Archive for the ‘obituaries’ Tag

The Wah-Wahs and Mudlarking   1 comment

 

 

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….

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

Hillingdon or Hilling-Doom?   1 comment

 

Walking to the bus from the Co-Op with some still warm bread, I found myself before the Centre of Hope (which, after all the head injuries I have had in nearly 6 decades, is hardly surprising).

The overarching Hope would be to be told to turn right as you exit, for that way lies someone in Glamorise that might do something with your post-brain-surgery mop of hair.  To be sent left (your right, as you face the shops), is to be directed to Adell’s Chemist/Clinic next door or, worse, what lies two doors down.

We’re all eventually going two doors to the left, but I think we’d all prefer to look pretty for a while longer.

 

Posted June 6, 2018 by Drunken Bunny in Made Me Laugh, Obits

Tagged with , , , ,

Southend-On-Sea, Essex: Sights on a Cold, April Day Out   1 comment

 

I had no plan.  Jackie’s mom’s funeral would be held in Tennessee later in the day and, upon waking and stretching for a run, I decided to catch the train out to Southend to jog, drink, and think good thoughts about Jackie and her brother and all the aunts, uncles, and cousins donning mourning outfits and heading to the cemetery.  A good plan, I reckoned, for no plan.

 

 

Southend Station had some nice details and, paint-job-that’s-overdue-some-touch-up notwithstanding, even the dog shit containers were ornate:

 

 

Queen Victoria (or, using her Essex name, “Lefty” Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, as this statue suggests) looks out toward the sea.

 

 

Hash House Harrier (I believe it is the Full Moon kennel) markings turned up on the cliffs:

 

 

I took a run break and paid for the privilege of walking the pier.

 

 

A paddle boarder in the distance worked against the retreating tide, while some lazier pier denizens took the train.

 

 

 

I thought there would be a pub at the end, but it is really just a Life Boats rescue station (although there is a snack bar).

 

 

Returning to terra firma, it was time to find a pub.

 

 

The cliffs elevator:

 

 

The Kurzaal holds a bowling alley:

 

 

Seaside arcades in older cinemas line the seaside walk.

 

 

Still Life on Victorian Keystones:

 

So, the mourning run finished after 4 pubs (write-ups are slowly being crafted), some eels, and a plate of seafood pasta.  “What have any of these got to do with one another or the stated intent of this trip,” you ask?  I counter, “it’s Southend…nothing has to work together.”  Case in point.  The billboard for the “Sea Life Adventure” features a meerkat — a relative of the mongoose from the Kalahari Desert and no Sea Life, at all:

 

 

Posted May 5, 2018 by Drunken Bunny in Obits, Running, Tourism

Tagged with , , , , ,

Ironside, RIP   Leave a comment

Over the last 25 years, I’ve been incredibly lucky to work for — often with — a couple of dozen eminent scientists, able to honestly call most of them friends.  During my short tenure at Cambridge, I never met Stephen Hawking (unsurprisingly), but one of my bosses there who is now what passes for ‘head of research’ at the University told me a couple of amusing stories about him while we were out for a long jog in the fens.

Yesterday was busy at work and it slipped my mind that he finally slipped the coil.  I headed home and, as I passed University College, it took a moment to realise why the College banner was at half mast.

Loads has been in print these past 36 hours about his Pop Culture importance like his appearances on episodes of The Simpsons and Big Bang Theory (among other tele programmes).  People forget about his brief tenure in the early 70’s replacing Raymond Burr while he was in prison for smuggling heroin across the border at Tijuana:

Posted March 15, 2018 by Drunken Bunny in Obits

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Mill Hill East to Highbury & Islington, Northern Line and Overground, TfL Run Project   1 comment

 

Saturday morning brought a desire to do some damage to the remaining bits of the TfL Run Project.  The Northern Line and the Overground have lingered long in this effort and I left the house before sunrise on a bus to Mill Hill Broadway to start.

 

 

From beneath the bleak M1 Motorway flyover where the bus terminated, I ran.

 

 

Several things made me laugh about this:

 

 

Shortly, Mill Hill East emerged and the first segment of the day began.

 

Mill Hill East

 

This railway bridge is fairly impressive:

 

 

Finchley Central, East Finchley, and Highgate Stations soaked in the sunrise:

 

Finchley Central

East Finchley

Highgate

 

and, a second, more impressive bridge presented itself:

 

 

Archway was a bit hard to find (I stood with an advert display between me and the station looking everywhere except where it sits).  Tufnell Park was a little more obvious:

 

Archway

Tufnell Park

 

I wasn’t sure this place actually existed, but there it was (and is): the Ladies & Gents Bar house in a former public toilet (definitely on the short list, now):

 

 

Kentish Town and Camden Town were the last of the Northern Line for the day:

 

Kentish Town

Camden Town

 

 

 

From there, I looped back up to Gospel Oak to fill in a little of the Overground:

 

 

On the way to Gospel Oak, this old public bath, pool, and sauna looked awesome in the early-morning, mid-winter light:

 

 

Gospel Oak

 

Kentish Town West, Camden Road, and Caledonian Road & Barnesbury stood between me and the finish:

 

Kentish Town West

Camden Road

Caledonian Road & Barnsbury

 

The Henry Hicks memorial outside the prison was perplexing:

 

 

Finally, I made it to Highbury and Islington Station for the ride home.

 

Highbury & Islington

 

Watched over by the ghost of Henry Hicks on the walls of the station:

 

 

The rest can be done in as few as 2 or 3 runs, now:

 

Posted February 21, 2018 by Drunken Bunny in Running

Tagged with , , , ,

Old Boots to the Bin   Leave a comment

 

I run heal-to-toe from the outside, in.  It is more apparent when I have more rigid soles, like on this pair of Brooks GTS 16 running shoes first worn on New Year’s Day 2017.  Matched with another pair, the four shoes have run more than 2300 miles altogether and been worn almost daily for, easily, another 1200 or so.

 

 

The new ones that replaced these have much softer soles such that I can feel much finer corrugations in the running surfaces and, as one would barefoot, I am running much more on the balls of my feet in them.  Moderate workouts have been, as a result of the change in architecture in the shoes and mechanics of the running effort, exhausting.  Whole families of small muscles — especially in my feet and lower legs — are paying dearly for the inactivity they have enjoyed whilst others helped my frame balance on the narrow pieces of un-eroded sole over the last several months.

They have been loyal companions but I can read through the bottoms of the Brooks.  Bye-bye.

 

 

Posted February 19, 2018 by Drunken Bunny in Running

Tagged with , ,