Thursday, January 08, 2009

FACING THE MUSIC

It's a Friday. Fuck. I don't know how much longer i can kid myself that the idea of life as a connected journey towards something worthwhile is not an utterly meaningless proposition. I shift down and accelerate hard up Graphite Road. It's like getting kicked repeatedly in the guts. I should never have sold those Koni shocks. Another unseen bump on this winding road kicks the frame hard up into my spine and knocks the wind out of me. The air is hot and dry inside the helmet. The sun slants harsh through the regrowth karri as the sweet sour smell of the forest mingles with engine oil and leather.

I'm aiming for Manjimup to Nannup in under 45 minutes. Not because i'm in any kind of hurry, but because i'm told it's good to set goals. What a smashing day to be speeding relentlessly towards some kind of armageddon. Unlicensed, unrepentant, and unwavering. The road is hilly, winding, and surprisingly free of the usual holidaymaker hell that plagues the south west this time of year. A perfect venue for the solitary pleasure of motorcycling. Since leaving Albany i've only seen one four-wheel-drive, slowly crawling up a curve, caravan in tow. A box on wheels containing all the things they have come here to get away from. I cross the double white and blow past before they even register. Yellow road signs appear, those black snakes with pointy heads. For each and every one the decision is simple: draw your line and stick to it.

There are two kinds of motorcyclists: those who have come off, and those who will. Fortunately, i'm one of the former. Another road sign looms as i crest a hill and sweep down into the next curve. The new short mufflers crackle as i change down. Winding road, next 7km. What a glorious day. Apart from the fact that it's a Friday. Fuck.

I'm northbound to Southbound, a wrangled VIP two-day pass stashed in my backpack. To see Gomez, The Grates, The Hives, Bluejuice, Franz Ferdinand, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Dylan Garrett, Miss Polly, and Nurse Nikki. I have a media pass, plus one. And it's the "plus one" that introduces the armageddon factor.

"Miss Polly, i can't take Friday off. I asked already. If i do, they'll fire me. Besides, the best bands are on on the Saturday."
"Architecture in Helsinki are on on Friday. And you know i could have bought a scalped ticket my own self."
She's right, of course. But she's always right: she's a woman. When we first went to buy tickets and found they were sold out, i said to Miss Polly: Don't worry, i'll find us some. And i did. That was back when there was an 'us', and 'we' were going to spend our holidays in Margaret River. Dang. So i got us a media pass, plus one. But to get Miss Polly in on Friday, i need to be there, in corporeal form, with ID.

"Don't worry, i'll be there on the Friday, i promise," i said. This was a bit rash. But nonetheless, i promised. And if you don't look after your friends, then you instantly forfeit all your rights as a human being. You might as well pack it in. Or become chief-of-staff at a narrow-minded country newspaper. Of course, when i got back, i was fired on the spot. But this is a mere technicality. Am i a writer, or an arse-licking employee?

Some would contend that, at the moment, i am neither.

"Get your stuff and get out," said my chief-of-staff. Obviously she is not a fan of music, freedom, or sheer lunacy in any of its many and variegated forms.

I check the map pages when i pull into Nannup. I gave my country roads directory to Dylan last week, for his northbound road trip with his younger brother Jake. So i have only printouts from Google Maps to find my way through the back roads to Dunsborough. Just north of Nannup i turn off the highway and head west along Mowen Road, which soon becomes a gravel track. Oh well. I stick to 120 to even out the corrugations.

Eventually i get lost, ditch the road maps, and navigate by the sun. North by north west. When i get to Dunsborough it's hot, and insanely crowded. One of the advantages of riding a splendid vintage motorcycle is that you can park it anywhere, even somewhere utterly ridiculous, like right smack in the centre of a crowded footpath. People will just stand around admiring it, saying things like, "Wow. Nice motorcycle" or sticking notes to the seat that say "Love the 650. If you ever want to unload it, ring me. Dave 0412 546 912." If it was a Hyundai Excel, of a Ford Festiva, or a Kia, the virulent mobs would instantly snap off the antennae, key the duco, and twist the windscreen wipers ferociously about until they point in the direction of the next transit of Venus. Or simply kick the mortal piss out of the panels and headlamps with their steel-capped boots.

I dodge the moribund hordes and pull the dusty bike up to within spitting distance of a coffee shop. I hit the kill switch, twist up the petcocks - what a curious word - and kick out the stand. I dismount, pull off my helmet and, with my back arched and my feet shoulder width apart, i shake free my hair and stare around at mercilessly at the masses and laugh, just like Billy in Easy Rider. Ha ha ha. You can do this kind of shit when you ride a motorcycle. It's fucking great.

The front of the bike, my visor, my jacket and jeans are covered in bugs. Damn those guys. Captain America, and Billy. Wherever they went, their bikes were shiny and spotless, but you never saw them take so much as a rag to them. And they never changed their clothes throughout the entire film. They even slept in them. What kind of road trippers are these? With their spotlessly shiny bikes and freshly laundered shirts. Apart from in the last scene, of course, when they are lying in pieces and on fire on the side of the highway. But i'm hoping it won't come to that.

I order a coffee, fight off a pregnant woman with a pram for an outside table, peel off my jacket and change into a Thai batik shirt. Everything looks better in a Thai batik shirt, especially those ones with the two pockets low down at the front. While waiting for my double shot i text Nurse Nikki.
"I'm in town, at the coffee grinders. Come get me."
I haven't seen her in ages. She's still the same. Friendly, attractive, talkative - and unmarried. What's wrong with young blokes these days, i wonder. I follow her back to her beach house. It's a two-storey job on the beach side of Geographe Bay Road, with a huge roofed deck that looks out across the peppermint groves to a white sandy bay.

Noice. "You want a drink?" asks Nurse Nikki as i stretch out on the deck. Why haven't i visited here before, i wonder. I get a text. Miss Polly and her two sisters will pick me up around 1, then we'll head out to the festival. Miss Polly. Mmm.

Of course i'm here for all the wrong reasons. Well, no - not all the wrong reasons. I'm here for the music, to catch up with friends, and to engage in some serious photography. But the irrational, romantic and - let's face it - stupid part of me still longs for a return to that certain frisson that comes with the package that is Miss Polly. This, of course, is never going to happen. I know that. Because that was then. And this, unfortunately, is now. The harsh light of summer. But then, i never was much amenable to reason. I always was partial to the je ne sais qua.

"Uh, why did you just kiss me on the neck?" Miss Polly demands after i return from the bar and kiss her on the neck. I like her neck, especially where it joins her shoulder. I've been waiting a good fifteen minutes in the festival sun for a beer and a vodka. I thought she might be pleased to see me, seeing as how i have a cold beverage in my hand. We slide them into our classy servo stubby holders, the ones that feature those airbrushed pictures of scantily clad women lying on tropical beaches. Miss Polly looks very attractive in her orange island girl dress and orange nail polish. A bit like a tangerine. Thank god i didn't bite her on the fucking neck - my lawyer is away in Halmahera.
"Uh, because you were standing there." i say, realising this is probably not a sound defence.
Dylan and Miss Polly's friend are also standing there, watching this exchange.
"Friends don't do that," Miss Polly says. Friends. The f-word again. Hooly dooly.
"Of course they do. My friends do it all the time." I lean over and kiss Dylan on the neck. He's completely pissed, and barely notices.
"Yeah, i'll buy one for a dollar. Let's start a cult. Where's my dog?" he shouts, and takes another drink.
"What do you think?" Miss Polly turns to her girlfriend, who is luminous with the kind of sexual afterglow that follows a night of wanton lust with a new boyfriend. She smiles the smug, self-satisfied smile of a cat cleaning the cream off its whiskers. She might as well have a sign on her that says: i just got fucking laid. "Would you let your friends kiss you on the neck?"
"No. I certainly wouldn't," she says. "No no no. Never. You need to set some boundaries. I would only let my lover do that to me." Then she kind of wriggles.

Well. Thanks a lot. I hope after your boyfriend dumps you no friend ever kisses you on any part of your body again. Ever.

I shrug, take a swig of Heineken, and leave with Dylan. We go for a walk amongst the revellers, find Dylan's new friend L, and head over to the VIP media section. Here we put away a serious amount of free drinks.

I mean, if you can't fuck your friends, who can you fuck.

It's hopeless. Things were good there for a while; but now it's just hopeless. I cast about for a lifesaving ring, but there is nothing. Just the rolling sea that is the Southbound festival. I knew it was hopeless a few weeks back when she said "There is no 'us' anymore, Mark. There is no 'we'. Can i be any more clear?" The problem is that i can never understand why women are not perpetually in love with me. Hell, if i was a woman, i'd be in love with me. I take another swig of Heineken. Maybe i should have paid more attention in class. Maybe i should have taken notes when they explained what to do when the ship goes down. I thought you were meant to just keep on playing. Or stand and salute or something? I can't remember. I go to see the nice girl at the bar. A vodka? Ppffsshh. There you go. Ahh, thank God for small mercies. Small mercies in aluminium cans.

She's right of course. But then, she's always right. She is a woman, after all. I knock back the vodka and go for another. Hmmm. Freelance. Freelance sounds good.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

how more tragic can a grown man be?

miCheLLeBLOG said...

Sad but you gotta move on. I can see why you like Miss Polly.

Hey, good luck with wherever you end up. Sorry if you areleaving Albany - we need more characters like you and your stories of unrequited love. Hope you get requited - if that's what you really want.

Mark Roy said...

Sad? Tragic? Doesn't anyone apart from me find this shit funny?

Mayhem said...

Helmehera!!!...is that where he ended up? lmao Of course he did ;) Love ya A.D, those other monkeys should have the decency not to take you or themselves so seriously xo

sarah toa said...

It's hubris Anon. Hubris! And the venerable and ironic treatment thereof. Get it? Duh...
(sorry but anyone who comments as Anon deserves the treatment)
Whatever happens Shark, we will miss you. It was a nice spark of daylight having you around. x

junction said...

Utterly amazing! The office must be somewhat dull without you around Mark.
Hopefully you will return to Albany one day to further investigate the doomsday cult house.
Enjoy - Bing.

miCheLLeBLOG said...

Sure it's funny - in a tragic clown sort of way. Mayhem - what the fuck is decency?

Mark Roy said...

Thanks for your comments Michelle, i appreciate your advice and yes, maybe i don't really want reciprocity... Ha ha it's no good asking Mayhem about decency! That would be like asking Michael Hutchence about safe sex.

miCheLLeBLOG said...

Hey Mark, you are a brilliant writer and I am guessing that hack journalism is not your thing really. I will stay tuned to see where you end up!

Anonymous said...

Bloody funny, to be precise. Classic stuff, A.D.

And you can keep all kinds of cool stuff in those pockets, eh??