Wadeville. Saturday, 6.15pm
Sometimes, you see something that just makes you stop in your tracks. (Unless you’re on a train.)
One night, taking a leak, I saw a meteor streak with a brilliant daytime incandescence above my shack, break into three, and ditch into Jiggi Valley. I gasped and watered my foot. (I heard nothing about the event in the news, but, since then, there’s been a strange glint in the eyes of Jiggi people.)
Once, I saw a baby slide from its mother’s womb. Into bewilderment. I was supposed to catch him, but I was so gobsmacked I stopped midwifing mid-midwifery, and he just lay there, bewildering.
Once, I saw the smoking bones of an old Tasmanian forest. Bones as big as buses. The scale of the brutality made me weak at the knees. The fire was a pyre for a sophisticated being, evolved over millennia, sacrificed to ignorance. (The forester had a strange glint in his eye, and wore a helmet.)
Once, I saw Leonard Cohen stride into a Hunter Valley sunset and sing Like The Bird On A Wire. It made me cry. (It may have been the wine… And yes, there was a glint in Leonard’s eye. No helmet though; fedora.)
All those things made me stop for a moment. They burst the bubble of a distracted day-to-day. They were the cracks that let the light in. (Thanks, Leonard.)
Now I’ve seen something which has made me pull the Superoo over to the side of the road. A cloud of dust from my sudden stopping tumbles over the car, drawing a brown veil over the lush paddocks, pockets of forest and yellowing sun.
It’s a sign.
I have seen this sign before; it’s not far from my shack under the cliffs. But, for the first time, I really see the sign. Wow.
‘Bottle shop’ it says. Straightforward. No mucking about. Black and white. Capitals. Sans serif. And there’s an arrow giving direction. That’s all. That’s simply, beautifully all.
This sign is not a politician. There is no grey area. There is no puff and bluster. There is no lying. The bottle shop really is down this road.
The sign is not an ad-man. There is no hard sell. There’s no picture of a happy hipster downing a craftie, foam on his beard; no grimy worker with a big, big thirst downing a mid-strength. There has been no market research or focus group involved. It’s a board on a stick that says everything I want to hear.
The sign is not pop star. There are no layers of paint and glitter. There is no bling, self-importance or superfluous lyric. ‘Bottle shop’ – yeah, I get that.
Some may say that it’s an ugly sign, has no style. I disagree. The sign’s lack of stylistic affectation is refreshing. The sign doesn’t clash with its natural surroundings, because it is completely without artifice. It even rejects the golden ratio in its proportions, preferring the simpler square. It’s sincere. It’s honest.
But honesty, like bees, is disappearing.
We live in a world where style trumps content, where the medium is the message, where a twit is the tweeter, where reality is opinions not facts.
Yes, this sign has no style. None. It is the anti-style come to wreak clarity upon the obfuscators. It’s not hippy-chic, country-cute or neon-nasty. The beer is not smashed; the shop is not a shoppe; the arrow has no asterisk. Its lack of pretension rings clear, like a tolling bell in the mists of deliberate confusion, calling all to follow it. (I will.)
It’s the plain truth. At last.
I kick the Superoo into life, spin onto the road, to go where the arrow points.
And lo! There is a bottle shop.