Thursday, August 30, 2012

~ a public reading of Ambergris

I'm having a reading of my play Ambergris at the Carlton Courthouse on Saturday at 2.00pm. (That's Sept 1, 349 Drummond St, Carlton, about 20 metres from the corner of Elgin.) It's late notice, I know, but... sorry... and perhaps some rough, first-draft playwrighting-in-progress is precisely your idea of how to celebrate the first day of Spring. Do come if it takes your fancy. It will be a casual, low-key affair and we may (or may not ) ask for a gold coin donation so as not to leave the actors out of pocket.

I've been working on this writhing, gargantuan word-squid for a long time. I've been distracted by the joy of child-rearing, by outrageous legal injustices, domestic misery and episodic insanity, by long winters of bewilderment and despair, not to mention the perils of serving as a pharmaceutical guinea pig – but I have at last honed the text to a point at which I'm prepared to brave the court of public opinion.

It's bit scary, to tell the truth. I think it's good, perhaps even better than good, but you simply cannot know until it comes off the page. I could have got it completely, utterly wrong. I could be facing a MacArthur Park dissolving-cake scenario. I just don't know... Though I can promise the sweet, green icing (or its equivalent).

And some esoteric characters - some who promote surreal agendas, others who nourish strange longings in the pit of their souls, still others who care naught for all but mind-numbing drugs.

Why does the mysterious stranger train a dog to bring him chunks of toxic waste? What is the disgraced researcher doing with 200 echidnas in his mobile laboratory? What is that void beneath the kitchen table? Who sells the packaged genitalia of lost marsupials to recreational fishermen? Why is the mute interested in Chux super-wipes? Why does a population with a genetic predisposition to bowel cancer claim instead to be an ancient, unknown species living among us...?

All this and more will be resolved. If you think that's impossible, let me prove you wrong. The readers are: Phil Motherwell, Richard Higgins, Lucy Cowbelle, Anthea Greco, Ben Andrews, molecular biologist Dr Nurin Veis and – owing to a late withdrawal – me. Directing is, of course, the formidable Lynne Ellis.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

~ did mr bunny get some?

Robert's rat – known variously as Mr Bunny, Zebedee or Nipper – has led an indulgent yet cloistered life, feeding hugely from the trough of his owner's kindness, puncturing the hands of strangers who seek to pet him in his nest, set high on a bookshelf in Robert's densely furnished apartment.

When Robert is out and about, Mr Bunny lives in his leather jacket, often peering curiously from a sleeve at supermarket checkouts and bank queues. The pellets he leaves are compact and easily shaken out, but when Mr Bunny needs to urinate he dutifully alerts his doting human companion. If Robert is riding his bike – for example on busy Queen's Rd at peak hour - the rat will crawl onto his shoulder as a signal for him to pull over.

Recently, Robert described a scene I found reminiscent La Grand Bouffe. From the toilet – on which he was perched - he had a clear view of the rat's nest. Presently, Mr Bunny's seeking nose emerged from the skein of rag and newspaper. The rat seemed to peer into the distance. He edged forward a little more, expressionless, apparently mesmerised. Perhaps he was concentrating on some uncomfortable internal process, or perhaps his cognition was stuttering due an overdose of lipids and sugars in his bloodstream...

Time passed and a sudden thought came to Robert's head. Was Mr Bunny having a stroke? Would he fall? Robert leapt up, but too late. The pale unwieldy rodent plummeted eight shelves into the chaos of gas bottles, engineering books and electronic components below.

Thankfully, the fall did no harm and seemed to reboot Mr Bunny's system.

Though only 18 months, Mr Bunny is old in rat years and contented in his simple ways. He is not desexed and two large lightly furred globes swing at the root of his dextrous tail. Robert has mentioned to me that - for Mr Bunny's birthday - he would like to arrange a sexual liaison, as his pet remains a virgin. It seemed a pipe dream until, just recently, I was pleased to inform him that I had met Ellie, a nubile young female rat whose owner was prepared to keep some of the resulting pinkies if Robert returned the favour.

This weekend we travelled to the home of Ellie in the remote town of Barry's Reef. Robert fretted, fearing that Mr Bunny might engage in cannibalism or violent rape - but nothing of the kind ensued. Certainly, his rat proved to be two to three times the size of Ellie and was, by comparison, as lively as a slug - yet Mr Bunny was not entirely disinterested. Ellie spent much of their tryst sleeping on his head, but perhaps, in the dead of night, in the opaque plastic milk bottle that was their private place, magic may have happened.

As the rats engaged in their inscrutable negotiations, I took a walk in the nearby forest, where I sought wisdom from The Green Man.

Shortly afterwards, and perhaps not by accident, I uncovered a vein of fossilised moon jelly.

And afterwards, I saw these three things...

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

~ on a rubbery black floor

An evening full of teary eyes, projectile vomiting, hands grasping out of pain and fear, and an enema bravely endured. A night walk past looming piles of shadowy hard rubbish, the little black cat following in complete trust, as is her way. Two loads of faecal laundry drying now on the adapted frame of a play-pen. A simple dinner on toast: egg poached in a cyclist's trouser clip, mild salami, mayonnaise, salt and cheese...

And apple juice. Apple juice because apple juice is said to free you up down there. So much apple juice that her meagre dinner was scarcely touched - though I had sliced it into alluring sixths, though it had sprung from the wizened cloaca of sweet, sweet Boofhead, who has chosen this night to sleep, brooding, on eggs in the abandoned guinea pig enclosure – rather than on the shit-caked end of a branch that is her customary and cosy night habitat.

Ten minutes narrating The Owl Service in my poor Welsh accent – as decorative lacquer owls fly from their dinner plates, transmute into paper and thence to spectral flesh. While a strange non-corporeal will of ancient provenance makes a wife of meadowsweet, broom and oak. While the child, swathed in doonas, fades into sleep, clutching the little black cat who, having abandoned all hope of escape, has begun to purr.

Now I'm an isolated man in the suburb of Mt Waverley, caring for a mortal girl these past nine years. We are a happy, though chaotic household, but if it wasn't for my daughter I would never find the contact lens that regularly falls to the black rubbery floor of the bathroom - as I attempt to reconfigure myself at eight each morning.

I've a great deal on my plate – and because I can only concentrate on one thing at a time – difficulties often arise. My various helpers – of the social and psychological kind – encourage me to make use of iCal and the calendar on my phone and I obey with diligence – the organising, the planning – but I still forget important things. I still fail to hear phone calls (the child is useful in this regard) and consistently I muddle the various facets of my knotted, jumbled life. But the child must always come first, and tonight I felt like a legitimate father...

(And, at assembly on Monday, the child was named Student of The Week. As soon as they used the word 'smile' I knew it would be her. She also danced, with her quirky friend Megan, before the whole school, reinterpreting the choreography of a song the name of which I can't recall (though I've heard it a hundred times).)

For a little while I could forget the final touches I have to make on my play Ambergris which has a public reading at the Courthouse on Sept 1 – and also the difficult job of pinning down actors for the event. I could forget my ongoing war with the PERIN Court. I could forget all the many and varied jobs associated with Déjà Moo, the Ears live mini-album which is nearing release...

And for a little while, I could forget that I'm swatting wildly on the subject of methamphetamine (ugh) and the paucity of treatment options for the problem user. Though I have edited the past two issues of Whack (the official organ of the Harm Reduction Society of Victoria) this time it should be easier. I am only responsible for the words, while my looming replacement is governing the lay-out and design. Whack #29 will be available in a couple of months at all good needle exchanges and places of last resort. The theme this issue is 'Stimulants'. Ugh

A few days ago, as I and the soon-to-be-editor worked together at the HRV office, I initiated some small talk. L had been a stranger to me until recently. I knew he was based in the country and asked where exactly.

East Gippsland.

Oh? Like Bairnsdale? 

Yeah – he was surprised I'd guessed this – a town just near there 

What? Like Brufen? 

Yeah, Bruthen. Good guess. 

I used to spend time out there. I like Bairnsdale. 

It's where I'm from, he said.

I used to visit friends there. Don't suppose you know T? 

Yeah, I know T. 

 Really? Wow. That's amazing.

 I was closer with the daughters...

Not E? 

I went to school with E! 

E? Really? We know each other well.

Small world, is it not? I went on to describe how I used to visit a house in Clifton Creek, on a property run by a slightly paranoid survivalist type who stored weapons and built concrete bunkers.

I know that house, said L.

It's where I fell in love with my daughter's mother, said I.

That's where I spent my childhood. I grew up in that house.

Two near strangers in an office, discussing the layout of a magazine. What are the odds?

Enough for now. Suffice to say I'm determined to keep posting. I know I've said it before, but I mean it this time. I think.

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