Interesting is good.  As opposed to dull.  Interesting is a positive descriptor of an event, a time, or a person, well as far as I am concerned that is.  If you asked me “what was that bar like?” and I said ‘interesting’, it means I did not have a bad time.  The service might have been a tad slow but it more than made up for that in some way.  I thought about this whilst I sat in a bar in Granada.  If asked, I would have described the bar as ‘interesting’.  Why you might ask, and it is of course a perfectly acceptable question,  I would ask the same if someone answered my question with ‘interesting’.  Well, I shall attempt to explain why I think it is ‘interesting’.

I shall start with the staff.  A bar is often characterized by the staff.  Forget about the color of the walls, the types of wood used in the bar stools, or the height of the bar itself.  These things are secondary to the characters that work behind the bar.

The staff in this particular bar, located on a small street near the university campus, was run by Peruvians.  When I think of ‘Peruvians’ I imagine short dark people, dressed in pork pie hats, wearing brightly colored shawls, smoking strong tobacco, sitting on the side of a tortuous road, high up in the Andes.  The staff in this bar wore the hats.  They had ditched their shawls and replaced them with the latest from Levis.

The customers also dictate the character of a bar.  I looked around.  It reminded me of the Star Wars Cantina scene.  Propping up the bar with hands the size of umbrellas stood a tall, grey haired man.  His locks tumbled over his broad shoulders, obscuring the lettering on his thrash metal embroidered jacket.  He was at least seventy years old.  His profile was stunning.  Imagine the side profile of an Eagle.  His nose was beaklike.  His eyes were small, yet focused somewhat intently upon his ‘tapas’. He was talking to what appeared to be a small shrew of a girl.  I was surprised he didn’t pop her into his mouth and devour her on the spot.

Tapas in Barcelona is a rather overstated affair.  Before my Catalan friends raise their arms in protest, allow me to describe the approach to tapas in Granada. But first a little bit about Granada.

It is the capital of the province of an autonomous community in Andalucia, Spain.  It is comfortably nestled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and sits at the confluence of three rivers, the Darro, the Genil and the Beiro. It is well known by tourists for the Alhambra, a Moorish citadel and palace, probably the most famous Almohad influenced piece of architecture that has been preserved to date.  But enough about that, let me get back to the tapas.

Tapas here in Barcelona consists of a small selection of items, usually balanced on a piece of bread, held in place by a cocktail stick, either that or a concoction placed on a little dish, bowl etc.  If you order a drink in Barcelona tapas do not generally accompany it free of charge.  One pays for tapas here in Barcelona.  Not so in Granada.  It is generally served ad hoc, when one orders a drink.

So there I was sat in the star wars cantina.  Looking at a Jawa downing his beer as a Peruvian droid served him a huge plate of tapas. This guy looked like he enjoyed his food.  I scanned the bar, pretending to be Luke Skywalker searching for a suitable freighter pilot. I spotted a guy near the back of the bar that bore a remarkable resemblance to Chewbacca.  It was at this moment that my tapas arrived.

A large plate appeared with a crispy, brown ham and cheese toastie sitting next to an impressive portion of fries. Garlic mayonnaise dripped down from the summit, a tasty white river of lava on a Krakatoan sized mountain of fries.  I sat back and studied it.  It was huge.  A meal.  I ate it of course and decided to order another beer.

My beer was served by another Peruvian droid followed by another gigantic plate of ‘tapas’.  Another mountain of fries, yet more garlic mayonnaise plus two thick pieces of grilled pork lying under a creamy blanket of melted cheese.  I ate this as well and almost exploded like the Death Star.

I was wondering how on earth I was going to make it back to the car, parked about two parsecs away.  I felt myself slipping into a food coma as  I asked for the bill.

Two beers, two enormous plates of tapas and the cost? Just 3.70 euros.  Amazing.

This place was certainly out of this world.

Granada.  Put it on your map.  Set a course for the star wars cantina and enjoy.  Skip breakfast.  You will need to make room for the tapas.

Granada is about a days drive through hyperspace from Barcelona on smooth, asteroid free roads.  There are several interesting small planets along the way, should you feel the need to do some exploring.  I am sure they are ‘interesting’.


Murder Weapons

12Jul11

– Hey dude

– What?

– I was reading this thing that said that the bicycle is the only invention that has never been used to murder someone.

-That is so wrong. There are tones of things that have never been used as a murder weapon.

– Such as?

– Well, like, like, say, a dollar bill.

– Wrong. They soak it in a special poison, as soon as the victim touches it, bam, dead as a dodo.

– OK, so how about a crouton?

– Again, poison. Dipped in poison (and olive oil to make it tasty) the unsuspecting dinner guest is dead within minutes.

– OK, in that case smart ass, a Spinnaker.

– A what?

– Spinnaker, a ships sail.

– Oh come on, for sure people have been killed by one. Take the crazy dentist from Vienna, the sailing freak that killed his victims on his yacht.

– With a spinnaker?

– Yes. He entices his hapless victim onto his boat, with the promise of fine wine, food and a sunset sail. Then, when the victim is near the front of the boat, he swerves it, the victim lurches and gets tangled up in the spinnaker.

– ‘Swerve’ is that a nautical term?

-Don’t interrupt. Yes, the fucking yacht swerves, the victim is now all tangled up in the spinnaker, shouting and screaming in pain as the ropes slice into his soft white flesh.

– You’re freaking me out a bit.

– And then, the crazy dentist sailor dude, walks calmly up to his victim and pops a poisoned crouton into his mouth. In fact he pours a whole cup load into his mouth. Then grabs him and forces him to swallow them.

– Dude stop it, really.

– And then, it gets better.

– Go on. Stun me.

– Well, with the poison slowly taking effect, along with the muscle relaxants he mixed in there, the captain walks slowly along the wooden decking, and heads beneath decks to go get his folding bicycle.

– Folding bicycle?

– Yes, he bought one a few years back so that he could cycle around and explore the little Mediterranean ports when he docked his boat to stock up on food and stuff.

– Like more Croutons ?

– Yes, to buy stale bread so he could make his own croutons. Anyway, so he gets his folding bicycle, brings it topside, detaches the spinnaker from the mast, along with his now delirious victim, wraps a few lengths of rope around him and rolls him up like a big burrito. He then attaches the folding bike, a makeshift weight, and rolls him over the side. The victim sinks slowly out of sight, his wide eyes and panicked face the last thing the dentist see’s before popping back to the galley to fix himself a mojito.

– Great story dude but was he a good dentist?

– Honestly, I must say I really don’t know. It didn’t mention that.

– Hey what is for dinner?

– Salad

– Hold the croutons ok?


Martin

08Jul11

Individuation, flasher, drag, haiku, puppy blend.

A rivulet of sweat ran from the nape of his neck, zig-zagging around the fine blond hairs on his back, like a drop of water on a pane of glass, it gathered speed as it collected beads of sweat as it traveled down his back.

Martin concentrated on the lights, adjusting his grip on the small, wheel of his super-charged drag racer. It was hot in the airless cabin. The lights changed from Red to Amber, on green he floored it. Tires span, rubber burnt and he rocketed down the drag strip. A professional drag racer, he was in his element.

“What are you doing Martin ?”

The scream shocked him. He looked across at his wife, who, for a moment looked unfamiliar. It was as if a stranger had yelled at him from out of a huge crowd of people. The roaring of his dragster faded from his mind, like a distant dream.

“Why do you always drive like a lunatic? We are in no hurry. My appointment at the hair-dresser isn’t until ten.” She prodded him in the leg. ‘Slow down. We’ll get a ticket.

‘Hmm’. Martin replied. The rivulet of sweat had reached the small of his back. He looked over at his wife again, quickly so as not to catch her gaze. She looked tense. He slowed the aging Toyota to a pedestrian pace and pulled over to the side of the road. He did not brake, instead allowing the car to glide to a halt, like a canoe, approaching a river bank.

I’ll be done in about an hour. Don’t forget to swing by the pet store and pick up some food. And don’t drive like a madman, you’re not a young man anymore, your reactions aren’t what they used to be and we can’t afford a ticket or a repair bill for the car.

Martin sat still and watched as his wife strode away from the car towards the salon.

“Get a move on Mister’ This is a no waiting zone’. The traffic cop tapped on the passenger door. Martin put the car into gear and lurched away.

He began to drive in the general direction of the pet store….

..the route was not clearly marked…but it did not matter…Martin was used to operating covertly with little guidance. He checked the time. 43 minutes until contact. As a member of the Special Boat Squadron, Martin was a specialist in reconnaissance. Having spent eight years in the SAS he had made the move to Poole, in Southern England to commence his training. Now, eleven years on, Martin was one of the most respected members of his unit. He stepped out of his vehicle and made his way quietly to a shaded part of the forest. Beams of sunlight cut through the thick foliage. He began to scan the area for signs of life.
The dry crack of a twig was all that was necessary for Martin to focus his attention to a small gap in the undergrowth. Distance to target was thirty meters. Martin did not move. Insects buzzed around his head, in the oppressive heat. He watched as a young local girl made her way along the pathway, her long hair tied up in a bunch, oblivious to the man hiding in the bushes. Martin rose and strode confidently towards the point where the lady would pass in front of his target.

Her screams cut through the air. “Fucking pervert!” She had spun on her heel, her face a mixture of surprise, anger and shock as the flasher hissed at her from the bushes beside the pathway.

What is this world coming to thought Martin, he stood still and watched the flasher run along the path towards the civic center. The girl muttered something, glanced at Martin and walked past him, pulling her mobile phone out of her jacket pocket as she did so. Perhaps she was going to call the cops thought Martin. He continued along the path, cutting across the park would take him to the pet store and save him the walk along Nathan Road with all the crowds, the hustle and bustle, the constant dodging, the touts and the weary shoppers. Martin hated crowds…

..the waterfall tumbled into the large rocky pool…cool and refreshing Martin sat on a large granite boulder, looking into the frothy water for inspiration…

Water flows
with conviction
a river in my mind

As an English Haiku writer, Martin was not limited by the strict syllable count found in traditional Japanese Haiku, however, he did like to express his Haiku in a single ‘breath’….He looked at the words upon his page and smiled, the waterfall never failed to deliver inspiration. Just two days before his presentation, Martin felt ready. He rose and made his way towards the small building that housed the head of faculty. He was early. Punctuality was a passion and true to form, Martin was three minutes early. The door was open. As he entered the room, he felt a calmness descend upon him, slowly, like a warm blanket….A man rose from behind a counter…It was the professor…

…How can I help you? The voice was deep, with a woody resonate quality…

The pet-store was old. Large racks of accessories, some hand-made out of wood, rose unsteadily towards the ceiling.. There was a lot of wood. The shelf racks were made of wood, the flooring was wooden, large oak rafters criss-crossed the high ceiling. The pet-store was located in what used to be a forgery. Located next to a fast flowing stream, it was one of a just a few listed buildings in Belleville.

Martin like visiting the pet store. He would wander through the aisles, looking at the brightly coloured fish, their vibrant hues in contrast with the monochrome atmosphere of the old store. The store smelt of burnt spices, and grain. The was a hint of mustiness about the place, a pleasant smell that reminded Martin of the smell of an old book. He cast his mind back to his childhood. His nose buried into the yellowed pages of a bible, Martin would sniff the spine as he flicked through the old testament, past all thirty nine books, the history of Israel serving up their stories through Martin’s nose as he made his way to the new testament…he was transported through time and space..

Excuse me sir? Do you need some help?

The voice of God had spoken. Martin looked up and smiled. Yes please, I need to collect some dry food for a puppy. Two large 5 kilo bags.

The tall man, behind the counter swung into action, pushed his way through a bead curtain that marked the entrance to the store room, leaving Martin standing still in front of the long wooden counter.

He looked down at a crossword, that was perched next to a packet of Kent Lights. A receipt book was underneath it. Martin new it was now or never…he could hear the man in the back shuffling bags of dog food..

..His miniature camera was removed quickly from his hip pocket. The light was poor, however HQ would be able to perform their magic with their fancy image processing equipment. He needed evidence of the transfers. He moved with a speed that often surprised his peers. At forty nine, Martin was the oldest at the ‘firm’ Mi6 had looked after him well and retirement was fast approaching.

They say the Internet spawned a growth in prostitution. It also served as a catalyst for ‘hit hungry’ individuals to create spaces in the web, anonymous viral blogs that held host to content that was both inappropriate yet strangely compelling. Happy slapping was one of the first. Youths with mobile phones would target innocent victims in shopping malls, slapping them, recording the incident an publishing on their anonymous blogs. The shock value drove the traffic virally to the website. The more shocking, the more viral it became.

Martin was investigating the latest in a sick series of ‘blend it’ videos, videos that were spreading faster than anything the firm had seen thus far. It had started with two Caucasian males, dressed in white, pseudo lab rats, they would launch into a simple dialog before placing the latest mobile, latest xbox game, whatever, into a large industrial juice blender.

Two weeks ago they set off on a sadistic journey. One that would nauseate Martin time and time again. Puppy Blend had gone viral. The site statistics were phenomenal. It seems strange that people would want to view a puppy being blended but it was happening on a global scale..

Martin took three photos in quick succession, one of the crossword, one of the journal, the other of a small desktop calendar…

“Do you need anything else sir?

No thanks. Matin handed over a crisp twenty dollar bill and left. He had just fifteen minutes before he had to collect his wife from the hair-dresser. He didn’t want to be late.
The cool shade of the tree was a welcome respite from the heat. He placed the bags of puppy food between his legs, stretched out and took in the view. He was tired, weary from carrying the heavy bags…

..they cut into his palms. He tried to ignore the pain and focused instead on reaching the edge of the river.

Are those the last bags? The commander barked at him. He shirt was stained with sweat, dried blood and what looked like clay.

Yes sir, these are the last ones, said Martin, he struggled to get the words out over the noise of battle.

This was to be their last stand. The confederate army was destined to push through as they headed west. Martin looked down at their pitiful attempt at a line of defense. The makeshift barricade was barely high enough to crouch behind. They would be sitting ducks. Martin assumed his position, rifle in one hand, he closed his eyes and thought of home and began to drift off to sleep….

You’re dreaming again aren’t you? There was no mistaking his wife’s piercing voice. Martin snapped out of his dream, aware of a line of spittle that had escape from the side of his lips. He quickly raised an arm and wiped it on his cuff…

Sorry…I was away with the fairies then…

As he rose from his seat a newspaper, torn almost in half blew up against his leg. He shook his leg as he tried to free it but it held firm. He reached down and picked it up. The cover page blew away leaving an interior page with a crossword on it. He stared at it. The area that held the clues was missing, with just the black and white grid in view.

Eight across was the only word filled in. ‘Individuation’. Was scrawled in dark blue biro.

He stood up, took a bag in each hand and made his way towards the waiting jet fighter…His mission was about to start…it was time to find out just who he was.


Listen up, listen to the music, I did not sing it, I did not write, it, I’m too drunk to do that remember?

What a joke. What a stupid, useless excuse for a rant, what a silly, stupid excuse, a mannequin with an umbrella and plastic overshoes, dressed to imitate an Aunt.

A sorry excuse, a waste of time, you need to wake up and smell the coffee, the coffee that you don’t drink, the tear that you fear, the lack of control that you shy away from.

Take a look in the mirror, take a look at yourself before you stand on your box and accuse others…take a look, look deep and what do you see? Your mother? Scary No? It should be…Queen Bee…Not.

Not a queen bee….nothing more than someone that struggles to hang on to what they could have been…

…enough said.

Pass me a beer, for I have nothing to fear…not you my dear.

– All I need is music –

Jake.


– When was the last time you threw a plant pot of the balcony?
– Huh?
– Did something a little weird I mean.
– Yesterday.
– What?
– Yesterday.
– Yesterday ?! – you can’t just say ‘yesterday’ without elaborating.
– Yesterday I did something a little weird.
– Was it with that girl you are seeing from the pet shop, the one with the deranged dog that was raised by ducks and walks weird and has a bark that is kinda quack like?
– No.
– Well?
– I was sleeping.
– Sounds so weird already, do tell.
– I was sleeping and I had a dream. I dreamt that I was making love to my primary school teacher in front of all the other primary school kids. It was raining, but not outside, it was inside. The fire sprinklers were on, all the kids were watching and we were going for it like two porn stars on the front desk. She was speaking to me, her voice was soft, like a rustle of dry leaves, or that crackling sound when tinder takes light, there was music playing and I could hear other children laughing in the playground…
– OK that is weird. Forget about the plant pot-throwing thing. Yours takes the biscuit. And you’ve succeeded in scaring me a little.
– No prob. Are we there yet?

– No we’ve got hours to go…you want me to drive for a bit?

-No thanks.

– Jake and Jim –


Escalators

– You know what?
– Go on amaze me.

– I was thinking about escalators.

– And?

_ Well they are pretty cool because even if they break down, they just become a really nice funky flight of metal stairs with a cool rubber handrail.

_Sigh….

– Are we there yet?

Jake and Jim conversation on a road trip


Monday –

Rain fell upon my shiny bald head.
I was used to it.
My bald head that is.
The rain was unusual.
I had been living in the Atacama Desert for almost thirty nine months.
It doesn’t rain much in the Atacama desert. It rained not once between 1570 and 1971 and it has not rained since I have been here.

It is not a lively place. In fact there isn’t a great deal of life in general.

In 2003, a team of researchers published a report in Science magazine entitled “Mars-like Soils in the Atacama Desert, Chile, and the Dry Limit of Microbial Life” (a truly riveting read) in which they duplicated the tests used by the Viking 1 and Viking 2 Mars Landers to detect life, and were unable to detect any signs in Atacama Desert soil.

So either (1) their instruments were rubbish or (2) there really wasn’t a great deal going on.

Wed – sorry I forgot to write anything yesterday. I woke up. I ate toast with cornflakes on it just to try to liven things up a bit. I made footsteps outside my camp that looked like those old ‘how to dance the foxtrot help cards my parents had’. I ate more rice than I should have and drank almost all my whisky ration for the week. Tomorrow I’m going to do something more exciting. I’ll let you know when I think of it. Maybe I should try to get the old radio working and try some random CB radio talk.

Jake – Diaries from the Desert