smashing systems

Around the corner from my apartment, scrawled on a wall in white paint, is the immortal message;


I will always be too much of a pedant to be that much of a rebel.


fragments from the housewarming

A note to self: stock up on ewoks when you become single. Star Wars toys seem to make the ladies happy.So, yes, the party went pretty well. A weird mix of costumed and non-costumed oddballs with little in common except for some occult knowledge of either Her or I. There were debt collectors and DJs, younger brothers and step-siblings, ex-girlfriends and advertisers, nerds and geeks, musicians and butchers, digital artists, doll destroyers and porn connoisseurs. I have half-remembered conversations about blackjack, Balinese masks and fridges from the 1950s. I discovered that Sean Connery is really too old in Never Say Never Again and that the new place officially qualifies as a ‘pad’. I also learned that one should never drink a cocktail named after its inebriated creator. It is invariably both the taste and colour of mud. Concomitantly, never ask someone to make a cocktail for you if a) you openly express your desire to taste something ‘experimental’; and b) the aforesaid someone has had a few drinks themselves. I can only apologise to all parties concerned for that one.

No-one fell off the balcony, or threw up off it. I admit to spending much of the night awaiting a short, splattering sound, quickly followed by the shrill defiled beep of a car alarm. Thankfully, it never arrived. (Remind me to tell you the one about my Honours supervisor’s adventures in Singapore, which involved an escalator with a fifty-foot drop, an unsuspecting open-air café and a lot of bad seafood. On second thoughts, perhaps best to leave that one in the past.)

S_____ left her jacket over a chair. On closer inspection it turned out to be made of the flensed skins of new romantics. P_____ swanked it up, her outfit held precariously in place by a fragile chain stolen from her employer earlier that day. Some players put taproots down into the couch for the first half of the night, while others mingled, displaying their disturbing grasp over the intricacies of Blake’s 7.

Afterwards. There is schnapps in the pantry and ice-cream in the freezer, and three discs of Bad Seeds b-sides to listen to. I just got paid and new comics day is just around the corner. Life is looking good.


There’s a man queuing for the bus, battered paperback in one hand and groceries in the other. The air is saturated by pigeon feathers and the overripe smell of warm grapes from the fruit shop.
A girl stands nearby, swathed in dark blue silk. Only her eyes are visible.
An old woman stumbles out from an alleyway and starts a lengthy conversation with no one on the quality and consistency of grey-white spatter that covers the footpath.
A man sleeps in a doorway, cradled by warm cement. A lit cigarette is balanced precariously on his lips.
Tall Africans move through the crowd gracefully while white trash flock around like seagulls, squawking at their children.Take a man, rewind two years, and you will find him finally freed from exams and assignments after half a dozen long years, those final months grueling, the mental equivalent of fingernails on blackboards. Sometimes when he sits down he wonders if he’ll ever be able to get back up again.

Rewind three years. He is watching someone, a strange man-child who can lead a conversation from wookiee martial arts through to the Terminator movies without drawing breath. The stranger is currently recounting, word for word and action for action, scenes from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This odd creature will later be known for his performance at the local comics store, stalking up the stairs like he was Tarantino’s Bride. He’s short, slightly round and Taiwanese. He makes Star Wars fan films, and one day he may actually kill everyone who’s ever laughed at him. Downstairs, co-workers poke each other’s nipples with pens and listen to Rammstein. The room smells like sweat, soy sauce and lonely men’s bungalows.

Rewind five years. He’s meeting a girl who likes anime. She doesn’t know it yet but there’s a whole lot of evil in her stomach, wrapping thick black weeds through her choked insides. It’ll be enough to make her scream and stumble through the morphine. For now though, that scar-tissue kudzu is far away.

Rewind nine years. He’s a boy, now, talking to a girl who might be interesting or cool or tragically sad but she doesn’t know whether that’s just the chemicals talking. They’re peeling chocolate icing from the top of school cafeteria doughnuts, talking about horse tranquilizers and the significance of the lily. He’s addicted to nicotine but has never smoked.

Fast forward six years and he’ll be ruthlessly self-editing, bringing down the scalpel of time and memory, selectively removing those narratives that went nowhere.


and then suddenly it is the next day.

Monday morning on the 8:10am from West Footscray. Packed train. Across the crowded aisle is a Vietnamese woman in a poorly fitting t-shirt entitled special gorgeous fantastic, which for a moment I understand to say  specious gorgorobot fantasy. Everyone is reading Dan Brown except for me and a sleeping salariman curled over his briefcase in a near-foetal position. I am lead to believe that it is the pose adopted by those who die in fires. They call it the pugilist’s stance; hands bunched, fists held high. I’ve got my nose in Idoru, purchased yesterday amongst the plastic torsos and operating tables. I haven’t read it for a forever. I am brought back, jarring, to my university years, much of it spent in the library reading cyberpunk.

market day

January 2005.

It’s market day. I’m wandering through the throng with friends. The girl nexts to me clutches a newly-purchased Cold War camera to her chest, and a pile of Mr Men books. ‘C’ has a rusted fan and Dead Kennedys vinyl that he’s shielding from the heat of the day.

The smell of something dead and rotting infiltrates.

We retire for iced coffee and shelter from the sun. ‘C’ has plans to populate his yard with cacti and odd spotted plants. The man’s momentary dream is of amateur Ed Wood’s infiltrating his harden, making Z-grade sci-fi sagas with handheld cameras.

Later, in the dusty heat of Smith Street. ‘C’ points out a bench outside a supermarket. “there’s always two junkies out there, fighting…” I see the figures, hitting and kicking at each other, one eventually going down under the other’s fists, thick dark smear on the warm cement like an inkblot on paper. Then I blink, and all I see is a large bag lady, pushing her trolley… ‘C’ continues… “except they’re not here today, they must have gotten moved on…”

We delve into stores filled with second hand furniture, medical equipment and sun-faded paperbacks by Terrence Dicks and discuss ‘exuding’ people, people who always seem to be sweating, coughing, laughing, sneezing. I purchase Idoru, by William Gibson, with the author’s preferred artwork.