It’s Nobody’s Asphalt – Road Works Are Melting My Brain

I quit.  Don’t try talking me out of it, for my mind is as made up as the curriculum vitae I submitted to the local IGA during year 11 in the hope of securing casual work after school.  (I never heard back.  Perhaps they were unconvinced by my claim that I invented ‘Wite-Out’.)  I am not for turning.  So much so that if you tied me to a carousel right now, I’d slowly spin against the flow to ensure I remained in a consistent position.  That’s how committed I am.  After many months of thinking it over I have decided this – I am never leaving home.

You’d think that after all we’ve endured over the past two years I’d be itching to run through the front door, regardless of whether it had been opened or not.  That getting up from the couch and seeing a silhouette of what appears to be moss growing on the couch cushions would be enough to inspire me to take action, but no.  I am over leaving the house, not because I am desperate to stay indoors but because I am keen to avoid that which is waiting for me.  I speak, of course, of the traffic.

 Traffic is back.  I hadn’t missed it.  After two years of having the streets pretty much to myself if, indeed, I was permitted to set foot outside the house, I can’t help but notice that things have, if not returned to normal, then slowed down to a pace that roughly resembles the normal we all used to know.  But as much as I’m not enjoying the gridlock caused by a greater number of cars, it has been exacerbated by one thing – road works.

There are road works in plague proportions.  On balance, I liked it better when roads didn’t work and simply lazed about all day, letting automobiles drive over them.  It was simple and everyone knew how it worked.  But this summer has been different. Roads everywhere have been getting a spruce up, meaning that some of them are closed and those that aren’t closed have detours in place  that, invariably, send you to Geelong, even if you live in Mentone.

I was trying to get to Williamstown at the time.  Little did I know that all the roads in and out were subject to road works. The turn off was closed entirely. Granted, there was the option of arriving by sea, but my boat is currently in dry dock and I have a heightened fear of pirates.  All the remaining roads were detours.  Even the detours had detours.  There were arrows pointed every which way.  In fact, there were more arrows than an archery competition. 

Every conceivable type of road works were represented.  There was ‘road closure with no viable alternative’.  There was a healthy selection of ‘four lanes down to one’, to say nothing of ‘reduced speed limit but, ultimately, no evidence of actual road works at all.’  Impressively, instead of this activity being somehow coordinated to reduce inconvenience, it had been deliberately designed to generate the greatest level of disturbance imaginable.  Some might see this chronic lack of coordination and chalk it up to poor management.  I, however, believe it to be an act of evil genius.

The main road in to the suburb has now reopened, but then closes again, every night at 9pm.  It’s like having Cinderella’s carriage turn into a pumpkin daily instead of only on special occasions.  I am unsure, at this point, whether this situation is temporary.   Better still, they don’t tell you that the road is closed until it’s too late to do anything about it.  It’s entrapment. Before you know it, you’ve been detoured and are on your way to Geelong.  Possibly forever.

It’s my own fault, I guess. I traded in my last car and was considering getting a helicopter, but ended up settling for a Volkswagen. It’s a choice I’ve come to regret. It was a compromise I made only after learning that the ‘Whopper Copter’ can’t actually fly.  My faith in humanity as well as fast food restaurant playgrounds totally shattered, I now spend each day being sent to Geelong and wishing that I owned my own helicopter.

Enough is enough. Eventually I cracked and decided the best way to deal with road works was to avoid them entirely by not leaving the house.  The first few days were fine until, this morning, I was diverted whilst travelling through the kitchen on my way to the bathroom before being forced to wait for fifteen minutes for a truck to unload.  I won’t be surprised if, next time I step outside the door, I find myself in down town Geelong.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Presumably, traffic slowed to about forty kilometers an hour as the paving took place.  I am now directing all my energies to making my own teleporting machine using an empty ice cream container, a can of WD-40 and some French mustard.  The results, to date, are mixed.  But as I maintain my efforts to travel through space using common household objects, I look forward to the day when I can travel from A to B without visiting the rest of the alphabet.  To say nothing of Geelong.roadwork

The Silver Jubilee Cracker Cremation

It’s  here!  Without much in the way of fanfare, it’s finally arrived.  Rejoice!  Let the band strike up and brace yourself for the kind of tickertape parade that’ll look like your local Officeworks just exploded.  With year of our Lord 2022 now upon us, embedded and moving like the clappers, we can now celebrate one of the most significant anniversaries within living memory or otherwise.  

I, for one, can barely contain myself.  Granted, containing myself is an odd task; one I usually perform by wrapping  myself in sticky tape, but it’s no use – such is the extent of my excitement that I’m oozing out all over the place. Put simply, I am totally pumped.  So much so that my buttons are in danger of bursting off my shirt, such is the strain.  I’ve been waiting for this moment, it feels, forever and I am giddy at the fact of it finally being here.  I speak, of course, of my father’s cheese crackers.

If that sounds underwhelming; these, it must be said, are no ordinary cheese crackers.  I know how it goes for most people – they buy savoury biscuits and then, at some point, they eat them.  Not my father.  He was more taken with the tin rather than the contents and proudly put it on display, above the kitchen bench on a shelf.  Without fear of exaggeration, it’s quite the bit of packaging; with a Renaissance-era painting of a damsel in flowing robes.  Which is quite the statement for a biscuit.  You don’t get that with an Iced Vo Vo.

I’m sure it’s not just my father who puts these kinds of things on the kitchen bench for all and sundry to admire.  I guess others might have had a similarly visceral response to a biscuit tin if it was to a particular standard.  They too might have put it on display to impress visitors.  However, most people would have done something to account for the contents of the tin.  That is, they would probably have emptied it.  Not my father – he’s made of sterner stuff.  He’s left the tin unopened.

Leaving the contents of a biscuit tin in an unconsumed state is something you can get away with for a time.  But not for decades. That biscuit tin has now been occupying pride of place in my father’s kitchen since the 1990s.  More than a mere receptacle for long-expired biscuits, the tin is now something of a time capsule.  

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the tin is so much more than just a decorative biscuit container – it’s a tomb for some long-expired cheese crackers.  This savoury sarcophagus has remained unopened, now, for more than a quarter of a century.  2022 isn’t just another year.  It is, in fact, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the use-by date.

It’s printed on the seal: 30 June 1997.  That’s the date by which the biscuits were supposed to be consumed.  It has to be said that my father has a history of treating use-by dates, at best, as a loose advisory and, at worst, with breath-taking contempt.  It seems that for some people, pushing the envelope is a matter of gently positioning a piece of stationary. For my father, however, he is pushing that envelope right off the nearest cliff.  

Exceeding the use by date by a quarter of a century is no small feat (although, ironically, my father has quite small feet, but that’s another story).  It’s the silver jubilee.  The only question is how best to celebrate it: commemorative coin or stamp?  I, for one, look forward to receiving a letter through the post that has a picture of a cheese cracker biscuit tin as postage on the front.

The one thing we can’t do with the tin, however, is open it.  Who knows what kind of foul smelling remnants are rotting behind the tin façade?  For all I know, the pressure of the decaying matter has resulted in some kind of vacuum, and breaking the seal will cause some type of large-scale explosion that won’t so much rattle the cutlery as it will be seen from space.

Maybe it’ll be like that scene in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, where the Nazis prise open the Ark of the Covenant (which, if you think about it, would make quite the biscuit tin), letting slip a host of evil spirits that wreak a merciless vengeance on all who dare gaze upon them.  You never know.

If that sounds like a lot to expect from a biscuit, then I can only say you clearly managed to avoid eating one of the revamped Barbecue Shapes before they quickly returned to the original recipe.  (People are willing to accept the notion of ‘chicken in a biscuit’.  Those things were evil in a biscuit.)  The taste was so bad that, after eating one, I didn’t know whether to rinse my mouth out or call a priest.

In the end, I suspect the big day will come and go without any real fanfare.  The fate of the cheese crackers was, much like the tin they’re in, sealed long ago.  I dare say that they’ll be there in another twenty-five years and, frankly, may outlive us all. Maybe I’ll send it a card. Or a gift.  It’ll be cheese, most likely.  In truth, I’m not sure if my father ever thought of emptying the tin and never got around to it or simply forgot it was there. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Sometimes things just turn out that way.  After all, that’s the way the cookie, or cracker, crumbles.

So Long to the Cinema of My Dreams

What an absolute kick in the guts.  I’ve no idea what kind of moron has been put in charge of the celestial ‘gut kicking’ Department but, whoever it is, they’re doing a bang up job.  One minute, you’re going about your life; the next minute everything you hold dear has been desecrated.  It’s as though somebody’s deliberately going out of their way to destroy every precious childhood memory I have that didn’t involve spoonfuls of Milo and peanut butter eaten in the pantry.  I speak, of course, of the Frankston Cinema.

For decades, it sat on the Nepean Highway, it’s unassuming façade barely hinting at the treasures that lay within.  Now it’s been demolished.  By ‘demolished’, I don’t mean turned into a discount bedding shop or an ‘all you can eat’ restaurant, but torn down entirely so that only dirt is left.  There’s not even a plaque.  Nothing.  Just an empty lot that’s a vacant as my heart.  For shame.

Nobody had told me.  We were eating dinner at the Mexican restaurant across the road when I noticed it was gone.   My brother explained that the cinema had been demolished; notwithstanding the windswept, desolate piece of scorched earth before me made that something of a statement of the obvious.  I felt sad.  I felt demoralized.  I felt deeply solemn.  I felt bereft.  The one thing I didn’t feel, however, is hungry.

It’s difficult receiving such awful news whilst at a Mexican restaurant.  As other people enjoyed themselves, I was unsure how best to mourn the loss of one of the most important pieces of my childhood.  Given that I’d just eaten a burrito and was feeling the full impact of a dose of refried beans, I contemplated a performance of the ‘Last Post’ powered only by what I’ll refer to as ‘natural gas’ but decided that my fellow diners might think this was in poor taste. 

 I first went to New York in Frankston.  Paris and London, too.  I got to visit those places through the films I saw at the Frankston cinema.  It was always such a magical experience.  What made it especially unique was the lobby.  In the ceiling, there was an installation.  It looked like some kind of ancient rock but, upon reflection, may well have been tin foil.  It changed colours every few seconds.  Now I realize this effect is achieved through lighting.  At the time, however, I put it down to magic.

I can’t be the only one. Surely, the coloured crystal / tin – foil installation meant something to other people too and was worthy of preservation.  Heaven knows what the National Trust are doing if they’re allowing culturally significant coloured tin foil lobby installations to be ruined.  Is nothing sacred?

I saw my first superhero at Frankston cinema.  My first cowboy and astronaut too.  I even saw my first creature from outer space at Frankston cinema.  I also the movie ‘E.T. The Extra Terrestrial’ there, but that’s another story.  Movies take us to other places, to other people and give us stories that entertain us and open up a world of imagination.  I loved going to the movies there.

Almost every single film I ever saw growing up, I saw in Frankston.  ‘Superman’ and ‘Back to the Future’ (as well as their sequels), ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘Batman’.  In fact, it’s easier to list the exceptions.  ‘Star Wars’ at the Burwood Drive In (also demolished – in favour of a business park) and ‘Police Academy Five’ at the Village Cinema in Bourke Street – a venue that should, in fact, be demolished solely because it elected to screen ‘Police Academy Five’.

The Frankston cinema is where our father took my brother and I to see ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.’ It was a pivotal and life changing experience.  I remember that my brother and I were deeply engaged with the film.  There’s a moment in that movie (spoiler alert if you haven’t gotten around to seeing it in the eighty five years since it was released) when Snow White’s out in the woods and the Huntsman who’s been told to track her down and kill her is creeping up from behind.  It was incredibly suspenseful.  It was also too much for my brother, who leapt to his feet and screamed ‘Run Snow White!  Quickly!’  He was thirty years old at the time.

My father still tells that story, whenever he gets the chance.  It was whilst we were at the Mexican Restaurant that I relayed the tale to my niece who was surprised to hear that her father had ever done such a thing. It was that kind of place; where inhibitions were put aside for a few hours.  If not the cinema or the multi-coloured tin foil installation in the lobby, my brother’s outburst is certainly plaque worthy.

It was such an important part of growing up. That’s true for many people, I think.  And it’s a shock to see that it’s gone, without warning or ceremony.  It’s ridiculous, but I feel as though I ought to have been notified.  Granted, it’d be odd to receive an email from someone because, according to their records, I’d been to a four o’clock showing of ‘Superman: The Movie’ in 1978, but I’d like to have known.  So let me say it now – farewell old friend.  See you at the big snack bar in the sky.

Everything’s Kaputin – Autocratic For the People

The world is crazy.  And by ‘crazy’, I don’t mean ‘white goods at unbeatable prices’ kinda crazy or even ‘you don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps’ coffee mug crazy but, rather, crazy in the most totally and irretrievably deranged, brutal sense imaginable.  Doubtless, there are some incredibly intelligent people who can give extraordinary and insightful analysis as to why Ukraine has been invaded.  But for all their dissections of history and geo-political tensions, the whole thing seems to boil down to one, simple proposition – Vladimir Putin is a jerk.

And by ‘jerk’, I don’t mean ‘wouldn’t let me merge whilst trying to get on the Eastern Freeway’ type of jerk or even ‘he pushed in front of me and bought the last remaining boysenberry choc-top at the mid-afternoon screening of House of Gucci’ kind of jerk.  I’m talking about turbo-charged, supersonic jerkdom that’s so gigantic that it casts a shadow for miles and can be seen from space.  We’re talking ‘Hall of Fame’ jerkiness that will be remembered.  Forever.

I mistakenly assumed everyone felt the way I did. After all, it’s not hard to hate a guy whose hobbies include poisoning his enemies and annexing the Crimea. This is someone who went his entire childhood without smiling.  Chances are, he only smiles now when he’s stealing a kitten or putting his rubbish in someone else’s wheelie bin.  But not everyone thinks he’s a cad.  

I’ve never met Tucker Carlson.  I did, however, write to him once when he said that Australia ‘has no freedom’.  My letter informed him his comments had gone down like the proverbial cold cup of sick and that instead of having ‘no freedom’, we have so much of the stuff that it sits around in buckets.  That was seven years ago and I’m beginning to suspect he may not write back.

Tucker had a lot to say in the days preceding the invasion.  In particular, he encouraged his viewers to question why they hate Vladimir Putin.  The answer, ‘because it’s deeply satisfying’ was, apparently, not good enough.  Instead, he implored those watching to ask themselves a series of questions as a means of determining whether it was fair to dislike a murderous autocrat.

The first question was ‘Has Putin ever called me racist?’ I’m not sure that Putin has called me anything, but I put that down to luck.  To date, we’ve never met.  But if we did, I’m certain he’d steal my bathroom soaps, extinguish his cigar in my pot plant before kicking the gate on the way out. That’s if he even agreed to leave. Knowing my luck, he’d annex the living room and spend the evening watching re-runs of ‘Perfect Strangers’ (he’s a big fan of Balki, apparently).

Tucker’s second question was even more penetrating: ‘Has Putin ever threatened to fire me for disagreeing with him?’  Not me, personally.  But he has a pretty handy record of assassinating opposition leaders and adding a spoonful of Novichok to someone’s tea when a sachet of Sweet’n low would have been more appropriate.  Now that I think of it, getting fired by Vladimir Putin would be the least of your problems.  I’m really not sure what point Tucker was trying to make.  

It didn’t end there.  Tucker also asked whether Putin had ‘manufactured a worldwide pandemic that wrecked your business?’  It’s not a theory I’ve heard, but I’d say it can neither be ruled in or out. The questions then came thick and fast.  ‘Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination?’ (I don’t believe he’s registered as a teacher, so possibly not).  ‘Is he making Fentanyl?’ (Definitely – he’s got a thing for pharmaceuticals.) It ended with the somewhat mystifying ‘Does he eat dogs?’  (I can’t say for sure but, on balance, probably.)

Before I had so much a chance to finish writing down my answers, Tucker spoiled it by adding, ‘The answer to all these questions is no’.  I had one ‘no’, a couple of ‘yeses’ and a ‘maybe’.  I’m not sure what the point of the exercise was, save that it’s surely the worst decision tree, ever.

Things only got freakier from there.  He referred to the tensions (and, frankly, imminent invasion) as a ‘border dispute’.  That’s a bit like describing Ebola as a case of the sniffles.  Tucker then compared the ‘border dispute’ with a decision to allow ‘the world’ (presumably tourists) to enter America.  He then made what can only be described as the stupidest statement ever uttered on television, which given the humdingers that preceded it, is saying something – noting that situation is described as ‘equitable’ and the other a ‘war crime’.  The difference, of course, is tanks.  Generally, if you turn up in a tank there’s a chance that your arrival will be viewed as hostile.  Or maybe that’s just me. 

 P.J. O’Rourke would have had plenty to say about the current state of affairs. He passed away a couple of weeks ago.  I loved how he wrote about politics.  Insightful, hilarious and biting.  He’d have had plenty to say about Tucker Carlson.  P.J. and I didn’t always agree, but he’d have agreed with me on this much – Vladimir Putin is a jerk.