HELLO INTERNET BOY #28: Bye bye Bob

At my sixteenth birthday, I invited my school friends to come to my house at Maianbar, which is a little town in the middle of the Royal National Park. To get to Maianbar is a long drive from the nearest point of civilisation, so my bright idea was to pick up people in my dad’s boat from Cronulla wharf, which would be both faster and also a fun boat adventure ride. I assumed we’d have to do two trips, but my mate Bob who also lived in Maianbar, offered to pick some people up in his tinny. My dad’s boat was a nice big smooth thing with seats, while Bob’s tinny was small and metal and sounded like a drum and a small dog. The people who got in my dad’s boat sped off into the distance, the boat cleaving through the water like a hot knife through yet more water. Bob’s boat however climbed the choppy waves and landed with a thump, forcing the terrified girls to scream and hold on desperately. I was in Bob’s boat, and remember thinking ‘Hmm, must be really choppy, what a shame.’ Eventually Bob hit a wave hard, and instead of climbing over it, we went through it, the entire ocean rushing into the boat, drenching everyone from head to toe. The girls in the boat shrieked, makeup running, clothes gone see-through immediately. It was a sunny, yet deeply chilly spring day. From then on, the entire trip was just the boat hitting wave after wave, the only sound the rush of sea-water, the struggle of the motor, the deep thumping of the boat’s metal hull slapping the water like a maritime themed Fifty Shades of Gray, and the sound of teenage girls screaming.

When we arrived, the girls were hustled off to find new clothes and Bob and I tied up the boat. “Wow, must have been super choppy’ I said to Bob. Bob shrugged. ‘Nah, I was just having fun driving the boat at the waves as fast as I could.’ This is one of my favourite memories of Bob, and also an accurate snapshot of his personality. Bob definitely has a tendency to drive his boat straight at the waves if he needs to. After lunch, my friend from school Danielle decided she wanted to go swimming. Nobody else wanted to go with her, because the water was freezing. This didn’t perturb her, and she put on her swimming costume and then looked at Bob, who she’d only just met, and said ‘Come swimming’. He did.

Now they are married and have two children. Yep, all thanks to me.

This story is relevant because as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Bob and I played Alleria together as teenagers, and both him and Danielle and I met people from the game together, travelling to Canberra for weird parties. He’s always been a part of the real life part of this journey, always been roughly an hour south from wherever I’m living. But now on Sunday, I’ll be farewelling Bob and Danielle and their kids as they leave the country to go and live in Seattle. They’ll be making the transition from friends who I always feel bad about not seeing very much who live super near, to friends separated by all the oceans in the world. They will be transferring from real life friend into digital, more people who will be on opposite routines, drinking alcohol when I wake up, waking up when I go to sleep.

I’m super, super excited for them, and quite in awe. Doing this kind of dramatic, life changing adventure is impressive enough, let alone with two small children who probably aren’t super helpful with moving large boxes. I don’t know. I plan to go and visit them in Seattle, at some murky, distant point in the future. I also feel that due to my family’s lifestyle, I expect people to go away for large periods of time – but it will be interesting watching this transition happen. It will be interesting watching them turn into internet people. I am going straight from their farewell lunch to a conference, so it will be interesting to see how I go. Historically I am very controlled at farewell parties because I don’t really believe they are happening, but also strangely emotional at farewell parties of people I don’t know well (why do I keep going to stranger’s farewell parties is another story).

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HELLO INTERNET BOY #8: Schedules

In a few days I will be on a plane heading to New York, that mythical city that lives in my television and dreams. There is nothing left to organise, there is nothing left to itemise on my little lists. My bag sits half packed, full of t-shirts and entirely necessary books. My carry-on luggage is full of special little vials of moisturiser and toner and witches brew in a clear bag, because otherwise my face will dry up on the plane and I’ll suddenly look my real age. I am in a place of surprising calm, because really I’ve done everything I can to organise myself.

I was nervous about a week ago, anxious about effectively slingshotting myself into a different world. I kept buying things like travel planners to try and calm me down. But it wasn’t until Michelle, who is one of the people I am going on a road trip with, sent through a schedule doc of where we will be road tripping, which included a whole range of OPTIONS and PLANS and LOCATIONS that I had to highlight, that I actually properly calmed down, because I was obscenely delighted. It made me happy. It made me realise I have things to do, scheduled things, official things.

I also have about a thousand things to do on the plane, which is actually kinda dumb, because my main hobbies in life are sitting still and reading/watching things. Back in university, me and my sister went to Dubai to visit our dad. I decided that because I was chained to a seat for twenty-five hours, this was a great time to read a whole bunch of dense experimental literature that I’d been unable to focus on. Funnily enough, I wasn’t able to focus on Kerouac’s lesser novels or Pynchon, and wound up watching the same episode of Friends over and over again. Julia and I then ordered a glass of gin and tonic each, which tasted like it was made by pouring gin into a glass and then explaining the idea of tonic near it. It was strong and bitter and oily, and I gulped it down. A few minutes later, I realised I was massively drunk – apparently alcohol is more potent in the air. I decided to go and do a wee, and when I got out of the air-toilet, I saw a woman doing squats and stretches.
‘It’s so I don’t get deep-vein thrombosis’ she told me, with a wink.
‘I might join you!’ I told her, and started squatting beside her, which she took in good grace. She then started giving me technique advice – ‘butt OUT, butt OUT’.
I suddenly and immediately sobered up mid squat, and kinda wandered to my seat, wondering if I was the biggest light-weight in the world, but when I got back I saw that Julia was uncontrollably sobbing, and when I asked why, she said she had no idea. It was just that kind of gin.

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.

‘I don’t plan to ruin everything’

I like to think that my brain is slippery and streamlined, like it’s full of an expensive brand of lube and that’s why my thoughts rush around it so quickly and I tend to blurt things out with basically no ability to censor. I like to think that, but really I’m just prone to saying things. This is obviously a theme I’ve explored before in this blog, but I’ve recently landed a dream job at Momentum Books and someone asked me how I went in the interview. Then they paused, and asked me how I’ve ever gotten any job ever. This is a really good question, and bears looking at. Obviously I didn’t go too badly in my Momentum interview, although I do remember saying the sentence ‘Well, I don’t PLAN to ruin everything.’ Well played, Patrick.

 Generally I can come across as a mildly employable person. I don’t have a hook for a hand, or a neck tattoo of an eagle carrying an erect penis. Sometimes the stupid comes out slowly and subtly, like carbon monoxide poisoning. Other times it’s direct and in your face, like someone throwing a lump of carbon directly in your face. Much like the time I decided I wanted to work at a sex shop in Caringbah, because 90% of all shops in Caringbah are sex shops, and when I walked in, I handed my resume across the encounter and said ‘Hello, I was wondering if you have any positions.’ I then cackled like a witch, took my resume back, apologised and left.

             Liquorland in Miranda seemed an obviously good place for me to work as a casual employee. It was near my home, provided flexible hours for a university student and was literally a land of liquor. So when I went in for my interview, I really didn’t expect to have to clarify more than those points to the interviewer. Maybe I thought we’d talk some real talk about availabilities on weekends, and maybe if my nose was doing that spontaneous bleeding thing, I’d have to clarify it was due to harsh skin medications and not excessive cocaine. These were the things I was prepared for.

‘You can have a good life at Liquorland’ stated the portly manager, hitching his shorts to the left of his vaguely visible testicles. ‘I earn enough to support my wife and three dough-like children’ he continued, flipping open his wallet to show me a picture of his dough-spawn.

‘What we want to know, as a company, is where do you see yourself in five years?’ The first answer that sprang into my head was ‘the moon’, so actually I was doing quite well when I told him ‘Not working here.’

            By the time I’d left university and was looking for real jobs, I had learned how to mildly lie. I’d managed to fuzz my lack of credentials enough to get into a second interview at an architecture magazine, for the role of an editorial assistant. The office was stupidly chic, and it smelled like black coffee and expensive floorboards. I don’t remember much of the interview, but they were kind enough to give me some feedback after I was rejected. My two major mistakes were this:

  1. Apparently I paid more attention to the office dog than I should have. Which was clearly a trap. A TRAP I WOULD GLADLY FALL FOR AGAIN.
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Who’s a deadly boy?

2.  When asked who my favourite architects were, I swiftly thought on my feet and told them ‘I really appreciate buildings in general’.

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‘I feel like my love for general structures will make me more efficient as an editorial assistant, unlike say, some kind of pyramid fanatic or whatever. I literally have no idea what this magazine is about.’

But really, the most awful word salad of my life happened earlier this year when I was shortlisted for a writing residency in Singapore. The fellowship would have paid me a bunch of money to live fully supported in Singapore for six months and work on a full length play. Pretty awesome. A large part of the residency involved teaching writing to students, the planning of which took up the majority of my thirty page application. So when I was shortlisted and told I would be interviewed via Skype, the majority of my preparation was going over my teaching schedule – outcomes and workshops and strategies etc.

            When the Skype window opened, it became rapidly clear that I was talking to a room of about fifteen people. However the only person I could see was a disapproving English professor type, slouched back with his fingers steepled, looking vaguely appalled at everything. After some light chit-chat where they said they liked my project, one of the disembodied voices claimed we should get down to business. I nervously shuffled my notes, mentally pronouncing words like ‘projected outcomes’ and ‘Stanislavski’.

            ‘Why do you think art is important?’

I froze, and then laughed a little. ‘Umm, well you know, art is exactly that.’

‘What?’

‘Important?’

It became very clear, very quickly, that not a single question was going to reference my application, and instead were questions stolen from a panel called ‘Making Poetry Relevant to Teens in 1982’.

‘What do you want the students to take away from your classes?’

‘Actual pieces of writing which they can use to further their practices.’

But the voices insisted. ‘But more symbolically, what do you want them to leave with’

‘Umm, self esteem?’

Finally the professor type, who had been silent and judgemental the entire interview spoke up.

‘And why do you want to come to Singapore, Patrick?’

‘It is where the residency is’ I answered dully, no longer having any real clue what they wanted from me.

‘Yes, quite. But why Singapore in particular? What do you know about Singapore?’

‘Well’ I said, desperately trying not to think about their zero-tolerance policy on chewing gum ‘the last time I really boned up on Singapore was during War World Two’.

He raised his eyebrows, which I took as a cue to continue digging my own grave.

‘Obviously I don’t mean I was alive DURING world war two, ha ha ha.’

One of the disembodied voices laughed, but it wasn’t a laugh with me.

‘I mean, you know, I read a lot about the Japanese occupation during World War Two. That was interesting. Interesting and horrible.’

The professor rubbed his head wearily

‘Indeed, and you’d know then that today is the anniversary of the date the Japanese left Singapore.’

‘Yes, I did know that’ I lied. ‘That is why I brought it up.’

There were no more questions after that. I didn’t get it. Oh and also once I went for an interview at Groupon and the building set on fire, but that wasn’t my fault. Officially.

Animal Cruelty

This story was originally read at Confession Booth, which was an absolutely hilarious and wonderful night and you should go. ALSO, I read it again at Story Club with a host of talented, talented people. Thanks for having me!

The cars were packed with case after case of cheap beer, rolled up mattresses, cans of beans and a lonely, holy coffee plunger. But before our caravan of courage could even disembark, the word arrived via text message that actually, our host didn’t want a horde of undergrads descending on her parents beach house, in a decision that can only be described as poorly timed and eminently understandable.

It was in this moment that the classic ‘Sliding Doors’ scenario was established. On the one hand, we could simply unpack the cars, go to our respective homes and listen to Bright Eyes albums, or whatever it was we did in 2004. Or we could, as our friend Mike generously suggested, go and stay in his parent’s vacant house in the middle of suburbia for a week, an option which took the concept of beach house holiday, and subtracted the words beach and holiday. Imagine the scene – Gwyneth Paltrow standing on the platform, deciding whether or not to enter the sliding doors of the train. That song by Aqua comes on – if you can’t remember it, just substitute ‘Barbie Girl’ in your head, because that’s a song that deserves remembering. But instead of taking either option, Gwyneth repeatedly bludgeons her weird flat face against the trains ‘sliding doors’, blood splattering in large starbursts. Imagine that, and you’re halfway to understanding how bad the decision was when we said yes to Mike’s modest proposal.

Mike is like a beautiful hothouse flower, grown in a greenhouse made of cheese. That’s a weird way of saying that Mike is one of the loveliest, stand-up guys I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and that also his family is fucking batshit insane and their house a manifestation of all that is wrong with them. Imagine former US President George Bush Senior riding a giant bald eagle and instead of arms he has flags bearing the star spangled banner, and instead of legs he has guns and also the eagle is carrying a collection of teapots shaped like Rosie O’Donnell’s skull, and you’ll just have discovered the inspiration for their interior decoration.

MIKES HOUSE

The other thing to remember about this house, is that nothing opens from any direction without the use of the master key. So you couldn’t open the door of the house from the inside, if you didn’t have the key. You couldn’t open any of the windows. You couldn’t open the sliding door to the balcony. There’s no way out. Drums, drums in the deep.

Somewhere over the next four nights, the terrible event to which I am confessing occurs. On its own, the deed seems inexplicable and unforgivable. But before I am tried by my jury of fashionable peers, I need to weave the story of other shitty things that happened, to maybe promote an understanding of why I did this thing. This terrible, terrible thing.

The first inkling that our thrilling urban getaway was less holiday and more horror-day (that’s a difficult pun to enunciate) was on the first night when we decided we should do a booze run. My mate Bob, not able to fit into the car, but still wanting to go along on the expedition, decides that he’ll just walk the two blocks or so to the local shops. Around four hours later, people start to realise that nobody has see Bob since that fateful moment. We call him, and through an inexplicable static, as if we are on walky-talkies, we hear him yelling that he is ‘lost in a swamp’. We are in Oatley, a suburb bordered by yet more suburbs. There are no swamps in the suburbs. It is known. Then, using logic usually reserved for horror films, we fan out in a drunken search party, separately exploring the side streets and mysterious cul-de-sacs of Oatley and greater Mortdale. The rest of the night was literally spent finding missing people, like the worlds stupidest game of Marco-Polo. At around 3am, I found a tennis court, and sitting under the bright lights was Bob, looking extremely relieved and also covered in a strange amount of mud.

It was during the days where the absence of beach or any activities besides drinking became noticeable. We played Pictionary and drank Bloody Marys, and also succumbed to a group panic attack when Mike went to buy lunch, and took the key with him, effectively locking us in the house. The cloud of cigarette smoke was so dense by that point, you could actually effectively duck underneath it and hold conversations with it. And that night, when we went to sleep, the house next door burnt down. We were woken by the sirens and the crackle of flames, but had to rouse Mike’s brother before we could open the door and check it all out. It was about 3am by this point, and when he opened the door, sitting on the stoop, illuminated by the burning building was our friend Anna, smoking a cigarette. To this day nobody knows how she got out of the house, or more importantly, how the house next door burnt down… But this is not my confession. I did not burn down that house. Anna may have. A fun fact: on the same night as the house fire, Mike drunkenly chose to come out of the closet to his older brother, meaning that it wasn’t only the next door neighbour’s earthly belongings that were going up in flames, it was perhaps also Mike’s parent’s expectations of an all-American, gridiron loving, vagina-frequenting son.

My confession, unfortunately, involves animal cruelty. I need to establish that I really like animals. I like dogs more than people. I like cats more than civil liberties. I like big cows more than big-faced titties. The other day I spent two hours diverting a stream of ants out of my house, using blu-tac and lumps of sugar. I would never knowingly hurt an animal. Unfortunately there are two allegations of animal cruelty made against me on the last night of our Oatley adventure.

Sensing that our enthusiasm was waning, and also we kind of all hated each other, on the last night instead of beer and other lay-varieties of alcohol, Mike broke out some bottles of tequila and also some genuine Czech absinthe. We drank the absinthe in the traditional style – dripped over sugar, passed over with a flame, and then shotted like frat boys. After the first shot, Bob immediately vomited. The rest of us pushed on. I have no real memory of anything else that happened that night, but two things definitely did occur. Like a sick cat, I took myself into the backyard, picked a palm tree and then spent the next hour hurling on it. After I was finished, I went inside and like a sick cat passed out on Mike’s cat’s bed. The crime scene is now set – for after we left the next morning, two shocking things were discovered by Mike’s parents, recently returned from the US.

The first was that their cat was now violently opposed to its bed. With great concern, Mike’s mum repeatedly threw the cat onto the bed, where it would proceed to freak out. After discovering from Mike that I had drunkenly slept on that very bed, Mike’s mum made the following accusation. That I had sexually molested her cat. Just like an episode of Law and Order: Wild Accusations Unit, she calmly reviewed all the evidence, and then jumped to the most disturbing and weird conclusion she could think of. This was not a joke suggestion – Mike’s mum was seriously convinced that I had done this. Ladies and gentlemen, I am so very happy to tell you that I really, really didn’t.

Then, and I say this with multiple levels of shame, when they went outside to check on the pet tortoise, all they found underneath its favourite palm tree was a disgusting pile of vomit with a tortoise underneath it. I had vomited on Stanley the Turtle, a sentence which can only be followed by a thorough hanging of the head. The only defence I can muster here is that I was not aware of the fact that I was vomiting on a tortoise. I am sure there are people in this world who seek to carry out the very action I am describing with a degree of foresight and intent, and those people are monsters – but I am not one of them. It was dark, and tortoises have chameleonic properties. But apart from the fact that I yakked in someone’s backyard and didn’t even clean up after myself – the story gets a lot grimmer. You see, apparently tortoises have a layer of natural varnish on their shell, which keeps it waterproof. A varnish that is incredibly susceptible to things like stomach acid, which it had spent the night marinating under. A series of events that meant that if that tortoise ever wanted to swim, it would actually die, having lost its waterproof layering. Which is the grim knowledge I’ve lived with for years – the fact that I’d doomed Stanley to an existence without swimming, which is probably like flying for tortoises. Or I’d killed him. That is,  until I decided to run this confession by Mike at a Game of Thrones themed dinner party, where he was dressed as a ravishing Catelyn Stark. I wanted to make sure he was fine with me bad mouthing his family, and by the light of roaring sconces, around a mouthful of honeyed goose, Mike told me that in fact Stanley was alive and well, which is exactly the most unexpected twist you could think of at a soirée devoted to Game of Thrones.

Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards – Written Word

Hi folks, so I know I spend a lot of time spruiking various things, like my plays and publications – but I have another thing. I’ve entered SOYA in the written word capacity. If I win, I get $5000 in Qantas flights. This is actually amazing timing, because lately I’ve been planning on writing a novel, which is very much in the style of this blog, and it requires a whole bunch of travel for research. Hence this award would be spectacular. And if you’ve ever wanted to read a whole novel worth of crap by me, this would help you too!

It would be pretty much balls-out fantastic if could you go to my profile: http://www.soya.com.au/entrant/patricklenton/ and like some stuff and share it around. It apparently helps if you do that? Thank you so much.

Your fellow motorist.

 

It would mean so much to me my heart would burst out of my chest and spray you in gratitude.

It would mean so much to me my heart would burst out of my chest and spray you in gratitude.

“Nobody Wants You” – my talk to undergrad creative writers

I spoke on a panel at my old university yesterday, which was officially titled ‘Life After Uni’ and unofficially ‘Negotiating the Black Hole’. It was to the current creative writing students. I was really excited about this, immediately intrigued to see whether I could collate all my writing experiences into one cohesive message. Would it be a message of hope, or perhaps a kind of blighted subterranean bell driving the townsfolk mad? We were asked to present a list of everything we’ve done and the challenges overcome and where we are now, with vaguely a five minute time limit. After that it would be opened to the audience to ask questions.

The more I thought about this, the more concerned I was that my writing had no message. I was too sporadic, being a playwright at one point, a literary editor, some short stories, poetry boyband member, that time I pitched a film about an octopus to Rian Johnson – what the hell did it all mean? So in typical me style, I completely over-prepared. I was adding notes on the train down. None of the other panellists even had notes.So what I ended up doing was speaking for way too long about the things I’d done – derailing my own conversation with funny anecdotes about hotels in Tasmania, which I cackled over, before I ran out of time and had to move on to the next speaker (which was entirely fair as I’d gone WAYYYY overtime). All the other panellists were funny and informative, but I’d felt there was no real cohesion to what I’d said, there was no lesson. It sounded just like I’d read my resume.

'AND NOW I WILL READ MY ENTIRE LINKEDIN PAGE, FOLLOWED BY SOME STORIES FROM MY CHILDHOOD. PS - IF YOU WRITE FOR A LIVING, YOU WILL DIE ALONE AND UNHAPPY. Peace out.

‘AND NOW I WILL READ MY ENTIRE LINKEDIN PAGE, FOLLOWED BY SOME STORIES FROM MY CHILDHOOD. PS – IF YOU WRITE FOR A LIVING, YOU WILL DIE ALONE AND UNHAPPY. Peace out.

I did have a message buried in there, which was that I didn’t feel qualified to give advice, because everything I’ve done has been like a particularly haphazard experiment. And at this stage I can point out certain things that definitely have worked, and some things that look like they might be working and some things that I hope do work. But I’m still in the middle of the experiment, so writing up my science report and handing it in would be premature. I suppose it doesn’t end until I’m dead. But, in writing terms, I suppose I can give some advice to young writers  on good places to start the grand writing experiment, which I didn’t really feel like I got to do.

When it came to questions, I only had the time/opportunity to give two bits of advice. The first was write for or edit the uni newspaper, because that always looks good for any writing position later on and will give you actual skills. Then I insulted that paper, talking about how when I was there it looked like a cross between a kidnappers ransom note and a Lenin retrospective. (I picked up a current copy and it looks really good now btw – not to mention there was some dudes excellent butt on the cover).

Then, as closing remarks, we were asked to give one piece of advice. I was torn between something generic like ‘don’t isolate yourself, get out there and make friends and contacts’ or something more philosophical.

What I went with was something along the lines of ‘Just remember – nobody wants you. You’re doing something that nobody in the world actually needs. It’s often useless and frivolous.’

This wasn’t meant to be a barrage of ill-placed ‘real talk’. I still remember my alcoholic lecturer coming in and telling us ‘nobody would be successful ever’. What I was trying to remove is the concept of entitlement. Far too many writers believe they are being hard done by, because it’s a very difficult craft and industry. But the industry owes you nothing – so you have to work hard to make your place. Think outside the box, be professional, be organised. If your plays aren’t being produced, produce them yourself, if you think there should be a walrus themed poetry night, organise it. You can’t rely on favours – but if you are out there making yourself known, opportunities might come up, things might happen.

It was meant to be an inspiring kick up the ass, and to move away from the chic helplessness a lot of failed writers cultivate. But as per usual, I fucked up my word hole.  So now I’m writing it. Because writing is awesome and is a much more efficient medium to impose information on others. And as for some kind of cohesive message from my writing practice? Nothing except for possibly ‘I enjoy doing it still’.

Uncle Hercules

Like with most families, if you shake the Lenton closet hard enough, you’ll hear the dry rattle of shame skeletons rattling around inside. And as the years have passed, time has unearthed the calcified details of some truly great stories. For example, I could have gone with the tale of Uncle Bob, supposedly the kindest and gentlest of uncles when my mother was growing up. But like all great men, he possessed a fatal flaw, a tiny weakness which in the end would prove his undoing. Such as when he was arrested for shooting at some kids who were trying to steal his marijuana crop. Crazy Uncle Bob was raided by the feds, and discovered to have alongside his extensive collection of firearms and drugs, a house rigged from floor to ceiling with home made traps, like a stoned, psychotic MacGyver was squatting at its centre.

So, yes, I could have written a story about Bob – he is the reason why our family has a collective eye twitch whenever we hear the eponymous saying ‘Bob’s your Uncle’. Yes, he really was.

But the story I’m going to tell is the myth of Uncle Herc, the Mayor of Cobar. For my entire life, we’ve heard stories of Uncle Hercules, who in our tiny family managed to live up to his legendary name. He first reared his ridiculous head when my parents were only newly married, my mother at the tender age of eighteen, my father at a slightly stringier twenty one. My father had been hospitalised with glandular fever, and my grandma decided to calm my distraught mother with the story of how Uncle Herc, who was the Mayor of Cobar, had died young from glandular fever. He even looked remarkably similar to my dad.

ARTISTS RENDITION

ARTISTS RENDITION

Now, it would be wrong for you to consider my grandma malicious, despite what seems to be quite obvious cruelty from that story. She’s just odd. This is the woman who has for years played scrabble against her invisible friend, Anne – and lost. Who spends the majority of her day filling piles of notebooks with the most useless minutiae of information, such as the spelling of football players names long dead or numbers of lottery results long spent. This is the woman who once didn’t come to Christmas because it was too windy. And I know what you’re thinking – we all go a little funny when we’re old. But she’s been like this since she was thirty.

Grandma is known as Shirley the First – my grandfather married another Shirley after her. Shirley the First takes an inordinate amount of pride in her nickname, obviously taking it as a measure of preference, rather than numerical ordering. And at the funeral of my grandfather it became obvious that Shirley the First was living in a fantasy world that only vaguely resembled reality.  She spoke lovingly of all the wonderful years they spent together, and called him the ‘best husband in the world’. She seemed to forget that he’d cast her aside for Shirley the Second.

So, it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise when the horrible truth was revealed about Uncle Herc on one ignominious day. While grandma hasn’t gotten any weirder with age, she has obviously forgotten about some of the lies and fantasies that she enjoyed in her youth. So, after I proudly told my girlfriend – a one time resident of Cobar- the story of Uncle Hercules, the Mayor of Cobar who tragically died young, grandma nonchalantly corrected me on a few details.

One – while he was distant family, he wasn’t actually related to my dad

Two – he wasn’t the Mayor, he was a civil clerk.

Three – he didn’t look like my dad.

Four- he only died recently, of old age.

Five- Herc is short for Hector.

Then, this woman who had for some reason invented an entire person, questioned our sanity. Like we were the ones who were living in an elaborate fantasy world, where a man named Hercules was the Mayor of Cobar and tragically died young. A different world. A better world.

THE SCORE:

1/5 stars. Big disappointment.

This Mysterious Broom

I found these brooms when I worked at a kindy gym named ‘Gymbaroo’. For twenty dollars an hour,  for one hour a week, I would set up and pack away a variety of children’s play equipment in a dusty hall in Taren Point, pretending I didn’t smell the teenage janitors smoking marijuana and having pre-marital sex in the janitors closet. I met them once, and they offered me some of their demon-weed and told me how they dropped out of high school to start a family. But this is about this fucking broom.

THE STARS:

‘LINDA YOU MUST RESPECT YOUR DUTY BEFORE YOU BECOME A CANTEEN LADY’
‘DON’T TOUCH LINDA’S BROOM’

Look at that broom. Just look at it and appreciate all the nuances of its existence. Sometimes I think this broom was put on earth just to fuck with me. If my friends weren’t lazy and/or good natured, I’d expect an elaborate prank. This must be what a creationist feels like, baffled and alone.There are just so many unanswered questions, so we shall explore them:

* Who is Linda? This is her broom, yet why is it addressed to her? Did someone take her broom, etch a message on it to remind her of her duty? If so, what duty was she neglecting? Was she trying to rise through the ranks to become a canteen lady? Did she then, upon receiving this warning, write a riposte herself, warning her tormentors to not touch her broom?

* Or did Linda write this upon her own broom as a form of self motivation? Why is she writing in third person? Is she a narrator? Is she THE narrator? In this particular blog post, no, I can categorically say she is not the narrator. I am, and my name is Patrick. Hi. But she might still be a narrator. Somewhere.

* Was Linda the previous janitor before the current teens, or as I like to call them ‘The Most Depressingly Real Modern Version of Romeo And Juliet?’ If so,  we can envision her grimly sweeping the hall after the 9pm badminton, gritting her teeth and repeating under her breath ‘Linda, you must RESPECT your duty before you can become a canteen lady’, her powerful strokes driving the dust back in miniature hurricanes. Each time the brooms head hit the floor, Linda imagining she is sweeping the laughing faces of her detractors, perhaps a mocking hegemony of tuck-shop ladies who refused her into their clique.

* Did Linda have a previous issue with people touching her broom? What were they doing with the broom? Was it butt stuff? It was probably butt stuff.

* Is Linda a witch? Was this some kind of Quidditch thing? Probably not.

LACK OF STARS:

We can only be sure of one thing – Linda loved her broom. She didn’t want anybody to touch it. Would Linda leave it in a dusty storeroom? Never, not Linda’s broom. We have to assume she is dead. Did she ever reach her lofty aspirations as a canteen lady? We’ll never know. We can only hope she’s sweeping in heaven now, serving sausage rolls to the angels.

THE SCORE:

5/5 stars.

The Dentist

The doctor for the face bones in your head gash.

THE STARS:
Adulthood, for me, tends to come in waves like hot flushes for a menopausal woman or hot flushes for someone who is on currently on fire. In the middle of playing Skyrim or painting my High Elf army, I’ll suddenly find myself doing my taxes or buying a gym membership. It’s a kind of madness, a fever that not only makes me realise my life is stupid and I’m doing it wrong, but that I am strong enough to find solutions to deal with it. This is of course opposite to the regular kind of deep paralysing chill of adultness, when you curl up on the couch watching Buffy with a kind of numbed indifference, desperately ignoring the five hundred dollar phone bill you racked up by using Tumblr on your smartphone.
The other day at work, I suddenly found myself googling dental clinics, and then my phone was in my hand and then I was booking an appointment. It’s like I was possessed by my sensible uncle. All those television ads about ‘sensitive’ teeth had started making sense to me, cold water and ice based cocktails suddenly assailing my talk hole. But my satisfaction with my adult-flush quickly disappeared when I looked down at the mauled remnants of the packet of Oreo’s that I’d just eaten with two hands, and the sudden awful realisation that it has been an entire decade since I last entrusted my teeth to a dental hygiene expert.
LACK OF STARS:
When I entered the dental clinic, there was nobody at the desk. There was however, the shrill whine of a drill, and I shit-you-not, the overwhelming stench of burnt hair or flesh. I waited for a while, until a lady came out of the room, sought to take her mask off, yet was foiled by the blood on her gloves.
I spent the next hour reading Men’s Health, wondering if I truly did seek a V shaped torso, and if not, what letter does my torso currently resemble? Then it was finally time, and I was introduced to the very polite and professional dentist. She subjected me to an extraordinarily involved examination, involving x-rays and photographs and randomly tapping my teeth with a sharp hook. She didn’t even berate me after I told her this was my annual ten-yearly visit. Then again, she had seen my details form, where I had written for my occupation ‘writer’ after first crossing out ‘itinerant shepherd’. She probably, and rightly, assumed it was a financial thing.
To cut a long story short, I have one cavity in one of my molars. I will be getting it filled next week. It is all very costly and is making me very sad. But, one cavity in ten years of neglect is actually fairly awesome. But the far more pressing trouble, and the cause of my tooth sensitivity, is gum degradation. Gum degradation caused by me being TOO vehement with my brushing. My daily attacks on my on mouth, wielding my toothbrush like a bristled club have basically flayed my gums away from the roots. And it’s permanent, too. But this is just so me – I tend to cause my own problems by being far too energetic about trying to do positive things. My mother is the same – she recently gave herself calcium poisoning, taking far too many supplements after getting scared about osteoporosis. It’s making me wonder if some of the manic energy I put into my projects might be the same – if I’m mutilating something while trying to make it better. If there was ever an image of me that encapsulates what I’m all about, it would be me drunkenly cleaning my teeth, a fevered glint in my eye, lips drawn back into a rictus as I scrub until I bleed.
Ladies.
THE SCORE:
1/5 stars

Whisky

Beneath the peat bogs of Scotland flows a magical elixir that we call ‘peat bog water’ and it’s delicious.
LACK OF STARS: (Look, I’ve mixed the whole formula up. Stop crying)
My friends eighteenth birthday was held in the Sutherland Army Reserve base, because her dad was the Major or the General or the King or something. At eighteen I was fresh faced and innocent, approaching all experiences with a sense of wonder and dread. Parties had only just become legal drinking experiences, which meant I had to stop drinking whatever Lemon Ruskies some dudes older brother could smuggle in, and actually go to the bottle shop and make informed choices. I had to decide what kind of drinker I was going to be. So, I wandered into this party with my ten dollar bottle of Bombora coconut rum travesty and set about having a grand time.
I quickly discovered that the main difference between sixteenth’s and eighteenth’s, was that alcohol was a catered affair. The family actually provided booze to the punks and gutter rats that were frequenting the event. And provide they did – before my bamboozled eyes lay not only eskies full of chilled beer, but dozens of bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label. Now, I’d never drunk whisky before. At pubs and clubs, my drink of choice was often a Bourbon Whiskey, because of reasons unfathomable to me at this advanced age. I can only assume I thought it was cool. And along that vein, I rather thought that a Scotch Whisky might be dignified and awesome. So, I absconded with an entire bottle of the stuff and embraced the party. ‘Embraced the party’ of course means that due to the all encompassing memory loss of that night, I have no idea what I did, except for excerpts that people have related back to me.
  1. Me sitting on top of an army truck, screaming things along the lines of ‘Eat your heart out, Optimus Prime!’
    Woo! Defence budget.
  2. Me rolling around in the grass speaking to myself aka Gollum and Smeagol. Apparently I was quite good at this, and I’ve never really been able to carry off the voice that well again.
  3. Me rolling around in the grass and vomiting horribly.
Now, it was at this point that an ambulance was called for me. I can understand this from the perspective of a gang of gormless teens – they’d never seen anything so horrible. They were scared, appalled and probably didn’t want to deal with the manic spewing gollum that I’d become. Fair enough. But I would also like to point out, that it wasn’t actual alcohol poisoning. I didn’t need my stomach pumped. I have since been as sick, and even more so – I called it ‘University’.
And when the ambulance drivers came, they were understandably pissed off. Instead of saving lives or fighting demons or whatever it was that they enjoyed doing, they had to cart back some stinking vomit teen, who was still muttering about ‘his precious’. This is probably why in the middle of my rant about ‘taters? What’s taters?’, one of the ambulance men gave me a big old slap. My mate Bob was there, and was pretty shocked. I think the dude was probably justified.
Waking up in the hospital was pretty awful, in the sense that I’d clearly done something wrong. It was clearly a big deal, a major moment of badness. Although, because all they’d done in the hospital was hook me up to a drip, I actually felt fantastic. No hangover for me.
The strange end to this unfortunate tale, is that a day or two later I received a call from the General Dad or whatever in charge of the Reserve. He told me that me and some of my friends (I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t dealt gracefully with free spirits) had caused a bunch of mess, and that we had to come back and clean it up. Turning up once again at the Reserve, this time Windex and gloves replacing my coconut rum and bad decision making, we were led into the spotless army room and sat down. General Dad began talking about our lack of discipline, and then also about the shame of our unnatural lifestyle. I was still expecting to hear that I’d vomited on a flame thrower or something, so that it took me a little while to realise that the two other kids sitting with me, were also the only two openly gay kids in our year of school. Suddenly it all came together, and I realised what was going on. Looking at the other two, they had clearly pegged on to it earlier than me. We weren’t actually there to clean up puddles of day old vomit – we were there because this homophobic military douche was trying to get us to join the military to beat the gay out of us. I’d like to say that we stood as one, threw our pink dishwashing gloves down and marched out – but we didn’t. We sat there quietly for fifteen minutes and listened, desperately hoping this threatening and insulting experience would be over soon.
THE STARS:
From that day on, the merest smell of anything whisky related made me feel incredibly ill. I felt no real qualm about not drinking it, because there was a whole world of other alcohol out there for me to drink. Until recently I was at a party, and the host, a mate of mine named Sam Cooney, wandered up to me in his nuns habit and kindly said ‘You need a drink!’
I agreed, and a large tumbler of Scotch was thrust into my hand. It was a loud party, and I felt obliged to drink it out of politeness, so I didn’t demur. And slowly, with great trepidation, I lifted the enormous glass to my lips and tasted the burning, petrochemical tang of whisky for the first time in almost a decade. And I found it good. Gone was the instinctive nausea. Gone was the psychological shame conditioning. Because I’d been shouting all night, I’d lost my voice earlier. Through the power of whisky, it miraculously came back. Whisky was amazing.
Words cannot how exciting this is for me. I’m one of those jerks who thinks deeply about his alcohol. I have a wine cellar. I know about ‘good years’. I drink boutique beers. I know what my martini proportion is. I’m ‘set’ in my preferences, I know what I like and I do everything I can to maintain this standard. And now I’ve been given a whole new family of booze for me to discover. I have no idea what kind of whisky I like, what kind of whisky is good. There’s a bewildering range of whisky’s waiting to get into my face. Do I like whisky on the rocks, or neat? I now have another reason to go to Scotland (there are three reasons, the first is CASTLES). When I’m out with people now, I get to shake them and scream ‘WHAT KIND OF WHISKY DO YOU LIKE!’ I’m just so excited. Thanks, Sam Cooney. Thanks for this great gift.
THE SCORE:
4.5/5 stars