Friday, September 28, 2007


On April 30th this year I wrote a post called we all make mistakes where (among other things) I mentioned I'd sent a letter to an American prisoner through the Write a Prisoner scheme. It was my second attempt to make contact with an inmate and now almost 5 months later (hard to believe) it's time for an update.

I received an unexpected reply to my letter about 3 weeks later. And we've been corresponding ever since. In fact I've got a stack of letters here - 16 as of today. I write to a man who goes by the nickname 'Gypsy' and I was initially interested in him because as well as being gay we happen to share the same birthday (different years). A starting point.

The first letter he wrote to me was pretty brief, which he pointed out was because (in his experience) a lot of people who write to him never write a second time. Not me. I wrote back gay away er straight away. I then received a second brief letter, which took about 4 weeks to reach me. He'd been transferred to another prison unit and had had to wait for my letter to be redirected/catch up with him.

Since those initial 2 letters every other letter he's written has been very long (as most of mine are to him). Sometimes we receive more than one a day/week. (No wonder I haven't been blogging). In each letter we reveal more details about ourselves. And as he opens up with each letter he writes I see a change in his attitude. His letters have become lighter. We make each other laugh a lot. We joke about things, we discuss our similarities, share our frustrations, talk about the weather, teach each other slang words n sayings. We discuss books, food and music and how fucked the (Texas) prison system is can be.

I've just sent him a batch of photos I took in Croydon of native Aussie birds - a kookaburra, a rosella, galahs etc - and other local identities. So I can't wait for his response. I've also recently started sending him extra punishment print outs of drift. He's happy for me to mention him here. In one letter Gypsy told me most people stop writing after 3-6 months. As far as I can see I'll be writing to him for the long haul.

Of course Sheila's predicting I'll become "like one of those women who fall in love with a prisoner". But I have no intention of switching gender and becoming a woman... Not surprisingly everyone asks why is he doing time. The way I see it, his biggest crime is that he doesn't watch Television. I guess I'll learn to live with that. The mistake I made was not putting pen to paper and writing sooner

Thursday, September 20, 2007

(ad)mission: magic


At Croydon railway station you bump into some friends from school and when they ask you where you're going you tell them you're off to visit an Aunt. You're thankful that they believe you (why wouldn't they?) and you catch your train. Then you catch another train and another train until you reach your destination - a part of Melbourne you've never been to before. You check the little map you've drawn on a scrap of paper and find your way to the local shops. In the florist you buy a bunch of flowers (most likely carnations) and then you set off to find Rick Springfield's Mum's house.

Armed with your flowers, a plastic Just Jeans bag (containing your secret scrapbook) and a keen sense of direction you wander into an unknown neighbourhood hoping you don't attract suspicion. You find the street easily enough and (among other thoughts) you wonder what sort of reaction you're going to receive when you knock on her door. You just keep walking. When you get closer to the house your heart starts pumping faster. So you walk right past it, up the road and around the corner. Then you stop, turn around and walk back towards the house. Great, now you're really going to look suspicious, but there's no stopping. You find yourself walking up the driveway to the front door. You still have no idea what you're going to say. You ring the bell.

There are no sounds coming from inside the house and no car to be seen in the driveway or garage. You ring the doorbell again (this time with more confidence), but no one comes to answer. After a moment or two you deposit the flowers on the doorstep and head back to the train station and begin the long journey home. When you get home you hide your scrapbook away again.

Some time later you make the same train trip. You know the journey better this time, but you're still nervous. You arrive at the house with your scrapbook and another bunch of flowers and walk up the driveway. This time you see a car in the garage. You ring the doorbell and you can't remember what was said when the door opened, but you give Mrs Springthorpe the bunch of flowers. You tell her you came to visit not so long ago and left some flowers on her doorstep and she says she rang all of her friends to find out who they were from. She invites you in. When she learns you've come all the way on the train from Croydon she says you should've phoned first, but then she remembers you couldn't've phoned because she recently changed the number. She now has a silent number because she was getting calls from journalists in America at all hours of the night and day (no mention of pesky fans).

She offers you a cool drink and you show her the scrapbook. You also show her two sketches you have drawn - one of Rick and one of his dog, Ron, who features on the cover of his Working Class Dog album. She compliments you on your artistic ability and you tell her you'd love to go to the States one day and meet Rick. She tells you to go into the loungeroom and have a look at Rick's awards. There in front of you are his two Grammy Awards and a couple of other awards and although you want to pick them up and hold them - there's nothing to stop you - you don't touch them because somehow they're too precious. Someone else arrives at the house and you're soon introduced to Rick's Aunt. The two women are off to a matinee performance of a show in town and they'll be leaving shortly. All too soon it's time to go. You say thank you and goodbye and catch the train back to Croydon...

Fast forward to May 2007. I received an email informing me the Countdown Spectacular 2 was coming to town in August this year. Countdown was a much loved Australian TV music show that started circa 1975 and ran for many years on Sunday evenings on the ABC. The Spectacular was a concert version featuring many bands/performers who'd appeared on the TV show throughout its run. In 2006 I attended the first Countdown Spectacular - a real nostalgia fest and a lot of fun - so I was keen to go along to the second one especially when I found out Rick Springfield was on the bill. This would be Rick's first time performing in his home country since the 1970s.

I decided a ticket to the Countdown Spectacular in Melbourne would be the perfect gift for my sister's 40th birthday (also in August) so I made a booking. I chose to pick our tickets up from the venue on the night of the concert - August 30th - but I checked my booking the night before and discovered the box-office was only open from 9 'til 5 (the concert started at 7:30). That meant I had to make a special trip into the city on the day of the concert (or so I thought). When I arrived at the venue there was no one to be seen except a girl sitting by herself on the steps outside the entrance. As I approached her to ask where I might find the box-office I noticed she was wearing a Rick Springfield t-shirt. She told me she remembered seeing Rick perform with his old band Zoot at a pub in Reservoir (now Zoot was even before my time) and she'd been waiting since something like 8am for him to turn up to the concert venue. She also told me that Rick was the headline act and would be performing 5 songs and she had "inside info" that Zoot were re-forming especially for the Melbourne concert. I told her "my sister's a fan and I'm bringing her along tonight" and then I headed over to the box-office to collect the tickets. For a moment I thought about sitting with this girl and waiting for Rick to turn up, but after I collected my tickets (and found out the box-office re-opened at 5:30) I headed home.

When my sister and I arrived at the concert later that night I saw in the merchandise stand a guitar for sale for $600. Whoever bought it could meet Rick Springfield backstage after the concert and get it signed. After all these years here was my chance. It crossed my mind to go halves with my sister, but $300 was still a lot for me. I bought a $25 (rip-off) programme instead. We made our way to our seats - right in front of the stage in the sixth row. My sister couldn't believe it. She'd never had seats this good at a concert before! We sang and danced along to many of our old favourites (and rested during the one or two crap acts) and then at the end of the night Rick Springfield came on to sing Jessie's Girl and a medley of songs including Speak to the Sky. At one stage he came down into the audience and was very close to where we were, but for some reason I didn't want him to get too close (I don't know why. Perhaps I would've fainted. Ha!). When he was back up on stage and finished his set he threw his plectrum into the audience and guess where it landed? Right at my feet. I picked it up without having to fight off any other fans and shoved it in my back pocket too dazed to have a proper look at it and too scared someone might try to snatch it out of my hand. It's now here in my (not so secret) collection. And there's the magic

Thursday, September 13, 2007

(ad)mission: magic


In 1981 singer/songwriter Rick Springfield hit music charts around the world in a big way. The ex-pat Aussie had already enjoyed solo success in 1972 with the song Speak to the Sky and was now on the crest of a comeback wave with his latest release, Jessie's Girl.

Now, Speak to the Sky had been a childhood favourite of mine plus I'd watched the Saturday morning cartoon show Mission: Magic, for which Rick wrote and sang a new song each episode (as well as appearing as an animated version of himself), but I wouldn't have called myself a fan. Fast forward to 1981 and when I saw Rick in the video clip for Jessie's Girl I was instantly smitten. There was something about him that had me intrigued, but when you're a 15 year old boy you don't go around telling people you've got a crush on a pop star named Rick Springfield.

What you do is you buy all of his records, but because your "interest" is secret you hide them. At the time of his chart success he's also appearing as Dr Noah Drake in the US daytime soap General Hospital (pity his episodes never screened in Australia) and as his popularity grows there are many pictures and articles to collect. So you start keeping a scrapbook, which is also very well-hidden. You scour the TV guide in the hope he'll be appearing on Solid Gold, the American Music Awards, the Grammy Awards or even the bloody Love Boat and you always have a spare videotape handy just in case. But it all remains a secret.

Thank God you have a younger sister because the moment she starts showing an interest in Rick Springfield you have an outlet. You feed her interest with zeal (though she's completely oblivious. Um... still is actually). You arrange dozens of posters of him on her bedroom walls - floor to ceiling - and you buy her a Rick Springfield pillowcase (which years later somehow ends up in your secret collection).

In a magazine article you learn Rick Springfield's family name is really Springthorpe. You also learn his mother's name, so you look her up in the phone book. And there she is - she's listed. You dial the number and she answers. But what do you say? You have no idea, so you pretend you have the wrong number and hang up. But at least you know the address is correct. Sometime later you set off on a (secret) mission...

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