Entries by Malcolm Lambe (14)

Tuesday
Jan312006

Oh what wicked webs we weave when first we.....

Spiders on Drugs

I'm into spiders. Don't mind them at all. I have five house-trained huntsmen. Each about the size of a man's hand. No, they don't have names but I can tell them apart. Do they do tricks you say. Funny you should ask that.

The other day I was bored and a bit lonely and found myself talking to the spiders. Yes I know some people describe this as the onset of the D.T.s - Delirium Tremens from too much imbibing but it wasn't that. I've been off the sherbet for awhile. Well not totally off. Still have the occasional Redback and the odd glass of Chablis.

So I'm talking to my eight-legged mates and decided I'd give them a bit of a treat. Take them on a trip. Well not all of them. Three of them went on a trip and the other two stayed at home and had a natter over coffee and fruitcake.

See, I was reading this old NASA report I found on the Net of an experiment they ran with the affects of different drugs on arachnoids. Yeah sounds NAF, doesn't it? But it was kosher. NASA got a bunch of spiders together in a bar and spiked their drinks. Then observed their behaviour while they were wigged out on the web. Look at this.231239-259972-thumbnail.jpg
straight spider
This is the (unfinished)web of a straight spider. Reminiscent of a cat's cradle, isn't it?

Now look at the next one - the web of a stoner spider - a spider high on marihuana.231239-259975-thumbnail.jpg
stoner spider web
Look at the sloppy job it's made. It's got half-way, realised it's too out of it to continue and gone back for another bong.

The LSD affected spider has it more together.231239-259980-thumbnail.jpg
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
It's taken Timothy Leary's advice and turned on, tuned in and dropped out. It's made it's web and is now just floating downstream hallucinating off its little brain seeing spiders covered in people.

Mescaline spider is on a similar trip. Look at that web.231239-259982-thumbnail.jpg
peyote spider
It's not finished. That's because this cat has gone out into the desert to wander amongst the cacti waiting for some Mayan to pick a peyote button. Then he's gonna pop out and scare the bejesus out of him.

The last web is the most interesting. What drug? Eccie? Heroin? Ice? Horse tranquiliser? What dope is this spider on to produce a web like this? Must be a hell of a powerful drug that spins this web. 231239-259984-thumbnail.jpg
Call that a web?
Caffeine, brothers and sisters. This is what coffee does to a spider. Just think what it's doing to you.

Oh yeah...check out this wildly popular video Spiders On Drugs - it's had over 17 Million hits. The story behind it is here at My Wild Million Hit Ride on YouTube

Wednesday
Dec142005

The Ozzie Zapper

I've been thinking...about these beach blues - these "turf wars". What we need is a "deterrent" - something to stop these guys hanging out at the beach and causing trouble. And I think I've got the very thing. There's a bloke over my way making them.

A Welsh geezer has come up with a way of silencing rowdy teenagers.

Howard Stapleton has invented a device, he calls The Mosquito ("It's small and annoying") that emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that, he says, can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30. The sound is designed to so irritate young people that after several minutes, they can't stand it and go away.

The idea came to Howard after remembering a visit to a factory when he was twelve. He opened the door to a room where workers were using high-frequency welding equipment and found he couldn't bear to go inside.

"The noise!" he complained.

"What noise?" the grownups asked.

Howard has taken the lesson he learned that day - that children can hear sounds at higher frequencies than adults can - to fashion a novel device that he hopes will provide a solution to the eternal problem of rowdy teenagers.

So far, the Mosquito has been road-tested in only one place - at the entrance to the convenience store in his hometown in South Wales. Surly teenagers used to plant themselves on the railings just outside the door, smoking, drinking, shouting rude words at customers and making regular disruptive forays inside.

"On the low end of the scale, it would be intimidating for customers," the owner said. "On the high end, they'd be in the shop fighting, stealing and assaulting the staff."

He planned to install a sound system that would blast classical music into the parking lot, another method known to horrify hang-out youths into dispersing, but never got around to it. But last month, Howard gave him a Mosquito for a free trial. The results were almost instantaneous. It was as if someone had used anti-teenager spray around the entrance where noisy youths used to hang out. Now there is no one.

At first, members of the usual crowd tried to gather as normal, repeatedly going inside the store with their fingers in their ears and "begging me to turn it off," the shopkeeper said. But he held firm and told them it was to "keep birds away because of the bird flu epidemic."

"It's loud and squeaky and it just goes through you", said one fifteen year old.

Some shops use other methods to deter teenagers - "zit lamps" drive them away by casting a blue light onto their spotty skin, accentuating any whiteheads and other blemishes.

Howard tried a number of different noise and frequency levels, testing a single-toned unit before settling on a pulsating tone which, he said, is more unbearable, and which can be broadcast at 75 decibels, within government auditory-safety limits. "I didn't want to make it hurt," he said. "It just has to nag at them."

Howard is considering introducing a much louder unit that can be switched on in emergencies with a panic button. It would be most useful when youths swarm into stores and begin stealing en masse, a phenomenon known in Britain as steaming. The idea would be to blast them with such an unacceptably loud, high noise - a noise inaudible to older shoppers - that they would immediately leave.

That's it! Loudspeakers with pulsating tones on every beach. No more louts and the older crew might get some waves too. I'm waxing up my board already. And if it works we should nominate Howard Stapleon for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Sunday
Nov272005

How to talk to your cat

I've been thinking of Cats lately. Don't know why. Maybe a black one crossed my path and put a hex on me. Or maybe in my subconscious I'm still thinking of what Fingers' Japanese T-Shirt said "Cats know various things". (I'm sure they do, incidentally.) And you know when you start thinking about stuff it's inevitable you start attracting the very thing you're trying not to think about?

So I'm thinking about Mrs Slocum's pussy (well I had to work that in somewhere, didn't I) and I open up the newspaper when this largish display ad. in the News Section jumps off the page at me - It said "How To Talk To Your Cat" which is something I've always wanted to do, haven't you?

"Listen! Your cat is talking to you - she's telling you how much she loves you. Watch! - the special friend who shares your life has so much to say to you about her feelings and needs...if only you knew how to listen and what to look for."

I put the newspaper down and looked at the cat. The cat looked back at me. I read on.

"YOUR TALKING CAT" - this book can really help you...especially when it comes to understanding what your cat is actually saying - not just what you think she is saying.

That's incredible!

"...there's a lot more to cat talk than just "meow". And each has its own special meaning!...Cats have a lot more going for them than most people realise...for example, they are scientifically proven to possess certain telepathic powers for "reading" the true mind-set of a human companion within seconds of observation."

I knew it!

The Advertisment cut to the chase with -

"YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED"

Why your cat rubs you to show affection...and how best to show her yours.
Why your cat circles in your lap before settling down.
Why your cat blinks.
How many different ways your cat purrs...and why.
How your cat sizes up your friends.
Why your cat always seems to come over when you're reading or doing paperwork...and the ultimate toy to distract her.
Why your cat doesn't like to be stared at...yet sometimes stares at you.
How your cat knows, long before people, when a disaster is about to take place.
And this handy little tome can be yours, postage paid, for the special price of just £11.90 (order within 5 days and receive a FREE catmint)

Then it hit me! This isn't about cats at all. There's a missprint - a typo. Printers gremlins have been at work. The word "cat" needs to be replaced by "girlfriend". Don't you see? Then it all makes sense.

Like this -

"Listen! Your girlfriend is talking to you - she's telling you how much she loves you. Watch! - the special friend who shares your life has so much to say to you about her feelings and needs...if only you knew how to listen and what to look for."

"Girlfriends have a lot more going for them than most people realise...for example, they are scientifically proven to possess certain telepathic powers for "reading" the true mind-set of a companion within seconds of observation!" ( In other words they know when you're lying through your teeth )

"Why your girlfriend rubs you to show affection...and how best to show her yours." ( Ar... )

"Why your girlfriend circles in your lap before settling down." ( She's had a few bongs )

"Why your girlfriend blinks." ( She's dumb )

"How many different ways your girlfriend purrs...and why." ( count them )

"How your girlfriend sizes up your friends." ( looking for the one to take your place)

"Why your girlfriend always seems to come over when you're reading or doing paperwork...and the ultimate toy to distract her." ( Ah...let me think...would it be "Grand Theft Auto"?)

"Why your girlfriend doesn't like to be stared at." ( well if you had a hickey that big on your nose, would you?)

"How your girlfriend knows long before anyone else when a disaster is about to take place." ( she's into Voodoo...I'd get rid of her...especially if you find little dolls with pins in them lying around the place )

So the real title of the book is "HOW TO TALK TO YOUR GIRLFRIEND" which I'm absolutely sure will be a best-seller.

Postscript: I still can't get away from the bloody cats. Just read a story about a bloke who liked to eat LIVE CATS. In 1788 (that rings a bell) a Frenchman from Lyon, Tarrare, was given a live cat, which he devoured after tearing its abdomen with his teeth and drinking its blood. He later vomited the fur and the skin. And that's how we get the expression "Tarrare-bom-de-ay" - referring to powerful explosions or fanfares and by inference Tarrare's own prodigious flatulence. Google it if you don't believe me. And just say NON if offered a live cat.

Sunday
Oct162005

A Tycoon at Ten

231239-189815-thumbnail.jpgI'm sitting here in my fifth floor Parisian flat (100 years old, no elevator, party-animal neighbours, pigeons nesting in the roof) playing with my wing-wang...I mean "musing" on where it all went wrong. How come some 21 year old Pommy prick can make nearly US$360K in six weeks with a home-based internet business WWW.MILLIONDOLLARHOMEPAGE.COM and I'm scratching to pay my milk bill? (well not really...bit of poetic license)

I mean...I started out so well. I should have been a Millionaire at 15 the way I was going.

First I had the "Funny Smells" idea. I thought it brilliant. I must have been ten, I think. I had the idea of bottling weird and wonderful smells and selling them by the roadside. Not a bad business plan. Except the road I selected to set up my stall was at the top of "The World's Steepest Hill" in Kananook Avenue, Bayview, Sydney, where I grew up.

There was no way any traffic coming up the hill was going to stop to have a sniff of my wares - they were flat out making it to the top half the time. Many a day I saw Mum and the kids having to bail out of the car and walk while Father bravely tackled the hill-climb on his own (saying "I think I can...I think I can" between clenched teeth). And once I even saw a bloke reversing up the hill in a soft-top Morris Minor Tourer - the old side-valve model with the headlights set in the grill. What a hoot! I'm talking a seriously steep grade here.

I'd put a bit of time and effort into this Smelly enterprise. I had the glamour signage - "Funny Smells 6d" written in running house paint on a sheet of old Masonite. I had the Merchandising - the bottles of rotten fish, tar scrapings, paint-thinners, Caustic Soda, farts in a Fanta bottle etc artfully arranged on a blanket. And I had "the Hook" - "Buy One - Get One Free".

I waited all day on the top of that bloody hill. A few cars went by. About one an hour I reckon. Some of the passengers waved. Mostly they just stared in disbelief at this little dickhead manfully holding his sign aloft entreating them to get their Funny Smells before they slipped back down the hill.

The first hour or so was all right. After that I got bored and started sniffing the merchandise. Wasn't it Donnie Brasco who said "Never get high on your own supply"? He must have known something because after a while I started hallucinating and saw thousands of cars streaming up that hill. All heading for Lambe's "Funny Smells" stall. It made me all the more determined. I was sure it was only a matter of time before people caught on and there'd be a run on smells.

But at Three O'Clock I had to concede defeat. The paintbrush came out and it was "All stock must go" "Funny Smells - three for threepence".

My next enterprise was more successful. They say "That which doesn't destroy you, makes you stronger". This time my younger sister and I went into the Toffee-making business. Big time. We cooked up a humungus potful of Sugar/vinegar/Cream of Tartar I think were the ingredients. And poured it into about 6 dozen little pattycake papers. No non-pareils (called "hundreds and thousands" Downunder), no chocolate logs, no shiny baubles on the top. Just your No-Frills Lockjaw. Or Broken-Jaw - depending on the state of your teeth or dentures. Entry-level toffee. I'd already figured there was a better margin in it that way.

This time the product flew off the shelves. Sold like...well hotcakes. We set up our play-shop (with built-in roller shutter) on the main road alongside Pittwater on a Sunday afternoon. With plenty of rubberneck weekend traffic. And this time I went for the jugular. I had a dirty big sign - which I mostly made my waifish sister hold aloft - which read "Our Parets (stet) have left us and we have nothing to eat". We sold those 6 dozen toffees in about an hour flat and skedaddled back up the hill to cook some more. But Mummy put the Kybosh on it when she saw what was written on the sign. And that was the end of "Lambe's Lockjaw". From what I remember, I think she confiscated the profits as well. Maybe that's why I am the way I am.

The Bottle Deposit Racket was a good one. Again, down to Yours Truly. I was a bit older, maybe Twelve, and had more street-smarts or rat-cunning by then. In those days (the Early Sixties) you could claim deposit money back on the glass softdrink bottles. It was a great way for kids to earn some pocket money and help keep parks and public gardens clean. You got threepence for a small bottle and sixpence for the larger ones. We worked this racket for a week until getting busted.

The first time we collected dozens of bottles and lugged them in billy-carts (made from fruit boxes and old pram wheels) to the corner-store to claim the money back. Made a good few bob out of it. We noticed the shopkeeper stacked the bottles in a small yard at the rear of his shop. A small yard with an easy fence for a kid to get over. So yeah...we went over the wall a few times and just kept recycling the same old bottles. "You kids have been busy" says Mr Freckle-Face the Shopkeeper. Perfect racket. Until we got a bit careless and were caught red-handed passing bottles over the fence. He threatened to call the cops and that was the end of that.

We moved into scrap-metal recycling after that. Trawling the waterfront for bits of copper sheet and piping. And sometimes brass and lead. Did quite well out of it but it was a sort of a one-off event. And there were certain occupational hazards associated with rooting around the mangroves, stormdrains and rubbish tips, as well. Four-legged hazards with sharp teeth and long tails - your common or garden variety water-rat (no not Police, that came later).

By thirteen I'd moved into the exotic bird trade. Well I tried to, but once again the old lady put the skids under it. I'd been breeding birds for awhile and they were starting to get a bit out of control. It was time for the "Liquidation Sale - All Stock Must Go".

I laboured all morning on the advertising and I'd only had the sign in the front yard for a couple of hours when the old lady came home and reefed it out of the ground and threw it into the woodpile. Broke my heart. It was a nice bit of succinct copy, too - "BUDGIES FOR SALE". I think she thought it was lowering the tone of the neighbourhood. But at least it didn't say "Budgies For Sale - our Mother doesn't feed us."

Now...where was I...ah yeah...a homepage of pixels with funny smells and budgies. And maybe your deposit back if it doesn't work.

I gotta stop smoking that camel dung.


Sunday
Aug212005

Adventures in Paradise

                                      your tropical sunset
your tropical sunset


I’m a miserable son-of-a-bitch at the best of times. I seem to hold a certain jaundiced view of life. I guess that’s what happens when you get older and grumpier. So I’m gonna apologise right now if I destroy one of your dreams about a “Tropical Paradise”. In fact if you’re off to the islands on your honeymoon it’s probably best you stop reading right now.


Tahiti used to be on my “wish list”. Like you, I guess, I’d look at those photos of thatch-roofed hotel rooms built over the lagoons with the tropical sunset and the azure sea and think “I’d love to go there...wouldn’t it be marvellous.”


Couple of years ago I did go there. I spent six months in Tahiti while my wife finished off her doctors internship. We were given ten days in a rundown hotel in Papeete and then took a freebie flat behind the hospital. And that’s pretty much where the dream started to unravel.


The flats for the families weren’t too bad. They looked out over coconut trees to Papeete, the sea and Moorea in the distance. You could see the sunset from the balcony. But because, at the time, we didn’t have any children, we copped the worse flat in the block – out the back looking over the squatters camp. That’s right, a squatters camp peopled by natives from the outer islands. A rough and ready shanty-town of rude huts with corrugated-iron roofs, open drains and basic facilities. A festering cesspit of raw sewage running down the red dirt alleys and household garbage left to rot on the ground. Packs of wild dogs running free.


Every night was Saturday night. We couldn’t sleep for the sound of drunken revelry - yelling, screaming, cussing, ukelele-playing, full-on howling-to-the-moon carousing at all hours. Interspersed with the sounds of dogs fighting...dogs fucking...dogs being tortured...dogs being raped...dogs being run over – the full Monty of dog hell.


There was a pack of semi-domesticated dogs roaming the squatters camp and another pack of rebel outlaw badass dogs roaming the hospital grounds. Every now and then there’d be a fight over territory and the shit would go down. Savage shit. Like dozens of dogs literally ripping another dog to pieces. Or dogs attacking other fornicating dogs – dogs locked together in the act dragging themselves under cars and buildings to get away from the pack. You’d see (just like in Bali) dogs walking around on three legs – with the other mangled one hanging bent and useless. Dogs with eyeballs dangling. Dogs with holes in their sides. Hairless sad-arse dogs riddled with fleas and mange. Hard-core horror-show dogs.

I always thought that when a bitch came into season she mated only once or twice. I’ve had dogs. I’ve observed their behaviour. But these dogs...geeze...maybe it’s the tropical air or something but I observed one bitch mate at least seven times in one day that I saw. To different partners. Doggy style. Which means staying locked together for about half an hour after each performance. Half and hour in which the other mutts would come looking for some of the action. And when they couldn’t get any they’d turn on the performers with savagery. I’m haunted by this. I can still hear the howls of pain as the lovers tried desperately to disengage from each other. You do know the physics of it, don’t you? How the dog’s penis engorges and literally locks itself into the bitch’s vag? Yeah, I know...gross. Fully gross. Imagine if that’s what happened to us? I suppose you could always have a fag while you were waiting.


Doggone it...I’m gonna go with this...follow the thread, as it were. I’m jumping ahead now. To the last month of our Tahitian stay. We’d decided to have a look at the remote Tuamotus Group of islands. We booked a deal with Air Tahiti – 4 nights, half-pension (accom., breakfast & dinner) and airfare – to Takapoto (“Take-a-photo”) - a “remote palm-fringed atoll with lagoon”.


We went Air Tahiti via Takarowboat or Takadump...Tacky something anyway. Takaroa, I think. The propjet touched down and picked up some fat bastard then took off again (by the skin of its teeth) for the five minute flight to Take-a-photo.


It was the usual tropical island airport setup – a basic departure/arrivals hut, a clapped-out firetruck, a welcoming posse of beer-gutted locals with dollar-signs in their eyes and a half-pissed crooner in a straw-hat strumming a uke and singing some island dirge. We cleared Customs in about five minutes flat and the Pension owner loaded us into the back of his Vintage Peugeot 504 Ute (I’m being kind with the word vintage) for the five minute drive to the accomodation. (Are you beginning to see a pattern here?)


Anyway...the dogs. They had dogs at Takapoto too. Domestic dogs. Several of them. Hard-arsed battle-scarred sons-of-bitches. And these bastards were doing the Tahitian Love Dance outside our hut day and night too. Locked together. Attacked mercilessly by the other dogs. Crashing into the rattan walls. Tear-arsing through the gardens. Frightening the bejesus out of the Missus in the middle of the night. She thought we were on safari in Kenya or some-bloody-where and the Lions were about to make us proud. I’ll return to this.


Meanwhile back in Paradise...I mean...Papeete, we were settling in. Settling in to what turned out to be one of the unhappiest six months of my life. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking – “Come on Lambe...it couldn’t have been that bad...you were in Tahiti – dusky maidens in grass-skirts, free love, Gauguin, Captain Cook – all that”. Yeah well...where do I start?


The dusky maidens no longer wear grass-skirts unless doing the Tamouré at the Intercontinental 6 o’clock session. They’ve all gone to seed and had six kids by the time they are 22. The love part costs you bigtime like everything else in Tahiti. The Gauguins are all in Paris. Captain Cook is remembered by a sad-looking obelisk and the name of a lookout and a cocktail and …dunno really. No-one seems to give a bugger about Captain Cook. The natives pinched all his gear so he couldn’t fulfil his mission of watching Venus making out with Mars or whatever is was. No-one gives a shit. They’re all down the lagoon hooking into the Hinano and wiping themselves out on Paka. Then drink-driving home and beating the crap out of the Missus or raping their 12 year old daughters. You think I’m kidding? I’m not.


My wife worked in the hospital. As a paediatric intern. She saw it first hand. You read about it in the court reports in the local rag - “La Dépêche” too. Seems Tahitian men think it perfectly normal to knock their women around – to put them in hospital. They think it their right to deflower their daughters. They think it’s fine to drink themselves stupid, get in the car and run over some toddler – happens all the time.


The standard of care in the hospital was not quite the standard of care she'd become used to in the Parisian hospitals she'd worked. How do I put this? Ah bugger it - I'll tell it like it is. Second-rate doctors and nurses end up working in second-rate hospitals like Mamao in Papeete. People die needlessly from faulty diagnosis and unprofessional care. There you are. I've said it. So sue me! (the name of the new Jewish/Japanese restaurant downtown).

Moving on. I really wanted to like Tahiti. But Papeete was a big disppointment. Where do I start. O.K. The natives aren't friendly. They won't even look at you when they pass you in the street. You're the Invisible Man. You're White. You're probably French. You probably live up in the hills behind Papeete in a gated community with guards and nannies and housekeepers. You're making a trillion-times more money than your average Tahitian. In short you're the colonialist. The oppressor. I can dig it. But it depressed me. I wanted to scream "I'm not French!"..."I'm not the one raping your islands"..."I wanna hang out with you guys not the snooty Frogs". So I tried. I tried real hard. I met Tahitians out surfing. I got on the piss with them. Even smoked a bit of their weed. Introduced the wife to them. Bought them beers. Tried to get into their heads. But it got me nowhere. As one Tahitian guy said to me "You guys have everything - we have nothing". And he's right. The Euros are up in the hills sipping their Mai Tais in the cool breeze while the islanders are sweating it out down in the slums and shantytowns drinking and smoking themselves into oblivion.


I don't want to talk about it anymore. Too bloody depressing what whitey has done to the islands. It's not just Tahiti either. Let's go back to the Tuamotus. To Takapoto.


The Air Tahiti brochure banged on about the facilities we could expect. Something like "quaint native-style accommodation". Read that as an unsecure rattan and bamboo hut with a mouldy foam mattress, dim solar-powered lighting, separate ablutions block with broken door, hordes of mosquitos and randy mutts prowling the campus day and night.


"On a working pearl-farm" they said. Well yeah. Except the owner was scamming everyone by extracting the black pearls way too early at a year or so old so that the nacre was too thin and they would eventually crack and fade. "Home-cooked meals" meant shit he got out of a can or a packet with the occasional bit of overcooked tuna or rubbery pearl-oyster . Can't remember the rest except for the coconut bread for breakfast which was very good.


"Facilities include windsurfers - knackered, pushbikes - clapped out, outrigger canoe - fucked, table-tennis - no balls, trampoline - actually worked but I can think of a million more interesting ways of cracking my scone open, Fishing in the lagoon." The last one rang my bells. But alas no boat available.


Fair play to the man though. When he saw how disappointed I was at not being able to fish for tiddlers in the lagoon he offered to take me outside. No, not to thump me. To take me out into the open sea. Bewdy, I thought. This could be good.


I wasn’t wrong. It was good alright. I’m just lucky I’m still here to tell the tale. We set off at sparrows fart one morning after a rattle on the door to wake us up. Actually I’d been awake half the night. Couldn’t sleep. Nothing worked. Not even counting dogs.


I have a pretty clear memory of bouncing down the crushed coral road in the back tray of the Pug and staring up at a fantastic display of stars. We pulled up at the breakwater and unloaded the gear and an ancient outboard that I swear he’d nicked from the Evinrude Museum. The boat was even ruder. He made it himself he proudly told us. It was nothing much more than a hard-chined Fifties-style 5 metre runaboat made from packing-crate ply. Like something out of “Popular Mechanics”. Something meant for the Great Lakes. You could still make out This Side Up stamped on the sheets of plywood. Now I know my boats. In fact I have a Master Mariner Class V. And this vessel was a definite worry. No way was it suitable for the open sea. And apart from that we had a dodgy outboard with no chain securing it to the transom. No life jackets. No flares. No radio. No lights. No mobile phone. No bailer. No “V” sheet – in short, no safety equipment whatsoever. And did he have Third Party Insurance you ask? Don’t make me laugh, china. It was still dark and we were preparing to shoot out through the boatharbour into a swell we couldn’t see (but could hear).


So throwing caution to the wind we skull-dragged the Do-It-Yourself dinghy down the concrete launching ramp and jumped in before the swell could crush the thing against the concrete wall. And putting our faith in Bozo we shot out past the breakwater to go tuna-fishing Island-Style. Shot out blind. We could hear the surf and relied on some pisshead standing on the rocks to give us the nod and Wahoo! We were off! Gun it brother!


Obviously we made it. And I’ve gotta hand it to the skipper, he had some balls. We felt the swell pick us up, heard the prop cavitating like crazy, then the blades dug in and away we went, spray flying over the unprotected bows and water already beginning to pond in the bilge.


We chugged down the weather side of the island, pretty much hugging the coastline until we came to the Secret Spot (third coconut tree down from the old fish cannery – but don’t tell no bastard or I won’t be invited back.) By this time the sun was up and the sea wasn’t too bad at all. I began to feel a bit better about it all. Figured if the motor did cark it (which was a distinct possibility) we would at least be able to swim ashore, nonwithstanding any Noah activity, of course.


to be continued my dears...are we having fun yet? is that the beginning of a smile i see there? how come no bastard comments? is there anyone out there? anyone? help me...i'm drowning (drowning in a sea of love)


Thursday
Aug182005

Square Peg, Round Hole

click on image
click on image
Cameron is a redhead. A redhead and a funny guy to boot. Not funny, ha ha. Funny, peculiar. He's a little bit different from the rest of the herd, shall we say.

He has a carrot top and a full red beard... fair, almost albino-like skin, piercing blue eyes and to top it off, a strange way of walking and talking. He tends to get fixated on certain things. Things that really turn his crank. And once he gets interested in something he sinks the fangs in and gives it a bloody-good shake. Doesn’t matter what it is.

For instance, he can rattle off the armaments of all Second World War fighter planes. Allied and Axis. He can tell you how many cannon the Spitfire packed, the calibre of the shells and how fast they came out of the barrel. Where he gets the information from, God only knows. Probably a combination of library books and the 'World at War' series. And he is always right. Always spot on.

He can tell you to the month when the Rolls Royce Merlin V12 engine went from 1175 horsepower to 1185 horsepower. When the cabin became pressurised and the top speed of the MKVI model released in 1942. He can tell you when the Wermacht upgraded its half-tracks or when the Italians started using fuel-injected Lamborghini scout cars or some bloody thing.

Like I said, he’s a funny guy. Has this encyclopaedic knowledge of all sorts of useless information yet he can’t so much as use a library catalogue, let alone a computer. He's not socially inept. He loves to meet people. Loves to talk. Try and shut him up. Yet he can’t hold a job down - any sort of job. He goes walkabout. He doesn’t have a car-license, although he can drive. He can play the most beautiful and intricate pieces of classical guitar yet doesn’t own an instrument and can’t string three popular chords together to play a Beatles song.

One Summer he got interested in Zane Grey, the Western writer. God knows how or why. But something got him going. ('His real name was Pearl Grey, you know'.)  He started with ‘Riders of the Purple Sage’ ('it sold two million copies, you know') then worked his way through the whole range of sixty books. After exhausting the library he trawled his way through every secondhand bookshop, car-boot sale and weekend market in a 100-mile radius of Town. Hitchhiking all the way. And no doubt ear-bashing the poor suckers who picked him up.

Then he discovered Zane Grey the Fisherman and off he went researching facts and figures. ‘Did you know?’ he’d say. A lot of Cameron’s conversations start like that.

Did you know that Zane Grey had a pathological hatred of sharks?’ 'He used to shoot them with a rifle'  or

You know, Zane Grey caught a tiger shark just off Sydney Heads in 1936 that weighed 1036 lbs?’

Then you’ll get a spiel of Zane Grey fishing feats, always accurate, of record Tuna, Swordfish, and Marlin catches. He can’t help himself. It’s as if he has to get the information out. Remember Dustin Hoffman in ‘Rain Man’ - the way he remembered telephone numbers? It’s a bit like that with Cameron. Except his 'Subject of Choice' is 'The Armament of the MarkV Spitfire' or 'Zane Grey's Record Marlin Catches'. 

One time, in a pub, a local smart-arse tried to trip him up by asserting that Zane Grey was really a doctor. Cameron replied with ‘Not quite..he studied dentistry..at the University of Pennsylvania..he got in on a baseball scholarship.' The Publican Googled it to settle the argument and sure enough, Cameron was absolutely right. Zane Grey did indeed qualify as a dentist before turning to Western writing. He made enough money at it to be able to buy a massive sailing schooner with two game-fishing launches stowed on deck.

Cameron can’t, or won’t, work. He’s thirty five years of age and has had only one regular job in his life. Working in a papershop early mornings. It didn't last very long. The most money he’d ever had in his hands was a $500 advance on benefits that you used to be able to claim from the government. He’s never signed a lease. Never had a credit card. Never owned a car. He survives on unemployment benefits of $400 a fortnight. And most of that goes in two days.

Cameron is not only a bit 'funny' - he's a junkie. A part-time nickel and dime junkie. But a junkie all the same. Every fortnight, when his dole comes, Cameron ‘gets on’. He blows $300 or so on Heroin and the rest on cappucinos and cakes. Then he heads for the hills.

Cameron likes to tramp the high country on his own. Or to put it another way – to tramp the country high on his own. He scores his dope in town then hitches up into the hills to inject the drug and roam the National Park. He pitches a pup tent (if it isn’t in the hock shop) and sleeps under the stars.

When the drugs are done and hunger comes on he hitches back into town and gets a meal at the soup kitchen and a shower at the neighbourhood centre.

 Sometimes people feel sorry for Cameron and try to help him out. One Christian couple took him in for a month. They fed and clothed him and gave him a room in their house. When he left they found empty wine bottles and drug paraphernalia under the bed. Love from Cameron.

It’s not that he’s a bad person. He doesn’t go out of his way to harm anyone. Stuff just happens. And he’s got the voodoo on him.

To be continued when I could be arsed.

Thursday
Aug112005

Almost F%#ked

I need a man to love
I need a man to love
(My Life as a Frog)

by LODA BULLDUST

About the Author

Loda Bulldust is a Paris-based writer. In another life she was an Australian poker-machine addict and pisshead. She hasn’t done much with her life at all. She didn’t finish primary school nor high school but is proud of the fact that she once attended Gamblers Anonymous for almost four weeks straight and has a Diploma (Correspondence) in Primal Screaming. She found herself in France five years ago after smoking too many bongs in an Amsterdam squat and getting on the wrong train. Loda has never studied French but she knows what “voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir” means and can tell you to “nick off” in the colloquial.

For Mum and Dad

(Whoever you were)

Et vous, connard (you know who you are)

Prologue

I left Australia after a big win on the pokies. I was playing a One Cent “Queen of the Nile” machine at the Italian Club when I got heaps of free spins and took out eight hundred bucks. I should have gone home and paid the rent and bought some food but I was feeling right naughty so I stopped off at the R.S.L. Club and the rest, as they say, is history. I got dead lucky on the “Lucky Diamonds” machine and walked with three and a half thousand bucks. I bought a ticket to Europe the next day.

It was while I was knockin’ around Slovakia that I met John-Pierre, sorry, Jean-Pierre. We were both on the same pub crawl and I fell for his accent - he sounded like Maurice Chevalier on speed or something and later on at the backpackers it was so funny when I told him I “had the shits” and he thought I said “had the sheets” and wanted to sleep with him. Well, I did, but that’s another story. Anyway when I ended up in gay Paree I needed a place to crash and J.P. had given me his address and Voila! as they say in France. I was in like Flyclick on me baby
click on me baby
nn.

I didn’t know much about France then. Oh sure, I knew they had the Eiffel Tower and the Moaning Lisa – everyone knows that. And I knew they ate snails and horse-meat and other disgusting stuff. And I knew the blokes were all big shaggers and kissed you on the hand and everything. And I knew they threw in the towel early in the piece with Hitler and collaborated and that. But you know there’s a lot more to France than just the Awful Tower, berets and baguettes. Things that you only realise after living there awhile. You can’t hope to know a place after just a few days I suppose. Although I went to Tasmania once and I reckon I could find my way around Hobart again real easy. You know...if you start at that pub near the docks.

Now remembering how dumb I was about France and the French – how naïve, I gotta smile. All those things I thought France was turned out to be wrong. Well not completely wrong. They ARE rude bastards in Paris and men and woman DO use the same loo. And what about those awful smelly Turkish-style squat toilets they have! And I’m still not sure what to do with a bidet apart from washing ones feet in it.

For a long time I couldn’t figure the French out. Why do they ignore you when you go into a shop? Why don’t they have any prices on things? Why don’t they smile? Why are they so rude to you? Why don’t they respect a queue? Why are there so many strikes?

But then there was a lot of things about me that the French couldn’t figure either. You don’t wear your trackie pants to the shops for instance. And you don’t smile at the shopkeeper – he’ll think you an idiot. You don’t get pissed in the bar and chunder in the dunny. Well pretty much hurling anywhere is off-limits. And that goes double for women. And you don’t see women getting pissed. Not like we get pissed in Australia, anyway. You can get a bit tiddly but not full-on, swinging off the chandeliers, rip-roaring drunk like we’re used to. In Paris it’s not a good look. Oh yeah…………and another one – you’re not supposed to use someone’s lavatory when out visiting. You’re supposed to go before you go, if you know what I mean. And the biggest faux-pas of them all is to drop a big smelly grogan into someone’s loo or heaven forbid technicolour yawn into their bidet. Especially if you have been eating julienned carrots.

Anyway………living with J.P. has been cool. For a Frog he’s pretty funny. And he’s now starting to talk like an Aussie. Except he doesn’t know how to use the swear words properly. And he still thinks I want to go to bed when I say I’ve “got the sheets” with something. And no matter how many times I tell him that “CUNT” is the rudest word in the English language and you have to know how to use it properly he’ll still address a stranger in a bar with “Hello you silly Cunt” and wonder why the guy wants to deck him.

If I had to pick one word to sum up my life in France it’d have to be “MERDE” which means “shit” in French (pronounced “MAIRD”). That’s because I live in Paris and you can’t go anywhere without stepping in barkers-eggs –“crottes de chiens” en Francais. It’s a real problem. At first I could never understand why Parisiens wanted you to take off your shoes at the front door of their apartments. But now I understand. The bloody stuff is everywhere. Officially it is illegal to let your mutt defecate on the footpath, street or park. You are supposed to “ramasser” – to pick it up but nobody ever does. There is a fine of Fifty Euros for disobeying but noone’s ever heard of it being enforced.

But when I say “Merde”, living in Paris doesn’t always give me the “sheets”. There are times when I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I love the way the French respect artists – any artist – whether it be painter, singer, dancer, sculptor, striptease artiste, pavement-artist, bullshit-artist. They love their artists. So when I’m asked, as I often am, “what do you do?”, I have no hesitation in replying “I’m a performance artist”. And instead of getting “So you’re on the Dole” as I would in Australia, I get “How interesting! Tell me all about it”.

It seems like just yesterday that I arrived in Paris – well woke up with a rude shock would be closer to the truth. I looked out the train window at a sign that said “Gare du Nord” and thought I was in Sweden or Norway – somewhere with big, blond blokes that liked drinking beer. Instead I had to settle for smallish, dark blokes with Inspector Clouseau accents and aperitif tastes. I was dressed in my standard summer gear – cargo-shorts and T-shirt, my hair was all over the place like a mad-woman’s breakfast and whilst not exactly woofy, I wasn’t wearing any perfume or make-up and looked like I’d been sleeping in my clothes after being on the piss all night – which was more or less what I had been doing.

I hope you get to finish this book. Well more correctly I hope I get to finish this book. I’ve never finished anything in my life. I’m a great one for starting things and never finishing them. A psychiatrist once told me it was a sure indicator of bipolar disorder (manic depression). Could be. But then some of the world’s greatest artists have been or are bi-polar. Like…..Um…..well…….(quickly goes online to consult the Web) Ernest Hemingway, Van Gogh, Winston Churchill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Tennessee Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, Sting, Francis Ford Coppola, Spike Milligan, Axyl Rose, Robin Williams, Jean-Claude Van Damme, John Daly, Mickey Mouse and Napoleon. Well alright, I made up Mickey Mouse and John Daly is a big-hitting golfer but the rest of the list is Kosher. Check it out. So if this yarn suddenly peters out you’ll know I’ve lost the thread. Or maybe I’ve gone off to write a book on Bipolar Disorder (“You Too Can Be Bi-Polar!” or “Mmmm..Make Mine Manic!”, “The Downside to the Upside” – Travels in Bipolarland”).

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again…………

CHAPTER ONE

This isn’t like me

I tumble out of the train at Gare du Nord not really knowing where I am. Paris? France? Can’t be. Everyone else seems to be half-stoned and/or hungover as well. I see French Customs up ahead and hope someone hasn’t slipped a joint into my pocket. Welcome to Paris – click click as they handcuff me and haul me off to the Bastille. What do I know about Paris? Let me see. There’s a hunchback living in Notre Dame. They do the Can-Can at Montmartre. They chopped the last King’s head off with a guillotine. Napoleon said “not tonight Josephine”. The Impressionists were impressed by the light. The Louvre has the Mona Lisa; they make great films like “Is Paris Burning”, “Diva”, “Moulin Rouge”. See, I know quite a lot already. Uh Oh. They speak French. Bonjour. Grazie. Oo air ler leaning Tower ? How hard can it be?

I’m not the sort of Sheila that shacks up with anybody

It takes forever to get through Customs. The gendarmes are giving the hippie couple in front of me a hard time and making them empty their pockets. I feel like saying “Well of course she smells of pot – she’s just come from Amsterdam, dickhead, and it is legal there you know”. Geeze. But when it comes my turn all they say when they see my Australian passport is “You like Rugby?” And I say “I prefer the League” and they wave me through with “Bonne journée, Mademoiselle…….bienvenue à Paris” which I now know means “Have a good day, Miss……Welcome to Paris”. Geeze…..Gay Paree….who would have thought?

Paris? What the fuck am I doing here?

The railway station is a mix of Art Nouveau and state-of-the-art with the old segwaying into the new. I’ve been dying to use that word ever since I heard it on the Breakfast Show on Today F.M. Kind of suits this place, don’t you think? Could be a movie title – “Segue at Gare du Nord”. Yeah that’s what this is. I’m starring in my own movie. Or maybe it’s a dream within a dream. I dunno. Seems I’ve come a long way since cracking the feature on ”Queen of the Nile” at the Italian Club. 60 free games. Who do you know that’s ever got 60 free games? So this is meant to be. God’s plan. My destiny.

Now to find J.P. Gee, I hope he doesn’t think I’m easy just because I need somewhere to stay. Maybe I won’t sleep with him again. Not straight away anyway. Make him suffer a bit

I go looking for a telephone then realise I don’t have J.P.’s phone number. Just an address – Rue de Vouille in the 14th Arrondisement. He’s written in brackets “Roo de Vooyay”. O.K. how am I gonna get there? Cab? Nah. Too expensive probably. Bus? Nah. I hate buses. Unless they’re double-decker like they have in London. I know. The Metro. The Paris Underground. I’ve seen it in the movies. Can’t be that hard to figure out.

About an hour later I’m outside J.P.’s apartment building. The trip should have taken twenty minutes but the Metro was a lot more complicated than I thought. “Follow the signs” they told me at the ticket office. Yeah right. What signs? And they’re all in French. So after taking the wrong line to begin with and then going in the wrong direction I finally got it together and managed to get myself from Gare du Nord on the Right Bank in the North of Paris to Metro station Plaisance, Line 13 Direction Chatillon Montrouge in the 14th Arrondisement or district in the Left Bank almost due South of the Gare du Nord. I’m not too sure about this “Line 13” business though. Maybe I’m making a big mistake. I hardly know this guy. What if he’s a cereal killer or something? Chops me into little pieces and puts me into his muesli. Now that I think about it he did say he was from Belgium. Or somewhere up the North of France near the Belgium border. Somewhere blokes kidnap little girls and keep them in cellars.

And I don’t know if that whole Midnight Cowboy thing is a good look. Kind of like Elvis Presley meets the Sundance Kid. But already I’ve seen a few other French guys who dress the same. Maybe those fringed suede jackets, winkle-picker boots and Navajo silver belts are back in now? This is, after all, the fashion capital of the world. And you gotta admit that skin-tight Levis leave nothing to a girl’s imagination. At least he has a job. Well he told me he had a job – paediatrician – one of those guys that scrapes the corns off your feet. Yeah I know...a childrens doctor. He’s probably an accountant or a loss adjuster if the truth be told.

Geeze, I don’t know about this arrondisement though. There’s a lot of black people around. Not that there’s anything wrong with black people. It’s just...well where I come from the blacks are all down by the river drinking all day. And if you go near them they’ll ask you for money or a cigarette. Talking of cigarettes, everyone seems to smoke here ‘cause the gutters are full of butts. Butts and dogshit. But they’re working on the doggie-doo problem I see. They have these guys on motorbikes with a vacuum cleaner on the back. No kidding, they just suck it up. Imagine doing that for a living? Whadya tell people when they ask? I’m a dog-shit sucker. Fair Dinkum.

I’m standing outside J.P.’s apartment and I’m thinking “maybe this is not such a good idea”. I look like something the cat dragged in. So I decide to find a café or a Maccas where I can tidy up a bit. Get the bong smoke out of my hair, as it were.

Ever tried ordering in a French café in English? You’d think it would be easy right? “Coffee, please garcon”. That’s not hard is it? Blank stare. O.K. “Cappucino” ? Nothing. “Flat White”? Irritated sigh. “Irish Coffee”? Outright hostility now. “Anything with caffeine in it?” Finally after going through a whole deaf and dumb sign language routine and two verses of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose”, which brings a smile to his dial, garçon deigns to bring me something. It’s drinkable but he hits me up 6 Euro – about 10 Dollars Australian. I find out later that if I’d stood at the bar with a short black – Coffee that is, not an African, it would have been less than half that. Welcome to Paris, France. “Tourists R Us” – 70 million visitors a year at last count

The lift to J.P.’s apartment looks like it was the hot item at the 1888 World’s Fair. A three-man steel cage affair. La cage aux folles as it were.

You know the taxis here will only take three passengers max. In the back. You can’t sit in the front seat next to the driver. That’s for his lunch. Or his dog. Or whatever he bloody-well wants it to be. If you wave a sizable tip under his nose you may get another person in the front. But usually it’s one cab for three people. So if you’re a party of four, it’s two cabs. You work it out.

The lift rises slowly. Reminds me of that scene with the old guy in the Stairmaster in “Arthur” or was it “Arthur II”. You know, when Dudley Moore and Lisa Minelli are checking out an apartment to rent?

After three hours it gets to the thirteenth floor. There’s that number again. If he opens the door wearing a T-Shirt with “13” printed on it I’m outta here. I stop outside J.P.’s apartment and put my ear to the door - as you do when you’re not sure what you’re getting into. I can hear drumming. Some sort of tribal drumming. African? Jamaican? Haitian voodoo?

To be continued

Wednesday
Aug102005

F.A.S.T.W.O.R.D.S. in Fiji

Larry, Curly and Mo in Fiji
Larry, Curly and Mo in Fiji
It started with an ad. I saw
in “The Sydney Morning Herald” Classifieds one weekend.


“Travel Writers Wanted for New Pacific Rim Magazine. Opportunity for immediate all-expenses paid assignment”.


I didn’t know what a “Pacific Rim” was. Thought maybe it was something to do with gay travel. But the “all-expenses paid” part rang my bells. It sounded too good to be true.


I dialled the phone number and had a long conversation with a basketweaver in Balmain. Called himself Mike Aussie. This has to be a joke I thought. ”Mike Aussie - My Cossie”. But no, this bloke said it was no joke. He really was Mike Aussie. I found out later that he had in fact changed his name by Deed Poll.


Anyway, I was intrigued, so after work one day I went out to this geezer’s gaff. He lived in a strange-looking pad by the harbour. He called it a “sustainable tourism lodge”. I’d call it a backpackers. Several nubile young women in sarongs were making cups of tea and toast in the communal kitchen. Mike Aussie seemed to be the Head Honcho or the Big Kahuna or something by the way they were flirting with him. I got the impression there was some sort of swingers club going down. But whatever rings your bells.


We went into his “office” (a spare bedroom) and he ear-bashed me for an hour or so about his project. Most of what he said was gobbledegook but the keywords were “Press Card”, “All-Expenses Paid”, “Free”, “ Trip”, “Fiji”. I’ll believe it when I see it, I thought.


Some weeks went by and I’d all but forgotten this bloke. Then he rings. Wants me to come over and help him stuff envelopes. Rambles on about “Fiji looking good...Need to get these magazines off to the international members of the Worldwide World of Wallys...Waiting on accreditation...Zambia also a possibility...Kenneth Kauanda’s a good mate...Feasted on chicken-claws and goats balls with him...Drank his toast with vampire blood...Everything is really good...Great things are happening”...Yada yada yada .......


Seems Mike Aussie had attended some dodgey Tourism conference in the Subcontinent and had managed to get on the piss with a bunch of Third World representatives all riding the gravy-train. Now I don’t know how he managed this. He didn’t seem to have any credentials aside from a loud mouth, a big set of cojones and a bad Seventies haircut. Perhaps that’s all you need. But his fellow seminarians seemed to think he was some kind of “Tourism King” and they were falling all over themselves with offers. So the Aussie came home from Deepest Darkest Africa with a swag of open-ended invitations to go to various two-bob countries and advise them on “Eco-Tourism Opportunities”. The first cab off the rank was poor bloody Fiji – pre Coup days.

We were a mixed bag of nuts that assembled at the Air-Pacific Check-In the morning of departure but only two of us had any real credentials – my Art Director and I. The rest of them were ring-ins and chancers - wannabe travel writers along for the free ride.


There were two women - a hairy under-armed Canadian backpacker who was writing “What I Did On My Holidays” and a middle-aged Aussie sheila - a tired old leftie tart that was still burning the bra and keeping the dream alive. I think she’d written an unpublished vegetarian cookbook and a tract on the healing power of crystals or some shite like that.


The other men were an alcoholic short-story writer and a short-arsed Froggie guy with an Inspector Clouseau accent who was “World President” of a nebulous travel-writing group supposedly affiliated with UNESCO that no-one had ever heard of and the head perpetrator himself, Mike Aussie in all his Hawaiian-shirt-wearing glory.


This had to be the junket of all junkets. A Ten Day Cook’s Tour of Fiji all-expenses paid – airfare, accommodation, meals – all the Fiji Bitter you could drink. And pass the Kava brother.


First stop was the Five Star Regent Hotel in Lautoka where we were given luxurious double rooms all to ourselves and our double chins. Complete with complimentary tropical fruit basket, complimentary chocolate on the pillow and complimentary turned-down sheets at night. No complimentary hula girl but maybe I had the wrong island.


We feasted that night on suckling pig, barbequed chicken, sweet potato, jackfruit, Captain Cook’s Penis and Golden Circle pineapple rings while a fierce-looking bunch of out-of-work cannibals cavorted in grass-skirts in front of us. The smoke from the oil-burning barbeque flares stung my eyes and the drums were rattling my crowns but apart from that it was alright as far as your native dancing goes. But I was a bit disappointed that the pole-dancing part of the show wasn’t topless. And what do they wear under the grass-skirts anyway?


Before setting off for The Friendly Isles we’d all been made card-carrying members of something called (and I kid you not) F.I.J.E.T.“Federation Internationale Journalistes Ecrivains and That” or whatever it was in French. This was the group that the Froggie Guy was representing. The “World President”. I think they must have been big fans of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and frigged around for days trying to work the initials “J.E.T.” into their travel-writers group acronym.


Froggie had done some deal with Mike Aussie. Maybe he said “I’ll give you seven F.I.J.E.T. Presscards for ten days in Fiji”. Who knows? But we were each issued a snappy-looking Press Card in a plastic wallet with our photo in it and a blurb explaining what-the-fuck FIJET was and would the reader please render all assistance, be kind to us and let us in free to Museums, Art Galleries and other cultural exhibitions.


Also on the card was “name of affliated organisation”. And Mike Aussie had written in black pen “F.A.S.T.W.O.R.D.S. Australia”. This was the acronym he’d come up with for his travel scam. Wait for it – “Foreign AssociationS (of) Travel Writers Organising Regional Distribution (of) Stories” . And what did this magnificent title mean? Bugger-all from what I could work out. Aussie had the delusion that he was going to co-ordinate all these travel-writers into some kind of press group like a Reuters-on-Wheels or something. And somewhere along the line do a bit of freelance eco-tourism consulting on the side. In other words he was looking for places he could whack up native-style backpackers hostels. At next-to-no-cost. This from a guy who could barely write or express himself, who’d never worked in Publishing or Journalism and as far as I could tell from all the beers I had to buy him, didn’t have two clams to rub together. In fact I didn’t know what his background was. He was very cagey about it. Maybe he’d written the Travel Section of a prison newspaper? With articles like “See the Sunny Outside”...”Where to Go When You Get Out”.....”On the Run in the South Pacific” Who knows?


The Fiji Tourist Board minder had breakfast with us the next morning - “Hard-boiled Missionary Head and fingers of toast”. No I’m kidding. There was no toast. After a few starter bowls of Kava and a Fiji Bitter chaser it was into the minibus and off to the Fiji Cultural Centre. No not the Golf Club. That came later. We transferred to dug-out canoes and were paddled upstream past thatched-roofed pavilions with happy smiling native girls weaving tapa cloth and making obscene gestures with their fingers when the official guide wasn’t looking. It was very funny. They’re nice people the Fijians - when they’re not dashing your brains out with a war-club, that is. Or barbecuing the Indian shopkeepers.


It’s all a bit of a blur now because it was awhile ago. But from what I remember we stayed in four different accommodations – from the Five Star Regent to other more downmarket joints. We had a cruise around the islands and stopped at two of them – Treasure Island and Castaway Island - both pretty tacky destinations and great favourites of the package tour set. They weren’t much more than a bunch of thatched-roofed huts arranged around a pool, restaurant and bar full of holidaying New Zealanders. Now stuck on a deserted island with a bunch of half-pissed Kiwi nurses on heat is not my idea of fun. Maybe it’s yours.


When we got to Suva, Aussie organised some publicity. He shanghaied the Frog and I into an interview with him and a staffer from the Fiji Times and we had a photo and story in the paper the next day. It showed me looking at Aussie with utter disbelief. I couldn’t believe the crap coming out of his mouth. In fact they should have drawn a cartoon bubble from my lips with “bullshit” in it. Aussie talked a complete load of bollocks to the reporter who didn’t understand any of it so consequently the story they ran was utter rubbish. Three paragraphs appeared under the photo of Larry, Curly and Mo about how the representatives of a new travel-writers group were looking for local stooges to join them. There would be a “symposium at the Suva Travelodge the next day where all writers were welcome”. The last bit being something that Aussie had thought of on the spot.


The next day two jobbing journos from the paper turned up at the so-called Symposium hoping for free grog. They sat there and were bored silly for an hour while my Art Director showed a few slides of his travel photography and talked about how to put a magazine together (“well you’ve got a page see........”). Aussie got up and waffled on about God-knows-what and then called for a few words from me. I was just getting into the part where I didn’t know what the organisation was or where it thought it was going when Aussie cut me off and we retired for drinks.


It was around about this time that the leftie tart got down and dirty with one of the locals. She disappeared for a couple of nights and we found out later she’d gone native with a Fijian Army Colonel. I reckon she must have gone back to his village and got on the Kava and beat the drums big-time. And then they played “I’m the missionary and you’re the cannibal”. Or maybe it was “Me headhunter – you planter’s daughter”. But whatever it was that happened she was wigged-out when she got back to base. She told the pisshead short-story writer later that it was the “best sex she’d ever had”. Thing is, the Fijian had this cracker of a moustache – she brought him into the hotel to show him off – which you couldn’t forget or mistake and I swear it was the very same fella that staged the later coup – Colonel Rum something.....Colonel Rumballs......Rumjungle.......no....Colonel Rambuka that was it.


The highlight of the tour was the Cocktail Party at the Governor Generals mansion on the last day of our stay. I don’t know why they had it at the end. Sort of good riddance to bad rubbish I guess...rather than a “Welcome to Fiji”. Or maybe the G.G. had been booked solid the previous ten days. Or perhaps it’s the Fijian way – to throw a party when your guests are leaving. Dunno.


The wing-ding was organised by the Fiji Tourist Board and they announced us one by one over the microphone to polite clapping. When it came to me they described me as the “Editorial Director of a large number of International Magazines” Not quite true. It wasn’t a large number of magazines at all. Try seven. But a loud “OOOOOahhhhh” came from the Fijians present. You’d think they’d been introduced to Prince Charles or something. Or maybe it was just the Kava refluxing on them. I was embarrassed but quite touched that they should be impressed by this pretty ordinary hack from Sydney. Then we hooked into the tropical punch and the cocktails and the Fijian-style finger-food “as the sun sank slowly into a scarlet sea”. And I went back to the Travelodge and threw up.


Footnote: I ran into Mike Aussie five years after this trip. Or rather I saw him first and managed to avoid him. He was delivering mineral water to the offices where I worked and was decked out in a canary-yellow uniform with a snappy white peaked-cap and was wheeling a trolley. In homage I spent the rest of the afternoon making up acronyms to suit his latest gig.


F.A.S.T.W.O.R.D.S.(Foreign Association of Travel Writers Organising Regional Distribution of Stories) was the original.


F uck A ussie! S o T his’s W hat O rganising R egional D istribution mean S


Second Prize went to:


F iji A nd S ociety islands - T o W elcome t O R eality D umb S hit


The Consolation Prize:


F air dinkum Aussie Sinks T o W heeler O f ae R ated DrinkS


And The People’s Choice:


F ly-by-nighters A nd S cammers T ravelling W orldwide


O n R ather D odgy credentialS


DISCLAIMER: All the characters in this story are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental( my arse!).

Wednesday
Aug102005

"Of course she won't mind"

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House in Provence
Let’s make one thing clear from the off. I’m a fifth generation fair-dinkum Aussie and proud of it. My Great, Great, Grandfather was a free-settler. A Pioneer. He came out from England in 1836 and is buried in Australia’s oldest cemetery, St John’s Parramatta. Along with Samuel Marsden, assorted First Fleeters, bushrangers and convicts. My old man (who died last year) was a survivor of the Sandakan P.O.W. camp. I’m proud to be Australian. But I married a frog and I live in Paris now. This is where I washed up.

I like it here. It’s “sympathique”. But I spend most of my time in the apartment (“playing with my wing-wang” the rottweiler...I mean “the wife” says). I don’t get out much. Yeah, sad, I know. This is partly because my French is crap and I don’t have any French mates. In fact I’m pretty much “Johnny-No-Mates”. Stuff happens.

I get out a bit. I take junior with me to do the shopping at the supermarché or the boulangerie. At the supermarket I don’t have to talk much. Just “bonjour” and “au revoir” to the checkout girl. Or “bonjour, une baguette s’il vous plaît” at the bakery.

I can ride the Metro and the bus all day around this great Metropolis without having to speak a word to anyone if I don’t want to. Although lately I seem to be saying “pardon” or “je suis désolé” (“I’m sorry”) an awful lot - the young bloke has learned how to blow raspberries at little old ladies we pass in the street.

Last Saturday night I was bored or lonely. Maybe both. Her indoors was away. I’d been working on the computer all day and there was nothing decent on the television – a choice between a programme on the Cannes Film Festival on 1, something called “Fort Boyard” on 2 featuring topless dancers from the Crazy Horse Saloon and a resident dwarf playing some sort of ‘Gladiators’-type game. Channel 3 had a telefilm called “Docteur Sylvestre”, which from what I could make out was a medico going to nick and discovering his stir-crazy cell-mate was really a woman (giving a whole new meaning to the expression “doing bird”).

Channel 4 or ‘Canal Plus’ is a pay-to-view and I’m too tight to buy it. Channel 5, the Channel 2 of France, had a doco to do with the curse of the Incas gold - a right little gripper that had me on the nod in five minutes flat. That left Channel 6, kind of like the local Channel 10, which had “La Trilogie du Samedi Charmed” – some hocus-pocus with that stupid tart Shannon Doherty.

A lot of French television is dubbed from the original English or German. So listening to Sean Connery as James Bond, for instance, speaking French “Je m’appelle Bond...James Bond” is a bit weird. And when an evil Nazi Gestapo torturer says “We have ways and means of making you talk” somehow it doesn’t sound quite as menacing in a Parisian accent as the original Kraut.

And of course they never get the lip-sync right so every one of these dubbed movies ends up being like “Mr Ed – the Talking Horse”.

Last night I tried watching a Charles Bronson movie but his voice sounded more like something out of the Marais - the gay district here. I’ve had a few good laughs but it’s wearing thin. I long for the sound of English being spoke proper like. When Channel Five puts on an English-language movie I pounce on it no matter whether I’ve seen it before or not. The odd Aussie film pops up too. “Muriel’s Wedding” for instance.

That’s why I’ve been hanging out at the backpackers –“The Three Ducks” just off Rue des Entrepreneurs in the 15th Arrondisement. I need to talk my own language. I’ve become a bit of an “habitué”. Just about everyone speaks English and they have a bar. A pint off-the-tap of crap, flat Kronenbourg in a dirty glass costs €3.30 which is pretty good for Paris. You can pay €20 for a beer in a club here.

The other day in The Ducks I was talking to this young guy from Melbourne who’d been working in a London pub. After awhile the conversation went off the boil. We were down to “where are you from?” and “how long have you been here? Then a Yank joined us. He was from Alaska so we rubbed noses. No...I’m kidding. He was born and bred in Minnesota and had moved igloos north to Alaska. He was doing a PHD at a Irish university, to be sure, to be sure. Something to do with sports injuries. Well so he said. Whatever. I’m a rocket scientist myself. Anyway...it was hot and the beers were flowing and we bonded, as you do. Next thing I know I’ve invited him to dinner the next night – the Sunday of the Tour de France finish in Champs Elysées.

So getting to the point...I tell the French sheila (the one I married, remember?) when she gets home Sunday morning we have a dinner guest that evening. She goes off the Richter! Full dummie spit. Who have you invited to dinner?! How do you know him?! How dare you invite him into our home! Where did you meet him?! What do you know about him?! Then she chucks the Mother-of-all-Tantrums and announces she’s going to stay in the bedroom all night. She doesn’t want to meet him.

You see, French people don’t invite strangers home. Home is the castle – the chateau. You invite people you don’t know very well to join you at a restaurant. Never at your home.

So suddenly remembering this, I suggest we take him out for a meal. “That means we have to pay for him” she says. I say “Well let’s go to the Lebo’s around the corner”. She says “Weel eet be o-pen?”

It’s as plain as fingers nose she doesn’t want anything to do with this guy. So I say “Fine..I’ll go out with him..over to Pigalle..we’ll find a girlie bar..have some fun..remember fun?”.

“Maybe I’ll ring Smithee and Mountjoy...see if they want to tag along. Live a little. After that we might push the Deux Chevaux over to E’s place...take her some Absinthe...interrupt her knitting...beat up her bikie-type boyfriend...throw up on her shrubbery.”

In the end the Seppo came to dinner. Right on time with a present for the raspberry-blower and a very nice bottle of Chateau Rothschild Bordeaux ’99 or some such.(I’m no wine buff so don’t even try picking me up on it.)

His manners were impeccable, his socks didn’t smell and he’d ironed his cargo pants. I made a chicken caesar salad. We drank cold beers and rosé. Had a few laughs. He showed us photos of his time in gaol. No...I made that part up.

We finished the evening with a cigar on the balcony. I was reminded of a quote from Marx. No not that Marx. Groucho Marx:-

“A man’s only as old as the woman he feels”...ah hang on...bit confused...went off the medication...”A woman is an occasional pleasure but a cigar is always a smoke”.

Written & directed by lambe, paris.

Tuesday
Aug092005

The Cold Man

wowgut.jpgA few years ago I had a gig as a copywriter in a provincial city F.M. radio station. It was in brand-new studios at the top of a high-rise glass office building overlooking a stretch of mangroves and tidal-flats “somewhere in Queensland”. It was a pretty good set-up. They had two on-air studios, a news-room, production facilities with 24-track mixing boards and various other executive offices and a Board Room. It was State-of-the-Art, which is more than could be said for the staff.


The F.M. license had cost the owners, a consortium of local businessmen, a motza. So savings had to be made in other areas. Mainly wages. Most of the jocks were straight out of radio school and the all-important sales team were a mish-mash of failed real-estaters and used car salesmen. They’d had a crash course in radio terms and fancy marketing concepts like “cumes” and “demographics” but mostly they didn’t have a clue how to go about selling radio space. Part of my job as “Creative Director” was to wise them up “el pronto” so we could start bringing in revenue.


One of our early clients was a local pub, “The Do Drop Inn”, that was, for good or for bad, next door to the catholic church. It was an ordinary suburban pub with a theme restaurant attached. The initial advertising brief was on my desk after I got back from a $10 “surf & turf” lunch one day into my fourth month.


“Client wants something creative” the dumb-fuck salesman had written.


Yeah? Like what? How about “Jesus gets pissed in our bar then eats our shit food. So should you”.


I was sick of it. I’d spent the last few months training the sales staff on “how to take a proper brief”. We’d had weekly sessions on it. And still they were giving me briefs like that.


“Put in as much detail as you can” I’d said to them. “You know the product, but I don’t. I’m stuck in this fishbowl trying to write and produce fuck-knows-how-many spots a day”.


One day, for instance, I made twenty-two radio commercials from go-to-whoa and didn’t leave work until ten that night. Then I backed up the next day with another fifteen. That’s a shit-load of work for any guy. And of course every bastard wanted their ad to be “creative”. They wanted funny voices, they wanted jingles, they wanted Sound Effects, they wanted 64-Flavours of Ice-Cream To Go and they wanted something “different”. They wanted Big-City production at Mickey Mouse prices.


As I kept telling the sales team, whatever happened to pushing product? You think putting John Cleese’s voice in an ad automatically sells truckloads of cheese or some shit? It doesn’t. For one thing, some people hate John Cleese, hate the whole Basil Fawlty thing. Not me. I love it. But a so-called “creative” ad just for the sake of winning the client over and writing the airtime can blow up in your face if it doesn’t work. And it didn’t help when all I got was a brief saying “client wants something creative”.


So after reading the “Do Drop Inn” brief I got Mandy, the Sales Rep. responsible for it, in to my office. Behind her back everyone called her “Randy Mandy”. She thought she was God’s gift to mankind. She’d be right in your face so you’d get a lungful of her perfume and an eyeful of her pushed-up tits. She’d flutter her eyelids with what she thought was a dead-sexy “I’m all yours” look. If you were a bloke who hadn’t had sex for a few years or weren’t too fussy it worked. She’d been a model in the Seventies but had been around the track a few times since. The undercarriage was sagging and the Duco was touched-up in places, if you get my drift. I couldn’t stand her. Not many of the staff could. She’d managed to alienate just about every woman in the place after only two weeks. The men, for the most part, thought her a joke. But the General Manager, for some reason, thought the sun shone out of her freckle. Maybe there was a bit of extra-curricular going on. Who knows? So for his sake I had to tolerate her. But luckily I had a few things on her. Things she was rather the world didn’t know about. For one, I knew Johnny Shanks had given her a knee-trembler up against his Holden the night of the ratings party. Apparently she never got over it as she put her car into the river on the way home. Things didn’t go too swimmingly with her hubbie either. She told him a cat ran out on the road in front of her. I guess he knew it had something to do with a pussy.


The ratings party was a hoot. We were all pissed on the free booze by eight. I even missed the staff photo as I was too busy gargling a charcoal-filtered Millers at the bar. It was a good survey. We were the number one station in the region and had only been on air three months. Management had booked a fancy restaurant and all booze was on them until nine o’clock. Things went progressively downhill after that. The Production Manager, a nasty little control-freak that no-one liked but put up with because he was good at his job, had a hooter full of toot and broke a mirror in the Gents. One of the “Call Girls” – the chicks who rang people to see what music they liked, did the “Dance of the Seven Veils” on a table-top, fell off and fractured her arm. Two of the “Traffic Tarts” went skinny-dipping under the pier and everyone had a decko at them through the see-through glass dance floor. And the Jock who did Midnight-to-Dawn and was hoping to be upgraded to Drive went the grope on the Company Secretary who complained to the Chairman who made sure he was stuck on the graveyard shift for another year.


Randy Mandy couldn’t come up with a decent brief to save her life so I went around to meet the client – the Publican of “The Do Drop Inn”.


It was a typical nondescript suburban Queensland pub with a huge neon XXXX sign on the roof and a couple of bars full of sweaty workers in blue singlets and thongs. Very blokey. About the only thing it had going for it was a large faux-adobe Spanish el-rancho hacienda steakhouse sort of affair attached to the beer-garden.


“Jesus!” I thought, “how the fuck am I going to position this dump?”


I shook hands with Smitty the publican. Or rather, he crushed my mit in his, the way those cane-toads do and we looked each other up and down. I knew what he was thinking. “Another smartarse from “Down South”. Me...I’m thinking “this guy’s huge!” He had to be every bit of eighteen stone. And no spring chicken. Maybe the sunny side of fifty. Probably played Rugby League for Queensland in his youth. With a nickname like “Terminator” or “Tanker” or some bloody thing. Eating a dozen cold pies for breakfast like Artie Beetson used to do. But now he had the big beer-gut, the balding boofhead sun-spotted face and the Errol Flynn moustache – a typical middle-aged cane-toad.


We sat in the restaurant and drank Fourex while kicking a few ideas around. Smitty thought he might like to feature the restaurant in the ads. He went through the menu describing each dish. “T-Bone, chips & salad”, “Rump Steak, chips & salad”, “Lasagne, chips & salad”, “Sea Perch, chips & salad”. Like that. Then we had a decko at the bars (the “Sportsmans Bar” and the “Pelican Lounge”) and finished up with a tour of the Drive-In Bottlo and the cellars.


“Whadyareckon?” he says.


What did I reckon? Tell you the truth I didn’t know what to think. It was a pub. A common or garden variety suburban Queensland pub. It wasn’t even on the water. It had nothing going for it. No “U.S.P.” as advertising types used to say. No “Unique Selling Proposition” as far as I could see. But I had to do something with it.


“What’s unique here Smitty? What do you do better than any other pub here?”


The big fella thought for a minute.


“Well……our bottle-shop beer’s bloody cold – coldest beer around I’d reckon”.


“And that’s important is it?”


“It is if you’re a Queensland beer drinker.”


Fair enough. It gave me something to work with.


The first ad went to air three days later. Like this:


“Smitty O’Brien’s a cold bastard. Why is he a cold bastard? Because he sells the coldest beer in captivity. The beer you buy at The Do Drop Inn Drive-In Bottlo King Street, Fairhaven is kept at a constantly-monitored temperature just over freezing point. So by the time you get it home it’s perfect to drink.


Do Drop Inn Beer – probably the Coldest Beer in Queensland. Brought to you by that cold bastard – Smitty O’Brien.


The Do Drop Inn. King Street, Fairhaven. Pick up a pack today.”


A series of 30-second spots followed. All built around the theme of Smitty O’Brien being a cold bastard. The joke being that he was very much the opposite. He was well-known in the community for his generosity and charity. Far from being “cold” he was a warm affable, outgoing kind of bloke with many friends. He was also a bit of a piss-pot which can’t be bad for a publican.


The ads went to air R.O.S. – Run of Station. Which meant we pestered the fuck out of you all day. There would be several in the prime Breakfast slot, a couple in Morning, several more in Drive and one or two dropped on air during Night or Graveyard. The first week established the “Cold” hook and then we had some fun with it using the same gravel-voiced announcer each time. The only problem was we had to drop the word “bastard” and substitute “man” as several wowsers rang to complain. No matter. It still worked like a bewdy.


“Oh no!!What’s the Cold Man up to now? This won’t do Smitty. You’ve lost the plot son!


Free Beer! Yes you heard right - Free Beer!


This afternoon between 4 and 6 they’re giving away Free Fourex at The Do Drop Inn, King Street, Fairhaven.


Buy one Fourex – get one Free!


This’ll never work Smitty. No-one will fall for this. Who’s ever heard of free beer?


This arvo at The Do Drop Inn, King Street, Fairhaven. Free Beer!


Brought to you by that Champion of the Underdog, Master of the Free World, that indefatigable Cold Man – Smitty O’Brien.”


Well...what can I say? It was a free-for-all, an ugly scene. The freeloaders came arunning from miles around – they ran through the bushes and they ran through the brambles, they ran through the places where the rabbits couldn’t go. You’d think they’d never heard of free beer. Well...they hadn’t. They were three or four deep at the bar, getting ‘em in. Then sinking them like there was no tomorrow. Not just the blokes either. The “ladies” were there in force at well. The foam was flying. Talk about ”responsible service of alcohol”. Now days you couldn’t do it. The law won’t allow “encouraging excessive consumption of alcohol by two-for-one offers, dollar-drinks and other special offers and enticements”. But in those days in Queensland, it was anything goes.


Six barmaids couldn’t take the pace and the cellar ran dry shortly after seven o’clock – an hour after the supposed cut-off for the freebies. There might have been a riot had extra kegs not been borrowed from a neighbouring pub to enable the session to go until “stumps”.


A couple of weeks later we ran another beer promotion disguised as the announcement of a betting shop opening. Like this:


“Good news punters! You can now get TAB at the Do Drop Inn. Yes T.A.B. – the Tote, has come to the D.D.I. King Street, Fairhaven, Q.L.D.


So now you can have a pot and a punt at the same time. And this afternoon between 1 and 4, Smitty “fair dinkum battlers mate” O’Brien is laying on Fourex for 95 cents. How good’s that?


Best P.O.Q. down to the T.A.B at the D.D.I., King Street, Fairhaven.


Good on you Smitty Poohs………..love the shirt!”


The last bit was a reference to a lurid Hawaiian shirt Smitty had been wearing the night before when Security found him passed out in one of the Gents at the Bowlo and suggested he might like to sleep elsewhere (But I admit I nicked the idea from “Hey, Hey It’s Saturday).


After this we had to tone the ads down a bit. They worked like a beauty but we were beginning to cop some flak. Several do-gooders and Christian fundamentalist bible-bashers wrote to the papers and rang the radio station to complain. But from my point of view and Smitty’s, it had been a rip-roaring success. Bar sales went through the roof and we attracted a whole new sub-class of low-down, bludging, freeloaders hoping for another promotion like it. But all we gave ‘em was “Fourex Beer Off the Wood” – which is big in Bananaland. The beer came from wooden kegs instead of stainless steel. The punters will tell you it tastes much better. But I dunno – cat piss is cat piss in my book.


During this time Randy Mandy pestered the fuck out of Smitty. She had him in her sights and finally nailed him after a session at the Bowling Club. Apparently they “did it” on the terrace with people in the bar on the other side of the tinted glass. Rumour has it she either sat on him or they were standing up against the glass. The latter probably. After all she already had a bit of “previous” in that department. But either way I gave them ten points for artistic interpretation. And Smitty got her “out of his system” as he put it to me later.


Smitty changed pubs not long after that but his reputation followed. He still got mail addressed to “The Cold Man” and the boys in the bar slapped him on the back and called him “Champion of the Underdog”, “Love your Shirt” and invariably the chant went up “Free Beer...free beer...free beer!”.


Disclaimer: All characters in this bullshit story are just that – bullshit. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. But if you feel you have a strong case for defamation, go right ahead. But I should warn you, the queue forms to the right.


lambe, paris.