Archive for September, 2008

That Frangipani Thing

September 30, 2008

You’ve all seen it. Them. They’re everywhere. Frangipani stickers on cars.

Today I parked next to something special. Across the back window of the car was —

I Hate Frangipanis

The next car along had a sticker —

Frangipanis on Cars? Australia Says No!

Isn’t that wonderful?

I am yet to see this on a car window.

A Day in the Country

September 30, 2008

Gotta love it when work takes me out for a drive into the hills. Today it did.

It was an out of the way village I’d never been to before.  Just as well I had the TomTom.

OK, you got me, just as well I had the mobile phone. The TomTom got the street name wrong.

Wrong, I tell you.

Hard to believe isn’t it? Mr TomTom got it wrong. I was sure I wrote down the spelling given to me by the client. But Mr TomTom didn’t know it. At least it got me to the right village. And at least the village was small enough for me not to get misplaced.

So here I am, sitting in the car on the mobile phone.

“Hi Mike, It’s Kim. This is where I am. Where are you?”

We spoke directions for a bit, proving that men can ask for directions sometimes.

“Tell me what houses you can see.”

“I’m sitting in front of a new house with a nice looking glass balcony.”

“That’s near my place. I’ll come out on the deck. Hang on, I think I can hear your car. Drive forward to the next driveway.”

Modern technology does it again. A sports car with a rumbly muffler points the way. That four inch exhaust system has been waiting for this moment. Today it got its few minutes of fame.

Mr TomTom allows me to correct his spelling. I did it. Gotta love a gadget who can admit his mistake.

And me? I got a nice drive into the rolling green hills and back. No mistake in that one.

Yes, No, Now

September 28, 2008

I’m sitting here watching the truck racing. Big trucks. Kenwoods, mostly. It’s like watching slow motion mayhem, and I love it. Trouble is, there are so many places where I have to turn something off inside me. So I blog my way through. The places? When they interview the drivers.

“Now, Darren, talk us through those last three laps.”

“Yes, no, we started out with a plan to …. ”

“Now, Phil, you got a good start but lost it somewhere. Something serious happened out there.”

“Yes, no, we put a lot of development into a new turbo setup … ”

“Now, Bryce, running off at corner six must have been devastating for you in this final race.”

“Yes, no, we’re all gutted at the moment … ”

The mute button, one of life’s little blessings.

Anyway, I think you get the message. Yes? No?

Well, Blog my Blog

September 26, 2008

I just tuned into my blog, this one here, to write up the next bit. So I went into the write mode and noticed I had a blog entry called 3,500.


“What is that about?” said a little voice inside me. I had to check it out.

It turned out to be about my old motorcycle. I suppose you can chase it up if you want to. A good piece of writing, I reckon. But the motorcycle has been sold and I haven’t yet found its replacement, so reading about it got me all misty-eyed.

Not only that, but whatever it was I was going to blog about today has flown the coop, I just can’t remember what it was. That old motorcycle sure has a continuing life inside my mind. So now I ask myself the question, “What do you call it when you resurrect an old motorcycle blog?”

Whatever it’s called, this is it.

A recycle?

Waiting for the Limo

September 22, 2008

Every done it? Ever had to wait for the limo? To pick you up, I mean, not waiting for the limo to drop somebody else off. Anyone can do that. Find a red carpet and a crowd and you’ll see what I mean.

I had to do it once, wait for that limo. What a nightmare. So, you got time for a yarn?

I’d run out of shirts or jeans or something, and passing by a menswear store I remembered to go in and buy some.

“Fill in the form, sir?”

“Sorry, what was that?”

“The form. It’s for our shopping centre competition. Premier night at the new James Bond movie.”

“Oh, yeah. OK”

That was Friday.

Wednesday and the phone rings. It’s about 4:30pm.

“Hello Mr Miller. I’m ringing to tell you that you’ve won the James Bond competition. Tickets for the opening night.”

“Oh, that’s good. When’s it for?”



“The limousine will pick you up at 6:30.”

“Thanks. Thanks very much.”

Now what do we do? We’ve got two hours to get ready, much more time than we need. Dinner is included so we don’t need to prepare a meal. We have only to sit and wait. And fidget.

And so came into being the phrase, Waiting for the Limo.

It’s time that can’t be re-allocated. It just ticks away as you sit there. Your mind is on something important, or at least significant, or just plain distracting, and it won’t be turned to something useful in the interim. Your brain has gone to mush. It is as useful as a parking meter, but just a little less expensive.

And at the appointed time the limo arrives and the chronology starts up again.

A publisher emailed me today. I sent a manuscript to him a few weeks ago. A novel, a work of fiction. He’s interested. The book has passed through two levels of examination. He wants to ask me a question before sending it to level three. I answer the question, he replies with thanks. The book is now on its way to the final stage of assessment.

I am waiting for the limo.

Makin’ Tracks

September 21, 2008

“Hey Dad, this time I want tracks.”

“Fantastic. Tell me what that means.”

“You know. Tracks. In my hair. On the sides. Two above each ear.”

“Tracks? Sounds like you mean GT stripes.”

“Here and here, that’s what I mean.”

“OK. Let’s do it”

That’s how it began, more or less. Tracks. In his hair. He was about eight years old.

I’d always cut his hair when he was little. Asked a hairdresser friend how to layer cut and it was all systems go from there.

A conscious decision back then was to let him have anything he wanted in the way of hairstyle. I’d learned that lesson in high school.

It was about 1963. My brother was into his hair. Kookie was on TV, always combing and flicking and grooming. My brother took on the look. And the comb, flicking his Brylcremed forelock back with style and precision. The girls formed a queue. He got out of the swimming pool one day with his hair clinging down around his head. “Dare you to come to school like that tomorrow.” It was one of the girls. Maybe it was more that one. So he did.

He was sent to the principals office – then sent home. “Don’t come back until it’s respectable.” Above the ears, short back and sides, military precision, all that stuff. Our Mum was not into foolishness. She marched him right back to the school and had it out with the principal. School was about educating her kid’s heads, not about shearing them. Mum won. Who’d have guessed it?  Suddenly the Beatles shut down the world’s barber shops and nothing was ever the same.

Fast forward to the next generation and my son wants tracks. “We can do it!” I said. So we did. After all, I was only there to learn.

He was a style-leader in a moment. A fashionista. He had a cool Dad and a cool head. Every kid in school wanted one.

Fast forward another twenty years. Eight year old boys are into tracks. It’s on again. Back in fashion. I point it out to my son. He grins. We both know. He was a fashion leader. Before his time. Going where nobody had gone before.

Everybody should have such memories.

It’s All Over for Another Four Years

September 18, 2008

Move along there, folks. There’s nothing more to see here.

Things worth watching came to a sudden end just before the closing ceremony started. Another achievement for dullness. How they do it inside one of the most extraordinary looking stadiums in the world is beyond me. Maybe the event designers are kept inside a concrete bunker or something.

You guessed it. I’m kind of glad the Paralympics is over, as I was glad that the Olympics was over. Maybe I get sports overkill more easily than I used to. Maybe what I think of as mellowing is really me becoming cantankerous. Maybe the further I get from my own sporting past the crustier I get about people who can still do it all. Or maybe I just want to get on with other stuff. Yeah, that’s it. I think. Must be.

I’ve got a double-barreled water thingummy to fit under the kitchen sink – healthy water, here we come. There’s the terracing down the hill out front waiting for me. I’m thinking of changing the name of one of the characters in a novel I am trying to sell to a publisher. And I haven’t written any new stuff for months.

I could go on. After all, I managed to live Olympic-free for the last four years and I can do the same again. Starting tomorrow. Yep. That’s what I’ll do. It’s decided. It’s a done deal. I’m on the way.

That Frenchman who started this modern Olympic malarkey, he sure has a lot to answer for.

Murder Ball

September 16, 2008

Gotta love this game. What a blast!

Each year early in October, I go to a music festival. Thousands of people are there. Last year there was a young woman in a wheel chair. We got talking and I found she had a murderous streak.

“You seen Murder Ball?” she asked.

“Nuh, what’s that?”

“It’s like Mad Max does rugby in wheel chairs. ‘Cept that it’s rougher.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Bloke in America made a movie about it. Get the DVD.”


I didn’t. Didn’t get the DVD, I mean. But I remembered the name and got onto Google.

The movie was made by a bloke named Shapiro. And this Shapiro is an author. Wrote a book named “The Every Boy”. About a teenager getting to grips with life, ‘cept that it starts with his death. Interesting concept, I reckoned. So I read the book. It’s worth a read. And they’re making a movie.

Anyway, back to Murder Ball. I’ve been watching it in the paralympics. And enjoying every moment. Australia has got this bloke named Ryley Batt. He’s got the most extraordinary acceleration, and is a big bloke who can block like a house on wheels when he sets his mind to it.

There’s always a bit of a danger of being maudlin talking about people with a disability. Easy to get a bit teary, work the emotion a bit. This bloke knocks that stuff on the head right off. Try that on and he’d do a ram-raid on the conversation I reckon. I can see him storming into the next Mad Max movie like a natural.

They are planning one, aren’t they? Another Mad Max movie? How can they not since Murder Ball came to earth?

And in a couple of weeks I’m going to the music festival. I’ll be keeping a lookout for that woman in the wheel chair. There’s a little voice inside me saying that she’d fit easily into a Mad Max movie herself.

The Next Opening Ceremony

September 8, 2008

Ok, here we go again.

This one was better.

There, that should do it.

Nah, probably not. Will need more than that, mate.

OK. It had humour, that’s what made the difference. Those round plastic characters at the beginning, and all those kids in the crazy turtle suits. Those guys were having fun.

Perhaps that’s what I missed from the main opening. Everybody was so intent on being serious. It was as if something significant was hanging on it all, something like the national debt or whether the sun would rise tomorrow. Chicken Little serious.

But the paralympics was able to open without that, apparently. At least for some of it. Some of those singers could do with a booster shot into their funny bone.

And having Adam Hills instead of a sports commentator (at least for the Australian broadcast) made for a better sound track.

So, there it is. Humour, humanity, perhaps both are more likely to be found in the face of adversity.

Margaret Barr, Dancer

September 5, 2008

I’ve been doing a bit of checking up. The dance instructor who gets a mention in my previous Stravinsky blog had a name. But we knew that. Just that I didn’t know what it was, or how significant it was. My brother has filled in the gap. So in honour of the name, here’s a bit more of the memory.

I mentioned her round shape in the blog because roundness wrapped in black tights was not what I expected of a dancer. Dancers are tall and slender. Even this sixteen year old knew that. But what I remember was how she moved. I can still remember my amazement when she moved. It was like watching the impossible. It was so fluid and light and natural that something clicked in my memory. What clicked was a little switch labelled, “Keep this one.”

And I have kept it. It doesn’t come out much, that memory, but it’s still there. The memory of a stereotype challenged. The memory of a person freed from my smallness of mind. The memory of a talent so obvious that it confronted me with my own ignorance. And my clumsiness.

And it was because of this person that I found myself with a spray gun amid nymphs.

Life is gift.

Stravinksy Teen Sex Romp

September 4, 2008

I was sixteen. My eldest brother was studying at university. Well, truth be told he’d finished studying not long after he started and was doing theatre stuff instead. This story is from his post-educative period. He was part of the university dance group and they were putting on Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring. Naturally. It was about 1965 and they’d just invented this thing called The Pill. Stravinsky was on everyone’s mind back then.

My brother invited me to spend the weekend in the city where he shared a house with a bunch of interesting people. I turned up with my toothbrush and a suitcase, probably a change of underwear in case I got run over by an Ambulance or whatever it was my mother was on about at the time. Saturday was filled with rehearsal stuff, everyone being coached by a very short and very round woman in very tights. She cut an unexpected figure.

Saturday evening was the big event. We turned up at the university theatre. Dancers were dressing for the performance. Actually, undressing. They were clad in skin and leaves as I recall. My memory is only as good as my testosterone levels these days.

There was a long corridor shaped room where the dressed dancers were tanned. And this is where I found my purpose in life. I was given an electric spray gun, the kind used for painting houses. It worked on the continuous fart principle, a little compressor thing in there somewhere doing what baked beans could have done had we the time.

There was also a can of brown pigment, the tanning solution, highly concentrated. To thin it down for spraying they gave me a gallon or two of medicinal alcohol from the med school. This was a university, remember, so medicinal alcohol was something of a universal solvent.

And I got to work. An inch of pigment in the canister, fill up with thinner, and spray. Spray everyone, every exposed glimpse of skin, miss nothing, be diligent, Stravinsky is watching. As the dancers dressed they came to my corridor and I sprayed them. They appeared, I sprayed, they left, they were replaced, I sprayed.

In the next hour I sprayed-tanned probably fifty bodies, more maybe, but I wouldn’t like to spoil a good story with exageration. Body after body, beautifully feminine bodies, and each one nicer than the last, and so much more sprayable than the dance tutor that my mind has never recovered. It was adolescent heaven. I had never, and have never since, had mind sex with so many people in so short a time in all my life.

And guess what. As fast as I was spraying those bodies and that pigment was making them look like nymphs in a sunlit glen, that thinner was evaporating into the air of that narrow corridor. We finished every last ounce of thinner. There is not a lot of air in a corridor. And I was the only person who stayed there for the whole time. Breathing. I was breathing. I might just as well have been drinking.

I don’t remember much about the performance. It was Stravinsky, after all, and I was only sixteen. But I do remember the day after. My brother went to the university to help clean up. My mother and step-father picked me up to go to some place for lunch.  We went back to my brother’s place so I could pick up my suitcase as I’d forgotten to put it in the car that morning. That’s when it happened.

I’d been sleeping in my brother’s room. On a matress in the corner. The opposite corner from his bed. Behind the door. Got that? Opening the door revealed his bed. Use your spatial imagination here.

So… we got out of the car. Unlocked the front door. I went to get my stuff from the room. I opened the bedroom door. On my brother’s bed was one of his housemates making love to somebody I didn’t know. Not even a sheet over them. The image is still burned into my memory. One day I will find out how to download it and post it here.

I stopped. They stopped. I was speechless. They were speechless. Time passed. I recited a Shakespeare sonnet. Something about roses. No I didn’t, I closed the door. I remember now.

And I stood outside that door without a clue of what to do. I went into the lounge room where my step-father noticed I didn’t have my suitcase. He told me to go get it. He was impatient. I tried to say something, it didn’t work. He repeated himself. So did I. My mother said, “And change those trousers while you’re there. You’ve spilled something on them at lunch.” Suddenly being sixteen didn’t seem like such a position of power.

I returned to the bedroom door. The people now had a sheet over them so I reckoned it was safe to enter. I turned to my gear behind the door on the other mattress and started to take off my trousers. The next minute is a bit of a blank, but at the end of it I was outside the door again and the bloke in there was getting pretty loud and angry. I understand that bit better in hindsight.

My step-father was pretty cranky himself by this time and his volume was rising. He could be heard through the door. Suddenly there were four of us in the room. The bloke had emerged with the sheet wrapped around him. He said, “Perhaps we can settle this like grown adults … da da da .. ” or words to that effect. How should I know what he said? Grown adults were a mystery to me.

Somehow we got my clothes from the room, we got ourselves from the house, and we got home. But I don’t remember how.

I wonder sometimes if my step-father ever told the story. You know, when I wasn’t there. At Rotary or somewhere. There’s got to be a free beer in a story like that.

For my part, I found spring that year something of a revelation. And even with my mother’s best intentions, I didn’t need those extra y-fronts. On the other hand, had she known how to pack a cold shower into a suitcase perhaps the weekend might have turned out differently.

Nah. There’s no shower that cold.

Jesus Crashes Speedboat

September 2, 2008

… and gets away before his Dad finds out.

To the Inventor of the Plastic Toothpaste Tube

September 1, 2008

I don’t know why I was thinking while brushing my teeth this morning, I just was. Of all the moments when we put our mind in neutral, tooth-brushing must be towards the top of the list. So to find my mind going places was something out of the ordinary.

For a moment I thought it was the toothpaste tube that did it. Got me thinking, that is. But that toothpaste tube has been silent for many a year. It was, however, the toothpaste tube that I was thinking about. Or rather, it’s inventor.

Back in 1975 I was reading about marriage. It was the year we married and I was reading everything relationship related that I could lay my hands on. I wanted this marriage to work.

1975 was also the year that somebody invented the plastic toothpaste tube. They were metal before that, remember? Lead alloy. Poisonous. And major marriage busters.

One of the commonly listed causes of marriage breakdown back then was the squeeze of the metal toothpaste tube. Husbands complained that their wives squeezed the tube near the cap. The paste got squeezed out the folded end. It required re-squeezing and re-folding and meant cracking the metal and the paste squeezing out the side. This, at least, was the wisdom of one of the books on making marriage work that I was reading at the time. I forget what the wives complained about. Oh yeah, something about their husbands forgetting things. Have I got that right? It’s so long ago now.

As a newly married husband I was terrified of that lead alloy toothpaste tube. Because it was true. Wives did squeeze near the cap. I was having to fix it. Re-squeeze it. Redistribute the contents. Flatten the back end. Fold it neatly. Make it right. Make it work. And then salvation. Somebody invented the plastic toothpaste tube. Within a year of being married the problem had been solved by some un-named production engineer, probably somebody’s husband.

And this morning? Well, I was thinking of how successful that invention has been. Thirty three years and still counting. That invention has obviously saved our marriage.

Who was that man? We didn’t get to thank him.