Monday, January 31, 2005

Pagoda Egg Rolls and Egyptian driving

I had to seek alternative thrills after the Drama of fighting The Duke of Gloucester, so yesterday I went out driving on my own for the first time in the US, a nail-biting, one minute solo drive from the apartment block to Schnucks, our local supermarket. Happily, the mission was a total success, and I returned home laden with groceries, the car undamaged.

Not very interesting, you may think. And you'd be right. It's not even as exciting as the Breaking News on the Schnucks website today, which notes a problem with one of their supplier's products:

Schwan Announces Recall of Pagoda Egg Roll Containing Foreign Material

People, you may wish to check your freezer.

Returning to my main theme, while my own driving experiences in the US are thankfully interest-free, the same cannot be said about driving in other parts of the world, and today I'll share some US Consular advice on driving in Egypt.

"TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS
: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Egypt is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Egypt, a country with one of the highest incidences of road fatalities per miles driven in the world, is a challenge. Even seasoned residents of Cairo must use extraordinary care and situational awareness to navigate the hectic streets of the capital. Traffic rules appear to be routinely ignored by impatient drivers. Any visiting Americans thinking about driving in Cairo should carefully consider the options, take the utmost precautions, and drive defensively. Drivers should be prepared for unlit vehicles at night, few if any road markings, vehicles traveling at high rates of speed, vehicles traveling the wrong way on one-way streets, pedestrians constantly dodging in and out of traffic, and a variety of animals. Most traffic lights in Cairo appear not to function, but rather are staffed by policemen who use subtle finger movements to indicate which cars may move. Pedestrians should also exercise extreme caution when traversing roadways, especially in high-volume/high-velocity streets like Cairo's Corniche, which follows the east bank of the Nile River. Motorists in Egypt should be especially cautious during the rare winter rains, which can cause extremely slippery road surfaces or localized flooding."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Fighting the Duke of Gloucester part 3

So, it has ended, the fight is over.

This leaves only the small matter of handing out the gongs, the baubles, the medallions that commemorate conflict. After some reflection, I have decided to present myself and all those who laughed at my fight with the Duke of Gloucester with the following award:

May we wear it with pride

And, of course, I couldn't forget that special someone who made this all such great fun. So, I have sent Bryan Lunn his very own award, along with my heartfelt thanks.

Subject: Bryan, thanks for being such good fun

Bryan,

Last message, I promise, but I wanted to present you with an honorary award from my organisation (newly created) to thank you for the witty reply you sent concerning the Duke. it has found its way on to the internet and you have amused a lot of people. perhaps you've missed out on a second career as a comedy writer.

anyway, it gives me great pleasure to award you this medal from The Institute of Advanced Armchair Motorists. Wear it with pride.

thanks,

Jason

Update! I received this reply from Bryan that wraps up this trilogy in fine style.

Jason,

Okay, you got me !! You caught me at a bad time on a very bad day. But, I did work it out from the second email and as I said in response to that one, "If you can't take it - don't dish it out" (remember that mate, your turn will come !!)

I've got a good sense of humour and can see the funny side of your "prank" at my expense. So, thanks for brightening up a bad day; the world needs a bit of cheering up and your site helps to do that.

Thanks also for the 'medal'. I'll print it out (in colour) and, instead of sending a letter to people who write to me in the same vein as you did (they do, but they are for real !!), I'll just send them a 'medal' picture !!

On the question of the Duke; I'm not an ardent royalist but I've met the DofG a number of times and he's quite an amiable and well meaning chap. And unlike some royals, he does earn his living (he's an architect). You may not know, but when the story of him having his licence removed hit the papers here in the UK, they gave it the headline "The Duke of Hazard" (or are you too young to remember that TV programme ?)

Good luck with site and your career as a comedy man.

Best wishes and thanks.

Bryan.


PS the guy who owns the 'orange car' is also a very nice chap; he does a lot of work for charity.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Fighting the Duke of Gloucester part 2

Yes! After the stir caused by yesterday's exchange with Bryan Lunn of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, I am not just proud, but literally glowing with delight, as I bring you more on the saga that is already taking over the minds and limbs of the Extreme Unction Blog Army.

There is also amazing photographic evidence [see end of post]

After my exchange with Bryan Lunn yesterday, my close friend Tom took over, sending in a pidgin English reference on my many admirable driving qualities, and indicating that the sarcasm of Mr Lunn had turned me from a happy, smiling, individual into a broken-down snivelling jellyhead.

Dear Mr Lunn,

I have just spent the last hour comforting Mr Kennedy,one of safest drivers I have ever known. He was shock and baffled to receive you unpleasant email. You seem to treat simple request as 'some kind of joke'. His question was meant in complete sincerity owing to profound fear of 'those who should know better' operating on roads.

As such I think it only fair for me to list here Mr Kennedy's contributions towards road safety:-

* He did regularly give my mother lift to her work in ALL types of road conditions (ie, snow, ice hazard, sheeps);
* He give talk at my son school, and was asked to repeat this at another school following word of mouth;
* He drive very slowly at all times (but not so slowly as to cause obstruction);
* He has a loud-sounding music-horn, in Mexico style;
* He sweep road outside his home to remove grit and similar which often obscure word SLOW painted in the road, to just read ___W.
(how many people do this kind of thing, I ask you, and wouldn't the world be a far better place if we all did?)
* Mr Kennedy will not drink for 12 hours before driving AND afterwards, in case he is forced to make a return journey to collect something he did forget while on the first journey (as we so commonly do - have you ever considered implementing this in
your own 'guidelines' I do wonder? A forgotten hat or umberella, etc?)
* During last election campaign Mr Kennedy was personally asked to drive van containing prospective MP through the local village.
* Mr Kennedy did personally translate road safety manual for me from English to Polish (when my own language skills were less certain),so that I did not miss 'nuance' of meaning.

I hope that this does answer your question.

Kind Regards,

TOM BONCZA-TOMASZEWSKI


This brought the following delightful response from Mr Lunn:

There's an old English saying:- "If you can't take it - don't dish it
out !!"

BL

On the subject of my being an armchair driver, Tom had this to add.

Dear Mr Lunn,
In addition, as far as I am aware Mr Kennedy has no armchair in car - simply typical European leather type seat.

Regards to you,

--
TOM BONCZA-TOMASZEWSKI


Prepare Yourself! It Gets Better!

After some pain-staking internet research, I am proud to unveil photographic evidence of Mr Lunn. Here is the man who, with his razor sharp wit, has brightened up the last two days considerably. And now, here he is, ready to make you howl with laughter once more!



Bryan Lunn is on the left. His friend is on the right. Behind him is, yes, a car in the shape of an orange! Well done, Sir!

[Please note: Tom IS Polish, so the funny "English as written by a Polish person with poor English language skills" is not an attack on Polish people, just some harmless comedy]

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Fighting the Duke of Gloucester

I am not a fan of the aristocracy. Before Prince Harry was out of Swastika-clad diapers, I had already refined my loathing for the British upper classes to a finely honed point. So any public humiliation or personal misfortune that besets an aristocrat, is, for me, a sign that the Creator has not forsaken us, that he still cares enough about the Average Joe to bring us such delights.

This week it is the turn of The Duke of Gloucester (pictured below)

The BBC report that:

The Duke of Gloucester has resigned as president of the Institute of Advanced Motorists after receiving a driving ban for speeding in December last year.

The institute cancelled his membership immediately after the six month ban by magistrates in Ely, Cambridgeshire.

I sent a good-natured taunt to the Institute of Advanced Motorists:

Hello, i am interested in driver safety. with this in mind, could you please ask the Duke of Gloucester at what times he tends to drive his car, and of typical routes he likes to take, as i should like to avoid his lunatic antics on britain's highways at all costs.

your help is appreciated

Jason

A gentleman called Bryan Lunn from the IAM responded with the following:

Thank you for your silly little email; we all hope you're feeling a little bit better now.

The Duke of Gloucester has been an effective an enthusiastic President of the IAM for more than 30 years and with his help and support the IAM has grown in both membership and influence to become the UKs foremost advanced driving organisation and a powerful force for road safety.

The Duke pleaded guilty and did not seek to plead mitigating circumstances despite the offence occurring immediately running up to the death of his mother, Princess Alice (who died in October). The Duke did not plead hardship, which many people in the same situation successfully do, in order to persuade the magistrates to allow them to retain their licences.

I note you say you are "interested in driver safety"; I'd be interested to know about your contributions.

The IAM is approaching its 50th anniversary. In all that time we've been looking for the perfect driver (you know, someone like you who never makes mistakes and has never, ever exceeded a speed limit.) Can we have a demonstration of your expert, perfect driving as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations ? We can hardly contain our excitement !! Or are you just another 'armchair expert driver' ?

Bryan Lunn
Chief Examiner
Mr Lunn,

Armchair expert driver, I may be, but I have yet to receive any
convictions while reclining in it.

Perhaps the Duke should also be presented with an armchair to drive, as it would help pass the time during his 6 month ban. I, for one, would feel much safer knowing that the Good Duke was sat indoors, turning an imaginary steering wheel and making Brrrm! Brrrm! noises.

It would be in keeping with the fact that the good Duke appears to
possess a child's grasp of the Highway Code, despite a 32 year
association with your august organisation.


thank you

Jason Kennedy

[this saga has given me an idea for The Institute of Advanced Armchair Motorists]

Monday, January 24, 2005

McSweeneys say No

Oh dear.

Here is a rejection message from McSweeneys

Jason:
I thank you for letting us have a look, but I'm afraid that we're going to
pass on this one.

John Warner


No feedback. I find that disappointing, but how much feedback do you get when someone has pasted in their sample rejection response? Maybe my tract concerning a cat flea is 100% wrong, completely free of artistic merit, unfit for the all-seeing eyes of law-abiding literary folk, people who actively seek out the chance to use words like "pulchritude" and "alabaster". I don't know. In the absence of anything beyond a basic "NO!" I am speculating, speculating wildly.

Why not just write something more fetching?

How about:


Jason:
Sorry, but this is shit.

John Warner


Then I could've sent a reply

John Warner:
Sorry my writing is shit.

Jason


Actually, I will send exactly that reply. I will do it this moment.

It's now 5:27 pm, and I have received a further message from John Warner, confirming that he is most likely not an autoresponder.

Jason:

I wouldn't say so. For us, it really is a matter of fit and space. We get
literally hundreds of submissions a week and have space for a handful. More
often than not or no means not for us, rather than "no good."

Keep writing.

John


I have replied and closed this conversation.

John Warner:

Many thanks. I knew you were not an automated response.

I will keep trying.

Jason Kennedy

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A huge step

I have been outside again. Nothing much has changed. The air temperature is low, it gets into my chest and makes me feel consumptive. Great Russian writers were often consumptive, or they included consumptive characters in their novels. There's a character in Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, who has hectic flushes on his cheek and proclaims the worthlessness of everything. He is bitter, twisted, and consumptive. He is a nihilist.

I don't mean to be rude, but there is a chance that some of you may not know what a nihilist is, or you may have forgotten. So, here is the Websters entry for nihilist

1 a : a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless b : a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths
2 a (1) : a doctrine or belief that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake independent of any constructive program or possibility (2) capitalized : the program of a 19th century Russian party advocating revolutionary reform and using terrorism and assassination


I used to be a nihilist. I would sit around feeling sad and one thing led to another. I would wake up fairly late, skip breakfast, listen to some Joy Division records, and within just a few hours I'd pass through bitterness to despair to nihilism.

I did that for ages. Not only that, it felt so much longer. When you're down like that, time seems to last forever. Now I think, "Jesus! I am 32 years old! Do something before you're old!"

I don't listen to Joy Division anymore.

I'm forgetting my huge step. Or am I? I am attempting a wink as I sit here in Memphis, but it's no good, I still can't wink. I've tried winking all over the place (except outside schools and kindergartens), and it's never been good. Maybe I wink best on the ocean floor or out in deep space. Maybe I have a genetic predisposition that prevents me winking effectively, who can say?

On to my huge step. I am attempting, in my own hopelessly ineffective way, to find a larger audience for my writing. Given my present tiny readership, this shouldn't be hard. That's the great thing about being completely unheralded, of being an unknown, right now, just one or two more readers would literally double my audience.

To further my ambitions I have submitted my most recent story, the Kerouac pastiche, My Cat Flea Titus to McSweeney's, the website set up by Dave Eggers. Now, I'm not an enormous fan of much of Mr Eggers output, but he has helped to give unknown writers an outlet, a way to move forwards, so for that he deserves credit.

I now have to wait for the feedback to arrive, acceptance, rejection, etc

I've created tension in my personal life with this, something unpredictable to fret about, a feeling that can only be partially offset by eating cereal and playing online scrabble. Oh, I've one other thing to busy myself with now, and this is major breaking news - I bought a discounted Spiderman folder to keep my writings inside.

With Spiderman to protect me, success is a given.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A post that is not about me at all

Surprise! It is a post about me!

No, it isn't a post about me at all. I'm not that interested in Mr Unction today, even though I have an important announcement coming. Maybe that makes me even less interested in myself and the details of my life. I am warm, I have Columbo playing, my muscles are aching comfortably from tennis tonight.

I am pretty damn lucky. The war in Iraq continues to be mayhem, complete mayhem, and slowly it's breaking into the mainstream. Here are two links, one to a blogpost regarding a US soldier/blogger, Mike Smith, who has been killed in Iraq and secondly to a LiveJournal of one of his friends.

http://www.livejournal.com/users/wolfmoon98/276181.html

http://www.livejournal.com/users/timesofgrace/


I'm not really worried that on the first journal there is a knucklehead slanging match in progress, ignorant people rubbishing the dead, calling folks "tresonous" (oh dear, vilified by Animatronic creations, again, and if only they understood that their rhetoric of patriotism has the Masters of the World doubled up in sneaky laughter), it shows that your average Joe is more and more being exposed to the really bad news coming out of Iraq, and not the rubbish they are showing on US television and writing in newspapers.

Coming after an inauguration speech when President George W. Bush failed to mention Iraq once (or Osama Bin Laden, remember him?), it gives me hope that the death of these soldiers is not in vain, that they aren't simply being packaged up as "heroes" and promptly forgotten, and that by the condolences, and the blogs they leave behind, they can be remembered as individuals, for the everyday stuff they worried and wondered about, just like the rest of us, not just by their friends and family, but by large sections of the online community.

It's a sad day.

Here is the message concerning the funeral of Mike Smith, posted by his brother, Jim, in full, rather than have to burrow through the many pages of comments (although these are worth looking at)

live journal threads


Thanks for your thoughts
[info]mechinik
2005-01-22 16:23 (link)
Hello all, I am Wolfmoon98's brother, Jim. From me and my family thank you for your thoughts and words. Yesterday (Jan 21st) we buried my brother in Arlington VA (section 60, grave 8092). We were so glad that his friends were able to come down, most of whom are on the board from what I understand; we love you all. I need to say a special thanks to mikes bestfriend Chris (let the pain go, and remember the long haired hippy freak mike and his silly smirk) When I get a chance (after I get it together) I'll post some pics of Wolfmoon 98, some good ones and blackmail ones .. hehehe. I was 13 when Mike was born so I have some stories i'll pass on later.

I know not all of you agree with Mike joining the Army or us being there, but remember that was Mike's decision. He had to get his GED to join, he got some direction in life from the Army, was going to go School when he got out and most important he found a new light .. his Wife (Oxana) whom he married 3 weeks before he left for Iraq.

Oxana is here in the US till Feb 2d then need to go back to Korea, we'll use this time to get to know her, and figure out the future without Mike. oxana does have an email address, i'll ask her for it later on. She needs our support and love at this time, she is just crushed by Mike's death.

angain thanks for your words and thoughts .. Jim.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A place for Extreme Unction stories

Oh, I decided to be a little more serious with some of my writings. The level of seriousness currently applied to my writings can be measured by the fact that I am now going to deposit my precious tales alongside literary masterpieces with titles as alluring as:

"Christmas sucks" (not a piece of erotica, sadly) and "Youre a doctor, aren't you?"

Anyway, the moral is this, go to ABC tales for Extreme Unction Stories

The first one I've added is a revised version of a blog post, and is a response to Jack Kerouac's ludicrous piece about his cat, Tyke.

Crossing the road

I ventured out of the apartment alone today.
I was still being supervised. Hannah had given me the cellphone and it started ringing as soon as I was outside.
"I can see you."
I scanned the balconies. There was Hannah, six floors up, shrouded in a purple sheet.
"I see you, too."
"Cross the road here, right outside. Then I can watch you to Schnucks."
I waited till the road seemed clear, then ran like hell.
"I'm over on the other side."
"I can see."
"I'm going to walk to Schnucks."
We discussed candy bars and ice cream on the way. These were the prospective purchases. We discussed them in that way, as things to buy, not philosophically, I don't think I'll ever be ready for philosophising on the nature of ice cream and candy bars.

I waited at the intersection. People in cars looked at me in curiosity. Memphis Zoo has just recruited its first pandas and I thought of how they must feel as people stared at me. They couldn't have stared any harder if I'd been a panda. Or dressed in a panda outfit.

A pedestrian. A novelty. A risk-taker. Ah yes! A risk-taker, because I have never encountered a society where crossing the road is quite this fraught. It all seems innocent enough at first, it works like this.

A red hand
A white man (I think the stick man is white with fear)

I made it into Schnucks. Schnucks is a supermarket. I walked the wrong way and found myself trapped. Then I did the same thing again. I wondered how I suddenly became so stupid.

I headed for the ice cream, talking to Hannah.
"Do you know where the ice cream is?"she said.
"I know I have selective memory, but I never forget important stuff like where the ice cream is."

I read out the names of the Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavo(u)rs. I selected Chunky Monkey, banana flavour with pieces of chocolate lodged in it.

[more rubbish to follow]

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Nazis

There has been much talk of Nazis this week, a lot more than usual. In a usual week, the Nazis hardly get mentioned at all. You hardly see any of them around anymore. They've all gone.

But! What if some of them haven't gone completely? What if they have gone underground? Picture the scene, a bunker somewhere deep inside the Amazon basin. There is a complex temperature control system, and rows and rows of Nazis in suspended animation, waiting for the right moment to awake and come above ground to assert their ideology again. Oh no! This is why I am ready and waiting for them, this is why I have my own Nazi outfit hanging up in my wardrobe, so I can go undercover if this apocalyptic scenario ever comes to pass.

Not that I think this is all that likely. But I am ready, are you?

Another lad who is ready is Prince Harry. Now, on the surface we appear to have little in common. He is red-haired, 20 years old, has lived a life of luxury and sits/stands third in line to the British throne. I, on the other hand, am black-haired, a creaking 32, grew up on a rubbish mound, and am a long long way down the pecking order for the British throne.

But! But!

Dig deeper and you will discover we have two things in common

1) We both dislike authority
2) We both have Nazi uniforms

The difference is I am not famous, and have never been invited to a "Colonials and Natives" party by a bunch of coke-snorting aristocrats (more's the pity). Personally, I would've gone dressed as a tiger, although the fear is always that some inbreed will pull out a shotgun after their 500th glass of champagne and decide to "procure myself a jolly good rug for the guest bedroom". This is why I would've gone as my second choice, a Zulu warrior.

I would not have contemplated going as a Nazi.

Now I must go and bask in my superiority, that I have made it through another week with not a single mention of myself in the world's media. Not easy when you're a completely nobody.

Sieg heil!

Please note: I don't really own a Nazi uniform, but this is what columnists such as myself, who are more in thrall to the idea of being punchy and fun than to hankering after the facts, do. We make stuff up. We are bad.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Buffalo / Drive

Today saw the resumption of my extremely short US driving career. I had already proposed to Hannah obtaining my own set of wheels, as I have been conducting thought experiments of how I would negotiate the intersections from the safety of the passenger seat, and the outcomes have not been encouraging.

Buffalo and Lake

We drove past some buffalo, we drove past a lake. Hannah looked scared. I thought about the various potential scenarios.

1) Mr Unction hits buffalo and careers into lake
2) Mr Unction swerves to avoid buffalo and careers into lake
3) Mr Unction ploughs into lake and while trying to escape is savaged by buffalo
4) Mr Unction ploughs into buffalo, wounding buffalo. Mr Unction climbs out to check buffalo and is savaged by dying buffalo. While staggering around wounded, Mr Unction falls into lake. As Mr Unction is drowning, car rolls back into lake and crushes him.

Past accidents

I have a history of unfortunate events unfolding whenever I get involved with motorcars. Here are some of my most famous disasters.

The rolling car - One day, back in Tamworth in the Midlands, there was a knock on the door. It was a stranger.
"Do you own a red Mini Metro?"
"Yes."
"Is that it?"
He then pointed to my red Mini Metro, it was rolling down the hill our street lay on.
I rushed after it barefoot and managed to get inside just as it rolled into the brand new car of a big guy I knew, a big guy who regularly wore a bandana.
I was all for keeping quiet about this incident, but my father insisted on honesty, so I had to confess. My father was also insistent that I hadn't put the handbrake on properly, but I still dispute this.

The drowning car - While I was at college, I lived in a house with no parking space. I would leave my car at various strategic locations, where parking was free, but they were all so far away that some days I'd ponder taking a taxi to where my car lay. Then I discovered the public slipway, down near where I used to work, tended to be empty most evenings. I would park my car just at the edge of the River Dart. Everything was fine in the world.

What I hadn't realised was that the River Dart at Totnes, despite being more than 10 miles inland, is tidal. One day I came down to my car and climbed in, and horror of horrors, the seats were soaking wet. The interior also smelled like a fish tank. The car wouldn't start, so I had to leave it there to dry out.

I purchased a copy of the Tide Times and confirmed that a Spring tide had damaged my car.

My car slowly dried out, but it smelled awful. I had no money and couldn't move it or have it repaired. I assembled a posse of friends and we pushed the car back up the slipway and into a spare parking space. For a few weeks that was okay. Then one day, as I walked past, I noticed that my car had gone.

Why would anyone steal a car that doesn't go anywhere?

I pondered this as I walked to the police station. When I reported my car stolen, the desk sergeant laughed.
"We took it away last week. It was an obstruction. You'll need to contact this auto yard to recover it."
I couldn't believe it. A meddling neighbour must've called the cops.
I called the auto yard. The guy was not friendly, he demanded a load of money to return my car.
I still had no money.
A few months later I finally had some money. I called the auto yard.
"Your car has been crushed, mate," he said gleefully, "and you owe me 800 quid."
I put the phone down, shocked.

That was the last car I owned.

*

There are more stories of automotive misery, but I'm feeling too much despair to go on after recalling this.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Balcony Man III - Attack! Attack!

Today, I am there on the balcony.

The ghost of Bukowski appears. He has a cigarette and a beer.

"I've been down to the lobby, I've seen something interesting."
"The old man who sits there reading?"
"Yup. He there every day? He always reading?"
"Yes and yes. I was thinking of writing something for him, something appropriate."
"I had the same idea myself. Hey, you ever read my novel, Hollywood?"
"No."
"Doesn't matter anyway. Well, it does matter, but it's too late now to be worrying. Wanna tell me your idea?"

I took a seat and considered the request. I knew the ghost of Bukowski was telepathic and was also able to read my mind. I figured that simply thinking through his request would constitute some kind of education.

"Hey, you have read some of my work! Here's some thoughts on Ham on Rye and here are some on Post Office. I hope you didn't speed read... that's for them with the soul of a salesman, think they can clip a coupon, send it away, and learn the secrets of the universe for $19.95... Okay, I sense you are ready to divulge your story idea, not that it matters, I read your mind anyway, but perhaps you'll formulate it better when you vocalise or whatever it is you plan to do."
Bukowski's ghost took a drag on his cigarette, leaned back, eyes closed. The eyes flicked open again.

"That was just my little joke, I don't favour adopting a high-flown pose. I like to hear your stuff with smoke in my lungs."
He lit up again.

"Okay, as you've already divined with your telepathic gifts, the novel I propose writing for the Old Man in the Lobby would be titled The Old Man in the Lobby. It's a simple story of an old man who sat in a lobby reading. There would be some reflection on the America of his youth, births, marriages, deaths, the advent of the Roland 303 drum machine and its impact on popular song..."
Bukowski's ghost wailed briefly.
"Okay, maybe I cut the last part. The last pages would concern the eventual demise of the Old Man in the Lobby. After reading the last sentence and closing the book, the old man would die."
"How?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe a heart attack. Or maybe he pokes out his eyes."


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Balcony Man II - Bukowski's Ghost

It's warmer outside. It's brighter outside.

Lured by the positive change in conditions, Balcony Man has returned.
He is sat there, smoking.
A can of something sits on the table.

I'm struck by how he looks like Charles Bukowski. Bukowski's ghost?

Charles Bukowski, back from the dead, a jazzy congregation of ectoplasm and psychic residues, here to watch over my literary endeavours this year, 2005.

Bukowski's ghost communicates telepathically.

"I'm just going to sit here, Mr Unction and lend you my support, my silent support."

I look at the bald head and the exhausted face.

"Yes, I'm telepathic. There are various packages, I took one with telepathy included. I can also read your mind. I can read all minds, at least, all the minds I've tried to read. There's nothing more there than I expected to find. Husband thinking about his neighbour's wife, guy behind a desk dreaming of flying a jetplane. That made me curious, so I read the mind of a guy flying a jetplane. Nothing there."

I wondered why Bukowski's ghost looked so malicious as he transmitted telepathic thoughts.

"I hear you on that. When it comes to my face, I' damned if I can regulate my facial expressions. There's nothing there in the mirror and there's no Guide to being a Ghost. You're still on your own, with all the same choices. You just don't need to take a shit or worry about getting caught in the rain anymore. Thing is, from the way you avoid my gaze, maybe there's something wrong? Do I have eyes? Or just some empty sockets? Maybe my eyes glow like hot coals..."

I send the telepathic message that Bukowski's ghost has eyeballs. I tack on the fact that he also has a malicious look.

"Thanks for that, kid."

Bukowski's ghost lights up a cigarette.

"Just my luck to come back as a damaged ghost, who ever heard it, a ghost with facial paralysis. I can't even wail. Not that I want to wail anyhow. Or talk. I had enough of talking for one life. Now I just want to be left alone, to smoke and drink and remember. I have a trick, though, if you're interested."

"Sure."

Bukowski's ghost walks through the wall, comes back with a beer and sits down.

I look over the balcony. I can see a woman, a fine woman, walking towards the building. I look at her breasts from six floors up. I hear a telepathic groan.

"That's good stuff, kid, got you all excited. What I wouldn't do for a piece of ass that made me feel that way. There seems to be a dire shortage of ghost pussy in these parts, but things may change. There's time. What's the poetry scene in Memphis?"

"You like to watch curly haired young men speculate on the evolution of the cow?"
"If they bring a full measure of female students with them, yes."
"They don't. They sit around with gay men and women and read poetry about their tangled love lives and how the world's gone to hell."
"Sounds right. Done with skill, you might not starve to death immediately. You ever read my poem So you want to be a writer?"
"No."
"Doesn't matter. Well, actually it does matter, it says a lot about your lack of taste. But maybe we go there one night anyway."
"They don't serve liquor though."
"Kid, I bring my own liquor, and there's no earthly way to confiscate a spectral quart of whiskey. They throw me out, I come straight back through the wall and show these bastards..."

Bukowski's ghost coughs and rises.

"I feel the need to lay down and listen to Schubert."

I look down at the chairs, then out at the school, the trees.

It's time to go inside and write.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Balcony Man, death tolls, fantasies

There has been some bad news concerning the balcony here. A man has appeared, an angry looking old man, with a bald head and a hook nose. I've just peeped my head out, and he's not presently there, but his table, chair, and ashtray remain, ominous portents of doom.

The Man who Smokes

We are six floors up. I keep reiterating this fact, can anyone say why... I am used to living near the ground, like a rat or a cow. Now I can't help feeling like I live in the sky, a silver-plumed man-parrot, clad in the finest rags, gazing out inscrutably over a haphazard arrangement of leafless trees. But now, now! NOW! a rudeness has descended... (the world gasps)... and this rudeness has taken on human form, a bald, thickset form, yes, this Evil is Man-Shaped.

Before, in the pre-lapsarian days before the Man who Smokes arrived, i would wander freely upon the balcony, sometimes clothed, sometimes not. I would sniff the air, I would look at the trees, I would consider the coldness of the concrete floor beneath my feet.

Now this time has gone.

Destroyed.

Ballsed up.

Fucked beyond repair, godammit.

Ruined by the cigarette-puffing Man who Smokes. He first appeared a few days ago. I'd seen the two cheap canvas chairs out there, useless things you'd only sit in with a deathwish or under duress, with cupholders, so you're sure to get a crotchful of flaming hot coffee when the inevitable collapse of the chair transpires.

In my wildest dreams, I'd never imagined a fucker would be sat there once the snow had thawed.

Then, that fateful day, Hannah called me out to see. And there he was, a bald-headed, hook-nosed, tobacco-puffing, malevolent presence. He stared at us mercilessly. I stared back, trying to contain my anger.

And now he is ALWAYS out there. ALWAYS. ALWAYS smoking.

He has given up sitting with his back to us. Now he sits there, staring directly at us. Smoking.

Hopefully, he will have had his ancient immune system weakened sufficiently by the cold weather that the first infection of the year may escort his loathsome soul to the fiery depths of hell, his vacated body shifted into the back of an ambulance by some whistling paramedics.