Thursday, March 31

April Winchell wrote this piece a few weeks ago and it’s been on my mind ever since. It’s remarkable that I’ve recently been contemplating the same thoughts and I’m very grateful that she decided to record her feelings with such precision (I’d have made a pigs ear trying to say the same thing).

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the nature of happiness. I've come to the concusion that happiness is a myth.

A few years ago, I was the most profoundly depressed person you could ever meet. I can't really describe it, but it was a very oppressive kind of heaviness that almost made it hard to breathe. I felt like someone was sitting on me all the time.

In the course of really examining myself and deciding to change my life, I realized that I identfied myself by that sadness. That is to say, I would describe myself as "a sad person". I had been sad so long, that I came to believe that it was who I was. And since it was such a huge part of my identity, I was reluctant to part wth it.

Fortunately, I soon came to the understanding that emotions are transitory. They come and go, much like Ted Danson's hair, or Lindsay Lohan's breasts.

What you feel isn't what you are. Let's say you want to track Ashlee Simpson down and beat her senseless with a bag of oranges. Does that mean you're an angry person? No, it means you're sensible.

Where was I?

Ah yes, happiness.

Now that my depression has largely abated, or at least, stays away for longer periods, I've made the surprising discovery that happiness is a transitory emotion as well. Just because you feel happy from time to time, doesn't make you a happy person.

So if you accept the idea that our emotions don't define us, you have to accept the idea that there are no happy people. Anywhere. Even at Wal Mart.

This reveleation is by turns depressing and liberating. On the one hand, it means you're never going to be a happy person, because there are no happy people. There are just people who feel happy, some more often than others. Which is kind of sad.

On the other hand, it releases you from that expectation of happiness, which always leaves you feeling inadequate somehow.

I think the best example of this is what happens to us during the holidays. We see manufactured images of truly happy people enjoyng their families and feeling "the spirit", and it makes us feel like hell. We're not having that feeling, are we? We don't want to knit mittens for the orphans or make snow angels in front of the rectory. We want to upend the table and shove a turkey leg down our sister in law's throat. And if we don''t want to do that, well, we'd at least like to just go the fuck home and jerk off. You know what I mean.

We think we are supposed to be happy, even though no one truly is. Other people seem happy, why aren't I? What's wrong with me? Look at that girl in the commercial. The one whose husband flies her whole family to Italy as a surprise, then gives her a 3 karat diamond and tells her she still makes his dick hard after three kids and a second mortgage. She's happy.

Yes, the girl in the commercial is happy. For 30 seconds.

Of course the actress who plays the happy girl is probably living in a shit hole in Van Nuys, making herself vomit after every meal and wishing she booked that Correctol commercial so she could keep her health benefits.

If you accept the idea that nothing will ever make you a happy person, because the idea of "happy people" is a myth created by advertisers and other groups trying to sell you shit, you can stop thinking there's an answer. You can put away your growing lists of disappointments. You can stop measuring yourself against what appear to be all those happy people out there. They're not out there. They don't exist.

Now this is not to say that happiness itself doesn't exist. It does, like any other emotion. But like all other emotions, it is fleeting. It marks a moment in time, not the quality of your life or your character.

Chances are, if I asked you when you were your happiest, you would relate to a single moment or an incident. Because that's what happiness really is. A hamburger. An orgasm. A winning hand.

You might relate to a period, like, "I was really happy when I was in college", but that would be an idealization, a romanticism that would not be accurate. Because no matter how much you loved those days, there were many nights you ate Ramen off a crappy hot plate, thinking, "Jesus, this fucking sucks ass".

I have to go. Dr. Phil is here with my enema.

Wednesday, March 30

Inspired by the hilarious Easter posts by TD and DG, I hereby present ‘Easter in Blackpool with the Spellcnuts’:

CD’s played – 4
In the car on the way up there it was the bloggers disco mix, The Bravery and the Kaiser Chiefs. In the house over the weekend there was more Bravery and a couple of spins of KD and her Hymns Of The 49th Parallel. Darren refuses to enjoy the Bravery album because “they look stupid”. However, he is looking forward to the new British Sea Power album (they don't look at all silly in this photo).

Easter eggs eaten – 3
I had two. An adult After Eight egg on Easter Sunday and a family Roses egg on Good Friday. Darren went for a very adult Cadburys affair with extravagant packaging (including a voile mesh bag which now contains a delicately scented puffy pot-pourri). No childish eggs for us this year.
*must remember to go to supermarket today to buy half price Flake and Crunchie eggs for tonight next year*

Eating out trips – 4
Friday evening was at our friendly local Italian trattoria. A litre of house red has made my memories fuzzy but I’m sure the meal was lovely.
On Saturday we bagged a table at The Cottage (the only restaurant in the North West to make it into Rick Steins seafood book). Top tucker only slightly spoiled by a table of loonies attempting to sabotage the ambience (I realise it’s very un-pc of me to describe the ‘special needs’ people as loonies but I swear I heard one of them mutter something about fat poofs at one point). We shall definitely return for the battered haddock.
Sunday afternoon was lunch with Darrens family at his parents house near Liverpool. Classic Sunday roast with Vienetta for afters.
Monday was an early lunch of homemade mince pie, chips and veg at Via Veneto. Very school dinners (and probably cheaper too).

Garden centres visited – 2
One of them was actually a nursery. A very well stocked nursery on the way to Southport. We purchased six Russian vine plants (two for Blackpool ,the rest for London). We were warned last year that they would ‘take over’ and cover everything but they didn’t so we bought more. The garden centre we visited later that day was huge and had a pet section so we bought Edward a dog Easter egg (made from carob). We gave it to him on Easter Monday and he took it into the back yard to eat. He seemed to enjoy it. Thirty minutes later he threw it up on the carpet.

Televisual entertainment – lots
Storms in January fucked our TV aerial in Blackpool so on Friday morning I was ringing every aerial engineer in the yellow pages begging them to come out at Easter because we need to see Doctor Who. Surprisingly one of them did! By tea-time on Friday we had a new aerial and our new Freeview box connected and we were sipping instant coffee while watching QVC. Workmen are much cheaper up North.
Doctor Who was very good. Much better than I expected and I fancy him (can’t say that about any of the others can you). We watched The Incredibles on DVD which was nearly perfect and a big fat nine out of ten from me. Coronation Street is getting silly (but still pisses on Eastenders) and El Cid was the annual Easter sword and sandals epic which I managed to avoid.

Other stuff
The weather was nice for such an early Easter and so walks with Edward on the wide sands were lovely. We strolled round The Pleasure Beach on Saturday but didn’t ride anything. Nice to see lots of young men in short shorts this weekend due to the huge football tournament that was obviously taking place somewhere in town. We popped into the new Solaris Centre on the prom to look at the regeneration plans for Blackpool town centre (it looked like Frankfurt by the sea to me).Edwards new dog collar works a treat. A little box on the collar squirts poisonous gas in his face every time he barks. I had my favourite boots soled and heeled for half the price of a London cobbler and I finished reading Dry by Augusten Burroughs (excellent) and started Trouble Boy by Tom Dolby (very poor so far).

Thursday, March 24

Off to Blackpool for a long weekend to get sand in my shoes and chocolate on my fingers. This weekends must-miss-shows at the big bad (that's bad as in crap) gay club include Rowetta, Phixxx and Toyah. I mean, is it any wonder Blackpool is called the Las Vegas of the North.
*digs into old 7" box for Sheep Farming In Barnet EP*
Back on Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 22

Blah blah banal blah.
Chinese takeaway last night on a whim. Darren called me as I was cycling home from work and suggested it just as I was approaching the Jade Garden. Spooky! So we had faux Chinese food and a bottle of Shiraz. We watched The Village and it was slow and not at all spooky (I did know about the ‘twist’ so maybe that spoiled it). I ironed a shirt for today and had a bath then went to bed to read but fell asleep with the light on while those soothing ‘beep beep beep ’ noises from 24 floated up through the floorboards (Darren follows it but I have commitment issues).
Took the tube to work today as it was pissing down this morning. Edward was not happy in the park so we only did one circuit (he’s such a gay dog at times; “oh Daddy, my hair is all wet and my feet are muddy!”). When we got back I towel dried him till he was euphoric and then he indulged in a ‘funny half hour’ where he raced all over the house churning up rugs and scratching floorboards. Bless.
Got to work and someone on the team had brought in hot cross buns to celebrate the death of Jesus, which was nice (though they forgot to get butter so we had to ‘borrow’ some from the fridge on the floor above).

Sunday, March 20

Phew what a scorcher! How perfect was the weather yesterday eh! Started the day with both Telepopmusik albums and a dog walk. Then down to the DIY superstore for supplies. Every other person in the check-out line had a BBQ in their trolley (this is the retail equivalent of the tabloid front page with the busty bird licking an ice cream on the first hot day of the year). Darren and Tom avoided the gorgeous afternoon by sitting on the couch watching rugby while I went for a bike ride along the river Lea to Clapton, Hackney, Stratford and Leyton. There was a fair at the ice rink on Lea Bridge Road which really excited Tom when I told him as two of his favourite things are waltzers and greasy fair-lads. We went to an Italian place for dinner in Woodford and they sat a single mum with her kids next to us. It was Patsy Palmer and her boys were very well behaved (Darren did spot a nasty bruise on the elbow of one of the boys so he might ring social services on Monday).

Friday, March 18

My Mum and Dad are now harassing Hawaii. Oahu to be precise and Waikiki to be preciser. In the last few weeks they’ve eaten fish head soup in Singapore (my Christmas present to them. No, not the soup, I got them a swish hotel for 4 nights), joined in with the anti-Royal protesters in New Zealand for Prince Charles’ visit, battled a tornado near Middle Earth (Queenstown actually) which nearly sucked up their camper van and now they are ‘bothering’ the beautiful people on the beach by shuffling around in their 1970’s swimsuits. Bless. They’re off to Pearl Harbour tomorrow.
Which reminds me of one of my favourite Woody Allen funnies (from Radio Days):
Ditzy waitress, Mia Farrow, is on the roof of a restaurant in Times Square with her lover during WW2. Someone bursts onto the roof and tells them that the Japs have just bombed Pearl Harbour. As they race back downstairs Mia shouts out (in a great New Joisey accent) “who is Pearl Harbour anyway?” Marvellous.

Wednesday, March 16

Nosy parkers! Several reasons for selling the scooter last weekend:

1.Possible major engine problem and warranty just ran out.

2.The offer of cash for slightly more than it was worth.

3.The desire to streamline expenditure and cut out some luxuries for a while (major overseas property project looming).

4.The need to exercise more and not having time to do any (get a bike and ride to work thereby killing two birds with one stone – see point 3).

See, boring.

Tuesday, March 15

Don’t you just love Spring and the energizing sensations it creates! I ordered some of those maps that the Mayor has produced for cyclists to refine their journeys to work. Then I sold my scooter (long story and too boring to be told here). Bought an Oyster card but not used it yet. Bought a single speed bicycle (“what! are you mad? no gears? fool!”) and started riding eight miles to work. So far so good and I’ve not started spitting up blood from the trauma of exercise. The TFL maps have kept me off the main roads and so far the journey is taking an hour. I hope to get this down to 50 minutes in the next few weeks. My journey, door to door, by underground also takes an hour as I have a 15 minute walk to the station and a 10 minute walk at the other end. Can’t wait for Summer when using the tube is like travelling inside an Aga on wheels.

Saturday, March 12

When you can't be bothered to write but you've got loads of stuff spilling out of your head, you can still share it all with this cool tool.

Friday, March 11

It's only 8.30 and I've run out of hankies. I've blubbed like a babby 3 times so far and the one about the Ethiopian boy reunited with his family just had me howling like a right soft cnut. Human.
Exhibit A in the Michael Jackson trial.
CUSTOMER: Worcester sauce crisps please.
SHOPKEEPER: Sorry can't, it's off the shelves, cancer scare.
CUSTOMER: Oh right, Chinese Chicken Wings?
SHOPKEEPER: Ah that's the same, cancer scare.
CUSTOMER: Hamburger Relish?
SHOPKEEPER: Cancer scare.
CUSTOMER: Sausage and Mash?
SHOPKEEPER: Cancer scare.
CUSTOMER: Cottage Pie?
SHOPKEEPER: Yes ... no wait, cancer scare.
CUSTOMER: So they're all off the shelves because of a Cancer scare?
CUSTOMER (sighs): Just give me a packet of fags then.
SHOPKEEPER: Certainly. £4.80 please.

Wednesday, March 9

As it's for charity I'll choose Being Boiled by The Human League (it was always a floor filler at our school disco - the school of hard-knocks and shit haircuts). Mr Diva is going to walk around Nottingham city centre on Friday with lots of one pound coins in his underwear and ask scaffolders to do a bit of 'cupping' and guess how many coins there are. Good luck Mike!
Talking of which, the gay scaffolder in tonights Coronation Street was alright weren't he! And he's a hypnotist!! Don't you love oop norf?

Monday, March 7

Business Class tickets were booked to St Petersburg. A lovely room at this hotel was procured. Edward was booked into kennels and special shirts were ironed. Then my visa failed to materialise on Monday. And it’s a public holiday in Russia on Tuesday. So my visa maybe ready by Thursday. But my flight is on Wednesday and my meetings on Thursday. So the flight has been cancelled. The hotel room un-booked and the kennels notified.
Ever had that feeling that a trip or an event is not going to happen? No matter how hard I tried to imagine myself skating on the Neva wearing a huge fur coat I just couldn’t make the image stick or even take the business planning seriously. I somehow knew that I wouldn’t be going to Russia this week. So I wasn’t at all surprised when the useless visa organisers rang me this afternoon to tell me the ‘bad’ news.

Sunday, March 6

So, inbetween reminiscing my recent holiday and listening to Bloc Party and Bright Eyes (Digital Ash is the best of the two I think), I went to the pub on Friday evening for a surprise birthday party for Diamond Geezer. We took along creme eggs and ate cake. Then I had chinese food at home for supper. Pig.
Went to see Kinsey yesterday. It was rich with humanity and insight and had naked men in it (bonus). I'm still a bit jet lagged so was in bed at 9.30 last night. Then up at 6 this morning. Enjoyed the 7am sunshine in the deserted park while throwing sticks for Edward to ignore.

Friday, March 4

Acorn Antiques was OK. It wasn't worth 60 quid and it was too long. I got tired of the sycophantic roars and cheers of the crowd every time Julie Walters waddled on stage. I liked the first half much more than the second and I think that was because of the musical numbers after the interval (too many and not enough tunes). Like I said, it was OK but I wouldn't go again. Vegas spoiled me.


Last week in Vegas we went to see four shows. First up was Elton John in The Red Piano. This was a 'show' (rather than a concert) built around his most popular tunes with very extravagent staging and direction by David LaChapelle. There were gigantic inflatables during some songs, neon signs everywhere, gaudy and erotic films on huge screens behind Elton and his band and it was, to use a cliche, an assault on the senses. Elton walked up and down the stage inbetween songs swearing and insulting Celine Dion (this was very funny, he's performing when she's on a break from her 20 year residency). I was shocked that the first few rows of the theatre were allowed to get on stage and dance around his piano during Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting. Justin Timberlake, Pee Wee Herman and Pamela Anderson are all used perfectly in films illustrating his songs. I found Elton very engaging and down to earth and though I own none of his records I loved the show. Great photo's here.


Our next show was Jubilee at Bally's. This is old school Vegas. A HUGE showgirls type review with topless women, singing, dancing, gobsmacking million dollar sets, costumes by Bob Mackie and more head-shaking-"I-don't-believe-it" scenarios than any other show in town. Stunning.


Rita Rudner performs nightly at the cabaret theatre at the New York New York casino. So we went because we both like her gentle and slightly acidic relationship views. She was very good.


Our final show of the visit was O at Bellagio. This is still the hottest ticket in town and after we'd seen it we knew why. I just can't bore you with descriptions of the show as it wouldn't do it justice. We had pretty crappy seats (and they were booked six months ago!) but the show still blew us away. We will definitely go back next time and sit nearer the stage.

Thursday, March 3

And this is the Baby with nothing to eat,
Born of the girl who's killing her brain,
Smoking the Crack that numbs the pain,
Bought from the Boy feeling the heat,
Chased by the Cop working his beat,
Who battles the Gang, fleet and elite,
That rules the Street of a town in pain,
That cries for the Drug known as cocaine,
Made from the Plants that people can't eat,
Raised by the Farmers who work in the heat
and fear the Soldiers who guard the Man...
Who Lives in the House That Crack Built.

When I was at school we had Ladybird books about medicine and inventors in our library. Look what they get nowadays. Apparently it's profoundly moving and modern.

We don't watch The OC on TV but our holiday did turn into a bit of an Orange County pilgrimage. Our hotel in LA was in OC (and yes, we do know that technically OC is not in LA), we went to the movies in OC, we window shopped at malls in OC, we strolled the beaches of OC and we loved OCMA. Newport Beach is a beautiful town. The beach bit is like a bigger version of Amity from Jaws and the houses fronting the beach are stunning (here's a pic of me in front of some). Beyond the beach and inland the town looks even more affluent. The locals are young and good looking. They drive BMW's and Hummers, they dress like they have accounts at Urban Outfitters and they are all pathetically fit, pleasant and polite. Needless to say, we stood out like sore thumbs.
We'd heard that the Beautiful Losers show at OCMA was very good so we went. And it was. Excellent stuff from Mike Mills, Ed Templeton and Terry Richardson. Skateboarding art-punks with their cocks out, brilliant!

Long Beach, Santa Monica, Balboa and Venice reports to follow (once I've got the sand outa ma sandals).
Blimey, it's minus one hundred degrees today. My boss hasn't made it into work from his snow-bound Kent village. I was here before 8 as I'm leaving early today to go home and play with Edward before coming back into town for Acorn Antiques tonight. This time last week I was swimming before breakfast here. Damn.

Wednesday, March 2

Remember I was bitching a few weeks ago about the lack of release date in the UK for John Waters last film, A Dirty Shame? Well, in my list of movies watched on holiday below I forgot to mention that we finally saw it. And it was good. Very mucky, very funny and a mild return to form I thought. He took the piss out of every fetish and sex sub-culture group and even made beautiful Chris Isaak eat Tracy Ullman's bush while she was driving. Mr Waters shook his fist at bears, fake tits, sex with the elderly, the middle classes moving into crummy areas and gentrifying them, roman showers , infantilism, conservative trailer trash and greedy swingers. The scene in the old peoples home where Tracy Ullman picks up the Evian bottle with her hoo-hoo is a guaranteed classic.

Tuesday, March 1

We went to three theme parks in the first three days of our holiday. A storm was brewing out in the Pacific and big rain was predicted for later that week so we took no chances. And we were blessed with three cracking, sunny warm days. First park was Magic Mountain. This park, along with Cedar Point, is the Big Daddy of rollercoaster parks. There are over 10 A-list coasters at this baby and we did 'em all. I was quite surprised to see Darren directing us towards X as we entered the park and then channeling us into the queue line (only there was no queue! the parks were empty and we walked onto every ride over those three days). I had ridden X alone last time we visited and Darren regretted this so he was looking to make amends this time. We were on the first train to leave the station that day so it was all over quite quickly. Some rides make you want to get right back on (Ghostrider) and some make you think that once every two years is enough. X falls under the latter category for me. It's enormous and heavy and fast and discombobulating and a marvel of engineering but it's an experience (a great one mind you) rather than a pleasure. We ambled around the park riding on this and that then had big red apples on sticks dipped in caramel and rolled in nuts.

The next day we headed for Disney's California Adventure. We were lodging over the road from the park so we just strolled there (here's a pic of the view from our room overlooking Califorina Adventure). This park is only a few years old and neither of us had been before so were pretty excited. Strangely enough, the theme of the park is the celebration of California and it's, er, California-ness. The main draw here is the California Screaming! rollercoaster. We weren't expecting much as it's a Disney park but we were surprised by the ferocity of that thing. We were catapulted out of the station at 70mph and into some steep hills and tight helix's then into a huge loop disguised as Mickey's ears. The ride lasted longer than the average rollercoaster, was very smooth and made us want to go straight back on. Delightful. California Adventure is a beautiful park with immaculate themeing (this huge mountain dominates the park and from various vantage points the shape of a Californian bear can be seen) and lots of great stuff to do. Our faves were the Hollywood Tower Of Terror (stuck in an elevator which plummets 20 storeys to the ground then does it again), Soarin' Over California (the nearest thing to actually flying on the back of an eagle) and Mulholland Madness (a great wild mouse type thingy). We toured the animation studios , drank gourmet coffee in the lounge on an 'old' silver Zephyr train, and rode on a very strange ferris wheel with cars that roll from the centre to the outer rim of the wheel while it rotates.

The following day we headed for Knott's Berry Farm. The park was practically deserted all day so again everything was a walk-on. We headed straight for Xcelerator and it scared the pants of us three times in a row. Silver Bullet only opened last month and was very fast and smooth and had a great 'near black-out' final helix (fainting at high speeds with painfull positive G forces is highly prized among coaster anoraks). The best coaster of the whole trip for me was at Knott's - Ghostrider. This five year old wooden beauty is out of control and relentless from leaving the station to returning. On our first ride Darren was convinced it was defective and we were speeding towards a horrendous death ("it's broken, we're going to die" he screamed at me after the first drop). It's a high speed, twisting, evil ride with steep hills and more 'out-of-seat' experiences than anything I've ridden in years. Loved it. We had lunch in one of the best 50's themed diners I've seen (I was Potsie and Darren was Ralph Malph) and bought some Knott's Berry Farm jam. This park's origins go back to jam as the park began it's life as a road side jam stall started by the farmer to make a bit more money during the depression. As his jam became more popular his wife started to sell fried chicken dinners and then a merry go round was added to keep the kids happy. The original recipe chicken dinners are still sold in a lovely restaurant in the park and Knott's Berry Farm jam's are now on the shelves of every supermarket in the country (we bought the 100% fruit jam, boysenberry, no sugar, no additives just quality Californian fruit). Our day at Knott's was my favourite of the whole trip.