Monday, September 8, 2008

The continuing search for Hobarts Intellectual Centre

So it's been a strange day - I haven't seen any pensioners fighting or anything, but it's still felt a little weird. When the kids are off school, you get to drive to work a little more easily, as if everyone has left town because of a natural disaster and there's a ghost town situation. I've decided that for my 40th birthday party, I'd like a Ferris Wheel. The radio DJ was making topical jokes about Fran Drescher (he presumably was all out of Dana Plato material) and everyone was being really nice to me, and I never like that - I'm still searching for Hobarts intellectual centre by the way. I know it's not Kingston library - there's not much intellectual matter going on there, there's a lot of very flirtacious single mothers looking for something to do, and people who get really dark if you kick them off the Internet computers. One kid, an Aboriginal kid with a penchant for rap music, once gave me the finger from his car just because I had an Internet booking. Mind you, I've thought lately I might just have assumed that the finger was pointed in my direction. Channel Court, the Kingston shopping centre, is a haven for bewildered and confused elderly gentlemen driving Toranas who are incapable of working out the complicated give way system. I am to this day convinced that I will die in that carpark, struck dumb (like radiu...sorry, that's an Aimee Mann reference...er...carry on) by a man in a cardigan indicating left, positioning the car to go right, and then splitting the difference by mowing me down with a swift acceleration down the middle of the road, straight ahead. As I lie dying, he'll say he never saw me, and someone will take my wallet, Madeleine West style. And if you want to know why I'm convinced of this, it's because it's come within a foot of happening so many times, I'm virtually on first name terms with most of the drivers - "morning Bert, ho ho ho, you'll get me one day, you cheeky rascal!"...I'll hand over my blog to the old guy in my will to be honest...

What I do know is that when I find Hobarts intellectual heart, I know exactly what it will be like - a Tim Minchin concert. I went to a Tim Minchin concert about two years with my best friend, it was probably more cerebral fare than she and I are used to - she watches episode after episode of A Country Practice with Grant Dodwell, and you know my obsession with Paul Medhurst, and it's not even put down to irony (although if Bill Hunter can sell out and do football ads...). I can't even remember why we went to see Tim, who if you don't know is a musical comedian, so I really don't know why I went, since I hate being sung to (although I have a friend who is way worse than me, he bought The Flight Of The Conchords DVD and fast forwarded all the songs - he liked Murray though). We got in, and instantly knew we were out of depth by the presence of tuxedos, and a forest of women in ball gowns talking about Tims whimsy. The fact that I was giggling at such a blatant double entendre probably meant I should have stayed at home. Any time Tim did a song, one of two things would happen. First, he would set up the song with a joke everyone seemed to know, and they would mouth the intro word for word, never mind the song, which only made me think of my own ability to recite every single word of that episode of Red Dwarf where Rimmer gets the Holovirus (ah, Rimmer, will you ever show anyone your collection of telegraph poles) and secondly, no one in the audience laughed, they basked, basked in their intellectual superiority. One woman in front of me, she actually lifted her arms up and said to no one in particular "this comedy is sooo clever! So outrageous!" and gave herself a round of applause simply for being at something so clever. We sat there thinking, well, this doesn't happen at a Wally The Worker gig. We walked out out of that gig (when you're a musician, a job is called a gig) feeling slightly like Jane and The Dumbarse, but we were massively buoyed that one of the ball gown wearers, a plump woman who we surmised later was called Deb, who had particularly enjoyed her smartness when Tim sang about plastic bags, got a lift home on the back of the family flat tray ute, sitting like the family dog, clinging precariously to the side as her husband sped through Salamanca like a man trying to find his way out of a maze. I actually realised at that point this, despite pretense, wasn't actually Hobarts intellectual centre at all - it was close, the people were clever, well, they were trying to be clever, but if they were really intellectuals packed with smartness, why wouldn't they be driving the ute and put the husband in the flat tray? That's what my Mum would do...

I remember a lot of people at uni used to discourse about SBS, which I never watched, apart from the soccer. I felt they were just justifying their porn watching with fancy artistic flowery descriptions, but they were sure that their documentaries on the history of Hungarian "underground" nudity were a lot more morally sound than Debbie Does Dallas (another film I've never seen, although once in Borders in Glasgow, a girl I really fancied caught me looking at the back of the box, I've never worked harder to conjure up an intellectual explanation). I did often try and hedge my bets around these people by saying that I mostly watched the ABC, with extra kudos from the fact that I worked for the ABC. I've often thought if only I'd made some more contacts, I could still be working for the ABC, and then my search for intellectual stimulation would be satisfied. OK, it was only a few weeks of work experience, but you'd be surprised how impressed some people were by my most minor of jobs. I did get to go to an art gallery and interview a nervous young girl about her paintings, and I was sworn at in Hungarian for interrupting the prepartion of a ginger ultra marathon runner. These stories were fascinating for uni students, probably tedious if repeated at Irish Murphys to try and convince the thick necked bouncer that you are sober. Still, I did feel intellectual as I regaled the kids with tales of...oh who am I kidding. My main memory of that couple of weeks was breaking the tap and nearly flooding the office. Or did I just take the blame for it? I can't really remember, but I know that the plumber, a man the size and dimensions of Shane Morwood, was really rubbing in the fact that while the reporters (and me) were resplendent in ABC blazers and surrounded by fancy paintings and had Bach playing on the stereo, we still needed his help to fix a tap. You know the kind of performance, chest out, head back, slow deliberate examining of the tap. He was lording in his tap based genius, like Ralph Wiggum beating the smart kids. And then, as if on sitcom queue, he choked on his Beta milk that he was drinking out of a carton, and took about two minutes to recover. When he did, he looked a little crestfallen but recovered. "Well," he said, "fixed your tap...that's what I came for" he said with defiance - and with a frankly camp swish, he wandered off, tools slung over his shoulder, into the Burnie day with pride just about intact...

The fact that the ABC couldn't fix a tap, and the girl reporter was almost squeaking in fear from a little water lapping at her brogues, made me think that I needed to look outside the ABC for intellectual enlightenment (and I was more of a Chopin man anyway). My search for intellectual enlightenment has probably broadened anyway from tuxedos and ballgowns. In fact, I'm leaning towards the Salamanca Bakehouse and the genius behind the counter, an otherwise remarkable girl with a plain face, almost pale and dusty, who served me cake when I was drunk on Saturday night. Her face was expressionless, her smile tepid, her gaze bewildered and flickering in the middle distance, towards Isobar and her knock off time. At which point, a man came up and said something akin to "can I have 19 sausage rolls?" - and without blinking, she knew the sausage rolls were 78 cents, and the total cost was 14.82. She did it in such a rainman fashion, it was postively jarring, a little Warrane alien. The next customer came in, and to prove it wasn't a fluke, put a bottle of water, a hedgehog slice, and a custard tart. "5.62" she said, again without any hesitation, without needing to put anything into a calculator, without betraying anything that made her remotely human. Then a third customer, and a third total plucked as casually as Jae Kingi plucks a rebound. I was impressed, this bakehouse isn't without options on the menu, so for her to be able to compute these figures in her head, without blinking, without betraying any emotion, was incredible, and a little sexy (who doesn't love a girl who's good at maths?). At which point, my mate has bounded up to me and asked what I was staring at. The Warrane Einstein I said, and tried to convey my impressions of a girl wasted...my friend was completely unconvinced. "Are you serious?" he said, shrugging, "stupid bint let me walk away without paying..."

The search continues...

5 comments:

squib said...

Nobody seriously wears tuxedos and ballgowns to something like Tim Minchin (I hate that musical-comedy-eyeliner type stuff). People don't even dress like that for the ballet

Kath Lockett said...

Miles. Miles. MILES.

I love your work - love it - but it's so damn exhausting...I'm afraid (and another lurker who likes your blog) that you'll burn out early and we'll never get to read your witticisms again.

Paragraphs - more please.

And Tim Minchin, I can relate. You should see Adelaide during the Arts festival time. More phoney fops than you can point your Aimee Mann, Catatonic and Blur-filled iPod at.....

Miles McClagan said...

It depends - Tim Minchin was part of a "festival" and boy does that bring out tuxedos, if it's in a programme, they feel it makes it more important. I've seen people wear tuxes to Adam Hills just cos it was part of a "comedy festival" (they didn't like my "tuxic" joke...)

There's lurkers? Should I be scared? I don't know if I'll burn out...you never know...I might do a spoken word tour, get some performance art going...have people in tuxes coming to see me...

Kris said...

I don't know what is says about me that I have never even heard of Tim Minchin (although in looking him up and can't say I'd expect to like him), and yet I can tell you all about Nick Minchin.

I'm only thirty-one!

I used to be cutting edge.

Is Adam Spencer still around, I've heard a lot of slimy stories about that dude...

Miles McClagan said...

He has a song about plastic bags which they seemed to find a lot funnier than it was - he sang a song about Adam Hills on SAS...other than that, I can't tell you much, Dawn French seems keen though...

I don't think there's much more to him than that...I hear Nick Minchin does a great Groucho Marx...

I don't know if my cutting edge days are gone, they may have? Not sure...shame about Adam Spencer, I really liked him, that's a bit like when a girl I knew who worked for Ricky Nixon started telling me shameful Nathan Buckley stories. Broke my heart...

I'm sure Meds isn't like that!