Monday, October 15, 2007

~ The Swarf That Penetrates

In passing, I have mentioned the scientist in my car-port. Now I would like to introduce him properly.

Robert is a shambling forty year old with wire rimmed glasses and wheaten hair that falls to the small of his back, and which he usually wears in a single braid. For him, clothes are simply a means of protection from the elements - he displays no preference when, each decade, he reluctantly burrows through the sale bins outside of op-shops. Often, Jenny and I offer him habiliments in an attempt to upgrade his decidedly shabby image

Robert is more or less a member of our family. We love him dearly. To Polly he is a patient and extremely tractable slave-uncle.

I first met Robert through Lorraine, who at one time was helping me procure prohibited substances. Lorraine was once an escort, before working in a brothel and then on the streets. Ultimately, the Quinquagesima tool its toll on Lorraine and she retired to her flat high in a housing commission monolith. Robert was her boyfriend until they separated about three years back. Lorraine still drops by the boarding house where Robert lives to drink tea, inhale concentrated THC, read the newspaper, and sometimes sample a little of my heavenly nuVanilla. She has mellowed in her later years and is also a good friend to Polly, who calls her 'Rain'.

Both Robert and Lorraine are rat lovers and used to keep them as pets. One day, I encountered them facing each other with deeply sorrowful expressions. They were jointly cradling a deeply beloved rat. It had cancer and was dying. With tears streaking their cheeks, they saw it through its last hours. I could not help but be moved by the commitment of these two old junkies to the poor little creature. Love. Simplicity. Respect. Care

Recently, when The Black and White Cat was dying, Robert did not stint in his efforts to comfort it. Kylie was visiting at this time and, observing Robert's dedication to The Black and White, she immediately classified him as a saintly spirit. Kylie is not the only friend of mine who judges people by their treatment of animals. I too see it as an indicator of the soul

The Black and White Cat had been with me for eighteen years.Originally it was named Chagall, but I could never use this name without feeling pretentious. [Mind you, my childhood cat was called Raskolnikov [see Dostoevsky], and I still recall being mocked [and hurt] by distant neighbours when I hollered for him at night]. Old Black & White cried piteously night and day and, because she was deaf, she did it loudly enough for the whole street to hear. Once contentedly plump, she was now an incontinent bag of bones - and quite plainly ready to die. Jenny and others were demanding that I have her euthanised, yet I was reluctant. One year previously, The White Cat had died in my hands at the RSPCA - and a young female vet had had to cope with a tall, slightly weird middle-aged man's uncontrollable weeping. I dreaded the thought of going through that again. What's more Robert was against it. He was certain he could somehow nurse the Black and White back to life, find a way to fix her somehow ... But, in truth, it was the Quinquagesima at work and - to quote Burroughs - that is the mark you can never beat.

In Robert's attitude, we find a clue to his character. Everything, to his mind, can be fixed, [though not the The Black and White Cat, who keeled over shortly after I resolved to take her to the vet]. Robert, personally, seems able to fix almost anything: Jenny's shoes, microwave, playstation, ratchet from my socket set, washing machine, about fifty components from Jackie [my beloved Renault 12 stationcar, who is the same age as Jenny and whom I'll speak of another time]. He's rewired the entire house and is installing rainwater tanks [Eight 220 recycled olive barrels raised high upon a wooden structure]. Every Wednesday, we have a working bee to keep our home from falling down about our ears.

Many years back, in pre-Jenny times, when I used Spasmo-Dromoran [rather than the Spasmo-Nemigron], Robert lost his flat and moved in with me. I was a different person then and though Robert was the perfect boarder, I had trouble with the noise he made cutting carrots and encouraged him to leave. His yacht was in the front yard and he spent all his time working on it. Lynne was a little fascinated by this, [she was my lover at the time,] and was certain that the yacht was symbolic - that Robert was expressing his desire for freedom. She believed that he would never leave on his dreamed of journey up the east coast of Australia, but would work patiently on the boat until the day he died.

When Robert left, the boat stayed. As it dominated the front yard, I urged him to move it and, a year later, he did. The yacht traveled from property to property until a particular friend moved out without telling him. Robert never found this friend, nor his boat... I feel guilt over this. The mast still lays on the roof of the car port, and I curse myself whenever I see it.

But now Robert has a new obsession. He is in love with metal. He has set up a working space in the car port and, since he has retired from the Ulterior Wars, [with the interesting ability to manufacture synthetic honeycomb,] he lives in dirt cheap accommodation, gets most of his food from a skip behind South Melbourne market, and is able to save nearly every penny of his Veteran's Pension. First there came a smallish antique metal-working lathe. Then a giant industrial grade lathe. Then a big bulky compressor. Then his beloved Deckel Tool Mill.

A tool mill masses more than a ton and this one was delivered onto the drive way. Robert spent the next month producing metal rollers with his lathe, so that he could move the thing into shelter [He also manufactured a heavy duty steel button for the toilet at his boarding house]. Once it was in place, he proceeded to dissemble the machine and - with the help of the online machine tool community - he set about cleaning, polishing, repairing and painting every single component. It has taken more than a year, but he has now begun reassembly and with each day the machine comes nearer to completion. It's not my usual kettle of fish, but I must say his Deckel Tool Mill is an impressive thing. Robert should be lauded - even if it is only by the members of the Model Engineers Association.

Robert is the only genius I know and I could speak of him at great length - but I shall save that for another day. Suffice to say he is wonderful to have around, despite the tiny shards of metal [called swarf which are scattered everywhere and which cause the most painful and deeply penetrating splinters in the feet of Polly, Jenny and I.

[Read 'the discombobulated genius' - another post in celebration of the artful Robert]

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Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your old cat, but I'm sure she had 18 years of pure TLC with you and your family, leaving this world a fat, happy, cat.
Your friend seems like a real character and I love the illustration of him (what's the apple about?). I'm sure you've met many "characters" over the years (in the music and theatre world) that you could fill pages and pages of stories about them on this blog, to keep you writing for years...but will S.O.O. be around for that long?????
Love Amanda

lily was here said...

Sam, you've given me a lot to savour, the stories & observations, your drawings (so much talent!).. the characters..its almost criminal what you and SK have in spades. Robert reminded me a little, or his story does, of the guy in Rocketman, this lovely quirky welsh drama that was on the ABC once, a widowed engineer who built a rocket in his backyard to send his dead wifes ashes up to the stars, an outlet for his grief. Im glad you've found this outlet for your thoughts! Long live Sails!!!* Im beginning to realise how much artists are not the loners that many imagine, creativity needs connectivity and interraction with other beings
Sue x
btw, eating Nutragrain out of the box at night is the only way

Anonymous said...

Hey Sam, you did it!, you got rid of the chicken, but why not use the other "nicer" photo?????
P.S. I can't make out what the writing says above Roberts head in your drawing, what does it say?
Love Amanda

Sam Sejavka said...

Amanda, what keen eyes you have. When I was drawing it, I remembered your distaste for icky things - so I added the flowers. Text reads - the flowers are for you, Amanda. I tried to use the 'nicer' photo, but ran into trouble again... give me time

Sue, thanx for comment. I'll keep writing if you keep reading

luv on ya


lily was here said...

I will Sam. I kept thinking about you sobbing when your cat was gone, such awful sadness//there is nothing sadder than a grown man crying, but.. i like to think that cats have 9 lives & they resurrect themselves as new friends. I also keep going back to look at that drawing Sam, there's something familiar about it, and I love it. Quite an honour Amanda!
You havent explained the apple yet. Maybe Robert's Swiss?

ps i didnt realise the pic was a chicken! I thought it was a weird grotesque figure with red nipples! im not sure what that says, maybe i should wear my glasses more often or stop reading strange novels

eek said...

Another reader here. A very interesting and touching post (ok...I cried at the cat tales) -- I liked it very much.

Sue -- lol about the "weird grotesque figure with red nipples!" Too funny!

Anonymous said...

Oh, how thoughtful of you, thanks Sam!
Love Amanda