It started badly. When we arrived in Katoomba, where we were staying, we'd discovered we'd left our bag behind in Canberra. So no clothes for Harrangueman.
We washed what we had and the next morning made a dash to K-mart for some new clothes. I managed to find something acceptable, though Katoomba K-mart no so up on fashions for the overweight.
With pinned up pants and other clothing, I got to the train station on time.
The 90 minute ride was spent by the Groom and his cricket buds going over the race forms for Rosehill, while I snootily read the SMH and Oz. Well done me. Finally with Taxi's from Parramatta station we'd made it to the track.
Rosehill is a seriously surreal place to be on a big race day. It was a family fun day and so the racecourse had banned official bucks parties using it as a base for alcohol fuelled mayhem. As sexism would have it there were at least five hens groups wandering around with sashes delineating their status of Bridesmaid/Bride/Head Wench. I decided that were we asked what our business was I was going to say we were members of the 'Society of Concerned Beavers' or something.
Anyway, the surrealism of Rosehill. There was a surfeit of elderly jockeys moving around in tiny packs. Like a wizard of Oz convention was being held in a stable somewhere in the complex. We stood next to a gaggle of five aged Italian men under the height of five feet, gesticulating wildly with broken teeth over fat race guides or the Daily Tele form guide. There were the bookies offering deals right up the inside of the massive roofed outside concourse, with their fat tote bags that look like they should be carrying lawn bowls, not thick wads of cash, cash, cash.
And the girls. Being a cup type day there were a number of young misses dressed in typical slinky race finery plus f_cked up hats (many looking like a gauzy, wire version of the top tier of a wedding cake). Slinky finery it may have been, but there were many that had body shapes that did not necessarily lend themselves to typical wearings of such briefness of clothing. Hey – all the more power to them. Indeed, there was a quadriplegic steering her trolley around with teeth controls, who happened to have a split skirt, boobly top, and large plastic flower bobbing dangerously in her hair as she powered her way through the crowd – angry teeth on full speed ahead.
There were Austin Powers look a likes, that "Crikey" croc handling knuckle, and much more. There was a Lebanese Sammy Davis Junior – though I'm not sure he'd realised he'd appropriated the image. Plus he had a baby he doted on, lifting her to the light and nuzzling her tum with fatherly abandon. Pretty cute.
So how did Harrangueman fare? Well, I didn't go nuts on the drinks. Drinks were $7-8 a pop for a spirit type drink which was expensive enough for me not to down them in rapid succession. Standing around for six hours on concrete left me with a massive back ache and stiff legs.
It was too noisy to properly get to know the other lads. Mostly I hung on the periphery as they discussed betting strategies and what not. Finally I decided what the hey and took a plunge (having earlier lost $5 when I chucked it in the pool on a bet already going). My horse came in first – a 21-1 long shot - with me having $5 on each way. So I was $150+ ahead. By the end of the day I think I had bet on six races all up – picking first for two of them, and a place for two of them. I came out $240 odd above my starting cash.
My picks endeared me to the other buck's members who eagerly wished to know my secret. Did I know something about the track? Had I heard about earlier form of the jockeys or steeds? Had I shared lines with Gay's horse two minutes before heading to the starting gate.
Chose them solely on the name. Whatever name in the race 'spoke' to me the most. Didn't factor in odds/jockeys/trainers/cocaine use by the horses – any of that stuff. Just went 'I like the sound of this one - $5 each way thanks mate'.
With the races ended we started walking for a pub near Parramatta station, getting about half way before the drunken groom flagged down a taxi and managed to get half of us in it. They sent the cab back for the rest of us.
Finally the night could begin. With pool (lost twice), and some drunken local who said I was a 'puddin' and demanded to know my name. That happens a lot to me. I think he liked me, but aggressively so. Like if we got it on I would have ended up taking one over the bonnet of his ute. That guy needs to learn some techniques I think. How about a nice kiss? That too much to ask?
Anyway – got to know the groom's team and all a bunch of lovely guys. We were pretty cut by the time we made the train and headed back up the Blue Mountains. 90 minutes without a f_cking drink at all. I got dehydrated and hung over by the time we got off in Hazelbrook. For some bizarre reason I went halvies in a BBQ chicken with one of the party, scoffing down cold greasy fowl as we staggered through the hilly dark towards the lawn bowls club. Which is where the groom had decided he wanted his last 'lads only hours' to tick down.
The club had a fortieth on in the function room as we took over the lounge. Not just any 40th. A Bongos 40th. They had made a little stage out of cushions and crepe paper wrapped poles, with five bongo players madly cracking out a fast beat. There were reasonably attractive party goers frenetically dancing – but it reminded me too much of 'Praise you' by Fat Boy Slim or something. The lead bongo player looked exactly like Stephen Keaton from Family Ties – save he was wearing an African weaved shirt of some kind (though I kept saying Alex by mistake). Then later a couple came out of the function room and did synchronised 'seagull weaving' dances in the corner behind a large plastic fern for about 20 minutes.
I started off feeling a tad uncomfortable. I had just eaten half a cold, bad tasting, chicken, had seen Stephen Keaton rapping out a bongo beat, and the seagull twins doing some head weave side to side business behind a synthetic tree. Plus the groom's party were weekend cricket warriors. Members of the groom's local grade two comp team. So they were talking cricket – which I f_cking hate. But they were nice enough guys, even if 'Sluggo' kept calling be Buddha, and another one who looked like he got out of the Goulburn supermax the previous day, labelled me 'Big Man' – actually, I don't mind the old 'Big Man'. It's better than 'ya fat f_cking man booby c_nt' which I get from drunk yobs when I don't know 'em.
But eventually I relaxed enough to enjoy myself. I remarked after a trip to the lav there were a lot of urinal cakes – and there were. Seventy two in fact. How do I know? After I said 'man, there were like fifty urinal cakes in there', the one who labelled me 'Big Man' went and checked. He came out and demanded I acknowledge there were 'Seventy Two.' He seemed quite angry.
'Ok,' I said. 'Let's call it seventy two. No skin off my nose mate.'
Then a disagreement broke out whether a split urinal cake counted as one or two cakes. And each time I came out they wanted a f_cking recount of the cake situation. They were fully fixated. Each time they came out they announced a new total.
The lads who were smokers kept going out to ogle the bongo party participants, to the point one of them was drunkenly leering by resting his head on the cold glass and breathing heavily on the window. The bongo people seemed to like it and arced up the beat. Then Stephen Keaton took to the dance floor like a f_cking dervish, whirling around and around with the female partner of the Seagull twins.
I got trapped in a conversation with 'Sluggo', who had been with state rail for five years – and who after working around chemicals and diesel without wearing protection had started regularly coughing up blood. Sluggo it seems got some nasty fume related disease that caused him to die momentarily on the table while they were trying to get a biopsy. He's still with State Rail, in a non chemical related area, and claims none of the lawyers he saw were interested. Possibly because Sluggo looked like a man baby (ie a man with a face that looked like a baby's artificially aged by the FBI seeking some sort of genius baby criminal that had tried to escape the law by building an artificial aging machine to adulthood so he could slip away into the teeming masses). But he was a decent enough guy, even if he poked at me screaming abuse at me for my lack of scientific knowledge when I said it sounded like he got screwed over and just maybe he should see another Doctor.
Sluggo also lead the club in rousing renditions of drinking songs like 'Blackheath takes it up the arse, doo-dah, doo-dah.'
I talked to another groom party member who ran a construction business in Lithgow. He was saying how the Exclusive Brethren had bought up large tracts of the town and revitalised dormant industrial buildings with building related businesses.
'It's weird mate. You walk into their offices and it's like something out of the 70's. Filing cabinets and electric typewriters – no computers cause it's against the faith.'
He went around to one of their houses once and got offered a beer – cause it was a hot day. He said thanks and popped it open. They then hurriedly left the room like it was a grenade.
'Turns out they can only eat and drink with other brethren. So they sat in another part of the house until I drank it.'
Apparently they're a welcome part of the town, and make great neighbours – especially since they have no recording devices or radios with which to make noise.
Back in my home town my brother had one of their halls as neighbours out the back of his rented house. He used to watch them gather on Sundays whilst toking on a doob and attending his 'tomato plants'. On the third Sunday he was watching they turned the sprinklers on him.
Eventually Operation Bucks wound down and with a 'time gentleman please' we were out the door. The Groom was well gone at this point, as was his brother. They sat hunched on a wet log together like cloned Rodin statues serving as bookends.
Being the most compus I had to organise taxis and about 2 am we were headed back to Katoomba, where the groom and his brother rolled onto each other, and murmured about how much they liked their dog Bo, making patting motions now and then.
After staying up with the groom for an hour to make sure his being passed out on the couch was medically not dangerous, I donned my pink women's size 22 sheep patterned pyjamas (the only ones in ^)$%(&^$ K-Mart in my size), and crashed. My wife – part of the hen's contingent operating elsewhere – arrived about 15 minutes later.
In short I had a ball. I won some money. Met some new people that I got on with. Entertained some of them with tales of abdominal way related to my IBS and its incredibly random effects on my ability to defecate, and in the process created a new band in the vein of Ramstein called Wrektum, featuring their classic number one hit künt.
The groom's men are decent guys. Even if they are fixated on cricket, and other organised sport, and spent a large amount of time breathing heavily in the direction of bongo playing nymphettes in the next room. They were welcoming, inclusive, and willing to laugh at my lame comments and observations. So in short they rawk and I'd be willing to party with them again.
I see them again for the wedding in two weeks. I believe I got nominated as cameraman.
So stay tuned for some Benny Hill style Booby fast zooms and pull back shots.