‘To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, almost all of the time — and in one’s work. And part of the rage is this: It isn’t only what is happening to you. But it’s what’s happening all around you and all of the time in the face of the most extraordinary and criminal indifference, indifference of most white people in this country, and their ignorance’ – James Baldwin.
Robert Locke, a temporarily unemployed travel company representative, woefully disregards government quarantine regulations and takes to the streets in his adopted home of Malaga, only to be arrested almost immediately.
In our adversarial society where politics seem to triumph over personal connections and even common sense, finding old friends seems almost anachronistic. Historical relationships provides the promise of glue that keeps us joined to our own lives. Connectivity offers hope in an uncertain world.
The dance that night was in a converted cinema. We sat in the front row seats and watched the natives giving it, like it was 1919. Country and western was big in the hinterlands back in the day. Sugary sweet songs of the poor emigrant Paddy in his bed-sit in London, pining for his golden haired girlfriend and his silver haired mother while he drank himself into a stupor.
I finish my £8.30 pint and head for where I used to live. Why? I’ve started writing now, I might as well go. It’s an ex-council block. East London thick brick. Rubicon cans on the stairwell, faulty lifts. A kid called Abdi that tries to sell you weed every time you see him, even though you tell him that you don’t smoke weed. It was him that I thought I saw walking past the pub. He’s got a dog. He told me that it is was rare for a Bengali to have a dog. I wonder if he’s still here?
My vacation condo’s washer/dryer combination is tiny and inefficient, so I launder my comforters ten miles away at the decrepit Maple Fuels Wash-a-Ton. The old-school machines don’t take credit cards, only quarters. It takes a lot of quarters to wash a pile of gamey comforters. Since my mortgage and HOA fees are high, I have to rent my place to overnighters through Air Bnb. The guests are often careless, spilling wine and body fluids willy-nilly on the bedclothes.
I have given up so many times, thought I had hit absolute rock bottom, but after this morning I want only to cry, just cry, Lord please let me just cry. I want that great, cleansing, belly-shaking rain of tears that I had wished would come for depressed Cassie, but I can’t. I can’t cry. I try to bring something up from deep in my chest but nothing comes. I realize now that ghosts have no bodily fluids. Tears, blood, semen, sweat; these are the province of the living.
From a global perspective, living in a world in which absolutely nobody seems to be able to agree on anything, it is in fact quite reassuring that one thing in life remains unilaterally recognised. I’m not referring to the the Geneva Convention or the Unilateral Declaration of Human Rights, fated as these are by the capriciousness of feckless dictators and ardent populists. No, the world can tear itself to bits, yet one thing will remain constant, from Santiago to Sydney, that being that the referee is, and has always been, a wanker.
The centre of town burns, the fires of the barricades rise until late at night. Seen from above the city recalls scenes from its past, when Barcelona gained the nickname of Rosa de Foc. But we are in 2019, a time when political dissent is intertwined with late capitalist tendencies, and indeed you can see Glovo’s workers diligently darting around the front of a barricade fire. Because in the burning city there are those who do not give up ordering sushi at home.
But the metamorphosis deepened, and I became the most frightening apparition of all: the man who really was a dog. All human perspective was gone now. I was a tall dog standing on its hind legs, teetering close to traffic. This was serious. I could bolt into an oncoming car, or nip a passerby in my confusion. I looked around me at the world of people, orderly for them but incomprehensible to me.
Jonah stares over my shoulder, suddenly quiet. He holds his coffee close to his mouth but doesn’t drink. He looks troubled by something, like he’s made the worst decision of his life. I don’t know what to say so I just stare at the girls’ table, at Lindsey stealing glances at us and laughing with the others like we’re in the high school lunchroom instead of being locked in a mental hospital, in some story we don’t fully understand but know will define and direct the course of the rest of our lives.
I guess they’re the kind of lyrics most songwriters would use as a place-holder before coming up with something more universal and generic. Apparently the Beatles song ‘Yesterday’ was originally about bacon and eggs, but obviously McCartney decided to change the words to something more commercially viable. Thankfully commercial viability isn’t something I need to worry about. And for me, at least, I still find the lyrics quite meaningful as they are.
I sit up in bed with my hand over my eyes. The shards of sunlight, shining through the open window and the scream of a scooter from the street below make me wince. Through my fingers the black and white poster of the singer Morrissey looks down on me with pity from the bedroom wall. I return the look with remorse and regret.
You didn’t want to make her uncomfortable by smoking in front of her, or subject her to secondhand fumes. You huddled in your bedroom with your stash, emerging when the coast was clear. Still, the smell should have been a tip-off. Not to mention your red eyes and dilated pupils.
The Magic Bus stopped for no man as it sped across Europe, heading for Amsterdam. In Yugoslavia, it was changing Drachmas for Dinars time. My memory of the journey through Yugoslavia, is a rainy wind swept communist country. Pretty backward, with kid soldiers, wearing the worst looking ill-fitting uniforms you can imagine. These kids had guns, so it was scary when they went through the bus.
To commemorate the centennial of Degas’s death (1917), many books were published and shows were held. In London, The National Gallery show “Drawn in Colour” was organised in conjunction with it and with the marvellous opportunity to include works from the Burrell collection. I visited together with Dr. Penny Florence (Slade) and as we both come from a different background, our conversation in front of the paintings spurred new insights and encouraged me to write about Degas’s work, the way I see it.