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There's Just All Kinds of Stuff Going On
Heavily Speculative Nonfiction. Like a photo essay if the photos weren't very good.
Bridget is Unreal
I found this on a stretch of footpath that doubles as a bus stop for some of the least spatially aware high schoolers in the whole entire world. Seriously. I’m talking bags on thoroughfares. I’m talking yo-yo’s that almost take your eye out and sullen teenagers sitting in a circle take takes up the whole path. It’s like they use the scientific calculators in their pencil cases to work out exact mathematical maximisations of the inconvenience they can cause to pedestrians, then all shove deafening punk music into their ears and stare dead-eyed into the middle distance so that you can’t get their attention with sound or sight. Unbelievable. I used to get the bus here myself—but I have no memories of any particularly spectacular Bridgets.
In case the picture doesn’t capture it, this graffiti wasn’t opportunistically written into wet cement. It’s actually been carved into the dry concrete, with a rock, or maybe an apple watch, over a period of months or years. The obvious explanation is that it was done by a girl called Bridget with high self-esteem and a lot of time on her hands—clearly biting off more than she could chew with the name and then, once crippled by the RSI, describing herself with a much smaller script. But why “is unreal”? Why not “is great” or “was here” or “is obviously totally unaware of her surroundings”?
I like to think that Bridget, whoever or whatever she is, is literally unreal—a spectre, maybe, a ghost of a former student, haunting this pavement where kids get the bus. Strange, spooky things happen here. I’ve seen it. Inexplicable car crashes, a loose chicken, an opal card catching fire for no earthly reason. But that’s a story for another day.
The Worst Library in the World
If you can’t quite make them out, these books are: A practical guide to buddhism, The Wizard of Oz, and Kitty Flanagan’s autobiography Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies.
An eclectic mix.
I found them in a local playground, which is a pretty weird place to dump them because kids, as a general rule, aren’t super into buddhism, Kitty Flannagan, or books of things they could just watch the movie of. A sad indictment of the youth of today.
Maybe they were left here on a stormy night in the hope of a kind of Frankenstein situation? Imagine if you could combine the sharp wit of Flanagan, the magical wonder and confusing moral lessons in the land of Oz, and practical techniques to be more zen—with a timely bolt of life-giving lightning, you could have something of a superbook on your hands!
But, look, I don’t care what metaphysical literary experiments you’re mucking around with in your spare time, just please don’t treat your books like this. They look very sad when they’re wet. Like cats.
Scalped TV Remote
Personally, but you obviously don’t have to, it’s not like I’m like actually deranged or anything but, you know, from time to time, I do empathy exercises with the inanimate appliances in my life. To make sure they’re doing okay, and that I’m enabling them to perform at their best. It’s not weird. For example, if I listen closely to my keyboard, is it trying to tell me that there are some crumbs jammed in the F-Key? That’s a pretty normal and smart thing to do. How would I feel if I was the rice cooker, and what volumes of water and time constraints would help me produce a faster, fluffier final product? Makes sense to me, no lunatics here. And if, on occasion, in the privacy of my own kitchen, with the blinds drawn, I spend a few minutes meditating on the hardships of the microwave while spinning slowly, shining a torch light in my face, making buzzing noises, what’s so crazy about that? You can learn a lot about your microwave if you spin a mile in its shoes.
My point is… Well I’m not sure I’ve really got around to my point yet. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like to imagine that a TV remote’s perfect Sunday is pretty similar to my perfect Sunday: lots of television, firm button presses, not fucking around with different inputs too much. Thanks to my inanimate appliance empathy drills, I can tell you with some confidence what a TV remote wouldn’t want, and that’s to be barbarically flayed and left to rot in the gutter.
I’ve been frustrated with a remote from time to time, sure. We all have. Maybe it’s laggy. Maybe it’s inexplicably not sending any signals to the receiver. Everyone knows that the proper thing to do when frustrated by a remote is to smack it against the palm of your hand a couple of times to let it know you mean business. Failing that, you change the batteries. Failing that, you ask your dad/significant other/most patient co-inhabitant to just please fix it already, so we can flick between the cricket and the tennis without walking over to the TV and pressing the little buttons like an animal every five fucking minutes.
How, but more importantly why, would a person monstrously strip a remote of its very purpose for existing? And what of its carcass, its buttonless shell? The inhumanity of humankind will never cease to abhor me.
Dude, Where’s My Car?
This sticker is on the backside of every “Clearway, No Stopping” sign on Pennant Hills Road. If you can’t read it, it says, “If you think your car has been towed, call 131 700.”
I know enough about internal marketing/copywriting processes to be sure that the wording of this sticker has gone through many drafts. That means that likely a whole team of people at various levels of seniority would have read and approved the use of the word “think”, which is weird. It’s just not really necessary, is it? Car towing is binary, a 1 or a 0—adding the word “think” makes the whole thing needlessly philosophical, because like, woah, what is thought anyway, you know what I mean? And also, who illegally parks in a clearway, returns to see that their car is gone, and then stands around being unsure of what’s happened? Does such a person really deserve to get their car back?
I am entirely confident that on the other end of the 131-555 wire is an overworked, undervalued public servant who does not have the time for their fifth existential crisis of the day.
‘Hi, umm… you know, I’ve just been meditating on my scenario here and, well, putting it all together and really reflecting and, yeah, I... I really think that I think that my car has been towed,’ you’d say.
‘Ugh,’ the crackly voice would shout back, ‘You think it’s been towed or you know it’s been towed? I got a lot of paperwork here, Descartes.’
Duck Duck Gus (Ha!)
I don’t live near any naturally occurring bodies of water, so seeing a large young family of ducks attempting to cross all six lanes of Pennant Hills Road was a hard one to get my head around. When I told family members and coworkers how I’d seen the 10 ducklings plus parents waddling, very cutely, into mortal danger, quacking at the traffic, they seemed to unanimously agree that it was my job to fix it. And fix it quickly. So that the cute little ducks didn’t die. Which would be my fault.
That is how I found myself sprinting down the middle of my street in the height of the lockdown armed with a laundry basket. I’d been told by a trusted vet that ducks have “no weapons” with which to hurt me, and because of the kind and reasonable laws of nature all I needed to do was scoop up a few of the little tykes into the basket and the whole family would merrily follow me to paradise.
Serious doubts about my ability to do any of the above were ultimately moot. By the time I got back there the ducks were gone. The only evidence of them was the copious—I mean, copious—I mean like actually so copious it was almost hard to believe—copious (!) amounts of sour green duck shit, carving a traceable path across the road and into a property that has a pool.
I still sometimes see an increasingly smaller troupe of increasingly large ducklings waddling between the street’s front-strips. And everywhere I go I see their shit.
A weird place to end.
Here’s a collage of just some the photos I didn’t include in this final email. Initial drafts were 30 pictures and 4000+ words long, at least half of which were about gangster slugs. But I took all that out. You’re welcome.
These photos were all taken during Sydney’s long and largely monotonous lockdown. When so much is familiar on a daily walk in the same mask on the same routes on the same grey streets at the same time each morning, moments of absurdity started to stand out. And the more I looked around, the more I saw—which is just, I guess, kind of obvious. That’s how eyeballs work.
Curiosity may well kill cats, and it might not have done Marie Curie any favours… but a curious morning walk up and down my boring old street, a place I thought to be uninteresting, was one of the great joys of the lockdown. I think it kept me sane. It is actually very interesting to be alive.
But anyway, hit the heart icon at the top if you liked this email. And if you took or take pictures of things that you find curious about the world, please feel free to attach and reply to this email, because I’d love to see them. And go find These Stories Are Not Real wherever you get your podcasts for some weird audio stories. Thanks.