Monday, September 27, 2010

While You Were Thinking, I was Leaving You Behind



"I guess Mary Poppins had an accident"...

I say this to my drinking companion at the Telegraph when we step over a smashed up blue umbrella. The umbrella looks a little too posh to be lying in the gutter in pieces. It looks like 1ne of those umbrellas unfurled by old Lords at the cricket on the 4th day of a windblown tactical battle between England and India, just as a south west drizzle sets in. Some1ne has really gone to town on it. The handle is blocking a gutter, making puddles splash over the open toed shoes of the impossibly young texters queuing to get inside. My drinking companion has decided to ignore the umbrella. Instead he's holding a red ticket up to the light, 1ne of the free cocktail tickets we've accumulated over the course of the night. It has an amusingly entendre based name this cocktail, but our tickets go unused. I'll say 1ne thing for the Telegraph, in an era of fascist bouncers and people actively seeking ways to refuse your custom, the Telegraph could care less what you do. It's not exactly chapter 26 of Satyricon when it comes to debauchery, but it's robust enough compared to the anodyne scenes elsewhere - it's toilets overflow with twitching, discomforted teenagers hunched around porcelain meeting places, their first hangover simply hours away...

I never know if these scenes - the girl without the shoe, the boy hunched over with his friends carrying him down the road in homage to Jesus, but with more bourbon - are true drunken capers or mere acts. My Dad 1nce pretended to stumble in the gutter to get attention from my Mum. He was 37even at the time. We pretend it never happened in our house. In return, no 1ne mentions the little cut off white T-shirt with the brown sleeves I used to wear - the 1ne that had a BMX biker on it saying GO! on it. We have an understanding...

Some1ne turns the lights off in the toilets for a prank and the bewildered noises of the ill can be heard down the bar. No 1ne moves. I feel ridiculously old of course. I feel as though any minute now some cheeky young scamp is going to come up to me and ask me to tell them what life was like when we had to ring people from payphones. In the corner on a pulsating video screen is 1ne of my favourite ever musicians. She looks so happy, or looked, back in 1999. I wonder what she's doing now. T-shirted males dance and cavort in the kind of display you see in nature documentaries, and some1ne threatens to be sick in the far pocket of the pool table. A girl no older than 14teen is rifling through her wallet to try and find ID to convince the bored bespectacled barmaid she really is old enough to enjoy a shandy. I went on a drinking trip with some1ne who photocopied their passport as ID, and changed the date in black pen. That was his ID - a photocopy with a big alteration in it. I say drinking trip - we went to a girls house, watched Friends on DVD and were asleep by 11even O'clock. I blame myself for that you know. I should have put my foot down and demanded that we went out, but I was too sleepy. Secretly, just between you and me, I'm quite happy to get home most nights. I secretly hate the idea of stumbling around Hobart at 5ive in the morning scrabbling for kebabs with thick necked guys called Bullet trying to push me out the way. My aversion to hangovers is not as well known. Most people think I'm a party animal. Truthfully, I'm a mere sleepy kitten...

The 14teen year old drops her wallet to the floor with a spirit crushing thud. Her eyes sink in disappointment. To her shame, the barmaid goes to produce 1ne of those humiliating yellow drink cards they are giving out in pubs now. You have to be going some for the Telegraph to draw the line. A man even older than me - laden down with personal baggage, gold chains and the last vestiges of a beer gut creating mid life crisis - briefly threatens to intervene as her sponsor and patron, but suspecting, rightly I suspect, he may lace any bought drinks with his own special sleep inducing "additions", she leaves, muttering something about trying to get into Irish Murphys. Yeah, good luck with that...

"But I'm sober!" she says, defiantly. I believe her. Or I would, if she wasn't saying it into her purse, believing it was her mobile phone. Her companions are all laughing at her with a ferocity usually reserved for a Rodney Dangerfield audience. In the confusion, she loses a shoe to gravity, and her night is slowly unfolding with a tedious sense of inevitability. I envy them. Their mistakes are still being made. Mine all have consequence and gravitas. Or at least I think they do - some of them simply serve as fodder to write about it. There's a piece of graffiti I saw at Motherwell train station 1nce that sums it all up

We aw think we're the centre o the fackin universe, but we're just a pack of arseholes!

It was the ! that really topped it off for me - you spray paint philosopher you...

As it happens, at that point some1ne sings a song on the video screen about a free for all, and it's time to leave...

There's a man outside the bakehouse with his hood pulled over his head trying to talk to people about Jesus between mouthfuls of an egg sandwich carefully plucked from a lunchbox sitting innocently and without opinion on a park bench. I think he's drunk, but I'm aware fervour can come from the sober so I'm not going to judge. He looks suspiciously like 1ne of those early 90tys CTA warriors that used to lurk outside my high school luring the perkier children to a life of chastity and repression. I watch him for a moment, but not too closely because I may be lured into a conversation. I'm just drunk enough to be amiable and I am a sucker for an egg sandwich. There are no taxis anywhere, so I stroll around Hobart for a bit. My ironic girlfriend has just sent me a txt. I don't know what I'm supposed to do in order to cheer her up. I'm not an especially helpful marriage counsellor, I mean I've just found out how to make old Rosita tracks I have on vinyl into ringtones, but that doesn't mean I can fix the conversational distance of 2wo people who's affectionate romantic messages to each other contain more swear words than Hallmark approved sentiment. Best to leave it alone I think. I turn my phone off, leaving their problems best solved by them. I've become a cynic; I don't believe in love anymore, I don't know if that's always been my view. I pulled myself back the other night from dribble, diatribe and discourse on the matter. After all, the last thing I wanted to do was become the kind of man who perches on the edge of a barstool, oblivious to the fact I was ramming my opinions down every1nes throat, boring them, saying things that patently no-1ne else agreed with...

"Jesus LOVES YOU!" says the egg sandwich eating man. Eventually, he's hustled away from exalting mid word, mid opinionated rant about homosexuals, by a security guard who looks oddly like Bryan Mannix. Security guards should look more like Yuliya Dovhal than Bryan Mannix. They should have far stronger centres of gravity. The Jesus freak loses his sandwich in the moment - parting is such scrambled sorrow. To see a short man with an 80tys bouffant hairstyle push a bewildered tall skinny Jesus freak away from scaring bakehouse customers - is that a quintessential Hobart moment? Or just the kind of random strangeness you can expect at 3hree in the morning? 3hree in the morning? When did that happen...how long have I been out for...where did the lost hours go? Where did my drinking companion go? My ironic girlfriend has sent me a txt saying she needs some1ne to talk to. There's also a sandwich in front of me I don't remember ordering. It's the kind of bold and fancy flavours I only order when I'm drunk, otherwise I'm strictly butter or jam in my sandwiches. And Rosita is purring away, indicating some1ne is trying to ring me at a frantic pace. The 14teen year old girl from before stumbles out of Syrup, so at least she had a good night. As for me, I'm too young to feel this old. And I'm also too old for the old familiar line...

"Hey! I was before you in the taxi line!"

I turn, smile, and raise a middle finger at the Jesus freak, who responds by uncharitably calling me a word that rhymes with punt. I smile...he's not the only 1ne who talked a good game and couldn't back it up. I just wonder which 1ne of us will learn first...

4 comments:

Kath Lockett said...

Oh Miles - this ironic girlfriend of yours - is it all txt and no action?

Could you have bundled the Jesus freak into the taxi and sent him over to her place to provide advice?

Miles McClagan said...

It's all a complicated saga - I'll get to it soon 1nce I stop downloading music from Youtube. The jesus freak wouldn't have been a good listener...he seemed to more interested in his opinions...mostly about Jesus....

Ann O'Dyne said...

thanks for bringing ole Dwight to mind
*goes off singing*
It won't hurt when I fall down from this bar stool
And it won't hurt, when I stumble, in the street
It won't hurt, 'cause this whiskey eases misery
But even whiskey cannot ease your hurting me...

Miles McClagan said...

Dwight Yoakam and Rosita in 1ne post. Loving it. Although the soundtrack around Hobart is still, after all these years, Dave Dobbyn...