Sunday, January 25, 2009

The dumb shall inherit the beer pump (Dave Sears Vocal On Time Mix)

My friend sits quietly on his oak panelled stool, while I nurse my drink and a strangely passionate three drink grudge against the Murdoch newspaper that I didn't have before I started the process of inebriation. I'm not sure what the sport is flickering on the television in the corner, but there is an intense close up of someone almost in tears at the way the sport is going, a miserable figure attaching her lifes worth to men in shorts and athletic apparel going through the motions. Our barmaid is hairdresser pretty. She has a blonde fringe interfering with her vision, and white nails that aggressively long and pointy. I suspect if I said that they were white she would correct me and tell me they were a certain and particular shade with a fancy name and make white sound like the simplistic naive answer you would expect from a non nail expert. My friend out of unrequited casual afternoon lust begins a conversation with her, and she begins sketching out an unprompted monologue about passing time until the end of the year when she go to beauty school. There's no sparkle in her eyes though, no life, no intelligence to the conversation, it seems to come from a teleprompter - either this is rehearsed fend off patter, as friendly as possible without personal engagement or she's not that bright. I get distracted trying to find a light in her eyes, I'm sure that I myself look a bit dumb, I've already been somehow conned into entering a surfboard competition entirely based on a sales pitch and everything looking more amazing after a few drinks without pondering exactly why I would possibly want a surfboard. She swishes off with our glasses in hand, and my friend, a think from the hips man, is impressed. I can't say I agree, although it is a judgement call - there's every possibility that she could return acerbic comments towards me, if she listened in to what I'm talking about, jock sports, the decline of print journalism which makes me sound like someone who writes in green pen to newspapers, and long winded ideas for going to America with a knapsack on my back. However, I suspect things are a lot more prosaic. She's simply too dumb to be upset by things, and I've devoted any kind of vague intellectualism I have and turned it inwards on myself, restlessly analysing decisions. Even today, I'm upset at something I said when I was drunk, and castigated myself for it. My nails, for what it is worth, are chewed and not the greatest, but I wouldn't mind somedays swapping, say, a knowledge of literature for a day of happiness entirely based on my nails or hair being perfect...when I go to leave, she's cleaning a glass with a repetitive casual attitude, washing it over and over again, staring straight ahead, not even blinking. I wonder if it hides a wistful attitude, a melancholy, something, but as a character study, it's flawed, because I'm drunk, she's in a world of impenetrable self focus, and there's a kebab to chew on somewhere down the line...given that I'm amount to take a risk on a 1/2 cooked kebab at this time of night suggest our intellectual disparity is, sadly, not as wide as this musing would suggest...

I remember when I was little I was considered something of a child prodigy, not a firestarter (stop doing that joke) but someone so adept of the 9ine times table that it appeared quite scary to lesser mortals. Before all the self consciousness, hormones and poor choices of jackets came in, I was quite the hip young thing around Penguin, a hot prospect heading to NASA, or at least a highly paid office job managing disinterested uni drop outs. Interesting, this has come up with my friend when he wasn't talking to hairdresser pretty. He's trying to motivate a 40ty year old public service worker who like a tempremental actor needs to know what his motivation is before he fills in a form. I used to sit in the library reading 2wo books over and over again, the first a Betsy Byars book about aliens and chocolate or some such nonsense, and the second a cricket book with a particularly vivid and articulate passage about a big riot in the West Indies, wonderfully written imagery on every page about crazy people with stumps attacking the police. I thought this was amazing and I used to show it to people and try and point it out as evidence of a much broader world than we were used to in our condensed world of catch and kiss and wooden forts, but most children at our school would return serve with evidence that they went to Devonport to see a market on the weekend as proof of ambitious and restless yearning within their own souls and an understanding of the world. They didn't understand my point. In fairness, this is a one dimenisional sketched out pattern of those days. I would no doubt have been a restless 6ix year old pining for a deeper meaning to life, and then put my jacket on back to front and inside out so when I put the hood up it went over my face. I was an expert on the complexities of the BBC Micro who couldn't tie his shoelaces. My brains were clearly all in my head. My Dads sister, a relentlessly strange woman who now has a locked up living room, tried to push her children to my intellectual level, which was even stranger. When I said I liked something, like a band, she was ask her kids if they liked them, the implication being only their opinions had validity. In moments of quite reflection or when Mum digs out those undeletable VHS tapes from my childhood I cringe and call myself a weird kid, but the world around me was stranger still. There was a woman in the milk bar who would always buy three jam donuts and a chocolate milk, never anything else, always in some kind of weird meshy silver jumper and who was always in a massive rush to get them. I was fascinated by her, but no one else seemed to be, everyone else just let her get her food and get out. When I told my friends about her, they would shrug and play marbles. There was evidence of a wider world mounting up for me, but before then, just one quick game of marbles, just before recess, to try and win that shiny glass one, I'm sure, would not be a sign of intellectual complacency...

When I moved to Scotland, the stupidest kid I went to school with was a 6"4 lump of granite and idiocy called Lee. He had a blonde bowl cut like Gareth from the Office, would wear a black leather jacket on hot days, and would finish every sentence with some kind of cliched over friendly statement like ma man or big pal. There was no second level to him - he was just thick. He came from a town called Beith, and such was his despairing lack of curiousity about anything that wasn't taking twos from your can or calling you over just to say hello, that really you just would have thought someone took his brain out and put in a tape recorder. One day I was watching my soccer team, St Mirren, play in the pouring rain, and he came and sat behind me, asking all these questions with ma man at the end, and after about an hour of this relentless questioning, our goalkeeper dropped the ball in his own net, and he laughed really loudly, genuine belly shaking hilarity, until I told him to fuck off and he was genuinely crushed, leaving the ground and never having any designs on my drink ever again. For some reason, the hairdresser pretty girl behind the bar reminds me of her. There's males at the bar, a Davo, a Stevo, a Wayno, patriotically displaying their o based nicknames on matching T-shirts, are talking to her, and I suspect taking the piss, and the look on her face suggests she knows this but can't work out why. My friend begins telling a long winded story about turning down a stripper on a bucks night who was angling for a lap dance - he says with typically blokey regret, but truthfully, it was probably the right thing to do. It's unlikely she'd respect you in the morning. However, the coda to the story is that it's two years old, time passing rapidly with every beer, us all getting as old as our stories. That said, I'm glad at how simple and unpressured this night is, appreciating that I have friends that I don't have to make a lot of effort with anymore. I briefly catch sight of a slightly desperate and erratically bobbing pensioner playing poker machines upstairs, shaking her plastic cup trying to find a few more coins to try and win her cigarette money back, teeth and mouth hissing together as she stares at the screen. My natural curiousity doesn't always extend to such desperate circumstances as the poker machine player at 1am, so I turn away from the poignancy, go back to my drink, and back into the safer realms of conversation about female tennis players, a world where you can't really go wrong...

There aren't enough people out tonight to make things interesting. The entire bar is filled up with sporting teams in matching tops, males having a warm up drink before they go and puff out their chests, solitary drinkers determined not to go home, men with bad news to deliver to harried spouses without the inclination to bring it up. In lucid moments I can be put off by pubs, by the way everyone thinks they are cooler than they are, or some old boy in the corner is warming up his opinionated vocal chords to become lord of the bar, but these feelings are only fleeting. I've mentioned before that I can't sit in a pub on my own, I feel a bit lonely and pathetic, so if no one is around, I have to leave and walk around the block. When I did this before entering the establishment, I had to walk through Salamanca. I haven't talked a lot about Salamanca, our market of many buskers, but as I walk through, I'm nearly brained by a busker who is throwing one of those little reels on a string and loses control for a second. I shoot him a look that is so theatrical I'm sure he can only relate to it as a performer, as it's hardly threatening, but he goes back to performing with a nervousness that I find suprising. Having run out of things to say much later, I consider bringing this up, but resist, thinking I'll get back to it one day, over another beer, watching another male sign up for the surfboard, hoodwinked by flirtacious banter. When everyone goes to the Observatory later, a cavernous school disco hyped up into a nightclub with video screens and the hint of over trendiness, I go home, unsure that Rihanna at 3hree in the morning larger than life in pixels will be good for my mental state. I leave my friends behind, leave them to come with their own ending to the evening as I pour myself into a taxi driven by a female taxi driver who I suspect spends each new engagement on edge at this time of night. Luckily, all I am is mildly drunk, although when I go to say my address, I say in an alien, drunken, slurred voice, one that catches me by complete surprise. Naturally, this precludes me from any further conversation, and probably her from initiating. It makes me think of her judgements of me, and my own intellect, given that remembering the name of my street seems to have been a struggle. I just about get home with pride intact, slump to sleep, and think if hairdresser pretty or Lee could see me now, slumped in my bed, they may be disposed to ponder whether I had any right to consider myself so much smarter than them...

Well, not really, one would be cleaning a glass and the other would be after my Coke...

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Lee sounds like a character for a story for sure. I'd love to know more about what makes that one tick. But only at a distance.

Jack Dorf said...

Thanks Miles, after reading that. I've decided I don't need to go another nite klub ever again. Damn I feel good!

Kath Lockett said...

Top one, Miles. You are suuuuch a good writer - funny, poignant,self-deprecating. Did you mate have any luck with the vacant glass washer?

....Oh and I hope your resultant hangover wasn't too bad.

Doc said...

I wonder what you would think of me if you found me having a beer in your local watering hole?

I'd be the quiet one with a big thirst.

Another great post man, as always.

Doc

Miles McClagan said...

I wish I knew more about him, but he wasn't that complicated. Every single moment was just like that...I never went to his house, I imagine the whole family was just like that...

If you lived in Hobart, one visit to a nite klub would make you know that the place really is a ghost town...it's a Specials fest...

No, he didn't, I don't think she'd pick up on flirtations. You'd have to be quite explicit and say it to her. And I don't get hangovers - just sleepiness...and I was very sleepy...

I never know if I'm right, that's the problem. It might be a horrible misjudgement...

Baino said...

I think she prolly had a "French Manicure". There, more trivia to pack into that over intellectualised noggin' or empty space . . you decide. Nicely put together Miley.

Miles McClagan said...

She definitely has me covered in the nails department, mines are just shocking. And she probably sleeps very soundly, nary a care in the world...where as I'm up pondering at 3am!