Tuesday, October 31, 2006
No, it couldn't be. Could it?
Monday, October 30, 2006
Sunday, October 29, 2006
THANKS FOR PARKING SO CLOSE. NEXT TIME LEAVE A FUCKING TIN OPENER SO I CAN GET MY CAR OUT.
Brilliant. Except the car was completely on its own on the hillside, sharing space only with loads of sheets of newspaper blowing around on the grass and into the empty road.
NB I don't think I'll be asterisking swear words anymore. Either I will use them, or I won't. The idea was to stop kids from happening on words they shouldn't see, but very few children would be foxed by the machiavellian substitution of an asterisk between the 'f' and the 'ck' in 'fuck'. And as I recall, I knew all those words by the time I was 5 or 6 years old. I also knew there were places where it was okay to say them, and other places where you might earn a smack for the same. Children aren't as stupid as they look, you know.
This is what has been happening, subtly (if you're not paying full attention), since those planes went into the twin towers in 2001. Government and other enforcers of authority have been using Terror (or "TAIR" as George Bush pronounces it), as an excuse for furthering a right wing political agenda that existed before the Terror and is an extension of their own misanthropic temperament.
The BBC are presenting this story with images of protests by Muslims earlier in the year about the cartoons of the Prophet, but the laws would have applied, equally, to the demonstrations against the war in Iraq, the anti-globalisation protests, the protests outside animal laboratories, the poll tax demonstrations--I would add the miner's strike of 1985 for those with long memories, but the police beat the living shit out of the strikers then anyway: they didn't need phoney new laws to hide behind.
The police are saying that the public perceive their handling of demonstrations to be "unduly lenient." I don't think you'd find an experienced demonstrator who'd say the same thing.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
But anyway. Passing it I reflected on my attempt to embrace Christianity this summer, and I thought: was that really such a wrong turn for me? can the memory of it all be erased and written off as a prolonged moment of madness attributable to depression and close proximity with a powerful Christian woman?
Well, no, I don't think it can. I was attracted to the idea of God a long time before I met her, and now that she's out of my life I still long to discover (but not yet), that there's a Heaven presided over by an omnipotent but loving Father, and that when I get there I'll see my mother again (and maybe Pascale Ogier.) It's an incredibly seductive thought.
It's just that however much I'd like there to be a God, the religion that's been established in His name just has too many bloody rules for me. I can't help swearing, I like to drink, I insist on having sex before I get married (just once more, God, I beg you) , I don't believe it would matter to a divine being where you put your penis as long as the other person was happy about it too--you get the picture. Trying to become a Christian was like walking inside a suit of armour. I felt protected, but I could barely f***ing move.
But it's not just Christianity, it's religion in general. I could never be a good Buddhist either, though if anything I'm even more attracted to that. Why? Because I don't have the patience to meditate.
I'm just not cut out to be a holy, despite leaning in that direction. I'm a grumpy, undisciplined, mentally unstable, potty-mouthed sonofabitch, and the sooner I accept that the better. Not only for me but for eveybody else as well, so they don't have to be stunned like she was when the mask of holiness slips and the true me comes spitting and snarling out like the Tazmanian Devil in the cartoons.
I've actually been doing some interesting things. Had a trip to London on Thursday and that produced an essay I'm still working on called AMONG THE SAVAGES OF HACKNEY.
I've also been working on, and finally producing, a new Beat-related page to take the place of THE BEAT. I was having so many problems posting over there: sometimes I would write a long post and lose it the moment I pressed "publish." Which is a waste of my time and creatively maddening. So THE BEAT has come to Blogger under the new name WHOLLY COMMUNION and features, today, the continuation of my campaign to get Nicosia's MEMORY BABE back into print. Find the site at http://whollycommunion.blogspot.com
In the last few days I've also been having conversations with my friends at the Underground Literary Alliance (see link on the right of the page). I'll tell you more about those soon.
And lastly, to bring you up to date, I've been unfaithful to Blogger and playing around with my MySpace page. What can I tell you? You get addicted. That site is at http://www.myspace.com/deathrowdog. So that's where I've been. But now I'm back. Do I hear a hooray?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
"in my country, this
music is for old people."
he likes something
with a pop inflection
those western beats,
they must be overlaid.
i say, "george harrison
established, ragas are
for tripping to.
smoke one and listen."
he demurs. that boyish
grin the women
seem to like so much.
he leaning west, me
(i?) leaning somewhat
to the east
yet both of us
of countries we
could never truly leave.
he says, "i feel
like people think
i am a terrorist
when i go into
a pub alone."
his face saddens
for a moment,
then he manufactures
a smile from
the memory of ages
while the raga
builds and builds.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
But it's a pleasant enough confection, still, and artful in its own pedestrian way.
Monday, October 23, 2006
I didn't like all the singing either. I know the film came from a stage play, but the falseness of its original form kept intruding on the reality of the cinematic presentation and reminding you that you weren't looking in on another world, you were just watching something someone had written, something people were acting.
But what do I know? Knocking Alan Bennett in this country is almost equivalent to spray-painting a statue of Churchill.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
And here she comes. Not necessarily cold and calculating, but definitely determined, a survivor, whose victories have been earned with her looks and the charm she has a knack for projecting. She has to maintain the image of herself as doll-like because that is what has seen her through. She knows this on some level and it makes her angry, angry at the misrepresentation of her true soul. But she has to force the anger down because anger doesn't belong in the doll.
Does she know what is real and what is the doll? Is the real itself a doll? She subsumes her doubt in the belief in higher causes.
Here is the ultimate opportunity for survival. Here is the ultimate role for the doll: to save the old man being strangled by grief. So she hurls herself at him until he gives in and agrees to fall in love with her.
But she cannot rid him of his sadness. The fantasy of the doll that is so sustaining for her is seen to be failing. All the while she tries to heal him with her princess grace, he is dreaming of another woman lives ago, writing symphonies in her memory. Her rage becomes explosive because his sadness is a refutation of the lie that she is built upon.
The love can't last because by being true to grief and immune to the healing charms of the doll, he has rejected her existence.
And when it breaks up, no longer surrounded by her desperate need to be confirmed by saving him, he returns to who he was. Strangely, some of the grief has gone. She recreates the broken doll by telling everyone that he mistreated her, poor unworldly innocent she was, so acted-on.
The whole affair is talked about for twenty minutes, but it leaves a sour taste with those who believe, and disbelieve. Everybody lines up according to their prejudice, but no one has any stomach for it.
When the next love story comes along it is jumped on with extreme relief.
Then don't write a confessional blog, children (perhaps you've reached that wise conclusion without me.)
Someone said a poem is a graph of the mind moving. So's a confessional blog. The problem is that every movement of your mind is recorded, however stupid it might be, however much you might pass through that to a position that contradicts it completely.
Which is the same progression made by everybody's mind. But for most people the twists and turns and little nuances of each transformation are lost. All they are left with is the overarching memory of an event based on whatever mental orientation they have at the moment they consider it.
That's a much more comfortable position to be in, boys, I can tell you.
Of course, even portraying yourself as a complete fool doesn't matter when your relationship with the reader is the usual anonymous one. But when you're standing face to face with somebody and they're quoting your own words back at you--and you are just as aware as they are of how ridiculous the words sound--it's a different matter. The embarrassment, though you may deserve to suffer some embarrassment, is extraordinary. As is the defensive irritation you experience because they are able, with the obscuration of distance, to portray themselves in a much better light.
The writer of confessional blogs throws his clothes into the lake and stands naked in the daylight like a fool.
Friday, October 20, 2006
This is a hopeful sign for America. It is such an act of impotent desperation on the part of the Republicans to adopt these disreputable, sleazy tactics to defeat their (slightly) more liberal counterparts, it demonstrates beyond any doubt that the cause has been lost: these crazed evangelical dunces have lost the puritanical new white world they were trying to build, and in their grief they have turned in on themselves like murderers. But my God, suppose for a minute that these tactics work, and just enough voters fall for it to return just enough Republicans to keep a degree of power in the conservative camp? What choice to the Democrats have then but to climb down into the slimey pit and start doctoring photos to show George Bush having sex with animals?
Thursday, October 19, 2006
The minority who knew just looked at each other when she said it, and smirked. Some of the others ended up saying TRIBUNERAL themselves.
For some reason I find myself remembering that woman tonight. She had a talent for shit-stirring, and when the shit started flying, she would step into the background and watch me take it full in the face.
Society seems to be divided up sometimes between creators and destroyers. Those who nurture and those who tear apart. And everybody thinks they create and nurture. Nobody believes they tear apart and destroy.
The one thing that's different about me is, I never know.
940 1/2 W.Van Patten Ave
If the'd come to me I could've told them in 2002 that this'd be the way it panned out. I was predicting a turgid, drawn-out campaign whose main cost would be paid by innocent Iraqis even then. Me and several million other English people.
It's had some interesting side effects, though, this defining catastrophe of our time. I was talking to some poets and guitar players last night about the cultural renaissance of the last few years, which has happened in Britain and the U.S. (I don't know about anywhere else--perhaps readers can enlighten me), and contrasting it with (or should that be 'to'?) how shut-down and shitty and conservative everything was in the 80s. The average man or woman's still doing what they always did, but just under the surface there's a million great musicians, poets, freaks, all ploughing an expressive, individualistic furrow and pumping the arts and intellectual life full of energy. And though it's been coming progressively SINCE the end of the 80s, I think the war and the subsequent occupation is what really unlocked the renaissance. I could be wrong, but I doubt I am! The war showed those running our countries (who, let's not forget, are nominally at different ends of the political spectrum), as they really are, and not as they like to pretend to be in more peaceful times. You can forget who the merchants of death and cant and hypocrisy are when the worst they're doing is rationalising hospital closures or bullying the unions (well, you can if you're a jackass); but when they're on tv in their suits lying to justify invasion and occupation of a sovereign country--with all the attendant carnage--they are revealed in their monstrous selves. And that helps people understand the true, oppressive, vicious nature of the system we are living in. You don't want to be a part of that do you kids?
"The Reactor hath hid himself thro envy. I behold him. But you cannot behold him till he be revealed in his System," as Blake says in Jerusalem.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
stuck thru' my heart--
but coated thick
with dripping honey:
a snatch of highway
star heard on the telly--.
it brought back
wild drives with you
in the lovely rustbucket
your car was then--
that song playing so
loud it hurt my ears--.
it brought so much back
with such clarity:
the landscape flashing by,
the smell of cigarettes--.
us always heading to
or from a pub--
the thrill of being
with someone beautiful
in casual danger,
all my senses reeling--.
since you, it's
never been the same--.
Anyway, I checked my emails this morning, as I habitually do (about 20 times a day), and found that I had a friend request from Jack Kerouac. Hmm. A clever screen name, I presumed, but I clicked on the link in the email to investigate and was taken to a site set up as if by the man himself as a showcase for his writing. By whom? Well, no clue, but I would presume the Estate have a hand in it, or his publisher. We are expecting the release of the "unexpurgated" copy of On The Road sometime soon, after all.
How'd they find me? Well, I'm an internet whore, of course. You could probably find out the size underwear I buy by googling diligently (except I tend not to wear any). I left a bulletin on one of the MySpace Kerouac groups alerting readers to the existence of my site "The Beat", too. If the Estate is running the new Jack site and they read "The Beat" my status as a friend of Kerouac (obviously I approved their request), will probably be rescinded fairly quickly, as I have strongly promoted the causes of their two least favourite people, Jack's daughter Jan and his best biographer Gerald Nicosia.
It will be interesting to see what happens. But at the moment peace reigns, and on the site Jack is listed as having 4 friends: Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, William Burroughs and Bruce Hodder.
I don't think I've ever been in better company.
Monday, October 16, 2006
William also wins the award for the beatest submission in Blue Fred history, with one powerful poem typed and tippexed on the back of a Royal Mail form letter about commemorative stamps with a cellotaped extra inch and a half of paper at the bottom (to make room for the last lines of the poem), that seems to have been some kind of Czech spread sheet in a previous life. I don't mention this to embarrass him; it's a really fantastic document for anybody weaned on the Beats, as perfect a symbol of the beat aesthetic as the Kerouac scroll, or Leroi Jones note to Ginsberg written on toilet paper.
Geoff, take a bow, sir. You are an artist as well as a poet.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
But I digress. Have a look at the site and feel the warm echo of the ancient wisdom that China is trying to destroy.
11a Penryn Street
ISBN 0-9551878-4-2 £6.99 plus £1.50 p&p U.K./ $12 plus $3.00 p&p US
if you believe you're a poet, then you're saved ~ Gregory Corso
The title of this beat-themed collection of poetry by Les Merton tells you what you need to know. Les wrote it because Bryn Fortey put out the late and lamented magazine "Outlaw", which despite its basic stapled-&-folded A4 presentation, immediately became the best post-beat/ experimental publication on the market, and remained so for the two or three years it survived. Bryn showed everyone the way, and Les honours the way here with 52 poems that might have made the pages of "Outlaw". And some of them, to be fair, probably did.
But it's not just a consciously aimed tribute. You couldn't put over these poems about murder, strikers, the homeless, prostitutes, beat heroes, musicians, and wanderers if you didn't feel it. Les travels back and forth in time, visiting the 1940s when the beat sensibility was first given a name (though it must have always been there), the 50s when their fame--and notoriety--influenced a new generation, through the 60s to these modern times when the sensibility has collided with the unyielding harshness of everyday experience and adapted itself into what Merton calls "beat reality": ...an echo of the ancients/ the observation of today/ and the soul of tomorrow (as he defines it in the last poem in the collection). Those Beats are battered but still dreaming, and their dream is what gives heart to modern life and hope to our common future.
He may well be right, too. If the future is left to the politicians and the businessmen we'll end up uneducated, unfeeling automatons who exist only to keep the economy buoyant by shopping.
Technical observations about poetry tend to read rather drily in reviews, but if you haven't read Merton before, first) a pox on you, and second) the style would be loosely defined as free verse, as you'd imagine in a collection inspired by the Beats. But Les is not given to imitations of Kerouac or Ginsberg. His lines are short, his language eschews the falsely poetic and he does particularly interesting things with the rhythm. Whether that's a conscious thing or not I don't know, but he does. After I read the book I found myself experimenting with the music of my own lines much more than I would normally.
The collection comes with a companion cd by Les called "beat reality". You can currently get a copy of the cd for £6 plus £1.50 p & p in the UK, and $12 plus $3.00 p & p in the US.
When we left the last show to go to the car Ruth was there, only fifty pounds heavier than she is in real life. And someone else was sitting in one of the seats in the limo. I knew she was part of the tour, but I didn't know what she did. She looked like the woman who sold her babies to Michael Jackson. I was wondering how I could pleasantly throw her out of the car so we could get going, and then I woke up.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
But I shook off the sense of certainty I had that she'd be there, and went in for a cup of coffee.
Sure enough, she was there, in a tight little group with three or four people who knew us both, and knew what had happened (at least from what she'd told them: I hadn't been around, so I hadn't had the chance to justify myself). The others all said hello, but she didn't speak. I didn't either.
I got a coffee, and sat down at a different table. Took out the Edward Abbey book in my pack.
"Have you fallen out with us?" one person asked, trying to be jolly.
"No," I said.
At the same time she invited me to come over. My voice cancelled out hers and she didn't repeat the invitation.
A guy went over and joined their group. He sat down next to her and they started talking. Seemed they were having a lot of laughs. Well, good for them.
Once she came past with another of our mutual friends. That one grinned at me nervously as they passed. She was blushing too. She was carrying a can of Deep Heat. She called back to the people at the table: "I'm going to spray her back. She's having a spasm."
They came back. More talk and laughter.
I drank my coffee. I was going to leave: hearing her doing her act on the new guy on the block was making me want to puke. Homecomings ought to be better than this. But then someone else I knew came in. Another friend of us both.
He came to my table, sat down and talked a while. Mostly about his kids, and work. I had worked at the same place a thousand years ago, before I got so old and tired. I rubbed the grey beard on my face and listened.
I got coffee for us both. I was glad of the company, despite having nothing to say.
As I bought it to the table he leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially: "I've just realised who else is here." Then he straightened up and waved to them at the other table. "Hello, I didn't see you all there."
The people at the other table were getting louder. They got up to go and play a game, the one where you knock pins over with cheeses. She went with them and stood against the wall. It was her back. She couldn't overtax herself because of her back.
Whenever anybody said something funny she laughed the loudest. Whenever anybody sneezed she said, "Bless you" before someone else could, as if it were a race. Her voice offering comments and suggestions was the voice of a hundred late night conversations, a thousand promises made in another country many lifetimes ago. I looked at her a couple of times but when our eyes met she looked away.
"Dean, you throw like a girl," she would say straight away, to the other guy.
At the bottom of the second cup of coffee it tasted like drain water. I winced and pushed my cup to the middle of the table. I put my Edward Abbey in my bag. I had to get out of here.
My old friend and I wished each other well, but made no arrangements to reconnect.
I left without saying goodbye to anyone in the other group.
Outside the fog was still heavy, obscuring everything more than a few metres ahead. It was getting towards lunchtime, but the pubs and shops I passed looked spooky with only their lower floors visible and the rest taking shape as you drew near them. The traffic choked the roads.
I didn't know where I was going, so I just walked. As I always do I walked towards the first green space I saw and sat down on a wet park bench, underneath a dripping winter tree.
I took my phone out of my pack. I had hoped to find a message from her there lamenting the stupidity of what just happened. There was nothing. I considered sending one to her. But no. I did that a few days after the split and she'd ignored it. The second time I did it she responded: "Do not text me."
Instead I sent a text to my friend." That was weird. I was glad to see you there."
Then I smoked another cigarette. Moments later he responded. "It must have been uncomfortable for both of you."
I put my phone away. Maybe true, but I was through trying to understand the other person's position. All that led to was me taking responsibility for things that weren't my fault. It takes two to make a war, baby.
Taking my phone back out again, I deleted both her numbers. Then I secured my pack, got up off the bench and turned back to the road. There were bed-and-breakfasts all over town, but the majority were pretty close to here, if my failing memory served. I had a little bit of money and just enough of the middle-class kid about me to persuade a respectable landlady despite my raggedy appearance.
It was time to find a place for me to sleep tonight.
Lovely. When I was at school (1976-1981) the show was revered, particularly by the older boys, who went around obsessively quoting their favourite Python sketches, frequently mimicking the voices as well. (He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy.)
Python was hilarious, and it was radical. But now, to me, it just looks twee and outdated. God, I'm A Lumberjack? Again? Really??
Maybe I've just seen it too many times. I'm not interested in convincing people I know what's contemporary, but that looks as old now as Arthur Askey and Tommy Trinder looked to me when Python were current.
Spike Milligan's contemporaneous shows have some outdated comic archetypes and set pieces, but his anarchy remains unsurpassed by new generations of comedians. Of course, no one since has had quite as many bats loose in their personal belfry as dear old demented Spike.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Well, fantastic! One man associated with the occupation of Iraq who can look at himself in the mirror. How unlike the view of Gordon Brown painted by David Blunkett in the transcriptions of his private tapes recorded as the invasion and the war were getting underway. Blunkett claims that Tony Blair told the Chancellor he would sack him if Brown, who had reservations about the Government's Iraq policy, didn't publically back the invasion. Brown, of course, did as he was alledgedly told.
In modern life you are so rarely able to speak your mind. Or you don't feel able. Most bosses in any institution like to believe their rule is democratic. But there is always the hidden understanding that speaking out is a sign of difficulty in an individual, a sign that he is some kind of malcontent who carries the rotten smell of the outsider. Speak your true mind anywhere in the modern world, other than perhaps on the internet, and you are squashed like a bug.
But a man of real integrity doesn't care what happens when he speaks his mind, because his message is more important to him than working the percentages.
Blair, I understand, is now saying that he actually agrees with the head of the Army (okay, yes, I've forgotten his name!) A truly puke-making piece of Blairite spin being attempted there: yes, we do exacerbate it, but only we, at this stage, can resolve the problem we are contributing to (it'll go something like that). But how long can the Army guy last in his job? How long will it be before his fatal car crash on a rainy night coming back from a private function?
How long before he retires ro spend more time with his family?
Sometimes I'm like that with the entire world.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I don't know. I'm no authority--I don't have a cool bone in my body--but nothing seems less cool to me than anything you have to spend a lot of money on. I'm not a big fan of anything that relies on consensus either, even if it's the consensus of a snobbish elite, as it tends to be with the hipper end of fashion.
"Cool" to me is about the assertion of your personal sensibility, your individual mind, over the crowd. So Hitler was cool? No! because Hitler ran with the mob, like all racists and bigots and homophobes. All of his thinking, despite the not unimportant fact that it was brutish and ugly, relied on the old lies and unexamined prejudice and uneducated bullshit of the centuries. As Sartre points out, if you accept that you are individually responsible for the state of the world, you'll make nice and try to clean it up a little.
Death or glory individualism--that's cool. So, who?
Lee "Scratch" Perry.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
We have gone into a country held together by fear and liberated it to be ripped apart by murder. What a sterling job the forces of democracy are doing in the world. We've now f*cked it up so comprehensively in Iraq, ironically, that we may have to stay there to prevent a disaster from becoming a catastrophe.
It's terrifying, given what Bush and Blair have done in Iraq, that Bush at least is now rattling his cutlass in the direction of North Korea, as well as the bullish Iran. And his rhetoric, at least, is becoming downright thuggish as he addresses the issue of North Korea's nuclear testing, where prior to the Iraq invasion he only displayed slightly psychotic religious zeal. Before he's finished he will have pushed us all towards Armaggedon (is that how it's spelled, George?)
How, you might wonder, can the most unpopular American president (in his own country) since Nixon get away with it? How did Tony Blair mount and maintain an invasion of a sovereign power when the vast majority of the British population didn't support it? Representative democracy, my friends. There might be an M.P. who speaks for Wellingborough in the House of Commons, but he certainly doesn't speak for me.
Does your Congressman or Senator speak for you? Does that Republican speak for as many people, in his state, as the Democrat in the next state along speaks for his?
listening to the heating
hum and bubble.
then startled back
in, in to face
the usual array
of yakking bipeds.
across the trees
is to water.
And in spite of the fascinating and eventful journey I've been on, I'm bored to tears, almost. Perhaps on my break I will arrange to have myself fired from a giant catapult from the top of the London Eye so I can stop feeling as if I've done everything it's possible to do at least ten times.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
There was probably an element of truth in everything she said when she started blackening my name all over town. I do have violent mood swings, and I did become over dependent on her. I could give you reasons for that but a fact is a fact, whatever creates it. Towards the end when I was getting very depressed I must have felt like an iron ball chained around her ankle. I was also attracted to her. She knew it and I knew it. She just read more into it than there was, and then exaggerated it rather dramatically for her audience (like I've never done that). But she wasn't a fantasist who plucked the idea out of nothing.
It's time to dispense with the bullshit and get to the reality. I'm sad about what happened even if I'm glad I came back to myself, eventually. But there's nothing I can do about it now. So move on. Another strange chapter, done.
Monday, October 09, 2006
I don't know why I went through such a wholesale change. It just seemed that everything I had assumed about the past was a lie, and once I had lost the notion of myself as belonging anywhere other than at my job, the outer trappings of the bohemian life (to quote a poem of mine), no longer had any meaning. I looked at myself in the mirror and just saw a slob.
I had submitted to some kind of hypnosis in my efforts to defeat the depression and loneliness that were squashing me flatter than chewing gum on the pavement. I look back on the period now rather as you'd look back on being happily stoned. And I was happy, until the hallucinations became hellish in nature and I went completely off the rails.
I don't blame the Christian for any of this. I have done many ridiculous things while under the influence of powerful women in the past. It is a pattern of behaviour that goes back years. Though I don't think I've ever lost myself as comprehensively as I did with her.
The reason I mention all this now is that I looked in the mirror this morning and saw an unshaven, shaggy-haired t-shirt-wearing poet glaring back at me, and I liked what I saw. I still wonder how many chances at happiness I am kissing off by presenting myself in a way that most women seem to find unsavoury, but what the hell. I can't judge everybody by the conservative tastes of Northamptonshire care workers.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
That we never will undo
I know you're sorry
I'm sorry too
~ Bob Dylan "Mississippi"
The above-quoted Mr. Zimmerman, an authority on most things in my book, said looking for happiness was "a yuppie concept"--like, in my interpretation of his words, the belief that you would eventually have the perfect car or a salary befitting your brilliance. According to Bob, we should just carry on with whatever we have to do and accept whatever degree of pain or pleasure comes our way.
This isn't an easy attitude to foster in yourself, but it makes sense. Certainly my own sadness or depression,whatever you want to call it--perhaps we shouldn't give our moods clinical names quite so easily--comes a lot of the time from remembering how things used to be, or imagining how they could be.
The only problem I really have with the way things actually are is that I don't have enough female company. But getting bugged about it isn't going to help, and seeking out some mockery of the sort of female company I want isn't going to help either. I've been down that road before. It just makes you feel more alienated.
Yesterday I lay on my couch (the beat philosopher's throne), and wondered how many years of my life I'd spent in the same position on other couches and beds in other places waiting for enough understanding to dawn on me so I didn't wreck whatever shot at happiness I might have one day. I am not old yet but I'm nearly there. With this beard hair growing on my face I look about 60. Someday soon time's just going to run out.
But what can you do? As my Uncle Richard said at my mother's funeral Nothing works. In the light of that are you going to spend your short life mourning the shortness of your life?
Saturday, October 07, 2006
I was talking to this Christian man, the whitest of whited sepulchres he (like almost every Christian I know), and I told him, "I would like to believe in God but I can't."
"It's not a question of believing or not believing in God, He exists outside of your struggles with your own conscience and morality. If you don't accept Him into your life and repent your sins, you will be going to Hell."
"I want to go to Hell," I said. "It will be warmer and there'll be better music playing, and I want to see my friends and family who've gone there before me."
"You think your friends and family are going to Hell?"
"Well, if they don't at least I'll get to hang out with Keith Richards. But wait a moment, I thought you said God was a forgiving God?"
"He is a forgiving God. He forgives you all your sins."
"Then why won't he forgive me for not believing in Him and let me into Heaven? Isn't He being rather petulent?"
"If you make statements like that, you will certainly go to Hell."
" 'Well, here we are, in trouble again,'" I said, quoting Norman Mailer when he requested to take a giant spliff with him to his desert island on Desert Island Discs back in the Seventies.
And while we're examining theological matters--forgive me, these questions have been piling up since my erstwhile Christian friend first gave me a Bible to read--what's prayer all about? How does that work? Leonard Woolf asks these questions in his 1962 autobiography Sowing, which I just finished reading today. Does God only do nice things for people who ask Him nicely? How paternalistic is that? Will He sit back and watch one person's life go to Hell in a handbasket because that person doesn't ask Him to fix it, while bestowing all sorts of good things on the person next door, who may be vastly less deserving but just happens to know the formula for divine petition? Surely a loving, forgiving God would do more for the person who is distressed and lost than the smug and selfish saved ones who keep asking for more and more on top of the already considerable gift of eternal salvation? What does He want, proof of your love and credulity? A stroke of the celestial ego?
I'm sorry if these questions seem irreverent or offensive to anyone (well, I'm not really: I have to stop pretending I'm not an arrogant tosser, it irritates people so much when the truth comes out), but something in all this Christian blather just doesn't fit. That's why I fell out of grace with the Christian woman and ended up back on my couch with a bottle of beer in the shadow of a large wooden Buddha cursing the fates for the absurdity of human existence.
I'd be pleased to hear from anyone who can untie these theological knots, but please, no more threats of an eternity of Hellfire. It has as much impact on a dedicated sinner as Supernanny threatening to place a psychotic child in the naughty corner.
If I'd only known I was gonna live this long/ I might have took better care of myself ~ Waylon Jennings
We hear a lot about Johnny Cash these days, and rightly, but when it comes to pure outlawry and black-assed cool in the swampy lands that lie between country and rock even Cash looked like an amateur next to Waylon Jennings. And yet outside of country music circles Waylon seems to have been all but forgotten. When his son Shooter appeared, playing Waylon, in Walk The Line, I was almost jumping up and down in my seat, but the people I was watching the movie with had no idea who he was supposed to be. I tried to explain, but what the hell. Cash has the public imagination now. And no one would begrudge him his reputation less than lifelong friend Waylon.
This is who he was. A beautiful singer with a distinctive baritone that swung between a wail and a growl. A great guitar player who'd served his apprenticeship in Buddy Holly's post-Crickets band in the late Fifties, just before the fatal plane crash (he was on the last tour and gave up his seat on the plane to J.P.Richardson, the Big Bopper, because Richardson was too heavy to be comfortable on the tour bus). And Waylon was one of country music's great individualists --hence his inclusion in this new series of S.P. profiles. Determined to make music his own way after a series of unsuccessful records in the late Sixties, he went over the heads of the Nashville producers and record executives who controlled every aspect of an artist's career in those days (and probably still do), and did a financially perilous deal with their bosses in New York, under the terms of which he underwrote the cost of producing his own albums on the condition that he could choose his own producer, his own musicians and pick his own songs. The New York execs agreed, and the albums that followed, blending country and rock stylings, incorporating a rock sensibility into lyrics written by younger, realer songwriters like Billy Joe Shaver, broke all records for country music sales and redefined the possibilities of the medium. Waylon even had a stab at songwriting himself in these heady creative days, and when he did he was as good as anybody. His song Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way? linked, correctly, the new long-haired rebels like himself--soon to be termed "outlaws" by the media, though Waylon never liked to be called an outlaw--with the symbolic father of country music Hank Williams, and seemed to be a kind of musical call to arms for all those young enough and daring enough to sweep away the over-moneyed, cynical, unmusical country Establishment: Rhinestone suits and new shiney cars he sings. It's been the same way for years/ We need a change. (You can still feel the sting of that sentiment thirty years on.)
Willie Nelson said once that Waylon disliked the "outlaw" label because for him it was a little too close to the truth. As Walk The Line shows, Waylon had had a capacious drug habit that predated by at least a decade his arrival on the scene as the Daddy of the Outlaws, and once he became a national media figure with a succession of era-defining albums the attention paid to him by the police became intolerable. So of course he wrote about it, and in doing so became more glamorous as a figure of rebellion among the young and the disenfranchised and the terminally different, which of course drew more attention from the police. We were wrapped up in our music/ That's why we never saw/ The cars pull up, the boys get out/ And the room fill up with Law he sings on the splendidly titled Don't Y'All Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out Of Hand.
But eventually he slowed down, as even the biggest lunatics must. And when he slowed down his music lost some of its fire, despite a late resurgence, a few years before Waylon's death, in an album produced by the ubiquitous Don Was.
In Waylon's later years, there seems little evidence, tellingly, of the kind of Born Again spiritual rescue and recanting that made Johnny Cash's work so uninteresting in the Seventies and Eighties. Waylon did quit snorting his money up his nose, but I remember at least one interview where he said it was for the love of his family, rather than out of fear for his own health or his eternal soul. And I for one prefer that. The drug problem, as it is rather puritanically known, will never be beaten until those who wish to beat it acknowledge that getting stoned is fun (and, I would venture to add, a hell of a lot more fun than most of the things they offer as an alternative, like work and duty and two weeks in Spain a year etc. etc. etc.) It's just that eventually, like everything enjoyable, drugs will kill you.
Any cultural amnesiacs who would like to explore Waylon's work might want to start with the Honky Tonk Heroes album and go from there, though anything from Ladies Love Outlaws up to his rather regrettable, financially-motivated participation in The Dukes of Hazzard contains lots of treasures on the wilder side of American music and sentiment. You can cross refer to Willie Nelson's brilliant, and slightly more cerebral, ouevre to get a broader view of the era.
My interest, to some extent, lies in how the internet can help a writer or poet circumvent the usual system of having to rely on other people publishing him or her to get work out to the audience--if there is an audience for poetry beyond the closed circle of those who write it, which I doubt. The web has, after all, dramatically changed how the music business works. Why shouldn't it have its impact on poetry? And I've got none of the romance many poets have about "keeping your work in the mail," or however Bukowski put it. I've had some success with that--not enough--but I tend not to believe the success any more than I believe the failure.
As for My Space, I'm not convinced it is any better, as a format for showcasing your writing, than Blogger, despite the fact that it is perceived as being vastly cooler and more modern. None of the free services are, unless you have the technical expertise of Domestic Empire over at John Peel Everyday and know how to adapt the site to your purposes. I am a technical idiot, as I have said here before. The last time I tried to rewrite the code for this page I wiped several months of writing.
You can locate my new site, if you have a spare moment, at:
Friday, October 06, 2006
My insomnia is sporadic, but when it hits it's severe. Two nights ago I slept for maybe three hours in total. Took me more than an hour to get to sleep in the first place and then I kept waking up every 45 minutes to an hour and laying awake for long periods increasingly frustrated by inability to get back to sleep. At those times each tick of the clock on the wall sounded like a little bomb going off in my brain.
I don't know why I can't sleep. I have too much that I am annoyed by, upset by, doubtful about--that's probably it. There are too many questions, and on some level I'm always working away at them, trying to get an answer. Which sounds incredibly stupid, but you don't do it because you want to. It makes you feel awful the following day: sick (in the sense of vomit), forgetful, cranky (just ask the people I work with)...everything becomes a trial.
Still, if life were easy it wouldn't be any fun, right?
Thursday, October 05, 2006
I put all of my spare change into a Coinstar machine in Sainsburys the other day and used the paper money I redeemed to buy the dvd box set of "My Name Is Earl", my favourite tv show. Since then I've been watching an episode a day.
If S.P. readers have never seen "My Name Is Earl" they should try it. It's about a guy who decides to make up for all of the wrong he's done in his life by writing a list of all his misdeeds, and rectifying each of them one by one. I'm just trying to be a better person. My name is Earl, he says at the beginning of each episode.
That scenario, in other hands, could destroy a show before it even got started: thank God Michael Landon didn't hear about it first. But somehow in the hands of Greg Garcia and Jason Lee (Earl), it becomes the most politically incorrect show ever made--packed with jokes about colour, disability, religion, and whatever else you would have expected to be off limits to writers in our new puritanical age. I love it.
I've toyed with the idea of righting all of my wrongs, like Earl, in the name of a better life. But where to start, eh? And it's such a question of nuance. My fault/ your fault? It depends on the day for me. I would like to be a better person. But I'd like it a bit more if the rest of you would be better people.
Is that too much to ask?
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
For those of you with short memories, the man pictured in the previous post is Sam Peckinpah, an American movie director from the Sixties and Seventies responsible for three films I love--Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, Junior Bonner and Convoy. He was a legend in his own lifetime ( and I can say that about Sam without fear of contradiction), partly because of the degree of violence supposed to be in his films, and partly because of the slow-motion technique he used to depict the violence: at the key moment in any scene, when fist connects with chin or bullet enters belly, everything slows down in a Peckinpah movie, so that the collapse over a table or the tumble through a window can be viewed in exaggerated detail.Audiences loved it.
Those with greater knowledge of the movie business and the machinations of Hollywood celebrated or reviled Sam as someone who stood outside the system--a ferocious, unpredictable drunk who clashed relentlessly with the money men financing his pictures because he was determined to make them his way. Sam was no respecter of power, and ultimately his inability to kiss the corporate posterior dramatically affected his career. But that's the way it is when you're a genuine outsider.
Without getting too pretentious (like I can resist), it's the philosophical content of Peckinpah's work that survives. Sam's best work is all about the same thing: what it means to be a free thinker in a shrinking world. Focussed by his abhorrence at the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, Sam viewed the modern world as a place in which the majority of people were content to abandon their own individual personality and conscience to the mentality of the group, the town, the nation. But Sam's heroes, like the man himself, can't do that. And the movies tell us what becomes of them. Invariably, because the conformist mentality is as vicious as it is superficial, the outsider dies. And if anybody reading Suffolk Punch wants to argue with that thesis I'd be glad to hear from them.
My own separate thesis is that Sam belonged to a generation of men. Laugh if you will, but I believe it. Iron hard, relentlessly and perversely individualistic, with a philosophical depth that can only be found in those who swim their own way, they look like mythological giants compared to the whiners and weepers and fanatical bathers and skin moisturisers who have come along in the decades since. Look at Sam and his bretheren--more of whom in other posts--and you'd think that the male gene pool was being gradually diluted with each generation: from full fat to semi-skimmed and finally to the skimmed male who bears so little resemblance to his forefathers he will be presumed to belong to a different species. And I am part of this dilution, though I hold the race memory of better times. If I seem unduly obsessed with old heroes at times, it's because in celebrating them I am trying to remind myself how to be someone I can be proud of.
How dare you?, incidentally, refers to the speech Kris Kristofferson made at Peckinpah's funeral when he looked down at the assembled "mourners" and saw the faces of the very same Hollywood producers and businessman who had dedicatedly persecuted Sam throughout his career because he wouldn't do what they told him to. Hypocrisy is a wonderful thing.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Oddly though, I'm not that concerned. I can't change any of it, so why worry? After descending further and further into craziness this summer--and particularly while I was hanging around with her-- I have bottomed out, come back to myself: I walked up the hill to my house carrying my shopping after work and I thought I won't be seeing anybody tonight. Great, I can sleep and catch up on my reading. A few weeks ago the idea of being on my own for several hours would have been deeply worrying to me.
Which doesn't mean I have recanted on my theory that the connections we make with other people are signally important. They are. But I have been working hard the last few days and I am seeing C. tomorrow. So why feel the need to fill tonight up with distractions? What would I be running away from?
I think we know the answer.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Her skin is pink and clear.
Her eyes shine in friendly greeting.
Her smile would melt a hardened heart.
She has nice, firm, small breasts,
a shapely arse.
She walks with elegance
even in old trainers.
Her voice is softer than a downy bed.
She's really f*cking creepy.
Can we suspend the Dostoyevsky act a while?
I'm bored of import. What's your highest pinball score?
I know a woman who makes money on the internet by clicking ads and finding offers on sites with names like Greasy Palm.
Didya know the box set of "My Name Is Earl" came out last week?
Please, lose the beard.
Please, don't take yourself so seriously.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
The worst thing anyone can do is take me seriously. Or act like the situations I become entangled in are attributable to anything other than my personal silliness and my immense capacity for believing my own bulls**t.