Tag Archives: Peter Haskell

From your incurable optimist, dare I say, utopian?

Sadly, my dear friend Ann Haskell died Oct. 22 after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer. Assimilation of such facts of life is difficult without the means to attend the memorial. She was my ex-mother-in-law though I remained a great admirer and missed her terribly-almost as much as her youngest son Peter-after we split up. As a young woman I was in awe of her. Quietly strong, kind, intelligent, beautiful, a scholar, single mother and professor of literature at SUNY-Buffalo when we met, Ann and I thankfully reconnected and started corresponding a few years back, along with middle son Mark and her daughter—my surrogate little sister—Gretl, who reassured me, “Mom knew you were thinking of her.” Mark let all her loved ones know Ann died as she wanted, peacefully, surrounded by her beloved family and felines, no doubt with characteristic grace and dignity. Here is part of her obituary. As I told Gretl, I don’t possess words enough to describe her accomplishments.

Ann S. Haskell Obituary – 1/7/29 – 10/22/10     Ann was born in Washington, DC, in 1929 and grew up in Arlington, VA. While raising three children on her own, she was among the first women to graduate from Clemson University and was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Graduate Fellowship. She received her Doctorate with honors from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. She went on to teach at the English Department of the State University of New York at Buffalo, specializing in Chaucer and Medieval Life and Literature and in Children’s Literature, for thirty-seven years. She was a mentor and advisor to hundreds of students whose lives and careers she enriched with her generosity and scholarship. Her many academic publications include the books, “Essays on Chaucer’s Saints” and  “A Middle English Anthology,” which has been in print since 1969. Ann wrote Op-Ed columns, personal essays, and articles on food and numerous other subjects for publications such as the Smithsonian, the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and New York Times. She maintained a home in Provence in Southern France for forty years and she and her husband taught a program abroad on the Culture of Provence.

*sigh* Sure do hope I get to see Gretl and Mark again soon.

So, back to the grind . . . I’ve been trying to recall a time when I didn’t have a laptop handy 24 hours a day. How did I survive? Still in the throes of Visible Verse festival programming, production and promotion, literary scene pal Rob Taylor kindly blogging about it at Spread It Like a Roll of Nickels. I will be presenting a couple of videopoems–a preview–at Sean Cranbury’s Real Vancouver Writers Series, Nov. 17. I bought a Continue reading

In mourning this lovely morning, missing my dearly departed

There are so many things I cannot say in this blog, nor in polite company, which is why I write poetry and keep a journal, sometimes on paper, sometimes on my MacBook. Tonight, I set out to write a poem about my beloved friend Peter (Haskell). It’s been two years since he died and that’s about how long it takes for me to assimilate anything but especially death. Even more difficult to assimilate is how he died. A violent death, his family and friends believing he was murdered, the LAPD and the DA’s office calling it self-defense and in any case, tragic would be an understatement. In fact there are no words and I felt frustrated all night, trying to convey not just how I felt about Peter but how to authentically portray him.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, I had expressed my condolences to the family of our mutual friend Jhim Pattison who died last summer. I managed to contact his sister Marsha at last, to tell her how much he meant to me, that it was a privilege to be his friend, which naturally made me think of Byron and Peter, so intertwined were our lives. I had sent along a Continue reading

Post-Peter memorial, discombobulated, sad

Is it any wonder? I can’t focus, keep playing around with FB and email, skirting around the huge job I need to get done, curating the Visible Verse 09 screening.

I’m drained, keep listening to songs Peter and I wrote and sang together, going over it in my mind, all the things we *could* have done, the great potential we had, the promise, how we threw it all away. Well, I am apparently still trying to come to terms with it, never had to face it until losing him, our shared past. And I just plain old miss him! Hate the void…

Wednesday, Sept. 30

Lunch before I leave for the airport, Reuben sandwich in Beechwood Canyon with Teresa, right under the Hollywood sign. Odd how the fabled Hollywood came to be such a significant part of my life, moving here so young, playing in bands, hanging out with Hollywood punks. Like most of the rest of my life, I didn’t plan it. I’m no movie-eyed starlet. Certainly I arrived with ambitions but it just sort of happened, found myself in a band with Brad Kent who had played in San Francisco’s Avengers and had connections in LA, namely our drummer Karla Mad Dog of the Controllers.

Robyn Westcott, Byron and Maritza came by the hotel last night and we had a lovely visit. Robyn and I commiserated over those who were instrumental in Peter’s murder, those whose names make me Continue reading

Hanging with my Cali girls, the Ex-Girlfriends Club, gecko in the bathroom

Been battling insomnia, a vicious circle. The more I worry that I won’t sleep, the harder it is to drop off. I’m up and down for hours, anxiously peeing, assuaging the turmoil in my gut in vain. I retired early, right after dinner at Yamashiro with some of Gretl’s friends, too tired to party hearty. I shouldn’t eat so late either but the two computer programmers got lost in Hollywood. Geeks said Gretl-so I’m kind of surprised they didn’t have a GPS. Josef helped develop the technology and he only recently conceded to buying one. What’s that about?

Preparing today for my performance in Pasadena, wondering if anyone will show up. Even a poet’s friends don’t want to attend a poetry reading! I extend an invitation and they get a panicked look on their faces, revealing they’d rather be anywhere else. After we are to drive back to the hotel and cab it over to Boardner’s for Peter’s memorial and it will be interesting to see who shows up there.

Liza, one of Peter’s ex-girlfriends came over with her sister yesterday. A lovely young redhead from South Carolina, replete with endearing accent. Interesting to hear of their life together, that period. Things felt a little awkward but I believe we all tried to Continue reading

Still missing Peter, one year later

Peter’s birthday. He would have turned 54 if he hadn’t been taken out by a trigger happy *friend.* I’m preparing to go to LA to attend a memorial, meeting up with his sister Gretl. I am going be performing poems from my new book, Three Blocks West Of Wonderland, dedicated to his memory.

Sucks. Still sucks after a year. Still can’t believe he’s gone, haven’t entirely assimilated it or been able to write about it. It took many years before I could write about my mother after she died in 1992.

Dreamed I was ambling down the road on a hose! Like riding a snake. If I yarded the thing just right, it stayed up high, rigid enough to keep me aloft. Surely it was due to riding the horse the other day, learning to use the reigns. Lovely and bizarre dream, like the best of them. I don’t remember my dreams much anymore, am happy when I do.

Trying to tie up what seems like a million loose ends before I leave. Junior is digitizing some old cassettes, recordings of the band Peter and I had with Jon Huck and John MacAdams a long time ago. Josef transferred the footage we shot but the editing software keeps crashing. Need to get it rendered and to Roderick so he can start working on it. I have to view it though before I leave in case there is anything that needs to be re-shot, though at this rate, I am running out of time.


Well, the LA Weekly article Paul Cullum wrote about Peter’s slaying was finally published and I guess you could say I am gobsmacked, the fallout coming down heavily now, a week later, scab of grief picked open, bleeding all over the place. It’s also a relief in a way, after having discussed the story for the past year.

The editors cut it nearly in half and called it Beautiful Loser-Tortured Killer which offended Peter’s mother. Anything to sell the paper. Many people have asked, “What did you think?” I think Continue reading

Morning musings, missing Peter

I am probably repeating myself but, well, welcome to my world. I still dream of Peter, wake up with him in my mind and I suppose that is not surprising, as troubling as his death is. I can’t abide speaking of him in the past tense and get an eerie feeling whenever I contemplate the void created by his absence, the void he has entered, the void we are all headed to. I go to the blog his sister Gretl has set up and look at the photographs of Peter, his work, and sigh and get sad and angry and cry again and wonder why am I doing this to myself?

I am trying to understand, to comprehend how this could happen and how could I have underestimated how much I loved him, how much he meant to me. I know that I am also mourning the part of me that is gone because he is gone, a critical, transitional phase of my life that he Continue reading

“Pretty stumps,” poets, loggers and another Peter in my life

I’ve arrived at the cottage, which is really not a cottage at all, more like the small wing of a house and I’m disappointed that there is no view. There was an ocean view on their website, lots of views. When am I going to learn? Well, it’s dark, I’m hoping the magnificent sea view will materialize with the morning light. I was counting on it for inspiration!

Sterile. Too much white in here, feels like a clinic. Our house has colour on the walls, thank Christ. I’m cramped, hemmed in, and discombobulated, not to mention tired after missing the Crofton ferry to Salt Spring Island. There were no signs on the Island highway for Crofton or the ferry to Vesuvius Bay and so I missed the sailing by about three minutes. Then I was driving in the fog and dark trying to find the place. It’s hard to tell driveways from roads and with no idea of distances, very confusing. I had to pull over and call the innkeeper, found out I had indeed gone too far, had to turn around. That’s it. I’m asking Santa for a GPS for Christmas! This is just dumb. In any case, after a nap and a cup of tea, I am starting to ease into the solitude, anxiety abating. In fact, it’s beginning to feel quite heavenly. I was vaguely lonely earlier, restless. Ah, quiet. Wow. No barking and howling, no video games booming, no doors slamming.

Why do the drinking glasses have the mason’s symbol on them?

Earlier today, around noon:

I saw a truck on the Bowen ferry bumper sticker: Slow Down! This ain’t the mainland.

I’m free! On the Queen of Cowichan, on my way to Salt Spring Island and my week-long writing retreat, watching three Cat in the Hat-shaped clouds recede as we chug along to Nanaimo, fog horn blasting. Continue reading

High Anxiety, Victoria Stanton’s night of performance at our place, ROCKsalt launch in North Vancouver

A bit of a blowout this Tuesday, sad to say for I am not being as productive as I should be, couldn’t sleep last night. Again. Wish I could get a prescription for a sleeping aid but that doesn’t get to the core of the problem. I start hyperventilating, feel absolutely certain that I am dying and the more I worry about not sleeping, the more panic mounts in my body. I went to the emergency room once, sure that I was about to die of cardiac arrest. My mother had heart disease, so I worry. Christ, she had depression and diabetes too, drank herself to death really, a slow suicide. I start to feel like I can’t breathe and replete with chest pains Josef took me to the hospital. After a long wait they wired me up for an EKG and promptly pronounced me normal, fine. Now I’m able to recognize the signs of an anxiety attack but find little comfort in that knowledge. In fact, I am intimate with anxiety, nostalgic for the days when it was a foreign concept.

I just posted photos of our night of performance with Victoria Stanton last week. I was glad to finally meet her in person. We’ve been corresponding for years, ever since we screened one of her videos at the Vancouver Videopoem Festival. Funny how you form preconceived notions about people by seeing two-dimensional images. I was surprised when I went into the cafe to collect her and found a gamine sipping tea, dwarfed by the bulky suitcase next to her. I suppose I thought she would be physically as formidable as her work.

Poor Victoria! I had lost my cell phone and of course that was the number I gave her. So here she was trying to reach me in vain, to let me know which ferry she was on, and getting my voice mail. She looked me up in the book and everything turned out all right but I felt bad. Christ, traveling is stressful enough. We had some of my fragrant Malaysian stew of chicken and sweet potatoes, with coconut milk, garnished with cilantro. I was relieved she wasn’t’ a vegetarian and over dinner we made plans for the evening’s performance. She ironed a white sheet to use for a screen and Josef helped her set up the PA and video projector. I put out snacks and chairs, lit candles and once again transformed our home into a cozy, inviting venue. A couple of people arrived early. Gawd, I hate that. The only thing worse than people arriving late is people arriving early. I let Josef entertain them while I finished dressing though sometimes it doesn’t occur to him to offer guests a drink or something to eat, he can be a real nerd. The other arrivals were staggered over the next hour and I knew Victoria was anxious but I wanted to include as many people as possible. We had a good turnout for a Monday night, the weather cooperating in that it wasn’t pouring rain. Russel brought about five people, bless his heart. I am always so happy to see him. He makes me laugh and flatters me shamelessly the entire time he’s here. At last I was able to introduce Victoria. The crowd delighted in the Bank of Victoria cards she handed out, with Point de Rassemblement printed on them and the sentiment echoed in her spoken word performance that, “When I go away I need to find the anchor points, the gathering places, the connections that resonate within my body.” We watched her onscreen, running down a country road, video she had shot on Gabriola Island where she had been the day before to appear at Hilary Peach’s annual Poetry Gabriola festival. The piece certainly resonated with me; I was very moved. Later Victoria thanked me and said she loved the audience and performing here which was gratifying to hear. I want to be able to do this, invite people whose work I admire and provide them with a gratifying experience. It’s also a good way for me to share with my community, on my terms and to provide them with opportunities to see some remarkable artists. We were all happy I think, with how the evening went, in fact; it’s safe to say that it was enchanting. I stood on the deck after everyone was gone in awe of the stars so brilliant here on the island. Enchanted.

The next day Victoria and I visited Opa, Bowen’s towering, thousand year old tree, walked a stone labyrinth and hiked around Killarney Lake. I am busy today preparing for my writing retreat next week as I need to Continue reading

Peter, our champion, and the latest from the homefront

Peter in the boarding house room I rented in San Francisco

Van full of drunk punks . . . It will be two months since it happened and I’ve been waking up with Peter in my thoughts, recalling our travels, adventures and misadventures together. I remember being in a van full of X’s friends and entourage. “X” was LA’s premier punk era band and I, like many others, was in awe of them, thrilled when Peter introduced me. He had been part of their inner circle while previously living in Los Angeles. This wild ride occurred while Peter and I were still living in San Francisco. X was in town to play a show and we were headed to a party after the gig, a gaggle of us crowded into the back, Peter and I crouched against one wall facing several members of the Blasters who had shared the bill with X. Things were verging on pandemonium as we were all jostled about. I won’t name names but at one point-completely unprovoked—the drummer reached over and shoved his hand between my legs and up my skirt. I was shocked, may have screamed, and Peter, outraged, lunged at him. Excene, sitting queenly up front, yelled, John Doe pulled the van over and Peter and the drummer tumbled out, fists flying. I think it was John that pulled them apart. Excene was angry and exasperated with Peter and said something like, “What could you two possibly have to fight about?” Peter told her what had happened. I don’t think she believed him or just shook her head and walked away, Peter shouting after her that she was lucky to have all the friends and supporters she did and that “Heather has no one.” Years later, after John and Excene broke up and Peter and I went our separate ways, he and Excene hooked up for a while, so I don’t know, maybe she was harboring feelings for him and was jealous. Whatever. It’s ancient history but it’s true, I was a nobody. I had no one, was just some girl from small town Canada trying to be a rock star, but I had Peter. To him I was somebody. Beyond chivalrous, he was my advocate, partner, lover, and friend. Beyond identifying with the underdog, Peter was a populist and we used to talk about our vision of Utopia, a place where everyone is an artist and the artist in everyone is embraced. Continue reading