The theme for the JVG Radio Method February 25, 2007oday was “GHETTO”. This is a true story and quite possibly the first page of my autobiography.

Ghetto…[audio:JVG_Poem20070225.mp3]

Accompaniment supplied on accordion this week by the inestimable Dave Evans

NOTE: The person nattering in the background at the beginning has been taken out and shot.

ghetto

your house resembles the slums of fitzroy.
you are turning the neighbourhood into a ghetto.

those few carefully chosen venomous barbs introduced our occasionally spotted, previously mute next-door neighbour.

standing on a ladder peering down over the paling fence she exuded delusional self importance, with all the humour, charisma and personality of the queen herself.

flanked by her camellia and our banksia it was a perfectly executed text book ambush.
caught half in and half out of my mother’s car, we stood no chance
like john carradine in “stagecoach” i was gunned down before i could shoot back one single obscenity

it had taken 12 months of subversive reconnaissance and an undisclosed quantity of cream sherry to plan the attack, but she could not and would not allow interlopers so far below her station to colonise so close to her borders without responding.

her hair, an immaculate coiffure, so perfect it resembled a lacquered wood carving, and despite a more than fresh afternoon sea breeze, not a single strand defected.

her clothing and make up would have looked more than comfortable at a civic reception.
as a uniform for a hit and run- mid week commando raid on a quiet “to the point of boring” melbourne suburb, it was spectacular.

the enemy within, alfresco

elegant and understated, impeccably presented, supremely composed and confident to the point of arrogance.
a formidable opponent.

this was margaret thatcher playing norma desmond in sunset boulevard.

a final triumphant glare, and without uttering another word she sunk blissfully down below the fence line,
swallowed up by her camellias, roses, agapanthus and other exotic weeds

my mother, temporarily stunned, but ever charitable, merely said “unfortunate woman”
unfortunate the bitch lives next door i thought.

still. as a fifteen year old–white middle class male– and aspiring guitarist, i secretly found perverse satisfaction in being labelled a ghetto dweller
maybe i would be able to play the blues after all.

this was the opening salvo in what was to prove a long and dirty campaign.
i might not have had her style or vitriol, but i was not bound by adult hood to the geneva convention.
i was neither officer or gentleman – at least not when my parents were out.

the war may have started on the palace steps but i was determined it would be decided in the trenches

anonymous phone calls, overdriven guitar amplifiers, marbles on the roof, liberal applications of defoliants countered by complaints to my parents, the police, the council, the school,—- to anyone who’d listen.

propaganda, the weapon hardest to defend against, laid siege to my empire, my ghetto.
gossip, lies, slander, rumour and innuendo —- nobody loves you when you’re down and out —- i was down, but not yet out.

lucky this was years before september 11 or i’d still be playing poker with david hicks at guantanamo bay.

one school holiday, stung by an overnight assault on my push bike, i resolved to draw the enemy out of their bunker and into the open.
the tactics were simple — kick my football against the fence eight hours a day for the next three weeks, until the palings were as straight as the sydney mardi gras.

two days into the campaign her husband, who had proven himself to be even more insufferable, stormed down our drive, grabbed my footy and punctured it with a pocket knife, screaming at me to shut the fuck up.

sensing a minor victory, i told him to drop dead

incensed he wheeled round, retreated to his side of the border and in a rare display of neighbourly co-operation, promptly complied with my request.

the death certificate stated the cause as heart attack due to chronic long term arterial sclerosis —– but his wife made it abundantly clear it was murder.

here i was, now sixteen, living in a ghetto, playing a cheap jap guitar and branded a killer.
blind lemon sonny boy bland
even though my skin was never intended to be worn further south than the outer hebrides,
i felt black —- i felt truly black, in every sense of the word — as black as john mayall.
i’d gone down to the crossroads and i was never coming back.

thirty years later i found myself sitting beside my former neighbour and the latest of her four husbands at a suburban bus stop

we conversed briefly, politely and succinctly, as one does with a queen — but with out any animosity or recognition of the past.

i imagined her thinking “whatever you do, don’t mention the war”
i was thinking the same thing.

i asked how she was going.

she replied her neighbour’s house resembles the slums of fitzroy and they are turning the neighbourhood into a ghetto.

i hope her new husband likes football… i hope he likes it a lot!

© Copyright 2007 Ian Bland

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