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'n o o y o i k p t . # 1'

 

the holiday started less than well.

up at the crack of dawn, we made our way to the airport. i was wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a revolver on it (above) over a long sleeved red top. as we went through security, after passing through the metal detector, as i was being frisked, i was told by the security woman that my t-shirt was "offensive". somewhat astonished that it was within her remit to criticise passenger clothing, i asked "what, morally?", a tad reticent, the woman replied "yes" which struck me as utterly fucking idiotic. i can honestly say that it truly didn't occur to me that the shirt might have gotten this reaction. i was about to put it down to plain rudeness and inappropriate behaviour on the part of woman number one when woman number two came over, a particularly sour-faced bitch this one, to tell me that i had to either put my coat back on (in the swelteringly overheated airport), or take off the offending article, the reason being that in this state of heightened awareness of terrorism, people are nervous about traveling "and the last thing they want to see is a gun". "a picture of a gun." i corrected her, stressing the word p-i-c-t-u-r-e because this whole thing was seeming more and more absurd. i mean, it's not even a photograph of a gun. "anything that suggests this kind of thing is unacceptable" she says. what about that tit that tried to blow up a plane with a bomb in his shoe? i thought. if my t-shirt had had a picture of a nice pair of brogues on it, would there still have been a problem? "is this the law?" i asked -if i was going to take the thing off, i wanted to be made to do so. "wait here" she barked, and sneering officiously, went off to get a superior (something that shouldn't be too difficult in her case, i thought). minutes of me getting more irritated pass and finally he, the (o so) 'superior', arrives with the same who are you to question us? look on his pinched and miserable face. he reiterates the same utter nonsense about a mere picture upsetting passengers. "that's a judgment you're making on their behalf." i remind him (i mean, aren't we all supposed to be individuals? don't we, as adults, deserve to make our own minds up about what upsets us? is it me?) i ask him if this is law. "yes it is." he replies defiantly, then adds, somewhat less so, "well, it's not the law as such... but it is a bylaw." -which basically means there's something written down somewhere that they can choose to interpret in any way they see fit or think they can get away with. "do you really think a terrorist would wear a t-shirt with a gun on it?" i ask the sour-faced bitch, in a last attempt to inject some, o i don't know, reason and logic, callmeoldfashioned, into this farce. "well terrorists are all sorts of people aren't they?" she replies. are they? what, so i decided that i wanted to blow up a plane and i wore the t-shirt to throw them off the scent? that would be one brave or stupid fucking double bluff wouldn't it? so of course, faced with either not traveling or taking off the t-shirt, i take the fucking thing off. look up 'ridiculous' in the dictionary and you'll see a picture of me arguing, my case with people who are employed to shield this and other countries from attack, about a fucking t-shirt. the british government: protecting you from the dangers of irresponsible screen printing. we walk on, me now sartorially benign once again, no doubt the western world safe once more, and the first thing i see is piles of newspapers, all of course showing pictures of iraq, of other horrific happenings around the world, all with explicit and 'upsetting' details of the same, many with photographs (not drawings) of the same. the world is policed by fucking idiots. we are all doomed.

to avoid the throngs of sweaty, ill tempered, seat-hungry travelers, we retire once again to what we've come to call 'the small grey room', a closed off waiting area with pretensions to being anything as salubrious as a 'lounge', with free nibbles etc. guaranteed to us by hostess elisabeth's bank account. the receptionist to the 'grey room' is the cliché tangerine skinned fortysomething with an inch thick layer of make up and a carefully sculpted crash helmet hair-do in a tastefully dated burgundy. do these people have no mirrors in their house? or do the mirrors they own magically show them as they looked 20 odd years ago? we sit down and glancing across at the television in the corner see that there's been a plane crash in chicago. the requisite reminder that we too may be only moments away from a terrifying death amongst a twisted mass of plummeting burning metal. happens every time. without fail. and yet somehow fails to move me to fear. why is that? what is wrong with me?

(it later turns out that it was less of a crash and more of a skid off the runway and into a passing car, killing a six year old boy)

we arrive in new york on the tail of 5.8 inches of snow, draping the city in a way we've not seen it before. most pleasant, if a little too festive for my tastes.

our hotel room door shows extensive scratching around the lock and buckling along its edge. it has obviously been forced from the outside in the fairly recent past. also, we notice later that the shower curtain rail is bent/buckled. along with the forced door, it somehow suggests sinister things... suicide? meathook hung victims?

a strange shrine at the corner of e31st and madison: a defunct and converted phone point for the new york fire department, a kind of hollow, cast iron bollard, the innards of which had been long since removed (stolen?) and replaced with what appeared to be a glow in the dark virgin mary flanked by two naked pink (plastic? wax?) figures. behind them was a cd (something to do with linux judging by the penguin logo) and a piece of card with what looked like 'celso 2005' scrawled onto it with a marker pen. at the foot of the virgin mary were some flowers, a rotting apple (which considering the cold must have been there for quite some time) and what appeared to be a plastic food container with some kind of pudding inside; strange offerings to an even stranger god...

being something of a (albeit not conventionally recognised) milestone, hostess elisabeth's birthday dinner this year took place at the four seasons. very poesh. we were seated with a feint whiff of (imagined?) suspicion (perhaps a nice suit cannot hide my innate unworthiness) but treated well. our waiter, it must be said though, was a miserable sod, probably because he realised that his tip was likely to be more ordinary than stratospheric. hostess elisabeth had bison and i had the sirloin steak, with wafer thin fried onion spirals. verrrry nice... and a bottle of wine for $85 (which seemed a tad steep, or is that my pikeyness showing through?). there were 4 very rich looking middle-aged women at the table next to us, all coiffured and dressed immaculately, something seamless, effortless and expensive in everything about them. i overheard one of them ask the others, blasé and off the cuff "have you ever tried marijuana?" and then later, another said dismissively (emphasising the last word) "i'm a nice person, but..."

walking back to the hotel we somehow get to talking about the dates of our friend's birthdays, and i wonder out loud if all of our friends were born in the winter, as hostess elisabeth and myself were (hence the 'wintry' dispositions?) hostess elisabeth, now a little the worse for wear following her two sea breezes, half a bottle of the $85 bottle of wine and a huge baileys, announces that she thinks that the venerable gude was probably born during a powercut... just because he seems like the type.

sitting in the mayrose diner (tagline: "comfortable food"), hostess elisabeth overhears (for 'overhears' read 'eavesdrops') a bloke on the next table say "the sushi was so fresh the waiter told us not to use chopsticks" um, what? what?! what a load of nonsensical crap (surely). what the fuck has freshness got to do with how you eat it? i mean, what, when it's fresh you need to suck it through a straw?

"that sushi was so fresh."
"how fresh was it?"
"It was so fresh... that the woman sitting at the next table drowned."

"that sushi was so fresh."
"how fresh was it?"
"It was so fresh... that you don't use chopsticks, you use rod and reel."

(feel free to write in with your own punchlines.)

central park in the snow was really quite incredible, looking like a different place entirely, unreal and cinematic. i react by indulging my inner child with a slide on the icy path.

we see idiots queuing for an entire block in the freeezing cold to get into fao schwartz. i'm not sure i've ever wanted to get into a toyshop that much. christmas shopping has much to answer for in the idiotic behaviour of the human race.

and while we're on the subject, it would appear that meandering fools are the same the world over. these people who wander aimlessly on pavement (or 'sidewalk'), unsure of where they're going, (what their name is / where they live) or whose way their getting in, together with those fuckwits who decide its ok to walk three abreast with their equally clueless chums and the morons who come barreling out of shop doorways and then stop dead and oblivious in the middle of a stream of passersby, should all be stopped. how? you ask. well it may not surprise you to know that i've given it some thought... quite a bit of thought and have come up with an idea. simply employ 'pedestrian flow officers' to spot these people, apprehend them, lead them discreetly to one side and smartly smack them on the backs of their hands... with a hammer. my guess is that they'll speed up in future.

we leave the uk and hemel hemstead bursts into flames, somehow making it onto u.s. tv. -limeys go boom! slow news day in ny?

greenwood cemetery, brooklyn, is fucking huuuge. founded in 1838, it stretches for an incredible 478 acres; and very picturesque it is too, particularly in the snow. somehow the fact that the statue of liberty appears so small when viewed from the gates of a cemetery seems oddly appropriate. venturing among the gravestones and mausoleums i tread on a pile of snow covered leaves and a big bat flies out and away, squeaking for its life. how very appropriate; and there was me thinking that mr. lugosi had passed on... it was bitterly cold but after hours of circuitous trekking, we made it as far as the creepy catacombs, which is about two thirds of the way through the entire cemetery. there are plenty of dead masons, that is to say dead masonic types in greenwood, with many a gravestone carved with the compasses and letter 'g'; no doubt they're all giving each other funny handshakes under the sod. among the amusing names we found was my favourite 'charles thwing' -great name. pathways lead off of the main roads, snaking between the dead; old cast-iron signposts declaring their quaint names: 'evergreen path', 'acacia path' and 'jasmine path' etc. i lead the way uneasily up a steepish slope and we decided to tell everyone at home that while we were away i took hostess elisabeth 'up the jasmine path'; a euphemism which i freely recognise seemed funnier then than perhaps it does now. but there you go.

cds purchased...
myself:
'number one' - kk null, chris watson, z'ev/ 'salvation, oxford november 11, 1992' - bill hicks / 'nothing special' - people like us + kenny g / 'you're a woman, i'm a machine' - death from above 1979 / 'remix' - interpol / 'computer world' - kraftwerk / 'underarms and sideways' - the hope blister / 'flesh and bone' - sickness / 'scattered remains: early rarities' - daniel menche / 'garden' - daniel menche + kiyoshi mizutani / 'seadrum/house of sun' - boredoms / 'vinyl anthology' - gum / 'never breathe what you can't see' - jello biafra with the melvins / 'sieg howdy!' - jello biafra with the melvins / 'ordier' - b.c. gilbert / 'first record' (a.k.a. 'the yellow record') - lightning bolt / 'ride the skies' - lightning bolt / 'wonderful rainbow' - lightning bolt / 'hypermagic mountain' - lightning bolt
hostess elisabeth: 'lullabies to violaine' - the cocteau twins / 'the surf creature, 23 wild weird wet sexual exotic instros & surf toons!' - various artistes / 'echo & the bunnymen' - echo & the bunnymen / 'the glasgow school' - orange juice / 'night on fire' - vhs or beta / 'one man's treasure' - mick harvey / 'love the cup' - sons and daughters

someone famous always has to die while we're in new york and this time sadly it was richard pryor. funny fucker. shame.

while we're there the morning news declares the coldest day on record (-4), which it describes in a one word weather forecast: "frigid"

we are horrified to discover that the metro wine bar have taken kobe beef steak off the menu, thus killing it as our favourite mid-price restaurant in the city. for shame metro wine bar, f o r s h a m e. still, the chicken in sesame seeds with mustard and honey dip starter is still great and we had a superb bottle of wine. i know, i know, how un-me did that last bit sound? up until now i'd always thought there were roughly four types of wine: #1 white wine (urgh), #2 red wine that was horrible, #3 red wine that tasted like your basic wine (mediocre but drinkable) and #4 red wine that was great when served at blood temperature. whenever the wine experts on television would say "oooooh yes this wine is sooo fruity, the scent of acorns and volvo estates, the whaft of acidic sideboards and watermelons dipped in lemon-scented cat sick", i would accept what they were saying but i think part of me thought they were just making it up. i'd never tasted a wine i could actually call truly 'fruity' in my life. wine tasted of wine didn't it? this had been my problem in getting into drinking the stuff in the first place; in the same way that guinness looked like it should taste of chocolate, so red wine always looked to me like it should taste of ribena. the fact that it didn't was my stumbling block with wine for many years. anyhoo, we ordered a bottle of 'castle rock pinot noir 2004', or more accurately hostess elisabeth ordered it, as you may have surmised, i am to wine as joe pasquale is to proust. and it was amazing, genuinely fruity, tasty and with no aftertaste (apparently something to do with its lack of tannin). a much recommended tipple. we get home only to discover that you can't get it in the uk... arse and buggeration.

i notice that there are cigarette burns on the shower curtain in our hotel room. who smokes in the fucking shower? remnants of the meathook torture that bent the curtain rail...?

the tv, using something they announce proudly as 'the live doppler 2 million' - http://wcbstv.com/topstories/local_story_236180550.html - tells us that the weather has gone from 'frigid' to 'icebox'. o, and that a transit workers strike is likely on our final days in new york, rendering the city subway-less and bus-less.

recommended: (audio) 'number one' -cd- by kk null, chris watson & z'ev / (comestible) castle rock pinot noir 2004 -ooh larr dee darr / (visual) greenwood cemetery in the snow / (sensorial) indulging my inner child with a slide on the icy paths of central park

reviled: (audio) crackling airplane headphones / (comestible) airplane food / (visual) the sour-faced bitch / (sensorial) stripped by h.m. customs officials!

...now proceed to pt.#2 (at your leisure)...