There was a small plastic box on the bar with a note clipped to its lip. Under that a sheaf of blank paper slips. The girls working there were looking for some suggestions for the day-long music menu. The music was becoming a little predictable after three years, that’s about how long a local stays up here.
Living in jungle sheds or tarped up caravans on a mate’s lot, or anything with a roof in the rain season. Some of them are itinerant growers up for two seasons and then on the way to their Indo years, others are paying a debt owed to the wrong man by growing his annual northern rivers bushy.
There were two tables of them outside, away from the music. Two on one and three on the other. Locals. Not a pretty face amongst them, even as babies – you could tell. So they had to be confronted.
I took five slips from the box and went outside, this is after only a small headfull of smoke earlier in the day. I’m a junior Hunter S Thompson aged six-nine.
When you are doing this sort of thing – something that you deliberately want to end up writing about later – and here – you get a little adrenaline jostle at the kick-off.
These men were sullen unshaven schooner drinking untidy tobacco smoking unwashed mostly silent fellows of all ages with beer in hand and nothing in sight. All of them bigger than me.
I’m reminded of paddling out at North Avalon early on a good Saturday morning.
‘Mate,’ sez I, hoving up to the double table, ‘the little lady inside wants a suggestion for some music.’ Right now Whitney H was up. They needed the call in there.
I had the pen and a slip handy, and I looked at the squat-faced man who was already staring at me. Him second then. The other guy.
To the other guy. ‘Whaddya reckon?’
‘Black fucken Sabbath.’ I wrote it down.
Back to his mate, who remains soured. Some men have eyes that have the flat stare of a dog.
‘Don’t listen to music mate.’
‘Must be something, Opera, Slim Dusty, Dave Brubeck? Whaddya mean you don’t listen?’
Come to think of it I think, even Black Sabbath was looking a bit harder at me now, so let’s try the two of them together.
‘You bloke’s must have had a mis-spent fucken youth,’ said by me with a wide smile.
That’s when they laughed a bit, but just to each other. More of a grunt and snuffle.
‘Well, I’d better piss off then.’
Nobody objected, so I did. When I handed the one slip back to Denice (behind the bar) she didn’t even look at it.