(G)literati and Fighting the Good Fight

Author Kevin Chong

Where’s the poem? Swamped this week screening submissions for Visible Verse Festival 2011 and up to my eyeballs in experimental film, which happens every year. Without being semantical, I have to say poetic is not the same as visible verse, or a video poem or a cine-poem, or whichever term you prefer. I think I just got semantical.

Still laughing and sharing photos from Kevin Chong’s book launch of new novel Beauty and Pity at Vancouver’s infamous Penthouse nightclub, the first and likely the last time I’ll ever set my ass down in there. I was surprised; the interior does not reflect the fading building facade. Neither did the carpet reek of stale beer, wall of framed 8×10 black and white celebrity headshots only one of its charms. Anyway, I’ve spent enough time in strip clubs. Bartending was the only job I could find in New York City when I resided, or rather survived a year there in the 80s. Man, it was a tough town, nothing like it is now, inhabitable. A friend of a friend got me a job at the Baby Doll, a topless bar on White Street, just down from the Mudd Club, where we used to convene after our shifts ended at 2 AM, or at the sushi bar imbibing hot sake, which goes down well in the company of bitterly cold Manhattanites. Club management kept trying to get me to strip too. I was quite miserable after my band broke up and told them, “No thanks, I don’t miss the stage that much.” I only had to watch the dancers—what was left of them—flaunt it, appalled by the Wall Street fat cat CEOs and bankers turned on by such pathetic junkies. No way I was going to wind up down there.

But back to Vancouver. I love book launches that are beyond readings. Kevin commissioned a book trailer, directed and produced by mutual friends Pam Bentley and Tara Flynn and it was hilarious. The book jacket states “Malcolm Kwan is a slacker twenty-something Asian-Canadian who is about to embark on a modeling career.” Kevin had Owen Kwong, a real male model, portray him. Later during the reading, host Charles Demers applied makeup to Kevin’s face, and not expertly, bestowing him with a magnificent unibrow. Kevin admirably kept reciting throughout the lipstick and purple wig application. What an event! And so glamorous. I’m enjoying the book immensely, can recommend it.

Attended a family wedding, the first in many moons, 24-year old accountant niece hitching up with a doctor. Even a jaded, old school punk like me got caught up in the exhilaration of young love. Don’t get me started on marriage and monogamy but the ceremony was very elegant and moving, presided by Franciscan priest Father Paul Smith, at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Kitsilano, the same church said niece was baptized in. The couple sat and held hands as various family and wedding party members lit candles and read psalms from books Ruth and Matthew. We stood for the Lord’s Prayer, which naturally I still recite by rote. I can’t help but be stirred by music, any music, which included a rousing Bach processional, Ave Maria recital and Handel recessional. The reception at Van Dusen gardens was a blast. With handsome nephews towering over me, we discussed how we never see each other except at weddings and funerals and I said, “Well I guess that’s better than nothing.” The couple had placed well-read books with a commemorative bookmark on each plate setting. Nice touch and more entertaining than a book of matches, although they’d come in handy for lighting those candles. A photographer took pictures of us posing with goofy props and costumes, which loosened things up fast, along with the open bar. Post delectable dinner we hoofed the night away to a remarkably good DJ playing an eclectic mix so danceable I bruised one of my toes. It still hurts. Why didn’t I take off my high heels? I do get carried away.

Lots happening on the Junior front as well, getting him back on the home schooling track and working closely with our most useful engine, ASD consultant Blair. Revenge of the nerds. The kid’s alright. “Back from PAX bitches!” he announced to his virtual buddies. Apparently he had to mediate a menacing homeless man and some jerk at the Seattle convention who tried to bully him. Junior successfully refused the bait both times. So, he’s slowly spreading his wings. His employers at the golf course like the job he’s doing so much they asked him to stay on throughout the fall. And he’s writing like mad! Game reviews and scripts, which is quite ironic as he used to make fun of my writing habit, its low pay. “See,” I said, “it’s in your DNA.” He’s not impressed that two of my poems have found homes in two forthcoming anthologies; Appleton in Ooligan Press’s Pacific Poetry Project and Voracious in Leaf Press’s presently untitled love poem anthology. Completing a novel did though and we’ve been brainstorming together, something I never imagined we’d do. Ah, life; it keeps us on our (aching) toes, don’t it?

It’s punk rock reunion time! Sue MacGillvray of the Devices blew into town, all the way from Australia. I hadn’t seen her since back in the day and she gave me the tightest squeeze when I walked in. “You look stunning,” she said. “You’re still adorable,” said I, “and you have an accent.” I gave her merch and we even had a chance to chat. She seems very happy, or, hasn’t changed a bit. Much celebrating ensued with my friend Debby Margolis who lives in Crescent Beach and had never heard of headliners Mud Bay Blues Band. I got to hang with home boys Colin Griffiths, Chris Crud, Mark Bignell, Scott Beadle who dee jayed and then ran into Cloverdale high school buddy Murphy Farrell, who used to play drums for Art Bergmann’s groups the Mt. Lehman Grease Band and the Shmorgs. Everybody got into the act. Modernette Randy Carpenter fronted Mud Bay for an errant Mud Bay Slim, Ron Reyes got up and sang, Pointed Sticks Nick Jones and Gordon Nicholl played as did Tony Baloney, AKA Anthony Walker. Later we went to Tony Bardach’s place, A Dental Lab, for a birthday party then headed to Ironworks studio to hear Little Guitar Army. I introduced Debby as my soul sister, saying she’d saved my ass more than once and someone responded with, “Well, it’s an ass well worth saving.” Reunions are sweet!

I just missed the Pointed Sticks-Devo show but did get to go to Zippy Pinhead’s birthday party at the Fairview Pub with scintillating gal pal Thesa (Pakarynk) but not before joining our friends Dennis (E. Bolen) and Soressa (Gardner) for a BBQ at their East Van pad. I had inverted their house number but we managed to navigate our way there to join literati Brad Cran and his wife Gillian Jerome, Rolf Maurer, George Bowering, Jean Baird, Charles Demers and Sean Cranbury. Dennis was in host mode, too busy grilling vegetables and Korean style beef to sit down but delighted, I could tell. He is an excellent BBQ chef, expertly grilling two legs of lamb for us at our place last month. Gillian professed relief at school starting and Rolf was on about Frank Davey’s new book, When TISH Happens, taking umbrage with Davey appointing himself “King of Tish.” I want to read it and perhaps a TISH anthology is in order. George is so much fun to know, wish I’d known him them. I have to say I was relieved when the subject switched, soon steeped in an in-depth conversation with Charles about the nuances of green tea. I’ve been making it all wrong, in the manner of black tea. Apparently the water shouldn’t be taken to a boiling point and the tea needs less than  2 minutes to steep which means two cups from one bag. Good to know. I love tea. Regardless of colour. Then we were on the BC Order being awarded to Gordon Campbell. Jean bemoaned the fact that not one artist is being honoured. Jeez, you’d think British Columbians didn’t care about the arts. We keep voting for big business bedmates so I guess we don’t. I find it amusing that the cowboys in Alberta spend more money on  arts than we do out here in Lotus Land. I was at the Calgary International Spoken Word Festival in April and must confess it was lovely being feted and fawned over. They covered my airfare and travel expenses, put me up in a lovely hotel and paid a nice fee.  Anyway, Thesa and I dug into a fabulous meal and then split for the party at the Fairview. I was very excited to see 45s band mates Brad Kent and Randy Rampage plus Mary Armstrong, AKA Mary Jo Kapechne of the Modernettes. The three resurrected the Sick Ones and Mary looked hot in a nurse’s uniform. Well, Mary always looks hot because Mary is hot. We had a private party in the back corner with Colin and Diane. Wow, twice in one month, we marveled as it’s usually so rare to see each other. I also ran into Carolla of Jem Gallery, Keith Aldridge and Bloodied But Unbowed director Susanne Tabata. Perhaps not surprisingly, Thesa’s friends knew a lot of my friends. Thesa and I met in the 90s (Christ, I’m talking in decades!) during my Edgewise ElectroLit Centre days and resurfaced in my life in 09 when my collection Three Blocks West of Wonderland was published and she showed up for the launch at W2. I crashed at Thesa’s fabulous West End apartment overlooking Lost Lagoon and had poached eggs for breakfast with her friend Holly. I love Thesa. And Vancouver’s punks still kick ass, fight the good fight.

Me and Pam B

2 thoughts on “(G)literati and Fighting the Good Fight

  1. You know i love you and your blog h2.

    Don’t know why this one line jumped out at me: “Well, it’s an ass well worth saving.”

    There’s a title in them ther’ hills.


    Look forward to seeing you soon!



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