I've been doing these damned essays on and off since 1895 ...um 1985 ....ach, some year towards the end of the last millennium, and, do you know, during all that time essaying has been essentially a solitary, poor, nasty, brutish occupation; if not always short enough for my listeners.
You see every week I sit down alone, and agonize alone, and sweat and fret alone, and eventually write alone; and then I record alone---sitting hidden away: in the old days in a sound-proof studio, and latterly in my not-terribly-sound-proof-and-I'd-better-turn-off-my-phone-oh-oh-and-the-fridge-and-not-forget-to-do-the-a/c-again-this-time office area at home. No audience for me but the possibly fictitious, delayed, and indeterminably responsive one out there in aetherland. And feed-back is always intermittent, and by the very nature of the beastly beast, somewhat delayed: just the solitary, poor, but never nasty or brutish or long enough, email through my contact form on the web-site and the like.
And, as an aside, let me beg you on my radiophonic knees to use that little contact thingy on the web site---especially if you hated, despised, or loathed, or even understood what I've said---'cause there's nothing like a good dose of contumely to get the creative juices a-running.
Not only that, but I'm now doing all this down in TEXAS!!!
Inescapable, death-like Texas!
But, would you believe, a fascinating, and at least by me unbelievable, thing happened just before the 6th of January this year and I had an epiphany!
I was doing research for an essay (which for me often consists of just googling about the Web with wild abandon) when I stumbled upon one of the results of that unlikely combination 'poetry' and 'Texas'---a poetry reading at the downtown Plano Art Gallery each first Tuesday of the month---a five minute walk from my home and the very next Tuesday---Tuesday the 6th of January, and that's when I had my Epiphany.1
I steeled myself and girded my loins and printed out (in large print, my eyesight being what it isn't) a couple of my least unfavourite essays and eventually forced myself to walk the last couple of yards to the gallery (conning myself by thinking "Well I'll just walk past and glance through the big window", and then pushing myself in before I realised what I was up to and then adding my name to the signup sheet before my courage failed or my senses returned).
Poetry in Texas could almost be misapprehended as an oxymoron, and in Texas one could further fear that 'an oxymoron' would itself be misapprehended as the result of leaving a moron alone with some matches: but no, there is real poetry! And not just cowboy poets, on their way to Abilene, dropping by to drawl a few poor lines of doggerel about poor little dogies whilst leaving their horses and a few head of frisky steer tied up in the parking space outside the art gallery---I mean someone actually mentioned Allen Ginsberg!
Anyway all sorts of people performed and read and singer-songwritered and even displayed pictorial art.
And then, eventually, they called for RHB (I hadn't the fortitude to write my full name)---actually they called for RNB and I really must work on my handwriting someday---then, as I unfurled the one about Burns' Nicht and the proper way to hunt a wild haggis, I walked up and for the first time faced an actual, live, thirty or forty strong audience, faced them armed with little more than a loaded essay script. Of course, my eyesight being what it isn't, things weren't immediately all that different from my usual recording events---the blur of faces being not all that dissimilar from the blur of books and furniture. So I started to read into the mike as I normally would, only standing up.
All well and good, and not a bad experience at all ...
But THEN ...THEN I said something they found funny and the road to Damascus reared up to meet me and to crash into me and Saulos became Paulos... because... because...
They laughed! Laughed and I didn't know whether to turn and run, continue and read louder and over them, or to stop and take a bow. The wild susurration of human response swept over me and I was dragged under and rolled over and so buoyed up by it that from now on you buggers out there in aetherland had damn-well better laugh loud enough for me to hear all the way down here in Texas!
Cheerio for now
The title is a reference to the phrase, perhaps only used in England, for a person making fun of another 'taking the Mickey', 'taking the Mike' or (in humorously mock-formal mode) 'extracting the Michael'.
...mickey ... 7. colloq. (chiefly Brit.). to take the mickey (out of): to behave or speak satirically or mockingly; to make fun of, satirize, or debunk (a person or thing). Cf. MIKE n.7, PISS n. 2.
1948 A. BARON From City, from Plough vi. 49 ‘Higgsy,’ said the sergeant, ‘they think I'm taking the mickey. Tell 'em.’ 1952 ‘J. HENRY’ Who lie in Gaol iv. 66 She's a terror. I expect she'll try and take the mickey out of you all right. Don't you stand for nothin'. 1957 L. P. HARTLEY Hireling 134 He had no great regard for Constance, except in so far as she sometimes took the mickey out of Hughie. 1958 Observer 28 Dec. 3/1 ‘Tonight’ is not only a tough and irreverent programme, but glib and smart and anxious to take the mickey. 1960 E. W. HILDICK Jim Starling & Colonel ix. 76 The servers must have thought that no boy would dare to take the mickey in such circumstances. 1971 B. W. ALDISS Soldier Erect 101 Geordie looked anxiously at me, in case I thought he was taking the micky too hard. 1991 Sunday Sun (Brisbane) 3 Feb. 6/5, I don't think there is any subject that is too serious to take the micky out of.
...Mike ... [Origin uncertain; perhaps after Mike Bliss, rhyming slang (listed in J. Franklyn Dict. Rhyming Slang (ed. 2, 1961) 158) for piss (see take the piss (out of) at PISS n. Phrases 2b).]
Only in to take the mike out of: = to take the mickey (out of) at MICKEY n.1 7.
Not found in North America.
a1935 T. E. LAWRENCE Mint (1955) II. vi. 117 But, mate, you let the flight down, when he takes the mike out of you every time. 1935 G. INGRAM Cockney Cavalcade i. 14 He wouldn't let Pancake ‘take the mike’ out of him. 1940 N. & Q. 1 June 382/1 ‘Taking the mike out of’ anyone means pulling his leg, having a game with him. 1956 J. CANNAN People to be Found i. 14 They won't 'alf take the mike out of 'im. 1973 ‘B. MATHER’ Snowline vi. 75 Watch it... The Swami don't dig taking the mike out of the gods.
...Piss ... b. colloq. (chiefly Brit., Austral., and N.Z.). take the piss (out of): to make fun (of), to mock, deride, satirize; = to take the mickey (out of) at MICKEY n.1 7.
1945 Penguin New Writing 26 49 The corporal..sat back in his corner looking a little offended. He thought I was taking the piss. 1958 F. NORMAN Bang to Rights 116 This only made us take the piss out of him the more. 1971 B. W. ALDISS Soldier Erect 49 ‘Come on, Wally, like---I don't think you ought to take the piss out of the poor sod!’ Geordie said. ‘He's got his living to earn.’ 1978 R. HILL Pinch of Snuff xiv. 145 When Hope replied ‘He's a Hungarian’ he thought at first he was taking the piss. 1995 i-D Nov. 29/2 ‘I don't think people realise how tongue in cheek we are,’ says Johnny. ‘We take the piss out of everyone, really.’ 2004 Jockey Slut Feb. 107/1 It's quite anti-establishment from an Irish point of view, the way it takes the piss out of the church.
1 That is when it is!
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