Monday, September 24, 2007


I'm at the end of the tunnel. For twenty weeks I've been on the road, touring like a poorly paid rock star. I get home most weekends but I spend a lot of time in motels. I take my bike, a kite and a camera as distractions for daylight hours and at night I always have a pen to keep me company.

It all came to a head on the 21st of September. Spring equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. Special day. My last presentation was at an exclusive girls school in Melbourne and I was working with the year nines who have always been my favourite species of feral and these girls were no exception. A beautiful, funny, crazy, cheeky, wild-spirited bunch that made the last eighty minutes of my touring year an absolute delight. There was a lot of joy in that last eighty minutes and four different girls were rendered incapacitated by laughter, losing it to the point of breathless tears. There's a kind of magic in that and it's one of the reasons I travel hard.

And then I was home. Home to celebrate Beej's 11th birthday (pictured, aglow), also on the 21st September. Last day of school for the term. Special day. Go-karting, bowling, more dragging behind the kite, party food and the family and friends around to spoil him. Great way to unwind, reconnect, feel the pendulum of activity swing gracefully back to home/family/office/writing time. And there's my life in a nutshell at the moment. I travel and talk to kids for twenty odd weeks and the rest of the year is divided into writing, growing food and working around home. Oh, and long hot summers by the river or at the beach. And home brew. And kayaking.

The tunnel doesn't seem as dark as it used to and the light somehow seems brighter. With the summer stretching out in front of me, all the long drives and dingy rooms have already faded and to my friends who fed me, told me stories and kept me afloat through it; a big heartfelt thanks.


I found Jesus.

Before all my Christian mates get excited I’d better explain that he was buried under a persistent pile of bills in my front room. There’s an irony in there somewhere—I found Jesus through paying my bills.

He’s actually a Jesus action figure that my brother gave me for my 39th birthday in August. I can’t remember getting a better gift, and I’ve had some doozies—exotic foods and musical instruments, a whole garden full of plants and some four-packs of black beer. Mmm. Black beer. And there’s Jesus. He has poseable arms and smooth gliding action. Wouldn’t seem right without the smooth gliding action. I wonder if the next model up can do the smooth gliding action on water? That would be cool. That would be like a Spiderman action figure that actually shoots web.

I nearly called Him a ‘doll’ but that’s so wrong. He’s not cutesy—he’s a man of action and that’s much closer to my inner vision of Jesus. Spidey shoots web, Supsey can fly and Jesus can heal people with a single touch. That’s a pretty cool super power. Like a Dr Fred Hollows from 2000 years ago. It’s better than x-ray vision (though I’d have to admit perving through clothes would be fun for a day and a career in street radiography would be an awesome community service).

There’s a punchy little story called The Turning in Tim Winton’s book of the same name. It’s about an abused woman who finds strength and solace in a little plastic Jesus in a snow dome. With his gentle eyes and his six-pack stomach, he’s a vision of a man and, at the risk of alienating my Christian brothers and sisters (and two-thirds of voting America) further, I think that sums up what Jesus means to me: a superhero, a vision of all the good things that man can be.

I haven’t finished reading the Bible but I’ve seen the movie and I know how it ends. I wish there was a Marvel Comic version. He wouldn’t have died in a Marvel comic. They wouldn’t have stood around and watched their hero being nailed up. They would have asked themselves ‘What would Brian Boitano* do?’ and executed a daring rescue. Like a streak of light, he arrives just in time. That would have left room for a raft of sequels. Jesus and the Pharaoh Queen. Eric, Son of Jesus.

Jesus: good. Religion: fan club? Nah, religions have a habit of getting nasty and self-righteous. Even Trekkies don’t doorknock. And when was the last time a Star Wars fan ran a light sabre through a Stargater? That would go against every tenet of the Jedi. The religious right are so close to the religious wrong and when the leader of the modern world—our Caesar—can invoke Jesus’ dad’s name to justify going against everything that Jesus represented (what ever happened to compassion and forgiveness and the brotherhood of humanity?) then he’s missed the point. And if the other guy’s invoking his own god to justify the terror then he’s equally misguided. I haven’t read the Qur'an either but I’ve got a condensed version and while it’s not as bloodthirsty as the Old Testament, it’s not far off the mark. Their superhero, Muhammad, was in the same league as Jesus and Buddha and Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr and John Lennon; people who united tribes, believed in loving your neighbour, peaceful solutions and harmony.

The whole superhero thing turns messy when you factor in Batman fighting the Penguin or the Joker. Blam. Kapow. Kazam. Jesus wasn’t in to giving the bad guys a thumping but reading the Bible I got the distinct impression that his dad was. Put a statue of an eagle in your driveway and he’d give you the pox for worshipping false idols. The ‘one and only’ syndrome. Like a Collingwood supporter. Unless you barrack for Collingwood all the cheering and booing can get a bit tedious to listen to.

I think the religions of the world need a Greatest Hits album. Something that celebrates the ideas that are universal and human. We need faith, but without the dogma. I think we need more action figures. I’d collect the full set. Maybe, if I ask nicely, I’ll get them for my next 39 birthdays. What do you say, bro?

*Brian Boitano—Italian-American figure skater immortalised as a superhero in the South Park cartoon.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


You put a stick in a year seven boy's hand and it becomes a gun, a sword, a spear, a boomerang. It gets poked in the fire and shunted around the campsite with the obligatory train sound effects. It narrowly misses someones eye and is blown on to create another fire some distance from the original. A fire he can call his own, to lovingly tend and feed with ants poked into a frenzy with the original stick.

Year seven girls sing into their sticks. They ask me if I think they'll be suitable for cooking marshmallows or damper and take turns in carrying them back to the campsite. They use them to write names in the dirt, and when they're done, they ask if it's okay to put them on the fire.

That's the difference between boys and girls. Of course, there's a full spectrum of variation within the gender profiling of stick use but the fundamentals are universal. Some other things I noticed this week in Murtoa were that girls fart less than guys (about seventeen to one, though the girls DID fart), boys didn't spend a lot of time arm-in-arm singing the Barmy Army theme song but the girls had it on high rotation, and boys and girls who spend every school day together rejoice when they're allowed to spend time apart doing girlie/boyie things.

School camps, in the bush, with shooting stars and a fire, have a magic about them. High praise to the teachers who make them happen.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Sometimes I get sick of the idea that we're all on a hero's journey. You know that thought that we're alone on this trip through life and that we need to compete with the Joneses because if we don't we'll fall behind and then we won't be as cool as them and then we might ... I don't know what might happen ... maybe we'll DIE!!!

There are things that make me feel connected to the world, proud to be human and like we're making the world a better place. Things like stumbling across lovely people while we're camping. Like helping someone out when you see them in trouble. Things like doing stuff with our neighbours.

James and Eliza live in the old Yallourn house next door and they're lovely lovely people. We've had some neighbours from hell in the past and I guess we've been neighbours from hell, too, but sometimes we just fit. We just fit with James and Eliza. Drink the same mongrel teas, grow food, our dogs are great mates and we keep finding excuses to pull the fences down between our places.

We spent the weekend building a hothouse to share and it was like one of those Amish community endeavours though I guess we swore more and used power tools and the tractor where the Amish would have used manual labour and kept their curse words to the bare minimum. Dang. Golly. Gosh.

We were all happy with the finished product. We're yet to see how we go sharing the space. Should be another opportunity to be graceful and forthright, cheeky and helpful. A chance to be neighbourly. In the dirt.