“I hear that you’re quite a monster,” were my first words to a highly respected member of the Sydney Symphony, who then led us to the Opera Bar and began a marathon 12-hour drinking session that ended with the Brunette’s collapse during a lull in the conversation started by the Munster, the Monster’s crazy ex. The Munster was studying development, which is code-speak for “punch me repeatedly in the face” and the assembled crowd had to be restrained almost continually as he subverted otherwise entertaining banter with “so, Female Genital Mutilation, what d’ya think” and “globally we’ve only been industrialized for the last ten years, so I can’t see how it’s causing climate change” but he was getting the beers in and there’s a lot you can put up with in these instances.

The musicians all had a touch of the madness about them, with snatches of conversation here and there,

“I mean, how bad do you have be as a clarinet player that the neighbours asked him to stop playing the saxophone?”

“Mainlining Crystal Meth wasn’t a mistake, but perhaps we shouldn’t have done it on the third day, because I couldn’t really speak after that.”

As the musicians started to drift away, which should have been a warning, it became apparent that the Munster would not be budged from neither his seat nor his lunatic opinions, the Brunette quickly became reeled into one stupid conversation after another. The Monster intervened a few times, but things got ugly once the Munster started laughing at the death of some kid called Eli, whose father had composed and conducted a tribute several days ago. The kid had effectively been murdered by a woman using her car as a weapon, it was a contentious case, and just the sort of thing to bring up after sixteen beers. I suspect that five hours later, after another ten beers, we didn’t need to revisit that particular subject but revisit it we did and after a few clashes, the Munster was quietly taken aside by one of the latecomers and given a crash course in how to be nice to women, during which time he twice asked for her number, and only broke off that conversation to lean across, look at the Monster, and say in his most heartfelt voice,

“I Love You.”

So we pepper sprayed him and threw him into the poison ivy. Or we should have.


So there’s a dozen anti-suits parked in Martin Place framed by a pile of sleeping bags, protest signs and placards, and a stall serving food. Oh, and the Reserve Bank of Australia and some financial skyscraper. The anti-suits are complaining, but there’s so damn much to complain about there’s an entire taxonomy for all the placards and half of them don’t even know all the shit their government is pulling on them because it’s all being done in secret. Like the US treaty that basically exports US-made laws and US-led enforcement onto Australians without giving them a say in it.
But here we have two sides with varying senses of entitlement, one side with all the money and power and one side suggesting that they’re entitled to a better world. They must have missed that whole bit about power conceding nothing without a fight. But there’s no fighting, just a rag-tag mob of well-meaning but directionless tail-chasers who aren’t even that anti-suit. But they might be sticking around.



Observing that an entire queue of people trying to queue-jump is permitted – merging – where one or two people would be maced and run out of town, I’m getting on the Sydney flight, hauling my bag and guitar into the locker and look back to see that there’s a Yeti in the seat next to me. Yeti shoots a dirty look and goes back to the duty-free magazine. I squeeze myself in because Yeti is all over the armrest in between and dripping over the edge and I’m trying to be stealthy, not disturb nor make my presence felt too close lest Yeti rips my arms. Yeti finishes staring at the brandy section, dives in for a quick scratch and sniff before tossing the mag down, pushes the armrest up into no-mans-land until Cabin Crew arrive and demand that my last line of defence is restored.  Narrow escape, except by this time the plane is hitting V1 on the runaway and the Brunette is panicking because the fear of flying is screaming at her in stereo and we’re bouncing around the tarmac like Freddy Krueger’s school bus, the kids two rows down think they’re in Disneyland and all the time the Brunette is trying to make balloon animals out of my left arm just make it stop already but sooner or later calm is back, the Brunette is head down reading Murakami’s latest suicide note and the Yeti is occupied adjusting costume jewellery until Cabin Crew emerge with a trolley. Feeding Time. Yeti sings a showtune over the exact type of coffee required extra milk one and a half sugars and then it’s three dollars. Yeti looks caught in the headlights and mumbles some excuse about handbags – wait, it’s a she? – being far away and has them dump the coffee while she shrivels into looking out the window again in shame. My victorious snort allows the cabin crew to move out of reach before I can grab a few celebratory gins and anyway, two minutes later we’re heading down and the brunette is twisting my shoulder into a giraffe. We’re finally in Sydney.


Fear and Loathing on the Campervan Trail, ’11

Years before I’d ever met a single Australian, I wondered why the hell anybody would travel all that damn way just to see another bunch of Caucasian Westerners with funny accents, and then I started making friends with Australians in London and wondered why the hell they wanted to travel all the way here. Given their leathery saddlebag skin and all their bitching about the English weather I didn’t expect the Australian sky to look like a used grey dishcloth being wrung out when I touched down on the Gold Coast. And arriving at the hostel to find they’d just been robbed. An inside job. Standing there watching the new arrivals waiting for check-in, watching the cops talk to the dishevelled manager, watching everyone watching replays of the CCTV footage, watching two hooded and masked guys case the joint, head straight for the safe. Some proper fear and loathing on everyone’s faces and so I just turned around and went to make some toast.