Wednesday, 19 April 2000.
On Never Leaving The House
After I got my hair cut at the Vidal Sassoon School, I was very depressed. It wasn't like the exciting depression my friend Lady Lucy had. She started drawing non-stop on napkins and cigarette packets and anything to hand, using felt-tip pens she had blagged off Crayola. Then she had a panic attack outside her horrible office job and had to quit and move to the country. Now she does performance art at disused cinemas and just got awarded lots of money to make prints. But me, my depression consisted of sitting in front of the telly, under the duvet, not wanting to go out.
That's as depressed as I get. I am a not-very-depressed person. Jake, the boyfriend, he gets depressed loads. So does Frances. And Andrea's depressed nearly all the time. Everyone gets it. Some people even get a bit mad, and have to take Lithium and stuff. But me, I had a dodgy haircut and felt a bit sorry for myself and wanted to stay home. Whoo.
But, what it is, I had to go out. Even though I felt depressed, I just don't have any excuses not to go out any more. Before I had loads: I lived in crappy south London and there was nowhere to go. Plus, I was an unemployed writer so I was horribly in debt and poor. But, for the moment anyway, I've actually got some work. Also, last month me and Jake ran away from South London, for ever, I hope.
So, the situation here is, you've got The Lux Cinema if you want to see a film. You've got 2 cafes within a few hundred yards if you want coffee. You've got umpteen curry houses if you want a hot mouth and a full belly. You've got the Beigel Bake whenever you want it. And you've got lots of clubs that you can WALK BACK FROM. What you don't have, not any more, is an excuse not to go out. Not even if your hair is horrible and you are intimidated by all the pretty skinny hipster girls and all the trendy blokes with 'ironic' beards. Life's tough, eh?
So, eventually, I did go out. I didn't take my coat off all night, mind, because that was a bit like being under the duvet. I went to the cafe down the road where they were having this thing called Talkeoke, and it was ace. It was almost as good as staying in, but with the added bonus of being Out. And what's Talkeoke? Well, there's a round table with a hole in the middle. In the hole, there's a spinny chair. The host sits on that, while the guests sit round the table. The host has a mike and he keeps the conversation going. He spins round to different guests and fields interesting debates on various topics. The whole thing is filmed and projected onto a giant screen. And, (of course, this being Multimedia Ditch) it's broadcast on the web. The host wore glasses and a chinese print shirt. He had short dark hair and a smily face.
Anyway Jake knew this guy Paul who was there, and Paul told Jake that the host was going out with the girl Sarah who was a guest at the table. And it was true, whenever the host looked at Sarah, his face sort of glowed, and he'd look at her for slightly too long, and smile even more than he already was. We vaguely used to know Sarah, via Paul, but she didn't recognise us. Jake whispered to me that Sarah used to go out with a mad crazy Estonian called Sergei, who ran an art gallery in a breifcase. The Attache Gallery had 'shows' in the Tate, the Royal Festival Hall, the Whitechapel and the Lux, but then Sergei started playing all mind games with Sarah so they cancelled their visa-facilitating marriage, and now she's going out with the Talkeoke guy. All this gossip was fascinating to me. It's quite hard for me to figure out how to interact these days, so gossip is like a mini-tutorial in human relations.
The conversation, nimbly fielded by the host, swung from art to relationships to blokes having orgasms without coming, and back again. I stood by the counter the whole night, drinking chocolate and watching the screen. I didn't feel my usual social confusion - didn't have to worry about whether or not I was being included in the conversation or whether I was absent-mindedly sucking my thumb (a habit I've never been able to shake) because no one was paying attention to anyone except the people round the round table. It was like being invisible. It was like watching telly, or being on the internet. Under a duvet (well, my coat), too! But I started to worry. What if that was the only way I could enjoy things these days? As an observer?
You see, everything people say about the internet (that it stops real-life interaction) is true. In the mornings I clean up some, and run to the shop that used to sell hats but now sells milk and washing powder as well, and then I watch Richard and Judy, then do bits for my website, or for other people's websites. Sometimes I'll go into town and work in the big internet cafe instead. And while I'm doing all this internet work I write emails to people who started writing to me because of my zine. They're all really interesting and we write fun long emails. I guess it's the equivalent of gossiping with your workmates because they seem to check their mail every 5 minutes and be online all the time like I am. It's all fine but.... I've never met them and they've never met me and what this really means is that I'm alone all day, with my cat Katrina, or the other people in the internet cafe.
So now other people's lives have taken on the quality of a series of short films. Even my friends' lives seem like mini- docusoaps about confused young people in the big city. Will Frances move to Berlin? Will her band make it? Will Lady Lucy move back to London? Will Andrea quit her job and become a gardener? Will Dee get funding for his film? Will Lisa ever get out of debt? And I feel like I'm just sitting there under a duvet watching them the whole time. There's something wrong. Is it me? Or is it New Meedja cultcha?
PS. As if to prove my point, Jake just came in and told me all the streets are blocked because it's Charlie Kray's funeral. Apparently there are big burly security people in dark glasses, and loads of policemen, and hearses and Rolls Royces and floral tributes saying 'Charlie' in one hearse and 'Gentleman' in the other, and loads of East End people saying 'Ahh, the Krays, they were alright really', all getting off on the glamour and history of it all. You see what happens when you go out, instead of staying in bed all morning with your laptop and your chapstick and your diary and the cat? You get to go to famous gangsters' brother's funerals. Right, that's it. I'm getting a life. Really. I've just got to update my website first....