Gitchi  
stephen clark
August 21st, 2003
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in the espy carpark
 
 
Last Friday my band The Boris Pink played a gig at the Esplanade Hotel. "At last, the big day has arrived," I thought. "After all that practising and hard work, we will finally get the chance to show the audience how cool and talented we are." It's not the first time The Boris Pink have played a gig, but so much has changed in the five months since our last performance – the songs, most of the members – it's like we're a different band altogether. This was our single launch. The name of our latest single is "Popsong 77" – it was recorded more than a year ago. I've been with the band for eleven months.
    I spent about an hour in the evening doing vocal exercises to warm up my voice, then Ben the bass-player picked me up in his car and drove me to the "Espy".
 
 
pinned to the wall
 
 
 
The Esplanade Hotel is a good place to play because it's never empty on a Friday night. Every rock band in Melbourne would like to play at the Esplanade – they call it the "Espy" because that makes it sound familiar and informal. They don't just have rock bands, either – they have all kinds of modern music. It's not easy to get a gig at the Espy. But we did, so we had to make the most of it. There were four bands playing that night – we were the second last band. This was our chance to make a good impression so that people would come back to see us again.
    The band members arrived one by one, and while we were waiting we hung out in the "band-room", the room which is designed for musicians to hang out in. It's nothing special really, just four walls, but it feels special because non-musicians aren't allowed into the "band-room" (unless they're invited), so when you go in there you feel like you're entering an exclusive club.
 
 
in the espy band-room
 
 
 
Some members of the band were nervous, but not me – I knew that I would be able to set up my equipment and play my keyboard parts nicely, because I'd done it a million times before in practice-rooms. When it was our turn, we got up on stage and prepared to start playing. But there was a problem – Boris the guitarist had a microphone pointed at his amplifier but the microphone wasn't working properly so no guitar sound came out the big speaker-system. It wasn't our fault, but it took a long time for the sound-technician to fix the problem. Time was ticking by and we were getting later and later. I wondered if we would be able to finish late as well as start late, or if the sound-technician would order us to cut the set short to make way for the next band.
 
 
setting up on stage
 
 
 
Finally the technical problem was fixed and we started playing. Our music sounded great. It didn't sound very well balanced on stage, maybe a bit "muddy", but that was okay – the main thing was that it sounded good to the audience. I played the keyboard and when I wasn't playing, I was bobbing up and down, swaying back and forth. Also, I did some backing vocals. It was a good performance and I didn't make any important mistakes. The music was "tight". We had to cut about two songs out of the set-list because of the time-restrictions. There were at least a hundred people in the audience – they didn't all dance, but a few down the front did.
 
 
 
after the gig
 
 
 
Later, after the show was over and the equipment was all safely off the stage, me and the band were able to bask in the glory of a job well done. My friends Cat and Ian came up to me and said "That sounded great." The musicians went back to the band-room and hung out there with beer and friends. Boris even bought a glass of wine for me, though I didn't ask for it. Cat and Ian didn't stay because they had to catch a tram, but I stood next to the back-door of the Espy and observed everyone talking. There were several women friends on the scene, giving their moral support. The prettiest one, a friend of the drummer or something, had a long conversation with me. I was surprised how long she stuck with it, considering my lack of response, but she told me all about how she used to work for the telephone company and then she had a baby and that changed her priorities a lot, and how she might get back to work some day but if she does it will have to be a job that she really cares about, and how she learnt classical piano for many years in the past but she's mostly forgotten how to play. She asked me questions about myself too. One of the positive flow-on effects of being a musician is that I get the opportunity to listen to and look at people that I wouldn't otherwise be able to make contact with.
 
 
boris and harry
 
 
 
Boris drove me home that night, and before he dropped me off he said, "We won't have a practice on Monday – I think we'll have a well-earned rest. Our next practice will be a week from now, on Friday."
    I was surprised that he even wanted to practise on Friday, considering we don't have any other gigs on the horizon. As the leader of the band, he makes the choices, so I figured I'd have to set aside Friday night for him as usual. But then something happened which conflicted with his plans and sent my whole life spinning off on a wild tangent.
 
 
 
mum and the plane ticket
 
 
 
While I was chilling out at home on Monday, having a well-earned rest, someone else was also having a well-earned rest – it was my grandmother, Patricia or "Nan" as we like to call her, and she didn't wake up. I received a phone-call the next day from Mum, saying, "Stephen, Nan has died. We will be flying out to Sydney for the funeral. Would you like to come with us?"
    I replied, "I'd like to."
    "Well, we'll pay for your plane-ticket if you do. The plane leaves on Wednesday morning. So, come over to our house at ten o'clock Wednesday, and we will drive together to the airport."
 
 
 
the edge of sydney
click to enlarge
 
 

Sydney is where Nan lived. It's also the home of Dad's brother's family, so we would be staying with them while we prepare to go to Nan's funeral. Other relatives are coming, as well – my two sisters, my brothers-in-law, my niece, my nephew and cousins. The whole family is putting some time aside to pay their respects to Nan and watch her go down into her grave. It's nice to have a holiday for a few days and travel to Sydney to see relatives that I haven't seen for a couple of years. I haven't been on an aeroplane in thirteen years. Air-travel is more exciting than car-travel. I like aeroplanes.
 
 
above the clouds
 
 
 
My grandmother Pat was born in 1919. She used to be a school teacher and a librarian. She had a strong personality and she was not self-conscious or nervous. She was often friendly, but we had to be careful what we said around her, because she –
    Oh! I just pressed the "shift" key five times in a row, accidentally, and a window popped up saying "Pressing the SHIFT key 5 times turns on StickyKeys." That was a surprise. Why don't you try it, it might work on your computer too.
    I used to be scared of Nan, when I was a child – I used to hate to be around her because I felt like my everyday behaviour was offensive to her and she would get angry at the slightest thing. Many years later, she didn't seem so bad, and I wrote letters to her often. She was always giving out money and other things.
 
 
 
cancelled passport
 
 
 
I haven't seen her in the last few years, but what I heard was that she was increasingly frail and weak. This year she suffered a major accident and then a heart-attack which left her as an invalid. Her brain was starting to break down. So we could see, that if she survived much longer, it would be a semi-life and she would never be back to her old self. I wasn't sad, when I heard that she had died. It was for the best. And apparently, the timing of the death was ideal for everyone – no one had to cancel any important plans to attend the funeral.
    The weather on the flight to Sydney was beautiful. The plane went really high and I had a view out the window so that I could see the whole landscape. I took lots of aerial photos. At lunch, the air-hostesses served sandwiches with salad in them. There was also a big TV screen on the plane so that we could watch TV and listen to the sound on the free headphones. Towards the end of the flight we saw some pretty cloud formations, and then we saw the city of Sydney from above, then we went right out over the sea, and then we landed at the airport.
 
 
mum and stephen on the plane
 
 
 

I stayed at my uncle's house that night. My Dad was there – he was helping the family to design a programme for the funeral, with lots of clipart and family photos in the desktop-publishing document.
    Today was the day of the funeral. People were dressed in formal clothes. It was a religious event at the church in the retirement village where Nan lived. When we checked the dates, we realised that her death was exactly ten years after she moved in to the village, and everyone said it was an odd coincidence. Relatives gave eulogies, telling stories about Nan's life and how they were affected by her, and sometimes their eyes teared up. Listening to them, I thought about how Nan's guidance is what made Dad the way he is today, and therefore she had some influence on how he raised his own children. Thus she is partly responsible for making our family unit stable and cohesive. But how much difference she made, and how positive her influence was on the world in general, is anyone's guess.
    There were bible-readings and communion. Finally, the coffin was loaded into a hearse and driven away. I think I detected a kind of sombre atmosphere at that point. The burial will be tomorrow morning.
 
 
coffin with nan inside
 
 
 
After that, some of the funeral guests gathered together in another building for some light refreshments, like coffee and sandwiches. There were also some nice cakes, they were delicious but I had to limit myself. While the family stood about and talked about family matters, I noticed that my niece and nephew were running around and playing a game where they took turns crawling under a coffee-table. My nephew embellished the game halfway through by peering through the glass at my niece while she crawled through, and then he looked around the edge of the table and said "Boo!" Later, they started playing another game where they ran towards a pair of automatic doors and then the doors opened and they ran away and hid under another table. When my nephew left, my niece wanted to continue this game so she said to my brother-in-law, "Daddy, you have to say Go!"
 
 
niece and nephew
 
 
 
So my brother-in-law said "Go!" and she ran towards the automatic doors. She wanted to continue this game over and over, but my brother-in-law tired of it after about three repeats so he said "Maybe uncle Stephen could say Go, instead."
    So I participated in the game a few times, 'cause I was the one to say "Go!" My other brother-in-law came over with my sister, and my sister asked me "Why are you saying Go?"

 
 
 
me and the man who said its all gone pear shaped
 
 
 
I replied, "Thιrθse wants me to. When I say Go, she runs towards the doors. Go!"
    My sister watched what was happening, and then by and by some other people walked along and activated the doors out of sequence. This must have confused my niece because she ran towards the doors without me saying "Go".
    My brother in law said (just quietly), "Oh, no! What are you doing? The doors are already open! Are you crazy?"
    My niece must have decided the game was over at that point because she ran over the other side of the room. My sister commented, "She's had enough of that."
    My brother in law said, "It's all gone pear-shaped."
 
 
mourners
 
 
 
Tonight we played a game of Scrabble. It's a game where you have to put down letters on a board and make words. There were ten people – four married couples plus me and my cousin Jo. So in the game, we played as five pairs. It was a fun game and it took our minds off death. My cousin Jo and I had really bad luck because we had too many vowels and not enough consonants. We were coming last for most of the way. But then at the end we used up all our letters before the others, so we jumped ahead and came third. I would've come last if I'd been working alone. In the game of Scrabble, you have to process information really quickly because there's so many combinations of letters to work through, and then you have to scan all those little squares on the board and do the maths in your head to figure out which possibility will score highest. So you have to be mentally agile all around, and the rest of my family are.  
 
 

Flash animation – roll your mouse over it to make stuff change colour
 
 
 
Live Music:
Last Saturday, I went to the Tote and saw a band called Mrs Pinkwhistle. They're an all-male band but they're not a macho hard-rock sort of band, they're sort of cute and bouncy pop-rock, and they sing and play guitar in a lighthearted way. Some of their music sounds very good. They mix the styles up, the quiet with the loud. I guess it's not good enough to be a big success on the commercial music scene. And on Saturday night, the next band to play after Mrs Pinkwhistle were Bidston Moss, and they were even better. Bidston Moss are always good, and I've gone to about twenty-five of their gigs, but this one was probably the second-best gig I've seen them do. It was brilliant, especially when Chris the guitarist stood up on the foldback speaker to play her solo. The room was not very full, but the people who were there were dancing, and I danced closest to the front. After the enjoyable rock-music, I bought a copy of Bidston Moss's new CD.
 
Television:
When the famous reality show Big Brother ended, they filled that timeslot with the sitcom called Seinfeld. It's a funny show about four friends who get into all kinds of strange unbelieveable situations with a lot of coincidences and misunderstandings. I was glad to see it back, even though it's been repeated over and over and over – it's one of those shows that I can watch while I'm making dinner and it's enjoyable even after I've seen each episode a hundred times. But then, after a couple of weeks, Channel 10 took it off and replaced it with some stupid cooking show called Oliver's Twist. I don't know how stupid it is because I've never watched it, but I just hate all cooking shows. And Oliver's Twist is a Channel 2 program, so why are they showing it on Channel 10.
 
 
Historical photo of the week:
 
 
Stephen Clark Age 22
Stephen Clark, 22 years old.
 
 
 
Reading:
I've just finished the book Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk. It's about this guy who's all religious and stuff, and he becomes a famous best-selling religious author and talk-show host. So in this story, we learn about how fame is all about fakery and pretence – on his talk shows he reads off a script written for him by the people who control his image. He is manipulated by a big corporation who feed him drugs to make him look healthy and powerful, and they write a false autobiography about him in which they tell lies about his childhood. This book has a strong message about the mass media and how you can't believe everything they tell you. I enjoyed it because it's funny the way the characters are so extreme and exaggerated, and it makes me think about how a lot of things in modern life are just so ridiculous.
 
 
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