Friday, April 03, 2009

351. Baby Boomer

I couldn’t have chosen to be born
in a better town, but it was the wrong
bloody side of the river, thanks to my besotted
madly in love young parents, so totally
full of themselves and of the delights of young love
that they were not thinking ahead to important things
that mean so much today. Me granf’aar
had bought the solid still-standing family home
up there on the North Side, the right side, up by Sion Hill
in the middle of muddy fields, back in 1939,
and he planted potatoes in the garden during the War
and for some time after. Now the bricks themselves
are worth millions of pounds. Me mammy
popped me out, thoughtlessly, on the South Side
in Earlsfort Terrace just along from Stephen’s Green
and I was a Southside brat from the age of 3-minutes.

I play it down.

Bono at Obama’s Inauguration: he said, Mr. President, sir,
we are four Irish guys from the North Side of Dublin
and he was talking through his arse as usual
since only one of them lives there now: Larry Mullen.
I cringe every time I see Bono with Bush and Blair,
says Larry, the drummer, they are out and out war criminals.
Larry was in the (Northside) Artane Boys
but me, I wasn’t. We weren’t really Dublin working class,
more sort of of hopeful lower middle, one step away
from tenant farmers, from those who died in the Famine.
And with stubborn application and some dedication,
with no need to be be flash but out to make cash,
my Daddy paid out for a good education.

I was the first: three others followed (still close).
I was born in Ireland, woke up in the UK,
got sent to a school and ran away. I walked across London
to get away from them. I had a penny for bus-fare
but you had to hand it up so I walked. I was about five.
Me mam she was frantic, she hugged me far too tight,
but she sent me back the next day, and she knew,
she knew I’d be beaten. She said, “Remember, you’re Irish!”
I thought just being born in Ireland made you Irish.
I was starting to learn things.

My Dad, he was a clever man, he got work with the Yanks
and they sent him off to Germany. I grew up there
somewhere between the Americans and the Germans
(we got sent to American military schools)
and in the process I became totally, angrily Irish.
I got in fights with the Americans.
I got in fights with the Germans.
Finally, my Dad shippped me off to Ireland
to a dank medieval boarding school
where I could get into fights with the Irish instead.
No worries, it’s a settling-in process, nothing more,
you fight off and on for six months, try to win
a few more than you lose, and you never never cry,
so then, naturally, you become one of the lads.

The school was totally horrible but I rather liked it.
I can never read Dickens without thinking about it.
That’s where I learned how to really play rugby
in the fearless kamikaze Irish style, a Celtic death-wish
that opened many doors, especially, a bit later, in Texas.
But I tend to gallop, I fear, and get ahead of myself.
I was marginally feral but I wasn’t dumb
and the school had scholars as well as teachers.
They literally forced you to learn and think.
I had to memorise reams and reams of poetry, never mind
bloody Shakespeare (him too) but even Arnold and Hopkins
and they’d take a swing at you and beat you if you didn’t.
Couldn’t see that happpening today: it works, though.

I amazed everyone, got into ancient creaking Trinity College
but proceeded to go totally wild. I ended up in Istanbul
just when the Sergeant Pepper album came out. Thanks,
no really, thanks to traditional herbs it was memorable.
A Day in the Life? Whoopee. Then you floated out in the streets.
They say ( just who is they? ) if you remember the Sixties
you were not really there. I was there, all right. I remember.
I just remember things differently:

n I remember Radio Luxembourg, Radio Caroline
n I remember thinking the Kinks and the Who were pretty cool for new groups
n I remember jobs at 10 Pounds a week
n I remember being 17-years-old and in the Army
n I remember that first real kiss, the clean peppermint smell of her!
n I remember being on an Honour Guard for DeValera in front of the GPO
n I remember a pint of Guinness for 2 shillings (10P) in Kerry
n I remember climbing Nelson’s Pillar
n I remember the Pretty Things live
n I remember a lot of jovial ex-Nazis
n I remember dear Theo who fought in Poland, France, the Balkans and Russia with the Wehrmacht but who was still a lovely guy.
n I remember crowds rushing through the streets of London celebrating Israeli victory in the Six-Day War
n I remember Ludwig in Bavaria who also fought in Russia (well, attended the War) and incidentally saved my life.
n I remember an Israeli guy on a boat in the Gulf of Corinth mourning his dead comrades at the Battle of the Golan Heights
n I remember the blonde girl on the boat to Iceland
n I remember the Greek guy on the same boat who told me he “accidentally” killed three Turkish soldiers in Cyprus
n I remember the Eskimos (Inuit, whatever) in Iceland who kept getting flattened and killed by local traffic
n I remember Rome and Florence and Lisa, my first real love
n I remember Paris in May 1968
n I remember going to America for the first time
n I remember San Francisco and the dregs of Haight-Ashbury

O, I can remember a lot of things.
Some of them, of course, I'll never tell you.

It’s easy, you know, for the Irish to adjust to America
(not so easy for Americans to adjust to Ireland)
since the land has been well-ploughed, markers laid down
by former generations. Americans are simple and generous people
until it comes to business, power, and war.
There they tend to lose the run of themselves.
They seem to have such far-fetched delirious notions
about other countries and the people within them
that it leads to the wholesale murder of dusky foreigners
under the guise of “War” ; idiots, really,
but preferable to the Russians or the Chinese.

I like Americans. Cheerful, nice teeth.
Might not want to be one.

So, after Texas and the champion rugby team
and the Federal Judge’s daughter,
the University with its assassin’s tower, the gay landlord,
not least the hard-won speedy degree,
I survived the bus crash in Afghanistan
after the driver, wise man, ran like hell away.
They would have killed him, sure, it was his fault.
So there we were in the middle of nowhere
on the bleak snowblown road to Kandahar,
with the flakes still falling and bits of bodies all around
and you start to think, do I really need to travel?

Later, much later, in India,
when I was living in that little temple
and the priest would come by every morning at sunrise
I would shrivel my sleeping body like a corpse
there on the charpoy, so as not to disturb him.
I would pretend I was asleep. It was so hard to do.
I wanted to leap up and show him how to pray,
I wanted to say, stop fuckin mumbling, open your eyes,
every cell in my body was tingling. No, I never said
make a Sign of the Cross, ye heathen Hindoo.
Not at all , I felt that devotions were a form of slavery
and that the Power of God was within. I could feel it.
Well, at that time of my life I felt something.

Ser, nada mas
Es la ultima dichta

The local college boys came around
all so young and hopeful, just like a cloud of locusts,
you couldn’t get away from them. I considered them
a pestilence but I could see from the eyes of the locals
that I’d become a Man of Knowledge, a guru, not often
do the rich kids come into these dirty narrow streets.
It was a poor neighbourhood. I had a few local friends
but the hard-timers didn’t know what to make of me.
Seething with impatience I would have to listen
to these ignorant insolent kids with their bubbling Indo-English,
People would be peering in, cups of tea would arrive.
I hated these kids. I saw how they pushed my friends aside.
On top of that they were dumb. No Dickensian Irish schooling.

Ser, nada mas

Couldn’t get their heads around it. Neither, I suppose, could I.

Later, of course, I moved on.
I really can’t keep doing this.
I got lost in North Thailand for several months
and then moved on to Japan.

Now I have twenty or more stories about Thailand
a thousand more of Japan.