Saturday, December 06, 2008

NINETEEN SEVENTY NINE

He found me through an article in the newspaper.

"When i first saw that story about someone with your name riding a motorcycle around Albany without a licence, and giving false details and a false address to police, i thought, that would have to be you," he says.

It's an unnerving experience. Someone you haven't seen for nearly 30 years on your doorstep. School friends - those school friends with whom you once spent a lot of time - have this innate knack of turning up and shining a harsh light on your formative years. Quite unintentionally, in the course of general conversation, they illuminate how you so carelessly chartered this course of self-destruction, how you so blithely cast off into strange waters, setting sail with nothing but a rudimentary grasp of trigonometry and the wan light of distant stars.

But this didn't occur to me when i first opened my door and saw Lachlan. These thoughts came later, after several red wines, and more several red wines. The first thought that came to mind was how long his eyebrow hairs had grown.

I invite him upstairs, and put some coffee on the stove top.
"Yes, that was me," i say. "I couldn't do anything about the article going in the paper, but i did get to write my own headline. 'Motorcyclist takes police for a ride'."
He nods. "Yeah, funny," he says flatly. "Then i read a story about your photographic exhibition. You were always photographing things. That's what i wanted to talk to you about. You see, i'm getting married next week..."

And so we get to talking. Remembering the days of the old school yard. Music, cars, the (still unsolved) mystery of girls, our first forays into pubs and clubs, and, of course, skateboarding.

"Remember the luge runs?" Lachlan asks.
"Remember? 65 miles per hour on a four-foot long skateboard. Three inches off the road. At night. Yes, i remember."
"There was one time at Kangaroo Hill, me and Tim were standing, waiting for the run. Then this couple came out into their front garden, just randomly; we didn't know what to do. Suddenly the luge goes past, whoosh, and they watch it barreling downhill, stunned. Hub dressed all in black, lying down on the board, lit by your headlamps as you both roared past their front gate at over 100km/h.
"This couple just stand there, stare at each other. Then the bloke goes, 'I have heard about these things.' We just took off."
I laugh. "I remember doing Ewan Street in Scarborough, from the water tower to Scarborough Beach Road. Ha. Crazy days."
"Ah, Scarborough High School...they banned all school socials after ours. Man, i don't know how you did it. You got third in the academic awards, and you were never at school."
"I was so."
"No you weren't. You were always out stealing cars, or down the beach, or making explosives, or doing some crazy shit."
"I was not."
"Then you would bring in sick notes, and forge you mother's signature." He laughs.

He must have me confused with someone else. I'm imagining he's suddenly going to look at me askance and go, hang on, who are you again? Oh, no, that was another guy. But he doesn't.

"Remember when we went to that gig at UWA? What were they called - Icehouse? Flowers?"
"Flowers. And no, i don't remember. I'm pretty sure i wasn't there." But there is a niggling memory.
"Yeah you were, we were looking for you after the show, and you'd taken off with the band somewhere."
"No." Did I?

It slowly dawns on me that i've blocked out a whole series of memories from those days. They were troubled times. I didn't know who i was, what i was doing, or where i was going. High school days. It was like being locked in the trunk of a car, on a slow crawl up a darkened road, suddenly emerging before a giant drive-in screen as some bright and strange movie unfolds before your eyes. Now that part i remember. That was 1979, the movie at the drive-in was A Clockwork Orange, and i'd been in the boot of Robbie Chapman's Renault. I got in for free.

After high school i worked in a bank for two years, to qualify for the independent rate of tertiary assistance. The stint as a bank clerk permanently scarred my soul. To compensate, i bought a '62 Triumph Spitfire, chopped and lightened, with a worked motor. My first car.

Always start as you mean to continue.

We'd drive out to wherever and just skate. All the old crew from school, the pioneers, were still skating right through 1980. We were listening to new wave, punk, whatever. Sex Pistols. Devo. The Ramones, The Cure, The Jam. We could see bands every night at the Cat and Fiddle for a dollar, but we'd still climb the barbed wire at the back to get in for free. We were punks. The pub is the Flying Scotsman now, and the old punks settle for pizza and a pint on Sundays. But the Cat had bands like Doris Day, the Neutrons, the Silent Type, the Manikins. And the Triffids, whose limp and laconic stage presence belied their panoramic music and Dave McComb's stunning lyrics.

I started to take photography seriously. Went off to university and spent two years studying physics. Then i met Sienna, and began fooling around with drugs. As you do. I'd jump in the Triumph with a ridiculous amount of hash and we'd just drive, to Kalbarri or Margaret River or wherever, sit on the beach and smoke until we couldn't move. Or i'd turn up at a ramp and try to skate on acid. Things spiralled out of control pretty quickly. The skate crew fell apart over the next year as people drifted off. I don't remember much of that period at all, right up until the beginning of 1987 when i discovered i was a father and had certain responsibilities...

But by 1983 i had dropped out of uni started played music. In those days, this seemed a viable career option - you could live on the dole and play punk rock in bars. The Old Melbourne, the Casablanca, Hernandos, the Seaview, Rockwells, the Stoned Crow, the Shents, the Wizbah, Ozone Bar, the Red Parrot. I was renting a run-down house near the Leederville Hotel, a two bedroom wooden cottage for twenty dollars a week. But most days i'd go visit Sienna. We'd get stoned, fuck, and lie on her bed, off our heads, listening to King Crimson, Return to Forever, Eno, or some wacked out shit like Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Sienna was going through a mad, bad time. Her boyfriend Bob had died of a heroin overdose in the bathroom of a roadhouse, while on tour as the drummer in the musical Hair. A phenomenal drummer, by all accounts. Sienna threw herself into his grave at his funeral. She was a nut bar, but i loved her. Then one night she just ran off. Turned up a few days later in the hills, at a friend's house in Darlington, where she'd spent the past two days blind on datura. Literally blind. She was never the same after that. We drifted apart. I joined a new band.

Lachlan, meanwhile, was Down South, surfing, smoking, and camping in the forest. Working his way through university, to emerge a decade later with a qualification and a house in Denmark.

"Last i remember, you were getting about in that Kombi," i say. "It had 'Copious Amounts of Marijuana' written all over it."
"That's not the half of it," Lachlan says. "I could tell you the story of my flatmate, Juan, and the two motorcycles he brought in from Peru. With two fuel tanks full of cocaine."
"Now there's a story."
He phones his fiancee. We pick her up from Pyrmont House, and start on the drive to Denmark. I'm going to shoot their wedding next weekend, on a hundred acres of land Lachlan owns in the forest. He met Nicola while doing aid work out of London.

So how did he end up there?
"I just got jacked of it all in '99, doing accounts and helping make rich fat people richer and fatter," Lachlan explains. "I wanted to quit Australia and go overseas, and do something useful. So i put my hand up for Australian Volunteers Abroad. After about a year, I got to the interview stage. They asked me where i wanted to go. I said i didn't care. They said you have to give us a preference, so we know where to place you. I thought about it, and said, well, I want to go where there's surf, women, and beer. In that order." He pauses to overtake a cyclist.

"So they sent me to Afghanistan."

"I had no idea where it even was, so i looked it up on the map. And i'm like, where's the fucking beach?
"I spent a few years there, mainly in Kabul, working amongst the Talibs for a Danish aid organisation. We were right next door to the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, the ones who did all the enforcing. Staff members would literally hide under their desks when those bearded bastards came in. They were scary. I remember one time we heard they had taken some kites off some kids, and told them they should be spending more time reading the Koran.

"Then we look outside and there they are next door, kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders, flying kites."

6 comments:

sarah toa said...

Oh shark, you blow me away

Spencer Collins said...

Juan stored those motorcycles at my house in Wolsely rd East Fremantle. A house frequented by West Coast Eagles and various drug fucked folk. I was wearing long sleeves at that stage so the coke was a welcome diversion from the heroin I was loving.
One of those footballers died last year... RIP Mainy.

Robin said...

I know Lachlan!
The accountant - had a surf with him just recently.
Told Michelle he hadn't recognised me as I seemed to have put on some weight - mangy bastard but I forgive him 'cos he is one of the good guys!

Anonymous said...

Awesoma. Man, I miss that city.

melinda said...

Making headline as usual!! You're the real mc coy AD, a misfit to some but a star to many!
Thanks for the read, what a juicy feast to digest.

Juice said...

Dude.. Amazing!