Hallowe’en on the Town with John Hewitt but Far from Home

Generally I would be at home celebrating tonight with a not-terribly-thought-out costume,  a smoking bowl of dark-and-stormy, and a few  old friends. But instead I’m braving the night, the weather, and the Fæ by bumming around London — a city that long ago forgot about Hallowe’en — by myself.

The odds are against me bumping into any of you readers whilst I’m on the town (and also against us recognizing each other if we did).  So, instead of offering you a bowl of anything, I’ll leave this old poem of John Hewitt’s here.

At least it’s not a bad night for coming and going, and maybe we’ll all end up wandering into the places where we ought to be.

 

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Hallowe’en: Plugging the old Chapbook

If anyone is interested in reading something this Hallowe’en, my book Priceless Treasures and Ghastly is still available from the Oldstyle Tales Press. It’s a perfect book for sitting by the fire waiting for kids to stop by trick-or-treating, and short enough to read in one night.

And, if you order it now, it will arrive just before the fæ.

Michaelmass Eve

It’s Michaelmass (I believe it rhymes with ‘fickle miss’) Eve, the day in which we celebrate the archangels, and the celebration of the day Satan fell from heaven onto a blackberry bush.

Not uncoinsidentily it it also the day old Scratch laid a curse on the whole species of shrubbery.

It is not advisable to eat black berries after today.

It’s Not That I Forgot to Write

I have been off this blog for a while now, and long-time readers haven’t had any new material.

It has been a crazy few months. I am now living in Lithuania, working, adjusting, and trying to manage the language. I will keep posting irregularly, and those of you who are interested can see announcements of my new fiction pieces on my Facebook page.

Sips and Sounds: a Retrospective

NOTE: This was first published August 21st 2016.

 

NOTE: This was first published you-know-where August 21st 2016.

Last week I posted number five in my “Friday Night Sips and Sounds” series. The idea came to me because of the arbitrary association that I have between the song Bell Bottom  Blues and Tom Collinses.  There is also another blog that long paired belts and booze, which proved to be an inspiration, although I am a suspenders-man myself.   

I learned a few things from the experience.

First I learned that the series didn’t meet a pressing need in anyone. Pairing cocktails with old poems or songs seemed quite natural to me, the way pairing cocktails with cheese might be for someone else. The issue may be that I am quite picky with art and love cheese rather uncritically, and the opposite impulse is far commoner. And, whatever the case, nobody told me that their life had been transformed by the pairings, which might be for the best.

Second I learned that I had a lot of thoughts on these things already and I had unconsciously associated them in my mind long before I wrote them down.

Third I affirmed what I said in the first installment about bringing people together. I made each of the drinks for friends before I wrote about them and I tend to make them a little over-strong, and sometimes people would get a little tipsy, or maybe ever tiddly, but never so far as forschnookered. It may be that we are getting old. It may be that people don’t trust me to hold their hair. I suspect, however, that it has more to do with the social and indeed the ritual that comes along with these things. After all there are many elderly pukey-haired people out there, but they didn’t come my way.

 

 

A Drink and a Poem (The Mudslide and The Emperor of Ice Cream)

NOTE: This was first published on my old blog July 15th, 2016.

NOTE: This was first published on my old blog July 15th, 2016.
The Emperor of Ice Cream
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Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
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Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
–Wallace Stevens, 1922
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I read somewhere that the true use of literature is to help us understand why we do what we do, to uncover our true motives.
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And here are the motivations uncovered — ice cream.
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It’s hardly a surprise that lofty ideas sometimes lead to disappointment, and, in truth, our appetites can lead us to strange situations, not necessarily bad ones. They may lead us to do the right thing. They probably won’t, but they might. Even a small act of kindness — attending a funeral one doesn’t want to attend — can have good results.
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Stevens and I are both New Englanders and we all have an extravagant taste for ice cream. We eat a lot of it. One might think that Hawai’i would eat more but that isn’t really the case. Where we come from, ice cream is for all occasions — dolorous ones included.
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This poem is likely set in some place where people roll cigars, since there is a cigar roller (also Stevens used to vacation in a place with palm trees)  but I understand his impulse, because the impulse to ice cream belongs to the north.
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It is in this fine ice cream eating tradition that we drink the mudslide. In other places mudslides are a kind of gross cocktail with a cool name, because most people don’t know how to make them. The proper Mudslide (or Frozen Mudslide as it is sometimes called) is made in a blender with ice cream.
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Stevens — although he likely never had a mudslide in the prohibition-era stage in his  writing career  — would surly understand the overabundance and decadence of the mixed ice cream and booze.  It isn’t a way to stave off death, or forget one’s sorrows,  but a way to get all of one’s desires in a single glass, and to take it all in at once  — to be buried, perhaps smothered, by desire.
 .
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Repent. Repent. Repent.
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Notes:
* People who roll cigars are not called ‘rollists’ although they should be.
* Some simple drinks — like the first two discussed in the series — had been around since Victorian times.
* This is when complex mixed drinks were first coming into vogue so I guess the possibility that he had a mudslide is still there, but it seems unlikely.
* As far as lofty ideas go, I assume that for most of you ice cream in this case is a disappointment but what do I know?
* I really don’t like the word ‘decadence’ the way contemporary people use it. I may give into my appetites, but those appetites don’t involve anything decaying.
* The notes in this series don’t follow any particular order but nobody seems to have noticed.
* So you are wondering how it is made? a blender full of  vanilla ice cream, and a couple shots each of coffee liquor and vodka. I suggest some home made whipped cream for the top.
* This blog does not endorse doing the right thing for the wrong reasons on moral grounds.

A Drink and a Song (Bloody Caesar & Barrett’s Privateers)

NOTE: this was first posted on my old blog July 1st 2016.

NOTE: this was first posted on my old blog July 1st 2016.

Ten or so years ago I lent my copies of The Beautiful Losers and The Selected Poems of Leonard Cohen to a friend. When last I saw them a few years later they were on her bookshelf, which is as a good a place as any for them. I have so many books now that my living quarters are cramped and, no matter how hard I try, I really can’t stop new books from finding their way to me.

Still I would like to consult the Beautiful Losers every now and again. When I read it it seemed like all of Canada in a single book, and not in anyway that encouraged me to go there. If you have read the book you understand.

A few years after that I found myself at a New Year’s Eve party in Montreal with a Québécois Nationalist named Pierre, both of us literally moved to tears over the beauty and independent spirit of the province shackled to the brute and philistine Anglo-phonic world, while my much more sensible (and Canadian) friend calmly explained how independence would lead to social and economic ruin, not that we were listening — we were tipsily crying and calling out for freedom. That was, and will be, my last foray into foreign politics.  

Whether the book is definitive or not, Cohen, more than anyone else, represents Montreal but we didn’t sing Cohen’s songs going up (we had to sing naturally it being a road trip and all)if for no other reason than his songs are too personal and there is something a little skeevy about other people singing many of them. For instance “Famous Blue Rain Coat” not only is the only song written as a heart-felt thank you note to the man that who seduced and lead away his wife but is signed “Sincerely L. Cohen.”  For the most part his songs are his and we should be happy to keep them that way.  Whenever I have heard other people sing them it sounds tactless and intrusive.

More sensibly, we drove about singing “Barrett’s Privateers” by the great Stan Rogers. It is a boisterous mock sea chantey. It is perfect for people (at least one of whom needs a flawless memory for lyrics as there are many of them), to sing in groups, as it was written to be sung.

It should be dumb and kitschy, after all it is a 70s faux-folk tune about privateers and sea battles, but it is neither. There is something in the darkness of the lyrics and the rowdiness of the tune that has always agreed with me, ven touched me.  When I am listening to the album I sometimes have to skip the track because it can be too much, especially since it was written in the 70s and there is always the war in Viet Nam lurking behind it.

Our war for independence and freedom was just another imperial expedition for the boys on the other side, but we never really think about them.

We also never think of putting clams in our cocktails.  But that is also a very Canadian thing. The same friend who was trying to talk sense to me at that house party introduced me to the pride of Canadian cocktails: the Bloody Caesar. Clam Juice, Tomato(nonsensically you can get these two disparate liquids bottled together), Celery Salt, Worcestershire Sauce, and pepper, with a glug or so of vodka. The last time I made it an acquaintance from New Hampshire demanded hot sauce be added, and he added quite a bit.  I had half a glass and wasn’t sure that it improved the taste, but he had a pitcher-and-a-half and seemed quite pleased, so take it as an alternate recipe.

There is a bit more in common between “Barrett’s Privateers” and Bloody Caesars, than their pseudo-historical names. They are strong, bold, flavorful, and are the best remedies for those off-moments when the imagination strays north of the border and the body has to stay south for work the next day.

Notes:

* One may imagine from this article that I can speak French, and, while I was there, I imagined it too.

* The version of Famous Blue Rain Coat that I linked to is signed “Sincerely, A Friend.” But what does it matter,if one were to write the same letter over and over one would certainly make a few changes. I pretty sure the audience knew who he was anyway.

* I didn’t give the measurements because I don’t measure ingredients — it’s bourgeois.

*I may also add that the song was released in ‘76 — the year of our bicentennial. Maybe that is just a coincidence.

* There was also the war in the Falklands ahead of it. Things didn’t seem like they were getting better and they weren’t, but we are still hoping.