Because the world needs more overwrought candour.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


I want to have children because I want to make something that bleeds, she says, I am tired of wood and paper and ink and the making of lifeless things.

He says but that’s utterly selfish, and he says this with shock. He stops stirring the white sauce, stops adding cheddar cheese and he stops these things so that he can look at her.

Her chin quivers. He knows this quiver. It is the horse-quiver of strain, of holding fast against vast internal pressures. It is her stubbornness and her strength and he falls in love with her again.

There are curtains, he notes absently in the pause for breath that fills them both, there are curtains that fall vertically from a pole to the floor and he has seen them many times over the days and months and years and he has not seen them at all. They have flowers on them. A collection of pleased bees dart from one to the next. Contrails chart their paths. The colour yellow has been used.

He clears his throat in the hope it will bring words like rain and break the pause and break this thing that she cherishes, this thing he has known of for a long time.

There was a time when their fucking was violent and their hips tattered each others and they would quietly smile at each other during lightening storms. But this way of making love gives way to gentler patterings and mumblings and she led him to simpler things and deeper.

This violent time was when they were young, when they called themselves young, when the world was fresher and newer and stranger, when love had the sense of adventure that approached movies, when it was a triumph to be wet by the sky together.

His name was Tim and hers was Melissa and it doesn’t matter what mine is at all.

Here is what Tim was able to say: nothing. His mind had filled up and sponged outwards and soaked many memories and the tang of nostalgia sat on his tongue and bound him.

She, Melissa, was proposing something new. She was proposing something radical. She was proposing something impossible. The world was not fresh and new for them anymore. Her womb had never seen his penis unclad. This was a decision that both of them had made, together, that this act would have this meaning, that it would free them from strain and bind them together but that it would be qualified with plastics and pills and made harmless and joyful. This was a decision which had lasted as long as they had. This decision had long passed beyond Tim’s thoughts into the place where rules are abided by.

But this is coming too much from Tim, too much, when it is Melissa who has said something important, very important, amongst the clutter of domestic life, the collections of questions involving brands of bread, locations of keys, holidays, pets (Rooster the cat) and reaffirmations of love, reminders of phone calls to errant family.

There are only two of them in this story and Melissa is proposing to introduce a new character, a third, a shapeless mass with nothing interesting to say.

Melissa says what she says because she is tired of her life. She is successful. Having zero children frees up much time. Having access to two incomes means swift mortgage repayment. It allows investment properties across the Tasman. Hobart is the next hot market. She knows exactly what Tim does from Monday to Friday, and even what happens to him on the weekends when he seeks out friends. They have good lines of communication. They have worked at talking, not let themselves soften into habit. They are proud of the couple they have formed.

Melissa looks at him shocked wondering how he does not know the tide of inside her. How is it that Tim doesn’t know the way time stretches out in commutes in the car, in supermarkets, in the doldrums where no wind blows? Doesn’t it show on her face, roiling beneath her jaw? Hasn’t she told him a hundred times, over and over and over? How can it be that with all this talking, the child is still in her head?


Just for practice.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The perils of SYPHILIS!

I deliberated about whether to share this embarassing little gem with you all, but if I don't, I'll have nothing fresh or juicy to read. And that is worse than DEATH! I've already told a version of this story, but not the aftermath.

So this is the merry tale of Dashing Doug and the Evil STD Clinic. It opens with our hero's father giggling his way through a very practical version of the birds and the bees.

Scene: Late at night, late last year, the family residence. A secret rendevous under the nose of the religious authorities (Mum). Father offers to walk son to the car in unusual move. After loitering near son's car for an unusually long time, the father speaks.

Father: Ah. Ahem. Tee hee. This package is for you, Doug.

A package changes hands. It is wrapped in brown paper, very, very tightly. It is the approximate size and shape of a box o' condoms. Our hero is 24.

Son/hero: What is it? (with an inkling of what 'it' might be)
Father bursts into a fit of giggles and rubs his hands nervously.
Son: Can I open it now?
Father: AhaheeheeahaNONONO wait till you get home (hands are rubbed and feet tapped in a dance of nervous hilarity)
Son: Are you sure? (makes as if to open the corner)
Father emits strangled noise, seizes the box and juggles it before rushing around to the other door of the car and hiding it in the glovebox.
Father: Go, go, go now, drive, see you next Sunday, byeseeya

Son drives 10 metres down the street and opens it to find a rather expensive looking, double-strength box of condoms. He turns it over. Stapled to the front is a picture of a fleshy collision between a penis and an asteroid. There is a gaping hole, rimmed with pus, growths and remnant hair. Gagging and retching ensues. The picture has a caption. It reads 'Fig 1.3: Late stages of syphilis.'


So, I carry the package home and show my American housemate, Ryan. Ryan and I laugh for a long time. The laughter finally hiccups to a standstill and we wipe tears from our eyes. Ryan looks at the picture one more time and his smile wavers. He thinks of his rampant promiscuity and supreme sex powers. I think of my own attempt at promiscuity, which sits on a level well below my lovable slut from the States. We look at each other and Ryan says fuck dude, I need to get myself checked out. There is a rush for the phonebook and soon we are on the phone to the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre making appointments frantically.


Cut to the appointment. I duck into the entrance, hoping like hell no-one I know saw me. Everyone in the waiting room looks away when they meet my eyes. I wonder what everyone has and analyze the way people walk, in case it gives it away. After a while, I'm in a private room with a doctor and a nervous trainee asking me very personal questions. Then they poke me and prod me and examine me. It's the least erotic experience of my life, and I spend the whole time shrinking away from the trainee's touch.


Two weeks later, I ring them up to find out the news. I'm suddenly enormously nervous. The woman on the other end is professionally bored.

Bored woman: Name and date of birth
Me: Blah
Woman: Ok. Give me a mo. So, ah, your results for chlamydia are...................
(The moments stretch out unbearably as she draws out the moment)
Woman: .... negative. And your results for syphilis are.......................................ah, oooh. Oh! Negative.

(My heart pounds. The woman continues with her agonising, lengthy pauses through a variety of potential horrible infections. I start to suspect she's doing it on purpose)

Woman: Oh - your results for hepatitis are interesting....... You've got very high antibody presence.
Me: What? What the fuck does that mean????
Woman: It means you've been immunized successfully.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The taste of bittersweet

So here's fresh-faced young me sallying forth into a rather prestigious newsroom for a week of work experience, saliva stored up for the kissing of suitable butts. Sadly, fresh-faced young Doug is also toting a Heavy Heart which makes for maudlin train rides and a lack of enthusiasm. There was a girl, she who must not be blogged. Her emotional backlog has claimed her.

In some ways, I feel freed. She's been the best thing in my life, my lifebuoy since I came back from Japan. Now I'm tetherless. I should put my money where my mouth is and go and do the time-honoured journo thing: get a job on a country paper. I hear Swan Hill needs a journalist. Swan Hill produces citrus and racists, from my limited knowledge of the place. Kerrang also needs a journo. Shows how much I know. I thought Kerrang was a metal magazine. See, politicians always get fucked if they Neglect The Bush. Look at Kennett. Look at what Bracks is not doing. Yep, the bush comes back to bite you. Because someone has to grow our food.

Places I would love to live and work in for a year or two:

Broome (Pearls. Racism. Beautiful beaches. Amazing scuba diving. More multicultural than preening Melbourne)
Darwin (Crocodiles. Sea you can't swim in. Stubby shorts. No questions asked employers of former crims. Real fights in pubs. Cheap mangoes. A reliable source of dubious and hilarious front pages.

Aw, hell, all of Capricornia, really. I have a real urge to go bush and not come back for a long time. Yep, I've got a strong urge to run away. Melbourne is nothing as I fantasised it to be. I'm nothing like how I fantasised I would be like in Melbourne.

Japan's been coming back to me in dreams and waking in little patches superimposed over the realer reality of here. It felt like a dream when I was living there; now it comes back to me, haunting, bright snatches and contextless snippets that I have no control over. I feel rootless.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Hot mineral water, Shirahama. The very last pictures from Japan, I promise.

A building from which to conquer the world? No - a very Tokyo Disney store.

Eerie light at train station

The reward for working on a rice farm: very good rice

A happy theme park worker
Oh, to be a child again

Last week I came home to find a council of war brewing in my kitchen. My parents were conferring with relatively-unknown-neighbour Chris on the fate of the house next door. Afflicted with middle age regret, the parents moved to Darwin to seek happiness and escape their children. In their absence, an encampment of dubious teenagers has grown and flourished, to the point where we now have (reportedly) the Biggest Speed Dealer in all of Eltham living next door to us. He's a smooth and successful operator; his customers pull up, let someone out of the car to buy the shit and then drive off within two minutes. The council of war produced much wringing of hands and talking of tough alternatives. A phone call to the parents in absentia came up short, with domestic lawmaker #1 absolving himself of all responsibility. It was agreed that Chris would take a tougher line on the kids whenever they started pumping their infernal bass across the quiet paddocks of Eltham. I don't know who I'm siding with. I never thought it would happen, but my fuddy-duddy juices start flowing when I can't concentrate due to the bass levels.

As Chris was leaving the council of war, we had a brief chat. I first met her down at my friends holiday house last year. At the time, she was in the throes of a thoroughly teenage dalliance with a rugged man-child of 50 who liked petrol-powered toys. It later turned out she had another incarnation as professional single mother of four living down the road. Intrigued by the incongruity, I asked her what happened with man-child. "Oh, it was great fun while it lasted," she said. "Doomed - he hates responsibility - but a fun fling." She left and I wondered how it was that I was able to talk on the same level as her; I wondered that there was no distinction between her flings and mine and why it felt so unnaturally normal.

Later, the oddity came to me - it was that I still expected middle aged people to be obeying different rules of relationships, rules dictated by the responsibility of mortgage and career and children and those things that supposedly Come With Age. It was at once reassuring that people can avoid proscribed growing up practices, and somewhat disconcerting. The historic power of the intra-family hierarchy must have been at least partly based on a parental mystique; a firm distinction between children and parents. If parents could impress on their offspring a respect based on the unknown, based on the generation gap, based on different levels of maturity and intellect, then the children would not be able to relate to their parents as people (in the sense that 'people' are only ever people like us). These days, I think the distinction is blurring, as Chris showed me. But also, I think there is an enduring class distinction to tease out. Working class families in Britain during the Industrial Revolution used to sleep together in a single bed; sex and death were not kept from the children, but rather introduced as part of life, without the luxuries of space and squeamishness that money permits.

When I did my newspaper internship last year, I meekly tailed a couple of reporters into Mooroolbark, deep suburbia. There to do a story on the aftermath of a boy pushed in front of a train, one thing that struck me was a girl of 15 or 16 arguing with her mother as an equal. I didn't say that to him, you should know that of all people, what about you mum, you always say that, what did you say. The striking thing about it was how close they were. The ease with which they fought indicated much practice, but they were fighting as equals, without the distance between parents and children found in monied households, in the middle/upper classes. I'd never talk like that with my mother.