Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sydney Can Be a Really Fun Town for Some of Us.

Sydney can be a really fun town to live in, regardless of it's hard history and recent terrible crimes, (a few days ago corrupt ex-cops murdered a Chinese student for 3 million dollars worth of ICE drugs!) This May was particularly a fantastic month for joyful happenings, especially for movie freaks like me who caught the wave of knock-out cinema, Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive." I even enjoyed the latest version of "Godzilla", that monster writ large and surreal in my infantile regression. On the way to see it I stopped off at a Buddha display with my nephew, Cas, (above), where I accidentally dropped thirty bucks on the ground, kind of a donation to the Cosmos, (fuck it!!!)

Even though I'm old and should be over it I still can't help head-banging to hot rock'n'roll, it's knee-jerk automatic with me, especially to my good friends from Katoombah, "Redbee", who played at the Bald Stag Hotel up on Parramatta Road. Then a band came on after them, "Helm", 3 guitars plus base guitar and drums, shaved-head guys with long beards, whose wall of sound so thrashed me I got whip marks across my fore-brain, a tsunami of electric musicianship that banged my grey-matter hard against the walls of my skull, no kidding, it was like the Universe was fucking me, better than sex! Oh thank nogod, rock'n'roll is still alive, hands on guitar, not just machines with switches being thrown, (though I don't mind hard-arsed industrial techno.)


While Sydney is a tough, expensive town to live in if you are a broke-arsed artist, it can put on some colorful festivals to ameliorate the pain, such as the Vivid Light-show Fest down at the Harbour. We went down there, had a delicious meal by the water and then saw the psychedelic light-show up close, brightening up the Opera House for us plebs. It's really sad that in the middle of the festivities, an Irish tourist fell into the harbour and drowned, his friends jumping in after him to try to save him, but he was gone. As they crawled back up onto the pier and cried their eyes out for their missing friend, the crowd continued to party around them, ballyhooing, oblivious of the tragedy in their midst. This ruined the outing for me, the horror of it something we all all dread happening to us and ours.

The Sydney Opera House Tripped Out.
But I got to lighten up in the next few days at a friends' wedding, my very good mates, David and Joh, also down by the harbour, the Sydney Yacht Club a glorious site for nuptials between two dedicated lovers, sailors of the high seas. It's always sweet to be with good friends, enjoy toasts of champagne and a scrumptious feed, laughs and anecdotes, sunshine and sea-breeze, even an old curmudgeon like me gets high on such events.

The Wedding Down by the Harbour.
And to round off a great month on the artistic front, the exhibition at the Damien Minton Gallery, "Monuments to the Frontier Wars", was a knock-out. It was opened by a grand old historian, Henry Reynolds, who read to us from  his latest book, "The Forgotten War", where he emphasized that Australia had long forged its national identity on wars in Europe, especially the First World War, with famous battles like Gallipoli and the Somme standing as icons in the national consciousness, fighting for the British Empire and the carving up of the Ottoman Empire, as if that's what really made Austrlia what it is today. But the true war that established the nation of Australia was mostly overlooked and forgotten, the war of the first colonialists into the continent, the white invaders against the indigenous Kooris, who'd occupied the land for 60,000 years. White Auz conveniently likes to insist the blacks here didn't own anything, were a push-over and didn't fight back. The opposite is the truth, they fought hard wars to the death and have never been fully subdued, lately getting some redress in apologies for the wrongs committed against them, land-rights and recognition of their stunningly complex culture.

But as John Pilger's film, "Utopia", informs us, the Powers That Be, for all the "Sorry Day" bullshit, are still fucking over the indigenous Australians, especially in the interior, taking their kids from them, starving them out with no health services, all under a shocking program of lies THEY call "The Intevention" where THEY used the great witch-hunt scare tactic of "black pedophiles raping all the brown babies!" This is so the Kooris will be easier to move from their lands and the mining companies can take over and rob the billions of dollars worth of minerals they keep finding. The Mining Companies have been the real rulers of Auz for a century, keeping us white Gubbas like spoiled cattle stuffing our faces on the sunny beaches of the coastline. But in truth most of us, black and white, are like Elloi always available to be devoured by the mining Morlocks. There is Apartheid here and I feel ashamed to be Australian. We are not the jolly, sporty larrikins we make out to the rest of the world, we're selfish, greedy racist arseholes who will one day wake up when we are herded onto reservations, robbed and starved like we did to those who were here before us.

Monuments to the Frontier Wars.

The 24 artworks at the "Monuments to the Frontier Wars" were varied, confronting and fascinating, and I was proud to have my ink-drawing in their midst. On introducing the artists, after mentioning my name, Damien, the curator, said that I had long worked for Koori respect and land-rights, perhaps for most of my life. I wish this was true, I have merely marched in the protest rallies, camped at Koori tent embassies and put on occasional shows in the Koori community to support and encourage their mind-blowing culture, societal and spiritual. But in every artwork I ever created, from murals, to posters to films, I have always situated a Koori in the middle, with their land-rights flag glowing, as to me it's central to my growing up and existing in Australia. If you go back to my early stories in this Blog, "The Terrible Child" etc, you will find that I have always befriended Kooris, from primary school on, as we had outcast status in common, me as the young squealing gay boy,  and we constantly rebelled against straight white authority.

And, as my skin turned black and my hair bleached blond in summer, I have often wondered if I didn't have some Koori DNA, my family having long been in Australia and one of the men way back could have impregnated a Koori woman. Since childhood I have had a fascination and yearning for all things Koori, their Dreamtime art and stories, their music and dance. Growing up and playing in the wild bush of West Heidelberg on the edges of Melbourne in the 'Fifties, I felt the spirit of the Koori people strong when I climbed the red-rock cliff-faces or leaned against the gum-trees, I could see them in my mind's eye, smell their presence, walk with their ghosts, for they never truly left the land and were never truly defeated.

At the end of the speeches at the Monuments Show many people rushed an old Koori man and shook his hand but I was too shy to do such a thing, such public demonstrations embarrass me, but the dear fellow, with bright eyes, turned to me and shook my hand and said, "Congratulations!" and I felt so proud, better than any prize or sale for my work. Though it is a pity only two works sold on the night: these are terrible hard times for artists, people too worried about their future to support art, in hard times art is the first thing to go down the gurgle hole. But fuck it, I've never done it for the money, the participation is the thing, this show is one of the coolest I've ever been a part of. Sydney should be happy some of us bother!
Detail from "Undefeated."

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.