Beach ball

May 31, 2009

I saw it on Stephen Street.  Right in the middle.  A beach ball, following the white line.  I had to steer around it.  Other cars did the same.  Who owned it?  No one seemed concerned that they’d lost it.  Shiny and tight, it was obviously brand new.  In my rear vision mirror, it continued.  Other cars were steering around it.  It still followed the white line.  How did it travel so straight?!  Why didn’t anyone miss it?!  Poor little ball.  It was making a break for freedom!  Crossing over the Westgate!  Moving to St Kilda!  St Kilda was much more his scene.


May 17, 2009

When the soprano began shovelling Jatz biscuits in her mouth while going over her words for “Ah, forse lui” from La Traviata, I knew it was going to be a good night.  “You know,” she said, dipping cheese cubes into the french onion dip, “some singers can’t eat before they sing.  I’m not one of those.” 

I’d received a call a week earlier from an old guy called Tom.  Tom is a volunteer fire fighter for the South Maroota Fire Service, and he’d organised a “night of entertainment” (his quotation marks, not mine), as a fundraiser.  His regular pianist had freaked out at the thought of playing opera.  “Can you play that stuff?”  he asked me.  One of the great things about being a freelance pianist is the number of interesting people you get to talk to.  Tom sounded desperate, I was keen to see if a town called South Maroota could live up to its name, so I said yes.  I was tempted to ask if I could be paid in firemen, rather than dollars, but upon realising it was a concert for the VOLUNTEER firemen and not the hot   paid ones, I thought better of it.  My dreams of re-enacting the “on top of the firetruck” scene from Backdraft were left in tatters. 

Paul, the local singing teacher, was clearly miffed that Tom had organised “a night of entertainment” without consulting him first.  I got the very strong impression that Paul thought that he alone would be enough of a “night of entertainment” without Katrina, the girl who’d obviously been asked to sing because she looked a little bit like Jessica Mauboy.  As the audience walked in and found their seats, stowing their Eskys under the brown laminate fold out tables, we were directed to our table – set aside especially for the performers.  We were to sit in the hall with the audience, getting up to perform when it was time.  A nice touch I thought, and entirely appropriate for the audience and venue.  I decided to sit next to Kim.  She was fascinating, a classic “almost ran,” the extent of her professional career being one months work in the Opera Australia chorus 20 years ago.  Even though she was battling bronchitis, I could hear a brilliance and flexibility in her voice that made me wonder why she’d never taken her singing further.  I also wanted to sit next to her to figure out if her hair was natural or a wig. 

There was one person missing from the table – Paul.  I’d seen him walk in earlier and make Tom unlock the dressing room.  The caterers offered us a plate of “ontrees” – carrot and celery sticks with Black Swan Avocado Dip – but there was no time.  Tom kicked off the show with The Vagabond by Vaughan Williams.  Apart from singing the peak of the song about a 4th too high, it went off without a hitch, and the air in the South Maroota Community Hall became electric with anticipation of the night ahead.  But where was Paul?  Tom echoed my sentiments, at which point Paul strode out of the dressing room, respledent in pants, a puffy black silk shirt and cummabund.  I was momentarily confused, thinking maybe I’d gotten it wrong, and that Paul was singing the Toreador Song from Carmen, not Tom.  But no, Tom was indeed to sing the Toreador.  Paul just liked puffy shirts. 

After dinner – pork, pasta salad, potatoes and peas – (they were obviously working through the catering menu in alphabetical order), it was time to warm things up a little.  After watching Jody’s performance, I wondered if maybe the “bit of work” she said she’d done in RSL clubs was behind the bar.  In a bright red dress that screamed clearance rack at a Penrith bridal shop, Jody transfixed the community of South Maroota with the stretch marks across her breasts as much as with her attempts to sex up the joint.  I questioned her choice of song, Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, as it seemed to me that cubic zirconas were HER best friend.  Jody brought it home with a raunchy version of Fever.  As the audience politely listened, smiling, hands folded in their laps, Jody began twiching and convulsing.  It took me a minute to realise that the heel of her white stilletto had somehow been snagged in the hem of her dress, and she was leaping around, trying to disentangle herself, all the while valiantly struggling to maintain an air of Moulin Rouge. 

“Well how about THAT?!” Tom hollered into the microphone as Jody limped offstage.  I couldn’t really concentrate on what Tom was saying.  The time had come for Tom to perform the Toreador Song, and I was absolutely terrified.  The Toreador Song is notoriously difficult for pianists when they’re performing on a good piano, with a professional singer.  The Clydesdale I was forced to play on, combined with Tom’s inclination towards following whim rather than the music, meant that I felt like I was strapped into the Tower of Terror at Dreamworld, having no idea what was going to happen when.  “Ok, I want you all to yell ‘Escamillo’ and then I’ll start.  READY?!  ESCAMILLO!”  “Esca..mi..llo” about a dozen people replied before Tom waved at me to start.  It went pretty well.  The poor old piano groaned at what I was asking it to do, and Tom worked the room like only a horse breeder can.  I lost him a few times – some notes he obviously enjoyed singing, and wanted to show the room just how much he enjoyed them – but apart from that, it went quite well. 

And so, the night ended.  Tom made us all stand on the stage for one last bow.  As he wrapped his sweaty hand around mine, I knew that regardless of what I thought of the quality of the music, everyone in South Maroota had had a blast.  Maybe it was the vodka cruisers that kept coming out of the eskys, but eyes were shining.

Don, the president of the Fire Service, thanked us all.  “Tom, you and your fine performers have brought culture back to South Maroota.” At this point I looked across the room and noticed a man drinking a can of Jim Beam and Cola, making good use of a stubbie holder.

Culture indeed.


May 8, 2009

….yes….awkward….maybe we can’t even look each other in the eye.  Maybe I’ll clear my throat.


So.  Today I present for you two conversations I’ve had the pleasure of overhearing in the last 2 days.

Conversation One: Location – The Newtown train @ 4pm

Girl in uniform #1: “Where’s your sister?”
Girl in uniform #2: “She died.”


Girl in uniform #2: “I’m, like, totally joking.”
Girl in uniform #1: “Oh.  Um, where’s your phone?”
Girl in uniform #2: “I stepped on it and broke it so Dad will buy me a new one.”

Conversation Two: Location – Glow Girl Salon, Newtown, at 5pm

Beautician: “I could probably do it at 5.30.  What was it again?”
Woman: “A Brazilian.”  PAUSE………..”It shouldn’t take very long.”


Every lady in the room, lemme see your awkward pause now……….