"My tribute to Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl'. " by Clinton De Vere (2012. watercolour on 300g paper. 17 x 24cm.)
"My tribute to Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl' " by Clinton De Vere.
(2012. watercolour on 300g paper. 17 x 24cm.)
The following excerpt from Part 1 of 'Howl' is in the painting:
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the
starry dynamo in the machinery of night,.."
'Port Moresby Town Centre and Harbour.' by Clinton De Vere (2012. watercolour on 300g paper. 17 x 24cm.)
The ringing of the phone appeared in his dream before he awoke and realised the sound came from the kitchen. As he lifted his body from the bed, switched on the bedside lamp and examined his alarm clock, 3:45am, it stopped and the house was silent again. He stood up, reached for his dressing gown, pushed his feet into his slippers and walked through the quiet house.
The atmosphere in the house was neutral, as if it was preparing for a new day. Resting before getting started. Big old barn of a place, thought Desmond, as he walked the short distance from the guest room to the kitchen. The hallway was lined with paintings, modern mixed with old masters. Norma had a great eye and the furniture and art in the house reflected this. Desmond pushed open the swinging kitchen door and switched on the light. The room suddenly became unnaturally light-filled. Desmond squinted as he put on the kettle for his morning coffee.
He looked at the phone, willing it to ring again and reveal its secret. But it sat there, still and mute, as did the toaster and kettle. Only limited comfort in things. It's people and place that matter, not stuff, thought Desmond.
He loved functional objects like cars, yachts, motorbikes. Means of transport. Objects of desire. Oh a motorbike! He thought about his first bike and the ride he did with Pete and Tom to the Blue Mountains. Camping in Blackheath on the top of a cliff. The night coming and the colours of the bush fading. The glow of the campfire reaching only so far and then darkness.
One day he would own a yacht and sail up and down the coast and through the Caribbean. What a romantic figure he would cut! Marvellous really to think of it. All in white pulling up the mainsail and letting it fill with wind. Cutting the ocean's waved surface sending spray into his face and nothing between him and the sandy coves of Jamaica.
The phone rang, jingling on the wall, made louder by the silence of the morning.
He already knew it was bad news and again his universe began rearranging itself.
'We need you to come to the hospital.'
'We think it's best if you come straight away.'
He took the kettle off the stove and switched off the gas. He switched off the kitchen light. In the bedroom he pulled on his clothes and grabbed his keys.
The garage was dark and silent. The car sat like a giant beast waiting to carry him, like a knight of old, to save a princess. His mother spoke to him: 'You silly goat.' He blocked out her voice, or tried to. 'Who do you think you are, Desmond Furey?' His dead mother had a whole filing cabinet full of put downs and reprimands. Slaps in the face. 'Would be if you could be.' 'Too good to be true.' He tried to block her face again, and her voice, but she was persistent. 'You're not fooling anyone, Desmond Fury!' 'If you could only see yourself. Pathetic.'
He opened the car's solid door, then pulled it shut. He loved the feel of the big leather seat and stretching his arms out to the steering wheel. He turn the key and the car's engine whirred into action. Ah! How he loved this car and the pleasure it gave him driving the broad streets of the city. He and Norma would drive down to the beach. There they would set themselves up on the beach blanket, with a hamper, laying there arm in arm looking out at the sea. She knew, instinctively, how to take care of him. He was grateful for her bountiful goodness. He regretted his moments - moments! ha! - of churlishness, tight independence, quiet arrogance, distance. Oh! But when they were happy! God how they laughed. Such kindred spirits. I mean, she was a bigger pirate than he would ever be and vastly more experienced and adventurous. All that steel wrapped in tulle. No one gets to be a movie star for over a decade without having balls.
They would lay there and watch the ocean pull in and out. Him semi naked. An Adonis. She with her broad hat and sunglasses. A star. And people would look at them and whisper and turn around. And sometimes someone would stop and ask Norma to autograph a scrap of paper and she would do it and smile and wish them well. Then Norma and he would return to their own private world, and their private reverie of time and space.
By now he was making a right turn into the hospital carpark. He tried to focus on his steering and on the morning street. The houses all lined up, quiet. People still asleep in their beds. The occasional car passed, headlights still shining.
As he looked at the nurses desk, a pool of light surrounded by darkness, and at the serious faces that looked up at him, he thought of two things: first of one of the Rembrandt reproductions in one of his father's art books and secondly that something bad had happened.
The doctor walked quickly towards him. They shook hands.
'Mr Furey. I'm sorry I have very sad news. Miss Norma had a massive heart attack at 3:10am this morning. All efforts to revive her were unsuccessful. Her time of death was 3:20am. We called you straight away. I'm very sorry '
Desmond felt his heart trying to push its way out through his throat. His hands began to shake. He suddenly needed to sit down. His hands continued to shake. He was surprised by his physical reaction. Behind his skull he felt tears swirling around wanting to push out so he closed his eyes and grasped his hands to stop the shaking. Then his whole body began to convulse and before he knew it - who was this person?- he was in a ball on the floor, curled up , sobbing and sobbing. After a time this stopped and he stood up and followed the doctor into the operating theatre where obviously they had tried to revive her. He looked down at her lifeless face and held her clammy hand. He pulled up a chair and sat there for a long while. The morning came and then mid morning they came and took Norma's body away. He did some paperwork then got in the car and drove home.
The hospital welcomed him as it always did: with antiseptic indifference. The building had seen so many people come and go, many arrived dying and left dead, that his life-filled corpus held little interest to it. The corridor, white, quiet, clean, wanted nothing from him.
Norma was asleep as he entered the room. He sat on the chair next to the bed. He placed the bag of oranges on the metal cabinet. Her head lay on the pillow slightly tilted, unnaturally he thought. It wrenched his heart to see her like this - defenceless and institutionalised. He wished he could pick her up and take her home. He knew this wasn't possible, at least not now.
He tidied her blankets and pushed her hair out of her eyes. And, as he had done everyday for the last month, he took out his book, opened it and tried to focus on the words on the page. They swam.
He looked at Norma. She was breathing steadily. The skin on the left of her face hung loose and her mouth drooped. His mind leapt around thinking about nothing very much. He wished the doctors could be more conclusive in their diagnosis. They really weren't sure, he guessed, and that worried him.
Norma opened her eyes and looked at him.
Her hand reached for his and gripped it.
'Oh Desmond,' she slurred.
'How are you feeling?'
'Better. I'm feeling better.'
'Oh that's wonderful. The nurse said you were eating again.'
'Yes. I ate some dinner last night. Desmond when can I come home? I miss home. I don't want to stay here.'
'The doctors don't know. It's just great news that you are feeling better. I'm sure the doctors will be glad to hear that.'
Norma looked at him with such love and need and tenderness that it almost broke his heart.
'Oh dear Desmond. Thank you for being here for me. I am so grateful.'
'Oh Norma darling. What did you expect me to do?'
'Desmond I have something I need to tell you.'
'A few months ago I met with my lawyer Mr Smedley in his office on Sunset. There I changed the details of my will. I have decided to leave my entire estate to you and Mr Takahashi. You will get the house and some money and other investments. Mr Takahashi will get money.'
She closed her eyes. Desmond wondered if she had finished.
'Desmond you are a good boy. Oh dear. A good man. But you have some flaws, as we all do. I don't know if what I have done will help or hinder you. It could be a last silly decision of a silly old woman.'
'You are not old, darling.'
Norma smiled then continued.
'I am not doing this to buy your love or to change the direction of your life. But of course it will change everything. Desmond I don't want you whoring and gambling anymore. You are too good for that, Desmond Furey. I am giving you a chance and I hope it doesn't become a poison chalice.'
Life spins on a dime. One moment he was a pot-smoking bum living in the pool house. Now? Had fortune smiled on him again or was this, like his looks, a double edged sword?
'Why are you doing this Norma?'
'Yes. Why me?'
'Because - oh dear boy. Don't you know?'
Desmond looked at her.
'I love you Desmond. I loved you from the moment I saw you standing in the doorway. You have made me so happy. You have brought so much life and energy back into my life. Into my house. I love having you around.'
'Oh darling. I love you too. You have given me so much.'
They sat there holding hands and looking into each others eyes. He wasn't sure what to make of this turn of events. He was surprised at how quickly he had adjusted to the new reality and his changed view of Hollywood.
He was having trouble focussing. Cleaning the pool did not seem like an appropriate response to the news he had heard the day before. He pushed the net across the pools blue surface which rippled out, sparkling. It was gratifying work. The pool, which minutes earlier had been covered in leaves and twigs from the storm the night before, was now almost clear. He enjoyed the simplicity of the task. The sun warmed his back. The sky was a sheet of even blue. He placed the net on the wall where it alway stayed and dived into the pool's cold water. It was clearer and cooler from the rains and reminded him of the pool at the club in Wau, in New Guinea, during the gold rush. Strange stories. Did you know during that time Wau was the busiest airport in the world? There you go.
He swept his arms through the water and kicked in steady rhythm. He had always enjoyed swimming and could have been a State champion if he had really wanted it. But he hadn't, of course. His body was grateful for the exertions. After he had finished his laps he held onto the tile guttering at the side of the pool. The pool was surrounded on all sides by Mr Takahashi's handiwork. It seemed to Desmond that the greens had never looked greener, nor the blossums so bright. He closed his eyes and felt the cool water of the pool swirl around him. All he could think about was the blue of the sky and blue of the pool and the blue of Norma's eyes.
JUMP Chapt 13
Desmond sat at the kitchen table. The rain fell in sheets creating everchanging rivulets on the window's glass surface. The tree outside looked like a watery apparition. It was early morning and still dark. He took a puff on his cigarette and drew the smoke into his lungs. He sipped his coffee. The day had a Saturday feel to it, which in fact it was. He had only minutes earlier awoken from a restless sleep to find that the first rains in many months were watering the grateful garden. Mr Takahashi was visting his family up the coast. Desmond had the house to himself. He would soon shower and go the hospital as he had for the last week. Norma's condition had not improved. Most of the time she seemed disoriented and would often shut her eyes as though suddenly asleep.
He really had no idea how to manage the situation. He had become her mainstay and he relished the role. It gave his life shape and purpose. He padded to the front door and opened it. The rain bucketed down onto the sheen of the driveway. On the other side of the hedge he could hear the sound of cars splashing up water. He was glad he had some hours before he would visit the hospital. He picked up the LA Times and went inside.
He placed the newspaper on the kitech table and walked across the livingroom to the cinema. He turned on the projector and sat down on the coach. He had watched the same film countless times over the past few days.
After the projector had finished the film, after the final heartbreaking moment when Norma looked directly at the camera, and after the titles had rolled, and the film had clackety clacked and the screen had gone white Desmond sat there and let the feeling of sadness surround him. Then he stood and walked to the projection booth and switched everything off. It had always been his job to look after the projector on the nights when they watched her old films or new releases. They would sit there in the evenings, just the two of them, holding hands like two kids. He would make popcorn just the way she liked it, with just the right amount of salt and butter, and they would smile at each other in the darkness and she would cover her eyes when she saw her young self, glowing, translucent, a screen goddess. Her eyes were so expressive and her acting still powerful. He loved her so much in those moments. He would tease her and she would hit his shoulder and they would laugh.
God! They had fun, didn't they? They were such good chums. Great mates and she understood him - his reckless sexuality, his hunger for life, his carelessness. They were soul mates, of that he was certain. She had seen so much that he would stagger sometimes when she said something that revealed that she had known everybody, that she had been a huge star, had danced in Paris with Chabukiani, had holidayed in the South of France with the Fitzgeralds. Her life had been full and to think that it may be ebbing away broke his heart. He switched off the cinema lights, closed the door and walked across the livingroom to the staircase leading up to the first floor. He grabbed the bannister and walked up. At the top he switched on a table lamp and the details of the space emerged from the shadows. A French impressionist painting glowed on the wall. He walked down the hallway, going from room to room, turning on the lights. In each room he walked to the window and checked the view. He looked around each room, taking in its smell and its atmosphere, as though hoping to find out something else about her.
In Stanley's study he sat at the desk. He put his hands behind his head and streched his legs. He looked at the photo of Stanley and Norma on their wedding day. Go Tiger! thought Desmond as he leaned forward and took the frame in both his hands and examined it closely. The fashions were from a distant epoch. They both looked very happy. Stanley had an expression of unbridled pride. He made no effort to hide his power and ambition. Norma seduced the camera. So long ago.
He put the frame back on the desk, stood and left the room. He continued his journey along the hallway. He wanted to remember all of this. He knew that soon all of this would be swept away. This place which Stanley and Norma had so lovingly built and decorated, into which they had poured all their love of beauty and their intelligence, would be sold. All gone. Nothing lasts forever, Desmond, old boy, nothing. Not even the Roman Empire. He had already moved his clothes into the guest room downstairs. He wanted to be in the house, to say goodbye to the place, if a goodbye was necessary.
The rain continued to bucket down. Soon he was showered and on his way to the hospital.
Clinton De Vere