Archive for ‘short stories’

May 13, 2008

the cat died


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.

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January 30, 2007

The Jain meal/second draft


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.

somerights5.gif

December 24, 2006

I told you I was sick


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…

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

December 18, 2006

The presumption of the beat


Then I found myself in the lift of the W on Washington square in New York. Another fucking hotel that thinks it’s a nightclub. Not as bad as the Soho grand where a spiteful Japanese DJ once greeted me from behind his haircut as I lugged my suitcase up the stairs looking about desperatly for a recognisable reception. Now in the W my ears are assailed by generic good times house music. I flash on coming down in the same lift, listening to the same music on my way to a big meeting. The music is designed for people who have very now meetings to attend, about either the commercial exploitation of whatever will replace U-Tube/My Space, or a presentation of the layout for the graphics of confidential global corporate rebanding project. The music brings you up. Up to the speed of the rarified world we all aspire to. It is a gutted, refurbished version of the music that used to dovetail with ecstasy to take you out of it. Now it takes you into it, zooms you into an emotional space from which you feel confident enough to suceed. A place from which to ooze confidence and contemporariness. They have done to music what developers have done to old buildings, the only original feature being the sampled slap and bass of the beat, a relentless metronomic upbeat, a death defying self centred thrum. Exiting the lift, heading for my room with it’s inevitable plug in Ipod speaker unit attached to the stereo awaiting me, I cherished the silence of the corridors and remembered fleetingly the startling disorientation and uplifting giddiness of my first E rush all those years ago to a very dissimilar similar beat that presumed only on my youthful inquisitive desire to experiament.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

November 30, 2006

coach class to charlotte


US airlines have the oldest air-hostesses. This is both quaint and not a little sad. Mostly quaint, revealing a paternalism in American corporate culture that is surprising. A facet we as outsiders have conveniently overlooked. Unlike like the bimbo’s on Virgin, all visible pantylines and rustling stockings, US Air has no sense of the contemporary. It isn’t crippled by a desire to be contemporary. The styling, the seats, the folksy service, right down to the graphical layout and interface of the entertainment system menu, all harks back to a previous age. The southern, Georgian, if I?m not mistaken, accent of the middle aged black woman who greeted us and informed us of their current credit card/airmiles tie in with Bank of America, was so thick, so ethnic, so unselfconscious, that the vast diversity that such a country contains, encompasses, and in some way takes for granted is again surprising. On this plane, and other American carriers, you chance upon a quietly confident everyday America, at ease with a diversity of ages, not just of peoples; the cadence and diction of this woman’s voice, albeit reading haltingly off a crib sheet the details of how many points earnt per so many miles, introductory interest rates, and sign up bonuses, this voice could have been heard in another century. Or so it made me think.

And the words, the turns of phrase used by these air hostesses. Attentive yet oddly euphemistic, which is itself an old fashioned way of talking about things. The pride the cabin crew take in having things taken care of, helping us with our paperwork, which means filling out those damned annoying visa waiver and customs forms.

Like the American word ?cocktails?. A word which celebrates the contents of the wet bar. Again a phrase both euphemistic and nostalgic at the same time, containing both a memory of the illicit pleasures of prohibition, yet also suggesting a post war optimism in the triumph of a certain kind of civilisation. I conjure a tipsy Cary Grant when I get served a vodka-tonic, which I call a vodka and tonic. The omission of the ‘and’ somehow refers back to the drink being a cocktail. Losing the ‘and’ performs a runic function on my drink, transforms it into my cocktail of choice, one of the Brahmin liquors. A word that was at home in the luxury of ocean liners and aeroplanes that used to look like them. That conjures be-fezed barmen behind hotel bars in Cairo and Tunis, the colonial privilege of cold drinks in places surrounded by desert. Cocktail hour, the tinkle of ice in short glasses and the fizz of champagne in tall ones. Gimlets and Bourbon, Manhattens and seasonal eggnog. Chivas on the rocks. It evokes for me also the darker fifties atmosphere of John Cheever’s short stories. The flip-side of so much civilisation. Cocktails being an essential counterweight to the everyday failures and compromises of suburban living. A little catholic promise to self at the end of each day, made upon waking. Also their mixers, which speak of an age of innocent convenience, the giddy ease which proffered Cheever such a gilded underbelly to ravage.

When the drinks trolley comes around I ask for a tomato juice and get a legend. Mr. and Mrs. T’s famous bloody Mary Mix. Every time I fly US I look forward to it?s savoury smack before I even pass security, and the can which actually advertises a website celebrating the American art of tailgate parties, http://www.mixitup.com. It?s promise lures me through security, the ritual taking off of shoes, socks nearly as embarrasing as knickers, the unsnaking of belts, the debagging of laptops, all just hurdles I have to jump in order to quench my thirst with somebody else?s nostalgia.

Many of these words, phrases, politenesses, hint at and are echoes of a civilisation at a higher point in the arc of it?s rise and fall. As if surviving members of a once great tribe still unselfconsciously use remnant words from this golden age, names of great halls, wars and the formal exchanges of an elaborate court diplomacy in an age of mud and hunger. I hear in the voices of these ancient air-hostesses the rhythm of a supreme confidence and optimism that to an outside observer seems out of place. Words that have become totemic in the space of a mere fifty years, freighted with the meaning of a long lost cargo cult.

But who is this outside observer? Not me, as I sip my spicy tomato juice and crunch my chive and onion pretzels, not me.

There is also a kindness about the service on these planes that reminds you of a more conservative yet polite era. The hostesses are very helpful. I heard one take an elderly Anglo-Indian woman through her immigration forms, because she couldn’t read English, without a hint of condescention or impatience. She read out the questions on the customs form for the woman to fill in. ‘Have you been in contact with farm animals recently?’ The woman was visiting her daughter in Charlotte, I had seen her wheeled onto the plane at check-in. I don’t want to read too much into this, but the absence of any racial/cultural superiority in this exchange did surprise me. I was sitting next to a young Muslim woman, who at six O’clock took off her earphones, she had been enjoying Pirates of the Carribean Dead Man’s Chest whilst eating her special meal and sat quietly with her hands on her knees, head slightly lowered and keened ever so slightly as she offered prayers. I was reading the Daily Star, a tabloid British newspaper I had found on the plane, opened on a photograph of a topless model. As I closed the paper surreptitiously I wondered if the plane facing Mecca, as I watched her out of the corner of my eye. She was studying marketing at a University in Virginia and spoke in an American that employed the same phrases and pleasantries as all the other Americans that surrounded me.

Slight turbulence. The overhead lockers rattle on their central spine, looking to shake themselves free and kill us all. A cascade of perfume and liquor. Death by duty free, killed by our own hubris.

These planes are old too, bits falling off them, broken trays, ripped stiching, all dutifully entered into a manifest for future repairs. None of the gadgets look modern. America is a national expression of the Microsoft Windows, a little off the pace stylistically, the start button is functional without the expectation we have come to demand from our gizmos. I like this. This uncoolness. It also extends itself to how middle America dresses. Especially dresses to travel. Comfort over style, accomodation over cut. Is there also an arrogance, an assumption that who cares what we look like, we rule the world. Would lazy gods smooch about in tracksuits, hoodies, baseball caps, T’s, the older ones looking like pampered daycare/spa patients? Is there an implicit insult to other cultural sensibilities in this informality? I think again of the (badly)conservatively dressed Muslim woman sitting next to me, habitually tucking her hair up into her headscarf.

The fatness and girth of these people, whose size demands comfort clothes with elasticated waistbands and drawstrings. Up close and personal I felt all this, felt revulsion, felt the attractiveness of this otherworldliness, in fact I felt old like the country I come from, conflicted in my opinions because I had over a thousand years accrued so many of them. America still has this ability to wrongfoot one’s assuptions. It’s all about the money stupid, yet at the same time it isn’t. When we landed it was night and a fire engine circled the plane hosing us down with water, it’s siren blaring. An announcement told us we were all lucky to be on board the last flight of air attendant Gale Jordan, who had given thirty three years of service to US airways, flying over 60,000 hours. The fire engine was a welcoming committee from her home base of Charlotte. Everybody stared clapping and Gale blushed. The Muslim woman clapped and smiled at me. My hands stayed face down on my knees, I keened forward a little. The sentence ‘On a wing and a prayer’ popped into my head as Gale silently wept. Under the layers of make-up and blusher that had tried to protect her skin for the last thirty years I saw her face colour and tears well up and spill over her mascara. She looked like a played out hooker. I felt terrible. As we got off the plane we passed a banner greeting Gale, and a gaggle of famliy members waiting for her to disembark. They clutched balloons filled with helium, which eased them up on their toes in expectation. This duty, her career, a life celebrated by her family, co-workers and fellow Americans. ‘Go Girl!’ and ‘Love you mom’ rang in my ears as I walked to customs. The banner read. ‘Mom, happy retirement, we love you! Go Gale Go.’ I glanced behind me as I hurried past. Gale was coming up the ramp escorted by her captain and crew.

They bore her up into the terminal on wave of celebration that made me feel ashamed of myself for hating them.

Welcome to Charlotte.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

bindlestiff
2007

November 20, 2006

Pre-fixed.


Prefix (def): a type of affix that proceedes the morphemes.

‘Raspberry please mate, yeah, two scoops, thanks’
It was a predictably hot afternoon on somewhere like Santa Monica beach front. I say ?somewhere like? because there are no distinguishing features to this stretch of sea-front, there’s a boardwalk and a pier but that?s pretty generic really to quite a lot of coastline. The guy ordering an ice-cream is with a film crew, who we can see on the beach. He is in fact the Director. So this is the most defining feature of the landscape, that puts us somewhere specific. A film crew is a pretty specifically organised thing, it has a regular shape to it, a consistent hierachy, in fact it occupies a definative cultural, economic space within the wider framework of late capitalist production. Looking closer this guy, in his early forties, but dressed six or seven years younger, a look which itself is a good ten years younger again, is typical of the type of person you would see on a film crew. He has paint on his trainers, Jackson Pollock splashes that don’t come from this guy painting in his spare time or DIY but are intentionally sold as such. He has lots of bangles and tied bits of string on his wrists, a yellow plastic ?Livestrong? bracelet, the badge d?honneur of this specific class of person. He has messy hair, a little greasy, expensive glasses and a funny slouch that says I don’t give a fuck about anything I am a creative person. Looking at him my nan would probably say he should get over himself. But if somebody pointed him out to you as the director you wouldn’t be surprised or raise an eyebrow and exclaim ‘What him?’ in disbelief. He fullfilscertain expectations of who he is, performs the function of himself. Suffice it to say the guy isn’t black or a woman.
Serving him on the other hand is somebody you would also not disbelieve if the same person who pointed out the director said, look that guy over there manning the ice cream float, yeah the young mexican guy, he’s the ice cream guy.
This story happens in what is called a break in filming. It’s mid-afternoon, so its not lunch, and there is activity down on the beach where a ‘Shot is being set up’ which involves the laying of boards and track and the building of a dolley with a crane arm, the positioning of monitors and a tented shaded area for the agency; meaning advertising agency. So this is a TV commercial shoot and not a movie shoot, although they look the same. As always happens after lunch the crew is a little sluggish from eating too much Rib eye, T bone, New York strip steak and everything takes longer than it did in the morning to get going. It’s boring for the director who has to stand around and wait, not a good thing as you will see. This director has in fact said, is on record as saying, that when he shoots a movie the catering will be vegetarian.
Meanwhile on the beach and the pier a few sight-seers gather, I want to say congeal like pooling blood in the extremities of a cadaver, but that would be a little much. These tourists stop, stare and point looking for the inevitable celebrity, whilst others, probably locals, casually rollerblade by and elsewhere the homeless sun themselves under the palm trees, their veteran prosthetic limbs expanding in the heat beside them.
The Director has decided to go and get himself an ice- cream. To kill time. Now that is unusual in itself because Directors on shoots don’t have to get themselves anything. They have runners and PA’s to get them stuff. So this guy, obviously a Brit with a chip on his shoulder about being served and waited on, I.E. he hates it, such sycophantic treatment goes against the grain of his socialist ideas and democractic sensibilities, wanders over to the ice-cream stall and orders his favourite flavour, two scoops of rich dark red raspberry in one of those old fashioned thick wafer spirals that look like edible layers of flaky slate. He turns away from the guy to talk to what probably is his producer. I imagine he has asked her if she wants one too, because she came over from the beach after he ordered his ice-cream. She declines, nervously looking down at her watch. He turns back to the vendor who hands him a cone with two big scoops of pale green Pistachio.
‘Sorry I asked for raspberry’
He doesn’t take the offending Pistachio cone, which hangs there over the counter in the Mexican guys hand. Instead he gestures by way of explanation the raspberry tray.
‘You said Pistachio’
‘I didn’t, I said raspberry, I pointed to it. I want a raspberry ice cream, I fucking hate Pistachio.’
Mistakes like this must happen in all forms of exchange; on the phone, in shops, even online, there are misunderstandings, one person says something the other hears something else. Orders get confused, it’s built in, hardwired into the very nature of exchange, in fact these miscommunications, interpersonal cock-ups, are an everyday heart beat of human activity whether social, sexual, commercial or whatever.
Perhaps it was the Directors Brit accent that threw the guy, made him hear Pistachio instead of Raspberry, yet if you try it, say the two words out loud it’s hard to get a transposition out of those two very dissimiar words, they don’t even have the same syllables, Pistacchio, Rasberry. Now the only question we could add on a linguistic level is does the fact that the other guys first language is Mexican Spanish have any impact on how he hears Brit inflected English. I have no idea. I wouldn’t think so.
Because this is a story, you have read in black and white that the guy asked for raspberry because I wrote it down on the first line. In this narrow sense it’s a fact, there’s no apparent mystery. But outside of the words on the page it is entirely possible that the Brit director asked for Pistachio flavour by mistake. I mean he opened his mouth and said Pistachio even though he wanted to say Raspberry, for whatever reason, whether just a slip of the tongue (I say ?just?, slips of the tongue are the subject of whole schools of psychoanalytic study, of literary theory even), or something more clinically profound like say Apraxia. More importantly and above all, he thinks he said Raspberry. Why wouldn?t he?
So now he’s being hassled by his producer to get back to work, to ?line up the next shot? or talk to the agency about a ?wardrobe issue?. Or something to do with his job. She runs the clock and wants to move things on. Her big bugbear, the shibboleth of her life is overtime, the incurring of which will kill any production company markup it is her job to amass. What he wants to do is get his raspberry ice-cream.
‘Look, it doesn’t matter, my mistake, I’ll pay for both, just give me a raspebrry one ok?’
He hands the guy a five dollar bill. Ice-creams cost $2.50 each so five is the right money for two. The ice cream vendor is still holding the Pistacchio cone in one hand, and takes the money with the other. It has started to melt and he has a thin trail of pale green Pistachio running over his hand. Kind of goes with the territory. Getting sticky fingers from ice-cream is what happens if you sell ice-creams all day in the boiling heat, also getting ice-cream all over your money is going to happen too, so it must get in your trousers, everywhere actually, so when you go home you are a sticky guy and have to take a bath first thing before sitting down and getting your furniture and stuff sticky too. Driving home could be a bit tricky but hey, it’s the job.
So ‘Fuck you man’ is not what you expect the guy to say next.
‘What?’
‘Fuck you, you never asked for raspberry.’
‘You stupid cunt, just give me a fucking Raspeberry ice cream.’
Now most Americans, by which I mean white middle class people in general and white middle class film types in particular, have an inate animal sense of how priveliged their lives are and some part of them is always reminding them, warning them that ‘There but for the grace of God go I? so don’t ever provoke a ‘Have Not’ or else they might notice you and pick you out from the sublime anonymity of ‘The Haves’ for revenge.
Most Americans wouldn’t call a young Mexican guy a stupid cunt. That ain’t playing the game. The rules of which are dictated in silence. Politeness, an ‘Aw shucks what a lottery life is’ self-depreciating demeanor, domestic deference to waiters and all menial staff and general looking the other way, enables you to take all the spoils whilst everybody else cleans up, waits, parks your car and waters your beautiful flowers. This silence is full of words that crucially include the first name of the waiter/cleaner/gardener and maybe even their wives and kids names. This ownership of names guarantees the silence, these words of familiarity securely anchor this Universe. Giving up your name on the other hand is in fact an act of the most obscene collusion. The moment you do it, the moment you exchange first names, heralds a celebration of enslavement more subtle and terrifying than any iron shackle, any whipping, castration, or any limb dismemberment you care to remember from history classes.
You don’t call the help stupid cunts unless you hold a Bull whip and are prepared to use it. The whip that has been replaced in the main by what I’ve just talked about, so this Brit, this stupid cunt who does he think he is coming here and lecturing us about our problems, this fucker has gone and upset the apple-cart. The rules went clear over his head.
The Mexican’s eyes harden, no longer those of an ice-cream vendor but of an angry young man. Pay me shit wages to park a car I couldn’t afford in a hundred years, but don’t call me a cunt, which is even ruder in American than in English, surprisingly able to communicate a granular almost Medieval sense of sexual obscenity. The Mexican guy drops the ice-cream and chucks the money back at the Director.
‘Fuck you bitch’
The ice cream trolley between them has now for all intents and purposes dissapeared, along with the disguise of ice-cream vendor. It is irrelevant, which in light of what the director does next is nothing if not ironic.
The producer meanwhile, up to this point, has seen the potential for trouble and has called up security on her walkie- talkie. This is her job, usually it involves driving the drunk Director home, or even getting him hookers, or coke, she’s his bitch basically, even if it just means taking him out to lunch dinner every night of the shoot and picking up the tab without a thank you from him it’s just what’s done, part of the deal, the tab is not really on her personally but on the job, so everything is taken care of in an unsaid manner, of course because this is how social relations are carried out successfully these days under these conditions. Which is basically silence. Don’t speak about it, don’t mention it, don’t for fuck sake joke about it because any attention drawn to the rules ruin the smooth working of the unseen machine. So this director guy who when he’s on a job doesn’t pay for jack shit, wanted to buy himself an ice cream with his own money, well with his ‘per diems’ to be precise, which is another hand out from ‘the job’ that he’s on and not his own money, that is kept for keeping the cunt alive for the other 300 and fifty days he isn’t on a job, this freak really we can call him that, a freak who is paid a years money in a few days work, so is actually more lost that the guy selling the ice-cream but who no doubt would swap places with him in the bat of an eye, this Brit who is mightily pissed off with being waited on hand and foot finds it all so terribly claustrophobic and plain annoying is now really fucked off that he’s having a row with a guy who refused him the right ice cream even after paying for it twice, what does he actually do next?
‘Stipid Cunt!’
He reaches over the small glass partition and tips the ice cream tray all over the boardwalk, all over the Mexican guy. The whole thing is upended and crashes to the floor if ice cream can actually crash, but you get the picture. The Mexican has been reminded of his enslavement, his inscription in the story of America as an ice cream seller, by having some brit throw the fucking contents of the cart all over him. He stands there, in plain view, covered in ice cream.
Both men of few words, they now proceed along the boardwalk the one chased by the other. The film crew is at this point itself rendered irrelevant. They stare at each other thinking all the unsaid things that cause the machine to tremor. The director has run off chased by a Mexican and the grips, sparks, craft services, agency sit and contemplate how much the other guy is getting paid. The producer has taken off after them followed in third place by security who lag behind quickly due to problems of excess weight.
Before this situation resolves itself which it does inevitably, within a few minutes, there is one question I would like to ask. The fact that I have come to it last is itself part of the answer. Following the rules of the ‘Hierarchy of Silence’ the main character of this story is the white guy, the guy on top, the guy with the film crew. Have I described what clothes the ice-cream vendor was wearing? No. What clues have I given to his personality other than his ethnicity? None. I don’t know the ironies involved in the life of a ice cream vendor on Santa Monica or wherever beach but I can vividly imagine them. So why didn?t I six pages or so ago? Why did this guy get so hung up on not giving the Brit the ice-cream that he ordered. Even when he said he’d pay for the one he didn’t want? Come on, this must happen all the time. This guy must have bills to pay, he must want to sell ice-creams. He knows it ain’t the best job in the world, but he decided to turn up so why oh why make a scene, why not take the five bucks and scoop out the raspebrry ice cream. A liberal story would have this as the moment of resistence, the moment when the underdog finally bites back but in such a pathetic fashion that the story ends bathed in pathos and terrible regret for life’s terrible thumbscrew inevitability. In fact in the last scene of this story the ice-cream guy would be shot down by a jittery or blithely racist cop who sees a white guy being cahsed by a Mexican who may or may not be holding a knife. In short a tragedy. In another more contemporary pop story, the one which would get optioned to be a movie, we would discover that the Brit has been banging the guys teenage sister and he recognises him when he comes up to buy an ice-cream, in fact his sister met the director because she visited her brother by the pier after college and was cast in the commercial by a passing.
But my story isn’t a story at all, in fact it was a dream.
In my dream what happens next is rather confused and doesn’t abide by the rules and regulations of time and space. The director and the close members of his crew, i.e. his assistant, cameraman and producer are all hiding out in a hotel room, giggling, still full of the adrenalin rush of having pushed over the ice cream cart. Now in the dream an illogical shift occurs in which all of them were involved in pushing the guys cart over. They planned it together, kind of. Now film crews pride themselves on the ability to solve problems, whether it’s to do with the weather, a tricky location, a script that doesn’t work, bad dialogue, bad acting, all these things are overcome by a good crew and the final film is always great, ok, whatever, but they are very good at avoiding disasters. The reason for this is the obscene amounts of money they get paid and that if they allowed a fuck up to happen then the game would be up and they’d have to get a regular job. This is an example of extreme privelidge that is unusual in that it focuses ability and creativity, and doesn?t promote idle mediocrity. There is a meritocracy of sorts working in this industry. What this says about the melliflous seduction of late capitalism is another story, but in the dream, in the next scene, and if you will indulge me, we cut to the Brit director which you by now have guessed is loosely based on the writer, me, shaking hands with the Mexican guy who’s been paid off and we fade on this resolution where everything bad has been smoothed over. In my mind the word pre-fixed pops up at the end of the dream, starting with a thought of the sentance ‘I’m going to fix myself a sandwich’ a hokey old fashioned American English phrase I imagine that a fantasy George Bush says to his wife and kids..’I’m a fix myself a sandwich, any yous whant one?’..Now as we have learnt already directors and producers have runners and PA’s who fix everything for them, from food to drink to drugs to chicks, everything is already sorted out, the hotel mini-bar bill is covered. The ubiquitous platinum American Express card has already sorted it. Every conceivable outcome, expediture, within reason, within the parameters of the silence, is covered by corporate credit. A scary thing in itself but nonetheless the fix is in, the handshake, the glossed over incident, the calming restorative affect of money, the balance that it restores, even if under extreme pressure, so much so that the card iteself is virtually molten from it?s kinetic exertions, like so much oil pumped into the damnded San Andreas fault to keep the tectonic plates happy, all this condensed itself in my now waking mind into the word image pre-fixed. I want to make a sandwich but a runner has already pre-fixed it for me. The anxiety of this sentence is what promoted my dream into a story. Got it an upgrade into the wide awake.
There is a play here on the term prefix I’m sure but as with all dreams they don’t yet deal in irony. Irony is still the preserve of the waking world. Thank God. If it ain’t broke don’t prefix it. There I couldn’t resist and this story is already twenty words too long.

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November 16, 2006

Bucaresti/2


A little drunk from eating alone in a busy restaurant, three bottles of passable local pinot noir drunk with two British representatives of the railways or something. A Scottish guy who could have been in the NUM circa 1982, and an English bloke who you could imagine shopping at Bluewater. These guys travel the world on conferences to discuss and implement new railway schemes, guage changeovers, selling new rolling stock to countries with world bank/EU/IMF funding. Like the railway equivelent of British aerospace I guess. Better than selling landmines or cluster bombs. They had just been taken in a closed carriage full of booze/food and hostesses for a jolly in the countryside which involved roast suckling pig and other local produce, plus some folk dancing and music, before or after attending a conference whose keynote speech from the Romanian head of railways lasted a good three hours. This was their world.

Mine was a little different. Leaving the restaurant a young prostitute grabbed my arm as I crossed the road and asked me if I wanted to fuck her. It was 20 euros for a blow job. I declined but she kept hold of my arm and appeared genuinely annoyed that I would turn her down. Not annoyed but dissapointed that I was obviosuly gay. I mentioned my wife, how lame that is, I think I actually told her that I liked to fuck my wife, so sorry. Where do you go with that? But she kept on, whats wrong with you, you don’t like to fuck me etc. So i finally told her I thought it was immoral to fuck prostitutes and walked off to her curses. She actually repeated what I had said. ‘Immoral, fuck you!’ and spat at the ground. Five minutes later on a main street I stopped in a doorway and took stock of what had happened. I felt terrible that I had said that to her. I don’t think prostitution is immoral, she can do what she likes with her body. I don’t feel like sitting in judgement on anyone, especially not a young romanian woman on teh verge of becomeing an EU citizen. What a terribly patronising thing to say. So, still slightly buzzed from the wine i went back, found her hanging about outside the same retaurant and apologised. She looked at me as if I was from planet zog. Perhaps I am. I was suffering some kind of cultural displacement. I found myself in stupid situations and said clumsy things. I was a thicker version of myself, like the guy who has always had long hair who decides to cut it all off, gets a number one and spends the next two weeks bumping his head on things.

Who else would I upset, who else would upset me in my two weeks in romania?

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bindlestiff
2006
my blog. the beginnings of stories. Ideas.
wayne Holloway
wayne Holloway

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November 16, 2006

The impossibility of changing brake pads in LA


From one state of slavery to another. The shackles of LA are indeed more gilded than those of Bucarest, but are shackles all the same. Endless rounds of meetings which involve eating or drinking. Breakfast, brunch, lunck, coffee, drinks, dinner. Doing business in the film and periphery industries, of which there are legion, costs a lot of dough from the word go. And they do love meetings about every aspect of that business. Because nothing comes of so many of these meetings it’s hard to participate in them. It all looks good, the smiles, the deal memos, the handshakes, the promises, but they all fizzle out in the glaring, charmlessly constant sunshine of the streets of LA; the boulevards of Santa Monica, the drives, the canyons of the Hollywood hills and beyond. Only in their endlessness do these meetings have any upshot. Like a take on infinity, it all works, we all get paid, things get made, we all buy things and have money, but only because the work you have to do to sustain yourself is infinite. And this infinite landscape means that everyone is landlocked within the confines of what it means to be busy. Domestic chores, social interaction with friends and family outside work, spending time alone with ones own thoughts are all pretty much sloughed off. Capitalism of this kind has evolved beyond the needs of individuals. Hence a dear friend found it impossible to schedule changing the brake-pads on his car. ‘It’s just not going to happen’, as we ground and scraped to a halt at every stop light. We are indeed being held back, let down by our technology; The romans had slaves, but most of us have to perform these slavish everyday tasks ourselves. Everyday tasks which take on a superluminary aspect and become so much more than just changing brake-pads. The brake-pads come to represent so much more, in a word the presence of death lurking, raining on the parade of our life’s work. An interruption, an eruption, of what we can call literally ‘the real’ onto the surreal landscape of end of days capitalism. Because if your brakes fail when you are drunk and driving home after ‘drinks’, which is the de rigeur form of driving in LA, then you are well and truly fucked.

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November 4, 2006

Bucaresti


A depressing city. Everybody smokes. I overheard executives from phillip morris discuss the new round edged packaging of marlboro lights at the benihana restaurant situated in the howard johnson hotel. The bar at the ‘hojo’ is like a scene from a bad remake of the third man. A mancunian wideboy told me he was making 300 grand a year selling ringtones to the locals. He had to be in the country (in-country) just a few days a month to achieve this and oversee his company. I am at a loss to imagine what this would entail. The city is a huge building site. Somebody is making a lot of money. From what I could see very few of them were locals. The traffic was virtually gridlocked. It took hours to get anywhere. As late capitalism stutters towards endgame in the west, the further east we travel globalisation has injected capitalism with a frenzied energy, an overdeveloped sense of its own worth. I also learnt that the revolution of 1989 was no such thing, but an internal military coup dressed up to look like a peoples revolution, a situationalist event that shielded the real movers and shakers of the new romania from the liberal/fascist eyes and ears of the democratic west. I think the people making all the cash in town include these people. No doubt. Place is still a shithole whichever way you cut it.

I was there dirceting a TV commercial. As it says at the top of the page, will work for food.

January 1, 1970

castro is dead, killed by vampires


Before I get to visit fucking Cuba. Bastard. It would have been great to visit Cuba whilst he was still alive. The ultimate nostalgia trip for jaded self hating westerners, ex commie’s, socialists, whatever. Do the whole Cuba thing. I was going to book tickets, get this, to take my famly there for the fiftieth anniversatry of the revolution in 2009. Hear a few speeches, sink a few Mojitos, stay at the Nacional, drive a buick. Actually see Fidel deliver a speech, let his words wash over me. Was going to book it on Virgin, a package thing, seven days on the beach, seven days in Havana and Santiago. How neat, in between jobs. Maybe now I will visit the favellas of Venezuela, see Chavez in action instead, spit on a few golf courses.

Castro walks round the edge of his office to keep fit. I saw him do this on Oliver Stones film El Commandante. I sat on my sofa and cried watching that film. When Castro and his wife escorted Stone and his crew to the airport after they had spent a few months in Cuba. Fidel and his wife wanted to keep the skinny sound guy and feed him up. They higged him not wanting him to go. A joke, funny, but the kid was nearly in tears. I know I was.

What is that? What is that feeling, evoked by those images of an old man with an unruly beard? What does Castro mean really? The revolution. The defeat of Batista, the seeing off of American aggresion for over fifty years, and of surviving after the Soviet Union shit the bed in the early nineties. And now, across central and southern America a new/old left takes power, uncle Fidel watching and dying with what must be a certain stone cold satisfaction! A revolution exported after all.

But for us, the idiot mannikins for so many thousands of Che Guevara T shirts it’s all so much entertainment/nostalgia. Che the man who nearly brought the revolution to its knees when he was put in charge of sugar production. He was the revolution Fidel had to export, in order to consolidate the one they had already made.

We ruin Castro as an idea as we did Lenin, Mandela, Trotsky, Che, Ghandi; all those who our liberal eye penetrates, adulates and castigates at the same time. We should die, not him, we should wither on the shit vine we grew for ourselves.

The crowds of celebrating ex pat Cubans, ecstatic at the news that Castro might be dying from stomach cancer. What a pity we couldn’t film him on our mobile cameras as he writhes in agony in his hospital bed, multimedia message it around the world, post him on U-tube. Pity the best health care system in the world will keep him alive a little longer, but hey they will get their island back sometime soon.

God pour fire into Raul to keep these scum from your shores, give him the power to part the Carribean sea and then drown the thousands of bastards as they drain out of Miami, so much pus oozing from the open sore which is the state of Florida. Now I’m ranting, disturbing the cadence of my prose, my choice of words levelled by a myopic anger.

With our handshakes, smiles, cum and unwanted gifts of ‘freedom’. Indescrete packages bearing our indefatigable virus. Pouring our fat cocks into eager dollar hungry mouths we should be so proud.

I looked in a third world mirror and saw the face of the vampire I had become, always had been. It looked just like me.

And we are afraid of them? We are the others mate, we are the devils. They always knew this, from the moment we got off the boat brandishing crucifixes. wading ashore like drunk death gods bearing benedictions of Thanatos. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, the truth of these words my God! This is just my version of the truth, tarnished and second hand. I bring old news.

Laptop battery is down to red so I must hurry, publish and be damned? I am already damned, and these are just foot notes of the true Apolcalypto we have wrought here on earth.

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