Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Thursday December 16 1971. 

The odd thing was that even though we had travelled hundreds and hundreds of miles in a straight line, we could not continue to proceed straight ahead at Norseman.

We had to turn left or right. It’s the world’s biggest T-intersection. You turn right to go to Kalgoorlie which is directly north, or left to go to Esperance, directly south. They are both, of course, hundreds of miles away. Check it out on the map. It’s bizarre. Or, with roads shown, here.

Imagine the arguments people would have sitting right there at the Norseman T-intersection:
- Let’s go right.
- No, let’s turn left.
- I wanna go right.
- Well I want to go left.
- No, right. To Kalgoorlie. It’s only a hundred and fifty miles away.
- No, left. To Esperance. It’s two hundred miles away, but there’s water! And Kalgoorlie’s in the fucking desert! And I am over the fucking desert!
- But Kalgoorlie is closer to Perth. And we’re going to Perth.
- You can go via Esperance. I hear it's pretty at this time of year.
- Well, we’re going via Kalgoorlie. If you don’t like it, you can get out and walk.
- If you're going to be like that, I will. Bastard.

Door slams. From outside car:

- And fuck you! And fuck Kalgoorlie!

Steps crunch away through the gravel. Squeal of tyres, receding into the distance.

- (shouts) No wait, I was only kidding, Kalgoorlie’s fine ... I love the desert. I love it!!! I love dust as well!!

From inside the car:

- Fourteen hundred fucking miles of that and I’m free at last.

(We didn’t have this conversation, I just idly wondered how many people did, as we sat at the intersection waiting for several road trains and half a dozen cars towing caravans to go past.)

We turned right. Our plan was to go to Perth via Kalgoorlie, then return via the south route, passing surf beach Margaret River, travelling through the giant Karri forests in the south west corner of Western Australia and back along the whaling coast via Albany and Esperance. On a map of Australia, our finished trip will look like a giant dessertspoon.

Some time after turning right out of Norseman, I fell asleep as usual, head against the car window, pillow under my neck, idly listening to my cousin’s cassette player hissing and popping and clicking in between playing taped music.

I started dreaming straight away and the chattering cassette player music insinuated itself into my half-awake, half-asleep dream; just as, at school, the droning of my teacher would so often become the soundtrack to so many nodding afternoon dreams. I dreamt I was at school and my teacher was droning about mathematics or Australian history or having to bring two dollars for tomorrow’s excursion to the city or how no-one pays attention to him any more or why we needed to listen up and not talk among ourselves or what next week’s essay would be about or his life story in detail for that matter. The car bounced and I snapped awake and realised where I was. Not at school, but in the middle of the desert – and I felt a sudden surge of emotion, an ecstatic blend of excitement mixed with the relief of freedom, like a caged bird on an open windowsill facing outwards. Kind of the opposite to how you would feel if you were dreaming about running free through the landscape of your dreams, the green forests of your forefathers, the dales of home; only to wake remembering you had just been jailed for life and would never see the sky again. And so - on and on - my thoughts wandered, just like this paragraph, as we wound our way north through more desert on the way to Kalgoorlie, heart of the Western Australian goldfields.

On my cousin’s cassette player:

summer breeze makes me feel fine
blowing through the jasmine in my mind
summer breeze makes me feel fine
blowing through the jasmine in my mind

is it time for a nap yet? i think so

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