2011 Mardi Gras final thoughts

Saturday 19 March 2011

And so another Mardi Gras comes to an end. I had a good one this year. I was in an art exhibition and I won an award for my writing, re-energising my creative juices. Friends surrounded and supported me: I felt respected; I felt appreciated; I felt loved.

What else did I do? Saw two plays, which were fun. Knocked over a couple of exhibitions; a mixed bag but the occasional piece stood out. Did most of the Harbour City Bear’s events – the pool party (a great boisterous romp), the Underbear party (I’d been saving my white Aussiebum Wonderjocks for the occasion), a play party (no more information delivered), and a couple of nights at the pubs. Oh, and I also got pretty sick, but you can have everything.

I marched again. I wasn’t going to but a friend had never and wanted someone to hold his hand, and me being the honest sap said I’d join him. We all wore coloured t-shirts to match the colours of the rainbow flag: I was in red (natch); he was in blue. As we waited the half hour in formation for our signal to go I’d occasionally look across to make sure he was all right. Sometimes the look on his face suggested the tension – the waiting, waiting – was too much and the whole thing was soon going to overwhelm him, but then we started and we skipped and danced the Golden Mile to Fox Studios, and he seemed to be having the time of his life. His sister saw him on television; when he told me that I was incredibly proud for him.

This was the fourth time I’ve marched. That first march, which wasn’t that long ago, when I first saw and heard the vast walls of people I thought I was going to burst into tears. I remember saying to myself, “Clyde, hold it in there man, Bears don’t cry! You don’t want these people to see you crying!” I had to constantly gulp my emotions down, telling myself to stay calm, stay calm, and enjoy the sheer ecstasy of it all. When it was over and the noise and crowds had disappeared I sat under a tree and relished that sensation. It was better than any drug I’d ever taken. It’s a pity then, only a few Mardi Gras on, it now feels somewhat routine. It is true you can never reach those first highs again.

So this year I marched with the hope my friend would experience that same rush. Some days before, however, we’d gotten into a heated discussion where he referred to the event as a “parade”. “It’s not a parade,” I said in my best Poindexter, “it’s a march. There’s an important difference.” “Whatever,” he dismissed, but I stopped him there. “No,” I said, with forefinger carefully counting the beats of my words, “you need to understand what’s the significance of this event.” I then wafted on about the Stonewall Riots, and his eyes glazed over, but I do remember him saying it no longer mattered and we should just enjoy Mardi Gras for what it’s become. And I let it slide for I knew he just wasn’t going to understand the significance I felt.

The first time I had sex was on Wednesday 6 December 1995; I was 22. I’d just finished my first year of university. It took until the beginning of my third year before I, for want of a better expression, finally came out and attacked the world, so much so my studies floundered and I had to go part-time. But I didn’t care, I was out on the Oxford Scene – sometimes every night the week – and I was Discovering.

(It’s around this time I rocked up at Sydney’s only men’s-only bar, the Barracks, an underground den full of all those wonderful stereotypes – leather, moustaches, denim, workman’s clothing – wearing a navy blue velour pullover and a string of pearls wrapped three times like a choker around my neck. I thought I looked fabulous! At the bar this guy pushed in before me. I said, “Excuse me, I was here first.” He looked me up and down and with a wave of his wrist replied, “Darling, you’re wearing pearls, you’ll get your root tonight.”

I’m telling tales but the first time I went to the Barracks I was shitting myself. I’d spent the week psyching myself for the event. I’d told the barman of the restaurant I was working at I was going. He recoiled. “Why would you want to go there, it’s full of old men and perverts.” “Oh, you’ve been?” I asked. His lip curled. “No,” he said with a shocked laugh, “What sort of person do you think I am?”

That night I changed into the most working class thing I could muster: 501s, blue Bonds singlet and green Yakka work shirt – I’ve still got that shirt… actually, that outfit now sounds pretty gay. I practiced in front of the mirror my sure-footed über-masculine stance – a strange mix of wide legs and shoulder slouch with a quarter hip twist – and, having now found my character, swaggered to the Barracks’ back laneway entrance. I got in past the bouncer, headed straight for the bar, ordered a schooner and quickly found a seat on the benches along the walls. It was pretty crowded and some guy filled the space next to me and eventually we got talking. He was wearing a leather vest and a leather armband on his right arm. Now, I’d just begun reading up on gay culture, concepts and codes and knew that a band on his right arm meant he was probably a bottom, and with beery confidence I ask him about this. Yes a bottom he was, he said, that’s his boyfriend playing pool. With my beer glass empty I jumped down from my stool and asked if I could buy him a drink. He tapped me on the arm. “Ooo that would be lovely, a gin and tonic please.” At that moment, as I walked across the floor, I held my shoulders back and thought… I own this place!)

Where was I, this was supposed to go somewhere… Oh that’s right – out every night the week.

Back when I was young and pretty, strangers would come and talk with me and me with them. I recall chatting to drag queens, original cast members of Les Girls, many a barman (the story of John is for another time), men in suits, men out of suits, the famous Troughman (his skin glistened in that way oil on water glistens), businessmen, straight men, foreign men, any piece flotsam wandering the nights looking for somewhere to wash ashore. There were a lot of older men. We’d buy each other a round of drinks – even the score – and talk, and as I was new and unsure of many things I’d ask them what paths led them down to where they were today.

It just so happened a lot of these men were ‘78ers, those who were part of Sydney’s first gay and lesbian march on Saturday 24 June 1978. The rally was intended to show support for the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and to kick-start Australia’s own gay liberation, and the police beat the marchers all the way to Kings Cross where it erupted into its own Riot. None of it was nice, 53 people were arrested, but the following year in greater numbers they marched again, and then the year after that and then the year after that. Somewhere along the line Mardi Gras got moved from the bitter chill of June to the balmy nights of March, and somewhere else Mardi Gras stopped being a march and became a parade. Unfortunately I don’t know the history, more aware of what occurred in the US than what happened on my own street (I live less than a block from the old Les Girls building; I had my 30th in the pub that’s now there), but what I do know is those ‘78ers broke new ground.

Now, I look back and cringe slightly because every time I met one of these men, in my inebriated state, I would thank them. I would punch them on the shoulder or hold them by the hand and thank them for being there and having the courage to be noticed. Now, I roll my eyes thinking how I would in all earnestness speak about how their brave steps led the way for the rest of us to follow; how what they did gave strength to us to come; how I owe my very existence to their fortitude on that cold winter night – and it was the chilliest of Sydney weather – giving me the right to boldly go where they had tip-toed before. And every time they would watch me in silence and eventually, once I’d finished, say, simply, thank you. And then I would buy them a drink.

Now that I’m older and handsome, strangers don’t talk to me as much. Admittedly I no longer go out every night and don’t bounce back from a hangover as well as I used to, but I still go out. As I become one of the older men it saddens me that a great deal of those around me, with their bravado right to flounce and flirt and fuck whoever they bloody well please, have no understanding to how they got that right and have no consideration to those that came before them, those who first held the placards, burned the beacons and led the way.

It’s more than heartbreaking that Mardi Gras has gone from a student crew with bed sheet banners embracing a Day of International Gay Solidarity, to hordes of waxed glittered twinks squealing “Look at us, aren’t we just FAAAAAABULOUS!”. Of course I simplify, and I apologise. But it hurts me terribly more that my friend, someone my age, thinks that none of that history matters and that Mardi Gras is simply a parade. Circuses have parades; what the ‘78ers did was unify and march. I believe that the strength, courage, and will of those who first held their fists in the air is so much more than a procession of clowns and elephants.

That’s why I thank them.

Mardi Gras poster 1978

The first poster - Day of International Gay Solidarity

Advertisements

Monday afternoon

Monday 28 February 2011

I’m on holidays this week. Not going anywhere; just took it off for the sake of it really. There will be some late nights – and their subsequent very early mornings – so it’s probably best for all for me not to be at work anyway. I might catch a movie, or see an exhibition, but mostly I’ll do a lot of sitting at home doing nothing, and that sounds peachy fine to me.

Soon I will be meeting friends for dinner but earlier I was sitting at my desk, sipping cheap wine, gazing out the window, and pondering if I should go for a walk or not. I could buy a book or some new pillows or a couple of work shirts… perhaps later. As I sat I stared aimlessly at a large tree in the middle distance, watching as it waved gently in the breeze. It was a nice afternoon, much too nice to do anything. So I sat and sipped and watched this tree. It’ll probably rain later.

I wasn’t really paying attention, just enjoying the cool afternoon and feeling lulled by the rhythmic back and forth of the tree, when suddenly the entire tree exploded. The tree simply exploded shooting white flames out in every direction. My eyes now were fully focused on this tree, my mind pulled back from its travels; all I could see was the tree and the white explosions. It was like a firework ball that fills the night sky with light. Exactly like that, all except the sound. The explosion was silent; the calls of the parrots, the hum of the traffic, and the murmur of the café below were never disrupted. Yet the tree exploded.

As I watched the white balls of light swooped down and darted left, then hit the brakes and shot right, circling the tree. I realised that it was a cacophony of sulphur-crested cockatoos that had been spooked from their afternoon slumber and scarpered from the tree as a unified creature. The cockatoos circled again and again the tree, and each time some perched, the rest still too nervous to rest, but slowly they spiralled themselves away until all the birds had found a safe haven amongst the leaves. And now instead of the tree exploding it seemed to implode as the cockatoos all shook their wings. Little sparks of white shimmered across the tree as the birds sorted their feathers, or cooled themselves in the wind, or cackled to their fellow feathered friends. And then they settled and slowly the lights faded and the tree lost its glow, and instead of the tree being alive with light and life it became again just another tree in the middle distance, a soft green grey, nondescript from the others in the park. And the traffic kept droning down the roads, and the café guests kept laughing at their conversations, and the parrots kept screeching at each other, and I never knew what it was that had first scared the cockatoos.

After a short while I went to the kitchen to refill my glass. Returning, looking back out the window, I couldn’t remember which tree it was that had exploded.


What I did on my holidays – Rottnest Island; the story on a penguin in search of a quokka

Thursday 9 July 2009

All my days so far in Perth have included a sky as clear and blue as Daniel Craig’s eyes. Today, the day before I leave for Rottnest, the sky is more like Charlton Heston’s cataracts. Grey… completely grey… and wet. Delightful. I wasn’t planning on adventuring far today, if at all, just to the local café perhaps, but the rain has … um… dampened even that plan. Pity, especially considering I’ve a load of washing handing on the line. Now, rain has never bothered me – it’s only water – but damp socks and underpants do. So it looks like I’ve an adventure destined for me after all – a trip to the local Laundromat!

With a bit of on-line research I find a self-service Laundromat about 20 minutes walk from Anita’s in Maylands, a suburb I have yet to explore. Bag packed, with the first sign of the raining easing, I leave via Anita’s garage door and strut off down the lane. It’s a nice walk though a little damp, and the rain begins its casual downfall again. I was also getting a little concerned – I seemed to have walked a lot further than 20 minutes; but tucked away on the side of a little shopping district (next to a picture framers – imagine that!) was the Laundromat.

Inside were four dryers: two being used, a third “Out of Order”; and the final with a gent clearing out his dried load. Soon I chuck in my assortment of smalls, t-shirts and jeans and close the large glass door. I now notice the sign:

DO NOT PLACE SMALL
ITEMS OF CLOTHING
SUCH AS:

socks, items of baby
clothing
g-strings etc in this dryer

IT EATS THEM!!!

Considering it’s the only machine available, I take my chances with my socks.

Fifteen minutes later, my clothes toasty dry, I head back out into the world. In that short amount of time the sun had broken through, the clouds had become fluffy and white, and the puddles were acting like mirrors, making me cuss that I had left my sunglasses in my other bag.

I go for a bit of a wander and slowly meander my way back to Beaufort Street and then to home. Along the way I find an ancient hard back of Pride and Prejudice, complete with illustrated dust jacket, in the Maylands’ Salvos. I know a certain colleague’s daughter who would love that, and promptly handed over my $2 because, as we all know: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a copy of Pride and Prejudice is always in want of another copy of Pride and Prejudice.

On Beaufort Street I popped into a fabulous little shop called COOK/book which sells … oh I can’t be bothered finishing that sentence. There I got myself some silicon egg poachers (I’ve wanted some for ages but always thought they were too expensive. Here, for $20, they’re half the price I’ve seen them for in Sydney. Bargain!), and a little “thank you” present for Anita. A couple of days ago Anita made the most scrumptious kangaroo and Guinness pie, but what I thought she needed was one of those little pie birds to stick out the middle of the crust. I bought the last one they had in stock. I picked up a nice bunch of flowers too.

Incidentally, on reading this back, and other pieces in this Holiday collection, I notice that I constantly jump tenses between present (“I go for a bit of a wander”) and past (“I popped into a fabulous little shop”). This is because these entries are written swiftly and segmentally, and so lose an over-all editorial eye. Sometimes I go back and change it, other times I just can’t be bothered. Please excuse this lack in standard. Oh, but if I get my “it’s” and “its” mixed up, chastise me promptly.

Later I went to IGA to get some goods for Rottnest. It’s very much a “bring-what-you-need” situation. I got some tea, tetra pack milk, choccy bickies (I am on holiday), juice, eggs (to try out my poachers), dijonnaise sauce (they didn’t have hollandaise), bread rolls, cuppa soup, and some spag sauce and pasta to cook up one night. I’ve plenty of food, and there’s a shop on the island, plus a restaurant and a pub, but I’m covered for breakfasts and for at least one meal over the two nights. What I don’t eat I’ll bring back and donate to Anita.

Standing in front of the tea, tossing up between ten packs of the Irish or English Breakfast, there was next to me a middle-aged man considering the coffees. An elderly woman tottered up, had a quick look, then took down a small jar of Moccona and popped it in her basket. “A good choice there, hey?” said the man; the woman just smiled. “Yep, I often get that when it’s on special. That or the Riva, that’s a pretty good coffee there too, isn’t it? When they’ve got that on special, I sometimes get that. But usually I get the Nescafe 43. Now that’s a good coffee. I think that’s my favourite coffee of the three.” The woman kept smiling as she backed away. I quickly grabbed the Irish Breakfast, then scooted past.

Dinner was a quiet affair with lots of brussels sprouts. While I roast my sprouts with balsamic vinegar, John bakes his in a thyme and cheddar cheese sauce, with a parmesan cheese crust. They were extremely yummy – always nice to find new ways to eat a brassica – but I think I’ll stick to my method of just sticking them on the tray with everything else. After dinner we watched a little telly, then I excused myself and went off to pack. While I’m leaving most things at Anita’s to pick up on my return, I still do need to get some things organised. I’m taking Rose, my laptop, for instance, which reminds me: don’t forget to pack the DVDs.

–+–

The sky is clear, the wind is nil, and the ferries are certainly running to Rottnest today.

I woke up at the alarm, showered, had some toast, finished packing, and was out the door by 7.40am. Perfect. As I wandered down the street a bus was pulling into the stop. Even better (not that you can have something that is even better than perfect, but let’s just go with this for now). I break into a trot. Then the handle snapped on my mountain deluxe backpack and – wham! – the bag fell to the road. I grab it up and keep running when one of the straps snapped and – wham! – the bag fell to the road again. Cradling the bag, which was a lot heavier than I remembered, I finally made it to the bus and sat down. “Excuse me,” said the woman next to me, “but your bag seems to be leaking.” Sure enough milk was seeping across the floor. “Oh dear,” I said. ‘Don’t worry,” the woman said, “It can only get better.” She paused. “Or worse,” she finally concluded.

I sat there, trying to remain calm, practising my breathing, and working out the extent of the damage. A man tapped me on the shoulder. ‘Excuse me but you’re leaking milk.” “Yes, I know,” I said and thanked him. Soon another woman tapped me on the shoulder. Again I thanked her, then continued practicing my counting.

At the Perth train station, the first useful stop, I disembarked and checked the damage. One of the tetra packs had sprung a leak. It might not be that bad, I thought, but in the back of my head I knew I won’t know completely until I checked in to the cabin six hours later. All I could do for now was remove the bastard carton and re-zip the bag. I toiled the backpack the few blocks down to the wharf, cussing all the way. Bloody cheap bag! Still, what do you expect for $14

–+–

Turns out the morning ferry is not running due to technical problems, so it’s a bus to Fremantle. Lovely. I ask where I can get a coffee and am pointed towards a shop down a bit and to the right. I get a take-away flat white – $3.80. THREE DOLLARS BLOODY EIGHTY!!! I’m over this Rottnest trip before it’s even begun. I’m telling you – I better get to keep a bloody quokka!

We all piled into the minibus. Across from me sat an elderly couple – he in a Scottish peaked cap complete with pom pom – and their daughter and her son. “We should get hour money back,” they moaned. “We payed for a river cruise not a bus ride. That’s why we came all this way, for a river cruise. We should at least write them an email of complaint. It’s not good enough to just say the boat’s being fixed. It’s your business and it you’re going to offer a river cruise then customers should get a river cruise. I reckon next time, next time, what we’ll do it not book before hand on the internet but come down on the day and if they’re not offering a river cruise then we go with another company. Still, at least we’ll get a river cruise coming back, but it will be dark, wouldn’t it? And we won’t be able to see anything. If we don’t get a river cruise coming back then I’m demanding my money back, ‘cos that’s what we paid for, wasn’t it?” And so on. It was incredibly grating. But I was quite happy to take the bus as the driver pointed out this attraction and that landmark, with a bit of home grown gossip thrown in. He was very entertaining. 

Waiting at the Fremantle Port for the ferry there was this intense smell, like no water borne smell I have ever smelt. It wasn’t that salty, rotting seaweed smell, or that gutted fish at the market smell. Funny, though, it was strangely familiar, like something from my deep dark past: a heavy, heady, dusty smell, with a touch of manure. It was then that I noticed on the other side of the Port a great carrier painted with the words: LIVESTOCK EXPRESS. Oh, so that’s the smell. I knew it was familiar.

A long time ago, when I was very small, my family spent some time of a cousin’s sheep farm. I have no idea how old I was, mostly like 6 or 7, I should ask Mah when I see her in Melbourne, but I have incredibly strong memories of the trip. I remember running across a paddock. I remember that Mah and Dah left early and I stayed for a few extra days. I remember sheep dogs, but I don’t remember sheep. But what I remember more than anything is being in a sheep shed. It was dark, just natural light piercing through the beams, walls, and floor boards (I remember that light seemed also to come up from the floor), and the timber floor was slightly waxy from all the lanolin. The floor was covered with a mixture of wool tufts and sheep droppings, and I remember so strongly that I didn’t want to walk across it – I’d get pooh between my toes! I was a delicate flower, even back then. But what strikes me the most is the smell – a mixture of sheep droppings and fine red dust and lanolin and labourer’s sweat. And the sun, there was also the smell of the sun – natural forces instead of the fluorescent light; or maybe that was a sound – a clean air and not one gently humming? I don’t know, but if the sun could have a smell, it was there. Nearly 30 years later all that came flooding back just by standing on an unfamiliar wharf in an unfamiliar city.

As the ferry was about to leave an old duck and her granddaughter leapt on board and squeezed in next to me on the back in the open air. We got chatting. Another Sydney-Sider over here to see her granddaughter compete in the national gymnastic championship. She’s only here for a day. “That’ll be enough,” she said.

I’m on the island 40 minutes later, but check-in is not until 2pm: another 3+ hours. I go for a wander while I wait and stand on my first Western Australian beach and see my second Western Australian lighthouse. As I was heading down to the beach I spy – oh joy of joys! – my first quokka. Slowly I sneak up and take photo after photo, each one a little bit closer. The big rat (sorry) marsupial just kept munching its seedpods. I got closer and closer until I was near enough for it to sniff my hand. I t wouldn’t let me pat it though, but they sure look cuddly. I WANT TO KEEP ONE! Finally, bored, it slowly started to hop away. I looked at my watch – 11.15am. “There you go,” I said to no-one in particular, “I’ve seen a quokka. I could easily go home now.”

After wandering back along the coast line and through all the holiday cottages jammed with vacationing families – the young scooting about on bicycles, the old sitting on foldable chairs on the verandahs enjoying either a cup of tea of a bottle of beer – I chat a while to Patricia, a guide trainee, in one of the many heritage spots. She’s doing her exams later in the week to become a fully-fledged volunteer. I wished her luck and promised to come to her session tomorrow as support. (I never made it)

I popped into the information centre – according to the board my room is still not available – so it’s a stroll down to the Quokka Arms Hotel for a pint and an enjoyable beer battered fish and chips with red pepper aioli (they love their aioli here in Western Australia – sort of the focaccia of the Noughties). As I ate I watched the ferry return with its next load of passengers; I was relieved to see it had a load of luggage this time, in a cage at the back. Hopefully my milk-sodden bag is amongst it.

Quokka Arms is a great place to people, and peacock, watch, though at $9 a pint I think I’ll be mostly drinking in. Groups gather around tables and order Coronas; kids clamber over the old stone fences or leap on the wooden stools in the beer garden, a bit like a human version of Q-Bert; young girls in skimpy shorts; lads over loaded with surfboards and enormous head phones; the occasional gents obviously thinking they’re in the Tour de France, peddles up, unclicks his specially designed shoes, then does that strange click-click waddle walk. The peacock strolled over to my table a number of occasions but I never got a good photo of it. He was either scared away by marauding children or realised I had no chips to spare.

At 2 minutes to 2pm I get jack of the waiting and join the service queue. My room is ready. At the pick-up/drop-off spot, a couple of doors from my cabin, my bag is waiting. Everything is looking rosy. I yank open my bag expecting my clothes to be a little damp and yoghurt smelling, but things were stickier than I wished. Three of the eggs had cracked also on the journey and leaked their albumenic goodness all over my new striped hoodie. I haven’t even had a chance to wear it yet. Five minutes in the bathroom sink with the bottle of body wash and my hoodie is soaking wet but seemingly egg free, a bit like a vegan cake, if you think about it, and probably just as tasty. Everything else, and I mean everything else, has the damp signs of the busted milk carton so I drape everything over the bunk bed railings in an attempt to dry. The moment I get to Mark and John’s I’m washing straight away. Thank goodness I had the insight to pop into the Rottnest grocery and pick up some booze. I was hoping on getting something Western Australian but – they don’t call me Cheap Clyde for nothing – I ended up with my ol’ favourite 2-litre cask of Yalumba Shiraz. It does me. I’ve finished my first glass just while typing this, and there’s plenty more where that glass came from!

To my amusement (or is that “dismay”?) the grocery also had, believe it or not, every food item that I had brought with me. I check using the IGA docket – every item. I could have just bought everything here and now not have a broken bag and clothing covered in eggnog. Oh well. Now that I think about it, I’m sure someone at work had mentioned this. Perhaps next time I’ll listen.

The room: Caroline Thomson 705. It’s quite nice really, I’ve stayed in far worse hotels. It’s a cabin designed to sleep 6 via a double and two lots of bunks (I thought I was getting a 2-person but I’m not complaining), an average sized kitchen table, a refrigerator (fantastic), a gas stove, and sink. Attached is a little bathroom being bison (sorry) basin, shower with one of those overly friendly curtains that just wants to cling to you, and toot (or “brasco” – hello Beautiful Creature!). Out front (where I’m sitting and chewing up Rose’s battery) is a picnic table under the little verandah. It’s all very nice, very comfortable, and very holiday. I’m feeling serene just writing about it. 

The seven cabins in my allotment form a squashed semi-circle around a communal barbeque.  I’m on a straight side so my neighbouring cabins (703 and 704) are on jaunty angles to complement the circular shape. I know that 704 has a young child in it as I’ve heard both the child and the mother, and they’ve hired a bike with a baby seat (absolute giveaway). 703 has a pink kids bike thrown out the front of it, so I’m assuming there’s a little girl there. Funny – the dad from 704 just rode up on his bike (the bike being the only form of transportation on the island. Actually, that’s not true – there’s the bus service and also (I was surprised) a train that used to carry artillery to the Oliver Hill Lookout, Western Australia’s first line of defence against enemy attacks. I’ll hire a bike tomorrow. Sorry, where was I?) Funny – the dad from 704 has just peddled up. Seems a nice guy – a Mac user so he can’t be at all bad – but I couldn’t help noticing the stupid bike shoes.

Let’s think about those stupid bike shoes for a moment. Sure you can click them into the peddles of your bike and go speeding along. Sure they are incredibly comfortable and great for your feet and make cycling an ease. And sure they give you a sense of belonging to a club, a movement, an identity. So sure to all these things and many more. But they make you look like a knob. Sense Factor might be high, but the Knob Factor is off the scale.

O-H M-Y G-O-D-S !-!-! A quokka – A QUOKKA – just did that cute little bounce up to my cabin to say hello. He came up, had a little sniff around, took out some discount brochures it had in its pouch, pissed on the doorstep, and then meandered off to the next cabin. Now, that’s what I call service!

It’s just started raining. And now it’s stopped. What’s the time – 5.09pm. I’ve been sitting here on the verandah (I went and bought an extension cord), typing in my notes and now I’ve suddenly realised how cold it has become. Brr, I say. I go inside and grab my jumper – luckily un-egged and un-milked – to put on. Noticing the clothes on the railings I realise how little clothes I’ve packed. I’m really doing this holiday on the easy with all clothes demanding a second wearing. Actually, I think I’m finally starting to perfect the notion of holiday packing – you really don’t need much at all, but with my new hoodie out of action it’s interesting how much you being to have to rely on just the basics. It’s very muchgoing to be the same t-shirt and jeans kind of days.

O-O-H-H M-M-Y-Y G-G-O-O-D-D-S-S !-!-!-!-!-!-! A QUOKKA JUST WENT INTO MY CABIN!!!! AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!! Is that not the most amazing this ever!!! No, wait – I’ve now got two quokkas – DOUBLE AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!! There are signs everywhere saying not feed the quokkas as they die or start forming gangs and mug you. Well, I can’t help myself and pinch off pieces of bread roll to tempt them closer. Oh no – I’ve created a quokka fight. One bit the other and now there’s fur. Oh gods they are so gorgeous! Why don’t we replicate them and have them as house pets.

It’s a bit later on (5.47), the rain has recommenced, and I’m now wearing my jumper, scarf and leather jacket. I could just go inside but what’s the fun of that? My 704 neighbours, who have been here for a week and have another week to go, have cycled off to the hotel. It’s raining in that “I’m not really raining” type of way. The information centre gave me some postcards. I’ve a few birthdays coming up but what do you write?

Having a lovely time
Wish you were here
Our room is marked with an “x”

Hmmm… I’m having a bit of trouble writing neatly, even just trying to hold the pen. The night’s a bit of a blur after that.

–+–

Wednesday I wake with just the palest of heads. What did I do last night? Nearly finished the cask of red for one thing. I had also cooked – I have no memory of this – and the stove is covered with fettuccini and stir-through pasta sauce. I didn’t bring any cleaning products (I would have thought they would have supplied at least a bottle of washing liquid and a brush) so I’m a bit lost to how I’m going to fix up this mess. Hot water and the towel once I’ve finished with it will have to do. I’d also left the gas tap on so was slowly killing myself all night.

I finally get out the cabin, after first checking on the state of the milked clothes (still damp), and walk down to the bike hire shed. The bike is the only form of transport on the entire island and a necessity if you wish to explore away from the settlement. At the shop I order a bike for the day. The lady asks if there are any additional things I might need: a basket, a light, a pair of those stupid bike shoes that make you look like a knob. I politely say no and just stick to ordering a geared bike and helmet. While waiting in line I worked out that I haven’t been on a bike for 16 years and I’m curious to know if riding a bike is like … well … riding a bike. Soon, seat adjusted and helmet on I find out that it is like riding a bike, though I’m pretty wobbly when I start off. Map in hand I set off anticlockwise on the yellow line which circles the entire island right down to the very western tip. Total estimated journey: 3 – 5 hours.

What I hadn’t counted on was just how exhausting cycling can be, especially considering I just set out as if the last time I cycled 22 kilometres was yesterday. After 2km, on reaching the Geordie Bay shops, I thought I was either going to throw up or have a heart attack. I buy a bottle of water and slowly sip away half of it. Great, 9% in and I’ve already halved my water supply.

I’ve also never ridden a bike with gears. The last bike I had was 10 Speed – you just clicked the dial to the resistance number you wanted. This bike has got dials on both handles. I think the idea is you have it at a low resistance that you can still pedal but at a high enough one that you propel yourself forward as you go. After a lot of mucking about I settle on a 2:5 combination. It seems to work the best.

I’m wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a jumper. I had hoped to wear the hoodie but that’s still damp from its egg mishap (examining it later, I missed some of the bloody egg. I’ll chuck it in the wash with everything else when I get to Mark and John’s). The sky is cloudy and the wind is crisp. The island is a lot hillier than I thought it would be but the struggle to get up one side (sometimes walked) is made up by the exhilaration of zooming down the other. And I’m enjoying myself immensely.

As I travel I stop and enjoy the views of the bays. Rottnest has 63 inlets and bays and, I reckon, I visit 59 over the day. The most spectacular spot is the West End. Standing on the timber lookout and watching the force of the waves come crashing in is a momentous experience, but try as I might I couldn’t see any whales; I’m a month too early.

On my way back, though, standing at the southernest point of the island, I spied a large shape bobbing out in the water. I washed it for a while as it seemed to dip under the waves to then come bounding back. IT’S A WHALE! IT’S A WHALE! I’VE SEEN A WHALE!! YAY!!! Turns out it wasn’t a whale, just a speedboat out fishing. Shoulders slouched I got back on my bike and treadled away.

I don’t know if I took the easy or the hard route, travelling anticlockwise around the island, but the hills seems steeper and the wind fiercer, but eventually I saw a holiday cabin and I realised I was back in Civilisation. I had made it! I stopped off at my cabin to refill my water bottle. It was 2pm. The entire journey had taken me two and a half hours.

I’d walked to the Bathurst Lighthouse on my first day but I still hadn’t been to the central one – the Wadjemup Lighthouse – or the Oliver Hill cannon for that matter, which was Australia’s first line of defence back in WWII. Unfortunately, I had now missed all the tours (The last tour for anything is 2pm. I tell you, they really need to reconsider how they manage the tour schedules but I suppose it’s designed for day visitors only.) so I decided to peddle the distance instead, and at least go and stand next to the landmarks and admire the view. The path heads out west from the Settlement and weaves its way through the inland lakes so it was a nice journey on mostly flat land that gave you the chance to do a little bit of bird watching too. Did I say “mostly flat land”? Not the bits to get to the Lighthouse or cannon. You’ve got to build these things on hills, you see; I was just a little shocked to think that they made hills so tall.

The cannon could fire an armour-piercing bullet a distance of 28km, which is sufficient to do some pretty serious damage if fired Perth-wards. Can’t remember how far away Perth is from the Island but the Old Duck who I was chatting to on the way over said that it the distance was no more than from Sydney Harbour to Manly. I didn’t stay long at the cannon, just enough to walk around; I find there’s something incredibly morbid about glorifying defence. Yeah, sure, the cannon was there to defend Australia but the display boards go into graphic detail about how much damage the cannon could do. It was so very proud of how much it was prepared to kill and destroy. The trouble is that Australia really has had absolutely no world importance except to produce movie stars and fight in other country’s wars. It’s a bit late now to ponder but what would have happened if Australia had told England to bugger off back in World War One? We wouldn’t have a public holiday at the very least. That sounds even more Un-Australian than fighting.

The Lighthouse is on an even taller hill but the view was magnificent. You could see the water horizon the entire 360 degrees – the full distance. It was the first time ever in my life that I have realised I was on an island. I’ve been on islands before (well, Australia’s an island, isn’t it?) but when do you get the chance to visually realise this? I am awed by the experience. I am disappointed, however, when I discovered that the lighthouse had been fully automatic since 1990. That’s such a pity as I always had dreams of marrying a lighthouse keeper and keeping him company. Will just go and have to find another lighthouse.

I took a detour on my way back that crossed north through the lake system, which meant that I retraced some of my earliest bike path, but this time travelling clockwise. It was head on wind the entire way and I was seriously buggered. The slightest sign of a hill was enough for me to get off and walk to the peak. I did make it back to my cabin, of course, and finally realised that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Standing out the front of the cabin, watching the blackest of black crows, I devoured half a packet of chocolate wafers and two cups of tea. As shattered as I was I felt so proud of myself; first time on a bike in too many years and I had completely circled and criss-cross the island.

I looked at my watch: it was just going on 4pm. I go for a little lie down. I wake up at 7.

Food-wise I’ve got two cups of soup, a bottle of coke zero, and about a third of a carton of milk. It sounds like it’s raining but it turns out just to be the wind in the trees. All the shops are now closed (they close at 6) so I get dressed and plan for dinner at the Quokka Arms; they’ve a Wednesday special of beer and pasta for $20. Getting on the bike, though, was a shock to the system. I seem to have bruised my entire undercarriage; sitting was a tender subject. I take the ride very slowly.

As I wince my way through the settlement, I am stopped by the road being completely covered with quokkas. It was like the final scene from that rarely shown cinematic masterpiece Alfred Hitchcock’s The Quokkas. As I approached the little buggers all looked up, their little beady eyes catching in the street light, and I was reminded of that scene from that other cinematic masterpiece 1960’s Quokkas of the Damned (John Carpenter remade it in 1995). Silently, I slowly steered my way amongst them; they just sat there and allowed me to pass.

The Arms is packed, it being the only place open after 6pm on the entire island. The pasta options turn out to be macaroni cheese, tomato and fettuccini and a creamy carbonara. I ordered the carbonara and took my beer to sit outside. It wasn’t raining, just occasionally spitting, and it was nice sitting their watching the perfect row of lights on the horizon. There’s Perth, that must be Fremantle, but the lights kept on going; Albany perhaps? The meal eventually arrived (it wasn’t anything special) and I finished my beer. I considered another, but no, I’ve had my full for the day and really just wanted to go back to my little cabin and watch a movie while tucked up in bed. The rain has started too so it looks like my timing is right.

–+–

Thursday, 7:30 and I’m packed ready to go, listening to the My Fair Lady original Broadway recording. My backpack, now dairy product free, is out sitting in the pick-up zone for someone to either collect and transport back to Perth, or steal. I’ve wiped down the stove and the sink using the towel dipped in hot water, which seems to have done the trick. I’m not going to mop; I think you are expected to but bugger that, I’m on holiday!

Oh damn. The battery just went on Rose. No more My Fair Lady.

Oh double damn. The zip on my shoulder bag just broke, even ripping out some teeth in the process. I’m not doing well with bags, am I?

It rained solidly all night, paused long enough for me to put my backpack out, then started its downpour again. I may finally get the opportunity to wear the rainjacket I bought. I’m just waiting now till the bike hire reopens, so until then I’m sitting inside, or standing outside, sipping tea.

I’m also walking a bit like a cowduck – a wide gaited waddle. All my private bits are tender from all that cylcing. I’m just glad there’s no full length mirror, otherwise I’d have been tempted to take a gander (to continue the duck reference).

The rain stops at 8.30 and I lock the door and peddle off to return the bike. I’ve enjoyed having the bike; I’m sure I could get used to the bruises. By the time I have recollected by bike hire deposit the sky is prefectly clear and it looks like it’s going to be another wonderful Rottenst Island day.

–+–

The rest of the day was a tedious collection of waiting. I waited for the ferry, I waited for the river boat, I waited for the bus back to Anita’s. It’s now just past 3pm and I’m halfway through a cup of tea and still the waiting game continues. I’m now waiting for Anita so I can hand over the keys, then waiting to travel to Mark and John’s, my next hosts. I can’t remember if they were going to pick me up on the way home from work, or if I was to get their myself. Might go make a phone call.

–+–

All this waiting and travelling did give me a chance to think about the last couple of days. Me, who never likes to be mroe than a stone’s throw from the theatre district, had a truly great time on Rottnest Island, but I don’t know if it was relaxing. The first day was a mess of trekking up and down with my bags and waiting to get in to the cabin, but I did get to do one of the nature walks and had a nice lunch at the pub and chat to a very helpful guide. But then I just got pissed that night and lost about 4 hours. Yesterday I was on the bike for 5 solid hours, circling and criss-crossing the island. Considering I haven’t been on a bike for 16 years I think that’s a pretty impressive feat. I slept well before waking for dinner, but it wasn’t till late last night that I got to just sit with everything done and simply relax.

If I had booked another night then today would have been taken up just sitting and reading and thinking. And relaxing! Someone once told me that that was what you are supposed to do on holidays; I seem to spend mine constantly rushing from gallery to pub. Still, I’ve five more days here.

Tomorrow I’m going to Fremantle Markets, which should be fun, see if I can get a new shoulder bag, and I think we’re hitting the Court that night. Saturday is Mark’s birthday party so I’m invited to that. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday all presently free. I’d like to go to the zoo, and there’s the aquarium. But then again I might just sit around and read Moby-Dick and try out this “relaxing” that people seem to talk about.

Decisions, decisions, just as long as I’m enjoying myself.


Family

Tuesday 16 June 2009

We’d been planning it for months, this trip away. D, R and me were going to a house party on the water’s edge up the mid north coast, and were going to make a long lazy weekend of the experience. Accommodation was arranged, party clothes packed, it was all going swimmingly. 

“There may be a slight hiccup,” said R two weeks before we were to leave. “My dad’s taken a turn for the worse, I mean a serious turn. The doctors don’t hold much hope. But it shouldn’t interfere with our plans.” We crossed our fingers. A week later I get a phone call from D: R’s dad had died.

I was very annoyed at R’s dad – does this make me a horrible person? I was sooooo looking forward to this weekend. You’ve had years to die, I whined, why did you have to choose to do it now? Bastard! In one final breath it had suddenly turned into a possible-but-probably-not weekend away.

Friday night I have two messages on the answer machine – the weekend’s back on. R’s sisters had both arrived and everything had been worked out and signed and the family thought there was no reason why R should just sit around and do nothing. So Saturday morning I caught the train up to D and R and the three of us drove off to our holiday shack. And we had a great time.

I got home late Monday, put my bag down and checked my phone messages – three. The first two were from D – I’d forgotten to erase them. I morbidly joked to myself, considering R’s father’s death, that I bet the third call would be from my sisters saying that one of my parents had died. I immediately regretted the thought. You shouldn’t think such things, I cursed, but it does upset me that, as is the nature of Luck and Death, I’ll more likely be off enjoying myself, uncontactable, and I’ll find out about the family tragedy too late. But it wasn’t my sisters, it was me Dah: my uncle had died.

He’d been sick for a while – years, decades really. We weren’t close. We only ever had one converstion, and that was only a few sentences one lunch at the Club just before I left for uni. He and Aunty and myself just so all happened to be there at the same time, and Aunty invited me to join them. I can’t remember a single thing about what he told me that lunch – I’m sure it was important Life advice – as I think I was so shocked that we were dialoguing. He had never spoken to me before, not even “Hello”; if he had I don’t remember. Aunty and I would talk if we saw each other, I quite liked Aunty, and we still exchange Christmas cards – she’s usually one of the first for the season, but the extended Clyde family had never been that close to visit or gather for family celebrations.

Hearing stories from friends, all the screams and tears and fights and rivallry – and all the love and bond and trust and care – I sometimes wonder if our family was missing out on something incredibly important. The closest thing my family has done in the last 10 years was Christmas just gone were there was all but one of us around the table (Queensland Sister couldn’t make it). Mah and Dah went home around midnight and so the three siblings drank and chatted well on. It was a good talk – my youngest sister and I having probably the first decent conversation in our lives – and I know that amongst the laughter I also shed the occasional tear.

I did have another uncle – my Dah’s other brother – but I never met him. The story goes (how I know it) that when Mah announced she was pregnant with me the brother was overjoyed that he was going to be an uncle. Admittedly he already was, twice over, but those nephews were both much closer to his age and I was to be the first where he was an adult uncle, if you know what I mean, one where he could play that older governing figure, semi-father relationship if you like, to his baby nephew. Anyway, soon after he was diagnosed with cancer and died a month or so before I was born. So we both missed out. He was the father of two young kids himself. All very sad.

When my Queensland Sister gave birth to my nephew I felt very much like my lost uncle must have felt. I wanted to be that guiding light, that additional source for the young growing man to turn to. I also wanted to be the naughty uncle who buys him the drum kit, the one that he jumps on a bus and runs away to, his favourite uncle. Unfortunately Sister was in Tasmania at the time, a bit too far for me to have any great influence except by the occasional parcel or phone call. But then my niece was born and Sister moved the kids to stay near our parents. It was now so much easier for me to see them and I was overjoyed that I could at least play some role in their lives. But they’re all up in Queensland now and I’ve only seen them once since. I hope to see them again when I’m there in a little over a month’s time, hopefully. It’s nice to play uncle., even if it is only for a few hours once a year.

I spoke to Aunty tonight, and one of my cousins, and they both said Uncle’s death was for the better – he’s not suffering anymore. Cousin and I chatted for about 10 minutes, about this and that. Much like Uncle’s conversation those many years ago, this was the first time Cousin and I had ever talked, but we were much younger back then and now at least we have things familiar that we both understood – a job, a mortgage. Common ground. 

Before D and I drove back to Sydney Monday night we shared a roast dinner with R’s family. After the apple pies and ice cream we all sat around the kitchen table, covered by a clear plastic protector, and they got out the photo albums and reminisced about their long dead pets and the occasional member of their extended family. It was funny watching them constantly correcting each other’s versions of history; more than once each would be surprised to hear a tale they had never heard before. But as I sat with them at the table and listened to them laugh and talk loudly over each other I felt like I was intruding and desperately wanted to leave. These weren’t my memories to share. But I did feel privileged to have heard them and thankful for them allowing me a half hour to be one of the family.

On the way to the dinner D said I might want to pick up some wine but as I was the only one who was going to be drinking I passed on the suggestion and made do with soft drink like everyone else. After dinner R’s mum asked me if I’d like anything else to drink. I said no. “Some tea or coffee perhaps?” Again I thanked her but said no. “Well that’s just as well really, ‘cos I don’t think we’ve got any anyway,” she finally said as she sat back into her chair. “Just thought I’d ask.” I wish I had listened to D.


Silver Anniversary

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Again, this is a very late entry, things just got in the way, and as this is a very special entry (my 50th) I wanted to make it a sort of review of what’s come before. I am hazarding that that is the reason it has taken me so long to finally put fingertips to keyboard and bash something out – one should look forward to the good times to come and not ponder the bad times before – but let’s just see how we go. I’ll try not to ramble.

it took me about a year of humming and ahhing before I finally sat down and wrote my first blog entry. You see, I’m not a great fan of blogs; most of the time I have trouble seeing their point. Some people keep blogs as if they are lockable diaries:

Susan’s Secrets
Dear Diary. Had such a great time at the fair today. Christine (you know, who I told you about) brought along her older brother Alistair – he is such a spunk though of course Susan doesn’t think so – she just thinks he smells. I think he’s dreamy. And he’s only in Year 12 so that’s not that much older than me. Anyway, we all went on the dodgem cars but there wasn’t enough spare cars and Alistair said that I could sit with him! SQUEAL! One time, going around the corner, he bumped into me and put his hand on my knee! He said it was an accident but I think he secretly likes me!

This was the last thing I wanted to do.

Others used blogs as more of a rant:

View from the Molehill
Now look at what the government has gone and done (link here, here, and here)! It’s bloody disgraceful! What right do they think they have to take innocent lives and use them in nothing more than some sort of gigantic game of political chess! It just shits me that these people, who we vote for, allow this sort of thing to happen in good solid honest neighbourhoods. I mean, my father was born here and worked every day for 47 hard years. You didn’t see him being a scab and I respect him for that. And that’s something the young people don’t get – Respect! They think they can just get it, not earn it. Well, I’ve worked for everything I’ve got in life and what have I got – nothing! And that’s the fucking government for you!

I never wanted that either, as tempting as it might seem. What I wanted to try was to challenge myself, to try something different; get out of my comfort zone.

When I started Clyde in August last year I was also beginning a university subject of Non-Fiction Writing in which, for homework, we were to write a series of short pieces – practice pieces – to limber our writing skills up. The second entry I wrote is one of these (and the fifth, and the seventh) and they sort of became the inspiration and direction I was wanting to take. 

If I was, back those months ago, to have sat down and written a manifesto as to what I was hoping to achieve with this blog, the gist (in bullet form) would go something like this:

  1. With the aim to upload a new blog entry every five (5) days, discover inspiration at the beginning of the five (5) day period, be it a short story, review, strange event, or surreal insight.
  2. Ruminate about this inspiration for a (1) day or two (2).
  3. Write about this inspiration with the intention to keep it short and clever. Allow to stand overnight.
  4. Review the inspiration giving the piece a good edit – a little snip here, an extra twist there.
  5. At the end of the five (5) period, upload this piece of, now quite remarkable, inspiration onto the blog.
  6. Sit back and bask in the international accolades that will surely pour forth after people read your quite most remarkable inspiration.
  7. Repeat.

You may guess, it didn’t really turn out that way.

Well, it sort of did. Reading back the first dozen entries pretty much stick to this procedure, though I did tap into past works, but to me that was all right. Clyde was to be a show of my best works so why not dig out the past good pieces. Socks is one of my favourite things I have ever written. Reading back those dozen entries my manifesto was on the right path.

Also in this first twelve, inspired by my non-fiction teachings, I had written a journal entry about attending a dance party, a piece I’m very much proud of. I think, though, this entry might have paved the way to too many Dear Diary writings, like Bushwalk, not one of the best. I also began using Clyde as a running diary of things I was doing (such as the Movember or Mardi Gras series) which, while nicely written, stray substantially from the original aims of the blog. One of these “What I Dids” even lost me one of my greatest friendships, and for that I am forever truly sorry. It makes is all so much worse that I had predicted it. I just hope that he can, one day, forgive me.

As the blog went on, climbing towards this remarkable Number 50, I tended to rely more and more on these “journal” blogs. This has not always a bad thing; if it’s an insight into an experience, such as Peppermint Magnum (a true story) or Woof Club – Hammer, then I think that’s all right. With these I’ve chosen to show the small moments – the quirks – that hopefully the reader will find interesting and enjoy. But all the Bill stuff – what was there, three main entries and another two he gets a guernsey in – as wonderful as he is… was it good writing? Was I sticking to my original aim? Was I complying with the manifesto? As much as I like writing about Bill, I would have to say the answer is No.

I do also wonder how much of the “journal” entries were simply written to shock – me going to a nudist camp for instance – but I can truthfully state that that was never the aim. I was, on the most, trying to be honest, trying to challenge myself to write about things that are not always comfortable. I don’t think I’ve done a exceptionally good job with this, mostly they come out sounding more like I’m a spectator than a participant, but this is one of my many down-fallings as a writer. I have a very particular voice, a rather skipping-along sound to my words. I don’t write sharp. I can’t do hurt. I’m even worse as lyrical. Now in uni we are attempting to create tones with words; for instance, consider the difference that can be suggested by describing a broken heart as:

gorged, collapsing within, forming a cavern in his chest that merely made his sobs toll like church bells lamenting yet another departed soul.

or:

punctured by that bastard Cupid, but now the arrow gone leaving nothing more than another scab to collect alongside the his loves once treasured, now lost, but never forgotten.

You see what I mean? Anyway, I’m not very good at it (as the above two examples suggest. I had to write about an “elated airport” a couple of weeks ago and I was too embarrassed to read it out in class.) but I do like the rather casual way I write. It’s pleasant, it’s friendly. Somehow I don’t think I’ll ever manage to knock out a thriller, but, at worse, I could always attempt a jolly piece of children’s fiction, though I don’t think they would take favourably to some of my subject manner. This has at times been a problem.

Some of the stuff I have written about has not always been, how you say, family friendly. Sometimes I shudder at what I’ve written. Do I really want my mother knowing that I were nearly caught by the sniffer dogs for sneaking ecstasy tablets into a dance party? Or that I used to work in a sex on premises joint? No, especially when I discovered that my infant’s school librarian (who has known me basically as long as my mother) also reads Clyde (and hope still does; I’m very affectionate about that woman). Still, it didn’t stop me talking about pissing on a feller kneeling in a trough, but perhaps it should have…

The thing is that, while alarming, and not always appropriate, they are the Truth, and by being the Truth they are in turn… Me; and you have to admit, as stories go, some of them are pretty good, at least original. This is off the track but many years ago I became an urban legend, a tale that was told by so many people that friends, when having been told of this event about someone’s friend of a friend of a friend, would delight in ever so casually being able to say, “Yeah, I know him. His name’s Clyde.” One desperate, drunken night I’ll retell it here and then you’ll go “That was YOU!?” But, back to the point, I’m not trying to shock but instead fulfil the manifesto – to tell about those “strange events” that pepper my life.

(Admittedly, I do at times go out of the way to find these “strange events”. I like to think of Life as a collection of stamps: a great big book full of beautifully delicate images, very much like the next great big book of beautifully delicate images, but somewhere up the back are those rare and valuable creatures that make the heart flutter of even the most Laodicean philatelist. I am always on the lookout for my very own “Inverted Jenny”.)

Also, I have partaken of the rant style of blogging, not that I’m overly proud of this, but I felt it was important for me to do so at the time. Take Says the Ranga Queer, for example: a woman I know was soooooo homophobic that I just couldn’t let it past, so I used Clyde as a vehicle to express my rage, and hopefully knock her back a peg or three. I don’t know if she even read it, to tell the truth, perhaps it went to dumb ears, but it made me (at the time) feel better. In hindsight was it the right thing to do? Should I have just confronted her in person? Is it my role – or the blog’s role – to condemn people for their own prejudices? I don’t know. I don’t regret what I wrote, and I think it was important that she knew how I felt, but in such a public arena… 

I mentioned because, as I said before, I lost a great friendship through this blog. Here I do regret – not what I still believe to be True, but for saying it out loud. I should not have said anything – not even to him directly – as it was my own thoughts, and thoughts are silent.

At such an early stage of Clyde’s life (50 is the new 35 I’ve been told) I ask have a achieved what I wanted from this blog? I don’t know how many people read it, but that doesn’t bother me (there are more than 200 million blogs out there, you can’t expect your own to be discover in a mere 50 entries), but I do hope that people who do read my blog enjoy it and learn from it, be it a recipe or of an event, or even just a little about me. Because that’s why I write – to inform and entertain. 

And I like writing.

Reading this entry back, it’s more a ramble than I had originally hoped for, but what the heck- it’s a blog! This may not go down as one of my greatest entries, but as least it was Truthful, and that’s all that matters. One thing though, I will try to get back to the original manifesto and knock out less of the Dear Diary pieces, but don’t think that’s going to stop me frightening you with the accounts of this event or that (like how at the Good Friday party a few days ago me and a couple others by the end of the night were… nah. If you weren’t there, you missed it! Ain’t that right David and Robbie!) 

So, on that note, I’ll just let you know that while I’ll eventually be returning to my 5-day turn-around rule, for the next little while I’ll be posting every day as part of my uni holiday assignment – to write the same beginning 15 different ways – trying to capture the same small turn of events from different perspectives, from different characters, from different approaches. I hope you enjoy.

And I hope you keep reading…


What I did during Mardi Gras 2007

Tuesday 24 February 2009

The 2009 Mardi Gras Festival began two Sundays ago but my Festival begins on Thursday with one of the MG Film Festivals… no idea what I’m seeing, I’m going as a guest of some friends. But, really, it is next week when everything takes off with Bears Essentials 13 – United Bear Tales, starting Monday with the exhibition opening (to type this I’m taking a break from stretching the fabric Bills around their canvases; it’ll all get done, it has to!). From Monday I have something on every night (and volunteering every day), till the March (it’s not a Parade) on Saturday, then Sunday for the Recovery Events (I’m not attending the Party). Then there’s Monday – rest – before returning to work on the Tuesday – whew!

I’m really looking forward to the week; it’s going to be a great, rememberable time.

My Mardi Gras two years ago, however, was not one that I wish to live again. Inspiration in Devastation, I wrote a two-part entry about the whole horrid event, though, reading back. it ended well. As a cathartic act – to expel any possible Demons, if you wish, from next week’s festivities – please enjoy…

 

Thursday Night : Monday Morning – Part One, The Weekend Before Mardi Gras

Thursday Night – where it all begins.

Big party weekend, this and the next, so went and got my two after-party tickets at the Midnight Shift. Might as well have a couple of beers while I’m here.

Next, I pick up some tic tacs – it’s very important to have fresh breath at parties.

Then, it’s a Thursday, my favourite show the Super Supremes. I stay for the act (of course), and have a few more beers (of course).

I’m at home on my sofa, which has been folded out to bed, and there is a strange man making me comfortable. He’s got me a drink and a pillow and is closing the blind. I fall back to sleep.

I wake up, I don’t know, about 4. He’s still there. He’s tidying up; stacking magazines, piling up papers, that sort of thing. He asks if I’m ok. Again, I fall asleep.

Seven o’clock now. He’s lying on the sofa next to me. I drift off again.

 —

Friday Morning – where it all falls apart.

Eight, I wake and realise I have to get up and go to work. The man is still there. He chats to me about going for a picnic as I shower, but I tell him I have work. I check my wallet, which has no money in it but that’s not that unusual after I’ve been out, but the tic tacs are missing.

Then I do a silly thing (what, I haven’t already?). I put the loose pile of money in my locker in the silver envelope where I keep all my tickets, theatre or party. I then go into my bedroom to check there for the missing tic tacs, and I realise I can no longer hear the man.

Down the stairs I run, and there he is in front of another door with my suitcase and four of my shoulder bags. He has another bag on his other shoulder which I don’t recognise. “Hey!” I say, “that’s my suitcase!” “I know it’s your suitcase,” he says. I grab my suitcase and the four bags tied on his shoulder. He yells at me that I’ve taken his bag too; I tell him to follow me and we’ll work it out upstairs.

Back up stairs I throw all my stuff inside. He hasn’t followed. I rush back down the stairs and out the street door… no sign. I bang on the door that he was in front of, finally waking a woman up who knows nothing. I head back up stairs.

I check the bags. Inside is a pile of books all wrapped carefully in towels. Strange things: the complete Calvin and Hobbes (a huge three book box set); collector card sets of Batman Returns and Jurassic Park (I’d forgotten I had them); a commemorative plate from an old ABC show which I’ve been carrying around since the early 90’s.

In my bedroom every box I have, and I have a few, has been unpacked and then restacked and covered with sheets. In a slight way I’m impressed of the man’s thoroughness.

On first glance, he’s run off with my leather jeans (ouch) and a pair of red vinyl pants (no great loss there). Also my credit card is also gone and the silver envelope with all the money (about $400) and all my tickets. The funny thing is he didn’t touch the DVD or video players, or any DVDs for that matter, but also left the portable computer, which is good because I can find the number to cancel the credit card, and transfer some money (he left my bankcard, thank goodness), and report the stolen theatre tickets. Now, every time I go to the Opera, I have to pick up a new ticket from the box office. I wonder what happens when I get to my seat and find someone else in my place?

The rest of the day goes on fine, but every now and then, sitting at my desk at work, I would speak out, “Bum!” The only thing I could focus on was the inconvenience. There goes my whole next two weeks.

Look, he was just some druggy who saw a chance. Frankly, it could have been so much worse. He didn’t touch me, he didn’t touch the computer, and I got a lot of my stuff back. Everything else can be replaced. So, in a way, I’m thankful.

 —

Friday Night – where things all settle down.

I was half expecting to get home to find the place emptied but everything is there. I quickly check: yep, there’s my spare set of keys, phew!

Call Anne, whom I was taking on Saturday lunch to a Chinese tea appreciation. “Hi Anne, do you mind if you pay?” She understands completely, but what a horrible thing to do to her.

I fall asleep on the sofa (my bed is covered with opened boxes and discarded books). It could have been a lot worse.

 —

Saturday Morning – where it all gets back on track and things look up.

Someone is smiling; the money transfer came through! Right, I think, first to log onto Pinkboard classifieds and email a few people who have spare Azure tickets for sale. Then it’s out the house.

First stop, Anne and the tea, and what a wonderful, relaxing event that was. Next time we all must go. And I was able to treat her like I wanted. She’s a good sort.

Next to get more tic tacs. Done.

I’ve had a phone call: a spare Azure ticket! Just down the road, I thankfully rush over and pick it up.

On the way home I pop into the Shift and purchase another after-Azure party ticket. I’ll get the after-Mardi Gras ticket next week.

 —

Saturday Night – where things are all put back to normal.

A night of tidying up. While I sort I make up a big pot of pasta (one needs their carbohydrates for weekends like this), put on a few loads of washing, then make the big effort of packing everything back up.

Now I’ve got the time I’ve also discovered the bastard ran off with my four-person picnic bag (that must have been the other bag – he’d emptied the contents then tucked it under the bed), and a couple of loved books, but ones I can easily replace. I’m sure there are other things, but nothing I can quickly see. At least the bedroom looks nice and neat now. I suppose I owe him a favour.

 —

Sunday Morning – where all is prepared.

Wake about 10, and have a relaxing day around the house. A dish or two of pasta, a movie or two, keep it all nice and easy.

The Azure Harbour Party starts at three. I figure at getting there around 4, it should have started pumping by then. I start getting ready around 2.30. I notice it’s raining, softly but still the last thing we want is the drenching of last year. Quick check of the Bureau of Meteorology’s website – should be ok.

3.30 and it’s still raining. Still not dressed. I go and grab one of the t-shirts in the tallboy. They’re gone! That bastard stole my two Bonds t-shirts! Plan B: an olive green sleeveless number I bought a year or two ago. I look good and, thinking about it, I don’t know if I would even fit those t-shirts anymore. Some would call it Sour Grapes, personally I call it Looking at the Bright Side.

Ten to 4 and finally the contacts are in, money and ticket are pocketed away, the tic tacs are in my sock, and a small bottle of room deodoriser, just in case it’s a bit smelly, is in place next to my keys. It’s also stopped raining so the walk is pleasant, if not a bit humid.

 —

Sunday Night – where it all looks promising, but looks are deceiving.

So I get to the party about 4.30, and there are police with snuff-puppies and people doing body searches. My bottle of room deodoriser is confiscated in the pat down. A snuff-puppy pays me some attention but moves onto another leg. I can only guess no one noticed my intense sigh of relief.

A bottle of water and two rather hideous glasses of sparkling later, I run into some friends and we mingle, compare pat downs and prepare the entrance onto the dance floor. First I make a pit stop to the loos for a tic tac – I’m told later that there were snuff-puppies hanging around the doors snuffing everyone coming out but I never saw them. Perhaps they were there later?

Had a great time on the dancefloor. One of the first numbers, and the floor was only half full so I could go extra crazy, was Big Pig’s Breakaway. That’s what the audience wants DJs of the world, funky numbers from the 80’s that everyone knows the words to.

Nine o’clock DJ begins and the night has been going well. The rain has kept at bay, the music has been fine, I’m feeling good about myself, and 3 more hours of to go. Five minutes later the music stops: “Due to Police action this party has been shut down.”

So that was that.

About an hour and a half later, after a trip home to shower and a fruitless search of the Cross for more room deodoriser (the Police have raided every shop and confiscated the lot), I’m at the Manacle dancing away in the corner by the pool table. Had a few drinks and a great time on the floor. Knew a few people there but I mostly kept to myself.

I’ve still got that ticket to the Azure-after party, so eventually I head off. I’d been given a tip to where I could fine some room deodoriser though, so I figure doing the search first. I finally found one place that sold me a bottle only when he realised I wasn’t an under-cover cop.

Three o’clock, after another trip home to shower, unpack the deodoriser, and pop down a tic tac, I’m on the incredibly packed dance floor of the Midnight Shift. It’s times like these that I realise just how crap dancers some people are. LISTEN TO THE BEAT, PEOPLE, LISTEN TO THE THUMP THUMP THUMP, IT’S NOT THAT HARD! My favourite was a guy who must have thought he was on a pogo stick, but he got annoying after he thumped into me the umpteenth time. Eventually I find a space surrounded by not too unattractive men and settle down for a good dance. The music’s not really my thing, all sounds and no words, but you can’t listen to Adam & The Ants 24/7.

A dark-skinned man has taken an interest in me. We exchange looks and grins. He finally reaches over and introduces himself: Darren. We get chatting, and everything’s looking good. He’s a half-Tamil UK boy out on holidays. He asks me if I live nearby, a good sign. He asks me how often I work out, a great boost to the ego, perhaps that soup diet is working after all. We chat about the music. He asks me my preferred taste, I reply Rick Astley. Oops, wrong thing. He tells me I’m not as cute anymore. Still, he kisses me, and all I can think of was perhaps the drought is finally broken. Hallelujah Peoples, the dams are sure to break tonight!

His friends have left and we decide to go too. It’s a nice work home, but I think he finds it a further walk than I do. At my door I tell him I’m not going to apologise about any thing he sees inside, what with the robbery, me having done washing, and the cockroach problem. ‘Cockroaches?” he says with a slight sense of revulsion. “Cockroaches,” I reply, “It’s the Cross, you can’t get rid of the bastards.

I’m getting us a drink when he tells me he may not be able to stay. I’ve figured he’s found a DVD or CD not to his taste (remember Rick Astley), but, no, he’s seen a bug.

We drink our pineapple juices and steal a couple of kisses, but he then tells me he has to leave; it’s the bugs, you see, he has this thing about cockroaches. He’s very apologetic. I smile, and show him towards the door.

For the second time in three days I speak out, “Bum!” The drought continues.

It’s now about 4.30, a few more hours before the Manacle opens for the day party. I catch a few winks on the couch.

 —

Monday Morning – where I wonder was it all worth it.

I wake about 7 but frankly can’t be bothered heading off yet. I move to my bed, set the alarm for 8, then fall back to sleep.

Quarter to 11, I wake up. The alarm had been buzzing softly all this time. It’s still not too late to go to the Manacle, but I’ve lost interest. I turn off the alarm and get a few more hours of sleep.

Sometime in the afternoon I finally get up and settle in for a day around the house. It’s raining out, sometimes heavily, and sometimes a soft mist. I make some of my amazing weight-loss soup, watch some movies, and contemplate doing the ironing. But the highlight was when I emptied half a can of cockroach spray into the crooks and crannies of the kitchen. The floor is now covered with the upturned corpse of cucaracha. Not as good as a root, but all things considering over the last few days, it makes me feel a little better.

Last thought for the day: there’s always next weekend.

—+—

Thursday Night : Monday Morning – Part Two, Mardi Gras Weekend

In our last exciting installment, our Hero was robbed, raided, and rejected by an Englishman with an anti-bug fixation. Read on to see if things finally work out…

Thursday Night – where I learn nothing.

Well, I’ve lost my glasses. I don’t know. It must have been at the Oxford ‘cos I didn’t have them when they escorted me out.

 —

Friday Morning – where I go shopping.

No sign of my glasses. I never liked them and have wanted an excuse to get a new pair for ages. I’d had them since June 2004 so I suppose it was about time anyway Sarah and I go shopping. My eyes haven’t deteriorated that much but Fashion surely has. Depressing though: as I handed over the credit card I realised that thanks to my weekend misadventures every cent I had saved has now gone. If you take into account all the rebought tickets, stolen leather jeans, and beer and tic tacs I was well over $2000 out of pocket. That En Zed holiday was looking further and further away.

 —

Friday Night – where I give in.

The soup diet has beaten me. I haven’t lost the 10 kilos I was hoping to shrink by Mardi Gras. I’m having roast chicken for dinner while I watch The Biggest Loser. With feta stuffed olives. And a banana smoothie. Let’s see how fat I can get before tomorrow night.

My eyes are hurting. I’ve got a week of contacts. Considering I’m wearing contacts all weekend at the parties I’m just going to have to get use to it. It’s either that or prescription sunglasses and I somehow don’t think I’m that cool for school.

*Groan * I wish I hadn’t had that second banana smoothie…

 —

Saturday Morning – where I feel silly.

I found my glasses; they were in the back pocket of my jeans the whole time. One of the screws had come loose and the lens popped out. Oh well, look on the bright side – at least I’ll be getting a nice new pair out of this. I pop into the city and get them fixed.

 —

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning – where I wander from here to there.

Not that much to tell. Went to Mardi Gras, had a good time, but left at 5. It was an enjoyable party but (there always is a ‘but’) it was just so stiflingly hot. The Dome (thump thump thump) was like a sauna, including the steam. The Forum (retro, where I started the night at the very front of the stage idolising my goddesses the Super Supremes) was so jammed that the one time later I worked my way in I struggled through the crowd directly towards the opposite exit – I couldn’t get out quickly enough. The Hordern, I suppose the main hall that the big name DJs play, was one lump of bodies… and not in the nice way either. Its blessing is that it’s air-conditioned and has bleachers to rest those weary toes. I spent my night in the RHI, which was once described to me as Handbag Hall; you know, girly vocals you can sing to and wave your arms about in the air. I always find it interesting that it’s full to the brim with big muscle boys in their leather accessories. It just goes to show that you can’t have ‘Leather Queen’ without ‘Queen’.

But the RHI was sometimes unbearable. Not air-conditioned, full of dancing over-adrenalined persons, it was at times too much to cope. For once in the last two weekends I was sensible and would (have to) leave the Hall every half hour or so for a walk and some fresh air. I wondered about the many others that had taken maybe a few extra tic tacs and who knows what else. Myself, I was left content with a pair of jeans that were so saturated it looked like I’d wet myself.

Played kissy-face with two young men, but it was too hot and I wasn’t that interested. I’ll tell you one thing: I’m not the prettiest thing or the youngest thing on the market but I’m sure not the podgiest either. I’m all for a natural body (who can be bothered spending their lives in pain at the gym when there’s yum cha to be had?) but, gees boys, have some respect for yourselves. I would occasionally try that sidewards glimpse at those around, checking out their guts against mine. I’m not too bad. I reckon that soup diet might just have worked after all.

Like I said I left the party at 5, so very early, but I had enough and didn’t want to be there just for being there’s sake. I’d also run into everyone I wanted to see – it’s funny but if you try to find people you never find anyone but if you simply glide along then your entire address book shows up. I even managed to bump into the English entomophobe from last weekend.

Anyway, I left and moseyed around for a while before going to the Manacle day club, where, not dressed in the mandatory leather, I managed to jump the queue with a well-placed nod to the bouncer. It’s always so important to be polite to the staff. I was only there till 10 when Mardi Gras would have just been finishing. Fatigue kicked in so I went home. I realised later that I had fallen asleep before some people would have even left the Mardi Gras halls, but I didn’t envy them.

Funniest site of the weekend: While in line for Manacle two leather and laced lesbians swaggered up to the bouncer. One obviously had an axe to grind (I’m sure there is a rather naughty joke in there somewhere, but I’ll move on…). ‘So,’ she said, ‘I suppose you’re not going to let us in.’ The bouncer (Alex) looked at them calmly and replied, ‘No, you are always welcome here if you are dressed like that. If you would like to stand in this line we will let you in as soon as we open.’ ‘Oh,’ the Axe Grinder replied, ‘but I bet this is only day in the year that you would.’ ‘Not at all,’ said Alex, ‘You are always welcome at Manacle,’ and then gave a run-down on all the dress code themed nights and events. By this time the Grinder had run out of steel. ‘Well, we didn’t really want to come in anyway,’ and with that turned her tail taking her girlfriend with her. Alex allowed himself a smile; he was in for a long day and I’m sure little wins like that make it go just that little bit quicker.

 —

Sunday Night, Monday Morning – where I keep going and going and I like it!

(Again it’s easier to combine as it’s really one very long night.)

Well, a couple of beers to start with, they didn’t taste very nice, then a movie. I’d picked up Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit on my journey out on Saturday morn. A great film, it’s my new film of choice before attending leather-and-denim themed dance parties.

Guess what was my next step? That’s right: a leather-and-denim themed dance party. I’ve been going to these for over a year now. I remember the first one I went to with Mark last NYE: I was petrified and thought I was going to throw up… five minutes in I was home-sweet-home. This one, I think, was one of the better do’s though my gripe about annoying floor users continues to grow. I’m not sure which are worse: the men who bounce up and down like a paddle ball or the ones that sway back and forth like a palm tree caught in a cyclone. Either way, they interrupt my groove.

Familiar faces (I even got another chance to grin politely to the UK boy, he heads back next week but with my luck I’m sure to see him every night till then) and mostly semi-handsome men. Was chatting to someone I had met that morning at Manacle who was saying that in the year or so he’d been attending the average age had dropped significantly. It used to be around 60, he said. I can only assume that ‘significantly’ to him means ‘by 10 years’.

OK, so the trade was getting on a bit, and I thought so should I. As I discussed later with a friend who knew a thing or two about the scene; you might meet Mr Right-Here-Right-Now at a party, but you don’t meet Mr Tomorrow-And-The-Next-Day-And-The-Day-After-That. You’ve just got to know what you are looking for, I suppose. So I went looking for a beer.

I found one at the newly refurbished Oxford Hotel. I’m still not sure if I like it or not; it’s all too shiny with no where to hold up the bar, but I’m sure it will grow on me at that time when there’s nothing else open. It was a little over an hour till Manacle opened so I pulled a stool up to the closed end of the bar and enjoyed a few Carlton Draughts with a dash of lemonade. I’ve got to thank Kate for that one, and I can tell you they are the most delicious things when you’re coming down from a night of tic tacs and loud music. I really must make her that T-shirt as thanks, she doesn’t even remind me politely about it anymore…

Most audacious site of the weekend: At this time in the morning there’s always a strong representation of straights in the Oxford; today there was a small collection of lads taking pictures of the trannys and drag queens with their pocket camera. One would even pose in front as if he was standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or something. I don’t think they were expecting the glaire-coiffured marvel that is Polly Petrie though. I tell you, that creature knows how to knock the wets down. When she came staggering past on nose bleed heels wearing her glittered ‘It’s My Fuckin’ Show’ mini-dress, the camera boys could only stop and stare. By the time she had turned the corner on her way to the loos they had completely forgotten to take their shot. Later, as she finally made her way out the door into the new dawn light, I secretly hoped that I looked as glamorous as that after my big nights.

Manacle again, but this time I’m dressed for the occasion and walk straight in with the other harnessed gents. I make the decision to stick to my beer with a dash combos, to the wry smile of the bar staff, but the lemonade is just the sugary boost I need to keep going. The occasional jellied snake from one of the complimentary bowls doesn’t go astray either. I’m in my usual spot on the floor (I’m a man of routine) and having a ball, dancing up a storm! Have a chat to a gentleman with a redhead fetish, something I will never really understand, and also hand my phone number to a pair of Melbournites who have discovered a love of the Super Supremes after seeing them perform at Mardi Gras. I tell them I’m going down for the International Comedy Festival and we vow to book a small group. Note to self – must arrange.

The place was pack’d, the music was pumpin’ and I was goin’ off! Gees it was a good morning, and a pretty good early afternoon too. But I suppose it all must come to an end eventually so about 2 I made my way home. I was asleep by 2.30.

All in all I had a better time on Sunday/Monday than the more expensive and hyped Saturday/Sunday. Overall, though, considering last week, I was pretty much sensible and nothing alarming happened. I somehow feel I’ve let you all down.

But I enjoyed myself. And the belt has gone in another notch. I tell you, I’m sticking to the soup.


The Thirst Always Wins

Saturday 6 December 2008

I went to a gay sauna last night. I’ve been planning this for weeks – it takes me that long to develop the fortitude. I was originally going last week, but the electricity bill came in and, well, I just couldn’t face the experience.

It’s not as if I haven’t been before; I even used to work at one. When D and I broke up and still in that horrible living together but in separate rooms phase, I went to my first Sex On Premises (SOP) as an excuse one night to not go home. I had a pretty fun time (I was much younger and the shoulders hadn’t started to sprout like alfalfa on damp cotton-wool) and as I was leaving I noticed a sign for staff wanted. I was still very raw on the Scene, and I felt that I needed to challenge myself, to learn more. I saw working in a sex club as possibly the platform I needed to launch myself into the seedy – enticing – underworld of Gay Life. Also (ever practical) it would get me out of the flat and away from D. So I applied and got the job. 

On my first day I followed another feller around to learn the ropes. Baptism by fire, in the first room we went to clean the vinyl mattress was splattered with blood. I was pretty shocked by this but my supervisor just gave a shrug. Someone pulled too tight and tore a foreskin, he said. An hour later, on the next round, I discovered another mattress pooled with blood. I’m not sure what disturbed me the most – that there was someone bleeding from their dick or that they thought it was a good idea to continue having sex after the first time. 

I never told D about the job, of course he knew, but I came to enjoy it. It also taught me the greatest lesson on Gaydom – gay men look like everyone else. Sure you would get your handsome 30-something musclemen and you slight femme Asians (actually, we got a lot of these – they were sort of the speciality of the house), and you would also see bearish blokes and the tight T-shirt brigade, but I’d also hand out towels to men who looked like, well, accountants. It was an eye-opener, while tea-towelling the coffee cups, to watch the menagerie sitting on the old sofas in the common room, reading the papers or watching whatever late film was on the telly; they all looked so… normal. Perhaps Gay Life isn’t a special club after all, I thought, but just another part of life, with a small “l”. Through the labor of shoving damp towels into laundry bags, stocking condoms and topping up lube dispensers I learnt a good deal.

There’s a story of a friend bumping into D at a bus stop. “Poor Clyde,” lamented D, “How tragic his life has become. How poorly he is coping with our breakup. He’s taken it so hard that – shudder – he’s stooped to a job mopping up cum!” “Actually, I’ve never seen him happier,” said the friend.

Still, I only last eight weeks. The manager who did the roster liked me but he quit. The other manager wasn’t that favourable and so I didn’t appear on the next sheet. I didn’t mind at all. 

Clyde the Penguin lives in Sydney, Australia. In his time he has worked at a number of jobs, including a waiter, a designer, a clerk, and as the person who hands out the towels in gay saunas. This is his first novel.

Mostly, 90% of the time, a visit to an SOP is pretty much a routine affair. You’ve got a need, you go in, you do the biz, then you go home. The rest of the 10% falls into the extremes. Either you have such an amazingly good time, with such amazingly beautiful men, that you wonder why you don’t come more often; or the visit is one that is absolutely soul destroying. You wander the halls endlessly looking, yearning, but no one wants you, and you feel ugly, and unwanted, and like spit. On these rare occasions some people just lock themselves in one of the little rooms, have a quick wank and write the experience off as a loss; but I’m not as strong as that. It would always upset me.

So I stopped going.

Many years after D, and a couple of other letters, here’s me now. Thanks to my new friend Mort* I can’t afford to go out and meet people in pubs like I used to, yet frankly there is only so much cask red you can drink to numb the desire. There’s a line in the third Blade film, Blade Trinity, that goes: Sooner or later, the thirst always wins. So, to loop back to the beginning, I went to a gay sauna last night.

The night fell firmly in the 90% category. The first person I hooked up with was more than likely a straight who uses SOPs as a means to an end: all he wants is his cock sucked. He did mange a couple of quick tugs on my own willy, but it was under duress. He didn’t last for two minutes before he had to excuse himself to visit the loo. 

The next was a handsome wog in the steam room, but he left to go have a shower… he was feeling a little sticky. But the third – and the one that turned me off the whole night adventure – was one of those loud moaners. Keep it down, there are people trying to have sex in the next room; I had to shove my cock in his mouth to shut him up! And he called me “Baby” which always makes me uncomfortable. Anyway, he came, I came, so I gave him a quick peck on the lips and high-tailed it to the showers. 

Upstairs I read the pink press for a while as others laid on towels and watched episodes of Sex and the City. I haggled over going back for another round or going home. I went home, tapped the cask and watched Joey Stefano do what he does best.

That will have to do for now.

 

* His last name is Gage.