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I’m remembering the old analogy about human perception. I can’t remember who originated it. Feynman? Nah, older than that, I think. Anyway, I mean the one about humanity being bound immobile in a dark cave; heads fixed facing the wall while a small fire outside casts vague and flickering shadows on that wall. Those shadows are all we perceive of the reality which cast them. I feel it’s crucial that we never forget that this is our position. Start imagining you can perceive absolute truth and you’re out of it, as far as I’m concerned. Just another gut-driven animal.
Bernie was my best friend for about a year; you know, that sort of “best friend” you get at that age. He was Jewish, which didn’t mean much to me at the time. Mainly I knew that was why his dick was weird; a roundhead. I thought it looked gross, that (now here I am in a country now where they think
cowled cock is odd, but hey, vive les differences.) Bernie used to crack us up by doing mongol impressions whilst riding his bike. Once he shot a seagull with his air rifle. I liked him a lot.
Damn, that’s so annoying. Two days into May and I make an entry with a selfeditblindspotgaffe. “...now here I am in a country now...”, indeed. It’s like that old trick where you write “Watch for the the mistake” with a line break between the “the’s” (hmmm... I suppose an apostrophe
needed there. Interesting. To me, anyway. My inner life is very rich.) and people don’t see it.
Whatever happened to “The The”, anyway? They were one of the few bright spots in the revolting eighties music scene. And the Smiths, I suppose. I hated them at the time, though.
Ann and I were cuddling in an early-evening glow. Her eyes became thoughtful and elsewhere.
“I think I can smell time.”
What can one say to a remark like that? Do seconds smell different from hours? Do bad years like 2001 smell of decay? Does her life pass in chronologically-bound odoriferousness; days and nights separated by a strange, sequential sense of scent as well as the waxing and waning of light? Mysterious woman!
Her eyes flicked back to mine.
“Thyme. I can smell the thyme in the potatoes. Do you think the roast is nearly cooked?”
The innate innocence and goodness of children. All's fair in love and war. Trickledown is enough. Charity is enough. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Patriotism. Flags. The "justifications" for the existence of Israel. Nu metal. Affirmative action. Lord of the Rings. Hollywood The monarchy. The Church -
church. Circumcision, male or female. Advertising. Trainers/sneakers worn when not exercising. Joe Satriani. Veganism. Adolescence. Adolescents. "Oh, but the special effects were amaaaaaaaaaazing." "You really need the latest upgrade for this software." Pop-up/under ads really work. Astrology. Homeopathy. Ley lines. Tarot. Satan. God. Humanity.
Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
Speaker's Corner is a London institution. Some say a
one. If it's venerable then let's just bring back the pillory and have done with it. There were Christians of every foul variety, eyes agleam with thin asylum light, touting paths to salvation via the subtly different meanderings of their own particular map. There were twisted Zionist bigots, ranting with the fervour of any fascist, any terrorist. There was a yarmulked "Jew for Jesus". I left when I saw the "Atheist for Jesus". There's no hope to be found amongst the hopeless. Only a shitload of bitter, dead black laughter.
She looked unhappy in so many ways. About the only negative emotion he couldn’t see in her miserable wet face was the one he longed for – regret. She tried to smile. Failed.
“I’ve been drinking a lot.”
He stared without comment. She was uncomfortable and he wanted to make her more so.
“Er... I suppose you have too, right?”
“No. Alcohol is what I use when I’m happy. It’s not a fucking aspirin. It’s my sacrament. My celebration. I’ll drink again when I finally manage to hate you unreservedly.”
Her turn to remain silent.
“It won’t be much longer now.”
You want therapy? I’ll give you therapy. Here it is. Life’s hard, it isn’t fair, you can’t always get what you want, deal with it and shut up with your pathetic whining and angsting. Be a fucking man about it, even if you’re a woman. I swear to god, if I hear or read one more mewling little western fuck-up talking about their fucking therapist or their fucking happy pills I’ll take a fucking strap to their soft little arse. I’ll pipebomb the motherfucker’s mailbox. I’ll give the spoilt little crybabies something to fucking whine about. Shut up. SHUT UP.
My aunt carefully placed the box on the table. A thirty-year dust crust cracked as she opened the rusted catches. Inside were three reels of Super 8. Only one had survived.
The ancient projector hummed. A smell of burning dust and plastic.
The small, flickering image showed an eight-year old boy excitedly playing with the pigeons in Trafalgar square. His physical puniness was shocking, but his weedy frame bounced and fizzed with energy and happiness. His movements were so ungainly he looked almost spastic. At one point he unconsciously drooled in his unabashed joy.
I blinked back tears.
A lewd personal ad was enough. Men are so easy and cocksure (ha) that my suggested location didn’t faze him at all. The van was parked near the quay; I was behind it, ready. In that light and with those clothes I made a passable woman. You can’t argue with a hammer to the skull, and he didn’t. The ether gag made sure he stayed out. Dragging him into the van and then onto the boat were the hardest parts, but still easy. Fifteen minutes to the deep channel; the boulder chained to the ankle, over the side.
You have two expressions when you sleep. One is the exhausted one, and it always makes me sad. Your face seems to be collapsed under its own weight and under the weight of all those cares and stresses that occupy your waking moments so relentlessly. Those full lips I love so much seem slack, almost lifeless. I imagine you dreaming of work.
The other is the softly relaxed one, and it always makes me melt. Your face seems soft but warmly animate; composed and content. You look younger. There is a peaceful inner radiance. I imagine you dreaming of horses.
This dumb programme about US military personnel. There are soundbites from the predictable crew of academic underachievers and simple-minded boneheads. One silly cow says “When I joined the navy I didn’t expect to go to war”. Well fucking DUH. You’re in the right job, genius. You fucking barely sentient meatloaves are like prostitutes. We know you’re necessary but Christ, don’t try to pretend there’s anything righteous or noble about what you do. As Bill Hicks said, you’re a bunch of hired thugs and killers and when we need you to go slaughter some brown people, we’ll let you know.
It appears to be a Libertarian convention. P.J. O’Rourke - that smug, odious fuck - and a bunch of similarly loathsome laissez-faire capitalists. Self-satisfied distorters of Darwin.
“We Libertarians know that people can be bad, but no matter how bad they are, the bad things they do are never as terrible as the evils committed by the collective will.”
Bullshit. But you go right ahead excusing your exploitation, cunts. Libertarians are worse than Nazis in this regard: at least Nazis openly admit that they believe themselves a superior breed and that the weak deserve to be trampled by the strong.
Teenage boys crack me up, they really do. There’s the monkey-walk, for a start; that’s an absolute scream. That exaggerated rolling of the shoulders, the comedy swagger they stupidly imagine makes them look impressive. Hilarious. Then there’s the spitting thing. That kills me. “Hey, I spit in public because that’s what really cool people like... like... BASEBALL PLAYERS do!” Priceless. Then there’s the way they stand: the way they think they’re looking coolly casual instead of trying-way-too-hard. Thank God it takes most of them so long to grow out of this nonsense. It’s wonderful free entertainment.
“Ohboyohboyohboy! Am I excited, or WHAT?! It’s OUT! I haven’t been this excited since 'Lord of the Rings'! I just can’t wait to see what thrilling developments Lucas has in store for us! And the special effects will be amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing! Oh wow, do you think Jar Jar will turn out to be Yoda’s dad or something? Oh boy! Oh golly gee willikers! Oh dear - I just came.”
I would like to round up every last one of you sad, spoon-fed ninnies and beat your genitals into a bloody pulp with a copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare.
In the dim light he saw wrinkles, broken veins, rolls of flesh above stocking-tops, cellulite, the tiredness. She was in character but he could tell her heart wasn’t in it. Neither was his. He should have known. He thought,
“How do men do this? How do we ask for those things - those shameful desires we all have but which are so hard to admit to and harder still to act on? How can we ignore the reality of her? She’s blood, snot, sweat, stale breath and there are callouses on her feet.”
Sadly, he understood why men murder prostitutes.
What the mugs who bet on the shell game don’t know is that it’s absolutely impossible for them to “win” unless the swindler allows it. The con is clever because it allows the rube to think he’s worked it out, that it’s simply the craftiness of the swindler’s hands that misleads him into picking the wrong shell. He thinks that so long as he chooses one of the shells the pea
appear to be under, he improves the odds. The truth is, his odds are zero. The pea isn’t under
shell until the swindler wants it to be.
I’d split with my second serious girlfriend. My sister called and told me about a female friend who was also “recently single” and suggested that the two of us might “hit it off”. This sort of matchmaking depressed me then as it does now, but... well, I fancied the trip to York.
Laura hated me on sight. I didn’t do any of the things which people usually find objectionable in me; it was pure, instinctive dislike. She wasn’t the first and was far from being the last.
It used to upset me. Nowadays I think of it as a gift.
“Your science is founded on assumptions, just as my religion is. My assumptions are the truth of the bible and the truth of revelation. Your assumptions are theories and
beliefs as fundamental as 1 + 1 = 2”
My assumptions (and the effects I infer from) them can be demonstrated. They can be demonstrated repeatedly and with consistent outcomes. My assumptions are logically coherent. My assumptions are precisely stated. There is no ambiguity about “1 + 1 = 2”. My assumptions explain observations about reality that anyone can verify for himself. Anyone. Even an intellectual coward like you.
It must be such fun to be an American atheist! You’re still regarded as odd, perverse or even – gasp – eeeeeevil ! Fantastic! Being a Brit atheist is like being a Swiss skier – it doesn’t draw any reaction. It’s no more controversial than saying you believe in democracy. But here – wonderful! America still has enough under-evolved primitives for it to be a
, being an atheist.
Last night our little cab-driving primitive had a religious broadcast playing on the radio. I loved the way you said,
“Williamsburg please. And turn that off.”
Damn, I’m starting to understand how missionaries feel!
Richey died aged 46, choking alone in the small hours as a massive cardiac arrest squeezed the life out of him. He’d gone downstairs for antacids, thinking he was having bad indigestion. Jo, wondering why he hadn’t returned to bed, found him minutes later.
Richey was a tough, gangling six-and-a-half footer. He played rugby, liked his beer , his dope and his kids. I think he liked me too. He’d josh me about my “education” and there was some initial macho posturing, but we got on, we found the middle ground. His was the last corpse I touched.
I’m thinking of how it happened. I’m thinking that one of the joys of maturity is how we didn’t need to play games like younger people do. No “Rules”. No silly concerns about reputation or image or respect, no bases and bargaining, no “hard-to-get”, no prick and clit teasing. Just an awareness of mutual attraction, an acknowledgement of it and a decision to act on it that was only complicated by geographical circumstance, not foolish moral affectations.
I always enjoyed instantly and permanently snubbing any woman who tried the games with me. Games only imitate the real thing.
Good morning children. Today we’re going to tell the truth about drugs. There are lots of different drugs and they have a wide range of effects. People take drugs because it makes them feel good. Many illegal drugs are safer than legal drugs like alcohol and nicotine. Taking drugs with friends is a hell of a lot of fun. If you get too dependent on drugs it’s bad news – just as if you get too dependent on love, chocolate or anything else. You can generally discount anything a conservative, a God-botherer or a reformed junkie tells you about drugs.
I don’t think I hate you any more. Nothing has changed in my perception of what happened. I still think what you did was terrible. I still think it was wrong. And I know that my feelings are just clichés, the same old shit people have been going through since we learned to think. Time the great healer, and all that.
So now I find myself thinking of you without pain. Without pain, but with some sorrow. Not sorrow for now, just sorrow for the might-have-beens. I’m happy now. And finally, I’m able to sincerely hope you are.
It was a place where my sister and I escaped into beauty. Dipton woods, the waterfall at Hamsterley and the sweet rot smell of ferns. The peace of fields and the miner’s terrace overlooking rolling miles of no fear, no fists, no miserable dead trawlerman’s town with its cold hopelessness. We ran through green tunnels, ducking boughs and jumping roots. We carved our initials in an old oak. J.R, C.R: 1968.
Seventeen years later and my sister was a world away, my uncle long dead. The oak was fallen. I found our initials. I knew I’d never see them again.
I look out of the windows of suite 2006 in the Dumont Plaza hotel. Behind me I see the blue-lit clock tower at Union Square. To my right I see torn rags of grey river between the stacked blocks of light. At night this city is a beautiful cliché and you can almost forget about the filth, the motherfuckers and the man down on 14th Street. At night, alone, high up in a smart hotel, you see Manhattan for everything it is. Horrible. Soiled. Impressive. Wrong. Right. Beautiful. Cat’s eyes and clogged arteries. I feel like crying. I don’t.
I watched the memorial day special on the WTC attacks. Surprisingly, it was the first time I’d seen the film of those planes hawkdiving into the buildings. On the day all I’d had was a crappy webstream window. I’d thought of Ann’s office at 90 West Street. Right there. I’d watched the south tower fall in three clipped frames. Right there, right next to Ann’s building. She’d be there. I’d driven home sick with anxiety. Bad day. Bad day. And they had to end this moving programme with some offensive twat singing “God Bless America”.
Will nothing make them learn?
He liked to be disliked. He didn’t actually formulate the thought for himself, but it was like a watered-down martyr complex. The disapprobation of others fed his ego; served to justify his belief that those same others were poor, inferior beings; that they couldn’t handle him; were envious of him. In any case, whenever he pissed someone off, whenever someone reacted to him with disgust, offence or shock he felt justified and righteous. So he sought out those reactions. He worked for them. He became very good at making people hate him. In this way he found his peace.
Bodies are arrays of taut strings, each having its own resonant frequency. Intoxicants are vibrations that resonate with some strings but not others. Some of us have many strings, some few. String lengths may vary: I may not have the string that sings so strongly in you under the stimulus of a certain frequency. You have the nicotine string, I don’t. We both have the alcohol string but mine is more sensitive than yours. It’s louder. You have the cannabis string, I don’t. We both have the food and music strings. We both have a whole harpful of sex strings.
Unusual or stupid accidents.
I have been knocked down by a speeding and fully-laden forklift truck. I have dropped a heavy electric guitar and quite deliberately placed my bare foot underneath it to break its fall. I have poured hot coffee into a thick glass beer mug and watched it explode into a hundred flying fragments. I have been pushed clean through a closed upstairs window by an angry girlfriend. Hmm. I thought a hundred words would be enough to list all the silly mishaps I’ve been involved in. Now I think about it, I’d probably need a thousand.
And what did it tell me, that hidden poem? It told me that you were bored with our life. It told me that you didn’t know how to tell me so. It told me that you didn’t love me and that you didn’t know how to tell me that, either. It was a good poem. I always said that you wrote good poetry. I meant it. What a wasted talent. It took emotional cowardice to prompt your artistry.
When I first saw it, its message made me sad. Now it’s the weakness that gave it birth which seems a pity.
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