Thursday, August 30, 2007

Carry On

This crushing depressing burden of pointlessness is twisting my whole outlook on life and death.

Or at least that’s what this little business card some emo handed me on the street said. Mikey fucking loved that. He took one look at it and made me turn the car around so he could go back and get a pile for him and anyone he wanted to give one to. There are a whole lot of women in bars along the coast who don’t have a lot right now except a lost sense of sexual innocence, a massive hangover and a little black business card. Mikey had a sense of humour like that

Sometimes when we had the time and inclination we’d pull up somewhere late at night, lie back on some grass or a park bench and smoke the night away. We’d each completely relax, disappear and do our thing. Maya might play guitar if we were lucky, she didn’t have a keyboard way out in transit though – though she often bought one when we saw a music shop and gave it to the nearest person as we rolled out of town to make space in the car. Flo would write; she claimed she was working on a Hunter S. Thomson-style recount of what we were doing for a skater magazine based somewhere mountainous and far away. We generally believed the first half of that. Johnny would go for a run, and come back with something random that he’d found, and we’d all sit around and laugh about it until Mikey inevitably had an idea that seemed hilarious but ended up destroying whatever random object it was. Soho would talk about the architecture around, or some plant nearby, she was so enamoured by our physical surrounds. I’ll never forget, one night we were lying back and lucky enough to be in a patch of grass in the middle of an urban forest. There was a rectangle of sky, and though it was completely clear only one star out of the millions shone through the light pollution. Sarah looked up and said “Imagine, that’s light that’s traveled at the fastest speed possible, forged in the centre of a colossal nuclear furnace, for years and years, to hit this tiny spot in this tiny corner of the galaxy, and we can top that shit with a 30-cent globe. We’re over the hill.”

On such nights Sleepy would develop his growing love of photography, something none of us really expected him to pick up with such enthusiasm. Armed with the finest massive digital camera money could literally buy, he’d go so much further than just to document, his photos were truly mind-blowing. Often focused oddly, or distorted, he somehow managed to convey a super-real sense of urgency, like his subjects were the only solid objects in a sea of madness. He managed to convince Maya to pose naked for him once, and then he only took photographs of her face. Mikey, who’d been arguing against the idea all day, was completely confused. Jackson just shrugged and said “imagine how unique your facial expression would be if I got you naked in front of the lens”. Tellya, if Sleepy was after unique facial expressions he should have snapped Mikey there and then.

These night time art-picnics out in the cool fresh air served as a kind of showcase of what we could do. Most of the time we merely drank and got high, or drove somewhere in order to do so, or rested in order to do either again. But these meetings in the moonlight served to make us display, to keep creating and stay vital… almost to remind us who we were. Certainly the aimlessness, the boredom, the complete lack of direction or motivation would have otherwise driven us down in just a few days. By creating a forum where we developed projects and assignments and ourselves, we held onto a lot of the reasons we left in the first place.

But this sense of stagnation that had to catch us eventually. It was late at night on the open road, and someone was calling out my name. I snapped back to the moment, like waking up. Maya in the back seat, telling me I looked exhausted and should maybe stop driving. Maybe she was right; this was a great example of why men should listen to beautiful women’s opinions instead of just remembering how attractive they are when they move their lips and tongue. See, that kinda stuff’s important. True. Was tired. Getting to my head you know, this road thing. We were so illusory. Illusory is a great word, I thought to myself. Then I veered off the road and slammed the car into a fence.

Almost needless to say, things were very icy for a while after I broke my arm. And Mikey’s fender, headlights and bonnet. It wasn’t like money was an issue, we fixed the car up in half a day, got me the best health care excessive bribery can buy and we back veering all over the highways before we knew it. But there was something different. Suddenly we were all aware of not only our own mortality, but also of the dangerous and essentially directionless road our lives were on. In the hospital, Mikey was looking pretty burnt out, just sitting there in a big green low-slung hospital waiting room chair. I saw this great exchange where he tried to foist one of those emo cards onto a stunning redhead nurse and neither of them could really tell if he was joking or not. It was a bitter day. Ha! It even led to the kind of thinking and phrasing like “it was a bitter day”. The world really did feel like we were in a plotless gothic romance. We were, and still are I guess, the twisted wreckage of someone else’s sublime.

And then into the icy-ness came a warmth from the most ironic of places – ice. It was one of those magical moments that advertisers dream of and we were all sitting silently around one of those wooden picnic tables in the parking lot of a gas station. It was act three of the long pause in conversation between us, and the non-action was really hitting it’s dramatic arc apex. Then, out of no where, Flo has bought this ice cream. You know those really nice creamy-but-hard ice creams they make for kids, in like chocolate or banana flavours? Well Flo had one of the multi-coloured “bubblegum” flavoured oned of those, where all the primary colours swirl together, and it suddenly looked like the most amazingly delicious thing in the world. I asked for a bite, and she happily said sure, which made Mikey go all pop-eyed with annoyance and jealousy. I figured I’d risk it.
“You wanna split one of these Micheal? They’re really good.”
He wavered for a second on the possibility of yelling at me about endangering his life, but then he just melted into sugary, creamy, reconciliatory acquiescence.

We were gonna be fine. Aimless or not, just as long as June 30th never came around, just as long as we never had to face ourselves, then we were doing just fucking grand thank you. Like the rest of you. Like always.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rubbing on the lotion...

Let me throw you a few facts at you about Johnny Opinelli and see if you can catch the whole man.

1) Johnny lived for sport. Especially the twin footballs of soccer and rugby, but pretty much everything else ever played in competition using human bodies was this guys domain. Everywhere we went together, you could have always found Johnny on his way to, or coming from, a bar with a big screen TV. He was trying to study personal training when it all went a little haywire and as such he was significantly better built than any of the rest of us unfit arty types.
2) Despite the fact he had the muscles, for some reason Johnny almost never had the girls around him like Mikey and myself. Maybe if we were in southern Europe, and that kinda middle-years David Beckham look where he went all shaven with intricate pattern is all the rage, he could’ve been thought attractive. Fact was though, this guy was living proof that the bodies don’t get you the girls like everyone thinks. The irony that he got stuck with the unwanted pregnancy just killed us.
3) Johnny came from a fairly strict Catholic family, and just enough of it had rubbed off on him to make him the only one out of our cadre to actually tick one of the boxes on the religion section of the census form. Just how devout he really was became an even more contradictory issue when we found out on the same afternoon that he was both staunchly anti-condom but often used rosary beads to stimulate his girlfriends. The pope must be so proud.
4) Johnny played the drums all through high school with the kind of angry fire and passion that marks all the men who are using an instrument for their own purposes, and for whom any music is but an accidental by-product. He got very good, and we used to play these amazing super-extended versions of Bruce Springsteen songs, where he’d get so into the rising running drumming just before the music broke loose it was like the whole town lifted up in anticipation.
5) Johnny drank and smoked comparatively little to the rest of us. When he did drink heavily it was always wine, but mostly he was a dedicated follower and espouser of the pills. Something about his hands shunned having anything in them except his bunched up fingers, and his whole sense of style was a lot more clubby and European than our lazily westernized pub living. It was probably this more than anything that drew Soho to him so strongly; he would have reminded her of her home and namesake.

So you got him? It was as easier pitch as I could throw. I mean, can you see this guy, this little well tanned rock behind the wheel of Jackson Barker’s jeep, gripping it like he was throttling a kitten and laughing with that unique Italian “ai-ai-ai-ai” every time a song with good drumming came on? It was the kinda sight that made you grip the handrail just that little bit tighter, like when eighties action heroes went on to make comedies in the nineties.

Oh! Arnie! How could I have possibly forgotten!? So we were in this club, it must have been the only place open for blocks, wedged in between boutique fashion outlets and those stores that sell such outdated, specialized products that no one actually buys them for their original use anymore but as ornate gifts. It was one of those great clubs that had given up on the misconception that wealthy patrons would mean well behaved ones and set up the sort of environment where you could comfortably wear a tuxedo, or by the same token, brawl with knives. Often at the same time. Anyway, that’s all unimportant and I’m sure you could just go to the one that surely exists in your town if you wanted to.

So this one night, it was just me and Johnny out, I’ve forgotten why it was only the two of us, but I went to chat up this plastic blonde stunner who turned out to be just as unattainable as she looked, and I left Johnny on his own for a bit. Well smack outta nowhere, I was getting some drinks from the bar or something, Johnny almost slams into me, jumping with excitement, shouting “Arnold Schwarzenegger! He’s here! Arnie’s here!” He’d clearly scored something while I was away, and from the kind of buzz he was on it must have been quite a lot of something, but he was so insistent. “This is no high, man!” he yelled, although you gotta take with a grain of salt any sentence someone tacks “man” onto the end of. But he manages to drag me off the bar and through the heat of the crowd anyway. I thought this would be a fairly easy one to disprove since anyone who could be mistaken for Arnie wouldn’t be hard to miss, and nor would real Arnie. Unfortunately Johnny had forgotten exactly where he’d last spotted the action hero and this place was packed.

Instead of just letting me escape though, Opinelli was dance-searching harder than ever, with my wrist locked in his handcuff of drugs and personal training. All over the main floor, which had all these deceptive levels and pits, and up to the several scattered bars. Finally, he realized that if we went up to the second story mezzanine area we could see the whole place, and the terminator within. Well we went up, and we’d just got to the upper floor when, completely hidden from me, Johnny caught a glimpse of whoever he had seen that triggered all this. He turned suddenly, swiveled like a gleefully distracted child, lunged out yelling “Arnie!” and fell right over the railing, bouncing neck and hips and jaw down the stylish black stairs into a guy in a huge grey suit who really, in retrospect and club lighting, did look a lot like the big Austrian actor. He spilt his drink, and kicked the amped up and injured Johnny hard in the stomach in retribution. Johnny wailed in what he later claimed was honoured ecstasy, but looked to me like extreme pain. I had to pick the fucker up, pull him outside, and listen to another six solid hours of excited, bleeding, rambling before Soho took him off my hands.

To this day, Johnny still cites “meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger” as one of the high points in his life, which says a lot about Johnny, and says a lot about why not to take that kinda shit kids. Still, when in Rome…

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mercy's eyes are blue

Why do we separate things into ugly and beautiful? What standards are we imposing? Why is concrete ugly, a song bird beautiful, a hunchback ugly? By what comparisons are we making these affirmations of that which is positive in distinction to that which is not? There’s no logic to this, we just find things to be so. We find resonances of harmony, colours that “go well” together, sounds that form a “tune”, we see the world in patches of some greater undercurrent, and forget to wonder why things are so in the overwhelming fact that they just are.

Which was why it was confusing and inexplicable to me when Flo asked me why I, and for that matter pretty much everyone, found her attractive. To be honest, it wasn’t something I ever considered, nor found it necessary to consider. Beautiful women were beautiful, that’s easy. Flo was beautiful and interesting and inspiring – she just was; I didn’t think I needed a reason to back this up. It was a first-order truth for her. Wow did she ever not see it that way. Apparently everything needed empirical proof unless she was losing an argument with Mikey about economic trends and then every rule needs an exception. I even thought that could have been part of what made her so attractive, the force of the conviction that things went her way or they didn’t go at all. But no, that must be a million people. A million ugly people.

At the time, I ended up giving some crappy answer about how she had a tender heart and a tough exterior or such, it was bullshit and I was winging it and we both knew it. I just think maybe she took it to mean I didn’t have any good reason at all for finding her that way, like all guys, and not like I meant that I just couldn’t explain it. All of the best things are indescribable in life, all the language and all the representations are just not adequate to express something you really mean. You can say “you’re gorgeous” in a thousand different ways, situations and intonations but you can never really get across that you mean something closer to raw impulsive action, like you’re bursting to express something and nothing’s working. Nothing exists. I sound like a fucking new age uni student. Ah well, just because the intellectual left gets a lot of shit wrong a lot of the time can’t excuse them from the fact they occasionally really strike gold. What’s that my brother always said? “Even a blind pig roots up an acorn now and again”.

Anyway, I digress. Too many hours spent in Foundations of Social Theory 212 playing blackjack with Johnny using handmade cards under the little foldy lecture tables. But that’s what it was like, you know? I wanted to scream how impossibly fucking great she was, how she just engaged with people and caught their attention, and I wanted to scream it in some ancient primitive language to make it real. I would have barked and hooted at her if I thought it would have helped. She laughed and told me if I couldn’t explain it then it wasn’t something real, just a belief I held. Then she went back to painting her nails fragmented spectrum opal black.

One day I’ll find another person who has that nail polish. It must exist somewhere, I think I’ve looked in every store back in our home town, asked every distributor, I still have no idea where she got it all that time. If I ever see anyone with those nails I’m not sure what I’ll do but I bet it’ll be embarrassing. I’d probably run up and hug them, thank them, beg them to tell me where it came from, scare the living hell out of them and never actually find out. But I haven’t found it yet. It shone like the dark at the bottom of the sea. In the black you could see flecks of every colour, even colours you couldn’t name. And of course none of them lasted more than a millisecond in your eye. Watching those fingers whirr over her laptop keyboard as she wrote some fake feature article to be sold to a paper that might not have existed for all the rest of us knew… it was like a midnight ballet.

It was just before Johnny and Mikey had whisked me northwards to freedom and the Ford, and we were tangled up in pillows and endless layers of bedding on my mattress around three in the morning. Sarah Kane claimed that 4.48am was the time of madness, when the lack of sleep compounded with the darkness and the self-examination to snap you, to smash you. If that’s true, then just before three, around 2.52am, that’s the moment of emotion. When all your pain comes rushing to the surface and all your anxieties are shaking you to the floor. When you can’t stop crying no matter how hard you try and when, if you’re lucky enough to be tangled up with Flo Vale, you feel something that has nothing to do with physical pleasure, or the reproductive urges of the continuation of the species. You feel, and I felt, the one thing we seek above all else – to be important to another.

Human beings live out their lives in a constant state of confusion, it seems to me. We’re never quite sure if we’re meant to trust ourselves, as thought we’re some innate singular, or submit to the other, as though we as individuals mean nothing. As though the individual is a fairy tale. Every day, we are torn and beaten into balancing the fact we really only exist in the eyes of others - we need the people around us to prove to us we exist - with the fact that if we lived solely for other people what a hopeless and depressing cage that would be. Anyone who swings to far in one direction, say by emphasizing the self over the other, is considered inhuman, not a properly functioning member of the world. And the more I think about how this all seems to me, the more I realize how inescapable this dance is! We’re stuck in forms marked by difference, by separation so that we are at once all the same, but all different. We are simultaneously the might of ourselves, and nothing without something that is not within us to back that up. We only exist because of others, and yet we need to not be one of “the others” to exist.

Which all seems to me like it could be made a fuck of a lot simpler if we just said “It’s nice to be held in the early morning”. You know, that’s what I really felt. None of the deep and meaningful reasons, or psychoanalytic arse, just how nice it felt to be held in the early morning. But Flo needed reasons, she wanted answers, it really meant something to her that she could pinpoint things, understand things. Knowledge is power, and Flo needed the kind of proof to make knowledge, she had to know why her life felt good or bad so that she could control it. And all of this contributed to why people liked her.

It is those sudden feelings where you understand all that beauty means and all that satisfaction is, at around 2.52 in the morning, that us a group was all about. In some way or another we all provided for one another an answer to a really big question, an other to a really big self. We all played some role, in making the world, and for me Flo was the most beautiful, amazing woman that could exist. End of thinking.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Music for the Royal Fireworks

“Look at that, J, shit man, wouldja look at that? Why do string buskers always insist on playing Handel!? I mean these guys are in a competition market with their homeless home-brand dinner on the fucking line and that’s the best they can come up with? I’m walking down the street, not getting married in a Richard Curtis film! Play me some Rachmaninoff! Fucking fly-by-nighters. Listening to these guys is like being given a blow job by a plastic doll.”
“Well I just hope you came, Mikey, cos I’m giving the guy a dollar, and since it’s your money, you just gave the hooker a tip. You want me to make a joke about “love Handels” or we good?”
“Yeah, yeah, we’re good. Just promise me you’ll always challenge man, challenge! Never rest on what’s easy, sitting on your hand…els.”
“Nope, sunk like a stone.”
“Like hell it did! Comic gold and don’t deny it. Louis! Adjudication! This joker here just claimed I don’t have a Handel on my pun control!”
“He’s right, Mike! You’re strung out, but there’s no need to get violin-t.”
“Damnit, whatever.”
“Aww look Johnny, we gave Mikey a Messiah complex!”
“Quit it.”

We were walking through the taxi bay and dropping off loved ones area out the front of the airport heading for the domestic terminal check-in. It had somehow been decided that instead of sending Mikey upstate alone to pick up his car from the parents, Johnny and myself would accompany him on the flight while Jackson and the girls drove up at their leisure. Just how or why I agreed to this state of a affairs remains a mystery to me. I mean, there are some logical factors – Michael hated flying more than he hated artistic complacency and it was true that when he got there he would have to face the people about to cut off his cash flow and they would realize he wasn’t attending any kind of educational or vocational institution and things might get messy. Moral support, I in fact suggested, was necessary. I really did mean Maya. I love Mikey dearly, but the prospect of being stuck on a plane, strapped right in the line of his sarcasm cannon, did not so much scream vacation as vacation-of-the-moving-aircraft. And of course there was the nagging memory that Sleepy was on the road overnight with a carload of our horny, freedom craving, women. I suppose, I grudgingly admit, Mike had a bit of a right to be in such a foul mood.

When was the last time you asked someone how their flight was, and they said: “Magnificent! Couldn’t have been nicer, and now I feel refreshed and eager for my new surrounds!” Yeah, well times that cynicism by around 40, add an accidental bald joke made at your flight host and divide by free mini-champagnes. That’s how bored, drunk and over life we were when we touched (“show me on the runway picture where the bad pilot touched you, sir”- it was more of a fisting than a touching) down in Mike’s hometown.
“Wow. It’s exactly as I left it. How re-affirming of my life choices.”

All our stuff was in a trailer hooked up to Jackson’s jeep, so we at least missed that clusterfuck and walked straight into the stickiest, stinkiest taxi this side of India. Michael’s instruction that we be taken to the “rich bitch ’burbs” was silently translated by the genius cabbie to mean “just drive”, and so drive we did. It later occurred to me that it was the first car trip of the journey. This was the beginning, incomprehensible foreign radio and all, of what it was all about. This was what free life meant, sitting sweaty next to a bunch of other guys listening to the same anti-Hemingway rant you delivered two weeks ago fed back to you as a groundbreaking idea. Still, we were together, and we were driving. And we were momentarily wealthy. And Mikey’d stolen mini-champagnes. Life was swinging!

And out swinging came Michael’s father, the great Dr (of Business) Mark O’Hara, who was none too pleased to see the ripened fruit of his loins, or the hungry wildlife nibbling on it. That would be Johnny and I, who, guests of the family and all, did not escape the scorn of the man whose money we were seriously enjoying. This guy was busting and blasting like the Blitz. You could tell why the poor kid had wanted to get out of the family palace - the whole place was run like a feudal court. Any subjects wishing to be a part of the great court of the King had to fall neatly into royal line, and young Michael can’t have been quite the Prince Charming they were after. Mike had been home just long enough to remember why he left in the first place, when he took a ‘toilet break’. This basically meant he was going to steal his father’s vintage Rickenbacker guitar and some fine whiskey, sneak out the back to his car and we’d all make a dash for it.
Which was a really good plan actually. If all of our plans had been this successful for the rest of the road trip… wait… scratch that – if we’d made any plans for the rest of the road trip the whole thing would have been brilliant. Faster than Dr O’Hara could say “you’re not my son”, we were screeching away down the little street made not of bitumen but those annoying tessellated brick things which are meant to make the road more who-the-fuck-knows. Accelerating mad artsy style through the leafy neighbourhood, almost too poetic to feel real, we were young and the whole world awaited, holding the grand gates of life open for Mike’s 1975 Ford Landau sedan.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Change of Perspective

Some quickly scrawled words by Flo Vale, transcribed (as accurately as possible) after being found on the floor behind my couch, written sometime in mid-late June, 2001.


I’ve got to focus. Dial – no, direct my enforce. Forcing. If I can direct all of my horses then I can recover. I can be the greatest girl for my man. Fuck that, I need to grab back onto myself girl! When did I fall down into the back of this road trip? When did I lose everything that is a part of me, who the fuck took away my liberty?

I am trying not to blame Louis, because if I only know one thing and lately I ben so fucked up I just only might, it’s not him. If I was even a quarter of the me that I am I would know when I’ve been given a chance like no one ever gives four times me chances. I sure know too that if I didn’t feel so comfortable, so warm, with him, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be driving or not driving and curled and some lucid and confused about to cry in the back seat of Jackson’s car. I’d be some on shitty stretch of dirt or in some rich coked out cocktail bar wearing less fucked up makeup and no wait, more fucked up makeup, and I’d be dismal and alone and I’d be free though. But I know for sure it not ain’t Lou. I fucken love him, I fuckign love him so damn much, he makes me feel like I don’t even have to love him at all.

Like he’s so mad. He’s so carefree, he only seems to care about Mikey sometimes but I love it. I know he sees in me more than anything he’s ever seen in anyone before and I feel amazing. Lou’s got it though, Lou’s bugged and bitched I know it, he’s caught it under, he HAS TO BESOMEONE. I know it ain’t Louis that’s keeping me trapped and crazy here these days, it’s all these others. It’s his people. Sure they make him into something in this own little own world way but it isno’t what he could be at all. Lou could be free like me. He could be me, only why the fuck does he need these people? Why the fuck does he even look at Michael? I’m so damn gorgeous for crying sakes XI what the fuck, god I’,m a mad wreck. Mes mess mess. I finally accidentally meet some guy who doesn’t bore the life shit of me and of course his world does, and my life does, and what the fuck anything else is worse. I never want to throw myself away just for the fucking sake of it again. I’m gonna be sso free and with Louis. I’ve got to make it out like Brwekafast at Tiffany’s the movie not the book,. Cus for me, the it isn’t really about ever getting away to my fucking little hut, I want that but it’s a failure, for me it’s about finding that fucking hut somewhere glitzy. I need to win, and part of winning inside of me is being genuinely able to feel. Sure like the song says there’s no success like failure, but failure;s no suck sess at all. Both parts of that statement are important. NB: Don’t ignore both parts.

Actually know, thos It’s actually like that song by that disco band. You know that’s like hye hey hey! And there’s this line like “Manhattan was long ago”. Man that is so true. Who knows what I have to do? There are parts of me that were long ago. But now I am now and I am doing everything I can. Now Flo, look at me I you look, I am now, I am now and I am doing everything I can. And I will do anything.


I guess if I’d known her better, maybe if I’d truly cared about her more, I might have seen this. But we all wrote so much at the time, we were always writing… And wait that’s a lie. I couldn’t have cared about her more those days, and I certainly couldn’t have known her better. I know her so well today, we have been through so much, I feel like a part of her. When I found this, it felt like life taking a chisel to that part of me. I had forgotten what Flo did for me, and in turn what I had to do for her. I had to love her like the world was on fire just for us.

This whole trip, our whole lives, were and must remain about what we can do for, to and with others. This letter is one of only two things on my desk shelf right now.
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