Tuesday, September 30, 2008

LIFE AT THE HILTON

The first time she banished me, it was because she thought i was sleeping with the bass player. Kat Atrocity was a striking girl, to be sure. Intelligent and eurasian with a perverse sense of humour, she was a devilish man-magnet on stage. But we weren’t fooling around. I mean, it did happen later, but it wasn't happening at the time. It was all about the music, man. I’d come home late after gigs, hot and sweaty and exhausted, and my strikingly beautiful but sick wife would become increasingly suspicious. But we were, i suppose, a punk band. Heat and sweat came with the territory.

Early one morning, after a dusk-to-dawn recording session, i came home to find the house locked and my clothes outside the door. I never did get a key to my wife’s house. It was a strange relationship, to be sure, and i’m not pretending otherwise. You can’t base a relationship on sex and drugs, my friends would say. It won’t work. They were wrong. A relationship based on sex and drugs will work as perfectly, spectacularly, explosively as a firework.

Anyway, she banished me and i wound up at Glen’s. A friend of hers, he said he understood, and offered to put me up. Almost certainly dead now, Glen was a one-armed one-legged heroin junkie who lived in Hilton, just east of Fremantle. We called it The Hilton. Oh, hi, i’m Mark, i’m a recording artist and i’m living at The Hilton. Sounds grand, doesn’t it.

The reality was a verandah covered with the toys of his lost daughter, and an endless procession of local pilferers who thought his house abandoned. His garden of wild weeds flayed themselves upward into the stupid sun only to throw their seed out amongst the rusted spare parts of his ’72 Ford Fairlane. His legs. That Ford is my legs, he used to say.

And his plastic leg had other uses. Many a stolen bottle of vodka was thrust into its plastic hollows to drown our sorrows, and many a set of points, gaskets or spark plugs. We would floor it, always fast and loud, roaring the Fairlane back to The Hilton, windows down. Glen looked at the world through a rose-coloured windscreen, as his brother-in-law Kim Salmon put it. I would warm up the valve amplifier and play guitar, open-tuned 5-string Keith Richards slack-G tuning, and Glen would wail on the knife-edge of circulatory collapse, microphone held in hook. He had elected to have his useless arm sawn off, figuring a hook would prove more useful.

A good mechanic, he taught me a thing or three. There’s nothing like seeing a man with one arm strip down a Holley carburettor and reassemble it simply because he has to get to the methadone clinic. There’s motivation for you. You want to fiddle about and try to get a washer or a nut onto a difficult-to-access carburettor mounting stud? Slide it onto the blade of your screwdriver, and just touch that screwdriver onto the head of the bolt. There you go. You can’t miss, and you won’t drop it and see it stuck somewhere under the inlet manifold. Like i always did.

Glen and i changed a Ford 9”diff, complete drum-to-drum, between vodkas on a Saturday afternoon. With nothing but a length of wood, milk crates, stolen spanners, and brute sweating gumption. We ate pasta. Garlic stabbed on the end of a knife, held skewered over the steady blue yellow flame of the stove. It pops. And with one large left hand, twice the size of yours or mine, he squeezes out a fresh, virginal lozenge of spice. Spinach grew wildly in a square amongst the weeds, alongside the rosemary. The legacy of his ex-wife. With a big pot of pasta and a splash of vodka we would have ourselves a meal.

He was a consummate thief. And that’s how he came to grief. The father of the young girl he stole from the pub, the girl on the back of his motorcycle during that spectacular crash on the new 1970s freeway, tried to switch off his life support. I probably would have too. But jesus christ he had charm. Always smiling, always one eye on the main chance. A dreamer, a cruiser, a relentless bohemian, a reader and writer, he had style to burn. If only he had left me his shirts in his will.

I wake up, and the house is carpeted with people who can barely keep their eyes open, nodding people who scratch at themselves vaguely, stare at the floorboards and speak of their incomprehensible dreams. They have plans for this or that, plans which anyone can see will come to nothing. The backup is the sawn-off shotgun up the nose of the local pharmacist. A shotgun which i can wander out and see, loaded, brutal, tucked under the parcel shelf of a mute black coupe stolen and spraypainted with aerosols.

Morning. Glen wanders in, all mad shock of black hair and silk shirt. The perpetual smirk. Have you seen my arm? he asks.

It’s hanging on the back of the kitchen door, i tell him, right where you left it. (The term ‘kitchen’ being loosely employed at The Hilton, given we have no fridge.) And where the fuck is my leather jacket?

Oh man i had to hock it, but you’ll get it back Friday.

Friday night i’m trying to write as an endless procession of misfits, thugs and losers make their way into my bedroom. Where the fuck is Glen, they ask. He has taken a few thousand dollars from this conglomerate of desperados and fools and disappeared into the night. Some hours ago.

Don’t know, man, i just live here. Chill out.

He could sing, in a way. He had an irrepressible smile. And, as it often is with the bohemians, and as it was with my beautiful, fragile wife, he is probably dead by now.

8 comments:

Kez said...

One word: Wow.

Juice said...

Man you can really lay the heat when you want to. I really enjoyed your approach to writing this memoir, much like the Mercury story. Personally I think it's some of your best work (Of that I've read). Is there a book in it? But then thats up to you and how much you feel like sharing.

Mark Roy said...

Thanks Dewse. I think i will write more from my colourful history! The Nerve is really a diary about the here and now, but having read Sarah Toa's fabo vignettes on the Pilbara, High Times at the Hotel Dessication, i believe i have been inspired. She can write, that one.

Yes, everyone has a book inside them - especially people who eat books.

Juice said...

Yeah I've been following Sarah Toa avidly, but i must admit sometimes I find the mind box exploding without understanding. It makes me feel dumb like a dog who can't find a stick amongst a faggot.

Look forward to reading the colourful highlights of the past,present and future.

sarah toa said...

Hey juice, I don't wanna make you feel dumb. I just want you to love me...sigh...

Juice said...

Hahah I love ya Sarah toa!

Robin said...

Everybody loves you Toa!

Mark Roy said...

Sorry, when did The Nerve become a dating agency?