Having been the recipient of the Freebie Fairy’s benevolence last week (see previous post), it seemed fair this week to hand over some time, cash and goodwill to good people and good causes. This included buying an artwork at a fundraiser for Synergy, a local community gallery which is struggling to survive the gentrification of the suburb in which I live. In my suburb, in a lovely little bar called Open Studio, I sometimes do short story readings with music played by accordionist and pianist Dave Evans. One of the stories we presented last season was ‘Bohemians’ by local writer Wayne Macauley. It’s about a man who rents out artists to real estate agents, to add colour to a suburb that has become so attractive because of its ‘bohemians’ that artists can no longer afford to live there. As one gallery has recently closed down and another was holding a fundraiser to meet a 40 per cent rent increase, the ‘Bohemians’ story no longer seemed quite so fictional.
At the fundraiser, one of the endangered bohemians was doing palm readings, as a side-line to selling hand-made fairy wings, hastily-sewn purses and batches of gluten-free scones. Each batch of scones was more dubious-looking than the last, with the final batch being so un-scone-like that even the palm-reader had nominated them as ‘Experimental’ on a hand-written sign. Of course, the erratic sewing and scone-baking enhanced my assessment of her palm-reading ability no end. (Who thinks Martha Stewart can read palms?) So I sat down at her table. The palm-reader had tiny, tiny hands (with fingernails painted alternately red and pink), and a tiny, tiny voice. In fact, in retrospect, she may have been seven. But really, who cares? After considering my palm, she was impressed by how ‘protected’ I was. Obviously this was good news but only today did it occur to me to ask the little girl what she meant by it. Did she mean that there are large, square-jawed, no-necked, wired-up men in dark suits and sunglasses lurking in my psychic field, scanning for signs of danger to my person?
After the palm reading, a friend introduced me to a young Spanish woman who had recently arrived in Melbourne from Madrid. She was looking to move off the lounge-room floor of her friend of a friend. I said ‘I’m going to a party later. Why don’t you come? You’ll probably meet someone who needs a housemate and I think it’ll be a great party.’ (And I’ll get to enjoy your crazy Spanish accent, where it sounds like every second word starts with a capital ‘H’.) She said ‘H-okay. H-I’ll come.’
When I was doing the extended trip overseas that is an almost obligatory rite of passage for every young Australian, I benefitted from the generosity of people who took it upon themselves to show kindness to a stranger. One time, my then-boyfriend, F., and I had been picking grapes near Orange in the south-east of France and afterwards had headed to a highway, planning to hitch-hike to wherever our next lift took us. As the highway forked to both Italy and Spain, it was full of hitch-hikers, some of whom had been there for a day or two. We got chatting to a couple who shared some wine with us, as dark clouds began to appear in the late afternoon sky. Just as large plops of rain started to fall, a BMW cruised the line of hitch-hikers and stopped by F. and I. “Hey,” the driver called to us. “Where are you going?” “Wherever you’re going,” we smiled, hauling our packs and apologizing to our new friends. Our benefactors were two long-term mates, possibly in their late 30s, who would periodically leave their wives at home and have a drunken, garrulous weekend away together. They’d probably chosen us because my boyfriend had dreadlocks. People always assumed he either had drugs or knew how to get them. The French guys were going to the port city of Marseilles; ergot, so were we. When we arrived, we checked in to the same hotel and then went to a bar, where we exchanged terrible French and terrible English for hours and all got happily drunk. The next day, F. and I went to leave and knocked softly on our friends’ door – they were still sleeping. At reception we were told by the management that ‘Ze men in room 14 ‘ave already paid for you’. ‘Tell them merci, merci beaucoup; au revoir et bonne chance from the Australians.’
At any given time, we should all be able to run away to a foreign land, with just a passport and the clothes on our back, and know that there is someone kind at the other side of the world, someone who doesn’t know you from a bar of soap, who will treat you like a best friend. They will take you to a bar or a party where you will know no-one but everyone seems strangely familiar. You will not only feel safe, you will know that this is precisely where you are meant to be. Perhaps this is what the small palm-reader with red and pink fingernails meant by ‘protected’.
The party that I went to with my new amiga M. and friend O. was a combined birthday celebration and house concert. If you’re unfamiliar with the house concert idea, it goes like this: the host books a band or a musician to play at their home and sends out invitations. Guests pay to come along. They get to enjoy seeing and hearing music up close, hopefully without annoying experiences like having a giant stand right in their line of vision, or having someone just behind their right ear talking to a friend in a very loud voice about something really dull. The band plays unplugged or with a small PA/ amp – and generally receives all of the door charge money. Apparently, the house concert is more of a phenomenon among the folk fraternity in the States but it’s catching on here. On this occasion, the band was jazz quintet Clari and Bari, members of which also play in other Melbourne bands-about-town, such as The Band Who Knew Too Much, Skazz and Afro Mandinko. To cut this down to its essence: great party; great music. M. from Madrid had an H-excellent time. I’m thinking if Clari and Bari aren’t available, I’m going to invite David Bowie to play at my house concert. I’ll let you know when to come. I might get the tiny palm-reader in as well.
Who are you going to book to play at your house?