In this, my 100th post here, I thought I'd share a great blessing in my life. It's sort of long. There are no pictures. It's worth it.
Sometimes in your journey through the world you're blessed with great friendships, and they say that if you find just one, you've had a life well lived. I feel blessed to have had (indeed still have) a few.
Sometimes you know you've made a friend, but you never really know what the future holds.
Sometimes you get hints along the way, and sometimes you actually pay attention.
So I shall tell a story of making a friend. Let's travel back in time together......
When I was in my late teens I had no real aims. I'd shifted from one side of the country to another, so whatever social and friendship roots I had put down in my school years were pretty effectively kaput. I did what all folks with no clue but reasonable marks did and enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Western Australia. It didn't last long, what with me only being there by default, but I met a girl, dropped out, had some adventures 'Down South' as they say here; which is to say getting all foresty, 'alternative' and Green, and lots of random jobs and happenings until a major car accident in a mining town in remote Western Australia where I and my girlfriend (let's call her J, OK?) were working put a sudden stop to things, meaning a Flying Doctors flight back to Perth, months in traction for her, and a hit of the Reset button generally. I hung in there with her. This is the very potted history version, as you can tell. J decided to return to study whilst recuperating. I started thinking again about getting a job, or something. This paragraph is a couple of years long.
I saw an ad in the paper one day for canvassers for Greenpeace. Good looking hours that suited my night owl habits, and it of course appealed to my sensibilities entirely. What we did was head off in a group to some suburb and the area would be divided up between us (in pairs, or singly, it depended) and from around 4PM to 8PM we'd knock on doors, talking about Greenpeace and environmental issues, taking donations, and ideally selling subscriptions to the Greenpeace magazine. The money was not great, and for the most part we were a rag-tag bunch of late-80's alt hippie types, backpackers with morals, and odd bods, in it for some money, but not the money. Although there were a couple of gun sales types, and they did pretty well. It was done on commission. A very far cry from the Greenpeace of today, I can tell you.
Before departure each afternoon we'd meet at the offices, three flights up a rickety old stairwell in central Perth, just adjacent to the largest bong shop in town (among other things) and drink instant coffee, and smoke silly amounts of cigarettes. I'd been there not long at all, maybe only days, and was sitting with a few others out on this death-trap sort of loading gantry that served as a balcony over the back laneway, smoking, messing around with a guitar, when a human movement caught my eye from inside.
It still gives me wonderment that I remember this moment, and moreover I remember remembering this moment many times in the years since, and that it's such a clear little snapshot for something that lasted only a second that long ago.
It was a woman I'd not seen before, about 10 metres away, talking to one of the more managerial types. New, or at least who'd not been there in my time - I'm not clear on this irrelevant bit of detail - and I was instantly attracted. Not in a "oh, she's a hot one I'd definitely go for" sort of way, because she so clearly wasn't 'my type' as I thought of it then, or something, despite her being a most striking and elegant assembly of the classical elements of youthful womanhood. Beautiful, is what I'm saying there. Tall, like 6 ft, very slim and svelte, with pale pale skin, dark but multicoloured tights tucked into black boots, and a black cowboy-style Akubra hat with a bright scarf tied about it as a hatband, flowing down the back of the brim and setting off her enormous mane of long, dark hair. Sunglasses. Crikey. She looked over and smiled in our direction, and the rest of the moment is lost to me now. This was Kat.
Kat and I somehow quickly became friendly in an entirely uncomplicated sort of way, and went through our training period together, then often paired up as canvassing buddies. I needed to move from where I was living, and needed a room in a share-house type setup with my girlfriend (J, the recuperating one, now still often on crutches but doing really well considering). Kat's share house was undergoing changes in makeup, and suddenly there we were. Housemates, and the kernel of a legendary Greenpeace party house, a rambling federation-era pile with multiple bedrooms a not-too-distant walk from the city's centre. The Greenpeace thing steamed ahead and both Kat and I soon found ourselves pretty senior members because of the high attrition rate. I ended up being one of the Field Managers (the only one for a while) mainly by dint of still being there and having a drivers licence I think, and so we had use of the official van too.
Field managing is a term that means I'm the one with the photocopying and map distribution duties, as well as the driving, so to compensate for the lost canvassing time I got an extra $7 bucks a night. Told you we weren't there for the money. In fact, we would sometimes be so jacked off with the futility monster that descends on all conscientious enviro-warrior types that Kat and I would often cut our canvassing stupidly short and end up just sitting in the van talking until it was time to pick up the crew. A funny thing was going on though. Kat always had the front seat, because we were mates, and no-one commented on this. Ever. It seemed to be a non-political point. About this time is where we first started to encounter the odd phenomenon of our joint apparition - a pattern that was to repeat over and over in years to come. People would think we were related, as in siblings. Or, that we were a couple. Maybe both sometimes, I don't know. But we loved it.
We were physically similar, it's true. Maybe less so these days.
Kat and I would stay up late and watch motorsport together on TV; Grands Prix and the Motorbike GP especially were faves, and this as often as not involved a bottle of port or similar, and it should be said to paint a sufficiently complete picture that there was a near-universal fondness in our circle of folk for a certain medicinal herb still inexplicably illegal in much of the 'civilised' world. We came to know each other well, and seemed to have lots of similarities in upbringing. Kat and I were just.....comfortable. All this while J was busily beavering away at her academic studies, being a Class A Brainiac from an academic family, and saw no threat whatsoever from her friend Kat. And anyway, these were times of what some may call loose but we might have called more flexible and open morals when it came to matters of partnering. Mainly. In theory.
One night, I was drunk....etc. Very, actually. I'd been sitting up late with another housemate and eventually of course it was time for bed. This is another of those moments I'm still amazed at remembering powerfully. Through the doorway into the darkened bedroom ('Shh! don't wake J!' I think to myself) remove clothes, climb into lovely warm bed. Snuggle up gently to her back and ever so gently and lovingly if a little cheekily put an arm over her and cup her left brea...
...time stands still for just a moment, because...
"ERIC!" sharply issues from the doorway, backlit now, with my girlfriend's annoyed form in silhouette unmistakably looming. Oh, yes, wrong bed, I see. And apologetically muttering something to a rather amused Kat, sheepishly stumble off to the correct sleeping appliance and partner. I still wonder how she knew....girlfriend radar?
I've talked about this with Kat in the intervening years, and it was genuinely mutual that we had no sort of sexual spark thing going, at any stage. For the purposes of this storytelling I'm just discounting whatever hidden internal or cosmic messages I may have been ignoring in the 'wrong bedroom' anecdote just then. I certainly recognised Kat's undeniable attractiveness but just....not to me in that way. I shan't speak for her of course, as you'll notice throughout this history, but I understand the feeling (or lack thereof) was very much mutual. As with most things, life in this house had to eventually come to an end for a whole bunch of reasons and Kat moved back to Melbourne for a short while to deal with some stuff over there. J and I actually visited her in her parents' house there the next New Year's - I don't recall what we were doing in Melbourne, but the Screamin' Jay Hawkins concert was fabulous.
Then J and I moved to Fremantle some time later, as regular or long-time readers will know, and at some point I remember her saying "Kat would just so love it here, I think she should come over" and thus it came to pass that we all lived together again. I really had a best-of-both-worlds feeling as I realised that apart from living with my girlfriend and all the good stuff that brings, I got to live closely with the person whom I discovered had become my best friend. This naturally gave me pause to think differently about my relationship with J.
Ah, the Fremantle days (daze?). I've waxed rhapsodic before, but it's here that Kat and I allowed our mutual orbit free rein. I was doing the musician (ie substantially unemployed) thing, and she was similarly sporadically occupied. Life was the cafe scene, parties, the poverty and wealth of an artistic life, and an ever-expanding circle of new friends.....and partners. Fremantle was still very much culturally influenced by the Orange People / sanyass thing and a whole wide spectrum of the hippyish, the New Age, the Artsy and the Lefty Academic all rolled around into a background history of immigrant dockside grunge and organised crime, just recently plastered over for Freo's debut on the world stage - her hosting of the defence of the America's Cup by the first ever non-Americans to have won it. What I'm hinting at is a vibrant atmosphere of fun with a heavy undercurrent of Free Love, where things like ordinariness of relationships just seemed - well, ordinary. So both Kat and I (and J, it should be said) entered a period of relative chaos, ups and downs, with the whole mating game. But of course, Kat and I stayed true to form with each other.
Even when Kat moved out to a new abode I saw her most every day, at the cafe. We counselled each other on our respective relationship issues. Supported each other. Sat often al fresco at the cafe with our legs entwined companionably (her legs clad as often as not in my trousers, us being the same size. Actually, she pretty much took liberties with my entire wardrobe) and as expected, we were oft mistaken for a couple, or siblings. We shared finances more closely than J and I, and indeed spent more time together. Many adventures shared, scrapes gotten into and out of.
We drifted apart for a time then contact-wise, as work, relationship and other things pulled us in different directions, but we orbited still, with Kat sharing a house also with the next major girlfriend I had. Kat and I sort of shared houses on and off for ages, it seems. We sometimes discussed, with amazement, (I'm choosing words carefully here) how we had still never even looked like being lovers, when it seemed (for example) that I didn't really know many women at all now who didn't fit that bill for me. I seem to recall that we'd shared a bed a few times through simple sleeping convenience or companionship but that was not unusual in those days for people to do. And we'd laugh about the Wrong Bedroom Incident of years before.
One beautiful day, sitting with Kat on The Cafe Strip having coffee, a guy we both were friendly with lurched up sort of excitedly and asked us if we wanted to go to a wedding. His. Wow, total surprise! When? In about half an hour. WTF? He was getting married to a sort-of girlfriend and reading between the lines it was really about him (being from overseas) getting Australian residency, and he needed some witnesses....and a bit of friendly support. Registry office, 30 minutes; roger that, see you there. We got to talking. Given our seeming tendencies towards serially 'interesting' relationship dramas of late, mightn't it be a good idea - and One Helluva Laugh - to get married? You know, to prevent ourselves from doing something rash or stupid and marrying someone we really shouldn't? We got the giggles with this idea hugely, and besides, it actually made a whole bunch of sense. It just....felt right somehow. We were primed, and when we got to the registry office we asked how exactly you go about it. $150 and fill out a form with some ID. Takes 30 days to process, and then you just turn up with some witnesses. Done. Well, it's not like either of us had the spare cash lying around and the wait....wasn't really our style and.....we just let it all slide. Nothing at all wrong with being the way we were anyway. Life carried on.
I went overseas for a while travelling with music, and returned to set up house again with my then-girlfriend, the one Kat had been sharing with some time before. Let's call this one G. I'd been with her for maybe a few years now, living together for much of that. G really wanted to do the travelling thing too, but I couldn't and besides she sort of wanted a solo-ish adventure. We had a friend or two living overseas she'd visit and apart from that she'd be on her own way. A month or so in, Kat - as had happened a number of times previously -
showed up at the door desirous of somewhere to stay. She knew she would always be welcome with me, and it always really made my day too. Great stuff! G and I had been sharing the 2-bedroom house with a friend who was still there, so Kat just bunked in with me, like old times. But something different was going on, in a subterranean sort of way.
One day I woke up beside her, with a sort of frisson of....I don't know....excitement? Whatever, ignore weird stuff, get on with life. Cafe times, and I'm busy at it with the band trying to finish recording this album, which is taking up a lot of my headspace anyway. Then here's another of those memorable vignettes, did you see it coming?
Waking up one morning, Kat waking beside me, and as I lean up on an elbow our heads come close and there's this pausing moment....and then we pull back. "I almost kissed you then" I blurt with habitual obviousness and suavity, to which Kat simply grinned and replied "I know!" We got up and had coffee, or something. The energy circled around us for a day or two more before it just had to happen, and we made love. I was nervous. Yet it just seemed inevitable. Gosh it was good and so much fun for a week or so there, and that's all the commentary you're getting. But there was something else going on, less subterranean this time. This was far more than just fun, or 'friends with benefits' as they say, and as I think we had been justifying it to ourselves at first. Or that is to say, I had.
We fell in love, and it showed no signs of going away. I started to feel like I understood why Kat had been in my life all this time, and for me it all had this...I don't know....destiny sort of aura about it. I mean, what a totally lousy thing to do to your girlfriend while she's overseas. I was in tumult and agony on that score.
G knew that Kat was staying, in our bed, no problem. Now I had to tell her what was actually going on. we'd had this pact thing about "what goes on on tour stays on tour" and when I had been overseas we'd each had little adventures with others, and expected this time would be similar. Same rules; plus, it's not like we'd had an ordinary everyday regular sort of completely monogamous thing going anyway - again, not unusual for the time and place. But this was obviously not in the same ballpark and understandably G was....well.....you can imagine all the emotions. Plus the disempowerment of being 15,000 miles away. At least it worked out that she was with a friend. Some plus, I suppose. I really felt for our housemate too, friends with all of us and now with compromised and divided feelings of loyalty. What a mess! This is where a deep and already old part of our friendship came to the fore - steadfastness. Not only did we stick together through hard stuff, but we helped each other stick to what was right, and I really needed some help with that right then. Kat just flat-out stood for me doing what I knew and felt to be right, whatever that may be. So I did, despite a whole whirling cosmos of 'shoulds' and 'buts' and 'if onlys'. I went with what I felt to be true and right.
Yet despite all the upheaval and pain caused I sort of didn't care. Even with some of my most loyal and closest friends telling me that "you surely can't be doing this to G" I could. I had to. More than that......
One night Kat and I were giddily, you know, 'in love' giddily walking back home from down town, and stopped at the last pub for a drink. Another memory moment ensues. Beautiful cool night, out in the courtyard and all is wonderful with the world. Holding hands, legs entwined, besotted eyes, the whole romantic cliche on steroids. The Force was with us that night.
"You know what we should do..."I said, leadingly.
"Since all this stuff has happened..... and you and I....." I laugh half nervously, half in sheer delight at the idea; "we should get married!"
No bended knee, no premeditation and to be truthful I don't exactly recall all the words we each said but it was just a typical "you know what?" sort of us conversation, where we rambled on excitedly about all the great reasons and things we could think of about getting married. I won't go down that path with y'all today, but you know what happens next anyway...
G gets her brother to come and collect her stuff from the house - she's still overseas and is going to have her holiday, regardless of what her evil now ex-boyfriend has done. Then came October 4th, 1997; possibly the best party I've ever been to at what we think of as our house now; our wedding. The afternoon of that day, with days and days of work having gone into the house and yard and catering and...all that stuff, with the wedding set to kick off just at sundown; we were blessed, by a swarm of bees. A whole seething mass of them came from a hive they must have had in the wall of a neighbour's shed, hanging on a tree branch right in the middle of where the ceremony was to take place. They left in plenty of time, and I was glad.
This is how I came to marry my best friend Kat, also known perhaps to you as Meeta, as I have referred to her throughout this blog. But I'd always called her Kat until around this time, because that's the way she preferred it when we met. Like me, she wasn't too frightfully hung up on the name issue.
So naturally the story doesn't end there, all sorts of changes occurred and maybe one day I'll write the book. One of the things that changed was our relationship to the world at large, as we for various reasons and in various ways began to draw back; to retreat now, and to become a very different and indeed unexpected kind of us. It became far more private, and remains that way for our purposes here today also. Still, my painting of this picture is not yet quite complete, but the telling of the stories in detail, for now, is.
Meeting, befriending, loving and marrying Meeta has been the largest and most important series of events of my life. The challenges and joys, all the 'for better and for worse' stuff (not that we had traditional vows) have only multiplied since marriage and I'd be dishonest if I didn't admit there have been times when I despairingly had doubt and saw my faith in this decision sorely tested. I have even questioned why it is that I always overcame these doubts - was it just some egotistical stoicism or stubbornness? I certainly possess those qualities, but in true self-reflection I have to say no, it's deeper than that and I don't honestly belive that it's really me in charge here anyway. I'm not saying I have a subordinate relationship role or the Meeta always 'wears the trousers' (although she does for her fair share without a doubt). I'm saying there's a bigger picture, what you might call a higher purpose, and if there's one thing in my life I feel a teeny bit proud of it's that I keep listening to that call, and following my heart, even when it leads into pain.
There have been too many lessons and changes to enumerate but so far there's a clear theme that runs through my growth through this voyage with Meeta. And that's loyalty. Until her I had never truly known the feeling; how it is to have someone be completely and unquestioningly loyal to you. So of course, I'd never really done a great job of loyalty myself. I'm not just talking superficials here, I'm talking about heart and spirit. Honesty.
By nature I am a loyal and honest person, and part of my journey has been to reclaim that. Through a friendship as great as this one I have indeed come far, and I am deeply grateful. I have rediscovered that loyalty is not just about how you relate to one person, or a country, or a football team (go the Magpies!) or a political party or a set of rules for living - it's about how you relate directly to God, for want of a less loaded descriptor. And thus, it's about how you treat yourself. This great friend of mine has helped me, through her loyalty and by accepting my flawed self as being loyal to her, get back closer to Oneness (the ultimate thing beyond loyalty, I suppose), to Godhead, to peace.
I wonder what happens next?