Notes from Underground
Today’s Feature: Prince Picnic by Clint Burnham
I want to tell you a story.
I was going to be my father. I was going to do what he did. I did not think their way there was any other way. He took me here and he took me here and he took me there. There were animals there we were in the bush and people died. They flew upside down and they died. They they sang songs in praise of dying. Before they died and after they died. They sang songs about killing themselves to protect the commonwealth.
There was a lodge, and the creature came from there. He came from when from he came to where we were in the school. I was a schoolboy. You you know this thing schoolboy? I was that I was the schoolboy.
I remember the camera as the bathroom sounds change to flushing and coughing. I hope the camera was on. Our viewers need the camera like a drunk needs to disappear. And we need what the camera adds to our bank account. We are purveyors of filth, commerçants of body corruption for the depraved minds who pleasure to the binge and purge my wife provides. She gluts and excretes, and we film, edit and sell the experience for a monthly or annual fee. Demand is high and business is good. At first we cowered before the audacity. It was too extreme, too transgressive. We worried about our souls, a legacy of God from our childhood dreaming. But as your cash grows zeroes at the end and you are free to buy the shiny, deluded treats of a decadent society, morality whimpers into a corner and shivers in a pool of its own piss. Smut, money and freedom, the unholy modern triumvirate. Continue Reading
Muttering and whispering her own bad poetry she’d slink secretively along through the cold frozen night of Montreal’s Westmount the few blocks from the bar to my place. Weaving in and out between the parked cars and ducking in behind trees and utility poles like a commando evading an enemy sniper. I’d left before her. No one at the bar was supposed to know we were meeting she insisted. Natalie wanted my drugs and booze and I wanted her insane enthusiastic sex. Hot young coke-whore meets horny older guy. Our needs were honest, delineated and always satisfied. I’d smack out a few fat lines on a mirror while she slowly struggled to undress fighting with her bra, so stoned, mystified like she’d never worn one of these harnesses before. A wild pony struggling to be free. Continue Reading
The other night I heard Paul Mauriat’s 1968 hit “Love Is Blue.” It’s forever associated with my childhood bedroom where I’d notate the weekly Top 40 while building model cars like this one, the purple Manta Ray, the only one I ever photographed.
My friend Paul’s father, who worked at the Ford plant just down US 1, always wore neatly ironed, striped linen shirts & combed his hair after his shower like he was in a rockabilly band, & maybe he had been. Like a young Frank Gorshin, with a smile sharp as a blade & stinking of a brisk splash of Aqua Velva, exhaling onto the couch after his shift, feet up on the coffee table, a bottle of Country Club – it’s called malt liquor because it’s a totally different kind of drink – in his right hand. Continue Reading
Why Jolene picked this rusty little town was something she had given more thought to than she let on. She would say that she liked the antique shops and the lake, that she had an uncle (not the blood kind, the family friend kind) who had lived here when she was young. It was the nature of the place and the quiet way of living that made it so special. It was a good place to get away from a city life that had turned rancid, she thought, but she didn’t say that. Continue Reading
The rules were that you had to give your name and occupation before reciting your first poem. Naturally, I tried to evade this unnecessary formality which to me seemed akin to a rooftop sniper announcing his name and address before firing upon the crowd below. But before I could begin they started yelling, “What’s your name?” Continue Reading
Following the rules really is so easy, military style; yes drill sergeant, no drill sergeant, all the while thinking: fuck you, drill sergeant. Once you learn how to effectively internalize your response, put on the required face, you have essentially won. I learn this the hard way, in the service, but more importantly is how I unlearn it.
Upon my return from basic training, I am emboldened, straight and taut from 300 sit-ups a day for eight weeks. I have a thoroughly unappealing arrogance about me, an arrogance I mistake for confidence. I am thrilled to see my father again — thrilled but cautious. I did not wear my dress greens or even my BDU’s, but a vintage Chanel dress bought at a Salvation Army in Columbia, South Carolina while on leave…
The Beer Mystic is Furman Pivo, a dreamer inhabiting the NYC of 1987. One night, like many other nights, Furman is drinking to slow the world down. He discovers himself drunk under a streetlight when suddenly this streetlight goes out, on the blink, extinguished – Poof! – it’s dark. In the ensuing weeks the same phenomenon occurs again, then again and again until the unusual becomes the uncanny, and perceived synchronicity is interpreted mystically – he begins to believe that he is the cause of these streetlight outages. And somewhere in the psychic seam between identity and delusion the Beer Mystic is born. Furman Pivo is inauspiciously called upon to become the Beer Mystic and beer does battle with light – beer vs. light, him vs. cars…. Continue Reading
I hadn’t been back to Edmonton in nearly 20 years, not since I’d passed through with my parents at age 15 on my way back to Vancouver. I took the airport shuttle downtown to the bus station then checked in at the Grand Hotel across the street. The hotel looked rundown, but the wooden awning out front and the cowboy bar on the ground floor lent it a frontier feel, made it an apt jumping off point for the journey that would take me to Fort McMurray and beyond to a North I hadn’t seen since just before I’d last seen Edmonton. Continue Reading
Four o’clock in the morning. I’m out again with strange men. Three this time. Gerald, Tyler and Mark. No, Mike. No, Alan. Shit, shit, shit. Mark. I’m sticking with Mark. I haven’t kissed him. He just moved to Toronto from Saskatchewan. He had a book of short stories published last year. No one noticed. Short stories, I told him. Fuck off. Why bother? Don’t you want to hunt the big beast? Don’t you want to rumble with the real men? The poets? he asked. Ha, ha. I sort of like him, but I’m drunk. Of course, I’m drunk. Gerald and Tyler both want to take me home. They’ve both had some success with me, and since the other side of midnight they’ve been competing to make me laugh.