Tag Archives: London

London, Part III

9 Sep

In July, I took a trip to London.  This is the last part in a series about that trip.

 

That Chair

 


First, I need to tell you, I’m a spiritual person.  I hate when people say, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.”  To me, it implies new age-flakiness – a love for power and notions of strangeness, but no arduous thinking.

I went to school for – among other things – science.  My mind demands evidence, experience, and radical investigation.

But since my spiritual and philosophical tradition, anthroposophy, is so full of what from the outside looks like hocus-pocus, this isn’t the place to explain why it is not, in fact, a religion (there was even a court case held to prove that).  I just state all this at the outset, because there’s a chair in London, and I was told it was a powerful chair, and I believed it.  And I believed it not because I’m stupid or unscientific.  When you’re an anthroposophist for long enough, you start to weed through the spiritual jokes to find the  truth (often, the truly hilarious.)
The chair, which sits in a little bookstore near the British Museum, was the chair that Aleister Crowley used to sit in.  He’d live his crazy life, put out the noises in his head, and read books in that chair.

Later, Dion Fortune sat in the the very same chair.  She was a better communicator than Crowley.  Dangerous too, but not so unhinged.  These people were real people; they made real use of their time as human beings.  And so the chair that accepted them is reported to have some sort of…residue.

People claimed to have been paralyzed in the chair, and to have stood up from it and into the sun – a new light shining about their heads.  The chair was evil or good or neutral, but always powerful and able, if you were lucky or unlucky, to cause a shift in you.
I found the bookstore.  It’s on a street that looks like London – If someone were to ask you about London’s features, you’d find them there.  The only things missing were the fog and long coats.  It was a small store with a good selection.  It was what you’d think – shelves filled with strange topics; books behind the counter that seemed forbidden; books stacked on the floor that there was no room for; some pictures on the wall of oddly blended colors, charts, planets.  There was even a chubby woman with long, gray hair sitting behind the counter.  And in one corner, that chair.

It’s brown leather and very old.  The seat, with criss-crossing lines, rests like an open palm.  There’s a dent, a welt, a track, of whomever has occupied the little space between arms and back and floor.  It’s beautiful and curving and very old.

I searched around the store for the right thing to read while I sat in it.  I wanted something simple but beautiful – I didn’t want to be distracted from whatever subtle things I might feel as I sat there.

After some deliberation, I settled on a book of Christian fables about animals.  It seemed profound and clean.  I settled into the chair and opened the book.

Then I put it down.

Then I closed my eyes and felt…something.  Happening.

First, I couldn’t move.  My entire body felt heavy.  Then, despite it heaviness, I felt all of it.  I don’t only mean my head, my toes, my eyes; I mean my organs, my cells.  I knew where it all was; my heart of course, but also my liver, my spleen, my veins.  I felt the nuclei in the cells tremble and the mitochondria breathe.  It was a pure feeling, as my body began to feel like it was spilling over into light, into water.  And I envisioned, with my eyes closed, white flames rising from my feet up around my head and into the sky, stretching to touch the sun above the building.  Everything was alive.  My lungs felt full and open.  I felt like I was becoming something.  I couldn’t move.  I sat there for a long time with my eyes closed, still to anyone who saw me but blurring with motion inwardly.

I’m not sure how long it took me, and it was only with tremendous will that I finally moved.

I pulled my back forward from the divot where others had been.  Then my arms, then my legs.  It felt like they were being held, and I had to struggle to stand.  My head was swimming.
I caught my breath and walked slowly toward the woman behind the counter.  She must have seen the whole thing, must have known this happened.  Did it happen to everyone that sat there?  Was it just a chair to some people?

“That chair,” I said to her knowingly, “is really something.”

She smiled.

“Oh that chair.  Yes, it’s great isn’t it?”

I nodded.

“It’s so funny,” she said, and laughed a little.  “Someone started this rumor that Aleister Crowley used to sit in it.  But it was given to me by my mother.”

London, Part II

6 Aug

Recently, I went to London.  This is the second part in a series about that trip.

 

 

 

Was I the Only Lonely Person in London?

The woods aren’t a thing in London, they’re American.  The darkness behind trees and empty ponds and clearings: this is where loneliness comes from.  It’s where the work of our most American writers, Emerson and Whitman, rises and grows.  How can someone feel lonely without those big woods – empty of people, passed over, sometimes, by planes but still otherwise?

It’s such an American thing to be lonely.  Even in the middle of London, I felt the tug of it, like a long sigh in my heart.  I traveled there alone, so maybe I’d doomed myself to that feeling.  On the Tube alone, walking around Soho alone, eating alone in the apartment I’d rented: in my bedroom while the living room, kitchen, second bedroom were empty.  I had five shoots in six days, so I couldn’t fuck anyone, I couldn’t go out to drink, I didn’t know if it would be good for me to meet anybody.

I’d arrive at and leave the shoots alone.
I felt loneliness, but all around me, I couldn’t identify that feeling in anyone else.
People were anxious, or tired, or glum, even.  But lonely?

In my favorite British pop music, no one sounds lonely.  Even Daman Albarn’s gravelly perseverance – at his lowest, when he’s pushing himself to get through a song – sounds somehow clever.  Morrissey sounds almost chipper about his sadness.  He simply knows too much about sorrow to be lonely in it.  London seems too smart for loneliness.
You could never have a country song there, no matter how hard you tried.
A friend later explained this to me, “But to Londoners, Johnny Cash sounds clever.”  I nodded but couldn’t believe it.  Johnny cash was smart maybe, but too pained to be clever.

In London, sadness seemed to me to be something someone hovered above.  In America, loneliness grew out of it like a black vine.

I got in a cab to meet Dillon Buck.  If you don’t know him, look him up, you both deserve it.  I have this mental list of porn stars with whom I’ve always want to work.  Some of them are in America and I’m working on it.  Some of them are dead so it will never happen.  Others seem inaccessible, impossible, because they live in other countries.  Dillon was one of them.  Smiling, handsome, scruffy, and so far away.

But I was in a cab to meet him and have sex with him for hours.
I got in the black taxi and the driver seemed too clueless to have a feeling.  The backs of black cabs are so big and open, you could have a party (or record music – there’s a series of videos where musicians perform in the backs of black cabs).  I sat in the big open space and said the address, which was off of Brayburne.
“Brayburne, that’s a road, is it?” The cabbie asked.
I felt lost and looked everything up on the map on my phone and we drove towards the shoot.  What was I doing in London, meeting someone on a list of unattainable men?  What was I doing here alone, where I couldn’t drink or fuck or eat to find comfort?

We turned the corner and the street was blocked off.  On the road was an overturned motorbike, with smashed glass around it and chunks of metal lying without a care on the curb.  There was a person laying by it, turned a way he shouldn’t be turned, arms and legs in the wrong directions.  A police officer waved the cars away with a look on his face that could not have been cold or merely purposeful.  He was holding that pain in and it was contorting his features.  Go away, go away, someone is hurt here, don’t look.

So there was grief, in the middle of the road, and who has time for loneliness when your whole city is holding grief in, together?
The cab moved slowly until the wreck disappeared with its metal and plastic and bone behind a corner.

I got to the set and the accident, still in my memory, managed to slip behind some corner of my mind too:  Dillon was there with a smile on his face.  His smile is so big that you can’t help but relax into it.  A friend.  And it was his birthday.
We kissed and we fucked and you know the rest.  You can see the scene soon, up at ButchDixon.com – There’s a photo set there now, and the images will do it better justice than my writing.  I’ve added two below.

After our shoot, we had a cake.  Dillon blew out the candles.  I made a wish on top of his.  We kissed again.  We had dinner.  I had a friend, and London felt warmer.

London, Pt. I

3 Aug

This Is How London Feels

In London, everything is old, nothing is innocent. If you’re in London and you want to be reminded that you’re in a foreign country, look up. The buildings, at their tops, curve and twist in on themselves in elegant, baroque designs. It’s like peering into the ocean. Where you stand everything seems normal; then shift your gaze into it and there are these curling shapes – the shapes of shells and movement – but in London, the shapes are up in the stone. Or if not baroque, they’re brick and stern. Or they’ve got ivy on them or strange windows or they’re gray and quiet.
You’ll casually pass by things in London that are older than anything you’ve ever seen. A churchyard sits with crows and the teeth of tensely leaning graves markers; the years and the names erased.
People’s souls are old. Everyone seems well-dressed (or “smart” as they say); everyone is reading. There are even advertisements for books in the subway. It’s something to be excited about; some of the books are even high-minded.
After living in the new – and San Francisco is so utterly new – I wondered how London could even still be there. I was grateful that it was, though. Its being translates the past for an American into present tense. It’s like a missing link. You can understand that the pagans once filled the hills because the buildings look mystical, the people seem up to something; it’s all mysterious.
There are images of animals everywhere. In Trafalgar Square, there are four lions, keeping watch over all the directions of the city. Lions. The memory of London is old enough to reach back into a time where lions meant something. Not just the villains in nature documentaries but beings that once walked around – thousands of years ago, yes, but around nonetheless. And somehow remembered by the culture and honored by kings in medieval times.
If you go to London, go see the Lions. They are guarding, I have read, the column in the middle, meant to honor an admiral. But they seemed to me to be guarding the whole city. Like they were ready to come to life at any moment, or to burn with glowing light or wings like the archangel Michael – found in esoteric literature in the form of a winged lion – and protect London from trouble. Go sit between their paws and close your eyes and listen to the kids – loud drunk kids, because some things are universal – clambering over the lions affectionately. And listen to the rushing of the city (which is quieter and more refined than New York rushing). It will make you feel the spirit of London deeply – it’s an intense feeling; like a thread between yourself and everything that lead up to you.
Then, when you’re done, have sex with an Italian fitness magazine model.
More on that later.