Sunday, February 28, 2010

Teenage Dirtbag

I used to be a Vegetarian.

I blame the chooks. One of the compulsory subjects at Bogan-villea High during my teenage years was Agriculture. We called it ‘Ag’. The Ag students were all given their own plot out the back of the school, a handful of seeds and told we could keep whatever we grew. I, of course, made sure that MY vegies were organic, watered daily, neatly lined up and protected by a scarecrow. There was one strange boy who simply dug all the dirt out of his plot and gave it away. Some of the farm kids grew wheat or hay. Anyway, our Ag class also learned about livestock. Then came 'the excursion.'

Our class, being the gifted Aggies who were considered to have a good chance of scoring a job at the local abbatoir or tanning works, got to travel to the big smoke, Tamworth, to see real chooks being ‘processed’. Oh gosh, how excitement. No one cared much for the chook part of the itinerary written on the permission note. WE had a day off school and were going to McDONALDS for LUNCH!!!

The bloody teachers actually did make us go to the Poultry Works in order to earn our Maccas. Ho hum. There’s some chooks. All lined up. Bwaahk. Bwaahk. Here’s the room where we put them into a neck brace. Here’s the room where the machine snaps their necks ….

WHAT? The machine… WHAT??!!!

Yes. The Ag excursion had an unexpected outcome. I realised that animals had to be killed in order to produce meat. It made the trip to Maccas afterwards a little awkward too. For lunch, only the kids from farms and those raised by wolves  had a McChicken or a McNugget (except the kid who didn’t realise what nuggets are made from). And…me being the extremist and all... I did the unthinkable. I wasn't much of a dirtbag baby, but I did become a teenage vegetarian.

I announced it to my family that evening:
Me: Well, I’m now a vegetarian.
Teenage Brother: Oh for Christ sake, what’s that? Are you allergic to vegies?
Me: No, I’m not eating chickens.
Mother: Well, that would be a chookatarian.
Me: Fine then. I won’t eat pigs either. Or cows. (shit, that means I can’t have meat pies…) Yes, I’M a teenage vegetarian.
Brother: You’re a teenage sook-a-tarian.
Me (avoiding wafting smell of roasted lamb): Animals have feelings too you know.
Brother: Yeah, this steak feels really good in my STOMACH.

It’s not easy being a teenage vegetarian in a small Bogan country town.

I didn’t broadcast it for fear of retribution. But it did mean a few changes. No leather jackets or handbags. No kangaroo-leather reinforcements on my sheepskin ugg boots. My mother tried to somehow compensate for my lack of meat by serving me bowls of McCains peas. At barbecues I’d be the one who ‘just had salad’. Yes, we didn’t quite know about how to be a good vegetarian back then. You could be Christian. You could belong to a worker’s union. You could even be an immigrant (just). But a vegetarian???? No one knew what do with those. I did last several years against the odds until the urge for fish fingers and party pies just took over. But I still can’t watch an animal be killed. And I don’t eat that much meat generally. It’s just so… fleshy.

SO, imagine my joy when recently I entered my very first meat raffle at the club.

I’ve not been a real club go-er funnily enough. I think it harps back to my pub experiences. A meat raffle was a crass term used by Bogan blokes for the auction process to decide which young inebriated Boganette to take home. I was busy studying to win an all-expensed paid trip to University and financial freedom, so I rarely attended the meat raffles. And besides, word had got around the Bogan Boys that I was a vegetarian. Best steer clear of that one. No tellin' what she might do.

Recently, a farewell dinner for a friend of mine, Fitzy Finance, was held at ‘the club’, organised by Clubbin’ Kimmy.
Me: What time should I get there Kim?
C.K: Six thirty. In time for the meat raffle.
Me: Right. Sounds serious. Best I be on time then.

I scabbed a lift with Smurfette of the Outlets (aka the designated driver). We squealed the Mazda into the parking lot at 6:27, clomped inside (in our bestest skinny jeans and leopard print heels) JUST in time to purchase a wad of meat raffle tickets. Five bucks worth seemed like heaps at the time, but in retrospect, obviously not enough. As we fought our way through the array of human food chain specimens at the bar (“ahhh, excuse ME mate, I WAS actually next, so you can bugger your smelly flanneletted self off for just a tick whilst I get two glasses of cheap fizzy wine…), Clubbin’ Kim did the organised thing and grabbed one of those numbers on a post that would eventually signal our turn for a dinner table. And then, on cue, the cricket went off the big screen and the meat raffle started.

And here we were, a bunch of chooks in a brewery yard, craning our necks, checking our tickets to see if we’d won a slab of meat wrapped in polystyrene, flapping around in disgust (Bwaarhk! Bwaark!) when none of us won so much as a bloody chop. This one guy, seriously, won five trays. Who leaves the club (dressed in his best K-Mart tracky daks) carting a wheelbarrow of packaged sheep and cow behind them? (Someone who doesn’t want to do the grocery shop this weekend I guess…) It took us complaining chooks a good few minutes (and another fizzy wine) to recover.

The experience did lead me to wonder about how a vegetarian meat raffle might look. Would you package up a tray of tofu and chickpea burgers? Or does the vegetarian who wins just sneak up and whisper “no really, I’ll just have the salad thanks” to the guy with the microphone (“A- haaaaaahhhhhhhh! We have a VEG-E-TAR-I-AN winner! What would you like love? A lettuce steak? Mushroom risotto?”

And what about the feelings of the animals at the abbatoir. Not so much about being killed (although, obviously quite an anxious time for the poor moo-ers). I mean, about where the meat you’ve been cultivating on your rump will end up. Your reason for living. Is there a hierarchy? Does one cow gloat amongst the bloat about being exported to the Japanese market whilst another winces that he’s being packed into a polystyrene meat pack for the club? Do the chooks ruffle each other’s feathers about who gets to go to KFC to get the 11 secret herbs and spices and who gets microwaved at Red Rooster?

Human or animal, it’s not easy being at the bottom of the food chain.

Teenage Dirtbag, Wheatus, 2000.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bad Medicine

I don’t wish to sound ungrateful.

In comparison to many countries, most of which are in Africa and the Americas, our health care system probably looks quite sound. I know there are people who might think me harsh. It’s just that … well… I do pay a LOT of tax. And I just don’t think I’m getting very good value at the moment. I don’t use the criminal justice system, the BHG (bless her) learns more from Foxtel and Better Homes and Gardens magazines than high school, I don’t use public transport and I don’t even drive very far to make use of Boganvillea’s roads. So I therefore tend to think that my thousands of tax dollars are keeping at least a dozen elderly folk in Pal and cuppa-soups.
But I feel particularly ripped off in regards to medical services. I do, as we know, watch an abnormal amount of T.V. I was practically raised by a television. I shudder when I see travel brochures for resorts that are ‘TV-and-phone-free’. AHH! EEK! What would I DO without Grey’s Anatomy? Private Practice? E.R.? Get me the remote… STAT!!!

Yes, I do realise that these medical dramas ‘are not the real world’. I’ve taken enough family and friends to the casualty section of the hospital to know that George Clooney is not going to swoon out and offer to ‘take a look at it’ for me. But really, do health care staff (my lovely local GP excluded) have to be so bloody rude and rough??? And if possible, could they learn to speak English?

If I had more guts (or could be bothered being a politician) I’d very possibly implement a system whereby I give a verbal rating of each professional as they tend to me (or my loved one). A bit like those warnings you get on the phone when talking to an automated bank message that says your call may be monitored for quality and training purposes. I had such a situation today, where a rating system could've been useful.

Crap Health Care Professional (CHCP): You’re finished the scan. You can get dressed and let yourself out.
Me: Act-u-al-ly,  I’d like us to rate your professionalism, skill and scan-side manner on a scale of one to ten. ‘One’ being shit and ‘ten’ being impossible to attain given that you’re not Dr McDreamy. So then, would you like to hazard a guess where you’re sitting on my scale right now? Hmmmm???? Don’t bloody well roll your eyes at ME MISSY!!!! I pay a LOT OF TAX!!!”

But she’d already left. So I …. got dressed and let myself out. Was I supposed to fold the paper gown neatly? Dispose of it thoughtfully? Make it into a serviette display? Fine, I'll leave it on the floor with the others shall I? Now that I'm stripped down to my daks you'd think I'd at least get a complimentary spray-tan.

Brad the Tradie, like the rest of his self-employed tradesman mob, hardly pays any tax, so naturally, he gets heaps of value for his couple of bucks. He’s had a skin cancer hacked from his chest, several expensive back scans and procedures and even makes use of the public hospital system.

In fact, last time he got carted off in the ambulance truly showed the value of our tax dollar in the public health system. I followed the ambulance to the Boganvillea Hospital (glorious construction that it is), parked a million miles away, found change so that I didn't get a ticket, trudged in the heat to Emergency in my heels, announced to Reception that my husband had come in the ambulance and after all that they couldn’t bloody well find him!!! Would I like to get a cuppa at the cafeteria whilst they figured this situation out? No, actually, I’d prefer to stand here looking pissed off whilst you go and find my HUSBAND!

As it turned out, BtT was on a trolley thingy parked in one of the corridors. The ambos had put him there, loaded him full of something called Midazolam and left. I, worried as buggery, scooted to his side and asked the obvious stupid question, “How are ya feelin’ luv?” to which he responded by grabbing my arm, looking deep into my eyes and demanding fried chicken. As you do.

When I did manage to hunt down a doctor-type-looking person (hard to tell whether they are actually doctors, these tiny little foreign praying-mantis people), I mentioned that I thought the Midazolam had made BtT hungry. I was told that he wasn’t hungry, just slightly delusional and that I could go find a chair from somewhere if I wanted to sit down (in the corridor with him). Towards midnight, they wheeled him around, scanned him, told him to get up and told me to monitor him through the night in case he stopped breathing. Oh, and that he could have some hot chips now but that the cafeteria stops making fried chicken past nine.

Now, in MY world, this is how checking into Emergency goes:

Me: Hi, my husband has been brought in by an ambulance.
Receptionist (who looks a little Italian, a little Swedish): Oh you POOR thing! Here, let me take you through to the complimentary drinks ‘n’ diazepam suite. Let me just look up how many tax dollars you pay.
Me: HEAPS of tax! And yes, a glass of sparkling and a relaxant would be quite appropriate. Is there somewhere I could go so that I don't have to hang out with bleeding people in flannelette shirts, drug addicts and screaming babies?
Fabio/Hans (looking at computer, squeals with delight): Lookie! You pay A LOT OF TAX! You’re entitled to a complimentary upgrade to our club floor. You can stay overnight in a spa suite whilst our team of medical professionals tend to your husband. We’ll even wheel him up to you when he’s coherent and not whinging anymore. Now, which scent of aromatherapy candle would you prefer when we deliver your dinner?
Pfft. In my Midazolam dreams.

Bad Medicine, Bon Jovi, 1988.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Danger Zone

I fall onto my arse a lot.

Brad the Tradie calls me 'The Cluster'. My parents reckon I was born a baby elephant. We lived in a split level home in Bush Boganland, with stairs everywhere. I used to fall up the stairs all the time. Like, every couple of days. SPLAT. I walk really quickly and when this is combined with stairs, it means I trip. I've fallen down a couple of flights here and there. I was always crap at the Hurdles at the school Athletics Carnival too.

So when, in my mid-twenties, I decided to learn to rollerblade as part of a get-fit-and-therefore-gorgeous-and-hot kick, there were many who merely cringed. My mother, with the advantage of watching me grow up (and down) as well as 620km of distance between us, suggested that it may be cheaper in the long run to purchase a helmet... and wrist guards...and kneepads...and private health insurance. Pfft. Ye of little faith.

It only took two weeks or so for my then-BFF (Squirt) and I to master rollerblading. Kind of. We would drive to a long stretch of concrete near the Boganvillea Art Gallery, roll up and back a few times and help each other stop. That 'turn' thing where you zoom one blade in front of the other wasn't exactly mastered, but hey... as we'd say, you can always "jump onto the grass or fall on your arse".

The problem, as I reflect now twelve years later whilst holed up in bed with a back problem, was not my blading technique, but my lack of stunt work experience. And vanity. Squirt and I were determined to be health goddesses. We went to Aerobics (yes, it was the 90's OK?) three nights a week at the local school (cheaper than the gym, only two bucks for a whole hour of huffy puffy!), we'd ride our mountain bikes chasing my kelpie dog (who always won, but then again she was built to chase sheep) and we'd gleefully consider going shopping as exercise. Obviously the lack of carbohydrates (bloody Atkins diet) drained our brain cells because we decided to rollerblade the bike path around the lake one perfectly sunny Sunday.  Wind in our hair, swooshing along, turn... glide... crack in the path... airborne... holy crap...jump on the grass...where's the bloody grassssssss..... SPLAT!!!

Fall on your arse it is then. "Ooooo", exclaimed Squirt, "that's gonna bruise". Recent fat loss had also taken away the extra padding on my butt. Grrrrrrreat news for the little mini-dress we'd bought to 'go clubbing' in. Not such a good look with a purple, yellow and black stain from my arse down my leg. I did feel a bit like an athlete, a bit like a wounded elephant.  There goes my place on the Australian roller-blading team. Bugger. I'd shown SUCH promise. So I took up a less extreme sport. Baking.

So, over a decade later, I blame the rollerblading accident, recent box packing marathon, years of trotting around in ridiculously high heels and .... well... AGE (there... I SAID IT!) on my current situation of being laid up with a bulging disc.  Adding to the mirth, the Winter bloody Olympics are on. So I can watch mad people fall on their arse all day long. In SLOW MOTION.

Winter Olympians are insane.
I noticed that the Sunday paper focussed on Aussie snowboard queen Torah Bright's clean lifestyle and 'determination' rather than the three concussions and a shoulder injury. She can't possible claim all those teeth as her own with a profession like 'snowboarder'. And man, those aerial ski jumpers! There's some SERIOUS landing on your arse. You'd think it wouldn't hurt so much landing on the snow. It does though. I went to Thredbo a couple of times and ummm... landed on my arse. And I wasn't even landing from twenty metres in the air. I ended up tobogganing because, well, you're already on your arse so there's less to hurt (unless you get all tangled up and land in the orange safety netting around the perimeter... yeah...embarrassing....)

The ice skaters have NO padding on their bum. These people must go through some serious painkillers. Do they dress up in feathers, go out and twirl, then hit the drug cabinet backstage?? And what's with bloody Ice Hockey? What a stupid sport that is! SMACK! SPLAT! CRUSH! They reckon the Canadians were playing for pride today, but quite frankly from what I saw, I think they were just trying to keep some of their own teeth and nose cartilage. These cold weather people do some strange things for fun. Must be all that running from bears and stuff. Am suddenly quite patriotic about Australia's love of swimming. And lack of ice and compacted snow.

But i think the pain prize has to go to the Aussie bobsledders. A fantastic feat, to train for the Olympics in a sport that no one actually does in Australia. I mean, you get a free tracksuit and everything! Do you have to audition, or just like... show up? In front of an audience of millions, they stack the little cart thing RIGHT at the top of the track. And slide on their heads all the way down. What do you say to them? "Good one mate, nice stack. That's gonna bruise."

'The Danger Zone' - 1986, Kenny Loggins.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Llama Llama Duck

I have a confession to make. I'm a study nerd.

I imagine myself in a room attached to a dark suburban warehouse at a Study Nerd's Anonymous (SNA) meeting:
"Hi, my name's Blossy Bogan and I like to study random useless subjects."
"Welcome Blossy!" (warm group hug)

I thought I had the urge under control, but I slip up each year when those Community Course advertisements appear in the freebie newspaper. It's then that I just MUST consider enrolling in 'The Magic of Donkeys' or 'Making the most of your Wok'. Or maybe 'Self-defence for married women who are generally safe but might just want to kick someone's arse one day'.

I've done a few evening courses in my time. My six week 'Thai' course involved learning a language, not actually eating laksa and quite frankly I felt a little out of place considering I was the only one in the class who didn't intend to go to Thailand. Can't remember much from 'Wine Appreciation' except that you should have dinner beforehand, but I'm sure it was sparkling.  

There's just certain things in life that require a COURSE. Like First Aid. And then there's courses that you'd do for a specific reason, like Arabic for Travellers'. But really... 'Llamas for fun or profit?' That's just pure indulgence for people who obviously don't work full-time in a demanding and unrewarding industry. That's a course for people who can relaaaaaaaax, pat llamas, freely grow underarm hair and wander amongst the countryside flowers.

NEW GOAL: Enrol in Llama course.
I'll be unemployed ... I mean,  RETIRED shortly. I'll have time to tend to llamas and grow underarm hair. For fun OR profit depending on how the mood takes me. I shall be Dharma the Llama Farmer. My llama, (called Karma), shall be groomed daily, walked on a leash, then ... um... how do you make money from a llama? Milk it? Shave it? I KNOW! I shall weave a rug from llama fur. There's fun and profit all rolled into one! Then Karma and I shall meditate and still be home in time for an afternoon nap.

I think the age of the Internet has made learning sound really attractive. Online Learning. Learn from home. Upload your assignments from the beach. A haven of potential for an unemployed study nerd. But what to study??? There's the practical stuff of course, like 'Lay your own Bamboo Floor' which just looks like a heap of instructions and 'Manage your Husband's hopefully highly profitable business', which actually requires a TAFE enrolment (and probably REAL WORK damn it!) But I've been brainstorming some extras, to squeeze in so I don't go soft, like 'Advanced Foxtel Studies'. Where assignments consist of watching five back-to-back Law & Order episodes. I don't mind doing the work. I'm happy to knock up an action research project on whether my arse actually spreads from spending four hours in a row on the couch several days a week. Pre and post measurements, graphs, self-reflection journal... oh the possibilities...

I consulted a 'local rag' from my soon-to-be local community.
Nothing like doin' a course to meet the locals, learn the biz, get the goss. Apart from the obvious self-guided mandatory learning in Rubber-Thong WearingYou & Your Sunscreen and Goin' Crabbin', there are some little gems at the community college. It is dreadfully hard to prioritise of course... where to start? 'Frogs for Beginners'? 'The Secret Life of Yoghurt and Labneh' (what the...???), 'The Art of Writing Eulogies' (handy) or the mysteriously compelling 'Forensic Dentistry South African Style'. Hmmm. Lock it in Eddie, I'm HOOKED! I could do one EVERY night of the week!  I'll be rolling in labneh I'll be so damn local! I'll be ready to give every frog I kill a decent eulogy.

I know what you're thinking. I should be RUNNING a course or seven. Sharing my skills amongst the community. Getting the message out there about what's really important in life. Not sure whether 'Strutting Effectively in High Heels' is a go-er in a relaxed beach-side community, but I am good at culture change. Worth a shot. 'Training your Dalmatian to be Vacuumed'? Might not take six easy-to-attend sessions to cover the curriculum, but you never know. They could be slow learners. By then I'll be an expert Llama Farmer, so we could vacuum those as well. Just not the frogs. DEFINITELY not the frogs.

'Llama Llama Duck' - 2006.