Saturday, August 20, 2005

203. memory lane (and the truth don't come easy)

Blissed out on "esra"
under the rooftop canopy
of the Gulhane Hotel ;
around the corner from Yeners,
a few minutes from the Pudding Shop,
a couple more to the Blue Mosque,
in Constantinople/Istanbul --
well, it seemed like a good idea.

Six weeks later, after
the usual hitchhiking grief,
and a dash across the bridge on the Turkish border
(a small matter of a smuggled car)
I was picking up my payoff in Germany
from stony-eyed parents
whose son I had rescued from a 4-year sentence
with a false passport: 500 dollars cash.

Business is business: we aim to please.

So then of a sudden there I was
back in harsh and chilly London Town
(in all senses of those lean unlovely words)
broke, unhappy, unloved,
for all my shining altruistic
puppydog personality. So what
can you do? Sail for Iceland.

I didnae want to get drunk on the train
to Scotland, but with the four wild kilties
on leave, it was sup from the bottle or face certain death;
so staggering, dry-retching, I departed the port of Leith
on the SS Something, thrown together
with seriously peculiar passengers
including perhaps the most beautiful
girl I have ever seen.

No, she wouldn't. Glorious & golden. Damn.

We passed the new volcanic island
(popped up, steaming, out of the sea)
and docked at darkened Reykjavik;
aurora borealis, but cold as a bastard,
so I headed for the local Sally Ann
among Christians and visiting Eskimos
who were being run over, decimated,
by the sparse but speedy passing traffic.

Sitting on the dock of the bay
but not for long --
80 mph winds could blow you away
in an instant: your survival time
in that green frozen water (so they say)
was one minute twenty-five seconds.

We used to watch the local fishermen,
blind drunk, rejoining their trawlers,
with the policemen lined up
with boat hooks and nets, waiting,
and not for long, anticipating,
drunken nose dives into the harbour:

families with kids (they'd even bring
sandwiches, it was a spectator thing)
would raise a cheer and clap and shout
when the cops would fish some poor fecker out.

Strange country, but you had to love it,
love it or shove it ....

jeez, there were times: forty below
day after day, but there were no days,
only pale glimmers of twilight
between the long hours of darkness.

"Yeg vil vinna!"
the only Icelandic I ever learned,
("I want work!"), daily, daily
talking to the trawler skippers
one weary ship after another.
You're out of luck,
get away to fuck,

because the fish were just not running,
worst catch in a decade,
the daily round was tiring,
the locals were not hiring,
and there was nothing else to hope for,
there was nothing else to do,
as the cold and the darkness
and depression settled in.

You could actually die here --
in a way it was kind of funny:
of all the options in the great wide world,
to die ... in Iceland?

Close enough, I had long left the Sally Ann
and moved into a canning factory
(deserted, the fish were not running)
which was heated, thank God, by free volcanoes,
along with two Brits, another Irish guy,
and we were eking out a living

by creative shoplifting in local stores
(the money was long gone)
when we became a target for young girls,
drunk and horny, not exactly whores,
who rolled in after the discos closed
and snuggled beside us looking for love:

a strange world, but what does it matter?
starving to death, sweet heaven above,
an absence of food but sex on a platter.

The local boys got wind of these ops,
were afraid to fight and called in the cops,
so one night - O God, not again! - we're all getting laid
when the cops burst in on a 4 am raid
("give me ten more seconds ... aaaahhhh!!")
and lined us up for a passport inspection.

Starvation does wonders for the male erection
(they don't show THAT on your passport
and being nineteen sure don't hurt, my friend)
but all good things, the pleasures
we all enjoy (this laughing charming starving boy)
soon ... come .. to ... an ... end.

A whacking great big East German trawler
sailed in and saved us
(and this is the truth I'm telling you);
I met Wolfgang down by the harbour,
and he so tickled

to "sprechen sie deutsch"
after days with the locals
(grinning yokels)
that he dragged me "home" for a slap-up feed,
everything I could wish or need,
and after a silent rather dreary view

of the obligatory propaganda film
(I could hardly resist it,
when the captain insisted)
we put that nonsense behind us
and became good friends.

Food, food, food, like old times past!!
(sex is grand but it just doesn't last)
and me so laden down with supplies
that the homeboys couldn't believe their eyes:
Heil ... who is he? ... Honecker!!
We were brought back to the land of the living,

in the nick of time, but still in bad with the fuzz,
(the girls had wanted to meet us outside,
yeah, thanks but no thanks, too cold for a ride)
and not just because
there are other things in this life,
a lot of other things in life

apart from girls: got nothing against them,
au contraire, love 'em to bits,
their faces and feminine graces
always make me smile, feel happy.

If it could only
always be so.

But I had seen the face of death
and I didn't like it.

So we went to a disco
with the lead-ass freaking Commies
and had a great time: the best craic
of all (I swear this is true)
was to leave a drink on the table
pale yellow pernod type stuff
after a quiet trip to the loo

(yeah, well, figure that out)

then lurk behind a nearby pillar
and wait for the local lady killer
to swoop down and lap it up:
gulp, gulp, gulp and sup.


I got out of the bloody place
(I'm writing today, I'm still alive)
by stowing away on a British boat
that came in for repairs,
could barely float,
but that was the least of my worries.

I was going mad,
going crazy and bad
(darkness and cold, cold and darkness,
I was ready to kill to get out).

You can imagine it,
but it was actually worse,
a widow's curse. Jesus!!

I rolled on board, slipped down
the passage to the galley
among piratical bearded ruffians
and asked, "Who's the feckin skipper?"
(polite discourse had long ago departed)
and amid gap-toothed grins somebody farted
and said, "E's ahr fookin fooker",

then a drooling yellow-fanged creature
pointed his two-fingered hand
(with fishermen this is a common feature)
and said, "Oi'll work ye watch by watch,
fifteen hours a fookin day!" - "OK --
that's grand by me" , sez I,

I was burning to get away.

Ah, England! thou sceptred isle,
thou gem of the ocean, jewel of the sea,
I never never thought I'd be so happy to see you!