Essays from Mark Young

It has been

raining off & on over the last few days, occasionally quite heavily, as the bottom edge of the monsoon trough passes across northern Australia. Even now the clouds off to the inland are acquiring that gray glassiness that might indicate another storm is about to arrive. But it's also been reasonably warm, & the mosquitoes are out in plague proportions. Disturb them & your arm, within seconds, resembles one of those commercials for insect repellants, where some dickhead sticks his arm into a glass case that is swarming with the little beasties. I keep thinking of Ross River virus, Q fever, some other thing that brought crows crashing down out of the skies that I saw last week on a documentary that Brad Pitt narrated. Which, at the same time, was also killing people without explanation, but nobody made the correlation with the crows, especially not the Centre for Disease Control because they're so far up themselves that testing animals is beneath them.

Let me just point out in passing that it was a veterinarian who first posited the relationship between kuru, a disorder that was discovered amongst the Fore people of New Guinea, & scrapie, a disease that affected sheep & goats. & let me just say that it was only veterinarians who protested against the British Board of Agriculture loosening its regulations on what could be fed to animals. & let me finish my aside by saying guess where bovine spongiform encephalopathy, shortened to BSE, popularly known as mad cow disease, came from. Feeding cows infected animal parts. Oh?

Not that I'm putting that forward as something to be found in my garden. I'm the only mad cow around, freaking out about the mosquitoes, doing strange dances as I attempt to swat them. No crows are falling from the sky, but with that raucous caw they have, I don't think I'd mind.

midnight rambling  

I have a jukebox inside me. Sometimes it lets me play what I want, but most of the time it determines the selection.

The music is mainly from the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies, for me 15 to 35 years of age. A bit of bebop & blues & Bach from before that time, a few ballads from after. Things I grew up with, or found by going back to the roots of what I'd heard. Things that later fitted in with what I'd heard before.

Some of it I have chosen. Some of it has chosen me. I tend to have an emotional attachment to my choices. Songs that make me weep or feel joy, that I probably early heard at some particular time & gathered up & kept the environment as well. I get the same sensation in my gut from particular Bach & Aretha Franklin & Miles Davis pieces. Much of Motown fits in there. Plus a whole lot of single songs – Winter in America, Time after Time, Darling be home soon, 7 Seconds, Heroes.

The ones that have chosen me are varied. The jukebox's favourite is Milestones. I'll be somewhere, anywhere, & suddenly that staccato Da da da da, da da da da, da da da da Daaaaaa will come blasting out, causing me to veer off the road or slop my drink or drop whatever it is I'm holding.

There are a few that are shared between active & passive – transitive & intransitive? – choice. The jukebox has a soft spot for Dylan which I don't always have. Occasionally we separate the song as if it were a disputed territory. Sometimes we both agree.

Round Midnight was playing inside my head in the early hours of yesterday. I went to bed, & when I woke up was confronted with the snowplough of Milestones clearing all before it. Then the jukebox paused, said "You want midnight songs? Let me give you one."

I felt a slight frisson, thought Wilson Pickett & thought it inappropriate. But was pleasantly surprised when the jukebox started into

The bridge at midnight trembles,
the country doctor rambles,
bankers' nieces seek perfection,
expecting all the gifts that wise men bring.

It is one of the songs we share with no dispute. So, in a duet, we wandered off into the afternoon singing

The wind howls like a hammer,
the night blows cold & rainy,
my love she's like some raven
at my window with a broken wing.