country would be alright if Cheryl Kernot were alive
was my long-lost business partner, Bruce Possum, who tought me how to
do surveillance in a public place. Bruce specialised in the Half-Mad-Scientologist-With-Clipboard,
and the Spaced-Out- Sanyassin-With-Collection-Tin ... but that was in
Scientologists have better things to do these days. They are said to
be running California, or at least Hollywood, and they maintain only
a token presence of clipboard-wielding initiates at the corner of Castlereagh
Orange People struck me as being a sort of recognition code for lonely
singles from the Eastern Suburbs. A very Seventies thing. If you wanted
a fuck, you bought the guru's portrait on a medallion that dangled from
a necklace of cheap wooden beads; you wore orange clothes, and said
"hi!" to the next person you saw who was dressed like that.
But the Sanyassins have long since acrimoniously split and faded into
obscurity. These things happen, as they say in California.
one occasion, Bruce wanted to stake out one of Chris Skase's media events
dressed as The Wilderness Society koala, but I drew the line at that
-- there are some things a possum has to respect.
I always carry a big black name-tag with white lettering that says "ELDER
POSSUM" and in really small letters underneath: "CHURCH OF
CHARLES DARWIN OF THE LATTER-DAY BELIEVERS".
I have to stake out some public place thronging with people, I pin it
on, clutch my big black Filofax to my breast and stride towards passers-by
at random, grinning broadly.
can get away with this for hours. People avoid eye contact, break into
a trot, and change direction. You fade into a fog of avoidance you create
around yourself, until all that's left is a fleeting impression of a
salesman's grin, floating in the memory.
only drawback is that every once in a while some Baptist halfwit or
dopey New Age deist wants to dispute theology. I usually just tell them
that if they don't fuck off and stop bothering me I'll rip their balls
off with my teeth and stuff them down their throat. It's a solution
of which I'm not proud, but it works, and I know the Mormon Church has
spin doctors who are slick enough to handle the fallout.
nothing like this was necessary on Saturday morning as I bothered the
good folk strolling through Parramatta's Church Street Mall. They are
used to running through a picket line of Mormons, and one hapless Elder
was no trouble for them.
what had seemed like an inside tip-off, there was no sign of Democrats'
leader Meg Lees in the Mall. She had disappeared on Friday, after the
switchboard and the fax were jammed by incensed party members and even
a group calling itself "The GST Rejection Front", according
to the worried staffers at her office.
was a rumour she had gone to ground at a 'safe house' in Harris Park
-- a nondescript flat near the station, equipped with a bank of phones,
faxes and fast computers -- to call in all favours and fight for her
political life. There was talk of a secret rendezvous at the Cosmo Cafe
with a high-profile industrialist and of "saving her from herself"
and "getting to her before Stott Despodja does".
gave up on stake-out at 1.30 and caught the train home. Privately, I
didn't give a damn anyway, but the job paid well and Meg looked like
a mean mother who could look after herself.
turned up on Monday morning, as I had told her staffers she would, and
I went back to work on the Cheryl Kernot missing person case. What an
appalling irony, I thought. Cheryl jumped ship and joined the ALP because,
she said, she wanted to be part of stopping Howard's GST bandwaggon.
It was a bad call. She survived the jump and squeaked through at the
polls but then she disappeared into the black void the ALP reserves
for those who are not really of "The Tribe". If she had still
been leader of the Democrats she would have made her appointment with
in Whispers from the mean streets
-- Best of 1999