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Thursday
Aug182005

Square Peg, Round Hole

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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.

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