Way back in the mists of time there was a baby mrofnoctonod who bounced enthusiastically in cotton, washable diapers to the sound of “Henry let’s go to town”. Later, when I could talk, I learned to sing the actual words, and after that, I learned to count time and move my body to music in an awkward mechanistic fashion, from my mother. With all the lounge furniture and breakable bric-a-brac bundled away, she taught me the basic mathematics of musical movement, and I took to it like bearded men in desserts take to camels (or to goats, apparently). I moved about stiffly, initially, but then found I had a “bounce” on the inside of me. The “bounce”, I discovered, was a natural, in-built response to this external pulse, tied to this mathematical musical construct and was a form of expression and freedom almost like the feeling of flying in my dreams, but unlike anything else I had experienced within the confines of this meat machine. Having found it, and quite soon after, my Mom and I realised she couldn’t teach me anything more.
And then… well then, I learned just about everything else from Michael Jackson.
In the analogue days of the early 1980’s we owned a Betamax video machine and I would record Michael Jackson music videos from Alex Jay’s TV shows or from those of David Gresham, on South Africa’s national broadcast channels. I realise that means nothing to you if you didn’t live in South Africa at the time.
So, to clarify, Alex Jay and David Gresham were radio and television personalities. David Gresham was generally speaking for adults and mainstream listening, and Alex Jay was more for the young people and liberals with his 1980’s “New Romantic” hairstyle, but of course, in reality both of their personas and playlists were highly regulated by the dictates of Apartheid South Africa, and thus by the government-controlled stations they worked at. In those days, elderly, conservative Afrikaaners censored our media and decided on what could or couldn’t be seen or heard in this country. Because of words like “we don’t need no education. we don’t need no thought control.” we weren’t allowed to own copies of Pink Floyd’s, The Wall, for instance, which is partly why I am extremely wary of people who hanker for the “good old days”, and why even now, Afrikaans is not my favourite language in the world.
Anyway, back in those innocent but dark days before I became aware that moronic mormonic morons were making up my mind for me, I would come home from school every day and practice religiously in front of the television to the gyrations of a young black man. Imagine that. I can laugh at the irony of it all now. I was a white, runny-nosed, 12 year-old kid in the living room of a house on a smallholding just outside the sleepy, conservative rural town of White River in the Eastern Transvaal, (which is what it was called in those days so please don’t get your glorious revolutionary knickers in a knot), and there I was moonwalking like a monster, and doing evil rhythmic things with my little white boy body that little white boy bodies were not supposed to be doing in the 1980’s, disjointing my body, thrusting out my pelvis and flailing about with my limbs like a well split chicken flattie.
Later, when I was old enough for school, I got my Mom to take me to modern-dancing lessons and there I learned about my body, and about the rules and politics of dance. I also learned that Lycra felt super-slinky and that it aroused new foul thoughts in my crimplene-conditioned pubescent brain. I wasn’t familiar with this slinky material nor with these thoughts and the conservative world I lived in and our frankly clinical home environment had no answer or guidance for them, so I just had to dance my way through a deep sense of shame.
Now, for a bit of clarity, and by way of filling in some back-story, “home” was an angry, cold and disconnected place, filled with silences which were punctuated by resentment where we didn’t talk about things like that, or about anything really. I (firstborn) was an unplanned accident and my father made it clear that this inconvenience was most unwelcome, so between that and me not doing “normal” things for boys, it was difficult for me to socialise and I grew up being “different” in many ways.
We also moved house a LOT.
By the time I was eighteen years old we had changed neighbourhoods, schools and homes twenty-three times. So, I don’t have memories of discussing any of my Lycra experiences with the girls that danced with me, or with those few souls who were my temporary friends. Never-the-less, I could push through the weirdness and dance anyway because of the “bounce” and because of the way it felt so natural and amazing to move my body freely, fluidly and naturally to the music, and therefore soon enough, with enough movement, all foreign thoughts and indeed the outside world, would vanish in the funk.
Because, you see, I’m music’s bitch.
Like, how to some people a tennis racket becomes a natural extension to their bodies, or to some the numbers on a balance sheet can dance into life for them, and to others, a motorcycle offers natural expression of their fluid movement (which becomes especially fluid when they need to be scraped off the tar after it goes horribly wrong), for me, music flows through me and is expressed in movement in a natural, effortless and surreal way. Like Eric Liddell was to running (cue the Vangelis music…), I was born a funky, flying scotsman, and when I dance I feel most alive, only, unlike Eric Liddell, without the need to go take money from the Chinese to pay for my imaginary friends in the sky.
Fortunately I’m also one of those naturals who put in the 10,000 hours. I was that one awkward, introverted and embarrassed boy, alone amongst the girls, while the boys I was supposed to be amongst were hurling stone-hard balls at each other in neatly delineated bursts of 6-shot war called “overs”, or were throwing each other to the ground repeatedly for 90 minutes for possession of an inflated bag of air. Fuck it, was my mantra. If you want the stupid thing so bad, there you go, help yourself. I always got picked last for compulsory team sports, and where they were not mandatory, I simply avoided them.
As I said, it didn’t help that we moved house so much.
In my grade 4 and 5 years (standards 2 and 3 for those who remember what crimplene is), for example, in the space of just eighteen months we moved house five times. This weird cold bubble that was our family, drifted from one place to another too fast for me to develop relational skills outside of the family unit.
To his credit, my father tried to teach me examples of manhood and to bond with me the best way he knew how, from what he had seen his father do, and that was to make me fetch his tools in the garage while he did magical, incomprehensible, angry things with the innards of cars, or built crude, misshapen angry wooden things, all-the-while angrily swearing at Jesus, and angrily swearing at me. Till today I don’t know what Jesus did to upset him – Jesus was never around to fetch the hardware – but I didn’t care for the tools, I didn’t care for the vehicular insides, and least of all I didn’t care for Dad’s manly bonding technique, so I do actually understand why he swore at me. I had zero desire to be in the same room as this man who hated me for messing up his life, and I had less than zero desire to engage in these “bonding moments” and the imperial and metric confusion at the root of it all didn’t help much either. But at least I can look back and confidently see that he taught me to swear like a man.
Well, through all of that I practiced myself through the shame and the feelings of isolation and outsideness and oddly enough, this introvert went on to become breakdance king, and to dominate house parties and dance-floors wherever I went with something I was naturally outstanding at, had put hours of practice and work into, and had complete control over. No matter the town, no matter the people, no matter the place, I could and still can, move to music like few could or can. Because I’m music’s bitch.
Mind you, I was never invited for the parley, I was invited for the partay. While I would never play a sport in the first team or any team for that matter, people recognised that I was the freak who could be counted on to set the floor on fire.
People not responding to your opening set?
No worries, take the Paul out the cage and let him loose on the floor. I would have my shirt off in half a heartbeat and would gyrate, pirouette, bounce and dance about as deftly as the ANC ducking and diving actual responsibility. And that’s how my teens went. Although I participated in social activities centered around music and dance, I didn’t actually socialise. I had two friends through my entire school life who I connected deeply with and we would talk about the “players” (although we didn’t have that or any other name for them at the time) and about the dumb girls that fell for them, or we would talk about the “jocks” listening to Snap’s “I’ve got the power” on repeat in the hostel passageway all freakin day, and then wonder about what the hell we were supposed to do when we finished school. The aptitude tests said I could do anything. How the hell was that supposed to help? But aside from Richard and Bradley, to the rest I was just a cheerleader and mascot that you kept in a toolbox in a corner.
(Play it on repeat. All day. Go ahead. I dare you…
Not because I think it’s cool, but because by doing it, you get a feel for how it sounded when the school jocks down the passage in the hostel, were in their room all day listening, to it on repeat..)
Jocks aside…I was also one of the school DJ.s
I learned how to work a crowd, and to move things along with a small but growing set of vinyls. I learned how to float around people and get them dancing, and then move on, and never really stand still long enough to remember names. It just seemed pointless trying.
Later in my twenties, and after I had gone through an angry grunge music phase where I sang and played guitar in a band, I got back into dancing, but this time in clubs, and as the crowds and what they were imbibing had changed from my tweens, I also got myself mind-fucked by the dinosaurs ordering drinks at the bar. And by “dinosaurs”, I don’t mean geriatric rockers, but actual lizard-reptilian, scaly monster fuckers on 2 legs, wearing glittery boob tubes and smoking thin, pink, Courtleigh cigarettes.
Occasionally I would awkwardly give or receive a massage in a chillout room, but never so those people would become close to me, or I to them. As much as we did and were doing our social thing, we didn’t socialise. Because I didn’t socialise. Because I’m music’s bitch.
You see, aside from growing up in our dysfunctional, angry family bubble which was constantly on the move, there was a smaller bubble I lived in, within that one.
Jerks aside, I spent an inordinate amount of time on my own in my room, listening to music. I laid about on the floor for hours and stared at pictures of Freddie Mercury and the band, in huge double LP size photos, while the recorded scratchy sound of them would play on my battery powered tape recorder. I read and reread lyrics for hours and hours and hours and knew all the words by heart but read them again anyway and pored over the pictures.
Anton Corbijn was my favourite musician photographer.
He photographed Depeche Mode, U2 and many others and he had a signature gritty, grainy, black and white look that I loved.
I was primarily a new romantic in the 80’s but gradually leaned to the darker side of the genre, and I listened to bootleg Pink Floyd, Yes, King Crimson, Supertramp, and Rush, and learned to play guitar along to Rodriguez and Hendrix. So you see, the bubble that cocooned me within all other bubbles, was head music for talking to my soul and teaching me about life, and body music for dancing.
I’m music’s bitch.
This is why today I can barely maintain a conversation with you without hearing music playing in my head. I’m almost always bopping or bouncing or tapping my toes, or snapping my fingers, and bobbing my head or in some way, expressing the musical pulse on the inside of me. In a club, I’m not there to talk with you about your breakup with your boyfriend or your new car or apartment, or the dumb fucks at work. At a music concert, you and me are not going on a “date”. I don’t want to talk to you then, and I especially don’t want you to talk to me, and trust me, if you have revealed your musical taste to me, you are being judged on the basis of your playlist, because I’m music’s bitch.
I have one lover and it’s never going to be you.
Once, not long after I “joined” the police (Put your hands up in the air, wave ’em around like you just don’t care, and can I hear you say “conscripted”!!) in the town of Secunda as a young pimple-faced eighteen-year old, I met the district commander, Colonel Kleynhans, in a passageway in the district offices. It was well known to all but me that he had St Vitus’s Dance, a condition in which you twitch and tic uncontrollably to varying degrees. I have it too, only mine is called St Jackson’s’s (sic) boogie. He was at first trying to shit on me for my non crew-cut hairstyle but then thought I was mocking him as I bounced on my toes in front of him, and then he proceeded to lose it at me. Naturally, I carried on bouncing because it’s my coping mechanism, and because of it, the episode escalated, with both of us bouncing, and him screaming and gesticulating wildly with spittle flying from his angrily venting mouth until eventually he turned bright red, stopped talking altogether, and probably had a mini-stroke. I don’t know. (Mr Grey in high school also had a stroke, but that could have been because some boys snuck into his office and added medicinal Swazi cabbage to his pipe tobacco).
Shame. I had no idea the Colonel and I were cut from similar hyperactive cloth.
We could have made a fantastic dancing team, if he could only maintain rhythm. (Come to think of it, it would never have worked. I liked too much music on the wrong side of the “swart gevaar” curtain. Nee sies. Scratch that satanistic liberal thought. Sorry dominee.)
Well, I’m happy to say I’ve taken care to maintain a decent weight and fitness level, made it through my bulging post-thirty-five year-old period, and therefore even today, at fourty-six I bring dance floors to a halt. Not, “I can”, or “I think I still can”. And not because paramedics don’t like having people dancing and jostling around them while they attend to the cardiac emergencies of ageing hipsters like me, but because till today I move better than Jagger.
Because I’m music’s bitch.
All of that contributes to me feeling “weird”, and places me in a fringe on the outside of the everyday traffic of life. I understand more about the movement of progrock epics and about the movement of my body than I do about how a team works, or about how a “normal” family functions. I struggle to interpret or understand the dynamics of group settings larger than three people, I am easily spooked by noisy crowds, and I certainly can’t lead an organisation. I hate bureaucracy, my distaste for bureaucrats is palpable, and I hate rules. I am so recalcitrant that I struggle to stick to my own dictates. I tried the family thing but that didn’t work. I’ve had my share of girlfriends, and that just never seems to work either. I have appreciation for the nuts and bolts and systems and machinations of family and society but through various life and career attempts have discovered that it’s too tiring and taxing to participate in, because there’s always people involved and where people are involved, there is conflict, and someone is vying to be the alpha personality, or someone is willing to sell their souls for the cash they can get their hands on. I’m also somewhat of a determinist by way of philosophy, and the global financial model looks like a cage to me. “Trickle-down economics”. What a joke. More like trickle-up slavery.
Once upon time not so long ago, all of this would bring me down, but I’m over it now. I don’t know what experiment the mice or system architects are running on us in this universe, so I’m sticking around to see what happens next, having discovered that there doesn’t seem to be an actual point. I’m done trying to act and be “normal” whatever the fuck that is, and I’m through trying to “fit in”.
I’m secure and confident in knowing I’m music’s bitch.
I totally get the fact that I’m a “loser” in the game of “survival of the fittest” as dictated by most standards, because (1) I can’t do the “family” or “people” thing, and history clearly shows us that family and community groups are essential for survival and evolution, but fuck it, I say, does planet earth really need more of me anyway, and (2) I don’t see why we even think there should be losers in this game.
As cynical as I am, I can and do appreciate the excellence I come across in society, and I most like the way it is expressed amongst artists. I like engineers, scientists and some medical people I’ve had the pleasure of working with, too. I’ve encountered amazing people in hospitality and retail. But the arts. That’s where it’s at for me.
Fortunately, it’s not only dancing that I’ve applied my hours to. I have actual marketable skills, in that, I write, and I photograph, and both of these are excellent trades for natural introverts where I can hide behind keys or a camera’s clicks. I also run and manage social media accounts for corporate clients, which is further fantastic work for introverts.
But on a dance-floor, I can be amongst a ton of people flesh and not know a thing, and not feel a thing, oblivious to all and everyone in a bubble of deep house bliss (Deep house and Techno being my preferred weapons of movement choice). It’s the closest thing I know to actual freedom, because everything else in this moronic existence has to be done for a price. I must write words for money and I must take pictures for moolah. Because that’s how this world works. But dancing I do purely because I can and because I want to. The only tie it has to economics is the fee I must pay at the door, the money for the 3 drinks I’ll have in a night, and the petrol I need to get me to Loop street and back home again. Other than that, it is the one place where the madness of this extrovert-dominated, money-crazed world gets left behind.
I’m in my mid forties now, and, I know, I’m always going to be music’s bitch, and I think I’m finally ok with that.
* Having said all that, I’ve come to realise I have a lot of deeply embedded code in me that I want to work through – code that has been telling me I’m a shameful failure of a human being, an outcast and a reject – and I’m not even sure that it’s worth the effort to try deprogram it, with so many decades of reinforcement of it in place, but I realise something has to give, because the sense of isolation only deepens and I’m completely tired of the shame. I have begun to suspect that in this world there are other fringe-types just like me that I could “normally” bond with. I don’t know.
All I know is, I will no longer panel-beat Paul Andrews to fit into a world that isn’t his shape, and it’s why mrofnoctonod exists now.
To leapfrog myself out of my insular past, and to live unafraid, unashamed, genuinely, authentically and fully expressed, like the Space Oddity becoming the Thin White Duke.
And to find out,
What other freaks are out there…
~ Once upon a time mrofnoctonod was in business and all about the business of doing business and then one day he woke up and realised he didn’t want to play that game anymore. I can’t play that game anymore. So, I wisely went ahead and lost everything and reinvented myself. And this is who I am.