Monday, December 14, 2009

the write stuff

The write stuff

Im sitting in a classroom and its a really hot summers day. Its one of those days that feels stagnat. Still. I think the word people would use is, close.Im going to use Balmy.Its a balmy day and it isnt moving forward at all.I have been staring at the clock now for 23 minuits and it still says 2.47.The second hand is exhausted and refuses to go any faster. All the windows are open, letting in hotter air. I can hear the groundsman yelling at his lawnmower, that also refuses to move forward.His yelling makes me grin. The windows are open for another reason.The wax on the floors have started to melt with the heat and are giving off fumes that headaches are made of.I love this smell and I already have a headache, So Im ahead of the game. Its 2.47 still and its getting hotter by the second, which in this case means hours. I hate this lesson because I hate the teacher.She is cruel and hates kids, but she especialy hates me.We are reading Shakespeare at his worst, something kids our age shouldnt be reading.The mower starts for a second and with a huge gasp, dies instantly.The groundsman yells something that children our age also shouldn't be hearing.Its 2.48, a slight improvement. Im sitting in a hot classroom praying that the teacher doesnt ask me to read.I am not religious, but Im praying to God orJesus or whoever is out there that I get spared.I make the usual deal with god, that should I be spared, I will go to church.The teacher walks or rather marches up and down the isles of the classroom. Her shoes, which have spinster written all over them,stick to the wax floor letting out a wet fart noise with every stride.I try to contol my laugh.I am the class clown, but this is a venue where Im fraught with stage fright. The teacher marches up and down prodding backs and flicking the kids ears at random, with her boney fingers.Its 2.48 and Im waiting for the number that will spell freedom. Finally the mower starts and drowns out all sound in the classroom and also the huge cheer in my head.. This means we have to read the books quietly to ourselves.SAVED! Its 2.49 and Im on the last furlong. Just as I let out a huge sigh of relief.So does the lawnmower, and it grinds to a halt for good.The groundsman looses whatever cool he had, and says things that would make even Shakespeare toes crawl.Then he storms off to the refuge of his shed. I off course let out a less controlled laugh that seem to ricochet around the class. The teacher I hate, stares at me with her cold snake like eyes.I feel the smallest droplet of sweat trickle down my little torso.I have the feeling I wont be living up to my deal with God this sunday. She makes me stand up and tells me to read the next 5 pages.She knows I cant read.The other kids know I cant read but this doesnt stop her screaming 'Come on stupid boy, R E A D !'.When she says read, I see all of her yellow ochre teeth with tinges of burnt sienna in between the cracks. All this encased with her dry pale lips. I stand there looking terrified, unable to think, let alone talk.I stand there biting the inside of my mouth. All the words to me are just like little symbols. Little drawings all jumbled up.Hieroglyphics.She knows this. I am left handed and write from right to left and back to front.This book by Shakespeare means very little to me at the best of times.But being asked to read it! She knows all the other teachers grade my work with a mirror to reflect my writing the right way around. Everything is normal except its back to front.(this goes for drawing maps and diagrams.Playing musical instruments. Using woodwork tools) in fact everything . I dont know what to do.So I do what I do best, I grin. Its 2.50 and I want to run away, I want to go home.I of course continue to grin.
The teachers face gets meaner , if that is possible and takes huge strides towards me. She raises her arm, that looks like an out of control broken windmill, and slaps me clean across my face.The room shakes a little, and then goes silent. I see her foul face screaming at me .I can make out the word s t u p i d because she says it in slow motion over and over again. I see all the kids pointing and laughing at me.I feel my mouth filling up with blood, I grin. She slaps me again. The sound has been turned up a little.Her hand is clammy, and on contact, makes the sound of a wet fish. The volume gets a little louder, and the speed of everything gets resumed to its former miserable glory.I slowly close William Shakespeare and place it gently on the desk, but not before leaving some jackson pollock like splashes of the most beautiful cadmium red I have ever seen.The blood drops say plop! as they hit the words I couldnt read.Words by William Shakespeare blood by Philip Brooker. I then walk towards to the door and reach for the handle that would set me free.The volume is now on full. Just as I my fingertips touch the door knob, I feel this claw lift my collar and swing me around in front of the class like some prize kill, compleate with blood 'Not so fast stupid boy' the witch barks.'I have an announcement to make. Next term stupid boy here will be in the 'idiots class' as she so fondly reffered to it.'So I want the class all to say your goodbyes now'. Then she looked straight into my eyes , still holding me like a dead bird.'This is what happens to stupid boys who cant read in my class.' Its 2.59 and my face is burning.In fact my whole body is on fire. I feel defeated.My eyeslids are full of very heavy tears.I try to keep my head still, should one drop to the floor. This would offically be crying.This would be the worst.Kids can be cruel. I wouldnt want a headline like 'BROOKER CRIES IN CLASS' Im hoping for 'PUPIL SURVIVES BEATING'. Ridicule at its British best.
I hate the teacher.I hate william Shakespeare, I had the groundsman for his lack of mechanical knowledge. I hate time for stopping.
Im standing in a classroom.I have a mouth full of blood.Its 3.oclock and Im 10 years old.

dyslexia |disˈleksēə|
a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.

I love my new teacher.She is tall and young and her hair is pretty and she smells clean like my mothers rose garden.I love my teacher because she says Im too smart for her class and that I dont belong there.I love her because when she walks. Her shoes whisper welcome to my class . I am in the' idiots class' surrounded by' idiots'. It look like a scene from one flew over the cuckoos nest. I like my new idiot friends.They may be idiots but they are also the toughest kids in the school..They are feared. I like my new friends in a 'dont hurt me' kind of way and they like me.I have a mafia type protection. From now on nobody messes with me.I am connected I am made.I learn more in one month with my new teacher than a year with the old crow.I learn that words are not drawings.I learn that its o.k. to read with a mirror (something the other teacher would never allow) I learn that Leonado de Vinci and I shared the same problem, only he also wrote upside down.I learn I cant spell in either direction. I love my new teacher and all my new friends. I love my teacher when she sits very close to me, as I explain what these letters mean to me.I want this lesson to last forever.It doesnt, the clock wont allow it. I tell her as slowly as I can my Alphabet...
A=Wigwam B= Front-teeth sideways C=bow without a string.D= bow with a string.E=.End of fork.F= farmers hoe .G= wood clamp H=rugby goal post I=pencil J=hockey stick K=arrowhead in a piece of wood.L=nose M=mountains. N=amusement ride. O=eyeball. P=flag on a pole. Q=balloon on a string. R=slide in a playground.S=a snake. T=flathead nail U=a tongue V=TV ariel W=fangs X=tire wrench.Y=snakes tongue Z=lightning.

Im sitting in my studio in Paris.The widow is open and the cold air bites me in a friendly and loving way. Im working on the story that you are reading now.I feel strange. Maybe its because I've excuvated the dry carcass of the witch. I try not to ponder to long.I pick up my pencil and write on a new piece of paper U O Y K C U F . I stare at the letters. Then I stare at the letters as symbols.It really says farmers hoe, tongue, bow without a string and an arrow head stuck in a piece of wood.Well you get the picture or rather the word.
I bite the inside of my mouth a little too hard.
Im sitting in my studio.
I do what I do best and grin.
Im 53.

Above: My left hand from the series 'souvenir of dinard' Digital print on paper. 7'x4'

Monday, December 7, 2009

the upper crust

O.K. today we start off with a simple quiz .A French quiz if you will, only it's in English. Ready? What are the first three things that come to mind when you think of 'The French?' and when I say 'The French', I mean of course 'The Parisians'.This isnt a trick question . Oh I know what your thinking, go on say it, we are all grown up here.Top of the list .They pong (usually the armpit area and always on the metro, and for some reason, even in the winter) 2.They strike at the drop of a hat (or rather a berat) Number 3. The woman dont shave there armpits'. Really! is that what you are all saying? (actually its what I am saying, but for the sake of argument, we will pretend its you) Well you might be right. But personally I was thinking something more like this (play a piece by Debussy when reading the next few lines).....Beautiful woman in skirts gliding on bicycles down avenues with names that sound like exotic pied piper-like perfumes.Or, strange seductive cigarette fumes that dance and drift in and around cafes. Inhaled by the likes of Jean Paul Sartre, Serge Gainsbourg, Juliette Greco.But really, When I think of what Paris means to me, It is something closer to this.The amazing buildings that loom over me with a knowing smile, while running there fingertips gently through my hair as if to say, 'welcome my skinny English boy to my warm ample bosom.'The erotic smells that waft in and around this city,looking for a soul to inhabit. A whisper that seems to say 'eat me, drink me take me. One whiff and I'm all yours. Or the feeling you are walking and living and yes breathing , in one huge flirtatious sensual expo with an accent or subtitles. O.K. dear reader, I know what you are thinking. Philip is on his third galss off wine.Well you are wrong, its my second. But I did have an amazing martini around 7 crammed with olives......O.k. getting back to the essence of 'The Parisian'......Oh! forget the essence and forget the quiz. Today I'm writing about that national instituation that rises with the sun ever morning. BREAD! yes BREAD! yes French! BREAD.

It seems that on every street in Paris and I mean every street, at all times of the day (with the exception of 1.30am -5.30am or there about) there is a person or persons walking casuallly with a baguette under his or her arm (and when I say arm) I mean arm-pit (more about that later) And when I say baguette, I'm talking about that fantastic, warm crusty, out of this world stick of bread, with a smell that should be bottled or arrested or both. O.K. before I waffle on too much, here is the answer to the quiz I posed 3 glasses of wine ago..The answers dear readers (or reader), in no particular order (Drum roll please) has to be ' The Baguette' (forget the other 2 on the list) THIS very very very French icon that we have all come to know and love and smell and YES! even eat, is the clear champion ..only its not, dare I say, FRENCH! (but its still the winner and an icon)
I will tell you why (yes I actually did some investigative reporting on this one) those years at the Miami Herald actually payed off. Im glad something did.
Im not sure I have ever walked down a rue or an avenue without someone carriying a baguette. It almost seems like a joke or an artist happening or a huge campaign set up by the French government or the French bread commission to make you buy bread. BUT NO! People here do it as a natuaral daily routine.Sometimes its more than one loaf, sometimes its up to 6 sticks (I suppose for those tres chic parties that I never seem get invited too) I have seen men woman children and yes even dogs carring these amazing sticks of bread.I have seen grown men using them to practise there golf strokes or young boys trying to perfect there fencing technics or woman caressing the end as if to say 'if only if only'. A young woman beating her boyfriend over the head with it. A boyfriend wacking her on the ass with it. I have seen people eating the ends of the bread on there way home,or the middle( also on there way home) I have seen a woman drop 3 of them in a poopy looking street, only to brush them off and be on her merry way ( the guests will never know) Trust me, its all a set up.I know, or think I do. That these various people are employed on a daliy basis just to carry these things around with them to entice others (tourists) to buy, as if the smell wasn't enough to lure us all in..But I hear what you are all saying 'philip, didnt you say something about this French instituion not actually being French at all?" What good SOBER memories you all have.
O.K. let me take you back to last tuesday or was it wednesday? ( it should be said,I knew as much about baguettes as you do, maybe less) I wandered to my local boulangerie (a good place to start I thought) to ask some soul searching dough rising questions..It went something like this, 'Bonjour Madam' (then it went to English with the help of an interpreter(Yes i know, I really must learn French.) I asked 'can you tell me something about the Baguette? She looked startled at first (maybe it was my new haircut) then I offered her some help ;'The history maybe?' Even more startled. Then she shrugged her shoulders so high, I thought she might hurt herself and other people nearby.Her poetic reply was 'you want to buy something or not' I pressed on, and asked her another tough question...This time she answered 'we sell the best bread in the area maybe Paris..You want to buy something or not? What a sweetheart, and what a smart beard she seemed to be sporting.It will look just fine when its grown in.

Not the type to be easily defeated (with distant memories of the battle of Waterloo flashing in front of me) I moved on to the next boulageroie and then the next..Same answer, same shoulder shrug 'we have the best bread in the region and maybe all of Paris..At least the last ladies reply was a little different 'why do you want to know? Dont ask so many questions, just eat the bread...Then she went on to say she sold the best bread in the region and Paris and even France.I did notice that she forgot to shrug her shoulders.Maybe she did it when I left. So with all this wealth of knowledge and a warm baguette nestlled firmly under my arm, I went to the Bibliotheque National (the mother of all French libraries)to find answers. I will save you all the boring bits, but here it is in a nutsdhell. When did the Baguette become an icon in Paris? Why didnt any of these woman know anything about the history of the bagette? Why did I cut my hair so short, (its winter for goodness sake?).....What I found out answered all my questions (apart from the bad haircut one) Brace yourselfs readers, you may not like the answer........

(WARNING!) There is almost no history to this story either. I know what you are saying (yes! I read minds also) You are saying, 'What? Europe? and NO HISTORY"? O.K there is a little bit, but not as much as you may want...It goes something like this.
In the early 19th century an Austian artillery officer called August Zang who opened a very famous bakery in Vienna in 1838. BUT! Also founded the daily newspaper 'Die Presse' which still exists today (this doesnt have much to do with this bread story at all, in fact nothing at all.Well maybe a little. One uses dough for bread and gets dough to work at a newspaper but thats about it). Quite a clever geezer if you ask me. Anyway, he also introduced the new 'Deck oven' (a combination of gas and steam) into Paris.The steam, as Im sure you all know, allows the crust to expand before setting, thus creating a light fluffy dough inside, yet a golden crusty skin outside. Voila!! This is the bit where it gets very French (you may want to sit down). In 1920 a law was passed forbidding bakers to bake bread after 10p.m.till 4 a.m. making it impossible to bake the tradittional round bread in time.So the problem was solved by baking the thin Baguette.It could be baked and ready for the grumpy French customers in the morning. And so was born le Baguette. ( rod, wand stick, Baguette has a few get the crust or rather drift).In 1960 an ad campaign was launched to further the popularity of "La Baguette", a woman dressed in a smock walking through the streets claiming "Ben, que c'est bon!"( Well! its good! ) and grinning. The sales went through the roof ( of the oven no doubt) .Im sure being a French ad, she was really only wearing a smile, making not only the bread rise..Oooo la la.So this crusty icon of the Parisians is in fact a late bloomer as far as icons go.Because they sometimes go far.
Im always amazed at the passion the French have, for most things. Usually most things that are a food. Im going to the boulangerie tomorrow.It's a sunday and most shops are closed Except for (yes you guessed it) There will be lines of people coming out of these places.Lines not seen since the end of the war or lines still whitnessed in Russia or whatever its called these days.People will stand for a long long time (patient,nearly smiling, all very unlike the Parisians) Looking and acting almost like crack additcts getting there daily high. Or demented teens lining up for a Britney Spears tickets.These customers will stand in a gastronomic trance. I will be with them, staring at them 'standing in a trance'
O.K. I want to end this Blog entry the way I started (and I don't mean another martini) I want to finish with another quiz. Question: What part of a Baguette should you never ever ever eat.? (I will give you 30 seconds)....Would you like a clue? (A CLUE) Espically on a summers day.....Oh come on, the answer is a breeze....WHAT!You need another clue? oh! your'e the pits...

Bon Apetit