National Anaesthetics Day
I woke up for the second time and realised it was not just a day where I don’t have to go and be a five-foot-tall teacher with a quiet voice, but that it was ANZAC Day. I delivered a swift uncaring kick to my inner what, administrator?, who is supposed to run my house better than this. I, without her help, forgot to get organised to remember to go to the dawn ceremony even though I am not sure why I weakly want to. I have never managed to get it together to go which I feel twinges of broken-rib guilt about for some stupid reason my poor brain does not want to go into. My thought hamster that is up there pulling levers with his little paws and pressing buttons with its nose is worn out and in pain. His paws are bandaged and his nose red-raw. Maybe I am short enough to pretend I don’t exist. But that doesn’t work anymore once that asswipe weasel counsellor made me do affirmations starting with the ‘I exist’ one that has rolled the stone over the entrance to that cave. The first time I woke up, if you can call it that, I went to the bathroom and had a large yellow plastic tumbler of water, as is my custom. After more sleep I can feel it seeping in. It has started to rain and it is strange having an audio to my ingestion. As is also my custom, I see if my dreams are still hanging about. Today, I find them trying to get out the window. I spy them even though the Venetians are nearly closed I am in an empty Victorian workers cottage that has been stripped out back to bare wood and so that there are fewer rooms than there once were. It was still very small and made for smaller people than exist today. I was with my mother and she told me that it was my great-great grandparents’ house. She also showed me a box of small artefacts that were the only remnants of their humble possessions. There was a porcelain lid that looked like it had fitted something from the Wedgewood neo-classical Etruscan-ware tea-set. There were two orange glass buttons that were thick and large and sanded cloudy with age. There was a third but it was broken in two. There was this wooden cylinder about the size of a can (speaking of cans, I saw someone drinking from a can of ‘Sars’ at the food hall last night) on a handle also made of wood. The can was carved with a neoclassical frieze, so that when it was rolled over dough it would make a relief pattern like a Greek temple pediment. For some reason I burst into tears and cried inconsolably. [Ends.] I thought this odd in retrospect. If someone had given me a house I would have thought I would be pretty pleased as I wouldn’t have to pay rent any longer. Why was I crying? Maybe because the passage of time is like being dragged through a tube, and I never asked to be born in the first place. Or it might have been the tragedy of all my family voting National that got me. But back to the subject of ANZAC Day, ANZAC sounds a bit like ransack, and also, strangely, it also sounds like Sad Sack, a moronic cartoon soldier I used to like and hadn’t thought of for years. Decided to make boiled eggs with soldiers. To me, ANZAC Day is sort of about pathetically socially abused grandparents and tragic forebears generally. Last week I had a very cross-porpoises (sometimes dolphins can jump through the bottom of your boat you know) conversation with three workmates as I drove them in my very small car to our job, starting when I stopped at the bottom of the Bullock Track. In rush hour, a man in camouflage stood on the white lines before the intersection with two children, who should have been on the way to school I thought, selling ANZAC Day poppies. I wound down my window and asked for four (numerologically signifying death which pleased me) until everyone else said frostily that they did not want one. I was shocked. And my number liking feeling was crushed. I was as much upset about this as I was that three people I really care about were being so depressingly literal. So what if the RSA have voiced anti-pacifist statements? So what if they may or may not have adequately distributed funds to old soldiers. Who are we to judge? How can anyone expect all those damaged old men and their deranged family members to behave in any other way? I for one will support their right to act out and have another jug at the RSA (best we forget). You can’t tell me they really have free will. But that is not even my point. I think of ANZAC day as National Anaesthetics Day. I do not think I am not glorifying war by wearing a poppy. I derive as much enjoyment from doing so as I did wearing a NZ Head Injury Society collection sticker on my lapel to my old job at the art gallery. On the subject of sad old people, I discovered that both my grandfathers had attended the same convalescent hospital that I did. One, to give the family a break from nursing him every summer after contracting rheumatic fever when his hospital ship was torpedoed in the Indian Ocean and he spent three days in the water. The other never saw active service as he was an alcoholic gentleman farmer. He went to this hospital to dry out in preparation for marrying my poor naïve grandmother who was the only other 5’ tall member of my family. He was made an officer in charge of teaching other men how to ride horses in Rolleston, now the site of a prison where a lot of white-collar criminals are sent to do time away from “violent criminals”. I never met him but like to imagine him riding a horse backwards drinking out of a hip flask, shouting commands and humorous derisions at the awkward riders behind (or in front) of him. I thought it strange that they would be learning about horse-riding in the age of the motorcycle. The only thing I took to this sanatorium was Albert Speers’ Inside the Third Reich. That and some clothes off of my floor – the reasoning being in this case was that if I had been wearing them that week, they must be OK. Why I took this book, I do not know. Perhaps 1t was the only one I had at home that I had not read and that could face reading. I find it pretty much impossible to sleep without reading first. Speers started the chapter entitled “Doom” in Inside the Third Reich, with the following: “DURING THIS LAST STAGE OF WAR, I FOUND DISTRACTION and relief in being active. I left it to Saur to worry about armaments production, which was winding down anyhow. For my part I kept as close in touch as possible with my industrial associates so we could discuss urgent problems of provisioning and of transition to post-war economy.” He knew that war was always with us, and sure enough he went on to talk about peace as “non-military war”. What is non-military war? There is the peace of exhaustion and compliance, and there is the violence of psychiatry of course. Even dreams are born of conflict, of compromise between the opposed desires of the super-ego (the policeman of the psyche) and the unconscious. In our sleep, “the unconscious desires find discharge by way of mental pictures which fulfil the demands of the critical super-ego”. Or so say the dream interpreters, that sad bunch of wieners. Benjamin advised against recording dreams until one has eaten: “The narration of dreams brings calamity, because a person still half in league with the dreamworld betrays it in his words and must incur its revenge.” Oh like I am really scared. Lightweights. But in a more fundamental way, I offer, war has something to do with real estate. It think that the city fringe edition of the Property Press should be renamed The Fortress. Yes, we all have our own battles. I mean it is a struggle for me to write, to do anything really. For this reason, I have been conducting two experiments, both of which are about conflict and struggle, and are about all I can manage. I try for supernatural assistance too as I need all the help I can get. The first was recording sixteen months worth of dreams (not that sixteen is a magic number or anything – it isn’t – but just because that is how long I have been doing it for). I embarked on this because I had been sick for weeks and had found that when I am prevented from being productive in the way that I am accustomed to (not being supported by anyone else, and basically forced to participate in work to earn money so I don’t have to sleep on friends’ couches until they get sick of me and my food parcel contributions), space is opened. Into this space came my dreams, the laziest and most surprising form of story writing. What a blessing dreams are – one can avoid the stained and gappy quagmire of waking life, and be rewarded with complex personalised fictions and windows onto a mysterious archetypal realm of apparent strangers. I remember about five a week on average. About six months after I started I found out that Carl Jung did an experiment with some of his neurotic patients. Some continued to visit him as per “normal”, and continued to recount their dreams for his analysis. The other half he got to record their dreams for at least six months themselves, and if they had any questions about the pragmatics of this, to talk to one of his student interns. He reported the same success rate with both groups – almost all neurotics in this experiment improved greatly and required no further analysis. Jung was a firm believer in a collective unconscious beyond the individual Psyche, a concept related to the idea of the expanded field of contemporary art. Anyway, I was happy to be having and remembering these dreams, but sad too, that sooner or later I would have to go back to work. I might have been sick for three weeks, and it really hurt, but I was free. I noticed a certain sameness to the dreams, a domestic trivial bent. I will paste in the last one I recorded properly as it is fairly typical: I was observing three young extremely rich jetsetters in an opulent apartment. In a vast north-facing room, the young Princess Diana sat on the floor leaning up against a settee reading something between her legs dejectedly. The two young men that were with her lounged about, smoking, sipping, killing time. Then they were boarding a massive yacht of the Aristotle Onassis variety. One minute her long tan body was stretched out on deck, the next, she was gone, having cast herself overboard into the open azure sea. Later, among a handful of evidence-gatherers, her companions asked the captain-butler whether there was any chance that her body was still in one piece. He said that no, it would have been rendered mince by passing beneath the boat where the engines are. I had come into possession of one of her earrings. It was a huge drop pendant sapphire, rectangular in shape with rounded edges, surrounded by diamonds. It was a screw-on earring and had a pad that sat at the back of the ear made from white plastic cast in a cloth pattern that looked soft but wasn’t. It was stained with makeup darker than foundation as though it was maybe blusher. Maybe she flicked it outward as she applied it. I said to two girlfriends, “Look what I’ve got!” but I was really talking to my parents and had to change my tone and fast I tried to make out that it had been given to me legitimately as I did not want them to think that I had come into it dishonestly. They were not buying it ( … ) Then my dog is very sick and it is somehow my fault, as if I have accidentally poisoned her. She is cowering behind the deep freeze in my parent’s laundry, and there are two of her. The only course of action that seems possible is to pull out the large pieces of white cotton sheet that are inside her and clean them. I coax her out and to better light. I have to be very quiet and quick as no one must discover me doing this. In my parents’ bedroom I look at her and wonder how to get the sheet out. A small piece is showing out her anus so I pull on it and keep pulling until a good twofoot length of sheet comes out. I am trying to hold it so that the large masses of warm soft tan shit do not fall-off. A small clump does fall to the carpet sickeningly at the end of their bed and I decide to some back and get it after dumping the sheet in the sink. I set to washing it in the laundry tub and made sure that I rinsed it over and over so that there, I was not a trace of washing powder remaining. I wondered if I should put it back inside my dog again, but decided not to, and decided to wait it out and see if she survived the night. I reasoned that as I had replaced the clean sheet in the first dog, one of them ought to survive, liking the idea of a control experiment in principle. (Ends.) This experiment begs the question, what is the effect of writing down dreams? And furthermore, what is the effect of reading them? Eventually, my research extended to experimenting with activity in the waking world. I had noticed that when I am newly awake, my face is pale and bloodless. It is not until a little later that the blood returns to my cheeks. I learned from a book on another topic that when asleep a good proportion of the body’s blood goes to the spleen, which is a sort of reservoir. Waking brings this blood back into circulation in an initial burst, and then in degrees after that. The blood comes back accompanied by an uncomfortable surge of adrenalin or cortisol stress hormone or something very awake feeling. I have found that this discomfort can be avoided by deferring getting properly dressed, showering as late as possible, delaying eating and communicating with the outside world. The key is to not leave the house, to tum the day to night in other words; to be a profligate. <Djuna Barnes wrote in Nightwood that “night people do not bury their dead."> ( <>s denote haiku. Or more properly senryū, a latter form of haiku that I recently discovered I had been writing. These, I read, stop short at the particular and deal in distortions and failings, not in the beauty of nature. I also discovered that I had been using another ancient Japanese form called haibun when I intersperse prose with haiku. How about that.) So, sorties into the waking world, into the day, have to be charted carefully, or at least one must be cognisant of what is happening. What is a good model to use to understand? I quite like Deleuze’s idea of the line of flight. As opposed to the voyage – the former is an ambiguous operation, the latter involves an itinerary. The risk with the flight is that we may rediscover those things which we are fleeing, he says. The key is to achieve a trajectory that is not a “tragictory”: one that avoids “the line of flight becoming identical with a pure and simple movement of self-destruction” (“On the superiority of Anglo-American literature”, in Dialogues, 1977). <If I am to be a failure, may I be a spectacular one.> So, to make up for not going to the dawn ceremony I would go to the video store and get out a DVD of Princess Mononoke. I had wanted to do this for a while, ever since I had a dream in which I saw God. On a huge open plane, an antelope-like creature, with incredibly long attenuated legs, was moving across it at speed, irresistible, scanning the surface of the land, back and forth, rhythmically. This creature was God. When I recounted it to a friend, he said that it was uncannily like a scene in this Manga film. I would take it around to my friend’s house I had decided. She has a DVD player and I could stand watching TV with her. She had been considering taking a trace element she said promoted dream retention, which I was hesitant about until I realised I had been taking it in fairly large quantities in my multivitamin for some time. After this I intended to consider the idea of putting a particular spell into action. I was convinced, lightly, that if I was to sit down and play at a black grand piano that had, instead of the usual maker’s gold name inlay above the keyboard, the word billionaire, I would have the power to pick lotto numbers. These I would give to my friends with the condition that they support a charity of their choice at a rate of at least 10%. Not that I was going to check up on them, as trust is an important part of this. I think I might have to play a song at the piano that incorporates the following as lyrics: “I know the fundamental principle of being well-brought up. It has nothing to do with etiquette in the American sense. And their obsession with Emily Post and which fork to use. Good manners is knowing how to make those around you feel comfortable. It is noblesse oblige. With privilege comes responsibility.” <“You’ve been arrogant and egotistical.” “That’s rich coming from you.’’> After this I had planned, and booked in even, to visit the Auckland central police station to arrange access to my police record. Or, to be particular, to get copies of transcripts of phone calls made between a network of houses in Dunedin in 1999 as part of “Operation Rugby”. Why? Three reasons. One, I want them (I anticipate hearing “Do you have any lemon juice?” “What colour is your new car? Purple? Oh that is a shame. Are you home?” with nostalgic pleasure.) Two, I forgot to1ake any photographs from this period, and I would rather have words. And three, I want to go inside the police station as my real motive for this is to study the place and be passive aggressive by confusing whoever is on duty with my shamelessness. I have a strong feeling that non-military war has something to do with real estate, yes, but also to do with the police. An important part of my plan is to wear my “I see London, I see France” t-shirt, and to wear mainstream Ponsonby make-up and shoes. <The Grecian house on Fendalton Road would look best ruined, choked with vines.> I will be taking notes during our exchange, and on the way out - I don’t think it will last long, and I really don’t think I will be successful, I will sit on the small piece of lawn outside the building. Grass is the embodiment of the line of flight I am experimenting with, albeit delirious. A word that means to go off the rails. War, in essence, is forcing one’s will on another. <American Studies is said to be the CIA’s greatest move.> So, railing against rails, rattling the cage of a policeman, would give me singular edifying pleasure. Up the road from the Police station, in all its mock-Chinese architectural glory, is the dog control office. These two are, I sense, linked by an underground passage. We have been at war for years. Both Police and dog control object to wandering, and to having teeth. They are the totalitarian scribe that Virilio and Cendrars described, agents in the state of siege we are all subjected to since the right to private property started to crank up. Virilio, in Speed and Politics, says that historians are captains in the war of time, and posits war as a police pursuit at greater speed. His constant reference to speed, “the capacity for war is the capacity for movement” etc. made me think of how concerned the police are about the increasing trade in speed. I guess they do not want niggers of any sort being producers of speed in the Virilio sense. Anything that enables one to be a detached soldier monk, a war machine, a user of borrowed time, to not care less about poverty or thinness, to have truly genius ideas and the will to carry these plans out, to feel like THE NEXT SHIT as the young people say, to not care about the loss of good health, or for the stupid toilet body that is out to kill us anyway, well no policeman is going to stand for that is he? Passive, tired, angerless, unfocussed, no-plans adversaries are far more desirable -class war ought to be a nice non-contact sport using weapons of depletion. It is actually strangely euphoric when one’s body starts to eat itself. Maybe Zelda Fitzgerald was right, that our bodies are given to us as counter-irritants to the soul. <He said to himself, on the subject of war, Madman leave me alone!> Perhaps the most symbolic thing I noticed in the press that links the idea of real estate with war and speed was in a Metro article about the speed trade. Downtown there is an old railways office building that has been empty for a long time pending redevelopment. It has been home to the homeless, but it was also the boardroom for heads of Auckland gangs to meet to discuss the trade and to forge organised crime. The building was known as The Fortress. I am not sure who called it this – its usual users, the gangs, the press, the property developers, or whoever – but such a name indicates that speed-the-drug approximates, or substitutes for, speed in the power-and-agency sense. <Scanning files, I see one called Attributes of the Resilient Child.’> Another speed-war pile-up is contained in a rumour that spread in 1940, recalled in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Put Our More Flags. Apparently the German infantry then sweeping across France was composed of teenagers, drugged with amphetamines before battle to make them oblivious of danger, so that they advanced unhesitatingly even when being mown down by allied machine-gun fire. I couldn’t see anything about this in Inside the Third Reich, but I did find it interesting to note that Albert Speer only started to betray Hitler when he started to fight for his own way so fanatically that it permits no consideration for the population be taken”. I thought that was rather sweet and old-fashioned. Another thing I noticed in the press lately was outcry about the American Council for Cultural Property’s efforts to get the laws restricting the export of Iraqi treasures relaxed. The Iraqi National Museum was then looted. A British Museum curator decried is act of cultural burglary. Strange, coming from an institution that built their collections in just this manner. This sort of information has come to me at the same time that The Antiques Roadshow has been moved from 12 o’clock on Sunday to 5 on Saturday, and then to 7.30 that day, closer and closer to primetime, making 11 more and more evil. This is a shame as I did love it so hearing things like that man looking lovingly at a musket saying, “that butt shrieks Turkish!”; and the heart-rending experience of watching all those people bringing their only precious objects to see if they are safely impress1ve. I wonder what would happen if I took my beautiful ruby-red Doulton flambé pomegranate vase outside right now and dashed it onto the slate flagstones that lead to the gate and to the park. I would probably be rendered sterile. I can’t bring myself to do it, or to breed for that matter. Maybe Cézanne was right when he said better be quick, everything is disappearing. The cubism he sparked was said to be camouflage for war come to think of it. Walking my cancerous old dog who has started digging holes at nearly thirteen, I waited for her to poo. Why? The day before yesterday she had eaten almost two tinfoil covered Easter bunnies that I had left with her in the car. Trust is important and I forgive her completely as I understand, but I am a little worried that it has been two days with not a sign of tinfoil. I also think I might be getting a cold. <“For a speedier recovery, pretend you are eating ladders.”> There is a theory about dreams that, in its biological nature, runs contrary to the ideas of the psychoanalysts. It runs something like this: the sleeper sets out on a macroscopic journey through his or her own body, and the noises and sensations of the insides generate, in the extravagantly heightened awareness of the sleeper, illusion or dream imagery. This leaves me wondering today, as I walk, what is the effect of doing physical things? What imagery do the sensations of movement generate? Is it because I am awake that I am not fully privy to it? Maybe if I was more asleep when I was awake, I could experiment with the body’s system of symbols to a greater extent. Or maybe that is a step backwards without enough of a step forwards first.