It has been an enduring honour to preside over the rise of so many young bands through the course of our career. We long ago sacrificed ourselves, like doomed Diggers spilling out of a World War 1 trench, so that those in our wake might enjoy greater opportunity. Future rock stars will make sombre pilgrimages to the Tomb of the Unknown Band, laying wreaths in memoriam to the ossified remains within. Our backs ache now with the combined effort of having afforded our peers so many generous stepladders over a thousand daunting walls. Never once as the ungrateful usurpers hurried away to success did we call after them in the hope of their returning to lower a rescuing rope that we might join them. To read the honour board of acts that once played beneath us on a bill is to wipe the dust from a list of lapidary inscriptions detailing nearly every Australian band that has played a note in the last 15 years. An engagement supporting The Fauves has become a rite of passage; the Schoolies Week of Australian rock.
So it was with filial pride that we watched from the back of yet another empty room as a new set of baby brothers took their first halting steps out from under our aegis and onwards towards fame. Our only regret lay in the size of the audience we had provided for the occasion, for it numbered not more than 30 and was distributed like matter 13 billion years after a Big Bang. Like a universe in miniature, this room was comprised almost exclusively of empty space.
Thus the delayed reaction to our show when later we took the stage. Doubtless the immense distances the music was forced to traverse in order to be heard meant that many of the tiny gathering are still to hear the conclusion of our set. I plan to focus a small radio telescope on the venue in around 5 years time just to savour the fevered calls for encore that must surely be only a matter of light years away now from arriving.
Tarwin Lower has always seemed an unlikely place for a rock gig. Nothing that we have ever undertaken within its verdant boundaries has rendered it any more likely. Occupying the broadacres along the banks of the Tarwin River, this small holiday village has functioned like a biosphere, a small-scale replication of the entropic processes that have visited us in the macrocosm beyond its cloistered civic limits. Once, 6 or 7 years ago, we played to an audience nearly large enough for the evening to have been declared a success. Each repeat visit, however, adhered steadfastly to Newton’s Law of Diminishing Audiences. A hospitality rider that once resembled the walk-in larder of a medieval king is now little more than a six pack in a bar fridge. Where the Bistro meal was once served compliments of the house, it soon attracted a nominal charge of $5. From there stagflation took over and prices took off like the Argentinean peso after a military coup. Our free lodgings, once a series of capacious and well-appointed local holiday houses, have latterly deteriorated to little more than a thin mattress on a dirty floor.
And yet the return engagements have continued. There can be perhaps no more telling epitaph to the enduring optimism of the human spirit. When the receivers finally close the business their damning financial analysis will focus heavily on the fiscal imprudence immanent in repeated contracts with The Fauves. Certainly our sheer bloodyminded longevity has played its role in the declining fortunes of the Riverview Hotel. Doubtless the 3 or 4 licensees who have presided over our tenure would love to have back the 15 grand they’ve collectively lost on us over the years.
Still, as we turn our backs on the great inner city venues of Australia, towns like Tarwin Lower assume an increasingly important role in powering the life support system of our career. In provincial Australia word has been slow to get out. Incredibly, news of our flagging fortunes has not yet penetrated every corner of the regions. Surely Telstra must stay in public hands while telecommunication standards in the bush remain this unreliable.
The winding roads of Mother Gippsland embraced us like the arms of an insane aunt. There were hairs above the lip, moles on the chin but no way out of kissing her. Doctor and I travelled in the station wagon of whose exhaust system he had only that morning resourcefully repaired with some rusty fencing wire. I remembered the car when he bought it in the late 90’s,a reliable family wagon of no little prestige. Now its torn upholstery, beer-soaked carpet and sagging suspension spoke poignantly of a thousand trips laden with musicians and their malodorous equipment. Still, a quiet dignity suffused its demise. Would that a modicum of that very same dignity fall to us in our decline.
Somewhere on the road behind us Ted and Doug motored with the precision of Germans along an autobahn. Having days ago eschewed the extravagance of soundcheck, the only exigency now lay in ensuring we arrived at the hotel before the cessation of meal service. The imperative was borne solely from the primitive urge to maintain caloric intake: the discerning gourmand would have surely supped before leaving home.
While the Gastro Pub revolution has yet to reach Tarwin, the Gastroenteritis one stormed its Bastille some years ago. Having guillotined any vestigial remnants of good taste, a new chef - this culinary Robespierre - quickly perverted the values of the revolution to his own ends. He rapidly instituted a new Terror through the departments of his dining room. The Ancien Regime that had stood unchallenged for years gave way to a Second Republic that set about providing dubious reassurance to the unadventurous diner. The vegetarian, for instance, can comfortably order his meal months in advance, certain both that the lasagne will always be on the menu and that the dish requires at least that amount of time to cook.
The only question then remaining concerns the accompaniment. In the best of pub traditions the patron has a choice between vegetables or the salad and chips. The salad is so full of microbial life it does the diner the courtesy of depositing itself on the plate, thoughtfully obviating the need to leave one’s seat. The vegetables, quietly stewing in their own death juices, now only exhibit the merest evidence of ever having been composed of organic matter. Rather, they have progressed so far along the decomposition scale as to be closer in molecular construction to crude oil. It must now be only a matter of time before the locus of international tension shifts from the Middle East to the kitchen at the Riverview Hotel where, as I write, the world’s largest reserves of Texas Tea are in the process of being laid down.
Doctor and I arrived first and called the rhythm section - with whom we share 98% of our DNA - that they might place an order whilst still in transit. Doug, an old hand at negotiating the Riverview menu, requested something with steak in it, confident at the very least that there would be a cow somewhere in the vicinity of the restaurant that could be slaughtered by meal time. Ted, however, was far from amenable to the proposal and demanded instead that he first be afforded the opportunity of viewing the menu for himself. This was like asking for a copy of the bible to check if the Ten Commandments had recently been updated. When Moses came down from the mount he bore the Riverview Bistro menu along with his tablet outlining the Lord’s peremptory instructions. There are Roman amphitheatres dotting the Mediterranean littoral bearing this timeless bill of fare chiselled in Latin onto the weathered stone. Ientaculum, Prandium, Cena - Cibus Malus. I took Doug’s order and bluntly told Ted that he could take care of his own needs. Upon arriving, however, he still managed to summon a chagrined huff at the fact that we had proceeded without him.
In the short time remaining to us before the arrival of our colleagues, Doctor and I sought an interview with the proprietor of the Tarwin Lower Motel, that we might secure ingress to our room. An unflappable fellow, he did not seem in the least perturbed by the prospect of his premises being overtaken by rowdy rock musicians. Doubtless our obviously advanced years softened the edges of any lingering concern. “The doors are self-locking” he called after us as we stole back into the night. “Remember to take your key with you”.
Presently we were seated in the hotel’s stately dining room listening for our ticket number like the faithful awaiting muezzin over a loudspeaker. At length a crackly voice issued forth and we faced Mecca in quick prayer that Allah might spare us a nasty bout of food poisoning. I bypassed the steaming bain marie, where the British Museum had arranged a small exhibition of the leftovers from Tutenkhamen’s first birthday party. Near empty bowls malingered ominously. The coleslaw had the appearance of vomit in a bowl of 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner. I scooped a large dollop onto my plate and moved to a platter of tomato and cucumber that had all the flavour of a bowl of ice at room temperature. Lastly I deposited a generous spoonful of potato salad next to my chips, concerned to re-stock my resources of the starchy tuber lest a potato famine strike before show time. The staff of life lay broken in a basket of stale rolls nearby. What miraculous feats of transubstantiation might consecrate these lumpen deposits into the body of the host? I took two of them and rejoined the table.
After dinner we made the acquaintance of our support band, The Sparrows. Our intelligence agencies had issued a sketchy security report that centred primarily on their preternatural good looks. Certainly the band were outrageously handsome, a matter brought into no small amount of relief when contrasted with the desertification of our overgrazed pastures. A series of awkward exchanges ensued; marked by the kind of exaggerated bonhomie that has fuelled a million backstage encounters. We all took great pains to make it clear that the prospect of a tiny crowd was of little moment to us, for surely there was a bigger picture at stake. Where a burgeoning young act like The Sparrows could legitimately maintain this bravado, from us it sounded forced. They after all, must needs take any engagement on offer, grateful simply for the opportunity to perform. We, however, had less excuse, here, broken, at the tail end of our career, desperately grasping at any gig that would have us.
We took our leave after double-checking the stage times lest we accidentally return too early and have to watch some of their set. The motel proprietor had managed to squeeze all of us into the one room, careful to save enough rooms so that the hordes of loyal fans preparing to descend on his establishment could be comfortably accommodated. This feat of interior design had required the introduction of an extra mattress on the floor. Ted thoughtfully provided me with directions to the makeshift flop and promptly collapsed on the room’s only double bed. Within minutes he was in a deep sleep, bored stiff by our dull converse. A deep chill cloaked the room and we demanded from the radiator ever more impossible feats of heat convection.
After several minutes discussing the unpalatable prospect of returning to the pub we each found some cutlery and began searching the room for available power points. Though it seemed a crime against nature, we soon rallied and reluctantly returned to the gig, certain now of finding the support busy at their labours. Sure enough the Sparrows were only minutes into their set, the tiny crowd’s modest appreciation fanning out like ripples washing onto the shore of a calm lake. Across a deserted dance floor our presence was doubtless easily discernible to the young men on stage. We immediately put our advantage to malign purpose, overtly leaning across to one another as if in earnest conversation about the merits of the performance taking place before us. The boys did not so much as strike a bum note under the Torquemadan scrutiny of our inquisition. They were tighter than post-election budget. Beautifully cut hair flopped across chiselled faces. These kids were better looking than an airbrushed graduation photo from Milanese modelling school. An impressive array of late model amplification backed them up like extras in a Robert Palmer video.
Long hours of rehearsal had honed a stage act that ran like the agenda at a board meeting. The young bands of Australia are nothing if not competent. Tickets are being bought, encores called for and albums sold on the basis of an invigorating standard of competency sweeping the industry. Rarely has such a high degree of competency been exhibited than that which was on show as we watched on. On the walls of rehearsal studios new advertisements are pinned hopefully to cork backboards. Rhythm Guitarist Wanted. MBA an advantage. Must Have Own Business Plan. The young bands have followed Jet like retailers following a major chain to a new shopping centre. This yawning corporate blankness provides the non-descript template around which to trace the facsimile of a rock career. Like an American tourist in Europe a band must assiduously tick off the boxes. Monday: Eiffel tower and 70’s haircut. Tuesday: Rome; Coliseum, St. Peter’s Basilica and credible record collection. Wednesday: bus tour through Tuscany - remember to jump around on stage like you REALLY mean it. Thursday: gondola in Venice and the retro rock sound. At length they finished and we milled around backstage telling them how great their set was.
Half an hour later we were on stage making fools of ourselves. Like a football team playing out a season when all hope of finals is gone we played without spirit, committing horrible errors and never once putting our head over the ball. Doctor played as though he knew de-listing at season’s end was inevitable. Ted, a high priced recruit, has been underachieving for years and will struggle to find room under the salary cap next year. Doug and myself were good ordinary performers, great clubmen but hardly the kind of players you build premierships around.
If any of us had cared enough it could have been a terrible humiliation, blown off stage like this by a young band with at least 16 years less experience. Fortunately we cared not and the audience, by now diminished by about half, bore the full impact of our indifference. Songs were started and quickly stopped when capos were discovered fastened to the wrong fret position. At other times one or other of us neglected to read the set list in descending order, blundering in on a different tune to the rest of the band. Irony was no buttress against this level of incompetency and we quickly fell into silence, speaking up only when one of us had an idea for cutting another number from the set. Somewhere the publican, a lugubrious, austere type of fellow at the best of times, was determinedly biting his tongue in concentration as he practiced throwing a rope over a rafter in one of the outbuildings.
Forsooth it was an inappropriately large sum of money that we were extracting from his treasury in exchange for our unwanted services. When, at the end of the evening, we sent Ted on his designated mission to hunt down the pay, it was with tightly clenched buttocks that we awaited his return. So Ted went over the top - a man to whom awkwardness is a concept as foreign as foreplay to a 16 year old - and managed to jemmy the publican’s colonic passage open long enough to extract most of our guaranteed fee. Unfortunately there had been a misunderstanding as to which party was liable for remunerating the support. The money Ted proffered in a neat white envelope was some way short of the guaranteed figure. “Why, those kids would be nothing without us”, I raged incoherently. “Tell them that when they can headline Tarwin Lower and pull 30 people to come back and see me. Until then Ted my loyal foot soldier…Go the fuck back and get the rest of our money!”
And so Ted went over the top again, running blindly through the mud and barbed wire while the implacable Turk took target practice. His legs, no longer steel springs but resembling something closer to frayed octopus straps, carried him on his stalwart mission with unwavering determination. It was a Croix de Guerre – nominated performance but the winner was Tom Hanks for Saving Private Ryan and Ted had to content himself with watching on stoically from his seat in the auditorium, smiling disingenuously whenever the camera alighted on him.
We returned to the motel and I emptied my backpack on the portico in search of the room key. The key, however, remained in the slot on the wall where I had left it some hours before, determined that the radiator not be allowed to slacken in its endeavours for want of electricity. Once more Ted went over the top, picking his way across No Man’s Land beneath the standard of a Red Cross to try and rescue the badly wounded evening. The motel proprietor had of course been at some pains to impress on us the importance of bearing the key before departing the room. It was now time to remind him of this importance by waking him from REM sleep at 2 in the morning. Doctor accompanied Ted as stretcher-bearer and together the two of them melted away in search of a night bell.
Upon their return they assayed a party developing in the adjacent room where the Sparrows were by now in extremely high spirits. Like Michael Jackson during school holidays at Neverland, Doctor coached the young kids in all manner of sick debauchery. One hand held a digital camera while the other inserted a bunch of semen – soaked tissues into his beckoning mouth. Next-door Doug and I took advantage of our roommates’ absence and made passionate love, Doug mounting me more assuredly than an ibex skipping up a Pyrenean peak.
When the European powers met at Versailles in 1919 it was with a resolve that world war must never be allowed to happen again. And yet, some 20 years, later it did. Likewise, as the proprietor of the Riverview hotel stuffed the last $50 note into an envelope before handing it grudgingly to Ted, it was with a similar understanding. The Fauves could not; nay must never be allowed in his pub again. And yet some 3 weeks later we were. It seems the mistakes of history are rarely learned.
The harsh reparations imposed on us after our surrender at the hands of Universal records in the late 90’s fomented a simmering sense of injustice. Brooding in exile, I wrote my masterwork, Mein Kareer, a trenchant polemic outlining my multi-layered policies for the Fauve people – economic opportunity, cultural hegemony and Fauvian control of all recording studios in the Sudetenland.
Central to this vision was the creation of a new band, a right-wing conduit that would channel the nationalistic ardour that defines John Howard’s Australia. What rough beast was this that slouched towards the Mornington Peninsula to be born? It was Pub Rock - this country’s premier all-Australasian cover band. And now here it was in Tarwin – underpaid, under sexed and under contractual obligation to perform 3 sets at the Tarwin footy club.
Joining Doug, Ted and myself in the Axis of Pub Rock were Dan and Natty, themselves no strangers to playing in failed original bands. Like Switzerland, Doctor had pleaded neutrality years ago and opted out. Participating in one unsuccessful band had somehow sated his masochism and he now asked for nothing other than to be left alone to catalogue his humiliations in private.
The footy club lay just off the main road into town. By the time we arrived it was nearly dusk and a heavy dew had descended over the playing arena. Still, it was all I could do to refrain from leaping the fence to prove that my damaging left foot had lost none of its penetration. Alas there was no interest in my dreary nostalgia and I quickly fell in to help with the loading. Inside the clubrooms the walls were heavy with yellowing newspaper clippings detailing improbable last quarter comebacks and famous victories. I fancied I could smell once more the liniment and I was momentarily 14 again, listening to the coach’s pre-game address and shivering with disgust as a middle-aged man massaged goanna oil into my inner thigh. Breaking from my reverie, I hurried to help set up the stage. It was imperative that we find time for a soundcheck, given that its primary purpose was to serve as the belated rehearsal we had consistently baulked in the weeks prior to the show.
One by one we ran through each song on our playlist, mincing dubiously through a verse and a chorus before moving to the next. Like Chamberlain arriving in Munich, however, it was all too late. It quickly became necessary to prioritise. As the songs featuring keyboard were our weak point, we re-directed our efforts, focussing on the piano intro to Khe Sanh in particular. It was here that we stood to lose the most if Ted were to botch this iconic opening figure to our de facto National anthem. If he had been Osama Bin laden dressed as Uncle Sam singing the Star Spangled Banner at the Superbowl in a Michael Jackson falsetto he couldn’t have been more offensive than his initial efforts. The prospect of a lynching lurked menacingly in the shadows. Again and again we ran that intro, Ted tinkling the ivories with all the facility of an elephant goosestepping through a minefield. At length the guests began to arrive and we reluctantly drew proceedings to a close. Trying to lift the mood, I declared unconvincingly that this soundcheck had secured peace in our time.
Hunger moved up on me like a spruiker out the front of a strip club. Large platters of cheese and cured meats now adorned every table. From a position on stage I fancied I smelt the distinctive aroma of Marcel Petite Comte, the famous Gruyere style hard-cooked curd cheese made in the mountainous Jura region of Eastern France. Closer inspection proved it to be cubes of Coon cheddar. No matter. I ate greedily and exhorted the others to finish what they were doing that we might make the pub before the 8pm meal curfew.
The meals at the Riverview had a familiar look, primarily as they seemed to have been reconstituted from our leftovers 3 weeks ago. The vegetable lasagne, however, was off the menu. Fortunately my culinary experience was in no way diminished, for the pasta that served in its stead was a mere genetic mutation or two away from its slack jawed, backwoods cousin. Close inspection revealed the lasagne – now petrified with age – to have been disassembled with the aid of a jackhammer and several hundred kilos of high explosive and rearranged on the plate masquerading as fettuccini.
Checking the vegetables in the Bain Marie was like attending a school reunion to see how everyone had aged. Name tags would have helped with identification, although not even dental records and DNA analysis could have unlocked the secrets of some of them. I imagined the chef emerging from the kitchen once a week, dipping an exploratory finger into the greying sludge quietly stewing before him and pronouncing it almost cooked. “Just a couple of days more”, he would declare while licking his finger, the thick French accent now broadened with a little South Gippsland strine.
A small holiday villa was located in the adjacent village of Venus Bay and it was here that we were to lodge for the night. It was a familiar purlieu, having housed us during the rehearsals for our album Footage Missing. That this angry, darkly forbidding LP could have had its genesis midst the paling-fenced confines of these Elysian Fields might seem surprising to some. The sceptical, however, must first account for the malign influence of an elderly neighbour who complained to the landlord that our musical sketches sounded like thunder and must at all costs come to an immediate halt. All of this in spite of our unalloyed languor; a work ethic that would have made one of Tennyson’s Lotos Eaters look like a beaver on an Australian Workplace Agreement. “There is sweet music here that softer falls”, I explained to the disgruntled complainant. “Than petals from blown roses on the grass, Or night-dews on still waters between walls Of a shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass; Music that gentlier on the spirit lies, Than tired eyelids on tired eyes;” It was no use. The rehearsal sessions were duly truncated and we filled the remainder of the week “propped on beds of amaranth and moly”, sinking piss and playing cards.
Local knowledge notwithstanding, Ted and Doug still managed to get lost on the short journey between the pub and our accommodation. Having bought several precious minutes I chose the master suite for myself, staking my claim in strict accordance with international convention – by putting my bag on the bed. Once the others had arrived we were already due on stage. They quickly deposited their luggage and we made for the football club.
There have been moments throughout history where music, place and time have coalesced into one glorious continuum; an ageless era. Liverpool in the early sixties; San Francisco and the summer of love; Manchester and Seattle in the nineties. Now, as we chugged through the opening chords of Mondo Rock’s Cool World surely another was at hand. The guests clearly understood the gravity of the moment, making their way to the dance floor like farmers gathering in a field at a UFO sighting. Planets aligned; oracles issued favourable auguries; stock market indices rose. We were back!
Of course a singular feature of the defining epoch is its brevity. By the time we had reached Mental As Anything’s ‘Nips Are Getting Bigger’ another great movement was over. I looked out from my slightly elevated position on stage as everywhere people receded into the recesses of the room. Where was the Edward Gibbon, breaking free from his quotidian labours compiling Rolling Stone’s Random Notes, who might document the History of the Decline and Fall of Pub Rock’s gig at the Tarwin Footy Club? What defiant apostate might set his censorious prose against the wanton decadence of a set that began with such promise only to fall, sacked, defeated and ruined after only six songs.
I ate some more cheese and watched on with barely contained envy as a room of rugged country footballers fell on the party pies and sausage rolls now circulating. Not for them the effete posturing of the indie musician. From a position high on my self-constructed crucifix I determined that my martyrdom would be the talisman that led the evening on towards a divine resurrection. Principally this centred on the procurement of more beer. The reason for this was manifest. As 4 of us inclined our heads together in construction of set 2 one of our number was missing. Sure enough, across the expanse of the room Ted was pacing, angry and distracted. Word reached our position that free alcohol was proving difficult to secure over the bar. It would not do to have our star languishing in such discomfit and Doug and I sped the short distance back to the Riverview in concerned silence. Fortunately, despite an almost complete absence of patrons, the public house was still open. Doug leapt from the vehicle as I parked, emerging presently with a carton of beer.
Set 2 followed a similar pattern to its predecessor – an initial flurry of interest from the audience followed by a long decline into ambivalence. It was like a new season of Big Brother. I looked over at Ted, now happy and only occasionally glancing across the stage to check the structural integrity of a small stockade he had constructed around the remaining reserves of beer. The great challenges still lay ahead of him: Khe Sanh for instance was not due until the last set. It was like sitting down at base camp to rest after several days march through the Himalayan foothills only to look up and see a blizzard blowing snow off the top of Everest.
I needn’t have worried, for the final bracket was a triumph. We were a magnet to the iron filings scattered around the room. Ted got within a couple of minor 7ths and an augmented fifth of the Khe Sanh intro and then sat back to play whatever keys his fingers absently alighted on. Thereafter followed “Run To Paradise’ - a room of footballers united in their affirmation of rock’s ineffable ability to marry the hell of heroin addiction with a 4/4 backbeat and an anthemic chorus. Dan and I dueted on Good Times; Dan as Michael Hutchence exhibiting a vocal range that would have set the ageless paramour’s ashes trembling in their urn.
While the band celebrated I busied myself with packing and loading our entire complement of equipment. Martyrdom’s wounds were still raw and bleeding as I lifted the last speaker box into the back of the van. Whatever self-serving claims I might subsequently have made to altruism, the truth was that my efforts were directed solely at ensuring the swiftest possible departure; the sooner that I might begin luxuriating in my stateroom back in Venus Bay.
However the stateroom would have to wait. No sooner had I rejoined my colleagues than I was advised that we were to be entertained at the request of one of our audience, a certain Vaughno. While Vaughno did not seem to be around to issue his invitation in person it would not have done to refuse such a generous offer and we drove the short distance to his estate in sanguine humour. Vaughno’s place was fashioned after the local style – welcoming and without pretension; it projected the warmth of a well-loved holiday house. Upstairs, where a large number of people had already congregated, the elusive Vaughan, hitherto a stranger to us, proved himself a generous host. The UDLs were from his own cellar and of a flavour I had not previously sampled. Large platters of the party food that had latterly sat incubating bacteria on the cloth-covered trestles of the clubrooms now occupied the greater part of a long kitchen bench. The compact living area continued to fill with arriving guests, all in high spirits and of a similarly well-disposed nature to that of our host. Granted it is some years since my name on the guest list was considered a pre-requisite to the success of any aspiring social function but I happily declared it to be the best party I had ever looked in on. In fact it would have verged on perfection were it not for the wretched soundtrack.
Several fruitless searches through Vaughno’s CD collection failed to turn up anything listenable. The music was all of the kind that has young conservative Australia in its thrall; proper, pretty and profitable – all Jack Johnson, John Butler and Missy Higgins. A small group of young women monopolised the stereo ensuring that Higgins’ fey whine dominated, sounding like it should have been busking outside a youth hostel in Earl’s Court. It was music to torch a house to. Music to snap and walk into a convenience store with an AK47 firing indiscriminately to. Music to initiate a military putsch to. Music to hate with an undying, eternal passion that wakes one in the night, drenched in sweat and asking to be handed a pistol from a drawer in the bedside commode. A generation whose parents burnt themselves to a crisp on the yellow slopes at Sunbury, swimming naked in the muddy creek and holding their unprotected ears against screaming speaker stacks now complimented themselves on their musical daring and wondered whether the property market would continue to rise. When Dave Dobbin slid unassumingly into the six-stacker I realised with regret that it was time to go.
Safely back at our rooms, we wound down around the dining room table while Ted detailed a familiar list of sexual proclivities. It was like watching a re-run of a favourite episode of an old sitcom. Sure you’d heard the material before, but there was something comforting in the anticipation of it, the reassuring sound of all the old words in all the old places. At length I retired to my quarters, leaving the door a little ajar that I might fall asleep to that endless monologue; the soothing lilt of that voice, lapping, forever, like the timeless ocean against an infinite shore.