Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Meanwhile, Miss Mayhem is in New York, having recently completed her diploma in film directing. Mayhem is hanging out in Manhatten with music producers, filmmakers, actors, billionaires, and presidents.

"Come and meet me in Spain, Art Director," she says.
"I got no money," i say. "I spent it all."
"Don't worry a.d, i'll find us some money," Mayhem says. "I've got connections."
She is an ideas girl. And it is my job as the Art Director to bring these ideas to fruition. Thus we begin a series of increasingly bizarre schemes and exploits to make money for our plane tickets.

"I need a buyer for a whole bunch of muscle cars," Mayhem says the next day. "You find us a buyer in Australia and we'll take a cut. It won't cost us a cent up front, a.d, i promise. I have a friend. There's four of each of these cars, 60s and 70s, SS, Camaros, Coronets, Corvettes."
Hmm. That's sixteen cars. I get on the blower to a guy in Albany, Joe, a millionaire who collects classic cars.
"If you had a convertible E-type, i'd take it," Joe says. "Look, it'll cost you three grand per car to ship them out. I know a buyer in the Eastern States, i'll track down his number. You'll need makes, models, years, photos."
I call Mayhem. "I know the Dodge Coronet, the Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro - but what's the SS?" i ask. "Is that like a Gestapo staff car?"
"I don't think so," Mayhem says, in all seriousness. "I think it's a Chevy. I'll get the details from the grease monkey tomorrow."

The next day she emails me a link to a seemingly random webpage.
"What do you think, Art Director?" she asks.
Reluctantly, i click on the link. They are looking for women to donate eggs to the infertile.
"Compensation for successful egg donors is $8,000 and you receive a free, comprehensive medical evaluation," the site says.
I call her back. "Are you for serious?"
"Am i for serious? I don't even know myself."
"It sounds like you are just one step away from drug testing."

Mind you, i got good money when i was drug testing, back in the nineties. One time i got $220 for sleeping, and another time $20 for every shit i did. Money for shit. It was great. It lasted a few weeks, before some guy developed an erratic heartbeat and ruined it for everybody. The damn fool.

Another time i got a wearable heart rate monitor, which i sold to a jogger for sixty dollars.

"So how's it going with the new muse?" asks Mayhem.
"Miss Polly?" i say. "Well. The girl has talent."
"Yes," says Mayhem. "I like Miss Polly. She has a sense of the ridiculous." She pauses. "Well, she must have."
"Hmm." I let the implication slide.
"You know, you always remind me of the Doctor, having all these adventures with all these beautiful women by your side," she says.
"Yeah, right. You know it's not like that."
"I hope i'm your Rose," she blurts.
"You know how she was always your favourite."
What is this girl on?

When Mayhem came to Albany, back in June, it was raining. We spent the weekend in the apartment, watching an entire series of Dr Who. We were so engrossed we only went out for one photo shoot. A pvc jacket and binoculars, up at the radio tower.
"Look at my Facebook page," Mayhem says. "There's a link to the episode where Rose re-enters. Maybe that will be us! Minus the Daleks killing you."
"The drink is already killing me, i don't need the Daleks."
Mayhem: *in Dalek voice* "Inebriate! Inebriate!"

"How about a photographic exhibition in New York?" she asks the next day. "Your work and mine, a collaboration. Well, yours mainly."
"Can you get a gallery?"
"I'll find us a fabulous space! I have contacts. You know people here pay $20,000 a week to hire a gallery? Their work is about as engaging as shaking hands with a leper, yet they're still packing out openings and selling really mediocre work."
"I can do mediocre," i say.
"Or we could do billboards," Mayhem says. "I have a billionaire friend who does billboards."
"How would that make us money?"
"It would make us famous," she pleads.
"That's not the same thing, Mayhem. But i like the way you think."
"What about those Aboriginal photos of yours from the outback? The Australia movie is in release here next week. People are going nuts for the Aborigines. "
"Umm, all those photos were taken by Aboriginal kids and i can't sell them because i don't own the copyright," i explain. "I can only exhibit them."
"I'll think of an angle, a.d, don't worry. I'll make us some money, then we can meet in Spain. Spain, Art Director! Spain!"
"Spain. Yeah, right." The conversation is beginning to sound a bit like an episode of Charlie the Unicorn.

The next day she messages me on the Facebook.
"Hey a.d!"
"Hey ho!"
"Ha ha. Fucking hilarious aren't you. How's tricks?"
"Up and down, up and down. Yo-yo tricks."
"Oh, i know, a.d, i've been depressed too. A muse without the maestro - what sort of life is that? I'm not being very successful leaving the apartment tonight, i'm meant to be getting shot by a French film director on 35mm."
"What time is it over there?"
"It's one in the morning. I'm obnoxiously late. But what's another hour? These people are experimental filmmakers, they don't punch the clock. I wonder what they want me to do? I should have asked."
"You think it might be risque?"
"I think the French director wants to sleep with me," she says. "But hopefully not on camera."
"Then he really would be a French director."
"Oh, noes! I'll have to change my Facebook status to Born for Porn."
"What will your mother say?"
"We are professionals, Art Director. She'll understand. And Qantas is offering two tickets for the price of one. I'll make some money and we can meet up in Spain."
"We are indeed professionals, Mayhem. I have the utmost respect for your work. Even when you do and say crazy things without any regard for the consequences..."
"Like when i wanted you to tie me to the railway tracks?"
"Hmm... or that time in the desert when i'd been shooting you in your underwear, and we were having a break you looked at me and said 'So, Art Director, what would you like to do now?'"
"Did i really say that? Hahaha!"
"A couple of ideas crossed my mind..."
" I did say that! Hahaha. Jesus!"
"We have a strange relationship, Miss Mayhem."
"Indeed we do. Leaves many a person scratching their heads i'm sure. Did you know there is an Albany in New York state?"
"Yes, i did. Do you know if it is wrong to sleep with someone from your sister city?"
"Hahaha. You should come over, we'll get tongues wagging for sure. But i'll see you in Spain in February?"
"OK Mayhem."
"OK a.d."

Mmm. Spain. That means Spanish women.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I can't see my boots on the gravel below me. In front of me is the dim gleam of the black bitumen, sheeting cold on this blackest of nights, running east west, carless and silent. For the past three hours i've been trying to hitchhike out of this predicament back to Albany. But it is hard when there is no traffic. Not a single car in either direction. And they call this a highway?

Predicaments. Always trying to hunt me down and trap me.

It's Sunday night and it's late. I don't know how late, because my mobile is dead and in pieces. And my 40-year-old Seiko mechanical watch just stopped the other day, shortly after i met Miss Polly, and refused to start again. Now my beloved Nikon F3 is also destroyed, having hit the tarmac at 130km/h earlier in the day, along with the rest of the contents of my shoulder bag. Five kilometres out of Ravensthorpe. That's the third camera i've lost or destroyed in a bare few weeks. Is the universe is trying to tell me something? And now the motorcycle stands wet and silent, immobilised. It coughed sporadically and died. Just after sunset.

This has not been a good day.

I've never seen a night as black as this. No lights on the horizon. I figure i'm probably about forty kilometres from Manypeaks, having ridden about four hundred this afternoon from the Bay of Isles, Esperance. Forty clicks is a ten-hour walk, so there's not much point embarking on that, other than to keep warm. I can't see my hands in front of my face, let alone how i'm going to make it home tonight. I pull my helmet and gloves back on for warmth as more rain drizzles in from the south. There is no shelter. It's going to be a long, cold night.

There must be a way to fix this bike. In the last of the fading light, i checked and found there was fuel in the carburettors. So i figured the problem must be electrical, and probably not anything i could fix without a bit of time to spare, and a test lamp or multimeter. I had none of these things. So it was then i decided to just push the bike off the road, into the bushes, hitchhike home, and come back tomorrow with a trailer.

I wish i could say that was my first mistake. But i have made so many in my brief time on this planet.

Standing on the side of the road these past few hours, while i haven't exactly been bowled over by the traffic, i have had time to do the logic. The bike first started playing up when i reached the outer limit of the tree plantations. The road gets real rough from there on in from the log trucks - the bitumen is corrugated. I have had time to remember that it was shortly after i first hit those bumps that the bike started misfiring. So it's got to be a loose connection, right? Either a broken wire or a short. The voltage is being switched off or drained off somewhere, either way, it's not enough to keep the electronic ignition firing. If only i could see the wiring...

The headlamp. Of course. I feel my way back into the bush, searching for the motorcycle. I step into a hole and twist my ankle. I walk into a bush. Then i find the bike and wheel it back out to the roadside. In case a car comes along. Ha ha. I switch on the headlight and scan the dripping melaleuca bushes on the side of the road. There is no shelter, i am not going anywhere, so i am just going to have to try to fix the bastard.

Because rule number one says never give up. And rule number two? Always remember rule number one.

So i pull the side covers off, and grope about in the dark for the rudimentary tool kit. Working by feel, i unwrap the screwdriver and spanners from the smell of the oily rag, fit a flat head, and unscrew the retaining bolts for the headlamp. I switch it on, and by guiding it out a bare few inches, to the extent of its wires, i can turn it around to use it as a torch. I stare at the glaring, multicoloured spaghetti inside the headlamp housing. I need to find and fix this problem before the headlamp flattens the battery. Without sufficient voltage, i won't even be able to kickstart this ancient machine.

And you may ask yourself, well, how did i get here?

Friday afternoon, my boss sauntered in, all cowboy boots and swagger, and asked in his usual booming voice what i was doing for the weekend.
"I'm riding to Esperance for a kebab," i stated flatly.
"Esperance! That's 500 kilometres. On that old bike? For a kebab?"
"Not my idea of fun," he said, and stomped out.
Well, i think. You obviously never met my friend Gonca. She has the Turkish bakery in Esperance.

Besides. On the open road things are different. Once you're settled in on the saddle, with your helmet sitting right, the wind and the steady thrum of the motor the only sound, the bitumen starts to roll like credits in the movie of your life. It's a meditation. It's an escape. It's a chance to think. Or better still, to not think.

Of course, all the photos were destroyed when the Nikon hit the bitumen. The back came off, exposing the film. I've only got this noisily lame ass mobile phone photo of Gonca on one of Damo's custom pushbikes, the Para Locos, or Crazy Mama. We were at the Aqua Shak, a.k.a. Damo and Martine's shed, where you drink beer or stuntman cocktails (that's the one where you snort the salt, squeeze lemon in your eye, and drink the tequila) and stare at the many broken surf boards that decorate the roof and walls. Damo's partner Martine teaches yoga. "And what do you do, when you're not breaking surfboards?" i ask Damo.
Esperance. I didn't mind Esperance. Nice bunch of people.

I did the second rebuild on the 650 twin out on the front porch of Mickey T's place in Carnarvon, and it wouldn't start then either. I'd towed it up from Perth in a trailer behind my $200 Datsun, with a swag and my son. I rewired it completely, front to back, with a new wiring loom, working from a diagram. I'd order parts over the internet, and pick up packages from the post office. I fitted an electronic ignition to replace the mechanical points setup. I pressed replacement brass bushes into the swingarm, to fix the notorious high-speed shimmy caused by Yamaha's plastic bushes. Roller bearings in the forks, new fork seals. New clutch and throttle cables, and a new oil seal for the clutch pushrod. New battery, oil filter, fuel filters, and air pods. New rubbers for everything. A schmick custom paint job, reproducing the colour and design of the early model, right down to the triple white stripe on the tank. New handlebars, side mirrors, and indicators fixed most of the damage i'd done when i crashed into the horseshoe bridge. The motor i rebuilt in my bedroom in Harley Street in 2006.

I threw out the large, ugly stock instrument panel and replaced it with two small guages - a speedo and tacho - with white faces and stainless-steel housings. Noice. Relocated the ignition barrel to the frame, just in front of the fuel tank. The front brakes took some fixing, and i had to have a new flanged copper pipe made up. This was the only thing i didn't fix myself, and the brakes later failed on me coming up to a T-junction on the Brand Highway, just out of New Norcia. But that's another story, one i'm lucky to be around to tell.

When i'd finished, the bike sat on its brand new Pirelli Sport Demon soft compound tyres, and wouldn't start. So i traced the problem back through the wiring until it did. And raced it down past the bougainvilleas on South River Road, over the Nine Mile, and back the other side of the Gascoyne River. No front brakes or registration, but it went.

On the side of the road now, eighty clicks from Albany, the rain drips off my nose. I am applying logic, desperately rather than systematically, with a hot headlamp in one hand and a screwdriver in the other. I take the twelve volt wire from the ignition coil to see if i can spark it against the chassis. No. So there is no voltage getting to the coil. I make up a length of wire and run it straight from the coil to the battery, basically hotwiring the old thing. I kickstart the bike. The engine kicks into life. Well. That was easy. I replace the headlamp and i'm back on the highway.

Before i rode a thousand kilometres down from Carnarvon, i'd never done a road trip on the 650. Just short bursts around town, evading the cops. And then there it was, freshly rebuilt, hopefully with all the nuts and bolts torqued down and good to go. Heading out onto the North West Coastal Highway that first time, luggage strapped behind me, was a leap of faith. Just winding the throttle on and getting it up to 120. Flying, the leather jacket zipped tight. Telling myself nothing can go wrong, because i'd built it with my own hands. Trusting i had done it right. At first i was tense as hell, a bundle of electric nerves, bracing myself for that moment when the wheel came off, or the handlebars worked loose. But by the time i made Billabong Roadhouse, i was relaxed. It was okay. And i never looked back.

Motorcycling and road trips suited me, right down to that tread pattern on that red dusty ground.

Ten kilometres closer to Albany, the bike coughs, fires again, and cuts out. I notice the headlamp going dim as the bike splutters and runs down to a halt. What the hell. There must still be a short circuit somewhere. I dismount, and look around. The same wet bushes. The same wet road. I mouth the same invective, and kill the headlamp. Yep. The same starless, bible black night.

Always remember rule number one.

I pull the headlamp out again. This time, i notice the horn, brake lights, and indicators aren't working, but the headlamp is. I switch on an indicator, and rummage about in the wiring behind the headlamp until the flasher comes on. It blinks orange, like an emergency beacon. Excellent. At least all these cars won't run over me. I rummage some more. It stops. Using this highly scientific system, which i call rummaging, i fine tune the problem down to a male connection on the end of a brown wire. It has come loose, and is out and about doing things it shouldn't. Bad wire. I press it back home into its female socket, ask it to please remain monogamous, at least for the rest of the journey, and kick the bike. It starts. I push on towards home.

But now every time i hit a bump, i hear an awful loud sound burbling away down to my left. Sounds like the exhaust pipe is about to fall off. Fuck it, i think. I'm not stopping for anything. I hunch down and watch the black ribbon unfold in the wet yellow beam.

When i get in after midnight, having been on the road since three o'clock, the exhaust pipe is broken in two, and is barely holding on. Metal fatigue.

And some days you just got to know how that feels.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Breakfast, on that morning when the rest of your life stretches before you like an empty highway.

An egg
Parsley, if you like
Sourdough bread

If you have bacon, start frying it while you boil some water. Get some asparagus spears and chuck them onto a lightly-oiled griddle and scorch the bastards. Once the water is boiled, put a slice of sourdough bread into the toaster. That toaster is your egg timer.

You are cooking breakfast. What used to be Miss Polly's favourite breakfast. The one you used to share on those bright mornings when she would go off after breakfast to work as a coffee girl, and you would go to the newspaper to kick journalists around the news room... ah, those were the days, that week before last... but save the salty tears for later when you let them drip sadly onto your poached egg as you eat it on your lonesome. But if you can't hold them in, let them pour like a sudden Albany cloudburst into the boiling pot. Add some vinegar. Its sourness and acidity will keep the egg in one piece. Take note of this, because you may need to use your acerbic, cynical humour later in the day in a similar fashion. Deadline is no time to be going to pieces.

Take a locally-laid egg, and crack it one-handedly into the turbulent water, using your other hand to wipe away your tears. When the toast pops, drizzle some olive oil, followed by a strip of bacon. Then lay the asparagus spears down like the weapons of defeated warriors. Lift out the egg with a suitable implement, draining off the water, and lay it on top. If you like, you can garnish with parsley, torn up like your ever loving soul.

Serves one.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Happiness is the opposite of thinking.
- Art Director.

I wake with a start and realise i have lost my writing mojo. I realise, suddenly, that i simply can't write. Woah. Woah woah woahdiddly woe. Now i'm in trouble. I realise i have been unable to write for some weeks now. I bury my head in the pillow. I hear the kookaburras outside the window, laughing. I raise my head to shout at them. A dim glow over Mount Clarence tells me it is just before dawn. It is always darkest before the dawn. If you're going to steal your neighbour's newspaper, this is the time to do it. But i have more pressing problems at hand.

It is because i am no longer miserable. Misery is a writer's best friend, saving, as it does, his or her readers the trouble of being miserable for their own selves. Misery is a blessing in a disguise, a bit like Nastassja Kinski in that bear suit in The Hotel New Hampshire.

For a writer, happiness equals death. Happiness freezes the brain into a kind of Zen blancmange from which nothing can emerge but fatuous tautologies, and the occasional recipe for Thai chilli mussels.

After shouting at the kookaburras i pass the day cutting copy from one of our North West newspapers, periodically picking up the phone to berate the mindless, rum-snorting party animals that pass for journalists in that part of the world. Martine comes in to grab a camera. "Did you know the collective noun for subeditors is a whinge of subeditors?" she asks as she passes my desk. How edifying. She pauses, Nikon in hand. "Hmm. I wonder what the collective noun is for journalists?"

I stare at her. "An affront of journalists would be quite apt," i suggest.

So. The mojo. I feel i must return to first principles. This means consuming vast quanitities of either wine or beer. Excessive consumption of alcohol is guaranteed to bring on a dose of the abjects. So i take Miss Polly out to dinner. Halfway there - i say halfway there as if there were some destination in mind, which there never is, because going out for dinner in Albany always involves driving up and down the same desultory streets ruling out the same desultory restaurants, before eventually throwing culinary caution to the wind and choosing a place that is at least consistently mediocre - halfway there, Dewse calls from somewhere up the highway.

"Hey A.D," he says. "I'm in Kojonup."
"What are you doing there," i ask. "Come to Albany. And bring a tuna."
"Why," he asks.
"I want to cook sashimi," i say.
"You don't cook sashimi," Dewse says.
"Just find a tuna and get down here. Jesus, man, don't argue with me."
“I was going to camp in the Porongorups and climb a mountain,” he says.
“Fuck you.” I say. “How about you come to Miss Polly’s instead and we get pissed and write a joint blog.” The mere mention of the word 'joint' has Dewse pulling up his metaphorical tent pegs.

He turns up after the chicken parmigiana, all hair and attitude, smiling like a poor man's jesus, a new copy of On The Road stuffed into his backpack. The desserts look dubious, so the muse and i decide to pay up and head back to base. I whip out my bank card to pay for our meal. It is, after all, the day after payday.

“Sorry sir, but it is declined," says the buxom waitress.
It’s always embarrassing when you have to ask your date to pay for your food. And yet, as Dewse so kindly points out, this is expected - like next week's pay cheque.
Miss Polly produces her credit card.
“What else am i supposed to do?” asks Miss Polly. “Regurgitate?”
The waitress stares at us, no doubt hoping this is a rhetorical question.

“So what are we going to do?” asks Dewse, once we have escaped the very real prospect of criminal charges.
“I have ideas,” I say. “That don't involve night clubs. And besides, Miss Polly has a credit card, so I suggest we stick with her.”
We head for Spencer Park. Dewse gets a tour of Miss Polly's house.
"I never got a tour of the house," i complain.
“Maybe that's because you headed straight for the bedroom,” Miss Polly says.
She points us to some pre-Party cartons of warm beer on the kitchen floor, then peels off her stockings. "Good night boys," she says.

Sleeping is one of her favourite activities. But then, how else is she going to find her dream house?

The guitar, the blues harmonica and the cartons of warm beer are but a prelude to drunken computerising. The writing becomes somewhat turvy. But Dewse did not come all this way in search of a qwerty merely to fall asleep on some chased lozenge. No fear. We need tuna. Perhaps we can buy some online? "Shut up," says Dewse, and directs my aspirations toward the further consumption of warm beer. He takes over the keyboard, foaming bottle at his side.

"Party." It’s a profound and familiar voice that resonates down the blower, one I met some time ago down at Oyster Creek. His deluded pitch is frightening. We used to get away with it then, up that way. The booze, the hash, and useless days without a hint of tit. Long odious days where the red earth ends, veering off into the ocean sea. A dangerous place, where a man finds no companionship other than that of a loaf of stale bread. Where the desert will fry the brain, if you give it half the chance.
“You think we are pissed now, just wait till the Party," the Art Director says.
"Lets hit some clubs up,” i declare, with a certain insanity that will see a good man do time.

With that, the Dewse abandons the keyboard and heads for the fridge.

I look at what the Dewse has written, and decide i should leave stories from beyond the edge to the younger generation.

So, i've lost my mojo, i complain to Sarah Toa from under my hangover. Sarah is my rock, my touchstone, and my warrior princess. She is not afraid to tell me when i am being a princess because, as we all know, it takes one to know one.

Try looking under the bed, she says.

Sage advice. This girl knows her bream from her mullet. She gives me a jar of fig jam and a dozen eggs from her chook pen. On the way home i buy some bread. Gluten free, says the label. Glutens are great, i think. They should glue body and soul together for a while longer.

And it's even better if they are free.