0 7 / 1 0 / 0 6:
'p r o l o g u e a n d p o n d - h o p p i n g'


" "is it an anti-war book?"
"yes," i said, "i guess."
"you know what i say to people when i hear they're writing anti-war books?"
"no. what do you say, harrison starr?"
"i say, 'why don't you write an anti-glacier book instead?" "

- from 'slaughterhouse - five' by kurt vonnegut

ok, this makes it time to become incandescent with rage. again. the attempted banning of "extreme violent porn" with the maximum sentence for viewing such material being three fucking years. for just looking? and let's get this straight, that's looking at something that is not, in of itself, illegal, it's consenting adults playacting. they're going to try and compare this to child porn but it's completely different. fucking retarded country. i appreciate this murdered woman's mother has an axe to grind and who can blame her for looking for a reason for what must be for her the horrific loss of her daughter but the fact is that violent images do not make, or indeed move to action, a violent offender. one of jeffery dahmer's favourite films was return of the jedi. no, no, really. this is a slippery fucking slope. next we'll have stiffer censorship laws on regular cinema, then art, then literature. i do not regard this as too far a leap of logic. these people are dangerous.

...and then, as if to illustrate my point, i read this. now you may be a knee-jerker moralist, you may not, you may be disgusted at the idea of this site, you may be indifferent, but your personal feelings on the torture and murder of children are irrelevant. the word you need to focus on here is f i c t i o n a l. i say again, slippery fucking slope. i'll leave it there, before i get into a tirade on what a mile-high pile of steaming solid gold bullshit the concept of 'artistic responsibility' is.

and as for all that nonsense in lebanon, ceasefire schmeacefire. does anyone really believe that peace, let alone world peace has e v e r been on the cards? here is a weirdly accurate symbol of our reality.

walking with hostess elisabeth we spy a discarded black and white shin pad on the pavement. hostess elisabeth bursts into laughter. when i ask her "what?" she tells me that although she knew it really wasn't, her first thought on seeing the shin pad was that it was a dead penguin, and for a moment she truly believed that it was. women, i ask yer.

this week i received a spam email from someone calling themselves margery colon.

'la cabina' -short film i'd heard about for years but had never actually seen.

i think there can be no more question as to whether i have a cracked rib. i have and it is. ouch and bugger.

this week a dry cleaner greeted me with an un-ironic "hey, my man". threw me for a moment i can tell you. perhaps he felt the need to connect in a friendly way with his customers considering the code of 'ethics' that these people regularly trade under: "any lost items will be refunded with one cleaning credit per item only. we take no responsibility for lost or damaged items. if you feel your item is of considerable value then we recommend you insure said item before dry cleaning." i mean jesus, what a gyp.

every time we drive anywhere in the 'new' car, we pass by the old renault, parked in the street like some kind of superannuated steam driven death trap, exuding the doleful stare of a lost puppy. it'd be a perfect choice for the joy ride brigade to steal, ride around and then torch, if it weren't for the fact that the back wheels no longer go round -thus subtracting both the 'joy' and the 'ride' from the equation. on the way down to endmostsouth we pass a man sitting on the verge of the motorway, his steaming car, bonnet up, obviously obstinately refusing to move. a kind of auto-tantrum. i note that there's few sadder sights than a grown man sitting by the roadside with a broken down car. we'd been there with the renault. thankfully, i add, it'll be a while before we're put in the same situation with the peugeot. next day on the way back to london, somewhere on the A13, the exhaust f a l l s o f f. not two minutes later and we're both standing on the overgrown verge staring at the hazard lights on the peugeot blinking bad-temperedly at us. going all 'outdoorsman' i beat a path through the thistles and long grass into the shade and there we stand while hostess elisabeth calls the aa. two young lads on a scooter go by and peep their horn; the mocking smiles hidden by their crash helmets show only too well in their eyes... when he arrives, the aa man reattaches the exhaust, smiles and ushers us back onto the road. no explanation as to why this might have happened. he says it'd get us where we were going and would "probably last us about a week". as we drive away this all seems very vague from a so called expert and i wonder for a moment if he wasn't from the aa at all but from alcoholics anonymous, was just passing and thought he'd 'have a go'.
o, and we've just heard that, even though the car was bought only six weeks ago and the m.o.t. had just been done, the exhaust just happening to fall of is considered 'wear and tear' and so is not covered by the warranty. another gyp. gyps aplenty, gyp-arama, if you will.

this trip to new york is looking in serious jeopardy when, the night before we fly out, hostess elisabeth's back is worse than i've ever seen it. she's handled it so fucking well and far, far better than i would have done but it's getting beyond a joke. just the idea that if we had the money it would have been sorted months ago makes me angry beyond words. as i've said before, it seems that in england in the twenty first century, a pain free existence is a luxury. and yet the obese procreation enthusiasts are all over the news whining and moaning. i suppose that amply curvaceous breeders are just able to be a more vocal lobby group than those in constant pain; proving that it's easier to be a constant pain than to have one.

anyhoo, off to new york, this time with hostess elisabeth and... my parents.

thaaaat's right. having done their jaunt to egypt, they thought they'd slip into retirement with one last holiday hoorah in new york, before they're no longer in a position financially to do so. hostess elisabeth eagerly drew them up an itinerary, as is her control freak way (who said holiday nazi? not i).

delayed slightly on the tarmac, i actually fell asleep before the plane had even taken off, only to be scared awake by the pilot's announcement. really made me jump. jittery me.

now of course there was the obligatory screaming child on the plane, i think it's some kind of bylaw, there has to be one on every flight, two if possible. i mean, i understand babies scream, it one of the things they do but this one screamed literally f o r h o u r s. had to be something wrong with the thing. thank fuck for headphones.

as we're flying with american airlines, hostess elisabeth and i amuse ourselves by playing 'spot the sky marshall'. we have our eye on a big bloke sitting two rows in front of us. he's got a back like a barn door and a buzz-cut that has 'ex-marine' written all over it.

for some reason my dad has a theory that there will be less turbulence on our outgoing flight because it's during daylight... perhaps darkness is bumpy, thicker or soupy in some way. now quite where or when he got his qualifications in aerodynamics, and how he managed to do so while masquerading all these years as an electrician and without any of us knowing is beyond me.

apparently, in america, 'cillit bang' becomes 'easy-off bam'... now is it me or does 'easy off bam' sound somewhat more seedy? like some kind of down at heel, lackadaisical stripper with more track marks than breast tissue? no? just me then.

one morning we wake up to an article on breakfast tv about william wegman and his creepy art dogs... wegman was actually interviewed live while two of his costumed canines sat placidly beside him. strange.

we watch our obligatory episode of maury povich whilst in new york (it's tradition, if only to laugh at the colonials), the theme this time was 'mom, i'm 14, you can't stop me having a baby'. cue a parade of horrific children who are desperate to pop out a sprog. favourite quotes: "i'm gonna call my baby america, 'cause i love my country" and "i poke holes in condoms"... and yet a blanket sterilisation programme would be 'draconian'? time to reasses methinks.

in macy's, 'the biggest store in the world' (or something), tourists are able to get a card which enables them to avoid paying tax on goods and therefore get 11% off. cha-ching. to get the card we have to queue up and show our passports to this man who jots down our particulars and issues the cards. when the chap sees my passport photo he is, as many have been before him, somewhat taken aback. suddenly he turns up the dial on his camp-o-meter and tells me i'm fabulous and that in the picture i look like i'm "channelling my inner cher", though whether he meant pre surgery or post surgery he didn't say. he even called over a colleague to ogle my photo. perhaps i should think of putting together a tribute act?

for some reason they are selling pg tips tea bags and heinz baked beans in the virgin megastore on union square... and what's more they're on shelves near the checkouts, much like sweets are in some supermarkets. beans and tea, an involuntary spontaneous purchase? answers on a postcard please.

walking downtown we stumble across what must be the lesbian district, evidenced by a hair dressers called 'crops for girls'. not that i'm any kind of expert but the idea that a sexual orientation should suggest a certain kind of haircut seems strange. kind of like the amount of nasal hair you have dictating the car you drive.

ever wanted to recycle your arse?

on an evening out to visit the slipper room's 'hotbox', a burlesque club, begins when we walk in horribly early and notice immediately the heavy stench of dog's piss, or maybe that was just me (that is, just me that could smell it, not just me that smelt of dog's piss). our unfashionably early arrival eventually works in our favour as we obviously blend in with the furniture and no one thinks to ask us for the admission price when the club finally gets going. a somewhat 'tweely hung', not to mentioned wonderfully shameless chap in a lycra wonderwoman outfit compèred the evening with a great mixture of self deprecation and acid-tongued aplomb, introducing the 'dancers' and generally abusing the audience. the dancers were a mixture of slightly awkward and knowingly tacky, with a healthy dose of 'clearly mental' thrown in for good measure. the pleasingly named clams casino was, for my money, the hit of the evening, representing in her 50s style curves more of the real world, not to mention the spirit of the gold age of burlesque, than the too skinny and if we're honest blatantly i n s a n e 'miss tickle' (who was neither orange, nor did she have extraordinarily long arms, which was a shame).

and speaking of b a t s h i t mental, whilst in a 'drugstore' we came across a man standing near the queue for the tills, stock still, hands tightly covering his ears. when asked if he was in the queue he replied, without removing his hands "i'm just standing here". o, and later on in the week we see a man on the subway wearing swimming goggles.

hostess elisabeth sees what she refers to as "a frightening vision of my future" while in coney island when we see an old woman sitting on the boardwalk knitting, a cat on a lead by her side.

over dinner with my parents at housten's (378 park ave. s -try the spinach dip) i discover that two of my relatives committed suicide, both by s e l f i m m o l a t i o n. surely that's got to be the worst possible way to die. for some reason this just hadn't come up before. i also learnt that my paternal grandfather (who i never knew) once called round my parents flat late one night because he was thinking of throwing himself in the river lee. with all this voluntary offing themselves my ancestors seem to have been so keen on, it's a wonder i got here at all.

part of dealing with hostess elisabeth's back while we're in new york was the application to said area of ben gay... and many were the juvenile jokes. best of all though was the fact that she needed help is reaching her back and so would ask my help in the application of the aforementioned unguent with the phrase "gay me up"...

on the morning of september 11th 2006 i woke up to what sounded like a distant alarm... i drifted back off to sleep. when we finally wake up it's to the sirens of what sounds like 20 fire engines. it turns out that a building down the street from our hotel is on fire. how oddly appropriate. you could hear the crackling of the fire over the traffic noise. sadly you can't see the flames in the picture but i assure you they were there. i think it was quentin crisp who once said "new york is always on fire".
for h o u r s on end on television, the families and friends of those killed in the revoltingly titled "nine eleven" read out the names of the dead. nearly all of them speak to their loved ones directly "we miss you" rather than "we miss them", the most bizarre example being "his heavenly arms embrace us everyday" -all in the present tense. this represents a kind of grand delusion that i can't even begin to understand. your god let this happen, and if he didn't and couldn't have stopped it then what fucking good is he?

"draws the cheeks of your arse together" is a phrase learnt by hostess elisabeth from her nan to describe any foodstuff that is very sour or sharp. i bought an apple from a street vendor which turned out to be as hard as a fucking cannon ball and so unbelievably sour that it 'drew the cheeks of my arse together' to such a degree that i think my buttocks may have swapped places.

our trip to niagara is the closest either myself or hostess elisabeth have gotten to an organised package tour of anywhere in what must be twenty or more years, and so it was with a little trepidation that we gave our fate over to the apparent incompetents who were organising the trip from new york to buffalo. my parents had somewhat more recent experience of such tourist herding techniques and so were probably happier with the arrangement than, say, a holiday nazi might be (not that i'm inferring that i know any such person you understand). were were picked up at our hotel at some ungodly hour and pushed into a minibus before picking up others and making our slow way out to jfk. of course by this stage we were already running late and yet had to wait in line as the entire yale girl's volleyball team checked in before us. no, really. having successfully 'shuffled off to buffalo' we meet the two imbeciles running the trip, the groundlessly enthusiastic katuska and the somewhat quieter, if dizzy, manuella (the latter shows the former her 'c-section' scar on the drive back to buffalo airport -nice).
we pile onto another minibus (this one leaks, o, did i mention it was raining, not unlike a bastard?) and after what has to be the most laid back customs experience i've ever had, cross into ontario, canada. my mum buys a teddy bear dressed as a mountie. so now i can say i've been to canada, though, in all fairness, i hardly think that the bit i saw of it can be particularly representative: a few tacky gift shops and a hard rock cafe. having your photo taken next to a painted wooden cut-out of a moose (also dressed as a member of the royal canadian mounted police) does not a seasoned traveller make. as we pass the hard rock cafe 'every little thing she does is magic' by the police is playing loudly, which causes me to reflect just how annoying that would be, if everything she did was magic. "darling, we'll be late, i booked the table for eight, o, no, right, you finish sawing mrs, johnston in half first", "ah, i've just got notes, darling, do you have change for a fiver? no, i'm aware you've got a seemingly unending stream of multicoloured silk handkerchiefs, and- yes, yes i'm aware we've all the concealed doves we might ever need but- no the jack of diamonds is not my fucking card" etc.
the falls themselves are of course fucking i n c r e d i b l e and well, well worth a visit, and if you do go you h a v e to take a ride on 'the maid of the mist' boat which provides you with a stunningly lovely blue plastic poncho and then proceeds to sail as close as it's possible to get to the falls. yes you get wet. yes the sound is amazing. yes i recorded it.

(recording in progress -that is a mic in my hand, not a mars bar)

talking to my dad about my kidney stones (they're always concerned that i'm not drinking enough bless 'em) it appears that my paternal grandfather (who, if you've been paying attention you'll know i never met) also had kidney stones and once had one 'stuck', which he prized out... with a nail file. i'll just let that sink in... or be prized out of your mind's eye with some sharp metal tool, a nail file perhaps. ouch.

we go and see the kills like in brooklyn. for those who don't know, the kills are the kind of rock n roll band suicide always hinted at but never chose to become; kind of a mixture of suicide, john lee hooker and all manner of sparse rock 'n' roll sleaze and sneer. also, it was nice to hear a verse or two of johnathan fire* eater's 'cherry red' slipped into one of their own songs. they were great live. go see.

on the new york subway, the r train is now forever to be known as the pirate train, or the "arrr" train.

way up in the bronx, a nice man called larry showed us around the poe cottage,
, the last home of edgar allan poe. built in 1812 the one and a half storey workman's house has since been moved from it's original site and now sits in the quaint, squirrel-infested 'poe park'. poe, close to poverty, moved in to the house to aid his wife virginia's consumption, paying only $100 a year rent (where do i sign?). it was there that she upped and died (ungrateful cow) and where he was living with his mother in law, when he too died, in suspicious circumstances... it's a bit of a trek but is very much worth the paltry $3 admission price.

travelling back from the poe cottage i spied a weird looking rat on the platform of 145th street. it was big but on top of that it's head seemed too large for its body. hostess elisabeth was concerned to see me follow it down the platform for a closer look before vanishing behind a staircase... she was even more concerned when i came back rubbing my finger and telling her that the rat had bitten me. you should have seen her face. wasn't true of course but it made me laugh.

every so many yards on ny streets there are two metal pipes poking out of the 'sidewalk', one pipe is usually green, the other red, each one ending in two nozzles. hostess elisabeth tells me with great authority that these are called 'siamese pipes' and are of course for use by the fire department. she also tells me, with equal authority, that one pipe is for water, the other for sand. while i ponder just how the laws of physics might allow the pumping of sand, i accept what she says, if only because i know she reads a lot of articles about new york. 50 or so yards down the street we pass further 'siamese pipes', hostess elisabeth stops in her tracks, laughing uncontrollably. "oh" she says, catching her breath "stand pipe". ladies and gentlemen i think we have a winner in the 'quote of the holiday' contest.

overheard in the queue to see the daily show being recorded: "and that's why hitler committed suicide".
the queuing takes h o u r s but is worth it when we're finally let in and the show begins. a great piece on dr. paul cameron and his rabid and miss-informed anti gay views: "many homosexuals regularly drink each other's urine", and then it turns out the special guest is bill clinton... blimey.

while we're there news breaks that americans are dropping like flies at the hands (leaves?) of deadly ecoli infected spinach.

over another meal with my parents my mother says "this wine's gone right to my... hands" runner up in the quote of the holiday contest i think you'll agree.

found lovely new italian restaurant le zie "best spaghetti and meatballs in manhattan" - new york press, newsday. and so it is too. they have a certificate on the wall and everything. you might think well, how can anyone fuck up spaghetti and meatballs? but after you've had 'em you'll think how the fuck could spaghetti and meatballs be that good?! and the rest of the menu's pretty damn tasty too. (of course the website address compresses the two words of the restaurants name and suggests that it might be better placed alongside the aforementioned 'crops for girls'...)
i overhear a woman at the table next to us claim that she only owns a 'cell phone' because she doesn't wear a watch.

while wandering, perhaps inadvisably, around the lower east side, we duck into a mcdonalds to use the loo and notice that a great deal of the customers inside, mostly older woman, are high as fucking kites. while we're there two woman go into the toilets together and come out looking decidedly dazed and glazed. another woman, a little younger, stands in the queue to be served and, her kness ever so slowly bending, kind of melts towards the ground until i'm convinced she'd going to collapse but she never does; she just stays there, frozen mid-way between standing and falling.

when we were both in dumbo (down under manhattan bridge overpass, not engaged in some kind of sexual congress with a cartoon elephant) we saw a middle-aged man in thong, sunbathing and so of course we had to take his picture:

as our 'dining above our station' experience this time around myself and hostess elisabeth went for a meal at the river cafe, under the brooklyn bridge. wow. it was fairly pricey but has to rate as one, if not the, best meal i've ever had. for starter i had rabbit and ravioli - pancetta wrapped loin, brooklyn ricotta filled ravioli, garden pea puree, natural pan juices which had the rabbit's kidneys on the plate too! for main course i had the colorado rack of lamb - house cured lamb merguez sausage, golden fondant potatoes, mint and mustard seed glaze, lamb jus, and for dessert i had chocolate sticky toffee cake - pistachio ice cream sandwiched between dark chocolate cookies, butterscotch sauce, ronnybrook farm whipped cream. fan-tastic meal. special mention should go to the dessert hostess elisabeth had, the chocolate marquise brooklyn bridge - terrine of toasted hazelnut and vanilla ice cream, but which is actually shaped to look like the brooklyn bridge: and the view of the real thing as the sun went down was incredible. on top of everything, the service was great and i never once felt we were being looked down upon as i did in, say, the four seasons. go. eat. enjoy.

parents and all, we visited the san gennaro festival in little italy. we soon found ourselves among a throng of people, all crammed into the narrow streets of the area. vendors selling italian foodstuffs and decidedly un-italian looking sideshow games abounded. all of a sudden we were pinned against a set of nypd barriers and a procession was upon us: little girls in party dresses waving, local celebrities, that sort of thing. then a marching band came along in full costume... followed by a strange chinese man playing a trumpet, holding a toy monkey... he wasn't in costume like the marching band and it looked like he'd just decided to join the parade and was carrying a bag with the italian flag on it in an attempt to 'fit in'.
st. gennaro, (or januarius) it turns out was beheaded for some unspecified reason (do we need a reason to 'off' a bishop? are there any hard and fast rules?) and when his body was brought back to naples, it is claimed that on the day of the feast, when capsules of his blood were brought near his body that they liquefied. this claim is made every year. this is known as a 'miracle'. ok, first of all, if he was beheaded (among a number of others executed) in one place and then had his body brought back to naples, what bright fucking spark at the death scene decided to collect some of his blood in capsules? wouldn't be my first thought, would it yours?
- "o my god, they've killed him! they've killed the bishop!"
(short pause)
- "listen, you haven't got some kind of cup have you? a tumbler would do... thimble?"
i think we can agree this stretches credence somewhat. but more than that, it paints god as some kind of truly weird motherfucker, i mean, of all the things a supreme being could do to demonstrate his power on earth, the annual liquefying of blood when held in proximity with a dead bishop seems... eccentric to say the least. this blatant disparity between this story and, o, i don't know, t h e r e a l f u c k i n g world singularly failed to stop people joining in however, joining in with their own, hard earned money:

some cds purchased: 'it serves you right to suffer' - john lee hooker / 'silent shout' - the knife / 'ozma' (incl. 'gluey porch treatments') - melvins / 'bullhead' - melvins / 'the maggot' - melvins / '1980-82 collected' - ike yard / 'on the wires of our nerves' - add n to x / 'symphony #2 elementalities' - z'ev / 'labour of love' - mass / 'heroes low symphonies' (2 X CD) - bowie & eno meets glass

and then we fly back just in time for me to start university... but that's another story all together...

recommended: (audio) the roar of niagara / (comestible) dinner at the river cafe / (visual) niagara falls / (sensorial) again, niagara falls

reviled: (audio) screaming baby on a plane -give me snakes any day / (comestible) cannoli -for hostess elisabeth / (visual) money pinned to the statue of a dead bishop / (sensorial) no liquids on the plane!

"the visitor from outer space made a serious study of christianity, to learn, if he could, why christians found it so easy to be cruel. he concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the new testament. he supposed that the intent of the gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low.
but the gospels actually taught this:

before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected. so it goes."

- from 'slaughterhouse - five' by kurt vonnegut