I hadn't wanted to go. TheWife asked me to stay. But us three brothers were together for the first time - as calculated later - since 2006 and it'd be nice to present a sibling triptych to our dad as he cruised passed in his theologically themed barber's smock.
My OlderB and I got dropped in town and met YoungerB and his Brit girlfriend and we stopped off at a re-done up pub in town for a drink.
Stupidly I had one. And I'd promised myself I wouldn't. A scotch - on the rocks because of this pub rule about no neat spirits. I sculled it - because I am a drink-wimp - and a warm glow settled in my gizz. Only it turned to a gaseous non-glow and it hurt very, very much and led me to bleed sweat over my no.2 noggin and cause me to dab my overlong sleeve across my reddened glisten-wet scalp lest the sweat sting me in the eyes and salty-mist up my glasses.
The pub we had stopped at was the RoughPub of my town when I was a kid. But a decade past it was re-done as an up market $25 dollar steak-pub place.
RoughPub was where the local indigenous dudes gathered - in a big rough joyous mob of black and brown. Typically it got sneered at. I only ever went there twice - because olderB's band was playing there, but I got fully welcomed and not treated weirdly. Though once I got stuck air-drumming for twenty minutes because alas when I'd belted out a bit of DUNDUNDunDundundun-TISH! I'd caught the eye of a long-haired indigenous dude and he kept ADing back. I didn't want to stop in case I offended him and it sparked trouble. The same pub where I'd seen publican justice delivered to a patron by his slamming a drunk's head into the bonnet of a car out the back.
After the scotch, we group-went to the toot in case the return of the dreaded mid-service wee break re-occurred. Despite NicePub having morphed from being RoughPub alas there were still some vestiges of its past ... for someone had decided, as my niece would say "so randomly", to rip free the liquid soap container and kick-slide it across the floor to leave a gooey viscous trail in its wake.
We made it to church just ahead of the choir. YoungerB was too slow and actually had to follow them up the rear looking like a member who'd forgotten his kit (1).
Then into the service we went.
I normally mumble along with what is happening - the call and response prayers - and sing along to the hymns. But I felt it would be hypocritical to do so - to declare myself of having belief when I don't myself - so this year I kept my mouth shut. However I admit I did stand and sit when I was supposed to.
The standing - sitting thing is weird, isn't it non-Christians? That you stand up for that bit - because that bit's really important and God would like your full attention by rising on up like when a magistrate enters the court. Then you sit.
I'm glad we sat for the sermon. It started at 11.11 pm. It was still going - by YoungerB's girlfriend's watch, at 11.37 pm.
In that time three props made an appearance. One was the word 'SIN'. Yep, you read that right. 'SIN'. You see he'd cleverly drawn the word sin with a giant I. The idea being that I was selfish and when you sin you're being selfish. Putting yourself first in fact. Which is bad. He then went on to happily say that 'It's the capital I that makes it the sin and stand out from the other letters.' Except he'd confused the concept of capitalisation with differing font sizes, given the other two characters were in fact capitalized, not in lower case for that metaphor to grammatically carry. What really he should have said 'It's the Times New Roman 72 font I that makes it stand out from the 12 font Arial S and N', but that would have required the dominate demographic of grey-heads to have a working knowledge of Microsoft Word.
His oddly shaped escher-esq Sin (verbally labeled as a mixed lower-upper case sign when, in fact, it was in all caps with the I just being a larger font), was drawn on the back of a footy calendar, which kind of undercut the impact when his Sin twisted around to reveal buff dudes in mid-dive, their mouth-guard showing in a kind of coloured-in blue feline snarl.
Later he added to his prop mix a bowls ball. His idea being that we, like the ball, have a bias to sin because we made Jesus top himself all those years ago.
I wanted to stand up and say 'so does that you mean the Jews are the Christ killers as per anti-Semitic church teachings of times past given you're saying that we apparently sin from the moment we draw breath and we should spend most of our time apologising to God for doing so.'
But that would have been rude.
A final effort was his writing out a same-font-size JOY and saying Y stood for You, O for Others and J for Jesus and that your life should be run along in the same order as stood for by the letter in said choice of Joy. He then sang out a mnemonic of JOY ('Y is for yourself, you are bad etc.') to Jingle Bells and tried very hard to get the congregation to join in on a second stab at the chorus.
The JOY was also written on the back of a footy calendar.
Unfortunately for me the pain of the sculled Scotch was burning my guts and when the offering song came up I took that opportunity to slip out the door without being noticed. Alas I knocked book into the knave and it made a pleasingly attractive echo-y thump that dopplered the length of the Cathedral.
Once out I found a safe place for a toot - because trying to urinate helps to pass gas because if you try for the super squeeze out chances are you will pop the seal on your bladder intake and need to piss anyway in some sort of biological Newtownian equal-opposite energy legal type thing.
But I was still feeling like shit, with bad cramping pains, so I kind of wandered around. I read a plaque to some presumed nice old lady dead now person who was being remembered in both bronze and the careful tending of surrounding foliage.
That's nice. Because she had a hell of a time.
Then I went up the road to see what the Catholics were doing.
I have never been to a proper Mass. The only one I went to was for a funeral (2). So I didn't know what to expect. I peered through the non-frosted side borders on the windows to see inside. More grey-heads than our one. More white inside - the Anglican church being all old-brick on the inside with exposed rafters and beams.
They also had what appeared to be a giant arc-of-the-covenant in place of where the altar would be in the non-popey CofE, only the "arc" had sandcastle-like conical turrets that have been lightly sprayed by surf and starting to melt.
I got a text from my OlderB checking I was ok. I confirmed a pain-spike and kept walking around. Eventually the service broke-up, and the Bishop kind of over-greeted those coming out the doors and there was quite the people bottle-neck as a result. I cruised up the side of the church to intercept the gang when my Dad came out of the side of the church from where he'd taken off his barber's religious-robe.
Alas there were past-people from 25 years or more chapel-past. I waited up the fence a bit, listening to the quite painful meeting of YoungerB and one of his friends from high-school, a professional online philatelist from Sydney ("What's it been, a decade mate?" said YoungerB to which philatelist replied "Approximately nine, yes." much to the enjoyment of my YoungerB).
Unfortunately my Dad spied me and forced me to come over and talk to them all. Philatelist asked me about where I lived. ‘Canberra,’ I said. ‘Only we didn’t do too much research about our suburb. At one stage it had the highest murder rate in Australia.’ That being on account of a love-triangle that went a bit pear-shaped causing one bloke to allegedly shoot one of the other three-beams and his mate over the whole unhappy situation. That kind of ended the convo.
Then we brothers squeezed into the back of Dad’s car, YoungerB kindly taking the painful middle seat. We laughed remembering equally painful car-trips as kids on holidays with that exact same situation (‘Dad, he’s touching me!’) (3).
We dropped my OlderB off at the place where he’s staying – friends lending them their house while said friends are away - then we went looking for Wobs-Lit-Up houses to perve at. Only it was past 12 am and a likely council-mandated switch-off had occurred. Finally we made it back home, with me riven by pain but not enough to not eat the stale wheaten biscuits left-over from visitor coffee, nicely augmented with some cheese.
So am I glad I went? Well yes, because stuff like this is always grist for writing practice.
Which reminds me again about the overly-long mixed-message sermon (which YoungerB had expertly divined suffered the problem of too many calls-to-action in it). At one point the Bish reminisced about the time he saw his Aunt cracking eggs one by one into a cup before adding the result to a big bowl of previously cracked eggs and he had wondered why she did it one by one - because - ‘and women will know why’ (as actually said by the Bishop) that way if you get a rotten one then you can sniff for it and dump it and not contaminate the entire batch.
He was talking about the presence of a small amount of sin and what it can do to the broader population.
Prior to this parable of the one-by-one broken eggs he said it occurred when he was a boy of 13 in Ivanhoe, a place where many Truckies would congregate when on the road.
As an editor I felt this added nothing to the story. I mentally deleted it and inserted a comment that ‘given the central point is about eggs the only back story needed is probably “Aunt” and less of the Ivanhoe and Truckies.’
But this post is essentially one giant stream-of-consciousness of recursive memories spilling out as what always happens when you return to the place where you had your formative years, stay with your parents, have all your brothers in town, and are sleeping in the room you had in high school where you masturbated furiously some 20 years before.
On that happy thought, Merry Christmas 2010.
(1) At the all boys private school I was sentenced to by my parents for being moderately different to other kids we had a bunch of hard-core P.E. teachers that were, in a word, C____. They for example made my life hell and despite having a medical excuse not to do sport due to water-on-the-knees, suggested I learn to be a basket-ball referee instead and demanded I read the rule-books so I could adjudicate games and make myself fucking useful to the world of high-school basketball instead of sinking into my preferred place of a fantasy world as needed because the real world sucked so very heartily. These pricks threatened that if a kid forgot his P.E. uniform they would be made to do the P.E. class in their undies. Sure enough one kid did forget. And sure enough they made him skin down to his undies and run around the inside of the gym doing laps to pay for his mistake. It’s good that the world of teaching has moved on since these no talent ass-clowns of educators were in the system. If I ever meet Mr H____ again and something is said about school I like to think I’d say ‘Actually Mr H____ I thought your were a right evil C____ and the sort of man who took sadistic perverted delight at distressing young men in front of their peers. People like you should never ever be teachers.’ I won’t, because I am in life one of its many, many wimps, but still I’d be thinking it. And probably flip them off when their back is turned.
One of the P.E. teachers had a Newcombe-Roach moustache – he was the Ozzer Tennis player that drove-drunk with George W Bush – and constantly wore a red tracksuit with white piping. He was balding too like Paul Simon in the early 80s. Basically he looked like a twat – and yet he had the gall to overtly mock me and tell me that when I stormed off after another kid suggested we need cattle scales to weight me told me I was being girly and precious and I should suck it up and be a man, fatty! Drop and give me 20 etc.
(2) I once was in a choir as a supporting act for a Catholic's funeral - a teacher who died on a field trip in a fall - the choirmaster having accidentally conducted over the coffin during rehearsal. The dead teacher's wife was the lovliest woman and she later ended up working for my dad as his executive assistant. For some odd reason I once had dinner at her house along with her acne covered private schooled daughter and I remember we had brandy snaps for dessert and I asked to borrow a 70s era 'SUPERMEMORY' book which promised to dramatically improve your memory with some tips and tricks. Two months later I used one of them to remember a 12 digit number and repeat it in backwards order during a school mandated IQ test by the local counsellor, because I was sad and felt worthless and I was investigating repeating that year. It gave me an artificial boost on my result. Plus I failed the 'what is it puzzle?' component where you get a bunch of puzzle pieces and have to put it together and know what it is when I Mr Squiggled it and created it upside down. I thought it was one of the Aliens from Slaughterhouse Five. However when 'Right-side-up-Miss-Jane'd it turned out to be an Elephant.
(3) Recently at my work we had a directorate function where we went to a local Chinese place that clearly doesn’t understand the concept of maximum occupancy and you basically have to play human-Tetris to reach your table and take a seat (Being hefty you’re forever having your gut sawing into the table edge and having to suck in breath and scrape your chair in further to let someone Tetris towards the door.) On the way to the restaurant we got in practice by having three adults share a backseat. I was sitting next to B, a crusty older dude doing the job as a supplement to a generous pension he got in a previous occupation. As a joke I shouted ‘Dad, he’s touching me.’ B got all flustered and grumpy and muttered darkly about it. Later my hat on the table briefly entered is EEC and he pointedly shoved it away and said stuff about Hygiene. Which is kind of ironic given the large number of tatts scrawled into his aging flesh.