And This Is Why You Eat Doritos. A Food Pyramid That Is Yellow. Literally.

fruit

My mother’s fridge is so colourful, she could AirBnb it out to gay pride.

I was looking in it earlier and realised. There is only one safe way to consume yogurt. Not at all. In the pot, responsible as fuck.

Take fruit. You can’t trust fruit. It requires fruit receptacle, fruit cover, fruit nappy. Emergency damage control, if you will, should the entire world lose its head, we enter a Groundhog Day of relapse-remission Armageddon and all the raspberries re-group en masse to exert full throttle spite on mankind. We reject your oppressive regime of polyethylene asphyxiation! No more! Unchartered territories they may be, but we will persevere, so just you watch us as we defile your shelf with our festering pollute.

Yogurt plots no such coup. Out the pot though, there’s no saying where that shits ends up. Down shirts, regardless of age, Chernobyl-splattered across counter tops leaving nothing but misery and trails of white culture in its wake- is yogurt the ultimate metaphor for the fate of Western civilisation?

It’s that time of night. I’m escaping escapism.

Sitting here, demanding a refund on life and the main course hasn’t even arrived yet. I’m one of those, aren’t I. Well, the lobster raviolini were all right, but the plate wasn’t warm I was decidedly underwhelmed by the hue of the glaze. Too ochre.

I’m so nouveau-me, it hurts.

 

 

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Sausages And Roundabouts

pl2

I was never glamorous. Nirvanic bliss never found me. You take me near a rock pool, I drop shit in it.

It is in this elegantless, oafish vein that I discovered compartmental shutdown via sausages. Hey, the Buddha didn’t choose the Bodhi Tree. He just happened to be sitting under it.  I just happened to be sitting under the stars and sausage lengths are what I use to measure distance between stars. This may or may not be why my tenure at Caltech remains suspiciously “under review”. NASA, on the other hand, totally cool with it.

From where I’m lying, and I like the fact that I hesitate to wonder if the ‘view’ is different anywhere else on earth, there are two distinct constellations. Traffic Light and Roundabout. It occurs to me that being the brightest fucking set in the sky, some schmuck may have already spotted them before me. Probably someone French who lives in an oil painting, has a small pointy beard, is now super famous and telescopes he may have touched fetch close to a million at Sotheby’s, all in the name of the creative genius that is ‘getting there first’. Christ, they probably named the sets after him. What a douche.

But then, what if my set isn’t his set? What if I’m the very first person to have clapped eyes on them? Get my point? This is glorious. If I were a fifteen year-old boy, this is totally the kind of shit I’d be pulling for my date because doesn’t it just make me seem so deep? And sensitive. Not like the other guys. Also the encouraging of gazing into the night sky is probably quite good in terms of deflecting attention away from acne and whatever else it is fifteen year-old boys try and cover up.

So listen up, kids. Give your parents a bit of time to themselves and do that cool thing where you pick a part of the night sky. Any part. See the stars? Now keep looking. The longer you look, the more appear. That’s what The New Scientist generally refers to as an optical illusion except here I think it might be real. Or not. To be reviewed once I get to Caltech.

Since these are my stars and this is my goddamn class, we have, as it stands, (i) Traffic Light. (ii) Roundabout. To find Traffic Light, you will need a map. We will not complicate ourselves with who is or isn’t facing Due south. If you want to know if your’re facing the right direction, look down at your feet. If they are at the foot of the deckchair and not the head, you’re spot on. Now. Angle your head to the right then up about 30 degrees. You will see two bright stars about one kabana apart and a further third, a jumbo vienna from the second.

Roundabout can be found about four saucissons from Traffic Light. Five stars, vaguely in a circle. DEFINITELY NOT A HECTAGON. In the middle of these, I have decided, lies a whole further solar system and my god, when whatever Apollo they send up there finds it and everyone finds out I was right all along, I’m telling you, toilet rolls I have touched will be fetching seven figures. Primary school teachers will love me and Simon Singh will have a fatwa out, my tear-stained name barely legible on the backs of the pages and pages Amazon sent back. No-one wants to hear about your cosmic radiation, even if it does have a defrost setting. You are the background. Nor do they want infinite parameters designed purely to fuck with your head because some clown decided a three-dimensional world wasn’t ‘full-bodied’ enough. Three? No. There must be ten. Or is it eleven? Let’s just say, how long is a piece of string.

And people win Nobel Prizes for this shit.

The solar system within Roundabout is solid. Five walls propped up by the five street lights that form its skeleton. Everyone knows the system ends there and if you want to be irritating and curious and need chromodynamics, there is a colouring book with a full set of freshly-sharpened Caran d’Ache at each lamp and little bowls with spoons for your quark.

In the middle of Roundabout– really, this is stellar stuff, there is, you guessed it, a roundabout. It takes you places you want to go, via a shuttle bus. You can go somewhere or nowhere. It’s up to you. Both it and the button you press to hail it are electric because this solar system actually has some fucking self-respect and isn’t filled with planets hell-bent on destroying themselves.

There are shops and cafes along the route and you can get orange juice and it doesn’t matter how late you get there because time hasn’t been invented yet and when it is, it will be relative. That is to say, if you are early, you can be relatively early. To whatever degree you wish, really. There will always be opportunities to be early again. Or late. And that is what is known as the space-time continuum. The space where you are right now. Take that. Then take the the time you imagine it would take you to get to where you want to go. That possibility doesn’t just occur once in the instance you would employ it. It continues. Forever. Theoretically meaning you can plan to go somewhere and imagine doing it once. In the same amount of imagined time it would take you to complete that journey, you can do it a thousand times over. Without ever going anywhere. You can literally just sit there playing Candy Crush Saga and without lifting a finger, you’ve done the shopping, picked up the kids from school and been to the Post Office. Amazon Prime is rubbish compared to this.

Because you might have kids and kids have simple minds that revolve around two things; high fructose corn syrup and “stuff to do”, Roundabout has a play area to encourage more of the stuff and less of the syrup. This isn’t in any effort to fight some obesity epidemic. You weigh less on Roundabout anyway. Not outer space less, or there’d be nothing to hold the lamp-posts down, but somewhere between that and whatever it is you weigh on the Moon.

Again, you don’t need to worry about trivial things like when to drop the kids off or how long they’ve been in the sun without a hat. The sun in Roundabout has its own fucking UV filter. Sunscreen is money poorly-spent. Spend it instead on entertainment.  At the Boson Park!   The Boson Park is like a water park. Slides and funnels and chutes and all the things that go really fast and kids want to do over and over then never revisit until somewhere around their early thirties when jumping on bouncy castles suddenly becomes acceptable again because you work in digital marketing and once went to Shoreditch.

Again, no time means no queuing. I mean, there is a queue- I am still British, it’s just that in Roundabout, standing in it is of no bother and as a Brit, I find it strangely refreshing to have nothing to complain about. You queue to get your ticket, wait at the safety barrier and when the light turns from solid green to flashing red, you’re good to go. The forward propulsion of your feet advancing here is what is known as galactic redshift.

The ride itself is multi-faceted. There are tunnels. Bridges. Aquaducts. Vents. If you get lost, you can find small Sharpie-drawn squares that help you find your feet. These are known as Poincaré points. Anyway, you’re never fully alone in Boson Park because everywhere you go is propelled by particles made of hundreds and thousands. Since there are hundreds and thousands of them, no-one will notice if a few go missing. Incidentally, in the way linguistics can just be so quaint sometimes, isn’t kind of sweet that the French for hundreds and thousandsis “Nonpareils”- literally translating as not the same. Have you looked at those things? Ever seen anything more the same?

If you’re a bit older, you equally have the opportunity to eat off platelets, but these can take up to six weeks to replace if broken. To avoid breaking them, you can stick them to your tables using gluons. Things are really quite laid back in Roundabout, though. You can break stuff if you want. It doesn’t matter. We’ll cover that somewhere in the second half of the first semester when we get to antimatter.

I should however stress that antimatter is not a mentality you want to instill on your offspring. Raising a child to think that nothing they do matters is precisely how humanity landed itself up the kinds of shit creek for which compartmental shutdown had to be emergency-injected. While adulthood follows the trajectory of major to minor life crises with, for some reason a Galapagos evolution of spinal fluid in camels rendering them hypersensitive to straws and straws alone, kids are the reverse. Little shits become big shits. Ten year-old thugs called Kevin who really truly firmly believe that an empty soda can belongs “wherever it lands”. Yeah, fifteen years down the line, you have my word. Drunk-driving. From his girlfriend. To his fiancée. No insurance. Zero shits given. Just the kind of Copernican Egocentrism I’ve ensured, for the right reasons, forms the base theory at Roundabout.

It’s so very ordinary. Doesn’t even have a Waitrose. The world doesn’t revolve around it, but my god is Roundabout fucking special.

©Rebecca Cukier, 2016

Compartmental Shutdown

space

My long-delayed career as a NASA astronomer began yesterday.

It came quite out of the blue, like the spiritual awakenings of 7-11 clerks from Bakersfield named Dylan, whose life calling was forever stuck in traffic by the need to restock aisle five and serve an endless soda-stream of distressed Abercrombie cut-offs who really need their Arizona Ice Tea because they couldn’t get gas and their Victoria’s Secret loyalty card just got declined. Twice.

Dylan isn’t pretentious enough to phantom up parallel universe creations of himself. Or anything for that matter. He cleans out the filters for the Big Gulp, cashes the register and enters compartmental shutdown.

Compartmental shutdown is a mechanical process. The systematic shut-down, if you will, of everything currently processed by the brain as [RFA]. Really Fucking Awful. n.b. not to be confused with, although not entirely removed from [RNA] in that both can border on the acidic and if pushed, enter realms of the nucleic; textbook will around this point direct you to fig.1, human of indiscriminate gender or race displaying anger on a par with wanting to detonate a nuclear bomb.

Humanity has, as it does most things, exploited this concept, mostly in the kinds of scum who employ the title of “mindfulness practitioner” or “life coach” and charge people a small fortune for the privilege of being guided through a concept most six week-old babies manage with astounding competence right on their own. Lying on the floor and staring into space. They will use phrases like “take this moment” and“appreciate the space”. I assumed, though now know to be erroneous, this to be a possible component of the two day course that constitutes their diploma.

Have you ever noticed how the people claiming to lead the richest lives are always the most emotionally impoverished? There must be a certain buoyancy to being as equally aerated as you are full of shit.

They have to say something as you lie there. I mean, you can’t just lie there. God, no. For fuck’s sake, you’re paying them. What if they actually just let you lie in total silence for five minutes; actually “take this moment”, actually “appreciate the space”? Will you think you’re being ripped off? Are you? Of course you are! You’re an absolute joke for lying there in the first place. Those things people use as receptacles for steaming hot beverages? THEY NAMED THEM AFTER YOU.

I hit compartmental shutdown on these fuckers years ago. Don’t even register on my radar. Which clears my diary. For all the other shit I have to shut down. That’s the problem with compartmental shutdown. Unlike conventional operating systems, which shut down a finite number of files, caches, remnants of whatever genie dust makes the little Apple glow, the parameters of compartmental shutdown are limitless. For all the shit you successfully eliminate in a day, fresh shit will have replaced it by the time the sun rises. I think that’s why we eat.

Dylan’s shutdown used to begin at Abercrombie in general. Fuck that. You wanna do this properly? You get efficient. Start at the feet and work your way up. If you’re manning the 7/11 in Bakersfield, that’s a lot of feet. Being female in the US and not having painted toenails doesn’t make you some kind of freak. It means you’re flat-out not human. Then come the legs. The tanned legs. Nothing wrong with them per se, just the way they’re tanned. A tan, in theory, displays some form of character. Depth. Either you’ve been on holiday, hopefully somewhere less generic than the Intercontinental- and no, it doesn’t matter which one, have you ever been anywhere less ‘Continental’ or for that matter less ‘Interesting’? Well, perhaps Bakersfield. Or you’re Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. You chain-smoke. Not out of any abject loneliness or compartmental destitution. But because the cigarette is an extension of your hand. If you’re escaping anything, it’s the exhausting stream of men who fall in and out of your bed on a nightly basis. Life is really complicated and the sheets are never changed because you always smell of sex.

 

No, the distressed cut-offs have a tan because they lack character. They lack everything. Even proper shoes. They wear flip flops. Pay seventy dollars for denim that’s already ripped and don’t question it. Need ice tea for the heat but can only advertise their attendance at Arizona State with a hoodie. Wear bug-eyed shades. Facetime. Have names like Ashlee. Chew gum.

I’ve somewhat grown to admire the ease and dexterity with which Dylan can systematically shut them down. Head to toe, or vice versa.  Just like that. He’d probably come up with far simpler and more systematic solutions for how long that just fucking took me to type out.

I discovered compartmental shutdown by accident. Maybe one day, a small plaque will honour me for it: Ok, it wasn’t quite penicillin, but it’s fairly useful so here, have a mention and Rest In Piece(s)- Compartment by Compartment.

I was not in Bakersfield. I’ve never been. I romanticise it as the least-possibly cultured deadzone of California that still falls within the realms of civilisation. The kind of vapid grid splatter that really pushes real-estate when it comes to plugging the place as “unique”.

 

I wasn’t there, but I might as well have been. Dylan on a bad day. Enrico was supposed to clock on at nine but it turns out he never made bail, so it’s Dylan; Fort Solo. Except today, the filters in the Big Gulp are jammed, so best you’ll get is straight-up ice with an impossible to gauge probability of syrup in varying degrees of dilution. The cut-offs are not going to be happy. A disabled gentleman in a scooter knocked over most of the contents of aisle five. The fourth and final college rejection letter awaits at home, along with some jackass delivery van blocking the drive, a fog light that never switches off, an online girl who never logs on and to top it off, turns out he’s managed to have roaming switched on. All month.

My entire day had been one jammed Big Gulp. I don’t know anyone in jail, but I had no help and I needed it. Rejection letters- well, no-one gets them anymore. Or emails for that matter. Being a “strong communicator”. Clearly outlined in most job specs. Except, apparently, anything involving recruitment. My inbox hanging in the balance had become a pretty accurate metaphor for my life. I wasn’t wearing cut-offs but felt ripped off. Entire aisles of my nervous system had been knocked over and no-one knew how to restack them so they were just sitting there gathering dust. The Delivery Van Of Life was parked outside with the hazard lights off. Its contents unknown, unmarked, mislabelled and whoever was supposed to man the tracking device had decided to go jump off a cliff or something.

It’s only once you’ve got the major setbacks in life well and truly established that the really stupid minor ones start to surface. Oh, hi. Yeah. We’re here for the late shift? I believe you ordered a phone charger whose fibres only loosen during international travel, intermittent wifi, shutters that bang in the wind but only at night and a fridge door that closes only sometimes? We regret we were unable to deliver a fully faulty one. We understand the mental warrantee of that might have furnished you with the comfort of fuck it mode but it is equally our understanding that to deliver the best possible service, all products must comply with The Uncertainty Act, 1999, sub-clause 3. As such, our only available model is the Disappointment XL4. It really is a gem. Please, see for yourself. The manual outlines it clearly. Could I….? Here. Open. Close. Open. Close. Now open it. See? Doesn’t close! Isn’t it just great? Also, don’t worry, we’ve got everything covered our end. We’ve ensured occurrence is maintained at totally random and for your ease of use, don’t trouble yourself conjuring up any logical reasons for its inaptitude. The contents of the door can be of negative mass, we still guarantee occasional prolapse. Feel free to browse the returns policy online, although please enable cookies. Since your milk may spoil, we recommend doing so now. Have a great day!

Then my phone imploded.

Then I imploded.

It was sometime later that evening, giving the fuck up and lying on a deckchair gazing at the stars that I began compartmental shutdown.

 

© Rebecca Cukier, 2016

Le Tabac versus Hamster Wheels Of Compartmental Destitution.

brigette+bardot+smoking

If the boulangerie is the Côte d’Azur’s beating heart, its lung is the tabac. I mean, you’ve got to give it to them, they’ve tried. Bans. Warnings. State-sponsored ads. Cancerous throats. Kaddish For An Unborn Child in photographic form right on the fucking packet. Whatever it is benzene and polonium-210 are getting up to, they can take a hike. This lot aren’t budging. Granted, nor are their cilia, but I don’t see anyone giving a shit. In the US, you wake up, brush your teeth and pour yourself a tall glass of milk. In France, you wake up- either already in some effortlessly chic shift dress or, conversely, fully nude; both will do here for what I’m going for- achingly French, and you reach for the cigarettes.

Aha! So we’ll drive them outside! But where? Onto south-facing terraces with optional parasols and iced Perrier on tap? FINE BY US!

Driving smokers outdoors in London vaguely works. It’s become very… Soviet. We stand in bunches. Huddle. Always end up facing the rain. There are many hardships. Lighters that just won’t take in this wind. Raincoats that seemed dry but the sleeves are still damp from earlier because whoever designed this piece of shit umbrella didn’t factor in that in this godforsaken land, it rains sideways.

It costs so much but feels so cheap.

Inhaling poison becomes a pleasure; the emergency escape exit from a broken record of cyclical soul-squalor that should’ve died out years ago from inertia but somehow ploughs mechanically on to the sound of Depeche Mode on a loop. The hamster wheel of compartmental destitution. It operates in cogs, each 3.5cm apart from the next. It has no beginning and no end; a shuttle bus to nowhere filled by a hop-on-never-hop-off populace of humanoid rodents in lacklustre suits from Next and cheap cologne. You don’t get to pick your start point. Since this cycle must commence somewhere, we’ll go for the fixed rate mortgage cog. 3.5cm from the dead-end job cog. That one’s a real fucker. It arrives boutique-packaged like a box of artisan chocolates; all shiny desks and swivel chairs wrapped in ribbon but no scissors. Just a line manager called Dave who wears bad ties and honours you with regular progress reports because life’s ultimate aptitude test begins and ends with how good a team player you were this week.

3.5cm from the Northern Line train home cog. Now that one generally “operates a good service” but is prone to the kinds of “minor delays” that occur remarkably frequently but under only two distinct circumstances. One. The really need to be in early today (for my weekly progress report because really, if there’s a better way to insult my graduate status, I’d like to hear it). Two. I just want to get the fuck home, already. You’d try to read the sorry excuse for why you’re still stuck in the tunnel, but the 20,000 other people sandwiched into the carriage are blocking the view of the scrolling sign of doom so it’s back to the ever-reliant tannoid. You’ll be sitting here for a veritable epoche due to what the driver helpfully describes as a “delay”. Yeah, they’ve got a real gift, that lot. But that’s all fine, because fourteen stops down the line, you can hop to the next cog. The broken escalator that so elegantly leads you to the replacement bus service, only a “swift eight minute walk” (thanks, Foxtons) to your shoebox of a first home.

 

It’s dark. You’re not going to the gym tonight. Or ever.

You will sit on your Argos sofa with rubbish rosé from Tesco and watch Masterchef because I guarantee you, nothing will ever leave you quite as failed as stabbing holes in the cellophane of a microwave carbonara while some nineteen year-old skyrockets to culinary fame by boiling a quail’s egg, sticking it on a plate, adorning it with a sprig of parsley and a squirt of balsamic vinegar and calling it “cuisine”.

Of course, there’s a way out. All you have to do is look. It comes right before the next cog.

That brief window of air. The cigarette.

cigsmoke
© Rebecca Cukier, 2016