Monday, September 15, 2008

Love and other Bruges (The lost birthday trilogy)



So I'm feeling good today - I've been able to fend off the worst of the Collingwood sledging simply by being upbeat and cheerful and positive. I think that's what I'll need to do more of - cheerful positive upbeat vibes. Interestingly, I say that, the first person I saw today was a Warrane quality whinger. Anyway, onwards and upwards. The new Miley Cyrus album is vaguely OK, although not as good as I hoped. There is consideration in the 90% of my brain I don't use (eh?) to turn this blog over to a Miley fansite, if for no other reason than it's a lot easier to do. Either that or "Lost Cities Of Gold - an appreciation". I like chronicling things though - even the boring days - because I kind of wish I'd done it before. I had a handwritten diary in 97, which I think was just too risky to leave lying around. I might have a look for it and see if I can find it, because if nothing else it would provide an interesting resource as far as my musical tastes of the time went. I'm sure that'd be gold, just page after page about Blur and Stereolab. I found some of my old novel in a basket, but not my diary, which was probably thrown out by my Mum (when she found it in the course of her daily rummaging). I've also been considering moving down to Kettering, to go and help out with the man drought. I'm quite prepared to learn to drive a ute, and learn to drink far more beer than I'm currently capable of, just to fit in. Actually, I really should go down there, I think it's the kind of place you can still get a sympathetic ear and a Golden Rough, and probably an Egg Flip Big M (or a home made equivalent). If nothing else, it'll make an interesting social experiment.

So I've mentioned before that the years 1999-2001 when I was 21-23 (according to my friend Sarah, a mans sexual peak, to which I said, what, even when the Olympics were on, and she said no, when you are that age, not slapped her head and wandered off) weren't my finest moments. From the deceptively messy netball girl through to my half arsed approach to work, it's not a real surprise that things were off course wildly. In fact, I have no less than a trilogy of broken, horrible birthdays that I think back on often (not least of which when I think I should ring a publisher and pitch a story of hope and courage and self determination - the day I lost at Bootball isn't likely to win me an award). In 99, I turned 21. Already, I had pretty much given up on life, but I wasn't cool enough to turn this anti societal feeling into anything profitable like an album or a poem (or maybe I just wasn't selling out). I could, however, stump up an interesting theory on why Glen McGrath was a great bowler. My girlfriend (in the same way Ashlee Simpson is a singer) just completely forgot about my birthday, and since I could have got all my friends and gone away for the weekend on a tandem, it wasn't a memorable day. My Mum gave me a card with a big fat child crying and saying "But I don't want to grow up!" and wrote "Trust me, you haven't!" on it. Touching. I can't remember what I got for my 21st, apart from when my girlfriend remembered and bought me a KitKat and some chocolate milk. The only highlight of the entire day was sneaking out of the house at night to go and have a swing in the cold September midnight Kingston air. I remember everything about that moment - including what I had on, trackpants and pyjama top and slippers, mostly because a tramp about 15 feet away from me was vomiting profusely, and swaying near death. He curled up under some leaves and went to sleep, his bottle of whisky rolling quickly down the path and coming to a stop next the side wall of the child care centre that adjoined the park. I tend to think that for whatever reason, call it cosmic forces, whenever I'm really down, I tend to notice or pay attention to someone worse off than me - it's really weird how many times I've been moping about the price of a DVD and someone in a wheelchair has appeared in my line of vision. Anyway, when I went to leave, some kids came round the corner, and headed in the direction of the tramp, and one of them was sort of poking them with a stick. When I told them to fuck off (which was unusually brave for me - now I think about it, it doesn't sound like me at all) they just ignored me, and told me to fuck off right back, specifically "fuck off Grandpa" - this was devastating an insult to a tortured mind as when Paul McCartney told Brian Wilson Pet Sounds could never be bettered. Grandpa? Did I sound old? Could they see I looked old? Was it the pyjamas? Was the insult random or deliberate? I was 21, and this was it, life was over...the insult twisted in my mind for ages, and really tormented me. You never forget your first age related insult. The tramp, for what it's worth, woke up with a start from the pool of his own vomit and blood, and told the teenagers where to go, throwing something on the ground at them, a clump of dirt or something much worse, that made them sprint off, and I went to bed, upset, confused, awkward, and of course, old and finished...

By the following year, I was a little better, at least I was working, but not to my full mental capacity - my birthday that year quite neatly co-incided with the AFL Grand Final, so I went to a Grand Final party, which I think the people there pretended was my birthday party (which was quite sweet). I was in a pretty good mood, although I had sort of cheered myself up by pretending all week to support Melbourne, and then quite abruptly changing my mind when Essendon caned them. I had even had taxi drivers waving 10 bucks off the fare to Kingston just for me being a Melbourne supporter, which doesn't reflect well on me (or them and their bad business practices). Of course, being a Grand Final party, I ended up massively drunk and talking a load of rubbish about the film script I was writing (erm...) and pouring my heart out to virtual strangers about my ambitions in life. I'm sure this would have made for a fascinating evening in for them all, me seizing the talking stick, but I wasn't as bad as a theatrical actor friend of theirs, a guy who had probably been the tree in the Kettering players version of Pirates of Penzance, and who's real life persona was obviously stolen from Oliver Reed. He was definitely a nice guy, but a bit of a one pot screamer, never mind when he smoked that one pot. He took me aside before the end of the party and told me I shouldn't be telling people about my film script. Naturally, I just presumed he was telling me to stop boring everyone, and shrugged. "Nah, nah, nah" he said, nahing. "They are listening, they'll nick the idea!" he said, although who they were was lost to me - the girl with the lampshade on her head (could have been a disguise), the man sitting on the couch eating Twisties? Didn't see any motive riddled movie moguls likely to steal the 2000 plot equivalent of Razorback as I looked around, but he pulled me in closer, until I was the only thing holding him upright. "They do nothing but screw you...so...shush...don't give the plot away...". He looked really, really scary at this point, and I thought he was going to start talking about aliens or backwards messages in Powderfinger albums. He looked me dead in the eye and said "Now...you can't trust them...but you can trust me...so if you want to cast me...", and yes, I think he genuinely thought in his drug addled state I was some kind of genuine George Lucas mover and shaker. The only thing that saved me from his showreel and a selection of his character acting was that he fell over a footstool and landed face down on the ground, while around him two girls danced pogo stick style to Blurs Song 2...although once again I had seen someone fall face down on the ground, things were looking up....

One year later, and I turned 23. This time, there was no one face down on the ground. In fact, I spent my last lost birthday in Bruges in Belgium. If I could explain the thought process that saw me sitting around going "I know, I'll go to Belgium", I'd probably take another seven paragraphs to explain it, but I was so struggling for logic, I barely noticed that I was going that I was going to be there on my birthday. I spent a fair part of the day listening to Stereolab on my walkman, and sitting eating a quite delicious hamburger in a disgusting garage. A man filling his truck up with LPG gas was quite openly smoking in defiance of the large angry signs that told him not to. Unquestionably, this garage was at the arse end of the world - that's not a slur on the entire city of Bruges by the way, just this bit - and it also had one of the openly disgusting explicit (but, luckily for everyone, completely within the reach of children) pornographic magazine racks in the history of the printed word - it made Campbelltown look like Toytown. As far as I'm aware, I was completely shut down on this particular day, hunched over and unwell, and was sort of floating around looking at toy shops and old buildings and not doing very much, but I did have a muffin that the kind people in the porn garage put a candle in for my birthday (see, filthy and caring). Anyway, my main memory of this day, apart from the seriously cool Ian Curtis jacket I was wearing, was that as I walked down the street, on the way to the Gruuthuse Museum listening to Ping Pong, thinking I really hope someone invents something better than a walkman you know, I heard an unmistakably bogan Tassie voice say "Hey! You nerfucking moufin!" - at first, I thought someone was talking to me, and I looked around. A young but paunchy man in a Smithton football jumper was yelling at his girlfriend in the middle of the street for her tone, and she's sitting there with sunglasses on a chain round her neck and a woolly beanie, and her quaint response was "Nerwasn'tfarckingmoufinyoufarckingwanker!" at which point Smithon man has just, and I would say only just, restrained himself from rearing back and giving her a backhander fair in the chops. And I'm in the middle of Bruges, trying to better myself with an interest in historical sculpture, and there's two Tasmanians fighting...and I remember distinctly thinking, why did you come all this way, you know, you could have seen this on a tank of petrol and car ride to Penguin you know...

Let alone that I was really due a change of luck on my birthday...

9 comments:

Baino said...

Awww . .I feel sad for you now. My 21st sucked as well if it's any consolation.
"I'd probably take another seven paragraphs to explain it," Miles, you don't know what a paragraph is! OK ok I'll lay off. Seriously though, enjoy birthday's while you can. party hard. No fun when your knees creak and your knees just can't pogo any more! And I'm very concerned about your Miley Cyrus addiction . .you need a good dose of Triple J!

ThePopGirls said...

Poor baby! My 21st had a baby elephant!

I am worried about your use of an Air Supply based pun though - you can crank out all the Stereolab references you can, but Air Supply is noted!

Alyson

Miles McClagan said...

Don't feel sad, the 18th and 30th made up for the 21st - maybe for my 31st I'll get a paragraph maker! I haven't listened to Triple J since the glory days of "What's In Ya Bin" though...do they play Miley Cyrus?

A baby elephant? Alyson? Are you sure? What was I doing? I was hoping the Air Supply reference was subtle - did Claire tell you who it was?

Friday said...

I am impressed by your mamoth entries and diverse tagging methods. I just wanted to stop by and say that a bit of 'Blue Steel' never hurt any portrait of mine (and probably even saved a few from total ruin), so keep practicing! Also, I can't recall what I did on my 21st, which is probably just as well, if not a little bit sad.

Miles McClagan said...

If travelling across the world has taught me nothing, it's the importance of tags. I will keep trying, thanks for the encouragement - I tend to struggle with my pout, I just look a bit mental...

Kath Lockett said...

I like your view of when things are down, look around you and find somebody even worse off.

As such - my 21st. Homemade party, in my share house, 1989, beach theme. Deckchairs, blown up beach balls and sand scattered on top of the berber for authenticity. The bloke I fancied left with someone else and we all had jock itch for weeks afterwards, bloody sand....

squib said...

Actually your tree-friend might have been right. When I was at High School I had a story printed about aliens invading and how the world had to unite to defeat them. And although it sat in a remote mining town school library for all those years, somehow... a movie came out called 'Independence Day'

A coincidence? I think not!

kitkat said...

B+ - could have tied in the current Bruges film; or a gratuitous Colin Farrell reference, but sound stuff...

Miles McClagan said...

It happened again today, I was grumpy because my coffee was late, and a guy in a wheelchair got pushed by my feet. Every time. I don't think I've ever hosted a party with a theme, but I know what it's like when beach parties go wrong...sand is not my friend...

That's not right, if I ever see Will Smith, or more to the point Harry Connick Jr I'm going to make them fess up! And if I could remember which Bill was president in the film...

B is fair enough - but I'm not good with films or film references. So I went with Air Supply...see, music I'm good with. I will edit this post later though with a ColFar reference (for extra credit).