In which our intrepid hero recounts a typical Saturday night.

The first thing that you need to understand is that my friend Rob is mad. Were he a lot weathier, he could get away with mere eccentricity, but for the moment, he’s stuck with madness.

Rob sings and plays guitar or keyboard, uncomfortably—as in “sex in the back seat of a Jugo”—pigeonholed as either alt-country or alt-folk/pop, alongside his long-suffering, bongo-playing compatriot, Bongo.

The second thing that you need to understand is that I’m not making this stuff up.

Two months ago, Rob was apparently in the middle of a creative crisis. If you’ve been there, you’ll know exactly what it’s like. For those who haven’t it’s something akin to being constipated to the point of nausea, except it only happens to your brain.

Rob spoke of moving to Brisbane, and he spoke of giving up music altogether. Apparently, two things changed his mind. Firstly, I gave an impassioned monologue on the nature of creativity, powerful enough to jolt Rob from his funk. Apparently. It was at my birthday drinks, and I was so pickled on Bulmer’s cider that I can’t remember much of what I said.

Secondly, Rob found love, or something approximating it. It’s probably too early to tell.

Rob performed last weekend at Parramatta’s Mars Hill Café, as he does from time to time. I just missed the train, so showed up about twenty minutes into the act; fortuitously, this was about five minutes before Rob and Bongo actually started to play. So, going by Rob-Standard-Time, they started a good twenty minutes early.

The third thing you need to understand is that the last paragraph makes sense if you read it carefully. And it says a lot about Rob.

Rob has something of a cult following, a bunch of us who double at times as a social support network. There’s me, of course, although I’m not around as often as I used to be; and Dan M, Al, George and Mark W (the last two conspicuous by their absence). We were joined by members of Bongo’s family and by Rob’s aforementioned love interest.

This was her first experience of what’s come to be known as “Rob ‘n’ Roll”.

As I settled into a bucket of mocha (yes, that’s how they pitch it at Mars Hill) and a bowl of wedges-with-bacon-and-cheese (with salsa, sour cream and four different kinds of grease), Rob put finger to guitar.

Sadly missing was his classic, “Strange Saturday”, an epic recalling the day a sniffer dog took undue interest in him over a late-morning beer and the night he hit on an amputee-that-wasn’t. Also missing was “Jeff Buckley is Dead”, which is one of his less popular songs:

If you wanna have sex with Jeff,
It’s too late!

Apparently, some people like Jeff Buckley. Who knew?

But we got to hear a few more of Rob’s signature songs: “Friends of Elvis” (which once got played on Rage), the haunting “Strange Obsession” and the *ahem* hagiographical “Benny Hill was a Saint”.

And then there was “Supernanny”, in which Rob confesses his undying love—okay, lust—for Jo Frost. It’s always fun to watch the crowd as “Supernanny” hits. In my opinion, it’s one of his best songs—catchy, upbeat, engaging. And the crowd gets hooked.

Until the lyrics arrive. Rob’s better half looked across at our table with arched eyebrow. Dan M nodded back: Yes, he just said what you thought he did.

Rob proceeded to excruciatingly detail his fantasy encounter with the Supernanny, in blushworthy rhyming couplets. It’s a beautifully awkward experience—like Australia’s Funniest Home Videos elevated to art, or most of the first American Pie movie.

Instinctually, the audience moves with the music, chair-dancing and spilling their cappuccinos, but the lyrics are perhaps a too-intimate window into Rob’s psyche. I’m not sure what Rob’s new love thinks of it, but judging by the look on her face, they’re in for hours of interesting pillow-talk—not the least because Rob is totally without guile.

During the break between sets, Dan M, Al, Bongo and I filed out to the footpath for a cigarette. (Rob doesn’t smoke.) Next door the to the café is a second-hand transport/militaria bookshop. Dan M and I are both history buffs, so we pressed our faces to the darkened window and peered in.

“Shit,” I said, staring at the five-foot-wide aircraft looming above us, “that Mustang must be worth a fortune!”

Dan M grinned. “Check out the Nazi Barbie dolls, dude.” He pointed to a series of boxes at the bottom of the window display.

I just have to wonder how much of a market there is for Wehrmacht Sixth Army action figures. It’s kinda creepy. You can imagine some whacked-out Nazi-otaku avariciously drooling over his enormous, dustless collection of Hitler toys, all penned up in his beloved Bergen-Belsen Playset®, complete with a horde of Emaciated Subhuman Juden Scum®, a few dribbling molten from the working ovens.

And the guy’s about my age, getting off on genocide-by-action-figure. Ick.

Or even worse, he’s only eight years old, and Nazi Barbie dolls are the coolest toys he owns. And in years to come, he’ll look back on those Nazi Barbie dolls fondly, in those brief moments when he’s not consumed by erotic notions of genocide.

Who the hell buys these things?!

Eventually, I got home. Eventually, I got to sleep. But I seriously worry about some people out there. And people call me strange.

At least there’ll always be “Friends of Elvis” to get me through my Strange Saturdays. And one day, I might find a Supernanny of my own, to tuck me in at night and reward me for my good behaviour.

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