As someone who is no stranger to the power of the printed word, I sat in amazement as this titan of the media world was slowly dragged to into a necromantic arena by the very profession he has shaped to his own personal will over the past 61-yrs. From the outlawed wilderness of Adelaide to the sprawling mega-glass skyscrapers of New York; Kings, Queens (of both kinds), Prime Ministers, Presidents and everyone in between have courted and fêted him to influence the billions that his global media empire informs for their own personal agendas.
For any of us who rely on the media to communicate our message to that select audience in the vein hope that those few lines, or even a full page profile in an influential magazine, we all trade one thing off for another. Each printed encounter hoping to garner that little bit of interest in what we are selling, adding a patina of glossiness to a well crafted message and brand or even, in most instances, sate the desire of a chained ego slavering for respectability. We all whisper and promise in dark bars where dirty deeds are dirt cheap to fulfil a desire, because at the end of the day, we are all media-whores hoping to get a head.
So imagine my surprise when the very nature of politics is infused with sensationalist journalism the stage set for a global showdown that has been brewing for a generation or two and is billed “independent”. No one is innocent or independent in these times, especially not when the expedient messenger is now shot with his own arrow, and the sinner becomes a preacher at a public pulpit of the Lower House. We gather at the new Calgary for a public crucifixion and quartering, opinions flow from twenty-four hour news to Twitter and magazines, newspapers to Facebook and like everyone gossiping, their five-cents worth is tacked-on.
My love affair with all things Rupert Murdoch started long before I read the brilliant unauthorised autobiography by William Shawcross as I travelled the long and tedious road back from Jo’burg to the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal in 1992 (and every subsequent book ever written about him). It started with the many books that I loved before that one on these lonely bus trips. The hours spent escaping in movie houses during the school holidays and the programmes that I watched on TV that kept me entertained when nothing else could.
He had managed to shape my world view long before I even knew who he was. Or even before I knew who I was.
There is not a moment in our generation’s history that has not in some part been influenced by this man and his global media empire. From the characture in a James Bond movie, to the effigy that stands outside the Palace of Westminster, men have come before him but none will be judged like him. From Beaverbrook to Hearst, the legacy that remains after the carcass has been stripped will be unworthy of the achievements, as profiteering and politics claim their victory for the self-indignant and righteous plebs.
A victim of his own success perhaps, but certainly not one that we can judge fairly, lest that first stone be cast on us as we walk home from Calgary on a tepid winter’s afternoon, and we suffer the same fate by our own hand.
I must confess…
…I find myself having one of those moments when you can see yourself doing something you know is a little naughty and a little dangerous but just can’t help yourself because it’s so fun? While BabyBoy was out with friends, I joined my team of luxury professionals out on the town and had one of those moments a few weeks back. As I sat in the opulent epicentre of epicurean delight nestled in a world renowned boutique hotel favoured by Kings, a Queen of Talk-shows and revered elder Statesmen the gastronomic experience alone was enough to satisfy anyone. The handsome, knowledgeable and charming Sous Chef flambéing the steak Dianne left me wanting more and while restrained, I skirted along the dangerous cliff to the abyss of shadows where dirty deeds are done dirt cheap and the light exposes the hidden truths of carnal delights. In the early hours of the morning that comes afterwards, that devil-may care smile and razor sharp humour lingers like his cologne on my mind and I am bewitched.
…I find myself in another hotel dining room, no less impressive but more discrete in the Mother City a few days later trying to keep warm beside an open wood fire while an ocean swept wind whipped and whistled around the white walls of the Twelve Apostle Mountains outside. Opposite me, my business partner and an old friend enjoying their meals. Somewhere in the darkness without, one of my largest corporate clients and his colleague are enroute, driving not only my future but the plans we are crafting while eat. My friend, like the prince’s of fairytales we read is tall, handsome with waving chestnut hair and with effortless ease charms you unknowingly with his anecdotes, private-school boy manners and light humour. With BabyBoy thousands of miles away yet always in the back of my mind, the hour is late, the night dark and cold I make the offer. In the silence of the cavernous hotel suite I lay there listening to his breathing, not because we are sexually compatible, but because I am too excited by what will come and I am bewildered.
…I ordered another cappuccino before slipping the complimentary magazine from its phallic sheathe and flipped through the unmemorable content printed on the pages within. But then, one picture seen so many times before, crippled my inhibitions and I am obsessed once again by this pagan g’d I briefly conversed with and dismissed over a glass of wine while standing in a dimly lit courtyard at a gallery opening. Rushing home, I find myself searching for the invitation that may, or may not contain a name or some sort of clue to who this statue of corporal perfection may be. And like the sun-g’d Apollo, he stands bronzed and a reminder of the polysensual desires we all have deep inside to have that perfection ourselves, and if not, possess it for only a night of carnal discovery and satisfaction. With my own BabyBoy tucked safely in bed next to me, I find this demi-g’d more like Aristogitien with his own Harmodius no less impressive. My imperial inclinations whimper and whither knowing history will be my legacy not the might-have-been but rather leave as friends in the morning.
As I stood there in the parking lot reserved for the ambulances rushing into the ER unit, the frosty wind whipped the smoke from the dying embers of the cigarette into my watering eyes; I looked up at the eclipsed moon and was lost to my wandering thoughts. In that moment the silence amongst the sirens and bustle reality hit. Inside, beyond the doors of the ER, lay something between my dreams and reality. My bête blanc who offers some rescue from the tepid waters that I seemed to treading in of late. And after the moment of love had passed, the fear crept in that I had walked the highest tightrope of my professional career and almost fallen from grace in risking everything by betting the house.
My highwire act, the culmination of two years hard work after I set out to establish a company two years ago that would mould and shape an industry to my wants and desires. I stumbled. I picked myself up. I tripped a few times but can safely say that I have achieved something more: respectability. And from that he had become a flashpoint to everything good, as the six months passed between us, found me once again in the no-mans land where I often stand. Somewhere beyond the automated doors, behind a pale cream curtain a team of doctors were working to heal something broken but for the first time in a long time, the emptiness missing from my life was less understandable.
Fast forward a few weeks later and I find myself sitting opposite some of the most influential businessman in the land discussing the very things I am passionate about. The saying that “those who know keep quite, and those that don’t speak the loudest” rings true for the accomplished do not need to speak of their achievements because they speak for themselves. So I sit and watch the few around the table who, instinct tells me are kindred spirits and like minded to the cause. Beside me sits my bête blanc, naive and willing. Opposite him my bête noir, cynical and disqualified. The two sides of the same mirror whispered about in so many Carroll novels.
The moon wanes, the cold becomes frigid and in-between the secrets whispered by lovers nestled under down-feather duvets that insulate the act of love making, the days become shorter. You question the little things that come your way and make big decisions about the future yet unrealised and hope that they will inform the realities you wish them to become. Love becomes blind to the insecurities of greying hair, a few extra wrinkles around the eyes and the indulgence of a few good meals evident in the tightness of a bespoke suit. When the mere words “I love you” makes you believe in incorruptible emotions and the actions therein outweigh the fear without you start to believe in something else.
What that is right now I’m unsure of. What I do know is that for now the tidal fear has drawn back leaving a pathway of smooth, shiny rocks to navigate my journey along a diverging path of my own choosing. I know I’m going to stumble again. I know I may even fall. I know that I have friends, and a lover, who will help me up and hold my hand as I learn to take one step at a time towards greatness.
My greatest fear is that I’m good enough to fuck, but not good enough to love. These past few months the words have haunted me as I migrate from business lounges to hotels to the back of a car on my way to endless meetings in Hong Kong, London, Dubai and other far-flung business centres around the world that requires a shot of vodka and two sleeping pills to cope with the jet-lag. And while I have found a deep professional fulfilment in my career, I seem to be lacking in any personal traction at all. Almost as if in the shadows that I move in, something dark I have become.
Fast forward a few weeks later, I find myself sipping warm Saki on a cold stormy Highveld evening and succumbing to the charm of innocence that comes with being a child of the worlds’ last remaining superpower discovering the most glittering city of an orphaned continent. A sense of unease that pervades my coming sensual dreams, but challenged by a restless soul searching for sleep in the early hours of a twilight crescent moon. Finding my daemon patiently waiting asking questions you have no easy answer to. Questions long since forgotten and quickly avoided in the breaking dawn of yet another punishing day.
Slowly imperceptible comparisons begin between what you have, both past and present which leaves you with a yearning of a future filled with an unrealised potential that may never be met. And in these moments is where you find the danger – waiting for something that may never come. Just as dogs can smell fear subconsciously your partner in love can sense distance and as the past few years have been the most productive I learnt that love wasn’t enough to carry it through the tough times. When you have to deal with your own shit you don’t want to have to deal with someone else’s as well do you?
And then in that darkness, what you never truly wanted becomes apparent and a deep seeded longing returns in the early hours of the morning and you find yourself navigating towards unchartered suburbs to succumb to the carnal needs that come with being a man. A smile, a kiss, a whisper of love that leaves a lingering experience which haunts your days long after the smell of sex and cigarette smoke have faded into memory. Seemingly at a point of no return, I plunge into the chasm of uncertainty if only to remind myself that sometimes you can’t always get what you want and the pain of the lesson is our journey into the unknown.
Sure we are all searching for someone to spend those Sunday mornings enjoying coffee and reading the papers in Parkhurst. To find in the autumn nights someone propped comfortably on your sofa with a book and a glass of wine but I’ve learnt that I need to be happy with me first before anyone else can be. A journey I am not fully committed to. Because when it comes to relationships we are all living in glass houses and shouldn’t be throwing polo balls anymore. After all you can never really know. Some people are settling down. Some people are just settling. And some people refuse to settle for anything less … than butterflies.
Dear Mom and Dad,
This letter has been a long time coming, and a long, long time overdue.
Last night, as I sat drinking a cup of black coffee, watching the distant horizon flicker and rumble with the impending spring rains I was dumb struck with a thought so unique and startling that it made me jump up in my chair. I think they call this an ‘aha!’ moment. A moment of reasoning.
For the first time, perhaps the first time that I can recall in recent years I am happy.
Though we have been through ups and downs, the almost unending struggles have tainted how we see the world I had almost forgotten … put out of my mind what they have been, and what we have truly been through. I guess part of this happiness obviously stems from where for I now am, where I instinctively feel and know I belong. The work that I am now able to do has been part of the stepping stones of the past and I am good at it. Really good.
Though now I have started to climb the ladder towards success and recognition, no matter how many times I have been praised for my many abilities; the intelligence, creativity and hard work most associated with me … there is always a voice that whispers softly and resoundingly in the crevice of my conscious, and sub-conscious. I first became aware of this in my recent interview as they read my CV. Read my accomplishments. Read my life story on the white pages printed with black ink. There bare for all to see.
It was then that the voices became crystal clear and a loud crescendo, and have done so every day for some months … I owe everything I am today, and the successes that will come to the two of you.
The mistakes that I have made, the failures endured are all of my own making. And yet the two of you have always unfaltering and unquestioningly supported me and my often far-out dreams. Many times this unselfishness on your part has been hidden from me … the sacrifices the two of you have made to educate me, train me and love me have made me into the person I am today. They laid the foundations of my future, one that lays bright and shiny and welcoming waiting for me to take the opportunities that will come – and to use it to the best ability I can.
Today, I want you to know how much I love and respect and admire you both.
Actions speak louder than words.
You have given me everything and my thanks, however sincere can never truly be words that can ever be expressed.
So these words will become my actions every day.
I promise to never miss an opportunity that will take me one step up the ladder. I promise to never miss the conscious decisions these steps mean … and to never forget that it was the two of you who taught me to walk this path with my head held high, with pride and with the knowledge that I have two remarkable individuals such as yourself as my parents.
I love you.
Your humble son,
It’s complicated …” I lied as I answered his question and in the silence that followed as we stood on his patio, I knew it sounded as empty and transparent as the empty glass in my hand. Fortunately the semi-darkness of the lush gardens at this boutique hotel provided a shadowed masque that made my usually inscrutable face even harder to read as the truth hit home. I was alone because I had consciously invested so much time and energy into relationships that while in the beginning would never go anywhere, yet managed to find their way into our hearts and a possible future together.
As Dave’s words still echoed, the anger that I had been feeling towards the two men that I felt were anchors in my life of late bubbled like a geyser of tar. With a growing frequency, it was demonstrated in the most destructive passive-aggressive behaviour imaginable and had become symptomatic of the resentment I now felt towards what we had. And as the distance between widens the abyss of silence that comes as you lose the intimacy proximity brings the resentment grew as I realised what we had now lost. Struggling with the decision of whether to let go, or try and work harder to salvage, I faced the fear of the moment and did something so out of character: I spoke up and confronted a great love and one that found itself something in between.
Later that week while I paraded my latest bête noir to friends, I got to thinking about it all. In life it’s a pretty common belief that women, and some gay men tend to use the left or more emotional side of their brain and men the right more logical side. But is it really that cut and dry? It seems that when it comes to affairs of the heart there’s a battle between what we know and what we feel. So what do you do when you find yourself in a situation that leaps back and forth between the left and right side? As I sat drinking my vodka tonic I couldn’t help but wonder: when it comes to relationships, is it smarter to follow your heart or your head?
When it came to the Cookie Monster, it started as most of our mornings do, I’m late for work and he’s trapped at work listening to me try and have a conversation while he updates his email, plays with his iPhone and in between it all make the appropriate noise at the most suitable time. After months of this disinterested politeness, I snapped. And like the dam of emotion that had swelled up this past year since we were no longer, it burst out of my mouth and into the empty townhouse we now occupy by circumstance. When the tirade had trickled to a whisper, I could hear from the on the other side of the line that what I said was true. We were going to lose something that meant something to both of us. And just like that we followed our hearts and made an effort to begin again as something we had long forgotten we started out as: friends.
While the second, yet equally important decision was easier than I imagined it could ever be. With no expectation, or explanation necessary I quietly removed him from my life. Yes there will be days that I will miss his company, but those days are long past since he made his decision. It hurt when I heard the words uttered as I stood opposite him in the kitchen, now in hindsight I realise that perhaps he had chosen his equal, when I compare myself to the decision that is manifest to all the things that I could never settle for, dreams that I would never realise and a life that I could never have had he chosen me.