It all started harmlessly enough, as life-changing experiences often do. Ambushed, wooed, flattered and ultimately seduced with promises of great wealth and opportunity, creative autonomy, a supportive team and life-long friendship, associations and success. Who could resist? And who would ever have guessed that a little over eighteen months later, I would be standing, homeless and stranded on the wrong side of Sydney Harbour with my life in tatters?
Bear with me. Withhold your judgment. Resist the temptation to know where this was all going to end ... if only because we do.
Making things happen
My single greatest blessing and my single greatest curse is simple: I make things happen. From the days of my childhood when I used to mount entire puppet productions of the great musicals in the loungeroom of our family home, I have always made things. Happen. People who, in my presence, have dared wonder how an idea or a vision might be brought to life have usually either ended up running from it as it materialises right before their eyes, or (on the rarest of occasions) embracing it.
Burnt almost beyond recognition by the penury associated with being an independent theatre maker, and desperately needing a handsome and reliable income to pay off the accrued debts of my creative fancies, I established a small communications company ... a desktop publishing company, actually. It was actually always just clever me with an Apple Macintosh and a couple of clients who needed my skills. Nothing grand ... business cards, letterheads ... the occasional brochure here ... flyers, posters ... you know. Junk mail. Clever, neat, pretty and fancy, maybe, but junk mail nonetheless.
Over the years—ten of them in fact—I actually became quite good at junk mail. My designer's eye developed and my instinct for balance and a visual imperative translated almost effortlessly into graphic and typographic design. Slowly, my little business grew and a steady (if not always reliable) income ensued. Sure, it had its ups and downs ... but mostly, I could pay my bills and live the kind of life where I could do pretty much what I pleased. When I pleased. And it pleased me, often.
My move to Sydney in 1999 was an impulsive, spontaneous and entirely irresponsible leap of faith. I had grown tired and bored in Melbourne and the pre-2000 Sydney Olympic Games was abuzz with all sorts of mysterious possibilities (none of which, I should add at this point, ever materialised ... for anybody). Perched in Utopia on the rooftop of a daggy old apartment block in Potts Point, I fell in love with Sydney and her dazzling physical environment. The sky. The lights. The water. The constant activity. The new sights, sounds and smells. The impulsive recklessness and the determination. And the greed. My little business bubbled along ... and courtesy of Marcus O'Donnell, who I had known from the tiny and insular world of gay publishing in Melbourne, I started a regular job as Production Coordinator at Sydney's leading weekly gay and lesbian newspaper – The Sydney Star Observer.
This contract was the beginning of many, many wonderful Sydney stories. Guy, who was the designer and person who put The Sydney Star Observer together, would become a great, inspirational friend ... and a significant aspect of my salvation from the rigors of penury and homelessness would, months later, be in no small way directly attributed to his care and generosity.
It was also at The Star that I would befriend a young advertising salesman who would, in the months that followed, become my dear friend. And I would become his mentor. We would sail the harbour on his boat and I would bask in the glow of his companionship, friendship and irascible nature. Months later, he would become one of many who have mistaken my generosity and capacity for friendship for a seemingly never-ending supply of energy to be relentlessly drained. Exhausted. Our friendship capsized on an immutable point of contention: that I was in love with him and he was not in love with me. Whatever it was, I had actually became fatigued by his constant need, hunger and demand for every ounce of energy I had. On one memorable occasion, even his sister saw fit to warn me that I was being used up.
One night, as I was on my way to the boat with takeway dinner for the two of us, he called my mobile and suggested that it might not be a good time for me to come over—even though I was responding to his call for my company (and takeaway food delivery services). He had someone coming over who he would, er, prefer to spend time with. And at that moment, I burnt him off ... like a leech. I never saw or spoke to him again ... and even now, his attempts to re-establish contact with me are met with a perfunctory and entirely necessary resentful silence.
One of the greatest achievements of my life was the little magazine I published in Sydney called homo. The concept and the look of homo had come to me while I was wandering dazed, confused and dehydrated around the base of Uluru for the second time that day. He had leapt into my mind with such fierce and determined visual clarity that he was impossible to ignore.
Upon my return to Sydney, I immediately made him happen ... and after eleven issues (one every month), homo and my business collapsed under massive debts and my complete inability to continue to service the vision in real and meaningful ways. homo was to have been my future. In his short life, he had made an enormous impact. I had been celebrated as 'Homo Man' at ritzy Elizabeth Bay rooftop parties ... and he had gathered a tiny but loyal band of subscribers. But yet again, the grand theme of my life so far, continued to play out: that with two exceptions, no-one knew how to help me. They knew what they needed from me, and rarely hesitated to ask. But when I was capable of struggling to find the words and to ask for help ... or power with suggestion ... or even on one occasion, plead for support, nothing was forthcoming. And everything that might have been done by others to help me was conditional. Or absent. And homo vanished ... and with him, went my pride, my sense of achievement ... and my perception of a future.
It was a spectacular failure that even those closest to me have no concept whatsoever of the extent to which I was (and remain) incredibly damaged by it.
I've never understood conditions ... but I am beginning to like the idea of further exploring the concept. At least.