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9 July 2011
No. 4,889 (cartoon)
I’m shattered, crushed, and hopeless.
There’s nothing wrong with you that suicide wouldn’t cure.
10 July 2011
My Twenty-Pound Curse, Lifted
I’m writing from Jersey; I arrived here yesterday. It is an island; sea can be found on all sides. This is not to be confused with New Jersey, the United States toxic waste dump that is not an island. After absolutely no research, I have been unable to determine the name of this place. It may or may not be the States of Jersey, The Isle of Jersey, or simply Jersey. It’s part of the United [sic] Kingdom, although it may not be. The powers that be, er, were, cut some sort of deal in 1204 that resulted in the island being a tax haven today, rich in criminals and drug dealers. It’s within spitting distance of France, but is not a member of the European Union. It’s so confusing that I must change the subject.
I haven’t been in the UK since 2005, when I was an artist in residence at The Old Chain Pier. I returned to Sans Frisco with a twenty-pound note that’s haunted me in a recurring dream ever since.
In my dream, I’m back in the UK, and when I try to buy something I realize that I have no money because I left my twenty pounds in the states. This happened every few months, and then got worse. I had the same dream, but was certain I was awake. I was incredulous that after so many ominous dreams about forgetting the note that I really did. That’s not exactly the stuff of big league nightmares, but it was persistent enough be quite disconcerting.
I packed the accursed note in my backpack weeks ago, then periodically checked to make sure it was still there. I pulled it out yesterday.
After checking into my hotel, the first thing I did was to head out for some fish and chips. I had a disconcerting feeling that I might be having another lucid dream, so I was quite relieved when the nice woman at the chippie took the ill-omened currency and handed me a huge batch of fish and chips.
Whew. At the risk of being a bit dramatic, that was the first time I’ve had a glimpse into what it might be like to be mentally ill, to be uncertain about whether what I was experiencing was real. Fish and chips saved me; I wish it were that simple for everyone.
11 July 2011
Jersey is island is rich in European history. The Germans captured and occupied it during the war in the forties, as Germans were and are wont to do. Decades later, some annoyed French (pardon the repetition) fishermen decided to occupy Jersey. The island’s lone, unarmed policeman told them to bugger off, so they did. There’s more to know about England, France, and Germany, but not much.
Despite the island’s diminutive sizeit’s smaller than San Franciscoit has a cow, a woolly jumper (sweater), a potato, and the previously mentioned toxic waste dump all named after it. To find out more, I went down to the pub for dinner.
I asked the publican if I was eating Jersey potatoes.
“No, they’re French fries, so they’re from France, innit?” he replied.
Are the steaks pieces of Jersey cows?
“Don’t be daft, it’s the mad cow, innit?”
Why is no one wearing a jersey?
“It’s summer, innit?”
Does everyone here end their sentences with, “innit?”
“Beats me, mate. No one except tourists would come in a place like this, and I’m from London, innit?”
12 July 2011
Mad Dogs and Sheep
There are two types of Brits, Mad Dogs and Sheep. (Actually, there is a third group, Really Lovely People, but their number is so small that they’re statistically nonexistent.) Avoid contact with the Mad Dogs. It’s easy to do; Sheep are far more numerous. And that brings me to today’s encounter.
For reasons that have nothing to do with this story, I found myselfalong with a few dozen other unfortunate peoplein the theatre of the Jersey Arts Centre. I sat in a seat farthest from the stage in order to plug my computer into the only electrical outlet in the entire auditorium.
A minute later a mousy little person told me I had to unplug my computer. I offered her a quid to pay for the electricity, but she declined. She explained that my electrical cord was a safety hazard: someone might trip over it in case of a fire.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“Very serious indeed,” she replied gravely.
I wanted to argue with the officious twerp, but didn’t want to cause any problems for the people who’d invited me. Otherwise I would have told her that her shoelaces were unacceptable: what if they came untied causing her to trip and fall and block an exit? And might not someone confuse all the glowing computer and phone screens with exit signs during a fire, leading people into an inferno instead of safety? And isn’t the presence of so many unarmed people in an unguarded auditorium a likely terrorist target?
“Thank you for your cooperation,” she told me with a smug smile.
“No, thank ewe,” I said sheepishly.
She didn’t get it. She never will.
[Having reread what I just wrote, I realize I shouldn’t have referred to her as, “mousy.” I like rodents; they’re smart.]
13 July 2011
One or Two Good Things about England
I’m staying in a classic English hotel. It’s sweltering, and there’s no air conditioning. The cold water isn’t much cooler than the hot water. The temperatures are easy to compare, since they come from separate taps. Why the Brits remain unable to figure out how to use one tap for hot water, cold water, and various blends of the two, this I do not know. There’s no refrigerator, nor is there an ice machine.
The overpriced canned ales are even more expensive than they were when I was here six years ago; they’ve declined in quality as well. That may or may not have something to do with the fact that “Newcastle” Brown Ale is no longer concocted in Newcastle, and McEwan’s Export, “Scotland’s famous export ale,” is made by Heineken in England. A pox upon corporate vandals, feh!
I could go on and on and on some more kvetching about English decrapitude, but there’s no point. The Brits accept their misery, and I’ll be back in San Francisco this weekend.
I resolved to be positive. There are only one or two good things about England, and those one or two good things are fish and chips. I ate those good things, and that may have been a mistake. I can feel my arteries clogging with greasy goodness, and now there are no good things left here.
14 July 2011
Practical Pub Toilet Advice
I’m in Jersey for a very good reason: money. Specifically, I’m being paid to crank out propaganda at yet another pointless annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission. The organization is as dysfunctionally farcical as it is ineffective. Did I mention that I’m here for the money?
The alleged environmentalists are as uncoordinated as they are impotent. With defenders like that, I’m glad I’m not a marine mammal. Also, whales and seals aren’t allowed in pubs; The Licensing act of 1618 forbids it. I, however, am allowed in a pub, so that’s where I went.
After savoring a few meditative pints of real ale, I realized that it was time to release them back into the wild. When I reached the toilet, I saw that landlord had posted some insightful, helpful advice.
Please stand closer to the urinals. Your penis is not as long as you think it is. Thank you.
If only such a practical, rational approach to solving problems was in evidence at the International Whaling Commission.
15 July 2011
Avoiding a Groping
I was unable to find an affordable direct flight from England to Sans Frisco, so I’m spending four very long hours in the Charlotte, North Carolina, airport. Very large people surround me. They’re quite tall, at least from side to side.
I had to go through the “security” theatre again, and said I didn’t want to be irradiated by a full body scan.
“We’ll have to hand examine you then,” the guard told me.
“I’m a homosexual,” I lied, “and I don’t want to be fondled by anyone who hasn’t at least bought me a couple of drinks.”
The guard winced; he may have blushed as well.
“May I please be groped by a woman, preferably a lesbian-American?” I asked.
“I’m sorry sir, but rules are rules,” the guard replied.
“Since I don’t have a choice, let’s get to it, shall we?” I said with a smile and a wink.
He examined the lining of my collar, and then informed me I was free to board the plane.
I’ll have to try that trick more often.
16 July 2011
Cy Twombly’s Great Obituary
I noted Cy Twombly’s death days ago, but, since he’ll not be up to anything new, I wasn’t in a rush to find an obituary. Two phrases impressed me when I eventually saw one. His work, “remained impervious to fashion,” and it was, “so individual it barely needed a signature.”
The former comment is the highest praise, but I’m not sure about the latter. On one hand, it’s quite an accomplishment to come up with a recognizable style. On the other hand, that suggests work that’s formulaic enough to be recognizable. Since I just ran out of hands, and am unfamiliar with most of his work, I’ll stop my pointless postulation.
There’s one more quote about Twombly that’s worth repeating. The American expatriate’s financial success allowed him to own two large homes in Italy that he filled with his collections. One visitor described the pieces as work that, “a connoisseur would swoon over and a thief would leave untouched.”
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©2011 David Glenn Rinehart