Lint, teeth, and the curious circularity of it all.

This morning is the last day for my black tooth.  When I was 16/17 and playing cricket I top edged an attempted hook shot into my own mouth, sending two teeth flying into the air.  Someone found them, put them in a glass of milk, and got me to a dentist, where they were reinserted, but this is not what nature expects for its teeth and they haven’t been right since.  I have no issue with discolouration – this is just ‘one of those things’ (someone should make a book of ‘those things’) – but it gets infected a lot and the pain has become hard to deal with.  So we’re taking it out this afternoon.

This is exciting news, and has given me much cause to ponder the last few years and how things have been, what’s been good, what’s been bad.  This morning I was reading Richard Brautigan’s “Sombrero Fallout”.  I bought the book when I first got to Dublin in, probably, 2004.  To begin with I had no possessions with me and needed to stock up on essentials.  I bought two CDs, both by Yo La Tengo, and then went hunting for books.   There was a small independent shop on Grafton Street that sold all sorts, and from there I bought a few of Canongate’s Rebel,Inc series (the Brautigan among them) and a couple of Lawrence Block’s crime novels.

I remember writing back emails to friends and family back then.  How everything suddenly seemed alive, in technicolor.  Before I left it felt like London had swallowed me up: my sense of self, my sense of being able to manage the world, all gone.  Now, in Dublin, I felt free.   Accordingl, I signed off that first email home:

So there we are. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be doing this, after years of not much in England I feel really alive, to the extent that I feel I ought to write a really cheesy song about it all or something. Clearly the novelty will soon wear off and it’ll be back to real life again, but perhaps I’ll move to Wales when that happens. I think Dublin’s all I wanted it to be, and I’m absolutely loving it.

Being in a strange country got me back into reading again, and I haven’t stopped.   (Dublin was great for a time, but soon I missed home.)

In “Sombrero Fallout”, which I came back to this morning, the introduction refers to another of Brautigan’s short stories in which the main character replaces his house’s plumbing with poetry.  I’m not sure how this works but I looked up the collection in question (entitled “Revenge of the Lawn”) to try to find it.  Nope.

But I did find a train ticket inside the book.  Not a ticket, a “sales voucher”, £15.50, from Balham, on the 17th November 2006. Where was I going that day that cost me £15.50?   It was printed at 07:30 in the morning, so may have been work related.  Was I going to Brighton for the day?   It’s a mystery.

A better mystery was found inside a second hand copy of JP Donleavy’s “The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B”.  Here was a real-life bus ticket that someone had left behind, many years ago.

Who was reading this book?  Where were they going?

I looked up as much as I could on the internet.   The 65 route bus goes from Surbiton to Ealing.   LONDON TRANSPORT 22225 is another clue.  This, I discovered, is the individual bus, registration UGR 697R, registered in December 1977.  I would have been almost two at the time.

So my mystery reader was on this bus, reading Donleavy, some time after 1978.  Now, more than 30 years later, I have been reading the same book on various buses and trains around South West London.   Were I American I might try to weave some kind of mystical meaning around this.   As it stands I shall just imagine someone from the 70s reading Donleavy as the bus crawls around these grumbling London roads.

It is not much of a mystery, I grant you, but nice curiousity, I think.   A mystery that can never be solved, and all the better for it.  Many of the best things in life happen in our imaginations, floating around beautifully like (as Brautigan wrote in Sombrero Fallout (albeit about a Japanese woman taking off her clothes)) “like a kite takes gently to a warm April wind”… a step away from the real world.   (Brautigan, only two lines later, wrote “He was also one of those people who have a lot of trouble drying themselves after a bath.  When he was through drying himself, 50 percent of his body was always still wet.”)   Indeed.

In “Revenge of the Lawn” Brautigan muses on his childhood:

“there are pieces of distant life that have no form or meaning.  They are things that just happened like lint.”

Indeed again.   Brautigan may have had issues, may have been bonkers, but he knew.

My tooth will be removed in three and a half hours.  The dentist is about half a mile from Twickenham rugby stadium.  England and Ireland kick off at about the same time as my operation.   There will be thousands of people in the area, having a jolly day in their barbour jackets.  I will be having a happy day, too, with my tooth being removed.  But it is a worrying day as well.  Will we get through the traffic?  What if the operation doesn’t work?   Why do I feel sick writing this?  So sick.

But the world will keep on turning, buses will keep running, and people will be reading to themselves to shut away the world around them, which is the main thing.

(I can’t think of anything original to write about Fulham.   Things are just about perfect, aren’t they?)

13 thoughts on “Lint, teeth, and the curious circularity of it all.

  1. The trouble with teeth and the downside of sport. Hope your operation went well.

    Sympathy and empathy.

    At age of 18 playing rugby for Middlesex I suffered broken jaw and had to go via emergency dentist off to national service where the army dentists removed a few teeth thus they could not go as black as your cricketing teeth but over
    many years the gaps have provided a sinister look which has been invaluable for frightening pupils but has not eased relations with elderly aunts.

    Rest up in readiness for news of our tired team up at Sunderland. Perhaps Okaka and Shorer can conjure one more miracle this month.

  2. The Bus in the picture is passing under the bridge in Kingston-upon-Thames (the town where I was born). Just behind it, but obscured by the Bus, was a shop called “Books, Bits & Bobs” where I went to buy comics, books about bands, and other “bits & bobs”. I once bought a wig and some grease paint there to go to a fancy dress party as Fish out of Marillion. The grease paint didn’t work very well so I adapted my costume to be Alice Cooper.

    1. Also just behind that bus was John King Music, (unsurprisingly) a musical instrument shop where I bought my first tom-tom and upgraded to a proper snare drum. Their great claim to fame was that the drummer from 1970s one-hit wonders “Sailor” (remember, “A Glass of Champagne”? Probably before your time…) bought his kit there. More than half a lifetime ago now. I still have the drums, packed away at the moment, upstairs in the study. *sigh*

  3. Rich: When I was born in Yonkers, NY, my family lived just across the city line in The Bronx, NY. Our landlord’s name was always slurred out of the side of the mouth, perhaps as you might whistle “Chelsea” through your black tooth: “Donleavy”….. yuch! He was not a popular character in our/his house; he did not coddle his tenants.

    His son JP, on the other hand, was a scandal, and his writing was–literally–condemned by our church. Naturally, my brother & I rushed to sneak a copy of The Ginger Man. Sadly, it didn’t do a thing for me. Like The Catcher in the Rye, A Clockwork Orange, or Gravity’s Rainbow, I never “got” it.

    Did I read on this site that he is Roy’s favorite author? I guess his prose has more shape at the back than I remember. And I hope that the bus passenger & yourself & Roy fully enjoy every word. But if you come to a part about his father’s building don’t be fooled—It was a dump.

    BTW: Roy will play for 0-0 tomorrow.

    1. wow, what an interesting response. Out of interest, was it “Don-leev-y” or “Don-lehv-y” in pronounciation?

      You might try the ginger man again though. His writing is quite unlike any of Roy’s other favourites, but it’s funny stuff so ideal for light relief. Roy once said that his specialist subject on mastermind would be the novels of JP Donleavy.

  4. Bullard was a tooth that Hodgson had to have removed.Although Roy liked having the tooth around as a cosmetic sign of cheerfulness the pain that it ultimately would have caused left no alternative than to have it removed.

  5. Good to see someone else enjoying some Richard Brautigan, my dad brought me a collection of his stories for christmas and I loved A Confederate General from Big Sur and Dreaming of Babylon. Both novels were dripping with dry wit and fantstic observations about the nature of humans. Good Stuff!

  6. Hope the op went well Rich. Here’s a philosophical question though – do you consider yourself unlucky that you topped edged it into your mouth, or lucky that you didn’t loop a catch to third man (I assume you had to retire hurt, but an average is an average :0)

  7. Hi Rich.

    What were you doing in Dublin and how long did you stay? That’s my city and I’ve long been acutely aware of the bawdy hinterland brought to life by such as Donleavy.I was among it but still removed from it,in my leafy suburb – much more Beckett than JP.
    I still remember Miss Frost from the Ginger Man.

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