Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'd be my biggest fan if I could just make me love me



I had a dream last night - actually a hallucination brought on by the bitter cold while I waited for a tow truck to emerge from the darkening gloom and take my car away. It wasn't inspired by the acts of human kindness surprisingly brought on by people who stopped to help me, which rather made my cynicism about other people go away for just a brief moment. It was inspired by a mental desire to escape the humdrum of tedious radio testifying, a DJ wittering on about the essential comedy we hadn't yet found in tragic events while I sat in my non moving car, and I think wry sideways glance was used by said DJ, surely popular cultures 2nd most terrifying phrase after hamming it up. My brain wandered to a bus trip through Pontville many years ago. I had completely forgotten about it, the uni trip we went on in Grade 12elve, a trip where we were meant to go to Hobart and have a look around uni and prepare for our future life, bright eyed opportunistic bored bus bound Burnie prospects too young and excitable to be spat out and chewed up by a tidal wave of broken hearts, casual drug use and irresponsibility given a brief taste of future anxiety - by being shown a computer lab full of over caffeinated nerds - or in my case, too little anxiety until I failed. I had a collection of Tazos for god’s sake, little discs with cartoon characters on them, how could I possibly prepare for adult life and dragging myself out of bed to make sure I got to uni on time, when the lure of blanket bay was so strong and no one was there to thump the door repeatedly? Let alone deal with unrequited love based on Beth Orton CDs and a washing up roster that seemed neither fair nor reasonable? Would I be able to pass uni through Tazo bribery, tell a girl I loved her through coded messages about the quality of the 1st season of Hanging with Mr Cooper? I was woefully unprepared. Still, that was all ahead of me as our silver Kergers Coach style bus shimmied down the highway in high spirits. I like the idea of a time in my life I was so excited I thought a bus was shimmying, rather than progressing slothfully with me in it loathing every other passenger like I would now. In the hallucination, I was happy, I was excitable and loud and talking to people I didn't know, with a buoyant self confidence that betrayed no doubt an opposite series of emotions, after all take the unrequited Kylie love out of 1996 and it was pretty much a perfect year, although like re-watching The Breakfast Club, I have no doubt completely forgotten the slow boring bits. When I piece together my nostalgic late teen yearnings I do snip and edit out double Maths on a Friday with Trotsky style precision. That bus trip seems to me to be some sort of metaphorical journey rather than an actual one, although I do have the diary entries to support that it actually happened. While I'm sure that there was some gigantic lesson to be learned about the transition from youth to adulthood the bus journey represented, I tend to think that my hallucinations are far less emphatic and meaningful. After all, all I really remember about the journey, other than a desperate attempt to make it back to Burnie for the series finale of Friends, was how funny it seemed that someone on the bus was pointing all the way through Pointville, only to find out it was slightly less funny when the real name of the town was revealed to be Pontville...

Time passes slowly, my IPOD begins to repeat itself like a complaining neighbour, struggling to make itself heard in the fading light, while a girl gives me a thumbs up for proper use of hazard lights, which I hope in many ways is simply one of the best chat up lines ever. I never did really accumulate what a guidance counsellor might call the point of my experiences in Grade 12, drowning as I did in a sea of glib gossip and grown up grief that I medicated with flippant references. Something like that anyway - when I worked at the ABC, I came out the other side with a story about a broken tap and a Hungarian marathon runner swearing at me, rather than the massed contact book of a go-getter looking to work in media and when I worked at Triple J, all I accumulated was some free Cds from the prize cupboard. My bus trip to uni ended up with a few in jokes and a story about the way a bakery in one of those terrible Midland country towns was right beside an animal hospital. If Grade 12elve ended up having a point, it was way over my head. The uni trip just became another pointless missed opportunity the Tazo collecting cynic in me missed - did I learn anything? Not really, but I had an enjoyable time. In fact as an earnest man in an earnest suit with a Windsor knot and a terrible penchant for puns - if you can imagine such a penchant could ever be a bad thing - made a speech at the start of the day which made Joe Cockers performance at Woodstock sound like a model of clarity and vision, I did something I never did before or again, and sneak out for a cigarette. No one noticed, at least I don't think so, such was the proximity of my little wooden chair to the escape hatch, although the illusion of my rebellion against conformity was shattered a little bit by being joined in the circle of lights by at least 2wo teachers and a nerd. So any notion that I was raging against the machine was already down some raging by the end of the 1st event, and I sort of slunk back to my seat as Captain Windsor made a pun about law school while smoke breezed in from outside. Appropriate that I was inhaling 2nd hand smoke since I'd very much exhaled 2nd hand rebellion. As I sat kicking and swinging my legs like an impatiently trapped child, to my left one of my friends, the one with the Beth Orton CD the year later I had a crush on you you didn't know about girl was paying rapt attention, mesmerised by the hypnotic combination of middle aged try hardiness, Windsor knots, puns and over exaggerated self confidence emanating from the stage like a tsunami of awkwardness. I should have realised then, as I do now, that the reason we aren't friends is because she was climbing skywards, or at least attempting to, while I was trying to remember all the names of the Banana Splits or some other time wasting not paying attention exercise. As much as we would mutually discover and then reject Ms Orton, our paths were too divisive to be a fantastical couple. She went out with someone who spoke a much bigger game, was well on the way to inventing a perpetual motion machine, and perpetual motion, as established, was not my thing. Perpetual Tazos maybe...

Rebellion, god, it's been a while since I've done that even feebly. Nothing really to rebel against. My car isn't working, and it's a family standard car, just minus the family. A safety car. The intermittent moments of self awareness I have during my daydream seem to indicate I never became the rock star I could have been. Not that any of this worried me at the time, and to be honest, I was king of the trip in my own mind. I made everyone laugh, I sat up the back of the bus, I lead all the jokes, and for want of a better term, was the kind of person everyone could buzz around in perpetual motion. When we attended a feebly weak battle of the bands, I had the best heckle; the show stopping one not even Hellyer College kids could match. Sure it was just a play on the bands name with a swear word inserted in it, but I was bus lagged. I'm sure it was funny at the time. There was a lull in the day’s proceedings to get sandwiches or buff the name badges we didn't wear, and my future crush took it upon herself to go and make connections and talk herself up to guardians and uni people with even more impressive ties. At the exact moment she was availing herself of the really good staff sandwiches and posing like a starlet in the high beams of a red carpet, I was engaged in a conversation with the drummer in one of the feeble bands, a girl named Amber with piercings and a tattoo of Che Guevara shooting at America. I looked at her, she looked at me, Amber looked at her tattoo and explained in tedious detail about the detail in her tattoo was while I muttered huh how about that you think you know somebody, and me and my friend smiled at each other in mutual feigned reproach, because we both knew we were happy in our respective worlds and conversations. I wonder if she remembers that you know, the plate of sandwiches, the mutual smile, if she places me in any of her anecdotes from around that time or if I'm as lost to time to her as I no doubt am to Amber. Last I saw her she was frantically and angrily drumming in the direction of one of our party who asked her why she had Allan Border tattooed on her arm. If the day has a deeper meaning, it's only obvious now, in the hindsight of a horrible future day, as the tow truck pulls down the road, and disperses my daydream as it's headlights light up the street in the gaudy shades of a drug fuelled cereal ad from the 70tys...orange, yellow, red and frightening...

There's no deeper meaning to my car breaking down of course. Stupid thing just won't go forwards. It reverses fine, but in a plume of smoke and sparks it won't go forward. I'm sure a finer writer than me would come up with some sort of metaphorical meaning about my life never going forward, but the crackly line down which I speak to the RACT man isn't doing much for deep and meaningful thoughts, unless they are about buying a new phone for both of us. At least I can now confidently find my hazard lights button. As long as a girl gives me a cheery thumbs up. Whatever I've learned in my life hasn't prepared me for a broken down car, nor the slow progression through the fog that transmits me forward in the cab of a tow truck trying to read a newspaper in a poorly illuminated environment. The tow truck driver is amiable and professional as he puts my car onto his truck, leaving me freezing in the cold as he both checks and balances. I admire him for his courtesy, and for not talking into my ear like a drunken taxi driver. By the time we hit the sweeping bends of the Southern Outlet and the road absolutely refuses to yield any kind of romantic fairytale or character of any kind and simply becomes the symbolic embodiment of a particular kind of domestic drudgery for us both, he decides to try some conversation. He considers for a moment commenting on the Black Eyed Peas who are clogging up the radio, but he doesn't know which way that will go, so he asks me if I had a good day. Well the Black Eyed Peas song is Good Night, so I guess it was a hint for his conversational avenue, and I can't really answer. Not just because he's missed the point that it really can't be a good day when your car is loaded on a tow truck, when you are freezing and immobile and still kms from home on the world’s least inspiring road. So I mutter something about so-so and turn back to the paper. I know it was rude, but I couldn't really help him...

...I’m still working on whether day’s 13teen years ago were good or not, it's going to take some processing to get back to him...

6 comments:

Baino said...

Sorry Miles, haven't forgotten you, I'll be back to catch up on the weekend! Cheers :)

Samantha said...

A thoroughly delightful last line, I have to say :)

My last taxi trip (not that a tow truck is anything really like a taxi, except somebody else is driving you and trying to make small talk) ended with the taxi driver giving me a pep talk and telling me I have a good personality.

sparsely kate said...

I remember Tazo's. I didn't collect them though - I think I'm a bit older than you are though.

Sneaking out for a fag is quite a cool thing to do, Miles. Don't underestimate yourself there. ;)

Miles McClagan said...

I'm not sure you've missed much, you can be the judge of that!

I always try and finish with a flourish, shame about the middle, ha ha...taxi drivers down here aren't big on pep talks. They can tell you where the drunk girls are...a source of knowledge...

Oh I collected Tazos a lot, don't know what I did with them...seems a bit mental now...maybe the act was cool, but the dorky circle wasn't...trust me!

Baino said...

Ah nicely done yet again. I sort of know the feeling. I'm treading water a little myself these days. Absolutely begging for something new and exciting.

Oh and what is it about hungarians, aggro bastards. Well at least the few I've met!

Miles McClagan said...

I'm not sure if I've ever actually got to that whole week at the ABC, I really can't remember. It was really really strange, and to be sworn at by a Hungarian redbearded ultra marathon coach was just...

Well it don't happen every day...