Why? Why did we move to Boondall? Why did we leave the giant, marble kitchen-benched, closed-in backyarded, three-and-a-half mile long house on a corner block in Ascot—ASCOT, for fuck’s sake—for the northern wastelands of Boondall? Sure, it was another big house, but…it was BOONDALL. I’ve said the same thing about “Murgon” and “Doomben“: it’s all in the name. BOOOOOOOONDALL.
Once again, the horse-owning five-year-old in me was bitterly disappointed.
I may never know the reason why we left Upper Lancaster Road, and headed so far north. I can’t ask Mum about it, because that would mean reminding her of the time she was very nearly engaged to Nathan, and this reminder causes her to vacillate so wildly between hysterical laughter and near-catatonic horror that getting a straight answer out of her is impossible. So it will remain a mystery.
Though the move to Liaw Close did get me one step closer to living a fancy life like you see on the TV (apart from the very TV family sitcomesque house which, admittedly, I looked up on Google Maps after I wrote that first paragraph, and now regret being quite so aggressive about it). I found, at a second hand shop in the area, an old television that had been converted into a fish tank. I immediately bought it and set it up in my bedroom.
How is this closer to living a life like you see on the TV? Because Caroline from Caroline in the City had a TV fish tank. If there’s one role model I should have been emulating as a young nineteen year old suburbanite, it’s Caroline Duffy.
Did you see the fish tank? (Did you also see a pre-Gilmore Lauren Graham? Weird.) Anyway, even though I’d failed at living out of home, and failed at living in Ascot, all was not lost. I had a TV fish tank just like Caroline’s, and I had a hair cut just like Annie’s. A life like you see on the telly: I was on my way.
Turns out the people I’d bought the tank from had not, in fact, converted the old TV into a fish tank. They’d simply dropped a fish tank into a hollowed out TV and sealed it up. I’ll spare the details, but let’s just say it was easier to get a living fish into the tank than…the opposite of that.
I did not continue my Media Studies degree at QUT after completing the first year in 1999. I can’t remember exactly why, but I’m sure it was a combination of the course not really speaking to me, and me being exceptionally lazy with regard to assignments and studying for exams. On top of that, I was offered the opportunity to take up full-time hours at Tops!, the place I’ve already described as, to date, one of the best places I’ve ever worked. So, faster than you can say “teenage caprice”, I was a university drop-out and full time ride attendant of an indoor theme park inside a shopping complex. Man, if I was relying on the Caroline Duffy TV fish tank to make me a successful man of the world, it sure had its work cut out for it.
Look, I mock myself and my own stupid decisions, but in the very, very, very long run, it turned out to be great for me. Had I not been working the weekday shift at the Tops! ticket booth on a Thursday in September of 2000, I would not have been handed a flyer for The Actors Conservatory, a prestigious-sounding acting college in the city that, to my unending frustration, refuses to render its name with an apostrophe. Having already been burnt twice by two failed attempts to get into an acting course at university (both USQ and QUT rejected me, and I’ve retained a healthy grudge for both institutions ever since), I decided to audition for The Actors Conservatory as well, because chasing humiliation with further humiliation is like eating garlic after eating garlic: you can’t make it worse.
I prepared two monologues, a joke and a song, as per instructions, and performed all four in front of the Conservatory’s dean, in a room that was just a little bit too small for my comfort levels. At USQ and QUT, you audition in a giant auditorium. The panel sits high up in the seats and you’re left in the centre of the room with only your own echo for company. Here? I could look directly into the eyes of the guy for whom I was performing. It was unsettling. Thank god the garlic in the last paragraph was a metaphor; it would have caused some real complications in those close quarters.
The emotion in my monologues, the humour in my joke, and the fact that my song was quite short must have done the trick, because by October of the year 2000 I was enrolled at The Actors Conservatory, on my third attempt at earning a tertiary qualification. It had taken a few years, but I was finally pursuing something I’d really wanted. During the day I had a job I loved, in the evenings I had classes doing something I loved even more, I had my own bedroom with an arched window and my own cathode ray tube fish grave. What could possibly go wrong?
Two weeks after my first class, a memo was passed down to from the Myer Centre to the Tops! staff: the theme park was being shut down. It would be demolished to make way for a cinema. My income would soon be gone, and I would not be able to afford to keep attending classes.
Because when god opens a window, he closes a door. And then the window.