Get your kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames

The title of this article is a quote from Jim Morrison talking on stage about his scepticism regarding astrology/the zodiac. He says he doesn’t really care about quasi-philosophies as long as he gets what he wants out of life before it ends.

Have a listen here if you like; I especially like the woman in the crowd responding to The Lizard King’s drunken slurs. 

I’ve for the most part adopted the same ideology into my personal life. As you get older it’s less sensible to maintain the whiskey-drinking carelessness of the charismatic, Doors frontman (we should also probably acknowledge the problems this attitude had on his own life too). But I carry the same sentiment within reason. And I think we all should.

When I first had this article rattling around in my head, I was hurtling through the skies in a small aeroplane back from the Google Head Offices in Dublin to London. When I stepped back onto her Majesty’s land (slightly tipsy on Guinness) I saw I had a message from my Dad to call when I could. I belled him up, and to my eery alarm, he told me about my hometown was up in flames, and my mother was being evacuated.

Skip forward a week, some serious damage sadly happened, but gratefully my parent’s house stood and my mom and my dipshit little dog came out unscathed.

With this in mind, I’m sure you’ll figure out why I didn’t hurry to write the article to follow…

My parents were/are newspeople. They started in the news in the 70’s and (literally) wrote the book — or rather the book was written on them (kind’ve) to be more accurate, but this isn’t a university thesis.

Being people of war and news has its obvious concerns and sacrifices, but from the (rather few) stories I’ve heard growing up, it did have its perks and pleasures along the way.

When I was about 9 years old, things changed for the first time.

For a number of reasons, my parents decided to exit the industry, pack our things into big, brown boxes, and move to KwaZulu-Natal (the eastern coast of South Africa).

They bought a local petrol station in what is now a very buzzing town. But back then it was dead quiet, secluded from the woes of the world and global gobshites like we have in office today. This was our staple now. It really was one of the most ideal places to grow up as a young kid in many respects, but it was like a misty, little town you’d expect some kind of Stepford Wives bullshit to be going on — with beer-drinking psychopaths, bureaucratic sliminess and bizarre swingers parties to occur if you scratched the surface.

And by “bought a local petrol station” I mean you have franchise ownership (or something-alike) as the oil corporations still own of the black gold buried 10ft below. You kind of “rent” the petrol, and take your sales percentage at the end of the month?

Everything was simpler, yet more complicated. The spinning chaos of Apartheid, Bosnian, Gulf, Rwandan, Afghan Wars and all the other awful things to happen in the 90’s momentarily paused for us.

It turned into late-night petrol-attending and book-keeping, hosting football games and barbecues for the staff vs the taxi cooperation to keep faith and full tanks (Google Taxi corps in SA if you don’t get it), firing workers for petty-crimes and sorting tax payments — it was different.

My parents even bought a sun conure, Sunny, to keep them company by screaming and shitting uncontrollably in their office (we don’t believe in having birds as pets anymore, on a side note… Perhaps a story for another time).

Basically, I knew they fucking hated it.

I think you can make a pretty purse if you play the game right, but it wasn’t in our blood and mentality to sit in a small, dingy office with cases of chewing gum and marshmallow mice making a maze to the doorway, watching the same shit repeat itself. Walling off your mind to the world.

One evening a fire broke out in the vegetation behind the petrol station’s forecourt. You can do the maths here…

So my Dad called the fire department while he tried to fend the fire off from calamity with a garden hose. But the fire department just didn’t arrive? I was standing not far behind him and although very young, I remember the fire being intimidating, and I could see the stress and urgency in my Dad’s actions.

Sirens rang in the distance, relieving us for a second, to then be duped as the sirens just whistled off down the road again to a different destination.

“What the fuck?”

My Dad battled that fire off through the night with some staff until it died out and the forecourt safe. He walked back to his office, wiped his brow, called my Mom, and continued the chores at hand — business as usual.

Now, this is where I began to thought, “what if he didn’t fight it off? What would’ve happened?”

The reality could have been terrible, of course. An oil-fire in little suburbia would well have been the end of the town. So heroics were necessary for many reasons. You’d expect anyone decent to put out a fire no matter the case. But it’s more of a metaphor from here on out anyway…

He didn’t like the tiresome, unrewarding, mundane job to my naive sympathy. He was used to the thrill of hitching a ride out of central Africa on a drug-cartel private plane with video tapes in his bag, getting dropped in God-knows where, but at least closer to Joburg and safer than where he was 24hours prior.

Or meeting my mom in New York and renting limousines to drive them around for a week to celebrate anniversaries and time off from the blown-apart shit-holes on different continents.

To put some perspective on this, he was presented with an exit-strategy from something he wasn’t fascinated by, perhaps even something that pestered my folks, something that put a newfound stress on the relationship. And say the consequences weren’t as horrific as a town fire, but if just the business itself were to take a hit, what would be the repercussions?

Towns and communities depended on that petrol station. People who woke up at 3 am, travelled from the townships and wore their uniform with pride would now be out of a job? We move again? Would me and my siblings have to make friends again? But the petrol station would be in the past? How would things be different?

A few months later, things changed again.

It was 9/11, and two hijacked aeroplanes flew into the World Trade Centre buildings while the world stood still. Even our little mapless town stood still. I recall my Primary School Computer Teacher (who only ever wore, or owned purple-coloured things — literally everything!) tried to break the enormity to our ignorant, little minds.

And then Bush declared war, the phone rang, my parents sat on the floor of the lounge and chatted for hours, the petrol station was sold, and my Dad’s bags were packed once again.

I’ve taken a few lessons from this story:

A team player
Even if you hate what’s been put in front of you and you see an exit door, make sure you fill your duties without leaving a blazing fire behind you. If you are in a position to stop something falling apart, even if you hate that thing and only have a garden hose at your disposal while the ones best fit for the job are busy joyriding around in the fire truck, you have a responsibility one way or another to not fuck others over.

Even though you need to be considerate, you don’t need to sacrifice yourself or your wants. Because you never know when the phone may ring. I guess it’s a karma thing?

The grass is always greener
And lastly, wherever you end up next, you’ll grow tired of that too – that’s just human nature.

Today my Dad reaches his final stretch, still documenting and reporting news to the world. The Football World Cup in Brazil, the world’s self-inflicted pains, and the inspirational heroes that put a smile on our faces for running 400 metres faster than anyone else has before.

He’s had a load of kicks and has a lot to look back on while dreaming of the day he can join my mother and the dipshit dog at our still-standing house, and finally, close the chapter for good — when they’re done with the world and not the other way around.

I’ve learned a hell of a lot from those two, old geezers.
Thanks guys.

Until next time lovers,