Thursday, March 26, 2009

still talking to the universe

so while i wait for someone to tell me "yes, you can start working in our large, interesting, funky second-hand book shop next week" i thought i'd share with you an exchange i had not half an hour ago.

quick update on bookshop: i popped into syber's books, windsor, earlier today and while i didn't get anything on my list:

(the fall, camus; maru, bessie head; secret life of bees, sue monk kidd; the gathering, anne enright; the reader, schlink and the time traveller's wife by dunno)*,

i did get two books by the teacher in a course i'm doing. (no, it's not a creative writing course, it's more a write-that-fucking-novel-you've-been-bleating-about-for-years-now-go-on-i-fucking-dare-you-to-finish-it course.) i know i've been blathering about feeling over-filled with fiction and lately really digging non-fiction (eg en ce moment, a biography of virginia woolf, did you know she was sexually abused as a child? i had no idea) but some of these books were suggested as helpful for my story. anyway. back to the teacher books. i figure what better way to see if a teacher in a writing course has got the goods than read her stuff? so that will be interesting, i'll let you know.

but today's story.

up the hill a bit from me lives an old man, joe, with a european accent and tatty clothes, who is nevertheless very debonair and spry and quite the flirt. once before, he bailed me up while i was taking the gigi for a wee walk and he was heading to the sea baths. we chatted, he told me how he'd bought his apartment in the early '70s and we laughed about how cheap it was then, and how expensive now. well today, i had taken gigi around the block and as we were walking homeward, we were overtaken by a heavy-set man who was running, puffing hard, who then ran ahead and stopped to talk to an old man who was pushing a lawn-mower along the footpath, who i soon saw was joe. i could tell there was a situation and decided i would keep an eye on it, but by the time i got to the end of that road, they had crossed to the other side of the intersecting road. as i walked passed them, they'd stopped on the footpath, chubby man was beseeching joe, asking him for money ("i'm working tomorrow, i'll pay you back then") and joe was saying "no way, you're in big trouble." as gigi stopped to smell some other dog's wee a bit further down the path, joe came trundling down the hill and the other guy had walked off.

i asked joe if he was ok. he seems quite elderly, but his english is good and really, he's quite feisty. he didn't want to let me go, said a couple of times we could stand there all day chatting, and you know what, i'm not one of those people who hates getting stuck with an old person. i love them. i love listening to their stories, especially when they're like joe. these are some of the gems he imparted. i'm not sure how much truth there is, but i think i want to believe they are true.

1. he bought three properties in one of the very expensive streets running off ours (where all the houses are terrace/mansions) for 10,000 pounds 40 years ago, then sold them a couple of years ago for 2.5 mill.

2. at one stage he owned the pavillion on the foreshore, which then became the stokehouse. he said he got ripped off in that deal; never trust lawyers. or doctors - they'll try to sell you tablets even if you are well.

3. the jews run america.

4. hitler was the biggest sucker in the history of the world (repeated three times.)

5. joe tells people he's from israel, when they ask:

me: so where are you from, joe?

joe: i tell people i come from israel (laughing.)

me: (laughing) you tell people?

6. joe laughed and said he'd be in big trouble if he told the truth about where he came from, he can't tell people he's a nazi.

7. hitler got all his money from america.

8. joe came to australia in 1951 on a german boat, then ran away from it once it had docked.

now some truths about myself in this conversation:

1. as he was talking about all these properties i was thinking how much money he has and wondering if he'd help me open a bookshop. it would be small change for him.

2. he asked "can you keep a secret?" before he told me about the three houses around the corner and laughed when i laughed saying "who am i going to tell?"

3. i quite like joe, even if he is a nazi. maybe i could become his mistress. how exciting. an old, wealthy, nazi lover. i don't think i'd have to sleep with him; i could just listen to him.

4. when joe asked me to "tell him something about jews" all of a sudden it felt very dangerous, and i said "i'm careful about what i say." he said, "what for? tell me something, eva**." i said "well, you have to be careful if you criticise israel."

i swear his face lit up and he said "now you're talking!" in a very gleeful way. so i'm in. with the nazi. i won't tell him i just got an invitation to my friend's son's bar mitzvah next month, nor that my cousin is jewish, nor that i have lots of jewish friends. it might be a deal-breaker, you know, with the shop.

5. i said i had to go, and that i thought he needed to go and have a nice cup of tea after the incident with the other man. he told me he thought i was trying to get rid of him. i just laughed politely. again.

it was all terribly strange and unusual and different and should i have told him my apartment number? he said he would put something in it (some literature about government. probably conspiracy theories about the jews and america or some nonsense.)

should i be scared? i hope i don't have any nazi hunters as readers - i wouldn't want to be the one responsible for joe getting caught. he's managed so well, on the run. and he's sweet and kindly.

* i ended up going to borders and sold my soul for most of the books on the list plus two twilight books for princess. she's off to sydney tomorrow night for the weekend, so it'll be nice for her to take them with her. hopefully no bikies are on her flight/killing each other at sydney airport.

** i made this bit up.


Pepsi said...

Hiya Melba,

Joe just might be on to something with 3, 4 and 7.

I have a copy of the secret life of bees, read it for one of my book groups last year and it bored me to tears - happy to offload it if you didnt get it from Borders.

Melba said...

oh hey pepsi. thanks for the kind offer, but i did get it at borders yesterday and now i'm wondering whether it was a mistake.

oh well, we shall see.

davy jones overlocker said...

I love this tale.

I love old people.

Even old nazis sometimes... when they are no more than someone who grew up in the HitlerJungen.

My ex partner's Oma was like that. Until the day she died she would say in her thick accented English "Hitler was a very nice man. I don't understand what happened"

I can see you in an bookshop.

sublime-ation said...

Tried to post this yest, blogger 'outage', so I saved it in word, do you not like my dedication to blog commenting?:
Yes I knew (if you have a spare 6 months, or when you are bored in your bookshop, Hermione Lee is highly recommended). Took me about 10 years to read.
Many people have been saying for ages this is the reason for the suicide, as well as the mental illness. Makes sense now doesn't it?
Just write that novel already! This post would be great in a novel.
I have a friend who sounds much like Joe, I'm not sure about this Jew paranoia. Given that so many were such great artists, writers etc. we are on the same team, so to speak. I feel a certain loyalty.
I love old people & their stories too. A woman once tried to insult me by saying I was 'like an old man at the bus stop' with my ramblings (she also was complaining because I could out party her and made her feel old, so go figure).
But isn't that a great compliment?

Another Outspoken Female said...

The Time Travelers Wife is a must read. I cried and felt utterly bereft when I finished it, not just because of the plot but because such a beautiful book was finished.

I have only done that a couple of times in my life.

Write, woman, write. In a past life, when she was an actress before you she a writer, I knew this woman. Her blog has some good stuff about being a writer.

suze2000 said...

Heck I wouldn't mind owning the building that houses Donovan's. I love the place.

BookMoth said...

Melba, NO!

His pseudo-intellectual European jokey-Hitler shtick is not funny; even if he does have twinkly eyes and wears cute hats. It all sounds like crap. Sorry.