Monday, June 11, 2012

Kings Amongst (Sub-Hu)Men

One could be forgiven for believing an over consumption of tar fumes (rising off the melting road into town) in the scorching swoon of a thirty-five degree afternoon, could have been responsible for the hallucinatory vision of a thousand Elvis’ stumbling down the main drag.

But unfortunately, blame couldn’t be palmed off so easily. The pop-star apparitions were real and happening, out amid the baking, brown countryside. The landlocked New Southern Welsh town of Parkes- renowned to UFO fanatics for its ownership of a gigantic radio telescope- also calls home to the annual Elvis Presley Festival.

What transpires over this tumultuous week in January is a lavish celebratory wake; where locals and fans from afar try to summon the spirit of the Dead King, heckling him to return and haunt every corner of Parkes’ dusty, yellowed streets.

And spook it he does- the singer’s southern drawl sloops from every dangling lamppost speaker (boxes usually reserved for blasting out Barry Manilow to annoy away alcoholics from habituating shop-front stoops) and his dulcet tones rumble through the town like tumbleweeds.
Every avenue or alleyway becomes podium to a sheep shearer or bus driver from Bondi donning the Elvis garb, the Royal Robes, who whinnies out Don’t Be Cruel with an outrageous outback twang.

What began in 1997 as the mind-warped brainchild of an Elvis nutcase named Neville (a Parkes local who was once granted a religious revelation during a journey to Graceland) attended by only a handful of farmers, has since become Presley pandemonium. It has ascended to become one of the premier deceased musician related festivals in the entire rural world- and is frequented yearly by thousands of Presley pilgrims.

Every Elvis in his cape and blue-stained shoes goes out on the town over a series of infinite evenings where the bourbons seem to rain from the ceiling like sewerage; each one keen on pashing one of the many Priscilla’s bumming around Parkes’ beer gardens in their fetching fifties housewife apparel.

Apparently, as legend insists, if enough part-time Presley’s swallow enough brain-draining liquids over the course of a festival evening, the real resurrected Elvis will descend and make a midnight appearance in the centre of the Parkes Hotel's karaoke stage- where it is claimed he bellows out the tune, Blue Moon of Kentucky ( During this eerie serenade, as tears escape the sensitive eye sockets of the audience, the King makes off with every soul left in the room, for sustenance, before heading back up to his swinging emerald chapel in the sky.


So as you can understand, upon hearing these indisputable facts, for us the surreal scene was set; kick-off 2012, this meteoric final year of the Mayan calendar, by driving out and debauching during an Elvis apocalypse. How could we go wrong?
A motley city mob of us jammed into the red wagon and jetted off toward this strange scenario- ploughing six hours from Sydney to find our fates under the flaming Elvis moon.

As we rolled into the Wild West setting of the empty outskirts streets, we were beginning to wonder; would it be all we hoped?
We needn’t have ever worried. A vicious Priscilla suddenly staggered out of a screen door following an apparent argument, and jumped into her battered old Ford- not before radiating our road-weary brows by striking a perfect princess pose- middle finger balanced pristinely aloft above the others, matched by the scowl on her fleshy jowls. We had made it.

Main Street then unfolded like a mesmerising hall-of-mirrors. Every nook and cranny was inhabited by a caped Elvis impersonator; some were back-slapping, sharing spotlights and singing, screaming Suspicious Minds, others shit-storming and howling hell into the hot afternoon.
An Aboriginal Elvis held down the front porch of the Commercial Hotel, wielding his guitar like Thor’s hammer, ready to rain destruction into the eardrums of passer-bys and pedestrians.

This crazy parade in the centre of Parkes had parched our throats; the dry wind had busted in through our shocked and gaping lips. As if in the throws of some wild delirium tremens, the necessity to get to the bar and refill as quickly as possible overtook all other urgencies.

As we stepped over the threshold of the nearest watering hole, we were hit by a sudden wall- like a schooner by a wave in a storm- of uncapped joy, peels of rankling laughter. The stark light of the afternoon disappeared into the eternal twilight of the Australian country tavern. The musty smell of soggy beermats rose up. We were home, home amongst Kings.

As the Priscilla poured our beverages from behind the bar, my staggered pallor suddenly reflected back at me- through the lenses of fifty pairs of golden glasses. Like the eyes of a fly. Elvis was everywhere, and he was watching everything.
The King’s trademark drawl was spat out in lashings of Aussie bush speak, smacked about by the troops of tradesmen who inhabited the neighbouring towns.
The mood was jaunty- fun as watching a coyote run free in a kindergarten- and we began to roll into the swing of these kooky kaisers.

Between billions of bourbons, caterwauling and cluelessness, somehow we had lost the daylight. Without any awareness of how it was humanly possible, we were now wedged in amongst an audience of inebriated Elvis’, staring at the stage.

Midnight karaoke at the Parkes Hotel.

A sudden surge of electricity pumped through the room, and for a second, the power flickered off. When the lights returned, Elvis was standing centre stage… still, silent, head bowed heavy. The same electrical thump passed through me as it had through the room, and I thought to myself, dazzled, “Was the fable true?? Blue Moon of Kentucky???”
Then, seemingly out of his underpants, the Elvis suddenly surfaced a cooked chicken. Unceremoniously, and without foreplay, he inserted his middle finger into its rear, and began pumping it with obvious zest- disembowelling it lewdly for all who were watching.

Sometimes, intermittently, he would remove his greasy digit and place it into his mouth, suckling on the succulent sauce of the chooks innards. The audience grew gaunt. And as Elvis finger-fucked that poor dead fowl, I realised; the king was truly in the building. He’d descended and changed us all, without doubt, for eternity.

He may not have played Blue Moon of Kentucky, and who cares (but with gladness) one iota.
But all the same, there was no chance in a lifetime of ever eating Kentucky Fried Chicken again.

So for all Elvis and alien watchers out there, don’t look further for interplanetary pop-stars sightings than out there on the sticky stage of the Parkes main drag during January… but be prepared to sprint at the first sign of a cooked chicken after sunset.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


The tubular bells begin to ding, harping little cries like the tapping of an abacus, pip pip pip, as the days roll closer to the inevitable let-down of One Hundred Years of Canberra.
Proudly squatting on a trough of mud, in the centre of what was surely a sacred kangaroo pissing ground for zillions of years before, is this mortuary in the middle of Australia’s southern highlands, the concrete capital.

Savour the sights of butter-shades and bland, as you roll along the stupendous serpent of Northbourne Avenue, its grassy intersections laid with beckoning floral wreaths, and occasional road accident crosses, marking the deep spiritual beliefs all Canberrans hold for religious ceremony (a better life follows…) and drunk-driving.
Soon you’ll follow this Northbourne Nullarbor into a glossy hall of apartment brick blocks, where the charming tenement tenants of the outer ‘burbs will wave their windscreen squidgees at you in welcoming delight (as well as in demand for a buck to subsidise what is a very meagre bar allotment allowed them by governmental welfare).
Snake in on the Murray’s bus to the gristly almond coated bus shelter, not quite the jolliest of centres, the Jolimont, and bare witness to an incredulous amount of newspaper browsing iPhone idolisers waiting for late transportation to ship them to sunnier shores.
Now, don’t think we’re being pessimistic here. Canbra has more than a bucket of snails to offer the visiting Frenchies, and we’re about to delve deeper into it than perhaps any one human, public servant or student savant is willing to be ready for.

In fact, it has it all!

The hexagonal doom-box of Questicon, the bizarre and smoke-invested village of midgets at Cockington Green, the rape parade disguised as a drag derby called Summernats, the mouse-ridden minge puddle of Mooseheads.
A sprawled out sleepy squalor of suburbia can be viewed at its primitive peak from the needle of the sight-seeing syringe, known as Black Mountain tower. Here you’ll view, in the distance, how the alpine backroads which shimmy out unto the horizon are stocked with unpaved, bushland turnoffs, perfect places to rubbish the remains of another ‘missing’ Fyshwick prostitute who got lippy when realising the wallet was empty.

Turtles of disputable origins ram each other in the oily depths of Lake Ginnanderra, swimming, scooting beneath the rusted wrecks of a thousand submerged shopping trolleys, disgarded relics of a student shopping run bitten sour by the realisation of pricey booze bandits hiding behind the counters of Belconnen Woolies.
Or, take the action-smacked Action buses for a lark out to the vortex of the universe, the swooning, gargling stupidity of the cyclonic Woden Bus Interchange, where somehow, for reasons unknown to earth inhabitants, all the scumbags of the solar system magnetise together in an endless chain of ciggie bummers- all reaping handouts from the same staid guy as he sits in plaid and empties his Winfields before the neighbourhood wagon rumbles in front of him, air pressure doors huffing like the sirens of the pearly gates, to fetch and drag him back to his fibro existence out on the edge of oblivion and Tuggeranong.

Canbra Firestorm! Remember that? Who said great things never came from natural disasters. It nearly wiped out Woden! Unconscionably, firetruck firebrands sucked smokes while the blazes neared their northern terraces. Heresy and speculation? Absolute wonderment abounds, in every corner of the capital, whatever you believe. For instance, wind down in the greasy nudist nest of Kambar pool, where shimmering and shaven golden ancients stand around glossing their longfellas by the banks and slithering sea-snakes dash away in repulsion. Or, if treading water in a puddle of skin flakes with a gaggle of unrobed grandfathers is not your idea of a limerick, tirade down to the mucky soil sidling against Pine Island, where you and a canoe can do whatever lonely movements towards searching for the truth you want to do, out there.

Or, take a taxi!
Be driven about by former Nigerian judges, and let them wow and regale you over their tales of lost evening ventures, hustling Tony Abbott around from bar to homosexual party tavern and back again, out on the murky peripheries of nowhere.
It has been fabled Tony Abbott dances the dirty with Phillipeano love children, all born out of wedlock, in unison like bundles of trash, from out the pulsating womb of Kim Beazley’s festering goiter. Abbott pukes out fish bones, organs and entrails from the carcasses he has recently devoured, before hopping back into the Nigerian cabbie, James’, back seat sanctuary.
“Mercy for us all, Jimmy,” Tony mumbles, wiping placenta from off his jowls. He suddenly stares, intent with rage, at the back of Jimmy’s skull. “Nobody’s told you you’re a Nigger, have they Jimmy?” Abbott slaps the back off Jimmy’s noggin, and erupts into a wolfish and clattering hee-haw.
“Please, Mr Tony, no more of this racist roughhousing,” James stoically pleads his rights.
A vicious smirk crawls upon Tony’s fish-like lips.
“Say, you ever kissed a white man before, Jimmy?” His lips start to vibrate, a little aquiver, as he leans over to shower rat-poison breath into Jimmy’s ashen eardrums.
A gleaming silver sword of drool appeared on Tony Abbott’s lip tip, at this point, as James recalled (as he whisked me away to the resort which stood alone in the world for its advertising slogan, “a giggle for every shit supplied”, at the address Somewhere Between Desolation and Bliss) that yes, a shimmying globule of spittle ran from cheek to knee, like a shivering spindle of spider web, unnoticed by its carnivorous landlord.
“Kiss me now, James,” Tony Abbott tortured the black man with his tongue against the nape of his neck.
James closed his one working eye, in fear, at the knowledge Tony Abbott kept a loaded Smith and Wesson packed within his trouser fly.
“Please, Mr Tony. Please.”
Abbott threw his head back in a wild reptilian guffaw.
“AAAAAAHA!” He titled menacingly downwards, back into his seat, slumping out of the purveying street-light which had previously been dousing a grotesque hue of orange over his narrow and bepimpled tender.
“Alright James. Alright,” Tony lit a Cuban, and passed it up to the terrified driver in the front seat. “Take this cab to The Lodge. We’re going to have a laugh tonight.”
James recalls at this point, Tony unzipped his pant fly, and clicked the revolver's safety into the off position. James rolled the cab, at the hurtling speed Abbott demanded, into the ocean of the zone of night between 3AM and dawn.
“All those orange streetlights, like communist fireflies, buzzing in rows, all the way out to the airport…” James recollected, somehow poetically, as I removed myself from the sick scents which still lingered from Abbott’s Cubanos in the back seat of the lorry.

And there it stood; The Outhouse on the Outskirts of Oblivion. A dingy raucous was expunging through the bars of the lamp shining windows, and filtering off down the street.
The Rolling Stones “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” puffed through my consciousness like a death adder, and I followed this evidently fateful chain of circumstances and ambled into the din.
Speakers sided the dirty stage as an old man with fossilised whiskers chundered along through the lyrics, “Bad, bad, Leroy Brown, baddest cat in the whole damn town,” as the rest of the mob descended into a dismal chaos. I obliged myself by offering a beer to my gullet, and joined the swamp.

So, with all this tourist hyper-babble written and divulged, it is time for the due bureaucratic process, typical of this town, to take place so we all can get prepared for a slight clamour, a fart-sized magnitude of excitement over a few fireworks and celebrations next year.
Wave your flags, Canberra, as you wrinkle into the soggy skin of a successful centenarian in 2013.