Today I slept in late, with a boring as hell nightmare about a new operating system on my phone reducing me to tears in public while trying to find my friend’s address at 157 Orange Grove Road Huntingdale. This is not an address that exists outside the tangled constellations of my banal unconscious, but it was an uncanny way to start the morning.
I bumbled through two pots of coffee grunting at my flatmate, who told me it was the traditional Tamil feast of Thai Pongal or the rice harvest so he was off to visit Tamil friends in detention. People in MITA can no longer cook their own food, and there are Tamils who have been in MITA for nearly 9 years, subject to the terrible deterioration of an enclosed camp to a sadistic high security gaol. Meanwhile everyone else in the precarious world of temporary/bridging visas is scared as hell, as people have their refugee status revoked, and get refouled or returned……
I was getting reading for my own cultural festival of Queersmas aka Midsumma Carnival – which is not unlike a kind of O-Week for queers: lots of stalls, lots of confusion, lots of excitement, and for me, a strange feeling of alienation.
On the tramride in (because I do live that close to the city and shouldn’t whinge) I looked at my phone and saw that someone had put up a video of my brother talking and playing trumpet at my first alma mater 20 years ago. The video link is here.
Back to St. Kilda Road and the tram, and I save the video for later, and put on some silly audio nonsense (music to watch girls by) to get me in the mood for rainbow joy. I wandered around for about 2 hours; purchasing merch, finding freebees and inspecting every stall I could find, admiring performers on the stage, and the fashion parade on the minor stage and getting increasingly hot and bothered that I couldn’t find my friends in the THOUSANDS of people that were there.
I finally found my posse, and sat down for a few minutes – but then it was time to go and visit Mum and share the absurdly early dinner in the nursing home. Earlier on the lady at the Carer’s Vic stall was taken aback when I declared that NONE of my queer friends had any clue whatsoever what my life was like as a carer, and that I received more support from my straight friends from my hometown than anyone in Gayland. It would be nice to meet some queer carers, but I’m not holding my breath.
I tried to stop and stand and embrace the joyous magical vibe of being surrounded by thousands of queers. But I also felt a sense of alienation – that I was just part of another crowd of strangers. This wasn’t the feeling that I get on my annual trip to Club Kooky in Sydney – where I see familiar faces that I have hugged, chatted and danced with for over two decades. My posse of familiar friends in the ocean of rainbows were curious about the lesbian speed dating event I attended earlier in the week. One of them was there with me. My verdict is that I enjoyed it so much because it recreated a sense of superficial communality that I miss so much from Sydney.
I really don’t want anyone to date right now, but I love being able to meet and greet and chat and flirt with queer bodies in queer spaces without being shackled by the lugubrious cords of relationship or politics or a messianic duty of creating an ‘alternative’ community, parallel our outside of some kind of singularised straight world of nuclear families that we have all escaped. I haven’t escaped my nuclear family, and never had one to begin with. My biological family has always felt like flotsam, somehow held together by the connections we had to others; to lovers, to friends, and sometimes to extended family. The people who helped me through the most difficult two years of my life were mostly not queer; they weren’t family either, but they were old friends of me (and my Mum), mostly in NSW. Which makes me wonder where my real home actually is.
Meanwhile on the tramride to Mum’s nursing home I felt the simple exquisite delight of surreptitiously perving beneath my sunnies on the twenty something version of Corky from Bound with the ridiculously erect nipples beneath a ridiculously shirt covered in rainbow badges. I bought a unicorn Gaytime to celebrate.
Mum and I watched the video of my brother. I didn’t recognise his voice at all. So distorted by the digital upload of an old recording, and I wondered what key musicians would hear the recording in. The ghostly image of my long dead brother was acutely recognisable: assembled pixellated degraded VHS fragments into loos clothing and a casual swaying and leaning that feels as familiar as my own skin. Mum had tears in her eyes. I…. refelt the habitual numbness of grief. Refelt an unfamiliar fury that he wasn’t still making music that wonderful, and then looking into the ghostly flickers, felt a familiar horror of death and loss.
After a dinner of frighteningly aged lasagna served to Mum and my supermarket microwave ravioli that seemed high gourmet in comparison, we shared some chocolates and I caught the tram home. I paused out the front to chat to one of my neighbours, updating her on the lost cat sagas of the neighbourhood. We spoke about our cats, our jobs, our feelings about being single middle aged females (she’s over it, I am still enjoying it) while casually surveilled a rangey miscreant’s attempts to break into the fence surrounding our building. He gave up and we parted…..
Back home, wishing I was drunk, my flatmate arrived and we discussed his visit to the detention centre. A few nights ago he confided that this year is a bad time for him – the anniversary of his own brothers death; and time when he is constantly distracted; unable to focus at work, and overwhelmed with sadness. I told him about seeing a ghost and showed him the youtube video.
We made dinner, chatted, discussed poetry and videos and planned the performance that we are doing with the Melbourne Artists for Asylum in ten days. It’s exciting, based on the theme of whirling: with an assembled community art project of videos from asylum seekers and others of their daily whirl forming a backdrop to spoke word pieces onstage. It complements a lot of the work in the Triennale – especially the pieces on level 3 about refugees and long boat journeys, and its a special and exciting opportunity.
And, this is where I feel where my kinship lies: in creativity and creative collaboration. In finding and forming networks of quotidian support around where I live that are based on a shared daily life and a few shared dreams. These aren’t alliances that fit anywhere near the alphabet soup of my rainbow identity. They do intersect with and are entangled by my queer identity, but its a moving, multifaceted relationship. I notice the amount of straight single middle aged women I know. I notice how they form community and support (or don’t). I wonder where are the single queers doing this in Melbourne. I wonder if this matters. The connections I value are are superficial and slow, and yet, because I love alliteration so much, they are sustaining. This is where I can show my true face; my morning zombie face, my putting out the garbage face, my waddling down for a quick swim in my saggy swimmers face, my happy oil painting face, as well as my creative soul where I dream about far more interesting things with my eyes wide open than anything that my REM sleeping self could devise.