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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.

*

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.

*

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

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Billy the Mountain

FZ

I sing best when by a washing machine.

Half way across Australia. The farming hamlet of Kimba. Late on a Tuesday. It often was. At that time, no night was safe. Bazz, Hen and I wedged into the laundry, and warbling along with Frank Zappa.

A mountain is something
You don’t wanna fuck with
You don’t wanna fuck with
Don’t fuck around

Stripping precious bushels from the wheat, our voices pranged out across the paddocks. The adult in charge was Coopers Sparkling Ale. Of course, Bazz, Hen and I have been mates ever since.

I first heard Zappa at Bushy Martin’s one summer down at Sellicks Beach. It was Joe’s Garage on vinyl, exhilarating and just a bit dangerous. Here was sophisticated, funny music coupled with contagious lyrics, especially on “Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?”

Much of my pop culture schooling came on Sunday nights through The Coodabeen Champions. During one episode the best Frank Zappa song was debated. They agreed.

I raced into Rundle Mall, and bought Just Another Band From LA. Inspecting the cartoonish cover, I see “Billy the Mountain” runs for roughly thirty minutes. Epic songs have always bewitched me with their wide landscapes. Empty roads, awaiting traffic.

The storytelling and amusing arrangements make it a masterpiece. Part travelogue and romantic comedy, it opens in Los Angeles, tumbles through Playa Del Rey, Santa Monica, and Canoga Park, before lurching across the Mojave Desert, to The Strip

It’s off to Las Vegas
To check out the lounges
Pull a few handles,
And drink a few beers.

It also functions as an opera and a radio play, with Zappa and cult vocal duo Flo and Eddie alternating as narrators. On a vacation paid for by postcard royalties, our mobile mountain Billy, and his wooden wife Ethell are heading, seismically, to New York.

The heroic pair travel west to east, annihilating various human environments, in a deviant Manifest Destiny. Edwards Air Force Base is an early, delicious target

TEST STAND #1 and THE ROCKET SLED ITSELF… (We have ignition!)… got LUNCHED! I said LUNCHED!

When I lived just north of London in the old Roman city of St Albans, it was a Zappa-free zone for two years. Mammoth in charisma and personal impact, I missed this song. So, in 2005 I had a mate home in Adelaide copy my CD, and send it to me.

Driving down to New Forest’s heathland, the wife and I listened to it one Friday. It provided happy escape from the cheerlessness of the M25 and M3. A universe distant from soggy Hampshire

He was born next to the beef pies,
Underneath Joni Mitchell’s autographed picture,
Right beside Elliot Roberts’ big Bank Book,
Next to the boat
Where Crosby flushed away all his stash.

Mentioning American emblems such as Jack-In-The-Box and Howard Johnsons, this magnum opus inspires me to drive an El Dorado Cadillac and shop at Ralph’s. Just like The Dude in the beginning sequence of The Big Lebowski. To a country boy from South Australia, it’s profoundly panoramic.

Remember the soaring coda of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes?” It’s parodied on “Billy the Mountain.” A key sonic motif is the stab from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and the structure reminds me of “Peter and the Wolf.”

It’s eclectic, as Toto (the dog, mercifully, and not the band) and the tornado from The Wizard of Oz, are juxtaposed with Jerry Lewis samples. Remarkably, all recorded live at UCLA!

Satirising the antihero, a blundering Studebacher Hoch, Zappa’s darts are sharpest on overzealousness, and fawning ignorance, especially in Hoch’s introductory monologue

and, ah, how’s your wife’s haemorrhoids? Oh, that’s too bad… Listen… so you’ve got a mountain, with a tree, listen, causing… oh, my! Well, let me write this down . . . sorta take a few notes here… yeah… ?

The song’s Dadaist, its anarchistic storyline urging anti-war sentiment during its elongated loopiness. But, it’s also debauched, ridiculous, and hilarious.

And, of course, it takes a brutal intellect to invent such fun.

We don’t live in a global village. Mostly, we reside in a culturally identical village, repeated globally. Zappa fought this, and “Billy the Mountain” is musical theatre of prodigious ambition, and equal achievement. It’s among the most engrossing, most weird half hours you can spend.

I often think of being by that washing machine, in its tiny laundry, when three friends squawked out into the undeserving Tuesday dark, with America’s wittiest commentator, Frank Zappa.

A mountain is something
You don’t wanna fuck with
You don’t wanna fuck with
Don’t fuck around