HappyTimes

MY HOME

My home felt like a home to me. My mum and dad were there. And frequent visits from Uncle Arthur, Auntie Gladys, Uncle jack, Auntie Dagmar, Uncle Alf, Auntie Daf, Uncle Bill, Auntie Mary, Uncle Barney, Auntie Terri, and Uncle Charlie (who wasn’t really an uncle but was an honourary member of our family), who all added colour and laughter to our home at 51 Fawkner Street, St. Kilda.

From my child’s point of view our house was like Graceland and I was very proud of it. Today, I stand outside that same house and see a place so small and modest it resembles a doll’s house for grown-ups. Amazing that so small a space can house so many memories. To those who wander passed it would probably at best be considered “quaint.” To me it is a museum of my youth and I can still hear the distant echoes of laughter from my family, now all long gone.

My personality was formed in that house by those people. Life was simple and there was no need to be afraid of anything because my mum and dad held all the answers to Life.

It was a nicer world. People trusted each other. When we were having a poor week, Mr. and Mrs. Kilpatrick who owned the corner store would put the cost of groceries down on a piece of paper behind the counter and we’d pay them when we could. In those days to be able to wander up the street and buy an ice cream on the good of your name gave a small kid a lot of pride in who we were.

I learned the meaning of generosity and trust and the value of reputation in those bygone days. Your word was your word and your reward was the warm glow of pride when you were able to settle your meager debts.

From my mother I learned the meaning of kindness and never turning anyone in need away. I would sometimes wake in the morning and toddle down the corridor to find a stranger sleeping on our couch in the living room. When I’d ask my mum who this person was, she’d reply, “Oh that’s Tom, he’s from Hobart and didn’t have anywhere to stay so he’ll be here for a few days until he finds some place of his own.” People did what they could for each other.

From my father I learned that we all battle our own internal demons and that alcohol can sometimes make you say things you don’t mean. Hurt people hurt people. Sometimes in that house a kid got to hear and see things that ruined the dream world of Disneyland and Father Knows Best forever. But I learned forgiveness – knowing that at the heart of it my father didn’t mean what he said. He was not lashing out at us, but at the world. He’d had a much harder childhood than I could imagine and who knows what innermost regrets and sorrows his poor heart held and had to deal with every day. All I know is that he was the nicest man in the world up to 10 drinks. And that’s the man I choose to remember.

From my elder sisters I learned that envy can drive people to be cruel and mean-hearted and after many attempts over the years to forgive their actions towards me I had to cut them out of my life for good.

We were the last house in our street to get a television set and in the end we only got one by an Act of God. One day a delivery man from Steele’s dropped one off to us by mistake. Steele’s department store only realized their mistake two years later and dispatched another delivery man to pick it up. But by then we were seriously addicted to the weekly TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Richard Greene, and there was no way my dad was giving it back. When the delivery man sensed that my dad was willing to fight to the death to protect his family’s entertainment, the man from Steele’s swiftly departed and our ownership of the small mahogany television set was never contested again. My dad was a hero that day.

Before God granted us a television set, a boy had to invent his own entertainment. So each day after school, I’d rush home, change out of my school clothes, get dressed, grab a football and stroll out onto Fawkner Street and start bouncing it up and down on the pavement. It didn’t take long before boys from other houses would hear the familiar sound and start piling out onto the street for a kick to kick football match until night fell and we were all called home for dinner.

I used to try and take skyscraper marks, sometimes climbing up onto the backs of my opponents, like my football idol Big Bill Stephenson of St.Kilda. My mum and dad had taken me to every St.Kilda match from the time I was a baby in their arms, and as a young boy I had marveled at Big Bill’s genius at full forward. Then, one day when the Saints played Essendon, Big Bill had climbed into the stratosphere for a mark and came down landing badly and ruptured his knee. When he collapsed to the ground, he uttered the words, “I’m buggered” to which his opponent Don McKenzie replied, “Thank Christ for that!” So far that year Bill Stephenson had kicked 20 goals in just three and a half games and at that rate would’ve scored 102 goals for the year at a time when the leading full forwards averaged 54. He never played again. To me, it was a tragedy on the scale of the JFK assassination.

It’s funny the things that mean so much to us along the way and shape us as human beings. I still sometimes get teary eyed when I recall the long forgotten football hero Big Bill Stephenson. He passed away in 2010 with hardly a mention in the newspapers. But it meant something deep and profound to me. From Big Bill Stephenson I learned that no matter how high you soar, there is a still a price to be paid.

When I was born my mother wanted to name me Peter. My sisters wanted to name me Michael. And my Irish grandmother demanded I be called Frank. Guess who won out. A short time later we got a dog and he became Peter. Oh my, how I loved that dog. My first best friend. My confidante who never snitched on me if I did something wrong; who continued to smile at me even when I disappointed him and proved I was only human. From Peter, my rock, I learned loyalty.

One day I came home from school to be told the tragic news that Peter had run away from home. What? My best friend had run out on me? Had abandoned me for greener pastures? How could this be? It didn’t make sense. I grieved for many years over this and never got another dog. Perhaps deep down I still grieve in my schoolboy heart. Not that long before my mum passed away she told me the true story. Peter had not run away. The neighbor across the road had thrown chicken bones over our fence thinking the dog would like them. But Peter got one caught in his throat and choked to death. My mum invented the story that the rest of the family stuck by thinking it would be less traumatic for me if I thought he’d run away. I wonder if they still felt that when every evening after school I’d stand at the front gate looking up and down each end of the street for my best friend to come home. To me. It has probably instilled in me abandonment issues I carry to this day. If you love something too much, God takes it away.

Anyway, that was my first home. Sometimes I stand outside it today and fantasize that one day I’ll knock on the door and offer the people who live there a huge sum of money to give it back to me. I need somewhere to house these memories and am weary of carrying them for so long from one place to another.

And when I have it back, there’ll always be the kettle on for a visitor, a spare couch for someone in need, and if you have a dog with you, a big hug as I close my eyes and imagine Peter has come home.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2017

 

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GOODBYE BLACK, HELLO BLUE

The street beneath my feet
Has never let me down
Unlike the people
Who think they own this town
I tried my luck
But the cards were cut
When I complained
I was told to shut up

Goodbye black, hello blue
What happens next depends on you
I miss the world I thought I knew
Goodbye black, hello blue

I gave myself to you
But then you lost your nerve
I was your army
Always ready to serve
You cut me off
And you burned my flag
I surrender
In peace I pack my bag

Goodbye black, hello blue
I'll spend my life forgetting you
I'll miss the dreams that won't come true
Goodbye black, hello blue

So I'll be off
Until who knows when
I'll see you in the stars
Until the broken heal again

Goodbye black, hello blue
What happens now we can't undo
I'll miss the love I never knew
Goodbye black, hello blue

(c) Frank Howson 2017

Title suggested by Chris Thomas.


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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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THE MAN WHO TRAVELS BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON

And so it goes
Once again I gave my all
Which wasn't enough 
When I was happy
I was too happy
When I cried
There weren't enough tears
To please everybody
When I broke
It was so quiet
No one heard
I died that night
That night you ruined my Christmas
Alone in my room
Well, what was left of me
But still I went on
Not wanting to let anyone down
I was expected at so many events
And people are so easily offended
So here we are
Going through the motions
Of an impersonation
Of a man in control
Of nothing
There were no obituaries
Only slaps on the back
Some a little too hard
And hollow
For a sensitive soul
Some hadn't been felt like this
Since the murder of unsuspecting Julius
But they got the wrong man
I didn't set out to conquer Rome
Or live for praise
Only to make my mother proud
And a safe place
Where I could do my work
In peace
And not be envied
Or pitied 
Or slandered
Or made to stand trial
Sometimes
I think of the frightened boy
I was
And lost
And shed a tear
When someone notices
I say I have something in my eye
I lie
And they believe me
I am a fugitive of your heart
Misjudged
Miscast
Misplaced
Washed ashore
Writing stories
That turn out to be premonitions
For those who have tired of happy endings
About men on the run
From a society that too readily believes
The worst in us
Cursed with too good a memory
It is impossible to forget
Every scar
Every betrayal
My face lined with lessons learned
The hard way
And there's nothing you can take to change that
As Elvis found out
Looking back
Perhaps my only lasting friend has been the night
And that glimpse of heaven 
That moment just before dawn
When the world is so silent
You can hear God's breath
If you listen close enough
That long night
When I forget to sleep
Because I'm addicted to the clarity
Of each rushing thought
That won't come again
And my job is to capture as many
As possible
Before they are gone
Like the women
Stampeding over the edge
And free falling
Into the darkness of the abyss
Joining my dreams of a happy home
And all those beautiful things
I didn't say to the right one
Who withered from waiting too long
And has now gone to Florida
To teach people how to act
So they can at least get things right in their art
And be convincing enough to pass as a human being
Without an alarm
I awaken to find
All victories shallow
All risks ill-timed
My laughter too loud to be acceptable
My critics misinformed and better suited to 
The sports page
Where the results are more easily ascertained
My women merely visions
That fade too soon
Building residue in my heart
That heart that is too strong to break
Even by experts
But weeps
For missing persons
Beneath the burden of searching for resolutions
It may never find
Not even at 3am
I too gambled for our savior's clothes
Winning only his crown of thorns
And the identity 
Of a man who travels by the light of the moon
Some say he is based on a true story


(c) 2017 Frank Howson














 

Prohibition

From Room Number 8

I hear the trumpet sound

But is it of the sky or ground?

It’s hard to find without a link

When the world’s forgotten how to think

And women dress for Babylon

To glow and bloom and then are gone

The devil moves you like a pawn

You’ve been played like that since you were born

We misunderstood the Judas kiss

And now it’s come to all of this

Where sex is love and hate is fine

And to tell the truth  is to cross the line

Where information is at our fingertips

And yet ignorance springs from our lips

We kneel to say our prayers

And pray to God that someone cares

But just like that tale of Ruth

We get persecuted for the truth

We never found the promised land

It was a myth like the helping hand

So we freeze in our winter of discontent

Where there are no replies to our letters sent

I live in a house of lonely men

Where you relive it again and again

They say when it finally makes sense

We’ll be reimbursed for all our expense

But while Billy and Joey think it’s a crock

I sit staring at the clock

There’s a Pilate waiting to judge us all

And he’ll wash his hands and try to stall

Because it frightens us to the core

To know the roles we’ve been cast for

But maybe one day when I’m through this phase

I’ll call you to talk of old days

And not to take anything you don’t want to give

Or to tell you how to live

But just to rest my head on yours

And tell you I love you because…

 

(c) Frank Howson 2016

 

 

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THE STATE OF PLAY

Let me break the news to those who haven’t awakened yet to the terrible reality of politics. There is no Left or Right anymore. There is just the craven lust for power and to keep the globalists happy in their bid to create a New World Order. By the way, this vision of an Utopian world may not include you or I, unless we make a heap of money rather quickly.

Of course the Left Wing Parties will still campaign on the pitch that they’ll raise taxes so that us little folk will get looked after but after they’re elected the bundle made out of increased taxes won’t trickle down to us but will be squandered on incompetence, stupid decisions, and their campaign to be re-elected. Or have I missed something?

The Right Wing Parties will run on a campaign of strength (usually meaning starting a new war somewhere and raining bombs on ordinary people like us who have no idea what the fuck is happening), business acumen, cut taxes (so us poor people have more money in our pockets for luxury items like bread), and will then proceed to squander money on incompetence, stupid decisions, and their campaign to be re-elected. Sadly, I haven’t missed anything.

My dad was a staunch Labour man all his life and was so far to the left he may as well have been a Communist. He had an intense dislike for bosses, police, the Royal Family, priests, June Allyson, Prime Minister Menzies and anyone he thought was a “big hat, no horse.” After several drinks he’d  want to start a petition to have a statue erected to Ned Kelly. Dad had lived a tough life losing his mother at the age of two and then being given up, with his two brothers, to relatives to bring up. He’d been denied much in his life including parental love and struggled all his days to show the great love he felt to those he cared about most.  I don’t think he’d have much time for the Chardonnay sipping new age Left Wingers. But that was him. And it was a different world. A slower, simpler place where people, if you were any good, did the right thing regardless of the cost.

But politics, nowadays, is mostly a game. The system rarely throws up someone who stands for anything other than getting elected,  and if it does, that naively principled person will either be crushed under the wheels of the machine or stabbed in the back by colleagues eager for the spotlight. And therein lies the problem.  The ego. Candidates want the top job for the wrong reason. General Ulysses Grant was a shy man who drank excessively not only to go into battle but in order to face people. To him, becoming President was his worst nightmare. But within days of winning the Civil War (there’s an irony in those words), his leader, President Lincoln, was slain and Grant knew that unless he ran for President everything that they had achieved in that long and bloody war would be undone. So, Grant sought the position not out of ego or a lust for power but out of a sense of duty to benefit the country he loved. People like this don’t come along often but history does have a habit of producing them at the right time.

I have met many politicians in Australia and Los Angeles in my time and save for a few good people, most of them were elitist phony snobs pretending to have a purpose in life. Having spent most of my years in the theatre I can judge a performance when I see one.  This great disappointment has made me totally apolitical. I am not a card carrying member of any political organisation so I am not shackled by party lines and rooting for “our” designated leader as if it were a football game. My party isn’t officially registered.  It is the Party of Common Sense. But no one is hated more these days than a free thinker. People have to categorise you. Put you in a convenient box and tick it. Sometimes I agree with the Left, sometimes I agree with the Right. It depends on what the issue is and what the arguments are. And when you think about it it’s the free thinkers that actually elect the government. The swinging voters, as they call them.

So at this time with all the problems facing our world I would implore voters to ignore the smear campaign ads, the dirt (whom amongst us can throw the first stone?), and all the manipulative side tracking issues they throw up to take our attention away from the real questions, like, “What are your policies?” “What are you going to do differently that you haven’t already done to disastrous effect?” “What are your plans to get people back to work?” and, if the heavenly powers above have stated that one must attempt to help one’s neighbours, “What are you going to do to ease the struggle of the aged and the unwell amongst us?”

Then take a good long look into their eyes and back your instinct on who, if any, are sincere and true.

After that, God bless us all and lead us not into the valley of darkness. Amen.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2016

 

 

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BOBBY DARIN AND THINGS (like a walk in the park)

Bobby Darin sacrificed himself to entertain us. Public adulation gave him life through one vein as much as it took from another. Once you’ve awakened that sleeping beast it can never be conquered – only lived with until that fateful day when your body becomes still from the exhaustion of hanging on too long.

Bobby now sits at a table with Hank Williams and they discuss loneliness and lost highways that bring you to nowhere. Oh Father where is art in thou heaven?  And why did you allow us to break our backs working in the fields only to have our crops contaminated by the ignorance of others?

Strike me down for uttering the truth.

Strike me down with the pain of living it.

Strike me down with the regret that I could’ve made a difference if only I’d wandered from your path.

Strike me down if you think it may help someone.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2016