THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME

How did you get so pretty?

How did I get so old?

I never combed my hair

Or did what I was told

Do you believe in magic

Like I believe in you?

I wanna curse these years

That took me away from you

 

You’re the price I paid

For being born too soon

I  touched the stars

But missed the moon

I was the motherless child

Of a victim-less crime

Tell ’em…

I was in the right place

But at the wrong time

 

Why did my world stop spinning?

Why did the sky turn grey?

I never dreamed at night

All my dreams were by day

What do you see in my eyes

When I’m looking at you?

Romeo in decline?

Or a man you never knew?

 

Oh what a price I’ve paid

For living far too long

I broke my heart

To write this song

I’m like Buffalo Bill

In a five and dime

Tell ’em

I was in the right place

But at the wrong time

 

I’m the invisible man

Nobody sees me anymore

That’s me in the rain

Outside your door

I once was something

And everybody knew my name

Now I live in Regret

On the outskirts of Blame

 

Oh what a price I’ve paid

For loving you too much

I lost my mind

And now my touch

One day you’ll understand

But your words won’t rhyme

Just tell ’em…

You’re in the right place

But it’s the wrong time….

 

(c) Frank Howson 2017

 

 

 

 

NEW IDEA FOR MOVIE

A new film about giant dildos taking over the world. People running terrified through the streets because if they get you they fuck you up real bad.

(C) Frank Howson 2017

THE MAN IN THE BLACK HAT AND THE LONG BLACK COAT.

When I was a small boy living in St. Kilda, both my dad and mum would point out a man in a black hat and a long black coat to me. “You see that man, son?…Well he has been walking around St. Kilda for years. Long as we can remember. And he never seems to age. He must be a hundred years old!” Always intrigued by a good mystery, I from then on took great notice of this man. Over the years, as I grew to be a man, I would always look around at local markets, street performances, Luna Park, crowded Saturday night boulevards, and sure enough, there he would be. And as I aged, he always appeared to look the same. A middle aged man, neither smiling or frowning, just there. A face in the crowd. Being a romantic, I thought maybe he was the eternal wanderer. A soul who was chained to this life and the suburb he loved, and his limbo was to forevermore, or until God’s forgiveness was granted, wander aimlessly these streets in search of a meaning he had failed to dis-cipher in his life here.

When I’d see him, I’d always stand transfixed waiting to see if he’d return a smile, or a nod of the head, or just an icy stare. But no. Nothing. Expressionless. No eye contact. This was a man well used to being alone. His face looked like he was a foreigner. Perhaps from somewhere in Europe. Germany?…France?…Vienna?…Maybe he’d escaped the war and had left behind his loved ones, his home, his belongings…and like his friends he too had become a ghost. A shadow. A man cursed to wander this life as punishment for running away from his true destiny.

I too ran away from my loved ones, my home, my belongings…and for the same reason, perhaps. There were dark clouds forming and I’d been advised that I could be dragged into a swamp that, although masterminded by others, justice could be blind in such circumstances. I went to Los Angeles as, in some circles, my work was still respected there and possibly some jobs could come my way, which they did. For nine years.  I became a physician. A script doctor. Re-writing other people’s screenplays to make them better. No credit but the money was a living. Occasionally writing some songs that got into some movies. Writing my memoirs on my life in the movies business, well, all the parts that weren’t too painful to regurgitate at that time. The wounds were still too open and although time does heal, ones does remain maimed. It’s stated in the small print when we signed on for this life but one is always too preoccupied with excitement and hope to notice.

Although I had amassed a great deal of experience making 12 movies in Australia, the experience I received in L.A working with the legendary Arthur Hiller, Joe Eszterhas, Amy Ephron, Michael Richards, Martin Landau, Mark Rydell, Sally Kirkland, P.F. Sloan, John Grimaldi, Heath Ledger, Eric Burden, Bernard Fowler, Terry Reid, Waddy Wachtel, Rick Rosas, Sherry Lansing, Phil Jones, Michael J. Pollard, Stacy Michelle, John Savage, Helen Mirren, Jackie Lomax, Wade Preston, Creed Bratton, Damion Damizza Young, Peter Burke, Eric Idle, John Capek, Barry Robinson, Mike Smith, William Friedkin, Thea Gill, Jack Tempchin, Patricia Clarkson, etc., etc., etc., took me to a whole other level. How could you not learn something?

Nine years went by like nine months. The last two years in a haze of a personal heartache, the theft of an idea that I lived to see the thief make millions from as well as get honoured with the highest award a country can give for such an original idea, and the subsequent spiral from meeting too many people who weren’t really there.

If it hadn’t been for the kindness and humanity of Barry Robinson and Mike Smith, I most likely wouldn’t be here today. So if you want to blame anyone, you have their names.

So one day,  as the result of a turn of events, I returned from across the sea to my birthplace, St. Kilda. The first lyric I wrote as a result was…

This is my country, these are my friends, this is the place my journey ends, I stand before you my heart in my hand, a refugee in my homeland, I did my best, I fought my war, I’ve seen enough to want no more, May I lay my weary baggage down to walk inside your door? Send out the word that I’ve returned, my face is lined with lessons learned, I thought my day was almost done, but here I am, your prodigal son…”

Some time later, encouraged by my friend Richard Wolstencroft to dip my toe into the icy water again, I began a new film, “Remembering Nigel” – a film about a group of people remembering a man they once knew who is now deceased. Trouble is, everyone’s opinion of this man and their recollections of him are so diverse and conflicting you soon realise nobody knew the poor bastard at all! And the more they speak of him, the more they reveal about themselves. It is still deemed too original for most distributors to release into a marketplace filled with movies for 14 year olds.  It is an epic account loosely based on my life, heightened here and there for either comedy relief or dramatic punch. It is also a movie that connects with most people on a very deep, profound spiritual level. Well, that is, if you still have a spirit in this mad world we survive in.

When making this film, it became obvious that we’d have to see some funny flashbacks of Nigel. But in order to retain that underlying message that we are all Nigel, how best to capture that? Well, seeing I was directing, it was easier for me to portray Nigel as I was obviously on set all the time, so, whenever we had some downtime or an actor was running late, the crew and I would knock off some Nigel flashbacks.

Whilst in preproduction, I was out in Chapel Street one day and saw a shop with a huge half price sale on. Not intending to buy anything but a bit of time on my hands, my instinct steered me into the store to browse. And there it was. Only one left. And miraculously in my size. A rather uniquely cut long black coat. I knew instantly this was Nigel’s everyman attire. I scooped it up, and then it became obvious a black hat was needed, and that we’d only ever shoot Nigel from behind and never see his face. The black hat and the long black coat would be to Nigel what the Lone Ranger’s blue suit, white hat and mask were to him. As Martin Landau summed up when he saw the rough cut, “Everyone who’s ever felt misunderstood in their life, will see themselves as Nigel”.

Which brings me back to the man in the black hat and the long black coat who wandered St. Kilda for years, and who I actually saw again whilst filming Nigel’s death on St. Kilda beach one rainy overcast day. Or perhaps my eyes were playing tricks on me. But I swear I saw him in the distance walking away along Jacka Boulevard that grey misty late afternoon.

After we wrapped the filming and it was all in the can, as they say, I, in the habit of wearing the black hat and coat, continued to do so. Only recently did I have the epiphany that I have become, around St. Kilda, the man in the black hat and the long black coat. Sometimes I see people pointing me out, perhaps a few here and there know of me or my work, or maybe a father or mother are saying to their child, “You see that man?…Well he has been walking around St. Kilda for years. Long as we can remember. And he never seems to age. He must be a hundred years old!”

So perhaps I have been recast as the eternal wanderer. And my journey has a long way to go.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2017

 

photograph by Vanessa Allan.

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.

WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE MARYSVILLE

Friday rolled around quick. Maybe it has something to do with the Pakistanis. I don’t know. I just do my job and go home each day. There’s always a meal of meat and three veggies waiting for me, followed by some reality TV shows of how other people live. You wouldn’t read about some of the things I see.

I’ve been in line for a promotion for 40 years but it hasn’t come. Word is they’re keeping me for something special. But I don’t know. I’m not quite sure what my job is, to tell you the truth. I stand in a line alongside my fellow work colleagues and at the right time I step forward and attach a bolt. Then it’s onto Charlie, next in line, to attach his screw. We are considered the best two fitters they have and take a lot of pride in that.

Some of the new kids they employ make us laugh. They don’t know anything and think they do. They also talk all the time. Me and Charlie hardly ever say a word. We just look at each other and know. I think sometimes words can get in the way and confuse things. Charlie tells me that when the Martians land here they won’t speak at all they’ll just look at us and read our minds. Well me and Charlie are more than ready for that.

Charlie and me were not mates straight off. At first we were a little standoffish. But after about 20 years we relaxed in each other’s company and are now like brothers. I was best man at his wedding and he was best man at mine. To highlight how alike we are, imagine this, at both our weddings we got so drunk on the free beer that neither of us could say our speeches, which suited us just fine. The wives were a bit upset though.

The trouble with being married is that women like to talk all the time. I don’t mind Peg talkin’ at me but it annoys me somethin’ bad when she expects a verbal response. The Martians are gonna hate her. I told her early in our courtship that I was like a Clint Eastwood type. Now she taunts me by sayin’ “Go ahead and make my day! Say somethin’!” But I just ignore her and refuse to be baited into a petty argument.

Last week our doctor informed me that I have a growth on my vocal chords. Nothing serious he said. Then told me to get my affairs in order. I indignantly told him I don’t have affairs and have never cheated on Peg. That shut him up and put him in his place. Peg is obsessed about how I could have a problem with my voice box when, in her words, I never use it. She keeps telling me, “See? What you don’t use, you lose!” Maybe that explains our sex life too.

Anyway, it’s been a very satisfying life and I ain’t complainin’. We have travelled extensively throughout Victoria and our favourite place by far is Marysville. Why go overseas or see the rest of Australia when Victoria has so much to offer? Keep your French Riviera (where they don’t speak our lingo), Marysville will do me. Peg feels the same.

I don’t know what it is about Marysville that keeps us coming back. Maybe it’s the fresh country air, but all I know is I spend most of my time sleeping. Peg doesn’t mind and actually encourages me to rest up, knowing how hard I work. The poor thing has had to while away the days with the hotel’s young Italian guide, Dino, who takes all the ladies on bush walks. She has actually come to love it and now can’t wait to get up and go each morning. Sometimes she doesn’t get back to our room until I’m already asleep at night. They must be exhausting and rugged walks because sometimes she has dirt and leaves all over her and skinned knees. But I don’t say anything because it obviously does her the world of good experiencing the wild as she is always smiling and in a happy mood, with healthy rosy red cheeks. If Peg had her way we’d go to Marysville every weekend.

When I think of my life, I wouldn’t be dead for the world.

(c) Frank Howson 2017

GOD FORGIVE THE MAN WHO STEALS FROM HIS FRIEND

God forgive him, Lord, he knows not what he does. Unable to sleep, haunted by ghosts of all opportunities gone, still he goes on living not a life, but an existence. And the clock that cruelly ticks into his impending old age, treating him with the same snobbery he has shown every one of God’s creatures, is the only constant in what he has come to call his world. He is comforted only by the woman who won’t go away. In his youth he only dated the daughters of rich daddies, in the hope that he may eventually get access to Big Daddy’s hard earned fortune so he could fritter it away on his meaningless life. His chosen girlfriends were princesses with a range of two looks 1) Stunned deer look #1, and 2) Stunned deer look #2.

Now he has settled down with the only one who can tolerate him and live with the realisation that this too is her life sentence.

Some people are too refined to call him out when his hand is in their pocket. He takes this to mean that they are dumb, but no, they are three steps ahead and indulge him in this game as they silently grieve for his lowly evolution. Mistaking their looks of pity for forgiveness, he is doomed to have to return here many times scoring a crumb of enlightenment each visit. Some would call that hell.

He has read every book ever written on the art of the deal, seen every classic play expertly performed, and yet has learned nothing of the human spirit. To him it is as unfathomable as the concept of Eternity. Friendship is as complex as Socialism

Some have witnessed his best work and bear the scars. The man sent to jail for doing nothing but trusting that his word was true. The other man who lost his home and family based on a promise and a handshake. The banished woman who watched her parents die from the residue that their retirement fortune had been stolen from them.

Arrogance comes before a fall the ancient scriptures tell us. And man’s arrogance is on display everywhere from the skyscrapers of Manhattan to the wars fought for nothing. It is true we get the world we deserve. But how strange to finally wake to its harsh reality.

I pity the arrogant person for I know what awaits him or her. The path to God is through humility. And if you don’t humble yourself, God will surely do it for you. Whether that comes in losing your money, your house, your loved ones, your health, a limb, your voice, your way, whatever – you won’t leave this life unscathed. In the words of that modern poet, Jim Morrison, “No one here gets out alive.”

Hopefully, when that time comes you will leave this condemned place spiritually wealthy.

(c) Frank Howson 2017

SINCE I LEFT YOU

Since I left you
I've been confused all year long
Too scared to make a decision
In case it's wrong...

(c) Frank Howson 2017