Friday, 7 August 2015

Random lunch conversations

The promise of good greasy food, protein and carbs, alcohol and caffeine and some kind of pleasant, interesting, distracting ambiance and atmosphere. OK none of that might be possible. This is real life after all and in general it sucks. It was a burger restaurant, a bit up market from regular fast food but the burgers were the same and there was a choice of buns with fancy names and salad. Piles of salad, green and red and there were savoury sprinkles, Italian water and the cutlery was stylish and more importantly, clean, oh and table cloths. The waitress smiled but looked blank as we placed our order. It was a job, clearly a job and no more. Nero (his choice of nickname and one that had stuck) was about to enter full conversational flow. We were old mates, catching up, it could go in any direction.

“Judee Sill was the queen, the queen, never mind Joni or Carole or Buffy or what the fugg. Judee.” He stretched out the eee sound as if reading it aloud in class. “People still can't believe it. I have YouTube on repeat sometimes, for hours. No huge body of work like the rest, just those few songs and the wonderful friggin' darkness she conjured up. Black and tortured. The queen of singer songwriters.” He repeated his assertion a few times. “And she was no conventional looker, big nose and dumb glasses, greasy hair but then she was a lesbian in the seventies, a proper junkie dyke when that (dyke) was a term you could use but I would have had her anytime. Imagine waking up to her? What weird crap would she be telling you? Profound or crazy? It's a fine line I'll never cross. If I was a chick I'd want Jesus was a cross-maker played at my funeral...maybe I still will, just to confuse whoever turns up...that'd do it. All the bandit and heart breaker stuff and the irony. A person could make that fit, couldn't they? I'm just not sure if it would be the first or last tune. Then there's Sinatra. Imagine him doing that line in kiss, “love risin' from the mist”, with a big band backing, Vegas style.”

“I thought you wanted buried in the forest so you could become a tree, or a cross I suppose? Maybe some other timber based product?”

Nero laughed. “In the forest you can have any song you like, it's not as if the tyre centre next door or the mosque across the street are likely to complain. But I have never attended a woodland farewell to know quite how it works. There may be sensibilities; don't disturb the animals and the hikers with you funeral PA system turned up to eleven.”

The burgers arrived. Mine was blue cheese, a regular choice. The fries were fat, that was good. Nero was munching the burger, he held it with two hands and in between mouthfuls he continued with the Judee Sill conversation, more to himself and the burger than me. That was where his concentration was focused. He knew an awful lot about her life and her (untimely) death and all the graphic gossip that had led up to it. Then he edged towards the various theories and added a few more of his own that were obvious fiction and fantasy. I ate quietly, well I probably ate as noisily as the next person but I just didn't talk. I nodded and grunted. It was a good burger and I had two hands on mine. 

“I don't know who has her house now, it's not on the maps, off the radar, wiped clean by the hand of god.” I spoke. “I'm sure it's still standing and some D-lister is in it with no idea about those times as they have big drum and bass parties around the pool.” Nero looked at me, “she's bound to be a motherfucker of a ghost, think about, or a poltergeist or a wraith, howling like a banshee (or a wraith). I can't believe that she left this world on good terms or died easy. Way too much electricity in her, way too much. It oozed out of the grooves on the vinyl. I remember it at the time. Brave new morning.” He took another mouthful. “She was no Doris Day.” I sensed that our conversation was not going to move on now, Nero was obsessed it seemed. “So what was wrong with Doris Day?” “Well nothing it's just a kind of figure of speech, it's all the things she was not, not straightforward or showbiz or glamorous or Doris Day.” I stopped eating.

“Doris Day was more of an enigma than Judee Sill, you just don't get it. She was on a different level, she knew the system and she used it and beat it. Judee Sill was beaten by the system. There in the golden age of singer songwriters all you had to do was get past the third album and you were set. Movie stars had a different challenge; get past the first three films and they were on contract and moulded. They were sanitised. And Doris could do sultry.”

I started on the fat chips. I ate them slowly. The burger had done it's job and taken the edge away from my appetite. Nero was ahead, despite his chattering he could eat more quickly. It was a technique he had clearly mastered. I'd stopped eating the chips and was sipping water and watching two women at the table opposite. My Doris Day observation had temporarily stumped him. Doris does sultry. It was an odd comparison and of course it was really just a chance remark he'd made to begin with, I'd never thought of it until Nero brought it up and it made no proper sense. It was cheese and apples or cola and paraffin or bricks and chocolate. That was what I was thinking and I could say those things but I chose not to, I'd leave it.

“So at least we know what you want played at your funeral.” Nero looked at me. “Yeah Black Sabbath, the black princes of downer rock in some dirty, industrial location.”

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