During the second quarter, on the fifty-metre arc, at the Punt Road end was, to paraphrase Hunter S Thompson, when the stories and the beer began to take hold.
Six of us are in Row S, connected by the time we spent together at Kapunda High School, and variously on the Barossa’s cricket and footy ovals.
Much of our conversation is our old cars and coaches and mates and publicans and parents and maverick teachers who shaped us.
It’d been a ripping trip so far: early flights, the North Fitzroy Arms for the Footy Almanac lunch which concluded with the final siren at the SCG, the obligatory Young and Jackson nightcaps, and a Saturday laneway breakfast.
With the Uber app showing cars descending like black Pacmen three of us ride in a Caprice, and I’m reminded of the great Dave Graney and his song “Feelin’ Kinda Sporty” which opens with the magnificent
A black Statesman “73
At high noon, and accompanied with ample yarns, we entered the All Nations Hotel to confer with the ghost of Bill Hunter, and then white pub-vanned to the MCG as the match commenced. Each of us is merrily apathetic about the result.
I love footy, but occasionally its lone function is to provide a panoramic context across which we can splash our stories. Rocket would love to be watching his beloved Sturt while Nick, the Hayward boys (not Kapunda’s Gatlin boys) and Lukey are Norwood men, but as neither is scheduled at the MCG today we get along to Collingwood and Port.
With the match chugging along Nick and I discuss contemporary AFL footballers and old players from home, in particular one Mail Medallist and local publican who loved scrapping at the bottom of a pack, like a nuggetty 1970’s Selwood.
“You know what he used to do in the sheds before a game?”
“No. Tell me.”
“He’d smear heaps of Vaseline on his eyebrows so the elbows would slide off.”
Needing to refresh their refreshments the Haywards return with their shouts: Bundy for them, and mid-strength beers for us. For a moment, I fear we’ll need petroleum jelly too, but happily there’s no fight in the forward pocket.
We move onto that most vital of topics: Which Test Cricketer would you most like to have a beer with? (until very recently in pre-production at Network Ten)
“There’s nothing to discover. Nothing.”
“Yeah, and I can’t have a beer with someone who calls their book, ‘My Autobiography.’”
“That’d have been a funny meeting at the publishers.”
I take a difficult sip of my mid-strength. “Waugh twins?”
“No. Steve’d bore you to death.”
“The worst kind of mental disintegration.”
Ultimately our choice is clear. One of the most stylish middle-order bats we’ve seen, and still a bloke about whom little is really known. An anti-Warney. The one who quit the night of the famous 2006 Ashes victory in Adelaide. Damien Martyn.
On the ground, Port is doing well with Robbie Gray slotting a few while Unley Jets alumnus Brodie Grundy is holding his own for the Magpies.
We wonder if the Chappell brothers still own the Leg Trap Hotel, and if David Warner is less likeable than a curved television and if it’s possible to make Boonie more Australian. It isn’t.
This brings us to the best quotation ever, the one which places sport and our little, self-tortured world into perfect context. Nick remembers his Dad giving him Australian allrounder and WWII pilot Keith Miller’s book. “Pressure,” Keith said. “I’ll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse. Playing cricket is not.”
Still laughing at the magnificence of this, Rocket heads off to a cavern and emerges with some appropriate beers. Normal transmission is resumed. Pendlebury is smooth and constructive, as usual. We note that Ollie Wines has thighs like Californian redwood.
The conversation then tends, as it must, towards other nostalgia and juvenalia. We’re now at Stalag 13. The verdant field of the MCG recedes and we’re all in front of a black and white TV, sliding our paws into packets of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs.
“Burkhalter and Hochstetter.”
Much giggling, given to misty eyes.
“No prisoner has ever escaped from Stalag 13.”
“I’d like to hear this on the BBC World Service: Munich Messerschmitts 2, Stalag 13, 3.”
Someone slides next to me with a pie. A message comes through that another Kapunda High contemporary is on the second deck behind the Port cheer squad. We wave at Maria, who waves towards our bay.
Looking back now it makes sense, and indeed there’s a happy inevitability in the childhood image that would become our weekend’s talisman. The footy is now on mute as we moved towards the creature that Mark Twain described as “a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton.” The coyote, but of course for us, Wily E Coyote.
I don’t know how we came to this, and I don’t want to know, but as the shadows lengthened across Melbourne, Lukey, with his talent for the comic and the absurd mentioned it and we were off.
“Easily the greatest cartoons ever.”
“The coyote hanging in mid-air until he realizes that he is about to plummet into a chasm!”
“Yeah, and he’d hold up a sign like ‘Goodbye cruel world.’”
“Or ‘Help me.’”
By now the laughter and the memories and the beer and our good fortune at being in this fun space meant, for some of us, there were tears of childish abandonment.
“What of the Giant Kite Kit?”
“The roller skates and the fan blowing the coyote along?”
“From the Acme company.”
Bombs, detonators, nitroglycerin. Not so funny in 2017, but when you’re seventeen and watching Looney Tunes…
We talk of the Road Runner’s ability to enter the painted image of a cave, while the coyote cannot, which showed us that the existentialists are correct: it is an unknowable and absurd universe. Cartoons teach us this.
And then as the Paah (sic) delivered their knockout blow to Collingwood, Lukey delivered his knockout blow to us. A childhood picture that captures the fun, the innocence of the endless battle between the Roadrunner and the Coyote.
“Free bird seed.”
And there it was. Only three words. But a beautiful mantra of the past, a pulsing refrain, and the best televisual picture of a little bird nibbling at food in the desert, likely just outside Albuquerque.