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Friday, December 31, 2010

CHRISTMAS WEEK - Friday After - New Year's Eve Toronto Airport

New Year's Eve. How many of us have spent a good part of the day sitting at an airport.... mostly deserted except for the few of us tethered by circumstance.... occasionally walking around... cursing at the vending machines and their ridiculous prices... making do with the last cup of coffee from the aiport cafe, just before they shut down so the employees can go home... just like we're going home...

Lots to think about during this nether time...

Year lived. Year lost.
For me personally I have discovered the veneer of friendship is either very thin or very deep...
You always learn at least one thing....


DEC 31: new year's eve at toronto airport

new year's eve

toronto airport

all of us tired and

sleepy eyed

bundled up

waiting to go home

new year

new life

what will happen now?

who knows?

seats 10-24 are ready for boarding

ralph alfonso


Thursday, December 30, 2010

CHRISTMAS WEEK - Thursday After - God bless the French. God bless their vin.

Lots of parties going on this week. Lots of new people to meet.

Lots of wine bought. Lots of wine drunk.

Lots of cheese eaten.  Next week it'll all be gone, except maybe for the crumbs under the couch cushions - but for now, the gamut of gatherings awaits.... stay calm... use stealth...



I paid good money for this jacket

I hope I don't spill anything on it

I know the doorman's giving me the eye

Maybe it's my polka-dot tie

But it's too late now

Cause I'm already in

Popping open the wine bottles

God bless the French. God bless their vin.

I got myself some fancy bacon on a cracker

And maybe a little cheese quiche for after

I know you're trying to talk to me

I'm busy eating, man, can't you see

I'm just another interesting person

Wandering around this party

Ralph Alfonso

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

CHRISTMAS WEEK - Wednesday After - All Tomorrow's Parties

You may recognize some people in this faux reminiscence written about 10 years ago and available in my book, This Is For The Night People. One of my favourite little fiction pieces.

It's kind of appropriate at this particular crevice in the year's topography; that consciously or unconsciously as we totter about basking in the glow of holiday lights or holiday spirits, we say yes to our inner roll call of  achievements, victories, failures, and the rest. This is that funny twilight week; can't quite say goodbye/can't quite say hello.

Sometimes it's a fine mist and sometimes it's a thick fog, but I always seem to come out of it ok and so will you.

This story is not necessarily true and not necessarily fiction either. I keep printing it at every opportunity because it makes me smile every time I read it. I hope you will, too.


Famous Poet
Please Give Me A Dollar

by Ralph Alfonso

Sometimes I have to laugh.
I’ve got three dollars in my pocket. 
There’s a blinking phone message from my country music pal reminding me his show is tonight. It’s at a smoky joint full of unshaved loudmouths and their giggly girlfriends with too much make-up clutching beer glasses smudged with lipstick all shades of red. This besotted adventure is not possible with my current worth, because three dollars will not get you much in this world. Maybe a plain coffee sitting here with the donut people watching the flashing store sign. I’m wearing clothes ten years, four girlfriends, five jobs, two cities, and a full head of hair ago. I followed my heart (hahaha) here and now the little weasel’s run off, probably with Cupid. The two of them on a pixie booze and sex binge on a Caribbean cloud somewhere. It’s not fair.

I’m walking home, trying hard to be invisible in the bright lights of the main drag. Windows full of clothes and shoes - sometimes I stop to read the restaurant menus and maybe stare at the table of whoever’s sitting by the front door. Hey.

I almost bump over the panhandler squatting in a doorway. Paper cup with a couple of pennies. I get a look at his face. God, I know him. I pull whatever I have in my pockets and throw it in and hope he didn’t see me. I’m busy watching my life fast-forward in my head. Maybe I should scout out a spot for myself. Famous poet. Give me a dollar. It would be a catchy sign.

Life’s pretty finite, after all. Maybe there is re-incarnation. Tell that to this guy I knew; ex-punk drug addict somebody pushed off a rooftop. He always had a big mouth. Me, I don’t want to cause waves, thank you very much. This money thing is dripping acid on my stomach. It’s a tapeworm sucking back green out of every pocket. It’s the cost of living. The price to pay to get a shot at the bottom rung so I can start climbing the ladder to success.

But now, picking out the books and cds I’ll be selling second-hand tomorrow, I wonder if my literary romance has just been a $2 Scratch and Win card. You’re sure this is the sign, you are one pull away on the slot machine... clang clang clang lemon lemon lemon bing bing bing bing five dollars 16 quarters, 20 nickels...

Maybe this is the day the treadmill stops. Maybe nobody really wants to read my books. Maybe nobody really wants to hear my music. It’s days like this I wish I drank more. I could sit with my red-nosed buddies talking about the same thing for days on end... muttering and complaining... longing for the good times... re-living the triumph, that one moment in 1977, or maybe 1982 when the spotlight fell, the reviews were good and hey, I’m not a liar... here’s a clipping I’ve kept in my pocket, see...

That’s why I hate bars. That’s why I hate drunks. Yesterday happened already. I can’t change it. Might as well forget it. I try to, anyway, but time folds into itself like accordion paper... years squished together... all sins equal and simultaneous...

Trouble is, of course, I don’t have any friends I could sit and drink with even if I wanted to... I’ve floated through life in my own private bubble all these years and now that it’s burst, well, here are my demons, clutching tightly at my legs, pulling me down into fear and realization... 

You can learn a lot from history, but what will history learn from you?

We had been together years ago. That would never happen now. It was one of those things - an odd notion that a moment’s indiscretion was a future to build on.

“Well, you know, it was fun,“ she raised an eyebrow, bemused at the thought. “But you probably read more into it than you should have, I mean, the premise of our relationship really wasn’t strong enough to grow beyond its natural cycle...”

“Natural cycle?”

“It’s an affair... you know... you get as much as you can and then you get out...”

She slipped a hundred dollars into my hand, “Good luck.”

The first thing I did was buy some gum. It’s one thing to smell bad, it’s another to have bad breath.


The girl at the talk show asked if I had any more gum. I fished out one of the sticks for her. I guess the make-up looked alright... I don’t know why I couldn’t represent myself as a pasty faced writer, which, after all, is what I am. I didn’t want to look too healthy, people might think I had money.

I knew my window of opportunity was brief. If I wanted any of the food in the Green room, I had to time my assault on the tiny sliced sandwiches and assorted fruit while everyone fawned over the real celebrity; a minor TV actress riding a second wind of infomercial celebrity.

I tried to act relaxed when one of the assistant directors came in. I sensed a slight hesitation in his stride as he reached for one of the grapes... it might have been odd that most of the sandwich platter was gone. The Green room had barely been open five minutes.

My part in the proceedings went well. I read a poem. My pianist ran through a quiet jazz blues. The audience of elderly pensioners and middle-aged women applauded politely. Their treasured has-been actress would soon extol the virtues of indeterminate kitchen utensils.

The host, mostly an impenetrable sort, was always enthusiastic about my appearances. As we faded to a commercial, he leaned over to ask for some gum.

For lunch the next day, I ate the rest of the Green room sandwiches I’d smuggled out in my briefcase.

I had ninety dollars and six days till my next pay cheque.


I’m sitting backstage in the dressing room of a famous rock group. It’s a beautiful thing when you’re successful. There’s lots of food spread out for those anxious snacking moments before showtime. There’s cheese from countries I’ve never heard of and crackers and kiwis - there’s always lots of kiwi fruit. Kiwi must be a status thing.

The one nice perk about being me is I’ve become a bit of a mascot for some of these rock people ... they like to have me hang around and talk about the good old days that I hardly remember or even care about... the obscure footnote characters and twice-told tales ... I guess the 80s must be like Frontier Times or something with me as a living museum piece ..

“Must have been different when you were on the road, eh?” says the lead singer guy, Bob or Billy or whatever his name is.

“You got that right,“ I answer, “We used to ask for bottled water and they’d get us that distilled stuff for humidifiers or something...”

Bob / Billy almost spits up his bacon quiche, he’s laughing so hard.

His manager comes over; short burly type, no hair, big nose.
We’re old friends. Sharing bunks on dilapidated tour buses, hoisting gear for bands who got maybe a bag of chips and five beers backstage. Old road guys. You can put us in suits but we always got a pocket with a stinky sock in it.

He points a half-eaten carrot stick at me, “You should’ve stayed at the record company. You’d be a VP or something now. You broke the old man’s heart when you left.”

“Hey man, I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life,” I said, “What’s one more?” 

“You looked good on TV. That piano player’s HOT!” He started poking his finger at me. “You should get some better clothes, seriously... that’s the same jacket you had ten years ago. I can get you something out of their wardrobe... these guys wouldn’t miss it...”

We ended up in the catering room, chowing down on some gourmet feast their private chef personally set for us. I smelled a lot of garlic. My pal gave me a wink, Italian style. “There’s a lot of people keeping an eye on you. Don’t let us down.”

On the subway going home, I start to stretch out a little bit in the new jacket he gave me. It fit pretty good. Maybe my luck was going to change after all. 

I popped the last stick of gum in my mouth. 

What is with these lame rock bands and their garlic?

This Is For The Night People

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

CHRISTMAS WEEK - Tuesday After - Met You at the Party

There are lots of parties and gatherings in and around Christmas Week, lots of opportunities for people to meet, for conversations to happen, for glances exchanged across the room, for situations to begin, and sadly, for situations to is a cold and bittersweet time made warm sometimes by human kindness (or a hot drink)....



It's too bad we met at this part of the book

When it's almost at the end

I wish it could have been earlier

Maybe somewhere on Page Ten

When everything was all brand new

And we had no problems then

And so

I bow  to the laws of gravity

I am caught by the pull

of your heart

across the provinces

and highways....

the start of this adventure

and wherever the path will bend....

(to be continued)

(c) 2010 Ralph Alfonso


Monday, December 27, 2010

CHRISTMAS WEEK - New Year's Eve Toronto 1977

This has been an interesting year for nostalgia. The year 1977 loomed large as a result of the book I published ( Treat Me like Dirt by Liz Worth ) concerning the 1977 Toronto punk explosion. A lot of people I'd mostly forgotten about suddenly were front and center, quibbling over incidents and details, revising facts to accomodate mythology and jockeying for position in an intangible hierarchy of power and, in fact, if I hear the phrase "my legacy" one more time this year, I'll probably explode.

I have discovered through this book experience that memories are both subjective and invective.

My own dilemna in terms of this "legacy" business is that I created a voluminous amount of creative work prior to 1977 (dating back to the late 60s, in fact) and an even more daunting Everest since 1977. I used to try to keep track of it all but the cross-cultural and omni-media (print, TV, radio, live performance, web, etc) representations are just too much and now - I just throw everything in a box to sort out later ("later" meaning sometime in the next 20 years or so).

Knowing that it is all sort of somewhere is somewhat comforting and sometimes it's fun to reach in randomly and pull out a nice memory like this one, from 1977 in fact.....


NEW YEAR'S EVE (Queen and Bathurst, Toronto, 1977)

I'd like to say

how crazy you are

but that's kind

of hard

what with your

tongue down my mouth

and all

right here

in the middle of traffic

waiting for a bus

actually, any bus

that'll take us

somewhere away from

all these drivers

waving and giving me

the thumbs-up sign

"yeah, uh, thanks!"

She's really cool,

I know,

that's why I'm here

ralph alfonso


Sunday, December 26, 2010

CHRISTMAS WEEK - Christmas Day in Los Angeles

In the 80s, I spent a fair amount of time in Los Angeles, in Manhattan Beach
It was a good time, a bad time, a lot of hard work for (now through the prism of history) 
very little or no reward but  a time of many interesting moments and reflections and interventions...
like this one.... text actually written back then....

Christmas Day, Los Angeles, 1988



It's windy today.

The waves are being swept high into the air; crashing down on the pock-marked sand - sending gulls
spluttering off in all directions.... the odd feather left spiraling... til I brush it out of the way...

I see that that the little squawkers have settled into the grooves of my footsteps in the sand (one way
of covering my tracks, I smiled)...

Sad little California beach.
Where have all the people gone?
It's not the season for people.

The one I want isn't here. I roam the sand in exile... my kingdom of nothing.

I call upon my subjects... hey! get your beaks out of the garbage cans.... I'm talking to you!

Lift yourselves into the sky.
Do something useful.
It's Christmas.

I throw a rock at them...
they scurry off into the horizon...

Smoking a cigarette at a boardwalk cafe, I could see the empty bodies of the California people...
identical heads... empty of anything useful to anyone; what could they possibly be talking about? My
cynicism thrives in cold weather, doesn't it? The Mexican beer slid down my throat. I hated myself. I
liked it better when I didn't know anything.

The last surfers were straggling up the beach; boards in hand.
Sun's about to set. Time to go home.

Something hits my head and bounces onto the table.
It's an ugly green and silver Christmas tree ball!

Stupid gulls.
Always showing off.

Ralph Alfonso