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.

Monday, March 08, 2010

How to Speak Several Languages Simultaneously

Often on my way to work I see my neighbor, Maximilian Odon Von Woods, swathed in bandages, walking his well-bred German Shepherd dog called Racine. Some days the dog is nimbly disguised with a beard, wears sunglasses, and sings in an American-born Greek soprano voice, ranging from high soprano to mezzo, with an occasional woof thrown in for good measure. Today, it sounds like Gilda from Rigoletto, or feline distemper, which must be worrying, especially for the dog.

'They're trying to kill me!' cried Maximilian.

'Who?' I said feinting surprise.

'Damn tree surgeons, shady doctors, water lilies ... They say I'm taking too long too die ... Do I look like someone who wishes too die?!'

'No ... ?'

'They've a bloody nerve. Take it from me, if you are ill, do not go to a doctor, do not tell a soul. There's a plot to rid the world of the likes of you and me. They want to bump us off.'

He laughed hysterically, then continued in a loud voice so the neighbours could hear. 'Doesn't anyone care?! The white coats make a living out of killing us! Sly little devils!'

I blushed, and didn't know what to say. His eccentric eyebrows appeared to exchange places, and speak in unison, 'Heed my words! There's no cure for loneliness, old age, or mud wrestlers rash!'

'SLY LITTLE DEVILS!' His voice shook me. 'Thank God, I've still got my dog. Listen to that voice.' Racine and I gazed at each other with sadness, our eyes half-blinded by the morning light.

Racine indeed sang with haunting passion, and extraordinary depth of feeling. Yet he looked tired and old; barely able to crawl by his master's side. Racine was still an amazing singer, with an incredible vocal range, effortlessly moving from the lowest note to the highest. Such stunning talent seems a miracle. Then so does a dog that sings.

Several readers have inquired about the illustrious Doctor Wilkelfield Finkelfukal. Little is known about the doctor. It's believed he used to be called John Dody, and shortened his name to Wilkelfield Finkelfukal in 1856 when he was thirty-two. He spoke several languages simultaneously. This is probably why no-one understood anything he said.

He wrote a 'one page' book titled: The Wisdom of Wilkelfield Finkelfukal. Unfortunately, it was deemed tedious and long-winded. Two copies were sold to a man with uncombable hair, before it was recalled by the publisher. After this disaster his volcanic imagination deserted him and he became a tree in 1866. In March 1875 he shot himself in the trunk. He tired of death and moved to Manhattan in 2004 where he runs a GP surgery when he's not walking.

Reflections: To live in nature, not with nature, is what I crave. To drift on the river, and escape the imperilment of conformity, greed, respectability and silence. To reenter my vagabond life, jettison hypocrisy, and remove the knife that pierces my soul. Time to improvise, vire from the shooting scrip, and rediscover myself.

Are we condemned to be free only when we forget about our own life?