Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A decade ago...

I was in California.  All rather surreal in it's own way.  My first (and thus far, last) ever trip to the Sunshine state.  During this time, Mike and I covered three of the major cities (by freeway, trawling along for hours at 55 mph) listening to 'Moods' (though mostly I remember "The Return to Innocence" by Enigma), and to the soundtrack to 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' whilst mooching down the 5 highway, in a large Pontiac like affair.  The company we worked for had refused to pay for an airfare from Los Angeles and San Francisco, or San Francisco and San Diego so we had to drive to both these cities and back again, In the end Mike and I covered a wide scope of Californ I.A. in a relatively short period of time, and managed to interview a large quota of people who ended up on various DVDs.

During this time we interviewed two porn stars, one gay and one straight, viz. Jeff Stryker and Robert Kerman (aka. Robert Bolla), both of who had made attempts to appear in "legitimate" movies during the 80s in Italy and had been cast in the lead of a zombie film and cannibal movie respectively.  We met two real estate agents, who had both once been actors but now worked as real estate agents in Los Angeles:  John Steiner (who appeared in so much) and Adrienne LaRussa, a delightful New Yorker of Sicilian decent who appeared as the eponymous heroine in one of Lucio Fulci's best films, the pseudo-biographical 'Beatrice Cenci.'  Both told fantastic stories of their adventures in the Italian film industry.  We also met three people who are sadly not with us any more.  First of all there was David Hess, who for most horror fans needs no introduction as he appeared as one of the most infamous "bad guys" on screen, as Krug in Wes Craven's (future director of A Nightmare on Elm Street) Last House on the Left.  Mike and I spent a weekend in San Francisco, and managed to spend pretty much an entire weekend with David and his family, which was enlightening and great fun.  David was a cultured, interesting fellow and could wax lyrical about life and his experiences as well as archaeology and music, which showed him to be a truly fascinating person once you scratched beneath the surface.  He will be greatly missed.  We also met Candice Daly, a very pretty blonde somewhat washed up soap opera actress who had appeared alongside Jeff Stryker in the aforementioned zombie flick.  And finally we met the great Carlo Rambaldi.  Rambaldi and I conversed in Italian which was rather surreal as Mike and I were in Los Angeles and my mind was attuned to thinking in English and suddenly I was thrown into speaking Italian again.  Nonetheless, Rambaldi was an absolute delight, talking about his career, sharing his props and discussing his experiences on the various films he worked on.  Mike soared into new fits of ecstasy when he got to see the model of the alien used in Alien.  We also learned the idea behind the face of ET, got to handle some of the bats from the film "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin" which was why we were meeting Rambaldi, and saw the slightly moth eaten alien from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

We also got to meet Deran Serafian, now a successful director, and the delectable Beatrice Ring and to record a really excellent and fun audio commentary for a rather dire film called Zombie 3 which they had made in 1987 in the Philippines.  Sadly, the DVD, when finally released, was issued in two versions and the one with the audio commentary (in indistinguishable packaging from the one without) is the more difficult one to find.  But it was a wonderful afternoon spent in San Diego, and after that Beatrice and I struck up a friendship which has lasted to this day.  It was also during this time that I spoke to Margaret Lee for the very first time after exchanging email correspondence over a year, however we were not to meet on that occasion.

This wonderful adventure however was a mixed blessing.  When I departed from London, I had less than £5 left on my overdraft as the company I was working for had not paid Mike nor I in a couple of months and so, not unsurprisingly, my resources had run dry.  After a couple of days nagging the morons in New York, they finally transferred the money which we were owed from June and July into our accounts.  It was literally like squeezing blood from a stone at the best of times.  As an afterthought to this, when Mike and I asked for our money for August, once again much humming and ha-ing took place in New York, which was truly ridiculous.  The money from June and July was owed to us (and given that we had been to France in July), it seemed ridiculous that there should be such an issue with the money for August.  But, nonetheless, John was unsure whether we had worked hard enough in August to justify another payment, even though we had interviewed the lead actors for four different films in the space of eight or so days, and had an exclusive interview with Carlo Rambaldi (!!).  John's avaricious nature truly showed itself during that time, concluding with staying in a truly grotty motel "Motel 6" next to LAX airport which had a loo that boomed for twenty minutes every time someone flushed it and a leaking ceiling.

Finally, it was a time that was rather heartfelt and emotional for me.  Three weeks before I went, my father had been complaining of not being able to swallow terribly well.  On one of those mornings in Los Angeles, at 6am (owing to the time difference between California and Europe) I telephoned home for news.  My father had been diagnosed with cancer, and they had found a cancer the size of an orange inside him.  After hearing my news, and although Mike suggested we take the trip easy, I was determined that we should meet lots of people in that time. My way of dealing with this awful news was to tell everyone I/we met this in passing, to which, most everyone was very friendly, supportive, empathetic, sympathetic and understanding. 

In the end, after much treatment, my father underwent the operation the following year and to his credit, he is still alive and with us.  This might seem a somewhat bleak coda to end a reminiscence of my journey to California but it should not be seen as such.  It is to emphasize hope, for my father survived cancer, and cancer of the oesophagus as well, and is still very much with us.

'Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be Blest'
 (Alexander Pope)

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Many Faces of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

Expressive individual, wasn't she ?!?

For those unaware, H.P. Blavatsky, Madame Blavatsky or simply, Blavatsky, was one of the more intriguing figures who surfaced in the nineteenth century.  To many her name remains unknown yet she had an influence on various creative minds and thinkers in the day.  Pious and divine matter was starting to be explained, through scientific means and no longer relegated to being dismissed as heresy.  This age of enlightenment started in the eighteenth century, populated with discoveries and theories by the likes of Newton and Ashmole; the invention of the steam engine and an Industrial revolution had swept across Europe; there was reasoning by the likes of Kant and Rousseau; and by 1850 there were two new planets in our Solar System.  After centuries of veneration of the sacred and the profane, and suppression of scientific reasoning by the Church in the name of faith; scientific reason was starting to take its foothold  once again through logic and discovery.  Religion was still important in people's lives, although to condemn its ideas and doctrines was no longer punishable by death.  For those who 'thought', and extolled unorthodox ideas which contradicted the Bible, excommunication posed no threat nor fear.  the western mind was re-opened;  However, out of this time where the significance and fear inspired through religion and devotion was on the wane; soon thereafter, a new form of superstition would surface in the Victorian mind with the birth of spiritualism, including a belief in ghosts to haunt rather than to forewarn and guide.  This period was to encourage an opening of the mind to Eastern ideas, and inspired the birth of Theosophy.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, her teachings and her ideology ('The Secret Doctrine') which fall under the collective aegis of Theosophy, have long had champions as well as detractors.  Blavatsky herself was born of noble blood in 1831 in southern Russia, the daughter of a Russian colonel and an established novelist.  Her biographies were to claim she was exceptional, but unusual child, possessing psychic powers and an inquisitive nature, the young Helena Petrovna Gan, apparently possessed psychic and spiritual abilities. Following her short-lived marriage at a young age to Nikifor Blavatsky, vice chancellor of Erevan, the young Helena Blavatsky abandoned her husband and left Russia and decided to travel, discovering Turkey, Greece and Egypt.

After encountering a guru figure or 'Teacher' in London, Blavatsky was to travel further afield and into India, Tibet, and later across the ocean to South America.  Following this exposure to different cultures, beliefs and ideas and under the guidance of the Mahatma Morya, she and two others set up the Theosophical Society.  Blavatsky defined Theosophy as being "the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims upon civilization."  She later was to write the findings of her years of research in The Secret Doctrine, as well as other works such as The Key to Theosophy, and Isis Unveiled.  Theosophy itself was to attract various followers (as well as skeptics) over the years.  Among the more celebrated of its believers were "AE" Russell, Leo Tolstoy, and George Mead (both of whom were acquainted and knew Blavatsky), and Rudolf Steiner.

What the Fouquet ?!

Staggered and flabbergasted here.  Just discovered this truly diabolical mini biopic of dire proportions on YouTube whist engaged in a vain attempt to undertake some research on an exhibition I sadly never was able to see, yet have the catalogue for, simply named "Imagining the Past in France".  Another foray and attempted flee into the Mediaeval/Renaissance world for me in a vain attempt to escape from some of the torments of the 21st century.

Back to the clip.  What on God's Earth is this?!  It has the appearance of being a trailer of sorts, featuring some truly dreadful acting and the worst usage of blue screen as yet confined to digital celluloid.  This mess hangs together in a series of disjointed, mini-vignettes with contrived, appalling dialogue and a strange cacophony of accents at play (including one who decides that we should be sounding French here, and decides to emulate Poirot in one particular scene).  And, all the more apparent, NO-ONE HERE CAN ACT !!!  The best part in this whole shoddy exercise is the inclusion of reproductions of the paintings and for which, I suppose one should be grateful that there was no attempt made by an in-house artist to re-create Fouquet's masterful works of beauty.  Watching it, almost makes The Tudors have a historical feel, and at least the latter looks splendidly opulant (despite countless historical inaccuracies and failings), whereas this is simply tawdry and cheap.  Awful, awful, AWFUL !!  If this 'historical rendition' of events was in any way, shape or form nearing a mirror of the Middle Ages, then bring on Baldassare Castiglione and the Renaissance!  Whoever directed this deserves the same fate as Hugh the younger Despenser.
The Fate of Hugh Despenser
Maybe I am being a little harsh in tone, but such punishment would certainly be in keeping and in period, and I am sure that Froissart would most heartily approve of such methods. To digress, on a tangential point, I am seeking inspiration today, so I have chucked a couple of books into the book bag (Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow and the aforementioned catalogue) and heading out. Am recently and freshly washed, scented but unshaved, with my mop of hair tied back, ready to leave, in an endevour to locate a secluded spot, surrounded by greenery if possible, and without the presence of too many people.  To note, I don't feel antisocial, I just seek the right sort of company, or none at all.  After being described yesterday as "a truly benign presence" (Thank you Mark!!); my spirit, if not my inspiration feels elevated...  Out I go, beneath a half clouded over, half cerulean blue sky, so I can read, reflect, and ruminate.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Sixteen Years Later

And definitely worth the wait!  Beautiful, captivating, enchanting...

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Fouquet and Dürer

Although on not quite the same level of admiration I place on Holbein and his works, here are two other artists I appreciate and respect for the beauty of their work.

Jean Fouquet

and Albrecht Durer

Such wonderful escapism on a rather subdued day such as this.


For those who have crossed my path and to whom I have promised things yet not delivered upon those promises, I am truly sorry, you know who you are...

One of my traits I am guilty of, and painfully aware of my own culpability (yet do not know how to undo) is a desire to please people, friends or simply those who cross my path, and make rash, foolish promises that I cannot always live up to.  I keep telling myself to stop making such promises as, ultimately, I fear that I will just let people down and in the ultimately, they will end up abandoning me.  I have no wish for this to happen, as I have been told that I am a good person; that I am likable, personable and that I am enjoyable company.  Yet, despite such favorable attributes, at this point in my life, not many true enriching and loyal friends are to be found in my life for me to share such qualities with.  And I do not know how to change the dynamic of this status quo. Where does one meet such people to enjoy such an existence with?

Amongst the attributes I used to believe I had was and is an ability "to communicate at all levels".  I feel no longer in possession of this quality for the simple reason being that I have lost patience, confidence, and faith in myself, rather than in people. It is too easy to blame others for one's failings, where ultimately the blame rests upon your own shoulders.  This has been down to my missing opportunities, and making rash and foolish errors of judgment.  Such traits would appear to be a permanent stain on my being, my soul.  It feels rather like I am sleepwalking through life, damaged, stained, much like Lady Macbeth "What, will these hands ne'er be clean. . . All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand".  Despite my best efforts to start afresh, again and again - at this point in my life it appears that the sins of the fathers are finally catching up with me.

Does not Dionysius make it sufficiently clear that there can be nothing happy for the person over whom some fear always looms? (Cicero)

If this is true, I'm screwed...

I have made many a faux-pas in trusting and counting on the people whose paths I have crossed, in some instances the friendships I have made, and the paths I chose to follow.  Recent events have included my trusting someone who ultimately stole from me, and this damaged my self worth beyond words.  Other unfortunate mistakes have been my inability to not express feelings, good and bad, when perhaps I should have done and instead played the diplomatic card.   This article you are reading, dear readers, is not written to wallow in self pity but as an apologia to those I have disappointed and let down, whether on a small scale or one of a more grand scale. I never mean to break my word, my promises, but I feel I will invariably disappoint.  This will result in my losing you as a friend for I shall never live up to what I perceive to be your lofty expectations of me.

For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be in careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17: 8-9)

However, I do not want to continue to walk life's path like some sort of Via Dolorosa, feeling a profound sense of regret at every turn.  My wish is to feel strong enough to express my yearnings, my true feelings and my desires.  Yet, owing to this inner turmoil, I feel regret, I feel remorse, I feel lonely.  I find myself meandering along this path with a sense of inner disillusionment with an unkempt mop of hair to hide behind, wandering with worn down shoes, an empty belly, a fractured heart and a soul that yearns to cry out how it feels.  I feel the need to exorcise the demons and purge the disappointment that lingers in my heart.  I am too scared to express my thoughts vocally, in an obvious manner, for fear that there will be no response to my plea.  And if I do express them, that no one will open their eyes to see, their ears to listen; and by extension open their arms to embrace, support and encourage, me.  Those true friends out there will not run from reading these words, my cry in the dark, but listen and understand.  You are needed... so much!

So, despite such inner conflict, from me, there will be no talking of love for fear of rebuttal, no expressing and sharing knowledge for fear of being mocked, despite this intrinsic need to overcome this sense of loneliness and to be loved once again...

To conclude, in the words of Swinburne:-

But half a man's days--and his days were nights,
What hearts were ours who loved him, should we pray
That night would yield him back to darkling day,
Sweet death that soothes, to life that spoils and smites?
For now, perchance, life lovelier than the light's
That shed no comfort on his weary way
Shows him what none may dream to see or say
Ere yet the soul may scale those topless heights
Where death lies dead, and triumph. Haply there
Already may his kindling eyesight find
Faces of friends--no face than his more fair--
And first among them found of all his kind
Milton, with crowns from Eden on his hair,
And eyes that meet a brother's now not blind.

Grey Matter

Why was he gazing upwards from the steps of the porch, hearing their shrill twofold cry, watching their flight? For an augury of good or evil? A phrase of Cornelius Agrippa flew through his mind and then there flew hither and thither shapeless thoughts from Swedenborg on the correspondence of birds to things of the intellect and of how the creatures of the air have their knowledge and know their times and seasons because they, unlike man, are in the order of their life and have not perverted that order by reason.

And for ages men had gazed upward as he was gazing at birds in flight. The colonnade above him made him think vaguely of an ancient temple and the ashplant on which he leaned wearily of the curved stick of an augur. A sense of fear of the unknown moved in the heart of his weariness, a fear of symbols and portents, of the hawklike man whose name he bore soaring out of his captivity on osierwoven wings, of Thoth, the god of writers, writing with a reed upon a tablet and bearing on his narrow ibis head the cusped moon. 

He smiled as he thought of the god's image for it made him think of a bottlenosed judge in a wig, putting commas into a document which he held at arm's length, and he knew that he would not have remembered the god's name but that it was like an Irish oath. It was folly. 

Thus speaks Stephen Dedalus, protagonist of Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.  It reflects and encapsulates my train of thought, my broken stream of consciousness most evenings after a long day.  It's the weekend and although my mind is buzzing and active, it still feels somehow somnambulant after thoughts, events, etc which have filled it over the five days previous.  I feel the same in the evenings, after a seven to eight hours (excluding travel time) stint in the office.  I confess to feeling terribly frustrated at myself, for I am able to research and write whilst stuck behind my government regulation type desk and uncomfortable chair, and I feel more alive as I am interacting with people once again (a welcome release from my habitual hermit like existence), yet I am unable to put electronic pen to paper and write for my other blog on a historical, artistic or otherwise subject on something factual that inspires and fascinates me.

Equally so, over the last few months, my focus has taken me to reading (mostly) fiction during my early morning and mid afternoon journeys to and from work, over and above reading fact/history and expanding my knowledge.  Instead I have been reading light-hearted fare in the shape of works such as Paul Torday’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and worse still, smut for middle aged housewives in the shape of Fifty Shades of Grey.   

I am an avid book reader.  Once in my modest (viz. small) home, there is no escaping from the rampant bibliomania that is at play.  For those who are bibliophobes or environmentalists who prefer to see books recycled or to be read off screens, be they the glorious iPad, the fiddly Kindle, or otherwise be warned.  For inscribed above my door should be the words "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" for those of you of that ilk.  Yes, books are omnipresent and prevalent, here and there, everywhere.  The one time considerable library of DVDs I possess has been packed away as I simply was not watching them and, for the most part, have not retained my interest.  The same is true for the (dwindling and diminishing) collection of movie posters (not the books on the subject however).  This chapter of my life seems to be closed but certainly not locked, as I am still willingly verbose and happy to discuss the subject, if indeed I know or can remember.  However, it is the passion for books that has remained since my youth, and long may it last! 

Generally, wherever possible, my books find themselves arranged into some sort of order (a work in progress).  That's not to say that they are arranged in some sort of improv Dewey system, nor in alphabetical order by author (admittedly one part of the fiction is), or by publisher or dimensions of the books, there is a structure to how I arrange my books, which admittedly causes considerable consternation (admittedly mingled with pleasure) whenever there is or are new additions to be made to it.  The subject matter of the non fiction books tends to follow a number of fairly consistent themes and reflect my differing interests over the course of my life thus far, and although my enthusiasms may have changed over time, I still find myself dipping back into those interests of yesterday no matter how long ago and remote they might seem.  In brief, the factual books tend to be centered around art (mostly Renaissance, both Northern and Italian); architecture (From Romanesque to Art Deco and Modern); archaeology (predominantly Ancient Egypt); history (mostly mediaeval European); psychology (Jung, Freud, et alia); religion (mostly Gnosticism, Buddhism, heresy and Early Christianity); esoterica and magic. 

The English language fiction tends to be arranged alphabetically by author and the French language by author and, to an extent, by theme.  The French language fiction used to be more prolific than the English, partly owing to a desire on my part to improve my French, partly due to finances (French paperbacks were infinitely cheaper than their English language counterparts) and partly due to various writers I sort to read generally being unavailable in English at the time.  Although I find myself reading more factually centric books, I do read fiction.  Despite my interests and passions being somewhat outré by some people's standards, I do enjoy reading popular fiction as well to keep abreast of modern 'cultcher' has to offer and not to entirely dwell in my own existence.  The same is true of my music, I do not solely immerse myself in choral music and chant, contrary to popular belief; I will equally be found listening to contemporary popular music as much as to throwbacks from the 50's, 60's, onwards - from Ella Fitzgerald to Adele, from Tori Amos to Annie Lennox, etc, etc.  Another wonderful medium which my world could not do without - music! 

This passion for reading has clearly been inherited from my parents.  Both of whom are avid readers.  However, we differ in how we treat our books and, albeit jokingly, come to frequent loggerheads as to how a book should be treated.  Yes, carrying a book will invariably incur some knocks and bumps, and the spine will incur some slight damage from the handling.  However my father seems to put the spines of the books he reads under such duress you can almost hear their cry for help.  To their credit, my parents have books like they are well read and some might say, well loved.  For me, I love my books, but that love is manifested in my looking after them to the best of my ability.  So most of my books look mostly unread, whereas they have been.  I just have looked after them. 

It seems that I have inherited certain aspects of my appreciation of my book reading from my mother.  Although she will deny it, and she has accused me of such (again, in a jokey way), we both have slight Asbergers when it comes to books.  Doubtless this will be denied, but I recall upon her discovery of Philippa Gregory a number of years back, she ordered about five copies of her books in one fell swoop.  Also, in further testimony, there are numerous copies of various books by the likes of Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, and Jo Nesbo on my parent's shelves.  Attempts have been made to indoctrinate me in the joys of these modern crime thrillers readily devoured by both my parents, but after having read a couple of Dennis Lehane novels and a few by Michael Connolly, and although well written, I find that I couldn't read these authors to the same propensity in which they do. 

In a recent conversation on the 'phone, my mother and I had one of our random conversations about all sorts of everything and not very much.  Family news, the countless number of bumble bees in the swimming pool, whether I was watching a cricket/rugby/football match (despite her awareness of my rampant sfairesphobia), and general tittle tattle.  Also, every now and then we get to talking about books and what we have been reading.  (As a quick side note, much though I am set in my ways, I do enjoy reading books and authors that people I love, respect, value suggest to me).  My mother asked if I had heard about the Fifty Shades series of books.  Other than seeing them in branches of Waterstone's, and their distinctive covers, I had no knowledge of them. Also all three of them were and are (at time of writing) at the top of the bestseller list in the UK.  My mother hasn't actually read any of these books, despite their having been recently dubbed "Mummy porn" by the press, yet she seems to know all about them.  It seems odd that these books are all best sellers, yet you never see comparatively few people reading them. However, they seem as prolific in terms of sales as the dire Harry Potter and Twilight series of books.  Anyway, with my curiosity piqued, my mother suggested I should read one of them, if not all, and to advise forthwith whether or not they were any good.

When starting Fifty Shades of Grey, I approached it with an open mind.  Much though I still find it rather unusual to say the least to see grown adults reading books clearly aimed at children, such as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (I read the first and was unimpressed) and the Twilight novels by Stephenie Meyer (no desire to read these), I express no aversion to reading books for which it might seem that the intended audience is meant to be women.  I have read some of what has been dubbed "chick lit", mainly a handful of the historical novels by the aforementioned Philippa Gregory.  I read and thoroughly enjoyed Caitlin Moran's entertaining How to be a Woman which one often finds in the "Gender Studies" or LGBT areas of bookstores.  Admittedly the latter I tend to avoid as it tends to be teaming with older gentleman giving a furtive glance in the direction of anyone under the age of forty who enters that domain, whilst thumbing through the display copies of the various Bel Ami albums on the shelves. 

I know I am not the only man to have read How to Be a Woman; if memory serves, I espied another man reading it under the rain in a bus shelter.  The shelter amusingly was juxtaposition-ed next to a stall set up by the local mosque handing out copies of The Qur'an for those seeking to be converted.  Furthermore, I have read the various books and compilations of articles by "feminist anti-feminist" Camille Paglia (another author who is of the "love her or loath her" ilk), so I like to think that I am sufficiently open minded in my reading.  Reading Fifty Shades of Grey is not going to be on the same par as reading Margery Kempe after all, is it?  In short, no.  The work reads like a slightly kinky Mills and Boon novel at best, and we aren't talking the fevered abstract eroticism of Pauline Réage's seminal yet disturbing masterpiece of SM pornography Histoire d'O.  Réage's anonymous heroine was strong despite her submission, and the reader was invited to use their imagination when conjuring up the epnoymous heroine.  Imagination is not required nor engaged when reading Fifty Shades of Grey.  The writing ability mirrors that of another best selling author, Dan Brown, in that it is simplistic, appealing to a mass audience and well, simply, not very good.

Enough of shlocky women's writing!

So, despite feeling rather weary and brow beaten in the evenings of late, I have been delving into (as opposed to reading) my books on Hermetic thought, various works by Jung and some Freud.  This might not seem out of the usual for me, but I am doing it to escape from the Olympic Games and the ensuing pandemonium that has descended upon the metropolis.  However, despite the predicted adversity and being situated in Whitehall for most of my working week, it has actually been none too bad. The threat of the crowds descending upon the beach volley ball games being played a mere stone’s throw away in Horseguard’s Parade has in fact been rather anti-climactic in nature.  The nightmare has mostly been the seemingly Herculean task of getting down Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square and getting into either the National Gallery (a favourite haunt to escape, especially the mediaeval and Renaissance galleries) or to venture into the nearby Waterstone's, after having picked up some sandwiches and fruit juice/salad in the adjacent Prêt à Manger during my lunch break.

On a quotidian basis the pavements mirror, allegorically speaking, the Augean stables.  I feel cast in the role of the Alpheus or the Peneus, determined, sloshing (yet frequently hindered along the way) through the crowd in vain, fraught attempt to get through and reach my eventual destination.  More often than not, push does truly come to shove, and a journey that would normally take five minutes ends up taking fifteen, and that is with my somewhat abrupt, somewhat uncouth attempts at times, to wade back through a crowd that always seems to be determined to be against me. Perhaps an apt metaphor on life at present!