03 December 2007

My Stench

Towards the end of last summer, my person accrued a weird stench and I can pinpoint the exact time it was assigned me. I had been out skateboarding all day in the blazing heat with no food in my stomach. After four hours or so, I was dirty, bleeding, de-hydrated and in pain but it all felt incredibly good at that point.

My friends Eg and Fitz encouraged me to join them for some beverages to celebrate our skateboarding and the summer. So we went to this scummy little bar on Powell Blvd called the Lottsa Luck. The first pint was overwhelmingly refreshing. I had a small cheese sandwich and another pint to wash it down.
Soon we were fed and rested but the beer kept coming. We are all fathers of young children. We pulled out our hair with parental frustration, cried in the joy of it, moaned about our jobs and laughed at being thirty something grown-ass men, with beards and beer guts living for a few hours of skateboarding in the sun. It was now 8PM and I was supposed to be home by 6pm.

The physical pain from skateboarding had subdued and I stepped out of the Lottsa Luck and tried to skate in the car park only to fall on my face. I got up and immediately fell off my board again and again. I was in hysterics and so were my friends. It was ridiculous; I couldn’t roll three feet without ending up on my arse… If, I’m honest deep down inside, I was a little scared that I had surrendered my skateboarding skills to booze and the following debauched behaviour. For some reason, I then traded in my skateboard for a bike and we moved from the Lottsa Luck to a karaoke bar called the Bear’s Paw.

I sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and drank more. Still covered in sweat, blood and dirt, (I was actually dirtier than I had been all day at this point after rolling around the car park). Us three grown ass men on skateboards immediately began to attract a lot of attention. Things got weird quickly and mostly the details elude me but some things stand out.
A couple of gay bus drivers who walked up to our table and proceeded to tell us that they were beginning to feel a bit threatened by some bigots at the bar and did we ‘have their backs?’ Damn straight we did. I would have died for them right then, I was so high on life.

Next, I was approached by a girl who was celebrating her twenty first birthday. Would I be nice and sing a karaoke song with her? Never mind the fact I had never sang karaoke ever before, I soon belting out ‘Let’s hear it for the boy!’ or as I was later informed ‘Let’s hear it for the Oi!’ aimed at the skinheads who I presumed were hassling our gay bus driving friends.
I soon realized I could not read as fast as the prompts on the karaoke machine and so the foulest language I am capable of game streaming out of my filthy gob. More beer. And then some kid began to sing 'Amazing Grace' but was absolutely destroying it, so I took the mic off him and showed him how the Welsh sing, only one song after loosing my karaoke virginity. Fitz sang Sweet Home Alabama three times and Eg sang obscure bubble gum pop songs, I’ve never heard. My African American co-worker squealed in delight when I told her I rescued ‘Amazing Grace over the weekend.

One of the skinheads then approached me and asked if my drunken tirade was aimed at him. I commended him on his courage at approaching me and said I was just a cultural observer. He seemed OK with this, so I went for a piss and none of the skins ended up coming in to the toilet to give me a seeing to.

Next a clown walks up the our table and starts a conversation with me. It is a friend of my wife’s named Brian or Pompeii, which is his clown name as is Briano and Zompei. Anyway, he is a real clown and a hilarious character and he had caught some of my act. However, I had a hard time convincing anyone that Briano is a genuine bona fide clown. For whatever reason, this frustrated me and I began my descent but not before a wonderful midnight cycle home through the leafy green neighbourhoods of Southeast Portland.

I got home just after midnight blind drunk and festering in filth on all levels. Six hours late. I knew things were bad but I have sunk pretty low in the past and always managed to pick myself up. But before I could even collapse on my pillow, my wife uttered in disgust ‘Jesus Christ you stink, go sleep in the basement.’ And kicked me out of the bedroom.

She later asked me if I had pissed myself, which I don't think I did... But since that day, I have been unable to get rid of that stench and my body odor absolutely reeks, even after showering. Piss, sweat, smoke, alcohol, excrement body odor, dirt, cap park scum, blood all smeared into my skin, under my arm pits, my arse crack, my bollocks, my breath, behind my ears, between my toes, under my fingernails.
My wife is really concerned as she doesn't want to be anywhere near me. I’m still embarrassed to go to work and I must have had at least twenty showers since that night. Every time I sweat, it is as if I have been living under a bridge for the last ten years. As if I rolled around in the cat litter. A deep funk has been released from a forbidden depth. I’ve been to see my doctor about it. Even they gagged when I lifted my arm-pit. All the doctor did was ask if I had changed my diet and told me it would fade in time and perhaps drink more water.

It all brings to mind me a great Italian film I once watched before moving out the US, called Caro Diario, or ‘Dear Diary.’ It was on late night television. Late night British television can actually be quite good and its part of what makes being on the dole so great.
So in this film, the protagonist, who is also the director, takes on a journey, both geographical and metaphysical, around his daily haunts. We get to sit on the back of his moped and cruises around the narrow winding streets of the city. We get to share his elation as he zooms out to the surrounding countryside. We get to relish in the beauty of normal people going about their day, celebrate Rome’s architecture and drool over the scenery of the Aeolian Islands.

'Caro Diario' is split into three parts. The first two of which are mostly devoid of plot. I like this. Oftentimes a good film can set itself apart from a narrative. Why rely so much on plot and narrative? If you want to do that write a book. Film really should take advantage of the liberties of its medium. Few directors really do this. Terrence Mallick does it and so does Nanni Moretti for the first two thirds of his film. He let’s us taste Italy through his senses. We hold his hand tighter and tighter begging for more, and then in the third act he develops an itch. And also insomnia. In fact he develops a tumor but he doesn’t yet know it. Suddenly the film changes pace and becomes an arduous struggle for diagnosis and cure. It is pretty depressing from there on out but we are still grasped tightly to his hand. It is staggering how much so, actually. While we sympathize with his cancerous condition, it is easy to loath him for taking us on the route he did to get us there.

Ultimately, there is little Nanni can do to help his condition but drink more water. After all it can't do any harm.

And that is all I really have to say about that.

A journey an artist might make to honor he that inspired him.