:: arena ::scribble scribble .. I walked the darkened haribs of London without purpose .. in my pocket a shred of paper with a name .. like some magic lodestone, it swept aside and brought to my mind the darkest corners of my life .. I wanted to be alone .. to think back .. to remember .. but then dot dot

a particularly ill-lit alley. Far-away voices, the rumble of boots. Several forms loom about. One pushes me against the wall. Others hold me there. The scuffling and struggle stops. Someone speaks.

"We don't like your intertextuality." The first slug was a surprise and arrived just below the ribs. Loose and long enough to wind me. I knew that voice. It was Rushkoff. Another, with all the courseness and banality of evil, rose forward in the dark, whispering at my ear "..narrative so distended as to lose it's centripetal force .. giving way to a kind of static, low charged lyricism. Prick." Robert Coover, I should've known. Second hook, this time to the head. I wanted to drop to my knees but William Gibson propped me back with a well powered left. The McLuhan Gang, back in town. Back in town for answers.

"Tough times in Cyberia, boys?" I spat. "Screenagers preferring barnyard porn to Barthes? I warned you."

"Wise ass TAZ fuck. Lemme at him.."

As if on cue a limousine pulled through the opening at the furthest end of the alley, stopped. An impeccably turned out silhouette rose from it. Freshly tipped shoes brought him closer.

"And we warned you to stay the hell away. You'd be writing in an arena. You know what that takes?"

"Haven't a clue. Who wins?"

Gibson twisted open a Zippo and offered a flame to the unseen figure's cigar.

"You don't."

Coover's slug took me off guard, I hit corregated iron cladding at a bad angle, my body buckled and seemed to slump forever through the darkness .. came round as the car lurched halt-forward.

I was in the boot, gradually beginning to take in voices as they passed over mudflats. A pocket-sized bulb had come on just above my head. Something slapped the boot door. "Read it and weep." "Fuck hasn't a clue. Let's get some Milky Bar Choos." Someone else's unstrung laugh bounced away across the expanse.

I looked about for a toolkit, or a jack. Tried to sit up but could only angle myself forward a fraction. Nothing but a copy of this month's Arena magazine. I reached out only to find that my hands had been tightly bound. I scooped it forward by degrees. The eyes of an actress looked for mine from the glow of it's oncoming cover - a soft, chiselled, quasi-Egyptian gaze. Something in those eyes told me this month's edition came with a free clue inside. The hint of a rise on those lips promised that even I could find it.

I'd been wanting to go back .. to remember ..


"Oh you men's magazines. It's nothing but sex sex sex." Mena Suvari is perched in outsize shoes across a rolling sofa, babyfat hand pushed between her splaying legs. Star of Pie I, Pie II and Beauty, all American, she gave Kevin Spacey a raison d'etre with the suggestion that able seaman Spacey Jnr might have found a young, uncomplicated harbour. Sweet'n'ripe for tieing into emotional knots and slamdunking down one of Heartbreak Hotel's eternally gurgling toilets, Suvari raised eyebrows by really marrying a man sixteen years her senior.

.. watching two girls at it .. two women .. accoutrements? .. phone sex .. It is indeed sex sex sex. What seems to echo through Arena is the voice of the self-doubting male in some stasis of demanding - from frankly rather confused females - what they like, what they've done and whether they enjoyed it. Badgering. Needing. About as appealing in a man as top to toe clap. Suvari might be accused of simultaneously reaping the spoils of the sex symbol and asking us to give her distance. But starlets, people, tell us the time, they hardly build the clocks.

However, as people who work abnormally hard often do so through a hatred for their work - in that they wish to clock off or retire early - so 22 year old Suvari announces that she's "a married woman now" with the air of someone who wished to be through the arena of sexual relationships as quickly as possible. A marked contrast to my single friends who've lived and learned but are often not sure what they may have learned.

.. like it? .. would you do this? .. not that? .. Male chums, who should know better, still sit about and ask what it might be that women want. The terrifying consensus with the singles often seems to be that they have been 'too nice' and therein lies the root of their status. Total bastards get what they want in this world, goes the meaningless circle jerk of verbage. Suitably whipped to an impressive kick-ass freneticism, Mr Milano 'Don' with extra jalapenos is demanded with new-sprung authority.

Billy Bob Thornton has just released a CD of 'personal' (too-often read 'shit') songs. Thornton's from a school of US working artists whose strength is keeping at it, and keeping the fuck-about to a minimum. These people have a past, but keep their lapses under wraps, say sorry slowly but mean it when they do, ditto 'I love you'. Schtum, working at it, taking the stuff of life on the chin. They go fishing with John Lurie. They're men, goddamn it. They're women, goddamn that too. And this sort of provincial hood-banging art can sometimes produce sexier and more accurate a picture of humanity than a lot of what comes out of class-addled Britain, where creativity tends to be urban and picky. It probably has something to do with the existential loneliness of provincial America, where the nearest twitching curtain is fifty odd miles off. Thornton don't want nuthin, just respect for his work, would be doing it - or something close - if the public weren't a witness and is treated with respect by Arena.

Compare and contrast the interview with Steps Faye Tozer ('She's a screamer!') Spanking? Nappies? Inane badgering? Faye, huh? Are you into inane badgering, Faye? Are you, Faye, are you? Daft prattle get you hot, Faye? This is a waste of precious wood pulp - we wanna explore the cloisters of her subconscious just to bear witness to the psychometric battle royale that is Faye Tozer's head. Unfair flippancy aside, everyone is worth exploration, often not for the childhood hoo-ha they might offer to the world as leave-us-alone scars. But as functioning, variable reacting humanity. You don't get that in yer tomes. Hell, let's get the characteristics of every neuron and their infomatic strategies modelled by a 140 terrabyte process dynamics-enabled supercomputer, projecting a 50 foot holographic reconstruction inside a world renouned Swiss institute.

Further questioning: How many nights can I come home drunk? If we lived together you and me, Faye? Huh? Huh? Either this is the measure of a woman or Arena's target readership has hit 4 to 7 months. Blurblelurble Lurblelurb. What if I lay here and pee-peed in the air, Faye? Would you slam back Valium and post me through the letterbox down at Social Services? Huh, Faye? Faye? That women are out to curtail men's fun is a strangely dated concept. But however much fun it might not be, mutual mapping out of boundaries has to be wise if two people are planning to entwine domestically or sexually. Smarter still would be to close that fanciful chapter altogether and bargain bin it under True Crime, Blues Biography, Laughter In The Dark.

.. more.. I want to go to a stag do in Amsterdam. Can I Faye? Can I? Pleeease? "That's fine. If you stray it means you're not in love with me enough." Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in

Institut Faye Tozer, Lucerne

Welcome. Take your seats quickly please. Now, Module Fifteen. I hope the extensive background reading suitably convinced you of my entirely sadistic nature. Yes? Good! At the moment we can see the subject reach for a security blanket of received wisdom. Caressing it, she stepstones the mire that is human sexuality. One has the sense that Tozer would prefer to bypass this swamp altogether, to offer a conventional pick of bedroom antics as a concession to the prevailing tide of badgering. Unexpectedly placed on a pedestal, one can witness - look please at the excited rush of impulses through these synapses here to your right - Tozer attempting to reason with her elevated station.

Tozer is blameless, this is less than surface interview. This is sheen, aimed at a bunch of infantilized fruitcakes whose you-first chivalry is only fitting women out for another role - hurrah! - not dinner-making pairs of tits (yet), this time it's moral barometer, the tenet being that lads can comfortably drop three degrees below the standard set on any civility scale. Being geezers, see. Tee hee.

Not so Vincent Gallo, caught vaulting over the velvet rope at an Emanuel Ungaro launch, with the look of a man who just forced sex on a schoolbus and slammed it across a Crazy Golf course for good measure. It worries me that there are misguided people currently loose on the streets, possibly even here in London, who take succour from the likes of Gallo and the fact that being faux-or-not-so-faux-who-knows underclass detritus can be a thank-fuck shortcut to someone somewhere not giving an aforementioned fuck. Like the cyclical nature of the Hindu caste system. But much sadder. The ultimate danger is that any looper pooped up on enough crank can convince themselves and the pink elephants pole dancing around their three bar fires that they are 'psychedelic explorers'. Every piss collector is a 'fringe scientist.' I once knew an unfathomably successful commercial property developer who told me that the market was a 'concept' and that he saw investing as a wild, exciting new form of 'art'. "Suffer for it?" I asked as we slipped out of his early seventies import Mustang ("thought you'd dig the Mustang") and walked up the white pebbling of his Hampstead drive. Suffrage is neither here nor there but the difference between art on the edge and what amounts to crowning oneself the uncut King or Queen of Bananaland has to be pure skill and some level of public appreciation.

Over in the television commentary (so much commentary is, in a way ..hmm..) the increased absence of the 'straight white male' is lamented. Parky aside, interviewers are all pooves - who benefit from the 'absense of sexual intent.' This allowed Graham Norton to announce he'd 'sprayed Ricki Lake's face with cum.' As a gay man he'd never do that, Ricki's in safe hands. But Parky might. ..bzz..bzz.. more floor managers to the set please.. Michael's leaning fore and aft at a now unnerving velocity .. over..

In comparison to a lot of today's TV Parky does seem a touch bone dry, still over sparkling. But it's sad that television producers seem to feel that we would all slam our heads in the oven without a screenful of garrulous gatecrashing balls-talking imaginary mates, and seven shades of sparkle designed to impact off the surface of our consciousness thirty nine times a second. Personally, this makes me pine for scratchy, two hour b/w chats with Sir John Betjemen. Who, incidently, once gazed across a lake at the close of his days and said his only regret was not having had more sex sex sex. The frustration was palpable in his mournful eyes, but it's unlikely that he sprayed the lake with anything other than a single, bitter howl. Betjemen only has himself to blame and how writers neglect the sauciest corners of their garden whilst feeding and watering the semantics patch is documented. Probably by writers doing exactly the same thing.

Someone whose garden would be too effing scarey to tend is Michael Jackson, whose 'new album Invincible took 86 weeks 138 musicians and a reported $30 million to create.' So how come it's still seems to be stamped hard with the words 'fucking tacky' and 'cheap'? Jackson should be crucified on the moon. So much invested - so much at stake - flop not an option - edges sanded down until it becomes it's own vacuous promotional item. His erstwhile use of logo, uniform and visuals undercut to suggest that his efforts to heal the world had the thumbs-up from God were kinda reminiscent of Leni Riefenstahl Nazi pageantry shorts. Success should really be very easy these days. But through the worship of size for it's own sake, Sony must wake up to the fact that no-one but base masochists and tweetering pre-teens give Jackson et al a second glance and that they have invested everything they have in a piece of daft plastic better used as a urinal sluice barrier.



Two shots shook the limousine. A bullet tore through the boot latch and then Arena, then punctured the carpetless steel siding behind me with a ferocious single note. The door jerked open an inch. Someone lifted it clear and stood back.

If only it had been anyone but her.

If I ever thought of her it was of the impossibility of happiness. If. If I knew then what we might know now. If I'd had the guts. If I'd broken the cycle of righteousness, unentitled, righteousness, unentitled. If we'd taken the cleverest, clearest road round to our place in the sun, things would have gone right. We'd both be very different people in a very different place. So I didn't want it to be her standing there. But it was.

Just for a second. A picked up wind ran across the mudflats and lifted her collar around her neck and she stood against it sweeping the hair from her eyes finding a pocket for the gun, and the blame seemed to blow away too. For the first time in three years I felt free. I opened my mouth to say something ("sorry") but she was going, again, quickly. Up an incline and towards a copse that led through scattered neon to the soft white noise of a motorway.

Three years since I'd seen that face. If it really was her. Rolling out and straightening myself I wasn't certain. What should I have done, back then? Gone crawling, pleading after her like a unfit dog only to do it all again? Galloped off, let what I was feeling be mistaken for freedom? Paralysed, undead, I did neither. I just wandered to a guitar shop and went inside. This was something I knew I could do. This was something.