The first time in black and white

You only lose your virginity once. However sordid the planning and execution, a truth is present at that moment.

It was November 1990 at the National Tennis Centre. It was my first concert and I still remember the kick drum thumping my rib cage as I entered. My heart was in danger.

I’d been accumulating albums, two to each D90 cassette. The D90 had been a bridge to new friendships; A way of sharing the musical experience.

The night started with the support act playing in front of a drawn curtain. I’d never heard of him, or his band, but lots of people seems to like the one about standing up and being counted.

They eventually finished, the lights came up, then down again and a chant began. The chant would become a cliché but not this first time

The curtain drew back. Cheering. A camera flash. No. It’s a strobe. A slow, pulsing strobe. White, Black… White!

Five people frozen. Black… White. They’re walking onto the stage. I can see the singer, his stalking gait unmistakable. Black… White. Black…..

An explosion of sound and light and motion. He spins and juts, hands splayed out and shaking, all parts moving seemingly, streaking across the stage. I don’t even recognise the song yet. I’m on the edge. People stand up and rush.

Ten minutes late my voice is shot. I’m dancing like I don’t give a shit. I’m sweating. I’ve been taken in.

As I age, new truths emerge, subtle and rare. Cynicism is easy. And there’s never that “first time” again.

I hadn’t felt truth in music for a while. Then this morning, “The Man in Black” made me feel like crying.

Real truth, unlike trivial facts, is never black or white, and it arrives and then departs in a moment. So pay attention.

I lost my actual virginity a little later and it’s not worth writing about.

Sparkles and Dust

I live in the suburbs, the homes jammed between the sky and earth, the floor and the ceiling.

The town where my father grew up is now an open cut coalmine. The school where he taught is sold off to pay state debt and then ploughed back into real estate.

In our hearts we’re not sure we belong. The next bulldozer, the next drought, the next bushfire… we’re dust.

Last month we had a horrid stench. A rodent had scurried in from the southern winter to be warm as it died. It had been heard under the floor, in the walls and ceiling.

In the ceiling all I found was a flaky insulation and dust.

Under the floor, through the still and lifeless dust, I found a ducted heating pipe that had come away from a vent. I shone my torch into the tube but found no smelly carcass.

I now needed duct tape to re-attach the pipe.

At the hardware store I asked the attendant where I could find what I need. Aisle 28. Rush. Rush.

I passed a clown. A clown in a hardware store! She was entertaining some kids with balloon tricks.  I joined the queue with the cutest checkout chick.

A flicker of recognition.

I had recently been trawling through old family photos and found one of dad at a company Christmas party. A long forgotten memory that only a photo can bring back. My father, a quiet and dignified man, was never one to stand in front of a crowd and draw attention to himself but at this party he was having his face painted by a clown. The clown had picked him out of the audience.  I remember being embarrassed for him and admiring that he did it without being embarrassed, even though I knew he was hating it.

The same clown. Not only that, I had the photo on my iPad stowed in my man-bag. The conversation went…

“Excuse me”.

“The father I take it”

“No these aren’t my kids. I was just wondering, is this you?”

“I’ll need my glasses…. that must have been the early 80s. I remember that. Is he still with us?”

“No, he passed away. Anyway I’m happy to see you still doing it.”

“Yeah I’m in the Yellow Pages under Sparkles.”

“I work for the Yellow Pages mob now.”

She frowns.

“Anyway, thank you”.

I returned home and climbed beneath the floor again.  The mouse still eluded me. The wife found it later on.

I needed Sparkles the Clown to connect me to the past when everything else seemingly had turned to dust.

Duct tape, dust and sparkles.


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