I've been in Mexico for 36 hours and I'm standing 12,000 feet above sea level with my newest friends watching the sun rise from teh top of the Pyriamid of the Sun, and inexplicable anceint lump of maths built before maths were invented. Apparently, the angry little man with the gun who keeps spitting has just arrested us for defaming the sacred soil of Quetzacotal. Negotiations are in full swing and eventually we're frog-marched into the back of the van. We feel we have the moral high ground as we are convinced the thing was constructed out of deference to the rising and setting sun.
These kinds of things will happen on tour, especially in places you've never been. An initial sense of trepidation dissolves and an emboldened manic emerges. You meet people who could have been your friends, girls you could have married, places you don't want to leave but will probably ever see again. It's all quite bewildering now I think about it.
There's something nauseating about staying in a huge suite on the 48th floor by dint of playing some music when there are people living in cardborad boxes on central reservations of dual carriageways. Poverty here is absolute. It's hard to imagine anyone starving in London. I doubt it ever happens. In Brazil it's hard to imagine how people survive. It's really quite humbling.
I'm always enchanted by places that have been mythologised by song, they give me goose bumps. Rio is evidently formed entirely out of songs, beaches and football. Copacabana beach, Ipanema beach . . . it makes you feel like you are somewhere, even if nothing at all happens. Brazil is probably the best place for indulging yourself in rock star cliches, as all those kinds of things run thick and fast . . .
Buenos Aires is one of the world's six great cities - it's up there with New York, London, Barcelona, Tokyo and Milan in my book. Huge squares and tree lined avenues, it's so European. The most surprising thing was the Argentinian's fondness for the English - completely unexpected. What a civilised bunch they are, intellectual espresso sippers. I called Walter and we went out on the razzle dazzle. There were calm gardens to sip gin and tonics in, people in houses full of books and strange perfumes, pumpin' discos and boozy cafes full of people at sunrise. My kind of town.
If you can't change your habits, change your scenery: when you come home there's all this energy. It took about three days for South America to become irretrievably soem part of my past. All those new horizons become old ones but I'll never forget the view from atop that pyramid. Go on, go somewhere you've never been - but remember! There's no greater bore than a travel bore. Cheerio!
Alex James Is Better
Q - March 2000
I do enjoy reckless cavorting. It's probably the best thing about huge cities, than new comanions are always there to be found. There are 1000 worlds running parallels in the West End. Everybody passes through it. Everybody.
There's nothing like walking up Dalston after three days on the rampage - taking a running dive at the bright lights to be swallowed by London, alive to the joy of possibility and be cast gently onto some unusual shore by a minicab.
The cause of most post-alcoholic cringing this season has been a drinking game "Elephant in the Room" and is based on a notion of Ted Hughes's or Sylvia Plath's that there is always an elephant in the room: a subject that looms large but which we dare not mention. There definately always is one, and the idea of the game is to get so drunk as to be bold enough to invoke the elephant. Probably best played with strangers.
This month though I've traded the rock'n'roll rollercoaster ride for a Countdown kind of atmosphere of calmer colours and sublter pleasures. A week in bed with a pile of books and I felt much better. It turns out that being sober seems to offer the same ridiculous increase in scope that being drunk did in the first place. I've hardly got time to finish my jigsaw and suddenly everything is becoming incredilbly organised and stuff's getting done. I'll probably be using my Palm V by this time next month, the way things are going.
The whole of W11 have disappeared long-haul (economy) to posh destinations and will surly all bump into each other. I like being here in winter though. It's great staring at the fire instead of the TV. The scenery's always changing when you're in a band, so its good to stay still for while: changing your habits is just as powerful an experience as changing your location. It's all good, as long as we're running towards something rather than away, I guess.
We went clumping around the New Forest coughing, blowing our noses and not feeling very natural. We were starting to think my sister's boyfriend had some spooky business going, as he seems to spend all his time there. He is drawn to the forest like I'm drawn to Dean Street, but evidently he's been filming it all. We went to a huge badger sett, and he showed us some badger hair. The sett was hundreds of years old. They like living in holes, digging holes and going out at night. It was a source of wonder to contemplate badger business going on all by itself and we returned from where we came with a lightened step. I always imagined I'd live in the country. I suppose most children do.
Enough severe evangelism. The worst thing about being sober is that it leaves you no excuses for being an idiot. I realise now how much nonsense was due to being stupid rather than being drunk. Ho hum, think I'll start drinking again in June. Maybe see you then in Dalston. Cheerio!
Alex James is Better
Q - April 2000
From the conversations I've been overhearing, it appears I have moved out of the sprawling Andre Gide novel I was living in last month, and now reside in an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Which is lovely while it lasts.
The Soberthon continues. La bonne a toute faire has hung up her marigolds and moved to cleaner pastures. A serious blow! Who will get the crumbs out of the bed? Good cleaners are pursued like pastry chefs in PG Wodehouse books. We head-hunted Rebecca fron one of our dear friends, the Pratts of Ladbroke Grove, and they've never forgiven us. The power these people yield - these cashmere shrinkers - is quite fearsome. Rebecca "house sits" - i.e. lives in an ambassadorial schloss overlooking Regent's Park - and was, I swear, having lunchie-do's at the River Cafe last time I went there. Evidently you can name your price for providing a perpetually full sock drawer in a stickiness-free environment.
It's only now, but I already feel so "noughty." Forget lattes and sushi, we're out of there and back on cappuccinos (hold the powder) and kimchee. The jigsaw puzzles and Pictionaries have gone back under the stairs and the cards have come out. It's bridge weather and the cultural sector is back from holidays and attempting to jump start itself by having awards ceremonies, which means so much arugula and Pino Grigio and waving to your buddies across crowded rooms made out of icing sugar. Each year we either get invited to none or all of them and you only know you're at a good one by how many mayoral candidates are there (which is usually either none or all of them).
Went to Devon for lunch yesterday but it was too soggy to land. We didn't mind - "the great affair is to travel!"- we just zoomed around drinking in all the green. Tried the boat show. Wasn't impressed (apart from the fashion show). Boats have to look like a German's idea of a cool trainer apparently.
The car park has been an unlikely source of glamour recently. The NCP batcave on St. Martin's Lane (an oily pigeon toilet) is the place to rub shoulders with snottier neighbours and parking soap stars, as they anxiously await their new rag top's safe return at 30 miles an hour in first gear, by the nice man you calls you, "Yes, Boz."
I went to the classical department at Tower. Fat Les are reforming so I thought I'd better listen to some good riffers like Saint-Saens and the boys from the 1800's. It's brilliant. It's a buyer's market, so you can buy classical CD's by the yard and so I did. That'll do. Molesworth and Mendes are cool and Beckett is a twat this month. Cheerio!
Alex James Is Unwell
Q - May 2000
This probably amounts to the most normal month of my life so far. Think of normal, stick a pin in the middle of it, round off the edges, regulate and limit the revs. That's where I live. I'm happy in a garden center or anywhere with a trolley. I've started liking weird fat inverted major VII b5 chords and petit fours with my blessed espresso. No longer will we recklessly hurl ourselves over physical horizons in search of we know not what. Things are different now, forever, but it's the beginning of something rather than the end, always.
There's no Blur at the moment so I've gone back to doing what I did before - looking out to sea. It's what I've always been best at, and what I'm looking forward to spending my old age doing. We went to a cliff in Cornwall for the weekend and squelched around. There are posh hotels everywhere. You can stay in London, New York, Cornwall, Rotterdam and all that changes is the view, but that's not going anywhere. Walking out of your door due south for ten minutes is more going somewhere than this perpetual olive foccacia nonsense.
O noctes cenaque deum! (O nights and feast divine! - Horace). We've been eating out a lot. Every day, lunch and dinner in fact. Amusing for ten minutes was the film game, where someone says the first half of a film title and someone else says the second half, so you get The Good, The Bad, and the Seven Dwarves or whatever and it's your job to cast it and explain what happens. This is amusing for 10 minutes but not three weeks. Now there are rows about optioning sequels, phoning agents, moving to Hollywood. Of course, this is how films are made in Tinsletown, as any fool knows.
And odd side effect of lack of exposure to alcohol is that I've developed a craving for pure maths. Number Theory and notions of the infinite, particularly - imagine a floorless room without walls or ceiling - those kind of rooms. Mathematics is the science of quantity and space, apparently, and its rules are discoverable in any conceivable universe. It's probably a convoluted form of sugar craving, but transcendental numbers demand contemplation. Take pi = 3.14592653892932684626 . . . this is an infinitely long number that really exists; you could take any sequence of digits, say a million noughts, five billion sevens then all the phone numbers in the Yellow Pages in order, and this sequence has to occur somewhere in the number! Sleep can no longer elude me when I feed that kind of information into the lively part of my head. It shuts me right up.
There's only so much room on the wagon, you know. I feel I owe it to those around who are having trouble getting a table to make myself busy. To that end I have appointed a reality liaison officer/gentleman's gentle person to take care of business. It's time to tattoo some structure onto the chaos. Power lies in the hands of those who own the structure, kids, and we can't beat 'em. Sitzfleisch, another handy German concept, is an underrated low octane manifestation of genius - the ability to sit down and concentrate and hammer away at something until it's done. This I lack, this ability nearly everyone lacks and it's the downfall of bright sparks everywhere not to bash on with stuff until it's done. Craft and graft, that's where I'm at.
Look out! Shit-kicker in the arena! Today Fat Les invoke the Nazarene! Rule Britannia!