Monday, 10 April 2017

A CANBERRA BOY REFLECTS ON HIS ESCAPES


A CANBERRA BOY REFLECTS ON HIS ESCAPES
by Dave Wheeler
    Another title I was considering for this essay was, “The other man’s grass is always greener.” I will explain why in full eventually. It focuses primarily around how I missed out on having a relationship with a beautiful young Canberra girl I knew many years ago, and how sometimes such negatives, and I had more to come, can turn into positives. As usual I have brought philosophy into it.
     Before going there I will, as I often do, begin from an entirely different angle. I will let the reader know that like most people I can get extreme pleasure from music. It can have a very strong effect on one’s emotions in many ways, and it can also send a message.  It takes me into another world. 
    I’ve done my best to develop an appreciation for many genres of music, and in doing so it probably means I receive more overall pleasure from music than I otherwise would. I love folk, and traditional rock and roll; and as I write I’m experiencing euphoria listening to the blues being played and sung by BB King and Paul Carrack. They’re doing an amazing version of “Bring it on home to me,” although if it has a message it's lost on me. You may want to click on the song so you can play it as you read.
   I even love the music of the Pacific, in all its forms, having spent time there in my youth. Last night I attended a party where a group of Tongan churchgoers were singing hymns, and even though I’m a non-believer the singing was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. 
   I also love some of the older Australian folk songs that were composed before Australians wrote Americanised songs and sang them in American accents. “Moreton Bay” and “The Woolloomooloo Lair” are examples of Australian songs that were written from the heart in a way that truly depicted the emotions of the composers, even though the latter song is humorous.
     And Chad Morgan? I love him! I like his melodies, and I love his brutally honest and unrestrained lyrics, which are totally devoid of any form of political correctness. His lyrics are pure Chad, a down-to-earth and irreverent Queensland, Anglo Celtic/Aboriginal country boy of his time just being himself. Many Australian musicians sing and compose as if they were other people living in another country. Not our Chad. 
   Although I have listened frequently to most of Chad’s stuff, a couple of nights ago I listened on youtube to a song he wrote that I had not heard entitled, “The night I went below.” It was about how he dreamt he visited Hell, and how he overpowered the Devil and escaped from him at a speed that would have broken Herb Elliot’s mile. 
    Unfortunately, in his dream, he was caught by a sort who had also been sent below. He described her as having overgrown horns and told of how she wanted to marry him so they could produce little devils of their own. That really was Chad’s idea of Hell! When he awoke he was relieved when he realised he had been dreaming, which made him determined not to die. I have embedded the song below. 
   I have to accept that I also love much in the way of American music, such as the previously shown blues of BB King. Part of me wishes I didn’t, as I'm not a fan of American culture, but the fact is I do love much of their music, so having accepted that fact I simply enjoy it when I can.
    One American song that gave me inspiration as a young man was entitled, “ Pamela Brown.” It was written and sung by Tom T Hall. He wrote of how, as a lad, he had dropped his balls over a girl named Pamela Brown, and how Pamela preferred another lad over him because the other lad drove a ute. 
  I may be entirely wrong, but I’m guessing the song is autobiographical, and if so the rejection must have broken Tom’s heart. The song suggests he didn’t get over Pamela for some time, so rather than find another girl and marry early he roamed around experiencing life as an unattached young man. 
     As he aged and thought about what may have happened had he not suffered unrequited love at the hands of Pamela, he became grateful to her for rejecting him. He realised that had she not rejected him he would not have experienced the freedom and joy one can experience when one is single and devoid of responsibility. He would have instead lived a mundane suburban life. I have embedded Tom doing his song below.
  
   What made me think about the messages of Chad and Tom, and what then motivated me to write this essay, occurred a day ago after a mate sent me a link to a Canberra Times photo and description from 1972. It shows and identifies a stunningly beautiful 17 year old girl who I had taken out a few months before the photo was taken. To use a modern expression, I was punching above my weight. 
    She is obviously no longer a girl and is entitled to privacy, which is why I'm not identifying her. For that reason I will just refer to her as “the girl,” as she was a girl when I knew her. She would be turning 63 this year and is probably a wife, mum and grandmother. Hopefully life has been good to her. 
   As I do not wish to identify the girl, I’m not going to give the link to the Trove archived Canberra Times page that shows her photo. A very large number of attractive young women had their photographs in the Canberra Times during 1972, and for that reason I don’t mind mentioning that she was just one of them. Other than that, her identity should not matter. The purpose of this essay is philosophical, as in its objective is to argue that apparent misfortunes should always be put into perspective. The implications of what occurred could apply to anyone in similar situations.
   In describing her as stunningly beautiful, that is of course only my opinion, as beauty and ugliness are not absolute, whether we are referring to inner or outer beauty. They are nothing more than subjective perceptions.
     I met her at Mick Catanzariti’s small and informal gathering to celebrate his 21st birthday. It would have been in September of 1971. Mick didn’t know her. She came along with her female friend and a couple Mick and I knew.
    I had a really enjoyable time at Mick’s gathering when I was with her, and I dropped her and her friend home that evening. My mate, Colin Bishop, who had come with me, had by that time linked-up with the girl’s friend. 
    I took her out the next night, and I got so much pleasure from her company it seemed too good to be true. 
   The photo above, taken in 1974, shows my old mates, from left to right, Spud Murphy, the late Geoff “Fitz” Fitzgerald, Mick Gladwish and Nick McConchie. When taking “the girl who made the Canberra Times” out the night after I first met her in 1971, I first took her to the now demolished Scottish Bar at the Canberra Rex, where I ran into Fitz, one of the lads I have identified in the above photo. Because they had threatened to ban him from the place he told us he was going to have a quiet night, but within a few minutes he was having a scrap with a barman, some of whom were not renown for being great blokes. I had to restrain the said barman because the other barmen were restraining Fitz and giving his opponent an unfair advantage. The girl was drinking Ouzo and lemonade when I was with her. I cant recall what I was drinking. At that time I had not developed the dislike I now have for alcohol as I had not seen or experienced the damage it does. 
    As I was dropping her home she seemed keen to see me again, so we arranged to meet at a set time at the Canberra Rex, in the Jet Club.
    But, she stood me up! 
    She may have sensed I was not a normal lad of my age, and my other shortcomings may have also become apparent to her during our night out. For that reason she may have thought it best to ensure the contact ceased. 
    And if my shortcomings were not consciously obvious to her, it may have just been a matter of chemistry. I say that because on a number of occasions in my youth after I was initially attracted to certain girls, and took them out once or twice, I lost interest, and it was unrelated to the girl’s looks, personality or prospects. It came down to the inner workings of my brain and mind, which were beyond my understanding or control. The beautiful young lady I had taken out may have had a similar experience with me. 
     She may have also become conscious of the laws of supply and demand, and realised that if she had a relationship with me she would have been underselling herself. With her looks she would have known she was  in high demand and could attract someone who was better looking than me and a proven provider earning good money. All I possessed was a few dollars and a dark blue 1958 Holden FE panel van with a white roof. 
   Then again, maybe I’m being over-analytical. When I think about it, judging from my conversations with her, it’s more than likely she had far more depth and did not think like I have suggested she may have thought in the previous paragraph.
     Whatever the reason, had she had an initial attraction to me it had obviously vanished. And when it’s gone it’s gone! Only fools cannot accept reality, and I have often seen fools persist in such situations, even though those around them could plainly see that the attraction was one-sided.
        The marriage game is based on barter. Looks and chemistry obviously play a large part in the equation for most people, as do personality and temperament, but in the case of blokes they usually also need to prove they are either good providers or have the potential to become good providers. Women want someone who will hang around and provide for any kids they may bring into the world, which is fair enough. 
   Obviously there are exceptions, as we can easily observe men and women who have badly undersold themselves in the marriage game, but they are a minority, and they often do not know they've got a dud until the marriage has begun. 
   
   Above is the FE Holden panel van I owned in 1971 during the period of which I write. Beside it is my old mate, Jan Aamodt, who introduced me to “the girl.The panel van had windows on its sides despite it being a panel van. The photo was taken in White Cliffs, NSW. When we moved on from White Cliffs the car continually boiled, and at one stage we had to piss in the radiator because of a lack of water. After the engine seized I sold it for $15 in Boggabilla.
   Yes, she could have contacted me and told me she had changed her mind and didn’t want to continue to see me, instead of having me turn up, all excited, waiting for her, only to be let down badly when she failed to meet me as we had arranged. But, who am I to cast stones? She was only a teenager, and the thought of telling me she didn't want to start anything would have been very daunting for her. And when it comes to acts of immorality, her standing me up fades into insignificance relative to some of the immoral acts I carried out in my youth.
   People’s basic personalities don’t change much throughout their lives, but because their frontal lobes develop and they experience more of life, in other respects they usually become entirely different people after they have entered adulthood. If we are to speak metaphorically, we could say our former selves die. I would not like to be judged today by the way I was as a teenager, or the things I did during that period. Yet some people I know still hold grudges against certain people they went to school with over 50 years ago, and in doing so they are crediting those school kids with having been developed adults, when in fact they were just kids with kid’s brains, even if they were old enough to drive cars. 
      Regardless of what occurred, if I choose to think about the girl I have very fond memories of her. I remember her as a lovely girl to talk to, and that aspect of her held a greater attraction for me than her physical beauty. She was also very pleasant to me on the few occasions I ran into her after she stood me up. I last saw her sometime in 1972 and I have no idea what happened to her after that. 
    I actually can’t recall, prior to my receiving the link to her photo in the Canberra Times, when I last gave her any deliberate conscious thought. But despite that, having been reminded of her, when I do think about the time I spent with her I can recall in detail almost every moment, as is the case with many other events in my youth that were of an intense nature.
     If someone is coming off an extreme high of any sort, be it the sort of extreme high a musician feels while on stage or the sorts of extreme highs I experienced in my youth when I was in the company of certain young women, it is imperative they accept the reality of their relatively mundane here and now once the source of their euphoria has gone. 
    This can best be done by doing everything they can to ensure their focus remains in their here and now. And to maximise one’s chances of remaining in the here and now it is best to focus on one’s breath and muscles and to not feed unasked for thought with conscious thought whenever one becomes conscious that one is thinking. 
   It is deliberate conscious thought of any sort that is unrelated to ones here and now that often leads to unasked for negative thought unconnected to one’s here and now, which can lead to depression. When one is thinking thoughts not connected to ones here and now one is in danger of losing control of ones thoughts.
   Mindfulness has become a fad in the last few years, although a positive fad. Why this ancient practice was forgotten for so many years by mainstream Western societies is beyond me. I wish I had been taught the concept from a very young age rather that stumble across it in my youth in the way I did. 
     I didn’t truly fall in love at the time I had contact with her because it was for such a brief period of time, although I would definitely have done so had I have continued to see her. I did however, experience some withdrawals from the intense high she had given me. But, again, because the contact was brief, and because I had accepted the reality of what had occurred, and because she was not my first “Pamela Brown,” I was able to deliberately not give her much conscious thought after the rejection. 
    Although I was never a sheila-magnet, I went on to experience plenty of very short term relationships prior to my marriage at the age of 29, with only 2 or 3 lasting more than a month, and none lasting more than 5 months. For the overwhelming majority of the period prior to my marriage I enjoyed being unattached and devoid of responsibility.
     Remaining unattached for that period was made easier because other than my not being a normal person I showed no signs of having the potential to become a good provider. And for our species, when a lad does not have the ability to show potential marriage partners he is, or has the potential to become, a good provider, it’s the equivalent of a peacock not having a tail to display to peahens. I didn’t actually become a good provider until after I married. My wife, to her credit, took a big risk. I don’t think I would have married me. 
    Anyway, I can relate to the words of Chad and Tom, even though both of them married, as did I.  When I reflect on my life prior to my marriage, and the years I had of roaming around enjoying myself as an unattached young man devoid of responsibility, I’m very grateful to the beautiful young girl who was photographed by the Canberra Times in 1972 for giving me the slip. I would have only just turned 19 when I took her out, and although I would have adapted at that age to a serious relationship by getting a career of some sort, saving my money, buying a house, remaining faithful, etc, etc, I was far too young to have my wings clipped. 
    I know two couples, now in their late sixties, who became couples when they were 14 years old. Although their marriages could be considered successful, it seems to me they must be conscious of the fact that they did not experience a full youth, to the extent that they must realise that the life of an unattached young person incorporates many experiences couples cannot experience. 
   I escaped several relationships prior to my marriage because of incompatibility, and several more, as occurred with the beautiful young girl who made the Canberra Times, stopped before they started because I was, fortunately, rejected. 
     My advice to young unattached people is for them to realise that although marriage does suit some, there is always a price to pay. Something like a third of marriages end in divorce or separation, and that figure only accounts for actual marriages; it does not include serious defacto relationships. And I know many married couples who live very separate lives, even though they remain married and live under the same roof in a house that remains under both names. Those sorts of couples have no interest in remarrying, and simply can’t be bothered selling everything and going through the trauma of divorce and financial separation. The Bureau of Statistics has statistics that erroneously suggest that such couples have had successful marriages, when obviously they have not. 
   As a guess I would say that truly successful marriages and defacto relationships are something like 1 in 4.
    I reiterate, marriage is not the answer to life, and there is no such thing as a free lunch. After first meeting someone who pushes all the right buttons the initial hit of intense bliss one receives through brain chemistry of the type I enjoyed when I was with the beautiful young lady who made the Canberra Times in 1972, does not last. The bonding usually takes on a different form over time, but as it does the intense thrill diminishes. It’s all nature’s trick; a way of bringing people together for the purpose of gene replication, irrespective of whether the coupling increases or decreases one’s quality of life. 
    Marriage often includes conflict, boredom and drudgery. And it can also include having troublesome kids, or worse. Imagine the suffering of parents who have kids who are serious drug addicts, or criminals, or who have severe mental health problems or disabilities. Some parents have to attend their kid’s funerals.
     If you ask parents if they are glad they had their kids, almost all will say they are. In answering the question however, they are imagining life without their kids, which is the same as them imagining life if their kids suddenly died, which is not the question being asked. I say that because to say the bleeding obvious, if their kids did not exist they would feel no sense of loss. 
   Because it is impossible for a parent to imagine life without their kids without them imagining feeling like they would feel if their kids died, it is impossible for them to answer that question in a way that takes into account the true nature of the question.
    I have however, asked couples whose children had reached adulthood, and were off their hands, if they would have more kids if they were able to drink from the fountain of youth and be given back their 23 year old bodies. After them thinking about it I found very few wanted to repeat the experience of raising kids, which says something about what they must have experienced during the process of  raising the kids they had.
     When I experience an experience which, from an overall perspective, I would describe as positive, to the extent that the positives outweigh the negatives, I wish to repeat the experience. If I did not want to repeat the experience I could deduce that it was, from an overall perspective, a negative experience. Therefore, it would seem that those who said they would not bring more kids into the world if they were given back their 23 year old bodies found that from an overall perspective raising their kids was a negative experience. If it was a positive experience they would want to repeat the process. 
   The fact that they love the kids they raised is irrelevant, because had they never had them they would be experiencing different pleasures and different pains, and to labour the point, their absence would not represent a void in their life had the kids never existed. How can you miss what you have never had?
    Some of the latter parents however, said there would be no point in them having more kids if they drank from the fountain of youth because they already have their kids, albeit grown-up kids. Such an answer however, is tantamount to them saying that the purpose of them having kids was not for the enjoyment they received during the process of raising them; it was primarily for the fulfilment they received once their kids had left home and had become self-sufficient. I doubt that that was their objective when they decided to bring kids into the world initially.
   “Mum, Dad and the kids” is, relatively speaking, a very new phenomenon in the history of our species. Until relatively recent times our ancestors lived tribal existences in which members had an interdependent relationship in order for them to survive and reproduce. This forced them to make every effort to resolve their differences. 
    Husbands and wives had very few joint decisions to make, as most decisions were tribal. And as child-minding was also a shared task couples were relieved of a lot of the stresses that modern couples suffer.
    Tribal people also had very limited privacy, and when tribal couples fought with each other the fact that they had an audience would have usually limited the intensity of their disputes. And if things got out-of-hand others could intervene. Unfortunately we no longer live tribal existences and divorce or separation are the easy options.     
    If you are young, single and unattached, heed the advice of Chad, Tom and me, and enjoy your freedom and lack of responsibility while you canThose who dislike being single usually do so because they think they are missing out on something by not being married. That is where “The other man’s grass is always greener” comes into it. 
   Instead of yearning for married life, why not just make the most of your situation by enjoying your free time and savouring life’s simple pleasures? As I have said, there is a price for everything.
  PS Although I believe my grandad made a mistake by volunteering to fight in WW1, because unlike WW2 it was a war that should not have involved Australia, his experiences and how he handled them were an inspiration to me from a young age.
    Whenever, from my late teens onwards, I suffered a pain or hardship, I would compare it to how my grandad must have suffered on Gallipoli and the battlefields of France. Other than him receiving a fractured skull and shrapnel wounds, he saw many of his mates blown to pieces before his eyes and innumerable other horrors that could not be adequately described. 
   By being conscious of what he went through it meant that whenever I felt the pain of tragedies such as a hard day at work, a hard sporting event, very cold or very hot weather, having my car break down or having had someone bend its aerial, snapping a shoe lace, and in particular being rejected by a girl, I asked myself if my suffering could be compared to that of my grandad during WW1. It was of course a rhetorical question.
    Yet my grandad went through it all, and after he returned to Australia he simply put his head down and worked for the rest of his life. He also enjoyed tending his bee hives and fruit trees in his spare time. I never heard him complain about what he had suffered. His attitude was very Buddhist, without the religion attached, to the extent that he had accepted the reality of what had occurred and then turned his attention towards living in the present and making the most of it.
     Part of the reason many people cannot handle being sacked from a relationship or experiencing unrequited love is because they have a romantic and almost supernatural view of what it’s all about. In reality it can all be reduced to brain chemistry, and for that reason when leaving a relationship one will suffer in the same way one suffers when coming off a drug of addiction. But, if one can accept the pain, eventually the brain chemistry rights itself, unless of course one chooses to become idle and/or consciously dwells on the breakup or the rejection. And unless one looks like the elephant man one can usually find another person who will produce in oneself the same sort of brain chemistry one produced prior to the breakup or rejection, if that is ones wish. 
    But, should a person who is destined to live a life without a spouse accept that reality, that person should make the most of the situation and remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch, as in, there are pluses and minuses to being single or married. “The other man’s grass is always greener.” 
  The late Russ Hinze, shown above, became an angel as a result of him becoming a really good bloke just before he died. He often visits me, and he reminds me that he had no problems getting onto sheilas when he was living in QLD as a mortal, and he never suffered unrequited love.
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  2. What is your uncle’s name Peter?
    Forgive me if I don’t give you a yes or no regarding your question. I don’t want the lady identified by the process of elimination. She would now be 62 or 63 and probably someone’s wife, mum and grandma. I have no idea what happened to her after 1972 but I hope life was kind to her.

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