Friday, August 01, 2014

Living on Parallel Lines & Hitchhiking

This morning I was lying in bed - awake, though still snoring - when someone hammered on my front door. It was a neighbour, Ivar Kalmar, who I find difficult to talk or listen to without losing hair from my body. I could tell he was in distress: his bleached-blonde hair was standing upright, and the tattoos on his heavy muscled arms were walking on all fours like a shaven-headed chimp with nappy rash.

I also knew his house had four toilets. He explained that in deciding which toilet to use he had become gravely confused and bewildered. I could see by the stain on his elegant blue pajamas he had suffered a 'little' accident. I invited him into my home: to sit in the cat’s litter tray. My cat felt threatened, of course. He's not the most generous creature on earth and is a peerless disaster as far as alcohol and gambling are concerned.

I poured fresh water in the cat’s feeding dish. The cat and I watched my neighbour lick the dish bone dry. It seemed to have a calming effect on him. To disarm the silence I tried to engage my neighbour in conversation. I commented on the marvelous array of automobiles outside his home, his family’s fine clothes, the numerous extensions made to his property, and his profession as a high-ranking, marketing consultant.

Suddenly, Ivar pounced, grabbed my neck with his hands, and started to rant: 'I haven’t slept for five days! I’m exhausted from working in a god-forsaken company I hate! A job I hate! And worrying about unpaid bills for things neither my family, nor myself, required in the first place!'

'But you look so happy?! ... Your wife?! ... Your children?! ...'

'DON’T MENTION MY WIFE! First it was dual master bedrooms, then separate houses in the same city, then separate states, then separate countries, then separate continents! She took everything, including my cherished toupee made out of parrot feathers!'

'Really! I ... I never knew! I mean about your situation!' I fumbled behind me for an onion slicer, a large pot with a lid, or a large lid with a pot. The guy was nuts. Panic and anxiety bounced around in my brain - not much room, I know, but it’s the only one I can access. I grabbed a banana skin, and regretted eating the banana earlier. 'You should live like me. No television, smartphone, cyberspace, magazines, shopping. Marketing and advertising is brash, the bane of people’s lives!' I paused for a second. What was I saying?! The guy was in advertising, for heaven’s sake! I didn't tell him my cat had only last week bought expensive cat clothes, food, and sex toys on eBay, with my credit card. I was cleaned out.

'Perhaps you should go and live in the mountains, the jungle, or the state of Ohio! Away from civilization!'

He clamored to his feet. 'I believe you’re right. The mountains, the jungle, Ohio. I need to start packing.' He moved towards the door. I slightly relaxed my grip on the banana skin. With his eyes moving in different directions, he turned to me and said, 'Sitting in your cat's litter tray has helped me to reassess my perspective on life. How can I ever repay you?'

As I pushed him out, and engaged the twenty locks and bolts on my front door, I whimpered, 'Send me the fangs of the first venomous snake that bites you.' I believe he exclaimed: 'You’ll get them, buddy! I swear, if it kills me, you’ll get them!' I had a feeling he was right. That's when I decided to move house.

Reflections: People today don’t seem to trust each other the way they used to. Out of fear, I guess. Somehow picking up hitchhikers kinda makes sense to me again. First, I need 'fresh wheels' - fast.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Narcissism & How to Dine with a Noisy Eater and Survive

I met an ex-girlfriend yesterday afternoon. At first I thought it was a stranger who had approached me, then I discovered it was Arabella. We eat in a sleazy bar where the women drank beer, and the men danced while debating whether or not it is indiscreet to run during a moonlit walk. The longer I gazed at Arabella's face the less I understood what I was looking at.

Life doesn't prepare you for instant confusion, how to think rationally under duress, or how to dine with a 'noisy eater' without wishing to push their face in whatever they are eating. Arabella looked weary, her face damaged by alcohol. She kept flipping through missed calls and messages on her mobile. This tore me up. And to think she was once the prettiest girl in the village.

Appalled by her appearance and behaviour, and devoured by an incessant need to naively judge others simply out of boredom and conceit, my mind went into overdrive. Recalling our short romance reminded me how irrelevant it was.  

After some small talk she turned to me, her hazel eyes ready to shed tears, and said:

'Do you remember the afternoon by the river? What images and sensations does it provoke?'

'A fear of rats.'

'You're teasing me. It's the passage of time, emotional currents, fish, men in nylon thigh waders, fishing rods ... '

'You have a great memory, and, if I may say so, a great imagination?' Her self-inflated snobbery and constant preening made me wonder how we had coexisted in a past now entirely dissolved.

'Do you notice anything about me?'

'You still radiate mindless malice when you're not the subject of praise.'

'No, silly. I'm wearing the same skirt!'

'But you were nine, I was ten! You must be approaching sixty!' (I knew Arabella was fifty-two now.)  

'How do I look, and be truthful?'

I lied as best I could. It seemed to satisfy her desire for assurance regarding her appearance. For a moment I saw the smile of a young girl when she was nine, who enjoyed picnics, butterflies, cats, playing the piano, inventing funny nicknames, and mimicking teachers. I didn't disclose to Arabella that I was wearing the same old underwear, which, in their simplicity, remained tight, just like my finances.

After we shook hands, and said goodbye, I missed her.

A front-page headline in the New York Post - HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR - has prompted my next attempt at verbal music, wordplay, poetry. The opening must create a certain subtle, aesthetic sensibility, and heighten the image of firing an employee via email, text, skywriting, or smoke signal.

The closing couplet will be finely crafted, and include reference to a hat, a new remedy for headaches, and conflicting evidence that an old, expensively dressed elevator was seen silently leaving the scene in a taxi.

Reflections:  Scientific experts believe that human beings have about 7,000 facial expressions at their disposal. My wife wears an incessant expression and her resemblance to Colonel Rosa Klebb, the fictional character from the James Bond film From Russia with Love, is uncanny, let alone disheartening.

I try to forget that my wife keeps her 'cocktail party' face (along with other faces) locked in her dressing table. Sometimes you can hear the faces talk for hours: mostly about make-up, beauty tips, parenting, and irritable bowel syndrome. Thankfully, I have my Sooty glove puppet and the darkness.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Human Condition & Playthings of Embalmed Deluded Gods

[A GP surgery. Doctor Wilkelfield Finkelfukal is sitting behind his desk.]

Doctor: (sighing) Take a seat.

Long pause.

Doctor: Do you know one thousand individuals dictate the thoughts, opinions, customs, trends and fads of our entire world of seven billion people? What we eat, wear, read, watch, talk about, do, think?

I: Well ... No ...

Doctor: I thought so. You're an Idiot!

Long pause.

Doctor: You live in a sunken world. You remind me of an old chair with a bulging leg. Dark with age and redolent of the old.


Doctor: Do you know I was beat and bullied as a boy. Of course not! Furthermore, my head's too big for my body, my body's too big for my trousers, and my wife sounds like a squealing fiddle! The stink of boredom is everywhere. I'm dead and so are you! A trivial matter, you'll agree.

I: I'm sorry ...

Doctor: To hell with your damned, "I'm sorry". What are you here to whine about?

I: (uncomfortable) Well ... Sometimes, I hold two thoughts at the same time. For instance, my life has purpose ... yet it is without meaning. Sometimes, I feel sad ... yet happy. Sometimes, the scales drop from my eyes ... yet I am blind to everything I see ... Sometimes, when I'm in a room full of people I feel I'm in an echo chamber listening to myself ... Sometimes ...

Doctor: Sometimes! Sometimes! Sometimes! Me! Me! Me! Get a grip on yourself! Can't you talk without bleating?! You live in a dream world like most idiots. (Shouts) Wake up! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?! WACH AUF!

Long pause.

Doctor: There's no point in telling you lies. I'm a hypocrite and a wretched doctor. What impelled me to live in this multi-coloured hell escapes me. Don't be fooled by certificates, diplomas and expertise. A day comes when all men and women are proved wrong. (Thoughtful) Even a professed 'genius' like Einstein will get his comeuppance one day. I believe he never took his hands out of his trouser pockets, even in bed. What a strange man?! (Pause) A few inescapable truths - I see I'm overwhelming you - something like genius cannot be measured. What's more, excess of wealth, or natural ability, do not ensure happiness, success, or freedom from diarrhea.

I: (timidly) Indeed ...

Doctor: I'm sorry to say there's no medication for your condition.

I: Really?

Doctor: Yes. Really. You appear to me to be a person who is holding on. Old and weary before your time. A mixture of anger, tenderness and shattered visions. In short, you're carrying a perpetual burden. A million shapes and sizes of shadow beleaguer your mediocre mind!

I: I see ... Well ...

Doctor: Isn't it good to fit into society. However that may be, I once aspired to be a farmer's wife: my parents were livid, of course. Instead, I'm a faceless false dummy who has to listen to dreadful boring people whining and sobbing all day about large dark clouds and the absence of clear blue sky. (Thoughtful) One can only guess, of course ...

I: (timidly) Really ...

Doctor: You're not the only one with a neurotic fear of growing old. We're bombarded daily with images of smooth faces like 'Thanksgiving Day' balloons, pert breasts, lineless mouths and full lips. (Pause) Here's my prognosis. You've taken stock of your life and realised how little you've achieved. You are leading a factitious life and not going anywhere. Welcome to the club, old chum!

I: Oh …

Doctor: (writing) Have you heard of euthanasia?

I: No … I don't think so?

Doctor: Excellent. Take this confidential letter to a doctor friend of mine. His name and address is written on the envelope. He''ll show - sorry - tell you all you need to know about the subject. (Pause) And good luck with the rest of your short life.

I:  You said short?! ...

Doctor: It did sound like it. I said, 'Good luck with the rest of your sport life'. You must learn to be less anxious. Goodbye.

[The Idiot walks out into the sun and faints.]

Reflection: Most people, if not all, are acquainted with the clenched fist, ill-temper, malice and oppression. The 'stinging wind' that falls at random: broken furniture, broken hearts, broken dreams. Few individuals confess to such vile deeds as they pursue their inexorable actions with eager energy and ominous determination.

Misplaced pride, insensitivity and inertia are the playthings of 'embalmed deluded gods' whose minds are dominated by thoughts of self-love and immortality. A person's rise to fortune, however, can rapidly turn to failure irrespective of their gifts, personal charm, high intellect, eloquence and passion. Sometimes all it takes is the public display of one fatal defect, or more perhaps, and their true undesirable intentions are laid bare for all to see.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Blatant Attention Seeking & A Month in the Country

During my daily stroll on a desert island I was accosted by either a woman sporting a beard; a man wielding a beard; or a hedgehog on stilts. In truth, the incident happened so swiftly I cannot be sure. I recalled how David slayed Goliath with a simple slingshot. I took off my right sandal and threw it in the air, which to my amazement distracted my assailant. Suddenly the man's shape and features softened. I removed one of my blue cotton toe socks, filled it with five 'twenty dollar' bills, and beat him about the head. Unfortunately, the effort proved fruitless.

Despairing of hitting my assailant's head continuously with my sock (I felt the advent of a dazzling migraine), I enquired if he had change of a twenty. He announced, with the aid of a late 19th-century speaking trumpet, that he had a few nickels and quarters he could lend me. I thanked him and we exchanged currency. I filled my sock with stark bright coins. However, just as I was about to strike my assailant I was hit on the head by a flying sandal and lost consciousness.

When I came round he had disappeared along with my blue cotton toe socks. However, he left a note that read, in its entirety, the abridged works of Shakespeare, and which also solemnly declared: 'I'm heading back to Toytown where donkey's ears remain a symbol of individuality and freedom.'

A neurologist recently confirmed I have 'alien limb syndrome' - the sensation that my 'right leg' is acting of its own accord. That would account for my 'right leg' saying, 'Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow,' each night as I retire to bed. It even has the audacity to wake me during my blessed sleep to deliver a Shakespearean soliloquy; usually one of Macbeth’s troubled musings which I now find tiresome. Moreover, it has the gall to express in mocking tone, 'How poor are they that have not patience.'

This coming from a 'right leg' that walks away during conversations! Writes clandestine letters! Bleeds for no apparent reason! Runs errands for neighbours without my permission or knowledge! Quite frankly, it is tantamount to blatant attention-seeking! Even writing about my plight I find it hard to breathe. 

To make matters worst my right leg is good-looking, intelligent, looks at least twenty years younger than the rest of my body, and is extraordinarily striking in a black leather jacket and heavy boots.

Reflections: One night I attended a performance of Ivan Turgenev's play A Month in the Country with my girlfriend Alisa. We had to leave three days after the start of the production as we both experienced dizzy spells and hallucinations due to lack of food and drink.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Broken Clocks, Blind Squirrels & The Ability to Forget

I'm composing a ten-minute-play which is overrunning by two milliseconds. I now consider it a blunder to have 12 male characters, 5 female characters, extras, chorus (m/f), and a prehistoric jaw bone that tragically dies of a frozen stomach while eating a sizeable ice-cream cone. The title How to Avoid Running Away with the Minister's Wife or Mother is playing havoc with the plot, theme, and motif. Not to discount my mental and physical distress.

Genre: will it be tragicom, satire, romance (try to forget the prehistoric jaw bone overdosing on ice cream), musical drama, pastoral, or a folk drama? I’m on the verge of collapse. Moreover, I have observed the drama lacks clarity concerning a central question: what compels the jaw bone to climb naked up a tree? a jaw bone that comes from an affluent and devout family? Am I exaggerating my plight? No, but I haven't eaten for days, I sleep on the ground at night, and can't stop shaking the hands of beggars, broken clocks and blind squirrels. What would Molière do?

It is late afternoon. I am surrounded by illness and death. O.K., I’m in a hospital, but is this how patients are treated in the 21st century? How did I get here? I performed the 'Heimlich manoeuvre' on a man called Maurice Flapper who swallowed his false teeth while dancing the Charleston. During the unfortunate incident Mr. Flapper's dentures flew out and bit me on the nose. 

I might have been the victim of an unprovoked mastication attack if Mrs. Flapper had not been on hand to wrestle the dentures off, and secure the teeth in a container. As I left the scene I could hear the false teeth trying to escape: gnarling, snapping, and sounding uncannily like a debauched black crested gibbon. A policeman later informed me that the dentures had been taken away and destroyed.

Apparently, I require a single stitch on my nose and, considering the trauma, will not be able to eat fish, or french kiss, without written clearance from a reputable doctor.

Reflections: Today, I'm not waiting for Godot; I'm waiting for an escalope of energy to pervade my existence. My marriage is badly frayed, my trousers and finances in shreds, I've mouths to feed - some with herpes simplex lesions - and my family has grown tired of eating soup each day made from my wife's left elbow. To be honest, my wife isn't particularly happy either, especially during the simmering stage.

At such moments I dig into my memory. If there is no sign of life I try to recall a time when all I had to worry about was the ability to forget. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In Search of Lost Time & Knitters Anonymous

Each year in early spring family members congregated at my parents' house and resolutely nodded at each other without talking. We sat in a billowing silence for several hours and listened to the noise of passing traffic. As the nearest road was 10 kilometers away this ritual affirmed that affinity and honesty do not mix. Eventually someone gravely undernourished would rise from a chair and faint. A sign that food should be served.

We sat down to a restrained meal - usually throttled fish legs - and chatted about all sorts of things: work, illness, death, repetition, work, illness, death, repetition. Occasionally I gazed at the hollow assemble and thought, 'So many people sitting amid the paradoxes of identities and consciousness.' I include myself, of course. On numerous occasions I remember asking, with latent hope of dialogue, 'Where are we?' Did anyone answer? No one answered.

For a while I couldn't fathom my father. He possessed an inability to think rationally under stress. He was a man who said what he thought, formally and orderly. And he could doze in front of the living room fire at any time of day. He had a habit of keeping his cardinal smile for fire light. His favourite hobby was shuffling socks. Sometimes he would suddenly leap from his chair, hold five socks aloft, and cry, 'A straight flush!'

He used a carpet beater to punish his begats for minor misdemeanors even though our home was devoid of carpet. Impulsive behaviour, even disheartening, but plausible for one whose conditions in early life were occasionally difficult to navigate without collecting hurtful wounds. The floors were cloaked in linoleum which held a diversity of smells: buttermilk, cat urine, dirt from footprints, and the sweaty armpits of a hoary man from Bavaria whom no one in our family had met.

My father, with his vanity on clear display, would insist on reading from his favourite book In Search of Lost Time. After a hundred pages - give or take a leaf - someone would usually chant, hyperventilate, or rush from the room wailing: 'It's not easy being a candle', or something of that nature. A frighting experience for the faint of heart, or, indeed, anyone with a clicking hip joint. Of course, my father would promptly stand up and in an uncomplicated and straightforward manner violently throw Proust to the floor. He would storm out of the room through the nearest window; his voice quivering in his wake, 'No man deserves honest ignominy heaped upon him! Plot is not the point!'

To calm things down someone - usually myself - would simulate a sudden rise in temperature, fall to the floor, pant heavily, and whimper in a colourless voice: 'Malaria.' This act advised all present, in a simple, productive tone, that farewells were in order.

Reflections: A growing craze worldwide is knitting and crocheting. My addiction started when I read a copy of Stitch 'n Stitch Again in the dentist waiting room. Then, suddenly, I was knitting until the early hours, then night after night, when I was out with friends, or going to the bathroom. It didn't occur to me that my actions were, in anyway, pathological. I was using terms such as, 'I'm in the Zone,' and 'Pass me some thread, man.'

My life was out of control. I sought help through Knitters Anonymous (KA) - a worldwide fellowship of men who share a desire to stop knitting - and it seems to be working. The only downside is that I used knitting as a calming distraction. However, I'm now making customised underwear for young single and married women and it seems to help me relax.