Back in 1997 I found myself marooned without employment. I had just returned from a two-month trip abroad, rampaging alone through USA, where I was predominantly stationed in Cleveland OHIO as a (AHEM) session bass player, Brazil, then to Paris for a few hours (I will explain later), The UK, Italy, and then the USA again. After a few days fart-arsing about, I picked up work at Sony Music initially answering the telephone and taking orders from stores (I found that I was pretty good at this). After this I found myself at HMV Records, a Leviathan of a chart-store, in the country/jazz/easy-listening/soundtracks section.
As luck would have it, I found myself fascinated by jazz music because on the whole it sounded utterly alien therefore cryptic and interesting to me. I had no idea what the fuck was going on when I heard a Cecil Taylor record but I made sure I blasted the stereo and jumped around my room with the door closed. I rushed out and bought the unbelievable Sun Ra biography “Space is the place” by John Szwed. It proved to be a mind-blowing and influential read. As a musician, if you can’t learn something from Sun Ra, you may as well jump inside a wooden coffin with a set of nails and a hammer and seal yourself in.
I made a habit of at lunch times eating from a dungeon-like restaurant on George street across the road from HMV, due to the conveyor-belt rapid service. The grey spaghetti carbonara that was glue-like and overly garlic-laced was $5.00 a generous plate. Perfect for me at that stage of my life even if the food was a bit inedible. Habitually I would unfurl the hard cover Sun Ra tome and slam the vulgar pasta down. For the life of me I can’t recall the name of this rat’s nest nor do I wish to.
One such lunch time accosted were I by the restaurant owner – a skull-like Eastern European visage of a creature – he hovered over me with his presence as well as his sustain and gain, loitering unwelcomingly, my eyes meeting his ghastly gaze mid-slurp. I recognised this man as the proprietor, by my past observation (more like cursory glances) of his demeanour, his general presence. He barked at his staff like a well-worn bugle, pushing them this-way-and-that.
My meal was then suddenly interrupted by this foreskin of a man: “What are you reading?”.
“Sun Ra’s biography”
“Who is Sun Ra?”
“Sun Ra was a jazz pianist and composer”.
“WHAT KIND OF JAZZ? I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF HIM”
With each offered reply, the hostility from this man (and probably from myself) went up a notch. It sounded like the Skull did not like me to begin with. People who look like they perform experimental surgery on others for laughs generally speaking, don’t warm to me. They don’t warm to anyone. Finally, the prick stopped beating around the bush.
“Avant-garde music is RUBBISH”. His bile rose like molten lava through his tube until they formed words designed to stab my person.
“In your opinion Avant-garde music is rubbish” was my counter-offer.
“My opinion is more important THAN YOUR OPINION”. He really was a shaved ape of a man. And he was asking for it.
“In your opinion, your opinion is more important than my opinion. In my opinion, my opinion is more important than your opinion”. Smart-arsedness and outright anger rose up in me in equal measure. I had lived this day many times over, EVEN BEFORE I JOINED THE HARD-ONS.
“YOUR OPINION IS NOTHING!” The skeleton really was furious now.
“AND YOU ARE A FUCKWIT! IN MY OPINION” I spat. Still seated. Still chewing.
“GET OUT OF MY RESTAURANT!” bellowed the cruel phantoma.
“I’ve not finished mate”.
The frantic fuckwit bolted to the counter. I knew what he was up to immediately. I shoveled the vast ropes of unholy glug down my throat
“HERE IS YOUR MONEY BACK! GET OUT!” He threw a five dollar note on my table.
The smart-arse in me overtook my anger immediately at that point. I continued eating. This of course made him EXPLODE.
“GET OUT! GET OUT!” His voice went up an octave. I loved it.
I got up very slowly, like a wounded rugby league player rising to play the ball all the while trying to milk a penalty for a foul-shot, still fork in hand, still bashing “food” down my throat, fully knowing the old fuck would not dare lay a hand on me. I had a fork in my hand.
Finally, I rose, wiping my mouth with one of their napkins, smiling like a lucky alley cat. A burly goombah escorted me out and he looked like he wanted to smash me right there-and-then and I do not blame him because I put on a good show for the rest of the diners. Provoked, mind you.
For the next week, I asked my co-worker Scott Bradbury to accompany me after work to the top of the stairs that led to the basement that was the restaurant. You see, immediately after this episode I by chance ran into a young woman who was an employee at that establishment. Overwhelmed and embarrassed by what had occurred to the max were she, and she gleefully explained that the horrid proprietor had the week earlier welcomed Pauline Hanson into his restaurant, being a donator to her wretched little political party, he of course barely tolerated Asians. She figured the guy must have reeled from seeing a long-haired Oriental cunt in a torn VENOM T-shirt reading a Sun Ra hard-cover biography IN HIS RESTAURANT funking out the joint. Hence his hostility and initial provocation. This led me to believe that I needed to take my friend Scott to the restaurant for a good time.
Once we reached the restaurant, I would pick up the advertising sandwich board outside the restaurant and hurl it down the long stairs. Of course it would make a sensational din. The commuters at the bus stop would look bemused but somehow, my purposeful presence eluded to some kind of justification and meaning rather than sheer random Australian buffoonery. To see Scott double over in pain as his laughter reached 10 on the dial made me extremely happy. I was killing two birds with one stone, taking revenge and making a friend have a good belly laugh.
This went on merrily until on around day 5 I yanked at the sandwich board to hoist it over my head for a hoik, only to find the fucken thing chained to the wall. It was AWESOME while it lasted