My novel CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN is a book about psychological regeneration. The book’s major theme lies in the shattering of hero Aaron’s personality after he has achieved great success. The courage it takes… More
About “Confessions Of An Honest Man”
Old School. That’s what this is, this book about a dysfunctional family that begins in 1957 and carries the reader through to the present day. I started this book in 1976. In ’78 I made a splash by winning Best Short Story Award from Playboy Magazine. I signed with an agent and there was a lot of interest in this book. I had lunches with my editor in New York City. It was classic author-stuff, from another era. I had an opportunity but I wasn’t ripe, the book wasn’t ripe and I didn’t finish it until 2014. I had to do some living before I could write the stories in this book.
I’ve drawn a lot of autobiographical material into this narrative. I was the kind of kid that Aaron Kantro is in these pages. I was still in grade school when I first heard jazz on a recording by Louis Armstrong. Can you imagine a twelve year old closeting himself in his bedroom and listening to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane? Can you imagine that today, or fifty years ago? This is a precocious lonely child. He doesn’t fit in well with his class mates. He gets bullied but he doesn’t cringe easily, doesn’t give in.
Aaron’s mother, Esther, is horrified. She regards any deviation from her plans as personal attacks. Her sons will become professionals. They will be doctors or lawyers. Her daughters will marry socially prominent men of wealth and have two or three grandchildren apiece. She gets, instead, a dreamy musician who listens to what is called, in Yiddish,”Scvhatze music”. She is convinced that her oldest son will become a bum playing at Bar Mitzvahs and her younger son…well…he’s crazy, he goes into trances and hurts people and then he can’t remember what he’s done. Esther’s dreams are fueled by a pathological insecurity that develops into full-blown Manic Depression, today’s bi-polar disorder. On top of her clinical disturbances, Esther is flat-out mean. She’s sadistic and clever.
This is starting to sound a little depressing. I promise you, it’s not. The book has darkness, of course. But it tracks the development of two creative children who get no support. They need determination and strength to follow their dreams. The other two children are interesting in their monstrousness, their violence and greed. By splitting the four children into two teams I’ve created a laboratory, showing the corrosive effects of parental abuse. The outcomes depend on the child’s innate moral nature. Aaron and Sarah survive and become productive only through enormous courage and tenacity.
This is the Kantro family. A father, a mother and four kids. Two of the kids are sweet and two of them are monsters. Max knows that something is wrong in his family. It is the 60’s and he has few tools available. He’s trying, but it’s hard to maneuver through the family’s emotional problems. There’s always trouble. Aaron may be experimenting with drugs. Somehow that’s not so bad as Mark’s propensity to collect weapons and lurk on the outskirts of thuggish mayhem. The world has yet to fill with more sophisticated knowledge. There are few books to be had about family dynamics. Eating disorders are unknown. When Sarah dives into Bulimia, she hasn’t a clue, nor does anyone else, about this compulsive behavior. It’s a total mystery and the only option is to put her in a mental hospital for a month or two.
In “Confessions Of An Honest Man” we travel the Hero’s Journey with Aaron. He’s brave enough to defy his mother. He goes to New York City at the fresh age of sixteen. He’s searching for his jazz hero, the legendary Avian Coulter.
He finds Avian. The man is Avant Garde, a polarizing figure in the jazz world. He’s also an addict. Avian takes Aaron under his broken wings and turns him in the direction he needs to go. He introduces Aaron to the successful blues n’ bop saxophonist, Zoot Prestige. Aaron needs to play Black, Aaron needs to be in Chitlin’ Circuit clubs in Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis. Avian trusts his friend Zoot more than he trusts himself. Zoot will watch over Aaron and keep him from getting into too much trouble. The gigs with the Zoot Prestige Trio are wonderfully goofy.
This is a fairly large book and it goes a lot of places. We meet Jimi Hendrix and we fight the Soviet Army with the Mujahiddin in the Eighties. Read the book. F’god’s sake, it’s $2.99. Then leave a review. Every author needs reviews. Thanks for being here.
Do you love to read? I do. My love of reading led me to writing like an arrow shot from a taut bow. Now what do I need? I need READERS. I don’t churn out books like a machine. I consider everything carefully, every word. I play the drums and I think my writing is influenced by this innate sense of rhythm. That’s what makes it work. CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN is about a young drummer who must fight for his music, fight his fiendish mother who thinks that having a musician in the family will bring shame to her. Only doctors, lawyers, maybe a dentist if things go wrong, those are the only respectable professions for a nice Jewish boy. Aaron Kantro is not really a nice Jewish boy. He’s a crazy dreamer, sometimes a drug addict, he’s….well, he’s human and he’s interesting. All the Kantro family are interesting people. You’re about to read about oldest sister Mari-lee’s honeymoon. She’s marrying for money, of course, because she’s as heartless as her mother and climbing is the only thing worth doing. Let’s see how that works for her, shall we?The book is online as an e-book, it’s at Amazon and Smashwords.com and costs less than three dollars. Treat yourself and support my efforts.
It was in the late seventies. I turned right onto Third Street in San Rafael and my inner vision exploded with a scene. I was seeing a huge monastic building like a Tibetan lamasery. Think of The Potala. Here was this enormous structure flying in the air, floating away from the ground trailing roots and boulders. It seemed to be headed towards a moon that was chartreuse and hovered above the monastery in a kind of leering way, sinister. Then a voice began speaking. Never mind what it was saying. It was talking inside my head. Like dictation. It was describing things like Destiny; the way Destiny is determined by the thoughts of the one who thinks. Yes yes, very metaphysical.
I drove home listening to this voice describing a system of discipline, a system that corresponded to what I know of Tibetan Tantric practice. I know very little about Tibetan Tantric practice. I have a clue, that’s all.
A book grew from this vision and this voice. At the time I was flush from my recent award from Playboy Magazine and my agent gave the manuscript to an editor and when I was in New York we discussed the book. The agent, Scott Meredith, moved the book around from publisher to publisher for a year. There were no takers.
Lucky me. It would have been a tragedy to have published that book in 1980. I take decades to write my books. They are like big oak trees. They need time to develop.
The Gods Of The Gift has changed so much over the years that it has become a real grown-up book. It’s a book for grown-ups. It’ a book that will be most enjoyed by people who’ve spent some time reading esoteric stuff like Rudolph Steiner, Madame Blavatsky, Annie Besant. The old school mystics. Gurdjieff, Ouspensky. Most of those books are dense, turgid and old fashioned. The Gods Of The Gift should be fun, even though it’s loaded with subtle information and the science part of it is completely crazy.
You don’t have to be an Adept of The Secret Doctrine to get enjoyment from this book. It follows many Fantasy and Sci Fi conventions. There’s the Pinocchio Theme. A race of Androids yearns to be human. But these androids, or as I call them, Robiots, know they’re not human. They call themselves New Sentients. They were originally made to perform work but somewhere along the way a few of them started tinkering with their own nervous systems and found that emotion was possible and even desirable. That’s one of my classic Sci Fi themes. I’ve got astrophysics galore, Black Holes, all that stuff. The book is as much influenced by Kurosawa films as it is by metaphysical lore. There are sword fights, kidnappings, cosmic gangsters and quasi-immortals called Planet-People. These are avatars from the Starwind Communion. When their civilization was doomed they decided to emigrate by squishing all the individuals from each planet into one body. So one hundred eight worlds became one hundred eight Planet-People. One of them, Calakadon, was a rogue and a murderer. He is the book’s main bad guy. He’s murdering the other one hundred seven of his kindred and stealing their Puzzle Pieces. These objects are precious beyond knowing. They will some day be assembled into The Puzzle Of The Endless Gates. Here is another Buddhist concept, in case you’ve never heard that mantra: Gate Gate Beyond The Gate Another Gate—-Bodhisattva.
Shooting star trails with a Canon 20D wasn’t working. I got the images below using that camera and it took a lot of tweaking with Photoshop plug-ins to get them to look halfway decent. Today, however, with full-frame cameras or APS-C models like the Canon 70D I’m using it’s an entirely different story. There is not only a vast improvement in the amount of noise present in my files, but the camera has a robust buffer that will load a ton of shots onto your card without breaks of three or four minutes. That was my problem with shot #2. I took 14 frames of ten minutes each. Somewhere in that process the camera slowed down and loaded files onto the card, which broke up the continuity of the star trails. What I had were trails-with-gaps. Using the freeware called Startrails I was able to clean up the gaps a bit and obtain a more pleasing image.
My partner, Fox, is an Animal Communicator. She’s the real deal, she’s not a poseur playing at “Pet Psychic” and taking people’s money. Her ability is quite inexplicable unless you embrace some beliefs that tax the empirical world view. I have several of these but I don’t advertise the fact.
About three years ago Fox was called to the home of a toy and teacup poodle breeder. It was a long ride but she was getting some strange intuitions that she could not ignore.
As soon as she arrived she knew the place was a puppy mill. Most of the dogs were hidden behind closed doors but she could feel the suffering. She could smell it, hear it and she could sense it like low hanging clouds suffusing the house and grounds. The assault on her emotions was overwhelming. There was such distress, such cruelty, such greed and cynicism!
Fox consulted the owner regarding two dogs. Why were they so aggressive?
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? she wanted to scream. STOP TREATING THESE BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS LIKE COMMODITIES!
She kept quiet. She was scared. She knew that she was among criminals and she had to tread cautiously.
The puppy mill was catering to a market of wealthy Chinese buyers.
This new class of upscale Chinese are fueling a worldwide vogue for tiny dogs. A documented four-pound poodle can fetch five thousand dollars in Shanghai,Canton, Hong Kong and Beijing.
Fox carefully asked the owner to change the way she treated her dogs. The owner was not receptive to Fox’s advice. She was making huge amounts of money. One of the techniques she used to keep puppies small was to confine them to tiny spaces. They were drugged on tranquilizers to retard their growth. They had nowhere to move, no exercise, so they didn’t develop any mass. The lighter the dog, the more expensive. The unwitting yet culpable participants in this racket, the customers in the orient, were paying thousands of dollars for a puppy that would be sick and crazy.
Too bad. All sales final. You saw the photo of the puppy you were purchasing.
You saw the AKC documents. You sent your money and we sent you a tiny poodle.
While the breeder was taking a phone call, Fox entered a small room and looked down at a little brown puppy. He was confined to an aquarium, not much bigger than a shoebox. He had an IV needle stuck into his leg. He looked into Fox’s eyes. She heard the words as clear as a bell: Help me! Get me out of here!
Without thinking, she opened the top, removed the IV and scooped the puppy inside her coat. The little guy stayed quiet. He just kept looking into Fox’s eyes.
In a few minutes Fox left the house with the closed bedrooms and high fenced backyard full of suffering animals. She drove to a nearby mall and called the police. The result of her action was that arrests were made, the puppy mill was shut down and forty seven puppies found new and far better owners.
Fox made the ninety minute drive home with this shivering puppy inside her coat. His hair was very long. He looked like a little Ewok in need of a barber.
That puppy became our Little Bear. He is now a seven pound dog of disproportionate strength. He is also absurdly intelligent, perceptive, stubborn and willful. He has quirks. He has bad memories. He suffers from PTSD. He can go crazy when grooming implements appear. Anything like gleaming steel, needles or tubes can trigger a momentary aggression.
Bear is, however, happy, healthy, spoiled and loved beyond all reason.
The Message Of The Dogs
Somewhere there is a dog barking.
When I hold my breath and listen
carefully, I can just hear it,
high pitched, squeaking, urgent.
My dogs hear it,
they understand the message,
they bark it onward,
to the dog next door, who barks
to the dog down the street
who barks to the dog in the next
street, who barks to the dogs
in the next town, who bark it
to the dogs in the big city,
who bark it across the state.
All these dogs barking,
started by a frantic Chihuahua
lonely for her people,
fearing they’ll never return.
The dogs across the state carry it on,
they bark across the rivers,
tell the dogs of the whole continent.
In the Pacific, a dog being walked
down a polished deck
and soon all the dogs on the ship are barking.
No one knows what set them off,
barking to annoy everyone, waken peaceful sleepers,
startle amorous lovers,
distract the crew from their work.
Dogs must bark, for this is an urgent matter,
a Chihuahua’s terror. Soon
all the dogs on all the ships, all the trains, all the planes are barking.
Here at home, my dogs continue,
none of my training can stop them,
the bark is more important than human need
for peace and quiet.
Soon the bark has reached Alaska. The sled dogs,
always barking, change their urgent cry of “let’s run let’s run”
to the tune of “ someone please
comfort cousin Chihuahua.”
Russia’s eleven time zones come alive with barking.
Vladivostok to Petersburg,
Irkutsk to Moscow, Russia’s dogs pass it on,
north to the White Sea,
south to the Black Sea.
Soon, Poland’s dogs are barking,
Germany’s dogs are barking,
France’s dogs sniff and lift their heads, piss
on a chair
delicately, decide whether to eat or bark
and yes, they bark. No translation is needed.
Barking is universal, dog emotions are powerful.
Even the wild dogs with their different language
stand up and bay,
the foxes and jackals yip
wolves and coyotes sing.
The bark reaches Easter Island, Tahiti, and
Rangaroa, bark bark, bark bark, roars and squeals and yips
join together, across the earth, dogs are barking
and people are crying “quiet!”, “shut up!”, “shhhhhh”, “No barkies!”
They blow on whistles, snap
clickers, squirt water, shake cans of rocks but the world’s dogs bark.
The whole dog universe
sounds a call that flies with the winds, rises into the clouds to travel
far distances, for one of their kind is distressed and dogs are the most loyal
It is a dog’s duty to bark until the message has circled the world
and the Chihuahua’s people feel a subliminal urge, a stab of worry,
an urge to hurry
home, home, quick unlock the door, the puppy’s gone crazy
the neighbors are furious (dammit why don’t you teach that dog
some manners). They thought she was trained but they leave her
alone, long and often, they think it doesn’t bother her
they don’t know their dog’s terror has gone around the world and
she was invoking the dog power
to bring her people home, and they returned, early,
canceled plans out of vague worry
knowing nothing of the way
the hue and cry of ten billion dogs
was barked across all the time zones of the earth to help
a tiny Chihuahua bring home the people she loves.
Variety is nutrition to an artist. I like to write different kinds of poems, explore different kinds of feelings. I know that my mystic, Rumi-esque poems are appreciated by my audience. I love those poems and the moments they represent. But they aren’t the whole story. No one has ever seen this next poem. I was once infatuated with a woman and my feelings were not reciprocated. In fact, she was a little bit cruel and I suppose my younger and more neurotic self found that cruelty stimulating. It launched an obsession. I didn’t stalk her, didn’t DO anything reprehensible. It was a painful time. I always feel as though if a particular experience of suffering gives birth to even a single good work of art, then it was worth it. Soon I will move this over to the Poetry Page and I suggest that if you like my “variety”, keep your eyes peeled because I’ll be pushing the edges and revealing stuff that has never been published, the dark secret side and, sometimes, the perverse word-hound plays just to play.
Is Love What
Monologue Of An Obsession
July 1, 1995
This feeling lurks
in the stomach
behind the groin
this feeling hides
where least desired
when most feared
into the head
around the heart
takes you, shakes you
by the throat
stalks and talks in shadows
eludes evades ambushes
this feeling hurts
tender as a wound
quietly, behind the door
abhors lonely vacuums
terrible cheating heating the brain
it floods with light
dazzling colors darkest night
this feeling shaves its head
drains, fills lungs with sound
screams, give me just one dream
or let me stop feeling this way.
It cries for peace
offers and withholds release.
This feeling is what it is.
No end, more to make,
more to spend.
This feeling is what feeling is.