Horses

This is a story I wrote for Story Club, which in this particular instance was on at the Old Fitz Theatre as part of The Horses Mouth Festival. It’s a swank event which is going all the way to December 17, so you should pound your walking leg into submission.
THE STARS:
I rode a horse once. My sisters 11th birthday involved riding ponies around Stanwell Tops. It was practically a long, boring episode of The Saddle Club, except my sister’s bitchy friend Melissa didn’t learn her lesson in the end. I have a fundamental distrust of riding large animals – this may stem from this time I saw a camel chomp down on an American tourists face. So, when selecting our steeds, I asked for the oldest, placid, gentlest my little pony. They gave me Patch, a cloudy eyed old gelding who didn’t really react when I sat on him. His enormous face seemed to perpetually be trying to remember where he had put something.
As we rode along the winding trails, I swiftly realised that Patch was in his own senile horse world, completely oblivious to whatever I was doing with my reins or my spurs or whatever horse apparel I was wearing. This wasn’t a problem, until halfway through the ride, he separated himself from the rest of the group, and instead of continuing the climb up towards the sunshine and grassy meadows covered in butterflies and singing birds and equal rights, he took me down a side path shrouded in cold shadows, wreathed by spiderwebs and overhung by various kinds of stinging plants. While a part of me may have embraced my maverick, lone wolf status, exploring Shelobs lair like Frodo riding on the back of an aging, senile Sam – about half of my sisters friends horses followed me down the path towards the temple of doom. We saw brown snakes. We were covered in spiders. I was entirely unsuccessful at leading everybody in a Saddle Club theme song, sing-along.
But much like that ancient nag, I’m going to ignore the obvious trail in front of me, and say to hell with finishing that story. Instead I’m going to lead you down the shadowy side trail of this new anecdote. Is this because I have no more stories about literal horses? Yes. Is it because the end of the former story ends with us despondently eating sausage rolls? Yes. And is it because this other story is better? Let’s find out.
LACK OF STARS:
I used to work at a pub named Boyles Hotel, truly a shimmering carbuncle on the forgotten scranus that is the Sutherland Shire. Apparently in the eighties, Boyles was a dangerous bikie joint, famed for it’s violence and motorcycles and dedication to Khe Sahn. These days the place is patronised by whatever fading remnants of the bikie scene still remain, a bitter, curmudgeonly crowd of about fifteen geriatrics. Our rush hour was at 8am in the morning when the council workers would finish their night shifts. After optimistically doing a two week cocktail making course, the most exotic drink I got to make in my entire time there was a bourbon and coke. It was for a Sheila.
But if I made the venue sound boring, I am doing it an injustice, which I didn’t think was possible frankly. Much like a gangrenous leg that your stupid hiking buddy is just too cowardly to cut off, Boyles seemed to attract the local wildlife. This being Sutherland, instead of arctic wolves or bears, this meant lunatics and Rugby Union fans. The footy fans didn’t seem to ever drink inside the bar – instead on Friday nights they would gather outside and have long sprawling brawls that would eventually involve the police.
The most persistent of our resident eccentrics had one very particular goal in life. Like a disgusting salmon swimming upstream to disgust the other salmon, this man’s modus operandi was to shuffle into the pokie room, sit on a chair and shit himself. After doing this, he would simply leave.
But not everyone was as fun and harmless as old Stoolio – one night while working in the bottle shop section, I was absorbed in bagging my longnecks of VB when a kerfuffle breaks loose. Suddenly I see my coworker leaping the bench and roaring down the street. Turns out someone had just thrown a knife at us.
But after a few months, my shifts suddenly dried up, until I was getting something along the lines of 1 hour per week. This forced me to move on to an exciting job at the Miranda Target loading dock, which I was equally suited for and lasted a similar amount of time. Obviously I wasn’t heartbroken about losing my job at Boyles, and considering I wasn’t bosom buddies with any of the racist thugs that worked in that place, it wasn’t exactly mysterious. Or was it?
I didn’t hear the real reason behind my pseudo-firing from Boyles until it was delivered to me straight from the horses mouth. And by horse I mean incredibly high ex-coworker and by mouth I probably mean ecstasy-hole. Sitting on the train one late night with my girlfriend, this guy suddenly explodes through the door, making an upsettingly determined bee line towards me. When I worked with this fellow, I’d probably never exchanged more than two words with him. Those words were VB and panda. Now he was very excited to see me, and had a rather interesting story to tell.
Turns out that one of the owners of the bar who I had worked with a bunch of times decided that I was a homosexual, which he didn’t like. He then implemented a system where I would be rostered on to do all the most distasteful shifts, such as chasing Stoolio out of the pokies with a broom, so I would hopefully leave. Then when that didn’t work, he simply reduced all my shifts. So, while I was sitting there absorbing that not so surprising piece of homophobia, my new tripping friend added ‘Oh, and everyone thought you were really shit at counting.’ Which is true.
But once at my shitty retail job at the international airport, I got in a lot of trouble and was called in to the store managers office, which just happened to be located in the confectionary store room. My heart in my mouth, I stared at this woman who sat like a malevolent Willy Wonka, haloed by a diabetics hoard of candy, and tried to figure out my crime. There were any number of reasons why I deserved to be fired from this job, the only question being what I’d been caught doing.
My crime was pointing out to my co-workers the mystery shopper that had been staking out our store over the past few days. And part of the reason she was so annoyed, was that she was convinced someone in senior management must have blabbed to me about the secret shoppers identity. Slightly baffled, I told her that I’d heard it straight from the horses mouth, meaning I’d approached this suspicious woman and had a very interesting chat about what it takes to be a mystery shopper. Turns out it requires no qualifications.
The store manager tensed on her chocolate throne and asked me exactly what I meant by ‘the horses mouth’. She had obviously never heard the phrase before, and thought I was insulting her in some kind of new-fangled way that gang members insult people over Twitter.
And as a wrap up, the way that I sussed out the ultra secret identify of the mystery shopper was brain drippingly simple. As we worked in the departures terminal, anyone who is in our shop is flying on a plane to another country. They have gone through security and after they finish shopping, will get on a plane and go far away. There is no street traffic, and definitely no return customers. So when I saw the same woman in the shop for five days in a row, I knew she was either a mystery shopper or the ghost of a passenger who died, probably from all the incredible savings she was making in our store.
MYSTERY: SOLVED
THE SCORE:
1/5

Taxis

Until teleportation, they’re still… holy shit, that’s it. Let’s just call this blog ‘Teleportation Ode’ and leave it at that. We can all go home, go back to our normal lives and forget about this mad dream of spontaneously reviewing things.

THE STARS:

I’ve had some perfectly lovely taxi trips in my time. Of course, the majority of successful taxi rides consist of being so non-eventful that they slip from your mind like an upside-down pear cake on the back of a greasy Bactrian camel. Mmm. Pear cake. It turns out that with taxis, we ignore the government propaganda pounded into our nubile brains during the HSC and forget the ‘journey’. Notable exceptions include the driver who gave us a bunch of chocolate bars for some reason, and the one who genuinely seemed to like my shoes.

LACK OF STARS:

If there was ever a metaphor that embodies the boring to the terrifying aspects of human experience, the taxi-cab is one that you can get into the back seat of and smell deeply. Now, I don’t want to simply complain about the funky human car-sauna stench, or the casual racism, or the GTA style driving – it’s all a little bit bad stand-up night in early 90s New York. What’s the deal with airplane food? I dunno, what’s the deal with how pointless your life is? You just can’t explain some things.

“What’s the deal with how much my leg is on fire?”

 But in the manner of experiences everywhere, sometimes your fare-paying experience in these maverick cars-for-hire are extraordinary. I could go on in depth about the terrifying Vietnam taxi which took us into a shanty-town and shook us down for more money, realised we didn’t have anymore, and then politely dropped us off at our destination. Or the driver who took me and my girlfriend from last years work Christmas party, roaringly drunk, to another Christmas party and decided to ask us riddles. Yes, riddles, like a poorly paid road sphinx. And furthermore, they were riddles where the answers were shallowly hidden morality tales with a patriarchal fundamentalist Christian message.

“While a fish is a good answer, it is not correct.
The answer is marry your girlfriend and stop living in sin, you heathen.”

But at this time of year I get quite a few taxis from work after 1am, due to Western Australia being firmly entrenched in the past. It’s a thing, and it would all be fixed by a quick secession. At that point in the evening after many hours of work, I find it difficult to enact even the most basic of human interactions. So, you can imagine my relief when I get into a taxi last night, to discover a scrupulously clean, new car scented taxi with a polite driver listening to gentle classical music. Classical is really not my thing, and usually just reminds me of Fantasia, but at this point in time I sat back and thought of dancing Pegasi and the like. Until, like a lot of classical music is fond of doing, it stopped being all light and frolicsome, and became dark and brooding like a storm or a cloud of deep voiced bees. And with the added depth, came increased volume. That’s when my driver started whistling along to the Wagner-esque tune. (OR IT COULD HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN WAGNER) And not even with any degree of proficiency – I’m talking the kind of tuneless, atonal drone of a serial killer washing his stabbing knives. As we drive past the Landsdowne Hotel, I look out the window to try and quell my rising panic, and briefly glimpse a couple in the alley. While I’m 97% sure the gentleman was just kissing this ladies neck, with the aural horror happening around me, it was clearly vampire/zombie/sex offender.
I decide to look ahead again, when I notice that we have significantly picked up speed, in relation to the increased pace of both the music and the toneless whistling of the driver. And that’s when we start running red lights. I mean sure, it’s very late at night and there’s about two other cars on the road. But isn’t that vaguely illegal?

As with most of my stories, there’s no real payoff. I didn’t get stabbed by the driver, and I didn’t come back from the dead to blog about it.

Or did I?

THE SCORE:

2/5 stars.

Adam Norris Day

When families come together, forget about their problems and give thanks to Adam Norris.

THE STARS:

Only the most spurious reasons, like tradition, faith and belief keep people celebrating any sort holiday. The Queen’s birthday could be changed to ‘Worship the Amazing Spelling Chihuahua’ and nothing at all would change in the world. Bogans would still drink, I’d still go to work and not get paid penalty rates and the Queen would still remain unaging and malevolent. Then again, that Chihuahua sure can spell some wacky words!

In order to help the world make a little more sense, we’ve created a holiday that is not only celebrated for spurious reasons, but is based on something uncommonly spurious. That something is Adam Norris, a local figure. It’s not important to describe this hatted behemoth and his ridiculous life – all that’s important is getting into the spirit of the holiday. Drinking, carousing, poetry and japes – all these are relevant celebratory styles for Adam Norris day. Rumours are that some sects in rural NSW have taken up human sacrifice and decopage, but there’s no rules or limits on how you celebrate this wonderful day.

In past years, online rap battles have been a clear favourite – and you can  join in the fun on Facebook or Twitter #adamnorrisday. Customary gifts include pineapples and choral renditions of Celine Dion’s lesser known hits. Adam Norris is also firmly against death, so changing your online profile pictures to a picture of his grim visage is a great way to support all the tireless soldiers in the battle against death.

 LACK OF STARS:

If you say ‘Adam Norris’ three times in the mirror, a baby butterfly dies.

THE SCORE:

4/5 stars.

Pineapples

Spiky bliss fruit.

THE STARS:

You zesty ball of absurdist fun. You yellow acid sprout. I don’t know where you come from and I don’t know why you come from, but goddamn it, you are amazing.

If hitting your tongue like a lizard made from sparkle isn’t enough, pineapple has gained added meaning in today’s confusing world of carbon taxes and zany fundamentalism.

When a person puts their hand up and proudly proclaims that they love pineapple, it isn’t the same as your boring friend Sue constantly banging on about her morbid obsession with Paw-Paw. It’s isn’t like that frenzied office-worker who is all loose skin and feverish eyes who bails you up at the urinal and confides that he lost all his weight by only eating cucumbers.

That’s my flappy skin arms, not a bra. And that’s a cucumber. 

By saying you love pineapple, you’re saying you like change. You’re fun, new and don’t put up with any gaff from the old guard or the fat cats upstairs wearing big wigs.

My wig could be bigger.

There’s a very clear historical lineage to this trend, but you won’t find it in any history books. Fact – the dominant paradigm does not like pineapple. Basically it all stems from the first time somebody put pineapple on a pizza. That’s when the world was split in two – one side embracing the sheer deliciosity of this taste revolution, the other half skulking in their marble mausoleums, muttering about tradition.

LACK OF STARS:

Up til now, eating pineapple has just been something you do offhandedly, like watering the cat or screaming at your taxes. But now that you’ve read this, you know there’s a responsibility. You are a pineapple eater now, and nothing will be the same. The people who disagree with your choices will let themselves be known, and while it may be easier to turn the other cheek, you’ve got to wear your pineapple proudly.

Throw a pineapple in the faces of the things that are outdated and pointless. The Queen? Throw a pineapple at her. The Pope? Pineapple chunks. Jim Wallace? Hit him with a length of pine.

THE SCORE:

5/5 stars

Turtles

Are YOU a turtle? Shit you’re awesome.

THE STARS:

Fact: most animals cannot be used as a murder weapon just by throwing them directly into the face of your enemy. I mean, snakes, maybe. But nothing beats the sheer bludgeoning force of the turtle.

Fact: Slow and steady wins the race. What race? Evolution.

Fact: There were these damn snapping turtles (or maybe tortoises, they were too submerged for me to see their legs) that lived in this zoo when I was growing up. Those things gave me the hibblies. Then one day I saw them eat a duck!

Fact: Robinson Crusoe and other famous castaways eat lots of turtle eggs, allowing them to survive impossible odds and be racist.

Fact: The original premise for the  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was stolen from Degrassi Jnr High. Degrassi decided to have less turtles and more Canadians because of the fat cats upstairs dictating policy.

And after this we’ll go fight Shredder, aka youth suicide.

LACK OF STARS:

Once I went to this week long party at my friends house in Oatley, and at some point in time tequila was involved. Tequila is such a great idea, except when you drink it. Being the polite and responsible drinker that I am, I crawled into a corner of their backyard to vomit somewhere safe and out of the way. I chose to vomit all the Mexican out of me behind a palm tree, as is traditional amongst my kind.

What I didn’t realise was that I was showing the same amount of savvy as a turtle, namely the hosts pet turtle, who was hibernating behind that palm tree.

Let me tell you, you don’t know awkward until someone comes and tells you while you’re psychotically hungover, that you’ve vomited on their pet turtle. You don’t know sadness until you’re informed that the super acidity of your stomach juices might have stripped the turtles shell, thus making it un-waterproof, meaning it can never swim again.

So, sure, that’s pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever done. But then it gets weirder.

When our host’s parents came home, they noticed the cat wasn’t sleeping in the room it usually does. Coincidentally, this is the room I was sleeping in while I was staying there. Using complicated science, which I can only assume involve repeatedly throwing the cat into the room and watching it run out again, they came to the following conclusion. I had ‘interfered’ with their cat. I had molested it.

And they didn’t even KNOW that I had vomited on their turtle.

Also, the next door neighbours house burnt down while we were staying there, and it might have been my friend Anna.

THE SCORE:

5/5. That last bit was just about how I suck. 2/5 for me.