What's Rangoon to You is Grafton to Me

-*-This story is by Russell Guy and first appeared in Tracks Surfing Magazine in 1978. It is available through Tower Books in a short story compilation entitled "What's Rangoon to You is Grafton to Me": a radio cult classic and other stories by Russell Guy; published by Collins/Angus & Robertson, Syndey 1991. It was performed on 2JJ (now triple J) in October 1978 and has since been performed on Radio National-*-

i dunno... people should try being someone else for a while. i was Den Whitton for a few days, and i quite liked it.

Look what that did for me:

(sfx: frogs)

I was just waking up when the front tyre went. At the same time a horse appeared, the headlights blew and the horizon came through the windshield. I kissed Ertha Kitt and left the road like a jumbo jet diving into a swamp. Some time later I regained a level of consciousness more ugly than the one I just left. I'd seen some strange movies on the insides of my eyelids again and now I was wide awake.

But I couldn't be sure.

Do you realise that Bob Menzies now knows what really happened to Harold Holt?

There are a lot of answers to question. If travel really broadened the mind then why sent astronauts into outer space, when for half the price they could send heads of state into innerspace. It just didn't make sense. Millions of years ago when Man fir st crawled out of the sea

Was he wearing a bathing suit?

There are a lot of answers to question.

It was the radio.

It didn't make sense.

Blue fashes shot out of the radio as I fishtailed out of the creek, clawed through the lantana and gripped back onto the Bruce: heading South and driving all night; Brisbane to Sydney; travelling low and close to the sky; glancing up at palm tree silho uettes like giant swizzle-sticks in a Bjelki-Peterson cocktail. There ase many reasons for leaving Brisbane and no time like the present, on a trip that's being driven every night from Townsville to Tumut; Gindagai to Sirius; Rangoon to Grafton.

From one side of your face to the other (sfx riiiip!)

I folded the Shell roadmap into a twelve inch square, reducing the New South Wales coastline to a glance, and then lit up an Arnott's scotch finger biscuit. I placed the shock absorbers onto automatic pilot and took out my attache case containing the n ight driving brain that helped me see round corners, pink dots, across oceans, and down wombat holes.

When the night comes down your coller and the road starts coming up through your headlights familliar landscape suddenly isn't.

*It's dreamtime in the land of legends. Somewhere out there Henry Lawson's taking another swig.

Inside the car I'm making final adjustments to the viewing screen: a Holden windscreen where tonight's travel thriller is being shown at 70mph. Not so much "The Cars That Ate Paris"

or "The Jellyfish That Swallowed Coffs Harbour."

It was going to be a good trip. I pressed my foot against the rear-view screen.

It was the radio.

Ertha Kitt cooled off while the low spark of the high-heeled boys took the edge off Tweed Heads and the lights of Murwillumbah disappeared in the rear-view mirror. I made myself comfortable and a short time later saw Halleys Comet pass three times to t he East. Mount Warning flashed a message, and pretty soon I was in Rangoon trying to master the art of being powerless and completely stupid: the only way to travel.

Lapsing into a coma and running off the road had already proved too easy, so I placed one eye on the road, one in Rangoon, and the other on a box of Darrell Lea chocolates that I was quietly quaffing at the Rangoon Bowling Club, having just filled up w ith Total at Brunswick Heads.

The hills were alive with the sound of snorting truckies, and I was just begining to lay back and enjoy it, when I heard a noise like a Sunbeam Lady Shaver in reverse. I looked out to see some poor schizoid drive out of a creek and disappear backwards up the road. His laugh looked a lot like mine, but I knew it wasn't me. No one from Sydney can laugh that long.

It was the radio

An all night pit stop loomed about fifty years up the road, but there was also somthing on the back seat; moving and curling; reaching out with long dark fingers ripping my throat, twisting my toes, and pounding my ears into the dash.

It was the radio.

The transendental masterbation unit on my shoulders began to show more interest in a floating Esso sign, so I drifted back from Rangoon in time to take milk with my coffee.

Where was I? Highway One. Hawaii Five-O. Is my port still on board? Was there a bomb on board? Was *I* on board?

Was I neurotic, or just low on gas? I couldn't be sure. I reached for the map, but never quite made it.

Where was I?

I couldn't be sure.

I reached for the map, but never quite made it.

But I couldn't be sure.

It just didn't make sense.

My eyes followed the curve in my neck, and in the back window I saw the Southern Cross neatly intercepted by the Grafton sign post. "Grafton?" I screamed twice: "Europe was never like this." Grafton and Rangoon don't mix, even with a limp. It might be a nice place for acid casualties to retire, but getting through Grafton at night is like chasing the min-min lights through the cross-roads of crediblity.

Luckily I was travelling with my cat as, every good traveller knows, cats contribute to the psycic kitty. Dogs are useful travelling companions when you want advanced waring of natural disasters, like volcanic eruptions, floating boat sheds, and second commings, but cats work the other way:

From the inside out.

I hit the radio. The hair on the back of my cat fell out. It was Harry Belefonte. I knew cats can't stand reggae: it confuses them. They mince around looking all egyptian, trying to walk sideways, but not really getting anywhere. I killed the radio and put the cat out.

(grams: Glenn Miller Little Brown Jug.)

Somewhere up above the murderous fog I could just make out the semi-monotonous drone of one of Her Majesty's Burmese warriors. It was Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader. The mightly legless flier was circling hopelessly, the motor of his sawn-off spitfire gurgling like a dijeridoo in mud, searching for the blacked out flying field where Burmese dope runners lay concealed by the paranoia in the air and the hash resin in their eyes. Hail Douglas in articulo mortis!

It was time to go over the top.

A month on the floor and I was ready for bed when the phone in my foot rang. It was the TAB, the RSL, the CSIRO, and the man from the psycadelicatessen all raving in poodle Spanish.

Take your own brains to the cleaners, Mohammed!

I screamed and locked the passenger side door. But worse, a leg was coming through the windshield. An arm appeared followed by a torso and finally a face. I recognised it instantly as Dr. Timothy Leary who was on the outside looking in.

"I'm the man most likely to discover imortality and good surf on the south side" he said. "Don't talk to ME about scizophrenia, Tim," I replied. "I'm still alive even as I write this." Rock and roll was dead as I tuned up the dial and hit the riff. The radio leapt off its death bed on the back seat,


The Rolling Stones twitching in the static,

That's what I say!

but the penetrating bounce of its signal couldn't cut the cryogenital state of Australian broadcasting so I flicked the switch and the dizzy monster slithered back into its speakerbox.

But what's all this got to do with Grafton?

About as much as 1978's got to do with Disneyland.

There must be some way out of here.

There must be some way out of here.

Where was I and When was it?

Where have all the dingos gone?

The full moon was piercing as I slammed into neutral and went for it.

It was 2am in Rangoon and early next week in Grafton. The full moon, and piercing. I slammed into neutral and went for it.

Where was I and when was it?

Where was I and when was it? Where have all the dingos gone? It was the age of spoof, and Australia's not on the map.

A cassette fell into place and Jimi Hendrix bent back the night.

There must be some way outta here,

There must be some way outta here,

Said the Joker to the Thief. Said the Joker to the Thief.

There's too much confusion.

I can't get no relief.

Go Jimi.

They just stand there, drink my wine!

Go Jimi.

While they dig their hurt!

Go Jimi

No reason to

Go Jimi

Outside, even the snakes were cold. The air was frozen still. The Mullumbimby Moon and an arctic-white Holden gliding south in northern NSW, slicing through a sea of stars while green-tinged jellyfish hovered in the headlights, tenticles bristling in t he breeze. Out over the silver hills enormous manta rays streaked through the night skies like hang-gliders returning to Byron Bay.

Rangoon swam into focus but my concentration had flown out the window. My foot was asleep travelling at twice the speed of lead. Ghost gums flickered by at blurr speed. The car slid around the curve, and what looked like several realities at once came crashing through the glass. The full moon hung right above the steering wheel, not saying a word.

Hahahaha! Ah, the mug laughs at the moon and everybody for ten miles around in >all directions wonders why. He's just reminding them. Of what? Of the moon!

The old dumb moon of a million lives.

A possum looked up, looked through me, and was gone. A flash of fauna, its eyes glinting like beercans by the side of the road. Everything went by so rapidly that I had scarcely the power of observation. Blur had set in.

A knock on the roof brought me back to the viewing screen. It had drifted out of focus. My eyes swam before the instrument panel like a short-sighted projectionist at a drive-in movie. I reeled in my mind and wound up the window, fishing in the glovebo x for another slide from my prized collection of sunsets. I was just about to throw one up when the grin on my face cracked. I tried not to laugh as I saw the flashing blue light in the rear view mirror.

One Adam-Twelve, we have a herbal freak in progress.

The odds of being rattled by the thought patrol on the New England Highway at night are lower than crashing imortality by square rooting death with blind mathematics. The coastal route's more dense, and so are the cops.

Trying to explain a packet of herbal tea to a reincarnation of Broderick Crawford is not easy, especially when you've just smoked your last joint. 3 o'clock in the morning this guy was still wearing sunglasses. An aura of evil surrounded his hawk-like head for a distance of fifteen feet.

A speeding fine, interrogation by torch, and small chat about what really went on in Griffith did nothing to unsettle my mind. I was in Rangoon and left it to that celebrated media mind fixer Colonel "Buck" Keith-FitzChudly to remind Constable Molloy of Mackville that there is such a thing a crank mail in reverse. The army knows only too well the searing bite of this merciless maxim. Each time they lodge recruitment posters in the newspapers Colonel Chudly replies with a coupon reminding them that

Military Intelligence is a contradiction in terms.

I waved goodbye, jumped back in the car, and got down to the serious business of getting out of it. I was trying to put as much space between Rangoon and Grafton as possible.

All of a sudden the cat screamed and the CB barked. I was trained in nerve warfare so I barked at the cat and screamed at the CB. It was my good buddy Spite-Lieutenent Tutankhamon and Sergeant Footman of the Egyptian Eyeforce.

"How's your cat?", he enquired.

"Not Out!" I retorted. We continued to exchange mixed pleasentries, and ribal abuse in a stream of misleading cosmic plattitudes. "Hasn't the weather been strange lately?"

Not as strange as it's going to get.

I agreed to attend the Rangoon used-planet sale during the rocktober equinox, and signed off as the radio areial came to rest against the extended foot of a learing mutant who was hitching a ride.

Drive me to distraction.

He was a refugee from the Al Capone Shool Of Advanced Punk. His head was seperated at the neck, and his eyes looked both ways before crossing.

Drive me to distraction.

"You're on!" I said. "Hasn't the wheather been strange lately? How's your cat? Get out and close the door."

Under his army fatigues he wore a Gympie Cowgirl's CoOperative tee-shirt, and his lapel sported a foot-power button that glowed in the dark. "I've just done some speed," he quipped. "I'm heading for Sydney."

"It would be a better place," I screamed and drove off in a cloud of figure eights.

He didn't say another word for five hours.

During the night we developed a good friendship based on the tascit understanding that neither of us played neurolgical crosswords. We were so off our face that instead of talking the eyes in the sides of our heads exchanged data. Occasionally I heard his neurons whirr like a flock on major mitchells.

Each time this happened I wound the window down and screamed at the jellyfish circling lazily above the speeding bonnet. "Here Judith! Nice boy, Brian! C'mon Neville!" His eyes continued to strick out across the moonscape, in the end I left him to his own vision of Pompeii. The sound of bolting doors was all that echoed from his ears.

He was the perfect hitch-hiker: entertaining but mute in all the right places. He never once complained about the steel girder of static satire that was masquerading as 2JJ's programme on the speaker box on the back seat. I think he even got a kick fro m the jumper leads I'd rigged under the dash. He attached the positive to his forehead and stuck the negative in his mouth before jerking around the front seat like a vegetarian in a butcher's cold-room.

Pure punk.

Two hours later he fell back in the seat, revealing his face: a simultaneous menifestation of love and fear, purple powder burns shaded his eyes, and he looked like he'd been standing on a dole queue all his life. But before I gould tear myself in two. ..

(sfx ticktickticktickBOOM!)

...I was back in Rangoon. "Alright, who's next?" came the market cry. "Get Back!" I screamed. "I'm an Australian!" I knew this was a pretty lame excuse and prepared myself for the truth.

"Australia is merely an island of Antarctica," came a voice," and of no further significence." Suddenly I understood the secret of Atlantis.

I left the markets and wandered down to the Smokey Wheather Club, where the Black And Blue Minsterals were appearing in the "Burnt Toast Caberet Show." There was always a surfeit of afghan hounds at the Smokey Wheather Club sitting around, smoking cric ket balls and reading the Burmese edition of Uranus Monthly. This was the real Rangoon, and instead of hanging out playing Musical Brains with Agnostics Annonymous, I had run into my old confidant the Governor General Of Her Majesty's Fishtank, Commodore Lord Deveraux Roller-Door-Derby, the famous Telecom Indian wrestler; the only Lord alive who could indian-wrestle by telephone. He has Uri Geller eating out of his head.

It was time for a growl and the perfect chance to casually drop the name of a good restraunt. "The Toast Of Rangoon" is a little place where they serve toast in a shoebox, and a plaster-paris cat named Bruce played Eno on the piano. Lord Deveraux had t he toast-du-jour, and I had flaming blue-bottles served under glass: not recommended for eating or staring at for as long as it takes to realise that

What's Rangoon to you is Grafton to me

What's Rangoon to you is Grafton to me

Four o'clock's the dark hour, the hour before dawn.

Four o'clock's the dark hour, the hour before dawn

Four o'clock's the dark hour, the hour before dawn

Four o'clock's the dark hour, the hour before dawn

Four o'clock's the dark hour, an hour before dawn, and atop the Great Divide the early morning planets were rising before the sun. I tapped out a message to Betalguese and waited for a reply.

Through the frozen shadows ash-covered Aboriginals crowded the smouldering embers of their camp fire. The moon - almost gone. Sometime later I was sitting under a tree on the road to Rome. A fellow traveller buckled his sandle. I merely nodded and fill ed my pipe. It was time for the news.

All over the country breakfast announcers were racing for their studios, the Midnight-To-Dawn show asleep on the back seat. It was time for the news.

I put through a call to the ABC's person in Rangoon, but she was out to lunch with Gengis Khan. I needed someone to talk to, not necessarily human. The operator was a recording but said Eric Von Danniken was on the same wavelength riding neon tubes in Greenland. Was I crazy enough to speak with him?

Erik and I had little to say to one another. I quizzed him about the Ita Buttrose conspiracy, and served sublime questions about agnostisism until I got too much interference on my nervous system, and told Von Danniken he was hung up on Jellyfish. He t hanked me for the insight, and signed off in English.

I drifted back to the Major Judith Kidney Motel for breakfast, where I found the half-dressed, but fully whacked, Flying Zuccini Brothers performing a human pyramid in the lobby accompanied by the cheers of Princess Dog, of Queensland, who was touring the middle universe in anticipation of the return of You-Know-Who.

"Break it up, boys!" I screamed. "Pass the joint." This brought the house down, and the Flying Zuccini Brothers as well. There was no sense in waiting around for kudos so as soon as the dust cleared I headed straight for the breakfast room with the Pr incess Dog who was loitering in the lobby. Major was serving breakfast, and I told him his sandshoes were on fire. Quick as a flash he returned the fire. I rolled under the table as Princess Dog went up in a cloud of muslie. He passed me a bowl of parachu te bolognaise.

I'd had a rough night's sleep and was in a semi-detached frame of mind, which is where I live most of the time, but the roof had sprung a leak and I'd woken up with this strange bone growing out of the top of my head. On my way to the bathroom mirror I ran into the famous and fashionable mind-juicer, Karl C. Jung, who was standing on the fridge out of milk and out of breath.

"What's it all mean, Karl?" I screamed.

"I'm glad you asked." he replied. "The readers have been dying to know." Erik Von Danniken had just rung him to say that I was cute but crazy, and I was unprepared for what Karl had to say. "It's your dorsal fin. you're turning into a shark." Jungian n otions cover a great deal of whatever the hell is going on, but not all of it.

Jung was brilliantly right in saying the flying saucer phenominum would become and important religious and spiritual transformation of humanity.

Blurred encounters of a close kind.

Blurr had set in. A knock on the roof brought me back to the viewing screen. Close encounters of a blurred kind indeed.

(sfx Magpies singing)

The sun was streaking through Bulladeelah as I looked up from breakfast - a pinapple split over a stump still glowing from last nights bush fire, a creature that seemed more reasonable in the dark. I had already wash the grease out of the pits and wash rearranging my wrinkles when I heard a noise that sounded like the mating call of a wild Massey-Fergusson.

I peered through the burnt out scrub and witnessed a platoon of swamis flitting through the smoking trunks hearding a flock of jellyfish down to the waterhole. They were deep in meditation, chanted Hickory Dickory Dock as they moved through the bush no t more than three dimensions in front of me. It was a bit much first thing in the morning, and I absorbed too many rounds of brain-damaging hickory-dickory-docks before I could find a break in the traffic, and get back on the road to oblivion - a place no t all that far from Sydney.

It's very peaceful out on the road: just me and the splattered butterflies, with the ubiquitous black crows zinging above the ironbarks, pinned to the cumulus like a postcard from Zowieland. The telegraph poles splinter in the sun like scarecrows at an astronauts picnic. Mmmmmmmmmthe hum of singing train lines like a telephone call from outer space. I had a beep on my image watch and returned to Kempsy.

The Kempsy RSL hall was a magnificent shrine to what it's all about, complete with a freshly painted replica of a 1938 neutron bomb chained to the flag pole. A breathtaking memorial to 20th century architecture from the Post-Annihalation period. I needed a break, so I wheeled into the carpark and entered the RSL for a drink. As I walked up to the bar for a hypocrit cocktail Walt Disney climbed out of the fridg e.

"What are you doing in there, Walt?" I screamed.

"Selling Stawberries, of course."

Of course.

I couldn't argue with that, so I climbed back into the car and drove off into the sunset.

I couldn't argue with that

The late afternoon sunlight struck the window like an eclipse seen through a beer bottle, and before I could tune in Rangoon some pseudo-sufi disk jockey lept off the back seat like a can of disintergrating coral, playing The Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon" o n the radio.

It was another cold night as the first twilight jellyfish flapped across the road and down through the bracken fern. The smokestacks of Newcastle flung across the viewing screen like guide posts on the road to Rangoon.

I was just waking up when the front tyre went

Do you realise that Bob Menzies now knows what happened to

Harold Holt?

Was he wearing a bathing suit?

Heading South, and driving all night

Dreamtime in the land of legends

Somewhere out there Henry Lawson was taking another swig

Mount Warning flashed a message, pretty soon I was in Rangoon

Mastering the art of being powerless and completely stupid

There was also something on the back seat

It was the radio

I screamed twice "Europe was never like this!"

The hair on the back of my cat fell out

Where was I and when was it?

Where have all the dingos gone?

One-Adam-Twelve, We have a herbal freak in progress.

I drove off the page and never saw myself again.

(sfx: frogs)

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Copyright © 1978 Russell Guy
Last updated Friday, September 26, 1997