Tuesday, July 14, 2009

She lives in this house over there, has her world outside it...



It was the summer of 1991ne, a particularly unmemorable summer for me. Without the distraction of a major international football tournament or the anxiety riddled stress of a robot obsessed girlfriend to distract me, my unsocialibility had caught up with me. There was a Scottish tradition in our circular street called chapping the door, which didn't mean dressing the door up like a camp cowboy, but rather meant that at any moment a large group of weans, sometimes weans you didn't even know, would come knocking on the door with a tennis ball or a football or a catapult and demand that you came out and joined them in escapades. However bleak my nuclear winters had been, however much I felt angst ridden or bullied at school nor quite sure where the line between male tomfoolery and actually being beaten up was drawn, no matter how strange it was 3hree years on from lying in a field on a mandatory cloud shaping exercise to be casually greeting drug sellers on the playground like old friends or hoping inter religious warfare wouldn't break out...at least I got out of the house a bit more as a positive to the bizarre nature of my own life. Sadly post Debbie I slipped into what can only be described as a funk - had this funk made me more rhythmic or danceable as the music suggests, I'd have been a lot better off, but I failed to return the chap door compliment and the crowds fell away as if I'd released a terrible follow up album. That's not to say things didn't happen. One of the neighbours kids was bowled over by a rottweiller, there were poll tax riots to attend and anti English posters to put on lamposts. It just felt a bit like everything was bland and boring. The excitement that a greater exposure to criminality and adult themes that Scotland had offered me had now become blase and dull. So I spent an entire summer more or less with the blinds shut trying to finally work out how to put together my soccer ball lampshade and make cassette tapes off Atlantic 252. I know I had friends, I know I must have done something with my time, but if it was memorable, I don't remember it, rendering at least part of this sentence irrelevant and overwordy, but what the hell, if you've stuck with me this far, you generally know what you are in for...

My Dad, an indistrious sort prone to gross moodiness in a social situation who was shedding some of the more excessive ravages of his standard look of the 80tys, some of the more lengthier hairs on the back of his head and some of the starchier shirts, decided that my funk could only be cured through the magic of swimming. Which is how I found myself on the mini bus to the Magnum swimming centre, with my Dad by my side like a bearded clamp - while Mary the bus driver played her stock standard range of country suicidal classics on 8eight track, my Dad was responding to my eye rolling and huffing and puffing about the fate of the little doggies getting along by launching into his comedy routine about rap music. It wasn't too different to the time he had originally stolen it from Bill Cosby, but as we passed the little bit of Ayrshire that always baffled me, the bit where beautiful breathtaking scenery on 1ne corner was immediately replaced on the next by a derelict scabrous shopping centre riddled with drunks and graffiti, I remember feeling as though this bastion of parental wisdom had let me down somewhat. He wasn't from my generation, he didn't understand me at all, he was trying to cure my blues with exposure to aqua and somehow he had confused me for someone who liked rap? I liked KLF, they didn't rap did they? Much? He was embarrassing me with his thoughts and his very presence. It was a strange bus ride, 1ne of the few times I have felt genuinely disconnected from everyone and everything. Most of all, I was sure that I was not going to get old. As the bus trundled through Ayrshire, 2wo scrags in flourescent eye burning tracksuits at a bus stop saw me, and to this day I'm sure they pointed and laughed at the dorky kid stuck with his dad who was throwing rap shapes deliberately to emphasise his Cosbyesque point. Oh no, I'd never be embarrassing like that I thought, I'll never get to that age where I was so out of touch and...was that Debbie? It sure looked like her...what happened to her hair? How teased could it be? Dad, stop bipping and bopping, I need to talk about...oh whats the point? Maybe there's something in that country music after all...

5ive years on, a Burnie spring, 199six. It was raining, the Coles elevator was packed with trollies and 1ne rather fetching dapper gentleman employee with Rick Astleyesque shiny shoes drinking Fruitopia from a bottle pushing them hither and tither and almost comically cleaning up random passers by as he struggled to control the wobbly carts. Of course, his boss had suggested he put down the Fruitopia and push with both hands, but he was a maverick, he didn't play by societies rules. Actually he couldn't have played more by societies rules if he tried judging by the shininess of his shoes, but at least I didn't have any angst on this particular day. I had just turned 18teen, thought that Kylie and I had a chance, had a large group of friends who swore they'd be friends forever long before Vitamin C commercialised the whole enterprise, and having just had my first all night drinking session, I felt on top of the world. It was then that a trolley decided to get in on the maverick spirit of the occassion by detaching itself and heading straight for the plant district. In it's wisdom, a small business had set up a display with a rather sparse selection of plants that took up an unconscionable amount of space, and it was only with some deft shimmying that I saved the day, pushing the trolley away from the table and gently into the ankles of a kid in a flannel shirt with a Janet from Spiderbait haircut and the wispiest hint of pencilled in moustache. Slowly he grunted in a particularly flemmy manner and said something akin to watch it Grandpa. Now, given the atonal nature of the grunt, it is possible he said nothing of the sort, but as walked off, I was entirely enraged. Grandpa? I knew everything in the Triple J playlist, hell I was drinking Fruitopia, and could quote it's many visionary hippy musings without referring to the label. I had a tickle me Elmo before anyone knew what it was...it really got to me that I had been called old in such an off handed manner....especially by someone who was from Natone...the Atonal Natonal if you will...meh, that was too clever for him, should just have given him the finger, stupid 13teen year late comeback realisations...

It bothered me for the rest of the night. I didn't have the wise council of my co-worked Janie Jane to draw on, just the mad woman with the ripped tights and the glint of a starry sky to console me. I knew everyone got old in the end, but I hadn't done anything especially old other than work for the man and wear shiny shoes and glasses that only suited a Korean propaganda poster from the 50tys. OK, I did look somewhat old, but I still pushed my trollies with a definite grievance, checking my reflection in the back of some of the shinier silver cars to check for wrinkles. Not many trollies got pushed that night, as I moped even more than usual, remembering more youthful days in my past eating Kraft cheese sandwiches...there was only a smattering of prostitutes out that night, not really the regular crew, definitely not clacky heels girl, so only 1ne of them gave me my usual cursory you think you got problems nod that I returned with a yeah I do got problems but I still feel you guys got it tougher nod - it was a whole conversation based around nods and shakes really - when I walked past pushing trollies through puddles of what I hoped was rainwater. I pushed 1ne of the trollies past a big black van, like the A-Team van with more footy stickers, when I saw flannel boy in the back, almost cowering. As best as I could tell, his Dad, a big bear of a man with a big bushy beard and a tattoo which in the admittedly bad light looked like a snake doing bad things to a woman - far worse than not listening to her conversation or appreciating her lamingtons put it that way - had decided to get him a hooker, and he was somewhat reluctant as 1ne of Burnies finest was hustling price and trying to make her hotpants look alluring and not like 2wo dollar knock offs from the Routleys rack. It felt unseemly of course, but I was a little greatful my Dad only took me swimming. I left them with a click clack of my own heels, Clarks rather than High of course, left to them their fates with a swagger, a surety of my age and place in life, and several trollies that never left the car park...left them all behind and went swimming if I'm not mistaken....

That things went entirely wrong just a few weeks later, well, that's just the way the country song crumbles...

3 comments:

G said...

Interesting.

Organized chaos inflicted on other people/things, just for something to do.

Baino said...

Great story Miles! Poor kid. Must admit, I am not dealing well with advancing age and have started a campaign to ban mirrors in lifts. I get depressed every time I go to work thanks to three wallsworth of floor to ceiling mirrors.

Miles McClagan said...

I've lived in boring places...there's nothing else to do...anarchy...it's all there is...

I look rough at the moment, more rough than old, and the 1ne lift in Hobart sort of lacks for mirrors. It is a bit airless, depression comes from being stuck in a lift in Hobart...