"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

"Michael and his pals make me wish I lived in Adelaide" - Cherdo

"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Friday, 16 October 2015

I Was Affected

"No tattoos before you're thirty.
You can have one on your face after that, but rest assured, you won't get a dolphin leaping over your belly button if you wait till then."

 I'm going to say something that sounds a bit insensitive. I don't usually pay much attention to the deaths of public figures. When Michael Jackson died, I heard a lot of people say he was a huge part of their lives growing up. When Australian celebrity Steve Irwin died, I sure thought it was sad, but I never had to go through any sort of grieving process like most people do when someone they love dies. Every couple of months, the name of a newly deceased person appears in the news and the people around me will reminisce about the role that person played in their childhood. Often I wouldn't even know who the person was or I'd have to be reminded of some of their work I might have seen. I figured that the essential element in being affected must be that connection to growing up.

"Read the newspapers.

There's nothing quite as scary as people whose sum knowledge of the world is what their parents have heard on talkback radio."

Robin Williams stirred something in me. I was always jealous of how he could make any person break into hysterical laughter with no effort at all. I was also aware that that ability tends to come to those who have a lot of demons to contend with. I was in love with the way he dealt with his demons by making others feel better about themselves on a truly altruistic level. I do miss him.

"Always choose the man who makes you laugh.

Don't date men just for their looks, money or status. The six-pack of abdominals fades, the sense of humour doesn't."

But apart from him, I haven't been able to think of anyone who made that much of a difference to me in my childhood. There was no one whose music I listened to or whose movies I'd seen which had made that big a difference to who I would become. I didn't think I would ever feel that way about a person I'd ever met. Until it happened.

When I was in high school, trying to fit in with the crowd and causing myself no end of depression (as is the case with most high schoolers), I was in a mall with some friends and they wanted to go into a particular store for reasons that I forget. While they were taking care of their business, I was taking a look at a table of discount books. One small book caught my attention with its nice azure-coloured cover. It was entitled "No Tattoos Before You're Thirty" and it was written by a man named Sam de Brito. It was full of short pieces of advice that he planned to give his children when he had them. Advice that was mostly politically incorrect, but undeniably true. Advice that he "wished somebody, anybody, had told him twenty years ago." It was split into what he'd tell his darling daughter and what he'd tell his dashing son.

"Don't smoke hydro.

Hydroponic marijuana is full of fertilisers and pesticides. If you're going to have the odd joint, stick with naturally grown weed - and stop when the voices start."

Flicking through these little pearls of wisdom, I found myself laughing and felt my mind expanding. I'd never seen anyone talk like that before.

"Notice detail.

An unfilled glass at a party, a new hairstyle, a certain angle of penetration. Women love it when you remember the little things."

I bought the book for $12.95 and read it all that night. The next day I took it to school and showed my friends, who also loved it. I was lending it out to a new person each week and I myself reread it countless times, hoping to commit every rule to memory, whether for boy or girl.

"Never phone a man.

Ever. Guys don't need encouragement. They just get cocky if they think you're too attainable. Blokes are like weeds. Ignore them and they're everywhere. However..."

"Return his calls.

Even if it's to say "Thanks, but no thanks." Guys have feelings too and no one likes being ignored. Basic courtesy satisfies most stalkers."

Eventually, my friends moved on and so did I. This tiny book found a place on my bookshelf and I didn't pick it up again for years. I grew up (somewhat), developed my own identity (sort of), found new friends and started learning how to make the most out of life. Then earlier this week, I was shocked to come across this headline.

I was surprised by how much of a big deal I felt that was. There's probably not many people outside of Sydney who have even heard of him. But to me, this was sadder than anything else I'd been through in months. As I read on, the article talked about de Brito's newspaper columns, including his last ever article printed just the day before. It was about the backlash against parents who let their child sleep in the same bed.

"Homo sapiens and homo erectus have survived more than two million years sleeping with their children, and when I draw my daughter into my chest, smell her hair and mumble love to her in the quiet hours of the night, I feel more a father, more human, than at any other time. Best of all, my daughter wakes calm and happy ... before she sits on my head."

That was the last the last thing he ever wrote. Reading that, and re-reading the book I now had back in my hands, it was clear to me that Sam was a man who had a very deep love to share. I knew that he was a man who recognised the beautiful things in the world and allowed himself to be moved by them. I knew he'd been through some awfully rough personal challenges and come out the other side a better person. I knew this because I've seen it before many times. I've seen people go through it. I've been through it.

"Respect cops.

You don't have to like them, but appreciate the job they do. It's a brutal occupation, and they're the first people you call when the shit hits the fan."

People like that happen to be my favourite people in the world. People who are vulnerable and who notice the beauty that lies in loving and in being loved. Sam de Brito wrote a tiny little book that was probably under a thousand words. At the time I bought it, it was the smallest, most insignificant part of my dramatic, turbulent adolescence. Yet it turned out that that inconsequential piece of work had made a more profound impact on my life than I'd ever realised.

"Things you will never regret doing:

Visiting your Grandma
Standing up to a bully
Living in Paris
Falling madly in love"

Thanks Sam, for being the man you were. We need more people like you, who see the world in a way that really makes it a better place.

"Don't be scared.

This is so important it should philosophically inform every moment of your life. Unless you're in physical danger, fear is nature's way of telling you you're about to grow."

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