Laughing Man of Fitzroy

Shallow blue sky holds the fort as a breeze shoots through my system, curling and messing a clump of shaggy post nana-nap fringe. I sit up here on this newfound sanctuary, the corrugated roof outside the second story bathroom of our Fitzroy palace. You can see everything from up here – the Town Hall, the backstreets, the housing commission flats. Not to mention all the characters out and about doing their thing.

A man in fluoro yellow wally hat trundles down Condell St to my right with a blue shopping bag in his clutches. His pants are particularly high above waistline, not to mention a dubious shade of beige. He walks as if in desperate need for trouser readjustment and is no doubt an accountant. The yellow wally hat and high pants disappears around the corner. I hope for his sake the blue plastic bag contains a fresh pair of beige breeches.

I lie back, survey and breathe in the life coming and going. The city, its cranes and cheesegraters stare back at me as if parked right on my back doorstep; the neon signs slowly lighting up and out to party again. Sun gone, breeze chillier, I wait for another sign of life.

As if on cue, the laughing man of Fitzroy appears. This funny little cat loiters around my backstreets day and night without fail. Laughing man is Vietnamese, roughly four foot ten, somewhere within his fifties, sporting a little bum fluff moustache beneath his nostrils. Laughing man’s fashion is the direct inverse of high pant accountant - yellow shirt, white wally hat, and open toed brown sandals. No high pants to be found on laughing man. I very much doubt laughing man is, or ever was, an accountant. Though it might explain why he is now nuts. Laughing man’s daily agenda seems to be: wake up, hang around, drink from thermos, check out the Fitzroy scene and commence maniacal chuckling at nothing in particular. I can;t see what he's having a laugh at at but whatever it is, it’s gold material. Seriously funny stuff. Whenever i see him, laughing man rarely goes a few minutes without absolutely losing his bowel in a barrage of high pitched cackling.

Often I walk home to find laughing man at his favourite spot in the mid arvo sundrench at the foot of the weird Yoga ashram across the road. I too am a big fan of the sun, but rarely does it get me wetting myself. I’ve noticed recently that laughing man also likes to set up shop three doors up in the front yard of the abandoned old Californinan Bungalow. In unattended leaves and shrubbery, he reclines with a full thermos of hilarity drink, as burning smoke from a rolled cigarette filters away from his loose right hand. Laughing man sits there and chuckles madly to himself in constant bemusement of the world around him, his eyes glazed, his ability to communicate with words neutered by the one-track desire to piss himself silly.

His cackle has a certain tone that brings people together. It is like that of a cheeky infant, like a falsetto ewok or baby mogwai gremlin might pissing themselves after being repeatedly tickled with a massive feather. A girl on a bike rode nearby laughing man within my proximity the other day. We both looked at each other with a smile and shared a chuckle of our own. “He’s a character, isn’t he?”, I cheerfully prodded bike woman. Savvy with laughing man’s colloquial antics and reputation, bike woman nodded in knowing agreeance.

The sky has since turned a shade of sultry lilac as charcoal painsplotches of cloud disperse with the breeze heading east and fast. I watch the last of laughing man fade into the dusk distance. I try to picture where he sleeps at night. Does he have a house? Does he have a family? Do they sit around a lazy susan and huff down a big can of nitrous oxide for dinner? I wonder whether laughing man has much to laugh about when the warmth of the sun is gone. Maybe he laughs because that’s all he’s got. That, and his gleaming silver Thermos.

Or perhaps I’m being a little presumptuous. Maybe laughing man knows more than all of us combined; in on a secret that none of us can see.

‘Beatles Love’ filters through my laptop speakers and George Harrison’s magical voice tells me that the Sun is coming. It’s gone for the day, George, but it’ll be back. And when it does, I'll possibly be here sitting with a corrguated ridge defying my posterial comfort. I can pretty much guarantee laughing man will be swallowing it's rays at the foot of the weird yoga ashram hurling back skyward an artillery of rib-splitting guffaws, hee-hees and titters; with thermos chock full of nitrous and pants that sit just right upon his waistline, not too high, and not too beige.

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