Friday, 25 December 2009

One porter, one cider and one beer or Christmas Eve in the graveyard

I don't know what he was singing but everything stopped, the bells, the chatter, the wind in the grass. Everything except the backlit clouds stopped a moment to hear his song. We were sitting in the graveyard drinking, we had about twelve people, two guitars and one tambourine, we had beer bottles in brown paper bags and a thirst for howling out songs. It wasn't until I decided I had better go home, after Madam Squeeze and I picked out our careful moonlit way through trees, over fallen grave stones and down a path towards the gate that I remembered there was such a thing as churches.

The big church near the graveyard gates was busting at the seams with the bespectacled and the solemn. We snuck into the vestibule as the congregation rose as one and began singing a slow and ancient song. I had grass stuck on my dress and tinsel sticking out of my hair. I was holding three empty bottles, one porter, one cider and one beer. The stench of cigarette butts coming out of the empty beer bottle would have knocked out a lesser mortal than me but I felt quite sure that while I was happy to sit an old grave and drink beer and sing I wasn't happy to leave the empty bottles there. The song was slow and ancient and though they must have numbered in the hundreds I could hear above their voices that good old racket coming from the back of the graveyard where Spencer was perched on a headstone leading his own small congregation in song.

I sat at the edge of the circle in the graveyard tonight, lying on the grass to sip cider and puff smoke at the impossibly fast clouds moving across skies, trees and moon. Spencer and Madam Squeeze were there, Madam sitting comfortably beside me, Spencer perching up high strumming out songs. The rest of them howled, sang and rattled with their accustomed abandon, some of them waltzing like the possessed in a clearing. I'm not sure what I was doing, you can tell just by looking at me that I'm more careful with my heart, mind and songs. Some us of talked about ritual and the good urge for joining together in grief, joy, love and song. I wasn't quite ready to howl at the moon as the others do but I can tell you one thing, I'd rather be drinking on a gravestone than don my spectacles and stand in a congregation miming the art of music to what should have been a moving and ancient hymn but had instead the eerie effect of guilt, obligation, ironed trousers and isolation.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Be bit merry

Makes things bright.

Some ideas are stupider than others

You can traipse all over this city wearing dark glasses and a green dress and still not find what you are looking for. I suppose it was hormonal but all the people on the bus made me want to weep, this was not listed as a possible side effect.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Yet another author

I was talking to this author at the bar, he was saying "people think who you are when you talk to people and eat food and clean your house, how you behave is who you are but it's not. Who you are is on the page."

I nodded politely until he wandered off. I felt like saying 'buddy you got no idea, I'm not even standing here, this thing you're looking at and talking to and is a fucking mirage, the only place I am at all is on the page, especially right now, in this moment, listening to you.'

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Apple Tragedy in a game of I suppose you know who wrote this

So on the seventh day
The serpent rested,
God came up to him.
"I've invented a new game," he said. 

The serpent stared in surprise
At this interloper.
But God said: "You see this apple?"
I squeeze it and look-cider." 

The serpent had a good drink
And curled up into a question mark.
Adam drank and said: "Be my god."
Eve drank and opened her legs

And called to the cockeyed serpent
And gave him a wild time.
God ran and told Adam
Who in drunken rage tried to hang himself in the orchard. 

The serpent tried to explain, crying "Stop"
But drink was splitting his syllable.
And Eve started screeching: "Rape! Rape!"
And stamping on his head. 

Now whenever the snake appears she screeches
"Here it comes again! Help! O Help!"
Then Adam smashes a chair on his head,
And God says: "I am well pleased"

And everything goes to hell.

It's not a final solution but it is nonetheless a solution

Sometimes there's only one solution and that's to hit the old man jazz scene at The Hero of Waterloo where I'm guaranteed to find Boli, a large group of old men in hats and some of that wandering jazz you only get to hear when the people playing it have been doing it for at least forty years.

Additional note - make that sixty years.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Typewriter vs submarine

There's a very good reason for my radio silence, I think. Lord knows I've pissed off approximately most people I know at one point or another by writing about them. I sometimes do it without a second thought for their good opinion of me because words have always been more important. Everybody knows words are how I make maps of myself. There has been the odd exception where I care a great deal and go to lengths to unruffle, apologise or explain but ordinarily the words will win every internal battle and come out some way or another which is why right now I'm feeling kind of strange.

I have an almost unstoppable urge to turn typewriter and clatter this thing out one black letter at a time only the thing that is stopping me is powerful. This is alien territory like a mountain range without ridges or satellite pictures of the wrong planet beamed straight into my GPS. Gemma tells me the thing is called respect and this disturbs me not a little because always in the back of my head is the idea that I have a great deal of respect for the people in my life but Gemma is usually right when it comes to matters of my brain.

It seems this automatic decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. I'm going to dust off my imaginary submarine and take an ordinary plunge. I will navigate this situation, whatever it turns out to be, with my onboard human tools with no recourse to the atom splitting power of typing. There will be a calm echo bouncing off the shells of privacy and respect but don't misunderstand me, everything else I'm doing will be, as usual, subjected to my incessant reworking with pens.


Thursday, 10 December 2009

Let's think about this

It seems obvious to me. We should all be carrying this fact in our heads, solid as lead, to nod at once in a while if we stop suddenly in the kitchen clutching an unnecessary plate in our hands. There was a time in this city when grief welled greater than reason and there were masses gathering in halls to contact the dead.

I don't know how they carried the burden of uncertainty in tandem with the washing. I don't know how they swept floors and darned socks while all the men were missing and everywhere seemed empty. Growing sons should not be a source of fear but as they came of age they left on boats by the thousand. It was easier to feed a mouth than a memory until spiritualism came to Sydney.

I'm not saying I want to start contacting the departed but let's think about this and maybe try a little experiment. I'll keep you posted.

Just like a house but in a shoebox

He was leaning back in his chair holding his arms out to the describe the length of a shoebox while I sipped solemnly at my snake bite. He said "the way to a man's heart is through a diorama" and then he nodded as if to close the matter but I wouldn't let it drop. If this is in fact true why are there not millions of people all over the world sitting bent over tables busy with scissors, paint and glue? I suppose there is the possibility that he is right and all this time I had no idea which would of course explain quite a few things. I have never once made a man a diorama.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

An absence of disaster and other further doings of Dale R Slamma

So all this time you thought it couldn't be done. You were convinced that one could not shampoo one's hair whilst jumping up and down and dancing in the shower without some terrible crashing consequence occurring. You were wrong.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Hello happiness my old friend

It is possible to be diffused with happiness in a plain and simple way. Essential and humble as a small and favourite teapot taken down from a high shelf and held between two cupped palms.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

I think I need a brain wash

I have decided to give my brain this one chance to explain to me why it woke up at 7:45am this morning, a Sunday morning, after we (my brain and I) went to bed after 3am. I'm wide awake, ready to throw on shoes and run out into the world but I'm not going to. Rational thought tells me I need to rest and drink approximately seven thousand litres of water.

It was never my intention to drink about a bottle of champagne before going to the Excelsior last night but the waitstaff just kept cruising past. There were round and shining silver trays seamlessly floating past my elbow approximately every three minutes with free drinks. I was starving and the food was much slower to circulate than the wine. I was crammed into The Argyle with five million people dressed in sailor suits, formation shark unitards or Hawaiian shirts. The Argyle is one of those divine buildings where the floorboards seem like they're constantly being crossed by the ghosts of convicts but of course they've turned it into a hideous bar for shiny people. It was one of those work Christmas parties that have a budget so large it's frightening. I'm more used to the annual staff lunch where all five staff at a non-profit arts organisation go across the road to a pub and choose the cheapest things off the menu and share one bottle of wine, then go back to work in the afternoon. I wasn't ready for the shock of five million gyrating people in full fancy dress throwing back as much booze as is humanly possible.

I left after an hour and discovered, as I walked along the quay that it wasn't the green harbour swaying in waltz time but me. I made it up three flights of stairs, onto a train and then up the hill to The Excelsior. I arrived with a lilt, a pocket full of miniature plastic sea creatures and a plan. Each miniature plastic sea creature was assigned to a specific person based on strict criteria that made a hell of a lot of sense at the time. One seahorse for Daisy, one shark for Spencer, another shark for Madam Squeeze and the sparkly lilac seahorse for Halogen. Spencer, Madam Squeeze and Daisy hadn't arrived yet so I presented a bemused Halogen with his seahorse then sat down and proceeded to talk such nonsense that several people offered to go and fetch me a glass of water. Three hours and seven glasses of water later I was decidedly more sober and beginning to regret my decision to present Halogen with a lilac sparkly plastic seahorse, Spencer, Madam Squeeze and Daisy are of course more used to my ways and present no problems in the area of miniature plastic sea creature presentation regret.

After I had achieved an ideal state of kind of sobered up I found myself having a real good time. Spencer's band was magnificent, as always (seriously people if you don't own a copy of Damn You, Ra yet then I don't know what you are doing) I had one of those nights where conversation is easy, interesting and free. The music did it's job of providing a reason to breathe. I keep rediscovering how live music builds my bones, kind of courses through me like temporary architecture holding up my ceiling.

Sometimes a drummer just wants to play guitar

Well it's close to 3am. I drank a bottle of champagne in a place where everyone except me was dressed like a sailor. I went across town to see some bands, the bands were grand but what sticks out in my mind is when a small and hideously drunk man calling himself Stanley crawled into my lap and said I shouldn't waste any time then pointed at his friend and winked at me. Now is the time to feel stupid, when I am home and still wearing red lipstick and everybody knows about the crush I have on Stanley's friend. Yep, time to feel stupid.

Friday, 4 December 2009

I wish him well and hope that everything he's worked for comes true

Somebody's paying me to check references for them so I'm sitting in a cubicle two days a week telephoning strangers and talking about other strangers but I'm not saying I don't like it. I like the top down snapshots I'm getting of these people. I like a life rated out of ten for punctuality, reliability, overall performance and their ability to meet sales targets augmented with strange and rambling personal anecdotes. Most of the applicants are young so I end up talking to the owner of the petrol station where they worked in uni holidays, or the president of the sports association where they volunteer as a junior coach. The people I'm telephoning can't wait to have their say, can't wait to rattle off the ten versions of how they're holding hope cupped in their hands for the smart young person they paid to wash cars or set up a straight line of orange cones. I feel like I'm getting a bird's eye view of something here, something I haven't seen before.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Walk On By

The Walk On By appeared from nowhere. One day I’d never heard of them, and then suddenly they were everywhere. After only months on the Sydney scene they have lined up three international shows. I’ve seen them once before, appearing at in-store at Repressed Records with The Holy Soul. It was early afternoon and the sheer noise of them pushed me out of the record shop and into the street where I watched like a child with my face pressed against the window.

Descending into the depths of Club 77, armed with earplugs, I was determined to sit through any level of noise and see for myself what everyone is talking about. The Walk On By throw out an enormous sound. I snuck around the side of the stage to make sure that I had counted correctly. There are indeed only three of them. Leah Keramea is spectacular on drums. Her head hangs forwards leaving visible a short curtain of hair, the tied waist of a black trench coat and her elbows moving casually as though of their own accord. It is tempting to be jealous of the casual way she smacks out rhythm as though it was easy.

Dave Bourke is almost disturbingly energetic on bass. He seems to have mastered a precise climbing sort of bass line that walks up your bones. If I had any criticism it would be that he somehow sounds too precise, too clean and assured in the middle of such a crashing wall of sound. There was a brief pause while the band switched instruments, Keramea walking to the front swapping her drums for a guitar. She has the kind of presence that makes a crowd lean forward. I have to admit it was the highlight of the set when she started screaming ‘glass you fucking cunt’ into the microphone.

An angry American began walking around holding up a sign “Start a mosh?” There were no takers so in between songs she started yelling at the crowd to stop just standing there watching the band and nodding their heads. The crowd yelled back ‘fuck off’. I guess nobody told her about Sydney and standing around nodding your head. She then borrowed red lipstick and a mirror from some poor woman in the crowd. The American smeared her mouth red until she resembled nothing but a clown.

Frontman Soloman Barbar certainly looks the part all dressed in black with his wild and miraculously vertical hair, pointed moustache and one of those white neck-ties that you tie like a ribbon into a bow. Barbar has a tough job standing in the front with the aim of pulling focus amidst the kind of sound that crashes. It would be easy to forget that in terms of gigs this is a baby band taking its first steps. The Walk On By sound interesting enough to get away with breaking oceans of sound over my earplugged head. They would benefit from a more confident and assured vocal delivery but like I said, this is a new band beginning the hard task of earning their stripes playing in dives and late night bars. I’m all for watching them work their way up to playing in better venues, I think its going to be an interesting ride.

First published on LiveGuide