Sunday, March 1, 2009

Birds that sing for territory can learn to scream euphorically - unless impeded by tracksuits

Her face is a contorted mask of ugly rage, her cheeks blistered and minimum wage afflicated, her fists pounding in the air as she chases her prey, her 5.99 heels from Big W almost snapping as she stalks another girl down the road. Her victim - a skinny girl with badly dyed hair, who is hearing variations on the theme that she's sexually loose over and over again. They fight a meaningless and one sided battle with swinging arms and punches and terrible girly kicks, stumbling around outside the sandwich shop where I'm stuck in a one lane queue, and it's over the top, brief, one that features the throwing of a mobile phone, until a man with so much brylcreem on he's dripping the 50s all over the pavement steps in and intervenes - whether he's seeking to be the hero or just hoping to take advantage of a vulnerable young girl, there seems something unsavoury about his motives in solving the problems of the world, his arms spread like he's describing a fish he never caught as he holds the warring parties at bay just with his Perry Como cardigan and a few old person phrases and the word hoi. He's like a white knight if instead of a horse he rode in in a Mitsubishi Magna and his hands were too calloused to really hold a sword. Suitable for his surrounds, but no girls dream really - unless you dig the slick. He should go to the middle east. It all seems so pointless, the quarrels of two tracksuited scrags fighting over a nursed grievance I barely look up from the newspaper as I munch on my sandwich, barely even move the IPOD off Lily Allen to listen to their screaming complaints. I have my own concerns, my own mood is shrouding every aspect of today, making it feel like as thought I'm under pressure when in fact I'm completely safe and away from harm. Empathy is in as short supply as edible sausage rolls in this corporate franchised bakery, and by the time a plainly bored police woman with gym built shoulders uses all the training to try and re-assure a victim who must know by now she's not that far away from hearing the phrase let off with a caution, Lily has faded from my ears and the fight has faded from my memories. I don't think I have it in me to be a have a go hero anyway - maybe if I had more hair, maybe if I was coated in brylcreem and willing to play a role of over exaggerated interest to try and get to see poor white girl boobs. He's got an arm around her, and he's whispering consolation. The whole thing seems unbearingly sleazy and depressing, I suggest I'm not watching out of aching poignancy as much as distraction from Lilys newly toned down and less spiky 2nd album musings. I'm not the only one skirting the issue though - a Kris Kristoferson lookalike takes a look at the girl, goes to say something, something comforting, but decides against it, taking refuge in the sanctity of a raspberry housecake as he two steps his way into the day, without a backwards glance or a hair in his beard out of place...

I don't think I've been put in too many positions where my gallantry has been questioned. I think it was an accepted part of my one serious relationship that I was never really going to be laying any coats on puddles or fighting any black knights unless it was part of a level on ATARI. My girlfriend was a lot more gallant than me, she was interested in all these crazy ideas like, you know, helping people and being tolerant, like Ghandi in a netball skirt. We'd argue about it in the mornings sometimes, we'd pretend it was part of an intellectual argument instead of just another fight. Students - well, I'd failed, so ex students as well - will often do that. It put me off uni bars for life, stupifylingly awful arguments baseless and groundless turning in on themselves under the guise of open debate. Oddly, from such alleged intellectual beginnings, 1/2 the time you'd end up seeing the same end result as you got from discussions about sport or television at The Mayfair - badly thrown punches and some girl holding her shoes screaming at her boyfriend alternate phrases of encouragement and disgust. My girlfriend would grab herself a pop tart and rush out the door leaving me behind, and she'd throw in some alleged zinger that I would bat back with a crushing insult, and I thought that's just how people existed in relationships. I was never put in a position to defend her honour - never had to do that for anyone. There was a girl on her netball team who was festively plump, and she was sort of the team victim, the one the rest of the team blamed for all the ills of the world - and those ills sure piled up on windy days at Creek Road when the chill would be biting and a C Grade netball game was in the balance. One day, my girlfriend snapped, and had a go at her team for the constant piling into this girl, and as the team victim lifted up her chins proudly, I honestly never thought my girlfriend looked more beautiful, her ponytail billowing in the breeze, like some symbol of liberty and personal dignity an American could better articulate. I guess I should have told her how proud I was of her for sticking up for that girl, but it just wasn't that sort of relationship. I'm guessing we went home, and under the guise of pretending to discuss the nights television, we would have an argument, and then I'd go home after I'd gone to the shops and picked up some milk for her from the local shops. I guess that was about as gallant as it got for us. She bought me an ATARI and I'd pick up milk, and at certain points throughout the year, we be immensely proud of one and another, and the best our relationship ever got was when no one spoke and lights were dim and the television was flickering with some nonsensical trash that was in at the time, which if you know me in the non blog sense is probably the single most gallant thing I can ever do for someone...I gots stuff to say you know...

In the dying days of Grade 12 - hazy summers, crumbling personal relationships, too much bear, what do you mean I only got a B, it was probably the same for you - we went to the local school to play cricket. I seem to remember there was some tension about the trip, some sort of post modern angst as to exactly who was playing and who was fielding and that it was a ridiculously hot day. In Burnie? Does that sound right? Some days it was hot enough we got Melbourne TV - man those were good days. Anyway, for reasons I've never been able to explain, we decided to use a real cricket ball, and of course, as sure as that guy never got his food from Grover the waiter, the cricket ball as bowled to a girl hit her in the face and the game was abandoned after about two deliveries. The girl in question was the one I referenced before, the one who I fell in love with when she gave me a Beth Orton CD with the boyfriend who was a tool in retrospect who was trying to invent a perpetual motion machine - this was the year before, or else I might have brylcreemed up my hair and been medically helpful, fnar fnar fnar - if people still fnar in this day and age. Not really, I'm just that kind of person, I don't hit on the vulnerable or the concussed. She was basically OK after a few moments of concern, but her boyfriend seemed oblivious to the drama. He was on the boundary rope doing mathematical calculations, eventually wandering over to put a flimsy arm around her then go back to his own thoughts. She was always impressed by his intellectual side, a side I could have cultivated more, but he seemed less like a deep thinker at this moment than just a tosser. Interestingly, she didn't seem to mind - he had ambition I guess, which made up for his romantic shortcomings, a power couple in the makings as long as they didn't fuck it up with too much time spent worrying about Tazos (who would do such a thing?). It all seems quite strange in hindsight though - I don't think I ever saw them kiss. Their relationship had little time for gallantry as they both hit the books. I've lost touch with them of course and this has become my last memory of them. One of my friends that day wandered past and said thank fuck we weren't like them, but in some ways, I did, briefly, end up like that...unable to get my head out of the clouds, unable to articulate any kind of loving words, maybe I was as bad as him...well, not quite as bad, but things only become clear with the 3am stabs of realisation...as the 6th goal for Celtic bounces through Chris Smiths legs, your mind tends to need things to think about...is ATARI not just as bad as mathematical calculations in time of need...oh dear, another goal, they just aren't even trying now...quick brain...think of some other mistake it's ten years too late to fix, I'm sure there's one in there...

The victim is still there when I skip down the road much later as Lily Allen would prescribe - not that I can skip, my 3rd place behind Scott Matheson in a Grade 2 skip off would suggest that - now sitting on a pavement with desolation in every inch of her personal space while her personal protector begins a personal briefing to the ambulance man, a chunky man who has the physique of a stretcher bearer. If he pushed on a chest to try and get some breath he'd crush a brother. He has the bedside manner of a man deprived of a hot chip, and the girls exaggerated sobs are, well, exaggerated, agonised but devoid of real emotion, an act, and I know because when I was little I invented those sobs. Oh how many times I would sit behind a door with my green cotton sheets with the floral pattern - is it just me or was cotton a lot more comfortable in the 80s - in a huff sobbing but really hoping someone would open the door and ask how I was, and then I'd have to make the embarrassing shuffle into the living room because I was hungry or I wanted to see A Country Practice...her assailant has been rounded up by now, and had I been more on the ball perhaps I could have got a chorus of you're going home in the back of a divvy van going. I'm sure Kris Kristoferson would have joined in. She's really milking it now, driving that poor cow mental as she mouths the word why. I expect her to swoon sometime soon, but as compelling as this piece of street theatre is, the Advocate newspaper in the library won't read itself. I walk away - the brylcreemed man is back with his arm around the girl, who is still in the throes of Pia Zadora syndrome. I leave them to their moment - I guess having a mobile phone thrown at you is bad enough without the creepy intentions of an old man saving the day, unable to get the superhero custome over his head with all the grease. I move away, unsure of what the ending will be to the saga, and just as I get into the bus mall I see Kris Kristoferson again. He lifts an eyebrow in a masterful piece of non verbal communication, then shifts off to get his bus home, sitting down, burying his head in the paper, moving away and leaving everything behind as he heads home to write a simple country ballad with more depth in the lyrics than you first realise...

And time, as always, just continues to pass in ever decreasing circles...

9 comments:

Kath Lockett said...

Kris Kristofferson is the star of today's beautiful piece, Miles, but I did love this:
"as sure as that guy never got his food from Grover the waiter" - my most favourite Sesame Street segment ever!

Doc said...

"like some symbol of liberty and personal dignity an American could better articulate"

Who? Thomas Jefferson?

You meet the most interesting people. A grand tale, as always.

Doc

sparsely kate said...

Oh you're so funny, I chuckled much in this post.
That bit about sobbing in your bedroom and then realising that nobody was going to hear you so you would tearfully, still gently huffing, walk out to watch the rest of A Country Practice. I did that too!

I haven't seen a full on scrag fight since year 9 at Kaleen High. They can be pretty nasty. Girls like to scratch and yank hair.

I think you have to work on your gallantry miles! Girls really do love that kind of stuff. :)

Miles McClagan said...

How unlucky was that guy though? He ate out, he got served by Grover, he ordered in, Grover delivered the food...it was a truly Sissyphus style tragedy...

Americans are better than Scottish people at being patriotic and into their country...we sing Proclaimers songs before the soccer...

This was a great scrag fight...when I first moved to Burnie, someone chanted scrag fight, scrag fight...(pause)...and a boy? Good chant...ACA was too important to sulk though, but I'd be gallant enough to let my girlfriend watch another channel when it was on...

Baino said...

God you have so much excitement! I spent an hour in the shopping centre at lunchtime and nothing happens. I didn't even know you could by Brylcream any more.

Miles McClagan said...

You can get it in Tasmania I would think - we still have pipe shops, and who's buying a pipe?

Kettle said...

The idea of anyone laying their coat/cape over muddy ground for someone to walk that extra, what, metre? in a muddy paddock has always worried and confused me. What about the poor coat/cape? Do you throw it out after such a mudding, or spend hours with it in the tub? I think buying milk for someone is perfectly gallant, and decidedly less messy.

Kettle said...

I agree! Cotton did used to feel better. I actually had a discussion with someone about this recently and they suggested that the fabric was the same but my skin was just 20 years older and thus more haggard.

Miles McClagan said...

Well, my coats in 1999 were of sufficiently poor quality that I could have laid them down in the mud - but ya know, I figured milk and kitkats was pretty good as well. And my sheets in the 80s were a lot better, thats a fact. They were super comfy and fresh - I smell conspiracy!