Ticket To Ride, Book 2, Chapter 13: A declaration might be made…

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 9.19.42 AMThirteen

Journal entry:

I get to thinking of that guy on the train and I can’t sleep. He makes me warm and alive, especially in certain places. But the eternal “but” that surfaces time and again but I don’t know this game but am playing it by thinking of him. Don’t know if I could ever make it work or might by translating the usual day, extrapolating that into a day with him. How it might add to a day. How he might be if I could know how to be beside him day to day; the desire, the knowing but also the pauses and feeling like I need to fill them in, sometimes. Feeling like I need to fill them in and sometimes feeling like filling it in. The answer to my own question lies in me and my trust of the me that knows to trust the knowing and perhaps the restless me can be sated with the pen and the doing of the things that the pen does, and the pages read and the paths they take would be the balm that soothes the burn, if there is to be one. Sometimes I’ve no doubt and others, like children running and sometimes screaming, and where the separation of powers in this begin and end, when perhaps the two become more and we, being busy, divide our days. Do we divide these days less thinly than before, or finer, or thicker. And if finer being the prospect do we decide, and on what basis, about the when’s and the who’s and the hows and the thems. The thems will always be, family, and trying, and sometimes tearing at the prospect of the finer. Who is his them, and what is mine, Mum. Calm and grace when it comes can soothe any of the us and the thems and the hows and the whys. A declaration might be made and rolled like a scroll, a pact so as not to stray, chain, or run aground.

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Ticket To Ride, Book Two, Chapter 1: To lead a better life, I need my love to be here…

thames2Just Another Day

Livy Tinsley’s Story

“To lead a better life, I need my love to be here.”

– from “Here, There And Everywhere” by the Beatles

 

As the sun was setting over the Pacific Islands, casting it’s multi-color, thousand shaded dance on the faces of people she would never know, if only through the stories of a future, decade away lover, Olivia Tinsley (Livy) was waking to the new day. North London, having yet shed its coal-smoke past, greeted the morning like a stepmother embracing an unwanted child. But Livy’s spirit was above this, stepmother or not, she was connected to the morning. Her world was never just East Finchley. Hers was all that the equator bisected and all that lay between the poles. And while only a young girl, she knew she would bring them all to see this.

This particular morning, Saturday, December 17, 1967, was Livy’s birthday. She was turning ten today, double-digits, the first step toward young womanhood and the springtime of Psyche.

Trudy would be waiting. And the two friends, connected by a vision that stretched beyond the High street and market day, would walk above what others saw. Today their trek would take them to the Thames, a river which, in both their minds, led to the all of the oceans of the world.

They met at the corner as they did on so many other mornings, liberated from the utilitarian drabness of their council-flat homes. (This drabness should be seen as only the narrator’s point of view because neither girl could be “bothered” with pigeonholing themselves as being poor.) Poverty was something they saw in their parents’ eyes. It scared them, like the [Boogie Man], and solidified in them, a desire to not be poor, at least in spirit, and dreams. Dreams were what they had, a warm cloak against the morning air and their protection against their mother’s insistent urging to dress more warmly. The only warmth Livy needed today was what she saw in the floppy-haired eyes of Paul McCartney. The Beatles were in full force and she saw in them, especially in Paul, the promise of the world outside; a world full of Europe, America and the power of words to make change.

They walked along the High street, peering in the windows of the shops that had yet to open, not to appraise the wares laid out for sale in the way their mothers saw them, as objects to be possessed and kept, but as objects of discovery and promise, things that told tales of the people that created them and the lands from which they had come. In the window of the Tea shop sat boxes and tins bearing English names but the brands were so much less important than the places they had come from. Ceylon, Bombay, Jakarta and the like were names that conjured in them, fantasies and dreams of sweet-smelling air and fragrant fields of tea, places where their supposed poverty was alternatively noble, and lives built around the cultivation of these crops were simple and pleasurable and fraught with tradition, ritual, and beauty.

At Finchley Road they turned, and walked the long stretch from the here to there. A long walk for you and I, but just here to there for Livy and Trudy. Just here to there. The “there” being the banks of the Thames, and a bridge. And it was on this bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, looking East along the river that their conversation began. With the warm lands in their minds, their Saturday dreams took flight and Livy would often pose a question. “What would this have been if it wasn’t for Norsemen and Saxons? If we two had had a say in the building up of this island?”

Instead of answering, Trudy would turn inward, subconsciously erasing feudalism and Burgundian kings. She would instead picture a world where Joans’ of Arc would ride in on silver steeds and carry a message of peace. Or Emile Guillame’s, La Deliverance, an actual female nude statue standing in the middle of Finchley, holding a sword in the Battle of Marne, projecting power and grace and a vision of something other, other than the usual outcome of war, and other than a temporary half-conjured promise, but a promise of finally broaching that next world, that world where definitions are based on how well all is defined and not on the appearance of things. And while the barges and steamships of commerce rolled by she would picture a river full of music and romance, and a body of water that carried instead promise, and intangibles like adventure and freedom. These commodities would, in most cases be, under the cold eyes of the economist, trade goods, but to Trudy they weren’t simply traded goods, but an exchange of the wealth of kingdoms, kingdoms borne of diplomacy, goodwill and temperance.

“Didja know Trudy… an early, maybe the first, Briton and his wife, Hwll and Akun came through here in the summer some seventy-five hundred years before Christ, on their way to Salisbury? They came down here to find a new home, somewhere warmer as the last ice age was ending. This place was full of trees but they didn’t stop. Something drove him further south. London was a forest and the Thames ran freely, wide, and big. * Trudy there was nothing here. No off-licenses, no Minis, no Austin Healeys, no Ty-phoo or Tetley, no London Times or BBC… just trees and the river. How must that’ve been?”

Livy had  broached this before, several times thought Trudy, but Trudy never tired of the speculation. She loved that Livy would ask it. That’s where Trudy wanted to go, away from the council flat, away from the sinking feeling that permeated it. She felt this more deeply than Livy. She could feel it creeping up around her ankles, threatening to choke her, and she, unlike Livy, felt powerless to fight it. Her only escape was through Livy’s words, and her questions, and her spirit, and her eyes, blue as nothing she’d seen. Livy was like a happy little female Buddha, smiling lovingly and defiantly at the world. It couldn’t touch her. She was wholly Psyche; nothing of Aphrodite and her sometimes steamrolling quality were present. She was fun, and hope, and promise, “cheeky” and detached.

“I’m ten Trudy, a decade old, ten years, double-digits. I mean, what will I mean? I’m sorry but, bloody hell, what is this councilflat-eastfinchley-povertyshite. I’m biding my time Trudy. I’m not long for here. I’m just ten but there’s work to do…

St. Paul’s. What do you think of St. Paul’s? Trudy? What do you think of St. Paul’s?”

Trudy had drifted off. She felt Livy pushing, moving, couldn’t be there  for her anymore. Livy wanted too much. Trudy wanted just to talk. Livy spoke her dreams and Trudy rode on them, but Trudy couldn’t see it for herself. Livy, livy, livy, she thought. She’ll leave me here.

“I think my mum got me new ballet slippers. God knows why, I’ve only done one thing right in four years. Stopped the whole class to show them I was so excited. But mum still thinks I’m going to make the Royal Ballet.”

“But you’re going to be a writer Livy.”

“Mum’s dream.”

“Which?”

“The ballet… girls don’t write, not supposed to… not girls from East Finchley.”

Trudy sort of nodded in agreement and disbelief at the same time then pulled something from her coat pocket.

“I wrote this for you,” handing a folded sheet of paper to Livy, “You’re a much better writer than me, but well, here it is. Happy Birthday.”

“Thanks Trudy, I suppose they’ll be more coming out of East Finchley than just ink.” **

She stopped to read.

 

“Silken voice,

silken smile

whistles on wind

all the while

sweet songs of seashells, seabirds & sandy crabs.

Transplanted manner

wide-eyed sigh

walks in whispers

under white light sky

through pretty poetry of

mustard greens and autumn sun

Lancashire castles

reproduced in sand

lyrics and verse

composed in her small hand

conversation adrift that she can’t understand

she sleeps quietly with Nana

in Nana’s new land.”

 

“Thank you so much lovey. You are a love…”

Livy put her arm around Trudy.

“I love the look of St. Paul’s from here. It looks… well… it looks like someone cared…. but, at the same time… the constructs of it.” she continued.

“Construction…” Trudy added.

“I hate construction…” said Livy.

Trudy frowned, “Exactly.”

They looked at each other and Trudy smiled through Livy, then both turned back toward the Thames and at a passenger ship heading downriver to Dover, the Channel and everywhere else.

“Nana’s new land Livy! You can see it too.”

“You’re going to leave someday,” Trudy finished.

They were quiet again until Livy had to speak.

“My dad drank a lot again last night.”

“Ditto.”

The two of them hugged one another.

“I love you sweetie,” Livy said.

“I love you too,” replied Trudy.

“Best friends forever.”

“Best friends forever.”

It ended like this most every time.

 

* gleaned from Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd

** In 1874, Henry Charles Stephens, son of the Inventor of modern ink and also known as “Inky” Stephens came to live here and to establish a laboratory.

Ticket To Ride, Chapter 17: “La mano ubbidisce all’ intellecto.”

La Mano ubbidisce all' intelletto.
La Mano ubbidisce all’ intelletto.

Seventeen

“La mano ubbidisce all’ intellecto.”
– Carlo Maria Mariani

All the way home from Europe Morgan obsessed about that moment on the train. He couldn’t seem to gain any distance from it, no matter what he read, or thought, or watched, or wished. He felt stuck in a spiral, spinning down and down until he felt nothing and had gone numb. Then he thought of a quote he’d once heard, “It’s not that you’re carrying all that, it’s that you have all that to carry.”

I’m carrying my father and his father and probably my father’s father, he thought, and he remembered hearing that some psychologists believed that the children of former slaves carried with them, perhaps in their DNA, the memory of the toil and hardship of slavery.
“I’ve got to get free of my past,” he thought.

Ticket To Ride, Chapter 16: Narcissistic hedonists existing on half-tuned terms…

300px-Surtidor_de_trenes_Sixteen 

Since I’d purchased my train ticket upon arrival in Lagos, and had loosely planned to make it to Algeciras in three days to make the crossing to Morocco, I passed on the ditch-digging job. Instead I took a train to the Spanish-Portuguese border where I crossed the Guadiana by ferry. Back in Spanish-land, Andalusia, entering through the village of Ayamonte, I was able to use my marginal college Spanish. I made my way to the nearest Tabac to pick up a pack of Fortunas, then headed into town seeking cheap accommodations; a place to read, and sleep.

“No tengo mucho dinero,” I’d say.

“Lo siento amigo.”

“Amigo. Shit.”

Over the red-tiled, dusty, cut-and-dried town, the sun set low in the sky casting its solemn, pinkish hue on the suddenly omnipresent world. For a moment the villager’s faces were transformed from a Gothic, gargoyle-grey to something saintly and almost sweet, like a mosaic in the St. Apollinare. But all seemed transformed into con-men when it came to bargaining for a bed.

The topic of money snuffed out this last flicker of godliness and I decided to move on, to hitch-hike to the next town, and a possible train headed south. Tired, hollow, dull-ache, sunset, where’s home from here?, mind.

I stalked heavy-footed on my tarmac path, a narrow, two-laned, “Mexican-One”-like highway where, at the edge of town stood the broken down, empty remains of an abandoned railway station which might once have served to carry me south. I have “all the time in the world,” I thought, but do I want it?

Hitch-hiking in Andalusia is not advisable if a ride is what you’re after.

The sun sank and I waited. Cars passed. The world turned, quite a revolution.

Situated alongside a fallow field and facing west, the dying light offered a little pioneer glory to my asphalt predicament. I ate some bread and cheese, smoked a few more Fortunas, drank the rest of a two-day-old soda, and when twilight arrived, I crossed the road to the Mari-Ro hostel and bargained for a bed. The manager was an arrogant bastard but I was too tired to argue.

“Diez mil pesetas.”

Just give me a room, I thought… “esta bien,” handing him the money, “las llaves por favor… gracias,” he gave me the keys.

In bed I read the last few pages of Kundera’s, The Joke which Norbert had given me, then fell into a disjointed sleep and dreams of lepers and whorehouse red. Sweet sleep that I long for.

Coined eyes

hands clam-cold

Morning… bright… clear… oppressive… waking… moaning… dream images… vertigo thoughts… mind.

In the morning I caught a bus in front of the hostel and headed into the fields and orchards of southern Spain and three days without sleep. The sky was grey and I’ve always had this thing about grey skies; sleepy, inward, ponderous. Cafe con leche at every stop was more than a feeble attempt to defy my mood and, mixed with a pack of cigarettes, kept me at least somewhat focused on something outside of my head.

In a cafe at the Huelva railway station I ate two ham sandwiches and went outside to read, but ended up writing a short poem.

blue fire lightning strikes desire in eyes

like red tide swells that fold & fall

then merge on the surface

feeding

flickering

wishing to be a flame

celta-sevilla-spainSevilla. Waiting hours between connections. San Jose Del Cabo, that’s what it looks like. But that was another time. Just a few years ago, but another time.

A few streets away from the station I came across two Brits playing broken riffs for Spanish coin. He played and she smiled with a tin can, collecting. They’d been in Sevilla for about three weeks and were making something like three thousand pesetas a day. They slept in a van parked on the edge of town. “Lovely here,” she said over and over. Nigel offered me a turn on the guitar, then helped me muddle through a few chords of “Sweet Jane.”

“Where’re you headed chief?” he asked with a broad Lancashire accent.

“Morocco… Marrakesh. I want to be in Algeciras in a couple of days to make the crossing.”

“Not exactly the right time for a yank to be in Morocco. With the Iranian thing and bloody Ramadan. It’s a bleedin’ sin to eat during the day. Allah humma laka sumna, wa ‘ala rizqika aftarna. A lot of ‘em get barmy on you… might better hold on to your fuckin’ head.”

“Fuck it, I just want to see Marrakesh.”

“The shops are opening up, would you like an ice cream.” said Nigel’s girlfriend.

“Sure,” I said.

Over ice cream they talked about strawberry season and how they’d done pretty well as pickers. I toyed for a moment with a Kerouacean notion of joining them, but didn’t.

After the ice cream I wished them luck and headed toward the train station. Some young Spanish girls were returning to their school which stood adjacent to the platform. As they passed, some smiled, their eyes like twilight. The ancestors of Mexican girls, embroidered in the Americas with Indian motifs. I smiled back innocently.

Their latin lovers followed the line of their gaze, then looked at me with contempt.

I was hungry again so I set off across the main square in search of food. After walking the perimeter of the square I ended up in a sort of cafe across the street from the station. I ate a sort of hamburger and drank a coke and was stared at by a few very old people. It was quiet and I suspected it would be until I left. They knew and I knew that I wouldn’t be there long and soon they would be free to talk amongst themselves and perhaps guess where the fair-haired young man had come from and where he might be going and where they themselves had been but never where they might go again.

As the sun set over the Guadalquivir, a group of excited students got on the train and sat in the seats around me. Some of the girls smiled and giggled as they discovered the foreigner in their midst. The boys smiled and giggled at them. They were traveling light.

“Adonde van?” I asked.

“On a day trip to Sevilla para Museo Principal de Bellas Artes,” said one of the boys, trying out his English. “Quiere ir?”  (Have you been)

“El año pasado pero… ahora voy a Morocco. Estoy en Sevilla solamente por el tren.”

“El museo es ‘brilliant,’” said one girl, “brilliant and lovely.” I found it charming how she fell into a sort of English accent when she used English words but found her overzealousness suffocating. The door had opened to continue talking to her but I went cold.

I managed to smile as I turned away and settled back in to my seat. In turning I noticed two very nice looking girls to my right. They smiled and I turned away. When I turned back toward them they were speaking between themselves, one looking into a compact and fixing her make-up. The door closed. Women felt forbidden to me. If not women, then what? Bread. Dry bread. I looked again, they were dragons. The world of the train car went away and again I was back in Anaya’s bathroom, tripping. Only this time, I was seeing Great Uncle Norman, Normy the fucking molester, and the fear that must have been on my father’s face when he was a boy and then my father yelling at me, calling me a pansy and a pussy.

The train began to move. I grabbed my notebook and wrote:

Narcissistic hedonists existing on half-tuned terms,

like germs in a culture,

like the vultures we’ve become.

We look into a mirror, not into the past, the present, nor the future, but at ourselves, fed by vanity, vanity and self-absorption.

I got up from my seat and went to the back of the car, I was on auto pilot now and not thinking just moving and only slightly interested in where I was being led. I’d made it to the back door, opened it and heard the noise of the wheels against the rails, and the wind, the wind in my face between train cars in the open, but I wanted it to be done, not all of me but a big part was ready to move on, to be done. The train was at full speed now.

Behind me the train conductor said in Spanish:

“If you jump you will most certainly die.”

Precise statement, pithy, decide.

I had to either jump or go home. At that point I wasn’t sure where home was.

I heard the words of U2’s “Into the Heart” coming from a cassette player inside the train:

“Into the heart of a child, I can stay a while, but I can’t go back.”

Ticket To Ride, Chapter 12: Travel is, at best, a metaphor for the inner journey…

ivy-league-school-brown-university-providence-riTwelve

Morgan turned eighteen shortly after Psalm’s death. Even though his mind felt locked in a vice, he’d decided, just after Psalm died to return to the mainland to attend college. Visions of brick buildings and autumn leaves fed his desire of becoming a modern-day Thoreau and thus, at least in his mind, he began his journey toward becoming an academic. His meetings with Miko were cut short after his argument with his father and his hunger for books pushed him to read into the small hours of the night. He wouldn’t get out of bed until near noon and was just biding his time because his mother, whom he spoke to when his father was at work, insisted on giving him some money from her trust. Her sister was arranging it on the mainland.

He worked at the store less and without being conscious of the change, matters of the spirit seemed to have died. He was “getting into his mind” and felt that this was a good thing. His experience with acid had darkened him. He had become detached, a skeleton of intellect.

“Take this money and the money you’ve saved and honey… and be a writer, go to school Morgan, be yourself.”

They hugged and promised each other they’d keep in touch.

Back on the mainland Morgan studied literature for two years, rarely looking up from his books to see the world around him. His retreat into this life of the mind was almost seamless. Almost, until one day, in a French literature class, the professor showed “Boudou Saved From Drowning” by Jean Renoir. Morgan could feel it coming from the pit of his stomach, burning. The professor was going on about how Boubou represented a sort of primal wildness and further, that his presence was a threat to French society. And in that moment, Morgan felt like college was nothing more than some long drawn-out form of masturbation that never quite finished the job. He raised his hand. The professor looked at him. The class looked to where the professor was looking. Morgan breathed and said,

“The middle class has no sense of humor, the lower class wants to be the middle or upper class and the upper class is populated by zombies. Western culture is suffering some kind of collective neurosis where everyone’s living in some kind of weird fear… This shit’s too much.” he finished, smiling.

The professor just stood there, expressionless.

His academic counselor, a pony-tailed and down-to-earth man only a little older than Morgan suggested that Morgan spend some time in Europe.

“It’d be good for you. All the great writers have gone on spiritual and intellectual sojourns.”

“I’m just having a hard time seeing what I’m accomplishing here.”

“Most of us go through this sort of thing. If nothing else, you’ll be collecting experiences for future writing.”

This spoke to Morgan’s literary self, his academic vanity, and to a much smaller extent, his sense of adventure, which had been all but snuffed out by his over-indulgence in vicarious journeys.

“But remember, ‘travel is, at best, a metaphor for the inner journey and, at worst, an avoidance of it.”