Saturday, October 27, 2007


Life's little ironies, eh? To think only a couple of weeks ago i was talking about having a mental health break, ha ha, getting out for a while, taking some long-overdue time in lieu...

I wake on Wednesday morning in a soporific haze. I am lying in a hospital bed, clad only in a pair of dirty jeans, listening abstractedly to the sounds of a pnuematic drill boring through my skull. Or is it the outer walls of the hospital? A baby is screaming violently in the next ward. The pneumatic drilling continues in staccato bursts, stopping for a period of time - is it hours? - then it resumes: ggrgrrgrrg gggrgrgrgrg.

I remember waking in the middle of the previous night, unable to control the violent shaking of my limbs, or to alleviate the pain and pressure in the back of my skull and neck. I have been tranquillized for two days, since Mayhem found me bordering on unconsciousness amongst the carnarge my totally trashed rented room. Monday morning. After a week of steadily spiralling downwards in a stricken, flaming mess, i had finally crashed and burned. And as i crawled from the wreckage, the black dog immediately set upon me.

After a series of interviews, and after going several rounds with the heavyweight hospital food, the mental health nurse decides to release me, somewhat reluctantly, back into the Carnarvon community. Medicated, confused and mortified, i return to Mickey T's hacienda to try to piece together where it all went pineapple-shaped. Perhaps it was last Tuesday, with the happy news of the imminent arrival of Mili the Ex's baby, and my doomed effort to obliterate the pain. Or perhaps it was just overwork.

Colby will never be able to listen to Radiohead again, Mayhem says, without him succumbing to fits of blind rage. Poor Colby has the room on the other side of the thin fibro wall to mine. All through the early hours of Monday morning, Mayhem attests, i was singing (or rather slurring, in a kind of high-pitched whine) along to High and Dry, Fake Plastic Trees, and every other song on my CD of The Bends, permanently set to Repeat. Punctuating the choruses with the sounds of breaking glass, i systematically destroyed every last scrap of sentimental breakables in my immediate vicinity. Needless to say, i don't remember much of my slow, Sunday-driven descent into madness, but parts of it were captured on video by Mickey T as i lurched about in a red Hawaiian shirt and dark glasses, accompanied by a half-cut black-clad Mayhem, in a dangerous, beserk rampage across the Massey Bay racetrack amongst the high-speed desert-racing buggies at the finishing line of the three-day, 500km Gascoyne Dash, verbally abusing anyone foolish enough to come within earshot. Without my glasses i can't see three feet in front of me, and, yet, after a carton of Smirnoff Ice, i could clearly see three feet below me, as i confusedly set about placing one on those feet in front of the other to photograph the event. During Brett Renton's dramatic rollover at the finish line, his buggy hit a rented 4WD, less than a metre from where i had been standing moments before i was shooed away by the Official Photographer, a certain Mr Flash.

Mr Flash is the photographer the Dash organising committee hired after telling me months ago that i had the job. I had hired, at great expense, a Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 lens from Camera Electronic to get the shots the Dash required. However the Dash committee had neglected to tell me they had hired someone else in the interim.

Anyhow, Mr Flash appears in front of me, apparently wanting a medal for saving my life - as if that were somehow a good thing. I tell him, loudly, that the out-of-control dune buggy would have missed my by at least metre. Then i called him a bad name. I think a called a lot of people a lot of bad names. I think perhaps i would have even given the Press a bad name, if such a thing were possible. The Kickstarters Gascoyne Dash Organising Committee has, thankfully, declined to press charges.

While much of that Long Day's Journey into Night is a blur, i have a clear and lucid recollection of the fibro partition between my room and Colby's suddenly vibrating and resonating wildly, as he attempted, at one point in that vehement and venomous night, to blast me into submission with a subwoofer and death metal. This was some time around 2am. Colby had a 7am start, as usual, at the Oyster Farm. In an act more pathetic than sympathetic, i simply threw another empty bottle of Smirnoff Ice across the room into another framed photograph, and cranked my 1976, two-ton, two-million-watt California-built Kenwood KA-5500 motherfucking-hell amplifier up to a hundred and eleven decibels. And sang along with Thom Yorke:

"She lives with a broken man
A cracked polystyrene man
Who just crumbles and burns..."

and then foolishly turned the treble control to maximum and watched with detached interest as the pure, sonically-sweet tweeters of my beloved Celestion speakers began blowing forth two stereo plumes of blue smoke, which curled upwards into magnificent arabesques, shortly before the two perfect domes destroyed themselves.

It's almost a week later. I am clad in flanellette pyjamas, in the spare bedroom at my parents' house in the city. It's the closest thing i can get to a rubber room. I am convalescing, and changing direction, having learned a few things.

Rule number one: never rely on anyone to make you happy.
Rule number two: never rely on anyone to stick by you.
Rule number three: avoid animal tranquillizers, except under medical supervision.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


It's not easy going crazy. But the task can be made simpler, given the right circumstances. Like taking up a high-pressure job in a strange town where you don't know a soul. The epitome of soullessness. It's a Sunday today. I can tell. I see the sun peeking through my banana pineapple and tropical fruit-decorated curtains. I should almost certainly be out covering the desert race, rather than drinking myself into a stupor in this darkened room. But sometimes you got to do what you got to do. Like 'enough is enough', it is by definition.


(I can only write about her in the third person, otherwise i go to pieces). She says she wants to have a baby. He has been with her for eleven years, and loves her to bits. She gets pregnant to him twice, and has an abortion twice, whilst telling him that he really should get himself a good, nine-to-five government job, with all the concomitant wages and conditions, and when he says are you crazy? i'd rather die, and when he says i am going to do a postgraduate diploma and work as a photojournalist, well, she leaves him for her boss, a high-up lawyer in the Federal government department in which she works. Moves into his house in Fremantle. She always wanted a house in Fremantle. And now she's having his baby, instead.

Ex's. Where's the bottle opener? Why don't they make these double-black vodkas with a twist top? Oops, it is a twist top.

I have never used The Nerve to dish it out to the ex, mainly because it's a tasteless thing to do. My only defense now is that i'm drunk, which of course is no defense. People have to do what they have to do. By definition, i suppose. And that little baby will certainly be better catered for brought up in a privileged, high-income household in the western suburbs, rather than crawling around some squalid, fibro sharehouse in the wild west.

Nurse Nikki just phoned. She texted me from the Sexpo last night, disappointed that they did not have a police uniform in her size. But she bought a showbag. Good, i say. Some of the items i can't use, though, she says. Don't throw anything out, i say. It can all be put to good use. Anyway, i might be in town next week, i need a mental health break, i say. I am getting on the bus with some knockout pills to get thru that 12-hour tortuous journey, then i'm going to lie in bed and watch videos with a girl i know. A bonkfest? Nurse Nikki says. No - it's just mutual support. She is being neglected. Besides, it's mental health week. Well, i know mental health week was last week, but everyone who knows me knows i'm never on time for anything. Only problem is, her tattooist boyfriend has already said he wants to kill me. Perhaps he fails to understand the purity of our relationship.

Are you sure you have thought this thing through? asks Nurse Nikki. It sounds like you are just inviting more trouble for yourself. I'm back in a couple of weeks, i can ride around on the back of your motorcycle in my fishnets and short skirt and cop uniform. I have a litre of Absolut vodka. Let's have a party.

Ah, midlife crisis. So many options, so little time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Mayhem and i have made a decision. A commitment, even.

We are not drinking rum, not ever again.

It is part way through the interview with the head chef at the Novotel in Exmouth (or Sexmouth as Colby calls it - Sexmouth, and Oral Bay) part way through a serious magazine interview that things begin to go a bit pawpaw-shaped. It is six-thirty in the evening, and we have been drinking steadily since our arrival at one-thirty. The chef is telling me about the menu for the poolside "Moonrise on Sunset" dinners they put on here over three nights, once every month on the full moon. They clear an area on the grass around the pool, and put on silver-service dining for couples as the sun rises over the Gulf. Barbecued scallops, wrapped in pancetta. I ask the chef how he got started in the food business. He says, well actually, he has always wanted to be a palaeontologist.

"I know," says Mayhem suddenly. She has been sitting relatively quietly at the table until now, drinking a lethal-looking green rum-and-lime cocktail from a brandy balloon. "Wouldn't it be cool if a dinosaur suddenly appeared, just walking across the landscape."

The chef and i turn to stare at her. She continues.
"I mean, it's the kind of landscape where you might expect it to happen. It's just so, so - "


" - so ancient. It's as if there could still be dinosaur eggs lying about, only no-one knows."
We nod, and begin to discuss the difficulties of the labour market. The other Novotel chef is from the Philippines, and is working at the resort on a 457 skilled migration visa.

Mayhem is watching the chef closely over the rim of her glass.
"What are you doing after work? What time do you finish? What are you doing then? Do you want to come for a drink?"

I can feel the situation beginning to spiral out of control. The chef and i contemplate Mayhem as she sips her lime-green cocktail.
"We're in room 408 if you want to come up."
That's ok, says the chef. Mayhem has taken a shine to him.

As she says to me later, after we return to our luxury apartment number 408, it was the palaeontology that did it.
"It's just so exciting," she says. She takes another drink, then gets on the phone to see if room service can send up the chef.

Friday, October 12, 2007


This week Mayhem and i utilise our free classified advertising with the newspaper to place some classy classies. I send an email to Rachellarella to put in some ads for next week.

WANTED TO BUY: Cheap car, licensed, running or not, under $500, suit journalist.
Phone Mark 0405 *** 646.

HOUSESITTER AVAILABLE Short or long term, reliable, trustworthy journalist. Police clearance available. Good with plants and pets.
Phone Melinda 0422 *** 199.

WANTED Food, for journalists. Phone Mark or Melinda 99** 2222.

Writing Melinda's ad is difficult: she wants to advertise that she has a police clearance.
Do you have a police clearance? i ask.
Then you'd better put "police clearance available". Tell them it's available, but they need to pay the $40 fee so you can get it done.
Why, do you think they will ask to see it?
I would, if you turned up at my house.

Mayhem also wants to advertise herself as a "professional" housesitter.
What do you mean, "professional"? I ask. Have you house-sat before?
Do you have references?
So what makes you think you're "professional"?
Well, i've lived in a house before.

Just when i think it is all going persimmon-shaped, the phone rings. It's an elderly lady, who saw my desperate ad for a cheap car in a previous paper.
Her name is Bond. Jill Bond. And she has lost her license due to arthiritis, the poor dear.
Well, i say.
"It's just that i have a powder blue 1978 Mercedes Benz 280E, six cylinder automatic, licensed until December."
Yes, i say. But people call me saying they have cheap cars, but it's not what i mean by cheap... i mean it might be cheap for that car, but... well, how much are you asking?
"$500," she says.
Mayhem, i yell. I've found our car.
What is it? she asks.
Merc. 280E. '78.
Same model as mine, she says. You know, i was just saying today, i miss driving my old car.

Next thing we will get a mansion in the Northwater Estate to house-sit. I just know it.

Tomorrow we are at the Novotel Ningaloo Resort in Exmouth, writing a food review. Free food and accommodation. And the ads aren't even in yet!

Still. If you don't ask, you don't get.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


It's Friday night, i'm drunk, and i have just bought me some spurs.

Well, it's one way to kick off a big night out. Whilst buying spurs could be interpreted as a sure sign that i have been in the North West way too long, it may also be a natural, reflexive reaction to drinking too much rum. Now drinking too much rum is definitely a sure sign of being in the North West way too long. Either way, it is touch-and-go for a while, bidding against two hardcore, spur-craving cowboys - Macka and Dustyboy - on eBay. But i think West Coast time may have helped me in the end, because by the time i place my final, desperate, spur-driven bid at eight o'clock on this Friday night, those Eastern States cowboys are already full of Bundy, with Dustyboy no doubt getting all the Dustier doing circle work in a ute in a drought-ravaged paddock somewhere north-west of the Murray-Darling basin. A pair of stainless steel offset spurs, with brass rowels and leather straps with brass buckles, direct from the USA via Salisbury Plains in South Australia, will soon arrive in my mailbox out here in the wild west frontier town of Carnarvon. And they will go straight onto the back of the black, hand-tooled, Cuban-heeled leather cowboy boots i got from the dear old ladies at the op shop last week for five dollars. With a copy of Georges Perec's Life: A User's Manual thrown in for good measure.

Carnarvon style.

This is an expression which, understandably, has gained immense traction in the Mickey T household, after Mickey T and Cowgirl Chelsea won a ludicrously glam ballroom dancing competition called Dancing With The Stars - Carnarvon Style at the Civic Centre, Carnarvon's former woolshed turned culture-and-the-arts barn in the high street.

Whilst it was indeed a night of salubrious dancing splendour, what with a panel of judges, finger food, actual trophies (the miniature version Mickey T is holding here was given him by Richard the Oyster Farmer in a doomed attempt to bring him down to earth) and the beautiful, long-legged Latin dance teacher Kerry Lavell (yes, we had it all), its lasting value was its addition of that gloriously descriptive, all-encompassing phrase to the local vernacular, with the two words Carnarvon style now being randomly applied to anything vaguely cultural (in the postmodern, critical sense of that word) within the shire boundaries - be it design, cooking, turning up late, turning up early, interiors, gardens, drinking, driving, drinking and driving, hairstyles, apparel (the premier women's clothing store here is called Pimping Beauty - that's a very Carnarvon-style name), surfing, playing guitar, or generally tooling around - it's all now done Carnarvon style.

Mickey T is expressing an interest in buying a road bike, now that my Yamaha XS650 is nearing completion. There's a Honda CB250 advertised on the community notice board outside Woolies, a bargain at $700, so Mickey T tears off one of the paper tabs, with the mobile phone number, and rings it up. Nothing. He tries again. Nothing. Mick, look, it's only got nine digits, it's not a complete mobile phone number, i say. We look at each other, say the same thing. "Carnarvon style."

So, Friday night, and i have placed my highest possible bid on eBay for the spurs. An amount still considerably less than the cost of the bottle of Bundaberg rum i will buy from the Gassy as a traveller later that the evening, shortly after i ask Abi - the beautiful young barmaid from London, who looks after us at the Gassy with awe-inspiring reserves of equanimity and aplomb - to accompany yours truly for a magazine shoot in Coral Bay (yes, we just get drunker and drunker as the town gets redder and redder). But i am ahead of myself, and a linear narrative is a much underrated literary style. Colby, Mickey T and i are on our way to that waterfront bar, the Carnarvon, to party with the doyen of the Gascoyne arts scene, Sarah, and celebrate her thirty-somethingth birthday. So our evening starts out on quite a civilised, if slightly intoxicated, note, with the Three Amigos drinking champagne, and toasting Sarah amongst the hoi polloi of the Carnarvon social scene. But, as avid readers of The Nerve know, such social niceties will quite rapidly degenerate into a wild, drunken rampage across the town that will leave a trail of tarnished reputations, burned bridges and blood in its wake.

We turn up to the culture-and-arts barn to see a play, Educating Rita, already quite soused, with a bottle of plonk from the Carnarvon secreted in my camera bag. Mickey T and the brutally unsophisticated Colby accompany me to the theatre foyer. I will civilise this place, i mutter, quoting the sadistic oath offered up by Ray Winstone's policeman's character in Nick Cave's classic of sun-scorched Australian savagery, The Proposition. I will civilise this place. I am already in possession of a complimentary ticket to the theatre, thanks to a half-hearted offer to write a review the production, but Mickey T and Colby are queued at the ticketing counter. It is then i notice that Colby is wearing, atop his work clothes, a pink scarf, which i last saw lying on the back seat of the Newspaper vehicle.

Colby tosses the pink scarf casually over his shoulder, and in his normally loud voice, made inordinately louder by the effects of red wine, rum and champagne, calls to me across the crowded foyer, "Marky Mark, you gorgeous hunk of man, i just can't wait to be exposed to some theatre." I stare down at my cowboy boots. But, mercifully, it does not take long for Colby's pent-up affections to be transferred to the brash, shrill, fishnet-stockinged and PVC-clad actress playing Rita, and the evening's thespian entertainments quickly become peppered with vivid comments and lurid descriptions of what Colby would like to do with Rita, be it on the desk, the chair, or the carpeted floor.

"Alas I came to this beleaguered land and the God in me evaporated," says John Hurt's bounty hunter character in Cave's screenplay. We need a theatrical production of The Proposition here, Carnarvon style. Stuff this stilted, dated, oh-so-English Educating Rita. We need more rape, fraticide, torture and mayhem. And a good moral quandary. "Alas I came to this beleaguered land and the God in me evaporated." Carnarvon style.

One a.m. at the Sandhurst, and we are scanned for weapons before we are allowed in. Mickey T has picked up a lovely Scottish barmaid somewhere along the way. The Sandhurst looks exactly like the kind of venue where they would have cage fighting, without the cages. The Three Amigos and the barmaid - whom i shall call Desdemona for reasons which are not entirely clear - enter the Sandhurst, famous for the brutal and almost fatal bashing of an off-duty policeman in the carpark by a crowd of people armed with baseball bats late last year. There are some mean looking motherfuckers standing around in the bar. I order a round of strawberry daquiris, and Colby and i take it to the dance floor like couple of whomoes.

What's life without adrenalin?

Later that night, as Colby runs about the house in his underwear, shouting desperate appeals for a threesome with Mickey T and Desdemona, i stab myself severely in the back of the middle finger of my left hand, trying the jab-the-big-sharp-knife-hard-between-the-fingers-in-quite-rapid-succession trick. I stare down at the bloody wound, momentarily confused. How odd. Normally i can perform that trick exceedingly well, with some degree of precision. Something has gone horribly wrong.

Perhaps it was the daquiris.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


it's the one thing i'm really good at.

I haven't been blogging as much as my avid readers would like. Sure, i've managed the odd post here and there, about transparent frogs, cheap cars, Safari Bob, but, clearly, it's not like the old days. Because, until now, i have been completely unable to log in and blog on at home. And, for reasons of national security, the newspaper prefers me to spend my time on their computer at work writing newspapers.

The problem stems from my much loved fifty-dollar iMac. It sits there in my room in Carnarvon like some hog-tied, mute Gimp - offline, disconnected, silent and accusing. But then, on sudden impulse, i grab a networking plug Thingy from Louis at the computer shop. Procuring a long red network cable, i plug it into Mickey T's broadband connection, and drill a couple of holes in my ceiling. Looking good. Stacking one barstool atop another, as you do when it is not Work Safe Week, i send Colby up into the roof cavity to ferret about with the cable and wallah! - a broadband internet connection.

It's like - welcome to the 20th century!

And then Mayhem turns up, and in one rather casual fell swoop, she just hooks up the whole house into some kind of telesmatic wireless matrix of artificial intelligence, connecting iPods and phones and laptop computers and garages and refrigerators into the kind of sophisticated communications network that would make Interpol look like, i don't know, a bunch of cops. It's magical. As the brilliant science-fiction novelist and world-renowned pedophile Arthur C. Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Which is, of course, complete bullshit.

But now the Gimp goes on the defensive whenever i try to install any version of Safari that is able cope with the ins-and-outs of Blogger. "You can't just go doing things like that, what do you think this is?" says the Gimp in its pop-up dialog box. So i circumvent the problem with Firefox. Firefox lets me interface with interactive functionalities on the Internet in ways i never dreamt possible. Like clicking on icons and having them do stuff.

So avid readers, everything is now back to normal. Yes, peace and tranquility has once again returned to The Nerve. This week, readers can relax and immerse themselves in what is, on the surface at least, a sleepy subtropical paradise on the Gascoyne River delta. What with Mayhem away in Perth, and the Motorcycle requiring brakes, the means for stimulation and excitement is limited. But i can at least write about the possibility of writing about the possibility of writing about something. Which is, of course, better than nothing.

I could, i suppose, write about last Friday's disorderly, frenzied party at Pippas, and the depths of depravity that were plumbed by those present before Mickey T completely lost control of his bodily functions, and i was ejected unceremoniously out into the main street, as was a libidinous, out-of-control, hormone-and-alcohol-fueled Nurse Nikki. But i have been sworn to secrecy. Oh, no, that's right - i only promised Mickey T i wouldn't write about his exploits in the newspaper... to be fair to Mickey T, and to allow him to cherish what few shards of self respect and dignity he may still possess, i will just say that if we had partied any harder we would have been immediately signed to the West Coast Eagles.