(Another) Unemployment Reflection

Well, more of an update really. Should say I’m full of shit, considering previously writing so smugly about supposedly figuring out how to gain and keep work. I’ve been let go from one job. And I’ve resigned from three or four. But when the site you’re working all but full-time at doesn’t pay the labour hire company you’re employed by, well, it makes it hard to figure up from down in an employment market sense.

So I’m essentially unemployed, again. I’m vending The Big Issue magazine. TBI is a social enterprise (people are paid, but no profits are given to an owner/shareholders). It’s designed for homeless/marginalised (I’m the latter) people (men) to sell in high foot traffic areas. Women in difficulty work indoors packing and distributing the mags. It’s ok. It keeps me busy.

But, as much as I appreciate the opportunity, the area (my “pitch”) I vend at just isn’t busy enough. (It’s between two others that are much more lucrative.) I buy them for $3.50 and sell them for $7. Some people will give me ten and say to keep the change. Even then, if I make any more than $40 in six hours most days then that’s better than average.

I’m trying to get off Newstart (the dole, $250 per week). But so far I haven’t made more than that in a week so I’m essentially wasting my time mostly staring off into space while people ignore me, on top of my obligations to Centrelink. I’m grateful for the support of the businesses and locals at my pitch, and again to TBI, but it feels like bad luck within good luck (great opportunity/terrible location).

Otherwise, I’m still registered with a labour hire company but they don’t offer anything below south Brisbane (apparently Centrelink requires job seekers to travel a three hour round trip to work, which is ridiculous bureaucratic bullshit). They did get me two weeks’ work before a trip I took recently that I’d never have booked last year if I’d known what dire straits I’d be in currently. Sure enough, I was offered more work at that site that conflicted with the trip so I doubt I’ll hear from them again.

For a few months I volunteered with a wonderful group named Orange Sky, that washes clothes for the homeless. My team leader gave my details to a bloke he knew who runs a rim (car wheel) repair business. Again, sure enough this guy got in touch with me just before the trip. I mentioned the conflict with him and got in touch with him after I got back, but, haven’t heard back. I’ve since stopped volunteering to focus on my mental health and search for employment. And I’m going to just vend TBI Sat/Sun, instead of also Wed/Thurs/Fri, now. Because it really is a waste of time during the week, in my location.

I visited another, busier pitch during the week just yesterday (Wednesday) and it was busy! Sometimes I think I’m cursed. Or I would if I was superstitious. So yeah, I’m full of shit. I have no idea what I’m doing. I apply for jobs, and hear mostly nothing back, or rejections. My application to McDonald’s failed. The local casino’s warehouse rejected me. I did a certificate 3 in security. But the license, I since discovered, costs about $500. And my “job service provider”, to her credit, said security probably wouldn’t be great for my mental health – when I mentioned my recent increasing struggles with it.

I have no idea what’s on the horizon. Or if there even is one. Hopefully I’ll have some good news to report, soon. But optimism is lacking, and hardly growing.


Why I Don’t Follow Many Blogs

Recently I went through my (slightly more than 200) followers looking for ones to follow back. I decided not to follow any that were either uninteresting, poorly written or themselves had a lot of followers (say, more than 500). Not to be vindictive, though. Just because I figure someone with a lot of followers doesn’t need me to.

It turned out all but a couple had at least several hundred, if not one or two or even twenty-thousand followers. So I only followed-back a couple. And I don’t tend to search often for random blogs.

So that’s why I don’t follow many blogs.

“Living in the Past”*

It’s something someone said to me recently. Aside from the fact that it’s a horrible cliché, it’s also incorrect. I write about the past. And also the present. But I’m living in the present. And where necessary looking to the future.

It’s one of the things I find frustrating about socialising. People just say things. They don’t really think about it. They don’t ask a lot of questions to ensure that any judgement they pass might be at least somewhat accurate. They have a tiny window into others’ worlds.

They shout judgement through this window, usually to distract themselves from the problems in their own lives. Judgement and advice are useless. Indulgent. If you genuinely want to help someone you should do so practicably, or not at all.

Because making obviously prejudicial statements to people you know will only alienate you from them. Which is fine if that’s your intention. If it’s not, as they say: put up, or shut up. Anything other than genuine assistance is nothing but empty rhetoric.

* I put the title in double inverted commas for two reasons: 1) it’s a partial quote, and 2) my use of it is sarcastic (as in I’m not actually living in the past).

Tribute to Michael Crawford

I have a terrible tale to tell,
A tale of sorrow and woe.
As before this poem went to print,
I lopped off my precious big-toe!

It began so simply, as many things do,
In the garden, be A U tiful.
With the weeds. Ghastly things.
I gave them a mighty big pull!

The ground, she was soft,
My heave not timid.
Backwards I flew,
Into manure, I did.

The shower was hot,
The stench, leaving.
On the soap I would step,
Of my balance ’twere thieving.

The glass, it was brittle,
It broke with great ease.
The floor was much harder,
‘If she weren’t such a tease!’

The swelling’d gone down,
My feet, they were up.
I reached for the remote,
And went flying, my cup.

It was not fruit juice,
But fresh instant coffee.
With my groin, it would seem,
The gods were not happy.

A smoke on the porch,
For some blessed respite.
Course I failed to notice,
My hair was alight.

To the bathroom I ran,
And all did seem well.
I’d stick my head in the toilet,
But slipped on hair-gel.

The movie was good,
Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.
I threw a knife at the window,
It missed, and hit the sill.

Through the air like a dancer,
Dextrous and light.
Ceiling fan it did hit,
And achieve downward flight.

You may think, dear reader,
You can guess the rest.
You’d truly be right!
And it’s now off my chest!

(September 15, 2009.)

Hansonism Mk II

We are in danger of being swamped by Asians, is the gist of what I remember from Hansonism’s maiden voyage into the Australian consciousness.  This was the ‘90s, when my focus was more on adolescent existentialism.  But now we’re nearing the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, and history, as it does, is repeating itself.  Now it’s a Muslim swamp we need worry about, apparently, which is not the least of the, nor the sole, irony, considering Islam sprung from the desert.  What is a swamp, really?  I see it as a stagnant body of water in which exist somewhat base creatures such as bacteria and fungi and frogs and birdlife.  So was she saying Asians were bringing the swamp with them, way back when, or that our home was a swamp and they were going to en masse join us in the fetid pool?  And surely she’s not saying Muslims are bringing the swamp, unless from certain parts of Indonesia or perhaps Malaysia outside of urban centres.  So in this case ours must be the swamp?  Or our home becomes a swamp upon letting them through the door?  Or Asian and more recently Muslim culture is swamplike?  Is she even capable of effective analogies?

Let’s leave the waste of consideration right there – is something I’d not normally say about anything.  Because there is absolutely zero point in giving serious consideration to anything this crazy bitch and her political movement has to say about Australia or the outside world.  Hanson is to a true reflection on this country what shaving is to using a broken, mouldy, rusted mirror: ineffective, distorted, and bloody.  Now, forgive me for using the B word, but I’ve long been of the mind that if a man is a bastard or a woman is a bitch – especially those with baffling relevance and influence – they should be labelled as such.  I guess a unisex term for the two could be: arseholes.  But I’ll leave that up to you.  There’s a reason why Hansonism, at least and almost exclusively (Cory Bernardi aside), deserves only some attention and zero consideration.  It’s quite clear what her movement really is.  Even clearer, now, than it used to be – as her policies and their appeals have not just expanded but also strengthened.  Sometimes, this has occurred very recently, and on the run, such as in regard to vaccination.  And obviously others are longstanding, and quite crystalised policies of hers.

Hanson is exploiting bigots and dullards’ ignorance and prejudices through her own intelligence and bigotry, which are just strong and restrained, respectively, enough to at all effectively do so.  This is Hansonism II, and hopefully it goes the way of the first.  I prefer not to believe that after this pimple of hatred whiteheads, pops, and heals, this country can’t learn from its two former mistakes and keep its damn face clean.  I refuse to believe that Hansonism turns normally intelligent, tolerant people into stupid bigots, and that she simply empowers those who incurably are already.  And I am absolutely convinced that the particular brand of hatred and ignorance she represents and propagates will be increasingly, if not ever totally, rejected by Australians in the future.  It could get worse before it gets better.  But if it were ever to become so strong it were considered mainstream, the tragic irony for me would be too much to bear.  And if I at the time had children, I would fear for their future; and if I did not yet have children, I would never have children, to spare them the crushing dystopia their potential country had become.

The human race is at or approaching many of its to date most consequential crossroads – Hansonism and Trumpism and Putinism and Kimism and the like, being not the least of them.  We must reject hatred and bigotry and exploitation and oppression and inequality wherever we can.  Because if we don’t, or not enough of us do, or not enough of us do often enough, we may all be fucked.


Ghost Country Las Vegas

We were slumped deep in the Circus Circus’ bar, when the drugs began to wear off.  1pm – early morning by Vegas time.  My amigo Samo was taking the effects of the previous night hard.  He looked angry, bestial, yet defeated, like a coyote road-killed while mating.  We’d just returned to base after recovering his wallet from the southern strip’s Luxor Casino; his ID and credit card from downtown’s Girls of Glitter Gulch gentleman’s club.  His watch and one shoe were still missing.


‘Oh my God!’ he suddenly yelled, red-eyes directed hatefully toward the omnipresence of casino ceiling security cameras.  And then, head in his chewed-fingernail hands, muttered something like: ‘I lost enough money to put a deposit down on a high class brothel.’  Then he started sobbing like a recently divorced, impotent insurance salesman.  ‘And where’s my watch!?’  His missing shoe apparently gone unnoticed thus far.

‘He ok hon?’ asked the ex-call girl weary barmaid serving our breakfast bloody marys.

‘He’s fine,’ I replied, levelling my own night white light bloodshot eyes at hers.  ‘My friend has suffered a death in the family.  A murder.’  I looked at him and sighed.  ‘Gang violence, you understand.  He’s a foreigner.  Probably Columbian.’  I threw what paper money I had left on the table and the floor, in front of her.  ‘Are you prejudiced?’ I questioningly accused through clenched teeth.

‘No, I, er, I’m not. . . .’

I interrupted by waving her away and she scuttled off with a fistful of assorted cash.  ‘Get it together, you miserable bastard,’ I muttered.

Hiccupping sobs were his only reply.

I lit a cigarette, drew, exhaled and said, defiantly: ‘We’re not done yet.’  It was about this time an enormous man of Pacific islander appearance emerged, stumbling, bellowing like a castrated bull, from behind a row of poker machines; wearing a two-man-tent-sized pink bowling shirt unbuttoned to his bulging stomach revealing a thick rug of jet black chest hair.  He was followed by a shorter, slighter, balding man wearing aviator sunglasses, a Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts and sneakers, smoking swiftly from and chomping feverishly at an ivory cigarette holder that slid between grinning teeth; beneath wild, lighthouse eyes.  The pair sat at the bar.

‘We can stop here,’ I began, shaking Samo’s shoulder.  Who looked up in the direction I was.  ‘This is freak country,’ I finished.


The big man at the bar suddenly stood erect, waving oak branch arms around, screaming: ‘AAAAAAAAAAUERRRRRRRRRGAH!  Why are female sports journalists’ voices so deep!?’

‘You fool!’ the little man yelled while jumping up, his stool hitting the floor behind him.  ‘Most of their colleagues and bosses are men.  They mostly cover men.  They’re infected by the natural testosterone and brutishness of the proverbial Big Game.  They’re fellow beasts at the atavistic competitive feast.  How else do you think they avoid being treated like the dessert bar at a police convention?  Now sit!  Down!’

The big man complied.  His partner left his original chair lying fallow.  Took another.  Samo put something in his mouth.  I made my wary move to yet another stool close by.

‘If only old Dick Nixon was here,’ the little man continued, leaning over his partner who’d resorted to short, muted screams and, with his head in his folded arms on the table, looking around in fear at the air above him.  ‘He’d put you right.  He’d march a couple of his goons right up to you, and they’d stomp the bile from your stomach lining before dragging you off to some medieval-esque torture dungeon for democrats, hippies and foreigners.’

‘What about Trump?’ I ventured.

‘TRUMP!?’ he yelled, so much as he could with the cigarette holder between his lips.  Then he grinned at me, the holder clenched in the corner of his fiendish mouth and its ember whipping into the air.  ‘If Nixon is a whore beast, Trump is his and the devil’s mentally enfeebled hate child.  If Nixon rolled back the tide of the American Dream, and Reagan funnelled it into the hands of a privileged, bloated few – Trump will drink the dregs and then piss it into the mouths of his insanely moronic followers.’

Then suddenly, his knees drew up into his hands.  ‘The muck!’ he yelled, looking at the floor.  ‘The steaming, stinking liquid refuse of this unholy election year of our dark lord satan two-thousand and 16!  It’s everywhere!’  He jumped on to the bar stool.

‘Hey!’ the barman yelled, his attention pulled from merely shaking his head while cleaning a glass with a filthy rag.  ‘Get down from there!’

‘Impossible to walk!’ ignored the little man, who started jumping from stool to stool along the bar.  The barman came around to give chase.

‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!’ the big man groaned, standing up and knocking over his stool – which the barman fell over at speed, knocking himself unconscious.

‘You wretched sonofabitch!’ the little man yelled a few stools down, perched on it like a cat.  ‘The floor is contaminated by the rotting carcass of western democracy!’

The big man scrambled on to the bar, stood and smashed his head into hanging wine glasses.  He screamed once more, ran along the bar collecting and destroying more glasses with his large head and kept running off the bar and out of the room.  The little man followed, gingerly coming down from his perch and walking away as if in thick mud, holding his nose from the imagined stench.

Samo came and sat next to me about when I heard screeching tyres and a woman’s scream from the street.  ‘The fuck was that?’ he asked.  He was chewing his bottom lip and looking around the now empty bar, except for us and the motionless barman, as if surrounded.  Sirens blared from outside.


‘That?’ I started, reaching over the bar for a bottle of Johnnie Walker and two glasses.  ‘I’ll have two glasses of whiskey, neat,’ I said, looking at the barman’s unconscious figure.  ‘That was nothing.’  I poured the drinks.  ‘Just your imagination.’  I took a sip.

‘Didn’t look like nothing.’  He took a sip.

‘It was literally nothing.  The fuck’s wrong with you?  You took too much man.  Too much too much.’


‘One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small,’ I said, turning to look at him, my head starting to swell up.  Samo stepped back off his stool.

‘And the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all.’  My head doubled in size, turned orange.  Samo started screaming.

‘Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall.’  Quadrupled now, topped by a golden retriever sized, combed forward wig.  Samo raked his face and continued screaming.

‘And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you’re going to fall.’  My eyes caught fire, dripped lava, and a forked, purple tongue emerged from between my eggplant-sized and coloured lips.  Samo backed against the wall, howling in agony.

‘Remember what the doormouse said: feed your head.’  Samo’s screams reached fever pitch as my orange head exploded and horse manure flew in all directions.

‘Feed your head.’

Rebel Without and Within

Visiting foreigners and returning expats apparently see Australia as a bit of a mythical place.  Our larrikinism and disdain for authority is much vaunted, while in fact we’re a pretty conformist bunch.  Pete, our protagonist, has noticed he might be standing with a few others at a pedestrian crossing, no cars in sight, yet most will still wait patiently for the little fluorescent green man to light the way.  With that in mind, and leading by the hand a girl he’s on a first date with, Pete crosses – on a red man.  ‘Wait,’ she protests, pulling him back.  ‘You can’t cross now.’

‘Why not?’

‘That’s jaywalking,’ she lectures, literally pointedly at the luminous red-coated crossing guard.

He scoffs, releases her hand, says goodbye and crosses the street – leaving her obediently bewildered on the other side.  She was probably pro-life, too, anyway, he reassures himself.  None yet had passed the red man test.

Mug shot

‘Ews ya team?’ asks the thrice divorced looking, well-worn Jack Daniels jumper wearing bloke at the pub.  Normally Pete would respond with a white lie, and quote the football club from the city he was born – at least for the purposes of believable predictability.

Instead, this time, he takes a generous gulp of his schooner, and replies: ‘Don’t have one,’ then places the glass back on the bar, eager for JD’s response.

‘Wh-whaddya mean?’

‘Well,’ he readily starts to explain, while avoiding a self-righteous tone he worries might get him glassed, ‘I believe commercial sport is a shiny but meaningless distraction for the masses, not unlike religion, which keeps us focused on trivial matters so our not so subtly malevolent overlords are left free to openly – if you’re paying attention, which you’re probably not – exploit us.’

‘I don’t follow ya,’ comes the surprisingly eloquent yet still baffled response.

‘Didn’t expect you to.’


‘Plus,’ Pete ignores, ‘watching a bunch of well-muscled men in short shorts and tight tops chasing a ball around, to quote Bart Simpson: “Seems kinda gay.” ‘

‘You’re gay,’ he derives.

‘Yeah, didn’t mean it literally,’ he mutters just loud enough before finishing his beer while rolling his eyes at the ceiling.


‘Look!’ Pete furiously points.  ‘The bikini waitress is bending over!’  Then he sneaks out while JD’s perving at nothing over his shoulder.


Pete leaves the house smoking a cigarette, wearing a clean Big W t-shirt but unwashed ever Trade Secret jeans and knockoff wayfarers minus those obnoxious little diamante-looking metal or plastic things usually found on the upper outer edge of the frame.  He gets into his never cleaned, rarely vacuumed and weathered paint 15-year old Korean hatchback.  He almost lights another cigarette, because a Bob Seger song starts playing, but instead resists.  He winds down the window, because the air-con hasn’t worked in five years, and starts driving.  There are no cars in sight from the other direction, but the right-turn arrow remains red.  So he just goes, after checking the vicinity for the cops.  Someone beeps him.  He sticks his middle finger out the window.


It’s hot as hades down the closest community centre, on local government voting day.  Which seems appropriate.  Pete foolishly makes eye contact with a political pamphlet packer, then politely declines her advance.  He tries looking around a little more, while avoiding shirts with faces on them, but spots a couple of Southern Cross tattoos. So he spends the rest of the line to the democratic sheeple shearing staring into the clear blue sky.  He does actually vote for someone, while wondering why he bothers.  But on the referendum as to whether state government ministers should have massaging parliament house chairs, he ticks yes (‘cause shit, who wouldn’t want them too) and also writes on it: ‘The more you let wealth inequality grow, the sooner the revolution will come.’  That’ll have them shaking in their not yet massaging chairs, he not at all seriously thinks as he leaves the building past the line looking at the ground so as to not realise who or what he shared his community with.  Then he follows an eight, no kidding, eight-children my family stickered beat up Tarago on the way home.  And instantly thinks of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now: ‘The horror.  The horror.  The horror.’

Thought I had the #hipster #combover going #pretty well without #product, but here it just looks #like a #regular combover #hipsterfail #cigarette #aviators

He claims he knows the earth is flat because he’s a construction worker and somehow he can tell by using a spirit level.  Pete’s already horrified, because he just wants some time alone in the Brunswick Street bar’s smoking area.  But seriously!?  The earth is flat and you can tell by using a spirit level?  Surely he jests.  He bites anyway, and throws a couple of arguments back at him, mostly about how there are photos of the earth from space and what would anyone have to gain by conspiring to lie to us about something so big yet at the same time inconsequential to everyday, individual life.  But it’s no good.  He believes the lie too truthfully, or hopefully enjoys the joke too much.  Pete walks away, then drags his wine drunk (and pro-choice and jaywalking fan) girlfriend up Fitzroy St to the flat of the mate he was staying with.  He does leave the spare key in the door that night, but in the morning consoles himself with the fact that he at least respected the many years of research and experiment that people smarter than him put into discovering facts that he could barely even comprehend.  His mate says a spirit level would have to be kilometres long to prove the earth was flat.  That’s true.


The customs officers are belligerently baffled.  Just because Tiger Airways don’t have a smartphone boarding pass system doesn’t mean Pete can just take a screenshot of his boarding pass, then walk past the boarding stewards and on to the runway when they refuse his documentation.  Just because it isn’t stated that it’s illegal to smoke on the tarmac, merely that it isn’t allowed, doesn’t mean he can light up for a pre-flight smoke beside the plane.  And just because they haven’t taken off yet, doesn’t mean he can join the, well, about 20 metres high club with his girlfriend in the on-board bathroom.  ‘But why?’ he asks.

They look at each other.  Then reply in unison: ‘Because you can’t.’

He meets their exasperated stares with a blank one.

‘But wh. . .’

‘Get out!’ they interrupt, again in unison, pointing toward the door.

So he gladly obeys, takes his girlfriend’s hand, walks out of the airport, and after waiting five minutes gets in an Uber.  It’s a brand new Mazda 3.  The driver’s a chainsaw sculpting, beret sporting former radical from a country that doesn’t exist yet, he says.  Bullshit, Pete thinks, while smiling broadly.

Julie Falling

She can only hear wind rushing past her ears.  Her mind couldn’t avoid what it tripped over until it was too late.  It was a very small rock, fixed firm in the ground.  It took the form of a child’s giggle over what she perceived to be her weight.  Even though her size is, now, what most would consider healthy.  Regardless, she fell.  Spiralled downward like a dead leaf.  When she fell, she plunged over a cliff.  A high cliff built of all her life’s woe.  She plunged through all her hoarded hurt.

She’s falling now.  ‘I’m sorry Julie,’ her boss said, at the end of yet another week in which her anxiety and depression had swung like a wrecking ball through her productivity.  ‘It’s just not working out.  We need to let you go.’  It was her dream job.  She studied years for it.  Struggled.  Sweated.  Suffered.  Built what she thought were strong, unassailable foundations.  Yet, she fell.  She’s falling still.

Falling further.  ‘I need time to myself,’ Bill said.  Her boyfriend of three years.  Now, fiancé.  Now, what?  ‘I love you, I want you, but I need some time to think about whether this is what I need.  Whether this is what we need.  I can’t believe I’m going to use such a cliché, but it’s not you.  It’s me.’  She yearned to change his mind.  But let him go, thinking another cliché: that if you love someone, let them go.  If they come back, they’re yours.  He still hasn’t.  So she’s still falling.

Falling fast.  Julie went in to the psychology sessions thinking they would achieve nothing.  She just wanted medication.  But in the end she believed the meds were a waste of money.  And the sessions: lifesaving.  Her pain washed over the initially seemingly cold, distant psychologist.  She feared the shrink would use her pain against her, or be brought as low as she by it.  Instead, he held up a mirror.  Its reflection said one simple thing about her suffering: that it was normal, rational, human, and she need no longer be afraid.  Still, free falling.

No parachute.  She screamed for the first time, thinking of growing up the fat girl as a child.  Then, as a teenager, anorexic.  The mirror was always against her then, because she held it up against herself.  In it she would always perceive ugliness, because that’s what she thought others saw.  Regardless of her actual physical beauty, the mirror would appear cracked, covered in spots, discoloured, warped; hideous.  More relaxed now.


Yet, still falling.  Julie had always escaped into other worlds.  Books.  Films.  Magazine articles – at least those she knew wouldn’t stimulate her inadequacies.  The pain of existence wouldn’t stop.  It would only be pushed aside momentarily in favour of pleasant fantasy.  She’d wander giddily through the worlds of Huckleberry Finn, Atticus Finch, Winston Smith, Oliver Twist, Bilbo Baggins, and the like.  She’d draw comfort from those worlds, even if her own was torturous.  No longer relaxed.

Falling through razor blades.  No more screaming.  Now, howling in agony.  She sat atop the courtroom’s mahogany witness chair, reliving all the horror her step-father had put her through.  Adding tear stains to those probably countless other victims of sexual abuse had, on the glazed wood.  Red eyes pleading with the judge, the prosecution, her mother, to end the further pain his defence’s cross-examination was putting her through.  But knowing it was no use, it was all part of the process.  The system of victimisation of the weak and vulnerable.  She goes limp.

All resistance to the fall, such that it would have achieved, gone.  On her back, through golden hair fluttering Heavenward, Julie sees her father.  He died when she was five.  Only one memory remains.  Of him reading to her.  She can’t remember the book.  Just his face.  Unshaven but warm, crow’s feet smiling behind blue eyes twinkling as he gives her alternate reality gifts from his gentle, loving lips.  She’d sought him in those other places ever since.  But hadn’t found him.  Had instead fallen.  Wanted nothing but to fall.  Continues falling.

Turned over mid-fall.  Now facing the ground.  Close enough, ever closer, quickly closer, to see it for what it is: hard.  It takes the form of her mother’s face: no less hard.  Her saviour upon throwing her stepfather out, to be jailed, besides.  But she couldn’t bear the shame.  Or, more tragically, denied it.  Cast out Julie, too.  Felt her daughter had somehow encouraged her own abuse.  Retreated into never properly dealt with mourning of her dead husband.  Father dead.  Mother lost.  Julie became orphaned.  So she fell.  Is still falling.  Is, blessedly, almost finished falling.

Falling through faces.  Her own, in an ugly mirror.  Her father’s, smiling crow’s feet, azure sea and sky sparkling eyes, loving lips.  Her mother’s, turned away, eyes downcast.  Her school friends’, taunting.  Her boss’s, confused and cold.  God’s, quickly vanished, but a fictional phantom.  Faces seemingly within reach flash across the ground beneath her.  Full of unasked for hatred and prejudice.  Unjustified revulsion.  Then, finally, Bill’s.  He catches her.  But too late.  Too late to save her.  Instead holds his lost love Julie’s lifeless, finally at peace body in the bath as a crimson river snakes down the plug hole.

(If this has raised any issues for you that you feel the need to discuss, please talk to a loved one or call such counselling services as Lifeline on 13 11 14. Or by all means comment below. You’ll not be judged here.)

My Father, Currently

(For background to this blog post: https://wordjourneyer.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/every-disease-is-a-heart-disease/)

On my way to visit Dad I heard over the radio the axiom: if you can’t find the bright side of life, polish the dull side.  I resolved to share with him this newly learned wisdom, as soon as I had arrived at the aged care facility he had moved into not long after his 65th birthday.  His reaction: “Bullshit.”  For better or worse, a dry, stubborn sense of humour had been one of Dad’s genetic gifts to me.   Fortunately, for my older half-brother and sister, younger brother, and me, his Parkinson’s disease had (at time of writing) not been and I hope won’t be.  When I visited him a few weeks or months earlier, on a hot day, one of the nurses had given him a glass of water.  When she went to take it back from him, he played with her; withdrawing the empty glass repeatedly from her outstretched hand until finally releasing it to her.  He can tell me he’s sick or dying (neither which is exactly true in any conventional sense) until he’s blue in the face, but if he tried to suggest he didn’t still have a sense-of-humour I’d laugh, then quickly stop laughing, then reply, simply: “No.”


I don’t remember when he was diagnosed.  All I remember is that he surely had it a few years before it was finally discovered.  And the years since – despite DBS (deep brain stimulation) and endless juggling of different medications – have proven little better and often much worse.  Within the context of his disease only, of course it’s the negatives that stand out.  Like the time he’d tried a new form of medication and started hallucinating; at one point in the early morning yelling out: “Hey Colin!  How do you piss out of a plane!?” while himself using the bathroom.  Or the time I’d heard a loud THUMP downstairs, ran down them, screamed “DAD!” upon seeing him lying motionless on the floor, then felt relief when he groaned and was ok despite the fall.  And when, after we’d moved to a single story house, he’d be suffering insomnia – the major symptom of his Parkinson’s (but not necessarily everyone’s) – and wandering into my room on a semi-regular basis.

Moving Dad into a nursing home had not been any easier, emotionally, than enduring his troubles more closely with him.  But, as his up until then primary carer, it was certainly easier on Mum – in practical but of course not emotional terms.  A principled as she is loving and caring (yet sometimes stern) woman, she early on determined to stick with him for better or worse, for richer or poorer.  But during early 2015 he had surgery in Brisbane to relieve stomach and chest pains.  As a consequence of the (otherwise successful) operation, he began suffering delirium, languished in hospital for a couple more months, and on discharge was admitted straight into a pleasant, modern yet naturally solemn Gold Coast nursing home.  He now spends his time surrounded by generally much older and more infirm people, which does nothing to improve his state-of-mind.

Fortunately, all of Dad’s family, besides his sister in Victoria, and daughter about an hour north-west of Brisbane, live close enough to visit him at least once a week.  He smiles sometimes, usually if one takes the opportunity to stir pleasing memories from his past.  Or make light of them in a not disrespectful manner.  I discovered, or had forgotten, on a recent visit with Mum that Dad during his professional footballing days had been nicknamed Magic.  I cracked: “Was that what the ladies called you, Dad?”  He grinned, and Mum playfully reprimanded him.  We all had lunch with him on his 66th birthday in the BBQ gazebo outside his new and we still hope not permanent home.  And again had an early Christmas lunch there two weeks before my older sister and brother had to leave for engagements with their partners’ families on the 25th.

Dad didn’t make it home for Christmas Day, 2015.  Probably for the first time, now I think of it.  My brother and his girlfriend drove me to visit him in the morning.  I went in first.  Dad has trouble handling too many visitors at once.  Mum had spent an hour or so with him earlier in the morning.  He complained of being sick.  Then he said something that, suffice to say, was depressing to hear from one’s father.  He also told me to tell my brother not to come in (which I did, but added that he should go in anyway).  I wished him a Merry Christmas (it’s unlikely dad had any enduring idea what day it was), and left.  This is it now, when it comes to Dad.  I tell him I love him a lot more these days.  Not because I’m worried he’ll be dead soon, but because I’m sure he’ll be gone soon, besides.  A man who appeared godlike when I was a child, a stern bore when I was a teenager, a fountain of wisdom during my 20s; now, a memorial combination of all three encased in a body controlled by a brain that is swiftly failing him.

Dad was a professional Australian Rules footballer back in his heyday.  The past, in a wonderful way, is catching up with him.  Mum’s been receiving video testimonials by players from the Geelong West (Roosters) Football Club’s arguable, as far as I know, peak during the late-‘70s/early-‘80s.  It’s not important what exactly what they say in the videos, about their playing days or the club or dad.  What’s important, humbly, is what I observed after watching them with my mum, her parents, my younger brother, his girlfriend, older brother, his wife and two children (during Good Friday 2016): “Dad, what we’ve just finished watching is people we don’t even really know telling us things about you that we already know.”  To which he responded to the effect that that was a wonderful thing to say.  I responded: “Well it’s just the truth, isn’t it?”  And it was.  I said nothing special, but I said it (because someone had to) plainly truthfully about a man who is special to more people than he still probably realises.


We’re planning on videoing Dad, mainly for his own benefit if he’s up to it but also for the blokes down south who’ve without exception spoken so highly of their memories of him.  And also for us, too.  For posterity.  Dad is still Dad.  He’s not well.  But he’s also not a vegetable, and nor is he dead.  If we can capture him recalling what was one of the (if not the) highlights of his life, we can pass those memories along the outgoing branches of our family tree, forever.  Dad’s father was an abusive alcoholic, and died when I was very young.  (In fact one of my earliest memories was of dad’s dad lying in a hospital bed, dying of (from memory) prostate cancer, and dad standing nearby – both ashen faced – and then the door closing.)  Mum’s father died after being kicked by a horse, when she was seven.  I’ve never known a blood-related grandfather.  And nor might my children.  So my hope is that if we can take dad back to a happy past, however momentarily, and capture it, it might help my children, and their children have happy futures.  I hope they’ll learn that the past, though sometimes sad, was also joyous, rich, bright; happy – and so too can be their futures.

Phil Collins – Part Two of Two

A revelation about that Adele chick’s music came to me recently.  It couldn’t have if I wasn’t in the frame of mind I am now.  See, without providing any specific examples to support the argument, Collins’ music to my mind taps in and relates to people’s emotions.  Adele’s, on the other hand, manipulates and exploits them.  Again, I’m not going to provide evidence.  It’s just the way it is, or at least the way I see and hear it.  And I’m seeing (and hearing/tasting/smelling/feeling) things pretty bloody clearly these days, finally.  It seems to me that an artist of any persuasion should be very careful to relate to instead of exploit people and their emotions.  I can’t blame Adele for doing so.  She does have a wonderful voice.  And she’s also at once the product of a relentlessly capitalistic culture and commercial music machine.  Collins, too, is a part of and a product of that culture and machine.  Yet he I’m sure chose long ago to stick to the path of creative purity and it paid off for him through not creatively bankrupting himself or emotionally cheating his fans or his connection with them.  I, and we all whether we’re creative (in the ironically strict sense of the word) or not are capable of that choice, too.  My choice is to be true to myself, to the people around me, and to the things that I do, creative or otherwise.  And now it’s a deliberate, instead of just instinctive, decision.


Me, camped by the Squamish River, British Colombia, Canada, late 2012

I did end up reading a Wikipedia article about Collins.  (Still not sure if he has a book or books.)  And, incredibly, it contains information which fits almost eerily perfectly with my comparison of him and Adele.  Apparently, in 2014 “Collins announced in an interview with Inside South Florida that he was writing new compositions with the English musician Adele.  Collins said he had no idea who Adele was when he learned she wanted to collaborate with him.  He said ‘I wasn’t actually too aware [of her].  I live in a cave.’  Collins agreed to join her in the studio after hearing her voice.  He said, ‘[She] achieved an incredible (indeed) amount.  I really love her voice (doesn’t everyone).  I love some of the stuff she’s done, too (funny how derivation expertly masquerading as originality can, at first, avoid appearing to even the most savvy sensibilities).’  However, in September 2014, Collins revealed that the collaboration had ended and he said it had been ‘a bit of a non-starter.’” (http://bit.ly/1FMxC7h).  I was surprised to find this, but I was not surprised by what I read.  The link to my situation is obvious: not only had I come to finally realise the truth about myself, I had also come to realise (perceivable, based on my limited sensory experiences) truths about the world around me to the point in which I had inadvertently made a coincidentally-timed observation about one musical artist and his dawning distaste for another.  To wit: my interpretation of the above Wikipedia excerpt is that eventually Collins discovered he had creative conflicts with and differences from Adele.  Of course, those who are fans of the latter, but not the former, might infer differently.


Sunset, Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California, New Year’s Eve 2012

The future is bright.  I’m now capable of more consciously effectively operating in reality.  I understand the world better than I ever have, even if I still have many, many problems with it.  And I understand my place in that world better; indeed all but completely accurately.  Though that’s not to say I think I have some special place in the world beyond that which I might make, with others’ help.  Why is the future bright?  Firstly because it always has been, or had the potential to be.  And secondly because I’m now better able to realise why it is, or certainly can be if I play my proverbial cards right.  I’m free.  Not free in the sense that I can do whatever I want.  Not free in the sense that I’m capable of anything.  Free in the sense that I’m capable of what I want to do, as long as I’m conscious of those things – some of which might also be things I want to do, albeit with lesser priority – I must sacrifice in order to do what I want to do.  I certainly want to write, as evidenced by the fact that I am right now and have many times previously.  I certainly want to love, as evidenced by the fact that I am truly in love with the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met (again, besides my mother).  And I want to live.  And I will live not haunted.  Not scared.  Missing nothing.  I am, alive.