Monday, August 04, 2014

66) The Women Who Loved Him.

Arthur prayed that in all the stories he told about his life, he didn’t give the impression that most women he met he disliked and gave a hard time to, that he didn’t befriend and help any. Women were half the world to him and though he did not have sex, he certainly had emotional relationships and exhilarating adventures with them. And heartbreak too, and the skin torn from his back as he sure met some villainous bitches. Still, there were several shining women who stood by him as friends, through all the years and without whom life would have been more tough and boring.

He met many characters on the infinite highway and could’ve been a total misanthrope if he didn’t look Gautama Buddha’s way and consider compassion, for he disliked men and women in equal measure. For every seven homo sapiens he got fairly well-acquainted with, three were reasonably friendly and helpful, or they were competitive and argumentative, but at least they would keep their distance, not inviting him into the inner sanctum, in time passing him by but not really hassling him. 

Another three gronks out of every seven he met would actively dislike him, claw his face, stab him in the back, by any means stop him in his endeavors, and if they couldn’t control him, they turned against him, abandoned him and he had to exorcize them from his memory, with years needed to heal the wound. And one out of every seven well-met souls would stick by him, stay the course, be there in sickness and in health, and this included women. It wasn’t about success or failure, what he could or wouldn’t do for anyone, it was about caring and understanding and just plain love.

First, of course, is always the Mother, his mother Elaine who bore him, who joined the Womens Australian Air Force and got her ears blown out on the runways by the engine noise of the planes as they took off and landed whilst fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. She then went through hell in the ‘Fifties trying to raise him, working in shoe factories, putting up with beatings from her husband, getting Artie to the point where he could look after himself at seventeen before she walked out of that house of bruised flesh and broken hearts. 

Loving the best that she could, she made him feel he was part of a family, for all his kookiness. She worked hard and was always there for him, even when he was off wandering, surfing, hooning it up with his mates, he'd come home and she'd have dinner waiting. She died at the age of 87 in a Rosebud nursing home from Alzheimers, he sat with her as she drifted further and further into Oblivion, yet she always remembered him, “Artie!” she’d exclaim, “It’s good to see you,” then sink back into her deep reverie. He played Otis Redding, “These Arms of Mine” as her coffin slid into the cremation furnace and cried his eyes out, it’s so very hard to say “Goodby” to your  Mum.” It was 2010 and he was officially an orphan.

An orphan because his father, Frank, had died in 1990 at the age of sixty-five from one too many strokes. He’d also fought the Japanese in the 2nd World War, as a sailor on HMAS Shropshire, got hit on the head in a big battle and came back to Melbourne traumatized, very touchy and prone to violence. In drunken rages, he would not only beat Elaine, he’d give infant Arthur a good wallop too, which possibly gave him brain damage, it certainly shook up his emotions, and in epi-genetic fashion, warped his adult life. Before he died Frank had rung Arthur and asked him, “Don’t you love me any more, Artie?” “Yeah sure dad, why do you have to ask?” “Well, you don’t call me much.” Artie winced, “Oh, I’m sorry dad, I’m just busy, time gets away from me. I ring you every few weeks, isn’t that enough? Don’t worry about it, I love you.” “OK, if you say so, son. I’d like it if you rang me more often.”

His war mates dead, he died alone in his flat in Collingwood, Arthur a thousand kilometers away in Sydney. He did love the guy, he done a lot of good things towards Arthur’s growing up. He instilled in his sons a tendency to honesty, industry, a strength of character in facing the world. Arthur never got into hard drugs or did hard crime because he didn’t want to disappoint his father or mother, and he therefore got a life, of achievement in his chosen field, not wasting his energy. 

And he should’ve let the old fellow know, the biggest reason he came back to Australia after his five year sojourn across the world was to keep close contact with his family, to be close-by and live life with them. He could’ve made it to London and learned to live and thrive there, at the center of world pop-culture, but Frank and Elaine's Australian character called him back, to the land of his fore-mothers and the fore-mothers before them. Did old Frank know how much he’d fucked the potential of his kid by beating him about the head so unthinkingly? As well as being working class in the class-bound colony of Auz, thus with a less than zero chance of climbing society's shit-heap, he’d brutalized Arthur into an oppositional defiance disorder.

So, with no parents, friends had to be everything to him. Arthur didn’t marry women, work like a robot, or bring up a family, and he didn’t want to be a drone in a hive society supporting an elite living in luxury at the top of the heap. He hoped the madness he suffered was of the divine kind. And several women put up with his moodiness as there were interesting, fun times to be had as well melt-down screaming fits. Wrapped in one, they were all the wise, kind earth mothers, mythic goddesses, shamanic witch’s, clever warriors, fairy-godmothers, guardian angels and pirate-wench companions he could ever wish for on the long road of dream escapades and travail.

The first of those beauties who stayed with him for the bumpy ride of his life was Geraldine, immigrant from Ireland via Liverpool, Great Britain. In 1967 she was sixteen and Arthur was seventeen, he met her at the funky teenage music club, “The Catcher” in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. She danced with him to Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, Sam and Dave and Jimi Hendrix. Ray Petrie of the Chelsea Set, the house band, was a good friend of hers and Arthur was in awe of their British pop hipness, very mod and progressive. Way before gay rights she was a supportive gay libber, going to the homo beats with Arthur for a lark, and visiting him when he shacked up at old Ruby’s Chinese Take-away styled seraglio in South Yarra, not an easy space for heterosexual women.

She took him home to her large family, where he was given a surrogate home for those few years in his mid-teens when he was terribly troubled; he’d left his father’s house with much rancor and was surviving moldy boarding houses and friends’ couches and could have gone to drugs or crime if he’d hung out with the wrong people. Anyway, those kind of frayed souls, who’d rob or maim for a living, or go unconscious for fun, were not his kind of people.

Geraldine’s mother, Kitty, had ventured out into the unknown to Auz with six kids, and she’d given her daughter the talent for generosity, patience, sense of justice and social concern, more often than not agreeing with Arthur’s libertarian eye on the world. She has been in the background of his successes, failures and beat-ups, with a veggie meal and spare bed for a respite, with comforting support and advice on the telephone, always there, a life-long friend. She’d bought his artwork when he was broke and came to the funerals of both his parents to hold his hand. She’ll probably be there at his own funeral. It’s amazing to have a friend all one’s life, to know their brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, to experience their grief at the death of a family member: when her brother and a sister died two weeks apart, he went through it with her.

She’s still with him, into old age, and they laugh remembering how they danced Tamla Motown before it was mainstream, how they dressed trendy and pop, copying the style of their favorite bands, acting leary on the dance-floor, running like larrikins in the streets, getting into fights with other mobs of boys and girls from other clubs. Except Gerry didn’t fight or run that wild, she was a good girl, a lapsed Catholoic escapee from peasant Ireland, in respect for her mother she was the eternal virgin and did not let the boys ride her as some of the others were want to do. Her company suited Arthur fine, sex wasn’t in the equation, they could get to know each other as ordinary humans.

Geraldine introduced him to Margaret, in 1968 she was nineteen, he was eighteen. She was unassuming, sweet-natured, kind, gentle, quietly stoic. She went on to team up with his brother in London, at the Isle of Wight concert, in front of Jimi Hendrix, which Arthur was for ever wide-eyed over with envy. When they returned to Auz his brother wanted the frontier life of a log-hut in the wilderness of Tasmania. She had two kids to him there, a boy and a girl, with only freezing creek water and kerosene lamps to light their life. Joan of Arc would give up on it and so did Margaret, she returned to Melbourne to bring up the kids on her own, with little input from the father and only a few visits per year from the uncle, who remained best friends with her long after his brother moved on.

She has been a pillar of the family throughout all the years, wise, understanding, strong, patient, generous, totally and unconditionally there for her children. She was smart too, Arthur could talk to her, she understood local and global politics, they could appreciate the same hard art movies, and peruse art galleries with a cool eye, for she painted as well. She never nagged Arthur, or told him what to do, only ever gave him a bed when his wanderings took him to his home town of Melbourne. She was the quiet friend, who never big noted herself or yammered on about how much she’d done for anyone. If shit hit the fan she wouldn't moan or bitch, she'd just give a little cryptic smile and nod her head, as if to say, "I can deal with it, bring it on." She was the perfect mother for his nephew and niece and a truly good friend to him.

Her daughter, his niece, Nuala, grew up and also became one of his best friends. He tried to be an uncle who was there if she needed extra support but as her mother had long staunchly supplied much of her physical and emotional needs, he only ever got called on a few times to lend advice and calming platitudes. He had held her as a baby and calmly waited for the blessed day when she took her thumb out of her mouth, (it had been fixed there for seven years) and smiled radiantly at the world. She grew up to be as strong and generous as her mother, worked as a caring nurse for a living, was fun for Arthur to be with and encouraged him in his non-career as an artist. When he had his big one man show in 2012 of thirty-five years of his work, she brought her husband up to Sydney and bought three paintings, at fair cost, which saved the arse of his show as it was then able to break even and pay the rent for three weeks.

He could tell her anything, as a nurse she'd heard and seen it all, they weren't shy of each other, even their sexual hang-ups and desires could be discussed. They enjoyed science-fiction movies and books together, and loved going to the drive-in theatre for the latest shlock-horror. It was such a relief for Artie to be best friends with his niece, to have her stand by him no matter what disaster fell, even when lost on the road in India they would ring each other on their mobiles and fill in the gaps of missing personal history.

When thinking of the women he loved and who loved him in return he only felt to concentrate on those women who hung in there over many years, though there were many who he swung with for awhile and had fun with but they rarely outlasted a year in his company, they were memorable but not close. Women like Robyn, Sally and Mary at the discos in his teens, the twins Liz and Squizz as he turned twenty-one, and dear Moti Ma in India in the early ‘Seventies; the women who welcomed him to Sydney from 1977 and gave him a haven and a purpose, Sybil, Wendy Bacon and Julie McCroissant; the punkettes at the rock clubs of the late ‘Seventies and “Eighties and the women from the Pyrmont squats, Carrie, Laurel, Janet and Jasmin; also the women he met at the Piccolo Café over thirty-five years, Sonny, Jeanie, Fifi and Allison, who all sympathized with him and gave him space. And he’d like to let go of the grudges for the ones who just plain dumped him after he had one hissy fit too many on them for being control freaks and trying to direct his life, (such as Debbie Manburger and Michelle Grainery.)

In 1978 he met Sylvia, who a good mate of Arthur’s tagged as Saliva as he couldn’t handle her brashness. She was an eighteen year old shaven headed punk girl at the crashing punk pub of the time, The Grand at Central. The band Rejex was playing and Artie was showing his guttersnipe Super 8 films in the bar, she came up to him and told him she was a film junkie and rock fiend; they then went on to have a lifelong friendship though they often fought like cat and dog. He’s written many tales of their rambunctious escapades, he’s seen the best and worst of her, the rotten boyfriends ripping her off and shouting abuse at her from the front yard of her house; the hippie commune bitch-sessions up at Nimbin; she’s also driven him to cursing and running into the rain,where he had to put up with the Christians sermonizing in their church rather than go back to her haunted house. 

Still somehow they forgave each other, muddled through the tempestuous squalls and come to an understanding over many years, with companionship, acceptance, patience, enjoyment, the hallmarks of a mature friendship. (Maybe not, their squabbling continued into old age, she was a terrible narcissist, everything had to be about her, she was 
greedy and bitchy and Arthur was often exasperated with her, she was a lot of hard work.)
They had the best fun dancing at rock music gigs, she was his most able dance-partner ever, could really move to the beat and rhythm with him, slam-dancing, the grapple, the pogo, dirty-dancing, the punk tango, they just about knocked every other couple from the dance floor. Sometimes some strange guy would get so excited by their pagan abandon, he would push Sylvia out of the way and try to partner Arthur in his wild perambulations, Arthur throwing him off, as big as the lug was, and again grabbing Sylvia from out of the writhing crowd.

The best band they danced to were Chrissie Amphlet and the Divinyls, she really got them moving, they danced to them 7 euphoric times in their musical odyssey. The second best was the night they jumped with Johnny Lydon and PIL at the Tivoli on New Years Eve, both Artie and Sylvia had eaten gold-top mushrooms and, fully tripped out, they hit the ceiling to PIL’s asynchopated techno-rock symphony. Third best night of explosive electric music involved the Butthole Surfers at Selina’s Hotel at Coogee Beach, they were the original masters of grunge and nogod, they really blew Artie’s fuse, he had orgasms thrashing his body about with Sylvia banging next to him. Nights like these were some of the best times of his life.

He met Amiria around 1988 when she was twenty-one and he was thirty-eight. She was an habitue of the Pickle-O Café and got to know him via late night talks with the juke box blaring and joints passing to and fro. She was a Maori refugee from Kiwi-land, tough, caring, sharp as a whip, she must’ve liked what he said for they often discussed philosophy, culture and politics, they had a similar rock’n’roll attitude to life. She worked at the tobacconists next to Kings Cross Railway Station and was there the day he walked past and said hello at exactly the time he was supposedly doing an armed robbery on a cake-shop in Surry Hills. The Pigs were framing him but Amiria agreed to go alibi for him as she looked at the clock just when Arthur walked by.

She stood by him for the next three years while he was screwed slowly by the Injustice System, she went through marathons of interviews with the corrupt cops, one of whom she got around her little finger, with her inimitable sexiness and his red-neck try-hard frustration. She also had many interviews with his barrister, assuring him it was unthinkable for Arthur to do such a stupid crime. She attended his trial on the edge of the city with him, held his hand as the verdict was read, and celebrated with him and his legal team at a pub after he was acquitted.

She became a Buddhist and supported the Tibetan struggle for independence, visiting Tibet several times to lend succor. She was a front-line-emergency-department nurse in a major hospital, gutsy, confident, intelligent, on the ball. She ever remained his staunch ally, friend and supporter of his art, coming to his gigs gladly, never having to be cajoled. They remained close friends till her early death at age 45 in 2011, she got an embolism to the brain, her major organs shut down and she died quickly, within twenty-four hours, as if some Bodhisatvas had decided she’d done enough of her angelic work and could return to the elements without further karmic suffering. To this day Arthur misses her and thinks sometimes he catches her face in the crowd, which reminds him that she’s always with him.

When he moved into Northcott Housing Estate in 1990 he got lucky with one of his next door neighbors, an old woman everyone knew as Dolly, from her years as a barmaid in the local pub. She always had a good word for him, brought him food when he was lonely, poor and ill, and a smile when the world seemed against him. She had brought up her children and grandchildren in that tiny flat, some of whom turned out to be cops, but she was on Arthur’s side and that’s all he cared about. She was the most genuine, kind soul he’d ever had the good fortune to meet, a rock of love and compassion, a force for good that kept his basement abode worth the trouble to persevere with. They were supportive neighbors for 21 years and when she died of old age in 2013 Arthur felt life lost some of its burnish, it reminded him the end of the line was coming up for him also.

Last of the women who truly loved him was Nicorette, whom he also met at the Night Hawks Piccolo Café. She was 19 in 1997, a tall, wild beauty who sat on his lap and promised him love till the end. They discovered they were both about to visit India and decided to meet up there and from 1997 to 2001 they traveled together all over the sub-continent and had many wondrous adventures, much of which Arthur has written about in previous tales. She had been a heroin-lover and sex worker since the age of fifteen, knew all about the world and, with cool compassion, understood Arthur's delinquent sexuality, without moralizing judgement, helping him to feel okay about himself, he could confess anything to her, she only ever had words of consolation and encouragement. 

She was generous, smart, gutsy, considerate and more rebellious than him, which is really saying something as he had a burning chip on his shoulder. She works tirelessly for the improvement of sex-workers conditions, the education of drug-users and the liberation of the world's downtrodden. 

She is a sharp writer and raconteur, Arthur hoping she will one day put together her tales of escapades on the sex-trade highway for they would be as satirically telling as anything he could write, about the human condition, the corruption of Authority and the secret decadence of 21st century life. Though he dubbed her Queen of the Zombies, she was one of the few junkies he could tolerate over a long period of time as she was a giver, not a taker, never ripped anyone off, never bullshitted or presented a false, sycophantic front, was the genuine real thing, a whore with a heart of gold. A stereotype, yes, but when you know and love such a one, life is that much brighter. She hates such cliches, has other, more interesting facets to her nature, as an adventurer, revolutionary, lover, artist, she blew Arthur's mind and was sheer joy to be with.

She didn’t disappear at the first sign of a neural, emotional storm, she rode his flip outs and waited for his angel-side to reinstate itself, thus she was with him into his old age. She was the last of the beautiful women possible for him to meet as he turned Sixty-five in 2015 and, heading towards the end of the line, it became too late for an old curmudgeon like him to meet any more gorgeous female souls. Anyway, he had enough love from those already with him, women were a big part of his life, always had been, he had never insulated himself off from them.

In his long non-career as an artist, he figured one way to keep his sanity was not to take it all too seriously, not to care too much when he got the kicks in the arse from the critics and low-talent competition. He was always willing to make a fool of himself, to come unstuck by going out on an edge, obeying his intuition and not doing what the herd demanded. For good or bad, he left some cutting artworks behind him, including this writing, and throughout it all, these beautiful women encouraged him, fed him, caressed him, talked him up. Oh yeah, women, you cant’ live without them, you live because of them, women ARE, and some are the best of a bad lot of sappy sap sapiens.

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.