All posts by Andrea Gibbons

The two liquor stores on my street

There are two liquor stores on my street. The one at the top of the hill is owned by Koreans, it is the barest liquor store I have ever seen. The products are lined up single file along dusty white metal shelves…two cans of refried black beans next to five cans of refried pintos above a couple cans of soup. There is little to no selection and no fresh anything. It’s on two barely distinct levels of concrete painted dark red floor, with a couple of steps and a ramp leading between them, the upper level has household goods, extra storage, an ancient glass fronted refrigerated unit with rows of 40s, a couple 6 and 12 packs and cases of cheap beer, a couple of Smirnoff ices. There is no juice, just tampico, and a little bit of milk. The owners sit behind bullet-proof glass. Rationally it seems as if they must be going out of business or getting into business, yet at the same time it feels quite thoroughly as though it has always been this way.

The one at the bottom of the hill is owned by Mexicans. You have to walk past a tiny botanica, a 98 cent store and some other place I haven’t figured out what exactly it is yet to get to it. It is crammed full of canned and bottled food, Mexican food, in any and all order. As you walk in you see an old and dusty glass case that probably used to be full of meat when this was also a carniceria…now it’s just full of odds and ends and broken things and the half empty bottles of milk and crema that the old man minding the shop probably used for breakfast. He lit up when he found out I spoke Spanish. There is no juice, just tampico. There is a lot of milk in all sizes (no half and half which is what I really hoped for, for my coffee), but it is stuck in the same refrigerator with the 40s of cobra and miller high life and really dusty cases of tecate and corona, on the middle shelf too, it is surrounded. There are some vegetables that were once fresh, but aren’t any longer. The cholula hot sauce costs twice as much as tapatio, is that true everywhere? There is no bullet-proof glass.

Near the bottom is my apartment, it’s quite all right now I’ve decorated and made it mine. The woman upstairs likes to play reggaeton and bachata incredibly loudly, but I prefer that to the domestic disputing next door. There are a handful of half grown cats that live out of the bin in the back, they are wild and hiss if you come near them. They look miserable and sick, and make me sad. As you walk up the street to the Korean’s or the bus, there are small and old Victorian and craftsman houses, one is abandoned, with the steps crumbled into a ramp of dirt and weeds. It is a dirty dingy white, barley visible, taken over by the massive rubber tree and the ivy curling around it. But it doesn’t look broken into, the windows look intact, so I wonder whether someone might actually live there. And who they could be. And if they’re human.

There are no gentrifiers on this block yet, though they’ve arrived on the next one. Ours is pure raza, yards full of dogs, a nice vegetable garden, bright colored paint beside others with all the paint peeling off. A beautiful little wood house right next to the Koreans also stands abandoned, intricate wood decorations, a screened porch, lovely big windows and you can tell the ceilings are high. No yard at all. No one working on it. It deserves a lot more, I’d love to be let loose on it. I love bringing order to chaos (but not too much order) and making what was once beautiful, beautiful again (but not too beautiful), I even sometimes like cleaning what is truly dirty (but not making it too clean). And then sometimes I just like chaos, ugliness, dirt.

I went to the farmers market in Chinatown today given the absence of edible veg in either store. It was smaller then it used to be, and I didn’t recognize over half of what they were selling…I knew okra, persimmons, green beans…but the plethora of strange squashes and gourds and spiky things baffled me though I enjoyed looking at them. I wasn’t so sure I’d enjoy eating them, I didn’t know how to cook them, and I’m a bit broke. So I prevented myself from buying them just to possess strange fruit with spikes, and walked to my favourite Chinese market, equally full of things that baffle me, equally enjoyable, but with enough pictures that I can fulfill my needs. And the most stupendous invented curry resulted, with thick homestyle noodles (a bit starchier than expected) and Beech mushrooms (a first) and snowpeas and red bell pepper and a bit of potato and tofu and green onion. And all cooked up with a new and incredibly hot chili oil that I was not prepared for, luckily I tasted the thing before adding peppers.

It’s a great neighborhood.

One degree to Marlon Brando

I wanted mariachis and they came. I have been wanting mariachis for days, life has been too sad and difficult and desperate to hardly think about seems like. Deep currents of tragedy overlaid by swift singing ripples of minor stress…and so even small stupid things lately have felt umanageable and I haven’t managed them, they knock me endways as much as…just today I found out about another death, another family tragedy, another person I love destroyed by grief and…and if I were a little weaker, I should undoubtedly have never left my bed at all for some time now.

So to be drunk and singing

Por tu maldito amor,
No puedo terminar con tanta penas
Quisiera reventarme hasta las venas
Por tu maldito amor, por tu maldito amor

Along with other drunk people, thank fuck the gold room is not yet completely gentrified and there are still plenty of people there who know the words, and even though you’re singing about a cursed love and how you’d like to cut your own wrists, or perhaps because of it, it makes you happy…its own brand of happiness, bitter-sweet, shared pain pouring out of you with the melody and you know everyone else singing along and calling out their heartwringing ah-ha-ha-has during the instrumentals has scraped this bottom along with you.

And funny how in spite of the depths and the bottom I am scraping, I can still manage to enjoy myself. When I stop thinking. L.A. is amazing. Last night I saw the first half of Reds over at Charles’ place, how have I never seen the Hollywood movie that features (though briefly) Emma Goldman, the Wobblies, the Russian revolution? Warren Beatty’s labour of loved filmed, I believe, in 1979. Jack Nicholson, Beatty, Diane Keaton, a young Kevin Spacey…no wait, he was in hear no evil see no evil with Richard Prior and Gene Wilder that I saw earlier in the day while babysitting, also a great movie. I raced back for Reds from Norwalk and baby Jones (and the biggest diaper of shite it has ever been my misfortune to change), But Reds…I’m loving it, I’m even loving the very Hollywoodness of it, as I think that makes the events actually accessible to the American public, it’s very clever. And then meeting up with the Oaxacan folks staying over to promote their book that we are publishing (check it out at https://secure.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=47), we all went down to a Fandango in Whittier and the music was still going at 2 am when we left, and every time I hear those folks they sound better. An event today…and then drinks and dinner and drinks and more drinks and open mike night at the Shortstop and then the taco truck then more drinks. I met a Black guy who works in fashion and sings exactly like Morrisey, I met a white guy who was convinced Obama would win in a landslide and wanted to explain exactly how he knew in excruciating depth, and I met an old guy who was in the Wild Ones with Marlon Brando and carries around a photo of the two of them, along with a printout showing the grammy winners for I do not know what year…the year he won that grammy for best instrumental. He did stand up at the open mike, old style quick delivery memorized jokes, you know the one where the three guys walk into a bar…and they were all wildly inappropriate, and most of them quite funny as well, though they made people nervous. He himself was wildly inappropriate and he made me slightly nervous…we didn’t talk about why I am not turned on by porn, or what does turn me on apart from music and good conversation…he said we had both. Luckily the lesbian who had gone on and on about the feel of someone else’s fingers on her thighs walked by and he seemed to like her much better. I did find out that the prostitutes at the Roosevelt hotel in Hollywood are the very best…

The other highlights were just the immense courage of everyone who could get up in a bar and perform in front of everyone else, they were all good enough to be quite enjoyable. And the three guys singing Van Morrison with the amazing hair, old school western hipsterized outfits…my fav was the one in the skinny red jeans and white pointy cowboy boots…he had the hip mullet going on. I know it seems like an oxymoron and it really is, but it’s not your red-neck mullet or your lesbian mullet, it’s a new feature in an old familiar style.

But conversation sparkled and I laughed as I haven’t laughed for some time…it was a great evening. And we ended up at the gold room singing por tu maldito amor and I was happy.

The radical thought on the wall

“Put down your weapon and come out with your hands up.”

There is a wailing of sirens. The helicopter circles endlessly, it has been doing so for twenty minutes. The megaphone comes through loud and clear, the house is at most two streets over I think. This is when I hate Los Angeles. Some poor fool holed up in some shit building, and if he’s not smart he’s going to be shot tonight. Or she, I suppose he could be a she, but he almost never is.

It’s sweltering. Hot like Arizona hot during the monsoons, not the white and blinding oven heat that I rather enjoy, but a slightly sticky heat. Nothing as bad as the East Coast though. I’ve worked right through it, got so much editing work done today I’m quite a happy woman though this weekend I have a lot to pull off and I’m not quite sure how well it will go.

Siguen los pinches helicopteros.

So I’m working on a map of radical thought, it lies in different coloured post-its spread across my wall. It is the foundation for my upcoming literary tangle with combining theory and practice. For money, my first paid article. I’ve been mostly a practice girl myself, but I think it really is time to take a good look at where we’ve been, and where it has brought us, and why we are still so fucked. And when people label themselves or others as this ist or that, I’d really like to have a firm handle on what the hell that means…apart from the fact that such labels have been rendered ludicrous over the passing years, and also that maybe they’re not actually working in the trenches. Still, in the trenches you forget to look up, you have no time to think, you’re not always aware of where you’re headed and how exactly you believe you might get there. And so organizing organizations seem to have a tendency to devolve into service because the emergency is always there, and it’s just easier. It’s such a huge weakness. So I’m doing my map and thinking through all this stuff again and it’s been good so far.
More sirens.

So I knew, but never quite…hm, how do I say what I want to say? I knew, but it never ever struck me before that Gandhi was only 1 year older than Lenin. That their struggles were contemporary, along with their philosophies. And I don’t know if they ever commented on each other. Why do I not know that? In my head these movements are entirely compartmentalized…Europe and to a certain extent America together (as so many Europeans fled here until we deported them back), Asia, India, Africa, South and Central America…separate, isolate. They seem like different eras almost, though the separation is philosophical and geographical only. There must have been connections, I shall have to find them. Or perhaps the arrogance of the Western World simply continued supreme…

The helicopter is still circling. They haven’t made demands in a while.

So you look at Europe up through the Russian Revolution, the Spartacist League, the Spanish Civil War, and all the theorists and philosophers have some connection to struggle. There are a number of people who are self-educated and brilliant and came out of the working class. And then it all gets more and more abstract, Marxism moves into the Universities and sits there writing to itself. The people doing stuff are elsewhere, in other countries around the globe. Or perhaps still in Europe, I just haven’t sifted down to them yet. But they aren’t like their forerunners, the heady times after 1848, actually perhaps since always when theorists tended to actually trundle themselves down to the barricades, rouse the masses, spend quality time in prison…is it just that they’ve all been bought out now?

The helicopter is still circling. It’s funny, but after hearing so many refugees unburdening their pain and fear when I worked at Carecen, I’m rather deeply afraid of helicopters, they are the perfect and ultimate killers. You can’t really hide from them. It’s not a surface fear because it’s not rational – in that I am almost certain a helicopter shall never come for me though I never say never; but in that it’s not my own memory. It’s like a nightmare fear that’s more powerful for belonging to a mass of other people and passed on to me slowly slowly through stories and tears and memories of the dead. It hides in my stomach and I don’t even quite realize how much it’s affecting me until my stomach starts hurting, and I can feel my shoulders around my ears. And I wonder that in this country we cannot understand that no one who has been in it truly escapes from war.

The helicopter is still circling.

At any rate, the other thing that seems clear is that a lot of these guys were just assholes. And they all hate each other. And Spanish communists somehow figured that anarchists were a greater threat than fascists, and did Trotsky really tell Martov he belonged in the dustbin of history with the other pitiful isolated individuals? What a dick. Better than shooting him, though he shot his fair share of people as head of the red army didn’t he? Did he have to destroy Makhno? Mao, Stalin, Hoxha (he was shooting his comrades in the resistance to eliminate competition even before the war was over)…all assholes. Some may argue that the revolution needs blood and ruthlessness to succeed. I think that perhaps it’s just that being assholes, these guys had to rise to the top quickly or be forever shut out and outcast because people just didn’t want to have them hanging around. You know they were the kind who went on that same old rant over beers that everyone was so tired of hearing, or perhaps they didn’t even drink, just ranted and were all self-righteous and lacked any ability to listen to others or laugh at themselves. It’s my (rather bitterly flippant) proposal for the asshole theory of…

The helicopter has left! After an hour. No shots. No death. Relief.

So, the asshole theory of failed revolution. Or why we are still fucked. I rather like it, after all, assholes want power, it’s the only way they can keep friends and sleep with attractive people. I saw Kissinger on the Daily Show, and he’s the rightwing version of this, the man has not a humorous bone in his body, he speaks in a monotone, he’s not at all attractive. Not only is he an asshole, but he’s a boring asshole. And yet he kicked it with the rich and famous all because he rose to the top, and power was enough to overcome every other natural deficiency.

Another helicopter, the same helicopter? And it’s fucking circling again. I guess the life and death confrontation continues and the helicopter just had to…refuel? Moonlight for the filming of some new Hollywood smash? Catch a quickie car chase?

Anyways, I’ve written enough now I think…I’ll come back to the delightful eccentricities of some of the older generation of thinkers and doers in another blog. I got the Maltese Falcon in the mail from netflix today, I suppose it will go well with the damn helicopter.

And it’s still circling. I can never fall asleep to helicopters, even after all of this time in L.A., it could be a long night.

Justin Townes Earle

I saw him play again at the Echo, and as before, I have to say he was brilliant, he and Corey. Just the two of them up on stage and it made me happy. To watch someone give of themselves so much on stage, and the joy in the music, and incredible musicianship…I don’t think I have words for it really. Their own songs are incredible, Yuma, and One Pine Hill, and the song to Woodie Guthrie, I don’t know where I’m going, oh lord, I don’t know, and I don’t care, their two songs about trains and I love them both even more than I love trains, and I couldn’t say better than that. And they played Bill Monroe and Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mr. Gold and Mr. Mudd by Townes van Zandt. And I knew almost no one there knew who those people were. Nor did they know Joe Hill or understand who killed John Henry. I know who killed John Henry, they are still killing people every day, a long slow death it is now, and no one seems to know why or care.

I can see the darkness fall
Like the rain against the wind blows
And I can see your memory
Like a dream outside my window
Even though I know you’re gone
I don’t have to have to be alone now
You’re here with me every night when I
turn out my lights

And it’s the same old blues comin’ round again
Everytime I close my eyes
Callin’ me like a long lost friend when I
Turn out my lights

And once again the audience was …er…funny. Or in other words shite. Too much talking once again. We had Bill and Ted to our right, chatting loudly through the songs, the use of the word totally was totally out of line and if anyone needed a slapping it was them. I had even thought one of them cute earlier in the evening. Until he opened his mouth, I hate it when a guy opens his mouth and destroys all of your illusions, but it always happens so I spose I should just resign myself. More surfers to our left, and then two of the group moved in front of us, and a flipflopped blond guy in front of us kept turning around to give the thumbs up sign to his mate in back. The mate kept yelling out fuck yeah Justin. They reminded me of the Glaswegians watching Andy Murray and getting totally into it without understanding it at all. And the girl in the red dress in front, she was funny and I enjoyed watching her. She enjoyed watching the crowd as well.

But they were brilliant, I am sure one day they shall be playing packed stadiums and I shall remember the echo, where I saw them in a tiny crowd rocking the mandolin and the guitar and the harmonica…

Selling books

It’s tough, it’s a tough business. I spent all of Sunday at the West Hollywood Bookfair, and all on my ownsome as well, though it gave me time to think. And resulted in one book being stolen while I was distracted…a cookbook of low-fat vegan deserts, go figure. I hope they choke on their carob brownies of course, as stealing from any independant publisher is a cardinal sin, especially from my broke self! But I still found it funny. At any rate, we did pretty well I think.

I got there way too early since I’m all new at this, didn’t bring enough stuff, and had far too much time on my hands. And I soon realized that I was sitting next to the Ayn Rand folks, ha! They even gave me some good advice on how to make it look like I had brought enough stuff to fill the two very large tables I was given, and were very complimentary on the aesthetics of my display. They were giving a lot of stuff away…you’d think given Miss Rand’s philosophy they’d be busy proving the worth of their wares by selling it for top dollar…it’s the market that decides value after all! Maybe they figure propaganda works like heroin. It finally got better when the show started, a little old lady singing folk songs in russian, followed by readings of russian poetry, I really enjoyed that bit, hugely, though i couldn’t hear too well. Russian poetry is amazing, though not being close enough, I am not sure what they were reading, it looked like books so I imagine Pushkin and maybe just maybe Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva and Mandelstam and…I love Russian poets. I love the fact that the marquis was packed full of older russian folks to hear poetry.

The people watching was good, you could spot the well-kept and expensively maintained hollywood types, no one exciting though. The police wandered by. They didn’t think much of my stuff, though i thought about trying to sell them a real cost of prisons comix. A jedi knight walked past, followed by vader. A lot of couples were wandering around, and i thought again to myself, how do so many couples look alike?? Is it that people are just looking for themselves in someone else? I think that must be it, or perhaps their expressions come to match each others over time or…I don’t know. But too me that seems a horrifying fate, I’d rather be with someone very different who is always making me think new thoughts, try new things. And who doesn’t make me feel like I’m looking at myself in a mirror when I stare into his eyes. The absurd was not missing of course, like the woman with the dog carrier in camoflauge olive and pink, and her wee silly dog wearing some frilly dress thing with rosebuds on it. And the old guy who looked at my books with disgust, we had mumia postcards and he snorted and said that that guy would slit my throat if he could. I smiled. Then he asked me if there were any right wing bookstalls there, and I happily sent him along to the Ayn Rand folks next door.

The best folks there were the booth opposite to me and to the left. Smart gals productions. Their booth was freestanding, and they set up cloth to hang down on all sides, they hung little stars from the roof…and I’m thinking snidely to myself, ha! damn hippies. Bet they’re selling tiedye and clothes made from old saris…but no, they took the two tables down, opened up their bags and pulled out a large perfectly fitted booth size mat and lots of pillows. Then they proceeded to loll about on pillows, and read. One of them was reading Vonnegut if I am not mistaken. A couple of people came by, sat down, chatted. And when I say a couple I mean two. All day. And that is all they did. It actually seemed quite agreeable to lie on pillows in the middle of a bookfair on a beautiful sunday and read, so I had quite a lot of respect for them as they packed up. Though I am curious to know just how you make a living at that, I rather imagine they don’t.

Anyways, this is the happy stuff, even apart from the economy life has been sucking, lucky for everyone I don’t write about that shit.

punk rock 80’s prom and the aftermath

Went to a party last night…a dress up party and everything! punk rock 80’s prom. Of course, not everyone dressed up. But of course, I did! Not for prom, one of those was enough. I remember it well, I drove me, Chrystal, and Veena…on the far side of town of course. We all went together and that bit was mostly fun, except for the truly embarassing moment where I had to cover the back seat with a sheet because it was dirty and covered with dog hair. But after the dancing was done, leaving the silly ice-sculpture filled hall and I think feeling slightly depressed, I took the wrong turn and drove the huge-ass family buick down a golf cart road. Then turning around I backed my car into a small tree. And then pulling back into the parking lot I almost hit Annie’s Cadillac which would have been an unmitigated disaster because my family was poor as dirt and she was a bitch. I pretty much felt like saying fuck prom back then, and still do.

Anyways, it was fun dressing up, so much fun! Though the green streaks I put into my hair haven’t quite washed out as promised, and as it did way back when, my hair refused to achieve any sort of respectable height or messiness. And I wore my boots and they made me about 10 feet tall, felt as though I was the tallest there and I sort of hate that. Still, Happy birthday Evelin! Here we are in our outfits, I know you’re jealous of such cool friends, and I also wanted to show off my moral strength, the stuff required for me to go to a play in Boyle Heights and then out for sushi in Little Tokyo before we ever hit the party. I think I must be discovering an exhibitionist streak in myself the older I get. And this was the end of the night, I think we all looked much better at the beginning when the eyeliner was in place and the crazy eyeshadow still present! But I was happy, not as happy as evelin, but happy

And I stayed over with Bev and Jose…though I’m moving into my new flat tomorrow or Tuesday so I’ll be able to stagger to my own home at the end of a long night! Happiness indeed. But for some reason I left my friends and plunged into sadness…probably the damn train. And now I’m going to moan in Spanish a bit because I’m sad and tired of moaning in English. Funny how I somehow feel like it’s a step up as far as privacy goes, but it’s in my blog, so is still really entirely public. Just points to the silly nature of my own contradictions.

Me siento totalmente profundamente triste, no se porque, hace mucho que no he sentido tan feo asi…me quite las ganas de trabajar, de crear (y creer), de hacer cualquier cosa que sea util…y tengo tanto que hacer.  Es el peso del mundo sobre mis ombros, me senti atrapada en el tren, paredes de sufrimiento y debilidad humana mi carcel, quiero estar con los que luchan ahora y olvidarme de los demas. Es que en veces no puedo aguantar, sin saber porque pense ahora en Mark y ya estuvo, senti todo de nuevo el dolor de mirarlo matarse poco a poco con alcohol y drogas y la vida de alguien sin un hogar aparte de su silla de ruedas. Poco a poco. Y no habia nada que yo podia hacer por mas que yo queria. Nada. Menos esperar, esperar este momento en que el quisiera aceptar ayuda. Nunca llego, se murio en la calle. Y veo tantos mas, con sus futuros tragicos escritos en sus caras, y hay dias que no aguanto. Estoy entre rabia y depresion.

Quisiera correr. Me pregunto porque he regresado a esta ciudad. Tantos que yo quiero aqui, y tantos que me quiebran el corazon. Y el peso de una ciudad fregada, chingada, encabronada. Una ciudad victima y matadora de una vez, en veces yo no se que tiene la culpa. Son los seres humanos que crearon la ciudad como es, y la ciudad que forma los ninos para una vida violenta y dificil. Pues supongo que la culpa tiene los ricos que benefician de todo.

Que se yo? Solo se que soy triste ahora y me duele todo.

Aberdeen (I’m running a bit behind here, I know!)

I wrote this a week ago in an internet free environment…

I’m in Aberdeen with Sara and Rowen and today sparkled with sunshine and rain, the train ride up here was glorious and filled with golden light and green moors and the sea, space around me in all directions, freedom stretching out side to side. And tonight I am absurdly happy. Very few people know happiness I think; I am so lucky.

A great chat, a tramp along a dirt path through the woods alongside a burn, and then a right up the hillside past fields with horses and a high stone wall to Rowen’s school to pick her up. A wee rest and then down to visit Sara’s brother past fields of pigs. We made pasta with fresh vegetables picked from their garden and romped with three tiny puppies who all finally fell asleep in my lap, and played tig and took a walk with the two dogs Bonnie and Meg down the road to the woods. We lost Meg and had to go back to look for her and then lost some time on the great bales of hay. My first time on bales of hay, you can jump and fall and roll around and it is soft almost like I imagine a cloud would be. There is honestly little better in the world than playing tig on bales of hay and clambering up and around and over and falling and not minding a bit. We lost Meg again, Meg was asserting her right not to go for a walk, so back to the house we went and then back home. And watched the empire strikes back munching on biscuits. Nevis the small black mouse had been released to enjoy his freedom a while in the living room, and it took some time to find him. I was having some misgivings about sleeping on the floor in said living room with Nevis running about, not enough to fall asleep somewhere else of course. But I have woken to find myself face to face with a mouse before, in the good old desert days, I can’t say I enjoyed it particularly. Luckily he was found underneath the chest and put to his own bed and so the room is mouse free and I am sleepy.

And I think in spite of everything life is beautiful.

Andy Murray returns tennis to the people

So I know Andy Murray lost the U.S. Open yesterday, Federer was playing brilliantly and there wasn’t much hope…

But I watched the match in a Glasgow pub, and it was extraordinary. The great working class, yelling unrepeatable phrases at the screen, as much into a tennis match as they were into the Scotland v. Macedonia qualifier for the world cup. To be sure, there were less of them, but they were no less emotional, no less committed, no less gutted in defeat. It was extraordinary. And I suppose it is nationalism, and nationalism is bad bad bad. But there was also something lovely about hoity tennis players being fluently cursed in broad and colloquial glaswegian, and I enjoyed myself immensely.

And no one else seems to remember the Monty Python sketch where evil alien blancmanges come to earth and turn everyone in the world into scotsmen so they (the blancmanges) can win Wimbledon. It is one of the most absurd ridiculous sketches of all time, and one of my favourites. I think it adds a bit more depth to Andy Murray’s presence at the US Open. But I could be wrong.

Art, gods and stone

Creation awes me, the act of it. And what we have the capacity to create. And both the time span and scope of humankind’s run on earth. I love how things are so much the same and yet so very different…we all love, but the ideal of love is different. We all fear, but the form of our fears is different. We all speak, but language is so different, and I wonder how much we are shaped by these things, how much of them we shape, how the shaping happens.

I went to the British Museum the last day in London, I’ve been there before but every time I go I see new things that I fall in love with, that remain in my memory. Though I know they are stolen. And this visit I found several panels like this, that I know I have seen before but never loved

Figures drawn from stone, once alive, and now disappearing. And they linger as they go, they would have been already gone if they had not been stolen. And to me their true beauty lies in this return, this state halfway between sculpture and stone…they remind me of Michelangelo’s slaves escaping from the marble, unfinished. But the slaves are an emergence and these represent a death and I find both hauntingly beautiful. And they fascinate me with the confusion between rock and flesh.

The British Museum is overwhelming of course, after a short time the mind stops taking in things really, overburdened with beauty in glass cases. There was also a stunning display of American prints and etchings from Hopper to Pollock…I love black and white drawings and etchings as well and their collection is fantastic. Go see it if you can.

The other things that stood out this trip? Hawks. I love them in their beauty and purity and unconscious cruelty, they are ultimate predators and represent freedom in a way that few other animals can…and I found this

from ancient Egypt, and this:

from ancient assyria, and this

er…from China perhaps? China I think, or possibly Tibet. And each haunting in its own way, showing something deep rooted to be found across such space and time, something profound. I’ve been trying to write it but my words erase its profundity so I shall just leave it for the now.

Still, I have never been to the British museum when the sun was shining, and that itself was beautiful, the architecture is cold and neo-classical, but the light made it beautiful.

The moors

I walked out of Glenfall and down the road, past the Howwood Inn and up past the football pitch, down along the road that leads to…god damn, I’ve forgotten the little village, it’s where Michael lives, I remember walking down that road several times in company of Michael and Knoxie and Spider, too and from copious amounts of drinks, particularly one sunny Monday when I attended a barbecue with several chefs from the Johnstone area who tend to have Mondays off and I got a sunburn. First and last Scottish sunburn I must say, a unique event in the annals of history. One of the chefs lay comatose on the grass after a long wedding weekend, a wreck the like of which I have never seen after days of drinking and no sleep and a memorable but highly ill advised battle amongst the men with their wooden skean dhus which had left him with the most hideous bruises imaginable.

But today I made the first right up the hill and towards the moors, the sky was grey and it was raining, light rain, the sort of rain where the air is half water half mist and the wind blew hard against my face. Last I was up here was late spring and the day was clearer, Ben Lomond rose up in the distance covered in snow. Ben Lomond today lay shrouded in mist, unseen, looming on the edges of my imagination, the world reduced to the steep climb between the trees of Skipton wood, the gurgling of the burn to my right. I love the woods, and yet…and yet coming to the edge of the trees, seeing the green expanse of the moor rising open before me fills me with a fierce joyful sort of wildness. The wind screams up here, mist driven into your face, hair whipping around your head. Sheep watch you warily and if you come too close they bounce away (there is something about sheep running that always makes me laugh and I’ve tried to pinpoint why I find it so delightful but haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it). I wandered fiercely joyful along the curve of the moor, the bog of the old damn to my left, heather and moss and long grass beneath my feet, a sort of gothic elf today not having packed at all for moors so I had my trousers rolled up to my knees, long black socks, smart black trainers, black sweater…and I tried to take pictures but the moors in the rain defy capture.

It got exciting when I came to the first burn, having passed the hill where an early pict settlement supposedly once lay though nothing now remains…that too loomed large in my imagination as it could not be seen really through the weather. But the burn ran high, after a minute peering up and down in a vain search for likely rocks, I grinned and stepped into it, and continued to squelch happily on my way. The moors don’t go on far enough for me, they are over far too soon, and I had to make the left through the gate to pass the little farm. This time I was squelching through mud heavily enriched by cows, luckily I came to another burn and freed myself of the enrichment. And then back onto the lonely little country roads and winding down the hill and the sun came out to sparkle on the wet grass and summer flowers and pick out the shaggy coats of the cows as they stood watching me incuriously curious. This one was my favourite, all alone in his field and I spose unhappy in his loneliness, he stared at me and then followed me for 20 minutes or so, ambling slowly alongside the fence

I almost danced down the hill, past the trout fishery, down and down and back to Howwood. The world was gloriously beautiful as you can see and the small things full of wonder.

Once the sun was out the pictures came alive of course, the light against dark clouds extraordinary and beautiful. Still, the sun did not come out for long, and played hide and seek with the rain which never quite let up. It had almost disappeared again for the last look back to where I had come from:

And now I am sitting in an airport, on my way to London and 4 days of great things…

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