Friday, December 31, 2004

Java Cabana - Poetry Night

Performance Poetry/Open Mic night at a hip Memphis hangout, Java Cabana. After getting in two Funky Monkeys and a brownie to share, I took out my notebook and bore witness to the participants.

Hannah whispered to me, "Look over there..."
I looked over. There was some large women in strange clothes.
"It's a lesbian table," she said.
I looked around at the other women in the place.
"I think every table is a lesbian table..."

I decided to tabulate the night's performers and their performances with just three measurements; Physical Description, Mode of Performance, Description of Performance (with a subgrouping of Theme(s)) Here is how my notebook filled up over the course of an hour and a half.

Man with Guitar - 1

Physical Description
Gender:
>Male
Age:
30 +
Obviously-a-freakazoid rating:
2/10 -> The Ordinary Joe look
Clothing: Loose-fitting jeans. White T-shirt with small multi-coloured peace symbol
Hair:
Bryan Adams-style
Performance Mode:
Song (accompanied himself on acoustic guitar)

Performance Review:
Questionable wailing culminated in intense strumming. Off to one side, a large man in a yellow shirt watched intensely. Concluded with a dramatic strum, shuffled away from stage. Crowd reaction was muted, people applauded as if terminally shy of noise-making.

Oh dear, I can't go to the trouble of describing each performer in this level of detail, no-one wants to read a post that in-depth, surely. Does anyone even read my blog these days anyway, or are they all turkey-stuffed (or stuffed with turkey-substitute)...

Please don't desert me!
There's funny stuff below...


Big Hearted Girl - 1

A large young black girl took the stage. She read a poem brimming with lesbian angst about a broken love affair with someone called Renee.

Black-haired Girl - 1

A completely forgettable poem that namechecked Death perhaps 12 times in 12 lines.

Curly Devil - 1

A rich-voiced curly haired young man took the stage and delivered some assonant whimsy. One section concerned the spiritual awakening of a cow, but was not actually as interesting as the spiritual awakening of a cow should be. For me, an inspired rendering of the spiritual awakening of a cow would produce at the very least, hmm, heart palpitations. I touched my chest... nope, all in order.

Man with Guitar - 2

More pain from the man with the guitar. A mix of discordant sounds and some freeform vocal wailing, there was also a growing awareness that perhaps the performer was a homosexual and that his chief artistic concern was living in a world that is not ready to accept his orientation.

Big Hearted Girl - 2

An idealistic poem about idealistic poems about idealistic poems etc...

This gave me the idea for a meta-poetry that only addresses itself to performance poetry. You can see the abominable manifestation of this at the end of this post.

Chunky Dyed Black Hair - 1

Accompanying herself on guitar, this blunt-nosed example of humanity sang a song about thwarted love titled "Perfect sonnet." A little way into the song, some terrific unplanned theatre began, some of my favourite performance moments in a long long time. Better even than a breast slipping unnoticed out of someone's blouse, and I know, that's really saying something.

What happened?

The girl started to forget the words.

This expanded into a scenario that featured:

1) girl on stage trying not to cry or panic
2) fat stripey girl shouting "Don't cry" and prompting with the lyrics
3) audience members trying to transmit vibrations of supportiveness

That the song concerned Death only made the unfolding Performance Death more pleasing. What could have been inoffensive warbled angst was now angst x 10000, a toe-curling meditation on the existential horrors of stagefright, coming to you live and direct from the forgetful brain of a Memphis teengoth...

Long Live Angst!

Diva Poet

Next up, diva poet. Strange hairstyle, kooky specs, tight black leggings and an artfully contrived scarf around her neck (a neck that no doubt has never known a hickey!). Whereas other performers assumed the stage with a degree of reticence, diva poet flung open the cafe door, marched to the front, and then positioned herself kooky/provocative on a stool.

She read a piece of utter whimsy about a spurned lover sending her their leg. Beneath the painfully intellectual presentation, diva poet headed for some fairly obvious "what to do with spurned lover's leg" gags (admittedly I laughed at a couple of these).

She ended with the logical conclusion of having always preferred the other leg.

Diva poet sashayed to the counter and talked loudly over the next few performers.

Big Stripy Chunky Lesbian

An angst-festival concerning Big Stripy Chunky Lesbian's dredlocks, sexual orientation, size issues, and her out-there views on life, the universe, everything, goddamn it. This was all delivered as if Big Stripy Chunky Lesbian never made a single free choice in her life.

How does her day pan out?

7 a.m. Wake up
7.30 a.m. Forcefed 40 cheeseburgers
8.30 a.m. Stormtroopers force her into stripy clothing
9.30 a.m. At knifepoint, her hair is plaited into dredlocks
10.00 a.m. Indoctrination with out-there political ideas
11.00 a.m. Forcefed 30 cheeseburgers
Midday Nap until time for poetry slam
8.30 p.m. Take the stage under duress due to neurological implants that are controlled by shadowy government agents to perform her poetry

etc, etc

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Bravest Man in America

Here is a poem for to go for the comatose

The Bravest Man in America

Today
on Union Avenue
With six lanes of flying cars
I saw the bravest man
in America
sat in a motorised wheelchair

Off the sidewalk he tootled
into the path of
SUVS
delivery trucks
and other examples
of automotive transportation

A car in the first lane
slammed on its brakes
And on he went
through whizzing traffic

Two lanes
I prepared to witness death

Three lanes
Cars burst past like missiles

Four lanes
A dramatic pause, then,
and on he went

Five lanes
Why was he still alive?

Six lanes
and a final flourish
a wave to the waiting car

The entire journey
radiating peril
undertaken
in the full possession of his senses
acknowledged with that wave
a masterly performance
from the six-lane matador

Into a sidestreet
the buzz of his motorised chair
fading
the sun afraid to set
on the Bravest Man in America

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A puzzle for you all

I saw something bizarre today. In Walgreens.

You won't ever guess what it was. But why not try?

Jack Kerouac's Cat

Okay, other matters now. We stopped at Barnes & Noble yesterday. I bought a Kerouac book, Good Blonde & Others, don't know why, I don't care much for Mr Kerouac. He always seems to throw in a jarring sentence or an annoying phrase in each paragraph. I call this a chimping.

Here's a sample chimping.

"The kid rushes out looking for to go find his gory loss."

Like I say, a chimping.

Anyway, I am all for self-confidence, but Kerouac is so lost in the idea of himself as a great artist that he thinks everything that happens to him is great art. He even imbues his cat with all the qualities of a great artist/hipster poet/beatnik in a toe-curling piece entitled My Cat Tyke.

Reading this piece of course reminded me of my own cat-related issues. My Cat Flea. Soooooo, here today I have began a short story inspire by Jack Chimp-o-rak

My Cat Flea Titus - a short story by Jason Unction

There’s my cat flea Titus, sitting in the Autumn grass eyes widened against the unmarked Memphis sky. Flecks of meaning pass over the face radiating coiled calm, the milky sunrise worn as a shroud, faint pipes freeze mountainous moments.

Titus is not a first flea, Titus is an interloper, a puny interloper, his three pairs of legs arranged hastily in a loose Yoga position, an unlit cigarillo at his hairy side, a miniscule life of Hemingway laying open on the ground. His future, just those short days before completing his life cycle, lies in the cafes of Paris, a beret angled jauntily upon the black thumbprint of a head, a pocketbook of poetry glaring testimony to the heart's harangue. For to go fail in love is as sure a cat flea's fate as any sage what ever threw ink at a page or saw Lou Kapinski throw two innings for the Yankees with his arm dangling from the socket.

Now I see the end, the tiny empty bottle on the floor, a loaded shotgun, both triggers tripped, the thought-meat of Titus, smeared over the bare wall of a flower petal.

Only for now he meanders away the day before making his crossing on the seam of a stocking, all unfathomable outcome, like the glow of golden arms in the gym, the snatched rhythm of Kid Zamora’s breathing after an hour of speed work. Ah! Those Cubans, hip to the undulations of a Carribean wave, floating to America on palm fronds beneath the glory of the star-studded vault, what balls. I think it was Henry Miller and Gregory Corso, those two best and greatest of friends and human beings who write the best stuff in history what first drew the gaze of the world that way, to focus on the balls of Cubans.

I took an apartment in Memphis, South Perkins, 6 floors up. Distance enough to think good on the descent should Baudelaire, the unformed truth, make me go haring through the windows, sprint the length of the balcony, and for to go throw my form, the great artist body, over and off off off to the waiting crack of the gunshot sidewalk. I came for another reason too, thinking while I light the stove with old baseball cards. I came to make good with Titus my cat flea.

Titus is not a good flea for me. To my mind, I don't know where he came from, did he ride the railroad... did he walk the trail in Tibet... or sit around listening to Gregory Corso argue the role of the infinite and still leave with a hot hippiechick, cos that man is perfect meeting in a jazz moment of bullshit and big love. You know a real writer is not just a writer with dried vomit on their pants, but a writer with dried vomit on their pants who does not even know they are wearing pants.

I need a cat flea more in sympathy with my literary style.

*

Seen on a Get Rich Quick commercial...

"This isn't one of those Get Rich Quick schemes, but guess what, I did!"

Shoes

Hannah criticised my tidying efforts.

"The shoes arranged in lines, what's this, the start of fascism?"

"I suppose shoes arranged in neat rows is one of the precursors of a stab at world domination. However, your own chaotic system of shoe distribution, whereby any shoe can be at any point in the apartment at any time, this also has its drawbacks. One specific drawback being you never quite know when you'll stumble over a flip flop and suffer the disproportionate consequence of plunging through the glass doors or rolling off the balcony and plummeting to the unyielding sidewalk six floors below."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Full Spectrum Orange in the Sweet Sunny South

It sounds stupid, but a flea brought me to this particular point. Well, the flea is the latest link in a long long chain of events that terminates here, in the present.

So where am I?

I'm in the New World, sat in the lounge, six floors up, with Childrens BBC playing.
Hannah is asleep beside me.
Outside, I'm watching an intense sunrise through the leafless trees.
Bands of pink, a thin band of, ahem, sky blue, and then up, up, up, into a shifting exploration of blues, purples, and grays, smeared together.

Hannah suggested I think about exactly how it feels to be here. After all the car chases, the cartoons, the sit-coms, the novels, the news reports, the Jerry Springer Show, the songs... just how does it feel?

To sit here in Memphis, and to know that Roy Orbison recorded at the Sun Studios just a few miles away.

To look outside and be in the land of William Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, Paul Bowles, John Fante, Henry Miller.

To think about the seven hour flight back to England, that place I never managed to call home with conviction, despite being born and raised there. Or to think of Ireland, where in a few months, I finally found somewhere I could call home, and had that feeling of belonging to a place. And then, the moment I had found a place where my face fitted (not easy, folks, not with this face), then, to be leaving it all behind, to come here. In search of just what, exactly?

I see myself strapped to a chair, a powerful light in my face, a robot voice asking me questions...

"Mr Unction, just what is your purpose in the United States?"
"Love. Love... love..." I spit out a broken tooth.
"You may want to keep those malformed English teeth, Mr Kennedy, you are unlikely to be receiving a dental check-up anytime soon, and even if you don't use them for chewing, they may come to possess a sentimental value."

But love did bring me here, maybe this sunrise, this, in Hannah's words (the sky has shifted again)

"Full Spectrum Orange in the Sweet Sunny South"

Maybe this is a reward for all those sad days of the last 30 years.

I entertain the thought, indeed, I'm the perfect host. Look, this devastatingly beautiful thought has arrived, immaculately transported in the gleaming limousine of a Memphis sky, it has sashayed through the glass windows, and is now rushing through the disorganised, overwrought, story of my life on Earth, furiously revising, deleting, and making suggestions.

Let it come down

Three years indoors, wearing mirror shades, drinking too much Lucozade, struggling with skin problems and alienation. Listening to Joy Division. Gone...

The shame of fainting one summer at my high school because my uniform was too tight and my family hadn't money to replace it. Waking up in the medical room. My first thought, pointing my left foot toward the floor. I had a hole in my sock. Gone...

Walking through a store in Teignmouth last year, seeing this awful, ill-looking, unsightly lump of lard walking towards me, and then, with a terrible terrible shock, realising that I was looking at myself. I didn't even recognise myself. Gone...

The godawful internet dating. Being knocked from pillar to post by the reactions, non-reactions, of random women. Of crying, not knowing where I was going right, where I was going wrong. Nights of pining for deep kisses, thinking of how I was rushing headlong past 30, straight towards being an old man, and still, no-one on the horizon, no-one who cared about me on a planet full of billions of people. Gone...

And now, in the morning air, a police siren.

And Hannah, underneath a quilt, my love, the reason I'm sat here. The reason I'm truly happy.

I never thought I'd find myself saying this, but...

This is truly a day that even a flea cannot spoil

Monday, December 27, 2004

Fleas and Superfluous Water Features

We left Alabama today. It's been a great seven days. I had my first US Christmas Dinner, southern style. For the historical record, may I just take a second here, to pay tribute to the following food items that combined to fill my heart with happiness:

Squash Casserole
Creamed Corn
Sweet Potato Casserole
Green beans and bacon
Dressing
Fried Turkey
Cranberry Sauce

Definitely my tastiest Christmas meal.

The Houses are Beautiful

On Christmas Day, me and Hannah went for a walk around Sheffield, down to the standpipe. On the evening of our arrival, we'd been treated to a lightning tour of the town, in the dark.

We'd been driven to the Boundless Playground, a community project completed with volunteer labour (or rather, that had run out of steam once volunteer labour was meant to kick in). The result is a lethal asphalt wonderland, where smiling children dance upon the abyss of dire personal injury.

We were then "showed" the Tennessee River, again, in pitch blackness. Steve thought it'd be hilarious to roll his truck down a boat ramp that ended in the fast-flowing water. We howled like babies, advising him, imploring him, to spare us the excitement.

"Steve! Steve! Oh Jesus, no! Imminent death is sooooo exciting..."

Steve relented. We drove up to the standpipe. As we swung round it, there was a car parked up, and inside was a woman, head down, in a man's lap, administering what is commonly known as a blowjob. I saw this as a good omen for our stay in Sheffield.

Now, in the daylight, on Christmas Day, we walked towards the standpipe, thinking over what we planned to do with ourselves, assessing the attractiveness of the houses as we went.

In comparison to British housing, you know, all those grim suburbs, or dreary terraces, or matchbox Tudor "executive" homes (hmmm, I can only assume that they are called executive because people who live in them pine each night to be put out of their misery), the best of the houses on display was franky, amazing.

Hannah pointed one out, what she called "The Tim Burton house", a purple and black Beetlejuice style affair, with a great front porch, decked out with sprayed black wicker chairs, and a great tower on one corner. I will take some pictures of these houses and be able to ease off on trying to describe their awesome powers of seduction.

There was another great house, just along the street, a white number with a porch that wrapped halfway round the house, a balcony, and a tower with stained glass on the first floor. I immediately wanted to spend my days there.

We turned round at the stovepipe. No-one was receiving a blowjob there this time.

Flea Update

I have been touched by the kind emails that have flooded my inbox. Besides sympathising with my current flea infestation, others have offered useful insights into the mindset and life cycle of the cat flea, while still others have, in recognition of my literary genius and surefire future fame, offered to purchase any fleas I may defeat in battle, for sums that have fairly made my legs quiver.

Leaving such matters to one side of the Big Plate of Blog that this post constitutes, I will now provide a flea update for the more casual reader of my mutterings.

I am still being bitten.

It is quite feasible that I have brought home a flea from Alabama to Tennessee. I don't yet know whether it is an offence for a visitor to the US to transport, knowingly or unknowingly, a flea across state lines. Time will tell.

In the meantime, my legs are eaten up, my hands continue to sprout red blotches, and my itching is now reaching chronic proportions. On the plus side, the Black Death, which killed a third of the population of Britain in the 14th Century, has yet to make its presence felt.

What is the Point of This???

We unpacked some of our Christmas gifts from Hannah's family tonight. One gift was a Cascade fountain. This is a water feature that is operated by a submersible pump. The pump pushes water up through a hollow brass tube until it emerges in the uppermost moulded metal leaf of a beautiful cascade of such leaves. As it trickles down, it provides the kind of wonderful natural music, the music of flowing water, that fifteen dollars can buy. In short, it's crap.

I will now explain why. I will also make a number of jokes at the expense of the water feature.

Firstly, I should give you the manufacturer's take on the wonders of their Cascade Fountain product (under the mysterious sales phrase, Simply Life):

  • Immerse yourself in a beautifully serene and natural atmosphere
  • Add life and motion to any room in the house
  • Rejuvenate your senses with a walk in the woods, in your home
Bring the soothing ambiance (sic) of a rainy forest from the mountains into your home. Balance the surrounding air with beneficial ions released from the cascade fountain, and let your mind and body relax to the sounds of nature. (Batteries not included)

*

My first criticism would be the failure of our Cascade Fountain to allow me to immerse in a beautifully serene and natural atmosphere. The Cascade Fountain produced a barely audible burble, a burble that was largely outweighed by the noise produced by the Cascade Fountain's submersible pump...

Hannah looked at the Cascade Fountain, trying to find a reason to like it.

"It's ridiculously quiet," I said.
"Perhaps that is part of it..."
"Hannah, you'd have to be a Zen Master to block out the ambient sounds in this room enough to even hear that damn burble. And if you were a Zen Master, why would you need a fifteen dollar Cascade Fountain?"

My second criticism of the barely audible burble was more damning.

"The, ahem, burbling, Hannah, I could have simulated that by removing a washer from one of the faucets... would that have produced a beautifully serene and natural atmosphere??? Or would it just have made me want to go pee-pee every 10 minutes?"

A fresh flea bite has just appeared on my chest.

Sometimes, life is just impossible.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

I'm Popeye the Annoying Macaw! Toot Toot!

Flea Update!

I'm still being eaten alive by fleas. In fact, I'm beginning to suspect it's all the work of a single flea. A Charles Bronson style, vigilante, flea, out to settle old scores.

My hands, feet, shins, and arms, they all bear witness to the flea's insatiable appetite for my blood.

I've tried not to scratch too obviously in front of my hosts. They are good people, they don't need to witness me rubbing myself furiously. Thank God the flea has yet to sample the delights of my crotch...

I'm strong to the finish! Cos I eats my spinach!

There's a macaw in the study where I'm typing my posts. He says all kinds of mad stuff, such as sneezing, "Aaaaaa-chooo!", "Wanna cawfee?", "Good morning", and doing evil professor laughs.

He also thinks he's a cat, "Meeee-ow..."

But my own personal favourite is his singalong to Popeye the Sailor Man.

Here it is, rendered with Hannah's part and Poppy, the macaw's, part.

Hannah: I'm Popeye the Sailor Man, I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
Poppy: TOOT TOOT!
Hannah: I'm strong to the finish...
Poppy: And I eat my spinach
Hannah: I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
Poppy: TOOT TOOT!

This incredibly stupid bird can also count. To two.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Fleas and Tivo

I'm in Alabama, I'm at Hannah's folks.

There are a fair few cats here. I don't mind cats at all, I think cats are great, well, maybe not great, but they have every right to go about their cat business.

What I do have a problem with is the cat flea.

I felt something on my arm last night, looked down, and there, oh no! oh God! no! was a flea. It leapt off. Phew... but it wasn't phew for long. A little later Hannah informed me that she'd seen the flea leap back on to my person.

I sat there feeling violated. I sat there wondering when the flea would start to make its presence felt.

Sure enough, after a few minutes I felt a flea biting under my arm.

I blew what little credibility as a macho man I had left by leaping to my feet and shouting stuff like....

"Oh! Jesus, no! A flea... oh no...." and, "Oh no! I'm being bitten... I'm being eaten alive!"

I stripped off and ran down to the basement to shower. The flea departed.

I came back up in my pajamas, flealess but also somehow diminished in the eyes of my hosts. I sat there, quietly reflecting on the human condition. Someone said my hair looked cute. I relaxed again. A flea wasn't going to ruin my Christmas holidays.

Alabama Bookstores and the Bubonic Plague

We went out once the sun had seen off the frost. Down to the Cold Water Bookstore in Sheffield. Hmmm, I don't enjoy being mean, but the dire lack of books in the bookstore posed a direct challenge to the actual use of the phrase "bookstore". On a positive note, let me say that the wonderful dark-stained shelves will indeed look very beautiful should a... book... or Heaven forbid, books, ever be placed upon them...

There was a copy of The Communist Manifesto, staring up from a little stand.

Perfect for rounding up the local dissidents, I thought. I didn't even dare to pick up the manifesto, it would probably stain your hand with a permanent dye that would be given in evidence against you at a military tribunal.

*

Next we went to a bookstore called Books-A-Million. Someone had been there, taking all the controversial books, the interesting books, out of the inventory. No Bukowski, no Fante, etc. I don't like to buy new books anyway; I stood there, holding a copy of Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, wanting to read it, but not wanting to buy it.

I put it back.

On the way out of the store, two idiot shoppers had buttonholed an idiot sales assistant. They were trying to buy a particular book by describing its cover...

"It's really really good..."
"... and popular..."
The idiot sales assistant nodded.
"You must know it, it has a picture of a man's face on the front..."
"A man's face?"
"Yup. You must know it..."

I pondered my own reaction to this idiotic means of identifying a book purchase. I would've nodded and gone and picked up the first book I saw with a man's face on the cover and sold it to them. People that stupid would never even find their way back to the store to complain.
Wasn't there supposed to be some mention of bubonic plague in this posting?

Ah, yes, bubonic plague, the terrible fate that awaits me. Steve pointed out that the flea that has been biting me may carry bubonic plague.
"You remember all that stuff, don'tcha? In England, ring a ring of roses, and all that stuff. People being burned in the streets after suffering excruciating agonies, black bumps appearing beneath the skin... And the wild thing is, the bubonic plague is still around, down in California, if you go out in the woods, you'll see signs warning you about coming into contact with rats that are carrying it..."
I pondered this. I pondered dying a medieval death in the 21st Century. I could dress up in a foul-smelling hessian smock and wander the streets ringing a bell... I could buddy up to people I didn't much like the look of...
I also figured I could indulge myself in some payback in the most litigious nation on Earth.
"Steve, I'm sorry, but if I get bubonic plague, I'm going to have to sue you for damages..."
Steve carried on driving. Then he spoke...
"Hell, well, it don't matter. Truth is, we don't have a heck of a lot to give you..."
"Hmmm, no, but you do have a supersized TV and a TiVo box, they'll be good entertainment while I lie there on my sick bed. I can pause the TiVo when I throw a fit or lapse into a coma..."
I pictured the doctors around my sick bed.
"Mr Unction, your coma lasted two weeks, but look! Dog The Bounty Hunter is paused right where you began to black out..."
I smile a toothless smile and resume my evening's viewing.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Second class return to Dottingham, please

To catch the above reference, you'll need to be 30+, have a great memory, and have grown up in the UK.

If so, perhaps you're now fondly remembering the red-nosed blubber-ass asking a bemused clerk at a ticket office for a "second class return to Dottingham..." (Nottingham, articulated with blocked sinuses). The clerk then provided the flu victim with some Tunes. Cut to the same guy, still with a red nose, walking towards his train. "Tunes!" he says, his nasal whine having given way to perfect enunciation.

I mention Tunes because the first part of this post is concerned with the beneficial effects of menthol.

I am mentioning this for the sake of accurate reportage and because it is curiously satisfying...

Hmmm, on reflection, no, I don't think I can mention it... it's a mix of cough drops and a sexual practice. It may not benefit the sinuses in any direct sense, but it certainly made me feel better.

No Way! did I watch that much Porno...

We went out on a routine trip this morning, tying up loose ends before heading to Alabama tomorrow. The damn cable box has not functioned properly since I arrived, so we took it back to Time Warner down on Poplar to swap it out for a new setup.

Waiting in line behind some guys in plaid shirts, one with a mass of long silver hair, we speculated on why people always take so long.

"They're here to dispute their bills," said Hannah. "Goddamn it! These people..."
"We mustn't be too hasty... maybe they got cable box troubles like us..."

I looked down at the cable box and remote control I was holding. I looked around at the other people inside the store. No-one else was holding a cable box, no-one else was holding a remote control. I reflected on this.

"Hmmm, maybe you're right."

The guy with the silver hair was up at the counter. He was mentioning items on his bill. Hannah had been proved right.
"It's the porno," I said, "he can't believe that he's watched 1,000 dollars worth of porno this month... He probably drove to the store thinking, 'Goddamn, am I really that sad? Did I really watch 300 hours of White Chicks doing Nasty Things on pay-per-view this month?' glancing over at his bill on the dashboard and getting mad all over again."

The guy carried on bellyaching. He looked tired, like he'd been whacking off constantly for the last month.

Reading a Random Page of Hardback Novels

We went over the road to Bookstar. Our mission; to seek out some books to take as gifts to Hannah's people in Alabama.

We started by seeking out some titles for Hannah's momma. She likes to read, oh I don't know what she reads. Stuff with some magic and intrigue, Da Vinci Code and all that. Oh, and she only likes hardback books. Polar opposite of myself, a so-called bibliophile, who by and large only purchases paperbacks.

What to choose? I walked along and looked at the covers.

David Fucking Lodge

Some of the books were instantly offensive, just from their dust jackets. For example, I find the two word combination, "David Lodge" mind-bogglingly sickening. David Lodge, David Lodge, a cretinous author who writes all about, hmmm, how to be a good writer. The same David Lodge who can't write a fucking sentence but who still finds time to write garbage literary theory. And Good Lord, if it isn't the same David Lodge who is a fellow of Creative Writing courses and who wonders the globe "teaching" people his unique brand of literary ineptitude.

You've guessed it, folks, I have issues with David Lodge.

Books with trees on the cover. Or Snow

I scanned the other hardbacks. I dismissed any with trees or snow on the cover. I stood in front of a book that featured snow-covered trees on the dust jacket. I held back an urge to vomit.

I gave up looking at the covers and set about assembling a pile of possible purchases.

I sat in a chair and read a random page from each.

They included:

A Scotland Yard thriller concerning some artworks. The page I read offered staggering insight into the relocation of Guy's Hospital. It also mentioned a quadrangle. Dismissed

Next up was a Chick-Lit offering. It was written by a Cambridge English graduate (cue teethgrinding). The page I read contained the mind-slappingly annoying phrase, "The Doyenne of Denial" Dismissed

Ooooh, a thick one, Seven Types of Ambiguity, written by an Australian. The page I read was well constructed stuff, self-consciously literary. It was lacking completely in dialogue though, and flipping through there was a distinct imbalance in this regard. Dismissed

Going against every screaming cell in my body, we eventually settled on two. The first was Terry Pratchett's Going Postal, the other was Alexander McCall Smith's The Sunday Philosophy Club.

The thought of contributing to Pratchett's pension fund is particularly galling, but sometimes life is like that. Who knows, perhaps he'll spend the pennies he's prised from me on an electrical appliance that will fall into his bath as he masturbates furiously while wearing women's underwear.

Then I wouldn't feel so bad.

Trip to a Mall

We rode out after nightfall to Barnes & Noble to locate the 2nd part of the Philip Pullman Dark Materials trilogy, as parts I and II are a Christmas gift for a precocious kid off in Alabama. The number of lanes in the highways and the superabundance of strip malls knocked me sideways.

We found the book. I know I recommended it, but

1) I've never read it
2) I dislike Philip Pullman, specifically for his eulogising of Oxford
3) Fantasy bores me senseless, and, regardless of literary merit, The Dark Materials trilogy features the word daemon in the opening paragraph of Book I.

Oxford is a loathsome place. I lived there for a year in 1997. It is full of ugly people, many of whom race around on bicycles. There are thousands of Pippy Longstockings, there are thousands of Bertie Woosters. Way back when, I had a week of my writings performed at the Burton-Taylor Theatre in the centre of Oxford. I went into the ticket office to see how things were going and there was a young man in white trousers, striped blazer, and a straw boater, buying himself a ticket. I felt like tapping him on the shoulder and saying, "Excuse me, I wrote this stuff, and I don't want people such as yourself to come..."

I didn't bother. Instead, I reflected further upon the human condition.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

J'adoube*

I spent the last few days in Nashville.

We zoomed along the Interstate from Memphis. It was another beautiful day.
Refuelling on gas and snacks, I wandered into the gas station. Paying, I spilled a few bits of loose Euro change on the counter and the cashier picked them up as pennies.

"Not those," I said, scooping them back, "They're Euros..."

I paid and got my stuff.
As I turned to leave, he said, "What were those coins again?"
"They're European coins..."

I mention it because it brings home to me what an oddity I can appear at times here, travelling in the South with my English accent and Irish blood and lack of familiarity with life here. It's made me feel like not talking at times, blanking the waiters and waitresses when we eat out, letting Hannah do the work. My confidence is slowly growing, though. I know it sounds kinda wussy, but it's different when you're coming somewhere to live, not just taking a vacation.

Big Food

It's proved impossible to not put weight on.
There are two principle reasons for this, the first and most obvious being that food in the US seems to be exclusively fried, served in huge portions, and chiefly constituted of meat and cheese. The second reason is that there is no spare key to the apartment for me at the moment, so while Hannah has been completing her end of semester exams at law school, I have been confined to my quarters.

Not that these quarters aren't superbly appointed, especially after my humble room in Ireland, where there wasn't room to swing the proverbial cat and my view looked out on some rubbish bins and a rusting bicycle. It's also a sweet relief to have escaped from The Man who made Terrifying Throat Sounds All Night and The Man with the Most Sensitive Ears in the World. They are now just a distant memory, preserved only here in the pages of Extreme Unction.

In Memphis, I am six floors up in an apartment building. The ambient temperature is lush after the landlady-controlled heating regime in Rathmines, a regime that subjected me to merciless bouts of alternately freezing and tropical extremes of hot and cold. Where before I had linoleum floors and a refrigerator and microwave within touching distance from my bed, here there are, ooooh, carpets, and a dedicated kitchen.

Wandering through the glass doors (on which I've already savaged my head), there's a balcony that looks out over a high school, behind it there's a profusion of trees, mostly brown, some are leafless now, and rising up in the distance, a couple of tall buildings, one has a US flag flying, the other has a large "i" in a red circle and the word "bank" underneath. I just cannot understand the purpose of this sign. Is it for the benefits of pilots? Do they fly over and think "Hell, that reminds me, I must go the bank later, let me make myself a note..."

Pretension, Huey and Hugh - A Day in three Sections

Section 1 - Pretension
We went out today. I was suffering being indoors. It may amaze my friends, who struggle to imagine me not sat behind a computer desk or lying on the floor of an Irish bar somewhere, my legs grimly spasming as I once again swear never to touch the demon drink. Yes, previously, they were perhaps what I alternated between, with the odd bit of dating thrown in (you know, rejection keeps me fresh, I enjoy the feeling of my eyes streaming and plumbing the depths of self-loathing as I ponder the mystery of why no-one wants to know me... answers on an e-postcard). Now I am in America, I am looking once more to find some people to interact with. In Dublin I had Leo, my brother-in-arms, the other Leo, who would regale me with all manner of trivia, and who turned me on to Saki and lightened my mood with his silly jokes. Such as...

It was so cold in Dublin yesterday, I saw a lawyer putting his hands in his own pockets.

Even Brian, the annoying American, who played weird music and was endlessly engaging in violent confrontations with the customers (these invariably involved someone telling him he was "a fucking bastard"), even he is missed, sort of.

So today I asked Hannah to take me somewhere, anywhere, and we settled on a coffee shop where the freakazoids hang, Otherlands. Oh, straight off, self and other, defining yourself by opposition, it's all there in the name, Otherlands. Alternative coffee for alternative people. But hey, what the hell, let's go and see...

We parked up and walked in. On the steps outside, two guys were talking about Belle and Sebastian. Now, anyone who knows me, will know how much I dislike Belle and Sebastian, with their "aren't we clever and well-mannered and tasteful and oh so English..." To my mind, they are horrendous middle-class artschool toss (and before anyone moans about jealousy, I went to artschool, I have my good degree). So that was a portent of doom. Inside was a pleasing arrangement of mismatched chairs and D-I-Y art adorning the walls. A tattooed young lesbiab-looking girl was sashaying around (now, I don't often use the word sashaying, but believe me, this girl was sashaying). To what end she sashayed, can anyone say. Perhaps her sashaying was silently ushering in the revolution...

We had hot chocolate. It was almost cold. Can you complain in such a joint I wondered... it would be considered deeply uncool.

"Hey, this man wants his hot chocolate to be hot... like, well, let's use up more of the Earth's valuable resources indulging one person's quest for HOT chocolate... hey, if you're gonna destroy the earth, why not go outside and yank up a few trees while you're at it..." etc

I didn't bother to complain. I just sat there loathing the people sat around me, despite the fact they were doing nothing but draw breath. Somehow I couldn't help myself. I could feel the pressure of the fact that my eyes and nose could start spurting blood and no-one would leave what they were doing and take an interest. They'd just go home later and say to some stoned buddy or other....

"I saw something pretty wild in Otherlands today, this guy with his eyes and nose spurting blood. Pretty wild..."

I resolved to return with my novelty Fake Blood Spurting Eyes and Nose Kit and put my theory to the test.

We looked through The Scene, a Memphis free paper, and found a gig by a band called Dead Irish Blues at a place called Huey's. It was just getting underway.

"Shall we go?" said Hannah.
"Yep, let's do it."

Section 2 - Hueys
Huey's is a cool spot. We whizzed over the way to Shangri-La Records. Thousands of records, a place to return to. I turned up a Rocket from the Tomb album of "the album that never was". I couldn't justify the 25 dollar price tag, particularly when my record player is sat in a bedroom 4000 miles away.

We entered Hueys. Dead Irish Blues were playing. They didn't seem very Irish. But then again, they didn't seem Dead or to be very Blue, either. In truth, they sounded pretty damn bad. I don't like to stray away from positivity after all my hard work to feel good about life, myself, the universe, etc, but yup, they were bad. Not to worry. They played a song that lasted six years and featured the singer repeatedly inviting over a "fat momma from Louisiana" for some fun and games in the bedroom. He then walked off stage and returned with a kazoo.

My spirits sank even further.

A kazoo has never enriched a single great work of art.

We had food. I had a reuben, Hannah went with the Philly chicken sandwich. We had fries, too. It was a great meal choice for two people concerned for their weight.

I was feeling strangely sad. The coffee shop had been like falling down a well. Now I was at the bottom, soaking wet, sat in the dark. I thought of the glittering lights of a night-time taxi ride through Dublin city, of the dome of Rathmines church, of walking along to the Net cafe with my laptop, racing out to O'Briens for sandwiches and coffee while Patrick or J.D. kept an eye on my computer. Now I was here in this massive country, spending most of my time in the apartment, staring out over the trees and wondering how to meet people.

I asked Hannah how I was going to meet anyone.

That made us both sad. We left.

Section 3 - Hugh
We tried to pull out of the car park. A couple were stood behind the car, stopping us reverse. They were reading Hannah's provocative Liberal bumper stickers. They walked off into Hueys, strange smiles on their faces.

"... and you don't need to be a genius to guess their political persuasion," said Hannah.
"Nope. Just the amount of time it took them to read the stickers confirms they are Bush supporters."
Hannah laughed.

On the way home, I yelped.

"Books!"
"No, that's just wizards, a head shop."
"Nope, there are rows and rows of books."
"No, anyway, they're probably closed."
"Ah, right, that's why the lights are on and someone is looking through the shelves of stuff..."

We swung around and came back.

There was 15 minutes till closing time, apparently.
Hannah tried the door and it wouldn't open.

"See, they're closed."

A big guy came walking across the store. He opened the door and gave a strange look to Hannah. "Oh, the door, was it just stuck?"
"Yup, it swells up with the cold, come on in, we've another 15 minutes..."

I went round and picked out some items, a book of tales by Saki (Leo, Mr Trivia, turned me on to him), and a pulp paperback of Philip K. Dick's Time out of Joint.

We fell to talking. The guy bellyached about some stuff. He had read Saki himself. He asked me my angle on the PKD and I confirmed I was a fan.

Hannah chimed in that I was a big Bukowski fan and Hugh pointed out they had two of his books on a table. I took a book of poems, What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.

The guy confirmed that the shop had free wireless internet access and served bagels and coffee, sausage and biscuits. I looked at the little 60s looking black-and-white tables, imagining myself here with my laptop, tap-tapping.

We wrapped it up. The guy introduced himself as Hugh, said he was the owner, and we all shook hands. He was a real nice guy. I am sure we'll be back.

Outside in the car, I felt much happier. Here was a place where I could come along to, once I'd learned to drive the American cars and navigate American roads, where I could do a little work and chat away and feel a part of a tiny corner of American life. That's what I'm looking for, really, a public place where random stuff may happen to me, where I can listen to people talk and warm a seat and while away the day. It's not hugely ambitious, but it's fine for now.

I held Hannah's hand as we drove. I told her there was no reason to worry, that I wasn't miserable. I looked down at the few books I'd bought, thought about Hugh's, and then looked out the window at the cars passing by and the strip malls and stores of Memphis. I was happy again.

* J'adoube - Commonly taken to mean "I adjust", it's a phrase used in chess.

However, this comment is fun.

"An expression denoting unwillingness to move the piece touched. The derivation comes from an old English phrase, 'Shut up', formerly the conventional response to: 'You've touched that piece, you've got to move it.' Later the introductory phrase was omitted by the aggrieved player, and the piece toucher would automatically say 'Shut up' without the need for prompting. This was taken into middle High Flemish where it appeared as Schodop and later came into old Northern French as J'odeupe or J'adoube."

Hartston, William, Soft Pawn, Macmillan Publishing, 1995 (ISBN: 185744145-1)

Monday, December 13, 2004

States of disaster, states of grace

There are little birds living in JFK Terminal 3. Little birds that forage for crumbs, flit around, and engage in courtship. I watched them while I ate a roll and drank some coffee. I felt a fool for saying "grand" as in Grand Old Duke of York, rather than "grand-e" as in grandee, when ordering my coffee. I guess it wasn't a faux pas on the scale of Dan Quayle's hernia-inducing "potatoe", but it made me feel kind of hopeless.

My roll was billed as roast beef and parmesan. It seemed to have about 3 pounds of tasteless meat packed into it. I threw it away.

I figured I'd read the book I'd bought, read it while I waited for my flight to Atlanta.

It was a collection of writings by Vladimir Nabokov called Vintage Nabokov. I read a few of the stories. They were utterly brilliant. The quality of his writing makes me want to not only never write another word, but to head out into the world and recover every word I've already written, bring them to a secluded spot, and destroy them utterly. I would then unlearn the alphabet, poke out my eyes, and remove my brain (besides the addition of dark glasses and a guide dog, would anyone notice the change?). Only then would I feel fit to resume my daily life.

Instead, I decided to stop reading. Ha! Power, indeed.

The woman who resolves all issues with snacks and sodas

I flew to Atlanta. The flight was very late. I tried asking the stewardess for some assistance, whether Delta Airlines would delay the flight I was hoping to connect to, what was standard practice, etc. She responded by supplying me with pretzels. Fifteen minutes later I tried again, stopping her as she strode by. This time she returned with a Coke. I tried following the logic of this woman - what would happen if I was lying there with a massive headwound? Would she bring me a cookie? If the plane exploded in mid-air, would I go to my grave with the words, "Would anyone like caw-fee?" ringing round my burning eardrums?

Nondescript Superstars

I looked around for someone interesting, someone I could immortalise here on Extreme Unction. There were no candidates. Perhaps I'd immortalise this flight as The Flight that was Strangely Full of Nondescript People. I toyed with an idea, like a kitten with a ball of wool. Perhaps all of these people were on their way to the World Nondescript Person World Championships, which this year were being held in Atlanta. The winner would be the person who made the least impression on the panel of distinguished judges. They would sit around conferring, desperately trying to remember the parade of non-entities who had shuffled by in beige swimwear, wearing blank expressions, answering questions from the compere in a barely audible monotone.

I tried to pick a winner from the people on the plane. I think I blacked out from the pressure of it all.

The Secret -> America is smaller than Luxembourg

We arrived in Atlanta. The entire journey had taken place in thick cloud. I felt cheated. I remembered an episode of Mission Impossible where a guy had been duped into believing he was flying in an aeroplane. In fact, the aeroplane was just a prop, and there was a screen outside playing film of clouds, and some secret agents were jiggling the plane every now and then to simulate turbulence.

Is this what was happening to me?

Was America tiny? Was America smaller than Luxembourg?

I had a vision of Atlanta airport being JFK again, freshly painted, of wandering outside to the same row of phones, of dialling 70 and getting through to the Ramada, the receptionist affecting a different accent when they recognised me as having called the previous night. I would arrive on the shuttle bus (finally), and there would be the receptionist, Mario, his name badge saying "Hector" now, his centre parting replaced with a devastating perm...

None of this happened.

I was told I'd missed my flight. I wandered to the point where my later flight would board from.

There were still no interesting people to look at. I found this baffling. I withdrew into a silent interior world of my own imagination, pondering the message being sent out by the conflicting colours of my shirt and my trousers (for my US readers, trousers = pants)...

The hour passed slowly. I boarded and headed for Memphis, my final destination.

Why did you come here?

I sat down next to a very tall man. Even before the flight had taken off, he was lolling back with his mouth open. I always seemed to end up sitting next to people like this, young men with burning ambition, raised on a diet of egg whites and raw meat, whose only goal in life is to loll their heads around on aeroplanes, drooling uncontrollably. I imagined the shame of being the first person to drown in mid-air, my lungs filled with stange saliva. Fancy having that news broken to my family...

"Sorry, Mr Kennedy, but it seems that the saliva was extra-thick, on account of the assailant's curious diet and accelerated metabolic rate..."
"Oh my God! Oh my God... tell me, was it a quick and painless death?"
"Sadly not, I'm afraid. The doctor's report mentioned the words "lingering" and "excruciating agony", which, in point of fact, is not just a word, but a phrase. But, of course, I'm wandering off into semantics here, Mr Kennedy, please forgive me..."
"Oh my God! Oh my God!... etc"
"My own theory is that the attacker believes himself to be a kind of boa constrictor, and the saliva was designed to soften up your son prior to ingesting him whole. I haven't yet seen the toxicology report, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a poison, maybe strychnine, contained in the drool..."
My father wails in anguish.

Although such a scenario was far-fetched, the lolling monster made me understandably uneasy about falling asleep myself. I didn't want to wake up with huge streamers of drool connecting me to this guy's mouth. Or even worse, our heads could drift towards one another over the course of the flight and we wake up in the midst of guy-on-guy action. Some prospect.

More clouds.

I tried reading my book, my Nabokov book. It's really tough, really really tough, it's extremely tough... folks, it's impossible, frankly, to enjoy the most dazzling prose stylist of the 20th century when you have the All-American boy dribbling away while his head rolls back and forth in a winter sky. I put my book down.

Oh, yes, I was going to say why I'm going to Memphis.

To meet someone, of course.

Yes, there's been a parallel thread running through my life in recent times, something I didn't care to mention in the posts of Extreme Unction. I didn't want to upset something potentially good by warbling or speculating about what was happening, what may happen. But I'd met someone who excited me, who I thought could be my everything. Yes, yes, we met via the wonders of the internet, switched over to the phone and SMS, and frittered away small fortunes in transatlantic talk, prior to arranging to meet up.

So that's why I'm heading to Memphis, to meet Hannah.

Romantic stuff, look away if you can't stand it

I was concerned for the whereabouts of my luggage when I entered Memphis airport. With my flight having been delayed, who could say where my stuff might have gotten to by now. I asked a Delta Airlines employee for assistance, and he sent me to the Baggage Reclaim Office.

There was a fat woman there. She was unattractive. She looked as if she hauled bags of cement around construction sites in her spare time. I was hoping my bags were missing, looking at her, I could do with shouting at someone and she seemed perfect. She'd give me a good argument.

"Hi there, I was on an earlier flight, but it was delayed. I'm not sure if my baggage arrived before me..."
"Look over there," she said, motioning her head, "you see your things?"

I looked at a sad assemblage of bags in the corner. My stuff wasn't there.

"No."
"Then it's probably on the flight you arrived on, go check the baggage conveyor..."

I went and stood around, waiting for my bag. While I waited, I suddenly wondered if maybe Hannah could be somewhere nearby, it wasn't clear whether there was public access to this part of the airport.

I turned and looked around and there was Hannah. She looked so sweet. I waved.

Hannah immediately executed two distressed hops and disappeared behind a pillar.

That's just great, I thought. I come thousands of miles, only to discover that I'm so unappealing on first sight that the person I'd hoped to enchant with the full force of my charming personality (no sniggering at the back) has promptly gone into hiding.

I waited.

Hannah re-emerged.

I tried waving again, this time a little more anxiously.

Hannah bounced over.

Oh, my, what happened next?

I guess you'll just have to wait to find out...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Touchdown

I made it to the US.

On the Monday morning, before leaving, I headed out of the unlit misery of Leo's shared bathroom (he lives in a block with suicides, hookers, and party people), and offered him my final thought before heading for the airport. I surveyed my luggage. "I'm telling you now, you have 1 minute to remove any novelty sticks of dynamite or any interesting bags of white powder you've secreted throughout my baggage..."

He laughed. "It's all going to be one big nasty surprise... at the security point."

I gave him my mobile phone. "Ignore any strange women who may ring. Well, actually, don't ignore them if you want to enrich your life with, well, with... stuff..."

I was hit by a whammy at the airport, filling out my visa waiver. I didn't know you needed an address of where you planned to stay. I got on the phones as the clock ticked down and had someone turn up the Pennsylvania Hotel, 401, 7th Avenue in New York.

I made it through the controls, passport stamped for the first time, the right to stay till 5th March 2005 (90 days).

Mr Pig

I sat by my departure gate, grappling with the reality that I was going to the United States. I wanted to tell someone, anyone, so badly where I was going, what I was doing. A guy in a wheelchair, his legs looking demuscled and reset, was pushed in. I smiled at him, he smiled back.

Some more of his family showed up. His son, a man in his thirties, looked straight off like a pig. I wondered if he ever went into a butchers, ignorant of his condition, and asked to buy sausages. I saw myself as a butcher, stood on the other side of the counter.

"I'm sorry, Sir, but I can't condone cannibalism, go get your sausages someplace else, Mr Pig..."

Or maybe he never thought about it. Maybe he looked in the mirror and saw a matinee idol staring back.

Or maybe he'd reconciled himself to life as the Pig-Man... and accepted occasional outbursts of porcine behaviour, rolling naked in mud in a specially constructed sty in the corner of his bedroom, his agonised wife telling the children that "Daddy is very very poorly..."

Oh, the kids, the little darlings. One of them seemed to take an interest. He came over and violently shook the back of my chair. Then he thumped my head. His family appeared mortified. Then his other little brother came over and repeated the shaking. I made a vague joke... "I'm on antibiotics, but it never mentioned being attacked by children as a side effect..."

The Gay World in the Sky Fails to Materialise

It's not clear why, but there are usually a preponderance of gay boys working the skies for the world's airlines. I boarded my Aer Lingus flight to New York pondering what kind of acne-ridden teen sporting highlights and a mohawk I may find lobbing pretzels at me at 37,000 feet.

It's all part of what I am calling The New Gay World in the Sky, a progressive zone, where not only are discounted cosmetics, cigarettes, and alcohol, freely available, but there is also freedom for divergent lifestyle opportunities to be pursued. As I wondered whether a completely gay airline featuring saunas, miniature hockey pitches, and a nightclub, would be financially feasible, I discovered the awful truth - we had an all-woman team on our Airbus, and they all looked conventionally doll-like.

My research would have to wait.

The Bomb

I flipped through the channels on the in-flight entertainment and there was Brazil! There was something hugely rewarding about watching scenes of bomb explosions while reclining on a transatlantic flight.

I guess the ultimate in-flight movie for non-US citizens bound for America would be a CGI-extravaganza starring a hero with your own face (perhaps slightly Arabized), cunningly texutre-mapped from the mugshot entered into the Big Database of Potential Enemies that you are forced to join on the lower floor of Dublin Airport.

The movie documents in agonising detail your own arrest and torture for plotting a terrorist atrocity . You'd be strapped down and forced to watch it while wearing an orange jumpsuit and a parachute, the understanding being that "ain't no problem to take a detour and drop your un-American ass off at Camp X-ray..."

Working title -> Operation Perpetual Triumph: How the USA destroys its Enemies (starring Your Own Sorry Ass)

The Plain Girl from the Mountains

I was trying to think of nothing at all, but the girl sat along from me kept catching my eye. She asked me if I'd like to sit nearer and eventually I relented. I bought myself two gin and tonics, then thought to offer her one. Then we had two more. Her name was Emily, and she was from North Carolina, she'd been off in Ireland and various parts of Europe, working and exploring. She had with her a journal that she'd recorded details of her trip in, closely written in different coloured inks (today's entry, compiled during the flight, was in racing green). She'd also pasted in airline tickets, tourist handouts, etc at the relevant points.

I found it hard to be impressed by such activity.

Emily explained that the journal was completely sanitised, so that her parents could read it without questioning the wisdom of letting her explore Europe, and she would carry the full levels of debauchery encountered as a series of beautiful and not-so-beautiful memories. Most of these wild times seemed to revolve around that dangerous chemical substance that is better known by its trade name, Guinness.

I pondered what a truthful entry in Emily's journall might consist of.

"Woke up at 3 p.m., covered in vomit. My hands were shaking uncontrollably as I searched in vain for my clothes. Being Galway, a laidback place where every person is a friend, I dispensed with worrying about my apparel and began the naked 3 mile hike back to my decrepit living quarters.

On the way I was greeted by smiling and joyful faces. A group of burly men carried me in to a barn, laughing and singing songs, before I was covered with a succession of broad backs, while other members of the party busied themselves with the recruitment of several barrels of Guinness, the better for us to enjoy the occasion. After an afternoon of uncomplicated yet joyouous rutting, I was gratefully placed inside an empty barrel and, with a lusty kick, sent rolling home. It was the usual low-key, midweek, way of things here..."

Emily was sad to be returning to the US, while I was becoming more and more excited. We mulled over the contrasting feelings and then I moved away to watch the last half of a Tom Cruise film without bothering with the sound. It involved Tom Cruise sitting in a taxi and occasionally jumping out because of crashes or the need to shoot people. He did this while the black taxi driver pulled scared faces. That this experience still failed to help me fall asleep I take as conclusive proof that I will never sleep on an aircraft.

New York

We arrived at JFK airport. I saw my first dressed-up Jewish people at baggage reclaim, long beards, black suits, black hats. I saw my first Big Fat American walk past. I looked in vain for my first Cute as Hell and Wearing Next to Nothing Teen-Tease American, but there seemed to be a shortage. Maybe all the Teen-Tease Americans were on strike...

I rode a train out to a place called Federal Circle: Station C and encountered here the raw materials for a paranoid work of art called Phonecall to the Ramada Hotel.

It basically goes like this, after the style of Samuel Beckett.

-> Materials Required ->

One exhausted traveler with Heavy Luggage
A row of complementary phones and a bus stop, separated by 50 yards of rain-soaked sidewalk
Wind and rain
A hotel receptionist
A shuttle bus with driver

Phonecall to the Ramada Hotel by Jason Kennedy

X enters stage right.
He is walking slowly, his body language indicates an advanced state of exhaustion. He approaches a row of complementary phones.
He fumbles in his pocket for a scrap of paper.
He dials 70 for the Ramada Hotel.

Receptionist [always cheerful, never able to recall any previous conversations with X]

"Hello, Ramada Hotel, how may I help you?"
"Hi there, I have a reservation... I'm at station C, Federal Circle..."
"Okay, we'll send the shuttle bus right over to collect you... if you would make your way outside to the collection point."

X pulls his heavy luggage along 50 yards of sidewalk to the collection point. It is raining, the wind is cold. As he approaches the collection point, a bus with "Ramada Hotel" on its side pulls away.

X waits in the cold and rain for 15 minutes.

X decides to return to the complementary phones, dragging his heavy luggage.

"Hell, Ramada Hotel, how may I help you?"
"Hi there, I called earlier... I am at Station C..."
"Okay, we'll send the shuttle bus right over to collect you... if you would make your way outside to the collection point."
"I did that, the bus pulled away as I approached..."
"I will speak to the driver..."

X retraces his steps to the collection point. As he approaches the collection point, a bus with "Ramada Hotel" on its side pulls away.

[Repeat this sequence until death intercedes]

The End

Finally, another person arrived who required the Ramada hotel. The spell was broken and the Ramada shuttle bus immediately appeared. I appreciated the design of the bus, noting the fact that the driver's spot was much more tucked in than in a British bus. I figured this was to make it harder for ultraviolent Americans to stab and shoot him as he discharged his duties.

"Look, I'm doing so much for you, my brother..."

The next morning I set out for the airport again. I wasn't prepared for the Shuttle Bus drama to be replayed, so I requested a cab.

A sneaky, evil-looking man was produced, and he expressed an earnest desire to complete the Incredibly Complex Task of securing me a cab.

He took out a cellphone and made some calls.
He took some paper out of his pocket and wrote something down.
He went outside and smoked a cigarette.
He made some more calls.
He laughed and joked with some hotel porters.
He disappeared.
He reappeared.
He smoked another cigarette.
He waved his arms while he talked on his cellphone.
He did all this while looking sneaky and evil.

After about 15 minutes, he returned.
"Your cab be here soon, soon, few minutes..."

I waited outside in the cold and rain.

My cab arrived. The sneaky and evil man came over.
"Here is your cab..."
As I went to move, the sneaky and evil man made a move across me, his palm discreetly out, waiting for me to reward him for his heroic endeavours. I gave him five dollars, anything to get rid of this guy. He looked at the money and gave me a sneaky, evil, smile. His eyes glazed over, like he'd just had an orgasm (maybe he had), and then he dematerialised.

I left for the airport.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Bye Bye Ireland - 1 day!

Well, this part of the Extreme Unction story is now at a close. The die is cast, the wheel has turned, the big lever with the red knob on the end has been thrown. Finito, finis, the end.

I have been staying at Leo's while I count down the time to my flight.

I have left my place in Rathmines.

I have given away most of my possessions.

I am ready.

Tomorrow, I will be up early, arriving at the airport with no time pressures. I see myself eating some breakfast and reading my last UK newspaper for a while.

And by the afternoon, lift off! I will be flying across the Atlantic to start a new adventure.

What a magical time I've had in Dublin. It will always be a home to me. And I've loved compiling a record of my various adventures and travails here, and I hope everyone has had fun and maybe even learned something from reading them, even if all you learned was you'd never like to meet me, or that there are sadder, more useless people, in the universe that you ever dared dream possible...

Whatever this mush has done to your brain, I swear to make it up to you.

Because, in less than 24 hours, Pinhut will be TAKING on AMERICA!

bye bye...

xxx