Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"And the hare upon the wire has been burnt upon your pyre, like the black dog who once raced from out track two..."  I've always had a soft spot for MacGowan.

MacGowan's family moved to London when he was in school.  They moved to a tall tower and MacGowan's mom couldn't handle the city life and had a nervous breakdown.  And then he had one, and like his mom this involved hospitalization and medication.  Later on, the choice for him was clear, be a madman or a punk rocker.  And he channeled his literary gift and his energies and his talents into being Shane MacGowan and writing all those great songs.  Finding calm in music.

Amygdala hijack, you aren't playing with a full deck.  My attempt at art was to write a book about a story I knew, about a young guy who's seen some trauma at home, something like the mild nervous breakdown of a family member, and when he meets this young gal he really likes, after the pleasing initial encounters, in the next phase of the mating ritual that reestablishes the tension which must be smoothed over, in which she behaves with dismissive and mild cruelty, he has the tendency to freeze up.  This phase of the relationship during which he is supposed to win her over a second time goes on longer and longer.  She provokes in him the fight or flight or play dead response.  And perhaps she reminds him of the situation in his childhood, which he unintentionally tries to duplicate, trying in essence to please a craziness he recognizes, to defend something silently.

He is overly sensitive, too shy, misses a few cues.  There is stress, the awkward unsettledness between the two, and naturally she takes it out on him, and naturally this causes him further stress.  And somewhere between altruism and trying to do the right thing and be a gentleman and all that sort of stuff, between that and the triggered reaction that comes from his psychological history he freezes.  He freezes in those moments where he has the opportunity to speak with her meaningfully in those times she is open to him, times that he has earned through his endurance and dignity in the face of rejection.  His attempts to set things straight aren't coordinated with her sense of proper timing.   He has a hard time understanding the situation, and things never get resolved, and this where he must set off to live his adult life, having, as it were, choked, played dead, froze, the whole thing his fault entirely, the suitor who could not respond out of some psychological quirk, the slow country boy unfamiliar with the fast pace of the city and its necessary selfishness.  And that's how it goes, that's how life is.   Fuck you, sorry, you're fucked, what can you do.

And then,  perhaps the next book, a good twenty five years later he realize some of what was going on, how he weren't exactly firing on all cylinders, how he was stressed, how it affected him.  He can understand a bit about why coping with the opposite sex can trigger a stress response.

Well, you go on in life.  Things you can't do anything about you get Buddhist about.  You do yoga, you ride your bike, you meditate, you go tend bar to pass the time.  You don't let it get you down too much, and you find things to do with you life, and hopefully you put odd useless talents to some use.

Like in High Noon there is an altruism to the anxiety.  Gary Cooper works because he's stressed, because he's nervous, because you can sense his guts churn, and maybe the same things cause him to do the dirty work of being good in the first place.  He's defending something.  He knows something the other people, who basically end up leading their own selfish lives, do not know as well.  He's a decent person, a good man, who is able to feel anxiety, and only through feeling that anxiety can he know what he has to do.  It's as if he's the only one, in the whole town, who hears the song, the good music, the lyric being the thoughts going through his head, "do not forsake me, oh my darling..."  No one else.  And finally, at the climax, Grace Kelly comes running back from the train, putting her obstinate Quaker thoughts aside, hears the song too, bang.

His co-workers Central American, struck him, as he moved about in the anxious multi-tasking mode of tending bar, to be as Indians, calmly silently moving through a forest, as if in a dream, adeptly carrying things, perfectly adapted to their work without a trouble in the world, but that they would be getting tired toward the end of the night and wanted to go home without any delay, not the slightest need to sit for a moment in the locker room and talk a bit, their personalities needing nothing stronger than water.  Nothing was for them the slightest bit complicated, though they never missed noticing the complicated and the complicating people and affairs, engaging only in noticing, often commenting, the drunk person, the crazies, making a simple comment that for their eyes said it all, such as "she is a beeeetch (sic)," "she is crazy," or gleefully note the arrival of the person who would make the end of my night long, drawn out, complicated and perhaps even drunken.  Having made such observations their expressions would return to oblivion, resting in the bar's mouth standing with elbows down, directly in the way, as if to say "he will deal with it," turning to the making of other observations of people's behavior, ears turned back toward the Spanish soap opera watched between shifts.

But when it was busy, a chaos would build.  Much huff would be made about seating people, without as much efficiency in the initial service encounter, and so the needs of the tables would build, not having been speedily taken care of, boom boom boom, and what would eventually follow was now a random effort to get drinks, wine, orders, dinner, attended upon by a fair amount of shouting, unnecessary rushing.  The spastic reaction interfered with the steady triage, the order in which people arrived, the order of things they needed, steady, polite, rapid when need be, no messing around.  So it would happen nightly, the lazy seating mode, marked by a  certain hostility and indifference, then the busy chaos mode when it was realized that things needed to get done, and then finally the closing down mode in which any late-coming customer would be disregarded and passed on to the bartender, even as they stood in his way cleaning glassware in the bar's opening, as that would enable them to get home that much sooner.  Shut down mode, during which the simplest needs of customers, like the empty water glass tipped up to the lips,  became invisible.

He thought of the bravery it must have taken Jack to get up out of bed, for him to walk up all those steps in those tenements in Watertown, each one, one at a time lifting the back leg up, the back pain, out on the campaign trail, and never asking for any help, no I'm just fine.

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