Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Where "Julia" Calls Me...


Sefton Park, Liverpool, England, reported meeting spot of Julia Stanley and Alfred Lennon - photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Half of what I say here might sound meaningless, to coin John Lennon's exquisite acoustic ballad, "Julia." Yet as I anticipate the eventual release of a short story I wrote related to the assassination of Lennon via Smashwords, I have to acknowledge the quixotic essence of "Julia" and where it calls me.

"Julia," of course, was written and performed (principally by Lennon) on The Beatles' White Album. Though the songwriting credits are split between Lennon and Paul McCartney (as are most of The Beatles' catalog), "Julia" is a solo shot from John to his mother, Julia Stanley. Perhaps there's some dubbed assist vocals by Paul on "Julia," but really, this is a wounded love letter sent from son to mother. Still, Lennon weaves "Julia" with enough loom to leave open-ended interpretation for his audience. If you don't know the intended muse behind this song, it could just as easily be thought of as a romantic swoon for two lovers or simply a gentle reflection upon a woman who transcends time.

Like Elvis Costello's equally gorgeous tribute to his ailing grandmother, "Veronica," (ironically co-written with Paul McCartney) "Julia" is a song about blood and soul, a coping mechanism meant to assuage the pain of familial loss. Hard not to slip into a trance with Lennon's near-ostinato on "Julia," but its simplistic-yet-grandiose innocence is what resonates most. I most adore the reverse-lullaby effect Lennon created on this song, soothing and stroking the essence of his mother as she no doubt coddled him as an infant.

In writing my story "John's Dead," I suppose "Julia" might've been ringing in my subconscience as the story concentrates more on December 9, 1980 when a ten-year-old boy wakes to the news of Lennon's killing. What the boy sees all around him and how he experiences a coming-of-age moment in the midst of this tragedy is the theme to my story. The hypothetical soundtrack would be relegated more to Lennon's seventies-based body of work, but it's the love-hate interaction between my protagonist Derrin and a young girl harboring a mad crush on him which becomes the "Julia" moment of the story for me.

This girl, Jackie, torments Darrin as much as she loves him, which is the best a little girl her age can do to express herself with building hormones she's unaware of, nowhere near sexual but certainly carrying their own flashpoint tension. Fifth grade is a somewhat gentle age, a breathing period between the explosive I'm-too-big-for-this confusion between ages eight and nine and the tumultuous insanity which comes along between twelve and thirteen. Age ten is but one stepping stone towards maturity and as mature a song as "Julia" is, I have to think there's as much a self-acknowledgement of Lennon's foibles and his angst in growing up as there is a sweltering ache for his lost mother.

At the base of true love is bewilderment, terror and rage. Parental love is ingrained and subsequently reinforced through courage, interaction and nurturing. Jackie's lashing out against Darrin, however, is a teeter-totter expression of what constitutes the belief of true love at a delicate age most people will forget about in adulthood.

"Julia" is waif-like as much as it is heartaching and sentimental. Lennon wrote it for his mother. As my short story is based on very-real events, "Julia" is a soft caress that pats me on the shoulders and offers me a chance to laugh at the very-real Jackie (albeit she appeared in my young life in a different grade) and how she must've felt in her befuddled junior mind. More than likely, this Jackie wouldn't even remember me now, but there exists a brief time and place in our lives where we connected. It's not something to dwell on for too long since those are a silly set of emotions and events that are hardly relative to adult life. Still, don't we all at times crave the inherent fostering Lennon's love-lullaby offers?

Nonetheless, "Julia" might've taken John Lennon straight to the bosom of his mother or at least the ripples of Sefton Lake, but for me, it's the penultimate peck on the cheek from a little girl who used to chase me around and slug me as often as she passed me goofy, child-penned love notes. Jackie's breath is perpetually cinnamon and toothpaste to me though the shadow of her memory serves best where it originated from 1977 to 1978. Obviously, "Julia" has far deeper implications in the spirit Lennon wrote it. In my microcosm, this is dedicated to a sparing few minutes of yeoman, untested love as sweet and as brief as a Push-Up pop. It's a pretty song meant for pretty girls regardless of age, and thus I will never think of anyone but young Jackie whenever this nostalgic song hits me with its windy smiles and shimmering, glimmering ruddiness.

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