‘Where’s my arc?’ laments Christopher Moltisanti during a moment of self-pitying introspection in The Sopranos. Though he’s eventually fobbed off by fellow gangster, ‘Big Pussy’ Bompensiero’s wisecrack, ‘You know who had an arc? Noah,’ the seed has already been sown. And if you don’t know how it ends, well, really, you should. Or perhaps you would with a little distance from the herd like hipsterati charging full tilt towards the edge of any cliff remastered by the imagination of David Simon. ‘Jump! Jump!’ the benign ringmaster’s face seems to urge. ‘How high, Daddy?’ is the only question on the lips of his devotees, rarely more than one Freudian slip away from the cliff edge.
‘Fuck ‘em all,’ adds another voice, not part of this dawn chorus. Before the Dawn if you must ask. Hammersmith, and hideously overrated, though somehow that seems about right too. Lots more of those lemmings in evidence, scuttling in Proustian fashion towards the ultimate example of ‘lost time’. That’s right, temps perdu, motherfucker. The mystery of the gig that wasn’t, the three lost hours near the Westway. No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones. In truth, not a whole lot of Kate Bush either. And now that some time has elapsed and the hysteria has quietened, perhaps it’s a good moment to ask, what the fuck was that all about?
Fish people and a Lloyd Webber-esque stage production as a showcase for Bertie. We get it, Kate. He’s your son, you’re no Herod, you love him, he needs work experience. But did you have to do it on our collective (and considerable) coin? Though to be fair most of that ‘collective’ seemed perfectly happy to applaud stewards enforcing a strictly no dancing rule for any punters with the temerity to think they were at a gig. Rawk and roll, indeed. So no Babooshka, no Army Dreamers yet a roar at the end of ‘Aerial’ which belonged far beyond the Westway, in the braying, prosecco sozzled Tory heartlands. Henley, the shires, a spatchcock squawk the clarion call for the assembled faithful. Cloudbusting as Benidorm karaoke, minus the industrial strength sangria and the ability to forget. And then it’s over, and a stunned inquest begins. But for others it presumably hit all the right notes, as they’re unstinting in their praise. For Kate. For Bertie. Above all for the ‘experience’. Beyond the grief – ‘three hours you’ll never get back’ – and the confusion – ‘no nothing from the good years but endless versions of a poor West end musical’ – there’s also a Eurostar city break shaped hole burned in the pocket for a memento. And for what? The ‘experience’, if by experience we mean the elaborate staging of a work placement for one’s own kid, or the metaphorical equivalent of farting in a cup and claiming to have solved our energy crisis.
This kind of thing keeps happening though. Emperor’s New Clothes by any other name, so we keep seeing, and naming, what’s not really there. Prejudice (this phobia, that ‘-ogyny’). Talent (the world according to SiCo). Genius (a nation of ‘A*’ers’ yet by the time they’ve reached ‘Uni’ they’ve mysteriously forgotten how to read or write). And they’re very easily offended, these ‘youngers’, forever ‘beefing’ over some perceived slight or another. Postcode, trainers, faith, no matter, these days it all falls under the broad umbrella of ‘disrespect’, and the rest of us are expected to not only stand aside as this fools’ parade hoves into view, but to care. The writer, Howard Jacobson, sums up this pitiful state of affairs rather beautifully.
‘Is that why the urban young are so jumpy – they don’t have enough to remember? Certainly there’s less room for knives if you are loaded down with recollection. And of course you move more slowly.’
Recollection, though, that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? It’s when you cast your mind back to how funny those old episodes of ‘Minder’ were, Arthur forever placating Terence down the Winchester, Dave looking on with a concerned refill, that the penny really drops. That old London’s gone, the one of the loveable, if largely fictitious, rogues. Instead of camelhair coats, everything’s so literal now, and jittery, an A.D.D generation too skittish, and spoilt, to even recognise how easy their lives are. Raised by an earlier generation of fuckwits (mine), and raised to see an –ogyny or a phobia behind every sentence, special pleading its own kind of grammar. Proud to kick the old timers of the Winchester into touch (or at least the Siberian wastes of ITV4) so that they can get back to their ‘turf’ wars, or whatever it is that this week’s pathetic demarcation of their shrivelled souls demands. It’s not so much a case of where their narrative arcs lie as, who cares anyway? Where’s their Selvon, or Bukowski, their Dury or their Female Convict Scorpion? Not outside the fried chicken shop, that’s for sure. They talk about ‘flow’ but they’ve never heard of Gil. (Why would they? He was just one of those ‘old timers’ after all). Not a book in sight either though there’s never any shortage of tablets, and it’s all just ‘so ghettoe’ as deep fried nuggets of indecipherable origin are imbibed like the holy sacrament. Again, no discernible imagination here, no Paolozzo dancing pirouettes on the edge of their critical race theory. No Naipaul, no Saxon Studio to underwrite the whole trauma as an acetate. But predictably enough there is a rudimentary understanding of ‘citizen journalism’ and a fair chance that their recorded hissy fits might make it any day now onto an ‘opinion’ piece on Channel 4 News.
And if this all makes you a little cross and the only alternative to going the Travis Bickle or Indian female revolutionary route is to imagine something else, then the mysterious alterity of cats (and some dogs) might be as good a place as any to start. Just for starters, in their soulful presence, companionship, the lowering of cholesterol and a cast iron alternative to the idiots’ gallery on your local High Street. These days that’s what respite mostly looks like, completely covered in fur with a tail as a divining rod for the truth.
‘Where’s my arc?’ bemoans Christopher Moltisanti.
‘Fuck you, where’s my dinner?’ asks any feline worth their salt.
Suffice to say, cats are still making their presence known right to the end of The Sopranos whereas Moltisanti sleeps with the fishes.
And yes, that’s fishes, not fish people.