Category: life


For sure I’d tell you about Ted Silverstein if I could without fear.

Only I don’t know who he’s working for now and they could be dangerous.

When I first know Ted he’s a burn-out and a fallen piano player, a shoe man.

His son, so he tells me, is expense-account rich, a direct sales whizz-kid whose obsessions include a fetish for the softer body furnishings.

In effect, shirts.

Yeah, Ted’s boy is a shirt man.

Nevertheless, he is obviously a big part of Ted’s world, although I cannot recall ever hearing a mention of the young man’s name from his father’s lips.

No, it is for Miriam, the shirt man’s wife and the shoe man’s daughter-in-law that he reserves his fullest passion and his truest praise.

She is the only thing his son ever got right, to hear Ted tell it.

“It’s one thing to be an expert on collecting receipts and selecting shirts but to be a menche with the right woman?  Hah!” said Ted. 

You can’t walk far in shoes made out of silk and a leather shirt you can’t wear beneath a dress suit.

“She was hand made in Lewisham.”

Ted tells me this with his eyebrows arching like vipers ready to strike and his Havana-brown breath walking spanish around the last sylables.

Hand made in Lewisham.

For those of you who don’t know so much, Lewisham is a south London borough famous for murder, drug abuse, a writer of popular songs who squandered his genius on fast drugs and a slow-burning woman, and a Saturday market.

Yeah, I could tell you about Ted Silverstein, for sure.

If I could without fear.

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To be blessed

Ok, so I’m doing my time in the sun now.

But the bar scenes, the 2am lounge scenarios, the backstage kitchen sink sets, the imported stench from the ghettos in perfumed candle or aerosol formats, the blacks, spics, bubbles and micks around the place, strategically situated on bar-stools and banquettes just to brighten up the setting and muddy the narrative for the paradox that’s in it?

Well, sunshine doesn’t burn everything out completely.

“You know that stumbling feeling,” I recall Ted asking, “like you’re falling over your own shadow in the dark or tripping on a small piece of conversation somebody left on the carpet in a corner of the room? That’s what being me is all about.”

Ted may have been a degenerate asshole but he was right, life just won’t sustain such things, isn’t dense enough. They feed you that garbage all around the world, everywhere you go and it doesn’t get any sweeter no matter where you hear it. 

The sex only helped with the physical stuff, and the alcohol was a waste of time because nobody recognised that the pain was there in the first place. You can mend a bird’s broken wing but it sure as hell isn’t going to fly the same again.

A bird can’t fly with a limp and retain its grace, and the spirit of the people won’t be raised by a dictator speechifying with a lisp.

But it’s all way back when in the long gone and misty now. So we lived at night, denizens of the dark; but now we must take notice of the day and it doesn’t come easy. Maybe we just can’t adapt or perhaps it’s just that we won’t. Whatever.

No matter which way you cut it, it seems the past will remain there, right there where it belongs, even though every bone, nerve and thought tells us that it’s been following us right along, that it’s here right now in the present and will be all the way through to whatever future is waiting.

I just sit here and watch their shapes in the shadows. What I can’t see with my eyes I sketch in with my thoughts. Who can help but marvel at the workings of their mechanisms of hope?

Oh to be within touching distance of an understanding of the politics of transfer, to be blessed.


Amazing space, a raindrop for every tear, an epic queen’s lament (we dare not speak her name): ‘Fear the bandanaed man,’ she cries.

Dragona Hartley’s Rose of Sharon, like a swallow hovering over the city, sweetly but darkly and out of context.

My friend thinks she may be a bat.

She hesitates not, however, to pencil in, like the artist she is, a movement’s exploration through a savannah ruin: a farm, a Spandex hill, the high- lands to the right, the Union delicately defining the horizon…

I am a turtle with a violin, dying, a mouthless man with a trumpet, falling over, as everything falls into place, or space, or doesn’t.

I’m at the bottom of her steps, the restaurant screams and stinks above me, endless labyrinthine corridors around me leading here, there and where…

And a possible opening that declares, in obvious, un-white horror:

‘This Door Is Alarmed!’

I kiss her, softly at first, then, as I sense her soul yielding and her flesh heating, my tongue parts her teeth and devours her palate, with extreme prejudice, and, fearful still, she opens.

Get me?

I’ve been damned by some as an unbeliever, an anti-christ. It pleases me, therefore, and reinforces my self esteem, to know that to others I’m the cool atheist across the street.

My youngest daughter calls me daddy and my mother insists that I was brought up a good catholic kid and on the right track.

So I drink a lot of whisky. So did my grandfather. Who doesn’t? It’s a family thing. At the age of fifteen I was a good father to three kids, and I always went to confession.

Now, suddenly, I’m an apostate Jew. I wake up one morning and that’s it.

Corner shop proprietor Anita Devi — I knew her father, he was like a Rabbi to me, although he was an apostate Sikh — told local reporters: ‘I’m sorting the papers for the delivery wallahs, you know, like it’s 5am, and in walks Dustin Hoffman. “It’s not safe,” he says, “but I’m a very good driver, Mrs Robinson.” I ask you, do I look like a Nazi dentist?’

No comment, no jazz.

However, Kafka told me this sort of thing was a possibility and, hey, Anita, he gave me a couple of other clues too: like, until this beard grew overnight I was Al Pacino a la Godfather 2, like an old dead uncle always insisted I should be. And Bukowski told me once that when I realised I’d failed as a writer I could maybe scratch a living as an Ernesto Guevara lookalike. Now I’m a 55 year old Ratso Rizzo.

Life’s a bitch. Forget about it. Just learn the lesson: never judge a close relative by his cover.

God told me…

…that I’ve been neglecting my blog of late, so, to keep him happy, here’s a little snatch of a rather one-sided conversation about music I had with Jon Hilltown the other day:

‘I love it. Late at night I think about it. I slip a disc in it and I turn it on: it’s a darkness like velvet.

The low lights create highlights that shimmer. Then I cry.

So I drink and smoke and listen to the jazz and imagine it could be me making that beautiful music. All the time I know it’s Cloudy.

Nobody’s fooling anyone.

For twenty years she mixes that brass and breath and now it sounds like heaven.

The sax teaches her how to sing and the traps and the bass and that belligerent guitar unite and become her heartbeat. Then her rice-paper-voice-skin freezes beneath those lime-lights.

She is born for this. I am just a pair of ears.

I still feel her nerve-ends stinging like a high-hat shimmy, slightly but work-ably out of time. Her blood is air to me.

I recall her touch and it’s like being alive again but ever so secretively. And when the music is over I sleep and dream she still lives.

When I wake up I walk naked through the rooms and when I have searched every one in vain I make coffee. Then I dress myself and realise that I will always be a honey for the jazz bear.

Whether I am alone or with friends or with a lover or an enemy; whether in security or fright or in flight or at home or abroad…

I’m fish food. And the fish are all playing saxophones, guitars…

A Negro double bass player clinks some ice into a glass just before the dawn and endlessly, increasingly weirdly, I start to die.’

Alright God? Now perhaps you’ll f**k off and let us get on with our earthly (or otherwise) sins for a while?

To my mortal friends — Jon Hilltown’s story is coming soon to a book store near you.

Love y’all…

It’s late at night and I’m far from home.

I’m used to that.

Indeed, being far from home is not new to me.

As a kid I am a compulsive runaway.

I mean, who wants to be home all the time?

No, my concern is not due to any spatio-temporal confusion or separation.

What’s worrying me is the company I’m keeping.

She’s supposedly a friend of JJ’s; somebody said Billy the Pill might be a relative…

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.

I won’t say you’re wrong and I won’t say you’re right, morality is irrelevant to this discourse.

‘Tell me,’ she says, ‘as a man who knows Shakespeare… is there a link between madness and creativity?’

Don’t you just love questions like that, at three in the morning, with a spleen full of lust?

She continues:

‘Shakespeare believes that creative genius is only a kiss away from insanity…’

I sense puckered lips invading my space, lips that, up to that temporal point have seemed luscious…

Suddenly the puckering thing threatens.

‘Another drink?’ I suggest.

She nods.

I escape to the kitchen, she starts reciting some crap from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

‘The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact. One sees more devils than vast hell can hold…’ etc. etc.

You’ll be familiar with that bit, I guess.

Now, I don’t ‘know’ Shakespeare, nobody ‘knows’ Shakespeare, I mean, I…

Look, personally I think Shakespeare is over-rated. I mean, the guy never writes an original plot, for Christ sake; just picks up on popular legends and such and moulds them into whatever is topical, like any writer does.

Anyway, this piece is not about Shakespeare.

However, the lunatics and the poets angle appeals to me: crazies and writers, scientists and cranks…

How do you tell the difference?

So, anyway, I’m fumbling around in her kitchen with bottles and glasses and chunks of ice, wishing I was at home, and her question is getting to me:

Is there a link between madness and creativity?

Is there a taxi for hire cruising somewhere close by?

There’s something on the floor, something suspiciously still.

Now, run this: I am totally phobic about cockroaches.

Run it again: I’m starting to hyper-ventilate right now, just typing the word, just thinking about it.

But the light in the kitchen is dim and I have drink taken, so I can’t be sure…

F**k it.

‘Your kitchen is infested with cockroaches’ I holler, ‘and you’re reciting Shakespeare?’

I suddenly remember a lecture given by a certain Professor Thomas, of a certain University’s psychology department:

‘There have always been people in societies and cultures who have different experiences of reality compared with the majority, and there’s always been an overlap between people who have those gifts, or insights, and people who are identified as suffering from mental illnesses…’

Cool, huh?

As things turn out, the cockroach is a cigarette burn, but, you know, I’m mad, I need an excuse to get out of there, and… well, let’s just call it creativity, shall we?

JJ and Billy the Pill

The future? It begins with the meaning of profanity. In the beginning was the word and the word was profane. Take the term substance abuse, for example. Some Christians no doubt believe that substance abuse is profane: you know, the body is a temple of God?

JJ and Billy the Pill have been awake for days searching for the meaning of profanity. Now they’re down to their last fragments of pills, combing the trash for roaches and skimming the bags for powder residue.

While Billy’s in the john, JJ scrapes together enough powder for a line and surreptitiously ingests it.

‘It’s stage 5 in the countdown to the end of the world,’ he tells Billy on his return.

Billy says:

‘I want to email everyone I know and tell them how much I love them.’

Now, Billy’s not known as ‘the Pill’ for no reason. You see, he’s been a user so long the only people he knows are dealers and connections.

JJ tells him:

‘Are you mad? It’s the end of the world.’

‘Mmm,’ Billy replies, ‘so you think I shoudn’t bother?’

‘Do what you like, man. It’s the end of the world.’

Billy thinks for a moment then says:

‘But what if nothing happens, you know, what if the world doesn’t end and we all wake up tomorrow and everything’s still here?’

‘Yeah?’

‘Well, all those people that I emailed would know how much I love them…’

‘Mmm,’ JJ says, gathering up the rest of the pill fragments and hiding them in an empty Marlboro packet, ‘I guess then we’ll have to start counting down again…’

That’s what I love about substance abuse, the virtuous circularity.

So, it’s been another slow year.

You know that feeling, when you’re the only one (I mean one, get it?) in a crowd to see a single magpie? Man, that’s a f**ker.

One for sorrow…

But why me. I mean, I’m in a crowd, you know? And it’s just me that gets the sorrow-vision?

It’s because I’m an atheist, isn’t it? It’s because I’m not quite black, isn’t it? Because I’m half a Jew?

I’m a f**king gypsy. That’s why. Don’t try to tell me I’m wrong.

I blame it on slow jazz and bottled water. If I believed in God or Rock and Roll I’d have no problem.

But I don’t, so it’s got to be that I listen to too much vacuum-cleaner-bass-jazz and drink too much Evian.

No-one told me it’s a sin.

Last week I go to London. I’m attending this party at the Porchester Rooms, thrown by a very good friend of mine who’s extremely talented, has had a lot of luck and has won this extremely prestigious award.

Anyway, we have a drink back-stage, I tell her I love her dearly and, though I’m dying of a tumour in my heart, she shouldn’t let that ruin her night.

It won’t.

So I leave her and visit the cloakroom, blow my nose. Then I take my place at a table reserved for me up front of the stage. The waiter brings a bottle of something French. I tell him to take it away.

‘Get me a bottle of Tequila and some olives,’ I tell him.

Suddenly I’m surrounded by these very serious, very legit looking guys with press badges. Seems they want to interview me.

‘So, what have you done since **** **** ****?’ asks one.

‘Nothing that would interest you,’ I tell him, thinking naively that now they’ll all go off and leave me alone. I’ve been out of the public eye too long.

‘Did you re-marry, after ****** died?’

The Tequila arrives. I do the salt and lime thing.

‘Yup!’

He pulls out a notebook and starts scribbling. Some of the others take Dictaphones and MP3s out of their breast pockets and place them in the middle of the table.

‘And what happened to that one?’ asks the scribbler.

‘Are you still trying to write comedy?’ asks a Dictaphone guy.

‘They say you’re not funny anymore,’ says a young MP3 guy with a cold-sore on his upper lip.

So, I have a long drink and think I’ll throw in a stock comic cliche line and they’ll know it’s a put-on:

‘My second marriage was broken up by my mother-in-law.’

‘Oh-oh! Mother-in-law jokes,’ says the waiter beneath his breath.

The scribbler scribbles, a couple of the Dictaphone guys adjust volumes, there’s a general surge of activity.

‘That’s funny… mother-in-law jokes. What happened?’ ask the hacks as one voice.

‘Well, let’s see. My mother-in-law broke up our marriage. One day wife number two comes home early from work and finds us in bed together.’

‘What? Your mother-in-law in bed with you?’

‘Yeah, that’s right.”

‘Well, that’s disgusting!’

‘Oh, well, she was horny and she came on to me…’

‘With your mother? Well, that’s psychotic!’

‘Why? It was her mother, not mine.’

Then the lights dim, the band starts up, my friend stumbles on stage and the audience applauds.

A guy closely resembling myself leaves by an alley exit.

Soon it will be summer.

As far back as I can remember I had one desire that transcended every other: I always wanted to be a human being.

Things worked out fairly well, to a point.

But there was this constant, nagging knowledge that I wasn’t quite making it.

After a while I stopped fighting, gave up the ghost. It became obvious that I was never going to be like my peers; my Dad or my Mom; my sister; my cousins; my uncles; my kids…

They always told me that there was this line, the crossing of which would take me to a whole other place, where nothing I had learned in my life — on the ‘right’ side of the line — would apply.

Of course, the first thing I did was cross it. I tried it once, then twice, then again…

After a while I was crossing that line every day.

I still do.

Because, you know what?

They were right, bless them.

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