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.


'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.

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.