Life on Masterpiece Avenue

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Steve, I just stumbled on this beautiful thing. I was looking for Dougherty on line, which has not been much of a success. Hi, Joe.

But Fraser. My my. The unnatural smell of natural gas in that second-storey cavern above Morris Junk. I think of Don often, although "think" isn't the right word. He shows up, bidden or un. And in response to something on this page – oh yeah, Andrew DD's remark at the end of his comment here. "That era also feels like Fraser's apparition." Fraser IS an apparition, because he always was, at least during the time we all knew him.

And then there's Man Mountain Mallory. I loved Fraser, and still do, but the Man Mountain was a whole lot easier to like. I miss him too. Is it still possible to contact that Mallory in the mortal-coil world? He never was an apparition, just a very large, solid and good human being.

Thanks for this, Steve.

George Payerle more than 11 years ago


For some reason I thought of Fraser this morning and grabbed Ignorant Armies to go with me to accompany my partner Patt to the chemo ward in Sechelt.
I remember him in the Marble Arch, his muffled words, his extravagant smoking technique, trying to hear what he was, perhaps, saying..
And today I found him, well, just funny. We appreciate his intelligence, his mastery of the semi-colon...He had me giggling in the chemo room today.
When I googled him this afternoon, I saw your piece. Good times.

Joe Dougherty more than 12 years ago

D.M. Fraser

Stephen, thanks for your lovely recollection of D.M. Fraser and of that period. I experienced the Pulp Press editorial process over beers at the Marble Arch, during which process someone objected to my use in a poem of the phrase "my wife" because, he claimed, it was sexist. I did not know Fraser well, but 1967 being what it was, this did not prevent us from "dropping acid" together with friends at the cabin of Bryan Carson's parents somewhere on the Sunshine Coast. One of the friends was a venerated local character by the name of Easter Egg. I don't think D.M. enjoyed the "trip". I became possessed briefly by a persona whose name was Fooby Sawbuster, so I don't think I enjoyed it either. Apparently D.M. believed he could be happy if he found a woman who would love him, but she had to be only six inches tall. I often see that era through the same mist of nostalgia that seems to suffuse everything that Fraser wrote, with a soundtrack of, as he said somewhere, "female voices singing Alleluia, far away".
Morgan Nyberg, Duncan B.C.

Morgan Nyberg more than 12 years ago

Kinda Response to Life on Masterpiece Ave

Well Stephen you've lit another match under the passing of time. Your reflections conjure up that era, for those of us who passed through it. Growing up in Toronto then was different in many ways than it was in Vancouver, though perhaps alternative literary folks shared similar pages.

When I travelled to Vancouver and ended up in Gastown I discovered a very large concentration of harnessed and yet to be harnessed energy that was beginning to evaporate from (Toronto’s) Yorkville with creeping gentrification

What strikes me is how we arrived at today. All that water under our bridges and those values we were trying to sort out then have now come to what? Is the Occupy Movement(s) just a blip or is this the beginning of mass change. It happened in the 60's and it can happen now. But will it?

From where I sit in Grand Falls-Windsor, NL (I escaped Toronto 6 years ago) I see this era ripe for global social change. Our freedoms are withering, the rich are truly getting filthy rich and the middle class is being squeezed into the lower socio-economic mass. I used to wonder how people allowed themselves to be manipulated into the kind of consumption that today sees unsuspecting prisoners of material things fall into the debt abyss that most nations on the planet are tumbling into. Does this scenario have the makings of a much broader social upheaval or will things settle down with a more stringent law and order trend?

I thought we were onto something in the 60's and into the 70's. I thought we had discovered that there was another way, that we didn't have to buy into the values of the status quo. I believed that if we stuck to our values the world could be a better place for many people. I did not think that greed, money and power would overtake those values, but they have. For the growing masses of people, the struggle to keep noses above water is the struggle of much of their lives.

So yes, those chore values still lie inside me 50 years later and I share them with whom I can but the world is now a different place. The only constant I can put my finger on is 'change'.

So that time Stephen, that era, also feels like Fraser's apparition.

Andrew Danson Danushevsky more than 12 years ago


Thanks, Stephen, for an evocative piece to remind us all of our dear departed friend.

Roger Field more than 12 years ago


Great article: I feel very nostalgic for the seventies. It is, however, hard to read online because the quotations are not typographically set off from the rest of the text.

Angela Runnals more than 12 years ago


Stephen: you brought him back. Bless you. I see his fingers, the cigarette, the glass, the glasses, hear the cough in the laugh: damn, he was so bloody generous, especially to those of us who were trying to write and just managed to be trying instead. There was not a moment in any given 24-hour period when he wasn't available for a chat and a drink and a smoke; even when he was composing those sentences, those sentences, he'd stop, listen, chat, then go back to making sentences the rest of us would read and wonder at.

He knew what he was doing, right up to the very last whisper, he knew. Ted Mann and I made the mistake of telling his mother (in New Glasgow) he wasn't well, after the first heart attack in the late seventies. It was the only time he was ever, or ever expressed, real anger at something I'd said or done. He knew what he was doing, whatever made me think I had the right to bother his mother with his doings?

He began beautifully, we might regret, deeply, that he didn't finish quite so beautifully, but such a pleasure, such a grace, to be there at such a beginning.

Michael Chiasson more than 12 years ago

D.M. Fraser

Thanks for this, Steve. It is a romanticism and a fable, but its moral message is infallibly true. As was D.M. Fraser. The cancellations of contradictory impulse are perhaps the masterpiece that wrests itself out of his instant grasp of cynical nostalgia. And thereby Fraser was a tough satirist, but a softly-written one, as he gently buried the knife. I know Jon Furberg instinctively understood that. It took me a while.

Alban Goulden more than 12 years ago