Saturday, June 6, 2009

I needed a break - I'm back now, but the world never ceased

Days off stuff with my head. Rituals are lost - the aimless wander around Big W replaced with an aimless wander around JBHifi picking up gadgets with a tutting old man grimace and concern about un-necessary purchases. Stubble replace cleanliness, although to my eternal discredit, I can't grow a beard - especially disquieting because my friend can get the full Lawrence Leung going after a day. The suit stays in the cupboard, routines set aside, aimless wandering around the house and silence replacing mid morning chaos. The rain bounces off the pavement in beautiful, predictable Hobart patterns, slightly bewildered tourists drinking lunch beers, tans coated from other states of Australia fading in an instant once they leave the Woolstore. At one end of Salamanca, unbeknown to me, there's a blocked sewerage pipe spewing out all kinds of trash and filth all over the pavement outside the Ball and Chain, while directly a man in black acid wash jeans is spewing out his own kind of crap - muscles flexed directly in the direction of our idle bogan barmaid, a short girl in glasses restraining herself from a tirade of industrial language by wandering away to fill in a chart on the wall any time the man in the black acid wash starts asking in a posh put on accent for imported beers from Belgium. Without looking up from her chart she says in her drawling voice that they serve Boags and Boags, and crestfallen he orders a Boags, putting his muscles back into his shirt as the frothy home grown beverage fills up his glass. There's a pretty girl sitting outside in the drizzle who's keeping him company, although her jumper is so nylony it's giving off sparks, although she doesn't look like she's living in any kind of powderkeg, probably off one of Daddys trust funds. She stares vacantly in the estimated direction of the sewerage spill, bored expression of idle contempt the only sign of life as she bashes the keypad of her phone, drizzle and nylon colliding in the middle of an otherwise remarkable day. A bouncer not yet on duty hops from foot to foot, pondering whether to work his remarkable 2wo grunt charm on her, before disappearing inside when he hears an ethnic minority is arking up behind the scenes. The nylon girl sits idly texting for an age, and never looks up for even a single second as the man in acid wash sits at her table and begins a diatribe about the beers. She travelled all the way to Hobart, and she didn't even get a lousy T-shirt, just a lousy travelling companion...

Fancy restaurants, even ones landlocked in the middle of otherwise average bars, stuff with my head. Mind you, this is only fancy in comparison to my usual eateries, my daily badinage with sandwich white female in the corporate bakery replaced by a middling impersonal conversation with a flighty blonde waitress, the sports and lounge section of the bar hamstrung by a lack of lighting, and a lack of sports, as no one seems to be crowding around making a rowdy lunchtime scene around a big screen episode of the Golden Girls. Such a waste of expensive HD investment when it's used to only illuminate Betty Whites bewildered old lady facial expressions. A kid in a pink babygrow is asking her Mum endlessly where chips come from, until the question is asked not in a quest for meaning by the end but simply as a acknowledgement that the old before her time weary mother is even listening and paying attention as she picks at her salad with nostalgic longing for her single days at Syrup. The kid eventually gives up potato snack line of questioning and turns in the direction of Betty White for more sage advice. The waitress herself is hamstrung by her own impatience and flightiness, a whirl of blonde curls and 3hree second charm, the pen not quite as fast as her desire to move on, charm another table with her store trained friendly banter. When she offers a wine list and it's rebuffed though, she takes it almost to heart, as if a personal insult has been inflicted. I feel almost honour bound to drink wine such is her hurt expression, and even the kid in the pink baby grow looks slightly embarrassed for us all. From somewhere deep in the kitchen, a Black Eyed Peas song tinkles in the background, and after an age, she heads in that direction, breaking the awkward silence with the click clack of her shoes. When the steak arrives, drenched in sauce, she's so eager, just fleetingly, for me to endorse it's saucy goodness, that I bite into a sauce covered prawn quite without thinking simply from the hypnosis caused by her pleading eyes, and she seems happy as she heads in the direction of Betty White, and because the girl in the baby grow is equally happy that her Mum has held up a chip and has finally got around to explaining the chippy process, I'm suddenly the only one not happy, because the sauce/prawn/beer/Peas/White/chips/why is the mother doing a Paul McCartney thumbs aloft mix has caused me to feel light headed, and the conversation I'm in is so far off beam, I'm going to have to take at least a second to tune back in to what is actually a quite interesting and intellectual discussion, or it would be, if the waitress wasn't peeking out from the door waiting for the moment she could check if all was well, pen clasped in perpetual nervousness...

Bars in Hobart in mid winter do my head in - there's no one around, it's cold, the sport is usually dull and by now I've exhausted all my conversational avenues of sport and music and what gimlet headed soap stars should really have done on nights out when they don't want to be found. I'm tired, but drinks are flowing, I'm trapped in the corner of a couch with no stains, and I'm not making sense. I'm entirely distracted by the hapless fate of a very large girl on the fringes of a friendship group who looks so funereal and mournful it's at odds with the dancing singing chipper cheerleaders gyrating over her head on some TV station from somewhere else, and by the girl 2wo tables down from me, who I believe to be putting on a Scottish accent. It's all consuming, the cadence of her sentence structure so jarring and off putting I feel like a demanding patriot just waiting to ask her questions and verify she isn't who she is claiming to be. I let it go, but it's bugging me, and I'm drumming my fingers off the edge of a table in tribal based impatience. How dare she pretend I think as my outrage roughly equates to the level of someone watching the ABC - although in fairness, my netball playing girlfriend in a moment of respite from our daily badinage of uncomplimentary silences and I did bond entirely over some long forgotten song, which we later found out be both hated but we'd just agreed to like because we were so apprehensive about making an early in the relationship faux pas we weren't honest about our true opinion of the song - and the Gin Blossoms never really recovered from our slight as it happened. So I let it slide, let the girl talk in her obviously forced accent, since if it gets her some action, who am I to criticise? My leg is asleep, it's not really adding much to the conversation anyway, and the large girl has long since disappeared, off to hang around the fringes of another conversation in another bar, and the night is winding down. There is a moment of perfect silence in the bar, the cheerleaders have ceased gyrations and an advert fills up the screen, the barmaids are idle, the men professing life long support for football teams off to nightclubs large and small - the girl at the table along from me chooses this moment to spit out a particular Scottish phrase which is so wrong and forced, I involuntarily spit out a swear word to no one in particular in a strong Ayrshire accent. No one hears, life resumes, but when I listen again, she sounds slightly more New Zealand and I swear she looks chastened...

I'm on the fringes myself of another conversation, something about TV or something, some nonsense, something without consequence or meaning. I don't know what day or night it is, holidays will do that for me, but not as much as alcohol. In the corner of the bar is an important man doing important things, in an important suit with an important bodyguard of massive size and intimidating shape - a sort of larger, more ginger Oddjob just standing at the bar sipping every so often, but not really moving, just bodyguarding through perfect intimidatory stillness. A girl has trapped me in a spiderwebbed conversation, about where I got my glasses of all things. I'm responding as best I could, something about standing on my glasses and breaking them and scrabbling around, something you talk about when you haven't figured out an answer, never mind an anecdote. The important man in the important suit is drinking an important drink and telling an important man from the mainland - you might know him - important things about important things. Their hand gestures have got me, important sweeping gestures about important decisions, large in scope, urgent and dramatic and self absorbed. In contrast, my conversation seems unimportant, mundane, so meaningless at the end of the day, and I'm not giving it my full attention. The important man in the important suit picks up his important Blackberry, and pushes important buttons. I don't have a Blackberry, and I try and break the cycle of glasses talk by moving onto the fascinating subjects of Blackberrys what are they like, but she won't be deterred from her looking good and seeing clearer obsession, and since she's on the arms of my glasses and what style they are - she fails to see the joke when I say army style - and I look up slightly wistfully at more important conversations, I look up to see the important man with the important blackberry has gone to get something important from his briefcase. As he scrambles for his important papers, his mainland counterpart has, without him noticing, made the sign for wanker behind his back, causing a momentary, brief glimmer of life to crack across Oddjobs ginger freckly face, and suddenly the important conversation seems to have all the meaning of a chat about the legs on a pair of glasses, and all of Hobart seems to have ground to a conversational halt...

And I wish the taxi driver would have joined in...

7 comments:

Baino said...

Glad you're back at writing important posts on an important PC over an important long weekend. . .sounding a bit like mine actually . .very quiet in the home town.

sparsely kate said...

It's good to have you back, Miles. I was missing you.

Gin Blossoms - they sung Hey Jealousy? Is that right? I should google it.

Idleness and nylon seem to go together in a way I had never thought before until I read it here. They belong together for sure.

Good to have you back!

Kath Lockett said...

Ah so *that's* where you've been lately.... And Bonnie Tyler got a look in; well done!

Miles McClagan said...

Yeah, I'm back - I just really needed a break. I was worded out...

I don't know if this is an important PC - it's breaking down and spinning around. My listening skills took a battering...

Yeah, that was them - never heard of them again, them or Deep Blue Something...I should call this blog idleness and nylon...that's not bad...

Yeah, there can't be enough Tyler...she's a genius...way better than Taylor Dayne...

the projectivist said...

i was almost certain you'd taken up with that girl from IGA, the one with the insipid 'Hello, how are you?'

she doesn't care in the least how anyone is, she just mouths it with disdain each time a new trolley-load of shopping is emptied on her conveyor belt of doom.

she'll break your sweet heart, Miles. don't do it.

carrie said...

absolutely fantastic writing.

Miles McClagan said...

No - trust me no, no relationships can be forged over the ever moving conveyor belt on to which groceries are trundling...like the Sirens song just with more Flora, it can never work...

Thanks mate, I appreciate it!