Monday, March 14, 1983

Deep in the woods

I did see Grant last night after all: Dad ran me on to his house after dinner. His hair's quite long now and hangs in greasy straggly knots almost to his shoulders. He cut it himself, short and close to the scalp on top, the rest raked back behind his ears.

He told me that he smoked some dope for the first time over the weekend. I had my speed on me so I showed him and mentioned that there’s a (probably) vague chance that I could be getting some acid from Barry over the hols.

We caught the bus into Easterby and went to the Film Theatre. It was £1.40 in with my NUS card. As we clumped up the stairs we could hear the drifting, enticing sounds of the Ted Benson Quintet and we clambered over people into the back row. At that moment, huddled in the darkness, I felt suddenly breathless and expectant and glad that for once I’d actually made the effort. I think it was the joy and excitement of seeing and of listening. Of being alive. My heart thrilled with it all.

Afterwards, we retreated upstairs so that Grant could smoke. It's a habit he’s really getting into now and throughout the evening he chain-smoked his way through an entire pack of Marlboros, reclining back in his seat wreathed in blue smoke, his legs propped on the seat in front as he puffed and dragged clumsily on a fag.

The film was Art Pepper, Notes From a Jazz Survivor and it chronicles his lonely loveless childhood and his journey through theft, heroin addiction (“it solves everything – sex, the need for a God etc. – but causes such agony that anyone who uses it is a fool”) and finally his Phoenix rise to success as a sax player. His battered and scarred face beneath black crew cut reminded me on reflection of that of ruined junkie Herbert Huncke. He twitched and bobbed as he played, his odd brief squall of rapid sax breaks really adding to the music. He showed his malformed stomach to the camera, an ugly hump in his mid-section, looking like the face of a blank diseased pig, the result of an operation gone tragically wrong. He’s quite a grimly comic character . . .

We didn’t wait for the return of the band but went instead to the Wellington Arms near Dyson Street, a quiet and quaint pub with lots of rooms leading off from the central bar area. We sat in one in the back on our own, Grant smoking, smoking and supping beer while I downed whiskies. We quite enjoyed ourselves, at times laughing with unconcerned abandon until tears ran down our faces. When we left the table was littered with torn chewed beer mats, burnt matches and ash.

I woke up today after more dreams about University and all the people there. I'd promised to meet Grant at his house at about eleven. He played me the Birthday Party EP which I later bought (now I regret not seeing them last term with Gareth and Stu). “Deep In The Woods” is excellent, so morbid and slow, and it sounds sort of hard and metallic with perverse echoes of Black Sabbath. We also listened to Coltrane.

We went into Easterby again and stopped in at the Volunteer Inn up by the Poly for an hour or so. Grant decided to miss his 2½ social and economic history lecture and introduced me to droning, monotonous-voiced Pat, who's 26 and doing photography at the Poly. As we sat there, the Doors came on the jukebox and I again felt a calm glow of optimism. I looked forward to the future for once. I think really the change from Watermouth is doing me good, but no doubt within a week or two the same boredom and frustration will have me in its grip.

Then we went to the Library where I spent a long time seeking out books for my Black Americans contextual. I gott three. I also bought the Birthday Party EP and tickets to Whincliffe Jazz festival before we went up Cathedral Row to visit Nanna P.

We ended up stranded in her dingy flat for what seemed like ages and were bombarded with all the usual tales, to the accompaniment of the hoots and cackles of her small wizened friend Ethel, whose shriveled face was framed by garishly dyed hair. Nanna P. was full of moist eyed reminiscences about Aunty Dorothy, who died five years ago this month.

Grant and I had great laughs on the bus back, indulging in stupid inane conversations (he smoking two cigarettes at once), and conjuring fantastic situations up that reduced us to fits of laughter and long bouts of spontaneous mirth. These are the effortless, aimless afternoons that will capture the memory in future times.

I admire Grant because he's uncompromisingly honest and strikes out on his own manic, paranoiac path. Paranoid fears may plague him (he worries he's “getting on peoples’ nerves”), but he's independent all the same and I know much of what goes on in his mind is parallel to what goes on in mine. But the big difference is that he is more overt and spontaneous in what he says and thinks than I am, so people rarely—if ever—realise how feverish my mind becomes sometimes.

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