Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tony Smith - Chapter 2

That was the last time I saw Tony too.

A SHOT fired through a one-way mirrored door during a hotel robbery narrowly missed employees who
were hiding in the office, the Holden Hill Magistrates Court heard yesterday.
Anthony John Smith, 19, of Devon Park, has been charged with the armed robbery of the Buckingham
Arms Hotel, Gilberton, at about 1.30am on Sunday.
Senior Constable Andrew McCracken, prosecuting, said two men armed with a hammer and a .22 calibre rifle had smashed through glass doors to enter the hotel.
The robbers forced staff to lie on the floor, stole $22,300 from the office safe and escaped through a
smashed window.
During a bail application, the court heard Smith, and a 17-year-old youth who has also been charged,
were located hiding in the ceiling of a house on nearby Walkerville Terrace. But Smith's lawyer, Mr Nick Vadasz, said there was an "innocent explanation" for this behavior. Smith had been on his way to his parents' house when he saw the police and panicked, hiding in the ceiling because he feared being implicated in whatever crime they were investigating.
Mr Vadasz said there was no evidence linking his client with the crime and he noted that neither the
money nor the weapons had been recovered despite an intensive search.
But Senior Constable McCracken said the robbery was "a disaster waiting to happen", and police were
trying to link the suspects with the robbery through forensic tests.
Smith and his co-accused have been charged with armed robbery, illegal use, four counts of
endangering life, and being unlawfully on premises.
Magistrate Mr Kevin Edgecomb ordered a home detention report and remanded Smith in custody until
later this week.

Story by Michael Owen
9 February 1999
The Advertiser

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tony Smith

Tony Smith and I went to school together. We weren’t in the same classes and we didn’t hang around together. We weren’t friends. I was scared of Tony.
He seemed to be an amalgam of every bully and tough kid I had ever known, since Scott and Mark used to push me around and laugh at me in reception.
Tony skipped classes. He swore at teachers. He wrote graffiti. He was dark and handsome in a cheeky, tough way. He had rough friends, got into fights, had lots of girls who liked him and he smoked. He didn’t like the school or the work (as far as I could tell).
He and I were complete opposites.
I never missed a class, instinctively sucked up to the teachers, had a few wimpy friends (none of whom were girls), hundreds of big, tough pimples and I’ve never been in a fight or smoked a cigarette in my life.
But, somehow we knew each other. I think we were in the same PE class for a semester. He was athletic and defiant and I was clumsy and vigilant, still trying to figure out how to make my newly long arms and legs work together instead of against each other. I once forgot my sneakers and did the class bare foot. Tony and one of his tough friends had a great time calling me a 'bum'.
Even so, he wasn’t really malicious towards me. He would often nod to me as we passed each other in the halls while I quivered in fear. I think I used to fancy that I was the Adrian Mole to his Barry Kent.

Two events hold firmly in my memory of Tony:
Number one was at the first proper ‘high school party’ I ever went to (translation: the first party with drinking, drugs and no parents). I went with one of my wimpy friends and was so nervous beforehand that my hands were shaking as we were dropped off. I wore all the things I thought were cool: red jeans (which later washed out to pink) and a t-shirt with security-blanket brand-name across the front. The party was held in a tiny little inner-city cottage with a back garden the size of a billiard table. A few dim lamps were the only lights on in the entire house. Huge bottles of alcohol stood on a table next to plastic cups and bottles of coke.
I think it was a milestone party for a lot of kids that night. There was a huge controversy because someone sporty and good had announced that they would try some *gasp* dope. It was a sort of defecting from the non-druggy group to the group of people who didn’t do enough homework and got in trouble with the teachers. I over-came my nerves after three short hours, two large bowls of chips and countless cups of coke and even asked a girl to dance at the end of the night. She was the daughter of a friend of my mother’s and we waddled around the floor together in a sort of speeded up waltz.
At one point I remember going outside for some fresh air. It was actually just an excuse to keep moving and avoid the wallflowers I felt growing up around me every time I stood anywhere, trying to work out what to do with my hands. While I stood out the front, planning my next casual pass at the chips and coke table, Tony suddenly appeared, lurching up the street with a girl under each arm.
“Oh my god!” one of them was saying. “He drank like, a whole bottle of vodka!”
“Oh my god!” echoed the other. “Are you okay, Tony?”
Even though he only seemed to able to use about one of his legs at a time, he still had that cheeky grin plastered across his face and was laughing his head off. He leant up against a wall next to the house while one of the girls trotted inside to fetch him some water. One of his rough friends, Chan, ambled onto the front porch and was appropriately appreciative of his drunken state (being drunk was a very big status symbol in year nine).
While Chan basked in the second-hand cool, Tony looked up and saw me. His face lit up.
“Ey Sammy! Whas’ up man?”
It took a second before I could work out what to say. “Not much man. How ya goin’?”
He collapsed into laughter again. “Wicked man! I wanna fuck Kerry-Anna!” (Kerry-Anne was the girl who had just gone inside).
Chan turned and looked at me blankly. I swallowed. What to do?
“Yeah, cool man," I ventured. "Go for it.”
Tony cracked up laughing again as Kerry-Anne came outside again with a large cup of coke. Chan joined in laughing while Tony draped an arm over each girl’s shoulder and used them as crutches to help himself inside. He spent the rest of the night lying on the host’s bed, puking into a bowl of chips.

By that late stage of year nine just about everyone had completely grown out of whatever child-like ways they entered high school with. Girls wore make-up and had older boyfriends. Boys destroyed school property for fun when the teachers weren’t looking and stole chemicals from the science labs.
The cool thing to do around that time was to try to open the locks on other people’s lockers with your own key. Some guys collected bunches of keys (who knows where from) and went around trying lockers all day to see if any would work.
One guy reckoned he knew how crack combination locks by listening for the clicks as he twirled the knob this way and that, but no one ever saw him do it.
Tony didn’t bugger around with random locker break-ins and fiddly bunches of keys. I joined The Group one lunchtime and he threw a Chomp bar at me. It hit me in the head and I sat down quickly, trying to ignore the small tide of braying laughter from the twenty or so other kids who were all eating their own Chomp bars and listening to one of Tony’s not-so-rough friends tell the story of how he had stood guard while Tony vaulted the canteen counter to nab an entire box of Chomps.

The second incident had a history which began later that year.
I had finally convinced my parents to buy me a pair of Nike Air Max running shoes. They were blue and white and cost $120. It was the most expensive pair of shoes I had ever owned. I didn’t need them for anything specific, it was just your average teenage insecurity expressing itself as an obsession with brand-names - a way of buying acceptance.
The only place I was permitted to wear them was once a week for PE. I would bring them to school in a plastic bag, lock them in my locker until it was time to go to the gym and then afterwards try to get away with wearing those soft, comfortable, expensive shoes for the rest of the day - as though I had simply forgotten to change back into my school-approved hard black leather lace-ups.
When I opened my locker to get my prized Nikes, they had disappeared. I remember physically crumpling up in heart-aching disappointment hiding my head inside the locker. I scrabbled pointlessly under the little pile of exercise books I kept in there, but no blue Nikes appeared. The all-too-sensible words of my parents kept playing and replaying in my ears: “They’ll get stolen!”.

When you’re fourteen, having the coolest shoes in the universe stolen from you is only fractionally worse than your parents being right.
I don’t remember what happened after that. I supposed I did PE in my stiff, leather school shoes (I had learned my lesson about doing PE in bare feet). I did find out who had done it though: a tall weaselly-looking kid with snaggled teeth called Daniel. He had one of the biggest bunches of ‘spare’ locker keys in the whole school and three people told me that it was him.
That only made it much worse.
I knew I couldn’t prove anything and there was no way I could have summoned up the guts to actually confront him about it. Not surprisingly, that was only the second-to-last time I ever saw those shoes and the last time I ever went near Daniel.

He knew that I knew he had taken my shoes and every time I saw him, I imagined him grinning at me, teeth like a handful of Tic Tacs, knowing that I was still too much of a scared kid to act without help from adults. I could prove nothing and that made him even safer.

Tony enters this story about a year later, sometime towards the middle of year ten. By this time I had new, not-quite-so-cool-and-expensive shoes and was looking forward to getting my braces off. Rumours had been circulating through the canteen lines and along the margins of classrooms when the teachers turned their backs that Tony hated Daniel. Loathed him. And things were coming to a head.
I never knew why the animosity had developed, but that’s where the battle-lines lay as lunchtimes grew colder and teachers began hassling everybody about wearing their school ties for the winter term uniform properly.
Suddenly, one windy day, it was on. Daniel was in deep deep shit and Tony was going to give it to him. At lunchtime.
Someone challenged someone else to a fight every other week, but it only ever came to blows about once a year, so no one paid any real attention. I was sitting on a bench next to the oval and eating my ham, tomato and onion sandwich and watching a group of boys kicking a footy. Tony and Chan marched past, but didn’t acknowledge me. Five minutes later, there was a brief, whirling scuffle on the opposite side of the oval from the school buildings. Daniel emerged from a flock of onlookers, bounding at high speed across the grass with Tony in hot pursuit. I remember very clearly at that moment noticing that Daniel was wearing a pair of dirty, old, blue Nike Air Maxes. They looked about a year old. I remember smiling slightly as the chase picked up speed. Tony ran with fury, but Daniel’s long, gangly legs were fuelled by fear and soon he had outstripped his pursuer and disappeared somewhere towards the front office.
That was the last time I ever saw Daniel, or my shoes.

There's an epilogue here, but that will have to wait for another blog.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A simple question

Am I a cynical Gen XY conspiracy theorist*, or does the ongoing water restrictions crusade on 891 ABC Radio represent nothing more than the simple desire of their middle-class, mortgage-castle, pre-bubble audience to have their lawns kept nice'n'green and stuff any one who would have them douse their quarter-acre but once a week?

*Is there any other kind?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I would go ape-shit too. Anyone would.

I caught the first five minutes of the new season of Rush last night. I thought it was a tedious cop drama. I was wrong.
Here is my paraphrasing of the opening sequence.

Scene 1: High rise inner-city apartment. SWAT Team gorillas kick in the door, blast the place with tear gas and charge around kicking down doors, wrestling the occupants to the ground and screaming 'Freeze, motherfucker!'. They truss up said motherfucker and his girlfriend like pigs and find a machine gun on the carpet.
'Jeez,' they all go, posing in front of the Sydney skyline. 'Jeez.'

Scene 2: Two cops are administering eye drops to the now un-trussed girlfriend on account of she was in the apartment when they were redecorating it with the tear gas.
'What happened?' they ask.
'I don't know,' she says. 'He just went and got this tattoo and he reckoned it was Bob Marley and I said that it looked more like Bindi Irwin and he just went crazy and pulled out the machine gun!'

And the most frustrating thing I couldn't do without my thumb was ...

Tear open a packet of sugar. Try to do it with just your left thumb and fingers, no gripping within your right palm. And do it without getting frustrated and chucking it on the ground and screaming throaty gypsy curses at its tough, waxy-papered little hide.
Even learning to wipe left-handed was easier than exerting a useful grip between index and middle finger. Although, there were a few nervous moments there I can tell you. The bum radar (patent applied for) wasn't too sharp the first few times, but rest assured - I remained relatively unscatted.


And for you stalkers out there: Charlie speaks!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Like having an injection in reverse

They drill the wires into your bone using a hollow drill-bit and hammering the steel in. The Jurgen Balls are just for protection. The doctor had them off using a multi-tool clipped to his belt.
He pulled the wires out using just a pair of pliers from Bunnings bunged through an autoclave.
"Okay mate, just lie down here and hold still."
"No anaesthetic?"
"Nah. This is quite uncomfortable."
A tradesman who came through work recently knew all about K wires and Jurgen Balls because his wife had had some jammed down her finger-tip.
"She said getting it pulled it out was the single most painful experience of her life. And she's had two kids!"
"Thanks, mate. Just what I wanted to hear."
"Well, it was a bit infected ..."
The doctor gripped my wrist in one hand, tucked my arm under his and pulled the wire straight out of the bone like a stubborn wine cork. I almost expected to hear a 'pop' when the thing came out. I certainly felt like a drink afterwards. A pale-faced intern asked me if I was all right.
"I'm okay. Are you?"
"Not really," he admitted. "I think I might just go and sit down."
Which he then did.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

This looks like a job for ...

Daniel Kinsman.

Dan - your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a programme which analyses the content of the last page of any document sent to a physical printer. If there is less than, say 1% of the printable area used, then your magical programme will ask the user if they want to print that useless last page with the tiny watermark at the bottom.
If the user selects "yes", then a small sound effect will play: a chainsaw felling an old growth tree for office paper.
Better yet, you could set it in advance not to print those pages at all and simply ask afterwards: "Did you really want to print that last page of nothing?"
Yes, we should stop printing everything.
No, people aren't going to.

I set you to your task.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Gillie would be a great dad

Parenting is like wicket-keeping: no-one much comments on a job well-done, but drop one little catch ...

An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32