Issue #33 June 6th - 12th 2003
Sister Janice and the Search for Peace
The System of Failures
The long lost diary of Miss S L Gleaden (Part 7)
Ink polaroids, Generation X and feeling alive - installement two
The adventures of Wak, part two: Wak On Rain
Sister Janice and the search for peace
Sister Janice is the Friends Of The Heroes agony aunt. She used to be a nun, but after becoming involved in an accident at her convent involving a papal emissary; the mother superior; the convent dog and a bottle of 'citrus fresh' bleach, she decided it was time to find herself a new career.
These days she travels through the galaxies in a converted garden shed.
Write to Sister Janice Slejj care of Friends of the Heroes. She will answer
your problems and questions with the insight unique to a disco-loving
alternative-gardening defrocked clergy member and cosmic adventurer...
Hello there my little cosmic caperers,
It has been a right old week, and no mistake. I've barely had time to kl78435hr857hy5gt5r87gty85rt78ty5r87r7h85rgty5hu8yre8i78re
Fellow creations of the cosmos,
It is I, Roger
Once again, I am prevailed upon to entertain you with my thoughts. Largely due to the fact that the Reality-Challenged Ex-Clergy Member with whom I inhabit this shed is currently passed out on the mouse mat. Previous to this, her alcohol-addled cranium rested on the computer keyboard.
I lost her in a bar on the Upper Rings of Saturn. I say 'lost', but that isn't strictly the case. I was ejected unceremoniously from the bar, having caused offence by relating my contemplations on the ongoing suffering that accompanies existence to the denizens of said establishment. Needless to say, the combined beauty and bewilderment of it all was too much for those present, who merely sought oblivion through the medium of the beverage. My cosmic companion refrained from coming to my aid. Indeed, I suspect my predicament passed unnoticed by the Bride of Christ that slumbers beside me. At the time, she was engaged in entertaining a collection of Space Sailors how to conduct a ritual which I believe is termed 'The Hustle'. It seems that the reaches of infinity are similar to our own planet, replete with those who chase abandon and wanton excitement over the cerebral and spiritual joys of the written word.
We have ejected ourselves into orbit, abandoning such debauchery and chasing the Eternal. I have persuaded her to remove the..... costume she inadvertently acquired and have fashioned her garments more fitting for those of the spiritual persuasion. I know that, in time, she will thank me.
We move further into the void. The darkness envelopes us once again. I will find tranquility. I must.
Here is this week's consideration of a problematic nature:
Dear Serious Sagacious Soul And Chronicler Of The Cosmos,
I seek your advice, from one soul who knows the essential sadness of existence to another who seeks happiness within these dark, dark realms.
For years, I have given, and given. I have formulated my thoughts in a pleasing manner, and have extrapolated my existence to those who are open to the endless possiblilites inherent in...
in.........things............to those who will listen.
There aren't many people who will listen.
Why won't they listen?
What am I doing wrong?
Temporarily resident in an interplanetary bar near Saturn.
Oh hello there my little galaxies of love. Sister Janice here.
It appears that, once again, my problem page has been usurped.
AND he's telling tales about my week on Saturn. Look, I'll have you know that nothing dodgy happened. Everything was entirely innocent. Or everything I remember, anyway.
And.... this letter?!?!?!?!? Its clearly made UP!!!!!. Look, buddy, you won't get anywhere in this game if you make up the letters! People want to read about REAL life and REAL people.
What an amateur! I've sent him to make me a cup of the 'reviving herbal blend' I picked up from a very respectable establishment on the planet from which we have just departed. Don't believe anyone who tells you I buy packages from strange men I meet up back-alleys. They're LYING, and they're JEALOUS!
Having said all of this, he does have a point about those bars. Most of the people there WERE trying to escape sadness of some sort - even just the day to day sadness that comes of.. being here. And, so, they poison themselves. We poison ourselves, and we blot out the pain. Oh, you've heard it all before, I know.
What we're all after isn't oblivion. Its inner peace. We're all looking for that. There's a moment when the music hits full volume, and explodes through you, where you can allow yourself to be swept along by it, to become part of it, to care about nothing but being one with something un-nameable.
There's no shame in that. There's no shame in wanting happiness. Its just best not to look for it in a glass containing ANYTHING that happens to be made from distilled rocket fuel. Take it from me.
Sobriety, sense, and The Redemptive Power Of Retrospective Dance. That's a better way.
For this week, until my head recovers, at least.
Until next time, my dears, get lost.
In music, that is.
The System of Failures
Words all fail when you are alone. Shadows crawl out from the darkest corners. Things you dont want to remember. Thoughts of childhood haunting you to your uneasy sleep. Waking in cold sweats screaming out the name of the ones you have lost. Waking from your sleep. Instead of finding a warm face, an empty room filled with familiar shadows and dark shapes. Forehead drenched with beads of your own self doubt. Its hard to find a peace that is everlasting. Everything feels like a dream passed through the eye of a needle. You cant fake those smiles anymore. Only hope someone will notice that hollowed look in your eyes. You start to feel that ripping sensation in your chest letting you know that you will never be happy. Those feelings in your chest are your heart withering up and cracking like dust. Dwindling away in the complete dark of your bed. So hide it under your sheets. Under your half smiles and keep walking aimlessly in the dark only pretending that you know where you are going. Working your hand across the walls. Those voices keep coming back. Telling you secret thoughts.
"Keep in touch. We may never see each other again."
The Long Lost Diary of Miss S L Gleaden
Life can be peculiar. You never know what is around the next corner or at the top of the next hill and just as you think nothing else can possibly surprise you something that you least expect happens. One minute you could be hoovering the hold of plane. The next you could be being swept of you feet by a handsome backpacker named Chad.
Luckily Vera the airport cleaner, to whom the unexpected sweeping happened, realised a life changing experience when she saw one. At 19.02 she left the international airport of Nadi on Fiji. At 19.03 and two seconds she stopped dead in her tracks as Chad's motorbike roared to a halt next to her. Chad's voice was muffled through his crash helmet and a giddy Vera mistook his request for directions to the nearest internet café as a request to accompany him one the most exciting journey of both their lives.
Her knees buckled, and realised that if she did not take this opportunity another one might never come along. She graciously accepted this none existent invite and a slightly baffled Chad, not wishing to offend the delighted Vera, scooped her up rather ungracefully and plonked a spare cycle helmet on her head. As it turns out this misunderstanding was nothing less than miraculous and the pair were suited in everyway imaginable.
While this was incredibly good fortune as far as they were concerned, it was not for the poor heroic diary, who had more than enough of life changing experiences . It would have given anything to settle down on a quite book shelf somewhere in the house of a leafy green town. It listened to the whole misunderstanding and resigned itself to a life on the road. But what is meant for one person is not always meant for another person, or even for another book. Chad was a slightly aggressive driver who swung around bends in the road in a rather alarming fashion. It was one of these hair-raising experiences that the poor diary flew from the relative safety of Vera's apron pocket over a cliff and into a crystal blue sea.
To cut a long story short the diary washed up on the shores of a small town in the long forgotten county of Cumbria. Locals were impressed by the story contained within, not to mention the book's ability to wash up on the shores of a landlocked town, and after many hours were able to track down the explorer herself and made sure that the book returned to her but not before they had read it from cover to cover of course...
The Cumbrian locals return from McDonalds where they purchased three strawberry milkshakes and one chocolate. They look suspiciously at the diary wondering whether it is really an obscure marketing ploy laced with subliminal messages, then shrug their shoulders and continue reading...
Last night I fell asleep looking at the stars. There is nothing quite like looking at the stars to start a girl thinking about the ordered randomness of her situation. A simple mistake with a passport, a simple lie to get through customs and suddenly I'm here. The temperature of day had dropped. I shivered slightly. After the warmth of the day it was a relief to feel cold again. I became philosophical. I was at one of the most beautiful places I could possibly imagine wishing that I was back at home. Was I insane? I should be over the moon to be here looking at the stars. As I closed my eyes on the world for another day I resolved to make the best of my situation. My body drifted away and my mind took over.
In this state of calm and tranquillity it came as some what of a shock therefore to be awoken by a crash of thunder and a bolt of lightening. It came as even more of a shock to hear I and E scream but I shan't even try to describe the panic that I felt when I finally came to comprehend what he had screamed.
Quick mental checklist. On this trip there was: me (still present and correct and very much a she); I and E (the frenzied screamer who was unlikely to scream about the loss of himself); and the poor horse who had carried us up this remote spot and was our only means of getting home and... and... no one else. Oh. Not good.
I and E calmed down slightly and explained that poor horse who, had already had more than enough of this far fetched adventure, must have been startled by the thunder and lightening. He had valiantly untied himself while we were sleeping, shed a solitary tear and decided it was time he made his own way in this cruel harsh world. In short he had ditched us.
“well I and E, it looks like we have a horse to find as well as a flower”
I and E's face drooped, he emitted a faint noise of pain, and for the next 40 minutes we stumbled around in the darkness clutching at the faint hope that we would find the wayward animal. There was a moment of hope when I mistook a crouching I and E for the poor horse and attempted to capture him. This was followed by a screaming incident (he screamed, I screamed, we both looked embarrassed, and it was silently agreed that we would never speak of this again). As we started look once more, hope trickled out of me, leaving me empty in the way that only a person who experienced the highs of hopes can possibly feel.
After hitting his head on a tree for the forth time I and E slumped to the ground. I hobbled over and we looked at each other in disbelief. It was 5.30 in the morning when I next fell asleep and 5.46 when I next awoke. I and E was already up and cheerily stirring a bowl of unappetising looking rice. I looked at him suspiciously.
“a new dawn, a new day.
I studied him carefully to see whether the previous night's excitement had caused him to flip. No it hadn't. He wasn't he really was this annoyingly optimistic.
And so I'm afraid dear diary, from this day forth I and E will be walking on our own two feet. I really hope that this flower is worth finding...
TO BE CONTINUED...
Generation X Ink Polaroids & Being Alive
The second installment
In case you don't know, Ink Polaroids were invented by Stuart David back in the time he was in Belle and Sebastian and allegedly, it's all because wee Karn had borrowed his camera. Unable to take photos, he described those he would have taken had he been able to... So an Ink Polaroid is a description of a hypothetical -though not imaginery- polaroid. It is also a great way to capture a moment. Or talk about it.
In case you don't know, Generation X is a book (by Douglas Copeland) about some ever-so-slightly-cynical-yet-hopeful people that decided to leave their lives behind and moved to a desert in Palm Springs to try and find their true selves. At least, that's what I think it is. In the meantime, they tell each other stories. My favourite part is where they tell each other about the moment they have most felt alive - the moment that, when they leave earth for what could possibly be forever, they would like to take with them - the moment that best describes being alive for them.
I thought that is a very inspiring thing to do so I asked some people the same question. A few of them replied, some in Ink Polaroids. Here's what they said.
(If you want to do one too, it's never too late! Just send it to me here.)
Remember Earth Clearly
'Snow', says Claire in Coupland's book, and it's the omphalos, the cold sweet heart of the whole pink volume; her Park Avenue epiphany every time reminds me that the author can't be an utter mug. Snow again, then: the avenues and suburban side streets are bedded and downed with it, gone white as the freezing skies above. The trees are leafless, the roads are long and slow to walk, the city is beautiful. In a short narrow room I drink coffee, eat Grape Nuts (they always reminded me of grit the council throws on paving stones, a thought that six years on I took six scrawled draft pages to get into a song), draw a volume from the shelves (how did I manage with so few? – but even then I never read them all), leaf and learn (Lukacs, Adorno, Hindness, Hirst, mere summaries and pub-joker barbs but the most I ever learned about anything), put it back, think about another cup of coffee, watch the snow, the odd passer, the North-South road that another time I walk on a blue-skied Valentine's Day, stopping outside a fish shop and thinking about the third track on the first Ride LP (why? the connections have fled); but today Harold Wilson is alive and Radiohead are fairly unfamiliar, the post boxes stand out in the lunar landscape, nobody else seems to think much of the beauty of the transformed world, Radio 1 plays 'Linger', and in later years I'll never bother explaining to understandably disdainful people that I actually love this track, because it still makes me see avenues coated with snow.
Under the sky I forget myself
So I am finally sitting down, on a carpet to write about the moment when I feel alive, trulyalive. first I should clarify. I always feel alive, even if i'm bored, sad, happy, thankful, in pain,etc. But this time, being alive to me means being one with everything, forgetting all myworries, insecurities, 2nd thoughts, assumptions and judgements. i'm talking about themoments when I feel right in the world and the world feels right around me.
So what is that like?
The moments when I feel alive, they aren't very specific.. they are rarely times when an eventis taking place.
There have been times when I have been walking around with a friend, talking and all of asudden everything makes sense and usually it takes place outside, and at night, and I canlook up at the sky at the stars and I stretch my arms wide open and I spin around and smileand I have complete faith, in myself, in everything, and I feel alive.
There have been times when I have felt the courage to scream, or when all of a sudden istarted skipping and nothing mattered anymore.
Usually I am so weighed down by everything, by the past, the present, the future, all of themat once, and then... I feel alive and right at those moments there is only a continuous now,things are the way I want them to be, my thoughts, my dreams, match my actions and I seea glimpse of me, without the usual barriers.
The Adventures of Wak
There was no sun that day, so of course I had been late for work. Ten hellish hours later, the rain was still dripping down the panes in silver-lined rivulets. I think it must have been sunset, because there was a weird pinkish-streaked glow to the fog outside.
I sighed in delicious misery.
<<it's like a song>>, said wak.
I snapped my head 'round; I had heard him there beside me, as clear as day, but there was not voice—no face—no one.
He was most certainly there, though, blinking on and off at me from the prism chimes Derroll had hung in the window long ago.
“Oh, stuff it," I said.
<<rain>>, he remarked, <<makes good songs>>.
“Damn right," I growled. “It won't stop raining. Rain rain rain, that's all it's done this May. I haven't seen the sun in ten days. The gutter's clogged and the roof is leaking."
<<you must have written a lot of songs>>.
“I haven't written ANY songs! Now shut up!" I was beginning to get seriously annoyed. wak always had that effect on me during those first days.
He plinked down onto my shoulder—I saw him come—in a sparkle of dust, and then he was just there, calmly plinking, until he disappeared into the pocket of my brown corduroy jacket.
<<enough of waiting tables>>, he said. <<i have been waiting for you all day. let us walk in the rain.>>
“It's miserable outside!" I snapped.
<<and you are miserable inside. let us go.>>
I went, I think, because I had nothing better to do. Also because there was something rather romantic about the notion of following blindly the voices in my head. I had given up fighting long ago.
The steps from my apartment above the library were shining silver-wet, and the colors of the stones streaked in tiny rivers of grey and white and silver where the water came soaking down. It was very quiet inside my mind, and I was glad of the rain, of the water in the gutters, of the white-lined haze between the buildings, of the ivy, of the grey heavy air. I was glad that I lived over an ancient red brick library, and I was glad of the moss upon it. It was very strange.
I don't say I was happy; not that at all, but glad. There was a rightness about it. It was so still and safe. And a wisp of orange-pink light came through the darkish clouds into the graveyard. I walked past the wine shop and down under the bridge. Water dripped off the willows lining the main streets of Westminster; I heard the trolley brakes squeal. But the fog closed the sound off again like a muffling pillow, and the town turned silent, all grey and green and silver in the gathering twilight.
wak was boinging in and out of puddles. He made splashes wherever he went, tiny tidal waves of mud and water, nearly forty times his sizes, but nothing seemed to stick to him. He was having great fun.
<<don't you like the rain?>> he chirped.
“No," I said. “It makes me think of sad things. Also of Cindy."
<<that is why it rains>>, said wak. <<you must think about all the things you have lost. without that, they would never become a part of you. if you do not think about them, they will not mean anything. and then they would be lost forever."
I wiped the drizzle from my face. “It rains," I said coldly, “because of the water cycle."
Again I marveled at the quiet of things. Cars moved through the small streets like unmanned ghosts. The water covered everything, and the colors ran together like the street lights. A tremendous stillness settled inside me, as if nothing could touch me here; safety in liquid form. I wondered tentatively if perhaps the worst had passed, and suddenly, a memory almost forgotten stirred into being.
though i know that evening's empire has returned into sand,
my weariness amazes me; i'm branded on my feet;
The old song seeped into my veins like a vision. And wak, burbling as he plished, hopped up onto my shoulders, and we walked in the rain.