Thursday, April 27, 2006

New Link

Please note new link under "Links": Lama Yeshe Ling, which is the website for the amalgamated Waterloo, Burlington, Oakville and Hamilton Dharma groups currently morphing into a CENTRE.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

World Religions at the Yoni School

Things have taken a decidedly cultish turn at the Yoni School for Wayward Poets ever since the arrival of Miss Blythe Lee Looming-Catastrophe.

I don’t think I’ve told you about Miss Blythe Lee Looming-Catastrophe. First of all, she insists on having her full name used all the time, including the Miss.

Miss Blythe Lee Looming-Catastrophe. A product of WWII, the big one, her mother was one of the Philadelphia Loomings of “Automatic Awning” fame. Her father was a drill sergeant in the Italian army, one Giuseppe Catastrophe. They met during the battle of Monte Cassino where Faith Looming had been airdropped in order to service the servicemen. After searching high and low on the Monte, she finally discovered a serviceman to service…one Giuseppe Catastrophe. She found him under a small round table covered with a red and white checked table cloth at an outdoor café just around the corner from the Cassino. Giuseppe was hiding. Whether from the Allied troops or from his own lieutenant was never clearly established. What is known is that it was love at first sight. Faith and Giuseppe were united before daybreak.

Miss Blythe Lee Looming-Catastrophe was the result of that union, a true prix de guerre. As it turned out, though, Giuseppe could never get out of his habit of running and hiding. One morning he left the villa to grab a pack of smokes and never came back. Faith Looming was thrown upon her own ample resources in the raising of her daughter Miss Blythe Lee Looming-Catastrophe. The lack of a father-in-residence had only one apparent consequence. Miss Blythe Lee Looming-Catastrophe developed an abiding faith in the eventual manifestation of a spiritual father-figure, and so she has spent her entire life engaged in the practise of assorted occult rituals designed to turn the dross of her family history into golden slumbers.

And she’s had quite an effect on the inmates of the Yoni School. Suzy Homemaker is now a member of a group called the Castrati di Naturo Pathogen. The founder of this society, she says, was an alchemist in the south of France during the ninth century. Little else is known about him, but it seems he was a demanding taskmaster. Devotees risked his wrath at their peril, for he was known to possess a quick temper and a biting sarcasm that could flay the flesh from one’s very bones. The main ritual these Castrati seem to engage in is to anoint themselves with oil (by jumping in the bathtub), wrapping themselves in flannel nighties and repeatedly mumbling arcane phrases such as “I toleja so I toleja so I toleja so…” The result is a hypnotic trance similar to voodoo practices, followed by sleep during which one dreams of lettuce.

LaLaLeo has joined the Vibratos. As far as I can tell, they’re similar to the Sufi Dervishes. Except they don’t whirl. They just perch on their hind legs, imitating humans, and oscillate.

Finally, Cosmicat, not to be outdone, has become the most vocal cultist of all, thanks to her membership in the Flying Yowlengas, a reputedly demonic sect whose main ritual is to pace stealthily within an inverted pentagram at midnight while uttering bloodcurdling howls at a preferably full moon. Cosmicat’s main problem is that she can’t decide whether to do this indoors or out. One minute she wants out. Next she wants in. The keepers of the zoo, excuse me, the school, are at their wits’ ends, not knowing whether to make the sign of the Cross, shoot silver bullets or use wooden stakes. Mostly they open the doors when required.

Some of the inmates celebrated Easter in the old-fashioned way. Chocolate bunnies.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Song of the Day

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
The Band's version. Never liked Joan Baez'z'z'z'z version much.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Song of the Day

Who Stole the Keeshka

Update June 5/07: This is not really the version I was thinking of. As far as I'm concerned, the Black Forest Band plays the definitive version. But it's only available on a cassette, recorded live, not commercially available. (ie. it's in HWSRN's basement.) This is a version by the Polka Family.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Busman's Tour of the 401 Corridor

I ventured farther east today, by land at least, than I have for twenty years, having abandoned Montreal to the French in the last quarter of the 20th century. Lunchbucket to Cornwall, all in the name of commerce. A rarity, that…a direct drive package going that distance.

The tour starts with the skunk just outside Lunchbucket at the entrance to the 401 eastbound. ‘Nuff said.

The next major point of interest is the Niagara Escarpment. Several things may be said about the escarpment. It is the backbone of southwestern Ontario, winding its rocky way from Niagara north until it plunges unceremoniously into Georgian Bay. (According to the geological map, it actually then curves around the north end of Lake Michigan and winds up in Wisconsin! I never knew that…) The escarpment is breathtaking in the fall when the fall colours fall. The escarpment is apparently composed mostly of gravel, or aggregate as the road-builders like to call it. Finally, there’s a big long hiking trail on it.

Ten minutes down the road is Milton, where I spent nearly every Sunday for ten years playing in the house band at a dubious German restaurant. Frozen schnitzel, exploding Hungarian sausages, and gravy that performed the same function as Ex-Lax. Periodically, members of the Bruce Trail Hikers Association would come into the restaurant after exploring the gravel byways of the previously mentioned escarpment hiking trail. Somehow they always managed to find things not gravel along their path. They would come in, eat iffy goulash and dumplings, dance a polka or two and leave large clumps of mud on the floor.

After Milton comes the sixteen-lane metromadness stretching across perhaps 100 kilometres of alien landscape sometimes referred to as the GTA. Somewhere near the middle of this, one passes over the longest continuous road in North America (the world?) with barely a whimper.

Then, off to the mythical mystical east. Pickering. Darlington, where you see a commercial strip plaza perched precariously in the shadow of the nuclear power plant. Ajax. Whitby, home of a former world championship hockey team. Little more than GTA now.

Oshawa, where in 1937 Mitch Hepburn, the irascible Liberal premier set back the Liberal cause in Ontario for decades by organizing a private police force known as Sons of Mitches to put down the General Motors strike. How easily we forget how hard the workers had to fight in those days for anything resembling rights, and how bare-faced our governments sometimes were in their acts of repression. But then, Mike Harris did remind us now and then, didn’t he?

Never mind. Keep driving. Bowmanville, home of World Records, where the band had its first vinyl albums pressed. Personal history. Went to pick them up myself. Eleven boxes or something like that. I think we still have some!

The Big Apple at Colborne. Over 2 million pies sold. Through Trenton I whistled a few bars of In the Mood, passing by Glenn Miller Rd. and thought about the one gig I played at CFB Trenton. Belleville and the Bay of Quinte, other gigs, and Al Purdy mooning around. On to Napanee, home of a doe-eyed waitress I once knew who worked, in fact, at that same Bavarian restaurant. During that same Trenton trip, we actually did the Highway 2 Kingston Road scenic version. I always loved that Kingston Road in Toronto was in fact the road to Kingston. “Here,” you could say, “Get on this road, follow it all the way and you’ll end up in what might have been the capital of Canada.”

And we’re getting there. Stop for gas in Napanee, the cheapest along the entire route. A nod to Prince Edward County, the occasional view of Lake Ontario. See the sign for Sharbot Lake where my buddhabuddy Lynn now lives in rustic simplicity and relative solitude. I would have phoned her but discovered I neglected to load her number into the cell phone. By the map, it looks like a hell of drive north from the 401, but I’m sure she’s said it’s only about an hour.

And Kingston. Raise a glass to Sir John A. More gigs here. In particular one we played at Queens for homecoming, along with a band called Phil ‘n’ the Blanks, who, as of a couple years ago, were still gigging. We all got very drunk along with purple and yellow face-painted froshes, and went to a greasy pizza joint in downtown Kingston where the keyboard player from the other band demonstrated that he could touch his Adam’s Apple with his tongue. Ahh, those were the days.

Let us not forget that this is also Prison Alley, from Warkworth up there in Campbellford, to Collins Bay to Kingston (where I got yelled at for taking pictures of that musty old pile of bricks and broken hearts) to Joyceville.

Cruising out of Kingston I pondered the sight of the old City Hall and its farmers’ market in the back yard. Lunchbucket used to have one of those. Now, it’s Your Farmers’ Market, if you please. Anyway…the highway reminds us that we live in a land of granite and pines. Explosives. Whether you’re blowing the gates to the Kingston Pen or the Gateway to the East.

Here comes Gananoque and the Thousand Islands. I counted five of them.

And Brockville, hometown of Xena the Kayak Princess, where I caught a fleeting glimpse of the St. Lawrence. Prescott, which in latter days has bad connotations. Iroquois with its strange First Nations vibe.

The last stretch is long and straight and nondescript. It’s a headlong rush to Montreal, really. But you notice that the transports begin to have more French names on them. And Quebec license plates. And Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts. See, that’s different! In our neck of the woods it’s New York and Michigan.

Cornwall? What do I know? I drove on three streets in Cornwall: McConnell, Marleau and Campbell. In and out. It’s what couriers do. All the streets in Cornwall are French and English. Everyone I spoke to, three people I think, spoke English, though one only barely because he arrived from Pakistan only three weeks ago.

And so home. I ran the reminiscences in reverse. Stopped for a sub in Brockville and gas again in Napanee. Just over 1100 kilometres. Eleven hours there and back. And a half tank of gas from Napanee to Lunchbucket.

Monday, April 10, 2006


The last chapter of Plexus (the second volume of the trilogy The Rosy Crucifixion) by Henry Miller is in fact an essay in praise of Oswald Spengler and his book The Decline of the West.

In it he says, among other things:
The dragon snorting fire and smoke from his nostrils is only expelling his fears. The dragon does not stand guard at the heart of the world--he stands at the entrance to the cave of wisdom. The dragon has reality only in the phantasmal world of superstition.
I remember now...the first time I read Plexus, Miller's enthusiasm for Spengler was so infectious I went to the Lunchbucket Library and took Decline of the West home with it and even made notes, which might, possibly, still be in my filing cabinet. That was so long ago now, and reading Plexus again has renewed my interest. History repeating itself, what?

Funny how we pursue knowledge. Reading Miller led me to Spengler. And also Knut Hamsen. Reading Kerouac convinced me to read Celine, Buddhist writings, Ginsberg and other Beats, Thomas Wolfe. (Reading Thomas Wolfe didn't lead me to anything...) Funny, also, but I'd completely forgotten one point Miller spends a couple pages talking about a book called In Tune With the Infinite by Ralph Waldo Trine. I'm sitting here at the computer looking at that very book on the shelf above me. That book I read in my New Age period, what I call my "attitude adjustment" phase. Miller had nothing to do with my picking up that book, as far as I know, but I think it's fascinating that it should have been known to him.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Minnie Van Nice Takes a Hit

Poor old Minnie Van Nice ain’t quite so nice anymore. I got rear-ended coming into Lunchbucket today on Hwy 8 just past the Bland River bridge. Three in the afternoon, heavy traffic moving fast, heavy rain coming down hard. All of a sudden the cars in front of me were stopping. Very quick. I slammed on the brakes and managed to avoid hitting the guy in front. The young woman behind me wasn’t quite so fortunate. And the guy behind her. Luckily for me, she wasn’t going fast enough by the time she hit me to push me into the car in front.

Nobody hurt (so far). But the last guy in our line of vehicles did a pretty good crunch job on the front of his 94 Saturn cuz he smacked into a trailer hitch on the back of the Jeep Cherokee. The Cherokee cracked its front bumper (which had only just been replaced two days ago) on my rear. And now Minnie’s rear bumper’s all bent out of shape, and the back door’s stiff and sore. Not closing very well.

Call the police. Report filed. Took an hour. Quite remarkable, really. I guess we hit a slow time. Two police came to take statements. They charged the other two with following too close. No kidding. (However, really, everyone was following too close and going too fast. They were just the unlucky ones….And me, for being in front of them.)

I saw her coming in the rear view. But there was nowhere to go and before it happened I was resigned to getting hit. You might say the whole episode put a dent in the rest of my day.

Meanwhile, I'll be taking Ibuprofen before I go to bed tonight. The OPP officer said I'd probably feel like a pretzel in the morning.

Lama Chants Ancient Mantra!

HWSRN announced today that Lama Karma Phuntsok, a Tibetan monk of the Karma Kagyu order, spent last evening making a recording of Buddhism’s most famous and enduring mantra, Om Mani Padme Hung. This mantra, recited and chanted daily by millions of Buddhists around the world, is said to contain the essence of the body, speech and mind of Chenrezig, aka Avalokiteshvara aka Kwannon, the revered bodhisattva of compassion. The recording reportedly took place in an isolated home studio somewhere in the southwest section of Lunchbucket. Lama Phuntsok was unavailable for comment, but HWSRN speculated that the purpose of making the recording was to demonstrate the emptiness of sound in the digital age.


OK, so you’re wondering what’s so surprising about a Tibetan monk chanting a mantra. It would be more astonishing if he were not doing so. What’s different about this particular recording is that it was done to music composed by HWSRN. HWSRN has put together a rather New-Agey piece approximately ten minutes long and given the ancient mantra a westernized treatment, ably assisted by buddies Voin and Paulie on guitar and bass respectively (not to mention editing wizardry). Lama Phuntsok blessed the project and gave it true authenticity by chanting the mantra in his own inimitable way. Only two takes were required to capture his performance, the first having unfortunately not been recorded.

This is certainly a historic moment in the region, as Lama Phuntsok becomes the first Tibetan monk in Lunchbucket to make such a recording. Other recordings are sure to follow.

The immediate plans for Om Mani Padme Hung are to release it as part of the disc previously mentioned in this blog, This One’s For Kenny by the local collective known as 2 Cents Left. The project’s director, Voin, said, “We’ve got everything in this recording from Alpine yodelling to animal sounds to church bells, whales and a twenty second scream…Why wouldn’t we have a Buddhist chant?” In all likelihood, the recording will also be released later as part of a collection of more strictly Buddhist recordings.

This One’s For Kenny is, of course, still not quite ready for prime time, but its release is imminent. Really. Meanwhile, the recording continues with additional chanting by the Dharma Pips and the Karma Kagyu Koir. Stay tuned.

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