It’s time for a change of pace from writing endless trip reports and instead I want to ramble about death, hiking gear and what I think is a perfect tea cup. All of these things are quite important and I was going to cram it all into one massive entry, but I’ve realised that’s a bit too ambitious, so they’ve been split into two separate posts. In regards to gear I thought I’d include my oldest purchase when I started to get back into hiking and my newest, which fits the theme of these entries by reminiscing a little. I guess it also reflects the things that have been on my mind over the past week.
We all know what happened ten years ago today and I can’t bring anything to the impact of those events that other people more eloquent in writing haven’t done already. All I can touch on is my own ten year anniversary of an event that occurred two days earlier on 9th September, 2001.
Why am I holding a well known print named ‘Spitfire’ by Barrie Clark? Well, there’s a bit going on in that photo and besides the painting I’m wearing my newest piece of outdoor clothing which is a ‘Macpac 65 Sabre Jacket’ that I bought at a drastically reduced price in the recent sales. Oh yeah, what better way to show the print and jacket than a healthy lemon tree? I do like a lemon or ten, but I just noticed whilst looking at the photo I’d probably fail as a picture hook judging by the angle the ‘Spitfire’ is on.
The owner of the painting was a bloke I used to spend a lot of time with and he was affectionately known as ‘Popeye’ due to his massive arms from lifting way too many weights. I used to work, train and socialize with him including a quite ridiculous ‘holiday’ in Queensland in which we spent a week eating like health freaks and lifting weights whilst also walking up to four hours a day along the beach. It was real ‘meathead’ stuff I guess, but it made me pretty fit and I don’t think there’s anything wrong mixing the bench press with Joseph Conrad.
On this trip we went to night clubs where we spent our time drinking mineral water due to a ‘no alcohol’ pact we’d made. Who’s been to a night club in the history of mankind whilst sober? Anyway, if you didn’t know already, they’re remarkably lame if one isn’t totally plastered.
‘Popeye’ had some unusual material when talking to women and his most common method of trying to meet someone was jumping onto a table and tearing his shirt off, whilst launching into a front double biceps pose. It wasn’t the greatest technique, although it did work now and again due to comedy purposes. He was always left behind though, as it cost him money on shirts due to literally tearing them off, complete with buttons flying across the room.
I knew his modus operandi, which is the reason why one night I was stunned to see him come back to the apartment we were staying in with not one, but two girls and his shirt in one piece. It was always going to go downhill though and that’s what happened when they started asking, “Where’s some pizza?”
That food wasn’t part of our ‘holiday torture test boot camp’ and all we had to offer them was yoghurt, tuna or fruit. Ripe apples and oranges was not really what the girls wanted after a night of drinking, so they left and Popeye and I spent a few hours on the balcony during a hot Queensland night peeling fruit and drinking sparkling mineral water whilst talking rubbish.
What about the jacket you say? Okay, back to the present day and the Macpac Sabre jacket retails for AUD $279.95, but I bought it for about $160 during the mid year sales. In fact it’s not worth buying any outdoor gear unless it’s urgently required, as the sales when they occur can knock hundreds of dollars from the price.
I love this jacket as its latest cut seems to fit my ‘largish’ frame very well. The vertical chest pocket perfectly fits my phone or iPod, so it’s handy for my urban hiking. It’s wind resistant and the material of the jacket feels very abrasion proof. I was wearing it when I slammed into the rocks on the George Bass Coastal Walk and as a result the jacket is unmarked even though I didn’t land on the smoothest of surface.
I could tell you the weight of the jacket for the benefit of all you weight freaks out there, but I’ve no idea as I bought the ‘2XL’ (of course). The medium size is 521 grams and I guess a couple more ‘placebo grams’ can be taken off if one was psychotic and wanted to remove the labels.
It’s started to replace my North Face Sentinel jacket that I’ve worn absolutely everywhere for the last three years.
The North Face has a couple of small holes in the sleeve now, but I still like it due to being a bit of a lighter material than the Macpac. In cold, windy weather though, the Macpac has kept me toasty warm and I can see it getting a lot of use next year when hopefully the neurosurgeon says I can carry a backpack again.
I don’t own a wind tunnel, so I have my own special ‘Hiking Fiasco’ method of testing a material for its ability to keep out the wind. This isn’t the most scientific idea, but it involves a freezing cold, Melbourne winters day and driving on a freeway at 100 km/h. At that speed I stick my jacket clad arm out the window and see if the wind penetrates the sleeve. The Macpac has passed this test as my arm stayed warm even though my hand almost went blue from frostbite. As a result I don’t think anyone would be disappointed wearing this on a cold day.
On 9th September 2001, ‘Popeye’ became a perfect example of what can happen when one mixes alcohol with severe depression. Hindsight is lovely now, but I still have plenty of regrets about what happened ten years ago. What seems obvious now, wasn’t back then as I thought he was just feeling ‘down’ rather than suffering from a much deeper mental struggle.
He was alone at his house drinking heavily when he closed the garage door, taped a vacuum cleaner hose to his cars exhaust and died whilst listening to a cassette tape of the Hunters and Collectors song ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’. It’s a miserable memory and it didn’t end there as just two days later, whilst in a mind numbing state I watched the World Trade Centres collapse during a live news broadcast.
So, where does the painting at the start come in? Well, it used to sit on the wall in the doorway to ‘Popeye’s’ house and after his funeral I visited his parents who said they were going to get rid of it. They offered it to me instead of throwing it away and I took it home where it still sits on my wall today.
It reminds me of some good times, but also brings up some bleak thoughts about what happened in the end. There’s a hundred stories about him, but I was never going to rattle on in this post too much. I still miss him now and I’d have a drink in his memory, but I’ve given up alcohol for quite some time. I prefer tea now instead, which sounds a bit dull, but that’ll be covered in my next blog entry, complete with my oldest hiking purchase and memory of the loss of another close friend…
Lovely lemon tree, great picture and a
Looking forward to your thoughts on all things tea..
Really poignant fiasco read there.The sweet recollections of your holiday and memories of friendship with Popeye, interspersed with your recommendations about buying gear only when it's on sale.
There's nothing lame about a good cup of tea either. Indeed it is preferable to alcohol anytime, in my opinion.
Bring on Dilmah fiasco!
Greg, some interesting juxtapositions, nice reminiscence and a sombre conclusion. Good reading. For some reason I kept seeing Popeye as Begbie in 'Trainspotting' – the jumping on tables thing, probably.
Booze and depression – know that one. I haven't had a drink in seven months or so, and one of the reasons was the post-drinking blues I would suffer. So it's caffeine for me as well. I enjoy a good cup of tea too, but a good flat white or latte is my major vice (well, there's this weird urge to walk that you seem to have too…).
Looking forward to the next instalment.
Greg, keep up the writing bud.
Tea solves many issues but those that really stick with you will always be a big part of who you think you are. Something like that.
Thanks for the many nice comments!
Laura, that tree is about 30 years old and it's like a lemon factory. There's no way I can keep up the lemon consumption! I should open up a stall at the front of the house and make a few dollars 🙂 I'm certainly enjoying the 'tea lifestyle' instead of the alcohol one…
Hey GN, nice to see you're back! Any grammar wisdom you can help me with? There's a lot of reflecting going on now being 10 years since 9/11, but instead of adding to the overall story I thought it would be nice to do write something a little more personal and closer to home. I think it works?!
Goat, yes I think I could see Popeye as Begpie, but without the knives 🙂 I don't think I've met anyone so absurd as he was. Tearing the shirt off whilst roaring like a gorilla was meant to be some sort of foreplay/mating ritual?! I've no idea, but it was entertaining and he was also pretty harmless. It was never anything aggressive, but I guess he wanted to show how much work he'd done in the gym! I was always having a go at him as he had this massive upper body, but legs like a chicken. Yeah, drinking whilst depressed is a killer and I definitely avoid alcohol these days. I found it's easy to lower the inhibitions and release the inner demon whilst drinking, so I'm trying to stay dry 🙂 I used to be coffee addict as well, but I broke that habit as well! That coffee thing will be in the next entry!
Lauren, thanks for the comment and kind sentiment. Tea is a winner and instead of being addicted to coffee I'm now addicted to tea instead. I'm not sure if it's an improvement or not?! Stay safe in the air 🙂
Always loved that picture (being the war junkie that I am lol). We had a lemon tree just like that as a kid – I find them remarkably cheery and our dog had a weird habit of eating the lemons. I do love a good cup of tea (Lapsang Souchong is a favourite – soooo smokey, yum) but I haven't managed to kick my coffee habit yet/if ever.
My cousin committed suicide a few years ago now. I said to my dad at the time 'but I never even knew he was depressed' and he said 'no one did and that's why no one could help'. I think the topic has become more openly discussed in recent years – particularly for men – and that can only be a good thing. But it doesn't bring back the ones we could't help 🙁
Popeye sounds like a remarkable character..thank you for sharing a bit about him.
Eloise, it is a famous picture, but I can't say I've known too many women who love it! Someone at work was complaining about the price of lemons today, so I came up with a solution. I'm giving her a million lemons as long as some sort of cake comes to work as a payment 🙂 Regarding suicide, I'm not sure if it's still openly discussed? Actually death can be a pretty taboo thing altogether in the Western world!
Hey Samantha, thanks for the nice comment. He was a 'remarkable character'! I was remembering the other day how he used to eat tuna out of a tin with one hand and a piece of bread with the other. I said to him once, "How about the concept of putting the tuna with the bread and making that thing called a sandwich?" He just looked at me as if I was stupid!
Wow, I still remember my first pair of waffle stompers and oversized aluminum frame backpack. Jeans and flannel were as hi-tech as I went.
And Popeye, how I wish I could have met your friend. He's lucky to live on in your heart.
Thanks for the comment GPD. Anything is acceptable to walk in although the newer stuff might be a little more comfortable 🙂 Then again, I remember wearing flannel shirts all year round and they were great!
Popeye was a once in a lifetime I think. Definitely had his own style 🙂
So many poignant things about death and suicide written by you and your followers; things we're 'not allowed' and deny ourselves the chance to think and talk about.
I'm glad Popeye had you in life and you hold onto his memory…how sad that at the point at which people make this decision they are unable to see their value, or understand that they won't be around to feel any relief. No judgement here, just sadness for them and for us left behind that we couldn't help or didn't know there was a need. I just wish we all knew how special we are to so many.
Suzie, thanks for your comment. It certainly was a pretty weird time and in hindsight things could have been so different. I wish we didn't hit the booze like we did back then, as it certainly didn't help things. It was pretty crazy. Less booze and some anti-depressants was all Popeye probably needed, but he got caught up in a bit of a self-destructive cycle and couldn't see a way out. Still a sad ending all these years later.