The train from Melbourne to Sydney is 12 hours long, and if anyone ever wanted a front row seat to deep Australian culture, I cannot recommend it enough. There’s no wifi or power points, so at some stage, you just have to sit and watch the shit unfold. At one stop, a man sat down next to me. “Excuse me mister, can you hold this for me?”. He handed me a garbage bag full of VB stubbies – a mix of empty and full. A train inspector came into the carriage and asked me what I was doing with the bag, but before I could protest my involvement the man sitting next to me cried out, “It’s miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine missus! It’s not his it’s miiiiiiiiiine!”. “Why do you have this, are you drinking them on the train?”. “Aw naaah don’t do this to me miss!”. Then he turned to me and said, “Hey mister, did you know I was incarcerated? I just got out today, wanna see my papers?”. I declined his offer as politely as I could (who knows what he went in for), turned to the window and tried to immerse myself in the curtains to give the impression I was very busy. Unfortunately, there’s only so much one can feign interest in teal drapery. “There’s no such thing as God you know. You’re God and I’m God but mostly God is aliens”. I nodded at my seatmate, sipped my wine and stared out the window, praying to the Australian countryside to take me with it. He moved to the seat in front of me and took charge on the poor man sitting there. What came out of his mouth was all pure undiluted gold:
“The Third Eye is what it’s all about mate. The Third Eye sees all and is everything we work for. The pussy man, the pussy is the third eye. No one knows this, but it is”
“Muslims are only about money which is why they like religion so much. Alottadollaz in religion”
“There’s 5 things in life we got. Jealousy. Envy. Hatred. Love. Greed. 5 things on 5 fingers, make a fist and make you strong. Brother, five things always make a fist”
“I am a slave to one thing. The circle. Not 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…0 – the circle. The pussy. The pussy is the circle in the world. It’s also the third eye. The pussy is so good”
“Cows are the basis of civilisation. They give us milk, yoghurt, butter, cream, meat, and yeast”
“Man can become woman, but woman can’t become man. The circle can be created, but you can’t grow a 1. Don’t try to fake a circle man, the circle always knows”
“The only thing Christianity got right is Adam and Eve. Eve ate the apple, and the apple is only a food for the seed. Seed is man, man. You know what I mean?”
At some point, it got really hot and we were informed that someone had smoked in the toilets so the air-conditioning had gone off and would come back on in an hour or so. Seemed unfair to punish the rest of us for one deadshit’s vice, but there we were. While we were stationed at Gunning, the train didn’t move on. After about half an hour of sitting there a dude on my carriage that was getting progressively more and more drunk, came in and sexually assaulted a lady. She cried out for help, and the most magical thing happened. Bystander apathy is quite commonplace, but on this train full of criminals and drunks and the low lives of the state, every man in the carriage immediately stood up to her defense. I didn’t even have time to react because the other drunk toothless Joes were already chasing the dude down swearing to skin him alive. The woman was ok and just startled, but thanked everyone for stepping up. It was like a horror film with a twist ending. Then a train worker came in and said that that guy had been arrested for doing something worse to another woman a few carriages back, and we had to wait for the police to finish their investigation. The train may not have had wifi, but it sure came with a show.
In Sydney, I met up with my dear friend Alice and we went to the Powerhouse Museum. The lady at the ticket counter warned us about he exhibit saying some adults found it too kiddy with all the colouring in and colourful balls and such and we assured her that was absolutely our jam. We walked into the technicolour wonderland and lamented the fact that we didn’t have any acid. One of the activities you can do is draw a child, scan it into this big four-walled screen and watch them come to life. They were all running around interacting with one another and it was really bizarre, but fun to watch what comes of your child. I sat down at the tiny tables and immediately started going to work. Directly next to me a woman screamed out and grabbed a kid saying, “What are you doing?! Do you want a strange man to take you?”, and I couldn’t help but feel that it was directed at me – the strange man at the kid’s table with an armful of crayons. One mine was scanned in, my child just ran around reprimanding the other children, and once a dance break happened, instead of dancing like the rest of them, he stood and mimed the actions of stabbing another girl in the back as she had a boogie. I looked around, ready to deny knowing who’s kid that was, and hastily left him to be. In another section, we sat at a table with a Dad and his little girl and he said to her, “Ok Luna, you get to work on the scissors”, and she, about the age of 6-10, replied, “Yay! Scissors are my favourite!”, so maybe my virtual stabby kid wasn’t so far from the norm.
Alice took me to an Italian restaurant for dinner one night, and while we were there a man proposed to his girlfriend. It was very bizarre. He called everyone’s attention in the courtyard and made us watch, doing his speech and whipping out his ring. She cried, he cried and everyone clapped. I turned to Alice, “that was so weird” and she said, “I know, did you see that ring box? It was from Michael Hill Jeweller. At least buy a better box to pretend you have some taste”. I agreed wholeheartedly, and when the woman went around and showed each person her new ring, we both cooed at how lovely it was, because we’re such good people. The worst part of the whole thing was I could see the waiter on the other side of the commotion holding out plates of food, waiting to bring them to us. There is a special place in hell for the people that get in the way of pasta.
Alice – “Amber Rose did for sluts what Oprah did for black people.”
While Alice was at work, I decided to potter around Paddington and check out the neighbourhood. While walking down Oxford Street, I kept getting a look over from almost every passing dude and I felt like a fucking king. It wasn’t until I got back that I realised the toothpaste stain from earlier didn’t fully wipe away, and the white splodge on my crotch was probably the reason for the eye traction.
On the last night staying with Alice, I suggested we watch an episode of Ru Pauls Drag Race, which I have become addicted to. Alice had never seen it, but my fears on her enjoyment of the show were gone when my laptop ran out of power and she screamed, “QUICK UNPLUG THE FRIDGE PUT IT IN FIX IT”.
On the train to Tuggerah, a man sat next to me and opened up a beautiful old bible, and highlighted every line in bright offensive orange. He noticed me looking and told me he liked highlighting his favourite parts. I looked at him, and said, “But, you’re doing every line”. He then responded by saying that it was all his favourite parts. I looked away before he could see my eyes roll. How did these people find me?
While visiting my cousin Emma, her little boy Kobe is at that adorable stage where words come out but his handle on them isn’t perfect. The best is when he wants a drink, which he pronounces as “dick”. When asking for a glass of Milo, he’ll say he wants “a big brown dick”. Ten stars. Highly recommended child.
On the silent carriage on the train to Newcastle I got shushed when I sneezed. I’ll can’t win with these people.
Bizarrely, while traversing the east coast, my parents were doing the same, and I managed to get a lift up the coast with them to Sawtell to visit my sister and her kids. It was probably the closest I’m ever getting to hitchhiking. On the way up we stopped off at an old staple, Freddo Pies, for a classic road trip stop. I got a crocodile pie, and was disappointed at how much it actually tasted like chicken. I don’t know what I was expecting, but part of me kind of felt like eating a predator might give me some sort of an edge. Instead, I just got indigestion from the creamy mornay filling.
A kid on an online dating app called me Daddy, so I guess this is where I’m at now.
In Sawtell, we visited my Mum’s friend Karen. The first thing she said to me was, “Harry! I bought this trash can the other day and thought immediately of you! I need a picture of you two”. I may not have the most glamorous life, but a photo op is a photo op.
Got to hang out with my niece and nephew in Sawtell, and it was great. I’m one of the few people Syann knows who is interested in anime and manga, so we had great chats. I played Jax in Scrabble and instead of taking it easy on him because he’s 9 years old, I slaughtered him. Life doesn’t just hand you triple letter bonuses, and it’s important to learn this.
Sitting around a table after about twenty beers with my parents and their mates, we had a debate about whether it was the last plane or train out of Sydney that was almost gone in the song Khe Sanh, which is possibly the most Australian I’m ever getting.
While aimlessly wandering the streets of Byron Bay, who should I see sauntering across the street calling out my name but Lee motherfucking Andrianakis – a mate of mine from back in Melbourne. He’s just about the most chilled dude I know and he looked so at home in the Byron haze, not at all phased by our insane chance meeting. We had a beer at the pub and it was great. This country is so big, but way also so fucking small.
I drove up with my parents to their new town, a dusty little thing near Ballina. The town has one pub that only operates out of 5% of the building, and a pie shop that’s closed and now only sells pies at the corner store. Their house is across the road from the local graveyard and at night I could hear all the calls of the Australian bush. It felt like a remote getaway. Going back to my old hometown always felt like visiting the prison I was trapped growing up in, so it was really nice to visit my folks in a new environment. Every night we drank wine on the back porch to the sound of parrots until the geckos started chirping, and Paul Kelley usually filled the airways. It’s easy to dream of what the world has to offer, but there is something completely restorative about what this country can give. As much as I want to reject Australia sometimes, it’s hard to ignore the call of home. Even if that call is a bizarre mix of criminals, drunks and twilight rosellas.