DREAMS

I don’t usually remember my dreams, well the in-your-sleep dreams I mean. Maybe three in my life. But the other night I was awakened in the middle of one and it’s a little bizarre to say the least.

Anyway, in this particular dream I am arrested for killing Ayn Rand. Still with me? Not sure if I actually did it or not but as we know newspapers are only interested in the charges and not so much in the final judgement, so, pretty soon I am in big hot water. Boiling in fact. And as if that wasn’t uncomfortable enough they are throwing the book at me. Perhaps The Fountainhead, I was too busy ducking to check. I then remember going through a very lengthy trial that was straight out of Kafka. I have to say things weren’t going well for me as the cavalcade of witnesses were called. Drunks, the heavily medicated self-published, real estate agents, Mormons, one armed guitarists, fortune tellers, gypsies, tramps and thieves.

My court appointed lawyer was an elderly Chinese gentleman who appeared to be about 500 years old and dribbled from the mouth when he got excited. Still, he had his wits about him and had he been able to speak or understand English he may have been quite effective. His cross-examination of the witnesses had to be seen to be believed. If the Judge had’ve been awake at the time I’m sure he’d have called a halt to the circus.  He did wake a few minutes before the end of proceedings and grumpily pronounced Hemingway to be “…a cunt!”  I wasn’t quite sure how this applied to me or my case but was too intimidated to enquire. My Chinese representative seemed to take it in his stride and smiled in a knowing way. Perhaps this was a good sign? Taking the positive angle I smiled at the Judge who smiled back at me. He then announced in a disappointed tone that the jury weren’t very well hung and adjourned the case until they could be re-cast. On that note everyone went home to be greeted by their loved ones and a hot meal, followed by re-runs of classic football matches, while I was beaten to a pulp in my holding cell which the guards took literally and, having no TV set to watch football, they attempted to kick a goal with my head. In all objectivity some of them did show promise as league players. I did at one point attempt to convey the news that the football they were using had a migraine but this was met with increased hostility and I was accused of using too many big words.

Hence another three quarters were played. This time I kept quiet and assumed my role. Finally I threw my voice and did a very convincing imitation of the final siren which they bought, hugged each other, shook hands, copped a feel of each other’s bums, and left the field complaining about the lack of good umpiring decisions these days. I couldn’t, in spite of my intense pain, help thinking what great sportsmen they were. Dreadful human beings – but great sportsmen. This was the last thought that stampeded through my mind before I lost consciousness.

I was shaken back into this world bright and early the next morning, in dream time, in order to return to court.  I told the guard, who smelled of cheap bourbon and herbal cigarettes, that I had to postpone my court appearance before our esteemed Judge as I was fairly convinced I was in the initial stages of a brain hemorrhage, but this was met with “well who gives a fuck you dumb fucker fucking your way through life and fucking every fucking thing up for every other fucking dumb fuck!”

I took that as a “no”.

I found that if I tilted my head till it was resting sideways on one shoulder it relieved some of the pain. So, that’s how I appeared back in court. Looking like an amateur theatre version of Quasimodo. I’d fretted needlessly over my appearance as the Judge looked past me and mistook a nun in the next row to be me, stating that he was going to take into account that I was a lady of the cloth and not to worry.

My lawyer, the very learned Mr. Dim Sim, gave his final impassioned summation, in Cantonese, to a silent ovation from nonplussed creatures inhabiting human-like bodies. The Judge finally broke the stunned silence by burping and muttered, “Better out than in” and the really hung jury and those in attendance took this to be the final judgement and a deafening uproar broke out in the courtroom, along with several fistfights, a rape, a child birth, and a scattering of small time thefts.

As everyone had lost interest in me, and noticing the open door,  I slowly made my way best as I could, considering my head was still laying sideways on my left shoulder, through the crowd of rioters and those with an axe to grind. Soon enough I found the sunshine and a busy city street awaiting me.

Within seconds I was lost in the crowd. Well, as lost as I could be given my new appearance.

I bear no grudge against anyone who mistreated me, but if Ayn Rand was still alive, I’d kill her.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2017.

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MADMEN IN THE WILDERNESS

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

HOMAGE TO FALSE GODS

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.

MY CONVERSATION WITH GOD

My birth was a bit messy from recollection and ever since I have been flaying around like a man drowning in gasoline. People have come and gone in my life, some leaving an impression, others facial scars, but still, I wouldn’t change it even if I could shoot them.

Life is funny isn’t it?

Sometimes you win and sometimes the cards are stacked against you. Still, it keeps us occupied doesn’t it? I mean, otherwise we may turn into animals and attack each other thinking there was no purpose to it all. But the good news is, there is. I can say this with all certainty now as only a few weeks ago I was stirring my pot of porridge when I saw God’s face on the surface. He said unto me, “Listen, go forth and tell all the fucking morons that I have spent a fortune on this human experiment and have nothing to show for it. Other than one lovely Jewish boy and he doesn’t count because he is related on his mother’s side. All I ask is that you scumbags make a little effort and be nice to each other. It’s not brain surgery y’know? Oh, and your porridge is ready.”

I have since taken to the streets spreading the good news that God is alive and still loves us. And that we need to be kind to each other. In return I have been beaten, spat upon, cursed, betrayed by friends, had my sex tapes made public by Billy Bush, been blacklisted by Hollywood, been lectured by Robert DeNiro on morality, and treated by the media worse than Donald Trump. It could’ve been less kind, though. I could’ve been treated like Joan of Arc and roasted like a chicken as a public entertainment. Thank God I wasn’t a woman.

These days I keep to myself and have stopped eating porridge lest I get any more messages from you know who. I mean, I myself, even, don’t know why God chose me to be the bearer of his good news although he does have a history of choosing flawed messengers. Life is complicated enough without all that.

Father, forgive us we know not what we do.

(c) Frank Howson 2017

FAWKNER STREET, ST. KILDA

Nowadays St. Kilda is a highly sought after area and has attracted the trendy market of home-buyers. In the Fifties and Sixties it was a whole different story. Growing up in St. Kilda taught you to be tough, alert and street wise. Sometimes your life depended on it.

Fawkner Street St.Kilda was a notorious and sometimes dangerous shortcut to Luna Park. It was a street I was brought home to as a baby in my proud mother’s arms. At that time it was also home to some dangerous criminals such as the Shannons, Norm Bradshaw and Pretty Dulcie.

Growing up in that street gave you a few interesting options in life, You could either learn to be a gangster yourself, or else, if you were of a more sensitive nature, you could observe the human condition in all its most glorious and contradictory terms. As a budding actor or writer you were truly blessed by the abundance of original characters that performed every day in the street theatre outside your window. They could ignite the curious spark in the fertile creative brain of a lonely child.

Norm Bradshaw was associated with Freddie “The Frog” Harrison and they were eventually charged with the attempted murder of a gangland rival, George Newman. Normie and Freddie attached a Tommy Gun mounted on an open window of a taxi. They drove past Newman’s Vauxhall Sedan and sprayed it with bullets. Nifty Newman survived but the court case fell over when a key witness failed to attend to give evidence. He later re-emerged to tell police that his failure to do so was a result of being informed his house would be bombed if he showed up. Bradshaw and Harrison were found not guilty by a nervous jury.

Normie was known as “The Beast” – and for good reason. One night he threw lighter fluid over his girlfriend and set fire to her. And that was someone he loved! She obviously loved him too and remained with him after the incident. Why? It’s hard to fathom. But it highlights something about the walking contradiction of these dangerous and hard men – they could either be your worst nightmare or disarmingly charming depending on what the situation required. Sometimes zig-zagging between both within hours, minutes – even seconds.

As a small child I remember my parents holding a fundraiser in our small modest living room for my eldest sister who was an entrant in a beauty pageant. The evening was teetering with the group of friends and acquaintances who’d come to party and donate to the young girl’s dream of becoming Miss Victoria. Halfway through the festivities a knock came to the front door. My mum answered it only to find Norm Bradshaw standing there with one of his henchmen.

“I don’t want any trouble, Normie!” said my fearless mum.

Normie smiled and answered, “No trouble, Mrs. Howson. I’m here to help the little girl. How’s the fund-raising going?”

My mum stated the truth, “Slowly”. To which Normie relied, “Well, we’ll see about that. Give me the hat.”

He then went around to everyone at the party, gave them the killer stare and asked how much they were contributing to the cause. Of course everyone emptied their pockets making the evening a roaring success.

So many times, with these characters, kindness walked hand in hand with brutality. Normie was known to many as a killer, a stand-over man, a psychopath, and other unsavoury things. But in our little home that night, he’d been Robin Hood.

Some months later, my dad and mum were awakened from their sleep by raised voices in the street outside our window.

Dad got up and peeked through the venetian blinds. Outside, Norm Bradshaw and an associate were involved in a verbal argument with a third man. This resulted in Normie bringing the debate to an abrupt end by punching the agitator to the ground. He and his henchman then began to walk away but were stopped in their tracks by something the fallen man said. Normie, slowly, turned around, walked a few paces closer to the third man, produced a revolver from his inside coat pocket, and shot the man dead. He then continued back home with his friend.

My dad, being a quick thinker, instructed my mum to help him move the bed to the back of the house. He then moved the living room furniture up to the front room. When the police knocked on our door and questioned my father as to whether he’d seen or heard anything during the night, he replied in the negative, stating that, as the bedroom was at the back of the house, he hadn’t heard a thing. The police checked this out for themselves and then went on their way.

A short time later there was another knock at the door. This time it was Norm Bradshaw.

“Hello Jacky” beamed Norm, although his eyes were as cold as ice.

“Good morning, Norm” replied dad.

“Just wondering how you’ve been sleeping lately, Jacky?”

To which my dad answered, “Like a baby, Norm.”

Norm gave another smile – this smile was far more relaxed, “That’s all I wanted to know, Jacky. Have a good day.” And off he went.

My mum and dad continued to sleep at the back of the house for some time.

Most of these criminals were involved in sly grog shops and illegal gambling dens, and as such many disputes resulted from rivals wanting to move in on the action for a cut of the fast money.

Pretty Dulcie was known as “The Angel of Death.” She ran a sly grog trade out of her St. Kilda home and had also been charged with soliciting on many occasions. She was our next door neighbour. One night a wild party she was hosting was interrupted by some uninvited gangsters kicking in her front door and walking down the passage way unloading their guns at the moving targets of party-guests. Dulcie was shot in the hip and her boyfriend Gavin Walsh was killed. Several stray bullets ended up going through the wall into the Howson residence, where we were having a nice dinner in front of our radiogram. If the bullet had’ve been a little lower and to the right you would not be reading this now.

Another resident of Fawkner Street, St. Kilda was the notorious abortionist Dr. Bertram Wainer. In 1967 a woman had come to Dr. Wainer’s surgery seeking emergency treatment after a backyard abortion gone wrong. Dr. Weiner helped the woman and thus began a quest by him to have the abortion laws abolished. At the time abortion was punishable by an up to fifteen year jail sentence. Weiner placed an ad in the Sun News Pictorial, under the heading “Abortion Abortion Abortion” and called on women to “not be intimidated by bullying tactics (of the police)”. Wainer went on to flag police corruption in protecting the backyard abortionists. After that he became a marked man but went down in history as a crusader for the acceptance of abortion.

No doubt the experience of living in this area had a profound influence on me. As did my father’s stories about courage, gladiators, cowboys and warriors. He instilled in me the importance of doing the right thing, no matter what the cost. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t learned the lesson as well as I did. It has cost me a lot of money over the years but I sleep well.

I was also blessed by the influence of another great human being, my mum. A beautiful soul who, if she hadn’t been my mother, would still have been my best friend. Without her positive influence in my corner perhaps I too would’ve run off the rails. In St.Kilda it was an all too easy option to get caught up with the wrong crowd.

The early to mid-Seventies was the “Glam” rock era in music and brought to fame such androgynous performers such as David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Lou Reed, Gary Glitter, Roxy Music, Elton John and saw the rise, probably as a backlash to the times, of skinhead gangs in Melbourne. They were not quite the “national front” type of skinheads, the far right racist extremists that were later to emerge in Britain and Australia. In fact, I don’t think our local skinheads and sharpies had any particular ideology, but they liked to think of themselves as “tough.” They wore their hair closely shaved with rat tails at the back, and drop cross earrings.(in the left ear – the right one signaled you were gay and that brought its own problems), tight striped cardigans, flair trousers and platform soled shoes called “hoppers”.

Being a Beatles tragic I was definitely a devoted and loyal Mod. This meant of course that I sometimes took my life in my hands just going to the movies. But another valuable lesson learned from my Dad was about pack mentality, which would prove useful in life. Always take on the big guy first. If he falls all his underlings soon lose their false bravado. Oh, and it helps if they think you’re a bit crazy. Even the most hardened criminal will avoid dealing with a mad man. They are too unpredictable. Chopper Read later confessed to me that he’d spent a good deal of his life establishing that persona as his protection shield.

In the early Sixties I got my first job, in that now extinct profession – selling newspapers on street corners. My designated location was on Fitzroy Street. A very rough and tough place in those days. It taught me responsibility, the pride in working hard to earn money, and how to deal with the public. You meet ’em all – the kind people and the arseholes. It was good grounding in understanding the psychology of the public. What I soon discovered was that even the most cynical, horrible, difficult person, at the heart of it, just wanted to be loved and treated with some respect. Instead of antagonising them, I would continue to smile, send out a positive vibe, and usually that was enough to turn a lot of these people around. Sometimes someone who’d initially been arrogant or mean, would melt into a nice person once their guard slipped. Some of them became my best customers. Arrogance is usually a cover for low self-esteem and high insecurity. Another lesson – politeness and respect go a long way.

My father worked a second job most nights at a sideshow alley near Luna Park. Again, this was invaluable experience for me observing how my dad and other spruikers dealt with the public. I was learning the art of selling…”step right up, step right up, folks!” And to this day, the show goes on.

(c) Frank Howson 2014.

KINGS CROSS

It’s easy to be brave when you’re young because you’re totally naive about the cost to oneself. You also have no idea about mortality and the fragility of life. I guess that’s why wars are declared by old men, the decision-makers, but are fought by boys. And now, of course, young women.

Hanging out in Kings Cross was a real eye-opener to a young lad. It felt like Luna Park for grown-ups. All the music pumping out from the bars and nightclubs, the flashing coloured lights, the friendly girls, the drag queens, etc. Of course, once you got over the initial excitement and your eyes adjusted to the lighting show, you glimpsed the circus up close with all its thinly veiled seediness, human despair and danger. Still, to a young guy, away from my home for the first time, it was an adrenaline rush. Illegal casinos, prostitution, organised crime and police corruption were at its height during this era. Heroin had been brought in by American servicemen on leave during the Vietnam war years, and soon became the drug of choice by many Australians. Soon after the major drug rings took its import over and the influx into Sydney of this “product” was huge. Much of these illicit activities were allegedly linked to businessman Abe Saffron, known as “Mr. Sin” or “The Boss of the Cross”. Police were paid off and the most notorious illegal casinos seemed to operate with an impunity. Business was booming and everyone was in on a cut.

I spent many hours in the bars, clubs and strip joints during this time, soaking up the atmosphere and observing how they were run. I guess it was always an interest to me how such places operated. Especially the successful ones. Me and my buddies paid through the nose for drinks so we could sit and be entertained by the, mostly, beautiful strippers. But what’s youth if you can’t mis-spend it? Meeting these girls in private was an extra negotiation and a frustration for young boys on a limited budget.

While I was coming of age and getting a taste of the night club scene, another young man named John Ibrahim had his sights set on becoming the King of Kings Cross. A Lebanese Australian boy John started out working security for a Cross nightspot but was fueled with an ambition to become the top dog. He worked his way up the ladder learning everything there was to know about the running of successful clubs and making all the right contacts.

At the age of 16, John had witnessed the brother of Bill Bayno, a power broker of the Cross, being attacked by two men and went to his aid. During the ensuing shuffle John received a large knife to his torso. He was rushed to Sydney’s St. Vincent’s Hospital and placed in a coma for three weeks. Due to the extensive damage to his liver, lungs and intestines, it took John six months to recover. To this day he still bears a large scar from the incident. He was tough, fiercely ambitious, very intelligent and possessed razor sharp instincts about people and situations. Operating in Kings Cross, with the cast of characters who held power at that time, your instincts were your lifeblood. One misjudgment or sloppy decision could get you killed.

By his eighteenth birthday John Ibrahim had acquired a 20% share in his first nightclub, Tunnel Cabaret, By the height of his career it’d be alleged he was involved with a minimum of 17 clubs in the Cross. The media dubbed him “Teflon John” and “The Teflon Man of Kings Cross” due to his knack of avoiding conviction of any illegal activities.

Eventually we would meet and I found John to be a very charming and savvy man. I was brought up not to pre-judge people on hearsay but rather on how they treated me, and I found John to be a very classy guy. He now manages the career of TV and radio personality Kyle Sandilands.

In the 70s and 80s there seemed to be a very thin line between legal and illegal and this line was usually defined by who your friends were. Corruption in New South Wales was rampant and ran all the way from the cop on the beat to the State government. Certain activities seemed to be in the blind spot of authorities.

One brave journalist, Juanita Nielsen, decided to do something about it by writing a series of expose articles regarding a certain property development in the Kings Cross area. One day she received a call from a gentleman who wanted to have a secret rendezvous so that he could give her some explosive inside information. She kept the appointment but was never seen again. Speculation was that she had been killed and her body put through a meat mincer. A colonial inquest determined that she’d been murdered and the case remains unsolved.

The meat mincer disposal of bodies has long been a favoured solution for the Mafia and other gangland czars. I once asked Chopper Read why he never ate dim sims to which he replied, “I have too much respect for the dead”.

One beacon of light in the darkness of the Cross in those years was the Reverend Ted Noffs whose church, The Wayside Chapel, was open 24/7 as a drop-in inn and counselling service to the many itinerants who’d found their way to the Cross only to lose it. He helped save many lives and kept families together, guiding young runaways, as well as drug, drink and gambling casualties back onto a responsible path in life. Although Ted has passed on now his Ted Notts Foundation still continues today giving a helping hand to those who find themselves in desperate situations.

I was shedding the skin of a young lonely kid and being turned into a man, and the rebirth was at times painful. But that’s another story.

(c) Frank Howson 2013

I SHOULD NEVER EVER HAVE DONE TIME

 

I can smell that danger a mile off

And I’m going to be perfectly frank

Everyone’s got their reasons

but you know I charge more than a bank

You might have heard

Chopper’s done time

It was for trying to impress

A friend of mine

The sort of thing

That young blokes do

When they don’t

Have a bloody clue

I should never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever  have done time

I should never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever have done time

It’s a celebrity society

we live in

And the stars are as close

As we’ll get to heaven

No gypsy or fake to read my palm

So I overlooked the harm

There is so much that can’t

be forgiven

I should never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever  have done time

I should never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever have done time

When a killing’s patriotic

You can’t call it a crime

A jury mightn’t agree

But they’ve never lived like me

I should never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever  have done time…

If you’re born within the smell of hell’s breath

Life is pain

Bear in mind I’m a native

Of a system that’s gone insane

That calls me a thug

A killer

And a mug

And I could’ve got done

For responding to an insult

By some ignorant bully tongue

I will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever  again do time…

(SHOUTS) You can’t kill me! I’m already dead!

 

(c) Frank Howson 2013