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Phantom Blog

Flora for the concrete jungle

A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog, 11/04/16

Jim Wilson’s Blog, 11 April 2016.

 

My dad never went to WW2. He was a tractor driver on a farm up the Pig Root in Otago and he was either excluded because we in New Zealand needed to keep the farms going or his broken lungs stopped him. My dad was an asthmatic and he gasped for breath his whole life through and more so when he felt lonely or misunderstood.

I remember being vaguely embarrassed about my dad not going to war when I was a kid in Dunedin in the 1950s.

My uncle went. He was with the 23rd Battalion. His records show that he went to Scotland in 1940 and then in early March 1941 he arrived in Egypt. Egypt was quite a curly place at the time and my uncle served 14 days field punishment in late April that year for drunkenness. I am quite proud of this because if there’s one thing you want to do when you are young it’s that you want to flare up with your mates.

My uncle came home in 1943 after being medically discharged and he could never put a sentence together again for his whole life. His discharge address was the Clarendon Hotel in McLaggan Street, Dunedin.  I’d say that’s mighty staunch.

My family moved into Dunedin from the country in around 1950, a year or two before I was born. My Uncle Les loaned my parents the money to put a deposit on a house in Russell Street. My uncle’s records show that he was given a gratuity of 144 pounds, 16 shillings and sixpence. I think this is how much El Alamein was worth. That’s a hell of a way to earn money.

My parents moved into town because by the early 1950s there were three kids at high school and this was getting expensive on a farm labourer’s wage. My mum cooked for the single men who worked on Shag Valley Station and that didn’t pay much either.

I was the late-comer to the family. I was born in Dunedin and I will always be born in Dunedin.

My closest sister was twelve years old when I was born and now she is dying.

I was ‘Sweet Baby James’ and my two oldest sisters who were 16 and 17 years old when I was born loved me to bits. My brother who was fourteen when I was born was the best mate I ever had. He showed me how to love people and he once stood up on a table at a pub in South Dunedin and lead the whole bar in ‘We Shall Overcome’. This was in about 1963 or 1964 and during the American ‘Civil Rights’ era.

When I was a kid, my mother would sometimes say that I was a ‘mistake’ and my father would sometimes say that I was ‘nobody’s bastard’. This was because they were unhappy. People are sometimes cruel to other people when they are unhappy. I’ve never seen a happy person be cruel to anyone else in my whole life.

My brother died in a tractor accident in a road gang out near Ravensbourne when I was fourteen. My two eldest sisters died of cancer within a month of each other in 1989. In 1990, I sweated out the methadone working on a farm about seventy miles out of Nashville, Tennessee. I cried every day for my sisters and I gradually got back on my feet.

My old man worked in the store at Fletcher Steel in Dunedin when I was a kid and every single day of his life he got up and went to work. We moved to Christchurch when I was fourteen and my dad was working for Stainless Castings by then and they took him north. There were a lot of flies in Christchurch and it was really hot.

I love my mum and my dad.

My Uncle Bertie owned a milk bar in Palmerston in Otago and my Uncle Jim clicked tickets on the trains for the New Zealand Railway Service. I am dead proud of my family and they could never do a single thing to set me against them, not then and not now.

Even though my parents always voted for the Labour Party I think my dad knew that no political party could ever save him from his own propensity for depression. My mother was a passionate, fiery, tempestuous and very mischievous woman and there are just not enough adjectives in this life to describe her. But she couldn’t be like this in front of my dad and so she learned to hold herself back in almost all her expressions. I know she loved me when I did bad stuff and she loved me more when I eventually got to jail. I enjoyed jail and I made some of the best mates of my life in there. I also created a lot of mischief. One day I saw a homemade Molotov Cocktail (model airplane glue, glass milk bottle, somebody’s shitty underpants stuck in the neck of the bottle, add fire) explode on a wall about three feet away from a screw’s head. Trust me, it’s amazing what you can get to enjoy if you try.

My sister who is dying now is probably the one who I loved the most. She didn’t like me when I came along because she was twelve and I got all the limelight. She gave me ‘War & Peace’ to read when I was six and she used to play piano in our lounge. When Dunedin got its first big mainframe computer sometime in the early 1960s she was working at the Dunedin City Council and she aced an intelligence test and got to work on it doing data input, I guess. She got her photo on the front page of the Otago Daily Times.

My dad never went to high school but he quoted Shakespeare all the time. He’d say, over and over, that the quality of mercy is not strained. I think he basically missed working on the farm by himself and to this day, I still feel like I’m a country boy myself. I love Nashville like you can’t believe. I miss Nashville and specifically the Nashville piano sound every single day of my life but I can never tell what I’m yearning for, whether it is Nashville itself or my mum and my dad or my brother or my sister who is currently dying.

Even though I’ve had a wild and tempestuous life myself I was always really just some kind of hippie. I think the difference was that I never really cut my hair. My mum used to tell me to stick to my guns and so I have. You can hurl a sidewinder missile at me but it’s really my choice as to whether or not I hate you back. Sometimes I think the internet was invented because people had a real need to spit at each other.

I put up posters against the Vietnam war in the 1970s and I am sometimes upset about this now because I have met a lot of American servicemen who were badly hurt in that war, but I’ve also been to Vietnam and I’ve seen the immense damage there as well. I think the damage is called ‘Capitalism’.

I also put up hundreds if not thousands of posters against the Springboks tour of NZ in the early 1980s. I once pasted up posters on the side of a bus in Cathedral Square in Christchurch with my great mate Harry Sparkle.

I am going to miss my sister. She’s a fiery one and I have always been attracted to women like that. You could never depend on my sister to say the right thing in any circumstance. She’d only ever really tell the truth. We are a thousand million miles apart and yet emotionally I can hear her heart beat. This is what has been getting me down lately. You see I want to go home to Russell Street and start the whole goddamn thing over again and have us all sing a Hank Williams song and for my dad to look at me and smile and for my sister to hit them keys Nashville style. I want my sister and my mum to calm down and I want a mother’s love strong and secure. That’s all a little boy needs to get through this man’s life.

But I’ve learned that life is a long hard song and most things are a long way easier than being in the front line at El Alamein.

It’s ANZAC Day on April 25th. Buy a poppy because… Well just because the quality of mercy is not strained. Whatever you are going through in your poor forsaken life someone else is going through worse or the same. The exact worse or the same.

Them Nashville cats, been playin’, since they’s babies.

 

Jim and Sister

 

Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day Announcement

Phantom Billstickers has announced a partnership with the NZ Book Awards Trust to promote National Poetry Day – the biggest nationwide poetry event of the year.

The 19th National Poetry Day will now be known as Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day and will continue to bring poetry to the people, with over 80 events held nationwide, involving everyone from seasoned award winners to aspiring poets facing the microphone for the first time.

Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day will be held on Friday 26 August, continuing the legacy of taking poetry to the people from Kerikeri to Southland, across the streets of small towns and major cities.

“It’s an opportunity to hear more poetry – there’s the possibility to take it back to the regions that built us,” says Jim Wilson, owner of Phantom.

“We’ve been putting the New Zealand voice out there for some time. Now with this exciting partnership, that voice will become louder.”

He says Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day is about discovery, diversity, community and pushing boundaries. Poetry enthusiasts generate events such as slams, poetry-music jams, poetry art exhibitions, performance poetry, poetry and dance, poetry street chalking, bookshop and library readings, open mic events and poetry writing competitions.

Nicola Legat, chair of the New Zealand Book Awards Trust, said: “We have long admired Phantom’s commitment to putting poems on posters and in cafes via their Café Reader. They are a natural partner given that Phantom’s business is taking messages to the streets and that’s what the New Zealand Book Awards Trust aspires to do with poetry.”

About The New Zealand Book Awards Trust
This was established as a charitable trust in 2014 to govern and manage the country’s two major literary awards and National Poetry Day, and to ensure their longevity and credibility. New sponsorship agreements have now been secured for all three properties with Ockham supporting the Book Awards, Hell Pizza backing the Children’s and Young Adult awards via its support of the Reading Challenge and Children’s Choice programmes, and Phantom National Poetry Day. Additional funders include The Acorn Foundation, Book Tokens Ltd, Creative NZ, Copyright Licensing Ltd, the Fernyhough Education Foundation, Nielsen and Wellington City Council, supporting specific aspects of the properties.

http://www.nzbookawards.nz/national-poetry-day/

 

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Submitting to the Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader

The Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader is published quarterly with 12 to 15 authors typically appearing in each issue. We are interested in submissions for the ‘zine in the form of short stories or editorial with a word count of 3000 words or less. We also publish poems in the ‘zine but there is typically no more than three per issue so space is usually quite limited.

Submissions to the Cafe Reader must be previously unpublished in any format. Copyrights are retained by the author. However, the author agrees that Phantom Billstickers has the right to use the piece in both the Cafe Reader hard copy and digital formats (currently available for download on Amazon.com) for both domestic and international distribution.

By submitting, the author agrees that the piece published in the Cafe Reader will not be published in any other format between the publication date of the issue where it appears and the publication date of the next quarterly issue of the Cafe Reader. We do not guarantee which issue any piece will appear in. When a piece is scheduled to appear a layout will be provided to the author for review and approval prior to publication.

Submissions must be provided in an editable WORD document  submitted via email to submissions-cafereader@0800phantom.co.nz. The author should provide some background information about themselves in conjunction with the submission. Labeling the file with the author’s name is appreciated.

 

The following is a blurb about the Cafe Reader which may be helpful for writers to get in the right direction regarding themes:

The Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader is a quarterly literary zine featuring short stories, poems, art and editorial by New Zealanders. The stories we publish are heartfelt glimpses into family, community, and the more colourful aspects of the creative life in New Zealand. Many of our articles and stories revolve around Kiwi music. Our contributors range from globally recognized Kiwi authors to emerging artists who deserve to be heard.

A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog, 26/01/16

Jim Wilson’s Blog, 26 January 2016

 

Around two weeks ago I lost my favourite doggie, Bella. The veterinary surgeons put her to sleep here in New Zealand whilst I was trawling around in the USA. There were cellphone calls backwards and forwards and then Bella was gone. That’s how these things happen in the big wide world and I never got to hold Bella for the very last time.

Friends will tell you to ‘let go’ in these circumstances and then you feel like fire-bombing their house, but instead of that you say something like “Thanks very much” and you hope that they go away and never come back.

What is the purpose of having ‘friends’ like that?

About a week after Bella died my brother-in-law popped his clogs as well. My brother-in-law was about the epitome of good social skills. He always knew what kind of good and soothing word to insert into a conversation and just when to do that. He was a fun-lover and one got the impression that there wasn’t too much complex stuff going on with him. What you saw was what you got and what he said was what he meant. He had a good ‘vibe’ about him.

I’ve had a lot of people die around me during these last fifteen years or so. Mostly it comes as a big shock and then it’s gone again but for their presence which I feel at the strangest of times.

Obviously, we carry these memories in our minds and bodies until the very ends of our days. Some of us do what we can to ward the feelings off because ‘loss’ is a very distasteful business. There are other people who trade in loss by endless Internet posts as if they are trying and come to terms with what has just happened.

There is nothing in life that is bigger than loss.

For my part, I feel that if I think about the ones who have gone too much then I feel I will go with them to wherever they are. I’ve often wanted to do just that.

But I am terrified of all this and so I try to hang on to life and vitality even though it can seem entirely meaningless and for long periods of time.

But I do want to live because I have work to do, French cars to maintain, and I haven’t had my say.

I think they call all this business of living in functional denial ‘go forward’. This means don’t look back and just keep on careering into the future. I don’t think these people who make up these glib expressions have ever owned old French cars. Or they’ve never lost a great love because glib people can never have great loves to begin with.

Life can be a dreadfully sad business.

David Bowie died the next week and I did what I could to steel myself against the news.

If it wasn’t for David Bowie I just would never have worn half the clothes

I ever wore in my life and nor would I have applied woman’s makeup to my face in the early 1970s. I was an ugly woman let me tell you that.

We (my mates and me) all did make-up stuff and we coloured our hair and some of us even had a go at women’s high heel shoes and pretended we were gay. We had the earrings and the hand gestures too. At the same time, we had dreadful acne. We’d squeeze each other’s pimples.

David Bowie’s biggest thing to me was that he had the capability of changing everything about himself in a very quick manner. One day he would be in suit and the next day he would be wearing a United States Air Force MA1 flight jacket. He never appeared to have acne.

Me and my mates bonded over a very few key recording artists at the end of the 1960s and going through the early 1970s. Probably the two main recording artists were Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie. The Beatles were who they were and the Rolling Stones were as well, but Hendrix and Bowie were probably our two main inspirations.

My mates were mainly musicians in Christchurch and we’d often meet for lunch downstairs at Beaths or Ballanytnes and it was always good fun.

You’d look around the table and see eyeliner and bright green or orange widely flared pants. The hair would be long and we’d get called names in the street. Borrie used to make our clothes or we’d get them at His Lordships.

David Bowie factored into almost everything we did in one way or another.

But I try not to look back and I just keep careering into the future and oftentimes that’s against the odds. I’m frightened you see.

I think death and old age frightens all of us. We look in the mirror and the make-up has gone.

Bella was a good little girl, she too had a remarkably gentle nature (like my brother-in-law) and I truly loved her. Animals have taught me a lot about people and oftentimes to just steer away from people. I wouldn’t wish the family I grew up in on anyone…. It’s not that any of them were necessarily bad either, they, like the rest of the world, were just lost. They lived in make-up.

 

Bella didn’t.

 

miss bell in the grass

Xerography Debt Vol 38, Cafe Reader Reviews

38

Reviews by Josh Medsker and Carlos Palacios respectively.

If you’d like to get copies of the Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader, contact briana@0800phantom.co.nz or via our Facebook page to be added to our mailing list. Alternatively, all the issues can be downloaded for a small fee from Amazon.com for our international readers.