Monday, 17 March 2014

Stokesy and the Byron Redemption

The gorgeous Rita Hayworth, still the most beautiful ever?
Those who have been watching this space will know that I have spent a bit of time moaning about movies that were so bad they should never have been made.
And if they had been made, someone with an ounce of sense and taste should have got them and burned the print so that they never saw the light of day ever again.
The Bodyguard, Independence Day and The Beach are three that immediately spring to mind, followed by my lunch doing likewise and springing out my gullet just at the thought of them.
So I'd like to mention here a movie that I did like, namely The Shawshank Redemption.
This movie came from Stephen King's book, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.
The title (spoiler alert) refers to how a character in the movie put a poster of Rita Hayworth up on the wall of his cell, ostensibly to look at, and to give him some visual stimulus for his late night self-actualisation.
[Sidebar: The Who song, "Pictures of Lilly" refers to a poster that Pete Townshend had on the wall of his bedroom which he, er, self-actualised to. Just thought you'd like to know.]
However, he then commences to tunnel his way out of the prison by hacking at the wall behind the poster, and then covering it over in the morning before the guards checked his cell.
The movie was set (I think) in the thirties and Rita was generally considered the most beautiful woman in the world at the time.
Maybe still.
Anyway, the movie really resonated with me as in a much less fraught way, my life had overtones of that of Andy, the character played by Tim Robbins.
He was convicted of a double murder he didn't commit, then sent to Shawshank prison for double-life.
There he was brutalized by the guards, raped by the "bull queers", and generally staves off death and humiliation on a daily basis.
And so it was with me.
At the age of five I was sentenced to ten years hard labour in the gulag of Prospect St, where I wasn't sexually raped, but emotionally I was, and daily at that.
I left Bathurst at 20 and embarked on an adult life adrift in the world of substance abuse.
Failed jobs, failed relationships (including a failed marriage to a wonderful woman who deserved better than messed up me), failed life really.
In the movie Andy uses his skills, some luck and a great deal of daring, and makes his way out of the prison through the sewage outlet.
A metaphor if there ever was one.
Free at last, he takes $300,000 he embezzled from the prison's crooked warden, and makes his final escape to Mexico.
Eventually Morgan Freeman, the other main character gets out of prison legally, and buses his way down to Mexico where they live, well no other expression covers it, happily ever after.
Likewise, I was eventually shat out the "fail" pipe of Sydney's corporate world and began drifting around the north coast.
One day I was in a backpackers in Port Macquarie, broke, on the dole and drinking enough booze to swim in if it could have been collected in a large container.
Then an event occurred that changed my life.
Well, two really.
Firstly, I was in the backpackers ostensibly looking for a job and a place to live.
I was a member of a hippie commune nearby, and perpetually on the couch of a friend.
One morning he told me (perfectly reasonably) that I couldn't sleep on his couch for the rest of my life, and that I had to find my own place and start getting my life together.
So later that week, he dropped me and everything I owned at the backpackers in Port.
I booked in, then, being me, went out and bought a cask of wine and began hooking in.
A couple of weeks went by.
I wasn't surfing then due to hangovers combined with depression, but I was at least going for a walk each day.
One morning as I set out I went past a little table in the hall upon which was the local paper.
As I passed by I thought to myself, "I really should start looking in there for a job and somewhere to live".
I went on my walk, and as the walk went by it occurred to me that if the closest I had come to getting a job and a place to live was walking past the local paper and half thinking about maybe reading it, then perhaps I wasn't that motivated about the whole idea.
And as I walked that thought crystallised, "I hated Port Macquarie".
I then reasoned, if I'm already homeless, on the dole and living in a backpackers, then why don't I do that in a town I really like, Byron Bay for instance.
So I continued my walk, becoming increasingly excited about the idea, when the second event of the day occurred and showed my decision to be the right one.
I was waiting for the pedestrian light to change at a set of traffic lights when I noticed a car full of young bogans pull up.
Out of the corner of my eye I realised they were kind of staring at me, then the lights turned green and they took off.
As they did, one of them lent out the window and yelled, "get a haircut ya' fuckin' hippy".
At the time my hair was down to my navel at the front, and my beard was catching up.
I was annoyed to put it mildly, and at first my temper nearly took over and I was going to chase the car up the road and kick their lights in.
But that wasn't possible of course, and so I continued my walk.
As I meandered through the autumn suburbs, I eventually cooled off and realised that all unknowing, that young bogan had done me a favour.
He had reminded me why I didn't like Port Macquarie.
Those who are young are young bogans given to yelling out the windows of cars, and those who are older, are just older bogans.
So if I did follow my original Port-centric plan I would be working with the former and renting a room off the latter.
No, this town had nothing for me.
I returned to the backpackers and coincidentally some Irish lads I had met there were heading up the coast the next day, and they offered me a lift.
I will return to that trip another day, as, even for me it was wild.
It was the most stoned I have ever been in my life, so it's quite a story.
However, all of the above finally delivered me to my real home, Byron Bay.
It would be a long hard, perennially broke decade, but eventually I would find a place here.
Now I can finally call myself a local.
This is a perennially tricky classification, particularly in the surf, but my ten years here has now put me in the "new local" class.
And bringing it back to the Shawshank Redemption, this week as I surfed I felt like Andy.
I had escaped my parents and Prospect st, I had escaped from the years of substance abuse in the corporate world of Sydney.
Now I was set to live out my life in a sub-tropic paradise.
While Andy had to use cunning and fortitude and endless nerve to escape to Mexico, I had done it by mainly because a bogan yelled at me.
So that just shows how lives can turn on a sixpence.
So the weekend just past, I had a great time with Colin Stokes and his partner Erietta, who had come up for a friend's birthday party.
6% of the Kelso High class of '82.
I haven't seen Stokesy in thirty two years and hadn't even really spoken to him by phone, email or even Faceplant much.
But one Sunday it occurred to me to ring him.
"Stokesy", I said, "I feel we missed an opportunity to be friends when at school".
He asked why, and I referred to one of our year who was a fairly poisonous piece of work, and had (seemingly) taken great pleasure in stabbing others in the back.
To your face this person was your best friend, once you were out of sight, he began digging the knife in.
Stokesy was one who got the stab, and so I didn't spend the time I should have back then.
Anyway, it all came good in the end and we had a great time.
Those of you who have seen my rants at the new address of IndependentAustralia, should be aware that it was Col who put me on to them.
He took a look at my irascible jibes and said, "IA is full of ratbags and the like. It's just the place for you."
He is right, it is.
While he was up here we caught up on old times and discussed the political climate of the day, and attended the March in March against the Abbott government.
All in all a satisfying weekend.
So the count is now five, six if you include me, people from the class of '82 who have visited the Bay.
Russell Meadley, Col, Sharon Spurway, Robyn Harrison and Cazza Meadley.
I missed Genna Newton due to a busy gardening schedule, while Jenny (formerly Louise) Harvey lives just up the hill at Alstonville.
Now I know many of you reading this love the old home town, but if you can get a weekend away, this is the place to come to.
Winter is the best time, there are no crowds and you don't have to scrape your windshield before setting off in the car.
So I look forward to seeing you here.
Just be aware, due to the all-pervading beauty of Byron, many who come for a holiday are still here ten years later.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Lock for your hospitality and for the fast paced discussions. I feel like we we will slow down as we get a few of the intervening years out of the way but there is so much to talk about right now. I had a great time and have been thinking since of the wasted years trying to leave behind the socially awkward Mormon boy I felt I was.

    This sort of denial is not only ineffective, because you never get to leave yourself behind, but it also means forgetting the good friends, laughs and learnings from that pivotal era. For all that you could tell me about the poisonous shit you describe (but wisely don't name) above I have also realised that we were surrounded by good people who still after all these years have our best interests at heart.

    I count myself lucky to have a second tilt at a friendship that if my self esteem had been better could have been 32 years stronger. I value this much more than my younger self.

    Byron is a great place and I can see why you feel like you have been redeemed there, but I would say that personal change has more to do with the actions than the setting. I was glad to find you such a reflective and thoughtful character Lock.

    I would move to Byron just for the markets. I could smell the tomatoes 15 feet from the stall.

    I have to return anyway, because as we have discussed I have never stood on a surfboard, surely one of the primary rights of all Australians.