HOME

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

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SLANDERED

Come to think of it, I have been slandered most of my life, one way or another. I guess it’s the price you pay for getting off your ass, sticking your neck out, and achieving something. Of course you sometimes stumble, that’s comes with the territory and sadly those moments will be the only ones your enemies cling to. It disappoints but makes you harder. At those times it will be difficult to see the humanity in others and to hold onto your belief that at the heart of all things lies a goodness. But in order to do your best work you must struggle to believe in those things even if you are bereft of evidence.

Why do people who know better, or should, slide to slander another? Envy? Ignorance? To elevate themselves at another’s expense? Or something far darker?

Wilheim Reich once wrote a book entitled “The Murder of Christ” – its conceit was that the murder of Christ keeps on being perpetrated. In a nutshell, all of us are born with a light force but most have it beaten out of us in childhood through dysfunctional parents or a school system that turns circles into squares. Those of us that retain that child-like light force, or positive openness to life, are doomed to ridicule, slander and the spiteful, destructive actions of others. The soul destroying realization is that most of these negative attacks are from those who profess to be friends.

According to Reich these people are mostly unaware of their actions or intentions. It is as if your mere existence irritates them. You see, light will always attract to itself the darkness that cannot rest until it has extinguished it.

The celebrated writer Arthur Miller, who was always reticent to discuss his ex-wife Marilyn Monroe, once said, “It’s strange, but that girl seemed to draw to herself the very people who would destroy her.”

I have had my integrity attacked by law breakers; my talent questioned by people who couldn’t spell their name; my vision ridiculed by hacks who couldn’t direct traffic (and then went on to publicly prove it), my sanity tested by the mentally impaired, my compassion thrown back in my face by those whose dictionary does not contain the word “empathy”, and judged by thieves in a world where only materialistic items and wealth are valued.

I once stood up over a principal – I refused to work with a man who broke the law. In order to be rid of him I had to burn the fort. And myself. I once told Warren Zevon that story and not long after he wrote a song called, “I Was In The House When The House Burned Down.” Yep. I have the scars to prove it.

And yes, the days do grow short when you reach September. My life has been simplified by circumstance and I’ve paid greatly for that principal. I guess I grew up watching too many Gary Cooper films where the hero risked it all but won in the final reel. But they were just movies. Wish fulfillment. Childish dreams of a more just world.

More people have been murdered by words than by a gun or a sword. There are many killers amongst us who think by spreading unfounded gossip they don’t have blood on their hands.

The truth is, in the end, it doesn’t much matter to most people. And, sadly, neither does the truth. We live in a modern world where it is no longer respected. People are only interested in the abridged Readers Digest version that they can misquote at dinner parties in-between snorting lines of coke and boring everyone senseless with tales about how busy they are on their journey to death. They get their news from gossip rags like the National Enquirer, or some other celebrity dirt publication. They form their views from Chinese Whispers. They get their music lessons from Nero.

Your only reward in a Spartan life is to sleep the sleep of the just. And being able to look at your own reflection without flinching.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2014

 

BOOZE AND DRUGS

There’s a great scene in “Breaking Bad” where Walt White and Hank, his DEA brother-in-law, discuss the thin line between what’s legal and what’s not. And that even good people can topple over sometimes onto the wrong side of the line for the simplest of things.

Much has been made of Robin Williams’ on and off drug problems and struggle with alcohol, but I would suggest when he decided to end it all he was straight.

On October 28, 1919 – a date that will live in infamy if not the annals of stupidity – the U.S. Congress passed the Volstead Act over President Wilson’s veto and prohibited the sale of alcohol to the public. And what was the effect of that? It made gangsters like Al Capone very wealthy men. By 1925, in New York alone, there were, estimated, between 30,000 and 100,000 speakeasy clubs. The moral of the story? If people want something bad enough they’ll get it. Making it illegal just insures that you have to pay inflated prices for it and deal with criminals and underworld characters that brings with it its own dangers.

When Hollywood previewed the Brian DePalma remake of “The Untouchables” they found they had a major problem with it. The audience were rooting for Al Capone over the do-good law enforcement Prohibition Agent Eliot Ness. And why not? The latter was hell-bent on denying the public booze. So the studio had to shoot an extra scene early in the movie that showed Capone’s men placing a bomb in a store that wouldn’t pay protection money and a little kid was killed, thus turning the audience’s sympathy from Capone to Eliot Ness.

So, in those dim dark ages, if you knocked three times on a speakeasy door and gave the right password, you were let in to have a scotch or a gin or whatever alcoholic beverage you were seeking. Oh, and you were considered a criminal.

Alcohol was banned to stop people over-indulging. That’s like banning food because some people over-eat. I think it’s always a very dark and sinister act when the government attempts to control what should be, in a free society, one’s personal choice and responsibility.

I would argue that cigarettes have killed more people than alcohol. Why don’t we ban those? And how ineffective would that be? Again, we’d just give a lot of criminals a new business opportunity and make them a fortune. And we’d end up paying $100 for a pack of cigarettes.

In 1922, during the alcohol prohibition years, cocaine was also banned and thus another substance, that had been legal and freely available, was given over to the underworld to boost their pockets.

The celebrated Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, himself a cocaine user, prescribed the substance to his patients believing it was a cure for depression and sexual impotence. In 1884 he published an article “Uber Coca” which promoted the “benefits” of cocaine, calling it a “magical” substance.

In 1886 it got a further boost when John Pemberton included coca leaves as an ingredient in his new soft drink, Coca-Cola. This new drink was also considered to be, ironically, a cure for a hangover caused by an over-indulgence in alcohol.

During the early 1900s, cocaine and opium-laced elixirs (magical or medicinal potions), tonics and wines were broadly used by people of all social standings. Notable figures who promoted the “miraculous” effects of cocaine included inventor Thomas Edison and actress Sarah Bernhardt.

By 1905 it became popular to snort it. By 1912 The United States government reported 5000 related deaths in one year due to an over-use of cocaine. By 1922 it was officially banned, which, when news reached Sherlock Holmes it probably resulted in his suicide by throwing himself off the Reichenbach Falls.

So, like alcohol, it was not the substance itself that was lethal but rather some people’s over-use of it.

Did you know if you drink too much water you can die from it? All we need is 5000 of us to do that in any one year and perhaps they’ll ban that too.

What I’m getting at is where does one’s own personal responsibility come into it? And where’s the line where the government intervenes into our lives and criminalizes something because some people are over-indulging?

I used to listen to a talkback radio guy in L.A who was a Libertarian. Their political philosophy upholds liberty as the principal objective. Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association and the primacy of human judgment.

A woman’s debate about the right to abortion is that “it is my body and the government does not own it and anything I wish to do with it should be my choice and not theirs.”

Well then, it you want to take that debate further, and not that much further, isn’t it also correct that if I own my own body then I should be allowed to do whatever I want with it? Is it not my own personal choice if I want to drink a gallon of scotch, or shoot up heroin, or snort cocaine, smoke a carton of cigarettes, or my smelly socks for that matter? And if I’ve had enough of this life isn’t it also my right to end it? Surely it only becomes a matter for law enforcement if we are intoxicated, or high or suicidal and get behind the wheel of a car? Because by doing that we are putting other people’s lives at stake. People who have chosen to want to live. Then, of course, it becomes a concern for society at large.

John Lennon once had a hit with a song that said, “Whatever gets you through the night is alright…”

I try to get through this life attempting to be as non-judgmental of others as possible. Unless of course they steal from me or attempt to harm me. If someone is struggling and needs prescription drugs to get through, or need to self-medicate themselves with something that makes them feel better, what business is it of ours? My sympathy is with those that need it, and also my prayers. But to judge Robin Williams or Jim Morrison or Heath Ledger or Elvis or any of the millions of people out there is an act of arrogance and shows a severe lack of empathy for the pain they may be carrying. Perhaps those people who sit in judgment in their ivory towers need to come down and fuck themselves.

How do you end the drug wars and get rid of the criminal element in one swift and effective move? You legalize it. At least then there would be some monitor on exactly what people are taking and what amount. And perhaps if it is noticed that some are in such pain they are over-indulging then maybe some counseling could be recommended. But again, it would be one’s personal choice as to whether they accepted that or not.

In California now and in some other U.S. states “pot” is legal with a medical prescription. Have people gone mad with it? Of course not. They buy what they need to get them through the week and go home. Like buying a 6 pack of beer.

Cannabis oil has also proven to be a great help in prolonging and enhancing the lives of cancer patients.

Believe it or not Richard Nixon was the first President that believed drug addicts should not be treated as criminals but instead needed counseling. It would certainly free up law enforcement officers to focus on more important crimes, like people murdering each other. Or the next terrorist attack.

And besides, I would’ve thought the Government would prefer us all to be medicated anyway, so that our anger would be numbed to what idiots they are.

Anyway, just thinkin’ out loud.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

P.F. SLOAN

it was the season of youth
 when the music was sublime and everything was filled with
 wonder
 and
 possibilities
 even for a poor kid who hated school
 if the music hadn't saved me
 i may've realized how dangerous my future looked
 in the eyes of the realists
 and those who suck the joy out of everything
 but lennon's voice sneered in their ear
 and defended me
 and paul sugar coated it
 so even
 the establishment unwittingly accepted the
 revolution
 while sweet George
 played the guitar breaks that
 implanted themselves
 in our psyche
 ringo conjured up beats
 that shouldn't make sense
 but made us all want to dance
 then a song
 "eve of destruction"
 came on the radio
 and foretold us all
 what the truth was
 that
 there were shadow people
 who didn't
 dance
 and
 hellbent on
 destroying our world
 and us
 a brave man must've written
 this
 song
 i feared they would make him pay
 and
 they did
 i looked for his name under the song title
 on the record
 it was
 p.f. sloan
 i loved the name
 even
 and i then after noticed
 that he had written
 so many songs
 that i'd loved
 that he must be the fifth beatle?
 maybe?
 he could've been
 thought i
 but i was just a kid
 and the soundtrack of my life
 was being written
 by
 giants
 whose like we wouldn't
 much
 see again
 i even bought his own record
 the 45rpm
 p.f. sloan was now in bigger letters on the label
 of him singing
 his own song
 "sins of a family"
 on dunhill records
 and he warned me again
 of the world
 and what can happen
 to
 those whose
 innocence and light
 distance you
 from the
 shadow makers
 and that the
 enemy may've even infiltrated
 your own
 family
 but
 he had said too much
 rocked the boat
 sang in a voice
 that raged
 and was defiant
 he must be
 a
 communist
 said the men of darkness
 we can't categorize him
 which
 makes him a threat
 to what we know
 and the system
 of
 counting beans
 and labeling tins
 and there were others
 envious of his talent
 and light
 and
 youth
 so the people who gave him to us
 eventually took him from us
 one of his publicity photos
 shows him holding his guitar
 as though it's a machine gun
 little did I know
 he was caught up
 in a battle
 of a war
 that no one wins
 then oneday
 p.f.sloan went away
 disappeared
 became a mystery
 he took something of me with him
 that day
 i eagerly awaited
 his return
 checking the writing
 credits of every record
 just in case
 but alas
 gone
 no more
 i waited 40 years for his return
 in the meantime
 his legend grew
 even his protégé
 jimmy webb wrote a song for him
 about him
 "i have been seeking p.f.sloan
 but no one knows where he has gone..."
 if jimmy couldn't find him
 how could i?
 then
 one night
 in los angeles
 when I was lost
 and at bazza's place
 i surfed the internet
 and typed in his name
 that magical name
 and there he was
 we met
 we became friends
 like it had always
 been
 destined
 that we would
 we
 talked
 and found
 that we had
 traveled a similar
 road
 he had been banished
 from the industry for 40 years
 me for ten
 we were brothers in hurt
 and strength
 and
 every minute i spent with him
 inspired
 me
 enlightened
 me
 and
 even when we
 were far apart
 half a world away
 we
 still felt connected
 in song
 in spirit
 and...every day
 when i think of him
 i smile
 he
 came back into the world
 reborn
 with one last album
 "my beethoven"
 and a book that explained it all
 "what's exactly the matter with me?" (written with Steve Feinberg)

then...
he disappeared on us all
again
beyond his control
but this time we may not have to wait so long
to meet up...
and one night
in that other world
we'll
sit at dan tana's again
over a martini
and without a word
connect
for there is magic
if you believe
it
so
and
i do

(c) Frank Howson

IN A WORLD GONE MAD

You will probably not believe this!… And it is a true story! A man living in Kandos (near Mudgee in NSW, Australia) received a bill for his as yet unused new gas line stating that he owed $0.00. He ignored it and threw it away. In April he received another zero bill and threw that one away too. The following month the gas company sent him a very nasty note stating that they were going to cancel his gas line if he didn’t send them $0.00 by return mail.

He called them, talked to them, and they said it was a computer error and they would take care of it. The following month he decided that it was about time that he tried out the troublesome gas line figuring that if there was usage on the account it would put an end to this ridiculous predicament. However, when he went to use the gas, it had been cut off. He called the gas company who apologised for the computer error once again and said that they would take care of it. The next day he got a bill for $0.00 stating that payment was now overdue.

Assuming that having spoken to them the previous day the latest bill was yet another mistake, he ignored it, trusting that the company would be as good as their word and sort the problem out.The next month he got a bill for $0.00. This bill also stated that he had 10 days to pay his account or the company would have to take steps to recover the debt. Finally, giving in, he thought he would beat the gas company at their own game and mailed them a cheque for $0.00. The computer duly processed his account and returned a statement to the effect that he now owed the gas company nothing at all.

A week later, the manager of the Mudgee branch of the Westpac Banking Corporation called our hapless friend and asked him what he was doing writing a cheque for $0.00. COULD YOU BELIEVE THOSE MORONS WOULD ACTUALLY WRITE OUT A BANKING SLIP FOR $0.00.

After a lengthy explanation the bank manager replied that the $0.00 cheque had caused their cheque processing software to fail. The bank could therefore not process ANY cheques they had received from ANY of their customers that day because the cheque for $0.00 had caused the computer to crash.The following month the man received a letter from the gas company claiming that his cheque had bounced and that he now owed them $0.00 and unless he sent a cheque by return mail they would take immediate steps to recover the debt. JUST THINK THESE PEOPLE BREED.

At this point, the man decided to file a debt harassment claim against the gas company. It took him nearly two hours to convince the clerks at the local courthouse that he was not joking. They subsequently helped him in the drafting of statements which were considered substantive evidence of the aggravation and difficulties he had been forced to endure during this debacle. The matter was heard in the Magistrate’s Court in Mudgee and the outcomewas this: The gas company was ordered to:

[1] Immediately rectify their computerised accounts system or show cause, within 10 days, why the matter should not be referred to a higher court for consideration under Company Law.

[2] Pay the bank dishonour fees incurred by the man.

[3] Pay the bank dishonour fees incurred by ALL of the Westpac clients whose cheques had been bounced on the day our friend’s had been processed.

[4] Pay the claimant’s court costs; and

[5] Pay the claimant a total of $1500 per month for the 5 month period March to July inclusive as compensation for the aggravation they had caused their client to suffer.

And all this over $0.00. Who employs these idiots? This story can also be viewed on the ABC website.

THE WOUNDED OUTNUMBER THE DEAD

Howie Gordon looked out his tenth storey window at Beverly Hills below him. He observed the people rushing to and fro, or stuck in traffic on this Friday afternoon, and thought about how every one of them down there has a story. And they carry hope and hurt with them every day, and still try to function enough to make a living. It’s a big balancing act for most of ‘em and sometimes they topple over from the weight.

Howie was toppling but thankfully no one had noticed. Yet. For thirty-five years he had been one of the top agents in the movie industry and represented the who’s who of anyone’s dream list.

He had come up the hard way from the mail room boy, to gofer, to assistant, to whatever they threw at him. All the time watching and taking note of how the big guys worked. They all had one thing in common – they were obsessive. And generally rude unless it was someone they were trying to schmooze into leaving another agency for theirs, or lunching with a producer. As an agent your producer contacts and friends were your lifeblood.

It used to be one helluva ride. In those days he’d been fueled by a lust for power that was considered awesome by some, and frightening for the rest. No one got in Howie Gordon’s way. He had blood on his hands and was old enough to see it. Maybe that’s why he compulsively washed his hands every hour on the hour. He had killed many careers in his time. Squashed people out of existence over some slight that had offended him. Most times the imagined offender had no idea why his phone stopped ringing. Once you became “phone dead” in this town, it was all over. Sometimes you were the last to know.

Howie had been with some of the most beautiful and famous women in the world. Legends. Married a few of them too. He’d also balled all the prettiest young starlets that came through his office in search of a break. Howie was Number One so he got the cream of the crop. Some of them would do anything. He felt ashamed of some of the things he’d made these young women do. But it was as if he was fascinated to see how far someone would go before they lost themselves and everything they had been raised by. There weren’t too many female stars that hadn’t spent at least one night in his Benedict Canyon mansion. He could be very charming. Right up to the time he no longer took your calls.

Like most insatiable ladies men, somewhere along the line he realized that it wasn’t the sex act that was driving him on. It was about the conquest. It was about the ego. It was about him. He needed to be wanted. Desired. Adored. In his den he had thousands of deteriorating home videos of him performing sex acts on some of the most iconic actresses of his era. But he hadn’t watched any of them in years. He hated movies.

Although he was not a religious man, he had heard a Biblical quote some years back, maybe in a movie, that now kept repeating in his head, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”

He feared he had passed his use-by date and that people were too polite to tell him. He had anxiety attacks and took medication for them. He sometimes felt like he had stage fright when he went into a meeting. It made no sense. All of his life he’d had such control and now…he felt like he was coming apart. He took downers to go to sleep. He smoked meth to wake-up. He took Viagra to fuck. He drank alcohol only because he’d done it so long now it was a habit. He smoked the occasional joint to relax. He took cocaine to feel normal. Well, to feel anything actually. He ordered meals in all the best restaurants and just stared at his plate. He was a man alone at the best table in the house. “There goes Howie Gordon, he orders a $50 meal and leaves a $500 tip! And why? Because he can.”

He often wondered if his life would be more tolerable if he’d had children. But then again, he’d always been so busy he would hardly have established a relationship with them. And now they’d be grown strangers. And who needed any more strangers in your life?

He only played golf because it was a good way to do business. He read scripts because he had to. He generally slept through movie screenings because everybody in the industry knew all the best ones had been made years ago.

He was finding it difficult to drive these days. His mind kept wandering and suddenly he’d be having conversations with ghosts from twenty years ago. Sometimes he’d catch himself as his car was veering across the line into oncoming traffic.

His thoughts were sometimes very dark and were filled with scenarios involving suicide and how best he could do it. Rather than frighten him, these imaginings gave him a sense of pleasure. Release. Comfort.

He always ended up at Santa Monica Beach at around midnight. One night the police had had to retrieve him from the dark water. He had wandered out into the darkness in his Armani suit and was just standing there breast deep in black water. Some guy who was cruising the beach saw him and called the cops.

He thought about Mary Krimshaw and wondered what had happened to her. She so believed in him. She had come to Hollywood to be a star and ended up in Howie’s bed. The tragedy was she’d actually had the talent to achieve her dream but fell in with the wrong people. Well, with Howie. He often thought of her. Sometimes he felt she was the only one who’d ever really loved him. And he destroyed her. Tired of her. And passed her onto some producer friends who wasted her time too. Had he pimped out the only true thing in his life? Degraded it to something he could understand?

He could still see her bright, beautiful face and that smile that’d light up your life. She had been so young and full of hopes and dreams and vitality.

I’m sorry, Mary…I’m so sorry…” he often mumbled in his office. Well, that’s what his secretary thought he said.

Howie hated going into restaurants that he wasn’t familiar with. Several times he’d been served by waitresses he recognized as starlets who could’ve made it only for him. One of them had been a breathtaking beauty in her prime and Howie became so guilt-stricken when he saw her that he emptied his wallet into her hand and left. He would’ve paid anything to get out of there. There were ghosts everywhere.

He often thought of Robert Wardling who could’ve been one of the great screenwriters but Howie resented his good looks and easy going charm, especially when it’d worked on a few of the same women he was seeing. It only took 12 phone calls to kill Wardling’s career. But there you have it.

It was almost home time. Another Friday done, deadlines met, deals put to bed, careers stabilized. Howie told his secretary to book him his table at Dan Tana’s for 9pm. That would give him time to drive home, have a scotch on ice by the swimming pool he’d never entered, a bath, dress, a gram of the finest cocaine and sit at Dan Tana’s staring into another beautiful meal that would go untouched.

“The salt is tasteless…” he muttered to himself as an attentive waiter replaced the salt shaker and apologized.

The great Howie Gordon looked over at the bar and several attractive women smiled at him. They either knew who he was or were hookers smelling a well-heeled john. But it didn’t matter anymore. Life had as little meaning to him as the last couple of movies he’d had to stay awake through to please a client.

He wondered what Mary Krimshaw was doing tonight. And where. For all he knew she may be dead. As dead as him.

A little after midnight, Howie Gordon opened the drawer of his bedside table, took his Smith and Wesson snub-nosed pistol and placed a bullet in his temple. Then everything went to black. Just like a movie did at the end before the credits rolled.

Hollywood was in shock when the news broke. There was the usual outpouring of gushy love, glowing obits and tribute pieces. Another of the greats had gone was the feeling of the day. No one could understand why a man who had everything would take his own life.

Somewhere in Ohio, a hotel receptionist by the name of Mary Krimshaw cried.

(c) 2014

ANGRY OLD MAN

Angry old man
Lashing out at others
Always right
Even when he’s wrong
He once was someone
But the king is dead
Killed by his courtiers
Long live the fool
He played too long
Cheating on past loves
Now his room is empty
And his world is TV
He has gone deaf
To drown out words too painful
He is blind
To avoid seeing what others see
He has a woman
Who’s with him when it’s convenient to her
And when it’s not
She disappears
Only to return
When his life’s back on track
So she can fall asleep
On someone else’s bed
She berates him with cruelty
And laughs in his face
Her love is built on hatred
But he’s addicted to free falling
In her mind and emotions
She is twelve years of age
They have nothing in common
But the wasting of their time
Everything he has is hers
Everything she has is hers
Hawks do not share
He’s become the most pathetic of all God’s creatures
A silly old fool
And when he looks in the mirror
There’s nobody there
But in his mind he’s still king
Banishing those that tell him the truth
He will charge you with lying
If you catch him distorting fact
He collects people
Like they are trophies
And he’ll place you in a room
And turn out the light
He has descended from the mount
With his tablets of the law
But his congregation’s deserted
There’s no one there anymore
The final stage
Is three doors down the corridor
You can find it in the dark
If you close your eyes and feel

(c) Frank Howson 2014