Wednesday, January 5, 2011

behind the nib of sleep

This post has been amended, pending investigation into possible po-facedness.

Sleep. No, not the recumbent John Giorno from Warhol's 321 minute anti-film - premiering to nine people in total in a Manhattan loft on January 17th, 1964, two of whom fled within its first hour - but the absence of it. The dessication of self as bodily fluids coagulate. And major organs fail.

Tim Sullivan got me started thinking on it in an afterthought to his piece on horses; horseshit; bridles and bits. A trail of "secret creepo rays beaming out from Disneyland". This is not an attempt to distil his original meditation. More precisely, it was not so much sleep deprivation which was mentioned, as insight. Looming up through a tangible fog on wings which beat and dazzle. I sat down to brood over it, got up to pour a cup of instant coffee, and realized one cigarette was not about to get me through the night. My wife offered to set out for the shop, but I could not allow it.

Of the two of us, she has had less sleep by far. Her breasts are tender, her nipples chafed from our child's feeding, the whites of her eyes veined like cracked porcelain. Besides, it was I who made it first to the end of the pack.

I put on my shoes and walked up the street to the shop on the corner with my older son. Really, the shoes are no use at all in this weather. The snow melted some time between Christmas and the approach of a new year, but it has been raining constantly - a freezing drizzle - and the pavements are carpeted with municipal grit. A poor man's salt of the earth. And the road we must cross rises quite steeply, steeply enough that I have seen rivers washing over it. And the green light over the shop's canopy dispelling any kind of welcome as we near it. As dismal, maybe, as the bar in Venice Beach. Its proprietor seemingly despising all who purchase tobacco products or alcohol.

Glasgow is littered with this type of convenience store. Jaundiced shopkeepers irrately dispensing forbidden fruits to the infidel. And his children. In the event that we all succumb to a sudden rash of cancer, there is an alcohol dependency unit situated conveniently nearby; just to keep the cash register chirping.

So. I bought the cigarettes, my son paid for a bottle of chocolate milk, and we trudged back home to pick up where we left off.

Back to sleep, then. Or the rationing out of it through these lean times.

It is not a taxable commodity, I don't believe. Not yet. The rising tide of the clinically depressed may yet tip the scales in favour of a referendum on it, even chronic alcoholics habitually embrace it. Junkies, of course, are perpetually on the nod. And when the urge to hit at the keys is on the wane, I even put my monitor to bed.

It is an untapped market of huge potential. Only the FTSE never sleeps, now the tiger is awake.

Well. There is no Bill's Bar to bring one's woes to.

Even the best of them will chew you up and spit you out just as soon as the eyelids flutter; the fingers grope for pennies to shield the retina from the cold soaking glare. I cannot pretend to have amassed an ounce of advice worth a button. Not that anyone is asking. There is no respite. That's the truth of it. The soft tissues brittle over like crystallized syrup; the arteries harden and the blood becomes like ice. A redundant muscle with too much heavy traffic wheezing in and out.

The biggest sleep we've all been chasing.

Leaning in to it like skittles, squandering the passing of days as we suck it in and shit it out. Contorted monkies, finally, racing to the finish.

I forgot to mention.

An advertisment dropped through my letterbox today. Four figures in washed out black, the ink laid on sparingly as a mafioso's kiss, and not - as you have every right to second guess - the four horsemen of the apocalypse. "SINGING RESERVOIR DOGS WANTED" - looking just like the Walker Brothers, what are the odds ?

"FOR 1950s DOO WOP GROUP. WILL BE EXPECTED TO BUSK IN TOWN, SO AS TO LEARN TO ENTERTAIN FROM THE GROUND UP." No specific reference to burial, or promise of resurrection, but the allusion to it nonetheless. "YOU WILL RECEIVE AN EQUAL SHARE OF THE MONEY AND I WILL PAY EACH OF YOU £10 ON TOP OF THAT."

I could be tempted.

image by Pablo, 1933.

A nod, too, to Nathan Nothin's procurement of jam and "Jerusalem" as the veneer of democracy starts to fade, and to jonderneathica for supplying an invitation to the quietus.

SLEEP: EVIL GYPSY / SOLOMON'S THEME from "Sleep's Holy Mountain" CD (Earache) 1992 (US)


Tim said...

You are right, there is no respite. Even if you don't watch, the parade goes on. You just get to look at another section when you turn back to it. It's like American politics, same as it ever was, on and on.

ib said...

Well. I don't know what possessed me to bang on about it quite so blackly, and devoid of all humour. I woke up this morning, read it again, and thought this will not do. Actually, I preferred your account of the hounds flipping the bird. The AM eloquence to it.

Could be I overdosed on the BBC News after more or less completely ignoring it over the X-Mas period. That, or just the lack of REM sleep.

jonder said...

Lack of sleep will leave anyone feeling ill-humored. Or maybe your latent paranoia was re-awakened by a midnight visit from Mark Stewart and his Maffia. PS - my son Myles is a great fan of Prohias.

ib said...

Psycho Mafia. I enjoyed briefly wallowing in Mark Stewart's inherent terseness. More entertaining than I expected. It serves as a reminder as to how unappealing the job of interviewing someone can be.

Musician vs. Journeyman; Artist vs. Hack. Especially on a bad day, with one's guts wrung inside out. So tempting to begin the line questioning with "Boris and Dirt ?", or "About 136 ?"

Your son, Myles, has impeccable taste. For many years I had a paperpack anthology of Spy vs. Spy. All creased and yellowing at the edges last time I saw it. And somehow all the better for the reduction in printed size.

ib said...

Incidentally, I had never listened to Sleep previous to your mention of them in relation to John Dorn's Q&A, so the inclusion from the 2nd LP is entirely blind. Arbitrary. Some nice bits on it, but I have no idea where it sits in relation to their (his) other shit. I think I prefer Ohm, but there is a sniff of nice punk phrasing about "Solomon's Theme", regardless.

ib said...

And the reason I didn't opt for "Volume One" ? I don't care for Dali, or the fact that the cover is a "crash" between a Crowded House sleeve and "Bleach".

Anonymous said...

Was a friend of Al Cisneros (bass player for Sleep)....thanks for the post...