Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Exchange and KMart



Everyone, and I mean everyone, at the moment is bombarding with me cheap nostalgia - the conversational equivalent of an I Love the 80tys show where people hold up a can of Halls Lemonade and go ooh look at that. And I know I'm guilty of it, I mean if I can get a cheap laugh from a girl down the pub just by saying Darryl Braithwaite I mean that's all good, but I try and be good and a bit in the present and all my e-mails are piled up with Debbie Gibson jokes. So I'm in KMart wondering if the present has any value to anyone anymore and I'm weighing up what CDs to buy and I've got a store bought balancing act as I pile them up in my hand while chewing on 1/2lf a Snickers and avoiding the marauding presence of a pram pusher in a brightly coloured day glo T-shirt with a pink eyeline trail and a hammered in eyebrow nail who looks barely old enough to have learned how to colour inside the lines never mind have kids, although she's got a Lily Allen album in the pram, so I guess that's a sign of good taste. Do they have the Pramface joke in Australia? Or just the rougher parts of the Trongate in Glasgow? Part of the reason why people are doing my head in with nostalgia is that while I was listening to Lily Allen today someone was going on as if Rick Astleys comeback wasn't some kind of ironic in joke but a serious statement of musical credentials. So as this juxtaposition of moods and feelings and poorly constructed corporate chocolate, a voice rings out over the PA system to turn the cameras onto the sound and vision section. Now there's only 3hree people in sound and vision, me, Pramface and a staff member with poorly dyed hair that looks as if somewhere in the process of deciding between brown and blonde she had to take a long phone call and just couldn't be bothered finishing the job. I'm not sure which of us has aroused the most suspicion - me for walking around muttering something to my shoes about the current state of pop culture references, Pramface and her scary bolt that she bought from a less than scary shop in the mall or the shopkeep who they suspect of stealing little wrestling figures. And in a paranoid moment of suburban isolation, I obviously imagine it's me, that I look shifty - I mean, it happens to everyone doesn't it, when they walk past the little guy at the door doing security - until I see Pramface shuffling with hasty feet towards footwear, Lily innocently implicated in whatever act is taking place. Either that, or I've just felt mutually guilty with a concession card holder for no apparent reason, our lives interconnected in a moment of panic. Luckily, I realise that everyone looks dodgy on those CCTV cameras, and that in a moment, a moment unforseen when the day began, the footwear police will be after the pramface with vim and vigour while I'm stuck mutally staring blankly with the bad hair dye woman as a struggle ensues that harms pride, dignity, and an otherwise blameless left slipper...

I always feel uneasy in KMart anyway - there's something about those narrow passageways and the pumped in store music blasting endlessly through the PA system with cheery intermittent jingles and overly suspicious promises about their bargains that I just feel distracted by. When I worked in Coles, and I won an extra 15teen minutes on my lunch break, I would have to kill time wandering around with my hands in my pockets and head down hoping that I wouldn't see someone I knew - I know this may seem hard to believe if you read this but I was distinctly mute and lacking in verbosity as a teenager, I couldn't talk to girls at all, and probably my conversations were thus much more profound every single time in 1995 because I only had about 6ix of them. And 2wo of them were about DIY with a monosyllabic monobrowed old man who used to walk down the street picking faults in peoples fences. I bought my first CD there, the first Garbage album from a punky hair gum chewing slacker who would judge every single CD with a grunt of approval or disdain. After a while her posturing got really old and boring and people would avoid her judgements and left her standing chewing gum until her jawbone cracked and fractured sometime around 1999. And it was always cold when I was in there - a chilled out breeze blowing in through the fans as the teenagers, me included, would wander around idly kicking time into the distance, sure of a better tomorrow but too bored to comply with a better today. My rebellion, if it was that, was equally postured - I mean, I was wearing a nicely pressed shirt and tie and some Clarks shoes my Mum had neatly polished and I knew the difference between a tangello and a mandarin, so it was hardly Anarchy in the Biscuit Aisle as far as I was concerned. Like a thousand raindrops on the windscreen, my days in KMart all ran together, became indistinguishable and then faded away unlamented. A year later, I would have friends, a sense of purpose, and a much better CD collection, but this was the nuclear winter of 1995, a confused time in my life when my thinking was muddled and lacked cohesion. I mean - buying a Garbage CD? It makes me grunt punkily just to think about it...

To alleviate my idle year of complaint, angst and only being happy when it Pinky and The Brained, I When I was serving 1ne day at Coles local cheap junk pitchman Crazy Charlie came in to buy rice and water and looked so profoundly depressed it felt like the crazy in his name could possibly be taken away in a false advertising class action. In KMart something different happened with a local footballer, with a reasonable name and reasonable profile and a reasonable ability to procure a meaningful 1ne night relationship with bored housewives from varied locations like Natone and Riana. Sure they looked the same, but completely different general stores. He was drunk, I think, at the service counter leaning over clutching a plastic bag and trying to return a childs tricycle which was in bits, and there was something quite pitiful about the whole scene as he tried to ask all and sundry if they knew who he was and swore the lights out, before slumping with his back against the counter and then sort of shuffling out with his trike between his legs. I felt awful when I saw it for some reason, it just seemed so sad, and it was sadder still when someone told me that he was rudely turned out later that same night by one of the car park prostitutes on account that he turned rudely up to the car park demanding a special hug. I guess that was 1ne of the 6ix conversations I had that year. Maybe it was the weird Lisa Loeb fan in the record shop who smelled of milk that told me. The staff didn't really mind, or seem to find anything despairing or hopeless about the whole situation - they were too busy laughing at the fact his shuffling off was soundtracked by some happy song that was playing on the PA, like Kylie Minogue or something, while I was coming up with some poetic metaphor about the decline of western civilization in the 3hree minutes before I had to get back to scanning big hunks of meat over a scanner. I was sure it all meant something, but I didn't have the articulation skills, mad or otherwise, to really come up with an explanation. In the fading light of my winter, and I mean that literally, it really was winter, I wasn't that poetic at the time, I was just cold, I tried to write a story about a man who seemed to have it all but couldn't hold it together until he had a nervous breakdown in a shop - but I lost it in the middle of a blizzard of Halls Lemonade references, and by the time I sat through a real blizzard in a real Scottish winter with a mad Grandmother doing the vaccuuming at times I wanted quiet just to annoy me, I was pretty sure I had at least learned to articulate one phrase, where the second word was off...

I saw some Halls Lemonade in a shop recently - I think so anyway, I didn't have my glasses on so it could have been a tin of Glen 20ty - which was closed sadly, and all that was left oddly was a vending machine. No furniture, no staff, nothing except a vending machine. There was a drunk slumped up against the store door - not the same one, which would have helped combine nostalgia, been amazing, and brought back the pungent smell of urine from that day - asleep that we almost had to step over to look into the window, but I didn't have the heart to do it and so had to walk into the city. That night I spoke for ages to a girl in what you could only describe as a flippy summer frock. Her boyfriend was lurking nearby with a lurky smile and a drinkers elbow and a T-shirt Todd Sampson from Gruen would turn down for being a bit too trendy, and it was just one of those end of night conversations people have around a pub table where you promise a complete stranger that you'll keep in touch via Facebook - I rebel against Facebook every 2nd day - or something. Her 1995 was amazing, she met her boyfriend, or a boyfriend, or someone she slept with, the distinction wasn't clear, she travelled the world, she sailed the 7even seas before watching 7even with Brad Pitt in 7eventh heaven with her boyfriend and did the Tango in Tierra Del Fuego while I boxed bananas out the back of a Burnie supermarket. She was quite vehement that she had the best year of her life in 1995, and paused in a meaningful for me to agree. Obviously I couldn't - I didn't want to bring the mood down, I mean the pub was playing The Presets, I mean that always sets the down for joy right? Right? What could I say, I spent most of it shuffling around KMart chronciling broken relationships, talking about Lisa Loeb and marking all 6ix of my conversations in a diary that my Mum no doubt stole off me and read down the phone to her sister? No one spoke for a moment, and seized by indecision and not wanting to listen to the Presets banging on in my ears, I finally found the articulate voice I didn't have back then to sum up my thoughts. Where once I couldn't explain Burnie and all my feelings, to this stranger, it was all going to come out, all my KMart and Coles experiences, all my...

You were right - I said do you remember Halls Lemonade, and an hour later she was my Facebook friend - sometimes, that might be lazy, but it's just easier...

9 comments:

sparsely kate said...

I think I owned a Garbage single actually - not the full album. Can't even remember what they sung...


I've never seen Halls lemonade here on the 'mainland'...is it just a Tassie thing?

And I have heard whispers of Rick Astely coming back. God. Never Gonna Give You Up is my entire 1988 wrapped up in a bubble skirts and tartan socks. I wonder if he still has that side part.

G said...

Wow.

That was a truly uninspiring commercial.

I'm sure it's a good product, but that commercial won't make me buy it.

Miles McClagan said...

"I'm only happy when it Rains?" - they sang that...Halls Lemonade must have been around, I mean, Micallef advertised it? Rick Astley is so last year...he's been replaced by Keyboard Cat. But if NKOTB can come back...

My favourite bit of the ad is the disconnected edit - "Do you still want to change your drink?" "Great! I'll have another!" - EH? That guy is now a famous comedian in Australia, imagine!

sparsely kate said...

Oh my gosh...I just watched the youtube clip...Shaun what on earth?!

And those white pants. Unforgivable, even for the decade.

Baino said...

So where are you on Facebook anyway? I haven't heard of Halls either but I think Shaun Micallef is still a high pantser!

Baino said...
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Baino said...
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Rebecca said...

I just love all your Burnie nostalgia - it feels like I'm 14 again, with nothing to do but wander around town aimlessly, slowly frittering away my $5 pocket money on bags of lollies from that Chickenfeed-esque shop above Farmers supermarket. Every single time I went into town, I'd end up in Kmart. It had some sort of gravitational pull.

I still picture it how it was then - before that stupid escalator was outside Coles - when you walked down the sideways ramp past all the bogans to get in. The newsagency with all the cool magazines was on the left, opposite the chemist where the old lady always frowned at you suspiciously, as if the fact that you were a teenager automatically confirmed your shoplifter status.

I MUST know you... were you ever a late night Mobil-goer? I worked there for so many years it was embarrassing.

Miles McClagan said...

Oh man - FARMERS! I forgot about that...I've got a story about Farmers, I must get to that...I used to buy imported copies of NME and Q Magazine out of that newsagents for a bloody fortune as well...and I bought chewy jelly beans from that chemist to mutual apathy and idleness. Mobil, I was more a late night Maccas loiterer - the other white meet!