Sunday, December 28, 2008

Worthy Of Websters

One of my oldest friends is performing - it's audience participShaun, and he's been dragged up to hold a unicycle and have his hat turned, TLC style, to da back, while a clown at the Taste of Tasmania is going through a lot of the basic tenets of clowning. He doesn't want to do it, but he has to, and I can't move for the whole hour of the performance, as I don't want to get involved in the performance myself and I'm stuck near the front in prime join in the fun position. I don't want to be the middle aged woman who through a series of happenstances now sits tied in the clowns rope. He's not happy the clown, he's already showed us his knee injury from a past performance, his eyes are joyless and his performance is over familiar to him to the point of self loathing, he's bemoaning how the wind has reduced his act to where it is now, and now he's being upstaged by a cute kid in a red dress who's primary talent is an ability to skip on cue. Across from the other side of us is a bogan heckler, with a biker beard and an overbearing John Blackman attitude, who's making a series of heckles based on incest and the size of his drinking manhood, who will not be silenced in his quest to be part of the show. We pray he won't make an inappropriate comment about the skipping child, given the lack of laughter all round, we don't need to add inappropriate child jokes to the unheady unfunny mix. It's not the clown so much as me - I mean I'm sure in a better mental state a man balancing a cycle on his chin would provoke the kind of hilarity not seen since the heady days of Toni Pearen - because I am deeply uncomfortable in the midst of desperation stripping all dignity. The clown, and I don't like clowns to begin with, is continually apologizing for his poor display, can't get a trick right where he has to catch something, is continually being upstaged by opinionated heckling children, and doesn't even get to the unicycle leaving my friend holding it for an hour without moving, and then, in a final moment, is left scrabbling for gold coin donations and for a painful, agonizing moment, as the masses flee to the shipping container showing short films, it looks like no one will give him even a dollar. He stands in the breeze that he's used to bemoan his lack of ability, holding a flapping cap out like a man offering breadcrumbs to ducks, while at the same time a plumpish dark skinned get the boys out with a low cut top singer with a guitar is making a similar plea for funds, invoking all her Tasmanian references to try and get someone to dip into their pocket and reward her songs, all of which are fine crafted but ultimately tuneless minutae observations on kitchen sink life, with a donation that she might eat. By the time she's on a long winded speech about how much she enjoys the Tasmanian people and the Tasmanian seafood, I fully expect her to claim she is personal friends with Errol Flynn in a bid for a measly five dollar note. As with the clown, I don't slink away to see the aftermath of these pleas - I know they are made to the backs of haughty Germans, to the fronts of indifferent oyster scoffing Tasmanians, and to sides of uncomfortable staff, forced to chase leaflets hither and tither to the four corners of the winds because they couldn't hang onto them when a gust came. It all feels so uncomfortable, it detracts from the majesty of the pancakes, and the surrealism of the way the stall advertises their lack of size as a positive virtue. Well, that's what it said on the leaflet that blew past my ADIDAS...

It's not, when the tourists are in, and the place is crowded with people scrambling for position, the most dignified day on the Tasmanian calendar. As people shuffle past desperate vendors, seeking a table, trying to get a chair from people who are pretending they have six extra friends due back from the pancake parlour any day now, the most minor incident can provoke a serious loss of dignity. A middle aged woman in silver spangly lip gloss with over made up eyes is standing to the right of me forming a one woman queue to pay for her bottle of water. Her white jumper clings limpet like to her body, her breaths agonized as she strains in the sway of the crowd. An Asian tourist gets served in front of her, a particularly bossy tourist indifferent to the social mores of a queue, with a brassy oversized camera pressed to her chest like a family keepsake. The harshness of her Thatcher do is only matched by her ruthlessness in making sure she gets her pinot noir before I can get my Pepsi or Ziggy Stardust can get her water. The staff member who makes the designation of who gets the royal service first is blameless, coming to the situation late, but Ziggy is disgusted, she pulls a disgusted face and looks, nay, implores me to join in some kind of protest, but I'm casually indifferent, and she turns the full force of her glittery glare onto the Asian tourist, who of course is blissfully idnignant since she's unable to speak English and simply wants to get a wine as quickly as possible. For an ugly moment, it seems as though she's about to launch the full Manning, a series of racial invectives that could be as ugly as the guy behind me's lime green Lady Godiva T, but instead she settles for a full flounce with pike, slamming her water down on the metal counter, and leaving with a full puff of the cheeks and loud angry exhortation to the sky of indiscriminate determination, but just as she goes, she loses her balance, not fully, but just enough to render her anger as farce. She grabs onto the metal counter to pull herself back up to a vertical base, and then retakes her water in her meaty hand, as if she had no intention to leave at all. Her Asian rival meanwhile has long ago faded into the crowd, sipping her wine, taking her pictures, not a care or a single frighteningly sprayed hair out of place...

Not that I have emerged well from the day with an inordinate amount of dignity, not least of all because of my pasty Scottish complexion going from white to red in the same time it takes the average plump singer to get to her first chorus of dissected kitchen sink minutae. The crowds and the clown have already made me feel edgy, and pining for the AUSTAR box. Socially, I can be awkward - I can be good too, I got a big laugh in the cinema that made me feel like a regular Adam Hills - but sometimes I feel like a minor addition to the line up, a back up who doesn't really need to be there. This shows itself in an argument about sunscreen. My best friend can poke at me and my insecurities sometimes, but only in that way that spending too long in the company of someone can. One crack too many gets through - what it's about, sunscreen, almost seems irrelevant. Before I know it I'm on the road to a sulk, which were it not for the presence of other people would result in an undignified strop. It is, for what its worth, a self aware sulk. I do it entirely to stop the digs, and I feel justified doing it, but digging myself out of it is nearly impossible. In too deep, I have to go through with a fully fledged sulk that threatens to ruin everyones day, and I'm aware that putting the sunscreen in the napsack means I will end up sunburned before I can finish the application, but I don't care, I've made my point. The awkardness of our position to each other continues into a newsagent, where I want a paper but the staff are pretending they aren't open and are trying to hide behind the counter. When we see them and make eye contact, they pretend they are stacking newspapers on the ground and are wreathed in fake smiles and gosh happy to see you here jollity. It's such an undignified scramble to rescue the situation, it digs me out of my sulk, and I forget that I'm angry. I only remember that I'm supposed to be angry far too late, midway through a flirtacious conversation with a female parking bay attendant, and recourse into sulking by now requires something else bad to happen, perhaps a return to the Taste of Tasmania for another round of Audience Participshaun with the clown...if I had to hold the unicycle for an hour, there's no way I'd be happy...

Eventually though I let everything go - I begin to enjoy my day as we head off to Bellerive oval to watch the cricket, which, the happiness, makes for less potent anecdotes, obviously, but at least I can enjoy the merits of drunk cricket fans and the aftertaste of a particularly bad Bellerive saveloy. A cheerleading troupe storm onto Bellerive oval to warm up the crowd with a slinky work out to P!nk, and my attention is drawn the heftiest of the 12 year olds, who is given nothing too strenuous to do in case she hurts herself. Later, the 12 year old cheerleaders will walk past us coated in lip gloss and eye liner and short shorts, so old before their time it's patently frightening. One of them, a blonde girl texting on a mobile phone, seems to be heading to a nightclub even though she doesn't look old enough for a pen licence. We leave much later, streaming through the late night past several not that bothered that Tasmania lost local patrons. We pass a friend who's friendship with us is, by choice, rapidly nearing it's sell by date, like the orange wafers I found in my cupboard. His girlfriend patently hates us, her social chill curing my sunburn almost on sight. We try not to talk to each other, but eventually we do, an awkward strained conversation full of platitudes made to each others backs. I'm not worried by this anymore, I'm more interested in the same twelve year old from before, the one who's lip gloss is so thick and shiny you can see your face in it, is getting into a car with a much older man who's clad in a flannel shirt and a look that seems incredibly ill intentioned. I hope that's a misjudgement - I hope it's just her Dad. I realise that while I've been worried about the social safety of the pom pom waver, I've still been talking to the power couple, which shows how much I've been listening. Since they've kept on walking and haven't stopped either, they are obviously not paying much mind to the verbage either, and eventually, we hit a corner where we part ways. It isn't even the final conversation we'll have with these people, there's no overwhelming sense of finality that they've gone one way and we've gone the other, but it's pretty obvious, and there's no anger, no mourning, it's just the nature of life...we walked up the road together at one point, and now, they just won't follow us to the Fish Bar...

And in lacking anger, it's probably the most dignity anyone has shown all day...

9 comments:

Jannie said...

"the size of his drinking manhood

pretending they have six extra friends due back from the pancake parlour any day now

friendship with us is, by choice, rapidly nearing it's sell by date"

3 awesome lines, nice little cerebellum you've been cursed with, Miles.

Off to Google Adam Hills.

Charles Gramlich said...

At some point, we all get upstaged by a cute kid.

Mad Cat Lady said...

Magnificent.
I am going to have to find something to pick on soon. You are getting too many compliments. It can't be good for you.
Description of Ziggy sounds startlingly like my mother.
WV: hydroate - I think there is something in that for all of us.

Baino said...

I've perfected my reading without paragraphs technique or you're writing more smoothly, I haven't decided. Can't stand Clowns myself, I think Stephen King ruined the whole thing for me. Interstingly, I have a friend who is about to part ways with his best buddy thanks to an unpopular choice of girlfriend. As for the sunburn Banana Boat Aloe Vera Gel Spray . .works wonders! Ah and your capcha says I've been "Gympingd" yeh . . goes with my mood!

Miles McClagan said...

It's a brain that's pretty horrendously fried with a virus...i'm doing my best...Adam Hills is very funny...I was on stage with him, bless...

I know, it's a sad day when a much cuter kid takes your place in the pecking order...

There's always my lack of paragraphs...maybe you can berate my lack of relative fame in the blogging world? Nag me to get more well known? I need an agent to do that I reckon?

Funny you should say that, I have an "IT" story, I must get to that one day...as for his girlfriend, we all don't like her, but it's his life, do what you want I reckon...maybe my medication makes my paragraphs a little more coherent?

anodyne Brownie said...

eventually your friend will come to his senses, so do not say any bad stuff now, normal programming WILL resume.

I think clowns are creepy too - John Wayne Gacy anyone?

Wishing you a wondrous 2009.

Miles McClagan said...

Yeah, I'm not going to be saying anything especially mean - some other people are, so I'm saying nothing, it'll sort itself out...maybe. Apparently when I was 4our, I was watching a clown and said "Oh grow up!"...set the tone!

Kris said...

The Taste plus clowns equals my own special vision of hell.

Miles McClagan said...

Imagine if you'd been roped into Audience Participshaun...that would have been even worse...