Ninety Nine Problems And A Beach Ain’t One Of Them
I walked in the sea today, feeling the surf rush over my boots, soaking my feet. When I lived inland, I could’ve given four fucks for beaches and the sea but now I cannot imagine living without it. The roar of the surf, like so many racehorses tumbling over the fences is a symphony to me. I feel the hard sand under my boots and I look along a rugged coastline; not full of idyllic sunbathers and palm trees, but long histories – smuggling and skulduggery, triumph and tragedy, shipwrecks and suicides. The sea eats away at the cliffs – no gentle receding tide lapping at some tacky cabana bar but a violent battle, whipped along by a horseless cavalry of storms. At the lips of the cliffs, crosses cling on in the long grass, some professionally done with photos of loved ones but others just homemade affairs – two twigs lashed together with string. At the bottom, the ribcages of old ships peek from the sand, forever resting against the rocks that destroyed them. Their curse is to be forever attached to their ultimate demise, like you or me buried in the same coffin as the person who ended it all with a knife still jammed in our ribs.
I never feel more comfortable these days than when I’m dancing. And make no mistake, I’m a bad dancer. But when I’m in my house, feeling the vibration under my feet from the subwoofer, I could destroy this building brick by brick. When I’m alone in a rock club or at a gig, feeling the waves of music crash over me and the bass drum thump in my chest, I am invincible. Sticks, stones, names, guns… throw whatever you want at me and I’ll dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the….
What Not To Say When Caught Masturbating
Completely crumped, we don’t want to feel it. We don’t want to see but we long for the end. We watch the words as they flow and distribute, elongate and destroy. So much typewriter ribbon and flecks of blood on the keys. Always remembering the first time and the last time but none of the times in between.
Sometimes, when the wind whips around your hair, you can pretend that you’re in an epic. You stand in the face of nature and you pigeon your chest out all inflatable and you see the flags a-flyin’. Later that evening, in a sleazy bar, a child runs to the jukebox and pounds fists against the glass, demanding less of this shit, more fucking Rolling Stones. Everyone laughs. Everyone winks. She’s trying to break a pool cue over her little knees now. She wants to have it out with the biggest cunt in the group. Everyone laughs. Everyone winks. Everyone ends up in hospital with stab wounds and splinters piercing vital organs. Alone and unruffled, she sits quietly as The Rolling Stones play past midnight.
You’ve observed all this with the literal reincarnation of Cruella DeVille, wrapping long ringed fingers around your neck and breathing cheap perfume into your mouth. She demands to be yours and wants to offer you a better life, but it’s noon and she’s on her fifth large gin and this is a quiet day. Her lips are too cracked to kiss, so you navigate your way around the wounds. When you pull away, you realise you have blood on your face. She smiles and winks. She laughs.
Conversations With Drunk People 1
“There wasn’t any bum stuff. We just did anal”
‘Right. Do you know where the anus is?’
“[slurring] No no. I mean, I did her but she didn’t put anything up my arse”
‘…that thought never even occurred to me. But thank you.’
“I’m just clarifying that’s all… I don’t want you to think I take it up the arse”
‘[quietly aside] Methinks he doth protest too much’
Her Eye Sockets Were Full Of Gravel
Making circles on my chest, her face and fingers were cold, with breath of cigarettes and sour milk. When she smiles and says I would like to destroy you, you ignore the words but you forget to look into the pupils which are as black as any eclipse. She laughs at your jokes because she wants too, not because they are funny. She tolerates your charm with the sacrifice of the martyr.
Later on that evening you’re backtracking down a corridor that has never seemed so long as it does now, grasping at the peeling plasterwork, pieces of wallpaper under your fingernails. Everything is black with damp; everything that is alive is in some way destructive. The fetid mildew stings your throat and eyes.
She’s naked – strong bones under thin skin with no muscle and no conscience – with a long knife blade in each stretched out hand, scraping the walls. She’s removed the black glass from inside her eye sockets. When she blinks, pieces of gravel fall down her cheeks and gently dance on the hard floor. Her smile is now rotten. You know that time is precious and she knows that time is a luxury. When you finally reach a phone it feels greasy and heavy and you cannot lift it to your ears. You beg – I hate long goodbyes. She grins and runs a blade over her tawny front teeth, cutting into the soft enamel, and you watch as tiny insects tumble out onto her bare feet.
When Photos Say The Unsayable
There’s a photograph hanging in a local gallery that has haunted me since the first time I saw it. I can’t afford to buy it and I don’t want to photograph the photograph in the interests of copyright, so I’ll have to describe it to you. My words will be inadequate but I hope you get the general idea.
It’s a black and white shot of a hilly street, flanked by rows of terraces. Crowds are gathered at the fringes watching – some passively but some with eyes that bore through the paper, leave pin prick holes in the glass. Eyes that you fear in the local pub, with the threat and anger of the what do you think you’re looking at kind.
In the middle of this coliseum is an empty space and four figures who carry all the drama of a Caravaggio. Two police officers have just arrested a man – probably a miner since this photo seems to date from the War Of ’84. The officers’ faces aren’t determined or vengeful but full of regret and mournful sadness. One of them has his mouth open and may be saying something reassuring, something like just doing my duty,sir but you can tell there is conflict in their consciences. They are Luke and Peter, in an alternate Biblical epic, forced to hammer the nails into the flesh of Christ.
The third figure is a woman clutching the round stomach of the man being arrested. Her face is convulsed in anguish and she’s half pleading and half shrieking, looking up at one of the police officers, in a manner that is obviously mercy. She’s not angry at these poor men; she just wants them to see reason. And it’s working. Their troubled faces suggest that her protests are not entirely in vain, at least not inside.
And then, finally, there is the man being arrested. He’s short in stature, not helped by his knees being bent as he is escorted downhill. The officers are gripping his arms but his wrists are uncuffed and it’s probable that the woman clutching him is offering more physical resistance than he is. His face contains luscious, full whiskers and he has deep brown eyes that look straight down the lens, down the barrel of the camera. He looks desperately sad – perhaps because he’s about to be arrested or perhaps because of the turmoil his arrest is causing. He doesn’t look into the woman’s eyes though. He’s fixed on the cameraperson with such un-vanity. It’s a despairing look, a resignation, and yet a nobility. He’s going to his martyrdom in the name of a Great Cause. He’s not a criminal; he’s just trying to live. And everyone knows it – the woman in distress, the people watching carefully and the officers who would happily trade places to be anywhere else but there right now.
It’s a drama that I cannot get out of my mind. I look back on all the inadequate words I’ve just written, and I know that I’ve just looked at a masterpiece and described it with a shrug. The best photography, like the best paintings, is a snapshot novel – eighty thousand words inside an eight by four frame. You can glance at the picture and see a piece of history. Or, if you have anything close to a heart, you will be floored by those deep brown eyes, by the despair in the woman’s face, by the conflict in the police, and you’ll see an epic.
It is everything I’ve always wanted to achieve in any medium – words, snaps, the lot. The question I ask myself is this; could I take this picture? Where would I be? A passive observer, an aggressive observer? Or would I have the courage to break out from the barricades, and stand in the path of this freight train and wait…. and wait…. until the heroic figure looks straight into my eyes and I *click*…
Conversations With Drunk People 2
[he puts an arm around my shoulder. I want to be someone else.]
“You and me J, we’re good looking lads right?”
‘That’s debatable …’
“We could rule the world J. We could own it….”
‘By being handsome?’
“Why the fuck not?”
The Introspective Bit
It might all be so much hyperbole. But I hope I never stop feeling, never become so numb as so many people I meet these days. I have hard-wired radar for insincerity, and a bullshit detector that is very discriminatory. Nothing angers me more than someone ‘feeling’ it for the purpose of furthering their own profile and perceptions in the eyes of other people. We’ve all met someone who danced in the Emperor’s New Clothes. But that doesn’t mean we should dismiss clothes altogether.
I saw this picture and it changed my life. I mean it really moved me, maaan. I’m deeply suspicious of affectations, speaking as a man who has had many. It is why I am so intolerant of career artists. People who take a particular photo, write a particular kind of story or paint a particular kind of picture because they know it will sell and make them The Big Money. These people are parasites and I see them everywhere. I’d rather read a bad book by someone who meant every word than a good book written by numbers. Everything should be as good as it can possibly be in the hands of its creator. If that turns out to be crap – so be it. I want to see the soul. I want to see the violence. I want to see the tears.
Passion is more than it’s gross misuse in every greetings card, bad movie, bad piece of literature. Anything you are passionate about, by definition, will eventually destroy you. No one ever becomes masters of our trade; we are its slaves.