Wednesday, 27 March 2013

I'm not one to complain (much)

One of my favourite writers, Bill Bryson was starting his weekly column when his wife happened past and noted the beginnings on his screen.
"Bitch, bitch, bitch", she said.
"What was that my dewy English rose?", Bill replied.
"All you do in that column is complain", she said.
"Well", said Bill, "I'm a columnist, that's what I do."
Is that what we columnists do?
I have checked my previous three posts and it does indeed seem that all I do is complain, so I have included this picture of me checking the surf at the Pass this morn to remind myself as much as anyone that it's not all bad up here.
Now on to the complaining.
A few years back I was between dwellings and in desperation took a room in a share house here in Byron.
It wasn't the standard setup I remembered from my uni days where all those living there would get together and interview prospective housemates.
This place was a run by a manager and he would just plonk people in as he saw fit.
Thus I would come home and there would be some bogan sitting on the couch shooting his mouth off before I'd even sat down and I realised with a sinking heart that I was sharing my living space with them for the forseeable future.
I did my writing in a school exercise book at this time and one evening one of his friends asked me why I was always writing in this book.
"I want to be a writer", I said.
"WHY?!", he responded.
Why indeed?
I think, like Bridget Jones and almost everyone else who wished to be a writer, I was in love with the perceived lifestyle. 
Writing for a couple of hours each day in a sunlit studio with terracotta pot plants on my desk, leaving each lunchtime to be feted at literary lunches whilst consuming vast quantities of red wine and delivering rapier-sharp bon mots to an audience breathlessly grateful that I allowed my countenance to shine on them from on high.
Of course the reality is somewhat at variance.
The first thing you've got to do is WRITE SOMETHING.
I once completed a manuscript, 220 odd pages, 60,000 odd words.
When finished I thought in my massive, massive ignorance that the hard part was done.
I contacted a publishing house in Sydney and they told me they only take manuscripts from literary agents, unknown authors can fuck off.
Actually they didn't say that but the message was implicit.
So I got out the Yellow Pages and found there were three literary agents in Sydney.
I rang the first and they said "we don't take manuscripts unless you've already been published."
So I gave up on the idea and have only begun to revisit it here in the new fangled age of electronic publishing.
So the question remains 'Why do I want to be a writer?', and I think the answer is that I want a forum to complain loudly and longly about the fucking wankers that tick me off on a regular basis.
First cab off the rank is a cyclist I almost ran over on Monday this week.
Those who recall a previous post of mine, "Please don't walk on the f@#*ing road", may be getting apprehensive, but I can assure you that testy though I get, deliberately running someone down is not on my agenda.
Anyway, I wasn't having a good day, I was quite depressed for no reason I could nail down.
I haven't had alcohol since New Year, I haven't had pot for nearly five years and Monday was my day off, even then my main work is as a gardener which I enjoy, so there was no logical reason to be down.
Yet I was, and I think this is probably the best sign of clinical depression.
When there is a reason, e.g a death of someone close,  a sad book or movie, trouble at work, then feeling down is logical.
This amorphous black cloud that descends has no logic to it at all.
Anyway, I went for a surf and it was as I was looking for a parking spot afterward that this eternal nob end entered my life.
I spotted a park and ducked in and as I was ferreting about getting my stuff together to go to the shops, I noticed a cyclist staring fixedly through the windshield at me.
I got my wallet, phone and shopping bags, then stepped out of the car.
"Why don't you watch where you're going?", said the cyclist, "you almost ran me over".
Now all my life I've felt I was a coward, this largely stems from the abuse I suffered at the hands of my parents, I won't go into that here, but thanks to good therapy, I am getting over it and these days I am learning to assert myself.
"Oh yeah", I replied, "well you're not wearing a helmet you fucking wanker, so don't talk to me about road rules."
He was shocked.
I feel the essence of road rage is that each person believes they are 100% right and cannot believe for a fleeting nanosecond that the other person can possibly believe, on this or any other planet, that there is the remotest possibility that THEY ARE IN THE RIGHT!
Anyway, he then began edging away from me and left.
I gathered my stuff went shopping and then home to read and relax.
My heart was racing, my hands were shaking and the adrenalin coursed through my system for some time, but I was glad I asserted myself and didn't back down mumbling and stewed on it for days.
What's more, I think he sensed I did a blog with literally tens of readers and so I would get to tell the net my side of the story and he would just go home and continue to give himself RSI of the right hand.
So I'll close by bringing the 'Only in Byron' part in.
My friend Bodhi (real name Colin) pointed out that if you see a car with a 'Peace and Love' sticker on it, steer clear of it because they will be the most aggressive driver on the road.
And likewise, nowhere in this country will you meet so many aggressive, impatient road users than here in the heart of hippy country.


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Welcome to Al-Al land

Do you know the full name of LA?
Well here it is: “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula".
(in English, "town of our lady the Queen of Angels of the little Portion”).
I once read that in the very early days of its settlement that there were more letters in the name of the town than people living there.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Under the Bridge” refers to living in the City of Angels but having worked there myself while with Greenpeace I can assure you it is anything but.
Of course the other nickname for the place is La-La land and in a typically roundabout way that brings me to my home town, Byron Bay.
The picture shows the clock tower in the main street with two faces visible.
I include it because when I first arrived in the Bay, or Al-Al land as most of the drug soaked denizens of this burg would no doubt render the nickname, each face showed a different time.
I know this doesn't sound like much but it used to give me great pleasure to see tourist vehicles lurch as they passed the clock tower with those inside wondering if they were four hours early or three hours late.
I also liked it because it meant, to me at least, that you could choose whatever time you wanted for whatever activity you happened to be doing.
Thus you could say to your boss that it was 8:30 when I passed the clock tower so how can I be late for work?
Here in the Bay no-one knows what day it is because hardly anyone works 9-5, the main industry in this town is hospitality and that is done on the weekend and lets us surf weekday mornings while all the tourists are sleeping off the drinks we spent all night pouring down their throats.
Anyway, I was bereft when I saw a council worker on a ladder with a spanner finally fixing the various broken clock faces and thought we were going back to ordinary time as pictured with the same time on each clockface.
But I was premature.
The man on the ladder went one better and removed all the hands and so now each clock showed no time at all, and that was a better metaphor for this town than anything!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Please don't walk on the f*#@ing road

I rounded the corner of Burns st earlier this week and  found these two young woman  right in front of me, on a slick, rainy road. I had often wished for, and truly never as much as that moment, a 40mm anti-tank cannon to mount on my car so I could give those tourists who come to my home, break all the rules and trash the place  something to remember me by.
The girls in this photo would have been the first to feel some of my high-velocity shells, particularly because just one hundred metres or so from where these soon-to-be-smudges-on-the-asphalt are walking is this sign.

It brings to mind a joke that always amused me.
A guy is driving down the road in his Mercedes-Benz and stops and picks up a hitchhiker.
They drive some distance and the hitchhiker asks what is that metal thing on the front of the bonnet and the driver decides to have a bit of fun with his passenger and says, "That's my sight".
"Oh", says the hitchhiker, "what do you use that for?"
"Well", says the driver if I'm driving down the road and see a cyclist I line them up in my sight and then run 'em down at full speed."
"Oh right", says the hitchhiker somewhat nervously.
They go a bit further and the hitchhiker spots a cyclist, "look", he says, "a guy on a bike. Good chance to use your sight."
The driver says "rightio" and speeds up.
He heads for the cyclist and just as he is about to hit the bike rider he shears off to miss, but just as he does he hears a 'thunk' and looks in the mirror and sees the cyclist spinning away down the side of the road.
The hitchhiker says, "Man, you better get your sight checked, if I hadn't opened my door we would have missed him."

And there neatly to a comment made when I first came to Byron Bay on holidays 20 odd years ago.
After a week I fell in love with the place, mainly I think because it was everything my home town wasn't, and so started looking into buying some property in the area.
A young estate agent called Grant Rutter showed me around and as we went we came across some tourists walking on the road like the photo above and Grant said, "I don't know what it is about Byron but people who come here suddenly think they are impervious to vehicle impact."
In the following twenty years my temper has receded to vanishing point and I am now ready to test their hypotheses.
Since, in South Australia at least, you are allowed to use your shotgun on an intruder to your home, then surely if a pedestrian is breaking the law then I should be allowed to enforce the same law using my car.
So, if you are jaywalking around the Northern Rivers pray that a maroon commodore with a 40mm cannon welded to the bonnet is not the next one to come around the corner.

Bad Karma

Jonathon Ross the British journalist once did a show called 'Only in America', which featured some of the outlandish things that we've come to expect from the place.

One article that stuck in my mind was a bloke who had modified his car engine bay to cook his dinner as he drove home.

So before leaving work he would wrap a steak and potatoes in alfoil place it in the modified oven heatedby the engine block, drive home and voila!, dinner ready as he stepped out of the car.

I mention this because this series of articles I'm doing could likewise be titled, 'Only in Byron Bay'.
The attached photo is one I took when I was in a local pharmacy.
Most businesses have a menacing sign saying something like, “It is the policy of Try-and-Save to prosecute shoplifters to the full extent of the law".
Either this particular pharmacy had tried threatening shoplifters and it didn't work, or the staff and owner were canny Bay-ites who knew that Karma is a more powerful force here in the Rainbow Region than the cops.

And while I'm on the the topic of shoplifting, those who know me well will tell you that it is no point calling me at six in the evening (or morning for that matter) because I'm watching The Simpsons.
Many think The Simpsons is typical American crap, but I've learned a lot there and one of those things was where the term shoplifting came from.
Traders on the Levant sold their wares from tents in the market place and shoplifters would literally lift the corner of the tent, reach under and grab what they could before, one would think, mounting a fast camel and high-tailing it into the desert.
It was quite a good episode and it starts out with the desert folk going about their lives before Moses came down off Mt Sinai with the ten commandments.
Homer the thief is chatting with Lenny the carver of graven idols and Rohab the adulterer.
Suddenly a shout goes up, “Moses is coming, everybody get busy!”
So Homer starts nicking stuff, Lenny begins hammering furiously on his stone figurines and Rohab starts cracking onto a nearby desert maiden.
Then Moses arrives and reads out his commandments among which are of course 'thou shalt not steal', so Homer's got to get a job, 'thou shalt not worship graven idols', so Lenny's out of business and 'thou shalt not commit adultery', so the scene ends with Rohab saying “looks like the party's over”.
Which loosely brings me to one night when I was in a local hostelery when a load of shouting began and a naked man was trying to get into the pub.
He was either on a trip, not uncommon up here, or a nudist, very common up here, or, now that I think about it, both.
Anyway the security staff assembled and dealt with him gently, they're used to events like this, I promise you that, so gently but firmly told him he couldn't come in.
After some moments he wandered off into the night and things settled down.
A bit later I asked one of the staff members why they wouldn't let him in and they said, “he wasn't wearing any shoes”.
Only in Byron Bay