Little Boots in Tortilla Flat / Tortilla Flat in Little Boots

Little Boots

In my recent post about running the bulls, I introduced you to my friend Danny. Now, the sharp-eyed of you will have also recognised the mention to “Tortilla Flat”. Bear with me, o reader, as I expound upon this subject.

 

“Tortilla Flat” is by far the most readable of John Steinbeck’s novels. Yes, of course “The Grapes of Wrath” is a magnificent classic, and far be it from me to disparage “The Pearl”, but Steinbeck often grates on me, as though his pathos weren’t exactly sincere. His characters suffer in a maudlin way not unlike the anguished heroines of Lars Von Trier’s films. However, in “Tortilla Flat”, he throws off his weepy tragic blanket and lies there under a sheet of bawdy humour and nonsensical adventures, encouraging the reader to leap into bed with him and share the fun.

 

Danny is the quintessential red-blooded, work-shy bum that so many novels and movies have had as their hero since time immemorial. Imagine “Tom Sawyer” being re-written by Irvine Welsh, then edited by Julian Barnes and Miguel de Cervantes. “Tortilla Flat” is sparkling and erudite, earthy and touchingly sad and Danny is a heavy-drinking, heavy-whoring, fight-loving racist with a heart of gold, so I was delighted when I got a call from him a few weeks ago, telling me he was in Zaragoza.

 

He’d changed quite a bit since Steinbeck’s time. He was more reflexive and peace loving, but still in touch with his inner paisano. His wit was as sharp as ever, and he kept Sheen and I up till all hours with his amusing anecdotes. The most bewildering change in him was his obsessive taste in music. He was now a rampant fan of Lady Gaga and Little Boots. This wasn’t in keeping with the Danny I’d learned to love, I told him.

 

“It’s not as much evolution as ex-vulotion as a neoplasmic extension of the outsides of volition,” he explained. “Seeking out the fringes of one’s will, exploring one’s interethical taboos in a, dare I say, Marcusical sense, dabbling with the hideous unknown, atavistically feared through the anti-aesthetics of the subconscious, and, basically, just going for it.”

 

“Example?” I said, echoing Jules in “Pulp Fiction”.

 

“OK. Right. Imagine you are inordinately adverse to the idea, I mean, the very concept of, say, octopus-flavoured whisky…”

 

“But you don’t drink any more,” interrupted Sheen, sagely.

 

“Exactly!” said Danny. “And why don’t I drink? Is it the whisky or the octopus? Is it the chicken or the egg? Is it the sunrise or the sunset? Is it the Holy Quran or the New Testament? Is it Real Madrid or Barcelona? Is it the you-that-is-me or the me-that-is-you ? I mean, is it?” 

I was lost for words. This was the man who had agreed to race through the streets of Pamplona with me, inches way from the ferocious horns of rabid bulls..? I began to question everything I held sacred.

 

“Pop music is the vanguard of the sacrosanct,” Danny went on. He was unstoppable. “This electro-substitute for everything we have understood as music in a, dare I say, Mahleresque sense, is the sword that thrashes open the jugular of our mundanity. We should pounce upon it, loving our hate, hating our love, being one with the multiplicity of our objections.”

 

He told us that he recently acquired a “tenori-on”. For those of you unacquainted with this monstrosity, I submit you to this link:  http://www.global.yamaha.com/tenori-on/index.html For everybody else, I beg you to get down on your knees and pray.

 

“The tenori-on is to music what LSD was to transcendental meditation”, said Danny, his eyes infused with …er… infusiasm. “You want results without the hard work. You get to the other side without having to pay the ferryman. Imagine a synthesiser with the interface of a Gameboy. It’s the new seedless watermelon. It’s instant karma. It’s Everest without the dizziness. We are here. This is now. This is us.”

 

I got up and prepared another Cola Cao for my friend. When I returned to the living room, he and Sheen were watching a YouTube video of his new idol, Little Boots.

 

“She can’t sing! Her voice is appalling! The music is artificial, tasteless, completely without imagination! And yet… and yet… She’s amazing! What a star!” he thrilled.

 

We ploughed through “Hands”, Little Boots’ supposedly amazing debut album. My cluster headache kicked in half way through “New In Town”, just as Danny was explaining how this Little Boots played the tenori-on with her left hand while caressing the microphone in a, dare I say, Freddy Mercurial way with her right.

 

I was sure I’d heard the song “Perfect Symmetry” before and Danny agreed it sounded an awful lot like Duran Duran or ABC or one of those exceptionally badly-dressed New Romantic groups. “Ah yes, but listen to those keyboards,” he added. “I would like to vomit all over them,” I added.

 

“It seems to me ..,” said Sheen suddenly, arising from her futon with almost parsimonious grace, “… that you have been taken for a ride, Danny.”

 

“You have no taste, Sheen. You are blinded by what you would like to see as artistic superiority, but it’s no more than snobbery,” countered our tortillero.

 

“Cut the crap, Daniel. What is this:

 

so don’t go messing with the heart,
or messing with the mind,
or messing with the things that are inside.
don’t know what you’ll find.
don’t know what she hides.
she still remembers like its yesterday.
she still remembers you so well.
she still remembers all the things you swore.
forever more.
she still remembers but won’t tell.
cuz she’s a mixed up girl,
in a mixed up world.
and you know she don’t mean any harm.
so please understand,
if you take her hand
you’ll get much more than you bargained for.

 

 

 

“Ah yes, that’s Meddle, truly sublime. Critics and the general public for once concur,” said Danny.

 

There was an awkward pause.

 

“OK, so it’s not exactly Shakespeare,” he gave in.

 

“It’s not even Steinbeck,” I muttered.

 

“Danny, old pal…,” said Sheen. “… I’d like to do you a favour. Here, let me give you this memory stick. Plug it into your laptop and listen to these songs by Brian Eno, Elvis Costello and Robert Wyatt. Come back in a few days and we’ll have a nice quiet chat.”

 

“But I…”

 

“And chuck out your tenori-on.”

 

“No, wait, you don’t seem to…”

 

“Danny. Do it for old times’ sake. Think of Pilon, Sweets Ramirez, Enrique, Pajarito, Rudolph, Fluff and Señor Alec Thompson.”

 

I thought I had lost Danny for good. He looked mystified and defeated as he wandered in the direction of the bathroom.

 

“You’ve disappointed me, Danny,” I said.

 

I saw him acquiesce through his drooping shoulders. Would he recover in time for the sanfermines? Would he see the error of his ways? Would Little Boots win the Mercury Prize? Would Barcelona sign David Villa? Would a tree falling in a forest make no noise if there was nobody around to Tweet?

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

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