Friday, March 16, 2007

The Freak at Loose Ends.

I'm at a loose end and have decided to tie up a few, to get some kind of conclusion to this epic crap-fest. In humiliation I had to carry my kitsch painting across the city from the Cross to Surry Hills with everybody staring at me, lit up like a fleurescent disco. On the way I passed a famous art dealer, Ray Hughes, whose monolithic gallery covers an entire warehouse and, fishing for a future show, I thought maybe I could catch the big man's attention. I left my work in the foyer and tip-toed in, and almost tripped over the Master, looking like Godzilla in baggy pants and braces. He gave me the laser-eyed treatment, I got mental telepathy from him, "Oh fuck no, not another desperate artist come to importune me for a break!" He's probably had artists up to his arse-hole; thoroughly sick of them, he ran into the next room before I could squeak. I tried to follow but was warned off by an assistant, "For staff only!"

I glanced around at the works on the walls, giant gloomy brown and black paintings that must have had $7000 worth of oils sludged on every piece,  pedestrian painting in a style a zillion other wankers are using, great lumps of paint applied with a spatula, ugly nude women standing at windows or falling down stairs. The works so huge only a palace ballroom or corporation foyer could fit them in, quite prepossessing if hung in the boardroom, they threatened power and fear, plebs like me better watch my step or one of them might leap off the wall and crush me, overwhelming to the point that I crept out of the gallery without a peep, carrying my cheap-shit acrylic on my head like a third-world peasant.

There was no place for me in this world of high capitalism and corporate art, I had to go fuck it a long time ago and be an anarchist, painting "for the people, amidst teeming life", like my murals and posters put up on squat walls. I've been living out a fantasy of 19th century Paris, absinthe, sex and paint mixed into a heady myth that had me deliriously drunk. But there's never been any money in it, and now I'm starving, the bad part of the "myth of the artist", what a lousy joke, I'm just a twit from Twirpsville! I've been kidding myself all these years, not only am I a kindergarten finger-painting retard with delusions of grandeur, there's no such thing as "the artist", only careerists, State-apologists, businessmen, wallpaper-hangers, upholsterers and master bullshitters.

I trudged back to Northcott Housing Ghetto and flopped back into my cage with my painting hung on my lounge-room wall for me alone to contemplate and gnash my teeth over. Eric the Berserker next door kept me awake all night, he'd been quietened the last few months with a double-hit of Modicate twice a week but he's become tolerant of the mega-dose and was back to his howling Hound of the Baskervilles self, the wailing echoing up the functional brick towers till dawn and creeping out even the creeps. To add to the horror, an old bleach blonde scrag from upstairs has decided to run amok, she got herself on the TV news the other night grizzling because the cops had socked her on the jaw at the protest against Dick Cheney's visit. Now she wants to be shifted to another suburb and has decided the best way is to make such a nuisance of herself the rest of us will complain to have her moved. At sunrise, when Eric finally chills out, she carries on the relay by running up and down the verandah yodeling, squabbling, gargling and giggling maniacally. When I put my head out the door to tell her to shut her gob, she lifted her granny dress and flashed her manky fanny at me, hooting like a cuckoo. Nogod, where does the madness end?!

Northcott got itself a certificate of "Safe Community" from the World Health Organisation, like a piece of bureaucratic voodoo, 'THEY' probably pray such tokenism will convince the loonies to put a sock in it without spending a penny on them, and in the meantime the rest of us residents have to provide the nursing, therapy, counseling, cleaning and compassion. It all adds to my insomnia, I walk around like a zombie, fitting in well with the crowd. Blondie upstairs has zeroed in on old Dolly, two doors up from me, as the best target for harassment, as maybe the authorities would listen to her complaints being the most respected resident here, (she picked the wrong victim, Dolly never complains, ever, she's the classic stoic Auzzie.) Blondie mostly does her mad-hatter's dance by Dolly's door, the 85 year old driven to despair, yet when the filmmakers interviewed her for the documentary, "1000 neighbours", Dolly never said a word about the 20 years of abuse she's received from Eric and Blondie, only describing Northcott as a friendly community with sweet caring neighbors, (like me), such is the goodness of her soul. She often brings me a hot dinner, worried that I'm ill, depressed, defeated, and she helps me to hang in there, surviving Northcott and callous Sydney, revivifying my trust that "humanity" is itself not a myth, or a post-modern illusion.

On the other side of me Cursula and Bawl have settled down amidst her rat's warren of piled up rubbish, with the rabid pet rabbit gnawing at the edges, the star-crossed lovers seem resigned to each others idiosyncrasies and not indulging in the scream-fests of yore. (I think I've figured out the game plan = shrieking, blistering insults followed by repetitive nagging then hours of co-counseling ending up with a session of sexual healing, a god-shaking fuck = the routine for most Hets I gather.) Poor Cursula figured the only way to beat the State, who have taken her two children from her, was to have another baby, and maybe run away to a cave in the bush if THEY tried to interfere again. Only the poor bitch had a miscarriage, dropping a bloody mess onto the floor of her dumpster kitchen. It was then proposed by the 'Department of Human Services' that she have her womb scraped, it was her second miscarriage, but she chickened out, refuses to answer her door and has mulched down into her heaps of garbage, hoping she can hide out.

She's probably unable to get pregnant again, which is maybe for the best as she admitted to me she finds life somewhat peaceful without the responsibilities of bringing up children, it suits her to see them a few times a month, and in the meantime she can get on with her own myth of being an "artist". Bawl and her plink away on guitars and piano, warbling twisted love songs, with only a few interludes of scabrous abuse. Life has settled down to a kind of pastoral idyll, we look in on each other to borrow sugar, valium and cigarettes, and moan about the iniquities of cruel, capitalist Auz, our basement level in Northcott has the feel of a hippie commune such is the entanglement of our warped lives.

(Northcott Towers got on TV again last night, this time a boohoo story on "This Day Tonight", interviews with a gorgeous little girl who lives amidst the horror and degradation of "the toughest neighborhood in Auz." Our housing ghetto has become a 'media star', iconic for its existential challenge, now maybe there will be a rush of deviants from across Auz dying to live here. I'm amazed how I myself am strangely attracted to the biggest HOTSPOT of any city I end up in, such as Colaba in Bombay, Pahagrunge in New Delhi or the Piccolo Cafe at Kings Cross, as if I belong in the background like a telling prop in a piece of macabre theater.)

I daily ride my bike up to the Red-light District of the Cross to the Piccolo Cafe, that mecca for misfits and MY CLUB, which sails on regardless, cresting the stormy seas like a leaky ship of fools with Vitto as mad captain. In the hurly-burl of an uncaring, wilderness city it is the one oasis of 'Realness', people actually talk to you, ask you about your 'self', it's a true site of 'community'. It's such a relief not to be a transient ghost haunting the backstreets, I feel I take on substance there in that grungy shoe-box, all under the aegis of Vitto's irascible, Yoda-like nature. The old fool forever calls out to people passing on the street to let them know they're alive, and the whole district calls in on him, to gossip, get one of the endless books contributed by and for text junkies, sign a petition, drink bad coffee, and get insulted, scandalized, delighted by Vitto's gutter-snipe tongue-lashing.

So many of the old-timers have died, drifted into oblivion, gone mad, been incarcerated or driven away by Vitto's egregious grumpiness, there's only a few of the die-hard regulars hanging in there, like algae in a noxious pond, bemused by the "serious young insects" that crowd in to have their pop video shoot or trendy magazine interview, co-opting the cachet of 'cool' that the oldies have built up over 50 years. Ayesha the Drag(on-Lady) had to have brain surgery, and seems to have slowed down since, she's not as vitriolic in her barbed witticisms, as if the nastiness has been cut out of her, only the milk of human kindness left dripping. Mad Malcolm now permanently resides in Caritas Psyche Clinic, after all the wealth he'd inherited and splurged, he'd been found sleeping on the streets, his trousers filthy with piss and shit, drooling nonsense, even the desperate junkie rent-boys turned off, money can't buy sanity.

Old Yankie Auntie Crack and me are speaking again, he's forgiven me my nasty comments, at the end of his days he knows it's more fun to trade witty insults than have chilly silences. He's always on about his friendships with Tennessee Williams and William Burroughs, carping at his own failure to get published; it's great for me as a writer to soak up his senile wisdom, he once actually spoke to Carson McCullers on the phone at Tennessee's dump, I salivate over his reminiscences. He's now flown off to Seattle, U.S. to have one la
st "on the road" jaunt before he finally "asks the dust", (where am I going when it's all over?) I hope he doesn't get 'deep throat thrombosis' on the long flight, he's such a decrepit old fag. (He was 71 and the flight did indeed do him in, he came off the plane half paralyzed and dropped dead in Kansas city.)

And I've had a reproachment with Cherie Geuvera Glumbum, he knows the Piccolo is the only Club that will have him, the REVOLUTION needs a madcap base, and the funkiest coffee house in the world might as well be it. I don't really hold grudges for too long, except for those who really fucked me over, like Robert Baywatch at the Booze-on-tap Gallery, who is such a petty power-monger, when I rang about for my People's Choice prize from the Images of the Cross competition last year, I was told I'd have to crawl to get it because of my atrocious bad manners. Luckily my friends went over the deadhead dead body and rang the factory where my $500 worth of paints reside and I'm able to go straight there and pick them up.

 I am miffed at how my painting continues to get the rough-shod treatment from 'gronk society'. I watched a doco last night on TV about artists in Iran who get killed off if they're not state-sanctioned. It's not too different here in Utopian Auz, we simply starve here instead of facing a firing squad. I am very pleased to note that one of the main motifs in my controversial work was the "Pink Pussycat Strip Club", the first such club in all Auz and thus Iconic, my intuition as ever spot on, and the painting will live on long after Robert Baywatch has bitten the dust. (Leslie caught him watching porn on the gallery's computer, and getting the gallery to pay for it, and she kicked his red baboon arse all the way back to Queensland.)

The latest disgrace at the Piccolo is Knobby Israel, local raconteur and snatch hound, getting arrested at his part-time job up at Porky's Sex Shop for selling sexually explicit DVDs and he now faces the humiliation of criminal court as a "dirty pornographer". This is all part of the "clean the sleaze of the Cross" campaign, all for the giant apartment towers that are springing up like poisonous toadstools and bringing in a tsunami of 'good citizens', squeezing out the salacious businesses that made the Cross famous and added zest to its Bohemian edge, which is what attracted punters to the area in the first place. Roslyn Street itself, where the Piccolo Cafe is situated, is about to be 'cleansed' and irrevocably lose its Bohemian milieu, when the quaint Baron's Pub building, a faux Tudor Manor, gets knocked down for a post-modern VIP Club that looks like the Titanic sinking into the asphalt. Funk is out, Money is GOD.

CHANGE is inevitable, for the entire Universe is transient, life a mirage, humanity a sales pitch, one's self a construct, the artist a myth, and the Piccolo will also disappear when ancient Vitto gives up the ghost, even Northcott Suicide Towers will fall, all in the name of PROGRESS, gentrification and respectability, and like many an old timer reminiscing in their rocker chairs, (I'm an old rocker), I will be sad as Sydney itself dissolves into the mists of time, like Camelot, me as Arthur getting it in the arse.

Right now I'm reading Gregory David Roberts' "Shantaram", a book it's taken me years to come at as I myself have been writing my memoir of old-time hippie India, fiften years of re-writes and despair, only to find this guy has pre-empted me, with better writing and a more exciting story. He was a junkie bank robber on the run, up for any way to earn a buck, I was a homo yogi trying to lose my abusive upbringing, giving myself up to the Universe, different stories but both of us Aussie. Hets rule, and everyone loves a romantic villain like him. (For instance, our different perceptions are summed up by Leopold's, he's always the guest of honor there; in the '70s I slept on the streets of Bombay as a deadbeat dreamer, Leopold's Cafe was a paradise of lush food and elite comfort way out of my reach, and by the '90s I avoided Leopold's like the plague, it's a plastic tourist trap with the funk cleansed and the patrons all wearing David Jones type clothes.)

"Shantaram" is about to be a movie with Johnny Depp in the lead, an ugly guy turned handsome, as Hollywood-land always tends to do. I'm just jealous, about the writing not the movie, (it didn't happen anyway, maybe they found out what a wanker the guy is), the idea of my reality filtered thru celluloid horrifies me, especially as he arrived in India a demon and was reborn as an angel, I went to India a naive angel and got myself djinn-possessed, realizing my homo Self and becoming a demonic Ling worshiper! Arriving at a loose end, reading his book because I miss India till my heart breaks, I find someone else has gotten there before me and written much that I wanted to say about India, always the way for a loser like me, I'm just not quick enough, it's the quick or the dead in this world.

No big deal. I think I'll get lost in the Himalayas and forget about 'achievement' and 'contribution', there's an avalanche of auto-biographical confessions rushing down upon us, no need for another, this Blog enough. I guess I'll just let myself get swept away. (But the weird thing about us homo sap sap sapiens is we can never be told enough stories, like eternal children we want adventure tales told over and over, so maybe there's space for my quirky bedtime stories somewhere, way way over the rainbow.)

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Big Sister Double Speaks.

Well Toby Z has gone and done it again, flipped out in public and made an arse of himself, lucky I've got the excuse,"I'm an artist, and that includes 'performance'!" Hopefully, a zillion of the city's drone/bureaucrat/cronie's tongues are wagging at the moment badmouthing me as the "enfant terrible", as for an artist bad publicity is good publicity so I'm not going to sweat over it too much. I've been stewing in my juices over my painting "Kings Cross 1980" getting banned from the Sydney City Council's "One Stop Shit Shop" open-forum gallery without anyone giving me the criteria for the ban, who was responsible, or even where the painting has been hidden away, the "cone of silence" that works so seamlessly here in Auz as a way of muffling free speech descending over the whole affair and suffocating me.

Then I heard our lovely Lord Mayor and Independant Member of Parliament, Clover Moore, was coming to Northcott Housing Estate to placate the restless tenants with self-congratulatory speeches and tout for votes, for the State elections are only 3 weeks away. I could never hope to meet her out in the wider world to have my say so I turned up at the Northcott Community Centre and sat with my fellow dispossessed wards of the State intending to get her attention. I tried to remain cool and diplomatic, but after being told to shut up several times the horns popped up on my forehead and I got quite histrionic in my rave, electrifying myself and gobsmacking our dear Big Sister, Clover: actually, I nearly did a "Carrie" and set her hair on fire.
For support and comfort I sat beside my beloved next door neighbour Dolly, the woman who actually cut the ribbon on the estate when it first opened in 1962. Like some long-awaited rock-star Clover suddnely marched in all in a flurry with a gang of cronies trailing her and I was alarmed to see her eyes go straight to me and flash, like she knows who I am and is ready for trouble. Without further ado she barks out a rabble-rousing speech, first congratulating the locals on their marvellous performances in the ABC documentary, "1000 Neighbours", then spitting chips because the Surry Hills Police hadn't shown up and she was on their case and her biggest effort of late was to set them on to us. My skin crawled and I felt relieved the cops hadn't put in their mugs, I'd seen them a half-hour earlier out on the footpath attending to some hysterical woman from B Block who looked like she'd just been ravaged.

As if to pre-empt me, apropo of nothing, except maybe she knows about my blogging invectives castigating her treatment of street-level artists, she shouts enthusiastically how much she's done for artists in the inner-city, providing community spaces for their work to be shown, the local park being an example, right now a committee of experts were judging 10,000 entries, whittling it down to 69 finalists, and all us Northcott gronks can come along and view the results. There, that's you covered Toby Z Shithead! She called for questions and one old codger wanted to know what she was going to do about the sewerage out on the mainstreet. Oh, blah blah, bluster bluster, she was coming to get down on her knees and stick her arms up the pipe and pull the shit out herself, but in reality, it wasn't in her brief and she couldn't do anything about it. More moaning and groaning about the sewerage, and I got jumpy, for me and the Lord Mayor knew my rambunctious turn was coming up.

Up goes my hand. "I've got a question."Her punked-out hair bristled. "I've lived here at Northcott for 17 years and in that time there have been untold suicides, many jumping from the 24th floor, the poor souls probably driven to it by the harsh exigencies of life, it's hard to survive if you're poor, forget about trying to achieve anything. Take my case for example." I then went on to quickly describe how the Sydney City Council had banned my painting with no criteria given even tho it had won a prize called "The People's Choice" and this had depressed me terribly and I wanted to know where was 'freedom of expression, democracy and individual talent' in her scheme for a future Utopia for us plebs?

Instead of mollifying me with sweet cajoleries and sympathetic whimperings she barked 'Big Sister' double-speak, like the armoured rhinocerous she'd learnt to be in umpteen years in parliament. "I've already mentioned how in future there will be no controversies over public art spaces for we will have committees of experts and peers to decide what the public can handle." "Oh great, state-sanctioned art, achievement by committee, just what I wanted to hear!" "Shut up, we dont want to hear about it!" growled an old retard three seats up from me. "No, not state-sanctioned art!" she spluttered." I kept growling, "The art will be blended down to the lowest common denominator, meaningless, bland and safe. Dead art!" "Oh shut up, that's enough, let's get back to the sewerage," hissed the old grump, a real caring Auzzie.

Clover soldiered on, "Blah blah, bluster bluster, we've all got our prejudices!" "I'm nobody and nothing, with no power whatsoever, my prejudices don't matter. You're very powerful, your prejudices rule over us little people's lives, your power can mean life or death, and Linda here from the Council with her little bit of power, even that can have an effect on my livlihood, and I've had to have medical intervention I was so upset by the treatment I recieved, it was so unjust." "Shut up!" the old cunt again, I'd like to slap his face, my one minute to have my say and he won't let me say it.

But poor Clover was glad of the naysayer, she needed protection from this gutter-snipe. "Yes, I think we've heard enough on this subject, let'smove on to something more relevant." "In other words, SHUT-UP and go die!" I blurted out."No, no, don't die! Speak to me after the meeting if you have any more to say" Splutter, splutter. Another old pensioner put up her hand and mumbled, "I'd like to ask about the sewerage." I quietly moaned. I wasn't going to hang around for hours listening to this crap just to be told more gobbledygook. I thought a quiet, dramatic exit would be a fitting finale to my histrionics, I jumped up and shoved my way thru the crowd in a tempest of anguish, flapping my arms about, perhaps they'd imagine I was rushing off to kill myself, me chuckling all the way.

I thought maybe "They" would give me a placatory phone call the next day but the 'cone of silence' continued to rule. Then the posse of sidekicks showed up at the Northcott flats, now going door to door, "Clover is in the building, gird your loins!" I asked them if she'd visit me to hear more of my bitch-rave and they enthused, "Of course, why not?" until one of them recognised me and said, "She already answered your question yesterday." "I dont consider a politician's double-speak an answer. Tell her I'm waiting, I wont kill her, I'm actually a law-abiding citizen." "You sound like a used car salesman", quipped a smart-arse crony. "No, you're the one selling used cars, I'm just an artist." She never came of course.

Clover must be desperate, leaving no mouldy stone unturned in her quest for any and every vote, but still not that interested in the soul behind the vote. I was furious to see a contingent of her lackeys marching in the Gay Mardis Gras Parade last Saturday night, a hundred of them holding stakes with a cut-out photo of her head atop them, that's what I call egregious opportunism, co-opting an entire 'rights' movement, capturing a vast fag-hag audience, not what I was aspiring to when I marched with the original demonstrators back in 1978. I heard some fool stood all day on the footbridge over Parramatta Road near Sydney Uni with Clover's head on a pole and there was one of the monstrosities stuck in the railing at Taylor's Square on the weekend. Doesn't the poor dear realise what the symbolism of heads on stakes stands for? Hello, the French revolution anyone? The high and mighty getting their come-uppance!

Clover has her back to the wall these elections as, in her craze for control she's taken on two POWER jobs, Lord Mayor and Independant Member of Parliament, and not doing either properly, and the people of Sydney are fed up, there's a feeling the city is teetering on the brink of chaos and maybe she's part of the problem. Still, it was foolish of me to take her on, like facing a double-barrel shotgun, yet I was amused that such an experienced gladiator in the bullpit of politics was for a moment gobsmacked by a powerless tho streetwise deviant like me.

The next day I did get a call from Linda, a council worker, in sweet-talk she asks me to come see her, maybe there's a solution to my existential dilemma, (yeah, win the lottery.) I visited her in her office near the very wall where my art was aborted, paintings now hanging that would be more suitable as wall-paper. She explained that council policy was not to hang anything that was "sexually suggestive" which means no crtitique on sexual-politics, sexual practices, sex mores, as if we're 700 years behind the times, but that's Auz for you, not as progressive as it dreams. She was very understanding and kind, took a digital photo of my risque art and posted it on the WEB, putting it into a gallery in cyber-space, which assuaged my hurt greatly. Soon you will be able to see what all the kerfluffle was about, when I can get my cyber-act together.

I'm always on the verge of giving up "ART", especially as far as operating in Auz goes, it's still the prescriptive penal colony of old, the proles have to be kept in their place at all costs, and no free speech allowed, only the Murdochs and Packers to be heard, oh yeah, and the arse-wipe modernist painters THEY can sell for millions of dollars, all a pathetic joke farted in my face. I'm stymmied, I've been killed off again, for the 700th time. Oh dear Clover, please catch my body as it falls from the 24th floor and shed some crocodile tears over me too, I deserve it.

P.S. It was silly of me to ambush the Lord Mayor over my non-career as an artist, she actually has nothing to do with street-level happenings, I guess I just grabbed my chance for a piece of street theatre, and I figured the buck stops with her, it's fun to discuss 'democracy' in the Arts with a bevy of powermongers. Clover has in reality done a lot for Public Housing tenants and gays in the area, she's 1000 times more preferable than the conservatives who'd like to sell us to a chain-gang. But I fear she's hopeless at doing two tough jobs and should stick to just being an Independant Member of Parliament, where she's most needed, and give up the night-shift job as Lord Mayor, it's not working out for anybody.
As Lord Mayor she presided over the withdrawal of funds to the Kings Cross Arts Festival, which left many inner-city artists stranded without support, venues or publicity. Maybe she considers us fuel for the "sleaze factor" which she's hoping to "clean up", THEY want the Cross "naughty but nice!" and, after meeting me, I bet she feels vindicated, I'm one nasty little fucker!