Cecily held up the money as though to let it blow away into the wind. 'Toilet paper she called it. we like to get high she said. Her son who was in his twenties came over and sat down. I asked if she taught her children to paint, 'I teach them to get drunk she said bitterly.
To tell you the truth I was actually incredibly tempted to go to the bottle shop buy some booze and then spend the night getting drunk and sleeping in the river bed. To me that's a better life than working in a bank or something just so I can go on exspensive skiing holidays or a holiday resort in Malaysia and raise children who can do exactly the same thing - all for no purpose. These women understood joy and humility. They cursed at the heat and the noisy kookaburras and sighed and blessed the cool breeze which ruffled through the gum leaves. They pointed out the crows in the gumtrees, 'Americans call them ravens.'
I walked away, telling them I might go to the bottle shop and come back. I've never seen any of them again.
I actually did go to the bottle shop and asked if they had any port wine which is what Kerouac drank. They told me I couldn't buy it till after six. I wandered the streets. Some drunk white people staggered out of a bar into a car, little Australian flags waving, happy Australia day yelled a drunken white woman at some aboriginals. I walked through the centre of town and shared the last of my cheese and bread with some aboriginal people who were also selling paintings, some of them were better than others. I spoke to one man who had amazing paintings. 'I've had exibitions of my paintings in America and Japan and Europe. At the moment some of my paintings are in Japan.' 'Do you make any money from them?' 'Nah, he spat the word disgustedly, 'but he does, 'and he pointed in the direction of an art dealer shop, 'he's ripping off a mob in South Australia at the moment. We're trying to take him to court and sue him.'
I walked along the riverbank, underneath the bridge an aboriginal man was lighting an orange glowing fire. It was dusk and beginning to get cool. My phone rang, it was the woman I had arranged to meet. I met her in the car park outside KFC.
She was a nice attractive woman, with jet black hair and brown skin, young and strong from working in her garden and building a rammed earth house. She also had long dark under arm hair which I find very attractive. She had been to art school made money teaching art, mainly to the aboriginal community which seemed a little ironic, she mainly did sculpture. She grew up in Melbourne which is where she went to art school and then headed North to escape the city.
On the way to her house we stopped at a friends place and she picked up a couple of old lounge chairs which she said were for me to lie in and read. The place we got those chairs was from a house in the suburbs, fenced, with a swimming pool I think. It was strange moving in this world after sitting with my aboriginal friends in the riverbed. A middle aged man carried the chairs out and yelled at his little girls to help. Then him and his wife stood on the foot path talking to my host. They were very impressed at the fact she was able to grow vegetables, 'I wish we could do that here, we don't seem to be able to grow anything.'
Her place, as I mentioned, she had built herself out of rammed earth. She had a very beautiful little property 10 kilometres out of alice springs, looking at the red and black rock of the macdonald ranges. She grew figs, chilli, corn, lemons, watermelons, potatoes, and also a little crop of marijuana hidden among some grape vines (she was waiting for it to bud.) she also had lots of native plants and some rather penial catuses. There were also sculptures and mosaics and artworks all over the place. Like one I really liked: a dogs head carved from a burnt tree branch, and solar powered lights which came on automatically at nightexcept instead of the usual variety you can buy in any hardware store she had created a kind of chinese lantern effect but encasing these lights in multi-coloured glass, and there were also fairy lights hung up all around, so at night the garden blinked with red and green and yellow lights as well as the many stars of course. their were mosaics and sculptures all around the house and an outdoor shower. She had books on earth building and Buddhism as well as on other new age type things. she ate no meat.
She showed me around the house and garden and explained some of the jobs she had for me to do. then I spent a couple of hours digging holes with a mattock for her to plant trees in and for anyone who doesn't know the earth in the territory is as hard as concrete. I dug four holes and then filled them up with water which would soak in over night and make digging easier tomorrow. By then it was dark. I had a delightful shower and put on clean clothes. Then I went inside and we ate vegetable soup which was delicious. Also she had two dogs. Gus and … One of them was old and blind and sad, the other real cheerful and friendly.
That night I slept on a raised wooden platform under the stars. … also slept outside but under a roof. I slept an excellent night sleep and couldn't be bothered remembering my dreams. I awoke to a pale blue dawn, the horizon was alight with orange fire, the mountains tinged red. I tiptoed to the chook shed and collected eggs. It was five thirty. I accidently woke up … when her dogs barked a morning greeting to me. She asked me not to come into the house so early.
I ate eggs for breakfast that morning and then dug holes until noon. I watched the sunrise while I worked. I felt like a murderer digging graves for my victims, like the character in the Henry Lawson Story The Bush Funeral. I also worked making a little path out of old tires filled with earth and glass bottles which would later be covered over with concrete. I had to fill buckets with scores of empty bottles of Mercury Cider (Tasmanian made.) I thought about my aboriginal friends, getting drunk and high together in the riverbed while I dug holes and broke my back over someone else's garden.
She made a kieche for lunch with eggs and cheese and yellow peppers and anchovies and chillis. After lunch I lay down to rest, it was too hot, the dogs fell asleep. I lay in the shade in a deck chair reading. I felt like an African plantation owner. I read William Dalrympals Nine Lives in search of the sacred in Modern India, and Also my brother Jack by …. I was feeling depressed though. Introspected, dejected I wrote in my journal. I was racing around the country, going nowhere and all I'd found so far was insanity. Soon though I began to feel better. I took photos of the sunset over the mountains: it was beautiful. I slept on the wooden platform again and before going to sleep I saw a star shooting across the sky. the next morning I woke to the sound of a cock crowing and pink cookies chirping. Marlou came rushing up to greet me good morning.
I stayed there for five days and did almost exactly the same thing each day. Rose at sunrise to the sound of a cock crowing and pink cockies chirping, often the dog would come rushing up to greet me. Clouds of green budgies would shoot across the sky. Each day I worked till lunch time and then went and lay down in my chair to read. One day while I was lying in the chair I closed my eyes and had a little daydream about Hans Moleman and a stag and a dog which I used in one of the novels I was writing in my head. On the second day I got quite badly sunburnt on my back. Lying in the hammock chair I could feel the string cutting into my raw red skin. … went out to a party that night. I cooked spaghetti with vegetables and added a tin of oysters which was all the meat she had in her house - I was craving meat. I floated naked in her pool which was just a water tank embedded in the ground and filled with beautiful clear blue cool clean chlorinated water. I ate my spaghetti with vegies and oysters while clinging to the edge of the pool with my elbows. I felt like an American tourist in Las Vegas. I thought about Han Shan - I'd been reading about Tibetan Buddhist hermits in 9 lives. I wanted to try being a hermit. I thought of the lines from Cold Mountain: 'who can break the bonds of worldly attachment and sit with me above the clouds.' A feeling of peace and serenity passed through me. The flowers seemed calm and beautiful. I watched the clouds reflected in the gently rippling water of the pool. I looked at the garden. The sunflowers and lettuce and quinces.
I took her dog for a walk - she'd taken one with her but left the old blind one. He was 14 years old with a lump on his head the size of a golfball from bumping into stuff. There was a beautiful sunset which I wanted to take a photo of. Heavenly rays of sunlight were pouring through the clouds and making them burn with melting gold; the green hills and red earth shining - it made me feel magical and religious. But Gus was real slow and the sun was going down quick. I actually had to tug the lead a bit to guide him and stop him bumping into stuff. I had to battle with myself not to half throttle him racing to get to a good spot to photograph the sunset. Teach me patience Gus I told him. MARLOU. That night I slept on my front in the floor of her house with the fan on with The Return of the King playing on her TV - epic art work. My back had been badly sunburnt.
The next two nights I slept in a little caravan she had. It was a very beautiful little thing, with two beds, my rucksack lying on one of them, a radio, a black and white chess board lineloeum floor, sink, red cupboards one lamp, a shelf with a few stray books, and a mirror. I decided I wanted to live in something just like it. I'd watch the rain through windows and eat muesli. I began thinking how I would store milk - I didn't want a fridge. I figured every Sunday I would buy milk and have a grat feast of muesli and pancakes. I guess I could just use powdered milk.
One night I took her other dog Gus for a walk into the foothills of the Macdonald rangers. And I guess I got my recompaense for dragging poor marlou along towards the sunset and probably strangling him half to death because crazy old gus who raced around the house and in and out of the doogie doors like an actual lunatic chasing invisible rabbits, dragged me along like he was a crazy bull dragging a plough over Jason's fields. We had to climb over a barbed wire fence and fool that I was on the way back I tried to jump over it and fucked it up and caught my shoe on it and ripped a big hole in it. The mountain foot hills were beautiful though, espiecally at that time when it was so pleasant and cool. The red rocks radiating the last of the days heat, the green eucalypts rustling in the shady little valleys.
Each night we ate a nice dinner which was cooked mainly from the vegetables in her garden. It was vegetarian food and there was never very much. I was always going to the fridge and getting myself bowls of muesli. But there was something very special about eating food grown so close to home. One night we were eating dinner together at the wooden table she had in the kitchen and there was cold cucumber soup - which was nice in the hot weather - and corn and salad - and all of it grown within the 100 square metre nucleus. As I was eating the corn I began to notice the light glinted off it and how the room and our faces were vaguely reflected in it. the way it glinstend with water fresh from the steaming cook pot. I had the feeling that everything is just a reflection of everything else and that the whole universe was somehow contained in those little golden grains - what some people might call god but isn't really, because it doesn't have anything to do with the invisible man in the sky most of us connect with god, but is rather a simple, humble, extraordinary beauty which we can become aware of sometimes when we are quiet.
I was beginning to notice this beauty more and more. I was still hurting inside and often everything seemed useless but beauty was beginning to shine through independently in a way I'd never known before. She served the salad and I had the same experience. Oh the colours. The red beetroot and bits of translucent cucumber with grated carrot for texture and yellow tomatoes. That night I slept in the caravan and dreamed I was walking on the mountain in Hobart, that I was eating cake at a birthday party, and playing soccer with many old friends and that my young cousin climbed a tree and played a flute I carved him because he was sad I was going away.
My mother had convinced me to spend the money and buy a tour of Uluru. I also considered getting a bicycle and cycling the couple of hundred K there and I might have done it as well except that I didn't like the idea of riding on the highway. My time with … was finishing. She was going back to work on Monday and I was ready to leave. The next morning I ate a breakfast of magorang noodles with a fresh laid egg on top, read the last pages of my brother Jack and then drove with … into Alice Springs again. In Alice Springs I brought a tarpaulin to make up for the tent I'd lost. I wandered around Alice and booked my tour of Uluru. I had to tell them a hotel to pick me up from so I lied and told them one I had walked past. I had to be outside it at 4-45 AM. I scouted out the YCA and found a little alcove in an alley which was quiet well hidden and where I thought I could camp. It wasn't a very nice spot but it seemed like an alright spot to me - a alcove for a british polich heretical Scottish irish Australian sadhu - the riverbanks and stuff in Alice didn't seem like mine - I felt like an English man in my broad brimmed hat, my skin was not evolved for this climate - by which I mean the UV radiation and the fact that dark skin is better suited to it - a fact jack London refused to accept even when he was roasted pink like a raw chicken lost sailing around the world after making big money from writing.
I had lost my pocket knife when I sliced cheese for some people a week before. I went to where I thought I had lost it, and the people were there still trying to sell paintings. They gave me the knife back, the lady wanted to keep it but she thought I was going to buy a painting.
I went to the library, which was airconditioned. There were a lot of aboriginal people in the library reading and looking at books which was nice. The library had a good collection of books on aboriginal Australia.
Until four I read blake and shelley and les murray and a stupid book by a Latrobe university scolar which made me angry. In my notebook in response to a Murray poem I wrote: 'beyond the letters, AMP, ASIO, CBA, ANZAC - so many A's - where is the poetry of Australia - the NPA - poem of Australia, poe of Australia, raven - nevermore - where calvacades and cascades, brands and stockwhips strike fire from the stone mountain side - where embers the flash of green comets, where messiahs live, where there are no peanut butter sandwhiches. Market prices, freedom, economy, sandwhich, butter face smile, bitterness cleverness pun puny gumtree, stinky river flow, beneath the graveyard of black Europe, the vampires of prauge and venis and munich, the emperors of china and japan, the invading armies of racist accusation sadness fearin coakroaches, canetoads, umbreallas, uplifted shirts, up to Darwin, to the Indonesian archipelago of a planet just beyond the galactic rim, v isions of gibbering monkeys caught in the web of times alleyways, the exclamation mark heard on the street starts jitters and titters and loiters of kittens, cotton on to the swansong of the long gone prince peace released from the sleep of golden tropical forest afternoon , sleeping oh the weeping and wandering of the streets, the crying of drains, I must sleep. In response to the scholars books I scribbled angrily: never criticize anything which comes from a place of soul. Only suggest thru ecsatic exaltations and migrations of the human heart toward illuminatedness. And also, 'we are Britains shadow, that ain't no bad thing, the new padigram is not new age wishy washy weepiness. We are consumers of IT. IT being soul, spirit, god - the mystical IT of Kerouac's On the Road.' I don't know what it means. Beneath it I wrote, 'I spit intense raps on street corners, expose my rage never succumb to boredom.'
There was a book exchange and I picked up C S lewis the silver chair. After eating a dumpster chicken drumstick I went to k-mart to get batteries for my camera and I also brought a block of Belgium hazelnut chocolate which at $1 seemed to cheap not to. I contemplated stealing the batteries and chocolate but didn't in the end and felt good about it - better than the semi frenzied nervous energy rush of stealing - but then again I'm never going to be a mindless drone trudging broken backedly to supermarket, weighed down with weary plastic bags. I felt boisterous like a man walking right through the world, righteously. I had gone to use the self check out machine but couldn't figure out how to work it so went and waited for about a second and smiled at nice blond girl behind counter who asked me, need a bag for that?' in a robotic way that made me sad. I guess I could have made human conversation but didn't.
I climbed a hill and sitting at the top looking at the spectacular mountain ranges which encircled us I looked for that heavenly infinity which is actually earthly in the fast melting squares of chocolate - I could nearly see it in them but they weren't quite as holy as the food from the garden but maybe I was just trying to hard, looking for it too much instead of just letting myself be surprised by the earths natural diviness.
I sat in a park, crows and pink cockatoos, the grass was so green, cockies pecking around in it - it must seem tall to them - so green like heaven. I read the silver chair and thought about Kerouac who wrote visions of cody as though it was a conversation in heaven. I thought about writing a book about the world as heaven. A noisy car went past playing dofdof. Still, in that park with grass and birds flying and the gold light slanting and casting silhouettes of the trees on the ground - I felt close to that divinity larger than myself I'd begun to experience. It was the orange dusty quality of the light. It was old, more ancient even then the rocks, it stirred up the dirt of my soul, the holy shit of my soul. I felt calm and at peace. Then suddenly as I was sitting musing a little black droid popped out of the grass and began spraying water over me. It was very odd and surprising and just like something out of starwars, an electric sprinkler is of course what it was. In my notebook I wrote my dreams were to camel treck through the desert, go to antartica, live off the land and kiak and cycle around Tasmania. I did some little drawings of carparks and trees and hills. I watched two birds do the most amazing mating dance, the male puffed his chest up huge like an opera singer, with his wings spread out wide and did a sort of nod of the head just like guys do all the time to girls in bars.
I was working on a little poem which went: when orange sunlights buttered thru the gently glowing leaves - of stringy bark and fern and wattle and other sculptured trees - when clouds are drifting southward on a soft and steady breeze - and the temperature is dropping by a couple of degrees. - when the kookaburras calling makes your sprit start to stray to a country where the gum trees aren't the subjects of decay and you wish that you could bottle all the joys of yesterday - but there's nothing you can do to keep the sun from slipping away. I thought about going up to some aboriginal people and sharing my poem with them which is basically amiri barakas advice to poets: 'you know those guys in orange jackets who break rocks by the side of the road, go up to them and try reading your poem to them.'
That night I camped on one of the hilltops and read the Silver chair by torchlight, the moon was like a bow drawn in the sky and the lights of the city burned around me. From the streets beneath me I heard aboriginal voices drifting up thru the night, calling out in ancient pinjinjarra.
That night I dreamed that Honi laan fell in love with me after I started singing my wild love. We made love singing it. we went to an amphitheatre and watched martial art opera circus. 3 delicate Japanese womjen dressed up in pink tutus took turns fighting each other. My family were there. I drove honi across town but badly. I met mozzi and Michael in a shabby ship cabin. I only slept lightly and kept waking up. At 4 30 - I had slept thru my alarm - I stumbled down the hill still in the dark and walked quickly to the front of the YCA. There were half a dozen people waiting outside. I sat down on my pack and waited. It began to get light. One tour bus pulled up and some people got on but it wasn't my one. Then a voice called out, 'Jacob.' 'That's me I said. It was the tour guide. I was the only one there on his tour. The bus was parked around the corner. We walked over, it was still quite dark. He asked me where I was from and I told him. We loaded my bag into the bus and as I got on he handed me a little parcel of breakfast - juice, an apple, muesli bar and cupcake. I ate the food all straight away. The bus toured around the city picking up people at different hotels. It got light. Then we got onto the stuart highway and headed south for uluru. The bus cast a black silhouette on the red ground and the sunrise on the left was reflected in the right window beside which I was sitting. I took photos of red hills which seemed like buddhas wrapped in ancient folds of earth cloaks.
We pulled up for a break at the same roadhouse where I had been accosted by the aboriginal girls a week before. I took a piss and then waited outside. I drew some sketches in my notebook. There were a giant echidna and a giant goanna there and also some real emus or northern territory chickens as I heard them called. We got back on the bus and turned down the highway headed for uluru - in didn't see any hitchhikers by the roadside. As we road in the bus the tour guide told us stories over the radio about Lesseters reef aqnd about … who built thousands of roads in the territory. We stopped at the uluru visitors centre and looked around. They gave us sandwhiches and cupcakes for lunch. I ate them but still felt very hungry. we got our first look at kuta juda through the window, three giant rocks which the aborigines said where the heads of three rapists who had been buried up to their necks in sand as a punishment. It was a sacred mens site and hunting ground. We got out and walked along a paqth which took us between the rocks. It was very hot. I took lots of photos - but I didn't feel any of them were very good - looking at them now they seem good. I didn't really feel anything, except hot. We went back to the bus and then headed for uluru. We stopped at another visitors centre and I read some information about uluru - most of the people went to the store and brought ice creams - I might of as well if I had more money. I went outside and looked at uluru. I did a drawing of it. a magpie sat on a fallen tree branch looking at me quizzically, as though saying what are you doing out here you don't know how to survive here. Once again we got on the bus and cruised around the rock. A couple of people decided to wait with the bus but the rest of us were going to do the walk around it. Climbing the rock was not allowed that day because it was too hot - I wouldn't have climbed anyway because I have respect. Hell maybe it is a little cooky and strange seeming to some people to regard a big rock as sacred - some people just don't take anything seriously - but Blake said the most sublime thing you can do is to put another's pleasure before your own and so I'll let anyone believe whatever they want as long as their not hypocrites - I love sincerity and understanding and vision.
The tour guide explained to us some of the religious significance and history of uluru.
He explained how during the dreamtime a group of men had decided to do some ceremony. They had a couple of young boys with them and they sent to get the boys out of the way they sent them off to play in a nearby billabong - the tour guide had also explained that in central Australia water was so precious that normally the aboriginal people did not swim in the water holes which must have been semi torture sometimes on hot days - but imagine walking across desert and finally coming to cool shady water hole with trees and dragon flies over skimming and imagine throwing your face into water and drinking to souls content - imagine dancing in the heavy desert rain - heaven.
But these two boys had been given permission and they swam around until they were bored. Then they started throwing mud at each other, when they got bored of that they began to make a huge mound out of mud, this became uluru, and when they had finished it they began to slip slide down it and when they reached the bottom they clamboured back up it again only to go wee whizzing back down it again. This explains the groves and caverns in uluru.
In Tasmania I had had certain experiences which made me accredit some truth to dreamtime stories. At times my reasoning led me to believe that these sorts of stories are just a way of thinking about things - a very poetic and enjoyably human way - but at other times I suspected there was some sort of literal truth to the stories about dreamtime spirits - even though I know that sounds crazy.
The tour guides walked us around the rocks, they showed us caves with rock faces which had been covered with paintings and explained that these were like teaching blackboards; and also another cave which we were asked not to photograph where the woman used to give birth and which aboriginal men and boys were asked to avert their eyes from. As I walked past I turned my head to the ground, wanting to respect, but I couldn't resist turning my eyes up a little to take a quick peek. It was a very vaginal shaped triangular cleft in the rock - I could imagine a woman up there, legs apart, sweating, crying out, midwifes beside her, a child emerging from inside her, staring out over the vast sacred country.
We learned about the wild dog dreaming and about … the snake woman. I took some photos of myself in front of the rock. The last stop on our walk was a little pool at the base of the rock. Then we had an opportunity to ask any questions.
Is the geology of the rock going to change much geologically. I asked. No it wasn't was the awnser. Apart from some environmental damage caused to the local native species by humans and physically to the rock by people walking on it the rock was going to remain constant and unshifting. Walking back to the bus I asked a nice American to take some photos of me, he was real friendly. I also got talking to a good looking german young woman, she'd been in Australia because she wanted to become an English teacher. I was pretty handsome in those days but I didn't realise it.
Then I had one of the most surreal moments of my life. they drove as around to the sunset viewing area and the tour guides got out equipment and food for a barbeque, they also got out several bottles of wine and some juice. While they cooked dinner I took a little walk up a track and took photos of uluru. By the end of the evening I must had taken 70 photos of Uluru. The tour guides had cooked up a big batch of sausages and there was bread and sauce and lettuce and coleslaw and potato salad, beetroot, peas, corn and a lot of other things. seeing as how I'd paid so much I figured I better eat as much as I could and I put away several large portions of everything and I could have easily eaten more but I was too proud too.
My dream of Uluru had always been a stretch of clear virgin desert - and there was plenty of that in a way - a dark sky full of stars, and the sacred luminous presence of the rock, resonating with thousands of years of song, I didn't really experience much of that, sitting around with the tourists, all of them drinking wine, me drinking orange juice and eating as many sausages as I could without being embarrassed. I did get talking to the American and as I said he was very friendly. He was from the south where he told me they live an incredibly relaxed slow and laid back life style, he'd been in Sydney and found it a little too fast paced. He asked me about Tasmania. well if your into bushwalking and stuff like that you'll like it I told him. I love bushwalking he cried. I also talked to the tour guides quite a bit about aboriginal stuff. I walked over to them and asked them whether the annui would have called the country beautiful. Well there certainly were very in touch with the land a culture. And they do think we're a bit funny the way we sit around here looking at the rock. For the annui this would be a good time to do some hunting, when its starting to cool down a bit. I would have asked them more questions but they were busy packing away the dishes.
Just towards the end of the evening I was able to have an experience of uluru which was in some way satisfying. I wandered away up the little trail and took some final photographs. In the darkening dusk the sky was a darker colder sharper blue, the colours of the desert and the grass and the rock were deeper and richer, uluru was a red statue bleeding black shadows. At that moment it seemed to me as though in the rock I could see the faces and figures and forms of aboriginal people, it was as though giants were sitting cross legged in the desert and somebody had thrown a thin earth coloured blanket over them. in that moment I could sense some of the deepness and sacredness of that place and its ancient history.
We got back into the bus and began the drive back to Alice Springs just as it was falling dark. On the way back, in the comfortable secure darkness of the bus they played the notebook diaries on a TV screen up the front. We had started the day as strangers but now everybody on the bus was tired and full of food, sleepy and feeling closer together, bonded, we knew each other a little. I lent my American friend a pen and I wanted him to keep it but he told me there were heaps back at the hotel. The german girl and her friend were asleep on each others shoulders. I fell asleep to.
Some time around one I think it was they dropped me off at the YHA. I went to the little alcove in the alley and stayed there for a while, but I couldn't sleep and it wasn't a nice place, so I decided to go walking - I was no longer worried about the warning the two guys had given me on my first day in alice springs. I decided to go and have a look in the dumpsters outside the supermarket and I found big bunches of graps and bannanas. In the dumpster outside a bakery I found hamburgers sandwhiches and pies and I had a bit of a feast. I wandered around the streets for a while and then climbed ANZAC hill. For a couple of hours I slept on a bench beneath the war memorial but before dawn joggers and walkers woke me up. Soon there were quite a few people up there making use of the early morning coolness. It was a incredible spot though. Around me the chains of rocky hills and mountains stretched like slumbering dragons. The war memorial towered above me imposed upon an older sacredness. I read on a little sign about how Alice Springs was an important place where several dreaming trails meet. But now it was time for me to pay for my feast last night - I needed to take a crap bad and I didn't want to shit on ANZAC hill. So I stumbled down the hill and onto the street and rushed for the Mcdonalds I knew was near by, having to clench my arse cheeks together to keep the crap from bursting out. The toilets in Macdonalds were only supposed to be for customers but the girl working there unlocked them for me.
It was time for me to get out of Alice Springs and head for
Darwin but first I wanted to go to the post office and mail some
stuff but I had a couple of hours to wait until the post office
opened. I went to the ATM and got a little money and I gave one
of the hamburgers I had got to a young aboriginal woman. Then I
sat in front of the post office and did a sketch of it. Cecily's
son I had met by the riverbank came up to me an asked me for some
money for food. I thought he probably wanted money for something
more fun. I gave him one of my meat pies. 'are you camping out on
the streets as well?' he asked. I told him I was just passing
I parceled the painting I had brought and some of my journals home and also a couple of postcards. The postcards were labelled 50 cents each. there were two counters and one of them had a cue. I put a dollar for two postcards on the table of the queless counter, where there was a woman sitting, and she told nme off for some stupid reason and told me I had to go to the other counter. I made a very dodgy shakesperian pun on a postcard to my grandfather which I can't remember.
Then I cut out of the city and headed North. I walked for a longtime, eventually through suburbs, aboriginal children and mothers walking footpaths and playing in gardens. I was singing Kris Kristopherson songs to myself - Billy Dee.
I positioned myself on the side of the highway It was strange being on the road again. Pretty soon I got a lift from a guy in a white van driving supplies 130km from Alice to Arola. There was something of a disaster which happened. He got me to throw my pack in the back of his van but I didn't close the door properly and while we were driving on the highway the van door slid open but luckily he didn't lose any stuff although it was a near thing. It was even worse because technically this guy wasn't supposed to give me a lift.
He listened to Allen Jones on the radio which was pretty interesting. Dick Smith came on the program and they chatted, Disck Smith seemed sensible. They played soundbites of Jones telling people to piss off. A man rang up and told Jones he liked his show but thought he went a bit far when he told the mother of one of the bali nine to shut up. 'he's going to tell this guy to piss off soon,' said the guy beside me. I fell asleep for a lot of that ride.
Aroola was just a road house and an art gallery and a cricket oval and a giant aboriginal man with a spear standing on the hill and an aboriginal woman with a goanna and child wrapped around her leg
Below. The guy told me he had helped his dad build those sculptures and also to get the man up onto the hill. 'it took some engineering, just a few guys and a crane.; n
I spoke briefly to the man who owned the art gallery, he sounded German and reminded me of Wernor Herzog. He called me a swagman, 'your part of a great tradition,' he told me. I sat down and rested for a while in the shade. It was intimidating country. It was country in which hope could not exist, it just evaporated into semi mystic aridness, a place where hope could not survive, it was too hot and too thirsty. Which is not to say the country was hopeless, there was some hope in the big blue horizon but it wasn't a place too chase dreams in. but I was running thru and there was a hint of an ocean ahead but I wasn't sure if I wanted my inspiration in a city by the beach. Oh John MacDougal Stuart, you drunk and bushman, pushing thru starvation and scurvy, what was it all for?
There was smoke in the air and cattle sleeping beneath shade of acacias, a lot of heat haze - so much heat haze that from front seat of car approaching vechiles seemed to be flying because the haze blotted out the road into a blur.
After resting for a while I began hitching and pretty soon got a
lift from an Aboriginal woman. She asked me if I was going to
Darwin, at this stage I was thinking of heading into Queensland.
'I've never been to Queensland, I'm a bush girl, I've lived all
my life in central Australia.' she said and I thought she sounded
sad so I didn't pursue the topic. But I actually found I was
mistaken. It was amazing country, red rocky jagged hills -
ancient, and I told her I thought it was amazing country and
suddenly she became voracious. 'oh yeah, she said and became
voracious. She was a community health worker but now organised
other health workers which meant she was less often in the bush
on the outstations. 'your obviously very attached to this bit of
country,' I said. 'oh yeah, and the people, it's the people
really - I never leave unless I have too.' We listened to music
with jumpy melodies but real sad words like a song called
elevator love: which had lyrics like: We laugh, we cry
And do it again, do it again
We go to hell and back (Oohhh)
But there's something 'bout you
I can't keep away
Just can't keep away
We know we'll crash down (crashin', crashin')
But I don't want it any other way
Tell me it's over
So we can do it all again
I'm addicted to this elevator love (yea)
To me it seemed to be about the prison of work and capitalist society. I was dropped off at a roadhouse at a little place called … I went into the road house and brought a chocolate billabong icecream which melted very fast in the heat outside. Their was a nice young Australian woman wits. h dark hair who sold me that billabong.
I ate my ice cream and then sat myself down again in the shade. Whenever a car went past I would leap up and stick my thumb out but I got no lifts. Most of the traffic was trucks and aboriginal people from the local community and also health worker cars. I carved a bit of wood with my pocket knife. I waited until the sun started going down and then decided to quit and go look for a place to lay my bed down. I went into the roadhouse, there was a young guy in their with short blonde hair and red eyes and a sort of tye died t-shirt. I wondered if he was stoned. I asked him about the backpackers rooms they had advertised but he told me there weren't any availiable. There's camping though. I told him I would keep trying to hitch a bit and then maybe come back. Then I asked him if there was somewhere I could fill my drink bottles up. Yeah just got … over their to fill them up. I went over to the dark haired woman at the counter who had overheard and she filled up my water bottle, 'that'll be ten dollars she joked.' She had a really nice voice and I liked her, she seemed very Aussie.
I went back outside and began walking along the road looking for a nice place where I could camp. I began freestyle rapping to myself. I also made up a little song based on the rhythm of a fly which was buzzing around me. It went: listen here and hear it well a tale I'll tell- about a man who went to heaven but lost his way and ended up in hell - he went wandering around someone elses sacred ground he never went home again - and that my friend is why, you shouldn't listen to a fly, around and around and around and back again.
I walked for about five kilometres and past a tip. A car went past going back towards Alice and it stopped and an Asian man asked me if I needed a lift anywhere but I told him I was going North. I investigated a few places by the roadside among the trees for campsites. I was thinking about making a raised bush platform bed. But I didn't feel like sleeping in the bush that night. I was scared of snakes. So I went back to the road house and paid seven dollars to camp in the caravan park. I had a swim in a little pool they had and also had a shower in the toilet block. I ate a little meal of oats and cheese and crackers and as it was getting dark I pulled out my sleeping bag and curled down to sleep in the long comfortable grass and I had an excellent nights sleep and dreamed that I was a soldier sleeping in the back garden of my home parents home in tasmania.
The next morning after doing a sketch of my bag and its shadow on the grass I headed back to my spot on the road where I waited for at least six excrutiating hours. It was horrible. I began thinking of writing a sort of horror movie play about a hitch hiker, for some reason I made him a Japanese hitch hiker, who gets stranded in a tiny road house town and can never get out. I got so desperate that I decided I would hitch hike back to alice springs so I went and stood on the other side of the road but still no one would stop for me.
There was a guy at the road house who was doing repairs on his cars and around twelve noon when he had fixed his car he pulled up beside me and ofterred me a lift to Katherine which was a couple thousand kilometres North. Ecstatically I excepted. The only catch was because his car was damaged he could only drive at 70 kilometres an hour! And too make things even worse he had only one music cassete to listen to and it was Brian Adams. He was a young guy who I guessed was in his early twenties but actually he was 19. Normally I lied to people and told them I was 19 instead of 18 so he thought we were the same age.
'are you on a green card or something?
Nah I'm Australian
Really your accents a little funny.
Hitch hiking sucks he said, you used to be able to just stick out your thumb and get a lift, but nobodies got any compassion now, fucking truckies won't even give you a lift. he lit a cigarette. He lived in port augusta where he had a house and a 'missus,' which is slang for a girlfriend.
You know if you go to salvation army, any of those churches, they'll give you food and a bed, and if you go to centrelink they'll pay for your bus ticket somewhere.'
He made me feel a little uncomfortable actually, not like I was in danger, but it was just kind of boring and claustrophobic being stuck in this car with an expectation to talk and it was so hot and dry and empty and the car going so slow and all the other cars overtaking us. And he had to pull over about every twenty minutes to fill the car up with water to stop it from overheating. The radiater was fucked from him hitting a kangaroo last night and he had had to patch it up with some 'bush machanics' by which he had meant he had used some empty vb cans to patch a hole in it. he was driving up to Darwin to see his father who was dying. His father was about fifty. 'that's pretty old, I wouldn't want to get much older than that.' Said Jamie. 'I won't to live to be fucking two hundred years old and I'll just sit around and eat magic mushrooms.' I told him. 'oh yeah, wander around the wilderness and shit. Do you smoke dope he asked me. I told him I had quit. At one point he looked over at me and said, 'you remind me of an old mate of mine, Mitchell, I haven't seen him for a while actually, he lives in Adelaide, I should go and see him and have a few beers with him.' That made me feel kind of better.
Jamie didn't seem to think hitch hiking was very much fun and he wanted to know why I was on the road. He found out that I didn't know anyone in Darwin, and that I only had about a thousand dollars. 'aw right I get the picture, he said. I tried to tell him I liked hitch hiking cause it was cheap and I felt free but he didn't seem to understand. 'you've still got to pay for your food and your beer.' He seemed to think I should get a car. 'this car only cost me a few hundred, and I'm on centrelink.' I tried to tell him how Tasmania was kind of small and how I'd just got bored and cut out and how I'd sort of being running into other people's heads. 'aw right, enemies.' 'nah, nah not really, it's just kind of small.' For some reason I kept thinking of my grandmother who was in a nursing home with dementia - she was a good catholic woman, really kind, 'if you don't have anything nice to say about someone don't say anything at all.' She used to say things like that, a beautiful woman, once she got angry at me when I was a little kid, I was riding my bike and feeling really tough and cool and my mother told me off for something - I don't think I had a helmet on - and for some horrible spiteful reason I called my mother a pig and felt terrible afterwards and ashamed and embarrassed.
I asked about Jamie's childhood which he spent near Brisbane. I thought maybe he surfed - I assumed everyone in queensland surfed - but Jamie didn't. 'I don't remember much about my childhood, too many drugs I think, I remember I used to go swimming and fishing a lot.'
An army truck went past. You should join the army he said. "I tried, they wouldn't let me in, too violent a criminal record to own a gun licence, I took them to caught and everything.' 'that's pretty fucking ironic, too violent too join the fucking army.' Jamie told me about how he had a child with one of his ex's and how when his ex got a new bloke who tried to get staunch on Jamie, Jamie put him in hospital, and then when this blokes friend tried to beat Jamie up Jamie put him in hospital as well and ended up with a few months in juvenile detention for his trouble. 'everyone's my friend until you do something wrong to me and then I won't spit on you even if your on fire, luckily I don't have too many people I feel that way about.'
At some point the radiator totally fucked out and we were forced to pull over by the roadside. 'I've got a bit of rope in the car, we'll get someone to give us a tow.' Jamie stood by the roadside and stuck out his thumb and the first car which went past stopped - as though having a car instantly included you in some sort of elite club of Australian alrightness. The vechile that stopped was a truck but not a big road train, 'I'm Jamie and this is Jacob, I picked him up he;s a hitch hiker.' I know said this fucker, I drove past him before. They tied a rope between the two cars. Me and Jamie got back in and we began cruising up the road, Jamie steering and breaking at times to keep the rope taught and not crash into the truck infront.
'You just need a car and hitch hikings easy.' Said Jamie. We drove past a road train which was like a giant fridge used to trandsport food. That would make the coolest caravan said Jamie imaging s=chilling out in that, having a sesh, playing sony.' 'First thing I'm going to do when I get to … is get a big fucking bottle of coke.'
In the next town the truck dropped us off and Jamie went to the junk yard to get a new radiator. I decided to try to get another lift in the meantime but Jamie promised that if he saw me by the road later he would pick me up. I went into a little store but didn't buy anything. Then I walked off down the street. There was a very hot girl with skinny legs and a nice arse in front of me and black hair, I was too sad and strange too talk to her though. Jamie bdrove past and honked the horn at me.
At the back of a local supermarket in the skip I found huge blocks of cheese, two litre bottles of coke and packets of instant meat loaf flavouring - which I later found tasted really good thrown in with my oats. I didn't take any bottles of coke though. I handed out some blocks of cheese to some aboriginal people - and if somebody handed me an unopened block of cheese free on a street corner I would take it. then I headed for the highway. I got no lifts until twenty minutes later when Jamie came to a stop beside me. I jumped in. 'on the road again, on the road again,' sang Jamie. I had been thinking of going to Queensland which meant I would need to go to a place called Threeways but as we drove out of Katherine we listened to the radio and heard on the news broadcast that heavy rain had caused bad flooding in a lot of queensland. 'I guess your not going to Queensland then,' said Jamie.
I asked Jamie if he ever did any dumpster diving and told him how I found so much food, 'I just found huge blocks of cheese and bottles of coke.' 'did you get any?' 'I got some cheese but not that coke.' 'you got some cheese.' He said. A minute later he was shoving a twenty dollar note at me, 'that's for you to buy yourself a cold drink at the next place we stopped.'
'I don't need money, I've got money, and I'll just drink water.' I wouldn't take his money but the next time we stopped he filled up my water bottle. I was going to fill it up from a water tank at a rest area but he said not to, 'somebodies probably put cyanide in that or anything.' As we were leaving .. Jamie showed me burn out marks he had done on the road a couple of years ago.
We passed a man and a woman who were standing beside their car and we figured they had broken down so Jamie span the car around and went to check it out. They had a flat tire and asked if he had a … Jamie did and immediately started working on their car. 'you look like you've done that before said the woman who seemed to wear the boots in the relationship. The man had dreadlocks, they were thirtyish. 'I was a tire fitter for two years.' He said. The couple couldn't believe their luck to get help from a professional tire fitter. And that was when I was doing burn outs like every night and needed new tires just about every other day. I used to just take them off the back of the truck. The driver would be like, I didn't see anything.
The couple had been driving for a few thousand ks, their car was totally full and the roof was also loaded. 'we were just saying today how lucky we'd been, we hadn't had any b low outs, it must of jinxed us.' Said the woman. 'oh yeah, that would have done it. I was talking to my father on the phone last night and he said don't hit a roo and I was like oh no don't say that and then of course I went and hit a fucking roo.' Somehow he got onto telling them how his father was dying. None of us are getting any younger that's for sure he kept saying. I am said the woman, I'm getting more immature by the day. One of the songs on the brian adams tape we had been listening to six hundred times was called 18 till I did and Jamie commented on it.
Their tire was fixed and we all got back into our cars and got on the road. 'and that's what the territorys all about said Jamie. The sun went down on my left, golden, burning over the desert. I could see smoke, I thought its was maybe an oil refinery, 'its probably some people doing some burning off, a lot of these stations have their own tips, cause garbarge trucks sure aren't coming out here to get two bins.' I told Jamie about my mate Gary who worked on the oil rigs. 'I worked on an oil rig.' Said Jamie. 'So you've done a few different things.' 'yeah we'll you've got to when your on the road.'
'I must have been around Australia about four times,' he said. I was impressed. 'was that hitch hiking I asked. No driving. But I've been driving on the highways since I was about fourteen. If you stick to the speed limit the cops don't bother you. Jamie hated cops, apsolutely hated them, swore spat furied and raged even at the mention of them. he also tried to run down some little ducks which were on the road, why are you on the road you stupid ducks. When bugs crashed into the windscreen he told them it was their fault for being stupid bugs.
'I guess you didn't finish school,' I said.
'Yeah, I left when I was about fourteen.'
'Yeah I got kicked out when I was fifteen.'
'aw that sucks, life sucks.'
Jamie had been listening to Brian Adams since Port Augusta. 'you probably know all these songs by heart by now I said, I was fucking sick of them already. 'nah, I barely listen to them, there's only one song on here I like, I just have it on as something to keep my mind going over. There are some songs I know by heart though.'
'when I was a kid my dad only used to ever play one music, Slim Dusty, some of those songs are pretty good.'
'he was from the territory.'
'no he was from around Mildura, he was a truckie. Yeah he was as Aussie as they come. They're were that many trucks on the road when he died.'
'when did he die.'
'only a few years ago, they broadcast it on TV.'
'what does your dad do.'
'he's a jack of alltrades, gardener, landscaper, builder, stockman.'
Jamie drove in the centre of the road so that if a kangaroo suddenly came leaping out onto the road he would potentially be able to swerve and avoid it, he had me keeping my eyes peeled on the side of the road for anysides of wildlife. I did see some roos but luckily none of them were feeling like hitch hiking. At one point Jamie got me to hold the wheel and steer while he rolled a cigarette.
We stopped at a few little petrol stations. We were traveling in a little two car convo with the four wheel drive whose tire we had changed but a little before twelve they decided to swing off the highway and find a place to sleep.
I don't know what time it was but I know it was dark when we raced past … the so called UFO capital of Australia, there were plastic glow in the dark aliens with huge green and grey heart shaped heads and black eyes which stared at us. Jamie turned to me laughing. 'aw I don't know I said, I reckon there could be aliens out there.'
'oh yeah he said, sometimes I look up and think there must be something else out there. You know they discovered another planet with water and oxygen so we can go there when we fuck this one up.' We drove on. That stretch of road was famous for UFOs but the only unexplained and mysterious and flying objects were us two young men, lost in the desert roads in the centre of Australia.
Jamie stopped at a petrol station and brought some red bull. We also looked for any music tapes to listen to but all they sold was cds. I waited outside while Jamie brought the cigarettes and red bull. An aboriginal man was sitting outside the petrol station on the verandah on a seat. Hey he called out to me. I went over to him. Do you have a set up for smoking bongs. I told him I didn't. do you have any papers to roll a joint. I don't but my friend might. When Jamie came out I told him there was a guy who wanted to talk to him. Jamie gave him a few rolling papers. 'I just got here on the bus from Darwin. I had to smuggle this thru in my sock, past sniffer dogs and everything. 'm just waiting for some family to pick me up.'
We got in the car and Jamie cracked a red bull. 'Once I was in a store and they were having a sale on red bull and you could get six for twenty dollars and I drank all of them in half an hour.'
'Yeah, I couldn't sleep and stuff.'
'I was driving up to Katherine once to see my daughter and I was that tired, I kept fulling asleep, I had the dog in the back and he kept like bumping his head into me and waking me up.'
We were getting close to Darwin, I could tell because of the moisture in the air, also there were trees, I felt like I could have been driving homewards in Tasmania thru the bush at night. 'you can have a snooze if you like,' said Jamie. I did it relieved the claustrophobia and bordom briefly.
We were getting closer and closer to Katherine. Jamie stopped at a little roadhouse restaurant. The guy who owned it was a friend of his dad. I sat on a bench while they chatted. In the toilets I saw cane toads climbing up the tiles. 'I used to hang out here heaps as a kid, playing pool for hours said Jamie. He was sad because they had gotten rid of the pool tables. Jamie had a sleep for half an hour in the car. I slept on a bench. Jamie woke me up and we jumped back in the car.
Jamie had charged his mp3 player at a power point and we jacked it into the stereo and so now we had music. He played an Adelaide hip hop song about weed. It went: weed, weed, go back and have a feed, and then we come back and smoke more weed.' He's rapping about weed cried Jamie. I felt uncomfortable.
If theres a camp ground or something close to Katherine could you drop me there I asked. You can sleep at my place if you like. I agreed gratefully. He stopped and called his father from a payphone. Some aboriginal guys wandering around yelled at us, drunk, trying to start trouble Jamie thought. 'Yeah, I'm fucking tired and I'm just going to stop here and sleep,' he told his father. Half an hour later he was surprising his father at a little caravan park. I slept in the car and had strange grey dreams that I was walking around a lake.
I'd been thinking of getting up early the next morning and walking into Katherine, just disappearing. But Jamie and his dad came to the car early. They'd decided to drive me into the centrelink where I could get a bed thru a menshelter, 'your homeless jamies father told me. They offered me a coffee but I didn't want one. I sat on his porch while they smoked cigarettes. One of his neighbours dropped by, an aboriginal man who they called blackie friendly.jamies father had been at a little caravan park party the night before. He had a little dog, who was fat. Jamie kept calling her little bitch. She wanted Jamie to pick her up but Jamie made her jump up.
They drove me into town, they were going in anyway - Jamie was getting his p plates in the territory. They dropped me outside centrelink where there were also some aboriginal people waiting. ' might see you around said Jamie. I did think about going in but decided not to. There was a supermarket nearby and in the dumpsters I found of all the weird things a huge cardboard box of salad. In the dumpster of a petrol station I also found packets of beef Jeerky and vegie chips. Jamie and his dad saw me wandering the streets from their car but I'm not sure what they thought. I ate some salad and the vegie chips in a park. I gave the box of salad to some aboriginal people at a picnic table but they thought it was supisious and asked me where it was from, I told them the back of the supermarket and they told me to throw it out. So I regretfully dumped it in a bin. They took some beef jerky though. I got offered a lift but from someone going to Port Augusta. I went to a tiny little library on the second floor of a building. There was hardly anyone there. Everyone seemed to be at the pub where there was music playing.All thru the journey I kept finding cards and almost always picked them up, I should have kept a record of what they were. I went to a st vinnies and brought tolkiens the return of the king to read and also A B Facies a fortunate life. I walked out to the highway and tried to hitch but got no lifts. I walked back into Katherine and brought a rocky road ice cream, it melted so fast in the heat I had to race it down, I immediately wanted another one but didn't buy one - they were about 4 dollars each. I went and checked the supermarket dumpsters again and found a two litre bucket of neopaltian ice cream which was melting but still with icy chunks in it. I had fun eating that. I wandered back out towards the road, over the bridge and the brown flooded mangrovy river, walking over a rusty red bridge. There were aboriginal people sitting on the grass under some oaks in a park playing cards. In a dumpster I found a mobile phone and a little TV. I gave the TV to some aboriginal people who were eating red rooster - a couple of young women. They were confused, 'do you want any money for this,' they asked. 'nah that's alright. 'are you alright?' they asked, yeah I said, 'I'm just wandering. I felt like a ragged angel. I walked along the road. There was a huge banner over the road which read: Katherine, Birthplace of Cadel Evans. I checked out the road side bush and thought about making a little lean two to sleep in out of the long grass which was growing. There was a little memorial where there had been a little bush cemetery where some children and chinese women were buried. I said a little prayer and thought I could almost feel their ghosts. I tried to read Tolkien but I couldn't get into it.
Ibrought a white icy pole. I walked along the road and got a lift after walking a few K's. 'Too hot to be walking.' He was going into Darwin. He was dark skinned and kind of gay seeming. He worked in recruitment for a mining company, originally from Adelaide. Adelaide has trouble keeping its young people. We drove past a section of the highway where a flood had totally destroyed a railway line - it was impressive. I asked if he had a family, but he didn't. I asked if he liked his job but he didn't. he had spent a few years in brazil and reckoned it was about time for another holiday. He made me a little bored and sad. Where do you reckon the best girls are he asked. I wasn't sure what to say. He wanted to know if I got many lifts or if I had to walk a lot. I said something about the jain and Buddhist monks I had been reading about, they just walk from place to place. He talked about hurricanes, people in Darwin aren't too phased by them they just put on the barbeque and get drunk.
He let me off on street in Darwin where most of the restaurants and backpackers are, I checked out a backpackers but didn't feel like spending 26 dollars even if they did have free internet so I went to try to find a place to camp in Darwin. I wandered around the city for a while. First I headed North towards the ocean and for the first time I saw the … Ocean. There were some ships on the water. and wound up near the water front, then I wound up heading for the library, just cause I l