David Sedaris in Edinburgh

David Sedaris Signature We're on the train back from Edinburgh. Alex is sitting across from me. She's reading. Our carriage is about half-full with festival goers. Teenagers swear too much on public transport. Alex had bought me tickets to see David Sedaris for my birthday. He was great. Like a lot of people, I discovered his work through This American Life and instantly fell in love. I was super happy to get the chance to see him in person. He read from his books, articles and diary. Man is he funny. The thing I enjoyed most about the talk, though, was his voice. What a voice! An unbelievably sweet and charming kinda Winnie The Pooh thing that doesn't even seem real. I'd kill for a voice like that. When I talk, it's the worst. A horrible slow drone that I've been self-conscious about since high school. David Sedaris gave me voice-envy. When he curses, you can't help but smile. After the reading, we waited around to get a book signed and to say hello. We were pretty shy, but he chatted away regardless. He asked us about Stirling and drew us a picture of a dog coming out of a turtle shell. We also ate some Mexican food and drank some Coca-Cola.

Survival in the City

Survival In The City - Pickpocket

I picked up Anthony Greenbank’s insane book, Survival in the City a while back after reading an article about it on thingsmagazine.com. It’s mental. Like, really mental.

Survival in the City (1974) is a guidebook to urban self-preservation, an encyclopedia of tips and tricks for the everyman on a visit to a big city. It covers everything: transport, accommodation, going out and (terrifyingly) other people. It's a paranoid rave about muggers, card-sharks and drag queens.

The best chapters focus on nightlife or, as Greenbank puts it, the ‘trials and temptations of CITY BRIGHT LIGHTS’. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to properly buy a drink, safely handle a drug-dealer or survive a bar-brawl then worry no longer, instruction is at hand. In the big city, you’re doing pretty well if you’ve not had your wallet stolen by a drink-spiking transvestite after mistakenly walking into a poorly signposted “gay” bar. Even the text itself is a barrage of panicky capitals, footnotes and back-referencing that is almost unreadable.

If you can get hold of Survival in the City, I’d really recommend it. It’s brills. Here’s a few little paragraphs with a selection of Colin Harrington’s illustrations thrown in:

Survival In The City - Fear

SHAKE OFF FEAR PHYSICALLY
Place the fingertips on your stomach just below the solar plexus. Breathe in deeply, press hard with the fingers and bend over forwards. Hold this position and count one-two-three. Now let the breath come out slowly and stand upright. Repeat this effective measure until you feel calmer.

This will reduce the tension in your head and allow you to concentrate.

Survival In The City - Thief

AVOID BABY SNATCHING
Use fluids to keep you awake when pram pushing (see also THE SHEEP: p. 31). Know the danger of falling asleep if troubled/tired/hot on warm grass; your infant could be stolen (possibly by other children).

SIDETRACK SEX
Quell sexual urges when elderly/male/lonely before joining crowds in summer dress – tennis tournaments etc. It is far safer to masturbate first than yield to sudden temptation to brush/stroke/fondle female spectators in scanty attire when hot-weather atmosphere becomes too heady.

Survival In The City - Drunk

TOLERATE TRANSVESTITES
Expect men-dressed-up-as-eye-pulling-women in dancehalls, ballrooms, speakeasies, discos, restaurants, cinemas, night clubs and bars. Reasons: a bar/club/café may be a hangout for homosexual prostitutes – some or all in drag; a straight bar could have been infiltrated by freelance drag queens prepared to be picked up by the unsuspecting (You) – or they may take it for granted you know (when you don’t); or they may be bag snatchers dressed as women.

NEVER get uptight when you discover your companion is of the same sex as you. Hetrosexuals – pass it off. Don’t recoil in horror, or become violent when not normally given to scrapping.

Transvestites can be vicious – they have fewer inhibitions than normal men and rejection antagonizes them for they think they are beautiful; they also keep together and gang up; some have all-men minders too. So be careful if you encounter any.

Survival In The City - Gun

KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON DANCING
Don’t get rattled – or rattle others – on a crowded dance floor when a spinning couple knock into you, a balloon-pricking maniac bursts your balloon, your partner abandons you or a stranger accuses you of treading on his shoes.

Follow the dance style of the particular establishment: ballroom-tea-dance/disco/night club. Don’t dance differently for the sake of being different.

Remember: a male may “dance” by resting his crotch on a stair rail or banister and squirming his pelvis – don’t react. If that’s this particular night club scene, go along with it.

Survival In The City - Soul Brother Handshake

STRIPPED NAKED
Improvise clothing when yours is stolen by a female working from a “trick pad” – a room in a sleazy hotel or cheap apartment building (see also THE WINNER: p. 304).

A PILLOWCASE can become a tee shirt when slit across the end for your head and down each side for your arms; start the slits with broken mirror/wooden splinter/burst bedspring, then rip the fabric slowly.

A PIECE OF SHEET 2 ft. SQUARE will make “shorts”; tear the sheet as for the pillowcase; wrap the cloth round your loins diaper-style; knot the corners.

Face the building superintendent without blustering. Ask to borrow trousers/shirt/shoes. It is not an occasion for threatening police action.

Survival In The City - Tied Up

Just incase any nutjobs reading this think I'm a big racist homophobe, let me stress that the above extracts are not my opinion and you're daft if you think they are.

Pick up Survival in the City if you can. You'll maybe sleep a little safer.