“So how is it, then?” she asks me. “London?”
I shrug, pulling on the tip of a clumsily-rolled cigarette, brushing stray tendrils of tobacco off the knee of my trousers. “I don’t know. I have no fucking idea. I’ve been here over a month and I could no more tell you How It Is than I could whistle Dixie backwards out my arse.”
She laughs. “Shut up.”
“I’m serious. I have no grip on it whatsoever. Neither topography nor geography nor people nor places. I don’t know it at all.”
Sat skewed to the right front the laptop, speakerphone perched next a postcard sized reproduction of Ecce Homo picked up at the Titian exhibition in the National Gallery, Dublin five or six years ago. A wind-up Mother Mary totters about also. Where’s that from? Edinburgh?
Edinburgh and Dublin. Cities I understand, right there.
Edinburgh all Caligari roofscapes, the Covenanters Prison with the muck weeping blood o’er the soles of my shoes, shoes hidden sometime afore dawn to keep me from racing up Princes Street at 3.28 in the mornin’ in search o’ a man with a crack-black beard told me earlier in the day about the wailing and the screaming down the Royal Mile at midnight…
Dublin with the Savage Purple erupting o’er Harry Street like a thousand frozen suns all thawing in unison, with light hung in ropes o’er Euston Street - “This is beautiful” sayin’, and a laugh and a “Fuck sakes, go write a song about it…” Scrabbling about Dame Street in the winter of ‘99 in pursuit of the hotel a woman told us Shane MacGowan was staying at, the details lost midst the clash of the whiskey-heads all seething…
Shadows of shadows, reflections of reflections. Intersecting tube lines. Washes of neon lettering. The breath of strangers on the back of my head. Sirens stabbing the 4 A.M. Bin-lids clattering off tarmac. Skeletal, fag-yellowed fingers poised afore formless, faceless faces.
“These things I know” I tell her, “but little else, barring what’s echoed back at me from a thousand songs and stories and films and books these thoroughfares birthed long afore I got here.”
London mediated via Shane and Pete Doherty and Will Self and…
London careering past me in nonsensical streaks. What I catch of it I catch in five minute bursts atween tube stations and bus stops.
London as notes strewn at random o’er some shapeless liquid stave.
London as Metal Machine Music, and me clawing at the static and the squall for the ghosts of melodies haunt the gunk about the guts.
“Well…” she says. “Mean, do you like it?”
A series of stutt’rin beats from the flat next door. Fella’s making a rap record, woman arrived a half-hour ago’s singing about her baby done gone fucked her somethin’ wicked in the breaks atween those blocks of machine-gun rhyme.
Nodding. “I love it” I’m saying. “I’m very much lookin’ forward to bein’ wrecked by it, tell you the truth.”