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To Alex and Max, on our Melbourne Trip

Hello there boys

There’s endless excitement in the alarm buzzing at 4.15, when dawn is hours away, and with surprise and shared adventure, a holiday stretches out before us. This trip was special. It was our first time on a plane for years and we’d planned it together.

By mid-morning when we sat down to a late breakfast on Degraves Street we’d taken an Uber, caught a plane, hopped on the express Skybus, and with luggage dragging behind, had ambled from Southern Cross Station to our apartment. Perhaps to complete the set we should’ve each ridden a unicycle to the footy.

Much of this now appears in my mind like a private film screening. In distinct scenes I can see you both walking by the Yarra and through Carlton Gardens to the museum and along Jolimont Road to the MCG. You’re chatting constantly about everything and anything. As brothers you’re robust and occasionally fierce, but this is what I’d long hoped for and imagined. These pictures are already precious and timeless.

At Australia’s museum of screen culture, ACMI, many of the displays dated from before you were born but you both entered this historical world with enthusiasm. I love your interest in culture and when you jumped in the box dedicated to the music show Countdown Alex immediately yelled, ‘Take a photo, take a photo!’ You knew this was important and so made a bid to me.

Just after lunch on Saturday we were on Swan Street in Richmond gawping through salesrooms at the luxury cars. We saw Lamborghinis, Ferraris and finally, a Rolls Royce Ghost. Its price tag featured, in smallish black print: $1,100,000. We were startled. Max provided a running commentary on all the makes and models while around us, puffer-jacketed men sipped lattes and signed on the dotted line. It was fun.

I loved zipping through the Sunday brunch crowd in the Queen Victoria Markets as you both ate a chocolate croissant (the breakfast of champions). Outside it teemed down in typically Melbourne style as our nostrils were overpowered by fresh mullet and Coffin Bay oysters.

After examining clothes and books we explored a movie poster stall and flicking through the Coen brothers and Wes Anderson sections you both said, ‘How about this one, Dad?’ or ‘You like this one, don’t you?’ I still can’t believe there was no Lebowski.

A highlight was the IMAX cinema at the museum. We’d not all been together at a film for ages – the last time was probably something from the Marvel universe. We were right at the front and the screen was the size of a couple megalodons. It was the 3D documentary, Antarctica and we had on our funny black glasses. It was narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, which Max found amusing to say repeatedly and as the film began, he reached out his hand and grabbed at the air while whispering, ‘Dad I can touch the words of the credits.’

There were funny moments across the weekend, and these then bobbed up and were giggled at again and again. On Friday night at the Docklands match three Bulldogs defenders all flew for a mark and all three touched it before the umpire blew his whistle and awarded it. I said, ‘I don’t think marking should be a group assignment’ and you laughed.

Then there was the guy at Saturday’s MCG game in the row in front of us who liked to chat and chat and chat about Richmond and Geelong and North Melbourne and then North Melbourne. And after the final siren in the 60,000-throng pressing along Daniher Way, he eyed me again and promptly took up where he’d left. After Alex said, ‘Dad, did you enjoy that convo?’ I’m quite surprised that he’s not rung.

Throughout our days there was unrelenting action and playfighting and laughter. It was enchanted. On each morning, I’d come up the elevator all sweaty from my run along the Yarra, gently turn the key and creep inside. Edging open your bedroom door, I’d glimpse in.

You were both still asleep.

Thanks.

Dad

xx

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AFL Round 3 – Adelaide v Western Bulldogs: He used to cut my grass…He was a very nice boy

mower

I miss mowing my lawn.

Pushing the Victa back and forth, and then nodding at the tidy rectangle of green. Saturday morning’s cheery chore, so the afternoon can open up.

It’s three long years since I emptied the catcher. Functional and ornamental, private yet often public, lawns also represent our idealised selves.

The Kikuyu tribe is Kenyan, and gives its name to Kikuyu grass. A popular lawn species in Australia, South Africa and Southern California, it’s inexpensive and needs little water. However, because of its swift growth and assertive nature, Kikuyu’s often branded a noxious weed.

Kikuyu a noxious weed? This doesn’t worry Adelaideans. We don’t eat Devon, but fritz! We drink iced coffee more than coke, then give you back ten cents on the container. I love my Kikuyu.

It’s not used at Docklands Stadium. Like a Beckett play its motifs are shadows and dying grass and expensive buckets of hot chips. But the footy’s on and we’re hopeful.

Immaculately bred, but boganishly handled, Ayce Cordy snaps the opening goal, and lurking dangerously upfield, Dangerfield responds after a free. He then misses to either side, and sets a dismal tone.

The Crows dominate the ruck contests, but the Bulldogs dictate in the air, and through Dalhaus, on the scoreboard. Adelaide’s unable to penetrate halfback. With Stringer’s goal, we’re a spooked mess.

Finally getting an inside fifty, we’re impotent. Pick it up! Don’t pat it! It’s not a Persian cat. Did the Crows get on the wrong flight and go via Vladivostok? The siren provides respite.

The bullocking Stringer is sweeping us aside. Dangerfield has another kick from close and misses again. His Austin Powers haircut isn’t helping him, baby. Brodie Smith of the laser leg sprays it wide. Betts bananas it into the point post. Jenkins has an opportunity, and flops it like a fluffed wedge short of the green.

Adelaide’s kicking continues to be crude, and billion-dollar Boyd puts the Bulldogs up by truckloads. Tex Walker goals tidily with his first meaningful disposal. But an unfortunate defensive kick allows a Dogs goal.

Bontempelli is racing towards the elite and kicks their tenth. This is no surprise as his name is suggestive of luxury watches, and I can see someone like, say, Pierce Brosnan and a chunky timepiece on a full page spread in GQ. The tag line would be

I need to achieve so I wear a Bontempelli

The Crows’ kicking is comically poor. Eddie Betts gets one late, but we’re in more poop than a pregnant nun. And then the best Henderson kid, Ricky, gives Adelaide consecutive majors for the first time this evening.

*

Half time! Why not enjoy a tune from the bursting backyard of lawn-mowing music? I suggest Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage and, “He Used to Cut the Grass.” Its guitar solo is xenochronous — overdubbed from older live recordings. In a woeful and insufferable sense, so is BT’s commentary.

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The second half commences with the Crows better in the air, but the Dogs more effective on the ground. Well, what do you expect?

Stringer gets his fourth with frightening ease. And then he embarrasses Hartigan again, who must want to disappear down the race, and get a taxi with tinted windows to Tullamarine.

Crameri snaps accurately and it’s now becoming gruesome. Then, after the bounce, Rory Laird slaps the kicked footy away like Kareem Abdul Jabaar, but a Dogs’ mark is paid. Goal.

I decide now would be a good time to take up ironing, but imagine an electrical fault incinerating all seventeen floors of our condominium. Still, as long as our TV was engulfed by fire early.

I glance up from the history of Finnish biscuit-making website in time to see Stringer inexplicably alone in his fifty metre arc. He goals. He has six. Adelaide doesn’t.

Tex gets the footy in the open, and strikes it as high and wide as a Warner cover drive. Lin Jong goals from the turnover. They have half a dozen for the quarter. Adelaide manages a single point. It’s an unholy torrent.

To open the last period the Crows bomb it to Eddie Betts who is surrounded by four Bulldogs. It’s not even a prayer. Dangerfield then takes a mark, plays on, evades and goals. Stringer is subbed off with a sore ham-stringer. He’s been colossal.

Betts sneaks one over his shoulder, but as advertised on their website, the Dogs are thinking about the free popcorn and discounted pies on offer after the siren. The Crows should avoid the pies, as they’d surely fumble them, slop scalding mince onto their groins, and then miss a month.

Wikipedia then tells me coloured socks were first knitted by the Egyptians at the end of the first millennium AD. Annoyingly, Sandy Roberts distracts my research, shouting that Betts has kicked another.

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So I depart with the words of an American humanist poet. No, not Walt Whitman’s, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.” Instead, eccentric green keeper Carl Spackler, exploring his relationship with grass in Caddyshack:

This is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this is, that you can play thirty-six holes on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night on this stuff.

 Carl