This month Branner Griswell sucks us through the peephole with 5 anxious vignettes, disarming and dystant, soundtracked tales of introspection...
1: Barry Crocker – Neighbours Theme
Five more minutes until Neighbours rears its soapy head on 5Star, which means that it’s roughly one excruciating hour and five minutes until Emmerdale is switched on and you are trapped. You will be drilled into the couch with your racist, alcoholic, homophobic, ex-military, ex-convict, landlord’s boyfriend. You bide your time as a hostage might, removing any transparent tells from your face, hoping to elicit a false sense of trust.
The landlord seemed so friendly at the time, but her choice in men seems to occupy the potentially violent armchair drunk territory. You thought you could get by harmlessly on cheap rent for a month or two but then you must admit you recall your brain firing a subconscious red flag in the first 30 seconds of scoping out the flat. Some synapses come back to tell you that it was you that chose to ignore critical information, shelving it away with the equally dangerous practice of “wishful thinking.” Save some money, you thought. Why is it that some people get aggressive when you don’t participate in their miserable existence by also downing two bottles of pino that smell like someone took a leak in a sardine tin?
Get up and walk away you say? Head out and hide out in your room, bypass the situation, go straight up the stairs for some privacy? Last time you tried that you could hear it coming through the floorboards; ramped up rants from an increasingly gin-soaked sot. After a hair raising “goodnight” is threateningly whispered through your locked bedroom door, the next day in casual conversation you are warily accused of being “anti-social”.
You are living through a version of Donald Pleasance in Wake in Fright, stranded in a Kronenbourg Yabba, or stuck in a Mike Leigh dystopian nightmare. Because the next time you decide it's part of the overall tactical prisoner plan to sit down and mime watching T.V., he tells you he would like to adopt you. Out of nowhere, the topic moves onto the new neighbors. Apparently they are upset with him taking up the community parking 24/7. Casually your captor begins to open up. The last neighbor had a heart attack on the lawn after a lovely conversation over neighborly things. Don’t worry, “that was years ago”, he assures you.
Just before he got released from the clink, the neighbor, in the meantime, wisely sold the house.
2: Butthole Surfers – Goofy’s Concern
It’s one of those questions people ask to get an idea of who you are, because let’s face it, who you are in large part, is who you surround yourself with. So you’re asked, “If you were to have a dinner and conversation with five people, dead or alive, who would they be?” Well I don’t believe it. I’m not the company I keep. Leonardo Vincenzo (I know him as Vinnie), is trying to tell me this. He puts down his fork and looks, oddly just off to the side of me and swears at me,
“Yeah I hung around the same late night dens as Pablo and Guillaume and believe me they stole a lot more than I did. They don’t even care about France, just about cheap cigarettes and Moroccan prostitutes.”
I bet this guy has some crazy stories, I think, and take another sip of my Chateau Margaux 2009 Balthazar,
Switching the subject to more domestic concerns, I ask with a half mouthful of pork, “Hey guys, so now what do you think of America’s finest?”
I’m talking to Richard Smith and Luke Bateman of course, and given the new rash of cold blooded killings by U.S. police, they tell me they even thought the Cornish flag was a gang sign.
“la polizia ha impazziti.” Vinnie is on board.
“Some things stay the same I guess.” As I say this I’m keeping a close eye on Lizzie, sawing ineffectively through a bloody steak with a butter knife, head down, but I have this feeling like she’s listening to everything we’re saying. One thing that is important for all dinner parties is to keep everyone on their toes. I whisper to Richard who has the pleasure of being seated next to Liz, “Don’t worry, I switched your drinks just in case.”
“Hey Lizzie do you know that The Borden house is now a Bed and Breakfast?” I don’t know what I hope to accomplish with this line of questioning.
She weighs in swiftly, to my surprise. “My word. With all those guests, it must be impossible to clean. I’m sure you know how messy things can get?” I do. Lizzies eyes are huge and penetrating. She hasn’t touched her broccoli florets.
You could cut the tension with a taser. “Hey D, how do you watch a whale in Utah?” Says Luke, like its some kind of cryptic riddle or stupid set up for a joke I am failing to get. Whales are damn elusive in the desert.
D.B. Cooper hasn’t said a word though. He’s too busy stuffing that Veal Scaloppini into his goddamn gaping maw, willfully ignoring the footsie Lizzie is so obviously conducting under the table. Well, it might just be that the music is too insanely fucking loud to understand what anyone is saying.
3. Terry Riley and Kronos Quartet – V. Emily and Alice
You’ve drifted off with the T.V. set on again. Fifth straight night defeated by the Catnapper MagnumTM chaise recliner. Your bedroom might as well be on moon V of Jupiter. This thing is otherworldly, the Venus flytrap of chairs. You found it where you find everything else: on Craigslist - bought it off some elderly eastern block granny, babushka and all, baking away at something sickly aromatic in the kitchen while you hauled it off into the back of your Ford Fiesta. You practically stole it from her for the worn out Ulysses S. Grant you paid for it. Each night you sink down in it, the sticky sugar plum fairy stirs the syrup of sleep into your eyes. A succession of fitful dysphoric dreams ensues, if one can call them dreams – more like transmissions.
Right before you succumb, you receive signals like a junk transistor radio. Twisted nursery rhymes and folk songs from an incomprehensible future. The wheels on the bus go round and round like a stainless steel automatic can opener around the lid of your dome. The contents opened, a container now for whatever frequencies flow unhindered through the air. A celestial cat lapping the milky saucer bowl of your mind. You are beamed into a graveyard slot television montage landscape. The Home Shopping Network selling Matroyshka Russian nesting dolls, ducks unlimited fly scattershot across the grey skies, a T.V. evangelist diagrams feverishly, the tower of babel on a chalkboard. Someone is laughing at you. An iron-black kettle bubbles over, spilling its sizzling gruel over the sides. You are the idiot.
Bells ring and you find yourself standing in a vast open snow covered tundra, flat as earth and stretched out endlessly. Caught in the center of a not-so-soundless field. Clouds ebb and flow in time lapse. An animated wind blows. You feel yourself begin to move forward, one step queues the sound of a fugue. You march in a direction with no direction, except toward a dull silver haze on the horizon. Where can you lay down to rest? Always moving. Never nearing. You break through the icy crust, hip deep in a drift. You can feel the gravity of earth tugging at you as if you are wearing a pair of tungsten boots. It is like swimming above ground in slow motion now. There is a voice in the nearness. It sounds familiar somehow, youthful yet weary. How can it echo in the open air like this?
4. Nurse With Wound – Thrill of Romance…?
This is my fifth Tinder date tonight and I am blazing through them at a fledgling Linda Wolfian pace. At this point I am already well past the point of feeling nothing, for myself yes, but mostly for them. #2 I took half a look at and decided he was the type to file his taxes in January so I naturally slip out of the Apple Store…
So what????? It has an easily recognizable logo and everyone (dull men) can find it like a hoisted Hollywood moon. Inside however, is a herculean test of concentration. If you close your eyes and listen to this chaotic mash of frantic speech, it sounds like a spattering of s’s, like a congregation of snakes. You can really gauge just how much someone can stand. Next level conversational waterboarding.
…and hail a cab moving up 5th Ave faster than you can swipe to the left. Zing! Right, 45, never married, doesn’t mind pretending testosterone is at an all time low, wouldn’t mind having Benzo FuryTM slipped into his drink. This one sends a pic waiting at the Central Park Zoo next to the Victoria-Crowned Pigeons, wide-eyed like a lemur. Just like me, these royal looking pigeons are a cut above rats with wings, though they still decorate their nests with street trash. I tell myself, at the heart of it all, you’re a lonely gal and I’ve heard it said repeatedly, without feeling, it’s just a numbers game. #1 indulged the lame male upscale cocktail fantasy and after washing down my vesper martini with a vesper martini like a poker faced Bond gal, I imagine myself gravity tipping off the edge of the roof garden, stylishly suicidal, him staring in thumbs-up Mentos-level belief. #3, honestly, I’ve huffed rags more interesting.
Seriously, this is a joke. Climate change? It’s May and its actually goddamn record level chilling tonight, everyone exhaling steam from their lungs like a manhole cover. Speaking of manholes, #4 was so heavy… I mean heavy in the Blue Note way, dark inside, past its prime, smoky, and once pried open, a whiff of ‘eau de sewer’. Wait, something is off here. #5. This one should be gone… if he has any self worth. He is not by the pigeons and I do a quick sweep, winding through the exhibits. Though its not what we agreed, he’s moved to a new location. He’s pressed conspicuously against the Emerald Tree Boa enclosure, and it looks like he’s trying to get inside, like he will just osmose through the glass like a fucking psychotic mime. What am I missing here? He must have accidentally exposed himself to the scopolamine. How could someone be as desperate as me? I decide to join him, but I’ve brought a diamond cutter and I slice through the glass like a cat burglar. I dose myself and take his hand and lead him through. The snakes come down from the branches.
5. Puce Mary – No Memory
The 'Devil's breath' has wiped my mind clean. 5 mg in a cigarette was all it took.
+1 hour: Page five of The Guardian headline reads, “can it really zombify you?”. Ridiculous. Seems it would be one in a different direction… my heart-rate quickening and a flushness. I can feel my entire central nervous system lose authority and I suspect I don’t have much time left on my feet. You would at least need to shamble. The smearing of printed paper together. I can not tell a story, actually.
+2 hours: I’m thoroughly incapacitated now, though I wrestle the idea that I should get into bed – a half hour? and so I literally begin to crawl on the floor towards the bedroom. Heart rate? I am not sure I feel a heart rate anymore. Ice filled heart it feels. I'm starting to lose grip on the language. I can not speak to the prison. I can not put words together.
+3 hours: All pulsating, but slowly, matching the pace of my lungs. I was able to mind, or the mind so I stretched out when they feel like grains of sand, and I must wait until they fill hourglass mind how even writing it? I experienced? A lifelong experience or next to nothing, or that the same thing? I saw them through the window now. Om om. Death panel. It shut it shut it. Death panel.
+4 hours: I pinned bed. pink I see black dance and walk in the dust. Light dirt on your face. What are you doing here with me before? How did you get in? All the naeighbors to be good neighbors o bad neighbors. Omakhelwane, Wonke umuntu udinga omakhelwane abahleIs are the owls black here. Wind chime tellofoan speacking CIA. Loos grip Earthquakes hold not hold. Tts whneihbors becoegod frindsowls .
+5 hours and onwards: I had a seprate reality. Im by myself digusted. Now Im prodction own deeds. Im indomitble presented with. Moral Plague. I want your soul just arrived footsteps away and lines are drawn. Traces dirty. signs. dirt. Red. like a school boy.