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Saturday, August 16, 2008

~ jack & lee

Every so often, my meagre social calendar yields an event which calls together a certain cabal of friends and colleagues who were closest twenty to thirty years ago. Troy's memorial was a perfect example. It’s one of the small consolations of the aging process. The cud of memory is chewed. A certain camaraderie is shared. People are reassured to see they are not the only ones whose bellies have swollen, whose hair has thinned and fallen out, whose flesh has begun to sag off the bone - and whose minds are drifting into a null-space leached of inertia and wracked by dread of the future. Indeed, it is a wonder we recognise each other at all …

Phone numbers, email addresses and business cards are exchanged. Secreted in drawers. Forgotten …

On Sunday evening my dear and reliably infuriating friend Jack Strocchi was married to Claire at St Joseph’s Church in Port Melbourne. I won’t bother describing the wedding, save to mention that Claire looked beautiful, her dress was a deep ocean blue, and Jack did a magnificent job passing himself off as a normal man. [Remember John Cleese slamming the kitchen door behind him and hissing ‘psychiatrist!’’?]

Here, the cunning polycephalic bridegroom: Jack Strocchi.


Claire, his wife, and ever wonderful Marina, his sister ...



I was sitting downstairs waiting for the reception to begin, speaking with some people I hadn’t seen in decades, when the subject of Hep C upreared its ugly head. People are never shy about bringing it up with me – after all, I suppose, if they have it, then it would be a cruel twist of fate if I did not.

Previously, horror stories of cancer and death have filtered in from the periphery, but this year, like the proverbial slouching beast, the news is slinking closer and closer to home. I learned of an old acquaintance who was unable to attend the wedding because he was in hospital, seriously ill, as a result of his HCV.

It would be an understatement to say that got my attention Dark shadows milled at the corners of my vision.

I have always dreaded the time when that disease comes home to roost, mowing down half the people I know and, of course, myself. By the end of Jack’s reception, (not to put a damper on it, Jack,) I was ready to believe that time had come.

It was like a faint echo of New York in the 1980s. Hep C was by far the most common conversation starter. Every second knot of guests was discussing it. Comparing hospitals, treatments. Chinese herbs, news of the new fibro-scanner at the Alfred. And fully half of them were nursing a poisonous chalice. Or was that just me?

Sad to say, there is nothing more boring than a disease one has been knowingly infected with for twenty years. I’ve endured three long, gruelling, partially effective interferon treatments. I’ve spent a thousand sullen hours turning over its consequences in my mind...

Until the other night, I was not exactly in denial, but perhaps ... semi-denial. I take some care of my body. Milk thistle. Reduced animal fats. Exercise. Water. But never enough. I’m always working towards a stricter regime, falling away then firming up again. Now things will change. There is something ghastly on the doorstep.

But, regardless of the subject matter, I did enjoy speaking with all those ancient heads; not all of who, I must point out, have compromised livers. It’s a comradeship induced by time. Michelle Finnigan, who by extraordinary coincidence has been seeing Paul Storm, one of my best friends from school, and a brother-in-arms at St Kilda football matches. The Smoljo brothers, again friends from school. Jack’s dear sister Marina who lives and paints in the Alice. Ruth Learner, Amanda Florence, Bo, Georgia, Dolores, Chane Chane ...

*

Lee Smith.

When I first met him he was a beautiful boy, a David Bowie. It was at a house in Spensley St, West Melbourne, where Lisa Gerrard, (also a magnificent youth,) lived with Ronnie Recent, frontman for The Marching Girls and whose true name was Brendan Perry. (This pair were later to form Dead Can Dance; Lisa would develop her preternatural voice, which even at this time was breathtaking.)

Three of us, myself, Lisa and Lee, spent a long, uncomfortable night in a claustrophobic loungeroom, waiting on the delivery of mood enhancing drugs. Over many many hours, we clung to a thread of hope that something would come through. We were not addicts at the time, just desperate. Or at least I was, I can’t speak for Lisa or Lee.

Eventually, the dull early light began to leach through the windows. This was it for Lee, he’d wasted enough time. I walked with him part of the way home, before returning to wait some more. It seemed very bright outside and Lee looked just right, very cool. I wanted to know why he’d piked. For years and years I’ve remembered his response verbatim, but no longer. I used to use it as a personal aphorism, but perhaps it’s no longer relevant. He said that he would prefer to wait for another day. He would rather be ‘alive and high’ than fucked out, weary and stoned. If you get my drift ... In the original it was very quotable ...

Long ago, Lee drifted permanently from my world. I can't remember the last time I saw him This week I heard of his death - liver cancer, Hep C, 54 and clean for a long, long time. The only memories that come are those of decades ago. The best is of a band he had in the early eighties, Junk Logic - one of the so-called ‘little bands’. At the Market hotel, Lisa trilling like an alien, playing her yangqin, Lee torturing a monstrous, outlandish sound from his guitar. He had the best right hand, so quick, so accurate, so confident. His left hand, well, I think Lee had an aberrant idea of what a guitar was actually for. There was no tonal scale, no self-consistent set of frequencies in the universe which those devilish fingers could not undo....

Lee was unlucky. Perhaps the virus will get the rest of us too, ahead of age and all the other manners of death, but judging from that wedding night, there is a fair bit of raging yet to do against the dying of the light ...

And just in case you need cheering up, click my next post.


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6 comments:

Mr. Kim Guthrie said...

Hi Sam,

Good to see you actually! although circumstances could indeed have been better. I do apologise for not recognizing you initially. My head is still spinning with all the old faces flashing through it. I'm back in the bush in Queensland just like it never happened, it was far too short hope to be back again but not leave it so long this time.

Much love

Kg.

lily was here said...

Sam, its so nice to hear of a gathering involving old friends and suits that was a wedding.. and not, like my life lately, a funeral! Life flashes by so fast. I love (not) how when you get together with old friends,they remember embarrassing things you'd totally forgotten, and vice versa. At one such gathering 2 years ago I was tortured by the fact that most of the gang i hadnt seen for over 20 yrs all remembered that i was the cheekiest person on the planet AND held the record, beating all the guys, for the longest cigarette burn on my arm..something Id totally obliterated from my memory bank... good grief!! Was my face red... and my parents in attendance, both horrified.

Mr. Kim Guthrie said...

SAM

My Blog:

http://iphotographstuff.blogspot.com/

My email: kimguthrie@skymesh.net.au

Sam Sejavka said...

Kim, it is a trip, isn't it? I could barely put words together afterwards, so forgive me, if I made no sense.

Oh, I accidentally posted your email, sorry, I'' try to work out how to get it off ...

And congratulations on the you know what.

cheers

Sam Sejavka said...

LWH, Now you are rather cheeky, aren't you? And the cigarette burns? Exactly how long is that record? As long or longer than the cigarette itself?

cheers and love

lily was here said...

As a monkey my dad would say. The scar has faded but it was a good one xxx

ps Sam, keep taking care of yourself!