Dusty Magnum

You know I do go on about looking after yourself, and I don’t necessarily mean day spas and long walks along the beach (although feel free: you do you, Boo), but to dig a little deeper and to connect in with something that is inherent within all of us: to create. 

Being creative can take on many forms- it can be anything from setting up a nice little space in the corner of a room that pleases your eye, through to writing your Magnum Opus. 

Last week I had a chat with a bloke who is ‘Aussie As’ in his demeanour and his wicked sense of humour. When we first met he was in a band with some brothers and some buddies, and they played around the local traps, pressed a CD and generally had a pretty good time being larrikins with lagers. Their music was dirty and distorted and they bloody loved it. When the venues they played at asked for their ABN to pay them, they said, “Fuck off, we don’t work for The Man” and then proceeded to work for the man for free, because venues wouldn’t pay in cash any more, but the buzz they got from playing couldn’t be sated, so they just kept showing up, and the booking manager got a pat on the head from the honchos at head office for getting a free band. 

Then one day they all grew up. They got mortgages and new couches, and got serious about work, and their tattoos shifted from being pictures of 50’s pin-up girls and dreamy lands afar, to their wives’ names and their kids’ dates of birth. And their guitars got rusty and dusty and they couldn’t look at them because they reminded them of the Peter Pan men they once hoped to be.

With Smitty-not his real name, maybe one day soon I’ll tell you who he is- laughter is never far from the surface. It sits just behind his right eye, and you can see it twinkling there, just begging to be let out. At the slightest provocation. I can say something that is only vaguely amusing, and that twink becomes a twitch and before your heart can beat, a big old belly laugh has busted out. I love making Smitty laugh. Because the thing is, Smitty might look a bit like a hipsterbogan- and I guess all of the fun people I know have a big of boge in them- but he’s also smart as a whip. He’s well-read, and well informed, but most of all, he loves the yarns that people weave. He listens well and he takes all of the stories into that creative mind of his and makes new meaning. All of which makes him a good bloke to be around. Aussie As. 

The thing is, all of this mortgaging and adutling has stolen something from Smitty. And it’s stolen it slowly, bit by insidious bit, like the wind working it’s way on a sandstone cliff, carving out holes where there used to be solid. Bit by sneaky bit, Smitty has been selling off his amps and his less favourite axes. He’s met blokes on a Saturday who have responded to his ad on GumTree who have come to haggle about Smitty’s empty bits. With each mortgage payment a little more of Smitty has hollowed out. 

Now don’t get me wrong, Smitty is still as effervescent as ever, and that laugh is still ready to fizz out at any moment, but I’ve noticed the spark isn’t quite as bright, veiled by the gauzy film of creativity lost. Lost to interest free loans for big screen tvs with that blue glow that lull him to sleep when he would have been jamming. Should have been jamming. 

Jamming in music and new song notes and beers and belly laughs and fights over what scribbled lyric should come next and cheers when is all comes together on the night. Jamming in LIFE.

Last week I had a chat with a bloke who decided to reclaim himself. 

Last week something happened that made my heart and his heart lift up just a little bit more. 

In his desire to pay off the man (or make himself a free man without that mortgage noose) Smitty has been working a second job in a cafe. And just like magic or a twenty year plan coming together (don’t you just love an overnight success?) Smitty has found a bloke on the same wavelength and they are making sweet music together. No, it’s not a love story- Smitty is still married with children- but it is a love note. Or notes. 

These two fellas of undisclosed age and experience have gone from courting (I like your guitar, man) to dating (hey, wanna hang out and jam?) to consummating their relationship (we should form a band and play a gig). And just like shy teenagers, they’ve gotten beyond first base, won an award, gotten into the studio and are now making a film clip. Just like that blush of first love, they are brimming with intensity that can’t be totally contained by the sensible, and do-we-dare dreams of the future. 

And like some weird voyeur, I’m loving every minute of the story that’s unfolding. Most of all, I love seeing Smitty fully lit up again. Whatever happens next, I feel humbled to have watched this from afar, and to bathe in that light just a little.

Ah the global pandemic. Bringing those with desire together since 2020. If nothing else, this cock-up of a year has taught us that we are creators. That if we put ourselves first we can have the life of our dreams. We just need to make a space for it to happen, and to patiently work towards our twenty year overnight success story. 

It’s coming. 

What about you, what do you dream of doing?

…From The Ashers