Monday, May 22, 2006

Enter the Dragon

You emerge from the Victoria interchange a different man. Twenty minutes of cramming, two double-shot lattes and a cheat sheet have you de-programmed and ready to re-enter the workforce. The frenzy of peak-hour London unravels before you in hushed whispers and stolen looks. The undead have arisen and are wearing Primark.

Mindful of the advice of your peers you avoid all eye contact with your fellow commuters. Only the omniscient narration of machines, the flutter of Metro’s and the slurping of coffee punctuate awkward silences.

The rickety train bobbles across the mid-summer Thames. Everywhere Impressionists rejoice at the interplay of light and water, of reflection and induction. From this watery grave, branded into London’s fleshy hindquarters is Battersea Power Station’s commentary on Industrial decline. Pink Floyd’s post-apocalyptic vision of flying Pigs is a welcome footnote to your own never say never reality.

“Please ensure you are in the correct part of the train the next Station is Battersea Park, this is a Epsom train travelling via Norbury.” Coffee is slurped. Pages are turned.

You alight to the chill Northerlies whistling across your naked flesh as failed traffic lights leave civility in their wake. Piggybacking a young mother and pram as human shield you stroll past the calamity expertly dodging the maddening crowd.

Children run. Horns blare. Strangers exchange profanity.

Defiantly, the overworked forge a path through the wall of stalled commuters with the righteousness that accompanies the scoundrel. The irresistible force and the immoveable object cast each other as villains sneering and waving their arms in furious incomprehensible patterns.

There’s a temptation to observe futility, to see struggle as cause as an idling Hyundai Sport stands equally useless beside the fuel-injected inertia of modernity.

Bodies in motion, bodies at rest.

For every action an equal and opposite reaction.

Anger is just depression turned outwards.

All these thoughts flash through your mnd as you type in your entry code for Thompson Thompson and Smith, your prospective employer.

You’ve prepared heavily for this moment, fraud that you are. You wear the suit of a more learned man and the demeanour of the believer. Buzzwords, catchphrases and assorted cultural memory combine to create the carbon copy that enters the office and enthusiastically greets the interviewer with a firm, double-handed shake.

“I swear to god, I had a short back and sides when I left this morning” you venture, forgiving for a moment the clammy paw engorging your phalanges in one grateful assault. There’s enough in your tone to reveal that this, in intent if not in practice, is humour, the appreciation of which sends Thompson, Thompson or Smith into a spluttering ensemble of desperate gasps for air perforated by harsh, guttural coughing.

You have the presence of mind to intimate intent towards the water cooler before Thompson, Thompson Smith’s handkerchief wielding hand re-directs you to your seat. Gratefully you retake your position and return to mentally rehearsing the push-pull strategy you’ve honed over the last series of interviews: dotcom gift-wrapper, medical guinea pig and subway sandwich artist. I’m nothing if not versatile you consider, careful to note-to-self for future application.

Self-congratulations are short-lived however as you recognize the riotous applause ricocheting through your subconscious to be the still beating larynx of this suffocating managing director rather than a random sampling of your peers.

Startled and betrayed you slink behind the hulking mass and let out a random assault of consonants in a sudden burst of Latvian shock therapy. Your expert application is by no means the end of the cacophonous onslaught proving no match as still wave upon wave of peristaltic aftershocks bring his eyes to water and his life within inches.

‘Not hiccups,’ you surmise, as much accusation as diagnosis. Unable to pool the cumulative knowledge of a recovering professional student to anything of a positive medical nature you let the staccato continue as you de-lint your shirt and straighten the trite ‘world’s best’ ornaments adorning his desk.

“The whole world’s going to hell,” he manages at last, as if picking up from where you left off, as though the last three minutes of confidence shaking vibrato were as natural as his Windsor knotted Mickey Mouse tie.

He regards you with suspicion, as an Emu might its wing.

“Are you a tea man Johnnie?” he asks.
“Who isn’t a…”
“I can’t stand it, that dog piss gives me gas. You know what gas is Johnnie?”
“Well I’m not an expert, but…”
“Yeah you Princeton fairies are never experts are you?”
“But I never went to Princ…”
“Rebecca!” he hollers into the gravely buzz of the desktop intercom eliciting a startled yelp, followed by the scurrying feet of his effeminate personal assistant.
“Get me and Tinkerbell a couple of JD’s neat. Neat sweet cheeks, that’s no ice.”
Rebecca rolls his eyes playfully.
“No ice princess - write that down!”

Rebecca looks to you for support his last vestige of humanity before you, a whimpering kitten beneath your wheels. You stand up and drape a reassuring feline-loving appendage around his quivering shoulders.
“Rebecca?” you ask, looking quizzically from Thompson Thompson Smith to his long-suffering assistant.
“I have to say sir, may not be much for brains but she’s got a grr-eat ass.” You finish, an ear-splitting horse bite your punctuation, in one foul haemorrhaging swoop unburdening a lifetime of little brother syndrome on Rebecca’s ballooning epidermis. Aghast Rebecca turns a hasty retreat chased by more hearty coughing.

A warm patriarchal grin peels across Thompson Thompson Smith’s sun-ravaged features. Ten years of farmed UV’s silently wrestle his generously cherubic features, cornering his intent into a familiar lob-sided grimace. The awkward interplay of raised eyebrows and see-sawing emotion leads you around his labyrinthine Victorian offices answering a few unasked questions as he gesticulates indiscriminantly. “What makes Thompson Thompson Smith a world leader in consultancy?” He slams his hand on a stack of photocopy paper. “The people. Like Winston here.” Winston turns a half-hearted wave as he talks on his headset and absent-mindedly snaps his pearl suspenders. “I’ll ask the questions James, you just find me answers! Don’t give me that, don’t you give me that Mister I need these reports dancing by lunch time! Well I…yeah but…I was thinking Maze for canapés. Yeah eleven’s good.”

You drink in the affluent environs and executive excess. The offices hum with all the activity of its cast of thousands. “What’s the difference between success and failure? Understanding the market. You see Tom you buy cheap you get cheap, if nothing changes, nothing changes. You get me?” He pauses looking at you for a flippant summary of his inane doublespeak. “Hey look my name’s Jack and your arse ain’t buyin’.” He slaps your back with enthusiasm and his face creases into reassuring leathery dimples.

Rebecca brushes past offloading two Campari’s on soda. Thompson Thompson Smith takes his to hand and drinks in the musk in a single mid-sentence gulp. “Jack look around here and tell me what you see.” You know this is rhetorical, that he’s just waiting for a chance to interrupt you so you let him hang a beat. Two beats. “Since you ask…” “I’ll tell you what I see, I see the best years of my life passing me by. I’m not an unhappy man Jeffray, just a lonely one. Do you know what its like to feel the dark closing in, to see the homeless drinking in the streets and to feel envy? Do you know what its like to cry yourself to sleep at night knowing that tomorrow is inescapable?” He’s fucking with you. “With all due respect sir…” “I’m fucking with you asshole! You should see your face!”

Rebecca returns shaking a polaroid with a look of self-satisfaction, “This is your office dickhead, enjoy.” He slaps the unflattering polaroid on the door with ‘2ic’ pencilled along its base and the office creakily reveals itself. “I’ll leave you to get better acquainted with team Crystal HQ, as Project Manager for Crystal I imagine you’ll want to get stuck in.”

Monday, April 24, 2006

Scatter my ashes somewhere beautiful

There's something edifying in failling so completely that in future tense people will measure all failure from your own spectacular mis-adventures. This is your gift to the people of London a year zero. What price dignity? What price fame?

Hot blasts of amber lick at your hands, hungry for human sacrifice. You sense something less than wholesome in the combusting orgy of self-pity and indifference.

You tend the swelling flame with crumbled page after crumbled page of foolscap from your conpendium of capitulation. All this pointless lib-dem investment in turbines, in windmills and solar power, if Tony Blair's looking for a renewable source of energy he need only to take a leaf from your book.

Some hours later your pagan ritualism peters out to an anticlimactic crackle. Reluctantly the flames die down. The embers last breathes lust after what remains of your sacremental parchment.

With heavy heart and watering eyes you hand the carbon remnants to you girlfriend 'Scatter my ashes somewhere beautiful.' Solemnly she accepts this duty. This Honour. Reconciliation.

As Sassy heads to the gentle majesty of the river Thames you cling to the mythical cleansing power of the fire and seek a new way forward. You take down one of scott's April Fools Calendars and , irony not-with-standing, enter inspirational quotes for the day in each of its brightly hued rectangles.

"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent."
Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727)

With Isaacs words imprinted in your cerebral cortex, and written on the palm of your hand, you set about your business, watching and waiting.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

You arrive home from work with an arm full of Tesco's and a head full of unjustified ambition. You're thinking of new twists on a Vietnamese Pho and homemade cheesecake. You're thinking cascading sugar castles atop a mountain of lightly whipped raspberry meringue, a glucosian utopia of loose morals and icing sugar.

Flicking through the abundance of gastroporn at your fingertips you plot the last node between self-styled kitchen guru and TV C-list stardom: the crusade. You mull over this quietly as you expertly navigate the accumulation of 'great business ideas' that fill the hallway in overflowing unloved boxes. Gourmet tea ingredients, novelty badges, assorted eBay friendly knock-offs, sex, lies and videotape. The diluted dreams of a perennial underachiever.

Scott hears you enter and, perhaps sensing your pessimism, perhaps identifying a gap in the tween market, scurries from the hallway to his bedroom with all the stealth a 180lb manchild can muster. In his wake you notice one of his more recent ventures a foray into the 2006 calendar market which proudly declares Thursday, April 1st in a blazing wash of gaudy technicolour.

Curious but indifferent you return to the more immediate matters at hand i.e. learning to cook. You assemble the usual suspects and pre-heat the oven. The true enormity of the task is dawning on you as your attention shifts from the indecipherable concoction of cups and ounzes to the shadow creeping across your shoulder. The growing shadow engulfs the recipe and the accompanining clip clop and heavy breathing brings to mind another key difference between yourself and Mr Ramsey, knife skills.

You reach blindly for a utensil and spin to your aggressor with your weapon poised for action. Somewhere deep inside a demon has been awakened and his guttural howl echoes through your abdominal cavity and springs from you're mouth in an onslaught of epic fury 'hyaaaar!' Christian looks at you doubtfully. His eyes trace from the peeler in your hand to your, admittedly pedestrain, kung-fu stance.

'Are you sure it's not hey-ya?'He asks as you casually round off the move with an approximation of 'salute to the sun.' 'I'm working on my yoga, you know I don't wake up with these.' You say directly his attentions to your steely tri's and bi's. He smiles and in turn directs your attentions to your weapon of choice.'Be a sport would you?' He chucks you an apple, winks, and makes his finest approximation of a poignant exit.

His grand departure however is destroyed as the persistant clip clop reveals its source. He moves gracelessly from foot to foot, a one man obstacle course of limp limbs and perverted evolution. 'Had a bit of an accident did we?' you enquire not without satisfaction. His eyes meet yours, 'I don't believe in accidents.'

He's right of course. This has the hallmarks of Jackson written all over it. Ritualistic humiliation, physical incapacitation, the man is a master. 'I've warned you about those rollerblades friend. For chrissakes do us all a favour and get a skateboard would you? It's embarassing seeing a grown man in knee pads.' It's meant to be matter of fact, balanced between humour and indifference, but his eyes narrow further and an already chilly exchange becomes a cavernous silence deepening uncomfortably. As he waddles to the relative sanctuary of his room you notice for the first time the single wheeled blade covered in splotches of Christians virgin blood. 'Sacrifices have to be made,' you say laughing at your own joke in a now empty but appreciative kitchen.You leave Christian to tend his wounds as best his motor skills will allow and again re-visit the enchanted castle.

With the panache of a Michelin chef you seperate whites and yolks, whisk cream and extract vanilla. Far beyond simply folowing the directions you embellish with a stoner's glee adding whimsy and faint promise to their tired and repressive traditions. Three flour-speckled hours later you add the finishing touch and get medieval on the sugar syrup detail with a blowtorch and a secret ingredient. It's one of your cardinal rules, picking up on the something old, something new vibe of the latest of your mother's weddings you made an amendment to your personal constitution i.e. anything cooked in a sharehouse must contain something borrowed.

You scour the dire offerings of your comrades shelves for something to match your magnificent offering and finding little more than humbling odours and assorted fungi settle happily on the double cream with two days to run.

You lavish the cake with a generosity of cream and sit back to admire this most miraculous of triumphs. So pleased are you that you go in search of the long rumoured polaroid camera said to lurk in dark corners for when the time is nigh. Feeling that this could just lure said camera from its hibernation you grab your trusty maglite and head to the storage space.

As you pick through the confusion of garbage and sentiment another roommate is circling a prospect of his own. Tiptoe-ing thru the minefield a lone soldier sneaks through to the foot of your fort and in one foul indelible act of treason your castle falls.

Later you flick through the assorted polaroids of the crime scene and the evidence is fairly conclusive: a trail of creamed prints, crocodile sized tooth impressions. Far beyond mere circumstantial evidence though you find yourself on the right side of karma's cosmic balancesheet and can enjoy the sweet poetry of justice.

Scott's interest in such matters is somewhat more immediate. He's bent double over his own private stretch of porcelin when you notice a slight irregularity in his latest purchase. Looking from your bedazzled Mexican Rolex's Thursday, 30th March to the calendar's Thursday, April 1st you realise you've been had.

You laugh to yourself impressed at his ingenuity and the karmic oneness of being. You hear yet another grunt from the ensuite and giggle some more, 'He who laughs last my son, he who laughs last.'