Thailand Footprint: The People, Things, Literature, and Music of Thailand and the Region

Posts by Kevin Cummings

Bangkok based crime fiction writer, Anthony Perry

(Photograph by Jim Darkle)

I am a big fan of Christopher Hitchens. His stance on the Iraq War never bothered me much. You weren’t a real fan of Hitch if that swayed you away. Nobody’s perfect. Hitchens left behind a lot of wisdom. Among the quotes I like of his is this one:


“One should try to write as if posthumously. Because then you’re free of all the inhibition that can cluster around even the most independent-minded writer. You don’t really care about public opinion now, you don’t mind about sales, you don’t care what the critics say. You don’t even care what your friends, your peers, your beloved think. You’re free. Death is a very liberating thought. ” Christopher Hitchens

Anthony Perry is not perfect either. Given enough time I am convinced I will become a fan of the author, too. In fact I already am, although I have not read his novel, Lyle’s Grief, yet. 

Why a fan, you might ask?

I did read this one and only passage written by Anthony Perry in a Facebook Thailand Expat Writer’s List group. Out of the blue, it seemed to me, Anthony wrote:

I wasted decades smoking weed, heroin, cocaine, stealing, collecting holocaust art, Alfred Manning, Russel Flint, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Thomas Moorcroft, Royal Worcester, Georgian Silver and obsessing over chemical equilibrium. Along the way I had five children, five black children cursed with a white junkie dad. I hope I’m not the only father looking back with regret and feeling unloved.

Another fine writer in that group commented, “I wanna read more”. That’s exactly how I felt. Anthony Perry was taking Hitchens advice and executing it. He was also killing it as a writer or so I thought. In one paragraph, consisting of three sentences, I gleaned that Mr. Perry is not a man who cares much about public opinion, I doubt he cares about what his critics have to say, and I am not even sure he cares about what his friends, his peers, and his beloved think – about this one paragraph anyway. As for sales of his books, I’ll guess that’s not a major concern of his either. In short, what Anthony appeared to me to be was a liberated writer, someone writing freely, as if he were already dead. That last sentence of his would make for a fine dying utterance in a noir novel. 

This author was worth some further investigation. So I contacted Anthony Perry and asked if I could interview him for this blog. Friendly guy that he is, he has obliged. One of the first questions I asked Anthony was, “How old are you?”. He replied, “As old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth.” Before I begin my first interview of a Bangkok based author in the seventh year of this blog, here is some information you can find about Anthony, which I have summarized from his Amazon author page:

If you want to know what year Anthony was born it can be found easy enough. I prefer the mystery of it all. 

In his twenties, Anthony became a heroin addict. An addiction that lasted fifteen years. During that time there were stints in prisons in his native England and abroad. In the year 2000 Anthony underwent a successful nine-week detox program in Portugal and has remained drug free.

After rehab he went to college and studied counseling for four years. Upon graduating he became an addiction counselor and has worked in various prisons and treatment centers throughout London, where he still lives part of each year. Anthony has taught poetry classes for the homeless and art classes for people with HIV and AIDS. He now devotes his time to a life of writing crime fiction and helping others recover from addiction. 

Lyle’s Grief is his first novel.

 
 
KC:  Welcome, Anthony. Do you live in Bangkok? If so, talk about a random interaction you’ve had recently in the CIty of Angels. 
AP: Yes, I live in Bangkok for 8 months of the year.
Two days ago I was sitting upstairs in a members room of a cigar bar in Soi 24. Myself, six other men who are multi-millionaire businessmen, and a 22 yr old Thai-Chinese woman. I asked her at what age did she realize the effect she had on men. With that, the whole room fell into silence in eager anticipation of her answer. Bearing in mind three of the men were married to Thai women, I guess they had a special interest. She sat bolt upright and simply replied, “Power and control.” At that point, I heard a couple of nervous squeaks coming from her audience. I abstained from further questioning because I got the answer I wanted everyone else to hear. To cut a long story short she held court gathering information about how best she would obtain a USA visa. I evaluated she was starring in her own feature film by demonstrating her sense of power and control. I wanted to leave but stayed around thirty minutes before doing so. The music in the background was too loud for me, and the semi soprano singer was trying to sound cool and jazzy, and I detached and all around me it was a nightmare. 
 
KC: What is your first memory of illegal drugs? How much did you spend on drugs during your time as an addict?
AP:: My first clinical experience of mood change was in 1962 with Purple Hearts. I smoked weed and hash every day from most countries who farmed for commercial reasons. Although I always felt paranoid, I think the mood change is what I had become obsessed with. After breaking my back in 1971 I soon found relief with Heroin. At the time I had an antique shop. Heroin was £100 a gramme, and I needed to fund my habit. I used the Times tabloid and always checked out obituary columns to find abandoned properties that housed aristocracies precious items.
This is my first roll-call. Cost of my drug habit was around £5.2 million, but my addiction cost me much more. I gambled from the age of fifteen. However, my addiction cost a whole lot more than money.
 
KC:  What is the criminal justice system like in the United Kingdom? Does it work or is it broken?
AP: The simplest answer I can give it’s corrupted, its always worked and its always been broken. There are and always have been special open prisons for white collar crimes. Fraud, big money fraud usually carried around a two-year sentence, and that’s why it’s corrupt and has always been broken. One tiny example of this is the MPs expenses scandal and just the one was imprisoned. The government funds various organisations for drug rehabilitation, and most clients are in the criminal justice system. As soon as someone is held in police custody a drugs worker asks if they have a drug problem. The government have a system in operation that requests KPT (key performance targets), and this enables them to state figures which imply the government are doing a great job. Most first time prisoners reach the status of a repeat offender.
 
 
Anthony Perry at play
 
KC: Tell me about your time in the hoity-toity art world? Do you have any Lucien Freud or famous client stories, per chance? 
AP: I sold art and antiques for many years and my clients were among London’s top auction houses. I bought a large collection of art from Phillipe Le Bon, a leading pioneer in cosmetic surgery and hair transplants. He was a collector and was grieving the loss of his wife Pandora Astor. He was a using friend of mine for many years and we cleaned up together but Phillipe relapsed and lost the desire to stop. I attended auctions across the UK and bought art mainly for American clients.
Lucien was a compulsive gambler. He ran into our club with a painting for £275.00 to gamble one time. He offered it to my Jewish friend and I bought it. I also bought a few nice pieces from Lord Lucan (John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan). Lucan gambled in Curzon st Mayfair. He did too much cocaine and famously killed his Nanny.
 
KC:  Talk about your first novel Lyle’s Grief and how would you classify your writing style? 
AP: Lyle’s Grief is about a black female detective murder squad chief. I attempted to highlight the consequences of slavery. Missy Lyle’s only son committed suicide under the strange mix of Heroin, Cocaine, Hallucinogenics, and Amphetamines. My writing style for me is difficult to evaluate, but I tend to describe my characters as not being off the cuff.
 
KC: Are you in control of your demons or vice versa.
AP: No, I am never going to be in control of my demons and I hope they will never be in control of me. After 15 years of trying to control my demons, I surrendered and waved the white flag and it has been raised for almost nineteen years. I do this by talking with other recovering addicts. I found listening to the insanity of addiction and working with clients at times to be challenging.
 
KC: Why do you think you are still alive? What’s in store for your Act Three? 
AP: I am alive through pure chance. I overdosed many times and had a few accidents and emergency admissions. I have let go of the past and the future and hopefully the best is yet to come.
 
Click the book cover above to go to the Amazon page for Lyle’s Grief 
 

For more entertaining words from Anthony Perry click the YouTube Video above It has close to 10,000 views on his Facebook page.

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Looking Forward, Looking Back

After two books, two T-shirts, and six years of blogging I have done all I have set out to do in this less than trivial pursuit. I’ll be Medicare eligible on my upcoming Birthday in June. Reading is down, books may or may not be on the decline, more and more people even bad mouth good old Bangkok. So why continue being a Bangkok blogger in an even more instant gratification era of vanity going straight to audio and video, via podcasts and YouTube channels? It’s a good question. I missed the Kickstarter boat after all. I make a mean potato salad myself. He who hesitates in this day and age is indeed lost. 

I do this blog for a few reasons:

  1. It’s fun.
  2. I get to meet interesting people, read interesting books, and ask those people and authors questions.
  3. It seems like the right thing to do and it’s selfishly rewarding too. 

The most important thing I have learned in the last six years, but don’t always follow is, “Don’t burst my illusions and I wont burst yours.”  Calvino’s Law. 

 

John Flano says good morning to Bangkok

In six years there have been over three-hundred blog posts here. I still have a few more in me. So let’s get on with it, as one of those interesting people I have met along this journey, Christopher Minko, once said. 

I’m expanding my horizons in year seven. Starting with an interview with a Bangkok contradiction, good guy and bad guy, actor and man about town, John Flano. He only plays the bad guy in the movies. 

John Flano (seated) with another artist

KC: Welcome John Flano to Thailand Footprint. You’re a SAG card carrying actor, an avid motorcycle rider and a transplanted Californian. Lets talk about rejection. That’s the first thing I think about when I think of actors: rejection. What’s it like? I’m reminded of an old Wide World of Sports intro. “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Tell me about your thrills, chills, and defeats in any order you like.

JF: A WOW question. This could turn into a novel on this one subject. When Auditioning I give it my all. Most, if not all auditions you have very little info for the character or what they are looking for when walking in front of the Camera. Let’s just say that I rarely get upset when I don’t book a gig…. and of course I am beyond child like excited when I do book jobs. You must have thick skin and not take things personally in order to survive in this business. There absolutely have been a few gigs that I thought I was perfect for and the Audition seemed to go great….. But for what ever reason I didn’t get it. Damn it. Oh, well. On to the next.

I grew up with a Improvisational theater type background. I have booked jobs with large agencies, products, SAG Union Productions…. Domino’s Pizza, Shield Soap, Lee Jeans, Cadillac, Molson beer, Bud Dry, Jack in the Box Burgers…..  What was the question again??.. Oh yeah, Rejection. No one likes to be rejected on anything…. But as an actor hustling around… You can not let it be personal. I always say, just bite the bullet, smile and keep moving forward and upward.  

John Flano with some of his fans

KC: When did your passion for motorcycles begin? How many times have you been to the ER? (Ever been to Four Corners and Alice’s Restaurant in Woodside, California by the way?) .

JF: 1984 and Skyline Blvd and Alice’s was a frequent hang for me, especially midweek before lunch on a school day as there was virtually no traffic up there. I can fondly recall being over and grinding foot pegs on my Honda CB 750f super sport and also my Moto Guzzi 850-T3…… My other bikes were unable to grind pegs… 😅 I honestly don’t know when the motorcycle thing happened. It has been in my blood. It is just a fluke that I grew up in a motorcycle family from a baby and when I did eventually meet my biological father he told me he grew up on motorcycles and skiing as I did. I was adopted at age 2.  I met both my biological parents separately when I was 21 yrs old.

I remember at 6 years of age…. Right before I started first grade and just after returning from living on Norfolk Island and our 4 year world tour….. Mounting a 5 hp Bonanza Mini bike and cracking the throttle wide open straight into a curb and I went airborne into a field of thorns… Stickers….. I was hooked ever since. 

One ER trip due to a tourist pulling out in front of me in Hawaii on the big island. Long story but I was on a Harley VRod rental putting along minding my own business…. a retired couple who just landed on the Island were in their Rental VW four-door Jetta and they were in the oncoming lane and just before they were about to pass me they decided to make a sudden left hand turn directly in front of me…. I laid the Harley down and my front wheel hit their right rear wheel and I high-sided up against the car and then flipped over it….. I then proceeded back up the mountain I had shortly just rode down but this time in back of an ambulance looking out the rear window as I was laying down in the gurney laughing as I heard the medic on the radio to the ER saying that they had a “donor” in bound.. 😅 😅 When I arrived at the ER one of the nurses who met us upon arrival said, where is the donor?… The Ambulance medic said I was the donor.. 😅 When they receive motorcyclists from accidents they normally do not live thus they call them donors as they accept to have organs from the motorcyclist to donate…. I sustained some injuries but I was okay. That was my only time to the ER from a motorcycle accident.

KC: When did you first come to Bangkok and why did you decide to stay.

JF: I first visited the Kingdom of Siam in 1990. I was living and acting in Tokyo at the time. I had a break between two big commercials, Suntory Whiskey and Panasonic GAO TVs and decided to go to Bangkok with a fellow American Expat who was living in Tokyo and had to do a visa run. I found myself on an Island, Koh Samet, not so far from Bangkok and fell in love with the Thai culture, food and people. After Two weeks in Thailand I returned to Tokyo, picked up my money from the commercials and went back to Bangkok for 5 months. I had nothing but positive experiences and said I want to live here some day. I returned to San Francisco and then moved to Los Angeles until 2007; then I moved to Vietnam until 2013. I Love Bangkok and I Love Thailand.

John Flano, making friends during his Vietnam days

KC:. You seem to be the opposite of  a “Grumpy Gus” at heart, but could probably play one on the Big Screen just fine. What do you think of the complainers in life? How should they be treated, with compassion or with distance?>

JF: Thank you for your kind words. I have definitely had my moments of being grumpy for sure… 😅 I think that is normal sometimes in life. You just can’t let it ruin your day or life in my opinion. Depending on what and how people are complaining dictates whether they should be distanced or you should feel compassion, I believe. But if someone is always complaining I would say distance is probably the best thing to do. No negative vibes please. Don’t harsh my buzz dude. 

KC: You mentioned you were adopted. When did you find out? What can you share about the adoption process for you? What can you share about nature vs nurture as it applies to John Flano? 

JC: It was in 5th grade when I was asking my mom what a baby looks like inside the womb. My mom showed me an illustration and I said, Wow mom, that is the way I was inside you, yeah??

She replied… “well, I think we need to talk”  at that moment I knew that I was not from them!!!!  I was so shocked but now things started to make sense to me. I was always so different from all of them. She told me that my mother was not well and was unable to keep me. Her baby was taken away from her. She wanted to keep me but was not allowed. My grandparents were also not good people, actually. At one point later my Grandmother said to me that it was better for me to live with the Flanagans because they didn’t want to screw me up like they did my mom. Crazy shit. So, my grandmother was always around me growing up but I didn’t realize that she was my grandmother until after the 5th grade. From that time on I would always grill my Mother and grandmother about my real mother and father. I didn’t get much info until just before I turned 21. I finally met both my real parents individually at that age. 

When I met my mother all we did is hold each other tightly and cry. She was happy and sad. She is a small petite woman with a huge heart of gold and she can ramble as can both my biological grandmothers. I have the “ramble” gene for sure. I can’t help it. My father is very pleasant but distant. Turns out he grew up on motorcycles and skiing as I did. So my father is/was a federal forest ranger up in Arnold California. We spent some time hanging out for a few years and then drifted apart. My mother and I would see each other occasionally over the years. I am very social due to my mother. I am also very good on my own because of my father.

I believe adoption is great when the family really wants to save a kid. My case was probably a bit unique due to the fact that the Flanagans had no intention of having another kid. Keep in mind that I was born in 1964 and the times were so different then. Families were different. Not much divorce back then. I have grown up dealing with certain childhood traumas as probably many kids do. But it was my friend’s families who really took good care of me.

KC: Talk about your community of creative types and friends in Bangkok. What do they mean to you? What do you like to do as a group. 

JF: I am very impressed with the creative community here. Pretty much everyone really gets along and is very supportive of each other and I really like that. We have Film makers, social events occasionally and those are great to get together and brain storm and network. There are screenings, exhibits that we all come together for. 

KC: What are you currently working on, John? 

JF: Currently I am shooting a great film called Spit and Sawdust, directed by veteran actor Byron Gibson. It is kind of a gang thing. I would say it is a mix between Quinton Tarantino and Guy Ritchie.  I really love working with this Director and cast.

John Flano at work on the set

 

KC: What are you afraid of? There’s gotta be something.

I am afraid of the scorn of women. Not that I have any reason to be subjected to such but it does scare me. I had a Thai girlfriend once; I didn’t want to eat her cooking. She was very upset with me about that. I am also constantly afraid of the way our world leaders are behaving. I will save you and not go further on this topic. I am also afraid of getting run over by a bus here in the Bangkok traffic.

John Flano, temporarily avoiding hell’s fury

JF: I want to thank you for your taking the time to interview me, Kevin. 

KC: Thank-you, John. Break a leg. And watch out for those Bangkok buses. 

 

 

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This blog will turn six-years old in less than two weeks. It has put me in a reflective mood. The world changes – quickly. Technology disrupts. Greed is in no short supply. As George Harrison wrote, “It Don’t Come Easy”. That applies to artists of all kinds in the year 2019 – authors are no exception.

Let’s review some popular Bangkok fiction and note the publication dates. 2016 seems to have been a pivotal year.

The Bangkok Asset by John Burdett, first published August 3, 2015 came out in paperback in July of 2016. This is another fine Royal Thai Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep novel by Burdett, number 6 in the series, which took a different path. Some took issue with it. I was fine with it. By all accounts it sold well. The Bangkok Asset surpassed Bangkok 8, the 1st in the series, as my favorite. Will there be a lucky #7 in the series? My review of The Bangkok Asset can be found here.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, first published in September of 2009. It sold a ton and won bookoo awards. Simply put: not my cup of tea. I didn’t finish it and I know many who make the same revelation. I got 90 pages into it, which was 60 more than I enjoyed.

Fool’s River came out in August of 2017. It seems longer ago to me. Tim is the author of my favorite Bangkok Thriller of all time, The Queen of Patpong, which burst upon the scene way back in 2010. Fool’s River is #8 in the Poke Rafferty series. Many readers have grown to love Poke’s patchwork family. Here’s a review I did on the series as it stood in 2014.

Jumpers by Christopher G. Moore, published by Heaven Lake Press in October of 2016 is #16 in the popular Vincent Calvino series. That’s 2 1/2 years ago – a long time for Vinnie, making some people wonder if he’s ridden off into a Canadian sunset? The Calvino series always captured the times and technology of Bangkok perfectly. Times have changed as has technology. If you can’t wait for a new Calvino novel I suggest you re-read the old. My favorite is Missing in Rangoon. My review of Jumpers can be found here.

Fun CIty Punch published by Spanking Pulp Press is James A. Newman’s 5th in the Joe Dylan noir series. It came out in June of 2016; that makes almost three years since we’ve seen any Bangkok fiction from Newman. Being the youngest writer of the bunch he may have transitioned to other media. If you are a fan of Newman look or listen for him on film and audio projects. The once possible heir apparent to the Bangkok fiction mantle may be ahead of the curve. My favorite in the series remains The White Flamingo

Harlan Wolff made quite a splash when his debut novel, Bangkok Rules appeared in April of 2013 – six years ago. It garnered over 100 Amazon reviews lickity-split. More than some Pulitzer Prize winning novels at the time. A remarkable feat. Six years later some people feel they have been waiting a long time for the author’s second offering.

For readers looking for something completely different there is Genesis 2.0 by Collin Piprell. It too was published comparatively recently, by Common Deer Press out of Canada. The hardcover edition has only been out since March of 2018. It is the sequel to MOM, which I reviewed here. 

Set in a dystopian future with comic touches Genesis 2.0 will appeal to readers of science fiction and fans of Collin’s insightful fiction.

The best book I have read with Bangkok as a character in the past 18 months is the expanded edition of On The Night Joey Ramone Died by Jim Algie out since February 2018. There is not a private investigator to be found in this novella set – only clever writing and interesting characters. We recently lost the longtime Bangkok based author to the desert life of Arizona. Jim was married four months ago and now lives outside of Tucson with his wife, Rhishja and their two dogs. Is there any Bangkok fiction left in the pen of Jim Algie? I have my doubts about that but no doubt we will be hearing good things from the American author in the future.

So where does that leave us? “What have you done for me lately?” as the expression goes. The last Bangkok crime fiction of any note published by an author in the last six months that I am aware of is The Monsoon Ghost Image by Tom Vater – the third in the Detective Maier Mystery Series. I always enjoy Vater’s fictitious adventures including his take on American politics – very entertaining. My nit with Tom is he could be more gracious toward his competition. When you waste time talking about authors negatively, you aren’t talking about your own products.

I wasn’t going to include Jo Nesbo’s Cockroaches as I didn’t read it and don’t know enough about the author. Tom Vater, evidently, does as he is quoted in an interview saying Jo Nesbo is a “shallow” author whose books he finds “mind-numbing”. I’ll take Vater at his word. No reason not to – he’s informed. The hardcover and paperback of Cockroaches came out in 2014.

I wish it were easy to write shallow fiction for millions of dumbed-down readers – I’d throw my hat into the ring. Alas, it’s quite difficult to do what Jo has done. Lucky he is. For what it is worth Cockroaches has over 800 Amazon USA reviews and a composite star rating of 4.2. A sure sign Nesbo is no artist if ever there was one. He probably eats well too.

Bangkok Wakes to Rain has been marketed well but doesn’t seem to have sold well. Written by Pitchaya Sudbanthad it came out with much fanfare just six weeks ago yet it has collected only five Amazon reviews, two of them less than stellar. The days of a Big 5 publishing contract never guaranteed success but it certainly helped your chances. I have begun, but not yet finished, this stylistic collection of vignettes.

In an age when the novel has been declared dead more times than an unlucky cat, what can readers who like Bangkok as one of their prime characters look forward to?

The Kingdom by Lawrence Osborne is due out later this year. It will be the third Osborne novel with an Asian backdrop but his first set primarily in Bangkok. Mr. Osborne is a hot author these days who broke into the Bangkok literary scene by plunging deep into expat-living with his work of non-fiction, Bangkok Days – published almost 10 years ago. Prior to that he had a twenty-year run as a top notch journalist and freelancer in New York City. Lawrence took an old Harvard Business School maxim and successfully applied it to his craft: Writing by Walking Around.

The Kingdom will be no franchise novel – it is set to follow the lives of four women living in an apartment on one of Bangkok’s colorful blocks. Given the roll Osborne is on, with various film projects in pre and post production, the story is sure to have cinematic qualities, classic ones given his taste.

So there you have it – one blogger’s take. What does the future of Bangkok fiction have in store for the next five or six years? I have no idea. As Lawrence Osborne is quoted in a recent interview, “I think people do still read. I get feedback from people.” The question is will they be reading what has come to be known as Bangkok fiction in the future? And if so, whose will it be?

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bangkok air

It had to be the emanon bar,

I can’t tell you how unhinged he was to see me.

We’d had a few of their specials and we were getting loose.

I’d probably be teetotal if it wasn’t for this bar.

You get drunk of course, but, it goes without saying

(you’re obviously a cultured man) that context is everything,

always, and juice is only juice.

He ordered a trio of witch killers, bottled in Japan,

it’s thirty five percent; strontium and alcohol.

Bottle’s so cold you can’t put it down but

after a few pulls you aren’t afraid of frost bite

or polar bears or even the Koran.

A couple of rats were foraging

confidently under a food stall opposite,

the cat, as usual, was in hiding.

The mamasan, as only she can

displayed her astounding assets to man

leaned across the bar and lit a smoke.

There’s poison in the city air,

wherever you’re residing.

It’s the frisson before storytime.

He looked his age, whatever it was,

but obviously he could tell a joke.

A surprising number of city folk

are masked for pollution apocalypse .

I haven’t fully sussed it yet, but

it’s like a horror movie set, and

maybe we don’t know we’ve had our chips.

He allowed himself a long consoling toke.

Decomposition, baby, your place, or mine?

I hadn’t planned on retirement

in a zombie social paradigm.

He looked his age, whatever it was,

but obviously he could tell a joke.

Took up where he’d begun

when an arch and sexy female voice says

are you sitting comfortably children?

Here’s the latest shit from the oracle,

as she leaned across the bar and lit one;

do bars get better than this he asked

and I took that as frankly rhetorical.

She will eat you alive

but I will risk it he said,

then I’ll describe it later.

I’m old, he laughed, and bent

by all the vortices of vice,

but I retain a certain skill

in my role as the narrator.

It’s been poisonous for years out there

and will get worse tomorrow.

My advice to those outside this bar

is don’t inhale, or swallow.

 

Different Drummers, a book of non-fiction interviews, literary reviews and stories, which includes over 50 John Gartland poems is available at Amazon in paperback and all the major and minor online retailers as an eBook.

There are still a very limited number of copies available of the Advance Uncopyedited Edition of Different Drummers at Queen Bee Tavern located on Sukhumvit 26 – directly across from the Hilton DoubleTree Inn.

John Branton at Queen Bee Tavern with a cuppa tea and Different Drummers

Look for promotional details on my Facebook wall soon.

https://www.facebook.com/bangkokbeatbook

For more poems by John Gartland go to Amazon.com or his Facebook page at Lizardville Productions

 

 

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A long time ago in a galaxy far far away there was a place called the 1980s. It was a simpler time. I wouldn’t call them the good old days. These are the good old days, after all. Or they will be at some point in the future if you’re lucky enough to get there. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were in their heyday. It was quite a rivalry that began when the two met as part of their respective teams for the NCAA Basketball Championship in 1979. Magic came out on top that day.

It was a rivalry for over a decade but it was in the 1980s where it really shined. As one Sports Illustrated writer, I forget who, asked and answered a clever question: “Does it matter that one player is black and one player is white? Of course it does; it’s part of the fun.” The writer was right, of course. It was all part of a fun rivalry.

Some people picked sides, as people do. Me? I liked them both. During the mid-1980s I walked into a sports memorabilia shop. There they had certified autographed, framed photos of various sports stars including Magic and Bird.

How much for the Magic and Bird photos, I asked

$55.00 for Magic and $45.00 for Bird. (It was a West Coast Sports Shop).

Mmmm …. How about $90.00 for the two?

No can do. My margin is too slim. $55.00 and $45.00.

Tell you what. Can you write it up $50.00 for Magic and $50.00 for Bird? Because I can’t see paying more for Magic.

For $100.00 I’ll write it up any way you want.

Sold.

I still have those pictures.

Nowadays Chris Rock laments you can’t say, “The black kid over there.” It has to be, “The kid in the red tennis shoes.” So I am not sure if that simple question asked in the 1980s with a truthful answer given by anyone with a passing interest in the game of basketball could even be asked any more without offending someone? If Bird and Magic were playing today and someone didn’t know who was who it might be safer to say, “Bird is the one wearing the green Chuck Taylor Converse shoes.” Of course no one wears Chucks anymore. Times change. Quickly.

So what’s this got to do with Facebook, I hear the many non-basketball fans reading this asking? Facebook is a black and white world too, only without the fun part a lot of the time. People pick sides kind of like shirts and skins or black and white. People also play it safe. People like hanging out with their own views on Facebook I think. They are not really looking for contemplation, consideration or changing their point of view. They’d rather shoot hoops by them-self than have a fun game of one-on-one. Everyone likes to shoot the ball after all and the matador defense is your best bet.

Olé!

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My blog post is a twist on a favorite Cormac McCarthy quote of mine from the book, No Country for Old Men:

“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”

As my friends and more than a few acquaintances know I am not a big fan of soccer. But you didn’t have to be a fan of the Beautiful Game to be immensely sad, even if only momentarily, for the loss of football player Emiliano Sala, the lanky free-scoring Argentine striker killed in a single-engine plane crash as he was piloted over the English channel to join his new team, Cardiff, in the English Premier League. A dream come true turns into his friends, teammates, and a family’s permanent worst nightmare.

With technology being what it is nowadays Emiliano had the opportunity to record some thoughts when the plane developed engine trouble. He is noted as calling a family member and saying, “I am so scared.” And that is perfectly, 100% understandable. But if I had one wish for Emiliano Sala before his plane ended up in the English Channel it is that he was able to conquer that fear and have some pleasant thoughts enter his mind at the end. Maybe it’s a fantasy but it’s a fantasy I’ll hold onto. Rest in Peace, Emiliano Sala and the pilot, age 59 Mr Ibbotson.

Another footballer had the good luck to fall in love, get married, and honeymoon in Thailand. His name is Hakeem Al Araibi and he is currently under arrest and being detained in Thailand awaiting an extradition request from Bahrain for him to serve a 10-year sentence related to the Arab Spring uprising of 2011. Hakeem denies the charges. There is ample evidence that supports that.

There has been much international criticism regarding the handling of the case so far but it is fairly early. Thailand has the discretion to release Hakeem to Australia where he has refugee status and is a model citizen. Let’s hope in this tale of two footballers Hakeem’s story has a much better ending. There is no logical reason why good luck has to lead to bad. Justice delayed is justice denied. Save Hakeem indeed. It’s the right thing to do. And who knows? Maybe Hakeem’s bad luck, so far, has saved him from worse luck. It’s possible. Cormac knows what he’s talking about. May Hakeem be back home with his wife in Australia soon.

 

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Author T Hunt Locke at Maeping Mango Resort along the Ping River in Kamphaeng Phet, Thailand

Last week I had some fun reviewing Locke’s latest historical crime thriller set equally in his former home along the Eastern Seaboard of Massachusetts and his current home in Southeast Asia. For those who missed it, it can found here: Chicks Dig the Long Ball and Sam Collins – Murder in Milton – A Book Review. 

As I noted in that review, Thom and I are friends. He hails from the East Coast, I from the West. In the beginning of that face to face friendship formation there was some good-natured ribbing going on. I knew Thom hailed from South Boston. I, on the other hand, grew up in Southern Cal as a kid. Yet we got on fine. The occasional arguments were a plus. At one point I said to Thom, “Are you sure you’re not from California?” Thom replied, “Well, I did work at a California Community College for quite a long time.”

What Thom and I do share is an American experience. I can’t speak for him but for me what I think that means is that we learn to take a punch. We know the critics of the USA are out there. We know further that some of the criticism is justified. But we keep on plugging away because we also know we are lucky for having had the experience. Many more people would like the opportunities we’ve had, but not all will get them.

“It’s a wonderful neighborhood, the views are marvelous, and there are some terrific water features, the transport links are excellent, and the neighbors? The neighbors are great, no troubles at all.”

From the book, Prisoners of Geography, Chapter 3. United States.

We are all prisoners or explorers of our own geography. Thom and I now find ourselves in Thailand. But we carry our American experience with us wherever we go. You’ll get a taste of that unique experience in this short and sweet interview.

Twenty Questions with American Expat Author T Hunt Locke

Q1: Where were you Born?

I am a Southie Boy. To be more specific, I took my first breath at Carney Hospital.

Q2: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

The center fielder for the Boston Red Sox. I can still hear Sherm Feller’s voice, the famed Sox PA Announcer, “Batting Second & Playing Center Field, Thom Locke.Ah that voice & that cadence…the crowd always roared!

Q3: The Godfather or Sopranos?

So the tough questions begin I see. First of all, I have recently binge watched The Sopranos. If I held it in quite high regard before, it rises even higher as a rewatchable. Gandolfini isn’t just good, he set the bar for character development and the anti-hero. And boy oh boy, Carmela, Big Pussy, Junior, Paulie are like old friends. But Kevin, in the end, ‘leave the gun, take the canolli.’

Q4: Celtics or Bruins? 

A toss up. In any case, the Bruins were in my life since before I can remember. Dad had season tickets & I was in a lap at the old Gaaarden from the time I was a baby and it hasn’t left my system…Go B’s!

Q5: Who is the one person living or dead you would like to have dinner with and why? Bonus round: name that restaurant and meal.

The Restaurant is Easy, The Clam Box, of course (http://clamboxquincy.com/ ). The person is easy too. My Dad! I really miss him… Dad would opt for the scallop plate and I the fisherman’s platter. An order of steamers would be shared for an appetizer. We’d follow it up with a walk on Wollaston Beach. If I could make that happen with Megan and Hunter in tow…

Q6: Where is your favorite place on the planet? Only one. 

Ok, so only one. By a hair I would have to say Cape Cod. But just barely over Chiang Mai. Luckily, once retirement arrives, I’ll be able to enjoy both locales.

Q7: Favorite athlete?

Like your first love, that first sport idol will always hold a special place in your heart. For me that person is #4 Bobby Orr.

Q8: Favorite politician?

Thomas ‘Tip’ O’Neill. “All politics is local” is how he went about his business. A wonderful man and a true man of the community. His breed is long gone.

Q9: Favorite civil rights activist?

Malcolm X. He was not afraid to get his hands dirty nor was he afraid to change an opinion when confronted with a new set of facts. This is a ‘favorite’ question and of course there were/are many men and women of color who have made a significant difference.

Q 10: Favorite feminist? 

Abigail Adams. This monumental figure in Colonial America laid a foundation for other women of strength and intellect such as Elizabeth Blackwell and Jane Addams. And from women such as this we can see the birth of the modern feminist movement. It all began with Abigail.

Q11: Favorite movie of all time? 

This is one of the most difficult questions. While there are several movies that I feel are exceptional there are only a handful I’ll rewatch. Good Will Hunting is at the top. The relationship that develops between Matt Damon and Robin Williams is a tough feat to accomplish over the course of two hours. No car chases, no capes, no CGI, no fights…Damon recently commented he could not get that film made today. What a shame!

Q12: Favorite Colonial figure?

Dr. Joseph Warren was quite an impressive Colonial and Revolutionary figure. He organized Paul Revere’s famed ride to Concord & Lexington, dumped some tea into the harbor, and gave his life for liberty on Bunker Hill. Quite the stickman as well from all accounts!

Q13: What gives you inspiration?

I don’t know what gives me such a love & lust for life. ‘Tis a mystery…

Q14: Favorite Century in Thailand’s history and why?

The 15th Century and especially the reign of King Boromtrailokat. Many of the reforms he put into place 450 years ago are still in place if modified throughout the years. A Great Man!!

Q15: If you could collaborate with anyone in the world who would it be and why? Make it unrealistic. What would the collaboration be? 

Mike Wallace, the former reporter & commentator from 60 Minutes is somebody I would love to have a chat. The collaboration would be to write a series of murder mysteries based on the stories he covered over a period of some 60 years. That would be a gas. I also hope we can collaborate again!!

Q16: What is your favorite sandwich? Bonus round: what beer goes with that?

Lobster Roll with a Sam Adams Autumn Ale on an Indian Summer Day at Brax Landing https://www.braxrestaurant.com/  We are now almost able to touch heaven, Kevin.

Q17:  What is your favorite cartoon and why?

I do not have a favorite cartoon, comic book, or comic figure. Just found out who Stan Lee was actually. Still find myself in dismay with adults who get wrapped up in a superhero movie. But, as you know Kevin, I am a different type of drummer. You Too!

Q18: Bruce Willis or Bruce Lee?

I missed the Bruce Lee Phenomenon. So, Bruce Willis. I think, if I was of that age, I would have gravitated towards Mr. Lee. He had a phenomenon after all. Not sure Bruce Willis ever got to that rarefied air, but the first Diehard was quite good.

Q19: Favorite Kinks song of all time? Okay, make it two. 

As the Queen whispered in Ray’s ear while making him a Commander of the British Empire: “So many songs.” Surely a difficult task. But two it is. All Day And All Of The Night & Mr. Churchill Says.

Q20: What’s next for T Hunt Locke? 

A lot! 2019 will see a collection of short stories and essays published along with my second novel in Bangkok Murder Mystery Series. Then, in 2020, my pen will return home to my beloved Cape Cod for another thrilling Historical Thriller featuring Dan Burdett. Oh, and a long overdue drink with my mate at Jack’s Bar!

 

Hey, this was fun! Thanks for having me for a chat at https://peoplethingsliterature.com/author/kevincummings1954/

To you and all your readers, Have a Great 2019.

Follow T Hunt Locke’s Author Page at Amazon Here

 

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Full disclosure: Thom Locke is a friend of mine. I root for his success like I do my favorite sports teams. I’m with him through good times and bad, as any true fan is. Thankfully, I am riding a winning streak right now with Thom. Maybe not as great as Thom’s New England Patriots over the past 9 years but a winning streak just the same.

It’s been fun watching Thom progress as a writer – and I say that as a regular reader of his work. I had my doubts in the beginning. There was the abrupt change from 16th Century China to the excellent retirement community of Chiang Mai – in one paragraph. But that was back when he was playing Rookie Ball. Since then he’s studied the pitches of his peers, improved his batting average, and he still hits the long ball. He’s always had that ability in his writing – a Declan Power belly-flop from a third-floor balcony comes to mind. Consistency is the goal for Thom or any good writer. I’m a critic so I get to consistently criticize. This task is easy. Writing novels is difficult. Writing a good crime novel is extremely difficult, as any novelist knows or should know. Even I know that. That’s the reason I don’t write novels.

T Hunt Locke’s latest novel is Murder in Milton. With duel settings it has the pace of a Forrest Gump table-tennis match. Since Locke juggles a full time business, a full time family, and a full time lust for life, the pace comes as no surprise but herbal tea or decaffeinated coffee will work just fine for this read. There is no need for speed. Locke provides that for you.

Top Gun, T Hunt Locke with son Hunter and daughter Meghan

The protagonist is Sam Collins, a cigarette smoking, former Boston Police Department Detective with tragedy and vengeance in his past; he’s made a new life for himself in Thailand. He’s a likable, inconsistently religious, common man, equally familiar and at home with a Pabst Blue Ribbon and the old guard ways of New England or the back-streets and street food of Bangkok or Kampot, Cambodia. In this thriller he’s been the target of an assassination. Sam is now an historical lecturer of note and this allows Thom to entertain the reader with historical details, additional stories really, that always add luster to the primary tale. Put another way, there is an art to the info-dump and Locke has mastered the art. It sets him apart from the herd and it is a large herd when it comes to fiction set in Southeast Asia. Sam Collins is the perfect man about multiple towns to find the skeletons in anyone’s closet in rather creative ways – and he finds them primarily in Milton, Massachusetts. Sam does this without carrying a gun or other weapons, although he’s plenty good with verbal daggers. In fact Sam hates guns and is a poor shot. But he’s resourceful. When he needs a gun, there’s is always a friend around to lend an arm. Sam has lots of friends and plenty of enemies too. Sometimes it is hard to tell who is who?

Locke chose to bounce between Milton, MA and Southeast Asia like that special effects ping pong ball in Forrest Gump. I found that distracting at times, but it grew on me as the novel went on. I did think Locke’s best writing occurred on the Eastern Seaboard, visually and with the written word. I also thought it has the best chance of making it onto the silver screen as, lets face it, other than Stephen Leather with his recent Jackie Chan adaptation of The Chinaman, no author writing about Southeast Asia has had much luck getting projects onto visual media, outside of paid for vanity projects or one minute video festivals. Just a thought. And even The Chinaman was set in England now that I think of it.

The other part of the mystery is the tried and true, is it a murder or is it a suicide? Not particularly original but at least we aren’t dealing with a crazed mass murderer.

In Murder in Milton the pace is brisk, the characters are believable, the dialogue is a blend of Micky Spillane, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Dan Brown. I really enjoyed the historical components of this historical thriller. Will every reader? Possibly, but Americans and expatriates living in Southeast Asia are sure to have the better chance. Murder in Milton by T Hunt Locke has a dinger of an ending. No spoilers here. Not all chicks will enjoy it, particularly a fictional one.

To get to the Big Leagues you have to shag a lot of fly balls. If anyone is able and willing to put in the work it is Southie Boy, Thomas Hunt Locke. I wish him the best of luck. The higher up you go, the better the reviewers will be too. You have that to look forward to as well.

Coming up soon an interview with Thom: Twenty Questions with the Author.

To learn more about Thom’s books go to his Amazon page here

To follow Thom’s blog The Locke Report click here

 

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The following is a lengthy interview with John Gartland previously published in the book, Different Drummers, which John and I co-wrote and was released on November 8th, 2018. It is now available only as a paperback at Amazon after a brief stint as an eBook as well. The medium is the message. The paperback is currently sold-out at Queen Bee pub on Sukhumvit 26 directly across from the Hilton Double Tree Inn. We hope to remedy that soon after we correct a few typos and get a second edition out in late February. In the meantime, they have live music 7 days a week.

This is a long interview. By that we mean it will take an educated reader 12 minutes or less to read. If you can’t afford that time, best move along now.

Jim Algie in a book review of Different Drummers correctly pegged it when he wrote:

The centerpiece of Different Drummers is an interview with “poet noir” John Gartland, interspersed with selections from his work. It’s a clever way of showing how John’s working-class roots in England, his Shakespearean studies and travel experiences have sculpted his eloquent poems, which range from political diatribes to personal reminiscences about his family and the aftershocks of the two World Wars.

I would only add that the arc of John’s poetry runs a circle that will find a recognizable arc in anyone who has led a meaningful, enjoyable, and at times, of course, painful and aware life.

Paul Dorsey in another review of Different Drummers in The Nation newspaper said of John,

“Gartland is by far the best of all the expatriate writers in Southeast Asia.”

So enjoy the prose and verse of John Gartland or you could see what is going on with the wall and the U.S. Government shutdown over at Twitter. Up to you.

KC: You’re not a young poet any longer but you’ve been a poet, I suspect, in one form or another for at least fifty years. Fifty years ago it was 1968. What advice would the present day poet, John Gartland give to the poet of 1968?

John Gartland (Second from right) back in the day with Neil Murray (second from left)
at Newcastle upon Tyne

JG: That twenty-year-old, in 1968 was studying for a degree in English Language and Literature. at the University of Newcastle on Tyne  It was a rich and vital training in the world of belles lettres; of great poetry, and works of prose fiction. It also took in, in the first year, a grounding in Anglo-Saxon literature.

I’d first of all applied, the year before, to the University’s Fine Art Department (where Brian Ferry had been a student). I did the entrance exams, but failed to win a place. I wasn’t much of a painter, though I had sold a few paintings through an art shop in my home town. Following rejection by the Art Department, I‘d attended a teacher training college for a year, re-applied to the University English Department and had been accepted.

It was comparable, in literary terms, to the intensive classical training in drawing and figure work that was once traditional for visual artists. I was a kid from the North West rust-belt. Getting to University was a huge break for me. I was pretty much in awe of the literary “Great Tradition”, as F.R. Leavis called it. I had some poems printed in poetry magazines on campus, and I was writing poetry in a low-profile way, usually getting feedback on it from my girlfriend, who was also an English undergraduate. There was a poetry fellow position, for a poet who would visit the English Department and offer advice on any creative writing that students were doing. One poet in that role, Basil Bunting, offered me the best advice; to get out and “live some more”.  I had some talent, but I wasn’t ready yet to write anything much of substance. When I was ready, years later, that early training kicked in. Meanwhile, I’d done a score of jobs, and travelled widely. My advice to me in 1968, with benefit of hindsight, would be, have more confidence, and trust that poetic spark. Bunting was right of course. I needed to grow up. I’m still working on that.

I did have a creative alter ego, however. I wrote a weekly satirical verse column, on politics or university affairs, in the weekly student newspaper, Courier. A friend and fellow English student was a talented caricaturist and painter, and we did this weekly verse satire / caricature in the paper, which worked well for a couple of years. My artist friend went on, in subsequent years, to become Wilko Johnson, rock guitar hero, launching, out of Canvey Island, with the Doctor  Feelgood band, to international success.

Looking back on it, the weekly pressure to produce a verse column of a comic / satirical nature, to a deadline, was a useful discipline, and it taught me more than I realized, in basic technical skills.

 

Poetry ID

 

All those years ago, on Tyneside,

when we’d asked of Paris between the wars,

of Eliot and Pound, and their meetings of course,

and he’d looked at our fledgling poetry;

Bunting said, “It’s all right, but live some more.

You need to go out and live some more.”

I said thanks, and knew, as I closed his door,

he meant Poetry ID.

 

I’ve chauffeured cars and worked in bars,

crossed seas and worked illegally;

crashed out in Split, swabbed blood and shit

from floors in Vancouver casualty.

I’ve crossed the Rockies on a train

and jumped by parachute from planes,

drove a Cadillac through the F.M. band

from New York down to Miami.

Met Mozart in Carnegie Hall,

Bix Beiderbecke on Hadrian’s Wall,

got woken up by lightning

on the warm South China Sea.

Been there and back, and gone off track,

put the Darren Mountains in my pack,

I’ve taken stock at Lion Rock,

and swum in Lake Euphoria,

stirred Zen into my tea.

 

I’ve known apocalyptic trips

and rolled some monumental spliffs,

I’ve rocked to Doctor Feelgood’s riffs,

been frightened, heightened, free.

I’ve laughed a lot and loved my share,

I’ve come round in intensive care,

but many I loved no longer step

the headlong days with me.

I toast their sweet reluctant ghosts,

and all we did together, most

of all, this lush, uncharted coast

of Poetry ID.

 

Listen; words are the ladder we climbed from the slime.

Words that spring to your lips and sing of your time

are shouts in the throat of antiquity;

old oratory,  shrapnel hurled

right out of history.

Magical, fierce, exuberant and sad,

words made us wise and sent us mad.

Rhyme’s a trapeze we swing out on;

out over birth, dissolution and death.

Rhyme, old as the breeze, and mysterious as breath.

 

Look, out as far as you can see,

there’s love and birth, magnetic north,

the stars, and Poetry ID.

And I’ve come as before are to the old poet’s door,

to pass right through it, as you see.

I greet his shade, then turn once more,

ambiguous, naked, and stubbornly free,

with thanks, and a smile, a fond farewell,

and Poetry ID.

 

KC: Tell me about the changes you have seen in those fifty years. The Grateful Dead wrote a song titled, “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been” in 1977. Tell me about your trip.

JG: I suppose my equivalent piece to the Dead’s “Long Strange Trip” would be “Cantos of Cred.”, a flyover of the dozens of jobs I’ve done. That’s printed later in your book.

As regards social changes, I’ve seen a crushing growth in the bureaucratization of life, in the UK, where I was born. It has turned into the most snooped-on, over-regulated and politically-correct nightmare. Free speech has been drastically curbed, an imported religious extremism institutionally protected, and democratic freedoms undermined.

However, my personal life-trip from day one took me through many major historical gateway events. I’m seventy years old now. Consider the exponential rate of change over that period.

Socially, there were huge improvements in health care, nutrition and the standard of living. The National Health Service made doctors’ expertise and antibiotics widely available. Unemployment was an unknown problem in my youth, and there was the possibility of access to higher education for kids (like me) from working class backgrounds, via selective examinations and grammar schools.  I remember that, in my State Primary School, in the early 1950’s, we were given pens with steel nibs, to write with. One child had the responsibility of filling our desk ink-wells with black ink, from a large bottle. Shades of Bob Cratchit.  (In infant school in 1953 we’d been given special blue souvenir drinking glasses, decorated with the royal coat of arms, to commemorate the coronation of Elizabeth the Second. Exciting, eh?).

My mother was a farmer’s daughter from Galway, in the west of Ireland, who’d had little education. She told me that she and her sisters at one time walked to school barefoot. She came over to England to work in a factory in my home town when she was just eighteen. She was supposed to stay with a distant relative, but they’d turned out bad, so she’d had to go it alone.  She’d told me semi-humorously years later, that King George VI came to visit the northern town, in pre-World War Two years, passing through in a motorcade. As a green young country girl, she’d had no idea what to expect. “I thought he’d be like fairy people” she said wryly. That was a very different world. My parents met while working in the same factory. My Dad used to say her family in Ireland rebuilt him, after the war, on farm food and Guinness.We went to Ireland, and the farm, every year in my early days. That two week holiday was the high point of the year.

 

ON JOLLEY STREET

 

As we walked into Jolley Street together,

you had slowed your customary pace.

 

Around the old Infirmary,

streets of houses without doors,

windows without curtains. Dust.

Forsaken rooms lay gutted of all private comfort,

and demolition smoke was in our way.

Around the old Infirmary

they were tearing down the terraces.

The old town we were born in, coming down.

It must be more than twenty years. It must!

 

And you had slowed your customary pace.

And strange, out there on Jolley Street

I didn’t read the omens straightaway.

 

Your soldier’s tales had drawn for me

such shattered places.

Anecdotes of war, and close escapes;

your travels, drawn so vividly

on Sunday walks,

across the years, across the town.

The annals of your boyhood days.

Much laughter, up and down, we had!

 

 

I was the I little boy you entertained,

and you, the storyteller, loved a beer

and books and poetry; my interesting Dad.

 

Despite your ragged nerves left by the war;

your hands that sometimes shook as if before

that bygone discharge from a military hospital,

in entertaining rambles you’d amuse and you’d delight.

But something unforgotten is the sight of private tears

on those Remembrance Sundays, in our town.

The way you could flesh out their “Glorious Dead”;

your mad Welsh chum who’d dance the seven veils,

dispensing army boots, a lousy shirt,

each piece of war-stained kit, in lumbering pirouettes,

each time you’d reach a respite and some wine.

He didn’t give a shit

for all the King and Country stuff,

and sang odd bits of opera, like you.

In time the war swept him away,

and many others you would mourn

each time “that bloody trumpet”

(so my mother termed it) blew;

Remembrance  Day.

 

I’d ask my childish questions and she’d stay

beside you, arm about your shoulders,

with her jaw set in that stubborn way;

just hating what the Last Post did to you.

How fierce she was; and Irish, too, those moments;

fighting hard, to keep your marching ghosts at bay.

 

I’m at the old Infirmary again.

While you’re out in a waiting room

the specialist’s pronouncing on your case.

Incurable, and far advanced, he says;

precise, discreet.

And though I speculated twenty years about it,

still, I ask if I was right;

as we walked out,

to tell the truth on Jolley Street.

 

But I had no closer friend than you.

And I, you see, had it been me,

would not have wanted you to lie.

 

I still can see your face and its emotions;

I still relive the anger

as I watched life tear you down.

Soon after you had gone I felt I didn’t

want to see the place we strode about so often.

In any case, with landmarks lost,

what would I recognize about the town?

 

There was no closer friend than you.

In spite all the other things I’m grateful for,

that’s why

I bitterly regret you had to show me,

prematurely, your ultimate example;

how to die.

 

My area in the North West, between Liverpool and Manchester, was classic rust-belt,  a coal-burning, long heavily-industrialized  place, large chemical factories,  caustic soda and soap works, flour mills, steel processing plants, wireworks, coal mines,  box works, aluminium  fabrication, hydraulics factories and gasworks, and many more. There were always factory jobs available, in student vacations, and I did many. We used to get regular dense fogs in winter, before the Clean Air legislation was introduced.

The air was bad in that town, very polluted, and I got pneumonia and a collapsed lung when I was three. There mustn’t have been adequate emergency treatment available in my local hospital, because I was treated in a special hospital, for chest complaints, out near Liverpool and far from my home. My parents had to take a long bus ride to visit me. They were both working, and their jobs simply did not allow them to take such a long trip often, after work, and arrive in time for visiting hours.  I remember being the one child, in a cot, in a ward full of bronchitic  industrial  workers, and coal miners with black-lung. They were very kind to me, but I developed a real case of separation anxiety from my time there, which left its mark for years afterwards.

The local public library was a favourite haunt of mine. Saturdays in my boyhood meant a trip to the swimming baths, a walk around the town museum, and a change of library books. Walking home, I’d be laughing and joking with my pals, crossing the bridge over the railway tracks to Bank Quay station, by the chemical works, along the River Mersey. Liverpool and Manchester were both about an hour away, by train.

There was the arrival of colour television, Rock n’Roll, the Teddy Boys, the spread of popular musical culture, via records, 45’s and LP’s, then stereo sound and hi-fi, reel-to-reel tape recorders, then audio cassettes, then videos and CD’s etc. Movies developed Cinemascope, dynamic sound, Technicolour, and special effects.

There was the availability of more mass-produced cars to buy, and new roads and motorways to drive them on. It was a golden period of new social mobility, when petrol was cheap, and before speed cameras were thought of, and before the road network clogged up with traffic.

There was the landmark introduction of the contraceptive pill (which unlocked sex), affordable international air travel, (which unlocked the world).  Feminism kicked off with Germaine Greer’s breakthrough book, “The Female Eunuch”, and  liberalization of attitudes grew in many areas, from dress to sexual behavior and the availability of drugs. The outcomes weren’t all uniformly good, but they were truly revolutionary to live through.

Then there was the arrival of the photocopier, the fax machine, and cheaper phone calls via the privatization of the telecommunications industry. Satellites in geo-stationary orbit fulfilled writer Arthur C. Clarke’s predictions, providing instant international communications, for voice, data and TV. Then came mobile phones, plus the arrival of  broadband over old voice networks, then fibre-optic cable leapfrogged the bandwidth of old copper-cable phone networks , bringing  new rapid  voice and data communication, plus Cable TV. There was also the advent of the Personal Computer, the Internet, and Smartphones.

There was nuclear power, lasers, holography, mass- immunization, unlocking the genetic code, the elimination of polio (a disease I remember had once confined a cousin  of mine in an “Iron Lung”)  the elimination of smallpox, developments in plastic surgery, the availability of cosmetic surgery  and organ transplants, and cyber implants, and brain-scans, and new drugs to curtail classical madness.

Rock Around the Clock.

Oh yes, there were also Sputnik, the first orbiting satellite, dogs in orbit, then men (and women) in orbit; first, Yuri Gagarin, circling the globe in a tiny capsule, then John Glenn, NASA’s flights and then the moon landings, and the exploration of Mars by robots, and the building of the International Space Station. There was the development and open testing of the Hydrogen bomb, nerve gases and biological warfare. There was the (first) Cold War and the age of M.A.D. There was Rock n’ Roll, Bill Haley and the Comets, Teddy Boys, Angry Young Men, Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Cream, Blues, Dylan, hash, acid, Reggae, the Korean War, Suez, Viet Nam, jogging, yo-yo’s, hula-hoops and Disco. There was the scourge of Aids, the spread of SARS through booming international travel, there was Ebola, flesh eating viruses, mad cow disease, accelerating dementia, and Rap music.

There was the political crucifixion of British M.P. soldier, poet and classics scholar, Enoch Powell, for predicting the future of the UK, memorable assassinations-a-plenty, from the Kennedys to Martin Luther King, and John Lennon, and many, many more. There were endless wars, the rise of militant Islam and the auto-destruction of Europe by demographic conspiracy. We were all expected to worship Globalism.

 

 

THE CORPORATION

 

Lie back and learn to love

the corporation.

Especially on a daily basis

rape means rage and tribulation.

Get wise that such humiliation’s

futile and corrosive;

not to mention an explosive parcel

ticking in your sanity.

You can’t reject the corporate embrace.

To think you can resist

is merely vanity.

Understand, you’re on your back,

my friend,

and they’re right in your face.

It’s macro-economic systems

goosing all humanity.

 

True, the world’s in corporate pawn,

even the oceans.

So is the air we breathe,

the lakes and trees.

 

Objections will be neutralised

as weird, subversive notions.

In profit-led inventiveness,

these systems hover over us

from when we’re born

to our assured decease.

It’s wearing, on a daily basis,

we recognize, beyond a doubt.

Admitting you’ve been had’s

just one more burden

you can live without.

We clarify your rights

and we appreciate your trust.

We anticipate your protest and

advise against all self-disgust.

So do yourself a favour,

and accept the situation.

Give all the ins and outs of it

their due consideration,

and go easy on yourself,

for rape is rage and tribulation.

Relax and smile; bend over,

learn to love the corporation!

 

On my life trip I enjoyed motor bikes, many cars, snorkeling, scuba-diving, parachuting, hot-air ballooning, hallucinogenics, and hiking and biking. I’ve always been a keen swimmer, in pools, lakes and ocean. I’ve traveled widely; from the Alps, to the Greek Islands to the Florida Keys, the Prairies, the Rocky Mountains, New Zealand, and the countries of  S.E. Asia, to name a few of the  places I’ve seen.

Then there were the lovers I’ve known, the painting I tried, the acting I’ve done, the four plays I wrote, and saw produced in the London Fringe, the novels I wrote, the political projects I followed, found were flawed, and sometimes murderous, so abandoned. There were the risks I ran, and the accidents I survived, and some lucky escapes.

And all the time there was a poet in me, watching, wondering, rejoicing in his recurrent good luck, waiting to reawaken, hit the release button and emerge. I can’t think, honestly, of a comparable life-arc, at any point in human history, to match my generation’s trip. That period took in the descent of the Bathysphere, the ascent of the VTOL Harrier jet, and the expansion of  Astro-Physics. Big Bang theory replaced Steady State theory. There was the UK’s Jodrell Bank  pioneering radio telescope, followed by more of them, internationally; the discovery of dark matter, and quasars and pulsars, and black holes and neutrinos and quarks, and the parallel refinement of rocketry and guidance systems. We saw research satellites, the Voyager spacecraft, exploration of our solar system, and the discovery of water on Mars, and the certainty, now, that a Mars settlement will come within decades.

Way back in my life there were born transistors, and the solid state electronics revolution, and the obsolescence of electronic valves. There was anti-noise, anti-matter, carbon-dating, electron-microscopy, micro-processors, micro dots and Nano-technology, new materials and super-conductivity and super-computers.There were still steam trains taking us on holiday when I was a boy. Then came  new diesels, then electric trains, then, abroad, bullet trains and  under-mountain and undersea railway tunnels, then there was magnetic levitation technology, fusion reactors, national power grids, hydro-electric, wind, and solar power. Oh, and they built the Channel Tunnel, and I’ve travelled through it by train from London to Paris.  I’m merely scratching the surface of a life here.

On my life trip I’ve seen a huge dumbing–down of society in general, and a decline in educational standards. I’m not imagining that. I worked as a supply teacher in comprehensive schools in England, after I was made redundant in the telecoms industry, and I’ve interviewed and evaluated numerous candidates for jobs, in various sales- manager roles I had.  Neither was an inspiring experience.

The growth of the Internet, and alternative information sources has, on the other hand, severely dented the influence of Establishment mass-media. It has alerted the general public to the destructive consequences of globalization, and the machinations of a corrupt ruling elite, engaged in ushering in a New World Order against their will. It has begun to trigger revolutions, such as the popular resistance, in the UK, to an EU super state, with Brexit, and anti-EU developments elsewhere in Europe. However, the threat of the aggressive advances of militant  Islam into democratic and gullible western nations is serious.  Free speech, a right valued as paramount through my life, and through the whole western enlightenment, is now under open threat from Political Correctness, and a political “Newspeak” predicted in George Orwell’s “1984”.  CCTV mass-surveillance, facial-recognition software, and satellite communications have made the Orwellian nightmare of Big Brother a technological reality.

The UK is the most spied-on place on the planet. The society that once gave us Speakers’ Corner  has morphed into an enemy of free expression, where university students demand “safe spaces” free from the dangerous influence of debate and alternative ideas. Truly bizarre, and possibly, ultimately tragic.

If I were a cynic, I might say I’d seen the best of it.

I’m glad the poet in me stayed the course, and I was hugely amused that, with the amazing launch of AIRSTRIP, at the legendary Heart of Darkness club, in Phnom Penh, in December 2017, I made it into a band before I turned seventy! (pause for hoots of self-mockery).

As I go forward, however, there’s one abiding influence from my lifetime I can be sure will go along with me, the Uncertainty Principle. As the robotics revolution resurrects the Luddites, and ushers in massive unemployment, that age of plentiful, available jobs I knew in my youth, seems as far-off as James Watt, Brunel, and Hargreaves’ Spinning Jenny.

God is dead, but let’s hope Artificial Intelligence knows better.

It’s not over ‘till it’s over. Onwards.

 

Count your blessings.

 

You grow old, as you have lived,

among charlatans, thieves, political liars,

talentless poseurs, decriers of the worthy,

running on jealousy. And infestations

of academic commissars,

post-modernist frauds.

 

It’s the culture of the cockroaches

and The Murderers of Truth Awards,

the era of the brainwashed and the ordure of

the journo-whores.

Betrayed and dumbed-down i-phone slaves

whose clueless, bovine ignorance

ignores the marxist killing floors,

bloodstained dystopias built on bones.

 

Whose ignorance of history abjures

the corporate criminals, and Maoist-clones,

the gilded movie bawds, the papal puppeteers  and

teflon pederasts, the rackets and

the turnover of temples-become-profit-zones,

the mummery of ritual to stupefy the herd.

 

In the culture of the cockroaches, subjection

is the meaning, and compliance is  the word.

So, count your blessings, poet,

you grow old, as you have lived,

amid the virtue-signalling of herds

of posturing tyros to the left of

the absurd.

 

KC: How does one improve as a poet – and in what ways have you gotten better at your craft?

JG: With poetry, like most art, given some basic talent, practice is key to improvement, but read other poets, ancient and modern, learn about the tradition and the revolutionaries. Practice at reading aloud is also important, since poetry, it has often been forgotten, is a performance art.  This certainly wasn’t the emphasis in the teaching I received, but it’s an integral part of the bardic and troubadour tradition, literally centuries old. Only recently did I recall my father telling me that he’d often been assigned to give poetic recitations when he was a boy. Apparently he was pretty good at it.  As a self-educated man, who missed out on formal schooling, and with an uncaring father forever embittered by the horrors of his soldiering in the First World War, he always encouraged a love of poetry in me. His last words told me to carry on writing it.

Reading aloud builds confidence for the poet, and extends the theatrical dimension of poetic narrative. It does require some acting ability, however; and rehearsal. It’s a way to make a poem pack more emotional punch. It’s a more direct, if risky, form of communicating the piece. Successful experience in reading aloud also feeds back into the style of writing. For example, it developed the narrative thrust much more in my work.

Also, looking back on it, the weekly pressure to produce a verse column of a comic / satirical nature, to a deadline, was a useful discipline in student days. It taught me more than I realized, in basic technical skills.

Studying for my Master’s Degree in Elizabethan and Shakespearian Drama, I had a year of total immersion in the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, which had to have a significant formative effect on my own creative development.

After I started writing poetry again, I reached out, about twenty five years ago, to other local poets, in Hertfordshire UK, and started a poets’ group which met every week to read and critique members’ work. The group, which I believe is still in existence, is called Poetry I.D. (after one of my poems of the same name) and proved very helpful to a number of poets in developing their writing, and gaining confidence in their art. The group organized readings and workshops, and produced an annual poetry collection.

Public readings, with this group, and subsequently, gave me valued experience in delivering and projecting my work. The feedback I received strengthened my self-belief as a poet.

I say, in all seriousness, Poet was a title I was reluctant to adopt lightly. After all my study, my reading, and as a student who had absorbed the ideas of T S Eliot and F R Leavis, the role of poet, to me, was a mantle, sanctified by tradition, something to be earned, rather than claimed. I’ve seen many people claim it with an embarrassing lack of any skill.

My Facebook page, and Lizardville Productions FB @lizardvilleproductions page, have served for some years now, as outlets for my poetry. It  has been like being able to give a reading whenever I want to, often several times a week. The positive feedback I’ve received from a loyal following has been a real stimulus to me as a poet, and I take this opportunity to thank those people for their support.

Though I have had work consistently published, in magazines and websites in the UK and the USA, my adopting the role of “Performance Poet” in S.E. Asia, put the emphasis strongly on live  readings. I started live readings at various venues in Bangkok, beginning at a performance evening  I started at Assumption University when I was teaching there. I continued in clubs in Bangkok, and still later, Phnom Penh. In the process I got noticed; some called me the ”Poet Noir”. For me, all this period was one of practice and development in my writing and its delivery.

As my workflow continued, and I was better known, I published two collaborations at Lizardville Productions. “Bangkok, Heart of Noir” was a poetic collaboration with Expressionist  painter, Chris Coles. “Blanc et Noir” was a poetic collaboration with photographer, Mark Desmond Hughes.

Working with great talents in other disciplines means you must produce of your best to merit the partnership, I greatly enjoyed complementing my poetry with the impressive output of these two guys.

A final note regarding improving and sustaining one’s poetic output, is a simple one. Be attuned and receptive for new ideas, images, inspirations. Always have a notebook with you. Some of those ideas can take months or years to gel.

KC: What has Southeast Asia gotten right that the West never learned? What do you miss about England?

Kevin Cummings, Alan Parkhouse, and John Gartland at The Jazz Club in Phnom Penh

JG: I feel no empathy with the brand of Buddhism in Thailand and Cambodia, even though I’ve been very influenced and sustained by Zen Buddhism, in my life and thinking.

I’ve always enjoyed the more tolerant attitudes to some aspects of life, that one found in Thailand. Such open-mindedness seems to be in decline these days, under military dictatorship.  However, since Thai tolerance also extends to thoroughgoing social corruption, it’s not always a positive thing.

What do I miss about England? Landscapes where I used to go hiking, like The Lake District, Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Yorkshire Dales, and Northumberland.

I miss mountain-biking in a cool climate. I’m also an Irish citizen, and I miss Ireland even more.  I go back when I can.

 

from.. Thoughts from the West

 

But driving

to the reading up in Donegal,

re-visiting the windy West,

as rapt as any lover,

best redeems a poet,

weaver without witnesses,

invests in me a landscape green

of ancestry and memory.

The straight road to old friendships,

and the boundless zest

of childhood wait within

the healing whisper of the trees.

So, under rolling Sligo skies,

through Drumcliffe, northward,

by Ben Bulben’s side, I’m breathless

in the land’s embrace,

this stormy blessing of a place

we cried so often, leaving,

lives ago.

 

KC: You and John Burdett had some major differences over Brexit. I believe you got a nice blurb from John out of it. Explain Brexit. What do the critics not get? What are your biases and blind spots that are toughest for you to own up to?

JG: Brexit is about the British people waking up to the fact that their agreement to participate in a European Common Market has been hi-jacked by a totally different agenda, to become part of a European super state. The following recent press  report about recently released government documents, puts it in a nutshell. It describes a political conspiracy against the British public.

“We were lied to!

A SECRET document, which remained locked away for 30 years, advised the British Government to COVER-UP the realities of EU membership so that by the time the public realised what was happening it would be too late.

Almost all of the shocking predictions – from the loss of British sovereignty, to monetary union and the over-arching powers of European courts – have come true.

But damningly for Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath, and all those who kept quiet about the findings in the early 70s, the document, known as FCO30/1048, was locked away under Official Secrets Act rules for almost five decades.

The classified paper, dated April 1971, suggested the Government should keep the British public in the dark about what EEC membership means, predicting that it would take 30 years for voters to realise what was happening, by which time it would be too late to leave.

That last detail was the only thing the disgraceful paper – prepared for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) – got wrong.

The document, known as FCO30/1048, was locked away under Official Secrets Act rules.

This 1971 document shows exactly what the plan was.

The unknown author – a senior civil servant – correctly predicted the then European Economic Community (the EEC effectively became the EU in 1993) was headed for economic, monetary and fiscal union, with a common foreign and defence policy, which would constitute the greatest surrender of Britain’s national sovereignty since 1066.

He went on to say “Community law” would take precedence over our own courts , and that ever more power would pass away from Parliament to the bureaucratic system centred in Brussels.

The author even accurately asserts that the increased role of Brussels in the lives of the British people would lead to a “popular feeling of alienation from Government”.

But, shockingly, politicians were advised “not to exacerbate public concern by attributing unpopular measures… to the remote and unmanageable workings of the Community”. “

After David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, through a combination of arrogance and incompetence, stumbled into offering a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, the Establishment’s absurdly exaggerated warnings against leaving (now derided as “The Big Fear”)  became comic legend.  Increased unemployment was the least there was to fear, according to this huge propaganda campaign. From the lock-stepped apparatchiks of the BBC to  pop-music  has-beens like Bob Geldoff, to political-has beens like John Major, to soon-to- be’s like Hillary Clinton and  Barrack Obama, there were dire warnings of  disaster, toil and trouble, if their beloved New World Order was disrupted. The UK Chancellor, Osborne made predictions of such spookily dire outcomes that the biblical plagues of Egypt seemed preferable to leaving the EU. This arch- black-propagandist, whose fictitious predictions patronized  and  insulted the public’s intelligence, was fired from the cabinet after the vote to leave. However, he has since been appointed the Editor of London’s mass circulation daily paper, The Evening Standard.  As my American friends would say, “Go figure!”

The cost has been huge. In addition to an eye-watering slice of taxpayers’ money, the government also gave away the UK’s right to make its own laws and determine its own tax rates, gave away its rich fisheries,  and surrendered a thousand years of English Common Law to the European Court.

Unregulated immigration of unskilled workers drove working class wages down, swamped the National Health Service, and flooded schools with non-English speakers.

About 1.95 million European nationals have moved to Britain since Poland and nine former Soviet bloc countries joined the EU in 2004, giving them freedom to come and work in the UK.

This compares to 1.49m migrants from countries outside the EU settling in Britain in the same time.

This means Britain’s population has increased by about six percent, due solely to non-British immigrants, in a decade.

People who drew attention to these alarming figures were smeared as racists, extremists, nationalist, and right-wingers, in a full-on BBC and mass-media onslaught, reminiscent, in its ruthless thoroughness, of Doctor Goebbels, or Senator McCarthy.

However, as we saw, the British  public were not fooled. They voted to leave the EU, because they had real personal experience of a drastic fall in the quality of life for ordinary folk, which fat-cat supporters of the EU membership did not.

Since that fateful vote to leave, we’ve seen the full weight of the UK establishment, from the BBC to the Lords, and ranks of rich media airheads, and patronizing EU hirelings, employed in an anti-democratic effort to deride, thwart, and possibly reverse the decision of seventeen and a half million Britons, to leave the EU.

Their masters, in Berlin and Brussels, urge them on, clearly alarmed at the imminent loss of the UK economy and its riches, from their super-state game-plan.

That, in brief, is the reality of Brexit.  Escape from a masterpiece of lies.

KC: Can you separate your life from your poetry? How are they separate? How are they intertwined?

John Gartland at a poetry reading at Queen Bee in Bangkok

JG: They are inseparable.  Writing a poem that works well is one of life’s high-order pleasures. It is completely habit-forming.

 

 PROCESSING

 

Of all the landmarks of the Forbidden City

which embellish this ruined quarter,

the Tower of Yearning still crackles

with lonely life.

Stored hereabouts is Dowland’s Lachrimae

and other melancholy data.

Here, gloomy church interiors,

journals of half -forgotten wars

and maps of vanished cities crowd

the great soliloquies.

There, a Roman amphitheatre

vibrating to the late quartets,

a pocketful of lunar rubble,

huge with silence, older than God.

 

For ages, keeping this from crumbling

into other data, bleeding into becoming,

I’ve tried sealing off the entire sector.

 

But it leaks remembrance, unconsoled;

like old reactor rivets,

hot for another quarter million years.

 

“Ordo Ab Chao” is the Latin expression that defines why writing poetry is addictive. It means Order out of Chaos.  Poetry is a rich discipline that allows you to visit life events that might otherwise be overwhelming, scary, inspiring; as a poet, to come back with something to say, to process them, into art. Poetry always did that.

If you get to the stage of delivering your poetry in public, and you are successful, you additionally get the actor’s or musician’s performance feedback. So, yes, poetry, among other things, is life therapy. It’s also a craft, of course, so without that skill component, and practice, it will be bad poetry.

It’s pretty scary thinking about drying up.

Creative cold turkey would be a serious hurdle to manage.

 

Here is the Muse

 

And when she saves your lucky skin again,

incredibly she opens to your tentative embraces,

and has you, in the hallway of the treasury,

some happy fool, exalted to be chosen, momentarily;

allowed to see her naked faces,

intimate, contemptuous, by turns.

 

She’s left you in the empty morning,

grateful, and alone again,

her number smeared like lipstick in your notebook,

and seems a fragrant phantom then,

till evidenced by carpet burns.

Short of a Beethoven string quartet, few art forms have the emotional depth, eloquence, and richness of poetry at its best. An awareness of a place in the long literary tradition enriches a writer and supplies a kind of empowering alchemy.  Isaac Newton famously wrote in 1675: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

That’s exactly the way the Great Tradition can elevate and empower you, as a writer, if you can also bring something special of your own to the party.

 

TRUE DETECTIVE.

 

On the client’s balcony,

an answer hit me, vertigo high,

“One bad attitude’s

enough to find damnation.”

Sure; that’s why I slid through

those realities that evening

on his tuner, found this

case had grown impossibly big.

Heard the laughter from inside….

 

“Was just radio noise”, he testified,

“until I stumbled on the integrator switch,

and the whole gig went harmonic.”

Subversive hospitality; party-lover.

Said he’s seen too much now,

can’t go back there.

Batshit crazy;

or may just be a Buddha.

 

Altered and illegal states cheat

fiction, I told my client, later.

Naked laughter from the room behind.

“We’re locked into this caper,

brother. We score by bringing

something special to the party;

one way, or another”.

 

Time to go back, inside.

 

KC: The legacy of many a great poet includes the fact there is little to no money derived from the art. How would John Gartland like to be remembered? What do you hope readers of your poems, including the ones in this book, Different Drummers, will learn from their reading in the year 2068?

 

JG: Remembered for and by the work only. Oblivion is much more likely.

 

Oblivion to Bang Wa.

 

I’m looking, for the thousandth time,

down from this commuter line

at a weedy Chinese graveyard,

sliding by.

It says memory’s a shaky act.

 

Oblivion Junction to Bang Wa.

The rush-hour train is packed,

approaching Saleh Daeng;

our Skytrain, slowing down

now, for the station.

 

And over crumbling vaults,

the ring of corporate giants

looms in stainless expectation

of a drop-dead valuation,

for this real-estate of tombs.

 

And suddenly, statistically,

you know that someone

on this train, will get off

at big  Junction O, today;

will never have another

job to sweat about, or have

another monthly pass to pay.

 

And in another hundred years, or less,

say seventy five, not one aboard

Oblivion to Bang Wa now will be alive,

and many here today can’t know,

that  they’re already booked to go,

express.

 

No one stayed top-dog, fatcat,

mad-ass, high-so, in-crowd.

No one stayed hot, stayed high,

stayed strong, stayed up-and-coming,

loaded, or knew why they didn’t give

a fuck for any of it, anymore.

Of course, long dead, or ga-ga,

they’re guaranteed not to.

 

But some are heard laughing,

Oblivion to Bang Wa,

some are still laughing

in books that they left you.

 

KC: Talk about humility. What does it mean to you, if anything.

 

JG: As the Ancient Greek writers knew well, hubris invites nemesis.

In the face of the abiding mysteries of life and death, the philosopher knows humility is the wisest virtue.

 

Witness Statement

 

Lost beauty, and lost self-respect, lost scope.

Lost joy, lost peace, lost self-belief, lost hope…

And owning

the pathology of moral dissolution

is revolving-door to wisdom

(when self-knowledge realigns us).

There’s no impartial witness statement

here, in life’s bargain self-a-basement.

It is our naked suffering defines us.

 

In the time of slippage,

insincerity and drift,

he’d lived in many places,

gathering up the thoughts of man,

embracing the forbidden,

and concealed behind an actor’s faces.

A Jungian meditation saved him.

Analysis the fix began…

 

 

“Lost love and lost compassion and lost pages.

Lost chances, and lost promise and lost ages.

I squandered all my assets and rejected every boss.

Though often high, and sometimes drunk,

I know I was a pilgrim monk

for Fragments of the True Loss.

I write a witness statement

from the pit of Purgatory, brother.

I write a hack of self-discovery,

a true confession, and no other.

Lost passion, and lost confidence, lost heart.

Lost pity, lost integrity, lost freedom, and lost art.

Each humbling profanity,

each annihilating breath

are assassins to our vanity,

and naked dress-rehearsals

for the opening-night of death.

 

I owned self-hatred as my name,

the peace of understanding was the prize.

No glitz or lies can mar my game,

no cataclysm, wound or dross.

Redeemed the world with different eyes,

I guard the Fragments of True Loss.”

 

No fix, no hold, no grip

and no abiding plan,

the slide into the

mystery of True Loss

distinguishes, then

levels every man.

John Gartland, David Armstrong, John Fengler, Prewa, and Eric Nelson
(Photo by ALsdair McLeod)

To learn more about John Gartland’s poetry go to:

amazon.com/author/amazonjohngartland

 

1 Comment

 

 


Christopher G. Moore is a writer. I know one when I see one and more importantly, I know one when I read one. He has written 27 novels, 9 works of nonfiction and hundreds of essays. Years ago I wrote something that I felt was innocuous but the feedback told me otherwise. It was that Christopher may likely be remembered in writing circles as an essayist more than as a novelist. In writing Rooms – On Human Domestication & Submission he now runs the risk or reward of being better known as a writer of nonfiction period. Moore, a prolific writer by any measure, has declared himself agnostic on the verdict. I believe him.

His previous nonfiction works include: Heart Talk: Say What You Feel in Thai; Faking it in Bangkok; The Orwell Brigade; Fear and Loathing in Bangkok; The Age of Dis-Content; The Cultural Detective: Reflections on the Writing Life in Thailand; and Memory Manifesto: A Walking Meditation in Cambodia, which I reviewed here at Asia Life Magazine.

Rooms, at 369 pages, plus 44 pages of notes, and a 7 page index is Moore’s most ambitious nonfiction work by a country mile. It is the first work by Moore which I have read that felt like an academic read. This is Moore the Oxford graduate with a degree in law writing to a world-wise audience – the university law professor well-prepared at the chalkboard, lecturing to hungry students. Rooms reads like a Ph.D thesis to me, and that’s what I didn’t like about the book. It’s a book that piqued my interest frequently, and left me confused on occasion. It’s a tome that is worthy of being peer reviewed in scholarly journals and causing Moore to be awarded a doctorate in anthropology, psychology, or futurology. That’s good news for Moore but I came away realizing I fall far short of being that peer.

Rooms is about room culture, a subject I knew nothing about and had given little thought to when first entering Rooms. I now know a great deal about the subject. What I am less clear on is how useful that information will be for me in the future and what void, if any, it helped fill. Stay tuned.

The notes in the back offer a fascinating glimpse, in my case, of what I had just read. With hindsight I recommend you consider reading them first. The pages are a window into Moore’s mind and what must be his Bodleian-like library. One of the terms found on the first page in the notes and throughout Rooms is “Sedentaries”. The term is used to distinguish sedentary people from mobile ones. Our hunter gatherer ancestors are an example of mobile cultures.

” Sedentaries is used to refer to the lack of physical activity in most people’s lives. All such people live in room culture. While long hours of physical labor were part of the early city-states and carried on through the Industrial Revolution, modern people are noted for their physical inactivity. One 2016 international study found that in a life span of seventy-one years the average person spends 41 percent of his/her time in front of a technological device, 29.7 percent sitting down, and 0.69 percent exercising.

Moore takes the reader on a Rooms expedition that includes several topics of interest to him. Specifically: privacy, technology, systems, George Orwell, violence, history, economics, psychology, architecture, power elites, human rights, personal freedom, the brain, legal issues, artificial intelligence, and the future, distant and not so distant. If that seems like a lot to digest in one book, it is. Moore tackles these complex subjects in Rooms with clarity and a sense of purpose.  He has done the same in his previous works, but this book felt unlike anything Moore has ever written or more accurately unlike anything I have ever read by Moore. Rooms is a book which might not garner Moore a huge audience, although that is certainly possible, but it should find an appreciative readership, possibly avid and curious readers who are not yet addicted to screens big and small.

If you are looking for Steven Pinker optimism in Rooms you’ve come to the wrong place. Moore paints a dark, pessimistic future for mankind or at least that’s my interpretation. As a former lawyer Moore is often not definitive in his thoughts and ideas. He’s more likely to use the word “may” over “shall”. This leaves a lot of wiggle-room for what actually happens in the future or what actually happened in the past.

Moore’s pessimism is what led to my confusion at times. An example occurs on page 343 in a chapter discussing Rooms After AD 2060. I get that we are losing freedoms, including privacy. I get that we are more sedentary. I also get that, like Bancini in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, we are losing these freedoms voluntarily. What I have trouble comprehending is that there will be no resistance – that we will all acquiesce. As Moore puts it, “Everything about us will be legible, accessible, measurable, characterized, commoditized and stored.” So far so good. He goes on to say, “The Hollywood-style rebel-hero, who seeks refuge from this world of rooms, would be viewed with the same disgust that we reserve today for child pornographers.” Maybe it’s my Berkeley birthplace or my Santa Cruz, California home, two places known for where old rebels go to die, but I cannot wrap my head around that one. Where’s Pinker when I need him? The Chief’s of the world are still out there, able to break out a window and run free.

Of all the subjects Moore covers I found the issue of privacy the one that held my interest the most. Whether I agreed with his take or not made no difference. What mattered to me was that the subject was given proper thought. Rooms by Christopher G. Moore is a time demanding, deep read that requires the reader to analyze the author’s thinking and their own. Rooms explores a time when we were wilder and nomadic and takes us to a gentler less violent place and analyzes the cost of that gentleness.

Does Moore remain hopeful for humankind in the future? Does he believe that technology will free us or further confine us? I’m not sure. But I do know this from reading Rooms by Christopher G. Moore: if you find yourself in a room alone with a door, leave yourself some wiggle-room. Don’t assume that the door is locked and don’t assume that you are alone. Open the door to your room and take a wild walk.

Rooms launches at Amazon on January 9th, 2019 and is available now for for pre-order as an eBook for $6.95. For information about the paperback follow Christopher at his official blog CGMoore.com.

 

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