HELLO INTERNET BOY #5: People like this

There was some medium-quality banter occurring as the jousting set up at Ironfest, the MC smoothly entertaining the crowd with historical facts and medieval jokes, while two crowd rousers in motley bounced around and shouted the kind of zingers usually reserved for pantomimes or for when your less funny friends are playing Halo. After a particular clunker, Bob turned to me and said ‘where do they find these people?’ He paused, and then gestured to the entire crowd surrounding the jousting pit and said ‘I always want to know who the fuck are these people? Where do they come from? Why are there so many people at this thing?’ I nodded my head, but didn’t point out the obvious – he was one of these people. He and his family had been coming for the last three years. He was the them.

Bob and Danielle don’t really seem to be the type to go to Ironfest, and I suppose the ‘type’ would be the kind of person who owns a WW2 era tank and drives it around at festivals and tells new people that they meet ‘I own a WW2 era tank’. But their son Jack loves Ironfest with the giddy passion of a hyperactive four-year-old boy who likes swords and things, so he’s the easy one to explain.

Bob has been my friend for my entire life, and Danielle since high school. They are excellent people, but provide a project like this a delightfully stark juxtaposition between when Bob and I were teenagers playing Alleria together. Bob and Danielle own a house, have a son and have another child on the way and are able to talk about grown-up things with casual ease. I know that I am probably unrecognisable to my teenage self, but sometimes it feels like I am the same person but with added dogs.

Bob didn’t seem like the kind of person to play Alleria either – he didn’t do any other form of creative writing, he hadn’t read any books apart from Ice Station by Matthew Reilly – but for a fairly short period he played in this fantasy world as a normal human man named Alpha Numeric who liked stabbing things.  I’m pretty sure I forced him to play at first, because when I’m obsessed with something everyone around me has to join in, but Bob became obsessed with it too. I remember one summer holidays we’d schedule our days – meet up for a swim in the bay, go to someone’s house for lunch, post on Alleria, get dragged behind a boat, go to the other person’s house, check Alleria. I remember Bob enthusing wildly during one giant siege plotline, where both our characters were surrounded by swarms of skeletons and we threw molotov cocktails into the throng, and Bob maniacally clicked the refresh button and said ‘why can’t everyone just fucking hurry up and post immediately!’

Probably because it was 4am in America where the majority of players lived.

Bob’s Allerian days ended when the site crashed and migrated to a new sturdier server, an event that lasted for around six months. I asked him about it at Ironfest, and he said ‘yeah, it’s the kind of thing where you’re utterly obsessed but then when it gets taken away, you don’t care at all, it just switches off’. I don’t think my mentality is like that, I nurture my obsessions, probably to my own detriment, but it made me realise that the passion, the overwhelming nerdery for something is what I value in life. I like to be enthused about shit, I like to be in a hot-sweat of massively interested in whatever stupid thing I am doing. For me it’s mostly been various writing things, and the things I read, and stupid games. I like that Bob was obsessed with this stupid game that I love, I like that he is obsessed with photographing glow worms, and before that he was super into looking at the moon. I love the people at Ironfest, who are obsessed with dressing up as things and going to the Blue Mountains and remembering really small details about big things. Yeah, I like it all.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.

*Ironfest photos taken by Robert Beazley*

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HELLO INTERNET BOY #4: Hitting the Winnebago

My friend Bob and I are at an archery range at Ironfest, a giant medieval/ WW2 tank/ cosplaying affair and I have just discovered I have forgotten my wallet at my home, three hours away in Sydney. This seems fitting, another element of chaos in the bewildering kaleidoscope of random crap that seemed to characterise my life at the moment. As a man dressed as a very pert-nippled bare-chested Roman legionnaire made entirely out of Carlton Draught boxes chatted to an elaborate fairy queen, I kinda roll my eyes and look in my wallet-less bag and thought ‘oh brother, this figures’.

My partner and I have moved house only the day before, and our new house was a tightly-massed squeeze of boxes. I was trying not to think about it, but I knew I would never be able to relax until everything was unpacked and the floor was swept and all my things go in their prescribed places, ok? My health has also taken another turn for the worse, and I am now enjoying the thrills of a FODMAP exclusionary diet – basically I can only eat a limited amount of strange bland foods for a month, and then slowly, week by week, introduce new things into the diet to find out what triggers me into debilitating stomach cramps and bile vomiting and gut-crying. I am not enjoying the idea of taking this diet with me to the US. All I want is a moment of calm, a time to say ‘NOW THE PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED, NOW YOU CAN HAVE A LITTLE REST AND EAT GRAPES LIKE A LAZY ANCIENT SENATOR’. All I want is to stop chafing at my problems with my mind. I know they’re not even big problems, they’re just irritants, but it makes me more enthusiastic to eliminate them, like when you spend all night stalking an annoying mosquito around your room, because it’s better to know you’ve dealt with the problem than lie awake and worry about it buzzing next to your ear again, and no Bridget, I can’t turn the light off, I’m hunting!

But there’s something about Ironfest which makes me feel like all these worries, even this new lack of wallet, is somehow irrelevant. And it’s not as if this weird thing puts everything into perspective, it’s more like it’s just the wrong place to get stuck racing around the worn track of your mind. Who can worry about medicare when you’ve just watched a grown man charge his horse at another grown man on a horse, and then that man gets knocked entirely off his horse by a stick? And this is all voluntary, this is a choice these people made. Who can feel trapped by their circumstances when suddenly it’s a fake battle happening with incredibly loud cannons and muskets firing giant plumes of smoke in the air and babies are wailing in horror and your ear-drums feel like they’re going to explode and the fat red man says ‘remember folks, while this isn’t the Battle of Waterloo, it was a few months before it!’ and you nod your head as if that’s a thing that makes sense. The French army sure is padded out with a lot of children or Tyrions!

Back at the archery range and I’m doing my best to do a great shot, with methods learnt from a million fantasy books. Straight back, tight core, draw flush to the jawbone, envision the flame and the void – and boom, my shots are going fast and deliberate, hitting the target, hitting a statue of a turkey. I turn to Bob and he’s looking at a Winnebago on the far ridge and he makes a face like ‘fuck, I think my arrow went up there!’ and this girl standing behind us starts laughing and says ‘Dude, I saw that! I saw that!’ and one of the guys running the range comes over and says ‘what’s going on?’ and sees what we are laughing at and says ‘haha! Oh well! Haha!’ and I feel like sometimes you just have to let yourself shoot the Winnebago.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.