There’s no place like home, Melbourne, OZ. PS. This is sarcastic.

Well I have got home from Texas & set down in Melbourne, OZ with a notch on my belt and a notebook full of musings about dime store glamour and astute observations of the American peoples, eg.

*The US population is sustained by inbreeding.

* Guys are dicks and dolls are stupid.

Arriving home into the flummoxed heart of a city astir with “foot ball fever” (which presents the same symptoms as syphilis and is often misdiagnosed as such), the rain blowing horizontally under my umbrella into my beautiful legs and bringing all of the sluglike nutwhacks up and out into the gutter to regale me with the moulting parrot’s approximation of human language, “Gooooooocats, caaaaaa-a-a-a-aarnpies…”, I have seen fit to add new jottings to my notebook re: the Australian peoples.

*The AUS population is sustained by inbreeding.

*Blokes are dicks and sheilas are stupid.

Upon being decisively fired for my unexplained absence from the wasteland of TIMR on S- St, which makes its putrid nest under an artist’s impression of green Gak, I have now obtained some gainful employment in a grand theatre scraping the chewing gum from the bottom of the seats and sweeping up the left-over popcorn, which management then sells to orphans & chicks for catering their hens nights. It is not such a bad job; between the sighing art deco curve of the stalls and the progression of lampshades that ascend like box kites and the snowstorm of dust in the air, it has preserved some of the old-timey glamour of the black and white “flickers” and ages past when the kinema was a “pleasure palace” and young unmarried couples would pay 25 cents to get off with each other in row GG.

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In Conclusion, TX

I am in Monroeville about a year too late. Last year was the 5oth anniversary of the publication of To Mock a Killingbird, and also, coincidentally, marked 50 years since anything of notice actually happened in Monroeville. The signs are still up around town but if you turn up to see any kind of lecture or parade all you’ll get is a myopic old gent sweeping fag-ends from the street. I watched him work while I was sitting on the metal fire escape of my hotel, it was a sight to see.  He finished up around 6 & scampered home no doubt to beat his poor wife. Legs crossed, the heel of one Beatle boot hooked ’round a balustrade, I am blowing the smoke from sixteen packets of Marlboro Lights into a god-like mist over the rooftops & chimneypots of Monroeville & singing the melancholy songs that I learned in Texas.

I still can’t remember whether Truman Capote lived here, or merely traipsed here one Spring day to have tea with Harper Lee and eat her wafer biscuits; I could look it up I guess but there are now as many dead flies as deadly sins along the window sill, all of which have died from boredom. Their sticky little legs and crumbled wings already tempt me to join them in their sweet repose, so I shouldn’t push it. This puts me in mind of another famous American literary femme, the ever youthful Emily Dickinson, who was from Massachusetts, nowhere near here, and nowhere I am ever likely to go, as I am terribly frightened of hippies, but that is another story altogether.

I heard a fly buzz when I died-  

[skipping a bit]

With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see to see.

So you see where I am going with this.

Home soon, soon, soon & will be good to see everyone again.

Miss Shitsville

Read Next: There’s No Place Like Home. In which I get home and carry on post-Texas.


Read More Texas:

Fine Dining Thru-Out the States. A collection of the best of the free diner postcards.

High larks in Amarillo, TX. In which I fondly recall the many and various horrors of Amarillo.

A Joint Outside of Town (Amarillo, TX). In which I recount my meeting with Billy Bob.

Texas Diary. I found my Texas diary in a box of junk in the attic and started the whole thing again. Evidently a lot that was at first repressed came back to bite me years later.

Runnin on into Shitsville. In which I recount my first impressions of Shitsville and its world-famous whorehouse and shitty saloon.

I was walking among the fires of Hell. An idle Tuesday afternoon amongst the damned in Shitsville’s finest saloon.

At the Very End, in Texas.

When I say I shot Roger accidentally I mean, it was a fair call in the context of the duel. However, I had not expected to kill him. It was accidental because, well, it is not my fault that I became a crack shot due to being lost in the desert and having to shoot seagulls to get food. You will recall that one of the first things I bought when I got to Texas was 2 ammo belts and a .45.

Second.  Any man worth his salt in Texas knows how to dodge bullets.

After the smoke cleared and the people saw that Roger was dead, it was very awkward. No one had expected me to win. They had even painted a “Congratulations Rodger!” [misspelled] banner and it was already suspended and flapping gently across the front of the Town Hall.

Well, what was I to say? This was what they had asked me to do. No one could object to me going on being the Mayor of Shitsville. The terms of the duel, or, “Leadership Challenge”, had stipulated quite clearly that there could be no coup, no objection, no revenge, etc. In Texas duels are very decisive.

I put my gun back in its holster and we just stood there for a long time. It is useless going into how bad I felt and how betrayed, how sick and sorry I was that I had to shoot Roger, how really I thought all of the residents of Shitsville could go fuck. I thought, but did not dare say, that their behaviour toward me had been in stark contrast to the Texas state motto, which is “Friendship.” But I took a few deep breaths and I had to say, “I am the Mayor of Shitsville, if you do not like it then you are welcome to leave.”

And they did leave. Every single one. It was going to be too too awkward having me as mayor when they didn’t want me, and the goldenness, the absolute sunshine of Roger Shitsville was still lingering in the whorehouse, the saloon, the Nintendo arcade, like the blended scent of whisky and myrtle on a Texas summer evening.

So I sat on the front steps of the Courthouse and watched them all leave.

I sat there for a very long time. I saw the last blazing saddle wink out on the horizon line, the dust from the wheels of the last wagon disappear into the foothills.

Shitsville was absolutely empty. A tumbleweed rolled past.

I thought about burning it down. No one would miss it. But it is best not to burn your bridges. Besides, Roger would have to be buried there.

After I buried Roger I pilfered 250, 000 US dollars from the Shitsville treasury and I packed my bag and put a picture of Roger in my locket and I left too. When you get to the border of Texas on Route 66, you will see some arsehole has put this sign, “COME BACK AGAIN.”

That is why I am in Monroeville, Alabama and flying out tomorrow.

Read Next: In Conclusion, Texas

High Noon. Shitsville, TX.

Nevertheless the tension remained, and something was going to have to give.  A town meeting was called and the chief vigilante/ whorehouse owner/ deputy mayor Jack Daniel (that was his name) said, “We want Miss Shitsville Out; we want Roger In.”

Fair enough, I thought, but what about all of the funding I had found for civic projects, re-opening the high school, restoring the historical blue room in the whorehouse, etc. I had organised six successful cattle raids, abolished the dreaded curfew, the Shitsville economy was booming etc. etc. etc. All to no avail. It was Roger they wanted. Outside the desert wind was blowing the trees straight over so they made snap-snapping sounds. The union reps from the Shitsville whorehouse clacked their lace fans at me curtly.

“Fine,” said I. “If you want Roger you will just have to come to the sheriff’s office tomorrow and fill out an Application for a Leadership Challenge form.”

So I was at the sheriff’s office at 12 the next day, oiling my rifle as I was wont to do at that time. Roger came in. He looked slightly awkward as he asked me for a form. I told him they were readily available on the internet so he went to the computer against the wall and printed one out. Then he came back to me and asked for a lend of my Bic so he could fill it out. Then he stood at the desk filling it out slowly. He looked very boyish and lovely filling out that form with his corn-golden hair falling in front of his corn-flower blue eyes, and sniffing every now and then so his moustachios twitched, with his tongue between his teeth to concentrate – oh and I should mention, he had a slight lisp. A mother’s heart would melt like a tub of butter in the white Shitsville sunlight. I have been very clever here and ably demonstrated the fine line you can walk between being in love with someone and wishing they were dead.

Then I told him he had to take the form to the Post Office. I would be there from 3. We went and had lunch together at the saloon while he waited for the P.O. to open. We got very drunk. He was a very cool cousin and did a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the saloon organ with the Shitsville drunkard/Baptist supplying Texas-style percussion by rattling his collection tin . Roger was quite musical like a lot of cosy upper middle class boys are. Then at 3 I opened up the P.O. and Roger came in there. I sold him a stamp and he posted the form. At 5.05 I was sorting the mail and at 6 o’clock I posted it in my own mailbox.

Well that is all very well and good but in Shitsville when you want to have a leadership challenge what you do is arrange a duel. Duels go back to jousting and courtly codes from like King Arthur’s times and basically the belief is that judicious God will fight on the side of Right and so hypothetically the good guy will always win. Unless of course God is a sly bastard, as I sometimes suspect. I’m sure you’ve seen it in the movies once or twice.

Roger had challenged me to a duel in the main street at 12 noon. Sorry to go on about the administrative procedures but they are important because essentially the form declared, officially and legally, etc., that whoever won the duel would be allowed to become / remain Mayor of Shitsville and no body would have the right to question their authority; whoever lost the duel would quietly withdraw and never challenge the winner again, nor incite violence, etc.

So at high noon the following day – the sun in the sky cracked Shitsville in half like an egg – the whole town turned out to see me and Roger duel. We shook hands. “All right, cousin,” we said, and winked. We turned our backs, we took twenty paces, the whistle blew and I – I –

– I shot Roger Shitsville dead.

Accidentally, of course.

Read Next: At the Very End, In Texas

Dialogue ‘twixt sweet Roger & I. In fair Shitsville, where we lay our scene.

Now of course my sweet cousin & I had a real simpatico. (Stop me if this starts to sound like a eulogy). One day we climbed the ladder up to the second story of the court house my grandpappy had built & sat with our legs dangling over the balcony smoking sixteen packets of Marlboro Lights and sampling the vino from the mayoral cellars. We got to talking, oh, about lots of stuff. As you know very well my journey to Texas, and thence to Shitsville, has been an epic journey into the dark heartlands of my very soul.  As it turns out Roger just rolled out of bed one day after a soccer final, blinked blearily at his alarm clock, and decided to go to Shitsville as a kind of joke. That explains the moustache & chaps & fringed jacket. Also Roger was a bit glam and I saw then he shared the same Lennon-like taste in glasses as our mutual great-great grandmama, dear departed Arabella Shitsville, who was nailed to the wall in a gilt frame, just above Roger’s sweet head and delicate neck that showed all the sweet bones sticking out.

I have already mentioned how the… uh, the respected citizens of Shitsville had ever-so-subtly, in a Texas kind of way (i.e. not subtly at all) turned against me as mayor since the advent of our sweet cousin Roger in our simple little town. He was a popular and beatific kind of boy, full of pep and joy de vivre, which is all very well and good. He always wore a gold ring on the middle finger of his right hand which showed a Lepidoptera in relief.

Let me take a minute to point out that Roger Shitsville’s mother had got up early to bake fresh bread for him every day of his eighteen years. He had never been hounded by a prying media into joining the uninspired ranks of the gainfully employed, he had never foregone his daily baths in the breast milk of first time mothers, never felt moral pressure to eschew his taste for diamonds, and so on.  In short, for one reason or another, Roger never felt the need to clip his splendid blue, scaled Shitsville wings and undergo a reverse chrysalis into the grotesque yet strangely luminous, pale body of a Texas prairie silk worm, a very down-to-earth kind of grub to be, whose abject produce is considered to have considerable beauty, strength and value, I might add. Now, it was perfectly clear to me that the plain, simple folk of Shitsville were absolutely enchanted by this epicene butterfly, Roger Shitsville. Even some of the mutants from surrounding areas travelled to Shitsville (wearing sort of beekeeper nets attached to their hats to cover their faces) just to get a peep at the supine Roger, gleefully alcoholic and irreparably lazy, soaking like a flower in langurous bands of honey-coloured sunshine.

“We are not very close family but I think we are very similar,” he said, wrapping a pink feather boa tight around his neck.

“Roger, Roger: you are RIGHT,” said I, wrapping a Pierrot-like frou frou scarf tighter around mine. “Now attend to me, lad: I know you would very much like to be mayor, but it is not all boots and badges, cousin. There is a lot of work to do, and there is paperwork besides, and we all know that you can’t spell very well. You should just stick to what you do best (whatever that is) and be happy to leave civic, council and mayoral duties to moi.”

Roger agreed & went back to fanning himself with the back of an old 33c Tattle Tale magazine we had found in the back office. I was reading a back issue of Vogue, which I think is a disgustingly uninspired rag, full of fashion sycophants, but what do you expect to get in the dustbowl of Texas. In’t were a lot of pictures appertaining to the Dior S/S 2010 collection, by this time a neat retrospective. As it turns out, Galliano’s collection took its inspiration from bouquets of flowers, the kind you give to old actresses & opera singers, the great gross madames of the stage who have been playing Peter Pan for forty years running, in the faint hope that they will finally go away and die somewhere quietly if you load them up with enough delphiniums.

Now when it comes to Galliano, let me be very clear: the man is a turd: an ugly, anti-semitic dick of the highest order (like Cecil Beaton), who designs couture gowns for Disney princesses and Barbie dolls (also like Cecil Beaton, who is now mercifully dead). I would swap John Galliano for the re-animated corpse of Alexander McQueen in a smoker’s-quickened heartbeat.

But in the blue, blue peyote-drenched afternoon of any given Tuesday in Shitsville, the photos of  his latest (and last, ha ha) collection for Dior set me to thinking thusly. The overblown, suffocating, cloying  “blossom” palette was the epitome of Texas desert sunbloom chic: shades just this side of sunburnt, pink flush & red thrush (yes I said thrush),  the lurid orange of a burning fag end in the electric purple of a Texas night, the triple shade of blue in the Texas sky, tortoise-shell & cacti green, dark lips and nail polish like fingers dipped in dried blood or crude oil. It also reminded me of the intense warning colours of certain kinds of poisonous frogs and butterflies (and oh, let’s chuck in some birds as well, chickens for instance, just for fun), or the bone-dry rattle of a certain snake, I forget its technical name.

Now I have always subscribed to fashion that works like this kind of aposematism. This tendency to become highly noticeable and distinct from harmless organisms is the antithesis of crypsis, or avoidance of detection. The benefits of aposematism are dual: creature one, the aposematist, (okay so I made that word up) avoids being eaten; creature two avoids an horrific & ironic death by poison because they had fair warning. Aposematism has been such a successful adaptation that harmless organisms have repeatedly evolved to mimic aposematic species, a pattern known as Batesian mimicry, or cheap “fashion” knock-offs worn by bogans, WAGS, and people who shop at ZARA. Another related pattern is Müllerian mimicry, where aposematic species come to resemble one another, but that is by-the-by.

Read Next: High Noon, Shitsville, TX


Coming to the end of Shitsville. Specifically, Roger.

I say a boy. I mean a dude, but boyish, a lad, laddish. Let’s say. I say he rode into town. He had rented a stallion from a Mexican on the side of the highway. Roger was in white leather chaps with fringe down the sides and a white studded jacket with 45-cm long fringe on the arms, it was so beautiful in the wind. And he had a golden moustache and sideburns like General Custer, and cornflower blue eyes and corn-golden hair and a rosy complexion, let’s say a peachy peaches-and-cream complexion because unlike me Roger Shitsville had never been lost in the desert for any substantial period of time. In fact he looked a lot like Brian Jones.

Roger Shitsville was my fourth cousin. His family was my grandpappy Jack “Washington” Shitsville’s brother’s side of the family. They had been living in Missouri. Young Roger lived a knockabout kind of life, by which I mean his hilarious friends had to roll him home drunk from soccer practice from time to time.

So one day Roger Shitsville, the beautiful, boyish, laddish, peachy keen Roger Peter Shitsville, rode into Shitsville on a movie-made white stallion in glinting chaps only a couple of weeks after I had been made mayor, etc.

It was like, oh. What are the chances. The residents of Shitsville had wanted a Shitsville as mayor, they had given it to me. But now – now, there was Roger.

And everyone loved Roger. I loved Roger. He was a sunshine person. He looked so ace in white chaps and with a moustache. He had the most fabulous smile, I will call it a Jack The Ripper smile which is when your teeth are longer and pointier than most; it’s a smile that cuts your heart out and eats it. Roger was a champ, Roger was one of the lads, etc., etc., etc., etc. You should really never underestimate the power that attaches to having fabulously skinny legs in white chaps.

Basically, the tide in Shitsville very subtly turned against me. I could do everything except three things, and Roger could do nothing but those three things, but those three things were what was really wanted in Shitsville.

1. Grow a moustache.

2. Look good in chaps.

3. Have a tinkly Jack The Ripper smile and look endearingly like a Texas prairie angel when slumped across the bar at Ginger’s in a Jack Daniel’s coma.

Read Next: Dialogue ‘twixt sweet Roger and I

Blue, blue brilliant cloudless days in Shitsville

Anyway, I got to Shitsville. It was very small, all wood, all sort of sagging in the middle. The Town Hall, library, Court House, whore house and civic square are on one side of the main street; on the other side is the apothecary, general store, lawyer’s offices, post office, the saloon (actually there are two saloons – one at each end on the same side of the main street) and, uh, some resident’s houses are behind that. As soon as I got to Shitsville I went to Ginger’s, which is the first saloon you get to on entering town.

When I told them what my name was they instantly made me mayor and gave me the keys to the city. It was good, they said, to have a Shitsville back in Shitsville. I moved into the mayor’s residence in the courthouse and I was also sheriff and postmaster general. In short, I held the legislative, judicial and even religious power all in my one person. That is a great privilege and despite never having had real qualifications or experience in these areas before I  swore I would do my best because, I thought, I instantly loved Shitsville and so Shitsville instantly loved me.

I had to divide my day up between all of my jobs, so, from 9 to 11 I was at the mayor’s office, drinking brandy from cut crystal glasses and instructing my sexy secretary to type carbon copies of letters appertaining to important council matters. From 11- 12 I was sheriff and the sheriff’s office is also an internet service provider, so I was administering that. I drank straight scotch in stout tumblers and spent a lot of time oiling my rifle. I stopped by Ginger’s for lunch from 1-2 and we played poker and drank JD and coke with NASA-engineered icecubes for a refreshing afternoon break. Then I was sheriff again for another hour and then from 3 o’clock I was postmistress at the Shitsville General P.O. and on my way home I would drop all of the letters around Shitsville so the residents would get their mail by 6. I think I did a good job. People were always saying, Miss Shitsville, you do such a good job. So I got that impression. I did what I had to do and in the down times I smoked Marlboros and chewed tobaccy and laid in stores of peyote in the cellars of the council chambers, or fucked around with the jokebox that is in the P.O. playing Bonnie Tyler and Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran and Bananarama.

It had occurred to me by this time (since I had all of the archives at my disposal in the council chambers and the mayor’s office & the P.O.) that my pioneering grandpappy Jack “Washington” Shitsville had a lot more on his mind than knock-up architecture and real-estate swindles when he founded Shitsville. He was also a photographer and experienced cameraman, passions left over, I suppose, from the days in Hollywoodland with the voluptuous Gloria. He had spent some time capturing the harem of Hollywood starlets he brought to Shitsville with him on early colour film. A lot of these photos were in frames around the mayor’s office & the council chambers; some of the women wore more clothes than others.

Everything was just fine & dandy. Oh how I loved Shitsville. Bright days shaded into purple nights, stirred by zephyrs and the scent of lemon trees,  magnolias and crepe myrtle…  until one blue day… one blue, blue, brilliant, cloudless day….

A boy called Roger Shitsville rode into town.

Read Next: Coming to the End of Shitsville