Sitting on the train to Epping left me feeling suspended. Floating. I drifted back to my last day in Lima. Walking around one of the smaller suburban plazas carrying a cardboard box under my arm. After a year of harbouring possessions, I had decided to offload some. I was looking for the poorest looking shoe-shine boy I could find. Inside the box were some plates, knife and fork, couple of shirts, jeans, hat and towel. There was a novel and some smaller items like a pair of loaded dice that I'd carried all year. Props for instant magic shows on truck stops or for children in villages. I had also managed to carry around my false nose, which I'd bought in a props shop in Hollywood at the beginning of the trip. But in the last month I'd met a young guy from a travelling Bolivian circus troupe. Once he'd seen the nose he'd absolutely ached to have it. And so he got it. I recalled my most dubious moment of use for that nose. Standing in the back of a small truck with some thirty indians and my Austrian travel companion. The entire trip had been non stop dust. At four hours in, we'd made a stop to offload some passengers. In that moment of diversion, I slipped my "new" nose up and under the anti-dust scarf that I had tied across my face, a-la-bushranger style. No-one had seen me and so I just stood and waited for the shuffling to settle. Timing was everything.
At the point that Hans turns to ask me something I nonchalantly untied the scarf's knot at the back of my head to remove it. Allowing me to answer; mouth unobstructed. At the point which the scarf dropped to reveal all, I just stood calmly. Avoiding the obvious. Playing on the element of shock, of surprise. I didn't smile.
I looked around. Nobody was smiling. They didn't really understand. Hans burst into laughter and commented on the obscurity of the act. Our fellow travellers stood mute. I put my scarf back on and let the moment stand.
Screeching metal on metal. The train was braking. I panned for the station's name. Two stops to go. I continued to float. Remembering the excitement as the shoe-shine boy finished cleaning my boots and waited patiently to be paid the equivalent of ten cents. I put the shoes back on, sat up and looked him in the eye. I wondered what he thought, what he saw around him, where he lived. He wore a red and black beanie, torn jeans and car tyre sandals worn to the last millimeters of tread. I pulled out fifty cents and showed him. I then asked which he'd prefer; the fifty cents or the entire contents of the mysterious cardboard box, which sat beside me on the wooden bench. He didn't even give it thought. He wanted the fifty cents! At the moment he got the fifty cents he beamed a smile. At the moment I presented him with the box he was overwhelmed by five other shoe-shine boys. They all grabbed at bits and pieces. One boy started banging the knife and fork together, marching and singing a song. Leader of the band. The others did clothing fittings and then an immediate game of dice. But why did the same person win every time. How could he throw a six every time. Screeching brakes, people in, people out. One station to go.
I felt anxious, I didn't know if I even liked the idea of becoming an Australian in Australia any more. Three skin heads boarded and stood their distance. Sub-cultures and reactions to the fragile and open weave of contemporary Australian society. Where would I fit in? A hippie seemed to suit, but who knew what that meant in today's thrust forward. I looked out the window; the technology, the industry, brown haze hovering threateningly over the inner city centre.
A throng of workers got on. By what form of motivation were they fueled? Existence Australian style; the kids, the mortgage, hire purchase and the noose of interest rates. I felt superfluous to this game, aloof to these people. They knew I'd been, but were they ever going to go, to wander for a while? Did they know anything different? What was meant by happiness anyway?
Margaret greeted me at the door. "Hello Pete, been out strolling?" Like I'd never been away. Back to the fold. Breakfast at eight, work by nine, lunch at twelve, home at six, dinner at eight. Right on time, a schedule pre-written, flight path all planned. The Keelans of Sydney again welcomed me into their home. I would look at Don and see flashes of my father. I hoped things had changed between us, the ritual to manhood, to individuality, complete.
I departed Sydney to board the flight to Broken Hill, a gift from my mother. Back to the parched land of the dreaming. Dreamers bogged down in times long gone. I knew I would leave there in the near future. A gypsy drawn eastward by a whim. By fate? To Adelaide, Austria then Perth. The Kimberleys, Nepal, the Solomon Islands. The big picture expanding, questions unresolved. Spice of life.
The plane landed smoothly in Broken Hill. I applauded the pilot silently. The last moments of theatre were played as I let all the other passengers disembark before gathering my packages from the overhead compartment. I waved to the bunching of family by the exit gate. Stopping just before I reached them, I pulled out my camera and focussed. A mother beaming outwardly, crying, smiling, loving; father who I would never really know and brothers in solidarity. The idea of family; emotional and genetic link. Evolution a la Galapagos, the mysteries of space, of Nazca and Easter Island; the strength of Faith. In religions, capitalism, the self. From where to where? Romania, China perhaps? From where to where? Only time would tell.
Let the world see me
For I look out upon the world
I am an artist and rebel first
But I see no art or rebellion in me
I am a jester and a clown to youth
But I clown to no man in jest
Let the world hear me
For I hear melody in the world
I am a lover of song and of verse
But I feign no skill of note
I am a keeper of sound tradition
But I listen to the beat of my own drum
Let the world fear me
For I live in fear for the world
I am a call of the wilderness for change
But I fear my changeless voice will be lost
I am a flag of peace in the green war
But I doubt the colours will ever be raised victorious
Let the world feel me
For I feel the pain and sorrow of the world
I am a hermit of deep emotion
But I close my emotions to no-one
I am a cry for a new inner sentiment
But I hurt that more tears will be shed
Let the world move me
For I seek to move with the world
I am a soul of fixed beginnings
But I call the earth my home
I am a solitary voyager in step
But I ask no others to walk with me
Let the world know me
For I pursue knowledge of the world
I am an open book of expectation
But I read no page with suspense
I am a mind of honest inquiry
But I admit of no truth revealed
Let the world be me
For I am a human being to the world
I am my own man in my own time
But I see few men before me
I am a symbol of man universal
But I will always be myself.