Friday, January 28, 2011

Killing Time


A wise doctor once told me that the view from his house is not the same as mine. Using a map, he highlighted the area of town where he lived, and warned me not to rent a property close by, or he would kill me. I stood by my promise. He died one morning making breakfast dressed in his Donald Duck play suit. His house pal, Gus Goose, finally tired of eating duck eggs, and stuck Donald's yellow flat feet down his strap-on duck beak. The wise doctor's last words were, 'And there's me keeping blue eggs for your birthday ...'

*
Lately I've been feeling tired, bloated and lacking in energy. I sent a sample of my hair, with a cheque, to find out what my diet was doing to my body. I received an in-depth analysis in the post. The results were amazing. It confirmed my body was in great shape. The cheque, however, is suffering from hypersensitivity, a skin problem, muscle imbalance, deficiencies in a number of minerals and vitamins and requires to undergo a comprehensive detox plan. As I type, the cheque is resting on the sun-drenched front porch. It's on a new diet. I believe it's starting to look and feel better. It's early days, of course, but the signs are encouraging.

*    
I'm in the library trying to think and write. Outside the the street is bright, full of people coming and going, mostly going. A man with a small, slender face, and black-rimmed glasses in the left inside pocket of his jacket, stops in the street and holds his breath in his right hand. He places it back in his mouth and moves on. I sense a presence looking down at me. A young girl: pretty, short straight black hair, wearing a short black leather coat. In fact, everything is short, including the scar on her left cheek.

'Aren't you a teacher?' she asked.

'Yes,' I said, lying.

'We've met before,' she continued. 'Your first name has two syllables ... Let me guess ... May I sit down?'

'You may.' I like the company of females, playing with words, expressions, flirting. She inclined her head. It made her more beautiful.

'Is it Rumpelstiltskin?'

My kind of girl. 'No. But you're close.'

I produce a genuine smile and place it back in my wallet. 'Have you been in a library before?'

'No. This is the first time. I mean ... Well, I've been watching you'. Her blue velvet eyes aroused my emotions. 'Two syllables? ...'

'Sometimes one, sometimes two, sometimes three or four, if you count swear words.'

'What do you write?'

'Whatever pops into my head. If I wait, something happens. Something always happens.' I pause for a moment, only because she is so damn pretty, bracing, and she observes, listens. She's sharp in a good way.

'Is it Alex?' she asks. Then, 'Jean-Patrick?' I notice the holes in her jeans and her small well-shaped lips.

'I have to go.' We stare at each other in silence.

Her voice sounds like a whisper, 'I'll see you again.'

I lift my writing materials. 'Well, yes ... ' She gives a lop-sided smile and tells me her name is Hannah.

I hand her my card. She looks at it for a while. Her face lights up. She is amused, beautiful.

'I'll see you around kid.' I do my best Robert Mitchum impression as I exit the library and merge into the shape of the town. I'll see her around, that's for sure. Life's all about killing time. There are worse ways to kill time than in the company of an intelligent, beautiful, young woman who knows your first name has two syllables.
*    
Reflections:  What most people want in this world is honesty and to be recognised as a human being. The mass media (owned by the wealthy) try their best to distort the truth about the poor, the disadvantaged, the homeless, the unemployed.

Twenty-four hours walking and sleeping in the streets without proper clothes, cash, credit cards, mobile phones, Blackberries, iPod's, laptops, food, and protection from physical and verbal assault, might just enlighten 'some' people whose job it is to distort the truth to bag a 'good' story line.

Thankfully there are honest people with compassion, generosity, courage, and goodwill, who daily help the damaged and abused whose lives, sadly, hang by a thread.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Day in the Life of Burt Bacharach


'What’s New Pussycat?'

'Number 4—ham omelette—with coffee—please,' said Burt, removing his sunglasses, pinching his nose to ease the tension.

'Heavenly,' retorted the waiter, smiling widely.

'The truth is—' Burt said, biting his lip, moving closer to the waiter.

'Yes?'

'The truth is Hal David wrote most of the lyrics—Hal David! For the last time—Hal David! I’m a composer, an arranger, a pianist, a singer, occasional lyricist—'

'Hmmm,' the waiter chuckled, exposing his red gums, 'Absolutely.' He disappeared to place the order. Burt closed his eyes, and massaged the ridge of his nose.

He eat his breakfast leisurely while humming a melody. A new melody that he banked away inside his head with all the others. Once finished, he put on his coat, placed a tip on the table, and walked towards the exit. As he opens the door to greet the rest of the day—there has been a sudden downpour—he hears a shrill, irritating voice. 'Will you be having breakfast tomorrow, Mr Bacharach?'

The question takes Burt slightly by surprise. He hesitates, his face bristling with distress. 'I’m not sure—? I probably will.'

'Promises, Promises,' chuckled the waiter.

Burt searches for a reserved response; nothing of value materializes.

'Are you all right Mr Bacharach?' a concerned voice enquires. 'You look tired.' A young waitress gently touches Burt on the shoulder. She is blushing like a schoolgirl. 'Have another cup of coffee—on the house—or, perhaps, a glass of cold water.'

'Well I ... cold water, please,' said Burt, touched by her concern. He sits down, rests his head on his hands. The waitress returns and watches as he drinks from the glass. She observes his expression change from one of concern to one of calm; in fact, he gives her a warm smile. He notices the young girl has broad shoulders and hips, and thick black hair tied in a ponytail. He hands her the empty glass. 'In my ignorance I forgot to ask your name?'

'That's OK. It's Dionne. And, yes, my mom named me after Dionne Warwick.' She stares at him through her big blue eyes.  'My mom's favourite song is "The Look Of Love". You're really Something Big in our home. In fact, in our life.' Burt thanked Dionne for the kind words. He asked her where she lived, and if she had other work. 'I was born about Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa,' said Dionne pleasantly. 'I work two or three nights at Blue On Blue, a nightclub on Second Avenue.'

'That must be hard on you?' said Burt quietly.

'I like it here in New York—at the diner—Alfie and Arthur. We've had some Magic Moments since I arrived. At the beginning I looked like The Blob. I'm settled now. Which reminds me! I've got to get A Message to Michael. I couldn't live without him. He's my boyfriend and we are getting married Any Day Now!' Burt congratulated Dionne. She responded with an affectionate glance and pretty eyes laced with fun.

The door of the diner opened and in walked a boyish-looking man with long, shining, light-brown hair. Dionne greeted him with a kiss and introduced Michael to Burt. It was clear The Look of Love was written over both their faces; a special happiness embraced the diner like a Lost Horizon painted from memory one amazing night. Burt knew that Dionne and Michael would share all kinds of new experiences together. In the Land of Make Believe everything, and anything, is possible.

Freed from the iron restrictions of composing music for a while Burt felt revitalised. 'Are you going anywhere special on your honeymoon?'

'Oh, yes! San Jose. Have you been there?' enquired Michael.

'Yes, I've got lots of friends in San Jose—lots of good friends.'

'Would you mind showing us San Jose on a map? We're lousy at finding places we've never been to. Dionne and myself would be grateful. That is, if you have the time?'

'Of course. That's What Friends Are For, after all.' Deep in that moment Burt felt stability, a sense of peace, and thought how Wonderful To Be Young, to be in the presence of love, to feel alive.

*     
This afternoon I witnessed two middle-aged men quickly pass each other in the street while holding a laconic conversation:

1st MAN: Hi Jim. Long time no see.

2nd MAN: You're right there. All the best.

I remain perplexed by their flow of words spoken on the run, so to speak. A minor detail you may venture, but a strange way to behave, nonetheless. Perhaps they don't enjoy each others company; perhaps they share a raw wound that will never heal, perhaps a long conversation would only unleash anger, anguish, regret. Perhaps they don’t like words.

However, I postulated they may both have hemorrhoids. They walked in familiar fashion: legs wide apart, jeans hung low, and each wore a pained expression. I believe I heard one of the men say (further along the street), ‘Mind out, idiot, you’ll mess up my make-up!’

*  

Reflections: 'Well?' said Madam du Salmon. 'Well, what?' I enquired. Madam du Salmon threw me a look which I threw back just missing her protruding left ear. 'Dammit! Why are there no Stone Age cave paintings in Britain?!' I advised Madam du Salmon (as she drank water straight from the goldfish bowl) that the cave paintings had been sold to a mystery art collector in Paris by a man believed to be stony broke.

The man was last seen running towards the Place Pigalle rubbing two francs together, shouting: 'And the clinker award goes to London's National Gallery!' Madam du Salmon's face grew livid. 'What's the point of talking to you? You're an idiot!' 'Exactly,' I replied. Bored by Madam du Salmon's company, her diction, her lack of make-up, her ugly pale mouth, I suddenly left the room to find out who - or what - had thrown a thought which had struck the back of my head.