The Shoe Leather Express

Writing and Comedy from James Harris

Month: November, 2014

‘The Tea Party’

With so little history, nostalgia gripped them
And saw them lust after 50’s mores,
Vanilla sexuality, freshly-pressed highways
And the unwinnable cold wars.

Like reverse pagans, they worshipped industry,
Cars, trucks and foaming pipelines;
They misread religion, filibustered society,
And their rebuffs grew ever more shrill.

The octogenarian voters in their Florida housing
Lashed out to take youth down in revenge.
Their system bifurcated, their country devastated,
The Indians took America again.

Charles Bukowski translation

Last week I was performing at the lovely night ‘Never Mind the Full Stops‘, run by Paula Varjack and Dan Simpson. My teamate  Nick Field and I were given the task of ‘translating’ a Bukowski poem. I’ve never been a big fan of romantic paens to abandoning all personal and social responsibility, so the result was, somewhat predictably, the unimpressed below.

The next night is on Tuesday December the 9th at the Hackney Picturehouse and I am very pleased to say I’ve been invited back.

Currency exchange

Scene: A currency exchange. The Customer enters.

Customer. Hi, I’d like to exchange some lives please.

Employee. Sure – what have you got?

Customer. I’ve got 132 Iraqis and I’m looking to change them to Germans.

Employee taps calculator.

Employee. Okay, 132 you said – Iraqis gets you… two Germans.

Customer. Germans are strong, huh?

Employee. Very strong at the moment, sir.

Customer. Ok, let’s do it. Germans always come in handy. And before I forget I’ve got three Canadians here and am looking to buy Russians.

Employee. Going to Egypt, sir? Well, let me see… As of today three Canadians gets you 55 Russians.

Customer. Wow – that’s fallen too. I remember when three Canadians got you 100 Russians. I went to St. Petersburg in the 90’s and I only spent ten Canadians the whole time; I didn’t even spend any men! Just out of interest, how many Americans would 155 Afghans get me?

Employee. One moment… 155 Afghans would get you 0.01 of an American. Namely a hundreth. That’s actually improved in the last few years.

Customer. So that means… 1 American equals 15,500 Afghans?

Employee. And don’t forget there’s no commission on Afghans either. But between you and me, even Americans aren’t what they were; 1 American only gets you 0.9th of a Canadian these days.

Customer. Wow. The times they are a-changing. Canadians worth more than Americans!

Employee. Indeed, sir. We do indeed live in interesting times. Pretty soon the only thing that’ll be reliable is a Swiss. Now, here’s your two Germans at a commission of 12 Iraqis, your 55 Russians at an exchange rate of just over a twentieth of a Canadian and your receipt. Keep that in case you have any bits of German left you want to bring back to us. Their brains are particularly useful.

Customer. Well – what do they say? Vielen Danke!

Employee. A pleasure doing business with you sir. Enjoy your trip, and don’t spend all those Germans at once!


‘A child sleeps outside a mony exchange in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand’ by victoriapeckham is licensed under CC BY 2.0.