A bit of sad news this week.
Our beloved town oddball, Mr Bill Morrell, finally shuffled off to the great big brightly colored hat in the sky.
For those of you who may not be in the know, Bill was the guy who walked around town, usually smoking a pipe, sometimes holding a fuzzy bear of some sort, sometimes wearing a giant novelty hat and most of time with a open gladstone bag that contained God knows what.
I had a squiz one day and it looked like a show-bag you might be given at the Dementia Show.
Just bits and pieces of things and stuff.
I'd known Bill for nearly 20 years and met him when I was a wee pup serving glutinous pancakes at one of our beloved franchises.
He'd come in and order a cup of black coffee, every day, at about 1 o'clock.
This went on for months and one day, when I was so presumptuous as to take down the usual order before he'd actually ordered it, He looked at me and said "Actually, Mick.... I'll have a Swiss Shake!" (a monstrous milkshake thing with about a litre of ice cream and enough chokky topping to get a Primary school off chops).
I bought it down to him and he sucked the pint glass dry and then never ordered anything else but coffee after that.
Zen humour? Low blood sugar? Birthday celebrations? I'll never know.
But, it must be said, that even then you could see the crack in the glaze of his eyes.
Other, more free wheeling dudes (who cooked the pancakes) would goad him into singing Opera (which he loved) and we would stand around in the faux wooden acoustics listening to the tremulous warblings of an Old, sad man having a crack at Puccini and the nasty cooks would piss themselves laughing.
Bastards we all were.
Still, every town has its colorful residents and without wanting to hang shit (which is odd for me) and with due respect, it is sad when a town loses its Town Crazy.
Before Mr. Morrell there was Radio Dave, a bloke whose life story was nothing but shite and tragedy, but still cruised about, blagging tapes and having the dubious distinction of being the guy everybody knew but no one wanted to know (this awkward attempt at sincerity makes me sound like Anna Coren. Forgive me, Zombie Jesus....).
Dave was one of those guys who was never really going to fit in anywhere, but none the less, I've heard crazier shit come out of less damaged people and at the heart of it all, Dave was an o.k guy (once again I'll admit that about 20mins was my limit. After that one of us left)
A champion bot and an enterprising dude who sold music from various bags from corner to corner, He always carried a large Boom Box (as it was known before these accursed MP3 toys turned us all into selfish shits).
Indeed, if Dave wanted to flog some merch, he'd whack it in the tape player, give it a crank and we'd all enjoy the goodness (conditions apply. See Ramones for details).
Cash would change hands. The Taxation department could go fuck itself as I don't think Dave had any sort of ABN or even a last name that I knew of.
Big Guy. Too loud. Too awkward.
Shuffled off to the big street in the sky a few years back.
Before him there was a guy called Herman The German, who was another trench coated guy who just hobo'ed around, not really doing anything but smelling odd.
A fixture of my childhood Ballarat, I don't really know what he did.
Rumours abounded that he had everything from Nazi Gold to Phyllis Diller sewn into the mattress and that he chose to live in odd shambling poverty.
Of course, there wasn't and he didn't, but when he died the whole town turned out. Why? I dunno.
Guilt? A sort of weird pre-B-Brother celebrity reality before television?
Beats me. But He's gone too.
And now Bill Morrel.
I can't lie and say I didn't cross the street when I saw him coming up the road in the last year of his life.
Previously, I'd often stop and have a chat to the old bloke, but then one day he just gave up washing and eventually started exuding a uric odour that was like a Hyena trying to hump your face.
I couldn't hack it. I'm shit with smells. They just make me chuck.
But he's gone too. Poor bugger. (He looked awful before he died. Really bad.)
Here's the ad you won't see down at Centrelink but none the less is hanging somewhere in the continuum, (or maybe on the City of Ballarat website) and is yet to be answered by the next strange candidate
Must be largely benign but obviously completely off chops.
Ability to politely/emphatically ramble to anyone who listens a plus.
Must have own clothe (pref. one set) and distinctive prop or icon (music player, large hat, trenchcoat etc.)
Duties include walking endless loops of Sturt St and staring into space.
Benefits include polite cafe owners, passing interest from humanitarian types and first name basis with staff at Base Hospital.
Experience with young yelling pricks helpful, but can be learnt on the job.
Chance of promotion non existent, but successful applicants will be provided with ample sun if it's a nice day.
Apply - Sturt St C/o Any Lamppost.
Successful applicant will start immediately. We suppose. (Sort it out amongst yourselves).
All for now
Mick "Today Tonight is my Bitch" Dog