Friday, February 16, 2007

On returning to Bellingen, NSW, Australia

Click for more on my bioregion
One Eye. One Arsehole. One Jim.

Swishhhh … Swish.

Swish … Swishhhh. The dozing dog’s tail, sweeping the road.

But where’s the dog?

Cars and shoppers everywhere. They must have painted a pedestrian crossing over you, old fella, some time in the past 25 years. And it looks like Sydney’s Woolworth's Corner here now.

I must freeze my haste for a moment, like the dirty dozing dog used to do on this country town road, and cock one eye and look.

Same veranda posts line the street, as when I was young. When I first saw those posts, were they as Disneyworld as this? Marked as they were by the sweaty hands of timber men. Chaffed as they were by the reins of horses long dead. Chipped as they were by the doors of old grey Holden utes. Now they are postcard veranda posts, website posts, Department of Tourism brochure posts.

And old Jim, where are you? When I met you and your white stubble, my days were lit by rainbows, and my nights – ahh, the nights.

"Jim’s the name. One Eye. One Arsehole. One Jim."

Are there still silent, chilly closing times for you to lug your beer-slab home, to swear and tilt and meander your lonely way into the one-eyed blackness? And does a blazing Milky Way still echo your curses? Or did they build a tourist coach stop at your grave and turn that wheeling Universe into a pallid Sydney sky? The sky the urban refugees fled from – did they pack the sterile air as they fled?

I wish you were here, One Eye. One Arsehole. One Jim. Your memories of the frosty black stumbling homeward, and my memories of saving the world with lantana-ripped hands, could marry and have young nippers, old son.

They say that what goes around comes around, old Jim. I reckon no one ever listened to you, until the hippies came. The locals told me not to. But I listened, Jim, not that it seemed to matter to you. Now that I’m back, and you and the road dog are gone, who will listen to me? Aren’t there times we would just like to have a listener close by? I never thought about it, in my flared and flaring youth, and I guess young Jim in the sawmill never thought of anything much at all.

Remember the hippies, Jim? Remember 1978 and every time you looked out in the dog’s road there was another carload of freaks turning up, with a bashed up trailer, some kids and some chooks?

Remember how some bearded bloke in Indian sandals would ask a farmer how much for that fifty acres, and the farmer would say it’s never been for sale, and the hippie would say, what about five thousand bucks? And how the farmer would pick his jaw up off his broke dairy ground, sell the lower fifty and tell everyone in the pub about these lunatic city slickers? And how next week a lower fifty cost ten grand? And a year later some potter from Melbourne would pay twenty, who later would sell it to some Bondi ad-man for "One Hundred Large"? Remember that, mate? Remember when you could trust a man wearing a ponytail? No, of course not, Jim, you were right and I was wrong. Remember when the black cockatoos used to fly over there, over there mate, over that subdivision I call "Elm Street and Vine"? Too many of us came here to save them birds, Jim.

What goes around, comes around, eh Jim? Nobody listened to you, and now no one listens to themselves. Bloody joke, eh Jim! Are there crickets where they turfed you? Or have they paved you over for a shopping mall? And does that solitary, sad, sunken eye, now that it’s closed, still see the spinning Milky Way, old One Eye. One Arsehole. One Jim?


Bellingen at Wikipedia



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