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#7
In the course of the First Season of Peachy Coochy I delivered a linked series of presentations that were ostensibly concerned with the attempts of an empty, collapsible plastic packing case to find and consolidate an identity for itself. I realise now that these whimsical digressions were simply tissues obscuring a set of nakedly autobiographical concerns.
When I was sixteen I had a girlfriend called Anne Silberstein. Here we are in a punt in Cambridge, our home town. Anne and I walked out for three years. She liked modern jazz and introduced me to the Modern Jazz Quartet. Her father was Dr Kurt Silberstein, the City of Cambridge Police Surgeon. Anne was self-conscious about her nose, which she thought was too big.
One day in Anne’s house I found a leaf that had fallen off a potted cactus. I put it in my mouth so that it looked like a protruding tongue and showed it to Anne. She laughed a lot then put a leaf in her mouth. We pretended to kiss. Then we took the leaves out and found that our tongues and lips were covered in tiny spines.
They just wouldn’t come out. In fact, they seemed to be digging deeper and deeper in. We told Kurt and he shouted at us then fetched an anglepoise lamp, a magnifying glass and some tweezers. For the next hour he pulled out spines first from my tongue then Anne’s. A few just wouldn’t come out no matter what. Kurt said they would eventually be absorbed into the body.
But I wasn’t convinced. I once broke a plate by accident and a small piece of china lodged in the side of my thumb. Over the years it has moved slowly under the surface of my skin towards my wrist. If anyone would like to see it I can show them after the presentation in which I am presently absorbed.Sometimes at night I can feel the china fragment inching towards my heart.
The spines were quite different, however. They impinged directly upon my moods. At first I did not understand what was happening to me. Within a few days of the incident with Anne I succumbed to inexplicable and novel changes in my general feelings. Not only did I experience intensities of familiar emotions but also improbable and unwieldy combinations thereof.
I endured simultaneous fits of obsequiousness and superciliousness, storms of schadenfreude and ignominy, electric bouts of quizzicality and certainty, monsoons of gloom and jubilation, collisions of constancy, zest, pep, vim, black dog, pepperiness, turpitude, languor and general shit.
In his book ‘Teenage – the Creation of Youth Culture’ Jon Savage describes the Wandervogel – ‘wandering birds’ – groups of disaffected German youth who ran wild on the outskirts of Berlin in the 1930s. They wore old women’s hats with ostrich plumes, brightly coloured scarves, ears pierced with enormous rings, wide belts daubed with esoteric numbers and diagrams.
Pinioned by the staccato of tiny pains I realised I could no longer find solace in my home town. Setting aside my despair I parted company with Anne, my school and my family and took a train to Berlin. As the spines bored relentlessly through my tongue I determined to find the Wandervogel before the arrows centred on my heart.
The Wandervogel hike through the countryside with musical instruments, living off the land, sleeping on ferns and drawing inspiration from the ways of the American Indians. They believe in a mystical bond between the land and the soul of the people. The Berlin group, I found, was flamboyant but highly principled, with strong beliefs in purity.
I passed many tuneful days with the Wild Youth, as they called themselves. Their rituals were fascinating and their self-discipline was exemplary. When the strange exaltations of feeling seized me, as they did so often now, my companions were grave and supportive. It was when I told them about Anne that the situation changed. They escorted me to the edge of the city.
Jim Mitchell was from Wichita and sought to seek his fortune. He was travelling with Estelle Carter from Gillette, Wyoming. They were both fifteen years old. When the big banks all collapsed their parents turned to drink and started beating them. The freight train pulled though the night across the Great Plains under a blanket of stars.
Some of the older hoboes started shouting at us. They were making threats against Estelle. Then we heard screaming and crashing sounds. Something seemed to be moving down the train towards us. The end of the boxcar suddenly exploded open. An enormous translucent worm slithered through the gap. Inside it were the writhing bodies of the tramps.
We were sucked into the cold, slimy mouth of the creature and probed by the furious tentacles lining the tunnel of its body. As they entered my mouth, ears, nostrils, penis and anus simultaneously I felt a dull electric current followed by an excruciating pain – the spines in my flesh had swarmed together around my heart and were defending it against this abomination.
The freight train was deserted. The driver and the brakeman alike had been consumed. The train clattered on for hours and hours. New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana. I was consumed by an epileptic hail of conflicting emotions. They coursed through me regardless of my thoughts or whatever it was that I found myself doing.
I settled for several years in a small farming town where I kept bees. The constant wandering of the spines was a relentless source of discomfort which I found I could alleviate by drinking honey every few hours. But small town life wasn’t really what I craved. I yearned for Anne and the crash of the city.
I was methodical: I tried to imagine what she would be like now and where she would go. I spent a few days in Notting Hill, some in Hoxton, some in Soho. I kept mostly to the main streets, reasoning that she would have to use them from time to time to get to where she lived. Several months passed. I decided to visit Camden Town.
“Anne, Anne – it’s me, David! From Cambridge!” “Fuck off!” “Anne, you’re still beautiful but you look so tired!” “Just piss off, will you? Get out of my fucking face!” “I’ll come back – when you’ve had a rest.” I was elated. I knew where her house was! Obviously she was shocked to see me but it was clear she’d been working hard and was a bit nervy.
I went back to the room I had rented in Acton and tidied myself up. I’d been on the streets quite a while and hadn’t been too concerned with my grooming. On my way back to Anne’s house I saw her coming towards me. “Anne! My God! I’m so sorry! It’s all my fault! The spines – they’ll never leave us!”
I had a sports drink with me, with syrup in it. Blake kicked it out of my hand and slammed me into a wall. He spat in my face over and over again. I contracted Hepatitis C and in consequence could not process the removal from my body of harmful substances. The spines gathered around my liver. The pain was overwhelming.