Saturday, May 26, 2007

moments before the midnight to dawn

Many bad developments. E-mails the only good thing. Here's one from IG, who always makes me laugh.

May 25 2007

On the way back from an interview with Australian Associated Press a junkie in navy shirt and army grey, white and black camouflage pants got on at Strathfield station then in a laconic nasal drawl started telling the whole train carriage 'never buy New Balance shoes'.
As the only one who paid attention to his podiatric outburst I stoically suggested his crisp white pair were still too new for such assertions and to give his New Balance some time before such harsh brand judgements. But he disagreed and said: 'Nah, I had a fucking pair of Asics before and they were fucking much better.'
We began chatting across the carriage and he told me the NSW Department of Community Services had recently taken away his three young girls cause his girlfriend had mental problems and he had been in jail for six months after being caught carrying a screw driver police believed he intended to use for breaking in to cars.
‘I’m not into break and enter or thieving from cars,’ he said.
I asked if he had 'previous' criminal convictions and he said only for alcohol related stuff when he was young and I told him I noticed the 'O U T L A W' poorly tattooed into his form arm in faded ink dots. It was also here where I noticed bruises and scabs around veins in the inside of his elbow.
'Yeah, fucking drunk mate, fucking drink.’
'Life's demon,' I said.
'I can lose my place so fucking easily. Things just seem to get fucking worse for me.'
I asked if he had dependencies and he knew what I meant and said: ‘Yeah but it’s under control, what’s harder is leaving my girlfriend. I moved from the country, up near the Queensland border, came to Sydney five years ago because of her and it’s been trouble ever since. Fucking relationships.’
He said his dependencies were more so for the women in his life and how he couldn't walk away from his girlfriend and how it was a rocky road and his Dad never told him he could do anything and family weren’t interested when his kids were in trouble and how he wanted to work but was unemployed and even when he asked some late night road workers how to get a job controlling traffic the foreman told him to piss off cause he was a ‘little guy that couldn’t do much work’. He would love to get a job but never found what it was he wanted to do.
'What you do?' he asked.
'I am a journalist' I said in a charcoal suit and thin black white dotted tie.
'You need a degree for that?'
'You didn't use to, was like a trade in the old days, all in with the printers in the same building, apprentices started when they were 15, maybe begin as copy boy then become a cadet then one day a journalist, but these days yeap, you need a degree. Sometimes two.'
He continued to chat ambivalently as the rest of the carriage recoiled in fear that they may be addressed and suddenly an old man reading in the corner, who I spied had cyrillic text down his book's spine began blurting out something aloud in Russian.
'What mate?' the junkie asked earnestly.
The confused man, shook his head and apologised and said ‘nothing, no no’ and it took an uncomfortable moment for us three to regain the composure of before reforming from this slippage that rocked with the carriages jolting along the rail track rattle.
Bemused by this irruption, in Russian I asked if the man was Russian and he greedily said ‘Da’ and I told him I could speak a little Russian and my father was Russian born in China... This older man put down his book in an animated scree of excitement and ruffled through his bag. I noticed it was Redfern station and my Junkie friend got off and said 'see you later', I told him 'good luck' and he disappeared onto the platform.
This was actually my stop to get back to Newtown but I decided to stay one more with my new Russian friend going to the next stop: Central station.
There was something about this Slavic train encounter because earlier in the morning when buying newspapers to read and study for my job interview I noticed the man behind me was buying a Russian newspaper and it reminded me of where I want to be one day and what I want to be doing regardless of how tragic a task it was to have these impulses- difficult too for this glacier would come after traversing first two books I'd embarked on and the other Your Name Here book project with DeWitt that the had re-emerged as a possibility with a recent telephone conversation from NY from a literary agent who used a lot of sea storm metaphors regarding what needed to be done.
The train headed towards Central and the older man invited me over to sit next to him and his woolly beard. On the seat his travel luggage case that had seen a lot of travel but not necessarily through airports separated us but seemed full of sorts of papers and surprises. He ruffled through it for a pen and we did chat away in bad patois English Russian and from the tiny vocabulary I had had of Russian words, a month learning in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan, every word I once knew seemed replaced with German and this pidgin ridiculous speak warmed my knew friend who admitted his English was a good as my Russian.
He introduced himself and gave me his thin card that displayed: Valentin Shkolny
Professional photographer and Artist.

I pulled out from my pocket the recent find of Yevgenny Yevtushenko's epic Soviet poem 'Bratsk Station' , Perhaps this bok was part of my recent Russian arousals and he smiled with one eye shut the other peering at the cover and said: 'Bratsk Station. Horosho, horosho, good good.'
I told him I was a journalist and opened up my portfolio case and showed him my name and some stories I'd done and he told me he was a Ukrainan Moscovite who moved to Australia ten years ago. He was a photographer and artist and has work in the Australian National Gallery and had taken portraits of first man in space, Uri Gagarin, at home. As well he said books of photos on Sydney.
We got off at Central and he is excitedly speaking in Russian way too fast and I feel a cruel dupe for I only know a little Russian but he invited me to his home and studio.
'Interesno?' he asked on the platform
'ochen intersno,' I said eagerly.
’Tonight?’
'Neit, ya, rabotiu gazetta,'
'OK'
'I telephone' I said making a 'telephone shape' with my hand while showing him my mobile phone.
'Ok,' he smiled again.
I told him in Russian I worked at the Gazetta this weekend but would call him and would love to visit his studio and we would help each other with language.
I was excited and felt the interviews all went well, both for the job and with these strangers, so I decided to treat myself to sushi at an empty sushi train restaurant in Newtown.
When I got home I rang the Managing Editor at the Daily Telegraph, were I work on the weekends , thinking the AAP interview would give me leverage for a proper job but he told me despite being a top consideration for a recent job at his paper (as a gossip columnist) and doing extremely well and impressing everyone with a good reputation, if I was offered the AAP job I should take it, there was nothing for me at the Telegraph, oh and the AAP editor had rung for a chat and he had told him good things, so good luck.
I hung up and I thought of moving to Siberia.

1 comment:

Language said...

Wonderful stuff, and Bratskaya GES is actually quite good -- I bought it because it was such a famous little book, but I liked it much more than I had expected to (not being a Evtushenko fan). This LH thread contains considerable discussion about the issue of whether GES should be translated "station" or (as I prefer) "dam."

Sorry about the stuff that's not going well; may it go better.