The night was an excitement vacuum.
I pulled up the collar on my trenchcoat to exclude a greater part of the winter chill. Also because it looked real mean in the shop window across the street. So there I was, sucking the end of this pen, which would have been OK had I been the first person to do so. It was the kind of pen that runs out when you’re writing important cheques for impressive people and it’s previous owner was clearly the kind who leaves two million personalized Biros as a legacy. But then, who cares? You leave your mark, where is not important…
Anyway, I was still there, in the neon glitter and the Mazda glare, washed up above the city’s tidal restlessness and questions were forming themselves in my mind. Kinda irritating questions. The kind that grab your foot when you kick them. Questions like why most people trade their dreams in for security. Why nothing makes sense when you look at it hard enough. And why I couldn’t get the cling wrap off Travellers Fare sandwiches in under a minute.
Ghandi, when asked about Western civilization, replied that it would be a good idea. Nice turn of phrase, but this close to the ground it was alive and kicking, you could hear it breathe, and read it’s droppings. It had a heartbeat too, the kinda slowed down sound you hear on Hammer horror film soundtracks as Dracula creeps up on the girl. Or at least, the cameraman does.
I rifled through the absurdly large number of pockets in my trenchcoat, seemingly designed so that whatever you leaned against or sat on coincided with some lumpy object secreted beneath, looking for a pen to chew, when I realised that really big inside pocket was designed for a Filofax. Somehow, I figured that the average private investigator would rather walk around with his trousers rolled up than carry a personal organiser.
I reckoned that the more you classified, pigeon holed, timetabled and generally scheduled your life, the less you lived it, the more of a passenger you became in your own existence and the less likely you were to actually spot any patterns, any outline to the big picture. That would, I guess, be a nice theory if the obverse were true, but it would be like saying that because BR trains always seem to be late it would be a good idea to turn up late to catch them.
Thankfully, I was rescued from that train of thought by the girl in the short leather skirt I had been tracking walk down the street to her car. Her body reminded me of the Porsche 911, whose curves seemed to be a triumph of form over function. Not exactly Nietzche, but exactly nice. She was hotter than leather underwear, more provocative than Cadbury’s and it wasn’t difficult to see why. Hobbling was sexy.
But which car was hers? It was not the BMW, that much was certain. After a decade and a half of relentless marketing, a BMW gives off very safe aromas. It’s drivers inhabit a world of ski holidays and dry cleaners. The pleats and folds perfectly complement the executive suit.
She got into the BMW. Good name for a band that, Blue Mercedes, smooth and sensual, the dolphin of the automotive zoo. All I needed to know was how dolphins give birth underwater or for that matter why all the lightbulbs I replaced said “Woolworths” on them. As she drove off in a car that holds the line like a yuppie with a straw up his nose and sticks to the road like eggs on a supermarket shelf, I was left with an itch I couldn’t scratch. I may have more flaws than the Empire State, but something was telling lies, and I didn’t mean the hands on my Timex.
But what I couldn’t see was how images differed from reality. If instant coffee sex, spring-fresh (what?) fabric softener and pension plans were real then there was no distinction, and it won’t be long before cars are sold in supermarkets next to microwave ovens, probably with modular interiors by brand names like Benetton, Next, Levi’s. Reality was no better, as that guy who paid a prostitute to stand naked on the other side of the room while he threw cellophane wrapped kippers at her would surely agree. Something round here smelt mighty fishy.
If the battle for our minds was being fought in the videodrome, where the spectator is inside the arena, then who was fighting the contest and whose side was trash on?
Perhaps trash set out to peddle an aesthetic, a notion that the colourful, the cheery flux of symbolism (guns, stars & stripes, peroxide) represented a victory over the grey, the product marketing world where you are what you drive because you drive what you are. Trouble was, that the high impact multi-sensory overload / multi media infiltration ended up functioning blankly, without recourse to discourse, no statement of intent and no hairs in the bath. I reckoned what I needed was a drink. I also reckoned that a nation of kids consuming other people’s technicolour imaginations was one hell of a timebomb.
The girl in the leather skirt, now I had time for her. A friend of mine said once that she wanted the kind of guy who looks like he has just got out of prison, and has a lot of catching up to do. I replied that I wanted the kind of girl that would get you IN prison.
The guy who approached with a puzzled expression on his face was looking for something too. He was looking for his car.