Both Mickey and Sean follow the same trajectory of a great American trope…the outsider coming in from the cold, the prodigal son. Although it appears that Sean is more desperate to be accepted than Mickey purely through his more normative sanity. Oh to be loved, to be accepted, the Oscar statue representing ‘Capital’ at its most liminally alluring, (ergo as its liberal homo loving commie other; a great transformative trick, worthy of Raven herself) but an alluring dream whose open guilty secret is greed and vanity, captures the hearts of so many. Despite the lessons of history our ability to tout the notoriety of our own hubris knows no bounds. As for the little eight year old girl holding a shampoo bottle infront of the bathroom mirror, or tales of Tigger told to small children, on this I shall be silent. Go Mickey go. In a world where Robert Downey Jr has himself come in from the cold, may the true one eyed king for ever remain on the heath….
The middle of a hot endless summer, driving on the A39 through an as always empty central France, which exudes as always a certain Seventies timelessness. The anxiety of being in a J.G. Ballard novel, the feeling of a certain narrative disconnectedness, that anything could happen or not, at the stroke of a pen. And that whether something happens or not is somehow equally as disastrous. But not knowing who the subject of this disaster would be, if anyone.
What shrinks call free floating anxiety I guess.
Poulet De Bresse…
Passing unseen towns, picnic areas petrol stations and auto-grills, crawling along at 100 miles an hour, the faster you go the slower it all gets, chastened by the knowledge that a slight jerk to the right or left would speed everything up again and end your life in a chaos of twisted steel, spilt petrol and screaming children. The promise of an almost sci-fi shift in motion, a quantum leap, an ion drive surge tugging at the edges of this mundane driving reality.
Hands alternately sweating, slipping on the wheel, followed by air-con clamminess, never finding the right balance of temperature to stop this swinging to and fro between discomforts, eyes lingering too long on the climate controls, fiddling with them, changing the flow, exasperated turning the A/C off and cracking the window. Sweating feet in Birkenstocks, damn their eyes, a more prosaic way to die I couldn’t think of than taking one’s eye off the road to adjust dials and vents. Scanning French radio stations, one french song one american song, the bipolarity of taste and rhythm leaving you in a limbo of always changing stations, Melodie, Nostalgie, Virgin, Classique, Energie, another dangerous death defying habit of this open road.
Pulling in to a ‘Croq Malin’ forecourt concession for lunch, leaving the car behind clicking to itself in the heat. Feet squelching towards the services, as we swamp the self service restaurant, devouring the ersatz gastronomy from whatever region we are currently/nominally in. A vague notion of identity predicated on cuisine, memories of cherished recipes and hand crafted artisan foods. All of these re-represented along the self service counters, dispelling any fear of the land of hunger.
And when at the front of the queue, don’t forget that the coffee machine only takes tokens. Metal discs with grooves running down the centre.
Lorries and caravans slide by as if through treacle on your right hand side, a few feet yet thankfully a parallel universe away. A hand turn away, the strange power that’s in your hands, ‘the hand that signed the paper fell’d the city’ type of power. What I’m getting at I suppose is a heightened sense of contingency, that one thing depends on another, and that certain things have to be just so for other things to be as they are. And that everything can change just like that, or that you think you can make things stay as they are by an effort of will.
Imagine a world where money is replaced by the tokens with grooves down the middle, and that service station coffee machines only take, well real money.
Hot gusts of wind, blustery siroccos channelled by miles of super heated tarmac and concrete; heat secreted by everything, amplified, bounced between structures, surfaces distorting the flow of air, sculpting vortices and random spikes of temperature, tunnels of hot air magnified, concentrated by bridges and autoroutes, fly-overs, bypasses and industrial suburbias, advertising hoardings and signage, neon, paint, metaled surfaces and deserted forecourts populated by ranks of as yet unsold shiny new cars and vans.
Heat and air shaped as if on a potters wheel. Blown into shape like molten glass.
A woman stands on the outside of the railings on a bridge over the motorway. She is bare foot, her shoes, white branded trainers, sit side by side next to her. The hot wind buffets her, her red hair flies in front of her face and her hand comes up to tuck the loose strands back behind her ear. An unselfconscious gesture,, a thing of common yet remarkable beauty. She leans into the wind over the tarmac below, scanning the road for an oncoming lorry. I see all this as I pass under the bridge at 90 miles an hour, register all this in less than three seconds. 75 frames of information, of story, recorded on a French motorway at the end of our summer holidays.
My wife saw the same thing, the kids saw nothing. I started to say ‘did you see that?’ got as far as ‘did you..’ when my wife’s shaking head cut me off. We didn’t talk about it properly until late the same night back in London. An unsatisfactory conversation, a strange end of holiday conversation, awkwardly passing over in silence what could not be talked about.
A pair of trainers, adidas laces flickering in the wind.
Three stripes and the candle goes out…
The next day I Googled ‘suicide autoroute France ‘ and found nothing. A few months later somebody told me that Google doesn’t search the internet proper, but instead searches a mirror of the internet, so is always 24 hours out of date. I don’t know what that means, but had been daily searching the web using these three words, a patient digital fisherman, hoping that one day something will take his bait. But there was never any response, my fetishised searching already fulfilling itself in my daily routine.
If she took a dive off the bridge, which would in reality not be a dive as such, but just a drop, much faster and over and done with than some ‘beautiful dive into eternity’ or whatever, and timed it right to fall under the wheels of an oncoming Lorry, what the fuck would have happened next? Would the driver just plough on? Or screech to a halt, parallel black wobbly rubber smears veering off the road like a lazy eye, adrenalin jump down from his cab into the searing heat and look back to see precisely what? Cars swerving to avoid what was left of the girl, swerving onto the hard shoulder and into the driver crushing him in his moment of surprise/grief, and on and on, until at what point would everything set in motion by this dive, this falling come to a rest, when would it all stop and what would it look like?
The last frame of this sequence. Paint it for me. What would it look like?
I don’t know.
Could this chain of events really be endless, achieve an endlessness of motion, a pile up of the whole of humanity, at least that part of it that throws itself down autoroutes every summer? We seem to be back in a Ballard story.
I have a fantasy or a memory of 9/11, of a guy standing with his back to a blazing room high up in one of the towers, taking a laconic last drag of his cigarette before flicking it nonchalantly, fuck you nonchalantly, into the abyss before following it with nothing more than a simple foot forward. I think I made this up. Or was told it was footage from a Mexican news crew that was banned so no-one saw it. Go on and youtube man cigarette 9/11, or cool guy 9/11 cigarette or Mexican news footage, guy 9/1, cigarette, last drag, flicked stub, whatever. I will to see whether I did make it up or discover that I share this fantasy with somebody else; In the community of narrative fantasy that makes up, populates, clogs the internet.
Maybe a Platonic web search using the words ‘last cigarette’ would immediately hit this lost/imaginary footage, link us to this ‘Bonny and Clyde’ moment, the greatest cigarette commercial ever, featuring the Marlboro man and his nonchalant flick.
But my girl was on the bridge, I did see her, she just googled blank.
Most likely she jumped got run over and the lorry/car/van managed to pull up without further impact, and the cars behind just kept going, a few passenger seat twisted heads and backseat faces pressed up to the glass as the drivers kept going, always forward onward into their very own next chapters and not stopping to witness somebody’s last. So cars flash past as the lorry driver stumbles about on the hard-shoulder just staring at what’s left of her, gagging, dialing the police on his mobile, cars now nimbly avoiding the mess. Perhaps somebody else does stop and asks the driver if he’s alright a conversation screamed by the side of the road, or the driver just sits in his cab blasting air con as everything burns outside, on the other side of the glass. His fear sweat drying almost as soon as it perspires, repeating the circuit between car and body, waiting for the police to turn up and sort it out, not wanting to see what had happened, horns blaring smearing up and out, back to front, in shock horror as cars go by outside accusing him in some way, so that he takes refuge behind the glass of his cab. The windshield itself could have been cracked if the girls timing had placed her momentarily on the windscreen of the Lorry, or bouncing from the bonnet into the windscreen, a flying visit too brief to leave any other sign than that of impact, the body tossed aside in the space of a second, a rag doll discarded, the driver squeezing the wheel in automatic response not to swerve and crash, just ploughing straight on until he recovers his bearings, not swerving losing control in an attempt to avoid something that has already happened, like so many drivers who kill themselves and their families for the sake of a rabbit or a deer.
How hair blowing in your face can be annoying, you reach up to clear it away, put it back in place, so that you can see what you are doing. A great adrenalin rush as you lean into the wind, away from the railings, anchored only by your fingertips. Hot metal sticking to pads of flesh. A sense of freedom, freedom from the heat, the stifling provincial heat, toes curl cool and dry released from their sticky trainers, hair as you know, blowing about, you do this everyday wondering what the people in the cars below think you are doing and who you are, how terrible if one of them lost control of their caravan car or lorry just because they were looking up at you wondering if you were going to throw yourself off and instead they crashed and killed themselves and their kids and you lean sharply back in, hiding from view, vault back across the railings and creep in dread to the other side of the bridge to see what you had done.
Now that was the real thrill. To find out if you had become a murderer.
‘..The so called ‘Siren of the motorways’ is suspected of causing the deaths of 15 people across central France. Appearing about to jump to her death from overpasses and bridges she draws the eye of those passing below. Sightings have been reported from across the country..’
The rush of emotion and energy that leads to the bridge, to the parapet, the edge, is the same that keeps my eye on the road and my hand on the wheel. We are all vessels for this flow and containment of feeling, urges, the fluctuating will to live or to die. Imagine a pyramid of empty champagne glasses in a ballroom or a casino. The waiter pours a magnum of champagne which cascades from the apex glass down into all the others, spilling, bubbling, vomiting over each successive glass; that’s us, we are like those glasses in a pyramid, the girl on the bridge somewhere near the top maybe, unable to contain her juices and me, the rest of us somewhere lower down where the flow is less intense and the containment more manageable, the spillage more pragmatic. It takes a lot of us to keep the others, the few, up. To support the apex.
Heading back into the village she doesn’t look back, the sound of cars recedes almost too quickly, depositing her back in the vast empty world of rural France. Time to pick her kid up from her grandmothers house. Nobody ever notices me she thinks, nobody looks up I might as well jump for all anybody cares. A stupid way to insert yourself in the world, a clumsy intervention, but how else to enter the stream, how else? Ten minutes later the child’s hand reaches out for hers and won’t let go all the way home, and she realises that for the child she is the stream, how stupid and selfish she is, and she wont go anywhere near that damn bridge again, but had better learn how to swim all by herself, in order someday to teach the child ways to survive in this land of endless hunger.
You couldn’t make this up. The Jewish princess advertising agency producer from LA being wanked all over by some black guy on the dance floor of a Greensboro’ nightclub. If you don’t laugh then you ain’t human.
A lot of America looks like the set of ‘Dawn of the Dead’. Urban spaces that could ‘stand in for’ the locations of seventies Zombie movies. A lot of America is a remake of those films, an installation in honour of them. A broke down zombie world’s fair. Ramshackle downtowns, deserted sidewalks, a surfeit of parked cars that look abandoned, boarded up shop fronts, liquor marts that spill their customers out onto sun-bright cracked pavements, aimless traffic, lethargic suburbia’s, homeless guys peddling flick knives. Everything seems to be designed for more people than there actually are. The energy of commerce seems to have leeched away from so many of these places, leaving the punch drunks of capitalism, or whatever we call it now, high and dry in the closing down sale version of where they used to really live.
Everybody must go.
Towns with burger joints that sell freedom fries, the faded word ‘French’ still visible on the whiteboard underneath the freshly inked word ‘freedom’. The thought bubble ‘French freedom’ just confusing matters. Soda fountains and pinball machines, coleslaw and refried beans. Crab shacks, Bojangles, Sizzlers and Denny’s. Jack in the boxes and Waffle Houses. Residual franchises from middle America’s middle ages.
‘You should see this place during spring break’ is what the guy in the deserted tattoo parlour in Corpus Christi said. I can’t add to this sentence, it kind of unfolds in your mind all by itself.
I wanted to get a tattoo in Corpus Christi, in the hope that somebody would say to me one day, ‘Where did you get that done?’ and I could shoot back, ‘Corpus Christi, Texas.’ Sounds so good, the sentence has a weight to it.
We were staying at the Omni and the tattoo parlour was right across the road. I liked the skeleton head in a cocked and crushed velvet top hat, it had a cool thirties feel to it, very Carnivale, a drooping black cheroot clenched at the side of a broken jaw. I free associated the Depression and Neil Gaiman’s book ‘American Gods’. The half-life of age and death fizzle as background noise, but I’m too old for a new tattoo and I left Texas unscarred, yet only after many lap dances with a half-Cherokee stripper, pitted skin and raven eyes smoke-signalling illicit pleasures under UV lights. Her mom looked after her son whilst she worked the pole. This place should have been called ‘Dances with single mothers’, or was that her name? In my mind I toyed with the word breed, and imagined us smoking crystal meth on the steps of her trailer as a wolf howled from the heights of a distant mesa and everything took on a green tinge, a white trash version of the northern lights.
We finished shooting in Texas and made our way North East. United, American or Delta gets us out of there, and in no time at all we were in the Carolinas.
In Greensboro’ I take it that there used to be a big furniture industry. ‘American hand made furniture’ say the signs of the few shops on a highway coming in, white painted rocking chairs and ‘Little house on the prairie’ tables slung outside under the signage, tempting us to do what? Buy them? Or feel nostalgic for a time when people made their own stuff and these damn chairs were family heirlooms.
Furniture as so much else has been replaced by food franchises along these empty highways. How can there be so many places to eat, that are mostly empty, yet fully staffed and that stay open regular hours? What kind of business model is that? What strange mutation of capitalism allows this to recur across a whole continent? Where do the wages come from to pay all of America that works in the food service industry? The waste, the food thrown away. Food cooked and prepared for nobody. We enter one place, chosen randomly because how else would you decide? Unless out of some misplaced guilt for all the effort on display, a red dragon balloon/kite hybrid blowing in the wind, a pagoda shaped building shell painted bright red and tooled with gold. The surprise of finding ourselves about to eat Chinese! Because hung over Chinese always sounds a great idea and you actually, tragically, salivate at the prospect.
Inside we were met by a fish tank with anonymous looking fish in it. Fish that are never eaten but perform instead a display function whose meaning has been eroded beyond the point of salvage. One of them had whiskers. It brings to mind another town, another restaurant. ‘Fishbones’ in Orlando, where the menu once offered me a Salmon line caught by Sven Larsson at 330 feet, off the coast of Norway. I forget the name of his boat but that was on the menu as well, written in italics. That night I ate the steak, and dreamt about Chilean sea bass (accent on the e in American English when offered reverentially by the waiter as one of their specials) trying to avoid appearing on that ghastly menu, a veritable Shindlers list in reverse for the aquatic diaspora.
Before we take our seats I spy cigarette butts at the bottom of the tank, momentos of those who forgot to stub out at the door.
We went for the ‘all you can eat 5.99 lunchtime buffet’.
A hundred trays under hot lights; deep fried oysters, salt and pepper squid, a hot and sour soup tureen, blasted customers waddling and scooping up and down the three aisles of food, refreshed back in their booths by infinite refills of coke, topped up without question by waiters who are themselves customers, Chinese food junkies waiting tables until they feel hungry again.
That night, it was a Friday, we eventually discover a busy place. Despite it being a sports bar with huge TVs on every wall we rush in, having narrowly missed dining at the empty ‘Olive garden’ in the adjacent lot. The place was packed. Blue collar folks both black and white, together but separate, a colour for each table, pitchers of beer the only shared currency. Earlier we had been across the road to a single screen mall cinema showing Resident Evil the movie with tickets that were hand torn and worn out carpets. Behind a cordoned off area an inexplicable model of a grand piano with life size dancing figures next to it. Forties characters, maybe even meant to be Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and on closer inspection of the plaque were indeed Fred and Ginger, and again I am left with the absence of what this means, for surely it meant something once even if it doesn’t now. Whoever put it there had to have a reason, had to have thought it was a good idea. I got it as as I filed past on my way to the auditorium, the cinema was an outpost, an ambassador, however remote of movies in general and Hollywood in particular and what that meant to America. But now I just flash on Curly’s wife in ‘Of mice and men’ and her pathetic dustbowl fantasies of broadway. Whereas in reality what it offered was three-dollar movies for black teenagers on dates. And surely that was good enough and I should shut my mouth.
Tobacco country. Cotton Plantations. William Tecumsah Sherman and his army marching through the south tearing the place up. Ashville, Rayleigh, Columbia, Savannah, Atlanta. Southern states put to the torch and to the sword.
Winston-Salem is just up the road. Had it once been two places that decided to hyphenate themselves at a raucous joint town meeting once upon a time? How close was the vote? I digress from what I think about in a town or towns named after famous cigarettes; That this is the place for cheap cigarettes, the local industry more of a source of pride than a health hazard. Same as steeltown America, West Virginian coaltown America, Motor city America and on and on. Having a job being freighted with more meaning here than anyplace I have ever been. Or do I mean that not having a job has more dire implications here than anywhere else?
In this part of the world smoking is an American thing to do. Cigarettes are bought by the carton. We pulled into a low-slung convenience store sitting out there randomly on its own patch of asphalt. Inside poor blacks did their shopping. Cigarettes and alcohol, a stack of TV dinners, some frozen steak. A skinny Korean guy propping up his own counter, his fat daughter somewhere stacking shelves. My movie polluted mind conjured an invisible shotgun under the counter, the Korean guys hand twitching over it when people enter his store. Two black men slide up and down the aisles perusing shit. We picked up some waters to a nod from behind the counter and went back outside, an abrupt exchange of cheap aircon for honest to goodness heat, for this was June and it just hung in the air, beating us back into our cars.
We were there shooting commercials for headache powders.
I sat in a meeting room, one of those spiteful event rooms that hotels have in abundance, from where you can run a production. It has Wireless Internet, we brought in a printer. It had the inevitable name, the Elgar room or some such, invoking a level of excellence I knew we would never attain even with our best efforts. We sat there, I next to the client, a friendly fat black woman in her mid thirties, discussing the new packaging for the powders. In the commercial we had to show how ingenious it was. Our Pack shot would consist of the new ‘tear’. Instead of the usual sachet for this type of thing, this product had always been sold in a wrap of paper, virtually identical to that which encases most grams of coke. I kid you not. Like in a nineteenth century pharmacy where powders would be dispensed in such an old fashion by a man with moustaches. There was an authenticity in this method of packaging I didn’t see a need to replace. It actually pissed me off, everything having to be new, new, new, improved, improved, improved.
The new packaging replaced this coke wrap with a cylindrical sachet that tore along an already perforated line at one end. This is the end you ‘take to the head’ as the client informed me. I tried it and sprayed the product all over the table. My god I was far from home. Her nails were long and perfectly manicured, they curled over the end of her fingers,flashing me back to a nightclub twenty years earlier in southern Spain where a dealer chopped out a gram with the thick curly dirt black nail of his pinkie, shovelling the gear onto a glossy triangle scissored from a porn mag.
These perfect nails, her imperfect body shape, the fact that the phrase ‘nigger nails’ sprang into my mind unbidden, the powders we were selling, the stupidity of having to film the ‘tear’, the heat outside and the cold sweat of being indoors, all gave me an inevitable headache. As if my head wanted to loose the shoulders they were on, lift off and float away from all the messy details.
The hotel we were staying in, where we bunkered down for the ten days of the production was one of those places that held conferences and junkets, weddings and sales meetings, and was mostly empty from dusk till dawn, whatever guests they had dashing from room to car in the precious moments when day turns to night or vice versa. Sometimes the lift would be full of Pentecostal adoption conference delegates, proud white couples of middle age pushing handicapped black or Hispanic infants about in pushchairs, their delegate accreditation swinging to and fro from their necks. Badges of their honour, proudly displayed. Other times there would be elderly folks all dolled up and coming down to the vestibule for a veteran’s supper to be held in one of the hotels ballrooms. They didn’t look like they knew which one, these old marines, displaced these sixty years from the jungles and undergrowth of the Bataan Peninsula. They looked sedated, they wore slippers and pushed frames about, the atria and vestibules clearly inducing agoraphobia in the old, both men and women alike, who skulked along the edges, shying away from the huge bronze effect water feature in the middle of the room. Old men outflanking each other on the way, hopefully, to their allotted ballroom.
Elsewhere there was a huge thousand-person nightclub inside the hotel, but for the life of me I can’t remember its name. It was a perfect film location. All neon lighting and gold balustrades, exhibiting the odd asymmetrical layout of the late seventies, stairs, bars, internal veranda all contributing to this time warp space. Monday, Tuesday Wednesday the place was empty. No sneakers, smart casual dress only. God we could do with a few laughs after shooting all day, but the bars and restaurants of the hotel were manned by a skeletal crew of guests and staff. It was as if the guests were paid to impersonate guests. We asked the staff where all the people were, why the Hotel had such a big nightclub. ‘You come back Friday night and the place will be packed, upwards of eight hundred folks in there.’ Yeah right. A band was booked for that night as well, fuck it they would be playing to an empty room, in a spooky empty hotel. We slurped down tens of watered down vodka tonics in a vain attempt to get loaded and went to bed.
Friday night was wrap night. The next day we would be off, the crew and agency dealt back to the airport like a busted hand of blackjack. LA, New York, London would get us back, our absence gone unnoticed in the vast streams of human traffic that strangulate the globe. So we decided to check out the club, see if the barman’s prediction was somehow true. In the bar the two agency creatives, young ipods guys, know nothings, but pretty harmless, realised they didn’t have any shoes to get in the club. They found it hilarious to go to the mall opposite, to the thrift store in which they could buy some dead mans shoes and find some lint in the pocket of a dead man’s jacket. In the meantime the club was actually filling up. They would join us inside.
Client, crew and agency were all pretty drunk by the time the club door opened. I participated in the casual indiscretions Americans make at work, because so much of life is work, so where else is there to be indiscrete other than at work, and all this added to a sense of commonality, of bonhomie, as we poured in through the club doors. On the stage a white band played reggae and RNB covers to an audience that was ninety percent black. Locals who were all intent on having a good time and letting their hair down.
Good times. The cotton club in negative. I wish I could remember the name of the band, but I won’t make it up for effect. I just forgot.
So I sit at the bar with the female client, who is good company. We have some drinks and chat with a few local women at a stand up table. I buy a few rounds and enjoy the view. The next thing I know is the agency producer comes up to us shaking, her hands down by her sides, but away from her body as if she doesn’t want to touch herself. She had been a little drunk but whatever had happened to her sobered her right up, you know that feeling, when your mind clicks to attention overruling your body, which is still full of booze. An enforced state of emergency, a physical curfew gives your movements a kind of brittleness. She gestures to her trousers which look a little wet and says that the guy she had been dancing with had ejaculated all over her on the dance floor. We all laugh, involuntarily. She also laughs and then we stop laughing and say some odd things, trying to make a drama of the situation because that’s what this deserves, or so we thought. We ask what happened. Somebody actually makes an aids joke. We laugh nervously, she does too, using the joke to laugh it off, loosen herself up enough to talk. She said she went for a dance with the guy, who held her hands behind her back with one of his and pinned her to him, whilst the other hand went in his fly, pulled out his cock and wanked off over her. Now at this point I’m sniggering a little with the client, it’s unbelievable that this has happened. She fills in the details, at no point saying that the guy was black, because in that club if he wasn’t with the crew then he was a black guy. What do we do? Call the police, get them to close the club down? Yeah right, we’d get lynched. She doesn’t want a court case, the guys long gone, she just wants to get out of her fucking trousers and burn them. She sees the humour in what happened. In fact the guys friend dragged her away from him and took her to the toilets so she could wipe herself down. It isn’t mainly spunk on her trousers, but the effects of the wipe down. He must do this a lot; his friend must do this a lot too. But if we do nothing then maybe the guy would end up raping somebody. The music plays on, people dance, the band plays on and it’s had for any of us to do something that will change that, irrevocably alter the evening. Even she doesn’t have the will to do that. At this point when we are all fighting our inertia, debating what to do, the agency creative, the one wearing the thrift store shoes, becomes all white boy irate and says, in front of his black client.
As if he was going to do something about it. I wanted the ground to swallow me up right there and then. A club packed with black people, and this check shirted thrift store shoe wearing twenty something punk says that. I burst out laughing, so does the client, we order more drinks and now the event will become the focal point, the node of conversation for the rest of the evening. It becomes the thing we have to talk about, working it over endlessly as we drink. The producer is taken off to change her trousers, and we meet up later in somebodies room to continue talking about what happened and drinking. By the time I go to bed I am bored by this story, I don’t care, have become desensitised to what happened.
Years before a female friend who had amazing long pre-Raphaelite hair was on the tube in London and a bloke stood up opposite her and jerked off all over her face. She said it took ages to get it out of her hair. These are the two times this story has happened to me. She called him a fucking cunt and beat the shit out of him before the transport police could pry her off and arrest them both. That girl had balls, her name was Rowena. Last I heard she was working for English Heritage.
Now this other girl, from another hemisphere, if not planet, went to a black nightclub and danced with a guy who came all over her. She was blonde, from California, dancing with a black guy in a North Carolina nightclub. These facts tell a story, but is that what really happened? Perhaps she made it up. I was there. Nobody saw her dancing with anyone. She was dating some rich European guy who paid her no attention and was always abroad. She loved to be the centre of attention, how better to do this than claim that somebody had assaulted her. Wars have been started for less. Thousands slaughtered for the temerity of this same transgression. In another story the young pimply agency creative with the dirty mouth would have had the big black buck strung up regardless of what he did or didn’t do, but for who he was. His horse skittering at the edge of the circle of flame, sweating under his hood, struggling to hold up his torch with one hand and control his mount with the other, casting an erratic swinging black shadow at a shallow angle out along a country road. Black spunk on a blonde body. Rivers of blood rushing down through history washing up on the dance floor of this damn nightclub in Greensboro’, and I just had to be there getting it splashed all over my feet.
America scares the fuck out of me. But this is my life and I am beholden to recount it.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.
I came home early because of work and found the cat breathing heavily on the floor of our bedroom. It looked like it was holding out, raised it?s head in exasperation as I came into the room. Fuck. We?d been away for three days. It was very ill and I was the only one who didn?t really like it, pushed it away when it wanted attention, pushing it?s wet nose into our palms and faces. Now its nose was bone dry and it rasped ragged breaths. I picked it up, all skin and bone and belly rising falling like some crazed bellows. I took her downstairs, annoyed that i couldn?t do what I wanted to do but had to deal with the cat. Should I call a cab and take her to the vet? What vet? How much was that going to cost? Better if it died then we could bury it in the garden for free, give the kids a lesson in mortality. I bet some liberals have written kids books about the death of pets, so we could do that. Before i got to the phone book the cat pissed herself, all over me, tepid smelly death piss. She rattled a few times, went all stiff then limp, dead in my arms, dripping with piss by the backdoor. Involuntary tears welled up, death itself lurking behind the death of our cat. As I lay the cat down on a towel and rolled her body up in it almost gagging as I felt her stuck thin rib cage I inevitably thought about my wife, kids, family dying, a generic anxiety of death, nothing specific, but it fucking ruined the rest of the day. I put the rolled up cat in the garden, in one of the borders, to wait for my family to come home the next day for us to bury it. I don?t recall what i did that night, it was over a year ago and for some reason only now have I written this down, despite the feeling of the piss and the rattle of the cat drawing it?s last breath has stayed with me ever since, waiting I guess for me to record her passing.we buried her in the garden and planted a rosebush on top. Kit our four year old said something cute that made everyone cry. the cat had been my wife?s pet before she met me, kind of like her flatmate from her single days. The cat is still there, in our garden, the foxes haven?t dug her up and we got a new one called Tiger who I still don?t really like when she nuzzles up, gets too close with her wet nose and purrs.
That’s how long it takes when you wake up your laptop for your mail program to automatcally check your emails. I never knew this until just now. I always click click clicked on get mail as soon as the screen lit up. I couldn’t wait, that would be a waste of time. Time I could spend playing Age of Empires 3. I had reached the Fortress Age and wanted to see what came next. If everybody is famous for fifteen seconds then a whole lifetime of celebrity was contained in that dead down time. The time it took for my airport to connect to my ethernet to log onto my service provider, to check my inbox and route any messages down onto my laptop. By all rights this sounds like it should take weeks. In fact I have actually met an old Italian guy who when he was a teenager would deliver the post to villages way up the valley from his in the winter on foot, or on ski-shoes. It took him sixteen hours to get from where he was to a place called Rialdo and back, stopping off for supper in a village called Creppo. In our relay race to the future, this man passed me the baton of his story.
Is there a phrase to decribe the sound that your computer makes when you click on get mail and you haven’t got any. ‘Sickening downbeat ding’ isn’t good enough. For me the concise sound contains all the gravity and loneliness of say a Shostakovitch symphony, a terrible discordant punctuation of the daily failures of living a logged on life. If it is a pleasure, if your heart lifts when you come back to your laptop after minutes away, swiftly mouse your curser over the magnified dock and see thered circle stamped (or should I say franked) with a number bigger than one in it, then boy you have been a long time dead.
I found myself wanting to raise my arm in a ‘Seig Heil!’ on the glass steps of the staircase at the regent street flagship branch of Apple computers. An involuntary rasing of the right arm. I was sweating and had just bought something I didn’t want that lurked at the bottom of a drawstring see-through bag slung over my left shoulder, waiting, counting down the time until I would ravenously unwrap it, whatever it was.
Back in ‘Age of Empires 3’, a place in truth I have never left I have finally made it to the industrial age and have upgraded my mortars, my deep mining ability and also clad all my fighting ships in iron, therby bolstering their defences. Clever me.
The thing is when you play this game in full screen mode you can still here the sound the mail program makes when you get new mail. The upbeat ding, the Vivaldi sound. The dilemma is whether to immediately exit ‘Age of Empires 3’ or continue playing, forging ahead with industrialisation and allow whatever mails you mght get to accrue. Store themselves up for when you save and finsih the game, eye sick from staring at your 15 inch screen for two and a half hours with the door shut.
Hands up who shouts down ‘I’m working! in annoyed tones to your wife/partner. All they were doing is seeing if you wanted a cup of tea.
Everything I write sounds like a deposition at the Nuremberg trials.
And it could all have been so different. randomly walking into a McDonalds the other day i realsied we are more than a little in love with death. All the fat people, the fat dads, the fat sons dressed identically to the fat dads in tracksuits, the fat mums jeans straining at the gut as they st down to burgers and fries, the gaudy pastel colours, the contemprariness of the furniture, the smiles of the shift workers, the team leaders behind teh counter revving teh staff up for the lunchtime rush. And to think these are the people, this great big us that is going to save the planet. Forget about it It’s already over. Now I am stuffing a quarterpunder with cheese int my face, my throat constricting at the presence of something that feels like a slick piece of cardboard, the McNuggets with sweet and sour sauce to come next as my entree.
I taste this meal for three days, voluntarily burping it up, a strangely reassuring taste and aftersmell filling the back of my mouth.
With mortar and cannon I prepare to smash the fortifications of the british soldiers. My lancers and mercenary cavalry have already been sent into the forest to act as a decoy, a lure for the superior forces of the imperial empire.
When I turn my computer off I can only think about sex and reading and wine.
A Moroccan guy buys a hunting rifle plus three hundred shells for 500 hundred Dirham and a goat. The only ?joke? in the film in fact, is when this poor farmer offers a goat instead of the extra 500 Dirhams the gun seller wanted. Then he gives the gun to his two kids and tells them to shoot jackals and goes off to work/shopping. Now I don?t believe this. Call me an unreconstructed Marxist, but how much would it cost him to buy more bullets? A lot, maybe even another goat. Giving the whole box to his kids and leaving them with the gun doesn?t ring psychologically, economically or even emotionally true. But it all looks authentic. Well, it displays an authenticity we buy into when we go and see such a serious high minded movie, precisely because it is that ?authenticity? we have paid to see. Authenticity is commodified at the expense of what? Realism?
I don?t believe Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchette would go on an organised tour of Morocco in a coach with a group of lower middle class British people, including Harriet Walter. These people also wouldn?t turn on a fellow passenger after his wife gets shot in the neck by an unseen assailant, but that?s beside the point. Also nobody has a mobile phone, which is more than implausible, but in the context of the narrative, very convenient. It allows the action to move to the next authentic location.
The tour guide takes them to his village so they can phone an ambulance. He takes Cate and Brad to his house and they lie her on the bare floor. Why don?t they put her in a proper bed? She just ends up on the floor of an empty room. Where?s all the family?s stuff? Are they so rich that they just have this empty flat in case of just such an emergency? Is it more dramatic to have Cate lying on the (packed mud) floor than on a bed? Is this more authentic? The guy has lots of kids. Where are they? Do they have to scarper whilst Whitey is spilling blood all over the family house? Cate and Brad kiss and make up, healing the wounds caused by their child’s cot death as she pisses into a pan he holds under her, after having previously pissed herself. Don?t look at me. I didn?t write the fucking script. Momo?s is a more authentic experience of Morocco than this room without a bed. I hate this room without a bed and the prone white woman lying on the packed mud floor.
As soon as the kids get hold of the rifle we know that something terrible is going to happen. As soon as the Mexican nanny decides to take her white charges to Mexico for her sons wedding we know something terrible is going to happen. There?s no tension other than the anxiety that the audience brings to the cinema for just living in such ?troubled times?. We are called on to participate in this film as a gesture of conscience. Can this be true? Can these ?troubled times? themselves be something we have bought into, another obscene commodity?
At the wedding the two (uptight) white kids reconnect with the fun of being (real) kids when they help chase, capture and kill by hand lots of chickens. It?s what the old uptight white chick learns from the black guy in ?Driving Miss Daisy?. Same deal. Beat the truth out of the slave and then enjoy being uplifted by the self same truth. How can two healthy, wealthy white children be clueless? Is it a way of giving something back to those we have stolen so much from? Let the blacks be cool, let them have soul.
For a movie that must of cost $30m to make and will garner its cast and director accolades ranging from ?bravery? to groundbreaking performances, to bravura storytelling (three disparate tales linked by coincidence and television. falling for this audacious disparity is like being amazed when the magician at a kids party twists a few balloons into the facsimile of a giraffe right before your eyes ), I was surprised that the only attempt at emotionally engaging the audience was achieved through that most conventional and hackneyed of techniques, sequences of images of people travelling set to music. Albeit painfully authentic Moroccan, and Mexican songs, this smacks to me of deception. I can only surmise the fun/enriching life experience these cultural vampires had sourcing such perfect pieces of real music for the film. A few days at a bijou hotel down in Baja California, a whirlwind weekend deep in the souks of Marrakech.
What struck me most about this film was the self conscious ethnicity on display. The film pleaded its case with shots of sunken eyed Moroccan women with Kohl smudged eyes, lingering shots of the detritus and display of an impoverished Mexican wedding, alienated, drugged up Japanese youth adrift in the Tokyo house music sub-culture.
Yet I remember only a single moment of adequate resonance, despite all the shots of hands entwined in close up, it was the brides face pushed into her wedding cake by the groom that allowed me to smile.
Western cinema holds the world in its death-gaze. We turn everything we see to stone.
Murdering everything exterior to itself, each beautifully composed shot a nail in the coffin of whatever it was or could have been. The possibility of being exterior to this gaze is what we really kill. It?s just US right?
We hover around the ?other? taking our pictures as it expires. The Medivac was only ever going to come for Cate Blanchette in a scene that reminded me of nothing other than John Wayne in ?The Green Beret?.
It?s interesting that the best sequences in the film are set in Tokyo. The deaf mute girls story was engaging. We didn?t feel the same ethnic frisson here, there is no exploitation or poverty involved. The terrible thing had already happened in this story, her mum had killed herself off camera. The night club sequence was actually enjoyable and felt authentic because its authenticity wasn’t earnt at the cost of, at the expense of any Other; this story wasn?t lost in translation.
The director dedicates the film to his two daughters, ?the brightest lights in the darkest sky? or whatever. The vice like grip of all our families cloud our judgements and leeches our compassion. Brad Pitt is the direct expression of this dedication. In fact the film is in effect an expression of the sentiment in these words, which should read more like a valediction for those not loved, those who do not brighten our darkest skies.
My wife points out that this is same director who made ?21 Grams?, a film we laughed at for twenty minutes and then walked out of. So it?s my fault already, thank God it was an Orange Wednesday and we got two for one on the tickets
This movie, like his last, most resembled those TV melodramas set in hospitals. In the UK we have Holby City itself a spin off of another long running show, Casualty, to fulfil the schadenfreude we all clamour for. The pleasure of knowing something terrible is going to happen to somebody else and watching it happen. The tragedy of a movie so bloated with noble intention, so blown up and full of its own worth like Babel, is that it obviates our need to engage with non western culture and non western peoples. Like the current trend in big/medium budget movies ?about Africa? these movies make us feel better and more engaged. Which is the point I guess, our right to be happy, to prosper, to make important movies, to watch them, to share such a generous Liberalism with the world. Isn?t that what awards season is all about? a gift to the world.
The final image I will leave you with is from another movie, ?Children of men?. A sequence where the director mixes Holocaust images, well, his idea of Holocaust imagery, with images from Abu Graib/Guantanamo, to make his point about fortress Europe, immigration control, basically our racism, fear of the other in a Sci-Fi movie about a world where we can?t have children. Piss again saves the day, when the Nazi British guard demurs from taking the black heroine to her death because he thinks she pissed herself on the bus. Oh for the magical protection of piss on the transports to Auschwitz. And he calls himself a Fascist? A world without children indeed.
No children to brighten up the darkest sky.
That and Cate Blanchette pissing herself. Brad Pitt pulling down her sodden knickers on the floor of that Moroccan family room.
Fuck off. Fuck off. Fuck off. How dare you, how fucking dare you.
If it could my voice would ululate like the voices of the women in the final scene of the Battle of Algiers. I would bay for revenge. Not on a fucking movie, but revenge for another defeat in this great ?War for Civilisation? that we are all, whether we like it or not, engaged in.
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So I have to fly this mucky muck over from LA for a screening of my film. Not only did it cost me 60 grand to shoot, but this bigshot has to be flown over to view it. ‘We love the reel’. Jesus. ‘Be great to see the film.’ Another two grand. The film’s only twenty minutes long. I should get a real job. But you need bait to go fishing, so ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ and blah blah blah, I find myself on the internet booking this studio mid shot a Premium Economy ticket on my Amex; a real come down for him, believe me, he let me know he was doing me a big favour not traveling Upper, or to be more precise his PA let me know that this was not part of his ‘usual itinerary’, but he really wants to see the film on the big screen…
One of the bullshit parts of my job is having to watch short films directed by bullshit commercials directors who think they are the next big thing. They have great reels for sure, but where are their big ideas? Usually their films are just so much wanna be LA bullshit. A sexy girl, a suitcase of cash or coke, a seedy motel room in a bum-fuck nowhere town and perhaps an old Indian guy full of wisdom at the gas station. Thousands of times I’ve had these films on my desk. Who do these idiots think we are? They want a three picture deal because of what exactly? The film came out, the girls tits were in focus? This is America already, rundown hotels and bags of stolen money? But I watch them. It comes with the territory. Junior VP of an ex indy movie company trying to punch at studio weight. So I find myself being flown to London, hey my boss won’t pay, so at least it’s a free trip, to see a short film directed by somebody I never heard of, but at least it’s a different type of script, he sounded nice on the phone, comes with a few OK recommends, on Virgin Premium Economy. Nice. Ish. There are some other people I need to see in town anyway. Yet as soon as I check in I smell something funny, I smell a fucking rat. That’s funnier than it sounds, bear with me.
Booking the flight I come across the drop down option box for meal preferences. I click. There are sixteen options ranging from vegetarian/vegan to Kosher to Hindu to Gluten free to Muslim. There is also an option which simply reads ‘Jain Meal’. What does that mean? Something strange for sure. So you know what? I find myself clicking it. Fuck him! American cunt, let him eat Jain. As soon as the flight was booked I couldn’t take it back. A wave of anxiety hit me, I felt the sickening emptiness you get after sending an angry/drunk/true email. There was no postman on his collection round to chase after and beg. The irretrievability of the web is terrible. I sat there empty and knew that I was just another chip on his shoulder Englishman always prepared to bite the American hand that might just possiblly feed him.
‘Everything’s fine sir, your special meal preference is all booked in, go right ahead and board.’ Special meal preference? What? Has this English director cunt somehow googled that I like Osso fucking Bucco? Or booked me champagne and Blinis to make up for the premium economy faux pas? I doubt if that’s possible. Anyway I let it pass and get on the plane. Actually the new Premium Economy is nice, more leg room, leather chairs, great in-flight service, I mean who in their rght mind would ever pay out the thousands extra for upper class? For a narrow flat bed. But I see them all up there, turn left at the door or up the stairs and straight ahead and they don’t just look like corporate guys, on the companies coin, there’s also the once in a lifetime tourists, retirees doing London/Europe/LA in style, men and women sitting Kitty corner to each others Upper class bays, or cramming themselves into the stall seat at the foot of their spouses flat beds, clinking cheap champagne cocktail glasses at whatever goddamn hour they get on the plane, paying way over the odds for fizzy wine and disco music. Fuck them. I sit back, drink some OJ and read Variety.
Jains. A weirdo Indian sect? They have to be more than a cult to appear on a Virgin Atlantic drop down option menu. Branch Davidian isn’t an option, although what would that have stipulated? Waffle house? Jack in the box? Why is a sect not a cult, what’s the difference? At what point do either of these become a religion? Is it just a question of numbers, is that what gives belief validity? An extreme branch of Hinduism perhaps? Not knowing what this means bugs me. I google it. Jain Dharma. It’s full name. An ancient pacifist/spirital religion that believes in the equality of all life, non violence and freedom of belief. Their central symbol is a simple swastika. I repeat that awkward sentence to myself. A simple swastika. Doesn’t sound right to my European sensibility. The possibility that his word, that shape can have any anterior meaning than the obvious. So I’m intrigued, I want to know more. Didn’t Jack Kerouac once write a book called the Dharma bums? I have no recollection of what it was about. Jain’s? Can’t have been. Most Jains are strict Vegans. Hence the meal option. At least I have an idea now what my American friend is going to get to eat. Hahaha.
Dinner is served. The hostess stands in front of me holding a tinfoil covered meal on a tray. ‘What is it?’ I ask. ‘The Jain meal sir, as requested.’ The words ‘Jain meal’ could have been anything, she had no idea what they meant, they contained no meaning for her and you could hear this absence of meaning in the cadence of the words as they sat in a sentence between ‘The’ and ‘sir’ and ‘as requested’, where the rest of them had context, meant something. Instead of saying I didn’t order a Jain meal, or that there must be some misake, I’ll eat anything etc. for some reason I asked her what was it again. ‘Your Jain meal’ the hapless girl replied. She was stuck and I wasn’t going to help her. ‘I have no idea what that is, what’s in it?’ ‘I don’t know sir’. ‘Well I’m not going to eat something if i don’t know what it is.’ She peels back the tinfoil to reveal a risotto, porridge type sludge. Neither of us are any wiser as to what it is. I look up at her. ‘It gets specially delivered onto the plane sir by outside caterers.’ ‘So it could be anything?’ I say. We’ve come a long way from a Chicken or Pasta option, but nobody seems to have learnt anything. The hostess turns towards the galley and shouts. ‘Mike do you know what’s in a J meal?’ He shakes his head and turns back to serving his customer the filet mignon on a bed of potato and chicory mash. The Jain meal had now become the J meal; it has been tamed, coralled into an abbreviation, and I was just a pain in the ass passenger. the meal had been pacified; One of many, one of a sequence of possible meals to serve, the A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I or J meal. Or did I just mishear her say Jain. These long flights extend and complicate our thought processes.
Jains had a big influence on the beliefs of Ghandi. The word means victors. Those who can liberate themselves from their bodies, therby achieving the perfectibility of man. They are also the most literate group in India and the most philanthropic. They run lots of free schools and hospitals. They believe in karma and karmic reincarnation being based upon what we each do in this and every life we lead. Einstein once said he wanted to come back as an Indian Jain. Their word for bad karma is ‘paap’. Like when we say something is pap, ie rubbish. How on earth did that get into the English lexicon? I cancel a meeting in order to read more about Jains.
There must have been some mix up we agree, the J meal was taken away and they gave me a left over linguini vongole, although how wise is it to eat shellfish at 35,000 feet above sea level? I snooze and wonder about the film I’m going to see. A dark rural tale of guinea pig farms and animal rights extremism.
Strict Jains wear veils not out of modesty but in order to protect insects from flying into their mouths and getting killed. They don’t even eat root vegetables because so doing destroys, eradicates a whole plant. Apples and stuff that drops or can be picked off plants and trees is OK. Their monks brush the ground in front of them, not out of vanity but in order to protect small animals or plants from getting walked on. This image is weirdly moving to me. The screaming animal rights protestors in my short film have an unlkely ally in these Jains.
Unedited sequences of bad action movies, which is what I call the dreams I have been experiancing lately, leave me with a headache and a sense of not having had enough sleep. The hostess places a tray infront of me. ‘Your special breakfast sir.’ I get served before everyone else. Its like I’m an embarassment, or what I eat is, or that they are scared of me. Like a food terrorist. The disgusting porridge/broth that no doubt awaits me under the tinfoil another two finger lickin’ good salute to American, western values. Eat this buddy! I’m fully awake and sit up in my chair. The Jain breakfast. You gotta be kidding me. Again I ask them, ‘What is it?’ Again she says she has no idea whats in the J meal, that it comes onto the plane direct from the outside caterer. ‘Isn’t that a security risk?’ I ask, gingerly peeling back the tinfoil. She blinks slowly and goes and gets me an orange juice. I notice the swish of her tights and crane my neck to see her visible stocking line. Nice. Now you dont get that on US air, nor would you want it.
Jain thought has cross fertilised with Sikhism, Hinduism and Bhuddism for over a thousand years. It underpins many of their beliefs, as it predates those religions to the sixth century. The Jain ethical code is simple yet very powerful. Non violence, truth, non stealing, chastity for monks and non possession. Or in a slight bending of their ascetic values, non-possesivness. Individual believers can attain salvation by passing through nine levels, nine ‘Tatvas’ of Jain belief. Every birth, every reincarnation is aimed at being the last when the spirit can transcend the body and they achieve true Mohksha, realisation of the souls true nature. Again a strange resonance with English slang, ‘Tatva’ reminds me of Tat in the phrase ‘tit for tat’. This for that. What if some cockney sailor or soldier went to India during the days of the Raj and became friendly with a Jain monk? Now that would be a great movie. I stay at my desk and continue my research.
We land. Just as I’m about to get off the plane the hostess who served me gestures me into the back. ‘It’s about the Jain meal sir. They’re Indians, vegetarians, like a cult I think.’ ‘There must be a lot of them for their food preference appear on a Virgin booking form.’ At that moment the penny drops. It must have been that English fucker. An example of the famous English humour. Or the fact that he was pissed at having to shell out a grand for my flight. I’m sick of English dicks who travel coach to LA and think they are saints, or as I can say now Jains.
‘Sweet Jain’. Forbidden love under the Raj. A lowly British subaltern falls in love with the teenage daughter of a Jain businessman in Lahore. Maybe I’ll pitch this idea to the yank coming to see my film. At least he’ll be aquainted with their food. It’s funny that Jains are amongst the wealthiest of Indians, despite, maybe because of their asceticism. That’s the difference between non-possession and non-possesiveness I guess. And you can say anything you want to about them, what they believe and they won’t try and kill, defame or abuse you. Now that’s scary. A religion that is so self-confident, so assured of it’s beliefs that whatever you say or do to it doesn’t elicit a response other than the continued preaching of its beliefs and extending an understanding of yours. Think about what that means. Jain philosophy states that ultimate salvation comes by shedding Karma. That’s when you release yourself from the shackles of worldly existence, into a universe which will never cease and was never created but has always been. There is no God, but this universal spirit, that by our own actions we can contribute to. By achieving Siddha. When we become like gods, in fact the Indian panoply of gods, Siddhhartha included, are revealed as metaphors, examples of those that have succeeded in the pure release of their individual spirit, the final shedding of the human veil. How on earth Guinea pigs can do this I don’t know, but the fact that they can in Jain world makes me smile as I watch the opening credits to my film roll. A packed house, hands grasping complimentary drinks.
Two seats back that yank is watching the film. I hope he enjoyed his flight.
Israeli school children eagerly sign messages on a row of bombs bound for Lebanon. I only saw this photo today, in a sunday newspaper review of the year in pictures. I looked at it ‘over my breakfast’. That and the photo of a polar bear stranded on a tiny ice floe drenched in the blood of his catch which lay at his feet. The bear looked like he was about to topple off the ice his feet were so close together. He looked unbalanced, top heavy. Like a polar bear hot air balloon.
The faces of the bomb signing kids could be described as happy, almost eager. The messages on the bombs were things like ‘From Israel with Love” or ‘To Hizbollah’. From what I could see they were quite polite messages. There is a heart sign above a Star of David Flag. I mean they were written by kids. Nothing like ‘fuck you you muslim scum’ or ‘death to your filthy kids arab cunt’. I may be bothered to scan this photo and put it on the blog. I may not, it’s Christmas eve and I have gifts to wrap. They used marker pens on the difficult cylindrical profiles of the missiles, given to them I assume by thier teachers or parents. Words are hard to decipher as the pens slipped across the surface, words chasing themselves around the circle, illegible signatures like when you try and sign the back of a new credit card. These innocuous messages remind me of other things I have seen written where you wouldn’t expect them. In a Jewish cemetary in Warsaw. Graves with words in Yiddish and Polish like “Murdered by nazi german scum”, “slaughtered by the Nazi German barbarian invaders”, under the names of the dearly departed. Rest in peace would have been an insult to them, beside the point even. These words weren’t written in haste, but were chiseled. Words conjured with such anger that they read like a halting second language. And surely it is, this language born out of hatred and horror. On seeing those childrens words maybe this is our natural cadence, words that toll our feelings for others, in which we can read how we feel about ourselves. I flash on another cemetary, another Jewish gravestone I have found myself standing infront of, this time in Key West Florida, on which was written “I told you I was sick.”
Now that’s fucking funny.
I can’t help myself but ask do the hands that signed those bombs for Lebanon also light the menorah, for they are surely also the hands that fell’d a city…
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