I returned after a set of late evening meetings to find Sibelius staring raptly at his laptop screen. There was a woman in the video, decked in pastels and flowers, and possessed of much cleavage, sashaying and swaggering aided by wide, innocent eyes and pouty, red lips.
She was wearing too many layers for it to be porn, but what do I know? It could be some preppy Ivy-league erotica. So I asked. He was quite sheepish and then turned the volume on.
“Dear future husband!” she breathily addressed us, continuing to tell us a laundry-list of what she was looking for.
“Hang on,” Sibelius told me, warming to the subject. “There is another one.”
Apparently, the new codeword for arse is bass. I don’t understand why there is a need for weird slang when there are perfectly usable words in the lingua franca. A dashing Puss in Boots had once been the star of my favourite nursery rhyme before popular parlance ruined all of that.
“‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places”
It was only Monday evening and I could not justify the Glenmorangie for this, though part of me dimly noted that she looked cute in a vapid sort of way. Of course, she could be the canniest market strategist and this might be her exploitation of a huge market of women made conscious due to various reasons about their bodies.
“You like it?”
“Her bass, of course!”
I like them with character, unfortunately, and no amount of bountiful, dimpled bass can compensate the deficit of that.
“It is a social anthem of sorts, to kids who worry about their body image,” Sibelius explains, turning the volume off again. “Bringing the booty back. No to body-shaming. Etcetera.”
“Don’t like the music?”
He shudders delicately, all offended, and says that even Verdi was better. Of course, he likes his musicians six feet deep in the ground.
Thanks to the wonders of my credit card company, who have the nicest exclusive offers (their machine learning works), I ended up with prize tickets to see a musician live in LA. The only issue was that I was finding it difficult to procure a concert partner. My usual partners in crime are classical music lovers and they draw the line at Andrea Bocelli. I had to promise Sibelius multiple favours to drag him to the concert. Somehow, it turned into a remarkable journey : we lost our GPS as we went down the 101 near Gilroy and missed the exit that was to take us to I5. Then we decided to let the road take us where it would (hello, Bilbo Baggins!). We went down SR 46, on a whim. It took us deep into California, that vast vista of land between San Francisco and Los Angeles which is of little concern to most everyone. Yet, it was concerning all the same – dryness, parched and cracked earth, hills blistered yellow, dust rising to greet us on the road as we drove by, stillness and deserted farms. “Dustbowl 2016, thank you, Congress”, “No water, no jobs”, “Is growing food wasting water?” and numerous other slogans greeted us all the way until we reached Santa Clarita. The drive down SR 46 was the most harrowing one I have been on. The drought has been a lingering presence in the back of our minds, of course, but this drive made it painfully real and immediate.
“Time to go back to the East Coast,” Sibelius murmured, eyes wide as he took photographs.
When I spotted the exit to I5, I was relieved to be leaving. The place was called Lost Hills, and the entire landscape looked lost. Yet, the I5 was no better. Instead of hills barren, there were plains yellow and baked.
I was brought up in Kerala, amid lands lush and always green, under canopies of trees older than me, where rain was a constant companion and where there were rivers forty-four. Each time I crossed the borders of the state, I died a little, seeing barren lands and vegetation sparse.
“Oh, look!” Sibelius murmured, pointing something out with a sad face.
There was a sign proclaiming that we could get fresh almonds, and there was a plot of land still green, and there were tractors bringing huge vats of water into that driveway.
Los Angeles continues to make my skin prickle – it is too hot, the people are fake and nothing about the place reminds me of the angels it was named after.
Marilyn Manson was in high spirits, and the concert was a delight. He danced and moved his way throughout the songs, singing as if it were his last day on earth, and there was pleasure in watching him give himself so completely to his music and his work. It is always a treat to see someone loving what they do. I have seen him in concert once before, in 2012, with Rob Zombie, and I have to say that this blows that experience out of water. It is likely that he does better when it is a solo concert without having to synchronise with other bands. I don’t know. In any case, he transported us all into his world, where everything was a bit broken and burnt, but still so brilliant, passionate and vivid.
On the theatrics side, he had foregone his Pope outfit and the stilts. I admit I missed both. He still cuts on the concert stage. I think it made a lot of the watchers uncomfortable. To each his own.
He has also reduced the hump-count (humping the stage, humping the pulpit etc) and instead favored caressing his bass-player. It was cute (seems to be something the bass-player has a lot of experience with, because he didn’t seem startled).
All in all, there is a strange sense of joy in having seen someone come to terms with their chosen life-purpose, on their own terms, because it seems as if he has. This isn’t the mess of 2012 where he went through the motions because people had expected to see him doing so. This seems more about his craft than about paying his bills…though I am sure that he could have paid a lot of bills by reselling the bras that ended up on his stage that night. I wish I was in a job where girls threw their bras at me.
I can drive twelve hours near-continuously on little sleep, because I work for a car-company and I learned to drive efficiently and fast from the best tutors (Japanese, German, Italian – trained on the Suzuka circuit, on the Autobahn, on the Autodromo near Maranello). I drive fast cars, slow cars, manual and automatic, concept cars and prototypes – this has become the second best part of my job. The best part, of course, is making them all autonomous.
I believe in giving references. May these make your weekend as bountiful as they have made mine: