I was on my own today, chilling out at a coffee outlet. Every table was occupied, some by couples, some by solitaries like me. I chose one of the latter, an unassuming bloke roughly my age sitting across from me, staring dreamily into the distance. He looked harmless. I sat down. And then it started: a dreary monologue that lasted forty minutes. The events narrated could have filled several novels, rambling doorstoppers. I saw my opportunity when he excused himself to go to the toilet. I made my escape, vowing from now on when I felt like solitude to wear a placard around my neck, saying something like ‘Please Do Not Disturb’ or’ Beware. Dangerous When Approached.

 

First let me state I look nothing like Elvis. I do not dress like him. Nor have I appeared in a string of hokey films like Elvis. Secondly, I do not sing like Elvis. In fact, I cannot sing at all and have been told on numerous occasions that I have a tin ear. There is, however, one small but significant way in which I do impersonate Elvis, albeit unintentionally.

Let me explain. My girlfriend and I from time to time watch old VHS tapes incorporating interviews with and concert footage of Elvis. We both love the way he says, “Thank you very much.” Lately we have come to practice saying this like Elvis within the confines of the house for our own enjoyment. Unfortunately it has carried outside to shopping malls and public transport where in gratitude for some service or other provided one of us says, “thank you very much.” One middle-aged shop assistant said, “My god, you sound just like Elvis.” Needless to say that encouraged us all the more. Now we are incorrigible.

 

I’ve seen many one-legged seagulls on the beach, a few three-legged cats and dogs and once a six-legged spider but never an insect with half its legs missing; yet this pale green-stick insect hobbled along the arm of the deck chair where I was reading; was he a disabled veteran from some recent war among the stick insects or a messenger warning me of crippling times ahead?

Later that day a millipede crossed my path; it too had limbs missing but I did not bother to count nor reflect upon its meaning; I was ready for whatever oddities nature might cast my way: a horizontal rainbow, a kitten with three eyes, an albino tree frog, anything.

 

I have just written a poem.
I read it to my granddaughter.
“Hey! Great last line,” she says.
“But what about the rest of the poem?” I say.
‘Okay but great last line!”
I go back to the poem.
Read it a few times.
It really is a great last line.
So what I do is this:
I jettison the rest of the poem and just keep the last line.
I read it a few times.
Suddenly it is not so great.
I read it to her.
She hesitates.
I read it to her again.
“It seems to lack something,” she says.
I put the poem back together like it was.
I read it to her.
“Hey! Great last line,” she says.

 

 

I love writing riddles. I love reading them. I have over ten published ones and many more I have not yet submitted. Here is one of them with an abrupt but apt ending. Do you know what it is?

I have many legs
Yet do not walk or crawl.
I still stand upright
My legs one and all;
In two different worlds
I’m sturdy as can be.
I end in a cliff.

What am I?

 

 

I have just written a poem in the pool. It has nothing to do with water. It came to me from a line in a text message my gal sent me yesterday and as such, I suppose, it qualifies as a ‘found poem.’ She will not see it till tomorrow so you have a sneak preview:

Cosy

We sit side by side on the sofa watching
Tennis from a faraway land.
The wood heater settles in for the evening
Its embers glow like a fiery sunset.
I feel cosy in your love, she says.
I’ve never been compared to a wood heater,
I smile.

 

 

 

 

A Lana Del Ray song is strange. So too is a poem by Emily Dickinson and the paintings of Picasso. And so too as James Walton tells us in an article in the nyrb* are the novels of James Bond as written by Ian Fleming of which there are but twelve. ‘One of the main achievements of SOLO, [the new Bond novel by William Boyd], is to remind us of the irreducible strangeness of the original books’. The films of Tim Burton are equally strange. And though strangeness by itself is not a guarantee of great and enduring art it seems to be a defining feature.

What do you think?
*June 5,2014

 

A man should be able to forget his past and I should stop wondering what happened on that Thanksgiving night in 1981 on a boat at Catalina Island off Los Angeles. But I can’t. Not when that man is omnipresent as Christopher Walken. Whenever I switch on a movie channel he appears.

He has never publicly spoken of that night when he, Robert Wagner and his glamorous film star wife, Natalie Wood, filming at the time the sci-fi thriller ‘Brainstorm’, drank and argued about the projectory of her career and of her relationship with Walken with whom she was rumoured to be having an affair. Intoxicated, Natalie went up on deck. Some hours later her body was found, floating face down on the ocean swell. What happened? We’ll never know.

Christopher Walken continues to appear in films, apparently untouched by the tragedy of that night. Good on him! A man should be able to forget his past. Things happen. Sometimes no one is to blame. A unique set of circumstances occur and someone dies. One has to carry on. He brings to acting a unique sensibility. His range is wide. His oeuvre immense. He still delights us on the screen and will continue to do so, it is hoped, for many years.

 

Daniel Keyes died yesterday. In 1945 he was waiting for an elevated train to take him from Brooklyn to New York University. While he was standing around doing nothing he had this thought: My education is driving a wedge between me and the people I love. What would happen if it were possible to increase a person’s intelligence?

That thought became the novella ‘Flowers For Algernon’ which was published 15 years later in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and won the Hugo award for the best short fiction in 1960. Later it was made into the film ‘Charly’ starring Cliff Robertson. Generations of high school students have studied this classic story since. Some have gone onto write stories of their own while waiting at bus stops.

What would happen if Keyes played around with his iPad or Smart Phone while waiting? Do you ever just wait or do you incessantly fiddle with electronic devices?

 

 

I am of the firm opinion that after decades of experimentation and reading on the subject — though it is a matter little discussed in cooking manuals  or addressed in our culture — that there is only one way to serve toast and that is cold! More precisely it should be spread some minutes after it pops up from the toaster so the jam or honey doesn’t ‘sink in’ but sits on the cool firm surface of the toast. Ideally it should be eaten slowly and thoughtfully while rereading an article from some journal like the TLS or New York Review of Books. I have written a thesis on this topic but sadly it has not yet been accepted.

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