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A Note from Thomas Jefferson on the Start of the Olympics

August 5, 2012

We had to see the stadium at midnight.  It was T. Paine, he’s always the cunt with the idea.   He was in prison you know, so everyone looks up to him like he’s some sort of dauphin.  That Tom.  He has everyone so snowed.  This always happens when more than two of us get together smoking hash turds, slugging gin.  Greased against inertia like this we go along easily enough with lots of things.  It was agreed that we should take the trains in the high fashion of the plebeians amongst whom we find ourselves.  We made our way east toward the coliseum.

the big night

there she is, looking like an egg cup in the matrix

All the baby-poop beige brickwork flying past us.  This Metro-Cammell is one of those refurbished late-‘60’s carriages.  Humping and bumping through the buildings along Marylebone to Euston, then rounding through the shoulder blades of the Grays Inn Road down into the tarry dimples above the city’s bottom.  Ben is charismatically peeling the lyrics to ‘The Passenger’ and pumping his arms in the air, trying to get the whole car going.

Not that Ben, of course – he chucked it into some village around Machu Picchu for ‘monastic retirement’ ages ago.  He’s a smart cunt.  This Ben is just another of us Toms – he was born Benjamin Franklyn Thomas, middle son of a couple of Windrush émigrés to the muddier end of Brixton.  We met Ben in the late ‘70’s.  He was running coke in a headband in Soho during the week and then it was khakis and a blazer at the weekends for the polo-and-tennis market round Victoria.  Lord, the fashions never really change do they.  Anyway, we met in a predictable enough scene, I’m sure you can fill in the details, and he’s been rousing the rabble with us old grey-hairs ever since.

There’s myself, my great-nephew Eric and T. Paine, the mouthy prick.  Ben Thomas brought his two er, young friends, both of whom are apparently named ‘Com’ere Bitch’; rounding out the usual group are Chelsea Tom and Battersea Tom, the former with his electronic cigarette charged with high-grade marijuana cartridges, the latter toting one of those leather travel bars with the shaker and ice bucket.  The lesser Toms, we teasingly refer to them, and the both of them foaming at the mouth for the Stratford bus station chicken shop.  John Dewey is also in town from Manila expressly for the Games and is carding out a line of blow on top of Com’ere Bitch no.2’s exposed thigh.  A few groups of tourists, German, Brazilian flags wrapped around their necks like capes, are singing the “la la la-la-la” bit with their glistening maestro Ben Thomas.

“Dear me – I’ve forgotten to grab the camera,” it occurs to Eric, patting about his neck and chest where the thing would be strapped had we not left the house in a rather hurried, stoned fugue.

“Just as well.  God knows what we could end up doing this evening – we won’t have anything incriminating floating about,” says John, this time from between knees of Com’ere Bitch no.1.

“Nothing you wouldn’t be able to dress up later, Dew Drop,” snorts old T. Paine, always in three conversations at once.  “You’ve definitely got the gift of hindsight!”

“Calculated deception is one thing, old fruit, but impassioned exposition is quite another altogether.  One merely quibbles about what the truth should perhaps be, and the other is to pronounce it unequivocally.  Fuck me, I can’t decide which one of you has smoother skin – Ben, help us!”

“I guess the camera on my phone will have to do for now,” Eric concludes.  I hear dejection in his voice.

“No bother, my boy, we’ll simply harry the Olympics people for some sponsored freebies, maybe a plastic disposable or whatever they can spare for old-timers like us.”

“Uncle Tom, aren’t you on the twenty-dollar note or something? – you’re one of the most recognizable gangsters outside of HBO.  Probably even moreso than that one guy…”

“That’s Andy Jackson.”

“No, I’m pretty sure it’s an Italian sounding name.  As you said, I’m sure we’ll work something out.”

A commotion from the end of our train car – well, a commotion other than the one we have been causing.  A girl what fell asleep momentarily on the luggage of the girl sharing her seat.  I say luggage, it appears to be a large denim sack full of booze.  The owner of the bag has decided to awaken sleeping beauty by dancing a ketchup-smeared napkin across her face.  A third party sitting adjacent to this travesty intervenes.

“How rude!” slapping at the napkin and repeating herself in a mildly annoyed tone of voice, as if addressing gum on her shoe.  “How rude!  You, come sit over here,” handing the assaulted girl a clean tissue, “get over here, away from this rude person.”  The empty space of the car fills first with confusion, and then with an expectation of at least a mild tussle.

We Toms are all agape.  Even John’s hand has paused in mid-air holding a rolled-up tube of a bank note, riveted by the scene.  But the two girls simply minister to themselves and the other one is on the bench across from them with her denim sack of booze.  She looks quite happy with herself and her actions, and she just smiles.  Adjusts herself on the seat.  Sensing she is on a roll here, napkin girl addresses her opponent via the rest of the car.

“Excuse me, but isn’t that a sun hat, for the daytime?  Girl, the sun been down for hours now!”

“It is a sun hat, very good.  There was plenty of sun during the day, plenty.”  This voice sounds so far equally pleased with itself.

“Is that REALLY your friend?  I mean, do you even KNOW her?”

“Yes, yes I do, and you are a very rude person, thank you.”

“Really.”  Her focus shifts to the girl she was painting with garbage a moment before.  “How many stops do you have to go, darling?”

“She has far enough to go, thank you.”

“Ash. You know everything.  How many sisters does she have?”

“Two!”

“And you know her parents’ names, too?  Do you know how many kids she has?”

Surprising enough, hat girl rounds on the other:  “Well how many children do you have, then?”

I can barely contain myself from yelling out and out of habit clamp a hand over T. Paine’s mouth.  There’s a pause for just a beat.  Napkin girl speaks, her tone not quite chastened:

“I’m just saying, you know, even though we just met and all the shit we been talking, I can see us being really good friends, you and me.”

This girl in the hat, her expression completely disappears, she goes stone silent as T. Paine and I collapse nearly to the floor with laughter  – so entirely incomprehensible, the logic so deftly and mind-bendingly perverted  … the first medal of the 2012 games must go to the girl with the clinking, sloshing denim sack for her skill at mindfucking a stranger.

Battersea Tom looks over at my great-nephew as if to say there are some things you cannot capture on camera, some things you just have to remember you have experienced.  His mouth goes to form a word, then stops.  Then he just smiles that dumb smile like he’s running a fucking raft across the Gnages river all day.  Ben Thomas lurches forward, hitting his cue perfectly.

“Hey, lady, send me one of those bottles, there, hey!”

Napkin girl’s hand closes on the bag.

“You can’t drink all that by yourself, send me one of those!  Hey!”

“Who says I was going to drink these all by myself – I’m having a little party later at home…”

Ben Thomas stands his ground, his eyes flirtatious, he coughs dismissively, repeats himself.  “How much do you want for one?  Send me one.”

“How much have you got?”

B.T. right on his mark again, he is quick, mercurial.  He is a very serious face shouting with a deep voice, “you CAN’T sell alcohol on the TRAIN!  That’s ILLEGAL!  You’re breaking the law!”  His body language is like something off of Fox TV’s old COPS program.  The look on napkin girl’s face is absolute panic.  “You’ve KNICKED that booze, haven’t you!”  No, no, she’s denying, as he closes distance across the rocking train car.  He’s just barking this over and over, until she’s practically holding the bag out to him.

“I didn’t knick it, I swear!”

“Well, then I WILL, young lady” and he’s got two bottles out of her sack and tucked against each of his forearms the way a running back holds a football, strutting back to the group of us, now the rest of the train car doing their version of ape-shit.  These kids will never learn.

A Bengal tiger, while an amazingly well-engineered lurking killer, is at the end of it  just a one trick pony.  You stalk.  Continue to stalk.  Grab the jugular.  Hang on.  Repeat.  I do like the fact that she will lose interest in her prey if she knows the goddamned thing has spotted her.  That’s a resolute sportsman, disciplined.  But still just the one trick.  Ben Thomas, he’s showed that poor girl that her game, well, she may be decent enough at it, but more is what the novice does not yet know of the master.

Of course, he may have an unfair advantage hanging about with old codgers like us Toms.  When it comes to language, we have a long history of being creative magicians.  Take a look at the founding documents of the USA, and you’ll see another great idea that old T. Paine had.  The idea was to tell everyone that slave feudalism, pious aristocracy, and silly costumed posturing had all been done away with.  And then to just keep doing it.  Call it something else.  But keep doing it.  Magic.

It was so simple.  Just no one thought to try it before.  Say it ain’t so.  Then say what is.  T. Paine just got everyone calling it freedom.  After a while, even the bright ones start repeating it.  It’s not exactly the liberty we all go on about in our pamphlets and parchments, but no one seems to care.  Freedom is cool.  You can swing your arms around.  You can pick your favourite colours and flavours.  You can’t affect your interests in the marketplace, or even petition the legislature for them in any meaningful way, and your associations within both these forums are all directed by others and under threat of violence to do otherwise, but you can tattoo a vagina right on your face.  Hey, check out this guy’s face vagina, everyone!

We change trains.  And then we’re there up on top of the stadium, a giant glowing bruise where the crater of the east end used to be between the reservoirs and the canals.  The immaculate lawn.  That was a pile of broken windows.  The gigantic branded fast-food restaurant.  That was a pile of broken immigrants.  Eric snaps a few photos with his phone.  Chelsea Tom hands me his electronic cigarette.  “Supposedly the old girl might get more business flowing through her tidal vagina is why she threw a huge fuck-off media party,” he says.  “We shall see, is the order now,” and he’s off to the chicken shop on the pavement with Battersea Tom.  This has to be the most expensive tacky white-trash barbecue anywhere, ever – and I’ve lived in Virginia.

On the way back through Liverpool Street we saw the armed police sauntering across the concourse, barrels pointed downwards but no less sub-machines, tools of horror.  I jumped when I saw them – I turned to Eric and he wasn’t even phased.  He held up the camera that the Olympic Park staff awarded to us as VIP’s and grabbed a few snapshots as the rest of us mugged with the British Transport coppers in their flak jackets and gigantic weapons.  Normal tourist stuff that suddenly went to shit.

“John Lennon says it in ‘I Found Out’ – having a giant cock in your hand don’t make you a man,” Dewey turns round and beams through his red shiny face.  You can almost picture him as a schoolboy, jeering after teacher passes up the aisle.

Try not to leave the house without your keys, but keep a set with the neighbours.  Never, ever call someone the moment after you get stoned.  It’s not a good idea.  And, please yourself, don’t make gun noises after armed police pass, it’s in poor taste.  You might almost feel each rapid metallic blast thudding in your core as the barrel ejects spent casings out of its side, even if the muscles in your arms tense in expectation of that heavy recoil, don’t pantomime a gun like you’re eight years old – don’t do it.

But suddenly there we are clapping hands onto our old friend John.  Dragging the plum-shaped man off the concourse into the Underground.  T. Paine explaining to the coppers that poor old John can’t hold his liquor the way he used to, we’ll take care to get him home without further incident, thank you for your indispensable service to the world’s fans of sport.   Dewey screaming now, “yeah, the world needs you to jackboot down their front doors under cover of darkness!  The world needs dickheads!”  Thank you, goodnight, cheers.  The only reason we weren’t all gunned down was the presence of the scantily clad Com’ere Bitches.  Bless both those girls.

Just keep saying names until one is real.

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