Never Too Late!

Never Too Late!
any resemblance to anyone real or imaginary is mere bad luck
we are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are trying to get up



When I started this blog, I didn't know or care who would read these words.

To my surprise, people came and read, and even continue to do so (90% through Google searches on "chemical torture" - still #1!), and realgem has allowed me to (virtually and in reality) meet some people I deeply respect who I would never have connected with otherwise.

But now that I know some people, even if few, do read these words, something has changed. Just like the first time I was paid for a piece of writing - and it probably wasn't even a piece of reporting or a story or anything, more likely a press release or a consultancy report of some sort - something changed, and I look at the piles of old notebooks and typewritten pages strangely and wonder how and why I did it. And this is also why it is important to be on Brian's trail, because he was mystical. The work and the art and not the finished product were what counted.

And it gnaws at me, because I miss this world of pretty words and strange life forms swimming in the aquarium of the computer display.

I make texts, I make pictures, I may as well put them here or somewhere - share your work and the world becomes your notebook. I have some other notebooks, too, you can see in the sidebar.

Yet it has somehow become so difficult lately, and often I feel so tired.

(image found here, another of Alex's web presences)



...'Jewel of the Arabian Sea' ...always had a fabled aura in my mind...

(The contraptions in the photos are fishing machines like Chinese dragons, introduced by the Chinese here in Kubla Khan's time... their jaws are strung with nets which plunge into the sea again and again for fish...)



No one knows where Brian's (original post from the time) unfinished book is. Although he never seemed terribly concerned with finishing it; the writing of it was what was important. I believe it is somewhere in the south of India, in a metal trunk packed with manuscripts, notebooks and typescripts.

By one of those strange coincidences ("I believe in coincidences but I don't trust them" as Doc O says), I ran into a mutual friend of ours from Goa from 10 or 11 years ago (a time before e-mail and mobile phones). "He spoke a lot about you the last time we talked," she told me.

When the murder happened*, I was in the middle of my descent into a long and opiated dark night of the soul, and none of it really registered then. It is only now, that I have revisited places we knew and loved those years ago, that a deep sadness has fallen on me; a realisation I never knew at the time how much our friendship meant.

I have the name of a town, a less than half-remembered care-of address, and a laser-printed photo, and I go searching.

* CNJ report from the time. The "salacious gossip", speaking evil of the dead, that Michael Griffin refers to would be from The Sun (see link in my original post if you're that curious), and maybe also from this other CNJ story - "their body language showed they were more than just friends" - yes, in England maybe, but Brian was warm and physically affectionate in a way that few English people are.



Not only had Lazy's Arambol with its somnolent atmosphere of tropical alcoholic lethargy turned into something like the fucking Glastonbury festival, there were squads of soldiers in camo patrolling in the evening, and high-up plainclothes cops from Delhi poking around.

Yes, it's terrorism again, and the fear of another Mumbai attack. It would be perfect. If I were a Lashkar e Toiba strategist, that is where I would hit. Rubber dinghy with silenced engine. Four dreadlocked operatives in loose-fitting tie-dye or batiq; didgeridoos which collapse into AKS-74 gas-operated 5.45mm assault rifles; embroidered anti-personnel fragmentation juggling balls. And finding some Israelis to kill would be simplicity itself.



there are more foreign cars and motorbikes on the roads than there were... everyone has a mobile phone... everything is a bit more expensive, except for internet and phone access... brahmins still chant prayers in ancient temples, priests mumble mass in portuguese-era churches, the azan still rings out from minarets, narrow streets still smell of jasmine, incense, butchers' offal and sewers... women still sway in brilliantly coloured saris and grizzled fishermen scratch their chins, autorickshaw horns squawk angrily at cows ambling through traffic chewing on plastic bags... the arabian sea still crashes in gentle waves on the white sands and the palm trees still sway in the breeze...

(the new 1 and 2 rupee coins with a thumbs-up and v-for-victory/peace-man for the no-alphabets, with older British-influenced coins above)


hot heavy air coast of arabian sea sun in haze maybe if i type fast and make spelling mistakes i will keep writing here.

because there are things to write, yes there are things to write, but i can't write now.


Love and courage, I feel, are the two highest virtues


and another extended hiatus

thus far resisting all temptations to hit 'delete'

should be back soon enough, here and elsewhere in the aquarium as well

And I could have been a particle physicist

A Large Ion Collider Experiment switched back on after repairs

"The collisions could provide the first experimental evidence for the Higgs boson, which many scientists believe explains the origin of mass. Other researchers are looking for evidence of Supersymmetry, the idea that every particle in the Universe has a “companion” particle.

Last week, Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya, of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, suggested that the breakdowns at the collider could be caused by the Higgs boson itself.

They said that the boson could theoretically ripple backwards through time to destroy whatever had created it in the first place. This could also cause the accelerator to malfunction, they said."

Yes, I imagine it could


Men do not know the natural diseases of the mind; it does nothing but ferret and inquire, and is eternally wheeling, juggling, and perplexing itself like silkworms, and then suffocates itself in its work; Mus in pice.

-Michel de Montaigne, Que sais-je?


or something

"I don't think humans have figured out a functional form of sexual relationships. Traditional gender roles seem useless and non-productive, and these are generally mirrored in sexual roles and representation. Of course, that is true in prostitution as well, but to me it seems fairly rational and straightforward, which is more respectful of the participants than the unconscious charade psychodrama that usually constitutes regular romantic sex."

-in Letters from Johns (and there is also Letters from Working Girls)


Love is like a snowmobile racing across the tundra
It flips over, pinning you underneath
At night, the ice weasels come

(Gwendolyn's mother's poetry - Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, Tom Robbins)

I performed this poem at my sister's wedding reception when she married into a tee-total clan of Mennonites from Manitoba in what was theoretically a no-alcohol event (to keep the Mennonites happy). I was completely sloshed on Koskenkorva, it was in Finland after all, and most people seemed to have bottles hidden in their cars. It was a golden late-summer day. At dusk I took this picture:


Sometimes naked
Sometimes mad
Now the scholar
Now the fool
Thus they appear on earth:
The free men

(found in old notebook, unknown origin)
People run hither and thither.

And then hither again.
alcohol is a good social drug because it reduces your ability to understand what other people are saying



my back teeth are more filling than tooth. i had a tooth finally pulled the other day, it was glorious. my quality of life immediately improved 25 per cent or so.

shit proliferates. bad shit drives out good shit. it's the inexorable march of entropy.

i'm gonna get an electric typewriter so i can write without goddamn emails and blogs and facebooks.

i was digging in the garden today, hardpacked soil in a long-abandoned flowerbed.

at about a foot depth i dug through the central egg chamber of a huge ant colony. there was a tiny little plastic kid's toy in there, first i thought it was a little dinosaur figure.

no, it was an anteater.


i save earthworms from the biting ants to bring to the flowerbed and herb patch. i love earthworms and hate ants.

i am sure we will reach the stars from this planet someday. but it may well be the descendants of the ants and not us who reach other worlds.

bastard things.


it's that fucker i hate. what fucker? the one that lives down the street, a couple houses down. what number? i don't know what number. 7. or 8. i don't care what fucking number. but i don't like him. i'm gonna punch his lights out the first pretext he gives me. what fucker? you know the one i mean, the one that really enrages me. that wannabe rockstar wanker. no, he doesn't have blond hair, he's got dark hair. i think. if it's not dark it might be light though. i don't know. his name? fuck knows. i don't fucking know. you know the one i mean. that mean-spirited fucking twat that i want to punch. i don't know anything else about him.


Running under a big sky

London is so very pretty in the summer. A long absence does much to re-inspire an appreciation for the cultural wealth of this city - the libraries, the galleries, the opportunities for study and learning, the people gathered here from every corner of the earth.

Lazy lurches from one extreme to another, as is his wont. After a thousand broken vows, he returns once again to the caravan of seekers and lovers of knowledge. After the years lost to heroin, and then a year-long drunken bender across four countries and two continents, he runs, he hammers the punch bag until he collapses, he does sit-ups and push-ups and yoga stretches, he seeks a squash partner and a sparring partner and joins a boxing gym; he reads widely, he applies himself fanatically to his passion, the study of languages.

We have re-instituted VFEC, the "Valid Fucking Experiment in Consciousness" of our driven and Nietzschean years (there is even a VFEC blog, although most entries have been redacted. The first post may be useful as background and as a statement of intent).

Lazy takes up chi kung and meditation and pranayama once again. He borrows and reads Paulette's books on Taoist sexual alchemy and maintains himself in a state of heightened sexual excitement without allowing himself to come, attempting to channel the ching into strengthening the chi and shen and forcing his consciousness wider open. He reads Radigan's Solipsist novel The Steppe and contemplates the nature of external reality and knowledge. He resolves to conduct many experiments on himself, the only subject you may ethically experiment on; and on others. He cultivates a sacred detachment, the paradoxical state of non-attachment / non-disinterest.

And it is so effortless. If you must force yourself into any type of "self-improvement", so-called, you are harming yourself, as you do not really want it, or perhaps you want it too much.

"Act without doing; work without effort. The way is not difficult, only there must be no wanting or not wanting."


When you come back after a year, and there are the same people, sitting in the same places, beer cans held at the same angles, having the same conversation.

It fills me with a chilling existential dread.


"My God, you were hard work," the black girl said, wiping my come from her lips after I had struggled through a numbing alcohol, weed and cocaine haze to orgasm in her mouth.

Brazil. Onde a puta goza, o traficante cheira, e o abogado vira amigo. There is something so strangely gentle about her. "I like you, you're nice," she says. "What, most of the people who come here aren't?" She shakes her head emphatically. She soaps me down in the shower and we talk about where I'm from and why we came to Sao Paulo and why she ended up in a brothel in Santana. "My mother has brain cancer. The treatment is so expensive," she says. "Huh. Life is brutal," I agree, and she gives a small sad smile.

My friend is relaxing downstairs, chatting with the doorman and some of the girls. "Shit, man, you've just been waiting sitting here? Sorry I took so long." "It's nothing, it's nothing!" We walk. I say thank-you to the girl on the way out and he reprimands me for thanking a whore.

I feel indifferent to everything, but my senses are open, soaking in the world, the insane city around us. A change is coming. I can feel it.


Like above the roofs of Katmandu, of Benares, Peshawar and Kabul - the sky out here in the periphery is full of kites. A strange mixture of sadness, longing and joy, a sense of places lost and far away, falls on Lazy as he watches the kids duel in the skies (cruzando pipas, they say here) and run through the streets after the defeated kites fluttering down trailing cut string.


This is where to drink when up in the vila, o chileno's bar. Or really it's more like a trailer wedged between two houses to get R$2.50 beers or glasses of pinga to drink in the street in front and with a covered yard behind where to sit if you like or if it's raining or if there's a game on the tv.

No one knows why he's called chileno, least of all himself. Like he's not chilean for a start. But he's not just a grumpy grizzled half-cracked old guy who's heard too many appeals for credit and waters down the sao francisco either, he's an artist and a songwriter, though you might not think. He is camera shy but my friend managed to get the first known picture of him.

He brought out his big notebook for me and we discussed lyrical writing. He writes lyrics in spanish now, which is eccentric in itself as, as i said, he has nothing to do with chile and he had to ask me how vivo sonhando com ela would be, and he's translating them into english as well, and how would i put tô apaixonado por ela, and like this. He wouldn't bring us beers in return even though we demanded, but i was honoured when he sang us a few of his lines at least. If I ever vanish for days I might be here. Good luck finding it


Happy Bloomsday innit


Turn to face the strange

Hahahahahahahaaa. That Ishmael. "I have come to believe in the total malleability of human nature: anybody can be anybody."

That was when we were young and zealous Nietzscheans and before this lapse into a morbid and impotent fatalism.

It is time, again:

Face the world and walk out into the strange. Find what you fear, and do it.


I am a brain in a bath tub

Life is great

Pour me more bubble bath, please

get your own strange ribbon here


leafing through a book like "the correspondance of henry miller and anaïs nin", it makes me wonder what sort of legacies the writers of my generation will leave behind. "the collected facebook updates of alex nichols"?


it's too cold to write
i have a theory, based in part on observing lazy's narcissism, and in part on seeing on the webstats how many people click through from here onto their own blogs, that most people spend more time admiring their own blogs than they ever have to spare for others'


sometimes lazy hates people. so he stays in bed all weekend with his russian fucking course book, a volume of borges in fucking portuguese, a friend's novel he hasn't finished reading yet, and a bottle of scotch whiskey. 36 hours later his liver hurts alarmingly and he decides to give up drinking. life feels empty...



Fun facts about transport in São Paulo

A law against drunk driving finally came into force a little over half a year ago but hasn't really changed anything. Everyone still drives around completely out of their tree.

If there is such a thing as a São Paulo bus map, I still haven't been able to find it. Asking people can help, although often even the drivers and cobradores don't know where they're going.

Bus stops are always located in the middle of blocks and well away from train and metro stations, rather than at corners of the crossings of main roads and rail routes.

Passengers in Metrô and train stations always stand on the escalators and never stand on one side to allow people who want to walk up to pass. Further, if there is a ludicrously crowded escalator, and a completely empty set of normal stairs, everyone will still try to pack onto the escalator. These people love escalators.

Morning and evening rush hours see traffic on main routes, in ten lanes and three layers (including elevated and underground), going absolutely nowhere.



Best reason ever for supporting a football team (because isn't your team as arbitrary as everything else?) :

About as remote as you can get in São Paulo state, where the paved road ends and a dirt track goes off into the bush, but still only a few hours from the city, you can still find the odd Indian village. A friend of mine is a lawyer, and she has taken up a case for land rights on behalf of some Guaranis.

They all support Palmeiras (="palms") in the village. The old Indian guy explained: the palm tree is sacred to us. The world was born from a palm tree. We eat palmito (palm heart). The birds which are messengers of the spirits perch in the palm tree.

Therefore, we are all faithful to Palmeiras.

Oh and I met Sócrates, Brazilian football legend from the 70s, in the bar a while back. These days he is getting a bit alcoholised and he was completely sloshed. Like Gazza. I asked him what he thought of English football.

"It's a load of shit," he said. "Just like the football in any country."

[From a more-or-less indifferent football fan in England I have become a complete devotee in Brazil. Just like I follow cricket when I'm in India or Pakistan - it is very difficult not to be caught up in the feverish excitement. I used to make money betting on the cricket in India, back when Pakistan was still a team to be reckoned with, because no matter how poor the chances, it seemed to be utterly inconceivable to people that anyone would want to bet on Pakistan (ancestral enemy...) winning. Not only that, but in Brazil it's a different game, a beautiful virtuoso game compared to the tactical workmanlike football of Europe.]


Life and games

Lazy has recently taking up playing poker. He's pretty good at it too, until he crosses a certain line of drunkeness and throws all his money away on silly bluffs. Better late than never to the game, as always...

We have always enjoyed chess, and seen card games as somehow slightly inferior. But really, poker is every bit as strategic. You have no control over the cards you're dealt, but you have to fight the best fight you can with them... and if you stay cool, you can convince the opposition that you have a much better hand than you really do. Not to mention the power of money - once you're winning and have a big pile of chips in front of you, it gives you so much more freedom of action than the little guys.

As such, it is infinitely more like real life than the idealised one-on-one battle that is chess.


Aliens go home!

There is this conceit that you come across in science fiction sometimes - I am reminded because I watched the recent re-make of The Day the Earth Stood Still yesterday (in low quality and dubbed badly into Portuguese, both of which probably improved the film) -- there is this conceit -

An alien from a hyper-advanced culture beyond our imaginings where all suffering and stupidity has been banished descends to earth to study us... accepts human limitations to live a human life in a human body among us... and mission finished, refuses to return to his blissful and transcendent alien life

- that there is something noble about the human condition...

something noble in the squalor of it.

Memory and desire stirring

"Do not sit to think what you should write - sit to write what you have thought."

That sounds very much like Dr. Johnson again. See the very first post on realgem - he had the distinction of opening for us.

Very well then. Consider:

You have no way of knowing how your memory will record the present that you are experiencing now.
(This thought flashes into my head as sun blinds me as I cross Br. Faria Lima into on-coming traffic, and somehow I am certain I will remember this moment, if one of the madly weaving cars doesn't get me in the next five seconds at least.)
I feel nostalgia for the bizarrest things, things that were hellish at the time.
(Cursing at pain in a hospital bed, unable to sleep for pain, cursing the nurse who refused to bring me more morphine...)
Conversely, sheer ecstasy sometimes becomes flat, pale and tasteless when played back by memory.

Particle accelerator

"The medium is the message."

I still don't fully grok what Marshall Macluhan meant by this gnomic statement, but I can generalise it to apply to various contexts. Right now I am thinking of the difference between composing on a computer screen, as opposed to and compared with an old-fashioned (electric) typewriter, and longhand, with a pen, on paper. Surely different regions of the brain are active - different sets of motor neurons, certainly - but how do these connections being lit up impact on other connections elsewhere in the brain? Specifically those to do with "creativity", so-called - maybe "synthesis" would be better, originality being protecting your sources - and those to do with "language"? (All gods are one. So are all languages. Discuss. 3000 words.)

"Phenomenal consciousness is defined as a subjective that experiences itself."

Similarly with the idea of things remaining in an undetermined state until they are observed, from the field of sub-atomic physics. What effect does the "observer" ("reader") have on the "experiment" (the writing)?

A simple particle accelerator...

ypoirh hnvbn hgahdf......aerhadfhafd....asgdfgBANG!sdagfd
qn tmx
(particle or wave? 2000 words. 50% of final score.)



I and some friends, we all go to see Synecdoche New York. I look it up afterwards, and apparently it was released early last year. It takes time to sub-title a convoluted epic like that into Portuguese.

As we wait for the film to start, I ask Mr Farewell- novelist and poker player of distinction - whether he ever hears voices. On or off drugs, he asks. I explain my conviction that - if you learn to hear it, if you learn to heed its voice, if you have the supreme courage to follow its lead, even when it leads to strange and insane places - you can trust the voice. It will always know. The voice of the deep mind, the voice of your daemon, in the ancient Greek sense, the voice of your holy guardian angel.

Synecdoche New York is a bizarre, sprawling, complicated film, one of those meta-narratives about a theatre production that flips and turns inside-out and swallows all the actors' lives and swallows the film you are watching and swallows New York City. It takes us about an hour afterwards to decide whether we even liked it or not, but walking out of the cinema, it is clear that this is no ordinary production. The dazed looks on the faces of the people walking out say everything. It is a long time since I saw a film that startled me so, that gave so much to wonder at and think about, even if it dragged at points.

Towards the end, after theatre director Caden has replaced himself with someone playing him, both in the theatre piece that has been growing and developing for 17 years now and in real life, now indistinguishable, and the set in its ridiculously enormous warehouse has expanded to encompass much of NYC, and the actor playing the director replaces the director and - I shouldn't be trying to explain -

and the new director gives Caden an earpiece, through which he hears...

yes, a little voice in his head. "Wake up now" it tells him. "Spend about 10 minutes staring melancholically at the view out of the window, and then yawn, get up and stretch..." And so on and on, irrevocably, until the final scene and the final instruction: "Now die."

We walk out of the cinema, walk down Consolação, and stumble across a new building site, some grandiose parking scheme. It is eerily like the film poster, the absurdly huge theatre set that houses a city, with its dirigible flying around inside.

Sometimes real life puts the final unforgettable details on artistic experience...

I'm not all darkness!

As promised! Fluffy kittens! Brazilian pussy!

This is a cat which I thankfully no longer live with. Its Brazilian-ness shows in how affectionate ("carinhoso") and needy ("carente") it is.

I find it noteworthy because I have never met a cat like this before. It is almost like a dog in a cat's body. It wags its tail when it is pleased. It begs for food and affection. It responds to its own name. It has a compulsive need for attention. For all this it used to earn a vicious kick that would take it sailing behind the stove whenever it approached me with its fucking pleading puppy-dog eyes.


The hands race around the clock, the numbers flick forward on the time display. Clouds race across the sky, shadows rotate around their bases.

Then time lurches again, slows to an imperceptible crawl.


And sickly, impossibly, slows further. Did it stop? There is no way of knowing. Did it go into reverse and run backwards? There is no way anyone will ever know.

I cannot trust anything any more. I am becoming glued to my phone's digital watch display. I glanced away, once, and when I looked back three hours had passed, it was already evening and I had missed work.

It is time to go.


what a life wasted, that could have been spent drinking on street corners....
"April is the cruellest month..."


[i miss being a heroin addict although i would never go back. life becomes so simple... the best year of my life, now in the delusion of retrospect, which i am not fool enough to fall for, was between summer '05 and summer '06, when i had a place to sit, a lot of interesting work, a doctor who wrote me morphine, and a sweet young girl... of course, you always have to pay everything back... this song evokes a deep nostalgia for that time...]


30-sec post that took a lot longer

London, São Paulo, Cuenca, Istanbul, Katmandu, Peshawar, Mapusa.

Geography is just an excuse.

The sky is out of tune and out of focus, like a broken black and white tv.

I'm going to get a cachaça and sit in Largo Sta Cecília by the church and watch the girls and pigeons and chat with the homeless dudes.

Wherever I go, the same discontent, the same longing for a place far away.

I like it here, but I miss a girl in England. ["hips like cinderella... lying there like you're tame..."] I'm a lot more sentimental and a lot less cold than I had thought. There are lots of girls here, after all, everyone keeps reminding me.

And everywhere.

It's so goddamn arbitrary.

I got robbed last night, finally. Well they only got a packet of Marlboros, my travel card and about R$10. I held on to my phone for dear life, which is vital for the numbers, and sort of sentimental cause I bought it in Kabul and it writes text messages in Persian. I never walk around with my wallet, because it would be a disaster. I would probably wake up a week later under the minhocão with all my bank accounts empty.

And it was my own fault, anyway, which is fine and educational, otherwise I would be kicking myself. But there are places where you can't walk head down and lost in your thoughts. If I had been awake and walking fast and aggressively like I usually do it would never have happened. And not only that, but the little voice would have told me where to go. But I was perversely ignoring the little voice last night. (The little voice? Yes, the little voice. It knows exactly what's right for you. You just have to have the courage to follow its lead...)

I was incredibly impressed. In London, if five kids rushed you in the street, they would really fuck you up. Stab you, probably. These kids, street kids, eyes almost glowing with glue and hunger, came out of nowhere, and one each wrapped himself around my arms, legs and head, and dipped my pockets.

It was almost gentle. I hit one of them and bit the arm of the one trying to put me in a headlock, but they were gone. They had no interest in hurting me for the sake of it.

Everyone warns me about violence here. Not to walk in certain places at night. I do anyway. It is violence born of desperation. Not out of sheer malice and sadism, like you will find on almost any street in London. Violence is still violence for all that, and you will still be dead if someone puts a bullet in you. But.

It's different.

So. I carried on walking. This old homeless dude of incredible dignity and gravitas who had seen the show called me over. I sat down with him there on the pavement. It was a dodgy side street in Republica that lots of people I know here would walk a mile to avoid. He said if it had got serious he would have intervened. I shrugged and sat there for a while and talked. I didn't really give a damn. He pointed out people on the street to me, empty ghosts moving in empty darkness: "Look, he's keeping look out... And look, that's a victim, wandering up that way all innocent..." A police car slowed to shine lights on us. A worried-looking civilian woman was looking out of the window with the cops. He greeted her as if he knew her, the car speeded on. "Do I know her? Hahaha. No, she's been robbed and they're looking around... But the cops drive that way, the robbers have always gone that way."

All the street people knew him. These guys came up and he handed them bread out of this big plastic bag he had. Another mugger passed by on his way rob someone and the old guy wished him luck. "You understood what he was talking about?" - "Yeah, he's on his way to work."

And then I walked. It was worth it, to meet Mario. I left him the last of my change, and then realised I didn't have any cigarettes, which led to the final comedy of the night. I stopped this guy on São João to ask him for a smoke, but he had just thrown away the packet and was on his last one, so he offered to smoke it with me.

Overly camp gay dude. "You're not Brazilian, are you?" - "No, I'm English." - "Really? I lived in London for three years!" and he drops into English. I generally refuse to speak English with most people, maybe on the "When in Rome..." principle, so I maintain my side of the conversation in Portuguese, smoke with him, and walk as soon as possible.

He calls me back as I am walking away. "Yeah, what's up?" I say.

"You're not English, are you?"


better late than never?
Is this blog really so unremittingly dark all the time? (Lazy aka Mikey laughs a lot. Too much, probably. You will have to blame me, the alter ego.)

Next post will be about a cat. With cute photo.


They can't kill an animated cadaver.
Can't curse the damned.
Can't send a lunatic mad.

(dead blogs I loved)
I just want to find somewhere that feels like home.

-Hahahahahahaaa fool. Not this life, not for you.

"The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land." (Hugo of St. Victor)

Inertia creeps

[dark and strange clip from Massive Attack. you probably know the music, but it's worth watching the video if you never saw it before]


Spit on providence

outside pharmacy, New Cross Rd, South London, spring 2007...

Fucked up woman clutching a tin of Tennents Super and tucking paper bag with fresh methadone bottle into tracksuit pocket: "So I 'ad to go dahn there an' sort it myself, 'cause that cunt from the social was too lazy to make one phone call for me! Can you believe it? It's no wonder you 'ave to drink! 'Ow was they thinking I was gonna survive? More 'an £400 they owed me in income support that they was tryin' to get away wiv not payin' me! I tell you, it's fucked up man!"

outside bar, Praça Roosevelt, central São Paulo, recently...

I go in to buy cigarettes, come out tearing the packet open and almost walk into a group of ragged dirty men gathered around a cart full of items scavenged from the rubbish. One of them politely asks me for a cigarette, I hand out cigarettes to all of them without thinking about it, carry on walking fast without stopping to listen to their thanks, my mind on other things. One of them calls after me, I keep walking, he calls again, I turn, he walks up to me. "Thank-you very much," he says, sincerity palpable. "We're not beggars. We're not." It is incredibly important for him that I understand this.


Keep walking

Return to São Paulo in a cursing rage. A black depression falls as soon as I enter the apartment that doesn't feel like home. Why oh why didn't I stay in Rio, for another few days at least? I already cleared my schedule until next week.

It's the bank's fault, I remember. Stop kicking yourself. I ran out of money and my card wouldn't work. So I had to get a ride back. But I'm sure if I had tried harder I could have found a way to organise things. On the ride home I am in sick regret, knowing I won't have the chance to go back for a long time. I despair of ever doing anything right. I know I will never make a correct decision in my life.

The apartment nauseates me. I can't stay in here. I get out on the street. The card still doesn't work and I have R$1. I buy a pinga and knock it back. I keep walking, avoiding my usual circuit of bars, because I will see people I know who will buy me drinks, and I don't want that, not now. I go back to the flat but still can't bear to see it and still can't sleep. I collect a handful of 5 and 10-centavos from the shelf and back to the street.

Walk and walk. Watch the transvestites, eavesdrop on the conversations of whores with their customers, sit on the pavement with the homeless, watching the traffic and smoking. Count the change, buy a beer and a last pack of the cheapest cigarettes. Determine to stay in the street all night, whatever happens, and not go back to that goddamn apartment. But my God I would like to drink.

This is when I spot a strange character propositioning women in the street. He looks like a cross between Borat and a Kabul street junkie. He is well fucked-up, but at the same time one of those people I instantly know is sound. We walk. He keeps asking people for directions to places he knows perfectly well. He babbles to me in portuspanglish until I tell him to shut up and speak one language at a time. He buys five papers of coke. We keep walking aimlessly.

It turns out he is an agent of cosmic balance. A well fucked-up character, interned many times, who seems to have been sent to restore the balance to my feverish mind. We drink pinga with grizzled old beggars, shoot snooker with traficantes, joke with whores, loud samba and old Corinthians games. Moment by moment my head is straightening out. We share cigarettes with street kids out of their heads on crack and glue, he sets me up with some hopeless girl, street people in rags ply us with stinking cheap aguardente and Paraguayan cigarettes. The rage and loathing is dissipating. Walk through tunnels, the zombie-movie streets of Cracklandia, over bridges and elevated causeways. Find another bar and sit for a time, and then keep walking. Seeing this side of the city is worth more to me than any number of beaches or palm trees or girls in bikinis.

Does cosmic balance exist?

Are there critical points in time, cusps of action, nodes in the web of destiny, crossroads of fate? Sensitive moments, critical times when your action or your intention or your words or your thoughts determine the course of the future and set your trajectory through the universe? Was deciding to leave Rio the afternoon before one of these points?

Is it so?

Or is it really never too late?

Tomorrow finally arrives. I go home and sleep, free of the crawling loathing.


[how can a city of 15 million seem so small sometimes?]


Human, all too human

Cockroaches are just too much like humans.

They want to live too much.

We were at a barbeque all fucked up and decided to conduct a genocide of the fuckers. Because after all, genocide is fun. Spray insect poison down the drains and smack them with a shoe as they go running.

My God, they adapt their tactics so quickly, it's like they have telepathy and they're broadcasting radio to each other. At first it was easy hunting, but then it just got impossible.

I hit one and wounded it and it played dead, thinking I would go after the others. Fucker. So I hit it again and it rolled like a fucking US marine or something and rushed for cover behind a loose tile. I hunted it down and smacked it with the shoe again and it vanished. I found it in the shoe - somehow it had jumped in there. I threw it on the ground and hit it again and this time, my God, it swarmed up onto my hand and jumped right for my face.

I finally killed the little fucker.

Human, all too human.

The main difference is they're harder to kill. You can hit one and it smashes into pieces, and when you come back half an hour later it has glued itself together with its own ichor and crawled off bleeding. You can cut a cockroach's head off and it will die of starvation, about a week later, after spawning hundreds of others.
YOU tell the truth, and let THEM deal with it


(S)wine said [somewhere in the comments below]
I shamelessly steal from Bukowski:
--What do you do?
--Nothing. I drink. Both.
Smoking is not as fun as it looks, kids. Unfortunately.

I don't trust air that I don't see, I glibly say. Here in the city you have to protect your lungs from the exhaust fumes. And I light up another one and force that smoke down into my asphalt lungs.

Drinking, and I mean really drinking with conviction, drinking to get drunk drunk drunk, like blanking that chick who's grinding her ass into your lap in order to go in search of another reeking cheap whiskey or conhaque nacional, I mean drinking to stop your hands shaking in the morning, drinking like Bukowski and Chinaski and all of them, I mean being a fucking drink-sodden, say it: alcoholic.....

...that, conversely, is actually more fun than it looks. Experienced from the inside, as it were. Because it looks fucking ugly from the outside.

Don't worry about the blood on your jeans, you won't remember where it came from, and your nerves are too shot to feel the pain... don't worry about being a total disgrace and losing any last semblance of dignity, either... keep drinking and you'll only remember in surreal flashes... all of life will take on a rather Philip K. Dick sort of aspect, what with the random black-outs, the time out of joint, the discovering yourself in the strangest places with no idea how you got there.


The wonderful world of English teaching

My first essay into this unfair and unjust profession was when I was very young, like 18 or 19 I would imagine. I flew to, ummm, Pakistan it was, for the summer, to see the parents and like this, courtesy of their employers at the time. I laid a heavy guilt trip on them about dragging me to that country for such a long time and never even taking me to visit India, so they got me a ticket to Katmandu, Nepal (border problems at that time between Lahore and Amritsar). I made my way to Pokhara, where I was sort of adopted by this guesthouse owner's family who put me up and fed me in return for bringing in tourists foreigners. I promptly cancelled my return tickets and vanished.

Some degree of beginner's luck does exist, because doing the things I did and surviving unscathed was quite simply impossible, but I didn't know that then, clueless idiot that I was. It sort of began with inheriting this dude's Enfield motorcycle and Dutch girlfriend, crossing the Himalayas on said bike without knowing how to drive, attempting to cross into India visa-less and near-broke, miraculously actually making Benares, spending a few months penniless hustling on the ghats and developing a heroin addiction, and everything just got worse from there.

Give it about a year later and I returned to Katmandu, true to form penniless and in screaming withdrawals, in torn jeans, floral shirt, plastic flip-flops and nothing else. This is how I ended up living with the gutter scum, dealers, hustlers and pimps of an ancient and crumbling mountain city. The only other foreigner on my side of the gutter was Viktor. He was Russian, which I didn't hold against him, and is probably dead now. So, probably, are Doc and Ramesh and all the others. I love you all. I had never felt as accepted and among my own anywhere, unlikely as the whole situation was.

God help me, but it was beautiful. I never felt such a sense of freedom, walking down the street in worn blue plastic flip-flops, and knowing that it was just me and my wits and nothing else. I didn't talk to another Westerner unless it was to beg money or sell them drugs.

So. One fine day, on the steps of a temple in Darbar square, I asked this foreigner for some money, and he said no but I can get you a job.

This is how I became an English teacher and ended up in front of an early morning class at 7am, junk-sick, dirty, probably near-psychotic, in borrowed shoes and shirt, the institute director looking on apprasingly, all the students older than me and calling me "sir".

I respect a good teacher. It is an under-valued profession.

Rules of engagement

I formulated these a long long time ago. They no longer apply, but they were a good idea and lead to spectacularly weird results.

1. Be aggressively friendly.
2. Be un-apologetically non-sensical.
3. Open fire on unarmed defenders, it's their fault they're unarmed.
4. Don't wear a shirt tied around your face lest the unbelievers strangle you with it. For is not the Lord good?

to answer my own question below, it's because i lost any faith in the idea that anything matters or that anything we do makes any difference. all striving is pointless.

may as well shoot myself in the head then, eh? i have no choice in the matter. paradoxically, doing just that might be the best argument for free will i could summon, over-riding the biological survival instinct and splattering the contents of my head over the nearest wall and ceiling.

i really don't like the contents of my head much - "out, foul jelly!"

my head works so much better when i'm hung over, i stop thinking too much and everything attains a sacred clarity.

i have to put this all to one last test, to see if there is any freedom... by carrying out arbitrary acts of freedom.... just to see if it can be done........

why are you so afraid to just lose it, cut loose??? there is nothing to lose, not for you.......


how is it that putting one word after another has suddenly become so impossibly, grindingly difficult?


Hahahahahaaaa.... (this conversation really happened...)


Those questions I hate

"Where are you from?" is the first and obvious one, especially from that type of viciously simple-minded people who absolutely insist that you must be from somewhere, really. I have always had a difficult time understanding what that actually means.

"Language is the only homeland," Czeslaw Milosz would have it. I do really quite like that, it's very neat indeed, and dispenses with the first question, but brings me to the second: "How many languages do you speak?" Yes, I receive ever so many complements on this or that every day, and many people ask me this often, but the question is no simpler, as I'm unsure what it actually means either.

If it means speaking in such a way that everyone takes you for a native of whatever country you happen to be in, I don't actually speak any languages. This is another reason I hate the first question. In England (I was born there and I have a British passport), with its multitude of accents tying you to your social class and place of birth within 10 miles, it is especially bad. "Well you don't sound English... What's the accent then?" Bastards. If there seems to be a particularly ignorant nationalism driving the question, I tell them it's because I grew up overseas where my parents were in the service of the Crown, which is not true but shuts them up. Likewise in Finland. I don't really like Finland, but I love the language. I would imagine no foreigner from a different linguistic background ever quite got their head around the utterly bizarre and unique structures available in the Finnish language to the extent that I do, but still after a few minutes of conversation I get puzzled looks and a "So... where exactly are you from?" [You can put together words to create or suggest new words, hence tietokone = knowledgemachine = computer, hence my favourite word ever aivotärähdys = brainquake = concussion.]

By my own definition, you speak a language once you have been able to conduct a meaningful relationship, a friendship, maybe an enmity, entirely in that language. This allows me to lay claim to vast swathes of the globe, including all of the Americas, except for the pockets of indigenous or eskimo languages of course, and except for Quebec (je refuse de parler français!); and also most of the Indian sub-continent (although it's been a while and every time I learn a new language, one of the old ones is forgotten, or not forgotten, but it goes in the fridge, and it can take a good while to warm up again once the time comes). So this brings the count up to either five, or six, depending on how you see the relationship between Urdu and Hindi. Largely they are the same language, in that on an every day level they are perfectly mutually comprehensible, so that people speak of (or used to at least) Hindustani instead, and it is only once you get to the literary (and religio-philosophic) language that one starts drawing heavily on Persian and Arabic, and the other on Sanskrit (and different alphabets, of course). So often enough we would be chatting along just fine, somewhere in the Hindi belt in India, and then a few minutes into the conversation they would suddenly go: "What did you just say?" And I would repeat it, and they would look at me sort of triumphantly and say: "Urdu!"

Many English speakers, however, find learning another language such an incomprehensibly impossible task, that with their total ignorance of how much effort people put to speak to them in their own language, they arrive home from six months of "doing" South America or India or wherever, and think they've "picked up" Spanish or Hindi because they can buy drugs or give directions to a taxi driver. By this definition, I can extend my dominions considerably further, to encompass Persia and greater Khorasan (Afghanistan and Tajikistan), Turkey and most of Central Asia, Scandinavia (Finland is not Scandinavia...), oh it goes on, and I am making inroads on Russia.

"What do you do?" is the third one. Like the others, a perfectly innocent question - you have to talk about something after you've just met, after all, that is not like overly heavy. Years ago I took to answering "writer", because it is beautiful and just right and ambiguous enough to mean many things. Some horrible and insistent people pursue that with questions about, you know, selling writing, and where do you publish and who do you write for. They want to know what you do in the time you sell to others, a job it's called. Me, I'm moving into English teaching. Dynamic industry. I have no formal qualifications whatsoever, but I do have a lot practical experience in the field of learning to speak.

Oh the wonder of being in a new country surrounded by a new language. Everything becomes interesting. You can watch awful daytime TV, you can go out for a drink alone and end up talking with the most depressing babbling old alcoholic, it all suddenly feels educational and entertaining.


Real gem...

still #1 on Google for "chemical torture..."


sleep is weakness...

yeah, there'll be time later

but I'm getting upper-quadrant abdominal pains, bad night sweats, the shakes in the mornings

can't help being worried


E alemão!

People call this out at me a lot in the streets, hey german! At first it pissed me off, then it started amusing me (to imagine walking around in a Nazi uniform like in the Great Rock n'Roll Swindle and turn around and snap "Ja?"). Then I realised often it's actually affectionate. It's because of my blond hair, you know. Well, it's brown really, but blond by Brazilian standards.

There's an irony in the Nazi war criminals with their infantile racial ideas having fled here, where the thought of any sort of simple-minded racism becomes laughable... Look around, girls, girls, deepest black Afro to blonde Nordic through Japanese and Indian (indígeno and Indian..), and every conceivable mixture cross and combination thereof...


Hey you....

You know who you are, reading somewhere in São Paulo.... Estou aquí, no seu lado do Atlântico... Me manda mensajem...


Cuide-se: evite fumar e abusar de álcool e calmantes.

(text on reverse of SP Transport Bilhete Único)

Message from the City of São Paulo... They don't all have the same text... Makes me wonder if the lady behind the counter has a variety of different ones and hands out the most appropriate one to each customer... It has got to the worrying stage where my hands shake in the mornings...


Another city

It is at its best late at night, swept by rain, when you can finally see it for what it is, unobscured by scurrying swarms of humanity like the explosive fractal growth of bacterial culture in a petri dish, and anyone who is out in the street must belong to the desperate, lost, lonely, sleepless or mad.


Deus lhe pague

you can listen on youtube here for example...

Por esse pão pra comer, por esse chão pra dormir
A certidão pra nascer, e a concessão pra sorrir
Por me deixar respirar, por me deixar existir
Deus lhe pague

Pelo prazer de chorar e pelo "estamos aí"
Pela piada no bar e o futebol pra aplaudir
Um crime pra comentar e um samba pra distrair
Deus lhe pague

Por essa praia, essa saia, pelas mulheres daqui
O amor malfeito depressa, fazer a barba e partir
Pelo domingo que é lindo, novela, missa e gibi
Deus lhe pague

Pela cachaça de graça que a gente tem que engolir
Pela fumaça, desgraça, que a gente tem que tossir
Pelos andaimes, pingentes, que a gente tem que cair
Por mais um dia, agonia, pra suportar e assistir
Pelo rangido dos dentes, pela cidade a zunir
E pelo grito demente que nos ajuda a fugir
Pela mulher carpideira pra nos louvar e cuspir
E pelas moscas-bicheiras a nos beijar e cobrir
E pela paz derradeira que enfim vai nos redimir
Deus lhe pague.

(Chico Buarque)

loose translation into English:

For this bread to eat, for this floor to sleep on
For this certificate to be born, for permission to smile
For letting me breathe, for letting me exist (or resist?)
God bless you

For the pleasure of weeping, for the "we are here now"
For jokes in the bar, for this football to cheer
For a crime to commit, for the samba here
God bless you

For this beach, this skirt, these women here
For flawed hurried love, shave quickly, and leave
For this Sunday so beautiful, Mass, a novel, a comic to read
God bless you

For the free cachaça that we have to swallow
For the smoke disgracefully that we have to cough
For the scaffolding to fall off
For another day of agony to stand up to
For the grinding of teeth and the groaning of the city
For the demented scream that helps us flee
For the weeping woman to pray for us and spit on us
And for the screw-worms that cover us and kiss us
And for the final peace that will redeem us
God will reward you


3 minute posts

Two cops, hands on sidearms, were dragging a naked homeless guy along. It looked bad for the poor guy. They reached an unmarked door in the wall and hammered on it.

A tonsured monk in full habit with mad glaring eyes popped his head out. Without saying a word he disappeared again and reappeared with a change of clothes for the guy. He glared up and down the street once more and slammed the door shut.

The cops made the guy get dressed, let him go and lit up cigarettes.


5-minute posts

There is a lot of inertia to be overcome to get this goddam realgem moving again... it's rusted in its tracks...

The most overwhelmingly hilarious thing that has happened to me recently... I was at Mr Carah's art exhibition opening on Monday, aproveitando the cachaça de graça...

This dude came up to the bar... American, everything about him screamed... I thought he might be feeling lonely and confused with all the loud babbling in Brazilian around. So I stepped up to him and said hi and all the usual things English people say to introduce themselves.

He looked at me blankly and said: "Sorry, I don't speak Portuguese."


Rua da Desconsolação

I still exist I think. There will be a new blog soon. Thanks for still visiting, although your loyalty is somewhat incomprehensible. Love to all.