Friday, December 03, 2010

Wearing an XL Calla Lily and Orchid Posy & My Life as a Freelance Futurologist

 

I used to detest parties, now I find them unbearable. When forced to attend one I usually wear an XL Calla Lily and a Orchid Posy on my lapel to hide my face. Then I compel myself to forget where I am. If someone starts to chatter to me I pretend to be Bavarian, adopt a husky voice, and whisper, 'Do I look like someone who has killed anyone?'

Certain words and phrases make me cringe, for example: 'What a strange planet we inhabit.' 'I wish I was twenty, again.' 'There is only one thing that makes life worth living ...' 'What did I tell you?!' 'Habit kills desire.' 'Tell me, "You love me", even if it's not true.' 'I shouldn't be telling you this, but ...' 'In banking terms, what are "derivatives"?' 'As a boss, do you manage by "output", or "input"?' 'What is your profession?'

Ah, yes, profession. I prefer, how do you spend your time? but when asked, I reply, 'I'm a freelance futurologist; a historian of the future trapped in a digital universe.' I research, write, lecture, broadcast and publish from the confides of my tumble dryer. (I also speak at international conferences until security are called to escort me from the premises.) My fixed costs are virtually zilch. To commute to work I walk downstairs - au naturel - and climb into the tumble dryer. When I meet a client I use the washing machine. I tend to get bored by the end of a project. To unwind, I become a kayak in the open sea and head back to base camp.

I only predict things that will happen long after I'm dead. After the year 3500, to be precise.  I once, stupidly, let it slip - twenty years ago - that the first transplant of pig organs on the human face would take place within a decade. I admit the transplant, cosmetic face lift (call it, what you will) didn't turn out as planned. Indeed, it has caused my wife great suffering. I take her everywhere in a suitcase to hinder embarrassing conversation about her appearance. Her figure is now androgynous, her voice cranky deep. Moreover, her face resembles 'strawberry pink' candy floss topped with a pig's snout. I can honestly say I do not find her any less attractive.

*    
I was raised on words. I would have preferred food, but then one can't have everything. I remember we didn't have a refrigerator. The house was cold, and there was nowhere to put the icicles that formed above our heads, or in our hair. This was the beginning of my 'thinking' period, which didn't last long. One afternoon, while reading a foreign novel - the language escapes me, as it did then - I was struck by an elongated icicle. It remains, to this day, embedded in my head. The surgeon, at the time, refused to operate as the icicle was glacial and the hospital didn't supply fleece gloves.

I realised, on that fateful afternoon, that the desire to be attractive, beautiful, to remain youthful, to despise wrinkles, and greying hair, is commonplace. Furthermore, it can become an obsession; worse than power and money - is that possible? Anyhow, I require botox. My eyebrows have just collapsed into my dinner again. I can see the 'years' passing by; on the road outside my house. They're driving a red Mercedes, snorting coke, and eating raw eggs. I watch with painful enjoyment, then climb into the washing machine. I'm meeting a client in a few minutes. My intuition tells me the client is going to be some lunatic with an ageing body. I hope the 'body' is their own? My washing machine only accommodates two people of average height and weight, without clothes.

*   
Reflections: Life is short: it has four letters; one syllable. What am I driving at? Well, in truth, I'm not sure ... My car windscreen is covered in snow and an old lady with a shopping trolley. The situation revives memories of my mother. To prolong the delusion she was youthful I was forced to wear children's clothing until I was forty.

When I got married - at thirty-six - I wore a Fur Lined Fairisle Trapper, a Christmas Pudding outfit, and a pair of Boys Counting Gloves with matching socks and shoes. My wife abandoned me shortly after the wedding ceremony for a hideous youth who had the eyes of an old man. He spoke and resembled a piano that had keys missing. Since that day I've led an uneventful life. I drink champagne, dance alone, and leave my house in the early hours of the morning, and fade into the distance. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Temporary Inconvenience


My wife is gazing into the distance. 'You can see our house from here!' I stop reading. 'Oh, really?' As we are sitting in the living room of our home I'm not surprised. I pretend to admire the view. At such moments - when my energy is weak - I believe people and things I love are out of reach, untouchable. To travel towards them, to reach them, seems impossible. A black hole of doubt opens up and I fall in. It is a temporary inconvenience. Sometimes, it lasts for weeks. I soon escape, retake my place in the queue, careful to stand close to the 'Anxiety' end of the line, as far from the 'Confidence' sign, as possible.

In winter I miss warm summer nights. I can't stand the cold wind; I sense the feeling is mutual. Outside it's five below zero. Today my wife is wearing a heavily armoured terracotta tank top. I believe the gun turret is directed at me. I can only say, that more often than not, I'm thankful when it's time for bed. I'm sitting surrounded by flame throwers, napalm, a blowpipe, and a wealth of root vegetables. This playacting has enriched our lives. Indeed, the expense outweighs the boredom that can wither a marriage.

I can't deny that when she smiles her face is still that of a young woman. Her smile, somehow, dispels the onset of age. I think: 'What a long way my wife and I have come, in life, I mean. Yet ... I desperately seek something else, something that burns with curiosity and a sense of panic, something that doesn't involve wasting time.' What it is I'm not sure. Anyway, I'm the wrong person to ask. Few people know how to be old until it is too late. Today I visited a friend who died three months ago. He didn't look well. I'm sure the visit seemed unreal to him.

*
The present 'Financial Recession' is proving difficult for some people. It's time to adjust finances and gain the upper hand once more. Despairing of debt I currently undertake five jobs. I recently acquired a job as a night-watchman that involves working during the day time. For some reason I still have to carry a torch and wear night vision glasses. I go through the motions to get paid. I don't ask questions. Another job seems popular with audiences. I am one of a trio of performing canines named: 'The Absurd Equivocal Alastair Campbell Dancing Dog Show'. I'm inundated with requests for autographs after each show. People enquire if I still hang out with Tony Blair and George W. Bush and play war games. Some individuals request to brush my coat. It's made of camel hair and has two humps on its back, just like me.

*
Reflections: I believe the scales of justice are not, and never will be, evenly balanced in this world. I try not to watch or listen to the news locally, nationally, internationally, or worldwide. Sometimes I do, and, most times, it weakens my spirit.

Most evil prospers in clear view of indifference and ignorance.This world, however, is not without beauty. I'm grateful that 'love' is one of the greatest virtues one can experience in life. And I'm thankful there are human beings who unselfishly help others, and have a strong desire to make the world a better place for humankind to live, enjoy, prosper, and raise children.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Black Matter & Living in the Present


Last evening, in bed, while abseiling down my wife's back, I was suddenly struck by a childhood memory. I remember my family had cocktails before dinner. The table would be set, the lights dimmed. We would wait an eternity for dinner to be served. However, we never had a bite to eat. Sitting at the table was a charade. Subsequently, my father and mother would feign tiredness, yawn, and say, 'Time for bed.'

Back then, I was afraid of everything: barnacles, ear wax, rumbling stomachs, parking places, fluttering butterfly wings, and that the universe was comprised of 80% black matter. At nightfall, all animals on earth descended on our home. And it wasn't for food. My innocent body trembled. I endured sleepless nights. The slightest cough could elicit strange odours. Alas, it is history, now.

*    
A writer, with a new book to promote, is talking on the radio. I listen with a serious face; my ears are outside playing on the garden swing. My first reaction is confusion. The writer espouses: 'Time passes more quickly, now', 'The past is all around us, now' and 'That's a good question. Can I give two answers, now?' It confirms my view that one should never talk about one's writing, or, on any account, recite a short passage unless one has read it first. It is embarrassing to the listener, and has a tendency to induce a wretched fever, even in those fortunate not to hear the ghastly broadcast. I have forgotten the author's name. I wonder if she resides in black matter? One can only guess. Perhaps, she always did, and will?

*    
The only real kind of happiness is youth. After that, well, you must adapt, or run the risk of being laughed at behind your back. I remember being told by my paternal grandfather (in a soft, almost mournful voice) that 'the past, or the future, do not exist for any living creature, only the present.'

'You haven't changed a bit,' a soft voice whispered in my ear. 'Do you remember Rula?'

I half closed my eyes.

'She was killed. The shutters on her shop dropped on her head. She was still so beautiful. Time certainly touched her with a gentle hand.'

I stayed silent and entered a grieving period. The night grew thicker, darker. I wept with all the simplicities that surround silence. All I could picture was Rula not breathing. Yet, she was fresh air, itself; warmth, beauty. Why had she stopped breathing?

'It was a stormy evening,' she went on. 'Poor creature ...' Her words suffocated me. 'Poor little Rula ...'

She spoke without emotion or tears. Her departure left a bitter taste. I cursed the beginning of love which draws you into its erotic-mystical river only to leave you stranded on a muddy river bank. A prisoner of the present, not the past. I remembered the soft, almost crying voice, that sprayed saliva as it spoke, 'The past, or the future, do not exist for any living creature, only the present.'

*
Reflections: This week my wife lost two pounds in weight just by cutting her nose hair and toe nails. I believe she could lose another two pounds by trimming her small hairy feet (which scare the hell out of children at the local swimming pool) and removing six of her teeth.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Solitude and The Metaphysical Nose


Today I feel like a bare bulb on a ceiling. My wife (her name escapes me, and runs downstairs) gives me a hate-filled stare, and throws the cat's crutches at me. I speak without saying a word. Her old fire is not there. Though I must say the reduction on heating costs are gratifying. Our relationship is at its most precarious. Who will suffocate whom first? Our bedroom has the icy coldness of an Alpine peak. And one does tire of skiing aficionados who use our sleeping habitat as a favorite ski spot. We attract the odd jet skier and the noise is horrendous.

I rarely talk or write about my personal life because none of it is true. Lately I've been getting up at 8 o'clock each morning. After I bath, shave, and have breakfast, I'm usually back in bed ten minutes later. Before lunch I take a long walk around my bed with the dog. Then we both start drinking heavily. I believe this is why I think and write at a quarter of the speed I used to which was close to half speed. For some strange reason I'm starting to weep a lot. At least it stops me from crying which would be disastrous for a man in my position; prostrate on the floor.

*
I hated turning fifty years old, just as I hate suddenly turning direction in a crowded street, or turning the pages of a newspaper belonging to a person sitting beside me on public transport. I really should buy a paper of my own. However, I detest darting to the front of a queue to purchase one.  All I seem to attract are savage faces and angry voices. At such moments I seem to arouse the banalities and absurdities of the human condition best not talked about.  No one is shielded from the world, even when drunk, making love, or taking out the garbage.

*
Lately, I've been gripped by suffocating despair and anguish. I've been working on the draft of my first book Solitude and The Metaphysical Nose for over thirty years. (A romantic story based on an ugly adolescent who discovers a small turned-up nose under her bed, and suddenly she becomes a beautiful, intelligent seductress). Yesterday I flew to Moscow and got the first plane home. I only intended to get a jar of gherkins from the local store. To make matters worse I keep having absurd, horrible dreams: snatches of conversation, people, faces ... Faces I do not care to see, minds I do not trust. The worse dream involves being in love with my wife again. I use to fear death, now I fear sleep.
*
Reflections: We are all vulnerable behind our public facade. Questioning our actions and motives continually. There is no cure for disenchantment except to yield to our vulnerabilities, lost illusions, our loves and daily life. While one's energy prevails one must struggle with equal ferocity against hate and violence without reserve.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Consquences of Living Life the Wrong Way


On my way home this morning I feel enriched by the beautiful colours and sounds. The dancing chilly breeze, chirping birds, and rustling leaves join me on my dawn stroll. Shades and tones which reflect autumn cast their spell. The exhilarating experience invites me to slow down, relax, and reflect on the light and shade of nature.

I encounter people walking briskly with grim faces, obviously in disharmony with the natural environment, reality and reason. No time to breathe due to their rigorous lifestyle. While they may work extremely hard, have they forgotten how to live their own life? Their eyes are dulled by habit, and as a consequence everything looks bland. The essence of their lives is dictated by uniforms, words, gestures, orders, verbosity, vague promises and rewards, and rituals, which only serve to fill their minds with confusion, compliance, manipulation, stress and despair.

*
A friend of mine, Quentin Bogdanovich - who has just returned from searching for wood in a forest near our town, to no avail - approaches me. Quentin disguises himself as a famous fish restaurant and smells like a grilled perch. Unfortunately, a passion for yoga has left him permanently in the 'frontal split' position. He gets around by balancing on a 'Wilton Cake Turntable' pulled by his friend, Simone Elmocake. 'The sun is quite loud this morning,' he says to me gently, while spinning. 'Can you hear it? It is so far away, yet we take its brightness for granted. Its glorious, warm body gives off a wondrous sound. If only people would listen ...'

*
Reflections:  I am seduced by the sound and smell of the fire. As I watch the orange and yellow flames dance, and listen to the wood crackling, I realise Quentin has a valid point. Salvation may lie in the natural world. One can read too many books, watch too many films, talk too much about ideas, society, people, and fill one's head with nonsense.

Quentin's outlook on life is haunting in its simplicity. Simply discovering more about oneself, rather than searching the shadows and depths of the world, may bring one more comfort and insight, and closer to the warm light which is the soul.   

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Prefer the Sound of Laughter to Tears


I've just returned from a hot, humid and crowded Paris. After breakfast each morning Cecilia and I walked the beautiful streets and squares - some loud, some flowing with serenity - and we sat down when our bodies told us it was time. Usually it was in one of the wondrous gardens: Luxembourg or the Place des Vosges.

When we were hungry we stood on the sidewalk and looked at the tables where people were eating to see if the food suited our taste and pocket. We mainly drank white wine with our meals to match our light-heartiness. This usually enriched our conversations with residents or visitors who sat near our table. The girls were young, pretty and stylish and the women were attractive, tanned and walked in a relaxed, unworried manner to parade their pretty legs. Pleasure shone on their faces as if they alone had a secret they would not share with anyone. Paris filled my heart and mind with magic. A magic only Paris can summon while you reside in its bosom.

*
Two days ago I finished composing the closing movement of my "Concerto for Microwaveable Cauliflower Cheese." I used Swiss cheese hence the quaint gaps in the work. The premiere, held last night inside a constipated cactus bent over a deceased housekeeper, was a success. A success due to the absence of an audience or mice, and the sweeping power and delicacy of the microwave which breathed new sounds, new life into a nocturnal sky. The intimate novelty of hearing the work moved me more than I anticipated. Art should be fresh - esp. when food products are used - it should awaken the mind, the heart, the soul, and keep you in unstinting luxury until you are unmasked as a fake. 

*
Some days it is hard to think of a captivating title for a short story or a novel. I take the John Cage approach. The title of my next novel (also, my first novel) will be 72,846 - the exact number of words contained in the work. I'm presently working on  83,218 and only have 18 words to go. In fact, by the time you read this post I may have typed them. It is hard to gauge how long it will take when one is seized with the horrible fear of failure and internal tremors. I nearly forgot. The words in either novel are not in order, and require to be chanted by a yellow rubber duck inside a carafe of oakey and intense Tempranillo wine, slapping the last people on earth with a dead fish.

*
Reflections:  Neither the dark, twilight, the black streets or windswept pigeon droppings can conceal that a once sensual, glowing, moody face has descended to one that is sour, brooding and overweight. The face of my wife? my girlfriend? my lover? my dog?  No, mine.

Sometimes my new, old face is a blessing. I can now obtain a seat on a bus, a train, a bicycle, a toilet, be served drink and food quickly in a restaurant and sit with my “one true friend” for company: a manila folder. A manila folder that drinks too much, lies, tells stupid jokes in amusing voices. Yet it is more interesting than most people I have met and it pays its half of the restaurant bill. It knows when I do not want to talk and I am deep in thought. It knows I prefer the sound of laughter to tears.   

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Bikini Wax & Upstaging the Bride


This morning a neighbour, Randy Camelus, was killed while out galloping with some companions over nearby hills. As Randy was on foot police are treating his death as suspicious. Poor devil. He had a weakness for bobbing canoes, earthenware products and impersonating a tram at rush-hour. In fact, he was arrested twice for carrying too many passengers. Randy always preferred the countryside to his home; less mud, manure, cows, nettles and flies. To be honest he got on my nerves. He felt the need to upstage people wherever and whenever possible. Once he pretended to be a hard boiled egg and turned up in my lunchbox. At his niece's wedding - held in the middle of a desert - he arrived as a camel wearing a straw hat. Most guests agreed he outshone the bride.

I remember Randy had trouble with his wisdom teeth. He had seven: three on top, two on the bottom, and one that worked and lived in Germany and never sent money home. However, it was as a salesperson that Randy excelled. Besides selling crystal balls to fortune tellers his most profitable venture involved selling bilingual individuals two of each product they wished to purchase, and had the audacity to make them pay twice. One of his greatest sales involved getting a bald-headed man to purchase and undergo a bikini wax. The man was last seen travelling eastwards across the desert with a bikini on his head shouting, 'Help! Help! I'm not what you think I am! . . . I'm not Lady Gaga?! . . . Am I? . . . I'm Madonna . . . Where am I? . . . . Boy, do I miss the stairs in my house!'

Randy maintained that the creation of prose, poetry, music, painting, sculpture, etc., is easy. This divided his world from mine. I wasn't surprised by his statement. In fact, it made me sad. I told Randy on one occasion, gently: 'All things seem easy that are created without talent.'  He didn't answer. His face became serious, pale, suddenly frail. His teeth left before him. As they scuttled across the street they collided with a car. The air was sharp, biting cold. How coincidental.  The only sound? Randy's silent tears as he lifted his shattered teeth. He looked at me, then began to soothe his teeth with the softness of his hand. I watched as he made for his home in a remote village inside an old shed behind a house close to a river in the middle of nowhere - a village called 'H'.

Randy's fate reminds me that "everything" and "everyone" go through phases of uncertainty, silent acceptance, indifference, economy of words, half-light, darkness, silence, oblivion. While he is no longer here occasionally I see his teeth pass my house on the way to the dentist. Sometimes they smile at me through the window.

*
Reflections: At the moment my attempts at writing lack focus and an elementary grasp of grammar. I've been aware of this for some time; since childhood, in fact. I spend 24 hours a day figuring out which project to work on and let my thoughts run wild. Finding them again, however, can present a problem. Once they texted me from Amsterdam. A problem with their passport; something to do with photographic ID?! Anyway, I must learn to "adjust my lens," so to speak.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Me, Me, Me, You and Me & No One Can Stop Time


My wife is a mistress of her career and radiates confidence, intelligence, energy, optimism, strength, tenderness, responsibility, and an uncanny ability to hold a 'high C' while eating Beef Wellington in her bare feet. Sometimes she makes me feel I peaked too early in life, that I should eat my dinner in silence and go to my room. I'm still waiting for the heavy mist obscuring my vision to head west. I have major eye floaters in both eyes which makes it difficult to drive on unfamiliar roads at night. Of course, it may be due to the fact I don't own a a motor vehicle.

I tend not to last long in traditional jobs. For a while I was employed as the dull silhouette of a banker. The worthless scoundrel took pleasure in making me stand outside on cold flooded pavements while he wined and dined for hours - at public expense - with fellow dead heads. It's a shame he's no longer with us; if only to witness the court proceedings. His funeral service was painful for all the wrong reasons. Fellow dead heads stood up and used words such as: 'A man of truth and integrity'; 'A man of wisdom and warmth'; 'A man of ...' I went outside and threw up. He was a dried-out runner bean, a misshapen pebble who liked young girls though he was grey at the temples. Fellow dead heads made sure there was a constant supply.

Sometimes when I am alone I think of Nicole. For one night I was employed as her 'discreet cough'. We attended the Opera. During the performance Nicole give me a mischievous smile. We never spoke to each other. The sensation of sitting by her side for the evening made me lightheaded. I longed to touch her hair, her mouth, her body. The closest I felt to Nicole was when she passed me her Opera program. It retained the warmth of her beautiful pale hands. It was a schooling, of sorts, in hidden desire and silent passion.
*
When one is truly deprived, one will do anything. I once underwent an operation for a friend, Gotthard Hydleman. He was afraid of being anesthetized. He promised me $1000 and I considered it worth the money. I foolishly had my gallbladder removed. Unfortunately, Gotthard died before I received payment. The cause of his death?  Wearing female Skinny Cargo Pants for longer than six hours without a breather. When I asked the surgeon for my gallbladder back he declared with a smirk: 'I am so sorry, I eat it for dinner last Sunday. On the up side, I believe it has improved my French.'

*
Reflections: At 82, my maternal grandmother, Gloria Tenderloin, believes she is beginning to look her age. May I burst one of the thinnest bubble's on the planet. No one - including Joan Alexandra Molinsky, aka Joan Rivers, can stop time.

Forget facelifts, hollow faces, age spots, staying out of the sun, copying hair styles of young emaciated models, wearing short skirts wrapped around withered thighs, grey hair, baggy knees, drinking forty gallons of water a day, taking supplements. Be thankful you are alive, healthy, not homeless, unemployed, a victim of physical or sexual abuse, a person whose life hangs by a thread, or someone who died tragically young.

Most forms of beauty depend on concealment, integrity, mystery and are veiled by a mist which one may pass through to meet the real person on the other side, if one wishes. Everything else is a performance: a denial of ageing, decay, life, death. Embrace and experience your true uniqueness, your true value to others, and your true value to the world.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Origin of My First Name & Ronald Coleman


I'm sitting in a chair thinking of my name, how it came about, and why well-manicured fingertips usually belong to people who wear velvet knee breeches while taking a bath. I'm studying a photograph of my mother laughing. She is sitting in an armchair in the back garden; I am resting on her lap. She is shading her eyes from the sun with her right hand, and looking straight into the camera.

My mother is cheerful and so am I. The armchair? Impossible to tell. I remember asking my mother the origin of my first name. She told me I was named after the English actor, Ronald Coleman. Naturally, he was indecently handsome (my mother preferred him with a mustache), well-mannered, impeccably groomed and statuesque. He took care to preserve his looks, of course, and it worked its charm on my mother. He often played an autumnal, amused romantic.

My distress was compounded by my mother's insistence that he possessed a beautiful speaking voice. By contrast, my own voice had yet to take shape. What chance did I stand against Ronald Coleman, who could switch on surface charm, at will? I lay in bed tormented by a man I had never met, nor ever would. My life had been thrown into despair by images of a charming, intelligent and 'indecently handsome' movie actor. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that nature has not been generous to me, either in terms of my build, my face, or my speech. 

As one gets older, however, one understands the ambiguity and the need to distrust images. The faces of film stars, and beautiful people, still haunt me, but in the darkness I pay little attention to their features. They are destined, like me - and those I love – to the same destiny. This thought does not bring me solace; only anguish. 

Nevertheless, my mother and I spent precious afternoons watching b/w reruns of Random Harvest which was released in 1942. A part, Ronald Colman played opposite Greer Garson. I had never seen such a beautiful woman. Everything seemed simple. One day I would meet Greer Garson, marry her, and Ronald Coleman would attend the wedding, much to my mother's delight. 

 *    
A recent study, conducted by Doctor Wilkelfield Finkelfukal, on how your name has a profound effect on how serious you may be taken by others, is not to be published in the foreseeable future. In a statement, the publishers, Donski, Donner, and Kebab, said the Doctor's name was unpronounceable (even by the Doctor, himself), had no appeal, was too long, and combined with his bumper-pad hips, made promoting the book analogous to flying to the moon in a garbage can. If the Doctor, however, is willing to adopt a reasonable pseudonym there remains a chance the book will still hit the shelves; mostly by those foolish enough to buy the book.

*    
Reflections: Some people underestimate the importance of living for the moment. Most things of value tend to be of a transient nature: laughter, joy, love, happiness, family, friends, good health, memorable encounters. In life one must manage as best one can, and endeavour to help others' less fortunate.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

'The Godfather - The Musical' & Polpette Alla Casalinga


The sound of rain beating down on my car roof used to drive me nuts. In a moment of frenzy I removed the roof with a metal cutter and replaced it with thatch. On the upside it makes the car interior cool, rainproof, and muffles the sound of rain. On the downside when the thatch is dry, it is flammable. On a few occasions I've driven to work with the car roof on fire. Once, on arrival at the office, I went straight to a meeting with my hat on fire. In a moment of panic I threw the burning hat at a colleague and his nose hair caught fire.

The episode wouldn't have been so catastrophic if the fire hadn't spread quickly to his beard and virgin wool underwear (Who knows what people wear to work underneath their clothes? For a while I wore a black PVC gothic corset with black satin trimming, purely for medical reasons, of course - an out-growing toenail.) My colleague worked part-time as a Forest Fire Lookout at the local national park. It didn't help matters that he ran straight out of the building, jumped on his bison, and made straight for the watch tower in the park.

Subsequently, the tower burnt down, and he was observed running from the scene by a passing Long tail Weasel with short eyesight. With smoke billowing from his clothes he appeared to rant, 'I can't find Himmler, my little meadow vole!' He was never seen again. It is believed Himmler met a broad rat called Adolf, and together they wrote a major treatise titled: The Economic Importance of Rodents.
*
My lineage has endowed me with a lack of muscularity befitting an interloper without the 'loper.' During the night my wife kicked four of my front teeth out. Was it deliberate? Who knows? It was the first time - to my knowledge - she has worn black German Army Para Boots and camouflage netting to bed. She usually prefers Soviet and Russian tactical and combat gear. As for me, I just wish she'd wear something from Harvey Nichols' - a Pierre Hardy Perforated leather handbag with a small strap, preferably around her neck.

All day I had to speak, smile, and eat while holding a hand in front of my mouth. It was a mistake to order Polpette Alla Casalinga at lunch. The meatballs were about 3 inches in diameter and the tomato and basil sauce ruined my clothes. A fellow diner thought I was learning Spanish. Another thought I was preparing to audition as Don Vito Corleone in 'The Godfather - The Musical.' I left the restaurant before there was an assassination attempt. I like my thighs and arms as they are: close to my hands.

*
Reflections: All this, of course, is insignificant when I recollect I was recently refused service at a restaurant in Belfast. I exclaimed to the owner, whose head resembled fossil remains (picture, if you will, the face of a 5 million year old turtle with three teeth belonging to a chimpanzee), 'I'll have you know I served with the French Foreign Legion. I was decorated several times and advertised as a 'spacious furnished apartment' for rental in Paris!'

Alas, my protestations were in vain. My feelings were indelibly hurt. Shooting the proprietor, however, give a semblance of redress. I had to complain. It is all I have left.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Beginning of Survival


Last night, while driving home from work, I spoke on the phone to my girlfriend. 'Tell J.M. and Eavan we can make it over to their house on Friday night. It will be good to see them again. I should be home in about half an hour.' Following the short call I signaled before changing lanes then turned off the signal.

A green station wagon had been tailgating me for the last few minutes. I yielded to the right to let the vehicle past. The driver continued to tailgate and started to honk their horn. The antagonistic behaviour began to irritate. I was conscious how straightforward confrontations can lead to violent behaviour. I stayed calm and rational. I didn't want hassle.

A violent and loud thud suddenly projected my existence into illusory slow motion. For a split second I stared into the enraged gaze of my aggressor who pulled level with my car.  Haunting… crazed… the hothead tryed to force me off the road. Both vehicles became intertwined in a power struggle.

I began screaming in concert with the grinding of metal. I finally lost control of the vehicle and headed towards a weather-ravaged dark wooden fence. My final recollection was the rear of the station wagon as it sped of in a triumphant show of power. I slowly descended into unconsciousness.

'Are you all right? Can you hear me?' frantically enquired a young female voice. 'I saw what that guy in the vehicle did! He tried to kill you ... run you off the road. Are you all right?'

As her soft voice undulated I slowly came round. Disorientated and confused I tried to move each limb in turn to distinguish the extent of damage. While my vision was blurred - exacerbated by blood pouring from lacerations to my upper and lower face - I became gratefully aware of survival.

The girl continued to converse in a frenzied manner. 'Can you hear me? Are you able to speak? I've telephoned for an ambulance ... the police. They should be here soon. Just hold on ....'

The ambulance and police arrived at the scene in concert. The young girl was tearful, and persistently shook as she recounted the distressing event. I was lucky; I was still alive. Suddenly I acquired a new knowledge of reality, life, what it means to be mortal. Once more, I became part of the sun, the moon, the stars, this earth.

*
Reflections: A river runs by my house every morning at seven o'clock. I believe its a fitness fad, of sorts. This morning we strolled together and spoke of our childhoods. We have much in common.

The river dutifully executes its roles despite severe constraints, namely: lack of affinity with hard hearts, harsh words and voices, wanting to die but afraid of death. Constantly taking risks, being humorous, mostly ingratiating despite unwanted conflicts.

The river's tormented face sometimes bothers me, as does its toneless voice. It never complains, but despises its fate. It detests pity most of all.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Thousand Pitfalls a Day

 

Today I received an 'old-fashioned' letter which I read several times at the Café Rousseau. The village is immaterial: the letter isn't. The message is beautiful and haunting. A letter accords a sense of the individual which an email, a text, a phone call, or a face to face meeting can ever hope to express. Tonight I shall sleep with the letter beneath my pillow as the moon lights up the rooftops in the village, and lazily watch my chest gently rise and fall as tranquility fills the room. 

I feel stronger than I did yesterday, and, indeed, the day before. Sometimes, thinking is worst than physical pain. I'm thankful, however, that bleak thoughts can be sweetened by satin words from a fresh-faced, beautiful - not necessarily, attractive - young woman. What do I fear? Perhaps drowning in my own thoughts, when frightening memories wash back and forth, and overwhelm my strength and spirit.

I recall watching a cow giving birth. And how the mother tenderly licked her calf. I was seven-years-old. The grass in the field graced my father's knees. His face, normally hard, was covered in a shiny coat of sweat. I could sense he was content, happy. For a moment he stood motionless, glanced at me, and smiled. I thought, 'It's so beautiful. The newly-born calf is so beautiful!' I had witnessed the birth of a new life.
*
'What do you want?!' a shrill voice exclaimed. A boorish waitress with a red face and pink arms stared down at me. 

'A coffee, please.'

'We don't have any!'

'Tea ...' I felt like a hunted animal.

'There's nothing to eat or drink! Don't you know there's a war on!' she said frostily.

The main shopping street was busy. Everything seemed normal. The coffee shop was full of people. I looked at them, one by one, through pale eyes. What were they thinking about? Some sat with their eyes closed, as if asleep.

'What war?' I enquired. The dazzling glare of the lights made me giddy. Everything that seemed simple a moment before now seemed complicated.  'What war are you talking about?'

The waitress came close to me. Her mustard breath tortured me. 'You must be a foreigner! What war?! Look around you! There has to be balance in nature between good and evil, love and hatred, murderers and bodies, or all hell breaks loose!'

To change the subject, I expressed interest in the coffee shop, and its customers.

'Don't they all look sad?' she asked, without waiting for an answer.

At such moments I wait for my thinking to produce words to lighten my heart and mind. It's strange how individuals and groups can cultivate fear. They trade in life and death, and can penetrate the strongest ceilings and walls. Their eyes shine in the darkness as their claws dig deeper and deeper into the bodies and souls of victims. The scent of death is never far from all things beautiful.

*
Reflections: It is not possible to identify yourself in someone else, dream their dreams, or to enter their soul. We are alone, finite, prisoners of our own egotism. Each one of us face 'a thousand pitfalls a day.'

Each second on this earth a person's mouth quivers with contempt and hatred of fellow human beings. They live in a restricted world of unceasing conflict. Such individuals may breathe copiously but they are already dead: they feel no sense of love, compassion, sadness, or loss. The one thing they cannot tolerate, above all other things, is life.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Everything's Coming Up Roses


Today my wife is infused with imagination, inspiration and a deep commitment to uncover why we've drifted apart. She gazes at me like a large-eyed, watchful donkey. After spiting on our wedding picture album she points a thick streaky sausage at me. Aided by her toothless mouth and undersized black patent pro-wrestling boots, she groans, 'You once seemed young. Now you're a bloody withered tree. You no longer live in or by time … Just books, and more bloody books!'

Differences divide her reality from mine. What's my wife looking at? The ghost of a man once celebrated for searching for "one great love" - the ideal woman? Maybe she observes an old beggar-man; half-crazed with a maze of half-healed scars on his swollen nose. Why do I bother staring back, it only makes a fuss?

Words only invoke memories of jealousy, hurt, a wrong turn in the road taken, innumerable ghosts. What she likes I detest, and vice-versa. Silly little things that grow into stupid big things. She drinks cocktails – usually, a "Singapore Sling" – while removing the wax from her ears with a large hair pin while singing “Everything's Coming Up Roses”: You'll be swell! You'll be great! Gonna have the whole world on the plate! Starting here, starting now, honey, everything's coming up roses! I sit traumatised by the deafening din and embrace the darkness only I can feel and see. The collected wax is utilised when she attempts hair highlights at home; always with disastrous consequences, for example, setting the dog on fire.

My wife makes sounds as well. One, in particular, starts of delicate, and ascends to a steady thud which rattles every window in our house, and dwellings beyond for all I know. Our poor dog's tail stiffens, his fur bristles, and he leaps about on the dining room table unable to bark. I think the dog hates me for saying nothing to my wife about her behavior. I'm never filled with enough confidence to confront her; the dog doesn't understand my predicament. Once the dog brought me a carving knife from the kitchen. As it wagged its stiffened tail, its sad, large eyes seemed to plead, ' Stab her to death, for me, please. Just this once!'

Outside the church bells chime. Why so far from the church? It must be 50 kilometers, at least, from our home to the little church, the graveyard, to the sound of rushing cars, and the black clad, hymn-singing congregation? The bells seem to be pacing up and down close to our living room window. How infuriating it must be to have to play the same melody each day, at the same time, and receive no gratitude? The chimes begin to fade. Perhaps the bells have deserted the church in order to be with other bells in a creative community? Or a tropical island in search of the simple life, if such a life exists?

I check my watch. Mr Cloud is due at 7.00 o'clock.

I hear his footsteps before he knocks on the front door. 'Beautiful weather,' he murmurs. Mr Cloud's appearance chills my blood, just like my wife's naked body on our wedding-night. He has no blood under his pale, translucent skin. He holds out a trembling hand. 'It belongs to my son, Ivar. I never leave home without it.' I gaze at the hand and say nothing.

We go into the living room. I pretend not to understand taxidermy. 'What type of bird is it?' he enquired.

'I'm not quite sure? Large, with ears like a rat. It flew in through the back door, circled the room a few times and hovered above my head. I was petrified. It was fearsome and confident. Lucky I was cleaning my shotgun. A single shot. I don't believe in death, but what else could I do?'

I was troubled by Cloud's cold stare. There was a long silence. He sighed deeply. 'Date and time of death?'

Lowering my eyes, I replied, 'Mid-afternoon ... today ...'

'Extent of injuries?'

'The nostrils are completely gone ...'

'The nostrils?!'

'I mean mouth! ... Beak! ... Whatever the hell you call it!'

I told him once again how it had happened. I also enquired if his services were expensive. When he asked if I wanted the mouth open or shut I thought either way unsightly; her mouth had morphed into a thin sharpened knife in search of hardened veal. I told Cloud I would accept his professional judgement.

Cloud and I went into the kitchen and opened the large chest freezer. We exchanged a knowing look and then everything went quickly. The large bird was well wrapped in polyethylene and frozen. We both grunted as we carried the heavy package to the back of Cloud's black van. He would contact me once she was stuffed.

Three days later Cloud was waiting for me at his premises. When he unveiled the mounted bird I was surprised how well she looked. Suddenly, I felt a lump in my throat.

'I know, I know, it's hard. But your wife would be proud. I'll deliver it tomorrow night when the world is silent.' In spite of everything Cloud and I began to laugh. 'What will you do now?'

'I'm not sure,' I replied. 'It will not, however, involve lifting heavy weights. I believe I shall paint my front door blue. Black can be such a sombre colour. Good day to you.'

I stepped out into the quiet street and stood still for a moment. My soul felt revitalised. My self-confidence had returned. I walked swiftly back to my home. It was dark but I was unaware of darkness. My anxieties turned into curiosity; curiosity and craving for my new life.

*
Reflections: Romantic love is ephemeral; therein lies its preciousness.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What did Vincent van Gogh eat for Breakfast?


The image one acquires of a genius is dependent on the selection. Whether the individual is a gifted painter, poet, philosopher, musician, inventor, or scientist, is, in fact, immaterial. Genius remains a matter of opinion and can't be measured. The genius, by accident of birth, possesses the special gift of originality, heightened perception and intuition, and embraces individualism in spite of (or because of) ridicule from contemporaries, in pursuit of their own vision and goal.

There remains a potent romantic image of the genius – probably, from Victorian times – as someone disturbed, on the verge of mental collapse, unable to keep their body and soul together. This is not the case with most geniuses. Jonathan Swift, David Hume, and Galileo Galilei, come to mind. There are others, of course.

The image of the artist Vincent van Gogh is a case in point. We know Van Gogh was a great artist: his works exist to to prove it. However, what is authentically known of Van Gogh's thinking, his inner tensions, the struggles his gifts bestowed upon him, his family and friends? A study of his life and work reveals a complex individual. This raises a further question: which human isn't complex?

Who decides whether a painting, a poem, a novel is, or, is not, a great work of art? In reality, it is a small coterie of academics, critics, merchandisers (so-called experts); an informal jury of sorts, who can make or break an artist's reputation and fortune.

Indeed, if we approach the works of geniuses without knowledge of a tragic backstory how would we view their works? It is impossible to know. The fact an artist may have died tragically at an early age draws some individuals to their works. This prior knowledge undoubtedly distorts one's view of the artist's output. How would such art be received if the artist were still alive? Would it be venerated to the same degree?

As with all individuals labeled geniuses, or not, excess of natural ability does not make for satisfaction and happiness, any more than excess of wealth.

Finally, what is normal? Each one of us is unique. We all have discreteness. We are all outstanding in our own way. Primarily, we are all moving in the same direction: seeking to live an authentic life out of the reach of false judges.

*
Reflections: For some people fame and fortune are a cross or a crown. They are recognised everywhere they go. As I live in anonymity, I am able to walk around my home unrecognised by my wife and children. Even our dog has stopped peeing on my leg, an affection which, oddly, I miss.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rebekah Kerrigan interviewed in the Neonatal Unit, Ulster Hospital on 13 June 2010 - 'First Hours on Mother Earth'


I'm using Ronnie's blog to explain some things before people start talking about me and I won't be able to get a word in edgewise.

My name is Rebekah. I was born by caesarian today, 13 June 2010. I'm only five hours old. I hope you like the photograph. It's not my best side and the nappy nearly touches my nose. Smaller sizes, please! My first 'tantrum' and it feels good.

Anyhow, my dad, Ricky, is talking to a young nurse dressed in water blue scrubs. Not my dad, the nurse, silly! Such a beautiful colour. I shall always remember it. In fact, it may become my favourite colour. Ricky looks pale, tired and anxious. I can tell he is kind and clever. Believe me, I can see him. He smiles and waves at me. I'm snug in my little incubator in the neonatal unit.

There's another baby in the unit, too. I'm quite small: four pounds, four ounces. I'm surrounded by monitors and a tube carries milk to my stomach. My mum, Lindsay, is in a side ward recovering from the delivery. My mum looked exhausted as she cradled me so I did my best not to cry too loud. She has lovely, soft hands. Mum needs rest, just like dad. I arrived unexpectedly, but, in truth, I couldn't wait any longer to be born.

My favourite nurse has blonde center-parted hair and a dazzling warm smile. My instinct tells me I will be blessed with charm and beauty, too. I may even be a nurse. Now that the curtain has raised on my life I intend to be kind, courteous, form my life and destiny, and live in harmony with all living things. I will try to remember that the simple things in life are usually the most important.

I've noticed talking can be difficult. Talking sense, I mean. On top of everything else I have to learn how to be relaxed and amusing in conversation, and learn all the social gestures, looks and hidden meanings. I intend to never sulk or make a fool of myself, and spread joy wherever I go. Of course, I expect my parents to discipline me, when necessary, out of general concern and love for me.

I occasionally wonder why some individuals fail to realise I'm a unique individual. I'm a girl like no other girl who has ever lived. Yet some people gaze at me and foolishly say I've my mother's eyes, my brother's nose, my father's legs. I'm not a diva, just making a point. I'm not a carbon copy or a genetic copy of other people. I'm me. REBEKAH KERRIGAN! Guess that counts as a second tantrum.

Well, I have two sisters and a brother. I've acquired the main role and expect to be subject to extremes of sibling jealousy and devotion. When I get out of hospital I'll arouse interest everywhere I go. Meanwhile I'm being looked after by mum and dad and nurses in hospital and they keep me clean, spotless and fed.

I wonder what our house looks like and if it's in a quiet street? How many rooms does it have? Has it got little cupboards and hiding places? The furniture, pictures, the symphonies of smells will be new to me. A newborn world of sounds, colours, lights, odours.

In the weeks, months and years ahead, I'm looking forward to experiencing all kinds of things, like: Christmas and birthday presents, reading books about horses, watching cartoons and films, playing games with my sisters and brother, riding a bicycle, smelling flowers (especially roses), eating food (I wonder if I will like Mexican?), licking ice-cream and lollies, listening to music, dancing, laughing, being read 'bedtime' stories by my parents and grandparents,  bathing in warm, bubbly, scented water with lots of toys, throwing small stones into a lake of calm water, chasing butterflies, wearing jewelery, perfume, makeup, finding true friendship and unquestionable love in all its guises.

The nurse is coming to check my oxygen levels. I have to go and pretend I'm asleep. Bye for now.

*
Reflections:  I am five hours old and the 'baby' of the family. And guess what? I will always be the baby, even when I’m thirty, forty, or sixty! That sounds really old now. I might even be married with children of my own and still be the baby. How strange is that?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Extraordinary Scenes in the Attic

 
This afternoon, on the stroke of two, I heard something resembling a Pistol Shrimp firing a Schwerer Gustav gun. I slowly climbed the stairs towards the source of the sound and opened the small, dusty trapdoor of the attic. An icy chill immediately infected my body. I'd tell you about my state of mind, but you might laugh, choke on a watermelon sorbet, hit me with a hefty lawsuit, or - heaven forbid - a pair of brown, thin Wale Cord trousers.

My breath began steaming in front of me then moved to the rear. I pushed my glasses back on my nose. My body parts and accessories were deserting me. I called out through the semi-darkness. No one replied. The smell of damp reignited an instinctive fear I'd almost forgotten.

Aided by the flickering, faint light from a bulb hanging from a long wire I glanced around the attic like an intruder. It was full of trunks, clothes, faded paintings, a three-poster bed, Howard Hughes, a collection of jungle clearings, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress World War Two airplane and, horror of horrors, my ex-wife, Loretta.

I thought she had drowned on vacation six months earlier when we attended an exhibition of paintings by Salvador Dali in Thomas Beecham's cigar.

I closed my eyes and turned away. My legs began to shake like an old horse. I heard a loud whine! I looked again, in silence. Loretta was clad in a diving suit, sitting in a bathtub, furiously waving her arms about in the air. It was difficult to know what Loretta was saying as she was wearing a diving helmet. I think she was swearing, 'You need locked up! . . . You made this happen!'

I rapidly closed the trapdoor and wiped the sweat from my face. My heart began to beat in time with my shaking legs. Trembling, I went downstairs and drank water to moisten my swollen tongue. I caught my reflection in the kitchen mirror and put it outside with the cat. I had to talk to my dear friend, Dr Hans Lubricant.

'Are you sure it’s her? A diving-suit, you say? A dreadfully unattractive woman, if I may say so?'

'I'd recognize that cold, harsh, miserable face anywhere!'

'Stay calm . . . We're all mortal, you know. A diving-suit, you say? Have you told her you remarried . . . her sister? An attractive, young woman, if I may say so?'

'Of course not! I'd take my own life, but where to? Travel insurance is so expensive.'

'I''ll come right over!'

The doctor walked across the living room. He spoke through clenched teeth which belonged to one of his patients.

'You're too hard on your self. She was idle and pampered. Look at your life through your own eyes, not through those of others. Why if it were "The Middle Ages" she would have been burned at the stake. Twice, at least.'

Hans took off his glasses and wiped his eyes with a handkerchief. He began to fidget, nervously.

'Listen. You're tired, exhausted. Have you considered your “inner eye” affliction may have returned? Momentarily, of course. You have an extraordinary imagination. I''ll check the situation myself.'

I listened in silence and drank more water.

Hans went upstairs and headed for the attic. A few minutes later he came flying down the stairs in the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress airplane with Howard Hughes on board.

'Let's get the hell out of here!' Hans shouted at me. ' It's the most terrifying image I've ever seen! All the hate of the world is contained in that women! She's alive, yet as old and cold as a corpse!'

As we flew through the front door the whine of bullets and explosives were too close for comfort. Without doubt Loretta had fiery ancestry in her blood. She fired until we became one with the soft, white clouds.

I fear her hunger for danger, excitement and hazardous adventure will be her downfall. Loretta's luck will run out, sooner or later, like me. 

*
Reflections:  Some people sacrifice everything in pursuit of wealth. They forget that life, love, compassion, altruism, humanity and laughter can not be pursued posthumously. Sometimes we watch each other suffocate and decline to help. Pity the individual whose life is enriched by watching a fellow human being in trouble, engaged in a struggle for survival, and does not intervene. A life becomes yesterday's news. Yet, life goes on.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I Love the Smell of Manure in the Morning


My new short story runs the gamut from light comedy to stark tragedy. It's about a lady's eyebrows who 'fall in love' with a gentleman's mustache. Then tragedy strikes. The eyebrows announce their engagement to a nose hair. This drives the mustache 'nuts' and starts drinking heavily. In a drunken stupor the mustache sends an ambulance, a fire engine, a police car, an electric chair, a hearse, a rickshaw, a refrigerator on stilts and a dancing hedgehog to the home of the eyebrows. 

The plot acknowledges that the lady's eyebrows have a need for excitement, hence the sirens, emergency vehicles, dancing animals and men in uniform running in all directions, including sideways. The mustache then kidnaps the eyebrows. They drive off into the sunset in a car blazoned with the sign, 'Hair Today, Hair Tomorrow, and for the Foreseeable Future.'

In their haste to get away the car narrowly misses an elderly lady performing handstands on the sidewalk. The police issue a 'mugshot' of the mustache. However, the possibility that the mustache may be disguised as a beard can't be ruled out, rubbed out, or removed from unsightly moles.

*
This week an old school friend, Hedwig Hardwick, was officially registered as a "listed building." Now H.H. can't be demolished, or altered, without government permission. This news has gravely upset his bewhiskered hairdresser, Herrmane Von Follicle, who never misses an opportunity to cry out, 'It must be terribly embarrassing walking about with a naked head! You should be locked up!' when he sees someone with a bald pate.

While Hedwig is selfish and unfeeling and cantankerous he also has negative traits. His eccentric behaviour has involved inviting reindeer to tea in the drawing room of his home in Norway, and Hedwig turning up as a pair of black spectacles. He also has a habit of making outrageous statements which particularly irritate his wife: "All elephants enjoy gardening, don't you know." and "Some people are riddled with bullets and some are riddled with woodworm, don't you know."

Hedwig's most sensuous pleasure is lifting a book in his hand, sniffing its invigorating fragrance, fondling its pages with his thumbs and reading while naked. Due to this extravagant behaviour, Hedwig has been thrown off tube trains, buses and department store escalators, on numerous occasions.

Hedwig's favourite book is Animal Farm. When I asked him why, he replied, 'It's utterly compelling if one can read. The book greatly improved my understanding of myself, the human condition and, let us never forget, the secret network which exists between all animals. Above all, above all else! I love the smell of manure in the morning!'

*
Reflections: Sometimes the intense pleasure of reading comes from re-reading a piece of literary work. It is one of life's pleasures to return to a novel one has read to discover something new, something one may have missed on the first, second or third reading, for example, the title.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Life in the Day of a Private Investigator


The home of Esther Christian. Enter George Fox dressed as Groucho Marx.

Christian: Thank you for coming at short notice.

(Fox circles the room examining the furniture and ornamintations.)

Christian: (gesturing) Please take a seat.

Fox: I knew something was up the moment my phone rang.

Christian: Why?

Fox:  I haven't got one.

(Fox sits down.)

Christian: You had no trouble finding my home?

Fox: I live right next door. (Rolls his eyes.)

Christian: But I've never seen you before.

Fox: I wear a different disguise each day. My wife and children have never seen my real face. Which is a blessing in disguise. I have a passing resemblance to Tolstoy on a good day.

Christian: What's that mark on your hand?

Fox: A black eye. I found it in your driveway. I nearly tripped over it. (Pause) It may be valuable evidence, just evidence, or unjust evidence. In my line of work things are not always cut and dried. Sometimes they are dried then cut. Why only yesterday ...

Christian: (sobbing) ... I'm sorry ... I haven't seen my husband for two days.

Fox: Count yourself lucky. I see my wife every day. She thinks we're both dead and all evidence supports her conclusion.

(Fox hands a crumpled piece of paper to Christian.)

Fox: Just in case I don't find your husband write down your home and business telephone numbers, your body measurements, and I'll uncover the whole thing.

Christian: Pardon?

Fox: What was your husband wearing when you last saw him?

Christian:  A clown outfit.

Fox: A clown outfit! (Leaps up and sits down again.) Is he in the circus, a sideshow?

Christian: He's an investment banker in Wall Street.

Fox: Well, that figures. (Pause) I'll need a photograph.

(Christian hands a photograph to Fox. On inspection Fox believes Abraham's face, while undoubtedly handsome, displays arrogance and conceit. Christian sits opposite Fox. He watches her cross her legs intensely high. Fox, transfixed by her striking beauty, trys to hide his heavy breathing.)

Fox: Has your husband changed his routine? Acquired new friends? Any strange phone calls or bills? (Pause) Have you seen anyone watching your home, looking through your bedroom window, other than me?

Christian: No. I don't believe so.

Fox: Any problems with his health: physical? psychological? stroboscopical?

Christian: (timidly, staring down) Well, lately he has been obsessed with his bowels, his shrinking body parts, loss of libido, disinterest in the opposite sex, memory loss, exhaustion, chest pains, money, the acceleration of time, his inability to understand a rapidly changing world. He says it makes him feel like an alien. (Pause) I don't believe he has ever truly accepted aging and mortality.

The room becomes remarkably quite. Christian looks at Fox. He is slumped in the chair with his eyes wide-open and his mouth at a strange angle. His fake glasses and cigar are on his lap. Anguish and fatigue mark his wrinkled face.

Christian decides to make them both tea. As she gazes at his motionless body she thinks he looks as helpless as a little boy. She would have loved a child of her own, of course. But then she had never married.

*
Reflections:  I've concluded that time and space no longer exist. Neither does my bank account. In fact, it lies frozen. Why my account decided to holiday in Iceland defies rationality. My inescapable financial straits follow me everywhere. I'm at my wit's end: not a long distance, I know, but try getting there during a bus or subway strike.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dionysus and the Virtual World



Today I called on my friend, Dionysus Polygamsus. He greeted me wearing discoloured, stain-ridden pajamas, and an Emily Dickinson hairstyle. It was late afternoon. The poor man was on his knees. He reeked of self-destructiveness. His shabby appearance numbed my senses.

'I hope you've brought water with you,' he gasped.

As I entered the house I found it hard to adjust to the darkness. His five wives, and twenty-six children, each kissed me on the cheek. I grieved for each one of them. I walked to the centre of the living room which was empty of furniture. Its strange vacancy matched the lifeless faces gazing at me. The house and inhabitants had lost shape. The walls trembled, and the air was numb with fear. What was Dionysus doing with his life? Each wife and child looked at me with suspicion through a veiled light. 

Suddenly, Dionysus jumped up, and clutched at me with clammy hands. 'Hold me,' he cried. 'I haven't slept for weeks! Please, hold me!' He pushed his half-drowsed, oily face into my shirt. 'Don't look at my ears! I can't stand people looking at my ears!' There was hardly any flesh on him. He was a ghostly winter sun. I remained speechless within my frozen body. He fell to the floor, and gripped my ankles.

'I want to be someone else.' Dionysus shouted, waving a bony fist under my nose.

'We all have such a desire from time to time ...  '

'A woman!'

'Which one?'

' No! Me!'

'You're a woman?!'

'No. I want to be a woman.'

I was afraid to move. I realised Dionysus' affair with computer games and social networking had become a sickening, dark obsession. He was addicted to games based on violence, destruction and death. He liked to play the hero, usually banishing a chainsaw. Me? The words orcs, warlocks, trolls, gnomes, inflict "menopausal night sweats" on me, even when sunlight towers over the streets.

'What about your children, your wives?' I said, trying to calm him. His family looked pale and drawn; some resembled gargoyles. He had become fixated with pixelated images to the detriment of his own flesh and blood.

'I don't care about them. I've virtual children and virtual wives to look after! Don't you see?!' he answered bitterly. 'With technology I can be someone else. I can finally lead an exciting life! Real life is dull!'

I told him I could arrange for a doctor to call. When I suggested he required professional help it was evident he didn't know what I was talking about. 'It's too late.' Dionysus shouted. 'I'm having a passionate lesbian affair with a gay man. You have to believe me. I'm in love.'

I felt I was being pursued by a nightmare without end. In truth, he scared me. 

'Can't you see!' he continued. 'I only exist inside my computer.'

I couldn't intervene to save Dionysus. He had been colonized by cunning advertising, marketing and false images. He told me of living for months on-line, surfing game and fantasy sites. By the sad look on his face I knew he was deluded.

Walking home I realized I didn't exist inside, or outside, my computer. Suddenly, the bright colours surrounding me became dull, frail. Time slowed down. I disappeared.

*

Reflections: Until today I felt totally in control of my 'life' and 'emotions'. However, while my back was turned, they conjoined to take my car keys, mobile-phone and car. Their quest? To experience a plume of volcanic ash, and cones of lava, in some god-forsaken country covered in ice.

I find their sense of humour naive and disruptive. They photograph each other - with my mobile-phone camera - and send emails to disclose how their "wonderful" journey is progressing. Meanwhile, I sit in frozen misery waiting their return unsure of my whereabouts. 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Beautiful Metamorphosis


Today I started a new job as a hare at the local greyhound racing track. The funny thing is the dogs think I'm a fake. I always yearned for a low-status job; an inverted form of snobbery, I guess. My father worked for a short while as a bureau drawer - the constant opening and closing give him severe dizzy spells. Even now he faints at the sight of a silk dress.

I recall that my grandfather once worked as a snowstorm in Colorado but couldn't stand wearing icicles on his chin. One cold, windy day - without warning - he was hit by a snowplough, and ended up with his hair parted in the middle. After that he became a widow, and never ventured further than the local grocery store without a loaded rifle.

 *
My present wife, Mona, passed away two days – no, two hours – ago. Doesn't time sometimes pass slow? Perhaps, it's just my state of mind. Our relationship had become tiresome and dull. At breakfast she complained of a high temperature and that her shoes had left for work without her. I noticed her mouth had grown bitter and a blueberry plant. She no longer looked like the honey of a minute, never mind of a generation. She suddenly transformed into a throbbing demon, grabbed the net curtain from the window and tried to suffocate me. I didn't find this strange. It's normal behavior in our household.

What galled me were the tufts of cotton wool she was attempting to push deep in my orifices. We struggled, then she ran angrily up the stairs, screaming, her voice distorted, 'I'm not going to a damn dog track to watch you work! Would you do the same for me?! I damn well know you wouldn't!'

Does that sound like rational behavior to you?

She raced into the bedroom and attempted to jump through the back of our wardrobe. She cried in an abrupt, gasping voice, 'Narnia!' Suddenly, I understood. As I stared at Mona - embedded in the back of the wardrobe, her rage compressed and silenced forever - I realised her need to live in an entirely different world.

I kindly helped her on her way with the aid of a large baseball bat. She's now lodged in a cavity wall; smiling, not smirking, for the first time. The room seems strangely silent. By appearance, all stress and anxiety have left her body, except for her hands which are tightly clenched.

I will plaster over Mona tomorrow, then redecorate the walls with yellow patterned wallpaper. It's the least I can do. Her favourite short story was The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I take full advantage of my new-founded liberation, shower and dress as a man for the first time in weeks. I felt intoxicated, full of desire and arrange a blind date with a lady called Catherine Wheel. I trust her on-line photograph is unflattering. She has spiked, ink-blue cauliflower hair. Her face looks like soft cheese with a bread roll for a nose. In a certain light I fear her features may resemble Stilton with veins of blue-green mold.

The house is quite. I close the wardrobe door, then turn towards the bedroom door, and walk in gentle, sensitive steps and embrace a beautiful metamorphosis. I burn like fire. Mona would understand.

 *
Reflections: Staring out from my hair covered face I sometimes appear lonely, detached, loveless, a vessel of inner decay. I don't awake for days from grotesque dream states. I am someone to look at, rather than be. Surrealistic imagery has the audacity to accompany me for hours. It is strange, not offensive.

The hollowness of existence touches us all, at times, if we are truthful. To be honest, I do not despair. I appreciate and experience the present, for someday it will disappear. I warmly embrace it and am thankful for its company.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Deceit of Labelling: Bigotry and Prejudice

The Conversion of St. Paul - Rubens

It is a sad fact that bigotry and prejudice appears to be the norm, rather than the exception, in an increasingly complex world. Most people seem satisfied to offer, or seek, simple-minded explanations to complicated matters affecting different peoples around the world who have their own grievances, views and aspirations. There will always be extremists and radicals who seek to subvert peace efforts and continue to perpetuate hatred and distrust. It is part of the nature of humankind. 

Many Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other believers in the supernatural, may know what they believe, but not why. Some accept creed without scrutiny which may have been inherited, rather than arrived at, and consequently are unable to articulate the foundation of their faith in the face of open minded discussion and critique.

Agreement on the meaning of the term religion is a Herculean task: the answer dependent on who one asks. The theologian, secularist, sociologist, psychologist, cosmologist, philosopher, writer, sports enthusiast et al., may each proffer a different explanation.

The arts and nature provide activities through which individuals achieve contentment, and which they may pursue with intense passion and devotion, for example: music; literature; poetry; painting; philosophy; wildlife preservation. An 'unbeliever' may admire religious paintings: The Conversion of St Paul by Rubens is a prime exemplar. The meaning to an individual of a work of art may be philosophical, inexplicable, provoke wonderment, or engender a spiritual sensibility.

This may also be true of 'falling in love', viewing a beautiful landscape, listening to the gentle murmur of a brook, or the lapping of ocean waves. Language cannot always express such experiences, as there may be, and usually is, an 'indefinable something more' about them.

Those who believe in the supernatural, and those who do not, may get pleasure from the same phenomenon - the difference being interpretation. The super-naturalist may interpret these experiences with reference to a deity; those who do not, regard these as manifestations of nature.

How many times have you heard an individual replicate a headline from a newspaper, or other media source, or quote verbatim from a sacred text, regarding an issue they patently haven’t thought through themselves? Some people are only too eager to offer their opinion on a myriad of issues without knowledge of the facts, which can be verified as sound or unsound.

Some parents consciously instill nationalistic, racial and religious ideological dogmatism in their children: hatred of other races and religious groups other than their own; belief in a class based superiority to others. Until a child forms associations outside their home the attitudes articulated by their parents can remain sacrosanct.

The same moral views and behaviour instilled at an early age may remain embedded in the memory for many years or a lifetime. Our knowledge of right and wrong may be obtained from a variety of sources: parents; society; peers; the law; God; our conscience. The values held by people and groups we associate with - family, friends, work colleagues, church or political organisations - influence the views we express as are own. Indeed, individuals may change their values and views dependent on whom they are talking to, and as a result conflict may arise.

Ultimately most people reach a position where their view on moral issues is lucid, but may change in light of new experiences, the way they perceive things, and when the issues arise.

How many times have you heard the quotation, 'Let your conscience be your guide?' History is littered with appalling acts which have been, and still are, carried out with a clear conscience. The consequence of conscientious differences of opinion can be catastrophic.

During the Reformation, Protestants and Catholics tortured and murdered each other; the mass hysteria of the witch trials in Europe resulted in the executions of tens of thousands of men, women and children. Today, throughout the world, individuals are still being imprisoned without trial, and tortured and executed by those blinded by ignorance and intolerance.

Altitude assists significantly when dropping bombs on other people as evidenced by the U.S. military on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. From an airplane houses below resemble minuscule dots. If you can’t recognise people, see their faces, and are not familiar with their name, it seems to be relatively easy to push the button, if deemed to be in a good cause by 'those in power'.

How easy it slips of the tongue to say one abhors violence, fabrication, and indoctrination in all its forms. No more so when 'religion' is used as a label by those perpetrating murder and violence. Nietzsche turned this observation into a principle, 'In individuals insanity is rare: in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule'.

The control of information and knowledge, and the capability to influence the way people believe and perceive the world, are important to those who aspire to exercise and preserve authority. The mass media - nationally, and worldwide - has a powerful incentive to sell newspapers and attract television viewers (the battle for commercial survival), and can be relied upon to change facts and distort truth as and when directed by their 'wealthy' owners.

The mass media may 'intentionally' portray those who do not have power in dehumanizing terms: parasites; scroungers; wasters; animals; and by using degrading terms: the poor, the underclass, the drop out, when in fact the individuals are genuinely homeless, penniless, unemployed, asylum seekers, mentally and physically ill.

The deceit of 'labeling' individuals distorts the truth, and the victim(s) may be portrayed as responsible for their circumstances, not the state, or society. The media can be used to great effect by those wishing to use power for political, military, religious, business and monetary purposes. Also, with modern technology, globalisation, the internet and faster means of communication, localised conflicts can swiftly become internationalised.

It is not difficult to understand the intentions of those who openly engage in activities to denigrate and destroy the lives and memories of other human beings. However that may be, individuals should aspire to learn more and to think for themselves, to attack prejudice and ignorance, and help to eradicate hatred, violence and racism in all its manifestations. 

Each human being on this earth should be free to live in dignity, to be treated with dignity, and respect the dignity and rights of others. 

(2010)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Attention Seekers & The Struggle for Silence

 

My next door neighbour, J.D. Cornfield, works as a shoulder blade sharpener. I can't remember when he painted his Garapa garden decking green and blue to mirror the sea. I know it made me nervous, tense, and drink sour milk. The man is a blatant attention seeker. Each morning, at sun rise, he can be found sitting in a lifeboat in his garden, its bow directed towards my kitchen. He wears an orange life jacket, and vigorously rows while shouting or blowing a whistle.

His facial expression is usually one of fatigue and anguish. Sometimes he sees me and throws fish into my garden. Then wails in a voice, stern and provocative: 'This sea is poisoning my life!' 'You think you're a big-shot!' 'Hey, you in the big house! Big-shot! Watch out for sharks, and women who smile and take you for a sucker!'

I watch this little man navigate imaginary waves and seas, and think I'm experiencing a film in slow motion. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether someone is laughing or screaming inside. Sooner or later, the shallow, amenable, myriad of persona one adopts each day, must crumble for the sake of one's sanity. The illusion of indispensability, the pressure to conform, to be respected, loved, is a shallow pier.

I have a charming, shallow house. J.D. who continuously craves attention has a transparent home. Each room has glass walls. Some are frosted, for example, the bathroom and master bedroom. Only curtains obscure the view from the least observant voyeur. He installed CCTV cameras (inside and outside) to watch every movement he makes. I believe he has a website devoted exclusively to thrill-seekers detached from reality. The number of subscribers is frightening. And yes, I watch with darkened gaze.

J.D. has a desire to be noticed at all cost. In fact, he's just an empty train fastened to an unused railroad track. And there's no shortage of trains.

*
To my dismay one of our interior French doors is starting to dress, and speak, Dutch. I stand and stare at the doors like an idiot. The dog is playing the piano; something from the Canine Composer Series. Now I understand how silence sometimes struggles to be heard.

A face floats before me like a plate of Tagliarini with courgettes, prawns, mint, and chilli. In fact, it is food. My 'present' wife, Mona, has thrown my lunch at me. Her face has cracked, and the dreadful anxiety of her thoughts are laid bear. 'Nothing happens around here except what's in my head!' The dog keeps playing the piano.

I notice the sky is overcast. J.D. is rowing with conviction, and going nowhere; throwing fish, torturing himself. The dog tells me that it wishes to be potty trained. My wife says, grimly, 'I can't be bothered. You're an empty restaurant. You'll never amount to more than a short walk around the docks. '

Suddenly, I feel my life has structure and meaning. I feel a strong connection with the earth. I look down. My wife has smeared the floor with 'high quality' super glue. I'm barefoot and, for the foreseeable future, not going anywhere.

*    
Reflections: Most of the time we are acting without being aware of it. In the end everything becomes jaded and dissolves. Surviving life and work requires considerable hypocrisy. Sometimes honesty can be a luxury.

The future looks bright for the pharmaceutical industry, so keep plenty of water at hand to help swallow their pills, whether you need them or not. Also, the banalities of self-help books are embarrassing, and rootless, and foster the illusion that fulfillment is easy, which it isn't. When I feel calmer, I intend to potty train the dog, and cook some of the fish lying in my back garden.