Thursday, June 21, 2012

House Sitting

The house clearly hates me. For whatever reason, it has taken against me, and objects to my presence here. Perhaps it has forgotten me. It has been a while. None of the light switches control the same lights that they used to. The hatch to the attic creaks ominously whenever I walk underneath it. Keys don't open the locks that their keyrings say they should. Nothing quite fits right.  Everything is slightly off; slightly out of tune. 

There’s a menacing crow that sits beneath the bird feeder in the garden, not eating, but staring straight at the kitchen window. Straight at me. I have had experience with a crow like this before, when I worked in the morgue. The morgue was a separate building spereate from the rest of the hospital, down a little road in the woods. Isolated. Silent.  He’d wait outside on the grass, staring in the door at me. I could sense his malevolence. He hated me, because I kept him from the meal he craved. I kept him away from the dead. Could it be the same crow? It's been fifteen years since I worked in that place. I have no idea how long crows live. I thought back then that it was the death that attracted him, but there are no corpses in this house. What does he know that I don't? 

The last time I stayed here, they still had the dog. I miss the dog. The dog was good company. The dog kept the worst of the loneliness at bay. She would be feeling sad and abandoned and would look to me for comfort. I understood; we all feel like that sometimes. If I was on the computer in the spare room, up the far end of the hall where she wasn’t allowed to go, she’d sometimes creep up on her belly as far as she thought she could get away with, and lie there for five or ten minutes, before creeping forward a little more, eventually making it all the way to the spare room. If I spotted her, and called her up to me, because she wasn’t the only one looking for company, she’d bolt back down to the kitchen, because sometimes training wins out over loneliness, and she wanted to be a good dog. Ten minutes later, the game would begin again. She wasn’t a good dog, she was a great dog. But she’s gone. Now it’s just me and my stalker crow, and the light switches that hate me. I may not survive this fortnight…

Thursday, June 14, 2012

At the Indie Disco

I went to one day of a music festival 2 weeks ago. The weather was awful; a wet, cold miserable December's day slammed into the June bank holiday weekend. I'm bad with changeable weather, and  it takes me 3 or 4 days to adapt to the changes. For the first few days of a heat wave, I'll still be wearing 4 layers of jumpers and gloves. I once wore a Hawaiian shirt and shorts in a snow storm, because i got dressed before I looked out the window. I'm always being caught unawares by the weather. i didn't even bring a hoodie to the festival, just a long sleeved tee. I wore Converse in contrast to everyone else's wellingtons. Within ten minutes of arriving, I stepped in three separate puddles. I was praying for my feet to go numb, because at least then i wouldn't feel the cold and pain anymore. The beer was watery piss, and they don't even give you a full pint, the robbing bastards, it’s about four fifths of one in those crappy plastic cups that you can’t hold without squeezing and causing a spill, but I still bought my pints two at a time, because you don't want to be sober, do you, not at a festival, and I'll be damned if I'm spending any more time in the hell scrum of queue than i have to. The cold of the beer chills my hands so they start to feel (or fail to feel) like my feet. Has anyone ever gotten frost bite at a festival? That'd make an interesting story for the grandchildren, how Grandad lost his toe because he wanted to drink in a field listening to music, and wouldn't wear suitable shoes. Everyone wants to go on the chair-o-planes, but i don't trust Carnie folk, not since the carousel in Leisure Land in ‘91. My knee still when it’s cold. My knee aches now.  And anyway, I've just had a hotdog, and already feel ill without being spun through the air with the greatest of ease on a wonderful whirligig death trap. I don't really know many of these bands; they're all a little more ravey than my usual fare. No Neil Hannon here. No whimsical irony masking the soul of a true romantic. Just bleep-ity-bloop-bop. Someone hands me a pill. It's green. I swallow it. You don't want to be not off your tits, do you? Not at a festival! I won't even describe the toilets. I'm not even sure you should be allowed to call those toilets. Surely the UN or the EU or someone has basic standards that must be met before a literal shit hole can be promoted to toilet status. I honestly don't understand how they can be so totally medieval, and yet made entirely of plastic. New Order are the last band. I like New Order, but i wouldn't really describe their music as happy. The green though, the green means I can't stop smiling. And jumping up and down. And hugging people. Smiley jumpy hugs for everyone. People must hate me.  A tiny party of my brain is disgusted at my antics, and wants to feel sad about Blue Monday, but the rest of it is lost in the green. I'm wearing sunglasses, even though it's gone dark, and the sun never broke through the clouds all day. When it's all over, it takes forty five minutes to get out the single gate, and I'm surprised nobody's been crushed it trampled to death, and the security keep shouting at people, as if we're all being a huge crowd just to spite them. I keep losing friends and finding other friends and then losing then and finding the first friends again. It might be a metaphor for life, or it might be the last gasp of the green. The day of misery is over. I even get to sleep in a bed in a house like a human being, instead in a tent, like a less civilised human being. What do cows sleep in? Cowsheds? I bet they’re better than a tent. Music festivals are a grim affair. And yet I'm nigh on compelled to spend money I truly can't afford to go to another festival next week. This one is a camping affair, which means   uncomfortable tents, and bruises from trying to sleep on rocks like daggers. I'll probably go. I'll be sore and cold and wet and constipated from the junk food, and probably catch pneumonia. And I'll fucking love it. I always do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Talk to the hand (I bet no one's made that joke before)

On Sunday night, I watched Her Master’s Voice, a documentary by ventriloquist Nina Conti in which she travels to a ventriloquism convention in Kentucky with the dolls of her deceased mentor Ken Campbell. It was beautiful television, as Conti went on a deeply personal journey to deliver  the goodbye to Campbell that she seemed to feel she’d failed to do while he was alive. As well as this though, it was a fascinating glimpse into just what ventriloquism is all about.

I’ve always been fascinated by ventriloquism. I could never get my head around the idea of being scared of ventriloquists’ dolls.* Most people I know who suffer from Automatonophobia talk about being frightened by the inanimate doll somehow coming to life, but to me, that was clearly never what it was about. The ventriloquist’s doll isn’t an independent entity, it’s an extension of the puppeteer. It’s a literal externalisation of the ventriloquist’s internal dialog. The comedy in ventriloquism generally comes from the fact that the puppet is saying something taboo-busting, that a person wouldn’t get away with saying. Conti’s most famous puppet, a monkey named Monkey, often insults and abuses his handler, especially when her act seems to be going poorly, as he sides with hecklers. But there’s more to this than the juxtaposition of a cute monkey saying horribly mean things, there’s the fact that in reality, it is Conti saying horribly mean things to herself. A ventriloquist act is basically a person stood on stage talking to themself.

Pretty much all of the ventriloquists Conti spoke to in the documentary mentioned being shy children, or even shy adults, and how ventriloquism helped them to say things that they normally wouldn’t feel able to say. The puppet is an outward embodiment of an aspect of the ventriloquist’s personality. But then what is happening when the ventriloquist has multiple puppets? An old childhood favourite of mine, David Strassman, had two puppets (that I remember), Chuck Wood, a dummy who wanted to be a real boy, and Ted E. Bare, a sweet and kind, well, teddy bear, who hated each other. Wood constantly bullied and mistreated Bare and, Wikipedia reminds me, eventually drove him away. What seemed to me as a child to be some fun comedy with puppets was actually a man acting out the war between various parts of his psyche, on television; a war which the cruel and abusive side of his nature apparaently won. That’s hella dark! And in Her Master’s Voice, Conti experiments with several of Campbell’s ‘bereaved’ dolls, attempting to find their voice, including a doll version of Campbell himself. I mean, that’s basically her trying to channel his ghost through her own mind! And it works too, until one of the dolls, Jack, gets all kinds of nasty towards Conti, while she, and I guess he, is drunk. I mean, maybe ventriloquists dolls are scary, after all. Not because they’re going to come to life and stab us in a low quality horror movie or anything, but because while they can unleash parts of our personality which wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day, that might not always be the best idea in the world. Although, maybe externalising that inner conflict is a healthy thing. Perhaps exposing the conflict and self-hatred within one’s soul is a positive way to deal with it. I don’t really know. It tends to make for great laughs though.

*Except for Podge, a doll that appeared on irish TV program The Den. Here, he was controlled by Zag, who was himself a puppet. But then, when everyone was out of the studio, Podge came to life! A puppet, controlled by a puppet, who later came to life (although in reality he was still a puppet being controlled by a person). Man, kids’ tv in the early 90s dealt with some fucking metaphysical shit, right? 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's Bigger on the Inside

This is what I affectionately call my Happy Box. For the last three years, it’s sat by my bedside, storing my supply of antidepressants. Currently, it holds some copper coins, two Panadol Extra Strength  tablets, a contact lens with an outdated prescription (left eye, I reckon) and a plastic Green Lantern ring; hardly life’s essential items. I’m not generally an overly sentimental person, and I know I should probably just throw it out, but for some reason, I don’t feel quite ready for that just yet.
It’s a weird and rather unsettling feeling, being nostalgic about psychoactive prescription medications, and yet that’s what I am. I’ve been off antidepressants for three weeks or so now, and every lunch time I catch myself panicking over whether I took my pill or not that morning. Then I chuckle wryly to myself, and remind myself that I no longer take those pills, because I’m not depressed! And surely, the proof is right there, in my wry chuckle! Depressed people, as we all know, don’t chuckle, and certainly not wryly. You might get the odd bitter, sarcastic ‘ha’ out of them, but its disingeuousness is easily recognised. It is in fact one of the ways to spot the depressives when out and about. Look for the ones who don’t chuckle, even at chuckle-worthy happenings. Watch those ones.
It’s a weird business, recovering from depression. Sometimes I realise I’m genuinely happy about something, and the fact that I’m able to feel happy about things makes me even happier, and I go into a weird sort of happiness feedback, and before you know it, I’m smiling at pretty girls as they pass on the street, and whistling show tunes. I imagine it’s like a mild version of how manic depressives feel, on a manic swing. It’s fantastic, although I’d probably not think so if I went from whistling show tunes to stealing cars and driving across the country to buy crumpets. I’ll stick with regular brand happy, thank you very much. Happiness is weird when you’re depressed; you know you should be feeling happy about something, that you usually would feel happy about it, but the feeling just isn’t there. Or rather, it’s like all the happiness is there, sloshing around in your brain, but between it, and you and the feelings jar you need to pour it into, there’s a Perspex wall, and you can see all that lovely happiness out there, but you can’t get it where it needs to go, so it’s useless. And not being able to feel happy makes you feel sad, and if there’s one thing a depressed brain can do extremely well, it’s feel sad. In fact, sometimes it’s so good at feeling sad, that when something sad happens, you can’t tell if you’re sad because of it, or because of your broken brain, and your sadness for genuinely sad things becomes tainted, and that just makes you sadder, and suddenly you’re into the opposite of the whistling show tunes bit.  So, when you’re recovering from depression, and coming off the medication, or ending whatever treatment you’ve been having, it’s not about never feeling sad; because now, even when you feel sad, you know that you’re genuinely feeling it for a reason. And in a weird way, that can make you happy. And happiness is awesome.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Back to Blog

I haven't blogged in months. Normally, when someone returns to blogging after a long absence, they open with a post explaining where they've been, and what wonderful or terrible life experiences have prevented them from blogging for so long, their new puppy who ate their laptop power cable, or the people who hacked their Facebook account and changed their profile picture to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, or the fact that their local muffin shop shut down their free wifi or blah blah blah. Then they'll promise to never leave their beloved readers again.
I'm not doing that. It's trite and clich├ęd, and really, I doubt any of you care. This isn't group therapy.  Instead, here's a short piece of flash fiction I wrote for a writing class a few months ago. It probabaly needs another redraft, but I read it at an open mic, and nobody openly told me it was shit, so I now assume it's amazing. Regular blogging will resume next monday, twice a week.

Footing The Bill

‘I just want you to know David, that it’s not you, it’s me’
She looked up from her drink and sighed, looking me in the eye for the first time in the whole half hour that we had been sat there.
‘No, I’m sorry, that’s not fair of me. We promised that we’d always be honest with each other, and I owe you that. It is you.’
I choked slightly on a mouthful of sandwich I struggled to swallow, and tried to come up with something, anything to say in reply.
‘I... but... What? Me? What?’
She sighed again, more heavily this time.
‘Don’t get me wrong darling, (Should I still call you darling? Probably not, I suppose); don’t get me wrong David, it’s not anything that you’ve done. It’s just that, well, I suppose you bore me.’
‘I... I bore you?’
‘Oh now! Don’t say it like that! You know that I’m not trying to be hurtful. Perhaps “bore” is too strong a word.  I just need someone a bit more... on my level. And it’s not like we didn’t have some fun times. Didn’t we have fun?’
She picked the last crisp from the side of her plate and nibbled at it daintily.
‘I’m... not on your level?’
‘I mean, we always had fun when we were out with my friends, didn’t we? Your friends can be a little... Is boorish the word I’m looking for? Certainly those rugby boys would class as boorish, with their drinking songs shouting and hollering.’
Our waiter gathered up our plates but, likely hearing our conversation, didn’t wait around to ask if we wanted dessert.
‘So, I’m boring and not on your level and you hate my friends as well?’
She sighed again. Her sighing at me seemed to sum up the entirety of our relationship really. ‘Oh now! Don’t go twisting things. I just think that we’d be better off as friends. You can see that, can’t you? Of course you can.’
She stood up. ‘Look, I have to go. I’m meeting Daniel, you remember Daniel from my office? I’m meeting him to go to the opening of an art exhibition in the library. It’s called “She Broke My Heart So I Ate Her Liver”. It sounds fascinating! Daniel is very into art!’
‘But... wait... Daniel?’

My mobile phone beeped; a text message. I ignored it
‘Look, I’ll call you, ok? We’ll have lunch again. A friendly lunch. As friends.’
And with that, she left. I sat in stunned silence, unsure what to do. It was several minutes before I realised that she’d left me to pay the entire bill.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I am not mad...

This photo is of a gate near to my apartment block. Beyond this gate is a rather heavily wooded walled, one can only call it a, compound. Now, this gate is high and thick and solid, but there’s no wire or spikes atop it to stop someone climbing over it. It is thus logical to infer that it is not designed to bar something that could easily climb over it, such as people. No, this gate, it would appear, is designed to bar ground based animals, unable to climb.

Peering through the gate, one can make out several cameras and motion sensors attached to trees. They’re not all pointed at the gate; in fact, several of them seem to be pointing away from it, into the woods. So, it seems the cameras aren’t necessarily concerned with people breaking into this compound. Rather, they seem concerned with what is already in the compound.

When passing this compound, especially at night, I have several times heard strange animalistic noises, similar to bird calls, but louder and deeper, as if from very large birds. Or animals related to birds. In fact, what they most reminded me of was the movie Jurassic Park. On one occasion, I heard the bleating of a sheep or goat, which ended in a scream, and then silence. It reminded me of the scene where a goat is fed to the dinosaurs in the movie Jurassic Park.

Somebody, whoever owns that walled compound, has cloned a number of carnivorous dinosaurs, probably velociraptors, and right in the middle of an urban area. They have a herd (pack?) of these dinosaurs already, and are feeding them goats. Possibly the goats are also cloned. Certainly, I have never seen goats being brought in. This is clearly a recipe for disaster.

A few days after I made the realisation about what was happening inside the compound, and mentioned it to a few select and trusted friends, I saw walking down the street, an exact doppelganger of my close friend Eli Mordino. This double was remarkably similar in every respect, including hair style and length and dress sense. He even,  almost as soon as I spotted him, ducked into a second hand book shop, which I have often remarked that Eli would enjoy.

Several days later, another dead ringer for Eli, this one have the slight difference of being Spanish, appeared, sat at the next table from me in a local coffee shop. The next day, he approached a mutual friend of Eli and mine on a bus, asking a number of penetrating questions.

The cloners somehow know that I know about them. They have made several clones of my friend Eli, and are using them to get close to other friends of mine, perhaps in an effort to clone them too. These clones may be used to deter my investigations, to discredit me, or perhaps something far m ore sinister. All I know is that I can no longer be certain that anyone in my life is not a clone bent on my utter destruction. Be aware, that if this blog is not updated in a regular and timely fashion, it will not be due to laziness on my part, but because they have gotten to me. The truth, as a great man once said, is out there...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

North of the Border, Up Mexico Way

It’s the buses that I’ll remember most. Long hours, or days, or even weeks in a cramped seat, without enough leg room, hoping against hope that your phone battery doesn’t die, so that you can at least have twitter to keep you entertained. I imagine that this is what purgatory is like. Do they still have purgatory? I know they abolished Limbo a few years ago. It was probably to do with budget cuts.

 I was travelling to Belfast for the Irish Blog Awards. Yes, they are a real thing. I was a little surprised myself. Still, any excuse to get hideously drunk in a room full of other drunk people. And nobody drinks like a room full of people who describe themselves as writers.

The ceremony itself was, frankly, rather a let down. The host seemed bored and anxious to be elsewhere, there was no free booze, a big tray of cup cakes that people got given out to for standing too close to, winners had to pick up their own trophy from a big table of them on the stage, and the whole thing felt like everyone involved in the running of it just couldn’t be arsed. Maybe they couldn’t be arsed, I don’t know. Apparently, it’s the last year that the awards are being run, and perhaps the organisers are burnt out. They did have big Styrofoam letters though. Mainly “b”s, but I did see a few “p”s, and even a “q” or two.

This had been my first excursion North of the Border, and to be honest, I spent most of my time panicking slightly, in case I said the wrong thing to the wrong person, and ended up coming home without kneecaps. Apparently, saying Ulster is ok, but Ulsterman might be offensive to one group or the other. I’m told that giving someone the nickname Jaffa Cakes is right out, even if they have ginger hair. I’m not sure, but I gather the Unionist community still believes them to be biscuits. A sensitive issue indeed.

So, what lessons were learned? Firstly, one should never give a sandwich to a guide dog. This is seen as poor form, akin to going up to one of those guards outside Buckingham Palace who aren’t allowed move, and tickling his balls. Second, The Arrogant Frog is a great name for a wine, and is tasty to boot. Third, it’s ok to call a clothes shop in Belfast Republic but Free State is probably a no-no,. Fourth, one should never make fun of someone because of their looks, unless they’re really annoying too; then it’s all good. And finally, calling someone a cunt for no reason on the internet is both big AND clever, and is a sure fire way of increasing your blog readership.  Billy Zane is a cunt.