I’m walking Nitro the Two Toned Cavoodle. We have just finished our nightly stroll along Bondi Beach and have crossed Campbell Parade. I tie him up outside one of Bondi’s many Ezy Marts and head in to get some chocolate. Specifically – a hundred gram bar of Lindt Orange Intense Dark chocolate (LOID). My weekly stash has been consumed. Although I’m heading to the supermarket the next day, I need a LOID fix tonight. Even if it’s going to cost me five dollars instead of the usual three. So I pluck the bar from the shelf (the top shelf, of course) and return home. Netflix cued, I tear open the box and unwrap the foil, expecting to see the usual deep dark brown waxy rectangular corner. But instead I’m confronted by a horrific site – the bar is covered in blotches where the deep dark brown has faded to dog poo beige. NO!!!! Sun damage. Or out of date. I check the use by date stamped on the box. Still a month to go. So not quite expired. But most definitely not entering my mouth. I express my disappointment to my wife. She offers me a left over Easter Egg. I take a bite and though it’s actually better than the usual crap Easter chocolate, it is in another universe compared to the tongue tingling delights of LOID. Although my original intention is to return the damaged bar the next day, by half way through our Netflix show I decide that I will take it back once the program is over. I explain to my wife my logic that the guy who sold me the bar will still be there and therefore there won’t be any question over where I actually bought it. But I know the real reason I’m willing to head back out into the night. I need a fix. So Nitro the Two Toned Cavoodle is quite pleasantly surprised to be heading back out for his second walk of the night. Once again he is tied up as I go into Ezy Mart. I begin by seeing if the guy remembers that I was there an hour earlier. He does. Good start. I then show him the blotted choc. He agrees that it doesn’t look right. He opens the till to fetch five dollars. But I suggest we have a look at another bar of LOID just in case. I tell him that if it’s ok that I’ll just take it. He agrees. I open the only other bar of LOID left. Beige blots. Bugger. He hands over five dollars. I head up the road about fifty metres to the next Ezy Mart. The set up is the same. The LOID sits on the top shelf with the rest of the Lindt. The only difference is a little hand written sign saying $5.49. Really? They are charging fifty cents more than the other already over priced amount? I take the bar to the counter and point out this discrepancy. The counter guy is actually intrigued and says I only need to pay $5. I also relate my tale of blotted choc woe. I tell him that I want to open it up in the shop just in case. He agrees. I rip open the box. I start to unwrap the foil, counter guy watching over my shoulder. I feel like Charlie opening a Willie Wonka bar, hoping for a gold ticket. There is no gold ticket. But there is a deep dark brown rectangular corner. Hooray! I fold the foil over and stuff it back in the box. I grab the dog and start heading home. That’s when it occurs to me – I am a chocoholic, a LOID junky. I go home and have my fix.
Our little family of three is doing something we haven’t done for over a decade – we are heading west on Easter Monday to rub shoulders with the masses at the Royal Easter Show. The last time we all did this my son was about two and half. It was the first time he’d ever encountered certain animals – the ones not found on footpaths or at the zoo. These included cows. He had seen plenty of little plastic ones, of course, but was somewhat thrown by the size of the real thing. But once he grasped the concept, he then proceeded to point at each one and proclaim: “A cooooow.” This occurred a couple of hundred times as we made our way past their stinky stalls. The next year he and I went on our own. At one point he was on some kiddy ride and I was down below looking for something in my bag. I heard a kid calling out ‘Dad’ but didn’t think much of it and didn’t look up. But when that same voice started calling out “Charles”, I figured out who it was and looked to see my grinning three year old enjoying his ride. But now he’s a teenager, how will we all go on our first family RES trip in a long time? He has his own money in his pocket so that should minimise (though not eradicate) his pleading for us to buy him crap. And it is this celebration of crap that has always been something I’ve struggled with at these sorts of events and is probably what has kept me away for so many years. Each time I walk through a show crowd and see people carrying around the latest pieces of popular culture branded plastic shite, I get a little down. I think it’s such a waste and evidence of just how shallow our society has become. Interestingly, on this visit, though I’m aware of the parade of plastic shite, it doesn’t seem to bother me as much. Am I mellowing? Or have I just become resigned to the fact that I live in a shallow society? We soon see something that intrigues us – a tent full of egg shaped chairs with people being buffeted about wearing virtual reality head sets. My son and I decide to give it a go (though of course I have to pay the $20 required) while my wife watches. After some lost in translation exchanges with a Japanese operator, we are seated in separate pods and informed that we are about to go to Jurassic Park. We will be shooting dinosaurs – but aiming by moving our heads until we have the killer creatures in our sights. Soon I am transported into a 3D world – a world where Japanese is the language of choice. Having no idea what’s being screamed in my headset by a very distressed but sexy Japanese tour guide, I still get the general idea that I should try to kill the various rampaging reptiles before they kill me. One actually lifts me off the ground and drops me from a great height. But I seem to survive and manage to kill more dinosaurs with a screaming sexy tour guide wrapped around me. The adventure finally finishes and I stumble out of my egg feeling very queasy. I had already informed my son that I may not be joining him on any rides and this has sealed it – no way am I paying any more money to get tossed and whirled about. Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to bother him. We both accept that our one token show thrill was shooting dinosaurs in a Japanese 3D world. I need food so we grab some mediocre lamb kebabs, chips and Coke. Though it shouldn’t, this settles my stomach. We’re then off to see some animals. My wife and I tell our son the ‘coooow’ story as we check out the latest bovine generation. Then it’s off to the chooks. Who would have guessed it but my son is fascinated with chickens. So much so that he considers spending his pocket money on a $30 chook (an idea which, once laughed at, is quickly quashed). It’s then off to the doggies. The line into the exhibition area is so ridiculous that we head straight for the arena. This turns out to be perfect timing as the Best in Show comp is just about to start. Half a dozen dogs of different breeds are competing to be top dog. One doesn’t even look like a dog but more like a tiny shaved horse. The crowd favourite is a misbehaving Malamute (my wife and son join forces to torment me by repeatedly calling it a Husky). Much to my surprise, the misbehaving Malamute takes the chocolates (though not literally as they would kill him – he has to settle for an oversized ribbon and multiple trophies – not sure why one isn’t enough). Speaking of chocolates, the time has finally come for what has always been the driving force behind my son’s motivation to come all the way out here – Showbags. He is disappointed to learn, however, that neither of his parents are in any way interested in Showbag Hell and will instead be going to check out the giant pumpkin at the food pavilion. He can go on his own and phone us later to meet up. Reluctantly, he trudges off while go check out a 174 kilo pumpkin. The food pavilion also holds such treasures as a stand selling Limecello (that’s right – not Lemoncello but Limecello!) and I buy a bottle of that and a Passionfruitcello for the Mrs for a mere $65 (bargain!). Once we are re-united with our son and all have some Lemon Myrtle ice cream (yum!), we sample some tongue tingling chilli jerky which I then buy. All happy with our various goodies, we then pile into the train and head back east, satisfied by our excursion into our shallow society’s Showland.
Once again I must confess to yet another memory whose details have grown fuzzy. The year was possibly around 1994-95 but could have been a little earlier or later. I was producing a music video for ABC Music but can’t tell you the song or even all of the featured artists, other than that there were a few. What I can confirm is that Deborah Conway, former lead singer of 80’s band Do Re Mi and by the mid 90’s a significant solo artist (“Alive and Brilliant” remains one of my favourite Aussie songs), was one of these artists. I must now also confess that I had nurtured a crush for Ms. Conway for several years and although I did my very best to feign a cool demeanour when told that I’d be working with her, I don’t think I fooled anybody. Although I was supposedly producing the clip, it’s low budget meant that I also performed whatever other minor tasks were required. One such job was picking up Deborah and taking her to location. Yippeee! I arrived at her place mid morning but she had just woken up and was not feeling (or looking) like a singing celebrity. So first stop was a café to get her something to kick start her day. She was a bit better after that but I could sense she was not overjoyed at having to perform. But professional that she is, she shook off her hangover and was soon being made up. This seemed to transform her into a star. We must have shot a few scenes with her but the one that I remember involved driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a 1950’s candy apple red Cadillac convertible. (Here’s an interesting aside – I had to arrange the hire of the Caddy and got it from a garage that, a couple of year’s later, I would be living on top of in a little bachelor flat and, a matter of months later, I would then be driving such Caddys for weddings in an effort to earn money for my trip to Europe – strange coincidence…). Anyway, for safety reasons, with Deborah sitting on top of the Caddy’s backseat for a better camera angle, I had to be on the floor holding her ankles so she wouldn’t tumble off the back and feature on the six o’clock news. So there I was, laying on the floor of a Cadillac, my hands wrapped around the ankles of whom I considered to be one of the hottest women on the planet. Afterwards, when she was feeling more animated as I drove her back home, we had a very interesting chat about many things, including what her ex-lover, eccentric director Peter Greenaway, was like. And as special as this shared moment was, it didn’t come close to holding her ankles in the back of a Cadillac driving across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was and remains one of the highlights of my life.
I am buying the weekend edition of the Sydney Morning Herald from one of Bondi’s many Ezy Marts. I pay my money, smile at the guy behind the counter and am just about to grab the paper when the Ezy Mart guy beats me to it and starts flicking through the pages. This throws me and I watch him, bemused. I’m about to ask him what’s up when, again, he beats me to it. “Read this.” He points at an article at the top of page six with a photo of a guy taking a beach selfie with a couple of mates. “Ok – will do.” I grab the paper and leave before he has the chance to suggest any other articles. Once I’m home, showered and ready to read, I of course immediately turn to page six. The headline is: “Terrorism probe of fatal stabbing at service station.” As I work my way through it, I realise the article is about the Caltex shop worker who was killed by a couple of crazed teens in Queanbeyan the day before, possibly as an act of ISIS inspired terror. I had seen something on the news the night before. It was a sad story. But why had the Ezy Mart guy wanted me to read it? The Caltex worker was Pakistani. It’s possible my Ezy Mart guy was too. Did he know the victim? I look at the photo and notice that the two mates in the background have had their faces pixilated. Why? Maybe it was a Facebook photo and the paper didn’t want to track down the mates to ask for consent. I wonder if any of my Facebook photos will ever appear in the paper. Maybe the one of me dressed as a Japanese medieval warrior, sword in hand. It would be an ironic image if I’m ever a murder victim. My mind wanders back to the Ezy Mart guy. What if he had no other connection with the victim other than having shared a similar job? Maybe he just wanted me (and whoever else he urged to read the article) to simply think about people like him who work in such shops – potentially vulnerable to crazed killers. If so, he succeeded. I go back to the front page and read about how a tweeting president is getting closer to his goal of starting World War Three.
We have new neighbours. I know this because the window of our kitchen looks across a gap between buildings and into the kitchen window of a unit in the block next door. I already knew that the previous residents had vacated and was reasonably happy about it. They recently had a baby daughter whose lung capacity was rapidly expanding, giving her ever greater volume. Her parents were no doubt unconcerned whether or not we were bothered by her nightly screams, given that over the past three years they had endured the frequent and unpredictable yapping of Nitro the Two Toned Cavoodle. So their exit has pretty much suited all parties. The new neighbours are a fairly young, relatively attractive couple. Perhaps this is their first place together. They certainly seem very lovey-dovey. I know this because earlier today I saw them kissing in the kitchen. Cute. Then the guy started making humping motions while the girl giggled. Normally I might find such playfulness endearing – testament to the joys of young love. But, unfortunately, because this action was framed by that particular window, I was a little horrified. This is no fault of theirs. The blame rests solely with the original resident that lived there when we first moved in. At first he was a bachelor. After an impressive parade of women passed by that window over several years, finally there was just one. It was in the first year together that my wife and I happened to spy them late one night. I was vaguely aware of their presence but wasn’t really paying much attention as I was so used to seeing them. It was my wife who, somewhat wide-eyed, suggested I take a closer look. I did and saw the woman standing in a robe. The man was opposite, leaning against the kitchen counter. But he wasn’t wearing a robe. In fact, he wasn’t wearing anything at all. This in itself was a shock. But wait – there’s more. Not only was he naked, a certain part of his anatomy was standing to attention. And, believe it or not – there’s more still. The organ in question was not just standing to attention – it was moving up and down, as if being put through a late night exercise routine. There are not many things I have seen in my life that I wish I could unsee – but that image is, and will probably remain, at the top of my list. From that moment on, we always referred to that neighbor as ‘Flexi’. So, while it’s likely that the young lovers next door are wonderful people, any hanky-panky they get up to in their kitchen, clothed or otherwise, will always rekindle that stomach churning image of Flexi in action.