Show me round your fruit cage

I like hairdressers.

The smell of gin. The stray hair net that gets me all hot and bothered. The surround mirrors reflecting the back of my head into infinity. The black aprons that catch the nipped hairs and dandruff. The basins to rest your head while your scalp gets scorched by the chatty snipper. The gang of sexy, trendy hairdressers who look at you when you walk in as if you were yokel from a bygone century. The lederhosen on the men. The mounds of hair on the floor like a sexually fantasy gone awry. The ilk and milky shampoo and conditioner that leaves you with an axe to grind. The short-skirt wearing hairdresser who continually bends over to pick up your locks and asks in a seductive voice: “Did I cut off too much?”

Barbers are for men who fear the touch of a woman. It’s the homo-erotic equivalent of the Roman baths but without the marble busts.

I don’t need to be trimmed by a man. They, men, do enough truncating as it is to the locks of my creativity without shearing my head, too.

Here’s a quick “True or False” quiz:

1. Did one of the Queen’s corgis dig up a lost page of the Magna Carta and sell it at Sotheby’s?

2. Did Johnny Cash have an affair with a hybrid rose?

3. Did Margaret Thatcher ever call Denis the “leader of the opposition”?

4. Did Nixon wear a bridal gown at his impeachment because it brought out his fuzz?

5. Did John Lennon bugger Ringo over a misunderstanding about aphids?

6. Did Marilyn Monroe date Tintin?

7. Did Batman ever smell like guano?

8. Did Genghis Khan ever hit the tax man?

9. Did the Duke of Warwickshire ever leave his county?

10. Do marines tie posies to their peckers because it keeps them awake on dangerous missions?

And here’s a list of relatives who had  subscriptions to The Social Doctrines of Marxism and his Mother’s Faint Praise.

Uncle Willy “Cloister” Monadnock. His idea of a good weekend was his backside in a wicker chair watching the next door neighbor burying her next victim.

And then there was Aunt Molly “Minty” Finch. Her idea of a good weekend was lying in a bed of mint with her pussy.

And Uncle Monty. His idea of fun was peeping through the cans of baked beans to get a look at the discounted items.

And Aunty Maud. Her idea of fun was poking my uncle with a stick of rhubarb to find out if liked tarts or decent women.

And Uncle Llewellyn whose idea of fun was ignoring my aunt when she would scream, “Llewellyn, you dopey bugger, your trousers are on fire!” When I visited him in the hospital, which I always did, he would wink at me and say, “See, boy, this is the way to get good food and be pampered by women.”

And Uncle Romulus. His idea of a good weekend was me locked in his coal bunker.


The old roué

I sometimes think that if there is a Hell, it’s a high-class nightclub to which entry is reserved for Catholics.

Graham Greene thought that there was “something distingue in being damned.”  And Waugh liked the “cooly cinematic quality of his style.”

I’m still confused as to whether a roquelaure looks good with knee-high socks.

Bluebottle Blues

“Bluebottle Blues in the Time of Big Loss.”

I feel like shit —

I’ve got the bluebottle blues.

Been down so long
It’s like losing a song —

I’ve got the bluebottle blues.

Hear it buzzing, that incandescent feeling of woe
tear off its wings and it still crawls on its toes.

I’ve got that bluebottle blues.

Drinking won’t bring me honey
when I’m tuned out of money

Static and bliss, oh, won’t it leave me alone
that bluebottle blues and its metallic drone.

I’ve got the bluebottle blues.

Hey, I’ve got the bluebottle blues.

That incandescent bluebottle feeling of woe.

Only fools and horses

Sometimes the adamantine drive to always explain and have opinions and swerve this way and that on life’s road creates a heaviness.

I just want to live, dazzle between the forces of coming and going. And exploit every atom not as an idea but because I can’t help but do so. Live in the moment not as a singularity but as a wholeness, not as a geometry of this or that but as a circle of deep connecting.

It’s like we are all fragmented and need cohesion but cohesion can only come about because of fragmentation. That’s where I want to live. Every second that ticks by blood is rushing inside of me to keep me alive and yet I can’t even live up to the blood’s call. Half my body is tingling with expectation and the other half is wondering what’s all the tingling about. I’m aware but only up to a point because the rest of me is lagging behind and the gap’s wide and the senses seem to hesitate.

It’s like I want to snap out of the stupor but there’s a sudden jolt of consciousness that refuses.

I think what I need is to take a long walk and a hot bath. I have a case of Samuel Beckett’s forlorn bucket.

And I believe in salvation. But not as a catechism or  creed or through the crucifixion of a man (what a terrible way to find salvation,  on the blood and torture of another man). We have to save ourselves.

Devil in the details

I’ve always liked satirists. It’s the reductio ad absurdum I like.

The days of realism are fading. What is it, anyway, and who’s creating it? Realism is about as alive as a dead dog is to the living one.

There’s no definitive reality. All you have to do is consider the atomic level to see that life is anything but what we are told it is. If anything, it’s a hell of a lot more and the majority of that is still unknown.

So don’t, I say to the realists, point me in the direction of understanding when you are standing on shaky ground, mate. Reality is useful. That’s all.

I am a man before a shifting door with a shifting handle.

Novalis wrote that “every man is potentially a hero and a genius, but inertia keeps him mediocre.”

I know that inertia and want to be rid of it. I know how to shape a sentence, well sometimes, and how to delay a key piece of information, introduce a quirky adjective, hold the necessary verb until last. Fitting in the requisite facts is a professional skill. But giving the whole thing form, elegance, wit, and surprise, that’s an art.

And that’s what I want in my life. To live more abundantly.

The Fissiparous Celt

So I’m reading Jan Morris’ Matter of Wales. Morris is a great writer. She captures the landscape of Wales so well, with all the stunted sessile oaks; the rivers with their ancient names; the skimble-skamble sheep sheltering in wet, dark caves; cobs and ponies and the dark pit frames lowering cage-loads of miners into the unforgiving earth; the hard, grey, bare and stony hills where stones wreak havoc; the smell of turf, bracken, water, and wind; the picaresque Owain Glyndwr and his wild and romantic resentment of the English who wanted to take away his land while he was a simple farmer and that made him a national hero; and those skeptical Saxon eyes half amused, half annoyed.

I’m tempted to write my own book about Wales. Go back and travel its 130 miles from tip to tip on a Welsh cob, following in the footsteps of Glyndwr, Dylan Thomas, and Myrddin. Create some kind of historical suggestion and modern disillusionment and contemporary fable. Reenact history with fiction and myth with living stories and legend with a contemporary voice. I can see myself doing this as an older man. My last journey, perhaps, before I settle down, or my last book before the great ending.

Truth is, I’m slowly trying to build up my connection to Wales again. It was severed when I left and the only way I know how to connect it again is through imagination and stories. That’s the bridge for me.

It’s because I feel like an outsider that I force myself to re-imagine my home, make it speak to me in new ways while listening to the old forked tongue of nostalgia.

But the connection is there, at least. Just needs weeding. The longing that I feel for Wales is transformed into a story I want to tell about it. Reinvent the past, I guess. But it does help me that I have this strong relationship to the landscape of Wales, to its trees and rivers and rain and bracken and ponies and mines and literature and song, that land of milk and salmon (some of the best salmon fishing is known to be had in Wales).

And it all infused me as a boy just wandering the small green copse behind my house. I didn’t need to go far. The epic quality of Wales with all its legends and myths was right out my back door and a heartbeat away. I stayed there as long as I could until my mum would call me in and even then I’d prolong it and eventually succumb to her call and wander in under the threading silence of bats and the coming of night up out of the ground as if Lord of Annwn had arisen.

America is just too big. One of the things Morris talks about in the book is the immediacy of connection that Wales offers because it is so small a country, nothing is too big or too far, all its history, myth, and folklore, and literature are contained in this small landscape and yet they can produce this epic Wales, too, this country of a dragon with forked tongue and raised claw. And the Welsh flag is considered the oldest flag there is since it can claim to be related to the Roman’s purple griffon.

Wales really is an old country, that’s why I feel like I have to work to keep my connection to it — there’s so much to fathom and be aware of. Living here in a relatively young country, I don’t feel the need to work so hard because its history dogs you still, it’s too close almost that it needs to rest, stay silent until it builds up more secrets.

I love to hear about people who harbor a connection to a country that is not the one they were born to.  I don’t think anyone needs to have a patriotism for the place of their birth, shackles like that cripple you and I believe all people long for the might-have-been.

We should be free to love what we will, whether it’s a place or a person or a leek.

I’m just lucky that the land where I was born is the land I have a deep feeling for. It does it for me, but I do need to keep the flame alight, though, so it’s not just a simple nostalgia or easy patriotism, I guess I’d call it a creative force, which is more to my liking and character.

And I do feel a connection to Maine because it’s the closest place I’ve found that reminds me of Wales and Ireland. It’s old, too, the land that is, looks it with its stones and gnarled trees and wildflowers and mist and bogs. And it’s been a refuge in many ways for me.

The end of the affair

This country has reached an all time low. Last night I was at the grocery store and the check-out fellow didn’t know what rhubarb is.

What kind of system denies a young man the pleasure of rhubarb and custard? Or rhubarb crumble, cobbler, pie?

Did he never have the opportunity to recline beneath the plant’s big leaves and fantasize about married life with a wife who cooks rhubarb in his own special ramekin?

Or nights of stems cleaned and diced and a bubbling goulash on the burner, the aroma thick and inviting and his wife desperately trying to seduce him to a sordid rendezvous on the family couch.

Or his private stash suddenly gone from the fridge and the kids conveniently at a friend’s house, his wife complaining of a headache.

Or his coveted patch of wild rhubarb where he would go and try to put to music Blake’s “Songs Of Innocence” but end up humming a few bars of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

Or  making a rudimentary shirt out of the leaves and being mistaken for a member of the Dock family.

Or tickling his wife with a French variety because he had read Anais Nin’s recipe for hot rhubarb sauce.

Or sneaking off to the shed at the bottom of the garden with cooking books that illustrated scandalous ways to cook rhubarb.

Or hiding luscious, full-spread photos of the plant in all its bright red glory behind a copy of the latest bestseller on the train to work.

Or tiptoeing down to his own cluster of rhubarb growing in the garden and tenderly stroking the stems under moonlight, whispering loving words to the plants and then talking dirty to the radish and carrots.

Or eating the bitter and tart young stems in the hopes of hallucinating and writing a fragmentary vision like Coleridge did with “Kubla Khan” after the poet had experimented with rhubarb peyote.

What kind of man is that young guy going to turn out to be?