Terrance Gonzo’s Asylum For The Half-Baked features a dose of bad luck, half-formed sketches of events, gleaned from people who probably shouldn’t have been there, who may even regret ever having had met me.
Section 1: It Was Interesting From Day One
Story: The Assorted Tales Of Steve Fudge
The feedback was: I’d made their company sound smug.
Well they were.
The office was all fruit and water and flat whites and interminable music when you were trying to work.
Your tone of voice should be miffed and slightly suicidal. Like your noose didn’t work and you’re retying it to the ceiling when some idiot rings you.
They asked if I had any questions. I didn’t know enough to know what questions to ask. I really wanted to say ‘come again’ but instead I said ‘no no, that all seems fine.’
I went back day after day, unsure if I was invited. Unsure why, frankly, I was even there. It all became an elastic concept, like quite a lot of things.
I had responded to the feedback and now the people we were working for weren’t giving feedback on the feedback. I was on standby to work with no clear indication from them whether they wanted me to work. I came in. Nobody else was here. I was so tired I felt sick. Why had I come? Why am I here? My head started to say ‘ah yes, here comes that familiar feeling of disaster.’
I hadn’t been sleeping well for a while and my work/life balance had become so off kilter I often didn’t know whether I was hungry or just nauseous. I rarely remembered what day it was. In a world of Macs there I was with my smashed-in Dell Inspiron. And on and on and in spire on.
The seriousness with which ‘campaigns’ are talked about is truly something else, discussed with the same gravity as a debate on the rights and wrongs of intervening in Syria. People are sharing and liking. The self-importance is staggering. And this is what makes the world go round.
‘I have the tagline for this job, indeed the whole of advertising, caRl.’ (caRl was my boss and yeah, caRl actually spelled his name caRl).’ ‘What vacuous wank,’ I said, and slapped it on his desk in size 98 Font.
caRl thought I was having a breakdown. He wanted to give me some time off. I wanted to give him a piece of my mind.
I went to the kitchen to drink a gratis craft beer. They were meant to be for Friday fun day. I cracked one open and smashed it back.
A conversation was already underway in there.
WOMAN: You don’t eat many avocados do you?
MAN: Erm, no, I suppose I don’t.
WOMAN: They’re good for your uterus.
MAN: I see.
We wanna be thin but fat, healthy but obese, experienced but naive.
AS I SAY:
I often have to remember what day it is
My mate’s mother keeps asking me if I like that electron music
I’ve lost count
Of the amount of times my own mother has asked me what the genre of my first album is.
I opened the fridge
was smacked on the leg by a slab of loose cheese
had a peasant hunch
And I thought:
White shoes on short men probably doesn’t work
Does everyone say ‘impacted’ instead of ‘affected’?
I blame James Murdoch.
Peasant Hunch had a slightly faraway look in his eye.
He was the boyfriend of this girl who said:
‘Sometimes the concept of being anywhere baffles me. I think people have families just to stop the boredom, the grinding monotony, the sense that really if you think about it, everything has little to no meaning. The drugs are no longer fun, the exchange rate’s fucked, you get gibbed every time. The days after are murderous, crucifying, stulti-fying, debilitating. And when even the drink starts to do that… Well, fuck me. And you think – what’s left? What else can I do?’
Another woman said: ‘is that a bad thing? I bet life does take on new meaning when you’re a parent.’
He said: ‘it all just seems remarkably hollow. Because then you’ve got the soul-scraping procedure of muscling into your preferred catchment area.’
The conversation was easy enough at first
But I had the impression we’d talked about all we could talk about.
Some of the things I was saying were just so clichéd.
The conversation had become stale.
I was seeing a lot of girls because I had very little (or no) faith that I would actually meet someone I really wanted to be with
And when I did
They were with someone else already.
So talking about kids and schools seemed a berserk waste of time.
I was back, what choice did I have?
Though Syria Debate Man had said I was neither professional nor discreet.
I mean granted, I had shouted GENOCIDE across the office at about ten in the morning.
‘He’s a wanky little fucker, innee?’ I said to caRl. I liked caRl. I felt at ease with caRl. Despite the preposterous spelling of his name.
‘Get that written on the moon,’ he said. ‘Your life’s work will be complete.’
Everyone was stressed (except caRl). The deadline was moving further up everyone’s arse and the end did not seem to be in sight.
To lighten the mood Syria Debate Guy tried a bit of humour but his comic observation amounted to describing the tutting trauma of pairing socks.
‘I reckon most rapists are into Formula One,’ said Sandy Pickolo.
I couldn’t disagree.
Thing about Sandy though: whenever anybody said ‘if there’s anything I can do’ after some tragic incident he would always say ‘what are you gonna do?’ rather than see the human warmth of the offer.
But I couldn’t disagree with the idea, also furthered by Sandy, that the sound of someone’s sneeze gave a glimpse into their souls: happy, ridiculous, aggressive, sweet, silent (shy).
‘A runny nose is one of the most all time annoying feelings,’ said Syria Debater.
Christ this guy annoyed me, but so far I had managed to sidestep an altercation.
My threshold for arguing and combat seemed higher than everyone else’s.
I flitted between argumentative and obsequious. Someone called me consistent. I appreciated it but they were incorrect.
I didn’t seem perturbed by the argument the night before. But it wasn’t a way to carry on. If I was no longer attracted to her it was surely better to tell her that rather than pick a fight so she was turned off by me. It was cowardly and did me a disservice.
I didn’t think to just tell her ‘it’s not working.’ I just carried on meeting up with her, staying round her house when I didn’t want to, thinking ‘oh Christ’. That’s why I ended up starting an argument. This had to change. I had no principles. I couldn’t trust myself in the morning to make good on the night before’s pronouncements.
The problem is I don’t have any principles, I thought. Or at least none that I subscribe to all the time. Ok. So. Don’t let kids watch TV til they’re 5. There’s a principle. Something to be going on with.
It’s the same when I meet girls I don’t know. Do you kiss, give a handshake, double kiss, wave? I know I should do one and stick to it but I don’t. In Argentina I remember being with my girlfriend at the time (Argentinian) and hanging out with her mates. I wasn’t allowed to leave til I’d kissed all of them twice. They thought I was incredibly rude the first time I met them because I’d just casually waved good bye at the door on my way out. I was in a bit of a hurry but that didn’t matter. Kissy kisses all round were the order of the day.
Last night I had been called a Retrobate. What was that? Some sort of nostalgic degenerate? My behaviour was certainly backwards looking, childish even.
Fragrant lie: the smell of untruth.
It’s a funny/strange/weird thing when everyone starts to suspect ill of you.
But. People started to think deep down: Can I trust him? He’s got no principles.
And I hadn’t managed to formulate the marketing plan as I’d intimated I would. They seemed more surprised than I was.
The problem was: I was coming across like an amateur. Well wasn’t everyone? I’d had always found strange the words ‘professional’ and ‘professionalism’. When was it decided?
I looked again at the brief, at the whole monkey charade. Packaging, illusion, the allure of freshness, loveliness and nature. If this carried on we’d destroy the planet. And my work would have been instrumental. And economies are built on this shit.
I was perpetually disturbed by a group of giggling advertisers. A legion of blonde bloodsuckers. It seemed every girl was blonde. Institutional racism? The beginnings of a cult? I couldn’t work here. I would have finished this job in an hour at home. All I needed was to say it all out loud, to vocalise this business guff, and get this handshandying brief wrapped up. Instead I was going round and round the same tired sentences.
‘You done that copy yet mate?’ asked caRl.
‘I’ll have to finish it off when I get home.’
At home I watched the video they had sent me. It was a travesty. Boxes of cereal had core brand values, apparently. Give over. I couldn’t believe grown men actually took this seriously.
It was absurd. It was berserk. Here I was in a room in Tottenham with a limited attention span deciding the marketing strategy of some global market research company for something in the region of twelve pounds an hour. For full sweatshop character I forbade myself to piss.
New pants don’t come cheap these days either. Plus, you gotta find the pair that share the same world view as you.
London was slipping away. Or my time here was. I needed to feel it. I wanted to feel alive. To feel the streets. To be a guy just walking down the road.
Tight jeans helped.
Tight jeans made me feel like I had less baggage, made me feel freer. Helped me be a guy just walking down the road.
Though my decision was only 90% made, I felt a freedom, an excitement for life I’d not felt for quite some time. I’d travelled yet always felt burdened. I didn’t want to travel. I’d had enough with that lot. I didn’t want to have to do anything except see how I felt that day. I didn’t want to be miles from my friends. But I was open to foreign work. I was open to anything. Genuinely I felt lighter and more receptive, happier and more hopeful than I think ever before. One thing I knew: my time as spare frontman in Italian rock band, Spinal Bifeda, seemed to be at an end.
The best thing about it was cool rampant guitars and a song called Theosaurus: A wordsmith dinosaur.
One foul swoop (one fell swoop)
is how it went.
Do you like it?
My mate would always ask me.
I like it when it’s over
It didn’t help that my mind reminded me (ad nauseam) why I did not want to be doing this as I approached the moment in which I would have to do this.
It was just before the speeches – the word was maybe she’d had a dalliance with the groom, the girl I’d only recently met and I suppose, got together with. Don’t ask me how that happened.
I would stay for the best man’s speech so as not to create a scene but leave soon after. It really was doubtful I’d stay with the band anyway. I’d been having second thoughts for a while. Since the start if I was honest.
So yeah. Found out she (my latest belle) had been with somebody else (though it wasn’t the groom. I wasn’t sure I’d stay to find out who precisely but I had my suspicions. Frankly it could have been anyone). It came out just before the speeches. I was looking forward to the best man’s speech, a man renowned for his blackly comic inappropriateness, his stories very enjoyable in a ‘should he be saying that’ kind of way.
I’d decided. I would leave after the best man’s speech. I think that was it for me and the band.
And then I saw him, after all these years, years later, when I was in Spinal Bifeda – an appalling band if I was honest – a guy I had worked with years before. Had been his ‘supervisor’. But I’d not been the most decent and now he’d signed with the same label as Spinal Bifeda. It was a small label, and we had a label gig the following week. It hadn’t yet been decided which band was supporting which. Spinal Bifeda were more established but this guy’s band were probably better. I probably wouldn’t be there but until I had definitely made that decision, I had to keep up appearances.
We had a drink. With mutual friends.
Listen, I said. I was a dick to you. And you probably think I’m a dick. Given who we know, and given how this is going, we’ll be spending a bit of time with each other. I hope I can show you I’m not a dick.
The father of the bride spoke. Bland, dull.
But things were about to hot up considerably.
Later, on the train, I thought of the drama of the wedding I had, by then, left. The wedding to which I had, in fact, been late, because I had had to help the woman I loved get to her wedding on time. Don’t ask me for the details. I’m not ready to talk about it.
Basically, it looked like it was going to happen
That we’d get back together
Only what happened
Was what was
That happened before.
She (my ex who I helped get to her wedding on the day I was going to this other wedding with my sort of girlfriend at the time. It’s always like this with me) she would keep him (her fiancée, now husband, onetime on-off boyfriend) keep him at arm’s length to see if he’d come through (‘he’s done this before’, she’d say). Hence I lurked. I suppose I can’t really complain.
And so she spent a lot of time hanging out with him to see if he could prove himself, with me sort of lurking sort of being asked to lurk. I was being played. And compared. She wanted him to come good AND sort of still had feelings for me. And she juggled both, thinking it could be either. (But really hoping for him).
As I say: I can’t really complain.
Ask me anything and I’ll tell you, she said.
That’s not honesty, I replied. That’s getting away with what you can til you’re rumbled.
Anyway, that was that.
Good Friday was a good Friday. A reverse Easter. Rose on the Friday, crucified by the Monday. But thank you cosmos for lifting the lid on the truth. My eyes were no longer woollen.
The truth was I didn’t really ever know what the truth of my feelings were. Was I angry and hurt because I FELT I had been betrayed, or in pain because I had been rejected? I was no clearer to knowing. In my thirty third year.
But just maybe our hearts actually had something to say to each other.
By the end of this episode I understood perfectly another ex, Cordelia.
Back at the wedding…
The father of the bride made way for the groom.
‘He slept with a prostitute!’
The groom, about to make his speech, was, understandably, shaken at this interlude from the crowd.
There was a brief silence.
‘My wife has forgiven youthful discrepancies,’ he said.
Which was bold.
‘Discrepancies?’ said the bride. ‘I thought it only happened once.’
‘Discrepancy. It was a slip of the tongue. I mean there are other things I’ve done.’
‘Fantastic!’ shouted someone.
‘Tell us!’ shouted someone else.
‘James’ (again the bride). ‘How many?’
She (the bride) stormed out.
‘Well I certainly won’t forget my wedding day,’ said James. ‘Though it probably won’t go down as the happiest day of my life.’ Pause. To the waiter: ‘Can you get everyone a drink so they can laugh or cry or do whatever the fuck they wanna do? Do excuse me for five minutes while I do the same.’
He walked off to the bar in the vestibule of the glorious manor house.
‘Can I have three bottles of beer, a bottle opener, and a bottle of Bulleit bourbon please?’
‘Thank you,’ he said, clutching his array of booze. He walked into the gardens and I got a taxi to the train station.