Thursday, November 23, 2006


Blackstone. I remember the Magic Men. And Blackstone Morning University, with Dimity and Erin. I really should head back there on the way to Melbourne. Erin of Blackstone is up Geraldton visiting her friends and occasional home, and will be back at the Museum on Monday. So i volunteer my services for this driving gig, at the first whiff of petrol money.

I tap on the aluminium screen door of Holiday Apartments, Room 17. The door opens and one of the desert women appears. You ready? Let's go. There is a brief ruckus as they search for the door key. Then it's down four flights of concrete stairs, across Palmerston Street, and into the Madaz. The back seat belts never did seem to match up, as Mary, Margaret, Melissa and Katherine try to strap themselves in. The rustridden Madaz does not appear to inspire much confidence. Don't worry, i say reassuringly. I'm a good driver. At the first stop sign, some ten metres ahead, the Madaz lurches violently into the oncoming lane when i apply the brakes, and they screech loudly in protest. The brakes make a bit of noise too. Yeah, was going to pull that slave cylinder out today, i say. But it's probably good for another few k's. You know how much i paid for this car? One hundred dollars. I tried to knock him down to eighty, but he'd just put a new battery in it. Styled by Bertone of Italy, no less! He did the 60s Alfa Romeo. Look at the detail on those interior lights. So you're in good hands for this opshopping trip, right? Right. I know a bargain when i seize one ... oops! Can they park there?

I don't know how much English the women speak but since either nobody understands me anyway and if they do they bother listening, this does not really slow my verbal flak. Katherine, sitting up front in a mustard coloured cardigan, holding onto the dashboard, speaks English well. The others may or may not; they prefer to talk and laugh amongst themselves in Language. Well, good on them. We gotta get down to the one in Subi first, cos it shuts around eleven, i say to Katherine. She nods. So it's pedal to the metal i'm afraid. Yua, says Katherine, in that slow, mournful way. Although 'yua' means yes, coming from the desert people it always sounds like a lament; a sigh of resignation. Especially around me.

The urban coolite expression 'raiding the opshops' never rang more true than today. Blankets, doona covers, lamps, games, stereos, clothes, shoes, suitcases, bags, backpacks. But mainly clothes, picked out from the Subi to Freo opshop run. Save the Children of Subiaco. Good Sammys, Subi and Freo. St Vinnie's in Claremont. Cat Haven opshop, hidden in a shed around the back by the deathrow cats. Plus a Palmyra garage sale thrown in for good measure. We return to Holiday Apartments twice, the Madaz literally packed to the roof lining each time.

While the indigenous women are here doing a project at the WA Museum, they buy up big for their small community of Blackstone, which is south of the Giles Meteorological Station, in the Great Victoria Desert. It's a pretty cool part of the world for drying out, because it's a dry community: no alcohol, no cigarettes, no petrol. Also no heroin, no opium, no meth. No amyl nitrate, no nangs, no pot. No magic mushrooms, no cocaine, no dexies. No cane toads, no lsd, no gbh. No pcp, no rohypnol, no ether. Broadband? Yes.

Blackstone is the mental and spiritual birthplace of the electricnerve. There wasn't much else for me to do there. The blog name came out of Mayhem, meanwhiling in the wilds of North Perth, coming down off something, and stammering Louie that morning with "I feel like a bowl of electric nerves." And around that time, Mayhem and Art Director (yes, the girl's got more labels than a Dymo machine) began serving up the recipe we all know and love today.

I discover that the Donsta is bothering the Fremantlites, down at the Little Creatures Brewery. She wants to maybe catch up for a drink. The desert women don't drink, and it's not easy to convince them they should take a hike while i go see a friend. They just shake their heads. Wea, they say. No. But they express an interest in visiting the old round jail. It's funny, most whiteys call it "The Roundhouse." The women call it the jail. But the old jail is closed, and though i'd like to see the Donsta, i don't think it's worthwhile staging a break-in at the jail. Then she texts and says Native Expo is on at the Esplanade. Brilliant! I park and tell the ladies i will be back in a tick, and that they ought to go hang about at Native Expo. I don't know the political correctness of this move, but the words 'insensitive and stupid' come readily to mind. But it's hard being me. I've been working all day and i want a beer. And at least i didn't buy them the cute little picaninny doll i saw at the Subi opshop: I have some sense and sensibility.

Thus rationalised, i go for a beer with the Donsta and Simone. Donsta is silly as a kite with no tail. I suggest she should ought start writing for the 'nerve. "Mark, I don't write. I rant." Perfect: a ranting contrapuntist is just what the doctor ordered. Well, that, and a big bag of powder. "Why, are you baking?" she asks. "Or chafing?" We sit around drinking and matching wits. I've been living off mine for a long time now, which explains my poverty. My mobile rings, and it's the women. Donsta arranges to meet me up later at Sin to show me her Elvis impersonation. Well i better go round up the tribe and head home, i say.

I scramble back to the women. They stand sadly by the car. "Big fight there," says Katherine. Some scrap broke out amongst the Nyoongars, it seems. The women don't look too happy, so i bundle them into the car. Better frightened than unhappy, i think, and gun it through the carpark.

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