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Posts Tagged ‘flaneur’

“Again, like the Surrealists, anything you run across is actually beautiful; within a single city block, you find miraculous things. It’s a good planet — and good things can happen.”

– Lux Interior

I like this quote, not because it is a well-crafted aphorism, but because of its babbling exuberance – it conveys a rare kind of enthusiasm. For me it conjures an image of Lux Interior and Poison Ivy Rorschach, prime movers of ‘psychobilly’ band the Cramps, wandering the city like harmlessly monstrous goth-burlesque flâneurs, stumbling upon the strange artefacts of trash culture that fuelled the lurching monster of their music.

Revisiting the Cramps’ twisted world has been sad, as Lux Interior died earlier this year. It seems like a blink of an eye since I was reading a review of ‘Gravest Hits’ in the NME (now changed beyond recognition), getting a 26 bus (route now largely that of the 1/1a) into Brighton, buying the record from the Attrix shop (long since closed) managed by Rick from the Parrots (sadly no longer with us).

Everything persists – at least in electric ghost form – I could probably download the Cramps’ entire catalogue in less time than it took to walk to the bus stop. Curiosities such as their performance at the California State Mental Hospital in Napa (lovingly recreated as the movie File Under Sacred Music) are there on YouTube, to be turned on like a tap.

And at the same time nothing remains – my memories of seeing the band live will fade as I do, feedback fading into the background hum of amps on an empty stage.

For a long time, I haven’t had their music as a soundtrack. Perhaps my existence as an amiable suburbanite and vaguely serious professional dude hasn’t needed such a maniacal undertow.

I suppose their celebration of pharmaceuticals falls into the ‘do not try this at home’ category… though saying that, I take drugs very day – the kind that keep my middle-aged life in comfortable stasis. Perhaps I should invoke the Cramps as an accompaniment to my ingestion of chemicals: listen to Drug Train while I spray ‘metered actuations’ of mometasone furoate up my nose to pacify my sinuses (‘Whoo! Whoo!’); Bop Pills while I swallow the Lansoprazole capsules that keep stomach acid from overcoming my oesophagus (‘And man when they hit me, I landed in the middle of the floor’); ‘Strychnine’ while I glug cod liver oil to lubricate my perpetually-aching hip (‘You may think it’s funny, That I like this stuff, But once you’ve tried it, You can’t get enough’.)

I gather that the Cramps struggled with an (understandable) view of them as a comedy band. But they took their trash seriously, pursuing their vision with a relentless intent and utter conviction.

All of this reminds me of  Susan Sontag’s famous essay on Camp sensibility, where she talks of
“the exaggerated, the “off,” of things-being-what-they-are-not…Camp sees everything in quotation marks. It’s not a lamp, but a “lamp”; not a woman, but a “woman.” To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater…The ultimate Camp statement: it’s good because it’s awful . . .”

Halloween display in Netherton bakers

I think [insert attempt to relate post to main theme of blog] my walk is this kind of camp. Not that I’m mincing my way to Brighton (despite the aforementioned hip problem); rather that I’m paying attention to the “off” stuff along the way (whilst remembering at all times the Cramps safety announcement ‘Don’t Eat Stuff Of the Sidewalk’).  Perhaps way back in the olden days I learned something deadly serious from them – marginal, neglected things can be beautiful: pointless creations can be pursued with single-minded dedication: and most importantly

“Life is short. And filled with stuff.”

– New Kind of Kick

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‘Thursday’s child has far to go’, and (perhaps because I was indeed born on that day) so I have, with my nightly dreams of lostness, frequent work-related wanderings and this journey. One thing that puts me into pedestrian mode quite often is the fact that I don’t drive. Like the Passenger in the Iggy Pop song, I ride and I ride and ‘see the city’s ripped backsides’, always driven by others. But often I walk, and see… all kinds of things. This blog recounts some of them, and is the most fulfilling writing I’ve done for a long time. A month between big walks and posts feels like too long, so maybe I’ll post concerning other walks, sidetrips, interludes; after all, I’m always travelling towards 50 even if I’m not headed homewards.

Thursday’s child is fascinated by distance. The blue hills in paintings, a special blue that Rebecca Solnit (in A Field Guide to Getting Lost) calls ‘the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not.’ Even obviously false distances, like the tummocky hills in the MGM Wizard of Oz set, create a pang, a wish to be there, not here. To enter the ‘loveliest garden you ever saw’ seen by Alice through a tiny door – heartbreaking when unreachable and disappointing once reached. Perhaps why Captain Beefheart sings ‘The black paper between a mirror | Breaks my heart that I can’t go’

Thursday’s child walks in marginal places. 14, inspired by readings of J.G.Ballard from Portslade library (to be part of this route, stay tuned), walking alongside the A27 towards Shoreham flyover… noting the discarded cans, bottles, wrappers, smokers’ requisites as the slipstream of an endless high-speed party. Sitting between the concrete pillars of the flyover doing my drawing homework

Thursday’s child looks around and notices things. The photocopied license beside a fruit machine on Preston station, in the name of ‘Sceptre Leisure Solutions’. But whose ‘sceptre’ – some Leisure King, looking like a polyestered, debased Ghost of Christmas Present? ‘Solutions’ as in problems solved (‘Let’s make sure commuters can gamble between connections’)? Or solutions as in things dissolved (particles of solid leisure diluted until all that’s left is this feebly flickering bandit) or the dissolving medium, ‘leisure’ as the Universal Solvent, unable not to destroy its own containers

Thursday’s child is lost in time, baffled. In Victoria Station… 6 years old, walking through it with my dad, on the way to see dinosaurs and lightning in museums… later, hot chestnuts burning through the paper bag bought outside Foyles, peeking at Conan the Conqueror… walking to Heaven to see Throbbing Gristle, Dec 23, 1980… now some years later drinking traditional ale in a bar fabricated in a mezzanine, up amongst the roof girders, festooned with stalactites of dust and grease: like drinking in the lighting rig of a theatre, somehow too high up, not quite a real place as it wasn’t here before: haunting my own life

Thursday’s child retraces his steps. The footpath followed hundreds of times to school (keeping bus money to spend on comics, walking 40 minutes to meet Stav and Des beneath the fire escape, crossing the golf course with no concession to distant golfers teeing off) was a ‘drove road’ moving livestock over the centuries, now skirts the back of a Sainsburys superstore, graffiti gestures covering wildlife interpretation signs. New spaces overwrite the old, create new margins, but still a genius loci might emerge, still fossil thunderbolts (‘lightning stones’ kept as amulets by shepherds) appear from the still chalk soil

Thursday – finishing a course near Chorley – ‘College Governance’, perhaps as far removed as it is possible to be from the word of ‘Anarcho-Absurdists, Revolutionary Sybarites, Alchemical Hazardistas and Urban Arcadians’ alluded to in The Flâneur and similar text/places I am haunting – walking to town through a cell of preserved countryside, shoes and pinstripe trousers getting muddy, navigating roundabouts and ringroads until playtime is finished and I head for the steeples and stations of the centre.

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