Norman Allan
 
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Norman Allan : the story

I'm jumping up and down because I've just finished writing a tasty(1) little novel, Ted Allan in Spain: the movie, which is the most interesting and exciting story, starring Hemingway and Bethune and… and my father, a story that should be told, and I think I have an agent! but I'm sad, because it's raining, and cause sometimes I'm just a lonely old man, without a dog: but this afternoon I'm with Ezra. We're in the Market, in the rain. Ezra is chastising me: "You are sad because you are buried in your books, and your thoughts, and your memories. You must be here! I am here," says Ezra, "with the elements, the rain. the earth, the life, the living. See the tree. It's living. And finally, after all else, the light." Ezra finds God in the light. And then, in contradiction - we are all bathed in contradictions - he says, "Write your story. It would be fascinating. I'd read it. I'll commission it! I'll pay you… two hundred dollars, next time I'm in town.
        Is it two years ago Ezra commissioned a painting. "Paint me "Norman Allan as the Universe"? He paid me a pittance, but that's part of the teaching.
        So this is for Ezra: beyond Norman Allan as the Universe - Norman Allan: the story.


I know where I want to go to with this story, but I'm not quite sure how to get there, how to start. With a splash, I guess… so here goes.


Chapter One: Hamach and beyond, to hints of MAME

I will me tell you of my meeting with Hamach, of his prediction of the hour of my death: a rambling tale that winds through Chauffeur Mike.
        The second time I met Mike the Chauffeur was up on Cissbury Tor. (2). It led me to Marrakech, and Hamach. The first meeting with Mike the Chauffeur had been a year before at a "squat" in Brighton. Alan Dare, of the Open Café, asked me to photo-document the squat so the police couldn't say the squatters had trashed the place. But they did. They trashed the place down to the legendary piano for fire wood.
        Why "Mike the Chauffeur"? Because, he said, he had driven the getaway car.
        Up at the concert on the Downs, leaving beaming Jane with an understanding that we would be in touch, I turned and walked towards the music, towards the stage. I think the mushrooms were beginning to bite, the fly agaric from Viking Nick.
        To my left, as I walked across a small glade, was a lean-to hut of branches and polythene. Outside it stood a small group of deadbeat "heads", Mike among them. (We hippies, we called ourselves "heads", or "freaks". "Ah, you're nay freaks," said the young Scot in Covent Gardens.) Up on Cissbury Tor, Mike the Chauffeur recognized and greeted me and told me that everything was simply wonderful with him. He'd been raveling. He was in business - very successful. He had an apartment in Rome and an apartment in Marrakech.
        "Marrakech?" I echoed. I was writing my first novel, a hippy fairy tale, Pipedreams, which was set, in part, in Morocco, in the Riff. I never got to the Riff - I let a hipster in Casablanca part me from my money - but Marrakech? Well, I was ready to travel; explore; new life; possibly to Canada, to look up Linda, to inquire after Brenda. But perhaps Marrakech first, for the sake of the novel. "Ahm," said Mike. "I've, er, left this girl looking after the place, English girl, Helen McDuff. Ah, what the hell, just tell her I said you could stay there. Stay as long as you like." And he scribbled the address for me on a little scrap of paper: 1 Rue Mohammed Cinque.
        Now this was a gift horse worth a look in the mouth, but a short while later I bumped into Viking Nick, who had organized this little free festival, the concert up on the Tor. I spoke to Nick of my encounter with the "chauffeur", of his flat in Marrakech and that I might travel. "Helen, yeah. I know her," he said. "Tall blond girl. Ex-mate of my mate Brent. She stayed on out in Marrakech when they split up. Everybody there knows her. The Moroccans call her Aisha, because of her blond hair." So the address seemed legitimate. I had a place to stay in Marrakech and a few weeks later, after my brief butterfly affair with Jane, I set out.

Did I mention above that I let a Moroccan hipster talk me out of my money in Casa? - a long story. I hitchhiked to Marrakech to find that the Rue Mohammed Cinque is the main street in the new French city. One Rue Mohammed Cinque is the address of the main mosque, the Katubia.
        Homeless and near penniless I wandered into the main square, the Jamal F'na. There were rows and rows of booths filling most of the square: baby "souks". (A souk is a shop and "the souk" is the market.) One of the awninged kiosk shops had a hippy flare. Several longhairs were sitting there with the young proprietor. Standing outside it in the North African sun, I inquired after the blond McDuff. The proprietor shook his head, he didn't know, and then beckoned me, inviting me in to sit and drink mint tea and smoke kif with them, in the Moroccan pipe, the sebi.
        Speaking passing English, the proprietor, Hassan, made me welcome. The cool, the hip, stopped and gossiped in his stall as they passed from the old town, the Medina, to the new city through the square, the Jamal F'na. Of each new arrival I inquired after Aisha, after McDuff. Hours passed. Hassan and God, Allah, were patient with me.
        Then a tall, superhip, young Moroccan stopped with us a while, another Hassan. There are incredible numbers of Hassans and Mohammeds in Morocco. (What made this Hassan "superhip"? He was relaxed, completely at home in his skin.)
        "Perhaps I can help you," said superhip young Hassan. "Meet me tomorrow, at four."
        Hassan, the shop keeper, directed me to a cheap, honest, "hotel" where for a small price I got a small, bare room and a rush mat for the night. There was no lock on the door. I stood a litre coca cola bottle, in which I had water for the night, behind the door, to fall and clatter if anyone opened the door (as would Chris Pasha, the hero of my hippy-tale, Pipedreams). No one disturbed us.

Hip Hassan's friend was, indeed, Helen, but she was not actually called Helen McDuff. She was McDonaugh. And Helen did not know any Mike the Chauffeur. "He must have crashed in the pad sometime, but I don't recall him." And further, she had lost her apartment a few days before (I don't recall the circumstances). She was staying with friends. But she took pity on me. "Wait here. I will make some inquiries." An hour later she returned with a solution.

Helen's friend, Nicole, put me up. The hippy-go-lucky seventies were sure different days. Can you imagine taking in a stranger today? (Then you are probably some latter-day hippy.)
        Nicole was a colleague of Helen's, a teacher at the English school. She was older, but with a young man. Her teenage daughter, a student at the school, helped to tie her to the younger set. She lived in a bungalow, by no means small, in the new city. And there I was ensconced for a week or ten days till Helen found and rented a house in the Medina.

Nicole was having an affair with one of her students, Nasari. Why mention this? Narasi's friend, Yves, will figure in our story, in a moment.
        What else to tell of Marrakech? That it was hot? Forty degree, a dry oven. That I was in culture shocked, you bet, beset with beggars every time I ventured abroad till, perhaps ten days after I arrived, I went the campground and sat and smoked with English and Dutch and French heads, some moments in a familiar European enclave, and that settled me. I arrived. After that, having recovered from "culture shock", I no longer attracted beggars, would-be-guides, and kids, like flies. I acquired acquaintances and friends.
        Oh, and the money. I had read that Anthony Quinn was in Marrakech shooting "Mohammed". My father had worked with Quinn on that project. I wrote Quinn a cheque for a hundred dollars. "I may not cash this," he said. But he did.
        I should find another space to tell you of Aram and Azezza. Before I had settled, while still in culture shock, I had visited them in their house deep in the Medina and spoke of feeling lost. Aram said, "Wherever you sit, that is your space."
        I should speak of Etienne, and Etienne's garden…
        And I should speak of the musicians in the Jamal F'na, the Gnua people, dark skinned from the south, with their three stringed bass, the gimbri. The Gnua musician would sing and thump out a powerful music, while a friend would clack the metal clackers and dance. A circle 'd formed round them. How honored I felt when I was invited into the musician's space, to sit in their inner circle in the hot North African timeless night.
And so the weeks passed.

"Etienne is having a party," said Helen. 'He told me to invite you."
        The party in Etienne's garden was a farewell-bash for Teresa. Teresa was blond and young. She had a beautiful, noble face. She walked with a crutches. "Polio" she said. She had spent her teens in Marrakech - she was the princess of Marrakech - and now she was returning home, next week, towards Poland.
        "When can I meet you again," I asked.
        "Here in Etienne's garden. Come tomorrow at noon."

We spent the afternoon and evening together and meet the next day and the next. Teresa invited me to travel with her to Avingon where she would spend a month, at the Avingon Festival, on her way home to Poland. We arranged to meet in Paris a week hence.
        On my way home to Helen's house in the Medina that night, I stopped for a moment in a souk. A real souk, not the kiosk in the square. As you left the square and entered the Medina, the old city, the first shop you'd come across belonged to another Mohammed and Hassan. I've written of them in a short story, The Lady with the Boots (2). I'll not speak of them further here, just to say that they suggested I go back deep into the shop and met there their country cousin. Perhaps he was rolling up.
        Deep, deep in back of the souk was a simple young man entertaining two local teenage girls dressed in jeans, tees, running shoes, each with can of coke in hand. The young man was slim, mid-twenties, nothing remarkable about him. He sported relatively short, curly, dark hair, and again, jeans, tee-shirt.
        "I'm Norman," I said, or was I Pasha then? I was Pasha quite a while in the seventies. Whoever I was, the poor country cousin, in answer, started to mirror me, each twitch of the eyebrow, each quiver of the jaw. That's a very challenging thing, to be mirrored anywhere, but particularly by a stranger and in a foreign country. And it went on and on, well, not an eternity, but a thorough test, before he broke off from mirroring and, in stilted English, said, "We are brothers. You call me Hamach. Don't use this word with a stranger. Is bad word. Hamach mean crazy. But we are brothers. Friends. You call me Hamach." He paused, then said, "Give me your hand," and before I could offer, he took it.
        Hamach studied my palm for a moment and, pointing to the small calluses, he said, "There is much money."
        Now, it's no great thing to be told by a poor Moroccan that you are, or will be, rich, for indeed, relative to the third world poor, we are fabulously wealthy, so I was not impressed with much money. "How much life is there," I asked.
        Without hesitation he answered, "Thirty years, one month, one day, two hours."
        I thought a moment, calculated: Wow! If he was one year out, mistaking thirty for thirty one, then that would make this very moment exactly the half way point in my life!
        Then Hamach took a piece of string from his pocket. He measured the collective length of my left fingers and compared it to my forearm. "Love will not go well," he said.
I told him that my marriage had come apart. "That is good," he said, and took my other hand. Again he compared the finger length against the forearm, and beamed. "There is a woman who loves you bazzef." (Bazzef is one of those first words that one first learns in a foreign tongue - beaucoup, mucho, bazzef.) Then his face clouded. "There is someone who watches you. He is not big, not little. He watches and he is very jealous." And it was this jealous, envious watcher that most impressed itself on Hamach. He returned to it three or four times emphatically. He also returned with enthusiasm, to the woman who loved me bazzef - and this right after Teresa had invited me to travel to Avingon - but he returned again and again to stress the one who watched with envy.

I left the shop around ten o'clock and stepped out right into Helen McDonaugh's path as she walked past from the Medina towards the square. "I was looking for you," she said. "We need to talk."
        We went to a café on the Jamal F'na. "Yves going to rent a room from me. He's paid me the rent and he's moving in tomorrow. And he wants you to leave."

I spent my last few nights in Marrakech back at Nicole's. As you might guess, I was greatly impressed with Hamach's reading. He saw my failed marriage. He saw Teresa's love. (Teresa was a classmate and a close friend of Nicole's daughter and, in that, part of Nasari and Yves' circle.) But he saw loudest the event I would walk into from his reading: Yves envy. How could I doubt that he could also see my death: that I would die this coming August, August sixth, 2005.

A while ago I was round at Teresa's for her fiftieth birthday. We've been separated - divorced - for years and years, but we're closest of friends. In some context, that evening, I started talking about Charles Darwin and I put Darwin on the Bounty! "The Beagle," Lynn, a mutual fiend, corrected.
        Then, a little later, I spoke to Teresa H. about my perception of Teresa A. and my cat, Sativa's, behaviour when we broke up. "No, it wasn't like that," said Teresa A. (I've written about this in a short sketch, "Three Takes..." (3) .) And that got me thinking how I have now and again, and again, misperceived the world. And all of a sudden, after thirty years, I was back in that souk in Marrakech asking, "How much life is there?"
        "Thirty(one) years, a month, a day, and two hours," Hamach said, and that was precisely, to the minute, the amount of time I had lived up until then. "How much life...?," I had asked, and he answered telling me how long I had lived.

It's easy to misperceive the world. You can never be sure.

Marsha came to my office to see me as a chiropractor, for her low back pain, which we helped, but she liked some of the "CranioSacral" work(4) (part of the treatment), so she came back for more. So, I was sitting with my hands over and under her right thigh (you may have to read my brief article on CranioSacral Therapy to see why). So... so many "so"s. So,like I was sitting beside her, she's lying on a massage table, with my hands on her thigh when a thought arrived which I felt called to voice. (Now, I've never said anything like this before or since to a patient.) I said, "It's as though there's a microfilm embedded in your thigh."
        "Oh my God!" said Marsha. "I dreamed last night I was in a submarine. I was a spy and they were looking for the microfilm. It was hidden in my left thigh. They tied me to the periscope."
        Marsha had forgotten her dream after waking and during the day, but she had never repressed what it alluded to. She told me that from the age of three till she was five her mother used to take her down into the basement, tie her up to a round pillar, a cylindrical, metal floor support, and whip her thighs with electrical wire, or a coat hanger wire. From the age of three Marsha knew that her mother was mad, crazy. She was still looking after her mother, at twenty-five, but about leave home to travel east. She sent me a happy postcard from Katmandu. She had never forgotten the abuse, but she had never spoken of it (so "spirit" engineered a dream and something like telepathy so that she would speak).

Several points of discussion arise out of this:
        One: is that "telepathy" if it was not conscious in her mind? Not exactly.
        Two: if you are going to go on to talk about homeopathy…. and I am. I was involved at your "world class" (5) University… My encounter with homeopathy research, into its reality… homeopathy has been demonstrated, actually again and again, and it's never actually been refuted. Oh, we haven't understood till now the mechanism, the physics. That is what I am going to talk to you about, in a while, the ground, the science, a whole new field of a science of pattern and resonance. (Beyond chaos, there is pattern, so the mathematicians have found. It's a fractal, it's a Mandelbrot world.)


It is a most amazing story that I'm going to tell you: not of fractals, but of homeopathy; and it may take a little while to get there. Ah, but, if that's where we're going, why go by eerie leery things like telepathy and "spirit"? Well, that's where my life has taken me. I'm not here to hide my "reality". We are here to explore it.
        My parents were "materialists", for better or worse "dialectical materialists". And then, at twelve years old I was plunked into psychoanalysis , and thereafter I might say I was raised as a Freudian! So, my adolescent ambition was to understand the mind. In my teens I had to choose between art and science. The mind, the mind surely that's science. But my mentors said, don't study psychology at University. You'll end up a Behaviourist in a Skinner box. Ah, there's a story… We'll get to that.

I also thought to start each chapter with a poem: but I don't think I dare. I'll dare to finish this chapter with a poem…

Twilight

Twilight sighs
reaching back towards our beginnings.

The night wind breathes a hush
upon our brow.


The sun lies now
behind our dreams:
our winnings
and our losings
balance in the seed
from which the future grows.


It is the bewitching hour.

Wish upon it.

 

 

Chapter 2: Spirit: an athiest's guide to the divine

or you might want to read the first chapters of :book two: secrets ...
and third, towards joy

and then follow on as you will...

 
           

 

 

book one : Beyond Substance 

Chapter 1: Hamach and beyond to hints of MAME                     
Chapter 2: Spirit: an atheist's guide to the divine
Chapter 3: bafflement, the mind (and homeopathy)
Chapter 4: evil: the devil at large…

Chapter 5. karma?
Chapter 6: patterns...
Chapter 7: painting....      and conceits
Chapter 8: disappearings
Chapter 9: errors
Chapter 10: full circle