It’s not easy, this column-writing lark.
Well, the actual writing is relatively easy. I’ve been doing it long enough not to have to pace up and down, kick the furniture and scream into the night every few minutes. I do that once just before I start and, if I’m still standing, again at the end.
The hard part is deciding what to write about. That’s a four-beer process right there. There’s no shortage of material, thanks to Twitter’s 24-hour willingness to spread its electronic butt cheeks and allow anyone off the street a glimpse into the alimentary canal of the world. It’s a modern day version of the freak show at Dickensian circuses, except it’s free. But it isn’t really. We don’t know it yet, but there’s a heavy price to be paid for having instant access to every happiness and horror this planet has to offer.
Anyway. Back to me. The difficulty lies in settling on a single issue – preferably one that won’t already have been thoroughly eviscerated by Sunday. The internet has created analysts and comedians out of everyone. It’s crowded out there. When something big happens, it’s a matter of minutes if not seconds before the ravening, babbling hordes descend, ripping and tearing, attacking and defending. I can either join the pack and try to say something that might not have already been said in a million different ways, or I can … well, there usually is no ‘or’.
Adding to the torment, I have had to borrow a laptop from a friend because the charger for my Macbook Pro stopped working a few minutes ago. I bought the charger from a Middle Eastern gentleman who runs a kiosk on the main road. I have replaced it five times in three months. I’m starting to think it might not be a genuine Apple product.
My friend’s laptop is not a Mac. It’s the other thing. It runs on Windows 7 and is loaded with Word 97. The cursor is jumpier than a kangaroo on crack and the track pad is like my ex-wife – it reacts badly to being touched. I never thought I’d hate Bill Gates for anything other than his wealth.
There is plenty to write about. For instance, Kanye West reckons the slaves who were brought to America have only themselves to blame for putting up with it for so long. If they’d read the small print in their contracts they would have seen the opt-out clause. They only have themselves to blame. So that story has been blown apart. I don’t have the stomach for it, anyway, because I’d have to mention Kanye’s wife which I have sworn never to do.
The Boy Scouts of America is changing its name after deciding to allow girls to join. This marks the beginning of the end of the world as we know it but I can’t get into it right now.
Closer to home, an idiot ex-pat from Britain got himself lightly mauled by what he thought was his pet lion. Having been hand-raised from birth, Shamba probably considered Mike Hodge a member of the pride – albeit a pretty pathetic one – and decided for whatever reason to teach him a lesson lion-style.
Hodge’s family described it as a double-tragedy. Indeed. Shamba was hand-reared and Shamba was shot. Those are the only two tragedies I can see.
The only humour in this story came from Field Marshall Floyd Shivambu who said in a tweet, “The whole thing of Caucasians callously killing our animals is out of order and unacceptable. The Brit acted stupidly & now our Lion, which responded acceptably and responsibly, is murdered! The animals, like all land, belongs to indigenous people of Africa and must be defended.”
Someone I can usually trust suggested I write about an issue close to my heart. My thoughts turned to the great philanthropist, Lou Reed, who famously remarked on his 1978 Live: Take No Prisoners album, “Give me an issue, I’ll give you a tissue and you can wipe my ass with it.”
I imagine Lou was suffering from issue fatigue. That, and possibly too much heroin. There was a lot of it about in the late ’70s. A deeply sensitive man in his youth, Lou was clearly overwhelmed by the many issues of the day – the Vietnam war, Nixon, women’s rights, affirmative action, gay pride, mood rings, lava lamps, Sea Monkeys, pet rocks and that fucking Rubik’s cube.
When it comes to things close to my heart, clogged arteries are second only to the issues that jostle one another for attention, each crying out louder than the other, “Me! Me! Choose meeee!” until I can stand it no longer and bang my head against the floor until the voices die down.
Smoking. Now there’s an issue you can get your yellow teeth into. At some point you might even need a tissue to wipe the blood-flecked foam from your lips.
There’s a new law in the pipeline. If it gets passed, you won’t even be able to light up outside if other people are around. Cigarette vending machines will be banned and all those vaping hipsters will be treated like the vermin they are.
The government expects “push-back” from the tobacco industry. If you’re not a smoker, my advice is that you push them right back.
My mother died of lung cancer six years ago. She also had emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. A small price to pay for many happy years of smoking.
I stopped smoking a few years ago but the damage has been done. I can no longer run the 100m in under ten minutes. Thanks to the makers of Lexington, Chesterfield and Camel, I now have to drive if I want to travel that distance in a hurry.
There are few things in this world madder than repeatedly paying for something that delivers 321 dangerous chemicals directly into your lungs and blood stream without causing you to at least hallucinate or even stay awake for three days talking, laughing and having sex.
I don’t think smoking should be banned because I want to live in a world that affords people the greatest degree of freedom possible. But, as Charles Manson once said, with great freedom comes great responsibility.
When six people sit down at the table next to me and all light up at once, it’s like the death-eaters in Harry Potter have arrived. They are oblivious to my obvious signs of discomfort. One of these days I shall reach down their throats and rip out their diseased lungs, wring them into a bucket and use the tar to fill the potholes in my road.
It’s not easy, this column-writing lark.