In 2014 I fell in love with plants. It all started when I moved into the ‘Treehouse’, my new and now beloved flat on Brunswick Road. Prior to the Treehouse, I lived in Ye Olde Lodge and I didn’t have an outdoor area. Now I have a roof terrace where, after raising myself from sweat soaked dreams, I begin each day watching the sun rise over the Republic of Moreland.
One afternoon, me and Lil’G, went to Bunnings and bought a load of plants for my terrace because it looked sparse, and was begging for some greenery. A man’s home is a window into his mind. I bought a dwarf lime tree, scallions, basil, chili, coriander, and a respectful tray of parsley.
In the absence of pets, plants fill a certain gap in my domestic life. They need me and that makes me feel good. Quickly, my plant count began to rise and, before I knew it, my life was awash with photosynthesis and better air quality in my 3rd floor life of tranquillity.
It was about this time when Lazarus came into my life; a plant with white flowers that now sits on the window sill of my kitchen. Lil’G saved him from a trade show, and if she hadn’t picked him up and carted him back to the Treehouse, he’d have been dumped, just like Super Ted.
I’m in love with Lazarus. He’s brought abundant joy into my life. He makes me feel like a better man. And like me, he’s been through the blood spattered wringer of life. When I look into the pollen soaked mire of his white petals, I go weak at the knees and pray to the God of Botany, who’s a mixture between David Attenborough and David Bellamy. I guess you could say my love for Lazarus, is all about the David’s.
About a month ago I was recovering from a particularly intense drinking session with Jay Donovan and was enforcing an Alcohol Free Day (AFD). On these days, I always get a bit jittery and superstitious. I’m not a religious man but I’m superstitious, and I regard this trait as being the repository of my creativity. Being irrational is exhilarating. If I wasn’t irrational, I’d get incredibly bored and probably rob a bank or something like that. Irrationality has saved me from long term incarceration.
Anyway, I’d had the kitchen window open all day because it was hot in Melbourne and the moths were rising from the cracks, and destroying my knitwear. I was having frequent cold showers to alleviate my acute withdrawals from good times and, after one excellent shower, my Dad called me to discuss a financial matter. So, I took myself out onto the terrace to talk to the man who made the Vauxhall Viva HC estate look cool.
When I walked back into the flat, I noticed that Lazarus was gone but the window was closed. I hunted around the flat looking for him, thinking that maybe in my sober funk that I’d decided to move him somewhere else. I looked and looked but still I couldn’t find him. That’s when I remembered my ghost.
My ghost is a phantasm from the past that follows me around the planet. Ghosts don’t need passports or luggage; they just need a reason to be. My ghost is a nice person because at this stage he/she has not turned into a poltergeist.
Anyway, I thought my ghost had pilfered Lazarus and hid him because I’d been neglectful. Sometimes I get drunk and talk to my ghost. It’s a one way conversation, but Lazarus was gone. However, in my moment of need I got practical and considered the possibility that Lazarus had fallen out of the window. Sometimes we do things unconsciously and I thought that I’d maybe closed the windows like Hal, from 2001 A Space Odyssey, in a fit of jealous rage, and I’d not noticed Lazarus’ absence. Life’s fraught with moments of inattention.
But it was dark and I didn’t want to go all the way downstairs only to discover that Lazarus wasn’t there, and that my ghost had gone rogue. So, I decided to pretend he was down there and that my ghost still loved me. Finding out that love is not reciprocated is like finding a misshapen lump on one of your testicles.
I did not sleep well. My dreams were wracked with anxiety about having to go back to school. School taught me nothing but I did learn that institutions breed contempt.
I rose at dawn, walked out onto the terrace and watched the light make that spectacular transition from darkness to Brunswick. I find light as intriguing as the flow of emotion I feel when an underdog wins the day.
Walking down the stairs, I felt my blood addle, until a voice in my head said, ‘fear not Big C, an exorcist will soothe your weathered soul’.
When I got to the land that exists below my unreliable window, I saw Lazarus lying in a bed of broken glass that had been discarded as part of the recent renovations in my building. His flowers had wilted and he wasn’t looking too perky but he was alive and I could feel my ghost laughing in the silent wings, pursued by a bear. I picked Lazarus up, dusted off the glass and took him upstairs like Richard Gere did to Debra Winger in An Officer and a Gentleman, cue the late Joe Cocker.
It was a beautiful moment. One man and his plant. The fall would kill a person but not him. Not Lazarus, he’s not subject to the fall of man.
After some TLC, Lazarus was reborn; broken, tarnished, beautiful, soulful and green, just like the underdogs that we all love so much. And now, as I write this post, he’s photosynthesizing, and I can tell he loves life because my ghost is at peace, and the light on the terrace is brazen and alive.
Illustration by Angry Goat
I’m occasionally hit by bouts of claustrophobia and hydrophobia.
The claustrophobia is the result of accidentally locking myself in a toy chest when I was six years old. I was in there for an hour before an adult walked passed and heard my muffled screams and unlocked the chest. The closest I’ve felt to this traumatic childhood experience is boarding a crowded 19 North Coburg tram when I’m in a bad mood.
The 19 tram is a fickle beast, prone to fits of madness, rage and the inevitable delays of Melbourne public transport. For the most part I like my tram route because it goes up Royal Parade passed Princes Park and stumbles up Sydney Road spewing commuters onto the pavement and into the many bars and cafes along the way. It’s like a Mallee Ringneck feeding the road with tiny morsels of consumerism.
I can’t remember my first ride on the 19 tram but I do know that I’ve used it almost everyday for the last four years and I can even hear it clanking away at night as I eat my dinner in my wee flat in Ye Olde Lodge. If you’ve ever caught the 19 tram then you’ve probably gone passed my building many times and thought that it’s either a hotel or a halfway house for recently released inmates. I can assure you there are no ex-cons in my building but plenty of other unsavory acts occur on a daily basis, especially in the flat near the laundry.
I think it was the Bedroom Philosopher who wrote about the 86 tram a few years ago and he captured the spirit of the journey perfectly. The 19 tram has a slightly similar ambience but is also very different in many ways, the main difference being that the 19 tram has a strange sense of nobility, particularly if you watch it stop and start up Sydney Road from Brunswick Road. I love watching it slowly crawl up passed Blyth Street and disappear into little Turkey, the sun reflecting off its back windows. It reminds me of being a kid in Scotland, watching my Dad walk up David Street with the day’s takings tucked under his arm, in an old biscuit tin. Just a reassuring feeling of familiarity that makes us all feel at ease when perched on the edge of trepidation.
However, on a bad day the 19 becomes my biscuit tin of nightmares. I only catch it a few stops down to Grattan Street but when I see it approach my stop with its windows misted over and people packed in around the door I’m filled with dread. Why not walk I hear you ask? I’m constantly running late so I end up having to squeeze myself in and just take it like a man. It’s that feeling of impending doom as I mount those stairs and squeeze myself into that jigsaw puzzle of arms, legs and torsos that pisses me off the most. Being stuck next to the person with a bag that is far too big for what they really need to do that day. Music from earphones that’s too loud and never my cup of tea. Sour coffee breath, shit perfume, bullshit conversation and that fading pulse of unease from people just like me. Poor morale is infectious and a bad start to the day.
First world problems I hear you bleat? Of course they fucking are but they’re still problems and I’ve always felt that people who use that expression from the safety of their single story Victorian townhouses are just wankers with European run arounds, trying to make it all authentic with a Triple R sticker on the boot. But being squashed in with all that humanity is not my idea of a good time and finds itself right up there with any film featuring Johnny Depp – Donnie Brasco, notwithstanding.
But on the whole, I like the 19 tram. No I love the 19 tram. It’s regular, double carriaged, has un-vandalised upholstery and runs late on Friday and Saturday nights and there’s something reassuring about coming home on the tram and getting off on Sydney road and navigating your way across the road to Barkly Square. Crossing Sydney Road is an art form and is definitely an example of real life Frogger (see Seinfeld, season 9, episode 18). People unused to it are blown away by the fool hardy moves of locals, unafraid upon white lines, while trams, trucks and bikers speed passed on both sides. It’s all about keeping your nerve and developing a keen understanding of spatial relationships, speed and timing.
So, next time you’re on the 19 tram have a think about its strong links to Sydney Road. That tram dominates that strip of road, which unfolds between Brunswick Road and Bell Street; a huge metal worm muscling its way up the asphalt in all its glory. One of the few trams in Melbourne with a soulful journey, instead of a slow descent into a middle class Hades like the 75 tram’s route to Burwood.
I am unable to account for the hydrophobia. Maybe I’m just lazy.