Time Lord Continuum

I blame the writer in me for my obsessive tendencies. It has manifested itself now in a return to my childhood days, hiding behind a settee.

There’s nothing unusual about that. Thousands of other young boys in Britain were doing the same thing. It was like a collective behind-the-sofa club. Or to make it a bit more cultish; we were ready acolytes, fresh and bright, solemn in the face of the early seventies, on bended knees behind old and sometimes new upholstery, anxious for the iconic silver wormhole to undulate on the BBC.

Yes, I’m talking about Dr. Who, the Time Lord of Gallifrey.

The eerie, siren-call of the theme music still haunts me today as I remember it and the mesmerizing vortex of silver sucking me out of my parochial life and spinning me into another dimension that wasn’t puberty, that wasn’t Wales — that was everything and nothing.

My favourite doctor is the fourth: Tom Baker. Maybe I’m predisposed to like him the same way I am inclined to favor tea over coffee: it’s cultural, environmental, and fate. I was an inquisitive young boy passing into my troubled teens between the years of 1974 and 1981, Tom Baker’s reign, and so it was inevitable that the fourth doctor be the one I identified with. Plus he was all there was. Sure, three other doctors had come before, but who were they compared to the new leader of my intergalactic travels? Also there was no Web back then, no Netflix or YouTube to download past series. (And I didn’t have my own Tardis to travel forward in time!) You were either an Argonaut of Tom Baker’s Dr. Who, or you were not. There was no existential question about it. This was true and pure Darwinism at work: survival of the fittest, and Tom Baker had won.

In fact, he is the longest serving Dr. Who. Nobody since or after can put a sonic screwdriver to his longevity. The reason he was so popular? I have my theories.

Wit, to start with. He could toss about bon mots like Oscar Wilde. In fact, his long scarf, his waistcoat, his tweed and cord jackets, his floppy hat, just about all his sartorial decisions (besides being influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec’s poster of Aristide Bruant, or so the story goes) speak directly to the Irish rake of poetry and plays.

And then there’s his mischievous smile, bordering somewhere between bedlam and trickster. I always wondered if the Dr. was mad — he was certainly unbalanced — but who wouldn’t be a bit psychotic travelling back and forth in time through distant galaxies facing monsters and other mortal perils? I imagined it was the Dr.’s defense mechanism, his wit, his dry humour. At least I could relate to that. Wit and humour have always helped me out of dicey situations that may not have been life-threatening, but were very real to a person who has had a hard time trying to fit in.

And who can forget his famous jelly beans? What a prop! They were almost like those magical beans that Jack receives — there was definitely a fairy tale element to them. They way he’d pop them out of his jacket in their crumpled bag and offer them with an impish grin. It was dangerous, even, like an old man offering kids sweets, so this Time Lord was offering humanity some sweet morsel. But of what? Were they just jelly beans, or were they something more? I’ll never know. And I like that. The truth is hidden behind the Dr.’s rakish smile.

He could be irascible and peevish, too. A contrary thinker. The German philosopher Kant comes to mind. The Dr.’s idealism, his synthesis of empiricism and rationalism. Why, the Dr. even has a “categorical imperative” in every series! He’s always consciously aware of his actions and those of his companions. He’s striving for the good, but he sees the inherent flaws, the human motives, the moral ambiguities that cloud our reason and confuse our obligations to the self and the world. Maybe that’s why the Dr. is always taking off again in the Tardis; he knows that morality is always on the move, travelling through time and space, and the best we can do as mortals, and as Time Lords, is to chase after it, ambiguities, truths, and all.

I’m not a religious man. I don’t believe in a saviour who died for me or the idea of life everlasting cooped up in heaven with a bunch of philistine angels preaching on about the harmony of light. Light is duality, quantum physics has proved that light can be both a particle and wave. Life is duality. So why can’t death be, too?

So there’ll be no heaven for me. On the other hand, I’d be more than happy for my departed spirit to spend some nebulous time in the Tardis, travelling nowhere, everywhere, trusting to the Dr. to fix and unfix a point in time.

Of course, he’d have to be Tom Baker!


Rebel Daffodil

It’s that time of the year when I recite Auntie Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud.” I normally recite it as I walk.

When all at once I saw a single one. A daffodil that is. Not a solitary poet out for a walking tour of the Lake District. Which would be hard to do in midcoast Maine.

No, this was a singular daffodil. None of its host around.

How did it get to be alone, I wondered? Did it one night, under a full moon, decide to pull up its bulb, and shuffle away from the drowsy mob with their yellow heads stuck in a circle of despondency?

Yes, I like to think it did. Roaming around in the dark, its bright yellow head lighting its way. Until, trumpet call, it finds a lonely spot, not another daffodil around for miles. Not even a little shimmer of bright yellow to disturb it. Alone. Singular. A flower unto itself. Defined by nothing except its own yellowness. Just it and the great fiery orb in the sky.

Maybe that’s why it was so jocular when I passed it. Giddy in the breeze. Happy to be alone.

I can’t say the same thing for its band of yellow brothers, dripping yellow stains of melancholy, hanging their heads in mild sufferance to the lost daffodil.

Virginia Woolf: “All my facts about lighthouses are wrong.”

“Life is a great surprise. I don’t see why death should not be an even greater one.” Vladimir Nabokov.

Yes, I’m a Magpie!

As a writer, I collect all kinds of literary things, write them down in my Moleskine: quotes, passages from books, writers’ biographical info, lines from poetry, overheard conversations, gossip, unusual words, quips, bon mots, recipes, story ideas, and any other interesting material, everything from quantum physics to the mating habits of termites to a dead philosopher’s craving for cheese.

My rattlebag is so big now, I’d need a couple pachyderms to haul it, if I move.

Who was it that said that an education is just another way to show one’s ignorance? With everything I have hoarded, I’d say I’m still about as ignorant as any other agnostic around.

Sometimes, though, I do wonder why I do it, save all this material. But I always answer: it’s part of the job, the way a tattoo artist likes to ink many skins, so I like to ingest many words. I don’t care how they come to me. I just want them to come. So I take notes upon notes upon notes, gathering shiny things like a magpie. And I may not use any of it, but that’s not the point. The act of writing other people’s words down gets the molecules of this particular writer going. You could say I’ve gone viral. Although maybe all I’m doing is attaching my DNA to other DNA to create a helix of the self as a writer.

I read recently that researchers say the Sun has been awakening after a period of several years of low activity. How interesting. Does that mean the amenable H-bomb we are revolving around is gearing up to change from its yellow dwarf to red giant phase? That should make things interesting around here.

Vestigial Prejudices and Pieties

I like Easter. It’s got all the fantastic elements of a Gothic tale: the Nosferatu Christ risen from the tomb to feast on the soul of humanity.

We had choc eggs and a new little gray kitten at our place. So that makes 3 cats in my house now!

I love cats. There’s this wonderful poem by the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz in his Road-Side Dog collection where he speaks about the sensuality of cats. And cats are sensual. Lounging and weaving in and out between your legs. And when they sleep, they roll and narrow their eyes to a sultry pout.

I have found that yard work soothes the soul. I cleaned up our backyard yesterday evening. It was so glorious out. But I can’t believe there are weeds already! It amazes me to see green shoots and new life, I always think, how the hell can plants and flowers (especially flowers, the dandies of the natural world) survive winter? But they do.

And I got to see a barred owl up close and personal. Our neighbour works as a wild animal rescuer and she had this barred owl in a cage in her trunk. It had been hit by a car this winter and was blind in one eye. Very cool bird. I want one for my shoulder. Actually, I like those tiny saw-whet owls. I need a familiar.

Ah, the wonders of living in Maine. Wildlife abounds.

“I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child.” Vladimir Nabokov

Bad Boys Abdicate OK

We just had hail here in Maine. Little icy balls bouncing off the bare trees and smacking against the window. If I was a born-again American, I might think it announced the end of spring. But I’m Welsh, and only superstitious about the English.

You know, I wish people would write this about me: “Too ambitious, too sexual, too divorced, too pro-German, and too American.”

Just between you and me, I liked the “American harlot” Wallis Simpson. She shook up the fusty monarchy and made a snuffling king into a man. And whatever can be said about the Duke of Windsor, I admire him for giving up his royal duties all for the love of a woman. Now that’s Eros. Shame about the Hitler thing, though. They would have been better off dining with Goering and his dead stags!

What’s all this interest suddenly in the philistine English monarchy? Must be that movie about the stuttering Bertie and now the upcoming matrimony of Prince William and Kate (who sound a bit like TV characters from an episode of All Creatures Great and Small).

Feast or Famine

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but what is it about writing? Some nights I can pound out around 2,000 to 2,5000 words as if I was on a treadmill. Other nights I can just about handle 500 words — like I’m waiting for a bus and it turns out to be a small thimble on wheels.

Is it environmental, pathological, behavioral, or plain laziness?

Why the sudden word swings? You’d think that if you can get a week-long of 1,500 words, it would keep going, the way you are able to get up at 7:30 after doing it for so long. But no. Suddenly it’s like rubbing up against a porcupine just typing 500 words. And I can feel the night tightening its silence, hear the clock ticking even though its modern and not one of those old grandfather ones. And it would be so easy to close out of the Word document, put my feet up, and download a Netflix movie.

But I don’t. I squirm in my seat, drink my tea, dunk my biscuit, and plod along.

“Faulkner said that the only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself, and I agree with that. But I think you can have the human heart in conflict with itself in a fantasy, in a mystery, in a romance novel — I don’t think the genre matters.” George RR Martin

Kith & Kin

Today I answered a burning literary question: Who, if I could, would I choose to be my literary parents. You know, the ones who would really fuck you up like Larkin intended.

And the answer is: Dylan Thomas and Angela Carter. Yes, I’d be more than happy to be the scion of these two progenitors of fantastical language.

But will they have me? Maybe they have enough offspring?

If I wasn’t such a pagan, I might be be persuaded to turn these two into my gods, with me sitting on their knees as the chosen son, but no the dutiful one.

And who would I pick as siblings? Or would I be the lone child crying in the dark for Carter’s dark nipple and Dylan’s sozzled finger to suck.

And what I’d give to fall asleep listening to old Captain Cat’s sweet and confusing lyrical voice. Or Fevvers with her Thames-soaked argot, a common angel with a gigantic heart.

Imagine supper time with them! Dylan admonishing: “Do not go gentle with that liver and onions, boyo.” Angela more sinister with: “Eat it up, or I’ll eat you up!”

And what fabulous morning we’d have, lying in late, Dylan snoring after another night of women, writing, and Wales. Angela snuggled up in her wolf pelt, scribbling with a claw soaked  in blood.

And summer outings! The stuff of legends and myths. Dylan buried in the Llareggub sands, spitting out bits of fern hill, singing lewd songs to Myfanwy Price, and riding a donkey with the host of the French Symbolists riding behind him as he charged the waves like a Celtic bard. Angela would be lounging under her huge gothic umbrella, chewing on a unicorn leg,  sipping her bloody Virgin Mary,  her bucket and spade deep in the ribcage of an old Lothario with a hunger for virgin flesh, and gently pulling the nails from Christ and placing them at the feet of the new Eve, her red cape like a pool of blood around her.