We lived in this house on Abel-Smith Parade for quite a while. My baby brother, Tommy, was born in this house. Side note: if you’re a foetus and your mum has dengue fever, you are going to come out very early, and very sickly, and weirdly wrinkly…
…but with a bit of care, and a couple of weeks sleeping in a washing basket because cots are too big, you’ll soon puff right out and use up all your skin.
I have two distinct story-memory-things from Abel-Smith Parade, and I couldn’t decide which one to tell. So I am going to tell them both. One is whimsical; the other is…less so.
The first story will help explain why, to this day, I hate sad movies. I don’t find overt dramas cathartic, I find them distressing. And it all started living in this house, and it’s all Barbra Streisand’s fault.
So, it was 1991. The two lanes of Abel Smith Parade ran either side of a long, deep stormwater trench, which ran dry for the ten months of the year when there weren’t any storms (or rain at all, for that matter, what with Mount Isa being in the middle of a desert). The two lanes of road, the stormwater trench and the two chain link fences that traced the length of the trench acted as a border between the houses on my side of the street, and the giant discount supermarket complex on the other side, called Jack the Slasher (no, seriously), which also housed a few little shops, including a video store.
Apart from the broken gumball machine at the entrance to Jack the Slasher (no, seriously) which spat out mini-chewing gum pieces whether you put a 20 cent piece in the slot or not, the video store was my favourite part of that entire block. Every week, usually on a Saturday afternoon, I was allowed to go and hire videos. Sometimes I was given instructions for something mum wanted, but the “kid” selection was entire up to me.
During this regular routine, I think I rented every single Looney Tunes video they had at least once, and a few of them I got several times over. But on one particular Saturday afternoon, I was gunning to get one film in particular: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
I had been obsessing over it all day. Of course, because it had been on my mind, Saturday took FOREVER to pass. The long Saturday morning crept into a long Saturday afternoon at a glacial pace. But finally, the time came. The house had been cleaned, the yard had been tidied, the dog had been played with—I was finally able to go to the video store.
And so began my journey across Abel Smith Parade. I loved the way it was set up; it was like my own private obstacle course paid for by the Mount Isa City Council. Check for traffic, cross the road. Climb the fence. Slide down one side of the trench, scramble up the other. Climb the second fence. Check for traffic, cross the road. Then? Bypass Jack the Slasher (no, seriously), GO STRAIGHT TO THE VIDEO STORE AND RENT WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? AND THEN COME HOME AND WATCH THE SHIT OUT OF IT.
Because I was ten years old and had no perspective, as soon as I had grabbed the video case, given it to the teenager behind the counter so he could put the tape in, paid the two dollars for a seven day hire (two dollars! Back in my day…) and held the treasured case in my little hand, I wanted to watch it IMMEDIATELY.
Unfortunately, I still had to walk home. And within an instant the fun Mount Isa City Council sanctioned obstacle course became a NEVER-ENDING ARDUOUS JOURNEY OF TORTURE. I had to go all the way across the road, all the way over the fence, all the way down the stormwater drain, all the way up the other side, all the way over the second fence, and all the way across the second lane of the road, and even I’d still only be on the FOOTPATH. I’d still have to walk all the way up to my yard, open the gate, walk up to the front door and walk inside.
And even THEN I still wouldn’t be finished. I’d have to walk across the lounge room to the VCR, take out whatever videotape was currently in it, put Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in, then fast forward through the previews just to get to the delicious film itself.
It was going to take forever.
Seven months later (or possibly just four minutes), I was finally in front of the television, ready to watch the movie I’d been obsessing over for about twelve hours. The credits rolled…
…and it was completely unfamiliar. I couldn’t see Bob Hoskins (whom I was convinced at the time was just Phil Collins acting under a pseudonym) anywhere. And I don’t remember my beloved mad-cap cartoon caper having Barbra Streisand in it? Or Richard Dreyfuss? Why were their names coming up on the screen?
Because I had been given the wrong tape, and was actually watching the opening credits for the 1987 movie Nuts.
I was devastated. Appalled. I had waited all day for Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. I didn’t want to see Barbra Streisand “acting”. And by now it was past 4pm, and the video store had closed.
The entire weekend was ruined, and it was all Barbra Streisand’s fault. Her and the sad movie she was in. I’ve been against sad movies ever since. Because they ruin things.
Also—and please hold on for this magnificent segue—I had enough actual drama going on in my life to not need any fictionalised drama performed by one of the world’s most celebrated singers.
Because we still lived with Dale. The second story, the darker story, features him. Surprise.