Archive for the ‘Compulsive Disclosure’ Category

Fat and Fucked Up in Daly City

April 15, 2012


It was sad to see the old boy. First thing I noticed when he got out o the pick-up truck was he looked like he’d just swallowed John Travolta. My God. He was frankly gigantic and the T-shirt he wore, emblazoned with an exploding kitten’s head, didn’t disguise things much.

They say you can never go home again and I guess what’s meant by that is that things change irrevocably and if you retrace your steps hoping to relive a fond memory on the rebound, well you a big fuckin’ sucka. End of.

Nevertheless, as my pendulum swings between exultation and extreme bad luck so does the sweep of memory’s gaze mean that blurred out bits of detail often will give a person license to raise up a frayed ole banner of yesterday’s hope like it’s the emblem of a new tomorrow.

And so it was having donned such denial-tinted spectacles that I chose to reconsider once again entering the creative lab with two ex-collaborateurs of different but equally doom-laden pedigree, location being the link.

In other words, I went back to San Francisco thinking maybe I could “get the old band back together” to use the ouch-ey words of a hack screenwriter.

Not really, because they were each just one person and not whole bands, but anyway you get the idea.

Yuck and yikes. I left screaming.

One was so far up his own ass-myth of legendariness that he couldn’t even recognize that he was living in a pile of vomit, the other, who was also living in a pile of vomit, was too wasted on opiate derivatives to notice his stench of rotting failure.

I have to admit to also being a little overweight at the time, having just endured a year of sedentary living occasioned by a furiously decaying splinter that was trying hard to rid me of a foot.

I started drinking bottles of wine in the morning, when it was still dark, and going on long walks around sections of outer San Francisco I’d never had a single good goddamn reason to fucking bother with before. Mostly boring.

But one morning, the day I later told old Bats-in-his-Belfry that he was a shameful waste of food and ought to just die as soon as possible, I found the funniest little park in all the world (so far). It’s called the Dorothy Erskine Park and I guess there might be more to it down below than what I saw, but I only found the very toppermost bit of it.

It was literally a steep mound, with trees on top, surrounded by a fence, maybe 200 feet square in terms of area? It was as if the builders and city planners and everybody had gone as far as they could, and there was just this one weird pimple of a protrusion that couldn’t exactly be built on as it was. Somebody would have had to do massive re-shaping on this mound in order to make it flat enough to put foundations down.

Well they didn’t. Instead it was just a “park”. But what kind of park was this?! You couldn’t play ball there, there were no swings. There was nothing but a few trees and a pimple of grass, a sheer bank dropping down to a chicken-wire fence on either side.

But what a view in the early morning! A clear shot over houses and rooftops all the way to a sliver of blue water, from a totally different angle than I was used to.

After walking for miles and miles I sat on the very tip of it watching the sun come up over a part of the Bay that never makes it into the movies. I worked on a song I’d first thought of about 10 years previously: roads in blue / lead straight to you/ across the town/ and up and down / the hills and avenues / like a melancholy tune…

Then I went back to the pretty but gloomy cottage where the junkie snored, his over-fed cat licking grease from his chin.

We had a big fight later that evening. I’d found the syringes in the trash. He pretended not to know what I was on about and screamed at me for making noise while I cleaned his filthy kitchen.

I left the country soon afterwards and started to lose weight immediately.

Adios a la Ciudad de Los Angeles

April 13, 2012

If you look closely you can see a tiny Hollywood sign in the distance.

I reckoned I’d do my recollections in reverse as it’s kind of easier to piece together that way.

These pictures are from my last day in Los Angeles when, with a few hours to kill, I went on a 4 hour wander up and down the hills of the Silverlake district. It was an outrageously gorgeous sunny day, February 28th. (I thought the 28th was a good day to fly in a leap year as you essentially get the 29th to recover for free – a day out of time as it were.)

People diss on LA all the time but on my visits there in January and February of this year, I was mainly struck by how beautiful it is. In certain parts. Walking around Silverlake in what would be the dead of Winter in the UK, was like being in a Hawaiian botanical garden.

The abundance of lush, colourful vegetation was mind-blowing. I guess I took it for granted when I lived there!

Check out this enormous fluffy plant. It was taller than I am (about 5’8”).

Or this crazy cacti-cluster, many of which were to be found cascading down the hillsides.

I watched this little green bird (below) for a long time but I never could get a great picture of it. That’s because, as you can see, it kept stuffing its head inside this big pod from which it would yank out some chunks of what looked like cotton wool, which it would then hurl to the ground.

                   Even the junked cars were extremely beautiful.

And at the end of the walk, having only taken what could be spared, I was able to make a lush flower arrangement which I left in my friend’s kitchen by way of thanks. Being completely skint at the time, with barely enough cash to make it to Brighton once my plane landed, it was amazing to be able to produce this for free! I felt bad not being able to afford leaving a bottle of wine or something on the table but my friend really, really, really appreciated it. I think he thanked me about 5 times in different emails so I was well chuffed!

See you tomorrow!

Resurrection Slightly Behind Schedule!

April 12, 2012

WELL HELLO SEXY!

What with Easter just behind us and the Spring Equinox just before that, it seemed like a good moment to kick my own ass and get this blog back up and running. To my 7 loyal readers who have pined for my words during this lengthy silence I can only apologize and make the excuse that I was out of the country for two months at the beginning of the year and had to have foot surgery in Mexico. That saga will soon be forthcoming, complete with bloody pictures! But, nitpicks the inner critic, that excuse only takes us back to the beginning of the year. The last blog post was for the Knox-Sollecito acquittal of last October. Well, um, I got busy and then a few days became a couple weeks and then I didn’t know where to begin and then there was that whole Christmas thing and, well, after that we’re into January, Mexico and the foot. There, satisfied! Like you care anyway!

I have lots of stories and pictures to share of my somewhat disaster-prone adventures of the last few months and will be doing so in coming days! In all truthfulness, many terrible things have occurred but I find that when I tell others of all the awful things that happen to me, in hopes of receiving sympathy or cash donations, these friends are frequently to be glimpsed stuffing rags into their mouths in efforts to suppress the apparent hilarity that my tribulations induce in the listener. So perhaps hearing about my rotten luck can brighten your day and put a smile on your face. If so, it’s well worth it.

I had to start somewhere and although this is not really a proper post at all, it is at least dated April 12, 2012. Thus, tomorrow, I will feel less pressured to close the enormous 4+ month gap (I just couldn’t bring myself to type “5 month gap”) and this will have the perverse effect of inducing me to make another post. And then the day after that, another one!

I was never a daily blogger (I know, that’s supposed to be the point, shut up) but now I WILL BE.

For at least one week anyway. So that someone just looking at my bog, I mean blog, will see several recent entries close together and not think I’m the sort of person who just lets their blog sit there corroding for 4+ months, like some kind of electronic barnacle.

Also, I think it is apt that this is the first entry since the righteous acquittal of Knox and Sollecito because they’ve been back in the news again, due to both of them signing book deals.

Naturally, some haters out there begrudge this maliciously wronged pair the right to profit from their ordeal, conveniently overlooking the enormous financial costs their families endured and the emotional hardship for which they’ve not been compensated.

What is wrong with some people?

A couple of days ago some total cretin of a guy wrote me an abusive email in which he called me a silly bitch and then stuck in at the end that Knox was definitely guilty and it was a travesty of justice that she got out. As if he thought this would get my goat; as if his uninformed opinion would bother me!

Actually, it did bother me.

But not for the reason he obviously hoped; I did not feel personally attacked or insulted and had absolutely no inclination to bother to set him straight. No, what bothered me was that he (a yobbish English guy, guessing from the one time we spoke on the phone) felt justified in even having an opinion on the matter, when that opinion had doubtless been formed by the types of newspapers that used to be more suitably employed as ad hoc packaging for fishmongers (before Health & Safety put a stop to the ancient practice).

To be falsely accused is horrible. I know because it’s happened to me. To be falsely convicted and imprisoned for years for a horrific act one is completely incapable of performing must be one of the most agonizing of all human experiences. The injustice of having to read the nastified depiction of one’s character by sleazy tabloid hacks; the distortion of one’s life and thoughts into something hideously unrecognizable; one’s personal and private actions and holiday photos turned into condemnations by the black arts of gutter journalism…it’s almost unthinkable how a person could stay strong through something like that.

Yet Amanda and Rafaele were both model prisoners by all accounts. Amanda never got into a single argument with guards or fellow prisoners in 4 years and when she left, the 600 inmates crowded the tiny windows of the prison waving banners for her and shouting with joy that someone who deserved to be free was going free. Witnesses said it was like seeing a football star walk out onto the pitch only with 10 times the emotion. To win the love of 600 people in a prison one should never have been in is an impressive testament to the fundamentally good nature of this accidental cover-girl.

With all that in mind, it makes me sad that guys like Arsepus (sorry, I know that’s childish but I can’t put his real name and that is close enough), guys like Arsepus – who probably devoted 40 minutes of his entire life reading about the case in one of those rags that have topless chicks on page 3 – can feel so confident in voicing their stupid conviction that the guilty have been freed.

It made me wonder if other creeps out there were still banging on in that vein so I looked on the web and was disheartened to see that the sick and pathetic websites insisting on Knox and Sollecito’s guilt are still up and running with plenty of new entries. Plenty of idiots here in the UK, including (sorry to have to say it) the victim’s family are still refusing to accept the truth: that Kercher’s murder was mundane.

It wasn’t the sensational stuff of best-selling crime novels. There was no satanic orgy, no threesome, no pretty American student hiding homicidal urges behind a winning smile, no shy Italian student with a secret knife-fetish, nothing but an embarrasingly politically incorrect scenario of a robbery/rape/murder committed by a guy of African descent. Those stories don’t grab headlines for long.

Sorry, but that’s the truth. Move along people. Nothing to see here.

To me it seems like the Kercher’s oft-expressed desire “not to let Meredith be forgotten” has gotten the better of their judgment and they’ve decided to keep her name alive by any means necessary. Even if that means ignoring the boring facts and backing the salacious fantasy that kept the story on the front page.

I don’t know what’s in it for the trolls who have jumped on their bandwagon though; I guess the same thing that motivates all trolls – increasing pain for people already in it.

Some say I shouldn’t criticize the Kercher family, that their loss puts them above reproach. To that I say bullshit. All it would take to shut up the trolls would be a statement from them that they accept the acquittal was correct, that they know Knox and Sollecito had nothing to do with it, that they were misled by an insane prosecutor.

But they haven’t. They were clearly hoping for Knox and Sollecito to lose their appeal and have backed the deranged Mignini from the beginning.

As someone who spent hundreds of hours wading through the published evidence, I am really looking forward to both forthcoming books. In particular it will be fascinating to finally learn more about Sollecito, whose wrongful conviction and ordeal were practically overlooked, even though his possible connection to the crime was even more wispily tenuous than Knox’s. His was a quiet but strong presence throughout and I for one can’t wait to finally get to read his side of the story. Amanda’s prison diaries will also be a fascinating read.

They both deserve their multi-million dollar book deals and only a troll would deny them a compensation that goes nowhere to restoring the 4 years they already lost and the lifetime of compromised privacy which faces them now.

See you tomorrow!

Sharing Tragedy With a Stranger

September 8, 2011

The BBC has been airing a lot of programmes relating to the events of September 11, 2001 for the obvious reason that the 10 year anniversary is fast approaching. On their website they asked people to write in on the theme of “where were you”.

So, here is what I sent in, a story I’ve told many times but never before actually written about. If any reader thinks they can identify the people in my story, please do get in touch.

*
Very late on the night of September 10th, I dropped off a new boyfriend I’d met at Burning Man Festival at the San Francisco airport where he was taking an American Airlines flight to Chicago. Instead of driving back across the bridge to Oakland, I decided to spend the night at a friend’s place in the city, on Valencia Street in the Mission district, a sprawling sort of open-plan live-work space.

For some reason I woke up really early the next morning. It was before 6 a.m. when I usually got up around 9. But I couldn’t seem to get back to sleep and so I got up. A few minutes later the phone rang, odd as it was so early. The call was picked up by the old fashioned tape-based answering machine my friend had, so I could hear the message as it was being left. It was her mother who lived on the east coast. She had an odd tense sound in her voice as she asked Lisa to call her as soon as she got up.

I heard Lisa shift around and so I called out to her asking if she was awake.

She grumbled something about her mother never getting the hang of the time difference and how annoying it was to be woken up this early. But I’m really into voices and her mother’s sounded odd.

“You know, I really think you should call her back. It sounded like it was important.”

Some more grumbling, then she got up and stumbled sleepily to the phone.

“Hi Mom.. you know it’s super early here and…”

Suddenly she stopped talking. I was trying to make coffee and had just realized there wasn’t any so wasn’t paying that much attention, when abruptly I heard Lisa cry out.

“WHAT?”

I turned around and all the sleep was gone out of her now, she was sitting bolt upright, her eyes like saucers.

“OMIGOD, OMIGOD! DIANA TURN ON THE TV! TURN ON THE TV!”

I happened to be standing right in front of the shelf that the small TV set was on, so I switched it on, saying as I did so.

“What channel?”

Usually when people wanted you to switch on the TV it was to get a specific station.

The screen flickered to life and I saw an image of the instantly recognizable World Trade Centre in NYC, one of the towers apparently ablaze, with big puffs of smoke coming out the sides. I’d lived there in ‘93 when it had been bombed and for a moment I wondered if they were revisiting the story, only that fire had come from the parking garage, so…

Was this a movie or something? The sequel to “Independence Day” or “Mars Attacks”? I was really confused!

“Uh! What are we supposed to be looking at?!” I said, turning to Lisa, but as soon as I turned back around it was obvious: I watched in incredulous disbelief as a jet airplane glided directly into the second tower.

“WHAT THE FUCK?!”

The mute button had been on so now I hit it so I could hear the announcers’ voices: there’d been hijackings and I’d just seen the second plane hit the second of the twin towers, live on TV. It was an American Airlines flight. Wait, could this be the one my new boyfriend was on? No, he would’ve got to his destination by now! (This was before details had come through about how long the planes had been in the air or where they originated.)

I really couldn’t process this. I needed a coffee. COFFEE COFFEE! WE WERE OUT OF COFFEE!

I guess it’s a shock reflex to do something mundane in an emergency or maybe it’s just because there was something I could do about it, but I became completely focused on the coffee situation.

I ran down the long corridor to the gate to the street, remembering that the café at the corner opened really early. But when I got to the gate and opened it, I froze.

I looked out at the people walking along the sidewalk, riding on the buses, driving in their cars, pedalling their bicycles, shooting along on their skateboards…. and realized that not one of the people I was looking at knew about what had just happened. They couldn’t possibly just be going about their business otherwise!

I had a sudden premonition that I was witnessing the last moment of an entire era, of a way, of a time. It sounds corny to say “a time of innocence” but it was something like that. In a few minutes or hours, every single one of those smiling, or harried, or hurried, or hung-over people, whatever they were, whoever they were, in a very short time they would know what had just happened, what was still happening. And nothing would ever be the same.

Should I tell them? Sound the alarm? No. Why rob them of this last few minutes of ignorant bliss. What reason would I have to ruin that?

In a weird daze, I went to the corner and into the café. I ordered two coffees to go and looked around at all the people in there. They didn’t know either. They were all reading that morning’s papers that were already as out of date as yesterday’s news. Should I tell them? I was the only one who knew, the only one who knew….

Then I walked out on the pavement and I saw someone else who knew, who must’ve known. Why else would he be hugging the lamp post on the corner of 22nd and Valencia, hugging it like it was gonna save him from something, sobbing in anguished despair? But this was San Francisco, and the Mission district to boot, haven of crazies and druggies and homeless; on any other day, I too might have walked straight past the screaming, crying man who held on to that lamp post for dear life. But I didn’t because I knew why he was crying. I knew he knew.

I ran over to him and set the coffees down on the pavement. He was oblivious to me standing there.

“Hey! Hey you! Do you have people in New York!?”

Then he noticed me and turned to face me – here was someone else who knew!

He left the post and reached out his arms to me. His eyes were spinning, his face red and wet, he was blubbering with a lack of inhibition that can only be triggered by the most extreme of human crises: life or death.

“YES!” he cried, “YES! MY COUSIN!” and he fell into my arms and we clung to each other on the street while he cried and sobbed his story to me.

“ SHE’S IN THERE! SHE’S IN THE SECOND TOWER! I WAS JUST TALKING TO HER ON THE PHONE – SHE WAS IN THE STAIRWELL AND SHE CALLED ME AND I WAS TALKING TO HER AND THE PHONE’S GONE DEAD! THE PHONE’S GONE DEAD!”

We were both crying by now and must have looked a crazy sight to all those people who didn’t know. But then again, this was the Mission in San Francisco, so maybe not. Certainly nobody else stopped to find out what was wrong. Probably just thought it was something personal between us. He obviously hadn’t been able to bring himself to tell anybody who didn’t already know either.

I couldn’t think what to say to comfort him. I’d just seen the plane crash into the building, so “it’s gonna be fine” wasn’t gonna cut it. Anyway, I don’t believe in making optimistic predictions in emergencies; it’s more important to have courage to face whatever may happen.

“What’s her name?”
“Debbie. Debbie Golden.”

“OK. Debbie Golden. Debbie Golden. I’ll never forget it. I wish for Debbie Golden to be OK. I pray for Debbie Golden to be OK. I’ll always think her name I promise you I promise you! Debbie Golden. Debbie Golden! I’ll tell people her name. ”

Reading between the lines, I guess I was saying I’d remember her name whether she lived or died. That she wouldn’t be forgotten if she didn’t make it. But that I’d keep her name alive as long as there was uncertainty about whether or not she was alive. I meant all that and I know that he understood every unspoken word of it.

We were in complete hysterics by this point with him actually spasming with fear and grief as I repeated this stranger’s name like it was a holy mantra. Our fingernails were digging into eachother’s arms as we shook and trembled together on that street corner while people just walked around us.

What good was remembering this woman’s name gonna do? What did it matter if I told people her name or prayed for her or not? But for some reason it seemed comforting, both to him and to me.

I don’t know how long we were there but finally things subsided enough to release our embrace.

“I gotta go make some calls.”

“Of course. Of course. Debbie Golden. Debbie Golden..”

We parted and I picked up my coffees, now lukewarm, and headed back to Lisa’s where she was glued to the TV.

“I just met someone whose cousin is in there! They were just on the phone right when it happened! Her name is Debbie Golden!”

I told her the story and she explained that her mother, an early riser, had just happened to be watching the news when the first reports came on. She wasn’t in New York and was in no danger though. Whew. Pretty soon, my guy rang me from Chicago to let me know he was completely unaffected, so that was obviously a huge relief even though I’d sort of already worked it out. Double Whew.

But what about that poor guy’s cousin? What happened to Debbie Golden? Debbie Golden? Debbie Golden? Debbie Golden?

It took quite some time before definitive lists of victims were published and reliable. So for many years I would check and check again, seeing if the name Debbie Golden appeared on any of them. It never was but it was many years before I stopped checking and could finally feel 100% certain in the knowledge that she’d made it down the rest of the stairs to freedom, safety and life. Over the years I had occasion to tell the story many times and of course, always told her name.

In all the emotion, I never did ask the guy what his own name was, nor he mine, but I’m sure he remembers our encounter as vividly as I do. I must be the first person he saw after his phone went dead.

I’d sure like to meet him again and let him know how glad I was that his cousin got out alive and that I kept my promise and never forget her name. Could the BBC help with that? I bet a similiar scenario was played out between other pairs and groups of strangers all over the place. I see it as a tiny story with a big resonance.

Maybe it would mean something too, to this woman Debbie Golden, to know that in the middle of that awful tragedy and many thousands of miles away, specifically she (her name anyway) made a huge effect on, and thus created a weird bond with, someone she has never met. That some woman named Diana Trimble, who now lives in England, cried for her safety in her cousin’s arms on a street corner in San Francisco during those exact moments as she was anxiously making her way down that stairwell for the hope of life itself. And that I will always carry her name with me because of that moment in which I briefly shared a stranger’s anguish. I’d like to think it helped him a tiny bit. May the good luck that was fortunately hers that day ever be with Debbie Golden and her cousin, wherever they may be. And may it rub off on me a little too.

Ringing in the New Year on Brighton Beach

January 1, 2011

What a beautiful night!

Didn’t want to go to parties but wandered down to the beach a half hour before midnight. I wanted to be alone, yet with people, which I guess is sort of how I go through life.

At first there were just a few of us, but then more and more people came down, drawn to the sea, and started letting off dozens of Chinese lanterns and fireworks, while fire dancers spun their poi.

I sat on the very end of the stone breaker, facing the sea, everything happening behind me: the bonfires and sounds of laughter and singing and rockets going off. And in the minutes just before midnight this happy cacophony crescendo-ed and I leaned my head all the way back, cackling like a maniac, each hand madly ringing a bell (two Cs an octave apart), staring and blinking at the pink and green and white starbursts whistling and exploding against the black night sky while the lanterns drifted higher and higher until each was just a distant pinpoint of faintly glowing orange, the colour of new stars.

I rang my bells til my arms were sore, screaming with deranged exultation that was also catharsis, and I didn’t stop until the last shower of flaming cinders dispersed overhead, then I let the last tones ring out, stilled the bells. I looked at my mobile phone, the modern human’s pocket watch. It read 00:00.

There was something like silence for almost a whole moment and then it began again: the singing and laughing and firing of rockets.

Begin again, begin again…

I was at the very edge of the sea and walked up to it then and put my hands in it and bathed my face with the water, my tears mingling with the waves.

A fresh start. What is lost is gone. Say goodbye to it forever, sweetly. And with the tenderness that sorrow brings, dare to invite something new into your life.

If you’re one of those annoying people who’s had an absolutely perfect year then I guess you won’t have a clue what I’m on about and probably think I’m being a bit melodramatic.

But I think there are many of you who will know just what I mean and also understand that I’m not the least bit depressed as I write this. There is a borderland where sorrow and joy touch, where hope and loss shake hands, where regret for what one has or hasn’t done makes way for new resolve. There is no time like the changing of the year to effect a powerful magic in the contemplation of these opposites which are really conjoined twins.

And all with really cool special effects!

Happy New Year everyone! With love from Brighton beach.

(Well, Hove actually….)

p.s. the picture is of a laser show on the old West pier that was actually done at Chinese New Year, but it captures the mood and location perfectly. I never take photos when I’m trying to have an experience so my words are the only document of last night. As it was in honour of a different calendar, it also says, to me, that there can be and are, many “new years” even within a single year…

TAMING THE TYGER; BORROWING THE GRACE Or: How not to get pissed off, the difference between love and loving, and then I try to make myself loftier by quoting William Blake and kind of paint myself into a corner.

August 22, 2010

It looks like a sexy fight to me.

I’m really into this new game I’ve been playing with myself lately.

Get your minds out of the gutter, now!

Basically, I’ve been learning to control my emotions by a sort of method I discovered. It’s very interesting because I realize that it really is a choice. I don’t have to lose myself in every feeling and reaction but can just let them flit through me. It sounds really simple and I know also that it sounds suspiciously like some kind of pseudo-Eckhart Tolle cod-philosophy, but it is one thing to contemplate the soundness of the idea and another thing, utterly, actually to do it.

Several times in the past few days I have been triggered by something, usually some irritating person being small-minded and petty, and begun to feel that familiar rumbling in the tinderbox within: the sparking up of offense.

It has occurred to me many times in the past that if you went back far enough, you would probably find that the origin of all wars and feuds, wherever in the world, could be sourced in somebody somewhere being offended by something, and that if only people could just shrug off the insults of others with a little more alacrity, we’d have a lot less bombs going off.

But after all, as a whole array of enlightened masters have pointed out, peace begins in the heart of the individual. It’s amazing how many families with poisonous dynamics and estrangements amongst themselves still shake their heads at the evening news and, no trace of irony, echo Rodney King in wondering why the Palestinians and Israelis can’t all just get along after all this time.

So, I’ve been examining this tendency in myself – getting offended that is – and seeing what can be done about it. Problems with anger run in my family and I have inherited some difficulties with this important and complex emotion. I did not grow up witnessing healthy management of anger or how to resolve conflicts peaceably. What I was shown as normal is not something I wish to emulate, but as these patterns are established before cognitive reasoning has developed, it can be difficult to deprogram the self, or to even be sure where the program begins. What is “normal”? Or what do I consider “normal”?

No! Fuck that! Normal might be something really fucked up!

What I want is to be better: just better – at maintaining equilibrium, at not getting into disagreements, at solving them when they come up, at restraining the urge to vent frustrations on members of the public. I’m reminded of that standard refrain of the hypnotist: each day in every way, I feel myself getting better and better.

Without good examples in my parents, I have had to learn by observing other people’s reactions to my bad emotional habits; reluctantly recognizing them therefore (sometimes this step takes a decade or more); and then trying to change them. Or when I’ve noticed someone handling a difficult situation really skillfully, I try to work out what they’re doing. I’ve been doing this for years. I feel a bit like Mowgli observing civilizeds eating with cutlery and thinking: oh, so that’s how proper humans do it!

One of the things I’ve come to believe is that while it is healthy to feel outrage at injustice and to feel indignant when wronged, there really are a million different ways to let this out. Roughly 999,987 of them are wrong. Making sense when angry, being able to listen, being able to be silent – this is where things fall apart. The sense of inhibition disintegrates before the challenge of containing chaotic sensations in the physical body (i.e. the neuro-chemical precursors of an angry outburst). Like the moment when you realize it’s too late to catch the wave and all you can do is go under the roiling current, hoping to come out the other side.

*

It’s not only pure anger that is triggered by taking offense. Some of the worst anger blow-outs are initially set off by self-pity, as when one feels tender about being made fun of. Perhaps someone has taken a little dig about a few extra pounds around your middle or a looming birthday, pointed out that the new haircut is not a go-er. It is tempting – behind the congenial, self-deprecating chuckle – to nurse a poor me wound that, unchecked, could even fester until it oozes morbid contemplations that verge on the suicidal.

In romance especially, it is easy to get befuddled. As soon as the simplicity of enjoying the hang time gives way to future-tripping, it starts to sink under the weight of internal debates regarding the meaning of the relationship or how to measure, accurately, the depth of the love. One’s inner life becomes a tumult of ricocheting imaginings. Insane suspicions arise like demonic visions in the spooky mist of the interior landscape. Destructive urges to ask unnecessary and prying questions of the beloved gain strength until impossible to resist. Perspective is distorted and the worst excesses of behaviour, even to murder, can sometimes ensue.

*

Ever since I nearly died of drug-related illnesses some 15+ years ago, I’ve pined to discover some kind of balance within. I tried the Vipissana silent meditation retreat thing; I tried fasting and prayer; yoga, raw food and colonic irrigation; psychedelic drinks in the Amazon jungle; sobriety; celibacy; group sex. I think I’ll end the list there.

When excess got boring I went for asceticism, but that got boring even quicker so then I had to re-check out excess again.

Yup.

Still pretty much the same trip as before: sometimes fun, sometimes not.

Sometimes an enchanted evening with a mesmerizing madman on top of a giant Golden Buddha in Battersea Park, sometimes a black eye and a bruised heart from tumbling backwards down piss-soaked stone steps in love’s abandoned basement.

*

I met a guy in a Texas rehab, after that first time I nearly died, who joked that “balance is that place you briefly glimpse when you’re swinging wildly from extreme to extreme.”

Maybe it’s a cliché but I never heard it until my own see-saw had capsized and nearly crushed me to death, so it struck me as particularly grimly funny and true and still does.

But as the old spirituals go: Lawd, I sho’ is weary!

To elaborate: I just can’t be bothered to sweat the dumb daily stupidities any more. The quotidian aint worth it folks. While often unconvinced that there’s much point in worrying about the big stuff, I’m increasingly certain that the small shit really really doesn’t matter. There’s no reason to bug, and if I don’t I’m sure to catch some longer glimpses of that there slippery ole balance. Maybe someday I’ll even chill there for a while.

But it’s one thing to calmly and beatifically receive this ancient wisdom from within the safe confines of one’s spliff-smoke-filled flat, quite another to follow the vibe of unflappable tranquility when confronted with an inept and surly sales clerk on a sweltering afternoon in a shop without air conditioning and Rick Astley on the Tannoy.

*

I had a chance to feel jealous and insecure yesterday evening. Reason: meeting the ex-fiancée of the new boyfriend for the first time.

I started to feel all the symptoms in anticipation of the person entering the room: increased heart rate, shallowness of breath, slightly accelerated feeling in the thoughts, quick bustling movements and an uncomfortable build up in energy from inside my chest. I applied mascara with shaking hands.

Then I suddenly just stopped, shrugged and said to myself:

“…meh…”

You see I’d just remembered that I’d already decided that whatever I do, just always treat my relationships as temporary. Have no expectation, except that it’s odds-on to end, just a matter of whether sooner or later. This might sound pessimistic but it’s actually liberating. In the clean sober air of this realistic view, the relationship is actually far more likely: 1.) to be free of the stress brought on by the weight of expectation (future-tripping) which absence may even, paradoxically, add longevity to the deal, and 2.) to be finished, if parting does indeed precede death, with a fond farewell rather than a bitter repulsion that takes years to get over.

This is a big part of why some of my best memories of romance are snapshots of briefer encounters, whereas the things I went through with the real rulers (and wreckers) of my heart lasted much longer and are much more complicated and painful to recall. The other part of the why is the fact that those who have gone into double digits of months with me have often been selected by virtue of exhibiting un-mistakable signs of incurable narcissistic personality disorder (more family programming, as you might have guessed). But I have always shown remarkably good taste when it comes to summer flings, holiday romances, long-distance casuals and the like.

Some years ago, I had the most wonderful casual open thing for a few months with a beautiful boy named Cameron Seymour. Cam was easily the best looking guy I ever dated. I remember walking into a room once with him a couple of paces ahead of me leading me in by the hand and the look on the face of my bass player’s girlfriend – who was pretty drop-dead beautiful herself – was priceless: as soon as he couldn’t see her anymore, she literally bugged her eyes out like she was having a seizure and bit her own hand. Hard. Then she gave me the silent high-five, still wide-eyed with astonishment. I went up several notches in her estimation that night. It was like that all the time.

And yet, as gorgeous as he was, and as likely as it was that he could have had his pick of most crowds, and despite the fact that ours was a no-strings deal and he was free to do whatever, still and all – when we were out together he made me feel like everyone else was furniture. Literally only had eyes for me. He was respectful, attentive, passionate, honest, funny, style-y; the sex was good and I felt totally secure of his like for me.

At no time, were either of us ever in danger of losing our minds or souls over the whole thing.

Eventually he went back to Maine and we lost touch. I’ve tried to find him but without luck (Cam, if you get this – get in touch my dear). Someday I’d really like to give him long overdue thanks for teaching me something important about the difference between being loving and being “in love”.

It’s taken me a long time to realize that the former – the experience of treating and being treated well – is vastly preferable to the latter, which to me describes an altered state of exaggerated emotional response. The best one can hope for is that it’s a shared delusion, but x times out of ten, one of the pair feels “it” more than the other. Been on both sides of that fence, and sat on the middle too. Bollocks to that, my friends. All we gotta do, as Bill and Ted so outstandingly pointed out, is Be Excellent to Each Other!

“They” say you always hurt the one you love, but no one ever died for like, as far as I’m aware. When you like someone, you can’t help but want to be nice to them. But when you think you are in love, you can even imagine killing them. Some do.

*

But I was intending to describe the physical containment of the impulses to act out emotionally.

OK, here goes – I once had an anarchist, revolutionary, polyamorous lover that I’ll call here Quetzelcoatl (both to protect his anonymity and because he may read this and be amused) who dubbed it my “chaos demon”, “it” being the tempestuous outbursts of uncontainable feelings that would sometimes erupt out of me in stressful situations. Being the kind of guy who didn’t ever seem out of his depth or rattled by anything (can’t tell you how annoying that was), Quetzelcoatl calmly talked me through it and asked me to describe what I was feeling.

It starts with a feeling of racing within. Like one of the science class movies of fluids circulating inside the body, only incredibly speeded up. A fluttering in the chest like a bird, no- a goose, is trying to flap its way out. I have an irrational desire to run around, to pace, to make sharp quick movements, to avoid eye contact. The sides of my head start to warm up and my mouth starts to go a bit dry. I can hear myself breathing, my lungs seem to end just below my chin, and it feels like the dams have burst inside my arms, releasing millions of gallons of liquid fire that rush like a flood in a storm drain, trying to suck me down into the inferno. But it shoots up like a molt iron geyser too; exploding in the centre of my clavicle. Heat from the explosion scorches my face.

If I give in to the feeling, and I want to, I really really want to, then it is like opening the hatches to a thousand creepy crawlies; the thoughts come crowding in, over-shouting each other, interrupting and being generally, just so fuckin’ rude. Bastards get me in some kind of lock-down, borrow my body-ship, and shoot the most vicious missiles right out of my own mouth!

I have committed the absolute worst excesses of behaviour in the grips of this type of emotional frenzy: hurled microphone stands from stages; put a cheating ex’s mobile number in the gay sex ads (under the heading “bi-curious, wife away”); left hysterical messages on the answering machine of another one’s father a few days before his son’s wedding; I even betrayed Quetzelcoatl once I realized he wasn’t going to change his lifestyle for me and dump his other 7 girlfriends. Giving in to the chaos demon has cost me love and money and respect, mostly my own.

And yet, not to sound like an arrogant cunt, I am usually correct. Mostly. By that I mean that I do not trip over imagined logs, take offense at innocent remarks, misinterpret or over-read situations. Not much anyway. If I feel like I’ve been fucked with there is usually a damn good reason. I don’t get mad for nothing.

OK?!

But being right is a funny thing: it doesn’t make the sour grapes taste any better. The loneliest person in the world is probably fucking right about everything. Big whoop, as my friend Persia used to say.

Can I really just decide then, just like that then, not to give in to the surging tide of heat and thought and agitation in the heart (that could be triggered by a trivial altercation on the bus as well as by the sophisticated tricks of a histrionic serial seducer)?

It seemed at least worth a try.

Yeah, I know about all those “six deep breaths” and “count to 10” techniques and I’m sure they work if you can remember that you know them before your brain signals get completely fried, you can’t think straight, can only see in monochrome and are sure your amalgam fillings are picking up Aphex Twin.

So that never worked for me, my calming mantras only returning, mockingly, in the reverberation of the slamming door.

Instead, I decided to just notice when the feeling started to occur. Then, when I noticed it, I would quickly see what it was about, and kind of break it down, like I was doing a 1 line synopsis of a film for the TV guide.

As the little meerkat puppet with the Russian accent in those irritatingly enjoyable car insurance ads on UK telly circa 2010 says:

Simples!

For example:

Un Femme de Certain Age gets nervous about meeting her much younger new boyfriend’s ex-fiancée.”

Like magic, this new, rational-sounding voice in my head (the commentator) says to me:

“Fuck that. That’s where it all starts: you don’t want to be ‘in love’, you don’t want to lose yourself or get thrown off your centre, well this is how it all starts.”

Now that my conscious mind was engaged, it chipped in with “Yeah. Don’t go down that road” in a transparent play for shared credit.

I know it sounds ridiculously over simplified but – so then, I just ….. didn’t.

I just didn’t go there.

Later on, the lovely lover tried to lure me to bed around midnight. But I wanted to stay up and write. Write this, actually. I told him I’d be to bed around 3 a.m. and he balled up a soiled sock and bounced it off my nose. I laughed “what was that for! He sulked (gorgeously) off to bed, only half-jokingly, and I felt very merry indeed.

Reason:   in the past, when I have been consumed by that dreadful “in love” mental illness that popular culture products are always trying to program us to crave, I would have given up all the things I love doing and that are for me, part of me, what forms my identity, if it meant spending more time dissolving myself in the victim, sorry – object – of my love.

If the building of my life was burning I’d still try not to leave the metaphoric bed of love until the flaming beams of harsh reality came crashing down through the ceiling of denial and concretized that abstraction for real, yo!

After the fire’s been put out and the crowd has dispersed, I hate and resent my new ex for stealing me from myself, for wasting my time, for delaying my projects and making me lose my mind; for tormenting me and for torment’s end.

This is why, sweet brothers and sisters and inbetweeners, I have made this decision to publicly announce my intent to master my emotions.

I don’t go to bed, despite the temptation, but get most of this down instead. It feels so good to follow the need to write. The beautiful guy will still be in the bed tomorrow night, if I don’t screw up and can follow my own new advice, but the compulsion to write this might be gone, and the awareness with it.

So remember, always remember (this is me speaking to myself): If I don’t control my emotions, I don’t have the clarity to choose the right course of action.

I can do it as long as I view it as a game, like mastering a difficult shot from a weird position at the pool table. This makes it actually fun!

It goes something like this:

if I can manage not to betray – not on my face, in my voice-word formations, nor by my movements – that there is a half-cocked chaos-demon banging a tin cup on his cage bars about a half a millimeter below my skin; if I can disable the nanobots of cognitive dissonance before they build a maze of funhouse mirrors in my mind; if I can become an adept of the art of observing but not identifying with or responding to the physical sensations that precede rage, then I find myself negotiating the situation with ease. No problemo.

The tempest subsides.

Fuckin A!

No one, save me, is any the wiser of what has just been narrowly averted. It’s like a secret victory in a silent war. Or maybe it’s the other way around, because surely the victory is in the silence. I feel quite pleased with myself. My inner super-nanny sticks a little gold star on the rewards chart of my inner hell-spawn.

So I’m going to keep playing this game. I want to get really, really good at it.

*
Now.

I’ve always been of the opinion that writers take a cheap shot when they borrow the words of undeniable geniuses to elevate their own works. I had a boyfriend once who was supposed to be reading me his novel when I eventually realized that he had, for quite some time, been reciting a passage from TS Eliot, the brilliance of which was matched only by its length. Apparently this was how the novel, which I never did hear, began. It felt like cheating; like he was trying to gain profundity-by-proxy; like deliberately standing next to someone famous when they’re gettin’ papped. A poor wordsmith tarts up his own inferior efforts by borrowing the grace of a great poet, inserts an eloquent passage into his muck, hoping to drag it up by the scruff of its rump, perchance?

When you think about it it’s not such a great strategy, as putting a truffle in the middle of a shit sandwich doesn’t have the effect of making the shit more truffley-like, rather it reveals how shitty the shit is, whilst being a disgraceful abuse of a perfectly good truffle.

Nonetheless, I’m going to risk accusations of exactly this type of literary laziness by masking a clumsy segue to my concluding point with the insertion of these two stanzas from Blake’s The Tyger (1794):

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?


Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


Now to me, the symmetry of the tyger and the lamb is not just to be understood in the symbolical context of the Christian (ish) mythos of Blake’s visionary pantheon, or even as necessarily a pondering on the nature of the Creator, which are the typical and obvious interpretations of this simple masterpiece.

Rather, I see it as being more about the conflict in the human psyche: between peace and war; herbivore and carnivore. The “fearful symmetry” is the duality of heaven and hell, sure: but aren’t those domains themselves symbols for the drama taking place on the human stage, in the dance-to-the-death between love and hate?

If the tyger and the lamb are to lie down (and make love) together then I’m pretty sure that I have to get them to do it in my own pasture first.

But that doesn’t mean chasing and trying to reconcile extreme experiences, as I think I used to think. The battle is daily, it’s everywhere, it’s inside, and it never ends.

This is starting to feel as though it’s meant to be profound and that there is going to be some deceptively simple culminating statement, like a Zen koan or something, that brings all the opposites and extremes together and ties the whole thing up somehow.

Not so.

Long Time Brewing

February 28, 2010

Despite being one of the earliest adopters, of all the people I know, of all things techie and webbie; despite being a writer with a deep desire, like all us ego-damaged opiners, to broadcast my views far and wide; I have bided my time and never until now attempted to put any of my writing out on the Web, that wasn’t already published there on some other site.

But it’s 2010 and the Year of the Tiger, which according to what must be a poorly translated Chinese Astrology site means that “it looks like we’ve got mood swinging, vigorous and hard-working year ahead”. The mood swinging is a given and so I’m working out on the other two angles.

It’s time to tell everybody what I really think.

x Diana