Always Keep A Dead Idol Handy

All your life you have worshipped little idols. Even if the administrators of your main faith – the rabbis, priests, ministers, and mullahs – have cautioned you against it, you have still carried on. Clothing, entertainments, relationships, possessions, arts and crafts have all served as objects of worship at some stage of the game. And they have all fallen by the wayside eventually.

This is called getting older. Some people call it growing up, but that is more of a taunt than a tag-line. Maturity is the best way of looking at it, and if you can do so in a childish fashion you are winning.

The sport you loved, the car you desired, the culture you worshipped…they all pall in time. And this is as it should be. No-one can enjoy a smorgasbord if they just stand at the shellfish counter all the time – they need to move to the breads and the pickled herring and the princess cake, though not all at once…variety is needed, and you would do well to make sure that you get the same variety all the time.

When something falls away from your desire – when it becomes de trop instead of de thing – by all means usher it out of your life. You need not wear fluoro bell-bottom hipsters a moment longer than it takes to get you into bed with someone. Bell your bottom, if you will, but spare us the sight. Get over it – I assure you that the rest of us will. We are all too busy burying our own dead idols to worry about yours.

But keep a memento of the time. If it is only a badly taken Polaroid of you in the 70’s, it is at least a reminder of the hippie days and a talisman against them returning. You need not look at it more than once a decade, but don’t lose sight of where you came from and remember why you left.

Even dead idols have a place on the altar.

The Rivals

I am generally out of touch with social networks in my town – and with business affairs, cultural groups, and academic circles. I can be said to pretty much live in an intellectual bubble that is insulated from the rest of Western Australia. I have never been happier.

It is not that I do not welcome social interaction on a personal level – a conversation, a joke, a shared cup of vitriol. It livens up a day that might otherwise be given over to dragging a plough through flinty soil then falling exhausted into a ditch at nightfall. Retail trade was like that…

But being unaware of the world has the delightful advantage of rendering me neutral, by virtue of ignorance, in most of the deadly competitions and rivalries of the day. I can be in the company of people in my old trades – dentistry and retail photography – while they are frostily ignoring each other or cattily circling for commercial information…and I am unconcerned. If I occasionally ask one about the affairs of the other, casually revealing the extent of their spy network and causing alarm bells to go off in the mind of the listeners, it is all innocent. Perfectly innocent.

And then there are the firms that rep for other firms – the agency men. I’m old and I forget things and I cannot be held responsible if I blurt out secrets of the delivery date of a product to someone else in the mistaken belief that they are the firm handling the account. One lens can look very much like another when it is top secret and hush hush.

Likewise, I can hardly be expected to be up to date with all the staff hirings and firings unless someone tells me and generally they tell me only when a coroner’s report is delivered or a trial date is set.

Of course, once I have been entrusted with a secret I am the soul of discretion. Wild horses could not drag the parlous financial situation of ———- from my lips. Who knows, they may trade out of it.

It always pays to play fair.

Trash And Treasure Is Never Treasure

We have all gone to the Trash And Treasure, flea market, retro market, bring and buy, parish jumble sale, or weekend market in our time. Some of us have picked up bargains – the rest have picked up garbage. The really fortunate ones have picked up a bacterial infection and vowed never to do it again.

It is a basic feature of human psychology – that desire for a good buy. If it can be a swingeing bargain or a criminal rort, so much the better. But it does lead us down some dark passageways of the soul:

a. We seek for these El Dorados of dreck in the worst places. Council car parks on Sunday morning when we otherwise we could be asleep in bed or awake in the arms of a lover. It is the unwashed bottom of the top of the morning – either cold and wet or hot and distressing, and we’re out there looking for bargain clothespegs? Sheesh…

b. We deal with people we would avoid under any other circumstances. To a man, or woman, they have the look of wolves fattened on babies. None of them love us, and we do not love them, and the emotions are entirely justified from either side.

c. We do not need what we seek. We do not seek what we need. It is all greed or grot.

d. Just as Quentin Crisp eventually had to admit that there was no great dark man, we must eventually admit that there is no great dark treasure to be found. We can’t even find Quentin Crisp.

e. We do need the money in our pocket that we think we do not need. Just today a letter arrived from the water supply racket telling me that the state government will remove a subsidy they used to give to old people to help them pay for water. The money will presumably be given to mining magnates or their bankers. I now need to save my money for water. I would like to make water on the state government…

f. The things discarded by others were discarded for a good reason. They are ugly, broken, useless, poisonous, sad, or superfluous. What they are for others they will be for us, but doubly so because we spend real money on them. And if we want to resell them we will have to return to the garbage sale and become the persons we bought it from to get even a pittance back. Do we really want to exchange our souls for that?

g. We can live without it. We lived without it until we arose this morning, and we can make it through to the evening without it.

h. No-one looks cool at a junk market. Sellers, buyers, pickpockets, etc…All have a patina of naff on them, that they could have avoided assuming by staying home and doing something useful.

Well, that should make Sunday morning a lot more fun. See you at the markets?

Returning To Somebody’s Roots

I am prompted to write today’s column by an advertisement that appeared on a Facebook timeline. It touted some form of cultural cringe session entitled ” Return To Roots “. The images fronting it suggested that the participants would be from Central American jungles, but I suspect that this was nothing more than graphic designer’s code for ” Come along and get drunk on expensive beer. ”

Nothing wrong with that, as many of my friends will attest, but using it as a catchphrase was damnable. If you REALLY want people to return to their roots, you are going to have to accept that the roots that they return to are neither exotic, erotic, or interesting. The crowd you are going to get is going to have to revert to being teenagers in the 1980’s in outer city suburbs…and you can get fresher versions of that at any servo on the Albany Highway right now.

No – what the advertisement was calling for was for a to return to someone else’s roots. What exactly it wanted us to do there is questionable. Root around? Dress up? Play act? I can do that in the traditional garb of my forefathers – a shirt and trousers – while drinking the mystical potion of the tribe – the highball. I do not need to put warpaint on my cheeks and shake a spear to be warlike. Our tribe put on khaki clothing and shook rifles…and it worked.

I’m as guilty as the next re-enactor of aping something that none of my family ever remotely enacted in the first place. As far as I can tell, none of the Steins or Sheedys were ever at Waterloo – except me – and I was 180 years late, thank goodness. What I did then and others do now is not re-enacting…it is acting. If we were better at it we would be paid money and solicited to give our political opinion on CNN.

But as far as returning to roots? I hardly remember some of their names, let alone addresses or faces…I still have a rash, however…

Featured Image: Fake Petzval lens effect. Real geezer.

” Clean Up In The Beer Aisle “

I don’t know if you have been to a booze shop lately. If it’s been some little time since you called in, I think I may need to tell you a few things:

a. Brandy has gotten terribly expensive since the old St. Agnes days. When the Australian government found out that they had inadvertently let some money sidle past them, they instantly invented laws to recoup it. Thus brandy went up to whiskey price. You might as well drink the imported French stuff now.

b. You can get just as many cheapo wines as you could before, but now you need not get them in demijohns or cardboard boxes. The wine glut and the wine gluttons have combined to bottle it in regular glass.

c. You used to be able to trust a label …when there were fewer labels. Now there are so many and they are so imaginative, that you need to be a cryptographer to figure out what is in the bottle.

d. As a follow on from the above, you will have a chance to read a great many things printed on wine bottles. Mind you, many of them will not be true or useful, but if you are in the habit of turning to a 1959 Soviet state statistics book for light entertainment, you’ll have a good time. Remember that what lies within the bottle may bear little relation to the lies on the outside of the bottle.

e. There are three zones of bottles in the beer fridge; the ones you recognize, the ones you don’t, and the ones that seem so implausibly named as to suggest deliberate fraud. With the craft brewery, the art brewery, the micro brewery, and the vat of something under the stairs, the field has widened. Once beer was the game played by one or two breweries per capital city – now it is an international league. And there are expensive dodgy players faking injuries on every shelf of the fridge.

f. Can you read English? Can you operate a computer? Good – you’re hired as the new advertising man for the brewery. The first thing we need is a name for the wheelbarrow of ingredients that we’ve just dumped in the vat. It’ll be ready to bottle and cap off in a few weeks and we need to have the labels ready in time. The brewmaster suggests something robust…so if you can come up with a design variant that involves pirates, sludge, and summer breezes, we should be ready for you. Try not to make it sound like a Latvian perversion.

g. What do you mean, you want an ordinary vodka? We have it spiced with fruits, vegetables, and bone marrow. You can get grass, stems, thorns, and head bolts from a Chevrolet engine in the bottles. The bottles themselves are shaped like machine pistols or sexual organs. If you just want alcohol go to the chemists…

h. No, the lady who does the taste tests for the winery isn’t here this week. She won’t be back for a fortnight. Last time she was in, she spilled some of the local valley chardonnay on her arm and they have had to do a skin graft.

 

Buying The Dream

Going to a car show is a little like being a psychiatrist; you see crazy people hear a lot about their dreams. Or, perhaps that should be changed – you see a lot of dreams and hear about crazy people. Sometimes there are couches involved.

Whichever approach you take to it, a car show is also a commercial affair – even in the simplest open park affairs there will be someone selling something. Insurance, ice lollies, or Isotto – Fraschinis. Or in the case of hot rod shows; spare parts, wheels, black tee shirts, and paint jobs. And also, apparently, the hot rods themselves. And I don’t mean just the owners who have put a cardboard sign of whatever price ONO on their half-finished project – the WA hot rod show had some pretty complete items for sale.

The sellers that caught my eye were a commercial firm of automobile retailers who maintain showroom premises in  two suburbs. One of the showrooms is not too far from my home and has been an auto site since before 1964. It used to sell Morris, Austin, and Wolseley – then Saab and Volvo – and now is given over to exotic cars from all sorts of makers. I don’t know if there is a new-car agency in it or not, but considering the nature of the vehicles it offers, it hardly matters. This is all enthusiast big-money stuff.

I’m not qualified to talk about big money, as I do not have any. Very few of the people I know personally do either, though I have met some people through my former employment that might. Or then again they might not…I remember meeting a high-roller and high-spender in the 1970’s that proved to be financially and morally hollow. Best not to go back to those memories nor speculate about current people.

But I can sort of wonder about who the customer for the yellow Chevrolet pickup that you see in this post will be. It was a noticeable feature of the Xoticar display, and for good reason; it was darn near perfect. Maybe it was entirely perfect – I did not get to see it driven in or out. But from the look of the finish I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

The pictures and the sales board tell you as much as anyone could about the car, but the real questions remain unanswered. Who built it? How much did they sell it to Xoticar for? What can they tell us about the bits inside that make it go? Why did they sell it to Xoticar?

More. Who is the target customer?  Are there target customers for turn-key rods and customs as much as there are turn-key customers for sports cars and any standard vehicles? Speaking as a turn-key driver of a small daily-driver hatchback I can see where that is a perfectly valid model for normal transport, but I always associated rods and customs with people who built their own.

More, still – I associate rods and customs with people who design their own as well as build them. Tastes can be as variable as the wind, and the idea of buying someone else’s taste – or dream – seems strange. What if they did not do it the way you wanted? Would you have the courage to break it down again and build it differently? Or would that be like overpainting a picture in an art gallery?

And who has $ 94,888.00 dollars to play cheque book hot rodder? I’m a bit cynical about the 888 in the price because I live next door to Leeming and Winthrop, and the doors of my hatchback show it…but have my neighbours taken to rodding?

Will we see a flurry of moon disks and lakes pipes on the BMW and Mercedes? I tremble to think.

The Contented Shopper – Or How I Fed The Family For A Tenner

I am never.

No, never. Never never never.

Never going to go to the local fast food chicken take-out place again. Their rooster can be as red as they like to make it, and it will not attract my money. Not since the local supermarket started to do two full roast chickens for $ 10.

My wife was canny enough to see the bargain and quick enough to snap it up. I immediately froze the two cooked chooks and planned out the campaign.

Day One: unfreeze one chicken. Slice the breast meat and serve it for dinner with $ 7.50 worth of vegetables and fresh bread. Three people fed well for $10

Day Two: soup the remainder of the meat and carcase with leftover vegetables and noodles. Three people fed well for $ 7.00.

Day Three: Leftover soup and bread and cheese. $ 10, perhaps.

And that is how you get Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday  – 6 meals –  for the price of one pub meal…or for the price of two takeout chicken boxes. Admittedly one needs to know how to slice meat and vegetables and how to cook soup, but these things can be learned by attending a $ 500 Jamie Oliver seminar.

And there is still one chicken in the freezer.