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by Doctor Wilkelfield Finkelfukal, on how your name has a profound effect on how serious you may be taken by others, is not to be published in the foreseeable future.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.