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SO THIS IS HEAVEN.

 

The hardest thing to get used to in heaven is that there’s no time. Not that much of a problem for me as having been a writer I was used to nights turning into days whilst I chiseled away at a new work. There’s not much point continuing that profession up here as no one seems to have the time to read. But here’s something for old times sake.

What’s heaven like? Well, it’s like Portsea with nicer people. No one brags about what car they own, or their penthouse in London, or how they made a killing on the market this week because of a pending war. Conversations like that seem a little facile here. Oh, and you can’t judge anyone by the cut of their clothes as birthday suits are the fashion of the day in this place.

Yes, we’re a friendly bunch. All the veils that separated us on earth have been stripped away and the fear of intimacy no longer exists. That’s probably because our leader (he hates being called that) is such a down to earth person. On arrival he told me I could call him anything so I now address him as Ted. My first request was to meet Jesus but Ted (whom I assumed was his father) just smiled and said, “Haven’t you worked that out yet? You’re all Jesus.” He really loves answering any questions with a complete mind-fuck that silences you. A bit like Bob Dylan. It may take an eternity for me to get what he means. So, I mainly sit and ponder until my head hurts.

There are some really beautiful women to gaze upon. I like to hit on Marilyn Monroe which is an exercise in futility as there’s no sex here. We seem to not need it anymore, or the expectations and responsibilities that used to accompany it. We generally just chat which consists of smiling and staring at someone while you read their thoughts.

Ted, our leader who hates to be called a leader, loves chatting about his favourite food recipes. He keeps promising to let me taste his Peach Melba but so far he hasn’t delivered. In fact, there are no meals as that’s kinda pointless too.

One day, or was it night?, I asked Ted what the point of creating the human race was, and he answered, “Well I wanted to find out what’d happen if I dumped a whole lot of ignorant people into a paradise, gave them total free will,  and waited for the result.” I prompted him for an answer, “Which was?…” And he smiled and replied, “Pointless”. I’m going to need to sit and ponder that too.

The good news for men is we don’t have to shave anymore. And ladies don’t have to pluck anything.

I play cards with Freud, who should be called Fraud as he cheats at everything, and Van Gogh (still a grumpy bastard who can’t read a thing you’re saying). If Grumpy tells me again he only sold two paintings on earth I’m going to have to clock him. Vincent and I currently owe Fraud several million dollars but again it’s kinda…pointless.

Marilyn is looking very alluring as I sit here but the cruel bitch just likes to tease me. She taunts me with tales of how good Milton Berle was in bed and the fact that he used to trip over his own cock. This has obviously left a lasting impression on her. I wish I didn’t have to read her mind, it’s painful.

The one thing we do have is music. Ted is a freak about it. I sometimes think it’s like being trapped in an elevator and having to listen to endless muzak. Wagner is a favourite of Ted’s, although he occasionally, thank God, slips in some Elvis, whom he confidentially informs me was just as chosen as Jesus. I am now pondering the conundrum that both Jesus and Elvis are in us all.

This could take several more eternities to work out before I’ll have a follow-up question that won’t embarrass me in front of Ted.

God, he demands a lot.

It just crossed my mind that, between Freud’s cheating, Van Gogh’s whining, Marilyn’s tauntings about Uncle Milty’s cock, Wagner endlessly played far too loud, and Ted’s oblique answers, this could be hell.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2017

Prohibition

From Room Number 8

I hear the trumpet sound

But is it of the sky or ground?

It’s hard to find without a link

When the world’s forgotten how to think

And women dress for Babylon

To glow and bloom and then are gone

The devil moves you like a pawn

You’ve been played like that since you were born

We misunderstood the Judas kiss

And now it’s come to all of this

Where sex is love and hate is fine

And to tell the truth  is to cross the line

Where information is at our fingertips

And yet ignorance springs from our lips

We kneel to say our prayers

And pray to God that someone cares

But just like that tale of Ruth

We get persecuted for the truth

We never found the promised land

It was a myth like the helping hand

So we freeze in our winter of discontent

Where there are no replies to our letters sent

I live in a house of lonely men

Where you relive it again and again

They say when it finally makes sense

We’ll be reimbursed for all our expense

But while Billy and Joey think it’s a crock

I sit staring at the clock

There’s a Pilate waiting to judge us all

And he’ll wash his hands and try to stall

Because it frightens us to the core

To know the roles we’ve been cast for

But maybe one day when I’m through this phase

I’ll call you to talk of old days

And not to take anything you don’t want to give

Or to tell you how to live

But just to rest my head on yours

And tell you I love you because…

 

(c) Frank Howson 2016

 

 

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RAY’S LAST STAND

Ray Macky sat at a table for one. He was used to it by now. It wasn’t like the old days. In those days it had been tables for two, or four or twenty-four. He’d been wildly popular in his younger days. In those times he thought it’d been due to his personal charm but now looking back from the cruel vantage point of having lived too long he saw it for what it was – he’d had success and that’d brought truck loads of money in its wake. He must’ve wined and dined every opportunist in town and even married some of them. He’d enjoyed the crème de la crème of the beautiful and sexy who were, at their hearts, the very worst of humanity. Had he learned anything from all this? No. Zip. He still melted inside when a pretty one smiled at him. These days they smiled at him out of pity – he seemed like a kindly old harmless fool instead of a wealthy one. It seems the last faculty to die is one’s stupidity. Each marriage had grown shorter and the settlements larger until there was nothing left. Ray, in his few honest discussions with himself, lamented the small deaths that led up to the big one. The death of his trust; the death of his respect; the death of his generousity; the death of his health; the death of his longing; the death of his libido; the death of his caring.

Sometimes on a summer’s night at an outside table for one, surrounded by young couples in love, he held on momentarily to the conceit that on one such night a beautiful, kind, understanding woman would notice him and walk into what was left of his life and everything leading up to this would suddenly make sense. But he was also smart enough by now to know that this was only the dream of an old man who needed something to clasp onto to bring sleep each night.

Ray liked to walk home from his favourite restaurants on such nights although friends had warned him it was no longer safe to do so at his age. It was a different time and now young boys roamed the streets filled with enough anger to pleasure themselves by bringing down the vulnerable. As if life hadn’t hurt them all enough.

On these late night walks home Ray would try and remember the sound of his parents’ voices and it’d comfort him. Step by step back into the past until he was a young lad again. Back to a time when he was loved…no…treasured, and the future was so filled with options and adventure that he couldn’t wait to be older. Where did it all go, he wondered. Was he so busy running to and from things that he forgot to savour the pleasure of each moment? Or did he enjoy them so much that time accelerated? Whichever scenario, the result was the same – he was now weary. Not just in body, but in spirit. And sad. Sad that he had had so much love to give and dissipated it on all the wrong people. The worst of them had damaged him for the best of them. In recent years he’d had the opportunity to have relationships with certain women but had always declined the offers or let them die on the vine from his lack of interest or follow through. All he knew was it felt good to finally have all the power. He could now no longer be seduced by a pretty face, a sexy body or a woman with a wicked mind. It gave him some satisfaction to see their surprised expressions when their games and charms no longer worked on him. Alas, they were too late. He had no more chips to bet.

His nightly walks also made him think of those that had gotten away. The ones he should’ve stayed with and the ones who broke his heart by leaving each time the money ran out. He’d had such rotten luck in love, although he wasn’t quite sure that some of the horrific scenes he’d endured should be classified under that sacred four letter word.

He wished he could go back in time and give his last wife the things that she’d needed that now seemed so clear but back then were unfathomable. What an idiot he was not to see. And now he was being punished for it. A life sentence. A dead man walking.

He wondered where his son was and what lies he must’ve been told to have distanced himself so much from a father that loved him more than life itself. But such things were too painful to think about if one was to keep going forward. He preferred to think of him as the young man who had worshipped his father. A dad who could do no wrong.

On his last nightly walk home, Ray Macky heard his son’s voice yell out to him from behind and he turned, smiling, his eyes suddenly filled with hope of a new beginning, or a miraculous renewal of what had once been the most loving of relationships. For a few moments Ray was taken aback at how much his son had changed. His face had grown hard and cruel in ways that he couldn’t quite grasp. And he was older than his years. Had he caused this damage to the one he had so loved?

Then he heard the suddenly unfamiliar voice demand money, “Give me your money, old man, or you’ll get this!”

Ray looked down to see a knife in the boy’s hand. Surely his son wouldn’t pull a knife on his own father? If he wanted money all his son had to do was ask and Ray would’ve given him anything. Ah, but then again, Ray no longer had anything. He was back in the here and now, and the cold realisation that he was of no longer any use to anyone.

“I only have twenty dollars in cash I’m afraid. But it’s yours, Tommy, take it, my boy. I can get you some more on Friday when my pension is in my account..”

“Tommy?…Who the fuck is Tommy you stupid old bastard?!”

“Tommy, don’t you recognise me? I’m your dad. I’ve never stopped loving you…”

Ray didn’t get to finish his sentence before the boy grabbed his wallet, thrust the knife into his stomach and ran from the stranger.

Ray fell to the footpath as a warm pool of blood formed around him. Lying there he wondered what he had done to make his son hate him so. Didn’t he know that life just got in the way sometimes and people had no control over where it led them?

Ray attempted a laugh that a monetary figure had finally been placed on his life and closed his eyes in peace that all debts were now paid.

Ray’s last thought was that he hoped the twenty dollars would be of some help to the boy.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2016

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THE RELUCTANT LEAVING (Dedicated to P.F. Sloan)

You say you’re leavin’

And you know it ain’t fair

Every day I wake unto this world

I’m gonna hurt that you’re not there

But God knows best

And God is good

If you believe in Him

Tonight I wish I could

We said our goodbyes

And now we can’t take ’em back

The last time I saw your smiling face

We didn’t see the sky turn black

We laughed too loud

And hugged too long

You saw the best in me

Even when I was wrong

You’ve been cryin’

’cause you don’t want to go

And I’ve been lyin’

Pretending I didn’t know

Now all the days of my life

All the days of my life

I’m gonna be grieving

Your reluctant leaving

The winter’s comin’

Bringin’ storms that’ll surely rage

And I’ll sit here on this lonely bench

And I will try to act my age

We played too hard

We cared too deep

I’ll see ya in my dreams

When I stumble into sleep

You’ve been cryin’

’cause you don’t want to go

And I’ve been lyin’

Pretending I didn’t know

Now all the days of my life

All the days of my life

I’m gonna be grieving

Your reluctant leaving…

I’m gonna be grieving

Your reluctant leaving

Speechless

Without a tale to tell

Adios, dear friend

Adios

And farewell….

(C) Frank Howson 2016

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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But Then Again..

I hate it when the TV screams at me for things I haven’t done. It’s worse than the ticking of the clock that’s always resented the time I wasted on you. The toaster purposely burns my bread having seen me being too familiar with the microwave. So many appliances in this room hold grudges over what can’t be redone.

Sometimes it gets lonely here so I go out to meet other lonely souls. Then I bring them home and leave. Who wants people like that in your home?

I remember a childhood when there was always something cooking. And always an argument brewing. My father was a small man who made his presence felt. His battles with himself and those he loved were legendary and unmade us all.

Sometimes when I think of you I play Chet Baker.  Only the junkman and angels know how deep you hurt me. I think this one is in C, but I’ll sit it out.

I have lost myself in so many books that now sit on my shelves like dead weight and taunt me. I think I last saw me in London, in the rain, standing outside Ronnie Scott’s club. But then again it may’ve been the person I wanted to be. Or just another story. There’ve been too many stories filled with too many characters battling in too many crowded hours.

They have cancelled my eroticism cable channel and now all I get is sports. Or static. The latter is free and I’ve come to read things into it.

I sometimes watch Jane Bum attempt to predict the weather but my feeling is she’s not psychic and just toying with me.

I missed the coverage of the Heavyweight Championship Title Match but caught a good fight just outside my apartment. It only went a few rounds as neither fighter had seemed to train. My advice on the finer points of boxing were violently shunned by them and I now sport scars for caring too much. Although I believe I won on points.

There is something very comforting in the voice of Doris Day. Yes, whatever will be, will be. Advice far more profound than anything in the Ten Commandments. Or in Charlton Heston’s beard.

Sometimes you have to face the cold wind of another day. That’s why God grants us dreams.

(c) Frank Howson 2015

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MY FAVOURITE BOOKS LIST

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