Sunday, 28 December 2014

Resolution

Melissa Gaggiano Photography

            I absolve myself of ever again writing a new year’s resolution. For many a year I have tried and never once have I hit the benchmark of all that I resolve to do to make myself into a fabulous, picture perfect version of myself.

Somewhere, toward the end of my teen years I was romanced by the idea of having new years resolutions.  This no doubt relates to my torrid love affair with list making [read ‘List Girl’]. With mucho gusto I ran off a voluminous list of activities and goals I had never before achieved, which would somehow transport me to a new state of Melissa – a brighter, healthier, more brilliant version of me.

Within one week of day zero I would have started 3 out of the 20 or so things on my resolution list. After two weeks I’d have gotten tired of the things on my list. By the end of January I have forgotten there was ever a list.

You see, I love a list, I really do. But New Year resolutions are completely lost on me, because I am trying to be a person that isn’t really me. It would be a different case if resolutions were more about satisfying my inner core, as opposed to making myself more in the vision of society perfection.


And so, as we are days away from the New Year I abandon the resolutions that I will ultimately fail at. I just want two things – good health and general happiness. I will not wait till the stroke of twelve for my resolve to kick in. I won’t even set myself unrealistic examples of how I am going to make these things happen. A list, I finally understand, will not bring happiness. Happiness comes in the between moments of thought and action, moments we do not plan. And as for having good health, that will come when there is simple balance in all things that I do. Not too little, not too much.

P.S. But a plan, and a schedule would be a far better thing. Don't you think?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

List Girl


I’m a list girl and I’m not just talking exclusively about shopping lists. I may still do birthday wish lists. I do best episodes of ‘insert favourite show’ lists. Making up perfectly cheesy titles for Steven Seagal film lists. New potential creative project lists. Books I just have to read lists. The ultimate music list for the iPod, you know, in the unlikely event that space aliens take me away into the void of space where there may, or may not be good music. That’s the sort of thing I do.

My adventures with lists began in my teen years. Not really knowing my own mind I made lists of things I thought I wanted based on the books I read [IE Pen Pals] and shows I loved to watch [IE Blossom]. For a couple of years I lived with the belief that life would be perfect if I had the clothes on those lists. But of course I never got those things, which makes me suspect the thrill came more from writing the lists rather than the supposed acquisition of those imaginary items.

My love of the list carried through into adulthood and to very loosely quote a loved film [Clueless], ‘my main thrill in life is a list, it gives me a sense of control in a world full of chaos’. It can be said many a list has been my saving grace professionally. And perhaps to an outside observer my almost doubling up of lists might seem like overkill, though to my credit it meant nothing fell through the cracks.

My strangest list came about in my early twenties. I was still living with my folks and in a desperate bid to feel independence I saw my car as my apartment. I thought about what I would need to make my car less automobile and more of a squishy spaced bachelorette pad. Out I whipped the pen and pad, and began my list making. Over a matter of weeks my car came to be filled with the useful, strange and the just plain silly. On the back seat there was a plush monkey, a cushion, pillow, sleeping bag. Cue to the tiny boot and I had an unread novel [got through that quickly], a massive bag of chips [got through that even faster], there were rollerblades [because that was how I rolled], a Friends board game [not my thing, but seen as how the rest of the world just loved Jennifer Aniston I thought it sensible to have this in my car in the scenario that a random party took off at a friends house and I could whip out this board game cranking up the buzz to wild, crazy. Or, not!]. Though I can’t recall all of it there were probably a couple of other wack items packed into the boot to make that car feel like my special place.

So this is what happens when you’re a list person. And you might laugh and mock the habits of your ever so slightly mad, list making, potentially OCD friends. But face the infinite list induced facts, with a friend like this by your side you can be prepared for anything – be it space alien abduction, or a party just missing some board game action.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Actual Love

Love means yakking and never having to say you’re sorry.

Recently I watched an episode of Wonderland, in which flatmates Tom and Miranda were looking after each other when they got gastro. The premise of the show being about couples at different stages of love and life, and it made me wonder if the writers were making a statement about love with this ghastly toilet scenario.

I grew up with Hollywood notions of love and, dare I say it, sex. Turning sixteen a girl is kissed for the very first time. High school is a John Hughes rollercoaster ride. Adulthood would be a world of unlimited freedom รก la Tom Hanks’ film Big. Men are capable of declaring their undying love and sex is always sexy.

Okay so time proved that I needed a reality slap in all matters of the heart. I went through high school un-kissed, unnoticed, and I never had an epic day off of Ferris Bueller proportions. And don’t get me started with adulthood – I never found that dream job working in a toy company; and men, I had long ago discovered didn’t really say much of anything, at least out loud.

But that was okay, because after growing up and meeting a really, really, really nice person to spend my life with, and who didn’t mind a bit of conversation, I found there were much more solid examples of undying love. Because let’s face it when you live with someone and if they know that your shit don’t smell that great and they are still willing to share a toilet with you, well then, that’s called love. And I think that’s what the Wonderland writers were trying to say. Holding someone’s hair back while they chunder into a bucket is a testiment of true friendship and/or love.

After the Valentines Day chocolates have been devoured and the bouquet of flowers have dried up enough to make into pot pouri, what is love exactly? Love can be expressed in words, but I have learnt that it can have more meaning in expression [the eyes do no lie] and action. When you are sick and can’t get out of bed, and that special other person is getting you oranges and a little kaleiodoscope to play with that is love. When that person takes time off work to care for you, that is love.

Walking down the street I noticed a woman struggling to carry a potted orchid. She was elderly and took one slow careful step at a time and tightly squeezed into her side was a walking stick, which she couldn’t use because of the plant she was carrying. There was no question – I wanted to help her. She wouldn’t let me take the pot but she did ask that I grab her walking stick. We made it to her car, and to my astonishment I discovered the struggling woman had an able bodied companion sitting in the car, leisurely reading a newspaper, waiting for her to bring the plant back. She tapped on the car. He got out, transferred the plant into the car with noooooo problem whatsoever. The woman explains to her companion that ‘this nice lady offered to help me’. She was expressing her gratitude to me, but was she also trying to make a point to the man? If so I don’t think he noticed or cared.  I suppose not everyone has the same concept of love. But in this case I just wasn’t seeing it. Because isn’t love in the small gestures?


So, what am I saying? I’m saying if you yak and they’ve still got your back, it was meant to be.

Friday, 31 October 2014

The Nonsensical Song

Melissa Gaggiano Photography

Storm, it’s in my way
‘Mysterical’ rage
Just making up words
That don’t mean a thing
Mysterious ways
Hysterical ways
Think that’s what I’m saying

Dreams flooding me
Day and night
Those waves keeping me awake

What can I say?
Now I am finding
Much too late
There’s no escape
From the places inside me head
They don’t know a thing
Won’t bring me peace
Don’t let me sleep

The worlds in my head
Are much bigger
So much more real
Than the shoes we try to fill
Time for a break
From all that we do

Just don’t lose the plot
Confusing what I know
With the things I can smell
But what do I know?
When my nose don’t work

Wake up in my world
Darkness pervades
Electric light
Carry me through
These shady nights
Fill up the corners of my mind

Living a second life
When I close my eyes

It’s all I see.

Fake Book

Lonely book
Faceless book
No one is ‘liking’ you book
Pretty cook book
Lie book
Look how perfect their life is book
Fantasy book
Sleeze book
So many friends but nobody knows you book
Nobody cares book
It’s all about me book
Sharing things then cringing later book
Mean book
Hurt book
Let’s see who is more popular book
Perfect world – perfect lie book

Fake book is not a book I want to read book

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Let's Talk

Melissa Gaggiano Photography

A light in the dark,
A spark can take flight.

For some depression is a black dog. Me though? I like black Labradors with their loyal, big puppy love me eyes. So I cannot equate depression with dogs. I can, however, compare it to drowning.

When it is a D-day I am sucked down into a dark oppressive ocean. No air. No sight. I cannot breathe, and I am choking on nothingness. The weight of the water pushes me down and I cannot reach the surface. No air. No friends. There is nothing but my sharp thoughts and… the void.

Everyone has their problems and their worries. And while the stigma attached to depression is disappearing, it doesn’t change the fact that those without depression still aren’t getting it. And why would they? I certainly don’t desire anyone to feel this way.

I have seen the distancing of friends and the eye roll of people who have seen me on a D-day. They don’t want to know or perhaps they just don’t know how to react. Which is funny because when I’m in my private hell, all I want is some companionship and conversation. Oh and pizza and chocolate. Lots of chocolate!


I have found that conversation, while not an all out cure, does take away some of the darkness. My thoughts go outward as I listen to other people and their stories. Just being with someone can bring me that much closer to the surface of that dark ocean. To make another visual comparison, when someone acknowledges your depression and you feel that non-judgement, it is like wandering through the dark woods and finding a log fire burning. It is welcoming and safe.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Share


    SHARE if your kids/husband/sister/mum/dad/brother/sister/half-sister/cousin-twice-removed/facial-mole-once-removed/surfboard/boss/the-TV-show-Friends/smartphone are the best thing to ever happen to you.

No! I take that back. Don’t share! For the sake of everyone’s mental health, please just do not share. It drives me bananas each and every time I see a message pop up on social media inviting me to share said message if I love the people in my life. SHARE if I think child abuse is evil. SHARE if I think animal abuse is evil. SHARE if my sister is my best friend. SHARE if my partner is my soul mate. SHARE to end war. SHARE. SHARE. SHARE!Arrrrrrrrrgh!

On a weekly basis messages such as this pass from my computer screen and enter my brain like a guilt guided missile. Because I know that if I don’t share that message that means I am one selfish ass. And when the people in my social network see that I haven’t shared when they so obviously have, they too will also know that I am a truly crummy person, thus placing them on a high pedestal in life. Show offs!

Okay, that last bit is probably wildly inaccurate and a tad bit over the top. I’m sure that my friends and acquaintances, really don’t have the time to check if I have shared the message, so are not really spending their day judging me for such things, but sweet Jesus, it doesn’t change the fact that this share phenomena is causing me all kinds of inner turmoil. If I don’t share then I’m implying I don’t care about people, animals and world peace, which is so not the case. I want nothing but the best for the planet and everyone living on it.

On the flipside if I share one of those messages it’s got to be because I want to share and not because I’ve been bullied into sharing. Essentially if I press share then I will have done it, not because those things are true, but because I have to prove that I too am a good person. Share. Click. See everyone, I’m one of the good, and you can’t say I’m not because I shared this message. So can you see how a simple message of love and supposed empathy can be turned into a message of self-doubt and nagging guilt?

So the next time you receive one of those share messages, before you hit share, ask yourself am I doing this because I want to, or because I have something to prove. And if you are sharing that message, think about all those people who are going to receive that message and are going to wonder what you’re trying to prove.

Okay. Rant over.

Who Remembers Supergirl

[The one about a controversial hoodie]

Helen Slater as Supergirl [1984]

Today I am wearing my super hero hoodie. I love it. It provides both physical warmth and inner strength with its iconic bright blue, yellow and red colours. When I wear my hoodie I am empowered. I walk down the street and women quietly smile at me. Girls stare in awe. On the flipside of things little boys and grown men stop me in the street and say things like “Hey! You’re a girl. Why are you wearing a Superman jumper?” “Shouldn’t you be wearing a Wonder Woman top?” “Hey, it’s Superman!” comments such as this make me feel like I’ve accidentally wandered into the men’s toilet [and believe me I know, as in a desperate moment I have actually done that]. It’s as though by wearing this one garment I’m defying the imaginary laws of gender.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Superman. One of many highlights of my 80s childhood was watching Christopher Reeves play Superman, opposite Margot Kidder on the silver screen. Another important highlight was seeing Supergirl come to life in the form of Helen Slater. The much slated [Yeah, yeah! I’m a terrible one for puns] Supergirl film moved me because there was an example of a girl-woman taking control of her life and becoming a peaceful and powerful person. Plus she could fly and wear a cape, how cool was that!

Supergirl shouldered responsibility and saved the world without the interference/help [depending on how you want to look at it] of a man. Not even her cousin, Superman was around to patronise her. And even though, along the way, there were men treating Supergirl as a sexual plaything, she stood her ground and pushed back.
But that was then [1984] and this is now [2014] and okay, so maybe not everyone is going to remember Helen Slater’s Supergirl. Surely though with Supergirl appearing in other more recent television programs, she would not have fallen completely into a pop cultural black hole. Or did she?

At the end of it all a thought will continue to badger this girl-woman. Why after all this time will some guys feel the need to question my right to wear a symbol of power and strength? Let’s face it, that’s at the core of this hoodie pickle. I feel like they’re telling me that the super symbol does not belong on a female.



I may never understand the psychology behind this gender stuff. But no matter how many times I am stopped in the street by the opposite sex I will continue to wear my super hoodie till there’s nothing left of it. If nothing else I want my daughters to believe that Supergirl exists and that she belongs in that hoodie.

The Cinema

The air base cinema of my childhood was a primitive movie house compared to the grand multi-cinemas of today. Everything appeared much bigger when I was a kid, and this cinema was no exception. In reality it was probably a small building.

The seats were hard and hardly ergonomic. But who cared? As long as there was coke, popcorn and Maltesers at my finger tips and I could see the screen.

Being able to see the screen, you’d think is a given, but not for me. I have always been tiny and to avoid some basketball player sitting in front of me, I would take residence as close to the screen as possible.

I have happy memories of this cinema. A few hours of pure escape from reality – a time well spent.

At this cinema I saw A Night on the TownFerris Bueller’s Day OffThe Boy Who Could Fly, amongst many other films. I loved the whole cinema experience from the moment of buying the ticket and choosing snacks. Once finding a seat I’d looking about, to see if I recognised any kids from school. I enjoyed watching the cheap slideshow advertisers promoting local services, followed then by the trailers. It was one massive happy prelude to the main feature.

It was at this cinema that I first saw Dirty Dancing. The film was in hot demand. So many people went to see the film. By the time my family reached the ticket box people were being turned away because every seat had a bottom. Something happened which I believe would have been unprecedented back then. The cinema staff agreed to have a second screening later that night. So for the next hour or so my family sat at the Sergeants’ Mess, drinking cokes and biding our time. And at 11 PM that night I finally sat down in the cinema to watchDirty Dancing. Believe me! The movie was worth the wait.

My evenings spent at that cinema might have been utter bliss. But there was just one thing that could leave a blemish on the experience, and it had to do with the ladies toilet. No, it wasn’t dirty. It was a perfectly hygienic public toilet. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was the bloody movie poster tacked to the inside of the main door – promoting Ghoulies. With the ghastly by-line “They’ll get you in the end!” depicting an ugly, green, turd-like monster coming out of a toilet. Well! It wasn’t like I had enough hang ups bowel movements when I was a kid. Here was a child’s nightmare realised – THINGS in the toilet rising up to bite your bottom or something worse. So every time I used that toilet I always looked into the bowl. If anything was coming out I wanted a head start on it. I’d finish my business, wash up and dashed out of the toilet with lightning speed always with the fear that the ghoulie would get me.

I don’t think I ever really recovered from that poster. Most paranoid people look over their shoulders. Me, I keep an eye on the toilet bowl as I’m doing my business. Just making sure nothing dark and sinister climbs out. Apart from that I loved going to the cinema.

The Memory

A single light, hanging delicately by an old wire, illuminates the cold and narrow underground space. The length of the room is filled with shelved musty books; dust covered ornaments and rusted trunks line the opposite length of wall space.
Two figures, a mother and daughter have been working away that morning, sifting through the forgotten family history. Cassie, mid thirties and her eight-year-old daughter, Tina, side by side they work, pulling objects out of dormancy, judging and adding to piles. Be it trash, or treasure.
Once in a while the shuffling silence is broken by a little voice, “Mamma, what about this? Should this go?” A pause would follow and a murmur of judgement as Cassie assesses the vintage object her daughter has placed under her nose.
The two busy females take a rest and eat a lunch upstairs, prepared by Grandma. After some ham and cheese sandwiches, a cup of tea, and apple juice, recharged, they return to their processing. By then the afternoon sun has just begun to reach the entrance of the repurposed wine cellar.
Light from outside touches a trunk positioned close to the stairs. Tina sits before the trunk and unlatches it, but it will not open. Cassie then crouches down and gives the lid a vigorous jostle. The hinges groan, and the trunk’s now at last open.
Revealed within they find a pair of black roller skates, old 80s vinyl singles, a film developer’s envelope filled with photos and negatives, rolled up rainbow socks, and a miscellaneous pile of smelly clothes.
Tina picks up one of the worn skates in both her tiny hands. “These smell funny. Mamma, are these yours? Oh and look all this other stuff.” Without waiting for an answer, Tina puts down the skate and runs her hands through the brightly coloured clothes. She picks up the photo envelope, opens it out and begins flicking through the photos.
Cassie picked up the other matching skate and leans over Tina’s shoulder as she peruses the happy snaps – a Birthday party at an old roller skating rink. In the photos a much younger Cassie is surrounded by some of her classmates, with skates on their feet and about to eat cake. She is wearing a Punky Brewster shirt. Her parents have given her a pair of brand new skates. She is so excited, no longer needing to rent the rink skates.
The cellar surroundings begin to slip away. Cassie is lost in a memory. One she had almost forgotten.
*
It is the smell of hot chips, candy, leather, and oiled metal filling the room, but she is no longer sitting on the floor of the repurposed wine cellar. She is on her feet and in her new skates. She is nine years old again. One song is fading and the lights are dimming. The mirror ball dangling from the centre most point begins to spin as newly flicked beams glance off its mosaic like mirrors.
The needle settles into a groove of another record. The first couple of bars crackle through corner speakers and a masculine voice gently resonates across the room, “Now, I had the time of my life”. Everyone is out on the floor moving in a single direction. Round and round — spinning with the dancing light in the darkness.  She imagines the swirling lights to be fairies from some roller kingdom. This is her kind of magic. Here she is happy and safe. There is no yesterday, nor a tomorrow, only her self and her skates. She is having the time of my life.
*
The moment is passing and Cassie feels something pulling at her, drawing her forward.
“Mamma, what is it? What’s the matter?” Tina has her hand on Cassie’s arm shaking it.
Cassie shakes her head, as if to clear the residue of the recovered memory. Her mind is caught between what was and the present. Tina reaches up and wipes one of her eyes.
“Mamma you’re crying.”
Cassie smiles at her worrying daughter, “It’s alright. I’m fine. I just had — I just had an incredibly vivid memory. Something that I had long forgotten came back to me. And it was something that made me very happy. That’s all. Don’t worry about your mamma.”
“Were you being silly?” Tina asked with all seriousness.
Cassie laughs out loud and rubs the top of her daughter’s head, “Yes! Mamma was being very silly. Now lets get back to the clean up, shall we?”
“Okay, but can I keep these?” Tina picks up the skates holding them up for her mamma to see. “I want to play with them.”
Cassie is bouncing an idea around in her head. It has been a very long time since she last skated. ‘Could I do it again?’ She stares at Tina for a moment, “I have a better idea. How about we take the whole trunk home. Would you like to hear about my skating days?”
Cassie is responded with energetic nodding from her daughter.
*
The scene has changed. It is Saturday night and many weeks have passed since the cleaning out of the cellar. A current radio hit is blaring out of the speakers, and the smell of hot chips and popcorn permeates the air.
Cassie leans forward on bended knee, firmly lacing the skates on her daughter’s socked feet. The skates are cleaned, oiled with wheel nuts adjusted. Tina is wearing her mamma’s old skates. Not to mention the mercilessly nuked in Nappi-san eighties clothes that had been hidden in the trunk.
On Cassie’s feet is a new pair of skates — white, shiny and tight, with the anticipation of being worn in. Pulling her daughter to her feet, they pose together as her husband takes a photo of them.
Tina points to a pair of sneaker covered feet, “Daddy, aren’t you going to skate too?”
With a nervous smile and a quick glance to the rink, her Daddy shakes his head, “Maybe next time. I reckon your Mamma will need to give me some lessons before I step out there. But I’ll be right here watching you both. You can give me a wave when you get out there.”
Cassie gives her husband a kiss on the cheek, then slowly and a just little awkwardly leads their daughter out into a rink opening. They are joining a party of families and couples that have already taken flight in a circular pattern. Nervously Tina chooses to cling to the outer railing. She doesn’t feel confident enough to be amongst all the other larger skaters. She’d rather figure this skating business out for herself. Cassie doesn’t argue, because she recalls being exactly the same when she first strapped skates to her feet decades ago.
Cassie rolls onward, skating a few laps, letting her daughter see how it can be done. Holding on to the rail and moving forward at a snail pace, Tina watches the other skaters, and most especially her Mamma in awe. Changing her mind she decides to not do this alone after all. Waving for Cassie’s attention she releases her hold of the railing and reaches out to her mamma. Cassie sees her daughter and meets her the rest of the way. Holding hands, unhurriedly they skate around the rink, letting everyone else pass them.
To Cassie the music pumped out of the speakers is new, but that is the only thing on the skating scene that has changed over the myriad of years. Everything that she loved about skating as a child is right here. It is all waiting to be tasted and felt all over again. And now it is something she can share with her daughter.
The skate session nears to an end and the disk jockey makes an announcement — he will play one last track. It is a golden oldie. The compact disc begins to spin. The first couple of bars of a song are heard and a masculine voice gently resonates across the room, “Now, I had the time of my life”.

Kylie



Do you remember when you first adored her? It was 1988. Messy perms were the in thing as were bright colours. 80s trends as we knew it were still running it’s course and I never would have believed that those days would end. But I digress. It’s not the era you were thinking about — it was she. With the exception of Jem and the Holograms, she was your first music idol. She was the first person that inspired you musically and fashion wise. You wanted to be her. I am of course talking of none other than Kylie Minogue.

Remember, the first cassette you were given, along with a little boom box? It was Kylie’s debut album. How many times over did you listen, dance and lip-sync to that album after school, when you would normally be watching television.

Later that year an official tribute magazine to Kylie caught your eye in a newsagent. You just had to have that book. Your very existence depended on it. After some almost tears and desperate begging, your parents agree to buy it. It was a $5 well spent. Just consider how many times over you read that magazine, cover to cover. It was too numerous to count. You wanted to know everything about Kylie — from her love of eating chocolate, to her appreciation for fashion. You learnt that she sometimes made her own clothes. Naively your nine-year-old mind connected the clothes worn in her photo shoots as being designed and sewn by Kylie.

A few years pass and music enters into an uncertain phase. Kylie and her music are growing up. There were those who felt too embarrassed to admit to ever listening to her early music. Yet you continued to sing to yourself I Should Be So Lucky completely unperturbed. At a time when most pop artists disappear into obscurity Kylie spends the next few years honing herself as a performance artist. Sometimes it was a bit hit and miss. But hey, whose life isn’t like that?

Then out of the blue it all just falls into place. Whether it was her audience, her sound, or her creative support. Suddenly people, who previously had hidden their Kylie albums, are practically tripping over themselves falling out of the Kylie closet, claiming that they always thought her to be all right. Do you remember watching this folie and smiling quietly to yourself. In your own quiet way, you enjoyed Kylie’s music, but you didn’t need to make a big song and dance about it.

Fast forward another few years, remember that woman claiming to be a massive Kylie fan. But who then declared wanting to sell her concert ticket, simply because she didn’t like the pixie do Kylie was sporting, post chemotherapy cancer treatment. You understood then just how fickle people could be. But you couldn’t understand how someone can place judgement because of a hairstyle. Was that woman ever really a Kylie fan? You did wonder.


Kylie has tenaciously survived the entertainment industry and personal obstacles, and to many becoming something much more than a pop star. Love her or hate her — Kylie is ascending toward her own heaven and along the way sharing her love. To her amorous fans Kylie is truly a modern day incarnation of mighty Aphrodite. But just remember this, a nine year old version of yourself will always love Kylie for being certain and knowing that it’s no secret, she, after all, should be so lucky.

Invisible Band Member

Many odd years ago My Man was in a rock band. He played the bass and I was The Band’s loyal whatever. You name it I was their audience, photographer, graphic designer, biographer, and all round moral support. For those familiar with Scott Pilgrim you can easily imagine that I was a cross between Ramona Flowers and Knives Chau, minus all the ninja fighting and general awesomeness. Mind you, there were moments when a bit of ninja action might have been called for.
I watched The Band’s development. I was aware of their aspirations and goals. I knew their songs like the back of my hand. I brainstormed with them marketing ideas. I made their flyers and album covers and even developed their first website.
I witnessed The Band consume so many drummers. One of them disappeared to Queensland [with the police hot on the trail]. Another simply didn’t turn up at the gig. Another left a long winded letter about how he couldn’t be a drummer for The Band, which actually read more like a f##k you letter. With the number of drummers The Band went through it ensured an uncanny parallel to fictional band Spinal Tap. I would be no more surprised if one of the drummers had actually spontaneously combusted on stage.
Having such close proximity to this band meant sharing in their joy when they were allowed to perform at the Espy, which for an emerging band was like entering Shangri-la. I knew of their disappointment when sound engineers turned out to be deaf hacks. Publicans who cried poor, trying to get out of paying The Band its pocket money [free beer anybody?].
Despite the smoke haze and the late nights, following and preceding a work day, I got a buzz out of being on this journey with The Band. There were plenty of other musicians to meet with and there was always potential for networking with other likeminded bands. And besides, let’s face it. It was an opportunity to get out of the house.
I remember the first performance with a group of other bands. It was something of a tri-force. The venue hoped that by having three bands that would increase drinking numbers. Of course these were somewhat unknown bands, which meant only their truly loyal friends with no place better to be turned up. What was not funny that night was my splitting migraine. What was sort of funny was the drummer not turning up. What was really hilarious, was seeing a guitarist from one of the other bands using a soldering iron on his homemade stomp box.
Fast forward a year or so and The Band were invited to perform two songs live at Triple R FM… at midnight. After the first song, The Band was told they would have to wait another two hours before playing the next song. So there we were, The Band and me, wait in a decrepit building, at an ungodly hour, exhausted, bored, and our tummies began rumbling. So we jumped into a car and searched for a 24 hour eatery. I will forever be grateful to McDonalds for being open so late. Goddess bless the Big Mac meal at 1:30 in the morning.
Another time I remember between sets trying to explain to one of the singers that his words couldn’t be heard because his nose was pressed against the microphone. He didn’t believe it, until the sound engineer came along with the same advice. I didn’t know whether to laugh it off or go all Knives Chau on the singer.
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and in my case after a few years of following The Band this became very clear to me. A lot of my time and energy was invested in this one band and it was time that I move on to other projects that were more ‘me’ orientated.
I spent so much time working with and supporting The Band. So much so, that the last drummer called me Yoko. But My Man doesn’t agree. He describes me as the invisible band member.

Riding on Buses

In grade one, whilst riding on the school bus in the morning, I used to stare at these twin boys who got on the bus a few stops after me. They wore glasses, had curly hair and massive Bugs Bunny teeth that seemed to fill their mouths. The boys’ mouths always hung open and their tongues rested underneath the top teeth. I used to imagine this was to hold their heads up. Sometimes I would imitate the brothers, but after a few minutes of hanging my mouth open I realized it was an over rated experience. Besides, who wants a dry mouth anyway?

Riding on buses came with mixed feelings. There was the unavoidable dread of barreling toward my fate — facing uninspiring teachers and hardened schoolyard bullies. On the flipside, riding the bus meant forty minutes of solitude as I immersed myself into the fictional book I happened to be reading at the time.

My early high school years were spent riding a bus that had been nicknamed Shitty Shitty Bang Bang. So aptly named as it was the oldest bus in the fleet and ever so ready to meet it’s metal maker. The old machine groaned, roared and farted like a much-distressed beast. One day Shitty Shitty Bang Bang broke down halfway to school. The engine conked out as the odor of burning crumpets wafted up the central aisle. Somewhere down the back of the bus a dickhead girlishly screamed, “We’re going to die!” Of course we didn’t. Instead we just missed a few classes that day.

The best mornings were when the bus just didn’t turn up at all. Most especially if it happened on a Friday, ensuring the early arrival of the weekend. On those days we never did find out why the bus never arrived. Did the bus simply fail to start at the bus yard? Or had the bus company simply forgotten to assign a driver to our route?

My third year of high school brought two major changes. Well three changes really, considering that Shitty Shitty Bang Bang appeared to have finally been decommissioned.

Firstly, the high school shortened the lunch hour so that the workday could finish a microsecond earlier. Thus messing with my body’s pee time clock. Since the bus waited for no student it left me no time to empty my utterly full bladder before taking a bumpy forty-minute ride home, followed by a twenty-minute walk. How I didn’t develop incontinence, I do not know.

The other change was the convergence of two bus routes. Some genius that clearly didn’t have to ride a bus with smelly, hormonal teenagers thought this was a practical cost effective decision. Yeah, right! We now had double the number of kids filling every last available breathing space, turning the bus into a stuffed sausage, very likely exceeding the legal limit. It was scary riding such a heavily loaded bus that stormed toward school at alarming speeds. One day the bus turned a right corner without slowing. The bus suspension moaned as the bus lurched onto a frighteningly extreme angle. Looking out one of the side windows the ground below was becoming too close for comfort. A kid yelled out, “LEAN TO THE LEFT”. Everyone who was standing or sitting responded with such speed that parents and teachers would never see from us. Oh yes, indeed! We leaned to the left for all it’s worth, as those seated on the right glanced out the windows silently praying to gods they didn’t really believe in, hoping that the bus doesn’t overturn. Although I suppose if the bus had overturned we would have had a perfectly valid excuse for being late to school.

Safety

Melissa Gaggiano Photography

Danger.

The wind wasn’t simply blowing. It was blasting gusts of air making it difficult for my six year old self to walk. It was the end of the school day and everyone was homeward bound. Most of the kids rode a bus to and from school – many of us lived too far to be walking the distance. The school was built onto a slope so walking downward toward the buses would have been easy enough on a still day.  But today the weather was fiercely against anyone walking down the hill toward the buses.

I felt certain the wind would blow me away and the only thing keeping me earthed was my back pack. Even so I had to lean forward and could only take tiny steps as the wind was trying its darnedest to drag me back.

Eventually I made it to the long line of buses positioned near the front of the school wall. The wind still wasn’t letting up. It seemed more powerful at the base of the hill. I felt stuck. I couldn’t move forward. I still had a way to go as my bus was at the back of the line.

One of the teachers on duty approached, told me to hurry up, but then asked which bus I need to get on. I pointed and told her it was the bus at the far end. She told me the buses were about to leave and that I had no time to reach my bus. The woman urged me toward the bus before us. This is not my bus, I told her.  She pushed me onto the bus and said not to worry, and that this bus will probably get me home. I didn’t know what to say. I was just a kid and the teacher was a responsible adult. I wasn’t taught to second guess an adult’s logic, but I was scared all the same.

Soon the bus doors close and I am searching for a spare seat on an unfamiliar bus, with a driver I have never seen before and surrounded by equally unfamiliar children. I sat near the front, keeping a vigil of the bus’s journey. I kept hoping that the teacher would be right about the bus getting me home though I couldn’t ease the sick feeling rising from the pit of my stomach.

So far, so good! The bus did appear to be following the same course that my regular bus would take. The bus left the town centre in the right direction. It was going to be okay, I thought. But then the horror of it all came back as the bus took a left turn. The path was unfamiliar. It was definitely time to worry. What was I to do? What would the driver do at the end of the journey? Would he kick me off? Would I have to stay at the bus depot overnight? Where ever that may be. I was already sick with anxiety, but now I was terrified. I tried not to cry, but my eyes welled up despite my efforts. How could one afternoon go so horribly wrong?

On the other side of the bus a boy and girl sat. They must have been watching me for a while. The boy spoke to me, “You don’t belong on this bus do you.” I thought I was in trouble. Maybe these kids will out me to the driver and have me kicked off between stops. I nodded to the boy. I told him which bus I was meant to take and that a teacher pushed me onto this bus. The boy and girl gave each other a look - knowing what to do. I saw the momentary connection. It was decided, I was coming home with them.

Safety.

It was very likely that once the two children brought me to their home, further necessary and adult steps were taken. Their mama called the school to inform them of the mishap and my whereabouts. Many kilometres away my dad, who was waiting to collect me at the bus stop, was distressed to find I was not on the bus. He too called the school to report me missing. Two and two was put together and it wasn’t long before my dad collected me. Those were the facts but hardly the most important aspect of my memory, at least, not from the perspective of a six year old.

What was important was the warmth and safety I felt once the boy and girl took charge of my immediate destiny. Once I was planted in their home a lot was done to make me feel comfortable. It wasn’t long before it began to feel like a very nice babysitting experience. A after school snack was provided, though I cannot recall what I ate. One of the children read to me a picture book with stills from Steven Spielberg’s E.T. I was shown origami for the first time in my life. I pretended that this was my family and these kids were my older siblings. I was happy. I was cared for. I was safe, which is all a six year old wants to feel.

It was a traumatic experience turned on its head. Decades later when I think about that day, particularly the family that took care of me I recall the warmth and protection that these kind strangers provided. I have such profound feelings regarding that day. I only wish I could remember their names.