Monthly Archives: February 2007

The Naked Chauvinist

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Sometimes we bury our prejudices so deeply that it comes as a surprise when some event exposes them in all their stark absurdity.  If you had asked me, I would have said that I believed one’s gender was not a prerequisite for the professions.  I am equally comfortable with male and female doctors, with men who are nurses and women who are mechanics.  I am, I thought, a man of enlightened views. 

And then I caught a flight from Chicago to Vermont. 

I was sitting in the departure lounge waiting for the flight that would take me to Burlington.  I stared around me taking in everything, as one does when away from what is familiar.  My attention was caught by a tall woman, young, attractive and reading some sort of manual.  She was dressed in what appeared to be a pilot’s uniform.  Certainly the epaulettes suggested something more than a flight attendant.  “Hmmm,” I thought, “Maybe there’s a female pilot on this aircraft.” 

Then I notice another woman approaching wearing the same uniform.  The two are soon engaged in a quiet conversation and walking towards the departure gate.  “Surely,” I ask myself with an edge of anxiety, “there are not TWO female pilots on ONE plane!”   

And there it was – my imagination running riot with every possible stereotype of women.  Would they stop talking long enough to check the flight path?  Would they even understand the flight path, you know what women are like with maps? What if something mechanical broke down?  Would they remember to put down those silly wheels (before we landed!)? 

Then I did what we all do in moments of pending crisis.  I pretended that it wasn’t happening.  Who said they were pilots?  Hadn’t I just leapt to that conclusion?  Probably they were just administrative employees of the airline or trainees of some sort.   I sat down in my seat and scanned the cabin for clues as to the pilots’ gender.  None was forthcoming so I sat back to watch – with a little more attention than usual, it’s true – the safety demonstration. 

Eventually the aircraft lifted into the sky and I took the time to thank God for small mercies.  Now, all I had to do was focus on the menu and pretend that the people up front knew nothing about Ikea or how to clean skirting boards. 

Then came the announcement from the cockpit.  “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  I am your Captain, Fiona Alford.  Welcome aboard flight UA286 to Burlington.” 

Damn!  Still, maybe the co-pilot… 

“With me today in the cockpit is your co-pilot, Jenny Martinez”

And then, as if she had read my thoughts, the Captain went on, “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you are on an unmanned flight to Vermont.”

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Filed under chauvinism, fear, humour, life, Women

But then again, I am drunk

card_players_s.jpgIt is the holidays again and, home from my studies, I am sitting on my parents’ front veranda in my hometown.  The sea breeze is in but gently and the purple bougainvillea is waving in the spring sunshine.  Bandy arrives and walks towards me up the front path.  We are both 19; we have grown to strangers already but we are bound by a childhood that seemed to last forever and is now receding like the tide. 

Bandy tells me he is a father.  There were complications and they flew his girlfriend by Flying Doctor to the city.  She is only 17.  Anyway, he and the boys are celebrating this afternoon at Bandy’s house.  Why don’t I come over and have a beer and play some cards?  I am genuinely impressed.  Bandy is the first of my friends to become a parent.  Of course I’ll come over. 

When I arrive the boys are already well entrenched around a makeshift table in the smoky lounge room.  There are cards, beer bottles and ashtrays.  Young women, most of them partners of the men, are having their own party in the kitchen.  They gaze at me with suspicion.  They know I am not one of them any more. 

By late afternoon there is a lull in the card playing and Bandy has become drunk and sentimental.  He singles me out across the table for a talk about old times.  Everyone knows I am here under his patronage.  Without him I would be dead.  One of the men, Mazza, has been growing increasingly antagonistic.  When I win a hand he throws coin across the table; laughs as I pick it up from the floor. 

“It makes you real proud when you have a baby,” Bandy says.  “I would never have thought that I could feel this proud of Megan, you know?” 

I start to say something but he interrupts as if struck by a solemn realisation. 

He says, “I’ll tell you one thing.” 

“What’s that?” I ask. 

“I’ll never hit her again.”  No one laughs and I realise it is not a joke.  Suddenly looking up, and as if overcome by his own magnanimity, he adds quickly,  “But then again, I am drunk.” 

I go to the kitchen for a beer.  The table of girls has also lost its humour.   One of them, the one with a bandage around her head, is sobbing.  Two others are hugging her and talking intently into her face.  They don’t look up as I enter.  Then I hear one of them say, “But think about it, Janet.  If Mazza didn’t love you he wouldn’t have hit you over the head with the radio.” 

I make excuses to leave and they are lame ones but no one cares.  Outside it is now twilight.  I walk away.  The sea breeze is still blowing but I notice it has become colder.

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Filed under australia, drinking, friends, life, Men

At the Drive In

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I have to admit that it wasn’t that hard to be the resident intellectual in my little town.  We lived on the edge of the Indian Ocean; each day it crept timidly up the usually dry riverbed around whose mouth the town had grown.  Then it would shyly retreat leaving large tidal expanses in which sawfish and stingrays basked.  It was a hot place made liveable by the afternoon sou’ wester that filled the air with the smell of salt and pushed the heat back across the low hills that bordered our community.  Beyond the hills, Australia reached inwards through low scrub and claypans towards the great thirsty interior.  This was not the place for an intellectual. 

Of course, I wasn’t really an intellectual, but as I grew older, I came to pass for one.  Suspicions that had been founded on my love of reading and an ambivalent attitude towards sports were confirmed when, at 17, I left home for College.  It was funny – we had spent our teen years roaming aimlessly around the town bemoaning our boredom and promising to leave at the first opportunity.  Those of us that left at the end of school never came back; those that stayed never left. 

I knew that my reputation was irrefutable, however, when I returned home for holidays at the end of my first college year.  It was Friday night and the Drive In theatre was packed.  In those days, the Drive In was the centre of whatever passed for youth culture in my town.  We learnt to fight there; to drink, to smoke, to love and to nurse our broken hearts and noses. 

I was parked near the boys from the Public Works Department.  Most had left school at 15 and now they drove water trucks, fixed roads and laid pipes across the sprawling brown district.  Their acknowledged leader, and my oldest friend, was Bandy, a skinny, eccentric kid with a quick tongue and a taste for the laconic. 

It was soon clear from the conversations in the PWD car that the film, “Jesus Christ Superstar” was receiving increasingly negative critiques.  Between the clink of beer bottles I could hear murmured disbelief as actors strode into scenes wearing ancient garments but carrying machine guns.  Mild discontent became outright incredulity when a large tank appeared and chased Judas through the desert. 

Finally a voice arose clearly above the rest, “Bandy, they didn’t have fuckin’ tanks in those days did they?” 

Bandy, without pause, and loud enough to let me know that he was publicly recognising my superior knowledge in all things literary, answered his erstwhile student thus: 

“I dunno, mate.  Ask Oscarandre; he’s read the Bible.”  

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Filed under australia, Film, humour, jesus, life, Religion

Zen and the art of not finishing stuff

Satori is the spiritual goal of Zen Buddhism. (in Chinese: wu.) Satori roughly translates into individual Enlightenment, or a flash of sudden awareness. Satori is as well an intuitive experience. A brief experience of Enlightenment is sometimes called Kensho. 

I hate Zen, you know?  Like, all that satori stuff, those little anecdotes and riddles that lead to enlightenment.  I don’t buy that thing.  They should tell a long story for guys like me, you know, stories with a beginning, middle and end.  And then, if you still don’t get it, they should just tell you what it means.  That’s what it was like at my Sunday school, man.  No ambiguity, you know.

But those Zen people – it’s all fucking ambiguity!  OK try this out; see if this brings you closer to the meaning of life:

“A man is being chased by a lion.  He falls over a cliff but as he falls he grabs hold of a root sticking out from the cliff face.  As he looks up he sees the lion waiting for him to come back so he can devour him.  He looks down and sees the earth thousands of feet below him.  Then, he notices a single red flower clinging to the wall of the mountain.”

Now that is the START of a good story; that is not THE story!  That story is not finished, man.  Where I come from that is the story you tell when you are really drunk and can’t remember how it ends.  That is the kind of story you tell when you are really OLD!  My grandmother told lots of those stories.  She’d say, “Your cousin, Eric, he bought a chainsaw once.  Locked it in the shed one Christmas.”  And she told that story over and over and no-one said, “Fuck, Gran, I think I just glimpsed Nirvana.”  Actually no one even visited her by that time but you get what I mean.

I don’t know why but it just shits me.  It’s lazy, isn’t it, not taking the time to finish a good story and just when it was getting interesting.

Like the time this dwarf in a red Volkswagen parks on my lawn and starts making love to my hand painted stone Aborigine statue.  Angry, I go outside ready to kick the little bastard to kingdom come.  Then, looking up, I notice this feather floating out of the gum tree.

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Filed under humour, life, Religion, zen

The sitters at the table of plenty

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Today, one of the local radio stations asked people to call in with their ideal dinner party guest list.  I mean, it’s academic for me since I had kids.  Once I would spend an entire afternoon buying and grinding 100 spices to make a chicken curry.  Once I made my own spaghetti – took me hours and I could have bought it for 89 cents! Now if it ain’t in a tin, it won’t get in.  So I don’t do dinner parties anymore – but it got me thinking.  Who would I invite?  This is who I came up with:

God and Stephen Hawking – so that when God had finished talking, Hawking could understand how he (Hawking) makes us feel most of the time – really dumb.         

Paris Hilton and Marilyn Monroe  – so that Marilyn can convince Paris of the merits of dying young        

Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot –  Sautéed slowly with a zesty sauce made with chilli and Tabasco and served on an open platter.         

Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana – I like a little jam with dinner.          

Kim Jong Il and a toilet brush – just so that North Korea’s president can see that – even if you are small, bristly, ugly and smelly – you can still be useful.        

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse -– I don’t know why, but Pestilence, War, Death and Famine just sound like fun guys and they never get invited to dinner.        

Tony Blair, John Howard, Saddam Hussein and George Bush Jnr – hang on, I already invited the four horsemen!         

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Dr Kinsey – Just so Kinsey could record one of the world’s greatest dicks in action – long, slender, erect – and subject to immature ejaculations. 

Oh, and John Lennon.  I just miss him sometimes.  But he’d probably ask me why I didn’t invite to dinner the 12 children who died of hunger-related illnesses in the minute it took you to read this.  And I haven’t enough chairs for the 16 000 kids who starved to death today. 

 But, if I could, I would – just to say I’m sorry, you know?

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Filed under consumerism, Food, humour, life

So you won’t be eaten

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The kids and I went to the beach on Saturday.  Apart from the fact that there is a chance that you could be eaten there, most people would say our beach is beautiful.  As summer arrives, the Indian Ocean wraps around your pale ankles like an old friend welcoming you back to its embrace.  Gentle waves roll in from the direction of Africa somewhere far away across the faint horizon. 

But the fact remains that it is a place where you can end up as the plate du jour of any one of at least three of the world’s most dangerous sharks: the White Pointer, the Tiger Shark and the Bull. 

Now, it is also true that the chances of being eaten by a shark are roughly 1:11 million, a statistic that stimulates many a trip to the beach but is strangely irrelevant as one enters the water. And, of course, Australia is not the place you are most likely to be attacked – that honour rests with mainland United States (around 800 attacks since records have been kept).   But we are in second place (at 305) and, I hasten to add, you are more likely to actually die from the bite of an Australian shark (39 deaths in the US; 136 in Australia).  Whether this is a tribute to Antipodean man-eaters or a dubious comment on the frailty of Australians themselves is uncertain.   

Anyway, what is clear is that my beach is potentially a place of salty carnage.  So here are four tips to avoid being eaten:

  1. Always leave as many people as possible between you and the open sea – personally I look for the fat and the young figuring that they represent more value for effort on the part of the shark (those with children will find this quite easy to manipulate by simply encouraging the kids to float a bit further out).
  2. Since 90% of shark attacks are on men, it’s worth considering placing yourself in the middle of a lot of women swimmers.  On the other hand, in the eyes of a shark, this may make you stand out as the one desirable lobster in a sea of shrimps.
  3. There is some evidence that swimming with other animals increases your likelihood of being attacked by a shark.  Take you dog to the beach and keep throwing its ball in the direction of the swimmers farthest from you.
  4. Sharks tend to feed on the edge of deep water.  Organise all the kids on the beach to race around the buoy that’s furthest from the shoreline. 

 As Lenny Bruce used to say, intellectual awareness has its limitations.  I know that I have more chance of being killed in a car crash than being eaten by a Great White.   

And yet, when I’m treading water, somehow separated from all the other swimmers on the beach and there’s a shadow nearby that might please, please only be seaweed? 

I’d give a million bucks to be rolling 200 miles an hour, drunk at the wheel  down a Bangkok bypass instead.

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Filed under australia, fear, humour, life, sharks

12 lessons from a failed marriage

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“One should always be in love; that is why one should never marry.”Oscar Wilde 

  1. Never confuse the terms wedding and marriage.  Think about the wedding as a pre-op injection – the creation of an artificial mood of bravado before you slip into oblivion.
  2. The words “I do” will never be repeated in your marriage.  They are replaced most often by “You will.”
  3.  The best man is called the best man because, being cleverer, wiser and smarter than you, he will wake up with nothing more than a hangover. 
  4. Not all people cry at weddings because they are happy.
  5. You know that list of suggestions for wedding presents you made together?  That is the first of a lifetime of lists and the only one that will not cost you money.
  6. Remember that feeling of panic you had the night before the wedding, the irrational sense of dread, the ridiculous feeling you were making a mistake? That was nature’s way of saying, “Run!”
  7. Men are not prepared for marriage – they have given less thought to what makes a good marriage than they have to what makes a good wedding.  Didn’t the warning bells go off when he said, ”Well, how hard can it be to organise the seating for the reception?”  What made you think that he would have the faintest idea about sustaining a lifelong relationship?
  8. Planning a wedding is the first time a man gets to realise that the words, “I want your opinion” actually mean “I want you to guess my opinion.”  This is good training for the rest of your married life.
  9. All marriages are based on compromise, a little bit of give and take – a lifetime of giving each other the shits and taking the piss.
  10. Never again in your life will you wake up wondering, “What I will do today?”  The list is on the fridge.
  11. Soon you will realise that women have lived their lives under the misguided belief that being born with a penis equates with a natural talent for other tools such as  spanners, drills and paintbrushes.
  12. The term “married life” is an oxymoron.

 

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Filed under humour, life, Love, Marriage, Men, Women