The Spider

I remember as if it were yesterday, the thick legs creeping slowly around the side of the cobwebbed decorated bag with all the inevitability of death itself.  I howled, even as I jerked the bag onto the surface of the bed and I could see for the first time that this large spider was aged, weary of life.

It had none of the vitality of its younger form; it didn’t embody the free spirit of jazz scuttling here and there, enticed by the possibility of finding a mate.  It was stately, as if to query who would dare to wake it from its slumber in the bag I had so little used and within which it had made its final home.

I crushed it quickly and fully, the circular body being beaten flat with the legs retracting close to its lifeless form.  I covered the body with a cup, afraid to see the results of my own actions.

In my dreams it haunts me still.

Mercurial Selves

I’m sitting at the table and I have an itch on my head, just above my right ear.  I go to scratch it, gently pressing my fingers in against the hair and the skin.  The fingers just keep digging in, drawing blood first and then they gently parse aside the fibres of the temporalis muscle.

Deeper still they go, through the border of the parietal and temporal bone, reaching into the bag that keeps the brain whole until finally the fingers penetrate the soft folds of the brain itself.

I look around and my family have not noticed anything different.  My breakfast sits before me, untouched and uneaten.

I am slightly sickened by this point so I retract my fingers, hold them steady in front of my face and twist the right hand around, noticing as I do the soft droplets of blood hitting the bowl in front of me.  They are red tears dropping onto my cereal biscuits, mixing with the milk to make it a pinkish dye.

I want to scream, to say that this is not normal.

But then I realize, slowly, that each of my family members also have one of their own hands extended deep into their own heads, exploring their own personality and their own individual ticks.

This is normal.  This is what we do.  We examine our own conscious, our feelings, for hints and tips on how to react to external stimuli as appropriate.  We look deep into ourselves and, finally, we also look to each other for social clues, for the nous that we think is missing from the familiar.

This is a routine that we practice each and every morning, the examining of our physical selves to better re-enforce our emotional batteries.  We are what we are, we are both flesh and blood; we are but thoughts and emotions also.

The milk tastes okay with the droplets of blood, there is the hint of the mercurial and the taste of the metallic as I crunch down on my breakfast feed.

It is the same every morning, it is the same every week.  For better or for worse.

Surrounded by the Seas

‘They had plenty of talent and some success, but this was England after all, where no one – least of all a good painter – was really rewarded or punished; in England, whatever your profession, you made your own life.’

 Paul Theroux in The Kingdom by the Sea (1983).

~

I’m currently reading one of Theroux’s travel books that I have not read before, a now rare occurrence.  I’m a big fan of travel literature, especially of Theroux’s (why yes, I have read his latest on the American South).  Partly I think because it means I can travel in my mind when my body cannot.  Reading does this to a person though, regardless of circumstance.  It lifts you above what you know and what you think you know, it forces you to don someone else’s view point to discover the world, and the people in it, anew.

I haven’t swam in the sea this year and I haven’t swam in fresh water either.  This saddens me as long term readers of this site may remember that I love swimming; I love the feel of the body gliding through the blue, the grey, the swirling torrents of frothing waves.  I miss the sun above my head, the all too often grey clouds amassing in the distance as my arms brush against seaweed, a mini chloroform power station floating in the middle of the brine.  I miss the shouts and the giggles as the bracing waves slap against puckered skin in early autumn, of two brave and lost souls powering through content in a cold embrace.

The sea, the sea, my soul cries for its limitless horizons and its unknowable depths.

Contend Peacefully

This blog was named partly after a 2012 album by the Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Allelujah! Don’t Bend, Ascend) and, until last weekend, I had never had the chance to see this magnificent band live.  Now that I have, I’m not too sure that listening to them on CD will ever be enough again (although it more than sates my appetite for the moment, as hauntingly beautiful as there music is).  There can be no comparison for just how good they are live, how truly monumental.  I’ve been lucky in the past few months to witness Sufjan Stevens and Godspeed live, amongst small local bands and friends bands (don’t ever forget to support your local bands and jam spaces!).  I haven’t wrote much about music recently on this blog but, along with literature, photography and writing, it is one of the strongest bonds of my creative life.  It is also a daily release from the grind of daily drudgery that is my current employment situation (something I am hoping to rectify shortly).

I also play the guitar and bass, albeit somewhat freely and only in semi-regular jams with friends where we all end up swapping instruments, but there is rarely a feeling like it when musicians lock together in a groove.  It’s hard to define and it is even harder to describe for someone that has never played an instrument, or has never played one with other people.  It isn’t like sex, where two bodies or more are locked in the carnal embrace, it is a feeling that is something different to that, knowing that you are locked in by the groove feels different – it feels exceptional.  It is even better knowing that you are a part of a community (a silent shout out to The Joyful March!), part of a rehearsal rota where you are all friends and invited to each others gigs, or nights sat drinking watching each other play in your rehearsal room of choice.  Even, like me, you play live exceptionally rarely (ok, almost never in the past few years) it is still a thrill to bang out some beats, some jams, and just to release.  To know that you are not chained down to the desk, that you are not a machine, that your job isn’t your life, that there are more facets to your character that can be defined by your daily feedback.  Anyhow, this is just a short note, a note I hope that makes you google the two artists above to discover their music and to entail your own meaning to theirs.

To grow as you hear, to hear as you grow.

NYC

The city was huge, dauntingly huge.  Densely packed, the people but ants compared to the towering skyscrapers above and the labyrinthine subway below.  It was exhilarating, confusing, suffocating.  It was beautiful.  It was freedom in anonymity, in wave after wave of people crossing block after block: all with a story to tell, all with their own individual lives.  I heard every language in the world, I saw every skin tone a human can have.  I lived a thousand lives.  I lived my own life, with tensions brought bubbling to the surface and safety sought in solitude.  Love resided, not passionate romantic love but familial bonds broken by petty remarks and re-made by breaking bread and sharing food.  A mother’s tears in the taxi rank.  Discussions never had were evaporated at the thought stage, vibrated free by the hum of the stop-start vehicles choking the roads.  Directions not sought were instead shouted at by uniformed staff, hushed into lines, finger printed and bags searched.  Made to feel guilt by association.  You are an individual, you are the American dream.  You are the foundations turned into a crystalline memorial.  You are the kind individual who helped me to the front of the queue.  You are the tramp dying of heart failure, the homeless that hang around the port authority building looking for a break.  You are the actor on Broadway who signs autographs on the sidewalk after the show and then anonymously melts into the night.  You are in the queue at Shake Shack, awaiting your turn, your accent rebounding into the heat of the September sun.  You are the man who stands and pounds the tarmac, shouting ‘Jesus saves!’ whilst waving your homemade sign aloft in a salute to the holy.  You are the cab driver who never talked, the policeman who joked on the corner.  You are the band leader who was nervous to speak on the Radio City stage but held the audience in the palm of your hand.  You are the deli counter assistant who cannot understand my British accent.  You are the ant that makes this city run.  You are the love that lingers in my heart.

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Photograph by the author using a cheap digital camera, if re-used please credit as appropriate.

Coming Around

And the rain falls down, the thunder roars, and the clouds roll on by,

It’s just another day and I’m stuck inside, a model of the evil

eye sits and stares, taking it’s time whilst I while away mine…

.

It’s another day, it is another day, and I think you’ve just gone away,

Perhaps just a brief holiday, but that idea holds no sway as I know

that you have gone away on indefinite leave, it’s a kick in the face

as I’m left all over the place…

.

The rain falls down and it’s bringing me down too, as I know I won’t see your

face again, but the heart is filled with love, even as I spread my arms and wish it all

away, knowing that this isn’t how it is meant to be, life left rotting like a broken

tree knowing that I’ll never feel free…

.

and I’ll still miss you.

2 Minute Poem

Chairs or spiral stairs, hair stands on end at the thought of them.
Hands grip the sides ever tighter,
As I gasp for breath, feeling ever lighter.
I’ve changed so many times I’m not even sure
where I’m meant to sit, not even sure of my
place in this ever lasting race.
—-
I just want a comfy chair, computer set up
the way it should be, the way it could never
be, as if I were to sit still in silence, the music
still blaring.
Instead I curse the empty air as, once
again, my pattern changes, new dangers arise –
Are they an officer, an assessor?  What can I say or
cannot say in front of them?
Does it matter, are we ever really in one
place forever or are we always racing against the tide of change?
 —

Freeway

She sat in the docks at the nearby industrial town, all tied up, the crew silent and still.  The cold February waters lapped at her hull, silent save for the call of the coastal birds skimming the water, intermittently casting shadows on the metal hulk as the last rays of the afternoon sun pierced the grey clouds.  I can see the seamen now, walking on the deck or talking in the control room, all able and ready to roam the ocean’s waves.  ‘Where are you off to and where are you going?’ I want to shout across the divide that separates us, the land from the sea.  ‘What do you do in your spare time aboard and where do you hail from?’  Those are the questions that plague me, make me desperate to jump aboard myself and skip abroad.  That great seabird, the silent albatross, could be my constant companion, my faithful friend as we roamed seas new and old, cold and warm.

The Sky is Blue, The Grass is Green

The vertical limbs of the small trees are waving peacefully to the deep grey clouds that are slowly ambling across the sky.  The seagulls are racing one by one, climbing higher on the drafts of air that rage across the invisible sky, barely having to flap their great wings to keep pace with each other.  I am sat by the white hot coals of a small dying fire, kept warm on one side as my other side rests against the cool of a leather chair.  Next to me, resting on the floor as I do, are a few books nearly finished.  One straddles the comprehension of what photography means to Barthes, the other straddles the world of the rebel by Camus.  I am content doing nothing, being no-one.  All pressure has eased.

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If the photograph is used elsewhere, please credit as appropriate.

Out In The Open

There is nothing better than reading in the great outdoors, even if it is just a park in the centre of a city or a cemetery in a small forgotten town.  It is the swaying of the branches overhead, the lapping of the water against the sandbank, the rustle of the leaves next to my ear, the invisible wave of the wind on my shoulder, the chill of an autumn day going up my spine, or it is the heat of a summer’s afternoon that cause me to perspire, that makes me feel physically connected to the landscape of where I am at that moment, at that time.

All in all the ever-changing outdoor world is a beautiful environment in which to become enveloped by novels and travel books.  For me it makes me feel as if I am taking part in the piece of writing that I am reading, the coldness of the winter morn draws me closer to the humanity that is expressed by the written word.  There is no other media quite like a good simple book, humble in its origin but irreplaceable by its loss.

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The awesome outdoors. Photograph by the author using a Pentax S1a camera and black and white film. If re-used please give credit.

Jazzmaster Study

Owing partially to my love of bands such as Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and Nirvana (along a whole host of others including The Jesus Lizard, Mudhoney etc.) I recently got my hands on a new electric guitar, the wonderful Fender Jazzmaster Modern Player.  It is a cheaper model than an American Jazzmaster (by half!) but a step up from the cheaper Squire models that Fender also produce.  I love the beefy yet brittle sounds that the humbucker pickups produce and I adore the offset body, something that is slightly different from the normal Stratocaster or Les Paul guitar bodies.  It fits comfortably against my own body and it isn’t a guitar that is afraid of a good thrashing during the throes of emotive playing.

The Jazzmaster guitar is, of course, now a marker for slightly alternative rock bands after it failed to be marketed to jazz musicians in the late 50’s, but this is a versatile guitar and I’m having a lot of fun trying different tones and techniques.  It also looks particularly beautiful so I’ve been having fun trying to photograph this legend of a guitar.  The following photographs are shot on a 1963 Pentax S1a camera with black and white film.

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The hardware. Photograph by the author.

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Headstock. Photograph by author.

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High notes. Photograph by author.

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Jamie. Photograph by author.

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Jamie II. Photograph by author.

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The physicality of music. Photograph by author.

If the photographs are used elsewhere please credit as appropriate and state the author of this site as the photographer.