Friday, May 30, 2008

It's impossible. I'm on the train, and a train of thoughts causes such a racket in my head, I can't even read my book. I turn down - and then off - my MP3 player. Such is the power of such thoughts. There I sat, watching
fields of sheep, cows, passing quickly. Hedges, haw, bogs. Splashes of colour from animals (and their farmers' markings), bogs, flowers, cars (yes, cars - you can't see the road, but the cars are on it) and then we get to
Adamstown, where nothing seems to be happening. It's lovely, but much in the same way as a showhouse is. Will it look and feel so good once the families move in with all their humanity? Beyond that, will the families and humanity at least add some character to the place? Questions, questions. So many questions from all this, as well as two poems and three short stories, based on the idea that
The fidgety girl in pink hoodie who legs to the toilet when the inspector comes round actually lives on the train, because she has nowhere to go
The conductor is secretly in love with the girl, and knows she is living on the train illicitly, but won't report her because then he'd never see her again - plus he'd be ruining any chance he had with her, as he was the informant
And someone else on the train must be something because of some reason

And there you have the problem. Three hours later, I cannot remember any of this. And this is my time to write.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Daniel: A Confession in Two Acts

I was delighted to see my brother last weekend, with his many children in tow: Rory, the red haired firstborne scourge of those lacking imagination, his sister and partner in crime (fighting, last weekend the 'Yankees' and 'Terracons'), Emer and young Daniel, who had a harder way to come than most some 18 months ago to join the rest of us. At some point, Daniel needs a nappy change (as these children so often do), and my brother, who coos to him starts singing that song, 'Daniel':

Daniel is travelling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

I'm not a fan of the song, but I remember it's christening as his song. As I said, he had a harder way to come than most, and that is all that needs to be said about that. The family crowded in to provide support.
My particular duty, three or four days, was to sit at the front of the Rotunda hospital, smoking fags. To keep it 'real' (as is the bizarre disposition of humans in crisis), I brought a book along with me, Becket's More Pricks Than Kicks. Whenever my bro came out for a (no doubt, much needed) smoke, there I'd be - beyond the crowd pregnant women, smoking away as they staggered, whimpered and wheelchaired about the front of the hospital - there I'd be, reading some poncy book like some unkempt arts student who never grew up. I thought this would cheer him up, and I still think to some extent it did. I ran my MP3 player mercilessly, seeking a song. I am the one with all the songs, so that's the other thing I thought I could do. One week, I think I charged the damn thing three or four times, just looking for that song. The right song. No song seemed 'just right', but such is the way with these kinds of times.
I wished I could have done more, but such things are beyond me. I loaded up an MP3 player with songs for his partner, I visited with magazines, I stood in awe of how they were getting through it all. All the time, swanning about with this air of the quotidian. Oh, how usual to stop
for a cheap cup of coffee and newsagent sandwich made three days ago, then pop into the Rotunda. Oh how usual to smoke nearly twenty a day. Oh how usual for that feeling to be there, just at the edge of each eye and another somewhere half way down the cheek. How usual for hands to shake. How usual my bro looks with his eyes hung, dark, pure, the epitome of what humanity might aspire to: Selfless. He wasn't himself, and he wasn't for himself. He was too busy being strong.
One evening, when the news had started to increment in the right direction (a little better, a little every day), my mother, sisters, wife and I went for a civilised dinner (My brother had to go home to sort out the children). Pasta and sauce, it was so exotic. My wife even had prawns, which I thought could be to some extent sinful, but I kept my mouth shut. There were drunk people shouting; an argument over our shoulder to do with a child that was grounded, but was going to a show "A school show, that's why" "That's not the point!"; other people making plans on where to go next. All this life, going on, as life does.
"So, did you all hear the name?" I think it was my mother who asked. I, quite selfish was happy to butt in.
"Yes. It's a good name. I think they've chosen well. Lion's den and all that." This, my brother had told me while we smoked a cigarette, watching the pregnant ladies wheezing and whining through their own fags, and a case of mistaken fatherhood ("You're nah! I'm tellin' ya! It's Joey. I said Joey to ma, I did!")
My sister, the second runner in the family in the music fan stakes, sang:

Daniel my brother you are older than me

She halted there. I was grateful, as I didn't like the song. I protested it was too obvious, but really it was because that song - for whatever reason - was to me the elevator music of my childhood. I only ever recall hearing it in the car on the way to school or from some activity, and at that, only ever just before or just after an ad break. I decided to continue my earnest search for a new, better song that would mean something, that would touch to the root of all of that week.
But it is a folly of human life that we sink back into routine all too easily. Smell the roses is a cliche, so people seldom do. I did continue my search, in vain, but soon it petered out. Daniel was sung on a number of occasions since, for various reasons: around tables, in cars, over dinner, after wine.
Then my brother sang that verse last weekend. I had never realised the first line was about leaving tonight on a plane. My brother singing that reminded me of him leaving on a plane, a long time ago. Another life ago, almost.
We were living in New Zealand, and he was going to a boarding school in the UK. He often came over, it seemed to me, just to bug the hell out of me. He brought with him a strange kind of slang, and gained a self confidence which I despised. His holidays at home were characterised by a brief spell of cameraderie, followed quickly by a long spell of fighting in which things were said that only children have the blind cruelty to say.
On time that he was leaving, we went to a strip behind the airport to watch the plane take off. Perhaps we did this every time he left, but this is the one time I remember. As we drove from the terminal to the strip, I think "Daniel" was playing on the radio, but I can't be sure. My mother and sister were distraught. At that age, I could never figure out my Dad, so I can't really say how he was. There was another family who had just waved goodbye to one of their own, and they were at the strip as well.
I was glad he was on his way. We must have had some fight. Probably one of those in which he tested out his bizarre slang on me, while I threw back the latest obscenity that I had heard (I recall once, not this time, but once, calling him a 'nipple'. His blank stare in return convinced me that I had gone so far as to have permanently wounded him. Of course, he was probably wondering what this 'eggy' kid was on about.)
My mum was comforting my sister, and mentioned something about burgers or ice cream. Perhaps even some kind of toy. Well, I thought, I better get in on this action.
I buried my head in my hands, and thought ooh, I miss my brother already. Mum drew me into the hug with my sister.
And that was when I felt it. I did miss my brother already. What had he going on over there, in England that was so much better than here. It couldn't be the slang. 'Eggy' and such terms were no match for 'fuck' and 'nipple', and I had many more words I could teach him. Like he had so many games he could teach us.
Through dust and tears, we waved goodbye to a jumbo jet tail fin as it rose into the clouds. I think my sister, or perhaps my mother, or maybe even my father suggested they saw him waving - we had missed it because you had to look very close, and the plane was moving very fast. But it had been caught, he was in there, waving back to us.
I never really thought of that until I heard my brother singing those lines from the song. And in sitting down to write this, I understand why my sister had halted when singing the song that night in the restaurant. I had to look up the lyrics, but the line after the one she sang is

Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won't heal

This makes me realise what I've been missing all this time. I've been missing it out of a selfish and quite vain streak of high-minded Arts-graduate doublethink. Convinced that the greats are the only ones that can communicate anything that means anything. But all this high-brow, has-to-mean-something comes to nothing. Because at the very bottom, meaning is defined as much in the moments we share, as in the abstract connections we make between things. As a quasi intellectual with a touch of dyslexia and a restricted mentality, this comes as quite a shock. But a shock worth sharing all the same. For many, this is obvious. But for me, it has been a two-day epiphany.

Daniel, by Elton John & Bernie Taupin

Daniel is travelling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for spain
Oh and I can see daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

They say spain is pretty though Ive never been
Well daniel says its the best place that hes ever seen
Oh and he should know, hes been there enough
Lord I miss daniel, oh I miss him so much

Daniel my brother you are older than me
Do you still feel the pain of the scars that wont heal
Your eyes have died but you see more than i
Daniel youre a star in the face of the sky

Daniel is travelling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for spain
Oh and I can see daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes
Oh God it looks like daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

Monday, May 19, 2008


On the Luas, commuters waiting to commute, waiting for the toneless beep before the doors slide shut. At the back, behind the wall that's behind the tram, there's two junkies. One's on a bike, the other's leaning on the wall and both are on something, eyes rolling, hands jerking, bodies shaking. Hands jerking. There's only three hands I can see.
Trying not to look like I'm looking, I look. It looks to me like she's... And that's why he's rocking forward and backward on his bicycle. And that's why her hand (the visible one) is jerking. And that's why their bodies are shaking. It's a job. You can't tell, because the top of his trousers are under the top of the wall. And no one goes back there. No one who's a commuter anyway.
JONG IS A FAG and SHARON SUCKS 4 BUCKS according to the wall, which also says, mysteriously, Grift! A freesheet on a free seat says research has proven that gay drivers are at least as bad as women drivers. There's so much being said, so little being meant.
Over here you can hear the tsk-tsk hissing of an electronic hi-hat on a keyboard generated dance track. A tall guy with a bald head and a huge adam's apple is in a trance, maybe going over something in his head. Nothing seems to disturb him, not even " fuCKING MONey!" which suddenly pierces the tram. Coming from somewhere and going back there, whoever it is, they're angry - you know that, and not just because it's money. You can hear it, in the voice which crescendos then diminuendos. But to claim to know what it means would just be innuendo. The chatter, the chatter starts on the tram. "He said she was going..."; "Where are you...?"; "Yeah, I miss you too..."; "Just on the Luas..."
"What'd you ge'?"
"Borgor. Chips"
"It's fuckin' luvely in dare, innit?"
Smells of grease and perfume. Named after a celebrity no doubt. The perfume, that is, not the grease. Although could you imagine: Your dinner can smell like Kate Moss'. You can imagine. The smell. Heavy, lingering, slippery. Mixing with that perfume that smells like a subtle room deodorant. You can hate that smell. Even bald guy has turned his lips down, squinted his eyes, screwed his nose. It's not snobbery. It's just... different things for different people... all these different people... you don't turn your nose up at it, you just follow your nose to another place. To the Hugo Boss, the Cool Water, the Poison, the Estee Lauder, the perfumes named before celebrities, before no one knew anything about what anyone else did, because everyone did the same thing, smelled the same way, shared the same worlds...
A breeze comes in, I lean lightly against it. Feel it on my skin, warmed underneath but chilling. Hang over from last night. Feeling queasy. Feeling guilty. No reason that I know to - just conditioning. Spend so much time apologising, from down here, from in here, where I feel only myself, much like everyone else who can't feel what anyone else feels... Vinyl - is that the word? The fabric they make the jackets from. The big ones, puffing out. Nylon - that's it. Nylon on your skin. Feels alien. Smooth but uncomfortable. You feel like you might reach out and
Touch it. Touch it all. By looking, hearing, smelling, feeling, you touch it all. Make it something else, something that includes you, but it's not the thing you experience. It's the thing the other people experience because you're in it because you touched it. And for you, it's the thing they are in because it's the thing they touched. But for all of us, and them, it's only the ones we notice - the handjob, the music, the takeaway, the jacket - it's the stuff. We're just watching in on it. Viewing like voyeurs with nothing to do but sense all this. These meaningless senseless...things.
And yet, there's something in it all that makes you write it down.

Monday, May 12, 2008


It is no curious thing that water is clear, unless polluted by such things that would discolour it. Of course, when polluted by those things that would not discolour it, it is still clear: so we have a situation where water, unless unpolluted by such things that would, or would not discolour it, is clear. Which brings us nowhere if we just need to know whether we can drink it.
A fast flow traps air, which rises in a panic to join molecules of its own king - up there, in the air. A metaphysical refugee, fighting the influx of molecules which not only displace it, but do so with the utmost transparency, so everyone can see what's going on.
They say water can mean purity, but not when they are talking about water torture.
Although, apparently, elsewhere they have said drowning is the most peaceful way to die - so if you're in a hotel room that's on fire, with the mattress coughing out carbon monoxide, which drifts across, nice and easy, ready to put one over you and sleep you to death - jump in the pool and breathe deeply - it'll be much more relaxing. We humans, if we have no control over our destiny, we have nothing.
And nothing returns us to the question of transparency, and what's in it for us. Sure, we can see through clear water, but that doesn't mean it isn't loaded with something. It also doesn't mean that we care. Just because the water's transparent doesn't mean I was even looking for it. I could argue for days the benefits of transparency in water, while I continue to drink diet Coke.
I'm not even on a diet, I tell myself. But I do eat. Which, I suppose is no more than a modern day oxymoron (a word whose meaning is rapidly changing to describe TV audiences in the early 21st century. Or should it be polymoron?)
Like the transparent water, we're happy everything is pure, so long as we don't have to taste it. Even when we see those bubbles rising rapidly, and with some violence, it won't bother us, so we might as well just get on with it.


Tom Waits announces US tour, promises European tour to follow... It's written in the stars, we are told.
As the stars told the wise men of Christ's birth, as they tell millions (maybe billions?) of commuters about their lives, so they tell us of the coming of Tom. Waits for news are over. The moon is rising. Damp brows everywhere are wiped. Clean the credit cards, for they will be needed to book. Tickets won't be cheap, and if London, 2005 is anything to go by, they'll be gone. In a second. Chances are, no sentence can encapsulate the feelings of fans around the world, so I won't try to.
At a press conference, which appears to have been held in a rented school room, Tom Waits lays out the good word about his tour. You can see the video here.
More news is always available from the ever reliable Eyeball Kid, perhaps the best source of all Tom Waits ephemera on the web.
And, should you want more 'official' updates, there's always the ANTI blog, which includes updates on all their artistes here (also good for streaming audio from ANTI artists, including Nick Cave, Jolie Holland, Neko Case, Billy Bragg...).
Set your mouse pointers to the Buy Tickets button!
A word of advice...
In an attempt to reduce touting, there may be bizarre rules in relation to ticket purchases. The US gigs are using a paperless ticketing system: book online, print out a confirmation that you bring along on the night (no ticket is sent to you!), along with a form of Government ID and the original credit card used to book.
There's a limit to two tickets per card, and both those people have to show up together. Touting is a pain in the arse, and has to be stopped, but surely there's an easier way than this?? The whole system sounds like something devised by a character living in a basement in a Tom Waits song... or is that exactly what we're meant to think?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Again, David Blaine...

David Blaine has set a new world record for holding his breath...

Indeed, no, he did not die and we should not all hold our breath waiting for it to happen...

I always thought (ironically) that I'd read a news report about David Blaine; about how he's hold his breath or wipe his ass in some record-breaking manner...

And now it's happened...

Read the original report on the BBC News Website