Friday, August 29, 2008

In The Central Margin

Driving into the station for the 7.57 train. Pedestrian struggling, lumbering up to the station. Won't make it. Pass parked and abandoned cars... no space. No spaces. Maybe a space. Turn; try again. Try and try again.

The train pulls into the station, people get on. Then it goes. They go. Turn past the parked and abandoned cars. Now what? There's an ad on the radio for property somewhere a long way away. Have to get to work; there's all this stuff to pay for.
Drive? Traffic, stops. Motorway. Badtime to head to the city.
Wait for the next train? Thirty minutes before it arrives. Stops on the way. Crowd. Pushing. Hundreds of private worlds, shoving each others shoulders. Hundreds of private worlds ignoring each other. Hundreds of private worlds with their too-public gasses.

Driving out of the station. No sign of the pedestrian. Must have got the train. Tortoise and hare. Newsreader reading the same-olds and usuals. Seemingly, people in Iraq are having the worst time ever; bombs going off everywhere, tribal and international war, repressed women and whatnot. They're looking for something that's not there. Raging about it. Keep going. Bonnie Goodbody, teen pop sensation, thinks they'll find them, these weapons of mass destruction. These reasons for war. Tim Badboy, youth actor and spokesperson for teen celibacy thinks it's a hoax. Thinks it's all proper-gander. That's how he says it. Like something people just want to have a good look at. But then what, once they find them?
Seemingly, some property developer wants everybody to be miserable. Passing brown envelopes to build boxes with big windows for the affluent; small windows for the government-sponsored. It's all about how you see the world. A politician on the phone - a crackling line as fragile as his morality. "...a travesty this should be on the news... upstanding member of society being blackguarded by a media with nothing better to do..."
Pull onto the windy roads leading to the motorway.

Ads. Credit facilities to pay for the kinds of property in faraway places that one simply must have. Get in there before the neighbours. Get it, then pay for it; all this stuff. Pick up something quick to eat, drink, read, watch, hear, smell. Feel like a coffee. Stop at the petrol station.

Back to today's main story.... No, not again. All this repetition turning human misery into a cliché.
Scan channels..."...let me know.../...if you wanna touch my body.../...last chance!/ the central margin?"
What's in the central margin?
"Yes, the central margin. He's just walking around there"

"Well. If anyone out there has seen this guy. He's walking in a circle in teh central margin of one of the city's - the countries! - busiest motorways. Someone should call the Guards. Has anyone? What do you think? Give us a call on the usual number!" Coffee!

Petrol station!

Running (running?) late. Driving late. Shit. Down into motorway traffic. Injected, with the rest of the addictive souls feeding this habit. Poetic eh? Someone still strolling round the central margin. DJ still thinks someone should call the cops. Overtake one-two-three cars. Pushing it. Pull back in. Can't let them pass. Got to get ahead.

Step on it. 80, OK. Cars hurtling toward their destination; people toward their desinties. God help anyone who gets in the way.
"Well, I can tell you one thing now. This guy is selfish! SELFISH! How do I know? because walking round like that... what's he trying to do? Kill himslef?"
"Or others..."
"Yes, YES! Or OTHERS! You're right! Jesus, what's he trying to do at all? Is he foreign?"
"Time for another caller... Frank!"
"He must be foreign!"
"Well, why else is he doing this? Does he even care that hundreds or thousands of people will be late now?"
"Lookit - what happens the traffic anytime a drop of rain falls? What about someone causing this big spectacle like this while people have to get to work? No Irishman would do something like that. No. Foreign. Or a woman, you know, with her MPH or whatever it is..."
"Errr... thanks. Think it's time for a break..."

Ads. Buy a car. Get a credit card. Buy a holiday. Smell good, fuck more people. Listen to this, be loved.

Still more talking. Endless talking. "Has anyone called the guards yet? Someone should call the guards! This guy is posing huge danger to everyone!" Weapon of mass destruction? More talking.

News: Teen sensation in rehab shocker. Middle aged teen-dream in plastic surgery shocker. Paedophile in paedophile shocker. Motorway backed up, as man walks in circles in the central margin.
62. Slowing down too quickly. Signal, move manouver. 72.

Stop. Start. 40.

Not far enough along to make it. Can't be late.
For what?
For what?
Project. Get it back on track.
For what?
Meet or beat deadline.
For what?
Bonus. Paycheck. Money
For what?
For what?
For what?
I don't know.

Full stop. Traffic backed up to here. Never make it now.

Stop-start. Two steps forward, thirty seconds stopped. Someone walking in the central margin. In circles. Round and round.
"He's obviously a lunatic, Gerry..."
"I'm not Gerry. Gerry's on 2FM"
"But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about this guy in the central margin. Obviously a lunatic. Needs locking up before he gets near kids or women or something. Who knows what he's capable of!"
"I'm not Gerry! He's on 2FM! But go ahead anyway?"
"Is he a foreigner? Do we know?"
Radio off.

There he is! Walking in a circle. Car abandoned at the edge of the margin. He's just walking round. What's he got going on there? What is it? I have to know!

"And here is the news at nine AM. Gardai have issued a traffic alert in Dublin's suburbs as a number of people have abandoned their cars on the motorway and are walking in circles in the central margin. No demand has been made as yet..."

He won't talk to me. I look around. I tried first to ask him about... something. But he won't talk to me, so I gave up. I look around. A breeze brushes the grass in the central margin here. There's others here too, in the fresh air. Looking around. Cars pass. I can let them. I have some things to figure out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A good old moan

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.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Tom Waits at the Ratcellar

Once again, if there was ever a gig populated solely by the artiste's biggest fan, it's Tom Waits. The excitement was palpable. So many were wearing hats and suits. You could see 'Small Change'-Tom Waits argue with 'Mule Variations'-Tom Waits over the songs that actual Tom Waits would just have to play.
But there was no trouble. No one wants trouble at an event that everyone knows everyone else has made sacrifices for.
The Rat Cellar was quite a sight on the site. You can see a picture of it here on Stu's blog. A circus-like marquee, with Mr Waits looking down from the publicity photo. Step Right Up! he seemed to be saying, or maybe even "Those with a heart condition be warned!" Under his watchful gaze, we shuffled up, along and back from stalls selling beer, burgers, coffee and chocolate.
Inside, you could see seats. Rows and rows of tightly packed seats. The stage was set for something quite promising. Trees of old speaker cones grew above lightbulb hedges surrounding the stage, hanging over the instruments closely but carefully packed around a small stand, in front of which rose another microphone, it's stand positioned on the floor and quite extended. Everyone knew what was going to happen there, but nobody was prepared when it did.
Taking my seat, I felt lucky. Lucky to be here, lucky to have a friend like Owen the Oracle and the lovely Niamh, without whom I certainly wouldn't have been there, lucky to be the fat guy between two skinny folks in those too-close seats. When one of us stood, another five had also to stand to accomodate thighs, shoulders and bellies. Intimate.
Then the lights went down.
A roar went up (from the crowd).
A band appeared and took their places.
Mr Waits shot out from backstage and onto his little raised platform at the front. We were all on our feet, clapping as he raised and lowered teh crowd with two outstretched arms, commanding rather than pleading. A gasp of his voice-box percussion and the whole damn band blew into action
"Well, they call me William the Pleaser..." As anticipated, The Voice. It came up from the bottom of his shoes, or perhaps even the bowels of hell. It rattled through his body as he sang, feet kicking to raise dust and hit a small bell on the small platform; arms outstreched, waving - a lunatic prophesying.
A snap of silence to break Lucinda into "Ain't Goin' Down" let us all know just how kinetic this gig was going to be. With clouds flying everytime he kicked the floor and the band pulling together all those sounds that make up a Tom Waits Song. Looking around at the crowd, most had forgotten the intimate seating, and were enraptured by this 58-year old who refused to be pinned down by anything other than his own artistic whim and, of course, love.
The band were amazing. I can't imagine what it takes to keep a Tom Waits song tight, given all the almost 'accidental'-sounding bits and pieces that go into them. But Casey Waits (yes, his son, but worthy of being there of his own right) kept beats and percussion to meet the needs of Waits' driving, yet eccentric songs. The bass boomed out by Seth Ford-Young was understated but essential to the whole. It rumbled on underneath the spikes, jolts and beauty of Omar Torrez' guitars. They weren't Marc Ribot, but they were all the better for not trying to be Marc Ribot - Torrez made the position of Waits guitar-man all his own (a hard enough task after Ribot). On the piano (when Waits was busy gesticulating and bursting at the seam from the power of his voice) was Patrick Moran. He was sort of undesrtated to, hidden at the back as he was. But on songs like November, his touch was perfect, tender and quiet then a little intimidating. On many, many other instruments was Vincent Henry. He was quite remarkable, playing a multitude of wind instruments and guitars and apparently giving a young Sullivan Waits lessons during the gig. I couldn't say enough about this band. They didn't just hit the right notes at the right time - they got the tone, the touch, the feeling of every moment dead right. It couldn't be stressed enough just how important this is for a Tom Waits gig, and if you've ever listened to a Tom Waits record, it probably doesn't need to be said. So we'll move on!
After a more than impressive first song, the band powered through a set of songs spanning most of the Waits catalog (the early period stuff - Closing Time, Heart of Saturday Night - seemed left out...), including favourites for both 'Small Change'-Tom Waits and 'Mule Variations'-Tom Waits. I smiled to think how they'll both be getting on, happy and mimicking that growl as they tip their hats to each other.
There were some real surprises too. A rocksteady twist on Black Market Baby, 9th and Hennepin with a cinematic intimidation. Make it Rain with the glitter promised in the title of the tour. Glitter rained down on Waits to the glee of the crowd. It recalled the confetti Waits threw during the Big Time tour (example 1, example 2).
And like the glitter, doom and confetti, a thought drifted down on me, settled and stuck - next year: will a Glitter and Doom CD & DVD be released? With any luck it will include a rerelease of Big Time, which never managed to make it to DVD.
After it all, I walked around, dazed. For two days.