Out of the darkness And into light We face a blank canvas And call it a life Our hand tracing lines Adding colour here and there Some of us choose to be bold While some of us never dare So how much am I bid For this crazy life I've lived? Do you find it too frivolous or too bleak? Does it move you to tears? Or does it look like wasted years? This painting has cost me more than I dare speak Lost in a city Lost in a crowd I don't speak till I get drunk And then I get too loud Your beautiful face I have captured it by hand But you denied me your heart And cut me down where I stand I have painted sorrow And sometimes joy But cocktails in a gallery Won't bring back my boy So I'll paint him from memory From the time he called me dad Some of us paint our mistakes While some of us just go mad (c) Frank Howson 2018 Painting by Frank Howson.
The living are always under attack from the dead. As night follows day so do those of darkness target those of light and stalk them with words of hero worship when, the truth is, the mere existence of those with a spark irritates them and they consciously or, in some cases, subconsciously, work toward the extinguishment of that flame. Wilhelm Reich writes about this condition in detail in his book The Murder of Christ.
The people of darkness use many tools to bring down the envied. Negative rumours, stories that are unfounded in fact, and a whole range of politically acceptable words to discredit their target i.e., Narcissist (this applies to anyone who is successful in showbiz who uses social media to promote their latest ventures) because the fact that someone may actually be getting off their fat ass and doing something reminds the person of darkness how meaningless and unfocused their own life is; Nazi (it is acceptable in today’s politically correct world to call anyone with an opposing opinion this and get away with it. This is disgustingly outrageous and unfair to their target whose only crime may be to have an original thought, as well as, obviously, making light of what the real Nazis did). But let me not bring logic into this lest I be called names. Anti-Semitic is a good one too in some cases. I have even witnessed Jewish people being called anti-Semitic because they dared to have an opinion that didn’t sit comfortably with the party line. Such is the out of control world we live in where the militant wheel gets oiled first and the logical debate is not only not considered it is condemned. Here we have a perfect storm for the people of darkness to not only hide within, but thrive.
Bob Dylan has predicted for some time now that we have entered the end game. Anyone who has studied theology and the predictions of the old prophets would have to concur. In my opinion we are currently engaged in the final war between good and evil, darkness and light, and the shadow people are only going to get more and more hysterical as things don’t go their way. They are currently very confused as to why things aren’t going the way of the Polls. Could it be divine intervention?
It is difficult to untangle yourself from a person of darkness because they are cling ons – spiritual vampires sucking your energy. And the more you give them the more resentful they will become towards you. For even your kindness is an irritation. A reminder of what they are not. They will insult you by praising strangers and even abusing and opportunistic ex-partners above your efforts to help, give and support. This is to make you crazy and so confused you will cease to be able to function and end up zombie like staring out a window into the light that was once your source. Do not under any circumstances feed them. Let well enough alone. Danger and madness this way comes.
(C) Frank Howson 2017
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
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
The street was the same as I remembered it. And the birds swooped as if to herald my return. So it was true, I hadn’t dreamed it. For a moment I stood and took in the beautiful cacophony of noise that I’d never fully appreciated before in all its ugly glory. The sun came out to shine on cue and its warmth informed me that I had now entered a safety zone for lost boys.
How can you know a place so well and yet feel that you are seeing it for the first time? If this is a dream and I awaken now I will be angry all day. Maybe all days.
I continue moving on further into it until I reach the gate no one ever closes, and the narrow cement path leading to the apartment block steps I once knew so well I could climb them in the dark, and under the influence of too much life. This time there seems to be a lesson learnt in each step and greater effort needed to conceal the weariness of the outsider.
Halfway up I enter the glow from the first storey window that conspires to shine God-like behind the statue of Buddha as if even the universe is welcoming my return.
More steps and more weary remembrances of lessons learned and I am at the front door, knocking in a drum pattern of whimsy and familiarity.
After an eternity of seconds the door is opened and I see your smiling face as I remembered it from a long ago carefree time. Bright, loving and kind. I can now die in my footsteps and not be lost to wander and wonder.
I enter and am surrounded by the comfort of the greatest books and music ever written. Each word and note a friend of mine. And I sit at the empty table. Alone no more. Everything and nothing has changed as I take my place amongst it.
You ask me how I am. But there are no words to convey the miracle of ordained destiny.
For in that sheltered moment, I am home.
(C) Frank Howson 2017
Robert Travell was about to make a comeback. It seemed like all anyone had talked about for the past few months, the return of the 6os music icon whose songs helped changed the world and stop a war. You couldn’t turn on the TV, radio, pick up newspaper or surf the internet without seeing the excited commotion this had caused. It was rumored that Columbia Records were paying him a million dollar advance for his first album in thirty years.
What had happened to him? At the height of his career he just disappeared. Retired. Became a recluse. Periodically there were sightings of him – or someone resembling him – in diners, at bus depots, on a construction site, but nothing ever confirmed. Some say he’d gone mad like Howard Hughes and now had a beard to his knees – others say he did a J.D. Salinger and had simply had enough of the prying eye of the press and public and was now working as a history teacher in some rural area school. The truth is, no one knew.
The magazine I worked for had assigned me to interview the great man on this eve of his return. I was only twenty-one at the time and had missed Mr. Travell’s glory years, but had grown up in a home where my parents had played his records ad-infinitum. In many ways he felt like a member of my family. Like a beloved uncle I was yet to meet.
I was given his address and the appointed time for the interview. The address was in a little street in West Hollywood. It seemed an odd location for him as I knew the street well and the homes and apartments there were all very modest. I would’ve expected a mansion befitting this man’s contribution to the world, but I was young and yet to learn about the music business and the thieves that run it.
I was so nervous on the day that I almost had a car accident because I was so tense and my mind was on everything other than the road. I pulled up outside the address and had to recheck it as I couldn’t believe this little house in disrepair could possibly be where the great Robert Travell had ended up.
I knocked on the door. There was no answer. My disappointment went straight to my stomach and I felt sick. I must’ve written down the wrong address. Maybe I misheard the interview time. Oh shit. I’d been given the chance to interview Robert Travell and I’d screwed it up. Just as I was beating myself up on the porch, I heard a voice.
“I’m around the back! Come to the backyard”
Oh thank God! He’s home. Well, around the back. I then began the grand adventure to get to the back yard. I had to maneuver my way past several rusted out cars, knee-high grass, an old discarded washing machine, and through garments that looked like they’d been hanging on the clothes-line for several years. Finally, after some time, I succeeded in reaching the backyard but no one was there. Then, from inside I heard…”Where are you?”
I know realized he’d gone to the front door in search of me. My fantasized wonderful interview with the great man was rapidly descending into a farce.
“I’m here!” I yelled out but doubted if he could hear me.
I opened the back door and walked in. I could see him, his back to me, at the front door. I was silenced by awe and fear. I heard him grumble something to himself and then he closed the door and turned. Lost in his thoughts he was almost up to me before he saw me. He stopped with a jolt.
“Who are you? And what are you doing in my house?”
This was now a Laurel and Hardy sketch and I just wanted to turn and run from the embarrassment.
“Ahhh I’m Suzie Montrose…I’m here to interview you, Mr. Travell. I’m sorry, I went to the backyard and you weren’t there so I just came in. I’m so sorry. I’m usually very well mannered.”
He smiled and his whole face softened. “You are well-mannered, Suzie. I see that in your eyes. A cup of green tea, perhaps?”
“Yes…Oh thank you, Mr. Travell…thank you so much. That would be lovely.”
I hate green tea but at this moment I was so looking forward to it.
As Mr. Travell walked into the kitchen to prepare the tea, which he did with great care as though it was sacred ritual, I studied his living room for clues about him. I looked at his book shelf which usually revealed a lot about a person. But in this case it was empty except for one book – “The Art of Dentistry.”
“Mr. Travell. I see you’re interested in dentistry” I yelled out so he could hear me in the kitchen.
“No, not at all. A friend of mine gave that to me.”
“No, he’s a carpenter.”
This man was becoming more and more fascinating and enigmatic by the second. How could someone so great with words be the owner of only one book?
He suddenly appeared with a tray and our teas. He took great care to place my cup on the coffee table in front of me. I could see his hands shook a little. Perhaps he’d been an alcoholic? Or maybe by caring too much as illustrated in all his songs he’d burnt our his nervous system.
“Don’t you read many books, Mr. Travell?”
“No. I find they contain too many words.” He sat. “Never read a book that couldn’t be improved by cutting it in half.”
I wasn’t sure whether he was serious or just having me on. I was lost for words so he jumped back in to fill up the void.
“For instance, “A Tale of Two Cities” would’ve been much better, in my opinion, as a tale of one city. But what do I know?” Then he smiled.
I was speechless and had nothing to add to that, so I drank my green tea. All of it, in order to buy some time to think.
“Ah, we’re off to a great start! I see we have something in common.”
“Huh? What’s that?” I asked.
“A love of green tea.”
“Oh yes, I can’t get enough of it” I lied.
“Well I shall get you some more.”
And so he did, and poured it slowly and with considerable care.
Desperate to say something to fill out the silence, I uttered, “I see you live very simply, Mr. Travell.”
“Two divorces and a record company that robbed me blind. I have always admired Jesse James. At least he was honest about what he was.”
“You must be excited about your new album?” I ventured on.
“But the whole world is waiting for it.”
“Are they really?…Isn’t that sad?”
I had nowhere to go with this interview and was losing any grasp I had on an angle for the story.
He looked at me for a long time. I was used to that, being a woman and interviewing sleazy rock stars. But Travell’s look was different. He was looking at me – into me – as though seeing my soul. There was nothing sexual about it. His caring eyes exuded the warmth of a father. For the first time in my life I felt safe. And loved.
“Here’s the deal. Forget this interview, I know how they go, you ask the standard questions and I give you the standard answers. Why don’t you hang out with me for the rest of this week and get to know me. The real me. Y’see everyone I’ve ever met has written a book about me, as well as all the people I never met. They all seem to be an expert on my life. And y’know something? It’s all bullshit and lies. And seeing this will be my last foray into the public, why don’t you take the time to get me right?”
“Really?…How do you know you can trust me?” I asked.
He smiled again, “I can trust you. You have a shining soul. You must protect that, but I’ll tell you how to do that later in the week. Now, who’s for some doughnuts? I know a wonderful place and it’s so much superior to those Krispy Krap ones.”
I loved this man already. “Yes, count me in!”
And so off we went on another adventure. This is how the whole week was. A series of adventures with a man who, if he was mad, it was a madness like Don Quixote – a madness that cut through all the ugliness of the world and taught you that there was love in everything. If you looked hard enough.
That week I had the best doughnuts ever. We also went to a baseball game; sat on Venice Beach and saw and heard the drum ceremony at sunset; ate in diners and all the while talked about our lives. He asked me why I was working for a stupid magazine that only interviewed stupid celebrities. I told him my dream was to buy my own little apartment so I’d never have to struggle to pay rent again. He told me I could achieve that without selling my soul.
I was concerned for him because he fell several times that week. Literally. He had so much pride he was back on his feet within seconds. He told me he had dizzy spells occasionally and was on medication for it. In fact he seemed to be on a lot of medication. He had pills in every pocket and regularly took them.
Every time I asked him about his new album he changed the subject. All he would confirm was that it was finished. And so was he. It would be the last.
“So that means that it must contain some interesting statements about the present day and age?” I ventured.
“You could say that,” he smiled mischievously.
“Why did you walk away for so long?”
“I didn’t walk, I was driven away actually. But that’s a story of greed and darkness and why ruin our meal? Anyway, I’d said everything I wanted to say in all those songs. Each one of them deals with a different aspect of life and, seeing the world unfortunately hasn’t changed, I have nothing new to add. To have gone on would’ve meant I’d have just been repeating myself, which so many artists do. You have to have the class to know when to go. You owe it to the public to leave their fantasy about you untarnished.”
“So, with the new album – are you taking music in a new direction?” I bravely asked.
He looked momentarily disappointed in me. But then the warm smile returned. “I am giving the music industry what it deserves.”
He then looked sad, and turned away indicating he’d said all he was going to say about that.
I asked him if he had any children.
“Yes. But they were taken away from me years ago by mothers who convinced them I was mad and dangerous to be with. Not a day goes by that my heart doesn’t break when I think of them. I hope they have grown to be good people and that they are safe.”
That night we walked back to his place. When we got there he was genuinely concerned about me driving home.
“I won’t hear of it. You’ve had three glasses of wine over dinner and that’s enough to get you in trouble with the cops or worse still be involved in an accident. You can sleep in my bed, I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“No, no, I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“Nope, that’s the deal. Besides, I like the couch. It’s my friend. To tell you the truth I fall asleep here most nights.”
Then he looked at me and said, “You are safe here you know?”
“I know that. In fact I have never felt safer.” I am so glad I said that to him.
The next morning I got up and went out into the living room. He was sitting up asleep, or so I thought. After some time I touched him and he was stone cold. As cold as a statue. As cold as the monument they would eventually erect of him. I ran screaming into the street. I wanted to tell the world he was gone. I wanted to tell them everything was now changed. A light had gone out. He was gone.
I watched them take away his body. But that was not him. It was just a body. I lied and said I was his daughter just so I could sit in his house and feel his spirit a bit longer. On his table I found a CD that had scribbled on it “The New Album.” With trembling hands I put it on and sat on his friendly couch to listen to Robert Travell’s last statement to the world.
The first track was Robert reciting “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”
The second track was a diatribe about what thieves record companies are.
And so it went on. 10 tracks in all. He had delivered 10 tracks and fulfilled his contractual obligations, and thus could keep his million dollar advance.
I started to laugh, uncontrollably. This was his “fuck you” to a record industry that had fucked him long and hard. The record company would later issue a statement saying that the reason the album wouldn’t be released was due to the fact that it was unfinished and in respect of Mr. Travell’s important legacy they would shelve it.
In his will he left each of his two children $400, 000 plus all the royalties from his record and publishing catalogues. And to me he left $200,000 so that I would never have to struggle to pay rent again.
I have quit my job writing about other people’s lives and have started a Robert Travell Charity Foundation to help homeless people. I am also writing my first book and making sure it’s not too long.
Every night I sit on the couch, his couch, in my apartment, sip my green tea and give thanks that he came along and that I was lucky enough to know him. Really know him. Trouble is, I fear he has ruined me for any other man. You see, a Robert Travell comes along just once in a lifetime. If you’re lucky. Although I live in hope that I will find his spirit in someone else. And that that someone will look into my eyes and really see me. And I will feel loved and safe again.
Recently I was offered a million dollars to write about my experiences with him. I told them to go fuck themselves. And somewhere, Robert Travell laughed, and I was filled with a warmth deep inside. A warmth that told me he was proud of me and that I’d turned out alright. In his words, I’d grown to be a “good person.”
(c) Frank Howson 2014
He was born a simple boy,
in a simple land,
but his dreams were bigger than himself.
He dreamed of magical places,
and of damsels in distress
who needed him.
His simple parents were beside
“What will become of him?”, they asked each other.
To which neither of them had an answer.
But the boy was brave and followed his dreams.
No matter where they led
By the time he’d grown into a man
he had survived many battles
and defeated all the dragons
that the world threw at him.
Word of his victories spread
throughout the land
and suddenly strangers wanted to be his friend.
“We must honor this hero!”, shouted his new friends.
So they gave him gifts,
chocolate covered almonds,
And then they made him a king.
His parents were very proud,
and worried no more.
these strangers were not really
A king’s life can be very lonely.
He no longer went off to battle.
There was an army for such things.
He was too precious and (mostly) too well thought of.
there was much to do around the palace.
Listening to other people’s speeches.
Trying to find a pen that worked.
And looking serious.
to bring him down.
Instead of storming the gates,
they laughed at his jokes,
did everything for him,
patted him on the back,
gave him advice,
and enough rope,
told tall tales,
and complimented him on everything he did.
After awhile he forgot all about
One morning, when he awakened and
rubbed the sleep from his eyes,
He had become smaller too.
His people worried about him.
He looked so lonely.
“He is dying for an adventure!”, said the palace doctor.
the king quietly
packed his bag
disguised as a simple man
crept out of the palace
Far, far, away.
he didn’t stop running until he reached the Enchanted Wood
The Fairy Tree,
which was by far the widest
tree in the forest,
asked the simple man (who was really a king), what it was he wanted.
The king thought long and hard.
And when he looked up he saw
the most beautiful
in the world.
She was good,
and listened to his stories about his youthful adventures.
And she didn’t yawn once.
One thing led to another
and they were married.
And not long after,
a baby boy was born.
They bought a nice, reasonably priced condo
in the suburbs,
was once again
Every night, the man and his son
When the man grew tired
and fell asleep
in his favourite chair
in front of the TV set,
and the Mommy
would make sure that
he got to bed as safely as possible.
And when the boy went to sleep
of magical places,
and damsels in distress.
His dreams were bigger than himself.
in the very next room,
a Daddy dreamed
about the places he’d been,
the dragons he’d tamed,
the giants he’d befriended,
the battles he’d won,
the damsel he loved,
and the warm strong hug of his son.
in his sleep,
(c) Frank Howson 2013.