PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1982 - SEPTEMBER
Thursday 2 September, New York
Not so keen. Not so keen. My body already feels run down, tired, listless. I may think I can cut myself off from the city, but I can't. Of course, the senses have to run. The ears hear endless combinations of screechings, burrings and wooings, and telephone rings and people talking and shouting and singing. The nose no longer has clean air to breathe, it has to work harder. The eyes are battered by squares - an unnatural form - and by fast jerky movements and grey tiring colours. The skin is subject to city sweat. There's little wind here to smooth and massage the body when humid. Apart from all that, interpersonal relations have to be developed. Risks have to be taken. I can't even go for a swim anywhere.
It is a lively household here, most of the action centring around song and the piano. Allison is an excellent piano player, she helps people release their singing and acting. Cheryl is an opera singer with a beautiful voice. I'm not quite sure who Ellen is but she's the one I fancy. Allison is white, Elllen light brown, and Cheryl black. They are all on a horrendous diet which requires them to mix up this grey looking powder that contains the US recommended daily allowance of just about everything. It's called the Cambridge diet. They are allowed drinks, and so Allison asked me to go and buy some soda. She wanted No-Cal chocolate, but I was wondering what to get Cheryl and thought black cherry flavour would be best. Then I thought about it a bit more, and decided to get black cherry for Ellen and lemonade for Cheryl.
Cheryl told me a lovely story. She is to be married on 1 January to a 50 year old college lecturer. They had been good friends in a teacher-pupil relationship for some years. Before Cheryl left on a tour of Germany she rang her friends - including Michael - to say goodbye. Extraordinarily, he said: 'You know what's going to happen don't you - we're going to get married.' That was last December. They met for a long weekend before she went to Germany, and, in Germany, she decided she loved him. It was as simple as that. I think they met twice more for ten days, and they talk every day on the phone. She came home yesterday with a selection of materials for her wedding dress.
Meanwhile, Vera Caspary, my grandfather's second wife, had a heart attack, and has just come out of hospital. I will see her tomorrow.
I only left my bicycle for about 15 minutes and somebody stole it. There was not a shred of evidence to show that it was there in the first place. Perhaps it never was. That'll teach me. Now I'm bike-less and things are getting into a bit of a mess. New York is definitely beating me this time round. The heat on Lexington Avenue. The crowds on Fifth Avenue. The bustle of buildings. The crowds of creeps.
Now bicycleless. Being bicycleless. Perhaps that's what inspired me finally to write a story. Or maybe it was the typewriter sitting there in the flat unused. The story started as a city moan but progressed into a love story cum gothic horror. It's only about 1,200 words long. 'Blue Darlings' I called it in reference to the blind next-door-neighbour's eyes. I haven't written anything like this in a very long time.
It's as much as I can do to keep pace with activities in the flat and keep the New York sweat from my brow. Martha arrived from Toronto wearing a grey dress and trying to count Harold's recent lovers with the fingers of one hand.
Candy's kisses are sweeter than mine.
I don't know about Ellen's kisses but her lips are soft, her skin young and light. She has a doll's face but doesn't show it to the world. Her thick curled hair and shadowed eyes hide the sweetness, hide the innocence. She has too much fat on her body, but still I want her. The gentleman gets her drunk, makes sure the double bed is free, but then will not take advantage. Well, there was the complication of Jim, her boyfriend, her ex, who was here. Once rejected he left but then telephoned at the moment I might have carried her off. To what aim this analysis of a drunken night gone by? I will soothe Ellen's unquiet mind; talk to her, perhaps, about Allison. For it was she that manoeuvred Ellen's ex to the flat last night for the teasing play we enacted. But I am Allison's guest, and play I must. Besides, she wears Ellen as a best friend.
Bitumen, water vats and chimneys. Maybe I can take my B&W pictures from on high, from here on the roof and extrapolate downwards.
I do think of Bel. I might have telephoned her this morning if she'd had a private phone. What a jewel she is, even in thought among these egoists.
Tomorrow it is Labour Day, and this is Labour Day weekend. Everybody wants to get away if they can. Some read the 'New York Times' or go to Central Park. I, being a mere visitor from another continent, another time, do nothing but laze around this flat, much the same as I did yesterday. When people come visiting it's interesting to listen to the wrangle of conversation, but I don't like it when Allison poses in front of me or helps herself to my hand or arm to hold onto. And there's always this exaggeration of her own importance. Perhaps she is in love with Harold, and is trying hard to impress me all the time, because I'm an important friend of his. She's my host, otherwise I would tell her to stop puffing. But it's so tiring not to be rude to her. I have developed three rules for my own socialising: 1) look people in the eyes, 2) don't talk about myself, 3) don't talk negatively about friends.
'Their social commerce betrayed a certain fragile uncertainty . . . they felt somehow one-dimensional, almost opaque. They telephoned each other several times a day, as if to reassure themselves of each other's existence. They issued bulletins about their health and the state of their art which were like certificates of identity.' This is what Blanford (i.e. Lawrence Durrell) says about Livia's gay band of homosexuals in Paris.
Harold's father Herbert died today. His death has been a long time coming. Pearl called from Cape Town. She sounded like she would break down as soon as the news had been given to her two children (Harold's sister is also in New York). How hard it must have been to see one's life long companion disintegrate slowly, and how hard it must have been to be his nurse for so long. The finality of death is terrible. The reality of the end is unbearable. How do we bear with it? Will Pearl flourish into a new age pensioner, or fail into frailty. What giants we build, impressive fortunes of brick and steel, and die we must from the smallest to the greatest. And how will these skyscrapers die, as die they must one day. How ugly and sordid that will be. Death of Herbert, death of a skyscraper.
According to a scary 'Time' report, 20 million people in the US have herpes. An entire social pathology (can one really say that?) has built up around the incurable disease. It sounds like a horror story. When does one tell a new partner that one has it? and how does one tell them? How can one be sure that a prospective partner doesn't have it? Maybe I have it. Have I had blisters on my lips, contact with someone with blisters on their lips. How many people have turned celibate because of herpes? And how many more lonely people will there be who don't go to bed together drunk after a party because of herpes and consequently don't get to know each other. Martha took the view that it was a plot to bring morals back to American society. A very careful plot. Does superjerk have herpes?
Martha comes to whisper to me. Allison is driving me crazy.
In Midtown you look up and the walls of the world go on for ever
Dinner with Vera and her godson Zach. I think he said his name is Zach Sachs but I'm not sure. His father is called George and is also a novelist and playwrite. He collaborated with Vera on the screenplay for 'Laura'. But Zach is a lanky man, in his thirties with a typical NY moustache. He has an ordinary face, and rather normal disposition. His history with Vera is long and goes back to Igee days, so they are very natural with each other. He displays his concern over her health and speaks loudly so she can hear. I find his politics - for we talked about the Middle East and Falklands - somewhat naive, perhaps plain American. But both he and Vera insisted that many US presidents are actually dumb. Dumber than you and I, he said. He justified this point of view with the fact that Reagan requires summaries that are no longer than a page. Dumb men just don't get to control countries, is what I think. Surely, what we think and think we know is manipulated by publicity departments. Vera said the basic American public have no time for great intellect - other qualities, such as success and sport, are more important. The people distrust intellect. All the more reason, by my way of thinking, for the publicity machine to give Reagan a slightly dumb image.
The Michael C Rockefeller Wing, Metropolitan Museum of Art. I hear electronic beeps and think of video games, but then remember where I am. My feet are tired, how do people cope with standing up all day long. I am a lazy being. Most of the exhibits here are fairly recent, because wood in Africa rots quickly. However, this primitive art is fascinating. There are such differences between tribes, between their art. Sculptures are long thin and crude, or rounded polished and intricate. Some are comical, some are serious.
Slowly getting drunk on Tuesday. With Harold gone, Martha is leaving soon.
Musketry and exaggeration.
Slit gongs. Soul ships.
Mediaeval Ages. Mid-Evil Ages.
I needed a ladder to climb up and look carefully at Rodin's 'Gates of Hell' at the Met. There, perched above the gates, is 'The Thinker'. To either side are life-sized statues of Adam - turning away - and a shy humbled Eve. He has an accurate reality of the body. His three dimensions are good, he holds on to a character's persona, doesn't dehumanise him into a god or sculpture. Much of the gates is in intricate detail and high up, and thus difficult to see or appreciate. The rest of the museum we - Martha and I - declined unable take in any more. As it is, I glossed over some lovely silverware from Africa, and pre-Colombian gold from South America. Those in Nazca knew how to make ceramics - amazing teapots in the shape of fat women or pregnant cats. Martha liked the ornamental neck rings that, on closer inspection, showed birds or turtles sucking the cocks of men.
In bed with her - Martha - the sensuousness of love-making is somehow missing. She has an urgency of purpose, a desperation to be filled with man. It is frantic. But I have become used to romance with my sex - I have forgotten this real unadulterated version of the act. The sweating, movement and sweating, tossing, movement and sweating. But it was good.
Past-times in Central Park on Labour Day: horseriding, bicycling, rollerskating, baseball, football, rugby, volleyball, running, square dancing, model boats, model planes, frisbee, cards, tennis, rackets, necking, picnics.
Pictures: A sympathetic young man walking two dogs with his attractive but bitchy girlfriend. She takes one of the dogs and drags it off in a different direction. He shouts: 'Can't you see he wants to go to the bathroom.' The small black boy climbing up a tree with a toy rifle round his neck. The paunched middle-aged man sweating unhappily in his jog around the reservoir. The overweight self-satisfied man sitting with his wife on a park bench encouraging his sweet, blonde, six year old daughter to do faster and faster revolutions around the patch of grass. The young plain looking Jewish student asking a pretty girl to join in a mass square dancing session.
I felt peeved this morning (why have I brought this light pen to write with here in the dark amber jazz room - I can hardly read what I've written) for Martha did not come to lie with me last night, but stayed in a drunken stupor with Drexol in the lounge. I thought to ask her if I was as she had imagined, and then thought that she isn't the slightest bit different from what I knew of her before. So, have I given myself away and she not? She is a woman to whom one can open out. Do I expect her to fall in love with me as well as flutter like a fire-bird so generously.
I want to describe the four musicians touching my lonely self in this amber room. The pianist has a full round face characterised by a strong growth of hair (perhaps only from one day of not shaving), and a fat second chin. He jerks his shoulders upwards or bellows his head back and forth. He has a Desperate Dan look. The double bass player looks stoned - his eyes are closed but a smile arrives on his lips below the moustache as the music voyages around him. He perches on a stool while his fat fingers do the string work. Both the tenor sax player and the drummer are older and have wiry bodies. I've just been given a note about this band - Honky Tonk Part III with Percy Frane. How soothing and caressing the music is.
Cheryl came home today tired of traipsing the streets in search of material for her wedding ceremony costumes. She has just won a part in 'Carmen'. She brought home a massive book of join-the-dots Snoopy pictures. When's she's joined the dots, she colours the pictures in. Why do I find that so silly?
Drexol took us to Jeff's rather untidy apartment. Jeff is a friend from Florida where they both grew up. He was well tanned, and his hair was bleached by the sun of Florida beaches. He told a story, in a cool desultory fashion, about a really beautiful construction worker who approached him on the beach. Together they went back to Jeff's sister's place, but unexpectedly, the sister came home early from work and they had to pull their pants on sharpish.
We watched the movie 'Turning Point'. Shirley McLaine and Anne Bancroft - a touching drama based on two women's lives. One chooses to marry rather than have a career in dance, and the other becomes famous. The cinema of dance was good with Baryshnikov among others. (Incidentally, Vera told me that she saw the Russia Ballet Company in Chicago in the early part of the century and might have seen Nijinski.) But back to Jeff who manages rock stars or yet-to-be-stars. He must have received eight phone calls during the movie. Jan, a singer, came over with her tasty chicken morsels and square mouth. We all drank Pepsi cola. Then we took a taxi to Ernest's apartment. At last, real gay expressionism: pink walls, deep pile carpet, cane work everywhere, and a catamite. Thick shoulders, a muscular body, pretty face, blond hair - at Ernest's service. Ernest strutted around with a torn towel just hiding his genitals, and we listened to a record just released by 'The Flints'. Candles is a locked gay bar with fucky fucky facilities in the cellar. Not dissimilar to the bar in 'Cruising'. Although I didn't see it, I was told there was a sling. Someone apparently sits in this and lets all comers bang. Great fun! But not this night. This night was a slightly off-beat cabaret show, and Ernest was singing. He was terrible.
Boy was it the wrong time of the month this morning. My head was pounding, my body was tired, depression overwhelmed me. New York, as I imagined, is full of people-balloons. Everybody here is either successful, going to be successful, pretending to be successful or pretending they are going to be successful. People talk at you, there is no seduction in conversation in Allison's flat. Let it all out. The day's activities of all are known, whether you ask or not. I haven't met anyone who is less ambitious or less motivated than me. I haven't met anybody who is working for someone else. They are all so self-possessed.
Right now I'm in a real American diner in Mawhah, New Jersey. A small lady in a giant car just gave me a lift. 'Cheesecake to go' is advertised on the wall. The bar stools swing round. The pretty young girl smiles and asks if I want another coffee. How charming. juke box terminals are located all along the bar and at every table. The diner's new hours are posted on the wall - Sunday to Thursday 5am to 11pm, Saturday and Friday 24 hours. I'm in the middle of nowhere and there's a diner that stays open 24 hours - this is America.
I've just come from an unreal Renaissance Fair - unreal not in the sense of Far Out, but unreal in its literal sense. The Fifth New York Renaissance Fair was a surprising affair. For a start it was very professional. A big deal. A commercial number. An enterprise. This was the last weekend. I believe it had been running for seven weekends in the summer. However, its very professionalism took one into a different reality. I never for a moment thought I was back in Renaissance Times despite the trumpet fanfare, the costumes (from all ages), the constant banter of employed actors living out their roles, and the gaudy sets. It was more like an American playground than a Renaissance society. It was beautifully set in a leisure park area with lakes and forests and walkways. It was all laid spaciously and correctly, large enough to get a little lost and small enough to feel that one had got around everything by the end of the day. Most important for the venture's success, I suspect, was a full programme of events, so that something major, sometimes more one thing, was happening somewhere all the time. Robin Hood against the Sheriff of Nottingham was the constant theme of many of the staged events; the capture of Maid Marion; Little John meets Robin Hood on the bridge etc. There were also little eruptions of theatre all over as characters immersed themselves in the day. I thought the mudmen were particularly impressive. The mudmen would do anything for money. They had contests in a mud pool, in much the same way divers might compete, stating in advance their planned feats - headstand in the mud with mud being poured down their trousers legs, for example. Their acts also incorporated - very successfully - the throwing of 50 cent pieces into a well, so they ammassed a fortune. All the craft stalls sold excellent merchandise - not flea market stuff one would find at Rougham Fayre. I liked the fighting best. The acting was fairly banal and the scripts were poor, but the fighting was great, well choreographed with real weapons.
I've just been told we're all going to see 'E.T.' at midnight. This is a much talked-about movie.
I feel very cut off from England. As though nobody would miss me if I never went back. I've been through an interesting process in my head over how to rectify my money-shortage situation. Who could I, should I ask. I thought of asking Mum, but felt I should really be closer to my friends than my family. Bel is too difficult to contact, and besides she would find it difficult to organise sending me £100. Raoul and Vonny seemed my best bet, but it felt like too much bother compared to asking Allison for the money. I didn't want to ask Vera because she doesn't know me well enough for me to trust that she wouldn't think badly of me. I did ring Marsha today, but was glad she wasn't in. I didn't want to ask Sasha because it's such a petty sum hardly worth the effort of organising a transfer. And, besides, I hate to think of him knowing I'm short of money. No wonder I take such precautions never to be short of money - because I spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about how to rectify the situation.
I took Drexol to a performance art evening over the water in Brooklyn. Afterwards, he joked that I was paying him back for Ernest at Candles. In fact, Ernest only performed two songs, and at least the pathos was funny, but the performance art was pathetic and boring. There were 12 different shows in a good space with a warm appreciative, even colourful, audience, complete with babies and dogs. I introduced myself at the start as a performance art writer from London, and showed them 'Performance Magazine' so we could get in for free. The evening was part of a series called 'The Monument Redefined', and this evening in particular was entitled 'Monument to Primitive Memories'.
Doing, doing, doing so many things. On Saturday night, Drexol and I went out again. This time to see Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Previously I had arranged with Styv, the drummer, that we would meet when I came to one of the shows. The three of them were playing at the Other End, a well-known place in the Village. We went to the midnight set and loved it. The antagonism on stage lived up to everything Styv had said about it. It was really only Brownie who seemed to express his hatred, Sonny Terry was far subtler. I asked Drexol to point out any musical battling that I - being so unmusical - might miss, but there was no need, for it was painfully and excitingly obvious. Brownie took the lead right from the beginning. He's like a bear with a smile on stage. So full of life and joy and playing and singing his blues. By the third song, Sonny was coming in strongly with his harmonica, on occasions upstaging Brownie so he couldn't get back in to lead on the guitar. At times his face would turn to growl. Bitter and twisted, he pouted and then he would actually shout across to Sonny 'get off, get out, shut up'. But Sonny would exploit his leash to the full until Brownie, relinquishing his art, would drown Sonny out with a loud twanging. I think Brownie always had ultimate control because he had greater volume. Even more remarkable was Sonny's face: his smooth brown sad glazed eyes staring out at an invisible audience, his down-turned mouth, his harmonica hovering across his lips waiting, expecting to get an intro but having to force his way into the music at every opportunity. When a song finishes, Brownie soaks up the applause, but then Sonny suddenly comes alive. He starts swinging his arms, smiling broadly and speaks. 'Time I did something,' he says, and the virtuoso plays three numbers. Brownie reluctantly accompanies a little with his head turned slowly away. What a marvellous piece of theatre.
Chemical trading. My business here is not going too well. I never quite know enough or ask the right questions. I find trades themselves - which I'm supposed to report on - are hard to pin down. I debate in my mind whether I should mention such details here. Will I (or any reader) in the future be interested in the resignation of Mochal Cohen from Hill and Duffuss chemicals (this following a power battle between him and John McDonald, both of whom were trained by John Farber, owner of ICC). MacDonald strikes me as a smooth braggart, a crawler, while Cohen, who actually set the company up, is an affable chap dedicated to the business. Now I go to see Charlie Paul Steuber Junior.
Charlie Paul Steuber bummed out on me. So, after killing more than two hours, I now have another two hours to kill. And there ain't no place to rest, no parks, no park benches, my feet are tired, and besides I was hoping for a lot of good material from him.
Ellen, yes, Ellen. I should say something about making love with her. She is coloured, which is a first for me. That we would spend a night together seemed inevitable from early on. Why? Because she's pretty, was available, and was interested in me. However, the various forces prevailing in Allison's flat worked against us. Ellen is mostly out and when she is in Cheryl appears from her room and talks and talks till I fall asleep. But one night, eventually, the two of us were awake and alone, long since knowing we were ready for one another. It was kind sex, slowly building, lots of intercourse, and lasting till exhaustion took us over. Thinking back on it now (sitting in this cafe called Zum Zum) I realise that I was little conscious at the time - the same was true with Martha. This has always been the paradox - when you're living/feeling/loving you don't know it, when you're not, you do.
DIARY 19 continued: September 1982 - Janaury 1983
T'is pure pleasure to back be in London again.
Two pictures from New York. 1) A man entirely sprawled out on the pavement in mid-afternoon. He looked dead. It was pathetic to see a wig some feet from his head. 2) A tallish black-bearded man in his late thirties wearing a white robe stands behind a table on the Broadway pavement selling small bottles of coloured liquids. He is arguing with a short coloured man who has fast moving lips. Pedestrians gather to watch. The short guy is railing against the other for selling. The black man pulls a bible out from his baggage but can't find the right passage to defend himself. The heckler tells the hawker to repent, to come to the cross, to bring his tears to calvary. So serious, so comic, so New York.
I did finally take the B&W photographs I wanted: one group from the top of a parking lot and the other across a construction site to Times Square.
Drexol took me to see Harvey Fierstein's 'Torchsong Trilogy'. It was excellent theatre. A marriage of Jewish and homosexual humour in the absurd but very real character of Arnold Beckoff, drag queen. Although the show is written by Fierstein and he plays the main character too, the other characters all have strong balanced parts. The three plays are cleverly woven together but retain distinctive styles. The magic comes from a constant flux between the tragic and the comic.
Harvey is only 27 but remarkably successful. He is not averse to thrusting his hand into your trousers. When he did so to Drexol in the bar one night, Drexol simply explained that he didn't like it. Harvey said he was sorry, but that the faggots like it. He said I was cute!! Drexol then proposed to me. He is transparently puffed up and out by Harvey's friendship. He throws his arms around me and invites me to live with him in New York. Funny, walking along the road with my arm around a taller man. I hope Drexol makes it - he should if his voice is as good as friends say. But maybe he does not have the discipline for fame. He told me he hardly ever has sex. His relationship with Harold was the first in a long time. And yet he is so flirtatious, so sensual.
I didn't spend another night with Ellen, though I would have liked to. She had a fullness, a voluptuousness. She writes: ' . . . I shall miss your laugh, your spirit. I'm glad we got to know each other as intimately as we did, and regret we didn't spend some more time together . . .'
Allison was slightly more bearable in the last few days. On my last day, we got into a serious conversation. Well, I lectured her, told her what I thought about she and Harold. Basically, she said, she's waiting for Harold to grow up. And then I laid into her about people being more complex than that. We are all a myriad of parts, some grown up, some not. She lent me $150 without which I wouldn't have got home. She was very hospitable.
Saturday 18 September
My fits of tiredness have returned. I slept for two or three hours on the flight back from New York, then I slept most of Thursday, then I slept a couple of hours on Friday evening, and then again this morning I slept three hours. I should have gone to the library and scoured the papers for jobs. I did mend the lights on my car.
I am happy to be back in London. Vonny's exhibition in Canterbury opens on Sunday and a group has gone down to Sall and Toby's at Mersham. But I feel uncomfortable joining them alone. It's the couple syndrome I suppose.
In 'The Stars Look Down' one scene suffices to show that Margaret Lockwood is going to charm Michael Redgrave into giving up his studies, marry her and become a teacher. At the same time, the audience can see that this decision will be bad for him. I don't know patience or concentration because I've taken on modern pop and filmic values, expecting the world to be like that, intense, full of scenes in which everything is encapsulated.
1,000 refugees in the Beirut camps were slaughtered by the Christian Phalangists, seemingly under the supervision of the Israelis. The world condemns the Nazi-like crime and Egypt, Israel's only Arab friend, leaves Tel Aviv.
Wednesday 22 September
This is a day of TUC support. Up and down the country different organisations are taking various actions. There are no newspapers, for example, because the print unions are on strike. The NUJ has instructed its members to donate an hour's pay to the striking health workers. SOGAT is telling its members to stop work for an hour, and so on. Here at 'European Chemical News' we are delayed a day because our printers are striking.
My cousin Martin came to visit me last night. He is a rather uneasy, tense young man of 20. He looks like me, with eyebrows meeting above his nose, and he has a similar mouth, cheeks and chin. He is the son of Mike Goldsmith and Claudia, and lives in Sofia, Bulgaria. He has the idea to travel around the world, so we talked a bit about the pros and cons of travelling when young. A blond New Zealand girl joined the discussion. She had heard, through Joan, through Richard Edmunds, that I had a room free. It will be a good arrangement to have her here for a month, at least helping me pay the rent while I look for a more suitable flatmate. Martin is trying to get a British passport, because Mike, his father, has one. But he lives well in Bulgaria, and his stepfather is a well-known architect and they have all they want. There, he doesn't need to work. The system is corrupt enough to support laziness. Here he would struggle.
Oh! I love these autumn evenings when the sun dips below the rain clouds and spreads glitter across the park, and highlights the leaves on the trees, transforming them into a myriad of reflectors. The shadows cast across the lawn by tree trunks, stretch in parallel to each other, trebling, quadrupling their height into length. Instant rainbows arch across the sky - that miracle of colours, fairly pleasing the eye.
I ride home on my bicycle aware of an intense anger in me. Why? Where has it come from? I am a warrior on the Edgware road. I have no mercy, no compassion. I am violent. I have claws for fingers, knives stick out from the wheel's spokes. I slash the tyres of articulated trucks and shoot taxi drivers. Red buses are consumed in the acid of my wrath. Aggression beneath the evening rays of autumn pretty.
I arrive home after the 20 minute dash. I rip off my clothes and then wonder what to do. The flat feels empty. No, not empty, hollow. I do not have enough life to keep it living. Whatever time of night or day I come home it is always hollow. Last night, after arriving after midnight from dinner with Raoul and Vonny, there was nothing to do but go straight to bed. I hate that.
Raoul has been to Seattle. Vonny has had an exhibition in Canterbury. During the evening, Raoul flirted with a pretty girl called Vicky. Vonny was jealous. Raoul loved it. Before that I met L at the Gate Theatre. He confessed to faithlessness. He has fallen into a sexual embrace, but doesn't know how to handle it.
A lot of my grammar in this diary is bad; it is full of weird sentence constructions. This often comes about because I am unwilling to make crossings out, and adjust a sentence to fit whatever I've already written down. How many factors are there actually working against me being a writer: 1) my bad grammar, 2) my poor vocabulary, 3) my terrible education, 4) my bad memory, 5) my poor powers of observation . . . ad infinitum.
I didn't know green cars were traditionally unlucky. Tony Cox crashed his after coming home from Indonesia two weeks early.
Sunday 26 September
I succumbed to looking back over my last two diaries. I am always surprised to read my brilliant self-indulgence again, listen to this - the first mention of the Sparky stories. It sends a shiver up my spine: 'I imagine a series of stories beginning: Her old and decrepit body lay tightly in my arms beneath the luxurious satin sheets . . . Exactly how I happened to be lying in bed with a 1951 Morris Minor I will reveal shortly . . . It is not that easy to sleep entwined with the fat tough body of a pig . . . and when one has just declared undying love . . . Tucked up in bed with an extractor fan gives me the strong urge to turn it on . . .'
I fantasise about working one hour a day - perhaps in the morning before I go to work - typing out interesting parts of my journal and making a portfolio for publishers: 'Diary of an Immature Young Man' or 'The Confessions of an Ordinary Person'.
It is Sunday afternoon. Although it's still only autumn I want to say winter enters. There is an edge to the wind, an aggression in the clouds, a dying light in the skies. In a little while some friends will come for tea. Trouble is, nobody gets merry on tea and cake. How can I serve alcohol at a tea party.
Peter Blanchard came to visit me. Although he has recovered from his breakdown, he is still chain-smoking and drinking endless cups of coffee. His knowledge of literature and poetry is immense. He talks about his 'crazy period' with humour and resignation. He plans to teach English as a foreign language and then go to Milan, following Flavia, and work there.
Monday 27 September
'The Sunday Times' ran a special report on the police. In 1981 there were 723,218 burglaries in England and Wales, 30% of them were solved. Altogether there were 2,332,000 crimes with a clear-up rate of 43%. In London, only 17% of serious crimes were cleared up. But even these figures obscure the reality. Some crimes the police just can't help solving: shoplifting, for example, and crimes confessed when a prisoner asks for previous offences to be taken into account. Research in London in the 70s suggested that the real clear-up rate was about 3%. Astonishing.
Rick has been locking himself in his room to work on a musical about Atlanta. It's a good idea. He was just leaving to see a show called 'Luv', for which he'd written some songs, when we got to talking about friends' loyalty to each other. He has supported his friends by going to see them perform and now expects reciprocal support. I think friends can be asked but can't be pushed.
Three big shipping stories broke this week. Stolt Nielsen are looking to buy four new vessels. Steuber Shipping is closing, and Panocean Anco is in serious partner trouble. Should make a great Shipping Monitor section this week. Boys at Sea (as my colleagues at work call it) floats again.
Tuesday 28 September
The girl who has taken my spare room, Sylvie, is pretty. She comes from Auckland, and has spent eight months in Poonah.
I developed the New York and Block Island negatives last night. They seem to have come out OK. The night ones look a bit dark, difficult to tell until I do some contacts
What is a Prancabot? Well - are you sitting comfortably, 'New Scientist' in hand - then turn to page xxx. A Prancabot is a discovery of science fiction. Imagine one day you want to go to Macchu Pichu but can't be bothered to travel. You ring your local Prancabot agent who then telephones to the Prancabot depot in Peru, say in Cuzco, and checks on availability. A credit transfer is made and the customer plugs into his home terminal. He then sees, hears, feels and smells all that the Prancabot does.
I have grown a beard. I wear plus fours and jerseys. I move into my winter hibernation phase. Ann let me down tonight, we were supposed to go to see Homer on a boat at St Katherine's Dock.
Wednesday 29 September
'The Times' ran an editorial on a man called Robert Edwards who admitted to observing 17 spare test-tube embryos. Alarmist cries against experimentation on human seeds have been raised. Within days, the embryos start growing limbs and are soon recognisable as foetuses. 'The Times' says more time is needed for debate on ethical issues before we can establish a moral framework for such issues. Mr Edwards, it says, should confine his work to ensuring that women who can't have babies can. Apparently, once an embryo has been formed it can divide into any number of identical embryos and these can be planted in different women. What an experiment! Just watching those embryos must be fascinating, but the fear realistic is that spare foetuses could be used to grow limbs for replacement and transplant in humans. This must not happen, 'The Times' says, until we are ready to take a cool moral stance on the subject. But the truth is, of course, that if it were not for people like Edwards pushing at the boundaries there would be no spur for discussion, no need for debate.
Paul K. Lyons
Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG