Thursday, January 8, 2009

Post 199 - The Mythology of Swagger



My friend today posed the question via e-mail as to whether or not we've actually gone so old we've changed over to a retro radio station - my answer was maybe, but I didn't want to listen to Beyonce eight times a day. I sat around listening to Elastica records (yes, vinyl kids) all night last night as it was, so there's something to be said for letting a little retro into your heart. When I went to the corporate bakery today to get myself a tasty sandwich, there was a kid standing outside leaning up against the wall in what looked like vintage early 90s happy pants, all garish colours and questionable swirls where perhaps just some blank fabric should be. He looked happy enough, which I guess it what counts. There's a lot of bored looking children in ill fitting fabric hang around the coffee shops where I work, clingy white material leeching onto their already pasty unfit bodies, waving mobile phones in the air as they ponder who's a nice guy and who's a nerfuckhead. Such judgements do take me back, the social pecking order of the coffee shop similar to the lost conversations we used to have in Burnie swing park in the mid 90s - I'm sure we thought as we passed judgement on the overweight joggers and the couples having lunchtime affairs before they had to return to work and call home to make up some excuse about working late - and I'm sure we thought we were original and clever...there's a girl with a scrunched up face, as we would say in Scotland she had a hard paper round, a perfectly spherical head with eyes tightly bound into her skull, green hooded top huddled around her coarse rough skin, cigarette, coffee and child interchangable objects of her limited attention span, and she's sitting outside Gloria Jeans, perfectly still, not saying a word as I pass. I suspect that had I some kind of deformity that was obvious - for instance if I had my baseball cap on - I would have been the object of her unjustifiable moral superiority. Her child seems much more alive than her sloth like mother. The child clings to the bottom of her mothers faded jeans, and one day, if I haven't misjudged the situation, she will one day tell someone, a lover or a therapist, all about her faded dreams. Inside the coffee shop sits a huddled and shivering old woman, but although physically frail, her judgemental streak behoves her to have a blog of many paragraphs. She's looking almost physically ill at the surrounding parade of bogans and single mothers with coupons and vouchers crowding around her table, trying to steal packets of sugar. At one point, she sits and stares out the window just as I get some other Britpop band on my IPOD, not Sleeper I hope, and makes eye contact with me. I guess from her eye urgency she's just read something suitably disparaging about the younger generation in her copy of the Mercury and wants me to acknowledge her, but I suspect when she sees my IPOD she despairs and hurries back to finish the sentence about kids on the lawn or some such thing. So entranced is she in moral judgements, she misses several calls for her coffee, and a mutually judging slim hipped wisp of a girl standing hands on bony hips, pouting, repeating her name and the phrase skinny latte and cake over and over again into the ether, a clarion call for the ages that crosses generations and class divides effortlessly...

Of course, my own moral compass is finely tuned and, if not non judgemental, at least self aware. After all, I spent most of the lobbying part of the funeral, the awkward 20enty minute mingling in the lobby of the funeral home where people come up to you and ask how you are doing and you try and place them mentally as the third cousin of or the person who went to school with while trying trying to focus on not making jokes, actually being in temporary fancying with a girl in slick black cocktail dress and blessed with great hairstyle. I mean the guy she was with hardly looked like a big shot, in his store bought white shirt and mad t...oh right, be sad. Professional to the end. The funeral directors of course do a decent job under difficult circumstances - they have to remain professional in the midst of human misery, but it can't help but feel like a business. Neatly cut sandwiches and an arm around the shoulder and then onto the next family. You don't want to be there of course getting the arm around the shoulder - even working with the automon is better than this. It's certainly no place for me to work some of my more flirtacious lines. In the midst of grief, or as one of the family sad surrounded by a bomb of sadness, our place is to hang at the back, just to be there, noted that we attended. I've even put on my best sadness suit, and one of the mourners has put on his grieving wig just for the occasion. People say nice things, people say things they always wanted to say, and a particular band is played far too many times, but the quality of music is scarcely going to be a consideration. Sad as the occasion is, I'm distracted by two people talking in front of me. The cinema tap on the shoulder or a hearty down in front seems in order, especially when they have a discussion about decor in the middle of one of the longer rememberances, and it's only later that I find out their daughter jumped off a cliff and perhaps their own take on grief is offset by discussing the colour of the walls. As for me, the stories about everyones relationships with the deceased make for interesting self reflective listening. Certainly my Dad never took me camping, although that was my choice. After all, what if somethings on TV and it's never shown again? I tell Dad later that since one of his favourite phrases to pre judgemental people forming opinions on him is you will not put me in a box, something I'll be sure to reference at his funeral, that finally, we put you in a box...of course, he laughs. We never went camping, and he caught my only fish for me, and sure he mostly had me to laugh at me, but parenting, well, it's all relative isn't it...

Reception afterwards is a vulture fest, the less genuine mourners tripping over each other for a free glass of juice and a crust bearing sandwich. Into my midst though bowls this tractor of a woman - tragically for lovers of a racial stereotypes she's Scottish, although I suspect the affectations are put on - with the sensitivity of a customs officer. She's camp, she swishes across the room like a fat wart riddled hurricane, a cyclonic bringer of conversational bilge. To this funeral, this show of grief, she's brought not only stories of her own son, but pictures. Pictures of her son that she decides to show everyone, not least of all the widow, before announcing to said same widow that if anyone asks, could she knock ten years off her age and pretend she's 40ty? Yes, many people at this funeral have come specifically to ask about you. When I'm twistered into her direction, she patronises me, looks down on me, just as I look down on her for her face and her manners and her clunky Amish nightmare shoes. She looks like a taller fatter Jimmy Krankie if Jimmy Krankie had a snout. We lose her in the hubbub of her own ignorance as she's standing at the back of a social circle already facing away from her, smiling as if they are really listening to her and her anecdote about her wonderful son. As I've established, I loathe small talk, so I huddle myself in the corner. I oft wonder about how I went from being her, not pig ignorant and ugly and pretending to be 16 at 30ty, but chatty, outgoing, and unaware I was boring people when I was pre 10en, to nursing a terror of being asked what I do and an egg sandwich in a corner of solitude. I know it was Ayrshire to blame - a ruthless place where you had to be 1000% right in all assertions before opening your mouth, less you be cut down by a cruel mob looking for the daily eedjit to pick on and push up against the crumbling school walls. Mind you, I don't think that alone is an excuse or reasoning. Our snouty friend comes from a place in Glasgow called Easterhouse, a Scottish in joke of a place which is something of a byword for how not to plan a town - and yet with full sincerity she claims her dad owns two racehorses. I suspect he had two clotheshorses, but not much more. I think it's perhaps a symptom of malcontented feelings, perhaps a sign of not having much to say about my own life. Such personal issues or feelings are not so prevalent in kids, as I watch as they communicate mostly by punching each other on the arm, throwing sandwiches at each other, pulling each others hair and kicking each other fair up the arse. If life was that simple for me, I would have attracted the attention of mini skirt girl with a fair boot up the arse, then punched out the pig ignorant plus 50 woman right in the snout...but to do that, I'd probably have attracted attention to myself, the last thing I want, so an egg sandwich and a nervous disposition it is, sitting next to Mums sister, who hates small talk even more than I do, and has an even more expressive face at the point of photo 48, the wonderful son in the garden frowning in a grey cardigan only a massive dullard or priest would wear...

Of course life will continue to roll on. Four hours after free juice and impossibly brave grandchildren, not to mention slightly harsh behind the back ridiculing of someones kid for being, quote, too Huonville, I'm in the car home, soon back to my own personal space. I'm self conscious and stressed and physically exhausted so I collapse into my spa and fill it brim high with hot water. Some overpaid, overhyped millionaire footballer or tennis player is on telling me how terrible his life is so I can't watch sports on TV, I'm not in the mental mood. All today has reminded me of for some reason is the time I couldn't go to Aviemore on a school trip. I had the flu, and it was the first time in my life I had the house to myself when Mum and Dad were at work. My Mum made my Dad hold my legs on the Puffy Billy train when I sat on the window sill, so you can imagine how this was a big day. I got to eat popcorn when I wanted, which was often, but mostly I stayed in bed, obviously due to being ill. The Aviemore circumstances I'll have to go into another time, but I suspect I would have lost an eyebrow on the mini bus up there. I distinctly remember I was watching a VHS of Paramount City when a football thundered off the window. For a moment my pre teen self thought I was being bricked or robbed, and I lay on the floor, face down, completely terrified that any minute now someone was going to steal my VHS player, unplayed copy of Paramount City and all. A big boy, maybe about 16teen, with a thick black jumper bounded into the back garden, took a look in the window, and grabbed his ball and walked off, gallas as all hell. Yesterday made me feel like that all over again, like I had some mythical swagger and it was all laid bare and exposed as pretence - like a ball had clattered off my window when I had no one to help me. Death has that effect on me, as a great leveller. What was interesting though was much later Debbie, when we shared a bag of Revels on the little brick circle we used to sit and hold hands on, after I had told her that story and she said I was a big jessie, told me that the boy who had swaggered into my garden in fact worked at ICI, and was made to cry on his first day by a particularly nasty prank which involved a worker pretending to have his finger severed. She told me confidence was all relative, and she didn't care what anyone thought of her, and she would have confronted any burgulars. I didn't doubt her, but her words floated into the early 90s Ayrshire air, not least of all because she had just knocked the last Malteser in the bag, a far greater concern to me than any dramatic thoughts or implications for my future self...

That's the things with these posts, they pose as philosophical musings, but they always come back to lollies or fizzy drinks...

10 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I haven't changed. The radio stations have changed. I find myself listening to the oldies channel sometimes because they rock harder than the so called rock stations. Pretty embarrassing when the rolling stones are blowing you away. But whatcha gonna do when the newer stations play music like the police or Nirvana.

Doc said...

I do enjoy the philosophy, but I enjoy the musings so much more.

And there is nothing wrong with ending on a lollie or a bag of crisps. It just helps to bring it full circle.

Doc

Kris said...

Someone once complemented me on my swagger, but alas, it was just bad knees.

Miles McClagan said...

Well over here, they are really on this tuneless electro pop bandwagon...things like MGMT get a massive work out...plus throw in the terrible phone in topics and the DJ patter, and it's time to move on! Ah, Nirvana, I watched Unplugged last night, seemed kinda...funny?

I always like to include at least one reference to a lolly or a bag of chips in my posts. It rounds up the musings quite nicely if I can get back to lime spiders!

There's a wrestler called Jack Swagger, if his knees ever pack up on him, there will be something in that theory...

Baino said...

I had a sadness dress. Bought it for my husband's funeral then couldn't wear it again. I don't go to wakes anymore, just the service, they seem to turn into uncomfortable social occasions where everyone promises to keep in touch and provide support . . well for three months anyway . . .always end on a sweet note Miley!

Miles McClagan said...

This suit seems to only come out on sad occasions - it's in the cupboard otherwise. As for wakes, it was pretty weird - all these people from Penguin eating sandwiches and catching up with little effort...I sat in the corner and had a Chokito (see...)

squib said...

Did my comment end up in your spam filter Miles?

Miles McClagan said...

It must have done, I never got it, which is a shame, I treasure every single one...honest!

squib said...

I just said something incredibly deep and meaningful like that was funny in a sad way, the funeral I mean

Miles McClagan said...

It was a funeral with a lot of laughs, but it was tremendously sad, especially for me, it was the first one I'd been to. Too much Seekers though. I'm having Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.