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A revered elder


I’ve always had a soft spot for my uncle. Though I never got around to buying the plastic sheeting, duct tape and shovel.

He turns seventy in a few days and I wonder if he still remembers me. Or if it’s only today he forgets as he spends his hours watching lawn bowls and reminiscing about old times.

He was mum’s kid brother who grew up only a few blocks from where I did so I knew him from a pretty early age. At first we didn’t have much to talk about. Not until I’d learned to talk anyway.

But for around four decades he’s been based in Victoria and I in NSW. We only see each other during increasingly rare family get togethers and have only intermittent phone and email contact. Most often when a relative is sick, dead or dying.

About fifteen years ago we were both visiting his parents in Ettalong on a nice summers day with a sweet little 1 – 1.5 metre swell coming in from the south. That day’s body surfing at Umina was probably the last time we really clicked.

When we have spoken in recent years it has often gone badly. I blame the fact that he’s joined an All-American, CIA-designed, As-Seen-On-Oprah-Winfrey New Age religion and doesn’t seem to appreciate me practicing my cult deprogramming techniques on him. I thought cultists were supposed to like it when family members showed an interest in their beliefs.

He’d always seemed pretty sophisticated to me. He knows lots of stuff and he sent back postcards from London and Paris and Kabul. I was never sure who he was working for but he never got shot or thrown in prison or anything like that.

One of my strongest early memories of him was when I brought a half drowned newborn kitten I had found near my primary school to my grandparents’ house. He helped me warm and dry it and improvised a feeder from a dolls bottle that we used to save the tiny helpless, soggy, pathetic looking thing that later became my family’s beloved companion. Yeah, I really do have strong, kitschy, treacly memories like that. I’ve spoken to psychologists and they say there is little they can do.

I’ve always thought I was pretty smart and my uncle was the only relative who agreed with me so I guess that made us the two dumbest people in the family. He arranged to have me shown around Sydney University where I attended my first neurology lecture aged about twelve. When I was about fifteen he paid to have me assessed by management consultants, Chandler McLeod, who produced a such a glowing report on my aptitudes and abilities I was using it in my job applications through to my twenties. I’ve been utterly insufferable ever since.

During summer holidays he’d take me in to his Sassafras or South Melbourne homes, supporting and coddling me and using his control of the accounts at McCormick Foods to find me a job in one of their spice warehouses so I could “save up money for my education”. Naturally I spent it on useful things like drugs and partying and buying a high-powered rifle. When authorities learned the hard way there were people like me buying high-powered rifles they changed the laws.

Australian kids don’t have any fun these days.

When I was a junkie punk rocker sharing a convict era Darlinghurst flat with lesbian sex workers while working part-time for a minor Eastern Sydney crime boss I was also highly in demand as a corporate computer analyst/programmer. The Big Melbourne Insurance Agents Conference with the companies negotiating to buy the software package I had co-developed coincided with a bout of acute hepatitis I had picked up due to My Bad Habit. Back in those pre-HIV days clean needles weren’t always easy to come by.

I was pretty sick but something far more important than insurance company money ensured I would be in Melbourne that week Chrissy Amphlettcome hell or high water. The Divinyls were starting their new tour in a small pub in Melbourne. And the week after the conference they would be playing at the Bondi Astra Hotel, a brief bus ride from my Darlinghurst hovel.

I could stalk Chrissy Amphlett!

Like Malcolm Turnbull I was a complete Chrissy Tragic in the early 1980s.

The conference was in some sort of upmarket wank hotel like the Wentworth where I could suitably impress security with my black mohawk, safety pinned ear, shabby clothes, poor grooming and yellow eyes. Fortunately no one asked me to roll up my sleeves.

I met Tony Greig and Fred Daly and phalanxs of insurance agents who all wanted to shake my diseased hand when I was flat out trying to use it to write utilities that would convert data currently held by several of our potential clients into the format used by our database.Chrissy Amphlett But at least I got the weekend off. So I was off. To see my Uncle and ‘Aunt’ in the compact Glover Street home where they were watched over by the two ASIO agents across the road. No, I told you already I don’t know who my uncle works for. It would probably be worth more than my life if I did.

I couldn’t persuade my uncle and ‘aunt’ to accompany me to the Divinyls concert despite the flyer showing a black and white picture of Chrissy looking completely miserable, printed with the lyrics “Life can be lonely, life can be very sad, life can be something you wish that you never had”.

Old folks just don’t know how to have fun any more. And they get older every year too.

I can remember the tram ride from South Melbourne to a fairly large, low ceilinged pub venue in another inner suburb. I can remember parts of an earth-shattering dream of sex and defiance and agony and energy and raging despair. I can remember moshing to full-auto versions of ‘I’ll make you happy‘ and ‘Sahara Rock‘.Chrissy Amphlett

I remember standing stunned watching Chrissy perform ‘Elsie.
Fuck. And I’d thought I was crazy.

But I don’t remember how or where I got home. Whether I broke into my uncle’s house at 3am or returned to confront the hotel guards hypomanic, deafened, drenched in sweat and whacked on an expertly selected mix of substances. I don’t think I woke up in a jail or hospital at least.

But I sure remember how fine it was to be a young Australian man back then. Even if I was behaving as if I’d rather have been a dead one.

When I took to wandering around Asia I wrote cramped cards and aerograms back to my grandparents describing my adventures in jungles, on mountaintops, on coral reefs, in exquisite villages, in exotic cities, in mysterious ashrams, wandering the ruins and flying over ranges. I was pretty out of it when I wrote some of them so I might have said anything. My Nan and Pop shared my demented drivel with other members of my family, including my uncle.

Ever since then he’s been on me to write stuff. After years of protesting over what a thankless and tedious task that would be I finally relented and started this blog.

I bet he doesn’t even read it. I haven’t heard from his lawyers yet.

Now I have to decide what to give him for his 70th birthday.

For his 69th birthday I subjected him to a sustained tirade of written psychotic abuse that culminated in me proving to myself beyond doubt what a hypocrite I am. It was the best present I ever gave anyone.

What I need for him this year is something subtle and tasteful that will completely tear apart his ego and leave him psychically naked before the Cosmos.

LSD on his birthday cake perhaps?

  1. Could just be nice to the guy and give him the benefit of the doubt for one day a year.


    • Nah, that would be derelict.

      I have been incarnated into this existence in order to reveal to him the truth of dukkha.


      • Maybe you can think of a way of helping free him of dukkha through kindness.


      • Oh yeah, thanks for that link. I’m going to look up some of the people quoted: hoping to find talks by them I can listen to while working on art.


  2. Eskimo Pie permalink

    Plea From A Cat Named Virtute

    Why don’t you ever want to play?
    I’m tired of this piece of string.
    You sleep as much as I do now,
    and you don’t eat much of anything.

    I don’t know who you’re talking to-I made a search through every room,
    but all I found was dust that moved in shadows of the afternoon.
    And listen, about those bitter songs you sing?
    They’re not helping anything.
    They won’t make you strong.

    So, we should open up the house.
    Invite the tabby two doors down.
    You could ask your sister,
    if she doesn’t bring her Basset Hound.

    Ask the things you shouldn’t miss: tape-hiss and the Modern Man,
    The Cold War and Card Catalogues, to come and join us if they can,
    for girly drinks and parlor games.

    We’ll pass around the easy lie of absolutely no regrets,
    and later maybe you could try to let your losses dangle
    off the sharp edge of a century, and talk about the weather,
    or how the weather used to be.

    And I’ll cater with all the birds that I can kill.
    Let their tiny feathers fill disappointment.
    Lie down; lick the sorrow from your skin.

    Scratch the terror and begin to believe you’re strong.

    All you ever want to do is drink and watch TV, and frankly
    that thing doesn’t really interest me.
    I swear I’m going to bite you hard and taste your
    tinny blood if you don’t stop the self-defeating lies
    you’ve been repeating since the day you brought me home.

    I know you’re strong.

    lyrics The Weakerthans


    • Gotta wonder if you’re spamming PR for The Weakerthans, but I like the words so they can stay.

      Also gotta wonder if your handles are tributes to Sydney indie music of the late 70s, early 80s.


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