Tonight I got the offer of a ticket, half an hour before the bell, to see Staff Benda Bilili and made myself say "Yes". After a wonderfully impromptu, rolling pub crawl last night that finished gracefully on the floor of the revolution-inspired shabby chic of Liberte' bar, I was feeling very much that I should eat a decent dinner of spinach and fish and go to bed early. But somehow I found myself at Darth Vader's weekender, the local entertainment centre, mingling with the glitterati, feeling quite crusty with my dirty hair and lacky siders, corralled into sitting squashed next to random folk in the hot dark and watching the support act do beat box stuff in bright red overalls.
It wasn't them. It was me.
I bolted, sorry to say. I often have problems in crowded spaces, with the weight of expectation of getting my money's worth adding to my general claustrophobia and crankiness. My date must be quite befuddled by my behaviour and is probably watching a ripping show as I write this. On my way through the geometric chaos of the entertainment centre hallways I felt like bursting into tears at my feral, social inadequacies.
But I did realise that I've never really been into these kind of big events. A recent study found that people in general often don't enjoy going out for dinner or sit down shows because of the expectation factor. "I've paid, therefore I want to be bedazzled. Anything less will make me unhappy." And yet, they still do it, again and again. I dunno. Any gig where I am shown my seat and told to sit in it for a few hours, whether it be a movie, a dinner or a show, just does not agree with my need to dance, to walk, to talk. Give me a fire and some folk with guitars.
I walked out of the sliding doors and breathed in the sea. The wind still hasn't dropped. Some men sat in an alcove out of the wind at the bottom of the stairs. They were black men, brown men. One of them wore a white hat and a white suit. I asked him for a light and they all smiled and gave me a box of matches. So I shared a light and had a smoke with the boys of the Staff Benda Bilili.
To get back to my original theme, I eschewed the readings that took place below the decks of the Amity. Later I told Janette Turner Hospital and Kim Scott that I would loved to have heard them read but the idea of squeezing with eighty other folk into the bowels of a replica ship that once carried convicts and sheep just scared the crap out of me. Janette responded with a perfectly reasonable request for a beer. She'd just got off a plane from the Perth festival circuit and climbed into a wooden boat with eighty people. It was beer o'clock. The fellow local writer looked at me. As a non drinker, he was completely out of the loop. It would be the same situation for me if a rock star I was 'looking after' wanted some cocaine. "Janette wants a beer. Have you got any beer? No? How do I do this buying beer thing? Where do I score beer?"
The next day two spunky young women got off the plane. One is a self confessed pornographer, the other is ... I'm not going into her biography here but she is just a fucking gorgeous, talented writer and funny and her grandfather (who is also famous) had a long standing affair with Nan Mouskouri. They were both going straight into a panel from the tarmac. "Would you like something to eat and a cup of tea?" I asked them, feeling overwhelmed by meeting these two great women writers.
"We want wine. White wine. In mugs. It will look much more respectable." In the local paper there is a lovely shot of these two writers clanking coffee cups together, grinning, ever so slightly shitfaced.