The Cleveland Line

A red bag with the logo ‘reusing makes me happy’ is on my lap, inside my gym gear. I’m sitting in a carriage, waiting at Cleveland Station; departure time 11am. Still seven minutes to go, I fidget. Cupped in my right hand my iPhone’s music library. Ella Hooper is singing Everything Was A Sign.

The all station train warms its engine, my mood swings low high, following the beat.  I fill up on sound, blocking out the sorrow nestled somewhere back of my thoughts. The train jerks forward, closer to Fitness First in the city, as my mind edges a little toward acceptance.

A chapter is ending I think as I glance about. A sign above me reads ‘Please refrain from loud music and mobile devices.’ I ignore the warning and turn up the volume, earphones planted firmly in ears. I sigh relieved by the music, and start to hum.

The carriage is quiet.  I stare out the window beyond, at the endless service stations, mini supermarkets and used car dealers. Welcome to Queensland I grin to myself. Brilliant one day, perfect the next.  Where a new car deal is only a phone call away.

The train slows, pulling up at Thornside Station, the track stops as my heart skips. A young greasy haired kid sits facing me playing Casino on his mobile. He looks unlucky I think half-out-loud. Where are his parents? To my left a gentleman with a bushy bushranger’s beard stretches and yawns. I notice he’s carrying a environmentally friendly bag. The bag is empty. Another day, another journey for him. But, who gave him that green bag I wonder?

On my way to the gym, alone…I remind myself over again that it’s important to continue routine in times of hardship…what else can you do?  The end, a mother’s love evaporating, going somewhere else. While, I’m sat on the Cleveland line…Yes, on the Cleveland Line everything  is a sign I think.

My thoughts are interrupted as a man steps on board,  sweaty from the Queensland sun, wearing a tight-fitted C.F.M.E.U T-shirt that declares ‘united we stand!’ Next train station Wynnum North is announced over head.  Change of thought…The city must still be some distance then?

My phone buzzes, a message pops up – Going to Barba Friday? Use this code and get a 25 % off entry at Coverlid Place. I swipe the message away and set my focus straight ahead. The union man looks me squarely in the eye, then opens a book on the Cuban Revolution, he puts on dark rim glasses and begins to read, looking up again at the next stop. Yes, I think as he stares me down, everything is a sign.

Somewhere up carriage a fat girl with a French bun scrolls through forgotten text messages, dressed in a bright pink pullover. The train doors open and close and the train moves off weaving through the suburbs. A Maori guy enters, black cap and Puma bag, he sits picking his nose and flicking snot balls onto the window glass.  He spots me watching him, and smiles politely but continues to pick, roll and flick.  I pause my music, take out one earphone and listen carefully to the community announcement.

Announcement –  For safety and security reasons video cameras are in use on this train.

Yes, I’m on the Cleveland line I think…where everything  is a sign! I must make funeral arrangements tomorrow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Noel Anderson has directed too many theatrical productions, performed in The Real Ghostbusters Show in shopping centres, written well into the night when in pain, worked with a helluva lot of people and had the odd breakdown. He believes in the power of pop music and Campbell’s Soup. Noel’s written work includes Hello Little Man (Melbourne Writer’s Social Anthology 2016), Kylie Kastle Throws A Party (performed in schools across the country), Germ Warfare, The Carer, Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes Of Fame and the new Australian musical Audrey Hepburn And I Consider Our Assets  (  fb.me/audreythemusical  ) which premiered at the Melba Spiegeltent on 29th October 2015. You can follow Noel on Twitter: @Randyandy42 or https://www.facebook.com/noel.anderson42

Noel is a member of the Melbourne Writer’s Social

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Death Takes A Holiday

As a teenager I knew death intimately, circumstances left me trying to comprehend the end of life instead of living it, having experienced three deaths in my family before I turned twenty. The impact of each individual passing was unnerving…so as a kid I dreamt about death. It was hard not to dream those dreams and I never shook off my fear of dying until I started writing regularly.

Reading  early stories of mine recently I found death a common thread with grief and humour inseparable partners.  While death is an inevitable phenomenon of life, most people struggle to accept it.

But, what if in the near future death took a holiday…and ceased to exist on earth? People are already living longer now, but what would happen if we just kept living on with no end in sight? And if we did live on (in one form or another?) what stage of the cycle of life would you like to stop dying at? And live on from?

I thought this morning on the tram that as an adult I’ve spent years trapped at the childhood stage of life, relying on my imagination to pull me out of life’s little ups and big downs. While a great creative place to work from, if death took a holiday for real, and I was caught  in the childhood stage for eternity, before puberty…then let’s be honest, it would kill my sex life…dead.

And if death did take a holiday what would happen to all those unfortunate people suffering from a terrible illness? Would they live on forever in agony?

What if death’s idea of a holiday was as simple as taking a vacation somewhere else…to the seaside resort or a neighbour’s backyard?

Well, my granddad took a holiday somewhere else I remember. When we moved from city to the suburbs, he would often sit outside our  house crouched under a large tree in the backyard. Granddad was dead of course. He’d died some years back.

“Son, Granddad is outside today” mum would announce every now and then in the kitchen of our new home.

I would rush to the back door to look see. Sure enough there he was larger than life crouched under the big tree in the backyard looking up at our house.

“What’s he doing?” I asked.

“Making sure things are okay” mum answered.

It was strange granddad sitting under the tree every other night, we were the only people in the street that had a dead relative in their backyard.  Then one day he wasn’t there anymore. He stopped watching us, he stopped caring I thought.

“Where did he go? Granddad?” I enquired.

“He’s gone on holidays” mum said.  “Even ghosts need R & R.”

“What’s that? R & R?” I questioned.

“Rest and relaxation” mum answered. “Now tie your school shoes.”

“But, what does it mean though? Granddad disappearing like that?”

“It means we are safe here…for a few years” mum smiled dipping a dirty breakfast plate in soapy water.

Maybe he’s just gone to another yard I thought, but said nothing…a yard in another suburb?

Not long after granddad’s disappearance my father died. They both vanished from my life around the same time. Death took a holiday to somewhere else…and life continued on as normal without granddad and my dad…But, death didn’t leave us alone for very long. A few years later he came back to visit us…tap-tap-tapping on our glass front door wanting to be let in…

But I reckon that’s another story.  Eventually mum cut down that big tree that granddad sat under. But, when I close my eyes at night I can still see it.

In my 20’s whenever I was invited to a backyard BBQ I would think of granddad and that tree. I’d wonder whose backyard he was crouching in now? And, what suburb? Newtown? Bondi? Or maybe yours?

Mum believed granddad crouched under the backyard tree to keep us safe…over time I stopped believing her. I think granddad sat crouched waiting to take my father away, he knew dad’s time was almost up so he made himself comfortable and waited.  He wanted to lead dad to a happier place…a resting place, a silent place…and he didn’t want him getting lost along the way.

Death Takes A Holiday by Noel Anderson is part of the True Life Series.

The Perfect Match – A Short Film By Noel Anderson

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Noel Anderson has directed many theatrical productions, written well into the night when in pain, worked with a helluva lot of people and had the odd breakdown or two. Noel’s written work includes Germ Warfare, The Carer, Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes Of Fame and the new Australian musical Audrey Hepburn And I Consider Our Assets  which premiered at the Melba Spiegeltent on 29th October 2015. You can also follow Noel on Twitter: @Randyandy42

 

 

 

 

An Email To My 17 Year Old Self

Recently I took a two week holiday to contemplate what next in life.  There was nothing wrong, I just felt stuck in a life less than what I saw for myself inside my head, and I found it aggravating. So, I thought it a good time to stop…and tram 5 stop 37 seemed like as  good a place as any to jump off.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t do much, just pottered about tuning the TV and watching Netflix. Sometimes I sat staring at a brick wall, then I got really hungry. I got into the habit of eating breakfast out. It was refreshing waking up with nothing to do except eat. Stuff like Moroccan eggs  and Spanish omelette  really made me happy I discovered and I felt quite cosmopolitan too. On the second week in between calorie counting and farting, I found myself rummaging through boxes of photos and I discovered some old theatre scripts I’d written at 17 years old. All based on my life back then, before Prozac took my generation. I thought my scripts  pretty good given I knew little about anything in my late teens. Reading them decades later I found they made me laugh out loud, they confronted me (did I write that?) and moved me in a way I can’t explain in words.  A personal diary of my thoughts and imagination through my early life. At one point I sat reading and crying like a big baby, caring not one hoot if the Jewish boy who lives next door could hear me sobbing. Reading my words felt like holding a mirror up to myself now, against my innocence lost sometime yesterday. Who took it away I wondered? Did I lose it? Yeah probably, between Circular Quay, Piccadilly Circus and Swanston Street I guessed.

My  writing had all the hallmarks of a teenager…fresh, unaffected, verbose and well constructed actually…There was a strong sense of self in the words and an abrupt honesty that I think I still have to this very day.  An aspect of my personality I admire.  There was hope, cheeky sense of humour and I found my writing quite romantic.  This really surprised me. A line I’d written really struck a chord with me. It’s spoken by the youngest character in one of my scripts. It was – The Dreams Of Yesterday Are The Reality Of Tomorrow. I said the words out loud a few times in the kitchen, feeling their sound and rhythm vibrate at back of my head.

Dreams. Reality. Tomorrow. A boy’s thoughts.

So, with those three words swimming around I sat at my laptop armed with a fruit smoothie  and started to type an email. An email from older me now…to my much younger 17 year old self, the me of yesterday.  This is the email.

Dearest Ando, Andy, Noel (all names I was called at school) you’re probably reading this email eatin’ breakfast in bed. I bet’cha mum served a bacon and egg sandwich with a hot coffee, white with one. Did she serve breakfast on a tray, the usual way? I bet she did! You could make it yourself if you stopped daydreaming and listening to Kate Bush. Daydreaming  gets bigger as you age. Best keep it under control to avoid disappointment. There are a few things I want to warn against in the future. You have the attention span of a wombat. So, concentrate!

  1. First young man try not to be so hard on yourself.  Just do’ya best, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or thinkin’.  Your best is all you can do. Sometimes things take a while to come to the boil…just keep going, no looking back, no running in the house and remember to turn off the stove if things get too hot.
  2. Most people aren’t perfect, everyone makes mistakes. So live without them until you find someone perfect. Good luck with your search!
  3. If you get lonely then maybe get a pet. But no cats, remember your allergies.
  4. If you must get a pet I recommend a dog. The stupider the better. They are faithful.
  5. Remember dogs, like relationships must be taken for a run regularly. So stay fit…in romantic situations and life you want to be the last man standing.
  6. PS. Remember always that no one loves a fatso…So, cut out sugar.
  7. They say blood is thicker than water and I agree with that thought but…what the fuck does it really mean? Why don’t you find out and let me know?
  8. Last thought to young Noel, Andy, whatever…Stay true blue. In your choices are your talent. Respect your choices and have a dentist check up at least every 6 months. In the future you’ll thank me for telling you this.

I looked up and stopped writing, 17-year-old me had stopped listening I thought. I grabbed a bowl and packet of instant noodles. I sat eating and wondering why I had stopped listening to advice from my older self. I turned on Netflix and pushed play and was stunned to find my younger self staring back on the flat screen TV.

“Don’t give me advise @Randyandy42. I’m following you on Twitter so be warned” younger me scolded.

“Jeez, I was only trying to help. If only I knew then what I know…”

“Stop. Mister can you hear yourself? You sound like Mum. I need to make my own mistakes. Get kicked to ground, left for dead. Then I need to get straight back up and carry on. Laws of the land, must be learnt. Don’t you know that at your age? Nothing you can say or do can protect me. I need to dream for myself. Touch my own reality so I can build a better tomorrow.”

I looked at the TV screen, the younger me smiled back, dressed in a pair of Calvin Klein undies, looking strikingly like Marky Mark (Wahlberg). I observed my youthful skin, bright smile and determined eyes…a click of the remote, younger me was gone. After a mouthful of instant noodles I switched off the TV. I looked good on TV I thought…and rinsed my bowl. But, he was right younger me, @Randyandy42, whoever I am. We can learn from the past but can never change it.  We must move forward. I took off my glasses, shut my laptop and went to bed. The next morning I got dressed and went to Yellow Bird on Chapel Street and ordered a large serve of Green eggs and a cappuccino, white with one.  Yeah, it’s been a good break, catching up with me. I’ve traveled far…but there’s still further to go.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Noel Anderson has directed many theatrical productions, written well into the night when in pain, worked with a helluva lot of people and had the odd breakdown or two. Noel’s written work includes Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes Of Fame and the new Australian musical Audrey Hepburn And I Consider Our Assets  which premiered at the Melba Spiegeltent on 29th October 2015. You can also follow Noel on Twitter: @Randyandy42

 

 

 

 

I Wear The Same Size Shirt As William Holden from Sunset Boulevard 

I’m at home eating Vegemite on toast, wondering how to kick start my film career when the phone rang.

“Hello Noel it’s June, I’ve got job for you, filming in the Blue Mountains, starring William Holden, you know from Hollywood. Can you talk?”

The job was The Earthling and  I remember I was very excited to be working on such a high profile film.

“Who am I playing?” I asked my agent.

“There’s no role as such, they need a Stand-In for William Holden. He’s the lead, playing a character called Patrick Foley, a drifter. You’re exactly the same shirt size and height.”

Boy, I’m the same size as William Holden? William Holden who danced provocatively with Kim Novak in the film Picnic, won an Oscar for Stalag 17…and starred in the Hollywood film classic, Sunset Boulevard…well, fancy that!  I continued…

“But, isn’t he like a hundred?”  I was after all only in my early twenties.

“Yes, he’s much older than you but you’re the exact same size” June repeated. “Can you do it? It’s shooting next week.”

“Yes, of course I can do it. Who turns down the chance to work with  a true Hollywood legend?”

“Oh I almost forgot about Ricky Schroder,” my agent continued, “You know the kid in The Champ…”

“The film with with Faye Dunaway? Didn’t he win a Golden Globe Award?”

“Yes. Sure did. Anyway, he’s playing the boy” June barked and hung up the phone.

Kid I’ll show you a step I learnt in LA, first you gotta set the rhythm – William Holden in Picnic.

The Earthling was produced in Australia by Samuel Z Arkoff, a Hollywood B movie producer, responsible for some of the best exploitation films around, films like Blackula, The Amityville Horror and The Thing with Two Heads starring another Hollywood Legend, Ray Milland. Samuel Z Arkoff often stated his film formula for success as 1. Action 2. Revolution 3. Killing 4. Oratory (good dialogue) 5. Fornication.  This is interesting thinking back, as The Earthling didn’t have anywhere near the five points Samuel Z Arkoff mentioned in interviews.

You’re half dead. Together that makes one of us – William Holden as Patrick Foley.

The Earthling told the touching story of an old man returning to the Australian wilderness to die, only to find a young boy, an earthling, wandering lost in the bush after the tragic death of his family.  The old fella teaches the boy the art of survival.  The film was shot mostly around the Blue Mountains…however, when I arrived for my first day’s work as Stand-In for Mr William Holden, the production was filming in a national park on the out skirts of Sydney.  I remember being nervous, and to complicate things my car radiator started to boil over on way to the shoot, which was stressful. I arrived on set flustered, and was quickly ushered in and introduced as Holden’s Replacement Stand-In to the director Peter Collinson (The Spiral Staircase and The Italian Job starring Michael Cain) and also the great Aussie cinematographer Don McAlpine (My Brilliant Career, Mrs Doubtfire, Wolverine and The Dressmaker).  I remember it being very cramped for some reason on set, and I recall a nervous energy at the very mention of the name, William Holden.  Pleasantries out of the way, I was then shuffled over to the costume truck and given a shirt, a sheep skin jacket and an old fashioned hat to wear.  Someone pushed a copy of The Earthling script into my hands, and pointed out the scenes we’d be filming that day. I was then handed a shooting schedule for the week. At this stage there was no sign of Mr Holden (or Ricky Schroder for that matter) but you could feel Holden’s present on set, it was everywhere.

You wanna know my name? It’s God! G – O – D, GOD! – Ricky Schroder as Shawn Daley.

The crew stopped and had morning tea while I ran over the scene to be filmed, preparing for my job as William Holden’s Stand-In.  In case you don’t know a stand-in runs the lines, stands in for the lead while the crew set lights, camera moves and focus. It’s a strangely lonely-challenging-job that requires you to be patient and alert, something at my young age I found difficult.  Still, I managed to fight off my uncontrollable nerves, and I got the job done.  Once the blocking was done, we were ready to shoot, it was time to bring in the star, William Holden. The first glimpse of him my brain switched to slow-motion…as this old man of similar build, emerged slowly from his trailer, wearing exactly the same clothes a me, his facial features movie-star-familiar. William Holden tipped his hat in my direction and offered his hand…

“Hi I’m Will Holden, you must be Noel…?” he prompted for my surname.

“Yes…I’m Noel Anderson…?” I said swallowing my name, unsure of who I was.

“Well, Noel…And-err-son welcome to our little movie!” He looked me in the eye,”You know you look about as old as Ricky Schroder, think you can play me? Play Foley?” he chuckled with an American drawl.

“Yes, I think so.” Did he like me? I couldn’t tell.

We shook hands…quickly Mr Holden flipped back his hat, it landed plonk on his head, just like in a Hollywood musical, and he took his place on set.  Suddenly there was fussing about, wardrobe started tugging at the clothing  Mr Holden is wearing, adjusting this, perfecting that…while the hair & makeup department went into a frenzy. Finally, Mr Holden held both hands high in the air, motioning he was ready act, and that he wanted everyone to FUCK OFF, which of course everyone did, immediately.

Peter Collinson the director asked me to run the moves for Mr Holden so he could get the scene down faster, which I did self-consciously, then I was escorted to the back of the set, behind the crew and William Holden took my place on set.  The legend was up and running. Lights! Camera! Action!

Nothing belongs here that wasn’t born here – William Holden as Patrick Foley.

By my third day working on The Earthling I had started to wonder what happened to the stand-in before me, the production was well underway by the time I was brought in.  Did he not get along with Mr Holden? Did the other stand-in get sick or something? I never did find out why I was brought in at such late notice…or why I was let go a week or so later.

The William Holden I remember was a cranky old codger with cracked skin and troubled mind…I thought.  Maybe aging, losing his looks in Hollywood damaged his spirit in someway, or maybe it was Lady Demon Drink that had soured him. The Earthling was released in 1981 and took a pitiful $72,000 at the Australian box office. The critics weren’t kind to the film but over time it found an appreciative audience on television.

In 1966 William Holden killed a man in a driving accident in Italy, he was intoxicated at the time, and in 1981 just two years after we worked together on The Earthling, he died alone in his apartment from a fall, intoxicated.

Ricky Schroder who played the boy in The Earthling struggled as an adult actor and is mainly remembered now for the TV series NYPD Blues. I remember him as just another kid on set, surrounded by minders. I never spoke a lot on set to William Holden, I felt disappointment with himself whenever I looked  into those piecing eyes of his, and when I watch Sunset Boulevard on TV or his other film classic Network with Faye Dunaway, I’m proud to have experienced working on The Earthling with him.

You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big – William Holden as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard.

It was an exciting time back then, a time of pride in Aussie cinema, in some way I feel part of the renaissance of Australian films, thanks to the experience of being a Stand-In on The Earthling. Thankyou, Mr Holden.

For his contribution to the film industry, William Holden has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1651 Vine Street.

I Wear The Same Size Shirt As William Holden : The True Story Series. Checkout other work by writer/director NOEL ANDERSON

Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our Assets – The musical with the Hollywood twist!

 

The Anderson Projects 2015 (Or I’m Creative Get Me Out Of Here!)

A year isn’t a long time, but a lot can happen. My life so often is about things I dream up to do. I am not somebody who waits for things to happen, I actively seek out adventure.  2015 was a year of major triumphs and disappointments, sometimes hand in hand on the same project.  This then is my reflection of the year that was and the three creative projects I worked on.

The first Anderson Project 2015, Andy Warhol Fifteen Minutes of Fame, a play written and directed by me, played to full houses at the Jewish Museum of Australia… this was definitely a proud, stand alone moment. It was inspiring to see my work on the life of Andy Warhol (a childhood idol) standing alongside his exhibition of Famous Jews of the Twentieth Century. I could never have imagined when writing the piece that it would be performed someday with Warhol’s paintings and the Q & A afterwards ignited my passion for performance, reminding me that at heart I’m a show-off and there is still a performer kicking inside me, somewhere.  I enjoyed the experience, and was flattered by the love and affection from the audience towards my work.

Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

Following Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame success, I directed Price Check, an Aussie musical set in a suburban supermarket.  Now I’ll say this up front, musicals are a tough gig to produce independent of a major company…but it was a musical I had a lot of faith in and a little history so I wanted to do a good job.

Price Check had a winter rehearsal and I got incredibly sick with the flu, losing my voice which made things very hard on the cast and me…this and one actor being rehearsed into the show late, toss in a few tricky personalities, a large team and a stressful bump in, and you can imagine how exhausted I was.  The show did settle in nicely but generally wasn’t supported by audiences as I had hoped…some people loved what I did, some people didn’t, but I guess that’s the nature of theatre, everyone’s a critic and so they should be. I believe Price Check is being semi staged in Adelaide in 2016.  I’m glad, as it deserves a lot more love than it got.

My final project for 2015 was an eight year commitment (you get less for murder these days in Australia) a musical I co-wrote/directed at the Melba Spiegeltent called Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our Assets. There is something soul destroying and character building about putting on an original Australian musical, the two are inseparable in my eyes. In fact its like going to bootcamp. First you battle a total lack of support from everyone in the country…you watch people roll back their eyes as you say the words – Original Australian Musical! Even regular theatre goers eyes pop as you approach them, which I always thought odd, as there aren’t that many Australian musical out there on stage. I guess people just want to support what they know, generally musicals from overseas.  Still as hostile as the Aussie artistic scene can be towards new Oz work, you do end up learning a lot of things.   Every now and then of course, during a lesson, you want to scream at the top of your lungs I’M CREATIVE GET ME OUT OF HERE!…I certainly had many moments like that. Thankfully Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our Assets was blessed with an incredibly supportive cast who really believed (in pink) and I am grateful for the experience I had with them.

Audrey Hepburn And I Consider Our Assets

As I cruise through 2016 (I’m currently on a plane bound for Melbourne) I remember  2015 full of nothing else but damn hard work and a little disappointment. I’ve learnt that no matter how delicately you handle a situation you are going to disappoint someone, somewhere, somehow. So best to stick to your guns and try and at least please yourself.  I also learnt without drive and determination there is no reward. But perhaps the biggest lesson learnt from the Anderson Projects 2015 is dreams don’t come true, and that there is a price paid for dreaming and you better have thick skin, a strong sense of self and penchant for the unexpected to survive.  I wish everyone a creative year ahead from 10,000 feet. Best of luck landing in 2016. Cheers  Noel Anderson (Creative Wreck) xxx

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Noel Anderson has directed too many theatrical productions, performed in The Real Ghostbusters Show in shopping centres, written well into the night when in pain, worked with a helluva lot of people and had the odd breakdown. He believes in the power of pop music and Campbell’s Soup. Noel’s written work includes Hello Little Man (Melbourne Writer’s Social Anthology 2016), Kylie Kastle Throws A Party (performed in schools across the country), Germ Warfare, The Carer, Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes Of Fame and the new Australian musical Audrey Hepburn And I Consider Our Assets ( fb.me/audreythemusical ) which premiered at the Melba Spiegeltent on 29th October 2015. You can follow Noel on Twitter: @Randyandy42 or https://www.facebook.com/noel.anderson42

Noel is a member of the Melbourne Writer’s Social

 

 

Lunch by Noel Anderson

Have you heard much about AIDS lately? It‘s a month before Christmas late 1980’s,  I’m waiting in the cafe at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in North Sydney for my friend to arrive. He is already late. We hadn’t seen each other for sometime, catching up more often than not over the phone, long distance, his calls going on for hours, sometimes two or three.  We covered a lot of ground over the line, politics and theatre his favourite subjects.  Think Chekhov, Moliere and Bob Hawke…Australia’s Prime Minister at the time. My friend  was a set designer, a very good one… and I the struggling director/artist or so I thought.  We spoke a lot on the phone. He encouraged me to expand my skills, maybe writing would be good, he’d often suggest.  I guess he felt I had a lot lot to say, maybe that’s why he suggested writing I remembered thinking.  It was a strange friendship thinking back, very much student/teacher with me being the student, as he would never see himself as anything else but the experienced professional.  He was bold, melodramatic with a larger than life personality, crooked teeth, yet still possessed the simple values of a country boy who’d come to the big smoke.  It’s been so long ago that I can’t even remember where we met but the one one thing I’ve never forgotten was our last lunch together.  You see what my friend neglected to tell me in all our long conversations on the phone was that he had HIV/AIDS, and was now in the final stage of the disease.

The noise of a bloke shouting interrupted my thoughts.  The cafe was full of students, arty types. Who was that making all that racket I thought, then my friend turned the corner yelling at people – Move Out Of My Bloody Way.  He held a wooden cane. He was frail, he was very angry, he was scared…and he was sick.

“Noel…luv…it’s me, over here!” he bellowed across the crowed cafe like some aunt you’d almost forgotten. “Get a table will’ya, over there.” 

I was glad he told me it was him, as I wouldn’t have recognised the dying old man in front of me as my 34 year old friend.  He was lifeless, hollowed faced, hopelessly thin.  I stumble with shock at the sight of him, hitting my head, almost knocking myself out.  The cafe staff put some blocks of ice in a tea towel which I put to my head and sat us both down at our table for lunch, away from the onlookers. I was always on a diet  back then so I ordered chicken salad off the menu while my friend ordered a cheeseburger and beer battered chips.  He toyed with his fork and then said…

“Well, you made an entrance hitting your head like that!” 

“So did you,” I said, “Shouting like that! Anyway it was cinematic, my entrance. Charlie Chaplin.” 

“But, I recognised you,  you didn’t recognise me. I could tell by the look on your face. You looked shocked. Do I look that bad old son?”  

I said nothing, head down, just picked at my food.  He took a chip from his plate and with a glint in his eyes said…

“I have AIDS you know. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.  Do you know what that is?  Well I have it…Say something.” 

“I don’t know what to say. Yes I know what it is! I guessed it was AIDS too when I saw you. How are you doing?”

“How does it look like I’m doing? Christ I’m not havin’ fun I can tell you that. It’s been fucking tough” he snapped at me, straight away offering me a chip off his plate. He was testing me I remember thinking. Teasing me, checking to see what I knew about AIDS, checking to see how frightened I was of catching HIV by offering me food. Food he may have contaminated, just by his touch.

“Yes. It’s must be tough I imagine” I answered sheepishly, not wanting another outburst.

“No you can’t my friend, no you can’t imagine…Death should always be pain free don’t you think?  And you can’t catch it from sharing food…so have a chip.” He pushed his plate across the table and for a brief moment he started to cry, stopping when he caught my gaze.

“I know that” I said  and ate a chip, sliding back the plate.  He raised his eye brows.

“Good to see you. You look well. Very handsome” he smiled, grabbing my hand as if he never wanted to let go.

We spent a good hour or so talking politics and Australian theatre that day. He was helping out on a student film at AFTRS, enjoying working on it. He was so sick I wondered what, if anything, he could be doing on the set. Could he be the set designer? I never asked him. We joked about people we had known, some we’d lost too.  He talked at great length about his overseas trip months earlier, how much he loved European  art and culture. He gave advice on my career, reminding me that film is where the money is at, he warned not to stay working in theatre. When I hugged him goodbye I could almost feel his frail body crack under the strain of my affection.  I never saw him again.

He died several weeks after our lunch date.  After his funeral I discovered that once he found out he had  HIV he successfully secured a lot credit with various banks, not telling any of them he was HIV positive of course.  It was on a line of credit that he had travelled to Europe. He never intended to pay the money back to the banks, and of course he didn’t. Why should he?

Some years later the Australian AIDS Quilt was touring the country. The quilt is made up of the names of everyone who lost the fight against AIDS in those dark years, name after name sewn into fabric by friends, lovers and family members… stitches of love and sorry. I clearly remember standing by the quilt looking at hundreds of names, people  of all races, young and old, that had passed away in the epidemic.  AIDS does not discriminate, it doesn’t care if you’re gay or straight either, married  or  de facto.  Thinking back going to a funeral a week was a common occurrence in the late 80’s, you were friends with someone, then you were at their funeral.  For a while world didn’t care, it was a gay disease, why rush to find a cure.  Rock Hudson, a high profile celebrity, dying of AIDS changed that. Eventually I found my friend’s name sewn in the quilt. I never forgot our lunch or his anger. How could I? Only people who lived through the AIDS epidemic will know exactly what I’m talking about when I say – We Are The Lucky Ones.  Over time, I wrote a play based on my friend’s luminous personality, about friendship, about AIDS, about letting go. It’s called Dark Victory.  So, let this then my friend, let this be our victory  against the dark. Hugs  xxx

The Australian AIDS Memorial Quilt Project – began in 1988 and provided a focus for the expression of community grief as the AIDS epidemic grew and was part of a worldwide movement to promote compassion, education and understanding about AIDS and its human toll. The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney received the quilt in 2007.

Dark Victory by Noel Anderson is a finalist in the Playtime Writing Competition and part of the Midsumma Festival 2016. An extract of the script will be performed on 21st January at Gasworks Theatre and Arts Park along with several other new works. Tickets only  $10 – Starting time 7pm. Note: Midsumma Launch Party before hand from 5.30pm (sausage sizzle & Drinks)

 

 

       

An Imperfect Christmas by Noel Anderson

It’s been 38 years since the full moon last appeared on Christmas Day, 1977 in fact…
The young waitress drops a fork, kicks it under a nearby table and totally breaks my train of thought. I look up from my cup and I think. The restaurant is full and the day warmish, I’m sipping coffee dressed in shorts and T-shirt, Melbourne colours of black and grey, while happy Queenslanders all around me dressed in flowery clothing chat away over large serves of pancakes, bacon and eggs.
I flick through the Courier Mail, a terrorist arrested in Sydney, another mindless shooting in Melbourne, is it really Christmas Eve 2015 I wonder?…I’m not sure judging by the headlines…so I check the date on front of the paper wishing the toothache that’s troubled me since arriving at Brisbane airport several days ago would just bugger off. But, the toothache is not going anywhere despite the antibiotics I swallowed an hour ago.
Back to my thoughts…
I bet everyone in this restaurant has their own idea of what makes ‘A Perfect Christmas’ I casually think to myself! Christmas – A time spent with loved ones, family, friends or whomever. I think a little bit more, stirring an extra sugar into my coffee as I run my tongue over my sore tooth…I’m not sure I ever really thought about Christmas in a perfect way before or any event for that matter, I mean what is perfect? I’ve always been attracted to things less than perfect I recall. I remember birthday parties I’ve had only because of what’s gone wrong during the night, dinners that I have totally burnt and ruined beyond salvation and of course blind dates that I’ve had that have gone horribly pear-shaped…
In fact, thinking way too much once again, it’s these imperfect events and days have ruled my life, invaded my memories and (I swear I believe this) have made me a much better person, a stronger man. I mean you can’t enjoy a perfect Christmas without first experiencing several imperfect ones, right?
Yes, it’s the imperfect days and events that rule us, teach us valuable life lessons, help us grow…and that we talk endlessly about years later, and will continue to do so until the end of time probably, or the end of the last Christmas drink. Whatever comes first!
I shuffle in my chair, someone with bleached blonde hair orders a hot chocolate and I shift back to thoughts of imperfection and Christmas.
One imperfect Christmas I clearly remember was when I was living in Docklands and I got a very bad gastric bug and spent almost three days sitting on the toilet, alone. I remember the only thing I wanted was Kentucky Fried Chicken while I squatted, God knows why but I had a mad craving for a juicy fried leg or thigh, I didn’t care really what piece of chicken I ate, I just wanted it. I sat in the bathroom for hours daydreaming about bloody fried chicken, and of course those eleven special herbs and spices. Once I was feeling better, I bolted from my flat, crossed the Yarra River and headed straight to the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop in Crown Casino and I ordered the biggest bucket of fried chicken I could buy. I found a nice place in the sun and I spent all Boxing Day by the Yarra snuggled up to my bucket of fried chicken, daydreaming.
It turned out to be the one Christmas I’d never forget! Why? Because it was imperfect and you just can’t plan Christmas days like that.
I close the newspaper and put it back on the magazine stand and make my way down the street to my sister’s house listening to the song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas on my iPhone. As I walk up the driveway I think to myself this will be the first full moon in 38 years, fancy that, and I open the front door…then I think really fast, I should go inside and write something.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Noel Anderson recently directed the six part TV series NEXT…about the perils of online dating which premieres on Foxtel and Apple (We -Are TV) in 2017. Noel completed NIDA’s Playwright Studio 1996, his written work includes: Hello Little Man (Melbourne Writer’s Social Anthology 2016), Kylie Kastle Throws A Party (performed in schools across the country), Germ Warfare (Bondi Pavillion) Pulling Out (Best Writing Winner Midsumma Festival at Gasworks)  The Carer (Belvoir St Theatre), Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes Of Fame (La Mama & the Jewish Museum of Australia), Love Letters (Melbourne Arts Centre) and the new Australian musical Audrey Hepburn And I Consider Our Assets  which premiered at the Melba Spiegeltent on 29th October 2015. Noel is currently working on his first feature film Sammy and Dave (Like Us on FB @sammyluvdave) and a music video for Audrey and I called ‘Travellers in Time.’ You can follow Noel on Twitter: @Randyandy42 or https://www.facebook.com/noel.anderson42  Noel has directed over 50 theatrical productions.