Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The boy who sat in a jail cell and thought you know I have this idea for something called Twitter



I had this acid style flashback last night while reclining in my hammock, although my perception of acid flashbacks would be different if I had ever taken acid - who takes acid these days? Is there a pile of Altern 8 fans out there dying for the days of Ayr Pavillion? And yet it's vivid, hypnotically calm. It goes like this. My first ever school outing was in kindergarten to the Penguin police station. Penguin wasn't a hotbed of crime - as I've said before, one time the Penguin police chief took an ad out in the local paper saying he was going on holiday and could all crime related enquiries be directed to Burnie. Sure, occassionally some surly know it all youth would be rude to a tourist or put chewing gum in the collection plate, but the law was respected, respected enough to make sure that quibbling Tom the quibbler wasn't complaining or quibbling for once and he quibbled a lot for a kindergartener - the crayola castle was a constant source of dispute. As the cooing children were shown the joys of a workplace that had less than athletic staff, some of those really impressive 80s phones that were all that kind of yellowy colour with the big finger holes, mugs that had ironic slogans that would be funny once we learned what irony was, and naked ladies since no one had invented sexual harassment yet, eventually some of us were put in one of the cells and in an amusing twist - we hadn't learned what amus...oh never mind - they, they being Chief Wiggum with worse knees and my teacher and her owl like tense faced self, shut the door to the jail cell, locked it, and left us in the cell for a moment. It was a special treat I guess, they hadn't invented SBS yet, they had to give us something. Some of the kids began to cry, some of them got a bit freaked out, some of them simply didn't work out what was happening and began discussing the future and the rise of Tiger economies - OK, they mostly discussed why aquamarine crayons were better than silver ones and anyone who didn't think so was just a quibbler. All around me was chaos and immaturity and kindergarten logic. And I distinctly see myself sitting calmly on one on the available benches, sitting down, shrugging my shoulders and waiting for the fuss to die down like a guy at an airport resigned to the imperative realisation that something will inevitably delay the Jetstar. There was one girl called Georgina who I always remember smelled like Kleenex who was hysterical, wailing on the bars like some overacting benny in the Shawshank Redemption, convinced no one was ever going to let us out of the cell we had been locked in for tour related purposes. I felt different to them - not better maybe, but definitely blessed with enough perspicacity to ensure that I felt no more in danger than I would be for suggesting the real crayon of choice was burnt sienna. That was one magical crayon. Of course, it was also the first moment of alienation I can remember, a seperation of myself from the herd that no amount of shared lego can ever bridge. And then there's the realisation that I may have imagined the whole thing in that way that TV repeats prove that, say, John Farnham didn't sing at a charity concert at the Diner in Home and Away even though you can see it. It may be an amalgam of emotions, of feelings...but then, you know what, I pick up a Kleenex, and the whole thing seems so re...

Sorry, I lost track, you are right, it's fascinating this occupational health and safety lecture, I think I answered that question right, I think I got away with it. It really is fascinating the way the world is now a potential death trap, I mean I slashed my leg open on an Ulverstone slide that someone had left a razor blade on in 1984 and it was brushed off as amusing but sobering anecdote by my Mother, where as now we'd sue their ass - it's a cell of another kind that they put me in today, windowless, lakcing in depth, but obviously very safe. The James O'Loughlin style moderator seems obsessed with the dangers of those wheels on the bottom of chairs - are they called carstairs? Or am I mental? When I drift outside the window, wishing I had the same abilities as my old Swiss nemesis Colin who allegedly could have mid air sex with fellow spirits, I see two underagers kissing in the car park. He's clearly lustful, she's clearly loving. The dichotomies of teenage life summed up in a moment. She thinks he's Clark Gable, he wants to get some. That I say Clark Gable marks me out as old obviously - does she think he's a Jonas Brother? Josh Lawson? Who do the kids like these days? Sorry, um, carstairs? Good guess. James O'Loughlin is trying for a lightness of touch now - he's clearly trying to pad his routine out with a few gags, a peppy step or two, but ironically and somewhat strangely for an OH&S guru, he's falling between two stools - comedy and seriousness. There's a crucial e-mail on my computer I can't get to. It's going to pretty much decide the kind of year I have, my football team on the brink of collapse, apparently because no one in the community, frankly, gives a shit. There's a video playing now - it's hissy and full of static and tracking noises. Who plays a video these days? The 80s fashions are hurting my eyes, a girl with kaleidoscope tights walking awkwardly through a series of minorly hazardous mid 80s dangers with a gallus swagger. The kissers are gone - I used to think comedy was based entirely in repetition, the shared knowledge of what a particular person was referencing, but in this car park, if my instincts and knowledge of barn dances from a million years ago are correct where Southern Sons blinked on the PA system and no one had the courage to pucker up, there's nothing funny about the misguided intentions of a teenage boy pulling that face as he kisses. It's going to be a hell of a bad week for her on Facebook if she puts out I think. Well, wishing her well is probably a form of health and safety. Eventually, the tape we are watching grinds to an ugly halt - the man at the end was once a powerful CEO laid low by economic problems. In the video, he proudly holds up a manual or a file, a document by which to live. He's so proud - that's why I hate video tapes, hate photographs...they capture the moment before you know what the next moment will bring. If only he'd put down the 600 foolscap document and spent more time crossing his ts and dotting his i's, maybe, just maybe, the smile on his face would still be there...

Someone e-mails me a picture - someone I knew in Burnie, someone who's now bald as a bat. He used to walk with suave intentions, but the suaveness has taken it's toll on his noggin. I study the picture for some sense that his lustre and self assuredness has dimmed, but it's not there, he still seems confident and smiling on the arm of a bewildered looking femme, discomforted from every angle. Out of sheer boredom, I rotate the picture on a series of amusing photoshopped angles, upside down and hexagonal, and then delete it. They were such a proud family, and then...well it's funny how we are as people, how we seek to demolish sound family structures one gossipy phone call at a time. God, was it that long ago that I was in his house, playing with Voltrons on the carpet while he offered me the kind of sage advice about girls only a ten year old can dispense to an 8 year old? Uncomfortable, my lunch break is spent with more trivial concerns, the way the girl behind the counter can suddenly look like Guy Smiley, the strange new recipe that's befallen on my sandwich, and the way the other girl behind the counter - not sandwich white female, another one, nose ring and eye shadow, no time for chit chat - is forced by corporate guidance to hand out free frequent sipper cards. I loathe loyalty cards, I can't explain why, they strike me the same way I felt when I was 8 and Mum threatened to cut my hair, like I had become some sort of decrepit hillbilly, punching holes in a card to get the ultimate hillbilly dream of free java, then lining up for my haircut before it was whittling wood hour. Social snobbery has clouded my life for too long. The girl hands it to a guy in a suit, who looks at it and hands it back. He doesn't do as I do, take it and throw it in the bin, he outright rejects it, with a dismissive wave of his meaty paw, as if Nemesis herself had brought retribution on the corporate industry through the returning of a free offer. Score mighty little man. The girl looks as bemused as her mother probably did when she first saw her nose ring, and for a moment looks genuinely crushed. The suited man walks off with purchase with such an undeserved swagger that I feel it would be entirely justified of me to stick my leg out and trip him up. The girl meanwhile returns the card to the deck, and seems to me to be biting her bottom lip - like of all us, she takes the rejection personally, and the acid flashback in my brain seems to take me back to Grade 8, reading a hand written note from a girl that simply said no on it. Either that, or her nose ring just really hurts, it's at a jaunty angle and it looks a bit red. She needs to take a moment just to key in the price of my sandwich. If I could, I'd take her back 10 seconds, when she was still confident about herself and her handouts, but it's a minor moment, she'll get over it. Maybe she'll Twitter about it tonight...I wish sometimes I was on Twitter...those short posts seem mighty tempting, much more tempting than this lousy recipe changed sandwich...I'd complain, but she's suffered enough...

Time passed slowly in that jail cell. It was 5ive minutes tops, but a long 5ive minutes. I needed a book I think. No one had invented the IPOD yet, so I couldn't listen to music like I am now - here I am writing about the passage of time and how uncomfortable it makes me feel and I'm watching a clip where Sharon Jones is dissing George Bush, I mean that's SO 2005 - and the hubbub and the emotion and the fury is boiling. Eventually they let us out - Georgina had a stutter, or else she's be noisily furious - and gave us a talk about how if he committed a crime, we'd end up straight back in there. Seemed fine to me, it was the best rest I'd had in a long time. Of course, not only did officer Wiggum not have any conviction in his speech, but it was far too cute a trick to play on five year olds. Even Georgina one hour later was in the sandpit with lego up her nose. It sort of worked on me a bit - I took at least three hours to reflect before the lesson was dirt on my shoulder that I brushed off like some young Jay Z, and was freely playing with my Whiplash and Power Punch He-Men in the back garden. My Mum always says if I go to jail, she's sending Dad instead. I of course took a moment to put Whiplash down and think briefly about where my life may take me on that wintery Penguin evening - the possibilities were limitless when I was 5ive, a backyard with pampas grass (pampas grass!) a treasure chest of wonder in itself never mind the excitement that another street a block away like Hayward St could provide. I mean, that street was on a hill, imagine! My time in the jail cell had been well spent - it was good thinking time I feel, if the memory hasn't betrayed me. Knowing me, I probably brought up some profound point to someone like quibbling Tom and got called weird and then he would say aquamarine and another tangent would begin. I don't know the meaning of life anymore now than I did then though, and it frustrates me that I don't a little. I know it's not worrying about carstairs though, and I know it's not arguing loudly like the neighbours are about the price of an oven they are selling on their front lawn. Their shrieking is so loud, I have to turn the television up to drown them out, but the last thing I hear is the shreiking sheik of food preparation - the wife always makes immaculate lunches, trust me - telling her husband that wasting her time is a crime. Maybe, I feel like telling him, a night in the cells is in order, good for thinking...I smile as I put my feet up and watch some American comedian bounding around his set to Hanson...time is accelerating ever more rapidly, it's confusing my thoughts, the sky seems to be falling in, everyone seems to be obsessed with OH&S, I'm getting ever older and less ambitious and more sleepy, but just like the kid in that jail cell, in spite of all the hubbub, I just can't bring myself to care...

Oh, and quibbling Tom, it's ALWAYS Burnt Sienna my friend...always...the crayon of champions...

13 comments:

Georgie B said...

I remember experiencing a trip to my local police station (as cub scout) and spending a few minutes in the jail cell, just to see what it was like.

We all got that "this is where you'll be if you get into some serious trouble" kind of speech.

We more or less said the insincere "yes, sir" a few times and waited to be let out.

Imagine our surprise when Officer Friendly "lost" the key to let us out.

squib said...

Personally I liked Electric Lime

Yes, and whatever happened to Pampas Grass? It's seems there was a lot of it in my childhood and now it's all gone

Fab writing as usual Miles

Kettle said...

Great writing, Miles. I really enjoyed that.

The older my son gets the more I realise how much we are who we are from the very beginning. A thoughtful child will be a thoughtful adult; a Georgina child will be, well, a Georgina adult.

Doc said...

No one eats acid anymore, and you're not old for knowing a Clark Gable when you see one.

Stick to your Burnt Sienna and don't back down.

Doc

Miles McClagan said...

I have so much suspicion for Officer Friendly types...I've watched too many TV shows where Officer Friendly betrays - but I thought it was a Penguin thing a trip to the cop shop for summat to do...maybe it's widespread...damn that speech...

I liked Electric Lime - that and Periwinkle made a good combination. I think I'll just blame the decline of Pampas Grass on Climate change, but if the people who bought our house cut it down, I won't be held responsible...

I'd love to know what happened to Georgina, I'd love to know what become of her...I suspect she's on Twitter hating ethnic minorities...she almost definitely still smells of Kleenex...

I have been Burnt Sienna 4 life, just as when it comes to flavoured milk I'm Blue Heaven 4 Life...Clark Gable, yeah, when I typed it though I thought it felt like an old reference. Mind, no one has swagger like that guy...

Kath Lockett said...

Nah it was pink. Always pink, with maybe the purple crayon lying alongside as colorific company.

My first excursion wasn't to the local police station but the meat works. Yep, nothing says carefree education for seven year olds like seeing frightened cows marched up a race and having a bolt shot through their necks..... and then to see them 'go through the process' of skinning, gutting, cutting and winding up as cheap BBQ sausages. Unforgettable!

Mad Cat Lady said...

At the time I'd not have agreed with you about Burnt Sienna. I think I was into black.

I think I remember reading somewhere about some actress who was in a movie with Clark Gable saying he had bad breath and loose false teeth.

pfft - I always preferred Gregory Peck.

Working in an OH&S department doing injury statistics for a few years made me reckless and foolish.

Doc said...

P.S.- I don't think Twitter is for you. You write long posts like I do.

Doc

Miles McClagan said...

I'll give you purple, if you couldn't decide what colour something was, it was always purple. The meat works! That's so fantastic, we had a piggery in Penguin, but I changed schools...maybe that was the next year, and Grade 2 was a trip to Alannah Hills family milk bar. A meat works is close to Skinners trip to the box factory...

Burnt Sienna is definitely my favourite. Black I tended to avoid, we had some kids who used it a lot and people like me who never did. When I was really little I kept getting Gregory Peck and George Peppard mixed up...and OH&S? Remember you are more likely to be killed by a donkey than die in a plane crash - my favourite stat!

I don't mind Twitter as a concept, but when I hit stride, I need more space! Not just :> as an idea...

Baino said...

Are you sure you've never taken acid. Like not even when writing this? You made me look up perspicacity . . and I never liked those waxy crayons whatever their colour. The true stick figure artist's choice was a 64 tin of Derwents! Oh and I'm so old I can't remember my first 'excursion' I think it might have been to the Dentist. Yeh . .in the days when they administered Cocaine as a pain killer . .God it felt good.

Miles McClagan said...

No acid - E once, did nothing for me. Isn't perspicacity a great word! Crayola castles always rule the world...my dentist just gave me a turtle stamp...stuff all else!

Ann oDyne said...

oh Kath Lockett back there!
and now you are a vegan I hope. Even Bart went vegan after the Simpson visit to the abbatoir.

and georgie B - I hope that cute trick of Officer Far King Stupid has not given you lifelong phobias.

Now, Miles: who burned the farking sienna and why; and is there unburnt sienna.

Miles McClagan said...

Ah, such is the magic of the crayon industry - the sienna is burnt by the magic of colouring and no, there's no just sienna, and better yet, in 2004 they renamed it Boston Tea Party (???) as part of a patriotic re-release...

Could it be more baffling? It's wonderful!