22 July 2009

waiting in the rain

We got to Glasgow early. Not as early as some but definitely early. It was sunny when we left Fife, then it poured with rain, then it settled into an ominous grey pall so low you could touch it. We ate before we left and milled in the sunshine on South Street. There may have been a hangover or two.

There was a hangover or two.

I don't know why we waited to set off. It wasn't a lack of anticipation. It wasn't laziness. It wasn't second thoughts. We waited around the car, outside the bakers on South Street. Some of us smoked a few last cigarettes. Some of us drank coffee. Some of us ate a lunch that doubled as breakfast. I ate and tried to rehydrate.

I was one of the hangovers.

There was banter. Morning after chat and insults; the almost-party the night before had a few classic lines and a few memorable moments. We ragged on Chris a bit and got into the car. The volume went up and the windows and the sunroof went down. The chat circled around the playlist for the gig and other things. Glasgow appeared and we felt lost even when we weren't. I was driving and desperate for directions. Jamie took over navigation and we found our way eventually.

We found our fortuitous parking space and disembarked, wandering toward Hampden Park, not for football but for Springsteen. We were giddy. We smiled a lot and every once in awhile we'd shake our heads in disbelief. We met with the others and eyed the merchandise at the t-shirt stand. The hoodies were too expensive.

It was an hour before the doors opened. Time for a pint. The rain had stopped, though we kept a constant watch on the skies. Some of us felt convinced the floods would come. I kept uttering optimistic appraisals whilst Sean prophesied the end of days and the cancelation of the gig. He drifts towards hyperbole on occasion.

So we drank Guinness and lager at the local's local, and saw the assorted crowd already decked out in their t-shirts. The average age had about 20 years on me. The bouncers seemed mild but not without menace. We debated the playlist again and finished our beers. The sky spat a bit and we wandered back towards the ground.

The queues were already pretty long. Some guys had brought a couch. Some other guys were selling cheap ponchos. There were fans wearing cowboy hats, mostly stupid chintzy ones. Mounted police seemed to be unnecessary, but they were there. It rained harder but we refused to buy ponchos. We would be wet. It wasn't cold. No one goes to gigs for the comfort value. We would be wet and happy.

The doors didn't open on time. Sean got antsy. Apparently the doors on the other side of the Park opened before ours. We bounced on our heals and kept peeking towards the front of the line. The doors wouldn't open. The queue grew behind us. Somebody sold American flags and more poncho salesmen appeared, along with touts and more rain.

Then, when we'd forgotten the doors, they opened, and we filed through the turnstiles and into the vastness of the stadium. Emerging to find the fenced inner circle in front of the stage still free. We raced down the steps, between the rows of plastic red seats. The rain was coming down hard, but we would be close the stage. As close as we could.

We got our spot, and our wristbands, and our hotdogs, and we waited in the rain, looking with scorn on those with the cheap ponchos, looking at our watches, looking at the stage only 60 feet in front of us. We twitpic'd it. We escaped for our last pee before the show started and on that stroll saw, guarded by 3 heavies, the tenor sax of the legendary Big Man, Clarence Clemons. One held an umbrella over it while the other two just guarded it. We stared in awe.

Our watches ticked slowly. We got wetter. Someone muttered that we should have bought ponchos. 730 came and went and we watched as the roadies climbed their rope ladders while the lighting rigs rose high above. The occasional guitar riff rang through the air and we held our breath, but it was just another sound check. A throne sat on the left for the ageing saxophonist. The odd sound check became torture. The promise of a gig that seemed never to come.

Then the rain stopped. I looked at the sky and saw a growing patch of blue. Then, bizarrely, an accordion sounded, playing 'O Flower of Scotland'. The E Street Band arrived. The Boss arrived.

And for more than three hours he owned the stage, the stadium and everyone in it.

And the rain never returned.

19 July 2009

cat chat

The kitten sits atop the back of my chair, resting on my jacket, a pair of jeans and a pair of shorts. And my back. He was on my lap before, but kept slipping off and grabbing my headphone wires to right himself. It was awkward. Not as much as when he dug his claws into my thighs to climb back up though. That smarted.

My first cat's name was Tucker. We called her mothertucker. She was feral. An abused kitten, my cousin adopted her and when my aunt told her they weren't keeping her, my folks and I took her. She was black and white and angry. As a kitten her only sense of play was to hide under the bed and attack your feet and ankles. She didn't soften with age. She wouldn't be held. She wouldn't be stroked. If she sat near you she would leave as soon as you noticed her. Sometimes she hissed just for the sake of it. My cousin found her in a bag on a street corner in New York. I can't imagine what she went through before she wound up in the bag.

She didn't hate us in particular. She just hated everyone and everything. She loved our summer house down at the beach because she just lived wild. Outside, all the time. Hunting, stalking, playing in the woods around the house. We'd not see her much. She seemed as surprised as us when she came back to visit the house. Until she saw her food bowl. She'd eat and run.

I was a cuddly kid and this upset me. I wanted to give Tucker hugs. She wanted none of it. I learned quick.

One night, in my room in Boston, I woke and she was at the bottom of my bed, curled up but not sleeping. She watched me and as soon as I moved she was off, away. Discovered. After that I woke up late a fair few times, feeling a tug at the bottom of my duvet and her weight and the rise and fall of her restful breathing. I never moved, though I wanted to. And so we used to stay, aware of each other, late into the night.

Tucker was a hunter too. She'd present her captured prey to my mother, laying the wee mouse in front of her in the wee hours and then gently pawing at her face to wake her. When she woke, mom would look down and smile, sleepily mutter 'good cat' and Tucker would disappear with her prey, vindicated and praised.

When we moved to London, Tucker didn't come with us. The 6 month quarantine for all pets was still in place and she would never have survived. So we gave her to my grandmother and that led her back down the fully feral path. The last I saw her she hissed at me before disappearing into the Virginia woods. My mother said she died less than a year later. I still think at some level I betrayed her by giving her to my Grandma. Maybe I should have just released her into the wild. Just taken her out to the woods one day and let her loose.

Of course, she never would've let me...

My kitten's asleep on one of my pillows. There's no hissing so far. The claws and teeth are sharp, but forgivable. The other night my nose was mistaken for a scratching post, but it was only 3 in the morning. Pedey loves his belly rubbed, and being held is growing on him. He plays with recklessness and curiosity and energy. I wake up and he's asleep on the pillow next to mine. He seems a happy cat.

But I still miss that heavy tug at my feet. The deep growling purr only uttered under the illusion of solitude. That visceral anger at all people, the reflexive hiss and vicious rage if anyone dared get too close.

I can't explain it, but I'll always miss it.

a lighter shade of blue

The light entering the flat possesses a dingy tint these days. Sheets of blue plastic have been fixed to the glass of the windows, like some form of UV protective cling film. It's for our own good apparently. Well, for the windows' good in any case. There's building work going on, cosmetic - not structural, repairing the heinously ugly cladding of the building with more resilient heinously ugly cladding. The blue plastic film is to protect the windows from the debris that these works produce in abundance.

I discovered the debris before the blue plastic appeared. I returned home from a long lunch shift to find my bedroom covered in a thin layer of dust that used to be the outer layer of my building. I swore and tidied to a degree. I checked my camera equipment and computer stuff and the like, making sure it wasn't damaged. I swore some more and drank a beer. My flatmate and I agreed they were bastards.

The next morning a note came through our letterbox explaining that through the course of the works we should keep all windows and balcony doors shut to prevent layers of debris falling on our flat. I swore more. I swore at 815 in the morning when the drills and the hammers and the hydraulics started.

I now swear at 815 every weekday morning when the drills and hammers and hydraulics start, particularly if I've worked dinner service the night before.

The next morning they fixed the blue plastic to our windows. It seemed a curiosity at first, the odd hue it cast throughout the flat. It was, and is, hard to work out whether it's sunny or cloudy in the morning. The colour itself has become oppressive, corpse-like and draining. It works in tandem with the airlessness that comes with the windows being shut in the midst of summer and forms a discomforting duvet. It's hard to get up in the mornings, in spite of the noise.

The torso of a builder sometimes hovers outside my window, hard hat bobbing, his luminous green vest just another shade of blue through the bizarre filter that screens the world. He appears and disappears through the small gap in my curtains and I refuse to move from my bed. A guilt settles that I refuse to give in to, the guilt of someone working when I'm not. I know when his tea breaks are - around ten - and that lunch lasts from noon til anytime up until two. I stay in bed anyway, and sleep is fitful.

The light is cold but the flat is stuffy. The air is stale until the weekend comes and the windows open. It's like living in stasis.

And so through the cold light, stale, stuffy air and orchestra of anvils, hammers, drills and hydraulics, summer stumbles along. I find any excuse to leave the flat early and get home late. Work fulfils that role, sometimes too well. My manuscript gathers debris now, as well as dust, sat in its own form of stasis.

I think it's time once again to take it out, shake off the detritus. To find a quiet day to read it again, in the blue light and air of discomfort. To see what lays past that, when the light's right again, and the air's fresh.

To really write again.