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Indigo Hotel

Klaus J. Gerken




down o’connor street
across from the public library
is the indigo hotel
advertising “the tao of comfort”
for its clientele

i have always thought
being only 5 blocks away
from parliament hill
it would make a great
setting for a novel of

yet nothing ever happens there
or does it
it stands unassuming
in the centre of the city
in what used to be
the old YMCA building
where in the 60’s and 70’s
drug deals used to be a
daily occurrence
and the homeless hopeless
gathered for a free meal
on holidays

larry an aid
at a local hospital
lived there the summer
of 1970
we sometime hung out together
sharing a bottle of wine
by the canal
on the National Arts Centre grounds
with other “hippies” of the day
there was little else to do
sometimes share our art and
read our poetry
or played our songs
to a stoned audience
it was the ottawa
summer of love

one day larry told me
he also painted
and i accompanied him to his room
at the ymca to cleck out
some of his canvasses
nothing much
but there was one
of a man running away
from parliament hill
and sticking his head
into a garbage can
filled with discarded
rotting flowers
he said he needed money
and i bought it for
five dollars
then he told me he needed a shot
and took out a syringe
and some white powder
asked me if i wanted some
and i said no i wasn’t
into that so left
with the painting

when i got back to the
canal liz thought i was nuts
for buying the painting
and told me to throw it away
but i don’t destroy art
and took it home to store
among other painting
i had purchased over the years
from local artist

even though it wasn’t very good
i wondered what was behind it
a protest
a message no one understood
a personal hatred for authority
it was after all intriguing

a few months later at the
end of summer larry called
saying he had been in florida
trying to enlist and go to vietnam
and fight the communists
he said he was sick of all this
“hippie stuff” and when he was refused
he came back to ottawa
but he said what he really wanted
was to have his painting back
since he had lost all the other
canvasses he had so said sure
give back my five and i’ll
bring it down thinking
he was staying at the y again
but he wasn’t
he was in a local mental institution
where he was interred
since the day after i bought
the painting from him
after overdosing on heroin

i gave the painting back
for nothing
it was all he had left
and no one ever heard of
or saw him again

i guess the hotel indigo
does have a ghostly past
fit for a poem or a novel
maybe some day
someone will write it

kjg 1144pm 6 oct 2014

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