My name is John Doran and I write about music. The young bucks who run VICE’s website thought it would be amusing to employ a 40-year-old man who doesn’t watch TV, listen to the radio, buy newspapers or know what tumblr is.
In case you were wondering or simply too lazy to use urban dictionary, ‘menk’ is Scouse/Woollyback slang for a mentally ill or educationally subnormal person, and is a shortened version of mental. As in, “Your Sergio Tacchini trackie is sick la, look at that menk Doran, he can’t even afford a Walker trackie. Let’s hit him with a brick and push him in the canal.”
Menk Two: Crows Feet Are Ingrained
My seven 40th birthday cards are still up in the front room when I get the email from VICE: “Do you want to write a column for us? It can’t be about music.”
Why do these magazines keep on doing this? NME waited until I was 37 before giving me work. Perhaps when I’m dead I’ll get a column for the New Yorker? The imaginary, endlessly critical man who lives in my head says this is unlikely to ever happen.
I go and sit in the front room and listen to Anaal Nathrakh while dandling my son and wondering what I’ll write about for VICE if I take the job. Baby John likes pretty much any metal that sounds like the washing machine, which means SunnO))), Mayhem, Bolt Thrower, Encoffination but not, unfortunately, Judas Priest. In utero he went to see Electric Wizard, Godflesh, Swans, Factory Floor, Killing Joke... so extreme music was with him in the womb.
He’s wearing a white babygro with a black decal ironed onto it which makes him look like he’s got a little camera round his neck. The man in my head who is always there, constantly shouting about my failings as a writer and my failings at life in general has now been joined by several other people. There is a jury of them and they are all screaming at once. It’s a cacophony. Most of them are screeching about why I can’t write for VICE - the rest are saying I can't write full stop. I can’t work out the VICE thing. There’s some great fucking writing in it - and it’s really funny, if sometimes just plain out of order. But I genuinely think it’s the Playboy of our age... Y’know, people picking it up for the articles and not just pictures of bored anorexics in terrible nightclubs.
And Playboy had Norman Mailer. “You’re not Norman Mailer”, the voice in my head tells me, “You’re not even Norman Wisdom.” One of the jury turns his attention to the babygro: “So his mum is a photographer and that’s why he’s got a camera round his neck. Let me guess - I bet he has a load of heavy metal babygros as well because his dad is a middle aged wanker who won’t cut his hair and grow up.”
Little John has items of clothing with AC/DC, SunnO))), David Bowie, Mogwai, ATP, Mastodon and Grinderman on them. I work in the music industry and mates have been good enough help me out by buying me some baby gear. And yes, I think a baby in a heavy metal design is cute. But the jury in my head disagrees. “Trying to impose your tastes on a ten week old child is disgusting. He won’t grow up to like the same things as you anyway, you control freak.”
Worrying about dressing children in band merch or sports gear is just chattering class squeamishness about money and subconscious class hatred/chav bashing masquerading as good taste and ethics, I say. But I sound tremulous. Tremulous inside my own head.
If I was really trying to mould him in my image, I would have bought him a babygro that made him look like he’d fallen asleep in the park and pissed himself. Or a babygro that made him look like he was drinking Netto’s Vodka at 8am to stop himself from having an epileptic fit. Or a top that made him look like he was putting cigarettes out on his arms. Or a little T-shirt that suggested that he’d sold all of his toys to buy drugs.
I become aware that I’m just sat in my front room thinking really horrible things, holding a baby with shaking hands. It feels like there’s a giant vat in the hallway and it’s about to upend, flooding the entire flat with depression as thick as Golden Syrup. But Little John does a massive noisy shit and snaps me out of it. I stick Little John on the changing mat and sing him a song about a tiger playing a saxophone. He laughs and gurgles with glossolalia. His nappy is full of something that is indistinguishable from the curry sauce we had at junior school, but much less foul smelling. Some of it has leaked onto his lovely camera babygro. They could make your heart burst, these little pieces of clothing. I clean and change him before putting him into his chair. I’m about to take the camera babygro through to the bathroom to scrub it with soap under a tap when I see the label. American Apparel.
“What the fuck?” I say out loud.
Maria appears at the door: “Sooner or later you’re going to have to stop swearing in front of him. He’s going to be copying everything you say and do soon.”
I look down my son smiling up at me. It’s almost as if I can hear him ticking like a bomb. I need to stop worrying and start acting. I email VICE and tell them I’ll do the column. I say my one condition is that at some point in the future it has to feature a picture of me and my friend Tony smoking pipes. They say yes and I can't think of any other reasons not to do it, so I start writing.
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