Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Narrow focus, focus that isn't narrow enough, and the sparkly bra strap dilemma

For the next two days, I will pretty much cease to exist to the outside world. It's one of the perks and perils of living alone during days off, the fact that for the next two days I'll be sitting reading a book about some bloke who nearly got killed trying to write it, listening to whatever music Iceland has to offer and sitting on the deck trying to decide what to throw out and keep from my clutter pile. The world outside my house will continue to go on, Barry Tosser will continue to fuss around next door, my work place will continue to be overgrown with the thickets of rigmarole and regulation, and my e-mail box will continue to pile up with jokes of a vaguely offensive air, insinuations that someone at work is having sex with that cricketer everyone loves and the flickering insults only friends can get away with. In truth, it's something of a dream, but I will go offline for two whole days, just sitting in the hammock doing nothing. I found a jotter with some of my old stories and writing in it, I can barely recognise when it's from, but if I analysed the mental ramblings inside it, that should kill a day, especially the haikus. Mental, you'd lock up your kids. Days like this take on the qualities of a distracted nervous dream, without a clock to watch, time doesn't really have a meaning. I've been trying to think in the last few days about my own dreams, not my literal dreams obviously. That's the last thing you want to read about I'd imagine, me dreaming about orange seagulls, or dislocated fragments of conversations with people you don't know that seem incredibly real. My only ambitions at the moment are the unsexy kind - making sure I don't get poisoned by the kebabs in the fridge, or just waking up at the moment feeling peaceful and contented would be enough to inspire feelings of great joy. Love? Romance? Not even on the radar. There will be time for more demanding thoughts, more challenging questions to ask myself as the year unfolds, but for now, there is perfect, beautiful stillness, no thoughts or pestering, just the bliss of disappearing, thoughtless, carefee, and hopeful that there's enough water and food in the fridge that I don't have to move a single muscle tomorrow. Unless the kebabs in the fridge really are poisonous, in which case, I suspect I might be moving quite a few muscles, and all the Icelandic mellow pop and contemplation time will be wasted...

Every shop I go into today is empty - no magic, no dreams, just wide empty spaces and distracted staff endlessly filling in their day from customer to piece of paper work. Big W is sparse and cavernous, with no one getting in the way at all. The only sound in the whole shop if someones tinkling tinny phone playing La Bamba softly, the recipient of the call uncomfortable and coy as she speaks, making sure no one is listening to her and she presses the mobile phone to her ear. Almost out of boredom, a staff member with fringey hair and a can do attitude is listening in, listening to her world, maybe trying to join it, but she shoots him a stare that would turn him to ash if she could manage it, and she walks off, leaving him to get back to the big pile of boxes he left behind when he gained his ambition. Even the escalator seems dead today, no children with ADD running around my kneecaps, although I do walk past the same girl three times, which makes it look like I'm stalking her. This girl has Jelena Jankovic disease - she could be attractive, she could be ugly, but you mentally can't make your mind up. The magic pen stall disappeared today, it's table where it's occupants would sit and change the words to popular songs to incorporate the words pen and magic now taken up by a depressed, pasty looking man in a baseball cap with downcast eyes selling window blinds, a shell of a man not looking to engage anyone in conversation about anything at all, let alone window blinds. He looks sometimes at his pile of notes, looks up, and then looks back at them as if they are his only lifeline to sanity. Luckily, he's undisturbed, window blinds low on the list of priorities of the shoppers. When I come back around, he's looking at a map and drumming his fingers off the edge of the desk. He looks broken by life, but I don't have time to contemplate him for too long. The same girl walks past me again, this time clutching a copy of a DVD in a Sanity Bag. She gives me a look which seems to suggest she doesn't find our continual meetings a co-incidence, and I'd concede she has a fair non verbal point, except for the fact that when I take a moment, I see there's no one else in the entire shopping centre but me, her and the clinically depressed blind seller. She walks off on click clacking heels with a strange look on her overpainted face, just as the blind seller physically leaps from his chair with a strange and bizarre glee. He grabs his sandwich and makes a sprint for the exit, barely remembering to lock up his cash as he heads for the exits, lunch, and a vague form of personal freedom....

There's a woman with tousled, coloured hair straight out of a can, a funny colour I've only seen on certain beaches at certain sunsets. She has a nose ring embedded into the size of her sharp angular nose, and a sparkly silver bra strap gently pokes it's head outside the confines of her singlet. She's working one of the skill testers with violent aggression, jawing with it with a bulldog faced intensity. I stop poking through the bargain DVDs to watch her for a moment, blinded by the bra strap, as she wraps her entire self worth and a giant meaty paw around the joystick, punching the glass casing, oblivious to everyone as she tries desperately to win herself a cuddly toy or a six pack of Cadbury Boost. Eventually she gives up, thumping the side of the glass with an enraged curse, and storming off unsteady high heels, and lest anyone think she had lost her dignity arguing with a skills tester machine, she tucks her bra strap back into her singlet with a strong push as she walks off, head held high. I hadn't even noticed there were skill testers around here, never mind becoming engaged in the struggle of bogan vs claw. Her face is pretty much the same as the kid who's pulling on him Mums skirt, desperately trying to get himself a Spongebob DVD, no other thing on the entire planet giving his life meaning at this very point. Weirdly it was in this very shopping centre I had a moment of self awareness, I was carrying on despairingly about a computer game, maybe a wrestling game or some sort of NBA game on the Playstation that was advertised and wasn't in the shop and I was throwing my arms around in the air and getting all I'm going to take out my green pen and write a furious letter to The Mercury about the decline in moral stan...and then I looked directly at the person I was ranting to, saw the absolute pity in their expression and just stopped, apologized, and walked out, never to collect the game. I realised such an obsessive and narrow single minded focus made me just as bad as a child, or the guy in our work who had the night vision goggles out when he was stalking the girl he worked with. Whatever dreams and aspirations I had for my life, it wasn't arguing with a plainly despairing geek in the middle of a badly lit shopping mall. The bogan meanwhile, having headed off for a smoke, has returned to the skill tester. She furiously works it, but still can't win a thing. She takes pained breaths as she battles, her despair absolute, until a small crowd of children end up behind her, nagging her to get out the way, trying to discourage her until she gives up, and they can effortlessly win a fluffy bunny...or maybe they were just looking at the sparkly bra strap...maybe she won the bra in a different skill tester...

When I lived in Penguin there was a girl who used to work in the milk bar, a tall skinny girl with freckly skin and a button nose and faintly brown hair who whenever anyone spoke to her would hold her hand up in the air and say she was only only working in the milk bar until her agent got her modelling work. She would wear figure hugging sparkling mini tops with words spelled out in tiny diamonds like cute and ambitious, and little tiny demin shorts that she wore arrogantly in spite of a giant bruise on her leg and she would always be slightly contemptous of the patrons, especially those who had to count out their change in coins or small children who would beckon her over from her slumber just to buy a Redskin split or a penny chew. The only time I saw her outside the milkbar she was sitting on one of Penguins never used train tracks cross legged and meditating, and I moved on deeply uncomfortable. The fact that she told us for five years she was working temporarily in the milk bar until her modelling career took off told us all we needed to know, although she was proudly telling her friends she modelled a bra in a Fitzgeralds catalogue one day and her friends were trying desperately to be supportive. Of course, I was probably dismissive of her for being in the same menial job all the time despite protestations her life would one day be better, but here I am more or less in the same situation. Above all though, I always remember time she was serving someone and she dropped a big plate on the floor, sending chips and bits of burger and mustard and the odd sesame seed scattering to the wind, and obviously crockery in dangerously jagged directions across the vinyl floor. She couldn't bring herself to clean it up for some reason, pride or breaking the modelling spell she was trying to cast, and it lay there for a long time, while she walked around it. Her boss, probably Alannah Hills Dad, came out to yell at her, but she held her hand up, shook her head, said she didn't sign up for this, and walked off out the back, to potter around in modelling self assured poses, while Mr Hill got on his hands and knees, cleaning up, and muttering under his breath...

Of course, she was also a massive fan of Sting, so she didn't have that much dignity or self respect...at least not musically...

8 comments:

the projectivist said...

so you learned me something with that post.
i didn't know what you were talking about for a bit, when you mentioned the Skill Tester.
what's that? i wondered.
fancy!
i didn't know they were called that. those glass game thingies with the ridiculously tempting prizes,
little soft SpongeBobs
or chocolates of questionable taste
(Boost bars for example).
My children always want to try their luck on them and look at me with dull eyes when i explain that for the cost of the game, and the number of attempts that i would take them to win
it would make more sense to just go and buy those 'prizes'.



i hope you have more than water and a questionably out-of-date kebab in the fridge, Miles?

perhaps you could fit in some baking over your days off?
some nice brownies
cupcakes
or a Madeira cake.
wash it down with some of that nice tea of yours.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think that is a noble goal to have. If I didn't have to use the net for work I might join you. A hammock sounds nice about now.

Megan said...

I have a lot of catching up to do. That's good, I can do it while you are on break.

Jannie Funster said...

Ouch on that last line, I kinda liked Sting for a long while, maybe even still do.

Wow, that whole first paragraph was an amazing poem. You really taking 2 whole days off from a computer? I did it for 24 hours a few days ago, well partly migraine-induced.

I suggest throwing out those kebabs and ordering pizza.

And perhaps modelling girl didn't have writing skills as fine as yours to fall back on. So see, you are not "stuck" as she perhaps was.

squib said...

Poor Sting, I don't know why people hate him so. Is it because he started banging on about Jaguars? I will never know. I like his stuff but don't tell anyone

Can you tell us some more about the guy with the night goggles?

BTW I wrote on my blog to you that I tried to order 'Melt' and I was told it is not available on CD anymore. Also I tried to order 'The Futureheads' by the very same and I was also told it's not available anymore. Which seems a bit strange because they're not that old. Don't people make CDs anymore?

Miles McClagan said...

Yeah, skill testers, with the claw and the impossibility of ever winning anything. I don't think I've ever won anything on one in my whole life, certainly no Boost bars. The fridge isn't very well stocked at the moment, it has a Mint Slice and milk in it. As for baking, I didn't get much of that done. Some good old fashioned heating stuff up, in between watching Iron Man...

The hammock was great - not turning on the computer was great. Well I had to get the St Mirren score...but that was only a brief flirtation!

I hope you got all caught up, I left you a special reading gap.

I ended up getting pizza, maybe it was subconscious! The kebabs went in the bin. No one would touch them I don't think. Pizza store girl might have made me run back to the kebabs if I'd stayed there much longer though...

For both you, if you were in Scotland when Sting was touring with Chief Raoni, aka the guy with the CD in his lip, you MUST hate him, it was law. Night goggles guy, that's a story for another day. As for AJC, you can download it here?

http://www.amazon.com/Melt/dp/B001NYO7BK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1232009392&sr=8-2

I have the CD in my hand, it was on a tiny label - Crawl is one of the best songs of the 90s. Don't know why they didn't get famous, no fair...

Baino said...

Damn missed the break. Been offline myself for a while because some dopey Irishman has hyjacked my computer and I'm incapable of typing fast on a laptop, especially when it's a Mac. Hope you had a decent emptyheading . . .do you have Supre down there? Your would be model sounds like a fan.

Miles McClagan said...

I must get to Supre soon - theres definitely something going on in ours...that'll need to be discussed. Yeah, I had a computer break, I needed one. I got back into watching films. A film blog would have been easier...just mentioning Dan Akroyds Loose Cannons inspires nerd recogntion comments.