Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Show Day Trilogy - Burnie, 92, may contain traces of Tom Cochrane



So it's a public holiday in Hobart today - ostensibly for everyone to go the Hobart show (if you don't know, big fete, loads of pigs, kids getting food poisoning), but of course, no one goes to that - besides most of the events are probably hosted by our breakfast radio toolshiner duo Kim and Dave, and after being stuck listening to their take on drugs and violence (she actually said "people used to take drugs to chill out, man" - I could not have been more embarrassed if I'd caught my Mum and Dad doing it, and believe me, my Dad is a horrendous waltzer...what, what did you think I meant?). Anyway, I got too drunk last night, too mouthy, however by current standards if no one is asked to leave that's a triumph, then had a horrendously vivid dream coated and smothered in failure. I tend to find the accumulation of guilt - guilt from a little bit too many words, guilt from the whiteanting - will manifest itself in lurid angst ridden dreams. Or maybe it's just when I'm drunk. As it turned out, the distinctly uncomfortable tone of the conversation, that is when it turned to me, by definition made me feel like going home anyway. It turns out most people think my working in a comfort zone is a bad thing and that I should be doing more with my life. They probably have a point - being the least mediocre fish in a stagnant swamp isn't exactly running up that hill, but it is easy. I respect their point, after all, I would love to drive around in a limo hanging out with Lolo Jones, and sometimes I wonder why I don't, but I've seen too many people chase career and end up destroyed. Besides which, from my desk, I get to see daily fights outside Village Cinemas and a wide collection of hot available single mothers...yeah, i probably should move on huh? I mean, the single mothers will age won't they? And there's only so much "nerferkin" enjoyment you can gain from a mother and daughter fighting in a carpark? I know, I should focus more on me, but self importance and thoughts of me aren't my thing...not now anyway.

As I've said before, I had a brief and undeniable run of being the coolest kid in the school when I first moved to Burnie. The only way I could have been cooler would have been to talk in grunts and sell drugs from a plastic bag. My thoughts on the wider world, my considerations on the relative merits of Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane (which weren't positive) and my indifference to such matters as homework and dress standards were all widely appreciated and discussed. Without actually doing anything that was especially cool, and just regurgitating several worldly facts about Beverly Hills 90210 and Switzerland, I gained a cult following, especially on the school bus, a shiny Kergers coach full of dispirited dreamers and broken windows, driven by an angry and grumpy man with glasses the size of a dinner plate, who would never smile. By strict definitions of the time, I suppose his demeanour was cool, but I didn't want to draw attention to it. Whatever was going on, I would instantly and completely dismiss it as rubbish and not as good as we did it in Scotland. In truth, it was just the way I had lived in Scotland, and that was a survival act, the act of never putting your head above the parapit unless you were one hundred percent sure you weren't going to get a slap, but by the time I realised that I was actually posturing for the sake of personal approval, I decided to go with it. The only crack in that brief halycon summer of popularity was when I got a bit too enthusiastic over a bet with a girl in my home ec class and she called me weird, but she got a job as a mechanic, so what do I care about her opinion? Yes, times were good, the phone was ringing off the hook with party invites and my sleepover schedule made Kendra Wilkinson look depressed, and I hadn't even told them that I had a knife pulled on me at school...I wondered briefly if I should upgrade it to a gun, but I held off on the story. I didn't want to give my appreciative audience too much of a good thing. Yes, the self indulgence of a fourteen year old can be quite awe inspiring, especially since at night, I would go home and punch the walls that I wasn't still in Scotland and be desperately and pathetically home sick, but by day, well, life was certainly a highway...and I wanted to ride it all night long...

One night, I ended up being invited to the 1992 Burnie Show. The Burnie show essentially is a big agricultural celebration that Tamworth rejected for being a little too redneck, well, it was in 1992, it might be ultra sophisticated now. It was always freezing when I went as a kid, and our school always got in for free the day before it opened - as I realised in later life, rather dangerously all we were were unpaid ride testers, but hey, it was free. My main childhood memories involve a kid called Wes trying to climb out of the Alpine Express while it was moving and almost decapitating himself in the process. While deep down, I was quite excited to be invited anywhere as I enjoyed my popularity, I had genuine reservations about the Burnie show attending. After all, it would inevitably be raining, muddy and there was a chance of a rogue pig skittling me to the amusement of all. Of course, taken by my stance and keen to impress me and my sardonic charms, a procession of people told me that the Burnie show was rubbish, they were going just to stand around and tell me how rubbish it was. For reasons that are lost entirely to time, my cousin (the one I don't like) came with us. I don't know how this happened, but I presume that he just didn't have any friends at the time. His posturing was genuine in fairness, he really didn't like anyone, least of all me. This did put a little more on edge, as I hate it when family and friends collide, as they have different interpretations of me, and stories that don't quite add up. Just to put a little further distance between my self important cooler than thou self and "the pack", I made sure that I wore a specifically tailored outfit, the finest clothes and hat Joe Bloggs and the finest boots that FILA could make (I looked like a reject from EMF, but then it was cool). No one else on the entire show looked quite as pimp-my-show as I did, and I topped off the outfit with sunglasses straight from the Ian Ziering collection. I know I drew a startled reaction, mostly "who's that wanker?" - and that was my first mistake, inherent snobbery only has certain limits...because it was a fancy outfit, and it was a terribly muddy day. The bogans in welly boots had outsmarted me...as I sunk deep into what I prayed was mud, my friends, my dear friends turned up, and that's when things went really awry...

Naturally, my friends being the supportive positive fans of mine that they were, took one at me and proclaimed my wonderfully cool outfit. Even my cousin had to admit that I looked sensational, and that really stuck in his craw. The real problem though was, deep down, they actually looked forward to the show, and were palpably excited to be there. I only realised this when after about ten minutes of flat, ennui laden observations on the quality of the show, they immediately sparked up when they saw helium balloons. Prompted by my cousin, they gleefully and delightedly fired up silly helium balloon voices. Literally, I was the stick in the mud (you don't get to say that often in life) wondering just what was going on, what had happened to the kids from the Nirvana style catalogue, and before my rain splattered sunglasses they immediately transformed into eight year olds throwing mud and saying "balls" in a helium tinged voice. My cousin was loving it, and they were genuinely happy, but it left me in quite the horrendous bind. If I went along with this change of heart, what would happen to me, and my FILA boots? I should of course have thrown off the shackles and done what I do best, fake sincerity, but I didn't, proclaiming my aghastness loudly at their joy. I'd like to think they were vaguely chastened, but I was the problem, I was miserable and homesick and I couldn't change. I think I lost them when they went to bet on the pig racing. I felt desperately alone of course, sitting in the pavillion on my own, holding a showbag and the keys to the car. I wondered where my world had gone, I wondered all kinds of exetensial questions about my place in the world, and I did it while watching a lump of a lass chop wood like there was no tomorrow. At which point, a small cherub cheeked girl in pink asked me I wanted a lolly. Touched by her kindness, I agreed, and she sprayed silly string at me and giggled. The final indignity was complete - soaked, lonely, friendless, muddy, lolly deprived and outwitted by a child, I took the only positive course of action I could - I grabbed the silly string off her and squirted her with it, wnet down and did some supporting for the woodchoppers, then I went and found my friends and went on the go karts. They were fantastic. And as I was drove home by my out of her wits mother, who had to listen to my depressing homesick rantings, she touchingly smiled as she asked how my day had been..."shite" I said, but of course, it was unconvincing. I had, against all my cool judgement, been won over by a go kart...

I was able to save the day by claiming that I was drunk in charge of a go kart...it was a desperate ploy, a terrible exaggeration unless you accept I was drunk on silly string, but it worked. For now....

7 comments:

squib said...

Far out, I'd completely forgotten about silly string. We had something similar except it was a mining festival and people did a big tug-of-war with a haulpak. But yes there was lots of silly string

Miles McClagan said...

I don't remember tug of war, maybe I missed it, I know there were many cries of "catch that pig!" and woodchopping. Silly string was everywhere, then like Push Pops, vanished. Bloody family groups.

Kris said...

I had a cow shit on me at the Burnie Show once, really killing my vibe. That was 1988 though.

Megan said...

Too cool for school, eh?

I remember my first go-cart experience. Exhilarating and terrifying.

I recall trying desperately to stop the thing, not realizing that my foot was still firmly on the gas pedal. Luckily the attendant noticed in time and rescued me before I burnt out all the bearings (or whatever would have happened).

Miles McClagan said...

That's mainly why I said I hoped it was mud...I missed the 88 show though, I was in Scotland then, hopefully it lived up to the Expo that was the 87 show, with Tiger Dowling in top form...

I went on go karts a couple of years ago and was incredibly and amusingly rubbish. I got absolutely caned by someone right up the bumper (matron). And yeah, briefly too cool for school, but it didn't last long. My love of terrible jokes had to surface at some point...

Baino said...

Actually we have a call centre in Hobart for one of our funds and I was surprised that everyone gets a public holiday because it's 'show' day.

There were lots of jokes about six fingered glove stalls but of course you're not a native so that doesn't apply. My colleagues thought I was mad for declaring that I could happily live in Tassie if my friends were there too!

On a serious note, I identify with the 'teen' immigrant thing. I went to six schools in two years when we first came here and it was either be cool or the daggy kid. No prizes for where I fit in!

Surely the Holden precision driving team make up for years of feeling homesick?

Miles McClagan said...

I found out after living here for about 11 years that the day off is "peoples day", dunno why, they keep the prices jacked up! And no, Tassie jokes don't worry me unless they are made by Queensland cricketers. Ah, and moving schools (I did country changes three times in 9 years) is great fun. The Holden precision driving team - is that the people doing blockies around Moonah?