Nostalgic yearnings for our beloved Enlightened Motherland

After 6 months being beaten up against the Teambrand anvil I was close to capitulating. 6 months of watching halfmeat flop of chainbelts bleeding and spitting fat had crippled me. The chemical dream was over. Crystal joy, I decided, was just one more installment in a terminal series of deferrals. Soon enough the balance would be sought. And by now I was sinking far enough into the red to sincerely fear the day it was. Yes credit misery had sunk its talons deep into my fleshy necessity and I now looked on my wardrobe as so much rubbish if only I could have cash. I spent that Christmas flat broke, wandering around the packed mall, watching couples glide by with big boutique bags and waxed and tousled hair. It was a crisis of some kind. Though I had some reason to suspect that the fault was not entirely mine. Admittedly I had some problems, but on the other hand, who didn’t? In this lager-ed loveless corner of England it seemed everybody limped a little, or squinted somewhat, or just somehow failed to shine. Dull wet and cold. Delinquent kids running around grubby and unkempt. Teenage mothers slouching behind perambulators, dark-roots glowering bellow shocks of high-bunched peroxide straw. The whole scene seemed unshaven crumpled unironed off-kilter. Everything off-angle skewed and out of whack.

The bus-ride trip to work in the morning. The bleak gray plastic interior. And the strange power-point presentations and advertisements on the screens. Uninspired whiteboard slogans and ‘teamtalk’ and ‘together-we-can-change-the-world’ corporate triteness. An atmosphere like your freebee ‘community paper’ given three-dimensional plastic form. Yes I rode to work every morning in a chariot developed by the same minds that brought you those let’s-exercise-and-be-productive social campaigns. The waiting room to a provincial town hall set on wheels. All this registered by now as an inaudible internal scream. In fact the scream had become so constant that I no longer seemed to notice. True, I was dimly aware of a pain of some kind, but if I turned my minidisk up high enough it could be mistaken for nascent tinitaus. But one among many ill-advised copping mechanisms. The weed buzz also succeeded in taking the edge of things, rendering life bumbling and amusing. 5 puffs and there I was Charlie Chaplin on his way to work. Benign smile, glazed eyes, labored gait. A moustache would have completed the look, but then facial hair was not considered part of the teambrand ‘look.’ Much less a little black trilby and baggy ill-fitting clown pants. No, at teambrand we aimed to ‘excel’, we prided ourselves on our ‘customer service;’ and we feared the ‘mystery shopper’ on whose mysterious soldiers rested the wait of the global teambrand image. The ‘mystery shopper’, the punctual corporate informant under whose gaze our ranking in the provincial franchise league-tables monthly fluctuated. Though of course the contrived-cheer and evangelical conviction of management rarely made the jump to the staff. Most of us slopped around behind the counter disgruntled or appalled. A motley crew of bored pimply adolescents, dropouts, and slackers penned in to this unglamorous fate by terrible necessity or lack of commercial nous. And thus resplendent in branded polo shirt and baseball cap, cowed under the yoke of failure and fatigue, I stumbled into my 22nd year.

How had things come to this? A question with which I was now becoming well acquainted. It was something like my mental screen saver. An isolated phrase bouncing around a mind that was often dangerously unengaged. I spent most days surrounded by faces that seemed, like mine, both vacant and alarmed. Vacant and alarmed as trundling public-transportation carved its undulating course through the city’s blank bland rows of townhouses. Vacant and alarmed below the gray morning dome, heading out beyond the blocks of pastel hued Lego-land estates, to the out-of-town mall. Days concluded as they began: vacant and alarmed as the buss passed wet rows of terrace housing at the shift’s end. Vacant and alarmed through the endless detours and diversions, the lurching left then right, the intermittent labyrinthine movement home. Throughout these nighttime journeys I was becoming aware of the omnipresent glow of TV screens strobing the walls of countless roadside living rooms. Every time the buss hissed to its episodic cessation, there was the flicker and fanfare in the corner of my eye. The flicker off the TV world on the walls of the city and in the backdrops of our minds. For if the screens weren’t a constant concrete presence then they surely conveyed their imperial influence in the desperate straining of our affected haircuts and pop culture postures. Everybody wanted to be a rockstar, and worse everyone considered themselves a freelance entertainment pundit. And so moment-by-moment we dulled our mental faculties on the anti-grindstone of celebrity gossip and anxious affectation. Regurgitating second hand opinions, we sat around take-away trays panhandling for profundity in this spasm’s stream: geysers expelled, choked down, regurgitated. All feeding on food that fed none. It was monstrous what we made of ourselves, slow and unobtrusive, unseen and sure, we lived like men made dogs. Unable to assuage our great hungers, we died behind our bleached teeth and bellow our fins of waxed and yellowed hair. Sometimes after work we took our opinions to the pub and continued to bounce them around like disposable rubber balls: bouncing this way and that, random and heedless, a neon chaos of colliding novelty tat. This so-called ‘conversation,’ this chaotic calculated angst emanated from and returned to the great fetishized orgy. This the source of our dreams and ideals, this our ambition’s end and our cultural methadone. Prescribed and joyless it sufficed to bar agony at the door yet it offered a vision without vistas. And so we made our limp stabs at liberation with the help of our weekend intoxicants. What’s your poison? Sniffing, snorting, choking and swilling we groped slumped and stumbled bleary eyed out of one week into the next. Yes here came the great ‘weekend’ the romanticized bull-eyed bedlam of Saturday night in the English North.

Oblivion. For long nights we stalked her bellow the strobing lights, through the takeaway shops with their stench of meat and sweat, their air of ambition thwarted and their tang of desire turned bitter; shaven scalps, plastic shirts, tiny skirts and crowded menace. The weekends would start somewhat promisingly, the Friday evening buzz, 3 beers in, shaving at the mirror stereo jacked up to eleven, the smell of expensive cologne. And the promise of some young love to turn aside fortunes bitter tide, to wing us rapid to some more befitting, more glamorous, location. Yes it was only a matter of time before the world recognized our innate greatness. A greatness that transcended mere talent or charm: for what need had one for such accessories when the tortured heart of the artist stirred within? Yes, surely we slugged at that bourbon bottle with as much panache as the next man, and surely our cigarettes were caddishly well angled on their narrow slanting descents from our lips’ edges. Admittedly we were a little soft around the middle, but after all weren’t then the world’s women tiring of all those skinny pouting surf-boys? Surely we would usher in a new wave of scruffy chubby unkempt heartthrobs. Sag would be the new taut. Pale pink the new tan and sleek. Yes it was clear our time was coming – indeed it was immanent. And it surely lay at the bottom of that next glass, or behind that velvet rope, or beyond those towering balding bouncers.
Such was the fragile edifice which we weekly fashioned from our fast depleting store of hope and heart. The club scene. The meat market. The grim groping drudgery, the noxious neon-colored pink and blue of our shirts and slammers. The city’s pallet staining our gullets and stained, in turn, by the drip drip of our salivating retching mouths. Bug-eyed boss-eyed vomiting in corners groping senseless under tables. The same recurrent void. The same terrible music whirling round and round: a perpetual kitsch carousel of the obscene and sentimental. Stumbling from side to side in the arms of a dead-eyed stranger as some big-haired songstress mechanically intones her joyless ode. Bump and grind – the death of the mind – the hollow-eyes of our mirrored faces starring blankly back at us from behind the toilet’s vomit splattered sinks. More. After a certain time and beyond a certain pitch of desperation: ‘more’ is the only word that motivates. The strange slow suicide of a nation: a death-dance like a ring-a-ring-a-roses, weekly reenacted as we lurched in circles around handbags… Is this how a nation dies? Spread-eagle and sprawled amidst the ashtrays and cider spills.

6 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    Steady on, Soapbox.

    I know you’re keen on your new life out there in the sticks, but don’t forget there were some good times too, old friend.

    All your old allies are still battling away, and it’s a bit harsh to evangelise about how worthless our way of life is.

    It may not be perfect out here in our dying world but, like everything, it has its points.

    You should come out of your hole in the ground and have another look – we miss you buddy…

  2. Steedo says:

    We can rise above bland city centre oblivion, just keep it casual.

  3. theunholynag says:

    Hitler pink and Goebles(?) orange, remember that? Probably one of the worst nights of my life and it all just came flooding back to me. But the hoodlum is correct, they weren’t all like that, in fact most of them were much better.
    You’ve captured much of the essence of the period in that peice mate but I’m afraid the spin casts it all in far too dark a shade. Maybe we were full of shit, and maybe we were stupid and naive, but the belief we had at that time in ourselves, each other, and what we were supposed to be doing will always be part of who we are. Casting a more experienced eye over the past is one thing, but taking the piss out of our collective development is quite another.

    I still love you, by the way.

  4. Bennie says:

    Well, I don’t want to heap it on too much more Soapbox, but I must say I agree with what’s already been said. You may not realise it, but you’ve actually got people’s backs up because, however emotionally retarded we may be, it seems clear that we’re all glad we met and were given the chance to wreak havoc in tall Victorian houses in Lancaster together for a few years. When we look back on the past, we always think fondly of you and the times we spent together. So to have it all emptied out as if it were a tray of soiled cat litter is a bit of a pisser!
    I should also add that we did so much more than just wreak havoc, although for one reason or another you did wreak more than most….Moderation thy name is not Soapbox.

  5. Groover says:

    I think that I am correct in saying that what you describe Soapbox is your time in Scarby, before your departure to the new world… A time I myself spent, in my own brand of suburban hell, riding a kids mountain bike, writing off strange and prophetic letters and blazing in car parks and traffic islands.

    Hmm well never mind, personally I enjoyed your sordid tale. Man, I could feel the evil mdma soaked energy dripping out of your feverish and pasty face, as you traversed the mall, besmirched of both dignity and tache. Still, I guess I take most things that are written on this little forum as fictional (I certainly write a fair bit of rubbish, and as the good Doctor said: “only a fool would embark on a trip like that and then claim it as truth” (sic)).

    Still, Bob is right, you should come out of your hole – if only to live the story: blaze it up in a world of beer soaked oblivion for old times sake, saliva drooling down your chin as you gaze lecherously at the breasts of young ladies, weaving your merry way across the sticky floor, bopping a classic New Orleans shuffle. Absolute magic. – It is really not so bad and a recent trip to Leeds (soon to be covered) has reminded me that there is a lot of joke to be caught…. On this occasion reading a well-honed tale: “Bug-eyed boss-eyed vomiting in corners groping senseless under tables” – You fucking animal!

  6. Bennie says:

    (climbs down a step from his high horse)
    I must admit to ignoring the animal brilliance of the prose as a result of my reaction to its content. Top lyrical savagery, scrawled with tongue in cheek,perhaps? I think not, but roll out the next chapter my man and we’ll see, you’ve an audience here.

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