Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Readers Write: An Excerpt from Timber Masterson's A Long Way from Kind and Pretty

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A  Long Way from Kind and Pretty. A novel by Tim Masterson.

An excerpt from Toronto writer Timber Masterson's novel, A Long Way from Kind and Pretty. Please read chapters from the novel here.

Often, the only thing that comforts me is the knowledge of a telephone number,
      someone who won’t be too long in arriving at a pre-determined locale
                    to deliver a powdery grey mare,
                        that will induce immediate soothing crimson inspiration,
                            though ultimately providing just another bastard brick
                in the stepping stone to a nuptual death-knot.
            I will in some gross manner always be betrothed.
And at a point pivotal, down some path, must attempt to elope on my own, as, to bring her with me
                          out the window
                          in some fleeing escape
          would mean a maundered diffuse I’ve plundered on countless occasions.
                    There are prayers, seen and felt in astral carousing of late, a kind of cosmos ‘round towns,
                                that I’m not too high up when the next jump comes into play…

1. Me and Charles B.

I first began reading Charles Bukowski right around the same time I was falling off the earth. Hearing that he’d lived a tragic, tortured life made me all the more eager to get involved with his books, to read of his treacherously long, odd soul-searching days at the US Post Office. How strange for him to have had such a wide array of untamed characters showing up at his residence, seasoned drifters from far and away presenting themselves at his doorstep posing as fans, people just driving through who thought they’d pop by. This made little sense to him or his life partner Linda, who’d often be on Selective Security Sifting Mode (I imagined this role for her), fielding requests from the front door, bellowing to Chuck, off hiding in the kitchen, “You have visitors,” ultimately telling them to go away and come back another time. The Kerou-wackos scurried off, hustled up more drugs, called it a day, and forgot where old man Bukowski lived altogether. This was the '60s, man. Poor guy, dodging compliments from illiterates who said they loved his words though had read none; pointless people rallying around his noble bungalow estate, peering in windows to maybe catch a view of a great writer having a beer and a cheese sandwich. The human race strikes again. These constant ambushes because they heard he represented a generation’s rebellious view of society. He was only writing what was in his heart and suddenly he’s some sort of spokesman partaking in what by this time had become daily involvement in an unwanted celebrity side show; his reward for being a storyteller with God given grace, a rare voice of highly original creative thought and to the point honest prose.

Recently, I’ve had my own share of poignant moments and escapades in Los Angeles, more reason to draw comparisons between myself and the race-horse-gambling, portlier, slightly more successful Charles B. Something I don’t recall him being famous for was writing bum checks to bookstores and cabbing it to second hand haunts to get what cash he could for them: that’s been my job. His books always brought in a favourable bounty at the establishments I slithered into. They got some sweet deal off of me. If I had schlepped less, showered that week, came in with less of the Neanderthal-like presence, maybe then I could have kept up a better face for my narcotic fun-run, Chuck B. full of good times I told myself that I was having. I must have been some sight. God knows what the owners thought, not that other humans were particularly high on my list of things to consider. I think they knew what I was doing. I can laugh about it now...a little. It must have seemed sad and obvious, and now looking back, I probably wasn’t far off from being just bad news and oblivious.

On a few occasions I’m sure I handed over the receipt just given to me an hour earlier from some unsuspecting three-storey book conglomerate, not yet tipped off to the literary mad genius scam I believed so foolproof, clever creativity, inevitably my demise. My desperation, racing blindly through intersections with stolen words, the soon to be profitable works of literature sitting pretty in my accredited accomplice - the soiled sack; and if the sweat on the brow and the holes in my shoes weren’t a dead giveaway, I don’t know what was. I’m guessing the bookshop owner’s greed overshadowed his compassion, but who could fault him? After a spell I gave up attempting to act cavalier and nonchalant, dumping the books out of the bag, scattering them feverishly on the counter, the way one might brandish a sour attitude, groceries or a gun in a hurried frenzy, “I’m in kind of a rush. You know how it is.”

Everyone always has someone to look up to.

Everyone wants to be somebody else. Don’t they?

The similarities crossed over into the bizarre, Bukowskally-speaking, as during one of my most recent stints at a recovery-type institution, I learned the distinguished address of 360 South Westlake Boulevard (where I came to call home for a grand total of nine days) was occupied by the eminent author many years earlier, though now was housing many non-writers and felonious finger-painters. It had been magically transformed into a chirpy entity called "The Royal Palms," though the furthest thing from some balmy, palm-desert-hallowed-ground the name might conjure up.

*Note: best not to commit to any sort of stay in a rehabilitative place that’s located only two alleys up and over from the laundromat where "Pedro and the Boys" deal quite fruitfully in tar heroin; it makes it doubly difficult to make any attempt at being part of ‘the group’ or focus truly and clearly on bettering oneself, when on a day-to-day basis, you’ve learned the exact interval at which to escape between 12 step meetings and "Life 101 Classes" for your daily jostling.

I was the clock watcher. I really got some shit jobs along the way.
Up at 4 a.m. fidgeting and depleted on account of not being able to sleep from the same old withdrawal game, sitting out there on a blackened fire escape, a solitary spot I discovered up at the fifth floor window to rock back and forth, rattle, and hum while considering various game plans that weren’t working. Passing prayers and thoughts came across the board — most devoted to just how I’d ended up in such a hopeless dwelling — prayers and thoughts I was fortunate enough to still own, as most else was sold or misplaced.

“So, this is where carelessness gets you,” I mumbled to myself, attempting to diminish and make light of this cold and illogical end-of-the-line scenario.

It’s not like you’re given that many choices when you and God get yourself going with the intense prolonged drug use. They say you’ve got Jails, there’s Institutions, and then there’s Death.

Was this my bottom?

Did I have more in store?

I had no way of knowing.

I looked forward to clambering out to receive my dose of sanity, an all too sobering symmetry, the twisted station of silence apart from the other court-ordered drug savages; them, a constant static with buzzing backward agendas, their irritating milling about, the rummaging amongst each other’s diseased minds that sickened me to see, feel and regretfully be a part of: my home team for the time.

Directly below, fiendishly working ‘round the clock, a family business dealing in the brisk sale of crack cocaine, a spiffy, finely tuned operation taking place around all clocks, some freakish after-hours carnival, night after night, ongoing, ominous, never ceasing, not that I saw, anyway. It inspired dread and amazed me, much the same way A Clockwork Orange did as a kid; decadent and intriguing for me, frightening and dangerous, but certainly not enough to scare me off the way it should have. That’s kind of the border for normal, when the things that scare and freak most people out, you find yourself lookin’ into that thing’s history and if it’s something you want to involved yourself in, because, you do have that choice.

Addicts don’t take breaks.

And sometimes clocks just don’t work right, the ones that are hooked up to weird timers anyway, all whacked out, sewn up into distant zones. More to the point, people get shattered and out of order and machines sometimes can’t be fixed. There are direct correlations at work here and double that entendre if one scruffy, gloomy-Gus down on his luck, and his knees, works at some all night clock repair shop. There are no holidays from the consistent plaguing pain you find yourself in from self-medicating, punching your own clock and thrashing around. Time doesn’t enter into it, though a very peculiar item, there’s always urgent stuff to get done - everything, and everyone takes a back seat.

All kinds of shoppers would drive up; everything from high-end, slick subterranean appendectomies, to broken-down Gremlins hobbling relentlessly on their last legs, callous drivers in search and in need, pushing poor jalopies beyond their own wake. Colonel Sanchez (I named him) and his chain gang of feisty fools chattered away in foreign tongues while keeping tiny bindles tucked away in their orifices, awaiting any and all characters to pull up. They’d know just when to step into the spotlight, open the gate from the grotty apartment complex, and rapidly conduct a faultlessly orchestrated drug shuffle. They should have had a flashing neon sign that said *ONE STOP SHOPPING * TRI ‘N SAVE* That would have been funny. Every actor, every extra, seemingly prepared to play their parts exactly as they’d rehearsed them.

“Yo, dog, why you watch us out here every night, why don’t you come down, homes?”
The grand pursuit is going on as we speak and is bleeding waterfalls, spilling frightful shadows into cities across this limitless land of heartbreaking unfulfilled need, the devil’s agents always advertising, accepting new asinine applicants, publicly, unashamed, needing participants for an alluring fury and a hunger (tf#1) to survive — an underworld complete with its own set of twisted primordial night rules — fabricated protocol, things you just don’t do, murky manners and the ways in which to manipulate the team and yourself...like any other world, be it under or over the boards. There is no jubilation here folks, but enslavement gets to be a cheery upper, always served encrusted and awkward. Cheating Death is one thing — to repeatedly laugh in his face, steal his lunch money and perform Oedipal acts with his mother behind his back is another story.

Anything went down.

Occasionally, a squad car would pass by a few streets over and shine a light down the alley. A guy whose job it was to keep watch would yell out, “Buddha!” or whatever the code word was for that special night-shift, everyone would scatter like crazed centipedes. I’d stretch my neck out, further dangling over the outside landing, inhaling the scent of the filthy devils unwashed footwearscurrying to pre-plotted concealed cracks, who’d reappear minutes later to continue business as usual. Different worlds co-existing so close, me too infatuated, too fucking fascinated with my proximity to the psychotic prowling, no one paying me much mind, mostly. It’s scary and speaks of uncaring, the inhumane trifling kind, to close ones eyes when others around them are losing theirs, sinking, spiralling south of eye level, to the suffocated soil, and me unable to grow in a much trounced upon earth. Nobody growing here with me at the birds-eye view, the fish-eye-lens, (fish islands?) deserted and unfed, the sweet but sweaty whores lacking manners, (tf#2) their unclassy colognes spliced with remarkably helpful spelling. I knew this because I’d yell occasional crossword questions down to them, “Um, excuse me girls, nine letter word for...you don’t say?” screaming in the alley up the way, me paying enough attention to film it all my mind: I’d see the Colonel and his compadres counting out crumpled American bills, elephantitus-like wads that must have been in the thousands.

Had this always been ‘The Family Business?’

Were they putting their kids through expensive private schools?

“When I was your age, my father was the vice-president at Allstate Insurance.”
“Yeah, fuck face, my dad’s in a gang and he’s going to rip your head off; gimme your cash AND your car keys, teacher man.”

Most likely just getting more, so as to get more, set-ups laid down by monsters and doom dictators who hold too many cards to begin with on an unavoidable concrete minefield, the un-evolutionary ethics of LA, always intact and the all too true school of Never Enough. This voyage of the damned, the tireless dawn, my carousel of the macabre holding firm, cinematic cysts, brewing in me for what’s seemed like forever, what has infected my form, my infrastructure, a carnival in need of repair. I will tell all, as I am told I’m allowed no secrets in this purge pot, this reeling and revealing revelation in and of c o m i n g c L e a n


______________________________________________________________________


tf#1: as per matter of fact, ‘The Hunger’, was a moody, sluggish vampirish flick with lesbianistic undertones that crept into me at an early age and still sticks like glue to my psyche. Good soundtrack, too.

tf#2: I wonder if that rule about “No whores in the house, Timothy!” regardless of any kewpie-doll-kitsch-factor, ability to assist mom with the tougher puzzles, or promises to clean up, is still in effect. Did she mean altogether? No sleepovers? Or just that specific time? Lipstick can be a nightmare to get off pillowcases.


Timber Masterson came to Open Book by winning a slew of free reads having entered on a whim at our last gathering. Following the adage that everything happens for a reason, well, the rest is history.

Timber Masterson is a man on a mission. What's that mission, you ask? Why, to poke and probe at the quivering mass of strangeness that lurks just below the surface of our personalities, the Blob of our unconsciousness if you will, and to try to get under its skin to see what makes it tick. Or quiver. Or, well, whatever it is that a Blob does.

His writing has appeared in The National Post, The Montreal Gazette, Now Magazine and has donated other imaginative, heartfelt epistles to online journals So New Media, Word Riot, Fresh Yarn Salon, Yankee Pot Roast, Noo Journal and others. He co-produced and hosted a monthly interactive literary series at The Drake Hotel entitled Word Substance Spatula and is a regular contributor to CIUT's talk radio show, HOWL with Nik Beat. Author of Timfoolery: Tales of a Third Rate Junkie, he's looking to publish a compilation of published essays and stories, A Bizarre But Entertaining Life I Seem To Have Survived: True Tales from The Dementia Cul De Sac.

Whether over the radio, on a film set, on the page, Masterson deals strictly in the weird and unexpected, specifically, the fantastical space between reality and unreality, imagination and delusion, fact and fiction. His work runs the full gamut of the electromagnetic spectrum, infecting you as you affect it. Reading his stories is like looking at old, grainy, black and white photographs, faded by too much time spent stuffed in shoe boxes in locked attics. The images flicker in and out of transmission. They could be of Minotaurs or mustachioed street sausage vendors in Toronto. They could sound like a papier-mâché Mel Tormé, singing somewhere, off in the distance, in all his velvety, foggy glory. Secrets best kept secret often come tumbling out of his stories like clowns out of a clown car. Timber Masterson stories live on the borders, in the in-betweens, and they are summarily thrust upon the reader, in media res, like a hot potato, as if to say, here, take this, I don't know what to do with it.

"Masterson is a great and ridiculous writer. He has a singular voice, one that always shocks me and makes me laugh. It's shocking he's not a huge writer, won't be a surprise if he becomes one."
- James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard and Bright Shiny Morning.

You can bring to life these tales of splendid wreckage, eerie and exact, full of wicked sub currents, marvels of heavy thinking; Strange lands made out of fragments of the familiar in a 16-car pileup of a novel...

Sample chapters from his first book press here:
http://www.timbermedia.com/novel_2.html

For some, I'm told, these words set forth are best experienced when read aloud to you by a loved one, slowly, tenderly but with firm resolve, candles lit, in bedtime gear, note pad prepped, heated beverage (strategically placed) while head nuzzled effortlessly upon Egyptian-cotton-encasing. Know going in, many young adults who ponder endlessly outside the matted saggy box (and those in early-to-mid-life crisis most especially), have found this the only material needed before being tucked in — and, if you dare, better bedtime reading, stories for further enjoyment, read Timber's stories online.

Tim lists his literary loves and influences as "The Four Daves, that being: Foster Wallace, Sedaris, Rakoff and Eggers, as well as James Frey, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Nick Flynn and Heather O'Neill."

Timber Masterson is not the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship or any other fancy shmancy glammarama literary prize...yet. No one knows what the future holds for him.

Do you have a story to tell about your reading or writing? Send it to clelia@openbooktoronto.com.

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