Sunday, October 16, 2016

Donald Trump - The Last of the Famous International Playboys

For weeks now we have been held captive at a horror show that's otherwise known as the U.S. Presidential elections. It's apt that it's now October because this is being trapped in a haunted house stalked by a maniac. Watch Don't Breathe and you'll get an idea of how it feels.

This election is like no other because rather than seeing two politicians playing the game, we are witnessing pure psychosis.

Too many words have been written about it already. There's too much vitroil on the feeds. There's not much left for me to say other than Donald Trump - WTF.

In some ways, the election is a demonstration of why we should be who were are rather than who we want to be. Sure most kids on the block who kick around a ball want to have super skills like Lionel Messi but that doesn't mean they should be shoved into Barcelona's starting line-up.

But this is what it's like to be Donald Trump. It's like me during an out of breath walk around the block been told.

"Can you replace Messi in the World Cup final against Germany?"

And I'm like; "Yeah OK."

It's hard to feel any sympathy for Trump but when this debacle is over maybe I'll find a small grain somewhere.

However, it's always a mistake when our egos take over our lives. Let's just look at what Trump was good at.

1 - Making money or at least making a show of making money;
2 - Being a reality TV star;
3 - Being an international playboy.

The idea of Trump as the last of the famous international playboys is a novel one but when you look at the old pictures of Trump he had a certain chiseled handsomeness and a level of self-confidence that made him popular with women.

If Trump was an inappropriate groper that was his business. He would either be cast in the Bond movie Octopussy, face charges or buy off people. It wasn't like he was running to be president of the United States.

It's almost impossible to see anything in the young, cocksure entrepreneur that aligns with today's overweight and angry, tangerine man who hates everything and wears cheap baseball hats to hide the dead duck on his head.

You can see how Trump got here and the answer lies in his all-consuming narcissism. Maybe the man with the flaccid duck on his head misses his old self. Maybe he knows women don't like him because he's Donald Trump - if they ever did - but because of his money. Maybe the constraints of reality TV no longer fit his bulging ego. Maybe the emptiness of his gold plated life just made him angry.

Either way, those comparisons of the last days of Trump's campaign and Hitler's last days in the bunker are not as fanciful as they seem. Hitler, delusional about his forthcoming demise was still giving orders to armies that no longest existed. Trump, Hitler and Mussolini enlisted hate on a grand scale to  achieve their dreams. We should not be surprised when Trump eulogizes Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin.

And it's still premature to write about the demise of the last of the famous international playboys. The election had not been held yet and falling into the orange abyss is still a very real possibility.

This song seems apt because any song by Morissey is always apt. And the last of the famous international playboys were, of course, the Krays - thugs who killed and maimed their merry path across London.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Trapped in a Holding Pattern

Today I felt like my life is a holding pattern. I see the lights on the runway but they are a flickering blue. The man with the ping-pong bats shakes his head. No chance of taking off today.

The rain isn't falling outside, it's slamming. It has a weight heavier than water. My phone is already filling up with texts from the ex about unpaid bills. The same ones, month on month. Surely being ground down has never felt more numb? Comfortably so and those bills don't go away. They slowly wind down to the dank place of no return.Take me to the river, drop me in the water.

Holding Pattern - couldn't tell you if this band is any good

It's a Saturday but I have to work two jobs. The mountains seem a long way away. The sink is clogged again. Two jobs on a Saturday to pay the bills for the thing that's spiralling down anyway. By the time I'm on the road, I'm less agitated. Dead kids are being pulled out from rubble in Aleppo at the same time as we pull into Dunkin Doughnuts. They point at peanut butter pumpkin doughnuts. Pumpkin is the way of the world now. It's October and October is alway orange. When did we get so pumpkin obsessed? I doubt if there will be much trick or treating in Aleppo this Halloween.

The pastor tells me he has a serious disorder. Think sickle cell. Like being trapped in a cell. Held to ransom by those red blood cells. Why's he so animated? His joy has infected his whole core. It's addictive but makes me back off. Maybe there's something in this God business anyhow. I think of the book I failed to finish this summer. A trashy novel from the thrift store but some interesting material about Shakespeare. Worship from the wrong book and they cut you apart with red hot pincers. Throw in a hangman and the man with the tools for disembowelment.  Why did disembowelment and the church go hand in hand? Think the Bishop of Hereford with the red hot poker used to kill Edward II.

To think I saw the pit in the middle of the room. And it didn't look so bad.

Back to the holding pattern. There we go again - good and evil, hot and cold. Our inability to soar beyond our baseness. Leering at the screen. The sins of the flesh. The barrel bombs fall. I once wrote about it, a highway art program that nobody noticed on a wide suburban road in Ilford. I stopped the car, I walked two blocks and there it was beyond - blue beyond the blue exhaust fumes. Holding Pattern with its cold sapphire lights twinkling on iron poles, unlovely and unnoticed by the angry cars on the asphalt road to London.

Many years earlier I thought of Ilford in a different way. Left behind after class with Mr. G as we pulled out the black and white Ilford films and processed them in the dark room. The heavy and ripe smell of the chemicals and the anticipation as the ghostly images took shape in the negatives. I thought of the trees flitting by on the long drive home. The silence of my parents in the front seat, lulled half into a sleep and imagining the glades in darkness outside the window. I wondered about Mr. G. His daughter,  the annoying woman who tags me in Facebook posts of her holidays. It wouldn't take much to ask but what do I ask. And would connecting two worlds be too much for me? Too much time and space and the teen me no longer recognizable. Another place, another country. But not the privileged place of blazers and crests and houses. Just downbeat uninspirational suburbia.

Looking out at the hammering rain I wonder if much has changed. In a holding pattern still after all this time.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and the Elusive Secret to Happiness

Here's something that has been troubling me. Not to the point of waking up and pacing but it's certainly a strange thing.

If we could be anybody who would we want to be? You can bet nine out of 10 guys would say they would want to be Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt, due to one or more of the following factors.

1 - Dashing good looks
2 - High octane careers as movie stars
3 - Unimaginable wealth
4 - Ability to pull just about any woman on the planet and probably quite a few on Mars or elsewhere.
5 - Innate coolness.

Yet when we read the accounts of the bitter break-ups between Depp and Amber Herd and Pitt and Angelina Jolie, some disconcertingly spiky words are dropped into the smooth mix - words like violence, alcohol, threats, drugs, and anger. Anger features rather prominently.

There's a cell phone video - admittedly used by Herd to obtain a restraining order - that appears to show Depp in an unintelligible rage. There are claims of an attack with a cell phone, drug abuse and Herd suffering bruises.

All of this should be viewed in the light of a Hollywood he said/she said kind of tussle.

However, there are well-documented instances of Depp losing it such as when he caused $10,000 of damage to a hotel room during a bitter argument with ex Kate Moss in 1994.

Meanwhile, all is not well over at Brangelina. Indeed, it has split apart and things got very unpleasant with the claims by Angelina that Brad Pitt was physically and verbally abusive to their kids while on their private plane, reports USA Today. He's now being investigated by the FBI.

Brad was reported to be wasted on a plane, verbally and physically abusive to a couple of the 20 or so kids and even tried to leave the scene in a fuel truck on landing. As one does after a mile-high bender.

So here's the kicker. You can have everything. You can be Brad Pitt. You can have the world at your feet and yet your life can descend into one long drunken trailer park brawl.

This is not without precedence. Think Elvis Presley killing himself on junk food and shooting up TV sets. Think Whitney Houston dying in the bath.

I'm a bit concerned about the electricity bill this month but now I'm not so sure I'll be much happier if I find the $100 to pay it.

I can't tell you the elusive secret to happiness. Maybe it's just be unremarkable.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Sinister Clowns of South Carolina and Other Tales

These are frightening times to be alive in America. Ignoring the bombs in New York, there's the small matter of the scary clowns who are terrorising parts of South Carolina.

In Greenville County, SC, children have been telling adults about creepy clowns who hang out on the fringes of dark woods and try to entice them into the trees. The children talk about a house by a pond that's so deep in the woods that its windows afford no light. We're not sure if its walls are made of gingerbread. Police have visited the house but found no sinister evidence like stick-on red noses or bulbous shoes. Nevertheless, it gets the imagination going. I'm thinking of a nasty Ronald McDonald walking in the woods to the tune of The Cure's The Forest.

Personally, I think this is the last straw. As if terrorism, North Korea and Vladimir Putin threatening nuclear war wasn't enough, people are now dressing as scary clowns and trying to lure kids into trees.

There's also a rather sinister looking orange clown who's down to the last two standing to become President of the United States. Just gag me with a sneezy flower thing now.

It hasn't been as bad as this since 2014 when creepy clowns were showing their ghastly faces across America, including one who was seen standing balefully in public places clutching black balloons.

I noted then how the World Clown Association became concerned that these incidents were giving clowns a bad name. To echo the prophetic words of Father Ted "Down with this Kind of Thing."

I also noted there is a word out there for the fear of clowns - coulrophobia. Make sure not to spell it coolrophobia. Clowns aren't cool kids. And whoever thought they were funny in the first place was probably on hallucinatory drugs.

If you are as old as me you might remember the days when the circus came to town. Not today's pale imitations but the big top stuffed with trapeze artists and lions, elephants and tigers.

Now ask yourself this question. Was there ever a kid who exclaimed to his parents 'take me to the circus to see the clowns.'?

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Last Day of Freedom

So this was it, the last day of freedom. We went to the pool on Labor Day early because we thought it would be packed but the lifeguard maintained a lonely vigil. The signs of impending closure were everywhere. The dirt and debris from the storm still lay at the bottom between the blue facade and the lifeguard apologized when he fished out a dead frog. Those lazy afternoons are over until May.

It seemed only last week when schools closed for summer and the kids faced long, sultry days free of testing and classrooms and the constant clatter of bells.

I knew I had felt sadder when the holidays were at an end and that joyous day when we threw our school ties in the hedge was a distant memory. In the interval, there had been long summer days by the lake, adventures at the disused railroad line and the obligatory family holiday.

We never went anywhere glamorous but the memories lingered in a deeper color than so many others. The cottage with the strange smelling 'garlic sausage room' and the thick leather chairs we would spin in, the garden alive with buzzing wildflowers, the hint of purple on the mountainside and the sgulls that cawed and wheeled high above the whitewashed alleys of St Ives. The simplicity was curiously powerful. Miles away there were kids whose parents never thought, or cared or just walked away into the deep vermillion Wild West sunset like the one we saw once simmering over the farm tractors of a Devon field.

I have tried to do the same. I took the kids to New York and the mountains of upstate New York. The trash blowing down the New Jersey street outside the motel was a light year away from those cliffs and bays of childhood memory but I hoped the experience would make a difference. They saw buildings that soared away from the pavements and dreams in stone and glass. I hoped one day they would look back in the way I do.

So it's back to school tomorrow and perhaps I'm more sad about the loss of their freedom than they are. Perhaps they don't even see it that way. The world has changed a lot and it's been more years than I care to remember.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Tangier Island - A World Apart

I have always been fascinated by islands. They are like a microcosm of the mainland but there is something different about them. They are marooned and cut off. They offer wonder and terror and a glimpse of something else.

I have written about islands before in I is for Island. We don't need to retrace our steps in the sand, although it's true that the thought of islands takes me back in time to the humming of the boat, the screeching of the gulls and the trip across rocking seas to the desperately remote Farne Islands off the coast of

Out fascination with islands is rooted in the tale of Robinson Crusoe. Desert islands are places of fascination, dipped in the sweetness of coconuts with an edge of fear to them. Plays and films have depicted people wrecked and trapped from Lord of the Flies to Lost.

Recently, curiosity took us to Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. Tangier doesn't have palm trees or pristine white beaches or mountains shrouded in mist. It's low and flat and being relentlessly eaten away by global warming. The people on the island talk with a strange dialect that's meant to resemble old English but didn't sound that way to me. In fact, the people are descended from the Cornish who were ever a race apart, although it's hard to see why they would exchange those magnificent soaring cliffs for this brackish flatness.

On the day we visited Tangier the rain was falling steadily and the Chesapeake Bay was as dark as iron and as unprepossessing. But the rain slacked off as we arrived at Tangier and the sullen clouds gave the place an edge. The first thing you see are remote crabbing huts perched on wooden walks above the water, places where the solitary menfolk shell crabs above the slick waters of the bay.

Given the twin threats of pollution and global warming, it's a tough existence and many of the homes on Tangier Island are ramshackle and showing their creaking bones against the onslaught of the elements. There was water, water everywhere on the gravel paths fringed with oysters and the pooled yards of homes.

Even today Tangier Island seems far removed from America. It supported the British navy in the war of 1812 and feels somewhat cast adrift.

It was fascinating to walk about for a couple of hours but the alarming proliferation of Trump signs and the fact Tangier is a dry island meant we made doubly sure to catch the last boat out of the place.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Sluggish July

This summer is icooking my brain. The coffee turns my mouth sour but I still slug on it, drinking to the base, hoping to revive myself and to conjure up an original idea. It's late afternoon. I think of stagnant ponds, and rivers thick and sluggish with oil in a flat and industrial landscape. The heat out here is too thick to breathe. Heat index is the most over-used phrase. That and triple digits. There's no getting clean from it. Shirt and pants stick. Skin burns, necks ache.

It seems too long since we lay on your bed and looked at each other steadily.

There are too many words, too much traffic, too many Tweets, too many bombs and knives, too much anger.

The people gather under Neptune. They interact very little. The look into the small screen - not the TV of yesteryear but the portable small screen. They catch Pokemon on the screen. They jabber with an other worldly language about squirtle. Squirrel, I say. No Squirtle - get with it, Dad. Where have you been? Under a rock? Under the sea bed like Neptune who frowns steadily at the storm-laden sky.

But I was with it some time ago, in another place and another era. There was a crowd in white, winding from the bridge at Magdalen and all of Oxford was coated in the glory of morning and unfilled potential and gleaming things to come. I saw them then, young and bronzed and lithe across the water meadows and the domes and the spires,  jumping with abandon in the water. I thought of Brideshead and imagined them now; fat lawyers and accountants behind dust-filled desks.

I wondered lazily if the bridge was blocked again and I thought of you - looking at me steadily across the heat haze, distilling a perfection out of all this imperfection.