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DAY 277: Unearthing my first love letter and writing a better one

4 Jun

PRETTY sure I spelt Johnathon’s name wrong, but since Mum found it in the attic, it’s safe to say he didn’t receive this love missive from my nine-year-old self.

THANK GOD.
Now no one needs to know.

In a plastic bag morbidly stuffed with my childhood teeth, hair and hospital tag (sponsored by Cow & Gate baby formula), this loaded letter lay dormant.

It’s an exemplary communiqué of aggressive masochism, setting myself up for a future of codependent bliss. Beautifully written. Pacey.

To be honest, I’ve got no idea who Johnathan is, nor Jane, the scheming bitch.

Doesn’t matter, I’ve now written a better love letter, to someone more memorable. I hope he gets it, as when I texted a picture of my undies to him on Day 190, he never received it, which made for an awkward conversation when the accompanying blog post went up.

Keeper? Yes.

DAY 246: Experiencing great bonhomie at a glee club

4 May

It wasn't like this.

I HAVEN’T got the loveliest of timbres, truth be told, so when Esther – who provided the cynical backing track to our Heal Your Soul With Song experience – suggests we toddle off to a glee club, I’m apprehensive.

I’m picturing women in brightly coloured stockings and twee winter coats; Esther predicts gay men singing numbers from Starlight Express. Either way, when someone uses the words ‘hip’ or ‘funky’ in their online bumf, you know you’re going to have to check your pride at the door.

This glee get-together is held at South Melbourne’s charming Butterfly Club; a Victorian house with its parlour converted into a kitsch-cluttered lounge and the kitchen into a bar. It’s got a fairly clandestine entrance, which adds to the feeling that we’re slinking into somewhere shameful.

We cram into the front room with around 30 men and women, all clutching red wines, and not one of them looking particularly punchable. So far, so good.

Or this.

Glee hostess Vicky Jacobs has worked extensively coaching singers for musicals, and she has a warm, natural way about her. “I want her to run my life,” whispers Esther, brainwashed already.

Vicky runs us through some vocal exercises, each a tone higher than the last, so that we can discover our own comfortable pitch. I have a choking fit halfway through, which signifies I’ve passed mine already. I’m nervous that I’m going to vomit, because I used to trigger my gag reflex regularly when trying to sing along to screamy girl-bands in my teens. You know the ones – all jailbait dresses and photo shoots utilising raw meat.

Anyway, none of that here. We warm up with a run-through a ditty about some sailor whose flesh rots off his bones, sung in rounds. From there on, we sight-read our way through Solla Sollew, Chapel of Love, Falling Slowly and Over at the Frankenstein Place, singing in harmonies. En masse, it works, although I’m not ready for any solo spots. The songs sound so beautiful and forlorn that Esther and I grip our hearts and get goosebumps in rivulets… although I download the tracks later at home and it all suddenly feels a bit Sarah Brightman.

In the here and now, though, we’re filled with good cheer and wide-eyed about the whole experience. There’s a sense of stillness and robustness all at once. I may wind up rasping like Patty and Selma Bouvier for a few days, but I know I can get this feeling back.

Keeper? Yes.

DAY 245: Learning to drum unmolested

3 May

I’VE always thought I’d be pretty good at drumming; only such is my attraction to drummers that every time I tried to learn as a youngster I ended up nobbing my drum teacher and had to pack it in.

An arcade seems like the safest environment in which to learn, then, as presumably the Wadriko Rocket Dive has more of a sense of professionalism than those fop-haired shysters.

Urban legend has it these arcades are where ne’er-do-wells do their class A swappsies, but I’m too concerned with figuring out this giant bongo machine, the instructions of which are all in Japanese. Seems like a kiddy (“kodomotachi”) version of Guitar Hero, with dancing beagles fannying around distractingly at the bottom.

I'm demonstrating the French grip.

In the next arcade I find a full pad kit and some eardrum-botheringly loud Japanese rock songs to thrash away to. It’s fast, but not as fast as the kid next to me, who’s shredding away on a guitar with ‘PERFECT’ flashing up for every flurried note. If he could put that skill to some kind of actual use, he’ll go far.

Keeper? Marginally more productive than class A swappsies, so long as you’re not supposed to be at home doing your homework.

DAY 234: Dwelling in the gutter

22 Apr

Before.

I’M dubious about driving this ute; I’m sure it’s all fairly roadworthy and everything, but it’s like steering a sodden mattress that only wants to go left.

Despite his years on the road, I notice the bush pirate is gripping the handhold above the passenger window just as futilely as I gripped the map pocket in the glider yesterday. He’s already skulled a can of Monster so that there’s absolutely no danger of him falling asleep while I’m at the wheel.

My task today is to practise driving with the left wheels in the gutter, partly to stop my habit of hugging the white centre line, and partly so I will know not to overcorrect if I have to steer off-road in an emergency.

Inching into a gravelly trench at speed is as uncomfortable a feeling as deliberately punching yourself in the face, but after a few kays I stop thinking about it. In fact, I notice a couple of dead kangaroos on the other side of the road and automatically veer over to take a look.

“It’s time to pull over,” the bush pirate says tightly, “so let’s go through the stopping… process.” I’m not actually trained to drive manuals, so the stopping process pains us both.

“I’ll assume you indicated and checked your mirror there,” he says, voice deepening an octave in displeasure.

With the bush pirate back at the wheel, we reach the desert in double time and the rain stops abruptly. You could score a line where it starts; wheat fields and earth suddenly giving away to witchy black trees and white sand.

The sight of a sidetrack fills the bush pirate with unadulterated glee, and he gets me back behind the wheel for some four wheel driving. At first I’m hammering along, but I’m thrown when a Land Rover approaches and I veer up a verge sideways, burning rubber on sand. I’m as rattled as the suspension, and suddenly can’t find neutral or work the park brake, and have to do the humiliating slide along the bench seat to let the bush pirate take over in front of our new audience. It takes all his skill to hoik us out of both the sand and my gathering storm clouds, but of course he manages it.

After.

Keeper? It’s really tempting to idle, dribbling and glaze-eyed, in passenger mode forever when you’re in the company of a shit-hot driver. I blame VicRoads and their lack of encouragement.

DAY 231: Appearing in someone’s autobiography

19 Apr

ON page 168 of Dave Graney’s autobiography, I stumble upon myself, sliding spookily through the narrative like a dictaphone-wielding apparition.

In theory it’s a bit part, but since Graney hasn’t named many of his characters, not even his band mates – not even The Go-Betweens for goodness sakes – we’re all on equal billing.

“It’s not often you come across yourself,” I remark to Old Dog, trying to sound modest.

“Unless you’re a teenage boy,” he notes.

Keeper? Enjoyed that. Am available for appearances.

DAY 226: Braving bongos

14 Apr

THERE are few sounds that instil a sense of dread in an urbane sophisticate like a bongo drum.

It rings nightly through the festival campsites and squat parties of one’s youth, as insistent as gurning teeth. It mocks your inability to sleep, and taunts you that somewhere – just out of thumping distance – lurks an earnest white uni drop-out with a drug stash bigger than yours, drawing in ever-increasing numbers of the sort of people you wouldn’t like, Lord of the Flies-style.

The horror, the horror.

I decide I need to face my fear head on.

The first thing I discover at this African drumming workshop is that not all hand drums are bongos; quite often it might have been a djembe chilling my blood. Bongos originate from Cuba and tend to huddle in twos, while djembes are from West Africa and sit singly on the floor between your legs.

The workshop’s equally split between men and women of all sorts of nationalities, and to my surprise, no one’s sporting a macramed hat, the colours of the Jamaican flag, or dreadlocks. In these hands the djembe takes on a less sinister slant. I think I’ve got drumming all wrong.

For the next hour, we work through four different rhythms, around 20 minutes on each. A couple of regulars get up to dance in the middle of the circle, which is quite awe-inspiring in the case of the dancer from West Africa, and a different matter entirely in the case of the bloke from Elsternwick.

I enjoy the challenge of sticking to my pattern throughout as other drummers go off on tangents, or coming up with my own solo in the middle (it’s okay, they ask me to). By the end of it my hands are on fire, and we should probably hug or something, but I slope out the door to get the tram.

Keeper? Wouldn’t mind trying the dancing. It’s the sort of dancing you usually do when no one’s looking, hence the challenge.

DAY 209: Watering down footballers

28 Mar

The mountain's called 'Arthur'.

“YOU’RE not putting lipstick on, are you?” Old Dog growls.

“Only a little bit. Why not?”

We’re in Lilydale, a Tasmanian mountain town, and Old Dog’s arranged for me to be watergirl for the home team reserves in their first game of the season. They’re playing Old Scotch, who have a nasty habit of kicking arse.

I’d pictured bush footy as being a bit of a jolly boot around in a paddock – having not actually given it much thought – whereas in fact the whole town’s turned out to scream community-spirited abuse, likely between mutters of “who’s this sheila fannying around the oval in her jeans and lipstick?”

I go and sit down away from the thumping commotion and musclebound nudity of the clubhouse changing room. Bucket comes over and sits by me. Thank you, Bucket.

Bucket looks how I feel.

It’s safe to say everyone here knows the etiquette of Aussie Rules but me. I’ve lived in Australia for five years, but I’ve never barracked for anybody, and whenever I’ve gone to a match I’ve wound up glassy-eyed, thinking about sex. Not because of the aesthetics of the players; just because those are my default thoughts when I’m bored stupid.

Old Dog takes me on the oval and runs through the rules – no being in the semi-circle when the bloke’s holding up a flag; no being in the square when they’re throwing the ball in the air.

“I take it I’m only offering water to our team?” Yep.

A young lad is also acting as water carrier, so I take the opposite end and decide to just mirror what he’s doing. And we’re off!

“Water?” I apologise to sweating footballers with thousand yard stares. They grunt like buffalo, barge each other and ignore me. I feel like a crazed spaniel that’s run onto the pitch in a panic.

“Oi waterboy!” one of the crowd hoys, to laughter. I ignore him.

“Are you a scotchy?” some bloke from the opposition’s interchange box asks incredulously as I reload. I’ve no idea what he’s on about, but I suspect the answer is 50:50 yes or no.

“Yes.”  I run onto the pitch.

An old dude runs after me, takes the water bottles off me, and furnishes me with two from my own team’s supply.

No.

By halftime, our team’s down 88 to 1 or something, and there’s a fair bit of spewing, spitting and gasping going on as the coach bawls them out. Old Scotch have won the last four premierships and have not lost a game in over two years. Our boys, meanwhile, have been thrown together this week. Old Dog points out that their half-forwards are pushing down to half-back and making enough numbers around the contest to run the ball forward and over our loose men with handball. (Actually, that’s a direct quote – make of it what you will.) His coach’s answer to this observation, however, is to keep it simple:

“They’re college boys. Hurt them.”

It seems to work. With half a game of playing alongside each other under their belts, the locals go the man a bit, and match Old Scotch in the second half – regaining a bit of idiot pride and, while not close, making the scoreboard far more respectable.

The seniors are up next, so I get to experience life in the crowd – with all its inventive violent abuse. Whenever someone bellows out something particularly murderous and foul, everyone laughs like they’re at the panto. I’m introduced to Porto, who has hands like rusty shovels, and he and Old Dog discuss a bullyboy on the other team.

“Thinks he’s up here,” Porto says, raising his hand high, “when he’s down here.” He mimics fucking someone rigorously from behind.

The seniors win their match and we all crowd into the clubhouse to hear them sing their song – I might be ambivalent towards footy, but I’m not averse to soaking up a bit of glory. Lilydale wear the same colours as the Melbourne Football Club, so the song’s the same.

It’s a grand old flag, it’s a high flying flag, it’s the emblem for me and for yoooou…” they yell, and I nearly shed a tear.

Nusty, Old Dog’s partner-in-crime with a physique made sturdy from drinking, has played as hard as he can with no pre-season. He’s exhausted and has been chucking up ever since the reserves game ended.

He reels outside for one last spew.

“Bloody oath. Can’t be good with blood in the cunt,” quoth he, regarding his mess in sorrow.

Keeper? Not sure how useful I am on the pitch, so I’ll be angling for a physio role next time.