Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Leaving the Love Den

Leaving the Love Den was always going to be painful. What, after 11 years in its warmly glowing warming glow, I could confidently say I knew it's each and every crack and creak. I knew those creaks in a way in which I'd never known a house before - my tenure at the Love Den was the longest I'd ever lived in any one place my entire life. Those cracks were my constant from way back when I finished uni; through my stint as a working journo; through a fairly monumental career change where I gave up on the life I'd strived for since I was a teen; through heartbreaks (both caused and felt) and through countless episodes of the most defining shit-talking, drinking and smoking fests. The pain of leaving those creaks and cracks was most acute, however, when confronted with cleaning them for the first time in 11 years.

First cab off the rank was getting rid of the mountains of shit which had spontaneously appeared within her fours walls over the years. Chief amongst these was the ancient fridge which was initially included in the lease for the "partly furnished" deal. This thing was an absolute monstrosity of 1970s electrical engineering. The interior spawned a life of its own, with its internal freezer only being usable for about 3 days after the frustration-driven manual defrost cycle (with the use of numerous tools through years, including hammers, kitchen appliances and hair-dryers). The white exterior had long been pock-marked and stained, and then ceremoniously covered in an array of stickers, magnets and other Useless Junk.

I remember the Wiseacre sticker taking pride of place on the bottom third of the front door, despite no-one ever admitting to liking them enough to defile my fridge with their name. In to the mini skip she went, along with my ancient double bed (which could spawn a whole other blog of its own memories, if you know what I mean. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Say no more, say no more. A bit of the ole 'workbench' action, eh? A bit o' rumpy pumpy on the Love Lorry, yeah? A bit of ee-eeee, aw-awww on the Caravan of Luuurve, see?... Yeah, I'm talking about wanking), a fine selection of chip-board 'furniture', a couple of old bike frames (one of which had to be broken away from the house with an angle grinder thanks to me losing the key many years ago), the back-breaking cloth-covered dining chairs and the 2-seater couch donated from Jinna all those years ago, but had long since lost its arse. Like many of us, I suppose.

With the shit gone, the next task was the 'music room'. For those who never set foot within her, the Love Den boasted an open scrapbook of musical memories in the form of a wide, short hallway linking the front of the house with the lounge area at the back, whose walls were adorned with band posters, gig tickets, postcards, wrist-straps and torn out pages from magazines and street press. It was a tradition to end a great night out seeing a band by Blu-Taking the evidence on the walls and you could trace the various inhabitants through the years in a clock-wise direction around the room. There was so much history on those walls, even pre-dating my time there, that it's hard to pin-point the stand-out memories from the hundreds, possibly even thousands, contained. There was, however, one poster representing a gig which I sadly missed, twice, but at the time consoled myself with the "I'll catch them next tour" thinking - only to have them disband soon afterwards. I'd interviewed Irish band The Frames right when they were trying to crack into the Australian market and was naturally taken by their smooth, emotional guitar-driven anthemic style. They toured Australia for the first time soon after I'd interviewed them, but I'd decided to take a little break at that point and headed to Melbourne for a week... right when they were playing at The Zoo. Nevermind, was my thinking, they'll come back. And they did about a year and a half later, when I was going through a relatively rough patch and was unemployed. Being in a constant state of poverty, I'd decided to stop reading the music press so I didn't get tortured by the shit I was be missing out on. I had no idea they were touring, until I was out in the Queen Street Mall one afternoon, wandering around with my new girlfriend trying to think of cheap things to do. We walked into HMV and I instantly spied a poster bearing The Frames' name - and it stated they were playing a free gig on the top Mall stage at 1pm that day! Halle-fucken-lujah, I cheered to myself as I checked the time... "Oh, you're fucking joking? It's 2.2opm?!?!". I'd fucking missed them, again. The pinched poster was a fair consolation prize, I figured.

Yeah, this room, more than the Love Den itself, personified my growth through the years and was a very tangible link to what I've devoted my adult life to - being an unabashed, die-hard, true-blue believer in great music. Taking this down and deciding what to cast aside and what to take with us was easily the toughest thing I had to do when kissing this old girl goodbye. The wheels of progress we chugging away, however, and so with all our stuff packed and shipped out, the shit dumped, the load-bearing Blu-Tak and picture nails removed, it was time to don the sugar-soap and try in vain to scrub away every note of our existence from those faded VJ walls and polished wooden floors.

Where the fuck did this stain come from?

I never knew my feet were that dirty. I mean, being constantly bare-footed and proud of it, it's pretty obvious they'd be grubby, but the stains on the wall underneath my computer desk were fucking ridiculous! Without a footrest, I'd unconsciously rest my feet on the pale-blue wall while frittering away the hours at my keyboard, which led to a mess of brown and black feet stains spanning a 1m wide radius. Of course, it wasn't all just mindless frittering at the computer screen - there were those 8-months or so when Satomi was back in Japan just after we got engaged, and our only tangible link to each other were our nightly webcam chat sessions and the occasional 'on-line date'. Ahh memories... are no match for sugar soap and a scourer.

Who was the dirty fucker who did this?

Oh that's right, it was me - throwing a tea-bag up under the small wall overhanging the stove in a bizarre attempt at one-upmanship after Steve-O had hoisted a slice of peanut butter toast across the lounge at me one wintery eve. This little game of house-hold brandy would kick in every now and then (generally in response to poverty-induced extreme boredom), with one of us setting up a fortress of sorts on the old lounge or papasan and hurling relatively soft household items at the other. Generally off our trees, this game could go on for ages and would only end when my subliminally implanted idea for munchies (well, not so much subliminal, more obvious... along the lines of "Go get me some ice-cream, bitch") would take hold in his mind and he'd be off up the hill for some sugary goodness.

Nicotine ain't just bad for your lungs, kids

It was a proud smoke-friendly household, the old Love Den. From the moment I took up residence, my pack-a-day habit moved in too. There were brief moments of outside smoking only, generally around the time new flatmates moved in and not wanting to freak them out. That resolve would last until either the first good movie was on telly which I didn't want to miss a second of to get a hit of cancer, or said new flatmate decided it was high time to take up an evening of green and amber fuelled shit-talking around the kitchen table with me. The result was off-white walls which slowly but surely took on an orange-brown hue, noticed clearly when pictures or posters were taken off the wall only to have their outlines marked on the VJs. Sugar soap and a number scourers tried, but failed, to remove evidence of this excess... and let's hope a couple of years of smoke-free clean living since has done a better job on my lungs.

Oven cleaner is not just for ovens

There was a time when I fancied myself as a bit of a budget-special cook, just a slight nudge up the scale from hopeless experimenter (I'm looking at you here, Jensy). Monday nights were always a specialty, with Secret Life Of Us usually accompanied by a house-guest and some interesting, if pedestrian, take on a pasta-based staple. Or there were the days when the Emma and Joey show would roll around just for the sake of it, bringing with them their own organic goods to whip up some of the most fantastic sustenance I'd ever eaten (preceded by some of their own organic 'produce' which probably heightened my love for their dinners, if you catch my drift). All of this excess coupled with the day-to-day grime of living under a flight path, a block away from a train line and on a main-road combined with an almost pathological hatred for unnecessary cleanliness (my thinking was that if it wasn't attracting vermin, then it was probably clean enough), meant this part of the house was a sticky putrid mess. Sugar soap and scourers weren't cutting it, so Mr Muscle oven cleaner did wonders in bidding goodbye to this evidence.

Who the fuck scratched this fucken floor?

The papasan took pride of place in the various incarnations of the Love Den lounge. It's a big double-sized mofo who grumbles and protests the minute you fall into it, but never fails to engulf you in it's charms. For the first few minutes, you attempt to get yourself comfortable, but realise it's nearly impossible to do so gracefully and so you adopt a lying position akin to a palsied cat passed out in a litter tray. It felt luxurious and wrong initially, then alluringly snuggly, but it soon turned to back-achingly annoying and thoughts of escape started to creep in at about the half-hour mark. But, it entraped you with its deceptively hard exit procedure requiring gymnatic-like poise and feline-like reflexes - but which invariably shifted the entire mechanism a few centimetres back against the wall, and in the process scarred the beautiful polished wooden floorboards. It was this papasan which was the prime position in the household brandy wars, it was also the place where Jen, Brendan and I would sit wilfully every evening when we were underemployed to conduct live over-dubs on episodes of Neighbours, turning them into the most sickeningly depraved porno movies you could imagine. Let's just say Bouncer the dog was a shining star in these alternative realities, which didn't just cross the line of good taste, but gave it a fully-fledged frontal wedgie as it zoomed past at warp speed.

And that was that - 2 days of flurrying activity wiped away the physical evidence of more than a decade of my life, and chunks of many others, from this rented property's walls. When I moved to Brisbane from North Queensland all those years ago, I was craving some stability and made a promise to myself to set down some roots and try to experience what it meant to feel connected to a place. I did that, and then some, and in addition to that, I had somehow created a place which many also had a strong connection. Which is, I guess, is the crux of that stability - it's not about not changing, it's not about stagnating; it's about providing a warm resting place for you and yours and ensuring it does all it can to enrich your world. To me, it's this, from my good mate Brendan in response to a recent late-night emotional email rant:
the Den was always there.. it provided reassurance and stability during some tough times.. equally, it was a place where I have rarely laughed harder and felt more joy.. those walls are caked with memories (you don't want to know what I've caked the papasan in...) but most of all it was the people within those walls that have been among the true foundations in my life and that's infinitely more important than any single piece of real estate


Moko 2.0 said...

VIVE LA LOVE DEN. *cheers*

Albion Love Den said...

Thanks Pete. The Love Den will survive, frustrating search trying to find one now though!

Natalia the Russian Spy said...

I really enjoyed reading that. you adopt a lying position akin to a palsied cat passed out in a litter tray...

Oh how I laughed :D

jennicki said...

This is Awesome.

Albion Love Den said...

Aw, thanks NatV and Jennicki.

Dr Yobbo said...

Didn't get a chance to finish reading this first time round - and the comment police shat itself - but that was specfuckentacularly well written mate. Very evocative.

Ancient igfknormous fridges were always the shit. No matter that they used more power than an aluminium smelter, they were brilliant things. We had one down in the garage at Chateau Dodgy III with a bottle opener surgically attached to the door - which featured the most offensive 'colour chart' known to man. Blogged about it once at WoB I think.

Albion Love Den said...

Cheers Doc.

We replaced the monstrosity with a small, sleek new jobby - which, while it cools and freezes as per specifications, it does mean that the weekly shopping day usually ends in a frustrating real life game of tetris to fit everything inside it. Still, at least we don't tend to store endless jars of Useless Goop n Junk.

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