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Bob Hawke, Brutalism and Banana Bread: Melbourne Trip 2019

 

pub

Who doesn’t love an existential question just after dawn, on a festive Friday? Our flight had entered Victorian airspace (the state, not the historical era) and breakfast (adhering to Spartan and not Southern American culinary tradition) was dumped onto our tray tables.

Propelling eastwards, several kilometres above the awakening and expectant earth, Chris asked, “So, what’s the difference between banana bread and banana cake?”

“Extremely good question, old mate,” I replied staring at the brownish block of mashed fruit, all unanimated and morose.

Trev observed. “I reckon the difference is about three dollars. “

“Yep,” I confirmed, my linguistic prism primed. “Given the alliterative appeal, banana bread is more expensive.”

*

In part the North Fitzroy Arms appeals because it presents as a country pub. Pushing open the front door at 12.01 is all frisson and happy expectation. The décor and the memorabilia are as I remember. Unlike some soulless modern venues there’s no seductive chrome or glass. The taps offer familiar brews. I comment, “Good to see Pentridge Pale Ale is available.” Gough and Percy are on the back wall, in black and white, forever frozen in the early 1970’s.

gough

It’s great to see everyone, and the lunch is a beauty with the Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup with Mascarpone & Basil Oil scoring well. This weekend, everyone is a Eurovision judge.

Today’s guest speaker, George Megalogenis, is compelling and his book, The Football Solution: how Richmond’s premiership can save Australia, underpins the conversation with John Harms courtesy of a magnificent mix of history, politics, inner-Melbourne geography, sports psychology and Bob Hawke memoir.

The post-lunch exchanges are always splendid and I especially enjoy meeting Footy Almanac editor Colin Ritchie and hearing of his most recent trip to New Orleans. We yak of jazz icons Dr. John and Trombone Shorty, and the legendary venue Preservation Hall which with a wave of his hand Col suggests is the same size as the pub’s dining room.

*

Saturday morning we’re strolling north. Chris asks, “What time is it?” Of course, breakfast television motifs litter our weekend, so I channel former NBC Today host Bryant Gumbel and reply, “There’s breaking news overnight, but firstly let’s see what’s happening in your part of the world. It’s thirty-seven minutes after the hour.”

Mere moments later we pass Barrie Cassidy, in the midst of a Very Big Week, given the passing of Bob Hawke and the election. “We should’ve asked Barrie to join us in the All Nations Hotel for a quick beer,” laments Trev. “I reckon he might be on the hop for the next day or two, but otherwise I’m sure he would’ve been in,” I reassure the boys, based on zero personal insight.

Trev stops suddenly and points across at a concrete structure. “See that architecture. That’s Brutalism and inspired some of the buildings and spacecraft in Star Wars.” And indeed, looking at the stark, overbearing façade I see his point. If Trev went on Hard Quiz or Mastermind he’d pick Star Wars as his topic. That, or The Kapunda Tennis Club in the early 1980’s, or Shoegazing: Indie Rock’s Most Alluring Sub-genre. Same as all of us, I reckon.
NFA

Chris had spotted on Friday that Coopers Brewery launched a new XPA ale in Melbourne. Suitably inspired, and trusting the Internet, we arrived at the suggested pub, but were told it was closed for cleaning, hadn’t heard of Coopers XPA and that we might simply bugger off. Our disappointment could only have been lessened if the pub was instead a Frank Walker’s National Tiles outlet.

Surging into the All Nations Hotel at thirteen minutes after the hour we note that our regular stools (of the furniture variety) are waiting. Instantly, there’s an ornithological theme: geese. On tap is a craft beer called Goose Session IPA. We then spy the Grey Goose vodka on the shelf. Naturally, we text Kapunda identity Greg “Goose” Mickan whose prolonged digital silence indicates he’s delighted to hear from us. Googling him we find an introductory video on his business website. He boasts of there being, “720 degree views on his property. Provided you turn around twice.” We dedicate the following game of spoofy to him.

ANH

Safely at the Punt Road End (or Free Bird Seed End) of the MCG having invested (badly as it turns out) in Adelaide’s premier sprint, the Goodwood Handicap and Brisbane’s Doomben Cup, we locate our seats, and SANFL memorabilia enthusiast and champion bloke, Swish Schwerdt.

We yak about our respective Adelaide teams, Centrals and Glenelg, who are playing at the Ponderosa (the Tigers prevail for the first time out there since accidental leg spinner John Winston Howard was in power although as near as I can tell there’s no deep connection). We also recall the fabulous days on local radio when, at an urgent juncture a voice’d announce: “Let’s go round the grounds. Nipper Christie down at Alberton.” Much giggling follows.

MCG

During all of this, sixty thousand people completely ignore our charming dialogue and instead watch a match between Collingwood and St Kilda. The half-time Four N Twenty pies are at least equal to the footballing Pies, and the fixture finished, we move with clear-eyed purpose towards the Duke of Wellington cup-house.

*

Sunday’s breakfast television is the PGA golf and we decide that having to skool every time we heard, “In the HOLE!” would be dangerous; then bemoan the absence of David Marr on Insiders, but enjoy Barrie Cassidy’s fine work; and finally, on Eurovision, we decide that having to skool every time there’s geopolitical and not musical merit voting – “Hello Tel Aviv! Thanks for a great show. Greece gives twelve points to Cyrus!” – would also be dangerous, but not as dangerous as repeated listening to any of the songs.

Returning to the CBD after our Lygon Street brunch during which Trev confronts a colossal veal scallopini we pause respectfully at Carlton’s John Curtin Hotel with a Coopers beer to toast Bob Hawke; a venue in which Bob Hawke himself often toasted Bob Hawke (with ample cause).

Curtin

Our penultimate pub is the Exford (surely a sister hotel to Rundle Street’s Exeter) and we watch the Port and Gold Coast game from a sodden Adelaide Oval. The big screen shows that the locals have turned up in their dozens (forget Winter is Coming, I think the tarps are coming), and with the Filth the Power claiming control we scarper.

It’s forty-six after the hour, we’ve a plane to catch and banana bread to battle.

spoofy

 

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Adelaide v Greater Western Sydney: Junior and the Meat Tray

 

happy hour.png

In this increasingly fractious world of dilemma and doubt, is there anything better for the soul than winning a meat tray?

Of course not.

About a month back some dear friends moved house. They’re in the same suburb but now are but a tranquil walk to the pub so for the previous three Fridays have invested a lazy hour to finish their week.

This experience is augmented by that lustrous concept: The Happy Hour. Their tavern runs a ripper with cheap drinks, free barbeque and a variety of prizes including that most enigmatic of trophies- the meat tray.

Around 7pm for the last three weeks our phones have pinged that they’ve won a meat tray. Last week they won two. They must be the only family in Australia to go to the pub and come home in an improved financial position. Astonishing. They’re butchering the local butcher.

I spoke with Paul last night before they headed off to their beef-themed El Dorado, to offer some pre-emptive support for that inconceivable day, when they promenade homeward, empty-handed. I’m well qualified.

Rushing out his door Paul added, “I saw young Crow Wayne Milera Junior there last week.”

*

Beyond loin chops, this got me thinking about a team of Juniors. Here we go-

 

Junior Wells                Clint Eastwood, Jr      Junior Murray[1]

Robert Downey, Jr      Junior Murvin[2]             Marlon Brando, Jr

Robert De Niro, Jr[3]     Martin Luther King, Jr Dale Earnhardt, Jr

Floyd Mayweather, Jr Sammy Davis, Jr[4]       Hayden Button, Jr

Harry Connick, Jr        JR Ewing, Jr               Teddy Witten, Jr

Rucks

JFK, Jr                         Mark Waugh[5]              Junior Seau

Interchange

Ray Parker, Jr[6]           Mickey Rourke, Jr      (only two on the bench, as it should be)

meat tray

I’m in our meat tray-less home ready for the Crows and Giants. Still, I could be in Canberra, bedecked in singlet and thongs.

Josh Jenkins, the Crow who’s more maligned than a mushroom schnitzel, hoofs one and goals, but the Giants respond immediately. It’s a breeze-less, crisp evening in the capital and with the apparent temperature already at -1 the Crows’ hamstrings are nervous.

Both sides trade majors. There seems to be a good crowd in tonight. I guess Lucky Grills isn’t playing Mooseheads Bar this evening. Alliterative forward Harry Himmelberg sets up another score for the locals. So far, the contest is strangely subdued and even hyperventilating commentator Luke Darcy is struggling for hyperbole.

We take the lead but in the shadows of the quarter time post, to mix an arena of sporting metaphors, Tex and Eddie have amassed one possession between them. This is expressive of our season which, somehow, is arithmetically alive.

Having been curiously if welcomely invisible Razor Ray moves himself to centre stage and calls a ludicrous score review. His twitter followers count goes from six to four. During the break I let the dogs out and the Siberian blast makes me delighted I’m not at Manuka where I guess Zooper Dooper sales are slow.

The greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world dream matchup of Keath on Keeffe is yet to eventuate and the second term coasts on until Betts grabs an errant spoil and doofs it through. Before they call the police, I let the dogs back in who show their appreciation by promptly falling asleep.

As Crow Lachy Murphy glides another home I think of our meat tray friends who, I imagine, are recreating a Mongol victory feast. The Giants are bogged and lacking their brisk movement. The ball seems to be slicing prodigiously through the frosty air but then it pings out and Cameron soccers it to the good and the game remains tight.

At half-time I reflect that the match has been subdued and devoid of spectacle. But it’s close and I expect an animated finish. I wander outside and instantly detect barbecue smoke and aroma. Although half a city away, I know exactly the source of this meat tray indulgence. It’s cruel and I console myself with some more tepid eggplant dip.

Razor opens the action with an unplumbed deliberate call against Brodie Smith. As an Irish nun I once knew said, “He’s difficult to love, that Razor.” The Himmelberg disaster gets one and the Giants reclaim the advantage.

ray

They put on three, briskly and I consider muting the telecast and turning on Sammy Davis, Jr.

In a moment that must’ve been orchestrated by a bug-eyed alien, GWS register a clear behind which is then reviewed despite it being a postcode away from the point post. Brain-freeze, methinks.

After an exuberant tackle that’s likely to allow Tex to get to Kuta early, the Crows peg one back. And then Bryce Gibbs steers it through the frozen poles to make it less than a kick. But, Hopper bursts clear and goals and it’s the locals by a couple.

Bonar grabs yet another but this time converts and there’s a canyon opening up in front of the Crows. Cameron and Keath engage in some Greco-Roman wrestling which naturally is paid against the visitor. Luke Darcy reminds us for the nineteenth time that GWS have won their last eight at this ground.

Northern Adelaide meat tray aficionado Wayne Milera Junior is again lively and evasive and this final quarter’s compelling. In what could be season-concluding Adelaide gets a trio of gettable minor scores and Shaw is taken off in the golf buggy.

Milera is then taken without the ball in a way that’s illegal even in Alabama but Razor’s pea is untroubled. Another Crow behind. The clock and our campaign are ticking away. Hopper’s score confirms what we’ve all known.

Adelaide’s (well) done and GWS are a (prime) cut above most.

SDJ

 

[1] Love a Windies ‘keeper

[2] On the strength of “How to Make Gravy”, of course

[3] Could bring some Rhys-Jones unpredictability

[4] I’m assured he could also play tall

[5] sorry

[6] He ain’t afraid of no ghost

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A brisk lunchtime in the Cathedral Hotel

hoggy

The satirical polemicist Voltaire once asked, “Is there anything better than a brisk lunchtime session in the Cathedral Hotel, on the first morning of an Ashes Test?”

In all matters philosophical and cricketing our French friend is accurate so I presented myself at the revitalised old boozer. It’s a Keith Stackpole jaunt from Adelaide Oval; our tremendous, alluring oval.

Friday night at the Adelaide Lutheran Christmas function (Catholics now admitted) Harmsey said, “Meet you at the Cathedral pub. 11.15.” I was enthralled and curious that the declared time wasn’t 11 or 11.30, but 11.15. This promised things exciting or dimly dangerous or both.

Whilst grateful I cling to a heady dream in which my ear is bent by this thrilling invitation: Meet you tomorrow in the _____ Hotel. Front lounge. 4.37 pm.

4.37. How good would this be? Who could resist such an exotic offer?

Strolling in from the misty wet the ancient Barossan adage swirled overhead, as it must for those with a connection to its verdant valley: One at eleven, or eleven at one. The Cathedral was bellowing; part matinée circus, part West End production. The Barmy Army merchandise card-table in situ, its custodians in throaty, summery cheer. Only 11.15? It was as if the pub had been throttling along for hours. Perhaps it had.

For me, an unsurpassed way to invest an energetic hour or two is to stand about a tavern’s table, by an open window, with a loose knot of like-mindeds, and trade cricket yarns: personal, public and apocryphal.

And so we did.

 

pub.png

Outside, a curiously impotent army of Warwick Capper number 39’s had mobilised, while inside, PJ Flynn and company attacked their fare (2016 Burgers of the Year, no less. No word yet on the 2017 winners- I’ll keep you posted) and the stories impatiently assembled.

Of course, after the obligatory SK Warne and IM Chappell anecdotes, we migrated to RM Hogg. When he played for Australia I was a kid who loved his ferocious bowling, and the hostility with which he steamed to the wicket; all Serengeti chesting, and scowl. He presented as one you’d have on your side, in a fight (Do cricketers have scraps and footballers have barneys?). Even his blonde locks flounced with anger.

Flynnie’s story went thus:

After his international career concluded Rodney played in Willowfest: the Australian amateur cricket championships, up in Mildura and Wentworth. Hoggy remained properly livid and fast. One afternoon his captain threw him the ball.

As he paced out his run-up a mischievous scorer, grasping the demon quick’s permanent volatility, yelled out towards the 123 Test-wicket veteran with faux ignorance, “Bowler’s name?”

From over my Coopers Session Ale in the Cathedral I could envision Hoggy’s lips tightening in a snarl. He didn’t bother to respond. But his captain did. “Hogg” came the reply.

Not done yet, the scorer chirped again, “One ‘g’ or two?”

As the yarns volleyed across our ales, a film-crew strode in and captured one of the Barmy Army, in staccato, bursting voice. By now the Wiz and his post-modern disciples had either departed, or been moved on by management. Perhaps Dr G Edelsten had invoked an injunction.

The Don DeLillo of cricket authors, Gideon Haigh, shared some probing insights on Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and the outlandish turf wickets he’d encountered recently in Melbourne. As lunchtime pub entertainment and education, it was unparalleled.

I was asked of my earliest Adelaide oval cricket memory. It was the 1974/75 Ashes with Dad. On the scoreboard hill among fractured foam esky lids like Canadian ice-floe, and floppy towelling hats reminiscent of those draped upon Arthur Dunger, I recalled an over each from DK Lillee and JR Thompson. This closed the day’s play.

To my eight-year old ears the noise was a pyroclastic event. I was exhilarated by the vivid and escalating possibilities as they splashed across my bow.

My next Adelaide Oval experience, I recounted to Flynny, was one Sunday during a match against Tasmania in the 1982 Sheffield Shield season. Some Kapunda contemporaries and I had wandered in and taken our seats in the former Sir Edwin Smith stand. The crowd was dotted about like inmates in a TB sanatorium.

 

MH
I only recollect the spell of Michael Holding.

As accepted fast bowlers are athletes until they reach the crease, and Holding was supreme in his gliding beauty. Pace men such as Craig McDermott and Mitchell Johnson are menace and violence as they tear in. But the West Indian was noiseless and painterly.

With the Taswegian keeper back halfway to the Cathedral End fence, it seemed that at the moment of release the ball, instantly forty yards away, was being scooped across to second slip.

Neither the batsman, nor I, were optically able to track the fig. I became aware of a remarkable connection between mechanics and biology. This became metaphysical majesty. I was slack-jawed. We all were. I don’t know if Holding took a wicket during our short sojourn. And, in many ways, an edge or explosion at the castle would have spoiled this most bewitching of sporting vistas.

Time had passed, and all by that window had an engagement, so we left the pub. Across the road, an Ashes Test was waiting.

 

Wiz

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Fritz and fog: Twitter tales

 

My beloved Footy Almanac is running a series of writing competitions in which entries must be no more than Twitter’s new 280-character limit. There’s been some rippers. This week’s topic is Adelaide. More here

http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/almanac-writing-competition-almanac280-adelaide/

and on twitter using this hashtag

#Almanac280

 

fritz

 

The MCG has hosted happiness and towering achievement, and also catastrophe like 1997’s Iran match and 1982’s nearly last wicket heroics. But, 2011 saw unforgivable horror as Craig Willis said, “Ladies and gentlemen…Meatloaf.”

*

 -This morning we’re finding Adelaide’s best fritz. Alan from Alberton’s on line 3.

– Hello. It’s Alan from Alberton here. John the butcher does a very tasty bung. Top quality sawdust. Nice.

– How does it fry?

– Good. But that late free against Port on the weekend!

*

Having luncheoned on a pie-floater and butcher of West End draught at the Chappell brothers’ Leg Trap Hotel the HQ Kingswood now barges down Tapleys Hill Road with KG and static spitting on 5DN. Happy Proclamation Day!

*

fog

 

Anaesthetized Blundstones on the torpid terrace. North London football under Dickensian fog. Throaty shouts and roast beef. Wembley arch from the homeward train. An afternoon.

*

This unbounded sky is a cathedral. Low, promiseless hills guard the plains, and there’s the idyllic drone of the cricket as we move through an empty afternoon. Screen-doors flail. Home, with our Coopers and chops and distinctive vowels.

*

Ghosts phantom about the curved stands: the Ricciuto, the Chappell, the Bradman. Echoes of roaring; grainy footage; men in hats. Frozen champions orbit the oval. Past and present embrace, but wounds can’t heal without rubbing: the chicken salt hoarding is gone.

 

 

radio

 

 

 

1

Meatloaf: Horrific Fun at the 2011 Grand Final

meat

I dare you to watch it.

Appropriately, the execution opened with “Hot Patootie” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a title more representative than commonly possible, as the following quarter hour is hide behind the couch, can I come out now Mum dreadfulness.

Meatloaf presented early, and sitting in front of the mercifully miniscule 42-inch screen, I wondered if John Farnham might’ve been lured from his retirement tent for the aural health of our nation.

“You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” was next, with a terrifyingly extended outchorus during which Meat alternately surged ahead as if gasping for the Kool-ade, and then inexplicably dropped back a length behind his band. By its conclusion all in earshot wished they could, somehow, insert those mangled words right back into the rotund Texan’s mouth.

Tellingly, the band all had their sunglasses on, as if wishing for anonymity, and to escape this netherworld, courtesy of a Star Trek teleporter.

I must point out that I reckon Bat Out of Hell is a remarkable rock album. For many it’s the music by which they first stole a kiss, or turned the key in their own set of Holden wheels. That something like one in every dozen Australian homes owed a copy isn’t a surprise.

But, to suggest that a gap exists between that exhilarating vinyl and this afternoon at the MCG is like noting how John Howard’s bowling action doesn’t quite offer the elegance of Glen McGrath’s.

Flanking the stage were two giant Carlton Draught inflatables. How must those CUB executives have felt watching that? The music was more Death Valley-aged Budweiser than passable domestic brew.

meat 2

I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) then polluted that grim, little stage. What do we make of its central theme which speculates on the very limits of human endurance? Happily, there was no Kiss-Cam that day. Scream at an Elderly Relative-Cam might’ve had the broadcast director paralysed for choice.

Our vocalist seemed to be playing a perverse game of anti-bingo in which he was determined to not sing in the correct musical key. Mr Loaf clutched a Magpie scarf as if this would help, and from this moment, a Cats’ victory was certain.

In the corner of the screen the Channel 10 logo featured proudly throughout, and anthropologists and financial analysts have since traced the network’s woes back to this thirteen-minute microcosm of existential pain.

On the Classic Albums documentary series, the composer Jim Steinman explained how, “Bat Out of Hell” was conceived as the ultimate car crash song, following in the tradition of “Leader of the Pack” and “Dead Man’s Curve.” Watching that afternoon, I wondered about life imitating art, or was it life imitating life, or art imitating an open sewer?

By the stage you could see a throng of spectators all wearing orange caps. In Buddhism, orange is connected to vitality and illumination, but I suspect if actual monks had been at the G, even they may have erupted into sudden and colossal violence.

How jealous must the crowd have been when the Harley motorcyclists, musically and thematically, so central to this song, rumbled off down the players’ race? They were paid to speed from the arena, and the sonic strife warbling about its unhappy bowl!

Towards the end Meatloaf received an oversized prop, and squinting at the screen, it appeared to be an enthusiastically circumcised penis. On it is a trigger of sorts. He handled this briefly, as it were, but then abandoned it, perhaps realising, along with the rest of the audience, both immediate and televisual, that today, there’d be no climactic finish. Indeed, if you listen carefully to veteran AFL announcer, Craig Willis, you can detect the tiniest irony, in his stentorian thanking of the Wagnerian rocker.

As Channel 10’s Stephen Quartermain then cuts to a universally welcome block of vacuous advertising, he comments that Meatloaf was, “Extraordinary.”

Aside from “Leo Barry. You star!” this is his finest moment.

Go on, I dare you to watch it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZdiaFXW2U8

 

3

Crows v Giants- Row G’s phalanx of tepid thermoses

thermos

I cross Victor Richardson Road; bow at the Barrie Robran statue; undergo a cheerfully non-invasive security check, beep my ticket and click through the turnstile; sniff a whiff from the Neil Kerley Bar whose patrons are plainly devouring some Walker Flat yabbies doubtless netted (legally) by Knuckles himself; amble past the Chappell Stand that’s next to the Bradman Pavilion so Ian and the Don can symbolically continue their fiscal disagreements in perpetuity; glance sideways at the Favell/Dansie Indoor Training Centre; consider a swift beer at the David Hookes Terrace Bar, or possibly the Phil Ridings Bar; catch some uncharacteristic clatter coming from the Ian McLachan Room, and finally climb the stairs to the Sir Edwin Smith grandstand, where I breathe in the elegant sweep of the Clarrie Grimmett Gate, the Bob Quinn Gate, and the heritage-listed, yet soothingly nameless scoreboard. 

Misty rain is falling as the match begins, and bobbing about us are crocheted tri-colour beanies and tartan thermoses by the bagpipe-full. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll get invited into a shout of bundies with the strangers in Row G.

The GWS-ers start brightly and move the ball forward frequently, but without any significant threat until the man-bunned Harrison Himmelberg opens the affair.

There’s certain footballers who execute specific skills with rare exquisiteness. Brodie Smith is a glorious kick, and invests the ball with joyous flight and astonishing physics. I pay to see him launch a scorching drop punt. He does, and goals at the Riverbank end. Minutes later he slips when tackling, and appears to wreck his ACL. This is cruel. Knees are the most robust of our moving parts, but also the most delicate.

Ex-Collingwood racer Paul Seedsman is in our best side, but again takes the field attired with Andrew Newton Jarman-style three-quarter length sleeves. I’m unsure of the function, and speculate if the inaugural Crow himself knocks these up in the shed on his Singer, as a tribute to himself. It’s not impossible. Still, Seed provides telling run and carry, and is a penetrating kick. He goals to give the home side a small, but ultimately permanent lead.

With appendectomy Wikipedia entrant Rory Sloane spectating, giant Giant Rory Lobb jumps up one place to claim the title of this game’s third best Rory, behind Laird and Atkins. His point is the last score of the first term. Pleasingly, the Crows have not made their customary slow start.

Tonight, it’s not the third quarter that defines the contest, but the second, and on a soggy evening Eddie Betts again shows why he is among our code’s most effervescent players. He generates joy where none should exist. He goals from spatial situations beyond human contemplation. Like McCartney singing over a lonely guitar, or Black Caviar lengthening her stride and lowering her back, his contributions are rare and breathtaking. I’m privileged.

Mercifully, our tidy lead means we’ve heard little from the supporter in Row A who provides coaching and umpiring recommendations from her seat. Her vocal stylings seem to echo mid-career Tom Waits, Bobcat Goldthwait and a distressed, if not deceasing, dugong. For many reasons, we’re all relieved the footy’s not close.

The GWS mob get three speedy majors after the long break, and there’s some momentary tension. Waits/ Goldthwait/ dugong screeches. With a single first-half goal, the visitors have registered the lowest score in VFL/AFL finals footy since 1960.

However, a Richard Douglas intercept mark and conversion ensures that we relax, and not kick over any checkered soldiers in Row G’s phalanx of tepid thermoses. He then collects another in what has been an emblematic season, and at the siren the opposition has crept forward but a single point.

During the huddle, a nearby couple gathers up their goods and squeezes past us saying, “If we go now we can get home to watch the last quarter.” This is bewildering and I wonder why they bother coming at all, and how these Port supporters stole a pair of tickets. Curious.

At the ten-minute juncture of a fizz-less final stanza Coniglio achieves the game’s concluding goal, and at 10pm the Crows have advanced to their second only home preliminary final.

As we cross the Torrens foot bridge, even the mediocre busker warbling an Oasis cover is thrilling.

It’s getting exciting.

eddie

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Port Adelaide v Collingwood: a Messerschmitt up your arse or free bird seed

free bird seed
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

Caprice.

Leaded.

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.”
I giggle.

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)

“Warney?”
“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.
“Captain Hoganhoffer?”
“No prisoner has ever escaped from Stalag 13.”
More giggling.

“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.’”
“‘Mother.’”

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.

coyote