Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday 19 November 2010


Friday 19 November 2010

Today I awaken feeling battered in a good way.  It is fortunate that it is Friday, there isn’t much left of me to go around.

It takes longer than usual to open my eyes this morning but once up and running despite feeling yucky I quickly pull myself together and step out into the world.

My ears are still ringing from Atari Teenage Riot last night.  They haven’t felt like this in a long time.  I fear the damage might be permanent.

I leave home a minute late into a foggy morning where car lights dazzle me.  For some reason I stroll drive to the station, lacking hustle and intensity in my driving.  I am at peace.

Before long I find myself on the platform awaiting the 6.59AM.  When it arrives I easily manage to snag my seat and all feels right with the world.

It is a very chatty train this morning (obviously nobody chats to me).  It really must be the weekend.  All in all the journey turns out to be the best one all week as no plate crowders ruin the ride nor does any other faux pas occur.

Eventually we arrive into Liverpool Street and the continued excitement of the end of the week.  Quite frankly I sleepwalk through the journey across town until I find myself stepping into the restaurant where the operations manager is making us both coffee.

By this point just beneath my left shoulder blade is aching.  I have backache, I am old.  I blame Atari Teenage Riot whose set is still enthusing me.

With coffee in hand I step upstairs to my perch behind my desk.  Immediately I set about quickly putting some stuff up online before the working day begins in sincerity.

Before long the Filipino is stepping in, as ever with a smile.  This can be a chilled office sometimes.

Today is a casual day.  Rather than beginning anything new I just do a bit of housekeeping on various areas of the accounts, nothing that the bosses look at just areas that it is nice to have peace of mind about.

As we stroll into the afternoon there really is not much going on, to the point that the boss tells us that we can go at 4.30PM.

Pretty much on the dot we tear out of the building as pathetically I head straight to Forbidden Planet where a Bret Hart book signing is happening.  As sad as this is, it is something I need to do.  Twenty years ago if you would have told me that I would get to see Bret Hart in the flesh one day I would have been very impressed and excited.  Dare I admit that I once wore a pink Bret Hart t-shirt to my grandfather’s funeral?  Probably not.  If nothing else tonight I have to get a photo of the guy for posterity.  In addition to this I am also heading to Bethnal Green and The Last Tuesday Society for a lecture on William Burroughs.

When I arrive at the shop the time is 5PM and it is unnervingly quiet.  Curious I look at the board to see if the event has been cancelled but instead it is instructing people to queue at the back entrance of the store on New Compton Street.  There is a New Compton Street?

After a small search I find the street (more a dimly lit alleyway) only to be confronted by a very long line of wrestling fans and comic book geeks.  Good luck to ‘em but that is just not me as I choose not to join the queue.  So now with half an hour to kill I go for a wander around Soho and Chinatown.

Eventually I head back to Forbidden Planet around 6PM where the signing is now royally in progress.  Inside the store there is an interesting setup as the book signing is done almost in bunker style as tall racks of merch and collectibles have been strategically put in place to prevent people from stealing their way into proceedings without queuing.  In fact it turns out to be pretty impossible to even steal a glimpse of the man.

Using something of a tiptoe gesture finally I see him, see Bret Hart, my hero twenty years ago.  Later people will comment that he looks old now but I still think he looks cool.  And these are the words of a 34 year old.

At this point I take the prized photo I have been boasting online about.  Immediately after doing so suddenly I hear “sir, sir” and with it a specky jobsworth comes around the corner and accosts me.  What kind of lame Nazi is this guy?  Its not as if I am cutting the line or imposing on anybody’s moment in the spotlight.  No, I guess its more about me not buying anything in the shop.  Well I’m certainly paying now with this scolding.

The guy looks at me as if I were pathetic and quite frankly he makes me feel it.  This is a literal smackdown.  I think our initial fears are opposing as mine are apologetic and worried he might make me delete the photo while his fear is just probably the sheer bulk of the person (me) that he just accosted.  For a split second have a tense stand off as I proceed to buckle like a belt.  To break the silence I ask if the queue outside is still around the corner and with the upper hand he responds “probably”.  What a jip.

In the end I think it actually might have been cooler if the guy had gone apeshit and banned me from Forbidden Planet.  Now that would be some kind of nerd accomplishment and boast.

Once the sense of scolding is out of the way I storm out of the store and check my photo.  Happily it is passable, it will definitely do.  From here I pass the poor geeks still in line queuing as I immediately celebrate my “accomplishment” (and subsequent smackdown) on Twitter before posting the photo online to zero response.  Perhaps it was kind of a sad thing to do after all.  Why don’t people indulge me?

By now the time is just past 6PM as I skip up to Holborn in a strange state of elation with view to heading over to Bethnal Green for the William Burroughs event that is being held by The Last Tuesday Society.

As ever the Central Line during the rush proves unendurable as people of all nations proceed to crush me all the way to Bethnal Green.  This was supposed to be easy.

Finally I get to my destination where I emerge into unfamiliar streets gasping.  The last time I was here was for the roller derby last year.  Initially I begin walking in the wrong direction as I go off in search of Viktor Wynd’s Academy Of Domestic Science on Mare Street.  Obviously I wind up getting lost in Bethnal Green as I eventually walk too far north.  This then comes coupled with my inability to get a signal on my iPhone to address a map.  Officially I get London panic.  Finally I decide to turn around as eventually I pick up on door numbers and realise just how far wrong I have come/gone.

With a sense of relief I eventually find The Last Tuesday Society as I step inside what appears to be a weird and eccentric junk shop when really I was expecting something of a hall, something more academic.  Who was I kidding?  In many ways though this is better.

As I step inside looking lost and out of place thankfully a man asks “are you here for the lecture?” to which I respond in the affirmative.  From here I am led into the back of the shop where the name of the lecture (“William Burroughs & The Torso Murderer”) is being beamed on the wall.  This really does feel like a secret society.  Everyone seems nice though with their fancy cups of tea.

Eventually the lecture gets started as Oliver Harris introduces himself.  He is the man who recently edited a new edition of Queer in addition to previously working on the other two books of the trilogy: Junky and The Yage Letters.

The lecture turns out to be a fascinating talk detailing the construct of Burroughs’ famous trilogy and the fragmented manner that it came together with how they related and occasionally overlapped.  With great detail Harris works over the content, such as how it was changed from first person to third person.  For me such info will always fascinate about my favourite writers.

It is due to the nature of the works being chopped and changed that Harris names the lecture after the torso murder as through being so hacked about it reflects the mindset of Burroughs at the time, adding an extra dimension of personality and meaning to the pieces, a sense of worry and humility that might otherwise be missing from the cocksure persona that he always seemed to carry.

Covering a period when Burroughs was living in Mexico, it is interesting to hear the demands of the various publishers involved (including City Lights and Ace Books) and how the three books found themselves chopped up (such as the merging of two manuscripts) thus bringing out the torso allegory.  With this comes reference to Macbeth and “confusions masterpiece”.

As the manuscripts of the first person Junk (the book’s original title) and the third person Queer are trying to be combined in a letter Burroughs expresses tense confusion in identity.  The process becomes likened to the illusion of sawing a woman in half, of extreme castration.  And in this process Burroughs identified with both the cutter and the cut, the slasher and the slashed.  In the end such meddling caused him frustration and to become playful in the delivery of his work.  Worried about becoming a hackneyed writer, a hack, the gesture you do when you chop things up, his relationship with editors and publishers in essence became a game of one-upmanship.  In the end there was no real winner.

Without doubt Harris appears to be the most qualified person to make such conclusions as he has had access to the original manuscripts containing warts and all.  To be in such a position is truly an enviable thing.

Swiftly he whisks the lecture to a conclusion as he fields questions from the audience which mainly seem to be from an obsession guy who appears to have read more William Burroughs books than the rest of us combined.  Even Harris notes that the anal questions being asked are for the few and not the many as he reluctantly invites him for a private chat afterwards.  Then that is it.

As I emerge back onto the streets of Bethnal Green once more I become very aware of my surroundings.  This may or may not have a fair bit to do with gang of hip-hop wannabes in the shadows that intimidate me as I pass on the way back to the tube station.

Once back at Liverpool Street I notice there is an 8.38PM train ready to go which I run to board and eventually sees me getting back into Colchester at a relatively decent hour.

When I get home it feels good.

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