Monday, January 29, 2007

Cry Baby, Cry Baby, Cry Baby, Cry!

I think I’m turning into a sooky-la-la! For the past couple of months, I just haven’t been able to stop crying!

Imagine that! Strong, masculine Donkey, snivelling away in front of the TV; bawling on the train; wailing on the plane; sooking at the movies!

What’s this? Are we talking about the same Donkey who kicked Brad McMahon in the arse all those years ago? Surely not!

Is this the same Donkey who used to sit in the back row of the bus with all the tough kids and bellow intimidations at the young tykes as they huddled in safety behind the driver? It couldn’t be!

Surely not our Donkey, who cuts up mountains of onions every night, with narry a tear!

Not our Donkey; three times, back-to-back title-holder at La Trobe University for being able to squeeze more lemons into his eye than any other!

It couldn’t be our Donkey – he’s as stone-cold and unemotional as Val Kilmer in Top Gun! Donkey just does not cry!

But alas it’s true, I’ve become a sop! It all started a couple of months ago when I was sitting on the couch, watching the Amazing Race Asia. Our contestants were racing through Auckland, and as is customary at the end of each leg of the race, they are welcomed to the country by a representative of the people, usually dolled-up in some form of traditional dress. So it might be a mountie in Canada, a bikini-clad model in Brazil or a Renaissance courtier in Venice.

But of course, this time we were in New Zealand, and the welcoming official was a Maori man in traditional dress, who blew through his conch shell, and said, “Kia’ora! Welcome to New Zealand”. And when he blew that shell, I immediately deteriorated on the couch into a blubbering mess!

A couple of weeks later, I was travelling by train back into Delhi, sitting between two colleagues, and listening to my Zen in order to ward off further Saving the World shop-talk. Restlessly, I browsed through my library for a while, before settling on a mix of music from Samoa and the Solomons, and some occasional offerings from other parts of the Pacific. And for the next hour and a half, there I sat, hunched forward in the foetal position to keep my face shadowed from my colleagues, stricken with tears as it was, sobbing along to Sharzy, Te Vaka and Tihati.

Not long after that, again back on the couch, I was cranking-up the DVD of Remote Area Nurse (RAN), and just as the menu display was coming on-line, so too did the amazing, haunting voices of the Torres Straight Islanders, as they thundered over the “home theatre system” in incredible, four-part harmony – and I wept! And with Mrs Donkey falling into step beside me, I continued to do so for the next two hours as we saw our beloved Pacific – this time portrayed as a part of our own land, with all the breath-taking scenery, familiarly alien sounds and heart-wrenching drama of that remarkable culture.

And then, a week later, while curled up on a plane seat, blanket over my head so that my neighbour wouldn’t get scared and dob me into the Sky Marshalls, I wept as the music from RAN washed over me once again.

What’s going on … what’s happening to me? I’m still yer regular, macho, red-blooded male Donkey, with an eye for a dame and a thirst for a big, cold beer. I love kickin’ the footy, wrestlin’ with me mates and eating a pint of raw chillies if that’s what I’m dared to do.

I’m tough … and I’m strong … and I’m not a girly sook! But something is happening. I’m feeling more and more displaced. I am missing something … missing someone … missing home … missing a home …

Someone … something … somewhere … is calling.

NB: Just watched the last episode of RAN …and was a blubbering idiot by the end!

Something is drawing me back ... I wonder what it could be? Pic: Sally

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My life in Manga

Back in the 80s, long before North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, or Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were threatening worldwide nuclear destruction; back when another psychopathic madman, Ronald Reagan, was getting on the Russians' tits about everything from trade and arms, to the arms-trade; back when Sting was cranking-up a flagging solo career with soppy, one-sided, social-conscience ballads; and back when Pete Garrett, fresh from the barber-shop, was televising an epileptic fit in front of the US’s giant, white, nuclear golf-ball located slap-bang in the middle of the Australian desert, every young Aussie Donkey worth his radiation-proof suit was shitting himself about an impending nuclear war which was looking like wiping human-kind off the face of the planet.

At the time, the pervading global angst associated with our prophesized shortened lifespan influenced a massive booty of books, movies and TV shows aiming to get us ready for the new big bang. Books like Z for Zachariah, Brother in the Land, Children of the Dust and The Chrysalids were all set in the uncertain days following the near-extinction of the human race. Mad Mel Gibson (before he really did go a bit loopy) brought it all to life for us Australians on the big screen as Max negotiated his way through the post-apocalyptic Outback, and this was followed up by the action comic adventures of Tank Girl.

There were a heap of TV shows as well (although admittedly these were usually the B-grade TV shows from the US that were only screened during the holiday season), such as Other World, and The Highwayman (ouch, that was bad! Even our very own Jacko didn’t help to bring that one back from the poo-pile), but there were some more thoughtful attempts as well, which were usually one-offs, such as the Australian Winners series. Of course, some of the old faithfuls, like Dr Who and Blakes’ 7 contributed their fair share of adventures in the post-nuclear landscape.

One that particularly springs to mind, however (and the actual reason for this rabid spray) was a Manga cartoon which we got to see in Australia in the 80s, and which probably had some awesome Japanese name which would be roughly translated to something like, “Super-Sexy, Funky, Young, Intergalactic Warrior Freedom Fighters Exploring the Galaxy to Save Mankind”, but which our linguistically challenged, 1980s translators decided to call Starblazers*.

The basic plot of Starblazers was that nuclear war had forced small pockets of human survivors to live in underground cities. The surface had become so hot and uninhabitable, and so devoid of life, that the survivors, realising it was time to return to the surface, were forced to go searching the universe for other inhabited worlds on which the remnants of mankind could carve out a new, more eco-friendly existence. So off they went, aboard a massive space-craft that had been converted from a 20th century sea-vessel. Weird, hey? Those crazy Japanese writers!

Anyway, Starblazers was, if I recall, a rather lengthy series, and the action sequences that kids love were liberally punctuated with all the soap-opera and relationships drama that Manga does so well, and I recall one episode when the crew had returned to Earth from their intergalactic exploratory mission empty-handed, and one of the main protagonists had journeyed back to the now abandoned underground cities with his main squeeze, a suitably waif-like, saucer-eyed, blond beauty. Our hero, his back turned from his beautiful, concerned companion, was reviewing flash-backs from his miserable, underground childhood, and was spitting anger from between his gritted teeth as he vowed to do all within his power to ensure his people would never have to live here again, like rats trapped in a cage, with nothing but vast, empty, isolating wastelands beyond.

Following this angst-ie speech, the Manga camera panned away from our pair in suitably dramatic stages, and what we saw was first the abandoned, littered street, then the line of sky-scraper like buildings lining the street, then more of them as we panned-out further, and then a whole, futuristic, but dilapidated city full of towers and sky scrapers – not a tree or any life in sight – and then further, we saw the edge of this concrete monstrosity, before empty, lifeless rock and rubble, and then, finally, the walls of the hollowed-out caverns.

I hadn’t thought I had remembered any of this, but obviously my own fear of nuclear destruction at the time had ensured that this scene was burned into one of the trillions of unused caverns in my limp Donkey brain, ‘cause just this week, I was unfortunate enough, as I flew over the capital of the sunny Maldives on a mission for Saving the World HQ, to witness “in the flesh”, this same post-apocalyptic city … and it all came flooding back.

“Oh no” thinks you, “Donkey’s lost it this time … the Maldives is that place where lily-white Europeans escape the winter to lay about in ultra-luxury on beautiful decks or under waving palms, sipping cocktails as they stare at the azure sky and turquoise reef, returning home a week later, brown as a berry and covered in hickeys!”. Well yeah, that is the very same Maldives, but those worshippers of the Roman god, Sol, generally land on the airport island, are ushered by resort operators to their luxury sea craft, and then whisked away to a dream existence of sun, sex, booze and … sex for a week, before returning back to the airport and to Europe.

What they usually do not do, is visit Male’. Male’, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, is a tiny island sitting in the middle of a vast, empty ocean - an emptiness which, on the surface at least, appears to the viewer flying above, as being devoid of life.

This enormous, featureless, blue emptiness stretches from Sri Lanka to Madagascar. There’s nothing between these except the undulating sea … and of course Male’. An island packed solid, from one artificial, reclaimed perimeter to the next, with tall, multi-storied apartment buildings, government offices, mosques and presidential palaces. Almost devoid of trees, this mountain of grey and white concrete, with its flashing, neon crown of advertising rises out of the flat, blue like some steep-sided volcano … or like some science fiction space colony, full of frightened humans trying to hang onto their last memory of humanity in a post apocalyptic world.

These were my first impressions of Male’, where I would spend the next few days in some kind of spiritual agony. Where were the tree-lined streets along the sea front, like in my beloved capital cities of the Pacific? Where were the old warehouses and rickety colonial houses? Where were the bustling fish markets? The dilapidated fleet pushing the bounds of seaworthiness? Where were the fat women selling papaya and kumara? Where was the island life I have loved and which I was expecting to find after so long in exile?

Not in Male’! In Male’ I found a polished, urban jungle which had wiped away all physical traces of its history, and which has unconditionally embraced wealth and consumerism in the form of cars, phones, luxury boats and motorcycles (and bear in mind that the whole island is only two square kilometres).

As I explored Male’ in those first days, my heart ached at the loss of a way of life that the ancestors of these people must have once enjoyed … a life that sustained. And as I wandered along the sea wall at night, past the hundreds of Maldivian young people who gather there every night (because there is no where else for them to go), I wondered whether, like our young Japanese hero of Starblazers, one of them would one day growl that he would do everything he could to ensure that his people would never again have to live like this, pent up in this concrete bunker like rats in a trap!

More on Male’ later…

Starblazers - it was a long time ago, but it seems to have left an indelible mark on my brain. Pic: Google images.

* Hey, guess what? I wasn’t quite on the mark, but Wikipedia informs me that it was really called Space Battleship Yamato.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Head Rush

DISCLAIMER: You might remember a while ago my writing in response to an assignment from the good folk over at the House of Sternberg. Well here we are again … the assignment as follows;

Using first person narration from the gender perspective opposite your own, write seven hundred words about unrequited love using the title: HEAD RUSH. And just to make it more interesting, your character must have some deformity, imagined or otherwise.

DISCLAIMER II: No need to read this one, Mum.

“Sure Baby, I’ll have another gin. Thanks Gorgeous”, I drawl as his silver beard slobbers on my cheek before departing towards the bar; the lingering memory of raw onions complementing the visual of his huge form waddling across the disco lights reflected in the polished floor.

As always, in order to keep my revulsion under control, my thoughts wander dreamily to Ang; that perfect, golden, hairless chest rising from his rippling abdomen – just perfect! I love the way he lets me caress his torso; run my tongue across his nipple, and I adore how I loll-off slightly as he whispers in his deep, but almost inaudible voice – hypnotized, my whole body tingles sleepily as I enjoy the comforting, dampened, buzzing in my ears; strangely electrifying and meditating at the same time – God I love him.

He’s back now … this Barry. He’s banging-on about the days when he used to play football. I wonder to myself just how long ago that must have been as I look at how his stool has completely disappeared beneath his enormous gut, and how his plump arms seem to protrude grotesquely from the front of his trembling body rather than from the sides like everyone else.

I’m saying all the right things, “Mmmm … you must be one strong guy … I love big, strong men” but I’m not even thinking about it, and in fact I’m starting to disengage mentally as he starts to rub his beer-sticky hands up my inner thigh. As he slobbers on my neck, I cope with this the only way I know how … I think of this afternoon … I think of Ang.

In the heat of the day, when all the rest of the girls are out shopping and working, he comes creeping through the darkness, and I rub his knotty back. He caresses my hair and we make love. He is always shy at first – his gentleness a familiar game, before we become more and more needy; our desires for each other growing frantic and urgent.

My thoughts have the usual, unwanted, shameful effect. My hideous deformity impossible to hide as this drunken, slavering hog finds what he’s been searching for and mistakenly chortles with self-congratulation at what he thinks he has done.

How many more times will I have to endure this? I start doing the sums in my head … five times a week for another six weeks, I figure – as I get caught up in the calculations, my heavily breathing companion starts to get agitated. He growls his annoyance and I am forced to refocus.

The effect, again, is visible, and I all but blush (not quite, though, that’d be bad for business) when I recall Ang’s anguished confusion as he looked at me dressing that first day. How I hated myself as he looked away from my abomination. The distaste in his eyes still returns to haunt me every day, just before 2pm, as I lay in the darkened room in my underwear, waiting with anticipation for him to come creeping into the cot beside me, feeling sure that today he has met another – one who is not hideously disfigured, who he will follow to another darkened room. I hold my breath as I wait, as if that would make any difference, but I know I would never breathe again if he didn’t come … the thought of being without him is as hideous to me as my distorted body is to him.

The sweating heap of lard beside me is literally panting now with exertion. The back of my neck is soaked with drool … thirty-four more times I will go through this before I have enough bhat to pay the doctor, and then Ang will come to me in daylight – he will look me in the eye, and he will whisper to me, making me tingle all over, and tell me that he loves me.

I want him so much, but for that I need to be healed. The truth is, thirty-four times is not too many; I would go through this sixty-eight times if it means I will have my Ang … I just hope he will wait.