I was walking home from the Supermarket the other day, weighed down with shopping, and I thought: do we have the uniquitous plastic supermarket bag to thanks for the establishment of supermarkets? In times gone by, my Mother got by with a shopping basket, that she took to the shop every day. The butcher delivered the meat, the baker delivered the bread, and she preserved the fruit, etc. Lot of hard work. But of she'd gone to the supermarket with her trusty yellow basket... it wouldn't have worked. Enter the plastic bag. Cheap, strong... it gave the shopper a way of getting the shopping into the car, and of getting said shopping into the house.
Actually, we owe a lot to the plastic bag. There's that scene in "American Beauty"... the dancing plastic bag. There's the novelty things people have made out of them by knotting them together: macrame, by any other name. Bin liners, of course. Osama Bin Liner, anyone? Leonard Cohen wrote a terrific line about those plastic bags that time cannot decay. They've given a couple of generations of sandal-wearing yoof something to get incensed about... and they have led, of course, to the industry of making bags to replace the bags that replaced a lot of labour.
Is the plastic shopping bag a metaphor for modern life? Cheap, and disposable? Terry Pratchett put it nicely, when he said that life wasn't cheap. It was death that cheap. Life was expensive, all too brief, and often ended in great pain.
Read an article about Ursula le Guin. She's 76! How the hell did that happen? She's been a long-time opponent of the occupation of Iraq, and used to keep a poster in her front window shbowing the number of American deaths, updaating it daily. She couldn't, to her chagrin, show the Iraqi death toll, as there was no way of getting to an accurate figure. I guess she could have gone for the nearest 10,000.
Michael Jackson is dead. Well I, for one, am relieved. What a sad, empty life. He was a great dancer who put together a couple of insanely good albums. And that's all. He was also a victim who did nothing about his state of victim-ness. Instead, he made his children victims, as well. Poor little buggers, all carrying some version of his name, all leading a surreal life.. The obscene thing about it all is this: we all allowed and encouraged his increasingly bizarre behaviour. Other fading starts - Liz Taylor, Diana Ross, etc - made excuses for him. But no one pointed out to him that he wasn't healthy. He was ill, and he was abusive. I doubt if he sexually abused any little kids... but he abused them, nonetheless. And he abused his own children. He's dead now... and a cheap death it was. And what a useless, bloated, and excessive thing his funeral is going to be. Sad little bastard.
LISTENING TO: The Bonzo Dog Band, "Best of.." album. Absolutely hilarious - and I only jujst realised (a couple of years ago) that whole Bonzo Dog schtick was about being gay in the 60s. The Love Generation hated gays...
READING: A book by Robert Wilson. I can't remember the title, and it'sin the bedroom where Jenny's still sleeping, so you'll have to wait. It's a police procedural, set in Spain.
WORD OF THE DAY: Birth. I spoke to Adam yesterday. His daughter is due to make an appearance on Tuesday. Holy crap!
MORE OF HENRY'S JOURNEY:
“Ah, yes,” says Henry, and grins. “Fuck off.”
And he turns, and Charlie helps him limp up the path to greet his wife, who is now standing at the door and weeping with laughter.
Hank: or a rose by any other name.
When Henry was twelve, he decided that he wanted to be called Hank. Henry, being Henry, didn’t tell anyone. He felt, rightly enough, that a nick-name, or an abbreviation, should be a spontaneous gift from a friend.
Henry was blessed with three extraordinarily good friends, named Roger, Adam, and Patrick. Respectively they were called Bill, Spot, and Murphy. How Roger became Bill is a story of enormous length and little point, involves asparagus, and should never be told in mixed company.
Adam – and yes, Henry named his only begotten after his very good (and twenty-four years dead) friend – became Spot after an equally and fabulously fatuous episode, one involving sunscreen, a girl in a blue gingham bikini, and a rubber glove.
Sometimes it’s best not to know, or ask.
Patrick became Murphy, or Murph, because Patricks often did, and besides which, Patrick surfed. Very, very well.
Murphy, Spot, Bill – and Henry. Henry didn’t really mind his name. After all, it stretched back into antiquity! He was the fifth first-born male Talbot to have been blessed with the burden of the name! Hurrah! Well, blah, thought the twelve-year old Henry, who truthfully did mind his name. He’d noticed that while Henry Fonda was called Henry on the movie posters, in the movie magazines his friends and admirers called him Hank. This is something Americans and Australians did well and still do: they convert, subvert, invert, and revert names. To be fair, the English do, too: John, for instance, become Jack – although a Jack only becomes a John by acquaintance with a certain kind of lady. However, Henry had found the precedent for there being a Henry to Hank conversion, and he desired the nickname with all the passion available to his pre-pubescent soul. The name Henry, he raged to himself, is a burden. Tote that bale, carry that name. Hank. Hank? Hank! Short, sharp, snappy! Muscular and virile! It wasn’t too much to ask, even though he never did ask and don’t ever ask him why.
The name Henry, on the other hand, is, well, it’s soft and doughy. You make bread from a name like Henry: you made hard-tack and scroggin from a name like Hank.
Bill, Murphy, Spot – and Henry. Henry, declared the twelve-year old burden carrier to himself, is a boring name. A dull name. If I’m not careful, I shall become a boring person. My name shall drag me to the clammy pits of adult dullness and putrescence. I shall never wear a Hawaiian shirt, never smoke a cheroot like Clint Eastwood, I shall become a grey and formless ghost. I shall remain what I already am: a Henry.
There are worse things, but don‘t expect a 12 year old boy to know that.
Spot, Murphy, Bill – and Henry. It must be said that, at the beginning, Spot was the serious one. It was a narrow race, but Spot did edge Henry into second place. At age seven, it seemed that Spot was the boy born to be beige. He was quiet, introverted, and much more interested in books that in games. Fiercely intelligent, Spot had been tormented through his first few years at school, until he came to the attention of Murph and Henry. They adopted him into their coterie and protected him, and discovered that under the tweedy pullover he always wore was a loyal and dependable friend.
Despite his early reticence, Spot grew up to be a particularly effervescent character, albeit a short-lived one. He denied the destiny that had seemed carved in granite when he was young, and grew up to be a wild youth who tried to radicalise the world. Oddly enough, though, Spot never called Henry anything but Henry.
It must be said that Mary had a dozen, a score, a simply million billion squillion names for Henry, and he revelled in each and every one of them. Mary was, and always would be, Henry’s greatest friend, his love, his heart’s desire. He saw no fault in her. She was as flawless as a crystal teardrop, as beautiful as all the roses of Picardy bunched together. He loved her with all his heart and all his soul and – but wait: Mary never, ever called Henry Hank.