(George F. Hawken – February 5, 1999, Montréal, Québec)
This past Friday, December 23, 2016, I went to my doctor’s to get my test results for HIV. The doctor whom I had not seen in long ages was unusually engaging. When he finally cut to the chase, never had he announced that my test result was HIV negative with so much pleasure; I thought it odd at the time. Brushing past all that, I then inquired of him how George Hawken was doing; after all, George years earlier on my return to Toronto had insisted that I have the handsome Sino-Canadian for a GP as well.
Marta. Intaglio on Paper. 1974 George Hawken
As he paused, I told him that I could appreciate his patient-client confidentiality considerations; however, forging ahead, I told him that I had sent George an email more than a week earlier and had not heard back from him. Pressing on, I inquired if George was doing well of late as I had last been in touch a couple of months earlier. In that way that the good doctor had mastered, he haltingly stammered back that yes, George was doing well… We then left it at that as clearly he did not want to pursue the matter further – he had actually stood up to conclude our visit.
Pink Chair 1992 George Hawken (Arvin)
About a week earlier, I was feeling especially uneasy about not having had a reply from George to my last email; he would always answer within 36 hours at the latest. By then, it had been about a week; we hardly ever spoke by phone on my return from Montréal. Previously, when we spoke by phone our conversations back in the late 80s and through to mid 90s resulted in an invitation from George to immediately get together where our passionate physicality was intense beyond the norm.
Gordon and Janet in their Garden. Lithograph 2009 George Hawken
To still my worrisome mind, I began playing Joseph Haydn’s Paris symphonies; George favoured the Paris symphonies where I favoured the London Symphonies. George had actually introduced me to Haydn’s music; he insisted that I become better acquainted with the 18th century composer’s works. When first I sat for George in 1986, at his Brock Avenue loft in the Queen Street West neighbourhood, he always played Haydn… I would always love the way, he would play imaginary keyboard whilst enjoying a cigarette break as I privately sat for him.
Franz Kafka – Kafka Suite. Intaglio 1982 George Hawken
One of the funniest memories of George is lying in bed with him after passionate play at the Brock Avenue loft and laughing hysterically whilst we listened to CBCFM and a Florence Foster-Jenkins performance. Afterwards, we indulged another round of Rottweiler style passion that was part Greco-Roman brawn. On my return to Toronto, George and I never resumed our physical relationship; though, I had at least hoped that I could serve as muse to him again. Alas, it was not to be.
Book Cover Illustration. 1980 George Hawken
One morning after work, with Haydn symphonies swirling about my mind as my apartment was sodden heavy with the Paris symphonies, I suddenly made a right whilst coming up Yonge Street and headed along Adelaide Street East. Then, I went one better and hung a left up Sherbourne Street for the morning ride home; never had I done this. Riding up Sherbourne, the familiar strains of Haydn’s Symphony No. 85 B flat major ‘La Reine’ spirited me along as I leisurely rode up the moderately icy, dedicated bike lane.
Fly. Etching. 1976 George Hawken
Just above Shuter Street, George suddenly fell into my mind and I crouched forward towards the handlebar to best face into the cold winds barrelling down the avenue. Whilst coasting up the bike lane opposite Allan Gardens Park, my mind as I whistled Haydn’s symphony began recalling moments of passion with George long years earlier. I thought of those glorious nights of noisy, sweaty passionate play at his McCaul Street loft; I crouched forward even more as my face warmed into a smile at pleasurable memories.
Beethoven Asleep. Etching. 1975 George Hawken
If only, I still had George’s numbers, I would call him on getting home; it was so unlike him not to have responded to the email that I had sent him on December 13, 2016. Peddling harder up the tough stretch of bike lane between Carlton and Wellesley Street East, I suddenly began slowing down as a large black hearse slowly negotiated its way from the Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home & Chapel property at 467 Sherbourne Street; it waited in the middle of the bike lane for northerly flowing traffic to ease up.
Pink Chair I/III AP. Lithograph. 1990 George Hawken (Arvin)
I rolled up and paused looking squarely into the hearse where a cardboard coffin was bound and en route to the St. James Cemetery and Crematorium over on Parliament Street. This was the same route that my father’s cadaver had taken after his funeral in August 2008 which George had attended. I was so appreciative of the fact that he had asked if he could attend my father’s funeral. After the lovely service, I had approached George and we hugged and he seemed really pleased to have made the outing.
Woman. Lithograph. 1980 George Hawken
Moments afterwards another of my lovers, Owen Hawksmoor came by to start lecturing me about the importance of having many friends; after all, said he, look at all the people who had turned out to my father’s funeral. Then said, Owen, as can ever be expected of him, “you should at least have six people who would be prepared to pall bear for you.” Brushing him and his big sex cockiness aside, I rebutted, “trust you to always make for a bitter after taste. What’s it to me, I’d be dead; it really wouldn’t matter anymore than it does now.”
Yonge Street Mask. AP Etching. 1971 George Hawken
I broke and hopped off the bike and intently looked inside at the brown cardboard coffin; it seemed an eternity waiting for the hearse to finally make it off the bike lane and into traffic. In those moments, I again thought of George and that was when it suddenly dawned on me that I was never going to hear from George again. Further, I had the distinct impression that what had prompted me to route-change for the first time, to be humming and whistling one of Haydn’s Paris symphonies: symphony No. 84 in B float major is because George’s corpse lay in the hearse before me en route to St. James Cemetery and Crematorium.
Myself (Self-portrait) AP Etching. 2008 George Hawken
Without doubt, this was why I was in this place in this moment before an austere black hearse straddling the northbound bike lane on Sherbourne which I had never used before en route home from work. With that, as the hearse slowly pulled out onto Sherbourne and then made a right turn onto Wellesley Street East, the traffic in the icy snowy street was sufficiently slow that I rode alongside the hearse along the side of the cardboard coffin and accompanied all the way to the black wrought iron gates of the cemetery on Parliament Street.
Baudelaire II. Etchin. 1975 George Hawken
After I got in, had a shower and had my lovely home infused with Hoju incense, Haydn’s symphony No. 104 in D major ‘London’ played on repeat as I grounded anew. Though it was not especially windy out, there was a loud noise on my balcony and wrapping up in my lovely woollen pea coat, I took to the balcony to investigate. The first sight that greeted me was a heavy plume of sooty black smoke from the crematorium’s chimneys as they were being swept southerly in the cold wintry morning air. I lost a tear and on returning indoors, though my Google search on coming home produced nothing for ‘George Hawken Obituary’ I still felt firmly that there was no coincidence to the sequence of events and synchronicity of the past several days which culminated in the black hearse across the bike lane.
Colin Campbell. Etching. George Hawken
As it is always tough to close shut, I gave the door to the balcony a bit of encouragement by heaving my right shoulder into it. On turning away from the door, I noticed one of George’s gifts to me “Woman” was titled off its hook on the cement wall where moments before taking to the balcony it had sat perfectly aligned. Yet another sign indeed. Finally, today at work, as I kept checking the folder which bore all George’s email correspondences, then did a Google search for ‘George Hawken Obituary’ alas there was confirmation. George had died the day before I had sent him my final email; it was one in which I offered to buy a copy of an illustration which he had done for an anthology of emerging Canadian authors.
George Hawken, 1970s.
Again, today after work, I rode up the Sherbourne Street bike lane and it all fell into place. Almost always when I went to our shared doctor, there would George be. Finally, when I saw him after a long spell of not having been in touch, he sat birdlike in the doctor’s office and he was just as stunned to have seen me walk in as I was to have seem him looking so gravely ill. George had said that it was cancer; we there and then made arrangements to get together and did. I was so pleased that he had finally met my lovely sister, Pandora and it was lovely going to George’s Camden Street penthouse suite for dinner with my lovely sister when she was in town from Ottawa.
Self Portrait 5. Etching. 1984 George Hawken
Today, whilst riding up the bike lane on Sherbourne Street, the doctor’s excitable congratulations to my testing HIV negative made so much sense. Too, his response to my query how George was doing of late and his response that he was doing well, indeed, made perfect sense. By Friday, December 23, 2016, George was doing well and in a better place no longer suffering from the wear and tear of his end-of-life monadal illness. Ours was a very private relationship and there were only two persons in George’s life with whom I enjoyed cordial relations: his son and his lover, Colin Campbell. I rather suspect that Colin is George’s task companion.
Grete. Etching. George Hawken
I will ever be proud of having been an inspiring muse to George and for having facilitated the energetic work that he did in the late ‘80s to mid ‘90s. Our passion fuelled his creativity; what’s more, our passion kept me focussed and grounded in this life as Merlin and his ravaging illness and the hideous ghouls who betrayed him in his illness made life at times more harrowing than already the illness made it. George and his compassion and support were invaluable for me and Merlin was aware of it and openly and unselfishly encouraged it; he knew that I needed that support as with his passing the vipers in his circle would readily dispense with me. Alas, all things being mutual, dispense with the ill-evolved lot I gladly did.
Hearts and Flowers. Intaglio. 1976 George Hawken
Sweet and blissful dreams my darling ennobled George; I am honoured to have fostered and enabled your creativity to have lotussed into greater flower. Yours was a most rare and beautiful spirit and yet again our love shall dance and soar to higher octaves. My heart centre is wide open to facilitate your journey in whatever capacity of our choosing in the dreamtime. Ever, will I love you more.
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