I was thinking about how on the radio, when they're discussing a movie or maybe a book or TV show, they'll say, "there was a lovely moment when..." Like, there was a lovely moment when the character wanted to do something, but he did something else instead; and it was melancholic and real. Or there was subtext, or a shadow passing, or whatever like that; finding this lovely moment that is poignant without being sentimental, and maybe ironic, and critics love that, and generally it's a lovely moment where not much happens, or the gesture is small, or it avoids a tidy ending.
So I was thinking about this, and how that works for me on one level, because even though I don't know how to construct a fictive lovely moment, not a good one anyway, I do know that my stories generally don't have punchlines, and it feels validating when critics focus on smaller moments rather than big arcs.
Although, I was thinking, it is a funny phrase. A lovely moment: It sounds so sure of itself.
So I was thinking about this and I went to the bedroom window, and across the street in the park a middle aged couple were sitting, not close together but holding hands. They were surrounded by fallen leaves and dawdling pigeons. And I was like, is this a lovely moment? She took a drag, I suppose, on a cigarette, and I thought maybe that's why they're not so close together, so she doesn't smoke on him.
I reflected on this, and I questioned myself, are leaves really falling already? And I went back to the window and I saw that yes there were yellow leaves on the ground, and then the woman was handing something to the man, and was it the box of cigarettes? Or a packet of tissues? Did something tragic happen, or is it nothing special?
Leila was standing outside her shop in her apron as usual, and she showed me eight or so boxes of luscious looking apples, each box labeled by name. And her mum said, the names are like poetry. And Leila showed me how to open a walnut with an oyster shucker, and she also said you can try the apples. And I said, which should I try? And she said do you like sweet and I said no and she said ah, sharp, and she and her mum and I tried together slices of the Crimson Spy, which her mum said sounded like... and I suggested, the title of a John Le Carre novel.
I'm going through one of my periods where I regret all the special things I sold off in San Francisco. (Sticky Fingers with the zipper! A hardcover of Fleurs du Mal with an unusual drawing! That blanket!) Specifically, I was recalling the vinyl copy of Work and Non Work, the early LP by Broadcast, and how at the time I sold it, it felt like a minor work and so '90s, but now I'd rather like to hear it on a turntable, and the lowest replacement copy I can find online is £30.
I probably sold it for a couple of bucks.
But then of course my thoughts turned to how Trish from Broadcast is no longer with us, and it feels practically like ambulance chasing that I'm pining for this object with her being dead. Like the time I almost took a job in a frame shop slash gallery, and the owner pointed at a Peter Blake print and said, he's getting on now, and when he goes, the value of those... I swallowed my disgust, and I didn't take the job. But I suppose I would have, if I'd had to.
There is a lyric from a song by The Streets in which he says, we don't own anything; all of this is just borrowed. And then I couldn't help but imagine Trish in the role of my patron saint of letting go. It's not such a stretch; she dressed the part, like an angel or 1970s cult member. In my mind she is glowing and wearing an off-white top that is a bit long everywhere; at the neck, at the wrist, with kind of funnel-shaped openings, and she has got that heavy black fringe but I can see her eyes, or I know about how they're looking anyway. She is sort of just looking at me, not with judgement or disdain, but a bit like, come on. You don't have the record anymore; I died from pneumonia.
She kind of gently embarrasses me into separating myself from nostalgia for lost things and my farcical sense of ownership. For as long as possible, I get something close to meditative. I'm not the type to meditate, so I just kind of mull it over.
And I'm recalling how the only time we went to see Broadcast play, we missed all but maybe one and a half songs, right at the encore.
I read an article over lunch and it had the words atavistic and mneomnic in it, and I'm turning both of them over in my head. And I'm still telling myself to move on. So now I live in London, and it feels so substantial. (Although the record shopping sucks.) We caught the end of Patrick Keiller at Tate Britain, and I was in love with it. I mean, kind of amazing, there were two meteorites and a Pollock in it! Et cetera! And on Sunday we caught the very last day of the Serpentine Pavillion. I liked how Herzog & De Mueron, working with Ai Wei Wei and playing with memory, dug underground. I mean, inversive, such a simple solution, right? Looking back, I didn't like that big red plexiglass structure from a couple years back nearly so much. Nouvel: It just felt like a glorified drinks tent compared to this one. We were in Hyde Park and we were trying to recreate the photo of me and my sister at the Italian Fountains, which in turn was an attempt to conjure the scene from some other imagined Le Carre novel. It was bright and just the slightest bit crisp but everyone had their coats on already, because we couldn't wait. Everyone looked smart and autumnal and rich. We were crammed into the bookshop and a guy had the same jacket as Jamie. Then we walked to the V&A. And a woman gave us directions to the 6th floor (...end of the hall, take the elevator to the fourth floor, make a right and walk to the end of the hall, take the stairwell... she pointed on the map with manicured nails) so that we could hide out amongst the ceramics. And I could show Jamie my favourite thing in the whole museum: The re-creation of Lucie Rie's pottery studio, with the video in which she gets stuck in the kiln and David Attenborough has to grab her feet.
But thinking of lovely moments, I think of that problem with the notion of the everyday. Like people saying, it's a poetic retelling of the everyday, or finding meaning in the everyday or elevating the everyday. Well, I think about Eileen Myles, and how much I admired her essay called "Everday Barf," which is like, and I'm remembering here, but I feel that she's basically saying there is no such thing as the everyday. That meant a lot to me, that she can be so present in the way that she writes, but not subscribe to that myth.
And it makes you realise that actually: I felt shit that day, I kept trying to smile on that afternoon, I had that itch, my socks were uncomfortable, that person was weird, I had to barf. Earlier this week, I walked home for lunch as usual but I passed a man being arrested on a stairwell, and it took about six or eight officers to keep him down, and he was screaming, so it wasn't so usual at all.
And when people pretend the everyday, when they fake it, it can sure lead to some mediocre writing, right? I'm thinking about a lack of specificity.
Anyway, seek out "Everyday Barf," she'll tell you better than me, Eileen. Did I ever tell you about the time when I gave her some of my writing? My mom made me do it. And she never responded, and I was slowly disappointed, like in the back of my mind I was disappointed, and then maybe three months later, one of her students wrote to me; she had been reading my stuff in class, Eileen had been teaching it. In a class at a university. That was the best compliment ever, a backhanded compliment.
Then I kept seeing her at things, at her things. And, no, I never got rid of the book which she signed without my asking. Well, we made eyes at each other, I thought. And I was holding her book and she said, would you like me to sign it? And even though I don't generally care about autographs, of course I have to love that one.
And so I tried to get everyone to read Eileen. So I started a Facebook Group, when I was on Facebook, and this was several years ago now. And then people thought I was Eileen and sent me messages, and eventually she got in touch herself, and then I said, Eileen, I've made you a co-captain of the Eileen Myles Group. Or, what is it called: Administrator. And she replied, I don't want to be Administrator of my own Group! And I was like, shit of course she wouldn't, so that was my regrettable attempt at being a fan club president and how I potentially made my idol look like like a megalomaniac.
I suppose the Group doesn't exist anymore. But it is somewhere in The Cloud. And I quit Facebook because, and now I'm projecting after the fact, but I suppose that I couldn't conceive of it providing me with lovely moments, or honest ones anyway. That's just not the place for that kind of discovery. I suppose that's not the point of Facebook, and generally people are just annoyed that now I don't get their invitations, they can't Tag A Photo of me, etc. But I doubt I've missed much.
I guess for now I need to be existing in places where there are moments to be had. Looking out the uncleaned window, in an apartment without the heating sorted, in this city (wealthy, messy, funny, rude). I suppose I'm talking about serendipity, but that's just such a fruity word.