My Dimes Square Fascist Humiliation Ritual
A nightmarish psychedelic journey through a literal theater of cruelty self-destruction psychosis
New York. Yeah. The Manhattan Arts Scene. Polemic. Up yours Warhol. Let's lock up Woody Allen’s mates. Let’s give Annie Liebowitz the finger. My Dinner with Andre: What’s on the Menu? Fascism.
The Artists left New York long ago; its just us Flaneurs left now, doomed to chronicle the rise of a new, socially cleansed, racially segregated metropolis on the ruins of Sinatra’s boozy muse. I exit the subway at Chalk Farm and start walking. One foot in front of the other. That’s all there is to it, really; I wonder what life would be like if us Flaneurs had the power, things would be a bit, well, shit: but also maybe a bit kinder.
Why does a Fascist fear a Flaneur? Because a Flaneur knows no borders. My perambulations trace the baptismal font of a second birth and I find myself reincarnated as a New Yorker, without enjoying the death of the Londoner in me. One whose nostrils have been ripened by antediluvian fumes of pastrami and pretzel. I am transformed into a connoisseur of Argument in the world’s oldest democracy. I watch Nigerian rolex salesmen and the owners of a Hasidic deli hash it out over whether Sir Keir was right to suspend Sam Tarry. The yellowjacket taxis tearing past mournfully. The skyscrapers phallic in their impotence.
How do you spot a Flaneur? He is a lone sentry in the last bastion of the ununiformed. Capaciously, he employs the camouflage of parking metre, lamppost and street. He could be your uncle, or your mum. But a Flaneur can always tell another Flaneur, its in the eyes: they are always open. What’s the plural for a Flaneur? Its a question I thought Kafkaesquely redundant until I saw such a group as I stepped into the Bronx. The solidarity our kind enjoys is both warm and silent: I felt no need to follow, no need to intrude, although these rookies persisted in following me for several blocks unimpeded by my own growing celerity.
It was from here that I wandered into “Dimes Square”. Yeah. Dimes Square. But who’s buying? Penny Dreadful of Capitalist culture. The hipster cerebellum of this vast Imperial nervous system. Shark. Phone. Umbrella. If you want a snapshot of the American soul: go to the nearest cinema and look at the new releases. I amble up to the gates of the local Everyman and have a look. Peter Vack. Actors. Where’s Captain America huh huh huh? I ask the man behind the counter. “Private Screening, Sir.” He answers. Uncle Tom.
When I enter the secluded arena of what was signposted with almost Platonic promises of a Q&A, I am accosted by a Phasmatodean youth.
“Hey, man, were you invited? This is a private event.”
For all your talk of Free Speech. You forgot about the oldest and most important right of all: the Right to Roam. In the beginning was the land, it was everyone’s land. It was yours. It was mine. Then the soldiers came — “I guess you can stay, whatever.” The Shark is the opposite of Irony, mate.
I ramble up and down the aisle between plastic chairs and stoop around the stage. My peripeteia is boundless and undaunted by the increasingly awkward crossfire between audience and speaker. Yeah yeah yeah. The Body. Silicon Brownshirts in ADOS and Apple Macs. Less Wagner, more Arctic Monkeys. What do each have in common? They’re both fucking boring. I am quickly benumbed by the soporific sixth-form debate about gender and race (tellingly no mention of Class).
I sit down and try to argue with one of the audience, wow him with my own Bohemian imagination.
“A monkey wakes up in Dollis Hill. He’s dead.”
I say to a podgy call-centre manager in his mid 40s with a deadpan expression on my face. He starts droning on at me about Jazz Poetry and something called Err-Bit. The iPod changed the way we play; tech has been a smothering, orally-retentive mother ever since.Ludic farce infantilizing politics and place. He says people will own planets on the blockchain.“What, you want to buy a Mars Bar and try to pay the bloke behind the till with pieces of Mars? You’re talking bollocks, mate.” I gloomily express my scepticism gleaned from Leopardi, Celine, Straw Dogs by John Gray.
The gathering of these Internet trolls in the unflinching, clinical light of the stage: Artaud, Stanislavsky, was inevitably going to unearth dark psychodramas. A protoplasmic bath of what was meant to be superheated Dionysian Jouissance: congealing by the asthmatic placebo of auricular confession, the kinky straightjacket of Nietzsche’s God, into something that is merely lukewarm in its bourgeois narcissism. But even here, in this Jasperian nostalgia trip, the avant-garde as fetish, I sense swirling cold eddies of repression and Deleuzean ice floes.
It is the razor-sharp accuracy of Freudian prediction that Fascism always bends towards hysteria. I begin to sense a fracas evolve at the front of the stage. I raise my voice, trying to get the audience’s attention with deliberately provocative extracts from my oeuvre:
“A man goes mad in Ally Pally. A dog takes acid on Primrose Hill. Schizophrenia on Heath.”
But nothing can interrupt an orgasm except a suicide. Jouissance gone wrong. Ballard’s revenge. On the stage I can see a strange, deformed, Beckettian figure, chinlessly avian squawking at the Fascists. I peer lopsidedly at him: this Giradian scapegoat for a masturbatory zenith Populism always promises and always betrays. I feel the need to interrupt a Lynching, or at least, for once, avoid the sickening English disease of being simpatico with slaughter. I begin to lurch in my chair, casting my mind back to White Hart Lane, David Aaronovitch on University Challenge.
“Lammy, Rayner; Lammy, Rayner.” I chant in a determinedly jocular drawl. Yeah, yeah. No Parasan.
The two people sitting either side somehow misheard me “Tranny Chaser!... Tranny Chaser!” Enthusiastically taking up the chant. Soon the whole room is shouting “Tranny Chaser!” at the lonely figure on stage and I was to blame. This was not the first time an author’s words have been misused in the cadging service of tyrants. Knut Hamsun giving Goebbels the Nobel, yeah, Celine and those pamphlets. Philip Larkin’s Bum-Slapping Brexit letters. Yeah. Andrew Motion in the letters section of the LRB. But I always hoped for something a bit more grand. The Flaneur is on his feet again.
In a single fluid motion I surmount the stage. Apologia pro meo. The overhead lights burn like deranged Surrealist suns. My papyrus-white face is reduced to a blinking mess. The host of a Post-Left podcast immediately begins screaming at me “DEFINE WOMAN! … TELL ME WHAT A WOMAN IS!”
“Errr… errrm… Look… Errrr.”
The Flaneur never leaves a place behind, he takes it forward with him into an ever changing modernity with its uncertain, ambivalent cosmology. Walking towards New York harbour picking bits of gravel, popcorn and rotten vegetables from my NEXT blazar this thought is of sub-chryselephantine comfort.
I pause at the end of a long jetty, this is where the Flaneur must stop. In the water; alien trapezoids weave a bounty of silver in the sunlight. These are the Flaneurs of the Sea. Fish.