Friday, November 14, 2008

No More Conversations On My Own (Friday night in Hobart)

So it's funny the way life is - last night I was sitting at a lovely amiable but kind of dull Hobart pub, in a nice and dull and amiable jumper without any kind of logo or sporting reference so that bouncers can't refuse me service, and the girl at the table across from us as we talk idly about nothing of any consequence is stunning, she's got black tights on, beautiful hair, she's mixing shivering in the cold with a diffident casual confident air even though she's not involved in the conversation, and she's also completely oblivious to the fact that about three seats down from her, at the same table but on the other edge of the conversation, a guy with black hair, jeans, sad eyes and the posture of a boy in the throes of complete adoration is looking at her, and she can't see it. He's telling a story about work to the group, but it's clearly pitched entirely at her, and I think surely everyone can see this, but it seems to be just me, and it's certainly not registering with her. She's staring at the water and the boat and the Maori bouncer and the ground and everywhere but at the story teller, and as he gets to the punchline of his story, he trails off, not delivering it with the conviction he would have if she had just engaged him for even a moment. I don't get the chance to see how this little mini table drama plays out, or try and isolate her all for myself to pitch some sort of "so, airline peanuts, sup with that!" flirtacious banter, because we're up and off, to sit through the same conversations we always have, but in different settings. I'm exhausted, and my contributions are nothing more than a greatest hits compilations of conversations past, even though the steak is good. Partially I can't get the girl out of my head (don't worry blue eye shadow girl, it was the tequila) but also I can't be bothered coming up with new material. So I set myself to a default position which generally involves amiable conversation about old cricketers and the follow up single of Flock Of Seagulls, and keep it up until it's time to go home. Much like the guy at the table, by the end, no one seems to be listening, so I set the autopilot on, down rum and coke by the gallon, and appreciate how lucky I am to have friends so good and so close to me, I have to make absolutely no effort at all...although I'd have liked some compliments for my Muttley T-shirt...that hurt...

Of course, as with a lot of things these days, there was a strange and wistful melancholy to the evening - we aren't, as a group, getting any younger, and I certainly find it strange when people begin pulling out pictures of their kids or their renovated house and talk about going home early because they are driving or have kids to look after. And that's before we even get to the fact I'm completely exhausted and as a group we've completely devolved from the old notion that "eating is cheating" to go and eat a full proper meal with starters. The waitress, a sort of weird amagalm of what happens when you superimpose an old face on a young one with photoshop, is tip hovering around the conversation. She's anxiety personified, one of these people over anxious for a mouthful by mouthful recount of whether or not you've enjoyed their steak. To be honest, this particular restaurant, that never changes, but I feel sad because the last time I was here, I was with a close friend who due to personal circumstances is now a social recluse. Time moves on, and not just while you wait for a baguette. One in our party is what my mother would call "one o they Ayrshire mooths" - she's a gossip, keen for strands of dirt but I'm not giving them to her. She takes my lack of social ambition and turns it onto me as if I'm a childlike figure sometimes, which I accept, because I know her husband uses their credit card to download trans-sexual porn and fat girl porn and has had dating agency women around to their house. Too easy, I shrug, whenever it's my turn to take some good natured ribbing. I think to myself that this mutual know each other so well that baiting is easy but never harsh type conversation is strange, but I don't think about it too long, because tiphog is pack, a little more mascaraed, and is asking how our water is. I smile and wish her the best, and she calls me darling, and the conversation continues with no real meaning until someone we all know comes in the restaurant, with a new man and a much shorter haircut. She air kisses us all, which makes the inner Ayrshire man in me uncomfortable, and says we have to say goodbye to her before she leaves - I think she thinks we're her escape valve for the evening, but it means nothing, and we leave a well earned tip. Last time I saw that girl anyway, she was dressed in a mini skirt standing outside Syrup desperately trying to pick up a seventeen year old she could get in and look cool, and ultimately feel good about herself. I smile at the barmaid, out of absolute politeness, and feel good about myself that I'm not the dorky head waiter, who's all teeth, glasses and fumbling fingers...I hope that glass isn't coming out of his pay packet...

We retire to a bar, quite a trendy bar, well, trendy by Hobart standards, and my boring jumper comes in handy, as does the fact that I'm completely sober and upright. Some girls try and beat us to the couch, much younger girls no doubt waiting to use the couch for prime preening, now forced to preen from the far less classy preening position of the pool table or the freezing cold outside tables. It's packed, really packed, but spaces clear as soon as everyone notices how packed it is, and goes away again. There's cricket on the TV - there's girls on a hens do passing dirty comments on Andrew Symonds. My friends want to party on, but I'm about to pull a disappointment for him and go home. Hobart is a bad place to go out now anyway - bouncers, children, dress codes, expensive spirits, pub bands who still think Live are the height of elan and elegance. It's not my scene anymore. I wonder what is. A girl is looking at me, she's not quite preening, but I can't pick the look, whether it's directed at me or the couch. Once in my head at least I figure it's the couch, I re-engage with the conversation. I feel younger than the man in the white work suit though - he's double my age and a bit wider, a confused mix of cocktails, thrown off shackles of respectability and an unfinished mullet. He's walking in that way people walk when they are drunk and want to hug people, arms up in the air, clearly enjoying generic trance track #17 from the Ministry compilation CD. My friends aren't looking at him though, and they are talking about nothing meaningful. I can barely remember how we all came together to sit on this couch at this moment, and struggle to piece together some of the circumstances. The man in the white shirt is getting uncomfortably close to sexually harassing his secretary. I'm getting uncomfortably close to leaving and being told not to leave and then having one more drink and leaving anyway and wondering what the point was. I'm able though to pick that generic trance track #17 is by Felix Da Housecat. No one moves, no one seems impressed, but behind me, in the cheap non couch seats, I clearly hear a guy tell his dis-interested punk chick paramour that the song is by Felix Da Housecat. She perks up briefly, and I wonder whether I can use my vast knowledge of the Chillout Sessions 3 CD to pick up (next track is PaulMac featuring Abby Dobson) but she then says he's still a retard and slumps back down, sipping on her blue Curacao with disdain, and no regard for the joys of a bendy straw...

The final bar, it's always a sad moment. You've either picked up or you haven't, you've either had a great time or a boring one, you've either charmed someone with an Andrew Symonds story or been told you can't get into the pub - either way, the night is settled. We file this night as comfortable - dull, uneventful, a social obligation. We stand at the bar, and we're mentioning how old fashioned everything seems - the pub band seem to have been going through the same mid 90s repetoire of Oasis-Live-Powderfinger-Silverchair et al since I've been going out. As a wildcard, he plays Best Days by Blur to mass apathy, until you expect someone to yell sing us a song we know. They've eliminated debauchery too, no one in this pub is going to start a fight or throw up, it's a clientele stripped of danger. Since the final bar has entrapped us all, we start talking about other nights out and nights out to come, just as a 12 year old girl walks in. We joke she wouldn't have a clue who Nik Kershaw is. She's amazingly young, but dressed for a night out on the Gold Coast. She's coated in fake tan, head to toe, hair dyed blonde, mini denim shorts, high heels and bad intentions. She walks in alone, expecting everyone to stop, like in a bad western where the piano player stops in the second chours, and look at her, twirling around for people to hit on, hands on boney hips, eyes darting at a million miles an hour. She may be drugged, she may be anxious, she may have school in the morning, but no one looks at her, and she slumps against the bar, alone and patently about to catch a death of cold. Rather than wanting to pick her up, I want to pick up a blanket and throw it over her. She smudges some unapplied fake tan on the bar, and stands perfectly still for a long time, trying to get the heat back in her body (matron). We smile at her, not out of any lust or want, but because as a group, we remember making that much effort when we went out - and appreciate how comfortable we all are with each other, and in our lives, and how we never have to worry about the ravages of underage drinking and picking up again...

On the way home, the taxi driver begins a long, boring conversation about speed cameras, and I put Smoosh on my IPOD, and drift off to sleep, social mission accomplished...

13 comments:

Quickroute said...

same time - different place - next week - next month and on and on it goes. Where it's going nobody knows.

pinkfairygran said...

Brilliant writing, enjoyed it, thank you. Felt an affinity when it came to the part about wondering how to behave, needing to get dressed to make an impression kind of thing. So nice to be old(er), happy with oneself, content with who you are and who you are with.

From a novice at this blogging lark, in East Anglia, England.

Found you in a convoluted way, via Chapter III

Jannie said...

"File this night as comfortable" love that metaphor. Picture it all neatly tucked into a drawer behind "bewildering" and in front of "draining."

Does the wife of the trans porn downloader KNOW you know??

"clientele stripped of danger," good one too.

Ann O'Dyne said...

"a man in a white work suit" ?
and after 'Syrup' I thik there's meant to be a 'so' in there, but hey, I knew what you meant and when I anticipated suggesting to you that you get a literary agent ... I realised there is a LOT of good writing on blogs.
It could all be auditioning, who cares? I can trawl about being entertained without having to wait years for some dopey publisher to think I will like something.
Female youth/beauty is a fickle and dangerous thing, so I can only hope the soppy-eyed boy went hope and composed his heart out, she probably isn'y good enough for him.
My novel (about myself, as they all are) has the plot of going back to when I was 17 and doing it all over again, but with the brain I now have, which developed far too late in the piece to be any use at all.

and 'big nights out in Hobart' are no less turgid than big nights out in Paris or NYC, they just cost less.

peace and love

Miles McClagan said...

I read something really profound once about how life is a series of after work drinks until you wake up at the final one for you retiring...life just goes on...but it's good to be comfortable at this stage...

Thanks for visiting, I appreciate the finding, even in complex ways! It's fantastic to be older, and not smooshed in fake tan...there's just no disquiet in our group, it's all very easy and contented...

Well, without getting into too much detail, she was worried about her credit card statement, and it kept saying "TS" and "BBW" on the statement, and she said it was fraud, but it was pretty obviously him...especially when we checked it out...so I think she knows and just doesn't mention it now...I haven't had draining for ages! Maybe next time!

White work shirt tiges, although if he had a white suit, that's pretty boss...I hadn't considered besotted boy writing poems about her...there's every chance given the way he was looking at her, but she was very pretty. I had really no auditioning plans at all, I just need an outlet to write! Mostly to bring back old flavoured milks...but it's going pretty OK!

squib said...

"no regard for the joys of a bendy straw"

oh that's spendid!

Miles McClagan said...

I don't trust the straight straw brigade...that's not how we did things on the NW Coast!

Kris said...

Drawing from a few separate elements of this piece, I suddenly remembered a story I have from maybe the last time I ever went out on the razzle (a few years back now). The elements? Patron watching, Andrew Symonds, a Hobart 'nite' club, and what I swear was a twelve year old out looking for a good time.

That's all I'm saying before the lawyers step in.

Still, it's not as good as the Brother's Grant Denyer tale...

Miles McClagan said...

One day, I'll swap you an Andrew Symonds and Grant Denyer pair of stories for a Brett Lee and Bono pair, and I bet they end up sounding pretty similar!

Baino said...

Lovely Miley . . bit late getting around this week but I can so identify with this. Chillout Sessions 3 CD - perfect! I don't think I've bought one since! Although your clubs sound a little countrified . . .cricket? On the telly? In a CLUB?. Then what do I know. All my Friday nights comprise drinks, dinner and bed by 9!

Miles McClagan said...

I don't know - the Telegraph usually shows Channel V, someone must have wanted the cricket on. There's an awkward battle between the preeners and the dancers at that place - Chillout Sessions 3 is a great album, it's got St Etienne on it, and I play it often in my hammock, watching the world go by...

the projectivist said...

so enjoyable!
a happy accident that i found your blog.

Miles McClagan said...

Thanks for visiting, happy accidents are appreciated!