Dominic Hilton

JFK & Me

Me and Jack? Are you kidding? We were like brothers. Not actual brothers – that would make me a Kennedy, and frankly, I can do without that curse stuff. No, we were closer than that. We were like conjoined twins. We shared a brain and physically you couldn’t tell (or tear) us apart. We’d wear one big sweater with ‘H’ for Harvard stamped on the front. When Jack smoked a smuggled Cuban cigar, it’d be my lungs that suffered.

Nixon used to say me and Jack were “thick as thieves”. “Like you and Howard Hunt?” I’d say, but Nixon never laughed. Nixon never laughed at anything, except Kissinger. He blamed me for 1960. Thought I’d helped Jack buy the election. The guy was so bitter about it. “Dick, I’m so poor I can’t buy my own food,” I told him, “let alone an election.” But you know Dick, he never trusted anyone.

Bobby was jealous of me and Jack. He didn’t like how we were inseparable. Jack and I teased him, and called him Booby, which we thought was the funniest thing we ever heard. Booby didn’t agree and tried to have me put away for being a red. It never washed. Not even when Booby’s pal Joe McCarthy lent me a pair of J. Edgar’s scarlet panties and I wore them all summer long. Poor Booby. He was much shorter than Jack and so much brighter.

Teddy never minded me so much. He thought Jack needed a confidante. He said, “John-John’s real shy. Can you introduce him to some of those women of yours? Pop says it’ll be good for his confidence.”

So I did what I could, you know. Jack would ask me for tips, and I’d tell him how to improve his image, how to attract people, find himself a girl. I was responsible for the hairstyle. Before we met, his mother Rose cut his hair round a pudding bowl. It was embarrassing. I said, “Jack, you want to be President, right? A global icon? Just follow my example.” He was so sweet, so desperate to be loved.

Now, as we mark the fiftieth anniversary of Jack’s assassination, I miss him more than ever. I catch myself remembering things long forgotten. Like the time we first met, and played a game of touch football on the lawn at Hyannis Port. Jack was such a crock he could hardly stand up. I showed him how to throw a perfect spiral and lent him a white T-shirt and a pair of Ray-Bans. I took a picture of him looking athletic before he collapsed into the wheelchair and the nurses took him away. He was the picture of health. Booby and I stood in the makeshift end-zone and talked mafia.

Joe Snr. (“Mr. K”) begged me to go into politics. I was like another son to him, and he’d torment me repeatedly, pointing out my every failure. He told me it wasn’t who you were that mattered, but who people thought you were. It was good advice, only with me it hardly mattered, and Mr. K admitted as much. “Some people just have it all,” he said. “You should be President, not one of these no-good kids of mine.” But I lacked political ambition. I never wanted to bring the world to the brink of nuclear war and then save it. What’d be the point?

When Jack became President, we partied like there was no second term. I was so proud of what I’d done for him. He held my shoulder and whispered in my ear, “Without you, I’d be nothing.” I loved that mono-tonal voice, and I’d mercilessly rip the piss out of it. I introduced Jack to Marilyn, Grace, and Judith Exner. “But I’m a married man,” he said. “Inga Binga?” I laughed. “No! Jackie!” “Booby and I will take care of that.” We did, just like we did Marilyn.

When I wrote my trilogy of novels – PT-109, Why England Slept, and Profiles in Courage – I never expected they’d prove so popular. It helped, I guess, that I put Jack’s name on the cover. Joe Snr. had insisted on it. “You’re the talent,” he said. “But Jack’s the son of a rich bootlegger-ambassador, and publishing being what it is… ” I understood, and enjoyed making up the stories. “As long as I get fed,” I told Joseph, who smiled and patted me on the back. “You’ll go far, kid.”

The Thousand Days were the best I’d ever known. We were like kids in a candy shop, running around the Oval Office, giddy with excitement. McNamara, LBJ, they hated me. They’d call me “The Plumber”, because I should’ve worked with toilets, or so they thought. What did I care? I had the ear of the President. I’ve still got it, in fact, locked in a safe.

On the subject of Jack’s death, I have little to say. Frankly, I am sickened by the industry of conspiracy theories. I’ve read the Warren Commission report and all those books by Anthony Summers, I’ve watched the films by Abraham Zapruder and Oliver Stone, and I still maintain that Gary Oldman acted alone from the window of that book depository.

But some people can’t help smelling a rat. They look at me and ask how Jack and I could’ve been so close even though, technically, Jack passed on to the great bordello in the sky many years before I was born. “That’s just detail,” I say. “Jack never cared for detail. You’re missing the bigger picture.”

People always miss the bigger picture. The fact is I gave Jack everything he had. Except the venereal disease, that I know nothing about. People just can’t accept how, in the end, there are some things thicker than blood. Just look at Dubya.

In the final analysis, it’s just as Jack always used to say: “You can’t choose your family, but at least you can choose your imaginary friends.”

 © Dominic Hilton, 2013

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2003, to mark the fortieth anniversary of JFK’s assassination. I have updated it here accordingly (by changing ‘or’ to ‘if’).

Beauty and the BS

I love Karlie Kloss.

How could I not?

Karlie Kloss is 6’ 1”. She loves baseball. She used to be a ballerina - or is one; I can’t remember. She’s called Karlie Kloss, for Heaven’s sake. It’s hardly possible. She’s a homespun Midwestern girl who runs her own cookie company called Karlie’s Kookies. 

Oh, and she’s beautiful. Did I mention that? Very beautiful. That rare combination of cute and elegant, sweet and stunning. A girl straight out of fiction.

Tragically, I’m not alone in having noticed Karlie’s beauty. Karlie is a supermodel. She earns Scrooge McDuck sums of money for possessing her God-given looks. Depending on who and what you read, Karlie has a net worth of anything between $4 million and $275 million. 

Good for her. Modelling is not as easy as ugly people think. And Karlie is the best at it. She deserves all of her money. I hope she dives into pools of gold coins back at her Midwestern McMansion. I hope she trebles her wealth. 

Karlie Kloss is perfect in all ways but one: she’s lying to herself. 

I know, that sounds presumptuous. I don’t know Karlie. I’m not her shrink. I have nothing but good things to say about her. And I wish her Godspeed in all aspects of her life.

But I do follow her Twitter feed. And I did notice that she tweeted (or retweeted, I think) in support of a speech given by Malala Yousafzai at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards in New York. 

Malala Yousafzai is the Pakistani girl who tried to go to school in Pakistan. She tried to go to school in October 2012 and got shot in the head. Shot in the head by the Taliban. For being a girl trying to go school. 

Civilised people, including the staff of Glamour magazine, should support Malala Yousafzai all they can. 

[NB: Glamour magazine. Strapline: ‘Fashion trends, outfits, hair, makeup, celebrity news.’ Wikipedia: ‘A copy of it was the magazine to which George Costanza (Jason Alexander) masturbated on the series Seinfeld, when he was caught by his mother’.] 

So, Malala Yousafzai stands up in front of the audience at the Carnegie Hall, watched by an excited audience of screen starlets and supermodels, fashion editors and socialites. Later, Lady Gaga will be given an award and Barbra Streisand will endorse Hillary Clinton for President before breaking into song. Malala starts to speak. 

What does she say? She quotes Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, and a surprise entry at number 3 in the all-time list of best-selling poets.

She says, ”Beauty is not in the face. Beauty is the light in the heart.”

The room erupts into applause. This room. Karlie Kloss tweets the quote.

Karlie Kloss. It’s like Archimedes denouncing the importance of numeracy.

I know, I know. So what, right? This is a Glamour Magazine event. Who cares?

Well, I do. It bothers me not only because it is stupid and hypocritical. It bothers me that Karlie Kloss thinks she needs to pretend that her beauty isn’t important. It bothers me that she feels guilty about her beauty. It bothers me that she feels the need to undermine it, to apologise for it, to say it doesn’t mean anything, that is has no value, that it doesn’t matter.

It does matter. It always has mattered. 

I’m not saying it’s all that matters. I know there’s such a thing as inner beauty. I know that even the most beautiful faces can be made less beautiful, or unattractive, by unbeautiful insides. I’ve been out with beautiful girls whose insides ruin the overall package. I’ve seen them glare at me as they smoke for lunch. I’ve heard them ask me, “Exactly how much money do you earn?”, their lips curled into a snarl. I’ve listened to them say things like, “Life is not strawberries, Dominic." And I’ve nodded before asking what the hell they’re chatting about?

I’ve dated those girls. And yes, they’re horrible, even if they don’t look horrible in photographs.

But that’s the point. They don’t look ugly. And despite what the assembled hypocrites in the Carnegie Hall say, this counts for something. 

To deny so is to deny the unique nature of our civilisation, forged in Fifth-century Athens, inextricably wedded to classical ideals of beauty. 

We are the direct descendants of a civilisation that held beauty above all. You see the legacy everywhere - magazines, billboards, movie screens, architecture, mathematics, poetry, philosophy, music, even on the occasional porn site. We fight wars in hostile lands so that Karlie Kloss can show her face.

Beauty is a $160 billion-a-year industry. The only difference between us and the Ancient Greeks is that we publicly deny it. We pretend that we’re not bothered, we refuse to value it, to acknowledge its importance in all aspects of our lives, even though it’s right there, staring us in our made-up faces.

Glamour magazine knows this. So does Karlie Kloss. What they do is historically valuable. They give us ideals to aspire to. They set high standards and challenge us to meet them. They should be proud of their service to civilisation.

Celebrating the body beautiful is part of who we are. Karlie Kloss is merely the present-day manifestation of Venus, Aphrodite, and that erotic marble water nymph bathing in the Louvre. She is the anti-barbarian. She should take the role a little more seriously.

Which, most of the time, she does. After applauding Malala Yousafzai at the Glamour awards, Karlie zipped off to do the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which included the $10 million Fantasy Bra.

Now, that's more like it. 

Beauty is truth, truth beauty, said Keats.

Yeah. More true than the applause that rang through the Carnegie Hall for Malala Yousafzai’s speech.

Marion Bartoli & Me

I was on a panel show on an internet TV channel and we were discussing the proliferation of food porn cooking shows on regular TV channels.

Specifically, we were discussing the tendency of cameramen to hold long, lingering shots on the ample bosom of Nigella Lawson, when in theory they were supposed to be focusing on the heavily creamed treats before her. 

I said I was generally sympathetic towards this televisual trend.

But a northerner sitting to my left who was bald and bespectacled and belligerent and from some think tank attached to the Labour Party took umbrage.

He questioned what good Nigella’s hugely popular cooking show was doing for the masses.

He said her breasts were beside the point.

He said her food was unhealthy and too rich and full of double cream.

And then he said, “Besides, she’s fat. Let’s tell the truth about that. The woman is fat.”

No one knew what to say, myself included.

The word just hung in the air. 

He’d have been better off saying ‘cunt’. 

I thought about this awkward episode recently because I accused Wimbledon Ladies Singles Champion Marion Bartoli of a similar infirmity.

Alright, I admit, I called her fat. Not on TV, thank God. But to my sister, who disagreed (on principle, I think).

I felt bad as soon as I said it. But I had a point.

It’s not a nice thing to say. I don’t like writing about it. And I’m conscious that this is only my eighth post to this new blog and already the second time I’ve written about (as opposed to with) weightBut by exchanging text messages with my sister about Marion Bartoli’s paunch I was wondering aloud how a woman who wins Wimbledon and presumably trains for six to eight hours a day isn’t even in shape.

And Marion Bartoli isn’t in shape. She wobbles. She has a belly that falls over the front of her skirt.

Just hangs there.

And she’s a top professional athlete.

I had to use the word ‘fat’ because I just don’t get it.

I don’t get how you can compete at Marion Bartoli’s level, how anyone can exercise as much as she has to, and not even be toned.

[If you don’t believe me, just click here.]

It worries me. It confuses me. It makes me wonder if I understand absolutely nothing about women. And it makes me question whether the woman in fact trains at all, or whether you can win the Wimbledon Ladies Singles title without even practicing.

Can you?

Alright, you can’t win Wimbledon without practicing. I admit that. But why - and I know I’m really going to regret this question - can you win at women’s sports without even being fit? Seriously. If the answer is simply ‘There’s no similarity between men and women’s bodies AT ALL you fucking bigoted misogynist sexist body fascist,” then OK.

Except… Well, that’s not true in all sports. Not entirely. You can play the Babe Ruth card, if you must. But baseball sluggers, like offensive linemen, don’t quite count. And darts players, golfers and weightlifters definitely don’t.

I distinctly remember the girls P.E. teachers at school being B.I.G. - B.I.G.B.U.T. I.N. T.R.A.C.K.S.U.I.T.S. - and thinking, “How does that work? Do those women even exercise? And if not, what right do they have to force exercise upon all these slim girls with eating disorders?”

Then there were the girls who were really good at sport - or so I was told - and were massive. That didn’t happen with us boys. The fat kids were a joke. There was a fat kid at my school called Chris Briggs. He ran the 100m in 1min 03secs.

I’m miffed. Especially seeing as how being ‘in-shape’ does nothing to save your body. Trust me on this. Marion Bartoli retired from tennis this week, bowing out on the greatest high. By way of explanation, she told the press, “my body just can’t cope with everything.”

I’m writing this blog post with my right arm in a sling. (I’m right-handed.) The sling is to help stop my arm from pulling on the median nerve that is being crushed by dodgy vertebrae in my neck. Much more of this anatomical disintegration and Daniel Day Lewis will have to play me in my biopic.

I feel like Marion Bartoli. Only, I never won any championships at Wimbledon. 

My massive memory dump

I found an old Google account.

It belongs to me. But it hadn’t been opened for three years.

There are thousands of notes in my Documents drive (which is now called a Drive drive, or just Drive).

Articles. Book chapters. Everything.

This kind of thing keeps happening to me. I expect to discover soon that I have a family in Eureka Roadhouse, Alaska. With twin sons called Guber and Zeke. We used to shoot elk together. My wife, Elka, used to make cheese. Then one day I forgot all about them and ended up here.

Every Hilton I know is the same. My dad forgets my name. It’s not Alzheimer’s. He’s been doing it my whole life. His mind is full of more important information. Like who conducted a recent performance of an avant-garde female composer playing the French horn with her arsehole.

My sister too. Her memory is terrible. None of us seem to remember where we were last year. Which is annoying as where we were last year tends to explain why we are where we are today.

Opening this Google account was like shining a torch on a period of my life that I had, of course, completely forgotten about.

The good news is that I’m in a better place.

The bad news is that I’m going to share some of my old thoughts with you.

This is from 2009:

This morning I woke up in M’s flat and Becca was there, in a bad mood.

I asked her what was wrong and she said, “Uh, hangover.”

But I knew there was something more.

After I probed, she said, “Did you take some money off of the table?”

I said, “What? When?”

And she said she didn’t know when but that there was a stack of coins on the table that belonged to her.

I patted my pockets and said, “Oh God, were those yours? I’m so sorry. I took them. I thought they were mine. That’s what I do: stack my coins on the table. I hate them weighing down my pockets. Times are tough, but I haven’t stooped to stealing from you yet!”

Or some shit like that.

This too is from 2009:

When I came back to England, I had to move back in with my parents and I quickly took to talking to myself.

Not because my parents are bad conversationalists. But because I’m often oddly relaxed in uncomfortable surroundings. I don’t remember talking to myself too much in my own places.

Monologues often took the following form: “Wow. I mean, W-O-W. That was a great shit. Was that a great shit? Oh yes, that was one of the great ones. I think it will stand the test of time. Oh man, I love to dump.”

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to admit to a doctor that I have conversations like this with myself. Not a shrink. I mean a regular GP.

Or a priest.

From 2008:

I need to know: why is there no place for bowls on drying racks?

So I now know that a few years ago I would steal money, talk to myself about shitting, and work myself up about drying racks.

It makes me feel pretty good about where I’m at now.

My drug problem

I had gone nearly two months without taking the drugs.

I knew they weren’t good for me.

Everyone said that I had to get myself off them. That they were damaging me.

I knew they were right. It’s why I stopped taking them. I knew how ruinous they were.

But the other day I couldn’t resist the temptation. 

I needed them.

They were calling me.

So I took them. At work. 

The results weren’t good. I started to trip quite badly. My pupils were like saucers. I was gurning like the Cookie Monster, hallucinating like Dorothy. My stomach felt like it stretched from my neck to my testicles. My feet felt like they were sopping wet. I thought I was standing in a puddle, or walking on water. 

I couldn’t even walk in a straight line. My brain was burning. Cells were frying. I was really paranoid, my heart racing, my breathing uncontrolled. Spiders were crawling all over my naked body. I used my phone to get help. I couldn’t make it home alone.

The drugs cost me £7.85. I bought them in the pharmacy across the road from the house my parents live in. 

They were prescribed by my doctor. I told him. I said, “Don’t give me any more of those things. They make me trip like Timothy Leary.”

He filled out a prescription for a double dosage. 

According to the packaging, the drugs are anti-inflammatories. They are supposed to reduce the inflammation that is plaguing my muscles and trapping my nerves.

They don’t do that. What they do is turn my journey home from work into a scene from a novel by Hunter S. Thompson. 

If you’ve ever been brain-fried on amyl nitrate, trembling in the corner of some dingy basement club, you’ll know exactly what I mean. 

It’s not what I was expecting from over-the-counter drugs. I could make a fortune on the street with these things. 

My advice, if someone in a white coat ever tries to sell you a C14H1403 pill, just say no.

That is, unless that white coat is made of mink and the guy is driving a cherry-red Cadillac. In which case, you’re probably on your way out and plan to be up all night. The drugs take an hour or two to really kick in, so you know.

Just don’t blame me when you wake up the next day face down on the floor and your back has completely seized up. 

Chicken or Egg?

I’m on a diet.

I know, so is half the Western World. And if not, they should be. 

My diet is not the kind where I’m the size of Cumbria and am trying to reduce myself to the size of a slightly smaller, neighbouring county. 

My diet is the kind where everyone tells me I’m a manorexic.

I’m not. 

I may be a body fascist.

But I don’t see it that way. The way I see it, kids want to be their sporting heroes. Girls want to look like a Vogue cover girl. I want to stay in-shape.

These are all good, aspirational things. Civilisation things. Ideals of perfection. Physical beauty. All that stuff the great snot Kenneth Clark said about how “all the civilisations - or civilising epochs - have had a weight of energy behind them,” without necessarily using the words “weight” and “behind” in the context that I’ve just assigned to them.

I’ve made up my diet. Personalised it. It’s part Atkins, part Paleo and part Gluten-Free. Pretty much, I’m just not eating carbs. No bread. No pasta. No rice. No potatoes. No pastries. No Krispy Kreme.

It’s hard. Harder than I thought. It sucks meatballs.

Starving yourself of carbs makes you hungry. And when you’re hungry, you crave carbs. You want to chow down on a sandwich. You want to slurp bowls of spaghetti. You want to dive into a vat of mashed potato. 

This is the point, of course. To train your body to feed off fat, not sugars. Or something like that. Reading about diets is dull - and everything you read is always advertising something you don’t need.

A golden rule of life is that bone broth - a staple Paleo recipe - is never going to sound as appetizing as a mille-feuille.

It’s also hard to know what to eat. Dieticians pretend there’s “a wealth” of grub options for health freaks. This is crap. I eat salad all the time. The only question is whether I stick a slab of meat or fish on top of it.

The truth is that a good 3/4 of our dinner plates are filled with shit we don’t need. With fillers - food to fill the gap. With carbs, in other words.

Look at your plate. It’s mostly pasta. Or rice. Or potatoes. Your sandwich is mostly just two slabs of bread. Everything else is pretty insubstantial.

That’s often all I’m left with. The worst is when someone else is cooking. I eat the sauce. This blows. Some nights my intake of food has dropped to roughly a quarter of what it once was. Not so much a diet as a hunger strike. 

It’s my birthday today, which doesn’t help. I recommend not to have birthdays during diets. No cake, no treats for breakfast. The Swedish Fish and Midget Gems I got as gifts are being put on proverbial ice. The lazy lunch I just ate at a favourite local Greek restaurant included no bread, no rice, no potatoes, no nothing. 

I’ve given up more than one thing this past year. Carbs are harder than anything. Steak and eggs are perfect for breakfast. They are also costly. If I lived in Argentina I’d eat steak three times a day. In London living like a caveman will bankrupt you.

All said, I feel better. When I was younger I lived like Michael Phelps. My calorie intake was on the scale of Augustus Gloop. My body looked like Michael Phelps’.  

Now I’m old enough to notice when I’ve eaten too many Boston Kremes. I feel blurred, puffy round the edges - it’s hard to explain. I just don’t feel like me. And I like me when I’m me.

If I don’t eat dinner, I’m thinner.

Also, a week ago I watched a guy running down Haverstock Hill. There wasn’t too much wrong with this guy. He wasn’t a total melt. But he was in his thirties, and while no one would call him F-A-T, he had a belly poking over his sweaty running shorts: the very belly that he was attempting to run off by falling gawkily down a hill.

I will never be that guy.

Why the People’s Republic of China is not for people like me (or you)

I fell off a ladder at work.

It was a few months ago now and I thought nothing of it at the time. My colleagues told me that they are always falling off ladders. And there is nothing wrong with them, outside the obvious.

Turns out I tore a muscle in my back which has resulted in several trapped nerves. “You’ve trapped a nerve,” one doctor said as she examined my arse crack.

"At least I’ve got one to trap," I said.

She looked up from my behind, but she didn’t laugh.

To nutshell a boring story, my sciatica is not immediately related to the multiple and undying long-term injuries I sustained from playing way too much sport as a younger man. Those are an added bonus. Whenever I hear a government minister proclaiming that physical exercise is healthy, I try rolling my shoulder and allow the pain from my unmoving shoulder blade to flood through my creaking body.

Sitting down is a bad idea. It’s a bad idea generally, of course, but particularly bad if you are me right now - and I am. Sitting crushes the nerve that runs down my spine and wraps around my coccyx. It’s like parking my butt on Ron Jeremy’s lap.

Meanwhile, my right arm doesn’t work. It feels like I’ve been sleeping on it for ten years. And my fingers fizz. I wake up every time I toss and turn in bed. Which is a lot, as I cannot sleep because my back and my arm hurt.

So I’m in treatment. It helps, I think, but not enough. What I really need, as I had when I used to play sport for real, is constant physiotherapy. I need rub downs and ice baths and those suction machines they stick on you - and I’m not willing to go to Soho to pay for it.

Professional athletes get these things as standard, because they are destroying their bodies. I destroyed mine, but I never went pro. The result is not pretty. I ache a lot.

Anyway, falling off ladders, I now understand, only makes matters worse. I don’t recommend it, unless you like the idea of repeatedly sitting in Ron Jeremy’s lap, which is just fine.

As part of my treatment I’m having acupuncture. I don’t know what I think about acupuncture, but I also don’t care. I’d double tuck into a swamp of leeches if I thought it would cure me.

My acupuncturist is a brilliant doctor called Dr. Shi. Dr. Shi left China in the 1980s with her husband. We talk about what it was like for them as she sticks needles into parts of me that really hurt.

Dr. Shi is no nonsense. She shamelessly beats the crap out of me and I stagger out of our sessions feeling like I’ve picked a fight with Joey Porter. 

On the wall of Dr. Shi’s surgery is a poster showing the male anatomy. Above the naked man it reads, ‘State Standard of the People’s Republic of China: THE LOCATION OF ACUPOINTS’.

There are something in the region of 360 acupoints. I often study the chart wondering what it’s like to live in China, a country that has a state standard for everything, including how many children you can have. 

Dr. Shi has two children. She said to me one time that it’s strange to think that in her home country one of her children “would not be permitted.”

In our last session, we were talking about me and I asked her why I am such a crock and why a guy like Roger Federer has never been injured his entire career. “He was born with it,” Dr. Shi said. “He’s so good that he doesn’t get injured.”

The implication - that I am not good enough to not injure myself - did not go unnoticed. I tried to nod my head, but there was a needle sticking out of my neck.

Then Dr. Shi said something I will never forget. She looked at the State Standard chart of acupoints and said, “You know, Dominic, we are all born different. We can’t force everyone to be the same.”

She learned that the hard way. All I did was fall off a ladder.

Why taking notes is a complete waste of time

I used to take lots of notes.

Life would happen and I’d hold up my hand to pause it, so that I could scribble what just happened - or what I was thinking - into notepads.

I had lots of notepads. Some were expensive and leather-bound and bought for me by girls who cared for me and wanted me to get the hell on with being more of a genius.

I preferred my Baltimore Orioles notepads. They were reporters notepads emblazoned with the Orioles insignia, which meant that as long as I never looked at the crap I’d scribbled inside, they made me happy.

There are all now buried somewhere in a storage depot.

I thought my copious note-taking would prove useful. I thought if I didn’t do it, I would never have anything to use as material.

But when I didn’t have anything to use as material, it wasn’t because I hadn’t taken notes. It was because I was displaying the mental aptitude of a courgette.

In my vast experience, note-taking takes two forms. It either a) happens too much or b) doesn’t happen at all.

Neither is useful.

This is because notes you’ve taken never get revisited. Ever. Which is why they never get used. There are too many of them and they’re too disparate. And they’re almost always really crap observations about nothing that matters.

There’s really nothing you can do with: “Idea: A man who eats an orange like a grieving penguin, then chokes (on the Trans-Siberian Express) like an extra in a Hammer horror.” It doesn’t even make sense. In any way.

The notes you’ve failed to take are no better. They’re the ones you convince yourself were groundbreaking, masterful observations, when actually they were about as impressive as a fossilised cowpat.

And you didn’t take them because there is no good way to take notes. Notepads never fit into your pockets. You never have a pen on you. Smartphones take too long and you look like you’re texting someone or updating your twitter. And, worst of all, there is absolutely no way of ordering any of your allegedly brilliant insights.

What note-takers tend to do to overcome such obstacles is things like carry around multiple notepads in a futile effort to cover life’s various themes. You end up with a grieving penguin in your moleskin, the Trans-Siberian Express in your jotter, and a hammy actor in your margins.

Three times the problem.

I stopped taking notes and my life improved. But then I started writing again and realised I needed some material. It’s a vicious circle. But I think I’ve found an answer.

It’s the one every normal person knows about, without knowing they know it. It’s what I’m doing now. It’s writing your shit down and publishing it.

It’s blogging. It’s tweeting. It’s status updating. It’s emptying your trash can, in the moment. Social media is, I’ve decided, the opposite of hoarding. I’ve been suspicious of it, but I think this is how I can embrace it. By realising that doing things this way is living in the moment, instead of storing up your experiences for some time in the future that, of course, never comes.

Which is why I’m now letting the world see all the shit I churn out. There’s no hiding behind veils of intellectual pretension. No notepads full of supposed gems. No forgotten epiphanies. There’s just this. Literal diarrhea.

You’re welcome to it.

My post-9/11 comic romp

I’m about to dive headfirst into the world of self-publishing.

It’s something I hadn’t thought much about until recently. Mostly because I haven’t been writing.

Now I can barely see a reason to not do it.

It’s been, not to put too fine a point on it, a jolt to my perceptions of almost everything. Like waking up and finding it’s already The Future and you’re Marty McFly and yeah, that’s your mum feeling you up in your Calvin Kleins.

Today I had lunch with my friend Marc, who is Managing Editor of London’s free daily business newspaper City A.M. (you know, a paper people actually read). He’s also a huge champion of the self-publishing revolution.

Marc has read the first novel I intend to publish. He’s green-lighted it. Which is great because now I can blame him for its content, its reception and, now I think of it, its entire existence.

I’m not an illiterate. In my time, I’ve been represented by one of London’s most prestigious agencies, had supposed deals with major publishing houses fall through at the last minute (meaning: handed over to famous name authors), and I’ve written quite a lot of stuff that’s never seen the light of day, much of which even I had forgotten all about.

It was all a big waste of time.

Which’d be fine if everything I’d churned out was a huge pile of horseshit stinking up my desk drawer. But it isn’t. I’ve tried to be ashamed of it. But I’m not. I’ve even tried to not feel ashamed making the decision to publish myself. I don’t.

I want people to read my stuff. Even if they think it’s a huge pile of horseshit. I didn’t write what I wrote for it to not get published.

So I’m publishing it. Logic doesn’t get much simpler than that. It’s so obvious I want to smack my forehead. Someone else, hopefully you, can judge me from thereon in. I’ve done my bit.

Dr. Johnson said that no man but a blockhead would write for anything except money. He’s right. I’ve never even begun to understand the kind of psycho who writes for their own eyes only. I’ve met people like that. Really. People who’ve written whole books just to pass the time and store them on their hard drive. They’re freaks. They probably practice corporal mortification when they’re not writing.

Thing is, Dr. Johnson also said, “The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”

My forthcoming novel has been described by my best friend, a professional critic who is currently serving in Afghanistan (as a soldier, not a critic, I think), as “The post-9/11 comic romp we’ve all been waiting for.”

Job done.

The thing I’m grasping about self-publishing is that you bypass the cliques who make you feel shit even if they praise you. I honestly don’t care what the London Review of Books think of me, especially if it’s similar to what I think of them. What use is praise if it comes from someone whose breath makes you want to vom? And who wants a bad review from a woman with a beard?

But I do want all those strange anonymous people out there with genre fiction fetishes to download and read my book. I want them to know who I am, to love me or hate me. Or to not give a fuck if I live or die. Who cares? I just love the idea of getting the message out directly.

Everyone’s doing it: from Justin Bieber to Amanda Bynes. Politicians always salivate at this thought (though they tend to salivate as a rule, just in general). They’re desperate to speak to voters direct, instead of via the media. No one wants to hear from them, which is understandable, but I don’t blame them. Everyone wants to throw the ball over the first line of defence. If you get battered by the safety, that’s alright. You just gained thirty yards.

I’ll write more on this as I go along. Including maybe some stuff about why I’m bothering with any of this at all. (Status, Tom Wolfe would say. And he’s mostly right about most things.)

On my way back to work from meeting Marc I passed a perfect family in the street - I mean they were perfect - and yet another billboard featuring yet another barely-clad ex.

It all adds up to something, I’m sure.

Marc had ignored most of what we were saying about self-publishing. He’d focused on something else we talked about, an idea of mine to get professionally involved in tennis again. The link he’d sent me was to an article in the New York Times called ‘The Case for Working With Your Hands’ by a guy called Matthew B. Crawford.

For reasons I’ll explain another time the fact that Crawford has a Ph.D in political philosophy from the University of Chicago spoke to me. As did the fact that he jacked in an executive directorship at a think think in Washington to repair motorcycles for a living. I’m lucky to have a job that involves a good amount of physical activity.

I’m a gigolo.

I’m not a gigolo - not any more - but I’ve just discovered that I’m still childish enough to be unable to resist writing that. I knew this blog would be useful.

I won’t waste any time on an obvious point, but Crawford’s career choice is not only understandable, it’s infinitely smarter than the alternative. “It is a rare person, male or female, who is naturally inclined to sit still for 17 years at school, and then indefinitely at work,” he says.

Why, I wonder, are observations like that still capable of surprising us? There’s a theme. It’s the same thing as self-publishing. Malcolm Gladwell’s just written a book called David and Goliath. A friend at Penguin gave me the proofs to read. Gladwell writes about how the Impressionists bypassed the Paris Salon and set up their own exhibition, choosing not to seek the approval of self-serving stuffy-ass protectionist  patrons. The rest, of course, is money. Several billion, in fact.

That would just about pay for the perfect family.


This is not my first blog, just my first blog on my new blog. I’ve had others, called various things like the Hilton Global Initiative, The Monitor, and even The Amnesiac Re(ar)view. Most of these have got lost along with my past lives. This is mostly a good thing.

This blog is currently nameless - a bit like the new Royal baby (at the time of writing). That may change, but for now, as has been the case my whole life, Dominic Hilton will have to do.