Monday, June 16, 2008

In Mysterious Ways

Brendan Heartheton had to jog in order to make the 5:21 train that ran express from the city. At home, or what she called his home, his mother was waiting for him sick and bedridden. She couldn’t cook in her frail condition and the sandwiches Brendan prepared for her every morning would only keep her satisfied until seven at the latest. So he jogged.

It was a fairly bitter and wind beaten night that Brendan missed that 5:21 train and had to wait half an hour for another which wasn’t an express either and didn’t make it home until very late. Stressed and worried he sprinted through the hard flicking rain up the stretch from the station to his mother’s door. The sight which greeted him though was unthinkable. Instead of a dark house and a sad, sick old lady, his mother was out of bed and singing softly in the warm kitchen as she rolled dough.

“What are you doing!?”

“Brendan! You’re home late tonight, oh I was waiting for you! I feel simply fantastic!”

“But you’re out of bed, you should be saving any strength you have.”

“Nonsense. I’ve been in that damn bed for almost a year, it’s time I took positive action.”

“Something is wrong. What happened to you? What the hell is going on?”

“Oh stop fussing Bren! I feel much better, you should be happy. And I’m making quiche.”

Brendan shook his head and shivered. He threw down his wet clothes in the bathroom and splashed his face with warm water before toweling himself dry and throwing a robe over his underwear. His world was spinning suddenly in a different direction. Just this morning when he had cut her sandwiches and left them underneath the fly-net beside her bed she had barely the strength to raise her head and see what filling they held. It was as though she had become possessed by an unnatural force with ambiguous intentions.

In the poorly lit living room Brendan poured himself a large tumbler of vodka and avoided the light and song from the kitchen. Maybe if he ignored it then it would just go away. She would be sick and ailing again.

The truth was, Brendan didn’t particularly like his mother. She was extremely protective of him as a young boy and her fearsome and dominating approach to life left him feeling weak-bowelled around her always. She ruled his life with the loving manipulation that only a selfish parent can. A devoted son to the point of self-impediment he found in her crippling sickness the first real breath of freedom in his life. Suddenly they had been on equal footing; She was as physically diminished as he had always emotionally been. Now some freakish, hellish, miracle had re-imbued her with the strength to hit back. Maybe even punish him for the tastes of that forbidden life outside of her shadow.

No! Brendan was determined not to let that happen. So what if she was up and out of bed? Was she not still just an old and powerless woman? Without the reinforcement of his father’s belt her matriarchal dictates were empty. He would let nothing change, he would eat the fruit that had been given to every mother’s child but him.

“I think you should sit for a while, mother,” he called into the kitchen. “It can’t be good for you to do too much at once.”

“Oh Bren, there you are. I thought you were still in the shower.” It was like she heard the words he’d said without listening. “Come into the kitchen and help me chop these onions.”

“I’m just going to sit in here a while longer I think.”

“…ok. Suit yourself.”

Something was wrong. Horribly out of place. It was a big risk Brendan took, directly disobeying her and that reaction of acquiescence was surely the most dangerous of all.

Some time later she came into the living room with a freshly baked quiche and a jug of orange juice. Brendan jumped. He felt as if somehow in missing that train the tables had been turned on him. He had caught the wrong train and come home to the wrong life, in which he instead was frozen incapacitated as his mother brought him hot dinner and ruled his life once again.

“You started, I hope I didn’t wake or scare you,” said his mother. In fact, in the half light, she looked monstrous. The skin of her face melted into her neck, rippled like windswept desert sands. The light of the kitchen cast one side of her face into stark and eerie relief, and her hair which had not been trimmed or tamed in months of sickness spewed from her head like tree roots. Had she looked even remotely like this on the night around forty years ago that Brendan had been conceived he was sure no such intercourse would have occurred.

“Not at all.”

“Are you drinking alcohol?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Brendan we need to have a discussion.”

Brendan was well aware that any attempt at discussion would involve a lot of dissing, a lot of cussing, but not a great deal of dialogue.

“Something happened to me today Brendan,” his mother intoned with intense sincerity and gravity.

“Something very big.”

“I’d noticed.”

“Don’t be flippant with me please, son, not now. Not after the events of this afternoon. It was at exactly 3:47, and I needed to use the bathroom but I felt so weak, everything was blurry. I tried to look at the clock to see the time and suddenly, out of the digital number seven, out of the number came… Him.”

“A man came out of your clock?”

“Not a man Brendan! Him! The Lord! Don’t you see Brendan? It’s a miracle! From the clock beside my bed a great and warm light burst – I thought I was dying! The world began to swim and my arm went tingly and numb and I tried to cry out but my voice was garbled. Then as though the fires and all the light of the next world surged through my body all at once I jerked awake, standing in the middle of the room, my arms outstretched like Christ.”

“It sounds as though you had another stroke! Have you seen a doctor?”

“I do not need a doctor Brendan. It is a miracle, I am healed. I feel young again. And this is what I want to talk to you about. We have never been a religious family. You know as well as I do that your father would have no such talk, and we respected that. But God is in us all Brendan, He is all about and he loves us.”

“He’s got a fucking funny way of showing it,” Brendan wanted to say, and had he been a stronger man may well have.

“God in his infinite glory may have been ignored by your father but I trust through our prayers he may be forgiven in heaven.”

“Our prayers?” Brendan couldn’t keep silent any longer at that.

“Yes Brendan. This is what I have decided; we are to become messengers of the Lord, for he is Almighty and through His power am I restored.”

Something cold and hard felt like it fell into Brendan’s stomach. Down through his ears dropped his mother’s words and dripped into the deepest part of his gut like a lurid familiar poison. “This is what I have decided,” she had said, and with all the force of a hydrogen bomb such a decision was always irreversible. But no! What had he said? He would not, he could not any longer let this happen! In the second life of his mother so too would Brendan find a new life. Away from her! Her turning point was his turning point and this was the time and place, the only possible time and place to make it so.

“I… I won’t,” he choked on his words.

“You what?”

“I won’t. I won’t mother, I’m not going to become religious just because, because you said so.”

There was a terrible silence throughout the room. A stillness that fought against the rain and wind outside. It had become quite late. Brendan was tense, waiting for how his mother would respond. Would he be free? Would she try to hurt him? To yell, to hit? What other outcomes could a frail old lady bring about – she could not make him believe, that much was for sure.

The silence was broken suddenly by a loud three knocks at the door. Deep, gothic knocks on the thick old wood. Brendan almost leapt from his chair.

“Who could that be?!” He shrieked, his voice breaking mid sentence.

“Oh that’s just Martin,” his mother said a little too casually and deliberately, walking across to the hall.

“Martin? Who is Martin?”

“Martin is our priest.”

“Our what!? Our priest!?” Brendan was standing now, an electric shock of fear had thrown him from the chair and his hands were shaking. He flailed, and sent the pitcher of orange juice spilling across the room. He heard low voices in the hall as the juice dripped from the table and soaked into the carpet.

“Hello Brendan,” said Martin, walking into the living room. Martin was huge. He looked like a bear accidentally got tangled in vestigial robes while devouring a real priest.


“Are you ready for the Lord to come into your heart? To accept Christ God as your savior?”

“I… I…” Brendan moved backwards in fear, but trod bare-footed on a shard of glass and screamed. Martin reached out, but Brendan drew back, still screaming and slipped and fell, his robe untying and falling behind him. He lay whimpering, almost completely naked behind a lake of juice and blood.

“Do you accept the Lord as your guide!?” Roared Martin. Brendan’s mother was behind the priest, face and hands raised to the ceiling muttering some kind of adulation to God.

Brendan saw flashes of light as he lost more blood. He had more than that though – he had lost control. Scenes of his childhood ran past the backs of eyes. Martin’s face blurred. He swam out of Brendan’s focus for a second, and in his delirium he believed for a second the priest was gone, but he had simply bent down and dipped his mighty paw in the pool of liquid at his feet.

Screaming, Brendan tried to crawl backwards on his elbows, but he was too weak.

“In the name of the father…”


“…the son…”

“God no!”

“…And the Holy Ghost…”


“I baptise you.”

And the blood dripped down Brendan’s face, it swam with his tears and the priest offered him his warm red hand.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

For a moment there was nothing

At first they thought it was a pair of shoes. An old pair of weathered red converse sneakers slung over the branch as is so common in parts of the city.

The two young lovers had been walking for hours through the acres of parkland and the reddening sun cut low through the grass and scrub. Still talking as deeply and passionately as when they first met the conversation turned circles and found parts of itself attractive, and the broad ranging topics had perfect coherence in the young minds. The bark of the trees beside where they walked crumbled and flicked as he ran his hand along the trunks, lost in laughter and the pretty round face of a girl.

It was she who had suggested they spend the afternoon in the parklands. Lunch was a standard and dismal affair with friends who talked too loud about too little over too much pizza, so it was easy to convince him to take some fresh air. Wandering words turned to sport, politics, cooking and reached even plans to colonize the moon as they warmed each other in conversation like a continuous rubbing of metal. Soon they were malleable and bonding together, finding soft links and unusually perfect negative spaces in the arms and bodies of one another.

He was an apprentice, making boilers most days a week for the port of the shipping town he was born in and had never left. It wasn’t good money now but in a year he’d be qualified and the pay would almost triple. It wasn’t good work either but he took what he could get. In the late summer he took time off to camp with his mother and younger brother. None of them knew where his father was and those who didn’t assume him to be dead reasoned he was as good as. She was a glassy at the bar by the wharf – the nice upstairs bit for live bands, not the front bar where the fat men in faded blues traded sad stereotypes of stories. He was too young to drink there often, but had found a way in to hear music he liked and found her there as a bonus.

They loved each other.

But in the ever darkening treescape things were becoming less clear. Whilst they still laughed and sang snippets of songs they liked over each other when a lyrics accidentally came up in the course of conversation, shadows started to weave between the trees and in the eyes of the lovers. He squared and she tightened, each subconsciously aware of the roles they were meant to be playing here and each just as scared and protective as the other. Nothing obvious, merely the subtle change darkness brings to the minds of those used to working and playing in the light. There was control lost, one more thing to worry about, time and thought taken away from the delicate game of interrelation.

And then there, slung a meter or so back off the track, something hung from a tree branch. It looked so much like shoes! Two heavy sides swinging suspended by something thin and tangled. In the suddenly cold night breeze the sway of the thing caught his eye and she followed his gaze. Intrigued and still buoyant from the last few hours’ ease and warmth he stepped off to the side to see it better. They both stepped to the right and leaned forwards and upwards then as they did at once yelled and jumped involuntarily backwards.

Hanging, by the sinews of its stomach or its intestines, was a cat. A dead cat, slightly rotten and eviscerated beyond immediate recognition. It’s face dropped lowest, torn in half and missing an eye yet it was the eye which stayed in that created far more fear and disquiet. The legs were tangled over themselves, and twisted so that the spine must have been broken many times. On top of all this, the carcass was spattered with bird shit from where roosting birds above had missed the ground.

For a moment there was nothing, there was a marked absence in the ability of their minds and bodies to respond. A sudden and total vacuum wrapped around the scene and tightened. Then, in a wave, she let out a guttural yell and her whole body shook with unplaced, uncontrollable adrenalin. She didn’t let out what is classically a girlish scream though. It was much more a retching and roaring, rising up from somewhere deeper than cinema and literature’s portrayals of fear; it was the sound of confronting mortality and it echoed inside their eyes.

Walking back, out of the park and along the highway shoulder, he could feel the foundation stone setting into place on the wall that would build up between them. A wall so thick and well mortared no hand could get through to stroke that metal warm again. They talked of course, talked about anything, but not the same anything of a few hours before - A forced anything or really more an anything but. The simple thing they had with one another felt complicated. The sun had long set by the time she stepped up the front stairs of his porch to finish talking before she moved on home herself. But they had nothing more to say.

Years later and separated from his second wife (though not divorced, he didn’t get away that easily) he sits at the port authority pub and drinks to forget the lightness of the stories he once told, to suffocate them and to fill himself instead with life and all it entails.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Music Wrap 2007

This is my 2007 in music, Albums, Tracks and Live shows.

Ah, 2007, the year that will surely be tragically remembered as the end of New Order and, worse, the reformation of Ace of Base. I stole this listmaking idea off what is probably the best indie music blog on the internet, You Ain’t No Picasso, which has supplied me with hundreds of great bands and bootlegs that are unavailable or just plain unknown all the way down here in Australia. These three categories, effectively the Best Picture, Best Actors and Best Director Oscars of my iRiver, have been carefully compiled and updated over the course of 2007 to show what I most loved and what drove me through the year.

My Vaguely ordered top 10 Tracks:
Note: One track per band. Otherwise the top 10 would read like a Hold Steady album.

10)“Chelsea Hotel No. 2” – Rufus Wainwright (Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man Soundtrack).

This album technically came out in 2006 but the movie it soundtracks didn’t make it to Australia until 2007 so I’m counting it. I didn’t think this song could be any more haunting or emotional, but Wainwright’s version is.

9) “My Body is a Cage” – Arcade Fire (Neon Bible).

I can’t actually write those five words without getting the song stuck in my head all over again and imagining Joy Division doing it.

8) “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You’re Told)” – White Stripes (Icky Thump).

When the intro to this song started playing as I sat listening to this album for the first time on my girlfriend’s couch I just wanted to yell THANK GOD. It had been a long and weird experimental wilderness through Get Behind Me Satan but this song should almost be titled “The White Stripes are Back”.

7) “Light to Follow” – The Polyphonic Spree (The Fragile Army).

The Fragile Army was exactly the album this completely insanely odd band needed to bring them more commercial success and the recognition they deserve. Sure, none of the songs quite stand out like “Section 12 (Hold Me Now)” did a few years back, but this one comes closest, along with the fantastic “Running Away”.

6) “Live the Life You’re Dreaming Of” – Sloan (Never Hear the End of it).

Screw the fact that you’ve never heard of this band or will never hear of them again. Just get this song. It’s as inspiring and one-hit wonderful as “Trains to Brazil” was for the guillemots. Perfect pop.

5) “Headmaster Ritual” – Radiohead (Live, November 9th, 2007, Youtube.)

It was hard to pick a favourite Radiohead song for 2007 because everyone was having orgasms over the In Rainbows surprise and I refer not only to its release but also how good it actually was. But a Radiohead cover of the Smiths? How could you go past that? It’s the strangest experience hearing two of the most distinctive vocal twinges of late 20th century British music mix into one.

4) “Phantom Limb” – The Shins (Wincing the Night Away).

Is this the best Shins song since “New Slang”? Probably not, but it sure got played the most by me this year. Emphasized on my list because of their knockout live show at the Melbourne Metro.

3) “Helter Skelter” – The Killers, The Vines, Louis XIV, Howling Belles. (Live, November 11th, 2007).

From the same slog of me surfing the live shows on Youtube around early November comes the third cover song in my 2007 list, but it’s just amazing. I found this right after I saw Across the Universe too, so I was already loving the song, then to see the most amazing line up of talent all on stage together ripping through a song that takes so much energy, it was one of the high points of the year. My only dislike of this song is that I wasn’t there to see it – it was performed on the Killers’ latest Australian tour.

2) “First Night” – The Hold Steady (Boys and Girls in America).

The leading contender for almost half of 2007, this standout from their latest album got punched back to second late in the year by an unexpected sing-along champion. An album that was, like Separation Sunday before it, made of almost nothing but good songs, special mentions go to “Party Pit” and “Arms and Hearts”, one of the Aussie bonus tracks.

1) “Ol’ Black and Blue Eyes” – The Fratellis (Costello Music).

How could this album be so good? This band came out of nowhere for me to be the most played artist of the last two months in my car and apartment. Like Razorlight’s eponymous second album I remain in saluting awe of how every single track manages to be different, yet as catchy and completely appealing as the track I bought the album for. The hardest pick of the year, but it just edged out “Henrietta” and “Whistle for the Choir” as the one I belted out the chorus loudest whenever it came on.

Top 10 Albums:

10) The Fragile Army – The Polyphonic Spree.

9) Favourite Worst Nightmare – Arctic Monkeys

8) Sky Blue Sky – Wilco

7) Wincing the Night Away – The Shins

6) In Rainbows – Radiohead

5) Neon BibleArcade Fire

4) Icky Thump – White Stripes

3) Costello Music – The Fratellis

2) Canon – Ani DiFranco

1) Boys and Girls in America – The Hold Steady

Top 5 live shows.

5) Children Collide @ University of Melbourne.

What an underrated gig! There were about 20-30 of us, mostly there for the free beer and food (Yes, that’s right, free beer and food) and one of the most energetic, tight, and catchy performances of a local band you’re ever likely to see. Well worth it.

4) The Walkmen @ The Corner Hotel

This was the show that made me a Walkmen fan. Supported by the Archie Bronson Outfit, who filled us with enough bass to last a lifetime, this was a packed intimate gig in a great venue. Incidentally, the worst gig I saw in 2007 was also the Walkmen, two weeks later in the Perth Concert Hall after their outdoor show was rained out and everyone was sitting down bored and drinkless not giving a damn, so Hamilton Leithauser threw a sarcasm tantrum and played the most loaded version of “I’m Never Bored” to round out the set.

3) Treetops @ Click Click/ Brown Alley.

I was only there to see my friend’s band, Streetlight, support but Treetops (a band I’d never heard before and haven’t since) blew me away. Poppy and catchy yet strangely political and very, very multi-instrumental. A great, interactive and unexpected live show.

2) The Shins @ Metro

Marred slightly by the fact my friend who was with me and got me the ticket was sick, this show was still intense and amazing. A great use of lighting and a brilliant sound mix convinced me to go back and listen to songs off their albums I hadn’t paid much attention to before, like “Saint Simon”. Their live version of that track was so powerful and so haunting, with much more instrumental and vocal depth than the recording.

1) Nick Cave/Grinderman @ The Forum.

First of all, this is the most beautiful venue anyone could ever hope to have a concert in. Old style sculptures line the rims of the huge domed front pit area with the over-tall roof made out to Harry-Potter-esque resemble the night sky with inky blue spotted with tiny lights. Then, big booths with comfy leather seats over two or three levels and a huge ornate proscenium arch. And in the middle of this were four very hairy, very Australian, suited musical geniuses. Warren Ellis (of Dirty Three fame) plays violin for Grinderman, and never will you see such insane violin technique outside of that Leslie Nielson flick Wrongfully Accused. The real gem though was the almost two hours of Nick Cave at his huge black grand piano, sometimes backed by the band, performing his solo canon largely taking requests from the audience. “Red Right Hand” was naturally amazing and the audience belting it out was probably the loudest crowd sing-along I’ve ever heard. “Sail Your Ships Around Me” was a perennial favourite, but his aching and hardhitting performance of “People Ain’t No Good” made this show unforgettable.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Take Morphine and Die.

Bill Westerberg’s House.

It is Tuesday.

The bees and the hot tarmac roads hum with heat and life as the city squeals in delight. There is more in the air today than global warming and asbestosis. Today is fresh.

Outside of the house two men are talking in mock raised voices. Sniff, sniff, a tiny dog made of grey and white fluff investigates one of the man’s ankles. Some children watch from the front window as the sun first strives upwards away from them then, then sprints downwards and further afar.

The puppy blinks as one man laughs and slaps a woodworker’s hand on the other’s flannel shirt back. Then it lazily coughs and pisses on some daisies.

This was Tuesday and it was squandered, because it was a nice day and nice days aren’t made for the kind of progress that bad days are likewise used as an excuse to not make. All of these two men’s good intentions couldn’t make up for all their bad ones. But the dog doesn’t mind. Nor the kids.

Another dogged neighbour walks up the street by Bill’s house. Old and just a little bit whistling, her puckered lips blow an unrecognizable version of “Goodnight Irene”. Will she stop and talk to these men? She does. It is nice. It is Tuesday.

Spilt on the first man’s shirt is a dried stain of bourbon and cola from a 375ml can, and the others don’t see it. On the second man’s fingernails are the marks of a life too dull to be filled with anything but the duel cultivation of roses and stamps. On the lady is nothing except the vestments prescribed to women, by men such as these, and none of them see these either.

Inside the window, the children have stopped watching the sun and are watching effigies of themselves on afternoon television.

A man breaks away from the conversational dogs and checks the mailbox, where he finds mail. He has never found mail anywhere else. He doesn’t see the miracle of this. Of mail at all.

He sees catalogs and fallen leaves, which he must clean. And yet he doesn’t, instead returning to the others who are now debating why it is so often cloudy and rainy immediately after extremely hot days.

It was not an extremely hot day.

What have we become to see this as normal? Who could be watching the men and children of Bill’s house on Tuesday? No one except for people just like them.

No one is looking.

Monday, October 08, 2007

She cried: More, More More!

Moregasm: A climax that is either so unsatisfactory or so amazing it demands further stimulation.

Floorgasm: Climax/Sex so good you fall out of bed, off sofa, off table or just plain fall over.

Boregasm: He’s into it, she’s pretty much already asleep.

Snoregasm: Dream comes.

Fourgasm: A mythical theoretical moment in which both the female and male simultaneously experience clitoral, shaft penile and dual g-spot orgasm. One of the lesser known signs of the apocalypse. The good apocalypse.

Clawgasm: So good the fingernails dig way into the back.

Strawgasm: Thin dick, still works.

Lawgasm: A climax that cost you a lot physically and emotionally, took forever, and leaves you feeling dissatisfied with the very avenue you employed to find fulfillment..

Poorgasm: Cheap creaky spring bed.

Jawgasm: You get that mouth cramp feeling from having it open too long in pleasure.

Gnawgasm: Effective cunniligus.

Boargasm: Sure they’re hairy and bristly and kinda smelly, but you take whatever gets you off.

Yoregasm: The traditional, the nostalgic, the timeless old fashioned O.

Backdoorgasm: The end.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tick Tock Tick Tock

A good friendship is a lot like a good novel, in so many ways:
It’s immediate, yet lasting.
You can always return to it and find more.
It starts out with something important, then slows down, but builds to something great.
It’s the right length.
It can be surprising or it can be reassuringly secure.
It’s full of great other characters.

But perhaps most of all, and what I wanna bring real attention to here, is what I call the “boredom threshold”. In every novel there’s a point where you get kinda bored. It’s the mark of a great novel, or some factor in life outside the reading of it, when you break through that and finish it. The boredom threshold in novels I find comes at many different places, in so many different ways, for different reasons. For me, One Hundred Years of Solitude’s BT is when the names get out of control and everyone’s suddenly called the same thing. You get past that, you’re gonna make it. In Great Expectations it’s the embarrassingly long exposition of childhood. The Old Man and the Sea – when he finally catches the damn fish and your realize how much of the fucking book is left. Ulysses – the first page. All these parts of books where only a proportion of the readers actually make it through. Where the author’s given you pretty much all you know you’re gonna get in terms of style and you have to decide whether or not you persevere solely on the basis of closure. I hold that this is even more true of friendships. Friends are about boredom. Well, not boredom exactly, but being able to withstand the periods of boredom between adventures. Handling the expository prose before your chase scenes.

The thing about hanging around with these guys, and it really was the guys since male friendship with women is a strange and wholly different beast, was that for all the great anecdotal moments, it honestly was mostly waiting. So many hours feeling like you never wanted to hear anything again about whatever particular interest was obsessing one and only one member of our group. Sitting in car seats enduring others’ turn to choose the music, imagining your choices to be so much more amazing. Wondering why everyone else isn’t as into your music’s turn as you are. Wondering why everyone else isn’t as into you as you are. Yet we all knew how important that down time was. It was like eventless silent bonding, just spending time with one another, sharing wasted opportunity to be doing something more productive. We were like budding couples learning to share the remote for the first time. It was real, not like in memories when it all turns into a collection of the interesting bits both good and bad. Because you never, ever, remember the boredom bonding.

Show me the meaning of being lonely. What a resounding line in what a shite song. If it wasn’t Flo who was singing it so hauntingly, so oddly, on the dewy bonnet of the car I would have been grating and hateful. Instead it just made me think about what it meant to be lonely, and I realized I’d suffered about as much loneliness in my life as a popular pub owner. Sweet sex all. It was weird to be depressed about how lonely I wasn’t. There are people, always people, always have been and I’m starting to realize we’re all the point now where the ones of us left are the “always will be” types. Just, chugging away like always, playing those songs, waiting out turn, sitting around shooting at the stars until the next grand adventure hits us on the head.

There was so much open road. So much time to bore and be bored. Over and over and over and over and over and the wheels spin round and round. Mikey was driving and had the radio up loud, but there was no music, only Steven Fry reading some audio book, I’d long lost what it was, it was some classic. Maybe one of the Amises, maybe Conrad, it was the everlasting prose of the classic English novel, so long dead. They don’t make books that feel right in those cheap Penguin series prints anymore. Last one was Perfume. After that, something stuck a thorn in the side of the words, and scowling for boring novels that everyone assumed were “great”, and no one really read began. Now it is the age of the books everyone wants to read, the ones that are fun to read, easy to read, and yet hollow. Such crap, pedestalled by popular might. It was almost hypnotic to hear the words from the long black car’s stereo. Mikey drove this heavy, unwieldy car like a Formula One usually, and yet we were strolling past the yellow pastures of the inland country slowly now. Maybe we weren’t, but it felt it, the classic literature being read eloquently from the magnetic tape. Feel it, feel the time pass. There is nothing here. There is no story here in the passing of time, it is just a process, like the growth of a sapling into a young tree. No momentous breakthrough of the earth, no mighty history in its bark, just intermediate waiting. Solidifying. We talked about what we believed in. We all believed in things, make believe fairy stories like politics and music and careers. We all had areas in which we were to succeed, and such agony of doing nothing, of drinking, fucking, buying whole bars hits of whatever drugs were going around, then towing a second hand grand piano on wheels behind Jackson’s jeep into the middle of the wheat country and playing old Broadway show tunes for the truckers and the tourists. Mikey found this shining white suit, and if it wasn’t too hot would danced on the lid like Fred A-fucking-stair. That got boring after two days. We left it there. We left so much everywhere, we may as well have just littered the cash. And still time. Time, can you feel it? Can you feel us taking up time, finding new ways to sleep on each other’s symbolic shoulders. It was waking time, but we were asleep in one another’s arms. So close, yet so actionless. The trip was almost over, I thought. Over before it even began, over before we’d made it past youth and art and driving. Well we made it past driving for sure. Late one Tuesday night.

It was howling with wind, but there was no rain at all, clear skies forever. Something was bent ripped and rippled in the gale - corn or barley or wheat or some plant. As oceans they moved and we looked in awe every time we crested their waves on a hill. It was a powerful moment. Late, late at night, at the mercy of the wild world, the weather that man never conquered, the world that remains so vast. It was a powerful moment as we were cast out from whatever happy sunshine sleep we were in and cast down the road as this storm blew all around us. It was a mighty, shattering powerful moment when Johnny missed the curve in the dark and the wind, and ploughed off the road into a ditch near the belted crops. And it was the most powerful moment of all when Mikey, distracted by the sight of the Jeep careening, missed the turn himself and went straight into their back.

I’ll never forget that car crash, for so many obvious reasons, but always the thing that stands out looking back was the silence. The screaming of the wind was so strong, and had been going for so long that we were almost deaf, and certainly no longer noticed the sound of the storm. But the wind completely muted the crash, so in retrospect, the whole thing happened – for me at least – in completely silence. I heard no metal screeching, no “Last Kiss” screams and busted glass, I heard nothing, just saw it all like a black and white film from the twenties. At the end, as I was climbing out of the back dazed, I just about hallucinated a fancily typed white-on-black sign card that read “Crash! Our Protagonists Are In A Pickle”.

And in the silence and in the black and white there was the sweetly warm blood of Jackson and Maya. So much sticky blood, so oddly comforting against the cold, as we carried them, bleeding ourselves, in turns up the unlit road not knowing anything ahead of us. And snatched up by the twisted air were the wisps of Flo, sometimes clinging to me, sometimes singing “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” as if to keep our spirits up.

Of which, we’d drunk 1.2 litres of vodka between us by the time we reached the farmhouse. Like a good novel, like a good friendship, we were drunk and bloody.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Carry On

This crushing depressing burden of pointlessness is twisting my whole outlook on life and death.

Or at least that’s what this little business card some emo handed me on the street said. Mikey fucking loved that. He took one look at it and made me turn the car around so he could go back and get a pile for him and anyone he wanted to give one to. There are a whole lot of women in bars along the coast who don’t have a lot right now except a lost sense of sexual innocence, a massive hangover and a little black business card. Mikey had a sense of humour like that

Sometimes when we had the time and inclination we’d pull up somewhere late at night, lie back on some grass or a park bench and smoke the night away. We’d each completely relax, disappear and do our thing. Maya might play guitar if we were lucky, she didn’t have a keyboard way out in transit though – though she often bought one when we saw a music shop and gave it to the nearest person as we rolled out of town to make space in the car. Flo would write; she claimed she was working on a Hunter S. Thomson-style recount of what we were doing for a skater magazine based somewhere mountainous and far away. We generally believed the first half of that. Johnny would go for a run, and come back with something random that he’d found, and we’d all sit around and laugh about it until Mikey inevitably had an idea that seemed hilarious but ended up destroying whatever random object it was. Soho would talk about the architecture around, or some plant nearby, she was so enamoured by our physical surrounds. I’ll never forget, one night we were lying back and lucky enough to be in a patch of grass in the middle of an urban forest. There was a rectangle of sky, and though it was completely clear only one star out of the millions shone through the light pollution. Sarah looked up and said “Imagine, that’s light that’s traveled at the fastest speed possible, forged in the centre of a colossal nuclear furnace, for years and years, to hit this tiny spot in this tiny corner of the galaxy, and we can top that shit with a 30-cent globe. We’re over the hill.”

On such nights Sleepy would develop his growing love of photography, something none of us really expected him to pick up with such enthusiasm. Armed with the finest massive digital camera money could literally buy, he’d go so much further than just to document, his photos were truly mind-blowing. Often focused oddly, or distorted, he somehow managed to convey a super-real sense of urgency, like his subjects were the only solid objects in a sea of madness. He managed to convince Maya to pose naked for him once, and then he only took photographs of her face. Mikey, who’d been arguing against the idea all day, was completely confused. Jackson just shrugged and said “imagine how unique your facial expression would be if I got you naked in front of the lens”. Tellya, if Sleepy was after unique facial expressions he should have snapped Mikey there and then.

These night time art-picnics out in the cool fresh air served as a kind of showcase of what we could do. Most of the time we merely drank and got high, or drove somewhere in order to do so, or rested in order to do either again. But these meetings in the moonlight served to make us display, to keep creating and stay vital… almost to remind us who we were. Certainly the aimlessness, the boredom, the complete lack of direction or motivation would have otherwise driven us down in just a few days. By creating a forum where we developed projects and assignments and ourselves, we held onto a lot of the reasons we left in the first place.

But this sense of stagnation that had to catch us eventually. It was late at night on the open road, and someone was calling out my name. I snapped back to the moment, like waking up. Maya in the back seat, telling me I looked exhausted and should maybe stop driving. Maybe she was right; this was a great example of why men should listen to beautiful women’s opinions instead of just remembering how attractive they are when they move their lips and tongue. See, that kinda stuff’s important. True. Was tired. Getting to my head you know, this road thing. We were so illusory. Illusory is a great word, I thought to myself. Then I veered off the road and slammed the car into a fence.

Almost needless to say, things were very icy for a while after I broke my arm. And Mikey’s fender, headlights and bonnet. It wasn’t like money was an issue, we fixed the car up in half a day, got me the best health care excessive bribery can buy and we back veering all over the highways before we knew it. But there was something different. Suddenly we were all aware of not only our own mortality, but also of the dangerous and essentially directionless road our lives were on. In the hospital, Mikey was looking pretty burnt out, just sitting there in a big green low-slung hospital waiting room chair. I saw this great exchange where he tried to foist one of those emo cards onto a stunning redhead nurse and neither of them could really tell if he was joking or not. It was a bitter day. Ha! It even led to the kind of thinking and phrasing like “it was a bitter day”. The world really did feel like we were in a plotless gothic romance. We were, and still are I guess, the twisted wreckage of someone else’s sublime.

And then into the icy-ness came a warmth from the most ironic of places – ice. It was one of those magical moments that advertisers dream of and we were all sitting silently around one of those wooden picnic tables in the parking lot of a gas station. It was act three of the long pause in conversation between us, and the non-action was really hitting it’s dramatic arc apex. Then, out of no where, Flo has bought this ice cream. You know those really nice creamy-but-hard ice creams they make for kids, in like chocolate or banana flavours? Well Flo had one of the multi-coloured “bubblegum” flavoured oned of those, where all the primary colours swirl together, and it suddenly looked like the most amazingly delicious thing in the world. I asked for a bite, and she happily said sure, which made Mikey go all pop-eyed with annoyance and jealousy. I figured I’d risk it.
“You wanna split one of these Micheal? They’re really good.”
He wavered for a second on the possibility of yelling at me about endangering his life, but then he just melted into sugary, creamy, reconciliatory acquiescence.

We were gonna be fine. Aimless or not, just as long as June 30th never came around, just as long as we never had to face ourselves, then we were doing just fucking grand thank you. Like the rest of you. Like always.
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