Between the majesty of the Parthenon and the joy of cohabiting with my coworkers/family, it felt like we could have stayed in that house forever. But if we’d stayed there forever, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Plus I would never have invented my own sport, Rage Ball. So I suppose what happened next Happened For A Reason: after only eleven months, we got the dreaded letter informing us the house was going on the market. We were out.
Around the same time, Tammy got the opportunity to move to Melbourne and took it, while Joel decided he would finally move into the house he owned and had been renting out for years. Zak and I ended up moving in with our friend Gaff, who lived literally around the corner, in a huge house he shared with his friend Amy.
The Parthenon was disbanded. But out of The Parthenon’s ashes rose something greater: The Ponderosa.
With a total of four bedrooms, the house was similar in size to the Parthenon, but differed in some ways. It was only one storey instead of two, didn’t have a tiered backyard or blushingly heavy lemon tree, and the front yard was sadly without a little-boy-peeing water fountain. However, it did have two lounge rooms instead of one, ducted climate control, and a solar heated swimming pool. So, you know. Swings and roundabouts.
The other major difference was that it had no Greek styling to it, so we couldn’t just call it Parthenon II. However, the kitchen was a weird colour of yellow, and the exterior of the house had this stucco scalloping all over, and the whole thing had, to the ignorant eye, a vaguely Mexican feel to it. And that’s how it became “The Ponderosa”.
The reason I describe this house in so much detail is because The Ponderosa holds the record for being the place I have lived the longest, which I feel requires some attention. I lived there for three and a half years. The closest contender to that record is the one year and eight months I spent in Tin Can Bay; less than half the length of time spent in The Ponderosa. This is a big deal.
After the first six months or so, Amy moved out. By some wondrous, perfectly timed, only-happens-in-season-finales-of-TV-sitcoms miracle, Tammy returned to Canberra and moved back in with us. 75% of my Canberra family were reunited.
By 2007, Sarah and I were into our third year doing breakfast radio for 104.7. As always happens when a radio show starts to lose its new car smell, we had to start upping the ante in terms of “big events”. To that end, February 2007 became “Face Your Fears” month: a month of Sarah and I doing stunts that involved phobias. I faced my arachnophobia by holding a scorpion (NEVER AGAIN), my fear of falling by being forced off a 10m diving board…
…and my fear of pain by what else? Getting a tattoo, in the studio, live on air.
After I got this tattoo I would loudly and obnoxiously tell anyone who would listen the same dumb joke over and over about how now Canberra FM could never fire me because I’d just shown such commitment and loyalty to my workplace. I had permanently marked myself for them. Technically they owed me for life. I was safe as houses! Untouchable! A platinum-level employee! And so on.
Do you see, perhaps, where this is going?
In April of 2007, the Sarah half of “Chris & Sarah for Breakfast” resigned. Commercial radio and commercial branding being what it is, without “Sarah” there was no “Chris & Sarah”, and so the entire show was iced.
In the space of one morning meeting, my six year friendship/working partnership with Sarah imploded, my career evaporated, and my sense of self worth plummeted. For six years I had been working at being an on-air comedian: first idly dreaming about it, then actively striving for it, then shaping my entire life around it. It had come to define my adulthood, and between 9:15am and 10:30am one April morning, it was all taken away.
I reacted to this change in my life the only way I could think of: I got super mad. I became a 24 hour sulk dispenser. Maybe all the teenage temper tantrums I’d neglected to have during my actual teens had came bubbling to the surface. Whatever it was, I spent the rest of 2007 careening down the slopes of a double black diamond hissy fit.
Despite the whole upending-my-career thing, the management at the radio station were exceedingly good to me. They found me another role on air, even though the usual course of action would have been to fire me. My new job was at the lowest rung of the on-air ladder; a battering for the old ego, having occupied the very top rung only days earlier, but it was better than unemployment.
Not only did the bosses at the radio station find a way to keep me on, but they said nothing during the extended period I spent a touchy, directionless, vibrating tumour of mournful anger. They waited patiently for six months. Only in the seventh month did they gently inquire if perhaps I wouldn’t mind acting like an actual human being in the workplace, please, as my endless stomping about was starting to dislodge the light fixtures.
I tried to channel my anger away from work, but the only other place I was ever at that wasn’t work was home. I channelled my anger home. And that’s how I invented Rage Ball.
Rage Ball involves two people standing in the pool at opposite ends, throwing a ball back and forth, aggressively complaining about life. As the game progresses, both the complaining and the throwing intensify, until eventually the players are simply pegging the ball at each other’s heads while screaming personal insults. Bonus points are available if, rather than hitting your opponent in the head, you hit the water in front of their face with enough force to splash chlorinated water into their eyes. The first person to rage-quit Rage Ball loses the game.
Note that the rules of the game only dictate how a player loses: nobody ever wins.
By early 2008, having run out of things to be angry about, and having broken all the available balls in the house, I’d started to pull myself together. And I’d started thinking about my career again, using contacts I’d made while I was still working in breakfast radio. Every TV station, radio affiliate and gossip magazine we’d ever done business with as a breakfast show, I was hitting up for a job.
Somehow, this worked: in June of 2008, I was offered a job at a weekly gossip magazine in the role of Website Content Editor. It involved a huge payrise and a move to Sydney. It was perfect. Life was back on track.
So, on June 30, 2008, I said goodbye to The Ponderosa, to Zak and Tammy, and to my Canberra life. I climbed into my dark blue Corolla, and I drove away. I might have cried all the way to Goulburn, but I was still excited. And I was ready. Ready to start my new, high-paying, fancy-as-shit life of success in Sydney.
So why, then, if I moved to Sydney in June of 2008, does the heading of this story imply that I was still at The Ponderosa until 2010?
Life wasn’t quite as on track as I’d thought.