Today, in my home state of Tasmania, a bill in the House of Assembly gained in principle support. This bill will amend the wording in the Marriage Act to include couples that are all-male, and couples that are all-female. This is the first step in a process that will result in Gay Marriage becoming legal within the state of Tasmania, a state that only decriminalized homosexual relationships in 1997. And whilst I am extremely proud of my home state today and the progressive politics of the current Labor-Greens government (progression that seems to fly in the face of the island state’s oft-maligned reputation amongst the greater population of Australia, but that’s another story for another time) the fact remains that the state I currently reside in, that being Victoria, has no such legislation currently on the floor of parliament. In fact, it’s not even up for debate thanks to the current ruling hyper-conservative Liberal government; a government who believes that imposing fines upon people, any people for the “horrific” crime of using crass language is an effective method of curbing street violence. More to that, I live in a country where we have members of our freely-elected Federal Government not only openly ridiculing the very notion of Same-Sex Marriage, but suggesting the even the mere presence of gay people within society is causing degradation to the very fabric of the English language itself. This despite the presence of polls that show an increasing, overwhelming majority of citizens in Australia support the idea.
But before we get too bogged down in statistics and political nit-picking, there’s an important distinction to be made. And that distinction is that these changes proposed by the Tasmanian government are not necessarily about making clear distinction as to who can, or who can’t get married. These changes aren’t about singling out majorities, minorities, secular, and non-secular groups. They’re not about making distinction or exception based on sexual orientation, religious background. They’re not even about the pointing out the colour or tone of skin, eyes, or hair. These changes are about equality, about inclusiveness. These changes are about creating a society where everyone has equal and fair access to everything. Just as everyone has the right to adequate health care, so should everyone have the right to choose a husband or a wife no matter who they are, what they look like, or what their gender is. It’s about allowing everyone the right to choose to stand before whoever they may choose and declare their lifelong, undying love for another human being free from fear of persecution, criticism or shame. These changes are not about who has (or who doesn’t have) the ability to procreate. These changes are not about what centuries old definitions dictate. These changes are not about marginalizing or degrading a religious doctrine of beliefs. These changes aren’t about attacking the so-called “moral fabric” of society. These changes are about doing what’s right for everyone today. They’re about creating a safe, inclusive environment where everyone, EVERYONE, has uninhibited, legal access to the full spectrum of human emotion. Most importantly, they’re about allowing each and every individual person to lead their lives however they may choose, and with whomever they may choose.
The sky has not fallen down in New York. Nor has it in Canada, or Iceland, or Norway, or Portugal, or Argentina. It’s not going to fall down in Tasmania. And it won’t if the rest of Australia does the right thing, the logical thing, the humanist thing, and follows suit. It’s 2011, and it’s time.
Note: This one’s kinda long-ish. 2800 words or so. Just a forewarning. Also, I typed the last word on it and have not so much as looked at it since. I make absolutely no apologies for any spelling or grammatical errors. Furthermore there’s gratuitious ripping off of McCarthy and Vonnegut contained within. I make no apologies for that either.
The first time Tommy Marks stared down the barrel of a gun was on a Monday.
About three weeks prior, Tommy had held up a poker game. He and three other boys had rolled in, cocked and loaded, and had taken off with about forty dollars in cash, some plastic chips, and a man’s pocket watch. They’d also put a bullet in Wesley Nigel Lee’s brain, killing him dead. So it goes. Tommy, as dumb as he is lucky, grabbed the first horse he saw and blew clean out of town. The other boys (as honourable as they were scared) handed themselves in to the Sheriff’s office almost immediately. The assumption being that their prompt admission of guilt would afford them the luxury of clemency. The next day they were strung up by their necks and hung ‘til they were dead and dangling. So it goes. The town’s attention then, naturally, turned to the whereabouts of the other boy, now long since fled. The cries were for blood, and that would’ve been the case. But Tommy, as lucky as he was dumb, happened to have emanated from the loins of the Mayor Chester Marks. This complicated matters to no end. On the one hand Chester Marks had his civil duty to appease the desires of his constituents. On the other he was struggling with the reality of condemning his own son to death. A closed door meeting was called to determine the fate of the absent boy. Assembled around a stately table were an oilman, an attorney, a publican, a respected private citizen, a trader, a banker, the Sheriff, the Sheriff’s deputy, and the Mayor himself. They convened in the morning at half past the hour of nine.
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Venues come and go with a tiresome regularity. It’s a fact that anyone with even a little experience within a local, original, alternative music scene has to accept. A lot of the time it’s horrendously unspectacular. The doors shut. The lights go off. The patrons are moved on. Sometimes it’s a total closure. Other times it’s a mere lick of paint and some haircut with an iTunes playlist moving in instead. You hear a lot of the same words being bandied about at the time: “Licensing,” “noise complaints,” “maximising revenue.” The end result doesn’t really change. You’re out. Someone else is in.
It took me a long time to figure out exactly what made the closure of The Arthouse different; why there was such a great outpouring of emotion. Last night, I figured it out. I’ve seen pubs that I’ve liked go under in the past, and I’ve been annoyed about it, but I moved on quite quickly. Last night was different. And while the prevailing theme of the night was one of sadness, of lament, of grief for the loss of a loved one, I couldn’t help but feel happy. I felt hopeful, buoyed. At about 6pm earlier that night, I sat at a dinner table with six other people. One-by-one we all went around and listed our favourite, most beloved “Arthouse moments.” Small, single dots in time. I suspect by nights’ end more than a few of these would’ve been replaced. I know mine was.
As folk outfit Fear Like Us stepped down from the much worn-in stage to conclude their set by the boarded-up fireplace, the only amplification coming from the collective voices of the masses huddled around them who sang every word like their lives were at stake, suddenly it all became clear. This was a culminating moment. A celebration of everything this humble little dive bar had represented to so many over two decades; a single, fading voice crying out into the night one last time. And whilst the final shutting of these doors is an undeniably sad moment, there’s a lot to be taken from it happening that is hopeful, bright, and dare I say it, a little sunny.
A pub, by-and-large, is just that. A place that gets you liquored up; a place where many nights are lost to the ensuing haze. The Arthouse was never just a pub. At any other music venue in the city you could go along and see a band play to a small crowd of ambivalence, or to a packed house of adoring fans. The Arthouse was never just a music venue. The Arthouse was a home. A place of welcoming, of acceptance, a place free of judgement, prejudice, and intimidation. Strangers met and became friends. Friends became lovers. Some lovers even got married there. What made The Arthouse special was the one thing it did that so very few places like it do: it bred a community. It bred a local community, which grew to become a national community, which grew to become an international community. It bred a culture of no bullshit, of tolerance, understanding and respect. This was a place where bouncers were never really needed, (a fact that flew in the face of the so-called reputation that inevitably played a small role in its’ eventual demise). A place where a group of complete strangers would link arms and engage in a bawdy a-cappella rendition of the chorus to Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” for no other discernable reason than it was really, really fun. A place where everyone had their own favourite little corner, be it the corner table in the beer garden, the Galaga machine, or leaning against the pole (that fucking pole). But, alas, these things are no more. Confined to memory. The house is packed up. We’ve had to move out. And yes, whilst it is a sobering thought that those walls are not forever, this culture, this community, shit, this fucking family that came to be because of The Arthouse will continue to live on, and thrive, and grow. And that, my friends, is something we should all be very, very proud of.
See you next weekend.
(Note: I wrote the majority of this in the grips of the second worst hangover I’ve had so far this year. It was one of those all-consuming ones where all you want to do is cuddle a pillow and hope for darkness. Darkness or chips. Whichever one materialses first.)
Over the mountains, through the forest, two days beyond the horizon lies a magical land of much wonder and spectacle; a land where colours are that much brighter, where the wind smells like cinnamon and where lemonade falls from the sky. And in the centre of this land sits the happy town of Cake. Cake was a whimsical sort of place. The kind of place where the milkman might start dancing just because; where the owls would stay up beyond sunrise just to greet you and say “How do you do?”. And it was in this funny little town where a young boy named Tim lived. Tim was a plucky young fellow who showed much promise. And wherever Tim went his faithful canine companion Catface was surely not far behind. Together they did remarkable things, and the townsfolk adored them for it.
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It’s been one hundred and eighty three days since I last talked to another human being. The last words I will ever speak to another living soul. I know this because one hundred and eighty two days ago the engines failed midway through a routine course adjustment. I didn’t know that that would be what they were. I don’t remember what it was I said; probably something procedural. I don’t know exactly where I am now right now. The ship’s computer cheerily refers to this area as “Unchartered.” It’s dead silent here. Last I calculated I was roughly three parsecs off course. This means I’m well beyond the range of satellite communication, which also means that I’m well beyond the range of any rescue fleet. It’s so deadly, deadly silent in here. But that silence is broken for now. Somewhere behind me a warning siren is going off. It does this, routinely, every twenty minutes. It’s been doing this, routinely, for the past one hundred and eighty two days. And its’ only purpose is to routinely alert me to a fact that I am already acutely aware of: I’m fucked.
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(Note: This was an exercise where I had to pick one photo, then another unrelated photo, and string the two together. I picked a photo of a scuba diver, because he was chilling with a manatee. Which is badass. Then I chose a picture of some bees, because the only other alternative was a shot of Diana Ross. And, like, fuck that right?)
Charlie had always been an avid scuba diver. Throughout the years he’d explored wreck after wreck, reef after reef. Such was his love of diving that when he retired he used his superannuation to move to a humble shack on the remote east coast. Every morning he’d wake up, sit on his back porch and marvel at the sweeping seascape that greeted him. To the untrained eye it seemed a simplistic existence, but to Charlie this was paradise.
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I write a fair bit. That is to say, I write a lot. It’s about three-fifths of what I do. Maybe even seven-ninths. The other parts are comprised of a splendid pot pourri of geek culture, sports and alcohol. For whatever hellish reason, I’m subjecting myself to a higher learning program on the medium. I’m going to post stuff that I’ve done there, or elsewhere, on here. Because I need the validation of strangers reading my shit/liking it enough to make a single solitary mouse click. I’m a fragile soul like that, you see.