20 slides are each projected for 20 seconds and spoken to for the same period, no more, no less. The script for one of these precision-based presentations is found below.
Season 2: PC#12
Previously on Peachy Coochy I had attempted to find a balance between softness and hardness by visiting Clint Eastwood’s house in Ladbroke Grove. Who should come out but Lance Johnson, the young surfer from Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’. Lance walked north to the outskirts of London and I followed him.
Lance was played by the late Sam Bottoms. Sam’s first movie was Bogdanovich’s ‘Last Picture Show’ in 1971. That’s him in the small town cinema, aged 15. He played Billy, a mute and backward boy. Lance, Billy and Sam were brothers. They were all wistful, which I liked. Billy had a soft, distant smile.
Lance was stoned most of the time in Vietnam. He was so out of it that he didn’t seem to see the horror around him. Or maybe he did see it and had to get out of it. It’s so strange to think that soldiers smoked dope. We used to think that dope was part of the revolution. Lance was on acid going upriver. He befriended a puppy.
I knew that Sam was dead because he kept walking through things. It made it hard to keep up with him. He had a brain tumour. That’s why he died. Lance kept him going. Lance said “Sam, come over here, I’m on acid. It’s beautiful.” We were near St Albans. Lance didn’t understand that Sam was already dead. Lance would always be eighteen.
Someone joined us along the way. “Who are you?” we said. “I saw you going by from my house,” he said, “I’m Bluff Jack.” Lance said “That’s a beautiful house, man.” Bluff Jack said, as was his wont, “It is a beautiful house.” Lance said “I like you, man, you’re direct.” Jack put his hand out to shake Lance’s hand but it went through him.
As we neared Duxford Aerodrome we found Squadron Leader ‘Tatters’ Taytham and Group Captain ‘Taters’ Tatham sitting in deckchairs by the roadside. Bluff Jack was quick, as was his way, to establish that they, too, were dead. “We are,” they confessed. I asked if they were familiar with Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’. They said that
they had admired Lance’s performance but found the drug references perplexing. Sam, assuming a protective attitude to Lance, told them it had not been a just war and they seemed to understand. I felt that they were soft in their hardness but this could be explained by their phantasmal bodies. They had not changed their clothes since 1943.
A large group of dead women pilots marched towards us. My mind began to race. If the women and the men walked through each other would the women become pregnant? Because this would be the ideal sex, where the bodies were light and there were no imperfections. The babies would form almost immediately.
But it was actually very cold. Several dead women passed through me and my brain silted up with snow. I heard Bluff Jack, the only other live man, moaning piteously. Then everything was quiet. I could not even hear my footsteps. I knew that I must keep going, though. Eventually I saw a steep pathway.
Sam was dead. Again. Lance, Billy, Jack, Tatters and Taters were nowhere to be seen. I felt sick and depressed. I knew exactly what had happened and where I was. For reasons that were as yet unclear I had brought myself to a place where the only way forward was death or enlightenment. In other words a place of the utmost banality.
I was within moments of embarking on one of the most pointless journeys that life has to offer. Beyond cliché, beyond sentimentality: the stairway to heaven, in all its variants, some less prescriptive than others, some involving actual death, some not, was the single most debilitating prospect that any sane and healthy person could face.
Eager not to be absorbed into the eternal light, I went to a pub that sold Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. It’s an ale with a good head, malt aroma, fruit, a hoppy flavour, fairly dry and bitter. At 4.3% it’s obviously not as strong as, say, Director’s or Abbot, but it feels strong and delivers a beer buzz quite quickly.
My thoughts turned to Jade. I’d found her bullying and lazy racism pretty unpleasant on Big Brother but now that she’d gone I had no ill feeling towards her and felt sorry for her kids and even the surly, feckless Jack. In a perceptive article in ‘The Guardian’, Madeleine Bunting quotes the psychoanalyst Susie Orbach, who suggested that
in Goody’s dying we are “grieving for the death of a fantasy world we have all been living in”. This was, clearly, the world of easy credit, happy motoring and limitless resources. Bunting also quotes another psychoanalyst, Andrew Samuels, who detects “a huge diffused anxiety”about the future spreading through society.
“Patients talk to me,” says Samuels, “of walking through a door into a room that has no floor. People fear the structure of their lives falling apart.” I ordered another glass of Landlord. It was clear that I had been mistaken in seeking solace in Clint Eastwood, let alone Sam and Lance. I had been walking with ghosts.
I could see that ghosts were – to use a loaded term – spirits without bodies while zombies were bodies without spirits. I liked zombies – their single-mindedness impressed me. We’re encouraged to see them merely as the living dead but I think that’s unfair. Also unfair is the way that they are denied political status.
This zombie, for example, is dedicated to a critique of the coercive cult of depression embodied in the colourful and manic clown. The latter, in its pre-depraved form, fails to address either the complexity of contemporary experience or the primal simplicity of the incontinent shitting and pissing upon which much slapstick is based.
Zombies also represent the obliterating power of religious belief wherein the sufferer, fuelled by the great light that suspends discernment, arrests experience and neutralises scepticism, subjects those of us still beguiled by the material world to the numb intimacy of the thousand yard stare.
What if the driven body of the zombie were somehow filled with the restless melancholy of the ghost? Surely this should result in a perfect balance of the softness and hardness that I had been pursuing! I needed to find a large open space to which I could attract great numbers of almost human creatures.
I hired a luxurious coach and filled it with uncooked meat and a sound system playing Dutch gabber at 180 beats per minute. The coach had a capacity of 76, plus a driver – necessarily undead. It soon filled up. I would follow behind in my Volvo. We drove to Colindale in North London, a site of perfect melancholy.