When I was in my early 20s I read the book, “On the Road”by Jack Kerouac and when I finished it I thought to myself, “what was all the fuss about?” So the guy did a bit of hitchhiking and hung out with a few other young guys. It didn’t sound like a big deal to me and by the time I had read the book, I’d already travelled extensively; hitch hiked tens of thousands of kilometres; come under mortar fire in a war zone and worked in the carnival as a laser light show operator.
“On the road” just seemed very tame to me.
I had a similar feeling when I saw the much hyped movie “The Motorcycle Diaries”about Che Guevara travelling around South America with his friend by motorcycle. Some of my friends had raved about the movie and I can remember when I watched it, thinking to myself, “hrumph! So what! A couple of guys from well-off families go on a motorcycle trip, big deal!” To top it all off, nothing really happened.
Sometimes I feel so disconnected with most of the people that I share society with by the differences in our life experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel superior, just different. It always amazes me when I talk to people and they tell me about how they lived in the one place, went to the same school and have only had a few jobs all their lives. I almost envy people who can say that they have a hometown or they refer to, “my” high school.
Every time I see a TV show with that old trope about the high school reunion it’s like I’m watching some strange ritual being performed by an exotic tribe from a strange faraway land. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to still have friends from high school. I went to six primary schools (I was expelled from one), three high schools, two colleges and one university. Because I’ve moved around so much as a kid, it hasn’t been a big deal for me to just walk away from friendships that I have made and begin new ones very easily.
In short, I’m what my wife (Engogirl) describes as an over stimulated jaded piece of meat.
The whole idea of having a career is such an alien concept to me that it’s almost unimaginable. The reason why I find it so hard to get my brain around the concept of a career is that I find it difficult to understand how somebody’s attention can be held for so many years doing the same thing. I usually do things (with the exception of photography) for about five years before I move on to something else. Most jobs I’ve had, with one exception, have only lasted about a year or two.
I suppose, “recalcitrant dilettantism” would be a suitable description of my chosen career path.
Here’s a short list of some of the jobs I’ve done, starting with part-time jobs I had at night in high school.
Newspaper boy. Bus boy. Waiter. Kitchen hand. Door-to-door salesman. English (as a second language) teacher in Cambodia and Japan. Worker in a tractor factory (only did that for about two months because it just sucked so badly). Pizza maker. Ceramics slip caster. Mouse racer (a carnival job). Laser light show operator. Set builder in the theatre. Camera salesman. Photographic assistant in a large studio. Photographic lab manager. Outdoor equipment store manager. I now fake it as a designer (sets, websites, graphics) in my own little business.
Now that I’m married, live in the suburbs and own a house, my life is so totally different to what it used to be. If you were to ask some of my older friends what I was like before I met Engogirl 13 years ago you would hear adjectives like, party animal, lunatic, dangerous, trouble. I’ve even had some friends tell me that they thought I was going to be the first person in our social circle to die because I was so reckless. All my friends feel that Engogirl has civilised and calmed me down.
Before I met my wife I used to rock climb quite a bit and most of my friends were people like myself. Rootless drifters living on the fringes of decent society working only because they were saving enough money to go on their next trip.
Two weeks ago Engogirl and I went to her parent’s holiday home down in Tallong and when we were down in that area (the Southern Highlands) we dropped in on an old friend of mine, Peter, and his wife Simona.
In the picture above of Peter and his wife you will notice that there is a framed advertisement (for Bonds clothing) behind them that has a red shirted young man sitting on a chopper. The young blond haired dude is Peter in his early 20s. He was quite the chick magnet in his day and when I used to work with him I noticed that quite a few women still found him attractive.
I first met Peter about 15 years ago when I was the manager of an outdoor equipment store and he was a customer. At that time Peter used to live in a tent for about 4 or 5 months of the year down in the snow country so he could spend his time with his girlfriend (at the time) skiing. When Peter wasn’t skiing he used to install television cable systems in hotels and live aboard other people’s boats minding them for them. After spending a couple of seasons skiing, Peter moved back up into Sydney and started to work in the store I managed. It was during this time that we worked together that I heard about Peter’s life. He had travelled extensively and he used to have a yacht charter company in Sydney Harbour with several yachts and he owned a block of apartments until he lost it all in a divorce. Although Peter wasn’t too keen about the idea of losing so many assets, he was quite philosophical about it all, telling me that he felt that his life was getting far too complicated and stressful and that it was all probably for the best. Every now and again Peter would supplement his income by delivering yachts up the coast to Queensland.
Peter stayed on in the outdoor equipment industry for another couple of years and in his spare time he built a catamaran and lived on it in Sydney Harbour. About five years ago Peter met Simona and they were married within about a year. It was always really obvious to me that life in the city working in a normal job never really suited Peter. A couple of years ago Peter and Simona moved down to the Southern Highlands to a town called Wingello.
Friends of mine had told me that Peter had moved into a yurt and because I had known Peter so long I assumed that he built himself a large round circular tent in the style of the Mongols, like what I’d seen at the Kyrgystan pavilion at the 2005 Expo in Aichi Japan.
It certainly wouldn’t have surprised me.
I didn’t have an address for Peter but I knew that if I asked the people in the only store in Wingello where he lived they would know because he is such a sociable character they would be bound to know him. Sure enough they did and they gave us directions to his place, finally saying, “he lives in the yurt and you can’t miss it”.
I have to be honest and admit that I was a bit disappointed to see that Peter was actually living in a solid house. Aparently, such octagonal houses are known locally as yurts.
Peter now makes a living as a local handyman and Simona owns and runs a little junk shop.
Peter and Simona bought the “yurt” in an unfinished state and when we arrived they were in the middle of laying beautiful travertine marble tiles on the floor. The bottom floor has all the shared living areas and there is a circular staircase in the centre that goes up to their bedroom. I was told that they wanted their house to be like the inside of a lighthouse and that they were also seeking permission to add another story on top of their bedroom to make their house look even more like a lighthouse. I knew it was pointless to point out the fact that they lived 100 km from the coast.
Who cares anyway?
Nothing about Peter is ordinary and he has absolutely no time for conventions of any kind. Having said that, Peter is a lesson in conviviality and capability. He is always surrounded by a tribe of friends and he seems to be capable of manifesting anything.
One of the main reasons why I like Peter is that he makes me feel normal. Nothing that I have done in my life seems different or extraordinary when I am with Peter.