61) December 2016-January 2017. Algester, QLD 4115

So this day was always going to come. That I managed to stay in High Street Thornbury for the whole time I was publishing this blog, all through performing the show adaptation, up to almost Christmas 2016 was in and of itself a miracle. Two and a half years I lived there, the second longest amount of time I’ve spent in any one house!

But it’s happened.

Portrait of the artist with all his shit packed up into three bags

Portrait of the artist with all his shit packed up into three bags

I’ve moved again.

Twice!

However the rule of this blog is one story for every address so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One at a time.

In June 2016 I went on a holiday to New York. For the fourth time. Since 2005, I’ve been overseas five times—six if you count New Zealand, but I forgot to buy ingredients for Kiwi Dip to bring home and I didn’t even get jet lag so I’m disqualifying the whole trip—and 80% of those times I’ve been to New York because I’ve loved it so much. People used to scoff at me when I said I was going to New York again. “You know there are other countries in the world, right?” Yes but none of them have General Tso’s chicken so cram it.

tso

By far the best thing about America DO NOT @ ME you know in your heart I’m right PS watch the General Tso’s documentary on Netflix

On this fourth trip to New York, after eleven years of coveting the city quietly (*loudly, to anyone who would listen, almost non-stop), something was different. I was tired of coveting quietly (*loudly, to anyone who would listen, almost non-stop). I was tired of wishing and dreaming. After many long discussions with Tracey, a woman I’ve known since my first trip in 2005 and my dearest NY friend, I made the decision: I was going to move there.

I spent the next six months quietly (*loudly, to anyone who would listen, almost non-stop) planning. Researching visas, talking to an immigration lawyer, working multiple extra jobs to raise money (my record was four jobs at once; I was very tired), ruthlessly culling my belongings. By December, I was ready.

My visa, however, was not.

So I did what any self-respecting adult would do when they find themselves in a brief limbo: I moved in with a parent.

And that’s how I, at 36 years of age, lived with my Dad for the very first time.

Thank you, Google Maps for providing a heavenly nimbus for the last house I ever lived at in Australia.

I wrote on another blog how this was a thing that nearly happened when I was 12, but then didn’t. I won’t rehash it here, because I already wrote it and went to therapy about it, but it’s there to read if you need a recap. Plus I don’t want to bog down in the negativity of why I didn’t live with my Dad until I was 36. I want to be positive and focus on how lucky I am! Not everyone gets a do-over 24 years later!

Okay, so it was only for a month, and for the entire time I was there, two giant suitcases sat in the corner of my bedroom containing all my worldly possessions, giving the whole experience a distinctly surreal quality. But still. It counts.

Dad and Fran have been living in the same house since the early 1990s. This house and my Uncle Ken & Aunty Sharon’s house in Capalaba are the only two houses that have been a constant since my early childhood (and even Ken & Sharon demolished their house and built a new one, so technically it’s only the lawn that has been constant). It was comforting but very odd, after a lifetime of new addresses, to go back to a house that has barely changed since I was 10.

Here’s what I learnt: living with a parent at 36 is not much different from living with a parent as a child. I was fed almost constantly, my clothes were always washed and folded and left on my bed, and on weekends I did jobs out in the yard.

Of course, the whole time I was there, a cloud of uncertainty hung over my head. I had no idea whether or not the visa allowing me to move to New York was going to be approved, so I was stressed and anxious the entire time. It took a physical toll on me: I was not sleeping well at night, so I was napping during the day, and sometimes I was so moody I didn’t speak for hours at a time. I guess for Dad and Fran it was like having a teenager in the house.

And then, on January 18, 2017, I got the news: My visa had been approved, and I was moving to New York. So on January 21, Dad and Fran saw off their adult son as he moved halfway across the world.

Christopher, Dad, Fran

Me, my dad, and my dad’s partner of 20-something years, Fran. Getting the two of them into a photo is like trying to get a photo of the Loch Ness Monster, but clearly the emotional weight of an offspring’s emigration eclipsed their preference for maintaining near-mythological status.

All in all, they’d had the kid version of me, the teen version of me, and the adult version of me. We squeezed the whole experience into 32 days!

(I mean, Fran certainly squeezed a lifetime’s worth of ironing into 32 days? You haven’t lived until you’ve put on a pair of ironed underpants. The only thing of mine she didn’t iron was my shoes, and I bet you a dollar she was thinking about it.)

I’m so glad the last thing I did before I left the country was spend Christmas with my mum, sister, brother, brother-in-law and new baby niece, and then spend a month living with my Dad. It gave me a nice closing chapter before I said goodbye to Australia…

…to start a whole new chapter.

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50) 2004. Guildford Road, Kelvin Grove (Brisbane) QLD 4059

It had been over a year since I’d moved out of home for the third time. This time it appeared to have stuck. It had also been nearly four years since the first, disastrous attempt at living alone in my own place, so I figured it was time to give it another try. I’d gone from living in a suburban family home to house-sitting a mansion to very slowly collapsing down the side of a mountain to a fancy Ascot apartment: going solo was the next frontier. My friend John, who also worked at the radio station, had just been offered a job in New South Wales, so I took over his lease and moved into a lovely little apartment in Kelvin Grove.

tuscan

“The Tuscan Quarter”. This name is a complete misnomer. There is precisely one Tuscan thing about this entire building: the word “Tuscan” written on it.

Kelvin Grove is a nice suburb—walking distance from the city—but I was in an odd pocket of the neighbourhood: I lived directly behind a funeral home, and diagonally behind a KFC. The atmosphere was…odd.

guildfordmap

“What is that DELICIOUS smell?” *flings open curtains* “Ohhhh now I’m sad”

The building was two storeys high; each consisting of three apartments in a row. Underneath the two storeys was a row of six garages. I was fortunate enough to have the garage at the end of the row. No, not fortunate. The other one. Fucked. I was fucked. You see, to get a car into any of the garages, you had to drive parallel to the building down the narrow driveway and pull a magnificently tight 90 degree turn at the last second to ease into your designated garage. On top of this, the garage doors were manual and opened outwards, so in fact before your magnificently tight 90 degree turn, you had to stop the car, get out, open the garage door, get back in the car, magnificently tight 90 degree turn, park, get out, and close the garage door. This seemed like all too much work for the other five residents, so they usually would just park against the wall on the other side of the driveway, right in space I needed to get my car in and out. My car was a great hulking 1981 Holden Commodore station wagon: roughly the size of a Texan hearse, magnificently tight 90 degree turns did not come easy to it. I needed every inch of space available to steer that cow, so all it took was one car parked along the driveway where it didn’t belong and I would find myself blocked in.

Being quite timid and deathly afraid of confrontation or conflict of any kind, I would normally do nothing about it. If, upon readying myself to leave for work, I noticed that I was stuck, I would simply set off on foot, calling ahead to let work know I would be late. Sometimes I would catch the nearby bus. For months this went on, and I realise this was a mistake, because it taught the other five tenants that parking in the driveway was NBD, because the guy whose door they were blocking never seemed upset by it.

Meanwhile, over the past 18 months, Sarah and I had slowly been working our way into an increasingly prominent on-air role at the radio station. “The Hot Tin Roof” had gone from a two hour show at midnight on a Friday night, to a two hour show at 10pm on a Tuesday, to a three hour show on a Saturday morning. We’d also become the regular fill-ins for the breakfast show, meaning we had a regular weekday breakfast spot three or four times a year.

FullSizeRender

The Hot Tin Roof with Chris, Sarah & JP*. Yes, Sarah is in her pyjamas: we had to get up VERY early.

The first time one of these breakfast spots came up while living at The Tuscan Quarter, I panicked a little. Four weeks of 4am starts. This meant no buses, and no extra time to walk. I just had to hope that nobody would park in the driveway during those four weeks.

Helpfully, I stuck a sign to my garage door. “Hi! Please don’t park in front of this door: my car is a giant station wagon with no power steering and I can’t get it out if your car is parked there, and I’m about to start early morning shift work. Thank you!” It was polite and inoffensive. If anything, it was a bit naff, but I hoped it would do the trick.

On my VERY FIRST MORNING FILLING IN ON A CAPITAL CITY’S NUMBER ONE RATING RADIO STATION BREAKFAST SHOW, I found myself blocked in, and I didn’t know whose car it was. I was so upset that I was at risk of screwing up one of the greatest career opportunities I had ever been given, I did the only thing I could think of: I honked my horn.

Well, “honk” isn’t really the right word. To describe it more accurately: I hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonked it. It was about forty-five seconds of long, continuous honk, at 4:15am. And 1981 Commodores do not have pretty sounding horns.

My entire life, I have endeavoured to be good. To not be mean, or demanding, or troublesome. But for those forty-five seconds, I was a total fuckbag.

If you accept that previous sentence is true, then what followed was a complete cock-up on the universe’s part: the only person awoken by my fuckbag honking was the very person whose car it was. He opened their apartment door, saw the situation, and immediately without a word, moved their car. Not a single person in the building ever once admonished me for the honking. It wasn’t even acknowledged. But for as long as I lived at The Tuscan Quarter, no one ever parked me in again. So, essentially, being a fuckbag got me exactly what I wanted.

I wish I’d been smart enough to take that lesson to heart. I could be a magnificently wealthy, successful, feared and respected fuckbag by now.

:+:+:+:+:+:+:

*While Sarah and I were a duo, “The Hot Tin Roof” was always a trio, because neither of us ever learnt how to actually panel the studio desk. We needed an anchor. The upshot of this is every other announcer on B105’s payroll was lumped with us at least once, tasked with doing all the stuff we had no idea how to do, like pressing buttons and telling the time. Over two years, we were “The Hot Tin Roof with Chris, Sarah and…” Matt, Buggy, Jordo, Deano, JP, Kez, Whippy and Lowie. (Yes, I had a favourite. No, I won’t tell you who.) Of these TEN people, only three still work in radio, and none of those three work in regular on air roles, which I think makes The Hot Tin Roof the Ted McGinley of radio shows.

49) 2004. Upper Lancaster Road, Ascot (Brisbane) QLD 4007

The Black Thunder team at B105 in the early 2000s was a dream team. When your job is to drive around in a promotional vehicle all day, stopping only to give out free stuff, you can’t help but have fun and bond with your coworkers. Even though some shifts started at 2am, and some shifts ended with every stitch of clothing and hair follicle reeking of sausages (from the mass-scale barbecue we put on), and some shifts had both those elements, it was still a blast. Okay, it didn’t feel like a blast at 11 in the morning when you had already worked nine hours and smelled like a butcher’s bin, but still. We were a tight-knit group, and pockets of that group remain friends to this day.

The Black Thunder Pilots (yeah, that’s what we were called) were identifiable by their code names. All names were bestowed upon us by the station’s drive announcer, Deano. They were usually a pun on a popular artist of the time, or sometimes a pun on the person’s name. Sarah (my Bardon housemate) was “Miss Demeanour”. Sarah (my radio co-host) was “Goo Goo Doll”. Jonnie was “Buff Daddy”, on account of his spectacular muscles. Gemma was “Atomic Kitten”, but when the actual Atomic Kitten stopped being a thing (look, it took us all by surprise how short-lived they were) she successfully campaigned to be renamed “Gems & Gravy”. Pete was “Scooter”, Zoe was “Sugababe”, Jayce was “Basement Jayce”, Andy was “The Apprentice”, Mark was “Marky Mark” and Dave was “Just Plain Dave”. Okay so there’s a chance Deano had run out of ideas by the end, there.

Me? I was “Ludachris”, and laugh if you want, but I loved the shit out of my code name.

Ludacris

same, tbh

With Sarah—sorry, Miss Demeanour—having moved out, there was not much reason for me to stay at the Bardon Spider Terrarium/Snake-Specific Possum Buffet. So when one of the other Black Thunder pilots mentioned he had a spare room, I was in like a flash. Not only did it give me the opportunity to move back to *hairflip* Ascot, where the fabulous people lived, but it also meant living with another teammate, which was just tremendous.

Ah, Lancaster Towers. Our apartment was the one on top. And yes, Upper Lancaster Road is the same road I lived on last time I lived in Ascot. This block of apartments was twenty metres away from the old Mansion of Lavender Doom.

To protect the identity of my housemate, as I have done with other names in this blog, I won’t use his actual Thunder name. I’ll make up a new one that’s in keeping with the theme of the others. To do this, I have consulted the ARIA charts for 2004, and the best option for my housemate’s name is…Milkshake.

milkshake-kelis

*unevenly timed “ting!” noise*

Milkshake kept a meticulously clean apartment. Which was surprising considering how much time he spent drunk. Milkshake was gregarious; it was his best quality (his dancing was his second-best quality). Milkshake literally believed that a stranger was just a friend he hadn’t met yet. The upshot of this is if he spent a night out on the town, which he did a lot, he would return home with at least half a dozen people he’d met, and invited home to hang out. To know Milkshake was to be continually meeting new people. Now, as someone who finds the idea of meeting new people terrifying, this was nerve-wracking and frustrating. But: I can safely say that I was never, not for one second, ever bored in his presence.

One morning I came out of my bedroom to find our lounge room floor covered in South American tourists, all sleeping off the previous night on the floor. How long had they been there? Who knows. How long did they end up staying there for? Don’t know that either: I left, because it’s surprisingly hard to watch TV with ten strangers strewn about the place like drunk, snoring confetti.

Milkshake’s wild nights out were kind of an adventure through which I could live vicariously, and I enjoyed that. However, sometimes he and I were rostered on to do the same shifts at work, and then it wasn’t quite as adventurous. Well, no, it was still adventurous, I just reacted more bitchily to it.

The worst was the day Milkshake and I had to do an early shift: it was a 5:30am start. At 4:30am I woke up and showered. On my way back from the bathroom, I noted that there had not yet been any movement from Milkshake’s room. He had been out the night before, and I’d gone to bed before he’d come home, but he wouldn’t have been out all night, right? Surely not. He knew we had work in what was now forty-five minutes.

By the time I’d dressed and put my shoes on, it was 5 o’clock. I was going to have to abandon Milkshake and go to work alone. I headed out into the lounge room, and noticed that the front door was wide open. I’d tried to keep my cool when I realised I’d be going to work alone, but this immediately turned me into a prissy, self-righteous tantrum machine. It’s bad enough that he went out all night and forgot to come home, but he couldn’t even shut. the fucking. door. when he left? Not only that, but our door had a hydraulic spring. It shut automatically. So for it to be wide open, he must have…broken it?

Having already gained quite a lot of momentum in my double-black diamond hissy fit, I decided to lean into it. Throwing my hands in the air dramatically (for whose benefit? Nobody’s. Live life like you’re always being filmed before a live studio audience, I say), I stomped over to the front door to a) check the damage, b) slam it shut, and c) flounce off to work to work in a huff, alone, like a martyr. And that’s when I realised: the door wasn’t broken. The door was open because it was being held open…by Milkshake’s feet. Milkshake was passed out across the corridor of our apartment building: his feet propping our door open, his head resting against the neighbour’s door like a pillow, and his pants down around his ankles.

Me and Milkshake: artist’s impression. Full disclosure: when I’m being petulant and tantrumy, I am INDISTINGUISHABLE from Saffron Monsoon.

After checking to make sure he wasn’t straight-up dead, I petulantly kicked him awake (I’d been denied my door slam and my martyrdom: I was spectacularly fractious). With surprising chirpiness, he said “Oh, hey! Good morning!”, pulled up his pants, and disappeared into his room. He emerged exactly seven minutes later: fresh, showered, in uniform, so handsome, and 100% ready to go. We both made it to work on time as if nothing had happened.

Milkshake never explained how he ended up pantsless and asleep in our corridor, and I never asked. Our gentlemen’s agreement on this matter has never been broken.

I only got three months with Milkshake before we received the dreaded “the owner is putting this property on the market, BYEEEEEE” letter from our real estate agent. I don’t feel like I got nearly long enough with Milkshake, or with Ascot, but I did move out very quickly after receiving that letter, lest Milkshake enlist me in helping him get his piano out of a third-floor apartment.

48) 2003-2004. Simpsons Road, Bardon (Brisbane) QLD 4065

One can’t house-sit forever. Especially once the house’s residents return. Doubly especially once more than a month has passed since the house’s residents have returned, and you’re still bouncing about the place like…well, like an unwelcome house guest. So I fired up Flatmates.com.au and did some searching, seeking out the perfect ramshackle oddbox to experience proper, permanent sharehousing.

Simpsons Road, Bardon paid dividends in this regard. During the seven months I lived here, I got the full complement of  He Died With a Felafel in His Hand-esque experiences. I mean, some people take decades to experience the gamut of housemate craziness. I got it all in one go.

simpsons road

I had to cheat with Google Street View and go back to the earliest photo they had, because in the last six years the owners have renovated the ever-loving SHIT out of this place and now it’s all fancy?

For a start, the house was a Dr Seussian nightmare. Nestled about a third of the way up Brisbane’s Mt Coot-tha (you know how you refer to the “foot” of a mountain? Well by anatomical geography we were in the mountain’s crotch), the house perched on the steep ground in such a way that the front of the house was ground level, but the rear was held up by stilts. And not good stilts, either: the building was literally at risk of, at any moment, collapsing and rolling down the side of the valley from which it precariously jutted. A mattress on the floor in one corner of the lounge room marked out where it was unsafe to walk, partly because you could feel the lean of the floor in that spot, and partly for fear of cracking the building in half. To the left of the mattress there was a very fine vertical crack running down the one side of the lounge room wall; by the time I moved out it had become such a thick crack that sunlight shone through it.

The house was also continually under siege from possums and spiders. One spider was so big, as it climbed up a housemate’s lava lamp its legs went all the way around the lamp and met on the other side. One was so heavy, when we finally killed it (it took four people; that is a whole other story), and dropped it in the toilet, it made an audible donk as it hit the bottom of the bowl. I found one above the front door once, killed it with a broom (after all the screaming, obviously), swept the corpse away and by the time I’d turned around, another one the exact same size was in the exact same spot.

The spiders would have been the stuff of nightmares, except it wasn’t possible to have nightmares because nightmares only happen when you’re asleep, and it’s impossible to sleep with the constant CLOMPYCLOMPCLOMPCLOMPING of the possums both on the roof and under the floorboards. The only reprieve we got from the possums was when a massive python decided to move into the roof and eat all the possums. But then we were living in a house with a massive python, so sleep still eluded us.

It was living in Bardon that I got my first (and thankfully, only) taste of housemate thievery, too: six weeks after I moved in, Greg moved out: apparently taking with him one half of season two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD and a pair of my shoes. I assume he needed the shoes to go to JB Hi Fi to buy the other half of that season of Buffy?

Greg moving out ushered in another first: living with a friend!

Proof that Sarah has always been radiant and beautiful, and that I have always been END OF SENTENCE

I met Sarah Collins in 2001 when we both worked as volunteers at B105. Today, she is my very best friend slash unofficial twin sister.

I’m sorry. I have to stop. That photo of Sarah and I that I posted is terrible. Let me try again.

OH FOR THE LOVE OF- look forget it.

Sarah and I realised we were unofficial twins when we kept finding weird similarities about ourselves: we both had family in Toowoomba (Sarah, in fact, was raised there). We wore the male/female equivalent of the same fragrance. We had even, long before we knew each other, both worked at the same glamour photography-selling telemarketing company. At the time of our meeting, in 2001, I was studying at The Actors Conservatory and still in the closet, while Sarah was in the closet about wanting to be an actor. We were two sides of the same coin.

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The cast/crew of a 2003 stage adaptation of Nick Earls’ “48 Shades of Brown”. Sarah still wasn’t able to bring herself to admit she wanted to be an actor by this stage, so she joined the team as the make-up artist for the show instead. For a cast of four; and two of us didn’t even wear make up.

With our lives so unwittingly entwined it was destined to happen at some point: in 2003, we both shared an address. The Bardon Spider Terrarium/Snake-Specific Possum Buffet.

I was so glad Sarah moved in. We hung out all the time anyway; this just made it easier. Sarah was the best person to watch bad TV with, and the best person with whom to orchestrate the perfect timing for doing laundry at the laundromat while simultaneously eating dinner at the Kookaburra Cafe next door*. Also, she gave free hair cuts. They weren’t good, but they were free.

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This is what happens when you do a hair cut outside, at night, when the light on the back landing only lights one side of your head, and neither of you think to turn around and face the other way. ALSO PICTURED: an asshole of a t-shirt, and a glass bowl filled with water, floating candles and glass pebbles. CLASSY. AS. FUCK.

But living with Sarah wasn’t just about good times and asymmetrical fringes. I needed Sarah at the Bardon Spider Terrarium/Snake-Specific Possum Buffet because I needed someone else to experience the wonder that was my other housemate, Ian.

What a conundrum Ian was. Ian, who coloured his hair with intense (and amazing) black and white stripes, but then sulked for weeks afterwards because “people won’t stop STARING at me!?” Ian, who regularly got not-insignificant chest infections, and would try to cure them by jogging up the mountain, because he believed the vitamin D helped him to fight infection. Ian, who so desperately wanted to “damn the man”, but was easily cowed by a single phone call from his mother (to be fair, she was terrifying). Ian, who valued privacy more than anything, and saw himself as quite mysterious, but within hours of me moving in had told me his entire life story in meticulous detail. Ian, who spouted the kind of tiresome, generic anti-American sentiment that was the launchpad for 70% of all our fights—he claimed Lantana was an excellent film because “there’s only one American in it, and she dies, ha ha ha!”—but who couldn’t tear his eyes away from the season one finale of American Idol that Sarah and I were watching one night. He even watched it in hiding, only poking his head out of his bedroom door to peek with one eye.

In Sarah’s first week, Ian insisted on the three of us having a “family dinner” together. He cooked, set the table, turned off all the lights in favour of scattered candles, and even draped a teatowel over his arm as he served dinner, like the Bardon Spider Terrarium’s fanciest waiter. As we began eating, Ian asked Sarah about herself. For twenty minutes, he grilled her about her life: her childhood, her siblings, her parents, her job, her goals, her dreams, her interests, her friends. He wanted to know everything about her. It was intense and weird, and it seemed like the beginning of some kind of Single White Female scenario.

But that’s not what it was.

After Ian’s last question, there was a long pause. Perhaps up to an entire minute of deeply, deeply uncomfortable silence. Then suddenly, Ian turns brightly to Sarah and says “Shall I…reciprocate?” 

Before Sarah could answer—though not before she involuntarily shuddered—he launched into his own extraordinarily detailed life story. The exact same one I’d received when I moved in. Almost word for word. Start to finish. For forty minutes. He did not leave a single thing out.

I usually conclude stories involving other people with a thing I learnt from them. I learnt several things from Ian. The first, and most important, is to own your ego. If you want to talk about yourself, go ahead and have at it. Don’t try to disguise it as something else: you’ll only terrify people. Just go for it. This is a lesson I have clearly taken to heart, as this very blog is, so far, 48,000+ words of me talking about myself AND I HAVEN’T ASKED YOU ANYTHING.

The other things I learnt from Ian were about being a better housemate. Because this is my blog, I have the privilege of talking about everything from my perspective, and I’ve made Ian look like a crazy person and terrible housemate. And look, he was, but he was also very kind and generous. He was, in a way, loveable. Sure, he hugged weird and spent far too long in his room and was quite certain that “dark spirits” were following him around, but he was a sweet guy. He was certainly more tolerant of me than I was of him, or his spirits. was a terrible housemate. (In my defence, my only other experiences with sharing a house included fleeing in terror after seven weeks and sharehousing by default because I refused to leave my housesitting gig once the owners came back. But still.)

At the end of 2003, Sarah fled moved out, and our delicately choreographed laundromat/pizza dates* ended. In January of 2004, another coworker, who lived in Ascot (Ascot!), started asking around for a new housemate; I took him up on the offer and so I moved out too.

As far as I’m aware, Ian also got out of the Bardon Spider Terrarium/Snake-Specific Possum Buffet, before the lounge room snapped off the house entirely.

:+:+:+:+:+:+:+:+:

*FOOTNOTE: In case you live, or plan to live, in the Bardon/Paddington area, let us pass on our wisdom:

Christopher and Sarah’s Nine-Step, No-Wait Laundry/Pizza Plan

kookaburra2

1. Go to laundromat, put clothes in washing machine.
2. Go next door to Kookaburra Café, take seat, order drink, chat until drink arrives.
3. Drink arrives, order food, sip drink.
4. Return to laundromat: clothes have just finished washing cycle. Put clothes in dryer.
5. Return to Kookaburra: food has just arrived. Eat food.
6. Finish food, order dessert to go.
7. Return to laundromat: clothes have just finished drying. Collect clothes.
8. Return to Kookaburra: dessert is ready. Collect dessert and pay.
9. Go back to BST/SSPB, eat dessert, fold clothes.

47) 2003. Ironwood Street, Aspley (Brisbane) QLD 4034

Having worked my way from Community Switch volunteer, to receptionist, to Community Switch coordinator, to “Black Thunder pilot”, in 2003 I made another huge advance at the radio station.

I went on the air.

B105’s program director Rex, showing an extraordinarily rare lapse in good judgment, put my coworker Sarah Robinson and I at the helm of a late-night show that we called “The Hot Tin Roof”. I have zero—ZERO—idea why we called it that: we just thought it was catchy. (We were idiots who had no idea what we were doing.)

Our first time-slot was midnight on a Friday night until 2am Saturday morning. Every week we’d utilise our combined total experience in radio (none) to create a two hour show. I wrote and recited long-winded diatribes (yes, I have technically been doing the very style of thing you’re reading right now for over a decade), Sarah told embarrassing dating stories, we would play recordings of us stopping people in the street to ask nonsense questions, and we would mock each other for being dickheads. To recap: we were idiots who had no idea what we were doing. Somehow, it worked.

Chris & Sarah: the perfect distillation of our on-air personality types. (This photo was taken at Brisbane’s “The X Factor” auditions, where I did, in fact, meet Daniel MacPherson. No I did NOT wrap myself around him like a compression bandage, because I am a professional)

Eventually, unbelievably, we became a solid enough show to start getting some interviews. We started slowly: our first ever interview was a reserve-grade rugby union player who had yet to take the field. Our second ever interview was Eddie Izzard: apparently the bell-curve of interview quality is quite steep. 

After a few months we got an upgrade to the 10pm-midnight slot on a Tuesday. The jump from an unpaid, post-midnight show on the weekend to a casually paid, pre-midnight show on a weeknight felt huge for us. So imagine the universe-tilting shock when, a few months after that, we were upgraded again: to holiday replacements for the breakfast show. Before we even knew what was happening, Sarah and I were filling in for the on-air-for-13-years-and-number-one-rating-the-entire-time Jamie Dunn and the B105 Morning Crew.

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Yes. THAT Jamie Dunn. The creator/voice of Agro. SARAH AND I WERE FILL-INS FOR AGRO. EVEN THOUGH WE WERE IDIOTS WHO HAD NO IDEA WHAT WE WERE DOING.

It was intense and insane and we thought were both going to die from fatigue on only our second morning, but we did it. I even remember the first freebies we scored as big-shot breakfast announcers: an alarm clock and a pubic hair trimmer. Both were invaluable to me.

There we were, ass-deep in the world of commercial radio. And at least two people thought we were not horrible. Without even really paying attention, I’d found a career. A career as a professional idiot who had no idea what he was doing.

Perhaps mum saw this sudden upswing in employment quality as an opportunity to finally offload a dependent who was by this point in low orbit over his mid-twenties, or perhaps it was coincidence. Either way, during this period of explosive job accomplishments, mum sat me down for some news.

“We’re going to be moving. We’re moving to be closer to Mike’s work. Somewhere around Slacks Creek.”

If you’ve been following this blog up to this point, from my owning of horses to refusal to eat peanut butter sandwiches to living in a house with faux-crystal doorknobs, you can probably tell how I am going to react to the notion of moving to a place that sounds like a euphemism for shitting your pants.

“Oh. Mum. Uh. Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t think I want to move to…Slacks Creek. [shudder] So maybe I’ll move out instead, and you don’t need to look for a four bedroom place?”
“Oh. Christopher. Don’t take this the wrong way, but we already assumed you wouldn’t come with us. We’ve only been looking at smaller places anyway.”
“Well, good. Then. So we’re all on the same page? Great. That’s…great.”

Pre-empted by my own elitism.

And so I moved out of home, for the third and final time. It’s been twelve years so far, so I’m almost certain this one’s permanent.

But, to be honest: even on this, my third attempt at living out of home, I cheated a bit. For the first two months I lived in the home of one of my former teachers from The Actors Conservatory: Maria. Maria was easily one of the best teachers I’d ever had: nurturing and inspiring, but she took precisely zero shit, like if Professor McGonagall taught acting. Maria lived with her mother and two small dogs in an enormous house in Aspley, and they were doing a long holiday around Europe, so I moved in to look after the place: rattling around their monstrous house by myself like a five-cent piece in a tumble-dryer.

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Just me and two dachshunds. The biggest challenge in looking after the dogs was trying to FIND them in this giant building.

My only company was the housekeeper, who came by three times a week and managed to find (and wash, dry and iron) my dirty clothes no matter how sneakily I hid them out of guilt: in an empty drawer, under the bed, in the bed, in my suitcase, and in the dryer (to look as if I’d already done them). She knew. She always knew.

The icing on the cake of this two-month housesitting stint was the food. The week before embarking on their European trip, Maria had “catered” for the christening of a family member’s daughter: making six or seven giant lasagnes, and dozens upon dozens upon dozens of savoury pinwheels. But then the christening was moved interstate, and suddenly Maria’s giant freezer was packed to the gills with frozen lasagne and pinwheels for no reason. The only condition of my housesitting was that all the food (which, after a week of cooking, she was sick of even looking at) be gone by her return. Maria asked if I could promise this. I asked Maria if she had ever met me.

To recap: I had home-cooked Italian meals to eat for eight weeks while I lived rent-free in a mansion with a housekeeper.

This is probably why I stayed in the house for another four weeks after they returned from their European holiday, and eventually had to be asked to leave. I can’t blame them for evicting me any more than they can blame me for staying.

46) 2002-2003. Chalfont Street, Salisbury (Brisbane) QLD 4107

The house on Chalfont Street in Salisbury was delightful. It was in no way fancy, but it sat on a quiet, secluded street, backed onto the beautiful Russ Hall Park, and the entire underneath of the house had been converted into a living area, meaning I had what was essentially a studio apartment to myself. Room for my bed, bookshelves, a couch, TV and even including my own toilet, I felt very independent and grown-up living here (and good thing too: I was 22 years old).

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That’s a pretty underwhelming-looking building for the place that holds some of my fondest Brisbane memories. I mean, I watched the musical episode of Buffy in this house, for fuck’s sake.

The year and a bit spent in this house was almost entirely devoid of drama. Mum and Mike got along swimmingly—to the point where they married; I was continuing to get paid work at the radio station, working my way up from receptionist to “Black Thunder Pilot” to Community Switchboard coordinator; I graduated from The Actors Conservatory, and even performed in my first non-high school play. In short, life was really coming together.

Also, early into 2003, I finally realised who I was. You know, in a sexual sense.

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You can look at this in two ways: either as a bitter ironic twist; only when it seemed like the seas of my life were finally, briefly calm did the issue of my befuddling sexuality burst forth (again) to fuck everything up. Or you can see it as a long overdue blessing; that because everything was going well, and I wasn’t feeling in such turmoil, I was able to process something that had hung over my head since I was 15 years old. I have often described it as the former, but I must be softening with age, because I’m choosing today to look at it as the latter.

Now, I’ve heard coming out stories that usually involve a night of flirting with a member of the same sex that finally catapulted over into full-blown, magical passion and a stark, shocking, but ultimately comforting revelation the next morning. Or just out-of-the-blue epiphanies, borne of spur-of-the-moment lust. This kind of thing did not happen to me.

In fact, it could be said that the opposite happened to me. The opposite in every single way.

Her name was Tatiana (no it wasn’t, I made that up because I actually can’t remember her name), and she was beautiful, and I met her while a group of us from the radio station (the “Black Thunder Team”, if you will) were hanging out, post-work, at the Normanby Hotel. I was quite drunk so I can’t remember how I actually met her, or how she ended up with our group, or how I ended up dancing with her: but I did, and she did, and we did. The rest of the group I was with were about as surprised as I was that this was happening: I wasn’t the guy who talked to girls and danced with them in bars. But, I was filled with both Dutch courage and Dutch courage’s way more effective cousin, Uniform courage. Here’s the skeezy truth: working at the radio station was social currency. How much social currency is never certain: I don’t want to be a total dick and accuse Tatiana of only talking to me because I was wearing a shirt with a radio station logo on it, but I can with complete certainty say that I was only able to talk to her because I was wearing a shirt with a radio station logo on it.

Tatiana did say she thought it was very cool that we all worked at B105, so perhaps she was kind of drawn in by the uniforms. She also wanted to know how she could get work at the station. How did we all start? For half of us, it was through volunteering on the Community Switch, of which I was now the chief coordinator, having worked my way up from volunteer, to receptionist, now to almost-full-time-employee! So technically I was the person to talk to?

I took a chance while we were dancing and talking and I kissed her. She kissed me back, and I finally got some kind of inkling into what it must be like to be a sexual person: someone who experiences even a modicum of success, romantically speaking (the inkling passed super quickly, and I haven’t seen a shred of it since). We exchanged numbers, and I knew that it was only a matter of time before I would call Tatiana my girlfriend.

Not only was I going to break a terrible drought, but I had made a decision! I was straight! The thing that had tormented me since 1996; throwing thoughts and indecision violently around the inside of my head like Kinsey scale poltergeist for eight years, making me hate myself and doubt myself and never giving me a moment’s peace, was to be put to rest. It was such a huge relief. I’d had crushes on girls before, (and I’d had crushes on boys before, for which I felt nothing but shame as I tried to push them down to the bottom of my…pants), but this was a real, organically grown start of something. It felt different.

Four days later, I called her, but got no answer. I left a message saying hi, and tried not to let this first hurdle completely destroy me. She picked up when I tried to call her again the next day, but was unavailable to do anything as she was away all weekend with friends down the coast. Strike two, but the course of true love never did run smooth, right?

I tried to be a bit more casual on the third attempt. I waited until the Sunday of the weekend (I didn’t want to be seen to be bugging her when she’d already told me she was away), and I texted her, giving me the space and freedom to choose my words carefully and maintain at least the illusion of composure. It was, at the time, still something of a risky move, as texting wasn’t yet the ubiquitous communication tool it is now. It could be seen as too casual, even too common. In 2003, there were still a healthy contingent of people who either “didn’t own a mobile”, or “didn’t text”, and both of these phrases were always uttered with the same superior sniff that people today say “Oh, I’m not on Facebook”. I kept it real generic: did she want to come with the movies with me some time? Exactly forty-one minutes later my heart started again when I received the response: “Sure!”

It was hard to schedule this movie date. She didn’t pick up when I called her on Tuesday. And the text I sent Wednesday afternoon went unanswered. By Thursday I was feeling confused, and having tremendous difficulty focusing on my work. Was she actually interested at all? If not, why not just say no when I asked her to the movies? Oh god, did I pressure her into saying yes? Had I been a pest, badgering her until she said whatever it took to get me to stop calling her? Was this part of the rules of dating? Was there some unwritten hint I should have received by now? How, exactly, had I fucked this up?

While I sat in front of my computer, not working, staring into space, my desk phone rang. It was reception. “I’ve got a Tatiana here to see you?”

Oh my god.

Trying desperately to look like I hadn’t just sprinted all twenty metres from my end of the building up to the reception area, I casually flung open the glass door and ushered Tatiana inside. The lack of response to my text messages and phone calls still stung, but this impromptu first date was well on the way to making up for it. Would she like a tour? Had she had lunch? What were her plans? Do we hurry into a supply closet to make out? I’d seen that on the telly, it looked pretty sexy. What did she want to do?

“Um no, I can’t stay, I just remember you saying everyone got work here by starting at the Community Switch, and I wanted to see if could get a job!”

Somewhere, deep inside my brain, something tiny went “click”. Imagine the tiniest little car you possibly can. Tiny. Like it’s an ant’s car. Now imagine the tiny little gearbox inside that tiny little car. That tiny little gearbox slips quietly from neutral into first gear: that’s how gentle this click was. The tiny little engine in the tiny little car purred tinily, making the tiniest little whisper that sounded like “s t o p   d o i n g   t h i s”. 

I stopped panting. I quietly gave Tatiana the spiel about new volunteers, took her CV to add to the pile, and I didn’t try to call her again.

Look. In the immediate aftermath of this event, and for at least five years after it happened, I painted Tatiana in a very bad light in this story. I was weirdly angry at her, and when retelling this anecdote I would describe this situation in full, martyred glory: she had led me on in an attempt to get a job at the radio station. She never had any intention of dating me. She was simply a gold digger; the “gold” in this scenario being eight hours of unpaid work per week answering phones.

With the wisdom of hindsight, and an active interest in trying, wherever possible, to be neither victim nor fuckwit, I realise I never actually asked whether she had any intention of dating me. I only assumed she didn’t; an act of desperation by what I now know to be a frantic and terrified subconscious, clutching at any straw to stop me pursuing her, even as my conscious remained hurt and confused. Today, twelve years later, I have no need to make Tatiana look bad. Nor do I have reason to lament her not dating me. What if we had? The experience could only have been terrible for us both.

I tell the story differently now. But I still credit Tatiana (the fuck was her name?) with helping me figure it all out, even though it didn’t happen straight away. See, in that moment, I still didn’t understand what the “click” was. It sounded like a profound thing that happened, right? It wasn’t. I thought the tiny whisper of “s t o p   d o i n g   t h i s” meant “stop embarrassing yourself, she’s not into you”. I didn’t immediately realise what it actually meant was that I was into dudes.

That realisation took over a week. And it wasn’t even a week of “debating” whether or not I was gay. It was a week of sulking like an entitled man-baby. Sulking that She Just Wasn’t That Into Me. Sulking that I’d never had any real romantic success, at least not since Sheridan Lunn kissed me in the jungle gym at Mount Isa’s Central State School in 1989 (her name I remember). Sulking that I hardly ever ever ever met a girl I fancied, and when I did it never went anywhere. And even when it went as far as it felt like it did with Tatiana, I still ended up at square one.

Sulking because it just seemed like it was all too hard.

And suddenly the tiny click made sense: it was all too hard. Why was it too hard? Because, DUH: I didn’t actually want the thing I was doing a terrible job of pursuing. I didn’t want a girlfriend. I wanted a boyfriend. I didn’t want to date women, I wanted to date men. I didn’t want to be best mates with Neighbours star Daniel MacPherson because he seemed like a really cool dude, I wanted to wrap myself around Neighbours star Daniel MacPherson like a compression bandage and tell him all my secrets and dreams!

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#DANMAC4LYF Yes, this is the same person I was fortunate enough to photograph for work last week. No, I didn’t say anything inappropriate. Yes, I was very professional and normal (it’s far from the first time we’ve met, and yes I’ve kept it cool every time). No, it wasn’t easy to keep it cool. Yes, he does look even better now than he did then. No, I didn’t say that. Yes, I am indeed arguing with myself in a photo caption. No, I do not wish to continue.

And with that, I finally realised I was gay. I wasn’t proud of it. I wasn’t okay with it at all. But at least I’d realised it.

I could almost kick myself these days for how long it took me to realise who I was. Especially considering the evidence that I kept mounting. Ahem. Especially considering the evidence that kept mounting. I kissed my first boy at age 15 (the boyfriend of the first girl I kissed); my second and third also at age 15 (Paul, the first boy I dated, and Matt, the weird new kid who looked like a surfer); my fourth at age 18 (on NYE 1998 in a relatively hidden gay bar in Toowoomba called “Waves”); my fifth and sixth at age 20 (Name Forgotten, in the back of a car after a party, and Nicholas, whose kiss was actually a scripted part of an assessment performance piece at The Actors Conservatory—but the man deserves inclusion and your respect because he very classily pretended not to notice any of my erections when we rehearsed).

Based on numbers alone, if you add up all the girls I ever kissed and all the boys I ever kissed, including Sheridan Lunn at age 8, Felicity Scriven at age 12, and Tatiana Something-Something at age 23, by the year 2001 I had kissed twice as many boys as I had girls. But I still didn’t get anywhere even near clarity until 2003.

Idiot.

But hey, it’s not cool to dwell on things you absolutely can’t change. I got there eventually. And after that life fell deliciously into place* and I loved myself more than ever** and got a boyfriend almost immediately***.

*life continued to be a mess because this isn’t TV
**I hated myself intensely for at least five more years
***seven. years. later.

45) 2001-2002. Amelia Street, Nundah (Brisbane) QLD 4012

Mum and Mike were going strong, and decided to take things to the next level: moving in together. Would this be a repeat of the Nathan thing a couple of years earlier? Did Mike have a poxy little unit we’d be crammed into until one or all of us went insane? No, it turns out Mike had quite a sizeable three bedroom townhouse in the suburb of Nundah.

I’m sorry this photo is so Nundah-whelming. (NAILED IT)

Nundah isn’t exactly an inner suburb of Brisbane, but it was way closer than Taigum. Mike had been happily living in his surprisingly large home with two boarders. Between their respective amounts of board, Mike’s own rent payment amounted to about twelve dollars every week. I won’t see he was fleecing the boarders. I will simply imply it by not elaborating any further.

When we moved into Mike’s house I was, sadly, still unemployed. (Just to clarify: the boarders moved out, so it’s not like we all piled into the house together. Normally this would go without saying, but considering we once ended up living with a door-to-door encyclopaedia salesman, I felt it was important I be as specific as possible). It had been two months since Games R Us had closed its doors. I had now been unemployed for long enough to make me really question my usefulness, both as a member of the household in which I resided, and also as a human being. The money provided by Centrelink’s Youth Allowance barely covered my weekly tuition at The Actors Conservatory, and mum and I had more than one giant row (like, seven or eight) about the practicality of me sending myself into bankruptcy so I could continue learning how to embody the characteristics of a stick (an actual thing that took up several weeks of tuition). But I was resolute. The Actors Conservatory was, to date, the greatest thing that had ever happened to me, and I was not about to give it up. I would do anything it took to keep my place in the school.

But I did accept that I could not continue the way I was going. I needed a job. Any job. Even the worst job I could think of. Even the worst job anyone could think of.

Which is exactly what I found: I became a telemarketer.

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Me IRL

Not just any telemarketer, mind you. I didn’t sell booklets of vouchers or cleaning products or even fancy encyclopaedias. Nothing useful like that. No, I sold glamour photography sittings to women in non-metropolitan areas around Australia.

Crinkly purple background? Check. Feather-boa-as-clothes? Check. Brittle sphere of fibreglass hair? Check. Unnatural hand placement? (This woman actually looks amazing, though?)

While we sat in an un-airconditioned office in Woolloongabba making appointments, a truck would tour the country, packed with bolts of tulle and satin, tubs of mascara, and row upon row of permanently unfocused camera lenses. The truck would descend on a town and give every single citizen who’d responded positively to one of our phone calls the exact same glove-wearing, collar-holding, sprayed-for-the-gods-hairdo headshot. Sitting for the photos was an absolute bargain, but as they stumbled out of the mobile studio, blinded by the hot lights and dizzy from the hairspray, they would be coaxed into parting with significantly larger sums of money to buy the actual prints.

For a company that promised such unyielding arseloads of glamour, it was a pretty unglamorous place to work: spartan, grey, and overheated. But hey, they offered me thirty hours a week, paid a guaranteed hourly rate, and were nice people. This preposterous company (which, I might add, is still in business to this day) saved me from bankruptcy and allowed me to continue my studies, so I can’t shit on them too heavily. But still: it was telemarketing. It meant that at least forty-seven times a week, I’d have the following conversation:

Person: So, what do you do?
Me: I’m an actor. I’m studying acting.
Person: Oh. Acting, huh? But like, what do you really do?
Me: I work…for a place…that…um…sells…things…over…the…uh…phone…
Person: *punches in face, slashes tyres*

A normal person would eventually learn the easiest way around this would be to just lie, but I was too honest for my own good. I couldn’t just make up a fake job on the spot like some kind of common CRIMINAL. (No, I don’t know why either. Ask my oddly specific moral compass.)

So I found a loophole. Or, specifically, Rebecca came to my rescue again (just like she’d done with the Games R Us job five months earlier), and found a loophole for me.

Again, this visual representation is the highest compliment I can bestow. I reckon if she tried really hard, Rebecca could turn a scarf into a dove too.

Rebecca had also been exploring volunteering in her free time, and had recently started working at B105, Brisbane’s Austereo-branded radio station. She helped to man the phones on the “Community Switchboard”, which listeners could call to ask for information about upcoming events, weather forecasts, traffic reports; anything Brisbane related.

B105 has since changed logos twice and names once, so this logo does nothing now but savagely highlight my growing irrelevance.

The Community Switchboard was like a human-operated, locally-specific Siri. And because the labour was unpaid, positions came up frequently, and I got one.

So while I spent thirty hours a week calling the unsuspecting people of regional Tasmania, asking if they’d like to do themselves over, daytime soap opera-style; I spent four glorious hours on a weekend in the newsroom of “Brisbane’s Hit Music Station”, telling people where the best markets were. And when people asked me what I did? The smarmy hair toss flourish I added to the end of every “ACTUALLY I WORK AT B105” caused neck damage I’m still working out fourteen years later.

The best part is this massaged-truth turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as within two months I was actually employed at the radio station, as a part time receptionist. I was able to quit the telemarketing job, and instead of spending my days making calls and stressing over sales quotas, I had the much more relaxing task of taking calls and abusing the power I had over the PA system.

:+:+:+:+:+:+:

Because I feel like this moment needs marking: This is the address I had when I turned 21. A huge, momentous occasion marked by yet another incredibly modest party, attended by perhaps fifteen people. There was no hired party yacht, no catered venue, no new car as a present. One of the party guests did give me a copy of the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, and at the time it felt like it was the kind of heavy, pivotal moment I would describe years later when being interviewed by Oprah, but nope. I can’t even remember if I finished reading it. But I do still have the book, and technically I am describing it years later. So bullseye, I guess?