My day started well in Paradise.[No I’m not dead. On the contrary, I feel more alive than ever.] I’d had a good nights sleep in the dark little car park near the Bowling Club. No cop would ever find me here, deep in the suburbs of the city. No knock on the door at two a.m. “Are you camping here sir? Move along please. Oh, and here is an infringement notice.”
I got out of there at six, just in case. I am up at that time anyway, nowadays.
Off to the Esplanade where I would bask in the rising sun and watch the people of Paradise watch each other. The coffee shops were profuse and full as the first rays hit the terraces. It is fun to go out for your first coffee of the day and be seen. Some people come from Europe, they are used to it, but the wealthy Paradisians from Australia whose parents came from England or Ireland, or China, pretend that they have always done so: “ it’s traditional, in the family, the most normal thing in the world, relaxing with a paper or magazine. Oh yeah!” After all Australia is cosmopolitan; it’s cool. We may not be a world power but we can grind a bean with the best.
I took my glasses off to do my T’ai Chi. Now I would not see the people looking at me and would not get distracted. It works! You only see a blur and feel part of the Universal Blur too, so that you can perform your movements and get inside yourself better.
I looked very cool too, in the stance, rooted to the earth, an unfocused look in my eyes. “Hey man, look at him! Is he doing martial arts, or what? I may have to try that myself. It looks so cool!”
Feeling refreshed and high on Chi, I chatted to three ladies from Serbia. They worked for a solar energy company and were taking pictures of my new foldout panels. We got more and more animated about the state of the world; renewable energy, sustainability, growing your own veggies, a new no- growth economy, you name it and we got into it; it was great to get that off our chests and we parted with hugs and smiles. They went back to their luxury apartments in their Mercedes and I strolled back to the bus.
But then, as if carried on the cosmic energy of confidence, I said hello to a beautiful lady with Henna’d hair and lovely eyes. She must have been around my age but it was hard to tell, she looked much younger. Boy, was she cool, with her athletic figure and ready smile! She stopped, I was shocked! She stayed for a while as we engaged in this intense conversation about this and that, mindblowing stuff. I cannot remember what, I could not concentrate; I was too impressed, overawed, out- cooled [is that the same as chilled- out?] The handsome lifeguards were jealous and looked on from afar. “What has this old tramp got to say to a woman like that?” I wondered that myself. They waved to her when she left. I was sad to see her go without going for a coffee with her; DAMN! But no, I’ve got responsibilities...haven’t I?
All that before breakfast.
Ahhh breakfast! Didn’t I get just the most delicious yoghourt in the world? Organic [ yay!],thick and creamy, unhomogenised, with a layer of thick cream, almost butter on top. When you spoon out the yoghourt in solid wedges it all stays set like jelly, but oh so much nicer.White wedges, mix in the muesli and a couple of weetbixies, cut up the sweetest, cheapest bananas that you get around here and drizzle liberally [ or drizzlerally] with golden honey collected by hand by DN & AJ Keys [Keysies Bees] at 38 Oackley Avenue, Lismore NSW.
Its so cool to eat that breakfast, and stay healthy man.
Talking about healthy; everyone is out along the foot/bike path now. Jogging, running, trudging, posing, stretching, doing pushups in groups, handing over the ball and doing relays, showing their lithe, supple bodies off in the case of Chicks, and with T shirt rolled down and CK waistbands competing for “most daring exposure” status for the Dudes. Its extra cool to be on a skateboard and have dreadlocks.
There must be professional athletes amongst them, they’re the ones with heart rate indicator and sporty stopwatches, and rehydration packs strapped to their backs. They wear these skintight frictionless bodysuits to make their times a fraction of a second better. [Maybe it is Olympic Fever!]. Seriously though, a lot of athletes live right here in Paradise. It has got some of the best sporting facilities in Australia.
Mnmn. As I’m writing this I am munching some intense dark chocolate; I’m so glad it has become cool to eat it now that it is good for you.]
The young people don’t really need to keep fit [ you see very few fat youngsters running], they are flirting and posing, but the old folks are keeping fit and flirt and pose too... in their own way. They pose with their expensive bikes and hi-tech helmets, their super light alloy bikes bristling with gadgets and gauges. Wearing the right gear is being cool. This year it is black and grey with yellow striped crotch padding.
I am too cool to wear that stuff. How’s the song go? “I’m too cool for my shirt?” But then I’m an “Environmentalist”. They just don’t know how cool I am unless I grow my hair long, tie it up in a ponytail and wear expensive outdoor clothing. Suffice to say, I go pedalling in my torn travel trousers and shapeless T shirt; helmet from K Mart. Thank goodness someone sold me a good bike. It has transformed my mind, made cycling so much easier. I use it all the time now to explore around. Hilly or not.
I do wish to notify you that paradise has no hills, in case you were wondering before you get here. Bring a bike to heaven by the ocean, is my advice; I have cycled all day for three days without going over the same ground twice. Along great cycle/footpath/lanes.
This trip was no exception. I thought I would go past Seaworld to see what it was like but then took the wrong fork in the road and ended up doing a bit of dune biking, up and down a few meters like a roller coaster with curves. Cool!
I ended up at an industrial looking pier with a pipe running along it. You could walk along it for $3 if you payed at the kiosk. I asked the guy if he owned the pier. “No mate, it belongs to one of the richest men in Australia, I just lease it.” [meaning his stall selling drinks and sweets, I did not click immediately either].
“Cor, it must be a moneymaker, hey?” I said in that typically Queenslander way. He laughed.
Leaning on the railing I watched a mixed race family on their day out on the pier, fishing together. How lovely, what entertainment for all, resting in the sun, eating lunch with tea from a flask whilst dad was busily reeling in the empty hooks and rebaiting them with prawns. It did not matter whether they caught anything or not, the enjoyment was in the doing; a nice attitude that many fishermen have.
“I love the way you go fishing with the whole family” I said, leaning over towards the woman feeding a baby. She was part Aboriginal I could see and hear as she smiled and answered; “Yeah, and we’ve even got the grandchild here too,hehehe!”
There was a Japanese guy wandering around on the end of the pier amongst the massive cubes of concrete, looking for a flat spot to fish from. “How about that one?” I said; and he tried hard, balancing on the edge of a nasty drop into a concrete crevasse. Sensibly he gave up but I could not help wondering why he chose such a difficult place to fish, when there was half a kilometre of easy rocks to choose from...and told him so. “Yah, yah” he answered. I think he would have said that to anything I told him. It is hard for a Japanese man to lose face.
I ended up chatting for ages outside the ice cream van to a local. He worked with kids who had problems at home and took them on adventure trips to help them get over their trauma and become cool citizens. Another cool guy, don’t you think? We watched a group of young executive types on a team bonding exercise larking about in their full racing gear complete with body shells and crash neck supports. But they were riding MOPEDS! 50cc of power in scooterette form. They were taking action photos standing still; leaning their mopeds over so that they seemed to be cornering at amazing speed, their knees scraping the ground as they screamed around the final bend before the home straight.
Eating my ice cream I chatted to a couple parked in a camper van eating a heap of juicy pink prawns as they watched the superyachts ply up and down the channel. “We always come here, get a heap of cooked prawns from down the road and spend the afternoon lazing about.” These were not your Paradisians, keeping fit. No, they were stuffing themselves, gorging on a kilo each and not offering their new found friend any. He spoke with his mouth full of masticated crustacean showing in front of his gums and hamstered away in his cheeks. Not cool.
At the end of The Spit, as this was called I met a Canadian fella with Authentic Akubra Kangaroo skin hat, which, when you heard his accent, made him look more like a Mountie than an Aussie. His wife’s family was originally from Scotland, and in the way of many second generation immigrants, had tried to reconnect with her roots through investigating her family tree. She had got all the way back to the Huguenots in 17///. When I raised the subject of climate change he asked “So what do you think, is it really happening? I’m of the opinion it is just a natural cycle that we are going through, like we have throughout the ages.”
That got me going.
I pointed out that the vast majority of scientists agree that it is Human induced through the burning of fossil fuels, that it was happening way faster than any of the previous increases in temperature and it correlated exactly with the increases of greenhouse gas emissions. “Is that not a bit too much of a coincidence?”
I convinced his wife, I reckon, for she was nodding vigorously as I spoke. She was probably already convinced. Hopefully she will work on her husband’s scepticism at home. We had him listening at least.
I passed the fishing harbour on my way back and bought some cooked prawns myself, about a kilo for fifteen bucks. Three hours had passed by now. A lot of time when your day is only 10 hours long [it happened to be the shortest day of the year], and a lot of exercise. I was fitter and therefore cooler than most by now.
After a swim in the ocean and some writing time I saw a rock band perform at the free music festival on the beach. The Hoodoo Gurus, a band I had heard of but am not familiar with. They were older guys and played a kind of iconic Australian style of rock, Surfie Punk Rock, you could call it. A blend of Beach Boy, Bee Gees and The Who. I got into the groove, together with the rest of the Aussie grey haired groovers. It was cool.
Paradise is a cool place, I enjoyed it for a while but my illusions were shattered by a cool local guy, nineteen years old, who I met today on a street bench while I ate my Movenpick ice cream [really cool]. He came out of a pub and asked me whether I smoked. Funny; he did not look the type, and I was right about that, he just wanted to cadge a fag, played rugby, did not like soccer and preferred alcohol. We got on great as we sized up passers- by for a possible cadge. He was amazingly forthright when I asked him why he had moved up here from Melbourne; “I always got beaten up at school”
I met his mum and told her she had a great son; she did not seem convinced. He told me this place was worse though. Most of the pubs and clubs were owned by “bikie gangs” who were into crime big time. There were street gangs too. “It helps when you know somebody big in a gang” he said.
As we talked street wise stuff, he said I was really with the times man. What a cool compliment. A couple of girls with high heels and yellow sequined skirts so short you could see what they had had for dinner[ his words not mine], tried to charm us into giving them some money. “Meter Girls” my friend explained. “They used to put coins in your parking meter so that you could stay longer” No doubt they were organised by the bikie bar owners association to rustle up business. They sold calendars with scantily clad ladies on the front page, themselves included. I suppose it could be called fringe prostitution.
A little later a couple of young men tried to sell us some prayers printed on bits of paper. At the root of good or evil is money it would seem.
I stuffed myself with prawns. Protein to build up my muscles.