Sunday, November 30, 2008

Trying to catch the bouncer deluge in a paper cup...



A few years ago, when I was in Glasgow, a red T-shirted woman who was big of chest but displaced of morality pushed into me and demanded that I signed her petition. This was far more pushy than the normal Glasweigan mall approach of engaging you in conversation about your day until they lower the boom. Her petition, on a regulation brown issue clipboard, was against the proliferation of Irish theme pubs. I was busy, I had a lot to do, so I dragged myself away from her chest and wandered off, but now, I wished I had signed and signed more than once now that Irish Murphys is now Hobarts worst pub. It's been turned over to them...the bouncers...the black T-shirted mafia now assigned with full self importance. One of them demanded, to prove my sobriety, that I tell him how many people were at the Crowded House concert, almost poking me in the chest and asking if it was a billion, and then when inside a blonde haired male model was pushing people out of the way to clear a space, while a girl with her pants down was allowed to display her junk in the trunk to everyone. It was this point I wondered exactly why I wasn't in bed - the onset of drinkers remorse it was not, it wasn't even the onset of middle age. It was the demeaning of a fine drinking establishment by officialdom. There's nothing you can do, if you are pushed out of the way by a bouncer, the responsibility is yours to cop it, the reversal of general service standards. Outside the Quarry, two T-shirted men are in a punch up with a small bouncer, swinging blindly, one with a T-shirt over his head, while his girlfriend pulls him away tenderly and plaintively by the arm. We stop and watch, aware that it probably wasn't his fault, after all The Quarry is the place that once said someone with MS was drunk and wouldn't let him in, despite the production of a medical alert bracelet, so we don't expect much these days. Be a blonde, pull your pants down, and you are fine, but you are labelled by age and jumper, and the city belongs to them. My enthusiasm for going out is at an all time low, and can't be continuing if this is the life we lead now - crammed in while Sven the enforcer physically pushes people out of the way, listening to Kings Of Leon covers with changed lyrics, spinning down an endless black hole until we all tumble blindly into a taxi. A girl sprawls outside the Commonwealth bank ATM, rolling from side to side until she comes to rest against the glass of the newsagents window, her legs pointing in different directions, her eyes tightly shut. I wonder if her physical attractiveness meant she got to drink more than she should have, I wonder where her friends are, and I wonder why we don't stop to help, as we ply into another moderately cool venue to hear moderately cool songs, and the venues don't know the bouncers outnumber the patrons these days...can't think why...

Of course, such bleak assessments are reserved for the morning after - at the time, everything seems normal. Hobart seems even exciting after a serious session on the 8.50 cans of UDL, and Crowded House can sound like the most amazing band in the world. Next to me in the field, as I sulk my way through a session of Josh Pyke support songs, is the Liberal leader Will Hodgman, in what can only be described as politican casual. He looks a bit bored, like I was at Wolfmother, and luckily leaves before a beer can hits me on the legs. You can never tell at a concert if you are enjoying the band or enjoying the fact you know the words. Will Hodgman doesn't even know the words to Don't Dream It's Over, but he looks like he'd prefer the Sixpence None The Richer cover version anyway. We assign to ourselves the memories we want to anyway with certain bands - my girlfriend told me a long time ago that she always thought the perfect way to end a relationship was just to put Don't Dream It's Over in a tape deck with a note attached to play it and never speak again. We didn't even get that far. I get completely lost at one point, whether it's just through an interminable song from the new album or trying to not throw up from the 8.50 UDL, and people are trying to get me to join them, but I think it's kids bumping into me, and I ignore them until they think I'm sulking. It's a strange evening, both quite great and weird at the same time. One minute I'm happy the next I'm bewildered. My sober friend is excited and drinking the 8.50 UDL, and my excited friend is drinking water and preparing for exams. I don't know what to say anymore, I've lost my ability to enjoy myself in a series of self doubting moments and strange self analysis. Drinking makes me unwell rather than drunk, my friends are all over the place, wanting me to join in but talking to someone else when I do, and if you peek over the head of the beanie in front of you, Neil Finn can appear to be the greatest rock star in the history of the world. That's not to say driving through the streets of Glenorchy, heckling passers by and singing It's Only Natural to disconnected passers by with your friends isn't somehow glorious in the right circumstances, but my natural state is discontent, it always has been, discontent and concern, and I'm too old to change that no matter how positive my intentions. I know the concert was good, I know my friends are good, I know I'm having a good time, but I'm still edgy, and I always think someone more successful is going to get the attention. It's because I'm Scottish...we aren't happy no matter what, we feel the need to be on edge in case we are cut down to size. On cue, my Dad texts me to say St Mirren lost 0-2 to Dundee United...my sober friend is now tremendously excited to be going out, which throws me even more. Would my life be a lot better if I was able to drink without the girly problem of a stomach ache and a much greater capacity for enjoyment? Perhaps, but I wouldn't be me, and I probably wouldn't be where I am...for better or for worse, this is where I am, this is who I am, and these are the songs I will listen to forever...St Mirren, of course, will seemingly never score a goal again...

Hours pass, things fall into place, people stay, people go, and here we are, dancing in Syrup nightclub, with no one around save for those with nowhere else to go. I wonder, at least for a moment, if there's somewhere better than this, somewhere I'm missing out on, someones list I should be on, maybe the place Will Hodgman went to. The DJ has a blue shirt and the hurredly shaved off remains of his Movember moustache. He looks as bored as the rest of us, no doubt dreaming of a summer session in Ibiza instead of trying to segue Reel 2 Reel into Young MC. Fat girls are on the stripper poll, and I'm dancing not quite drunkenly enough to convince myself this has any merit. Time passes, more people come in, another person pushes me out of the way, but I'm not drunk enough to protest. The DJ never changes ocuntenance until he becomes even more compelling than the tunes he played or what my mother would rather optimistically call the talent. He hates us, and suddenly I notice that there's now a charge to even ask for a request, and I turn right over mentally to the TV page, just as the bouncer tries desperately to salvage the diminishing returns by dancing from the shoulders only, just as some other painfully ironic self aware early 90s hit is spun. I can't dance, I've never been able to, but I'm hamstrung even more by my opting for sensible clothes. On the stripper pole a girl in a white shirt who's shape is that of a sack filled with billiard balls is throwing sexy shapes, and pointing to everyone demanding they join her, even that badly dancing chap in the sensible jumper. No one joins her, and the shapes become even more desperate, at one point they are even barbeque...there's no more demeaning climb down than the jump off the stripper pole at a Hobart nightclub at 1 in the morning when you haven't picked up. A middle aged man in a work shirt walks through with a whistle trying to get everyone to join in with the whistles tempo, but he's reached the end of his road travelling, if not with me, at least near me when a girl asks to stop and says it's lame. Chastened, he puts his whistle down, and leaves, just as the DJ, in a desperate act of self animation, waves his hands in the air like he just don't care. At which point, when he realises no one else is watching, he sinks back into his seat, takes a painful discontent sigh, and slumps back in his booth, sitting down on his chair like he really does care...at least, about where his life is going...

In the middle of the dance floor, just underneath the flabby left armpit of the latest pole dancing wannabe, who has managed to attract the attention of another T-shirted stubbled paramour, is a girl in a black cocktail dress. In the context of this club at the moment, she's the most beautiful girl here, and she's staring at me, although in fairness it's only because her attachment has spun her in my direction. Attached to her back like a tortoise shell is her boyfriend. At least, I think it's her boyfriend, he's got a shaved head, a full beard, a T-shirt from the discount rack of Just Jeans, and he's not counting the steps to the door of her heart but another part of her anatomy. She's paying him absolutely no attention, but he hasn't noticed, he's hugging her and letting his mind wander, shutting his eyes and holding on tight. She looks at me for a moment, just for a moment, with a sort of strange expression on her face, a kind of desperation for help, that alarms me for a moment but there's nothing I can do as she disappears into the crowd, or at least, to the bar, with her shell attached. It is a mixed blessing that while the bouncers at Syrup are as bad as their fiddly-dee counterparts, and you may find yourself wondering exactly why the bouncer clips a velvet rope across you when the club is only half full, the people selling the drinks ply you until all hours with no regard...that means the girl is going to have to work extra hard to shed her shell, a weird and strange metaphor for trying to break free of torpor. Maybe she could hook up with the whistle blower. By this time, the club is one third full, and I can see everyone individually, except cocktail dress girl and her shell, they must have the traditional Tssie outside Syrup bust up that leads to a girl in tears, a man swearing and a passer by with a kebab stepping in and getting a smack in the teeth judging by the last expression I saw her throw me. On this particular night, the battle is well and truly lost. It's not them, it's me, I'm drunk on self consciousness, and painfully aware that this isn't me anymore. I feel the freedom of liberation and release as I leave my friends dancing in and around the podium to the strains of Bon Jovi, aware that I'm unable to fulfil the dual demands of being wanted and being left behind, and I slide down the Syrup steps with a world weary air, soon to be engaged in fitfully animated conversation with a tip hopeful taxi driver who probably says he had Nick Seymour in the back of his cab, and drift off to an uneasy sleep, knowing that being outside my comfort zone and going out is becoming, for the moment, increasingly difficult and tiring but not wanting to live my life like my auntie, devoid of friends and sitting at a table saying this is my life...complexities and dualities, of course, that only strike you in the morning over toast and regrets...

Don't dream my youth...chances are...it's over...

9 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I enjoy a good pub, but the club scene you describe would send me running for the exit very quickly.

Miles McClagan said...

It's a horribly grim scene - once you get past the bouncers, pay the 15 dollar cover charge, you may wonder where your life has gone...it's like a school disco with a stripper pole...

Jannie said...

"I'm Scottish...we aren't happy no matter what," my fav. line!

Off-topic, what was your involvement at Triple J exactly?

Kris said...

Bav Tav, Club Surreal, Regines, the Doghouse, a half decent Uni Bar... they’re all gone now aren’t they? I wouldn’t know where to start if I wanted to go out on a bender these days.

Is the Dr Syntax still going?

Quickroute said...

did the club way back - never really took to it - much prefer a pint and a chat these days

Mad Cat Lady said...

May I recommend instead a game of drunken killer bunnies? You need six friends for a decent game. It sounds like it would be more fun than your nights out dude.

Is it a sign of age when one thinks playing cards is more fun?

I've always been old. At parties I go hang out with the kids and discuss the merits of go fish or Uno over snap. Mainly in an attempt to steer the game away from snap. Some kids snap hard and I am a wuss.

Miles McClagan said...

I used to run a music mailing list, and then someone at Triple J read it, and then I would send Triple J music, and then they paid me to do their research and such things and keep them trendy...I was briefly on the air too, but that's a whole nother talkie...

Yes, everything is gone, apart from Syrups magical school disco feel...don't know about Dr Syntax...I think it's there, maybe renamed, and last I heard they had a problem with the floor collapsing...

I do too, I much prefer a pub now...at least until the band starts up...with their lousy Nickelback covers!

Cards is a million times more fun than Syrup! Believe me! I used to love UNO, I was an absolute gun at Go Fish...and I so have 6ix friends...sounds great! I must get the recipe...

Baino said...

I think you reach an age where watching the younglings cavort is just dull. Although that didn't stop me buying Prodigy tickets for January. Actually even my two are 'over' the club scene and they're in their early 20's. The guys have to dress to impress the bouncers and the girls are sick of being leered at and paying for the priviledge!

Miles McClagan said...

That's exactly right...nightclubbing is pretty much over at 20 now...at 16, that seems to be the peak year...ah, the Prodigy...is Juliette Lewis singing? I used to love that song...