Wednesday, January 08, 2014
I went down to Melbourne for Christmas/New Years to be with my family and friends from my teenage years and I had a laid-back, sweet time, out of the hurly-burl of wild parties in the rock venues of Sydney or Trance venues of Goa that I’m used to. Maybe I’m getting too old for it as it was a relief to chill, have a few drinks and laughs with old friends that I trust and love and not get pushed about by crowds. I kind of hung up my dancing shoes last year in Goa, I danced extremely abandoned/ecstatic and felt I could never reach such heights again. Still, once a dancer always a dancer!
My bestest girlfriend, Geraldine, who I’d first met at the Catcher night-club back in 1967, had gotten a letter a few months ago from another of our old teenage friends whom we’d not seen for 45 years. She was now in a nursing home and asked to be visited and I figured it would be an interesting and caring experience. Urging us forward, on New Years day when I’d usually be coming down from some shamanic flight, we tripped with trepidation out to a Yarraville nursing home, site of many of my life’s travails. (Tales from “Misadventures in the Industry of Death” in this Blog relate many of my nursing home experiences.)
After wandering a labyrinth of corridors we traipsed into a private room and there found, beached upon a bed like a battle-scarred dugong, Sally Moony, a little old white-haired lady I vaguely remembered as an attractive girl of seventeen, all those years ago. The Catcher was a hot Club for tear-away teenagers, Mod, Hip, Tamla Motown soulful, baby boomers who were gonna rule the world and dictate the happening styles. Now here we were, over IT, beat up, beat tired, not moving to the beat anymore, me and her the same age and both beaten by life. (See "The Catcher" earlier in this Blog for the story of Sally and her nasty dad's grungy pub in South Melbourne, the day Arthur had to run from the old bastard, the day Sally left home for good.)
She tells us she’s had an operation on her spine and will never walk again, in fact she’ll never leave this nursing home room again, and she seemed somewhat pleased about it, as if she was tired of running the race and glad to have the perfect excuse for dropping out. She admitted to how she’d suffered from agoraphobia for the last 21 years, hiding out in her cheap lodging room, terrified and disgusted with other people. Thus she didn’t mind being trapped in this banal room with talk-back radio for company and television as her window on the world. She even confessed to still being a virgin, “cross my heart”, she was simply too shy and put off by the ickiness of human contact; though there were a few girls she quite fancied, she’d only ever kissed them. We laughed as I told her I was the exact reverse, having had so much sex, like thousands of liaisons, giving succor to the entire male world, making love not war, I couldn’t feel the freshness of lust anymore and was back to being a virgin again.
She complained of how people had treated her rudely much of her life, as if she was a mad bag lady and made any place she’d entered look untidy. “Bad mistake to speak ill of me,” she hissed. She’d got her revenge by cursing them, their businesses going bankrupt, their health failing, their love lives breaking up, she was a dispossessed deadbeat with the power of a possessed witch. We laughed some more, like a conclave of demons, all of it a bitter joke made at our own expense.
After an hour or so we took our leave, Sally very pleased we’d bothered to come, showering us with smiles and blessings, thank nogod. We walked out into the sunshine and fresh air, our legs flexed, our hearts burnished, our souls yet seven paces ahead of the Catcher’s net of senility and death. It had been a tough/sweet experience and, without a sense of superiority, more one of freedom and compassion, I felt like I’d had a wondrous life in comparison to Sally, for all my bitching and moaning about the indignities, injustices and hard luck I’d suffered, I had led a movie star’s life, full of adventure, achievement, love, dance and ecstatic soul flight, and there was more, much more to come. It’s not over yet till the bag lady sings.
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.