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chairlift

It was around the point in his Palace set where Nick Cave was swaggering through Red Right Hand, or possibly bringing about the Apocalypse during Tupelo that Bruce had his epiphany: “I simply must attend All Tomorrow’s Parties”.

One persistent bout of whoring and exaggeration later and it was sealed: a ticket would be awaiting him atop Mt Buller…

The Hoonmobile, despite its overdue need for a service and the expanding hole in its exhaust, survived the trip; said hole even had its benefits. While waiting at the checkpoint at the bottom of the mountain Bruce and passenger were held up by a couple of joyless farts claiming they were on the guestlist.

“I’m ON. THE. GUESTLIST,” stomped one wrinkled prune of a women.

“Well, you’re not on any of the lists I’ve got here. Do you know who was sorting out your ticket?” asked an increasingly irate staff member.

“Dave,” said the hag.

“Dave who?”

“Dave. He’s already on the mountain.”

“Have you got a surname? Or a number for him?”

“No.”

And on and on. Simultaneously, the Hoonmobile kept farting away, until:

“Will you please turn the engine off – you’re gassing us?” asked misery.

‘Never has destroying the ozone been so worthwhile,’ thought Bruce.

Once up the mountain, well, what can you say? Fitzroy and Collingwood bars must have had a quiet weekend. A stunning location, paucity of dickheads (despite Bruce’s best festival pest efforts), a cowbell orchestra (and subsequent blood blisters), a smorgasboard of musical tastes, chairlifts carrying people over the crowd for the mainstage, facial hair to make Bruce’s Chopper-plus number look rather tame, dung core, ocelot coats, a miserable emo kid spotted smiling, Passenger of Shit’s penis mask and much, much more.

Any complaints? No, well other than a fly taking a liking for Bruce’s Jaeger Dry, over-officious security guards, the afore-mentioned inadequacy-highlighting facial hair and the fact the chairlifts didn’t operate 24/7 (“This shouldn’t be called All Tomorrow’s Parties,” said one girl hiking up the hill on Saturday afternoon. “It’s All Tomorrow’s Boot Camps.”).

The Booze Bus even waved the Hoonmobile through on the Sunday afternoon journey home, thereby negating the need to see how fast his body processes alcohol. Amen to that.

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Who\'d have thunk it?

Some of the faces have been changed to protect the innocent. And Fran

Coincidence. It’s a funny one. Can it really be explained away as just that: chance? I don’t think so.

Why do Bruce and Fran find themselves thinking the same thing at the same time when there is nothing in their environment to spark that thought?

Why did Bruce hunt down someone he’d not seen in over a decade on the internet this week at the same time said person was recounting a story about Bruce falling down the stairs at an acid house party in 1995 to a stranger in Vietnam?

Why do Bruce and Fran keep getting parking tickets outside their house every day? *

Is there something more? Are there patterns to be deciphered? Is everything inter-connected? Do we all share, as the Maharishi Yogi believed, one inner consciousness, which, as Bill Hicks suggested, we each experience subjectively? Is that the men in white coats at the door?

A few weeks back, Bruce raised these questions with Fran.

The previous evening, he’d been reading Gail Jones’ Sorry (or “The Poisonwood Bible does Western Australia”). A storm broke out overhead, the first since their arrival in Melbourne and one that had been brewing for two days or more: lightning filled the room; rain battered the skylight relentlessly. His eyes moved across the page where, suddenly, a storm of biblical proportions began to tear the family’s shack asunder.

Elsewhere in the book, there were references The Lives of the Saints, in particular the gruesome deaths suffered by those later canonized. Bruce pointed it out to Fran, being the good Catholic she is.

“I’ve never heard of this. Sounds interesting though. Will have to check it out,” he said.

Face to face with an idol

The following morning, as they made their way to the Nick Cave Exhibition that was running at the Melbourne Arts Centre, Bruce was singing a mindless ditty to Fran to the tune of You Are My Sunshine. Hunched at the end of the covered walkway on the approach to the centre was a scrawny, heavily tanned busker. He held a harmonica to his bristle-coated mouth with one tattooed hand while wafting a plastic cup over the instrument with the other, as a trumpeter manipulates sound with a mute.

“Can you hear what he’s playing?” asked Fran, as the final few notes of his song drifted away on the wind.

“Er, oh yeah. You Are My Sunshine,” said Bruce, before realising Fran’s point… “which I was singing earlier. How odd.”

Inside the Nick Cave exhibition – a valiant attempt to capture the dark magnificence of its subject – a panel of text grabbed Bruce’s attention.

“Hey Fran,” he said. “It talks about him becoming fascinated with The Lives of the Saints when he was much younger.” ‘How odd,’ he thought, remembering the previous evening’s conversation.

“Er, Bruce,” she replied, seemingly unimpressed. “Go over there and look to your left. Either they’ve got a really good impersonator or,” she said, pausing for dramatic effect before adding in a stage whisper, “he’s actually here.”

Bruce headed into the next section, past the book in which a younger Nick Cave had set postcards depicting religious scenes alongside cartoons of hardcore and fetish porn in a journal splattered with what appeared to be congealed blood, and peered ever-so-unsubtly around the partition wall. There – tall, pale, skeletal, ridiculously moustachioed and wearing trademark white shirt and fitted black suit – was the man himself.

“There’s no way they could find an impersonator that good,” he said to Fran in an excitedly hushed tone. Embarrassingly, but uncontrollably, his palms were sweating, his heart beating at double speed. “It’s him. Here. At his own exhibition!

“I was stood there looking at the photo of his wife and children when I turned around and saw him… with his wife and children,” said Fran, her eyes wild with excitement, her body all a-flap.

They simply had to get a photo. But how to approach the Prince of Darkness?

The cherubic twins

The family Cave headed upstairs to view a collection of portraits. No one else had bothered them. Perhaps they hadn’t noticed them; after all, the show had been running for months so who would expect him to visit it now from his home in England?

Following them stealthily up the brass-lined stairway, Bruce’s camera tugged more heavily than usual on his right shoulder as he recalled the way a younger Cave had dealt with an unwanted call from a journalist in Uli Schuppel’s 1989 Bad Seeds’ documentary (it wasn’t pleasant for the journo).

“Er, excuse me,” said Bruce in a terribly British manner. “Sorry to trouble you.” Nerves had turned him into Hugh Grant at his most pathetic. “But would you mind if we took a photo?”

He turned towards Bruce, his eyes seeming more hooded than ever under the rising dome of his forehead as they looked down to the large lens of the camera and glowered. Suddenly, one of his sons ran to his side and he brightened.

“Oh, OK then,” he said.

Fran appeared at his side and slid herself into his arms; his son pushed in on the other side. As Bruce tried to steady his hands to take the picture and Fran reminded him to take the lens cap off, the sound of softly padding feet came from behind.

“A photo! I want to be in it too,” shouted his other son, diving into the portrait.

Bruce set the camera to automatic, too chicken to risk ruining the moment, and prayed that it would be in focus. Fran and the two boys beamed proudly. Nick Cave towered over them, hero and father respectively with, just maybe, the slightest hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth.

Now what are the chances of that?

* The answer to this one’s easy – Port Phillip Parking Services are utterly incompetent

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