The treasure trove at Granddad’s

Treasure 9

It has been 12 days since I returned to Australia, and I’ve lost count of the hours of video games and the number of coffees I have been drinking.

I have been in Western Australia to visit my family for a week. It has been almost five years since I last saw them. A few days ago, I visited Granddad’s shed to see how much of my stuff remained in boxes. It had been left at Mum’s but I can’t remember being specific about what I wanted kept.

Fearing the worst, I opened the cupboard and pulled out the boxes. There were laughs, and there were near tears. The treasure trove was better than I remembered.

The number plates for my first car, and the die cast Tardis key chain, and key, were there.

There was a book in which I had printed photos of friends and asked them to write a farewell message for me, when I moved to Melbourne for a year. Many have aged…but there was one friend in there who had later killed himself. This was his last message to me, and if I had known what to look for, I might have seen the troubles he shared in his message. Many in the book are still my friends.

 

There was the skeleton, more or less, of my imaginary friend Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. His head was missing, the repainting I had given him had peeled off, his battery was dead, his legs were missing, his wings would not work. He was just a relic.

So many CDs (white metal. A lot of militant Christian metal, that’s for sure), my old Stryper T-Shirt (ever heard of them? Youtube them. Anyway, on the back of the shirt it said ‘To Hell With The Devil’ and I wore it to uni once and freaked out the Gold Coast chicks),  Xbox games, and Nintendo DS games (including my old Pokemon Pearl with its 240 hour game file still intact. 240 hours for one game!!! Are you kidding me?). There was the short story I had published in an edition of the now non-existing writers’ magazine, Wet Ink, which was called ‘lonely Leather.’ Not counting journalism, it remains the only piece of writing I was paid for. I had my aeronautical goggles, the Gryffindor scarf that Mum made me, and the Sonic Screwdriver replica belonging to the 11th Doctor.

There is also some of the more favourable feedback from university assignments.

I suppose I have prided myself on the way I can move from place to place, having to start again from scratch. But really, much of it remains locked in a shed cupboard.

Top 5 Weird or Obscure CDS I Found

  1. The Cambodian Space Project (bought at the Ubud Writers and Readers Fest, 2011)
  2. Johnny Cash’s ‘My Mother’s Hymn Book’
  3. A burnt copy of a ‘Within Temptation’ album
  4. Stryper’s Reborn Album (their first album for more than 10 years, after their controversial ‘Against the Law’ album in the early 90s). Too heavy for conservative Christians, too preachy for the rebels.
  5. A burnt copy of The Doors’ Essential Rarities (which includes a live version of ‘The End’ and Jim Morrison is screaming ‘bring out your dead!’ over and over at the start). “The killer awoke before dawnnn….he put his boots on….ergh!”

Top 5 Video Games

  1. Pokemon Pearl (I tried playing it again. I was in the Elite Four using a level 99 Gengar.  I was bored quickly. It took too long to do things)
  2. Beyond Good and Evil! (This was a cool spacey game with some central American influence done for the Xbox, but this version was republished for the Xbox 360 in part of some ‘three games collection’).
  3. Assassin Creeds (1, 2, Brotherhood, Revelations , 3)
  4. Crash Nitro Kart for the Gamecube (but where the heck is my gamecube, Luigi’s mansion, Smash Bros Melee, Timesplitters 2! The finger points towards my little sister)
  5. Two games in the Prince of Persia trilogy.

 

 

Life moments I didn’t realise were important until they were memories

 

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1.  The former leader of the Salvation Army, General Eva Burrows, used to be based at the drop-in centre and church I used to volunteer at in Melbourne. She once talked to me about my poetry (bad poetry now and terrible then). The moment was filmed and when she died that moment was played across the world as part of her memorial.

In the video around the split second my exhausted 21-year-old face is shown (during a bad pimple outbreak too), General Eva is quoted saying something from her 80th birthday speech. “The officer must always finish on a challenge. For those who are listening, it’s this; whether you are 18 or 80 ask yourself the question, ‘am I really using my life to any great purpose? I am what the work I’ve done for God has made me by his grace.”

2. Then there was the time I met my math teacher Alan, in Year 9, when I ripped up the detention sheet he gave me. Soon he had to give me the wooden paddle to the arse in front of the principal and he hated doing it. Corporal punishment was so awkward.

When I left home at 15 (technically the family moved across the country and I stayed) I boarded with a few families and these were miserable experiences. Soon Alan and his wife took me in and said I could stay with them until I was married. I didn’t get married and won’t be anytime soon, but because of them I was able to go to university and complete a Bachelor of Journalism. Without their grace and kindness I wouldn’t have been able to afford to attend university. I wouldn’t have been able to better my life. I still am welcome for dinner or a coffee whenever I visit Brisbane, and sometimes I wonder, ‘do I make them proud?’ Sometimes I wouldn’t.

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I must have been 18 or 19 in this photo! I’m pictured with Alan and Barbara with their daughter Jess.

3. There was the time I turned 15 and I was suspended until further notice after shortly starting at a new school. I went to church in high school and learned about forgiveness and apologising, something about seeking forgiveness from a brother you’ve offended before supplicating yourself to God, and as soon as the sermon finished I walked to the principal and apologised for my behaviour.

She gave me another chance to attend school and I changed my life, even when everyone expected I was going to screw it up.

I screwed up once when I skipped out of science class and threw leaves in the window, but my teacher Mr Young said nothing and didn’t even give me detention. Church was great. I hung out with my friends Sam and Jason and cheersed the grape juice in the communion cups and made up our own version to the hymns.

Jason got married two years ago and their wedding was held at the amazing Maleny Manor to the north of Brisbane. I bought him a clock in tribute to his favourite Korn song ‘I Did My Time’ that we used to sing in class. And he made me a groomsman and I had never been a groomsman before. Some friends last. Some transformations can as well.

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4. During my first year of university I studied Arts because I couldn’t study anything better (come to think of it, this is an entry in itself, a careers advisor at my mandatory dole appointment urged me to study at university. I wasn’t planning to). My school marks were terrible (I mean, I tried in the last few years of school but living away from home and tumultuous earlier years left their mark in any subject apart from English. In that subject I was a natural).

During that year I went to a religious concert and a Salvation Army officer spoke about the needs of the homeless in Melbourne. He inspired me to defer university and complete a program for a year.

I saw shit that broke me and rebuilt me. I saw the world was a horrible place, of white and black but grey as well, but what you assumed to be black was in fact only the white hurt and ruined and in pain. What you assumed to be white was only indifference able to keep itself clean by distance.

I connected to a close group of friends, a community, that would have done anything for you. We are scattered now, each with our lives, families and convictions. I returned to university no longer addicted to video games. My creative writing was much better and so were my marks.

Among the many people I worked with was an elderly lady. I can describe her in detail because she was a caricature. This woman had white hair always curled from rollers, and she wore an oversized coat that was supposed to look like fur and she clutched a walking stick wherever she went. Her face was saturated in make-up and her perfume was the cliche of the old – a bitter brew that burned your nose full of vanilla, musk and roses. She spoke properly and some said that in her younger days she owned a hotel, or an island, or something exhorbitant. It was implied among the drug addicts and ex-convicts and alcoholics and schizophrenics and lonely and young parents and destitute and chronic hoarders that I was grouped among that this woman was of old money, but like the rest of us was now broken in some way. But the only damage she showed was age and an anxiety for loud noises, and what kind of damage is that really?

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At a luncheon that the Thai community hosted for the homeless next to the St Paul’s Cathedral near Swanston Street this woman convinced me that I should become a journalist (and return to my degree).

“There’s just so many bad people in that profession,” the ignorant and rather self-righteous version of me said.

‘That makes it more important for you to be in that profession,” she said indignantly. “That’s when you know you are needed in it.”

That’s the story I’ve always told. But actually, I needed journalism. It has been good for me.

5. There was the time I interviewed a teacher who was cycling around Australia doing stupid dares to fundraise for charity. He was 28. He inspired me.

He made me realise I wanted to do a lot more with my life. I wanted adventures. Nothing should hold me back because there were no excuses. So I went on holidays to the UK for a month but that wasn’t enough.

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The realisation came more than two years ago.

I now live in Peru about to teach history and geography.

…..

I am proud of my life and where I came from, but what I suddenly see are the characters who inspired me without me realising it – whether for a moment or throughout the years.