Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Waiting For A Bus In Sydney: A Short Play

Sydney is a self-described "world class city" in which it is frequently impossible to move around. For instance, a Sydney Morning Herald headline from a week ago reads 'This is peak NSW': CBD streets closed after new Sydney tram breaks down.

There are many theories as to Sydney and its transport is as fucked as it is. One popular theory is "they've handed the entire state to private corporations and 'get rich quick'  developers' while massively defunding public infrastructure that you then flog off" are reasonably popular theories, as are "ARRGH JESUS FUCK YOU FUCKING PRICKS" (a quick poll from a random train station the other day).

In short, NSW in general is a strange combination of increasingly pure neoliberalism with ugly, sleazy nepotistic corruption overseen by incompetent gangsters.

Take for instance this totally true story that happened to me, that I have decided is best expressed in the form of a short play in a bid to "reach the masses", whose love for theatre is well-known. I hereby publish it below

I can't recall exactly where these events, but it was one of those places on the very outskirts civilised life. An isolated, nowhere land where dreams go to die and nightmares go shopping at Westfields. Which is all another way of saying it happened in "somewhere in Sydney".

The Bus Stop

[Carlo Sands waits at a bus stop somewhere in Sydney. There is no shelter, just one of those planks of wood stuck in the ground with a Sydney Buses logo sprayed on it. A small girl of about five approaches.]

SMALL GIRL: Hello sir, could I please borrow 50 cents?

CARLO: [looks at girl] Fuck off.

SMALL GIRL: If you give me 50 cents, sir, I’ll fuck off.

CARLO: [Looks at her, she stares back] Lucky for you I hate kids. [gives her a coin] Now fuck off.

SMALL GIRL: Thank you sir. I always keep a promise!

[She kicks him in the shins and runs off]

CARLO: Good! Ow.

[A man walks up as Carlo rubs his shin while looking down the road for a bus.]

MAN: Howyagoin there mate?

CARLO: [looks at him then back down the road, hand on shin] Bruised.

MAN: Let me guess, you had to pay 50 cents for the privilege?

CARLO: The little fucker got you too, did she?

MAN: She’s infamous round these parts. You’re not a local, clearly. No shin pads.

CARLO: You mean the little pigtailed princess violently assaults people all the fucking time? For cash? Why doesn’t someone deal with the little prick?

MAN: She’s the daughter of the local member. She’s got connections.

CARLO: What the fuck does she need 50 cents for then? Her family's fucking loaded.

MAN: The MP's a gambling man. Pokies. You can find him down the RSL most days losing our hard-earned taxes. When he runs out of coins, he sends his little princess out to do the rounds.

CARLO: Jesus Christ! Well, thank fuck I’m outta this hole. What time’s the bus come?

MAN: Bus? [Laughs] Mate, we haven’t seen a bus round these parts in years. That’s an antique you’re standing next to. Should be in a museum, but the council keeps it out for show.

CARLO: What the hell are you talking about? When’s the fucking bus come?

MAN: I told you, you’ll wait here for ever. You want my advice, you’d better start moving. You don’t want to get caught out here after dark.

CARLO: [Staring] You’re serious! Why has this shit hole got no fucking buses?

MAN: The MP's gambling debts. He acts in our name, so we gotta pay it back somehow. It’s only fair, they said. First thing they took was the buses.

CARLO: Oh, for god’s sake! Why don’t you boot the bastard out?

MAN: Oh c’mon! And let the other mob in? No one wins by replacing a mongrel with a street dog, that’s how we look at it ’round here.

CARLO: [looking down the street] But having no buses…

MAN: [looks at him carefully] You know, we used to have a few of your sort round here. Idealists. Most of them never did a day’s work in their lives, of course, but you had to admire them for their beliefs. But end of the day, you gotta play the game with the hand your dealt. If they’re selling oranges, no point dreaming up recipes for apple crumble.

CARLO: [turns to the man] Look, I’m not advocating a fucking insurrection! I’m not suggesting a free-love commune with magic mushroom handouts for the unemployed. All I’m saying is, this place needs some fucking buses!

MAN: [rubbing his chin, thinking] Hmmm… You could try walking to the next stop. Fair way though. And like I say, you don’t want to get caught out here after dark.

CARLO: What happens, someone head butts your elbow?

MAN: Very funny. Just take my advice. I’ve got better things to do than talk to arseholes. Have a good one.

[He walks away.]

CARLO: Good fucking christ.

[Looks at the app on his phone]

CARLO: [reads] Hmm, 4.10. The bus is pretty late. And my battery is about to go. [Looks at phone in frustration] And the battery's gone!

[A teenage boy walks past, headdown writing furiously on his phone.]


[Carlo walks right in front of the boy who, his path being blocked, reluctantly looks up.]

CARLO: Hey! [The boy looks up.] What time’s the bus come?

TEENAGE BOY: Bus? What’s a bus?

CARLO: Jesus Christ. Taxi. T-A-X-I. You fuckers heard of them out here?

[Teenage boy looks blank]

CARLO: Uber?

TEENAGE BOY: Yeah, haven't you got the app? [He puts his head back down and walks off]

CARLO: [calling after him] My phone's dead! Hey can I borrow yours! HEY! Fuck!

[He looks up to the sky.]

CARLO: And now it’s getting dark …

WOMAN: [from behind Carlo] Do you always talk to yourself?

CARLO: [turns around startled to see a smartly dressed woman with a sly smile] Jesus, I didn’t see you. You here for the bus? I’m told they don’t exist.

WOMAN: [smiles] Locals will tell you that. You just got to know where to find one.

CARLO: And where the fuck would that be?

WOMAN: Well, you’re in the wrong place for a start. Far too obvious. To catch yourself a bus out here, you’ve got to think creatively.

[A silent pause as Carlo looks at her blankly]

CARLO: Do you want to give me a hint?

WOMAN: And what’s in it for more me?

CARLO: I’ll fund your election campaign to kick out the corrupt bastard who gambled all your cash away.

WOMAN: You mean my husband? He’s done more than a few good things for this place you know. More than most people appreciate.

CARLO: Like what?!

WOMAN: He’s abolished waiting at bus stops. That’s why it’s so obvious you’re not from around here.

CARLO: Ok, just tell me where I can catch a fucking bus out of here so I never have to talk to one you asylum escapees ever again.

WOMAN: [points] Walk ten k’s that way.

CARLO: That’s not creative!

WOMAN: You couldn’t figure it out. I’d get moving, too, things can get nasty after dark.

CARLO: [looks in the direction she pointed, thinking reluctantly of the walk suggested] Why does everyone keep saying that? What happens after dark?

[No answer. He turns around but she’s gone.]

CARLO: Fucking nutters. [shuffles impatiently] I know how to make the fucking bus come. Light a fucking cigarette, never fucking fails.

[Carlo gets a cigarette from a packet in his pocket and tries to light up, with the lighter failing.]

OLD MAN: [from behind] Smoke a whole bloody packet, it wont help ya. Tried it myself plenty of times in the old days.

CARLO: Yeah? Well I figure, if it doesn’t bring the bus out of here, at least I’ll die quicker. Either way I win. [Lighter fails again] Fuck!

OLD MAN: I remember the day they abolished the buses. Smoked a whole bloody carton. Waited 48 hours before it kicked in and I realised: they’ve finally done it, the bastards. They’ve gone and abolished the bloody buses.

CARLO: Look, someone has obviously slipped a tab of acid into my schooner. I’ve got better things to do than hang around here talking to a community of outpatients. Now, I realise none of you are exactly the strongest beer on tap, but can someone tell me, please, how the Hell to get out of this god-forsaken, loon-ridden, shin-kicking, pokie-addicted busless shithole?!

OLD MAN: Well… [thoughtful pause] I can tell you what happens after it gets dark.

CARLO: I can’t believe I left my machete at home. Look, I don’t give two flying fucks what happens after it gets dark! Look around you, you useless, old, busless bastard, it is ALREADY FUCKING DARK! Well, you know what? Fuck it! I give up! If I’m stuck here — you do have a pub don’t you?

OLD MAN: Take the second right, one block down.

CARLO: Coz I need at least 10 beers just to fucking start!

[Carlo storms off. The old man passively watches him leave. He shrugs.]

OLD MAN: Kids. At least in my day, we had some buses.

[The old man wanders off. The bus arrives, turns out it just been running a few years late.]

At least, I assume that is how it ended. It was all a bit of a blur.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Five Songs About This Godforsaken Hellhole of a So-Called Country

This fucking country. Over two centuries of capitalism and white supremacy, built on genocide, dispossession and huge lashings of cruelty to the lower ranks of society, white or not...and today it is a hellish mix of oppression and ecological catastrophe that has entirely undone tens of thousands of years of sensible, quality management.

Australia is a horror show. It is a nightmare in which most of NSW is on fire and an Aboriginal man is shot dead by cops in the Northern Territory and violence against women is at epidemic levels and there is no fucking water and the pubs are unspeakable too. 

All nightmares deserve a soundtrack. So here is a playlist of five songs that help sum this hellhole up. Sure it is one sided, dealing with the horror, not the positives that have generally come through struggle... But here in Sydney, I'm choking on too much smoke from unprecedented fires to  feel overly enthused about that right now. 


1) A Tale They Won't Believe -- Weddings Parties Anything

"And some fool muttered 'liberty or death'..."

It turns out the convict system when Britain first colonised this continent was really fucking brutal and it brutalised people and nowhere was it more extreme than the horrific penal colony in Macquarie Harbour in Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania, which is still pretty bleak by all accounts). Those sent to what was a living hell were the poor not just from England, but places like Ireland where the vast majority were dispossessed by English landlords, forced into "illegality" just to survive. 

One such Irishman was Alexander Pearce, who was sent to Macquarie Harbour in the early 19th Century for stealing half a dozen pairs of shoes. With a bunch of others, he somehow escaped... only to find themselves lost in the desolate wildness in which First Nations peoples with thousands of years of experience could survive, but a bunch of desperate, broken Europeans certainly could not. 

Soon, they turned to cannibalism... and a more fitting tale of utter degradation and degeneracy that accompanied the violent subjugation of this continent to the European invader I cannot imagine. Suffice to say, this macabre tale is a true story.

2) Boys in Town -- The Divinyls

"Get me out of here!" 

Australian men, young men in particular, are presented in this song as mediocre and menacing to young women in equal measures, with both factors behind the increasingly insistent and desperate cry of "Get me out of here!" Luckily that's not reality! LOL!

3) Damnation -- The Nation Blue

"These streets are screaming help me!"

This song is Australia x 1000. Written about small "company towns" in far flung places like rural Tasmania, its desperate scream about standing "on toxic ground" is matched by its furious demand we "burn this fucking town down". In this song, the "town" is an analogy for this whole goddamn system, and we need to burn this fucking system down, amirite comrades?

4) River of Tears -- Kev Carmody

'Two hundred years in the river of fear...'

This is another true story. It is about a police execution of an entirely innocent Aboriginal man David Gundy in Marrickville Sydney in 1989. Sure, the cops got off scot free, but luckily it was just a one off, if you exclude all the other murders by police, up to an including the extradjudicial exectuion of Kumanjayi Walker from the Yuendumu Community in the Northern Territory just fucking days ago.

5) Anthem -- Tiddas

 "Don't sing me your anthem when your anthem's absurd..."

What else is there to say. This song by First Nations folk trio Tiddas was released two decades ago, and since then has just gotten more relevant. It would be more controversial, too, released now. For instance, Weddings Parties Anything, who start this list, covering the song on Hey Hey It's Saturday in 1999. That is the most "middle Australia" inane "rock-no-boats" show imaginable. Imagine performing a song dedicated to absolutely spitting on the Australian national anthem on any TV show in Australia today. Hell, if it was on the ABC, they'd pull it and apologise profusely for not kissing the flag ten million times every 30 seconds.

Fuck this country.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Here are all the song titles for my country-folk singer-songwriter debut album

I am a singer-songwriter operating in the country genre, of the sort they tend to call "alt-country" these days, I guess, to distinguish it from the absurd nightmareish horror that passes for mainstream country -- though there is of course a growing rebellion in recent y ears, as there is every few years in country music, with the likes of Margo Price and Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers and many more reclaiming the genre...and me. Of course.

It may be objected by some that I have certain disadvantages in launching a country-folk singer-songwriter career in that I can neither sing nor write songs. Nor play any instrument. Nor have I ever shown the slightest aptitude for anything musical.

There are always those trying to drag you down. I prefer to focus on the positives, such as the fact I already have all the song titles worked out for my debut album of classic country songs about heart ache, alcoholism and a troubled relationship with God. I hearby release the titles for the world to see and await expressions of industry interest.


Too Much Booze Will Kill You (But So Will Not Enough)

Whiskey River Took My Soul (So I Drowned In It)

I Don't Believe in Death (But It Believes in Me)

I'm Still Drinking About You

Jesus Says He Loves Me (But I've Taken Out a Restraining Order)

Please Don't Save Me, Jesus

But Who'll Save Jesus (Coz It Won't Be Me)

I Kicked The Drinking Habit (But The Bastard Kicked Back)

Without You (I'm Drinking For Two)

An Alcoholic's Kiss (Always Tastes Minty)

Even My Beer Has Gone

I'm Sorry I Drank All Your Booze (But I'm Not Sorry I'm Drunk)

She's An Enigma (Wrapped in a Cliche)

The Grass Is Always Greener On Top (Below It's Just Dirt) 

The Past Is A Locked Door (And You Stole The Key)

Waiting Round To Drink

Desperados Waiting For The Pub To Open

Man In Black (With Slight Vomit Stains Down The Front)

I'd Walk The Line (But I'm A But Unsteady Right Now To Be Honest)

Hey God, Buy Me a Beer You Bastard

Bottles and Bibles (The Preacher's Been Drinking Again)*

Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey Why Did You Leave Me Whiskey Whiskey Where is My Whiskey

* This is a cover of a song by the great, young Kentucky-native country singer Tyler Childers.

...Now the preacher's been drinkin'
But it's hard not to do
Since she ran out the screen door
And swore they were through

Oh Lord, if you care, send a spirit down here
Cause the preacher's been drinkin' again...