I have only a limited amount of time left to inhabit this body. But I will go on. Like we all do. As a speck of dust floating in the universe. Free, untroubled, and no more time constraints. Oh, and the music, the symphony of silence, which will move even a speck to feel whole like never before.
Having been educated for a lifetime on earth, we are acclimatised to being alone. But it won’t bother us anymore because we’ll now know that it’s at our core to be this way. On earth we lived outwardly for the enjoyment of others, whilst living our real spiritual life within our heads.
It was good preparation for this new life. Our real life. Devoid of any more death or disappointments in this void amidst the great vastness of all voids. Drifting. Weightless. Nowhere to go for there is no “where.” There is only here. And now. No time to be on time somewhere. No further commitments or responsibilities. Nothing to feel guilty about for there are no religions in this new place of real love and peace. All that belonged back in that ant-like existence when we had so little consciousness we could never comprehend the complexities, and yet simplicity, of this great vastness and freedom of being. In this new existence you can let your mind wander for a thousand years, even a million, in old time, and then snap back to a moment before that thought even occurred.
You now realise that the great artists – the writers, the painters and the composers – instinctively understood it.
Finally, we are fulfilled with a capacity to love that was once capped on earth by a ceiling we feared pushing beyond. But now, we experience it to the full which unleashes a bliss to make each of us feel like God. Because in this moment that never ends, we are God.
I was young just yesterday, and now I am older than the world will ever be.
Looking back at my earth life, I now realise that most of us were only living because we feared dying.
I looked into the man’s face. It was etched with suffering. He had no doubt fallen many times in his battles with Life. It looked to me like the greatest pain had not come due to the falls, but from the effort required to rise, and rise again. I also observed the deep laugh lines that’d gathered around each eye resembling a spider’s web. Yes, this man had lived life to the full. He had triumphed many times and learnt nothing from it. That’s because the recipe for success changes frequently. No. It was from his failures he’d learnt everything. And the reason for them had been simple – he’d gone against his instinct.
He’d survived many things in his life. Wars, plagues, floods, marriages, injury, slander, lawsuits, success, failure, gambling, death threats, betrayals, great wealth, poverty, love, broken hearts, rejection, addiction, vicious dogs, adultery, asthma, poisoning, tightrope walking, gangsters, drive-by shooters, merchant bankers, and long debates with actors. As such, these days, it was difficult to get him excited much, or fearful at all.
He’d beaten his demons, and was proud of it. But it’d been some of his friends who’d done him the most damage. They’d posed as friends but were really opportunistic spiritual vampires, sucking off his life force in order to live through him. And when they’d been found out and cut like a cancer out of his life, they had flayed about like dying sharks biting at his reputation with lies, exaggerations and groundless accusations. Most of what they accused him of were acts they’d done. The fact that they were so blatantly hypocritical was what hurt most of all. And from then on, he’d rationed his loyalty to those who’d proved theirs to him.
Now, he spent much of his time looking for things he hadn’t found. It made him as expectant as Jungle Jim on a safari.
He’d once stopped a cab and gotten out to wander through a desolate, ravaged field that beheld the remains of what’d once been a theatre. The taxi driver was bewildered as to what his frantic passenger was looking for. Whatever had been here was long gone, he thought, as his meter ticked away. But his forlorn travelling companion was searching for something only he could see. His youth.
Sometimes, late at night, he wished he was dead. But there was a safety net in knowing God never granted his wishes. This knowledge scared him with the recurring nightmare that he may live forever. And that’d be his punishment for having lived too well for a few years at the peak of his success, when he was too young and too busy to have enjoyed it. He’d once had immense power and never abused it. He’d also held the key to many vulnerable hearts and never used it. The facts, as opposed to the gossip, would show that his integrity was never bought. So God took these opportunities away and seduced someone else with them.
In exchange, the man in question, was given a rented studio apartment and enough food to get by. He was also granted the solitude to reflect on the follies of life, and write about them with a rich appreciation of God’s sense of humour.
He’d figured out the secret to God – He is passive. Having granted us free will he sits back and watches what we do with it. If you wanted action, you had to consult his competitive estranged brother, Satan. But that loan shark had interest rates that’d severely cripple your life, and could never be repaid due to the compounding penalties given only passing mention in the very small print.
And if you accepted that deal, you’d end up worse than alone.
The man who sat in front of me, felt many things.But he’d given up feeling what didn’t matter anymore. He told himself that he had enough heart left for one more great love. But she’d have to be an extraordinary woman, and he now suspected that such a perfect match only existed in dreams. Or delusions. He wasn’t sure what the correct word was anymore. All he knew was that God loved to tease him with possibilities that went nowhere that only foolish younger men or, those older bodies on the brink of madness, pursued.
He laughed out loud at how younger women now delighted in taunting him. They took so much but gave very little in return. They knew the art of getting away Scott free, and would only be able to get away with it a few more years before they too ended up alone. It was all about the promise and how much could be taken in the shadow of that. While one could. He knew all their tricks now and that rendered the game too predictable to hold his attention long. They hadn’t known him in his prime, nor would they’ve had the opportunity to. But these were different times. There were very few who could see past surface layers to find true love. Soul to soul.
How much do you have to hurt before you feel nothing anymore?
How much do you have to love before it means nothing anymore?
This man hasn’t aged from living. He’d aged from giving. And now all those who’d taken from him could celebrate the fact that there was nothing left.
They’d conquered something that felt important to them, but they couldn’t analyse what it was, or why they’d felt such compulsion to deplete it.
After all, they were good people, weren’t they? I mean, they wouldn’t hurt a fly.
The man now, each day, felt his spirit leaving his body and wondered what kind of life his shell would have. He thought, perhaps, he might be more socially accepted in this zombie-like state.
But who knew such things? And who the hell would even think about it? Other than a man with too much time on his hands, who’d stopped momentarily at the crossroads.
That was when I realised I’d been observing myself and the extraction had been successful.
Now is the hour of our incontinence made glory-holed by sons of Michael Yorke. “Bark” the Hells Angels sing. It is a Far East bitter thing I do now than I have ever dung. And on the bend the milk we shake is a quill to the love we break. Frankly, my deer, I don’t give a ram. And in the cruel, cruel, cruel of Jehovah, tell ‘em I’ll be bare. To flee or not to flee that is the equator. Four scored ears of men, our country assed us, “Do not ask what your country has done to you. Ask what you have done to your country.” And on the eighth day, God created mini-golf. These are a few of my Fahrenheit rings. Either this wallpaper blows or I do. “Right,” said Ted, are you having a larf?” At the third stroke, it will be a felony. Once I had a putrid glove. Love me Fender, love it tuned, all my screams are billed. When the goanna gets rough, get stuffed I’m goin’. Our father’s art is in heaven, Howard be thy blame. Twice upon a crime, a gem with windy hair lost her head in mime, and sad she loved me show. But that was ice above my lime, mammy months too low. Mammaries fight the confines of the blind. All clothed mystery mammaries of the day we stir. I luv you and dunce you regret it. It is the evening of the summer of the mourning that whence we came. The midget you fell through the floor, I could pee you were a mad ol’ distemper, a reel pig bender. I’m dreamin’ of a wide bagel, with hairy gals I sow. Fairy flossed da mercy. M-m-m-my Corona. Th-th-that’s Paul, yokes!
The emptiness of night followed me through a maze of situations that could’ve only been conceived by a drunk.
There were rivers of regret that sprang from my life. But they were not things one could’ve sensed at the time would turn to swamp. Having crocodiles biting at my heels from an early age readied me for what would become my life. Once my parents were gone I felt like an orphan on the run. Perhaps, from myself. Sometimes heading here. Sometimes heading there. Sometimes resting my head on your breast for comfort until the dawn called me on, to face another confrontation. Another battle. Another disappointment in the human condition. Shedding skin after skin, always evolving into the person you see here today.
It’s painful when one realises that today the only truth is found in TV commercials. Everything else is a lie. At least the advertisements are honest about what they are. And what they want. We now have a Scared New World where material possessions are becoming less and less important as we’re forced to look inward for our satisfaction(s). For some of us, perhaps a first time visit to the inner world. It will be a confronting experience for quite a few who’ve filled their outer lives up with frivolous people and trinkets to distract from the reality of who they are. The bullies will discover that they’re actually scared little boys who’ve, for some time, avoided responsibility by targeting the lives of others. Some will hit a brick wall with the harsh reality that they’re not the nice, kind, giving people they have publicly projected without any actions that live up to their invented persona. This will irreparably break many and they’ll never be the same. Some will suicide rather than living with the hell of who they really are. Leaders will realise their old tried and true ways do not work, and become followers. Out of the flock will rise real leaders who’ll command not from ego, but from a true inherent spiritual wisdom.
Some will grow through adversity. It has been that way throughout history. Plagues and wars and disasters have thrown up heroes from the ranks of the ordinary.
Some will die. But this was already written, as all deaths are. Lives come to an end. It’s just a matter of when and how. Others will live on, because it was not their time.
My whole life as a creative person has prepared me for this seclusion. As a boy I’d withdraw from the world into my room to write, draw, play records and dream. I’d been born with the affliction of feeling things too deeply. A curse for my personal life, although a great bonus for my work. Where others saw beauty, I saw horror. Where others saw ugliness I saw splendour. Where some saw only desolation, I saw possibilities.
In my times of moral dilemma when one is confused as to what is the right decision, not only for you but taking into account its effect on those around you, I have sometimes thought of my literary heroes, both real and fictional, and wondered what decision they would’ve made. I’ve also thought of my historical heroes both political and spiritual for guidance. There are some decisions that are right at that moment but time eats their skin and fat away like a vulture and leaves only ugly bones that do not tell the whole picture. Yes, to fully understand, you had to be there. In that lonely moment. Yet, other decisions, thought foolish at the time, grow in rightfulness through the years, like a fine wine ripens to reveal its many magical textures until it reaches its optimum year to be savoured and appreciated.
I wonder what went through the minds of the passengers on the Titanic on that fateful, icy night when they realised there were not enough lifeboats. No doubt amongst many there’d have been panic, anger, frustrationand fear. Yet, in others I believe there would’ve been that silent resolution, and acceptance,that this was it. The great mystery solved,and their ending revealed, as they stood motionless amidst the fanfare of screams and cries that encircled them. I imagine that quite a few would’ve looked around at the manic hysterical scene being performed all around them, and its contrast of the band calmly playing their scheduled after dinner musical programme, then, perhaps, noticing the moon and stars and night for thevery first time. I mean, really seeing them. Sometimes we have to be shaken awake by tragedy to see things right under our nose that we’d never fully comprehended before. Sadly, we go through life in a half-dream state, following our standard daily motions and emotions like a blind person seeks the darkness as a level playing ground.
Sometimes we don’t even see the ones who truly love us. Such is our desperate rush to and fro seeking love in all the wrong people, as if purposely inviting disappointment to await us at each schedule stop upon our runaway train.
So, back to our time of solitary confinement. A time of soul searching (for some that won’t take long) and re-evaluation as to what we really need (now that the opium of bullshit in the material world has been stripped from us), to go forward into a new world. Hopefully. Now that the present Scared New World is ebbing, let’s hope it will be replaced by a Kind New World.
We can only hope.
In the meantime, we pass each other on the street wearing masks to protect us from the invisible enemy. We can’t tell whether the person approaching us is smiling behind their mask, or grumpy. To define that, we have to look into their eyes for the truth. But I guess that was always the case. Anyone can fool you with a smile. It’s hidden many broken hearts in the past. So, it’s the eyes that tell the real story.
“Ah, look at all the lonely people.” Yes Paul, look at them. Perhaps you’re one of them tonight. Ain’t life strange?
The thing about a star is, you can take that person and drop them into obscurity in some remote place that doesn’t know who they are, and given time, they will shine again. Stars do that. They are made tough by their early lives of not fitting in. But that very thing later became their strength and the foundation of their originality. They are conceived in darkness and magic. Pain and grit. Dreams and horrors.
Some grow a hard exterior to protect their extreme sensitivity. And most will misjudge them. Their guards are invisible to the eye, but shield the kindness that has been taken advantage of by far too many. They learn to save the very best of themselves for their work. So it is in the work that they truly live, and with some luck, live on. They appear to be social creatures but in truth are hermits. Existing only fully in the deepest, safest refuge of the soul. It is this situation that leads many observers to ponder why they are wiser in their work than they are in real life.
It is a lonely place being caught in the spotlight. There are no safety nets, no parents, no friends, no protection whatsoever, only pure sweat and talent. But it is only there, in that lonely space that has become their only world that means anything, that they know who they are. The rest of life is just hanging around and waiting. Some die from hanging too long.
The dream and the curse walk hand in hand in Lonesome Town, where the streets are deserted, and the bums possess all the knowledge of Life. The fortune tellers, having glimpsed the future, left in the dead of night. And the terminally bewildered wander aimlessly along that fine line between delusion and someone’s personal view of reality. It is a dangerous journey, without road signs, and lined with an endless array of fire-breathing windmills that will break a million Don Quixotes.
Once you have purchased your ticket for this merry-go-round, there is no getting off. You can attempt to stop what you do, but that will only create a bigger hunger for those wanting to gate-crash your fake death with more ill-informed opinions and senseless questions. There are no answers. That’s what Art teachesus.
All there is, is a long road. A road you once tried to find love on in order to have a travelling companion.
You wonder whether you said the wrong thing, or gave too much, or gave too little. But, as already stated, there are no answers. Only questions. And these questions will surely drive you into madness.
Your torture for having finally amassed so much wisdom, is to have no one to share it with. That’s ironic.
My mother had suffered. While other teenage girls were carefree, my mother's
youth was robbed from her by polio. And the result was she'd walk with a limp
the rest of her life. She'd also been denied an education because she'd had
to leave school at 12 to work in a florist shop to help financially support
the family. Her father, whom she'd adored, was thrown out of the house by her
mum, and although he'd occasionally return to beg a reconciliation with his
family, it never eventuated.
I was told that he couldn't keep his feet still if he heard music and loved
to tap dance. It's one of those spooky things in life that I too loved music
and told my mum I wanted to learn tap dancing when I was all of 7. I guess
somehow in that mysterious way of the world I'd inherited his love of that.
One night he was hit by a car driven by a drunk and died instantly. No doubt
my stubborn Irish grandmother felt guilt that she'd never taken him back into
the family and household he'd loved so much. But all actions have ripples, and
some turn into tidal waves.
My mother missed him all the days of her life, and always told me what a
lovely man he was.
Some say wisdom can't be taught, it has to be earned. And perhaps all the
early heartbreaks my mother endured explained her inherent wisdom. She had
a calm soulful way of smiling and imparting her wise words that would cut
to the heart of any problem you had.
She was also the greatest mental arithmetic exponent I've ever witnessed, and
could correctly spell any word by sounding it. She was never wrong. Perhaps
She had a love of words that rubbed off on me. Her mathematical skills did
She loved people. Another trait I inherited. And like me, she sometimes
trusted the wrong people. At the age of fourteen this pretty, naive,
friendly girl was raped by a much older man. At fifteen, before her life
had really begun, she had a child, which was brought up by my grandmother
as hers to avoid a scandal and being ostracized by society at that time.
My mother assumed the role of the baby boy's sister. A common story in
those days, and much later gave me the insight to write about it in the
musical based on the life of Bobby Darin, "Dream Lover." I had witnessed
first hand the aftermath of the pain, shame and fallout of that situation.
Hence the line in "Dream Lover" that "once you tell a lie, it must become
your truth forevermore."
In her early twenties my mum met my father. It was obviously, on my dad's
part, love at first sight. But my mother steadfastly resisted any commitment to him.
Still, he persisted. Phone calls, flowers, visits to the house, all
intended to wear her down and make her fall in love with him. His desperate
Quixote delusion. These days such a romantic fool would be arrested for
stalking. Back then it was considered "woo-ing."
He and his two brothers were all steeple chase jockeys, and although my
dad wasn't yet earning big money, healthy prospects loomed. All the
brothers had been brought up as stable boys so they had a great gift with
being able to handle horses. It was second nature to them. My father offered
to give up his promising but tenuous career to get a steady job if only
Pearl Walsh would marry him. She refused his proposal. Then one night he
showed up at her mother's house, drunk and crying, and threatened to kill
himself if she didn't marry him. My mum's oldest brother, Bill, told her
to "let the silly bastard off himself so we can all get some sleep!"
My mother, cursed with a soft heart, married Henry Francis Howson (Jacky
to his friends) and they set forth to try and build a life together.
She'd thought her child would move in with them and the wrong could be
righted, but he'd grown too attached to the familiarity of her mother by
then. My mother carried the hurt of this rejection the rest of her life.
In his later years he'd desperately sought my mother to acknowledge him
but she never did. He had made his choice. In Irish Catholic homes
betrayals and vendettas ran hard and had a way of icing even the sweetest
I never knew any of this until I was a teenager. I was staying at my
uncle's house once, and his kids kept referring to him as my brother.
Suddenly, it was unraveled and and revealed.
My father's drinking accelerated and one can only assume as to why that
was. He went to his grave with so many inner feelings unvoiced. Like most
men of his day. Perhaps he regretted what could've been if he hadn't given
up his racing career. He watched both his brothers go on and gain much
acclaim culminating in his oldest sibling winning many Grand National
Steeple Chase events and ending up in the history books.
Or perhaps it was because he was sensitive enough to know that my mother's
love never matched his. After he died, my mum told me that she hadn't loved
him and had only married him because he seemed so lost. That hurt me very
much to hear, and made me sad knowing my father had endured a life with that
knowledge. She'd married to get away from living in her mother's home with
her two older opinionated brothers. Suffocating living under too many
people's rules with a child she wasn't allowed to acknowledge as her own.
At times I've thought that some people marry in order to kill each other. Or
themselves. Not sure if there's a name for that syndrome but it surely does
exist. As much as day follows night.
I guess I always dreamed that I'd one day have a normal family life of my
own, not damaged by denials, guilt, recriminations, and shame. And, for
15 years of a marriage I did, but lost it all when I stood up over a
principle (that Irish streak again). I won big in the integrity stakes but
lost in the financial one. Still, I could live with that far better than the
alternative, for I'd seen first hand what damage living a lie does to
Who knows what my mother could've achieved if she'd been born into
different circumstances. Her great love was the movies. Spencer Tracy, Bing
Crosby, Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Fred Astaire, Ronald Coleman, Katherine
Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman were among her favourites. Later she became a big
fan of Peter O'Toole and thought that the acting between him and Richard
Burton in "Beckett" was the greatest she'd ever seen on the big screen.
My mum quoted Hollywood stories like some people quote Shakespeare or Bob
Dylan. Somehow she's found some morality stories about Tinsel Town. One of
which was about dear ol' Cary Grant who'd married the Woolworth's heiress
Barbara Hutton, and how everyone at the time had thought he'd only married
her for her money. Yet, when they divorced, Cary took not a cent. What a
guy. That morality story has cost me a small fortune. I too, as a result,
have never walked away from a marriage with anything other than the clothes
I'd been wearing. Somewhere Cary and mum are smiling. As for me, I've spent
She had an amazing instinct about people. Not sure if one is born with this
ability, or earns it from meeting too many horribles along the way. Anyway, I'd
bring a young school friend home and after they'd left she'd say, "He's
(or she's) not for you." That really pissed me off as I thought she was far
too judgmental. But what pissed me off most was the fact that she was always
right. In fact, I've missed her judgements for far too many years.
She was so protective of me. I'd been a change of life baby and in her eyes I
was a precious gift from God. Of course I tried to rebel against this
rather restrictive image at every opportunity, but her love to me was always
unconditionally. When my much older sisters heard my mother's good news about
my impending entrance into this world they, in their usual graciousness,
refused to speak to my mother for 12 months. In many ways, I became the love
of my mother's life. All her unrequited dreams were wrapped up in me. It
became a heavy burden for a young boy but on reflection I guess it pushed
me to strive harder so as not to let her down. This resulted in my mother
thinking everything I did was right, and my sisters believing everything I
did was wrong. It got me used to mixed reviews. And I also learnt early that
if people resent you it doesn't matter if you walk on water they're going
to be unimpressed. Or pretend that they missed it. And you can't fight that
or you'll become as mentally ill as the swallow people.
Every day she'd get on the tram to the city and wander around all the floors
of the Myer Department Store shopping for the latest bargains. I shared those
journeys with her many, many times. She was on first name basis with all the
sales staff of that vast shopping complex. If she didn't have the money she'd
put some item on higher purchase and pay it off (sometimes over years it seemed).
Or, she'd have them deliver it "cash on delivery." If they delivered during
a poor week we'd have to be as quiet as mice as the very patient Myer delivery man knocked
at our door. It was quite an adventure. The policy was that they'd attempt
delivery three times before they'd give up. If this happened, we'd go into the city
and order the very same thing to be delivered hoping that by luck the knock
would come at the door on a more prosperous day. My mother was a first-hand
example of perseverance and hope.
She had a smile for everyone and loved a chat. A trip with her to the corner
shops and back could take all day, as she'd stop and chat to each person
she encountered. It used to frustrate the hell out of me as I'd hear the
same stories 43 times in succession!
When she died, her dear friend Kathy Jansen described my mother's voice as
"the sound of joy." And so it was. I never once caught her being maudlin,
sorry for herself or depressed. To her, each say was a new adventure. Along
Along the way, she beat cancer and overcame heart problems - probably by
her positive disposition - and it was only a freak silly accident in the
house and a bump to the head that caused a blood clot, that signaled her
exit from this world.
Her stroke cruelly took away her ability to speak. To my mother, this was her
lifeblood. Every day I'd visit her she'd clench my hand with all her might,
look me in the eyes, and through sheer force of will force out three words,
I had no answer for her. We'd never lied to each other.
It didn't take long until she'd willed herself to death.
Years later when I was living in Los Angeles and having my own voice
problems caused by intense stress, my longtime friend John Capek
suggested that I go to an energy healer he knew on Laurel Canyon. I
took his advice and did so. During my first session, the energy guru
asked me to tell him a potted history of my life. I did so as best as I
could to which he replied, "Oh my God, what a hard life you've had!"
I was momentarily shocked as I'd never thought of it that way. Not in those
terms. After all, I had no other life to compare it to. It was what it
was. In fact, I'd felt that I'd many things to be grateful for. But when
I thought more deeply about it, given his statement, the tears started to
flow uncontrollably from my eyes in spite of myself. As though my body was
releasing the intense pain I'd suppressed since childhood in order to
just keep going. It was quite a cathartic experience. He then said,
"Oh, and your mother is still with you. She doesn't realise she'd dead.
She loved you so much she can't let go. You need to tell her to go away."
It was one of the hardest things I've had to do. The fact that her great
love for me had transcended death was so touching and yet I had to reject
her in order to breathe and begin to restore my own life. I have weathered
many great losses and loves in my life, and this was another loss I'd dealt
with. To everything there is a lesson, and I've learnt the art of icing my
heart to certain things. To quote a line from my film "Remembering Nigel,"
..."It's alright to love something, but you are damned if you love that
thing too much."
And I'll be damned if I wasn't right.
I've never been one of those men who looked down upon women or devalued
their opinions or didn't see them as an equal, and that's no doubt because
my mother was a very positive example to me. She was smart, wise, funny,
instinctively sharp, kind, true, strong and open-hearted to all other
open hearts. It's true that when some people die the world is diminished
in some way. And so it was for me and all those who knew Pearl Howson.
Not a day goes by...
(c) Frank Howson 2019