The Wall

Many years ago when the earth was new and my belly was flat (like I said, many years ago), I was visiting London on a job. In those days I was a little better known than I am now and bars all around the country would contract me for different jobs, usually only one or two nights and usually for a lot more money than they would pay regular staff. What these bars didn’t seem to get at the time is that I was a specialised worker and most of the ones that hired me were outside of my specific skillset, meaning that they could just have paid one of their regular workers to do as good a job. London was different though as it was one of the jobs that suited my skillset down to the ground and I had a whale of a time working while more than earning my money.

At the end of the third night I found myself walking back to my bed and breakfast as I simply couldn’t get a cab at that time of morning on the numbers I knew. The way was still unfamiliar so I found myself referring to my map a lot (no GPS on phones back then so a map of the city from a petrol station was normally my first purchase for a job) and going along a lot of back streets and car parks that weren’t marked. It was during this time that someone decided that I was prime mugging material. I suppose a young lad out on the streets at five in the morning and consulting a map just screams lost tourist so I was prime pickings for this guy. Unfortunately for him I was on my way from work and had my steel toe-capped boots on. Also I could probably kick you in the face quite fast now, but then I was at my physical prime and trained regularly. So yeah, mugged by someone who soon found out what rhymes with “Joken Braw” but this isn’t the focus of this post; rather I’m writing about why I was in a position that got me mugged in the first place.

It was my own fault I suppose. Overcome by the feeling of immortality that all youth carries within its inexperienced and often quite foolish hearts, I walked the streets of London while everyone was still drunk and lary and with nothing to really protect myself. A boost to that feeling of immortality came when I emerged unscathed but things could easily have gone the other way, and who would make inappropriate jokes at just the wrong moment then?  Anyway, let me tell you about the revelation that I had which had me stopped in an alleyway staring at a wall long enough for an oik to try his luck with me.

The wall was nothing special. It seemed to be the back of a theatre though I didn’t really walk around the block to check so it could have been anything really. What I found special were the posters. There must have been hundreds of them on the wall, perhaps even thousands throughout the years, and every single one was still there in some form or other. Movie posters from before my time had been pasted up there, and these were partly covered by band posters, concerts, shows, readings, pub nights; you name it and there was a poster on the wall for it (yes, even that you filthy minded flibbityjibbets) at some point in time. What struck me was just how weathered the posters had become over time. Wind, rain, alcohol-filled urine, and even snow had mulched them and torn at them, leaving only rags on the wall. And still people pasted new things on that wall without ever scraping off what was there already.

Kind of like this, but multiplied by decades of posters and abuse.

It was an incredible effect, with the latest movie poster torn in such a place as to show the heroines face as a giant eye from another poster, and that eye torn in such a place as the iris was the word “blind” from yet another poster. That was what caught my attention as I was passing by and I took the time to take in the whole effect. Words from as many as ten posters spread over three decades made up odd little sentences sprinkled about the wall. New pictures were made up from parts of old ones, mixed together in a form that no-one could have planned. To my sleep deprived, soon-to-be-mugged brain the whole wall was a masterpiece, a mess that defied characterisation, both beautiful and ugly, chaotic and yet also orderly in a fashion. I was struck with the revelation that this wall was an almost perfect allegory of the human mind. Everything we ever experience is still there in bits and pieces. Some information may get overwritten in time, but there will always be bits of it available to access. Whenever we try to come up with a new idea we use the building blocks that are available to us within our own minds, and they work in the same way as that wall. And then I got mugged.

Years later I find myself thinking about that wall again as I take up a pen (my thumb) and paper (my phone) and set to writing a novel. For my birthday this year I received a gift of the complete DVD boxset of a show I watched in my childhood (back when I was seven years old). I find that this show has provided some of the imagery that I’ve been aiming for in my writing as well as a lot of the feel that I’m trying to capture. Alongside that is a hell of a lot of Norse myth, old English legends, comic book pacing, and so many other things that I couldn’t even begin to list them (as I already have begun to list them, in this context I mean I’m too lazy to finish identifying and listing them). Is there anything original there? Yes and no, to be honest. I don’t think any writer has original content, just a unique way of putting their experiences and memories together.

The wall of my particular mind is the same as so many out there, holding the same posters as the rest of my generation and the same specialist events as those who share my interests. Where things get interesting is that the things that have held on to my wall are different from other peoples as are the things that shine through. Even someone with the exact same experiences and memories as me will hold different things in higher regard and therefore have different sized, if similar in content, blocks from which to build in the imagination. I believe that this will allow me to put together a pretty good story in a unique way.

Now I’d love to chat about this some more but there’s a strange man beckoning me into that darkened alleyway over there. I suppose he wants the time or something. I’ll be back once I’ve helped him out.

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25 thoughts on “The Wall

  1. Cool story bro. (No, it really is.) Sounds like something I’d like to see (the wall, not the mugger or whatever).
    LOVING the linkage and stuff, by the way. Hovering over that stuff make me laugh. Internally, mind. One is a lady, after all, and such outbursts are unacceptable.

  2. That is exactly how memory works. I agree. I usually use the waste basket as a metaphor for my mind. You know, a good old waste basket or bin that you keep at your desk where everything without further use goes. You can actually make a fairly apt judgement on someone’s current state of mind by looking in their waste basket.

    I have one, right here to the left of me, let’s see what’s in it shall we… Oh, it seems it only contain paper today, primarily letters from friends who want money – like the power company, the telephone company, something that looks like a parking fee (how did that get there?), empty envelopes, something that looks like crumpled up candy stick wrapping (now, that surely can’t be mine).

    Yeah, it tells the story of my current state of mind.

      • Most likely something vile involving genitals and wanting to swap them with those of the opposite gender. You know what they’re like in that profession – so focused on the mind that the body becomes their little obsession.

    • So true. I had a therapist once (actually he was the head of the last rehab facility I went to, the one that finally ‘reached’ me, if you know what I mean) who was more obsessed by power than by sex. He was convinced that the quest for power and the fantasies regarding this had more impact on human mind than sex. When thinking about it this is actually far more disturbing than the dominator being sex. It makes sense, though.

      • Everyone has feelings of being overwhelmed by others in a fast moving world at some point. We feel ignored and betrayed by even the most subtle of signs that mean nothing beyond the imaginary meaning we’ve given them. It’s human nature and it pushes us forwards, making us react to those things in increasingly insane ways.

        We harbour revenge fantasies and “When I’m on top” ideas and they can ruin our lives if held onto for too long. Like all things it’s natural – we hold on to those things rather than doing them in real life – but holding on to these things for too long can screw us over.

    • I agree. Emotional responses and impulses can be quite insane, as we all know, but what distinguish the sane mind from the insane is that in the process of tranforming feelings into thoughts, the sane mind will filter those feelings through reason and this thing we call ‘common sense’, and the physical outlet will, to some extent, be according to the ethical and moral norms of your given community.

      So, it’s the norms of society that defines whether you are insane or sane. There’s no way around this fact.

      • Pretty much. These days it’s insane to drive at a hundred miles an hour in a thirty mile an hour school zone because a voice identifying itself as God told you to (this was the excuse a woman gave recently). Years ago it would have been considered the moral thing to do, although you may have been burned as a witch for managing to hit a hundred miles an hour.

        Fact is what is considered normal constantly evolves. In some cases this is a good thing so people with different skin colours and sexual preferences can get equal treatment. In other cases, usually the ones that those fighting against any change are truly afraid of, it’s a bad thing. The language is evolving into text-speak slowly. There is a movement to Mark paedophilia as a fetish (it actually is, but this movement wants it decriminalised which is the problem when child molesters can use that for easier sentencing).

        It’s the responses to things that fascinate me about psychology, by the way. Two people can have exactly the same upbringing and exactly the same events in life and still their different makeup means they have completely different views on events and become different people. I’d love to raise twins from birth in a huge experiment where the only allowed difference is that one of them has a mirror and the other doesn’t, or something equally banal. With a few thousand sets of twins that would be screwed up for life I could make so many advancements in psychology that things like ethics currently prevent.

    • I’m sorry to interrupt this otherwise refined and cultured conversation with nonsense, but with those ideas, you really could become a class A Bond villain… 😉

    • I know. You metioned that last time we discussed your possible change of career path. There is a lot of talking about reinventing one self these days. With this recession going on and all. It’s sort of fashionalble to do a self-assessment of one’s values. Only a few years ago job jumpers were considered a menace both for employers and fello-workers, but that has changed. having a job for only 30 days, and having a string of positions on one’s CV is not uncommon today. I’m just telling you this to encourage you. Be bold! Fondling a cat is not necessary to go down that specific path of occupation.. Ever heard of The Man with the Golden Cat? Well, there you have it…

  3. I was always proud of my memory – until my 35th birthday I could remember faces of people I met or talked with, could even recall the place, time of the day, most of the time even a topic we discussed. Or circumstances that make something to happen.
    Then I stopped caring about…
    Now I remember only important things and try not to bother myself with everything. And everyone. So my memory must be pretty same as those layers of posters you’ve seen there.
    There is a place in center of Belgrade where people were placing posters for years. Then one day someone tried to remove them by tearing a corner of it. And after some time probably gave up because it was only one 27th part of it removed and that let us see about half of the meter thick layer of differently colored papers :faint:

  4. That is so cool. And it reminds me of a place I pass whenever I’m in Copenhagen on meetings. When walking from the hotel I usually stay at, to the place the meetings are usually held, I pass a house wall with a gazillion (at least!) posters. It’s like they haven’t bothered taking/tearing down the old ones, they’ve just simply kept adding to the wall, making it a metre thicker than it was originally.

    And yeah – the hover-overs made me laugh! 😀

    • Back in those days I was a natural. I had the memory and skill with numbers to be the perfect bartender. You could make an order for your party and I’d be able to tell you how much it would come to before going to make them (no till needed). I had the charm and look to get all the girls tittering and coming back week after week to see me. I had the strength and organisational skills to reset the bar (changing from food in the day to party at night) as well as sort out the cellars without breaking a sweat. It was like everything that job had in store for me I was built for from the ground up. I’ve never had anything like that in anything else I’ve done. It was an incredible feeling to know that I was ready for everything and I was never anything but happy to go to work. On top of that the job was exhausting. That feeling you get when you’ve worked your ass off and know you deserve every single penny of your pay cheque is what I had every single night. I was respected in the business for my talents and contributions and it was a job I loved doing.

      Would I go back though? No, I don’t think I would. More than once I ran across someone who treated me like I was stepping on their turf, either in places that hired me for a special job or new staff at my regular place. These people would try anything to beat me even going to sabotage, one of them even setting me and a friend up to look like we’d been stealing (there were cameras that showed him stashing bottles in our bags), while others would simply treat me and other highly respected workers like crap.

      The job changed as I got older. It was always about volume, but the bars that got people drunk as cheaply as possible took over. I was about giving a service not just getting money and banging so much booze down people’s throats that they pass out in their own fluids. Anyone can do that and without the artistry I became bored. Combine that with a new boss who had a go at me for cutting someone off when they couldn’t actually stand and I knew it was time to leave the job. Well, I actually knew when the aforementioned drunk found his feet a few nights later and tried attacking me and a couple of new girls I was training. He hit the window and went through, I hit the dole queue.

      Yeah, I wouldn’t go back now. The job was changing so much even back then, but now I’ve changed too. It simply doesn’t suit who I am now. Having said that, it very much informs who I am.

      • “The job was changing so much even back then, but now I’ve changed too.”

        And this is a good point. Some jobs were suitable for certain times; now when a lot is changed, we are changed too. It would be like going back to what we were, not what we are now, I think.

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