I Don’t Know About You Folks

I’m ill, in the way where nothing seems real. I’m not sure what to do about it, because I was already doing everything I normally do to recover from illness when I became ill – in fact, the former followed from the latter so directly that it’s hard not to assume they’re causally connected. I’m getting more sleep than at any point in the last five years, getting more than my RDA of every vitamin known to man, eating actual food more than twice a day, and keeping warm at all times – not hard because it’s unseasonably warm anyway. I’m at a loss, body. What do you want from me?

I hate getting more than seven hours’ sleep, too. Apart from giving up a chunk of precious consciousness-time, and waking up more tired than if I’d had four hours, my brain spends all its REM-sleep time trying to think of the worst possible things that could happen, then informing me very vividly that they all have. Last night I got cancer, and had huge, dark lesions all over my face, then I was attacked by spiders. Thanks, brain! That was a fun nine hours! The physical tortures are actually the highlights: the rest of the time my subconscious invents new mental and emotional traumas, and these are much, much less enjoyable than being repeatedly stabbed then flayed.

Being ill doesn’t make the nightmares any worse, but the groggy detachment from reailty makes them harder to shake in the land of the conscious. It wasn’t until I dressed this morning and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror that I realised I wasn’t mutilated and terminally ill. Anyway, all that is by way of explaining why this has lain dormant all week; I don’t like wasting your brainspace with this stuff and it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Instead, now that I’ve done so anyway, I’ll append a less gloomy note to compensate.

(A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs, from the new Robyn Hitchcock album, is wonderful, and would be even if I didn’t have a thing for short-titled songs with massive parentheses. It talks about “Riding in [Briggs’] car in San Fransisco” and later addresses a girl called Mel, all of which sounded very specific and not the kind of thing you make up for rhymes, to me, so I decided the song must have an interesting origin in someone Hitchcock knew. I was a imagining a couple, Briggs and Mel, the former hot-tempered but well-meaning, the latter confused and isolated by his erratic behaviour. It turns out I may have been over-romanticising a little: Briggs is the villain in Magnum Force, a Dirty Harry film Hitchcock kept catching half of on TV.

He doesn’t particularly like the film, it’s presumably just the kind of thing that creeps into your head when song-writing. “A man’s gotta know his limitations” is Clint Eastwood’s catch-phrase in it, and the next line in the song “Or else he will just explode” refers to the final scene, in which Briggs – a corrupt official – is killed by a car-bomb Eastwood planted. For some reason Clint then utters his catch-phrase, although it’s not clear which limitation Briggs should have been aware of: inability to detect car-bombs? I haven’t seen the film, so I still don’t know who Mel is. Other songs inspired by films the songwriter doesn’t really care one way or the other about: one of Miss Black America’s, I think it’s Infinite Chinese Box. Apparently the guy was watching a film, then suddenly decided to stop and write a song about how he thought it was going to end, instead of watching it to find out. I applaud this kind of behaviour.

2 Replies to “I Don’t Know About You Folks”

  1. I got ill in January 2006. It came hot on the heels of the Chirstmas break, during which I was eating lots, sleeping lots and generally treating myself well. I had a cough and a series of cold / flu type bugs that went on solidy for about 6 weeks. It was horrible. I thought I was becoming one of those sickly Victorian gentlemen who have to retire to a sanitorium in the Alps and spend the rest of their short lives in a “bath chair” with a quilted blanket folded over their knees, attended by matronly, thick-wristed nurses. But then, just as inexplicably, I got well again.

  2. This is unacceptable! I must at least know the causes of my body’s malfunctions, even if they’re things beyond my control. Or perhaps I can control it without understanding it, to an extent. My scientific instinct would be to temporarily play dumb, trust the logic behind the illness-prevention measures, and assume that they did in fact cushion me from a much more severe illness that would otherwise have been caused by the same unknowable, unstoppable factors. That would suggest I’ll recover soon.

    I suppose it would be more scientific still to try living extremely unhealthily for a week and see if I deteriorate. I’ll try that next week.

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