Across the Maribyrnong

I went to meet my mate a few days ago to kick back in the house he was housesitting in Hawthorn and to witness the last hurrah of the decomposing Australian cricket team.

I get a peculiar feeling when I cross from the western suburbs of Melbourne to the eastern. The eastern side is more leafy. It has more trees, and a feel that my side does not have. It maybe only exists in my head, but I look at their streets and because I imagine a more relaxed vibe I therefore feel it as I’m there. The only thing that exists is what our heads give form to, so to speak. I imagine (and therefore feel) a tranquil existence which paradoxically needs more money to fund it, since that is the money side of the city. I imagine a side of the city purely populated by Anglo-Saxons and Asians, free of the politics and bitterness that the Wogs brought over from Macedonia, Malta, Serbia, Italy and Co. and drenched the western suburbs in. I erroneously imagine an old-fashioned feel of people who still give a damn about each other despite being strangers on the surface, another quality that I associate with the idea of monoculturalism, although I’m not sure if that idea is intellectual or because of my own slight, latent racism. I see milk bars on the street corners that have an old-Australia feel. I see houses that are no bigger than ours but probably cost more.

And I feel… different. I used to make jokes about the divide when I was in high school in South Yarra (yeah, don’t start) and all my mates came from the other side. But now that I’m here, and school broke out for summer nine years ago now, and all the jobs that don’t involve being a tradie (I’m just not suited for that stuff) are in the east because that’s where all of the businesses are: I’ve just realised how envious I feel of them, how less tense I imagine my existence would be if I had been one of them. I don’t mean in a violence sense because virtually nothing violent has ever happened to or around me; but I mean that I’m sick of dealing with the politics of day-to-day racism (including my own), the feeling that I’m an outsider in my own country.

What if my parents had been posted over there when they came in the seventies? I’d be supporting a footy team that had won more than zero premierships in the last fifty years. I’d be frolicking in trees and all that crap. I’d probably be making a shitload of money, although that one is my fault, I should have gotten on my feet at an earlier age. I’d have probably met more people who had brains throughout my time, and not felt on the defensive so much.

Money is not about having more things, I suddenly wonder. It’s about avoiding unpleasantness, unpleasant people, unpleasant jobs, unpleasant schools. Sure some of them over there are spoilt and sue their kids’ schools for not delivering an automatic 99.50 ENTER even if their kid is a moron; they have no idea that life is a battle and not a procession, but I’d choose that over the alternative. I wasn’t sure where this post was going, I thought it would be some glib shit about fate, but in a way this is about what I would want in a fantasy world and so is not so dissimilar to my Christmas list.

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Langu

Langu was a black woman my age from South Africa who I worked and lived with for three months on a campsite in the U.S., then we separately went back home and I didn’t see her again.

I’ve had people in my life who I’ve liked, and people I’ve felt comfortable around, but very few people with whom I’ve felt welcomed on every level and understood on every level, that there was no judgement floating below the surface and never would be. I ended up feeling love for these people, and afterwards never felt the strange bitterness when they got ‘lost’ from my life that I residually felt with everyone else whose bad memories overtook the good ones once they went missing.

There was Langu from Johannesburg in 2003, and there was Clint from Cape Town in 2004 who both (but separately) worked with me at St Mary’s children’s summer camp in Wisconsin. The two greatest people I ever met, but they would probably not figure on a list of influential people in my life because I just didn’t know them long enough – three intense months each one. Throw in Lizeth the Bolivian goddess for the perfect understanding we had although my association with her did not give me any peace – there, I said her name, strike me down – and a Swede named Elin who I knew in Bolivia and those are the four people I’ve felt a perfect connection with. Langu and Clint were the ones I felt the most joy around, the people I would most give a shit about losing, yet the only ones who I felt no animosity towards when I did lose them, as I said.

After a few years apart, they stopped answering letters and emails, disappeared into the heart of South Africa and became untraceable. It’s a strange thought in the google/facebook age that people can still vanish into the ether, but neither of them has a facebook or answer the few hopeless emails sent so that’s the end. (My facebook is now deactivated too, as an aside.)

Langu was one of the very few women with whom there was never any sexual tension in my mind. I just cruised with her, laughed all the time, discussed things, intellectually thought she looked kind of decent but instinctively knew that it was about something else with her, and simply lived it. I lived it once more in Bolivia in 2005-6, with a very cute Swedish/Iranian girl named Talajeh. We lived in the same house in Bolivia and she became my sister. I watched both of them hook up with other guys with amusement and warmth. But they were the only women my age with whom I felt this way; all the others could g.f.themselves cause they didn’t want to sleep with me, etc, you know, the macho shit lives inside me too. I wonder if a massive difference was needed to allow me to feel that way with the two of them, a huge racial difference that just instinctively put the sexual side out of the question.

I have all of these great memories of Langu, a catalogue. She referred to a song we sang together onstage as “A Langu and Marty moment” and I suppressed my laughter to cooly reply, “One of many.” She used to wander around, aware of everything but at the same time in her world, never lost but never succumbing to the day-to-day bullshit that everyone else did, or at least never showing it with me. She told me about her life, her extended family, her schooling. She never begrudged me my slightly upper-middle class background, my naïveté.

I was with her for a week in New York and was just overjoyed by my company, that I had those two people all to myself (it was her and another fantastic dude from Jo’burg named Jono. I’ve met so many great South African people that if I could turn back the clock I would give them the 1999 World Cup semi-final as gratitude, to ease their pain). She was running low on money so we did simple things. We stayed in Spanish Harlem and decided that New York was not exactly overrated but neither was it the glamorous Sex and the City world that everyone writes about and is shown on TV. New York City was Third World in its gritty struggle to survive, its utter lack of forgiveness. Its ragged squalor and sometimes filthy surroundings, its hustle- and urgency-based economy pointed not to the richness of Wall Street and the rest of North America but back to the poverty of Africa, from where huge numbers of African immigrants had rolled the dice and come to try their luck in NYC. Langu and I ended up with mixed feelings about the place. We said goodbye to each other on a NY street corner and when I was there for a few days the next year I thought of her constantly.

The last time I heard from her was September 2006, when I had just returned from the Bolivian year and was an emotional wreck, although an emotionally drowning man cannot see himself drowning until he has safely emerged afterwards. Then I lost her, she stopped writing to my letters and emails (I sent actual, physical letters to her: she was special), but that’s how it goes, I don’t feel any “You’re too good to write to me anymore?” nonsense. She might have lost interest, she might be married, she might be ashes for all I know. Oh well, you can’t hold a rainbow, but I wish I was still in touch with her.

Langutelani Rikhotso, Langu Rikhotso, if you ever google your name, maybe you’ll come across this site and know that I still think of you, and maybe you can get in touch if you’re still a living, breathing person at this point. I say this, even if it’s a terrible emotional cliché: Langu, I love you, or at least did when I knew you, and the memory of you warms my heart still. I felt perfect contentment whenever I spent any time with you, and that is an exceedingly rare feeling. While I’m at it: Clint Hendricks from Cape Town who worked in Wisconsin in 2004: google yourself and find my site if you still exist, as I’m sure you do. You are the most insightful, kindest, funkiest person I ever met. I love you as well, you are the only guy I could probably say that to, and I never forgot about you.

I keep on falling in and out of love with you

“Show some love for the talented, the beautiful Alicia Keys!” I was told last night, along with 13,000 others, the majority female. I would show love in my own time but objected being told to do it by some flunky. The ‘beautiful’ part shouldn’t have had a damn thing to do with anything, because in a smart world we wouldn’t be giving and receiving compliments for something we have no control over, but of course Alicia Keys’ smile and face and hips have a lot to do with it. Who was I fooling, I loved seeing her face and moods blown up on the big screen last night at her concert. We went to hear beauty but to see it too.

We don’t simply live in a world in which appearance/packaging/marketing is the most important thing. We live in a world in which the packaging is the only thing. What is inside, what the substance of the product or person is, quite simply does not matter. I hate it, I despise that that’s how it is, but that’s how it works out there.

Alicia Keys intrigues me because she is one of the very few stars that has gotten what she has because of her substance and not due to her façade. If anything the lady who plays the piano is a bit of an old-fashioned image, not that cool, or at least wasn’t until she made it cool. She must have something, that “it”, the indefinable magic that speaks to people deep inside themselves, because a lot of people have responded to her this decade and as I’ve just said, it couldn’t have been just for her look.

She wrote the song Butterflyz when she was thirteen, the song that would remain my favourite for years to come (or perhaps one of two favourites). As I half-jokingly remarked about Alicia Keys a year ago, her second album hadn’t been quite as good as her first, so my thinking is that when your greatest song is written at age thirteen, there’s nowhere to go but slightly down. But then she released her third album and gently responded to me, “Shhh!”

She’s graduated from being the piano lady to a more deliberate RnBer, while paradoxically letting her hair loose and ditching the braids. She’s occasionally gotten into some basic dancing over the last few years. On an instinctive level I hated that she had become so popular, that she belonged to everyone else and not just to me, but as long as she stays relevant then I too stay relevant and up-to-date.

She let her band jam it last night, instrumentalising up a few of her songs that had gotten stale over the passage of time, and I loved her for letting it all roll as I swayed. I loved the instruments and her frail brown backing singers. You could tell by the way she talked to the audience that she was used to playing crowds, had done it all before, but she is still a human being who smiled when she felt it and didn’t smile when she didn’t: at one point I think I saw her in a moment when she thought, this arrangement is not working that well. Her voice booms without sacrificing beauty, she has hips and a nice smile, and she wore white while her band members wore black. She has it.

On her second album she killed the song that could have been the kick-ass tune of her career, You don’t know my name, with an uninspired minute talking through the middle of it, and ruined it again last night by eliminating the piano from it and playing it as a croony shoop-shoop song. No matter. Her false finale was Fallin’, the theme song she will never get away from as long as she lives, and she should have ended the concert there. The build-up to the song was huge, they gassed the stage and she trilled for a minute before she started. I will never stop loving Fallin’, and evidently no one will, it was the only true song when it came out onto the plastic music scene in 2001 and established her as the only true songstress.

She came out for two more staged encores, but didn’t sing Butterflyz, which is a song that stays with me after everyone else has forgotten it and which I once sang in front of a bunch of people at camp four years ago. (But if it was her first song she must always remember it too, I’m thinking?) But the idea of the slow, simplistically-emotional Butterflyz at one of her hip concerts of funky songs is like going on a date with Miranda Kerr just to see her nose, like seeing the Brazilian soccer team – Kaká, Ronaldo et al – for its goalkeeper, like going to a seafood restaurant for its salads: irrelevant.

She has it, she has it, and I hope she keeps it, and shows it, and never loses it.

Why then, O brawling love?

Movie moments… in no particular order, except for my number one. They are, as I try to be, understated; saying just enough, or falling just a tad short of doing so.

 

Jenna: I have a big crush on this red she-dog from Nome, Alaska who made a name for herself in the kids flick Balto. Jenna and Balto were the true, pure characters amid the gossipy and occasionally vindictive other dogs, and it was destined that they end up together despite what could laughingly be called class prejudice (it’s a kid’s film about dogs for God’s sake): Balto is a half-wolf, a mutt.

When she goes out into the wild to help Balto and his entourage on his quest and lays her body over his to warm him after Balto had fallen into the ice it seemed so natural that it just warmed my heart, it was the perfect moment. If only love really could exist without sexual matters as in a kid’s film, I sometimes wonder. Does sex complicate our lives unnecessarily, distracting us from finding the truth? Or does sex enhance living, is it the icing on the cake of finding our Jenna?

 

“I hope”: The end of The Shawshank Redemption. A light at the end of a movie of darkness (well, darkness for mainstream audiences). Years and years being brutalised and losing freedom, music, hope – for hope is a dangerous thing, and has no place within these walls – there is the sea, there are the friends finally reunited outside the walls, there is hope. Ah Morgan Freeman, if you narrated bar mitzvahs I would turn my kid Jewish for you.

 

I thought you were very brave: The Lion King. Muphasa rescues Simba and Nala from the elephant’s graveyard and then scolds a contrite Simba, who slinks away with young Nala’s conciliatory words: “I thought you were very brave.” And then above leaning forward on the rock: Scar looks over the scene, perched in impotent fury that his best-laid plan had come to nothing, all because his hated brother Muphasa had come up trumps yet again. What a mood.  It’s building up to something else, surely. Like the death of the King! (“What, is he sick?”)

 

The greatest scene from a movie ever (to me)…

Introducing Romeo: “Why then, O brawling love?” muses a sloppily besuited and besotted Leonardo DiCaprio one morning at the beach, as he smokes a ciggie (as much as it’s not a great idea to admit this to the kids: smoking in movies always looks cool) and writes a few lines down. The opening chords of a bass guitar set the scene. He jumps up suddenly and peers: is someone watching me? And he walks away, lost in love, and love is lost (hehe). The whole scene oozes coolness and made me want to, at minimum, buy a suit jacket to wear in casual situations.

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth…

…and all of these things.

 

Cheap CDs: I miss being in a place where piracy rules the roost and a mix CD with 20 ‘it’ songs or good ‘theme’ CDs cost a buck, as opposed to shiny, proper CDs with two good songs that cost $25 each. I once lived in a house for seven months with no TV simply listening to music and typing to spend the downtime, so to me music matters. Hearing songs on youtube just isn’t the same.

Sure I could just put a peer-to-peer program on my own computer but it gives me the same thought as the thought of having sex with a prostitute: there’ll be some quick benefits, but think of the infections.

 

A “Stacey”: Back-story: I had the best dance I’ve ever had with a Bolivian named Stacey this time last year. Her movement was uninhibited without being crude, fluid and sexual without being loose. Oh my God, I spent years looking for a perfect dancer for me (as in freestyle, not Latin or couples or anything like that, which I’m shit at) and that night was it. She seemed to have a good personality too and yes, she was sexy. But I didn’t care if she said a word or did anything else besides dance with me whenever I wanted, and be happy about it. I never saw her again. It’s hard to find a dancer you really click with, just like it’s hard to find a personality you really click with. I want a new one, Santa.

 

A Portuguese or Brazilian “friend”, and a French “friend”: I need warm, understanding native speakers with whom to practice my competent but fragile French and Portuguese skills. They both have to be hot chicks and we have to gel beautifully on an intellectual level. Said talking also has to be accompanied with steamy if ephemeral flings.

 

A free trip (including accommodation) to Oruro, Bolivia every February: The city itself is a sleepy shithole but it hosts carnaval once a year. I’ve done carnaval twice, in 06 and 08. Last (this?) year I had no lodging and slept on a seat in the bus station, that’s how much I love Carnaval of Oruro. It’s like we all imagine Rio de Janeiro’s to be but Bolivia is shyer and more traditional than Brazil so ours is smaller and with more clothes on.

 

My book, magically written and published: I’ve had a project in mind for seven years but I’ve only written two and a half chapters in all that time. It’s about an infantile God who torments the people in Old Testament lore because he was an immature teenage asshole. I ripped the concept off a short-story I read once. So far I’ve done Adam and Eve and Noah’s flood, and am currently on Abraham (who is the inspiration, the coward who would have willingly slaughtered his kids). Time to get to work.

 

Scratched off the list: Yellow runners. Before I disavow materialism, allow me to undo my nobility by tremulously stating that the other day I spent $180 on yellow runners with cool black stripes. They were like Uma Thurman’s in Kill Bill and I just had to have them. Don’t laugh, I was once like you.

I had stocked up on black and white runners back in the day in the cheap United States, with the intention of never buying shoes here again. But then I outgrew the plain days and suddenly found the confidence and the longing to wear bright colours. I bought red Pumas in Argentina for $30 (way to name-drop) and thought my life was complete, but in the back of my mind yellow was the next step. And then two days ago…  I’m a niche-lover and I see so few mainstream things that I like. When they appear as in a miracle you just have to bite the bullet and forget about the trillion more useful applications $180 would be good for. Sigh. There Santa, I saved you a chore.

 

I know I’m supposed to want things for Christmas, but I just don’t. But still, the people I asked for can be wrapped up in a large box, with a ribbon tied on it. If you tell me I’ll still act surprised.

The Loss

September 20, 1997: Preliminary Final

Adelaide                        0.7 (7)           4.11 (35)       8.15 (63)       12.21 (93)

Western Bulldogs          2.2 (14)         10.6 (66)       13.7 (85)       13.13 (91)

The Loss, in capital letters. Western Bulldogs vs. Adelaide, Preliminary Final, 1997. September 20, 1997; the losing spin of the roulette wheel on which all Bulldog people had invested everything, a forgotten match played in a forgotten year by two forgotten teams, but for the Bulldog faithful the only game that will ever matter.

We didn’t think beforehand about the emotional consequence that losing might leave on us. We did not consider the possibility. We knew that Adelaide would be a difficult game but that day was supposed to be our destiny. We had risen from the ashes of the disgraceful, de facto wooden-spoon season of 1996 (R.I.P. Fitzroy) to be on the cusp of an incredible Grand Final and a very real chance of a premiership. That game was it, that was the one.

I was there in the very last row of the Southern Stand, on the top with a concrete wall at our backs and the action far below. Chris Grant’s last smothered behind with a minute to go was just a blur in the distance for me. I’m still not sure what happened, but I get the impression that if we were not Footscray, always condemned to lose, then I’m sure he would have scored. It was a simple chance to win the game.

From the Bulldog end, this match – the most important game and probably the defining moment of Footscray Football Club’s modern history – was notable for the extraordinary performances out of nowhere of two players who had barely ever featured for the Bulldogs before that day and almost never would again after it: Mark West, the Indigenous midfielder who tore Adelaide up for much of the game, and James Cook, the slender full-forward who marked and kicked goals that day without drama, as a matter of routine that Jason Dunstall would be proud of. But they would both miss crucial shots in the last quarter.

In the second quarter, after Adelaide threatened to run away at 3.9 to 3.2, we suddenly clicked. We had ‘it’, that magical, intangible essence that coaches work for, players train for, sports scientists collect data for, but can never be explained. The ball always emerged from the packs in our players’ hands; run was created; kicks were precise; shots went in for goals without question. Even inexperienced players like Mark West and a seventeen year-old, mulletted Nathan Brown scored difficult set shots with ease. After the siren Cook scored another and it occurred to me that I had sat through so many false dawns and mere dreams but that this moment, this lead, this Grand Final berth, this was finally real.

In the third quarter Adelaide threatened but we held them off. Then in the last quarter Malcolm Blight switched one of his midfielders to the forward line: Darren Jarman, the man who single-handedly stripped me of my footy-based dreams, a week before he more famously did the same thing to the Saints’ faithful. Before he did, though, we missed chance after chance to end this game. Shots hit the post, there was the Libba thing, Cook missed from twenty-five metres what he had been drilling all day long, and balls bounced the wrong way through for behinds just beyond our unmanned forwards with not a single Adelaide defender in sight. And then we lost ‘it’, it passed over to Adelaide, and Jarman showed perhaps for the first time in his career what a brilliant player he truly was. Our defence couldn’t respond (see picture, two on one). Our lead dwindled from twenty-something to three in a matter of minutes.

Ben Hart missed a shot to take the lead, and then almost exactly like a counter-attacking soccer team a goal up but severely under the pump, which we basically were, a slick chain of handpasses sent Mark West streaking away as free as air to score the goal that would seal the game. He missed his shot on the run, quite badly in fact.

Jarman almost immediately then scored the winning goal. Then there was the Grant folly (was it smothered? Did a desperate Adelaide defender block his kick, and why wasn’t he feted as a hero afterwards? Did Grant just miss it? Could he not keep his feet? What exactly happened? Do I even want to know?); Scott West emerged from a pack on half-forward but turned back into it and his rushed kick into the forward line was marked by a Crow, and that was the end.

I was in a sort of daze immediately afterwards and did not see Rohan Smith repeatedly thump the turf. When I finally looked over at the scene, I wanted to see the Bulldog players one last time but my team was already nowhere to be seen. I was immediately sad that the Bulldogs would not appear in their current incarnation ever again. Everything changes in a new season, lists are culled. Despite how well we played over the following two years (and intermittently in 2000), 1997 was more emotional.

Would we have beaten St Kilda? Would we have had fun at the Grand Final parade? Would the Grant vs. Harvey Brownlow shemozzle have been an omen? Wasn’t Cook suspended for his next match, which would have been the Grand Final? The answer to all of those questions is the same: Who cares, because we lost.

Years later I wondered if it was even real. The pre-game hope and premiership dreaming seem like pure fantasy now, the loss just brutal reality reasserting itself once more. For a few years afterward it was like a death that we dealt with (however inadequately), usually by thinking about it as little as possible and not saying a word about it to anyone.

In my mind it became a myth – how could the Bulldgos have ever realistically contested for the premiership? But now that I see the pic of Jarman reborn, kicking our ass once more and I remember that it was a real match of actual physical players, and the thought of that gives it reality again and it hurts once more. But years have passed and it got buried, replaced by a different tragedy.

…Salman Rushdie and me

How does he do it?

How does he do it?

There isn’t really a Salman Rushdie and me in the same way that there is a Lauryn Hill and me, or a Barack Obama and me. I’ve only read three of his books, and one, The Satanic Verses, I wasn’t all that impressed with (but you can’t buy that kind of publicity, hyuk hyuk). I would read more of Salman Rushdie’s books but you know, can’t be fucked, life’s too short etc. They’re all indirectly about the Indian subcontinent, it just doesn’t interest me enough.

Still, I’ve loved the other two I’ve read: Midnight’s Children, a whimsical fictional look at the beginnings and developments of the Indian and Pakistani nations through the eyes of a magical child/teen/adult, and Fury, a look through fiction at the concept of America and New York City as the all-powerful cultural and money capital of the world (c. 2000, pre-towers, pre-Bush budget deficits. Pre-fear).

Salman Rushdie, to refresh our memories, was the one who wrote The Satanic Verses, for which the Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini stated to the world in 1989 that every good Muslim had a duty to kill Salman Rushdie if the opportunity presented itself, and he had to go underground for a decade. Both the Italian and Japanese translators of the book consequently met their end. The fatwa is still in place.

The Satanic Verses is not quite a good enough book to spend time analysing, so I won’t. And Islam (or any religion) is not coherent or rational enough to analyse either, so I won’t. Suffice to say the fatwa is utterly despicable, a stain on the face of the tolerance and forgiveness that humanity and particularly organised religion is supposed to represent.

Salman Rushdie was called an apostate, someone who saw the Muslim truth and turned his face away. Yet Islam and Rushdie’s personal struggle with it is always in his work. His main characters in Midnight’s Children question Islam but it is always there, especially when they move from India to Pakistan, the country named after purity itself. Rushdie is quietly critical of austere Pakistan, “the land of a thousand untruths,” against India, that whirling land of humanity in its most basic form where paradoxically (or maybe because of that) anything is still possible, the “land of a thousand different realities”.

But I was sidetracked. The first character of the story uneasily tries to recapture his faith upon returning home to Kashmir from Germany, but hits his nose when he bows to perform his prayers and vows to never kiss earth for any god or man again. “This decision, however, left a hole in him, a vacancy in a vital inner chamber.” The same thing happened to me. I had ditched going to church and the Bible was a crock but nonetheless I was still content to say thank you to God whenever I passed through a yellow light at an intersection or scored a penalty kick in an indoor soccer match. God was there. But then a year and a half ago I was foolish enough to read The God Delusion by an author who couldn’t just let people be happy. I don’t remember any of his arguments but suddenly God was no longer there in my mind, I was no longer saying thank you at the vital unimportant moments, suddenly girls who believed in God were no longer a turn-on for me. He was no longer watching the world, I was suddenly adrift and merely one person against the world, and suddenly things would no longer turn out all right, I will live a meaningless life and then simply die. I hate you Richard Dawkins, hate you hate you hate you. You ruined my fucking life.

All that over a mere non-fiction book. To me, very little non-fiction is worth my reading, since none of it is written stylishly enough for my tastes. Hell, maybe that’s why I like Salman Rushdie’s stuff.

Salman Rushdie, to me, has always been a triumph of style and observations over any sort of storyline. Fury is a thin story that is a mask for Rushdie’s wonder at the concept of America: Even Anti-Americanism is a concession that America is the only game in town. Have all empires been this undeserving, or is this one particularly crass? Anyone in any part of the world would love to be wearing even the cheap knock-offs that are sold daily on the streets of New York. Because of the immense goddamn power of America, the immense fucking seduction of America, those bastards in charge get away with… He includes New York Yankee baseball players, Patrick Kluivert and the ultimately doomed Dutch Euro 2000 effort (“stir the races together and you get the most beautiful people. I want to go to Surinam, and soon”), Mexicans speculating on machines that eat food (“Jou better wise up, hermano. They got machine now eat food for fuel, jou hear that?”) foul-mouthed but apologetic immigrant cabbies, ad jingles, overheard stories in the street.

He also covers the emotional moments very well, and in a very understated way. ‘ “Let me,” her begged her. “Believe me. I’m the one.” One night, out of the blue, she let him, she said she believed.’ A line that completely made it worth the price of stealing The Satanic Verses from some shop in the city seven years ago ($0). Then there is Mila’s rejection in Fury, an insertion of deep loss into regular knockabout life, one that I should Xerox and send to Bolivia:

“You’re a lucky man, because evidently you’re an optimist. Only a wild optimist throws away what’s most precious, what’s so rare and satisfies his deepest need, which you know and l know you can’t even name or look at without the shutters closed and the lights out, you have to hide it until somebody comes along who’s smart enough to know what to do, somebody whose own unspeakable need just happens to make a perfect fit with your own. And now, now that we’ve got there, when the defences are down and the pretence is over and we’re really in that room that we never allowed ourselves to believe could exist for either of us, the invisible room of our greatest fear – right at very moment when we discover there’s no need to be afraid in that room, we can have whatever we want for as long as we want it, and maybe when we’ve had our fill we’ll wake up and notice that we’re real living people, we’re not the puppets of our desires but just this woman, this man, and then we can stop the games, open up the shutters, turn out the lights, and step out into the city street hand in hand… this is when you decide to… An optimist is a man who gives up an impossible pleasure because he’s sure he’ll find it again just around the bend. Me, by the way, I’m a pessimist. My view is that not only does lightning not strike twice, it usually doesn’t strike once. So that was it for me, what happened between us, that was really it, and you, you just, damn, damn. I could have stayed with you, did you ever work that out? Oh, not for long, just thirty or forty years, more than you’ve got, probably. Instead I’ll just marry Eddie. You know what they say: charity begins at home.”

He was thinking, You can’t marry him, you mustn’t, but such advice was no longer his to give. “You’re telling yourself that what we did was wrong,” she said. “I know you. But what we did wasn’t wrong,” and here her eyes filled with tears. “We were just comforting each other for our terrible feelings of loss. It wasn’t wrong at all. It was play. Serious play, dangerous play, maybe, but play. I thought you understood that. I thought you might just be that impossible creature, a sexually wise man who could give me a safe place, a place to be free and to set you free, too, a place where we could release all the built-up poison and anger and hurt, just let it go and be free of it, but it turns out you’re just another fool.”

That is it. That is the perfect description of one love once it is over, then and there. That was it for me. That’s why I care about Salman Rushdie. I don’t give a shit about Islamic fundamentalists, and I don’t care that he’s old and cantankerous in real life, because it’s not legitimate to criticise the artist’s work by his life and personality, only on the work itself. Which incidentally is also why Amy Winehouse is my girl whatever the shenanegans, and will continue to be as long as she keeps releasing such fantastic music. But that’s unlikely, because I think that pain of living is already too much for her, similar to what happened to Lauryn Hill.