Sunday, 25 February 2018

Robot Cowbell

            On Saturday morning the faulty audio walk signal outside my window was still continuously clanging as if haunted by a metro-gnome that had decided that Parkdale was severely lacking in cowbell. The only way I could get through song practice was to actually use the continuous steady beat as a metronome and to try to time my strumming with the mechanical rhythm that was dully ringing outside. I have been told by more rhythmically adept people than me that I could definitely benefit from practicing with a metronome. Sometimes I was successful in meeting each clang on the downstrokes. Maybe it helped me stay in time or maybe it’s better to let the tempo of my songs flutter around like a butterfly while I’m playing them. My former bandmate, Brian Haddon, a Royal Conservatory trained musician never had any complaints about that aspect of our collaboration.
            I took an early siesta at 12:15 and when I got up I made lunch. Just after I’d finished eating the wifi went off, crowded out again, I assume by the customers downstairs. I read a bit more of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, got tired again and tried to go to bed, but I only stayed down for eleven minutes. I got up and read some more.
            Since it was Saturday afternoon I kept thinking about popping out to buy a couple of cans of Creemore, but then I kept remembering that I’d stopped drinking beer for my annual fast.
            I read some more of Albee’s play and then the wifi came back on. But three hours later it was gone again.
            I wrote some ideas for my essay:
            In Howl, Carl Solomon is drinking the tea of the breasts of the spinsters of Utica. Utica in Africa is a city of ruins. Utica in New York in the 1950s was a sin city with a strong presence of organized crime. But many women that chose not to marry because they were secretly lesbians would have been seen as spinsters. Perhaps it was simply that many of the nurses at the institution were probably graduates of the St Elizabeth College of Nursing in Utica, New York. The nurses are the harpies of the Bronx. Harpies are unpleasant, controlling, monstrous half-women. Women that aren’t the poet’s mother are either grouped into unpleasant generic categories of spinsters or harpies or murdered secretaries. The nurses are contemptible, disliked, the enemy, pitied, but faceless. The tea of their breasts, the medication, the drugs are delivered and administered by the nurses. Nurses play a maternal role but they are false mothers. Tea is comforting and breasts are comforting but tea from a mother’s breast would be a disappointment, lacking substance, sweetness and richness.
Ginsberg refers to Molach as a sphinx. If it is the Egyptian sphinx it is male but if it is the Greek sphinx then Molach is female. Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx and ended the wasteland.
            The Wasteland begins with a quotation that depicts a woman with supernormal powers that is nonetheless a captive of men and who wishes to die. She is a prophetess while the sometimes narrator, Tiresias is a prophet/prophetess. The Cumaean Sibyl was consulted before the descent into the underworld. She also foretold the coming of a saviour. She is a bridge between the worlds of the living and the dead. She was offered a wish by Apollo in exchange for her virginity and she chose to live for a thousand years. Stupidly she had not thought to wish for eternal youth and so her body continued to wither as her life went on and on and it shrunk so much that she was able to be kept in a jar but wishing she could die. And so our introduction to The Wasteland’s depiction of female sexuality is of a woman essentially in hell, suffering from age and restriction of movement, with only the gift of vision. Her situation is echoed later by that of the woman in the bar, who is also a captive of men and a victim of aging.
            The first line of the Wasteland offers breeding as an example of cruelty.
             The women of the Wasteland have faces and personalities. Unique circumstances contrasting with the generic faceless women of Howl whose experiences fit with their profession or category. Carl Solomon’s genericized women are not shown to be happy, while Neal Cassady’s million women are made happy for knowing him in the Biblical sense. The women of the wasteland, although they have faces and personalities are nonetheless unhappy. The nurses and secretaries are not having their snatches sweetened by Neal Cassady or anyone else. And yet they are not presented as tragic figures. Women are victims in the Wasteland. They are raped and punished for being raped.
            I had warm pita bread with hummus and watched the Alfred Hitchcock Hour. The story starred Peter Falk as a charming but murderous tent preacher. He had been courting a rich old lady because he wanted her house in order to turn it into a temple. He knew she had a week heart and so he got her excited while dancing with her too fast. When she went into cardiac arrest he kept her pills away from her. But contrary to his expectations she had not left the house to him but rather to her niece. And so when the young woman arrived he courted her and after a few weeks had almost won her over but she decided to sell the house and leave. He strangled her and put her in a trunk, which he dumped into a fire pit that he’d dug for her to burn her aunt’s attic junk. He started the fire and went to preach his sermon but during the service it began to rain. The fire had only managed to burn a hole in the trunk before it was doused. The boy that had earlier mowed the lawn had forgotten to lock the tool-shed door so when he came back he found the trunk, saw the woman inside and called the police. Peter Falk looks like Marlon Brando’s ugly little brother.
            Halfway through, as usual, Hitchcock said they would be pausing for station identification. Just before returning to the teleplay he announced that two of the stations had failed to identify themselves and so they were arrested for vagrancy.
            That night the robot cowbell was still donking away after 24 hours.
            When I went to bed, as soon as I put my head down and turned my head to take the kinks out of my neck I had an attack of vertigo. The room wasn’t spinning all around but rather spinning partly around back and forth. I also felt motion sickness in my stomach but not enough to throw up. No matter which way I turned I was dizzy but then I shifted again onto my left side and the dizziness subsided.

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