Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ossington Part III

I graduated from university in 1983. By 1985, I had the studio on Ossington and I was painting what I suppose you might call post-industrial apocalyptic landscapes. I don't know where most of these paintings are today. The last one of these I kept recently went to a good home, where I hope to visit it from time to time.

One day I was working on a toxic green painting I called the New Murphy Power Plant. It had smoke-stacks and I was working on this acidic smoky junk coming out of one of them. I remember it being a really intense experience. As I was painting it, I could smell that smoke. I thought I was having a synesthetic experience of the first order - I was smelling form. The experience became more and more intense until I snapped out of my foolish reverie to realize there was a fire in the kitchen. The video artist who was renting in the back studio at the time, had put some toast in the toaster, then returned to her studio to yak on the phone. It wasn't a very good toaster. It didn't simply stop toasting when the toast was ready. It kept on going. By the time I got to the kitchen, little flames were shooting out of the toaster. Synesthesia indeed.


I worked until midnight, and was usually home by 12:30. Many nights, I'd have a beer, turn on some tunes and start work on my paintings until about 3:00. I got into the habit of going to bed late and waking up late. Also, it was as close to the wild years as I was going to get, meaning that late on a Friday night, I was apt to enjoy a brew or three with the friends I hadn't seen all week.

On Saturday mornings, I had regular visits from some nice clean-cut young men in white shirts, with ties and nice little brief cases. They were concerned for my spiritual well-being, and felt they had some answers I might benefit from. I tried answering the door, but I was grumpy.

"Do you believe in God?"
"I'm a practicing neo-Druid."
"We can help you with that."

For several Saturdays, I just ignored their 9:00 a.m. knocks. Sometimes I'm sure I slept right through. Other times, the loud knocking would startle me from sleep for a second. One morning I heard them talking. "His bed is just behind the bookshelf. I know he's there. If we knock harder for sure he'll hear us... For a brief second I considered staggering out of bed and launching into a tirade. Instead, I went back to sleep. After a dedicated onslaught to save my soul lasting two or three months, they stopped coming. I was among the lost.


Sometimes my friend Grant would come by at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, with his Martin guitar. Grant wasn't much for possessions but he had a lovely guitar and he played and sang the most beautiful songs I believed he made up on the spot. He would start telling me a story, and it would get more complicated and he would weave a little guitar picking into the story, and at a certain point the story became a song, and he sang a chorus and there were verses and guitar breaks and then it was a story again. I know if I asked him to tell that story again at another time, it would come out differently, the music would be different, it would be new, always told in the moment. I loved it when Grant would tell those stories and play his guitar. I haven't seen him in many years now. Hey, old friend, if you're out there somewhere and you read this, check in. It would be great to say hello.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

It's a pity that you never had a chance to share some synethesic experiences with your little Mormon friends. That coulda been fun.

These stories sort of make me want to live in a studio.

mister anchovy said...

I've lived in two different studios over the years, and both were a lot of fun in many ways. When I moved into the old hardware store on Ossington, I was in my early/mid twenties, indestructable, and up for an adventure. It was the right time and place too, when the space was available at a low cost. I don't know if there are any areas in Toronto now where the same thing could happen. Later, I lived in the old casket factory at Niagara and Tecumseth here in Toronto, and that was a trip and a half too, but that's another story.

sp said...

I wonder where you'd be if they had "saved your soul".

What a great story about your friend Grant.