Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Canal Street and New York

Yeah I know there's a Canal Street IN New York, but there's one in Paisley too, just down the road from my flat, and I was crossing it on Saturday about noon, in a mobility scooter, when I got hit by a car. It was something that had long been on my "I wonder what it's like to..." list, so now I can tick it off. It was weird; I had loads of time to think to myself "oh, so THIS is what it's like to be hit by a car. I wonder what it looks like to other people. I wonder whether I'll be badly injured" before I hit the ground. As it happens, I wasn't badly injured, in fact apart from some muscle bruising I wasn't injured at all, so quite a result really. An ambulance came, the police came, it wasn't the driver's fault (had I known the bloody filter lane no longer existed, meaning cars can turn left there from the middle lane, where I got hit, it would never have happened), end of not terribly dramatic story. I made it to my sister's pantomime, Cinderfella, that night. The stairs up to the performance space were a challenge (and getting down them for a pee even more so), I had taken no pain killers, but the show was very funny and I had a great time. Got very worried though, concerned for my visit to the large fruit that is New York City.

I made it though, had a wonderful flight from Heathrow to JFK, great seat right next to the toilet and with no seatback impeding me in front (I was over the wing). The woman next to me had an accent I couldn't figure out, so I asked her where she was from. "Originally Jamaica" she replied, "but been in Britain since my teenage years, first in Manchester, then London, then Peterborough". So no wonder I hadn't been able to identify her accent: she didn't HAVE a readily identifiable one! We had a good chat, the people on either side of me were friendly too, so were all the cabin crew, so it really was an excellent flight.

The bus from JFK took about twenty minutes to get out of the bloody massive airport, only about another twenty five, Susan told me, to then reach Port Authority. There was some confusion regarding suitcases and then seconds later I was standing in exactly the spot from which I first saw NYC ten years ago (unless you count the New Jersey Turnpike view of the skyline). About ten minutes later, only two blocks away but I was walking with sticks remember, we reached Susan's building, well not HER building exactly but the one she lives in. It is a lovely building, the former Times Square Hotel which is now a social housing project owned and run by an organisation called Common Ground. It is, as Susan described it herself, like a microcosm of the city, with all its life, its quirks and its quirky citizens. Haven't left the apartment since, until now, when I am sitting in the basement in the building's computer lab. But my poor bruised muscles have been healing nicely as I rested while getting plenty of exercise in the apartment moving around it and even exercising my legs while I sat. Watched the Colbert Report last night for the first time in many months and it was a wonderful episode, saw Jimmy Kimmel Live for the first time in over four years. Tomorrow we will be going to see Shrek the Musical, on Sunday we will go to New Jersey for the first time to meet her family (except Eliza the cat, whom I have already met and am getting along famously with), and then on the visit goes. It is wonderful being together again, we are feeling relaxed and happy in one another's company, with the sticks my walking is almost back to its normal level.

All is well in my Universe right now. I have even written my first poem; actually it got written in my head about five minutes after arriving. Would you like to hear it? Okay then.


There's a car that isn't a cab.

Better not hail it.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Good news and bad news

Well, the good news is that I'm going to spend Christmas and New Year with Susan in New York and New Jersey (where her family lives, in River Edge). The bad news is... well, I suppose I've not been sleeping too well lately.

My flight is happening thanks to a mightily generous Christmas present from my mother. I fly out on 14th December (a week on Monday as I type this) and back on 11th January, so it gives us almost a month together, during which, as I mentioned in a previous post, I can meet her friends and family, not to mention Eliza, Bailey and Stella (her cat and two dogs who live with her relatives). And she will get to meet friends of mine who live over there, too.

We have tickets for Shrek the Musical on the 17th, so that'll be me turning into instant wee boy at least for a few hours. Ground Zero, Strawberry Fields, the Empire State Building and Lady Chrysler are on the agenda, and who knows what else. And the last time I was in New York, for a couple of days in 1999, I got six or seven poems out of it, so I'll have to make sure I have a notebook with me.

The readers of Dodophobia will be the first to know what happens there (well, other than Susan and me obviously, and you won't be getting any gory details either), so stay tuned.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Kat, Tom and Will

In London this morning, Tuesday 24th November 2009, Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle will give "notice of their intention to form a civil partnership". Nothing strange about that, you might think, but, as their names suggest, they are of opposite genders. And, just as marriage is not allowed for gay couples, so civil partnership is legally not allowed for straight couples. It is for precisely that reason that Kat and Tom are taking this step: they do not believe in discrimination on the grounds of sexuality; they do not want to be part of an institution that is closed to their friends because the bigots say so. They registered for their ceremony by giving only their initials (want to bet THAT won't happen again?) and at 1030 UK time this morning they will be there at Islington Town Hall, along with the great civil rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, to make their statement in support of this great cause.

Meanwhile, over the pond in Arkansas, just a few hours later, a ten year old boy named Will Phillips will sit down at school, and seated is how he will remain while his classmates are reciting the pledge of allegiance. He refuses to make an oath about "liberty and justice for all" while homosexuals are denied liberty and justice in the form of marriage. Now, Arkansas is one of the reddest of red states (in other words, dominated by repuglicans), and Will has been subjected to abuse, taunts and teasing over his stance. But he has refused to give up and insists he will not do so until his gay friends have the same rights as he does. What a moral giant of a young man.

Gay equality is our modern day civil rights struggle, arguably the last great such struggle, and it is important to all of us, gay, straight or bi. Until we are ALL free, none of us is completely free, and until we are all granted the same rights under the law, including the right of marriage, we are not all free. Why should it be my business or yours who someone falls in love with or chooses to spend their life with? No one tells me whether I should have a life partner with blond or dark hair, blue or green eyes, light or dark skin, so why the hell should they be allowed to tell me they must have a vagina and not a penis? As it happens, my intended is a brown eyed, brown haired, light skinned woman from New York, and that is my choice (and hers of course). We will get married; and we see no reason why all our friends should not have the same option. It is ridiculous to tell people they must go through this or that door depending on the dangly bits of their lover, as offensive as telling them what lunch counter they can sit at on the basis of their skin colour. What the religious do in the privacy of their own churches, mosques, synagogues or whatever is entirely up to them, but they have no right to dictate to the rest of us what happens in public spaces or the public realm-- and homophobic bigotry is primarily religious in nature. I will not willingly put up with bigotry against my fellow citizens, and nor will Kat, Tom or Will.

Respect to them all, and congratulations and a long, happy life together to Tom and Kat.

Update: To no one's great surprise, Kat and Tom were of course turned away at the town hall and refused their civil partnership, as detailed here: they are now taking legal advice and intend to take their fight all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Lights, cameras, action!

I'm a member of Sofa Cinema (for US readers, the equivalent of Netflix but associated with the Guardian), and my latest three DVDs are Disc One of I, Claudius, the bonus disc for This is Spinal Tap, and King Kong vs. Godzilla. These have delighted me no end.

For those unfamiliar with the Godzilla movies, I am not talking here about the abysmal nineties Hollywood monstrosities (which had proper special effects and therefore immediately lost any sense of understanding the point of the exercise), but the glorious Japanese originals. The monsters are VERY clearly guys in suits (hell they even fight, almost, according to Marquis of Queensberry rules), the mouths keep moving long after the speech has finished, the dialogue is painfully stilted-- apparently translated by Japanese people without recourse to any professional assistance-- and the plots are utter nonsense, despite having their hearts very much in the right place: these were pro-environment movies, albeit really badly made, DECADES before inconvenient truths were generally noticed. If I've made them sound awful, well they are, but SO awful that they are glorious; they are absolutely hilarious. Very much in the manner of the great Ed Wood.

Ed, of course, was an American film maker and dreamer. He somehow dreamed that he was capable of making watchable movies; he made movies all right, but spectacularly incompetently, and tripped over backwards into genius. His most celebrated film-- rightly-- is Plan 9 From Outer Space, which was also Bela Lugosi's last film. He died two days into shooting. Ed cast his wife's chiropodist as Lugosi's double, despite the fact that he was about a foot and a half taller than him and bore no facial resemblance to him whatsoever. So Ed cut some of Bela's early rehearsal footage into the movie, regardless of whether it actually fitted anywhere, and had the chiropodist walk around with his cloak covering his face at all times. This caused him to have to take bizarrely roundabout routes from one side of a room to the other at times to make sure his face wouldn't be towards camera, but hey, who cares, right? The film has some classic lines like "flying saucers? You mean the kind from up there?" and "one thing's sure. The captain's dead-- murdered-- and someone's responsible!". It also has a retired wrestler called Tor Johnson, an American schlock TV star called Elvira, and of course Ed Wood's wife's chiropodist. It is often cited as the worst movie ever made-- the stock footage from a dinosaur movie randomly spliced in no doubt contributes to that estimation-- and it is still available on DVD to this day. I recommend that you try to see it. I remember seeing it once in a glorious fleapit cinema in Munich called Neues Arena. It was a late night showing; the kiosk sales person was also the ticket taker and the projectionist; and there were about twelve people in the audience. I had smoked a great big joint before arriving there, and I swear everyone else in the place had done the same thing, because every time one of the superbly incompetent lines was uttered, or sometimes without that reminder, one person would giggle and gradually every other person in there did the same thing. It was absolutely the perfect way to see an Ed Wood movie. You won't be able to replicate that, but you can still see the movie. And King Kong vs Godzilla, and other Ed Wood and Godzilla movies, with or without herbal assistance. If you know what's good for you, you will: you should never underestimate the power of "so crap it's good".

Saturday, 7 November 2009


I told you there would be occasional poetry infesting this blog, so here goes. Some new works.

That's the last time I smoke a salmon,
he promised himself as giant multi-
coloured pink swirls adorned the wall
that way and this, swishily and swervily,
shrinkily and growily. Sometimes he
wished vaguely that he had taken the
builder, whose name was Barry, for
his word and added the other three,
but tonight he just enjoyed the show.
Until Anita the average anteater
started nibbling the wooden chips in
his paper, rendering the article about
those Moldavian decorators illegible
except for the word "EXCLUSIVE",
which on its own was of limited value,
as Anita solemnly agreed with an
uproarious grin. Then she hid behind
the surprised old man on the pavement,
who stayed where he was to avoid her

How awful to live in the World of Better,
where people always say "well that could
have gone better" and measure their
distance from perfection, rarely knowing
satisfaction. Surely preferable in the World
of Worse, where it could always be worse,
where people are aware of their distance
from total disaster, where there can be true
joy at its aversion.

People said the old woman downstairs
was a witch, and they also said that blue
apples and green apples were different
to the core.


THEY DID IT!! The Yanks won game six by the fine score of 7-3, having dominated from start to finish, and the Phillies, especially Jimmy Rollins, have cheesesteak all over their faces and ain't waving their daft bloody towels any more.

Sorry. Couldn't help it.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Go Yankees.

Susan is a New York Yankees fan; she was born in the Bronx, where the team plays. And right now they are in the World Series, playing against the reigning champions, the Philadelphia Phillies. As I write this, the Yanks are leading by three games to two in the series, and so need just one more win to win the series, which we hope will come in tomorrow night's game at Yankee Stadium.

I say "we" because, in the spirit of romance and partnership, I decided to take an interest by watching the deciding game in the Yanks' previous series against the Los Angeles Angels. And blow me down if it didn't get me hooked. So hooked, in fact, that I signed up for ESPN so I could watch it live rather than the minute or so behind I was getting with the streamed broadcast. And we've been watching the games together three thousand miles apart, by phoning as the game starts and hanging up shortly after it ends.

Baseball's exciting stuff, not at all like the borefest that is cricket, which many people on this side of the Atlantic imagine it resembles. It is complex and fast-paced-- to the extent that I often am unable to keep up with what has just happened and have to wait for an explanation from the commentators or from Susan, or whoever might happen to be in the room with her as she also falls behind occasionally-- and has one hell of a lot of specific terms which I will have to learn to keep following it. For instance, it's damn hard for me so far deciding just what's a strike and what's a ball, sometimes, although I'm already getting better and was able for instance to laugh right on cue when one poor opposition player started jogging to first base after only three instead of the required four balls, and before Susan had caught on. I have even begun screaming in delight when a Yankees player unexpectedly reaches base or more expectedly scores a run, or when a Phillies player drops the ball or misses a catch. I still fall behind reality a lot though (nothing new there, I suppose, but watching football it rarely happens. And by football I mean football, not gridiron: the clue is in the word "foot"). I've also started being abusively sarcastic about Phillies fans and their silly towel-waving. In short, I'm having a great time and have discovered a new sporting love. Now I just have to decide which player I want on the back of the shirt Susan's going to buy me. At the moment I think Joba Chamberlain is in the lead, because he is closer to my own body shape than any sporting hero I have ever seen. Which is another thing I love about baseball: some of those athletes look decidedly unathletic and could never in a million years cut it in any other sporting discipline.

Of course, Susan's end of the deal is to return the compliment when she moves over here, and watch and try to learn football. I can't wait to teach her the offside rule...

Friday, 23 October 2009


Sorry for my absence. I've been suffering from the above illness, which is an inner ear infection, leading to dizziness, nausea and lack of balance. I'm on antibiotics now and it's getting better, but I had two days of not daring to move, not eating and not really drinking anything because if I needed to pee I would have to move. It hasn't been pleasant. However, the antibiotic I've been prescribed has the glorious name "prochlorperazine", which just about makes up for it as far as I'm concerned. And I did get lots of excellent sympathy and told I had yellow skin, which worried the doctor enough that she came out to visit me at home, by which time the drug was kicking in well and I was vastly better and looking close to (my) normal.

All in all I got to spend two days doing nothing but drowsing in my chair and my bed and being sympathised over; I got to be a wee boy again for a short while, which can't be a bad thing!

Thinking about prochlorperazine... is that as opposed to antichlorperazine or to dilettante amateur chlorperazine?

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


These are the first two poems I wrote for her:


New York. New York. New York.
There. Now it's been named
THREE times.


There was some tension and some
teariness, some coffee, toast and
bacon. With ketchup. She laughed
and said she had never seen such a
thing in New York, and what with
that and the deep fried pizza we
talked about opening a Scottish
health food store there. Then we
took photos of each other on our
mobile phones and went to her gate,
spoke silently with hands together;
we held and kissed one another, and
parted. I stood and watched her
until she turned a corner, and
dreamed about her coming the
other way on her next visit as tears
thought about it.

She's visited here twice now, we're engaged and wearing betrothal rings, which you can see in the picture there. And now the plan is for me to go over there for Christmas and New Year, spend the festive season with her and meet her family and friends. And buy engagement rings together, of course. It all just depends on finance (not the rings, which needn't cost much, but the flight), which is why a DONATE button has suddenly appeared here. I am scrimping and saving, have a tin (which once contained a bottle of fine malt whisky) for spare change and contributions, but that isn't going to raise the £500 we need to reach. Please don't feel pressured, but any small amount you feel able to give to send me to another continent for a couple of weeks to be with my Woman would be gratefully received.
Sorry to seem so mercenary on Dodophobia, but needs must.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Nobel Peace Prize 2009.

Some people are saying Barack Obama has won the Nobel just for being Not George W Bush.

Well, what's wrong with that?

He is not, and has declared himself repeatedly, emphatically and credibly not to be, a religious maniac who rejects scientific truth because it wasn't written about in a 2000 year old book by some primitive middle eastern tribesmen; a racist who despises everyone who is not from his own country and clearly and visibly considers them all beneath himself; a semi-literate silver spooner who has earned nothing he has but rather inherited it all and then lectures everyone else about hard work; a man who betrays all of his loudly declaimed religious principles by lying so that he can bomb some brown foreigners, and also by swearing before his god to uphold the American constitution before waving a bible around and saying "THIS comes before the constitution"; who shouts loudly about democracy and then steals a lost election with the corrupt help of his brother's henchmen (and women), including denying votes to many thousands of people who did or would have voted against him, but nevertheless going on to preach to the rest of the world about his and his country's democratic superiority... and much much more, but I don't want you to get bored and stop reading.

Instead of all that, Barack Obama has begun engaging with the world, showing us all the smiling side of his country's personality, talking to other nationalities with respect and as an equal, made it clear that reality rather than religious prejudice will be his guide, started working to try to undo some of the eight years of further damage wrought by Bush and Cheney's refusal to have anything to do with Kyoto and the fight against climate catastrophe, and again, much much more besides, not least his attempt to bring the United States to civilisation by letting all or most of his fellow citizens have decent healthcare, like most of the rest of the world, which would allow them to stop being so terrified all the time, to stop having to be so self-absorbed out of fear for their medical and financial futures (because most US bankruptcies are at the moment caused by huge medical bills), to relax into a more peaceful and less aggressive frame of mind knowing that they and their families will at least be able to go to a doctor if they're ill, or for that matter change jobs, without having to worry about collapsing into abject poverty due to sickness.

If you ask me, that adds up to a greater contribution to world peace than has been made by any US president during my lifetime. And yet some repuglicans are reacting as though not being hated by foreigners is somehow unamerican; which is surely another reason why this award is justified and welcome.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Once unto the breach...

Well, here we go, my first ever blog post. I suppose a self-introduction might be in order for those who don't know me who might one day accidentally stumble across this.

I'm 44, Scottish, Atheist, engaged to Susan, have a heart condition and am suffering from depression (Prozac and half a pharmacy help wonderfully), have in the past suffered three strokes (I thought it was only two but the other day I discovered that the first one had in fact been two and was massive) and two heart attacks, and have a non-malignant brain tumour which is doing absolutely nothing and so is really quite friendly as brain tumours go. It is "probably" a craniopharyngioma, so it has a very friendly and wonderful name, too, which I would love to use in a song, but there could conceivably be scansion problems with it. ("Oh sweet craniopharyngioma, how I love your internalistic aroma..."; you'd have to be Paul Simon to sing it properly, although if he wrote it at least it would be better).

I tend not to write songs, but I do write poetry, and this blog will on occasion be a vehicle for new pieces, and even more occasionally for old ones, such as the one that has inspired the blog's title. Which is Dodophobia. Would you like to hear it? Oh all right then, as you've twisted my arm.

I bet I suffer terribly from dodophobia.

Now I know some of you are sitting there saying "THAT'S not poetry!" but it is, and I shall tell you why; because I say it is. Poetry has nothing to do with rhyme or scansion, it is simply a way of using words artistically to create mood and image in the mind of the perceiver. In this case, the mood is mostly just humour, but with a thoughtful aftertaste, I hope. That is, I hope you will continue thinking about it and its possible meaning after you have moved on to another webpage, after having had an initial giggle or snigger.

Actually, not just poetry but all art forms are art if their creators say they are (or if they don't but the thing has an artistic effect on you), and for the same reasons. All it's about is the provoking of thought or feeling, so if a pile of bricks (to choose an entirely random example) makes you angry or causes you to ruminate on the nature of art (for instance) then of COURSE it's bloody art! And art of all kinds, including poetry, is everywhere around us, occasionally deliberately created.

Also I will share with you, whether you like it or not, my thoughts and feelings about whatever enters my mind to mention. Could be anything, anything at all, because my brain goes off on all sorts of tangents at times.

And I think that's quite enough for now.