It's starting to wear me down.
Substantial portions of my life (picture a pie-chart) have also been spent clapped out in less than ideal places, but at least there's a little more excitement and adrenalin involved in these situations. More so than sitting with my foot planted in the sweet-spot of my accelerator spike - because the pedal fell off - coaxing a 34 year old engine into action, I mean. Inside the bowels of the Spirit of Tasmania ship, for example, that was a rush. On freeway shoulders, too, and on a hairpin corner of Brown Mountain where I filled the cold forest air with smoke, and on pretty much all of Australia's main highways, with notable mentions going to episodes in Kempsie, Gympie, Gosford and Mount Isa.
In North Queensland I bought a Tarago and two days later, as I was coasting at fair pace down a hill towards the sea a wheel came off and I ripped up 100 or so metres of road in an Aurora Bourealis-like shower of sparks and smoke before coming to a violent and highly theatrical stop in the driveway of a caravan park, centimetres from the office entrance. All the leathery retirees came rushing out of their hammocks to give themselves something to talk about for the days to follow, and the rogue tyre ended up coming to rest in the bus shelter across the road.
A boyfriend and I had a Kombi that caught fire as we drove over a mountain in Tasmania. I remember both of us glancing casually in our mirrors as we laboured up and out of Huonville and commenting that we were blowing rich plumes of smoke but there was nothing particularly unusual about that and it wasn't until a cop car came screaming up alongside with the cop inside gesturing furiously in what I imagine is the universal signal for PULL THE FUCK OVER that we thought something may be amiss. The cop used a fire blanket and my boyfriend used the sheepskin jacket he was wearing and together they smothered the flames. Later, we managed to salvage the jacket by cutting out the burned fleece, although the odour of burning engine remained.
Another time, another guy, another kombi, and a beach somewhere near Torquay. Standing in the car park surveying the scene, Steve expressed a desire to "roar along the shore". He managed to make it a few metres through an okay run-up but became badly bogged well short of the shoreline. It was a dramatic scene, extraction took several hours, and we spent the next week or so excreting sand.
We crossed the Nullabor together, he in the kombi and me in my Mazda, and would stop nights and drink hobo quantities of hobo quality box wine from oversized enamel camping cups and in the mornings, looking to turn back onto the main road, we could never be sure which direction we were headed in and whether we needed to turn left or right.
Bradley Murdoch was on the loose back then.
At some time during the last afternoon of his life, Peter Falconio read The Catcher in the Rye in the back of his kombi while Joanne Lees drove them away from the setting sun*.
Once, I mentioned this to a man I held in high regard and he made a face and said "ugh, how boring" and although I never clarified whether he meant that particular book was boring or the act of reading itself was boring but I never looked at him in quite the same way. I really can't think of a better book for a young man to read only hours before being murdered by an amphetamine crazed and heavily armed everyman on a dark desert highway in the middle of a strange and unfamiliar continent, but that's me.
At that particular time, I myself was reading American Psycho.
When we got to Norseman, and not five minutes after we'd crossed and come off the Nullabor, Steve was pulled over and found to have warrants out for him in three eastern states. He also hadn't held a license for the last four or so years and the kombi was unregistered and when they duly searched the interior they found the sink packed full of high grade South Australian weed he's spent a few days manicuring with his brother in Adelaide in anticipation of going west.
The intercept was a major fly in my ointment because he'd been stopped only a street or two away from the information centre where he'd told me you could get a certificate inscribed with your name saying 'I crossed the Nullabor'. As it happened, after watching his nailing unfold from my vantage point up the street, I went and got my certificate, and had a shower there too, which I still rank among my top ten Best Showers Ever**.
I waited for him to be loosed at this strange, lunar-landscape type place called Dundas Rocks. There were wild brumbies, they brushed against my car, and china fragments left over from the gold rush times sticking out of a dried up salt lake, and big round rocks strewn around and piled on top of each other in odd formations. It was all a little Picnic at Hanging Rock-esque, only with retro graffiti: "Party Time in '89", "Don't Worry Be Happy", etc. Also, "Girls vs Cunts", which, obviously, is timeless.
We spent the night there and he got wasted and wailed along to a Rod Stewart tape well into the night and in the morning, at first light, I broke it off and left for Esperance immediately. There was a pink lake there I wanted to see, but when I arrived I found it wasn't pink at all, it was brown and frothy like milo mixed into milk. There were no flamingoes either, which I had somehow expected***.
*Lees said in court that although she urged him not to, the reason Falconio pulled over that night in response to Murdoch in the car behind them flashing his lights insistently was because he thought their kombi might be shooting sparks or on fire. It's a common occurence in kombis apparently, and I imagine I would have done the same thing as Falconio and pulled obediently over. Well, why not? Who goes through their life actually EXPECTING to be accosted by a murderous psychopath, surely you'd have to have a screw or two loose yourself to live like that, no? In saying that, there have been times in my life where I would have been wise to exercise a little more caution. Two separate incidents in
Margaret River with a Datsun180b driving maniac called Dave spring immediately to mind. To this day any reference to Jarrah trees, Jarrah forests, Jarrah wood, Jarrah coffee, even, remind me that an invitation to "see some really tall trees in this special spot I know" should not necessarily be enthusiastically accepted on the spot. It was all very "I know a shortcut - it's just down this dirt track", if you know what I mean, ie. 'My plan is to kill you and your dog and bury your corpses in shallow graves out here and no one will know because you're alone and far from home and I know you haven't told anyone where you're going', etc, etc. It also needs to be said that this was the first incident, by which I mean that, in a spectacular encore several days later, I narrowly escaped a late night assault, had bricks thrown at me as I beat a retreat, woke up the neighbourhood and effectively wore out my welcome in that particular part of town.
**That list will feature on here in full at a later date. Gird youir loins.
***And continue to expect. One day the fuckers will come home to roost.