Sunday, May 30, 2010

So Wrong

Yesterday, I took some friends to visit the Cove, the one facing the islands, at the mouth of the channel to Princess Royal Harbour. They didn't even know it was there. They couldn't believe that the Albany Port Authority and Grange Resources are intending to fill the Cove in with dredging spoils to create a berth for massive iron ore ships, and in the process destroy it forever.
The stoking of the fire in my belly are the feelings I experience when sitting on the rocks at the Cove; 'This place is so beautiful. How can Grange and the APA do this? How can they possibly justify their plan? Money? Status? WTF?'

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Three-legged Dog, Waiting for his Sailor

No Seal. Seal. No Fish.

Yesterday was seal day, morning and night. Fruitless for fisherfolk and Old Salt was gnashing his teeth but the dogs of the sea are cheeky, friendly and now, very well fed! If you look to the right of the buoy in the first picture, you can see her 'footprint' on the water. Two People Bay, 5.30 pm.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Scrabble, the Wrong Man and the Crocodile

Scrabble night can be wild. Mondays, when the townsfolk are tucked up by the fire, the four of us true believers go out into the darkened streets, where we tuck up by someone else's fire, eat copious amounts of food and then sit down to some serious Scrabble.

There's 007 and his faithful sidekick Fiddy Cent (cos he's black), Haimona the Classy (cos he knows a classy Valiant Charger when he sees one), the Matron (her vocation) and me. The Matron's boyfriend owns a winery. I'll leave it at that at the moment. Our Sunshine used to play, until she left the state on pressing business.

I left the state on pressing business once, by default. A convoluted and upsetting tale of being unable to fall out of love with the wrong man, I had to go in a hurry. 

The bar manager whom I worked for had to leave in a hurry too. A crate of Korean rice whiskey from the freighters was his undoing. Staff at the Emergency waiting room were cleaning stomach linings off the vinyl chairs for weeks. Or was it the drugs? I don't recall which one was the catalyst, but I know that as he got cockier, produce went over the table rather than under. He offered me a lift through to Geraldton.

007 insists on Fiddy Cent sitting at the table, even though Fiddy Cent is a dog and we're all eating our dinner. "He's my partner. Did I tell you about the time he won the game for me?" says 007. "I was losing badly, taking hits left right and centre. I was going down, when Fiddy leapt up and put his paw on three letters! D! O! G!. 'Gosh Fiddy!' I said to him. 'You've just won me the game.'"
Fiddy is sporting a new trim, so his beady eyes study me across the table. "Yes, I don't really remember doing that," 007 says worriedly. "I got up in the morning with a thumping hangover and the scissors were on the table and Fiddy's hair all over the floor ... not a bad job ... anyway, try some of this wine, it's two ninety nine a bottle. Not bad at two ninety nine, not a bad drop at all."

Fiddy jumps down and is whining at the door. He wants to go outside but the doggy door is working and poodle perversity means he has to sit and whine for a bit before using it.
"What's wrong with Fiddy Cent?" asks the Matron. She leers indulgently at the dog through her thick glasses.
"Fuck, man," 007 says to his dog. "They don't all hate you, just relax." He turns to us and explains; "He thinks you all hate him because he's black."
"Nonsense," says Haimona. "Some of my best friends are poodles."

After getting blown out of Geraldton, I jumped truck over and over. Going north and I climbed into the nerve centre of monstrous iron roaches - a moment of reckoning with the driver who sweated diesel from the cracks and pores in his face, looked me up and down. The old ones were okay. Stories were my passport.

A truckie drove me to a pub in Cyclone Alley; fibro, two storey, flattened three times and rebuilt three times. I asked for a job. For five months I hung out the guest's linen, fresh and sun-glared, smelling like the sea. I read The Songlines, a little bit every day, in the geologist's air conditioned donga.

We set up the board and draw our letters. Haimona gets out his clipboard. I can tell by his groans that he is already suffering a vowel obstruction, an irregular complaint.
"At least it only happens once a week," the Matron empties her glass and pours another two ninety nine. She opens the game, an eight pointed 'lust', and looks meaningfully at an oblivious 007.
Haimona and I study our racks, hard. Old people. They're so disgusting. 

I ended up in Darwin, writing fugitive love letters from the second storey of a block of flats. He wrote back and told me he'd eaten lasagna for lunch and that it was cold in the mornings. 

A Papuan woman called Alice lived next door to me. She cried a lot. She had two Aboriginal husbands and she didn't speak much English. Long Grassers drank in the lot behind us, fought like cats in the night. Bats thundered or clattered out of trees above my head.

Near the flats squatted the infamous fisherman's pub, Stella's. One night, the grizzled women deckies jeered at us tender yearlings, called us Veal, so my English Rose flatmate and I took our cask of fruity and left for the jetty. 

I dared her to swim naked with the resident crocodile and she did it, so I did too.

Having survived the truckies, the law, the crocodile ... goodness me - here I am arguing Scrabble with a retired journalist. "There's no i in hex."
"There's is - if you are a Kiwi. Which I am, I'll have you know."
"When you're not being a Mauritian. Make him put it back, Haimona!"
The table-thumping Matron makes the tiles bounce. 007 takes his back. The Matron takes another slug of two ninety nine.
007 tries another tack. "Did I ever tell you about how Fiddy Cent won the game for me?"
He tells us the story again. Then I say what happened to me during the day, this Monday, on the grass outside the library. 

I was wearing a blue Tshirt and the sun was shining. I was reading a book but I saw him, this wrong man who sent me haretailing it to Darwin twenty years ago. 
He stepped down from the footpath, put down his bag of books and sat with me for a while.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lice and the Wriggles

Many a tolerant friend has entered my kitchen when we are in throes of head lice eradication and lived to tell the tale (whilst furiously scratching). Head lice slaughter in our household has a fraught and bloodied history. Conditioner slathered through our hair. Comb. Garlic-infused olive oil. Chili. KP24. I've been sold so many pesticides by over-earnest, eighteen year old, wannabe make-up consultants in pharmacies over the years, I've paid their weekly ecstasy and cocktail bills several times over by now.

The walk home from school often involved a visit to the Health Department for a quick family nit check. A resulting positive would garner us some free treatment, a noxious smelling chemical handed out in those nasty little brown bottles with the child proof lid and indented ridges down the side.

An old hippy Mum from Denmark once told me; "Families with straight, thin, oily hair tend to suffer from worms. Families with drier, thicker, curlier hair get head lice." Those old hippy Denmark Mums have got it all going on, but this fact of family life is just so unfair. Try dragging a metal nit comb with the diametre of an Egyptian cotton thread count through (dry, curly, thick) hair like ours and you understand just how unfair this biological reality is.
I've resorted in occasional, desperate moments to kerosene. These days I think kerosene is the bomb, especially when there is matches involved. It's the napalm of nits, kero. All power to the petrochemicals.

Life goes on, kids grow up. As they grow older, head lice is not so much of an issue. I think the main reason is that between the ages of ten and thirteen, hair and bodily contact is not so constant. (After that it probably increases, selectively, think about it). In any case, new issues emerge and they tend to be behavioural rather than the old basic reliables like head lice and worms, and yet (dammit) so much more baffling.

Try Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for baffling. This disorder can hit kids entering the threshold of adolescence. It skews their life choices all over the place because, to stay focussed on anything, ADHD sufferers must take high risks to access the adrenaline they need to stay what is considered straight and normal. Otherwise their heads are like a box of crabs This level of risk taking behaviour in teenagers is quite terrifying to comprehend, let alone the aftermath to deal with, for the kids and as a parent.

So ... this week, while I was out at the inlet fishing, listening to the radio, a report came up. A study done by scientists at the University of Montreal and Harvard University has conclusively proved that children who have been diagnosed with ADHD (the operative word being 'diagnosed' here and haven't we all grown up with someone who is only ever on the ball when they are doing spun out things) have higher levels of organophosphates in their urine.

I've worked in the horticulture industry and have sold this stuff to people who tell me "Just give me whatever it takes to kill the bastards". Organophosphates work as an effective pesticide. This report focussed on the organophosphates that I know well: Malathion and a few other other nasties that folks use to get rid of fruit fly in Western Australia. This compound doesn't block the spiracles of insects - it goes for the nervous system. The nervous system of insects is eerily the same to that of humans. This is why people get freaked out about organophosphates. The writers of the report on ADHD kids think that the link is all about washing your fruit of these pesticides (really, really well) before you eat it.

They didn't mention head lice treatment. I didn't even think about it myself 'til I thought about those little brown bottles we used to get for free from the Health Department ... and the fact that the skin on our scalps is the most porous and absorbent skin in our whole body. I've been pouring this stuff over my own and my kid's heads for years.

So today, in the chemist shop, I thought I'd try the pharmacist out.
"See this KP24? It says it's active ingredient is Maldison. Is this an organophosphate?"
He went to the computer. And five minutes later, he told me, "Yes, it is."
I told him about the report. He went away looking thoughtful.

I hope he will follow this one up.

I got the meds for my kid's ADHD from him. Again. To keep our lives drama-free and achievable because, these days we have bigger and more dramatic things to contend than mere head lice.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Let's Bury the Bastard (Revisited)

A post from 2008.
I revisited it after some more thoughts about self exposure ... self-immolation ... and how some stories, in the guise of true confessions, really point the bone at our own society.

I’ve been to two funerals in the last month. The first was a graveside ceremony for my dear friend Bob, with a delicious shaft of mid winter sun on the back of my neck and surrounded by beautiful and diverse people who loved the man absolutely.

The second was yesterday. Aussie and I stood at the back of the chapel, sunglasses on, arms folded, refusing any offers from the funeral director of a seat. We listened to the son of the deceased evangelise about rising from the dead and eternal life etc etc. We watched a brilliant blue wren batter itself to death against the glass, trying to get in from the garden.

Three years ago, I sat with a detective, discussing the now deceased.
"Yes," he said, "I’ve read the files on him. He’s a charismatic, serial predator of children. Your story stacks up love. Leave it to me. I’ll get him. Ring me in a week."

This detective was so hot. I mean, he was on fire. He was gonna save me just like a knight. No one else had ever stepped up to save me. I was impressed, I was in love.

A week later he sat me down and explained. "The Department of Public Prosecutions won’t play. He’s sick, he’s old you know. He's got a friendly doctor testifying. If I presented this new case to the DPP after they’ve rejected the complaints from all the other girls, I would be seen as vexatious."

Vexatious. We mustn’t have that.

The detective covered his ears and grimaced when I began caterwauling, "Then I’ll burn the f*cker's house down. I can be pretty vexatious with a box of matches, you know."
He backed away from me, from his desk. He lost his knightly gloss. He smelt like he’d been smoking tailor mades in the car and he had a name like a dog. Craters pocked his publican’s nose.

Months later I saw him in the supermarket car park and he saw me and bowed his head, defeated.

No one from the soul murderer's church wanted to talk to me. "He was a church elder, once" they told me, after the initial ghastly silence when they realised exactly what was on my mind.

He was still living down the road from me. He grew fruit trees. Last Thursday I had a wobbly day, when I read in the hatched, matched and dispatched section of the local newspaper that he’d died. I wondered how I would survive without the anger. It is the most perverse kind of grief.

I rang Aussie, my fellow nudist beachcomber and staunch bestie who has heard this story in installments as it unfolded, from our long walks together, to the front desk at the police station.
"Let’s bury the bastard," she said. "Come on, I’ll come with you."
Now that is a friend.

So yesterday I listened to the loving eulogies of the newly departed asshole and realised it was time to stop hating. He will no longer define who I am. I will learn to trust. I will lose that anger. I will not giggle at funerals.

We left after an hour of speeches, not out of disgust or pain, simply from boredom and feeling like it was time for lunch and a game of pool. We passed his heaped up hole on the way out.

"Do you want to spit in his grave?" Aussie asked me. "Now’s your chance."
"I don’t want my DNA buried with him," I told her.
It’s over. The old and grubby king is dead.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Everyone Means Well, and Then There is Biology

This Be the Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
  They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you up with the faults they had
  And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
  By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
  And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
  It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
  And don't have any kids yourself. 

Philip Larkin, Collected Poems, The Marvel Press and Faber and Faber, East Saint Kilda, London, 2003, pg. 142.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

At the Save Our Sound blog, there is a new interview with local coastal environmentalist, Tony Harrison.
Have a look!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blame it on a Scorpio Moon

 A Toa sister met me out the front of the supermarket today, while I wrestled with numerous rolls of toilet paper, an eighteen month old bull mastiff, a bicycle and a sense of righteous injustice.
"I've been having real problems keeping sane, too," she told me. "I've been sooo angry. I don't want to be an angry person ... but I'm fucking ropeable. What's going on? And do you want a ride home?"

We both made each other feel a bit better by indulging in some mutual slandering of the full moon in Scorpio. "Yeah, like, what the fuck is it with that moon? What did I do to piss her off so much?"

Me, well it's being going on for a week or more. About a week ago I wrote and sent a letter to the fishing shop guy. I think that was the day my rage began. Then the piglets died.

One piglet dying is sad : (  One thousand, two hundred piglets getting burnt to death in an intensive farming shed, along with two hundred of their mothers, could be construed as an horrific event. Even more horrific and obscene is the West Australian's take on this story - 'will the price of pork and bacon rise this week?' Yes it will, and I'm upset, already.

And then, mine and others' experiences with social services reminded me that, to access social services in this country, we must submit our souls to an inquisition of our morality. You want community housing? Don't ring us, we will ring you, after we have gathered references from social workers and your family and passed all grotty, private details of your life between all government departments in a small town. We won't tell you where you stand on the list. We won't tell you where your details are stashed. When we decide you are not eligible, we will keep those letters and references in our 'archives'.
Need a job? Feeling depressed? Hand your doctor's file and psychiatric profile to the local job search agency and see what they can do with it.

Is humiliation, personal compromise and loss of privacy an insidious prerequisite when accessing social services? Yes.

And how does the Albany Port Authority have the juristiction to dig up our harbour and fill in that precious little cove, forever? How did they get the right to do that - and why are the state government so enthusiastic to sign off on this vandalism?

It got worse. My ability to purchase toilet paper was curtailed by, no not poverty, but my preoccupation with my own rage - every time I entered a supermarket, I forgot everything I was supposed to to hunt and gather and instead wondered why these guys are importing shitty old navel oranges from America or snow peas from Nairobi. I see the regional manager of the Port Authority musing over avocadoes and bags of English spinache.  And the bacon. Oh the bacon.

Consequently, felicitous feelings, vitamin C deprivation and shitty arses were the norm at home, all week until today. Because, today I clawed back some practicality from my idealistic rage and bought some toilet paper. And I also talked to my sister ... who said, 'It's just the moon, girl,' and then gave me a ride home in her station wagon.

'(God) grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.'