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Irregular writings

March 2012

  • Dave Graney

A trip to Planet Hobart

Hobart. It’s a different joint every time you step onto the island. Every time you turn around! Sometimes it’s a very sophisticated scene, other times, a world of sleepy thugs. Not very scary though as, you know, I’m from Melbourne.

The flight over was strange. I walked up the gangway and watched the pilot washing the window of the plane. At least he didn’t get a squeegee out like he was in a gas station. Two extremely tall men were last to get on. A voice from nowhere was announcing their presence as they walked up the plane. They squeezed into a couple of sets back behind and across from me. Then the “voice” appeared at eye level to me. A Person of Restricted Growth. With a very loud, deep, rasping voice. He climbed in between two old ladies with a few apologies that would not have been out of place in the rural 1940s and then sat perched high on his seat. His legs were not in proportion to the rest of him and didn’t reach the floor. The two tall men behind kept ragging him and touching his crusty baseball cap and he said something along the lines of “strike me lucky! It’s gonna be outta control dealin’ with these jokers for the whole trip!” Colloquial antiquities abounded. The show was on for young and old! The old ladies giggled, kind of pleased to be supporting players to a bunch of recognizeable, old school blokes.

As the flight took off the loud voiced man had a VB in his hand as soon as he could and proceeded to burp very loudly. As if he was in a shearing shed or work lunchroom. Only this time there were women around. Ducks on the pond! Didn’t seem to phase him though. He carried on regardless. A trooper. As we touched down he and the old lady were both deep into nodding tut-tutting agreement about some politically correct bureaucratic bungling that was impinging upon the world as they experienced it. Madness – but what can you do?
I took a bus to the venue. I was staying in a room above the stage.

I went for a walk to the harbour to buy some fish and chips from one of the punts there. On the way a young sheila smiled and winked at me. On the way back another young bird gave me a flying flirt from a passing car. Of course I pulled my gut in and walked a little lighter. Like I still had it. At this stage, that sort of interaction is odd and seldom. Maybe they don’t have enough men in Hobart?

Seemed like a bit of a ghost town, something must be on! Suits me as I’m feeling a little ghostly.

The next day I went for another walk around the town. It was cold and wet. Hobart always turns it on for me. Last two times there I have been chesty, phlegmy, feverish and always walking headlong into an Antarctic wind. This time I was in rude health and the wind was light. I find an apple. I always look for them in the apple isle. I feel it’s my duty. They are not easy to find though, as if the locals are ashamed of them and shush them under the couch when visitors are on the scene.

Poncey Melbourne acquaintances have yelled at me about the new art museum in Hobart. I have nothing but time here but don’t take the opportunity to take the ferry to MONA. Yeah, I’m a philistine. Guilty. I’ll make the trip one day, when I have even more time to fill up. I enjoy the freakiness of Hobart itself. Just being there. I’ve read lots of great stories written about the island. Christopher Koch’s “The Double Man” being my favourite. Witchcraft, dope and folk rock. I love those flavours. When I get to the end of the kinks that abound in Tasmania I’ll get on the ferry and avail myself of the freaked collection at the gallery. That’s my story!

At the gig I am alone with my songs and an acoustic. Takes me a few songs to dig into the right tempo and intensity of playing. When you start to play a solo gig, after playing with a band a lot, you try to fill up all the noise a bit too much. Strumming and singing out, getting some smoke and noise happening. I started out pretty low key. A fellow who’d wanted me to sign a book had mentioned some songs he liked. I did them first up. The first time I’d touched them in years. “I’m just havin’ one of those lives” and “A million dollars in a red velvet suit”.
I walk through the two one hour sets, enjoying myself and visiting all kinds of tunes I normally can’t access with my band. Yes, I am otherwise being held prisoner.

Making the most of this tiny rush for freedom I play all kinds of tunes and feels and get to enjoy the picking and singing and groaning. Sick skills. After the show I walk upstairs and read myself to sleep.

The next morning I get a cab to the airport. I see a table load of African Americans in the food area and gravitate towards them. People from the real world. I enjoy a coffee and a literary journal I have brought with me in my bag and ascertain that they are the band members for the Pointer Sisters and they had played at the casino last night. As I walk to the plane I hear a familiar sound. “The voice” appears in the queue along with his too tall buddies, all cracking up at some pedestrian bloke shit that a regular sized person would have stepped over pretty easily.

Back in Melbourne, I grabbed my guitar and took a bus and a train to the hills. At the train station there was another Person of Restricted Growth at the bottom of the escalator. This one had hipster glasses and a rockabilly hairdo. Melbourne style. Got off the train at my stop and walked up the hills. Hadn’t really talked to anyone for a couple of days but had sung my life out for two hours the night before. Sat around in an empty, quiet house, taking the silence as it was. Happy to be with a night of no appointments or places to be. I’d already started the sweet slide downhill to the changing of the years.



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