I've just been thru one of life's supposed great crisis, what to do with one's ageing parents when they're fit for the glue factory, and so I haven't written for months, too stressed to take flight in the written word. I'd found myself back in Auz after a dream sojourn in India and decided to go to Melbourne for Christmas with family and friends, the first time in 12 years plus. It was on New Year's Eve, just when I was ready to celebrate, that I got the phone call telling me my mother had been found wandering miles from home, not knowing who or where she was, and I was asked to find her a nursing home pronto.
This flabbergasted me as I didn't have a clue as to where to put her or what paperwork to fill out. My control freak brother had been organising to get power-of-attorney over her, without informing me, and was close to finalising the paperwork for her affairs and so I didn't have to worry about the bureaucratic side of things too much but I had four sets of people henpecking me over the affair, the social worker and nurses at the Rosebud Hospital where she had been delivered, the Community Care Workers who had been on her case for the last few years, my brother and his interfering wife who thought they knew best, and my oldtime friends from my teenage years who all had advice and theories about the psychological machinations behind my mother losing her wits. Thus I was distracted and could hardly squeeze out a "happy new year" as we watched the fireworks over the Yarra River, me thinking of Goa and India and the trance parties I was missing out on.
One of my mates happened to be passing thru Melbourne, he'd ridden his pushbike all the way from Sydney, complaining of the great expense of staying in Motels on many nights, the cheapness of riding bikes as compared to flying by aeroplane defeated. He was putting up with one of his women friends in a squatted church on the edges of the city, and now she was asking him to split quick from her squat after only 2 days residence as she couldn't stand him any longer. I suggested he'd given her sexual vibes, him not having got his wick wet for 4 years, but he swore it wasn't the case, she was simply a bitch pothead anarchist and as such was not to be trusted.
"Melbourne's been a failure for me, I've got no friends except you, it's all a sad disappointment. I'm leaving early, going to Tasmania."
I tried to entertain him with my observations upon humanity, "I like reading the T-shirt designs people wear, you can tell from what they put on their chest what their philosophy and interests are, it gives you an instant clue."
"I don't wear T-shirt designs, I like anonymity, keep them guessing. Except of course for that one word I went and got printed up myself on a T-shirt in red plastic letters, "Spagbog", I like it cause it's meaningless, not some trendy design for wankers."
"Spagbog, ha ha ha! Yeah, it certainly sums you up."
So I'll call my mate Spagbog to avoid criminal prosecution as I try to give a quick portrait of him, one of the kookiest dudes I've ever met in my long life of dealing with freaks of all shapes and contortions. He's very tall, rake thin and dresses in lycra bike-tights and flowing t-shirts and with his bike helmet looks like an alien nerd from Planet Geek, he goes on shoplifting sprees dressed like this, standing out like a freak from outer-space, and somehow squeezes into the front of his tight lycra shorts half a department store's worth of consumer goods, all as his revenge against corporate capitalism.
He's always got some wild story to tell me, so far-fetched I don't know whether to believe him, except he's so kooky they could very well be true. He's got this crazy antipathy against t-shirts with Japanese rising sun designs and every time he sees a fool wearing one he attempts to rip it off the guy's back with a lecture about Japanese Imperialism. He says he saw one fuckwit down in the hick south coast town where he lives wearing a Nazi swastika and was so furious he challenged the fascist to a fight. They agreed to meet after sunset at the local football field and, before showing up, Spagbog took off his top and smeared his upper body all over with his own faeces and when the Nazi showed up with his gang for a fight he freaked out and wouldn't touch him and they all ran off, terrified of the madman. I thought it was a good trick tho extremely icky.
Then there was the story of his next door neighbours' yapping dog, he is a "cat" person and hates dogs, the mutt never stopped barking day or night and it drove him crazy, frothing with angst he planned his revenge. Sneaking over in the dead of the night he captured the little beastie and tried wrapping it in Gladwrap, the poor thing put up a furious fight and bit his hands, scratched and writhed about in it's struggle for existence but the unwinding Gladwrap was inexorable, mummifying it in plastic till it stopped breathing. He then unwrapped it and left it's inert body for it's owner to find and be mystified as to the cause of it's demise. I was horrified by this tale as I love dogs and all animals, the dear creatures are badly put upon by humanity, tortured, enslaved, torn apart for consumer products, I was crook on Spagbog for weeks tho he's such a confabulater, it was probably all bullshit.
He'd been cracked on the head by a falling iron pipe some years ago and probably had frontal-lobe damage which would explain his outlandish behaviour and misanthropic attitude. I've always had a soft-spot for freaks, I attract them like a circus ring-master and try to encourage them to join the human race regardless. He'd given me some comfort in my ongoing trauma over my mother's emotionless dementia so I wished him bon voyage as he sailed the seven seas looking for his kismet.
Back to my mother's predicament, I went down to Rosebud past the Mornington Peninsula to see what succour I could give her. Many suburbanites flock to Rosebud for the Christmas holidays and park their butts in tatty canvas tents in tea-tree scrub beside Port Phillip Bay, elbow to elbow right up to the edge of the highway, sucking in car exhaust and beer, desperate to be in a south seas paradise no doubt but barely surviving the urban sprawl of a big city. I found my mother staring into space in her hospital bed, lost to the world, but she instantly recognised me, like a mother hen knowing her own chick in a busy barnyard tho she seemed to know nothing else. She'd forgiven or forgotten our fight of two years ago and, relieved to not have to go thru another shreiking temper storm, I was asked by the nursing staff to go to her house and fetch her personal things for she was delivered to the hospital in a night-dress and now wore only a paper surgery gown.
I trudged the backstreets of Rosebud only to find her house locked up like Fort Knox, no way in no matter how much my nephew and I scratched around the premises. Finally I simply broke a window and my nephew crawled in to allow me ingress. We ransacked her house looking for her private papers, War Veteran's Gold Card, Bank Book, toiletries, underwear, dressing gown, dresses, slippers, etc etc and carted it all back to her in the hospital. At last she was comfortable trudging to the toilet in fresh undies, slippers and voluminous bathrobe, and I was again pressured to find her a bed in a nursing home ASAP. Many homes I rang wanted $250,000 as deposit, impossible for this working class pensioner, I rang the Community Care Workers constantly to hassle them to assist in the search and in a few days they were able to find a place that required only $35000 deposit, a nice, friendly nursing home where she would be happy as she chilled out in Nogod's Waiting Room ready for the big flight to the Pearly Gates of Oblivion. Thus I left Rosebud, praying to that same phantom god that I never have to return to that seaside purgatory again.
My nephew admitted to my take-over-merchant brother, who was stewing in his backwoods bush-hut in Tasmania, that we'd broken into mum's house and he flew into a rage,
"How dare you no-hopers trespass in her sacrosanct domain! What precious goods did you steal from her? I've a good mind to call the cops on you!"
No explanations of helping make the demented old bitch comfortable would placate him, he was itching to have some ridicule to hold over his wayward, irresponsible elder brother and it shocked me to realise he'd held onto sibling resentments from early childhood, pissed off I might have achieved greater reknown than he and that his own kids enjoyed my company as if we're best mates whereas they dreaded getting another straight-laced lecture from him whenever they met.
I rang him to ask why we couldn't both have power-of-attorney, "what's the problem?" and he flipped, spitting chips about me being a vagabond before crashing the phone down on me. I had so many existential torments at this time and he was adding to them, no brotherly love there for all that I'd protected him throughout our childhood and, sadly, I'm determined to never speak to him again. Even at our mother's eventual funereal I will have to be restrained from rushing up to him and smacking him in the chops.
I was relieved to return to Sydney, forswearing my romance of moving back to Melbourne, I'm indeed done with that city forever, Sydney has long been my hometown and haunt, at least there's sunshine and cool rain here to lift one's spirits when zooming about on a pushbike, not the sleet or furnace of the south. Now I'm back to limbo and sour-pussed over certain denizens of the underworld who I run into at Kings Cross but I will save my vituperation for another story, possibly entitled, "A Posse of Poofs at the Peccadilo Cafe."