Friday, December 29, 2006

I love to read. I consume words like a chain smoker's cigarettes. I inhale them deeply and often. Occasionally I write. I scribble little messages to this web journal and write insignificant tales, which rest unseen on my computer. Sometimes when reading, I reflect on how easy it is to write. Oddly I am motivated by mediocracy. It's the I-can-do-that attitude that made American so rich and powerful.
Americans, not American'ts. Right, kids? So sometimes I write. Then there are the novels that make me want to Gogol everything I've written and never type again. I read some authors and wonder what else needs to be said. What has been said could not be improved by me, so why try?

For example, here's a cute little sentence I wrote in a story.

"The cicadas made their songs that ebbed and flowed like metallic ocean waves."

I've written better but it wasn't bad enough to make me remove it. It's got a verb which I sometimes forget to add. So, there it is. The problem is when you put that sentence next to this one by Saul Bellow my own words are exposed as the insignificant dawdlings of an amateur.

"...there was this sound of insects, continental and hemispheric, again and again, like surf, and continuous and dense as stars."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I understand this man. I understand what he is saying without knowing any of the context of this photo and I agree with him completely.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Here is a copy of my Christmas letter. I sent them to everyone I know. If you didn't get one that means I have never forgiven you for stealing Katie away from me in the Third grade and kissing her in the day care's supply closet amongst the tower of toilet paper rolls and that bucket of saw dust they used to soak up the children's vomit and pee. You know who you are!

Hello all. Are you ready for another year’s review of my going ons? I would suggest you sit down before continuing on. I would feel a degree of responsibility if I didn’t warn you that there is a possibility that upon reading the shocking news that this year has wrought, you might temporarily lose consciousness which would cause you to fall upon cat who would then eat its way to freedom through your skull. It’s an ignoble death I wouldn’t wish on an advertising executive much less our loved ones.

Are you comfy and sitting? Is the cat fed and safely stowed away? Here come’s the news. I graduated. That’s right after thirty years I have finally run out of education. Although I am may enrol in a correspondence course on gun repair. You never know when this whole computer fad is going to run its course. When it does I want to have a useful trade to fall back on.

I returned to Edinburgh last month to take part in the conferment ceremony which included the tapping of my head with a cap cut from the ancient trousers of everybody’s favourite Calvinist, John Knox. With that odd but sacred blessing, I am now a doctor of Informatics. So if you have an inflammation of your informatic gland, I’m your man.

Since graduating I have joined the ranks of the respectable and got a job. I am a researcher at Royal Holloway College, University of London. Although London is in the name, the campus is in the county of Surrey in a town called Egham, which is just south of Windsor where Queen Elisabeth, my future monarch, resides. It’s a beautiful campus set amongst a forest on top of a hill that overlooks the town. Think of Dracula’s castle looming ominously over the cowering village of ignorant peasants. The founder of the school made his money selling ointments and salves of dubious medicinal benefit during the 19th century. He then used his fortune to found one of the first colleges in England to educate woman. I commute by train to this pleasant place most days and work in an office mostly populated by aged academics and mad Russian scientists on sabbatical.

Although this year has largely been a happy and successful one, there have been setbacks. In my never ceasing quest for a leisurely but profitable life, I endeavoured to make my fortune raising guinea pigs. Did you know that guinea pigs are neither pigs nor indigenous to Guinea. There are woeful tales of early Dutch settlers, having also heard the fiscal siren song of the guinea pig, chartered ships to guinea ready to make their fortunes based on the tales of these creatures only to find that the animal’s misnomer was their misfortune. Guinea pigs also cannot synthesise vitamin C and like humans must get it from their food, but I digress. My business plan included breeding these little creatures for the chain of Chilean restaurants that are becomingly increasingly popular in this fair metropolis. Things were going swimmingly as you could imagine. I was raising the little beasts free range. They had the run of our little back garden. They were happily going about their little guinea pig business. They had created little nests and paths. I saw the pound signs as my first litters were born and were growing quickly. As a female guinea pig is sexually mature in three weeks, I knew after the first litters were reared it would be as good as printing my own money, albeit squeaky furry money.

But. But my friends, disaster struck. My herd, actually ‘group’ is the correct collective word for guinea pigs, suffered a horrible decimation. No. It was worse than a decimation. It was a complete and total guinea pig holocaust wrought by the jowls and claws of an urban fox. The carnage was horrible. It was like a scene from star wars when the imperial forces of Darth Vader attacked the Ewok villages. It was surely the scene that fell to the cutting room floor because its graphic nature caused George Lucas to vomit into his own mouth, swallow hard and then choke out the words “good god! We can’t put that in the movie. It’s too too horrible.” This was a particularly sick minded fox as well as he did not kill to sate his animal hunger. He killed for the pleasure of it. His sadistic little canine mind took pleasure in separating the cute little guinea pig head from the chubby and equally cute guinea pig body. Funny enough these two cute parts of the animal are not so cute when separated and strewn across your garden lawn. There I was surveying the rodent carnage and trying to decide what to make of my misfortune. There was also the practical issue of what must be done with this fuzzy re-enactment of the Khmer Rouge’s Choeung Ek I now stood amongst.

It was truly heart breaking to see these little harmless creatures’ bodies defiled and discarded. Alive they are truly endearing little creatures. They squeak and scamper like little fat men in bear suits. I really mourned their en masse loss. I thought I would forget my fiscal woes and restore a little of their dignity, lost by the manner of their death, by a proper burial. I determined to match together each animal’s head with its corresponding body, tucking in any indiscrete viscera.

This was a harder task than I imagined and I must admit near the end I was less discerning about getting the matches exact. Ultimately I was left with three extra heads and a body of a creature I was sure was not one of my guinea pigs. Once the restored corpses were placed in the long trench grave I dug, I also placed the miscellaneous heads and body along with a few daisies. A few sombre words were said and I laid them to rest.

So this year like most has been one of happiness made more appreciated by the salting of misfortune.

Love and best wishes from us for this holiday season,


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Jimmy the drunk has ghosts. He’s one that has flown too close to the sun and brought back things which haunt him. His present addiction is merely there to keep his soul stanchioned to his body. Jimmy is good for light conversation to pass the time waiting for the bus or while you are keeping your toes warm in a pub. You spot him a pint and he’ll chat about what you like. He’ll listen to your gripes and punctuate them with ‘nae bother pal’ and ‘they’re all gadgee bastards’. His anecdotes are light and entertaining. He’s good for catching up on local gossip and the background of the various characters that wander the streets in the neighbourhood. He’s the one who told me that the mayor of Leith came here to work on the Forth rail bridge. The mayor of Leith is an enormous Jamaican who is either smoking cigarettes in the bus shelters or watching the football through the windows of pubs. He’s got an equally enormous mane of thick dreaded hair and beard and carries a serious looking length of wood which is employed as a cane, a tool for perusing the contents of bins and a deterrent for the drunks not cowed by his stature alone. His army green jacket is tattered and the wind blows the stuffing around him like dandelion seeds. Occasionally during these breezy chats with Jimmy, glimpses of his past peek out that explain his present condition. He has seen dark places and done dark things. Things I believe he needs to keep saturated in an alcohol haze to prevent those dark memories from gaining too sharp a focus before his attention. Sometimes his vigilance slips and he reveals those memories to me. As he speaks the words he gets a distant look in his face as if he is trying to see past them and move the topic of conversation along. Out of courtesy I have never pressed for details and obligingly joke away his revelations.

What I do know is he used to be a courier. He took suitcases and sometimes cars filled with cocaine. The men he worked for were the villains made for movies. His employer’s particular perversion was to mark his associates with a knife scar on the cheek. Sometimes Jimmy has told stories about the violence he has seen but more often the topic comes to the money he had and wasted. The other fact I know is that he also used the contents of his deliveries. These reveries are a mixed bag. Like the money, the drugs brought lots of fun stories of excess and excitement but they ultimately left him in his present state. I have heard the full spectrum of drugs, guns and girls stories. There is one that is probably the most poignant, sad and bizarre. I’ll try to compose the fragments I remember Jimmy telling me.

Jimmy’s employers tolerated a degree of usage of the product of their trade, but there were certain rules which had to be abided without exception. Obviously any adulteration of what you were meant to be delivering was frowned upon but most importantly you were strictly forbidden from smoking it. Cocaine was part of the business; crack was for the fuck ups. I suppose the outlaws of society must also have their mores. It was this particular condition of employment that Jimmy fell foul of. Jimmy knew the consequences of his transgression would not be palatable as seeing punishments being meted out were part of his training. He was on call at all times. Therefore it was risky to smoke in his flat as at any point a man could enter the house with a job. He carefully hid any evidence. He hid his pipes with paranoid care and when he indulged he would blow the smoke behind the curtain into the open window in his back bedroom. This went on until some event, the details of which Jimmy could never bear to recount, made him decide to leave the country and clean himself up. He only took nothing but a backpack with some clothes and a cat carrier with his Persian cat also named Jimmy.

He found a hotel room, filled it with food and drink, and bunkered down, prepared to endure the cold turkey cure. Jimmy had assessed the experience as, “Horrible. Absolutely Horrible. A pain nothing like it.” It was worsened considerably by the fact that during Jimmy’s using days, his cat was in the habit of sitting in the window sill sniffing at the open window that Jimmy would expel his crack smoke. As a consequence the cat also became addicted and equally suffered this horrible pain Jimmy described. I have never seen regret and anguish so deeply etched in another human’s expression when Jimmy describe the cat’s yowling from withdraws and the fits that wrecked its little body causing its tongue to loll and its mouth to foam. Of all the things Jimmy blames himself for; it was this innocent cat suffering that haunts him. I suppose it is easy to analyse this and say it was the animal’s vocal sufferings that trigger memories of his own withdraw experience or that the animal is just the token which stands for the summation of his crimes for which he feels culpable. I don’t know but I do know that a few days after he told me how he strangled the cat to end its misery I found Jimmy in the worst state I had seen him. It was so bad that I paid the costs for a room in a men’s shelter where I knew he would be safe until he regained his balance.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wow. Since the decamping to London, I have really neglected this little journal of mine. I would like to believe it is because of my busy social calender that has keep me away from typing these epistles to the ether of the internet. But we all know that's a load of horseshit. Anyway. Happy Holidays

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Outside Westminster Abbey

Friday, November 03, 2006

I've been busy lately with a real live grown up's day job. I really can't complain about that. As daily jobs go, it's good. The problem is it cuts into the things I personally find important such as: writing silly little stories which I sometimes accost this blog with, just taking walks as I am a wanderer by nature and my soul finds nourishment in being lost, and working on my projects like developing a plan to bring down western civilisation be assassinating its celebrities as I believe the west would lose all guidance and focus if the red carpets of the world were darken by their viscera. A culling this way must come. The impact would be far greater on society at large than if a G8 summit disappear into radioactive vapour. Our economies would become paralytic and our towns choked with commemorative fountains. Discord and chaos would drive our citizens to reflection and they would wake as if from a dream and recognise a new order of things. And I as the architect would become the first celebrity of this new age and as a consequence would be sacrificed at the new mount Golgotha, the scorched Hollywood hill, which would begin a new tradition of killing any person who sought fame for their actions. Or not, but at least I wouldn’t have to read about which celebrity was the first to adopt a child from every ethnicity found on Disney’s “it’s a small world after all” ride. It’s a win-win project either way.

Friday, October 27, 2006

One day, I bought a train ticket

I slept well. No better or worse than usual. I went to sleep after an average day, and dreamt average dreams. It was the waking that was unusual. I usually spend these mornings skipping between wakefulness and sleep until hunger or bladder draws me from the warmth of the duvet. This morning I awoke like a switch had been flipped between the two states of consciousness. flip. sleep. flip. awake. Yet, I was certainly still dreaming. Wasn’t I? My room was unfamiliar. Strange hues of light came from the open window, pushed aside the curtains with the breeze and painted the opposite wall. The duvet wrapped around me ceased its metaphoric similarity with a womb. Its fabric indeed held the warmth and feel of flesh. My ear pressed to the pillow heard a heart beat. Was it in time with my own? Was it mine I heard? Sensing sacrilege to leave my bed so early on a weekend, I wriggled in bed to find a position to better fight the growing compulsion to jump out of bed and greet this strange new day. My hand brushed against something. I brought it up from the depths of the covers like a treasure hunter’s first doubloon. I held it close for examination. It resembled an elongated sun-dried tomato. Its black-red paper skin was shiny and thin. Giving it a pinch between my two fingers revealed a spongy springiness to the mass within. I set it aside on the nightstand and surrendered to the fate of waking up early. I threw the duvet to the side and the morning’s chill hit me. Sitting up I rubbed the sleep away from my eyes. Each step tickled my bare feet. I raised a foot and felt the sole. Nothing unusual was found. I stood there wiggling my toes into the carpet like a barefoot child in freshly cut grass. I felt the individual fibres pressed against my feet. I brushed along the carpet with my foot in an arc before me. The disturbed fibres caught the light from another angle and shimmered like beach sand. The newness of everything around me was captivating. I had to touch everything on my way to the bathroom. Picture frames with their cold glass faces, and the finger prints left on the pictures of moments past, frozen faces of familiar people striking unnatural poses. Plastic light switches that felt like a single loose tooth wiggling in its socket. Latex painted walls with their dusty and chemical taste. The smell of last night’s burnt dinner still lingered to tease my nostrils. Everything was beautiful and right and perfect. But. But, I was not prepared for the newness that met my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I stood there lost at the stranger who stared at me from behind the sink. The features were the same. The same blue eyes tucked in snug under heavy and puffy lids. The same quick wrinkles came running from the corners of the eyes towards the protection of the thick growth of hair, which still only showed the occasional grey wisps. The same thin lips which revealed only the slightest line pink, but it was certainly someone else’s reflection. Fear rushed through my nerves and turned my empty stomach. The movement was wrong. The stranger aped me perfectly but something was wrong. I tried to ignore it. I turned on the hot water and got ready to take a shower. Occasionally, I peeked at the strange version of me going through the same motions. Is this what I look like? I am distracted by the whisper of the water pouring into the tub. Swirls of water slipped down the drain. Individual drops leapt onto the inside of the tub. They cling for a moment and then are bumped from above as another drop slides down. I dropped my pyjamas to the floor and am about to step into the tub when I see my reflection from the corner of my eye. I paused, not wanting to confirm this new discovery. Timidly, I looked down at my own body, and reflection was not lying. My breath rushed out of me and I leapt back like I had been burnt.
completely smooth. completely hairless. completely sexless. like a little girl’s doll. nothing but a Môn pubis bump. There was no mark, no injury, no pain. No sign that there was ever anything. I sunk to the bathroom floor staring at the unblemished skin where my cock was last perched like the ridiculous proboscis of some pubic beast. Had I abused myself the night before? Surely no bout of self love could inflict such an injury. Such absurd thoughts ran through my mind. I tried to calm myself. Things could be worse, but I had a hard time thinking of examples or supporting arguments. I felt the spot and cupped what was not there to be cupped. I leaned back against the wall, stared at the ceiling, and watched the steam cloud race toward extinction. What had I eaten? What had I done? Should I call a doctor? What do I say? What specialist do you call for such a complaint? The bizarreness and absurdity of the situation made it difficult to appreciate its tragedy. Is there a lost and found department for such incidents? Would I have to sift through a half full box of forgotten umbrellas, eye glasses, and other men’s members? What am I going to do?
Articulate thoughts slowly were clouded over as I watched the steam materialize on the bathroom mirror. It slowly gained ground on the unfogged portions of the mirror like the rising tide drowning more and more beach with each breaking wave. After, what I learnt was several hours, I returned attention to my missing penis, but with an unexpected serenity, my sexless fate no longer concerned me. The bathroom was in a complete fog with occasional strands slipping guiltily away under the door. I got into the shower and felt each drop hit my skin.
That was two days ago. Things are so different now. A caterpillar gains two wings in its metamorphosis. I lost a cock. I constantly drifted into a meditative mindset about the blandest of thing. Huge amounts of time would escape while I stood staring at rain drops under a street lamp or listening to the timber of a deep-voiced barista whose confirmation of orders and statement of prices vibrated in my chest. Yet, the strange looks or occasional impatience I encountered never troubled me. The world was lost to me in that I ceased being a participant, but the world was found by constantly seeing it for the first time. One day, I bought a train ticket.
I bought a train ticket and left everything I knew. I took my seat, tickets still in hand and waited for the train to leave the station.
The train window showed me blurry pictures of the rows of cardboard houses perched along the rusty rail tracks, and blank green canvases dotted with ewes and their spring lambs. Running east, the train turned to follow the coast. Tears instantly blinded me. They chased each other towards my chin without sobs. There was no sadness, but a beauty so intense my chest felt compressed. A heavy weight constricted my breath to shallow sips of air. I wiped my face and closed my eyes to ease the pressure. When, I opened them again, the sensation was no less intense. I continued to watch the calm dark green for as long as I could until the ache made me short of breath. Right before I felt I would lose consciousness, I would close my eyes tight and hold my head. The pain would subside, and I would look once more. Moths willingly burn themselves upon the candle’s light and now I know why.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Today is a day for poetry. Years ago a poet died. It doesn’t matter too much which one. Poets die. This one was dying for years until the job was finished properly in a Florida hospital. His death day is a marker for poets of his breed who too have died or will. I believe . . . yes . . . I believe it is a day for sentimentality and not for such dark tones of loss.

How about this from another dead poet:

Sonnet V – Pablo Neruda

I did not hold your night, or your air, or the dawn:
only the earth, the truth of the fruit in clusters,
the apples that swell as they drink the sweet water,
the clay and resins of your sweet smelling land.

From Quinchamali where your eyes began
to the Frontera where your feet were made for me,
you are my dark familiar clay:
holding your hips, I hold the wheat in its field again.

Woman from Arauco, maybe you didn't know
how before I loved you I forgot your kisses.
But my heart went on, rememebering your mouth - and I went on

and on through the streets like a man wounded,
until I understood, Love: I had found
my place, a land of kisses and volcanoes.

--translation by Stephen Tapscott

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I am a fretter, one who frets. I don’t know how this happened. I am a bookish softy, but somewhere my genes are the makings of a right tough son-of-a-bitch. I vividly remember my grandfather standing at the screen door of the porch calling for his wife to bring him her sewing kit. He was holding his thumb tightly and close to his chest. From between the fingers, steady tributaries of blood flowed. He patiently waited on the front step because he dare not spill his blood on grandmother’s carpet. Nothing wrong with being house proud, she would say.

The only sense of urgency came in response to grandma’s casual queries as to why ever would he want her sewing kit. He replied, “Damnit woman. Quit your fussing and bring me some thread and a needle.” He embarrassed himself by his impoliteness. He softened his tone to ask me to come outside with him because he was going to need my help.
Grandma was not as composed when she stepped to the screen door. The “oh my god” refrain repeated peppered with phrases like “what have you done now?” and “what happened?”
“I’ll be alright. The boy is going to help.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sure. I'm sure.” He turned to me and motioned, “C’mon.” I followed him to the picnic bench where we usually ate watermelon sprinkled with salt and spat the seeds at grandma’s multitude of cats that were constantly milling about the farm.
So far I had followed these events with the uncomprehending stoicism that only children are capable of. This impassivity failed me when grandpa charged me with the duty to hold the torn flesh of his thumb together while he stitched with light blue thread the gash that ran from the tip of the digit to the meat of his palm.
I started to feel cold flushes and grandpa must have noticed the colour leave my face. He buttressed my consciousness by his deep and grumbling voice, “You alright, boy?”
“Yes, sir.”
“We’re almost done here.” (We were not. He had not yet sewn a third of the way.)

It took all four of my small fingers of each of my hands on either side of the long cut to match its edges together. His skin was sticky from the drying blood and if I moved my fingers, the cut would open again and provide a fresh dollop of blood.
“Steady now.” Grandpa would say.

Grandma came out with a bottle of rubbing alcohol to wash out the infection.
“Go on.” He nodded to her, pausing his sewing. She poured the clear liquid over our hands as timidly as if the resulting pain would be felt by her instead of her husband. Grandpa registered the pain by closing his eyes tightly for an extended pause.
“Alright. That’ll do. Mama can you get some clean rags or bandages if we got ‘em?”
“Yes dear. Hold on.”
“Let’s get this done before that woman tries to kill me again.” He whispered with a smirk and a mischievous wink. He finished his uneven but sufficient suture and no more notice or mention was given to the injury wrapped in gauze and sealed with a small strip of duct tape.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I lose faith and interest in humanity on a daily basis. We can't be far now from what the newspapers have been aching for, which is a headline that reads "Muslims! Run for you your life!" In the South that's what racism looks like. It's bold and up front, its horror and ugliness born bare for all to see. There's no "I ain't racist or nothing..." preamble. I prefer that to the gentile racism of the North and Europe where pig-ignorance and bigotry is usually swathed in middle class lefty patronisation or couched in politically corrected doublespeak.

But I digress. Instead I want to show the little things that help redeem my estimation of our little confused collective watusi upon this earth.

Usually for me it is the ridiculous that I find comforting. More often than not it is also the profane. I was reading Iggy Pop and the Stooge’s concert rider. It’s a thoroughly fun read through out. In it Iggy Pop’s stage presence is referred to as “He’ll be all over the place like a mad woman’s shit.” There are plenty other gorgeous moments of ridiculousness to be found. Check it out and forget for a moment that the world is ugly and full of misery.

As my mom used to say, "god bless his pointed little head".

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Have you ever met someone or even just passed someone in the hallway and that was sufficient to know that any further interaction would bind you by duty to mankind to follow that person into an empty men's toilet and shiv him in the buttocks? Yeah, me too.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My family has a number of historic anecdotes of our time in the western hemisphere. There are also a few vague references to ancestral eastern-hemispheric going ons that involve horse thievery which might explain the decision of our forefather to relocate to the new world. Since that carrier of my surname brought it and himself to the land of providence, we have accumulated a rich oral tradition of misfortunes that have befallen our race. There is the tale of the confederate sniper hunted down and shot with his family as they slept. There is another story about a whole branch of my family tree being murdered and thrown down a Virginian well because the locals didn't take kindly to the ruckus those predecessors caused while building the railroad nearby. However these tales are merely appetisers to the feast of calamity one person of my linage endured. A cousin of some manner of multiple removals and ordinal number was a farm labourer. His daily endeavours featured his proximity to a vat of pig waste. Why there is ever a need or how pig waste is put into vats has never been sufficiently explained to me. This proximity was ultimately the cause of my misfortunate relation’s demise. He died, drowned in an enormous vat of pig manure and urine. Apparently the slurry of pig piss and shit has similar properties to that of quicksand. Haven fallen there would have been no way to extricate himself without assistance. The one difference being sand usually has a more benign odour compared the indescribable stench that pigs create. It truly is a horror upon the senses and once you have had the merest of whiffs in your nostrils, you will forever remember it.
As if this fate wasn’t undignified enough, the gods saw it fit to add yet another heaping helping of contempt for one of their creations. My cousin met his particular god at the end of the day just before a long weekend. The consequence being that his earthly remains remained were his spirit departed it for several days. His corpse marinated in that hellish concoction until someone else made its bewildering discovery.
This submersion resulted in a curing of the victim’s flesh so that instead of a death in pig shit soup, you might have thought that he quietly died in his sleep during a relaxing island holiday. He had the healthy tanned look of a retired banker as he peacefully rested in the coffin and an unknown preacher recited scripture over him. The relatives who had been at the service all agreed that our cousin had the look of a man of leisure dressed in a sharp but hired suit. However they also agreed that throughout the service and even at the grave site, you couldn’t help occasionally catching the scent of pig shit drifting in the wind.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I think too much and therefore I sleep too little. I toss and turn trying to shake loose the ever rolling newsreels images and ideas. The true shame of it is nothing useful or interesting plays before my attention. My mind will propose questions that have no answers. Two I can remember from last night:
1) Are the dutch tall because they live in a flood plain and all the short ones kept drowning thus depriving the dutch gene pool of their stumpy genes?
2) Is Liverpool a city where the fashion of the 80's and 70's has rerturned or just never left?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

There is an old man who wanders the halls at my new job. He is hunched and mumbles to himself. His belt always misses a loop in the back. My guess is that he is a well respected member of his chosen field but by appearances he would be at home pacing the corridors of a dementia unit. I've tried to be friendly when we have passed each other in the halls and have never managed to register an acknowledgement of my existence never mind an articulate response.
I went to the break room yesterday to read a cup of tea's worth of my book. Our grumpy gentleman was there muttering to his coffee. I asked a cheery "mind if I sit down?" to which was replied a series of unfathomable noises albeit at a more conversational volume signaling this was not part of his unending mumbled soliloquy. I sat down with my book and tea and as if we were on a see-saw he rose with his mug and left the room trailing behind him wisps of grunts and mumbles.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I now live in a very middle class part of London. They like naming their little houses. There is a buckingham house next to us. There are plenty of houses named after saints. In short, the more twee the house, the more twee the name. When I buy a house here. I am going to call mine, "Squalor and Gore Cottage". I'll be the envy of every garden party and fete.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I was working at an Italian restaurant during my undergraduate. I was doing a double shift and was standing in the empty restaurant during the slow time between two and four. Waiting tables is an ideal occupation for putting yourself through school. Minimal hours, maximum return. I was twenty and still invincible. There was no hint that anything in life could not go your way. Hard work always paid off, and life was always fun.

The manager was off doing whatever he did (among other things, it turned out to be smoking crack in the walk-in freezer but that’s another tale). Before he had left, he told me to expect a workman to come to balance the blades of the restaurant’s ceiling fans which had begun to wobble unsynchronised like drunken dervishes. The workman said it would take an hour which would be plenty of time before the start of the dinner rush.

The workman came. He tottered in on stick thin legs. The grizzle of grey stubble ringed his chin. His eyes wet as if on the verge of tears. He told me he was here to balance the fans and asked if I had a ladder. I retrieved a short step ladder we had, but that was insufficient. He then asked if I could help him bring in the ladder from his truck instead. I dutifully did and set it up for him. He thanked me and I returned to reading my book behind the counter except I didn’t read a page. I watched him move cautiously and laboriously up the ladder from which he seemed at every step about to fall. There was an overwhelming sense of exhaustion to his person. So much so that it seemed to sap my own energies. He was a tired mind and body only continuing its animation from inertia.

He finally reached the top. He examined the twirl of the fans. Clicking the chain, turning it on and off. His tools for this task? A pocket full of pennies and regular clear office tape. He would divine the required weight and tape the stack of Lincolns to the blade attempting to achieve the balance. He would then turn on the fan to see if his estimate was right and the wobble had gone. Most of the time, he was wrong. Sometimes it was worse. Other times it was no better but no worse. Inevitably the pennies would come off and zing across the room dangerously. The worst was when the pennies would stick long enough for him to move on to the next fan, and then come off with a clang when it hit the canals of Venice mural. He would have to dismount the ladder, get me to move it back, and then scale the ladder once again with fresh pennies. Around four, customers began to trickle in. After two hours he was only on the third of six fans. The manager returned and quickly realised he should be panicking. I had been seating the few early customers in seats shielded by a partition to protect them from the fan flung shrapnel but when the rush came we would have to accept the certainty of customer casualties.

The manager was polite enough and paid the man for the job but told him his services would be unnecessary for the remaining wobbly fans. I helped him pack his ladder. He seemed confused and told me he’d be back tomorrow to finish. As soon as I returned I was asked to mount a table to remove the remaining pennies as a salvo had just broken a wine glass.

I finished my shift but I was stunned. I kept thinking about myself ending up incoherent and frail like him. I had never considered that just maybe my story doesn’t end happily. I just never considered any ending at all, but now was overwhelmed with all the possible horrors that can be visited upon a man. Sickness, want, and misery ceased to be possibilities and became certainties. He didn’t return the next day and it took awhile for me to regain some perspective but a pandora’s box had been opened.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I don't know what it is about my countenance that inspires these kinds of confessions but they sure make the commute more interesting.

I met an irishman from the same part of Ulster that some of my ancestors fled generations ago. Apprently I am genetically predisposed to horse theivery but that's another story. Me and my companion chatted about ireland and scotland and america. He then asked me if there would be a problem getting into the US with 'multiple firearms offences'. I said the only people who don't have firearm convictions are pinkos and queers and Uncle Sam would consider such charges a mark of honour to any foreigner visiting his shores (unless of course he's darker than a hamburger bun). He seemed relieved at this answer and, before he got off at his stop, he made the sign of the cross over me. Yes. God bless me indeed.

Friday, August 25, 2006

There I sat on the train down to London to find a flat for the next two years. In front of me there was a little girl and her father. Behind me an old Yorkshire man sat beside his middle aged daughter. The father entertained the little girl with a portable DVD player and children’s shows. Occasionally she would get excited by the programme she was watching and shout or sing. Her father would kindly admonish her and her tone would lower back to her inside voice. At one point, she shouted with the glee only a child can muster, “I want to fly like a fish. I will have beautiful wings!” At the time my mind was occupied on my own desires. My biggest want was that I could find something a little better than the dingy student studio flats that were in my price range. How very dull do are dreams become.

I did find a very nice one bedroom flat in an amazing part of London. Yesterday, I was in the park surrounded by red deer looking at the London skyline. So, I can only wish that the little girl from the train also has her wish fulfilled, and she can fly like a fish on her beautiful wings.

The old man was also entertaining. He was a garrulous little man, and the shrinking and wrinkling of age had made him adorable. The whole train car smiled when his thick Yorkshire brogue was heard. Two things he said stand out most.

After a couple gave them their seat which was closest to the exit and easy for him to toddle into, he said, “The world is full of good people and I’ve just met two more.”

Talking to the little girl, he said, “It’s all right for you, I don’t have a big daddy to look after me.” I’m not sure what they were talking about, but I understand the advantage of big daddies.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

She sat at the bar like a dollop of human shit. The brown blouse was not a wise choice. The rolls of fat filled the synthetic fabric like sausage in a casing and looked like a series of extruded coils. A big rosé drinking turd. Instead of steam she emanated cigarette smoke. She croaked orders for more wine and matches in a voice thickly covered in tar and nicotine grease. Most people have distinct facial features. Noses. Lips. Cheeks. But hers seemed sculpted lazily from the soft waddle of flesh pushed up from her neck by some hateful god.
Did someone love her or merely tolerate her? Was she really lovely once you got to know her or was she truly repulsive in spirit as she was in appearance? The arguments began to favour the latter as I sat alone getting drunk at the table behind her listening to the horrible voice that flatuated from her lips. Most declarations were on the inadequacies and stupidities of the people she has had to endure. Lazy immigrants. Bad holidays with unsympathetic guides. And useless men. She continued to foul the air of pub with an unending enumeration of the inconveniences and affronts that had accosted her person.
Suddenly I have the urge to hug and kiss her without her consent. This compulsion is not out of affection, but from that same need that pushes men to wrestle alligators or eat fugu. That attraction to the thrill of danger and the knowledge that reasonable men would not dare follow your self destructive path.
My imagination shoots off with vivid hyperactivity. I see myself nuzzling up to her sweaty neck, choking on the smell of stale cigarettes, body odour, and a sickly sweet perfume bought at a boot sale. Her corpulent flesh yields like bread dough and then I cannot imagine anymore. I squeeze my eyes tightly shut. I open them to see the bouncer throwing out a drunk who pissed himself at the bar. I wish I thought of that.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

This is my new neighbour.

Monday, August 07, 2006

“Jimmy. What the fuck are you doing with that fuck off big knife?”

“It’s not a knife. It’s a machete. I’m going to teach someone a lesson.”

“Don’t be a cunt, Jimmy. Who are you talking about?”

“That cunt of a tree in hunter’s park by the toilets. You know over where I have my bed roll.”

“A tree? You bastard. I thought you were off to go murder. You dumb bastard. What’s wrong with you, son. What do you want to go and hack up some tree for? Calling a tree a person. Jesus. Sit down and calm yourself. Have a sip of this and tell me what’s got up your arse.”

“You ken what tree I’m saying.”


“Last night. I was going back to my camp behind the benches over in the brush by the lavvies.”


“I’m ready for my forty winks like. I was up at the Port O’ Leith with the boys. Colin had a bit of luck. The lucky bastard had a twenty to one come in. He was buying drinks like he printed the money himself. Well, you can ken the state Colin’s kindness put me in. After they chuck us out I make my way to the park to sleep it off. Well, I never made it. That fucking bastard tree took a swing at me and I spent the night ass over tits on the ground. My face was covered in blood; I had a knot the size of a football on my head. I thought I had been murdered. I stagger up. Not knowing the fuck happened to me. The damn pigs just happen to be passing and the nick me because they don’t know what else to do. I just got out and now I got me a score to settle.”

“Jimmy. Bloody hell. You’re a mess. Tell you what come up and have a drink with me. After you get a drink in you, if you still want to kill your tree. You can have at it. Okay.”


Sunday, August 06, 2006

For the past two and a half weeks I have played host to a young (15years old) cousin of mine. I am an only child and it was great having a little brother for awhile. The best part was the telekinesis I developed. I would will something with my mind and it would happen. I would say things like ‘Can you hand me that phone?’ and the phone would magically appear in my hands. My house never had such clean dishes. They would fly into the dishwasher on my slightest whim. Having the little human around also made me aware of a few facts about myself. Firstly, I cuss way too much. I have the mouth of a trucker in heavy traffic and am not fit to be around children until I can master the expression ‘darnit’, ‘shucks’ and ‘poo’ as the automatic reaction to unfavourable situations. Also, I was a bad kid. I thought I was a relatively well behaved kid, but I had to keep telling him ‘but don’t you do that’ and ‘please forget that I said that it is illegal and not nice’.

I also learned how entertaining death metal madlibs is. This is a game you can play with any p2p program like soulseek or What you do is get a medical dictionary or think of a gruesome word. Type it the word or phrase in the search field. Some black metal artist will have already thought of an entertaining title containing that. I can only hope that it was with some irony that the song ‘consume the rancid gore’ was penned. Every permutation of gross out title has been thought of.

P.S. I forgot to say this but I wasn’t particularly excited about my birthday (now two and a half weeks ago), but all the little messages and emails people sent made me so. Thanks one and all. That will teach me to be such a grump.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The festival and all its accoutrements has returned. Droves of American high-school theatre groups plague the city with their flyers and their 'theatrical behavior'. The town chatters in a thousand and one languages and all of them babbling amazement at the city I have somehow been lucky enough to call home for the last four years. I have already seen some great shows. I went to a jazz open session. The house band invited anyone in the audience to come up and jam. Modulo one unfortunate incident the results were incredible. The incident I mention concerned an Australian girl. How do I know she was Australian? Because the first thing she giggled was that she was Australian and she hadn't sung with a band in four years (god please make it another four years before she thrusts her talentless larynx upon the stage again). She giggled and babbled as the band struck up her requested tune of 'Fever'. She knew the chorus and that's it. So here we have some silly little girl who wanted attention standing in front of a group of people who have dedicated themselves for years to hone their art. They have to playback up to someone who should be lifting their shirt for mardi gras beads, not mumbling the lines to a jazz standard. So, it is now my mission to find the themed bar she works at and as she pours a pint of beer, I will flick a dried cat turd at her which is the metaphorical equivalent to what she did to those musicians when they were working.

However there was justice to be had that night. After a couple tenor sax players played a few tunes, another singer asked to perform. There was a palatable discontent in the room that remained until the nervous and shy singer, who held the lyrics in her hand on a crumpled piece of paper, belted out screaming Jay's words, 'I put a spell on you'. That girl had soul and lungs to match. Once the song was over there was the loudest cheer yet heard. The band invited her to do another song which was just as good but I don't know the name of it or the original artist. She got another huge applause when she stepped of the stage. Moments later, the Australian with male companion sulked out.

The final songs also had a singer. A middle aged woman named Rene. She must have been a professional becomes she knew how to control the audience and the drunk piano player. She moved everyone like chess pieces. She invited the shy singer, Iona, back of the stage to sing 'What a difference a day makes'. Rene sang everything with a fierce sensuality that made me blush on every tune. Iona seemed nervous to be singing a song she had not prepared for but Rene was amazing with her patience and encouragement. Once Iona gets the confidence to match her pipes, she'll do alright.

For me, it was an amazing evening. Musicians perform a magic I cannot fathom and when you see them perform these feats it really closes in on witnessing the sublime.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Can any of you direct me to a Nietzsche quote? I don't know what book it is from but the ole' boy in his syphilitic state says something like, “What is my foot for? To kick the chair of the truthsayer!” Does this ring any bells? Can someone help? My google-fu has failed me on this one.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Alley Violinist
Robert Lax

if you were an alley violinist

and they threw you money
from three windows

and the first note contained
a nickel and said,
when you play, we dance
and sing, signed a very poor family.

and the second one contained
a dime and said
i like your playing very much,
signed a sick old lady.

and the last one contained
a dollar and said,
beat it,

would you:

stand there and play?

beat it?

walk away playing your fiddle?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I was walking behind a couple on my way home from work. My mind was occupied with one of the thousands of inanities that it is privy to during its daily wakeful state. I watched without reflection the hand of the girl open fully as it swung by her side. In an automatic reaction like a plant sensitive to touch, the boy’s hand did the same and when the two extremities met they folded together. Each finger immediately settled into the crook of the other’s. Both did this without prompting or recognition of the activity. When I witnessed this, I snapped out of my revelry and acknowledged the small act of two humans at their most beautiful.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The movie Trainspotting was supposed to be set in my neighbourhood. It's yuppified these days but a few traces of the old Leith is recognizable. Having lived in Leith for a year, I can testify that if Trainspotting was true, Spud would have been the best looking one.


Monday, June 26, 2006

My childhood was spent in a land where, though man had drained her dark swamps and laid concrete over her cleared forests, nature refused to be ignored. She made her presence known through swarms of insects that left my tiny child’s legs covered in large red welts until it looked like I was afflicted by an ancient pox. She knocked at our doors with apocalyptic winds and rains. She scattered among our waters and brush creatures large and small that could, if not end your life; make you regret its capacity for suffering. This is why I am a city boy through and through. I prefer to live in places where the natural order is completely conquered and the only dangers I face are manufactured by man. Man is much more predictable than the capricious spitefulness of nature. Angry drunks can be avoided, but an angry warthog is another matter.

The wilderness of Europe if far more tame but I am still uneasy. My first query of Scotland was a request for an enumeration of the creatures which are capable of injury1. On my recent travels through France, it was a few days before I could relax at the pleasant country house where we staying. It had been so long since I had been away from the steady night glow of the city. I woke up the first night to think I had gone blind2, because of the inky natural blackness that had packed into our room from the open windows. After a few days and a few more bottles of wine, I settled myself to enjoy the gorgeous views and easy life.

1 The worse thing they have are midges, though they bring new meaning nuisance, are harmless.
2 Goddamn French blinded me with their cheap (but delicious) wine, I thought.

Monday, June 19, 2006

There are certain national generalizations that are safe bets such as never try out-drink a Russian and don’t talk politics with anyone from the Middle East. I have made both of those mistakes. I recently discovered another.

I am pretty proud of my adventurous nature when it comes to cuisine. Having grown up in the south of the states with a number of hunters in the family, I have eaten a children’s alphabet worth of god’s creatures (A is for alligator to Z is for Zebra). I can usually trump any bizarre culinary dish that a person comes up with. That is until I met the French. I was aware of the Gallic penchant for guts and offal. No worries, I’ve had hog maw and chitlins.

In conversation this is always a fun topic to bring out when chit-chatting with strangers. On this occasion the conversation naturally settled on differences in national dishes. I was feeling pretty confident and brought out some of my standards such as my experiences with Dorian fruit, chicken feet and barbecued squirrel. We all took our turns regaling each other with bizarre dishes but I knew I was out of my league when the owner of the guesthouse told of the Senegalese dish of meatballs that are spiced with chillis and then buried until they are good and rancid. They are then dug up and fried. Wild animals never disturb these meatballs as they age. She says it is due to the chillis. I thought it was more likely that there are limits to what even a scavenger will put past its canines. By the end of the night I was thoroughly humbled by the fearlessness of the French appetite. In hindsight I should have known better having encountered on a few occasions the breeze the wafts from the Frenchman’s cheese box or in their tongue “la boîte de mort”.

Here's a little dish we had in Paris. Waiter! My ice is infested.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I have lots of ideas. Not many are worth much or will ever become a reality, like my dreams of having a private army. One of my dreams is to open a gay bar called 'Moustache'. I was so happy to pass by this little place near Gare de L'Est in Paris.
Too bad, they were closed. I would have loved a t-shirt.

I am back at my post after my wanderings in France. I'll copy my little journal entries into this blog eventually.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

You know what I like about extreme right wingers. They really believe their crazy shit. I have a hard time imagining some flag waving god-botherer making clandestine contributions to the ACLU. Yet, the same zealot whose ten-foot puppet of a beady eyed Uncle Sam is ready at a moments notice to defend democracy can’t put the bong down long enough to cross the street to the church which is his local polling station. Saving the rain forest is fine as long as it means some poor spic can’t poach logs or shoot an endangered monkey, but to hell with you if it means I can’t take that road trip to Boulder in my polluting gas guzzling truck. There never seems to be much conviction with the left. The only true revolutionaries and do-gooders I ever met wore suits. Blah. Blah. Blah. Whatever. I’m boring myself.

In other news. Here’s the other Dr. J.

In other other news.

World cup is coming! I’m not a dedicated sports fan but its hard not to feel the anticipation as is comes closer and closer. I’m really behind the US team this year as it drives the Europeans nuts when they win at a sport most Americans think is a children’s game. FYI. The US team is in the top ten world ranking

Thursday, May 25, 2006

In the half hour commute to the office I can experience the full spectrum of the human condition. From happiness to sadness.
All over the town advertisments for the local festival were wheat pasted. They showed the smiling visage of Cowboy Joe firing his toy gun. I've come to enjoy running into Cowboy as his cackle and smile never fail to cheer me up. It's good to see the neighbourhood appreciates him as well. I ran into Cowboy and asked him if he knew he was famous. Conversations with Cowboy follow the path he dictates not the course that might naturally flow from each conversants contribution. I don't know if that how it is with all cowboys or just this one. In response he told me I should bundle up, and asked if I was from America. Yes, I said. He told me he has a brother in America and that he likes cowboys and sailors. He gave me a parting cackle and I positioned myself at the nearby bus stop.
Moments later two old men greet each other in front of me.
"How you doing, pal?"1
"I'm in a bad way. I found my old lady dead. Came home to find her on the bed."
"No." The 'o' was drawn out and hung sympathy. "Terrible. I'm sorry."
"Och. I don't want to talk about it." He shut his eyes tight and shook his head. "Here's my bus."

1I tried to transliterate their thick Scottish accents, but its best for us all if you just use your imagination when you read the dialogue.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A few inconsequential observations

Number 1
Garbage trucks smell the same no matter what side of the ocean you are on. You would think that a country's garbage truck smell would reflect the terroir of the local population's refuse, but every garbage truck I unluckily cross on early morning commutes smell the same. It's a unique smell when, or if you want to, think about it. Maybe garbage trucks in Asian smell different. I don't know. Anyone reading this whose had a whiff of Asia's garbage trucks are encouraged to leave comments.

Number 2
Old ladies are crazy for the little dividers they provide at the grocery checkout conveyer to separate your groceries for them. Even if you both only have one item and they are clearly seperated by a foot of space, the little grey head willgrab a divider to introduce between your stuff and hers. I suggest a number of things once they put the divider down, firstly you pick it up and say, "that won't be necessary". It drives them nuts. You could also just put you one of your items on their side of the divider and then give them a wink when they look at you accusingly. If you don't want a direct confrontation with someone's grandma, just crowd all your purchases against the divider. It makes them nervous and figity. It's cute.

Number 3
Do not go out on the streets of Scotland if one of the following have occurred (heaven forbid both occur on the same day): either the national football team loses a match or the movie 'Braveheart' plays on the television. Both make the natives restless and irritable.

That's all for today.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I like that I am considered a 'foreign national'. It makes me sound dangerous and subversive.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I was going to write a little entry about the old man in the coffee shop who was flirting with the waitress. I was going to write a little clever phrase like “with a twinkle in his eye and not a tooth in his head he sang an old French chanson to the smiling waitress”. But, on the way home I saw a rough looking and young man, maybe a junkie, punch and kick an old homeless man I have seen on many occasions. A businessman immediately shouted at the assailant and rushed across the street to intercede. The attacker stopped his kicks and shouted the explanation that the homeless man had stolen his hat. I never saw a hat on either man and assumed he was referring to a previous occurrence. With this explanation and the assault ceased, the businessman looked unsure. We all looked unsure. A dozen people who had come to this intersection with nothing more to think about but waiting for the light to change and to look both ways for errant traffic were all unsure. One man was sure. I hadn’t noticed him in his usual spot where he sits and panhandles with his dog. He’s another young man whose living on the streets had prematurely aged him. He rushed across the street, past the businessman, and made a lunge for the fallen man’s attacker. He and his dog were only just missed by the taxi moving through the crosswalk. The dog was excited and confused at his usually sedentary master’s quick and clearly malicious intentions for the other man. It barked and jumped with frenzy. A half-hearted pursuit began. I didn’t know the full story. I didn’t know who was the bad guy. Maybe the first guy did steal a hat. Maybe not. All I know was I didn’t want to see anything more. No one else seemed to know what to do. The only man of action, the businessman, stood frowning at this newest development. Who knows why I shouted what I did? I don’t remember planning it. It just happened and luckily it produced the correct result.

“Hey! Take care of your dog!” The dog was confused and lagged behind its owner as he threaded through the crowd behind the man that had kicked the first beggar whom still lay motionless on the ground. The owner of the dog momentarily returned focus to his pet and forgot his pursuit. The dog caught up and gave a nervous bark and the man returned to his pursuit, but hopefully that gave the first guy a few seconds extra lead to get away. Who knows if I let the bad guy get away, but a kicking for a stolen hat was enough violence for one day.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I thought this was a nifty little bit of trivia. Imagine someone describing American foreign policy as farsighted these days.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I get a titillating masochistic sensation in my heart when I see the smokers now pushed outside of pubs by legislation pulling sad lonely drags from their cigarettes while they attempt to keep warm. As I make my way home, I keep an eye out for these huddled wretches so I can relish in their misery. Today I got a nice treat. One man stood in the doorway of a pub on his own. He was the twin of Buster Keaton. The po-faced expression. The lanky and floppy limbs. He was even smoking like the silent film comedian. He took long exaggerated drags that sucked his cheeks between his teeth. He then pulled his head back as if avoiding a slap; next he threw his head forward as to spit and blew out great blue-grey billows of smoke. He did this a number of times with his arms rigidly at his sides. He gave a jump of shock when he saw me staring and smiling as I continued down the other side of the street. He grabbed the cigarette between his two forefingers and looked sheepishly in another direction.

More than seeing smokers suffer, I love catching another human in that pure and unreflective state. That wonderful time when our self-consciousness is forgotten and we behave as our true selves. To me that is when a human is the most beautiful. It is usually only when we are alone and without any concerns or care. That it is why it is such a rarity for someone else to witness. I smiled and winked when he caught my gaze. Just a little thanks for having been able to see another as they really are. I hope he has someone to go home to and tell the story of getting caught acting goofy and I hope he tells the story with a laugh and a smile.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Whatever it is, I want two!

Friday, April 28, 2006

I might of mentioned him before but there is a guy that wanders around city centre that walks around blowing quick raspberries to fellow pedestrians. I had been told about him awhile back. He'll be standing at a crosswalk with a crowd of people or in amongst the commuting throng and make a fart noise with his mouth. She said that's all he does, he never speaks, just blows raspberries and she sees him doing it at all times of the day. She mused about the other people's confused looks as they tried to determine the source of the flatulence. Several weeks later, I was walking with my friend when she spotted the Raspberry man. She discretely pointed him out, and when we crossed paths in the intersection I blew a raspberry at him. His reply was, "Good day, sir." and he tipped his hat like a gentleman.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I have just returned from an unsuccessful sojourn into the dark heart of what the natives call Liverpool. I was there for a job interview and it went well until they quizzed me on my Beatles trivia knowledge. I don't know if I was just hyper-attentive but I could have sworn every restaurant I ate at played some track from those four guys. It is a shame I really liked the environment there it. I knew a lot of people at the department and the big boss seemed like a man I could do business with. La vie, C'est comme ca.

Once I was politely told that I interviewed well but the Prudence referred to in the 1968 song was in fact Mia Farrow's sister and the job would go to another, I was free to wander around the city. It's a nice city. Filthy. But nice. My major complaint was that most people seemed intent on taking the piss out of this one regional accent. Every where I went they were speaking in this comical accent. I knew they were not making fun of my accent as when a Brit wants to mimic an American accent they inevitably sound like a Texan with Downs Syndrome. It turns out the accent so ridiculed was their own and they weren't making fun of it. They really talk like that. I couldn't help stare at people in queues and the train station.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I saw Jimmy the drunk today. I have a sneaking suspicion that he may be on the sauce once again. As I sat at the bus stop I saw him cutting a jagged path along the pavement on the other side of the street. He was oblivious to people trying to predict which direction he would veer and plot their course accordingly. Inevitably, he would still nearly topple onto them as if his drunken stagger attracted his body towards others. Sometimes this accidental contact would result in effusive apologies from him other times equally extravagant abuse would ensue. He spotted me and blindly crossed the street, paying no heed to the honking horns or hand gestures. He fell to the bench beside me as if he'd been pushed. You all right, pal? neigh bother, pal. He then told me he had got some work doing security at a warehouse. The boss let him sleep there in exchange for making sure no one got in and made off with any of the stuff inside. But. Turns out the boss was a poof. Now Jimmy's not prejudiced or anything. He keeps himself to himself, see. But, this guy got the wrong idea and when Jimmy rebuffed his advances a scuffle ensued. Jimmy got a black eye in exchange for his honour remaining intact. Then without a segue, Jimmy unsteadily set himself upon his feet and moved off again. The last thing I saw was him sneaking up behind a parked taxi. He bent down behind the cab and sneaked up to crouch below the window of the driver who was happily reading his newspaper. Jimmy then jumped at the window with an exaggerated and ineloquent roar. I could not help laughing with Jimmy as he hurriedly staggered off while the cab driver attempted to regain his composure, undo his seat belt and get out of his cab all at the same time.

Friday, April 14, 2006

I have a habit of polling people about their earliest memory. It is a fascination of mine and it takes only the slightest acquaintance with a person for me to ask this question. As such I have accumulated a number of interesting observations. Women tend to have the earliest recollections. One lady I asked remembered seeing the face of her father peering down at her in her crib and giving her a bottle of milk that had unfortunately gone off. She recalls his confusion and how he attempted a few more times to give her the spoiled drink she kept refusing.

The reason for my fixation is obvious. My first memory is still vivid and terrifying to me. I cannot explain the experience. The few people I have attempted to tell have greeted the story with obstinate disbelief. I quickly learned the futility and am only embolden here becomes of the relative anonymity of this online journal. It matters less that these words are disbelieved because by the time they are read I will have moved on and forgotten them. I’m probably taking a nap or watching people from the bus by the time these words enter your head. That troubles me much less than repeating the experience to another person face-to-face only to have them look at me askance and question the details of the story as if I am trying to sell them stolen goods.

I don’t recall the exact age. I can determine that I must have been between four and five only by connecting the house and yard from my memory to family photographs and discussions with my mom. She also remembers the incident but only that she found her only child lying on the sidewalk in front of the house screaming and hysterical with only a few scratches on his hands but could not discover any comprehensible explanation from the child. “Boy, you gave me a fright. I thought you had been bitten by a snake. I stripped you down and look all over to see where it got you. Nothing. Just you crying and blubbering. You always were a weird child.”

Our neighbourhood was full of miserable old people who lurked behind their curtains in the hope that I may stray upon their lawn and give them excuse to push their face to the glass and hurl abuse at me which were muffled inaudible and only appeared as momentary fog upon the windows. For this reason, I tended to stay in my own yard and played quietly by myself. I was doing just that in this memory. I see from my own childhood eyes playing with a little metal car along the cracks of the sidewalk. My black firebird sped along the cement fissure highway and I was oblivious to all other things. Soon I felt the pressure of the wind like when you put your hand out of the car window. This continued to increase until I started to be afraid. I looked around but nothing else seemed affected by this constant and forceful wind. It was not a natural wind that ebbs and flows in intensity. It continued to gather in strength until I fell to my belly and held onto the sides of the sidewalk. I dug in my hands searching franticly for purchase. Then as if a switch had been thrown, the wind became a roar and I felt my legs begin to lift as if I would be thrown into space if my hands lost their grip. I saw the cloudless blue sky be wiped away to reveal the cold black space. Stars streaked into bright yellow lines. I could no longer see anything but those distant stars streaming past. There was no longer any house. No front porch. No pecan tree. I could not even see the sidewalk that I felt pressed against my tear and sweat streaked cheek. The scream of the wind completely drowned my own howls that tore from my throat. I shut my eyes tight and I began to feel an irregular tug lifting me upward. Something was pulling me away. My fingers started to lose their grip and as they did and I sped upward, it was over.

I opened my eyes to see my mother’s frantic face and watched her pull the screen door open to enter the house.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

There are books I read and reread as the faithful read their scriptures. They and I find it replenishes a momentary deficiency of faith. It reinforces the belief that man is capable of attaining things greater than that which seems possible from these humble organisms our souls inhabit. In times of doubt and uncertainty I know for the believer that providence presents them with the exact passage that best addresses the issue that confronts them. I seem to find the same serendipitous solace in literature. Currently, Ask the Dust by John Fante is providing the answers that I seek. It has given me answers better formed than the questions I have posed. Fante has foresaw my troubles and wrote their solutions down generations earlier and they give me guidance today. Surely this is as divinely inspired as the revelations written thousands of years ago that still give the devout of today peace.

Where I was found wanting, Arturo Bandini has provided. Amen.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"As one judge said to another: 'Be just and if you can't be just, be arbitrary.' " - William S. Burroughs

Sunday, April 02, 2006

He sat leaning against the seat back in front of him. His arm was draped over and you could read the letters of H-A-T-E on each knuckle. Instinctively you look to the other hand to read the punchline, but no L-O-V-E is found there. Did he have no love to match his hate? Or did he simply lack the attention, the time, or the cash to complete the tattoo. The tattoo was old, having become a dull and unfocused green blue. The E was significantly more faded than the other letters, and a cursory glance would be a sufficient excuse for thinking his fingers read 'HAT'. What strange possible explanations you contemplate when considering a man with a fist that read 'hat'. Could it be that whole word or maybe upon the other hand letters completed a term that four fingers alone could not contain. You could have the whole bus ride trying to think of four letter prefixes to H-A-T.

Friday, March 31, 2006

My ambivalent feeling toward children has already been well documented in this journal. I am an only child and have no cousins anywhere near my age. Children are a foreign entity to me. I don’t know how they work. I don’t know how you play with them. Do you taunt them with string like a cat?
So, having a five-year-old girl to baby-sit was a favour I agreed to with great trepidation. The evening though went well enough. First plan of attack was an animated movie. It was an interesting experience to have every scene of a movie explained to you moments before it appeared on the screen. It was an hour and a half of déjà vu. Afterward, I showed her This worked a treat and I was in the home stretch, but then catastrophe struck. She was scared to use the toilet by herself. I suggested that she go in by herself but to talk to me the whole time while I stayed in the living room. This worked well and through the ten minutes we covered such important topics as Mimi1 and a summation of the film we had watch. Then a call came.
“I need some help wiping my bottom,” She said. A wave of fear washed over me. I was not ready for this. I steeled myself and entered the toilet to see this tiny human perched upon the huge toilet who had not only taken her pants down but everything else including her socks were thrown to the floor. She must have read the look of fear on my face. I admitted I had never done this before. She responded by asking, “Don’t you wipe your butt?”
“Yes.” I chuckled.
“Well. You do it the same way,” She informed me with a precocious and knowing tone. “I’ll hold on so I don’t fall off.” She firmly gripped the toilet and put her chest to her knees. I mustered my inner strength and admitted that, from this day forth, if the question came, “Have you ever wiped another person’s ass?” I would not be able to truthfully say no. I unrolled the normal dosage of toilet paper, considered the mass for a moment, and returned to double it. I did this once more for good measure until my arm looked like it was going to a costume party as a Q-tip.
“Ohh. You use a lot of toilet paper like me. Mommy only uses a little bit.” The deed was done, and the little kid looked at me, smiled, and said, “You did good.”
After a quick naked victory dance, she put her clothes back on and returned to kitten war. The only other hiccup was I had no idea how to put her to bed. I suggested that she go to bed and asked if she was tired. The response was negative and when the mother returned at one in the morning, the child was still happily clicking on kitten war.

1) Mimi was clearly the cutest of all cats on kitten war.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A perfect life is an impossibility, but perfect moments do come. I had all the windows open and was cleaning the house while listening to a Charles Mingus CD. I was quite content tidying the house for the gaggle of italians and other sundry foreign nationals that were coming over tonight. When the CD ended I heard two children's voices mimicing the song that just played. They were riding their bicycles in a circle around the Sikh temple's parking lot improvising their own jazz with 'doot-doo doos' and 'dee-dee-dees'. It was a beautiful sight. They just kept going around in a circle singing the saxophone sounds into the empty sky oblivious to everything but their joyful song and their peddling feet. It was perfect.
It would be a sign of mental imbalance if a person bought some test tubes, wore a white lab coat, and started calling himself a scientist. Yet we must endure anyone with an asymmetric haircut calling himself a musician. It takes even less to consider yourself an artist.
I have never wept during a physics lesson or in front of a calculus solution. Scientists and artists share a creative drive that I admire. What the scientists have that artists lack is a metric for evaluation and a more regimented training. There seems to be more of a reverence for their field. Bad science is an aberration to them. It is therefore a shame that it is art that speaks to me more. I must endure the vanity published writers that accost me in equal number to the schizophrenics1. If I had a loaded gun for every writer I met who didn’t like to read, I might only have three guns, but I’d be missing three bullets and the world of literature would be that much richer for it.
One time I rode a horse that doesn’t make me a cowboy. Why would anyone think that an occasional doodle on your days off from the coffee shop makes you an artist? Art is much harder than science in some ways. That lack of methodology is difficult for the everyday creation of art. So, why would anyone think it only takes the occasional dalliance to produce it? It pisses me off to no end to see work publicly displayed that took more effort to hang than produce. Chagall’s common critique is the only one worth producing, “That’s pee-pee”. Further analysis and critique would only bring oneself needlessly a few seconds closer to death with that moment and breath being thoroughly wasted.

1) At least the schizophrenics have multiple personalities to talk about rather than just the dull self-important “buy-my-book” one that writers have.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The memory of a lesson in politics.

'How did politics come up?' I thought to myself trying to stay focused on what she was saying. The full meaning of her words hit my beer addled mind.

"How could you vote for him? He's a fucking monster. If he had his way, you'd would be locked in your home squirting out more little conservatives to go and kill brown people when their oil companies need to maintain 15% profit growth. The only time you would be allowed away from your kitchen would be to go pray at the state funded mega-church with stained glass filled with corperate logos." That was only the beginning of my unstoppable rant that pretty much could have been summed up as "You are a girl, therefore you should have voted for the democrat." Through this diatribe, I failed to notice her expression had changed from engaged conversationalist to one of a person smelling rotten vegetation. Eventually, my lungs and brain exhausted themselves. It was only then that I knew I was going to lose this argument one way or another. There was an exaggerated pause and what came next still makes cringe.

"Who the fuck are you to tell me who to vote for! A woman's right to vote is the right to vote for whoever the fuck you want to. Not who some middle class momma's boy thinks you should because he read an article by Chomsky that week." Then she punched me. A serious right jab to face that had enough muscle to make me see stars and blackness. The next instant, while I held my aching jaw, I saw a very justified and angry girl leaving the bar.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Here's why the internet is okay in my book. It lets you find old friends from your past with great ideas like:

"One of my friends created a game called "Edward 40-Hands." You should try it sometime with your wife: duct tape a 40 oz. bottle of malt liquor to each hand; you can't remove them until you have consumed them!"
The couple I met last night did not speak each other's language. One spoke Slovak. The other, Czech. Yet they still could communicate. There is something romantic and metaphorical about this, and I would hate it to be ruined by someone explaining the differences between the two languages were trivial. Let me keep in my understanding of this world, two human beings share their existences and communicate their humanity in their own language and are still understood by each other. It gives me hope that all those thoughts I fumble out with my own words may be comprehensible to someone else despite the rough hew of our English words and grammar.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A joy, a fear, and an observation

The joy.

The kids around here are little bastards. Cheeky to the extreme. Their antics are usually restricted to setting fire to rubbish bins, yelling and throwing pebbles at each other, and abusing bus drivers. Last night I was crossing the street and saw one little bugger dancing and acting the fool in front of the large windows of the tesco grocery store. He was dancing and sticking out his tongue at the people in the queue inside the shop. As he was doing this a friend of his came behind him and pulled his tracksuit and underwear down to his knees. For an instant he continued to dance before quickly returning his cloths to the nonexposure position. I could not help but laugh out loud. The poor kid was bright pink with embarassment. I sputtered out apologies as I passed him, but was still chuckling.

The fear.

Today, I passed by an office building. At each window there was an employee at his computer. If you put oars at each window, that slave galley could rule the Mediteranian. It reinforced my deepest fear of living out my life chained to a cubicle producing nothing but days closer to death.

An observation.

There is a woman on my bus route who is as horsed face as one can be without hooves. Added to this, she dresses in loud clothes and wears make up too garish for a pre-teen girl. The two attributes in isolation would ruin anyone's looks. An ugly woman dressed plain is just a plain ugly woman. A woman dressed and painted so gaudy would undo any beauty naturally given. Yet, the two in tandom gave her a compelling style. She would have made a great portrait. I would prefer seeintg her in fashion magazines than the pediphillic porn they usually use to slog handbags and shoes.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A couple of friends and I were having coffee at a little shop that served gelato and fancy liquors. Next to our table was a couple. She was tall and elquonat with sharp spanish looking features. One could imagine some aristicatic ancestry. He was all american. He was dressed in the standard uniform of the american jock. Baseball cap, t-shirt, khaki shorts and sandles. We couldn't help eavesdropping on their conversation. They were having a sofistcated conversation about art and culture that compliments overpriced coffee and fancy tarts. All of a sudden you could see he was distracted from the conversation. He watched, with fearful recognition, two other jocks leaping out of a jeep that had just parked. He fumbled to keep hold of the conversation thread with the girl but it was obvious the mirage was about to vanish.

"What's up assface?" The two newcomers chorused. The conversation changed from Camus to kegs and lost the female's participation and any chance the poor boy had with her.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Some woman of the aristocratic persuasion made the comment that the popular role of the upper classes is being replaced with celebrity. Generations ago the tabloids were filled with the tawdry exploits of society's betters. They still make a few inches but they are predominately pushed to the corners by the vulgarities perpetrated by footballers, glamour girls, and actors. This industrial gossip economy seems a necessary part of our society. I suppose we find it reassuring that those blessed unfairly1 do not live a completely charmed life devoid of embarrassment or moral failing.

Generations ago, celebrity and the lottery of one's birth were synonymous. You need only have a grandpa who murdered a king's brother or gave him a horse in a timely situation to live a life of wealth and indolence. This system is no more fair than the present one where being born with a innate ability to kick an animal's bladder into a net or the ability to seduce those bladder kickers warrants the sums or attention they command. So it goes.

However the present system has one important advantage; built in obsolescence. The further back your line of high born relatives go does not diminish one's prestige. This is not so with celebrity. The grandchild of the Earl of Kent still receives considerable respect, but do you think the grandchild of Britney Spears will be doing much more than pumping gas back in Arkansas? Some children of stars have rung fetid drops of celebrity from the corpses of their parents, but thankfully it is a rarity. This is as it should be. Why the hell should we care that someone's ancestor sang that song that goes, "doot doot de de doot"? The strange bit is why we care that someone's great great great grandfather was the best darn face stabber in the king's forces and was rewarded with some nasty backwater of the kingdom.
Maybe it was my uppity upbringing that gives me the notion that respect is earned not willed. I suppose the counter argument could be the allergic reaction to dignity that celebrity engenders. They'll open their houses and bedrooms if it gives them some more print time. It is only a matter of time before we must endure Tom Cruise's hour long colonscopy special. True this is more despicable than the gentry's preference for hushing up embarrasments. Yet, they are not immune to the harpy's call of fame, and the results are equally pathetic.
Once again in the words of the prophet: so it goes.

1) The only deserved blessings are those bestowed upon ourselves, right?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

He carried himself with poise and dignity befitting a member of clergy. He is the tramp I see every morning wearing his stocking cap perched at the crown of his head like a grey woollen mitre. His careful and deliberate alcoholic steps could be confused for the solemn procession of a priest on his way to offer libations to dusty statues. He is the bishop of Leith, and as us wayward souls cram into fetid and humid buses to begin our day; he follows his purposeful path towards what god only knows.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Would Gorden Brown have the cajones to hunt another man? I don't think so. My Vice President can beat up your rough equivalent.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Around the university there is a high concentration of rich idiots. Now, don't get me wrong being rich doesn't make an idiot, but idiots being rich does makes them unbearable. It imbues them with a mistaken sense of entitlement, and an overinflated sense of self importance. For examples try listening to the radio four radio program "You and Yours". The American equivalent are called "frat boys". For examples try listening to our president.

The particular genus of subhumans that plague this city spend most of their days clogging the pavement to chat about skiing holidays like the human cholesterol that they are. Another pastime is to stare mesmerized at their mobile phones to text about 'totty' and 'Zim'. This in itself is inoffensive. The problem is they insist on walking as well and force you to pay attention and stay out of their path. I call Bullshit. Instead, I like to play chicken with the added fun of screaming bloody murder if they still do not notice my presence when we are one to two meters apart. They are cutest when they are confused and frightened. I then smile, say, 'sorry. I didn't see you.' and continue on my way with a pinch of joy in my heart.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

My hero

Real artists know how to take a bullet.

Friday, January 27, 2006

"I have a plan to keep from working." He pauses and the bubbling from the water pipe fills the vacuum.
"Oh yeah. What's that?"
"I'm gonna steal me a baby."
"How's that keeping you from working?"
"Listen, man. Then I'm gonna convince the missus that its hers." A crooked grin and a sideways glance is thrown my direction as he points the remote like a magic wand and switches channels. He continues, "Then while she's sleeping, I'll smear the baby in strawberry jam and put it down her pajamas. She'll wake up. And I'll start screaming about 'It's a miracle. You had a baby! I didn't even know you were pregnant.' It will be awesome. You know how chicks are. She might be dubious at first, but they all like babies. She'll have to continue working but I'll be the modern man and make the sacrifice and stay at home."
"Dude, you're full of shit."
"The best part is since it really isn't my kid I won't be too worried about taking care of it. Easy life, man." Then he laughed to himself as he watched the end of a car commercial.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

It is nice to carry with you a pocket change's worth of a foreign language when traveling. Although I think it polite to make an attempt to speak the language of the country, I am a devout monolinguist as is my American birthright. Luckily most interactions you face as a tourist are commerce based and thus require a limited and easily remembered vocabulary. Despite this I still find myself mentally rehearsing the dialogue as I watch the counter help or waiter make their way to greet me. When they arrive, I uncomfortably sputter my rehearsed line, and pray the native speaker sticks to the expected script otherwise I quickly run and hide behind the default error phrase, "Do you speak English?"

Scotland is nominally an English speaking country, and the speaker of Americanese can move through life here with only the slightest of hiccups. I remember my first cab ride here. The only thing I understood was at some point he talked about football and at another he made fun of the English. I have later learned that most cab rides result in discussions of football, English jokes, or listing the places in America the driver has been. For this reason, though I live in a foriegn country, I never have that foriegn country anxiety except for one situation. Fish and Chip shops. Ordering fish and chips requires knowing tacit and complicated series of protocol steps and code words that the natives understand from birth.

There are regional differences to the combination of sauces and condiments which you must navigate lest you offend the local customs. Edinburgudians take theirs with brown sauce and salt. Vinegar is for soft southerner poofs apparently. I think, I can't remember. Maybe I have that backwards. This is why I still get that foriegner anxiety when ordering. Sometimes I just sheepishly point and pretend to be mute. Small price tp pay for greased stained heaven.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The small pleasures truly do make life worth living. I bought grapefruit last night and as I fell asleep a child's christmas eve anticipation crept into my thoughts of having a grapefruit with honey for breakfast. My childhood homes always had fruit trees. I have wonderful memories of my mom slicing the sections of the fruit, drizzling it in honey, and serving the half fruit in a bowl with a spoon. Maybe it is those fond rememberances of motherly affection that made this morning's grapefruit that much nicer.

This reminds me that I tend to order food in restuarants that sound funny. In france, I always drink pamplemousse juice, and at falafal joints I always get baba ganoush.

Another tangent. "sur le trottoir" is my favourite french phrase, but its not very useful unless you are explaining where to find dog mess in Paris.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I unconsciously rubbed my freshly shaven head as my mother told me about the affliction of her favourite dog. The poor dumb creature was loosing its pretty black fur in golf divot sized clumps. A solution for her slap headed dog and a unique birthday gift for her came to mind. The mass of wavy five-inch jet hair looked like an animal nested at the bottom of the envelope. I also enclosed a glue stick and a note saying:

colour: Midnite Black

1)Apply glue stick liberally to affected area.
2)Press product to glue.
3)Leave to set.
4)Trim to desired length.


I sure hope she likes my present. I have a feeling she'll call me immediately after receiving it. :)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Postmen (mailman) are truly a benign force in the universe. I still get excited when I receive a hand-addressed letter, and there is a simple pleasure to packing and addressing a care package for someone. Stamps are nifty. Postcodes are clever. The global mail system that allows next day delivery is astounding, and postmen are nice people doing a nice thing for society. This is why it is inexplicable that I always have the urge to shout nonsensical abuse towards them. Especially from a speeding car as they walk their route. Zoom. Honk. Honk. “I’ll get you one day. Batman!” Well, it is not entirely inexplicable as the response from the postman is always humorous.

Postmen know they are good people. They aren’t like policemen for whom a certain segment of the population have rather negative opinions of their peacekeeping activities. Even criminals love getting mail. Since they are securely smug about their position as ‘one of the good guys’ they are ill equipped for abuse. Policemen expect a hassle or two and they know how to react when it is encountered. Posties1 can’t handle it. Their reaction is an inevitable look of confusion followed by an exaggerate frown. Imagining that poor postman’s description as he relates the story to his fellow workers after their shift makes me giggle.
“You won’t believe what happened today.” He’ll surely tell the story a few times about the strange man who yelled at him that day. Truthfully, I am doing them a service. It’s like an inoculation. It’s a small amount of abuse that will make them less susceptible to harsher forms of abuse they might be exposed to, and for this altruistic act I get a little chuckle and a pinch of evil joy.

1) ‘Postie’ is a great term of abuse, but make sure you spit it through clenched teeth and a sneer as if their occupation was grave robbing.