Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In the midst of internment, the mind makes up a Brian McClair story

Officialdom is unriveting, it is rigid, it is a meeting in an airless room amidst clock watching staff and kettles and toasters and other corporate junk, it is a round white table and a ticking clock, it is a list of rules inflexible, patiently explained, with just a hint of hectoring amidst the even tone. The leader doesn't notice she is, as my generation is want to say, Sharon Stoneing the meeting, and I've long ago drifted off before corporate regulation B2AZ is allowed to seep into my head. A story about Brian McClair and a stack of pies forms in my head - did someone tell me it? She's off again, she's asked me a question - experience doesn't bring wisdom, it brings nothing but an ability to fake interest. Had I been younger, I probably would have still been out the window mentally when her opaque black tights and fussy manner turned in my direction, but there was nothing to it, I flicked my answer off with an indifferent panache, and then I'm back out the window, staring at a man leaning against a fence like a modern day George Formby, smoking, free to pursue his own day, a local football hero who doesn't need to work hard in life and the only thing that drags me back into their world is the somehow fanciful notion that this could be fun. My Auntie says that when I come home, and this is the auntie who doesn't leave her table, I instantly go from man to boy, shedding the suit and putting on one of a history of Liverpool away tops, usually the Ecru one, and leave them to it, I put Lenka on the IPOD or maybe a bit of Cassette Kids, and know that furious posturing on my behalf will accomplish nothing, for I am lucky - my interest in their world ends when the glass door shuts behind me, but their world is all encompassing. They don't know the joys of a flirtacious chat with the girl over the fence, the taste of a lime spider, they only know the paperwork mountain and charts with traffic lights representing how everything is going. Outside the window, an hour before the ecru can descend onto me, I see some kids running across the car park at high speed, oblivious to the dangers of a hurtling white van while their mother stands impotently by talking to the latest in a line of car park flirtations, a man outside the TOTE with a devil me care attitude and a large bottle of orange juice. He looks a bit like a Liverpool player I very very much hate at the moment, and my all encompassing rage towards that particular person, a figure on a television who I take my wrath out on even though he's probably a decent human being, is able to just about get me through subsection clause C and it's impossible to fathom relevance to my life...

There's a girl in the bakery who's trying really hard to either woo me or win some sort of professional service award. Today, she made a square motion because I had bought a sandwich, indicating that a differential choice in what's between my sandwich had constituted that I had thought outside the square, a trite and tense phrase that no doubt will come up at some point in this interminable meeting. I didn't believe that such a basic purchase required such an elaborate display, and now she wants to hold sandwiches for me behind the counter. When I was in Kilwinning, a local drug dealer, Filter or Deggsy or Sarah, one of them, took a shine to me and offered to hold Es for me if ever I was in town. I think it might have been Deggsy, nice guy, good heart, glass eye, don't ask about the scar. Now, illicit middle class white boy thrills are a girl in a sensible hat is holding sandwiches for me with a sly cheeky wink. I'm uncomfortable with the sly cheeky wink - it implies that some day that I will have to do something for her, like, I don't know, lift a load of boxes or something. My imagination is limited now I'm thirty. There's a proliferation of school leavers at tables idly chatting in fading daylight about exam stress and terrible boys who never call. Their whole life is in front of them, and perhaps they don't appreciate it yet, not just the fading lights of the day but of their lives, whether the insufferable but ultimately pressure free wait for a pie is as good as it will ever get. One of them, according to her leavers top, is a girl called Nikki with firey red hair and the last leavers top in the box, the most tattered, the least size accurate - she's talking on her mobile phone about twenty dollar notes, dipping into her savings and how wasted she was at the weekend. Seriously wasted from all accounts, although like all tales of wastage, wasted, seriously wasted, or the granddaddy of them all, nerfuckin seriously wasted, self awareness means you weren't wasted at all. Just for a moment, I think I recognise her from a previous engagement at Syrup, nothing like that of course, but she seems to resemble the bored girl in the corner, the one standing watching her friends enjoy themselves while making moral judgements on them that never escape her head because she's sober and they are drunk and the light shining on them isn't pleasant. I know this because I was doing the same thing when I saw bored corner girl, and we had a wonderful moment of mutual recognition as to what we were both thinking, and with just a slight nod of the head, we acknowledged that she knew what I knew and vv. However, Nikki was not bored corner girl, because bored corner girl looked accutely self aware, while Nikki, from just a fleeting glance, seemed painfully unaware of the stares of her friends, which seemed just so unkind...

Back in the meeting for a moment, Alpha officialdom male is telling a story about how poor preparation got someone stabbed. Obviously the stabber was prepared, although it's easier to prepare to stab someone than stop someone stabbing you. Knife goes in, knife goes out. I nearly got stabbed once...well actually, I was nearly chopped up with an axe - funny story, I had to hide in a cupboard at my friends house with his brothers and him while Daddy came round to chop up ex-Mummy...oh we laughed...well we didn't because we had to be really quiet obviously...maybe better preparation would have saved me. My Mum is amazed given my mouthy childness that I didn't charge Daddy and demand he stop being so unkind to kids. Then we all watched a film called Hotshot with Pele trying to teach an American (Jim Youngs?) how to do an overhead kick - funny what you remember in a crisis. I must have sat through a lot of these meetings, and I can't remember any of them, but I can remember an old Pele vehicle, and specifically choosing it from the Upper Burnie video store in 1988 and how much we enjoyed playing Pacman there while we waited for the Serbian man to find the tape out the back. I don't think either of my local Blockbusters have arcade games. They always seem quite lonely empty places now, and to be honest whenever I go in there, it always seems to be quite a strange before and after kind of place - there's the expectant slumber party crowd, taking out a video, maybe getting some coke out of the fridge, talking about how amazing their night is going to be, and then the next day if you see them bring the video back they seem quite dejected and disappointed with the night not going to plan - the bit in between getting the movie out and putting it back is real life of course, and many a time I've sat around in someones living room with the last flickering credits of a Gere or a Stallone movie illuminating the room just as the expectations of a wild night in meet with the hum of the VHS tracking screen coming on, the edgy kid who wants to party on causing a scene, the kid who wants to go to sleep huffing he's still awake, the couple in the corner breaking up before Sly has even uttered a sentence...that's what no amount of officialdom can prepare you for, the confronting joys of real life. He's off on another story by now anyway, the sort of straight out of a textbook but if we name a Tasmanian town we can make it sound more real example only the officialdom menace can conjure up...no one responds to his evocations, and in a fit of panic the story gets wilder and wilder, until it's patently unbelievable...who knew Taroona had bazookas and a crime syndicate? Huh...interesting...

My Mum has sent me a text message. She doesn't know whether to buy me the Michael Parkinson book or the Dawn French book. A long time ago, I stopped reading novels - for one thing, unlike my novel, there weren't enough Tony Barber cameos - and now I read only books where I can learn something, maybe what an evil man Walt Disney was, or something about the toy industry. I was shocked at how easily I was duped by that whole Transformers ad campaign. Mind you, Grimlock represent y'all. My sales awareness is now incredibly high - the man with the face cream who stands outside Mr Boosts world of Promotions Model Frost (aka Boost Juice) doesn't even bother with me, such is the power of my withering glance, either that or, since he is incredibly camp of stance, he doesn't fancy me and will not be storing sandwiches. I make a note that the next time I think someone fancies someone, storing sandwiches will somehow come up as the private reference in my head. Interestingly, I've quite heavy conversations with my friends lately. We haven't just discussed, say, Collingwood wasting a draft pick on Leigh Brown or that today is Britneys birthday, but we had a conversation at the Queens Head, a nice pub in North Hobart with no bouncers but an incredibly oversigned Blues Brothers tribute band poster in the bar about death. It wasn't a morbid conversation, it came up naturally, but it was definitely odd to even broach the subject. I am obviously terrified of dying, but this was quite a sweeping conversation about all aspects of life, including the finale, and love came up. I wonder sometimes if I'm capable of falling in love, such is my enjoyment of solitude and quite solidly arranged routine of thought and counter thought and Hamish MacBeth on an ABC2 Tuesday. Empires will crumble and new will come but Robert Carlyle will never get off that island. Perhaps I'm too flippant, perhaps there's not much depth to me beyond the pop cultural references, I don't know. I haven't listened to a word for the last half an hour of the meeting by this point anyway, Sharon Stone has stopped opening the gate so to speak, and no one is talking about the wild colonial frontier of Taroona by now, and when they ask for questions, no one stirs, so close to esc...oh, someone has a question...back to staring out of the window, soon to let the question pass, and be free once again, just as Ani De Franco comes right into my head...the windows of my soul are made of one-way glass, don't bother looking into my eyes if there's something you want to know, just ask....

Who am I kidding, Ani Di Franco...it was obviously Womanizer by Britney...you know me too well by now...

15 comments:

the projectivist said...

Did you know that you can buy Walt Disney furniture? "Reminiscent of the Art Moderne styling of the 30's and 40's" apparently. Not a Mickey Mouse logo in sight.

Also -
i like the glass that, with the flick of a switch, becomes instantly transparent. Nanotechnology is a wonderful thing. Maybe the windows to your soul are manufactured with nano-glass?

Charles Gramlich said...

I learn a lot from reading novels myself. And nonfiction ain't always true.

Miles McClagan said...

Really? That's fantastic, I've got to get that and the Michael Stipe designed T-shirt...credit crunch be damned! And yeah, they could be, but who could flick the switch? Mystery!

I stopped reading novels yonks ago...I don't know why, I just did, and yeah, non fiction is a load of rubbish sometimes! That book about Walt Disney that said he was a lovely man, tell that to the disabled people he won't let have a picture taken with Mickey...allegedly!

Mad Cat Lady said...

I fell into role of local joker for our meetings.

We have to come up with a 'safety contact' (some personal story about safety) at the beginning of each meeting and after I told them about clipping my toe nails and one flying up into my eye and me not being able to see anything in there and then in falling out of my eye the next day at work onto the desk - they all look to me for leadership in this area.

It's lucky I fell off my scooter, cause I had nothing for the next meeting - nothing.

(word verification - rewag(?!?))

squib said...

Clearly the reason you stopped reading novels Miles is you knew it was time to start writing them

There's a weird change of tone in your writing today, or rather yesterday

Miles McClagan said...

I used to be watched throughout meetings because I would take the top off my water, drink it, put the top back on and then take it off again...I don't do that anymore, and alas, I'm relatively accident free, but I do pipe up with an indifferent comment every now and then...that's as good as I can do!

What was wrong with this post? I'd love to know, I'm worried now...

Mrs Slocombe said...

It seems like stream but has perfectly formed sentences: very subtle.And offhand horror.And George Formby!
Love it, as always.

Jannie said...

I didn't think guys had "sleep-overs." I thought you just hung out until late and then went your respective ways?

I think counter girl's trying to woo you as opposed to win a service award?

squib said...

No, nothing wrong. You just sounded totally fed up

Kath Lockett said...

You may not realise it yet Miles McC, but you're lucky. At thirty I'd *like* to think I wasn't the Sharon Stone during office meetings type you describe, but I probably was - all puffed up with paperwork, promised promotions and stuff that didn't mean a fat rat's clacker outside of the boring blue building in which I slaved.

Penniless writer may not pay as well but there's sure as hell no unnecessary meetings, unless you count bending down many times a day to scratch Milly the dog on her tummy.

Miles McClagan said...

I am a massive fan of music hall, George Formby and Max Miller in particular...any time I can get a vaudeville reference in, I do my best!

We had quite a big group in school, that was very much 50/50 boys and girls, so sometimes we would stay and sleep over platonically, and watch vids, don't do it much now...she didn't serve me today, so I don't know...the mystery continues!

I'm always fed up in meetings...always! They are my pet hate...

I just don't have it in me to care enough to Sharon Stone it up in meetings...I could fake it, but ya know...I'd quite like to be a penniless writer, although I'd probably end up with a dog of an agent, who's tummy I couldn't tickle!

Kris said...

Upper Burnie Video was good, but Leisure Sales and Rentals was where it was at. I do believe that my brother eventually rented every single video in Leisure Sales and Rentals. I do believe that out customer number there was '8'. Difficult to remember, I know.

Miles McClagan said...

I was such a big fan of Upper Burnie Video...I loved that you could get videos and Milkshakes...remember when Video City opened with those Max Headroom style ads? How evil they seemed? I went into Video City 3 weeks after it opened, and there was a girl in there disputing her boyfriends fines...he had 61 (I remember) videos overdue...in three weeks! No wonder they make so much cash....

Megan said...

Luckily, our meetings are conference calls, so I just mute the phone and read blogs instead.

Miles McClagan said...

I wish I could have done that - the thought of muting out Sharon Stone and reading a nice story on a blog is bliss!