Sunday, 27 February 2011


Slightly fed up. A little achievement today getting in touch with the woman who witnessed Tony's bus accident back in August. He doesn't even remember the month. It was August 26th. Amazing for all the things he does for his son, his son doesn't lift a bleeding finger to help him at all. So on with the case. The witness works in health and safety, so she is particularly interested in helping with her statement.
Sent something to Running Grass a few days ago. He should get it within the week.
Yesterday was enjoyable. We really got out of the neighborhood visiting Veronique. I suppose she lost it with her neighbor to the point of being taken away. Perhaps too much thiroxin. Everyone in the common area looked in limbo between sonic stare mode and pre-drool stage. Drugged up. Veronique was the only person who seemed to have her senses about her. I wonder how long it takes. She is either out on Thursday or in for a minimum of 28 days. Not completely sane as she has her habit of carrying her more importatn possessions in her rucksack when she leaves the house. I always thought that she had just been shopping, but when she explained that her neighbor would come in and change the alarm on her clock, I was alerted. Otherwise, she functions quite well and goes out four or five times a week to cultural events.

Ben can easily do eight or ten miles on the bike. We were out for eight hours. It wasn't perfect weather, but definitely a nice adventure. Now the rain has stopped, we may unplug the Spy who shagged me and get on with something better. Sometimes it is like having a huge barnacle on your foot trying to drag a six year old out of the house. A joy and a weight at the same time. At least lets get down to the river.

We did get down to the river. It was cold without my wool jacket underneath. Ben had gloves on this time. We saw some skateboarders and then went to two beaches to pick up some shells and pottery pieces. A man had carved a woman's face in the sand. We chatted with him. Ben told him about Veronique. We had a healthy discussion about it. Had to laugh a bit about it. But I know Veronique's laughing too. We ran into Chris and Carlos on our way back on the bridge. Who are these nutters out at night? Loving the fridge. Now everything is falling back into place. Took a while. My eyesight is going. I changed screens and it helped for a while, but it's back again. fuzzyness and hard to focus. Worrying. 

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Serious Microphones

She rang. He knew it was her as she was the only one who knew he was there. He intuited there would be something wrong. It mattered not how many stars the hotel had. She was always the bigger star. "How's the room?" She liked it when things were wrong as he would fix them and in fixing that road to perfection, he was showing her loyalty. And that is all she wanted. Loyalty. It was the umbrella term for groveling obedience, unnecessary ass kissing, hand and foot subservience. She would stand with her heels puncturing their boat and he would run with putty and buckets bailing and patching at the same time. Everything had to be perfect. Even if  it was already perfect, it had to be more perfect until it was purrrrrfect. Purely for effect.

Perhaps the light fixture would have a fly in it. She could hear the honeymooning couple next door. Perhaps there would be too much paint on the door for her liking. The window wouldn't open. Perhaps the mini-bar would be too loud. Her hotel room number would be unlucky. It reminded her of her ex-boyfriend as it was the last three digits of his phone number. She sat in her first class seat thinking up problems for him to attend to once they arrived in New York. They had two or three gigs a night lined up for the next week. Everything from Manhattan to dinner clubs in New Jersey. She was feeling energetic. She'd demand that they change hotels, but just to be nice, she'd do it right away so as not to wake him from his sleep.

She tapped the microphone. She did what she always does....sing too low on the sound check. They'd tune it and then, when she went live, it would be Loud. Loud is what she wanted.

Where is everyone? This is a sold out show. Where are they?
The die hards were already ramming the barrier, but the friends of friends were still getting their drinks.
Well I'm not going on until they sit in their seats. Make an announcement.
It's not a classroom. They'll come once you start singing.
I'm not singing til they sit down and listen.

Backing tracks were always insurance against her whims and temper.
Where's the piano player?
Oh. He's not coming.
Yeah. He's not coming back.

A six thousand pound microphone. Sony spent five million pounds developing it; better than the Y 45 from 1945. There are microphones specifically for voice. And some better for instruments. And there are people who are so devoted to their favorite singers, that they are willing to show up and dust the microphone in a maid's outfit.

We'll let you dust the microphone and clean the loo in the studio, but you have to be dressed.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Humpty Dumpster

His shell was swept up
the crack of his grin
broccoli and tea bags
the compost bin

All the good causes
and all the king's men
couldn't make Humpty
a lover or friend

Tuppence was found
on the way up the hill
and dropped in the bucket
of Jack and his Jill

Fetching the water
and feeding the swine
filling her apron
with Mother Goose thyme

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Leading Lady of the Night

Continuation of Vera Sunkissed-Virgin Spinster)

He was slightly aroused by the thought of seeing her again. It had been years since he'd heard her voice...softer now. They spoke only through their daughter. He referred to her as his ex-wife but, they were, in actual fact, still married. Neither one of them had had the energy or patience for a divorce. It was just paperwork.

"I'm coming over for a funeral. I'll be in town." She paused waiting for a "well, why don't you drop by?" or an "Oh."

He wasn't going as it was the guy she'd left him for....the hotel doorman. Such  a small part. He would have felt better if she'd have gone off with the leading man. They'd had a few scenes on a closed set. It would have been the natural conclusion, but it wasn't. It was the guy one step up from an extra with the girl one step up from an escort. That irked him. He hadn't pulled her from the usual casting call.

He was the director. He'd written it too...for her. Leading Lady of the Night working title. He changed it to Honeymoon later and dropped a few nude scenes. They were her forte, but he made it into a proper story, plot and all.

There was room service. Sunlight pierced the curtains. He lifted her and placed her on the mantle. The curtains fell like a wedding veil over her face and rose up her torso as he pulled her from the window back to bed. A light brunch before departing from a long week in Paris. "Pasta?" he asked. "What is pasta without the sauce?" she gendered. They'd gone over the scene many times over dinner, in the kitchen, in bed. There were just a few lines. The rest was blocking and choreography.

He wrote it into the film as it had happened. Their most private sacred moment. He didn't cast himself as the leading man. Perhaps that was the mistake. They'd both had affairs by the time it went into post production. They had an unspoken quota of offstage rehearsals that were allowed. But the scene with the doorman lasted too long. A fly on his arm he should have taken more seriously. Sometimes, you watch a fly, but you don't swat it because you don't want to spill your martini. You think it'll be gone by the time you put your glass down. He could have killed that fly. He should have zapped it.

"Are you there?"
"Yeah. I had a fly on my arm. Trying to kill it."
"Can't kill a fly and talk at the same time hey?"
"Not this one. It's a big one. Maybe you should drop by with some pesticide."
"I don't know if it's allowed on the plane, but I'll try."

She was born in Manhattan and raised in L.A. Her family had flown back and forth until they finally moved there. She had the mental rythyms of a New Yorker ready for a debate and the saunter of a beach bum in search of a wave. Fishermen lived next door. In San Pedro, having a group of long shore men as neighbors is statistically high. As her parents spent their lives glued to computers, she liked to say that she was raised by fishermen. It always got a laugh.

They'd often barbecue their catch over an oil drum. Better than a Webber grill. The smoke wafted over like an invitation. The R-rated banter was more stimulating than the talk at home. She knew more about fishing than she did about her parents and their computers. They talked in updates. In fact, she didn't even know what they did. They could be lawyers, journalists, or eco-planners. They never talked about work and she never talked about school. In fact, she remembered few conversations: the most memorable one being the one about them separating.

So here they were on speaking terms again. He hung up the phone and looked around. Even the spines of the books were dusty. He picked up the potted palm by its leaves; a dry cylinder of earth caked around the roots clung on like a rotting mousse. He took it immediately outside. He had three days. He'd hire a cleaner. He patted his stomach. Nothing he could do about that. It had been a long time since he'd given the mirror more than a passing glance. It needed dusting too.

There were plenty of people at the funeral- a few familiar industry faces. Some she knew from magazines and some she'd worked with. Everyone looked older, but not grayer. The producers had become rotund and their handshakes firmer. The actors remained puppet-like and gaunt still smelling of the grease from their day jobs. It was easy to see who worked behind the camera and who worked in front of it. The women had stuck to their regimes of pricey eye cream, light lunches and exercise. The ones who hadn't had obviously moved on to more stable careers and families.

The scent of lilies floated to the organ music as people filed in. The sermon was a brief everyman eulogy designed for those whose loved ones were either too grief stricken to put words together or just not bothered. His family had never approved of his career in film and theatre. Their disapproval only hindered his belief in himself as he served up platters of pasta in between roles. His agent had billed him as an everyman type character--a perfect background to a drama, comedy, or period piece. His life was a series of small parts.

Only a small part of her listened to the sermon. She was playing the entrance of their reunion in her mind. He'd booked a table at their favorite restaurant. That was fatal in itself. The funeral was the perfect excuse to meet him again. There was still no paperwork to discuss. He had paid all of Vera's college fees without her asking. Whatever winds had blown them apart had now died down to a gentle lull lulling her back to her husband. Unscripted.

They met at The Ivy. He could get a table without a reservation back in the day. "There's nothing for the next two weeks I'm afraid." He tried dropping a few names. Luckily, not all the staff had changed since then. Someone stopped him. "You don't have to do that. You still want the table by the window in the corner?" The trainee was ushered out of the way. "The wine list has changed." He smiled. He was still important enough.

He was sitting down with a glass of red and the bottle already chosen. He didn't stand on ceremony, but he stand to greet her and fell into an embrace at a distance usually reserved for a handshake. She smelled of the same perfume. He quelled a reflex to tap his wristwatch and wink, but then so much time had passed, twenty minutes was not a point to debate. They both sighed and a smile crept over them as they sat in silence reading the menus. It was a peaceful hushed hello.

Mmm. The noises they made while making love or eating were the same. Their shoes touched under the table. It was a tight space. Then their knees. It was a quiet truce. It had been a long intermission.

Vera Sunkissed-Virgin Spinster

Vera Sunkissed was a light-hearted girl. "Vera" was a bit old-fashioned, but "Sunkissed" made up for it.

"Hey Vera--we're you born in your grandma's closet? Vera....any relation to Laverne or The Fonz? Vera... where's the beehive? You gotta get some kitty cat glasses."

She became more "Vera" every day. She had flashes of herself dropping a dime in the duke box on Friday night with Fonzi. She really did have retro fifties kitty cat glasses and she did have a frugal but fabulous fashion sense putting odd polk-a-dot finds together from thrift stores with the pocket money from her paper round and her father's secret irregular deposits. She wondered about him as she tied up her hair. "Mirror time," as her mother called it, "will only make you later than you already are. It's not a disco. It's high school. Get going."

Wilma rang the bell to help remind her of the time. They'd walk together silently jumping in snow banks or dodging dog turds depending on the season. "Watch out for that one." Wilma and Vera exchanged glances and everything else but clothes. They had shared pencils since third grade. The V's and the W's were always close on the seating chart. So were the S's and T's. Wilma Tedworth was her best friend by default and rota.

They shared English, Algebra 3 Trig, and World History with Miss Busey. Miss Busey had been called many things; Toto Killer, Virgin Spinster, and Twin sister of the Wicked Witch of the West. Her profile was something out of a Toulouse Lautrec painting. She was a tiny lady held together by plaid wool suits with a crooked nose and a crackling tweak of  a voice. She did a cabaret shuffle with her pointer stick in her upscale librarian attire circling the continents while waiting for an answer..."and the Nile is...?" Egypt did not matter melting in the heat of a June afternoon with half the class smelling of P. E. "Pointless dude. The Nile is pointless." A low belly rumble came from the back of the class. No ever heckled Miss Busey.

Wilma was never teased about her name which was more archaic than the Pharoahs. She was so totally geeky that people didn't bother her whereas Vera was borderline. Trendy or weird? The line was hard to decipher. It was a point of discussion amongst the popular crowd. She didn't mind the ribbing as it was so far from the real reason she was named Vera. If they knew that, she'd just about have to leave town. She'd had to go live with her dad or something.

He lived in an old stone mansion with two floors and an attic that could count as a third. He lived in a quiet suburb at the end of street that lead to the rail station connecting the locals to the city. It was the busiest street at rush hour and the quietest street at all other times. He only had to open his door and pick up the paper if he felt the need for a wave or hello. If he was feeling anti-social, he'd wait for them to pass. The news could wait.

He lived an extravagent but minimal existence. There were only a few things he liked. He survived on a diet of Patisserie Valerie cakes and coke. Patisserie Valerie did not deliver, so he enlisted a currier service to drive from Soho to Surrey with a variety of cakes which he nibbled on all day in between lines. His guests would salivate as they sat at the table pitching a film script or going over the details of a recording contract. It was a game of his not to be the perfect host. How long would it take them to drop a hint? It was a fine indicator of their pain/pleasure threshold.

It told him a lot about how hungry they were for his support in their venture. Some guests said nothing. Others helped themselves while he went to the kitchen to make the tea. A sticky fingered handshake at the end of the meeting....a few tell tale flakes of puff pastry on a lapel. It didn't matter really. He had made his millions. The cakes were part of the furniture. The furniture was dusty. It was fine dust like powdered sugar or cocaine. 

Friday, 18 February 2011

Devotion to Motion

Devotion to motion
Clean as the salt in the ocean

South Sea Skate Park
Drink Orally. Think Globally.
Manual, Endo, Whiplash, Tail Whip
I tattooed his name on my arm.
That ain't nothin'
I tattooed his name on my....
On your what? Ooh. Out of space.
Topless Housecleaning
Playboy Bunny Hop
Nose Pick, Nose Plant
Deffo Dude
Wooty Woot Woot
Chad De Groot
Sunny Day 4 sick moves and a
Turbine Peg wheelie to
Reverse Sunwheel
Mark Webb recipe:
60% tats, 20% skin, 5% lager, 3% Missing parts, 22% Lucky lady bird
Salted Monkey Gonads
Effraim Catlow Jungle Rider Frames

Stripey cup design

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Taco Jesus

A mile south of Division and too far west to be in danger of gentrification anytime soon, but look at the space. So much space- a kitchen, a pantry with shelving on three sides and an odd statue of Mary set into the back wall, a living room--lots of light, another room--covered over fireplace--knock knock chipboard...some cheap white paint brushed over the moulding, two rooms with doors--both with no windows and the back room seeming like the setting for a blood spattered horror scene or the waiting room for Hell. It just had that vibe. She could use it as a walk-in closet.

Quirky alcoves. Steepled door frames. The possibility for charm. There was even a back porch looking out onto some cracked tarmac and the communal bin. Scenic. Three hundred fifty dollars a month, A little dangerous at night, but you have a car. Some gangs around here, but they have their own agenda. "Worth it," she thought. Some trade offs, but worth it. A bedroom and the rest--a painting studio. Art supplies in the pantry.

She caught the little clawed footsteps of a giant mouse out of the corner of her eye. It was huge- about the size of a cat or a rabbit. It waddled like a platypus.  It must have come from Alice in Wonderland. No trap would be big enough. No amount of cheese would stop it. 

She had painted and cleaned and done everything to make it more appealing, but it never was. It was a huge place, but cold. An old disused church on Huron that smelled of tacos. The pews had been taken out and it had been divided into four apartments. The architect had not been using a ruler. That was obvious from the way the floor slanted. 

Ten Mexicans lived across the hall in the same amount of space. She always nodded to them. There was always someone coming or going. Never the same face. She estimated ten, but was not sure of the official number. She pulled the shade down on the back window very slowly. It had been cracked by robbers. She taped it. She wanted her security deposit back. There had been nothing much to steal. They had tried to move the tv, but left empty handed. The cricketing of an old motor. He was here, the landlord, an alligator trained to smile.

Conversation on a train between strangers, pictures shared from a wallet-the sequence from age two to age nine. She couldn't bring herself to care about the progression of this child she'd never met, but the woman took great pleasure in showing them to her. It didn't matter. It would be her stop soon. 

She wore a bangle of tape around her wrist. She had the box taped up so tightly as if it had been in casualty. So glad to be moving. One more look at the Sears sign that lit up part of the street until nine. After that, there were no street lights. No need for them. No one would ever be a pedestrian in these parts after dark. Only once she had seen someone with a groggy limp holding his arm as he ran from the police. 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Still working on the invention that sucks the energy out of the child and pumps it back into the parent. This happens during sleep while the child is relatively immobile.

Also in need of a remote control. Press Return and toys magically return to the toy box. The deluxe version sorts lego, cars, puzzle pieces and action men into respective containers. Automatically deletes lost arms, limbs, and tyres. Odd sock finder is a bonus gift. Press Escape and your child magically disappears for a few hours so that you can have a cup of tea and get your brain back. Press Bookmark and the child automatically acts like the model child mentioned in so many manuals littering the bookshelf and spilling into the teddy bin. Press Undo and all the things your child has broken in the past week are instantly mended-the crack in the computer screen seals up, the necklace he cut up to make earrings comes back together, and letter with the important phone number is once again legible.  Press Enable and the child puts on his socks and shoes ready to walk out the door. Press Unhappy and your child will enjoy something other than a Happy Meal. Press I wouldn't press reverse. I wouldn't reverse a thing.

Another button, press Date and you are instantly transported to an evening out.
A perfectly matched date appears with flowers and a plan ready for a pleasant evening of conversation in a quiet restaurant.
Press Holiday and you are instantly transported to a sunny place by the sea with palm trees and topless sunbathers. You are having a picnic on the beach in the late afternoon and talking with strangers who are miles from home. Everyone is enjoying this moment of freedom watching the kids play with their buckets and spades, making instant friendships, and sharing icecreams. 

Korean Western

A Western in the East. The first week, you follow the rules. The second week, you realize there are none. Bullets come out of nowhere. The third week, you make your own. You get a gun. And the fourth week, you break them before they break you.

Cowboy schools: the name given to many privately run English establishments who handle teachers badly. They might break contracts, with hold pay, ration xeroxing, not have the appropriate books...They might fly someone thousands of miles to work for them and then, after a few weeks, decide they over hired. They might leave you high and dry.

Why? "No blue eyes. No freckles. Only round eyes. " The children were disappointed. Their round eye didn't have the full costume. The clown in the wrong makeup. "I'm sure you're good at teaching English, but you don't look the part. We need our teachers to look more more 'native speaker'. Our students are not happy." So refreshingly honest. A simple supply and demand problem.

Just that morning we had been laughing enjoying a lesson about animals and food. A cow becomes a steak or hamburger. A pig becomes bacon or ham. A chicken stays a chicken. A lamb remains a lamb. "What does a dog become?" asked one child. "A dog is always a dog," I said. "We don't have a food term for dogs."

Guerilla lessons: the name given to small unofficial gatherings of housewives or their children in changing locations...meetings in the name of learning English without the overhead of private schools.

Love Hotels: Hotels that rent rooms by the hour usually denoted by a heart on the sign--flashing neon for slightly upscale and a plain painted heart for the budget conscious. Conveniently discreet red and white curtain covers the parking lot sort of like a car wash. Can be rented for the whole night if things get serious.

The Love Hotel was convenient as it was a few blocks from the school. The man with the tiny pick up from the airport came again the next day to escort me to the school. It was not possible to get lost. After a few nights in the Love Hotel, I shared a flat with two Canadian men--teachers at the school. "You don't have your own flat yet?" asked one. "I think their still deciding," said the other. Decisions.

As three is a crowd, I had my own flat a brief while later. The room was spacious but bare apart from a standing closet with its peeling veneer atop an ondol floor. Typical of Korean homes, they ran pipes filled with water under the floor to heat the building. It required slippers at all times. A western toilet shared tight quarters with a shower. The shower was not separated in any way by a curtain or door. As Koreans are quite familar with squatting, they are not particular about the toilet seat getting wet. This is a Western pre-occupation. Things have probably changed since then. I hear they even have Starbucks now.

It was too hot to sleep directly on the floor, so I took my clothes out of my suitcase and made a mattress out of them. Bumpy it was, so I turned the closet sideways and slept on top of it to avoid burning up in the night. The bed was coming. It was a western the floor. Anything western took longer to arrive. Except teachers. Teachers flooded in from Canada, USA, and England. There were a lot of Canadians as they had highest unemployment rates amongst teachers in the late 90's.

As it was Korea, packaging was in Korean. Han guk mal. Though I was an English teacher, I was completely illiterate otherwise. A puppy in a washing basket. A fluffy white towel. Must be the detergent section. They borrowed a few words...."New and Improved" "Fabulous" "Best Brand". It wasn't fabulously helpful when trying to make out the difference between washing powder, floor cleaner, or fabric softener. Thank goodness for pictures.

I got it home and looked at the washing machine. Luckily, one knob with directions in Korean. I turned the dial. 8 sounds about right. Not too dirty. Not too clean. A neighbor looked on horrified for me as I poured something that was not detergent into the powder drawer. The first of many simple mishaps. It was fabric softener...not too far off.


San Francisco -Running Grass, Babushka Prokopoff 84 Champaign Ilya John 85 New York City t-shirts, Moma Sauna 86 London Paris-house painting Copenhagen-milk run Berlin Lisbon-Raphael Morocco 86-88 Champaign Sid Benoit Ralf Raphael Chicago 88-89 Mexico Guatemala 89 90 London Scotland London Motor Torpedo Boat, Taste Productions, Club Dog, The Fridge, Nosepaint Cafe 90-92 Chicago World Tattoo 93-96 SAIC, Lake Forest Academy

Asia Timeline: Feb 97 to 99: Pagoda, Japan Osaka, Chongno Sam Ga teacher hotel, pet dog, James Lee, Private girls school, Visa office, Pagoda, Man with cash, Palsan, Kimpo family, Hong Dae, Chung Hie Lee, Sejong, DMZ, Flash flood, rabbit, diplomatic plates, Cheju Do, Fukuoka, Ko Pi pi, Bangkok, Manilla, Jdakarta, Sumatra,  LG, Kia Motors, Yoido Dong, Honolulu. Lemon Road, Lawyer Sawyer, Rob Riski, Malenfant, Alison, Rock climber girl, Michael Christiansen, Marco Giorno, The Colonel, Queen Bee.

99-01 Amsterdam-Krakow-Napoli: Vomero Savario, Spaccannapoli Elisabeth, Vomero Doctor-paintings Detroit patron, Capri, Costa Esmeralda, Paestrum, Gallipoli, London
London: Old Kent Road, Maida Vale, Tottenham baker builder bouncer, Rivington Road, Hackney, Kings Cross, Drury Lane, Boswell.

Swaps-Rue De Monterguile x 2 Tristan (for two who wish to be one) , Turkey,  Marseille Rue De Refuge, Switzerland, Aosta,  Barcelona-jelly fish, Venice-Monastery, Wales-Laurgne car crash, Dublin Maynooth Kfir (walking), Poly Day, David Roser Girona+Kfir and Dina, Valencia volcano, Paris the tenth with bikes

Commerical Break

"Time for a commercial break."
He didn't let out the usual sigh as he'd seen this episode before. He already knew the ending, but it was worth a watch. It was an old movie with Hale Berry and George Clooney, the young cop....young enough not to be doing Gevalia coffee ads or owning a second home on Lago Di Como. Way before all that.

He got up to get another beer and heard the phone ring...."ahh...two birds with one stone." A beer and a phone call. He already knew who was calling. His life was as predictable as a rerun of Gilligan's Island. He trod on the can next to his foot. It got stuck and so he walked to the kitchen with a Budwiser shoe massaging the inside of his arch. He kicked it off and it scuttled across the lino next to the garbage bin. Close enough. He'd pick it up tomorrow...garbage day.

He cocked the phone between his shoulder and chin answering "ello" while snapping open another Bud. No use. She had heard it down the phone line. "You drinking before noon?"
"It's four o'clock."
"Noon--four o'clock...same thing."

It was Miss Arkansas. He called her Miss Arkansas. She had never been in a swimsuit line up, but she loved it. He had never been in a swim suit line up either despite his six-pack. He had been in other line ups though.
"What do you want? World Peace?"

No. She just wanted to chat and tell him how she'd just picked up a bed of plants from Walmart. She had enough for him too for his front yard. She was concerned about his front yard. It was not a gated community, but people did talk. A few odd flowers wouldn't go amiss. Hide the patch where his Harley had leaked oil and killed all the grass.  Hide the Harley? Probably not. He kept the Harley in the living room. Sometimes, it obscured the tv.

He had only moved it to watch the Miss USA Pageant. Miss Oklahoma was his favorite. She had picked the question..."Where would you like to live if you could live anywhere in the world?" She was caught.  To be diplomatic, she should say, "Oklahoma," and win all the votes from her small town, but she'd always hated it there. She wished she could have grown up in California. The state where people eat breakfast in swimsuits and are either on the way to the beach or coming back from the beach. That's how she saw it.

She answered truthfully and chose "a city near the sea." It was a nice compromise as she had not mentioned California and people could picture her on any coast they liked. She wondered where St. Tropez was. The MC had reeled off a few names of seaside resorts and towns. She chose St. Tropez as it was part of a jingle for tanning oil. In case it was a trick question, she knew it had to be on the sea. She sung the ad..."Bain De Soliel for the St. Tropez tan." With that, she scored points for geography and humor. "Miss USA would rather live in St. Tropez." were the headlines the next day next to the obituaries. It was her first commercial break.

He stared at the fridge magnet. It was a calendar from the local pizzeria holding up a snapshot of Miss Oklahoma from their high school days. She was the girl next door. She had moved several times since then. He thought he'd moved too...a little to the right, but he hadn't moved at all. His shirt was damp. "The beer must've slipped from his hand," said the coroner. "Looks like a steady diet of beer, cigarettes, and pizza." Miss Arkansas nodded. She had come over with the plants ready to cover up the bald patch in the front yard. 

Monday, 14 February 2011

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Clash Ology

The V format was really working for her. The desk ended in a V near the window. She could rest both her forearms on it. The screen was her window on the world. There was a crack in it just like any real window. And when she was tired of the world, she could look out the window at the block of flats across the street and count how many different colored doors there were or check the countdown on the BT many days until the 2012 Oympics.

She had spent years with the desk height at standing level so that her son would not pluck the rest of her keys off her laptop, drench the keyboard in window cleaner, or damage the only button on the tv. He liked the spray action. He liked the buttons that came off. Better than Lego.

Finally, it became a jumping off point. He'd climb up and jump off the counter. After the dislodging of a few teeth, John came and lowered it. A pity her favorite DIY man lived thousands of miles away. He arrived with drill bits and tubing in his suitcase. He was one of the few friends who took real pleasure in making her life more comfortable. He preferred hardware stores to museums. They did a lot of sight-seeing.

Kevin came sometimes too from up North....Walthamstow, not so far, but he had a child now which kept him busy. They had been close. "Jo, if either one of us find a partner, I  still want us to be friends....good friends. You're like my sister." The holiday had tested them. They had been to Barcelona together. It was always the first thing to do; dip your feet in the sea once you arrive. But no...He had to unpack his suitcase first. "We should really get in some provisions before the shops close. We don't know what time they open. We need milk for breakfast. We can see the sea tomorrow." She could not see the sea tomorrow. That was not her psychology.

She loved the sea. She had lived by the sea once in Naples. See Naples and die.
"I'm making a will."
"A will? Why?"
"Cos people die. Most people. Usually, they don't know anything about it. Someone just reminded me."
"Oh Jo. Look around first. I can get you a much better deal on a will. Let's make it together."

So the will monger never came by. She wanted John and Shilan to look after her child if anything happened. Her mother agreed. They were truly concerned. They lived in a city, and he was a city boy. "Do you like Rockford Ben? We could live here in a big house and drive a car instead of taking the bus. "
"It's alright, but there's nothing to do. There are no famous buildings. There are no banks. You can't get rich in a town with no banks." Ben had spoken.

Ben rode on Kevin's shoulders like a Maharaja on the way to the park. He'd come by on Wednesdays. They did family things on the weekends like visiting the Dr. Who exhibition.
"What are you doing in those shoes? You need walking shoes today. It's family day." Instant family day. He carried her son up a steep hill on the way to The Heath.
"No one ever did this for me when I was a kid," he'd say.
"Well put him down then." His over exertion seemed to be making up for something. You have to pace yourself when you have a child and spend the energy when its needed. Visiting a child is different.
"What would you like to do?"
"I'd like to go to the circus. That's the poster I was telling you about."
"You know, sometimes it feels like I have to pay admission to see you two."
They had shared a lot of  ice creams, but it spiraled into a sour sorbet. Admission? Did he know the price she paid? Perhaps he had been making up for his own childhood which was partially spent in foster care. He had never had a birthday party either.

There was a year or more of silence. His own daughter was over a year old now. He had not introduced his daughter to the woman whose son he had spent so much time with. It seemed lopsided. He had always  seemed a bit of a voyeur checking in on family life for the weekend then checking out when it was time to do laundry or clean the house. At least now he was getting the full experience. Somehow the stench of nappies had cleared the air. They were getting on better again.

Richard would come and read stories for Ben on the way to art openings. He sent out mass e-mails inviting hundreds of people to join in either for the free wine or to actually look at the long as they came. He'd bring a Marks and Spencers bag of treats and groceries. They'd have cups of tea and catch up on the news. Polite gossip. Richard never had a bad for anyone. He was articulate and just wanted everyone to get along and care about each other. People realised that once he died. He was sorely missed.

Certain parts of the city reminded her of Richard. Passing the Old Vic, she remembered a play they had seen and how Richard has said, "I had a long chat with him last week. Really nice guy. He puts everything into this theatre. He prefers it to Hollywood. True actor and down to earth. Perhaps we can chat with him again." Spacey was deep in conversation with a young actor. Richard surmised from a distance that this was not about the play. When they left, we moved to his table and sat in his chair which was still warm. "I have warmed my bum with the heat of Kevin Spacey's ass." We exchanged a few words as you do when you're taking someone's seat almost before they have got up from it.

A square in Mayfair. Isabella Rosellini was launching a book about her father's life. High ceilings, chandeliers and a sea of thousand pound designer dresses. Massive zips. Material thicker than curtains. Daringly off kilter, but somehow incredibly balanced. I had never seen these modern Cleopatras up close. I had only seen them in magazines as they were either lunching, sweating in the sauna, or shopping at stores that were by appointment only. It was one of the more private parties.

Ben played with the plush velvet cushions on the chaise rubbing his cheek against the fabric and touching at the dresses as they brushed by. He was only two or three. A trendy couple borrowed him for a photo shoot. They wanted their distant friends on Facebook to think they had a child. He had posed with Tracey Emin and Joanna Lumley...designer baby. He had been going to art openings since he was three weeks old. He was a regular on the circuit in his pushchair with his mother's wine glass in the handy bottle holder molded into the frame.

Despite all the dresses, Isabella was in a white suit made of sporty no-nonsense material. No heels. Not even office worker flats. Perhaps she had so many engagements, she needed running shoes to get from one event to the other. She was comfortable and her face was more angular and android than the mascara ads revealed. Somehow, I floated into her circle of four or five people. She smiled at me as if I had something intelligent to say. I had the sudden game show feeling of needing to phone a friend. Why we don't speak to celebrities.

"I really liked you in 'The Hunger'." I hated it. It was such a fan type thing to say.
"I wasn't in 'The Hunger'," she said. Her forehead creased ever so slightly as she scanned her memory. It was as if she had just tasted some wine she'd rather spit out, but there were no potted palms nearby.
I tried again, but I was only seeing Lancombe ads.
"I really liked you in..."The Unbearable Lightness of Being."
"I wasn't in that either." Isabella glanced around as if hoping to catch the eye of a security guard. Maybe I liked her better in the Lancombe ads than in the film. The film was really disturbing anyway. "Like" was not the correct verb for Blue Velvet.

Down at the Royal College of Art, Mick Jones was emptying his attic of memorabilia. Clash Covers and t-shirts. It was a buzzing crowd. I was taken by a man in a spectacular silk blue suit and dark glasses. He looked like Harvey Keitel in Blue Velvet...sans mask. I told him so. His friend spoke for him. It was a sudoku  type conversation.

"He's a bit of a scribbler."
"Oh? Scribbler...More pictures or words?"
"What kind of words?"
"Mick Jone's biography actually."
"Oh. So you have a PhD in Sex Pistology?" oh so're so clever...we're so clever now.

Two throats cleared at once....the writer and the man who spoke for the writer as he was not able to speak and smile at the same time.  This girl was on a drug they hadn't heard of. She had knocked them ever so slightly off their ever so pleased pedestals with her ever so blatant ignorance.

"I think I mean Clash....Clash---ologist. You know...Clash, Sex Pistols...same thing really."

It could have been a better conversation. It was as if she had interrupted their cozy moment in Smugville to inform them that they were not the center of her universe. They smuggled back into a huddle. If she had had a better compass, she would've known that they were True North.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Tidy Updates

"We don't reach the light through endless analysis of the dark." Everyday Miracles Affirmations--Marianne Williamson.

A thoughtful update from a friend on Facebook. It had an accompanying link You could press the back button and get more and more inspired depending on how much time you had and how many miracles you needed. If you had no pressing schedule, you could fill up your part-time status with full-time lies. But she was busy today with the F section. Fassbinder to Fellini. She had done all the E's in an hour, but the F's took longer.

"The key to a successful career is realizing that it's not separate from the rest of your life, but is rather an extension of your most basic self. And your most basic self is love." -- Marianne Williamson

She liked it. It was more inspiring than the job page in the Guardian or the Women Like Us e-mails. "Like Us" Like who? You mean women who are raising a child and in the process, the career has....Where did the career go? Oh yes, it's uhm...under that pile of nappies. In the toy bin. I have glued several arms onto several action figures. Where does that go on my CV? Nursing? Model building?

Women like Us. You mean the women who, once they give birth to the child, they actually look after it themselves? Yeah. Those women.

Vanita practiced the affirmations mantra style while her nails dried. She meditated in the lotus position with her eyes closed to the distractions of the living room. The cactus needed watering. Road tax needed paying. That was about it really. Her Lego had been put away long ago. She lead a tidy life now apart from her jaunts to Hackney. That bit was quite unkempt.

Vanita  had been employed to tidy up Film Guy's dvd collection; archive his flat of floor to ceiling films. A to Z. Fellini before Hitchcock. Last Tango in Paris. Last Man Standing. The L section. Shuffle, reshuffle. He had every film and every analysis of every film that was ever made in his living room. Somehow, he managed to live there too. He would probably have a much better conversation with Isabella than I. And when I saw his flat, I was inspired to do some kind of Ikea magic on my own home or where ever he got those shelves from. Awed by his tidy life enshrouded in film.

A red globe lit up. "Eric Jacobs has sent you a gift on Mafia Wars." She hadn't seen Eric Jacobs since high school, but he was very generous with his gifts and always invited her to join him in fights. It was his sister she was friends with. Lisa was in Ohio now. He was a lawyer now, probably a successful one as he had a lot of time to play Mafia Wars. He probably played it from his oak or cherry desk. He probably played in between clients while his secretary did the follow up paperwork.  She used to play it in between tidying up Lego and toys. It was something she could win at. She had more hotels than Donald Trump. She knew she was losing otherwise, or so it felt some days.

She became rather dedicated to Mafia Wars. It was frustrating. Her friends...really, her real friends on Facebook; most of them had real lives and therefore, not enough time to take down an incoming shipment of cocaine off the Bay of Naples or furnish pistols for a duel in Cuba. She needed more helicopters. Despite her arsenal, she was losing fights as her mafia was too small. It was time for tactics. "Add 500 mafia members now". She thought of it, but hated to litter her facebook page with hundreds of strangers for the sake of winning a few wars. She valued her privacy.

And so, for the sake of her privacy, Fiona Tyne was born. Fiona was a lovely name. A lot of twenty year olds  smoking outside the nearby art school were called Fiona. It was shrek's girlfriend's name too. She googled "beautful woman" and came up with the perfect profile pic, then changed it for an photo of herself which her boyfriend had taken in his black and white phase.

Fiona was a man magnet. If she needed a private jet to get to the next stage of the game or fifty helicopters to boost her fire power, Fiona could get them for her right away. Fiona was popular worldwide. Many men wrote to her wanting to be more closely acquainted. She kept it brief. She only wanted to play the video game. She was a model who sometimes lived in New York or London. She could always be away on a shoot in case they ever dropped into town. She had to be somewhere as she didn't exist.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Upright like a hoover

She was a regular cleaner as upright as her hoover. She told herself this as she unbuttoned her coat to check for her keys before leaving. Too many pockets. Where had she put them? Not in there. It was a fashion pocket...a useless detail but just the right size for a condom. He was a newer client. Once a week on a Tuesday. It was her third week and things had become...hard to say....was it messy, sticky or just fine. Actually, it was all of the above.

His last maid was called Helga. Classic. She was all about potatoes and hygiene. She had more whiskers than his cat. He didn't dislike her, but he didn't get a fresh feeling either. She was tremendously German. "Will you be receiving your primary partner this evening?" she asked. "Receiving what?" She had begun referring to his girlfriend as his primary partner after finding some knickers that were not her size stuck between the headboard and the mattress. Primary.... It made him feel ape like. She knew more about him than his own underwear.

"In this case, I have taken care to remove your....magazines to a more discreet location." Her meticulous discretion was the last straw. No matter where he left them, they were always refiled in chronological order. He had to wonder how long that took her. He meant to tell her that a simple stack would be just fine, but it was a sticky subject. He chuckled to think of her applying for a librarian position and siting "alphabetizing Oui and Hustler." as one of her skills. She was cleaning the underside of his nails with a steak knife. His girlfriend knew about his magazines. She read them like bedtime stories.

There were twenty odd names on the buzzer. She couldn't recall his name immediately as, in her mind, she referred to him as Mr. Culture. He had programs from every form of entertainment strewn across the living room floor along with socks, tights, and wine glasses. He was not the sort to tidy up before the maid came.  Everything was left out. She pieced him together from the various detritus she found and smelled his suits. She'd only met him briefly.

He'd only met her briefly. She came highly recommended from a friend at work who said he fantasized about her daily. That'll do for me. Who cares if she cleans. I've got a cleaner.

She appeared in a very white cotton dress. He was imagining a nurse's cap on her head as he spoke with her. She had been speaking for some time. She knew about how to carefully dust keyboards, how to leave no streaks on windows, and how often certain things needed to be serviced. Hmm. That woke him up. She stopped talking. She must have asked a question. Her voice had floated all the way down to his groin. It had hypnotized him ever so slightly. 

Drink Me

Idyllic day painting....cutting up some floral paper into a checkerboard design. Big collage.

Thinking of a new cup series inspired by the lady downstairs.....Most annoying neighbor of the year. The deluxe version would use a special lead base paint that seeps slowly, cup by cup, into the award victim. Drink me.

Another one...You bring out the bunny boiler in me...a favorite valentines gift.
You bring out the psychopath in me. A best seller and a useful tactic in board meetings.
Alphabet cup but with nasty words as opposed to nice words.
Asshole Bitch Bastard Cunt Craphead Deadman.. no.

Kitchen tool series...forks, spatulas, pots, graters. Tool box series...hammers, nails, pliers, wrenches. good idea. Sailing ship series...anchors, ropes, sextant, compass, sails. Bike series-wheels, gears, chains....manual, endo, hang five, bunny hop, footjam, tail whip, nose picking deffo dude, dialled, sick moves, nose plant, whip lash, cross bar, turbine peg wheelie, bar spin.

Sonic sea

The diver records the mating ritual of sonic crustaceans
Clit clat, clit clitter clat,  n thwap
His bubbles urp the bass line blacking blues
Sunk in the sand
Old leather shoes
He takes it back to the lab to mix it:
A martini of sea anenomes
Lap their tendrils against the coral
Wooing the eels with their underwater whispers
Tracks smooth as a stone
That slip from the hand and
Skip from the land to a ripple
That fades like sleek slither to its sandy bed in a hot pebbled quiver

G-Plan and Plan G

But I want my Lightening McQueen socks....."Come on. Any socks will do. Move it. Let's go. Where's your other shoe?" Another morning in just before the bell. She gave herself a gold star and took off into the rain. A piece of plexi for a picture frame sat in the recycling. Inspecting it, yes, it was just the right size to fit the recently broken frame at home. A nice piece of floral wrapping paper--perfect for the collage. She'd cut it up and make it part of the theme. Further on, someone had disposed of an Apple Mac screen by placing it on top of the parking ticket dispenser and put a handy step ladder underneath it. Ha ha. She took the step ladder too. A good score for so early in the morning.

Her entire flat was a monument to found furniture. A Swiss wooden curio with hexagonal paned glass doors rested on top of the 1950's Retro G-plan teak sideboard. They didn't really match , but they were both quality. They matched in that way. A friend had phoned her to tell her she'd seen its twin in an antique shop in Dorset selling for four hundred pounds. She sometimes looked at the thing thinking of the four hundred pounds and thinking of her friend who she hadn't seen lately. It only contained liquor and videos, out of date passports, instructions on how to assemble a lego watch, a voters card for Illinois. Nothing pressingly important.

She had spent out on the sofabed. It was fifty quid from Gumtree. It was beige, so it still looked new. She had definitely had her fifty quid out of it. How many people had slept on that bed? Paying guests of The Bloomsbury Bullet: Japanese girls on week intensives, business men fiddling their hotel receipts, LSE students awaiting their dorm allocations, house swappers, old friends and friends of friends and daughters of old friends friends. Just about everybody had a reason to stay. Sometimes it was to Big Ben the week away and sometimes it was to actually visit her. 

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

One Dancer

It was a long piece for one dancer despite his many trophies and accolades. The second time to be at Sadlers Wells in one week. The ballet was better. This was Flamenco, but I would have preferred a woman in a dress snapping away. This man was tap dancing. There was lovely Spanish acoustic guitar and a wailing singer singing away most likely about romance as they are Spaniards and that is what they do. He was very talented, but Ben was squirming and I was sitting there feeling like a fucking martyr for not having a proper date. Listening to romantic music with your six year old son is somehow not a party. Though, my boy is getting  a lot of culture.

We met a woman on the bus on the way there with a child. She asked intuitively if we were also going to the flamenco. Yes. The local ticket scheme. She had moved out of Holborn to Chinatown and said it was a breath of fresh air. Yes. She knew about the "Holborn Mafia" as they are called. I am on pleasant tea drinking terms with them. I turn a blind eye at their bling.

We walked home passed the square where we had once chatted with a man who had a nice dog and cool shoes. People hated him as his dog shat everywhere. He didn't seem maladjusted at all. He hated them as he picked up his dog's shit and they never noticed. And, they never used the square themselves, so why should they care if his dog shat or not? And the teens in the pagoda with their broken beer bottles did  a lot more damage.

We chatted with an American woman and her child. She recognised us from Tae kwon do. She also thought the show had been a bit samey. She talked about the elf game. You need a match and some small trees. Find the elves in the shadows. We parted at Merlin street. And then the  Easton with its deep green tiles where someone familiar sat dining with a girl in a beret. It looked a pleasant scene.

It was an accidental moment. It wasn't their usual hour or their usual route. She didn't mean to be there obscured by the condensation watching him with someone else. She pulled a tiny violin from her pocket, but all the strings had gone. The sheet music was too hard to read in the dark. She was out of practice and out of tunes. Reason pulled her away from the window. Her son was hungry. "Ask them if they have chips and ketchup." Reason walked them home.

She was a nice girl. "I could wear a beret too. I just need a beret."  She buried her last attempt at reason. Her son was hungry. He had made his own Margerita on a field trip at school.. He had demanded skittles during the intermission. "It's not a dinner," she quipped. Cold pizza was waiting. She got a few beers from Montana Wines and watched herself drink them in the kitchen while she chatted with her friend in Indiana. 

The Midas Toucher

"I got you better than back. I'm holding the Joker as well as the ace." he thought as he wrote her a lengthy message. It was anonymously complimentary. He had fathomed that she was an eternal beauty both inside and out just from glancing at a few profile pics. "You smile like no one is watching." There was an e-mail to accompany the brief facebook message. It betrayed itself as it was far too complicated to be real. A pub maniac from Chicago. Pubs are called bars in Chicago. A daughter called Tracie, then a paragraph later, Stacey. Serious typos. A dead wife called Doris. No one except her late Grandma's bridge partner was called Doris. That was years ago. That Doris was probably long gone too. It's someone weaving a tale that will end up asking for the wire transfer of funds to an account in Africa most likely. Some one having a little recreational cyber therapy. She sent a short reply. He had called her the Duchess of Castle Bridge. Hmm. Way beyond comprehension. too early in the morning.

A short walk to work. A sunny morning, but no time for a jaunt down to the river. An odd man appears and offers his services shining the brass letter box on the shop door. His opening sales pitch is too long. She interrupts him to ask how much it costs. He continues with his sales pitch...."Do you know how many people died of swine flue last year?" He doesn't wait for an answer. "Fifty. They got it from door knobs. I will clean your door knob too at no extra charge." "How much is it?".... He continues..."I will even clean the inside of your door frame here as it is brass also." Well. He certainly has a focus. A brass cleaning specialist.  He is the Midas Toucher. It says so on his card. A tenner. Ok. She relents.

He's got the job, but first thing he does is receive a phone call. He is not in a hurry to put the caller off. He tells excitedly how he has a new job. At this point, I take a look at the clock. In total, it took him over an hour. He did a good job, but will he be back next week. The only problem with brass is that it doesn't need cleaning that often. 

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Inches Apart

They were inches apart on the map, but worlds apart in reality and millimeters when they were close. She could be at his local pub or park in under an hour. She'd love to go there when he wasn't there just to see what it was like. Make up for all the postponed invites. Meet his friends who knew all about her....or some of his ex-wives. There, not there. It no longer mattered.

She had just finished putting her mother on the plane after a month long visit. She was beaming as she boarded the tube...freedom. She needed a reward. She saw him. He was grinning back. He got up to leave. She asked, "don't you have a business card or something?" He had more than that.

I can't invite you up. I've got a Japanese woman in my bed. I'm teaching her English this week. Just a minute. I have to get something out of my shed. Where's the light switch? Oh. It's not working. Damn.

Years went by. She had asked to meet his children as they knew all about her. "One day, you will definitely meet them. We'll go camping together." he said as he packed up his motor with one of his eleven tents. They were all different sizes and weights for the various combinations of weather, participants, and duration. She grew tired of the one days. So one day, when she spilled juice on her mobile and it got stuck on "inbox", she dumped it in the drawer and decided that anyone who needed to be in touch, would be. Three years of happy one days.

They slipped into a cosy bar with low wooden stools. She clenched his leg with her thighs. You asked me if I was married. We're not married. You didn't think I slept alone did you? Come on. Anyway, we're separated now. What a revelation. He was her main course. She was his side dish. She got the feeling he was slumming it despite the scintillating meals under chandeliers and the expensive bottles of wine.

The Moon and Thirteen Cantons. They discussed a couple nearby. Work colleagues? Students? I think she fancies him more than he fancies her. How well did they know each other? Would they go home together tonight? They pondered and whispered and laughed. As it turned out, the feeling was mutual, but they were a new awkward couple. How long have you two been together? You seem to be so in love. They were....when they were together.

They walked down to Soho to catch Freya playing in a small club. Australian, just moved here from Paris...a mutual friend. It was sold out, so they took a taxi to a derelict part of town and she introduced him to a friend of hers who was too high to reply. "What do you do?" he asked. "How do you do would be easier. What do I do? Hmmm." She scanned her brain for the answer, but it was dead. I get the feeling your friends are all slightly damaged.

He was utterly perplexed by the intricacies of her upscale, downtown and uptown, downscale bohemian life. Only you would end up in a monastery in Venice with your hostess escaping from the mafia. She was impressed with the clarity and efficiency of his life and his practical agenda. "We're going to have a wonderful meal, then a series of orgasms until breakfast. You will stock up on some fancy sausages as you know I polish off every star of your superior fry ups. " It did leave her refreshed, but tired. Surely, he would accompany her to her old friends; wedding. "Versaille? Let me get a pencil. I'm definitely free that weekend. " But he wasn't. She decided that would be their last conversation. But it wasn't.

He had been top of the list for too long despite his irregular schedule. He slipped down the list as the months went by and she attended the wedding alone. She had even left her son behind. He had to see her before he left the country. He phoned and phoned, but it was always that annoying cough....a message he used to find amusing. It really might be a longer hiatus than usual. He dug up her land line.

He was verbose, but entertaining. Here he was telling an amusing tale of a party he had been to with his oldest son. He had bravely chatted up the best looking woman at the party and complimented her on her mini. She was pleasantly flexible. She bent over and showed him how it was also a sport skirt. He felt the fabric and accidentally caressed her ass. He complimented her on its tight weave. He had the silent applause of all the men in attendance. He had told this story before. That particular skirt had obviously burned itself into his retina.

They were inches apart on the map, but miles apart in reality. She had been there before. It was just a variation on a theme. There were still inches to go. 

Energy Conservation

Inside and outside were much the same. The heat had been off for weeks. A letter had come through the slot apologising for the inconvenience. She'd adjusted to it. She'd turned all the knobs to their highest setting, but nothing had come out. If it was really cold, she turned the oven on, but mainly, she just wore a coat and sneezed through the better part of January. There were perks--no need for a fridge.

She woke up from a bad dream. Her eyeballs were drying out. Was it a dream or Ah....They had fixed the central boiler. She got up to take a drink and stared at the empty space where the fridge used to be. Maybe she'd lengthen the counter. The juice was outside. Orange vs. pineapple. It was just a bleeding contest. She wanted a song. She turned the volume down and gathered together a few remaining ends. Out of papers. She cut up some giraffe patterened tissue paper. It sufficed in emergencies.

She'd been without a fridge for a month. It just didn't seem like an emergency at all. It had been cold inside and out. She only needed it to keep the milk and the pate on the doorstep. As it was winter, nature sufficed. She still hadn't figured out which one she wanted: old or new, tall or short. They were all the same. It just seemed like someone else's job to choose a fridge, but there was no one else to help her choose. It fell off the end of her to do list.

She wasn't ready to quit. It hadn't been a resolution. Her neighbor gave her three cigarettes after every meal, and she rationed them out as if it were wartime. It was his idea. Otherwise, she wouldn't be smoking at all. She denied it on her insurance policy, to her doctor, and to her ashtray. It never got used. The tissue paper held together long enough for a few drags. She stubbed it out on the desk and scooped it up with her library card. She poured the ashes into an empty bag of cashews and returned to bed. She made a resolution not to do that again. It was damaging the veneer.

The canvases stood unwrapped leaning against the door frame. A bowl of dumplings sat fermenting in the sink. Videos spilled out of the cabinet. Dr. No had lost his envelope. A flute rested on a stack of important papers. She'd missed an appointment. Nothing an hour of cleaning couldn't fix. House Beautiful was moments away. She'd do it soon before she tripped over any more of it. She'd do it. She wasn't down. She was just conserving energy. 

Monday, 7 February 2011

Cadmium Wax

It was red that month, her hair, her long straight hair. She was into reds. Red was her hobby and her vice. She expressed the deep cadmium wax from the tube. It glistened against her lips. They stretched tightly against her teeth like a canvas. She had no idea that you could actually relax your lips while applying gloss. There was no need to relax. She preferred harder things like lipstick.

She unzipped the outer pocket of her thick leather case, snapped the gloss, and dropped it in.  She'd retrieve it later for post lunch and pre-meeting grooming and approval. She was not an easy-access pouch herself. She was not a pouter. She only pouted when trying for a pay raise. The falsity of it only subtracted from her salary. Cadmium Cure--too night clubby for a Monday. Wiping it off, she grimaced again for a subtler shade, manipulative mauve.

She stared in the medicine cabinet mirror. Uma Thurman stared back. It was an unwritten sequel to the killing of Bill. She had a secret that his life depended on..."My tip, you live." She was gazing down the barrel of her lipstick at her line manager. It was the only weapon she had. How she looked forward to Tuesdays and Fridays.She blew him a kiss down the boardroom table. It landed in his water glass. He pointed to the flow chart speaking of targets. He was only one tier above her. One political tier. She wiped it away.

He gazed over his bifocals and raised his eyebrows at her proposal. There was no fine print. "In my opinion, it would not be too inter-office of us to share an intimate lunch somewhere other than a restaurant. I'd like to go over some finer points not discussed in the meeting. You are on the sixth floor. I am on the fourth. We could get stuck in the lift. I like the thought of you above me. "

He agreed there. He was above her. He had only ever flashed her with his wedding ring and eight hundred pound diver's watch he had bought in the Maldives on his honeymoon. It said to 800 meters, but he hadn't tested it in deep water. He took it off to shower and he was not about to get it wet snorkeling. His wife packed his lunch or came for lunch sometimes. But logistics aside, Uma soon retracted her statement and her lipstick once she found out he voted Tory. She had never fucked or voted Tory.

He had, however, taken a dip with another party, their Thai maid. After a few laps, he felt the need to rinse her off. He didn't want the entire pool to close on account of not wearing a cap. He carefully removed one of his wife's more expensive pieces of jewelry from her box and took it to the pawn shop. It was always left open in a rush. She left every morning at six and wore studs.

There was a dinner party a few weeks later. Not a business dinner, real friends. She felt like wearing that necklace he had bought her in the Maldives. It wasn't there. She checked the drawers. It didn't go with anything their sixteen year old daughter would wear. It could only be the maid. She was fired on the spot with a quick text message. She didn't text back asking why. The number was strange. It was the wife.

It took a while to find a replacement. In the meantime, they shared the chores like they used to. She took his coat to the cleaners on the way to work and checked the pockets before placing it on the counter. A few coins and a piece of paper. Three thousand two hundred pounds....pearl, diamond, and emerald necklace. She reached for the necklace that wasn't there and dryly cleared her throat. She pinched at her esophagus and swallowed down the zeros. The dry cleaner noticed her pursed contemplation. He knew that look. He had cleaned a lot of pockets.

She quietly spoke through her teeth pointing out the stain on the lapel to the cleaner, "please use a light remover as it's linen." She loved him in that suit. Details she had once ironed lovingly when she used to press his suits herself. She looked on the bright side. He had gone to great lengths to clean the maid from the house. He had even been given a sudden mid-year bonus which he applied to an unexpected cruise. They would both lie in the sun. The small piece of paper was already illegible from the sweat it had absorbed from her palm. She'd keep it to herself and employ tanning oil for the wound. The next maid would definetly be a Helga. She'd take the day off to make sure of it. She rummaged through the wicker bin in the bathroom...several bottles of half-used tanning oil and mosquito repellent all in different languages. She would board the boat with the bottle of Bain De Soliel in the easy access pocket of her carry on and an I'll-let-you-live smile.

The girl on the fourth floor was predictably in Red. She was monochrome with steep moods. It showed up in her grin, her wardrobe, and on her nails. Why buy a black coat when you can wear a red one? A red faced watch. Why waste any time? She was at the finish line before the race had even begun. It was a primary way of being. If it were a word, it would be loud, bold, unafraid, and right now. It was a monochrome world unhindered by courtesy, winding her way up the office stairs in a controlled way, subtlely sarcastic, and petty as pink. She had taken extra care to dress as it was a Tuesday, but the word was he was on a cruise with his wife.

She often complained about her fellow work colleagues over a coffee. A cruise. Her only holiday was going up north to attend to her demented mother. They had held a meeting without her. She was supposed to deliver a proposal, but she was sick that day as her favorite dress was at the cleaner's. How cruelly coincidental. What had she done to be so popular herself? She'd ask the short girl. They needed to go for a drink.

The short girl was a painter. She did nothing but paint and had an interesting harem of colors. She blended her colors well. There was the occasional use of white--her arctic explorer boyfriend. The muddy under painting of her retired chef neighbor, a constant background noise, and a few tertiary colors....more recently, skater boy. He was twelve years younger and had a twelve year old son in the Channel Islands. He had moved to England to be closer to his son.

Tall girl looked at her own palette. There was her ex-husband who was just plain grey. She painted her pictures only in red adding black or white depending on the hue of her day. She was monochrome with steep moods.

People were in high spirits. Someone had won a football game or perhaps it was just a Friday. He had seen the two girls walk into the bar. They had caught the back end of a joke as the birthday boy leaned over to kiss the shorter one on the forehead. She went with it and broke into a wild gypsy tango. They settled down in a dark corner with their orders. The taller one was doing port-de-bras with her pale arms animating her recent dance lesson at Pineapple. The shorter one was the obvious ear. He made his over to compliment them on their recent tango. He had come for a friendly beer and they looked friendly.

The taller one seemed to speak for them both. She had a reporter style way of chatting to members of the opposite sex. Clinical. Did he work at one of the local hospitals? He paused. Such an ignorant choice of opening lines. She looked at her watch as if she were timing their conversation. He had only a few minutes to make an impression. Little did she know, he had already summed her up.

He hadn't walked into his local for a speed-dating discourse. He hadn't arrived to explain the intricacies of how to diagnose cancer of the spleen or how to share the results with the parents of the six year old girl. Yes. He had found the cyst--a very white section on the x-ray that morning. He had bought some time and told them it was still in the lab. He had bought a drink and sighed his way through several pints that afternoon.

He dodged her blunt questions. So you work in the area? Yes. Where exactly? One of the hospitals? She obviously never took off her office clothes even when wearing pyjamas. What a prober. Suction please. She had a sharp pen and a desperate notepad.  He had a sharper yet scalpel, but he didn't operate unnecessarily on people with colds.

By this time, she was usually inserting something about her job. It was a position, not a job. She corrected herself. She was an approved paper pushing tree waster in the name of the council. She had typed half a forest down. His secrecy had left no invitation for her own professional seduction. The conversation did not peak, in fact, it never left base camp. He moved back to his table and the girls went on to discuss how the bartender reminded them of Mr. Bean.

Girl one- Girl two

G1: Did you fancy him?
G2: Who?
G1: The guy who came to chat with us.
G2: He was nice enough. It was a....
G1: I bet he was a doctor. That's why he wouldn't say anything.
G2: I bet he was just in there having a think....with a drink.

G1: Don't you ever have an angle?
G2: Yes. I wanted a beer and a friendly chat.

Girl one's chin jutted out as she grinned at the idea of a friendly chat. How sweet. How fucking pleasant. She grinned at everyone as if she were surrounded by fools or clowns. Girl two was quietly disgusted at Girl One's uncamouflaged gold digging ways. She really did believe in friendly chats. She chatted with people at bus stops, on park benches, in post office queues, and sometimes, even in pubs. 

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Wooty the Bunny

Neville had a little bunny called Wooty. Wooty was so fluffy with big loppy ears. He was a lovely thing to cuddle. He enjoyed carrots and pellets and nibbled at his bottle which was always full of water. Neville took care to give him fresh food and water daily.    He shredded nude magazines and newspapers for Wooty to wee on. His father was concerned about his diminishing collection. The wife or the maid....someone had found it. If only he had spent more time with his son. Neville bought Wooty treats with his pocket money and taught Wooty tricks. How to ride. He tied him into the bike basket, but he jumped out. He put him in a shoebox and attached a string to his seat post. Wooty bumped along the tarmac until the cardboard wore out. Come evening, he'd share a bedtime story with him after his bath. His mother did not let them bathe together. He opened the box of food colour and took out the green and purple. Wooty became punk bunny after a few drips. It took more than a year to grow out. 

Espresso Ghetto--The Bikeman

(Different in Person)

"Choke on your skinny soy latte bitch," he whispered as the shot dribbled into the cup. The steam from the machine was loud enough to drown out his dislike for his customers....people with handbags that matched their suit/skirt combos.....people with pets they carried in their handbags....people without pets who obviously spent a fortune on dog walkers.....people with ornate wallets which only contained credit cards even though they were just buying an apple.....people with special orders and dietary concerns.....they all bothered him. He was not a nutritionist. He was not a barrista either and this was not his coffee shop.

Flecks of caffeine stained his apron. He could only smile for a few customers. It was a quick smile; something he had learned from a book on how to influence people. He kept it next to his law books and opened it for a light laugh when he was tired of the fine print. He saw her and frowned as he tried to remember the page.

Today, he was using a template. He shook  the little bits of flaked chocolate through the sieve....such a girly thing to have to do. He left her with a powdered heart and a smile. It sunk into the foam as she licked around the edges of his design trying to keep his pattern in tact. "So talented," she thought. It warmed her hand as she walked out the door. "I'll see her again," he thought. She was his instant boost of caffeine. She gazed at the foam on her creamy latte while it cooled.

There was the Bikeman....first thing in the morning. He grated on her g-spot like a potent espresso. He was much hotter and came without a warning label. He had a cool side too. He was a pleasant person, concerned about the environment; over-farming, over-fishing. She gave out an inaudible bleep as she passed by. He seemed the sort that might stop and help a tangled lamb stuck on a barbed wire fence. She was feeling woolly, but he was not the type to read a book on how to make somebody smile.

He was just undoing the padlock on the shop front door. A simple activity, but she liked to watch him do that. She wanted to pull up a chair. She could have watched his simple activities all day. If they only sold tickets. Did they really sell bikes in there? She imagined them filming simple activities in the basement. Something else was going on, something better than tv. She wanted one of those of videos.

Nice hair. A little bit messy today. Perhaps he had ridden here this morning. Perhaps he woke up late and hadn't had time to shower. He seemed odorless despite all the exercise she imagined him getting. Was he up late? What had kept him up? Was it a beer, a bike video, a woman or a line of coke? Perhaps it was the combination. Nice back. A discreet glance. A deep inhale, slow so as not to jar her nerves or spill her coffee. Unwinding the canopy. Nice hands. They had touched fingers once.Orange and brown stripes. She took notes.

He liked the canopy...yellow and white stripes. He had heard it was an unusual salon. He had a longer lunch break than usual, so he booked an appointment. He sat in the waiting area. There was a red circle with a slash through a mobile phone. No mobile phones, No magazines, but the conversation was interesting..."Reverse sunwheel....Chinese flagpole..." Two girls were trading tips on pole dancing moves next to the water dispenser. One of them was fifty percent tattoo. The other walked towards him with her pierced navel jiggling a jewel and called his name in a breasty nurse tone. He followed her to a room with a red naugahyde chaise pressed up against the wall in the naughty corner.

She drew the curtain behind them and rolled up his sleeve to check his pulse. He had one. She looked in his eyes. Pupils dilated. Tongue, reflexes...A full check up ensued. Nice hair, but you're looking a little disheveled...she held his chin and twisted his profile. It's time for a trim.  "I'm Fiona. I'll be your hairdresser today." He sat stiffly upright on the chaise almost sitting on his hands. He had heard that name before. Yes... it was an unusual salon. She looked at her list of clients as if purusing a menu, then glanced at the dish before her. He was a full dinner. Cut, color, and shampoo. She put her scissors down.

She sat down on his lap face to face to get a better look at what he needed. She pressed her wrists against his temples. Yes. He had a pulse... and ran her hands through his hair. He needed a few inches off. She blew a bubble. It popped all over his face. He froze. He didn't protest. Yes. She'd have to change. Hairdressing is messy. She emptied her dress onto the floor. Nice bra. Little red flowers on a black background. It reminded him for a moment of his grandma's kitchen curtains. How could think of his grandma at a moment like this? He slapped himself.

Her breasts spilled out of her bra as she handed him a clipboard. Was it a waiver? He read the menu as he held the pencil. There were boxes to tick. He wanted to tick them all. At the bottom, it said "freestyle: whatever there's time for." His pencil broke as he ticked the box. He was in need of the topless haircut, shampoo, and blow dry. He sat patiently awaiting her scissors. Straddling him, she clipped away. "If Carlsberg did haircuts....deffo...this was the salon" he thought as her necklace caught in his chest hair. She wasn't cutting his hair; she was taking his scalp. No need for gel.

For all the positions she'd imagined him in, he was a terribly polite in person, almost noble and so was she....annoyingly polite...too polite to fuck and a lot less personal. He had put some effort into seeming quite unmoved, whereas she had thrown her back out doing clitoral back flips for him. She considered it a back flip, asking someone out for a drink. It was against her code that--and she had broken more than one rule.

He didn't wish to be moved by a woman pulling a child down the road. She moved him in a different way. She loved her boy. She held his hand and his book bag and his lunch box like a devoted sherpa. She wore trendy, but slightly tatty clothes, and occasionally, steel heeled boots that probably created divisions within the PTA. He doubted she ever wore them out to a pub or a club.

Her bosom was outspoken. It stretched against the buttons of every shirt she tried to wear. They probably sagged without the help of an underwire. Under breast sweat. He certainly had never pictured her cutting his hair. Perhaps for the sake of Greenpeace or the good neighbor scheme, he'd buy her a  beer one day.

They watched each other as she passed by. Hard to read. Nothing to say. It was better than coffee and much worse. With coffee, you can have it whenever you like it, as much as you want, sip it slowly or glug it down. But he was not coffee. Sometimes he would be there outside arranging the bikes and sometimes not. And when he was there, it was like was not unlike the jolt of five espresso shots going down her throat. She filled up. It lasted most of the day. And just as it started to fade, it would be time to go again to pick her child up. When he wasn't there, she sighed with a little disappointed relief not to go through the distraction of walking past the sun.

She sat eating cake with her friend, chatting away happily. The conversation and the time flowed. Despite the banter, Bikeman flashed into her mind again as a little cake slipped off her fork. The black lycra added to the superhero effect. There he was cape and all. She pictured him in front of her. "Fabulous" is all he said as he had his cake. And she said, "yeah." She noted the three syllable word. It seemed to be enough. He was an English speaker, but he reminded her of a Russian on his third week in London. His mother tongue was body language. He did speak but his main words were hey, dude, awesome, sick, kewl, and yo...words not easily applied to cake shop banter and not conducive to making sentences.

There were a few other words that were new to her. Deffo, stoked, and woot. Deffo: a seventies remix of definetly. "Stoked slang," she googled it...excited...nothing to do with poking a fire. Hmm. Woot woot. Sounds like the name of a little canary or a bunny in a kiddy show involving a train. Wooty when he was small and woot woot for a fully grown rabbit. Water on the boil. A cup of tea in the making. "I'd boil a bunny for you," she thought pathetically and smiled.

When in doubt, ask Jack. What would Jack Nicholson say about "woot?"

Tempted but, I've never wooted in my life nor have I ever been so far from sobriety as to feel the need to woot. Infact, if I were to be caught wooting in public, I'd probably employ someone to take me home right away...preferably in a car with tinted windows...driver on woot alert. I would woot but it's not in my vocabulary, nor is it in my nature. I am many things, but not a wooter. I have yet to get to the W's in the big dictionary of life. Woot?  I really can't say. She pictured Bikeman playing with Wooty in his cage poking a little carrot through the bars. How sweet. "Come Wooty. Here boy."

Friday, 4 February 2011

Mural week 4

There is a mural at the Enterprise done by a familar name...Hunkin. Tessa Hunkin. Important to note that a lot of areas are not flat color but are defined by stripes of slightly different hues. This, I know, is not going to happen with our mural as they will think it is too much work. But I will ask people to go and look at it. And see that subtlety is better. I just know we are going to have a very loud primary color thing happening. urrgh. It's going to be really bright and loud. I am in charge of birds and butterflies and found pottery shards for the pond to mix with mirror and indigo and turquoise. Too many people making too few decisions on this. It is not a coffee morning. 

I am not a Diptych

First fry up of the new year at Witherspoons which I tend to think has the best breakfast in the area chain or not. I was trying to think how to explain how to get there to Sy and his wife as they will come in April. I am compiling a list of restaurants etc for them now. They should also see that pub on High Holborn that has the barrels in the ceiling and pew like benches.  Hashbrowns and black pudding hello. Post some keys to them in New York today if I do anything. The check has cleared.

Gareth in the shop. House a mess. Too many clothes. Health and safety hell. Visitor from Israel coming on the 15th. I suppose it will have to be tidy by then. Need new battery for cordless phone. Ciaran has suddenly remembered that he'd bought a painting off me some time last year and then never came and picked it up. I really think it's been a year or more. Well, I've sold it in the meantime to someone Anthony from Italy who comes here twice a month. He came and left with a painting. It was rather a spontaneous purchase.

I hope Ciaran doesn't remember exactly what it looked like as I'll have to make another one. He will swing by in a few weeks' time unless he forgets again. I thought he didn't want the painting anymore as I didn't want to sleep with him. It's hard having a picture on your wall made by someone who won't fuck you. It, I think, would be a reminder of sterility rather than virility. But, he still has the empty space and the painting stands alone as rather fine with or without the artist. I am not a diptych. I hope he doesn't have the jpg still. I keep putting off the boring stuff. fridge, phone, carpet underlay. Ben was off school vomiting yesterday. He doesn't eat enough. 

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Mange Princess

Come Princess....lunch. She put the phone down. She better not be late. She was scolded yesterday. Her chef had called. She pressed the lift...number two and descended for her meal. The door was left ajar. I'm here. The smell of cigarettes and tomato sauce filled the turquoise hall. The entire flat was painted turquoise from top to bottom. It was a bit like being in a swimming pool. She looked up at the dusty light fixture with a giant crack in it. No need to clean it as it wasn't in use. She had refrained from cleaning as it gave him ideas as to what else he'd like her to do. Gennio. His calendar was still on January. Pictures of the pope surrounded by postcards of anonymous ass from phone booths. His meager decorations.

She sat down to the plastic pasta tablecloth she bought him last year. It was wearing well. "Sunny day, but still cold." He obvious remark about the weather got an agreeing nod. The water began to boil. "What you want? Coke, wine, actimel, water, juice?" She got up to get some water, but he brought it for her. He inspected a fork and placed it on a napkin. She got up and washed it. He tutted. She tutted back. Fish was out. This for Lorenzo and Benjamin later. You have ravioli today. Steam wafted from the sink as he poured it one handed through a sieve. It smelled of nutmeg, ricotta, and spinach.

He heated the sauce...a large constant pot of red tomato and garlic with the bones of various animals poking through the surface. She secretly thought the tomato was over powering. A plainer sauce would go well with the delicate hand made ravioli. She knew better than to give him advice on his cooking. He was a creature of routine. Fish, filet steak, ravioli, cannelloni, pasta fagioli, breaded chicken breasts...

 "Mange Princess" He placed the plate before her and sprinkled the parmesan from a plastic bag. She ate it remembering how the first time she tried his ravioli, she was in heaven. Routine now...mandatory attendance. She felt grateful and bored at the same time. One or two meals a day and three cigarettes as dessert or takeaway. She got up to wash the plate. "Leave, leave. I do."

A few days without his cooking always set her right--back in grateful mode. It had been a while since she had skipped his dinners. Usually, infact always, it was a punishment for seeing her with another man. Not that they were lovers, but he liked to maintain the fantasy. She was his princess and seeing her with someone did tend to spoil that. "I no cook for you no more. I no care your life...what you do. You clever girl. You clever." So she'd stock up her fridge and wait it out. It would pass. It always did. 

Lucky Pants

He meant to close the door gently and catch her off guard, but the wind caught it and slammed it for him. Perhaps a little slamming was in order. It hadn't been his best day. No matter what, his calm was always the last thing to go. He was a lean muscular man. Not a gym zombie. The enormous way he lived made him robust. It was Tuesday. The kitchen looked immaculate. She'd be up in the bedroom if she was still here. A fine place to find her. There was dust on the coffee table. She needed to do a better job in the living room. He needed a discussion.

She had bent over a little too far for his liking the last time she cleaned his coffee table. It was rude to speak with her back to him and even ruder to bend over. Her manners needed to be addressed.....or undressed. "Don't bend and converse," he thought as he admired her ass from the top of his paper. "Anything interesting?" she asked as she circled the table with studious swirls. He hadn't read a word. Her skirt was riding up. She needed a more suitable uniform. Were they nylons or stockings?

He meant to help her with her skirt and pull it down, but he accidentally pulled her stockings down instead. He felt her wet clit with the back of the back of his hand then his fingers. As he had suspected, she was in need. Her hips began to rock side to side as she clenched him with studious swirls. His bite slid down her neck as she licked his fingers clean like a kitty. She clung to the oval glass as he fucked her over the table. There was not a thread left of her by the end of the discussion.

"You're making a mess you know. Get down and clean it up."  She looked at him then the floor then realized he was being metaphorical. What a clever man. "I love clever men," she thought as she licked him like a puppy kneeling on the white carpet she had yet to hoover. "Messy girl I am," she thought, but she couldn't think. They straightened the sofa pillows a few hours later. She had added the extra hours to his bill accidentally. Unintentional overtime.  The nerve. This he didn't question but found highly questionable. Hadn't they both enjoyed it? He had been brutal. She had sucked him better than any 1 900 bimbo ever could. It was such sincere service. He replayed it as he washed her lipstick off.

She heard the door. She put her rag down and moved to the bathroom to check her make up. She preferred to leave notes for him since the living room episode. Yes. She had enjoyed it, but she didn't want him to think that was normal procedure. He might not know what a lucky pants he was. 3:30. He was home early. Must have something to discuss. 

Furry Chow Mein

Fifty inch long lashes, nine inch heels, she batted her eyes as she turned the lipstick over to check the shade....Fornicating Fuschia. Just her pink. She pouted as she blotted her lips on the napkin of a chic night club from the night before. She turned it over and poured out the foundation rendering the phone number illegible and proceeded to her nose and cheeks. She couldn't remember his name and couldn't remember hers by the time they were through. It had been hot, but she attributed it to her biorythym rather than his cologne which was the invisible "No" that made it a one nighter.  "You can't tell men how to wear their cologne,"  she thought. "Men who wear cologne don't deserve to know."

Her eyelids would be blue today with a hint of green around the corners, a pale shimmering pearl just under the brow and some thick wet eye liner to knock them out. Earrings small pearl studs to fit the task at hand, she was nearly done....with her face. Now it was time to dress. She had ruined many an outfit with loose powder. Much better to apply it topless.

"There she is, my cleaner with her seventies porn star make up," he thought to himself as they met in the lift. She had cleaned for him for years. He'd never call her anything but Elena. She dressed like Marlene Dietrich and came with a small rolling suitcase which contained her products and her uniform. People would think she had just stepped off the plane, then again, she was on a very different plane.

The neighbors liked to think he was having an affair. Not something they could add to their petition to remove him, but something juicy to add to his list of misbehaviours. He needed his hair cut. He was just too bohemian for their block. Yes, they had moved in on the bohemians, but it was time they were out.

She looked in his fridge. A loaf of moldy taste the difference bread sat fermenting next to a bottle of Muscatel. A half-eaten tin of mixed veg. It jarred her nerves....worse than frozen. There was evidence of an attempted culinary suicide chow mein style as the brown bean sprouts floated in a slimey fluid with the miserable mixed veg. Dead man's cum. Why didn't he just throw it away? The contents of his fridge were always entertaining.  She'd get dressed first, then start the cleaning. 

The South

Angela probably wouldn't be considered an expert in English is she were back in the States, but in Napoli, as they say, "The one eyed man is king." Brought up by Greek parents who ran the only diner in town, she had outgrown Chambersberg by the time she was a teen. She went through the exercises easily enough getting out of more in depth  grammar questions by turning the page or directing the question to one of the smarter students in the class. They liked her. And the wake at noon and teach til nine schedule suited her night life. She loved to hang out in the piazzas at night surrounded by the smoke of motorinis and herb. Dance bars, parties and a few altercations.

Friends had opened a new dance club. It was called, "The South." and run by four boys who were the from The South, offspring of US NATO officials. The parents were giving them something to do and they did it in style. The twenty foot bar had a twenty foot fish tank  filled with piranas. The line was out the door and the bar was incredibly popular for its music and atmosphere only to be cut short by a knock on the door. Someone didn't like their popularity. It closed overnight. No questions. No bloodshed.

There was another popular day at the Media Stale...the state school. It was official Anti-Mafia day--a day of learning and discovery....much like having an Anti-Baptist day in Chatanooga. "Tell the English teacher, she doesn't have to come in today. We've only got five students." The entire school was off - an unofficial holiday.

I never looked too closely or thought too hard about it. It was under my nose, but I couldn't smell it. I leave that to Roberto Saviano.

Lago Averno

We strolled. We always strolled. Sometimes along the seafront in Pozzouli with after dinner gelato in hand. Sometimes between the castles overlooking Capri, or around Lago Averno. It was a steamy place. Steam rising off the pasta, off the Volcano Solfitara, and sticking to the windows of cars lining the avenue to the lake. We chose Lago Averno. It was about three miles around. Pine trees, a few benches, an apple orchard, an eco farm, and finally a restaurant with views of the lake.

We walked and talked. Not much talking that evening. He was talked to death by the tourists he had chauffered around the Amalfi Coast that day. They were from Wyoming. Cattle ranchers. He had given them the comprehensive tour including details of the flora and fauna. "Is that a good hotel? How much time do you think we need to see Pompeii? How old is that castle?" They wanted to know everything. He hated those types. They were on holiday, so unusually buoyant and also falsely under the impression that he wanted to know all about their life in Wyoming in return, which he didn't. He was only paid to drive. He preferred the love birds as they were happy holding hands oohing and ahhing at things of their own choosing. It was a sign of intelligence.

We stopped and sat on our bench half way between the start and the apple orchard. A few birds on the lake. A woman coming towards us walking a small dog. We still had time. She was just a spot in the distance and therefore, so were we. We stopped in the apple orchard and had a brief picnic under cover of trees. He tripped into guide mode for moment. "This is the famous lake that inspired Dante to write his Inferno. This entire area is volcanic. You can see the steam rising out of these caves here. " Finally to the cosy bustling restaurant only known to locals. No reservations taken. A nice view of the lake. "I love their gnocchi." " It's not as good as my mother's."

Not all the cars along the avenue were there to dine or stroll. Many just stayed in their cars. Some put newspaper in the windows and others relied on the steam generated after a few moments in park. It was a while until we turned on the engine. His saint sticker on his windscreen had fallen off in the meantime. He was seriously upset about it. I'll get you another one. Superstitious. Very south of Rome.