZY SUNDAYS – F. SCOTT FITZGERALD IN HOLLYWOOD by Aaron Latham
8) CHRONICLES by Bob Dylan.
9) THIS IS ORSON WELLES by Orson Welles & Peter Bogdanovich.
10) A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway.
11) THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
12) IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote
13) A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens
14) HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain
15) WHAT’S EXACTLY THE MATTER WITH ME by P.F. Sloan
16) DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller
17) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
18) TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
19) POWER WITHOUT GLORY by Frank Hardy
20) PETER PAN by James M. Barrie
21) DIARY OF AN UNKNOWN by Jean Cocteau
22) ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE by William Goldman
23) THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD by Ron Hansen
24) SCOTT & ERNEST by Matthew Bruccoli
25) THE POWER OF MYTH by Joseph Campbell & Bill Moyers.
26) ERROL FLYNN – A MEMOIR by Earl Conrad
27) ON THE STREET WHERE I LIVE by Alan Jay Lerner
28) DON’T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD by Eric Burdon with J. Marshall Craig
29) OLIVIER ON ACTING by Laurence Olivier
30) THE MUSIC GOES ROUND MY HEAD by David Johnston
31) FREE ASSOCIATION by Steven Berkoff
32) THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE by Robert Evans
33) MARILYN by Norman Mailer
34) HITCHCOCK BY TRUFFAUT
35) A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway
36) JOURNAL OF A NOVEL by John Steinbeck
37) PICTURE by Lillian Ross
38) HOME BEFORE DARK by Ruth Park
39) TINSEL by William Goldman
40) PORTRAITS by Helmut Newton
41) THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT by Quentin Crisp
42) THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES by Joseph Campbell
43) TEN GREAT PLAYS by William Shakespeare
44) FINISHING THE HAT by Stephen Sondheim
45) W. C. FIELDS – HIS FOLLIES AND FORTUNES by Robert L. Taylor
48) THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN Volume 1 by Mark Twain
49) IN HIS OWN WRITE by John Lennon
50) THE ENTERTAINER by John Osbourne
I could have been a hero
But I stayed at home
I could have been a star
But a star shines on its own
I could have been something
And I let it slip away
I could have been a hero
Could’ve saved somebody’s day
I could have been a winner
But I chose to lose
I should have found a love
Instead I found the blues
I could have had success
Could’ve sold them something new
I could have been a hero
If you’d shown me what to do
My ambitions all lie dead
Circus geeks laugh in my face
I might’ve been a prophet
If I’d been born some other place…
I could have been a poet
If I’d faced the night
I could have been a king
One who talks and doesn’t fight
I could have been a legend
But my life has been too long
I could have been a hero
But my timing was all wrong
Recorded by Frank Howson.
(c) Frank Howson 2014
A LETTER TO OLIVER.
4 October 1998
Did you know that the Baby Ruth candy bar is named after Babe Ruth because it’s the candy that he liked the best?
He loved kids very much.
And everywhere he went kids would gather ‘round him. Babe would always stop and sign their baseballs and give them his candy bars. One day a lady working at the golf club where he played asked him for a candy bar for her son and he didn’t have any because he’d already given them all to the kids. She said she had a little boy at home that would’ve liked one. Babe Ruth said he was sorry and walked away. But the very next day he took the trouble to come all the way back and he gave her a whole box of them for her boy.
Another day he was signing baseballs for all the kids and he looked up and saw a man sitting on his own. He yelled out to him, “Do you want me to sign a baseball for your kid?” The man smiled and said that he wasn’t married and didn’t have a child. Babe smiled, wrote something on a ball and came over and gave it to me. It said “To Who May Be from Babe Ruth” and gave it to the man. The Babe said, “When you have a kid, give ‘em that!” Years later the man did and his daughter, who is an old lady now, still treasures the autographed baseball from the great man.
A lot of the big stars didn’t have time for the kids, but Babe always did. He would sometimes sit there for hours meeting kids, talking to them, giving them advice, handing out candy bars and signing baseballs and autographs. When someone asked him why he did it, the Babe said, “I can’t help it, I love the kids”.
Once when he went to the golf course to play he saw a kid who was waiting to meet him. He said to the kid, “Do you want to be my caddy today?” The boy’s eyes widened and he said “Boy, would I?!!!” And Babe paid the boy to be his caddy all day long.
The next morning the boy was at school in class when he heard some footsteps in the outside hallway approaching his classroom. The door swung open and in walked the Head Master with…Babe Ruth. All the kids were stunned and excited to see him. Babe looked around the classroom until he saw the boy he knew. Then he smiled and said, “Hey, where’s my caddy?…I want to play some golf again today!” And the Head Master said it was okay for the boy to go off golfing with the Babe.
Another day, before a game, a woman told the Babe that her son Johnny was sick in hospital and would he please hit a home run for him because it would make Johnny feel so much better if the Babe did. Well, Babe walked out to the base that day and held his bat up. First pitch, a strike!….Second pitch, a strike!….The crowd started to mumble and Babe turned to them and yelled out “You only have to hit one!”…The crowd fell silent and Babe got ready to try again. Just then Johnny’s mother stood up from her seat in the bleechers and yelled out, “Babe, hit one for Johnny!” Babe heard her, turned in that direction, and then he did something that’s become really famous in baseball history. It is known as “The Called Shot”…because Babe pointed to the right outfield and said “There!!!”…And guess what?…The pitcher threw the ball and Babe hit it just exactly where he said he would. A home run. And he’d called it!! That has never been done before or since.
One day someone said to Babe, “What do you think of Einstein?” and Babe said, “I don’t know. How many’s he hit?”
A woman also told a story that when she was a little girl she needed an operation and her father was poor and couldn’t afford it. Her dad worked at Yankee Stadium and the Babe used to talk to him. One day the head surgeon of the New York Hospital phoned her and said he wanted to see her. She went in with her dad and the Doctor said that because her name was Smith and so was his, that he’d perform the operation for nothing so she could get well.
The lady found out years later that Babe Ruth had really paid for the operation.
When Babe was getting old, in his last season, he started to lose his ability. And a man said that he was there that day when a pitcher threw a ball at Babe he swung, missed it and it went threw his legs. Some people in the crowd started to boo Babe, and the man said that he was disgusted that some of the people would be so mean to a man who’d given them so much. The Babe didn’t hit a home run that day, and after the season he retired. You must always remember, son, a man is defined by the best thing he ever did, not the worst.
Years later, they invited the great Babe Ruth back to Yankee Stadium to pay tribute to him. He was very sick by then, but he put on his uniform and walked out there with his bat and the whole stadium stood and applauded him. Even the players cheered him. The Babe bowed his head, and tears came to his eyes. Happy tears.
Even though he was very ill himself, he still made the effort and took time to visit the sick children in hospital. He would go into the wards and sign baseballs for them.
When he died, they brought his coffin to Yankee Stadium and all day people walked past to see him for the last time and pay their respects. No one could believe how big the crowd was. Children, old people, sports fans, all nationalities…they all came to see the Babe’s final appearance at Yankees Stadium. He was dressed in a nice suit and in his hand his daughter had put a baseball on which she’d written the words, “Saved for Home”.
If you can be as kind and gracious with success as the Babe was, then you will be a great man. I know you will be, my boy.
And always remember what your Dad says, “Keep your eye on the ball!”
(c) Frank Howson 2013
(written for my son long ago when we were separated by distance, not love.)
Oneday, Oliver Howson was playing baseball on the lawn outside his Dad’s apartment. His Dad had just gone upstairs to get a cool drink for the both of them, and Oliver was practicing throwing his baseball up in the air and catching it in his new mit. Suddenly, he heard a voice. A loud gruff old voice which made him immediately look up. Well, he couldn’t believe what he saw. There, in front of him, framed by the glaring sun, was a big man in a baseball outfit.
“That’s pretty good, Oliver,” said the man. “Y’know, when I was your age I practiced catching the ball all the time. The more I practiced, the better I got.”
“Yeah, that’s what my Dad says,” replied Oliver.
“Well, he sounds like a pretty wise sorta guy,” smiled the big man.
“He sure is,” said Oliver, “He’s my Dad!”
“Y’know somethin’, boy?”
Oliver nodded his head.
“I used to play baseball for a livin’.”
Really?” answered Oliver.
“Yep. I played for the Boston Red Sox for a time. Then the New York Yankees. Then the Boston Braves. Didn’t do too bad either. Long time ago, that is. Way before you were born.”
“Wow, that is a long time ago,” said the boy.
“I started out practicing in my small back yard. As I said, I worked on catching the ball in my mit. Then I worked on throwing it fast and mean. I practiced and practiced and practiced until I could throw the ball so fast the batter’d be out before he’d even seen it go past!”
“Then I worked on batting, and I became so good at it I hit 714 home runs!”
Oliver was mighty impressed. “Wow, that’s a lot!”
“Sure is, boy. But you know somethin’? It was fun. I found somethin’ I liked doing and I practiced and practiced until I was really good at it. Y’know, I wasn’t a very fast runner. And I wasn’t a great basketball player. Or, a football player. But, baseball, I loved it the first time I picked up a ball and a bat. That’s the secret to bein’ good at somethin’, boy. Fall in love with it. Then while you’re having fun, and playing it over and over, you get better and better! It worked for me anyway.”
“Thanks, I’ll take your advice…Mr…?
“Ruth. George Ruth. But people call me Babe.”
And with that, the man held out his big hand and shook Oliver’s.
“Would you like me to sign your bat?”
“I sure would, Mr. Ruth.” With that Oliver excitedly fetched it and the big man signed some words on it. Then the Babe looked up at something in the distance and smiled.
“Looks like your father’s back with those drinks for ya.”
Oliver turned his head and saw his Dad coming towards him carrying a couple of glasses of ice cold lemonade.
“Yeah. That’s my Dad alright,” said Oliver. He then turned to smile at Babe Ruth, but he was gone.
“Sorry it took me so long, son,” said Dad, “Hope you haven’t been lonely”.
“Nah Dad. Guess what?!”
“I was practicing catching, when Babe Ruth came over to give me some advice.”
“Yeah, Dad. He was just here! But I thought he was dead.”
Dad looked at Oliver and smiled. But it was a sad kind of smile.
“What’s the matter, Dad?”
“No, son. People like Babe Ruth never die. They live on in the hearts and hopes of people. Well, I just wished I’d have gotten the chance to meet him. Do you realise how lucky you are?”
“What did he say, son?”
“All the things you told me, Dad. Every word. Exactly. All about practicing. And working at what you love doing. He’s pretty smart!”
This time Dad gave a really big smile. Followed by a really big hug.
“You know, son, when I was a boy. Just about your age. My Dad told me a story about Babe Ruth. It was about Babe when he was getting old and it looked like he wouldn’t be playing baseball much longer. And one day, he was sitting on the bench waiting to go out onto the field and bat, when one of his team-mates noticed how tired Babe looked. Really tired. The team-mate said, “Babe, why don’t you go home? We’re going to win this game easy, so you may as well take the day off and get some rest. You’re not as young as you used to be, y’know?”
But Babe just looked at his team-mate, and smiled. “Thanks, Buddy,” he said. “But I ain’t going nowhere but out there. And when I get out there I’m going to be trying as hard as I was in my first game to hit a home run!”
“But why?” said his team-mate. “You’re the great Babe Ruth! You’ve got nothin’ to prove to anybody anymore. You’re in all the history books they’ll ever write about baseball!”
“That’s not the point,” said the Babe. Then his eyes looked out at the distant faces of all the thousands upon thousands of excited people that filled the giant stadium that afternoon.
“Somewhere in that crowd,” continued Babe, “A young boy has come today to see Babe Ruth hit a home-run. And it may be the first and the last time he ever gets to see me. And I’m gonna be doin’ and givin’ everything I can not to disappoint him!”
And that day, Babe Ruth walked out to the plate real slow. He held his bat up into position, looked at the ball in the pitcher’s hand, said a silent prayer, and gave it everything he had. And you know what? He hit a home-run right out of the stadium and a lot of boys went home happy. So did Babe.”
“Oh, I forgot. Babe Ruth signed my bat! Tell me what it says, Dad.”
His father looked at the bat and tears welled in his eyes.
“What is it?”
“It’s a message for us all, son. It says “Don’t let the fear of striking out get in your way.”
Then Dad and Oliver played some baseball. And when Dad threw the ball Oliver hit it as hard as he could and the ball flew right over Dad’s head and into the neighbour’s backyard. That day Oliver Howson felt what it was like to be Babe Ruth.
(c) Frank Howson 2013