Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toby Goes Camping.

I've been afraid to continue my zoatesque tales of failing in my non-career as a movie star as they dredge up tortured memories for me so I'll leave that sleeping dog for awhile. Northcott Ghetto where I live howls, screams and shudders down upon my like a ton of shit and I cocoon too much in my shell, to dream-travel. Also the freak-show of the Piccolo gets wearisome, the hand-wringing over not enough money made being none of my business, me just a dazed freak at the end of the line. With all this edginess I needed a break and I went off to Byron Bay for a week of time out, with nature and grungy hippies and the happening night-life only a northern north beach suburb of Sydney can provide.

I bought a tent, sleeping bag and polystyrene mat and thought I had all the makings of an idyll in paradise. The trip was to be an experiment, in proper equipment, my boy scout abilities and the jungle fun potential of the area. When I got to Casino I rang a mate and moaned, "What am I doing here, it's dark, cold and full of strangers?" The coach to Byron picked up my spirits, green hills and night highway rolling into the headlights with my MP3 techno on the beat. My idea of seeking out the gronky camping grounds in the middle of the night paled, I'm a klutz and inner-city bred, I'd forgotten my scout lore. I rang up a friend who lives in town and she invited me over and had waiting for me a warm, comfy bed in my own room, no staggering about in the bushes this cold night, and not having slept for three days I fell into oblivion.

She let me put my tent up in her backyard, it saved me on camping fees and in the sunshine I unwrapped my new tent, puzzled, and then struggled to get the dome up. But I'd stupidly put it on sloping ground and for the next five nights, too lazy to do it all over again on level ground, I awoke every seven seconds to cling desperately to my mat for I was forever sliding down, at one point while dozing I slid right out the tent's door. When I tried to compensate by lying horizontally I merely rolled down the hill. The other stupid thing was the plastic mat, too thin, I froze all night, the cold breast of Mother Earth pushing hard up against me and I hugged it aware of my tiny flesh clinging to this giant ball of rock spinning in infinite space.

But Byron sure is a fun town to take a break in, and how sports crazy they are. The football fields were crowded with teams of youths kicking and shouting and every time I showed up on the beach they were having a kayaking competition, a thousand athletes charging across the entire bay, their oars in a flurry, through every wave and obstacle, it was breathtaking. And how cool to watch the sun set over Mount Warning on the far side of Byron Bay and the surfers catch their waves with golden light splashed over them while hippies from around the world danced to bongos, guitar and flute.

Yet the town was empty, no bumper to bumper tourists yahooing up the main drag, and no money dropped into the local burghers laps, they were all crying poor according to the grape-vine. At this time there were usually 30,000 rockers storming the precincts, all revved up for the "Splendour in the Grass" Music Festival, but the good mums and dads were fed up with years of drunken rioting and endless car-crashes where their youth lived fast and died young, so the festival got moved north of the border, to Woodford. And they took their money with them. I was the lone Sydney-sider marching about town haemoraging cash, propping up the economy, going to the movies three times.

At night I had several pubs to choose from, I went to the Railway Hotel, where hill-billy bands played, my old mate Jimmy Willing was up clowning about with his country-act, and he said hello to me from the stage. Across the road there was the Byron Theatre which my friend snuck me into and I heard the dolorous warbling of some hippie girl called Gyen, billed as the recluse poet (?!), I'm always mystified how in my life I get to hear whatever cool live music is happening in the vicinity, usually for free, like I'm some blessed guest from another planet. (Yeah yeah, deluded as well.)

I have to see movies wherever I am and Byron has a cineplex where I saw Holywood schlock, and there's an ancient cinema at the old Piggery which was the last klunky relic of old-style Byron Bay, when it was a funky surfer/hippie town, the theater had laid-back zebra-striped couches and psychedelic light show, but sadly, an old out-of focus projector which made the marvelous film, "The Secret in Their Eyes" a real tear-jerker to watch. I was overwhelmed by the gentrified Piggery, now The Byron Brewery, colossal brass vats of beer in glass barns looming over us, but before I could throw a temper tantrum THEY served me up a delicious desert which mollified me endlessly.

I could have done lots of sporty things around the town if that was my bent but I've devolved into a lazy, contemplative old curmudgeon and I preferred to just sit on the beach or be driven about the countryside in a double-decker bus. I sat up top in front and relished the world rushing at me, it was a "Magic Tour" and took us to Nimbin and around thru Uki to get close up to Mount Warning. Nogod, what a deadbeat town Nimbin can be in the slow middle of the week. The first cafe I went to had nice middle class patrons politely sipping their lattes, the next cafe had sweet new-age idealists discussing the vagaries of growing pot, the cafe at the end of the street had these cadaverous junkies ghoulishly eyeballing every passerby as if they wanted to eat them.

They had a vitriolic slanging match while I sat and watched, a female walking-dead screeching, "Shit, look at the size of the rat up there in the rafters!" "That's no rat, it's a possum!" said a Gollum-like midget across the room. "No mate, I know a rat when I see one and that one is as big as a cat!" "It's a possum!" "It's a fucking rat!" "You should be able to recognise your own family, I reckon." "Fuck you shithead Joey Smith! Barry Bonghead didn't commit suicide in your jeep for nothing, and you let him do it in your jeep!" She kept hissing about some suicide, I'd had enough freak-theater, I get plenty at the Piccolo, and rushed back to the "Magic Bus" for my magic escape. We drove up close to the Nimbin Rocks and Mount Warning and that was enough nature for me.

Overall I could say I had a fun, restful time-out week at Byron Bay with no major breakdowns except for one other stupid little mistake I made while camping. I didn't zip up the insect netting either while I slept or while I was out for the day and a spider got inside, crept right into my lovely soft goose-down sleeping bag, and bit me viciously several times on my collar-bone and back so that I've been in a fever for a week since, my muscles all swollen and aching, like being lashed by a blue-bottle jelly fish seven-fold, a constant glass-shard stinging that makes me think the spider's still crawling across my flesh... fuuuuckkkk!!!! Being a dizzy klutz is not the ultimate, ignorant bliss it's made out to be. A bit of a relief to get back to the Piccolo, just Vitto knitting, knitting, like a Black Widow spider spinning his web by the juke box.

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.