Monday, November 5, 2007

∆ george + the decrepitude of the chairs

George and I shared a house on Stephenson St, Richmond - a street made famous by the Cherry Tree Hotel, the brothels and the residencies of the Pettingills, [one of Melbourne's most notorious crime families.] [A friend of mine has recently written a play set in this very street. Called Talking Bone, it centres around the matriarch: Kath Pettingill.]

Many and various were our adventures there. We backed onto about seven train lines, so perhaps noise was a factor in diverting our good judgement, but I prefer to think it was the dangerous electricity that arced between us.

Having persuaded the real estate agent into renting us the house, our first act was to organise a house-warming. In our innocence, we wanted it to be the biggest, craziest party Melbourne had ever seen. Having few friends, we photocopied handbills and pasted them around town, then set our minds to a theme..

Over the next few weeks we collected kitchen chairs from hard rubbish piles and wherever else we could find them. Mouldy, filth-encrusted, disintegrating chairs on which only a drunken or decerebrated person would consider setting himself. We cleared the small back yard of a vegetable patch which the previous occupant must have lovingly cared for, and sorted the chairs around a circular space - to give the impression of an arena.

But what was to be the entertainment?

Early one Sunday morning we went to Victoria Market and somehow managed to purchase a medium sized pig from a dealer for forty dollars. My memory grows hazy here, but we succeeded in forcing the beast into George's car and got it home in time for the revelry. The pig would stand in our arena and the guests would seat themselves and observe in fascination.

Here my memory blurs even further. I know that many extremely undesirable types turned up. Large threatening people who - when I briefly peeked into my bedroom - I saw urgently tearing apart my wardrobe in the vigorous spirit of wholesale destruction. And of the pig? I don't think many were satisfied to just sit and watch it. George said he saw an obese bikie making off with it down the back lane at about six in the morning.

It must have been an awful party. And to make matters worse, someone stole a doona which my mother had bought me the week before. She was quietly furious. Just as she was when I returned her beloved blender...

"When you bring things back, they look like they're a thousand years years old. How is that even possible?"

Once, I returned her car with the wipers sticking out at ninety degrees from the windshield. I avoided her questions, blaming it on my current girlfriend, [which was usually enough to satisfy her.] Truth was, this girlfriend had been parasitically clamped to the bonnet of my car and I had been sharply accelerating and braking in order to dislodge her. I woke in jail the next morning, but that's another story. [Luckily, I just made it to an early interview at 3RRR, just round the corner.]

Regarding the party: I never again trusted the general public to be interesting.

But here's the point I've been trying to get to...

We were left with about fifty kitchen chairs and owed it to ourselves to think of something appropriate to do with them. I don't recall who finally came up with the idea, but it was a good one.

At 4 am one weekday morning, we starting making trips down the railway line to South Yarra station, each carrying as many of the soiled chairs as we could handle. South Yarra is a large, neat old fashioned station in a salubrious part of town, and just over the river from Richmond.

Well before the first train, we had transported all the chairs to the city-bound platforms and lined them up with great care beside the legitimate passenger benches.

Rotten, moist, stinking old chairs, bursting with earwigs and slaters, perfectly arranged in groups of five. As official looking as we could manage. If only we had photos... Perhaps we do, I must ask George.

We giggled for weeks about that. What did the passengers think? Had they assumed the railways were attempting to offer them extra comfort in the crowded peak hours? Did the stationmasters think their superiors had imported the seats as a stop gap measure - to temporarily ease a platform crowding issue...?

We would never know. A few days later, George performed a reconnaissance and there was no sign of our fifty chairs ...

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Anonymous said...

Like I've said before Sam, you've had an interesting past life, but a live pig as party entertainment??? What were you people thinking, that poor pig! (I hope it's not true about the guy running off with the pig to have his way with it...grosssss!)
The chair set-up at Toorak station made me laugh, would have LOVED to have seen that!
Love Amanda

Sam Sejavka said...

Give me a break! I was 18 at the time and hadn't yet developed a sensible moral structure. I think I even voted liberal once in thoses days [what a dreadful dreadful admission. Such terrible shame... Why did I say it?]...anyway ... I would never subject a pig to such experiences today. And I'm sure that whoever stole it was probably going to keep it as a pet. [I hope that makes you feel better ]

I'm scrounging for photos. They're hard to come by.

Matt said...

Great story, Sam.

I love the image of confused commuters looking at the chairs . . . looking at each other . . . pretending they're not looking at each other . . . gingerly sitting down.


Mark Friend said...

I loved the ebb and flow of "George and decrepitude of the chairs". Everthing circling around the image of these old kitchen chairs that end of where?. It is a shame you weren't around to see the commuters and staff responded but I guest that it part of the charm. Anyhow, I'm a H.S. Drama teacher and feel that your blog enter would make an excellent starting point for a series of playbuilding exercise. So many possibilities to explore. But I thought it would be polite to ask whether you would mind if I used your story this way. If you don't, I won't actually use it until next year.

Thanks Mark.

Sam Sejavka said...

Mark, I'd be flattered. I can see the potential for an aburdist, even kafkaesque drama ... as long as you never let on where they actually came from ...

lily was here said...

The good old days, when you could invite the public and generally still live to tell the tale. I must admit that the image of the big fat biker absconding with Babe under his arm was kinda comical. Maybe was going to let it loose at the local police station? Maybe he was Hagrid in disguise finding "true love", with piggy living out a long and happy life, with his own studded choker and piercings? The chair caper though, that really captured my imagination! IF only we knew what really happened, if only the Chasers crew had you two for their creative thinking! And .. you've left me wondering about the exact details of your jail term.