Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Memories.

I'm not sure how old I was when the Christmas Carol, Silent Night began bringing tears to my eyes, every time I hear it, but it does, tears that aren't accompanied with sobbing, or shoulder wrenching, or deep belly gulps and snot bubbles, just damp, rolling, polite, waiting in turn for the previous one to make its way down my cheek, tears.
        It's not sadness that creates the tears, but I think it's more of a sense of expectations that this will be the year, no matter how bad or good the past year was, we get to wash everything away and hit the re-set button, it also really gets me thinking about the innocence of youth and the opportunity they face. So for me that's when the Christmas season begins, the first time I hear Silent Night being played, and this year it was actually the 1st of December, Andy Williams came on the radio and Christmas 2012 had officially begun.

I don't remember specifically a lot of my Christmas Pasts but I definitely do remember the following one. What are your favorite Christmas Memories? What Christmas Carol is especially for you?

        As most of you reading this know, I come from a crazy household, lots of fun times, lots of not so fun times, lots of falling outs between sibling and sibling, between parents and siblings, between parent and parent, but it seemed that no matter what was going on as far as the relationship boogie, Christmas was always a time for us to come together as a family and bury the hatchet, (just not like the time Adrian literally tried to bury it in Julian's leg, luckily it was blunt and only left a bruise!) So this one year when the whole family was living in the same little mining town way up North, there were a few of us "not talking," to a few of us, I forget who was pissed at who, but it had been going on for a while, my older brother, sister and me had moved out of the house, so when the first one of us showed up to mum and dad's we'd be given the assignment by a sobbing mum to, "Go get your brother, or sister, it's Christmas damn it and we should all be happy and together."  Dad would huff and disappear to his bedroom, grumbling something along the lines of "I'm not talking to that feckin eejit or Jesus Mary and Joseph women, can you not just leave things be?" but you knew deep down he wanted the whole family around as well. So off one of us would trot to get the others that weren't there yet, and the negotiations would begin with the one that was on the outs, and no matter how long they went on, it typically ended with tears and hugs from the envoy followed once we got back to mum and dad's, by sobbing and hugging and apologies and where's the fecking whiskey?
So this year it was Linden who was the last to arrive, but when he showed up and all the bad feelings had subsided and the whiskey was beginning to work its magic he announced that for Christmas this year he'd splurged and bought himself (Linden loved buying gifts for himself!) an air pistol, and no, there is no line here that goes, "You'll shoot your eye out!" we'd never even heard of that movie in Australia.
Linden being Linden runs out to the car and brings in this very fine air pistol and the BB's that go with it, and dad who loved anything that made a bang or blew things up couldn't resist, he disengaged his crazy, mischievous, Irish brain and took dead aim at one of mum's old glass ornaments that she so lovingly transported the 12 thousand miles or so when she moved from England to Australia, he pulled the trigger, mum gasped and shrieked and screamed and cursed and managed to do it all with one breath in a single expulsion of air, and nothing happened to the ornament nor the air pistol, dad looked at mum, mum cursed at him again, dad held out his hand to Linden, Linden placed a dozen or so BB's in his hand, dad looked at mum, mum snarled, dad loaded the BB's, mum told him not too, dad smiled and took aim, all the rest of us sat on the blue vinyl couch, shirt backs sticking to it (it was always in the 100's at Christmas) Linden told him to aim a little high, dad did, and he nailed the green ball of glass, shattering it into a thousand little pieces, mum screamed, dad roared, Linden looked very proud and the rest of us smiled at dad and looked very concerned at mum when snapped her head to look at us.

Dad took aim and repeated the process only this time it was a little plastic lamb ornament, then he handed the pistol back to Linden and bet him, he couldn't take out one of the three Kings, extra points for the smug looking one with the box of gold. Mum finally recovered her senses after witnessing the carnage from the first two shots, and away she went, the yelling grew louder, the tears began to flow and then instead of joining in the row, dad just calmly proclaimed that "Your mother couldn't hit the fat end of a slow moving cow from 3 feckin feet, could ya Hazel?" mum, never one to shy away from a contest against dad, didn't give it a second thought, she asked Linden "How do I work the stupid gun?" he showed her and the next thing we knew she'd aimed pulled the trigger and put a nice little hole in the dry rock wall, dad smirked, mum squinted, Linden told her to aim a little high, and before you could say Merry Christmas, the smug, gold bearing King was history! Dad howled, mum told you so'ed to dad, Linden was proud again and we all smiled at mum telling her what a great shot she was. She looked at dad and asked which one next, and away they went, like a sniper crew, dad spotting, mum shooting, Linden reloading. We all took turns shooting ornaments off the fake green plastic Christmas tree and when they were all gone, including the terrified looking angel topper, we started on anything around the living room that presented itself as target, it was an amazing Christmas day, the walls were a little worse for wear, the Christmas tree was history and even though the linoleum floor was swept multiple times, months later when I'd come over there'd be another piece of sparkled glass floating around the floor. It was definitely a less traditional Christmas than most people enjoy, but it was such a great encapsulation of an Egan Christmas.

Love you Dad, wish we could have had a few more Christmases together, sleep in heavenly peace :)

Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 3, 2012


What can I write about, really, I know it's beginning to sound like a perpetual whine, but it's probably the first thing that goes through my mind when I wake up, and I know it's the last thing that runs through it before I finally give up and go to sleep.
I guess that's a good thing, especially since I eventually want to be a writer, actually I am a writer, so I should rephrase that, and say, since I eventually want to make a living as a writer. So as usual I woke up this morning and as I poured my first cup of coffee I tried to remember all those fantastical ideas that rattled around my head at one-thirty-three a.m. then I remembered, I don't write fantastical stuff, which is a shame cuz I had some rippers bouncing around in there. So I tried again and realized that all the fantastical stuff partying in my head was my defense against the realities that were prying at the chinks in my not so well constructed armor.

Every few seconds as I lay in my bed last night wishing that, for this one tonight, please let me just instantly fall asleep, I don't want that phase of pre-sleep where all the worries and stresses of the day get to amplify and rewind on a slow motion loop. Naturally, I didn't get that, instead I got to lay, eyes closed, brain synapses exploding and they were all about my little bugger of a cat Opie. Now, I know there are people out there who will read this and think or say out loud, "Are you kidding me? the damn cat, he's still on about that damn cat." and to those people I can say right now "Piss off, and go read some other blog," because if you can't or don't understand the bond between humans and pets then you're a little bit sick and I don't need to have you as a friend or acquaintance.

Opie was just the coolest cat, and so my post today is dedicated to him.

We just walked in, to grab some pounce,
And there he was,
We just walked past, ignored his meow,
And he simply stared,
We just walked on, and scanned the shelves,
And he lay down,
We just walked over, and stroked his back,
And he purred,
We just leaned down, and picked him up,
And he snuggled in,
We just looked at each other, and both said no,
And he understood,
We just went through the check out line,
And he watched us leave,
We just went back, for a second look,
And he perked up,
We just couldn't leave him there,
And he came home,
We just loved this ginger cat,
And he loved back,
We just had him with us for ten years,
And he had us,
We just couldn't bear to hear the news,
And he already knew,
We just cried and stroked and loved him up,
And he knew why,
We just wanted him to be at rest,
And he knew when,
We just didn't know when to call it quits,
And he did,
We just held his body one last time,
And he knows peace.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Legendary Twenty-First Birthday

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.
~ Mark Twain

Twenty-First, normally equaled a big bash, a huge all in, three day drunk, even though in Australia the legal drinking age was and still is eighteen, there was just something special about turning twenty-one.

I’d been looking forward to my twenty-first for years, I mean literally years, it was quite a while ago but I think I was probably seventeen or eighteen when I began imagining the party I was going to have, I had the food picked out, I had the bar setup formed in my mind, I had the music and D.J. already selected, I knew all the pre-drinking tricks to use so I wouldn’t end up with a legendary hangover, it was destined to be huge, maybe even four days if my mates could hang in there.

Of course there’d be all manner of women, all the sheila’s in town and maybe even from neighboring towns would clamor to be on the invite list, they’d be dropping hints for invites, I’d have notes shoved under my door begging me to add them, they’d walk up to me in the street asking if they were indeed penciled in.

Legendary, that would be the word used to describe my twenty-first, yea legendary!

Aside from the party there were other thoughts of fantasy flashing through my mind, my old man, he and I weren’t that close when I was in my teens, truth be told we were never close in any of my younger years, the Coal Mans boy, that’s what he’d call me, sometimes with a grin, but usually not, “No son of mine,” Was a constant phrase, uttered under his breath, or spoken with venom, sometimes yelled accompanied with a glare of hatred, but my twenty-first would change all that, he’d probably call me early in the day, wish me a grand birthday, offer me a fecking whiskey and go on about how proud he was of me and my accomplishments… He’d speak about how chuffed he was watching me play football and he’d brag to the blokes at union meetings about my footy prowess, he’d tell me how he really always did love me, and only treated me the way he did so I’d grow up strong and be able to stand up for myself with my fists, “That’s the only reason I smacked you around a bit,” he’d say.
Yea we’d have a good old chin wag before the party got started, he may even join in, all my mates, for the longest time thought he was the best old bastard Irish man they’d ever met they’d love to have him swing by, and sing a bunch of the old ballads as he was apt to do when he’d had few. Legendary, yep no other word for it, Legendary.

Mum would for sure drop by too, she’d have the perfect card picked out, no present, I was never that big on presents, but a good card, that was always the best, nothing like a good soppy card, even if the verse wasn’t hers, the words she added were always heart warming, sincere and never failed to bring a tear to my eye.

I kept the big bash alive in my head for so long, the anticipation was almost unbearable, I’d get butterflies when I thought about it, I wondered if my team mates would make me deliver a speech, just because they knew how much I hated public speaking, they’d get a kick out of that, so I’d practiced in front of my mirror, speaking out loud, laughing at my own jokes, even choreographing the way I moved as I spoke, thinking that not only was my party going to be, ya know, legendary but my speech would be a highlight for all in attendance.
The year I turned twenty-one I quit playing football, not by choice, but by injury, I blew my knee out and never recovered, even if I had been able to play again I was told by my specialists that I should never pull the boots on again, my knee would never hold up to the strain, so I quit, I never did play competitive footy again, but it wasn’t so bad, except I stopped going to games for a while, hated watching from the sidelines, hated hearing people tell me how unlucky I was buggering up my knee the way I did, funny but my dad never said any of that.

I was working the mines and driving truck the year I turned twenty-one, I had a room in SMQ, Single Men’s Quarters, C Block, a two story building with about a hundred twenty 12 x 8 rooms paper thin walls, a bed, a desk with table light and a small hanging area, two shower blocks on each level, tenants organized by the shift you worked so afternoon shift workers wouldn’t wake the night shift blokes, stark white with aluminum foil on the windows so not only the light wouldn’t wake you but it helped keep the heat down. There were lots of shift parties in the blocks, usually when you’d finished your 21st shift (3 blocks of days, 3 afternoons and 3 nights) because we’d get a four-day break before going back on rotation, those were some crazy, fight filled events that always, Always started out friendly always degraded into fighting and then swung wildly back to friendly before the obligatory passing out. (I never attended any of those.)

My big day arrived, my family, all of them four siblings, and my mum and dad lived less than ten minutes away, all of us ended up working in the mine, except my mum, we all worked different shifts and we never saw as much of each other as you’d think, but this was my twenty-first birthday, they’d all make an appearance, I’d given up on the legendary party months ago since I was scheduled to work the night shift, but I was still looking forward to seeing everyone, I was still like a kid on Christmas Eve, I felt like I was entering a whole new phase of life and I was looking forward to the words of encouragement form my mates and family. I showered mid-morning to avoid the rush and then I wandered over to the mess hall, it was weird sitting there at my table in a room of 70 tables by myself eating silently, trying to hurry so I could get back to my room in case someone came by, the Romanian bloke that bussed tables came by and smiled at me as he picked up my empty plate, I said G’day and he nodded back, I’d never heard him speak except when he was with other blokes that worked in the mess, he had no clue it was my birthday. I downed the rest of my cuppa tea and hurried back to the block, I passed a few night shift stragglers that were wandering the halls we ignored each other.

I let myself into my room and flipped on the radio, the announcer was spewing out the weather report, then went on to play a record without mentioning a thing about my birthday, I lay on my bed and listened to the music and waited. I waited all morning, and into early afternoon, no one knocked on my door, I got up and went for lunch turning the sign on my door to “Quiet Please, Night Shift.” The Romanian had finished his shift and a bloke from Scotland had taken his place, “It’s my twenty-first today,” I blurted out as he picked up my plate, he cocked his head sideways, “you done wi  tha cup laddie?” he picked it up not waiting for an answer.
I went back to my room, locked the door and climbed under the covers, I woke when my alarm went off at ten o’clock, I dressed in my usual bib-n-brace coveralls pulled on my safety boots, sat on the edge of my bed and cried, before dragging myself to the bus stop to spend the night driving truck in a dusty, remote, iron ore mine where no one cared what day it was.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Would You Want To Read More?


 Chapter One

             I heard the fading sound of the ute’s engine at the same time as I smelled the dust cloud it was leaving in it’s wake, and before I even opened my eyes I knew I’d messed up big time. I felt a chill run the length of my arms and tickle my finger tips, but still I lay there, how was I gunna get out of this one? No one else was moving; I thought about closing my eyes and pretending I hadn’t just missed my ride to the airport, but I knew things would only get worse the longer I willed time to turn backwards.
            That truck was supposed to take me the hundred and eighty kilometers to Port Hedland where I’d catch the only flight of the day to what was going to be my home for the next three years.  A hundred and eighty kilometers would be a long time to get over what I was sure was about to happen to me because I’d missed hitching a ride on that truck. Three years in a Christian Brothers boarding school wouldn’t erase the memory of the tirade I was sure I was about to hear, and I couldn’t put it off any longer. As I rose up on my elbow and peered through the tatty mosquito netting hanging loosely around my cast iron bed frame, I could barely make out the crown of my dad’s balding head three beds away. 

Old Muccan Station Homestead

This, is a ute!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Frank must be Smiling

Patty and I bought our first boat back in 2004, we nearly bought one in 1997 but Patty's dad, Frank talked us out of it. I can remember sitting in the living room shooting the breeze with him when I casually brought up the subject of boat ownership, he looked across the room at me and a cheeky smile began to unfurl across his handsome face, the smile became broader as his head began to shake, then he pushed back in his chair and began to laugh.
"Jon," he said
"The two happiest days in a boaters life, the day they buy a boat and the day they get rid of it."
I looked back at him with a puzzled look on my face,
"But Frank, I think it'd be fun to own a boat, the freedom of the open ocean, the fresh sea air, the ability to get away from it all." by now he was almost crying he was laughing so hard.
 "Did I ever tell you about the time me and Don were up by Morro Bay with a fishing charter?"
I shook my head no, (he had been in partnership for a while with Don running a fishing charter out of Quivira Bay in San Diego, I never did get to know what they were doing up in Morro Bay with the boat.)
"We were cruising along in a decent swell and one minute we were looking at the land on the horizon and the next we were staring through deep green sea water before we bobbed back up to the surface, and that was on a sixty footer! Close your eyes for a second," he said "and try and imagine how that would feel, one second you're breathing fresh sea air and the next you're struggling to hold your breath as you're plunged ten foot under by some rouge wave." I did and I found myself holding my breath and then gasping for air as I thought about the scenario.
"We're not buying a boat," he stopped laughing and nodded his head at me, "Good Idea."

The lure of a boat though did get to us and so we began our search in late 2003, our intention was to find one that would be docked somewhere, where we could go hang out for a weekend and cruise around the bays, the whole open ocean thing was a thing of the past since Franks pep talk.
I wanted to find a boat that was big enough to be comfortable, but not too big to handle, one that I could steal a great deal on and eventually we found it. We had spent countless hours on the internet scouring brokers websites, running down to the beach every weekend, buying every boat trader magazine we could lay our hands on before we finally came across our boat accidentally, for sale by owner. It was a perfect size and it was a great deal, probably due to the fact that one of the engines wasn't running and we weren't able to sea trial it, nevertheless we had found our retreat on the sea. The broker warned us against buying it, "Don't buy someone else's trouble," was his mantra, did I listen, nope, not me, the greatest deal finder in the greater Los Angeles area if not the whole of California! so we bought it and many, many times Franks other little words of wisdom came flooding back to my mind.
"Boat, Jon, you know what that means right? Break Out Another Thou!"
Well we persevered and we spent more than we should have on maintenance and after owning it for seven years and spending a grand total of about 3 hours out of the dock cruising the bay we got rid of it and we were sorta happy, it's not that we didn't use it for what we intended, we spent many weekends on it and every now and then we'd crank the engines to circulate the oil and we'd sit in the cockpit sipping a cocktail or a glass of wine while the BBQ slowly seared our dinner and we'd stare out at the flickering lights on the hillside near our marina and we enjoyed life on our boat from the comfort of our dock. 
When I say we got rid of it, what I mean is we traded it for a more manageable smaller, easier serviced boat that we now have docked in Franks old home port in San Diego's Quivira Bay and we truly are using this boat for what it's meant to be used for. We're actually cruising the bays and taking her out to open ocean and last weekend we actually dropped anchor off the coast, cut the engines and enjoyed the quiet of the open seas around us. We've had dolphins swimming alongside us as we powered up the coastline, we spotted a giant sea turtle that may have actually been Crush from Finding Nemo, floating along barely submerged under the waves, we've got a sea lion who comes into the channel we're docked at for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we have a Pit Bull named Maya who will swim around the docked boats, literally for an hour while her owner tosses rocks for her to catch.
One of the most pleasing things about owning a boat are the relationships we have with other boaters, there is no way to live the garage door opener way of life when you have a boat docked, you can't simply go about your business all day then come home, push the garage door opener drive inside push the door closed and sneak into the confines of your home without a wave or even acknowledgement that you indeed have a neighbor; when you own a boat you have no option but to interact with neighbors, and that in my opinion can only be a good thing, it's a joy to be down at the boat, people watching, chatting with neighbors, fending off out of control boats attempting to dock but somehow almost always finding their way into the stern of our boat (no wait that's what I do, although I'm getting better.)  Simply put, we have fun, we barely get TV reception, definitely no internet so we are forced to go back to basics, listening to the radio, reading, talking, napping, relaxing, relating all things that play second fiddle when we have the comforts of home around us.

So why did I choose to write about boating for this post I hear you asking and whats the point behind all this? Well I'll tell ya, boating and San Diego and Quivira Bay, always get me thinking about Frank, Patty's dad, Frank, and whenever I think about Frank I usually end up with a smile on my face because he was a cheeky bugger who was always up to no good, he was a scallywag, a strikingly handsome larger than life bloke, who never told a lot of stories but when he did he was the kind of storyteller that you enjoyed listening too, he was a member of the Greatest Generation a WWII Marine Veteran who lied about his age so he could enlist and serve this Country and serve he did, he saw action, mostly in the Japanese arena and was involved in the Battle of Okinawa. One of the stories he did tell us that we'll never forget was about how scared he was coming in to the beaches in landing craft, his eyes got a little misty as he recalled hearing bullets hitting the loading ramps in front of the craft and how his buddies were throwing up around him from a mixture of sea sickness and fear and how he knew that once that gate dropped it would be a mad scramble for survival and the bullets that were hitting outside the craft would then be tearing into the flesh of the marines crowded inside,but the stench inside the craft was something that he had to get away from so he pushed forward in spite of rounds hitting marines alongside of him and how he saw buddies drowning because the craft dropped the gate in water too deep to touch ground and the weight of the packs dragged men to the bottom. (We still haven't been able to watch Saving Private Ryan) That was the only story he ever told about fighting in that war and I'll never forget it, he was all the things I said he was prior, but he was and always will be a hero to me alongside every person that's ever pulled on a uniform to serve their country.

Today I remember Frank Czarniewski because today he would have been his 87th birthday but in 1998 Frank lost his battle with Cancer and so even though I'm Writing In Spite of Myself, I wanted to dedicate this post to him and his Greatest Generation.

Frank Czarniewski
1925 - 1998

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Always Drink The Good Scotch.

I hate going to City of Hope every three months for my quarterly cancer check up, but I love the people in there, with the exception of the CT tech, who, no matter how hard he tries just can't hit the mark with the needle and so I end up being stabbed two or three or, as was the case this go round, four times. Though in fairness, my veins can be as absent as an Aussie Olympic Swimming Gold Medal! (only one!!! Are you kidding me?)

This go round was particularly nerve wracking since three months ago my amazing young Oncologist Dr. Pal had told me "We're watching a bit of a lump in the right lung," and so I was fully expecting to get not so good news this time, which inevitably means surgery, so I was bummed as well as more than a little nervous about being there. My type of cancer is fairly aggressive when it hits, so they need to get on top of any recurrence pretty quick and although the survivability has increased it's still not a great prognosis when you have had stage 4 as is the case with me. 

It's strangely weird living your life in three month blocks, you have no idea how quick time goes by when you are wondering if this visit maybe they'll find more cancer and what if it's gotten into my bones or worse yet my brain? Every little ache in my knee becomes a cancer hot spot, every little headache becomes metastasis to the brain, every new bruise on my body is surely recurrence... It gets old worrying about  this stuff all the time.
So there I sat, all pouty and sore from the stabbings, waiting to go in and be given the news that they were gunna cut more of my lung out and I was working myself into a bit of a tizzy and couldn't even make simple decisions like deciding between watching the "Jerry Springer Show" being re-run on the waiting room t.v. or reading the 1979 issue of Sports Illustrated, Patty gave my hand a squeeze and nodded out to the hall; my amazing young Oncologist is located on the 3rd floor of the hospital and his waiting area is directly across from the Pediatric Oncology Clinic, so I look across the hall and watch a laughing bald headed 8 or 9 or 14 year old patient being wheeled into their amazing oncologists and it gives me a great deal of perspective.
What a light switch that becomes and it instantly transported me back five years earlier to when my older amazing Oncologist first took me on as a patient, Patty and I were completely into the whole idea of healthy living as an assistant to beating cancer and so we sat in front of him and Patty asked

"What can we do as patients?"
(I love how this disease is a joint thing, she's an amazing crutch for me.)

Dr. Figglin looked at both of us with a smile as crooked as a two bob watch and said

"Always drink the good Scotch." 

When we can afford it (and sometimes when we can't) we pretty much do just that, but sometimes we need a little reminder and sitting there watching that young girl being wheeled into her appointment with a smile on her face was just the tonic I needed.

So, that's my post for this week, short I know but my mind has been in other places and I really struggled to make myself sit down and write this in spite of myself...

Oh, the lump they're watching............. turns out its only scar tissue! PHEW :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Official Kardashians Filming show in Arrowhead in house Next to me...

How cool is this, the producers contacted us and wanted to know how much of an impact there would be in our lives to have all this commotion going on in the house next door to us, they also wanted to get permission to park their service vehicles down below on our bottom lot, of course we said no problem go for it.

So they are working all the details out and we get to go down to the Kardashians home for dinner and a meet and greet next Friday.

Sorry, that's not entirely correct, nor is it true, neither is it honest, or forthright, or fair, or authentic, or real or any other word you can think of that would indicate a falsehood. I just wanted to do this to see if in fact I get a spike in page views.

As a country we are so taken by celebrity, so much so that Yahoo ran an article last week Titled "Unlikely Celebrity Children's Book Authors," and it just drove me nuts. These people didn't write these books, and seriously if they did actually write them, the editors basically re-wrote them for the celebrities.

Chris Colfer, from Glee... Self Written.
"Rehashing/retelling fairy tales is really nothing new in children's literature, but that doesn't mean that a fresh twist can't still be put on them. Unfortunately Chris Colfer doesn't do much to set himself apart from the rest of the pack."

Madonna,  "English Roses." ... Self Written.
"You know, I actually expected it to be pretty good, as I figured she had probably hired someone to "edit" it into a well-written and fun book.
Nope, she wrote it all herself. The moral? That beautiful people have problems too, and that the children of single family households are stressed slaves without childhoods. Um, how did that bit get past the PC review board?
Poorly written and insulting to anyone with only one parent, anyone who is snubbed by the "in crowd" for reasons other than being beautiful and perfect, or with a sense of literary decency.
I'm appalled at how many people enjoyed this book."

John Travolta, "One Way Night-Coach." Self Written.
"This book is so poorly written it should never have left the editors desk without being covered with red ink. John Travolta is a wonderful actor, but would benefit greatly from lessons if he should want to continue his "writing" career."

Julianne Moore, "Freckle Face," series Three Writers.
"The boy (Windy Pants) in this story has two MOMS and there are family pictures depicting the same. I was not happy about being FORCED to have THIS discussion with my 7-year-old daughter. I purchased this book knowing it was about accepting other children that are different; but I wrongfully assumed it would be about freckles, hair color, weight, skin color, etc." 

The reviews were taken straight from Amazon and I'll admit I haven't read one of these or the 8 others that were being praised by Yahoo, but really, seriously people, I don't wanna be a snob about writing and I think everyone should write something about anything at some stage in their life. The reality is that these authors based on the reviews I read on Amazon wouldn't have gotten past the slush pile if it wasn't for the fact that they are Celebrities. If Kim Kardashian were to write a book about "How to sit the correct way while while getting a pedicure." it would be picked up in a flash and would be rushed to the bookshelves in mere weeks!

So nothing astounding here folks, not even trying for writing gems, just wanted to see how many pages views I get because of the title... Please don't say anything on Facebook to distort my little experiment, I'll let you know the outcome though before I get back to seriously Writing in Spite of Myself.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I wouldn't do that if I was you!

How many times have you heard that in your lifetime?

A couple of weeks ago I received my annual weed abatement notice from the County, instructing me to clear my property of weeds, fallen logs, debris, and general fire fuel, I have until the end of this month to comply, so as per usual I ignored the written notice, but filed the mental note in my overflowing brain, under "Don't Wanna, But Must Do," file.
Yesterday was my day to sort out that file and since weed abatement was the last thing in, it naturally became the first thing out.

The Correct way to Weed Whack
I put on a pair of old tennis shoes, WITH socks, ankle socks, and my favorite faded blue Life is Good short sleeved tee shirt, my threadbare khaki Cargo Shorts and my sunnies, not for protection but because it was pretty bright outside and then armed with my battery powered, newly acquired, 24volt Weed destructing, brush mangling stick of power I headed out to do battle with my sticker patches and weeds.

Jon's way to Weed Whack.

Now, while I was getting dressed for said assault on the hill I kept hearing Patty's voice rising from behind my "Don't Wanna, But Must Do," file and it was saying, "I wouldn't do that if I was you!" along with "Maybe you should wear long pants and long sleeves and how about a dust mask, eyeglasses and gloves? "
To which I of course replied, "Ha, long pants, long sleeves, pfft, dust mask? phooey! gloves? can't find em! and eyeglasses? whats wrong with my Oakleys?"

Two hours later after tearing of half my thumb nail, inhaling copious amounts of dust and debris, rubbing my contact covered eyes till they were nearly as red as my well scratched up and bleeding calf's and shins, I thought to myself, "I wish Patty was here to make me put all that junk on."
Just about then I heard the unmistakable buzz of a bee, followed very closely by the unmistakable buzz of a couple of hundred bee's and then like some old grainy black and white Tom and Jerry cartoon I was being chased and stung multiple times by this angry mob of pissed off bee's, they got me on my wrists, my neck, my chest (through my favorite faded very lightweight t-shirt) my head, sucks having a bald spot, ok I should say area rather than spot, and they tried for my mouth, but seriously I managed to flick them away like a Wimbledon Champion, wielding my hand instead of a racket.
I charged up my pretty steep hillside, bee's following me, dive bombing me, driving me to get my fat arse up the hill and I complied in a manner that could quite possibly have put me into the Olympics for the Triple Jump event.  I made it to my driveway T-shirt ripped from my body, shoes kicked off, shorts half way down to my ankles, still swatting at imaginary bee's, my chest heaving for air, all the while wondering if I might die from this killer bee attack and not noticing the elderly couple that regularly walk their very cute Alaskan Malamute past our house daily. Of course I politely nodded in their general direction as I ran in my front door big white arse halfway out of my undies breathlessly trying to find the Benedryl and Patty's Epi pen. The Benedryl worked and here I sit still quite sore from the stings, but alive and wondering why did I do that?

This whole episode started me thinking of other times that I did really quite stupid things with complete and total disregard for my personal safety, like...

While finishing the partial remodel on our house here in Arrowhead, (I'm beginning to wonder if the house doesn't want me here,) I was using my table saw to cut the hard wood floor boards for the kitchen and was nearly finished with the project, when I heard not only Patty's voice, but my dad's as well saying "I wouldn't do that if I was you."
Of course I knew better so why shouldn't I remove the safety guard on the blade, it was just getting in the way of things and I was moving at a seriously professional pace, the floor was only four cuts away from being complete and the dogs were getting tired of being outside, so why not let them in while I make the final cuts? I'll tell you why, because dogs can get rambunctious and safety guards are there for a reason and when the rambunctious dogs mix with guard-less table saw blade, dismembered thumbs are pretty much the norm.
Just as I'm cutting the wood plank, one of the dogs decided it wanted the Plushie Killer Whale that the other one had and they banged into me, and my thumb banged into the blade that spinning pretty bloody fast and the next thing I know I have a trail of blood up my faded green Life is Good t-shirt and I'm looking at my thumb bone, it's really amazing how white bones can be while they're still attached to your body. Anyway I didn't quite loose my thumb but it was a close call. Now that I think of it, maybe I should stop wearing those Life is Good t-shirts?

I could go on and on about other times that I should have paid attention to the voice in my head, a voice that sometimes screamed at me "I WOULDN'T DO THAT IF I WAS YOU!" like the time I was working up in a gold mine outside of Meekatharra with my younger brother Adrian, we had been sent out to a mud field where the plant discharged waste from the gold treatment plant and our job was to rotate the pipes so they didn't wear out on one side from the abrasives in the discharge, (NO, I'm not talking sewage!) we would have to wade into these huge fields of mud in wellington or rubber boots and spend the day just turning pipes in knee deep slop, I'm not sure why we weren't issued waders, but we weren't.
The end of our shift comes and I had snagged and cut my palm on a piece of metal and needed to get it seen to by medical, so I wander over to the first aid building in my boots full of mud and ask the nurse to check out my hand, she tells me to get outside and take my mud filled boots off, I try and do just that, I go out sit down on the steps and can't for the life of me get the boots off since they were full of mud and creating a vacuum that I couldn't break, I stick my head back inside the door and ask for a Stanley trimmer or box cutter, she doesn't even ask why as she hands me a scalpel.
Are you already seeing the end of this anecdote?
I sit back on the step and proceed to cut the first boot from my leg which I do without a hitch, the whole time ignoring the voice in my head... I get to the second boot and as I'm slicing down the side of the boot I hit a weak section of rubber and it flies down the boot and right across the top of my big toe, slicing to the bone. Adrian looks at my toe and says, "Should I go grab you a bandage mate, looks like you might have cut the bugger off!"
I was worried that I might actually get fired for being so stupid so I pulled my toe toward my ankle  and taped it up with electrical tape and to this day the bloody toe still works and I have barely a scar to show for it.

So as I sit here at my computer waiting for "Home Defenders," to come and rid me of the angry bee's so I can retrieve my weed whacker and get back to work I wonder how many times you've ignored that voice in your head saying "I wouldn't do that if I was you?"

I should really be out there watching the bloke eradicate the bastard, bloody, bee's that caused such embarrassment to my elderly dog walking neighbors, but since I haven't posted in a week I decided instead to sit here and "Write in Spite of Myself."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Death of A School."

In my last post, I spoke about one of the many incidents that happened with me (as opposed to, TO me,)  and it was a lot of fun remembering that particular event. I sat here and laughed out loud while I relived the scene of the Brother driving up to me.

One of the comments from Sandra was that "And the School is still around grooming young farmers."
Sadly that's not the case, the school did close it's doors back in 2009 and I still remember feeling a great loss when I heard about it.

I attended the school back in the seventies and it was many things to me.  I had my first non-sibling punch up there and I was terrified during the lead up to it. Of course after the fight (which I started like an idiot,)  I had a nice fat lip, black eye, and broken nose to go along with the start of a great new friendship, Charlie Mac beat the ever living snot out of me, laughing with every perfectly aimed and landed punch he threw from the fists of a kid whose dad had been a Golden Gloves contender and was intent on his son following in his footsteps. Oh the choices we make sometimes!

I wont say I was taught discipline there, but it was most definitely refined by the Christian Brothers, my dad was an excellent disciplinarian quite possibly because practice does in fact make perfect and he practiced on me on a very regular basis. The Brothers brand of discipline though went beyond even what my dad knew, in fact with the Olympics just around the corner I dare say that if they had a competition for discipline the Brothers would win Gold and my dad would be a distant Silver.
Some people I'm sure will be horrified to know that part of their corporal punishment regimen was the use of old Tractor Fan Belts, literally right of the old crappy John Deere Combine that I drove. Depending on the Brother and the severity of the offense it was a quick march upstairs, lay on the bed, pants down, bare butt exposed and lay there like that while he went and fetched the dirty old fan belt to strap you with, that was Brother Morgan's favorite. Yes I copped a few of them and believe me when I say, I couldn't sit down for an hour or so. Others like old Brother Newman preferred a sharp right jab followed by a left hook, Brother Couch's weapon of choice was the good old fashioned cane, Brother Hanley he was very old school and would just tug your ear, funny as it may sound I preferred any of the others over the ear tug.

 My point is, that although I copped my fair share of Brotherly Discipline, I deserved it and it didn't kill me, and it didn't leave any scars, and it didn't screw me up for the rest of my life, it didn't take away my childhood, it taught me in no uncertain terms that I was responsible for my actions and I was in no doubt at all that for example; when I was pinching a couple of beers from the Brothers dining room I had better not get caught, but if I did it was a fair collar and I knew I deserved what was coming.

Another great gift from the school was Hard Work. When I first got there I resented all the work we had to do, but man, it prepared me for later in life. I had just turned thirteen when I started school and here's a list as best I can remember of some of the jobs I had.
Baker, Slaughterer, Butcher, Steam Engine Attendant (we had a giant wood fed boiler for our laundry room,) Laundry worker (we took turns on Saturdays laundering the whole schools dirties...) Truck Driver, Front End Loader Operator, Bulldozer operator, Grader Operator, every imaginable farm implement you can imagine operator, Barber, Movie Projectionist (the old type where you had to continuously wind the arcing rods to provide the back light) Cook, Shearer, Painter, Mechanic, All the jobs related to Animal Husbandry and other than the painting I loved every job I did!

Back then we never had electives or options we did what they told us to do, when they told us to and every single boy participated, when it was Aussie Rules season, we all played footy, no one got to sit out, every single boy, good bad or indifferent played footy. Swim season, everyone swam even if it meant doggie paddling to finish the 50meter butterfly race. Annual Squash tournament, complete participation, Basketball, Cricket, Tennis, Track and Field... There were no onlookers, no bystanders and honestly, although I'm sure there were individual incidents, for the most part there was no mocking of the participants ability or lack of ability, we all just competed and at the end of the school year the Brothers actually gave trophies out to the individual champions, we never got team trophies, we never got participation trophies, the whole school would sit there and watch as the best athletes, scholars and citizenship awards were given to the best individuals.

99.9% of the time when it was lights out at night time, we slept, read our books under the blankets with a torch (Aussie flashlight) but we never gave Brother Morgan in 1st and 2nd year or Brother Couch in 3rd year any reason to crack open the punishment devise cupboard.
We were allowed to have a radio/cassette player but I swear the only time we could use them was on Saturdays while we did our jobs around the farm. We also wore school uniforms every day and on Sundays it included the tie!

So, whats my point to this long winded post? I already told you the School closed its doors in 2009.

In 2008 I took Patty back to visit the School, it was also the first time since I graduated that I had gone back and to this day I really wish I'd never visited after I left, some of the changes that occurred in my opinion and some of the Old Boys (Aussie for Alumni) I spoke to agreed, caused the closure and in my corny way it's heartbreaking.

They did away with Uniforms,  
The kids like to show their individuality...
They did away with compulsory sports,  
Some of the kids don't like to participate, and some of them aren't that good so we don't want to expose them to ridicule, so now we allow those that want to participate to travel into Mullewa or Geraldton to play on their school teams... Oh the cost is absorbed by the parents and the State
They did away with compulsory work,  
We're a school now, the farm is pretty much done we survive on Government assistance instead of primary production...
They did away with the all boys aspect and turned co-ed,
It was felt that we were being exclusionary by not allowing girls to attend...
They did away with corporal punishment, Parent believe that they should be the only ones to discipline their children and nurturing is a far better method... Yea I know, but seriously, they never killed any of us!
There was rap music blasting from the dorms,
The students should be allowed to express themselves and a the cursing is actually freedom of speech so we don't like to interfere with that...
There were kids gathered in groups sitting on unmade beds,
It's their bed, if they feel like making it then they can but we don't actually enforce made beds anymore...
There were kids, literally smoking on the lawns and trampolines that I personally had helped install,
There was a complete and utter lack of discipline, farm equipment sat rusted in the sheds, the cricket and tennis courts were overgrown with weeds, the basketball courts were disintegrating, big chunks of blacktop missing, backboards hanging from a couple of screws, the picture screen half torn off, because the boy and girls have their personal DVD players now so we don't go to the expense of renting the movies for them... And on and on and on.

I know we need to move forward and progress should be seen as a good thing, but in this case they destroyed the very fabric that made me who I am today. That school formed me into me, molded the person I am, it helped create a person that I actually do like, I like who I turned out to be and it is heartbreaking to see it gone.I know if I had been blessed with kids and we were living in Australia they would have been sent to that school and they would have hated the first year and they would have cried when they were sent back after the three school breaks we got per year, but by the time they hit 2nd year, they'd begin to look forward to riding the bus down that dirt road and up to the Colditz looking buildings, and the smiling, disciplinarian Brothers that stood there to welcome them, and you know what, by 3rd year they would be in love with that whole institution and they would come home as men among boys, yes I know that's a bloody cliche` but if you ask me that's where the phrase was invented, by some Tardun Old Boy...

So to me it is a sad turn of events, and I think it's one that could have been avoided, and yes there are some Old Boys that will say the Brothers were too hard and maybe they were but I think if the system had been tweaked rather than overhauled Tardun Christian Brothers Agricultural College may still be open and I'd be planning my thirty something re-union instead of sitting here Writing in Spite Of Myself.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bush Cooler

My mate Rich asked me to share some stories about attending school in the bush at an all boys Christian Brothers boarding school, and since I'm back to working on my novel about that very subject I thought it was a cracking idea. 
Then I thought what story would best exemplify my time spent there, and so after my headache subsided from giving this the proper thought and attention it deserved I figured the following would be a pretty good representation of my time there.

The Upper Floor were the Dorms, Building on the right is the Chapel
Tardun, CBAS, St.Mary's, Christian Brothers, the Big House... Some of the names that the "Tardun, Christian Brothers Agricultural School," was known by, was where I was remanded to for three years, yes I did say "remanded to," because that's truly what it felt like when I first arrived. Even though my parents paid for the privilege of me attending school it was highlighted in more than a few places on the application that this was a working farm school and the boys would be expected to engage in very physical and demanding work regime's which would do nothing but build the young mans character, oh and please sign this part ot the bottom of the sheet where it says that it's acceptable for the Brothers to engage in corporal punishment for the good of the child.
To be fair to my parents, they really didn't have many choices for secondary education since we lived in the bush and had no schools around that I could attend on a day to day basis. They probably picked the cheapest alternative and Tardun won.

Nearest Town --- Tardun --- Population 7 --- Distance from School approx ten Kilometers
Nearest Big Town --- Mullewa --- Population 200 --- Distance from School approx 30 Kilometers
Nearest City --- Geraldton --- Population 20,000 --- Distance from School approx 120 Kilometers
Nearest Capital City --- Perth --- Population about 1 million --- Distance from School - Light Years...
Average temperature when I arrived in February about 120 degrees --- Air Conditioning ?????
Average rainfall for the year 2 inches (we were in the middle of the Wheat Belt of Western Australia, attempting to be self sufficient by growing cereal crops and raising sheep and cattle.)

Student population 100 boys, grades 8 through 10 
Farm Size 70,000 acres 
Teachers 3
Farm Bosses 8
Jailers 2
Hours per week spent in class --- about 20
Hours per week spent working the farm --- about 40, except during ploughing, seeding, harvesting, and shearing, then it bumped to about 80.

Fun and exciting life experiences looking back on my time there --- Priceless and immeasurable.

So, I said I was going to tell you about one particular event in my time there and while I've been writing this I've changed my mind about a thousand times, but I've settled on this one.

As I said earlier we were a cereal crop farm and we would begin harvesting around the beginning of October and go through late December which is a pretty hot time of year in that part of the bush, pretty consistently over the 110 degrees mark.

The system was, around 4am we would be woken by a Brother carefully sneaking through the dormitory picking a few select kids to go out and spend the day working a harvester instead of being in school. You know how exciting that was to a 14 year old right? A day out of school AND we got to either drive the big rig collecting wheat from the harvesters or we operated the actual combines, they put a lot of trust in us.
This one particular morning Brother Morgan, Swifty  (we had nick names for all the brothers and this bloke could run like the wind,) came to my bunk and shook me awake, which was pretty easy since I was laying in a mess of sweat soaked sheets and had spent the night tossing and turning trying to get some shut eye.
"Wake up Master Egan, we need you on a combine today, breakfast in 5 minutes."
"Yes Brother."
CBAS in Greener Times
You bloody little ripper...
 Me and about 5 other kids met down in the kitchen for our burnt toast and rubbery eggs, seriously the old cook Joe, would prepare the fried eggs about an hour before we got there, he'd have them lined up on an aluminum tray, drop them and they'd bounce! then after breaky we headed out in the bed of a ute (Aussie for pick up truck) to be dropped off at various machines in the paddocks. We got no choice when it came to what machines we were allocated and we had everything from vintage John Deere's to a brand new Massey Ferguson which of course everyone wanted since it had an air-conditioned, air ride cab. Of course I didn't get the flash new shiny Red Massey, I got the old piece of faded green John Deere, no air con, no air ride, no enclosed cab, but no worries, I was out of school, I had about a 200 acre paddock of wheat to crop and I wouldn't see anyone but the grain truck for about 4 hours, till old Brother Synan (Goggles,) showed up with my frozen cheese and tomato sandwich, yep frozen, but it also came with a hot cuppa tea that you could dunk the frozen sarny (sandwich,) in to defrost it enough to bite through.

So, I'm dropped off with my big water esky (cooler full of iced water) which I leave strategically under the partial shade off an old gum tree and the ute pulls away. I go around my machine checking that everything's where it's supposed to be, grease a few fittings,  and get to work cropping the paddock, by this time it's about 5:30 the suns coming up, the flies are out and the engine is humming beautifully life's grand. I'm already just two eye holes and a smile after being covered in dust from the ride out here in the back of the ute, and even though the sun just broke the horizon, I'm turning into a muddy pile of red dirt, first item of removed clothing, Singlet (tank-top) that gets laid across the back of whats left of the tractor seat and I feel a little relief although by now the open air cab is catching and trapping all the heat it can from the engine, and as per usual there is absolutely not one wisp of air movement except the flow of air that idles through the cab as I move along at a snails pace. My arms are in constant motion as I lift and lower the comb on the front of the combine, due to the drought conditions the wheat stalks had barely reached a foot tall, so I had to watch for logs, and bundies (big rocks) that had been missed and disturbed during ploughing and seeding season. The Brothers didn't like it when you dinged up the comb and they had no issue showing their displeasure with a swift smack to the jaw.

I'd been working for about an hour or so and was now down to being shirtless, shortless and bootless, boots were replaced with typical Aussie safety shoes, otherwise known as thongs, and I would have been barefoot except the floor of the tractor was too hot for my feet to handle, so other than my undies, I'm pretty much naked. The grain truck had just been by to unload me so I wouldn't see anyone for at least another hour, this was before the time of cell phones and we didn't have CB's so I was most definitely out there alone plodding around the paddock covering a lap about every 15 minutes, I pretty much had to ration my water so I'd stop and jump out for a drink every other lap, knowing that at lunch time they'd bring me a refill on my esky.

By about 10am it was sweltering and I was getting no relief from the heat even after guzzling down mouthfuls of by now, tepid water, the dust was caked on thicker than my mums foundation, my eyes were raw from the layers of red dirt that were getting harder to clear with each blink, it was as if I were rubbing them with sandpaper, my once tighty whitey's were now roughy reddies and were beginning to chafe my thighs with ever bounce of the old piece of crap John Deere, oh how I wished I were sitting in the comparative cool of the 90 degree classroom! BUT! an idea sprang to my mind about half way through my next lap... The truck had just been and lunch was still a good hour or so away, so I'd improvise in order to get cool, yep necessity the mother of all invention had just necessiterated my mind, and it was a good un.

I eased the rampaging combine to a grinding, dust cloud inducing, halt in the middle of the paddock just across the way from my old pathetic non shade covering ghost gum and proceeded to trudge through the grain stalks in nothing but my undies and thongs, my legs looking for all purpose that they were the result of a shrapnel attack, as the stalks ripped into the skin deeper than any of the canings I'd suffered at the hands of the Brothers, (did I mention they enjoyed corporal punishment at this place?) I made it to the tree and the esky and proceeded to put my plan into action, it went something like this.

  1. Remove mud caked undies
  2. Remove mud caked safety boots aka thongs
  3. Remove 2 cup capacity cup from top of esky
  4. Fill said cup with tepid cup from under-performing esky
  5. Toss contents of cup high into air
  6. Run naked through falling water thereby creating a cooling rain shower
It worked to perfection, absolute and utter perfection, with the first cupful I was a little timid and didn't fully commit but then with subsequent cups I became braver, my strength grew and my abandon became absolute, I was giddy, nae, intoxicated with pleasure at being cool, so much so that I never noticed, honestly, didn't hear, see or in any way whatsoever notice that Brother Kelly (Roo Dog) had driven into my paddock and was watching from a distance of about a hundred yards as this naked, semi delirious student, slash farm hard, slash inmate, was dancing like a banshee arms raised, legs pumping hollering at the sky in a Native American kind of rain dance.
As God is my witness when he actually pulled up next to me and I realized I had been busted for naked rain dancing I still don't know who was more scared. He looked at me, I looked at him, he nodded toward my undies and thongs, I stared at them, he nodded again, I walked over and sheepishly pulled them on, he nodded at the bed of the ute, I looked at him, he nodded again, I climbed in burning my ass on the side of the bed in the process, he drove me back to the School, no stopping at the still idling John Deere to get the rest of my clothes, straight back to school in the back of the ute, even though there was a perfectly good seat in the front next to him. We pulled up in front of the main building and I didn't move, he still hadn't said a word to me. Then the bell rings for lunch and out into the yard pour the 90 or so student that weren't working the farm that day. Roo Dog looks at me as he gets out of the ute, I look at him, he nods toward the dorms, I don't need another nod and I race upstairs in my dirty mud caked undies to the shower block.

Not a word was spoken to me regarding the incident from anyone other than the students, and surprisingly I was not called on for harvesting for the rest of the season. Never got my singlet back, but did get my boots returned to me! One time I was woken early by old Swifty a couple of weeks after that, but it was for bakery duty, not machinery operating, and do I have a great story about baking the weekly bread for the farm, but that's for another time. When I'm more in the mood to Write in Spite of Myself.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

 Trucker to Writer

How did I go from being a truckie to a writer?

A friend asked me to write a few lines about my transitional  journey from driving to typing, and after a few weeks with that question rattling around in the empty space in my brain, the one that used to be full of McGuiverish tricks for getting road trains unstuck from dry river bed crossings and the such, that I no longer needed since I'm not chasing gears anymore I came up with a somewhat believable answer, maybe I should have asked if she wanted the fiction or the non-fiction version? I'll leave it to you to decide.

I was actually a writer in progress way before I became a truckie, my life went something along the lines of this...

Primary School, voracious reader ---

Boarding school, 1st year, voracious reader with knots on my head after getting hit with teachers sniper fired blackboard duster for reading under my desk lid, beginning poet, ---

Boarding School, 2nd year, Voracious Poet (mostly naughty stuff about the Christian Brothers with a somewhat hardcore following of my peers, eagerly awaiting a single page, double spaced hand scribbled Limerick about the Brother of the week.  Intermittent reader generally with a flashlight under the covers in the dorm till my batteries died. ---

Boarding School, 3rd year, Voracious Political Satire, Boisterous Blathering Berating Bad Brothers, and some Serious memoir stuff. Books, what the heck is a book? ---

Newman Senior High School --- Girls, wow they have real girls here, books, they were only for marking up covers with the latest version of "Jon love heart ____ fill in the blank," Read many love letters of sorts, and wrote as many bad ones back. ---- Reading, sorry don't have time. ---

Footy --- No time to write, or read... run, run, run, sleep, sleep, sleep. ---

Mining --- Writing, Satirical poetry mostly Anti - (BHP) company, Pro - Union silly stuff but I had pretty much a weekly slot in the towns paper and wrote under the pseudonym "Smegan" bastardization of It's Me, Egan. I had fun doing those pretty much done on the back of a time sheet, but I had a little cultish following. Reading, not a chance. ---

Trucking --- Lots and lots of books on tape, since where I drove you were lucky to get radio reception so I'd buy and listen to wonderful authors reciting their books till the red dirt and dust destroyed the tape, and when that happened (with surprising regularity and pretty much always at some climactic scene,) I'd drive through the night with pretty much just my own thoughts and those thoughts became scenes and scenes became chapters and chapters began to multiply and then I'd hit a destination and those scenes and chapters would disappear right along with the dust destroyed cassette tapes.

After a writing a few books in my head over a couple of months and then always loosing them to sleep or a tough unload, or a breakdown three hundred miles from civilization I did an amazing thing, I actually remembered the next time I was able to swing my road train in through a K-Mart, along with my typical supplies of new thongs (for my feet! sheesh you people,) a couple of pairs of stubbies (short truckie shorts,) a few singlets (Always blue -tank tops-,) that was our unofficial uniform! 26 cartons of coke, 28 cartons of smokes, 4 packets of roll your own smokes in case I ran out of ready mades, couple loaves of bread, cans of beans (cook those beauties on the engine while you drive down the road,) a few steaks (BBQ was always a chance!) and 5 bloody great big bags of ice, and there at the checkout were lined notebooks, must of been back to school time for the kids, so I picked a couple up and they became my novel holders.

So now, I'd be driving down the road and when an idea came to me I'd jot it in my note book after a few weeks of consistently filling note books, then loosing them either in the truck or at home when I hit the house. I graduated to dictation machines and over the course of a few miles I ended up with pretty hefty stash of recorded thoughts and ramblings of an over tired truckie who probably should have been pulled off the side of the road napping instead of driving down the road yakking into a machine which for the most part seemed like it would have been more believable as the ramblings of a certifiably insane male inhabitant from the planet Drongo. The tapes were actually fun to listen to once I was rested up, but they were really gobbley-gook.

Even though I never really was able to salvage my notebooks or tapes from that time, I was always creating them, never ending actually, I very rarely listed to music or radio while I drove, I would spend hours and days just watching the road and the sky and the animals and the weather and the other very occasional truckie or tourist that dared to drive the roads at night with us. And the interesting thing from doing that, was the fact that everything I did while driving became a story, with a tempo and beating heart, the thoughts became words so easily and the smallest of things became gigantic players in my road stories even my hard working engine became a character, and I'd talk to her all the time, but weird as it sounds our most intimate conversations were when I'd been driving for maybe a couple of days non stop except for food and fuel, I'd pull off the road into a clearing in the bush somewhere and shut her down, then I'd lay in my bunk and listen as she'd slowly fall asleep the sounds of cooling components creaking, the sheet metal crackling, and after a few minutes the frogs or crickets or occasional mob of kangaroos eating nearby would dominate the air with their noises every now and then a huge heavy loaded road train would lumber by and you could hear it coming for miles, then it'd chug on past and you'd hear it slowly die out as it put miles between us and those were the most peace filled moments of my life, and those were the times I dreamt of one day being a serious writer and getting down on paper some of what my life had been about.

I emigrated to the U.S. and my life became for the most part pretty typical non stop, trying to make a buck and trucking was a major part of it for over fifteen years, and then one day about ten years ago I began to write again, I'm not even sure why, but I liked what I was doing, and the writing was ok, and Patty liked it and said you need to focus on writing instead of trucking and maybe we'll get to see each other more and maybe, just maybe you could make a living doing it, and so I dabbled a little bit more, and Patty prodded me gently toward writing retreats, and I wrote some more, and Patty prodded me a little harder to attend writing workshops, and I wrote some more, and Patty prodded me to get all Nike on my craft, forget about trucking and just do it. and so now thanks to Patty I have gone from Trucker to Writer and I'm beginning to get much better now at Writing in Spite of Myself.


Monday, June 25, 2012

  Our Boy Opie

There's a pretty good reason for me not writing anything here for the past week.

Tim Tam - Max - Opie
        About ten years ago Patty and I rescued a little ginger male cat. From the outset he was a little bugger, we already had two other rescue cats, four rescue dogs, two Barbado goats, and a momma sheep with her two babies.

This ginger cat, Opie, was a pretty disruptive figure, but he has always had a great personality. He was pretty much a loner, only coming out of his hiding places to annoy the rest of our menagerie. He was supposed to be my lap cat, but that never materialized, sure he'd make out like he was going to curl up in my lap for a few minutes, putting me through pure hell as he nested, I tolerated it since I figured he was fixing to settle down. He'd bury his claws into my legs, lay down for thirteen seconds then swagger off without so much as a look over his shoulder, leaving me with a tube of Neosporin and an aching, itchy thigh! As he headed for his hiding spot under our bed, he'd always look to smack Maxie, our long haired female cat in a maneuver not unlike a drive-by, a quick thwack to the back of her head never looking at her or breaking stride.

         Over the years we lost all of the other pets, mostly to the needle due to either age or disease, all except Max and Opie, we adopted another little cat Tim Tam and then rescued a couple of "Didgeredoodles," that we still have. It's always heartbreaking to make the final trip to the vet when the time comes, I know some people who can remain unmoved or cold with regard to having to euthanize a loved pet, note how I said "Know some people," those people will always, only be acquaintances and never friends, because if you are incapable of understanding the bond of a pet to human and human to pet then something is wrong and we could never be friends.

Patty with The Didgeredoodle's
We met our favorite Vet, Dr. Wayne, almost twenty years ago when we had a couple of Miniature Schnauzers, Harpo and Sacha, and we hit immediately hit it off, he could see how much we loved those little buggers, so for about the past eighteen years whenever he had an animal that needed a home, he'd call us up and say "Hey guy's I have a Miniature Schnauzer that would love to go home with yous," So we'd run down to his practice and there would be Wayne proudly holding the collar of a Rottweiler or a Catahoula Leopard, no, I'm being serious, and I'd curl my lip and bark at him and he'd say that he was pretty sure there was a little bit of Schnauzer  in its bloodline and we'd inevitably end up taking it home. Our file wouldn't fit in his file cabinet, they used to keep it under the counter top, we ended up placing over fifteen animals and keeping a few ourselves and each one of them were precious to us.

        A couple of weeks ago we noticed that one of our cats had started to pee outside the cat box that we keep in the laundry... Side note here: I hate litter boxes, always have, always will, but we found a product called "The Worlds Best Cat Litter," and it really works, no smell, no mess, easy clean up so try it!... anyway, we would clean up the pee and disinfect and deodorize and sanitize and sterilize and every other ize you can imagine, but the next day, right in the middle of the laundry floor would be another puddle for us. It took a little while to figure out who was doing it, although my immediate suspicion was Opie, because he's, you know, a little bugger. Finally last Thursday I saw him saunter up the stairs from the laundry, pausing on the top step to survey his surroundings, then after licking his front paw, he made a beeline for the bedroom, smacking poor unsuspecting Max on the back of the head for good measure, I glanced over my shoulder and Tim Tam  was asleep on her perch so I raced downstairs and there it was, a big ole puddle of pee right in the middle of the tiled (Thank God,) laundry floor, AaaahhHAaaa said I, it is you, you little basta...I mean Bugger of a cat.
Tim Tam

        So immediately to the beholder of all knowledge, the gargantuan of good advice, Google ... Why is my cat peeing outside his litter box? Of course there were more than a few possibilities, everything from, Just being a bugger to Feline Diabetes, to Urinary Tract Infection, from the way he was acting we figured it was a UTI, so off to the vet with him, our new Up The Hill Vet... two days later, we found out our poor Opie has Feline Multiple Myeloma quite a rare cancer for cats and also no chance of survival. The vet, who by the way, is a great guy has no real indication of how long Opie will live, anywhere from a few weeks to a year, pretty much a guessing game, but, he's comfortable, we took xrays and he looks good as far as bone mass and internal organs. I hate to think of our place without Opie stealthily being in our lives, Max will probably be happy in a way, but I think Tim Tam will miss him, Wunya our male Didgeredoodle will miss his covert cuddles with Opes, and Yulara our female Didge won't miss the tormenting she had to endure from him. So we are going to love him up as much as we can and or as much as he'll let us, and when the time is right we'll make that trip with him and hold him, and love him and watch with tear filled eyes as he takes his last breath our biggest hope being that we time it right.

        So there you have it, the reason I didn't write this past week, I was just bummed and sad, and already beginning to miss the little bugger, but today as Opie actually is sitting almost totally on my right foot I decided that it would be a great time to Write in Spite Of Myself.

Our Boy Opie