It’s 1992, it’s Saturday afternoon. I’m eating a pie on the couch and Dad’s eating two.
NSW are playing Queensland in rugby on TV.
Ben Liddy’s not home so I am inside. He lives in Warrabri Place so I can see his house from our balcony. He has black Jordans and Bladelines with three buckles and a basketball ring that’s 10 foot. He has a Wigan jersey who are a team from England. He used to have a bike jump but it was asbestos.
Ben’s main aim is to dunk on the tree branch in our front yard.
Marty Roebuck is on the TV. He plays for NSW (and also the Wallabies and sometimes Randwick). He is number 15, which is fullback in rugby union and reserve in rugby league.
He gets sand from the bucket and makes a pile with his hands. He puts the ball (Gilbert Barbarian) on top and stands up. One of his socks is down. He does five steps back then two steps sideways. He looks down, then up, then down. He does two breaths and then he’s ready to kick.
Marty Roebuck’s main aim is to kick it through the posts at Concord Oval.
I’m wearing my soccer uniform and Dad’s wearing his tennis clothes. We drew nil all against Mount Colah. Then I got my haircut at Frank’s and you get free chewing gum (Juicy Fruit). I don’t have the right type of hair to get a flat-top so I got a blended step. In the Christmas holidays I get to have an undercut.
Pete Goulter had an undercut. He’s in year 9. He has Guns ‘n Roses shorts from Utopia in the city. His room has a red light and a Use Your Illusions II poster. Once when I was there, his friend yelled at a man on a bike out the car window near Macquarie shops.
Pete’s main aim is to see Guns ‘n Roses at Eastern Creek Raceway.
Next week, I’ll do a dunk on the branch in the front yard.
Next month, I’ll have metal studs and kick goals from the sideline with one sock down.
Next year I’ll go to Eastern Creek Raceway and head bang like on Rage.
And one day, I’ll eat two Big Ben’s Dome Tops without getting full.
I’m taking a break from the pubs, but here’s the start of something new.
It was your first night at the Clare then. Drunk, 19, and wearing a Mossimo trucker hat. It was the first pub you began to routinely order jugs instead of schooners. It was the first pub your ordered a jug just for yourself.
You stand in the pokies room because the couches sit too deep; you have to yell from those things. You smoke while Piggy Ridell slots one after the siren, watching the 16 inch television above the bar they never use. You joke about Piggy’s booze and fag intake. It’s not original but it’ll do.
The bar girl puts on Bloc Party. She pours a beer then goes and changes it to Outkast. Three years later she puts on Javelin. You Shazam it.
Some team wins trivia. They roar.
Later on, you sit outside on the beer kegs, even though they’re not very comfortable. It’s commonly accepted that it’s “a lot like St Jerome’s.” Guys are drunk bragging through the toilet window.
Everyone generally agrees that the James Dean pizza was entirely adequate. There were some boosters who rated it higher, and it always started a debate about where the best pizza was. Experts.
A girl shrieks. Some johnson with a pool cue has just done something cheeky. His hair is thick and unkempt and you resent him.
You look at the suits. There’s only ever two at a time and they prefer to drink at the bar. Five years later, you prefer to drink at the bar. You think about how much you used to like Jose Gonzalez.
The ATM won’t work.
You can’t figure out if the pub has weird and changing opening hours, or just doesn’t open on Mondays. Maybe Sundays too.
It represents three girls to you. They live in the couches, just outside on the pavement, and in a nervous area near the pool table where you were desperate to be liked.
In the afternoons the summer sun sounds like happy voices.
It’s the last night at the Clare now. They’re not replacing the kegs as the beer runs out.
By the excellent Alex Vitlin.
I followed some rickety wooden steps down to the beach. The rain had stopped, but the sky was threatening and there was a stiff breeze that made my hair and a clothes boogie and had the sea in a frenzy of froth. I couldn’t hear anything but the pounding of waves. Leaning steeply into the wind, I trudged along the beach in the posture of someone shouldering a car up a hill, passing in front of a long crescent of beach huts, all of identical design but painted in varying bright hues. Most were shut up for the winter, but about three-quarters of the way along one stood open, rather in the manner of a magician’s box, with a little porch on which sat a man and a women in garden chairs, huddled in arctic clothing with lap blankets, buffeted by wind that seemed constantly to threaten to tip them over backwards. The man was trying to read a newspaper, but the wind kept wrapping it around his face.”
From ‘Notes From a Small Island’ by Bill Bryson (pp 104-105)
I descend some rickety steps.
Sea froths, waves pound, rain threatens. My clothes and hair dance in the breeze.
I hit the beach, lean into the wind.
There’s a crescent of beach huts, identical except for ‘feature’ colours.
They’re all vacant but one — where a man and woman breakfast on the tiny porch. They’re wrapped in coats and blankets, battered by elements.
The man attempts leisure, but wind wraps the newspaper around his face.
No worries, Bill.
We step off Hackney Rd, down a laneway.
Straight ahead, youths stand on concrete, smoke cigarettes. To the right is a pub: English, old.
I push the doorway marked pull, get in someone’s way, end up holding it open for four people loading a drum kit.
The bar’s full. We stand in a thoroughfare until a kindly mod takes pity, points out a spot next to the vacant DJ booth.
We put coats on the back of chairs, I head to the bar.
I order two pints off the first recognisable tap, mumble incoherently.
"Sorry — is there a food menu?"
"Ah yeah, you’re looking at it."
"Oh yeah. Sorry, I wasn’t focusing my eyes."
"Um, I— nothing. Thanks."
I walk back, through the crowd, to our table.
There’s a guy in the DJ booth now. He’s persisting with dance music, in spite of the melodic hardcore band sound checking downstairs.
It’s too loud to talk, I zone out.
Kids in black t-shirts enter and exit the band room in line with their smoking schedules.
Middle-aged guys in Hawaiian shirts collude about drugs.
A girl with a shaved head eats dinner with her mum.
Above the bar is a grid of red, blue and green glass.
Beer flows from kegs, burgers flow from the kitchen.
8pm sun streams through the window, forms a triangle of light on the carpet.
A hundred Saturday nights gain momentum — but I’m just here to watch.
It’s part of the new print journal they just launched.
Download the PDF of Issue #1!
The first ever Moderation Hotel t-shirt is here!
Artwork by the legendary Rob McManus AKA Bobby Gelato.
Click the pic above or visit Label State to buy.
I’m out the front of the Captain Cook.
I stretch my hamstrings. A woman looks through the bin, talks to herself.
I run up Selwyn. Kids scooter the footpaths, parents supervise, drink from stemless Riedels.
I run past St Vincent’s. Patients wheel intravenous drip-stands toward outdoor ashtrays. Short-sleeved nurses laugh amongst themselves.
I run down Bourke. Clothes dry on fence posts, men sit on mattresses. A used syringe lies, upside down in a mostly empty Strongbow bottle.
I run past Boy Charlton. I squint my eyes and look across the dark grey water, where dark grey sharks wait for dark grey clearance divers.
I run toward Circular Quay. On the foreshore people hold hands, compose sunset-tagged shots of the bridge and Opera House.
I run up the stairs at Macquarie St. The lights are still on at my former workplace and, in front of that, floats a party cruise.
I run back, through the city, up Oxford, to the top of my street.
I breathe, put hands on my head.
Sydney smells like dinner and humidity.
I squint my eyes, look up.
Street lamps streak out, stretch behind plane trees.
There are bats in the sky and chewed up berries on the road.
My hamstrings are fucked, but the rest of me feels fortunate.
We walk past Hungry Jacks, up some stairs.
There’s a jukebox and a pool table. The woman behind the bar has thin lips, calls us ‘darlin’.’
The beer tastes like it’s been sucked through a coaster.
Across the room, a courier drinks a middy, rests his bike against the table. His packet of B&H sits on top of a folded Telegraph, obscures Bob Brown’s face.
The toilet has a mechanical condom machine. The jukebox has six different Custard songs.
We sit in the corner. Ng’s hair is long now and Levins looks younger than I imagined. He’s modified his Gerling backpack with texta and whiteout to just say “bling.”
They come here all the time and I try not to act too impressed.
Our zine is going to be called ‘The Keen.’ Levins has drawn some comics and Ng has a bunch of ideas. I don’t know what a zine is, but I’m excited to be involved.
I look across the room. The bike courier gestures to the bar lady, then in one movement, flicks a cigarette straight into his mouth. He grins, winks. She laughs, applauds.
I look out the window. There’s an air conditioning unit, a Hungry Jack’s awning and a traffic jam on Liverpool St.
It’s 2003, it’s a Tuesday afternoon and we have a table full of dick jokes.
My schoolboy haircut’s grown out and I feel pretty cool.