Oh what a life we had when we thought nothing of it. It was fun and sunny and we always got by. There was food to buy and things to do and by dinner time all that mattered was the scent of something delicious cooking. We watched movies and looked for the relevance in our lives. Some made us laugh, others made us cry. Sometimes we didn’t know why. Perhaps they were premonitions of things to come known only by our hearts.
It felt like home to me and I hadn’t had a home in such a long time. I was proud of our quaint apartment and comforted by the books and music that glued our lives together. Now all gone.
I worked hard to get money to keep the wheels moving but in the end you resented that I did. So everything stopped. Including me. Our small world became overcast with your moods and I couldn’t breathe without some light.
You complained that my friends didn’t speak to you enough, so I had to lose them. You couldn’t get any work so you resented mine. Every act of kindness I offered you was rejected because in your words you didn’t wish to feel beholden to me. Then you complained that I hadn’t offered. Please forgive me my confusion as to what to do in such a circumstance.
I had been at peace before you decided to crash into my life, appearing at my door every night around dinner time, with your troubled tales of how a troubadour had treated you badly – had not encouraged you – had not listened to you – had not supported you – had not helped you. I listened every night for hours and melted and let you into my heart.
But as time went by you contradicted your stories about the selfish troubadour and elevated him to a mythical status above me. But where was he when you were hungry? Where was he when you were cold? Where was he when you needed laughter? Where was he when you were offered kindness?
Now it seems, in your mind, I have become the troubled troubadour of bygone days.
You forced me out into the night by your verbal cruelty and ruined my Christmas.
I have wandered since, here and there, thinking too deep and caring too much, in an effort to harden my heart for self-preservation.
Please send no more Valentines my way, dear Lord, I have paid too many times and my heart is too weary to try again.
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.
The street beneath my feet
Has never let me down
Unlike the people
Who think they own this town
I tried my luck
But the cards were cut
When I complained
I was told to shut up
Goodbye black, hello blue
What happens next depends on you
I miss the world I thought I knew
Goodbye black, hello blue
I gave myself to you
But then you lost your nerve
I was your army
Always ready to serve
You cut me off
And you burned my flag
In peace I pack my bag
Goodbye black, hello blue
I'll spend my life forgetting you
I'll miss the dreams that won't come true
Goodbye black, hello blue
So I'll be off
Until who knows when
I'll see you in the stars
Until the broken heal again
Goodbye black, hello blue
What happens now we can't undo
I'll miss the love I never knew
Goodbye black, hello blue
(c) Frank Howson 2017
Title suggested by Chris Thomas.
There's nothing more I need in a woman's eyes
It's a lonely, hollow, comforting feeling
Finally knowing that
I am empowered and can no longer be conned
With the promise of something wonderful
That will ultimately be paid for
In blood and tears
I now appreciate all people without any agenda
Other than to laugh and share some joy while we are still here
And at the heart of it that's all that matters
We hide behind so many veils in our youth
Playing roles that can't be sustained
Even the greatest actors can only summon up King Lear
Once a night
Free at last
God almighty free at last
All I wanted was peace
And some joy
And someone to share the good times with
But each candidate brought their carriage of problems
Their hurt caused by another
Their suspicions caused by another
Their jealousy caused by another
With no one to take it out on but me
So what should've been joyous times were ruined
Laughter replaced by tears
Kindness viewed with cynicism
Until it was turned into something nasty
That could only be understood by them
And this was called a relationship
Others would deem it a prison
It reduced life to a death
And made fools of those who had craved it
I still believe in some things
But less by the day
I wonder how much of us must whither
Before we pass away?
I am not a killer
And yet the faces of several people who have used me
Flash through my mind every day
I am considered a kind man
By some, a strong man
And yet I could kill a handful of people without a thought
Maybe most of us could
With a clear conscience
As we would write it off
As a public service
Our act would save other good souls
From being exploited and then
Thrown away to be useless
Having given them mansions
So that we could settle down on someone else's couch
While they rewrote history to alienate the ones you loved
Yet they weren't charged with your murder?
But perhaps justice is yet to be served
And if we took it upon ourselves to render it
Would the government not erect statues to us?
They would've in bygone days
Some people don't deserve to be called human
They don't act it, they don't think it, they don't care
They love to destroy other people's lives and values and then
leave others to deal with the mess
They are spiritual vampires
Why should they be allowed to get away scott free
Sipping their white wine
Repeating other people's opinions
Only to laugh
And destroy another day
I missed my calling
I should've been Wyatt Earp
or Bat Masterson
Riding the range
With the power to take or give life
Where and how I saw it
But instead of a badge and a revolver
I was given a suit and a tie
And an expectation of what I had to achieve
In a gentleman's world
Because of those I let into my life
with their promises of "This will be fun" and
"I will always love you" and
"Thank you so much for your kindness, it won't be forgotten"
But it was by the next day
Which brings me back to the gun
And why I am lost
Between the cracks of right and wrong
Watch your step
Night is falling
I'm considering becoming Jewish
Just so I'll know where my home is
(c) Frank Howson 2017
photograph by Vanessa Allan.
The most precious things in the world are those things that are irreplaceable in our lives. We are gathered here today to say farewell to one. Irreplaceable in his talent. Irreplaceable in our hearts. Irreplaceable in his truth. There’s a lyric in a Jackson Browne song that says, “Does it take a death to learn what a life is worth?” No. Not in this case. I think we were all aware at every stage just what Alex Scott was worth in our lives. I will miss that golden voice that could even make the reading of the telephone book sound profound. I will miss his shining talent that I was honoured to have witnessed in full flight. But most of all I’ll miss his friendship. His smile. His wicked sense of humour. The twinkle in his eye. His thoughts. His priceless stories. The look on his face when he listened to Beethoven. And that laugh that I was fortunate enough to capture on film. I will also miss his honesty. In this business of show where people tell you what they think you want to hear, and then distort the facts behind your back, Alex was a beacon of truth. If you received a compliment from him, you knew he meant it. I was fortunate to have received a very big compliment from him about a film I’d done. I still bask in that glow. But, perhaps to balance me, at the screening of my next project he told me, in his most measured tones, that he felt it was “a piece of shit”.
To paraphrase that lyric again, “There’s no way I could tell you what he meant to me.”
Perhaps his most fitting epitaph is written in the words of Antony lamenting the death of Marcus Brutus… ”This was the noblest Roman of them all. His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world: “This was a man!”…
Recently, there was a funeral for the preacher who, along with the members of his Bible reading class, was the victim of another senseless gunspree in the U.S. and President Obama attended to eulogise him. To papaphrase – he said – “I could spend a lot of time listing this man’s triumphs, noting his awards, his acts of kindness, naming the many whose lives were changed due to his compassion. But – perhaps there is no greater accolade than the following – This was a good man. And he lived a good life. And we are better for having known him”. Rest in peace, dear Alex.
Good night, sweet prince. I’m going to miss you every day.
Imagine, if you will, eternity in darkness and with darkness all there is in front of you. That was God’s lot in life. Those of you who’ve experienced short periods of meditation may be able to grasp just how chilled and cool God is. Sometimes His mind can wander for centuries. He apologises profusely for any inconvenience this caused during the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades.
Anyway, at some point during an eternity of darkness and nothingness, God got really bored. Really bored. So bored He created stars. Diamond pinholes in eternal night. Some of them he gave names to like DeVinci, Beethoven, Lincoln, Chaplin, Welles, Tesla, Bell, Hawking, Turan, Picasso, Einstein, Elvis, Beatles, Dylan – oh, and Kanye West.
When interviewed by Neale Donald Walsch, God stated that His “…greatest creation was free will.” He gave it to us as His gift to make our own way through the darkness as best we could and to experience, in a smaller way, the joy He experienced in creating something from scratch. Trouble is, He said, “…although I’ve given you complete freedom to make your own decisions, as soon as something goes wrong, you blame me!” God is now in therapy thanks to us. And, like a poor person, His only option for therapy is to talk to Himself. Sometimes in that magic hour, in the silence just before dawn, if you listen closely you may hear Him.
In the story of Cain and Abel the story symbolizes what would happen if God favoured one child over another. The result of this was the creation of envy. And from that, murder. Human kind took to the latter like a duck to water and even governments adopted it on a large scale as the final solution to any threatening problem.
There are many ways to murder someone. You can either take their life in the Biblical sense or there’s the more modern subtle way of assassinating someone by lies and innuendo which has been favoured by the print press. And bitter editors.
When asked why He invented suffering, He replied, “It is necessary to pass through hell before you can fully appreciate heaven.”
During that same interview He, a little impatiently, addressed the concern regarding apathy and boredom for those of us who toil in the wastelands, “Look, I gave you music, Hollywood movies and Bob Dylan didn’t I? You think you’re bored, try living alone in total darkness for eternity!”
Yes, He has lost his patience with us on many occasions. Read the Old Testament and you will find a God who, like all youth, is angry, impatient, revengeful, and quick to judge. By the New Testament we have an older, more understanding God who’s able to look past our ignorant mistakes and see the bigger picture. He sent His son to herald this new age and inform us of the change but unfortunately there were those amongst us who weren’t ready for the outrageous and highly controversial concept that “we should all love each other and try to get along for the betterment of all,” and they killed him. God has sent us many other messengers in the years since who’ve attempted to give us the same message, ie., Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, etc., but, unfortunately, we killed them too. It seems if you preach hate you’re as safe as milk and will die in your bed of old age. But have the audacity to peddle love and understanding and your days are numbered.
This loss of his own son caused God to withdraw from the world and to distance Himself from us. It is indeed a revealing fact that any ensuing visions to bring us messages from the other world have been in the form of Mary. Not Jesus. And, just like a woman, she still attempts to see the best in us and loves us despite our flaws and hurtful actions. The miracle of unconditional love. Jesus, on the other hand, thinks we’re a bunch of idiots with a thirst for blood who haven’t learnt a thing from the past 2000 years, or his death. Word has it he has given up on us and spends most of his time gardening.
For those amongst us who hate God because they didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas, spare a thought for His suffering. He has been alone for eternity, living in darkness with no one to love. Knowing full well what it was like to feel like an orphan, God gave birth to a huge family and tried to make a home for us. He now knows the pain of having had that family, in main, disown, slander, and hate their father for being the cause of their existence.
Perhaps that is why God created a miracle called forgiveness. He lives in the hope that we will all find it. As He has.
When asked if He ever worried about our future, He replied, “No. Not at all. I worry about your present but never the future for I know the outcome and what, ultimately, awaits you. You see, at the end of your journey all roads lead to me. And, like any parent that loves their child, regardless of what you’ve done, you are greeted with forgiveness and abundant, unconditional love, understanding, and welcomed home.”
Jesus, on the other hand, may take some time to warm to you.