Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Скетчи про Минск. Sentimental.


Самый странный аргумент в пользу этой страны, в пользу любой страны, это красивая природа. Вероятно, есть какое-то древнее заклинание в этом вечном повторении про леса и озера, но я не могу его разгадать. Больше всего оно напоминает то, что делает напуганный ребенок, когда закрывает глаза и уши и бесконечно и очень громко повторяет набор случайных слов. Привидение уже в комнате, оно все ближе, но он отчаянно заговаривает зубы самому себе. Когда все так просто: в мире нет стран с некрасивой природой. И эта мантра - обычный самообман. 

Однажды, когда я спросил человека, почему ему так нравится Led Zeppelin, он ответил, что ни у кого нет такого голоса, как у Роберта Планта. Я быстро сдался. Действительно: ни у кого. 

Но, конечно, она особенная, и как ей не быть особенной? Я не приезжаю в Минск, как турист, и давно не плачу от теплых осенних дней (но как было удержаться в Порту, где в декабре на улицах запах желтых листьев, а половина тротуаров заставлена свежей клубникой?), хотя мог бы. Они душат, эти редкие дни, каким-то пронзительным теплом, и кости становятся мягче, и от этого падаешь на траву в парке. Я больше нигде и никогда не падаю с таким удовольствием, тем более, что падать на траву здесь как-то не принято. 

Летом в Минске все как будто вымирает, и люди кажутся случайными и ненужными. Зачем-то ездят в этих душных автобусах, зачем-то ходят на работу. Вот это чувство, что город пережил ядерный взрыв, и вовсе не пытается оправиться, а сосуществует с распадом химических элементов, оно меня трогает. Какая-то заторможенная сказочность. И потом - я все еще слышу запах деревьев на проезжей части. Как-то американец сказал мне, что этим Минск напоминает Вашингтон.

Поздней весной - это узкие дворы Осмоловки, где в прошлом году мы с таким чувством рвали сирень. Набухшие гроздья, они стоят потом в вазе не день и не два. Вся эта зелень вдоль стен, она забивается в нос и в глаза, и ты едва видишь окна, где работают художники в темно-синих беретах. И скамейки, на которых одинаково хорошо писать стихи и прогуливать занятия, даже на них пчелиный предиюньский запах. 

Как-то в начале февраля, в Мюнхене, я видел покрытый снегом велосипед. А еще горящие фонари, деревья, капоты машин. Крупно падающий снег растопит сердце любому датскому мальчику, и когда поздно вечером выходишь из кафе или бара, и там медленно опускается эта стена - Минск кажется чем-то другим, чем-то невозможным. Это случается два или три раза в год, но это стоит того, чтобы отыскать в сугробе старый ржавый велосипед.

Самообман - опасная вещь. Но у всех есть право на сентиментальность, особенно теперь, когда почти никто не помнит, как она выглядит.


Friday, 12 January 2018

Moonlight, Missouri


Alas, I will never see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This fact is neither here nor there, but it saddens me a lot because I think highly of Frances McDormand and because it might be a really good film. But I'm just not going to touch it.

Nothing poisons art more than politics, and now that the black dress show is over and the film got its Golden Globe for the best film of the year, I will always see these two facts as one. Art can be brutal and unforgiving but as soon as something tampers with its fundamental innocence, directly or indirectly, it stops being art and becomes a compromise. 

Likewise, I have never seen Moonlight, and never will. #OscarsSoWhite killed that film back in 2016, and no amount of glowing reviews and genuine talent can save it now. Because the great thing about art is that it doesn't require a context. 


Saturday, 6 January 2018

travelling notes (xlv)


I've discovered that in every hotel you're staying there is at least one person who at some point in the past has visited the country you are from. He is reading a business newspaper in the lobby or else is sitting crouched in her suite. But trust me - this person exists. And it's not you.


Sunday, 31 December 2017

Album of the Month: FROM THE TREES by Peter Hammill


Back when progressive rock seemed like something John Lydon could not grasp on a purely intellectual level, I bought H To He Who Am The Only One. It did not quite soundtrack my teenage years the way (say!) Aqualung did, but "House With No Door" was a piece of chilling ecstasy I played ad nauseam. Nothing else on Van Der Graaf Generator's most famed record matched those piano chords and those flutes, but "House With No Door" was such a top prize. 

Eventually, some long-haired guy borrowed the album and never gave it back (possibly thinking that Uriah Heep's compilation he brought me was a worthy substitute - although in its defence, it did keep my kitchen table in balance), and I lost track of Peter Hammill's music until someone, somewhere suggested Nadir's Big Chance.

It would be hard now to describe the shock to the senses that Nadir's Big Chance once was for me, but that fucking album was unique in a most extreme way. It was not the vibe or the voice - it was the way he constructed the songs with melodies that were supposed to be melodies but barely registered as such. Which was Peter Hammill's very special way. It was punk before John Lydon started wearing controversial T-shirts.




From then on, it's been a rough and wild ride that has produced enough subversive classics to keep me looking for more (The Future Now and the more recent Consequences are personal favourites). But From The Trees, released earlier this month, had the kind of urgent intimacy I could hardly expect.

The record is mostly piano and acoustic guitar filtered through Hammill's complex, deeply uncomfortable songwriting. Face it, the moment you hear the irresistible backing vocals in "Torpor" (strangely, they remind me of "Goodbye Blue Sky") you think this is from a wrong album. After all, Rikki Nadir was never supposed to be accessible. And it's not that he is, or tries to be, but the tune in "Charm Alone" is easy to grasp, the piano in "The Descent" is heartbreaking by any standard, etc. And none of it, mind you, distracts from Hammill's trademark style and charisma.  

From The Trees may not be the most appropriate record for New Year's eve, but it clearly is the best album I've heard all month. From The Trees seems like Peter Hammill's most intimate record in years, maybe ever. And, in "Torpor", it has the sort of universally sad melody that hits me as hard as "House With No Door" once did. And that takes some doing.


Sunday, 24 December 2017

Christmas Speech


Originally, I was planning to post Bing Crosby singing the immortal "Adeste Fideles", but then Morrissey's Christmas speech came along, and how could I resist?..

This is perfect on so many levels. I swear I burst out laughing three times at the very least, and I'm not even sure it was meant to be so. The flu part at the beginning. The well-judged swipes. The black and white poster in the background. The book placed to his left. Hilarious. Irreproachable, too.




And, to reiterate, Low In High School really was the best album of 2017. Merry Christmas!


Thursday, 21 December 2017

Black Mirror


The prime minister had a choice. The guy in "The Waldo Moment" had done his share. Surely you can't sympathise with the "Nosedive" girl. For all the mindless hate in "White Bear", the woman was guilty. In "Shut Up and Dance", your heart stops bleeding for the boy the moment the final twist comes.  

Interestingly, the only innocent soul whose punishment is totally uncalled for is the girl from "Fifteen Million Merits" as the choice she makes is not really a choice. And it leads to an ironic observation regarding this never-ending technological freak show. The universe it has spawned is a universe of corrupted victims.


*Mind, please, that this was written before the "Crocodile" episode. 


Friday, 15 December 2017

Drinking Guide to London Parks


London parks are not there for your entertainment. London parks are to be obsessed with. In fact, I pity the poor tourist who walks past the Ecclestone Square Park to gawp at the honestly fucking useless figures of Madam Tussauds, and I look with utter disbelief at that poor soul which has never made an exhausting but ultimately fulfilling trip to the Kew Gardens (having, quite possibly, never heard of them). 

Which is to say, the old adage sticks. If you are tired of London parks, you are tired of life.

They are not straightforward. In fact, there are levels to London parks. There are those which are for lying down and there are those which are for silent walks among the roses and the cheeky squirrels hunting for blood. There are those which are for music in your headphones (I once had a beautiful night out in St. James Park listening to The Ape Of Naples) and those which are for melodramatic conversations with those who you love or else loved or else will love. And then there are those which are to be enjoyed with a glass of absinthe. 

In fact, all of them. It's worth remembering that obsessions do not go easy on you, and hence this drinking guide to London parks. Not all of them, Jesus forbid, these are just a few examples. But never forget: there are no parks in London you should have the effrontery to skip.


Level One. Soho Square.

The grass in Soho Square is so dark green it's almost brown. Which could well be for the simple reason that I only saw it in the evening. Soho Square is the ultimate hedonistic paradise, compact-style, filthy and brilliant. It's there to lie down and soak in the million words yelled and whispered around you. It's actually inspiring, given the right season (April to October) and the right moment (6pm onwards). The right alcohol would be the basic delights of ginger beer like Crabbies.

Level Two. Hyde Park (Diana's Fountain corner).

Hyde Park is overcrowded and, more often than not, quite intimidating. Tread carefully through the dead bodies, empty bottles and depressing Pakistani gentlemen trying to sell you an iPhone adapter, and you might be rewarded with something like Diana's Fountain. This is still precarious, I'll grant you that, as you could stumble upon a perfect British family playing football under the tree you've long picked for yourself. However, when it's calm and the good people are at work, the sun is clean, the air is transparent, the kids are dipping their feet in the water, and this calls for a long, slow glass of champagne

Level Three. Warwick Square.

Overgrown, leafy, with a half-closed gate that might only seem inviting to an old man walking his two giant dogs. Yet walk in, and this could be as special as only an old park can be. London is filled with these. Any conversation here becomes memorable, any face unforgettable. You will come up with your best line, you will write your best short story here. A Warwick Square is natural and dense and powerful and I just wouldn't mind having a small bottle of Scottish whisky in the long pocket of my coat. 

Level Four. St. James Park. 

St. James Park can occasionally come off as a posher take on Hyde Park, but that's if your imagination allows you to queue to the London Eye for a day or two. The grass in St. James Park is slightly less pale, and the air is way healthier as you can probably gather from the multitudes of joggers (although David Lodge said it best: "Running is a sport, jogging is punishment"). St. James Park is mainstream art done well, with guts and imagination, even if its no-nonsense location is closer to the earthy taste of red wine

Level Five. Kew Gardens.

Instagram people won't believe me when I say that life is nothing but a mixture of memories and experiences. It is. One such experience was me walking through the Kew Gardens (where at some point I found myself running after a peacock trying to pull out one of his feathers) on a Wednesday morning and seeing a huge white table laid for some sort of grand dinner celebration. The plates were there, as were the spoons and the forks and the glasses. This was such a perfect scene. One thing missing was 12 e Mezzo /Malvasia del Salento. White wine.  

Level Six. Regent's Park.

In late pre-autumn, on a warm day when the air is so crisp you can almost faint from happiness, Regent's Park is my idea of Heaven. You know how occasionally you have one too many cocktails, and you go and lie down, and suddenly you feel like your head comes crashing down, floating through some goddamn tunnel, and there's a sense that if you succumb to this great fall, you will never wake up from this and you will land deeper than the chasm where Gandalf took on Barlog. Regent's Park is exactly that when you lie down on its grass, with the single exception that it's the fall you are willing to accept. Preferred alcohol is the cocktail of your choice.