So bright and gay, 3000 feet above sea level

pepsi_they_move_in_pleasant_company_1960Meantime it occurred to me that my papa may not have received the letter from me informing him of the aunts arrival. I had told him over the phone of course but his memory is like a sieve so it is always best to reiterate things in writing, so he can pin it on the ice box and refocus his pink eyes on it every time he goes to get some prune juice. Meantime my aunts were on their way to Palm Springs, 3000 feet above sea level on a zeppelin (they insisted on travelling thus, garbed as pseudo-historically as the cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). It must be said my aunts have some bizarre habits it’s impossible to argue with: they are so old they would travel to the Riviera for the skiing. But as you well recall they have not travelled anywhere at all since the teen years of last century. My Aunt Olga who is the eldest insisted on travelling in a fur-lined coat, dust veil and rubberised girdle; she also took with her in her luggage chest a small burner, like a gas heater, ‘for the discreet & hygienic destruction of sanitary products’ as she told me. “But Aunt Olga,” said I, “You are no longer a young woman… more to the point you are at least 107 years old, surely…” But all Aunt Olga would say was “Ah!” and with a lifted brow enigmatically hint that excessive laudanum consumption had a preservative effect.

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In contrast Aunt Tatiana was swathed like a black widow who is looking to make a sexual connection on the Orient Express. I reminded her too that it had been many years since anyone had remarked ‘She is a fine figure of a woman’ (assuming they ever had) but Tatiana assured me that she was on a new kind of diet, “Now I can eat as much ice-cream as I want because it’s Lite,” she said, failing to understand that the word ‘lite’ has no actual meaning in English whatsoever. “For the first time in years I feel very gay,” said Aunt Tatiana.

Finally Aunt Stacy nervously agreed to go too when I assured her that Palm Springs had an attractive and sophisticated night-life, a cocktail hour that started at 3pm and a dinosaur park. “My father will be able to show you the very brightest spots in town,” I lied. He keeps some very low company but I did not mention that.

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Letters from home (Shitsville)

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Archie Shitsville never got the free underwear; either he was too drunk to read the terms and conditions properly or it was all some kind of ingenious dodge and now some clever clean Jap is stealthily assuming his identity piece by piece;  on the plus side if another Archie Shitsville suddenly turns up on the planet he might draw some of the wrath of the Vegas mafia away from my father. Sometimes they send me letters to pass on to him: ‘Dear Miss Shitsville, We want to break your father’s bones for failure of payment but he will not answer his phone, the letters are collecting in a pile on the door step, would you be so kind as to pass the message on to him, Yours sincerely, etc.’

The Ides of March (in May, in Shitsville)

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It is a truth universally acknowledged in Shitsville that every time things start to go right, cruel Fate intervenes to fuck it all up in a way that is familiar and not entirely unexpected. What most people think of as pessimism is in my case a kind of inspired prescience for being able to see shit coming from the far off distance, like masked riders in Texas, which I happen to know you can recognise in a desert dust storm by the glint off their saddles. In another life I was the proud mayor of Shitsville in Texas and a lot of such practical knowledge I took home with me; as you will have noted my decorating in Shitsville Ranch shows traces of the time I spent in Texas: antlers, cacti, armchairs covered in cow-hide, and a stock-whip ornamenting the cornice in the basement rec room;  the pistol you see in Act 1 that will go off at the end was sealed in a desk drawer in my den, the aunts had rifled through the drawer looking for postage stamps before they left, but the pistol was still there, only the pearl handle was covered in sticky auntish ginger-snappy fingerprints (I checked to see if it was in working condition and it was).

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Those days in the aftermath of Brooks that I spent with cousin Francis Matlock Shitsville were some of the glory days; no two cousins have ever been more closely aligned. Frankie had a sartorial flair unusual in straight men which accorded very exactly with a preference I developed for dandies when I was younger than now, yet to be crushed by life, and my bloom not been entirely rubbed off by a demented fondness for pro-animal-testing cosmetic cleansers and six-tonne eye make-up more suited to a career on the stage; back then I had aspired to a frivolous life ensconced in fashion history/ theory academia, and while drunk off my tits on cooking sherry composed fanciful masterworks of bibliography in order to graduate with Honours while not exactly having the attention span to remember what the point of all of the books was in the first place. At that time (I remember it now only because it is topical) I composed a nonsense essay on the psychological implications of the clothes in The Great Gatsby; I did this for a lark really because as any fool knows you can’t take Freud seriously (Penis envy? I don’t think so).

Anyway,  earnest articles discussing the hem hem sartorial flair that would actually be required for a man to get away with actually wearing an actually pink suit the way that Gatsby does in the final scenes of the novel totally miss the point that the suit, rosy and flushed and penetrable as a cough cough cough vagina (thank Freud for that image) represents a pathetic bleeding heart romanticism on Gatsby’s part as he stands rumpled in the sunlight and says farewell Old sport or whatever it is. Frankie and I talked about it over whisky (sidebar here all of these Pepsi-Co or Coca-Cola ads do not represent any endorsement of the stuff on my part, I never drink the poison unless as a mixer: the Sociables I’m sure didn’t drink cola straight either or why the hell would they look so happy all of the time?)  It was the only contentious issue that ever came between us. I maintained that no such suit had ever really existed, certainly not in the Twenties, except perhaps as one of those life imitating art mirror routines. In any case if someone like Cary Grant had worn a pink suit he would have pulled it off admirably and nobody would be debating its ‘masculinity’ now. Then my cousin Frankie confessed that he owned such a suit.

vintage pepsi ad

Spring in Shitsville

1962 Bethlehem Steel Home Ad

It’s not Spring, in fact it’s freezing, but for the purposes of this blog we must pretend it is; flowers blooming everywhere, sex in season, or whatever Spring is like (from this distance it’s hard to recall). My point being that after all of the atmospheric rain the sky cleared and all of the dripping and reflected lights made the mountaintop forest flora look like water-pastels. Frankie and I had decided that our old, old Shitsville aunts (great-great-great aunts, in fact) would be packed off to Palm Springs in their rich travelling cloaks to live with mein pater (their great-great-nephew, in fact). This was the neat solution to every problem that had presented itself (hence the hay fever-like watering of the eyes); my father Archie, who had never learned that chasing floozies and drunken revelry is less endearing in a man of the middle years than it is in a good looking youth, would make the perfect eternal child for my old, old aunts to coddle; they in their turn are so distressingly filthy they would not be bothered by the concentric circles of fag-ends and other scum in which Archie exists; they had long ago ceased to notice the layers of dust collecting in their witch-like homestead, assuming that the perpetual fog they lived in was due to cataracts. And most importantly in one foul swoop I would be rid of the burden of caring for all of them. Of course you should know that I am quite fond of the old aunts but the time had come for us to part. With the illuminated, visionary gaze of absinthe drinkers Frankie and I looked forward to a glorious future.

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Charles Schriedde Design from a Motorola ad c 1962 via MidCentury Modern Freak

the sociables prefer pepsi

High up in the hills on Shitsville Ranch

My cousin Frankie, short of being the hero of the hour, was still on hand to buy me some consoling drinks while we nutted out the problem of the aunts. Their house had after all been exploded and for this they’d received the princely sum of a single buck. For the moment I wrapped them up in the worsted cocoons of their old aunt shawls and delivered them like stork bundles to Shitsville Ranch to wait while we trawled the old Melbourne town pubs. Now high up in the hills the rain fell all around like atomic particles, dripped off the palm leaves, sluiced down the monkey puzzle tree, really annoyed the cacti, and cast a weird greenish light in through the bay windows. The aunts had left some knitting needles on my mustard coloured sofa and some glasses of milk, glowing as ominously as the one in Suspicion, beside their be-frilled twin beds, then gone off to search for mushrooms in the foothills or whatever it is that old, old ladies do in the gloaming. When we came in Frankie remarked, with his peculiar lawyer charm, that the Ranch looked like a lot of crime scene photographs he had seen; signs of a struggle, tipped over chairs, and some off-colour stains, but in the time it had taken for the horizontal bodies to be removed, the glasses of beer were still upright on the table and still had heads on them; in another one, a woman had decorated the dinner table with a cloth and vase of flowers and the pretty yellow posies lived on for days after she was murdered. Like most lawyers, Frankie has a way with words albeit misapplied. But it is not my intention to suggest that anything creepy was going on. The point was that in the short space of time they had been there, the aunts had left my glorious abode in a noticeable disarray.

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While Frankie was going through my records and chucking the ones he disapproved of against the far wall, the phone rang and it was my father Archie again. He was somewhat the worse for wear; since I had last spoken to him (eight hours before) he had lost all of his money again. “There’s a hole in my pocket,” he said with great originality.

“No, sweet papa,” said I. “There’s a hole in your brain.”

“Your father needs a woman to look after him,” said Frankie with great originality.

“My old aunts need a disgusting mess they can lovingly tend to,” said I, as I pulled ginger snaps from between the cushions in the sofa.

“Whatever will I do?” sobbed sweet papa. “I can’t go on like this.”

60s Music Attic

Mid Century Interior

Brooks ended & Frankie returns from the mists

Elvis Presley

I should probably explain to a lot of people who have stumbled into Shitsville accidentally drunk or simply stupefied by the insane rants of the illiterate on Twitter that although it seems I skip from one thing to the next it will all come together in the end. If you were wondering whatever happened to my old Shitsville aunts and to Carl Brooks who wanted to take their house then I will tell you now. Apparently I am in a generous and expansive mood.

After we left the court Brooks and I (in my sling backs and polka dot dress remember) drove through the atmospheric rain while the surface of the road was a mirror of the platinum sky; the puddles made the crab grass lawns look like they were dissolving. Brooks had for weeks beforehand been stuffing the corners of the aunt’s house with high explosives and now standing before it in his appalling suit he lit a cigar with a book of matches and smoked it with long post-coital-like exhalations. Unfortunately in his self-satisfied reverie he failed to shake out his match sufficiently and returned the used match to the box, and thence to his pocket. Lying side by side the matches smouldered like Lesbians with a secret passion. Finally the entire box was aflame and ignited the last stick of dynamite that he had also absent-mindedly stowed in his breast pocket, thinking it was a cigar.

While my aunts and I watched the house went up in a puff like a mushroom cloud and so did Carl Brooks; eloquently fizzing he shot up into the clouds and left a diminishing line of smoke and the rank smell of burnt hair. Meanwhile his suit remained standing where he had been, perfectly intact but empty, proving that it was, in fact, indestructible, like he’d said.

Beatles and Elvis

I have had to wait some months before posting this because there had to be an inquest.  In the end dear cousin Frankie Shitsville returned from the mists, patting his suit pockets to find a handkerchief and claiming to have overslept because the alarm on his mobile had been set to 7pm rather than am. But I bare him no grudge, he is my cousin, after all; if ever in the long, cold, dark nights, high up in the hills on Shitsville Ranch, I begin to feel that he let me and the aunts down, it helps if I think of him as a kind of handsome simpleton. In the days since I shot my cousin Roger I have mellowed quite a bit.

Beatle fan

Pepto pink & the Shitsville aesthetic

Recently Cadbury have patented a new slogan which is “Welcome to Joyville.” Joyville apparently is the Disneyfied version of Shitsville. Everything there is absolutely wonderful. Oh gosh, yes. Let me tell you, that is true. It is a never-ending holiday.  In Joyville the sun never sets. The roses bloom in unison.  Water tastes like cocktails but nobody ever gets drunk. Fantastic!

Shitsville on the other hand is the last place on earth that anyone wants to be. This makes it the perfect place for people such as  I who detest human company.  I have decorated the whole town to my very individual tastes, namely in shades of Barbie pink and aqua-mint green. There is no colour more beautiful or disgusting than pink; it is the colour of the womb, flushed lips, spring flowers, raw meat, spliced birds that have been massacred by gorgeous fluffy cats, albino’s eyes, broken veins scattered across alcoholic noses and Pepto-Bismol, which one takes for upset stomachs. Coating the interior of one’s home in pepto pink may indeed have the same soothing, gas retarding properties as the original medicine, where soda and alkalizers would not work. Likewise aqua-mint has pleasing connotations of dental clinics and chewing gum; I’m not sure if the colour actually exists in nature or if it’s some miracle synthetic concoction like Benzedrine for which we must thank the Modern Age. In any case it sets off the stonework and wood panelling in Shitsville Ranch wonderfully.


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