Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dolphin Pup

"Does anyone know how it died?"
"No, it looks healthy enough."
"We rang C.A.LM," Billie told me. "They said they would come out soon and pick it up for an autopsy. They asked us to drag it up, onto the beach. So we did that.
Then, about lunchtime, those Japanese people who are camping up the other end, they took it down and put it back in the water!" Billie smiled at me.
"The woman was very upset. She kept washing the dolphin down. She said to me, 'It's still alive. Look, its fins are moving.' Of course that was the water, the waves making its fins move, you know? I told her, 'It's really dead, dear. And the C.AL.M man wants us to keep it up on the sand.' But I don't know if she understood what I was saying, being foreign and all."

The dolphin had the needle teeth of a pup, just pushing through fleshy gums. It's skin was thin and smooth. It's eyes were shut and one was bloodied.

"C.A.L.M, the first thing they asked on the phone is whether the dolphin has any bullet wounds. But there aren't none. So anyway, after we pulled it up on the sand, he turned up, in his four wheel drive and drove down on the beach and in a circle around the dead dolphin. Salt Sister saw him, didn't you, love?"

"Oh yeah, he drove onto the beach and around the dolphin. Didn't even get out of the car. I asked him if he's gonna take the body back to town for an autopsy and he said, 'Well, this beach is part of the city jurisdiction. It's got nothing to do with parks and nature reserves.' I asked him what would be done and he said, 'Not my job. The town rangers will have to come out and get it. It's Friday arvo now, so they should be out on Monday. Just make sure it's kept up on the sand alright?' And then he drove off."

Everyone snorted a bit, because we were up on the grass, in the camp, and no-one had to look at the dead dolphin pup.

"Someone should bury it," said Salt Sister. "It's really distressing. It's making people upset. We can't leave it here all weekend to get all stinky, that's just so undignified. Bugger the council and bugger C.A.L.M."

So it was agreed that the dolphin pup was to be buried and then the attentions of the camp turned back to the strange sharking boat, moored out in the choppy bay, the one that had been setting shark nets all along the Sandpatch cliffs.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just Beautiful!

I'm not quite sure what to do with a blogger award;
smile graciously;
say thanks heaps;
pass it on to other folk.

I received the 'Beautiful Blogger Award' from two American bloggers who I happenchanced upon through various means. What strikes me about reading blogs from around the world is that, once you sort through the dross and the advertising, a good blog records the human condition and no matter where you are in the world, we are talking about the same thing.

American/Puerto Rican/British/Indonesian/Scottish bloggers all have fights with their spouses, are completely over going to work, are in love with their local land and lore, need to know the secret of how to be human, how to get laid or fall in love or else they are fantasising about belting their teenagers over the head with a decent sized, cast iron fry pan. (As a therapist said once, "Wanting to do it is normal, darling. Do it, and I have to call community services.")

Anyhoo ... Vencora from 'coffee with a hint of self delusion' sent me this award. She's possibly just out of college and working now, trying to navigate life matters and writing about all the strange and curly things that go alongside that navigation. Another writer sent me the same award; Friend. She's from Chicago. Friend is a human being and she writes with refreshing honesty about what it's like to be part of the species. Sorry Friend and Vencora, for how long it has taken me to acknowledge your gift!

I'm passing on the Beautiful Blogger Award to some West Australian blogging women, and one exception.
Michelle, whom I often tag Seashell in my posts, is a painter. She is writing her doctorate, surfing our south coast and has just built her dream beach house with her partner Robin. Go and have a look at what she has to say! She will make you think ...
Our Sunshine runs a coupla blogs and this one is all about urban landscape architecture in Australia and what it's like to be a student of the RMIT in Melbourne. It's design, design, design. But sideways. Our Sunshine hails from the deep, deep south of Western Australia, the windswept fishing and wheat town of Esperence.
Wadgella Yorga, meaning 'white woman' in our local Menang language, writes a gorgeous rendition of living inland of the sea, but not quite in the deserts: a strong earthy connection to our water and land and critters in words and images. (And I just found her - and she's an Aunty/Sister in our convoluted Toa family tree and I didn't even know she was blogging. How cool is that?)
Sontag of 'The Optimist', is the only non-West Australian here (Victorian actually, honorary Tasmanian) but she has embraced our odd little W.A clique with constant says and support. Plus she has a wonderful birdwatcher's gallery and photographs of albino kangaroos and her fiction is awesome. Jealous. She's a writer who makes me think, "Shit, I wish I wrote that ..."

And now, for a completely gratuitous image of my main muse after our first day back at the fish markets -

Goodbye Paul

Paul Doquile.
"A life lived in pursuit of love, beauty and art,"
a naughty, artful street performer with a gypsy smile ...
Cafe conversations about writing plays
and babies who become teenagers just like that:
my memory of you.
Fly, my beauty!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

T'was the Salmon What Done It

I got the shits, chucked a tantrum ... whaddever you want to call it. Fishing with Old Salt means strange hours, harsh conditions (wind, sun, night, scary sometimes) and not a lot of money. So being the deckie to end all deckies does not mean I have to listen to the whingeing. A boat means freedom, right? It shouldn't mean being confined within a few feet of someone who needs to get their shit off their liver.
I quit.
After thirteen days and numerous bets between everyone as to the exact date I would unquit, Old Salt turned up at my house with a freshly bled salmon, and left.
That night, some friends and I ate salmon. I baked it scales on, foil wrapped, with lemons and bacon (a traditional Toa family recipe) and we peeled succulent strips of this great southern peasant food into our slavering gobs.
I unquit.
Well ... it's salmon season, and then it's herring season, and then it's King George whiting season. And I miss it. And computers and writing and meetings just don't cut it, compared with being out on a WineDark Sea, in a little boat, at night, stars all around and mullet jumping out of the water. Dammit. I'm an addict.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Love Letter to an Old Friend


Listen to this story in the spirit of Michelle Shocked's Anchorage, Alaska. Because I am thinking, as I lean against the old Ford in a lay-by on the dry, summer highway between Albany and Perth, that this state of Western Australia is just like Alaska, only bigger, drier and - now that the the cooling fan has just wobbled off and sheared its way through the radiator and the water pump - lonelier than that whole, lonely state of American myth.

I visited you in the city, my friend. It was an airport junket really, driving four hundred kilometres to pick someone up. Staying the night with you, after the white-knuckle highway and too long with my own troubles, is a rare joy. Then, the long drive home.

Do you remember?

When our babies were babies, talking everyday about teething and art and sleep and writing? Never being able to finish or focus on anything? When the days stretched into stupid domestics with musician fathers, glorious white sand beaches, car problems, the dive of sharp pins into nappy cloth, riverside picnics?
Of course you do.

We bought ancient combi vans and grovelled constantly for someone to fix them, so we could cart home children, chook wheat and food. We painted (and finger painted). We made play dough. We patched up broken children-egos-split ends-trust-relationships-bones. We were both in love with and appalled by our strength and fragility as mothers.

You taught me how to make nori rolls and deep fried dace in black bean sauce with rice noodles. You cut off all my heavy hair with blunt scissors on a hot January day.
You laughed your head off at my vanity, when I tried to squeeze a tit out the arm holes of my brand new dress to breastfeed.
You showed me your paintings. Phantom Rape - just a female hand, clutching at sheets. London - a series of theatrical masks.

Fifteen years later, I'm on the baking highway, looking at sheep, feeding water to the dog straight from the bottle and fielding questions from an anxious teen: "What are we gonna do, Mum?"
"We either camp here, or someone nice who likes big bull mastiff dogs will give us a ride home." I feel quite philosophical about the whole thing. A complete cooling system overhaul will take days anyway. It's a bit like Wake in Fright. We are that stuck.

The time before when I visited you was to play door bitch for your latest exhibition. There was a guy dressed in a gimp suit helping me out. I was a cowgirl/bordello queen, dripping in gold and door-bitchiness. An exotic dancer performed with her python (she was worried because it was mid winter and she thought he may have had a cold).

The next morning, your friend walked me to the train station. When I told her about my recent battles with the law, she decided to take the long way. She said, "This is my retirement plan. When I get old enough, I'm gonna take out all those people who've been charged but not convicted of crimes against children. I've been inside the system for long enough now to know who they are. Once I've done that (this narrative is minus the violent bits), I will go to gaol, maybe for the rest of my life. That is my healthcare plan, my pension, my novel and my sense of justice - sorted."
I missed my bus back to Albany that day.

Standing on the highway and wondering what to do ... there's the kid, the car, the dog, our gear ... and I'm still thinking about my last visit to see you.

You showed me your latest work, the one being currently chased by agents and publishers. It's on the kitchen table, in unglorified stacks. Eventually we retire to the the shed; free from dogs, teenagers and television. The shed is a good place: like men, you and I can work freely here. You read my latest thesis. You call up your friends. "Come and have a look at this!"

You are still living in a rental house, having recognised that the Australian Dream only works so far as practicalities allow. You pay an alien amount of rent every week, to keep your kids in the same school they started in, to stay in the same neighbourhood where your community lives. You work hard. You work hard enough to pay that rent, deal with traffic lights and keep painting.

Sometimes I wish you were back down south, where the beaches are whiter and the Karris shade over anything too businesslike.

You, my old friend , driving to work along the Canning freeway, negotiating the traffic lights and, like everyone else, you take those stalled moments to send text messages.
Then there's the country folk like me. I'm going back to the Karri forests and white beaches. But right now, I'm still leaning against a car on that dried out highway, trying to figure out a way home.

Love, Sarah

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Ballad of Boat Ramp Dawn

In the spirit of Raymond Carver and his editor, Our Sunshine and I are in the studio trying to clean the Old Salt posts up into something seamless, literate and legible.

"You need to put 'cock' in there."
"After 'Sometimes fishing really sucks' ."
"You mean 'Sometimes fishing really sucks cock'? "
I read it out loud again. "Yeah, that works," before we fell all over each other in hysterics.

"Now ... 'Dawn at the Boat Ramp.' Who is Dawn?"
"Who's Dawn?"
"It's dawn, dag. Like dawn, in the morning. Y'know, before noon and dusk."
"Oh. Okay. Well, how about we change it to 'Boat Ramp Dawn' so it doesn't sound like a creepy woman who hangs around boat ramps?"
Our Sunshine thinks about her suggestion and shakes her head. "No, no, that's just wrong. The visuals are doing my head in."
"I can visualise that and it doesn't hurt too much." I say. "It's fucking great! 'Boat Ramp Dawn.' The Ballad of Boat Ramp Dawn. Now there's a story."

"Read from the bit about seeing someone riding your bike in the darkened car park," she says, giving up on Dawn and going for the next story, her head turned on one side, listening for onomatopoeia, the cadence.
"I recognised that passionate brace of the handlebars," I read out loud, "the desperate way that you ride that particular bike in the dark, the sensual sway of the fruit box on her back wheel ..."
"Stop it! Stop!"