#BestDespinaEver!

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Opening nights are always such fun… Tuesday night past, I was reminded of all the opening nights that I would attend with a slightly neurotic Merlin as some show or other that he had directed was being presented to the world… As ever, it was great to see my plus one, Lucian Mann-Chomedy as the ideal partner for these occasions. Always reserved, pleasant and just the right amount of chatter and wit.

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Whilst Lucian enjoyed the pre-show lecture in the Four Seasons Centre Amphitheatre, I slipped next door into the warmth of the Sheraton Centre Hotel and warmed myself on a glass of sherry whilst finishing off 2018’s Scotiabank Giller Prize winner on my KOBO.

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What an utterly stunning tour de force. It was a moment to reflect, this Black History Month on just where we blacks are in the scheme of things. God only knows, it has been bruising to watch Meghan, HRH Duchess of Sussex become the print media’s most reviled and hunted fugitive from justice of that most vile creature, the racial predator.

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I was still smarting at the events of a week earlier during the winter season’s first major snowstorm. I had been recalling to friends how strange it now was, compared to my first winter in Canada. December 1, 1974 and it snowed that day more than 8 inches. Back then it generally was guaranteed to snow once if not twice weekly. Now at end of January, 2019 and we were finally having our first major snow. This was not like snow from years past… Now it was a dirty, sooty-looking hard mess that lingered, largely in part because the city has contracted out its snow removal services.

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As there are no windows in my apartment – Sol’s too damn bright by far and besides, boarded up windows afford me more art-hanging space – I got down in the early afternoon that Monday with my bike, only to be met by falling snow and several accumulated inches. Back up I went, retired the trusty chrome steed and returned and hopped into a snazzy Audi A6 Uber ride with a Macedonian whose spirit was as smooth and elegant as matchingly was his car. The mood set the tone for my day. As I am known to work 16-hr days, I called another Uber at the end of gig one whilst hoping to get to gig 2 in good time. The snow was still coming down; it was also bitterly cold and windy.

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When finally, Uber #2 arrived, cold and dark with icy pellets mixed in with the snow, the driver rolled down his passenger side window and declared, “Sorry Buddy but I am going to have to cancel this ride…” Already running late, with my wheeled suitcase at the ready, he edged along as I tried to open the door and raised his voice, his eyes almost feral-looking beneath his turbanned, narrow skull. “I said I am cancelling you. One: I never take people like you in my car. Two: you have a shitty rating… Sorry, not sorry. Fuck you Buddy.” With that, he stepped on the gas and I had to swiftly haul me and suitcase out of the way as the rear of his red older model car whose interior did have that blasted malodorous melange of curry, dirty armpit, dirty arse, smegma and whatever the fuck else that passes for immigrants of choice these days. Finally, after having struggled out onto a still-not-ploughed Bay Street, I managed to hail the fourth cab whose West African driver insisted that I call Uber and report him… Days later, I was afforded assurances that the racist Dravidian was no longer part of Uber’s fleet. Similarly, when calling a Beck Taxi with a fairly generic name as Arvin, on coming downstairs the Indo-Canadian drivers on several occasions as though staying on script would feign obsequiousness and state that they were deeply sorry but owing to a family emergency, they were having to take the cab out of service. No sooner than having refused me a ride, they would then be observed heading out to Wellesley, turning on their unoccupied light and picking up a fare off the road. As if the blasted motherfuck, the likes of your overbred arse invented Jazz.

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Each and every time that one experiences racial animus, is preyed on racially, it always harks back to that first winter in Toronto. My best mate from two summers earlier, when I would come to Canada to visit with my dad during school break, had been sick. After Sunday church service at Knox Presbyterian at Harbord and Spadina before returning to our beautiful home at 122 Mortimer Avenue, I would visit – my dad and I – with Tommy who was holding up at Toronto Sick Kids Hospital on University Avenue. My father explained that Tommy was sick with the winter flu, which sometimes could last for months and well beyond winter. I was a scrawny little fourteen-year-old who looked like most ten-year-old Canadian kids as I crawled the halls at Harbord Collegiate where among my mostly Italian-Canadian chums was future lawyer, Rocco Galati. As Tommy, who was a couple of years older than me, had gladly shared books with me the two summers prior that I would take to Knox summer camp and read then have a good stroke off, lusting after my inamorato, Tommy, I readily agreed to do his newspaper route for him until he came home. My first Saturday, the cart was overflowing with the thick Toronto Star newspaper and there was a good foot of snow everywhere. It was hellish but for Tommy, I was game to go the distance – who knows what hot frottage, docking and more was in the offing for having done his route for him! When I got to the northeast corner of Floyd and Bater Avenues that first Saturday to collect the funds, the door opened to a woman whose response to me was the most hideous display of the displaced madness that is white bigotry. Screaming at the top of her lungs, the woman in her upper seventies, vituperatively cursed my black bugger arse off and laid down the law. Never again, “you dirty little nigger” was I to set foot on her verandah.., I was to put the paper between her screen and front doors, knock then return to the top of her steps and wait for her to pay the bill. That first Saturday, she ripped the paper from my hand, flung the money at me. She was terrifying, in her faded blue A-line dress, black spectacles that had those upturned pointed edges at the sides; she wore faux pearls. Most of all, she wore the most hideously terrifying eyes. I remember how much they looked like eyes of a rooster, especially so for being such puffy eyes. Like the evolved, winged and feathered reptilians that roosters are, her eyes truly did look not the least bit human. She was so consumed with racial animus that it was truly frightening. By the time I made it home, I found myself regurgitating. Thereafter, every Saturday, I would take my spot at the top of the steps and consistently she would hurl out pennies mostly at me rather than the verandah where that first winter I had to suffer the indignity of picking through inches of snow on the verandah, steps and lawn to collect my money. Naturally, without fail she called most Saturdays to the Toronto Star, complaining of either not having received her paper on time or that it was missing altogether. This would mean having to buy her a replacement at the corner store, take it and only to be fed on by the hideous-of-spirit racial predator. Like a true cockhound many an indignity I suffered in hopes of my spectacled, full-lipped and scholarly inamorato, Tommy hooking up with me for having been so loyal to him. The summer prior, I had ventured to the public pool on Broadview at Riverdale Park with him and a couple of others and thrilled beyond belief was I to spy his large pendulous balls and that hammer-headed girthsome salami that pummelled his bikinis. Indeed, for Tommy I would suffer much indignity. There was a low-rise apartment building at 1111 Broadview where on the ground floor, there was another predator, this one equally septuagenarian who lived alone, smoked incessantly and always answered the door in various stages of undress, mostly ever only wearing a soiled merino. He was always a generous tipper; a whole 2$ bill in 1974/75 was serious cash. Naturally, in the pre-Ciaslis epoch old anorexic, drunken paunched predator would sometimes tug on the old bulbous semi-flaccid/semi-tumescent, though, pendulous but perfectly useless appendage, trying to lure me in. Sitting there in all that squalor and acting as though he was sugar daddy material… indeed. He was always keen on trying to grab me when giving me the “tip” and I was ever sly and crafty enough to get away from him each time. He, too, lead me to regurgitate, which I had not done since age nine and suffering my first racial attack. Of course, to this day, neither academia nor medicine will concede that there is any such a thing as the racial predator and the effects it has on those preyed on – mostly blacks – and the psyche/mental illness of those who prey on others chiefly non-blacks in varying degrees of severity based on otherness.

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Finally, the house lights went down and I was met by the whimsical vista of the COC’s production of W. A. Mozart’s glorious opera, Cosi Fan Tutte. Previously, I had caught productions of this Mozart gem in Chicago, Montréal and New York City. I was not expecting much at this rate. The Frida Kahlo connection was a bit of a stretch but the butterflies fast won me over.

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From the moment that she stepped onto stage, my spirit soared aloft higher than Mozart’s glorious music to that point had spirited me. Never before had there been so captivating a Despina. My eyes teared up and I was ever on the cusp of explosive giggles. Then what made me truly come undone was the moment Tracy Dahl took to the stage as the notary… by now, I was losing tears and beginning to emit choked snorted chuckles. Each Saturday back in 1974/75 when doing Tommy’s newspaper route, I would end off taking the Saturday Star to Giovanna an octogenarian Italian, who was plump, charming and more adorable than any mere mortal ought to be. Soon, we were fast lovers and she loved fussing over me, baking me each Saturday nice, warm, oven-fresh biscotti washed down with a glass of ice-cold “gingah raleh”… her thick Italian accent was part of her charm. Hers was a large black and white cat, simply known as pussy gatto, who always sat nesting on the armchair. Each week, Giovanna sat transfixed as I read her the newspaper; her vision was to that point fairly deteriorated. As a way of better forging our bond and because most of my mates at Harbord were Italian, for three years, I studied Italian and that really impressed Giovanna, who was simply known as “Mama Mia.”

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As the opera progressed, Ms. Dahl as the notary, dashed and took cover beneath the table at which point, I buried my face in the program with explosive laughter. Straight away, I was reminded of each Saturday when the ever silent pussy gatto would bolt from the armchair and take cover beneath the sofa where I sat as Giovanna began an explosion of long-winded farts. Even the singer’s voice sounded much like Giovanna’s as she sang the role of notary. Remarkably, it was as though she was channelling Giovanna. In that moment, I was healed of the bile, which the recent Uber incident had caused to surface, bile that dated as far back as 1974.

In the end, Tommy’s parents sold their house and it was not until a couple years later that I discovered from the neighbour next-door that Tommy, who had never returned to their Mortimer and Logan home, had died of Leukaemia. Indeed, the winter flu was my dad’s way of protecting me from the callousness of having to lose a friend so early in life.

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Apart from the catharsis that Tracy Dahl’s performance personally effected, I don’t think that it would be biased of me to state that hers was the runaway performance in the COC’s fantastic, and fast-paced I might add, production of Cosi Fan Tutte.

As ever, mischievously push down and melt with laughter in celebration of the joy that is life and start having yourselves a most glorious of flying dreams. Thanks for your ongoing support of this happening astral joint on this side of the astral plane. I love you more.

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©2013-2020 Arvin da Brgha. All Rights Reserved.

Here’s to Life! A celebration of the 70th anniversary of Merlin’s birth.

 

On this the eve of the July 21, 2017, 70th anniversary of Merlin’s birth, I am still over the moon and greatly inspired for having travelled to London, England, Paris and Versailles France and Amsterdam, the Netherlands in June.  I wanted to take in the pomp and pageantry of trooping the colour, revisit the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern… and did!  I really loved my visit to the new wing of the Tate Modern and the beautiful panoramic views that it affords of the north bank across River Thames.

Staying in the beautiful SW10, I had a great place to stay and had a marvellous time.  Great it was to revisit Westminster Abbey, feeling the sense of history and the grandeur of the abbey.  Every moment of being in London was sheer magic.  This city, more than any other, readily evokes a sense of home –- somehow, in its magical agedness, there vibrationally is something perfectly harmonised about London with aspects of the West Indies into which I chose to reincarnate and where my sense of ‘home’ is grounded.

The LGBT exhibition at Tate Britain was a bit underwhelming; however, I enjoyed being exposed to the many female artists and their Lesbian-themed art, which heretofore I was not cognisant of.  Naturally, the male perspective has always been prominent in homoerotic art.  Without doubt, the best exhibition was at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace and the Crown’s exhibition of aspects of the Canaletto collection.  Naturally, I did have to return to the National Gallery to take in my favourite Sir Anthony van Dycks in their collection; among them, that ode to sage essence grandeur, King Charles I’s Equestrian Portrait of Charles I.  The Rotunda at Ranelagh remains my favourite and most moving Canaletto; of course, it did prominently feature at the end of a flying dream, during early pubescence, that had me dreamquest to a past life in London, England.

That past-life was shared with Merlin when we were musicians at court in late 18th century London.  During that lifetime, we knew 1st Duke of Brontë, Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson.  Apparently, Viscount Nelson was a great raconteur and it was likely his tales of his love of Nevis which proved the seed that eventually led to my choice at the level of soul to have reincarnated into Nevis –- which incidentally Canadians are wont to mispronounce as Knévis…  Sorry, the third world natives are not wrong; besides no one in London would ever think to say, Knévis.  The correct pronunciation is Kneevis… Knévis is no more correct than is Kanarda the correct pronunciation of Canada.  Enough about the risible ignorance of elitist petit bourgeois Canadians and their need to forever condescend.

So, there was I arrived in London with umbrella, pea coat, raincoat and it was all hotter-than-hell climes for the two weeks!  After trooping the colour, I decided to escape the heat of London and decamp à Paris… what was I thinking; goodness, it was at least 5 degrees hotter there!  Alas, Paris has become an armed camp -– I suppose this is what Paris during the Nazi occupation in WWII was like.  Either way, I could not wait to hightail it out of there.  Firstly, though, I had to head off to Versailles where previously I had not been.  Goodness, what grandeur -– the scales are truly phenomenal.  If I had ever had a dream set on the grounds of Versailles, it is highly likely that I would have awakened and assumed that I had just dreamquested to a marvellous world where the architectural scales surpass anything witnessed here on Earth.

In all that heat, I was told it was just a stroll away from the entry gates of Versailles to Grand Trianon to take in the Pierre Le Grand exhibition celebrating the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great’s trip to Paris.  Finally, after 50 minutes in my brand-new Crockett & Jones wellingtons, I arrived to what was not an especially impressive show.  However, the last piece — a beautiful bust of the Tsar — made my sweaty and blistered foot ordeal worthwhile.

After having been quite underwhelmed by Paris –- save of course my visit to Père Lachaise cemetery where I left pine cone tributes to Marcel Proust, Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Honoré de Balzac –- it was off to Amsterdam.  Finally, I had escaped hellish climes!  Amsterdam proved the most gloriously idyllic experience.  With a cool welcome breeze off the North Sea, the temps were in the low 20s and, of course, everywhere just about everyone rode a bike.  As I made the pilgrimage to the Rijksmuseum to be richly inspired, I was warmed as passing cyclists called out to me in my white panama hat that I purchased at Chateau de Versailles to beat the heat, “Hello!”  “Hi there!”  “Hi ya!”  This excursion to Amsterdam was truly soul-warming.  Nothing was more glorious than entering that salon and seeing Night Watch and the Meager Company.

Whilst browsing, I thought of George Hawken and wondered if ever he had made it to Amsterdam.  Just like that, on coming around the corner, the first painting I noticed in the salon which contains Jan Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, was an exquisite, stunning still-life of white asparagus.  The one legume that George considered the perfect signature to a fine meal -– cooked by himself -– was asparagus.  His most memorable meals ever featured asparagus coated in the most sublime sauces made from scratch.  I was truly warmed on seeing the still-life seconds after nostalgically thinking of him.  Yet another moment of synchronicity.

On preparing for the video to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Merlin’s birth, I decided last week to head off the costumer, Malabar on McCaul Street where George lived in the late 80s to early 90s.  Inspired by the first dream of Merlin had 39 years ago in July 1978, I decided to get a cowl as a tribute to the cowl Merlin wore in the inaugural dream encounter with him, four years before having met on Friday, October 1, 1982 in New York City.  So, there was I at Mount Pleasant Cemetery last Saturday, July 15, 2017 in my cowl and the panama hat purchased at Versailles to escape the heat.  I thought it fitting as Merlin always loved wearing panama hats.

My trusty friend, J.J. who happens to be an artisan entity mate whom I have known in 20 past lives –- which is a high incidence of contact -– was the director.  Initially, I had hoped to throw a white party on the lawn to the southwest of the chapel at Mount Pleasant Cemetery and have a drone film the event where a gathering of friends would raise a glass to Merlin on the anniversary of his ennobled birth.  Merlin always threw a white party each year for his birthday at his parents stunning backyard in north Toronto’s Servington Crescent.

The plan was not approved by the cemetery and thus, one had to improvise.  I got my panama hat and my cowl and together, we proceeded with a dozen long-stem white roses to visit Merlin’s resting place.  I had a pretty good idea what I was after.  With the matching white cowl, I wanted to evoke the magic of meeting Merlin in that initial dream which is shared in volume one of the dream memoirs which is already published: Merlin and Arvin: A Shamanic Dream Odyssey.

Get your copy!  Thanks as ever for your support!

In the hardcover edition of human civilisation’s first dream memoirs, the initial dream encounter with Merlin is shared.  The dream begins on page 110 in the hardcover edition.  I wanted the same sense of wonderment and magic that I felt for having met Merlin in that first dream four years prior to having met reflected in the video.  In that dream, Merlin’s appearance was preceded by a white totemic creature which seemed, in its astral plane outréness, to be part Russian wolfhound, part alpaca, part dog.

So, moving to the lawn, having descended the steps of the chapel, I began walking across the open lawn towards the statuesque lion festooned mausoleum with the five remaining white long-stem white roses.  Seven roses, of course, were left at Merlin’s grave -– one rose for each of our seven glorious years together.  As I stepped onto the lawn, it seemed magical… timeless even.  Slowly, confidently as I approached the filmmaker at the other end of the lawn, I thought of Merlin and that initial dream.

Just then, I very distinctly thought of Merlin greeting me by purring, “Hello Lambs.”  As if right on cue, from off stage left, an adult deer came from behind the bushes and tombstones that line the far edges of the open lawn.  Never before had I seen a deer at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.  Indeed, the good burghers of Forest Hill who clearly regularly jogged in the park-like setting stopped and were overheard remarking that they had never seen a deer in the cemetery before.  All that I could do was tear up and continue walking as the deer then bolted and ran from stage left to right as I continued my stride uninterrupted –- unfazed by the appearance of an adult deer on the grounds of the cemetery.  What is more astounding, is that J.J. at the time was filming my walk; at the last minute, I decided against a run-through as I was concerned about the natural light possibly changing if we were to rehearse the shot.

Unbeknownst to me, the deer after having made it to stage right, then returned to the centre of the lawn and stood there perfectly still whilst observing my progression across the lawn.  J.J. who was astounded by the occurrence remarked that he had just witnessed a miracle.   There is no doubt in my mind as I tried to recapture the magic of that initial dream encounter that there was a subtle validation of that dream from the magical shaman himself on the other side by having had Merlin’s spirit step in as director emeritus and had the deer enter the shot as validation and a token of his appreciation of the love that we shared and my steadfast loyalty to him.  After crossing the lawn and turning to watch the deer stand there, looking down the lawn at me, I felt such utter peacefulness and abandonment of spirit — just as when alone and intimate in the dark with Merlin.

Yes, I believe in magic as did Merlin and as though an appreciation of having stridently done everything to fulfil his mandate to me, Merlin’s astral body conjure up the same magic here and now as he had in July 1978 –- four years before slipping inside a Hell’s Kitchen walk-up and readily winning me over with his sexy elfin charm, magic and sex that proved the most grounding shamanic passion… every time.

All the music chosen for this 13-minute video is music that Merlin loved whilst incarnate and to which he returned time and again -– whether at Joe Morton’s tiny Upper West Side apartment in autumn of 1983, Toronto’s 20 Amelia Street in tony Cabbagetown.  From Glenn Gould’s mastery of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations, to Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick singing That’s What Friends Are For –- in that segment of the video, I included friends whom Merlin valued: Kareem Benezra, myself, Wayne Robson and his oldest and most loyal friend, the ever-gracious, Maxime Gascoigne-de Montigny.

Of course, for Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely, I exclusively included photos of Merlin and his very handsome and gracious father, David Ben-Daniel.  Whereas I favoured Sir Paul McCartney’s Hey Jude, Merlin ever loved George Harrison and especially My Sweet Lord.  Of course, one Saturday, whilst staying at actor, Joe Morton’s Manhattan apartment, when Merlin and I secretly committed to being together, we slow-danced to Supertramp and Roger Hodgson’s unmatched magical vocals on Supertramp’s Breakfast In America.

Additionally, Jeffrey Osborne’s On the Wings of Love which was one of Merlin’s favourite ballads is also included.  Merlin loved Black male soul singers: Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Jeffrey Osborne –- most especially –- George Benson, Al Green, Teddy Pendergrass, Donny Hathaway, Barry White.  Most of all, I am especially proud of the video that J.J. and I have created; I think that it masterfully captures the depth of my love and fealty to the most fabulously magical shaman encountered on this incarnation’s spiritual odyssey.

Naturally, before having left for Mount Pleasant Cemetery, I had flooded my apartment with the music that appears in the video.  Perhaps, unwittingly by so doing, I was evoking Merlin’s spirit which later joined us when he played ultimate director and pulled off the most magical bit of stage direction –- an adult deer in the middle of a cemetery in the heart of mid-town Toronto.  Lastly, I played the sublimely soulful Shirley Horn’s interpretation of, Here’s to Life!  Whilst raising a glass of coconut water, I had forgotten to pick up some champagne the evening prior and it was too early in the morning to find champagne anywhere –- the lighting was way too good.  Besides who knows if that magical deer would have been anywhere about.

Here’s to life… most of all, here’s to Merlin… here’s to dream shamans everywhere!

Merlin & Arvin 1987

Going forward, please know that this wordpress joint: http://www.dreampoetica.com is being synchronised with my author page: http://www.arvindabrgha.com  Everything that’s appeared here over the years, now can be found there.  In coming weeks, there will also be other links to other sites associated with this celebration of Merlin and his mandate to me:

“Please my darling, I want you to write about our lives together.  I promise you, however possible, I am going to send you dreams to include in the story of our love… our lives together.”

Of course, there is my Instagram account:  Instagram Arvin da Brgha

The YouTube channel is:  Arvin da Brgha YouTube

Do please be patient and stay tuned as there will be a site where one can purchase merchandise that’ll greatly assist with the costs of having overleaves channelled that will yet appear in the five volumes of human civilisation’s first dream memoirs to come.  Also, there will be a podcast link.

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For now, here’s to life, here’s to you and thanks so much for your ongoing support all these years!

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©2013-2020 Arvin da Brgha.  All Rights Reserved.  

Michael Overleaves Appendix (Redux)

Montpelier Plantation Nevis

In the process of updating the copyright dates, I managed to have tidied up and properly alphabetised the Overleaves index.  Beautifully organised, I think that it will prove more appealing now.  Do enjoy!  

https://dreampoetica.com/michael-overleaves-appendix/

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Photo: Ficus Benjamina tree on grounds of Montpelier Estate, Nevis, West Indies.

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©2013-2020 Arvin da Brgha.  All Rights Reserved.