My first jacket (Or the time I went to the Arctic and burnt things)

I read this at The National Young Writers Festival 2013 as part of the ‘First Time for Everything Event’ which was maybe my highlight of the festival? Who knows.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my time on this moist round planetary mass that we affectionately refer to as ‘Earth’ or sometimes ‘The fantastic spinning volcano orb’, it’s that everyone has a weakness.  A weakness that we can identify and exploit for business reasons.  Now I’m not talking exclusively about Limpy Joe and his shattered femur – sometimes a person’s weakness is less obvious, and less awesomely accessorised by a sword-cane. A weakness can be a soft spot for corn-based foods, a hatred of tight hats perhaps. For me, it’s a psychotic desire to own pretty jackets. You’re probably saying ‘plenty of people like jackets, just the other day I wore a jacket to work, Patrick, you’re a fool, I won’t stand for this, I won’t stand for the beautiful lies coming out of your vile yet enticing face-hole.’ And you have a point, my pompous hypothetical friend. Lots of people wear jackets – it’s one of the top five established garments. Number one is pant. But few people lose their entire shit immediately when confronted by jackets like I do. I am normally a mildly fiscally responsible person, due to never having much in the way of fiscals, but I have, and probably will again, spend every dime I own on a neatly turned lapel, leaving me without the ability to pay the rent or feed my cry hole.

This all started when I was eighteen, and on a jaunt in the city with some of my new university friends. Everything was fresh and startling, and I was enamoured by catching public transport and drinking midday beers and feeling fresh spring breezes on my stupid innocent face and also having friends for the first time ever. We spent the day browsing shops in Newtown, and at one point wandered into a place called Gallery Serpentine, which was full of elaborate Victorian era goth frocks. At this point in time I earned my coin by folding cardboard boxes in the loading dock of Target Miranda, and assiduously trying not to get involved in the crime ring that operated from it. Money was not a plentiful thing in my life, the cardboard box folding industry being a skilful job with few rewards. So it was with great surprise that I walked out of that shop fifteen minutes later with a beautiful Victorian Priest’s coat that had cost me five hundred dollars.  It was a full length jacket, which flared out slightly at the hips, with a high collar. If you can’t visualise it, think of what Professor Snape wears in the popular Harry Potter movies. Now you also know what I dress up as for Halloween every year.

But at that point, suddenly deprived of my ability to pay for basic essentials, I had to somehow validate my impulse purchase. Since I already knew there was a vast dearth of Victorian weddings for me to officiate any time in the near future, and since I also possessed a flagrant inability to travel back in time, this meant I now simply had to wear my ridiculously formal coat everywhere. Starting with my very first university house party on the upcoming Friday night. I felt there was certain symmetry to wearing my first expensive article of clothing to my first ever house party, proving that I had no idea what the word symmetry means.

partty

The party was at a sharehouse nicknamed ‘Gaynor’, a clever reference to the fact that it was a house on ‘Gaynor Avenue’. Gaynor was the quintessential sharehouse – large sprawling rooms in various states of decay, rumours of a ghost, a certain odour, a tobacco stained roof. Once I spilled an entire bottle of red wine onto the carpet, and when I came back with some paper towel, I couldn’t find the stain. The carpet was… thirsty. It was the kind of house where once I went over and one of the hosts was super excited about a roast dinner he was cooking. The whole place smelled amazing, as he’d been slow roasting all the meats and vegetables in the oven for the majority of the day. Finally that night, we all crowded around in anticipation as he opened the oven and pulled forth the tray, only to discover that somehow, in a mystery unsolved to this day, a basketball had melted over the top of the roast, ruining the entire meal.

But none of this had happened yet. It was my first house party, and I entered it dressed like a scary penguin, armed with two bottles of Passion Pop. Immediately I discovered one of the greater faults in my long list of ‘why it is a stupid idea to wear a $500 jacket to a house party’. And that was the fact I was terrified of getting it dirty. Someone reeled towards me, splashing red goon with wild abandon. A giant naked man, smeared head-to-toe with blue facepaint tried to hug me. Later on I held my friend Jimmy’s hand as he peed in the middle of a freeway, and managed to avoid him getting run over by a truck, or worse, wee-wee on my coat. I soon lost all sight of having fun, and instead viewed the party as an elaborate scheme to ruin my coat. I was like a mama bear, protecting her baby bear that she really couldn’t afford in the first place.

As you have predicted by my sneaky ‘smoking gun’ writing technique, I later drank those bottles of Passion Pop. Now, I’m not saying that I can’t hold my alcohol – eh, I can’t even lie. I’ve never been able to hold my alcohol. I got spectacularly drunk. And the majority of the rest of the night comes mostly from corroborated sources, who delight in telling this story over and over and over.

At some point, it became increasingly obvious due to the large line of people with giant inflated bladders, that somebody had locked themselves in the bathroom. After a bunch of hollering and knocking, it was decided to knock the door down. This was unsuccessful.  Then my friend Willis was taken outside and boosted through the window, ignoring its protective layer of glass. Once Willis dodged the razor sharp panes and extricated himself from the sink, he discovered the bathroom had been transformed into a place of rare horror. Judging from the descriptions, it sounded like someone had gone to great pains to vomit on every surface available. The floor, the walls, the mirror, the toothbrushes. That someone was me, and I was passed out in the bathtub.

There are people at parties, who no matter how drunk they get are still great forces of organisation and sanity. One of these people decided they had to get me out of my vomity clothes. My shirt came off, as did my shoes, but when they got to my pants, they discovered I possess a kind of unconscious kicking instinct. In the face of such stout opposition, they very rightly gave up, leaving me facedown, half naked in a bathtub in the middle of winter, junk exposed, unconscious.

Now this is where things begin to get weird, and where I begin to remember stuff again. I woke up, and I was cold. I was shivering violently, my face pressed against something icy and white. I raised my head as much as I could, and saw only whiteness stretching out infinitely in front of me. With all the sexy power of hindsight, I now realise I was simply looking at more bath, but in my inebriated state, I decided that what I was looking at was the vast snowy wastes of the arctic, or perhaps the Antarctic, I couldn’t remember the difference. How did I get in the Arctic? Why was I naked? Why did everything smell of bile? These are all excellent questions that I didn’t bother to think about due to my fear of dying from hypothermia. Now what happens next I can’t justify with any sort of logic, but I can only ask, what would you do if you were suddenly dying in the arctic? A little bit of empathy, please. Because with great difficulty, I managed to find a lighter in my pocket, and proceeded to set my own hair on fire. It wouldn’t catch – so twisting my body around, I saw my saviour hanging on the wall – a roll of toilet paper. Let’s ignore the incongruity of toilet paper hanging in the arctic – let’s ignore it, because I have already set it on fire. It quickly spread to a pile of magazines and gross urine splattered books and old toilet rolls. The fire might not have generated enough warmth to save my life, but it did create enough smoke to alert the rest of the party who then came in and rescued me, or as they saw it, stop the drunken psychopath from setting things on fire.

thearctic

The next morning I glumly helped mop up the vomit, sweep up the shattered glass, scrub the burn marks from the wall and help re-screw the door onto its hinges, and amongst all the devastation and filth, untouched and pristine in a neatly folded pile, was my jacket. My stupid, beautiful, jacket.

Fishing

Man versus fish in a battle of wits.

THE STARS:

If you’ve ever read this blog before, you can probably guess that I am not good at/ don’t like fishing. Much like many male oriented pastimes such as rugby, patriarchy and successfully impregnating women, I just don’t see the attraction. But this isn’t a story about the hilarious time I get taken fishing by my well meaning father/uncle and get water all over my kaftan and then accidentally catapult a small trout into a helicopter. No, this is a story about me accidentally being goddamn brilliant at fishing.

When I was a teenager, in one of those long Coke ad style summer holidays, I would basically spend the entire day kayaking around the bay. Pretty idyllic in retrospect. Anyway, one day I was standing in the water, stock still, lost in thought. I was probably thinking about elves or castles. I must have been standing still for so long that I was mistaken for an old post (not the first time that’s happened) and when I looked down, swimming between my feet was an enormous mullet. Without any conscious thought, I cocked my fist back and punched the fish right in the face.

This is exactly how Aquaman started. 

Despite the fact I’d never punched anything before, I apparently am a Schwarzenegger when it comes to marine life, because the fish rolled over and floated to the surface. Faced with the knowledge that I’d now killed an animal for absolutely no good reason, I decided the honourable thing to do would be to eat it. Admittedly, I felt a small amount of pride as I carried the fish into the backyard and presented it to my dad. Magnanimously, I claimed we could all eat it.

But, for some reason my family weren’t keen to eat the animal that I’d sourced using only my mighty fists. “It’s probably poisoned, or full of mercury, or old and diseased” they claimed, nervous as old and sensible women. So I was forced to release it back into the water. I like to that the mullet is still out there somewhere, swimming through the silt, brain damaged and confused, the impression of my spindly knuckles on its forehead.

LACK OF STARS:

When people talk about ‘hidden depths’ they’re usually referring to someones ability to flourish in a crisis, or be unexpectedly kind or charitable or strong. For years, I always felt my hidden depth was the ability to gather food by punching fish. Not that I ever did it again – I just knew that I could.
This was until I was spectacularly upstaged by a friend of mine. We were all swimming around in Victor Harbour, in Adelaide, when we heard a loud shriek. My friend Samira had been startled by a large jellyfish floating next to her arm, deadly tendrils floating around it like a dead ladies hair. In her efforts to swim away (let’s not use the words ‘flailing wildly’ here) she managed to smash her fist right through the globular face of the jellyfish.

This is exactly how the film classic ‘Waterworld’ started. 

The danger wasn’t over however – Samira had to be physically rescued from drowning. Because she was stung and paralysed? In shock? No. She was in such a hysterical state of giggling that she couldn’t keep her head above the water. Laughter kills, children.

THE SCORE:

Urghh. 3? Yeah, why not. 3/5 stars

Washing up

The endless battle of man against his own filth.

THE STARS

Probably the weirdest you’re ever going to see me is if you have the misfortune to find me washing the dishes. I’m someone with pretensions of cleanliness, but am all too deterred by strange sociological issues like ‘It’s a tuesday’ or ‘or there are too many cups’. So I tend to let things get dramatic before I finally snap and clean the shit out of everything. Part of the problem is that just before things get excessive, I tend to have a flip to the other part of my personality. After days (weeks) of silently despairing at the state of things, I suddenly decide to embrace the mess. It’s a feeling of punk type liberation, where I decide that not only am I OK with the mess, I’m going to wallow in it.

That’s right, that’s Keith Richard’s high-fiving me for causing domestic mess.

Then I flip right back in when there’s maggots in the tupperware and mould climbing the forks. I don’t mind the actual act of washing up too much, because I usually listen to music and come up with ideas for writing and things. It’s pretty great, but it does mean I sing a lot and mumble to myself and chuckle at little ideas. Also, because I hate getting my fringe in my eyes, I wear a sailors hat of Bridget’s.

LACK OF STARS

Well, today something hilarious happened. Huge washing job, weeks of excess. Unfortunately, one of the pink rubber gloves has a giant hole in most of the fingers. I wear them anyway, because I hate touching old food. Somewhere about 3/4 of the way through the three hour job, there’s a knock on the door. I kinda assume it’s my girlfriend, cause I haven’t see her all day. (Where are ye?) So I just run to the door and open it. Instead it’s some lady doing door knocks about the proposed St Peter’s gas mine. She looks me up and down, noticing all of these things in her shrewd profiling.

1. Shirtless
2. Wearing a sailors hat
3. Wearing ONE pink rubber glove
4. Big wet stain at my crotch, because I’m way taller than our kitchen sink.

However, she pushes through this and extends her hand. I shake it, and notice only from the sudden limpness of hers, that my hand, after three hours of submersion, is pink and wrinkly and moist. Now, after the debacle at the swimming hole last week, I’ve been fairly wary of my stupid face and the stupid things it says, but at this point my brain is saying ‘go with good natured explanation, surely lots of people wear nautical head gear while washing up.’
So I say, “Ahoy!” and chuckle a little. She decides to come back later.

A gas mine, ye say? I knew a man with half a face who fought with a gas mine for two days
and three nights in the South Pacific. They ended up married and live on a submarine,

Once I worked as a dish-washer at a retirement village in North Sydney. The job was fairly easy, as I just had to rinse the dishes and then load them into this giant robots brain type industrial washer which blasted them with super powered steam until they gave up and washed themselves. However because this is the elderly, and they can only eat food which has been reduced to a fine paste, the dishes always looked like Tarantino gore. For some reason, they always made me a little queasy, but I didn’t want to be pathetic so I moved on. Anyway, one day I came in, and because i’d gotten up at four in the morning, I didn’t really notice that my vast nausea was perhaps a symptom of more than simple tiredness. All I remember is rinsing a splattered zombie off one plate, and then this vast ringing noise began in my ears. I must have looked like death, because people asked if I were feeling all right. Then some of the geriatric nurses started looking at what I thought was a particularly virulent pimple on my neck. Turns out it was a spider bite from a White Back, which had gone necrotic, which means the skin had actually started to die around it. When I asked if they were sure, they all rolled their eyes and said ‘If there’s one thing we can recognise instantly after working in this place, it’s necrotic flesh.”
Shudder.

Also, there was a lady who made me sneak flowers into her tea, and claimed to be a Polish princess. I always humoured her, just in case she was and then she put me into her will.

Anyway, I’m fairly sure that when I die, I’ll be made to wash up for an eternity. I just hate the pointlessness of it all, the Sisyphean repetition. My most hated thing in the world is when you finish a big load of dishes and someone comes in and starts cooking immediately with them. For gods sake, give me some time to rejoice.

THE STARS

3/5 stars

The Roman Empire

Was chatting to my housemate, and he was talking about how much he loves pizza. Before he went off to the sewers to fight Shredder, I mentioned that pizza was the greatest gift that the Italian’s have ever given us. And then I modified that with, well except maybe the Roman Empire. We both looked confused. And since then, i’ve been thinking far too hard about it all, but doing absolutely no research.

THE STARS
I love history. If I was trying to advertise for history, the slogan would be ‘You can’t make this shit up’.
 I liked history so much when I was a kid, my list of things I wanted to be when I grew up was ‘Archaeologist, Wizard or Writer’. Of course, I didn’t realise that you didn’t get a Wookie when you became an Archaeologist.

HOLY SHITCATS, IS THAT THE ROSETTA STONE!?!?!?

2 stars for Julius Caesar. Caesar was so goddamn badass, that not only did he turn the Republic into an Empire, he started the world-wide medical craze of ripping babies out of their wombs via the stomachs. I can only imagine it’s because he was impatient, and nobody makes Caesar impatient. Et tu Brutus, et tu. My Latin isn’t perfect, but I think that means ‘You haven’t heard the last of me’.
Another star for aqueducts. Yep. I still laugh, because they make me think of ducks that carry water.

LACK OF STARS

Russel Crowe. I might as well blame the Roman’s on him.

Urghhh.

THE STARS:

3/5 stars

2010

The year that was.

THE STARS:

If 2010 was a food, it would be some kind of pasta. Tasty, sure. Memorable, perhaps. Lots of great bits in it, tomato based, quite heavy on carbs. But quick, damn quick. Makes me think I was eating 2010 while doing something else. Putting out the washing. Washing the dog. Dogging a wash. Piloting a blimp.  And yes, a lot of things were accomplished this year, so I suppose that’s an adequate metaphor. I remember the year that I was 21. Gosh, what a tasty year that was. It was like this lime tart I had once, which while eating I hoped would never, ever end. And it never did. If you look closely, I’m still eating it now.

Next year: rice cakes.

LACK OF STARS:

Well, Skynet still hasn’t taken over. I know I shouldn’t WANT the grim, dystopic future mapped out in Terminator’s 1 and 2 to happen. (I’m ignoring 3 & 4. I imagine that those movies are a direct correlation to Arnold Swarzenegger being sent back in time to kill ALL THE TALENT IN THE WORLD.)

“I wish someone had come back in time to kill me :(

Yes, any smart person doesn’t want the world taken over by a giant sentient homicidal computer, but the fact that it hasn’t happened yet is really keeping me on edge. I just can’t relax, and relaxing is important to me. So, uh, fingers crossed for 2011.

THE SCORE:

3/5 stars

The Toothbrush

Common household dental hygiene utensil, or global tooth tool conspiracy?

Stars:

Ubiquitous and undeniably utilitarian, I’m awarding the toothbrush a star for giving me the chance to use so many ‘u’s’ in my description of it. Also, letting me avoid the rotting fangs of a Medieval Queen earns it yet another. And the final star comes from the simplicity and clarity of its name – it is a brush of teeth. I’ve heard from reliable sources that the original premise for the toothbrush was actually ‘Dr Zoomenhowers gum and tongue hygiene pole, with optional bristles’ but was scrapped for the simpler ‘toothbrush’ after Dr Zoomenhower died during the blitzkrieg.

Dr Zoomenhower.

Lack of Stars:

While the toothbrush seems like it does an admirable job at scrubbing plaque and bacteria away from our pearly whites, I am in fact disappointed at its Stone Age simplicity. In this age of laser shoes and cats that connect to the internet, the toothbrush hasn’t progressed beyond the original model. In fact, its efforts at joining the modern world – the so called
‘electric toothbrush’ – is an elaborate, battery powered farce. Nobody needs electricity to simulate a gentle brushing motion. Why are the fat cats upstairs withholding the miracle pastes or antibacterial tooth caps from us? The fact that they try to keep us placated with ‘improvements’ like bendable heads and purple speed fins, shows how far up this conspiracy goes. Mark my words, the dentists have an agenda, keeping us using sub-standard products in order to keep them fat and happy, poking around in our diseased mouths and cackling the entire time. Minus two stars for giant dental conspiracy.

Score:

3/5 stars.
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