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Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Greatest Comeback Since Lazarus Rose From The Dead

The envelope please.

...and the award goes to my friend Grumpy Matt for his comeback to Annoying Lady in this scenario;

(The Blue Bar, Prahan. Matt is making a martini at the bequest of Annoying Lady)

Annoying Lady: Excuse me young man. That is not the way to make a martini. I want you to shake the thing, not stir it.

Matt: It's a gin martini. If I shake it...

Annoying Lady: It's MY martini. It's supposed to be shaken. Don't you know anything?

Matt: (with surprising calm) Lady, do I go to YOUR truck stop and tell YOU how to suck cock? Then, shut the f-ck up.

Annoying Lady: (silence)

Annoying Lady: (silence)

Annoying Lady: (silence)

Matt: Now, would you care for some olives or would you like a twist of lemon instead?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Donut Forget To Say Your Vows

(Cont'd from last post)

Mother and I get to the church via taxi. The driver smelled vaguely of mandarins. He seems a nice enough guy and we chat amicably about his life in Canberra. He looks like he's from India but its entirely possible he's from Pakistan. I wonder if I should ask? Would his manner change suddenly? Would he be disappointed that I couldn't tell the difference? Maybe he'd get angry. Like, inexplicably furious. How would I know how his brain chemistry works? Maybe a murderous wrath would grip his entire body- his breathing would change noticeably, his heart rate would increase dramatically and his catecholamines would play havoc on his survival instinct- and he'd plunge mother and I into a river, head first, killing us all. I avoid the topic anyway. Just for safety's sake. Mother and the driver chat away, unaware of the dangers that I'd saved them from.

It had been a fair while since I had set foot in a church. With the amount of sins culminating in my life I had thought it a distinct possibility that my body would burst in to flames or I'd be turned into a cockroach as soon as I stepped on hallowed ground. But I'd flown all the way to Canberra to witness the marriage of my cousin James and I'd be damned if I allowed my irrational fear of God turn me away at this juncture. I'd survived the irrational fear of a nice cab driver killing himself, mother and I to get here so I think I could survive a few more hours without screaming at the thought of being turned into a bug, then incinerated by a vengeful Deity.

The day is about as typical as you might imagine it to be. The sun is out on a beautiful day. Old people recount events that took place decades ago. The children take turns desecrating graves. The women dress prettily. The men hide their bloodshot eyes with sunglasses. A swarm of doves, supposedly symbols of peace, swoop down unexpectedly and start attacking everybody. Yessiree. A typical wedding day. Until the priest started crying mid-ceremony.

The first part of the ceremony had been spent wondering if that was James up at the altar. It had been years since any of the family members had seen him but eventually we were convinced that it must be him since he was the guy in the tux saying the vows. Plus the back of his head was James-like.

I had been spending the latter part of the ceremony fantasising about getting a lap dance from Dita Von Teese. Which is about the time the priest burst into tears. What the heck is going on here?

At the start of the wedding, when I first saw the priest (a fifty-ish lady who looked like she baked cookies), I had thought: How de rigeur for this day and age. No one likes to be married by stuffy old paedophiles. Unbeknownst to me the lovely old lady was the godmother of the bride. 'How cool,' I mumble, 'Do you think she can make pumpkins turn into carriages?'
'Grow up,' snaps mum.

...and the night ends with a whole bunch of people going to the reception hall (the Lakeside) to drink free booze and dance to '80s music. James' federal policefriends* got to cast aside the austere expressions they have to wear during the course of their day jobs that involve solving murders or uncovering drug rings. His new wife gets to bask in the glory of her well-meaning friends who congratulate her on a new surname and a lifetime of servitude. And our family get to sit and talk amongst each other, knowing that the next time we'll all gather like this is at another wedding or a funeral.

* Can I just say here that the wedding cake was pretty funky. Since James is a cop the wedding cake was a stack of Krispy Kreme donuts. When I mentioned to Auntie Lois (James' mum) about how piss funny that was, she told me sadly that only three people of the entire 100+ people got the joke.

Killing Time Before the Ceremony

My uncle is starting to look like my dad a little. He's gone greyer over the last few years and I'd be hard pressed to tell them apart from a distance. Unlike my father he has a bit more energy when narrating, say, the physics involved when he tripped over a stick the other week. 'My legs had just twisted over this bloody branch when the forward momentum-' he gestured with an open palm, '-just pitched me forward. Now I've got the leash in one hand (my uncle has a pet dingo. No kidding) and I'm struggling to stay upright...'

My mind drifts a little as he goes into more detail about his recent battle- and subsequent victory- against gravity. The Family had gathered for some coffee before the wedding celebrations kicked off and we were talking about nothing. Same as usual. We had trivial conversations about mundane things down to a fine art. The seeming impossibility of finding a spot to park the car, the price of sausages, laundry powders that make your skin itchy, slogans for bad films, the lack of coherent song lyrics in music these days were recurring topics that had been discussed over the years. Many, many times. We once spent an afternoon talking about a particular hammer. Which isn't to say that we don't discuss the Flying Spaghetti Monster or particle physics from time to time. It's just that we are comfortable with the mundane.

Rod (the uncle who almost tripped to his death) ends the conversation abruptly. He walked away from the incident unscathed, is the gist of it I gather, and will file the story away to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of sticks. Auntie Chris (his wife) and cousin Justine (their daughter) wear the solemn expressions of Easter Island statues. Perhaps they have heard the story several times before.

'Did you know that there are more donkey-related deaths than there are plane crash victims?' I say to change the subject.
'Sounds like crap to me,' says uncle.
'How on earth would anyone verify that kind of information?' asks cousin Justine. She is the director of the Victorian Public Archives and is dangerously competent.
'Just saying is all.'
My mother, who is also at the table, mentions that we should head to the chapel.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Canberra: Why Wait For Death?*

In the middle of nowhere, on the old stomping grounds of the Ngunnawal tribe, squats our nation's capital- Canberra. It was the unwanted offspring that came as the direct result of a disagreement by perpetual rivals Sydney and Melbourne in the late 19th century during Federation when neither city wanted the other one to have the honour of being the Australian capital. A compromised was reached to avoid an outright civil war and the two cities grudgingly agreed to build the most boring place they could think of and herded our politicians there as punishment for being two-faced liars that no-one likes.

The reason I was heading to Dullsville where black-hearted villains made pacts with devils was a family commitment of the highest order- a cousin's wedding (No, not that one). Though I'd rather swallow razor blades or be locked in a box filled with ravenous Gila monsters I did not want to face a swift and brutal excommunication from the Family by not attending the wedding.

The cousin in question-he who had to rent a tux and say vows and such- was James, a detective in the Federal Police. He, his sister Jo (who was now working for a powerful politician) and I used to spend the summer holidays of our youth getting dressed up as superheroes and roamed around town looking for invisible creatures and Mayan treasure. How times have changed. Jo and James are now important people while I....still dress up as a superhero and roam around town looking for creatures and forgotten treasure.

Now, I can only remember going through Canberra three or four times. One of those memories involved my father and I driving from New South Wales to Victoria via the nation's capital possibly as an ill-thought out on his part of a bonding experience. By the end of our journey there was only an icy silence in the car (neither of us had spoken to the other for the last five hours of the ride), the remains of a John Denver cassette tape chewed apart by our faulty tape deck and the vow that we'd never undertake that particular trip again.

The other memory involved a younger version of Yours Truly getting invited by a schoolfriend to stay at his place during the school holidays. We were both around 13 I think. Snot-nosed and arrogant and petty as all 13 year olds are. His parents lived in a luxurious mansion and we spent most of the holidays running around, breaking expensive toys and tormenting the maid. Then one day we had some sort of an argument. I can't remember exactly what over but it must have been major ('Liege Maximo is so the bestest of the Decepticons. He'd so kick Megatron's ass!', 'Would not!', 'He created them all! He can un-create whoever the hell he flippin' well wanted to!', 'Well if he's so powerful why doesn't he show himself huh? Why doesn't he?', 'That's because he's like Kaiser Soze. Just like a robotic Kaiser Soze.', 'Soze is a myth!', 'Is not!', etc.) because I calmly decided to pack all my gear and hitchhike my way back home. I knew this could be done since I'd seen films where a cat, a dog and a Two-headed Bobtail Skink could join forces and make it home by sheer force of will and a little bit of luck.

Unbeknownst to me, my family, the school we went to and possibly even to my schoolfriend was that my school friend's father was part of the Israeli secret intelligence- the Mossad. My disappearance had sparked a swift international incident as fears of a kidnapping circulated the intelligence community. My uncle Rod received a phone call from the Feds much to his bewilderment. 'Hello? Is this Rod Heazlewood?'
'Yes. Yes it is. Who may I ask is calling?'
'This is Agent (blank) of the Federal Bureau (or whatever) calling on behalf of your nephew who has gone missing...'
'I see. Excuse me for just one moment...(starts banging head against wall).'
'That (bang) Idiot (bang) child (bang)!'
'Sir? Is this a bad time?'

My escape was short lived however. I lasted about an hour or two on the road when I foolishly assisted a mother of two with her stalled car on the proviso that she dropped me off at the state border. She agreed to this and promptly betrayed me by calling the police at the nearest service station while I waited for her to fill her petrol tank. I was vaguely surprised to see a swarm of police vehicles and helicopters arrive along with my friend's father who seemed torn between hugging me and strangling me to within an inch of my petty life.

* p.s. The title comes from Bill Bryson's 'Down Under'- a book I haven't read but possibly should.