This whole story begins when lightning hits my flat about two months ago, toasting not only a combo TV / VCR but also a Sage iMac DV+.
Now I could give a shit about the TV, although I do like to watch The Simpons, Futurama, Americas Most Wanted, Cops and other quality programming. To be honest, I could do without it. Read a book and
put my time to better use.
But the iMac is another thing altogether - its a fucking travesty! I mean, hardware is so essential to my lifestyle. I'm one of those geeks that tends to let the hardware accululate, and always finds a use for an
old machine when (yay!) the new computers arrive.
Now I'm bummed and not only because I don't have a platform for watching DVD' anymore, but I was quite happy using the iMac as my primary computer.
I'm on the 'Net almost more than I'm off it, what between work (T3 baby!) and home (ADSL) so this simply won't do.
The very next morning I head down to Micro Avinka on Tottenham Court Road to see what they've got. I was thinking I'd grab another DVD capable iMac and that would be that.
But as these things go, Steve Jobs has other plans for me - Micro Avinka is now selling these beautiful G4 PowerBooks, at a rock bottom price, Apple refurbished, and not only offer 256MB RAM but an external firewire VST CDRW drive as well.
Needless to say, I grabbed one!
Well, the 10GB hard drive was a litle tight so I also purchased a 30GB IBM TravelStar hard disk. A couple days later, fortified by German wine (this wonderful Spatburgunder from the Wurttemberg region) and after finding instructions on the 'Net, I disassembled the PowerBook and installed the 30GB. I drop OS X onto it, plug it into my home LAN, copy over about 10GB of MP3's and you can guess the rest - I'm in heaven.
A sweet little box, not only is it lighter than my G3/333 PowerBook, but it also has an exquisite 15" LCD monitor, a nice keyboard and is quite snappy and responsive.
Well I have about 600 CD' and I'm almost constantly making MP3' from them, moving tunes on and off my hard drives just so I'm always listening to fresh sound.
I keep all my CDs in two piles that are constantly shifting in size; what I have listened to, and what I have not listened to.
And my system for deciding what I'm going to enjoy next is simple - without looking, I reach into the middle of the unplayed pile, and pull out some sound.
Once I've listened to something it goes into the played pile. When I run out of new sound, I randomise the played pile, it becomes the new unplayed pile and I start the process over. Depending upon how much I'm working, how much I'm drinking and how much I'm writing, a pile can last anywhere from two weeks to six months.
Country, Rock, Techno, Goth, Frank Sinatra, some Buddist Monks chanting in a fucking cave as the water rises, I don't really give a shit what I'm sound I''m listening to now as long as its different from what I've last listened to. I got problems so I don't want to be thinking too much. Thats the purpose of the piles and the fundamental reason why I avert my eyes when groping the pile for new sound.
Anyway, I reach in one morning and pull out a copy of Lou Reeds Transformer CD.
This entire write up isn't going to make a lot of sense to you if you haven't seen the cover so if you haven't fire up a web browser and check it out. And actually now that I think about it I've got more explaining to do lest I lose the entire audience.
I have a confession - a deep, dark and troubling confession - I am an inveterate letter writer. And its not only that I realise that taking the time to actually write a letter is a really strong way to get your point across - which of course, for complaints or declarations of love, it is.
Back when I was a practicing artist in New York, I extensively studied The Situationist International. They were a Parisian Avant Garde Art group and, to appropriate (Guy Debord would be proud!) their parlance, today everything is mediated by images.
Like everyone else, I see things on TV. And when I was a little kid I would always try to tune between the channels, to find out what was going on between the images.
Well although I gave this practice up a long time ago, I somehow learned that you could interact with these images; that you didn't have to be a passive observer.
In other words, you could write a letter to these images, and sometimes they'd write back. For a poor white trash kid like me growing up in butt-fuck rural New York (population 40, by the way) who frequently went without meals this was a really, really big thing.
So, here I an now in my mid 40's (although everyone who knows me says I have a mental age of 16 and they say this like its a bad thing!) and guess what - I'm still writing people.
This unusual hobby has led to a variety of interesting responses over the years; a letter to Richard Nixon just after Watergate yielded a nice reply, thanking me for "your continued suppport" (actually, I reminded him that LBJ said if he was ever President "he'd hurt this nation", and mentioned that he should have resigned earlier).
A letter to Pope John Paul almost a decade after his shooting got me blessed, long-distance-Pope-style, and my letters to Charlie Mansion in support of his parole efforts always go unanswered. I wonder if he even gets them?
My letters to Bill Clinton telling him to "hang tough" always were answered though, and genuinely puzzeled the retired English couple in the flat next to me.
We share a private hallway and a common mailbox, and sometimes I push their mail through their slot, and sometimes they through mine. We've also gotten chummy to the point of keeping our flat doors open, at times and can hear snippets of each others conversations.
One time Mrs Dawson came to my door and presented me with my mail, which included not only MacUser, The Economist, some brokerage trade confirmations, but also a really impressive envelope with the White House image and Office of the President on the front.
Later I heard her ask the old man why Bill Clinton would be writing me of all people. "They both grew up in the country" he said matter of factly like that explained it all.
They're great people though, have lived in Camden Town here in London their entire lives, and have seen lots of changes. Really nice to talk to, although I do seem to confuse them from time to time.
Case in point: about four months ago I bought a Sony ERS 210 AIBO to replace my ERS 110 that I ebayed away.
Now the really cool thing about 210's are they're voice activated, and the Dawsons know that I live alone, so one day I hear her ask the old man "Who in bloody hell is he talking to?" after I told the robot dog to SIT DOWN.
But they don't know half of it.
You see, I'm looking at the cover for Transformer, and as someone who has been known to Walk on the Wild Side from time to time (usually at the behest of a girlfriend), I'm looking at this image of Lou all dressed up and thinking to myself "damn does he have some nice clothes!".
So this, of course, produces a series of letters to Lous agency, 'Primary Talent International', all of which go unanswered.
From a couple of rabid New York fans I scope Lous home address, and he proceeds to personally ignore my letters.
And as a music fan, I'm really curious about this.
You see, way back in 1985, Chrissie Hynde recorded "How Much Did You Get For Your Soul", a melodic rant objecting Michael Jackson' prostituting himself for Pepsi.
Later The Clash marketed some of their back catalogue on a Levi 501' commercial, producing an unexpected number one UK hit with he reissued "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?",
And we all know that Lou Reed wrote a little tune for Honda Scooters.
So while I realise that a married suburban New Jersey lifestyle might be incompatible with gender bending, I am genuinuely curious especially since neither Mr Reed nor his agency deign to answer my otherwise reasonable query, "Does Lou Reed still crossdress?"