Friday, December 29, 2006

This Is Not A Blog Post

Had some amusing shit to tell you about which happened today. We're gearing up for a massive New Year's Eve at the Sydney Opera House (massive in that The Dreaded One and I are looking after one of the functions on the night, and it alone is for 950 people) and a few things are getting a bit circus-like in the kitchen. There are several different nationalities with various opinions about gender working "together" and there's a fuckload of personal politics hijacking the point of everyone being there. Lasting image of the day: a bumble-arsed Nazi apprentice chef and a kitchenhand locked in a tug-o-war to the death with the hose used to hose down the floor. Smacking sound shortly after seeing this going on was my palm connecting with my forehead. And I'm not sure it was the silliest thing that happened today. Luckily there are a few grown ups getting things done.

So anyway, while I'd love to regale me with the day's misadventures (because I write this stuff to amuse me after all), I'm just not in the mood. I'm right royally fucked off because neither of the stories I entered in a competition rated a mention. I know - I fucking know - that these stories were at least worthy of mentioning. Hell, I had already planned how I was spending first prize and second prize. The glory was mine. MINE! So what the fuck happened?

What happened was, it made me really cranky, but in a good way, and I'm working on a third story for a comp as well as giving one of the first two a sex change operation so it qualifies for entry in another comp, and that second existing story is going to be hitting slushpiles in The States and the UK early next year. As well as a few slushpiles here.

Tell me I'm not worthy? Snub me? Fuck you.


That feels better. And seriously, the story behind the first prize winner of the comp is kinda heart-warming, and good on the guy. I'm sure the story is good. Looking forward to reading it.

Busy the next couple of days, few days rest then I'm going here and here. Looking forward to these parties.

So. No blogging tonight. Sorry.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Big Picture Guy

Last night on the way home from another party, walking down the street, I hear the words, "Hey - there's Quick and The Dreaded One." There's a group of friends strolling across the road drinking from wine glasses. Nice glasses, like Reidel. It's like they've just gotten up from the dinner table and decided to go for a walk around the block to see who they bump into... which is exactly what happened. We swap details about our respective Christmases, then one tells us that S has got a new tattoo.

"Show them your tattoo, S," one of them says.

So S lifts her dress up. Right up. It's a huge tattoo that starts midway up her smooth thigh and climbs all the way up the side of her silky torso. It's a huge, sprawling tattoo that I almost don't see because of her tiny little undies.

We walk for a bit, then say goodbye to go our separate ways. I thank S very much for showing us her undies. I should probably have focused a little more on the tattoo. It's probably a very nice tattoo.

In my defense, however, I would like to say that I was a little drunk and in any case I'm male and what do you expect when someone flashes their knickers at you in the middle of the street like that? And alsotooaswell, they were very pretty little undies and it's completely normal to like things that are little and pretty. So fuck off with your... your one raised eyebrow and silent accusations of sweaty perviness.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The End Of The World

Weird. It's Monday, December 25th. Start of a new working week, and yet all the shops are closed and no one appears to be at work. The traffic, usually a distant hum, is silent. The predominant sound is of children playing in neighbouring yards. Their laughter mingles with the idle chatter and leisurely laughter of adults. It's overcast and cold, and yet there is a palpable happiness in the air. It's almost like... it's almost like it's the end of the world.

Also, there is a writing competition that I have to enter. Good prize money. Any genre. 3,000 to 5,000 words. The central character has to be a woman. I think I entered once before but wrote what I thought they expected rather than really create a story that I wanted to tell, just from a female perspective. I think I'm going to approach it differently this time.

Maybe I'll write about someone waking up to the eerie silence of the end of the world. She taps out a brief blog post in case there are any survivors, then goes out to investigate...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Bridge Between Our Paunches

I found the song. It's Ta Douluer by Camille. You can tell by her voice that she's hot. I wanted to know what the song's about, so here's a Babelfish translation. Seems it's something about fout science and bridges between paunches. Pretty damn funny.

Your Pain by Camille
L? you it east d?d?br>Laisse me to replace you
I will take your pain

Gently without making noise
Like one r?ille rain
I will take your pain

It fights it d?t
But will not r?stera
I will block the elevator...
To sabotage the switch

But it is which this incrust?
This storm before?
Bitch of small sister salts?

I all will confiscate to him
Its fl?ettes and its whistle
I will give him the fess?..
To transfer R??

But it is which this h?ti?
Who bathes who ground
In water Ti? of your kidneys?

I will deprive it of dessert
He to make bite the poussi?
Of all those which do not have anything any more...
Of all those which are not any more hungry

Say me that fout science
With when this bridge between our paunches?
If you have l??' badly be afraid
You do not have l??e badly thinks!

What is this qu.elle wants this silly bitch
The butter or money of butter
What you sharp or which you die?

What it is necessary Cr? of happiness
Or that it changes godasses
Is necessary that it collapses under the flowers
Change color...
I will play the doctor

Say me that fout science
With when this bridge between our paunches?
If you have l??' badly be afraid
You do not have l??e badly sings!

The Bavrois Song

There is a song out at the moment, catchy little number, really chilled, breezy, female vocals. You hear it once, it stays with you for hours. Problem is, it's in French. And because I'm a stupid little Australian a long way from everywhere else, I can't speak French. Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? I don't even know the name of it so I can google it. The DJ in Quick's Head FM has had it on high rotation all morning, and all I can do to sing along to it is go, "Ooh lalala... laaalalala.... lele avec moi... moi and au revoir... bavrois... bavooooirrrr..."

I'm going to get smacked if I start singing it it public.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Into The Abyss

The guy who does the wages asked what time I started and what time I'll be finishing. It was another 13 hour shift. He asked if I was going to take a 30 minute break. I frowned, like what's a 30 minute break? One of the other chefs said, "A break? That's what the ladies get isn't it?"

There are no breaks. It's hard work. Eight and nine hour days now seem short. You get home feeling exhausted.

There was a party I'd been planning to go to all week, but at the end of the day I just couldn't bothered. Friend called around at about 1.30 am on her way to the party and The Dreaded One decided to go. I stayed in. Had a vodka and sent a text message saying that if it was really going off, let me know because I am a little less sleepy all of a sudden. Text came back saying it's a pretty good party. 2.30am. Fuck it. Here we go again.

A short time later I'm dressed and fired up for a night out. There's a huge queue outside the club. I think about trying to get in ahead of everyone (name's on the door) but the bouncers look a little psychotic and the queue's moving pretty quickly anyway. I take my place. Best not to draw attention to yourself with guys like this.

Friendly face comes out of the club. Girlfriend of a DJ friend. We say hello. Huge hug. She's outside to stand in line with a friend who happens to be the person right behind me. We chat. There are laughs. The friend puts her arm through mine, and I like it. I like the warmth of her skin, the feeling of another person's touch. The bouncers are giving people grief so the girls link their arms tightly through mine so that we don't get separated. Kind of place it is - girls allowed in, single guys there's a problem. So we stand there like this and I just like it. I like how casual it all is. I like that there was a time in my life when I wished I had friends who would hug me at random moments, for no apparent reason. I like that now I have a few such friends.

What I don't like is that I don't let enough people in. Seeing me stand in that queue, what you'd see is a reasonably approachable guy. Real friendly fucker who knows people as they come and go, has these two quite gorgeous girls on his arms. What you don't see is the solitude. Why can't I be this guy in the nightclub queue more often?

More talk, more laughter, and I remember another time at a bush party with this very girl. Mentally I was in quite a bit of trouble and I just needed to be away from the party. The Dreaded One and I grabbed our stuff to leave. The Dreaded One got caught up saying goodbyes but I was already walking away. I heard this girl ask where I was. I knew she wanted to say goodbye but I turned my back and walked away. I realise now that she's been trying to get to know me better for a long time now. Tonight, the touching, the holding on, some line had been crossed. I asked her and her boyfriend over for dinner some time, and she was really happy about that. Thank fuck some people persist. She could easily have written me off as unlikable, but tonight she was getting Mr Charming pants. It's what she's going to get from now on.

And then inside the club, bypassing all the house-head scenesters we make it downstairs to the psytrance room, and it's fucking brilliant. Everyone is there. So many hugs and smiling faces. I spot The Dreaded One's friend and she hugs me even though she left my house an hour or so earlier. She gets The Dreaded One's attention and she bounds up from the dancefloor and also hugs me, glad that I came after all. There are doofing friends everywhere. Occasionally a hug so enthusiastic you're almost bowled over by it. Suddenly I can't recall the day's fatigue because the music is thumping and the dancefloor is rammed.

Earlier in the day a waitress at work told me that I often look quite sad. No sadness tonight. Just that dumb-arse grin on my face as I dance and dance. Something happens on the dancefloor, and I'm this guy randoms want to talk to. It can be annoying because I'm there to dance, but it can be fun too, and tonight's all fun. I see the girl from outside, the one who held me, and she's smiling from across the dancefloor, and I smile back. I feel fantastic because I am surrounded by friends and some strangers who would like to be friends. A girls flirts. A guy cracks a joke. Tonight, everyone wants to be my friend and it's a great feeling.

Then a big guy I know from all the countless parties comes over. He's huge, big personality to match his physical dimensions. He comes over with a girl. "Hello my friend," he booms in his usual way. Then to the girl, "Have you met Mike Streeton? This is Mike Streeton."

I know Mike Streeton. He's a mutual friend. Alas, I am not he.

"Why did you call me Mike Streeton?" I ask.

"Because you are Mike Streeton."

"I'm not Mike Streeton."

"But I have always known you as Mike Streeton."

I realise that he is not trying to be funny. He is quite off his head and has had a serious memory lapse, but it makes me think: maybe this is what's happening with everyone. Maybe it's not really me they want to know but someone they think I am. Maybe I'm not Mr Charming pants at all but some pretender, a complete fucking fraud. Because the waitress was right. Most of the time I'm alone. Most of the time I look quite sad. Most of the time people don't know what the hell to make of me and leave me alone.

Right. Therapy over. Think my point is simply that outwardly I need to lighten the fuck up and let a few people in.

Overall, I had a blast last night. Haven't really slept and there's a rumour of a small outdoor party on today. I want to go. I want to be immersed in the music. I want to swan dive into the abyss. No pretending there; that's just how I am.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Funniest Man In The World Tells A Funny Story: The Story

Ok, after being inundated with five or six yes votes, here is the story. Not sure what I think of it now. But good or bad it was shortlisted in a comp several years ago and published in a book by Allen & Unwin (and I found the copy of the book I thought I'd lost - woo hoo).

If anyone is interested in reading more, there are a few others that have been published that I don't think are too bad and which I might post here. Seems a shame that they are sitting unread in magazine pages on my bookshelf when someone out there might enjoy them.

Right. A little nervous about this, but for your reading pleasure I give you...


Just look at them. God how they squawk and carry on, like a flock of seagulls scavenging for the scraps on which they thrive. They would make me sick if they did not amuse me so much. They call me the funniest man in the world, but look at them, for god’s sake. If only they could see themselves from where I sit – shoving and jostling for a snippet of conversation with the most creative humorist alive (their words, not mine!), pointing those damn microphones at me like phallic offerings. And the questions. Breathtaking in their banality. What’s it like, they ask for the thousandth time, to be the funniest man in the world? Jesus gather me in your arms before I hear that question again. What do I say? Once, feeling particularly tired, a reporter asked me that very question, and do you know what I said? I asked her what it was like to have tits. The rest of them laughed, as they always do, and I thought she might take it badly. But she didn’t. She just looked down at her breasts briefly and told me that it was good, mostly. I admired her for that and replied with the same answer; good, mostly. For now I toss them some witty reply and they lap it up. Of course it matters little whether what I say is actually funny, they always laugh. At another one of these gatherings I happened to sneeze. A simple, ordinary sneeze. Do you know what they did? That’s right, they pissed themselves laughing, bloody idiots. It’s an insult that the very people who christened me the funniest man in the world can be so amused by an old man’s bodily functions. Why craft dazzling repartee when a fart can achieve the same result? Not that I don’t think there is comedy in a well placed, properly executed fart, I just think... oh here we go again. Pink Cheeks stands in his ill-fitting suit and nervously clears his throat. I lean forward in anticipation of another gem. He wants to know if I can remember (already I am working on my answer) the first moment I realised that I had a gift for knowing what is funny.
I sit back and purse my lips. He has surprised me with an original question. After facing countless questions about myself you would think I’d have encountered this one before. But no, this is the first time. I think for a moment. A story comes to mind. They look like they have time to spare, so I begin ...

The mother was fat. Not grossly obese, just mildly so. She was fat like a bunch of thick, raw sausages with skin pale and clammy to touch. She was a large, solid woman whose ugliness came from within. It showed in her sneering mouth and her cold, dead eyes. She frequently complained about the arthritic ache in her hands which sometimes became so intense she was forced to stop using them and resort to using an instrument to beat her eldest son – which was how she discovered that the fine, stiff bristles on her hairbrush could bring a satisfying speckling of blood to the boy’s soft cheek.
The woman favoured her younger son in a peculiar way. She showed her affection by encouraging him to humiliate and ridicule his brother. Naturally he went along with this, being too young to understand.
And there was the father who took the older son jogging through the bush and showed him how to split a gum leaf and whistle through it; who showed him how to skim a stone across the creek; who told him jokes and brought brief interludes of happiness to the boy’s life. Yet the father lingered like a frail shadow as the mother smashed the boy’s favourite toy.
The toy was a crane, blue and green with a yellow jib and a handle that could be wound to lift things into the air. When the boy lost the hook he made a loop out of the string and found himself placing the head of a toy dog through it like a noose. The mother discovered this and was disgusted that her son was such a ‘sick little bastard.’ She stamped the crane into a splintered mess with a thick limb of varicose vein and rubber thong, lifted him by the hair and made him stand with his nose in the corner for so long that he wet himself and collapsed with fatigue.

For reasons unknown, the family went on a trip. They drove to the Gold Coast in their dilapidated Valiant, the brothers sharing the back seat with Bernard who the mother had insisted taking. Bernard was an old mongrel who suffered chronic flatulence which added greatly to the already oppressive atmosphere inside the car. From time to time the younger brother thought it was fun to slip in a fart of his own and try to blame it on Bernard. The mother, however, was a connoisseur.
“That wasn’t a Bernard fart, that was a person fart. Now who was it?” she yelled in her hard, ugly voice. The father drove on in silence, staring at the road ahead. The younger son pointed at his sibling and the mother took several wild swings at the falsely accused, connecting sharply each time. Physical defence would only prolong the beating and was as useless as verbal defence. When silence resumed, the younger brother gazed out his window and giggled quietly to himself.

The family stopped at every tawdry tourist trap along the way. The mother was particularly fond of the ‘big’ things. The younger son loved this, finding it all so exotic, but the older one, who even at this young age was developing an acute sense of cynicism, suspected that his mother simply wanted her photo taken in front of lots of big things so that she might appear smaller.
At the Big Banana at Coff’s Harbour the older son wandered away from the family and came across a sulphur-crested cockatoo chained to a perch. At the boy’s approach the bird bowed his head forward, ruffled his head feathers and politely asked for a scratch. The boy smiled and gladly obliged. When the younger brother approached, the bird raised it crest in greeting. The younger brother decided that he wanted one of the brilliant yellow feathers and tried to pull one from the bird’s head. The bird let out a shrill screech. Then the older brother screamed in agony as his finger – still hovering conveniently by – was bitten in retribution. The mother, who could not decide between the Big Banana back scratcher and the Big Banana snow dome, turned in time to see the older son poking the eye of the younger one with a bloodied forefinger (his consequent shriek tortured with unimaginable tragedy). She ran forward to protect her favourite son.
The cockatoo was not satisfied with the small lump of finger in its beak and was furiously searching for something else to attack. A small girl watching these two boys poking each other’s eyes did not see the crazed cockatoo lunge for her gas-filled balloon. The bird, seeing the face on the balloon, believed he was attacking a human cheek. He did not expect the head to explode with such a thunder clap. He let out a final, strangled screech as he fell back from his perch.
And the father, who occasionally displayed a rather peculiar sense of humour, indulged in a secret smirk as he quickly snapped a photo. In it we see two young boys covering their own eyes whilst trying to poke out each other’s; a bawling young girl clutching a piece of string that dangles loosely by her side; a screeching cockatoo bungy jumping backwards from its perch towards death; and a large sausage-shaped woman running in from the side and wielding a souvenir back scratcher. Everyone in the photo has their mouth wide open as though they are performing some bizarre opera.

There was another photo taken of the family on that holiday, but in this one everyone is singing a very different song.
When the family finally reached its destination the mother read about a small picturesque hotel in the hinterland called Bernard’s. She decided that the family should drive there in honour of the family’s own Bernard.
As they parked the car a workman of enormous proportions requested that they park elsewhere as a mobile crane was being driven in to lift a fibreglass swimming over the building and into place out the back. The father did as he was told and the younger son made a joke about the crane really being needed to lift the workman into place. The older son sniggered, thinking of the mother’s own imposing proportions, and this brought an icy stare from those dead eyes. The family patted the dog and said goodbye, leaving him to sleep and fart in the warm car.
The building was old and made of exposed timber beams and floorboards that creaked with each step, a sound that somehow made you feel welcome. Adding to the warm ambience was the erratic hum of lunch-time chatter, and the smell of char-grilled steak and onions. Out the back was a gang of workman looking busy, yet somehow relaxed.
“At least this Bernard doesn’t fart,” the father observed. The boys laughed at his but the mother, though she found it amusing, did not allow herself to laugh.
The family ordered lunch and drinks and went outside to find a table to sit at while the steaks were being cooked. They found one on a shady patch of lawn beneath a large coral tree that was alive with screeching rainbow lorikeets. Between the tree and the building was the hole into which the swimming pool would be gently lowered. At this moment it was high in the air, being swung ever so slowly over he roof of the hotel. Workmen scurried around communicating over small radios.
The older son winced as he bumped his bandaged finger on the table. The pain throbbed through his hand.
“What’s the matter?” the mother sneered. “Is the little boy’s finger sore?” He sarcasm was as stinging as the bristles on her hairbrush.
“Sissy faggot, sissy faggot,” the younger son chanted, looking at his mother for signs of approval.
“Shut your face,” the older boy muttered.
“Don’t you dare use language like that,” the mother spat. “You little sissy.”
“Take it easy on him,” the father said in a tone with less substance than the air he breathed.
“Sissy faggot,” the younger boy hissed once more.
The older boy felt sick as he gazed into his glass of lemonade. He watched the bubbles make their way to the top where they simply popped and became nothing. He thought that being alive was like that, only people were more unhappy than lemonade bubbles. He sat back and clenched his jaw, trying not to give in to his misery. If only he could change the sadness to hate, maybe then he could do something. But he could not hate, could only endure the relentless sickness of unhappiness.
“Look,” said the mother in that cold sharp sneer, “sissy’s going to cry!”
And then, as the boy’s eyes filled with tears of humiliation, the steaming birdshit smacked onto his forehead and ran down his cheek.
His family was delighted. His brother rolled back bubbling with laughter, his mother leaned forward, thumped the table and hurled hard, raucous laughter at him. Even his father tried to stifle a chuckle into his beer.
“Go on,” the father said, trying to sound sympathetic, “go to the bathroom and wash it off.” The boy walked towards the bathroom, wiping his face with his sleeve as he went.
There was a sudden flurry of voices carrying that unique tone of impending doom. The boy turned and watched as the large swimming pool fell silently through the air. Beneath it workmen ran in all directions, screaming “Get out of the way – she’s coming down!” The pool crashed to the ground at the edge of the hole and split neatly into two pieces. A cloud of dust shot out from under it and curled into the air as the two halves, like two halves of a clam shell, tipped apart as though in preparation to catch something.
The boy flinched. His family was concealed by a row of ferns but he knew they were not hurt. A moment later the boy knew that the workmen had not been referring to the pool, they had meant that the arm of the crane itself was coming down. The boy watched as the yellow arm swept down in a smooth, deadly arc. It smashed through the branches of the tree and bounced slightly as it thumped into the ground.
For a moment there was a strange silence, then the frantic screeching of the disgruntled lorikeets, followed by the frantic yelling of humans who weren’t sure what to do. The added weight of the extra jib, along with the off-centre angle, had caused the crane to simply tip over. The building was severed in half and out the front the forty tonne body of the crane was poking into the air at an absurd angle.
The boy ran back to his family. Only his brother had escaped injury. Both parents were buried in a splintered mess of wood and steel. His father was lying face down with his head driven into the turf by a branch of the coral tree. The mother was not quite dead yet. Her limbs were as twisted and shattered as the debris that had rained down on her. She stared into the air through the steel bars that pinned her down, her face reflecting the sickly yellow of the jib. She was in shock, her wide eyes blinking mechanically. The younger brother began to bawl as he shoved at the crane jib without enthusiasm.
And the older brother suddenly knew the meaning of irony. His big mother had smashed his little crane, and now a big crane had smashed his mother – at a place with the same name as their farting dog!
It was here that someone with a morbid sense of posterity took the other photo of the family. In it we see the faceless body of the father pushed mercilessly into the ground; the ghastly yellow face of the mother peering through the wreckage (now looking a little worried); the younger brother with his head tipped back, tears of sorrow rolling down his face as he cries to the heavens; and the older brother doubled over in raptures of delighted laughter, pointing at his mother as though she were a clown who had fallen on her bum. The scene is littered with the brilliant red flowers of the coral tree and cheerful splashes of green, blue, red and yellow of the dead rainbow lorikeets. It is an odd photo – full of such vibrant colour, full of sorrow and death, life and laughter. And irony.
Many people said that the boy in the photo (the laughing one) was ‘a little weirdo’. Many others said that he was simply in a state of extreme shock. He was not in shock and he was not weird. He simply appreciated the irony of it all.

There is silence as they look at me like puzzled children. They don’t know what to make of me. There is a sprinkling of nervous laughter which quickly subsides. They were expecting a funny story – they cannot see that my story was funny, in a funny sort of way. I decide to help them. I begin to chuckle quietly. A few of them follow my lead and pretty soon they are all laughing. They laugh without inhibition as I rock back in my chair, tears rolling down my papery cheeks. We laugh together as though we are sharing the joke of life. I think of the stories that will appear tomorrow and double over in hopeless mirth, and they laugh at my laughter.
What’s it like to be the funniest man in the world? Yes it is good, mostly.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Funniest Man In The World Tells A Funny Story

The Funniest Man In The World Tells A Funny Story was the title of the first real story I had published. I say real because there was another flash fiction piece that had been published in a cheap little magazine but which I later realised was sub-conscious plagiarism of none other than Douglas Adams. Pretty embarrassing when I re-read Hitchiker's Guide and found a scene that was eerily close to my little story. So we won't talk about that one, okay?

But The Funniest Man was a nice little chunk of fiction that was shortlisted for a pretty prestigious competition and published in a very nice looking book. I've just checked my bookshelf and found that I don't appear to have a copy of the book. Thought I had it between Douglas Adams and Patrick White, but I can't find it anywhere. Bit of a bummer because it gave me a hell of a lot of happiness at the time. I used to open it and random points in the months after it was published and just read my name, my words, on real paper in a real book. I saw a copy of the book in a secondhand store once and foolishly didn't buy it.

Anyway, it just occurs to me that with the book out of print and probably only in existence on the shelves of the other shortlisted authors, The Funniest Man In The World Tells A Funny Story might never be read again. Not sure how I feel about that. Maybe if the impossible ever happens and someone wants to put out a collection of my published stories...

Until that highly unlikely time, I'm toying with the idea of posting it here. I saw it disc the other day and realised I had forgotten all about it. I read it once a few years after it came out (good God - was it 15 years ago?) and realised that although it's pretty funny (and probably owes something to my passing obsession with John Irving), it's also quite emotionally brutal. Guess you'd call it black comedy. Not sure I could write anything quite like it now. I'm not much of an emotional brute. I know when I read the story again, though, it will still make me laugh.

So. Hands up who would like to read a story called The Funniest Man In The World Tells A Funny Story?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Emo Therapy

Working in the shop today, a bunch of emo kids trudge in. They're a funny bunch because they do it all the time - they'll walk right into the shop like they're walking into their loungeroom. They don't acknowledge my existence at all. They poke at the clothing. They murmur amongst themselves. They slump down onto the couch. Kind of shits me a little because as a shop owner, I'm opening my door to them and inviting them in, so the least they could do is look at me and say hello.

My way of dealing with it now though is to say hello to them. Maybe ask them how they are today. It usually freaks them out a little, a non-emo treating them like regular person.

"Hello," I say to one of them today. "How are you?"

"Good," he replies, looking like he's just shit his pants with the sadness of it all.

"That's good. Having a good day then?"

He replies with a murmurgrunt that could mean any one of a thousand things. The expression on his pallid face takes me back to a time when our car hit a bird and when we got out to inspect the feathers caught in the front grill, my father squeezed my shoulder and said, "Looks like we just ran over your guardian angel, son. Sorry about that." Emo kid looks like he's about to sob with untold sorrow.

They shuffle around the shop, mumbling to each other. I can tell they're not going to buy anything.

Then the murmurgrunt kid comes over, head down. He reaches a scrawny hand out to the glowsticks section and counts out four glow sticks. He's got a $10 note scrunched up in his other bony fist. "Is it okay if I have these?" he asks, his tone indicating that he fully believes there is the very real possibility of me laughing in his face with contempt and saying fuck off - what do you think this is? A shop? Get the fuck out of here.

I say yeah sure with a smile. We do the transaction. I bag his glowsticks, not sure what someone burdened with such aching sadness is going to do with something as bright and silly as glowsticks.

The group coagulates and shuffles funereally back out of the shop.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Babes In The Wood

A long time ago, in a schoolyard far, far away... I arrived at school with a couple of platters of cakes. I thought it was cake day, a day when we sold cakes instead of doing school work. For some noble reason.

I was the only kid with cakes that day. I was the only kid not laughing at me. I was the kid who got the date wrong.

Cut to much later in life and I'm a masquerader of chefdom who has been assigned my job. I am catering for canapes for 20 people at intermission at Raymonda at the Sydney Opera House. A baby job. I arrive and there is something distantly familiar about it all... only this time my job sheet is correct, I am correct but still I have that feeling that everyone is going to be laughing at me again...

Luckily I've grown up a lot since that fateful Not Cake Day. Tonight I found a trestle table. I dragged the fucker in. I got those canapes in order. I sorted shit out and I did NOT fucking cry this time... and there were happy ballet VIPs at intermission who have no idea that the canapes had been canceled without the catering company's knowledge.

Below is my Drum Media review of a show seen last week. Fun stuff.


This version of Babes In The Wood, the original of which dates back to around 1600, follows the plight of two kids left in the care of their outback aunt. The kids will inherit the deceased father’s estate when they come of age – unless Auntie Avaricious has her way. She pays a couple of henchmen to take the children into the bush and murder them. It’s quite remarkable how faithful to the story this modern rendition is, at the same time as being another creature altogether.

The story is told by a traveling troupe of panto crazies with Max Gillies heading the troupe as the all singing, all drinking (mis)representation of Australian womanhood. The ensuing hour and a half or so is a sometimes hilarious drunken stumble through a vaudevillian interpretation of what it means to be ‘strayin’. Not much is held sacred here... in fact nothing is, except the right to rip the piss out of whatever needs the piss ripped out of it. And that’s bloody everything.

The dark story of the abandoned children is told with all the hammy overacting you’d expect of a real traveling family sideshow, but we also see the cracks in the troupe itself as personal politics break into the performance, as well as the actors breaking out of character. At one point Aunty Avaricious cops a hit to the groin and doubles over and the other actor says in concern, “Shit Max – are you all right?”

Random events throughout Australia’s cultural and political history are presented as defining moments with the whole show peppered with surreal and unexpected vignettes (here’s six words I bet you never thought you’d see together: Amanda Vanstone & Nutbush City Limits). References include: the children overboard fiasco; the Australian Wheat Board debacle; terrorism hysteria; David Hicks; neglected Aboriginal history... the list goes on, and it’s mostly very funny. It’s all very silly – yes, including the brief scene where St Steve, Patron Saint Of Crikey, dies doing what he loves doing and Germaine Greer sings over his corpse. However she doesn’t get the last laugh; we do.

Imaginative set design, fine physical buffoonery, silly songs (and some not so silly), Babes In The Wood takes some serious issues... and has them sit on whoopee cushions.

Until 23 December, Playhouse, Sydney Opera House


Monday, December 11, 2006

Psytrance Makes Grumpy Happy

Following on from the last post... I picked The Dreaded One up from the Opera House at 11pm, pretty well not in the mood for driving two hours into the bush to party. She also felt like staying in, having finished a 13 hour day, and just going to the theatre company's drinks in the park the following day.

We chatted about the day over a couple of drinks, and at about 2.30 am our mood totally changed. We rang a friend to ask if she was going and suddenly it was action stations baby, doof was go.

We left at around 3am, drove to somewhere you'd never bother going under normal circumstances, arrived while it was still dark but with the hint of the light of the day ahead, and we partied. I had been worried that I was out of practice and made jokes about the need for a stomping workshop for people who had forgotten how to stomp, but stomping is like riding a log... falling off a bike... whatever it is.

Loads of laughs - especially as when I had been at the theatre on Thursday night with a friend, we'd had an earnest discussion about how there was so much more to life than partying and that we weren't going to this one because we're all grown up now and there is just plenty of other stuff to do. And she was at the party and so was I. Hopeless.

Danced like a mad fucker as the sun came up. Met a guy called Jesus. Decided he should get a T shirt made up saying "Psytrance Makes Jesus Happy." Have since decided to get a shirt made up that says "Psytrance makes Grumpy Happy." (Grumpy being one of my writing names).

Too much silliness to cover here, but there was lots of laughter, lots of dancing, some good conversation in the quiet moments. Turned into a clear, hot day shortly after I got my purple poncho from the car. Got sunburned. Producer friend turned up just as the DJ playing at the time happened to be playing his track. Excellent timing. Producer friend's smile was a high beamer.

The beauty of it all was that the party was finishing at mid-day which meant there was still time to make it back to Sydney and to the theatre company drinks in the park thing.

We were both pretty shattered but the drinks thing was still going so we grabbed some bubbles and headed back out. Most of them had gone but some of the main people were there and it was really cool to see them. I still get a good vibe from them and think they are very funny people. There is something about the British sense of humour that really appeals to me, and I was surrounded by British accents. It was getting dark and it was time to draw the curtain on the weekend. Said goodbye, was given an invitation to a house warming party which I'll probably go to next Saturday while The Dreaded One is working.

Stopped at a favourite pizza place on the way home and by the end of the pizza we were both saying very little and eating at times with our eyes closed. It is possible to sleep-eat, it would seem.

Woke up on the couch this morning feeling sore and vague, but in a good way. Will I ever grow up? Nah.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Tale Of Two Parties

Major fucking dilemma. Not a major dilemma about fucking (as in "which of my harem of super models am I going to do first?" That is a dilemma I am probably never going to face).

No, this is a very real dilemma.

Yesterday I received an invitation to a theatre company's Christmas party. I've written about this company here before. I like what they do a lot and have written some good reviews of their productions. I think I even saw one of my reviews framed last time I was there. I like the people involved on a personal level too, even though I don't know them very well. It's a vibe thing. They seem like good people. But I've always felt a bit thing about getting too friendly with them because I'm a reviewer and I have to remain... I dunno, cold and detatched, not warm and friendly. Something like that.

So on one hand I feel I have to say thanks but no thanks because even if my reviews are objective (I once did give them a bit of a flat review) what if someone like my editor or the other reviewers find out that I hang out with the theatre company? Would a reader trust my review if they knew I got pissed with the theatre company?

One one of the other hands (because there are several hands in this dilemma), what if I pass up this opportunity? They are really cool creative types who will be drinking wine and mucking about in Centennial Park, a favourite haunt of mine, and we might just hit it off. And if other reviewers go it would be fun to meet them too because I don't know any other theatre reviewers.

But what if I am the only reviewer to show up because the others know the importance of maintaining a professional distance?

But what if I am the only reviewer who doesn't show up? Will that be seen as a snub? Maybe it really is a genuine gesture of thanks and not merely an opportunity to manipulate us into always giving favourable reviews.

What do I do?

Add to this the fact that The Dreaded One and I have been working our butts off and had been talking about going to a doof that's being talked about. First quality one in ages. She wants to go straight after work tonight, party all day tomorrow, come back Monday. I've come over all grown up and don't think it's a good idea to arrive at the end of the weekend feeling exhausted when we're both facing another week of long shifts. Besides, there's all this domestic stuff to do that we've been neglecting due to time constraints. Shopping. Cleaning. There are pieces of paper to be dealt with.

Plus I'm a little over that feeling of having to be somewhere I'm currently not.

Plus I'm not sure missing the Christmas party is something I want to do. I'm not a networking type, but one of the theatre company's backers is someone I did some freelance work for a while ago and he'll probably be there. We lost contact, and this could be a good opportunity to re-establish contact in case he needs a freelancer.

But this is looking like a very good doof. Friends who haven't been out all year are making the effort. I know this because a friend just asked me to look up the details of the party and now I know just how much excitement is being generated and I want to go.

What do I do?

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Yesterday I received a rejection of a poem I sent off ages ago. I'd forgotten all about it. It was a silly thing I wrote in Spain earlier this year and it made me realise what a big year this has been. I wrote the poem in Barcelona while drunk from the night before (wearing my purple poncho and pouring rioja at 8am and justifying my heroic level of drinking on the fact that ponchos are Mexican and Mexicans speak Spanish, therefore it was okay for me to drink like a Spaniard), and generally just drunk on the awesomeness of life. I was in Barcelona, I had been to Turkey, I had quit my job, I had no idea where I was going that day or for the rest of the year. This was a reckless and irresponsible time even by my standards. When you're not qualified for a Goddamned thing, it's probably not advisable to quit the secure job you stumbled into as an editor of a magazine. And yet...

Anyway, I've been so busy with my latest leftfield change of occupation that I've all but forgotten what writing meant to me. In the same way I managed to pretend to be an okay sub-editor and managed to bluff a few people that I had a clue about dance music and managed to dress up my peculiar way of seeing the world as humour, I'm now somehow managing to pick up enough knowledge on the run to convince a few people that I'm some kind of chef. How the fuck do I get myself into these things?

But the writing, Quick, what about the writing? Is that it? Have you written all you are going to write? Are you really satisfied with what you have achieved?

I sometimes tell myself that yes, I have proved my point. A national short story award five years ago, a string of short stories in respected publications. My own humour column and a regular stream of theatre reviews, since deciding earlier in the year that I wanted to be a theatre reviewer, these are good things. Especially for someone who left school at 16 and has not studied.

But today I'm not sure I believe that this is enough. It's not good enough to say that's enough, no need for any more.

The rejection of my silly little Haiku called Bareclona made me miss the whole process of writing. I used to love getting those rejections because it was one more fucker to prove wrong.

I used to wonder why I wrote. Now I'm wondering why I don't.

What Day Is It?

Huh? What day is it?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Little Shop Of Happiness

Oh dear. I did disintegrate rapidly in that last post. 15 hours is a pretty long shift, and it's physical all the way so I am getting into shape. I'm basically getting paid to exercise my physical muscles and my thinking muscle. I don't really spend a lot of time checking my butt out in the mirror. It's just that I'm sore all over, including my butt. I must clench my buttocks when stressed or something.

I'm in the shop today. Business is pootling along nicely. The drummer fromn Frenzal Rhomb was the first customer. Kinda cool. Then there's been a steady stream of ravers gearing up for Godspeed's White Night. They get so excited, which is also cool. The other day a guy came up from Canberra for the party tonight and called into the shop to hang out and chat for an hour and a half. He was waiting for check in time for his hotel in the city, and rather than a cafe or whatever, he wanted to hang out here. Too much coolness. Not Fonzie cool, just warm and fuzzy cool.

Another girl was in here on her phone telling a friend where she was. "I'm in Psydeways," she said. Just like that, no other explanation needed.

We're not making money from it, but things like that just make me realise that we really have done something. Just created this cool little thing.

We sell phat pants here with the most tripped out reflector designs on them. Some of them are custom designed by the ravers. They sketch a design, we get their measurements, get a quote from the designer and get the pants made up. Girl just came in to collect hers. I asked if she wanted to try them on, and when she came out of the changeroom, man you should have seen the happiness. She was bouncing all over the shop and giggling with delight. She wore them out the shop into the 3pm sunshine, pants almost as bright as her smile. Sure, it's good to make a sale, but seeing that kind of happiness, well, it's cool, innit.

Less cool was Mr Creepy who came in last Thursday. I call him Mr Creepy because he was very creepy. But I don't want to talk about him right now and end on a creepy note. I just want to say that although it's a struggle, I quite like our colourful little shop of happiness.

Buns Of Steel

It is 3.30 am. I just did a stressful and strenuous 15 hour shift, and I fucking loved it. I am weary but not sleepy. I should sleep... no I am kind of sleepy... also, the job is physically... erm... physical, and as a consequence I am pretty sure I am losinh weight. I am pretty sure my utocks on the back of my bum when I look in the mirror are looking quite pert.

Ooh. The beer is a lot stronger at this time of the night. Best go.

So that's goonight from me and my amaxzingly pert buttock