Finding Damo

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

The Three Muses

The Three Muses by ShagThere’s an artist called Shag who creates these visually brilliant works, one series based on ancient Greek mythology interacting in modern/fifties society. My favourite work of his is a triptych called The Muses. In it three muses inspire three different artists – a writer, a photographer and a musician.

My sister Elise was the first person to point out that this very aptly represented us: Elise, my brother Justin and myself. Since then, I’ve been trying to match a time frame where I have the money to buy them and the prints are available. One for me the writer, one for Justin the musician, one for Elise the photographer.

You know about me. I never shut up about me. But I think it’s well worth talking briefly about my siblings, blessed of the muses.

Justin is two years younger than me. We were extremely close as children, often decked out in the same clothing and doing everything together. I was very excited when I heard he was born: “Guess what! I have a new brother AND a new dishwasher!”

As a child he was a crazy thing. The number of times he would end up in hospital with stitches… Well, it probably wasn’t that many times, but it seemed like a LOT. And I only caused a few of them. Off the top of my head: the time I pulled him off the top bunk, and the time I stuck a dinosaur in his head. Did he get stitches when I almost chopped his thumb off with the hatchet? At least that homemade bomb didn’t work.

Justin was the one who jumped off the High diving board first, climbed the highest up every tree, discovered that you could jump off the garage roof, onto the trampoline and then somersault into a pile of cushions we dragged from the caravan.

He hated reading. He even wrote a book about it: The Bird that read too much.

the Bird who Read Too Much!

Once we were in high school, we grew apart. We argued, we fought. He was sporty, I seriously wasn’t. Apparently I ignored him and he was resentful of that. I just remember that my friends and me were extremely uncool and so had to be shunned. Both of these are probably correct.

And he was right into the piano.

Both of us had lessons. I think I started earlier, and had very traditional lessons. Justin had a teacher that taught him to listen to music, taught him chords and how to belt out a tune that just sounded cool. I pretty much gave up on the piano then.

The three of us stayed away from the others’ areas of expertise. We can all draw well, play one instrument or another and write. I’ve even taught photography. But I’d never say I was a photographer or a musician.

We started spending time together again when we found out Dad had cancer. Our first Christmas together after this involved us going to the Juice nightclub and drinking way too much. So much so that we were still drunk the next day at Christmas dinner.

By this stage, Justin was playing the guitar, the piano and the drums. He basically just picks up n instrument, fiddles with it for awhile and then has a pretty good grasp of it for the purposes of ‘jamming’. He’s the musician, and he’s damned good at it.

Strewth!Now, he’s married with two kids and is incredibly successful at what he does. He worked as a park ranger for years, and the stories that came out of that job could easily fuel their own blog. He is saving the environment in a thousand different ways without the exposure of Steve Irwin. Although he has been on TV.

Elise’s muse leads her to a deep well of photographic creativity. She has an incredible eye for what is happening around her. Her sons are going to grow up absolutely hating the lens, but Elise is making the most of their cute years.

Elise is seven years younger than me. We’ve always been close, to the point where we lived together for a time at university. She did photography at university while I was completing my teaching degree. And then she did a teaching degree, which is where she met Daniel, her husband and father to their two wonderful boys. And a fellow pop culture aficionado.

I missed most of Elise’s high-schooling. I know that she was in a TISM music video, being taught by one of the singers. I know that she drank too much coffee when she was going to school at Ringwood SC. But that might be just because I was a country boy and didn’t know what coffee was until I was at university. Even then, Double Jolt was my caffeinated beverage of choice.

At uni, she was a major band head, right into her music. Then I started to see how good at drawing she is. She has a number of guitars with sketches on them, and was a regular photographer for a number of bands. Her eye for an image is spot on.

A few major images I have of Elise:

Elise the gumnut baby1. As a cute, pig-tailed pre-schooler dressed as a gumnut, which won her… I want to say Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I don’t know why that picture and that image of Elise are linked together. It’s a weird prize, if that’s the case.

2. Lying on her back squealing with laughter after we’d held up a finger in front of her. Her face red with laughter and her eyes streaming, we could keep her going for half an hour, with mentions of E-Kidneys.

Us looking snazzy at the Grad Ball

Us looking snazzy at the Grad Ball – 2002

3. In her graduation gown, with me in mine, both entering the grown-up world (me for the second time). The food that night was horrendous.

4. Dressed in red, standing in the sweltering heat, freshly married to Daniel and directing the photography. I never saw her happier.
Elise is a published artist. Together with Daniel, she’s been published in a book called: Co.lab Words and Art. That makes all three of us published now!

I honestly feel blessed by the family I ended up with. They say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. Someone chose me a pretty good one.

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