Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 48 Song 48 - Tourmaline

When I was eleven my mother decided to take my brother and I on a trip to Alice Springs, the red centre of Australia. On the Saturday before we departed I went to the barber and said "Give me a haircut like his" and pointed at my brother, who was sporting a small crew cut. After pleading with me and calling my parents, the barber, who was an Italian who'd known me from birth, agreed to do it. I just didn't want the burden of conditioner and combing agony all the way through the red dust. My mother, who likes her drink, brought a girlfriend, who likes her drink, and her son, who although just turned eighteen, also liked his drink. Need I say more. The trip was a ramshackle affair involving many 3 day stops in towns so that everyone could get over their hangovers. My mother needed to drink to get over her fear of driving long distances (she didn't drink and drive - she was always very careful about that) which had come about through a horrible car accident we'd had when I was six and my brother was three. It makes sense when you think about it from a therapist's point of view, although on paper here it seems bizarre.
Anyway, among other things (getting molested by the eighteen year old among them) I played cards and waited around at the campsite while my mother spent 3 days in the Todd River drinking with the Aborigines. This was frowned upon in Alice Springs as they have (I don't know how it is now, but back then it was pretty serious) a strict segregation tradition of whites and blacks. So she got thrown in the slammer (a story I once relayed in a Vice interview about my first brush with the police). I was pretty traumatised when she finally re-appeared after going missing for 3 days, as she was covered in cuts and bruises and looking really shook up.
Growing up in Australia, the reality of the desert is never far away from your consciousness. "Wake in Fright" is an example of this, and "Tourmaline" by Randolph Stow, a story of a bankrupt ghost town is another.
The girlfriend who liked her drink ended up being incarcerated in Dubai a few years later after being found drinking alcohol, and her son committed suicide. So all in all the trip to Alice Springs remains as a tragic, beautiful, wild, freaky, fucked-up memory for me, remaining pure only in the fact that my brother and I were so young, and everyone else so damaged.

3 comments:

Benji said...

Hey Justine, this is cool. I love the concept as well as the music. You seem to be pretty prolific. Doesn't look like you'll have much trouble finding the material for the CD. Your story brings to mind some fairly graphic early memories I have of Papua New Guinea.

Martin B. said...

eine sehr persönliche geschichte.
ich habe sie mir durchgelesen und den song im hintergrund gehört. die symbiose ließ mich kurz in der wüste stehen und ich konnte einen blick auf euch werfen.

me said...

I never think of PNG without thinking of you, Benji. Funny how things stay with you :-) Danke Martin! Ich lade fuer dich morgen eine foto aus der eigentliche urlaub, falls es dir interessiert :-)

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