In Tunisia I got a tan. Then I went to London to produce a 12" for a friend. Christmas coming up, it got too expensive to fly to Berlin, impossible to get a seat to Dublin. So I'm staying on in Clerkenwell the lonely financial zone in a big flat that the Council thinks is still occupied by the Aids victim they gave it to for free five years ago. In reality the Aids guy went home to Australia in '94, is presumably dead. He transmitted his flat, surreptitiously, to a hairdresser who gave it to a dude who gave it to a music journalist who sub-let it to me until her conscience got the better of her and she stopped collecting rent, disappeared from the face of my earth. I got a free London home. I spend about four months a year in London - but I don't live here; nobody does.
I get up in the afternoon, spend two hours drinking black coffee, listening to old CDs. Around six I put the world's smallest turkey into the gas oven and turn the oven on down low. The cosy/Catholic/family/memory smell of turkey floats through the chill tiled hall while I reinvent myself checking out Ill Communication. Central heating blasts my room full of reassurance - I will never die. Outside my highrise windows the city is almost freezing. While the turkey is cooking, I walk into Soho. Christmas is the loneliest time of the year for the surfer boy and I'm the only surfer boy in town.
The streets are empty, my mind full of vipers. All I feel is the sharp cold. All I can hear is my Berlin-bought Nike trainers slapping the pavement. All I can smell is air. Lack of distraction makes me walk faster – normally I'm a dopey walker – and I'm at Centrepoint on the fringes of Soho in no time.
When I've eaten my turkey dinner I call my mother. Now the soundtrack is Boogie Down Productions, A Man & His Music, on vinyl. Mum says a postcard came for me from Alwyn Falklow: “She says she's living in Dublin now and she gives her phone number if you'd like to call her. The card is horrible, of course, some pop group.”
“Which pop group?”
“They're called Rancid.”
I love my mother.
Alwyn was this linguini-thin kid, limbs delicate as an eyelid, cold as ice cream and just as sweet. She had studs through both nipples and one through her left eyebrow. In 1990, when I was 22 and she was 13, Alwyn was my girlfriend. She had spiked mousy-blonde hair and trusting dark brown eyes. She came from Seattle when all the bands came from there. She wore a t-shirt saying: `I hate you and I hate your Jesus.'
Alwyn was part of the Seattle Youth Decadence Campaign. The first time I met her she gave me their leaflet Youth of Seattle Demand Sex:
Much of the neurosis of today's youth is caused by anxiety due to the lack of a decent sex life. Wilhelm Reich recommended that the state provide free hotels for youth to have sex in, to relieve anxiety caused because kids have to have sex in alleys. In addition to Reich's suggestion, TheYouth Decadence Campaign demands that the city provides Seattle's youth with free prostitutes. Youth that are seen as being physically attractive and `popular' by capitalist society's false value system, hold arn unfair monopoly of sex partners. Lack of sex in the early young adult years can lead to an inferiority complex that may never heal, even leading to suicide. Thus, we demand free and decent sex for all youth, regardless of race, gender, class, or physical attractiveness.
I'm Kim. I'm a DJ. I live in Berlin. I'm alone in this world.
New Year's Eve
Half past midnight I catch a bus into town. It leaves me off near Trafalgar Square. Two lesbians, one looks like Madonna, the other like Bill Clinton, guzzle bottles of fizzy wine. They bump into me aggressively, Bill Clinton nearly knocking me over. I get home around 3 am, listen to Sepultura, ring Alwyn in Dublin.
We talk for the first time in seven years.
I close up the flat, head for Heathrow with a bag of records and my tiny black leather travelling bag full of funky t-shirts. I pick up books while I make my way around the world. On the train I'm reading a weird French novel about three lesbians, two white and the third a Moroccan black.
Alwyn is waiting for me at Arrivals. The airport is decorated in Christmas shit. Drunken sentimental peasants wait for planes back to London or New York. She's gone kind of feral. An old sex paperback sticks out of her Nike shoulder bag. She looks kind of stupid, she looks very real. She's a woman now.
What does she do for money in Dublin? Alwyn's no trust fund babe – Dad's a postman, her mother a teacher. I calculate thar she is 21.
She must be a dealer.
She has a totally weird five-storey eighteenth century house on Ardee Street in the Coombe, which is Harlem for white folk. She has the house to herself.
She gives me the second floor, three rooms of my own.
Alwyn has her fortress on the top floor - three rooms just like mine. A small bedroom with a mattress on the floor, alongside the mattress one of those designer telephones made of see-through plastic that lets you see all the wires and components inside. Also in the bedroom she has a rack of grunge clothes. In her sitting room there's a small expensive stereo system and maybe 200 CDs. Nen wave ska, punk, hardcore, straight edged, grindcore.
“How'd you get this place, Alwyn?” I ask her over a chicken dinner.
“In the late Sixties it got rented out real cheap to a gang of left-field painters, actors, musicians,” she says politely, calmy, like I'm a tedious guest who must be humoured. “All kinds of allegedly important arty losers lived here one time or another. All total assholes. The place is full of their stuff, going back to the Seventies at least. Take a look around ... punks ... lesbians ... witches ... sometimes one or other of them shows up like the Ghost of Christmas Past to collect a packet of rubbers left here in 1973. The rent stayed low. I met this Florida guy – Quique – who was in a band, they had a deal with Interscope, and he lived here. Quique kicked out his Irish girlfriend and I moved in with him, into the top floor where I am today. He lost his deal, went home. I intimidated all the other tenants ... an awful painter ... a has-been singer-songwriter ... an actor who was a total right wing asshole. Over a period of a few months they all kind of fucked off... I had to give the actor £200 to fuck off ... so this is where you find me ... anyway.”
My floor belonged, before me, to the actor. He cleared everything out except for a blow-up plastic mattress which has a tiny leak somewhere. Every night I blow it up to an erection-like stiffness before crashing. When I wake up in the morning it's at half mast (like me) but still comfortable enough, my ass just about touching the floor.
The house is two hundred years old, it could collapse at any moment. There is a different substantial thing wrong with each and every room, but they're all freezing, somewhat squalid, worn to a thread by history. I tried to open my bedroom window and the whole frame loosened and almost came away in my hands. I keep it in place now with wooden staves I've jammed into the crevices between frame and wall. There are no heaters except for a town gas fire in the ground floor kitchen which is our communal sitting room. Alwyn hangs out there in the evenings with her pals. It got painted dark red about thirty years ago. She likes her time alone. She has lots of pals.
Ground floor hall houses two ancient dusty mahogany presses, full of books, art catalogues, business files, stuffed envelopes, old photographs. Presses and tallboys full of similar archives on every landing.
Most of the stuff – documents, books, furniture – belonged to a young couple living here in the mid-Seventies. A pert Chinese-Irish girl called Anna Chan doing art history at Trinity plus her older boyfriend Niall who ran the Thomas Davis Gallery, then a real cutting edge hotspot for hotshots. Chinese prints. Porcelain Mao Badges. Posters for a Joseph Beuys show at the Thomas Davis called I Like Beuys.
We're in a subterranean club. The usual arrangement - they built an office block and in the basement they had to choose between having a car park or an unsuccessful nightclub. They went for the club. Alwyn introduces me to this greasy guy called Abdul who could be Turkish or Greek or Moroccan or ... what?
Alwyn gives me her bag and I make for the Men's Room. In the cubicle I open the bag, take out the straw, the baggie, and the CD box. I open up the box but the CD is missing. Africa's Blood by Lee Perry. I chop out two small lines on the box and hoover them. I take coke elegantly. I don't snort like a pig. I hate it when people make all that noise snorting coke or speed. It's like sleeping with someone and you find out they snore.
When I step out of the cubicle I stare angrily at my body in the mirror. I look fit and fine. I look lean like a Marine. As the lines hit in I look like a winner. Then in the mirror I notice a fag staring at me intensely. I leave.
12th January You read about animals, rabbits, deer, who when caught in a trap will amputate themselves, chew off a limb, to escape the trap. I must've chewed off a limb to escape when I quit Ireland. I went around the world a one-legged orphan, no home in this world.
All I'm finding in Dublin is the rancid remains of my long lost leg. Madonna on the radio singing I'm Not Your Bitch.
13th January She is gone to the Outer Territories. She says she's gone to stay with English hippies she knows in Galway. Tonight I begin my trawl through Ardee Street's presses and shelves and files. I find a box of photographs. Slides, Polaroids, expensive arty signed prints, contact sheets. Photocopies of contact sheets. I make out the story of Chan, a Chinese princess, funky dyed-blonde hair, small beautiful tits, eyes full of good news and false modesty. In one photograph she is sitting naked on an old couch, the one in Alwyn's kitchen. She is in hot love with her Niall. What does she see in him? Why doesn't she go with a guy her own age? Why do girls who groove like her end up fucking boring guys with good jobs?
In another old box I am marching through the Seventies without paying the price. I'm looking at photocopied 1978 flyers for pro-Palestinian marches starting at Kevin Street, moving down through Grafton Street on the Saturday afternoon, ending an hour later with speeches at the GPO. I'm clutching a voucher for a vegetarian restaurant on Harcourt Street.
I go to bed with a book but I walk down the dangerous path of imagining what kind of girl Chan was.
15th January Three letters I find in a biscuit tin in my room. Taped to the lid of the tin – the sellotape grown loose and brittle with age – is a small brown envelope with `Property of Anna Chan. Private' written on it.
The first letter written in 1977. Chan was eighteen then. Her dad, a Hong Kong born Professor of Law at UCD, writes to her on old-style UCD notepaper. The stamp on the envelope features a simple calligraphy from Celtic mythology. The six digit UCD phone number.
He writes in his Chinaman's old-world script, he pleads with his daughter. He tells her not to get depressed, that the world is her oyster:
You are a miraculously beautiful girl, well educated, well reared by your parents, with a wonderful future. I know you feel a need to make your own decisions and to be independent but always remember that your mother and I are here loving you and everything that you do in this life. Above all else remember your religion and be true to it. Save yourself for the man you will eventually marry who will be the father of your children. Those children will give you the same satisfaction that you and your brothers have given to Mammy and me. Ignore the passing temptations of the flesh, place your trust in God. Jesus died for our sins. At least think about what I am saying. I know I'm old fashioned but I've seen a lot of life.
He just didn't understand. Chan didn't go to church on Sundays, didn't expect to live forever, listened to NYC punk rock, was a contemporary art scenester.
Letter Number Two is from Niall, dated 1979, written on the back of a Dublin Airport canteen menu where everything seems very cheap. They're breaking up! He's at the airport and he can't stop himself from writing to her. He was a compulsive writer and a serial fool.
They're not splitting up because one of them is seeing someone else, because they're bored with each other. Their mutual attraction is still brutally physical and emotional.
Niall loves her too much and she is smothered by his affection. She is trapped – she chews off a limb, the limb is him. In the Seventies women discovered their independence, took their lives into their own hands:
I'm at the airport and Oh God I can't believe I'm really going. Are we really doing this? I can't believe that I am leaving you, that last night was our last night together. I'm sitting in this scummy canteen writing to you – Herb Alpert is playing through the Muzak – on the back of this menu. I'm writing on and on like an idiot and my plane leaves in forty minutes.
He got a job in an Irish bar in New York, worked his way into the art scene, got control of another gallery. Things worked out well for Niall in America.
Photographs of them together, photographs they took of one another. She is thin and cold, he is stocky and horny. She is nervous and hard- working. I want to reach back into history and rescue her from his earthy mediocrity. I despise his curatorial achievements ... the catalogue for the American Political Posters show ... the touring Fluxus exhibition ... the seminal Bauhaus show acclaimed in The Irish Times.
The third letter – also from 1979 – offers her a temporary job as assistant to the art critic at The Irish Press.
She is a dealer, in business with Abdul. He gets her pure moist cocaine direct from the side of a mountain in Colombia. In the kitchen Alwyn uses a pestle and mortar to blend the coke with paracetamol. A quarter coke, three quarters painkiller. She flogs the result in the clubs at the weekends.
Abdul lives five doors away on Ardee Street in a building called Watkin's Distillery. Tonight we're there for dinner. Abdul lives in great style in the middle of the squalor. He has the top floor of the old distillery, full of modem art. The furniture is bulky old Victorian stuff but he only has a few pieces. The floorboards are bare, there are art books and detective novels scattered on the floor. He lectures me on the history of the distillery, one of the headquarters of the IRA in the War of Independence. This is the new Ireland. Even foreigners know more about our history than I do.
I'm here three weeks – it rains all the time –
sleeping all day, playing records all night. I sleep on the left side, sleep on the right side. In the night I hang out at an anarchist/skate coffeeshop/bookshop called Semiotexte about ten minutes walk away, opposite Christchurch Cathedral.
Semiotexte is your typical counterculture emporium. Every town must have a place where phony hippies meet. Bookshelves full of Chomsky, Hakim Bey, and Luther Blisset. CD music from Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Plug and Photek comin' atcha from a designer expensive sound system. There are some fine girls there, and pushy Americans of dubious pedigree (a grandnephew of Aleister Crowley, a tall thin geek wearing glasses who says he made a movie with Lydia Lunch, an asshole who claims he went to school with Beck). Semiotexte has good turntables and a good mixer so I spin stuff there when I'm fit.
Tonight I'm playing a CD with a remix of Beck by Aphex Twin when Stan Hatwin walks up to me out of nowhere – I've not seen him for eight years – smiles, and says laconically, “Hey, Kim, you must be playing the Aphex Twin remixing Beck. Which means Aphex is losing his touch if I can recognise his work.” Hatwin is a small good looking Romeo from one of the biggest Dublin families. His dad owns an advertising agency and off-Grafton Street property.
Chan's MA thesis is on Picabia, whom I've never heard of. Also an envelope of postcards of his work, the strong punk imagery. The troublemaker. The activist. The man of action. That's what it says in her thesis, painstakingly typed on a Silver Reed electric with a Seventies typeface which is still in Alwyn's kitchen. I plug it in. It works. She writes approvingly of Picabia's Dada nature. A studious, radical, girl defending an art barricade of some sort.
I can't sleep.
Alwyn's been gone three nights. She says she's gone to Galway to be with her English hippy friends but she is fucking someone up around Parnell Square. I saw her there one night last week when she was supposed to be on a mission to Galway.
I don't own her. She and me was a long time back. I fucked her a couple of times – looking over my shoulder to see if the snakes had escaped and were about to attack me – since I got here.
Chan shares the Irish obsession with the written words on paper. I put an East Berlin DJ mix tape into my Walkman. Then I walk into town.
I go to Semiotexte and stay there 'til four. A prominent Dublin kebab millionaire and his paedophile guru came up with the idea. They stocked the shelves with photocopied Anarchist manifestoes, Beat novels, and rave culture writing. To give it an air of authenticity they handed it over to some kids ... slender European squatters ... American Sonic Youth fans ... generic beautiful kids.
The adolescent rebels, being adolescents, took them seriously, took the millionaire at his word, turned nasty, changed the rules, the locks, and occupied Semiotexte in the name of Anarchism. Right now the millionaire is going through the courts to get the kids evicted. This is a very temporary autonomous zone. Next year it'll be a kebab shop.
Most of the night I'm left alone, reading a detective novel. Stan Hatwin comes in just before I make to leave. Over a joint we decide to form a DJ team. What he looks like now. What he looked like then.
He gives me his mix tape which I check out on my way home. Some ways he's ahead of me, some ways I'm ahead of him. That's the way it always is with good DJs. I think I'm getting pretty good.
Invite Stan to dinner. I've cleaned up the kitchen – a forty-eight hour job. Alwyn helped a lot, she says it's something she's been meaning to do since she moved in. We clear away dirt and grime from two decades of bohemian indifference. Then she disappears in the afternoon: “Don't expect me 'til late.”
The doorbell rings. He's wearing a Paul Smith t-shirt and old combat trousers. “I've been in a pub gossiping about this hip hop club, Def Row, which is changing venue or has been fired out of Renards. We were talking about the politics of hip hop and how it relates to Def Row ... but I don't know.” At dawn Stan looks out the window at the sunlight, startled, says, “Shit, Kim! I got to go home. Phone for a cab.”
Which I do. When he goes I get on the phone to Berlin, tell people I won't be coming back for a few weeks. I tell the guys crashing in my apartment that they can stay a while longer – they're relieved and grateful.
My mother phones around midnight with some hot gossip. The guy who was my best friend at school when I was five has just come out. “His poor mother ... he'll not be `Gay' in Hell!” says Mum.
Mum turned me into a DJ. When I was a kid in Limerick she forced me to take guitar lessons. I hated the guitar, always associated it with bearded idiots sitting round a campfire singing sick-inducing Beatles songs. When my turn came, I wanted two turntables.
There's a file box of business papers to do with the Thomas Davis Gallery. Yellowing proposals for shows by clapped-out conceptualists, printmakers, a Dutch all-women collective. Slides of works. Cassettes of experimental music. Catalogues. Postcards. Our man Niall – man of action – in effect. Countercultural Establishment Can-Do Wonderguy, the Bruce Springsteen of Irish art. Down the bottom of the box are more personal things. Five self-important windy New York letters from him to her. His bullshit ideas and will she join him for Christmas and how much he misses her.
She's a scented oriental Kama Sutra seductress from out of another time. I wish I was living with her back then in Dublin when there was no call for rubbers and she was fresh and fit.
Stan has a gig at Ratio, which is the size of a football pitch. He asks me to do it with him so now I'm at the decks. We're doing five hours, starting at midnight. We're in a chill out zone called Kulchur. DJing makes me twisted in the head, like making candy floss. You spin it around and around, let it get out of control, then you collect it all up in the middle – vague, pink, moist, and sticky. I take a live album of Lydia Lunch reading her poetry and I mix it with some Hard Hands techno. I slow and speed up Lunch. Slow, she sounds like a seductress. Fast, she sounds like a witch.
I'm in the kitchen at the typewriter writing the copy for a flyer. The doorbell rings. I open the door and there she is!
She is fifteen years older than her story in my mind but beautiful still, slim in slick New York clothes. She wears an ankle-length cream silk skirt, an off-white linen blouse, and she protects herself from the cold with an old jet-black overcoat, an expensive man's coat from the Fifties. Her long frizzy hair going grey, she has a slightly petulant air about her but Chan's a game enough character.
“You must be Kim.” She smiles broadly, her accent a nice South Dublin brogue. “Yep! And you're Anna Chan. I've seen photographs of you around the place.”
She blushes at this comment, knowing I've been through her back pages. 1 guess I'm looking at her a certain strange way that is borderline sexual. I feel like I'm involved with her but that's not true so I'm careful about what I say, disguising the seedy voyeur inside. I've been sleeping on her couch too long.
“Nice coat,” I say when we're sitting in the kitchen sipping coffee, me relaxed in the ancient sofa where she once posed naked, she casual in an armchair the other side of the gas fire.
“It belonged to my father.”
A silence. I sip my coffee.
“So what are you doing now?”
“I write for a few American magazines, I'm working on two illustrated books for Taschen. One on Frank Stella. One on George Condo.”
At least I've heard of Frank Stella.
Chan is staring at the couch and I'm thinking of the dirty photograph of her.
“Do you mind if I take a look at that couch a moment?” she asks politely.
“No, no, of course not.” I stand up, she comes over and rummages vigorously under the cushions, her long bony arm disappearing into the bowels of the couch where the springs are, like she's fist-fucking it. She doesn't say anything, her brow furrowed, and her attention entirely focused on her search. I get it. She's looking for some drugs.
Eventually the arm emerges from the springs, her thin -hand clasping an ancient Seventies cassette tape which she immediately, and without explanation, puts into the pocket of her father's coat.
Everything doesn't have to be obvious and in your face.
“So what was he like, the guy you moved in here with?' I ask whimsically. “Quique was a musician, producer. He was a decent boy, he had a nice dick.”
“What's a nice dick?”
“One that is aesthetically pleasing, not necessarily big. I've seen thousands of dicks. I like dick.” She pauses and her serious thoughtful eyes sweep around the room. “Quique's dick looked real nice, the skin a lot darker than his body skin. Darker at the root. Everything is darker at the root.”
Around midnight she says we should go to Semiotexte. She hates it there so why does she want to go? She says, “It's like an internet cafe without computers.” Maybe it’s just that we can get in for free and she wants to escape from Ardee Street. Abdul is lurking close to the counter so that explains it – we're here to see him. He wants to talk with me, to know what equipment I take when I do international gigs. Do I take amps or heavy equipment? He loses interest when I explain the compact nature of the digital age, “Man, you need a heavy metal band, that's what you need. They have amps and guitar cases and trunks full of merchandise and lurex trousers. I just use a sampler and a DAT on stage. I lonesome travel with t-shirts and vinyl.”
Abdul files me under ‘weirdo’ after that but he still wants me to explain techno to him and I'm not very good at explain-ing music. That's why I became a DJ, not a painter or writer.
“Most people get into techno because they've had unhappy childhoods,” I eventually blurt out.
“I never had a childhood.” Alwyn stares at me strangely. “You had my childhood. You're still having it.”
I'd brought some records with me so eventually I escape behind the decks and disappear into the music.
It's 3 am and the atmosphere is not good. We flick between CNN and MTV in the kitchen. Then I start playing some promo copies I just got in the post from Berlin.
Earlier we went to an opening at the Thomas Davis. Chan was there with her boyfriend and I small-talked with her a while. We both agreed that the art on display – sculpture – is brain dead, that the Thomas Davis is now the home of bland establishment art in Dublin. The boyfriend is a docile poodle – much younger than her – very tall, thin, black leather trousers, hair dyed Goth-black and cut expensively to a cvher/rockabilly style. A Killiney boy doing an MA in Fine Art. Me and Chan talk happily for fifteen minutes. Mr Killiney says nothing, his eyes drifting towards both boys and girls in the crowd.
Chan says she used to work at the Thomas Davis at one time.
I don't react.
Alwyn is staring vacantly at an MTV interview which features Marilyn Manson bullshitting.
“So what brought you to Ireland Alwyn?” “What do you think, motherfucker?” “Something to do with me?” “Yeah. Something to do with you. I met this other Irish guy in London … you caused me to have an Irish phase ... I moved here with him.” “But I'm not very Irish.” “Maybe you're more Irish than you think.”
Maybe I am. She goes upstairs to her rooms and I make some tea. Lyons the Quality Tea.
I feel the bass in my face in the crowd. I'm in White Subway, a big club on the quays. The air is wretched with dry ice, hot air, poppers, sweat. This is a big old warehouse with bits of provincial Eighties hippy art everywhere. There's art like this in a big squat gallery in Prenzlau Berg in East Berlin. Most art you see in clubs is reactionary.
White Subway is full of criminals and rich fags and wretched ageing scenesters from when I used to live here. I think I'm enjoying myself. Wherever there are clubs there are criminals and fags.
The guy who owns this place used to have a band rehearsal place in Temple Bar when I lived here. The whole city knows who owns White Subway. His mother used to have a newsagents in Ballyfermot.
After doing a set with Stan we take a taxi to Killiney with three girls. We stay up all night with them watching videos and coming down. Around 7am I get a bus into town, and Stan crashes out on the couch.
Two girls, about seventeen, get on my bus in Stillorgan. They've been out at a party all night.
“She's the only girl in the class who hasn't pierced her nose,” one says. “That's totally weird.”
She is playing an instrumental track by Sonic Youth from the Tibetan Freedom 3CD.
“Sonic Youth look kind of young for their age,” I tell her, “and they play pretty well together but they ain't exactly great songwriters or ...”
“Or even good people,” she replies, mimicmg my mid-Atlantic Irish accent, accurately anticipating my line of argument. “But, hey, they seem pretty cool to me.”
She knows I met them when I did a festival with them in Barcelona. She knows I think they're fake punks. She knows I think they're politically full of shit.
“Anyway I think they've got more credibility than Mary J. Blige,” snipes Alwyn, like I'm always playing her, like I don't know what she was like in the Eighties.
I go with a Welsh girl to the DART, a redhead wearing an Israeli peace camp t-shirt. The weather can't get worse. It's eight in the morning but the sky is black as sin. Heavy rain is falling, storm wind howling, and the wind is Arctic cold.
The Welsh is going home, catching her ferry from Dun Laoghaire. I met her two weeks ago when I was DJing with Stan. At Tara Street DART station I meet Jim Holland, a clothes designer I knew at art school. He is out of it, spent all night at a ‘great party’. Now the party is just over. It's such a horrible cold morning that I don't feel like talking to Jim, still lean as a greyhound and just as paranoid, wearing a totally old-fashioned but very elegant suit. I know nothing about suits, I guess you'd call it a Frank Sinatra sort of suit. Scoobie doobie do.
Outside Blackrock the train travels slow along the sea wall and through the rain I see six cops huddled on top of the wall, talking with one another, looking down to the rocks below and out to the sea beyond. In Dun Laoghaire I carry the Welsh's bag through to Departures, which is soaked, freezing, and deserted. Dublin yokels in ferry company peaked caps assure us that she can indeed board the ferry, so thankfully she does. I want to be back home in bed. Rain's been falling for three days.
On the return journey just one cop is keeping guard outside Blackrock. Because of the rain and the steamed-up window I can't see anything clearly. I think of getting off the DART to have a look at something too damn nasty but I'm too whacked and it's way too wet and cold.
I go to Stan's funeral at Donnybrook Church. A desperate occasion where I meet thousands of ghosts from my past. Everyone's in white heat shock because we're burying Stan, a totally bad motherfucker.
His sister the painter and his brother the rock journalist talk with me and Jim Holland a while before heading off to a waiting limousine. There's drinks and stuff out at the Hatwin home in Blackrock. Jim and me decline an invitation and head for the RTE canteen where we get a cheap dinner while Jim tells me about Stan's last night.
When Jim ran into me on the DART platform the morning I was dumping the Welsh, he'd come from a party he'd been to with Stan – a drug party of course. Stan was fit and nasty that last night. He'd done coke, acid, crack, and speed. Stan was a waspish rattler when loaded up on chemicals.
Jim, wearing the selfsame Frank Sinatra suit in front of me in the canteen, says the music at the party was the best he ever heard. I don't know what to make of this. Jim's taste in music sucks, but Stan knew his stuff. Anyway, Stan – a bottle of vodka in his left hand – danced flirtatiously with a ten year old girl, the kid's mother an old girlfriend of his. A gang of bikers took offence, picked a fight with little Stan, knocked him to the ground, and kicked the shit out of him. He got about ten boot-kicks to the left side of his head. Stan, ironically in the context, was always interested in older women, never interested in girls that way. Badly concussed and out of it on his drugs, Stan stumbled to his feet. The old girlfriend drove him to the hospital where they decided to keep him in overnight. About seven in the morning – still tripping – he walked out of the hospital, caught the DART to Blackrock, and fell – or threw himself – into the sea. An hour later me and the Welsh passed his poor body, and the fat freezing cops staring at it.
“It's a terrible business,” says Jim, going to the canteen counter to get us two coffees plus two apple tarts with cream.
Chan phones me and invites me to have a coffee with her in the Design Centre, right across the road from the Thomas Davis. She used to hook up with Niall at the Design Centre for lunch back in the day. All fantasies have been shattered by the reality of knowing her, of bumping into her again and again between Grafton Street and Kildare Street.
She tells me about a show she is curating for the Thomas Davis on the connection between art and club culture. A bit of a so-what idea but I hope it works out for her. I tell her she should start with Warhol and Basquait, Studio 54, work it from there. My big idea seems to be news to her. Maybe she's not as sharp as she seems. They vegetate in Ire-land, even the beautiful ones. I tell her that all art in clubs is reactionary.
Much of our talk is to do with Stan. The art scene knew him well – he was a rich kid. If he'd lived he'd eventually have inherited Dad's fortune and become a South Dublin art patron. All art is reactionary.
We agree we'll meet again, she makes small talk about Ardee Street until Mr Killiney, now with his hair spikey and blonde, comes to pick her up. The rest of the afternoon I buy records in Fownes Street.
I cook a pork dinner for five people.
We go to The Pod, Renards, and Republica. Alwyn works, I watch, we have fun talking. We're sitting in a lounge where a fat asshole in a Louis Copeland suit, demi-faggy boys with lime green spiked hair, an Arab girl going to fat, a techno graphic design couple both wearing European glasses, a busty German woman working in the Financial Centre, all want a little cocaine.
“They're a very nice couple,” I overhear a thirtyish woman who looks like she's somebody, an actress or Bjork or something, say about us to her younger boyfriend.
And indeed we are – a nice couple. At least, we're a nice -looking couple.
Alwyn has long curly brown-blonde hair. The spiked stud protruding from beneath her lower lip drags that lip down so that she always has the appearance of pouting. She looks petulant or arrogant or stupid by turn.
My agent calls from Berlin. They're missing me at the Sniper Bar. I miss them too. Do I want to do a Friday residency in the Sniper for May, June, and July? Yes, I do.
“You must think I'm a fool, Alwyn, if you think I believe these stories about endless fucking trips to Galway, you're crazy. I've seen you around Parnell Square and you've been seen in clubs all over town with some band guy called Liam.”
Her face is suddenly beautiful and intelligent. She laughs at me to my face. She walks away. She has nothing to answer for. Her life is her own.
A black wind blows down Grafton Street. I wrap up tight. I shrug my shoulders.
I pick up a girl called Eunice. I give her the poor mouth and the next thing you know we're in a taxi heading for her place. Eunice has wild red female-poet hair but I don't let that fool me. She pulls out her favourite awful albums and I inspect her shelves – her stuff – her books, her trinkets. She is all kind of left wing, talking to me about a scandal involving the Sandanistas. Eunice works in a editing facility house, where she's doing a project putting the entire Irish national archive of movie shorts onto a website or something. I don't give a fuck. I just nod along like I'm interested. Her apartment is one of the new places up behind Rathmines Road. I don't fuck her, don't want to, I hope she doesn't want to either. She is relatively silent, has a well decked out spare bedroom which serves as her computer room.
I've lost Stan, lost my friend. Chan is a grey-haired woman, no feline. Alwyn is a a tough American realist, not my friend.
I sleep well. When I wake it's lunchtime and there's a note beside the electric kettle saying Eunice went to work mid-morning, where the food is, that all I have to do is pull the door after me, that if I need to crash there for a few days she'll give me a key. Her number at work.
I turn on the radio to RTE1. The news is on, cheesy Final Countdown-ish synthesizer riffs punctuate snappy American-style news coverage. The big story is a fishing boat in trouble off the Kerrv coast. A live on-the-spot report comes in from a reporter in a helicopter which is in the sky directly over the boat.
I'm sitting drinking tea, talking to Eunice on the phone, eating a messy ripe pear. The news says a house burned down in the Coombe last night. Two people killed with others seriously injured. Foul play is suspected – a drug-related incident. Eunice says she must get back to work, she'll see me this evening, goodbye, the news finishes,
Liveline surrenders the airwaves to a pervy priest who says he molested twenty-one boys in 1982.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost?
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"It's an absorbing book. I suppose the phrase 'essential study' may be a little overdone but there is no other way of describing it. Its easy style, its arguments, makes it an involving read." - Peter Somerville Large
on 'Dan Breen and the IRA'