Archive for the ‘obit’ Tag

The Wah-Wahs and Mudlarking   2 comments

 

 

I went mudlarking Tuesday on the polyp-like Rotherhithe peninsula (I don’t know what it is really called) and the Wah-Wahs weighed heavy on my mind.  Here’s a wee (or, ‘Wah’) story to explain, somewhat, what I’m on about and the lasting impact of the phenomenon (right up to this very day).

I blacked out as the Wah-Wahs enveloped me and I regained consciousness miles away in the driver’s seat of my 1974 Monte Carlo which I remembered as needing some new rod bearings.  The skies were the colour of Prince’s duster in the Purple Rain video, the red clay in the logging road on which I was parked was vibrant.  The tick-tick-tick of the billy club on the window was ever more insistent and I heard a stern voice demanding, “Open the door, sir.  Sir?  Right NOW, open…the…DOOR!”  I looked at my hand, still gripping the large bin liner still relatively full of R22 refrigerant (chloro-difluoromethane, HCF2Cl) the bag pushing gently on my chest and the steering wheel opposite.  I looked over and just as I made eye contact with the State Trooper very close to shattering my windscreen, he shattered into a mosaic of a million pieces and dissolved away.

 

 

As the shards rearranged themselves, I was actually not at all miles away in my car but still sitting on the couch in the rental house at least some of us were paying rent on.  The bag, indeed, was still in my lap but there were several panicked looking faces circled around me with Mark (the manager of the Turtles record store in town and one of the actual housemates) gripping my shirt with both fists and shaking me so violently that the sputum I was emitting was in our hair, on the window sill (I don’t remember there being glass in the window), and on the floor.  I wiped my face with my sleeve and said, slowly, “wwwwwwwwwwwwowwwwwwww!”  Two of the meat suits animating those previously panicked faces, upon seeing my sudden recovery, each grabbed for the bag, and Pat M came away with it.  In one continuous move held the open end over most of his face, squeezed the bladder-like portion, said something in a monstrously low voice, slipped on some of my sputum, landed on his back on the coffee table, and commenced to violently convulse long after we grabbed for our beers and the table collapsed.

Still stunned, I asked if that’s what happened with me.  “No, dude, you just ceased.”  Now about 40 seconds into his seizure, Pat emerged as suddenly as it had taken hold, and asked how long he’d been gone.  Such is the nature of Freon huffing.

 

 

I tried several entrances to the foreshore but only managed short segments of treasure hunting before the waters closed off access and I would be forced to go back up the wall and find my next entrance.  I wasn’t heavily into the treasure hunting aspects of it, though, happy to merely walk the secluded beaches and debris fields slowly emerging as the tide receded.  At the ferry to the Isle of Dogs I was cut off again but was able to wade around (above) the submerged bit without swamping my Wellies.

We got started doing Freon because, VC, another of our associates had driven me to Rose’s Department Store in his cripple-van (another episode of excess, a year or so earlier, found him crumpled in a car wreck with a broken neck).  I needed some car parts and while I was digging through the shelves he rolled up with a couple of cans of R12 freon (dichlorodifluoromethane, CF2Cl2) and a massive grin asking, “do you know how to use these?” in his distinctively nasal voice.  I knew he meant huffing it — we’d both mentioned that we did this as younger kids while our dads were refilling the car AC compressors — but I didn’t have a valve nor the money to buy one (and, wouldn’t we need a balloon so it would warm up a bit out of the can?  answer: no, just don’t get the liquid form on you).  He swung his begloved hand out of the bag draped over his wheelchair seat displaying the ice pick he had already shoplifted adding, “We’ll use this!”

[Side note: I once saw our VC get hustled out of another shop for nicking shit and he got away with it by screaming down the house: “you’re only doing this to me because I’m a cripple!”].

 

Cans of R12 similar to those we used

 

Sitting near the Putt-Putt course at the far end of the desolate car park, he balanced one of the cans upright in his lap, held the ice pick over its top with his left hand, and smacked it hard with the padded glove palm of his right.  The ice pick flew free but didn’t cause any damage; he stopped the liquid/gas flow out of the can with his thumb, held these a few inches from his mouth, then released it a bit to take in a huge lungful.  “Oh, yeah, this is GREAT!” he said, loudly and about 4 octaves lower than his normal voice (Freon is a lot heavier than air).  Then, he fell out onto the parking surface and I ran around to collect the can, now spewing all over the place…waste not, want not.  We finished that first can sitting on the pavement leaning against the front tire of the van.

 

 

A friend was in town from the States.  I say, “friend,” but we really haven’t seen each other in decades.  She and her husband begged off the foreshore walk despite an offer of a joint put in as a sweetener (they’re from California where weed is legal, so it wasn’t really much to offer).  Waste not, want not as the saying goes.

We started buying (and stealing) cases of this stuff as, over the next couple of weeks, more and more members of our circle of trippers began to participate (most of us with a case of localised frostbite to show for it).  One day, the little cannisters disappeard as a large, green tank freshly acquired from the roof unit above the multiplex cinema replaced it.  This was the R22 from the first paragraph and it seemed to have a much more intense mode of action.  R12 would have a few seconds onset where a cyclic, pounding/wind rush noise would engulf the user (these are the Wah-Wahs) ahead of 20-30 seconds of geometric visuals and perhaps a little glimpse at death from the user’s perspective.  Within 45-60 seconds, it is as if nothing had ever happened and you are ready for more.  A can split between a couple of guys will do about 10 times apiece; split 6 ways, it also did about 10 shots apiece due to less spillage.

The R22 tank was supercharged in that, while only lasting the same time to maybe 30 seconds longer, it was much less predictable and, often, much less fun because the trips lasted so much longer inside than anyone observing could possibly realise and mined personal inventories for their deepest and darkest insecurities.  R22 was the shit, and outrageously dangerous shit at that.  I still am baffled that no one died of it, directly, during that summer.  At one point, we were filling a bin bag with it and doing it out in my folks’ pond in about 8 meters of water.

 

The debris fields along the Thames are puzzling.  The walk along the Isle of Dogs a few months ago had one stretch that was mostly gravestone fragments and another that had an unusually high number of tampon applicators.  These U-shaped chunks of metal roughly 4 inches by 6 inches are strewn for 200 meters along this bank in plain site of the Tampon-Epitaph Beach.  What are they?  My guess was either some sort of large staple or broken links of chains (the more poetic of the two options).

Which brings me to the memories dredged up on this trip to the foreshore.

I had the keys to a house in Griffin Georgia in sort of a caretaker capacity for retirees to the Gulf Coast near Tampa in — I’m reasonably sure it was — 1984.  My duties were to keep an eye on it so that the sort of parties I was having there would not occur there in their absence and, in exchange, I could use the lake and premises in moderation.

There were about a dozen of us in and around the place, all tripping on some very good blotter but kicking it into overdrive with occasional blasts of the industrial Freon. When the owners walked in, I was sitting at the piano with CLW who was absolutely (and tunelessly) slapping the keys with both hands while banging out timpani on the front of the piano with the foot that he somehow got stuck in an umbrella stand an hour or so earlier.  There were several people having a tug-of-war with VC in his wheelchair in water deep enough to cover the wheels but not quite up to his chest.  RMA, who had been sitting with me and the erstwhile pianist, was just pulling her head out of a 6-inch-wide and inch deep dent she had just put in the plaster a few inches above the floor (R22 was involved).

That young woman with the massive bruise on her forehead is now quite middle-aged and visiting London (but, notably, NOT the waterside).  I was going to meet up with her and hers at a pub after the mudlarking, today.  But, I like this memory the way it is so I just picked up my treasure hunting bits and went to a different pub to send some bullshit excuse via email as our reunion meeting time loomed:

 

 

It’s not at all a great memory, though.  Of the people at the lake house that day, CLW became an ambulance chasing lawyer; I believe DH is now a drama professor; Pat’s a photographer. There were musicians, TMcB now part of the local canon in Athens Georgia, RMA a singer-songwriter (when it strikes her fancy, and despite the head injury described).  Our VC (musician) eventually committed suicide with prescription meds and another musician, Eric T, blew his head off with the handgun he suggested he and VC should use to shoot me on stage, y’know, for publicity (his brother, Kent, who was also there, died of an accidental drug overdose sometime in the early 1990’s). Yet another guy, Steve B, beat all of them for elan by killing himself with a nail gun squeezed to his temple.  There were others, but the statistically relevant sample of 10 shows 2 academics, 1 scumbag lawyer, 6 artists/musicians.  There were among those listed 3 eventual suicides plus 1 “death by misadventure” (that I am aware of).

 

 

 

There’s almost always something too big or heavy to carry home.  This bar is about 4 feet long and would make a great fireplace poker but I decided to leave it be.

I spent years before, during, and after these events honing a skill that has stood me well.  When someone calls out my name on the street or otherwise in public, I don’t react, flinch, give any acknowledgement that I am who they think I am.  I have actually been cornered by people who, it turned out after convincing them they have my doppelgänger and not me, were folks I actually was glad to see and I had to chase them down to explain this.

The Wah-Wah memories didn’t inspire confidence in the original plans for today.  34 years is just not long enough, yet.

 

 

You damn, dirty apes!  God damn you all to Hell!”

Wah-WAH-wah-wah-WAH-WAH-WAH-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-WAH-WAH-WAH-WAH-wah-WAH-WAH-WAH-wah-wah-wah….

 

 

This Bank Holiday Weekend I Have Been Mostly Listening To …   1 comment

  1.  The Beasts of Bourbon.  I didn’t know about these guys before Spencer P Jones slipped this mortal coil.  I’m not at all hip, but he was.  Instead, I was perusing the Death Pool to see just how badly I was doing against the other ghouls (currently #41 in my funeral home with the 44 points I got off Winnie Mandela), and he came up as one of the celebs I didn’t know, but should have.  When I saw the band name, I had to have a listen and it turned out to be quite moreish.  Brilliant stuff, including this cover of Psycho by Leon Payne (the Elvis Costello version is aces, too).

 

2. The Fish Police.  We went to the Smithfield Market 150th Anniversary Sunday and it was rainy and cold and full of children and absolutely dreadful save for the Fish.  We got home cold and wet and miserable and both of us had their tunes stuck in our heads.  Definitely the highlight of the day.

 

 

3.  Siddha yoga chanting.  I have this hour stripped to mp3 to go along with a wait for the sacrament to take.  You understand this or you don’t.  It doesn’t have to be Hindu, it could be the Rolling Stones or Louis Prima or Vivaldi.  But, it isn’t…THIS weekend.

 

4.  Richmond Fontaine‘s “Don’t Skip Out On Me.”  Willy Vlautin, singer/songwriter/ostensibly the leader of this band is rapidly becoming Jackie’s favourite author (and she reads voraciously).  She picked this up at HMV trying to keep her club card points up and it is an absolute delight (entirely acoustic, it is meant to accompany one of his novels called, strangely enough, Don’t Skip Out On Me — as an erstwhile soundtrack.  Good accompaniment to dinner, as well.

 

Last year can fuck right off: 2016 by the numbers (mostly)   2 comments

2253-mile-asics-soles

Numbers, or so, listed in bold and underlined.

Everyone has shit to talk about 2016, and so do I; but, I’ll minimise that, here.  I finally sprang for two new pair of running shoes to replace the pair, featured in the photos here, that I picked up in Chattanooga in September 2015 and subsequently added 2253 running miles on before retiring them last weekend (with walking, as these were my usual day-to-day shoes, these had much closer to 4000 miles on them).

2253-mile-asics-top2253-mile-asics-toes

 

Over the Christmas break, we watched a shitload of TV and a bunch of really cheery movies (highly recommended of these are the drama Martha Marcy Mae Marlene and the documentary The Coming War With China.  To recover from those you might want to find Twenty Feet From Fame.  But, we also caught a bunch of shit tele and some old stuff.  In keeping with the theme of the year, we downloaded a collection of the Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson) and spent the entirety of each show playing the middle-age white person version of Jew-Not-A-Jew (aka the straight person’s version of Queer-Not-A-Queer) by pointing at each corpse we spotted on screen and saying, “DEAD.” “Bob Hope. DEAD.” “Joan Rivers! DEAD.” “Gary Shandling, DEAD.” (By the way, that’s Not A Jew, Jew, and a little of both).

2016-sgt-reapers-lonely-hearts

 

So, instead of the multitude of other celebrity deaths everyone is banging on about, here are the 17 I noticed but did not eulogise (and some of whom you may have missed):

17 January: Blowfly, 76
2 February: Bob Elliott, 92
16 February: Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 93
6 March: Merle Haggard, 79
3 June: Muhammad Ali, 74
17 June: Fred Tomlinson, 88
22 August: Toots Thielemans, 94
29 August: Gene Wilder, 83
8 September: The Lady Chablis, 59
16 September: Edward Albee, 88
30 September: Hanoi Hannah, 87
18 October: Phil Chess, 95
2 November: Dolores Klosowski, 93, American baseball player (Milwaukee Chicks)
7 November: Leonard Cohen, 82
25 November: Ron Glass, 71
22 December: Miruts Yifter, 72
25 December: George Michael, 53

In a similar vein, here are the other numbers of my year…

Obits actually in the blog: 16

Bowie
Alan Rickman
Nancy Reagan
Swindon’s Stagecoach Bus Depot in Old Town
Robert Ford, Madman Mayor of Toronto
Prince
Station Jim
Atlanta/Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field in apparent murder-suicide
Brownie’s dad
The jihadi sparrow
American democracy
The villages of Longford and Harmondsworth
America, the not so great pre-Trump version
Fidel Castro
Andrew Sachs
AA Gill

New Years Honours of Note: 1 (for the name): Mr Fabulous Flournoy, (MBE)

Mileage (running): 1589.8, quite the slack year — the least in two decades of keeping track

2016-cumulative-mileage

Pub write-ups 1 January thru 30 June: 38

Pub write-ups 1 July thru 31 December (we moved house 28 July): 216 (254 for the year)

Recipes, such as they are, published here: 5

Brunswick Stew and BBQ Sauce
Chicken Llewyn
Malted Milk Ball Hot Toddy
Chicken Breasts done as if for Pakoras
Pesto

Kebabs: 2

Fish: 22

International trips: Except for returning from Cork, technically a 2015 trip, 1 (Bremen)

Marathons: 1 (Wales Marathon)

Other races: 0, but a few planned for 2017

Weight (high): 169 lbs (12 stone 1 pound, Winter drinking weight)

Weight (low): 150 (10 stone 10 pounds, at the Marathon)

2016-weight

30   3 comments

What is 30?  It is the number of tracks on the White Album, to be sure.  Thirty pieces of silver?  The final episode of The Wire was also called “-30-” but that refers to telegraphy signoffs (which, in turn, was adapted from journalism).

Coincidentally, I studied Journalism at Auburn University from 1979-1982 with breaks working construction (Summers in Atlanta trying in vain to pay for the education) and for a graphic arts apprenticeship at the Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs, California the winter of 1981-82; following an incident in the Autumn of 1982 I did a stint in the Army eventually working out my court-coerced enlistment at the Defense Information School.  Back then, a journalist finished written work with this as the final line:

-30-

Thirty-five years (and a few weeks) ago, I was an 18-year-old working the news desk at WEGL (the campus radio station) in Auburn when three bells rang on the teletype (yes, we had one of those weird little strip printers umbilically attached to Associated Press).  Three bells were reserved for items of extremely high urgency and, as I was extremely high at the time, I retrieved the strip to learn that ‘a spokesman said that Lennon died of gunshot wounds to the head, left arm, and chest” with a finality I wasn’t really used to at the time and punctuated a few lines down with ‘– – –‘ (another, more economical, version of ‘-30-‘ ).

Since then, I have never seen anyone but Ort (an Athens, GA phenomenon) use ‘30‘ to finish an article, but he is from a parallel universe, anyway.  The number 30 probably supplanted the original ‘XXX‘ which seems more intuitive and final in a professional sense: a line of X’s to draw a line under the work.  Less professionally, it might look like some kisses and it may well be that which prompted the migration from Roman numerals.

Hand coloured shot of the spouse in Piedmont Park, Atlanta, roughly 30 years ago

Hand coloured shot of the spouse in Piedmont Park, Atlanta, roughly 30 years ago (photo now sits in my office)

 

Kisses, then, eh?  When we met just before our birthdays I was 22 years old, Jackie was 30, and we were massive consumers of LSD such that we can’t be absolutely sure if the wedding-to-follow was on the 1985 or 1986 side of midnight for the New Year’s celebration (obviously, I eschewed the advice “Don’t trust anyone over 30“).  Now, it is 30 years on and, if nothing strange has happened since I scheduled this to upload, we should be sitting in a pub in Cork, Ireland, right now a short walk from the E30 trans-Europe highway watching another year pass.

When we started this long, strange trip that New Year’s Eve long ago, most of the scientists I work with, now, were not yet born (neither were Jessica Ennis-Hill, Charlotte Church, Lady Gaga, Megan Fox, the Olsen twins, Lindsay Lohan, Usain Bolt, Florence Welch, nor Oscar Pistorius); MLK day had never been celebrated; the Space Shuttle Challenger was ready for what would be its final fueling at Cape Kennedy; Wiki tells me that ‘the Voyager 2 space probe makes its first encounter with Uranus’ later that year; and, Chernobyl was unknown outside the Soviet Union (which, itself, was still viable).  Also still alive were L. Ron Hubbard, Georgia O’Keeffe, James Cagney, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Genet, The Duchess of Windsor (the former Wallis Simpson), Tenzing Norgay, Benny Goodman, Rudy Vallée, Vincente Minnelli, Scatman Crothers, Cary Grant, and Desi Arnaz (none of whom would be available to attend our 1st anniversary, RIP).  30 years…yikes.

We’ve done the anniversaries in Penzance (#25), Paris (#18), the Hague (#17), and all over Atlanta & a variety of locales near Athens, GA; Bermuda (#14, hoping the Y2K bug would strand us there), Savannah (#15), Chicago (#20), Bisbee, Tucson, Bicester, Ely, Oxford, Swindon, moving house (#10, leaving Atlanta to return to Athens to start my Chemistry PhD), Tybee Island (#5, in a winter storm with the island largely abandoned), and London…with no sign of stopping anytime soon.

So, this 30 is not an end, nor even the beginning of an end; at worst, it might be an end of the beginning.  Or, like that last line, merely a cliché copied from so many earlier hacks.  But, as clichés go, it ain’t bad.

XXX

 

Posted December 31, 2015 by Drunken Bunny in 1PumpLane, Booze, Drugs, Drunken Bunny

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