Thursday, December 29, 2005

The experience of being in a shopping mall during the post-Christmas melees is, above most others, a situation that demands violence. All the jostling and commotion for the useless crap that although it was not worthy of a Christmas present the day before, now merits the crowds and confusion because of a ten percent discount. All that stress for what is ultimately pointless conjures thoughts of random macings. The sour look of an old woman as she rudely pushes past you to grab a discounted red pump to force upon her mangled and bunion studded foot almost audibly cries for a blast of pepper spray. Try to imagine hearing the shouts against the refusal to take the return of some unwanted gift not actually bought at the store toward the petite shop assistant from a lumbering mass of a scarlet-faced woman. I refuse to believe even a priest would deny the pleasure of filling that yelling cavity with a squirt or two of cayenne in a can. On the best of days, I don’t like crowds. Yet, they are, at times, a necessary burden when one is surrounded by half a million other humans with the same needs and desires. Post-Christmas crowds are senseless beyond belief, an unnecessary grief that requires a dramatic solution. If only there was the threat of random macings, it may help people think twice about that automatic card shuffler regardless of that seductive red lettered discount sticker.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Conversation Averted

"You a foreigner?"
"Depends what country I am in."
"No. I mean, you aren't British. You're a foreigner."
"Funny. I don't feel foreign." He looks the other way, and starts talking to the old lady across from him.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Despite my recent comments and being robbed on my recent trip to Brussels, I am not anti-Belgian. The truth is it was the Belgians themselves that were the only saving grace from my disastrous visit to the EU capital, and with regards to the Belgian pick pocket, I was assure that the thief of my wallet was either an Arab or a Nigerian.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

He truly glided onto the bus. I have heard that expression before to describe the movements of a person, but always thought it was hyperbole. It takes a huge amount of grace to still appear natty when dropping pence into the change collector of a public bus. He snapped away his receipt with a sharp but eloquent motion. He sat across the bus and greeted me as if we knew each other.

Through out the conversation, my admiration for this man grew. The greatest of war heroes never describe themselves as brave. They just acted according to their nature. I think it was the same for him; either that or he was a glutton for grief. I couldn’t imagine the difficulty he faced having lived most of his life in another country whose native tongue was not his own, the skin colour of the locals didn’t match his, nor was the orientation of his sexuality viewed positively.

He had lived in Edinburgh for thirty years. “I wouldn’t live anywhere else.” he said. I doubt that Scotland thirty years ago was very progressive when it came to the acceptance of a black Brazilian homosexual. If that wasn’t enough to discriminate against, he also had a stutter. His fluid motions juxtaposed starkly to his staccato speech. He still garnered sideways glances from other passengers. “Darling, I have seen it all. These fools are nothing.” He said with a smile when noticing my glares that attempted to answer theirs.

We indeed talked like we knew each other. There were no uncomfortable silences as one or the other groped for the next topic. Our conversation ended abruptly when we arrived at his stop, but I am sure I’ll meet that man, one of the blessed, again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

You know what really irks me about bigots besides them being closed minded and nasty. They’re so predicable. They lack imagination. They always seem to figure out that their race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual preference is the best. There are Belgian Walloons that think Walloonity is the pinnacle of the human race and non-walloons are somehow lacking that certain special wallooness that makes them so great. I can’t decide if that is sadder than it is funny or vice versa.

I’d be much more impressed with Eugenics, if a lab coated Aryan called a press conference and announced, “Well, we were sure that Caucasians were more evolved, but we were wrong. Doctor Ernie rightly pointed out how hairy and monkey-like we are. That got us thinking and it turns out that an Asian ethnic tribe in southwest china is the most evolved. I mean these guys are sleek.” The doctor then whistles and winks at the bewildered press, “Thank you. I will now take questions.”

Or, conversations that begin “I’m not racist but . . .” finished with a comment like “but the problem with us is . . .”

But, alas no. It is always the other that has it wrong. Let the Walloons be our example of an other that clearly has it wrong about us.

Monday, December 05, 2005

my pancreas and the holy whatever

My soul resides in my pancreas. My belief in God and my scepticism of man’s religions are all based in the contemplation of my pancreas. It used to be in my gall bladder but God saw it fit to have that organ of mine deflated and pulled out of my belly button1. After all irony is his speciality.

Why the pancreas? Look at it. It’s ridiculous. It looks like an infected comma. Yet, this little ridiculously shaped unimportant organ shoved up each unimportant one of us upon this unimportant planet, etc. has an intense complexity. We aren’t talking about the heart, which is an organ easy to appreciate.

I am not saying this complexity implies design. I would think a designer could do an organ with 57’ Chevy fins or something cool. It’s certainly not designed2. Ascetics aside, all that effort to come up with such a boring and ugly thing as a pancreas staggers my imagination to consider the purpose, reasons that such a thing exists. When I start to consider things like Platypuses, Weak nuclear forces, or just the digestive system in total, my mind reels. It is for this I have faith in some force or some idea that so far man has only come up with the word ‘God’ to describe. It is a terrible word with more baggage than my credulity weight limit can accept. I am sorry sir you’ll have to pay extra if you what to bring that terminology with you. It implies too much and misses too much. The Taoists had the right idea with respect to that. Before I am sprout a ponytail, Birkenstocks, and tie-dyes I’ll step away from rubbing on the Eastern mysticism. As my pancreas is also why I am not the follower of any religion.

The force or being or whatever that we have attached the “Hello my name is GOD” sticker to its chest has put all that subtly and complexity into that little unimportant organ never mind the truly staggering things that exist in this universe, and you are going to tell me that whatever is responsible for the shoddy workmanship of the world’s religions.

The rules and myths of our religions have the dirty smudges of man’s fingerprints all over them. They point to man’s insecurities not those of an omnipotent. I find it hard to believe that the almighty really has a hang up about pork and shellfish, or what I get up to on Sundays.

Sure. All religions have within them a moral philosophy, but I don’t need the Wizard of Oz routine to know that charity is a good thing and murder is bad. The God we have drawn for ourselves is too comic book for me. The lines too bold. The shading too stark. I understand the attraction. A benevolent personal superman that grants favours if you’re in the fan club is an attractive idea, but given the complexity of our own dull innards or even the simple things our scientists can explain, I doubt the whatever running the show and keeping those scientists guessing is going to be as simple as we’ve described them. Evolution points to something much more miraculous than some beardy bashing out prefabbed universes in less than a week.

Me and my pancreas’ plan is to keep doing good things because they are good, and if I have some moral failing, I’ll try to address it. Then, if upon my demise, God is that enrobed bearded super hero shooting out his creations like lemurs and comets from one hand and smoting and smiting them with the other. Well, if I am damned just because his PR campaign on earth failed, then so be it.

1) The profile of a typical person requiring their gall bladder removed is a post-menopausal and over weight female. So of course, you can see why I had to lose mine.
2) Yes. My criterion for intelligent design is ‘coolness’.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Jimmy the drunk shambled toward the bus shelter like one of the undead. He held his arm as if he had hurt his elbow. His eyes were vacant and didn’t register any recognition of me until he sat beside me on the bench. He just looked with a weary expression at some point across the busy street. The smell of stale sweat occasionally hitched hiked upon the cold winter breeze to impose on my senses.

“Rough night?”
“No. That’s the trouble. I’m off the drink. Listen I know I’m a drunk. That’s what I do. Cats catch mice. Fish swim in the sea, and drunks drink. But, I had my one-too-many. I spent the most miserable night last Sunday and it’s made me think that I need to change my ways.”
“What happened to you? Someone beat you up?” I asked noticing the black eye.
“A beating isn’t going to stop me. I’ve taken a fair share of beatings, and I’ve given them too. A good fight is a pleasure. No. It was just a night of one terrible incident after another. At the end of it I just thought to myself, ‘there has got to be a better way of living’. That was five days ago. I am going to try to stay away from the drink, but I don’t know if I can do it. Look.” He showed me the tremble in his hands. “I’ll tell you what happened. I had been drinking for a few days straight. Then this terrible pain and sound wakes me up. I try to ignore it, but it just gets worse. Finally, I get this zap! ohh. It hurt I tell you. I am seeing stars. It makes me jerk my head, but, get this, I am under the fucking bed. So, what happens? I bang it on the bottom of the bed, which makes me jerk my head down. At this point I am screaming, and I hit my jaw on the ground biting the shit out of my tongue in the process. The whole time I have this fucking sound in my ear. Then I figure out what it is. There’s a bug in my ear. I tell you. You wake up right quick when you figure out there’s some creature in your head laying eggs or eating at your brain or whatever. I scuttle out from under that bed in double time. I bouncing off walls like a pinball every time that damn thing shakes its wings. It was an awful sound. As a bonus, I’m bleeding all over myself like a stuck pig and screaming with my bit tongue. A fucking sight I was. I know I have to get to the hospital. One of the old ladies on the ground floor came out to see what the noise was and she got an eyeful of me. Ha! Her face looked like she’d seen her own death.” He cracked a smile and continued. “I get into my car and try to drive myself to casualty. Oh. Hell. That was fun. The damn bug is dancing around my skull and I’m still spitting blood out the window.”

“I get there all right. I am a little calmer, but this thing is killing me. The noise is horrible. The lady takes all my information and tells me to sit and wait. I tell her, ‘you don’t understand I have a bug in my ear.’ Remember I got this big swollen bitten tongue. So, I talk like one of those deaf people.
‘Yes. Sir.’ she says. ‘Just sit over there. It won’t be long.’ I give up and try to be cool. I go to take my seat. They call some woman. I think she’s got piles or something. She’s walking funny. I don’t know what, but she sure doesn’t have a bug eating her ear. So, I go tell the nurse. ‘I have a bug in my ear and it’s killing me.’ Fucking hell. It was like talking to a spastic. After a few more shouts of ‘I have a bug in my ear’ and furiously pointing at the side of my head, they get me in a room. You know what that fucking doctor asks me. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I’m covered in my own blood, and I have a bug in my ear. I could have killed the bastard. I tell him ‘I got a bug in my ear.’ He gets one of those things to look in my ear. He’s fishing around in there and he says to himself, ‘Jesus. You do have a bug in your ear.’ That man was asking to be killed.” He stopped, shook his head, and whispered a slow “filthy bastard” as if it was an amen.
After few seconds of silence anticipating the conclusion, I ask “Well, did they get it?”
“Yeah. Yeah. They got it. A wee thing.”
“But how’d you get the black eye?”
“I couldn’t tell you. That was there before all this.”

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A prayer for forgotten blessings.

let me not forget the wonder of things like rain upon water.

let me not forget the beauty of things like sunset on city stones.

let me not forget the things like the fun of friends, nor their comfort.

let me not forget that we laugh so that we need not cry.

lo, life is suffering but it is also pleasure and beauty.

oh lord, let me not forget that this today.

*To the uninitiated, it is thanksgiving today.

Monday, November 21, 2005

"It takes a man to recognize a man." I probably the best compliment I have heard in a while.

Friday, November 18, 2005

One thing I hate more than anything else is SUVs or Yank Tanks as they call them here. For me they are the symbol of that nasty flagrant consumption and to hell with the rest of the world we are number one attitude that irritates me about America. One thing I make fun of more than anything else is fat people. Yeah. Yeah. I’m an uncaring mean person, but you can’t convince me that fatties ain’t funny.

Among my many theories I believe that given two otherwise equal situations the universe will tend toward the more ironic one. This was confirmed today when a big ole’ fatty fat fat ran a red light and almost squished me over with her equal wide and bulbous SUV. However if she had succeeded in offing me, I would have haunted her and smacked away every fish supper that she brought to her corpulent lips.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Because of my affinity with the crazies, I have developed skills similar to those who work with wild animals. I am not saying that crazies are animals. Far from it, insanity seems to put a touch more humanity into a person than the amount gifted to normal boring people that crowd this planet. I’d take a conversation of coffee with a crazy about `how the government is using our pets to spy on us’ over a discussion of which grocery store has the best price on sun dried tomatoes.

It’s just that, like the crocodile handler or lion tamer, there are signs you must be aware of. These wild beasts can turn on you, and it is in the interest of the human handler to recognize these signs so that he ends the day with the same number of limbs he started it with.

Talking with crazies has similar requirements. Normal people have been socialized successfully and as such avoid doing these that society may frown upon, like jumping onto restaurant counter tops, dropping their trousers, and slapping their bottoms like a bongo. Being able to identify these signals can help one anticipate when a crazy is about to earn their moniker.

For example, before a lion attacks its pupils dilate completely. Useful to know even if there is probably little can be done if you are close enough to see the dilation, but if god gives you enough time to curse him or your luck before you meet him, I say take it.

The consequences of crazy conversing are not near as dear. The worse is an hour dialogue about foot health. An uncomfortable but survivable experience. Each crazy is unique in his madness but there are some helpful generalizations. Eye dilation is indeed one. A more important one is `god talk’. When a crazy moves the subject to god, caution should be used. This is a potentially volatile situation. We are definitely getting closer to ‘bare ass cheek bongo’ territory, but a conversation might still proceed calmly. It is when a crazy uses nicknames for god and the devil that one should immediately review evacuation procedures including eyeing the nearest exits.
The correct response to hearing talk of `prince of light’ and ‘lord of flies’ is “very interesting. I agree whole hardily, but I must hurry away.” Another dangerous subject is numbers. If normal questions of “How far is that?” is answered with “Oh it’s about from here to that old man multiplied by four thousand six hundred and three. Maybe four thousand six hundred and five, depending on the gravity waves.”, it’s also a good time to bail. It’s only going to get weirder. Requests to touch you or have you touch them are a sign you have missed previous signs.

There are more, but I feel learning to crazy converse is best learned through error. Once you have been hugged and drooled on, I guarantee you’ll not make the errors the proceeded those events.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I really cannot be blamed. Clearly, no good mother would allow someone as irresponsible as myself around her larvae. Even cute children frighten me. I have a pathological fear of twins1. Never mind that the child thrusted into my hands today was doubtfully a fully dues-paying genetic member of the humanity club. I always warn people visiting the house that I have a cat in case they don’t like the things. I think the same courtesy should be paid to those visiting new parents. I went along to a friend of a friend’s house unknowingly walking into an ugly baby booby trap. There it was on the kitchen table. The centre of the room. The centre of attention. We all had to stare at it and make our comments. I think I stared too long. Or maybe my mouth was agape an inch too wide. Truthfully my first reaction was to throw the rest of my drink at it, and chuck it out the window before it flew out of its container or pram or whatever you call it and eat someone’s face. Despite this, I remained calm and repeated to myself that indeed this was a human child and the object of adoration of these two sad and self-deluded couple. We sat and chatted and it was nearly two seconds before the conversation returned to the mongoloid that was now drooling on his mother’s shoulder (my guess was that it was trying to digest her like flies do). It was explained that the birth had been a difficult one. From what I understood of the explanation, apparently there was trouble with the shoulders and they had to use a toilet plunger to pull the child from the mother. They didn’t call it a toilet plunger, but trust me, by the description these people’s pride and joy was brought into this world by a doctor and a toilet plunger. The result was the child’s head was elongated like an egg. I had some more bad news for these people. I don’t think its head went back to the normal shape despite medical assurances to the contrary. I kept checking to see if the eyebrows were lined up. By some unseen signal, feeding time came. I was volunteered to do this task. I was handed the warmed bottle and the changeling that this family had been tricked into taking. It was sweaty and squirmed like a drowning earthworm. All my willpower was focused on keeping my expression blank. I made sure that my eyes did not betray fear or my lips did not curl as the smell of diaper filth hit me like a slap. When the ordeal was all over I excused myself to the bathroom. I stared in the mirror and pushed the trauma into my gut certain that the experience had made me sterile.

1) Obviously, one of them has to be evil.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I read a news article about a woman who walked into a psychic’s office and at the start of the reading took a bottle out of her hand bag, threw it at the psychic’s head, shouted, “Did you see that coming?” and left the office. Either that woman has a great, if not violent, sense of humour or she is deeply disturbed. Luckily, this took place somewhere in the US or I’m sure she would eventually find me and chat me up on my bus ride home.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The man sitting beside me was a crook. Among other occasional activities, he regularly fenced, and he sold cocaine to the university brats, but I imagine if he had to fill in a form that included a blank next to the question ‘occupation’ he would write ‘night club security’. Actually he’d write ‘bouncer’. There wasn’t much pretence about him. His bouncing work was just the place where he conducted the more profitable work. This I knew before I met him and bought him a pint.

He wasn’t particularly big, but there was an air of ‘don’t fuck with me’ about him. Standard issue shaved head and square jaw. What set him apart were his allergies. For all his toughness, his sensitivity to pollen betrayed him. He always had puffy red eyes and a steady line of tears falling from them. He bore this inconvenience with stoic resignation. He only rarely used the back of his hand to clear the tears from his cheeks. Usually, he could be seen in front of the club wearing his black button down shirt and trousers with his unintentional melancholic appearance.

I am feeling melancholic looking into his face as he talks about the local football teams' win last weekend. The empty blue feeling begins in my stomach as I look into those tear filled red eyes. Even though I know the reason for his sad countenance. I want to comfort him, if only to console myself. Later on, he interrupts my babbling about the upcoming fireworks night and the fourth of Julys of my childhood.
“You alright?”
“Just feeling a bit down I guess.”
“Well you shouldn’t be drinking. That won’t help.”
“Yeah. You’re probably right. I think I’ll head home. Nice meeting you.”
“No worries pal.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The cowboy was making his rounds. His tiny toy pistols had been replaced with two spray nozzles, the kind that comes from household cleaning products. He still shouted ‘money for the whisky’ and pulled the red plastic triggers at the passing people without concern for the lack of verisimilitude of his weapons.

I watched him while waiting for the green man at the cross walk. I daydreamed that his carer, in the hopes of curtailing his peculiar habit, hid his six shooters. She would have taken his cowboy hat and vest but she knew he would have kicked up too much of a fuss. So, while he took a nap in front of a daytime rerun of ‘the Searchers’, she gingerly uncurled his fingers from the handles as he snored and muttered about whisky. Upon waking and realizing the theft, he immediately went to the kitchen and fashioned two new pistols from a bottle of window cleaner and a nearly full bottle of animal odour remover that he accidentally spilled on the floor when removing the nozzle. He went outside to make his rounds. While he was out, the carer attempted to divine the purpose of the two headless bottles on the counter and whether the puddle on the floor was cowboy urine or something more benign.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Autumn has definitely arrived. The clear dry nights carry a crisp breeze that stray tomcats turn their muzzles up to sniff at its scents. The first brown leaves try to muster a fierce tempest but only manage a clumsy waltz that scratched against the street. This afternoon the haar rushed into the city to cling greedily onto the tops of hills and the buildings. The thick grey screen flattens the castle and church steeples into black silhouettes.

Against the cold and dull day I headed to the park with a jar of Route 66 peanut butter and six or seven half smoked cigarettes. When the first dark days bring with it the inevitable low spirits, I like to cheer myself up. I am not a big fan of peanut butter despite my American heritage, but squirrels, even the Scottish ones, love the stuff.

I sit upon the bench and scoop a big dollop of peanut butter upon the butts of the cigarettes. There is no sadness in the world that cannot be melted away by the sight of three of four squirrels appearing to smoke as they excitedly nibble at the peanut butter some fool dabbed at the end of a cigarette butt. They sit on their haunches and hold the cigarette between their two front paws and happily lick away the peanut butter.

The best is when the old couples walk by in wonderment. Pointing at one of the squirrel I’ll say something like, “Look at that! It’s a crying shame. I think they learn it from teenagers.” Then I shake my head with a tsk-tsk as punctuation. The whole time I am bursting to laugh at their confusion at the smoking rodents and the weird American bemoaning their lost innocence.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

“He’s my oldest’s first born. His name is Neil.”
“How do you like being a grandma?”
“Ahh. I’ve gone off him lately. Well. Look at him. He’s a right fatty, isn’t he? They’re all cute when their babbling and dribbling on themselves, a lot like my husband, but he’s two now, and the little porker has gotten willful. If I hear ‘no’ one more time he’s going into the cupboard until his mom comes to get him.”

Monday, October 17, 2005

I know every teenage boy of a certain inclination finds "on the road". Those boys with a wanderlust not yet understood. Boys with a sense for rhythm and beauty. I know "on the road" coffee mugs and mouse pads litter the desks of those same boys grown to be dull. Maybe that's why it's easy to dismiss it as adolescent fantasy or mass marketed rebellion. I have just listened to a recording of Kerouac reading his novel. I am reassured that first excitement wasn't just the novelty. He brought back for us a taste of the sublime that we all continually seek, whether conscious of it or not. The written word is a clumsy device but to hear them from his lips returned the novel to its sacrosanct state. It touched me to listen to the rhythm and cadence of his story.

The anniversary of his death is this Thursday. Give him a thought and a prayer that he found the Christ he sought.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Some wisdom, a conspiracy theory, and a plan from Jimmy the Drunk.

“Mark my words. There is more evil done by men wearing suits than men in balaclavas.”

“Don’t be pedantic. For one, it makes out to be a twunt. Don’t be a twunt. My grammar used to be corrected all the time. I know how to talk right. I just didn’t want to sound like those pedantic twunts. Remember that.” He added a nod to ensure that titbit of knowledge stayed with me.”

“It’s getting to be like gridlock.” He motioned towards the coughing and rumbling traffic.
“Maybe it’s the council blocking the traffic on purpose as propaganda for the new tram.” I replied as a feeble joke.
“Aye. I bet your right. Good for them. Pissing cars.” His empty beer clicked off the roof of a car on the opposite side of the road. The driver looked around confused. I hadn’t even seen him throw it, but I recognized the meaning in his grin.

“I know how I’m gonna make money.”
“How’s that?”
“I gonna to open up a dojo.”
“A karate dojo?”
“Aye. It’ll be brilliant. I am going to call it, ‘Murder Karate’. I’ll put it one of those closed down sandwich shops across from the estate.” He points at the sad yellow concrete building looking over the row of Georgian flats.
“Murder Karate?” I say with an unconvinced chuckle, and in response he leaps up and makes a series of awkward punches until drops his cigarette.
“Balls.” After a refreshing drag, he continues his explanation now excited as the plan formulates in his mind. “I’ll get some Portugesey guy to teach it. Tell people he’s a Brazilian. He’ll shout a lot. All those little tracksuits monkeys will be beating down the door to learn Murder Karate.” An immediate reply to the proposal of murder karate was not forthwith but luckily I was saved by the number 22 bus pulling to the stop.
“Good luck with that.” I smile. We shake hands good-bye. He gives me a thumbs up and a wink as the bus pulls away.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

My great grandpa lived most of his life in a tiny village in Missouri. Village isn’t quite accurate. It was a collection of houses that rested along the access road of the freeway. It used to be Route 66. When it was Route 66, he and his wife ran a service station and a motel. I suppose it did well but then again it doesn’t exist anymore. By the time I came into existence they were both retired and Grandpa worked a small parcel of land. Down the road was a huge cavern famous for being the hide out of the bank robber Jesse James. That’s were the dynamite comes into this story. Great grandpa had an enormous horde of dynamite taken from the federal road program that ran through that part of the country just before the Second World War. Since then grandpa’s hobby was looking for new entrances to the largely unexplored caverns by blowing up dynamite on his property. The most impressive hole I saw was roughly a thirty-meter square hole taken away from a hillside.

As a child instead of going to summer camp I was shipped up to Great grandpa and grandma’s house. I spent my days exploring and wandering. Occasionally, I would make the long trek down the freeway to buy fireworks from a “buy one get eleven free” firework stands. Usually, I tried to help grandpa or grandma around the property. For grandpa I could hand him tools when he called for them from beneath a broken piece of farm equipment. There always seemed to be wood that needed to be piled. This was a better chore than you might think as any number of snakes, rodents, or insects could be found and investigated, as is the want of a young boy. Grandma was always in the kitchen. Even when she wasn’t cooking she could be found at the table in the kitchen reading a romance novel or the newspaper. My assistance to her was preparation of some food. Grating cheese, snapping peas, measuring flour. The whole time she would chatter tales of family history. Some of the history concerned my own father or grandfather. Other times it was about our ancestors. My favourite were always about the civil war.

Unbeknownst to me grandpa’s hobby had lain dormant for many years. The concerned family convinced him of the folly of fooling about with decades old dynamite. I was told it becomes unstable and a good knock will make it go off. One of my favourite things to do was go down to the watermelon patch with grandpa. He would grab the saltshaker from the kitchen. We would go down to the patch, pick out our melons, and sit on the nearby bench eating melon and spitting seeds at the many cats my grandma had adopted. This time we made a detour. A cleared spot in the forest surrounded a three-meter gash made in the earth.
“Hold it, son.” Without explanation grandpa carefully made is way to the bottom of the pit. Soon, he made his way back out just as deliberately and carefully. The only difference was the hiss and puffs of grey smoke that now emanated from the hole.
“C’mon. This ain’t one of your firecrackers. Get your head down over here. Your Pa thought they hid all my dynamite, but I forgot about some and found a whole mess of it in the shed.” The explosion was incredible. We have all seen dynamite being used in movies and we can imagine the destructive power as we see the fire and hear the explosion, but when you actually feel the explosion’s concussion rush through your body. In concert with the awe of the sound, it actually stuns you. Our human minds have not evolved to be able to process such an unnatural violence. My grandpa gave one of his low chuckles when he looked at my face. My eyes must have been the sizes of saucers, as I looked dumbfounded at him and the whole that still had a thin cloud of dust and smoke. “Your grandpa is going be in a mess a trouble with your grannie when we get back.” He chuckled again. “So let’s eat real slow.” and with that we walked down to the garden and he answered the thousand questions that rushed to my young mind after such a spectacle.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

“Where are you from?” I get this a lot. I also get comments on how thick my American accent still is and if I am keeping it that way on purpose. Accents are a big deal here. My guess it comes from most people being the same shade of pale and they needed something by which to discriminate others. I am nowhere near as proficient at the accent game as the natives here, but it’s a fun game to play anyway. I am not doing too bad considering I came here with typical American ignorance assuming there was three major accents; Irish, Scottish, English. Cockney was just something they did for movies. And welsh… is that a country? In Britain adjacent neighbourhoods have different accents. Hell, sometimes they use different words all together. It is something I have really come to appreciate and enjoy. It is diversity not possible in the states. I grew up in the dark heart of the south (which unfortunately has risen again). Yet, I have a very standard of-the-shelf non-regional accent. Although, when I drink corn liquor I drop all the g’s from my present participles, and have a hankerin’ for sodomy. My mother and father where raised a thousand miles apart, but have the same accent1. A thousand mile separation on this side of the Atlantic would mean the parents speak different languages if not use different alphabets.

There are accents here I really love to listen to. One of the department heads has a great accent and occasionally I drift off listening to the cadence and melody of his voice rather than the meaning of the commands he’s giving me. There are other accents that immediately grate the nerves. There is a particular west coast Scottish accent that is so nasal and harsh in tone that I see why they are perpetually stabbing one another. It is also not uncommon for people to hold several accents and switch between them when the occasion arises. Locals of Aberdeen and the islands have such an incomprehensible twang that they must use a more comprehensible one even for fellow Scots. The whole point of this accent business is to be able to pin point a person’s origins, and this question, “where are you from?” means just that. The problem is I am not “from” anywhere in that sense. My answer, as the question means to me, would be “Edinburgh”, but I know this is not the answer that is sought. I have tried “America” as a response. This too is never satisfactory, usually because the person asking has been to a city in America and wants to know if I know this guy “Gerry” they met on holiday in Orlando. Finally, I just give them a résumé of the places I have lived in America (just the states involved usually suffice). Though this answer satisfies the listener, I always feel disingenuous. I was born in New Mexico. I lived there for my first years of life. I am not ‘from’ there because I can’t remember a thing about the place and I have no urge to return. It means nothing to me. I grew up in Florida. This might be the best candidate for the ‘from’ location. Yet to me, it is an accident of fate that my formative years were spent there. It too holds no allure to return. My family is there, but they aren’t ‘from’ there either. They just happen to be there now. I have spent almost as much time in Texas, but again it was just another city I happen to be in.

So, to me, where I am from is where I am, but it only became an issue when where I am is certainly not where I am from. You dig?

1) Dad does occasionally say things like ‘warsh’ instead of ‘wash’.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Traveling by airplane is the last humiliation troubling Western man. It is a thoroughly unpleasant experience. To steal myself against the privations inflicted upon my person, I entertain myself by conversing with fellow passengers also strapped into this aluminum tube hurdling through the sky. The entertainment comes from the fanciful autobiography I concoct for myself. This last trip I was a pachydermist. I had been called to the Hungarian National Zoo to investigate a specimen who allegedly could hop an incredible 10 cm s. I know 10 cm s doesn't sound like much but for an elephant we are talking about a record breaking leap. You see most think elephants cannot jump because of their size. Not true. Not true at all. They haven't got the knees for it. Their knees are all wrong for jumping. Slap on the right kind of knee and elephants would be gamboling like fawns. This is why I traveled to Budapest to see 'Kersel' which is what they named the elephant. It means 'eagle' in Magyar.

I go on like this making small talk ensuring I insert as much erroneous information as possible. The hope being that at least one piece of information get corrected thus throwing doubt on all the incredible information I had been recounting. The best bit is if I see them on the return flight. I pretend I never met them before.

Monday, September 26, 2005

There was a lamp in the house of my childhood that had no bulb, exposing the naked wire. If you stuck your finger into the hole, the sensation could not be described as pleasant. Of course, the shock was not fatal, but the pain was such that the fillings in your mouth would hurt. Yet, there were times when I could not resist sticking my finger there. Usually I would be lying in bed by which side the lamp sat, restlessly waiting for sleep. I would softly call my brother’s name to ensure he was sleeping then hold the lamp at the top and dip my finger into the opening until the jolt forced me to recoil. I would repeat this behaviour half a dozen times trying to hold my hand in place but never being able to for more than a fraction of a second.

This masochistic tendency still remains with me but manifests itself in different ways. Reading livejournal, watching 24 hours news, or flipping through a women’s fashion magazine provide that awful stunning sensation similar to my broken lamp. It’s a redemptive agony I occasionally crave. As I make my steady course toward elderly eccentric curmudgeon, these stimuli provide me with the catalyst to rant and complain about the state of the world. I get worked up and upset by these things. Livejournal reminds me just how dull, uninteresting, and whiney the majority of people are. No wonder I prefer to talk to the drunken crazies on the bus, at least they surprise you from time to time. 24-hour news is great for pissing you off in so many ways. The fear vending, the bizarre vapid commercials, and the daily horrors of man and god displayed in shades of red and smoke are great for getting up the hackles of this sissy humanist. Women’s magazines are great when you think about all the women and little girls who have their ascetic dictated to them, the paedophilic displays of tarted up emaciated teenagers giving their best vacant look and best of all are the question and answer sections. The questions are only surpassed by the responses in shallowness and contempt for women as a sex. I am completely unbearable when I am in my venting rage decrying these examples of the ruination of civilization.

After I return to consciousness and calm myself down, I feel better but I know in a few days I’ll stick my finger in again and go pick up one of these things again.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Budapest is actually two cities. Buda is the large hill on the west side of the Danube. Pest is flat and stretches out far to the east from the river. Many of the inhabitants of Budapest men sport moustaches not seen since I watched a marathon of cowboy movies in a leather bar. We are talking serious ‘tash country. The inhabitants of Buda prefer what I call the Magyar special number one. Picture a bushy Fu Manchu that tapers to points just south of the corners of the wearer’s mouth. To distinguish themselves from their cousins on the other side of the bridge the Pestians go for the Magyar special number two. This is more of your standard baroque Germanic moustache. The whole continent is littered with statues of imperial assholes sporting one of these. So, it is the accident of one’s birth location that dictates the Budapestian’s facial accoutrement and not fashion.

The cuisine of the city is hearty. Lots of thick sauces and meat. I had cockerel in a red wine sauce with the ubiquitous dollop of cream. It was tasty but I have to admit my choice was dictated more out of a sense of justice. I have eaten a fair number of hens, and I thought it only correct that that smug rooster get his this time. For anyone who cares, cockerel tastes just like chicken but a little more gamey. This sense of justice is also why I never pass on any ‘exotic’ meats. Westerners are quite bigoted meat eaters. I see no reason why after having chosen to eat flesh should I only pick on cows, sheep, and chickens. So, I have digested a good number of god’s creatures. Dog, Donkey, Snake, etc. I have had the whole Chinese zodiac at the end of my fork at one time or another. This time cockerel got his.

My first impression of the city kept changing. As the airport bus drove me to the hotel, Budapest would remind me of New York, then Paris, and then even Florida. It was odd. The city is certainly in flux after having become one of the newest members of the European community. There is construction everywhere. Another layer of living being built upon the layer before. The strata of human history have never been so clearly displayed as it is in the streets of Budapest. Budapest unfortunately is in a perfect spot to be passed between larger empires since its birth. Anyone making there way across Europe in the name of Empire took time to grab Budapest or at the very least took time to raze it. One will see an imperial building built by Austrians that the communists left to rot which stands next to a statue of some Turkish vizier. At the top of Buda there stands a building covered with the pot marks of bullets. They could be from the Nazis, the Allies, the Communists, the revolt, or even earlier. When I was walking through Pest, I came across a huge police cordon that was so large I was having trouble getting around it. I asked a policeman for directions. He explained that a construction worker had found world war two bombs. Sixty years later, they still find these things. I wonder how that construction worker felt after he realized he had been knocking around a half-century-old bomb with a shovel? I would need a holiday.

Despite the occasional discovery of unspent ordinance, Budapest is a lovely city. I hope I get to go back and show off my version of the Magyar special number two.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A few snaps of my time in Budapest. I'll write a few words about my adventures soon right now I am busy growing a moustache.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It was with trepidation that I made my way through the narrow hallways in the bowels of our building as I looked for the office of the building manager. The hallways were poorly lit. It had an unfinished feel as the exposed pipes and wires raced along the hallways. Scuffs and scratches pointed the direction towards the door of the man I sought. The building manager could also be called the king of the porters. He’s the guy that orders around that threesome of mongrels that run amok through out the building. Maybe I was exaggerating. This man was in a position of responsibility. Surely, he could not be of the same ill-bred ilk that served him. Clearly, I was being bigoted against the custodial class.
I had volunteered for fire steward duty. Volunteer is not the word, but I don’t know the word to describe the process where some silly duty which includes wearing a bright yellow vest and following the office space cattle down the stairwell is given to someone who just happens to be at the coffee urn when the fire officer turns up. I think duped is close but I stuck with the verb he used, volunteer. The consequence was that I must retrieve my ‘fire steward’ vest from the building manager deep in the heart of darkness. Well, not really. It’s just the subbasement.
I reached the door, gave it a knock and walked in. Before me was a man not much over five foot, wearing nothing but Y-front tighty whiteys. He had one leg in his trousers. He looked at me in surprise, and I with equal surprise fumbled to shut the door trailing apologies. He gained his composure quicker than myself and as he put his other leg in the trousers shouted, “Don’t run away!” in such a way that made me think his tongue too wide for his mouth. I stuttered a few more mumbled apologies. “No worries pal. Just taking a nap.” Rather than pursue the questioning of why napping requires the removal of one’s trousers, I stated my purpose. “Hmm. Don’t think I have those. Want a biscuit?” He stuffed one whole in his mouth; the falling crumbs powdered those that remained in the bag. “No thanks.” He tossed the bag onto his desk, and proceeded to tear his claustrophobic office apart. The room was packed full of the detritus of papers, boxes, and mechanical parts. The stacks of boxes seemed to teeter inward threatening to crush the living occupants. In the flurry of papers that followed his search, I momentarily saw a couch, an enormous silver playground ball whose purpose could not even be guessed at, and a small bin full of dirty dishes. I must have been staring with mouth agape and eyes of disbelief, because he paused and looked at me. “You all right.”
“Huh. Yes. Sorry.” And I made a halfhearted explanation about being tired from lack of sleep.
“Hmm.” He responded and went back to shifting boxes, wiping grease onto himself and his surroundings from unknown mechanic objects. “Here we go.” He found the vest. He tugged at it but it was caught on something unseen. He gave it increasingly vigorous tugs until it snapped loose. “Here.” He tossed it overhand to me, and retrieved his bag of cookies. “Sure you don’t want one.” He said with his mouth full spraying the desk with moistened crumbs.
“No thanks. I should get back upstairs. Thanks for the vest.”
“No bother pal.” As I left one of the porters came through and before I shut the door heard his boss say, “All right you daft cunt. What now?”

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The fluids and vapours that emanate from fellow commuters do not overly concern me. It is merely a trifle to be dealt with when one prefers public transportation to the wasteful and stressful use of a private car. I unconsciously avoid the effluence of my fellow citizens and their pets in a sidewalk slalom where flags are replaced by dog turds and blood and/or vomit1. Upon embarking on a full bus and finding myself nose to pit with a person who prefers to scrub with dead woodland creatures rather than a loofa, I take a deep sideways breath from the mouth and pray I can retain consciousness until the individual alights. I even abide with stoic resignation the ever present scent of ‘eau de pisse’ that the senile set use as perfume.
Today my resolve was sincerely tested when it came time to push the ‘stop requested’ button, I found it completely obfuscated by another human’s buttocks. The said button is placed on a vertical bar easily reached from your seat. This man’s tracksuit clad and ample posterior completely engulfed the button as well as nearly eclipsed the yellow bar as well. Conjecture of how this man could ignore or worse still purposefully put this uncomfortable foreign body in such a place have disturbed me all day. Luckily, someone else requested the stop from somewhere else.

1) An interesting detective game you can play is to follow the trail of dried blood drops usually starting at the doorstep of a pub and ending in a constellation of drops where I assume the man with the busted lip waited for a taxi or conferred with his friends on just how much that guy who punched him was a dick.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Pudding lady was in top form today. She got on the bus trailing her tartan grocery cart and harangued the bus driver about his route. She wanted to make sure that the bus she takes every other day would be passing by some place that it passes by everyday. This took longer than you would think because it required rewording of the same question repeatedly and then confirming the received answer by repeating it exactly.

“You go to the Toll?




“So, you’ll pass by the Bridges and then go to the Toll?”

“That’s right.”

“Hmm. That’s right you say?”

“Yes. This bus goes past the Toll.”

She sloshed her way to the back of the bus, and another lady offered her seat.
“You need it more than I do.” The pudding lady said. The polite lady made a reply I didn’t catch but did concede her place and went to the back of the bus. Pudding lady was on a roll now and she sat down with a plop. She pointed at the face of another old lady who was not a pudding lady but just a plain ole’ normal blue rinse grandma and said “You got something on your face, dear.”

I couldn’t help laugh at this whirlwind of unpleasantness that accompanied my morning commute.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I am aware that my posts may seem unbelievable to those of you reading from outside the borders of this wonderful country. Surely, the activities I report are an exageration. Well, let us put such speculation to rest. I read this article today. Just another day in Scotland.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My neighbour and the landlord of our block of flats is the pudding lady. Immortality is one advantage of having pudding instead of internal organs but the draw back is you look like a human beanbag. She looks like the nose cone of the space shuttle. The dribbley flesh of her belly hides most of her thighs. A Christmas tree shape in a pink tracksuit. The pudding filled cheeks hang like a basset hound’s and the flesh beneath where her chin should be is directly connected to flab of her breast. The slightest movement starts slow ripples that continue for several minutes hypnotizing you like an executive’s desk ornament. Even though she is made of pistachio1 pudding, she gets around town. She is nice enough as long as you don’t get in her way. She is always chastising the bus drivers for driving too fast are stopping too far. She yells to the passenger next to her upon spying a newspaper on an unoccupied seat “Excuse me. Can I have that?” She never reads it. She just puts it into her plastic bag along with blackening bananas and random objects. I have watched her bump her Zimmer frame into people waiting for the cash machine if she feels the queue is too far into the pedestrian traffic flow. Apparently, she is a nightmare to the people with whom she shares a garden. If they park their car two inches too close to her flowers or don’t retrieve their garbage bin quick enough, she’ll stake out the spot from her window and shout at them the moment they appear. She is also in the habit of dropping ‘anonymous’ notes into the letterbox of anyone who violates the pudding lady’s idea of good tenancy. I have yet to receive any of these notes, but it is almost worth a try to get one. Even though we bump into each other around town, she has never acknowledged that she recognises me. I suppose that is for the best.

1) I’m not actually sure what kind of pudding, but pistachio is my favourite. I have the hope that one day after she had lived the thousand years that the pudding people live, she’ll split open and pour fourth her 200 litres of pudding guts and all the children of the neighbourhood and myself will go grab the biggest spoon from our kitchens and have a big pudding party where we laugh, sing, dance, and eat the pudding lady.

*) I taught spell checker dribbley.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I have taken to doing my work at a mall. A big fat American style mall. But, this one has a little more character as it is on the water in a harbour with a great view of Fife. When weather permits I sit at a table beside the water and click away at my keyboard. When lost for words I people-watch. Children and parents are the most interesting subjects to watch.

Young children act a lot like drunks, and a little like monkeys. In a clothing store, I watched a toddler doing the standard drunken monkey act of a child. It was babbling and singing to itself. It barely had control of its limbs. They shook with no definable rhythm in some sugar-induced palsy. The child then approached a mirror and responded to this by licking it and making ‘mmm’ noises the whole time. Even more amazingly was the parent witnessed this and made no response. She noticed the fruit of her loins licking a mirror and she merely returned to her evaluation of the railings of clothes without even a sigh.

A lot of new moms also frequent the mall. I have overheard some very bizarre things1 and have witnessed unfathomable acts. Do you know how you check if a baby needs changing? You shove your nose into its diaper. I have seen it countless times and it still confuses me. I doubt all of these people are the freaks that their ass inhaling behaviour would imply. So, the only other conclusion is that they were once normal but the birth of their child somehow changed them. It is with trembling fear that I contemplate the possibility of fatherhood and that I could one day find myself nostril deep into the rear-end of some smaller version of myself and some hapless woman.

1) Breast feeding can result in chapped nipples.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bus Report

The man boarded wearing cargo pants with the pockets at his knees stuffed to their limits. This gave the impression that he suffered from an exotic disease that caused extraordinary saggy knees.

The extremely ordinary woman across from me excitedly asked me if that sign said, ‘Steak night’. I didn’t react quick enough, so she just started repeating ‘steak night’ in staccato getting more and more agitated as the answer still didn’t come. Before, I could even say ‘what?’ she shot to the front of the bus and got off at the next step. On the return trip, I saw the sign to which she was referring. It said ‘Hot Shaves. 7 days.’

Friday, August 12, 2005

“I loss my legs in ‘nam.” The man offered without needing me to ask.

“Really? How old were you when you went?”

“Oh. About forty.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, but isn’t that pretty old to be fighting in a war.”

“I couldn’t tell you.” He smiled showing a mouth full of rotten teeth and fillings. “I lost them in the country. Not the war. No. No blaze of glory and all that crap. I was an engineer there before the war really got started. I didn’t have the foresight to even lose them on the job so I could claim some cash. No. I lost them to one of those mad fucker bus drivers that used to be all over the country. To be more exact, the bus just broke ‘em up real good. It was their backward monkey medicine that caused them to get hacked off. Ever since, I haven’t done shit. I get my check on the fifteenth and I watch the world go by from the spaceship.” He slapped the frame of the medical scooter he was perched upon. It was filthy and blackened. It had a frame with a clear plastic that served as weather guard and windshield, but it was stained completely with the sickly orange pallor of nicotine. Tape and twine held the plastic molding to the frame. There was a cup holder held in place with a ridiculous amount of brown packing tape. “My ass hovers a couple feet above the earth and I watch the humans go about their lives. I got biscuits for doggies and curses for any goddamn cop that tells me to move along. But, they mainly leave me alone these days. I don’t trouble anyone. I used to kick up all kinds of shit and holler. They would finally drag me and my spaceship off to jail, but I made sure it was always more trouble than it’s worth.” He chuckles with a nasal and harsh laugh punctuated by a cough. On clear days he will roll the plastic windows up, but I don’t think it helps him see his way. His glasses besides being thicker than my finger are as grimy and in a similar state of disrepair as his scooter. I have seen him for weeks. He parks his scooter at different points around town. He does just sit there and watch the people and offer treats to dogs as they are being walked. No one really notices him. He is landscape like the bus stops or mailbox.

“Do you always sit in the same spots each day?”

“Yep. They’re the best spots. I start my morning over on 3rd street and Grove. There’s a distribution center over there and I get to watch them load up the vans and the sunrise.”

“How early do you get up?”

“oh. four or five. I have always gotten up early but as you get older it gets earlier and earlier. I don’t mind. I love watching the city wake up. I am usually there before the vans. It’s great to watch how the city wakes up each day.”

“What other spots do you go to?”

He smiles another dirty grin. “I am always in front of the hospital at eleven. That’s when the nurses take their cigarette breaks. I sure like to watch those cuties.” He wolf whistles and gives me a hugely magnified wink.

“Why do you sit here?”

“All the puppies, of course.”

“Do you have a dog yourself?”

“Nah. I like up because I don’t have to clean up after them. How the hell would I scoop up shit from this thing? Alrighty. Good talking with you, but I’m off like a dirty shirt. see you around.” And without waiting for my reply his scooter jerked into action and shot down the sidewalk.

Friday, August 05, 2005

He spotted me from across the street. I gave a polite wave and quickly continued on my way knowing my super power for attracting crazies. Sadly, my powers extend beyond attracting crazies. Sometimes I draw toward me sad and lost characters. This was one of them. He hurried to catch up to me, calling for me as he made his way across the street. I was caught. I stopped and turned to what could be a quick and harmless request for change or a difficult dialogue with a dangerous stranger. He chatted with me amiably. “Y’alright, pal?” He concealed a can of butane in his coat sleeve. Only the red nozzle extended beyond the dirtied fabric. When we shook hands he gracefully pushed it further up his sleeve in an unseen motion and it fell back into the ready position when we withdrew our hands. Through out our chat he would sip from the nozzle like a child sipping at a milkshake, but instead of chocolate malt he was swallowing awful chemicals that gave the flesh of his face a sickly green pallor. He spoke about needing to take his medication, asked for water, mentioned his need for change, he gave best wishes, and we said our goodbyes. During our dialogue I kept asking questions to myself. Do we know each other? Did he recognize me from somewhere and I am being forgetful? What happened to make him lose his way so terribly? Is there happiness for him, somewhere, sometime, eventually? How thin is the divide that separated my choices, which saved me from such a fate from having shared it? It’s comfortable to think ‘that could never happen to me’, but I am not so sure. One should never confuse luck with providence.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Last night I was going on about Hunter S. Thompson. He's always been a favorite of mine. He was truly one of the blessed. Anecdotes about the writer are plentiful and even in death he added one more to the pile. I too have unusual funeral plans for my earthly remains. Although, unlike Thompson's mine are of a more permanent nature. I have always wanted to be stuffed in a pose like Bella Lugosi. Eyes wide. Teeth bared. That sort of thing. But, I can't decide if I want to be dressed in just a bathrobe and tank top or full military regalia. I suppose it is best to leave the details to my descendents. The important part is that I am stuffed and put in a closet that way I can still entertain my loved ones from beyond the grave. My main purpose of course would be to scare young family members1, a sort of right of passage for my people, but I could see my preserved remains being used to deter burglars or merely to fill a seat to take advantage of the car pool lane. Grandpa would just be another part of the family for whom one occasionally must glue back on a finger or shoo the cat away from gnawing on.

1) "Little Joey. Can you get something from the closet for me?" "No way. Mommy. Grandpa is in there! You're trying to trick me"

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

“The dominate political culture seems to support the maxim that the more simplistic or non-existent understanding of a situation or the consequences of one’s actions given the situation, the more resolute you should be in those actions and the more dismissive the tone of your denial toward any resulting repercussions.” - Jimmy (a drunk I met in the park yesterday)

Monday, August 01, 2005

The city of Utrecht is like a lot of people I have met. It’s beautiful but dull. Granted I preferred it to the gaudy filth that is hung about the streets of Amsterdam. There are just so many shops selling t-shirts depicting join t smoking smiley faces, women selling their asses from display cases, and stoned frat boys a city can handle before it cheapens the atmosphere. Utrecht has an odd regimentation of their week as well. Thursday is party day. Everyone goes out to restaurants, bars and clubs. When I asked what the occasion was, I was told, “Because it’s Thursday”. Monday is a day of rest. They take it easy Sunday too, but even more so on Monday. I don’t know if it is because the demands of Thursday require Monday for recuperation but don’t expect to get anything done in Utrecht on Monday. I had to eat toothpaste and drink canal water for nourishment, as I did not know everything would be closed that day. The Dutch people are a tall race. It’s a little known fact that I just made up that the Dutch government sponsors a program for the x-raying of young children to determine their growth potential in order to export any stature impaired children to other European countries more tolerant of the untall. The popular “Big and Tall” shops of America1 are unheard of in Holland. They do have “Short and Stumpy” shops in the major cities. The written language is driven by the need to used an excess of consonants left over from the war. I was misinformed that it was a phonetic language. This would be impossible as only a wookie would be able to pronounce what looks like English written by a faulty typewriter. The spoken language does have a Star Wars feel about it. I made no progress in learning any of the grunts or clicks necessary to pronounce any word. Although I did hear the funniest sentence in any language ever, “Vinkle est Ploondered” which means the shop was looted.

The most surreal event happened to me at the head of the immigration queue. I turned to look behind me to see several hundred people following the zigzags of the maze made with ropes. Something wasn’t right. I had the feeling that my vision could not be relied on. I was the same feeling when you walk into a dark house after being in the bright sunlight all day or when I used to watch our old colour television and someone had fiddled with the saturation knob. That was it. The colour was not right. It didn’t help that as the people followed the queue snaking back and forth across the room created this odd effect of each line of people moved in the opposite direction like a human vaudeville oceanscape. Then I figured out the problem. Every single individual were violently sunburned to a shade I have only seen in red clay hills and seafood. A menacing shade on a single individual but to see a writhing mass of several hundred overcooked Scots is a sight the mind has difficulty in processing. I could not help laughing once I realized it was not the trick of the eyes but the witnessing of a yearly national event. The return migration of Scots from their summer holidays where they spend weeks mistaking sun stroke for the strength of the local brew. It’s true a healthy tan looks nice but a gentle olive complexion is one thing and melanoma is quite another. Plus after the huge chunks of flesh that will inevitable peel away will be the usual shade of pale found in the natives.

Well, that is all for today. I hope your vinkles remain unploondered.

1) Now called Wal-Mart.
2) I taught my spellchecker wookie.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bus Report

From a high open window I saw the flapping of a black and red cape. I got excited imagining Zorro about to end it all upon the pavement below. I was disappointed to see that it was nothing more than a curtain1 flapping in the breeze.

I thought I read a brass plaque that read, “Homophobic Practice”. I started to imagine a classroom with one student standing, “I even have gay friends, but . . .” and the teacher cutting him short by shouting “No. No. No. More bigotry. More bigotry. damnit. Straight out with it. Just say, I just wish they wouldn’t kiss in public. None of this ‘I have gay friends but’ crap.” On second glance the sign read “Homeopathic Practice”. My mistake.

Also, I am amazed at the number of huge bellies sported by otherwise tiny teenage girls. I am talking about guts that would make a Bavarian man jealous. I’m pretty sure they were not pregnant either as none of them were smoking.

I overheard this conversation awhile ago.
"Were you at the protests?"
"Yeah. I was where it got nasty."
"Were you throwing bricks at the police and shit?" he said smiling.
"Well. I did throw one brick at a policeman."
"What?!?" The smile switched to astonishment.
"I mean it was only a small one."
"A small rock is still a rock."
"No. no. no. It as a small policeman. The rock was fuckin' huge! It knocked him tits over ass it did."

1)Who the hell has black and red satin curtains?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I forgot to mention the seagulls in this country are huge! I have seen them queue up for sausage rolls with clip-on ties and fake moustaches and get served! They really are massive. When they walk on the roof of the flat, I swear there are three year olds with swim fins playing tag up there. I am not squeamish with wildlife. I grew up in a part of the world where wildlife kill humans on a regular basis. I used to swim in the same lake as a two-foot alligator, but I definitely duck when these things swoop to snatch children out of the prams. I dam not very artistic but here is one of me and a gull to give you an idea of scale.
^O^ .
The gull is on the left and I am on the right.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I am aware that at times my journal entries paint a utopian view of my city and this island. Well, the honeymoon is over. After, fifteen hours in the emergency room or in the local parlance, ‘causality’, I realize this place too has its problems. One emergency doctor for a ward on a Friday especially in the evening when the drunks start rolling in is madness. Maybe, I was just unlucky but next time I’ll take my chances with a broken foot.
After fifteen hours, my diagnosis was luckily not broken feet. During the excruciating wait I witnessed what felt like a very long Mike Leigh movie. There are no pretty people in the emergency room. Most of the injuries were drink induced. Sometimes the drinking itself caused the harm. Other times it was the consequences of being drunk that resulted in their visit. One particular event was more distressing than the others.
I lay on a gurney and directly across for me one young woman with weary and glassy eyes sits. She has pretty features but there is a weathering upon her skin that has faded her looks. She has not lived easily. She is restless. Uncomfortable. Behind her, the nurse’s phone rings. No one is able to answer it. After numerous rings, she picks it up and immediately slams it back down. Her agitation grows. I avoid eye contact. She disappears until I hear a scuffle outside of my view. The girl quickly reappears into view as she is roughly shoved by a police officer. I overhear their exchange. She threw water at the officer when he tried to get her to sit back down. Now, she was going to jail. For several minutes the girl told the police officer she would get him and that she never forgets a face if they cross her. Then, two more police came and lead her away hand cuffed.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Despite my republican pedigree, I love me some royals. Having met the back end of Prince Phillip’s head, I understand the hubbub that is littered about the English newspapers. They do provide a great service to the State. You can parade these anachronisms in front of people who give a shit and really produce some results. I watched people scurry and kowtow before the duke of Edinburgh as he reviewed the various displays set up for his benefit. It was almost like an important event was occurring and that someone almost important was involved. Not for one minute did anyone question why this exceedingly pruney and tiny old man was any different from the old nutter who wets himself at the bus station. They all were nervous to make a good impression to someone who probably spends more time considering his morning constitutional than anything they have to say. The only thing I regret is that more of the royals are not like our venerable duke. I’d trade him for a half dozen Prince Charleses any day. He’s how a royal should be. Completely separated from the realities of this century or the past two for that matter. The rest of the inbred lot are pathetically apologetic and mealy mouthed. They are always backtracking and covering up. I want to see a royal call it like it is. “Fuck you all. I’m the fucking king. Are your relatives cast in bronze all over the country? No? Well, go fuck yourself.” Obviously my expletives are limited to my coarse colonial vocabulary. A real royal would shroud these sentiments in much more eloquent phrases, but it would be a damn sight better than those constant press release apology cards.

Someone told me that a past king commandeered a whole train, strapped a freshly killed dear to the front and drove it to his castle in Scotland, which was in the completely opposite direction, without a question to whether it was allowed. That’s the fun of being king my friend. Not this boring and pathetic freak show they have now. What do people expect when they act up? Do you expect them to ask like normal people? Normal people have to put toothpaste on their own toothbrush. They don’t. Why would you think that they would consider it improper to dress like a Nazi to go to a “colonials and natives” party? So, they release an apology supposedly from the offending royal. Does anyone really think they give a shit? I would much prefer the true response. “Dear subject, we won the war. Fuck you. I’m wearing the swastika and the funny moustache. If you don’t like it, move the Australia with the Aboos. Your future king (ha ha ha)”

Today I taught my spellchecker pruney, nutter, Aboos. For once my additions are not of a scatological nature. Wow!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

If you are like me, when you read about an unusual animal you imagine that creature as a middle-aged bourgeois.

I am Carapidae. I live in the ass of a sea cucumber. I spend my days composing anti-triclavian poetry in iambic pentameter and writing letters of outrage to radio and television companies. My three sons are all named Joseph. The oldest has a successful business. He supplies the scaffolding that restoration companies must hire. He does very well for himself. He owns a leisure boat. We… I mean I. My wife died a few years back. I don’t hear much from the middle son these days. He’s got a Pakistani wife and lives in the midlands. We never really got on since the ‘incident’. Little Joseph is still in school. He’ll finish this year. After that, god only knows, personally I have my doubts. I think he’s a bit poofy. He’s always hanging around that Billy child, and you know what he’s like. All in all, I haven’t much to complain about. The Lord has been generous to such a humble creature as myself. It could always be worse. I could be the sea cucumber with a fish up my ass.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

My focus wobbles like a drunk. It staggers from painful thoughts to daily worries to fettering reflections whose momentary attention draws me into hour long melancholy contemplations. It is a funk I am in. A case of the blahs. Something that must be suffered until it passes, like a flu. I caught this mood after a long phone call from home. The news received was inevitable but never the less made me sink to where I am. What was the news? It's not important. A loss is a loss is a loss. Whether we lose someone we love or someone we love loses something. It differs only in degree of mourning. It will pass, and until then one cannot help but lament and spit out dark words like these.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bus Report

Three little girls are walking down the street. They are around five maybe younger. Two girls are very chubby and completely lost in the quickly melting ice creams they are consuming. The third girl is much smaller in height and circumference. She is skinny and does not have an ice cream. What she does have is an extremely exaggerated frown. She stamps her feet as she walks, her arms are crossed, and her brow is deeply furrowed.

“Woooooooo! Wooo! Yeah!” The lady who has just stepped out of the pub screams to no one in particular. I think to myself there must be some party going on in that pub. Its mid-afternoon and clearly there is something to ‘woo’ about. I can barely see into the pub as we pass it. The only occupants are two old drunks with the look of fear, as they drink, never taking an eye from the celebrant.

This is quite a regular occurrence and has happened to me at three different bus stops with the same man. There is an old man who is always trying to help me get on the bus. I don’t know why he’s taken a shine to me but mosquitoes and crazies find me irresistible. He will pass by and see that there are people in the queue getting on the bus before me. He dramatically turns to them, waves his arms manically and shouts for them to get out of my way. At least that’s what I think he’s shouting as many people have difficulty understanding the Scots accent and everyone, including the Scots, find the drunken Scots accent completely incomprehensible. Only the obscenities ring clear. I also can’t tell if his staggering is due to drink or infirmity. Probably a little of both. As we disembark he remains cursing the bus and occasionally slapping at the windows at the people inside.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The porters I described in an earlier entry apparently are qualified to do glazing. I find this doubtful when they began the project of replacing the window in our office, which had cracked from a harsh gust, and I was especially dubious after they competed the work.

My foreboding was confirmed almost immediately as the three stood before the huge window staring, pointing at, and discussing the crooked crack that divided off a third of the glass. Two were discussing some finer point of glazing while the third feigned an interest while pulling a hammer from his belt and letting it slip from his hand onto the foot of his co-worker. His yelps were completely drowned out by the howling laughter of the other two.
Our building has a large base. It holds a large concourse and two-story foyer. The tower rises from the centre. Our floor is the floor directly above the foyer. It’s a horrible view. If they replaced the window by bricking up would not have made much of a difference to my work life. Yet, they did indeed replace it with a window. The window is about two by three metres. It takes all two of them with some effort to haul it about. They hold it by huge suction cups. The third leans against my desk and helps by making jokes. I am trying to get work done but it is difficult when in my peripheral vision is a workman’s ass holding down the paperwork I need. I decide a coffee break is in order. When I return they are gone. The window is fixed and all is well. Except. Except I notice that one of the porters is sitting cross-legged looking sulkily into the office. The other two walk in waving and smiling at their sad compatriot.

“What happened?” I asked still looking at the man outside.

“He was on the other side when we set window in place. We were half way through sealing it when we realized it. Us two were pissing ourselves for five minutes solid before we went and got security. Poor bastard has been out there with that sad face since. They fire engine is on its way now. They’re going to get him down like a wee kitten from a tree.” Both chuckle and wave again after they finished their tale.

Yesterday I noticed the window leaks but I think its best to endure that rather than take my chances with the porters.

Monday, June 27, 2005

It was one of those rare perfect moments. I have seen a handful of them. Sometimes it’s easy. Standing before the Sagrada Familia at dusk, the cathedral dressed in long sharp shadows and the rich red stone of the sculpted façade humming in the low sunlight. How could one not recognize the flawlessness of that moment? Today was another one of those moments but it could have been easily missed had my mind distracted by the various concerns which everyday life gifts us. There was nothing obvious like an enormous modernist cathedral. It was just a perfect moment. I woke up early to return some library books. I dropped them off at a branch I had never been to. It was a gorgeous building. It had tall ceilings in which the sunlight shined. The morning air was fresh and full of the salt of the sea. Two tramps sat in front starting the day’s doing nothing with a can of MacEwan’s. They breathed smoke like two ancient and weary gods waiting to be forgotten. They spoke to each other in low grumbles with ever moving their lips. The city began to wake up. The traffic picked up. The bus stop queues lengthened. I recognize these things that happen every weekday but today was inexplicably different. I mused upon this as I walked when I saw before me a wedding party starting to gather in front of the Sikh temple. The men were dressed in sharp suits and fiery orange turbans. They sang and danced to a drum. The women filtered pass and entered the building. Each one in a solid coloured silk trimmed in brogue gold.

Friday, June 24, 2005

When I walk to the bus stop I move at a quick pace. My concentration is fully occupied with dodging dog shit, lurching drunks, and toddering old ladies. The other day as I made my jaunt. A chubby old man shriveled like a pale prune jumped into my path. He wore a child's cowboy costume complete with a tiny hat and plastic pistol. "Money for the whisky!" he yelled brandishing his weapon to which I replied with the squeal of a ten year old girl.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Since my bus journeys are rarely without entertainment I thought I would enter into this journal a report on the things I see on my commute.

The Bus Report

Someone has thrown old couch to the curb. A gaggle of tramps (I can't remember if tramps travel in gaggles or pods) are lounging comfortable upon the forgotten furniture watch the traffic like it was television.

You always see clothes strewned about this city. Personally, I would even go barefoot in this town lest I catch something nasty. So, the idea that people run around here bareassed is a complete suprise. An old man is carefully picking up each item of clothing and placing them upon the iron spikes of a fence. They look like impaled cotton blend turks.

School must be out. There is a rubbish bin on fire. The children dance around the blaze singing and abusing the fireman.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I have a problem. Every time I see people feeding squirrels in the park. I can't help hoping that they will ignore the peanuts and launch towards the person's face. The whole time I am in the park I stare with unrestrained expectation.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Some unseen soul painted "THIS IS HELL AND WE CANT GET OUT" on the wall of a derelict building which populate the neighborhood. Another person, maybe the same person with new found understanding, scratched out the 'T' of 'CANT'.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

When I get old I will grow a pencil thin moustache. That's pretty much the sum total of my life plans. I would also like to be above the law, but that takes money and I have neither the talent for making money nor the interest. That's the beauty and the horror of living in the 'West' (Although I think this phrase should include the wealthy nations of the pacific too. So, when I write the 'West' read it as‘everybody but those poor bastards in the middle and the south). It is pretty unlikely any decision I make in my daily life hinges on my survival. I won't ever starve. My children will most likely be fat, stupid, and successful too. The beauty is that without really trying I can live a contented life. All my essential and a few fabricated needs will be satisfied by the minimum amount of effort on my part. Survival is no longer really an issue but whether I should get the premium or try to make do with the standard cable package is. This of course is also the horror. We are removed from true living. The living that millennia have fine-tuned our genes to contend with. Don't get me wrong as an individual I much prefer the life of a neutered house cat to that of the starving stray. There’is a reason that my ancestors worked their collective asses off. Only fools would be nostalgic for being hungry, but that seems exactly what we are. We miss the struggle. That's why we fabricate all manner of ills and troubles for ourselves, but with only a moment of reflection these things quickly become ridiculous. I would prefer if I never had those moments of reflection. Then I could quite happy try to meet those fictitious struggles like‘I must get the purple Ipod!’or‘I must make junior manager. I could then face those things with the same tenacity as my ancient forbearers met the challenge of not getting killed or eaten. It's those times of reflection that usually catch me half way through my asinine battles and I think about the purposelessness of it all. I then take a nap and forget the whole endeavour, or upon awaking I approach my task with a much more reasonable aloofness.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

I took this test. It supposedly measures your unconscious biases. There are several tests; one tests your preference for white faces to black, another tests your opinion of woman in the sciences versus liberal arts, and a bunch of others.
I think myself a pretty unbiased guy in practice. I was raised around racism and quickly figured out that it was nonsense. As a young child I remember having a sleep over at a friend's house whose family was from Mississippi. A news report came on about the commemoration of Dr. King. His mother started going on a gentile tirade about that 'troublemaker'. Even then, at my young age, I already knew this was ridiculous and this grown woman had things the wrong way around.
I took the test and it said I had a strong unconscious preference for white faces. I definitely felt a hit to my liberal credentials and I have a dozen reasons why the test is inaccurate. The funny thing is I am consciously bigoted, but my bigotry against more typically Aryan features.
Firstly, children with blue eyes scare me. They look evil. I am sure they feed on the blood of their sleeping parents during the night. I certainly moved to the wrong country in this regard as every pram occupant is a blue-eyed spawn. I've see them sniff the air like wolves sensing fresh blood in the air. When the parents aren't looking I usually give them a quick pop with my rolled up newspaper just to let them know I know they're evil. Their crying doesn't fool me. Crocodile tears. Crocodile tears.
Secondly, thin-lipped people can't be trusted. When you can't see any red. When their mouth is nothing but a quick fold of skin beneath their nose. Those people. Those people are thieves and liars, the lot of them. I can't help it. I know its wrong, but I can't help it. They give me the heebie-jeebies.

Oh yeah. And the Swiss. To hell with the Swiss.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Did I mention they fry toast in this country? Damn straight. No breakfast is complete without a slice of fried bread on the side. You might scoff (I do), but it’s tasty. The full Scottish breakfast is competition for the big greasy southern breakfasts of my youth. I occasionally crave that sweet ill feeling of having the recommended daily dose of calories in one sitting. Yesterday was one of those days. By the local post office is a greasy spoon called ‘Up the Junction’1. They serve a full Scottish breakfast plus tea for four pounds. It really is a good deal especially since I stopped converting to dollars long ago. For four quid, they slap a dish in front of you covered in two eggs, two sausages, two pieces of bacon, two black puddings, a potato scone, and that gorgeous slice of fried bread. All this is covered in baked beans and a side dish of a buttered roll to boot. I was a quarter through the dish when the sweats started. I took a breather and looked around the room. It was completely filled with people dedicated to living a life of ill health. The half dozen of old ladies chain-smoked and gossiped. In between serving customers the waitresses would sit at a table at the back and smoke as well. When they spotted a customer who needed something, they would take huge drags. The cherries would shoot down the cigarette so fast the cigarette itself would momentarily ignite. The inch long ash would hang on and then fall onto the table when they returned it to the ashtray. Everyone was smoking. The young moms with the prams at their sides. The old men bespeckled and toothless reading the tits and murder newspapers. All with cigarettes at which when finished another would be lit. Everyone knew each other. When a person arrived or left. A patter of banter and a chorus of smokers’ cackles inevitably occurred. The only exception was the one young man beside me. His hair hung in greasy clumps. His eyes were nestled into puffy darkened eyelids. The dark circles of which made the fierceness of his blue eyes that more striking. When he left he moved slow and wearily.

All this did not diminish my appetite. Oh no. I had a purpose. I was going to finish this meal. It was only after I left and my clothes and hair were firmly steeped in cigarette aromas that I decided this culinary experience would certainly not be too regular.

1) They’re slogan is “You can get it all . . . Up the Junction!” Not really. But I can dream.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The bus driver was a hard looking man. He had a tautness about him but not as severe as the drug-ravaged wraiths that haunt this part of town. a face that meant business. serious furrowed brow. short cropped hair. He was friendly and helpful when tourists asked for directions or fumbled for correct change. It’s when he drove that his body radiated weariness. He didn’t hold the big round steering wheel as much as he was being supported by it. He mechanically dealt with the traffic, the lights, and the pedestrians. He made no reaction to the foolish manoeuvres of drivers that usually elicit oaths and curses from other bus drivers. I watched his eyes in his rear view mirror and tried to divine his thoughts.
I started thinking. This is why banks get robbed. If I were as tough as that, upon seeing the taxes taken from my meagre wage, I’d leave the house with a shotgun, a ski mask, and lots of anger.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

You know you are a foreigner when most people assume that when they hear you are moving they assume it is to somewhere thousands of miles away rather than just down the road.

By the way, I just moved. And no, I am just moving down the road. To apparently a rough(er) part of town. It's certainly a weird mix. There are council towers across the street but there are also yuppie flats just as close. The last place was near the university and the children of the middle class are much more of a bother than the poor single mothers and drunken tramps that populate this neighbourhood. The former has the capital and the leisure to be a constant nuisance. The latter seem to have their hands full dealing with whatever it is they are rushing between. All day these young mothers are always hurrying about pushing rickety prams stuffed with wide blue-eyed children. Drunks who in my experience are rarely in a rush, but in this part of town they jaunt forward leaning slightly with a can of export in their hand to lead the way. The nights are very quiet compared with the old place where one had to listen to hysterical drunk girls shouting or crying and clumsily clomping in front of the window. If it's not the silly girls, it's the boys shouting or singing. The morning after, the sidewalks are mined with these privileged little shit's vomit. I've had the front window smashed for probably a reason less serious than 'Johnny's Sally was seen chatting with Bobby at the pub' and Johnny could only vent his frustration on my front window. During the days, these same people clog the sidewalks like pedestrian cholesterol. The bits of conversations I overhear are of such a painfully inconsequential sort I grit my teeth for minutes afterward until their grating voices clear from my head. I amazed one of the doesn't suddenly have the epiphany, begin tearing at his upturned collar, and run away screaming, "Ahhhh! You shallow wastes! All of us! Ahhhh!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Today was ridiculously beautiful. Pink blossoms that had been shaken from trees by the strong gusts of wind littered the path through the park. Drifts accumulated at the edges of the path to create a border between the bright spring grass and the dull grey path. If that was not enough to create these purple passages, the wind continued to tussle the branches loosening a meandering rain of more blossoms. Looking down this fairy tale path through the park put me in a great mood. It also helped that the bus was full of the odd mix of 'bus people' that I enjoy so much. While I was riding the bus, I saw an apple thrown from a convenience store. A group of tourists had to hit the deck to avoid concussions. When the bus moved forward enough to look into the shop, I couldn't see any obvious culprit.
I also saw an old woman whose facial features had long disappeared in the topological map of wrinkles wearing a bright blonde bob wig. The juxtaposition was very odd, and at the very next bus stop a similarly wrinkled woman wore a similar wig. This time it was the brunette model. I have to say that I was slightly disappointed that the following stop did not hold a redhead.
That's the perfect day for me. Beautiful weather, a bizarre event, and strange looking people. Life is good.

Friday, April 22, 2005

I am not too sure about children. Theoretically they seem like a great thing around. Fresh clear minds, seeing the world with new eyes, and all that. Yet, I am not too sure. Firstly, as an only child I have had no experience with children. Also, all my cousins are either fifteen years younger or fifteen years older than me. As a result, when relating stories about children I can only describe a child’s age by what container they could fit in. For example, a newborn fits perfectly in a plastic grocery sack. Hence conversations such as this;

“How old is their kid?”

“Oh. You know. Grocery sack sized.” This is said while miming the lifting of a heavy grocery sack in front of myself.

The neighbours have a kitchen bin sized child. You know. Screams a lot. Runs into things. Eats boogers. Real cute. Today he is being quiet and patient at his mother’s side as I talk to his mother. All of a sudden his eyes go wide, and he his jaw drops. He softy whispers an astonished ‘oooooooh’. We both turn to see what marvel he beholds. We see a man huge man. He is perfectly spherical. He’s dressed in an early twentieth century straw boater’s hat and sharp three-piece suit. He looked exactly like this. Except round. I had to agree with the kid on that one. ‘ooooooh’ indeed.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I have been reading Shirer's 'The rise and fall of the third Reich'. I have also started preparing to move house and battling an impeding and stressful deadline. As a result, I have had the most bizarre dreams. You don't know fear until find yourself in 1930's Munich during a hard snow of packing peanuts has fallen and a mob of brown shirts break into your home to tear up your presentation and notes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Let me introduce you to our building’s porters. They are three. I am not sure what they are officially employed for but I do know what they do from nine to five. They run amok. There’s the tall one. He’s your average spotty faced tracksuit wearer complete with cheap gold hoop and greasy Caesar cut. He’s more criminally minded than the others. His brand of chaos usually involves throwing away odd building resources like spools of copper wire which he then fetches from the bin on his way home. For what purpose I could not tell you, but he is fairly brazen about his activities. All tall characters must inevitably have their dumpy partner. Don Quixote had his Sancho Panza. Laurel. His Hardy. The short round one of this pair is also wall eyed. Firstly, I love the word ‘wall eyed’. It’s one of my favourite English words. It’s descriptive. It’s funny. It has a great sound too. It’s fun to pronounce. For this reason, I have an affinity for all things wall eyed. This character is no exception, but he is filthy. The smells and sounds that emanate from him have more complexity than most symphonies. In a crowded lift, He was standing near the back except for one person who was between him and the wall. The lift was completely silent and most heads were watching the excitement of the numbers increasing above the door. Then, There is a squeak and a puff of air that obviously left the rear end of someone. The noise being undeniable, a good number of people turned to look at the perpetrator. He is standing there grinning from ear to ear. He gives a wink and a nod to an attractive lady as she looked in disgust over her shoulder. The poor soul who was behind him has a face I have only seen in Vietnam War footage. His face was contorted while he slapped away whatever foul stench was climbing up him to wreak havoc in his nostrils. That stench became familiar to all and the next floor saw the entire lift evacuated leaving the porter alone, still grinning, to continue the journey upward. There is a third porter who is less of a threat to the rest of us. His sole purpose, as far as I can tell, is to be abused by the other two. The other day, I came to the gent’s toilets to find the door propped shut by a mop. I pulled it away and entered to relieve myself. I was immediately confronted by the figure of the third porter who had his chin propped by his hand and his elbows on his knees, sitting in one of the stalls. He looked up at me, got up, and left with a simple ‘cheers, mate.’ I was completely stunned. It took me a few beats to return to the work at hand during which I could not stop wondering how long he had been locked in there.

Supposedly our office is where serious business done by serious and important people takes place. We’ve had first ministers and royalty pay visits. Yet, at the heart of this flagship of industry the antics of drunken monkeys occur without comment.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Being a Scottish Gaijin, you get questions of when will you’ll go back home. “Do you think you’ll ever go back to America?” When my reply is no, there is always the follow up question, “What do you like so much over here?” The Scots are very comfortable with maintaining a contradictory opinion of their nation. While being one of the most nationalist races in Europe short of putting bombs in bins, they revel in complaining about the Scottish weather, Scottish cuisine, Scottish proximity to England, and most of all complaining about the Scots people. So, when one comes from such a country so glamorous as to have invented both hip and hop and to house the greatest individuals of our time, i.e. Britney Spears1 It confuses them to think that this person would be more comfortable shivering in the winter darkness close to the North Sea.

My response is usually a glib “Everything I could get in the States, I have here. Plus, Haggis isn’t all that bad.” That’s the thing. It’s not that bad. If you like sausage, it’s damn tasty. The weather too. It’s really not that bad. I come from a place in America where the climate has a death toll. No one died from drizzle. Yes. It’s true. Sunshine is nice but not if it comes with 40 C (that’s around 100 F) for 4 months of the year. As well as humidity the presses on your chest like a stone. It was the ‘Everything I could get in the States’ part that was ill defined for me. What is that everything? I just know that I have never had the sensation of doing without except for the occasional craving for migas. Mmmmmm. migas. But, I think I have defined it.

Generations ago there was good reason to be in America. Even in the twentieth century Europe was a mess. When not slaughtering each other over colonial nonsense or the correct spelling of some tributary on the continent. They busied themselves still playing kings and peasants. It still exists to a lesser extent. There is a definite divide based on last names here. If your forefather helped some jackass king cross a river or win a battle, your life is pretty much set. It takes a fundamental amount of incompetence to fuck up your life if your last name has a hyphen2. America has a class system but its more fluid, floated on wealth rather than pedigree. I don’t blame my ancestors for packing it in and sailing on once they realized they lost the surname lottery. These days that advantage doesn’t really exist. Europe has similar levels of prosperity and meritocracy. A few cobwebs of the class system remain, but nothing compared to earlier times. It also has the same political stability that made the States the refuge that it seems to be forgetting it was3. These are the abstractions that make up the ‘Everything’ I have a hard time naming. My daily life is little different from that in the States. It has only been augmented. Why wouldn’t I stay? Just don’t tell my mother, she still thinks I am only over here for an extended vacation.

  1. You must forgive them this, the only thing they have for a pop star is an Australian Grandmother. See Kylie Minogue. And yes, she’s still alive.

  2. Yet, a good number manage the feat.

  3. It doesn’t say anything about white Christian huddled masses on the statue.