NO MORE VALENTINES

389289_382657621756211_1022672344_nOh 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.

(C) Frank Howson 2017

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IN BLOOD AND TEARS

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
I thought
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
Some, hell
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 
The most
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
Another life?
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
I failed
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.

 

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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

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SHELL OF A MAN

A flower in my fist
A chip on my shoulder
Our summer’s gone
And winters get colder
She told me stories
And I believed them all
Back in the spring of things
Just before the fall

She stripped me away
Bit by bit
And replaced me with somethin’
That don’t quite fit
Do you have Johnny Cash
On that jukebox, sir?
He does a song
That reminds me of her
I’m down to my last dollar
And I’ve lost my plan
She left me nothin’
But this shell of a man

I’m fighting for my life
No Tonto in my corner
I’m down for the count
Still my lips can’t scorn her
She meant to hurt me
All my friends told me so
But when you love somethin’
You don’t want to know

She stripped me away
Bit by bit
And replaced me with somethin’
That don’t quite fit
Do you have Orbison
On that jukebox, sir?
He does a song
That reminds me of her
I’m down to my last dollar
And I’ve lost my plan
She left me nothin’
But this shell of a man

Sometimes in the night
I toss and turn
I dream of her
I never learn
Addicted to love
And destined to burn
I want to hate her
But still I yearn…

She stripped me away
Bit by bit
And replaced me with somethin’
That don’t quite fit
Do you have Charlie Rich
On that jukebox, sir?
He does a song
That reminds me of her
I’m down to my last dollar
And I’ve lost my plan
She left me nothin’
But this shell of a man
Shell of a man…

(c) Frank Howson 2013

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MORE BABE RUTH STORIES

A LETTER TO OLIVER.

 

4 October 1998

 Dear Son,

 Did you know that the Baby Ruth candy bar is named after Babe Ruth because it’s the candy that he liked the best?

 He loved kids very much.

 And everywhere he went kids would gather ‘round him. Babe would always stop and sign their baseballs and give them his candy bars. One day a lady working at the golf club where he played asked him for a candy bar for her son and he didn’t have any because he’d already given them all to the kids. She said she had a little boy at home that would’ve liked one. Babe Ruth said he was sorry and walked away. But the very next day he took the trouble to come all the way back and he gave her a whole box of them for her boy.

 Another day he was signing baseballs for all the kids and he looked up and saw a man sitting on his own. He yelled out to him, “Do you want me to sign a baseball for your kid?” The man smiled and said that he wasn’t married and didn’t have a child. Babe smiled, wrote something on a ball and came over and gave it to me. It said “To Who May Be from Babe Ruth” and gave it to the man. The Babe said, “When you have a kid, give ‘em that!” Years later the man did and his daughter, who is an old lady now, still treasures the autographed baseball from the great man.

 A lot of the big stars didn’t have time for the kids, but Babe always did. He would sometimes sit there for hours meeting kids, talking to them, giving them advice, handing out candy bars and signing baseballs and autographs. When someone asked him why he did it, the Babe said, “I can’t help it, I love the kids”.

 Once when he went to the golf course to play he saw a kid who was waiting to meet him. He said to the kid, “Do you want to be my caddy today?” The boy’s eyes widened and he said “Boy, would I?!!!” And Babe paid the boy to be his caddy all day long.

 The next morning the boy was at school in class when he heard some footsteps in the outside hallway approaching his classroom. The door swung open and in walked the Head Master with…Babe Ruth. All the kids were stunned and excited to see him. Babe looked around the classroom until he saw the boy he knew. Then he smiled and said, “Hey, where’s my caddy?…I want to play some golf again today!” And the Head Master said it was okay for the boy to go off golfing with the Babe.

 Another day, before a game, a woman told the Babe that her son Johnny was sick in hospital and would he please hit a home run for him because it would make Johnny feel so much better if the Babe did. Well, Babe walked out to the base that day and held his bat up. First pitch, a strike!….Second pitch, a strike!….The crowd started to mumble and Babe turned to them and yelled out “You only have to hit one!”…The crowd fell silent and Babe got ready to try again. Just then Johnny’s mother stood up from her seat in the bleechers and yelled out, “Babe, hit one for Johnny!”  Babe heard her, turned in that direction, and then he did something that’s become really famous in baseball history. It is known as “The Called Shot”…because Babe pointed to the right outfield and said “There!!!”…And guess what?…The pitcher threw the ball and Babe hit it just exactly where he said he would. A home run. And he’d called it!! That has never been done before or since.

 One day someone said to Babe, “What do you think of Einstein?” and Babe said, “I don’t know. How many’s he hit?”

 A woman also told a story that when she was a little girl she needed an operation and her father was poor and couldn’t afford it. Her dad worked at Yankee Stadium and the Babe used to talk to him. One day the head surgeon of the New York Hospital phoned her and said he wanted to see her. She went in with her dad and the Doctor said that because her name was Smith and so was his, that he’d perform the operation for nothing so she could get well.

 The lady found out years later that Babe Ruth had really paid for the operation.

 When Babe was getting old, in his last season, he started to lose his ability. And a man said that he was there that day when a pitcher threw a ball at Babe he swung, missed it and it went threw his legs. Some people in the crowd started to boo Babe, and the man said that he was disgusted that some of the people would be so mean to a man who’d given them so much. The Babe didn’t hit a home run that day, and after the season he retired. You must always remember, son, a man is defined by the best thing he ever did, not the worst.

 Years later, they invited the great Babe Ruth back to Yankee Stadium to pay tribute to him. He was very sick by then, but he put on his uniform and walked out there with his bat and the whole stadium stood and applauded him. Even the players cheered him. The Babe bowed his head, and tears came to his eyes. Happy tears.

Even though he was very ill himself, he still made the effort and took time to visit the sick children in hospital.  He would go into the wards and sign baseballs for them.

 When he died, they brought his coffin to Yankee Stadium and all day people walked past to see him for the last time and pay their respects. No one could believe how big the crowd was. Children, old people, sports fans, all nationalities…they all came to see the Babe’s final appearance at Yankees Stadium. He was dressed in a nice suit and in his hand his daughter had put a baseball on which she’d written the words, “Saved for Home”.

 If you can be as kind and gracious with success as the Babe was, then you will be a great man. I know you will be, my boy.

 And always remember what your Dad says, “Keep your eye on the ball!”

 

(c) Frank Howson 2013

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A BABE RUTH STORY.

(written for my son long ago when we were separated by distance, not love.)

 Oneday, Oliver Howson was playing baseball on the lawn outside his Dad’s apartment. His Dad had just gone upstairs to get a cool drink for the both of them, and Oliver was practicing throwing his baseball up in the air and catching it in his new mit. Suddenly, he heard a voice. A loud gruff old voice which made him immediately look up. Well, he couldn’t believe what he saw. There, in front of him, framed by the glaring sun, was a big man in a baseball outfit.

 “That’s pretty good, Oliver,” said the man. “Y’know, when I was your age I practiced catching the ball all the time. The more I practiced, the better I got.”

 “Yeah, that’s what my Dad says,” replied Oliver.

 “Well, he sounds like a pretty wise sorta guy,” smiled the big man.

 “He sure is,” said Oliver, “He’s my Dad!”

 “Y’know somethin’, boy?”

 Oliver nodded his head.

 “I used to play baseball for a livin’.”

 Really?” answered Oliver.

 “Yep. I played for the Boston Red Sox for a time. Then the New York Yankees. Then the Boston Braves. Didn’t do too bad either. Long time ago, that is. Way before you were born.”

 “Wow, that is a long time ago,” said the boy.

 “I started out practicing in my small back yard. As I said, I worked on catching the ball in my mit. Then I worked on throwing it fast and mean. I practiced and practiced and practiced until I could throw the ball so fast the batter’d be out before he’d even seen it go past!”

 Oliver laughed.

 “Then I worked on batting, and I became so good at it I hit 714 home runs!”

 Oliver was mighty impressed. “Wow, that’s a lot!”

 “Sure is, boy. But you know somethin’? It was fun. I found somethin’ I liked doing and I practiced and practiced until I was really good at it.  Y’know, I wasn’t a very fast runner. And I wasn’t a great basketball player. Or, a football player. But, baseball, I loved it the first time I picked up a ball and a bat. That’s the secret to bein’ good at somethin’, boy. Fall in love with it. Then while you’re having fun, and playing it over and over, you get better and better! It worked for me anyway.”

 “Thanks, I’ll take your advice…Mr…?

 “Ruth. George Ruth. But people call me Babe.”

 And with that, the man held out his big hand and shook Oliver’s.

“Would you like me to sign your bat?”

“I sure would, Mr. Ruth.” With that Oliver excitedly fetched it and the big man signed some words on it. Then the Babe looked up at something in the distance and smiled.

 “Looks like your father’s back with those drinks for ya.”

 Oliver turned his head and saw his Dad coming towards him carrying a couple of glasses of ice cold lemonade.

 “Yeah. That’s my Dad alright,” said Oliver. He then turned to smile at Babe Ruth, but he was gone.

 “Sorry it took me so long, son,” said Dad, “Hope you haven’t been lonely”.

 “Nah Dad. Guess what?!”

 “What?”

 “I was practicing catching, when Babe Ruth came over to give me some advice.”

 “Babe Ruth?”

 “Yeah, Dad. He was just here! But I thought he was dead.”

 Dad looked at Oliver and smiled. But it was a sad kind of smile.

 “What’s the matter, Dad?”

 “No, son. People like Babe Ruth never die. They live on in the hearts and hopes of people. Well, I just wished I’d have gotten the chance to meet him. Do you realise how lucky you are?”

 Oliver knew.

 “What did he say, son?”

 “All the things you told me, Dad. Every word. Exactly. All about practicing. And working at what you love doing. He’s pretty smart!”

 This time Dad gave a really big smile. Followed by a really big hug.

 “You know, son, when I was a boy. Just about your age. My Dad told me a story about Babe Ruth. It was about Babe when he was getting old and it looked like he wouldn’t be playing baseball much longer. And one day, he was sitting on the bench waiting to go out onto the field and bat, when one of his team-mates noticed how tired Babe looked. Really tired. The team-mate said, “Babe, why don’t you go home? We’re going to win this game easy, so you may as well take the day off and get some rest. You’re not as young as you used to be, y’know?”

 But Babe just looked at his team-mate, and smiled. “Thanks, Buddy,” he said. “But I ain’t going nowhere but out there. And when I get out there I’m going to be trying as hard as I was in my first game to hit a home run!”

 “But why?” said his team-mate. “You’re the great Babe Ruth! You’ve got nothin’ to prove to anybody anymore. You’re in all the history books they’ll ever write about baseball!”

 “That’s not the point,” said the Babe. Then his eyes looked out at the distant faces of all the thousands upon thousands of excited people that filled the giant stadium that afternoon.

 “Somewhere in that crowd,” continued Babe, “A young boy has come today to see Babe Ruth hit a home-run. And it may be the first and the last time he ever gets to see me. And I’m gonna be doin’ and givin’ everything I can not to disappoint him!”

 And that day, Babe Ruth walked out to the plate real slow. He held his bat up into position, looked at the ball in the pitcher’s hand, said a silent prayer, and gave it everything he had. And you know what? He hit a home-run right out of the stadium and a lot of boys went home happy. So did Babe.”

“Oh, I forgot. Babe Ruth signed my bat! Tell me what it says, Dad.”

His father looked at the bat and tears welled in his eyes.

“What is it?”

“It’s a message for us all, son. It says “Don’t let the fear of striking out get in your way.”

 Then Dad and Oliver played some baseball. And when Dad threw the ball Oliver hit it as hard as he could and the ball flew right over Dad’s head and into the neighbour’s backyard. That day Oliver Howson felt what it was like to be Babe Ruth.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2013