Tag Archives: masculinity

The Mighty Moor

8 Apr

“I will a round,  unvarnished tale deliver…”

That’s my favourite Shakespeare quote. Sometimes it is usurped by Cry “havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war, – but there you go.

It’s from Othello, when the Moor, in a  delicious bit of irony, is attempting to perform an act of civil nobility to his white bride Desdemona and her disapproving father. The act of performance varnishes his very words.

Which brings me to Harlem. Harlem NYC. An iconic neighborhood to an Aussie. It is, after-all, where “Good Times” was set.

I was there, heading out to La Guardia Airport on the M60 bus. Buses, like trams, attract nut-jobs. There must be just something about standing on a corner, barking at the sky and suddenly having a giant metal box pull up before you, like you conjured it, that wings the feet of lunacy. Just a step up and topple, and whadyaknow, a literally captive audience awaits.

The bus is crowded, and I’m clutching my giant man-bag as best I can. Three stops in and a gentleman who shall here-on-in be known as “CrazyJew” gets on. I know he’s Jewish because he wears the yarmulke. I’m guessing he’s crazy, well, just because.

The only vacant seat is next to me, but that’s okay. NYC teaches you active insulation very quickly. In a city where there’s almost always thirty people within ten feet, learning to live and let live is downright Darwinien.

He kicks my bag and chips something-or-other. I give him my best ‘so-bad-I-bore-myself’ look and he seems satisfied there’s not much game to be had with the man with the girly hair.

There are two boys sitting opposite us. About twelve years old, but I’m terrible with ages and even worse with black kids , who seem to go in appearance from nine to nineteen in a gesture. These two, they’re polite kids. Just sitting there having a quiet chat.

CrazyJew hones in and interrupts their conversation, re-quoting them in that “So you think” way only the truly hostile employ. He starts asking them about their schooling. Why are they on this bus? Where are they headed during school hours? Don’t raise your voice to me! The usual social tropes of the adult bully, whose only difference from a child bully is the camouflage.

Then he shifts to religion and the cruelty in his timbre turns me rigid. I suddenly become very aware of my every body part. A quick check of the cabin shows all in ear-shot developing a keen interest in their phones.

“Does God visit you?” Silence.  He stands, pulls of his shawl and tries to wrap it around one of the kids. Their faces flushed with shame, they do the best they politely can to ward it off. “Do you know what this is?” he bellows. “Do you?!”

Standard public transport harassment has become focused molestation. I check in with my bus-mates to see if they think this is as bat-shit crazy as I do?

They do.

So what do i do?

Nothing. I do nothing. I bury my head and close my shoulders and leave these kids to fend for themselves in the face of whatever psychic brutality this cock-sucker can conjure.

But then, this guy- just a regular guy, a tired thirty-two in regular guy depot work-wear with its regular logo, he gets up out of his seat and calmly sits himself next to the kids and across from CJ.

No fuss. No rush. He sits down and listens to the mania for another beat, then begins to engage him. He agrees, yes, kids these days lack for faith, yes, it is a strange time for them to be on the M60, yes, it is important to believe in something larger than yourself…really, is that silk, how wonderful.

Three stops later, flushed with the thrill of an ally elder, the kids alight the bus. CJ does not notice. Two stops after that, the silk shawl and its toxic owner get off also.

The guy? He looks around at those of us who have not moved away, and he smiles. There is no judgment in his smile. It’s just a smile. He stands up, puts his headphones back on and returns to his seat.

No fanfare. No coda. No public validation. Just a man who moved to a moment with unvarnished nobility.

The Moor in all of us would do well to learn.


As individual as the next bloke

4 Sep

It’s a typically masculine trait, getting a tattoo. Not that the ladies are allergic to a sneaky butterfly or rose, but inking up remains, for the most part, a bloke’s thing. There’s an irony with every tattoo of course. They are, historically, tied to masculine rites of passage. They are intrinsically tribal and shoulder the comfort of belonging, but are also, or perhaps always have been, intensely individual and expressionistic.

I am me! So where’s my pack then?

When I was a boy back in the seventies, tattoos were something dodgy uncles and blokes who wore singlets all the time got. An assumption of gaol time usually wafted along side crude inks of Amazonian women riding unicorns with flaming skulls. At any rate, tattoos were associated with a blokes who liked to fight. A kind of direct link to stone age butchness. Ah, the stone age. You could beat the shit outa stuff and then eat it or marry it. Them were the days.

Nowadays, it seems every other bloke is inked. The done-time-what-are-you-lookin-at factor is embraced as a fashion template, but bears little machsimo currency. Tattoo technology has also come along some. There’s no need for your chosen emblem to look like a left-handed texta drawing your niece did anymore, but they still remain, for all the dexterity of the modern needle, highly…eh.. tattooey.

But then there are the tattoos that could have been done easy-peasy back in the day but  weren’t. They are by and large a…erh…modern trend. These are the purely text tattoos. I’m not talking about love and hate being scrawled across knuckles; that’s a whole other plateau of psychosis. I’m talking about fancy pants credos. Now from a guy who has a wolf baying at the moon and a heart with fallen angel wings on his skin, I’m on unsteady moral ground, but Double Ewe Tee Eff blokes, what’s with the Sanskrit!?

Now I love a credo. Big bastard words that say big bastard messages. I’m a Man! Carpe Diem! Dance Dumpling, Dance! But these chunky ancient fonts creeping up forearms with bits of poetry and stuff; tomes bearing Live, perhaps a bit of Believe and Seize as well. Ergh. Why not have your message in your spoken tongue? Is to be clearly understood to appear…a…little…foolish?

And btw, did your tattooist study the Rosetta Stone? How do you know that there psalm doesn’t actually say “Remember to get milk” or “I like puppies!”

Hey. Maybe it does. Maybe everyone’s in on the joke except me and my wolfy angel thingy.

But a credo. A principle by which your deepest decisions shall be guided..shouldn’t that be worn on..pardon the metaphor..your sleeve. In big bastard block arse text. No fancy pants trim or pretend dead language gravitas.

I AM MAN. Ariel 24 point. Here it is. What I believe. Painted on me forever. Go on. Judge me.



Quiquid latine dictum sit altum viditur

Oh doctor my doctor

13 Jul


I take these hardcore tm prescription meds for a sleeping disorder that require I front to my doctor face to face so he can ring the official drug yeppers and be yepped.

Yes. Give that man them pills. Tick.

Honestly. It’s a drag. Making a booking. Turning up on time. Sitting in a waiting room for an hour or so…. waiting.

I mean, my doctor knows who I am. I know who he is. The phone yeppers don’t even ask if I’m there or how I’m going or anything.

But last time I went in, things were different.

Dr.Lee has been my doctor since, well, I’ve been going to doctors. I remember being enthralled by the fish-tank behind his desk on my first visit. I guess I was about six. He had some mad crazy fish. Spiky, antenna, floaty, fanny things that hovered and gulped. No dumb-ass orange fish (Oh no, I’m golden), but a seriously intense eco chain and a seriously awesome sunken pirate boat. When I got up on to the consulting bed, my head was right at it.

Then he dacked me and stuck a needle in my arse. It took me a while  to trust chinese people again.

Dr.Lee had one of those crinkly smiles that smart people who don’t care that they’re smart seem to have. Cheeky. Kind. Patient. A haiku smile.

He’s pretty much seen every part of my body and heard every one of my embarrassing admissions. He’s always have that same crinkly smile  as I blurted or moaned and then he’d nod and say okay mate in that beautiful chinese/australian accent.  Often, he’d go in to the other room and return with an elaborate model of a body part and show me step by step what was going on. I loved how his voice sounded when he did this.

But on my last visit he wasn’t there. His receptionist told me he’d retired.         Gone bush and running a hobby dairy farm.

Then I thought of the visit before. How he had returned to his surgery after a long lay off. How he’d lost a lot of weight and how his smile had effort in it now. How he’d  quoted somebody as I sat and then leant forward and said, makes you think..

I can’t recall the quote nor the author. What I can recall is knowing, right to my bones knowing, that this man who had cured and kept me for the best part of a third of a century was reaching for words to find himself and was inviting me in.

And I flinched from it.

I was pissy from having to wait. I was grumbly for having to front up for a prescription. I was in a hurry to get some place for some thing at some time o’clock.

And I flinched.

I shifted in my seat and looked away. You’re a doctor. Doctors don’t get sick. He, being the gentleman he is, delicately returned to being that doctor for me, filled my script and then rose and offered his hand as I left.

Truth comes at the strangest times. Or perhaps it is always there and sometimes we are just forced to acknowledge its naked face. Men like to think we are creatures defined by the big moments and I am most certainly a manwholikestothink.  As men, we can float  through our moral narrative, but as long as we hit the big cues, the show will be fine.

I wish I’d listened to the truth in his tone. I’m glad he was the man he was to forgive me instantly for lacking. I’m glad I am the man I am that shaking his hand was the most perfect thing in the world.

I like to picture him now. A ridiculous straw hat. Gum-boots.  Leaning over a huge head holding a home built model of an udder as that lovely timbre explains the whys of the universe to a mind that will never quite get there.

Fair winds Dr.Lee.