Monday, February 23, 2009

In Nile, no one can hear you scream

The sheep get to me in the middle of Tasmania - they always do. They are, rather conversely, a bunch of hams, gazing from their barren grassless fields and poorly constructed wooden fences with not a trace of concern, although if you beep the horn they scatter in formation. The town of Nile will now be where I go to, creatively, when I try and describe the end of the world, it's so desolate and cold it's biting at my skin, invoking images in my brain none of which are positive - I'm already rattled by a sweeping petrol station in the middle of nowhere which seems no expenses spared but which surely only has 3hree cars a day visit it. Our car drives through it, and through a million towns like it, stuck behind a green Getz that shows no signs of hurry, a meandering motor vehicle driven by a self important man beholden to no speed limit. In many ways though, his driving is perfect for the middle of Tasmania, which seems to stretch endlessly without ever changing with no regard for haste or progress, drought addled yellow field after yellow field, sign posts occasionally popping up to guide you to long forgotten towns ruled by one patriarchal family that everyone secretly hates. You can tell by the peeling paint that those towns aren't in the conscious of the public anymore. Neither the sheep nor the Getz seem especially concerned by social history, and only a long worn out tape in the car is disturbing the stillness. Nile has a sinister serial killer vibe to it - it's so still that under black skies you begin to imagine how long it would take anyone to find you. No one seems like they'd be jogging by in this neighbourhood. no neighbourhood watch existing when the neighbours are miles away. It's no surprise that in the stillness, car talk is about funerals and funeral songs, the only thing we see standing is a church, and one of the sheep stands absolutely undisturbed by the car when his friends all scatter. In fact, in the gloom, it looks like the sheep is corpsing, smiling, enjoying his day. I begin to muse about what happened to Nile - whether there are people here, whether it used to thrive, whether it was always this dark and gloomy - anything to make sure the gnawing Wisconsin Death Trip vibe goes away, just babble really to take my mind of the creep sheep. It's not a Starbucks kind of place Nile, in fact it doesn't seem to be an anything kind of place, unless you want to live in a shack by yourself penning memoirs and manifestos. Appropriately, the tape cuts out at this point, leaving staticy hissing and space to talk, but as soon as the rumination becomes verbal though, the Getz goes off road, disappearing down some long forgotten path following a possibly out of date green sign, slowly but surely disappearing into the distance. The creep sheep finds a patch of grass by some kind of miracle and loses interest in following our progress, and with the Getz getting out while the Getzing is good, we're able to pick up speed, conversationally and literally, rejoining the road and leaving the desoltate isolated towns behind, joining up with ones that are marginally ahead of Nile on points - if you count having a Subway with surly staff, of course, as means to rank one town ahead of another...

A few hours earlier, we had been at a football game - not my team, so my watching was passive, my mood relatively good, my clothes built entirely for comfort. There's a retarded kid on the boundary who has the crowds attention - it says something for the day and age that my first impression as he dances and grabs his groin whenever his teams kicks a goal, hi fiving everyone, is that it's Youtube friendly. He won't be stopped though - he's a mass of physical energy, and he's won the crowd over by the time he sits down exhausted. It sort of seems a trivial detail he really didn't know which team was which and was just joyously cheering everyone. Besides which, his good natured joy is in contrast to a man in a Mexican hat who's obviously looking for fights, shirt off in classic bogan fighting pose. Long limbed teenagers not dressed for the winter mill around the players tunnel - another sign I'm old, I'm noticing girls in danger of catching a chill. My companion takes social aim at the guy standing next to her, and I cringe a little, reading my paper nervously as she loudly proclaims his foibles. I wish I could read the paper normally - there's too many stories I just don't believe, too much cynicism in me to think anything is true. Two rows in front of us is a blonde girl with a specific player number painted on her face and a specific message for one of the players. I suspect she truly believes that if that player sees the message, he'll fall in love her and her life will be perfect. I can see in her expression she genuinely believes this, and whenever that player comes anywhere near our area of the field, she screams extra loud, like she's trying to win a fan in the crowd contest. She will not be deterred by any amount of disparaging looks - which seems to be a Launceston trait. The man on the PA system is a whirl of activity, a hyperactive dervish ensuring any spare moment of thought is taken up with adverts, proclamations and more adverts, each one more frantic than the last. The girl doesn't seem to notice though, her intent now fearsome as she launches into one last squeal of excitement for her man. It pierces through my brain worse than even the more hyperactively super mega important attention shoppers advert, and as the final siren sounds, she seems proud, swaggering, convinced of her own input into the game and that it had an effect. My leg has gone to sleep, so I'm certainly not swaggering - the losing teams merchandise stand has packed up already, and there's tepid chips on sale at 1/2 price. I push past it all in my attempt to escape the masses, despite my love of tepid chips, for I am desperate to get home, and complain to my television that there's nothing on, the true meaning of the weekend...

A few hours earlier, Launceston is a hive of pre game self expression, a strange mix of excitement, personal fashion statements and moral judgements from those who don't believe in either. There's a little tour train driven by a grumpy man in a tartan shirt, who's making no attempt to provide magic for the kids as they drive around the park, up past the herpes riddled monkeys, and then back again. A girl up the back is yelling in delight at everything - trees, people, people with lollipops, park benches, the monkeys, a statue of a botanist - everything elicits a joyous primal scream from the bottom of her little heart. Naturally, self expression is not encouraged, and a plump woman in pink pushing a pram shoots her a glance that suggests joy is not to be tolerated. I just about restrain myself from telling the woman off - a girl still impressed by, quote, a leany tree is to be applauded, not glared at like she beat the woman to the last cupcake. If I had the imagination to make Launceston a magical wonderland, I would, but I can't. I can't remember when my childhood sense of wonder and mystery died, but I'm sure it had something to do with Ayrshire. There are girls around who want to be footballer wives, although a young girl in black hotpants walks past and out of nowhere says she likes Scottish accents. If only I was younger and her hair wasn't so overdyed to the point it looks like she dunked it in grease...oh well. The football is in town, in full swing, although there's a pub with a lack of party atmosphere. A kid with a furrowed Noel Gallagher brow sits outside on his own, reading the form guide and defying anyone to illuminate the world with chirpy football based optimism. He nurses his stubbie like a child, and I think he'll be there again if I go to Launceston in 20ty years time - he doesn't look like a man who believes in progress, or that hair should be longer than 3hree inches. He's every inch a settled regular, the kind who gets served first in queues and for who every slight change in ambience is an ill wind. There's a small hand painted sign on the window that promises lively joker poker, and I imagine on that night, he sits outside, reading his newspaper, proclaiming his individuality by being defiantly unlively. When we come back later to get the car, he's still there in the same seat, although the Joker Poker advert has been postered over by Rebecca Gibney promoting something charitable in a Helvetica Font. I like to think that this has just ruined his whole day, twisting it inside out. It's then I reflect on the tiny insignificant things that have bugged me already today, and I cut him some slack...besides, poker isn't really my game...if I challenged him to a lively game of Uno...no, he's busy...best not to get involved...

A few hours earlier, I'm walking through Hobart, the day ahead of me, the only thing that has happened being a spirited debate on the merits of a Youtube clip and whether it was real or not. I walk past two Indian restaurant owners, putting up signs, who won't get out of the way. I go to over-react, then I remember that whole don't be a jerk thing, and walk around them. I'm trying to pack in a little bit of shopping, although in Hobart, that's relative, we aren't talking Carnaby St. Inside Fullers bookshop, there's books scattered all over the floor, a chalk board thrown at a jaunty angle outside offering lucky patrons the chance to join their readers book group. I pass, stepping over several unsold Peter Costello tomes as I leave, leaving behind several people who wouldn't be seen dead in a chain bookstore, and a man desperately trying to keep his Sanity as he sorts out the messy unsold books on the floor. Eventually, I get my book - a sports book - from a chain bookstore, and since I'm dressed for comfort not style, I'm sure the woman is looking down on me, which makes me think her true calling is working in Fullers, judging anyone buying anything less literary than Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Outside in the mall, there's two people sitting with chocolate milkshakes who are either fighting or breaking up or fighting about breaking up. They stare anywhere but at each other, sipping their milk tersely. The male has over gelled his hair, but even his fringe looks depressed as he purses his lips in an attempt to look unaffected. The girl is more emotional - her self expression is found in her T-shirt, a gold painted slogan which should indicate cheek and sass, but which just confuses and baffles when she looks so sad. She's staring at the specials board of another restaurant, just to have something to look at, their malaise poignantly soundtracked by early morning TV and the clatter as a cleaner pushes a mop. I leave them behind in my haste to be picked up on time from outside the Mercury building, just as she takes one last loud slurp of her milkshake for want of anything better to do. I look back at the chain book store, and the judgemental seller is judging someone else, someone with the temerity to buy the Dawn French book. I leave all this mini world behind, almost dropping my bottle of water in the hurry to escape it, and see what the day will bring...

A few hours before, I'm asleep, and totally unaware that any of this will happen...

12 comments:

Mad Cat Lady said...

): yrev eciN

Kris said...

Are you sure that you're not Welsh?

Doc said...

"another sign I'm old, I'm noticing girls in danger of catching a chill"

Yeah me too. I used to watch the ladies pass by and contemplate their merits. Now I see them in shorts in February and I think, "It's -10 and you are in short shorts? Have you no common sence?"

Getting older does have it's benefits. It is much easier to spot the folly of youth.

Cheers,
Doc

Baino said...

Beautifully written as usual. I have no comment really other than your weekend was a lot more interesting than mine! Oh and gloomy Subway sandwich makers aren't just relegated to desolate country towns. You should see the sourpuss at our local in Castle Tower's Megaplex! Oh and was the You Tube the laughing Dutchman? I wondered if that was the real McCoy too.

Miles McClagan said...

Sknaht!

No, I loathe rugby, so I'm instantly DQed from being Welsh - unless you meant Andrew Welsh of Essendon, but my leg is unbroken, so I'm not him either...

I like being old at the moment - I like being able to make sensible moral judgement, and I like being in a position to have an opinion on The Presets but also wonder what happened to Richard Marx...it's fantastic!

No it was a clip of Wayne Rooney - the soccer player - being nutmegged by a cheeky youth. I suspect it was fake. Subway seems incredibly depressing to work at, although the pits of the restaurant game is themed restaurants. Those people in there look ready to kill...but it's so sad a country town thinks it's progressing by getting a Subway. It's really not...

Rebecca said...

Ever been to Strathgordon? Wrist slittingly depressing. Makes Nile look like a bustling metropolis.

Oh, and I believe the monkeys have syphilis... :-D

Miles McClagan said...

Ah Strathgordon...anywhere referred to in its own tourist information as an old dam construction town has to be a worry...popular radio toolshiner down here Dave refers to them as the herpes riddled monkeys...it wouldn't surprise me if a talented radio man like him got it massively wrong...again!

Kath Lockett said...

Jesus Miles; this one has made me exhausted *and* depressed. Sad milkshake couple (despite her gold lettered t-shirt) were particularly tragic.

squib said...

Have you seent hat comedy/horror called 'Black Sheep'?

You know that skinhead who got agro with us at the Big Day Out had a sombrero as well

Miles McClagan said...

It wasn't good - I hate watching people break up, hilarious T-shirt slogans not withstanding...

I guess it's the opposite to that Mighty Boosh theory you can't be depressed in a poncho...you have to be agro in a sombrero. Haven't seen Black Sheep, but want to see it now!

Baino said...

Rarely comment twice but . . Mighty Boosh . .mega kudos and Black Sheep is so bad it's good!

Miles McClagan said...

Mighty Boosh is tops - that's why I bought a poncho, for their lessons...