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