“All things are an interchange for fire, and fire for all things, just like goods for gold and gold for goods” — Herakleitos
One Sunday evening, I was perched on the top deck, next to the stairs, with my legs hanging down through the bars of the railing, when Anna arrived, the girl who had lit up torches and danced with fire around the deck at some of our jam sessions. Seeing me up there she came to join me.
‘You found a good spot,’ she said, squeezing in next to me, between me and the corner.
We talked about what she was doing — the decision awaiting her as to whether to pursue her career course in psychology or not. She had finished her degree, but found herself a little disillusioned with the discipline. She was deferring further steps until she knew what she wanted. I encouraged her. Whatever it is you want to do, do it now, is my advice.
She asked me what I’d been up to, and I told her that I was writing. That’s what I say, these days, when I’m asked what I do. Because that it’s all I’m doing, especially now that Atchara has moved to Phuket and I’m no longer taking care of her kids, though I’m still very involved with that whole story, of course. I’m writing full-time, catching up on so much time lost to career, family and sheer moral dissolution. People often ask me what I’m writing about, and the answer changes all the time, though on some other level it’s always the same. Nung gestures towards my laptop and asks me — What are you reading? (He means writing.) I’m writing about terrorism, I say. Or, genocide. Or Satanism. He never commented on my answers. I’m not sure his English vocabulary extends to such words.
All I’m doing is writing about the world I find myself in, that’s all, and about the true forces shaping my times, and shaping me too. Some people don’t like that. But as a Rastafarian I’m sure Nung understands what I’m writing about, and I realise, belatedly, that the Rastafarian term would cover it. Babylon system is the vampire, as Bob Marley sang, and that’s my answer. I’m writing about the Babylon system. I’m writing about the vampire.
At that time I was just getting into the Baudrillard stuff. Jean Baudrillard was a French sociologist/philosopher, fashionable in the eighties and nineties, whose theme was representation, replication and simulation. Anna had read Baudrillard too, and we talked about his theory of the precession of simulacra, the notion that replication and simulation have now overwhelmed our perception of reality, and our ability to have direct experience of that reality. Reality is dead, argues Baudrillard; the territory no longer precedes the map, and our civilisation and the consciousness it fosters is wandering, disconnected and lost, in what he calls the ‘desert of the real’.
And sitting there atop the jungle, listening to a young Thai singing in a language he doesn’t speak, trying to reproduce, in the throat voice of Springsteen or Bryan Adams, a song by an Irishman trying to write Jamaican calypso — the precession of simulacra, ringing out across the hillside.
It was an interesting conversation, but what was even more interesting was that every time the way we were sitting resulted in an accidental touch, at the shoulder, elbow, hand, or knee — every time our skins touched, a little spark snapped between us. I mean, literally, a little electric charge, no mistaking it.
Neither of us commented on it, but we both noticed. She was leaving the next day, but she said she would be back. Later, downstairs, when she had to go to meet her friends, and I was ready to head in to town, she offered her right hand and rather than shake it I squeezed it with my left and we both held on for a moment.
I should have gone with her to meet her friends, as she suggested, but I was a little disoriented by what had happened, and didn’t want to be hanging around her in some needy-seeming fashion, so I declined.
Maybe the right thing to do, maybe not. I have certainly thought about those little static shocks and wondered if she’ll return when the season comes round again.
The season ended, and everybody left. Maria was gone, Rico was gone, Daeng was in Bangkok. Samart had gone to join a band in Pataloon. Johnnie had gone North to Chiang Mai. Hodgy was in Australia, Nung told me.
As for me, I felt no desire to go anywhere than this little corner of Phuket, these few kilometres of coastline, so I stayed exactly where I was.
Atchara made the move down from Bangkok, and I moved out of the house to a decent little apartment in Rawai, rented to me by Peter the sax player. There I got deeper into the writing, using Baudrillard, McLuhan and Philip Dick to try to burrow under the skin of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times I had lived through.
What I was finding was very dark, and the research and writing was taking it out of me. I was too much at my screen, too much on the internet, not enough in the sun, not enough barefoot on rocks. My migraines were back, my political paranoia reaching new heights. The lethal text was proving lethal to no one but its author,
I continued to hit Jamrock several times a week, to chill or write on the top deck or to join in the Sunday night jams, though these had gone downhill rather since Denny and the boys’ residency. They’re great boys, but as a loud pop-rock band they dominated and limited proceedings somewhat — and sometimes their song selections left something to be desired. I bitched about them a bit, more than I should, probably. But ‘Diamond Band’ is a pub band — not a band for the jungle, in my humble opinion. I don’t want to hear an excruciating cover of ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’, or any kind of cover of ‘Wonderful Tonight’ or ‘You’re Beautiful.’ I really don’t, not in any setting. Here, with this panoramic, oceanic view, this moon rising over the hill, these crickets and frogs creating their own, much more interesting rhythms, we need music with deeper roots. It’s not that it’s bad music, it’s just kind of unreal. There’s an overlay of absurdity. I just would prefer not to hear massively amplified, mangled Western pop cliches, too far from home, screeched across the treetops in a perfect illustration of the Baudrillardian precession of simulacra. I know, sometimes I need to lighten up and let go and just enjoy. But musically I can’t help pining for something real, something with roots that taps into the spirit of place.
I was slipping back into the dark aura I’d worn, with the collar turned up, for so long. All my work was about deception, about reality-creation, about the perceptual and ontological prisons within prisons which are been built around us while we sleep.
It was something slight which finally started to change my direction. A friend wanted me to listen to a lecture by an electrical engineer, Eric Dollard, on the theory and history of electricity.
Dollard is touted by some as a second Tesla, and his career shows the same broken-backed shape: Dollard was a child-prodigy who was taken up by Bell Telephone and Pacific Gas and Electric and then by the Navy and RCA, ending up being given free reign to pursue electrical research at the RCA-Marconi station at Bolinas, California.
Taking an interest in electrical engineering was a new direction for me, but I gave it a go and hit play on Youtube. A bald white bearded old man in outdoor clothes, clearly unused to lecturing, scrawling equations and diagrams on a whiteboard in front of an audience of relative cognoscenti… it couldn’t really follow, but I persisted with it. After an hour, when Dollard seemed to abandon his script, such as it was, and started to answer questions and talk off the cuff, it started to get interesting. Some of the things he said made me hit rewind and play again, to make sure I understood what I’d just heard. I began to see why Jim had wanted me to watch the lecture. Dollard is a scientist and mathematician, but also, and more accessibly to me, a historian of science, who has done the digging and the hard reading: including every word written by Tesla, all of Steinmetz, thirty years worth of minutes of the proceedings of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers; and what he had to say about discoveries of the scientists known since the Einstein inception as ‘premodern’ — men like Nikola Tesla, C P Steinmetz and Ernst Alexanderson — was mind-blowing.
The lecture — entitled The History and Theory of Electricity, or The Theory of Anti-Relativity, led me to Dollard’s scientific papers, written in an eccentric style inspired by the great mathematician Oliver Heaviside, who interpreted James Clerk Maxwell and condensed his work into the equations which are used in all electromagnetic science and technology today. Dollard led me to Tesla, and Tesla led me to Kristian Birkeland, Halton Arp and Hannes Alfven, Thomas Townsend Brown, Royal Rife and Guido Ebner — a roster of great scientists excluded from mainstream, institutionalised science. Tesla is quoted as saying that if science embraced the study of invisible forces, we would make more progress in ten years than have been made in ten thousand. These men were just some of those who pursued that study, in the face of obstruction, marginalisation and ridicule, and whose work contributes to a radically re-interpretation of the nature of reality, of matter, mass, energy and consciousness, and of the age, extent, structure and nature of the cosmos itself.
All this might seem to have little to do with my presence here at Jamrock, but they are the facts that brought me here. I’m hiding away from the world to find the universe. I’ve turned my focus away from the sorcery of the simulacra to look for a more fundamental reality, put it like that; away from the map-makers to the territory, with its dendritic scarring and subterranean rivers of energy, its lightning storms and electric skies, and the sparks that ripple through our nerves and sometimes leap between us as we talk.