Friday, August 22, 2014

Male Trailing Spouse in the News


11st 8 (fat caused by work). Alcohol units 0. Jamaican Woodbines 6 (very good). Big feature published in Vice (bloody good). Calories 2,850 (on soup and pumpernickel bread due to extraction of three back teeth).




The Male Trailing Spouse has been in the news of late. Global coverage no less and for all the right reasons. Vice, the hippest multimedia publisher on the planet, just ran a blood and guts story about my work behind bars. About time. I'd been held in the queue since July. It was, according to the gorgeous, pouting Boss Lady in London, not "time sensitive" -- ironic, given that the story concerned me doing time undercover in the jails of America. But, just as I was beginning to feel like Saul Bellow's protagonist in The Dangling Man, she told me that it was going in (August 15). Infamous for fifteen minutes again. Hip-hip-hooray for the Male Trailing Spouse. He is a superfluous man no more.  


Within a matter of hours the story became the most viewed on Vice USA's website. It was much liked and shared on Facebook, and twitted and tweeted on Twitter. In the old days, I would have gone down to the pub to laud it over my fellow hacks. But four years into a life of no booze and inward contemplation, I retired to the Ops Room to watch old black and white episodes of Danger Man (Secret Agent in the USA) on YouTube. 



I was at the beginning of season three. John Drake was pretending to be a drunken diplomat slash double agent in Singapore. The phone rang. It was CBS 5 in Arizona. The story in Vice had stirred up much debate about Sheriff Joe Arpaio, his Tent City concentration camp, medieval chain gang and, last but not least, the integrity of my story.  Despite emails, correspondence, pictures, documents and tape recordings, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office denied that I was ever there.  Could I do a Skype interview for the TV news?  Having watched two scruffy interviewees on BBC World earlier in the evening, I quickly shaved and got one of my tailor made suits out of mothballs.  The hair was scraggy.  I had not had it cut for months (still on the to-do list) and immediately slicked it back with the aid of some Black and White hair dressing pomade. 



I got out the notes on Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the six jails of Maricopa County, reread my article published in Vice - tut-tutting at the errors made by the sub editor in the headline and standfirst - and double checked my bouffant hairdo in the camera of the PC.  I went over the facts, figures, controversies; the deaths in custody, the political background and the demographics (the blue rinses of Phoenix keep on voting Arpaio in). It was time for the interview. Most print hacks um, er and ah when they go on the telly. Not me.  The interview is here.


Back to Vice.  After a few days, the jail feature was syndicated to Canada, Aus/NZ, Germany, Austria/Swiss, Italy and Romania.  In the middle of all this I was sent an audio version of the story on Umano, narrated by an actor chap called "Dwight Equitz" (what strange names these Americans have). I was a wee bit gutted.  I have a cool English accent and know the cadence of my own work better than some Yankee Doodle Dandy. Still, hats off to Mr. Equitz, he did not mangle my sparkling prose too much.


Despite the extraction of two wisdom teeth and a broken cap, I have been in a cheery mood of late. A nice big debut feature in Vice. I stuck it to the Nazi Sheriff in Arizona. And got lots of juicy plugs for the book. Mission accomplished. Hopefully all this press will drive up sales. But I am not too bothered. I have done all that I can for the book, and for raising consciousness about the subject matter at large. In the meantime, before I send off another outline for commission and/or rejection to London, I have to unload the dishwasher, empty the dryer, and fold the washing before She Who Must Be Obeyed gets home from saving the world from poverty and bad housing.