Granular trails, a psychogeographic review of Don Cherry "Brown rice"
Saint-Etienne, France, is a city that remains unknown to me, although I have been there several times. I have walked its dirty streets, inhaled its rank air, sampled its top crust of charcoal-fed denizens, but cannot conjure up one single coherent image of its geography.
Strange then, that I should think of Saint Etienne as I exit the morning coffee-breath tube station, walk towards hazy Sloane square, holding the greasiest lamb samosa known to man, breakfast of champions, warming myself with Don Cherry's "Brown rice" in both ears. Seven is too early for work or a pint, I opt instead for an extra fourty minutes of charred tongue in the Kensington dusk, eyeing the impeccably-molded crumpets as they stride towards slow office death, wrapped around sippy-cups of international espresso-based laxative sludge which will soon coat the pavement. I take a hit from my coffee thermos, further punishing my mouth, minutes pass, ambling along stuccoed structures, Saint Etienne loitering on my mind.
I make the connection again later, passing the Osaka Police hospital, as "Malkauns" drones on, stoned, it is a mild April afternoon buzz, perfect for record-shopping and cherry blossoms. An ancient couple extract themselves from a gigantic taxi, the driver almost as old, his skinny legs float inside his pressed midnight blue trousers as he stands nervously by the ageless vehicle, humbly awaiting his fee as I walk towards spending mine.
Saint-Etienne is a word on the tip of my tongue, frustratingly unfancy, two, three syllables at most, no consonant blends, I am almost sure I have used it before, heard it too, Saint Don Cherry sounds like it's always been there too, in some apparent nook of the brain, the pencil on your ear, the glasses on your nose, the familiar face revealing mysterious wrinkles upon inspection.
"Malkauns" effervesces into a snare, ride bell and trumpet shower, drowning the familiar avenue, steering off into windy side streets, it is a nimble classic car chase scene in a parallel world where movies never rest. I drift past a decrepit Buddhist temple, where an abrupt depression in the Osaka topography reveals the vast Minami area ahead, shrouded in vapours, hazes, dusts, as if the city existed only as a mirage garden appended to the temple for contemplative purposes.
There must have been a cathedral in Saint Etienne, I can't recall a single specific detail of it, probably couldn't beat the cheese shop, which I remember better, for deliciousness, possibly the problem with cathedrals in general, temples too don't offer much in that regard, although I recommend them for the hungry traveler, plenty of space in the dusty courtyard to sit for a rice-ball and a beer.
The King's road is coming back to life, albeit a duplicated kind of half-life, as in half of London these days, an endless blank facade that no one ever remembers fondly. I almost wish for a mild Blitz in these parts, to get back to the bricks and cobbles underneath, I still believe in cities of stones, the bigger the better, at present it's a sand castle, quartz oscillations held together with toxic glue and wads of cash.
"Degi-degi" however, soundtracks a future stage in city life, one closer to either an end or a beginning, a consensual friction between all its parts, an abrasive symbiosis of benevolent players and insoluble phenomena, an unscripted freedom to savour magical chance encounters.
It is coming back to me now, how Saint-Etienne gave me "brown rice" one evening, its mystical preambular plink first resonating under the high ceiling of a good friend's lofty digs, as he fried pig's trotters in butter. There is much spirit in the grit of unfamiliar cities, a treasure in the good friend's hands.