I am a man who appreciates good closure. A first-rate narrative is one thing, but without a fair dollop of quality bang-up closure - positive, measured, juicy closure, then I just can’t help but feel left hanging at the end of a story. I demand the type of closure that brings home a good tale like a majestic cadence, the sort that tweaks the left side of your lips without consent, warming the buggery out of your deep cockles with fuzziness and uncompromising pathos. When Darryl Kerrigan won his court case, he branded the opposing prosecutor a dickhead, partied hard with Bud Tingwell and the rest of the fam, a flurry of warmth that preceded a concluding point-by-point narration from Darryl’s mullety, hole-diggin’ son about how everything turned out great for everyone. The first time I watched ‘The Castle’, its’ closure and homegrown pathos resonated and set my cockles aflame, creating a mighty shiteating grin that was uncontrollably splayed across my face for the days to come. I’m a sucker for a good dose of closure.

We’re all creating our own little movie reels of life each and every moment that we breathe in the air on this earth. Many will endure a fair gamut of genres in our life-reels, fluctuating across ‘teenage coming of age’, action-thriller, romantic comedy, and if you’re that way inclined, maybe even something funny with guns. Our lives are busy narratives, melting pots of countless plots, stories and tales, inevitably in constant flux, incorporating fresh casts of characters along with the staples, altogether wrapped up in an ever-present underlay of profound irony. I like to think that I’ve been living a pretty neat story of late, one which would rate at least a three and half stars from Margaret, and probably a grudging three from David. But my story is still a work in progress, the first in a series, a snippet and intro, a juicy taste of things to come. I recognise that the ultimate closure to mine and everyone’s story will only arrive once we finish inhaling air on this big carbon-battered sphere, something which may come sooner rather than later. But I can’t even wait that long. The most recent chapter of my story is one of the oldest and wrinkliest of chestnuts - the long recounted tale of the geezer who trots off to foreign lands, bears witness to some amazing stuff, then eventually returns back home only to find that sweet bugger all has changed but for the rapid new perspective born in his own noggin. Thematically it’s a travel piece with a smattering of coming of age, a clash of cultures, the awakening of one’s soul, and in many regards, a film about drinking a shitload of beer. My overseas adventure finished five months ago, but the journey has far from ended, merely a tiny segment of the greater narrative. Nonetheless, this chapter of my life is demanding a dose of closure right here and now, however preliminary, or at very least a suitable recap.

At the edge of winter, amidst the cusp of spring, August 17, 2006 was a bitey, wafty, downright cool Melbourne morn and this prodigal nut-cracking geezer had come home to roost…

From The Pantheon to The Fitz Town Hall’

It’s funny how the magic and essence of the city you’ve lived in all your life becomes too hidden to notice when you’re couped up inside it every day of your life. Four and a half months was the longest period of time I had ever spent away from Melbourne, and despite witnessing some of the most impressive landmarks of Old world Europe, coming home to the unrecognised beauty of my home city was by far the most revelatory. On day three back home, I killed some time at a little patch called ‘Gordon Reserve’, a nook on the corner of Macarthur and Spring adjacent Treasury Place and Parliament station. Behind me, warm sun burst down over the ornate Windsor Hotel and toasted my back as I gazed south down Spring St, eyes glazing over my immediate surrounds the same way they’d glazed over every foreign stimulating destination. The regal white, flag-tipped Governors mansion protruding from the lush green shrubbery of the Botanical gardens was suddenly so striking, I’d never even registered its’ presence before. I glossed over the ornate nineteenth century architecture, the palm trees, the chirping sounds of city Rosellas over the comforting rumble and clack of a W class tram. I became entranced by the spray painted smattering of cloud-blurred sky, spellbound by the rich blue and the depth of tone, as if the entire perceivable colour spectrum suddenly adjusted to a warmer hue once you crossed the Australian border. The skies in Europe seemed so much more pastel and light, dated and colour-drained, not nearly as brilliant as the skies back home. My God it was exciting to be back.

Despite a newfound adoration of my home city, I struggled to resonate with home in the same way I had done before I left. I was quick to realise that my life had taken a serious turn in the process of being away, and if a single word could capture the profound feelings of weirdness that accompanied the return it would definitely be ‘disjointedness’. I guess this was more to do with my own mental transformation than anything else. Very little had changed back home in a physical capacity, barring a new Asian two dollar shop called ‘Fantasy Box’ down the main drag, and some burger joint called ‘Flame Gorilla’, equipped with a man-size baseball-capped primate posing in the front window which would eventually scare the living shit out of me every time I strolled past it late on my way home from work. Box and Gorilla aside, everything was there as I left it – the streets, the characters and the giant wooden dog outside the station. I traipsed the backstreets past familiar corrugated California bungalows, with trees lining the nature strips stark and leafless. I inhaled chilly, crisp air and the musty odour of burnt cardboard cascading out from the nearby chimneys of the Amcor paper mill, a olfactory cocktail that sauntered me back to every memory of every winter I’d ever lived in Fairfield. I walked slowly past the 70’s redbrick Coin Laundromat on the corner of Rushall and Arthur – I lived above it right up until I went away, and my mates still lived there.
Opposite stood the equally gaudy block of brick apartments where the bony old bloke ‘Skeletor’ resided, directly above that mad Calabrese woman we named ‘Tales from the Crypt’. I remembered when we used to have massive waterfights with the local kids in summer, hurling wet rubber packages at their small heads, forcing them behind the lines of Crypt’s wooden fence until she emerged disgruntled, chasing the youth away screaming indecipherable pidgon English. This was the place I grew up in. I knew the streets like the back of my hand. The memories floated back to me like a dam-burst stream of cognition. Everything was all there and seemingly little had changed. But something just didn’t feel the same.

It was like I’d arrived back to a parallel universe with all the trimmings and illusions of my previous home, only without the familiar connection that I once used to have with it.

It took me a good couple of weeks to get back into the swing of daily life in Melbourne, and even then it all felt considerably strange. As time continued to barrel along at an incredible pace, the more the European adventure trailed off in my rear vision mirror, snowballing rapidly into one chunky, ever-distant memory. I reeled off every notable story to friends and family countless times ad nauseaum, recounting in graphic detail the diminished self esteem as a result of the world’s worst haircut, the exhilarating hot air balloon ride in Turkey, the unannounced 2am German booty call at the hostel in Cork and the disastrous Roman pub crawl where I huffed two thirds of a Cuban cigar and vomited spectacularly mid-slumber all over my top bunk. The latter was consistently popular. Each time I reeled off the same old stories, the less it felt like I actually did it all, as if the trip was one giant dream that never really occurred.

I promised myself during my final days in London that when I returned home I’d make sure to keep on truckin’ with the momentum and energy I’d scooped up along the way, to keep living large, thinking big, refusing to let the petty stuff that irked me in the past carry on as an anchor to weigh me down for the future. Two months sleeping in the shell of my old bungalow filtered back so many teenage memories and proved to be more than enough nostalgia. In November I pushed on with a new phase of life, moved into an awesome new terrace house right in the guts of trendy Fitzroy with my esteemed travel-pal, The Reverend, and jovial uncle Poida. I lap up each and every glorious day that I can on my upstairs balcony, taking in the randoms, the scenarios, the majestic yet modest Fitzroy Town Hall in the study window, and the energetic vibe of this awesome melting pot of a suburb. Two thousand and seven has already proved that it is going to be a massive and amazing year, and I am unbelievably thrilled at what possibilities might lay ahead, the Yellow Brick Road that only time will reveal

It is now five months down the track. 2006 has cleared its clacker out of the way for ’07, I’m two months away from turning 24, and life is continuing to kick a great deal of ass. Less than a week after arriving home I scored a job at Australia’s finest backpacker hostel, the elusive ‘Greenhouse’ down Flinders Lane. Checking in and looking after some of the most random characters from all over the globe was an all-too familiar situation to my lifestyle overseas, and I managed to ward off the onset of post-travel depression, continuing to live the traveller’s life vicariously through the misadventures and personal narratives of our frequently eccentric clientele. After the bed vomit incident of Rome I was forced to pay back some karmic dues in the very first week on the job, mopping up the technicolour yawn that some vicious bastard left for me one morning in room 413. Working at the hostel is one of the sweetest gigs imaginable, the first job I’ve ever looked forward to each and every day, though I do feel like Basil Fawlty a fair chunk of the time.

They say that one day backpacking overseas is akin to one whole week in your day to day life at home. Don’t ask me who ‘they’ are because, frankly, I’m blown, but I figure some enlightened tit must have uttered it because its’ nothing short of the truth. My adventure in Europe was a period of unparalleled liberation and awakening, of accelerated learning and perspective, a moment where time was thrust on it’s head instead of its’ arse and life was given the green light to take on a whole lot of fresh meaning. The four months overseas felt like a small eternity, a period in my life that I can only now, some five months later into a fresh year, truly appreciate and analyse with relative accuracy, and recognise just how important it was to the growth and progress of my very soul and being. And if the four or so months overseas felt like an eternity, the ensuing five months back home have felt like a fleeting snippet. Time is an elusive, paradoxical beast, simultaneously giving the impression that it’s whizzed past at the speed of light, yet at the same time feeling like so much has been crammed into it, like an over-packed rat at the local taxidermist.

I can’t say for sure when I’ll be thrusting the pack back on and venturing off to far off distant lands again. I know for certain that it will occur one day. For now, it’s as much of a thrill to look out each morning to the Fitzroy Town Hall clock tower as it is to the Pantheon of Rome or the Athenian Acropolis. Each new day is as exciting and brimming with potential as the last, and the possibilities of the future remain fascinating. Four and a half months in Europe was the greatest thing I have ever had the privilege of doing, a priceless chunk of life that has set me up well and truly for the rest of my days. And I am truly lucky to be able to come back from all of it to live in the finest location of the lot.
It is at this point that my finger is well and truly retracted from the temporal ass, my mind alive, basking gloriously amidst the highlight reel of memories of that trip, those magical Four and half months away.

My cognitive movie reel is full of award winning moments, a plethora of neuronal gold logies, and to date the European adventure pretty much tops the box office. I may not have won a lengthly High court case against a belligerent government developer, nor partied hard with Bud Tingwell and gone fishin with him in Bonny Doon. But for a while there I definitely felt like I was ‘dreamin’, I no doubt called someone a dickhead, and everything turned out alright in the end.

My name is Cam Hassard, and that was my story…

…and that’s enough closure for now.


Fiona said...

hey cam,
just read your blog/s. thanks, for the tip, it was a great way to procrastinate! (im at work on the late desk and its dead). anyway just thought i'd let you know it was a most enjoyable read. no, really, like next time i will not just read it to procrastinate, but because i know its going to be a really good read. Thanks for sharing cam! also, youre a pretty good writer btw.

evs said...

wow. just wow.

that post makes me feel like i am missing out on life, like i should be running out of this office to book the a ticket on the next flight that is going further than new zealand.