So, I wrote a book about a family, the Slaters, who aren't my real family. At the same time, my real family is a a huge part of who I am today. With that in mind, I wanted to introduce you to five very special people and one awesome dog (who's sadly no longer with us.)
My mum taught her brother his first chord on the guitar. He has now played with The Pretenders, Paul McCartney, John Mayer, Norah Jones, Tom Jones, and Sinead O'Connor.
My mum is like that, she teaches you things, sometimes unconsciously and sometimes very deliberately. On some days I feel like we're very different people. On others, it feels as though we're very much cut from the same cloth. In that respect, I know I'll cherish photos taken in a field of canola, my Mum and I singing Whitlams (she calls them The Whitties) songs in the car down to Albany, and the time I scared the crap out of her while wearing a John Malkovich mask.
That last time, I’ll admit, was probably one of those times where Mum felt we were very different people. Kids do some strange things in their efforts to say, 'I love you.'
My dad is a doctor, in fact, he’s a doctor doctor, having now received an honorary degree. He paints rooms, tumbles rocks, and once used to juggle. He’s that kind of a guy, a guy who takes rough things and makes them smoother, more fluid.
An example conversation from my teens might have gone something like this.
Laurie: ‘Dad, am I crazy?’
Dad: ‘I’d say you’re very normal, and smart, and so it’s only natural that the world might seem challenging.’
Dad puts on Laurie’s CD to get in touch with his son, it’s Spiderbait, ‘Buy Me A Pony,’ loud and ranty, and so he carefully weighs up his response. (Pause.) ‘Like I say… completely normal.’
The world often seemed to be taking the piss when it came to Dad, with three boys each obsessed with ever more anarchic indescribable music, boys increasingly geared more to shout at the world than make love to it. And yet, again sometimes unintentionally, he could always make us laugh.
James Steed is the rocker and the roller of our family, despite the fact he once did lighting for Rod Stewart.
He's a deep thinker too, and we've talked world cinema, psychology, and the early works of Colin Wilson on too hot afternoons in Perth's northern suburbs. He can tile as well and makes horror metal music, and he's an awesome dad to his two boys, Rohan and Michael.
He taught me that rocking is a particular type of thing; that there's nihilism inherent in some of the darker aspects inherent in the genre. Though I struggle with those, there's still a great sense of pride that comes whenever I meet a metal head and can talk the talk. A life skill, if you will, or a way to stop from getting my head kicked in.
My only sister is a diamond, a gem, though sometimes we go from up to down, it’s what you do when you love somebody.
She can sing (oh my, can she sing) and she raises my nephew with our Mum, and of course that boy misses not a thing by being cradled in their arms, such is their wisdom, patience, and compassion for this boy/man in the making.
And Katy is also Katy, an exclamation mark, teacher/singer/guitarist/chef, like a dictionary, pages-open, and you can search for the word, your world, and she'll fill it right up. She sometimes goes foot right up in the mouth, but we all do, sometimes, and I learn so much from her that I fear she'll become a college campus, teaching folks to sit, be still, and feel what they need to feel.
Shane told me stories when I was young and couldn’t sleep. He made up heroes to help me believe in the power of good. He’s the best break dancer ever (you should see his donkey kick), a crazy-slick graffiti artist, and a bit of a mess from time-to-time, all-told.
But say you broke up with a girlfriend; you'd put your collaborative stuff in storage, and now needed to get your stuff from a facility in Forrestfield. Say you needed someone to help, a damn weekday, no-one free; your brother didn't have a license or a car, and yet was free. Or, let's just say he made the time, would not have missed that chance to help his brother share the spoils of a particularly painful break-up.
On a good day, Shane's that brother. Believes in all kinds of old-fashioned values even as he struggles with their execution.
Named by my brother, James (obviously.) Probably a good thing. Before that, he was Julian.
Along with Les Zig’s dog, Wolf, Judas is probably the coolest dog that ever existed. You could say, 'Move,' if he was in the front of the telly, and he'd just move, sometimes smiling, as if to say, 'I'm sorry, I got caught up in the antics of that zany but loveable Urkel character, from the, let's be honest, fairly hit-and-miss show Family Matters.'
I miss him daily, and though I don’t miss his farts (they were shockers,) I’d endure one if it meant it gave me one more day, another chance to pull him in, a bear-dog hug until we both smelled like dusty old dog-blankets.