June 6th, 2004


The Shining City

A typical Sunday non-church routine: go and buy milk, pass the same man I did last week, hand my money across to the same shopkeeper as he reads Hürriyet, return home, turn on the radio, make a cup of coffee as George Bush delivers his homily to Ronald Reagan:

This is a sad hour in the life of America.
A great American life has come to an end.
I have just spoken to Nancy Reagan.
On behalf of our whole nation, Laura and I
Offered her and the Reagan family
Our prayers and our condolences.
Ronald Reagan won America's respect with his greatness,
And won its love with his goodness.
He had the confidence that comes with conviction,
The strength that comes with character,
The grace that comes with humility,
And the humor that comes with wisdom.
He leaves behind a nation he restored
And a world he helped save.

During the years of President Reagan,
America laid to rest an era of division and self-doubt.
And because of his leadership,
The world laid to rest an era of fear and tyranny.
Now, in laying our leader to rest, we say thank you.

He always told us that for America, the best was yet to come.
We comfort ourselves in the knowledge that this is true for him, too.
His work is done. And now a shining city awaits him. [Oz?]
May God bless Ronald Reagan.

May He indeed. It's hard to describe quite how poorly these words exited from Bush's mouth. The man really doesn't have much talent in oratory. You could hear how the speech had been fine-tuned in the backroom. I tried to find some actual sense in it, some point of emotion. Surely Bush Jr. must have met Reagan on any number of occasions and you'd think he'd have some choice personal anecdotes. Lay the speech down, "You know, I remember the time when..." Instead, just this Hollywood mulch that dreams of being iambic pentameter when it grows up. It means nothing, well, certainly not to me. It may mean something somewhere. Are there kitchens in America where people are making morning coffee, listening to these words and thinking what a fine speech this is? If so, they need to get out [of the house/town/country] more often. I'm sorry George, but this is an empty epitaph you have struck upon his grave. A whole bunch of nothing. What do you remember?

Now, as young Master Cornelius recently pointed out, my memories of the Reagan/Thatcher era are certainly coloured by my own censor's pen. I'm glad he's around to correct my errant self-deceptions. Reagan seems too distant to care about now. So many mistakes since that Reagan's crap seems like choice foie-gras. A luta continua...

Rather a lot of Spanish on the menu yesterday. Wine and tapas in Costa Dorada, preceded by Bad Education. I wasn't too happy with the ending of this film, but it wasn't helped by the subtitles not fully showing on screen. As I'm often reminded, one reason to go to independent repertory cinema (as opposed to UGC or Virgin or whatever) is that they give a monkey's about making sure the film is framed properly on the screen and in focus. Much as I liked the film, the judder of the projector was enough to keep the film slightly shifting in and out of focus for the duration. But this annoyance possibly had more to do with the content of much of the film.

Now, you don't go to watch Almodóvar without the expectation that there will a quota of drag queens (is there a collective noun? A sashay of...?) present therein. I find drag queens both ennervating and depressing. For reasons of my own doubtful sexual psychopathology. When I came back from Japan, I endured the attentions of an analyst for a fair while in the attempt to....deal with/get over/put behind, I'm not sure which... Anyway, amongst the things discussed (as much as anything was discussed in an everyday sense) was of course sexuality. As I revealed to them, my earliest sexual memories were not of whether I was attracted to boys or girls, but rather that I was dismally upset about the fact that I was a boy. I would go to sleep in the hope that when I awoke I would have been transformed into a girl. I didn't see what advantages there were in being masculine. I still don't. As I grew up, by the age of seven I had resolved myself to the fact that no unexpected chrysalis transformation would take place. Well, I guess I'd reached some sort of accomodation with myself. We all have frustrations about who we are, what we have become. Sometimes, what we know we can never be. We're all unhappy within ourselves and, if you're not, there's really no point to you ever reading this journal again. You're not human.

So watching the Ignacio/Zahara character (played wonderfully by Gael Garcia Bernal), well, it wouldn't have taken so much for this life to have worked out so differently. Not that I don't have all sorts of issues with the representation/experience of gender. I'm severely uncomfortable with the idea of complete transexuality. But no matter how much I disagree with it, I can't pretend that I don't understand the feeling that motivates it. I sometimes wonder how much other people experience this dysphoria with their own bodies. I've always been aware of it. I don't know how the illusion of our physical nature expresses itself in other people. Except it isn't an illusion at all and, ay, there's the rub. Ouch. Would I have been happier if I'd dived into a world of drag queens at 20 or so? I think some aspects would have been more freely emphasised. I never really got on with that scene. Never felt attractive enough and, hard as I have tried, I don't really fancy men (well, Bernal in drag is kind of tasty, I must admit). It also seemed a world with a somewhat limited imagination or appreciation of gender. This isn't really what my unhappiness was about. At the risk of overburdening this paragraph, this is something that motivates me to just give up this world and head to the monastery. And not to be a nun, I must add!

I should be at church. I'm not. I walked out of the cinema, quite unelated. Reminded of something that will sink back into the dark cerebral soup to cook with all the others. Maybe this is why nothing works out, I think on my way through Soho, I've slept with men and much as I enjoy the chance to be in a situation in which the expectations of my gender are different (I think what I mean is that I can be slutty!), frankly, I just don't like the way they smell. It just doesn't really work for me. Then again, avoiding the shouts of the sex show girls as I approach Berwick St, it doesn't really work with women either, because I feel an expectation to be manly, imagined or otherwise. So what would I be happy with, as I pause to look in the window of Selectadisc. I don't know. Looks like you can never be resolved within yourself to start with. Nothing has ever been the same since Japan. Every time you think you're getting away from it, you can come back to it. It was strangely astute of her to expend so much energy on putting me down for not being enough of a man. Sticks and stones and the words that do hurt you. Walking across Oxford St now, dear me, you need some form of a shag. That would clear out this level of self-reflexive discourse. By the time you do have a relationship with someone (2007 is being offered by Ladbrokes at 4-1), you will have become one of those nested Chinese balls of internal complications. Frankly, who has the patience for Gordian knots these days...

The company of friends didn't really help lift things much. I left, felt sad about being so incommunicative. I would have been happy to discuss the above, but the chance didn't come. I didn't dance, because dancing makes me sad these days, even though it's one thing that I know I'm actually quite good at. I even wondered about buying a Smiths album the other day. That's how things are looking.

The new neighbours opposite play this strange hybrid Latin dancehall very loudly on Sunday. I don't mind particularly.