Excerpt: 'Walking to Hollywood: Memories of Before the Fall' by Will Self


From Guernica:

“Excuse me sir, you have too many things in your pockets.”

We stood on a desert island of carpet tiles somewhere in the placid lagoon of Pearson International Airport. I was a pre-wrecked Crusoe; she was a squat mermaid of South Asian extraction with blue-black hair. She wore a nylon jacket with fluorescent patches that bulged at the hips and the fishtail of her lower body was poured into black slacks. At least it was healthy flesh and not all the necrotic stuff I had wadded into the Barbour, stuff she began to gingerly extract with rubber-gloved hands, laying it all out on the brushed steel.

I waited with the Ohrwurm boring into me: a tiny finger-flutter of the keys, the entire orchestra dangling from the pianist’s hangnail…

The security woman unearthed the tiny plastic tomb within which this vast and resonant performance of Beethoven’s third piano concerto—by Daniel Barenboim with the London Philharmonic—was interred. She bunched up the skirt of the Barbour, appalled to discover yet another pocket—the poacher’s —and unzipping it removed the small corpse of my rolled-up plastic trousers.

Leaving Tor-Buff-Chester (a mega-region embracing Toronto that stretches all the way from Buffalo to Quebec City, and has an annual $530 billion of economic activity) was proving more difficult than anticipated. “The concert piano and all wind instruments bore me in small doses and flay me in large ones,” contended Uncle Vladimir—meaning “bore” as in “induce tedium.” I didn’t feel that way: My ability to build a concert hall in the inches between my ears was the only thing that made all of this —the queuing, the carpet tiling, the pornographic X-raying of my possessions—remotely tolerable.

Then, aloft, as the Northwest flight skipped across the dimple Great Lakes, I dipped carottes coupées et pellées in trempette ranch , while little Daniel braced himself in the aisle and puuuushed! with his fluttery finger, so that the entire fuselage of the plane widened and the trolley dollies could dance about one another in Busby Beethoven routines.

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