Ithaca Road

is where ghosts gather. Some not even dead yet: an aficionado of the poetry of Ian Wedde who, one night tripping with RR in Chatsbury, listening to Miles Davis, answered the door to the old gent from upstairs in his dressing gown asking if the man with the trumpet could play a bit more quietly please. It was 4 a.m. They turned it down. Paula Rosa Castranova. In the kitchen of the place she had with Toby in the Harry Seidler building at #8, on Cloud Nine, or at a party anywhere else in Darlo, you could always find Paula Rosa just by listening for her incandescent laughter. She married an ad man and disappeared. Wayne Tallowin, who was never more in the vicinity than the Manzil Room or maybe the Piccolo Bar; I recall his tearing guitar solos every time I drive past Paternoster Row. He ran a gang of bicycle thieves who sold me my blue racer. Phil Whitcher, just up the road in Roslyn Gardens. He and Claire knew it was time for bed when Bonanza came on the TV at 5 a.m. Keyboardist extraordinaire, orphan, adoptee, brown Pakeha or white Maori, who knew? He didn’t. Cancer ate his beautiful face. I think of him at the sink, eating an orange, juice running down his chin, saying: I’m a good person. I’ve got a lot of love in me. This after a band fight. He was, he did. It was there I found $1000.00 in fifty dollar bills, sitting on the seat beside me in the taxi, across the road from Chatsbury, where I lived for a summer when RR was in New Zealand. I had the use of his purple Volvo and his king bed. His stereo, his Miles’ cds: Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud, over and over. The Tory memories under his pillow. New York Trilogy, the first Auster I ever read, the book belonged to Cawthorn. I wrote sixty-seven pages of a novel there, it was about a road trip to the South Coast in the Volvo, the tape deck in the car jammed (we were playing Joy Division) near Ulladulla, we carried on, we got as far as . . . I forget. It all went into the writing and, once the writing is lost, the memory goes too. Boomerang, the house, just across the road in Billyard Avenue, looking like Gloria Swanson in adobe. Rendered, I should say. Spanish-style, anyway. Built in 1926 for Frank Albert, the music publisher, there’s a cinema in the basement, seats 200, all ghosts, they crowd in every night for the Double Feature. You and me, baby. And William Holden too. Billy McKinnon, not dead, last heard in spectre-speak on messagebank from mittel-europe; or conversing with a parrot outside the house of a sorcerer somewhere in mittel-africa. Both and not either or. He lived with Michaela up Billyard Ave past Elizabeth Bay House somewhere and I still recall the Monday morning when, outside the locked door of his flat, for a few hours, Peter and Paul and I thought he was dead. Well, maybe not Pete, certainly Paul; I keep an open mind. I remember sitting with  Billy and Elle and Vee in the white light of bushfire weather down there on the stone walls at Beare Park, watching a black gum leaf settling on the bronze water. Slender fingers tattoo on my wrist, urging . . . some action I never took. Ithaca: where ghosts are solid as air at the turnaround then disperse like mist over Garden Island. Ithaca: the generous disposition of tripods from which the thick smoke of sacrifice rises; Ithaca. You never leave a place you were and yet you’re always gone before you do. 

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