Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jack Riewoldt, The Monster and The Bird



Its 3hree AM in some middling Melbourne wine bar near Southbank. Friends of friends have dispersed long ago, in couples both new and old, in taxis and cars and off into the night. One of them looked incredibly like Nikki Webster, it distracted me for hours. Circumstance has ensured I'm here in Melbourne unaccompanied and my hotel room will only contain a left over slice of pizza, but it's all good for now. I'm left with the stragglers and my deeply unsympathetic friend Louise. Louise is a cold hearted pragmatist locked in a deep competitive race with no-one in particular to acquire more trinkets than anyone else. Across from us, an Italian waitress cleans a glass several times over, hoping we will leave soon so she can close up. The security guard hops awkwardly from foot to foot in desperate boredom, and 2wo of our other friends are awkwardly trying to pash, paired together by default and middle age ennui. I'm struck by how tired Louise looks - I wonder what happens to party girls as they age, when it's awkwardly painful to get in a cab at 8am and keep up with the younger girls. The last time I saw Louise before tonight she was throwing shapes in the middle of a dance floor with 16teen year olds. I do admire her self confidence in many ways. She plainly can't dance, but she doesn't care, while every step or shape I throw is laborious and pained. I inherited my lack of dancing ability from my Dad. I've turned down two or three dances already tonight, due to a lack of confidence. I'm neither drunk nor sober, and simply babbling to kill the silence. The Italian waitress walks past, and over laughs at 1ne of my jokes, perhaps for a tip, perhaps to indicate that she's watching us impatiently. Time is moving slowly - words aren't having any impact...neither are badly spelled text messages it seems...

There's a man in a black shirt with ashen grey lips drunkenly jabbing at an ATM in the corner. His hair is matted into a comb over, and he can't stand up straight, one leg going to the shops while the other comes back with the change. He misses the buttons as he swipes wildly with his fingers and he turns to the security guard and demands something is done to fix "his" ATM. His eyes are utterly void of logic and flash with malice as he tries to attract attention to his financial plight. The security is dis-interested, amusing himself watching our friends try and pash as the female of the pairing stumbles and falls to the floor giggling like a school girl. The man walks over to the security guard and spits in his direction, maybe accidentally, but in a flash of mindless violence so vivid and bright to me it was like a sparkler arcing through the sky, he is on the ground holding his face, struck violently hard and left to contemplate his failings in attitude and hairstyle. The security guard is indifferent save for a self satisfied flex of his left pec, and drags the man outside. Everyone seems to freeze awkwardly in time - even the pashing stumbling couple seem to lose interest each other and begin to hypnotically stare at the small drop of blood polluting their dance floor. The waitress gestures to someone in the back and some distractingly loud dance music sounds off through crackly PA speakers to try and distract us from the mayhem. It doesn't work and soon everyone is desperate to leave, mentally stampeding to more pleasant pastures as soon as they can...

So Louise and I make small talk as she surreptitiously pours her drink into mine, hoping I don't notice so it looks like she's drinking fast, trying to maintain a hard partying image even when she can't be bothered. Her first response to the BJ issue was crudely phrased - as you can imagine, when you are trying to explain complicated feelings to someone under the influence of Heineken and simplistic values, the last thing you want to hear is your entire relationship may come down to a question of carnal knowledge. You do want to believe it's special, you really do, and not driven by baser instincts. Louise is bored; I can see it in her eyes. She can probably tell I'm bored because I realise I've been looking at her crooked lipstick for hours on end without thinking properly about a word I've said. I could argue for hours with her about the nature of feelings, but it's easier to have a conversation about how to steal the audio off a YouTube clip and put it on your IPOD or some other ephemeral conversational topic. Our wounded comb overed victim bangs on the window in feeble middle class impotent rage, before turning and leaving. The pashing couple depart in separate cabs having had an argument about football, and the Italian waitress begins flicking the lights. Part of me wants to stay just to see how desperate they get to make us leave. Maybe someone will come out of the back with a broom and start sweeping or maybe they'll begin trying to make us all uncomfortable by talking loudly about us. Used to work at certain Grade 12 parties...

We leave once the conversation dies and fades. Louise hugs me as she gets into her taxi, a chunky 80s style bangle shimmering in the street light. I take a bite of a kebab I don't really remember buying. I wish I felt more special, and wasn't weighed down by self conscious values - my Dad told me when my Grade Two girlfriend dumped me for liking a different colour of crayon I was naive to think I was someone special. A heavy burden to weigh upon the burgeoning consciousness of a kid, one who was still working out just why he preferred Grimlock to Optimus Prime. Louise said she saw the footballer Jack Riewoldt sitting miserable in a bar at Crown Casino, almost in tears because he had been stood up. I think her point was that everyone was the same and love was no big deal and we can all have a broken heart. Louise can tie anything into celebrities. When I hurt my leg I think it was the same bone as Katy Perry's from memory. Last time I saw Jack Riewoldt he was cracking onto a barmaid at a Newtown pub with some don't you know who I am style patter. I think he'll do better than me throughout this New Year somehow. I haven't seen Louise since although several of her recent Facebook posts have been angst ridden and abusive towards her ex boyfriend, suggesting her world weary people hating everything is shit and blunt patter is rehearsed and untrue. The kebab remained stoically silent throughout our interaction, and I thought the night was over....

And then you flip your phone, push it up, hear a bland corporate clang indicating you've received a text message, read it, and that's it...life changed...even the kebab and cold slice of pizza seems delicious...and you really think everything’s changed. And that moment, you wouldn't trade your life for Jack Riewoldts for all the goals in the world...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Enjoy calm beauty with a unique sense of soul



Its Xmas day in a suburban Tasmanian town. In the middle distance 2wo surfers sit on the beach in awe of the beautiful scenery and of course their own fancy haircuts. As for me and my family, after we piled into the family Kia Rio and listened to one of my more "Weary Willie" CDs (c Mum who thinks I only listen to whingy whiny indie females) and after a drive that consists of no fewer than 2wo arguments about cheese, we're guests in other people’s lives for the day. We have gathered around an increasingly cramped gently decorated wooden table to eat turkey and to exchange whimsical variations of an answer to life’s eternal question - "how's work going?".

Should I go with "It's still going!" or "Yeah OK? How about you?" - decisions decisions...bad jokes, hats, small talk from the pits of hell, it's all the staples of course. Yet something is missing, and I can feel the chill. This is the first Xmas with these people I can remember where it's been as much of an obligation for them to put on the spread as it is for me to faux enjoy it. Strange. I don't tell BJ, for I have built myself up to her at this point as a nihilist hell bent on hating on society, but later with genuine interest I do ask someone how work is going, just to get the party started. Perish the thought...

There's an aching poignancy in 1ne of the symbolically empty chairs on the deck above me later in the day which is making this protagonist decidedly uneasy.

"You can't sit in that chair!" they will say to anyone who doesn't know, only half jokingly. "Grandad wouldn't have wanted you to sit in that chair!" - I never knew either of my Granddads. One was a taciturn old religiously hypocritically religious bore who fell out with my Dad over a christening shawl, and never spoke to him again. He wrote me out of his wives obit in the local paper and claimed just 1ne Grandchild spawned the earth. My other Grandad was a product of his times alcoholic whose own funeral failed to inspire the most base of human sadness. It's thus hard for me to conjure up the feelings 1ne must feel towards a kindly old Grandfather figure. I did know their Grandad though, and upon realising that what their Grandad mostly wanted wasn't to be symbolically and posthumously represented by a worn old out folding chair, but to be left the fuck alone, I begin to think about my life and it's accelerating decline into mediocrity in a way alien to most of my other Xmas's. Certainly more than the 1ne I pulled a Santa hat over my head and fell asleep for 4our hours...

I would muse more on this decline if people would stop asking me how work was going...

Death frightens me. The reduction of a series of complexities in an individual’s life - in particular what really fascinates me, the individual steps in someone’s life that gets them to be, well, them - to basically a series of 4our or 5ive anecdotes that mostly end with the phrase "that was our (name inserted)" terrifies me. I wonder in this back garden how I will be remembered, if at all, as a furry yellow tennis ball slips past my feet and into the dear departed’s once mighty patch of vegetables. It's certainly a little D&M for a backyard game of cricket these thoughts - it's no surprise the kids are able to sneak through for a cheeky 2nd run. Inevitably, some1ne says can you imagine Granddads reaction if some1ne - me - stepped on his carrots. They share a mutual laugh I can appreciate but never fully understand. While they are musing, I run out one of the kids with a desperate throw from the pumpkin patch, which seems slightly inappropriate, but properly Australian...

Even the present opening is rapid-fire and awkward and forced. My Mum insists on buying the "kids" 1ne of those little stockings full of chocolate. Those kids are now 16, and as likely to buy Ice as enjoy the delicious chocolately treat of a Crunchie. Mind you, my own chocolate treats go the other way now - fancy, sure, and it's the thought that counts, but they seem, well, really old man chocolates. I'm only a hop and a step away from a bag of Werther Originals. Some1ne starts telling me a story about their car that seems so inordinately boring time seems to stop. I suck on 1ne of my old man chocolates and nod in all the right places but really I'm thinking if I could hit my Dad on the head with 1ne of the chocolates and if it would hurt. I mean these are big chocolates. The crux of the story about the car from what I gather seems to be that this guy’s favourite car magazine has said his car is a potential death trap. Some1ne takes our photo on a mobile phone. I'm not sure that it will be a keeper. My eyes when I look at the photo are blank while his are animated. What amuses me is my Mum in the background is stuck in a similar conversation. Later I find out hers is about Avenue Q. At least I could contribute to that discussion...what is a manifold anyway?

My own legacy is troubling me. I feel in a fog that won't stop swirling around me, like I've woke up Quantum Leap style in some1ne else’s life, at 32 years of age, without a clue how I got here. Kids I see 1nce a year are on mobile phones and talking about getting drugs at a gay club. When did Hobart get a gay club? Am I still hip? I know who Katy B is, does that count for anything? I say VHS instead of DVD, an instant giveaway. My expression seems permanently troubled, dour, tired even. At the same time, I'm lucky - I'm safe, and whenever I want, I can up and go to any part of the world I feel like. It's truly troubling to have a mid life crisis in the middle of Xmas dinner. In fact, it's only in the mid of this troubling series of questions that I realise that a small child has sat at the Xmas dinner table for about 2wo minutes with a fixed intensity stare that has bored into my skull, while they hold out a cracker. Every1ne at the table seems to be competing for my attention and is willing me to, bluntly, pull the bloody thing just to get on with the day. That's part of the problem as well. I'm not thinking about pulling a cracker, I'm only thinking of her. Whether this is going to work out, whether it's going to change my life. How to explain to a child with no teeth and a pout that could stop a truck that this moment where you hold out a cracker and nothing else matters is as good as life is ever going to get...

I won though, got a party hat and a little monocle out of a cracker. It's still on my kitchen table. Small victories to build on...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The beginning of the one way conversation Part One



It's 12 pm in a suburban Tasmanian shopping centre. I have left behind the woes of office life and a flashing orange Instant message that may or may not be important to step into the bewilderness. 1ne of the local businesses has an angry sign about centre management affixed to his window, and all I notice about it is the shoddy way it's taped to the window, as if his impotently angry hands couldn't wait to put the message up, shabby or otherwise. I peer in the window and he's handing over a pen to a customer to sign his petition. Something about air conditioning. His cheeks are puce and crimson in alternate angry streaks. The customer drops the magic word to describe just what he thinks of centre management. All together now, it's the most wonderful time of the year...

Its 3hree days before Xmas and the centre is frothing with activity. I've acquired a neck injury, a sign of rapid aging. It went off like a shotgun my neck, right in the middle of the day. On a green bench sit 2wo middle class university students in matching school leaver’s tops. One of them is talking rapidly and preciously about whether the protagonist in a particular novel is "fascinating or trite". The girl in the conversation is staring ahead blankly, as if she's heard the conversation a million times before or maybe as if she can turn the next table into ashes simply by staring a hole through it. I'm walking with a purpose I notice. I'm very self conscious today. Every gesture is for some reason bothering me, as if I've become an awkwardly strung puppet in a giant play I didn't sign up for. What is with my walk? When did I start walking like this...

Xmas is not my favourite time of year. I've already regaled most of our casual workers with what has almost become a Seinfeldesque rehearsed piece of conversational fluff about how tedious Xmas dinner has become when people ask me every year how work is. To be honest, it's so rehearsed, it's almost ready for the stage, and I even pause for laughter round the photocopier. Truthfully, if that's not a sign of middle class ennui...

Xmas, so says a gaudy neon pink sign stuck with Blu Tac to 1ne of the store windows, is for the children. Sadly for me, my Dad has taped over 1ne of my Xmas mornings as a child with an old repeated episode of the Vicar Of Dibley. Tragically for me, the last vestiges of any evidence I may have been a free spirited innocent cherub have been erased and replaced by the formulaic scripted comedy of Richard Curtis and someone liners from the bloke who played Trigger on Only Fools and Horses. Those years now only exist in anecdote and whimsy, exaggeration and memories that coated in sentiment. My Dad has chosen to mostly remember the anecdotes that end with me looking foolish. That is his right as a parent. I have to peer through the veneer of Scottish cynicism to find true sentiment and affection. My own Xmas card in my hands will soon possess, in my own handwriting, a heartfelt and jocular plea to tell me who my real parents are, part of a long running family joke about me being a long last member of the Packer clan. My Mum usually ripostes with some remark about how they'd have sent my back by now. Yes, I was born this way, so any VHS based evidence of a sickly sweet family gathered around the Xmas tree learning would clearly have been staged nonsense for Grandma, and best taped over by a Trigger joke, since it would bear no relation at all to my memories, and how they have come to form the person standing drinking Red Bull before this storebound Santa at this particular hour...

"Do you believe in magic!" yells an emaciated sickly looking woman in skin tight green elf pants. She pumps her fist in the air like a bewildered out of place rock star as a single faint trace of mascara rolls down her cheek, and holds out her megaphone to her audience of bored looking children and . The rain on a tin roof emulating small round of applause that reverberates around the shopping centre suggests our shoppers not only don't believe in magic, they don't even believe in it enough to drown out the faint hum of a corporate CD chain store's Mariah Carey CD. She doesn't care - her enthusiasm for Xmas isn't shared by the sleepy looking store Santa who woozily huffs and forces his red jowls into a forced smile as a small child with cherubic features affixes himself to Santa's knee to aim for the only things important in a child’s life. I envy his simplistic view that life can any only get better if he acquires a particular item or possession. And yet, not only 5ive minutes later is the cherubic angelic child fizzing in strange anger about not getting a Samboys chip, but I'm forced to ponder just how emotionally mature I am when there's only one thing in my life that makes any sense, even when my thoughts are being Careyed at a suddenly noxious level...

I return to work. I'm humming a public domain carol. There's a crazy man standing on the steps of the centre. He's hitting himself in the head and talking about knocking his haircut into shape. His carer - not as I sometimes say, his "handler" - is patiently waiting for this fixation to stop. I feel no connection to my fellow man at all these days. Everywhere I look, I feel tired. I've stopped making sense in my conversation, and no one is making sense in return to me. Truly, I feel as though everything around me is a crazed one way conversation. If I speak to someone, I feel as though my words are meaningless, bouncing off and falling to the floor in a slow agonizing motion that I can see. In return, people talking to me are mere disturbances, interruptions into a private obsession that can never be truly explained. The crazy man is quiet now, but smiling the demented smile of those about to stab. My simplistic life begins again when I re-enter my work place, spin another one of my tedious anecdotes, receive in return a mild response of fake laughter, smooth my suit down and receive on Instant Messenger a comment from the only person in my life that makes any sense to me, truly the ship through the fog, if that ship was Tasmanian and the fog was a series of small children running into my shins and making me feel every bit of my world weary age...

Her name was BJ, and she was going to save me from all this...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Camgymeriad Gwych



It's Friday afternoon. My boss has just made an error which has resulted in much flapping of arms and plenty of panic around the office. Cooler heads should prevail, but they don't. They never do. The girl with the mod haircut has solved the problem, pretty efficiently it must be said, but no 1ne is listening - the perils of temporary employment include the trouble of being dismissed as an after-thought when you've solved the problem. My boss has the conversational tick of adding a Y onto every word in an attempt to be jocular and matey. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not Bertrand Russell in my conversational voice, since too much exposure to football crowds and girls who play netball means I lapse into far too much casual swearing, but I do have a professional work voice when required. This particular conversation tick is wearing on me - sometimes we search for leadership in this office and are confronted with a repetitive comedy jocularity and faux sense of fun that can be jarring. Hold up an unfinished report and get a comedy pig and a wacky nickname in response and see how your mental state holds up...

I could be 1ne of those cooler heads if I could be bothered. I'm more worried about why my phone won't show me my e-mail quicker. Not that I get e-mail - comments from here and flashing e-mails from the NBA selling me shoes just about covers most of it - but it's nice to check. My phone isn't playing along though...yes, I will accept the CA certificate. For the 9nth time...I'm essentially checking out of habit really. I do a lot of things out of habit. I change my Fantasy NBA players obsessively, I do exactly 2kms on the treadmill, and I have toast regularly at set intervals. My parents are proud of being dull - they are truly the enemies of wacky and zany. My love of puppets disappoints them a little bit. I just find them hilarious. I never got into any of those "candid camera" style shows either...what has been interesting writing lately (nothing I hear you say) has been how often I've had realisations at my desk. Perhaps it's best to shut out the comedy pigs, stop eating the chocolate biscuits, and do some work, but sometimes it's good to listen to the little voice in my head as a way of killing some time...that little voice might be a little obsessed with popular culture and sport, but sometimes, it can be insightful...and it's either that or hear my name with a Y added on for 26th time today...

It was mid Friday and mid conversation I realised I'd never been genuinely heartbroken. The new girl at work apparently hates an ex boyfriend even more than the guy who let her down from the factory down the road. I think his jocular use of the phrase "daft cow" was taken the wrong way. As for the other boyfriend, he was dating her and then left her mid stream for another girl but didn't tell her for ages, just stopped calling. She saw them together at the Victoria Tavern, hopefully during their short lived "Coyote Ugly" theme nights. She was most upset - they had even got to the "luvved up" nickname phase of their relationship. I know this because his nickname was scrawled on a pen left lying around as both workplace and office detritus and she threw it in the bin. She was explaining the exact circumstances through which he transformed from lovable old "Chips" to having a swearword attached to every aspect of his character. I realised break ups have never have bothered me as much as that. Not even my current 1ne. Mind you, I never got a cute nickname either - Sarah used to call me "Snowy" on account of my white albino style early Beatles cut hair, but it never caught on. I called her Sarah. At least she had made the effort...

Relationships have never left me that upset - most of mine just ran their course. Sarah in Grade 2wo, she just didn't ring 1ne weekend. We last met outside a milk bar where I was too immature and too busy trying to find a Bryan Taylor footy card to reciprocate her excellent listening skills. I'm Catholic, we're hard on ourselves. Debbie? We simply had too many arguments about chocolate bars and everything fizzled out. My netball playing girlfriend? That 1ne was my fault since I played far too much ATARI instead of doing proper boyfriend things like, I don't know, arguing about stuff with a bit more vigour. Most times I've simply got on with life - when I broke up with Debbie, my Mum tried to cheer me up by making up a sort of weird jingle about how I was better off without her. I went upstairs and watched Beadles About and didn't even worry too much about it. Mind you, this was a period in my life where a failure to get a video camera meant I said to my Mum - a woman who lived in a single room with 10en siblings - something like has your life ever been as tough as mine? Aside from the hairdresser who asked her if people came into her room and touched her stuff, no misappropriation of her Glaswegian childhood has made her laugh more...

There's an uneaten pile of lollies on the table at work. No 1ne has eaten them...I might have to, or the girl who bought them might get a complex. I come from a tough family - when I took all the skin off my neck in a running into a tennis net accident, my Dad told me not to be so selfish when I asked for another Tic-Toc from the school nurse. I also come from a tough country. I think I'm emotionally tough, although I know drunk I can stay stupid things just to see what happens sometimes and then complain about it. I've been going to ask this girl out for 5ive years and every time I'm drunk I promise I'll do it, I really will...lucky I don't have her number. Some1ne wants to bring plants into the office. I make a "Between Two Ferns" joke since they want to put them either side of my desk, but no 1ne gets it. They just look at me strangely. They have largely abandoned the problem and chalked it up to experience and are already talking about plants and who's going to eat the lollies and whatever happened to Alison Brahe - no wait, I wondered that. They have left it for me to fix I think. It's sitting on my desk in that way people leave things when they are pretending they are going to come back later and fix it but they never do. Ultimately I'll pick up the pieces, even though I don't want to. I think some1ne will give me, I don't know, a lolly snake as a reward for fixing the problem. The other alternative would be to slip it onto the desk of the girl with the mod haircut, but she leaves on Monday - I hope she buys a cake, these lollies are terrible...

This current break up, oddly, was a lot like my break up with Sarah. Although with less crayon debate, less kissing for charity and more awkward silent pauses at about 4our in the morning that on a comedy show they would call a cricket riding a tumbleweed. Our relationship was nothing more than a beautiful mistake - I thought I could fix the world, and I couldn't. I thought if I said enough wonderful things and made enough playful gestures it could work out. It didn't. She still went back to the man with the scrunchy face, and now they've broken up. She's off work with depression now. No 1ne in the office has rung to offer support. They have left it for me to fix I think. It's sitting in my e-mail tray the "someone should call her" e-mail - in that way people e-mail when they are pretending they are going to e-mail later with a resolution and sort out who is going to ring but they never do. Ultimately I'll pick up the pieces and be a supportive friend, even though I don't want to. I think some1ne will give me, I don't know, a lolly snake as a reward for making the call. I haven't done it yet though. Instead I'm more worried about why my phone won't show me my e-mail quicker. Not that I get e-mail - comments from here and flashing e-mails from the NBA selling me shoes just about covers most of it - but it's nice to check. My phone isn't playing along though...yes, I will accept the CA certificate. I change my Fantasy NBA players obsessively, I do exactly 2kms on the treadmill, and I have toast regularly at set intervals...

An entire weekend bypassed by the time I emotionally wake up. I could have done so much more with my life if it wasn't so damned hard...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thanks for the laughs and being true (cheers for all the Nandos!)



It's midday in a suburban Tasmanian shopping centre. Emboldened by their pension, old people are slothfully walking through at zombie tempo, revelling in no longer caring they are in the way. A woman has McDonald’s ice cream dripping down her chin - her friends simply don't tell her. There's water cascading down the floor in a slow moving torrent. No 1ne seems to be in a hurry to fix it. I've spent a lot of the last few days in the strangest funk. I don't know why - it's not all Milo Bar related. I've been feeling physically spry but I can't get into any kind of gear. To try and work it out, I made a brief mental list of all the things annoying me in a single day. None seemed to be any more important in the scheme of things than slow moving cars, computers that didn't work or bewildered Grandpa Simpson style pensioners shuffling in carpet slippers into my path. It's hardly buzzbombs, rickets and rising damp. I'm sure someone from Wartime Britain would slap me in the face for my middle class concerns and angst and then hustle me away for a talk on stiff upper lips. Doesn't mean I'm any more alert though. They bought me a present today at work - a cute toy to try and cheer me up. I don't know how the complex emotional swirl of human life can be fixed by the purchase of a pig with a cheeky face but I guess that's where we are as a society. Plus, his face really was cheeky. I didn't even notice I was being grumpy. They then tried to name it around me. My e-mail box flooded with stupid cheer him up jokes...it didn't work, needless to say. The new girl got a Facebook message from the guy she was stalking which she took as a suggestion she was dumb. She was grumpy all day, chewing on chocolates in a depression. Needless to say my ironic ex girlfriend continues to not talk to me all day long unless it's necessary. She swishes past my desk and then walks past and swishes past it again to really emphasise that she isn't talking to me. She sometimes gets absolutely no work done with all the swishing. So here I am - one of my co-workers is eating chocolate in emotional desolation, another that I have had relations with is swishing past my desk endlessly in a sort of post break up swirl of hairspray and bitterness - and here I thought I was being mature, with my Chunky Kit Kats and chin up tiger pep talks - and here I sit with a pig with a cheeky smirk on his face for company. Welcome to Thursday...you don't have to be crazy to work here...

Away from all the swishing and consumption of chocolate products - I believe Sartre was mis-quoted; hell is being trapped for all eternity with the scent of hairspray - I'm able to escape into the middle of the shopping centre with coins jangling in my pocket and the merest hint of my first jaunty step for the day. The girl at Banjo's promises to toast my toasted toasty and then spends the next 5ive minutes talking to her friends and completely ignoring me while I stand hopping bored from foot to foot. I say talking - there's a loud gothic girl with overly dyed black hair in a hooded top that screams black from the top of its black lungs who continually says the girl behind the counters name, while her little gothy acolytes say things like oooh and wow. Well ooh, wow and the repetition of her name aren't toasting my toasty so to speak. What to do...make eye contact with the fat lumbering girl with the floury fingers to get some action? Sit down on 1ne of Banjos increasingly stained seats and hope not to catch anything? Bribery? Drink my Pepsi Max and hope to be noticed? If you picked I just stood there while the fascinating conversation went on around me...well, for some reason, I had had enough today. Maybe the torpor briefly lifted, but I was off, not quite on gossamer wings, but certainly on gossamer Clarks shoes. The funny thing was, after I put my Pepsi Can onto the counter and walked, the fat lumbering girl told the girl who was having her name called out off in a really angry voice for not having toasted my toasty in an acceptably toasted time frame and losing a customer. Having scored a victory for the invisible overlooked masses against the forces of franchise based corporate indifference, I then ruin it by ploughing shin first into a lousy punk kid...when I walk past later, my Coke Zero can still stands there, a silent monument to some1ne who couldn't take their indifference anymore, who stuck it to the man...until tomorrow at least. Yeah, cop that franchised bakeries...

Back to Hairspray heaven for the afternoon, and yet more swishing. I'm too tired for swishing. I'm officially an anti swishing zone. Maybe I should start swishing. No I'm not cut out for swishing. Not that I'm doing anything productive with my day beyond looking at Fantasy NBA scores and trying to look busy. There's a girl in the office that used to work here. She was a horrible person. Ugly on the outside and inside, she used to take the chocolate biscuits at the office she managed and lock them away on days she wasn't in the office. She'd write little notes on the pens saying things like "my pen" without even the slightest implication of an inter office joke, she bitched about everyone endlessly, and was generally a horrible person. Don't say hello...don't say hello...damn it, I said hello. Of course I did. The girl with the mod haircut is trying to get her boyfriend to take her to the movies. We're having an endlessly boring conversation about movies. The strange thing is I've repeatedly said to everyone I don't like movies and yet people keep asking me if I've seen any good movies lately...is anyone listening to anything I'm saying? The crazy lady who brings us in chocolate from god knows where has brought in some Xmas chocolates. The girls in the office are now huddled around the chocolates bitching about men. I might get a run in this conversation soon, judging by the intensification of the swishing offensive. The only other sound I can hear is the gentle rhythmic swaying of the Zumba Class up the road. They've started early, and their trainer is yelling out enthusiastic sayings in a loud military voice over the loud thumping beats of The Black Eyed Peas. He sounds frightening rather than motivational. The tape then skips violently. It sounds like anarchy, a Zumba uprising. I look at my screen. Where I'm supposed to have finalised a report, I've typed the phrase Zumba anarchy. I consider leaving it there to see if anyone reads these reports all the way through, but I don't want to know that. Every1ne needs to feel important. Maybe that's where I went wrong - thinking my care was implied, but maybe I needed to say it more. All I know is thank goodness I don't smoke. With the amount of accumulated hairspray around my desk, a mere spark from anyone could set the whole branch aflame. Thank goodness that spark, as they say in the classics, is long extinguished...

It's hometime before I know it. The girls in the office are having a conversation about the boss’s wife. I suspect I won't be able to join in. I don't have an opinion on the woman. So I go home. My ironic ex girlfriend is smoking outside a shoe store. There's a temptation to swish past her with my nose in the air, but it's too far to walk. The girl who used to work with us is looking tired and exhausted as she lugs some heavy shopping bags down the road. She stops for a moment, seemingly about to topple over. We 1nce went for a training course and in the rush for the bus home she almost collapsed in an unfit heap into the gutter just from some running. I can't imagine that plus shopping bags. A kid with a Dale Thomas haircut and a jaunty baseball cap is over vigorously pashing his bogan girlfriend to try and show his friends how much he totally digs her. Personally I think he's looking at his best mate a bit too much when he's doing it, but there you go. I leave all of them in the distance as I walk to my car. I guess it's not so bad - in the other office, they don't even get out for lunch. Their lunch is bought for them so they don't leave the office and continue to write reports no 1ne will ever read. They don't see the cheerful face of a ceramic pig at any stage of their life - you don't have to be deskbound to work here, but it helps. Tomorrow night, I'll be safely inside a pub recounting all of these issues with my friends in a chatty conversational low pressure environment, only competing against the soothing sounds of low frequency acoustic rock for sound rights. Maybe the girl with the mod haircut will finally get to the movies, maybe my ironic ex girlfriend will get back together with the man with the scrunchy face, maybe the new girl will put aside her feelings of stupidity and re-concile with the man she's stalking, and maybe I'll get a sandwich in a snappy moment of service delivered with crisp alacrity and the minimum of fuss...that's the thing about tomorrow, there's always the chance to shake off the slumber. Or maybe tomorrow will be more of the same. I'm already 6ix seconds into my drive, and a slow witted, slow moving Torana is blocking my path, unsure of whether to indicate or just be an idiot slowly moving in concentric circles until time expires and we all die in a football oval car park...yes, it could just be more of the same...

I don't know why, but for the first time all day, I'm excited to find out...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No video, just the song



Its 10en am in a windowless, self contained office at the end of the world. We're packed onto a candy cane stripe couch created in the era before ergonomic support listening to a gay man talk about his life’s passion for sales. I presume he's gay; he has a silver band on his finger that screams commitment ceremony, has a camp Frankie Howardesque lilt to his voice, and compares everything to buying shoes. I spend most of his power point presentation thinking about what to put on my new mix CD and wondering about why he knows so much about buying shoes. The only time I buy shoes is when 1ne of the limited collection of people who care about such things point out that my shoes are falling apart. I generally wait until I can see sock. To be honest, his camp frippery isn't what's distracting me. Nor is it my couched in closeness to my ironic ex girlfriend on the candy cane striped couch - it's his spelling. I realise when I get into my typing groove I'm not Bertrand Russell, but this is his life’s work. He loves what he does. He couldn't be more passionate about anything in his life. An evacuation alarm disrupted him mid flow and he looked crushed. Genuinely upset. And yet, right on the middle of the projection screen, is the word "destiniations" - it's really bugging me. I don't know whether to mention it, but not saying anything is driving me mad. My ex ironic girlfriend is drinking Diet Coke - this is worrying me because she's drinking Diet Coke because I was drinking it. She said what are you drinking as she walked past. I said Diet Coke, and now she's drinking Diet Coke. I know from the brief messy relationship we had that she was inclined to try things I liked in the name of "getting to know each other" - she even stole my copy of "Formica Blues" on vinyl. Did I get it back? Great, he's asked me a question now. See, thanks a lot overactive easily distracted brain. My response in all of these situations is basically to say something clever and abstract - not today though. I hadn't even heard the question but I know what to say...just like buying a pair of shoes...he might have asked me what the capital of Nigeria was, but he seems to accept my answer. Now, back to apathetic drifting...

I used to work with a girl who was Scottish like me. Hell of a nice girl. 1ne day her partner moved all the furniture out of her house and left her, and she had a bit of a fit. Nice girl though - partner was a knob. He spoke to me for ages about bottle caps at a Xmas party. Anyway, 1ne day I was telling a story about, I don't know, let's keep the theme going and say vinyl records. Tasmanians are for the most part very polite and will let you finish your story. However, I could see on this girls face even as she stood there she was incredibly bored. I asked her about it and she confessed - it was the most boring story she'd ever heard. I shrugged it off, and not just because as some1ne married to a guy who knew lots about bottle caps she was in a great position to judge boring stories, but the thing was, it was a moment of cultural recognition. If I wasn't Scottish, I probably would have missed the telltale but subtle signs of when a Scottish person has lost interest in listening. My office where I work has become full of office cultural recognition. To give an example, the new girl will expect praise from the girl in the end office. The girl in the end office will not give praise out because she thinks everyone should just do their job. So I can now essentially walking around giving the first girl a thumbs up and a big smile while telling the 2nd girl that hard work is its own reward or playing down achievements. It's become so predictable my ability to pre-empt their conversations, I don't even have to think about it. I didn't even notice I was doing it until today. I didn't realise I was on everyone’s side until 3hree separate people said how sad it was they had dis-continued the Milo Bar. The only way to be more popular round here is to speak in a camp voice about shoes. They love that guy around here. You should have seen them listening to him...I even tried to point out the spelling error...no dice...

Into this conversational ease about discontinued chocolate bars and the eternal struggle between relentless toil and a justified reward comes a spanner deep into the works. My ex ironic girlfriends was soon to be ex now officially ex - an abbreviation is required at this rate - moved out of her house at 3hree am this morning after they had a huge row. I only know this because I was in the middle of my own tutorial to some1ne in the office about how to steal the audio off of YouTube clips - I'm sure I spelled YouTube right, and yes, I said it was like stealing a pair of shows, an in joke they missed - when I heard her tell some1ne. She hasn't slept all night. In our relationship, we never got to the comfortable conversation stage. We got close, but I'm possessive about the things I like. I don't give up musical secrets easily. My favourite song changes 9ine times a day. I'm not some1ne who can easily solve your problems, since I attack everything with a Scottish fatalism. So our conversations never became easy. Today, I can't offer any real words of sympathy, lest I get back into the old routine by which I'm offering therapy in lieu of a relationship. Instead of saying something soothing, I'm pretty much mute and focused on trying to drive a straw deep into my purepak Orange Juice. This proves to be almost impossible and I'm soon incredibly angry at this inaminate object that has no recourse to argue with me. The girl with the mod haircut will later show me pictures of her cousins. She says they are always smiling. Indeed, on 1photos evidence, that is true, but then they've just been given toys, so I can't judge. I say for some reason I hope they never lose their smile. I don't mean this to become the piece of wisdom it becomes when later retold. I just meant it as something to say, but now it's being quoted round the office with everyone adding layers of depth to it. My ironic ex girlfriend stormed out of the office without saying goodbye to anyone. Some1ne said she'd lost her smile. They all looked at me. Great, now I'm quotable and out of Milo Bars, what else can happy today...they stop making the Burnt Sienna crayon?...

It's late in the day now. I've sat down at an Internet kiosk to find out a basketball score. There's a guy at the computer next to me licking an ice cream really loudly, in fact, suggestively to be honest. He keeps looking at me in a funny way. I really have no desire to be picked up a man in a Buffy T-shirt licking an ice cream like a rabid animal and glancing at me like I'm afters, so I quickly pack up and leave. This sadly leaves 1:43 of my Internet time scattered to the winds of time, but it's for the best. There's a girl in ridiculously painted shoes on a green bench as I walk past. Her shoes are painted in gold spray paint, to the point they hurt my eyes. She's on the phone trying to explain to some1ne abroad or some1ne foreign what Tasmania is like. She says it's like the Southside but the Southside of what and where remains unspoken. She laughs. It's an easy conversational in joke. Either that or the glare from her spray painted Wizard of Oz homaging shoes have driven her loopy. It's getting late, and a string of cars are stopping me from crossing the road, 1ne final barrier to my car and the road home. The camp guy from the training session is getting into a cab. He's explaining in detail exactly how to get to his hotel. The taxi driver has a blank expression on his hateful face. His beard even seems to be twitching angrily. They have a long argument by the side of the road about cabcharge vouchers before eventually settling on a price, and disappearing into the crazy world of Tasmanian traffic. I'm sure that getting a taxi is somehow like buying a pair of shoes, but I'm too tired to make the connection. The CD in my car is for some reason cued up to Chase That Feeling...when I saw the Hilltop Hoods at Big Day Out, it seemed as though everyone in the whole crowd knew every word to every song before it was sung...somedays at work I feel as though I know every word that'll be spoken before anyone even thinks of it...most days anyway...the car starts, and off I go, another day conquered...

It's not quite living, it's not quite dying slowly, but it's positively definitely maybe somewhere in between...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Part dystopian urban cartography, part spatial-poetic intervention



It's a perfectly still suburban Monday at the place where I work. The bottom row of my computer screen is flashing with unread orange messages. She did this; she said that...I've chosen to ignore them. My ironic ex girlfriend is back to her usual self and is being incredibly nice to me. She may be single again by the end of the week. I'm not listening. She says she's never been on a picnic. Hey that's great, I would have thought had my brain been working, should have told me last week. The new girl is continuing her stalker based assault on the guy who works elsewhere. She's found him on Facebook. He may have a child. I'm not listening. Some1ne is bitching about their days off. I'm indifferent. My ex girlfriends current soon to be ex boyfriend - it's like Melrose Place around here, but with less hot pool action and more pens - is glaring at me or practicing his glaring in general through the window. I'd glare back, but I can't be bothered. Tuesday truly is the Lords most apathetic creation. I realise as I begin all this indifference around me that I'm tapping my pen on the edge of the desk to the tune of popular hit song. There's a sticker on my desk that just reeks of irony. They've started to hand out awards here at work, motivational stickers and e-mails are just flying around the office like the Wright Brothers. They keep sending me e-mails with smiley faces in the middle of them telling me what a great job I'm doing. Today they sent me home from work early as a reward for all my wonderful efforts. I'm staring at my great work sticker while realising I've done nothing all day but sit with fuzzy thoughts and mentally curse the new taste of the Milo Bar. Maybe I am doing a great job and I haven't realised it yet - or maybe they've just lowered the bar, like when they started giving out soccer trophies in school just for showing up. I bite into a Chunky Kit Kat. My ironic ex girlfriend has sent me a message. She'd love to go to the football with me next year. I didn't offer. Our clock continues to tick loudly. I don't think anyone here is going to join in my debate on whether my crush on Samantha Bee is idiotic - they will gather soon in an all men are bastards focus group. I could put my head down on the desk and have a nap today. All underneath the ticking clock - metaphorical and real - and right in front of a smiling great work sticker...

My ironic ex girlfriends soon to be ex boyfriend - I'd go for MIEGSTBEB if I didn't dig my word count - waits for her outside work every day. He's a pretty grumpy looking guy, with a scrunchy face and a wispy beard he hasn't quite grown into. He's started calling her at work to talk about feelings. When I say feelings, he works as far as I can remember at Blunstones, so feelings generally involve swearing and taking innocent crockery and throwing it at walls. Ah, the sweet pang of stereotyping. Keeps me warm at night. Anyway, he's started turning up to work, and he looks extra scrunchy. I'd glare back, but that would involve moving my face. And it's a Tuesday, I can barely sip Red Bull from a can such is my torpor, let alone compose a facial expression based on anger caused by a random accumulation of events over time towards a man who I vaguely thinks knows I exist through a glass window with a McDonalds thick shake stain dripping down it. The new girl has threatened to find me a date for Xmas drinks. I have tried to gently point out that I'm not quite in the mood to go out and stalk some1ne for the purposes of dating. Then again, the new girl, I still suspect, goes home every night to cry while she eats Frosties out of the packet and listens to 101 sad songs, so I hope she doesn't set me up with a similarly emotionally tuned friend - I hate Frosties. I'm Scottish, I'm suspicious of happy people, what can I tell you? As far as she is concerned, the man in the shop she is stalking by pretending to be interested in what he is selling is the 1ne. I want to cause a scene and see how he handles pressure. He may be coming to drinks - I think of dates with drinks now like that old Bill Cosby joke about cocaine - it might intensify your personality, but what if you're an asshole...everyone in this office I can say hand on heart is either dating an asshole, or possibly stalking 1ne. At this rate, we'll all be eating ice cream together in a huddle. Luckily, my indifference is breaking the cycle of whinging about stuff. No 1ne has whinged to me about anything all day. I like to think I'm making a difference...maybe that's why I got the sticker...

The only person I've felt I've stalked is Pippa in primary school. Pippa was my friend, although but for the presence of a reputable Burnie photographic company taking our Grade 2wo photo, I'd swear she was an apparition. I'm sure I've got most of my primary school experience wrong - given I swore for 10en years John Farnham’s appearance on Home and Away involved his head floating around on screen, don't quote me on this - but I was sure I never saw or spoke to Pippa in class. To my mind, she just stood next to our school monkey bars and said things that were incredibly wise and poignant and in a breeze her hair would blow about a bit. I was totally in love with her in school, as much as any 6ix year old could love anyone. Our love was flawed though - I had a girlfriend called Sarah, an identical twin who had yet to discover the evil joys of being an identical. We were boyfriend and girlfriend because we were assigned to be by a catch and kiss game the day it snowed in Burnie. Chase her, some guy I only knew as aren't you the kid with the giant head said. And so I did. And I ended up with a girlfriend. But it didn't mean I didn't hang out and stalk Pippa a lot. Some1ne pulled her hair 1nce. I was mortified. I didn't have that kind of suave sophisticated repartee with women. My relationship with Sarah was pretty easy to manage - she liked silver crayons, I liked silver crayons, great, let's get married. Easy as. Pippa, to my eternal detriment, found He-Man and the Masters of the Universe "boring" - I could not be with some1ne who failed to find my theory on why Ju-Jitsu was a much better action figure than Stratos fascinating. It was only in the depressing break of Grade 3hree that I found out, sadly, that Sarah did not find it fascinating either. She was just faking it. Luckily, I actually hated silver crayons. Oh my vengeful flourish when I drew my first castle that year with a burnt Sienna crayon. I feel as though everything I've ever learned about relationships I knew by the first 2wo weeks of Grade 3hree...the girls change, the likes and dislikes change, but the Sturm und Drang continues...I think Pippa taught me that word, during a breezy day in 1987 when I had forgotten my cheese sandwiches for lunch, and had to borrow 2 bucks for lunch...thanks, kid with the big head...

So I leave early. The computers at work have all broken. When you try and turn the 1ne out the back on it sounds worse than the 2nd Terence Trent D'arby album. The air conditioner is now spewing wrathful hot air out of its mouth, like a punishment for when we thought it was too cold. I'm going to keep the sticker up, as a sort of ironic motivational tool. I'll worry about all of these things tomorrow. I can't remember if I've ever been on a picnic...damn it, now that's going to bug me all day. There's a kid with a giant monster balloon determined not to get out of the way of the doorway, and his dad has weird purple bloated legs, like cankles but through his whole legs. It's all I can do not to stare. Why wear shorts in that case? Self confidence I guess? All least 3hree different people today have told me I'm keeping them sane or they are the reason I come to work. I come for the chocolate biscuits and the comfortable sense that I don't have to try very hard to do well. Not admirable but honest. I'm able to dodge the traffic because I'm leaving early - I'd have a nanna nap if I didn't have to pick up the groceries. I thought, rather proudly, I could fang it through the traffic, not realising that yes, there would be less traffic on the road, but more trucks, road works and slow moving objects with oversized on them. I thought I could fang it through the grocery buying but instead am stuck behind slow moving pensioners and bored women, some of whom have oversized on their pants label. When I get home, my mailbox is stuffed with junk mail. One of the letters promises to give me utter inner peace - as long as I send 19.99 to the appropriate address and ring a hotline. I throw it away - I doubt they could help some1ne who hasn't slept properly since 1984 because he can't get his brain to stop thinking for even a moment. I throw my meagre single man food scraps onto the table along with my keys, and sit quietly in my chair, while my DVD player turns itself on without a single action from me, and begins playing an episode of Entourage I don't even remember owning, the gentle hum of bad acting soothing me to sleep...

Tomorrow, as they say, will be another day...