I’m still recovering from the obsession with Aussie rules football. The conversation at the start of each day would be on the national league: the strongest teams first, probably, then their closest rivals, then down the ladder of the 16 teams to, finally, those in contention for the wooden spoon. Then the state league. Then perhaps the local one.
The start of the work week would be spent summarizing the latest round of games (played each weekend). Towards the end of the week would be predictions for the next round. To give you an idea of how much it is possible to crap on about one game there are 22 players in a team (18 of them on the field) and 80 minutes of game time. Then there are the coaches and umpires and a whole lot of other bullshit.
And a season is six long fucking months.
There is also a pre-season.
On the television, On the radio. In the newspapers. Sometimes I’d see grown men crying about it. Seriously. Crying. Or I’d be walking down the street and hear some crazed nutcase screaming at his television. Over a piece of cow leather and stitching.
Never seen anything so fucking stupid in my life.
Actually, I’ve seen one thing more fucking stupid and it has to do with lawns. And lawnmowers. This is a more serious mental illness than football. It causes men to approach the design and operation of very small irrigation systems with great care and seriousness of purpose. I didn’t know it was possible to turn a brass tap with love and tenderness but it is. I have seen it. I have seen men express their love by being very kind to small rubber washers. If you have seen a Taiwanese boy caress his perm while looking at his reflection in an MRT window then you have some idea what I am talking about. Yes, some Australian men caress their lawn like that. I think more research needs to be done to work out the cause of this.
I once lived with a man with this illness. His job was driving taxis and he would call in home in between fares to turn the irrigation on and off. He didn’t like the fairy ring very much because it made a dark circle in the grass. And he didn’t like the mango tree either because, well, it was a tree and had a tendency to express its treeness in shade and dropped leaves and the like. This man also lived under the burden of being low in the estimation of his father who, apparently, was a very successful businessman. In comparison to his father he wore his white collar shirts behind the wheel, not behind a large desk in a spacious office. After many many months of living with him he confided in me that his father, really, had a very nice lawn indeed. I never did find out whether he was allowed to cut it, or not, because that seemed too sensitive a subject.
But I suspect he was not allowed to cut it. And I’m really not exaggerating when I say that I suspect there may even have been an incident.
So I think he tried to make good with our share house lawn. I liked to study and read the newspaper outside on the balcony on the house’s second floor. That is how I saw him attend to the irrigation. It is also how I saw him cut the lawn, which was basically a large rectangle in the back garden. He used to start at the concrete next to the house and cut parallel to it. When he reached the end of each run he would turn the mower around and, before starting the next, would line it up with great care so that his head tilted to one side slightly. And he’d set off like that trying to keep everything dead straight. He didn’t have a theodolite, I guess. If everything went well he would reach the back fence parallel to it, so that everything looked nice. He would dump all of the clippings at the side of the house and he would use them to cover a tree stump there.
Before he moved in no one gave a rat’s arse about the fuckin lawn. If it didn’t rain - which was more than half of the year, usually - it would just go brown and die. When it rained the grass would just keep growing until the decidedly henpecked husband of the landlady came around to cut it. Sometimes the mower would be left behind and I’d cut the damned thing next time round just to keep the landlady and her family away. I’d never use the catcher to put the clippings on the garden or any of that rubbish. I’d just set the height to as low as it would go without killing the grass - a stinky, noisy job and a thouroughly disgusting machine.
Anyway, then he moved in. He would actually call the landlady :loco: and invite her to come around, with the thoroughly disgusting machine. He went out and bought fertilizer and applied it. So eventually, after a few months of love, the lawn started to look ‘nice’. One day when I was reading out on the balcony to the sound of birdsong he came home and decided it was a good time to cut the lawn. When he finished he came upstairs, opened a beer and stood alongside me admiring his handiwork. Then he began to enthuse about ‘a nice lawn’. He, again, mentioned his father. I thought his actions were unbecoming to the spirit of beer appreciation. And that he needed professional psychological help.
The whole situation made me feel that there was something wrong with the universe. Like out of balance or something.
So I devised a cunning plan. Previous to this I had once, with good reason, salted a man’s lawn but that is another story. I had also however matured and developed a sense of environmental responsibility; I would have felt bad about dumping a kilogram of salt into the environment again. And, besides, there were only four of us in the house and I would most certainly have become a suspect. So I waited. And waited. And waited a little more. I waited until the lawn was ready to be cut again and the mower was in the garage with enough petrol for a cut. And then I waited until he went to work and as soon as his taxi was out of the driveway I began to cut the lawn myself.
You could say that I cut the lawn not very well. For starters, I cut it at an angle diagonal to the house. Mostly. I did a little bit parallel too and a small patch at the back horizontally. I also missed bits. Deliberately. Not the narrow, barely visible little strips that sometimes get missed by fallible humans. But ten centimetre wide suckers that ran the (diagonal) length of the lawn. Lots of them. Halfway through I also decided to change the height from minimum to maximum.
My god you should have seen it. It was art. When I turned the mower off I realized I was being watched by a figure on the balcony. Thankfully, it was my American house mate who also didn’t give a rats about the fucking lawn and didn’t like the noise pollution from the disgusting machine.
He said, ‘Wow!’
And then burst out laughing because he had also, how should I say, noticed the love. We had actually discussed the matter before and were of a similar mind about the noise and the wrongness of it all. We sat outside on the balcony and had a VB each, admiring my handiwork. He especially liked the missed strips. I thought the very obvious diagonal lines were the nicest touch. And I felt I had restored some balance to the universe again.
‘He’s gonna kill you when he gets home’.
But he didn’t. He thought it must have been the landlady’s useless teenage son because there was no way anyone else in our house would have bothered to cut the grass. He was pretty pissed off for a couple of weeks. A few months later the lawn had been restored to it’s previous ‘niceness’. It was then that I saw the stupidest fucking thing that I have ever seen. He got busy with work and study and actually forgot about the lawn for many weeks. It got really long. One day I came home on my bike and went out into the backyard for a minute to let the breeze circulate around me and the sweat evaporate away before I went inside. I discovered someone had cut the lawn. It was actually worse (or better, depending on how you look at it) than my handiwork because half of it had been given a death sentence. The grass had become so long and dense that the bottom two inches or so were white, not green, because no sunlight could reach down there. And someone had cut it down to that level on a damn hot day. Half of it was dying. As I stood under the balcony surveying the damage I couldn’t help but say, ‘Fuuuuuck!’ It was painful just to look at it, let alone imagine yourself being a little piece of juicy white grass being baked to death in the Queensland sun. It was then that I heard crying above me, prompted by me saying fuck. He was sobbing softly on the balcony. I realized at that point he had cut the lawn himself. He had just killed half of the fucking thing without even wanting to. I worked out how: he cut the first few runs without trouble because the grass nearest the house was okay (it got shaded there I guess and didn’t grow so tall); then when he got out a bit further he started to kill bits but not a lot; then halfway out he started to kill whole great strips but by then it was too late because if you have this particular mental ilness you can’t change the height of the cut half way through. Oh no no no no. :no-no: You just gotta keep going, even if you kill half of the fucking grass. Even if it makes you cry afterwards, about how useless you are as a human being, as measured in the quality of your lawn.
That is fucking stupid. Obsessing over a basketball player doesn’t even come close.