We embrace temporary worthlessness

By Jack Pedder

Originally published 24 August 2016 on Facebook

I see Jonathan walking across the roundabout in sunglasses. I go down to meet him.

I open the door and Jonathan says ‘Hello.’ and I say ‘Yes.’

I make garlic mushrooms and egg on toast. I receive a facebook message from Jonathan saying ‘I have arrived.’

Jonathan talks about the Khazmagoriad. I talk about the man I met last night, Luke.

Jonathan laughs at some of my Luke anecdotes.

I tell Jonathan being with Luke was a lot like being alone. He talked like the background radiation of my own brain.

Jonathan tells me the Khazmagoriad is going to completely forgo sequencing, and occur entirely on Tuesdays. He tells me Nafees didn’t like my recent facebook post as much as the other ones. He tells me Nafees liked the one I deleted.

I eat the egg and garlic mushrooms on toast and we sit still and Jonathan reads some Nietzsche memes. Jonathan drinks a lemongrass and ginger tea and I drink a decaf coffee.

We embrace temporary worthlessness.

About and hour and fifteen minutes after Jonathan arrives, Jonathan and I decide to go for a walk. Jonathan says better not make it a long one: his lunch break has already been over for fifteen minutes.

We immediately bump into Rosie, who is putting a bag of crisps in the bin.

‘Hello.’ I say. ‘Hello.’ Rosie says.
Jonathan says ‘Hello.’

‘What brings you to this spot Rosie?’ I say, pointing at the spot of ground immediately surrounding Rosie’s feet.’

‘I’m putting a bag of crisps in the bin.’ Rosie says, with confidence and honesty.

‘We’re on our lunch break.’ I say, gesturing at Jonathan. ‘Except me.’ I add. ‘I am not.’

Rosie points at me and smiles and says ‘Yes, because you…’ and doesn’t finish her sentence. I probably wouldn’t have written this down if she had finished her sentence.

Jonathan and I say things at Rosie.

‘Who’s this Jack?’ Rosie says, gesturing at Jonathan, after a while. ‘This is Jonathan.’ I say.

‘Hello Jonathan.’ Rosie says. ‘Hello.’ Jonathan says.

‘Jack, who’s this?’ Jonathan says, gesturing at Rosie. ‘Jonathan, this is Rosie.’ I say.

‘Hello.’ Rosie says.

‘Jonathan Rosie Rosie Jonathan.’

We end up walking together down Castle Road towards grace CHURCH. A blonde girl joins us between the Robin Hood statue and grace CHURCH and only Rosie talks to her.

We pass briefly down Castle Boulevard go up the car park at the bottom of Maid Marion Way.

We sit and talk. Rosie describes her father as ‘a Mrs. Havishom of computing.’

We talk about views. Jonathan says the view from his office is pretty good. I say I want to come to wrok with Jonathan one say. He says if I get a suit I could definitely get away with it.

‘Law, law, law.’ I say, rehearsing my part.

Jonathan says the word ‘Law’ rarely comes up in the work of a law firm.

It feels weird with your knees against the wall of the carpark, looking over the edge, I realise – correctly.

Jonathan gives Rosie a pen lid. Rosie throws the pen lid off the car park. People walk past but do not walk on the pen lid.

‘Oh ho ho hoho! Here we go!’ I say, watching an extremely grey van drive past.

We realise we have never looked at the top of a double-decker bus before – not with this much deliberate intent at any rate.

I forget a funny exchange about Rosie preaching, so I ask Jonathan – who sniggered audibly at it – to relate it to me over facebook messenger.

‘What was that funny thing about preaching Rosie said.’ I message.
‘You asked if she ever did a preach’ Jonathan messages.
‘She said sometimes’
‘You said what is it like’
‘She said I don’t know, I’ve never done it’
‘Jonathan Taylor Davies, from behind, snickered audibly’ Jonathan Taylor Davies messages.

We see a man in a loud shirt with a bald spot. ‘He is probably a quiet man.’ Jonathan says. ‘All bald men are silent.’ I say. ‘He isn’t bald.’ Jonathan says. ‘Precisely.’ I say.

Very few of the previous stanzas are chronological.

Jonathan, who is pushing the limits of what he can get away with on his lunch break, and Rosie, whose lunch break is coming to an end, decide to leave the car park and go to their respective jobs.

Rosie says I can come to work with her, if I want: pretend I work at grace CHURCH. ‘Just make sure you act holy.’ she says. ‘It’s like going to his job’ she points at Jonathan, ‘just don’t say ‘Law’.’

‘If there’s one thing I love more than the law,’ I say ‘it’s good works.’

‘The working of the spirit is ok,’ I say ‘but if there’s one thing God cares about it’s sacraments.’

I write an High-Church/Catholic intern at a charismatic church comedy sketch in my head as we go down the stairs.

I say Goodbye to Rosie at the bottom of the car park.

Jonathan says it was a mistake not to go and pretend I work at grace CHURCH

I walk up Maid Marion Way with Jonathan. Jonathan says Rosie seems nice. He says I missed a trick by not going to pretend I work at grace CHURCH. ‘If I didn’t have a job, I’d definitely go and pretend I work at grace CHURCH.’

‘Well…’ I say, looking back at Rosie, who is far away now.

‘I bet Rosie thought he’s… yeah he’s alright.’ Jonathan says, about himself. He contrasts this with what other people probably think of him.

I walk with Jonathan as far as Tesco, then go home and sit still.

Ben walks in. We say words. I play spot the difference for approximately 90 seconds. ‘Why hasn’t the man who invented spot the difference been knighted?’ I ask. ‘He has been in an alternate reality.’ Ben says.

I go upstairs and read the stuff I wrote yesterday but didn’t post onto facebook, while listened to the mediocre stylings of Hinds, with their debut album, Leave me Alone.

I listen to The Clash’s debut album, The Clash, I read on my laptop, for the fourth consecutive day.

The album just sits there as my last played album on Spotify, and I play it again, I read on my laptop.

My last played thing on Spotify, as I write now – not reading on my laptop: the next day: the Rosie on a cap park day – is ‘Waiting in Vain “12 Single Version’ by Bob Marley & The Wailers.

I love how tight the drums are at the start of ‘Janie Jones’, I read on my laptop. Sometimes I just want to listen to how tight the drums are at the start of Janie Jones, I read, and end up listening to the whole album, I read on my laptop.

I love ‘Remote Control’, I read, especially in the context of ‘Janie Jones’. I love HARD HARD soft soft, I read on my laptop. I love Jones’s falsetto emerging from that Dun Dun Dununuh, Dun Dun Dununuh. I adore the bit where Strummer says ‘They are all fat and old, queuing up for the house of Lords’, I read, then everyone says ‘Reeeeeepression’ four times. It’s one of my favourite moments in all pop music: that ‘Reeeeeepression’ – happening four times. It’s ecstasy, I read on my laptop. It makes me love repression.

I love ‘I’m So Bored With the USA’ because of the funky slacka chacka chowangka guitar, the opening, slurred, derogatory ‘Yankee’, and the concept of the song. I love not being American while I listen to this song (the only, and best way I have ever listened to it), I read on my laptop.

I love the way ‘White Riot’ sounds when you hum it to yourself, I read – bloody awful! I smile but don’t laugh as I read this on my laptop.

I love ‘Hate and War’ because of its title and content. I read this on my laptop and laugh.

I love the way Strummer says ‘What the hell’ in ‘What’s my Name’, I read on my laptop, also I love the boisterousness sound of ‘nayayayayame’, I read on my laptop.

I like the ghostly ‘oooh’s in ‘Deny’, I read. I can’t really imagine the Clash sitting in the studio recording those ‘oooh’s. It doesn’t feel right, I read on my laptop.

I love how close the title ‘London’s Burning’ is to ‘London Calling’, I read. I love that the Clash instruct me to dial 99999 in case of fire, I read. I love the idea that something can burn with boredom. Either boredom burns it, I read on my laptop, or boredom has some incendiary quality of its own. I love both those metaphors, I read on my laptop. I love how of a carnival the tertiary noise of this song sounds, I read.

I love how in-and-out ‘Career Opportunities’ is. 1:54, I read: what a glorious run time, I read. I love the drums. I love that you need the same number of qualifications to be a policeman as you do to make tea at the BBC, I read on my laptop. I love the image of Joe strummer opening letters with a letter opener in a civil service warehouse. I love the image of him licking an envelope, I read and agree.

I love all the small sighs in ‘Cheat’. I love it when The Clash sigh. It’s a small victory against the nihilism that their punk ethos ought to lead them towards but which, inexplicably, they dodge, I read on my laptop. ‘Don’t obey the rules, they are not for you, they are for the fools,’ is hilarious, as poetry and as a sentiment – especially coming from Joe Strummer, I read.

I love the vowels in ‘Protex Box’. They are great vowels: ‘puleh puleh dyou – all I wanna doo’ ‘I didna wanto, ooh byoo’. I read this.
Police and Thieves is special. Simonon and Strummer coming in at the same time like that; I find it quite moving. I love ‘Genesis’ becoming ‘Jenny says’. I love ‘Eh hehe hehe ha haaay!’ going straight into the verse again. It’s special.

Junior Murvin loses something in the original I think, I read on my laptop. Something is lost in the falsetto and the slowness. I read this and agree partially.

I love the way they repeat ’48 thrills’, in ’48 hours’, I read, to clarify exactly the number of thrills they are getting, before specifying: ‘cheap thrills’, I read on my laptop.

I love ‘I don’t want to hear about what the rich are doing, I don’t want to go to where the rich are going,’ in ‘Garageland’, I read. I’m a sucker for things that give the have-nots a permanent sense of superiority over the haves. ‘For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ etc, I read. The truth isn’t only known by guttersnipes – pretty blatantly, I read – but I love that Joe Strummer says it is, I read on my laptop. I love the shape of the sentiment, despite disagreeing with the sentiment, I read.

I decide to give up the ‘I read on my laptop’ motif.

I used to have trouble reconciling the stupidity of the Clash’s politics, with how beautiful and romantic they made me feel. There’s something of the eternal teenager in them. I think it’s no coincidence I started reading Shelley at roughly the same time I started listening to London Calling. They both tap into a deep, crazy ignorant yearning for nothing in particular, without actually making you want to go there. They both make you want to travel with them for a while, but never stop with them. The Clash and Percy Shelley both make a point, while they travel with you, of pointing to the sky and saying: ‘That’s heaven. We’re not going there, but feel free to take advantage of that information.’

So many of the great punk bands exist in a universe without stars in the sky, which makes sense. Punk is ugly. Punk is based on anger. Anger kills everything but itself. The miracle of the Clash is that they manage to take all this resentment, all this futile, empty rebelliousness, and make it sound like a testament to starlight. It sounds like there’s a world of waves against cliffs, of churchbells in the trees, just a few feet behind them. They’re turned away, but you know it’s there, that world, behind them. Maybe it’s the reggae influence, maybe it’s the Jones-Strummer, Pop-slop dichotomy. I can’t help thinking of them as ridiculously gorgeous rebel angels.

My favourite Robert Christgau quote is ‘The U.K. version of The Clash is the greatest rock and roll album ever manufactured anywhere.’ I love the absurd falsity of it, I love that he specifies the manufacturing process, and I love thinking about it while I listen to The Clash.

I open my phone and read the largely fragmentary stuff I wrote on my phone last night. I think about being under the stars as I do this.

I walk by the houseboats at twilight.

People are eating in their boats. People are watching television in their boats. People are smoking cannabis.

I walk past the Harvester and past the Castle Marina.

I have grown attached to many of these houseboats. I have grown attached to Finnegan’s Rainbow. I have grown attached to All’s Well. I have grown attached to Blip.

In Firebird they are listening to five live. In Malahat there is a medium-large collection of tapes. Two men are talking outside The Mighty Quinn with beer and cigarettes.

I walk past the houseboats.

The reflection of tungsten light through a rectangular window is lovely in a canal at twilight, I think, walking under a willow tree.

I walk under a pylon and past a giant row of trees as I answer a message from Amina.

I would prefer to paint like a writer than write like a painter.

I linger outside Amina’s door, nervous to knock, waiting for her to respond to my facebook message, then knock anyway.

Swedish surrealist cinema occurs in real life – for several hours. What follows are excerpts. I couldn’t possibly write over most of it.

Luke says ‘So you’re a poet? How do you write poetry.’ I withdraw a dying moth from my plate of curry with the wrong end of my fork, stare at it, stammer at Luke, gesture to the moth, and sort of present the whole situation as my answer to his question. ‘Yes!’ Luke says, pumping the air. ‘We’re finally at a point in history when this can happen.’

I go out the room and hear Sam choking and giggling in unison. He makes strange animalistic choke giggles for minutes on end. ‘What is happening?’ Amina says. ‘This.’ Luke responds.

Luke tells me I have a brilliant mind. He keeps going ‘Whohohohohoaaaah!’ and widening his eyes at things I say. I try, rather half-heartedly, to dissuade him.

Luke talks at great length in a sort of logical positivist version of English that only he uses. He talks about Christianity. He talks about language. He talks about human solidarity to the point of everyone and everything congealing into a blobby phantasmagoria, with no selves, in a sort of omni-body.

He keep outlining extremely specific, sense-forgoing worldviews that he immediately contradicts.

‘You could actually be me.’ Luke says.
‘Oh, believe me, I am.’ I reply.

We go out to Lenton Rec, under the stars, ostensibly to read poems at each other.

Luke points at the stars. ‘Imagine how many people you could fit up there.’ he says.

Luke says ‘I really want to fly a kite.’
‘I kite at night.’ Sam says. ‘Crazy.’
‘Yeah man I really want to.’ Luke says. ‘I’d make it duck and dive and swirl in the sky. I’d make it go up, down-‘
‘You name it!’ I say.
‘I will name it.’ Luke says, preceding silence.

‘The trees look like clouds.’ Sam says.
‘Maybe they used to be clouds.’ Luke says.

Luke and I end up walking home together alone. He says he doesn’t understand how a mind as ‘brilliant’ as mine could legitimately believe in Christianity. How could I take it seriously, he asks. Why hadn’t I left it behind like he had. He asks me to tell him, in my own words, how I justify it to myself.

I tell him a bit about myself. I tell him I’m flesh and blood. I re-emphasise – this time full-heartedly – how weak and stupid I am In the grand scheme of things. I tell him how it feels going from a chaotic, indifferent order, to one that would actually die for you.

‘I honestly don’t believe this.’ he says. ‘It feels like you’re joking. Wait, are you joking right now?’
‘It’s the only thing I don’t joke about.’ I say, untruthfully.
‘I honestly can’t believe you’re not joking.’ he says, looking forward dejectedly on his bike. ‘Unless I wasn’t being serious before, with all the stuff I said (I was saying stuff to Luke).’
‘I was being serious.’
He looks genuinely downcast.

I ask if he believes that any god could ever take the slightest interest in what he is doing.

He says there is no God, there is only ego. In as much as there is a God, it occurs when two egos merge. While there is any meaningfully human contact, both parties are God. ‘When I am with someone.’ he says. ‘I mean actually with someone, in a union of what is, as indistinct from what is not, I am God and they are God.’

We talk about sex and we talk about everything and we talking about nothing.

‘All the old religions were pointing to something.’ Luke says. ‘And you are it.’

We say goodbye under the ‘Hounds Gate’ sign. We have been talking for hours. The moon has a fringe and the Travelodge sign is flickering.

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