Monday, May 28, 2012

The letter. More often than not, it is not what we listen to that is beautiful but the listening itself. I was on the line taking morning sessions on the stopping all stations to Upfield. I was listening to two young woman-talking shoes and spray tans. They slouched, legs akimbo, sharing an Ipod and cigarette. Their voices were unusually melodious. It was mid morning and I had an appointment at Batman at midday with a forty-something academic, having a crisis. After forty-odd-years he discovered that his life was complete nonsense. Frankly, I could have told him that this was a realization that hit us all eventually, but he wouldn’t have believed me. If he did nothing, concentrated on his garden, took up crosswords, his problems would soon vanish. He had been singing socialist folk songs from the age of six. He furthered his unhappiness by moving west to live with the ‘real people’. He subdued his monsters with whisky, rock bands, saving the world through responsible architecture and slaughtering his own livestock in his garage. I didn’t get the connection. He was too cheap to hire a proper psychiatrist and that’s where I fit in. One of his doctorial students recommended me; the outsourcing councilor. Four fifteen-minutes sessions later we seemed to be getting nowhere. It was like we were talking in different languages. Today, I would tell him there was no expedient prescription for happiness, bar acceptance of one’s shifting destiny.

The platform was super-crowded with people that caught the same train every day. Jacana is at the beginning of Zone Two; an inviting gateway to the filthy paradise that is Roxburgh Park and Craigieburn. These suburbs are apparently the new fertile spots for the social critics, palm trees slump in the heat from the hotness that comes with being a now suburb. In the newspapers academics are championing the virtues of Jacanas’ pizza shops and walkways over the railway tracks. The walls are camouflaged in brandalism, which is what gets the refugees from East Brunswick all high, horny and woozy. They ‘like’ the lethally complex geopolitical phenomenon that is Jacana. The train ground to a halt. A neon message flashed across the overhead screen, Trains running late are unlikely to make up time.
What else? More people than you think sleep standing up on peak hour trains. The whole episode is a little like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ after Alice had disappeared down the hole.

 I got off at Epping because the train was so crowded. I see a haze of grey. It smells like a rubbish barge, rotting fish and porridge. I have a cup of coffee in my hand. I’ve managed to find a seat on the empty platform, which is brilliant. It is amazing, I can buy an espresso anywhere and they all taste shithouse. Like dishwater made drinkable by lashing of sugar. That’s sophistication. I re-arrange my effects; stick my money and drugs in a coat pocket. My watch says 10:30 am. I feel rather smug about myself. I ponder the idea that I could make a television series about my new career as an outsourcing councillor. I think not. I guess like that guy that recently was arrested taking photos of girls’ undies by sticking a miniature camera on the tip of his shoes. How does someone wind up at that position in life when this sounds like a good idea?Like everybody else in this carriage my brain is a vacuum and my nose is streaming. The whistle sounds and the train pull out of the station. I sit back and enjoy the smells and unhappiness. Who farted?


The screech of the electronic doors closing sounds and the train pulls out of the station. Like everybody else in this carriage my brain is locked in a void and my nose is streaming. I sat back and absorbed the smells and unhappiness. Charles Dickens would have recognised this odour of the streets. I felt quite at home myself. As it happens, I have been reading 'The Lost Books Of The Odyssey' a remarkable take on the Greek saga. I also memorized every station between Flinders Street and Frankston.
Eva wasn’t impressed by my recall. “When did you become such an arsehole?”
I gave a little laugh. Eva is 26 years old. She was eight years into an Arts degree at Melbourne University and got knocked up. She is a regular customer. Who could make sense of that? I joked that I had Stockholm syndrome; I had come to love my clients regardless of non-payment. I gave Eva details on why she’s an angry person who has to accept this and be patient and let her feeling of anger pass. To illustrate my counsel I tell her the story of Odysseus. How Odysseus understood how weak human will-power actually was when he asked his crew to bind him to the mast while navigating beside the sirens.
Willpower was something you can never have enough of? 
Eva sat scowling and jabbing her arm repeatedly with a fountain pen till she drew blood. I grabbed the pen from her. I draw the line at self-harm.

Shrinks speak softly. They are low-talkers but they give great empathy. On your final appointment they usually make a short speech; “Psychiatry taught me that you have to come up with your own version of neurotic happiness. I'm never going to be a normal person. No one changes, no one gets better – once you make friends with your neuroses you can plan a life.” 
I might have to book into a therapist myself, a male psychiatrist this time my previous shrinks have been female. 
The start of winter and lack of light has flattened me out. I feel like I’m walking in custard. Thing is, I’m the best semi-retired counselor working in Melbourne.
On the up side my orange tree, which I have grown from, a foundling lying in the yard of a wrecked house is really fruiting up. Homegrown oranges are great, not so sweet, with a real tang. I’m reading many books, Russians & Eastern Europeans. 
I have written a new album of songs, but decided I will wait till next year before doing the rounds of the arts bureaucrats to hawk the idea of recording it. I am an older person. I take medication, but still get a little edgy. However, I am at heart a happy fellow.

 The train rumbles into Newport Station and an older man in blue cotton drill Yakka workwear sat opposite me. He wanted to know what the time was. Next he wanted to know what my nametag meant. I asked him if he wanted a session. I explained the first time it is free. He could talk his head off till Seddon for free. 
I ran my business like a heroin dealer. He didn’t think much of my joke. He looked at me like I was a lying sack of shit.

I gave my spiel: “The idea of these sessions are that they are dynamic and we can jump right into what your real issues are.”

He looked at me like I was a lying sack of shit“Let’s cut to the chase I’ve taken out a 12 week course at a gymnasium, to get fitter and lose a few pounds. I would like to meet some ladies. I am at heart a romantic.”
I interrupted,” Don’t give up at forty-nine hey.”
He smiled, he seemed genuine. 

I said: “I wouldn’t take it too seriously. I mean are you divorced? How long? Kid? Still got ya own teeth, frankly a young twenty-nine year old might be revolted by false teeth. I mean why would you go out with someone who would go out with you?”
I believed I was laying out the facts in a non-judgmental shape.

His face went white and all the colours seemed to drain from his face. “That’s just my opinion I’ve got almost ten years on you, my attitude might be different. I suppose you’ve tried the on-line agencies and the like?”

I handed him my printed card and clipped out a number on the card and gave it to him. “Same time next week, every seventh visit is on me. I shall put my mind to this.”

Seddon Station popped into view.Yakka Man stepped between the automatic doors into reality. He stopped, turned round and looked at me and waved. I snapped out of my trance. It was corny but reassuring; I had a new customer on the books.

I have been in analysis for a number of years and I am what’s called semi-retired. This summer I’ve taken to musing about wide-ranging topics that I know nothing about to strangers whilst on public transport. Knowing nothing has never stopped me before. It could conceivably help my patients and myself. I believe emotional recovery can be best served in a less officious surrounding and I think that shorter but more intense sessions can be fruitful. As a musician I made a name for myself by injecting a sense of moral ambiguity into pop music. But these days, institutional corruption and moral ambiguity are a given across all the arts.
Well, duh.
It’s sort of thrilling to have a real job-working freelance as an outsourcing counselor. My music career has been consigned to the bin for present. I did a six-week course at a TAFE. It was pretty thorough. Clearly, further study would be helpful, but I’m a rocker and shall learn on the job.
I was running late. I arrived at the Caulfield line and immediately had to make a decision, two hours or an all day card? I might go for a monthly, yearly, or even buy a smart card. I always ride in the carriage second from the front. I don’t know why.

My name is Stephen and I am at the age of 59 I am taking stock of my mistakes in life. For thirty years I was a musician a moderately successful one. I lifted black boxes and guitars from one car to another car to another room to another airport and city, world and well you get my drift. I made money and I lost it to hire car, equipment and travel agencies. My hair is silver.

Since my disconnection from social networks, and my loathing of peoples fascination for themselves and other strangers I have reacquainted myself with the idea of conversation and the talking therapy. Consequently, I work as an outsourcing counselor! My life has moved in a challenging new direction. Some division of some city mission project has hired me. Every day I meet my patients on the various lines. I don’t make appointments, you have to buy a ticket and get on board for ‘The Train Sessions’.

It was Montaigne, French nobleman that invented the journal. Supposedly, he was the first memoroirist, a recorder of times, good and bad. His diaries weren’t used to glorify his deeds and he contradicts himself over time. I can identify with this.

I no longer smoke but still worry about losing my balance in the shower and have made a conscious decision to cross roads at the lights and to use the rails when walking down stairways. I keep bathing and shaving to a necessary minimum.