ME AND JOHN LENNON

I was thrown up into this world
Or born into it
Or cast down 
Some time ago
When everything was grey
Mostly
Although some things were black
Or white
And your skin colour
Could be wrong or right
Regardless of your heart
And actions
It made me nervous
That one could so easily
Cross the line 
And be punished
For who you were
So I locked myself away
In my room
My tomb
And listened to the radio
But mostly the music was grey too
Like Johnny Ray
And Doris Day
So I dreamed in Vistavision
And lived in the movies
Where the hero stood up to the mob
And did the right thing
Regardless of the cost 
Sometimes getting the girl
In the final reel
Sometimes not
For the hero was mostly a loner
A man who'd seen too much
And didn't want to see anymore
For he too 
Found that the world was grey
And was not above sacrificing his life
So that others may live
I continued on
Looking forward to Christmas
And my birthdays
When suddenly there was kindness
And laughter
And glimpses of the colours 
Of joy
And what the world could be
If only we tore the walls down
And embraced
And displayed our brokenness 
And vocalised our care for others
Imagine
I was about eleven years of age
With my mum in the Myer department store
In the city
When I heard a sound that changed my life
It was unlike anything I'd ever heard
I stopped 
Transfixed 
My mother asked me what was wrong 
I smiled because 
Suddenly 
Everything seemed somehow right
I wandered away
Toward the music 
Leaving my mother to follow me
The singer's voice 
Was the most exciting and dynamic sound
I'd ever heard
He sounded like a caged animal
That had just been set free
As I had 
The record was "Twist And Shout"
By a group called the Beatles
And on the front cover of their EP
They looked to this kid from St. Kilda
To be from another planet
Their hair, their clothes, their boots, their sound 
It seemed the planet they came from was called Liverpool
I needed to know what the singer's name was
And was told by the girl behind the record counter
That he was John Lennon
And he played rhythm guitar and co-wrote moat of their songs 
John Lennon saved my life that day
And he has had my staunch loyalty ever since
I grew to read much about him
In fact, everything
And have since met many people who knew him
He was a complex, fascinating, contradictory and flawed man
All of which made him even more interesting 
And still does to this day
Scarred by the early loss of his father, then his mother
And then his best friend
He put up a guard to protect himself
From any more hurt 
His singing tone sometimes snarled to hide his pain
But we heard it in his soul
And in the words of his songs
And knew that behind the tough guy facade he was the kindest 
And most caring of all 
My friend Phil Sloan told me that John's spirit was so huge 
That you actually felt his presence enter a room 
Before you'd even seen him 
Another friend of John's who'd known me for some time
Told me that he would've liked me
I hope so
Because I have spent a long time
Loving him 
He was my liberator, my hero, my friend
He made me laugh, he made me cry, he made me angry, he made me care
And sometimes when I am lost or despairing
I think about how Johnny Rhythm would handle things 
And it gives me the inspiration to go on
To try and find a way
I guess it was destiny
That he left us after such a short time
But perhaps his spirit was too big for this world
As his beautiful boy Sean said to his mother when she was grieving,
"Don't worry, Daddy's bigger now...Now he's part of everything."


(c) Frank Howson 2017
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DON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER

In this business of show
The best advice I can give is
Don't take no for an answer
Your work will be judged by idiots
And by genius
And guess what?
Sometimes they all get it wrong
And if all these experts know everything
Then how come they make so many flops?
Your greatest guide 
And you must protect it
Is your instinct
For those of us who believe in a higher power
I believe our instinct is God talking to us
But guess what?
Most times we second guess ourselves
And go against it
Or allow ourselves to be talked into doing
Something that doesn't feel right
And the end result is always disaster
And recriminations
If everyone followed sound advice
And stuck to the tried and true formula
We'd have had no DaVinci
Or Glenn Gould
Nikola Tesla
Or Picasso
Marlon Brando
Beatles
Elvis
Hitchcock
Bob Dylan
David Lynch
Breaking Bad
And so on and so on...
The Beatles were told that "Guitar bands are out of fashion"
Tesla was told that "his ideas wouldn't fly"
Yet he lit up the world
And in return it broke his heart
Elvis was threatened with jail if he continued to rock the boat
And Dylan was laughed at as a freak
I'm not saying that sticking to your inner voice
Wont be a difficult road
It will be
But when was anything worth having easy?
All the people I have mentioned had only one thing in common
Persistence
Fuelled by a total self belief
Don't get me wrong
I'm not saying don't listen to good advice
Do
For only a fool turns their back on a good idea
But trust your own instinct as to what is right for you
And what isn't
My mother once told someone that if you want Frank to do
Something for you just ask him and he will
But order him to do it
And he'll do the opposite just to piss you off
So I guess I was born with a rebel soul
And all I know is this
Every time I was told 
"You'll never make a film because you haven't made one before.
So go home and forget about it, sonny, and leave it to the experts"
It somehow made me stronger and more determined to prove them wrong
Every time I was told "Don't bother trying to get that big name star 
For your movie, because it won't happen"
It did
Or "You can't make a film about that because it's too personal and no one 
will get it other than you"
That was the one the people responded to
In an era that I believe is the darkest age for movies
When they are only making films about comic books
Don't give up
Where some see a wasteland 
Others sees a golden opportunity
Never before has an original idea been such a valuable commodity
Be bold and mighty forces join you
The future belongs to you
If you are brave enough
And strong enough
And stubborn enough to grasp it
And to those who are
We at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival
Salute you

(SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE 2017 MELBOURNE UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL)
(c) Frank Howson 2017






MEMORIES OF MOONLIGHT

My memory is going
Taking with it the moonlight
I can feel it
That bank of steel
That never let me down
Is letting go of things
Perhaps making room for new
Or maybe God is showing mercy
By finally unloading from me
Some of the painful baggage
I have carried for far too long
I don't know
Not even sure what my PIN number is anymore
But the jokes still come
To cover any situation
And never let me down
I have been using this technique
Since I was a child
Who felt things too deeply
To save face amidst any humiliation
Against any bullying
Or grief
Despair
Loss
Embarrassment 
It's seen me through many falls
And comebacks
And falls again
As I've clung desperately
To the glimpses of joy
While equally frantic to shed
The fatal wounds of misery
Now
All has become one
In a faded echo of some childhood song
Where only the chorus is still remembered
And the detailed verses
Are only hummed
The Tin Pan Alley story forgotten
But the melody memorable enough
To linger in that part of your brain
Reserved for joy and innocence
From a time way before
You knew of war
Or suffering
Or heartbreak
Or selfish love
Or painful longing
And here you find yourself again
And know it from memory muscle that this strange room
Feels like home
Whatever that was...


(c) Frank Howson 2017


 

 

THE HUMBLED

I stumbled and fell into this. It was not of my doing as the road 
I was forging went in a different direction to the dreams of the boy 
I was. This caused me great confusion and suffering as I wandered
lonely as a cloud through school poetry and beatings. My pain became
my shield and protected me from the salt of their laughter. I learned to 
make them laugh before they had the chance to laugh first. Several women 
attempted to wash my feet before my crucifixion one grey day in history
when our father forsaken me because of his drinking. I cried in agony with
a thief each side of me, one believing in me, and one to ridicule me for a
life that ended so. Somehow I rose from the dead and since then I have had 
several resurrections. In fact, the more times people write me off, the 
stronger I come back. My enemies have unwittingly made me indestructible. The shock 
realisation of this has killed many of them. The rest I have dealt with. 
People now stop me in the street and ask for my wisdom. But this wisdom was 
not my doing, and has come from the undoing of everything I wanted and loved.
It was fired by pain and made as strong as steel through humiliation and 
injustice. But still I go on. And those who have spoken against me have
been struck down by God or are dying in the poisoned bile of their lies.
I visit their graves at night to laugh. For nothing is forgotten or 
forgiven at this train stop on the way to Armageddon. I choose to travel
economy for my instinct tells me that God only welcomes the humbled. The man
who brags may get ahead in this life, but suffers a thousand years in the
next. The ignorant fool who never stops talking and always distorts the
third hand facts will be the next to fall on his sword and death
waits patiently in his gallery of art to silence his unrepentant and envious
ways. I am coming for him. Coming in the night. Coming in the dead end
street. Coming in his busy schedule. Coming for rightful correction. Coming.
Every hurtful snide remark is etched on my heart. Every belittling lie
is another stab wound he will suffer. Another thousand years to linger 
at the abyss. And the hellish realisation that it was all for nothing. 

(c) Frank Howson 2017

Photograph by Raija Sunshine (c) 2017



THE RETURNING BIRDS

I sometimes love to sit on my second storey apartment balcony on a sunny day and look up at the sky or below to the people passing by, some I know, some I never will. Closing my eyes and tilting my head so I feel the warmth of the sun on my face. A warm that seems to melt away the years and renews by reminding one of the inner warmth that was felt during those perfect brief moments in your life.

One day I stood after being renewed, and was about to go back inside and resume some work when I heard a bird chirping away. I leaned over the balcony and looked down to the branch of a tree below and saw a bird building a nest. Transfixed I watched for some time as this little bird would fly away and return some moments later with the perfect twig to fit into this complex jigsaw puzzle of what only she could see would eventually be a nest for her forthcoming child. If anyone wants to gaze upon the wonder and effort of love, check out this painstaking ritual if, like me, you get the chance.

I stood there for hours that first day and watched this bird’s tireless solitary vigil. Occasionally she would sense my presence and look up at me, and I would smile back and gave encouragement even though I knew she had no idea what I was saying but hoped that in my tone she sensed my appreciation and respect.

This went on for about a week until the nest was perfection. Utter perfection, so cleverly and intuitively constructed, strong and sturdy, resting safely on a well protected branch. My eyes teared up from the astounding accomplishment of her love.

Sometimes she would fly back to rest in the nest and look up at me and we’d have our one sided conversations.

One sunny morning I went out onto the balcony and looked down to see two faces looking up at me. If there is a feeling of magic it was in that moment. I went back inside and returned with some food I thought was small enough to feed this new hungry family. I softened it in my mouth and then dropped it down to them. And so this ritual went on for some days until one morning they were gone. Leaving only that perfect empty nest. I wish I had gone and retrieved it and taken it somewhere to be bronzed as a keepsake forevermore. A symbol of pure love. But being only human I didn’t get around to it. Or perhaps I had too much respect to touch it with human hands. As a species we tend to destroy or damage the most perfect things in order to own them.

Some time passed, and one day I was sitting on the balcony in the sun, daydreaming, when two birds swooped down and landed on the balcony handrail and calmly stood there looking at me. I smiled at them and said “Hello” and got up to walk into the interior darkness of my rented nest when I had a realisation that stopped me in my tracks. I turned but they were gone never to be seen again. My instinct tells me that it was actually the mother and child returning to say “Thanks and farewell.”  I’d like to believe that. Somehow I need to.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2017

ST. KILDA

I was born in St.Kilda
Lived most of my life here 
Travelled the world searching for what was
Probably already found
And like the prodigal son I returned
My face lined with lessons learned
To the only place that ever felt to me like home
My childhood was spent in Fawkner Street
It was for a time my whole world
Among our neighbours were ordinary battlers
Sly grog salesmen
Gamblers
and gangsters
Public enemy Number one
Norm Bradshaw nicknamed The Beast for good reason
Lived there
When he wasn't on the run
So did his in-laws The Shannons
and our next door neighbour, the Aussie equivalent of Bonnie Parker - 
Pretty Dulcie
Colourful big-hearted contradictory characters
I remember the night that several rival gangsters
Kicked in Pretty Dulcie's front door and walked down her corridor 
Spraying gun shots
One stray bullet came through our wall
and if it'd been a little further to the left
Somebody else would be standing here today
The 6 o'clock swill at the Barkly Hotel
Produced enough colourful characters and street poetry
To fill a thousand pulp fiction novels
There was no better grounding to be a writer or an actor
Than to stand on the corner of Fawkner Street and Barkly
at sunset
And watch the cavalcade of originals spew out onto the street
and wander home in what seemed like a slow motion drunkard's dance
Two steps to the left, three to the right
Mr. & Mrs. Kilpatrick owned the corner Milk Bar
And were the moral guardians of the neighbourhood
If you were having a poor week
They'd give you supplies and keep a tab
You survived on your word and good name
In those days people trusted each other
My father worked for the St. Kilda Foreshore for over 30 years
His little office was under the biggest dip in Luna Park's Scenic Railway
and he looked after all the beaches as well as the O'Donnell Gardens
The latter was where a lot of my boyhood was spent 
Playing while he worked
In my mind recreating Sherwood Forest, the Alamo and every John Wayne movie
Hiding in the bushes, climbing trees, attacking the cavalry
Developing an imagination
Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Davy Crockett and Spiderman
I fought beside them
Blood brothers every one
We used to save the world before each day was done
My mum worked across the road at Candy Corner
To me, in my memory, still the best lolly shop in the world bar none
And my dad, during the summer months
Would work a second job at night
Running the ferris wheel at the sideshows to the right of the Palais
My first public appearance was on the stage of the St. Kilda Town Hall
at the age of seven, performing "Give My Regards To Broadway"
Although to us, Broadway may as well have been the moon
Years later my father actually died in an ambulance outside the Town Hall
It was a fitting place for him to leave this world
For you see, our world was St. Kilda
It was engraved in our hearts
Everyone I have mentioned, other than me
Have gone now
They are ghosts that haunt these streets
and boulevards and beaches
You hear their faraway laughter on the wind
and see their outlines in the mist of dawn
The spiritual guardians of a place that was every bit as unique
as Times Square, or Soho, or Wanchai
Every weekend people from all over Melbourne would jump a tram
Or a train and come to St. Kilda
To see the freaks, hear the music, eat the exotic European food, 
Rub shoulders with the ten most wanted
Poke fun at the bohemians 
Sneak a guilty sidewards glance at the painted ladies
Eat the cakes of a thousand calories
And parade along the promenade with someone special
Please, for sake of all those ghosts,
Don't let the soul of St. Kilda die
Atmosphere can't be planned or created
It is a magic
Like stardust from the Gods
And once it's gone
It's gone
It can't be explained
And it can't be fabricated
It's not a trick of Houdini
There is no recipe
It can't be reduced to something mortals can understand
But at the heart of it there is a truth
People don't come to experience a strip mall
Even if it has been exquisitely designed
They come to experience Life 
That to me is St. Kilda
And our Art
Tells the world who we are
What we think
And where we come from
And like Davy Crockett at the Alamo
I'll defend that till the end

(c) 2017

(Speech delivered at the opening of the St. Kilda Arts Crawl 
September 21, 2017.)




WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

fake reporters
pushing their opinions into fake news
fake views disguised as news flashes
fake polls
reported by fake news outlets
designed to discourage people from voting
how many lines have to be crossed
before something is recognised as what it is
and a light is shone on the darkness
so that we may know its face when we see it
or does it really matter?
win at any price?
fake scandals
fake quotes
fake candidates
in a fake world
of fake feelings
and photo opportunity expressions of concern
fake headlines that take the focus away
from the real issues and the real scandals
and nobody really cares
as long as their team wins
but at what price?
and who do you wake to see in your mirror
after such a triumph?
and what is the statement you are really making?
where is objectivity in a dying world
rendered impotent by our naivety
as we dance to the tune selected by our puppet masters
thinking our opinion means anything 
to the NWO guys
but their vision of a new world
will sink as surely as Atlantis
taking us all with it
into the depths and darkness
of a hell
of our own making
where is Paul Revere when you need him?
silenced like them all
or assassinated by a bullet from a lone crazed gunman
a plane crash
a sudden heart attack
or a scandal
or jail
people keep voting for change
and parties keep running on that promise
only to deliver the same ol' same ol'
same car, different driver
and yet we complain when any change comes
as we are not used to it
and our stupidity even angers God
and Mother Nature
and not even the worst disasters can wake us
from our sleep
we no longer dream
as our nightmares have become comforting
and the great nothingness of indecision
is all we are used to
and crave
and so we live
until we don't


(c) Frank Howson 2017