masterchef 2k99

Mother Hen — Audiobooks

Across the kitchen, the red team is already hard at work. Four small men are gathered around a small sink, taking turns to fill a small pan with cold water. This is then carried to a large pot on the iron hob behind them and slowly poured in, save for a small puddle of grainy water in the bottom of the pan. Each man then raises the pan to his lips and slurps the murky liquid before handing it to the next. One after the other, they repeat the process. A pile of potato skin lies next to the sink and with each slurp of the water, they begin to grab handfuls of the skin, which are thrown into the pot.

All four men are short and fat. The first in line has thick black sideburns and a bald head; the second has short blonde hair and an auburn goatee; the third has a bushy grey moustache and a thin combover masking eight irregular sized liver spots on his scalp; the fourth and final man is wearing a top hat pulled down to the brow of his small eyes.

After six minutes, the blue team grow tired of watching their rivals. They begin to clean down their workstation; eighteen large knives are plunged into a sinkful of hot soapy water, six glass bowls flaked with crusty flour and melted chocolate are stacked adjacent, three red plastic chopping boards stained red-wine red from cherry juices, and two large copper pans caked with brown mousse.

The two women fight for dominance at the sink. The short brunette elbows her teammate sharply in the ribs, the teammate kicks her in the shin. They scowl and hiss at each other. The short woman gets the upper hand when she pulls the long blonde hair of her rival and is quick to plunge both hands into the sink. She screams as her hands come out streaked in cherry juice.

A siren shrieks through the kitchen. The teams have thirty seconds left.

Both red and blue leap into action; the men huddle close, interweaving chef’s whites and red aprons around a may pole barber pole; the women straddle the oven and face each other down with the whites of their teeth; each open their ovens and plumes of grey and brown smoke fizz out and fill the kitchen; the fourth man’s top hat slides perilously down his sweaty nose; the men use their bare hands in unison to grab the peeled and roasted potatoes one at a time, grimacing from the heat, blisters forming on their palms; the women wrap their hands in tea-towels and reach for their individual trays of cherry chocolate puff pastry molten mousse.

A frail, thin child enters the kitchen. The teams gasp and hurry to the black marble countertop in front of him. Neither have used a plate, the food sits directly on the dusty surface. The smell of singed damp fabric hangs in the air. The child, his gaunt face pale and hollow, leans in to inhale the aromas. His lank hair falls onto his forehead and his nose wrinkles up pulling his lips with it – there are dark red stains on his gums.

Silence falls in the kitchen.

c’est l’été

Fred Nicolas — C’est la Vie

It’s different when the sun is shining. Everything feels easier – unfinished tasks seem finished, looming deadlines are blown away, smiling takes less effort and laughter pours out of people like sweat. Plans for the evening unravel and evolve and expand and collapse, but who needs plans when it’s a London summer (city in the sunner). You can walk across Blackfriars bridge and even cyclists don’t seem like pricks. Cigarette smoke hangs in the air like a mist and the streets smell of beer – just avoid the central line.

There’s no point looking good if there’s no-one around to appreciate it; people don’t wear tuxedos to have breakfast above the kitchen sink. There’s no point to a summer evening if you’re going to spend it indoors. And that’s exactly what our lucky couple have planned. Not even just indoors, but actually underground, in the basement of a Japanese restaurant near Saint Pauls, a time warp complete with faux-geishas and wall hanging scriptures and china saké cups and tiny booths to mask yakuza deals. Bowls of broth are carried on wicker trays and chopsticks arrive pre-split, halogen bulbs are masked behind crinkled paper sheathes.

She’s wearing a floral playsuit (navy burgundy pink violet blue) and the flowers make her breasts look full. He’s wearing a racing green shirt with a button down collar and chinos with cuffs rolled up like sleeves. They’ve both spent some time adding volume to their hair. He enters first and holds the door open for her – it’s glass framed in black metal with elliptical handles – to appear gentlemanly but mostly to avoid engaging with the maître d(‘hotel). A tiny Japanese woman hurries to a pine altar to take their name. The staircase swallows them whole.

Opposite the restaurant is a pub called The Viaduct Tavern. It’s an old fashioned pub with watercolours on the walls and unknown bitters on tap, in this heat the fat red lipstick doors have been pinned open and punters fill the mouth like teeth. A sweaty businessman in a thick suit struggles to weave through the crowd on the pavement and sends an empty pint glass flying into the road, a cyclist swerves to avoid it but the black cab is too late, glass crunches under rubber like treacle, thick shards splinter into the grooves of the tyre searching for a way to slit it open, the cabbie drives on oblivious and pint glass gravel rolls down the road. Gingerbreadcrumbs.

Distracted, I didn’t notice the chewing gum and stepped right in it. Brilliant.

A desk of bricks.

Mr. Tillman — Father John Misty

Steven had no real idea what he was doing here and he was starting to think that the impatient blinking of the cursor was taunting him. His situation was exacerbated by the cacophony of keystrokes that surrounded him; dull thuds of young men venting their aggression on their keyboards, click clacking rat-tat-tats of old women’s manicured fingernails. It was as if the sound was getting louder, the taunt of the cursor punctuating each increase in volume, the white empty space of his desktop emitting a high pitched hum; he was drowning under the noise of shuffling feet and murmuring voices and glugging water coolers and droning fans.

TRRRRRRRRRRRRING.

His phone rang.

TRRRRRRRRRRRRING.

It rang again. His phone never rang.

TRRRRRRRRRRRRING.

He was a back office worker. Nobody had his phone number. He didn’t even know what his number was.

TRRRRRRRRRRRRING.

Steven finally snapped out of the maelstrom of office boredom and reached out for the handset. It was an old phone, made of cheap charcoal plastic complete with fat number buttons, a faded blue display bordered by thin buttons that Steven had never figured out how to use, and light-up flashing glass boxes for each line. Line 1 flashed at twice the rate of the frequency of the rings. He picked up the receiver and the light fixed on.

“Hello?”

These were the first words he had spoken since greeting the security guard upon his arrival to the office at 8.25am that morning and his voice was thick and croaky.

“Mr Tillman, Good morning, my name is -”

Static interfered with the line for a few seconds. Steven was about to speak when the voice returned.

“- you’ll forgive the intrusion I’m sure. I thought it best to reach you right away given the circumstances.”

“Sorry – the line dropped out there. What did you say your name was? What circumstances?”

“Yes it’s a bad connection here I’m afraid. We are quite remote so the service is pretty unreliable. As I was saying, my name is Doctor -”

Static. Three, Two, One.

“-we tried you at home but managed to find this number in her next of kin information.”

“Doctor? Are you from a hospital?”

“Oh my it is bad today isn’t it? Not exactly Mr Tillman – we specialise in ongoing care for our residents, making them comfortable. Unfortunately there’s not much even hospitals can do for those that end up here.”

“And where is that?”

“As I said, -”

Static. The longest one yet, must have been five seconds this time. Steven was stammering politely into the receiver when the voice returned.

“-you are listed as her next of kin in her entry file. She was brought to us almost five years ago now and, to be honest, we were all amazed she made it through the first week the state she was in, but now here we are. So we thought you should know.”

“Sorry – doctor – the line keeps on cutting out. Who are you calling about? I don’t know anyone in…well, wherever you are. Where are you calling from?”

“Mr Tillman I’m afraid it’s not that simple to explain. Think of us less as a where, more of a-”

Thankfully this pause was brief.

“-as I said, it’s a bit complicated to explain over the phone. I think it’s best if you came in to see her yourself before we have to begin the next steps.”

Steven racked his brains. Even though the line was poor it was obvious this was a doctor calling from a hospice or similar facility, to inform him of the death of a female patient. This woman had spent five years in their care and when she arrived, in a poor condition, had listed him as her next of kin. Five years ago he was twenty-two and living in Clapham with his university housemates; the most traumatic thing that happened to him in that period was when he got barred from Inferno’s for being caught with a gram of coke in the gents’. He really had no idea what this doctor was calling about, and was sure it must have been a wrong number, only with the freak coincidence of having the right surname.

“Mr Tillman? Are you still there?”

“Yes – sorry. It’s a bad line. I’m afraid I don’t know who you are talking about. I really think you must have got the wrong number. I’m very sorry, but really, I really don’t know how I can help.”

“Oh. Oh I do apologise. This is Steven Tillman?”

First name too – can’t be.

“Well yes, but I think you must have logged the numbers incorrectly or something, because I don’t know a-”

The man on the other end hung up.

ghost story by numbers

Ayelle — Actor

ten twelve trees blow in the wind

night crawls across the sky

Samuel’s hair was jostled by the breeze. It was October and the wind was punctuated by pin pricks of moisture that made his eyes sting. He had been walking through the field for almost an hour and was still yet to find the gate, even though he had followed the instructions to the letter; “Pass through the trees next to the river, walk for a mile with the bushes on your right, when you reach the third oak tree walk left into the field until you reach a silver gate.” He was starting to wonder if he was going mad.

It was only two days prior that he encountered the mysterious visitor who had shared these directions. His mum had gone to work early, as she did every Tuesday, and his dad had only got home an hour ago so was fast asleep in bed. Samuel was sat on the kitchen counter in his underwear, black china tiles carving red indents into the fleshy underside of his pale thighs, when there was a short rat-tat-tat on the front door. Assuming it to be either the newspaper boy, the milkman, or some other delivery typical of village England life, Samuel went to open the door.

He had opened it to find a tall man in a black track suit. Tall was not the correct word to describe him, as the crown of his balding head reached only Samuel’s chin, however his physical features were elongated so that he appeared long and thin. His arm was still held aloft at shoulder height, the bony knuckle curled into a pointed fist, fresh from rat-tat-tatting. When the man had seen Samuel stood on the doorstep, dressed in loose fitting boxers and a thin white vest, his lips had spiked into his gaunt cheeks in a smile. The small black pupils in his yellow eyes had briefly bulged and a pointy tongue moistened his lips.

Samuel struggled to remember how their conversation had gone. The man had started by claiming to need directions, playing the part of an out-of-towner who had got lost on the way to the church for a christening (had he said that? Samuel recalled a church ceremony but now he thought harder he didn’t ever remember the man using the word ‘christening’), before going on to bring up the story of Agatha.

The story of Agatha was a local ghost story. Legend had it that Agatha, a fierce young woman, had discovered her husband en flagrante with the reverend’s daughter. Consumed by vengeance she had sealed the room they were in and set fire to the house, before marching to the church and committing some unspeakable acts. Depending on who was telling the story, this ranged from vandalism of the church and its contents, to the seduction and murder of the reverend, but typically ended in the sudden death of Agatha within the church grounds, where her spirit still roamed to this day. The truth was, in fact, a run of the mill ‘woman scorned’ story, exaggerated by village gossip with just enough salacious details to make it familiar to locals as the story of Agatha. Rather than burn the adulterers alive, the real Agatha of 1782 had instead burned her husband’s wheat harvest, and during the following Sunday sermon she had publicly castigated the reverend for having raised a Godless wretch of a daughter, before taking her own life several weeks later. It was a testament to the lazy imagination and poor writing of the locals that this story was still told today.

The fact that his door guest had heard of the story, but did not know where to find the church, did not strike Samuel as odd straightaway. He’d obliged in local tradition by filling in the blanks in the narrative, adding his own teenage colour when describing Agatha’s revenge, then had given directions to the church, even stepping out of the porch to point out the nearby turning. The man had thanked him and seemed about to leave before turning back and fixing Samuel with a curious stare. His lips had once again curled into a pointed smile before he said:

“Do you want to know how your brother died?”

erasmus

Baywaves — Still In Bed

There’s a group of four not-quite-adults-not-quite-kids walking through the square. They are not dressed for the weather; three are wearing grey, black and dark blue jeans, one a long fit maxi dress. Their skin is pale and they are wearing sunglasses in March. Three had emerged from the nearby supermarket, one rejoined the others from the Tabac, and they appear to have purchased groceries rather than souvenirs. They are not fazed by the Mediterranean surroundings and they are walking with purpose; they know their surroundings well but are clearly unfamiliar with the temperate spring climate in Antibes.

Kamran smiles to himself – foreign exchange students for sure. He watches them as they walk towards the restaurant and approaches them, offering a table in his silky North African French accent. He makes eye contact with the tall blonde and tries to imply with his gaze that he would like to take her home and ravage her – she is shy and avoids his gaze. A short man with glasses replies in broken French that they are not eating tonight, and leads the group forwards. They walk past and he stays in place, watching the figure of the blonde, her buttocks fill the dress she is wearing and her hips flare with every step. She turns and they make eye contact and he licks his lips.

The group eventually pass out of Kamran’s view, down a side street behind the bus station. The beautiful marble tiles are replaced with cobbles and graffiti, instead of designer shops there is a hole in the wall that sells kebabs and Iced Tea. They huddle outside a small green door on the left as the short man fumbles with his keys. The two women feel uncomfortable under the leer of an overweight African man, emptying a large plastic bucket of foul smelling liquid into the gutter. The other member of the group withdraws the cigarettes he purchased in the Tabac and lights one. The bucket man goes about his bucket business. Finally the door is open and the two women huddle in quickly behind the short man.

The corridor sucks in the dry heat from outside, its cold stone walls and tiled floors seem damp by contrast, and the cracks in the walls breathe out dust that is briefly illuminated in the light from outside. None of the group try and call the elevator behind the iron gate in the centre of the stairwell, they instead take the stairs, knowing that elevator has been out of service since the day they moved in. As the short man who is leading the group reaches the first floor, he hits a yellow plastic timer switch and the hallway is illuminated by a dank orange glow. The only sounds are their shoes slapping against the tiles and the wheezing breaths of the smoker, at the rear of the group and falling behind. They finally congregate outside a large brown door on the third floor as the short man once again fumbles for keys, giving the slow man time to catch up. The hallway light clicks off as the door clicks open.

cinema date

Young Again – Gents

The air smells of salt or sweet or butter or toffee popcorn. The corn is trapped behind an inch of plastic, when the attendant lifts the lid the scent escapes. He scoops some into a cardboard sleeve and hands it to her. She takes it in one hand and with the other picks a fluffy yellow piece from the top, smiling at me as I hand over five pounds. I smile back.

The sweets in my pocket crunch as we walk over to the attendant. I always get nervous about sneaking snacks in but I figure a fiver for some popcorn entitles me to bend the rules a bit. I hand over my ticket and the guard checks it, rips it and hands it back. He does the same for hers. The whole time he stares at his feet and doesn’t acknowledge us. I recognise his mousey hairdo, freckled cheeks and broad forehead; he is Matt Powell’s younger brother. On Tuesday Matt’s friends had thrown his rucksack onto the tracks as the train arrived, I remember his cheeks bursting scarlet from trying not to cry as he stood there and waited for our train to leave so that he could retrieve it. Everyone watched him through the windows. I respect his wish not to be acknowledged, he ushers us past the velvet rope towards the screens.

The doors are so heavy here. I am a gentleman so I have to open it for her, I fix my foot on the carpet and lean backwards to pull it open, I can’t use both hands, she’d laugh at me. As she walks past I smell her hair and my cheeks begin to flush. I enter behind her, it’s hard to see in the darkness so she reaches out for my hand. Our fingers find each other. I’m sure I can hear her heart beating.

We have an entire aisle to ourselves and our seats are right in the middle so we spread out either side, she takes off her bag first, followed by her scarf, then her jacket, and finally her jumper. I wonder how she will ever move all of her things if someone takes the seat next to us. The wrappers of the sweets in my pocket are louder than ever as I take them out, I move my arms slowly trying to muffle the noise, I’m convinced people in other rows are craning their necks to get a look at me, trying to sniff out the rulebreaker, they’ll hand me in to Matt Powell’s younger brother and he’ll get to throw me, a Year 11, out of the cinema, and in doing so win back some much needed street cred, maybe he’ll even get to ride off into the sunset with Tom Croft’s younger sister, meanwhile I’ll be the one crying on the platform, waiting to get my bag from the tracks.

After a while we are comfortable. We have retained our aisle but the trailers are yet to start and there’s no longer any background sound from the steady stream of arrivals, making it obvious that we are not speaking to each other. I can hear my cheeks go red and my mouth feels like cotton wool, I begin to wish I could withdraw the sweets again, just to drown out the silence. I build some words in my stomach but they can’t get past my throat, I look at her and she is looking at me, waiting for me to tell a joke, tell her she’s beautiful, make her smile and tell her I love her. I want to do all of it, but before I get the chance the adverts start.

An Open Letter to James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem

Dear James,

It has been a while, old friend. I won’t pretend to ask how you are as I know all too well – and I am glad. You deserved it, you really did.

As I sit here writing I realise that I don’t know whether I am writing to thank you or to blame you. My hope is that, as the words come out of my fingers, my thoughts will take form and, by the time this letter has come to an end, we will both know one way or the other.

I was 15 when we first met. My parents had just bought a desktop computer, thereby marking the end of our working class roots, and I was beginning to lose interest in school. I was hopelessly in love with a girl from Park Side Comprehensive and we were going on a date at the weekend to watch Meet The Fockers. I decided that I needed to impress her and so I sat down at the large cream box and connected to the internet.

[Reader, just to clarify, this letter is not about to take a sinister turn; feel free to read on and loosen the knot in your stomach.]

At 15 my musical tastes were exclusively informed by the NME. They had recently reviewed your first full length album and awarded it a meaty 8 out of 10, well above my listening bar. Please forgive me for this next revelation (it is not one I am proud of), but once I was finally connected to the internet the first thing I did was find a torrent of your album and illegally download it. You have to understand that I was a broke 15 year-old kid who had access to a seemingly unlimited library of free music. We will discuss this later, but, for now, you should know that I would download anything that was rated above 6/10 by the NME, leave it to gather digital dust in my expansive iTunes library, and instead play a select few albums on constant repeat. Yours was not one of them.

No, I think it is safe to say that at 15 I was too early for LCD Soundsystem. Daft Punk is Playing at my House was the only song I saw any redeeming qualities in; the others were too long, devoid of guitar hooks with obtuse and inaccessible lyrics. Nonetheless you had been awarded a staggering 8 (stars?) and so I decided I would force a few listens. Sadly, my adolescent self hadn’t yet grasped the concept of a ‘grower’. My teenage id instead demanded instant gratification along the lines of The Fratellis, The Vines, and (worse) – Jet. I gave up halfway through the first spin.

Some years went past with my ill-gotten download of LCD Soundsystem slowly aging alongside stolen copies of Antics, Kid A and Agaetis Byrjun. I occasionally spotted your debut when scrolling from Bloc Party to Late of The Pier, but never gave it a listen. In fact, by the time 2007 rolled around, I had even turned my back on Daft Punk is Playing at my House; you were an antique, in the same category as the Kaiser Chiefs or Embrace. Another boring guitar band. And then you released Sound of Silver.

Some months ahead of its release I had upgraded my musical bar from the NME to Pitchfork (the >6/10 benchmark remained the same). Your sophomore won a staggering 9.2 (thumbs up?) out of 10! I couldn’t believe it – dad-rock band LCD Soundsystem? 9.2/10? Surely that was a mistake – I don’t think I had seen a score above 9.0 since I had started reading Pitchfork. I was excited. I opened the review. “As close to a perfect hybrid of dance and rock music’s values as you’re likely to ever hear” read the opening paragraph.

[Reader do not mistake me for an obsessive at this part of the story – the review is open in a tab next to this word document.]

James, I must apologise once again. Although I now had a job, and did occasionally spend my minimum wage on CDs, I was skeptical after my failure to appreciate your first album, and so I once again found a torrent to illegally download Sound of Silver. After a download time of roughly 45 minutes – which may sound long but bear in mind it was 2007, and I’d waited almost three hours for LCD Soundsystem in 2005 – I ripped it to a CD and took it to my room. You’re probably expecting this to be the tipping point in the letter, right? No. I didn’t like it. I think I made it through an entire listen and again only found one track with any redemptive qualities (you don’t need me to tell you what it was).

I could probably have ended my jaunt down memory lane after slating your first album, but I know that you yourself have been a critic of that record. Not that you are right to criticise LCD Soundsystem – far from it – but I felt it important to tell you that the seminal Sound of Silver also washed over me like tepid water. Several years passed and I carried on listening to it piecemeal; gradually Get Innocuous wormed its way onto my driving playlist, Someone Great sound-tracked a messy breakup, and talking about the happy-sad ratio of All My Friends was my mascot of indie-credibility; however, it was still a fair few years until we really got to know each other.

Everyone downloaded music in the 00s. Honestly. Paying for digital music just wasn’t a ‘thing’; CD purchases were acceptable but kids that paid for iTunes downloads had more money than sense. The tipping point came with In Rainbows when Radiohead validated the millions of hours of digital theft stored on hard drives around the world, by releasing an album for free. I am sure this is a debate we would enjoy over a beer some time, but it is not the point of my letter. It is, however, crucial to our next encounter.

[That’s 1000 words there, feel free to stop at any point dear reader.]

Black Friday 2015. I was living with a flat-mate and found myself a weird mix of jealous and scornful of his record collection: Bach, The Rolling Stones and Joe Bonamassa. I did not want to own these records. I wanted to improve them. And so, I bought a discounted turntable as an early Christmas present. Obviously a turntable is essential to a record collection, but it’s also useless without any records. I was employed now, earning more money than my parents’ joint income at its heights, and I felt it was time I repaid the community I had been stealing from for a decade. However, as a complete novice I had no idea where to look, and so clumsily typed ‘vinyl’ into Amazon. Guess what was suggested?

When I met my girlfriend I began to believe in serendipity. We met in our fourth year at university, the year after all of our three-year degree friends had graduated. The prospect of returning to a sleepy town with no friends and an uphill struggle to improve my grades was not particularly inviting, and I left it late to enroll. This resulted in a slim choice of accommodation and I was forced to take the most expensive hall on campus, with a rent bill equal to >90% of my entire student loan + grant. That year was a 2-meal-a-day struggle, but I met the love of my life, so clearly it was meant to be.

I have no idea why Amazon (where I was working at the time, I should add) suggested I buy This is Happening. It had been years since I had thought about you, but as soon as I saw you there in that black suit I got this weird premonition of anticipation. I added the vinyl to my shopping cart and checked out. Amazon has this great feature where a digital version of a physical music purchase is added automatically to your digital music library, however I resolved myself not to listen just yet. Instead I read the review of your final album on Pitchfork – another 9.2 – in which they featured a quote from an interview you gave to The Guardian: “I spent my whole life wanting to be cool… but I’ve come to realize that coolness doesn’t exist the way I once assumed.”

As soon as I read that I knew that we would have a very long relationship. I had also spent my entire life wanting to be cool; dressing in a certain way, liking certain things (or, rather, disliking other things), downloading music to impress girls on dates… you had summarized my entire young adult life and demolished it. What did it mean to be cool? James Murphy was what it meant to be cool.

I hope this letter does not come across as false-flattery. I can’t think of a way to express my feelings towards you other than through admiration and respect, and I’m sure being referred to as ‘cool’ will make you squirm in discomfort. I’ve seen you in interviews, I’ve seen your attempts to deflect any question about your role as a cultural icon, and it adds to the many reasons I admire you. Please believe me when I say that, for me, you are the epitome of cool.

Anyway I digress and we still have some ground to cover. The record arrived and I listened to your music the way you intended it to be listened to; analogue, retro and loud. Obviously I loved it. In the years between my flirtation with Sound of Silver and that first spin of This Is Happening I had taken my musical blinkers off; Antics, Kid A and Agaetis Byrjun were now among my favourite albums, and I had fully grasped the concept of a grower. [Ignore the phallic images that conjures, please.]

I spent months discovering your music. Something inside me had changed and suddenly it all made sense. I really, really lost myself in your work for a while and became a borderline obsessive. Don’t worry, I’m not about to send you a lock of my hair or a toenail or anything, I just want to paint a picture of a 26 year-old guy, who had grown up with some of the greatest music ever made around him, and he’d ignored it in favour of Franz Ferdinand’s third album. Seriously. What a fucking idiot.

By the way, at this point in writing I seem to be leaning towards thanking you. I feel like that’s where I’ll end up but, again, we are still not quite done, are we?

The fact I had become an LCD anorak is important. I’d gone through your entire library, including the running album 45:33 (small side note: thank you for the 5 kilos I lost, by the way), and I was wondering what to go to next.

“I was really a failure. Like really really really…really…really really really a failure.”

That’s the opening line of an interview you gave with SVT Play, available on YouTube. The clip is called Interview with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem about how to deal with Failure. If you haven’t seen it, I cannot recommend it strongly enough, even if it is a bit weird to watch yourself talk about…yourself. Honestly, man, this interview changed my life.

Suddenly it felt OK to be living with a flatmate when my girlfriend had moved out of our home and back in with her parents. It felt OK to be trapped in a job on a career path I hated. It felt OK that I hadn’t written a best seller and that I wasn’t even fucking trying. The fear of failure at all of those things had paralysed me for years, and when you articulated those exact same feelings, the knot around my heart loosened. It was OK that I hadn’t tried yet. It was definitely OK that I hadn’t succeeded yet. When you have thoughts and feelings that aren’t shared by anyone around you, but one of your personal heroes admits to them – well, it’s remarkable. It’s like having a bucket of cold water thrown in your face. I suddenly felt less alone.

[Dear reader, if you’re still with me – obviously I was not alone at this point in my life. Like I said earlier, I had found the love of my life. It’s a complicated feeling and it’s why I’m writing this letter. But dearest beloved, please don’t be offended.]

It’s cold and dark outside now. I’m listening to the fade out on Black Screen from your #1 billboard album American Dream. Congratulations again on that, by the way; when I said you deserved it I really, sincerely meant it. I won’t keep you for any longer and I was right about writing this, I feel a new sense of closure. Not that our relationship is over, James, far from it. No, I feel closure about the second to last paragraph. I don’t think I’ve ever articulated that before and it feels like I’ve worked out a splinter, a thick knot of something inside me, something dark and brooding that has now faded away.

Before you get too big-headed, unfortunately I should tell you that you are not the hero of this story. Music is a one-way dialogue from artist to listener; you talk to me but I can’t talk back, and this letter is the same thing. You have an opinion but frankly I’m not interested in it, in the same way you continued to make music when I was 15 and thought you were shit. I am not deluded into thinking you are a tangible part of my life, you don’t have any idea who I am. You should, however, know that it’s because of you that I took accountability for my life.

That discovery took place over a year ago. I would update you on the status of the things I was scared at failing at, but I won’t. It doesn’t matter, because it’s OK to try and it’s OK to not and it’s OK to succeed and it’s OK to not. There is only one thing that I should update you on.

I felt alone, I no longer feel alone.

Thank You.

[Reader, as a thank you for sticking with me, please enjoy the video I talked about earlier, it’s worth a watch. It might just change your life.]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYCz06bS380

The Idiot

Iggy Pop — Nightclubbing

There’s a story on the news aboutta guy who ate a dover sole whole, got it stuck down his throat til he couldn’t breathe no more, his friends called an ambulance when his face went blue; meanwhile I’m a fuckin’ idiot cos I don’t know the first thing about Tianaman square? Bullshit. Don’t even know how it’s spelt but I sure as shit can use a semi colon.

There’s a guy on the tube wearing a tweed blazer tryin’ to ignore the bead of sweat making its way from his neck to his back, he could take off the blazer an’ that bead of sweat would be no more, and yet I’m the fuckin’ idiot cos I didn’t know you’re s’posed to serve a latte with warm milk instead of boiling it first.

There’s a tune in my ear from Annie Clark about a monster hankerin’ for a sacred cow but everyone knows Hindus don’t eat cows, it’s the catholics that eat baby Jesus, and yet I’m the fuckin’ moron ‘cos it took me months to notice Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett aren’t the most famous Kurt & Courtney out there.

My yellow coat has a brown line along the neck ‘cos I wore it to a festival and never washed my neck, and when I got back I never washed the coat neither. I’ll admit that one’s pretty fuckin’ stupid.

I’m mindin’ my own business on my way to work, keeping my elbows sharp in case some prick next to me thinks the arm rest is single occupancy, realising it’s much faster to drop a few letters here an’ there when you’re talkin’ quickly but it’s a bitch to write, and then I look up from my phone and realise everybody on the tube is paused. It’s mega-weird, they’re not moving an inch.

I pause K&C halfway thru their continental breakfast and it’s like the tube-sounds have paused too. I take my headphones out and nothin’. It sounds like how I’d imagine space would sound, there sure as shit ain’t nobody screamin’, my ears have got that weird feelin’ where you need to chew somethin’ to get ‘em to pop.

The tube ain’t movin’ which is nuts ‘cos I never got that slanty slowdown you get when the tube driver hits the brakes. What were we smokin’ last night, man? That’s a line by the way, I gotta job in the city, I ain’t smokin’ nothin’ but Marlboros. There’s an old dude opposite me halfway through a page turn of his paper, if he’s havin’ me on he’s doin’ a bang up job; the other folks I can see are all starin’ into the distance or leanin’ against the pole, to be honest you wouldn’t notice anythin’ out the ordinary if it weren’t for Fred. That’s the old geezer’s name in case you weren’t payin’ attention.

I think about standin’ up but I hate standin’ up on tubes in case they jolt forwards and I fall onto an old, pregnant, blind, and black woman, so instead I sit still but get a good lean on. There’s a skinny bloke in front of me wearin’ skinny grey jeans round his skinny drainpipe legs with a skinny tie on a skinny shirt drinking what I expect is a full-fat latte and I lean forwards toward him to get a look down the tube; a real good lean, lean in so good that my hairspray quiff crunches against him and gets messed outta place. Normally I’d be fuckin’ pissed but judging from the freaky sci-fi time pause shit goin’ on I got bigger fish to fry.

 

 

broom closet

Big Black — The Model

I want your money / That’s / What I want

The lobby was grand. Black columns decorated with gold leaf trim grew out of a white marble floor, my suitcase wheels made almost no noise, gliding along behind me as I approached the desk.

A short Asian woman greeted me. One of those rich places where the staff don’t smile. It’s more honest that way I guess.

“Good morning sir. Here to check in?”

“Yes, I have a reservation under Greene.”

“Just a moment please sir.”

She tapped some keys on her keyboard, the small black machine next to her whirred into life and a white keycard slid out.

“Have you stayed with us before sir?”

This suit I had on must be working. If she had seen me in my clothes from yesterday she wouldn’t have needed to ask that question.

“No, I have not.” I flashed a shark smile.

“Very well, you are in room 427. It is on the fourth floor, the elevator is just to your right,” she motioned to the black elevator doors behind one of the columns. “This is your keycard,” she tapped the white plastic card, her eyes were hazel and soft. “You will need to swipe it to use the elevator and then again to access your room. Please do not lose it as there is a fifteen dollar charge for replacements, which will be added to your bill at the end of your stay. Breakfast will be served in the restaurant” – another point, this time to the glass doors to the right of the reception desk – “between six and nine thirty tomorrow morning. The bar closes at eleven pm, however the front desk will be staffed all night should you require anything else.” She did not smile at me. She was being rude. It was sexy.

“Thank you” – a glance at her chest, small pert breasts framed in an oversized bra cup, red text on a white plastic gold framed name badge – “Elaine.” My eyes stayed on her chest and I felt my leer being returned with a blush. Women – so fucking predictable.

Dudes in the wild

LCD Soundsystem — On Repeat

I / wish I could complain / more about the Rich / but then / All their / Chil / dren would line the streets / come to every show / No-one / Wants that

Snarling lyrics cut through the crowd like a blunt knife, kids on pills smack their lips oblivious to the taunt, kids on cocaine chew gum and kids on booze close their eyes and pretend they are on cocaine or pills. It’s 2003 in New York City and everybody is angry about something. A girl falls into me and tells me to watch it which tips my mood over the edge so I leave through the fire exit.

Outside the club a pair of storms are brewing. The sky is the arena for one and the taxi queue for another. A pair of young men wearing tight skinny jeans with matching bouffant quiffs are angrily arguing over a space in the back of a yellow cab.

“Look buddy – I’ve got witnesses here who will back me up, this is my cab, I’ve been in line for almost fifteen minutes.”

This is accompanied by a sharp jab to the ribcage of the rival.

“Witnesses? It’s a fuckin’ cab, chill man, you can get the next one.”

An open palm push into the chest of the first man.

“You’d better back off.”

“Back off?”

“Yeah”

Another open palm push into the chest of the first man.

“Push me again.”

A laugh from the rival – well, a sneer, a jeer, he asks his friend to hold his beer and begins to take off his jacket. It’s tight leather and the air is damp, either the jacket has shrunk or his arms have swelled and for a moment he’s unable to roll the sleeves down past his wrists, briefly incapacitated in a scenester straight jacket. The first man should have seized the opportunity to strike but instead laughs and lights a cigarette. It’s a mistake that costs him as the rival quickly frees himself from the leather cuffs and squares his shoulders –

Before he is able to land a blow the second storm breaks and the heavens open. It’s heavy rain, the sort that makes a small indent in your skin and makes you wonder if it is in fact hail, and the onset is so sudden that both men are briefly distracted for a second. There is a collective groan as the onlookers screw up their faces and raise jackets over their heads. Nobody has brought an umbrella ‘cos who brings an umbrella to a gig? I take refuge against the red brick wall, the wind is coming from behind the building so it mostly keeps me dry. I recognise Nancy from school in the crowd and relish the opportunity to talk to her about tonight, she might even smile at me.

The rival turns to re-don his jacket which is held patiently by his accomplice (lover?) and the first man makes his move; a swift shove to the shoulder blade. The rival stays on his feet.

“You got somewhere to be?”

It’s a bad line – they’re fighting over a cab after all – but the provocation works. The accomplice holds out the jacket but he doesn’t take it. The first man senses he may have made a mistake and the rival’s chest rises as he inhales deeply through his nose. His white vest is flecked with raindrops. Suddenly –

CRACK

He turns on his left heel, swinging his body weight through the rotation and channelling it into his arm, he punches through the air through the rain through the gasps of the crowd and connects with a dull thud into his target – the chin of the first man. His fist briefly flares with pain as the knuckles slam into bone and his wrist is jarred by the resistance it has met. The rotation continues until his torso is bent in an exaggerated post-punch contortion. His hair is now out of place.

The CRACK in fact belonged to a lightning strike less than fifteen miles away. The crowd gasp, some of them jump, unsure what has shocked them more, and the first man is knocked backwards. His feet slip on the now damp concrete and his legs struggle to support him; he falls into the onlookers, flailing his arms behind him. They catch him with a collective sigh and haul him upright again. Nancy looks bored now.

The slam of a car door. The rev of an engine. The slush of tyres.

The rival has taken the cab and is making his escape.

The first man’s jaw hurts – his teeth feel a little loose and he thinks he has bitten his tongue in shock. He can taste blood. To make matters worse the rain has caused his hairspray hairdo to flatten like candy floss held under a tap. A few onlookers murmur “are you alright man” or “that guy was a real dick” but the platitudes don’t help relieve the pain in his jaw nor the embarrassment in his gut.

I put my headphones in to drown out the sound of the club and set off down the street, the opposite direction to the victor of the fight. The rain has soaked through my converse to my socks and my feet are cold. I remember that I have homework to finish and begin to wonder why I came out in the first place.