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

RADIO DAYS

I loved listening to the radio when I was a small boy. My ear pressed up against the speaker of the mahogany radiogram, a furniture feature in our modest living room.  All those amazing artists whose voices shaped my life, i.e., Guy Mitchell, Rosemary Clooney, the young Elvis, Buddy Holly, Harry Belafonte, Anthony Newley, Eddie Cochrane, Patsy Cline, Sammy Davis Jnr., Little Richard, Jimmie Rodgers, Bobby Darin, Johnny Desmond, Louis Armstrong, Helen Shapiro, Johnny Horton, Ned Miller, Burl Ives, Johnny Ray, Tommy Steele, The Ink Spots, etc., etc. An eclectic bunch, and I loved ’em all.

My mum said I had an acute ear for voices and as a party trick she and my dad would challenge the guests to put the radio on and I would guess the singer within a few bars.  I was four.

My parents were slow to get their own television set so unless we visited relatives on a Sunday we had to settle for listening to the radio. It was our only outlet for news updates, music, plays and comedy sketches. Oh, and serials. I’ve always felt so sorry for my mum. She was addicted to a daytime radio soap opera serial entitled “Doctor Paul” – it ran for a phenomenal 4,634 episodes and my mum listened to 4,633 with rapture. I could’ve been hanging from a rope in the bathroom and she wouldn’t have noticed. Unfortunately she had to go out one day for a real doctor’s appointment and came home to the devastating news that she had missed the final episode. I tell you, the grief I witnessed from that poor woman rivalled Jackie’s after the J.F.K assassination. She never did find out what exactly happened. So I guess she shared that with Jackie too.

Those radio plays and serials were magic and a real art form, creating a visual world in our minds using just voices and effects. Orson Welles learned much from his radio days and brought a lot of his sound tricks to his film-making. If you close your eyes and listen to “Citizen Kane” it is as aurally interesting as its visuals.

When I was 14 and a child no school room could teach, I ran away and never went back, no doubt much to the relief of my teachers. My mum, who always took my side when I was in trouble and despairing, accepted my decision without judgement or debate, and took me into the city to try and get me a job as an office boy at radio station 3DB. She knew I loved music and the entertainment business so in her intuitive wisdom she felt this was the right starting point for my future life. And that I would learn a lot. And so I did. For the rest of her life my ambition was fuelled by my efforts to repay her faith in me.

As fate would have it, 3DB were not looking for an office boy at that time. Another lesson learned – success is all about timing. So, not taking no for an answer my quick thinking mum walked me a few blocks to radio station 3UZ. And yes, a meeting with destiny. The general manager, Mr. Lewis Bennett, a man of such class and distinction he has had a lasting effect on me, gave me the once over, liked the fact that I dressed like him in a nice suit, polished shoes and a bow tie, and gave me the job. I smiled at him with tears in my eyes as I felt the joy of finally being accepted in the outside world after years of humiliation and rejection in the then cruel school system. The warm inner joy I felt at being wanted and appreciated made me work my guts out for $16 a week so as not to let Mr. Bennett down. Sometimes he even sent me his leftover lunchtime crayfish sandwiches, and I sat in my chair in his secretary’s office, and slowly savoured them bite by bite, feeling like a king. And silently giving thanks for how lucky I was.

That job imbued me with many lasting ethics – the pride of working hard, not letting anyone down, being on time, not leaving until the job is done, being polite to people, the unselfishness of always presenting a positive attitude even if you’re down, and not taking the job for granted but, instead, always remembering that you have that job because someone had faith in you.

I learned so much in my three years at 3UZ that it’s too much to detail but, because it’s so ingrained in me, even today I may do something, or give a young person advice, and then realise it’s a lesson learned from those radio days.

In those magical days of the Sixties, dee jays were gods. And I worked with the best of them – Stan Rofe, Ken Sparkes, John Vertigan, Allan Lappen, Don Lunn, Graham Cherry, Sam Anglesea, Noel Ferrier, Mary Hardy, Jimmy Hannon, etc, etc, etc. We will not see their like again. Because, like a rare vintage wine, those days are gone.

But some of us remember.

(c) Frank Howson 2017

THE MUSE

I came
I saw
And was conquered
So many roads to choose
But they all became the same
I was driven
Before being driven mad
To seek a meaning to it all
Or at least some of it
But you clouded the issue
Appearing quite a few times in my life
In the guise of different women
Always fooling me
As I laughed into my drink
Thinking I’d seen it all
You were an exquisite distraction
To my work
But God always removed you
Leaving me with just enough pain
To be able to write about it
So there you live
Forever
In my work
Always young
Always intoxicatingly crazy
Always puzzling
To us mere mortals
Who worshipped at your throne
Thinking we had the time
To make a clean getaway
Before the fall
But it came
Like Babylon
Like Rome
Like America
And now old men
Aged before their time by you
Stand on street corners
And reminisce
While I
Being human
Take the easy way out
By writing about it
God tells me if I write it enough times
Eventually it’ll all make sense
But I have my doubts
And life is short

(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

MONUMENTS IN THE SAND

The poet took a machete and cut his way through the field of golden daffodils coughing up blood from too many cigarettes, cheap whiskey  and women gone bad. His field of dreams had been burned by looters years before and the only place he felt comfortable with now was a field hoed by blood, tears and guts. He had learnt the hard way that this was the only place a poet could write the truth. That the ugliness outside will always drive you inward.

He was well aware that there was no escape clause in his contract and no safety net for those who braved the high wire. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in God, they just weren’t on speaking terms since the Almighty had conspired to take Ruby from him in such a messy way.

He thought it was fitting that his best prose was written on toilet paper. He no longer craved awards or acknowledgements because he’d worn his heart out in the wanting when he was hungry and young, during that long drought before the rains came. Now, the only public he had was himself and the voices inside his head. Some belonged to long gone friends who, in his mind, would give him a slight smile and a nod when he wrote something that was real.

This was his domain now. Building monuments in the sand and watching the tide wash them away, lost to everyone but those it really mattered to.

Then he’d wander home to rest in the field of devastation to dream of beauty. After all, that was his job.

(C) Frank Howson 2017

DISILLUSIONED

I had been informed that my pause was pregnant. This sent shock waves through my bad luck streak and I cursed my Attila The Hun doll. My shoes had given out months before me selling my secret address to my bookie who lived in Ward 3 on life support. I had plotted for years the perfect getaway but the train didn’t go there anymore and left me at the platform.

Once I remember working for a German Shepherd who lived in Brighton. He barked his orders and wouldn’t engage in any debates. Sometimes baring his teeth. Sometimes his girlfriend. It wasn’t much but it was all I had at the time. I thought I had meant more at one point but it was a misdiagnosis and the praise was meant for someone else.

Everywhere I went I was told I was too loud. Even by Roberta who I’ll never forget, although her family escapes me.The most attractive thing about her was her artificial leg. Head waiters burned my orders, and whores rejected my head. And in Berkeley Square a nightingale sang until a chinless producer bought the song and sat on it. Famous people faked their deaths and went into hiding when they saw me. Years later I was told this had little to do with me and more to do with the Chinese emigrant problem but by then I was already dead and banned from most bowling clubs. To add salt to the cheese, some idiot wrote a book posthumously revealing me to be Jack The Ripper. This really ruined my legacy and the statue that was being erected to me was abandoned.

Shortly before my demise I was seen out with a short woman who held the title for Best Street Fighter in Brixton. On our first outing she informed me she loved nothing more than a good licking but being unfamiliar with boxing terms it was beyond me.

Misfortune followed misadventure until Miss Fits dropped me for a Portuguese parrot who swore like a trouper.

Not long after, I went off women in a big way and bought a little flat in Whitechapel where I got myself a job as a part time butcher. It paid poorly but the cuts were cheap. I learned a lot on the job, working mostly nights to save the world any embarrassment.

I can be found in most dictionaries under the word Disillusioned.

I started out wanting more but that’s how it goes.

(c) Frank Howson 2017

LOVE & THE LAST DAYS

They drop you in the middle of it, and they don’t care. All they think about are their opinions, yet yours they resent. And God forbid you should tell the truth, these days that could get the police called. It’s abusive. It’s threatening. It’s crossing the line.

Who’d have thought when we entered this world, we’d be here to see it burn? All I know is, give somebody freedom and they’ll hate it for you. Act it out and it could get you killed. We’ve been manipulated by experts and now all the best comedy shows are on the news channels.  Everything we’ve been told for the past fifty years has been a lie. Black is white, and up is down, and left is right, and right is wrong. Now function if you dare.

Isn’t it interesting how people accuse you of what they are? They’re too scared to look inward into the mirror of their soul. At least Robert Johnson had the guts to sell his for a song. Nowadays the price is a cup of coffee.

Oscar Wilde was destroyed by his indignation at the truth. There can be no opinions of the truth, or various scholarly interpretations of it. Or dismissals of it when it doesn’t suit you or your political party. The truth is non-debatable. The truth merely is. Like the sun is.

And how does one find the truth in today’s world? Seek it not in people’s words, but in their actions.

Notice how everything looks better from a distance? Even past relationships. The woman or man who hated someone for their selfishness, their withdrawal, their lack of effort to make money – now, a few years later – praises them as an infallible king. Unfortunately, they are still the same person.

Some lives are crushed by envy, some by love. But perhaps both are the same. We are attracted by what we don’t possess, and then we destroy it. I, myself, have been wearied by love and am no longer available to be anyone’s psychologist. I don’t have all the answers so please don’t seek me out, all you potential assassins.

Our father who art in heaven, why have we lived through Armageddon?

(c) 2017 Frank Howson