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 Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life - Chapter Six

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Carl Halling
WRITER (51-100 posts)
WRITER (51-100 posts)
Carl Halling

Posts : 53
Join date : 2012-09-15
Location : Greater London Urban Area, England

Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life - Chapter Six Empty
PostSubject: Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life - Chapter Six   Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life - Chapter Six EmptyTue Apr 09, 2013 6:11 pm

David Cristiansen returned to Leftfield College in the autumn of 1984, and it may be that it was soon after this that his recent past started haunting him for the first time. After all, was it not only a few years previously he'd known legends of sport and the cinema, mythical figures of the theatre, blue bloods and patricians, and they'd been kind, generous of spirit to this nonentity from the outer suburbs. Now he was nearly 30, with a raft of opportunities behind him, and a future which looked less likely than ever to provide him with the fame he still ached for with all his soul.
At first he lived off-campus, thinking it might be fun to coast during his final year as some kind of enigma freshly returned from Paris. But before long, he desperately missed being part of the social hub of the college, even though this was a virtual impossibility for a forgotten student in his fourth year.
His time as one of Leftfield's leading prodigies had long passed, and other, younger whizz kids had come to the fore since his departure for Paris. They included the handsome young blond whom his long-time friend and champion Ariana described as being some kind of new edition of himself, due perhaps to the incredible diversity of his gifts. The first David saw of him, he was playing Gorgibus in Moliere's Les Precieuses ridicules, a part Ariana had originally earmarked for David, but he turned it down. The young man would ultimately find superstardom as comedian and character actor, and far more besides, while David persisted in the sweet, safe obscurity where he remains to this day.
He read incessantly throughout the year for the sheer pleasure of doing so. For example, while Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh was a compulsory part of the drama course, there was no need for him to wade through O'Neill, the massive two-part biography of the playwright by Arthur and Barbara Gelb, but that didn't stop him.
He made this descent into the depths of O'Neill's complex psyche at a time when he himself was starting to drink during the day at Leftfield. While his first can of extra strong lager would often be opened at breakfast time, he'd wait until the afternoon to get seriously hammered in the company of close friends. Such as Paul, from Playing with Fire, and Alastair, a science student who shared his passion for the dark romanticism of the Doors and Peter Gabriel.
Paul was still trying to persuade him to join forces with him against an indifferent world, he with his writing and David with his acting, but for reasons best known to himself, he wasn't playing ball. Paul had always sensed something really special in David, which was variously described as energy, intensity, charisma, but for all the praise he received from Paul and others, he didn't seem to have a very high opinion of himself.
It's possible that while he possessed the vast ego of the narcissist who requires constant attention and approval, he somehow also suffered from low self-esteem, which might indicate that he was a sufferer from actual Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Whatever the case, he was going through one of his showily perverse phases, affecting a world weariness he simply didn't have at 30, but which upset and alienated a really good friend. And it wasn't long before Paul was out of his life forever, leaving him to stew in his precious pseudo-cynicism:
"What an appalling attitude," he'd told him, and he was right on the money.
His principal final year tutor was Dr Elizabeth Lang, and subject of study, the works of literary genius Andre Gide. And so he came to closely examine such Gidian characters as the urbane Menalque from The Immoralist, who encourages the protagonist Michel to embrace Nietzschian individualism...the feral Lafcadio from The Vatican Cellars, who commits a crime of terrible cruelty simply for the sake of doing so...and the mysterious Comte de Passavent from The Counterfeiters, his only novel according to his own definition of the term.
And in later years, he'd recall actually mentioning a particular instance of Michel's amorality to Dr Lang with what was relish pure and simple. Oh, how much he'd changed!
But far from being a mere Decadent, Gide was the deeply conflicted product of a middle-class Protestant upbringing whose first work, The Notebooks of Andre Walter, was an anatomisation of Christian self-abnegation based on his troubled love for his devout cousin Madeleine, who went on to be his wife, a theme he would enlarge upon in Straight is the Gate.
And a special favourite of David's by Gide was the novella Isabelle, which appealed to his softer, more romantic side. Written in 1911, it's the tale of a young student, Gerard Lacase, who stays for a time at a Manor house in Normandy inhabited by two ancient aristocratic families in order to look over their library for research purposes. And while there, becomes bewitched by the portrait of a beautiful young woman, only to discover that its model, the eponymous Isabelle, is now a hard, embittered individual entirely distinct from the lovely vision in the miniature.
By the same token, his favourite ever play by O'Neill was another story of hopeless love, A Moon for the Misbegotten, written in 1947.
Its leading character is based on Eugene's tragic yet infinitely romantic elder brother Jamie. And David became fascinated by him; and read all about him in the massive biography by the Gelbs.
Blessed at birth with charm, intellect and beauty, he was one of Father Edward Sorin's most favoured princes while part of the Minim Department of Notre Dame University, Indiana. And so apparently destined for a glittering future as a Catholic gentleman of exquisite breeding and learning. He was also potentially a very fine writer, although he only left a handful of poems and essays behind; and the owner of a beautiful speaking voice which ensured him work as an actor for a time alongside his father James. His greatest legacy, however, is Jamie Tyrone, the brilliant yet troubled charmer who haunts two of his brother's masterpieces with the infinite sorrow of promise unfulfilled.
David left Leftfield for good in the summer of 1985, and discovered soon afterwards that he had achieved a lower second BA degree in French and Drama.
His first employment was as a deliverer of novelty telegrams, a job which brought him into many potentially hazardous situations, but which for him, was worth the risk, as he was getting well paid to show off and party, two of his favourite occupations at the time...but it was an unusual way of life for a man of thirty.
What he really wanted was the immortality provided by fame, and he didn't care whether this came through acting, music or literature, or any other means for that matter. But until his big break came, he was content to feed his addiction to attention through the novelty telegrams industry. He evidently had no deep desire to leave anything behind by way of children, nor for any career other than one liable to project him to international renown. How then did he end up as a PGCE student at Coverton College, Cambridge in the autumn?
The truth is he'd yielded to family pressure to provide himself with the safety net that's doubtless been advocated for centuries as a sensible if less romantic alternative to penury by the concerned parents of struggling artists while being despised - as a rule - by the artists themselves. For was it not the great singer-songwriter Nick Drake who said it was the last thing he wanted when it was suggested to him by his father Rodney?
For David's part, he was so unhappy about having to go to Cambridge that just days before he was due to start there, he arranged to audition for a Jazz Funk band, and was all set to sing The Chinese Way by Level 42 and another tune in that then fashionable genre, but he never made it; because late and desperately drunk, he simply threw in the towel and resigned himself to Cambridge.
From the time he arrived in the beautiful medieval university city of Cambridge, he was made to feel most welcome and wanted, and made some wonderful friends at Coverton itself; such as Donovan Joye, a most gracious poet and actor from the little town of Downham Market in Norfolk, with whom he was almost inseparable for a time. As well as Dale Slater, a singer-songwriter of melancholy genius from Yeovil in south Somerset who eventually went on to record both as a solo artist and group member in the London of the late 1980s and early to mid '90s at a time the neo-psychedelia he embraced was thriving. And stunning redhead Clarissa Catto, a budding professional actress from a vast sprawling area to the west of London whose principal eponymous town of Slough is perhaps most famous for having inspired a ten-stanza poem by much-loved former poet laureate Sir John Betjeman in 1937.
When he made his first appearance at the Cambridge Community College in what may have been Arbury in the northernmost reaches of the city where he was due to begin his period of Teaching Practice the following January, the pupils reacted to him as if he was some kind of visiting movie or Rock star. His TP would have been a breeze. Everything was falling into place for him at Cambridge, and he was offered several golden chances to succeed as an actor within its hallowed confines.
Towards the end of the first term, the then president of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club had gone out of his way to ask David and Donovan to appear in the sole production he was preparing to mark his year-long tenure. He was a Coverton man, and so clearly wanted to give a couple of his fellow students a break after having seen them perform a couple of Donovan's satirical songs for the club.
This was a privilege almost without measure, given that since its inception Footlights has nurtured the talents of Cecil Beaton, Jonathan Miller, Germaine Greer, David Frost, John Cleese, Peter Cook, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, Hugh Lawrie and Sacha Baron Cohen among many others. David could have been added to that list.
As if this opportunity weren't enough to persuade him to stay put, a young undergraduate, renowned for the high quality of the plays he produced personally asked him to feature in one of his productions during the Lent Term. This after seeing him interpret the part of Tom in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie some time before Christmas. Someone then told him that if this young man took an interest in you, you were pretty well made as an actor at Cambridge. What more did he want? For Spielberg himself to be in the audience and discover him?
In his defence, though, he did feel trapped by the course, and was finding it heavy going. In order to pass, you had to spend a full year as a teacher after completion of the basic PGCE. That meant it would be two years before he was free again to call himself an actor and work as such. It just seemed an awfully long time, when in fact it wasn't at all, and two years after quitting Cambridge he was even further away from his dream than when he'd started off.
The truth is he left Coverton for no good reason, and there are certain verses from Maud Muller, by Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier, could be said to be most applicable with respect to his decision to do so, which came to haunt him in later years:
"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'it might have been'."
Still, within a matter of hours of the start of the Lent Term of 1987, he'd vanished, disappeared into the night in the company of a close friend he'd wheedled into helping him out.
Once he was free, he set about the task of resuming his career, sporadically commuting to London from a semi-rural village 8 miles north of Portsmouth where he was resident at the time; although most days he achieved little. While it was music rather than acting he was interested in at the time, not that it ever really mattered to how he became famous, just so long as he did.
He duly auditioned for a series of bands, such as the Jazz-Funk outfit from what may have been Croydon, and the Rock and Roll revival band from Pompey itself; but none of them took to him. And highlighted hair and dinky twin ear studs could hardly done him any favours, although by around about the beginning of '87 he'd started sporting a two-tone parka worn with tight grey corduroy jeans in an attempt to better blend in with his surroundings. Which is to say in contrast to such nostalgic sartorial items as '50s style gold lamé waistcoat, cuffed drainpipe jeans, and black suede winkle pickers with side buckles, which he'd only latterly favoured.
However, he did succeed in impressing the artistic director of a Ladbroke Grove pub theatre who remained a close friend of his well into the 2000s. And with whom he worked soon after returning to London - which he did in the summer of 1987 to a minor flurry of creative activity - first for a play at the aforesaid theatre; and then a film pilot featuring the lavishly gifted American artist Ray Shell.
1987 was also the year he got seriously involved in walk-on work for television and the cinema, although he wasn't entirely new to the game. For example, he briefly features as a Salvation Army bandsman in a scene from The Mirror Crack'd, directed by Guy Hamilton in 1980 from an Agatha Christie novel entitled The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side.
This took place at a typical English village fete set in the 1950s, and was being graced first by Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of Sir Charles and his fourth wife the former Oona O'Neill; then by legendary Hollywood icon Elisabeth Taylor.
Also, in Charles Jarrott's miniseries Poor Little Rich Girl, he can be seen gesticulating as legendary crooner Rudy Vallee in a party scene featuring Farrah Fawcett as Barbara Hutton, and Burl Ives as her grandfather F.W Woolworth.
But these were just isolated episodes. For from around 1987, he took the work more seriously, first in the sitcom Life Without George, written by Penny Croft and Val Hudson and featuring Simon Cadell and Carol Royle; and then in the long-running police series The Bill, in which he sporadically appeared as a crime scene photographer for several years.
Soon after he'd finished his work for Life Without George, he started rehearsals at the justly renowned Gate Theatre in London's Notting Hill for the world premiere of The Audition by Catalonian playwright Rudolf Sirera - with English translation by John London - under the direction of Ariana.
While it's likely to have been originally set in pre-revolutionary France, Ariana updated it to the late 19th Century, possibly the Paris of Huysmans' notorious Against the Grain. And it involves the kidnapping of an actor Gabriel De Beaumont by an unnamed Marquis played by Steven Dykes, who goes on to sadistically toy with his victim before finally murdering him.
It received some fair reviews...with David being singled out for some praise in the London Times among other periodicals.
But rather than capitalise on this modest success, he decided to start work instead as a teacher at the Tellegen School of English in London's Oxford Street. And he did so at the behest of his closest friend, Huw Owen, the Swansea native who'd served as the model for Robert Fitzroy-Square in their Silverhill band, Z Cars, but who was now working at Tellegen's. Besides which, he'd already undergone a week's training with them and been offered a job.
Thus, he entered into one of the most purely blissful period of his entire life, even while his theatrical career suffered. Although in August 1988 and at Ariana's behest, he served as MC for a week-long benefit for the Gate Theatre called Captain Kirk's Midsummer Log in the persona of one Mr Denmark 1979, a comic monstrosity created for him by Ariana; also providing several impressions.
Among those appearing on the bill were comedienne Jo Brand in her then incarnation of The Sea Monster, satirical impressionist Rory Bremner, Renaissance Man Patrick Marber, initially a stand-up comic, but best known today as an award-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter, and maverick singer-songwriter John Otway.
The Denmark character went down so well at the benefit that David wrote an entire show around him on the premiss that winning a Scandinavian male beauty contest in 1979 had so altered the balance of his mind that he'd since convinced himself he'd been at the forefront of pretty well every major cultural development since the dawn of Pop, only to be cravenly ripped off by Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Punks, Rappers and so on. It premiered to considerable audience enthusiasm on his 33rd birthday at a new variety venue called Club Shout.
And for David, being a Tellegen teacher was the perfect dream job...providing him with a social life on a plate, as well as enough money to finance the hours he spent each evening in the Champion public house on Wells Street, W.1. For once the final classes had ended some time after 7.30, student and teacher alike would meet at the Champion to drink and talk and laugh and do as they wished until closing time. And David himself would usually leave around 10.30 to catch the last train home from Waterloo, although, sometimes he'd miss it and have to catch a later one which might see him stranded deep in the Surrey countryside. At other times, there'd be a party to go to, or the Tellegen Disco at Jacqueline's Night Club in nearby Soho.
Most of the teachers socialised with their own kind, while David preferred the company of the students, although this situation was to become modified by 1990, when his friends were being chosen from among both the teaching and student bodies. But at night, it would be almost impossible to extricate him from his circle of favourites from Italy, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Poland, France...fact which proved irksome to his good friends, Stan and Neddy, at a certain stage in his short-lived career at Tellegen's.
For Stan, a Tellegen teacher and resting actor like David, and Neddy, a young student from the great city of Sao Paolo in Brazil, were trying to organise rehearsals for a band they were supposed to be getting together. But thanks to David's dilatory attitude, this never happened despite some early promise, as Neddy was a gifted guitarist, and Stan a potentially good front man.
But David continued to discard precious opportunities as if they were so much stinking refuse...little suspecting that he was shoring up the kind of heartbreak that stems from unfulfilled promise, and which caused Jamie Tyrone to quote from Dante Gabriel Rossetti in A Long Day's Journey into Night, while clearly describing himself:
"Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell..."
As well as the perpetual party lifestyle, he spent his spare cash on clothes, cassettes, books, and of course, rent. That is, during those brief few months he spent as a tenant in Hanwell, West London at the house of a friend of his father's from the London session world, Dai Thomas.
Dai was a slight, bearded, bespectacled Welsh fiddler of the utmost sweetness of nature who, always nattily dressed, lived life close to the edge but with what seemed to David to be with the absolute minimum of effort and maximum self-possession, which made him very cool in his eyes; and they became good friends.
He also spent several hundreds of pounds being initiated into the art of self-hypnosis by a Harley Street doctor who specialised in hypnotherapy and nutritional medicine. This, in the hope of finding a solution not just to his alcoholism, but the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to which he was increasingly prey in the late 1980s.
Yet, despite the drinking and the OCD, he was not an unhappy man, far from it, was full of joie de vivre, in fact, and subject to elation; but he was also prone to fits of intense depression. And it was hard for him to accept he wouldn't be returning to Tellegen's in 1990. But it was his own fault, because he'd left without warning early in the year...and then decided he wanted to return, despite having refused an offer to do so from the school itself some weeks theretofore.
So, reluctantly delivered from a job he genuinely loved, he revived his acting career thanks once again to the influence of his dear friend Ariana.
She suggested he might like to play Feste for a production of Twelfth Night, to be staged in the summer at the Jacksons Lane theatre in North London. And so after a successful audition for the director, Sandy Stein, he set about re-learning Feste's lines, and arranging the songs according to the original primitive melodies.
Yet, if the play itself was a joy to be involved in, the same can't be said for the train journeys to and from Highgate for rehearsals. For it was during these lengthy trips across the capital that David started feeling the need to inure himself as never before against what he saw as nocturnal London's ever-present aura of menace.
It's likely that years of hard living were finally starting to take their toll on his nervous system. For in addition to alcohol and nicotine, he'd been ingesting industrial strength doses of caffeine for years, initially in tablet form, and then in the shape of the coffee cocktails he liked to swill one after the other before afternoon classes at Tellegen's.
This may go some way towards explaining the sheer paranoia which ultimately caused him to start drinking on the way to rehearsals, and then for the first time in his life as a professional actor, during rehearsals. However, he promised Sandy he'd not touch a drop for the actual performances, and was as good as his word. Although each performance was succeeded by some serious partying on his part...with most of the cast members joining him in the revels.
And his hyperkinetic performance was well-received, with one beautifully spoken Englishwoman even going so far as to tell him he was the finest Feste she'd ever seen...and what a pity she wasn't a passing casting director. But then serendipitous incidents of this kind may have happened to some people...but not apparently to poor David Cristiansen.
Later in 1990, he began another PGCE course, this time at the former West London College of Further Education based in East Twickenham, taking up residence in nearby Isleworth.
He began quite promisingly, fitting in well and making good friends, and as might be expected, excelling in drama and physical education. And he was abstinent by day, while on those rare occasions he did drink, it was just a question of a pint or so with lunch.
He'd mentally determined to complete the course, and yet on the verge of his period of teaching practice, found himself to be desperately behind in his preparation. And so provisionally removed himself in order to decide whether it was worth his staying on or not.
In the event he chose to quit, but rather than return to his parents' home, he stayed on in Isleworth to rekindle his career as a deliverer of novelty telegrams. At the same time, he continued to work as a walk-on artist, something he'd been doing on and off for over a decade. But specialising as a crime scene photographer for a long-running police series with its HQ in Merton, South London.
He also became half of a musical duo formed with a slim young Mancunian with short reddish blond hair and brilliant light green or blue eyes who rejoiced in the name of Maxie Coburg, although his true surname reflected his roots in Northern England. And while working as a singer-songwriter at the time, Max eventually evolved into a bona fide Renaissance Man, and not just as singer and musician, but actor, writer, performer, impressionist, film maker and radical thinker.
They began as buskers in Leicester Square, before settling down for rehearsals in the hope of getting some gigs, their repertoire a mixture of Rock and Roll and Motown classics, as well as a host of originals, mostly written by Max. But with one or two contributions by David.
He wanted to call the band Venus Xtravaganza, but in the end, they settled for Max's choice of The Unknowns, that is if they ever called anything at all. And unknown is what they remained which for poor David was simply business as usual.

Then early in '91, he spent a few weeks in the beautiful seaside town and major London overspill area of Hastings, in an effort to pass a course in teaching English as a foreign language.
To this end he worked like a Trojan; but he was struggling terribly, tormented by OCD and its endless demands on his time and energies in the shape of rituals both physical and mental. And while he didn't drink at all during the day, at night he was sometimes so stoned he was incoherent.
Predictably perhaps, he was failed; and when he asked the authorities if they might reconsider, he was informed that their decision was final. It was a bit of a let-down for him for sure, but he'd loved his time in Hastings, even while continuing the search for some kind of spiritual solution to his mental troubles which led him to a "church" which was far, far from the kind he'd come ultimately to seek out.
At least part of the reason for his torment may be provided by the following extracts from a letter his beloved mother wrote him during a fascinating but fruitless sojourn:
"...I had a chance to look at your library...I could not believe what I saw. These very strange books, beyond my comprehension, most of them, and I thought what a dissipation of a good mind that thought it right to read such matters...I feel very deeply that you have up to your present state, almost ruined your mind. Your happy, smiling face has left you, your humorous nature, ditto, your spirited state of mind, your cheerful, sunny, exuberant well-being, all gone. Too much thought given to the unhappiness and sad state of others (often those you can not help, in any way)...I've said recently that I am convinced that anyone can get oneself into a state of agitation or distress or anxiety by thinking or reading about, or witnessing unpleasant things, and the only thing to do is to, as much as possible, avoid such matters, to not let them get hold in the mind. Your fertile mind has led you astray. Why, and how?"
How many millions of mothers over the course of the centuries have asked this of offspring who've been inexplicably drawn to the shadow lands of life only to lose their way back to sanity? Only God knows. Most of course, successfully make the journey back before settling into a normal mode of life, but the danger of becoming lost is always there, especially for those who remain therein far beyond adolescence. Eternal adolescence being arguably one of the prime features of our era, facilitated by its exaltation of youth, which is an intrinsic part of its pre-eminent art form, Rock Music. And while there are those who'd insist that far fewer young people today are in thrall to the dark glamour of self-destructive genius than in previous Rock eras, the world view still very much exists.
For David's part, he came ultimately to view Rock as more than just a simple Pop music derived from various Folk genres, so much as an enormously influential subculture, even a religion, and to contend that those who grew to maturity in the sixties were spiritually affected not just by the music but the cultural changes brought about by the Rock revolution.
He'd insist that from quitting formal education aged 16, he was in thrall to a cult of instant gratification that had been growing progressively more powerful throughout the West since about 1955.
After all, he'd contend, he failed to build a future for himself, in terms of a profession, a family, financial security, and so on, having once viewed all these with an indifference verging on contempt. And it hurt him deeply to realise the extent to which he'd sabotaged his life with such a negative identity.
The following summer of 1992, he made another attempt at passing the TEFL course...this time at a college set in one of London's most beautiful parks. But he was drinking on pretty well a daily basis, and even though he worked hard and gave some good classes, there was no way on earth he was going to pass.
Still, it was a fabulous summer, and much of it he spent in a state of manic hyperactivity. Bliss it was to stride in the warm suburban evening sun to his local station of Hampton Court...perhaps with the Orb's eerie Blue Room playing again and again in his mind...on his way to yet another long night of ecstatic insensibility. He could have passed out on any one of these wild nights and found himself in Hell; that is the terrifying truth of the matter.
The romantic decadence associated with the eighties was no longer even remotely current, and there was a new spirit as he saw it, a kind of mystic techno-bohemianism perhaps, which appeared to him to be everywhere in the early nineties.
And he sought to visit as many clubs and venues as he could where it was being celebrated, even though in the event he only ever went to one, Cyber Seed in Covent Garden, which was poorly attended and only lasted a short time.
Later on in this final beautiful lethal summer of intoxication, and soon after appearing as Stefano in The Tempest at the Conway Hall in Red Lion Square, he set out on yet another PGCE course; this one bearing the suffix "fe" for Further Education.
Its purpose was to train himself and his fellow students to teach pupils in sixth form colleges and other further education establishments. And while its base was the University of New Eltham in the tough outer suburbs of South East London, he divided his time between New Eltham, and Twickenham College in the leafy Royal Borough of Richmond on Thames.
While on top of all this study, there were the gigs with Maxie...the novelty telegrams...and who knows what else...and he loved every second of a frenetic lifestyle lived in total ecstatic defiance of the wholesale ruin of mind, body, soul, spirit...

The period embracing the autumn of 1992 and the first few weeks of winter may well have been the most debauched of David's entire existence.
He'd - typically - rise early during the week, possibly around six, before preparing himself for the day ahead with a bottle of wine, usually fortified; then he'd keep his units topped up throughout the day with vodka or gin, taking regular swigs from the miniatures he liked to have with him at all times. Some evenings he'd spend in central London, others with his new friends from the college, and they were a close and pretty wild crowd for a while. There were times in town when he couldn't keep the booze down, so he'd order a king-sized cola from McDonald's, which he'd then lace with spirits before cautiously sipping from it through a straw.
He was a euphoric drunk and so almost never unpleasant...but he was unpredictable...a true Dionysian who'd cry out on a British Rail train in the middle of the afternoon, causing passengers to flinch with alarm...or perform a wild disjointed Karate kick into thin air on a crowded London street. One afternoon he tore his clothes to shreds after having arrived too late for an audition and a barman who served him later on in the day asked him:
"You bin in a fight then?"
And then there was the shameful night at Waterloo station - or was it Liverpool Street? - that he was so incapacitated by drink that he had to be escorted across the main concourse to his train by one of a colony of rough sleepers that were a feature of mainline stations in those days.
However, all these insane incidents came to a head one night in early 1993 in an Indian restaurant in Hampton Court close to the Surrey-London border. He'd been dining there with two female friends when, suddenly feeling like pure death, he turned to the lady who was next to him and asked:
"Do I look as bad as I feel?
As soon as she'd told him that indeed he did, he got up from the table, walked a few paces and then collapsed as if stone dead in the middle of the restaurant. He was then carried bodily out into the fresh night air by two or three Indian waiters, one of whom set about shocking some life back into him by flicking ice cold water in his face.
"Don't give up," he pleaded, his voice betraying true concern...and in time thanks to him some semblance of life returned, and David was well enough to be driven home.
Yet, within two days he was drinking as heavily as before, continuing to do so virtually around the clock until the weekend. He then spent Saturday evening with his close friend from the restaurant; and at some point in the morning of what was almost certainly Sunday the 17th of January 1993, after having drunk solidly all night, he asked her to fill a long glass with neat gin and each sip took him further and further into the desired state of blissful forgetfulness.
He awoke exhilarated, which was normal for him following a lengthy binge. It was his one drying out day of the week, and so he probably spent it writing as well as cleaning up the accumulated chaos of the past week. One thing he definitely did was listen to a radio documentary on the legendary L.A. Rock band the Doors which he'd taped some weeks or perhaps months earlier.
He especially savoured When the Music's Over from what was then one of his favourite albums, Strange Days, released in the wake of the Summer of Love on his 12th birthday, 7 October 1967. This apocalyptic epic with its unearthly screams and ecstatically discordant guitar solo seemed to him about living in the shadow of death, beckoning death, mocking death, defying death.
He powerfully identified with the Doors' gifted singer Jim Morrison...who'd been drawn as a very young man to poets of darkly prophetic intensity, such as Blake, Nietzsche, Rimbaud, Artaud. As well as those of the Beat Generation, who were themselves to a degree children of the - largely French - Romantic so-called accursed poets, whose works have the power to change lives, as they surely did Morrison's.
His philosophy of life was clearly informed by Blake, who wrote of "the road of excess" leading to "the palace of wisdom." While his hell raising persona came to a degree from Rimbaud, who extolled the virtues of "a long, immense and systematic derangement of all the senses" as an angel-faced hooligan in the Paris of the early 1870s.
After having spent the day revelling in his own inane notion of himself as a poet on the edge like his heroes, at some point in the early evening he got what he'd been courting for so intimation of early death, when for pretty well the first time in his life alcohol stopped being his beloved elixir and became a mortal enemy, causing his legs to lose sensation and his life force to recede at a furious and terrifying rate...or so it appeared to him in his desperate condition.
In a blind panic, he opened a spare bottle of sparkling wine he had about the house even though he'd hoped not to have to drink that day. Once he'd drained it, he felt better for a while, in fact so much so that he took a few snaps of myself lounging around looking haggard and unshaven, with freshly cropped hair.
Soon after this macabre photo session he set off in search of more alcohol. Arriving at a local delicatessen, the Asian shop keeper nervously told him that the off-license wasn't open for some time yet. There was nothing for him to do but take refuge on a nearby green, where he lay for a while, still dressed in the shabby white cut-offs he'd been wearing earlier. Finally, the offie opened and he was able to buy more booze.
In years to come, one of the last things he remembered doing on Sunday evening was singing hymns in a nearby Methodist church as the tears flowed.
He had no further memory of what happened that hellish night, but there were many such nights ahead. At least one of these saw him endlessly pacing up and down corridors and stairs in an attempt to stay conscious and so - as he came to see it - not die...and each time he shut his eyes he could have sworn he saw demonic entities beckoning him into a bottomless black abyss.
He set about ridding his room of artefacts he somehow knew to be offensive to God from the night of the 17th or 18th onwards. Many books were destroyed...books on astrology and numerology and other mystical and occult subjects, books on war and crime and atrocity, and books about artists some call accursed for their kinship with drunkenness and madness and death.
He genuinely came to believe that for all the horrors he underwent, it was during that first night he came to accept Christ as his Saviour, and that had his violent conversion not come about when it did, he might have been lost forever, although whether one agrees with him or not depends on where one stands on the issue of predestination versus free will.
But he'd have surely immersed himself further in the new bohemianism of the 1990s, which of course was not new at all, simply a revival of the adversary values of the sixties. Far from vanishing around '73, these values had merely gone back underground, where they set about fertilising new anti-establishment clans such as the Anarcho-Punks and the New Age Travellers who quietly flourished throughout the '80s.
Around '92, some kind of amalgam between these tribes and the growing Rave-Dance movement could be said to have taken place. And David was primed...supremely, passionately take his place as a zealot of this New Edge, only to be delivered from its seductive grasp by a "Road to Damascus" conversion to Christianity.
However, if he'd been reborn against all the odds, he still had to suffer in the physical, if only briefly. And on the morning of the 18th, he somehow made it into New Eltham for classes at the University, but by evening he felt so ill he started swigging from a litre bottle of gin in the hope this would improve his condition. He also phoned Alcoholics Anonymous at his mother's request, and agreed to give a meeting a shot.
Next day, on the way to Twickenham, he got the feeling that his heart was about to explode, not just once but over and over again. Then, after that morning's classes, he tried taking a stroll around town but couldn't feel his legs, and was struggling to stay conscious, so he ended up ordering a double brandy from the pub next door to the Police Station. He was shaking so much the landlord thought he was fresh from an interrogation session.
Later, he was thrown out of another pub for preaching at the top of his voice, and, walking through Twickenham town centre he started making the sign of the cross to passers-by, telling one poor young guy never to take to drink like some kind of walking advert for temperance. The fellow nodded in assent before silently scurrying away.
Back home, in an effort to calm himself down, he dug out an old capsule of Chlomethiazole, a sedative commonly used in treating and controlling the effects of acute alcohol withdrawal, but dangerous, in fact potentially fatal, when used in conjunction with alcohol. He still had some capsules left over from about 1990 when he'd been prescribed them by his then doctor, which meant they'd long gone beyond their expiry date. For a time he felt better and was able to sleep, but soon after waking, felt worse than ever.
Later, at an AA meeting, he kept leaving the room to douse his head in cold water, anything to shock some life back into me, to the dismay of his sponsor Dan who wanted him to stay put, for the purported healing effects of doing so:
"What do you think I come here for," he asked him, "the free cups of tea?"
Wednesday morning saw him pacing the office of the first available doctor, and it may have been touch and go as to whether he was going to stay on his feet...or overdose on the spot and die on him.
It was he who prescribed him the Valium which caused David to fall into a deep, deep sleep which may have saved his life, and from which he awoke to sense that a frontier had been passed and that he was out of danger at long last.
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Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life - Chapter Six
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