Wednesday, October 31, 2012
OK, I had my long immersion in the graphic arts, now it’s back to writing for a good spell, my second most favorite thing to do, (dancing in abandonment my first.) I got my long schemed for art show completed, a good crowd came, I got lots of plaudits from strangers, old friends showed up from the distant past to cheer my heart, I sold enough work to cover my costs plus some, nowhere near enough to make a living but what the hell, it was fun doing it. I even got in Sydney’s major arts newspaper twice, as if somebody up there likes me, (I don’t think so.)
Young and old perused my art and I was thrilled many of them were turned on, telling me they were inspired to find meaning as well as beauty in the color and folkloric narratives, a challenging dialogue with the audience instead of the empty and inane shit pushed as cutting art and hanging from many gallery walls like bloodless husks. I can never get on top of the fact that here in Auz you’ve got to be State-sanctioned to make a living in art, willing to make inoffensive, colorful wall paper. Maybe They are still afraid artists will start a revolution, I thought hot art was supposed to stir things up. I gallery-sat the show every day and got to talk to lots of people, the art students’ and musicians’ ebullience was most satisfying.
Not all were pleased, there was that one old blond woman in a business suit who clacked the full circle of 35 works on her high-heels barely giving any one piece a glance, (she did linger to look at my Gay Lib poster from 1982, a crowd of homos and lesbians painting graffiti upon the Art gallery of New South Wales), but she seemed to have her mind made up before she entered, it was all trash, she grimly thanked me and ran for the door. After all, while so happy to get a mention in the papers, the newsworthy hook was that I was “an old gay bum from Northcott Housing ghetto who gets in trouble with the cops and paints …”
My performance of “My SOB Story” went over well, about 70 punters showed up on a Saturday afternoon when there was stiff competition from the Sydney Fringe Festival and the opening of the “Arts and About Festival” with a free band in Martin Plaza. I wasn’t nervous about my monologue, in fact I was hungry to get an audience eating out of my hand, to finally tell my story in a legitimate forum, that should have some kind of ripple effect, especially as a top video-artist recorded it. I caught a wave, surfed it smoothly, adlibbed adroitly, played the fool, sobbed into a huge hanky while my mate Peter played sad violin and I had them laughing and gasping with my tales of childhood “oppositional defiant disorder”, working-class gay travails, teenage psychedelic soul-grab by a mad-messiah cult, jungle-book Indian adventures, the battles for Sydney squats and chasing across Auz the rock maestros, the Divinyls, Chrissie Amphlet sending me into a divine ecstasy.
For an artist it’s cool to stand amidst one’s art and explain oneself, like fleshing it out, full expressionism, the artist telling it from the heart. I didn’t sell any of my latest elaborate paintings on canvas though, just all of my early posters, which bemuses me, all those nasty punk activist graphix which I thought would be the last things to sell, gripping signs of their times I guess, things have homogenized since then. We can’t all stay radical forever, some of us slow down, get beat, get old, get wise, I was a headstrong, idealistic, rebellious youth and now I want peace, contemplation, summation. And to paint the visions I’m compelled to, not what I think others will want to buy. I’m too lazy, uptight, with a huge chip on my shoulder, to enter all those snooty art competitions, climbing the social ladder, I’m from the hoi polloi, a vagabond, I love wandering, and studying and dreaming.
Once when I was a young vagrant lost in the high Himalayas I was asked to make a wish over a magic stone by a powerful Baba and I thought I’d be too clever by half by wishing for nothing, to be able to wish for nothing, which secretly meant, to have everything I wanted. Yet I ended up with nothing, no money, no expensive toys, no career, no fame, little respect, few prospects. I have nothing yet I’ve got everything I need to make me happy, I’m very poor yet I live like a prince, knowledge and entertainment at my fingertips, an apartment in central Sydney, and I fly through the air like Lord Rama in his silver chariot. In my room I can be a time-machine, library and space-ship rolled in one and go to the furthest reaches of the Mind to fully live this fleeting life. I’m quite aware of how things stand in this Universe and am thus rich beyond measure. But I’m a flawed human and that brings me back to nothing again.
I was being interviewed by 2 SER radio in front of my painting “21 Years Under Northcott” and the radio-arts jock asked me, “Surely it can’t be as bad to live there as you paint it here, it’s quite dystopian?” And I laconically replied, “It’s like living in a Heironymous Bosch painting, strung out between paradise and purgatory, in the garden of earthly delights, I love the greenery, the birds; my next door neighbor, Dolly, is an angel; most of the time it’s silent there, very peaceful, but you never know when it’s going to explode, usually once a week you can count on some misadventure.”
And that very night, it had to happen, I was having a shower, unwinding from the art-show finally reaching its satisfactory end, when I noticed blue and red lights flashing through the opaque bathroom window and heard lots of yammering voices. Then there was a furious banging on my front-door that grew more loud and insistent as I cursed and spat chips, jumped into a towel and rushed for the door, all wet and bedraggled. I opened it to an army of cops, uniformed and plain-clothed, and a squad of firemen one of whom stepped forward and said, “Have you seen or heard anything suspicious in the last hour or so?” I spluttered, “What are you talking about? Suspicious like what?” (I’m thinking of Cursula next door and her nefarious deeds.) The fireman responded, “Like someone spraying a fire accelerant on your door!” I looked at my security grill in stupefaction, “No, I haven’t noticed a thing.”
Then I heard Cursula’s voice whine, “Toby, I saw a guy spraying something there before and I got a text message, "the witch’s house is burning!” so I called the fire brigade that we’re under attack…” I fell through my door semi-naked and wet and yelled, “It never ends with her, 24/7 she causes some drama, she’ll give me a heart attack one day!” My hysteria was about to boil over till the handsome fireman stepped forward and growled, “That’s enough from you, go back inside!” Stunned, I looked from him to the cops, “What is going on here?” A young cop said, “Go and finish your shower mate.” I gave them one last wise-guy smirk and shut the door on the lot of them, Cursula squawking about her democratic rights because the firemen were entering her fire-trap flat to see if there was any conflagration. Then I heard two female cops get a hold of Cursula and try to pull her arms off, all the while snarling about what a waste of time and space she was.
Lucky I’m a law-abiding citizen trying to live a quiet life, otherwise the zombies next door would get me caught in the apocalyptic maelstrom they stir up. 2012 has been a great year for me, my friends put on awesome concerts, Peter Urqhart’s grand piano and string quartet at Paddington, Paul Vassala on slide-guitar blues at the Red Rattler and Redbee with their grunge-metal rock up in Katoombah. I saw some hot sci-fi movies, (I dug “Loopers” and “Dredd”) and read some trippy sci-fi novels, (reading Neal Asher at the moment.) Simple things like this keep me happy. With my laptop as my flying carpet I will now escape into the netherworlds, to other times and sites, to write of my wanderings and my vagabond’s karma.Imagine we’re sitting around a raging camp-fire, the luminous white ice-caps of the high Himalayas glowing in the background under a star-filled black void and I’m telling you a story, a continuation of a long life’s confession told over many nights, the warm fire always reflected from the heart… Once upon a time, when I was young and lost, I thought my desires could be realized in the fabled land of Kashmir, with the music of Led Zepplin luring me on, to the houseboats, gardens, palaces and libidinous Greek-like demi-god men…
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.