Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: How to Be Kool

The pineapple man

Are you who you are supposed to be? In your wildest dreams, who would you be, say, if you didn’t have a job, or weren’t obsessed with homewares, or paying a mortgage? Who would you be if you weren’t indentured to the capitalist system of constant acquisition? What if you just answered that voice inside you and stepped into that self? What would that self actually look like? Would it still dress like you do now? Would it care about the things you think you care about now? Who are you without indoctrination? Without limitation? Who are you without regulation, without rules or without self-doubt? What makes your heart truly sing? What brings you joy? Who are you when no one is looking?

I don’t think most of us know that self. I don’t think most of us are brave enough to find out. We only have one shot at this life, so I often wonder why so many of us struggle to walk that person, our authentic self, into the light?

I guess it’s shame. We are ashamed of our real selves. It’s why Adam and Eve fashioned garments from leaves in that lesser known Tolkien fantasy called The Bible. It takes courage to be seen. To show who you truly are to the world makes you absolutely vulnerable. But conversely, in that vulnerability is power. A different sort of power to the power you see in politics, or real estate, or big money. A quiet bubbling power of realness. When you see it, it is unmistakeable. When you see it, you can’t look away. It’s the unremarkable occurrence of something quite remarkable – someone being themselves. It happens so rarely that when you see it, you are transfixed. We’re so busy contriving our lives that most of us haven’t noticed how far we have drifted from our shore. Some can’t even remember what the shore looks like. It’s something that visits them in shadowy dreams – but by morning, their place of return is gone.

It takes courage to listen to who you truly are. It takes even more courage to live it. There is a man I have seen who I wonder about. I wonder what happened in his life that led him to be who he is today. I wonder who he was before. He is The Pineapple Man. He hitches from Murwillumbah to our local markets and he hula hoops and shakes his pineapple for hours at a time. His name is Kool. I don’t imagine that’s his birth name. I gather it’s the name he gave himself. Kind of perfect, because he actually is. Kool.

Maybe he’s in his 60s? Maybe older, it’s hard to tell. His exuberance makes him ageless. Every time I see him swinging his hips and shaking that pineapple he makes me feel good. He makes me really laugh. Not just because he is a mature man hula hooping in public with a percussive fruit, but because his joy is infectious. He is the antithesis to a man in a suit. I would love to sponsor him to take his pineapple and his hoops to Canberra, to Parliament House – to see if he could stir up some joy there. I’d like to see if he could be an uncomfortable reminder of the frail yet magical humanity that lurks beneath even the most expensive suit. I want to see Scott Morrison join in with a hula hoop, shaking a pineapple, see if he can find something real beneath his veneer.

I wonder what happened. I wonder what made Kool become Kool, what made him decide to pick up his hoops and his pineapple shaker and think, damn, if I am not taking this to the street! Man cannot live on private hula hooping alone. It must be seen! That is courage. Men are not conditioned to show themselves to the world in this way. It’s so wonderful to see an older white man dancing in sandals to music of his own making, connecting with passersby with his improvised pineapple-infused song. Kool actually gives me hope for ageing white men when I had pretty well given up.

Kool is my favourite busker. He doesn’t need an amplifier. He doesn’t even need musical talent. He busks with his authenticity. He busks with his joy. He shows us what it looks like to be without shame. To be unselfconscious. To be comfortable with exactly who you are. And exactly who you are can be humble and unsophisticated, and still be powerful. More powerful than a dickhead in a fancy car and an expensive suit. How amazing to have nothing, but to actually have everything. I think that is fricking cool.

One day Kool woke up with the courage to walk his real self into the light. So, why don’t you? There’s enough busking spots for all of us. Shake it up.

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2 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: How to Be Kool”

  1. Mandy, having written what you have just written does also make you
    absolutely vulnerable due to your reaction & respect. In the ‘land of
    writing’ [I call it simply ‘seeing’] we are well & truly vulnerable.

  2. Ann says:

    I wonder if he wears a suit at home?

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