Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Campbell Town - Spittle, Sleaze, Steam Rollers and Skill Testers

So today I'm standing outside this little bakery and cafe - it's one my Mum takes me to when she meets me for lunch, and it's pleasant enough, waitresses are pretty down to earth, it's a bit disturbing how vast (remember that band? Vast? Whatever happened to them? And The Tea Party?) the place is, you can easily get lost in there, dying in a 50s decored theme booth waiting for some hot soup and crusty bread. It takes ages to serve just because no one can find you. And what I'm doing while I'm standing there isn't trying to pick something from the specials board, but I'm trying to confirm with myself that I have Real American by Hulk Hogan on my IPOD - and sure enough, I do, which is great, because it makes me feel like ordering the crusty bread with a hearty "brother!" on the end of the order....or, perhaps not. Obviously, I'm excited today because Alive and Kicking is on SBS tonight, all about footy fundraising in Woodsdale with promised cross dressing...and you can all surely give up the bosomy Myf, Alan and Adam Hills for one night? Can't you? Look, Adam Hills for three straight stand up shows promised, absolutely swore blind that he was going to bring the Bosom and Alan down to Tassie for a special Spicks and Specks show, and what did we get for this years comedy festival? Tom bloody Gleeson...sigh, yes Adam Hills is a lovely man, I'd love to hate him but I had like a 1/2 hour chat with about London, and yes, he dragged me up on stage one night to do a bit, and was gracious enough to repeat for the audience the little joke I to...wait, why am I sticking up for him! Stuff him, watch Woodsdale! Anyway, so I'm standing there humming away, and I look into the cafe, and I see this old bloke tucking into a chicken sandwich, just completely loving the delicate interplay of the freshly cooked chicken with the store bought white toast loaf...and then I notice, he's got earmuffs on...not just any old earmuffs, but those ones you wear when you are drilling, or bringing in a plane to land with the big ping pong bat or are in the booth in one of those game shows where you aren't allowed to hear the other persons answers. Big giant red earmuffs, stuck to his head, and boy did he look content not having to listen to kids whinging and thinking about his chicken. And I thought, you little Aussie champion, you just want to wear earmuffs, big giant ones, and nothing was going to stop you. It might have been medical, but I like to think he's just got the kind of rebellious elderly spirit I'm going to have when I'm older, and wander around Penguin in my robe and slippers, telling people about the mint Kit Kat and the time Crazytown topped the charts...in fairness, the old bloke in the earmuffs is probably blogging tonight about some annoying 30 year old staring at him and singing Hulk Hogan songs that are on one of those fancy IPOD things he was hearing about...

Whenever I think of earmuffs, wait, let me start that again...when I think of chicken sandwiches and confused elderly gentlemen, I instantly think of Campbell Town. Now, to the good people of Campbell Town who may wish to tell me about the three arch bridge or St Lukes church, I'm sure they are incredibly lovely, but there's no getting away from the fact that Campbell is the designated rest stop for drivers going between Hobart and Burnie (or vice versa - whatever happened to the vice versa? That was the best chocolate ever!) and not a lot else. And that of course means you unfurl grandpa from the car (well you do if you have a grandpa, which I didn't, on account one died and one was with me up to the age of 4 then seemed quite content to set me into the world on my own, with barely any advice of how to whittle wood or whatever the hell grandpas advise you on), wake up the kids, hell, sometimes wake up the driver, and get out and go to a sort of truck stop place and go and eat some food you normally would reject baked by people you'd normally hide your wallet from. Thems country folk boy. My main memory of the Campbell Town stop, apart from the food, chicken sandwiches and confused elderly gentlemen, is that it was the last place I ever saw really un PC comedy magazines. Now, there's obviously the cartoon in the average issue of People Magazine from is pretty full on by modern standards with the buxom blonde, the sleazy mechanic and the double entendre...well, these magazines had the single entendre. I'd say the average punchline involved a woman either being punched in the face, told where to go, or punched in the face and told where to go. Usually the bedroom or the kitchen, certainly not a university where I would like to see more women (oh yes, I read Jill Singer). And there was loads of these things lying around - the poor old community newsletter was shoved in the toilet, but kids were learning all kinds of interesting places there wife should be sent. I actually heard this old guy chuckling at one of these masterworks and saying the immortal "todays so called modern comedians could learn a thing or two!" from this, and he said to this girl, and he was massively sleazing onto her, and sort of pointing at one of the most offensive cartoons (Hagar the Horrible...awful cartoon - Lucky Eddie just never did it for me). She was trying really hard to be pleasant, but he was just reading, and reading...and he never noticed that the girls boyfriend, who by a lovely co-incidence was right behind her working the glad wrap and the deep fry with dexterity, was spitting right in the middle of his burger...and that's the only time I've ever seen that happen, I've just always presumed it did happen and it's why no matter who jumps the queue or how bad the lack of a toast chef is, I never blame the establishment, and his eyes met mine, and I shrugged and gave him a big thumbs up. He spat in it again, just as the old man was launching into a reference about the old lady from Nantucket...with the last line included...

Luckily for the good people at Campbell Town, it's not all sleaze and spittle. There's some fantastic quality grub to be eaten...although I've now obviously put myself off the place. I had the third best ever cheeseburger I've ever had in Tasmania in Campbell Town - the best was obviously at the Parthenon in town (shockingly replaced by a Japanese restaurant where you could get sushi on a train...honestly, do monkeys do the town planning in Hobart), and the 2nd best was at a place called Skooby Doos Hamburger Restaurant which famously had an advert in the football record that didn't tell you a phone number or address, but promised friendly service all night long (if you could find the place somewhere in the world and access the place via a secret knock...actually, where the hell was it? The burger I had at Campbell Town though (and 3rd is no disgrace behind that duo of burger magic) came when I was coming back from Hobart to Burnie with a friend of mine - we had had an argument (boy I'm on argument tip tonight, I'm really a nice person, honest, you should come round, we can discuss the inaccuracies in the Blur biography) about something, which I don't think was very serious, but it was still an argument. I think we had had an argument about Roves real name, or maybe it was because he'd tried to punch me...or something happened anyway, and we weren't talking, which is great fun in Oatlands when you don't have a radio to listen to in the car and have to count speed cameras to pass the time. The reason the hamburger was so good wasn't because of it's quality, it's because we ate next to a man with herbal tea-bags in his pocket. Maybe you had to be there, but the sight of a man roughly the dimensions of Dave McCormack (incidentally, if the girl in the orange top in Custards Girls Like That video ever reads this, I love you) with glasses like coke bottles and big clompy black shoes with a carefully colour coded set of herbal tea bags in his top pocket who's producing them proudly for wife and shouting "Who wants Mint Julip" without any trace of irony can't make you suddenly laugh out loud (no, I won't abbreviate that txt spk style) defrost an icy friendship, bring laughter to the community and make a burger taste like good times and make a brown eyed sky turn blue, then what can? Winning a small plastic duck on the skill tester? OK, that would have been better, but those things are rigged...

I do like Campbell Town for other reasons - although I think the main big truck stop greasy spoon is closed now? Someone might confirm that for me, but that's just really sad and depressing if it is - apart from the grease, and the curiousities. I really liked the way world moved in Campbell Town, the way you saw families, some proud and some dysfunctional, just making those long statewide journies, sitting at tables eating, and how you'd always wonder where they were going, what they were doing, what their lives were like at that particular point. One family I saw in about 1992, I've always wondered about. Our own reasons for going to Hobart that day were entirely because I had the afore mentioned sodie scone face and my parents needed to take me to something, and what better way to repair fractured dislocated conversations with a homesick kid than with a four and half hour car ride where I only had 58 minutes of Game Gear battery life? This other family that came into the restaurant was all dressed in suits, so I was immediately thinking they were coming back from a funeral, or some sort of sad occasion, or were just big fans of the Blues Brothers. They lined up safely in single file order at the counter, to get chips or something, and the eldest kid, he's kind of Hispanic looking while the rest of them are whiter than me (I'm so white I thought Coolio was a type of fan...that slayed in 1995). So I'm sort of interested now because they aren't talking to each other the kids, and Dad is being a real pain, just sort of rolling his eyes and tapping his foot on the ground, trying to get served quicker, and there's just...I don't know, just this real tension around them, an energy that isn't pleasant, and then the Dads pacing, and then the Dad is getting more and more annoyed, and he's about to take his tie off and throw it on the ground because they aren't cooking his chips quickly enough. So he turns to the oldest kid and says "That's the trouble with society today, no quality control! NO FUCKING QUALITY CONTROL! WE CAN'T EVEN GET FUCKING CHIPS QUICKLY!" and he's literally about to jump the counter, and the wait for chips has only been about, oh, a minute or so. And everyones just staring at them, and I'm just fixated on this can of Halls Lemonade, just scared to look. And the little hispanic kid, he's just taken the Dad by the hand, and gone, "don't worry about the chips, let me get them" and the Dad has gone outside and he's just lost his mind, he's just crying on one of the park benches, just smoking and shaking, and we all kind of clued in to the fact that obviously they'd lost someone close to them. and the girl behind the counter who's come back with the chips is just totally unsure what to say. And the little hispanic kid, he's just smiling sweetly, and he just sort of goes "He's just a bit stressed...have a Steam Roller" and given the girl a Steam Roller to make up for the trouble and quietly paid for the chips and just...I don't know what was going on, what they were going through or what the situation was, but I always just that little kids dignity under pressure, and how sweet and calm and wonderful he was on that day, and I hope he made it, and the Dad made it, and everything passed by. Of course, I was so self centred, I was bitching about the fact there was no Sarsparilla Halls in the vending machine...

Here's to you kid, if I ever win one of those damn plastic ducks on the vending machine (I'm still punching) it's dedicated to you...

2 comments:

Kris said...

Skooby Doos was right next to the old cinema in Burnie. They did do a decent hamburger, and at that point was the only place that offered gelato.

Skooby's lost the great war with Mama Rosa's sometime around 1987 or 1988.

It was a big loss to the community, but being declared a city by the Queen went some way to healing the wounds.

Miles McClagan said...

I can't help but feel that if only in their advertising they'd have put an address, they might have still been around...

I just knew I'd been there, but I couldn't remember where it was...this blog has already paid for itself...