Thursday, 31 December 2015


It's amazing how standards can slip over time. I once said I'd never participate in the American tradition of Halloween, but I eventually succumbed along with the rest of the population when it became too mainstream to ignore. I freely admit that I now enjoy Halloween, but it's come at a price. Halloween has dissolved my last vestige of dignity and turned me into something I swore I'd never be - a face painter!

During previous Halloweens, I've made a token effort to join in and have worn my old velvet smoking jacket, sheepishly telling any confused onlookers that I was Gomez Addams from The Addams family.

Nobody was convinced.

This year I decided that I wanted to impress my daughter Clementine and go to some actual effort and maybe even manage to scare her. She always seems to watch passively as people are torn limb from limb on television, but is strangely scared of such mundane things as ants and cuddly yellow labradors in real life.

I wanted her to be scared of something fantastical for a change!

I decided that Tim Burton's character Beetlejuice would be the perfect balance between not being frightened at all and being emotionally scarred for life, so I set about devising the perfect costume.

As something of method actor, I researched the character thoroughly. I watched the movie Beetlejuice, studied the character' mannerisms and even bought a copy of 'Harry Belafonte's Greatest Hits' which is featured in the movie.

The costume seemed easy enough to make, I'd simply buy an old black suit and paint white stripes on  it. This took a lot longer than I thought and was fairly labour intensive.

For the wig, I reluctantly had to buy an official Beetlejuice wig from a costume shop. I modified it somewhat by cutting the hair shorter to match the character in the movie and cutting out the 'fake' receding hair line. Nature seemed to have covered that base for me already.

The only other thing I needed was make-up, which I also bought from the local costume shop.

When Halloween came around we were both ready to go 'trick-or-treating.' I was dressed as Beetlejuice and Clementine was incongruously dressed as a dinosaur.

We gathered at the local park with other families to terrorise the neighbourhood in hordes. I wasn't prepared for the reaction I received when I turned up.

Maybe I'd done too good a job, but people seemed genuinely pleased to see me and were alarmingly keen to interact with 'Beetlejuice.'

This is when I realised I was not truly committed to the character.

Children and adults alike came up to me and excitedly yelled 'Hey Beetlejuice, how are you?'

It stopped me in my tracks as I searched for a response.

In the movie, Beetlejuice would have replied in a gravely tone, danced around maniacally, groped a nearby woman and greedily devoured some live insects.

I prepared my response with this in mind.

'Pretty good, I guess', I replied laconically, with my arms dangling uselessly by my side.

My admirers smiled weakly and walked away looking somewhat disappointed.

I thought back to the only two acting roles I had done in short films - 'slow-witted council worker' and 'momma's boy'. Were these the roles that would define me forever? Was this limited emotional expression all that I could conjure up?

I dejectedly walked around the streets of my suburb, Pascoe Vale, with the other parents and our children in tow. We were all concerned by the mixed message we were sending about not talking to strangers and taking lollies off them. Apparently on this one day it's okay!

On the way home I stopped for a bottle of wine at the local bottle shop. The man behind the counter still recognised me as Beetlejuice even though I wasn't wearing the wig anymore. It seems my own hair would have sufficed the whole time!

When I got back in the car I noticed that people were pointing at me excitedly as I drove off. They were happy to see Beetlejuice! I did a victory lap of the car park smiling maniacally safe in the cocoon of my own vehicle. I felt a sense of elation. I now understand why people like to be Santa Claus. It's great to make make people feel happy and take them out of the mundane.

Clementine and I went home and watched 'Hotel Transylvania' before I sent her off to bed.

I walked into the bathroom. When I turned the light on a stranger appeared before me and made me jump backwards.

I'd forgotten I was still wearing the Beetlejuice makeup!

Ironically, Clementine remained unmoved by my costume, but I had managed to scare myself.

I studied my face in the mirror. The sweat from the evening had made my make-up run and achieved the 'sinister' effect I was looking for hours earlier. It actually took a few seconds of careful study to identify myself under my disguise, but I was relieved when I finally did.

I dropped Clementine back to her mother's place the next day and started cleaning up after our Halloween extravaganza.

I considered what to do with my 'Beetlejuice' suit. It would have been easy enough to drop it off at St Vinnie's, but instead I thought I'd hang it up in the wardrobe in case I needed to concur up his powers again.

I spent the evening casually watching TV when suddenly a spider appeared in the corner of the room.

I contemplated him for a while.

'You look delicious,' I thought to myself, before cackling maniacally.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Goodbye Cody

One of my earliest memories of our dog Cody was watching him sliding across the polished wooden floors of our house in Lutwyche. He was about three months old and wasn't properly house trained.

He was weeing in the house.

I'd never owned a dog, so I panicked and slid him across the floor, thinking it'd be the fastest way to get him outside. Perhaps I'd overestimated my strength, or hadn't anticipated the lubricating factor of his urine, but he ended up tumbling down the front steps.

I felt incredibly guilty.

He was fine.

I've always had a strange sense that my timing is off with people in the world. This feeling is no different when applied to Cody. When driving to pick him up for the first time from the pet shop, my ancient Kingswood chose that trip to dislodge the axle from the engine mount. I sheepishly asked friends to pick my dog up instead.

Despite our shaky beginnings, my girlfriend Edwina and I both came to love Cody. I can't speak for her, but I loved him in a way that I didn't know I needed. Cody was a kelpie-cattle dog cross requiring lots of attention and exercise. I was a fairly self-involved, under-employed, lazy, dreamer that lived in my own headspace. Cody helped me learn how to get out in the real world, and I can thank him in part for making me a relatively healthy individual these days. People that know me now may think I haven't changed much, but just imagine how much worse-off I'd be without Cody!

Eventually, Edwina and I got married and Cody was the 'best man' at our wedding. This may seem a bit indulgent, but it did save us from having to choose a human to play the part, and spared us
from any hurt feelings that may have been felt from people being 'passed-over' in our selection process. Once again Cody had come to our rescue!

It was only about a year after our marriage that we decided to move to Melbourne, and of course we took Cody with us. I felt a bit sorry for him because he didn't have as much room to roam in his new surroundings. He was, however, getting older and slowing down.

Our daughter Clementine was born about a year after we moved.

Being a new father, working part-time and being a carer for a baby girl left me feeling completely lost, but luckily Cody managed to help me out once again. He was still active enough
to enjoy visits to the park, so we'd spend many hours, on a daily basis, just frequenting the parks in our neighbourhood. Without Cody, we'd have been stuck at home all day.

Sure, Cody could've been a liability around children, but he had such a gentle nature that nobody seemed to mind (most of the time). Clementine and Cody had a love-hate relationship, but she also owes a debt to Cody, because she would often proudly introduce Cody to other children as 'her dog' to break the ice.

Everybody needs an 'in.'

As Clementine grew older, Cody became less of a focus for Edwina and I. Clementine took up an increasing amount of our attention. Unfortunately, it was around this time that my relationship with Edwina was coming apart, for reasons that were both beyond our control and due to both of us being too stubborn to express how we really feel.

This distance between Edwina and I made me feel jealous of Cody.

I'd often feel like I couldn't do anything right and have to walk on egg-shells, while Edwina wouldn't say anything and let Cody get away with crimes like licking the dishes in the dish washer. Why wasn't I allowed to lick those dishes clean? Oh, how I envied Cody's freedom of expression.

Cody was diagnosed with cancer during the last few years of his life and it makes me feel bad to say it, but I did not appreciate the expense of his treatment and the hour-long trips out to Box Hill to visit the dog oncologist on a tri-monthly basis. This was exacerbated by the fact that Cody considered Edwina to be the pack master. I know this is true because if the family was walking together and I wandered off by myself, Cody would only briefly hesitate. If Edwina wandered off he would staunchly refuse to budge. I was second-in-command at best!

The one thing that Cody and I really connected over was the fact that he knew how I was feeling more than anybody in the house.

Edwina and I eventually decided to go our separate ways, but before we did we had to sell the house we owned together. I was devastated on the day of auction, but Edwina and Clementine seemed completely calm and in control. I sat and brooded while the auction was in process, when suddenly Cody jumped up, licked my face and eventually fell asleep on my feet.

It made me feel infinitely better.

I had decided before the house settled to take a trip to Brisbane. Before sunrise on the day of my flight, Cody had a seizure. We rushed him to the emergency vet at Tullamarine. He was in such a state that Edwina and I knew he wouldn't survive the weekend, but we couldn't bring ourselves to admit it to each other. She dropped me off a few hours early at the airport, where I had too much time to think about what had just happened.

I called Edwina just before the flight and offered to stay in Melbourne for Cody's final hours. It seemed incredibly cruel to me and bizarre that we could once again not be 'there for each other' and it reminded me of when we first picked up Cody and my car broke down. My timing was never right!

Edwina eventually said that it was okay to go and to try and think of the good times.

Nothing came to mind.

The only image I could think of was Cody sliding down those front steps all those years ago. Then I realised why I couldn't think of the good times.

"There's just too many," I said to Edwina, before hanging up and tearfully joining the line for the flight.

Luckily, flight attendants at airports are used to seeing people cry. The woman who took my boarding pass offered the usual sympathetic smile, which was followed by a shifting gaze. It seemed to say, "Please sir, there is a long line to get through, can you please hurry along?"

I'm not a superstitious man, or a man of faith, but there's part of me that can't help but feel the timing of Cody's death signified that he couldn't make the choice between Edwina and I, as we went our separate ways.

People are wired to see a face when they look at the moon, or try and look for a narrative to a story when there isn't one. Rationally, I know that it was simply Cody's time to die.

I like to think it was serendipitous, however, that the last thing I said to him was simply this:

"Cody, you're a good boy"

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Bad Taste

Recently I've been looking around at household furnishings and have come to a startling conclusion - I have terrible taste!

I 'm not appalled by this insight. I'm rather proud of the fact.

I realised I would much rather paw though mountains of wood-veneer panelled sideboards, kitschy commemorative coffee mugs and velvety paintings of big-eyed children, than endless aisles of assembly-line Ikea furniture.

I felt the need to re-assert my love affair for kitsch after realising that my furnishings of questionable taste had silently dwindled and disappeared over the course of ten years of marriage.

On a recent expedition to replenish my supply, I came across a print that I remember fondly from my childhood, which stopped me in my tracks. It's a print that even I have to draw the line at for being 'too much.'

A quick Google search reveals that the print in question is titled 'Wings of Love' and is by the artist Stephen Pearson. It features a rather overtly sexual image of a man being delivered to his lover on the wings of a swan in some fantastical realm. Apparently it first appeared in print in 1972 and has sold some 3.5 million copies. It's not as rare as I suspected!

It left a lasting impression on me (and probably started me down the road to kitsch fandom) when I first saw it hanging above the bed in the house of our neighbours from down the road. Our neighbours were a family called 'The Gradys.'

Even though I would have been seven or eight years old, it struck me as rather incongruous to see such an exotic and fantastical image featuring perfectly-sculpted Da Vinci-esque specimens of mankind hanging above a bed in a low-set 1970s brick house in the outer Brisbane suburb of Alexandra Hills.

I only have vague recollections of The Gradys, but I remember the parents being rather conservative and dumpy-looking - not hideous, but certainly not of the calibre of human specimen that was depicted in this painting. I suppose we all need something to aspire to!

There was something very pagan about this picture. I found it weird that The Gradys would own such an image, because as far as I remember they were god-fearing Catholics. There's a possibility I may have jumped to conclusions about this, because Mr Grady was a carpenter and had a beard.

Anyway, I wondered on what level they might be appreciating this painting and what kind of things they were getting up to behind closed doors. Was there at least some level of irony involved?

One thing is for certain, the painting cemented the idea in my mind that a lot of weird things were going on in the 1970s!

I may go back today and check to see if 'Wings of Love' is still available for purchase. Maybe I can hang it above my bed and scar another generation of young children's developing minds with thoughts of what kind of person I actually am.

I'm fascinated to know if the painting still has the power to confound.

If nothing else, at least it would be a constant reminder that I need to go to the gym!

Friday, 5 June 2015

My Night at the Footy!

The zombie horde on the way to the MCG.
I've lived in Melbourne for eight years now and have never had the inclination to go to an AFL game - until now!

An invitation to the Richmond versus Essendon Dreamtime game from my workmates, combined with a desire to broaden my horizons, found me marching with the zombie-like horde towards the gates of the MCG on a chilly Saturday night.

After feasting on a dinner of reasonably priced hotdogs and pies, we entered the hallowed grounds of the MCG, where we were efficiently processed and marched towards our seats.

I felt a giddy thrill as I stared out at the grounds. I think this was more a result of the steep incline of the stands, a fear of the altitude we found ourselves at and a shortness of breath from the climb, than any genuine love of the game.

It was something of a mad scramble for everyone to get to their seats and there was a lot of sitting and then standing to let others pass. There was a polite level of apologising that you would expect in a crowded outdoor event. I considered this to be just part-and-parcel of the game and living in a civilised society.

There were a group of about four or five girls directly in front of us, however, who took exception to this constant interruption.

They stood out immediately to me because they were dressed as if they were heading to a nightclub more than a sporting event and were speaking loudly in a bored, spoilt, privileged and entitled tone that can only be reserved for one dreaded section of society - the American tourist!

"I'm literally dying!!" a girl with a cowboy hat drawled, as she stood to let a sheepish and frail-looking couple in their 60s pass.

The dialect of these girls was classically Californian from the 'Valley Girl' school of mangling the Queen's English. I listened intently to their conversations. They would often try and parody this type of speech, but they seemed unaware that it was only marginally different from their own way of speaking.

The 'view' from my seat.
Before we arrived at the MCG, we went to the pub, where I was passionately arguing that there are good people all over the world and ultimately we are all the same. I still believe this, but watching these girls getting up every five minutes to buy beer and pizza, swinging their selfie-stick dangerously over the heads of punters in front of them and only watching the game through the screen of their smartphones, made me briefly reconsider my stance.

I sat next to my friend Jo. She also sits next to me at work. I always considered her to be a very gracious, polite and caring person who would not hurt a fly, but once the game began and she let loose with a barrage of taunts for the opposition, I suddenly began to fear for my life. I was worried the players would not be able to hear the half time siren and wouldn't know when to stop. She was so loud she was even able to briefly distract our American friends from their endless selfies!

It was clear from Jo's barracking that the team we were supposed to be supporting was Essendon.

I could really only tell what was happening on the field by the reaction of the crowd, which was not helped by our physical distance from the ground. I have to admit to often getting distracted by a lone seagull that was circling overhead and sometimes not remembering which end of the ground my new team 'Essendon' were supposed to be running towards. I was relieved that my friend Andy explained to me after the game that the teams swap sides every quarter. I could now rule out my fears that I was suffering from early-onset Alzheimers or was about to have a stroke.

Luckily, our American friends got bored at about half time and left, which made it easier for me to concentrate on the second half of the game. I was actually getting swept up in the barracking, but it was clear from at least one Essendon fan behind us that things were not going well. He went from being broadly encouraging at the start of the game to referring to the team as 'a bunch of retards' by the second half.

In spite of all my attempts to remain positive, ultimately Essendon was defeated by Richmond - 59 to 71. My friends sat in silence as I grappled with a new, strange and unfamiliar feeling of solidarity. Eventually we decided to go for a drink, even though we were in the middle of the Richmond heartland. This would make the defeat all the more bitter.

As Richmond fans filed past our seats, I realised I had gone from being neutral to finding a new kinship with Essendon supporters. I even felt a bit of animosity towards one Richmond fan who gave me a superior grin as he filed past my seat, resplendent in his yellow and black scarf and beanie. I reluctantly stood to let him pass.

"I'm literally dying!!" I thought to myself.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Hard Rubbish

I feel guilty sometimes for missing a time when nobody cared about the environment. Especially when I fondly recall family trips to the dump in the days of my youth, searching through piles of other people's garbage, with the stench of rotting food wafting through the air and flies buzzing majestically on the summer breeze.

They were simple pleasures from a now bygone era.

These days I have to pay every time I dump a bootload of garbage at the local recycling centre and they don't let me paw through their garbage like some starving grizzly-bear. Also, the fact that I own a Mini Cooper makes it less-than-economical for a car that has just enough capacity for the weekly shopping.

So I do what most people do in Melbourne - I wait for the hard rubbish roadside clean-up.

This involves people leaving useless, broken and unwanted items from their homes on the roadside and waiting for a council van to come and take the stuff away - for free!

What usually happens, though, is most of the garbage is scavenged by eagle-eyed neighbours and taken to their homes where presumably their worthlessness is appraised over the coming year until the next hard rubbish clean-up happens and the items are left outside once again to start the cycle anew.

This year we managed to get rid of our massive, useless analogue tv, a box of leads that belonged to appliances we no longer own, a guitar amplifier and a couple of old computers.

All this stuff was scavenged before the council van even had a chance to get to it.

Some items were even taken while I was standing out the front of our house. A workman's ute turned up and boldly appraised our garbage while I was staring right at him.

He looked at the guitar amp, but didn't take it, as it was missing a lead. Sure, it was barely working, but it was in much better working order than an old Apple laptop that his wife suddenly took an interest in.

"Is this thing working?" she asked cheerily.

"Not in the slightest," I replied.

"No matter," she said, as she took the laptop and excitedly got back in the car with her new find, that would undoubtedly become an elaborate paperweight in it's new home.

If they had waited they could have take an older iMac that was inside the house. I was still deliberating whether or not to get rid of it. This computer was a late 90s model from around the time when Apple were still the underdog and living in the shadow of Microsoft. Their marketing ploy at the time was to have the computers available in a range of colours. Ours was orange!

Before we decided to offer it up for the roadside clean-up, though, I thought it would be best if I booted it up one last time to erase the memory.

The ancient cathode-ray tube reluctantly sprang back to life and instantly presented me with a screensaver of our dog Cody as a puppy, from when we lived in Brisbane. I looked down at the Cody of today, who was sitting next to my feet and realised that, like the computer, time had marched on and now Cody is an older model that is 12 years out of date. He has survived remarkably well, but there isn't quite the same excited glint in his eye as his young counterpart.

There were many other photos on the computer of that time featuring a younger, fresher-faced me. My initial thought was that our lives at the time seemed refreshingly uncomplicated. It was nice to see our younger selves happy and smiling in the afternoon sun on our old patio.

As far as I know, none of these photos were copied over to subsequent computers, so I grabbed a USB stick to rectify the situation.

This is the point where the computer decided to freeze and no matter how many attempts I made, it just didn't want to boot-up again. It was like the computer was tantalising me with the information it possessed, before snatching it from my grasp forever.

At first I was mortified that I wouldn't be able to retrieve the data and was also worried that I hadn't erased the memory. Would this result in thieves stealing our credit card numbers and identities? More importantly, would they laugh at our photos, rudimentary pro-tools recordings, university papers and bad attempts at creative writing?

I thought about it for a while before coming to the conclusion that we no longer owned any of those credit cards and I don't care what they think about my recordings or uni papers. As for my bad creative writing, they can just look up my blog online!

The photos were the only thing I cared about, but it struck me that we have thousands of photos on our laptop now and we barely look at 10 per cent of them.

When I was a kid we had only a couple of photo albums and these were seen as precious items representing a doorway to a forgotten world. Somehow these old, faded images often carried more emotional weight than their modern digital counterparts.

It struck me that emotional weight is spread too thinly these days and one precious photo of a loved one, perfectly composed and captured during an important life event, can be far more meaningful than thousands of off-the-cuff photos of less important incidents. I wondered how a member of The Stolen Generation might feel about a lone photo that is the only evidence connecting them to their biological family. The emotional weight of such an image must be enormous!

With this in mind I quickly boxed-up the computer and placed it on the curb. I was thankful for the thousands of images of my family and friends that I already possessed. Unless there was going to be some sort of electromagnetic pulse-bomb that wiped out all computer information in the world, then I didn't need to see those photos on the old iMac again.

As the rain began to fall on our roadside clutter, I didn't feel sad. I realised there was another reason I was willing to part with that old computer and the photos it contained. I didn't necessarily need to recall those old memories - I want to make room for some new ones!

Saturday, 11 April 2015


Whenever I discuss my high school days with friends, I always try to explain that, whilst I was never one of the 'cool' clique, I was also never a social pariah, either.

Recently, I realised that I've been fooling myself for over two decades. This sort of language is exactly the sort of thing a social pariah would say to justify their existence and boost their self-esteem.

I was shocked one day when I looked at my ageing face in the mirror and realised that I had been a 'nerd' this whole time!

Luckily, these days, being a nerd isn't the terminal social illness it was in the late 1980s, and they even have events catering to this increasingly lucrative niche in society.

With this in mind, I decided to reconnect with my tribe and headed off to the 'Supanova' pop culture exhibition with my six-year old daughter in tow, resplendent in her 'Elsa' dress from the movie 'Frozen.'

Supanova was being held at the Royal Show Grounds in Melbourne, so the best way to get there was to take a train. Whilst I initially found it hard to locate the train platform that was going to the show ground, the gathering throng of assorted anime and comic book characters (who are known as cosplayers for the uninitiated), gave a clear indication as to the direction to travel.

Gogo Yubari.
I have to admit that I didn't recognise too many of the assembling cosplay stars. A lot of them seemed to be from the 'Manga' genre, which has never been my specialty. I'm more of a Star Wars and sixties spy movie kind of guy. I recognised one girl who was dressed like the Japanese schoolgirl Gogo Yubari from the movie 'Kill Bill', but incongruously she was wearing an eye patch. It was when I got closer to her that I realised it was for medical reasons. She was trying to be the character, but must have had a lazy eye or something and needed to wear a patch.

Also, the tall gangly red head guy in the Batman outfit had undoubtedly gone to a lot of trouble on the suit, but without the aid of a studio makeup department, the effect of his frizzy hair and dripping black eye make-up gave him more of an air of 'Colorado movie theatre shooting suspect', than a caped crusader. This was an occurring feeling throughout the day, with a lot of people wearing black and sporting authentic-looking replica weaponry. You would never get away with this if you were going to the footy!

We all ended up crammed into the train as if it was rush hour on a Friday and I instantly noticed the air-brushed posters for Supanova and compared the fit and healthy macrobiotic-eating Hollywood actors to my travelling companions, devouring bags of greasy take-away. The people in the poster looked like the sort of people who would pick on the people in the train carriage and I wondered how much of a divide there was between the 'stars' and their fans. Despite the painful-looking acne scars, wispy moustaches and poor personal hygiene, my sympathies lay entirely with the 'fans.'

The last time Clementine and I had visited the show grounds it was for the Royal Show and we had no trouble buying tickets at the gate. This time things were different. The line to buy tickets was about 200 metres long and there seemed to be about two people manning the booth. I frantically tried to purchase tickets online and join the (slightly) shorter pre-paid queue. Kids under 12 were free, so after making a lame joke in which I apologised for not having ID to prove my daughter was only six - followed by an icy stare - we found ourselves inside the main showground.

Georgina Haig.
Clementine's main goal for the day was to get an autograph from the actress who played 'Elsa,' so we went into the main autograph pavilion to see what time Georgina Haig would be appearing. My first impression was that it was not too different from the cattle pavilion at the Royal Show and there were fans lined up to get autographs from a slew of stars who I barely recognised. The names I did recognise included Star Trek's Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols and George Takei, as well as a action star Dolph Lundgren and 'Back to the Future' actor Christopher Lloyd. The others were all a bit hazy to me, even though I was aware of the shows they had been in.

The line for George Takei was already incredibly long and from my point of view I couldn't tell if people were waiting in anticipation, or he was already manning the desk. Takei is one person who really connects at these sort of events. He seems comfortable with his place in the world and is a star of social media. At events like this I wonder how younger actors feel. Do they still have ambitions to perform Shakespeare at The Globe or star in a Broadway show? It's the same feeling I get when watching soap operas on TV. At what point does ambition end and acceptance of your place in the world begin?

We discovered that Georgina Haig would not be appearing until 1:30pm, so Clementine and I had an hour to fill in. We headed out to the main merchandise pavilion and to check out the other cosplayers.

There were not as many Star Trek costumes as I was hoping for, and the ones that were present were
'Large' Scotty.
occupied by bodies that would never pass the audition when it came to suitability for wearing skin-tight lycra. The only exception was one middle-aged man who seemed to be channeling a rather authentic 'larger' mid-1990s 'Mr Scott.' The other impressive costumes included a transformer, iron man, storm troopers and a slew of medieval fantasy characters I could not recognise beyond the fact that they weren't from 'Game of Thrones.'

Overhearing some cosplay conversations, I noticed a bit of snarkiness creeping in. One girl rolled her eyes and lamented about how many people had dressed up like 'Deadpool.' I hadn't noticed this. Besides knowing that he's from the Marvel universe, I couldn't begin to tell you what he looked like. One girl even pointed at Clementine and said 'There's another Elsa kid.'

It struck me that the cosplay girls were no different than me in the 1990s, trying to seek out the most obscure music and thinking anyone else who didn't know what it was must be 'lame.' These days I'm happy just to listen to Gold FM. Maybe in 20 years these girls will all turn up to Supanova dressed as Elsa and Deadpool (whoever that is.)

Clementine and I checked out the merchandise, which she subtly angled for me to buy for her, before I even more subtly ignored her requests. We then returned to the signing pavilion to meet Georgina Haig.
Apparently this is Deadpool.

As if I was a character from a Star Wars film, about ten minutes before Haig was set to appear, I began to have a 'bad feeling about this.' I decided to check the IMDB data base to check her credits. I was dismayed to find that she had appeared in the TV series 'Once Upon a Time' and was not the actress from the hit Disney movie 'Frozen.' I explained this to Clementine who suddenly got all pouty and declared that she 'didn't care.'

I suddenly found myself in one of those positions that seem to happen frequently as a parent, where you find yourself stuck between trying to please your child, or not doing something pointless.

I explored the option of pleasing my child.

At these events they require you to purchase a photo of the star for you to give them to sign. The line to do this was incredibly long. Once again, I explained this to Clementine. Gradually she was coming around to my point of view, but the one deciding factor for me was that I was terrified of Georgina Haig asking either Clementine or I a question about her career and we would have no other recourse other than to sheepishly admit we didn't know who she was.

By the way, Georgina, if you're reading this, you seem like quite a lovely person and probably a great actress. I promise to educate Clementine about you in future, rather than risk falling into this trap again.

Eventually I managed to extract Clementine with the promise that we could get something to eat on the way home.

Heading home on the train, I realised the thing I enjoyed most about the day was the people that had taken the effort to 'dress up.' This seemed a little bit strange to me, because I have never been the sort of person who enjoyed costume parties. To me this always seemed like 'enforced fun' and consequently no fun at all.

However, I realise that there is a sense of community in the cosplay world and this can only be a good thing for people who may struggle to connect socially. Everybody needs a place where they can be themselves, even if it means having to act like somebody else.

I began to think that it wasn't too different from when I was a kid and wanted to be like Luke Skywalker or Indiana Jones. It's good to have role-models and healthy to fantasise.

I certainly aspired to the traits of my heroes when I was younger, but these days when I look at myself,  I no longer see a character, I see me for my own foibles and strengths. It's not that I no longer possess an imagination, it's just the way it has to be for a man in hid forties and I'm fine with that. Those early days of fantasy and heroics surely were part of shaping who I eventually became anyway and I hope its the same for my cosplay friends.

I concluded that maybe the nerds aren't exactly my tribe, but nobody is, or should be, 100 per cent anything.

All I know is there is no way I'm going to start hanging with the jocks this late in the game!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Lost Things

I achieved a minor victory today as a parent. I managed to get my daughter Clementine to voluntarily throw out a small fraction of the myriad of toys she has accumulated over her seven years of existence.

This was no small feat!

My worries in regard to these toys have been growing exponentially for some time, from concern that she does not appreciate the value of these purchases, to a full-blown fear that she will one day suffocate in her house as a middle-aged hoarder. I envisage her body being discovered by police only after the neighbours complain to the council about the smell and the plagues of rats scurrying from her home.

I have tried many times to convince her to get rid of some toys. My constant diatribes about the evils of the multi-national corporations who produce 90 per cent of these toys seemed to have little effect on Clementine's developing mind, so I decided to try a different angle.

I tried to explain to Clementine that the things that are important in life are not as tangible as mere objects and what is really important is the love from her mother and I. She seemed to reluctantly understand this, but I sensed in her mind that she was thinking about all the new toy-related real estate in her room that could be leveraged by letting go of the dead wood.

Methodically we started to go through the piles of random toy-shaped debris, leaving it up to Clementine to decide what should stay and what should go. She seemed surprisingly open to getting rid of a lot of stuff, but I was slightly dismayed that what she considered unimportant were the more esoteric purchases (usually by me.) It seemed that anything of dubious quality, or associated with a major franchise was given Clementine's seal of approval and designated 'too precious to part with.'

Our attention turned to a battered dinosaur figure that Clementine had since she was a toddler.

"That can go," she said unemotionally.

My heart sank.

This used to be her favourite toy!

Suddenly I realised that the tables had turned and now I was about to make the case for holding on to a piece of useless garbage, as if it was some sort of precious relic from a bygone era.

In a way it was.

Clementine had two obsessions when she was young: Dinosaurs and cars.

When we visited my parents house in Cleveland one Christmas, Clementine had an especially annoying toy racing car that would play 'Born to Be Wild' by Steppenwolf at high volume whenever the driver's head was pressed. Sometimes it just seemed to burst into song randomly at 3am in the morning.

I would wearily stumble into Clementine's room just to see the driver looking cheerfully inane as his theme song urged him on to complete an imaginary lap that he would never finish. I found it annoying, but I would never consider getting rid of this toy... Clementine loved it!

Fate transpired, however.

One day we were walking through the canals and decided to stop off at a pier to let Clementine have a closer look at the water and try and spot some fish. As she peered over the guard rail her precious Formula One driver slipped from her fingers and splashed into the canal. Instantly it started to play 'Born to Be Wild.' Almost as quickly, tears started to roll down Clementine's face and she became inconsolable.

I tried all sorts of acrobatics that would have been worthy on Cirque de Soleil to try and retrieve our tiny friend, but all to no avail. I even considered diving into the murky waters in an heroic last-ditch rescue attempt, but the jagged algae-covered rocks prevented me from doing so. I realised I had to let him go. We all watched helplessly as Formula One guy cheerfully drifted out to sea, with his theme song playing defiantly the whole time.

The next day we looked for a replacement for Formula One guy and came across a red dinosaur in an op shop. Clementine instantly took a shine to it. She happily sat in the back of the car with her new purchase. She tentatively pressed a button on Red Dinosaur's head.

Instantly it's eyes glowed an ominous red, it waved it's tail menacingly and let out a fearsome roar. Clementine was petrified and refused to hold it any more... we all thought that maybe it wasn't such a good purchase after all.

Time passed, however, and after we removed the batteries, gave it a few swims in the pool and a brand new paint job, Clementine and Red Dinosaur became inseparable. I would often see the two of them out on the lawn having tea. Red Dinosaur seemed especially fond of water with grass clippings in it.

Cleaning out Clementine's room in the present day made it hard for me to reconcile that Red Dinosaur had slipped from Clementine's affections for good. He seemed to be another casualty of the Disney princess renaissance. I realised to set an example I would have to do the same thing for Red Dinosaur that I did for Formula One guy.

He would have to go.

I reluctantly placed him on top of the pile of toys that were to be delivered to the op shop the next morning.

Clementine and I made a date to drop the toys off on the way to a party. When I went to put the toys in the boot of the car, I noticed that Red Dinosaur had mysteriously returned to Clementine's room. Had I subconsciously returned the dinosaur? I don't think so. More likely, Clementine had taken the dinosaur back for a last minute reprieve, sensing my attachment to him. I couldn't part with him. I was glad to see him looking ferocious and defiant again. On this occasion at least, Red Dinosaur would stay.

As with most things that happen in your childhood, the real truth is never told. Sure we dropped off the rest of the toys to the op-shop, but most likely 80 per cent of these would have been uncaringly tossed into a wheelie bin, deemed unfit for sale. I would have liked to think that Red Dinosaur could have slipped through the cracks and be loved once more by another child, but, as Red Dinosaur's battered appearance can attest, love can often take its toll.

It's a different story for Formula One guy, though. He is travelling the seas solo. No one will ever love him again. Sometimes late at night I like to imagine that he is somewhere adrift in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, entertaining the other lost toys with his own unique rendition of 'Born to Be Wild.' It consoles me to think that wherever he's going, I know he'll be smiling when he reaches his destination.

God speed Formula One guy!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

My First Share House

I was talking to my workmates in the lunch room a couple of weeks ago about the terrible neighbours I have. My workmates had similar tales of woe. I really can't remember their stories now, but they stirred up some netherworldly, suppressed observations in me.

For example, I have a strange Eastern-European looking neighbour who sits in a chair directly across from our house like some ever-vigilant gargoyle, or the original inspiration for Dracula. He is never less than friendly when he sees me and always indulges me in a friendly wave. I usually weakly respond. I can't escape the fact that the guy creeps me out.

On one side of our house is an old couple who always seem to be fighting loudly. They talk in Italian, though, so it is hard to tell whether what we're listening to is the final disintegration of a relationship, or the passionate exaltations of a couple who are still in love after decades of marriage.

Most disturbingly, however, is the dilapidated 70s brick building on the other side of our house where there resides an old lady who is never seen. Her son lives with her and is apparently unemployed. Legend (and neighbourhood gossip) has it that he lives off his mother's meagre pension. They have a little dog that never leaves the yard and always seems to be in a constant state of distress. It's like some bizarre Centrelink 'Grimm's Fairy Tale.'

I imparted these tales to my workmates before talk eventually turned to our own personal transgressions. Tales of drunken revelry and loud music turned our sombre tones and disapproving frowns into cackles of joy and fond reminiscences. The sheepish looks we passed between each other signalled an understanding that it's much more fun to dish out bad behaviour than to receive it.

I don't like to boast, but I think my tales of communal living put my workmates' stories to shame.

I was but a lad of 19 when I first moved out of home to my first share house. I was ignorant to the ways of love (still am) and the dangers of the world, when suddenly I found myself on the doorstep of a large, crumbling Queenslander affectionately nick-named 'The Dome' (short for Pleasure Dome, presumably), situated in Ryan's Road, St Lucia.

My meagre possessions at the time only managed to fill half of my 1981 Corona station wagon. I copped a fair amount of ridicule for this from my house mates who were only a few years older than me, but had already managed to accrue a staggering array of useless garbage.

My first impression after crossing the threshold, was to marvel at the pea-green carpet that seemed to have been modelled on the colour of Linda Blair's vomit in The Exorcist. I took note of a large depression in the carpet that seemed to signal a lack of floorboards underneath.

Upon inquiry, It turned out the depression was caused by my new house mate Nick dancing too vigorously and managing to smash a hole in the floor. This incident probably happened to the soundtrack of the half-remembered number 'Can You Dig It,' by the band Pop Will Eat Itself. The floor was ruined, but the carpet remained in tact.

I slept on a foam mattress on the floor of my room for the first couple of weeks, before buying a bed off another housemate who was most likely selling it in an attempt to erase some wanton depravity that happened upon it. I'm ashamed to say that I hung on to that bed for the next three years, in spite of how uncomfortable it was and what demons it may have possessed.

I believe there were about seven people living in the house at the time. There were only about three bedrooms, but there was a room under the house and a verandah just outside my bedroom window where the legendary 'Nick' resided. I originally imagined him to be some sort of werewolf-type character and would cower under the blankets when his dark shadow was cast against my window.

I needn't have worried, Nick turned out to be quite amicable and we are still friends to this day. He still enjoys dancing, but maybe not as vigorously as he used to.

House-cleaning skills were minimal. The art of cleaning a toilet was a strange mystery to almost everybody. Stacks of dishes usually remained uncleaned, while we argued over whose turn it was to clean up. The shower, however, was the biggest disaster. It was the early 1990s and everybody had long hair - it was the style of the time. Reams of matted hair would have to be regularly removed from clogged drains by whoever was unfortunate enough to be on cleaning duties.

Strangely, the one thing we were all experts at was the removal of red wine stains. This is done by applying a mound of table salt, waiting for the wine to be absorbed and then vacuuming up the salt. It's an important tip for any wine enthusiast!

What the house may have lacked in cleanliness, it more than made up for in entertainment. We had a stack of VHS movies, a video game system, a large collection of musical instruments and even a pinball machine! The only downside with the pinball machine was the constant pinging of the bells and the noise of the flippers, which interrupted almost everybody's sleep.

Perhaps our most ill-advised entertainment pursuit in the house involved the swimming pool. It was not in operational order when we lived there and was basically just a glorified swamp.

One housemate who was particularly fond of skating decided to drain the stagnant water, rip out the lining of the pool and fashion a makeshift skate bowl. I have never been a skater, but I feel I should take some responsibility for what happened to the pool, in the same way that the contractors who worked on The Death Star were responsible to some degree for the actions of the Empire.

The skate bowl worked a treat for a while until some heavy summer showers partially filled the pool again. This time, nobody could be bothered draining it and the skate bowl became just another abandoned project. It remarkably returned to an even greater state of stagnation.

We used to have regular parties, and on more than one occasion someone would make a trip to the border of NSW where you could legally purchase fireworks (Fireworks were banned in Queensland.) We didn't do this for any particular reason other than simply celebrating a Tuesday afternoon or the fact that someone got off work early.

At the last of these firework parties, things escalated dramatically. Spurred on by a primal cave-man fire frenzy and a sudden realisation there were no fireworks left, furniture was smashed, thrown into the pool, doused with petrol and set alight. The resulting blaze lit up the night sky like an F1-11 fly-over. Much rejoicing and tribal dancing ensued.

Of course, the pool was never cleaned after this and the the resulting carnage looked like a photo still from a gulf war bombing. An oily slick covered the now blackened water and charred bits of wood and material jutted above the water line, signalling the dangers that lurked below. There would be no skating or swimming in this pool again.

Several weeks later we moved out of the house and made several trips to industrial bins at the university and nearby shopping centres to dispose of carloads of useless garbage we had accumulated. We filled a giant garbage bag with food scraps and duly christened it 'The Blob.' It took three people to lift and managed to split open as I was carrying it. Spoiled dairy products and rancid meat splashed my clothes, eliciting a barely-suppressed gag reflex. 'The Blob' haunts my nightmares to this day.  

Finally, everything was removed from the house except one bit of furniture, a wardrobe placed in a curious position in the middle of the lounge room. It's sole purpose was to cover the hole that Nick had created months earlier.

The landlord wouldn't suspect a thing!

We didn't get our bond back.

The whole household moved to a different address in Auchenflower, where out wacky adventures continued unabated. In both households I don't remember the police ever getting called for noise complaints. Surely they must have?

I know over the years the police have been to several of my parties that were much milder than those over-the-top shindigs. My current theory is that the neighbours in Ryan's Road were too scared of us to call the police! Surely not, but I like to entertain the idea that I can install that sort of fear in people.

I like to think that I've become a good neighbour, but occasionally I get misty-eyed and nostalgic when I think back to those heady days.

Recently I was watching an add for a bank where a smartly-dressed business woman was talking about saving for a home loan so she could get out of the rental trap. The add was implying that this would allow her to escape from her passed-out house-mates lying in front of the flickering television. It seemed to my skewed perception that the house mates were the ones having the most fun.

I like the idea of returning to the communal gathering in front of the television, dishing out snarky comments while ensconced in a scratchy, tasseled woollen blanket, with fat drenched KFC boxes offering an opaque window into the congealed contents inside. Bottles of Lambrusco would be strewn around the room with several mounds of salt absorbing any spillages. It seems like a perfect night in!

Sometimes I think that house on Ryan's Road is the best house I've ever lived in.

Then I remember The Blob.