Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

First Love

The lost cap, pre-graffiti

I stood on the bridge overlooking the creek in Halls Gap and watched as my cap floated away in the water, gone forever. I could just see, written in black permanent marker on the peak, the letters CE surrounded in a heart. Cap and love heart sank beneath the rushing waters. Gotta love a metaphor.

It was 1985. I was 11 years old. The loss of that cap was one of the most devastating things that happened to me that year. That and the loss of the girl that went along with the letters CE.

People who pooh pooh the love that we feel in those pre-teen years just don’t remember what it was like. That first obsession is everything. Nothing is safe from the permanent marker, the love heart, the initials. Tree trunks, books, clothing, desks, all tattooed with the symbol of young love, usually unrequited.

CE wasn’t my first love. My first love was KK, back in Grade Two, in Heathcote. That was a tragic story. Kathryn was in the grade above me. Pretty and blonde, she let me catch her in kiss chasey and the romance blossomed from there. But it was a romance doomed to fail. We were separated when Mum and Dad took the family to Queensland on a six-week holiday. I don’t know whether she pined for me, but I managed a few illicit holiday romances up north. I remember a curly-headed blonde somewhere around Noosa, who was more interested in kissing than conversation. That was fine by me, although after a couple of days I was a bit tired of it.

When I returned, we tried to continue on the way we were, but something had changed. We both knew it was over, but kept it going for the sake of appearances. We had my father as a teacher that year. He had us create poetry. Hers went something along the lines of:

Kathryn had a little lamb
Damian was its name
And everywhere that Kathryn went
Lambie also came.

Obviously, I was incensed! How could she humiliate me thus! I chased her around the room, trying to get the poem back before she handed it to my father. I got hold of the paper, it ripped. The tearing of the poem mirrored the rending of our little love affair. I don’t even remember speaking to her for the rest of the year.

So, maybe that wasn’t exactly love. It was more involved than my first girlfriend; I met her in kindergarten. I want to say Cindy, but I’m sure Mum has a better idea than I do. Another blonde. My tastes changed. We walked to kinder together, along with our mothers – excellent chaperones. One day, on the way to kinder, we were pretending to be cats. A little bit overzealous, I hissed and swatted Cindy with my claws out, leaving a decent scratch across her cheek. She didn’t forgive me for that, and the relationship was over.

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t love.

But CE, that was love. Unrequited, from start to finish. Starting in Grade 5, I still carried a torch for her in Year 8, but by then we were living in different worlds and didn’t meet very often. By then she’d become an ideal, and when I caught up with her at the Ky Show in 1988 and asked her out, I wasn’t overly worried by the rejection.

Just. Radiant.

CE was beautiful. Her hair was long and brown; her eyes always carried a smile. She had a smattering of freckles across her cheeks and she had a fresh, lively personality. CE played tennis, which showed in her athletic figure. I was smitten from the first time I met her and loved her with a purity only matched by one other person in my life.

Once you hit puberty, even the truest love has an undercurrent of desire. CE was never sullied in my mind by impure thoughts. But she did break my heart, a betrayal that I never quite forgave her for, even while I continued to love her.

She was in my class. I was trying to build up the courage to ask her to go out with me. We were friendly. She melted me with her smile and the focus she gave me when she said hi in the mornings. I have no idea how I responded. I can’t imagine it was overly suave. I worked through my plan with Matt. I’d go in, have Matt distract her friend so that I could get her alone. I’d ask her to be my girlfriend (and what a mammoth undertaking that was at the age of ten!) and I would marry her shortly afterwards, our lives twining together into eternal bliss.

I came into the class early. Matt grabbed her friend with some pretence, I walked straight up to her and asked her out –

“Oh, Damian, I’m sorry. Tim asked me out just a few minutes ago. He’s my boyfriend now!” And, just to stick the jagged knife into my heart: “But, if you’d asked me first I’d have said yes.”

Tim. My nemesis! A loud, boisterous child, more active than intelligent and obviously just a little quicker off the mark. It turns out he wasn’t even really interested in her. He just knew that I wanted to go out with her, so he got in first because he could. Handsome, smarmy, pre-teen git.

And so CE was lost to me forever. I loved her still, but I couldn’t go out with her after she’d been out with Tim. I pined for the rest of the year. Well, obviously I didn’t pine for the entire year. But I kept her on a pedestal, my beautiful CE, with her only flaw being her terrible judgement of character.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t look at the cap floating down the river and think “well, that’s indicative!” but it stuck with me as an image. That heart, scribbled onto my cap with the initials within is burned into my memory.

PS. The adult me is damned ecstatic that the stupid cap floated away. I must have looked like a complete dill wearing a navy blue cap, covered in graffiti. How could my parents allow me to continue to wear it?

PPS. My other pure love lasted from 1986 until, well, let us say well into the new millennium. It took me seven years to ask her out and that rejection put me under for a week. I loved her, I desired her, I lost her and then I found my best friend. She has been my best friend ever since, and means as much to me as family.

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It’s not paranoid if they’re actually out to get you!

Ok. It’s been a week and my mention of conspiracy theories hasn’t invited any short term reprisals. I feel confident enough to make some general observations on the subject.

In Finding Damo, one of my characters is a bit of a conspiracy nut. Nothing is to chance. Everything has a reason, whether benevolent or sinister. If it isn’t the government, it’s the aliens, the big corporations or computer hackers. I feel quite safe attacking the government and the aliens, but being ‘Net based, I’m leaving the hackers alone. A lovely bunch, no matter what anyone says.

So, as research, I started to read up on conspiracy theories… and my life as a sane person ended.

Did you know:

There is a plot, by the Majestic 12, or the invading aliens or whoever, to undermine the world’s economy. The evidence is overwhelming. Ok, here’s the deal. We are slowly moving towards a cashless society. Credit cards and debit cards, online banking and iTunes vouchers. Cash is pretty much a thing of the past. Who has even seen a giant vault full of gold lately? Once we’re all online, cash wise, those secret purveyors of power will destroy the Internet, completely wiping out all financial records throughout the world. From the ashes of our society, the Evil Bunnies (or whoever) will rise, having secretly hoarded all of the world’s material wealth. Just remember, it was me who warned you. And if there are shortages of CC’s at your supermarket, that’s me stocking up.

The amount of stuff packed into our drinking water and immunization needles makes me wonder that we don’t all die out due to dehydration or measles. There are tracker chips, tiny DNA markers, hallucinogens, neural inhibitors and probably alien embryos. Taste the chemical rainbow!

There was no moon landing. There was a moon landing, but they forgot to turn the camera on. There was a moon landing, but the aliens kept getting in the shot, holding signs saying “hi Mum!”

The oil companies and Giant software companies hire assassins and thugs to get rid of innovators who could impact their profit shares. There are any number of green renewable energy sources out there, held under lock and key by the greedy oil moguls. It’s all about the mighty dollar.

Every now and then, an entire community will disappear. This is usually due to secret testing of a new and wonderful weapon. Apparently voters make good cannon fodder. Maybe there’s a list of towns that the weapons testers can daw on. “Says here, this town is full of people who don’t like Glee.” “Fine, nuke ’em.”

Everything you do is being monitored. Someone knows your preferences in DVDs, your favourite brand of peaches and your shoe size. Someone takes note of each of your friends, their affiliations, your relationship status and sexual preferences. You thought you were so tricky, ordering that chicken taming kit in the brown paper bag! Big Brother IS watching.

And there’s no conspiracy involved in that last one.

Get your shiny tin foil hats on and organise your end-of-the-world parties before the Aztec calendar finishes, civilisation along with it.

Finding Damo’s Guide to Online Dating

I was going to do this blog on conspiracy theories, after the aliens and angels got into my head from last time. Two things stopped me:

  1. The secret government group that monitors all web sites referencing conspiracy theories (hi guys) and stops us when we get too close to the truth, and
  2. A friend contacting me to find out what she should do to improve her online dating profile.

lunatic fringeNow, this might have been at the request of the secret government group – I’ve been quite lax in wearing my tin foil helmet lately – or it may be that I’ve just gotten engaged to a girl… that I met through online dating.

You decide.

Either way, apparently now I’m a success story (don’t get me started on success. That’s a whole ‘nother blog). I hit the firewall running and came out, oh, fourteen years later with the future Mrs. Perry (or not Mrs. Perry – a whole ‘nother blog).

Some might say that fourteen years counts more towards statistical probability rather than success. I’m a cup-half-full kind of guy. I say it’s hard work, perseverance and a winning smile. But a goodly number of my friends regularly use online dating (for some, it’s like a heroin addict uses needles). I’ve seen my fair share of dating profiles. I know what works, and I’m willing to share.

So read on.

Finding Damo’s Guide to Successful Online Dating

First up, it helps to be incredibly attractive, wealthy and fit. If you’re all three of those, you’re pretty much set, and you can just write “hi, I’m single” and wait for the contact requests to start flowing.

If, like most of us, you just have to get by on being incredibly attractive, the following might help:

1. Choose your site.

I’m only going with what I know, and there are thousands of dating sites out there, but there are a few major types worth mentioning.

The major dating sites include RSVP, Match.com and eHarmony. These are the ones that advertise in Prime Time rather than after 11pm. They are usually associated with a major publishing firm. RSVP belongs to the Fairfax Group. Match.com was, last I looked, attached to Yahoo7. They’re slick, well populated and a good safe starting option.

There are a number of free dating sites, for the cheapskates and the brave amongst us (yes, I’ve been there). Oasis and plentyoffish are the two I know about. My experience of both of these is you get what you pay for. My contacts through Oasis included two amiable lunatics and one island girl who wanted me to buy her a web cam and a plane ticket.

There are also a number of “adult” dating sites out there. I’m not linking to these, but it’s enough to say that members of these sites are not, in general, looking for a long term relationship (and no, I’m not accepting comments on here from people who claim otherwise).

My most success has been with RSVP. I’ll concentrate on that one.

2. Choose a pen name

This can be an absolute date-killer. Or it can be an instant in. For example, I was searching for a friend of mine on RSVP to show the girl mentioned in the opening. I looked for a guy between 35 and 40 living on the bay. Here are some guys I would never date, without even looking at their pictures:

CuteEuroMale, Metrosexual007, Laidbackguy71, Kissesdeep1000m, Hawkz2011

Here are some guys who, if I was a girl with similar interests to me the guy, would pass onto the next round:

Shivermetimbers (gotta love a pirate), Bombadill, EdRooneysOffice (save Ferris!), BashfullyCheeky, ilikebooks (but I wish he’d used capitalisation), JustGotBackToAus (travel: tick!), EmbraceAdventure (ditto).

My own moniker was OmenToo. It amused me, did nothing for anyone else, except for the girl who said that she was slightly disturbed by the demonic references. See? Names help.

3. Choose a photo

Once they’ve gotten past the scary screen name, they’ll have to deal with the photo. For all of you out there reading, gorgeous folk that you are, this shouldn’t be a big problem. However, there are a few pointers that might help:

–       don’t wear sunglasses – your eyes are your best feature, no matter what you think.

–       Don’t use photos that you’ve taken yourself by holding your phone out at arms length, or standing in a mirror. Self-taken photo = “I have no friends”. It might be false. You may have hundreds of friends. Then, we ponder, why couldn’t one of them  taken a photo for you?

Do as I say, not as I do

The highlighted section is one of my profile pictures

–       Don’t use photos of you and your ex with your ex cropped out. Seriously, that disembodied arm could either be an ex-girlfriend or Thing from the Addams Family. Either way, not pleasant.

–       If you’ve been somewhere brilliant or done something breathtaking, AND you had a friend or total stranger take your photo, AND your ex or Thing wasn’t in the shot with you, why not use it as a profile shot? You in front of the Sphinx is way cooler than you in front a brick wall.

4. Write your profile

The penultimate step. Also, the hardest. I’ve written a novel. I’ve written three full-length plays and innumerable short stories. My online dating profile was the hardest thing I’ve ever written (to my darling fiancé: don’t worry, I haven’t started on the vows yet). Profile writing is an art. Compressing yourself into the breathtaking first-impressions-count summary of the century isn’t just difficult, it’s virtually impossible. But the following might help:

People who run these sites keep saying “don’t say you have a great sense of humour, show it.” My profile ran to Dad jokes and Monty Python quotes, but it worked. And girls knew what they were getting: bad puns and pop culture overload.

Living in Australia, it was useful to stick a bit of Nihongo in my profile, because it was unusual here. What is special about you? Make sure it’s in your opening statements.

You should increase “How do I look?” from “Average” to “Petty damn good”. Don’t tell me you’re “a little overweight” when you’re actually quite slim, as far as Australia’s average is concerned. A lot of guys (and girls) will do searches with a baseline of Great or whatever. One of my fiancé’s more embarrassing stories about me is that one of her reasons for seeing me in the first place was that I wasn’t overly interested in body image, as I picked “average” body type and upwards. My response was “Oh, no. I just know that women usually underestimate their attractiveness and didn’t want to discount a beautiful woman with low self-esteem”

Conversely, don’t lie. On one date, my supposedly “slim” date (with no photo) sat in the booth of the restaurant where we were to meet, red flower in her hand. I had to look twice to make sure she wasn’t under this 150kg imposter. And I’m not so callous as to just cut and run, which was my first impulse. But I felt a little betrayed at the lie, and the date went absolutely nowhere.

5. Go on dates

This sounds obvious, but the fact of the matter is, you can be on all the dating sites you want. You can have the perfect profile and have guys or girls contacting you in a flood of anticipatory longing. But if you never meet any of them, you’ll die alone. With your cats. And an old dressing gown. Yelling “WILL YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN?” But you don’t have a lawn. Trust me. It’s not good. And don’t have unreasonable expectations. I’ve been on some shocking dates. And some ok dates. And a couple of fantastic dates that went nowhere but both of us had a good time. And a couple of fantastic dates that led to long-term relationships.

And one that ended in proposal by the water in Williamstown, with her laughing through her “yes” because I’d pretended to drop my sunglasses so I could get down on one knee.

So online dating can be fun. It is a minefield of hidden messages and secret rules (and codes for meetings of secret government agencies) which you’ll only decipher after going on a few dates and saying “ah, so THAT’S what it means”, but it’s worth it. My friend told me:

“I work seven days a week, so if I have spare time, I want to spend it with my friends.”

Which is totally fine. And as I said, go on a few dates and you’ll start to learn how to weed out the unsuitable from their profiles. But in today’s 7-days-a-week lifestyle, with our insular, Facebook-driven social lives and our forsaking of bush dances, ballrooms and church picnics, we need other avenues to find that special someone and propagate the species.

I found my special someone. Now, Grasshopper, I have taught you what I know. Go out into the world and become a man.

Or get yourself one.

Secret Samaritan

This blog makes more sense if I recount a completely uninteresting story first. Please feel free to skip the next paragraph if exposition offends you.

Begin Exposition:

I coasted into the petrol station, fuel gauge redlining and my blood-sugar levels similarly reading E. With myself and the car both fueled up and ready to go, I got back out onto the side street alongside the BP on Warrigal and pulled up beside a car in the right hand lane. He had his left-turn indicator on. But he was in the right-hand lane. I assumed (ass out of you and me, I know) that he was turning left into the centre lane. There was plenty of room for me, so I slid in beside him so that I could turn left and straight onto the freeway entrance. When the left lane cleared, however, he turned straight into me and ripped my front bumper loose on the right side. His car looked fine. We had a few heated words, figured that involving the insurance companies would be too much of a hassle, and went on our way.

End Exposition.

A few days ago, I approached my car and started in amazement. The bumper was fixed! I looked closely at it. There was no indication that I’d even banged into the guy. Note that, before this, the bumper of my car was hanging off on one side. The metal had torn loose of the screw holding it in place. I hadn’t bothered getting it fixed because it wasn’t scraping on anything and it looked expensive. And now it was in pristine condition once more.

Who had done this? I immediately thought aliens or angels. These options seemed infinitely more plausible than a Good Samaritan walking past my car with the right tools, thinking “That poor bastard. I should help him out.” and fixing my car, without leaving a note… or a bill.

Aliens, on the other hand, could very well have fixed my car, for their own inscrutable ends. As Rimmer says, they’re alien. They do alien things. And angels, well, presupposing the existence of God, the hierarchy of Heaven, and lackeys with wings and nothing better to do, why not?

Of course, ten seconds later, shaking my head in wonder, I walked to the driver’s side and discovered that the broken bumper was in fact still there. I’d been looking at the wrong side of the car. But it brought up the interesting concept of Secret Samaritans (and aliens. And angels). People who wander around, helping people while they are asleep.

I get an immense feeling of satisfaction from helping people. I’ve volunteered at shelters, cooked sausages at my local mission, assisted little old ladies across the road and given stricken tourists change on the tram. But there is a selfish part of me that gets just as much pleasure from the recognition of these actions.

I am drawn to Matthew 6:1-4. “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” If you get the reward of doing good works from the praise you receive, you don’t deserve a reward from Heaven. Which is all well and good for those people who don’t believe in God. I’d like a bit of both though, if you please!

Maybe I should go and do a Secret Samaritan act. See how it feels. I’ll let you know.

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