Aha, it is I! According to the word cloud over there I’ve shimmied past my 100th post! Whooo, me! Actually it seems to have been about 8 posts back. It would have been serendipitous indeed had my 100th post been the one about Peter Cushing's centenary. However, I am a pretty poor planner so it wasn't. To belatedly commemorate the fact I have actually done something constructive for a lengthy period of time, I offer this not brief enough by half entry about something the site isn't remotely about. How appropriate! Anyway, this… So, first up I'd just like to publicly thank Mr. Brian Hibbs Esq. and all The Savage Critics for their patience, benevolence, forbearance and other kind things. At times it has amused me to make out like we are all chumming about madly back here, but in reality I try and leave everyone in peace. I hope that doesn’t come off as stand-offishness or ungratefulness or anything bad. I don’t mean it to. If I do bother anyone I bother Gentle Jeff Lester. Because there’s just something eminently botherable about Gentle Jeff Lester. Actually, it’s more a process of elimination (although now I think about it that’s another way of saying pooing but that’s not the sense I mean) - Graeme McMillion$ is busy using up all the words in the world so I don’t like to disturb him, Abhay would probably bill you by the hour for his time (why, yes, my lawyer humour is limited), J Smitty is always covered in flour and foisting comics on kids and The Brian Hibbs is busy chiefing out feral street scum and running some kind of shop of some kind or something. So I just bother Gentle Jeff Lester. Sorry, Jeff Lester! Truly, getting this far has surprised no one more than I. After all, Gentle Reader, the offer to contribute to The Savage Critics wasn’t something I was angling for at all. It was exactly the kind of generous, flattering and benevolent offer that makes me act as though someone has just offered to stab my eyes out. I believe normal people call them opportunities. So I thank everyone for this opportunity and I hope that, on occasion, I have risen to it. If nothing else I think I can safely claim to have single-handedly resuscitated the career of Howard Victor Chaykin. That's not arrogance there, that's humour. Anyoldhow, I really do appreciate being allowed to squat here even though I never say so or, indeed, practically even talk to any of the other Savages at all. Believe me that that’s an act of kindness in itself. Think yourselves lucky.
Anyway, you’ve (the Gentle Reader) probably noticed I’ve been a bit scattershot lately. That’s because this year’s been a bit of a rascal. After a few months of its unruly shenanigans I just got worn down and I apologise for the lack of content. It’s okay I’m not pity-fishing, that’s as much detail as you get and it’s primarily there to lead into this next bit which is about the time I last got a bit content light. It’s a story about how things can happen on this side of the screen and how easy it is to keep them there, but mostly it’s a story about how I snatched defeat from victory. But then again, aren’t they all, Mother?
So a while back now I gave up smo…oh, wait, I stopped smoking. I didn’t give up anything because that phrasing has negative psychological connotations which are not conducive to my continued abstinence from the toxic weed. I stopped for my son and my lady partner, so that we could enjoy the wonder of each other for as long as Fate allows. That would be just peachy if it were true, but it isn’t. Smoking is many things but mostly smoking is selfish and there are two things I’ve found I’m good at in life; smoking and being selfish. So already being selfish and then smoking as well? Yeah, real spur to change there. No, the reason I actually stopped smoking was a combination of pain and stupidity.
So we're back in late Feb or early March 2012 and, say, let’s start with the pain. I’m no spring chicken so I get pains. We all get pains. Life is pains, candyshapes. Since I am privileged to live in a part of the world where doctors and the science of medicine are more plentiful, available and advanced than a lot of other places what I sensibly do is ignore any pain until it goes away. Now, one day I’m having one of those pains and I’m busy ignoring it when, shortly after posting some bland asskissery about Brian Hibbs in that contretemps with some Marvel guy, I realised the pain that had been making it difficult to think for a bit was now making it difficult to stand. So I sat. Then It was difficult to sit. So I lay on the floor. When it became difficult to lay on the floor I was a bit stuck for options. I could have started digging but carpets are expensive so I just rolled about a bit. I’ve kind of truncated those events there because they started around 07:00 pm and ended about 07:00 am. It was pretty unpleasant all told but not really the stuff of hi-octane anecdotery. Luckily for your wandering attention things happen fast once my partner wakes up and finds out I have had a sleepless night on the living room floor clutching my side.
Cannily, she is deaf to my self-diagnosis of “a bit of trapped wind”. BANG! My partner’s on the blower to the GP and then we are IN the car. We drop MiracleKid off at school (having maintained a Royal Shakespeare Company worthy pretence of normalcy at all time; kids innit). Then back IN the car and we speed to the GP where, astonishingly, the GP agrees that it is just wind and oh, those ladies do overreact, cue manly laughter and then we light cigars and drink port. NO! He hands me an envelope and sternly instructs me to hand it in at the Hospital where I should go pretty damn promptly. It is appendicitis and I should perhaps have approached the medical fraternity somewhat sooner. Ignorance may be bliss but it turns out to be pretty poor medicine. Now the heat is indeed on, Glen Frey. BANG! We’re out at the car again. But we are not IN the car because (this is where the Stupidity comes in) I decide to light a snout. This turns out to have repercussions. Bad ones. Now the snout is OUT and we are IN the car and the car is MOVING. We are talking, keeping the CALM going and BANG! My vision is now like staring into one of those kaleidoscopic telescopes children have, all beads and spangles. I appear to have lost all muscle strength and my words are spooling from my mouth like drool. “Mmmnnncahhhnnnseeesuuuhhhhguuuud”, I say debonairly. The inside of the car is now upholstered in Fear. The car reeks of that new Fear smell. My Fear and her Fear. My Fear is okay, that’s on me, but to have caused someone else to have felt that depth of Fear is not going to appear on a list of My Proudest Moments. Opinions differ here. To be fair I was distracted struggling to stay away from The Light. Piecing this bit together is like Rashomon but with two people in a car and a lot less sexual violence. I say my blood pressure plummeted and I would have been fine; the other person says I nearly died and if I ever smoke again she’ll kill me. Which is highly illogical, Captain, but I take her point.
Then we are in Hospital and things are moving fast. Because I am as successful in life as I am with words I am poor, so we are in an NHS hospital. Some people smack talk the NHS but those people are the kind of toilet drinkers who think the NHS should turn a profit. I don’t smack talk the NHS, I love the NHS and anyone who wants to dismantle it will have to go through me, pal. Is it perfect? No, but it is under funded and beleaguered by bureaucratic foolishness so it's hardly likely to be perfect is it now? And "choice"? Fuck "choice". People who start yammering about "choice" are trying to take you for a ride, pal. A ride at the end of which they will be sat in a gold replica of their own head and you'll have to sell your mum's old arse to afford an ingrown toenail seeing to. Choice is for greengrocers and comic shops. Don’t get me started on the NHS. That’s the last time you bring that up, right? Anyway, I went in to the hospital, the NHS hospital, the beautiful fruit of Aneurin Bevan, the NHS Hospital, and the NHS hospital did me right. These people were overworked, underpaid and unappreciated but these people were efficient and these people were professional. I’ll tell you this for nothing, funface: time is different in hospitals. Time is strange in hospitals. And Hospitals act on your memory like a fist kneading mince. I think it’s probably a combination of stress, drugs, fear, pain, and people dropping those fucking tin bedpans during the night which are inimical to the correct operations of thought. So things get a bit blurry from hereonin. But I do remember two things with remarkable clarity.
The first was the bit where I just let go of worrying and gave myself up to the tender mercies of the staff. Because, I don’t know about you but when someone’s about to put you under I have a tiny concern about whether I’ll be coming out again. But then I realised I’d never know so, hey ho, let’s go. That’s probably the first time I’ve unclenched in three decades. It was pretty good. I can see the appeal in this relaxing lark, but it's a bit late for me to form the habit, I fear. The other thing I remember is that I was two beds down from the heir to a local ice-cream fortune. Oh, I shit you not. I remember that because it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like I’m in an Elvis movie. (Hip swinging singing sensation Elvis Presley plays Chad Baps the heir to an ice-cream fortune. But when Chad’s appendix flares up complications ensue. Romantic complications!) But then because I can’t stand being happy I got a bit creeped out because he made me think of the Emperor of Ice-Cream, you know, from that Wallace Steven's poetry in the front of Stephen King's ‘Salem’s Lot. So through no fault of his own this unknowing bloke went from a spur to light hearted reflection on enjoyable crap to being a personification of my own mortality. Put the right willies up me it did. In my defence, there was some morphine action going on. And because I live to read, I read a good book while I was in there, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. If you liked Blood Meridian you’ll probably like that one. You will need to provide your own morphine though.
So then I get discharged and I’m housebound for a good three weeks. Follow in the footsteps of a rag doll dance! I'm housebound! Housebooooound! How else did you think I found time to look at all those John Carter comics? You think I sweat Time or something? So, I’m in the house for three weeks and…no smokes. C’mon, you can imagine how my partner responded when I asked her to get me some. Remember back in the car before I upset you with the NHS stuff? Remember The Fear? Yeah, that request went well. Picture the scene. Hooo! Yeah. So, after three weeks it seemed stupid to piss away all the ground I’d made up and I carried on not smoking. Everyday you’d see me and there I’d be busy not smoking. I never took a break either because not smoking is a full time job.
So, yeah, I stopped smoking. Yay me. But I didn’t stop wanting to smoke. Boo, me. Swings and ladders of outrageous fortune, I guess. And like I say, this year? Not exactly a banner year, my friends. So, I caved. I pissed away all the good work I’d done and stuck a legalised cyanide stick in my mouth and lit it. I’ve had better ideas. Oh, I have excuses. There are always excuses for smoking. I don’t have any reasons, however. There are never any reasons for smoking. So what was meant to be a quick thanks to The Savage Critics for letting me stain their upholstery morphed into an attempt to build a sympathetic rapport with you, gentle reader, before smarming into a self-congratulatory high five to my awesome fortitude and self-discipline. But in a twist no one saw coming it turned out it was just me kicking myself in the face in public. Because I’m going to be not smoking again soon. And I’m leaving this up here in public so that when I want to stop not smoking I can remind myself what a weak and selfish asshole I’ve been and maybe that’ll help me not smoke. And maybe I’ll not smoke soon. Soon, and maybe for the rest of my life.
And that’s why I usually stick to talking about – COMICS!!!
Images From: MIND MGMT by Matt Kindt (2013, Dark Horse) THE SIMON & KIRBY LIBRARY: THE SUPERHEROES (2010, Titan) CAME THE DAWN AND OTHER STORIES ILLUSTRATED BY WALLACE WOOD (2012, Fantagraphics) FRANK ROBBINS' JOHNNY HAZARD Volume One (2011, Hermes Press)