Thursday, 28 April 2016

Cool Runnings







Back in the heady late summer of 2004, the same summer an 18 year old Wayne Rooney had announced himself to the world by single-handedly tearing the Euros a new butthole before he was cruelly stretchered off in the quarter-final showdown with Portugal with a broken metatarsal, my brother Miguel was on holiday with his then girlfriend in Barbados, soaking in the sand and surf and the palm leaves swaying drunkenly in the sea breeze. Just him, her, and a professional photographer tailing their every move.






Upon his return he told me all about the trip. And proffered me some fraternal words of advice:



Mate. Should you ever find yourself on a Caribbean island, perhaps in the company of a lady friend, perhaps in a romantic capacity, and walking together hand in hand along the golden sands, perhaps you stumble upon a beach bar pumping the latest in dancehall and soca riddimz out across the turquoise waters, and looking into each other's eyes life suddenly seems to make a whole lot of sense, then good on you. But please. Under no circumstances, repeat no circumstances - however alluring a scenario it might seem - attempt to hit the dancefloor.


But Why? I asked.



Bajans come out of the womb dancing to soca jackass. You don't stand a chance. Your girlfriend will want to spend the rest of her days in the shade of the drunken palms making black babies, you'll be emasculated and feel like a royal asshole, without any doubt you'll look like a royal asshole, and you and your girlfriend will have a barney that will have you trudging down the beach, alone, cursing the name Charles D. Lewis under your breath with all the mercury-bubbling wrath of hell's flames.






*



N E V E R T H E L E S S



As my man Alfie - who has devised to teach his 3 year old daughter Iris ancient philosophy through the medium of Pixar - recently reminded me of, Kungfu Panda drops a heinous atom bomb of Stoicism in the 3rd instalment of the absolutely banging trilogy.







One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.



*


Which rung especially true for my brother that afternoon. Walking off down the beach misanthropically kicking a football, a desultory shell of his former-self, he stumbles across none other than, aforementioned broken metatarsal protected in a cast, bedecked in some pretty phenomental beach attire, taking some well earned respite from Coleen, and obviously from being the most talked about 18 year old on the planet.








With Coleen nowhere in sight, and Miguel's girlfriend busy getting schooled in the art of dancefloor seduction by seven Bajans, they bust back to my brother's beach-hut, spend the afternoon hoovering bugle, and my brother introduces young Wayne to the delights of on-line gambling.




Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Falling In Love




Thomas Moore once said no there is nothing half so sweet in life, as love's young dream.







Well Chance The Rapper said exactly the same shit.







What's better than tripping is falling in love. What's better than Letterman, Leno, Fallon, and all the above. What's better than popping bottles, trying to ball in a club, is the first caveman pops with his son, a ball, and a club. What's better than paper is balling it up. What's better than followers is actually falling in love. What's better than frolicking, follies, falling in mud. Rolling in green pastures, wandering, following love. What's better than eating is feeding your fam. What's better than meetings is missing meetings to meet with your fam. What's better than leaning and needing a Xan. Is hitting a zan dreaming a dream that could mean leaving the land. What's better than yelling is hollering love. What's better than rhymes, nickles, dimes and dollars and dubs. Is dialling up your darling just for calling her up.



It ain't nothing better than falling in love.



*



But unlike his 15th century bredder Thomas, crucially Chance made it sound...




  i n c r e d i b l e








Monday, 25 April 2016

Calls The Choon



Some crusty old dude with a minimal wardrobe but a tight moustache-flex who managed to single-handedly liberate an entire sub-continent from the greedy clutches of the British empire without so much as lifting a finger out of aggression, once said...



Be the change you want to see in the world.







*


Well i spent a large part of this morning trying to style out the hernia that exploded out of my stomach-lining like something out of 45 minutes into Alien, the moment i clocked that one of the most incredible tunes any crass monday morning of April might ever have the luxury of being graced with, was not on motherfucking youtube. So i took Mahatma the high-souled, the venerable at his word and became the change i wanted to see in the world. I uploaded the fucker onto the internet. So that others might love what i also love, or more accurately that they be schooled in the physics of supremely dope tunage.



Ca Tape Dur, by Starflam



Belgian hiphop at its most krunkin.







Tuesday, 19 April 2016

What's The News



"


We all wonder Who is God? What's going to happen when we die. All that stuff. And I don't think it's... it's never nothing. I'm very fond of Lucretius. And Lucretius says that everything is a little energy. You go back and you're these little bits of energy and pretty soon you're something else. Now that's a continuance. It's not the one we think of when we're talking about the golden streets and the angels with how many wings and whatever, the hierarchy of angels. Even angels have a hierarchy. But it's something quite wonderful.The world is pretty much... everything is mortal. It dies. But its parts don't die. Its parts become something else. And we know that when we bury a dog in the garden. And with a rose bush on top of it. We know that there is replenishment. And that is pretty amazing.

"

That was an excerpt from an interview with the poet Mary Oliver.






*


The Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in the South Island of New Zealand is famous for it’s lack of light pollution. Like the Atacama in Chile people travel from far and wide to come and see the starscapes. On my recent trip there, an English guy called Sean drew me a map by hand and said to me if you’re ever venturing that way or passing along that particular road, take this map with you and go and find the X that marks the spot. A couple of weeks later I took him up on it. I hooked a right off the main road onto a dirt track and cycled for an hour along a slight incline, following the road along a river valley surrounded on either side by vast looming mountains.





The map told me to bridge two streams, and just before the third to cut right and pass through a gate onto a cattle track. Hide your bike somewhere and pack what you need for one night in a dry bag, food, clothes etc. Make sure it’s a dry bag because you’re going to have to ford a waist-high river. I packed what i thought i might need, hid my bike in a thicket, waded across the river, and climbed up into the hills following an ever-disappearing and reappearing track, all the time clutching at this piece of paper where Sean had marked out in biro the contours of the hills from memory. For three hours I walked, moving what I hoped was closer to the X, the subject of his map.


I moved into a whole new valley, a plateau I had no idea even existed since it was completely invisible from the spot where I’d left my bike. As i walked the sense of isolation became like an adrenalin inside me, purely by dint of how alarming it felt to feel so alone and so small, wandering amidst a landscape made for giants. Tracing my way along a rocky outcrop to my left handside I heard the sound of cascading water from a stream, and finally laid eyes on Sean's fabled X.


It was an old mustering hut from the 1870s, a place of refuge for the cattle and sheep farmers during the long winters spent moving their animals around in search of greener pastures. Inside were three bunks, a table with two stools, and a map on the wall, and the names of previous travellers scribbled into the wooden beams and the walls of corrugated iron. I dumped my stuff, went on a walk up to the highest point I could see, washed in the stream, ran around buttnaked for a little while for good measure, ate a couple of sandwiches I’d picked up at a petrol station that morning, and got into my sleeping bag.


At 2am my phone alarm went off. I woke up, put my jacket and shorts and beanie on and walked outside. Squinting my eyes half-shut, I laid down by the stream, put my head back on the grass and, stretching my arms and legs out into a starshape, opened my eyes. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life





The constellations I was semi-familiar with were completely invisible, indistinguishable from the gazillions of their new neighbours that had apparently been there all along, but yet had only just now magically appeared to me. It was as if God had picked up a huge fistful of sherbert and summoning his best curve-ball had launched it at the night sky. I felt the surge of a strong instinct to concentrate, because I’d never again in my life see a sky quite like the one i was gazing up at.


*


My uncle Adrian was obsessed with the stars, and all things space-related. He owned many telescopes. He was at Nasa HQ during Armstrong’s first small step for man, covering the moon-landings for the front page of The Telegraph. He wrote many books outlining the future of mankind, which were translated into many languages including for the Japanese, who went absolutely nuts for them.




Adrian breathed to walk, and showed my brother and i the joys he took from placing one foot in front of the other for hours on-end during a weeklong trip to Zermatt when we were twelve. I drank my first ever beer in his company on the terrace of a mountain hut, under the watchful eye of the Matterhorn.


I remember walking with him and his two dogs Basil and Otto through Richmond Park on a rainy Saturday morning when I was ten, furiously scribbling notes for some homework essay I had to write on the future, while Adrian waxed lyrical about the millions of different directions the earth might go in, and the myriad of paths upon it mankind might take. I remember my teachers being astounded at the detail of the essay and incredulous as to the source of my pre-wikipedia research, and it was published in the school review.


I remember Adrian used to put cherry tomatoes in his cereal for breakfast. He had the coolest sci-fi VHS collection in the world. He was the first grown-man I ever saw cry, when Basil drowned in the swimming pool one Sunday and we buried him in the dog-graveyard. He taught me all about chess and Kasparov and Deep Blue and how we were witnessing the rise of machine over man. He had an incredible warmth, and was tactile in a way that was not common on the English side of my family. He would bound up to me when he saw me and bellow ‘what's the news?!’ with an almighty grin on his face.



*



Staring into unending space outside that mustering hut at two in the morning, looking up at the stars after my four hour walk, I thought of Adrian back at home in London, fighting cancer, and it became clear to me in that moment how obvious were the reasons why he loved the things he loved so much. And i felt glad and thankful that he’d shown me those things when i was young, and it was largely because of him that i'd gotten myself into the situation I was now in, lying on my back in the dark after my walk into the hills, staring up at the Milky Way.






Adrian was my mother’s eldest brother. He died this morning.



Factor 50



Word on the street is that the upper atmosphere directly over New Zealand has been suffering from something called ozone depletion since the middle of the 1980s. This means the UV rays from the sun pass straight through it without being diluted, intensifying their strength five-fold.








Good vibes.








Monday, 18 April 2016

Hematoma



When i came back from India in January (see here), London was even greyer and grizzlier and danker than when i left. So i decided to fuck off to New Zealand for five weeks on my bicycle. While i was in mid-air esconced in the rather pleasant environs of an Emirates Airbus a380 (see here) my brother sent me an email. It was about a dream he'd had. But post dream-description he finished with an open plea to anybody i might meet on the road over the course of the next 36 days.





I've kept it on my desktop always meaning to do something with it, so seeing as this is a post about my brother i think it serves as a dope intro.


*


Carlito's Way has spent much of the last decade hovering expectantly and impatiently at the threshold to the front-room of my top 5 films of all time, without ever ultimately getting in. That door is locked from the inside. But it goes without saying, in the mediterranean bolthole of my all time top 10, Carlito's Way can be found relaxing on a piƱa colada flex at the edges of the infinity pool round back.






It's a story of decline and fall with a sprinkling of love and a cartload of bugle thrown in, one that an english teacher at school made us watch as a perfect example of a Shakespearian Tragedy. Sean Penn plays Carlito's lawyer Dave Kleinfeld, a brilliant Jew who gets sucked into his client's former life of drugs and crime, the life Carlito is trying so hard to leave behind. There's a phat exchange between the two that my man Alfie is particularly fond of. 






Carlito: You ripped him off, didn't you?

Kleinfeld: What?

Carlito: Tony T. You did take the million dollars, didn't you?

Kleinfeld: (guiltily) Yeah.

Carlito: You ain't a lawyer no more, Dave. You a gangster now. On the other side. A whole new ball game. You can't learn about it in school, and you can't have a late start.



*


Anyway, a couple of years ago i had a party for my 30th birthday. Dresscode Miami Vice. And my brother came as Kleinfeld. I think it's the best interpretation of a dresscode i've ever seen. I'm not being biased, if it was shit i'd be the first person to rinse him and blog about it. Pressed grey suit, starched white shirt with dangly golden collar pin, yellow tie, and a blonde afro wig. Like all the best art, it went over most people's heads. Those who did get it though, could hardly speak for half an hour.






Best of all he'd massively reddened the area around his nostrils above his upper lip and left sprinklings of flour there. To show the mountain Kleinfeld's nostrils were climbing on the daily to quench his penchant for the pesky gack, an affliction that gets completely out of control towards the end of the film. Miguel told me after that people kept coming up to him at the party, saying by the way mate, sick party, but you might want to sort your nose out. Funny thing is, my brother didn't touch the narcs all night. He doesn't do narcs. Hardly ever. 



What he does do is poems.




Which is a long-winded setup of the below. A poem of his called Hematoma, about his predilection for D&B, and whatever else you might want it to mean when you read it. It's one of my favourites.



Hematoma


The vinyl was bible-black, I traced all its lineages

Its lyrics, its incisions into what surrounded me, to the core

It would sing in its own language of praise to me

It made me feel alive, in its black haloes and its songs of happiness.

They played that vinyl at a rave

And someone took an overdose and died. 

All the charcoal coagulum in the world

Couldn't save that geezah

I sometimes take out the tapepack from that night 

And try and listen back, for the five minutes they spliced out 

When they upped the lights and switched off the PA.