22 April, 2008

Five Weird or Random Things About Me Meme

I’ve been tagged for this meme by the delightful Blakkat, whose gem of a response can be read here.

1. When I was 16, I somehow managed to get a school holiday job working for a toy company. The job involved making personal appearances at K-Mart stores in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. As Spiderman. These stores were selling a new range of Spiderman toys to coincide with an upsurge in interest in the web-slinger.

I’d like to think I brought a certain dark, brooding, teenage angst-ridden presence to the role. I’d like to think that, but the facts don’t quite accord with that alternate reality. For starters, I was painfully self-conscious: not a terribly helpful trait for one embarking on acting. And the costume was made of some kind of pre-lycra type stretch fabric that itched like buggery and threw my puny physique into fairly sharp relief, adding to my discomfort. 13 Ribs! Count ‘Em, 13!

What a trouper I was. Anyway, three times a day the company car would pull up at a K-Mart entrance and I would sit and wait while my boss got the shop PA system working and could announce my presence and the location of my show.

“Ladies and gentlemen, give Peter Parker, Spiderman in person, a big welcome as he makes his way to Aisle 5. You can have a Polaroid photo taken with your friendly neighbourhood Marvel superhero and he will also be demonstrating the new range of brilliant Spiderman toys and merchandise.”

I lapped up the applause and cringed at the odd giggle and guffaw that greeted my awkward entrance. I did it because it paid a princely (at 1976 value) $20 a day and I was keen to use the money to buy ugh boots and a lumberjacket.

The worst day was a one-off at Myer in the city, where for some reason that now escapes me my boss couldn’t drop me right out the front so I had to walk half a city block in costume. To make it fun, I walked in character too. But even a superhero has to obey traffic signals and I had to stand and wait at the crossings with all of the lunchtime shoppers, some of whom thought I was some kind of pervert, and said so.

But I still have my pride. If one of my mates mentions that I was once Spiderman I strike a pose, hopefully a relevant one, and tell them, “That’s The AMAZING Spiderman, thank you.”

2. I was on Sale of the Century in 1990. I went in to Channel 9 in Richmond as a standby contestant and squeezed in to the Friday episode where I finished ahead of a very popular, attractive, long-running female champ. So I imagine for that weekend, in many households I was that-bastard-who beat-that-lovely-what-was-her-name-again-oh-and-she’d-just-had-a-baby.
Anyway, I managed to convince myself that I couldn’t give a fuck whether I was popular or not. And the plan was to buy at any cost so I could at least maybe come away with something half way decent. I bought everything, but then kept winning anyway. One more show and I’d have the prize showcase. Two more shows and I could add the $234,000 cash jackpot. The show for the prizes was the last of the day, the one to be screened on a Friday night.

After being 30 down, going into the last sweaty commercial break, scores were tied at the end of the final round. Oh, and thanks to the Dixons, our next door neighbours growing up, who gave the nine year old Lad a book about pirates for Christmas. I managed to nail the final answer, Captain Kidd, right on the buzzer. So there was a tie-breaker question. After Tony Barber read just the one clue, the other contestant buzzed in and got it wrong.

So one more episode for $234,000. During the ten seconds of background muzak, all I could hear was, “You’ gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em…..”

I took the prizes and ran for the hills!

3. The Monday after my son Larry’s team won last season’s U12 footy premiership was Mad Monday. Not for the boys. Don’t be stupid. They had school. For the dads. The boys had a brilliant season, going through undefeated, although they only won the last home and away game by one point and were behind at half time in one match and behind at quarter-time in the 2nd Semi-Final. Every other game was a massacre.

In the Grand Final, Larry was selected at full-back for the first time that season and kept the competition’s leading goal-kicker to just the one touch, and that from a dubious free kick. So Mad Monday was a fitting way to celebrate a sensational season.

We kicked off triumphantly at 11am at Ascot Vale’s Prince of Wales Hotel and then walked up Mt Alexander Rd (Mt Rd in our local dialect) to the now-defunct Chung On Chinese restaurant for a long lunch. There was only heavy beer at the restaurant for some reason so ol’ Lad Litter shrugged and joined in the serious drinking with predictable results. Stinko. But leavened somewhat by the three or four joints I’d brought along.

Back at the pub, wives and even whole families started arriving at about 10pm and quite a few tired and emotional dads were embraced and then bundled into waiting family vehicles. “Are you coming back a bit later?” I called to one staggering escapee whose charming wife giggled and shook her head resignedly.

Resisting exhortations to kick on elsewhere, the walk home was like live action pinball as I staggered and bounced off trees, fences and then eventually the interior of our house. I might have binged, but I’d binged responsibly, I maintain.

4. I have never had sex. I’ll just let that sink in first before I qualify it. In a dream I mean, silly. I don’t think there’ve been all that many erotic dreams for me, but I always seem to wake up just before actually consummating. Does it mean that my life is destined to always fall short of true fulfillment? Am I unable to meaningfully follow through on commitments? Or does it mean that someday I am destined to lead the Jews out of Egypt? I don’t know.

However, in a similar way, I always regain consciousness during particularly frightening nightmares when I am just about to be killed.

5. Barracking for Essendon means I have reason to be antipathetic towards Carlton. And just so you don’t think I’m understating the case here, I don’t hate them. Not at all. I despise them. So many of their supporters are loud-mouthed, boastful, bragging, solipsistic, gloating, skiting baboons who insist on deliberately arguing from an extremely illogical position What lovable larrikins they are. Larrikin is actually Australian for fuckwit, but there are enormous sections of the media industry devoted to convincing Australians that it isn't.

So you can imagine what sort of revelation it was when some family history research turned up that my great-great uncle had been Carlton’s captain back in the 1870s and was even club President from 1914-1921. And that a grandstand at Carlton’s home ground Princes Park is named after him. And that his two sons had also played quite a bit of footy at Carlton, one even going so far as to play 150 games, kick 330 goals, lead their goal-kicking in several seasons and feature in two Carlton Premierships.

Our second son Larry, just by coincidence, shares Mr President’s name and probably also coincidentally, some measure of football prowess.

Of course none of this makes me go around with a paper bag over my head. I am, actually, a little bit proud of my antecedents having been such high-achievers. And the many ex-Carlton players I have spoken to and corresponded with during further research have all been wonderful, charming, generous people. And it is a club with a rich, grand history. Quelle contradiction? Hypocrisy anyone? I beg to differ.

It’s the narrative I’m into and I rationalize it thus: you don’t have to agree with the policies of Nazi Germany in order to be fascinated by its history.

Carlton supporters I know have derided me for the forsaking of my family tradition. But I believe my relatives’ stewardship of Carlton was a lost Golden Age, before they let all the spivs take over.

So there it is and I’m tagging Ann O’Dyne; Lord Sedgewick; Jahteh; Edward Yates; and Geoff Dening. If they haven't been tagged already, that is. Should be some good reading with that lot.

13 April, 2008

Lygon St Purgatory II

“You need to see the manager,” the waiter told me, raising his eyebrows and shrugging to show me it was out of his hands.
“I’m sure that won’t be necessary. All I’ve asked is for you to bring me one of the stubbies I handed over to you earlier. Just bring one of them with you when you come back please.”
“You go see the manager.”

I had absolutely no fucking idea why I would need to talk to the manager but I was given the distinct impression that it was because I’d done something wrong, and it had something to do with my asking for one of the stubbies. Maybe they’d lost them and the manager was going to apologise and offer me some other bottles of beer. That was about as much as I could come up with and judged it pretty unlikely as soon as it occurred to me.

No, it looked like I was going to be hassled. And I was a bit irritated by that prospect as I dragged myself up from my seat and walked through an arch to where the manager was standing behind a bar. I’d already heard from the colleague who organized the night out that this manager had a long and proud history of rubbing people up the wrong way. He was thirtieish; smooth of skin and hair; and ginger-fair in that northern Italian way. Southern Italians reckon northern Italians are all up themselves. I’m not sure if that’s one of the great truths, but this bloke might have had his own colonoscopy footage playing over and over in his mind.

Like the waiter, he looked like he wanted to impose himself on the ambience. And he was going to do that by being a pain in the arse. And I picked up that he thought I was not the kind of customer he really wanted in his restaurant. So he and the waiter probably felt some kind of entitlement about treating our group like shit. I wanted to help him understand that the unpleasant customer he was dealing with was entirely his own creation.

“The waiter told me I had to come and see you to get one of my stubbies.”
“Well, there’s a problem with the stubbies you’ve brought into the restaurant. We are BYO, but wine only.”
“Really. That sounds like a very uncommon arrangement.” This is a few years ago now, probably 1998, when this sort of drink-specific BYO, now widespread, was still very much in its infancy. “There’d be quite a few of your patrons caught out by that, I’d imagine.”
“No, not at all. It’s printed on all of our menus.”
“Menus that aren’t sighted till after everyone’s sat down. I said g’day and went off to get some beer. This is the first time that’s ever been something to be hassled over. What’s the reasoning behind the restriction?”
“People come in, and I’m sure you can imagine, they have eskies loaded up with beer and it’s not the sort of dining experience we want for this restaurant.”
“My dining experience has been getting hassled for bringing in six stubbies. Of light beer. You’ve created a problem where there wasn’t one.”
“You’ll find most of the restaurants in Lygon St are now BYO wine only.”
“I don’t go to Lygon St much anymore. Too many people who just want to give you a hard time. I’ll grab those stubbies thanks. All of them. I don’t want to have to ask your waiter to bring me one and have to go through this all over again.”
“Do you intend to drink them here?”
“Yeah I do. And I don’t expect to be persecuted for it either.”

He handed them over and the rest of the evening was spent pleasantly. We’d finished the main course by this time and didn’t need to have as much contact with the waiter and didn’t see the manager again.

One wit back at the table referred to my stubbies as the Carlton Six. The next day, I was to hear a view of the evening and the incident that seemed to come from a strange parallel universe.

Update: Well, not really an update, but does anyone know how to make my sidebar appear at the side of my posts and not all the way down the bottom? If there are any kind souls out there who can help, I'd really appreciate it. And feel free to patronize me for my stupidity.