Ghosts

The Joker was at the Frank Turner concert on Friday night. I knew he would be. Frank was his gift to me, he loved him before I knew him, so I would have been surprised if he hadn’t gone.

Over the past few weeks the idea that I’d see him there would float across my mind and I’d vaguely consider what I’d do should we come face to face. I had no idea.

On the day of the concert I was busy and excited so it came as a total shock to see him coming in my direction as we were walking from the car park to the venue. Luckily, in terms of avoiding utter awkwardness, we were on the escalator going up and he was walking just below us. Our eyes met and we both said “hi” before anything had actually registered.

Then I didn’t see him until FT was about to come on and I turned to my left and there he was, maybe 3 meters away. He was with the new gf and a friend…thus ensuring no conversation.

Afterwards I tried to analyze and discuss what, if anything, I felt. It’s been over eighteen months since we’d seen each other.

All I could come up with was that I felt ghosts of feelings. I can’t say I felt nothing but I can’t say I felt any true, fully formed feelings. Seeing him brought back memories, some sort of shadow of yearning, nostalgia, something. We had something that I don’t think I’ve had with anyone else and just the idea of him triggers stuff I can’t truly articulate. But there’s no pain or angst or sadness or anger or love left. But there are ghosts of all those things.

I gave him the box titled My Happiness and he didn’t treat it well and I have no one to blame but myself. I’m the only one to be entrusted with that box and if nothing else I’ve certainly learnt that valuable lesson. Two broken middle aged people can’t fix each other or be entrusted with the other’s happiness. So simple.

It was good to see The Joker looking fit and healthy and, I’m going to assume, happy. It was good that I could be near him and not totally fall down the rabbit hole of old emotions. It was reassuring to look that ghost in the eyes and keep walking.

I touched Frank Turner

That sounds much creepier than it should. No need for a himtoo hashtag. He crowd surfed over my head, so what’s a girl to do but help him along with a hand up to his sweaty chest.

It’s been a weekend. Flew to Melbs to do the middle-aged-but-fucked-if-we’re-going-to-let-that-slow-us-down rock chick thing with my partner in crime Sandy.

Started with take three of the Strange Tenants blowing the roof off The Curtin Hotel. I should stop saying wow, but WOW! Just like the old days, hot, sweaty, loud…all the good things.

Stomping the night away with old friends and new. The band was as hot as ever. Better. Age shall not weary them… The cherry on that super delicious cake was the next generation, the kids of the band members joining them onstage.

John’s son Dan plays guitar with the band anyway but his gorgeous twins hopped out to joyously knock out Mr & Mrs. Then they returned for the Moonstop finale together with the beaming prodigal son Alex Hearn. I’ve never seen a happier young man, banging out the percussion next to his proud old man. You should be SO proud Bruce.

An honour and a privilege doesn’t begin to describe how I felt at the end of the night. The history, the passion that these musicians have collectively shared with me for 35 odd years is a gift I hold very close to my heart.

But wait there’s more. Saturday brought the promise of the long awaited Frank Turner concert. It’s been three and a half years since the last time I saw him in Newcastle and Sydney and I was of course excited to see him again but also keen to reclaim him just for me.

We got there early to get front and middle. I was a bit apprehensive about being in the mosh pit but buggered if I’d let the fear of getting squished by a bunch of millennials stop me.

We all know support acts are chosen to make the main act look good but that’s not how Frank works. The divine Emily Barker kicked things off beautifully. THAT VOICE! Then The Hardaches made a lot of very Smith Street Band type noise for a two piece.

Great warm up. Now for the main event.

Frank, who later admitted to a throat infection, came out kicking. Simple: get onboard the express train or get run over.

It was relentless energy, words, music and love. THE FUCKING LOVE in that room! You could feel it. Every word to every song sung by the Melbourne Gospel Choir as he dubbed us.

Then we got our surprise, the legend Billy Bragg, joining Frank and the band for a song. The admiration both men have for each other in plain sight.

Just when you think things might wind down Frank really incited the circle pit and the last few songs were an orgy of pushing bodies and crowd surfers, including Frank, who passed over my head and I just had to help him along. What ridiculous, hedonistic joy!

The end of the show, but not the end of the night. As he said, he’d made a terrible mistake by agreeing to DJ at the infamous Cherry Bar nearby…and that’s where we headed.

Sometimes you get an unexpected happy surprise and we did when we arrived. A band amusingly called Drunk Mum’s were on stage and they fucking blew me away. If the Ramones, Nirvana and Motörhead had a baby after a very drunken one night stand this would be the result. Awesome!

Then the man was in the DJ booth and what fun. No obscure punk stuff only two old fans of Million Dead would be familiar with. No sir-ee.

Just a super fun, singalong set of everyone from Queen to The Jam to Cyndi Lauper. He’s in his daggy, music nerd element and I know if this writing brilliant songs, touring the world shit doesn’t pan out he’d make a brilliant wedding DJ.

Back at Sandy’s, in bed at 2:30 am, I can’t sleep. Buzzing with adrenalin and the feeling of every nerve ending being alive and awake.

Friday night we get to do it again Sydney. “We could get better. Because we’re not dead yet.”

Words, don’t come easy

I’m going to see my one true love Frank Turner on Sunday night. Those who know me know my absolute obsession (I’m truly sorry, not sorry) with this “skinny half-arsed English country singer“…he is skinny but he’s not really a country singer. Ex Million Dead singer, punk/folk/rock/acoustic…bloody genius.

I’m obsessed with him because of words. I’m all about the words when it comes to music (movies, friends, relationships, Dan Savage “use your words”). He is a wordsmith…and I love me a wordsmith.

Like it was yesterday, though it was five years ago, I remember the night FT was gifted to me. I’m pretty sure it was my first visit to The Joker’s little house in Blacktown. He’d made me dinner (A MAN HAD MADE ME DINNER!!) and we were sitting on his sofa when he asked me if I’d heard of this guy. Nope, I said.

He proceeded to play me Substitute and it was a moment, a big moment. I looked into his sparkly but sad blue eyes and thought “how the absolute fuck do I not fall in love with this man”. Because if this was the song he wanted to share with me first up there was deep shit behind the facade. Quickly realising his error he played Photosynthesis, probably to lighten the mood, but it only made things worse. I was in deep baby. And Frank Turner was to blame.

Anyway this isn’t the story of my doomed love affair with The Joker, it isn’t even a story about my ever deepening love affair with the newly engaged Mr Turner.

This is a little story about words. How I love them; how they have all the power. To make us laugh, cry, despair and hope. To give us strength and to shatter us beyond redemption.

I’m not much into instrumentals and I don’t have any time for orchestral music. I understand intellectually that some music might be good but if there are no words or if the words don’t resonate in my mind and heart than it means nothing to me (oh, Vienna)…sorry…

It doesn’t always have to be deep and meaningful. The Ramones’ Hey Ho Let’s Go is a clarion call without being Shakespearean.

I love clever word play, I love humour in songs, the darker the better. Love me a musical comedy genius…. Tim Minchin, Weird Al, the Tenacious D boys, Flight of the Conchords…is there anything better? Rhetorical question.

Then of course there’s the dark without the humour. When I want to rub salt into the wound there’s always Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits. Suffer, baby.

What I wouldn’t do for that talent. To make people feel. To be able to wrangle words in a way that encapsulates a moment of the human condition.

As Tim Minchin said, us humans “we’re just fucking monkeys in shoes”…true, but we do have words. And I’m all about the words. When they’re wrapped in a song they are truly a gift that keeps on giving.

If music be the food of love, play on

I’m using this Shakespearean quote out of context, sort of. Stay with me.

It’s been a weekend of music. Both Friday and Saturday nights I went to Strange Tenants’ gigs in two different venues. The Tenants are a Melbourne ska band so intrinsically linked to my teenage years that I’m not sure I can imagine who I’d be without the countless gigs of theirs that I attended during the mid 80s and beyond.

Their music is the soundtrack to a large chunk of my youth and that I’ve been able to see them again sporadically over the past few years has been nothing short of miraculous.

I went to the first gig on my own, quite happily intent on dancing and immersing myself in the music. By happy chance I bumped into two old friends from the 80s and we went on to enjoy both gigs together; reminiscing, dancing and just having a bloody wonderful time.

As I left both gigs, hot, sweaty and exhausted I reflected on the joy of being 50 and not giving a fuck. Finally I can dance and actually not care if anyone is watching and better still not care what they’re thinking if they are watching. That’s meaningful shit right there. I can definitely say that’s not always been the case.

I ended the weekend by taking my kiddos to see Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic. I had low expectations but I just loved it. I sang along and loved the music, catapulted back to the 80s, Live Aid, the Top 40… I shed a few tears at the loss of one of the absolute rock gods of my generation.

This musically immersive weekend has given me an opportunity to think about what music has meant to me. Basically, everything.

There are few life events that don’t have a musical association for me. I met both ex husbands at gigs. I stayed with the biggest but probably wrongest love of my life (largely) because of music. Music is intertwined with all my life experiences and all my emotions. I can think of songs which will instantly trigger joy, anger, sadness, heartache, hope.

I’m so very grateful for this weekend of music and for all the music that has weathered me into the person I am today.

To finish on a quote which, while not quite Shakespearean, I think eloquently sums up how I’m feeling right now: thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing… (you know the rest).

Two is the loneliest number

It’s taken me a long time (right up until the age of 50 and a half) to fully understand and accept that it’s much harder and more soul destroying to be lonely in a couple than on your own.

It’s counterintuitive that you can actually be lonely when you’re part of a couple but it’s nevertheless very possible and very painful.

Looking back I think I’ve consciously and subconsciously spent my life doing my darnedest to avoid loneliness. I’ve always thought I enjoy being socially busy and amongst people. Since I’ve been in relationships since my teens I’ve always had a significant other so I’ve never really had to face personal loneliness for extended periods.

During the past five years, since the end of my marriage, I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy chasing love, chasing away loneliness and generally chasing my tail. Now that I’m willingly and happily single again I’ve very clearly recognized that loneliness cannot be cured by simply being with another human and being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely.

Obviously I’m a bloody slow learner. Well into middle age I’ve finally slowed down, I’ve found some calm, I’ve come to clearly see that I’m enough (excuse the new age bs). I actually quite like myself and my own company. I don’t have to pretzel myself to please someone else and in the process loathe myself. I don’t have to apologize for being me; for not being enough or being too much.

So simple yet so hard. Yet here I am. Not a minute too soon and luckily not too late.

People have the power?

I’m ridiculously invested in the US midterm elections coming up this week. The election two years ago took everyone by surprise and has unleashed evil onto the (not even close) best democracy in the world and onto the rest of the world by default.

I’ve gone from asking “why Trump?” and “how could they?” to understanding that there is an agenda and that agenda will be achieved at all costs. Even the so called moral cost of the totally immoral (non) Christians behind this nightmare.

I feel like a curtain has been drawn back and I finally see the puppet masters. I guess I’ve been cocooned in my safe, middle class bubble; surrounded mostly by left leaning friends.

Trump and the voters are tools and are being used to achieve financial and social control. The need to roll/claw back the advances of the last half century is paramount to these people and all ideas of human decency are meaningless. It’s quite simply about money and power (as it has always been).

It’s not enough to say they don’t care about gay people or disabled people or poor people or refugees. They openly despise them.

We have seen the horror show called Jair Bolosaro become president in Brazil, the audacity of the Saudis in a ridiculously not subtle murder of a journalist, the disappearance of the Chinese head of Interpol, the every day crazy of Putin and Rodrigo Duterte. Just to name a few. We are so desensitized to this now.

I’m deeply concerned about how Americans are going to vote because I have to cling onto hope that people power is still the ideal, that we can overcome, that fear will not win over decency. Because I have been watching Australia follow down a similar right wing path and I’m afraid. Behind ScoMo and Mr Potato Head’s inane grins is the same agenda being rolled out in the US and elsewhere.

I don’t want to live in a fearful world where those with a “difference” are marginalized, persecuted, ridiculed, ostracized. We are all the same and I want leaders who inspire us to hold out a hand not put in the boot.

Bollocks, She Wrote

I’ve been itching to write again but felt paralyzed by indecision. What to write about? I couldn’t think of anything I know anything about. Relationships? Parenting? I know more about Astro physics than either of those things.

I know nothing about housekeeping, gardening or car maintenance. I can follow a recipe but certainly not write one. My political expertise is limited to hating conservative asshats and making snide remarks on Facebook.

So I guess it leaves me just writing bollocks and nonsense. Both fields of intellectual pursuit I’m quite comfortable amongst.

Right now I’m rediscovering what I’m about, what makes me happy or at least fulfilled in this world and ways I can do something about the deficits I can see. You could say “I’ve been to paradise but I’ve never been to me”. I’d prefer if you didn’t say that though and certainly please don’t sing it.

DKG is writing again mofos.