Hey, Barbecutie

Archive for December 2011

I never make new year’s resolutions, because I never keep new year’s resolutions. I am an extremely fickle person, and lose interest in things very quickly. However, in a state of what could generously be called “flux”, I decided to give it another try for the arsehole of a year that was 2011. Apparently we get to judge our worth as human beings according to how successfully we follow arbitrary rules we set for ourselves. This is the list I made:

1. Write a list of every film you watch
2. Moisturise your neck
3. Don’t fall in love
4. Write every day
5. No snacking
6. Don’t fall in love
7. Be smart
8. Read

I snacked. I can’t hide it from you. Sometimes I wasn’t hungry but felt like eating, so I had some bread with nutella, or an ice lolly, or whatever leftover sweets lying around my little monk’s room. I’m human, okay? I’m weak. Sometimes three meals a day isn’t enough. Sometimes I’m sleepy at work so I need a muffin from Cafe Nero. Do I wish things were different? Of course I do! But they’re not and that’s that. I snacked.

I also didn’t write every day. I barely wrote at all, in fact. There were a few deadlines, a few requests to write something for a specific day or date or performance. I was stymied by a broken laptop and an overwhelming sense of hubris. But I started some things. I didn’t finish them, I didn’t come close. But with writing, it’s probably okay so long as you try.

By fall in love (the resolution so nice I broke it twice), I meant of course those early days of watery-eyed obsession, where you think something might be happening in your life, when you’ve spent too long alone. It is a time when you are at your most stupid. You drift out of conversations because you can’t help but wish you were talking to them instead, or about them. You get angry when you receive a text and it’s not from them. Your life becomes a countdown to the next time you see them. It is a terrible way to live. The joy of an actual relationship is that this point passes very quickly. I broke this resolution, mostly on people who didn’t deserve it. But I’m learning.

I read less than I should have, but more than I could have. I read at lunchtime. It is a nice habit. I need to read more on trains and buses, and in bed at night. I am currently trying to read The Corrections, in an attempt to finish it before I fly back to London. I’m on page 277 of 653. Wish me luck.

I was not smart, but also sometimes I was smart.

I didn’t get as far as moisturising my neck, but I have started moisturising under my chin and jaw. It’s a start.

As for my list of films…this was a resounding success, which I will elaborate on in a seperate post…

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Royal Tenenbaum bought the house on Archer Avenue in the winter of his 35th year. Over the next decade he and his wife had three children and then they separated. They were never legally divorced.

Etheline Tenenbaum kept the house and raised the children and their education was her highest priority. She wrote a book on the subject.

Chas Tenenbaum had, since elementary school, taken most of his meals in his room standing up at his desk with a cup of coffee to save time. In the sixth grade, he went into business breeding Dalmatian mice which he sold to a pet shop in Little Tokyo. He started buying real estate in his early teens and seemed to have an almost preternatural understanding of international finance. He negotiated the purchase of his father’s summer house on Eagle’s Island. The BB was still lodged between two knuckles in Chas’ left hand.

Margot Tenenbaum was adopted at age two. Her father had always noted this when introducing her. She was a playwright, and won a Braverman Grant of fifty thousand dollars in the ninth grade. She and her brother Richie ran away from home one winter and camped out in the African wing of the public archives. They shared a sleeping bag and survived on crackers and root beer. Four years later Margot disappeared alone for two weeks and came back with half a finger missing.

Richie Tenenbaum had been a champion tennis player since the third grade. He turned pro at seventeen and won the U. S. Nationals three years in a row. He kept a studio in the corner of the ballroom but had failed to develop as a painter. On weekends Royal took him on outings around the city. These invitations were never extended to anyone else.

Richie’s best friend, Eli Cash, lived with his aunt in the building across the street. He was a regular fixture at family gatherings, holidays, mornings before school, and most afternoons.

The three Tenenbaum children performed Margot’s first play on the night of her eleventh birthday. They had agreed to invite their father to the party. He had not been invited to any of their parties since. In fact, virtually all memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums had been erased by two decades of betrayal, failure, and disaster.

I can only aspire to write something as lovely as the opening narration from the Royal Tenenbaums.

A winter chill whipped through the castle. Bing, tired of the day, tired of the unstoppable march of time and how festive revelry reminded him of it, resolved to head to the nest in the cellar where he made his bed. The ornate decorations made him feel ill, garish colours mocking him. As he entered the hallway, the doorbell rang. Bing paused as he contemplated ignoring the disturbance, but curiosity provoked him. He opened the door to a waif, sickly in pallor, inadequately dressed against the harsh winds.

‘Hello. You the new butler?’ the stranger asked, stepping inside, his arms tightly crossed to preserve heat. He glanced quickly at the surroundings, all old money and tacky artefacts. Bing stood out awkwardly amongst it, a different type of antique. More at home at the golf course, the stranger thought.

Bing laughed politely, unnerved by the sudden intrusion. ‘Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve been the new anything.’

The stranger tore off his scarf, his body suddenly molten now that he was indoors. Old people’s houses were always so warm. ‘What happened to Hudson?’ he asked, testing Bing’s mettle. He was eager to prolong his stay.

‘I guess he’s changing,’ Bing replied, trying to sound confident.

‘Yeah, he does that a lot, doesn’t he?’ the stranger said. Just as he suspected. The old man was as much a vagrant as he was. He’d be damned if Bing hadn’t snuck in through some rusting grate round the back. Stepping further into the old house, he introduced himself. ‘I’m David Bowie, I live down the road.’ He allowed himself a secret smile. It was almost true. The old man seemed to believe him at least. ‘Sir Percival lets me use his piano if he’s not around,’ he continued, weaving his web, ‘he’s not around, is he?’

‘I can honestly say I haven’t seen him,’ Bing said, suspicious of his visitor’s claims. Bing himself had lived life hard on the circuit, and knew by the teeth and the nervous stance that this poor bastard was in dire straits. ‘But come on in,’ he insisted, ‘come in!’

Bowie was hesitant, but the home comforts were too alluring. He could easily take the old man if he needed to, he supposed. Together they edged past the crudely decorated Christmas tree, stepping on the tinsel as it dripped to the floor, neither certain of where the piano rested, neither able to admit it.

The silence made Bowie anxious. Perhaps there were other old tramps about the castle, ready to strike. He kept his head down, trying to fill the silence. ‘Are you related to Sir Percival?’ he asked. Bowie hoped that by keeping the pressure on the old man’s story, he would be subdued.

‘Well, distantly,’ Bing said, trying not to be drawn. As time went on, he found it more difficult to keep track of stories. It wouldn’t be safe to be caught in a lie.

Awkwardly the pair leant on the piano, unsure of how to proceed. Bowie’s toes were soggy, defrosting from the snowy streets. He fought to resist his paranoia. He was not there to face some mad old geezer, Bowie told himself, but to escape the weather. ‘You’re not the poor relation from America, right?’ he said, his words jumbled, but hoping the old man would participate in the tale.

Bing had been studying the vase of flowers, trying to think up a believable background. Hearing Bowie’s question, he laughed, relieved to receive a lifeline. ‘Gee, news sure travels fast, doesn’t it? I’m Bing.’

They shook hands, feeling the goodwill of the season.

‘Oh, I’m pleased to meet you,’ Bowie said, almost sincere. Looking back to the piano, he added, ‘You’re the one that sings, right?’

‘Well, right or wrong, I sing either way.’

Bowie smiled. ‘Oh well, I sing too.’

‘Oh good! What kind of singing?’ Bing kept a steady demeanour, but was confused by the conversation’s path.

‘Mostly the contemporary stuff,’ Bowie replied, hoping the old man wasn’t up to date. ‘Do you, uh, do you like modern music?’

Bing inhaled sharply. If he deflected enquiries, he would be safe. ‘Oh, I think it’s marvellous! Some of it really fine. But tell me, you ever listen to any of the older fellows?’

Bowie relaxed, noting the old man’s vagueness. ‘Oh yeah, sure,’ he teased, ‘I like, uh, John Lennon and the other one with uh…Harry Nilsson.’

‘You go back that far, huh?’

‘Yeah, I’m not as young as I look,’ Bowie said, pleased that Bing’s retorts were sharp. It had been a while since he had engaged in conversation not relating to alms or criminality. It made him feel close to human again. Almost alive.

‘None of us is these days,’ Bing said, laughing in that gentle manner once more, belying his sadness.

A pall of melancholy befell the pair. Bowie’s eyes glazed. ‘In fact, I’ve got a six year old son,’ he began, feeling able to confide to this empty old man in this empty old house, ‘and he really gets excited around the Christmas holiday thing.’

‘Do you go in for anything of the traditional things in the Bowie household, Christmas time?’

Bowie walked behind him towards the keyboard, concentrating on the sheet music as he choked down regrets. ‘Oh yeah, most of them really,’ he said, pausing to clear his head. ‘Presents, tree, decorations, agents sliding down the chimney…’

‘What?’ Bing asked.

‘Oh, I was just seeing if you were paying attention.’

Bing laughed again. Smug bastard, he thought.

‘Actually, our family do most of the things that other families do,’ Bowie said, his lies interweaving with his dreams. ‘We sing the same songs.’

‘Do you?’

‘Oh, I even have a go at White Christmas,’ Bowie explained, his fractured memory struggling to find a more traditional carol.

‘You do, eh?’ Bing said, willing to let the young man have his moment.

‘And this one,’ Bowie continued, tapping one of the manuscripts, ‘this is my son’s favourite. Do you know this one?’

Bing smiled. There was something about seeing his own isolation reflected back in Bowie’s strange delusions that made him feel kind, almost fatherly. He had not been so different at Bowie’s age. So many mistakes. ‘Oh, I do indeed, it’s a lovely theme,’ he said.

Bowie leant down to the keyboard, pretending to play a few notes as an instrumental chimed from the radio in another room. Bing watched, filled with pity. Bowie moved away, and the radio’s song played on. The two men stood side by side, mimicking each other’s position, resting on the piano with one arm, the other bent at the elbow, so they were almost but not quite touching. The music filled the room, overwhelming the howling winds outside, washing away each man’s loneliness and selfish intent. Separately they were swept up in the melody, lost in reverie, seeing past moments unfurl before them, not observing with regret but with understanding, all but forgetting a stranger stood next to them. Together, they began to sing, not for each other, or for an audience, but for themselves, a song to remind them that unity was possible, that mankind could still extend a kindness to lost men on cold days. A song that said two men alone are at least alone together.