On driving old cars

When driving old cars, the old hotrods, not the flash and perfectly restored vintage cars of well-off persons, elder distinguished gentlemen from wealthy Suburbia, the joy and the particularity of the experience is not the smell of gasoline, the imperfect, wonderful patina of the paint-job flaking off, or crudely hand-painted, or rust and decay in thirteen different colors, or the way you wanted this car to look mean.

It’s not the smell of exhaust or the raw, wild sound of the engine, like a booster rocket, like the pistons about to break or bust out of the engine block, like a greasy, smudged piece of machinery that wants to go, go, go.

It’s not the vague uncertainty about the ability to brake, the lack of knowing that the wheels will definitely stay put, that the manifold won’t bust or that the carburetor will stop trying.

Neither is it the triumphant death wish of driving the country roads, soundtracked by insistent music or the roar of the engine, of not having complete control, the chosen assumption that the road will be empty which may lead you to wrap around a tree or die a bloody death. But you don’t care.

There’s a bit of the essence when you floor the speeder, moving across the borderland of safety into the territory of control loss, of praying that there won’t be any immediate sharp turns or oncoming traffic.

No, the true sense, where it hits a nerve, where you know you got your hands on the right stuff, is when the windows are down because the exhaust is leaking, and the wind rips at the hair you so carefully styled earlier in the day, and the wind floods the cabin, and all the dust on the dashboard, the small flakes of whatever you had to scrape off to get the car running on pure basics and necessities, and nevermind grounding the current for the brake lights, and the flakes get in your eyes, like dust on a windy day or like the blow of a compressor at a workshop.

You blink your eyes, vaguely discomforted, but you rev your engine and know it’s gonna be a fine day, and there’s a smell of fumes and old upholstering and the mean sweat of the machine you’re driving, and your friend in the passenger seat is grinning and so you push it into the next curve, and the next, and hope for never reaching your destination, that the road will go ever on.

Hippolyta. ❤

This piece was inspired by riding in Leif from Sønderborg’s ’61 Cadillac on a cloudy Saturday, as well as hefty experience driving the belle Amazon stationcar on the picture. 

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Turn on the light

A quick post, a from-the-hip result of an, as always, interesting conversation with a very good friend of mine. The conversation was on creativity, perfectionism, avoidance and expectations.

In short, sometimes you mill too long over things, or try to be nothing less than perfect, and the fear of not being perfect leads to not actually trying at all. So in order to challenge this way of thinking, here are a couple of really fast and spontaneous cellphone pictures of one of my dolls; pictures i’d usually never take this way. Or at all.

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Lost days and faded names

It’s the cobblestones that define this place. Of course there’s the waterfront, and the fancy glass buildings on the other side, and the stuff under construction, and this old train wagon, apparently some sort of museum or shelter for the homeless or whatnot, and the old upside-down boat. but it’s the cobblestones that I think of first, when I think of being here.

There’s been buzzes on, cheap white wine drunk right here on the jetty, stones summer warm underneath the seats of our pants, and in one case, burning skin through fishnets.

But the pier’s empty, I watch people walking on a distance, inspecting the harbour bath. I take a drag off my cigarette, happy they’re distanced, I like this sense of privacy. I haven’t even bothered to bring a book for an excuse to be here, luxuriously lazy.

Dusk will be here within long, already the sky is orange towards the west, out over the sea and the factory plants, but there are still the remains of a baking day here in the air, and i’m grateful the temperature’s cooling down.

I lean against the stone bollard, turn the music up a notch, on the trusty mp3-player that’s survived so many falls. Old demos and officially unreleased things, recorded so long ago, with the fluid guitar sound and rough vocals.

And I ponder.

There are certain memories, certain events, that seem to be bathed in sticky sunlight, like syrup on a camera lens. I’m not sure if I’m thinking of anything specific, or just any summer about ten years ago, back when the world simultaneously was innocent and full of drags, making certain days perfect in comparison to all the shit happening. Desperate and alive.

I remember grass, lush grass, not looking to close to see if there are any spiders or beetles, laying down in it, the damp feeling of laying on a thick layer of plants … and hopefully not any cowdung.

There were the car rides, faster and faster, as if trying to break some sonic barrier to travel in time, or just to get away from whatever thoughts haunting you, trying to catch up, but there’s a way to crank it up just a few more miles per hour. And the music was there, the soundtrack of our lives.

Or the shimmering city streets, walking across the squares, and this city is old, summer flirts and afternoon meetups, high on adrenaline and expectations and pure giddyness, and not having to wear a jacket seems wondrous and strange, almost naked in your tshirt and skirt, strangely without pockets, so you have to carry keys and music player in your shoulder bag, making your skirt ride up and men stare. But I don’t hear the comments, my hearing is occupied, the perfect song expressing what’s on my mind.

There’s also the sensation of situations that haven’t yet been, or should have been if you’d gone somewhere else, done something else. Stranded in a squatted house in Southern Europe, off on the west coast attending shows the people at home could only dream and drool about being at – messed up somewhere, much happier somewhere. There’s no way of telling and there’s a sweetness to it, looking at the persons you could have been, a honey sentimentality, because you can only live one life at a time, at least until science progresses or you somehow become adept at astral travelling.

But the core of it is the golden sunshine and the slight sense of sweet loss, like swimming in an amber sea. And the core of it is sitting here on the dirty cobblestones, not in a fancy cafe or in a mansion, but here on the cobblestones in the middle of the city, salt in the air, sun on your skin and lost music in your ears.

(a result on this evening’s challenge at Writer’s Guilt. The challenge was to write some music nerdy stuff, so I wrote about the sensation about listening to some of my favorite stuff, such as the Social D demos mentioned previously in this blog).

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The milk train doesn’t stop here anymore

There was a conversation at the evening’s Writer’s Guilt (a writing group some friends and I have once a week) on decency, being a gentleman and not taking advantage of people. The specific conversation was with a transsexual friend of mine who feels he’s violating his female friends’ privacy if he sees them more or less naked – even if they themselves are perfectly fine with this, such as being naked at the beach or whatnot. This of course also led to a conversation concluding that he was the only decent and non-pervy person present this evening.

It got me to think about decency and about the initial reaction you have to situations where you potentially overstep people’s boundaries by ogling them, and it also got me to think that the initial reactions you have are those that define you; they display your core personality.

And now for a little anecdote to prove my point.

The guy who does my tattoo work is very attractive – to me, at least. One evening I was at the studio getting some work done, and during our conversation he told me about this huge back piece he was having done, and how it graphically worked really well, because it consisted of large areas of clean color and so on and so forth. He then suggested I could see if I wanted to, once we were done with the day’s work on my arm.

Eventually we halted, I had the saddle-soap-smelling lotion applied, and I got wrapped up and taped. I then asked if I could see the tattoo he had been talking about, since he had mentioned it. Of course I could, and he started to take off his shirt.

The moment I registered that he started to undress I turned my head away, looking into the opposite corner of the room, until I sensed he was done undressing and was ready for me to look. I looked back at him, and he was standing with his back to me, so I could see his back tattoo, a rooster and a snake fighting.

So I stepped close to look at it.

The thing is, when you’re looking at someone’s tattoos, you’re completely justified in touching them; tracing the design with your fingers, and/or feeling for any scar tissue and tactile changes. It’s a natural, instinctive reaction which is not fishy in any way. It’s part of the looking.

And you know what? I never touched him. I did a sort of tracing with my fingers hovering over the design and lines, but my fingertips never touched his skin.

I’ve been sort of semi-betting with myself on whether he has a six-pack (I bet he does), and as he’s working out a lot and is bulky in a delicious way, I’ve always wanted to see him with his shirt off. But when I had the chance, I didn’t look. I didn’t touch either.

Maybe because I felt it would be some twisted sort of cheating towards my boyfriend.

Maybe because I was afraid of overstepping my tattooist’s boundaries.

Maybe because I simply felt it was impolite to look or touch.

I don’t know, but the point is I didn’t even waver on this. Not once during the episode did I doubt whether I should look or touch.

I usually consider myself a bit of a hustler and a bit of a sneak, and I often suspect myself of not doing the right things or having my mind in the right place. This kind of episode surprises me as well as makes me feel like a decent person. I guess like how my friend feels.

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We’re desperate and we’re shameless

I found some Social D demos recently, and today I had the chance of actually listening to them. The album/collection itself is interesting; about half of it is unreleased material, and half of it is alternative versions of released songs.

But what I love most is the unpolished sound of it; it’s so more punk rock, and all the songs have a beautiful, lost sound to it. Somehow it seems like digital copies of tapes; you can kind of hear the sound levels fluctuate, as if the tape reels are uneven.

I love it much. It’s summer sounds and it’s aching like loves that cannot be, and it’s dark material of self destruction and hellbentness.

It kind of reminds me of the Lookouts 7″, which contains what is probably in my top ten of most beautiful songs ever (which is quite something); Out My Door. I haven’t yet been able to find a digital edition of it, but i’m sure I will someday.

Hearing the demos made me wonder if I’d like the rest of their stuff more if it had the same sound. I guess there’s an old punk rock preference in me for stuff that’s not too glossy and well-produced. I like the raw sound because I think it gets the emotion of the song through in a better way; just as I have a preference for not editing most of my writing; it messes up the feeling of it.

I guess that’s also a Beat perspective, back to Kerouac saying that the first sentence that comes to mind is the best one. I believe i’m paraphrasing that, but that’s the essence of it. And that leads onto NaNoWriMo, where the key point is writing, not being critical during the process. Indeed the end result seems messy and unpolished, but I think it also radiates joy.

In other words, I’m rereading my NaNo-novel, and am very positively surprised. It needs a bit of cleanup and editing, but the core of it is awesome.

And finally, the morale of the day is that you can polish things all you want, but that won’t necessarily improve the quality – maybe even the contrary. There’s an unexpected beauty in imperfection. Cliche I know, but I often forget this, worry too much, then file away at things until they’re nearly ruined.

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The leaving song

This is on leaving and on being left behind.

I dreamt about Mike Ness this night (don’t worry, this post is gonna get better). I dreamt I was at some sort of skiing resort in Norway, and he was playing a very small gig, and went to sit at a table afterwards, presumably to answer questions and sign autographs perhaps. I think I was the only one there who actually knew who he was. I spoke to him once, then twice, and I then forgot I wanted to ask him about his transition from punk to rockabilly and the values included in that shift, but I thought it was getting to be pretty ridiculous. Anne, who was also present, told me to get over it and go talk to him if I wanted to.

So I did. That was when his daughter of about 17 turned up, notifying him that her mother/his wife and the other two kids were going to head home to California by now, and if he wanted to come along, it should be now. Otherwise he could catch a plane in the morning. I felt suspicious standing there when she was there; I could almost feel her expecting her dad to hook up with this girl he was talking to. He decided to stay for some reason, and the girl went away.

There was a flash to later in the night; a costume ball was on, and I was frustrated that I had painted half of my elaborately makeupped face yellow. I spoke briefly to Mike, and then I don’t recall anything.

Next morning I was at the parking lot/exit ramp for the resort, and Mike was leaving. His wife was waiting further up the road, and I could feel her disapproval over the distance. So I said to her, that I wasn’t out to get her husband, and that nothing had happened. There was nothing to worry about (although I recall there had been some sort of strange connection, where maybe you don’t have to do anything in order to be guilty).

Then I turned to Mike, who was now also some version of Payson, a long lost friend of mine who meant the world to me back when I was a teenager. I told him that he had meant so much to me, and if I never got to see him again or talk to him again, then he should know that I would not forget, and that I cared. It was rather … epic. And sad, but I was also happy I got to tell him these things.

I think that most times we never know when people are going to leave us; we never know how many conversations and meetings are actually the last ones we’ll ever have. Then in retrospect, the event will have such a sad and final aura, and the memory loses a sort of innocence in exchange for importance.

I also think that humans do not like the feeling of being left behind. Maybe most people want to do the leaving part, as that at least gives them some sort of control with the circumstances, instead of feeling powerless. I always think it’s sad even when peripheral acquaintances and colleagues leave to go someplace else, maybe never to return. Though I rarely or never spoke with them, they leave a hole in the universe. They change the surroundings you had.

Maybe there’s also something romantic about leaving/being left. It leaves you to unfold all sorts of interesting thoughts and scenarios about what could have been if you had stayed/spoken to them/kept in touch. Was that my potential best friend that just left? Did I leave behind all sorts of promising endeavors I would have excelled in, but now don’t feel the pressure and stress about fulfilling? It’s an easy, sad, fantastic land, the state of Could-Have-Been.

Maybe it can also jump-start you into hanging on to the things you have that are important, but that you don’t know are so. The stupid thing is that near-death encounters will make you appreciate life more. I don’t know if it’s just sad or a good thing that you have to be reminded of what you have by (almost) losing it. I like to think that humans aren’t such drones, but sometimes I wonder. Maybe we often don’t know how safe we are.

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