Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Eight Zero


Moscow! The first time I ever grasped the concept of an Olympiad and how utterly all consuming it was - apparently. I went to a circus for the first time and cried because the man was cracking a whip at the lion in a cage, goading it with a chair. The teacher wasn't happy - with me! Kids were supposed to love the circus. Pppfffttt! Not me. The biggest sequel, possibly ever, hit the cinemas and it wasn't too long before we were all chattering excitedly about the revelation that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father. Some of the local kids hadn't seen it yet and we really bumbed them out by giving away the most ground shaking plot point of all time. Dad came home from work one Friday night with a box marked 'Akai' and 'VHS'. It was to signal the beginning of a new era in home entertainment. Robin Williams in 'Popeye' and another flick called "Chomps" about a robotic dog. Welcome to the video age. The video membership cost a fortune, I'm told. Lakes Entrance at Christmas Holidays. The fair ground and the fireworks. The beach and the waves. Sunshine and iced creams. Could life ever have been better?


Columbia took to the heavens. I couldn't quite believe it was real. A real space ship!. We were in the space age. Star Wars and Smurfs and playing cricket on the front lawn. There was a storm like no other one summer afternoon. Belted rain down so hard it filled Mum's garden like a swimming pool. Me and my brother splashed around in it while the sky above crackled with lightning and the clouds broiled like pea soup. My grade two school teacher was a prick! Routinely cracked the shits for no real reason and had us writing words or sentences out fifty times, one hundred times. It was demoralizing. I grasped the concept of hatred. My brother kept getting lumps in his neck and kept having to go to the doctor. They couldn't work out what was going on and my Mum was flipping out. I learned a new word - lymphoma. My prick grade two teacher made me write it out one hundred times after show and tell because
"that's what you get for telling lies!".


Indiana Jones! Harrison Ford was taking off. Han Solo was my favorite. He was a favorite of most 8 year olds and now he was in a movie cracking a whip and making it look as cool as. We scrounged whatever bailing twine we could find so we could plait our own wannabe bull whips. Rocky 2 on the TV for the first time. I lost count of the number of lounge room bouts my brother and I staged...until we k.o.'ed Mum's Wedgwood soup tureen and I guess that was then end of that. My brother had several operations on his neck and one on his chest in quick succession. Then came the 'treatment' He spent hours connected to a drip. He became bony and he lost all his hair. He was sick a lot and I remembered that word I had been forced to write out last year. Lymphoma.


There were lots of trips between both sets of grand parents, a few trips to my Aunty Rhonda's - though I never called her Aunty. Little Nana made the most wonderful Cornish pasties in a gas oven while bigger Nana baked scones that no-one could out-do. Pa had an old school valve radio on which we listened to the cricket in the kitchen. Pa had his beer, I had my dry ginger. Nana had on her flowery apron. Always cooking something. I felt alone while my brother and my parents were away in the City. Left out. I knew it was necessary but it didn't make me feel any better. Dad broke down, one of the few times I ever seen him cry as he told me that 'Boody' might not be coming home. I didn't sleep for days after that. A yacht race was on TV - a big one apparently as everyone was talking about it. Australia won it. Me and my brother were kicking the pants out of Donkey Kong - a blue, mini arcade styled version. We had tournaments with Dad and Aunty Dorothy who made her own Baileys and got Dad rip roaring one time. Aunty Dorothy had the bathroom hidden in the wall.


Return of the Jedi! Even though the movie was like a year late, Star Wars was all that mattered. My paper round enabled me to save my money for Star Wars figurines. My brother got better though I sensed he would never be the same. The Melbourne Show. All my brother wanted was the KISS showbag. All I wanted...well I'm sure you can guess. The Pointer Sisters made it big with 'Jump'. Why I would remember that I'll never know. Mum and Dad talked about moving, then talking turned to doing. Dad loaned a big truck and we began moving things to a house in the hills. There was always a stubby and a chip on the way back. Caravaning holidays replaced Lakes Entrance. We met Don and Sheila that year.


New town, new school, struggling to fit in, not really wanting to belong. Grade six in a new school, I struggled with it. We went on a genuine holiday to the north of the state. A unique experience, the River Murray, the Pioneer Settlement, a caravan park and a bloke named Jeffrey who was a bit simple and had a bowl cut. The Titanic was found! Heard it on the radio early one morning. Huey Lewis & The News was my first band. Nana bought me their cassette. Jacob's Ladder was grouse! Was I cool? Was anyone cool?


High School. I belonged even less. Had a crush on a blonde named Vanessa. Unobtainable. Spent most of that year trying to work out how life was supposed to be. Challenger blew up early. We talked about it. Actually there's not much to tell. I was a geeky kid, small, freckly, awkward. I sucked badly at Maths. Yet I wished I didn't. Mosquito Coast came out that year and I swore black and blue that Harrison Ford was the finest actor ever. I was a film snob at aged 12! Looked forward to the end of the year, the summer holiday at Blores Hill. Sailing on the water, swimming and fishing. Good times, great times.


A continuation of the same. Wasn't so geeky but I was never a sheep, never a follower, so in a way I remained solitary. Found out I was good at something. I wiped the pool in the back stroke. The jocks who thought they were such top shit couldn't believe it. Suddenly I was somebody. Swimming was my thing. Stood up to one of the seniors who was bullying some of the younger guys. Surprised everybody. People are drones. Friends, however, can come from the most unlikely places. There was a girl named Lisa, a rock chick, pre-Goth I guess you could say, all G'n'R and Bon Jovi. Me with my Huey Lewis shit. But for some reason we got each other. The conversations were cool. They went beyond the pettiness of youth. Did we kiss? Never...Did we understand? Always.


Bicentennial. Forced to wave flags and sing patriotic songs about a country. Even then I found something rather distasteful about nationalism. I'd moved on from the News and had discovered Noiseworks, all bad hair and rock abandon but they were the shit! (Or was it 'Grouse'?) Saw their gig at Kernot Hall, my first ever live concert. Wanted to take a girl named Stacey - another crush - but found out she had a boyfriend. (me) Idiot! I went anyway. Show was awesome and vowed that I wanted to sing live with them. It never happened. Something else happened, however. I discovered jazz. Dad bought home an album by Vince Jones and I listened transfixed. Vocals of deep reflection. An imperfect trumpet, but soulful and full of truth. Like the girl named Lisa, I just 'got it'. My Dad passed it off as just a trendy fad but do fads last 20 years? I discovered a piece of myself through Vince Jones...


A 15 year old kid doesn't get chronic back pain, sciatica. There's just something not right with that. Having pain, difficulty walking, difficulty coordinating. There just growing pains. Don't worry 'bout it. It all changed in an instant. Collapsed umpiring football, unable to move, excruciating pain. Then nothing. Legs useless now. The scan reveals the truth. Tumor. Base of the spine, in the spinal cord. "We can take it out, but we don't know if you'll ever walk again" Vince Jones reveals the truth. Music is the only therapy. "But Beautiful", watching the jets come into land the night before. "It's Time, Son" The surgery reveals the truth. A tumor removed. Scars left in it's place. Scars... Anger, resentment, wanting to move, wanting to scream. Finally being allowed to sit up, given a wheelchair. Is this going to be it? I ask myself as the water from the shower cascades over me. Learning to walk again, starting steps. The excitement of having two legs functioning! Starting over...the streets no longer seem quite the same. I left the Children's on a cold and wintry Melbourne morning. Cold and gray. I am wheeled out into it but I stand from the chair and step into the car. I stand...Those Nivas were a shit-house car...

The decade was awful, garish, sharp edges and straight lines. I was awkward and unsure, I grew slowly and quickly. I loved it and loathed it all at the same time. But it was my decade...

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