writing

Uncle Charlie

Heard the one about the drunk old aborigine and the blonde barmaid? It goes a bit like this:

I have a bar in a neighbourhood known for its eclectic mix of locals. Originally an Italian area that got a bit gritty with dosshouses and squatters, it’s now gone way past being gentrified and is one of the most expensive, sought after suburbs in which to live. Even so, there’s enough of the old incarnation to keep it a pretty interesting mix, and it’s close enough to the main nightclub area that there’s always the seedier element of city living hanging around the streets.

For the most part, I find the characters highly entertaining. I’ve seen hookers brawling in the middle of a traffic intersection, fixed in a turf war death match that resulted in one broken handbag, a ripped skirt and a bleeding nose; I’ve had a junkie who wanted to know if the reason I wouldn’t serve him was because he’d left his specs at home; I’ve watched a pregnant hooker get more clients than all the others; been robbed by ratty little kids whose getaway vehicle was a foot propelled scooter; overheard endless drug-addled conversations about needing to buy a packet of smokes; caught a drag queen in a Marge Simpson wig & eight inch heels pissing in my outdoor ashtray, and a 70 year old disabled tranny with rainbow hair, eye makeup that looks like he’s been attacked by toddlers wielding paint guns and an assortment of plastic beads around his neck tells me at least three times a day that he wants to take me home to his boudoir. I’ve seen more male genitalia in the last four years than I have the previous thirty-two years, and I’ve disturbed a prostitute giving a bloke a quick blow job between my wheelie bins. What can I say? It’s a romantic life. There is one character that stands out more than all the others though. His name is Uncle Charlie.

Most people know Charlie; the local police and social workers certainly know him. I first met him when he stumbled down the street and decided to perch on my window ledge with a crumpled cigarette and a Tooheys longneck, much to the consternation of the patrons already seated in that window. I went out to move him along, only for him to get me in a headlock and drag me halfway down the street. When I finally got out of his grasp, I’d lost a diamond hoop earring somewhere in his big, white beard. I never did get it back. It was a fairly dramatic introduction to him, but for some reason we’ve developed a kind of friendship despite it.

Charlie is in his late sixties, although he looks much older, with a massive mess of white hair and a scruffy white beard. If Santa Claus was indigenous and had been on an alcohol-fuelled bender for twenty years, he’d probably look like Uncle Charlie. Occasionally someone gives him a haircut and trims his beard, and he looks great. Handsome, even. I’ve noticed his shirts are generally pretty nice, well ironed and clean, although his jeans are always the pits. And he is always somewhere between very drunk and comatose.

Uncle Charlie’s been banned from every pub in the area, even the really dodgy one up the hill that’ll serve any old derelict. He can be a handful. He likes to shout and call passers-by “bastard cunts”, and he’s always pushing people to see how they’ll react to his presence. He used to cause me a few dramas too, but one night I caught a glimpse of something soft and funny in him and realised it was all a big act. I told him he was full of shit and should give it a rest. Just when I thought he was about to take a swing at me, he broke into an amazing smile and let out a huge belly laugh.

“Ahh, sista. You’re alright.”

He realised I wouldn’t put up with his bullshit, but he also knew I’d seen a bit further than his obnoxious behaviour normally allows.

That was a couple of years ago, and he’s never caused me any drama since. He visits fairly regularly, always at the end of a night when he wants a chat. And it always starts off the same.

“You gonna let me in, my friend?”

“Maybe Charlie, how drunk are you?”

“You being a racist cunt?”

“Don’t be a dickhead”

He laughs, comes in and shakes my hand. He’ll do his best to get a free beer out of me, but he has to pay like everyone else. Then we sit and talk.

Initially our conversations were nonsense, him rubbishing on about what he’d done during the day, and trying to shock me with stories I knew were bluster. Then a shift occurred. It was like I’d passed his test and was now to be trusted. One night he decided to tell me about his life and how he got to be a drunk, old bum. Bugger me if Uncle Charlie didn’t turn out to be one of the wisest, warmest, most thought provoking people I’ve ever spoken to.

Charlie’s been around. He’s travelled all over Australia, and can rattle the names of towns he’s passed through off the top of his head as though his brain wasn’t screwed from too much alcohol. He fell in love with a woman from somewhere in the Northern Rivers area, but stuffed that up by being a drunk. He had a brother he was very close to who died in a car accident, an event that became the catalyst for Charlie’s drinking. He never got over it. He has a huge scar down his stomach from where he tried to kill himself while driving drunk some time thereafter, and he’s got a bit of bone missing from his skull. I’ve felt it; it’s as disgusting as it sounds. He never tells me his stories looking for sympathy; they’re always relayed with a shrug and a “that’s life” kind of feeling. He tells me them simply because I’m listening.

But last time he was in, he really floored me. Bored with talking about himself (“why you gotta be so curious about me, woman?” he blasted when he was sick of my questions, and the answers he had to give) he turned his attention to my life.

“I been watchin’ you. You work too hard.”

“Oh, yeah. But I’m the boss. I’ve got to do it.”

“You workin’ for the man. Don’t do it.”

“Charlie, I’m the boss. I work for myself.”

“I know you the boss you stupid bitch, but you not workin’ for yourself. You not happy sista.”

He was right. It’s a complicated story and not one that needs retelling, but I do what I do out of obligation, and it doesn’t make me happy. Blinded by alcohol as he often is, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with his skills of perception. He’s seen enough to recognise a few things in people, and for all his drunken antics, he knows what he’s talking about. That night proved to me he deserves to have his wisdom heard. It was pure luck that Charlie broke through my prejudices and proved to be more than just another derelict I had to deal with, but he’s made me think about where I’m headed nonetheless.

He reckons he’s going to Darwin when the weather gets a bit warmer. I’m certain he’s talking rubbish, but on the off chance he’s not, I can honestly say I’ll miss the silly old ratbag. It can be a lonely life, being self-employed and working nights, knowing there’s no one to go home to. He’s provided me with decent company and a refreshing view of humanity on more than one occasion, and it does make me wonder just how much knowledge we miss out on as a society by discounting that people like him have anything of value to offer us.

Mostly though, I just shake my head in wonder at the anomaly that is Uncle Charlie. I always watch him as he trundles off home, zigzagging down the road. Even on the nights when he leaves pissed off that I won’t serve him because he’s too drunk, I am rewarded with a wave and a cheeky grin as he turns the corner. The man is too damn charming for his own good.

I suspect that’s half his problem.

by caz.

Ramblings

And see, the funny thing is, occasionally you can read too much into a situation. You can over-analyse everything, and make something out of nothing. You can try and stop your heart with your head, which never really works out well. You can ask yourself and others a million questions in an attempt to figure it out, when you aren’t supposed to understand anyway. It’s just life, the reasons aren’t always clear. You can try to avoid situations in order to avoid pain and confusion. That never works, you just end up regretting not giving it a go. And you can drive yourself crazy wondering why you did it, why you always do it, why you are the way you are. And really, none of that matters. We are what we are and will always be.

by caz.

 

LIKING PEOPLE.

A friend of mine said yesterday that people liking each other is the most important thing in the world. She’s right, of course, except that occasionally the world decides that while it is important, it just isn’t important right now.

Sometimes, no matter how much two people like each other, you have to put that aside, file it away, shove it in the bottom draw. It’s not easy, in fact it’s really fucking hard. But you do it, because there’s really no other option.

Maybe one of the people doing the liking hasn’t finished working out what they like within themselves first, or maybe they want to know whether there are better options in the liking department. Maybe they’ve thought they have liked people before, and realised that the feeling was transient and not based on real liking at all. Maybe they doubt their liking instincts, or the liking is a smidge one sided.

Sometimes it’s just the case that there’s a whole world to be experienced, and for the time being that’s a wee bit more important than liking, or being liked by, anyone. And it’s a sign of how much you like someone that you would hate to see them miss out on seizing absolutely everything on offer to them.

So…have faith that the world knows what it’s doing. What may appear to be lousy timing may in fact be a blessing in disguise. And try to remember never, ever, to stop liking.

by caz.

Notorious

Vamp. Tramp. Temptress. Seductress. Tart. Trollop. Words that conjure up such wickedness, such evil, such sensuous manipulation of men!

In what is primarily still a man’s world, where things are seen and documented from a male point of view, the worst villains are always women. Sure, there have been some seriously devilish men, but the best of the worst are always the women. Just ask the happy folks at Disneyland. In a recent poll of the “Best of the Worst” villains, three of the top five characters were women. It seems even the kids are picking up on just how vindictive women can be…

In our culture, women are portrayed as either angels or monsters – never anything in between. Yet even the angels among us are assumed to have a repressed manic energy. “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned” and all that. Women are expected to go mad at some stage in their lives – it’s just a matter of when.

Why? Is it really all Eve’s fault for believing that dastardly serpent? Was Adam so peeved with his woman for denying him a life spent lazing around in Eden eating mangoes, that he felt obliged to teach every man after him never to trust a woman?

Or was it Adam’s mythological first wife, Lilith? She liked it on top, but he wanted to make love missionary style so he told her to bugger off. Given that most men would be content with sex in any position, was Adam perhaps a repressed homosexual? That’s it! No wonder the Catholics have exerted so much energy repressing women and bolstering the position of men. The last thing they would want made public is that the father of mankind is a raving poofter!

Then there was Pandora and her irresistible box of evil little voices. Her curiosity didn’t just kill the cat; it damned mankind for all eternity.

It is a theme that runs consistently through history, from ancient mythology to present day. Women stuffed up by taking the initiative, and refusing to wait for a man. Interestingly, the very characteristics that make these women a target are the same personality traits admired in men – aggression, courage, strength, independence and dominance.

Of course, as the feminists have been pointing out for the past 40 years, we’ve historically only ever heard the bloke’s side of the story. Maybe both Eve and Pandora were sick of languishing with the limp wristed other halves, and desperate for a bit of excitement. Who knows? Lilith certainly wasn’t going to hang around, sexually frustrated and subservient to her husband’s urges. The world’s first feminist, was our Lilith. Germaine Greer in full flight was never a patch on Lil, who screamed and cursed Adam for banishing her from Eden, and spawned evil little babies to harass her ex husband.

We will never really know what caused women to obtain such a violently unattractive reputation, although perhaps Freud went some way to explaining the problem all men face, when he admitted that for all his psychoanalysis, he never could work out the intricacies of the feminine psyche. I suspect a lot of the mystery surrounding women relates to men’s view of ‘that time of the moth’, and their utter bemusement at the mood swings, cravings, obsessions and trauma that females go through every month. Part of the expectation that women eventually go troppo must surely come from generations of men watching their mothers’ journey through the wonderful world of menopause, without actually understanding what the poor woman was enduring. This thinking, by association, must culminate in long lasting cultural references to the Mother-in- Law figure.

What we do know is that the motif of the dangerous woman remains current in our culture and shows no sign of abating. Within society, we don’t ever anoint a queen of ‘nice’ (well, we have Miss Universe but no one in their right mind takes that seriously), yet we always have a reigning queen of all that is conniving, manipulating and obsessively sexual.

In every generation, there is one woman anointed by society, who embodies the archetypical temptress. A mysterious, dark and untouchable fembot, whose only aim in life is to suck the essence out of every man she encounters. These women come primarily from the rank of actress, perhaps as a result of the flamboyant nature of the business and because as a profession it was always seen as only a slight step up from prostitution, although there has been the occasional politician, author and painter.

So what sets these women apart from their peers?

Well, firstly they act as though men’s only use in life is to provide a little light entertainment; they appear to believe that men are an unnecessary appendage in life. This is a woman who we could never envisage living for her family, standing in the kitchen making her husband’s dinner, hanging out the washing, or ducking through the supermarket, a kid on her hip, grabbing toilet paper, sugar and milk. Audrey Hepburn, widely considered one of the most beautiful women to have ever lived, couldn’t have cut it as a vamp. She was too domestic, too devoted a wife and mother, too darn nice. Instead, one imagines a real vamp waking slowly just before lunch, wrapped in satin sheets, hair shining in the late morning sun, her luscious ruby lips calling for a Bloody Mary to get the day rolling. These aren’t the sort of women you wouldn’t take home to meet your mother; they’re the sort of women who wouldn’t want to meet her anyway. Wanton women, who care for nothing other than their own peace of mind, are somehow Succubus incarnate. It is as though women, in forsaking their duty as controller of domesticity and childrearing, are letting down society. The inability to become breathless with excitement at the thought of a new washing machine in which to clean hubby’s clothes is seen as almost deviant in mindset. Indeed, many continue to believe that the family is the very foundation up on which we depend, without it we are ruined. Every woman who consciously chooses to ignore her social responsibility represents one more tear in the moral fibre of society. The “Post War Happy Housewife” must be determined to lose herself in the happiness, and cleanliness, of her family. Any other way of life just isn’t normal.

Secondly, a vamp is nobody’s fool and nobody’s victim. She most certainly does not require rescuing. Marilyn Monroe, the world’s most famous sexpot, doesn’t fit in with these women as she always had a quality about her that seemed fragile. Even in a low cut, figure-hugging sequinned number, all lips and tits and breathless singing, she appeared as though a little girl secretly dressing up in her mother’s clothes. Men yearned to be the one to save her, yet the only thing that could have helped her was a large dose of what a true vamp possesses in truckloads – confidence. Vamps exude self-assuredness. They live to please themselves and are not fazed by outside opinions. They aren’t the sort of women to check themselves when they bend down so that their underwear doesn’t show. Rather, they’d be quite happy if someone did get a flash of their undoubtedly sexy underwear.

Most importantly, these are women who have never apologised for their behaviour, as they frankly don’t see what needs repenting. Where men historically flex their muscles, or those of their troops, women flex their brains and squeeze their opponents by the heart or the testicles – whichever they reach first. What’s more, they get away with it, via a raised eyebrow and a determined pout. There have been some ballsy women throughout history – Queen Victoria, Joan Crawford, Margaret Thatcher, yet they never really got away with being iron fisted. Mostly, they were just written off as uptight bitches who ‘need to get some’.

Why do we bestow on some women an almost reverential form of fame, while others are hard-hearted old bags?

An undeniable part of the allure must their beauty, although it is by no means the only reason. Grace Kelly was a stunning woman, but always seemed to have something ultimately wholesome about her. Jane Fonda almost had what we’re looking for. Barbarella proved beyond doubt what a little sex rocket she could be, but then she went all serious, all activist, all aggression and frustration. Hanoi Jane didn’t exactly exude sex appeal riding in a tank during the Vietnam War, in her camouflage gear and with her hard hat slipping sideways off her head. Not even if the world did know she was pretty gorgeous under all that dirt and dust!

No, it is more than just beauty. It is an awareness of their attributes, combined with a total disregard for their looks, a slightly untouchable quality, a self sacrificing sense of humour, and a twinkle in their eye that indicates there is serious mischief to be made. No matter how bad they are, you can’t help thinking they’d be fun to hang around.

Their effect is measurable on both males and females. Men seem to behold the seductress in morbid fascination – at once repelled and aroused at the thought of a woman proving them redundant, while women are caught between jealousy and admiration. In either case, the world is in awe of the vamp.

So, are these man-eating, praying mantis-like, hyper sexualised, masculinised women all bad? With the media constantly chugging out constructed images of the world, who knows? We do know that their very existence threatens the makeup of society, the way we are conditioned to expect women to behave, and the standing of man and women as equals; with men a little more equal than the women.

Yet the vamp is a necessary evil. We need rebels and rule breakers amongst us to provide the excitement and interest in life. We need them so that we may safely experience danger by living vicariously through the experiences of those daring enough to take a risk, and we need them to measure ourselves against. In short, we need the sinners as much as the saints in order that we may live a little easier within our own mundane lives.

The power she wields over society ensures there will always be women who would relish the opportunity to personify all that is deliciously, hellishly, sensuously alluring, untrustworthy and villainous about women. It is, after all, what sells stilettos and red lipstick – year after year, generation after generation.