Monthly Archives: January 2015

Australian Icons:The Ferocious Australian Drop Bear

phascolarctos malum or Thylarctos plummetus, depending on what area they are from.

According to Wikipedia (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drop_bear) “A dropbear or drop bear is a fictitious Australian marsupial.[1] Drop bears are commonly said to be unusually large, vicious, carnivorous marsupials related to koalas (although the koala is not a bear) that inhabit treetops and attack their prey by dropping onto their heads from above.[2][3] They are an example of local lore intended to frighten and confuse outsiders and amuse locals, similar to the jackalope, hoop snake, wild haggis or snipe.

Various methods suggested to deter drop bear attacks include placing forks in the hair, having Vegemite or toothpaste spread behind the ears or in the armpits, urinating on oneself, and only speaking English in an Australian accent.”

I have never really looked into the lore behind our local super marsupial…the drop bear. However, this morning – it being Australia Day here – I jokingly made a reference to them in a Facebook post, saying to be careful, as I had seen them heading into the bush with a slab (carton of beer). Then my writer instinct kicked in, and I wondered just how had this mythology around the drop bear started, and just how ingrained into our iconology had it become.

Us Aussies find the whole tourist scare “campaign” about drop bears hilarious. I have a friend – an Australian – who lives in NYC and has a lot of American friends. He gets great delight out of scaring them to death, relating stories about the dangers of drop bears if touristing here, backed up with comments from us over here. I tend to wonder about the gullibility of people.

The wonderful thing about the drop bear myth is how it has come to be backed up with some pretty credible research from believable organisations and publications. It would seem that everyone wants to be in on the joke. This from the Australian Museum:

http://australianmuseum.net.au/Drop-Bear

If ever there was an institution to give legitimacy to a subject, anything with the word “museum” in it would be right up there. Also, some “serious” research work from the “Australian Geographic”:

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2013/03/drop-bears-target-tourists,-study-says/

The research, done in a NSW drop bear Hot-Spot, has found that talking with an Australian accent helps keep them at bay.

Needless to say, spoof sights for drop bears have cropped up as well, and one has to wonder just how many overseas tourists have clicked on this link and booked a Drop Bear Adventure. Too funny.

http://www.dropbearadventures.com.au/drop-bear/

And this from Buzzfeed:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/cconnelly/10-terrifying-facts-about-the-australian-dropbear-s3x

There are also three apps to play games of Drop Bear.

Drop Bears are a great example not only of the often perverse Australian sense of humour, but is one of our endearing qualities…not taking ourselves too seriously, and liking to laugh at ourselves.

This link has someone even creating a history for them:

https://picsandstuff.wordpress.com/tag/drop-bear/

But perhaps more than anything is the proliferation of photos and graphics that depict drop bears. You can never say Australians don’t have a sense of humour!

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Tim Alderman
(C) 2015

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Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe: The Great Australian Cliche!

I have nothing against Australia Day! I am very thankful that my ancestors decided to risk life and limb to get here by boat in the mid1800s, and the couple of convicts that have turned up in the family tree. I also empathise with the Indigenous Aborigines that the first settlement landings were an invasion that impacted greatly on their lifestyles and tribal systems. However, there is little I can do about that now, as here we are, and here we stay. So maybe it is just a matter of everyone agreeing that yes, these things happened, and moving on, albeit to separate ways of commemoration.

I live in one of the world’s most livable countries. We are financially sound, have low unemployment, great social welfare and medical systems. We were, until our current government – who will not be around much longer hopefully – the envy of the world! But we still have our “cringe” factor, though it is no longer a convict ancestry!

In fact, none of it is even Australian made. Our new “cringe” is an over-abundance of flag, and flag-inspired accessories and accoutrement. It is people wearing flag tee-shirts and boardshorts, almost undoubtedly with polyester Aussie flag boxer shorts underneath, topped with a Daily Telegraph (how hypocritical) free-with-every-newspaper flag bucket hat on their head, sitting under a flag umbrella, with a flag tablecloth, eating off flag paper plates, and wiping their mouths with flag paper serviettes. Their kids will be running around in identical outfits, with the addition of flag thongs, and waving made-in-Asia flags. In fact…it is all made in Asia. How perseveres these Asian manufacturers must think we are! Out in the ‘burbs, young etHnic boys, thinking they are showing off their Australianism, will be wearing the flag as a cloak, and clutching their Australia flag towels as they head off to the beach. It is all so kitsch…and cliche! Is this what being an Aussie has been reduced to! And to not do it!…well…that is just “unAustralian”!

No, I don’t hate the flag! I’m not overly keen on that little bit of Britain in the left top corner (in heraldry, known as thecanton), but that will be changed soon enough! I don’t object to people lining the routes for Australia Day parades, or watching the evening fireworks waving their little hand held (Asian-made) Aussie flags…though in all truthfulness I would rather see both the Australian and the Aboriginal flags together, as a show of respect and unity. It is the cheap commercialisation, the shoddy disregard and outright disrespect for the flag that I object to. To reduce it to an article of clothing, or an implement to slap some over-cooked steak and sausages on is, to my thinking, untenable!

I don’t even like people flying the Australian flag outside their homes. In my experience, those that are loudest about their patriotism are also the ones who are loudest about racism, discrimination, sexism, stigmatisation, prejudice, intolerance and racial “purity”…as if being a bogan – which they are – is something the majority of us aspire to. I remember an Australia Day street party held on the kerb outside a good friends home about 12 years ago. My friend was so glad that myself and my partner – male – turned up, as her next door neighbour was a bigot and homophobe. He was the only one there flapping a huge Aussie flag around. Yoboism is alive and well, though the yobo generation will soon have died out as well.

Whatever happened to quiet, fair patriotism? When did being an Australian – meaning someone who promoted a fair go for all, standing up for the poor, the oppressed, those suffering injustice, those being stigmatised and hated, – stop? Since when did we start to hide our compassion under an over-blown guise of patriotism? Did we learn nothing from Woomera, from Cronulla, from Manus Island? Being an Australian is not about waving flags, or purchasing over-priced supposedly patriotic products – dumped into the shopping trolley along with everything else – from your local supermarket! It is not about draping yourself in flags and dragging them through the dirt! It is an attitude, an innate “feeling” of belonging to something great! It is saying “no” to those robbing us of our freedoms, it is standing up for other peoples rights, fighting prejudice and intolerance! It is allowing everyone a “fair go”, fighting the hypocrisy of bad government, giving everyone the same rights as you expect for yourself! It is inviting your neighbour in, irrespective of colour, race, religion or sexuality! It is saying to them…welcome, and I respect you, and trust that our diversity will help us grow. It is throwing three-word-slogans to the fires of ignorance.

That is the Australia I want! Not the cliche! Not the yobo or bogan!

This Australia Day…pull it back a bit, willya! And have a great day!

Tim Alderman (C) 2015

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Destroyed (or Almost) Icons: The Sad Life and Demise of a Majestic Cinema.

What a sad story on the life of what was a majestic cinema. The old Mecca cinema in Kogarah, New South Wales, which was affiliated to the Mecca cinema (originally The Savoy) in Hurstville, New South Wales.

I used to go the beautiful Savoy cinema in Hurstville, as I’m sure my cousins Donna and Jeffrey would have done, as they wereliving in Riverwood at the time. My father moved us to Ocean St in Kogarah – the ugly apartment building is still there on the corner – in 1966, and I went to the Mecca there to see movies. In fact, I had a dispute with the ticket-seller on one occasion, after the new decimal currency had been introduced, and some of the coinage…I can’t remember which – had a double value until the coins went out of circulation. As a business they took the coins at the lower value. As a consumer I took them at the higher, and by law they had to take the coins at the higher value. She was trying to tell me I didn’t have enough for the ticket, and I was arguing that my handful of mixed currency was enough -to the cent/penny. I won! Lol

http://pastlivesofthenearfuture.com/2014/09/29/mecca-theatreresidential-kogarah-nsw/
That the two cinemas ended up in the hands of a “cinema Paedophile – follow the links from the first story – is indeed disturbing, though in a way adds to the colourful history of the cinemas.
Originally The Savoy in Hurstville – which became The Mecca – shows the very sad demise of the Grand Dames of Art Deco cinemas as the advent of television put a temporary halt – or rather a slowing – on cinema audiences. This was the Savoy on its opening night in 1937…

http://pastlivesofthenearfuture.com/2014/07/29/opening-night-at-the-hurstville-savoy-1937/
And this, sadly, is what it became…

http://pastlivesofthenearfuture.com/2015/01/22/intencitytarget-hurstville-nsw/
Just as an aside, right next to my home in Samford Rd, Gaythorne, there is a building that used to be a Civic cinema, but which is now a row of nearly all “For Lease” business premises. Another sad loss.

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Tim Alderman (C) 2015

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Unrequited (To Paul)

Love
In its many incarnations,
Has led us both down different roads
And has now separated us yet again,
Though this time you are far away.
I remember fondly the years we spent together,
The sex, the holding each other tight
And smile gently as I remember
The look in your eyes whenever we met when out.
And that night so far away now
Before another love held my sway,
When you stared so hard into my eyes
And then just turned and walked away.
You knew then that I loved you.
Through all our other relationships
This love has never died,
And as often as I managed to tell you
Time was not to be kind to us,
And apart we are always to be.
But I still wonder, as I lay in bed at night
What would be the way
If suddenly you should reappear
And the love that, though not lost
Is rekindled to its passion.
Could I bear it yet again?
To be separated from you
Knowing that what we had
Should have been.
And only us, caught up in other lives
Denied what should have been.
Paul, I still love you
You are the unrequited love of my life,

Tim Alderman
(C) 2002

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Bodies

This poem contains strong gay sexual content.
Please DO NOT READ IF SEXUAL CONTENT OFFENDS

If you are not offended the password is 4590.

Your thrusting flesh inside me
I sigh
The pleasure only for me
Your mouth all over my body
I moan
Sweat pores down over shiny skin
Hair drips on face
Testosterone aroma pervades the air
You sigh
I pummel into your body
I suck the love from you
You moan
Together in unison we cum
An ecstatic explosion of sex and pleasure
Lust
Desire
Power
Male to male
As one.

Tim Alderman
Copyright ©2001

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Poem

Metre and rhyme
So they teach
Is how the poem goes
Pentamic ways of old
Cat rhymes with bat
Love rhymes with dove
Aardvark rhymes with…..
Don’t write verse about
Aardvarks

Long short short
Short short metre of old
Dactylic hexameters…what the!
Classic poems of old
Lambic pentameter
Vedic and Sanskrit metre
Hendecasyllable which rhymes
With nothing

Lines and half lines
Stressed/unstressed
Ceasura…what the!
Trochaic, Spondaic,
Anapestic, Amphibrachic,
Pyrrhic
More like diseases than verse
All this to say
This is how I feel
This is today.

Lost in laws of language
Taught as days of old
All these strictures
All this binding
To confuse, confound
I choose to ignore
Refuse to conform
Free-form
As the words come
Commitment to paper
True from the heart
Unrhymed, unmetred
Fuck you I say
While thinking
Fuck rhymes with duck

Tim Alderman
(C) 2014

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The Storyteller

Many have gone before me
Just a few remain.
Stories of hopes and dreams
Of fun and laughter
Bravery and love.
Stories to be told,
Lives that have lived and loved,
Entwined into mine and yours
Inextricably binding us together through time.
Yet I remain.
Am I the storyteller?
Am I the one who remembers
And holds together
All these peoples lives?
Who holds within my heart their love?
Am I the one
Who lives out their dreams?
For indeed dreams they had and held
Before the thread was broken.
Am I he who tells the tales
Of hopes, and bravery
Of fun and laughter
And love?

Tim Alderman
(C) 2013

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Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe : Let The Sydney Gay Ghetto Go!

Some people just can’t let the past go, or have an inability to see when something has passed it’s use-by date! I have too many friends who keep reiterating that they wish the Sydney gay ghetto was still intact and functioning.

Let’s have a look at the (unspoken) history behind the formation, growth and death of the gay ghetto in Sydney. Historically, Kings Cross and Darlinghurst have always been protective enclaves for the dispossessed, eccentric, minority groups and the unclassifiable citizens of Sydney. Perhaps, initially, because of its foundations in working class and poverty-stricken populations, and later on the underworld, gangsters and prostitution – including transgender – it has always had its roots in notoriety!

In the 70s and early 80s in Sydney, the gay citizens were looking for a space to band together, to avoid the illegalities of being homosexual, and the social stigmatisation that happened at that time as we became more brazen and outspoken about our sexuality. I remember visiting there with a female friend in the 70s – before my own coming out – and the roots of the community were there already with nightclubs and cafes, though homophobic attacks and vitriol were  prevalent as well. It was a wall-less ghetto in the making.

By the time the 80s rolled around, it was firmly established as a gay ghetto, ambling along Oxford St and its immediate environs, from Elizabeth St through to Paddington. The legalising of gay rights in 1982 brought around a boom in the area. The ghetto formed very much as a means for us to squeeze out the undesirables by a sheer force of numbers…and it worked. Any straight troublemaker coming onto our turf would have immediately felt threatened, and though violent attacks did occur, they were rare.

At its height, you could live within the ghetto and never move outside it. We had our nightclubs, pubs, cafes, restaurants, newspapers, magazines, bookstores, supermarkets, small businesses, doctors, dentists, optometrists, saunas, post office, houses, apartment buildings. A night out would involve a meal in a local cafe or restaurant, a visit to your pub of choice – about 9 in its heyday – then off to your nightclub of choice. In the early hours of the morning you could either stagger home via your favourite takeaway, or do a trip to your favourite sauna or backroom without ever being harassed. The ghetto was a security blanket.

During the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s, it was a true blessing. Once again, you could live as a HIV person within the ghetto and be safe and protected. Within the boundaries of the ghetto were established our hospital and hospice care, our HIV/AIDS specialists and GP practices, our support groups such as ACON (AIDS Council of NSW), BGF (Bobby Goldsmith Foundation), CSN (Community support Network), ANKALI (emotional support), and the Positive Living Centres, as well as our advocacy groups such as PLWHA (People Living With HIV/AIDS), NAPWA (National Association of People with AIDS), our funeral directors, our church. We did our own fund-raising, and we supported each other through our pain and sorrow. Once again, it was a safety zone where the emaciated frames of those luving with AIDS could wonder without fear of derogatory remarks, hatred and harassment. In that zone we mourned, held our wakes, and looked for material and emotional support. Those religious groups such as the Festival of Light, who preached and promoted hatred towards us learnt the hard way about the strength and communication within the ghetto.

Fred Nile’s Cleansing March in the80s was a good example. Thinking his band of supporters would march unchallenged up Oxford St, he and they were in for a rude shock! From early in the morning on the day of the march, protestors, the gay community and its supporters started lining the length of the march. By the time the Rev Fred – with his cross-on-wheels – started marching up there, the footpaths, awnings and buildings along the route were packed to capacity with his detractors! The march, from his prospective, was an overwhelming humiliation, and failure! I remember seeing a car full of Tiwi Islanders who had evidently not been warned about how unpopular their beloved reverend was. They looked terrified for their very lives, overwhelmed as they were by the booing and vitriol of the massed ghettoites. I actually felt sorry for them!

However, in the midst of all this, other changes were taking place that were to instigate the downfall of the gay ghetto. Anti-discrimination laws came into play and all-male/female venues became – temporarily – illegal. Nightclubs like the Midnight Shift had to start letting women in, and once they started bringing their boyfriends and other straight male friends, the ambience of the clubs changed forever! And not in a good way! Many ghettoites who had been in the centre of the HIV/AIDS bonfire scattered to other states or to the far north of NSW. Indeed, by the time highly effective HIV antiretroviral regimes started in 1996, it was very much a decimated community, though the epidemic itself had moved on to the straight community, to drug-users and those that had the double-whammy of HIV and hepatitis. The myth of the “gay plague” was laid to rest for good!

But perhaps the greatest enemies of the ghetto was generational changes, social acceptance, and a movement away from the boundaries of the ghetto, a realisation the we no longer needed the safety and protection of the ghetto to live our lives. We dispersed to Newtown, Enmore, Erskinville, Camperdown, Leichhardt, Annandale, Alexandria, Pyrmont, Zetland, Moore Park, Surry Hills, Redfern and Summer Hill. We transformed areas into “Trendy” and moved away, in our hordes, from Oxford St. Yet, some pieces of our lives remained there – a few pubs and nightclubs, a few medical practices, but all-in-all, we moved on.

Darlinghurst and much of Paddington are now mere shadows of their former selves. A stroll down Oxford St now will reveal dozens of empty businesses, and those that do remain struggle for customers during the day. The nightclubs and pubs are now the enclaves of straight people, and a general feeling of desolation, violence, uncomfortable vibes, and unrest permeates the air. It is now, once again, a place where unsolicited violence can occur irrespective of your sexuality.

So the ghetto has outlived its usefulness, and is, to all intended purposes, dead! I can understand nostalgia, even fleeting yearnings. What I don’t get is an inability to accept the ravages of time, the changing dynamics of an area, the growth and development of populations, indeed diaspora! To those who wear blinkers, want the past to live on, the “good old days” to be a mantra for days gone by, I say…let it go! Enjoy the memories, but don’t wish for them to return. To deny yourself the insights of living in the “now” is to root yourself in a past that can never be repeated. Allow the ghetto to be swallowed by history, to takes its place in our memories as somewhere that we lived and enjoyed IN ITS TIME…and leave it there! Never let your yearning for the past, cause you to overlook the reality of now.

Tim Alderman
(C) 2015

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Disappointments

As I watched the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade wend its way up Oxford St, I paused for a second of reflection as I saw the group for PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) marching up the street under the PFLAG banner. I admit to a tinge of envy as I pondered how proud both the parents and the children must feel at being able to express them selves so easily, and be so comfortable with each other’s sexuality.

This is not a privilege I have ever known with my own parents. Growing up as I did through the fifties and sixties, my parent’s generation was not given to liberal attitudes, and the prospect of having a gay son in the family would have meant automatic exclusion from the family unit, a prospect not many of us would have favoured. During the 70s, I had amongst my friends several gay men. Though not being out myself at this time, I enjoyed their company, finding them a constant source of amusement with their camp witticisms, and enjoying many social occasions at their homes. On the one occasion when one of them came visiting at home with a group of friends, my father told me, in no uncertain terms, that he was not to cross our doorstep again. This was only one of many rifts between my father and myself over the years. Thankfully, I was old enough to stick up both for myself and my friend, though making sure I did not ‘out’ myself.

My mother had left home when I was eleven years old, and shortly after my brother was killed. My mother accepted guilt for this happening right up to the present. She used the classic “well, maybe if I’d never have left…”, which is pretty inconsequential at this stage of the game. My mother was also part of the homophobe generation, though she seemed to have had little compunction about buying me dolls as I grew up, on the proviso that I never told my father.

My father killed himself in 1978, and I moved to Campbelltown with my stepfamily for a short period of time whilst the legalities of his death were sorted out. I accidently ‘outed’ myself to my flatmates when, on packing a bag for me to take down to my father’s funeral, they encountered some gay porn hidden in the drawers at home. So the cat was out of the bag in respect to that subject – at least with them. They weren’t particularly shocked, but told me I should tell my mother, who I had reconnected with only a short time earlier. The reconciliation with my mother had been shaky at best, and with her having remarried a man who reminded me very much of my father, I wasn’t really prepared to tackle the issue of being gay.

The opportunity came in 1980 when I went to live in Melbourne for a couple of years. I kept contact with my mother, and my old flat mates. While living there, I came out with a bang, and made short work of catching up on the life I had been denying myself, for all of my mature life.. There is nothing quite like the freedom you get from being far away from everyone you know. The flat mates kept telling me to be honest with mum. I kept putting it off. When mum found out I was gay, it wasn’t me who told her. My flat mates accidentally outed me.

When I moved back to Sydney, I never really set up an intimate relationship with my mother. I think all the years apart had played a role in distancing me from her. Anyway, she had established a life of her own with Ray, and produced a daughter. If we weren’t distant enough already, eighteen years between my half-sister and myself certainly didn’t help shorten the gap. I never really felt comfortable at their home in Toongabbie, and over the years my visits got less and less, until they were finally reduced to nothing more than phone calls. I did attempt a single reconciliation, and had my doubts about its success fulfilled . Over a very nice lunch in the city, a situation where I thought the two of us could discuss the issue of gay like mature adults, I gave up after having to sit through the old “it’s my fault you are like this…” line. I realised then that we were beyond reconciliation. But the saddest aspect of it for me wasn’t her inability to accept me as a gay person, but the fact that she would never really know me, the person I was, or the person I was to become. I wasn’t even really sad, just angry that she just would not accept things as they were.

In 1996, I became very ill, and ended up in Prince Henry Hospital, with a prognosis of about two weeks to live. However, new drug regimes and a lot of Capricorn stubbornness and determination turned the tables in my favour. I was released from hospital, and a whole new era of my life began.

My mother knew nothing of any of this. She knew nothing about my brush with death, nor the numerous operations I had over the next couple of years to try to save the sight in my eyes. She knew nothing of the thousands of injections I had been given, the litres of blood taken, or the 150 odd tablets I took every week to stay alive. Nor did I want her to know. Her reaction to me was that it did not exist. She lived in a vacuum- packed little suburban world, and things such as ‘gay’ could never break through the seal of that vacuum. Perhaps the saddest part of this was that she never got to be involved in my new life. She knew little of my community work, nor of my battle to return to work, of the success I was making of my writing, and my continuing attempts to reeducate myself so I could move in new directions. I felt particularly disappointed when I was given my UTS offer, and knew I could not share it with her.

The crunch came at the end of 1997. She had been having a number of tests, and had been diagnosed with bladder cancer. I thought it was terrible, but was still recovering from my own battles with ill health. She was admitted to hospital to have her bladder removed, and it came as quite a shock to me to find out she was there, as my step father never notified me. I rang him at Toongabbie to enquire about her health. He shocked me by demanded that I go out to Westmead and visit her. It was Christmas Eve, and I refused. I slammed the phone down. I knew he would go to the hospital and create a scene, whether I went to visit or not. As far as he was concerned, I should have been the loving, doting son. I wasn’t, and couldn’t be. I rang mum in the hospital, wished her a ‘Merry Christmas’, and that was the last time we ever spoke. She has never rung me, I have never rung her. I feel sad that it had to come to this, but I don’t have any regrets.

I envy those people walking up the street because they know how to love and accept what is. It may have been a battle, they may still not understand what it is all about, but they support their children in the most dynamic way, by walking up that street and declaring their support in public.

It was perhaps an odd anachronism that my partners’ family was more accepting of our relationship than my parents could even have considered. I have been accepted into their household, and I’m treated every bit as part of the family, though we are no longer together.

But I still wish that my parents had just taken the time to try to understand, not to be necessarily all over me about it, but at least accepting of me as being their child no matter what my sexuality. They have never allowed me the privilege of feeling like I ‘belonged’ to them in any sense of the word.

I know only too well that when my mother dies (if she hasn’t already), there will be no one to call me and let me know. To me, that is perhaps the greatest sadness of all.

Tim Alderman
(C) 2010

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