Not long after I started this ‘e’-gotistical site, after I had been away to Ernabella with the Big hART mob, I sat down one day, dropped my guard, and kinda put some of it down on paper. It was a rare story without photos and I guess it exposed me for the man I was – or wasn’t. And likely never will be.
It’s 3.30 am on a Fri nite/ Sat am – and there has been a gnawing at me for some weeks that I need to do the same again. It goes against all my training – self censorship. The game a secondary artist like myself plays, expressing himself from behind the mask of other people’s creative work.
Why don’t I write my own novels, plays, symphonies – people often ask. Well I was doing that when I fell off a cliff in 1979, and funny I thought the impulse would come back one day. But it never has. I have had those creationist feelings rise up inside me many a time – and some I have given love and time to. Sometimes a year or two and hundreds of pages. But they have all died. A library of still-born children. Either, ultimately, I could not face the darkness I discovered inside myself. Or if I tried to lighten up it all just got too evasive and silly.
I live in the pain of never really being able to express myself directly. And so I figure the next best thing is to encourage others attempting the same. Being a critic, which I think is a disgusting word, is probably the stupidest way to go about such a goal because it can encourage such nay-saying. I know I have hurt many people in the past. These days I try to take a gentler path – looking for work that I can ‘speak up’; and only going to the negative when I feel I cannot possibly, in all conscience, avoid it.
I started jameswaites.com because it was becoming obvious that the print media was dying all around me/us. Thus far posting my odd and erratic stories has been fun. Though bluurging does encourage haste and superficiality. All my regular readers (I know who the three of you are) understand I took some time off of late to rest and recreate after some unfortunate stuff happened on a train. The funny thing is – it wasn’t the train thing itself that has brought me undone. As one pal reminded me – we all get beat up on a train once or twice in our lives (in some shape or form). That’s life and that’s my attitude too. It was the fact that for a privileged yuppie white guy from the first world, my poor body (and my soul) had already been to through quite lot. As a self-defined as a pick-yourself-up-off-the-mat kinda guy, it was odd a cupla months later to fell back over again. And not get up!
Violence is a strange phenomenon and it has an unattractive ability of multiplying with itself. So while it was no EXCUSE – it was also horribly predictable that, as a victim, I might lash out myself somewhere down the track. Two very decent people were on the receiving end. One got yelled at, another got slapped. One is not really reconciled, the other – well let’s just say – the wounds are healing. In this second case, the person I slapped, well that person went off and slapped someone else not long after. So you get my point. And you can probably understand now why I am reading Christos Tsiolkas’s book, The Slap, with such interest at the moment.
I won’t bore you with the litany of scars marked on my body from a life, willingly and accidentally tossed into the big surf time and time again. I was first given the last rites at six weeks old, and I have been that close again over the years at least three or four times. I am taking about ‘we are about to lose him ‘scenes, not just sore and bloodied from an encounter on a train etc and the like. There’s been plenty of that too. I’ve had a knife put to my throat in an Amsterdam bar, and once got mugged by a junkie when I got lost somewhere round NYC’s lower-east side. I left my last boyfrend a couple of years back after his alcoholism got to such a point he entered the bedroom with an axe. And only just over a year ago he broke into my city apartment and tried to set me alight. To extend the list would be milking for laughs.
My poor true self has had so many dings and my life narrative so many set backs, the problem with the incident on the train is that a couple of months later, my body and soul simply started to pack it in. I just could not get back up off the mat. All those above incidents and more I will not name converged into Condradian darkness.
It has been a most fascinating experience to watch, if rather horrible to live through. Waking up in the morning after almost no sleep, days at a time, so lost and confused I have had no idea what my tasks were for the day – much less any sense that I might be able to achieve them. Some of you have been very ind to me. Others I had mistaken as friends have been self-serving and merciless. The Rosencranz and Guildenstern scene in a local coffee shop is one I will not easily forget.
I have tried every trick in the book to get by to get through – gp, psychiatrist, osteopath, acupuncturist, swimming, walks with friends, party drugs, days in bed, psychopath, reading voluminously, movies by myself, Rage into the early hours, trying to help others worse off. And as any of of you who have been at all close to me through these past few months – it has been mad. Just as I would overcome one setback, I would be faced with another. I have felt like Job.
Lucky I have some great friends. And what’s interesting about times of trouble are the new people who miraculously appear. It happened when I was in hospital in 1979/80/81 – strangers found me and befriended me – and gave me love. And once repaired and back out in the world – they stepped back into the landscape.
Again this time several new people have been incredibly kind to me. You know who you are. Now things are getting better at last – they must be if I can bring myself to be this frank – I trust you will remain in the foreground. Because we share professional interests, I think this is possible.
When times are tough, it does help to think of others. I have always had time for those homeless men and women who sell The Big Issue. I can think of only two nights in my life when I have not had a cosy bed to go home to somewhere – and that’s only because I’ve lost my keys to the hotel or whatever! But how is this for tough? One guy who often sells The Big Issue at the Devonshire Street tunnel was looking worse for wear the other morning. He had been caught on the train to Newcastle a few hours earlier by some guards – this long night train is a common place to sleep for a number of homeless – and for whatever reason he had got a flogging. The cops came and charged him. I don’t know the facts, and what he might have said done to have caused offence. But he was definitely badly bruised. He had caught the train that night, rather than take a room, because that day had been his pension day. He had done a bold thing and bought a whole box of Big Issues in advance. Apparently other homeless people sometimes pick on you when you do this job. And this guy’s story was as backed up by an older woman who also sells The Big Issue on the next corner, we were all togetger as we shared a chat. A particular racial group who drink a lot and hang around Central like to come and hit you for your earnings, it turnsout. The day before, when he said no to their demands – they took their drinks and poured them into his box of magazines. His investment wrecked.
So where are we in the world when the poor start to turn on each other?
Now he had to appear in court for whacking a train guard in front of a pair of cops. Out of rage – that life is not fair to him. And no it isn’t. How hard does this guy have to try to get back up on his feet? How dare I even being to think I’ve got cause for complaint.
I say all this – I could say a lot more but I won’t. Because it is taking me longer to get back to writing on this site than I had expected. The wind is still not in my sails. I see plays and really don’t have much to say about them. Sorry about that. Just about everything seems so ‘how’s your father’ and profoundly slight. I hope, in writing this – to declare my hand – such as it is, I may begin to begin to set myself free.
As I have mentioned, It is not the bashing itself. It is what this experience has triggered in me. My poor body at the age of 54 has jacked up and said – enough is enough. I look the human race in the eye and find myself, by and large, disgusted. Grossed out. We are wankers – we don’t deserve this planet. And until our artists (including play-makers) have the courage to face this ever-escalating truth, nights at the theatre etc will remain humdrum – barely worthy of their ticket price much less comment.
I got home from yet another medical appointment at the end of yesterday, to find a bunch if emails lying in wait. One of unexpected interest. The court-case regarding the main offender on the train is over – and the detective in charge (the cops have been really really decent to me through all of this) was able to release some images. Photos taken on the train – on the night. He sent me just one. One is quite enough. I cancelled my night, raided the medicine cupboard, and crashed. Yes I wept. I felt sorry for the world – even for the perpetrator – and for myself. I have woke up several times through the night; tossed and turned these past few hours trying to decide if the image is too obscene and melodramatic to post. But another part of me feels an urge to show you what it was like. What it is like.
I had so wanted to leave this melodrama behind me when I started writing again a few weeks ago. But my timing was off. I am hoping in putting this picture up I can shut the door on….what ….it has no name.
So much happened that night. I just can’t share it all with you. Maybe one day To Chris who phoned me by chance mid-bashing and heard it all from Brisbane – I am so sorry the drama of it all car-crashed our burgeoning relationship. You were nice. To the person I yelled at a few weeks later, for no good reason other than that I was not my normal self, all I can say again is I am sorry. And maybe when you look at this picture you might contemplate being less unforgiving. To the person I slapped in front of a thousand people – honey we’ve known and loved each other for over twenty years. Thanks for letting us be friends again. And yes, let’s go drink to human frailty.
To any of you still reading – you mustn’t be very busy. ha ha…..