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.