I was at the gym late yesterday afternoon, trying to fend off a little of time’s ambush, as well as anxiety’s intermittent madness, and a heart that a lot of the time won’t beat in quite the regular way it should. It became dark while I was there and so instead of being able to watch people outside, walking home from their jobs, or their favourite cafes, trudging from their butcher shop chores, I saw only myself in the glass, locked in a fight to the death with the elliptical trainer. An out-take from Alien is what that scene most resembled, only without any of the acting chops of Sigourney Weaver and the neon vision of Ridley Scott.
When I was done, and dressing again, latching the leather strap on my watch, a man came out of the shower. He pulled a towel carelessly from the stall door and established himself in front of the mirror. He dried himself there, and watched himself drying himself, for several minutes. He was an ordinary man, in ordinary condition, neither witheringly handsome nor alarmingly plain. He was no Elias Bender Rønnenfelt is what I’m saying. Just another middle-aged guy trying to pull himself together, or so I would have thought, if it wasn't so obvious that he'd fallen in love with himself.
It was fantastic, it really was. In my experience, men in changing rooms talk either too loudly or not at all. There is an unease that hangs about most of us as plainly as a Waldo scarf. We view ourselves in the mirrors only briefly, or at best surreptitiously, as if sneaking a peek at our interrogator after a drug bust. Our insecurities, and the reasons for them, are plain for all to see. But this guy was having none of that.
When he was finally dry - and when he’d done looking admiringly at his own white flank, the dimpled acreage of it whenever he raised an arm above his head, or the slumping curve of his arse when he turned away and regarded himself over his own shoulder - he padded to his locker, and spun the bright dial this way and that, as if within that steel box was contained the day’s take from Las Vegas. He threw his flimsy towel to the ground and stood astride it, then bent straight-legged to dry one toe fastidiously and then even more carefully the next. It took him a long while to finish, and it seemed to me, trying not to watch, that he must surely have been acting out some favourite scene from an old Verhoeven film, or some parody of Flashdance.
I have nothing clever to say about this. His self-love, that blazing peacock-y narcissism was simply mesmerising in its own fashion. I wouldn’t know the man if he came knocking on the door. But I’ve never seen anyone quite like him.
I’ve written about the brilliant Danish punk band Iceage before. Here’s a song from their most recent album, Plowing into The Field of Love. It’s everything I want in a song.
The lead singer, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, has a side project, the awfully named Marching Church. It’s a band name that leaves no impression. You’re going to skim right past that, however close it is to the top of a list, don’t you think? And the cover’s ordinary too. And I realise that I am not going to change the fortunes of the album by mentioning it here (it’ll do just fine). But this is interesting stuff, slower mostly than all that’s come before, and more in debt to studio technologies I know little about. It’s a dense, textured listen, songs that change directions, and stop and start; it’s something for the good headphones. And that voice. Goddamn. If you’re like me you can sit in the same room as your kids and they’ll have no idea what’s going on. Here’s something pretty from it for you.
While writing this, I came across a live performance by Iceage that is among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. There are a few moments where you can see one musician smiling at another, something like amazement written onto their faces. As if they can’t believe what they’re hearing, even as they make the sounds. More Godspeed, or Esmerine, than Sex Pistols. Arcade Fire, eat your heart out.
And finally, I walked this morning up to the Elm Cafe on the corner, got myself an Americano and came home again. I like very much that I can do that. I think the opening of The Elm represents a turning point for the neighbourhood north of McBurney. It’s a gathering place and it’s a vote of confidence and show of faith for the area. It’s also lovely in there, full of good people, always, and good food too. If you live within a mile it should be your hangout too.