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GOODBYE BLACK, HELLO BLUE

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
I surrender
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.


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SHEK-O BEACH

It had been 50 years since Bill Cassell had set foot on Shek-O Beach in Hong Kong. He was still a young man when he’d walked onto these sands all those years ago. Although well preserved he’d lost along the way all those things that define you as a young man – ambitions, dreams, hope, confidence and the infinite belief that everything would work out for the best. Now he stood on this empty beach clinging to his last remaining hope. A hope so thin and futile he felt ashamed at how pathetic he’d become in his old age.

50 years ago on this beach he’d been stopped by a young Chinese girl selling hats. He’d looked at her and everything had changed. It wasn’t just her obvious beauty, there was something else about her – perhaps her calmness, perhaps the wisdom in her twinkling eyes, her joyous laugh, the feeling that he meant something to her  – that suggested there could be a purpose in his meandering and confused life. He’d bought the hat he didn’t need and they’d chatted. They’d also laughed and enjoyed each other’s company for what may’ve only been 10 minutes in total, and then she’d bid him farewell and walked away. But had never left him. He’d promised to come back and see her tomorrow but his Aussie buddies had gotten him drunk that night and he slept all the next day, nearly missing his night time flight back home. Since the encounter there’d not been a day when he hadn’t thought of her and wondered how she was. He hoped maybe she’d thought of him too. Such are the dreams that torment old men.

Where had 50 years gone? Oh that’s right, he’d returned to Australia, and married a safe convenient woman approved by everyone as a “good catch” and had then worked his guts out to buy a home to make sure his marriage remained safe and convenient. Then children had come along and gone. And finally, so had his wife, taking the safe and convenient home with her. He was now standing on the beach at Shek-O a laughing stock to his own logic but he was too old to care anymore. And it was almost dark.

How come 10 minutes had meant so much in his life and 50 years hadn’t? Perhaps it’s one of the cruel jokes God plays on us. Penalizing us for not following our instincts and wasting our lives in safety. Surely He gave us a life to live, not to hide in. Bill had discovered this wisdom all too late and it was in the knowing that the severest pain comes.

He asked some of the bar people overlooking the beach whether they remembered her. But most couldn’t understand him. In the nearby village a wise looking old Chinese medicine man listened patiently to Bill’s story all the while looking intently into his sad eyes. Bill guessed he too couldn’t understand a word and was trying to decipher meaning by other means. When Bill was finished his manic raving, the old Chinese medicine man smiled and nodded his head. Maybe he was used to silly old Western men retracing their bad decisions and too kind to tell the latest lost soul that it was gone. Gone, gone, gone.

Bill walked back to the beach as if it might miraculously manifest her. And there he stood for hours until it was night. He did the same thing the next day and then the next. His skin was burned red by the lack of a sun hat. Or someone caring enough to offer him one. By the third day some locals had gathered to watch this strange man pacing up and down the length of the beach, fully clothed.

So many thoughts stampeded through Bill’s mind. The years he’d lived up to those blissful 10 minutes and all the wasted time he’d spent in its shadow. Perhaps God gives us the opportunity for happiness and leaves it to us to recognize its face when we see it. Unfortunately, when we make the wrong decisions we spend the rest of our lives cursing Him, like a spoiled child who didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas.

A curious old local lady spectator to this dilemma asked the Chinese medicine man to explain what was happening. And in his Mandarin tongue he answered, “If you hold onto some dreams too long they damn you to hell.”

The old Chinese lady looked back at that stranger on the beach as if she vaguely understood. She’d once sold sun hats there and had waited for weeks for a boy to return and be her friend. He’d seemed like such a nice person. And was so full of enthusiasm and dreams. But she was wise enough to know that it’d been in another life, or so it seemed.

On the beach, Bill Cassell paced ceaselessly, searching for his youth and driven made by longing. Trapped in the hell of his own making. And ranting at the deserting tide.

(c) Frank Howson 2015

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THE HOTEL ROOM

This hotel room is killing me. It has been plotting my check-out since check-in.

Last night I heard it whispering my secrets to the corridor.

Whenever I’m choosing wine, I realize all my favourite years are gone.

I keep looking from my window to the pool below seeing me floating face down. The bellboy tells me it’s a good omen. But I suspect he only understands every third word I say.

I phoned room service and ordered a life.

Someone is spiking my drinks with melancholy.

I have been driven mad working for a man who knows nothing and will never be happy. He is trying to turn me into him.

I wake to the maids making the bed with me still in it.

I tried going on a health kick but was advised it could be professional suicide.

In my mourning I was fitted for a suit and had my photograph taken.

The hotel entertainment is a musical review starring my ex-wives and consists of them telling the world everything was my fault. I didn’t get it and don’t think it has any legs.

Daniel reads my palm every night at the crossroads of Down and Lost. He tells me I have too many lines for one hand. I ask him what that means and he says he’ll have to consult a second opinion. But then he tells me that while I’m waiting for the answer I should check-out the musical review at my hotel.

Every morning I order breakfast and just get a bill.

I have a new job playing charades for cab drivers who don’t understand me.

How many times can you watch your ex-wife’s sex tape online without wanting to give directions?

The front desk have allowed too many people into my dreams.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

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RANDOM THINGS

1. Most of my heroes are dead. When it comes to music, I hear dead people.

2. The system hammered me down so I wandered the wastelands for 10 years regrouping my thoughts, my ideas, finding my voice again (literally) and waiting for the right time to summon up the inspiration from my guts to want to create again. I now realise that every thing that happened to me was not a curse but rather a gift. It has sharpened my talent and instincts on every level as well as given me the sight to see through false people. My old enemies and those that worked against me, alas, have only succeeded in making me better. Sorry.

3. You don’t appreciate the power of love until you lose it. It takes the giddy highs and severe depths to actually remind us that we are alive. I pity those who sleepwalk through life clinging to “safety” and thus never experience the Great Divine Comedy in all its glory.

4. I am “determined to make each day better than the one before.” Thank you P.F. Sloan and Stephen Kalinich for passing on that wisdom to me.

5. I create. The rest of the time I wait.

6. I have loved many wonderful women in my life and given them all my money. On reflection, It was worth every cent. Maybe.

7. The more you see of Life, the less you know.

8. I love making movies. Especially when they have a real budget.

9. I am blessed to have some truly incredible friends. Some of whom saved my life because they cared more about me than I did.

10. I miss dinner at Guido’s and at Dan Tana’s (L.A) with my friends.

11. I love working with great actors who know their stuff. I love it when they actually listen and allow you to gently guide them to the height of their talent. Phony doesn’t play well. I usually stop actors when I see them “acting.” Nothing better than witnessing the “magic” when it happens. And playing a part in igniting that.

12. My greatest co-production is named Oliver. One day he will realise the truth in that.

13. I love restaurants that have atmosphere. Those secrets places that become cherished destinations.

14. I love people.

15. I no longer allow those filled with darkness to enter my life.

16. I love it when liars tell me something and expect me to believe it.

17. I have a very good in-built shit-detector these days.

18. The past is called that for a reason.

19. I love the Sherlock Holmes Pub in Melbourne. I sit in the Moriarty corner.

20. I miss the all night beer sessions Barry and I enjoyed while we talked until dawn and solved the problems of the world. I used to play Walter Brennan’s album just to annoy him.

21. I miss Santa Barbara and my friends there.

22. I miss a girl I danced with on Venice Beach at sunset, and the world just seemed to go away.

23. It didn’t.

24. Some men kill the thing they love the most.

25. I have a feeling my best years are yet to come. God willing.

26. I miss those nights Tezza and I laughed until we (literally) fell over.

27. I miss Hong Kong and my new friends – whom I’m hoping will be lifelong friends.

28. I miss Joe Banana’s Bar in Wan Chai.

29. I miss Jeff Craig attempting to buy a Popeye’s Chicken Basket on Hollywood Boulevard wearing a Wookie mask. Then going back to Motel 666 to stare at it and tell me it’s too good to eat.

30. I miss those friends who are gone too soon.

31. I miss Marlon Brando who, even when he sleep-walked through a movie, always gave you at least one scene where he showed you who he was. Reminding us all that respect must be paid.

32. I miss Max.

33. I miss Davy Crockett.

34. I miss Mum and Dad.

35. I miss going to the Joint in L.A every Monday night and hearing the Waddy Wachtel Band – arguably the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world.

36. I miss Terry Reid and I singing Anthony Newley after too many drinks. Or maybe not enough.

37. I miss listening to Stan The Man on the radio. Especially when he played tracks from his own record collection and ignored the station’s playlist. Those were the days.

38. I miss the ol’ Smokin’ Wordsmith, Mike Smith, and our trips to Las Vegas that seemed to last for weeks. Or until the money ran out. Oh how we laughed.

39. I miss working with Warren Wills, Kirt Kashita, Mike Brooks, Celina Jade & Stephen Agisilaou on creating some magic. Thanks for understanding the organic process I go through to create. I don’t do formula.

40. I miss listening to the words of wisdom of Dr. Phil Whelan who prescribed me tequila.

41. I’ve been trying to find my way home for such a long time.

42. I miss Breaking Bad.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

SOURCE OF IMAGE UNKNOWN. Chinatown in the city in Melbourne. Blurred cars.

CHINATOWN

There’s a man dancing in the street
Who’s been lost for years
I tell him
Once you find the light
And God’s point of view
It all makes sense
There are Chinese girls
With menus in their hands
Please walk through our door
To table number six
Jasmine tea
And gambling out back
I’m a hundred and twelve shots from home
But they don’t want to know
The world is neon tonight
Cobblestone lanes
That lead nowhere
Gangsters in doorways
If anything looks alive
Just shoot it
We may never be here again
An old man who looks a thousand
Wants to read my palm
But he’s blind
And now reads from instinct
He says I may live some more
And gives me a look
Let’s do another take
Till it all seems real
And dance like the homeless
Till the cops pass
A man wants to start a fight
But he’ll smoke instead
There are no strangers tonight
They’re extras in a movie
And my Hong Kong lover smiles sweetly
And says our luck is changing
But it’s just another take
In the magic hour
People disappear on me
Without a word of goodbye
But it doesn’t matter anymore
As Ori plays my song
Forget about it, Jake
It’s Chinatown
All we need now is snow
And it’s a perfect ending

(c) Frank Howson 2014