I was forbidden from watching Heartbreak High, which really was deranged of my parents, since there were far worse things I could have been into at 12, like speed, blowjobs or Home Improvement. It was the nineties and Heartbreak High, or HBH as it was known by its die-hard fans, was the ABC’s top rating teen soap opera, a spin-off from the hit Aussie play-turned-movie, The Heartbreak Kid. Both starred Alex Dimitriades, who I later toyed with the idea of marrying, based on his performance in the series Wildside (in a promo for the show, he slid down a wall in the rain, crumpling like a tissue; I wanted to fold him up and put him in my pocket).
Lis Harvey doesn’t buy into other people’s idea of sexy. The 30-year-old Brisbane photographer launched her own underwear brand, Nico Underwear, celebrating simplicity and minimalism, because nothing else felt quite right. “I felt very strongly that there was a real gap in the market, between that really over-the-top lacy stuff or just like everyday Kmart two dollar cottontails or whatever,” she says. “There wasn’t really anything in between. And for me personally, I felt like I didn’t fit into any of those categories.”
Your friend has arrived from overseas, interstate or a ditch somewhere far away, and it’s up to you to show them the best your hometown has to offer. But where to start? And how to design a tourist experience, when you yourself have probably never been a tourist in your own hometown? Or what if, worse still, you make it a point of only leaving your house to take out the garbage and find your hometown a tedious hell hole that induces violent flashbacks? Well, buckle in, friend. Because everything old is about to become new.
Think with all five senses. The tourist experience isn’t just what you see. That’s the postcard experience, which, in my hometown, traditionally entails depictions of our main train station, a dead looking koala and women’s breasts. It’s also the visual diet of a psychopath and something I wish we would move away from. Sadly, that isn’t my call. Taking my friend around Chinatown was, however, and there she made smell memories that will last a lifetime. Remember: your friend is a human being with hopefully all five senses intact. Where will they smell, hear, touch or taste something extraordinary?
I generally like to make peace with my exes, since we once shared a life, or at least a large fries. But the last time I tried to reach out to one in particular, a guy who was so traumatised by our break-up, he fled overnight to Laos (no, I don’t get it either), my attempt to strike up a conversation on a train platform resulted in him panicking and running headlong into Federation Square. I had only wanted to express my well wishes and hope that he was still getting Centrelink payments.
“Because you’re a decent human being and you deserve that,” I said.
Clearly, he misread the situation, as he was apt to do in most cases, and there’s nothing much I can do for someone who refuses to communicate with government bodies. Still, where was my closure?
Do you know what I hate paying for? Everything. Because I’m a tight arse.
Obviously, paying for some things is unavoidable. Like shoes, underpants and Ant-Rid, since I can’t make these things myself. (Although, traditionally, I bypass the expense of underpants by not wearing any, as I’m generally wearing outer clothes anyway, and the whole concept is a scam if you really stop and think about it.) But everything else—food, most cleaning products, even one’s own home—can and should be fabricated from raw materials purchased at minimal or no expense. Because what am I really paying for? The majority of the time: literally nothing.
Of course, when I go out, I accept the fact that drinks and movie tickets are marked up by a thousand percent in order that the business in question can afford to operate, make a profit and not spit in my Coke. Yes, I even tip.
“But why am I paying a surcharge in order to pay on card?” I say. “I’m paying money, so that I can pay you money.”
HEAVY METAL IS A FORCE OF NATURE I’ve always loved guitar-driven music. But growing up in Indonesia, we were so limited to what made it to the one cassette store we had. I think our choices were Guns n’ Roses, Ugly Kid Joe and whatever. It wasn’t until I turned eighteen in Canberra that I went to my first hardcore show and it completely just blew my mind. It was this band called 4 Dead and it was a really quiet Tuesday night. There weren’t that many people at the show, but as soon as they came on, it was like a tsunami. Eventually that band became bigger and bigger, but at the time it was like, this is fucking Canberra. Why is this happening? So I think from then on I was very much, I have to learn how to sing like that. Seriously, I don’t know how, but I’m going to try.
LADIES ARE WELCOME I always felt really safe and really welcome at hardcore and metal shows. And I think a lot of women would agree. It’s an incredible feeling. I haven’t had a bad experience. There’s respect. I mean, you’ll always get creeps, but there’s not too many. And there’s a huge amount of trust. Especially if you’re in a mosh pit. But I never feel like anyone’s going to cross the line, because everyone has that sense of respect for one another.
STAYING TRUE My family and I never tried to be what other people were. We always just tried to be The Staples Singers. We never tried to be disco. Never tried to be anything but what we are. I think that’s what made us. Our sound was so unique. It comes from my father, Pops Staples, singing with his family down in Mississippi. And these are the voices that he gave my sisters and I to sing.
STAYING HUMBLE I’ve never believed in “star”. My sisters and I, we’ve always kept ourselves humble. And it’s the best way to live. I don’t care how high you go up, you’ve got to come down. So I prefer to stay at one level. And be happy. Today, I’m always happy. Nothing can bring me down. I am everyday people. There are no big I’s and little you’s. Everybody’s the same. I’m no better than anybody else. I’m just a singer that God is using. He gifted me with my voice. I didn’t just reach up and order my voice. It’s my God given gift. So I use it the way I know he would want me to use it.
GET A BIT ANGRY Sometimes the best stuff is produced when you’re kicking against something. Scotland in the past has had this great big chip on its shoulder. It’s been able to look up to England and blame it for stuff, which I think is kind of lame. But at the same time, when you’re anti-stuff, like anti-Thatcher, anti-Tory and anti-establishment, then it can be very fruitful. And movements like punk were completely justified.
REMOTENESS IS GOOD Pre-Internet and pre-mobile phones, it was very apparent in Glasgow that we were a country unto ourselves, especially the eighties and maybe the nineties. That was back in the day when it was a long way from London and people weren’t coming and going so much. There were a few [musical] roots put down in the eighties, but more sporadic elements. Back then, people still went off to London. But in the nineties, people started making records and staying in Scotland.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS (OR DON’T) We got kicked out of school. For us, it was almost like we wanted to prove all them wrong. We were just like, “We have to do this now.” And our rule was not to have a fall-back plan. I wouldn’t want to give that advice to any kid that gets kicked out of school. I don’t want to say, “Don’t follow your dreams,” but sometimes following your dreams no matter what can be kind of dumb. I knew what I wanted to do when I was seventeen, but we were really reckless and stupid and it could have gone really wrong. But we were stubborn enough to stick through and work really hard, even after seven or eight years of just straight failure. I just knew that we had something special.
PARENTS CAN BE WRONG In the States, all middle class parents are like, “You must go to university and do four years, no matter what.” Well, maybe some kids shouldn’t do that. What’s wrong with having a blue-collar job? People still need to do those jobs and they’re well playing. I probably wasn’t cut out for university and a lot of kids aren’t. I think it’s baby boomer mentality, where it’s like, “You’re all special snowflakes and you’re the best at whatever you do.” No, not everyone’s the best at what they do. I’m really into writing, but I’m probably a shitty writer.
Everyone thinks they’re a “nice” person. Well, nearly everyone. I’ve met a few folks who knew they were rampant arseholes and were really quite at peace with that aspect of themselves. I don’t know if that makes it any better, but it’s always nice when someone isn’t deluding themselves.
But what is “nice”? Nice is such an English word. It’s a quaint little put-down, it’s a sincere compliment, it can be sleazy, it can be vanilla and it can be code for just about anything. But at the heart of being a “nice” person is this notion that the buttermilk of human kindness runs through your core, your morals are square with the universe and you add an extra dollop of care whenever dealing with small children, non-killing animals and non-disgusting old people.
I’m a wog. And I can say “wog” because I am one.
My father, like many other wogs, came out on a boat from the old country (Italy) in the 60s. His father (my nonno) was an ex-soldier who fought under Mussolini and took a bullet in the butt for the Nazi cause. His mother (my nonna) is a homemaker who believes that God blew up the Challenger spacecraft because humans were trying to get “higher than Him” and blowing them up was his way of saying, and I quote, “Fuck you.”
So pretty much your typical wog family.
My father’s siblings all married wogs, producing lots of little wogs, including me. (Although, technically, I’m only half-wog. My mother is a subtle blend of strong-jawed Norwegian and miscellaneous British convict, which didn’t wash so well with the rest of the wogs. Whenever it was explained that she was “australiana”, they would either wince as if they’d just ingested gas or appear crestfallen and say, and I quote, “I’m sorry.”)