Friday, March 6, 2009

Whats so funny about peace, love and Big Ms (not to mention old school ruefulness)



Towards the end of 1996, I had become disenfranchised from my own life. Amid a blizzard of pop culture references, days idled away pretending to write a pile of poems for Writers Workshop - most of them referencing Kurt Cobain and fish - and being surrounded by terribly fractured friendships, most of my days were spent thinking about anything that wasn't my own impending future. In fairness, Grade 12 was a confusing mix of emotions for me - after all, I suddenly friends, social commitments, rock climbing on a Tuesday night, a job that was just awful, girl problems, hangovers and my horrific life long problem where I always think about how rapidly time has passed and philosophise on it way too much all combined to ensure that I was in a constant state of flux. 12 months earlier all I had was a job and 48 solid weekend hours of me time, even down to the fact that my alleged job at Coles had become a solitary vigil of cleaning meat trays and collecting trolleys. If it wasn't for the hookers in the car park that year, there'd be no one to talk to at all. They would gather in intermittent bunches and be disgusted with their station in life, which made them far more relatable to me than any supposed cool kid role model. Much of that year, as much as it all went sour, was pretty great - for one thing, they never teach you properly about the sheer joy of having no responsibility, the freedom to just sit in the park all day heckling people walking past trying to have a sneaky office formed lunch break timed pash in the middle of their middle aged May to December affairs. I was always entranced by one couple - he 40s, she mid 20s, they would stroll around the perimeter of the park in Burnie, never anywhere the main area or where we sat, in perpetual shiftiness, a holding of hands as surreptitious an action as they could imagine. I felt bad for her, because she always looked uneasy, while he just strolled around with his hands mostly in the pockets of his big black overcoat, smiling like Michigan J Frog released from his box. I had a mate who composed this entire back story for the two of them that was so poetic it was sepia toned and had rhyming couplets by the end of the year. Of course, we would sit and believe we would never be middle aged or let the grass grow under our feet. Ironically, that's what we were doing obviously - idly standing around in a park at a pre drought time when grass actually still managed to grow. Eventually the couple stopped their lunch time walks, so he either went back to his wife, or left his wife and skipped town with her, or the wife killed them both and whistled as she did it. No one I've ever seen holding hands did it in quite the way that she did it - when he took her hand, she would just beam, like she had tied all her hopes and dreams tied entirely to this guy. Maybe in the end she chopped him up and put him in a bin, such was her intensity every time they walked. Her sense of purpose just put me to shame, every step mattered, every syllable deliberate...she was the opposite to me, where every step was awkward, every syllable irrelevant to anything that mattered...if you wanted someone to tell you the names of the members of Garbage that weren't Shirley Manson was...

When the Kylie situation - unrequited love, no yes or no answer, angry exchange of view points - ground me down the most, I turned mostly to my hairdresser. I had a crush on my hairdresser because I thought she was pretty deep. She had a hippy style single person salon in the middle of Burnie, and we would talk long into the, well, haircut, about all manner of things. Sure, my Mum ruined one of our chats by coming in and interrupting one of my monologues on religion, but otherwise, our relationship was intense. Mind, my previous hairdresser was a Slavic guy called Swannee who when we lived in Penguin would put on Harry Lauder Donald wheres yer troosers for gods sake kill me now shortbread tin vinyl LPs of Scottish music, and who once nearly cut my ear off, so she didn't have to leap over too high a bar to impress me with her hair cutting, but she had cool things like fashion magazines from other countries and a little chamber with a beaded door you had to step through to get your locks trimmed. I think I liked her because she was older, and smarter, and made a trip to Egypt and damn the consequences, and she had a whole Megan Corkrey vibe to her that I just really liked. That was, until Aaron entered our chats. Ah, Aaron, her new boyfriend, who she was going to move on Adelaide with and sell the business to be with. I couldn't compete with Aaron - I mean, he drove a van for gods sake. I was ferried around by my Mother in a red car that had a smily face sticker on it. I had to concede defeat, but our conversations thus became depressingly one sided, and I had to make the grown up move in the end to go to a more Male hairdresser where the only conversation came when money was exchanged for goods and services. Our final encounter was plainly unsatisfactory. She looked incredibly tired, and bought Sprite and a yoghurt, a haul which didn't deserve the basket. I'm sure she eyed my haircut with some suspicion - there's every chance she was just stoned or something - and I really had nothing to say. It was very strange, and I believe, truly believe to this day she wanted to tell me something and didn't. I'm sure it wasn't I love you run away with me you'll never have an unevenly shaved head again, but it was something, and no words came out other than 7.99 and goodbye, and by the time I had printed off a receipt and begun to serve one of societies dregs who was taking advantage of the 50% off chickens, she was off. No one needs that kind of finality issue over a Coles conveyor belt under a dimly flickering light with a red and white next server please getting caught up in the end of the belt. It somehow seems like the story of my life - instead of fixing up my proper life, I get distracted by some problem like a conveyor belt getting stuck. And if you think this paragraph was confused, it was mostly because once I mentioned my hairdresser in Penguin, I got a real craving for a musk stick, so basically regret bites deep at me sometimes, but in small ways...beautiful Megan Corkrey style girl, or a craving for a musk stick? This is going to kill me at 3am...

By November, when I should have been hitting my study schedule, I just lost all interest in my own life and in making an effort in anything. David Boon day probably summed up my malaise, my mental ennui that grounded me making a tribute day to a cricket player - officially decreed by the government no less - more eagerly anticipated to me than any exam or final decision on my life. Instead of studying or smartening myself up with a sensible haircut, I was on a couch at a party in honour of Mr Boon drinking beer in a futile attempt to get drunk, with about four people and we sat in a dimly lit living room which didn't match the promised cricket and BBQ brochure at all. The turn out was something of a disappointment, since no one seemed willing to make the effort to party on this particular day. The beer was drunk by the gallon, but nobody really got drunk, so it was a strangely middle aged party, the host reflecting on his life like some Bold and the Beautiful character emboldened to make one last speech to camera before his reign on the show was ended. The reminisces were a little uncomfortable, and I tried to lighten the mood a little not just by pointing out how, like, some bands have, like, funny clothes in music videos - what a wag I was - but also the comedy genius of Benny Hill. Strangely, later we would watch a Benny Hill video, and it really wasn't that genius, I think I just liked Yackety Sax. As far as I am aware, it was the first time I noticed there was a schism in our friendship group...well, I noticed it when I thought about in 1999 when I was making a sandwich. People didn't attend the party because other people were attending it because they were uncomfortable and it really sticks in my mind as quite an upsetting day. I was relatively inoffensive, nice to talk to, and still lost friends through my actions, so the jerks were really screwed. I don't remember pondering the temporal nature of friendship at the time though - more like the qualities of Space Jam and the decline of Bill Murrays career with some girl in a garden and then falling asleep in a garden and waking up somehow having got to a couch. I think the problem with my writing is that sometimes it's all hangover and not enough drunk. In this case, the fact is, the party was, ultimately, depressing, but there was still beer and I would still say I had a great time, although perhaps I overstated Michael Jordans acting ability in all the excitement. I think Oscar winning stretched it...

So ultimately, my Grade 12 experiences were far more educational about life than maths and science - it wasn't every year I had a friend excommunicated by a church he didn't belong to just for taking communion when he shouldn't have. Today, things like that - trendy parties excepted - don't seem to happen. My hairdresser today was a slightly dumpy girl with, ironically, a bad haircut, although I'm debating now whether I've broken my own rule of mis use of irony. There really wasn't any mystery to her, no philosophical conversations, although in a strange and eerie twist, she nicked my ear with the shaver. If she'd given me a musk stick at the end, well, that would have sealed the deal, although I think she'd eat it herself. I'm not much help either, my childlike sense of wonder died a long time ago. Besides which, it's a factory hairdressers, multiple seats, cherub cheeked youth next to me discussing product and fringe adjustment gel and such like young people nonsense while I'm getting page 6 of the army handbook. As I make my way back to the car - through the car park where I was offered crack once by a genteel Amnesty schoolgirl - a slightly depressed looking pregnant woman in an orange T lopes towards me, looking as weary and depressed as I've ever seen anyone. She's been to Chickenfeed but she's never been to me. Her other kids are milling around the trolleys and running amok and she can't even muster the most basic life in her eyes and she stumbles with her bags towards me. Her unwashed hair blows in the wind, and every step looks like it hurts. I drink my Big M - now called Big M edge - and feel compellingly moved by how sad and broken she looks. If good things do happen to me - and contrary to how depressed I get when Collingwood lose, they do - I'm not taking the time to appreciate them, for different reasons than Grade 12. I can feel old sometimes, and like I've seen it all before, but sometimes suburban despair still gets to me. If she has a blog, it'll all be depressing twists in her life, weary paragraphs and bemoans loud and proud. Still, as she carries her bag, she still takes the moment to lift her head in the rain and muster as much dignity as she can, just in time to swear loudly at her offspring, piercing the grey sky with words you couldn't print in a family friendly blog...

Maybe I need 6ix weeks off from doing this, it just makes me hungry and thirsty and in need of getting a haircut...

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I had sort of forgotten that I've also had long periods of what I call spinning my wheels. Sometimes I think we need some of those. I very seldom have them these days. Too many commitments.

Mrs Slocombe said...

Fabulous. And I of course am especially loving the extra.
full. stops: which make it all tinily staccato.
If you feel knackered hungry or hairy have a holiday; or just a relaxing week where you walk around in the same torpor as the rest of us: if you can.....

Miles McClagan said...

I don't have very many of them either. I've got far too much on. It's been good to have a long weekend, where I can eat biscuits and watch the world Baseball Classic!

I. had. To. make. some. punctuation. concessions. I am getting tired. But things just form in my head that I need to write! It's sort of annoying! But good!

the projectivist said...

"She's been to Chickenfeed but she's never been to me."
could make it big in the country music charts with that one.
beautiful.

Miles McClagan said...

I must admit when I typed that, it took me 10 minutes to get back to the story, because I had film clip ideas...

Baino said...

Sounds like me at the moment. I feel a bit like her in the T shirt! 'Torpor' what a great word. Yep, I'm totally torpored.

Miles McClagan said...

I try and get torpor into as many situations as I can these days, it sounds like my life - and Channel Court, Kingston, is the epitome of Torpor...