Walter Benjamin begins his essay on his library with the beautiful two sentences, “I am unpacking my library. Yes I am.” I love these two sentences. I plagiarise them almost every time I begin to write. I say it as my prayer and as an attempt to focus my mind. For me, the primary function of appropriating Benjamin’s sentences is to realise the physicality of the act of writing, to be aware of the process and the stages involved – each act has its own consciousness. And so, “I am watching Richmond versus Collingwood. Yes I am.” Or, “I am watching Richmond versus Collingwood, yes I am.”
In between the first and the second sentence, I hear the reader doubting, “really? what for? nothing better to do?” The “Yes I am” being an affirmation and a statement of conviction, an awareness of one’s actions. It is a realisation of the separation and difference of what one is doing. Benjamin was unpacking his library having moved from one place to the next; a perennial exile whose fate would lead him to a brutal, poignant suicide in a beautiful, tranquil seaside town on the east coast of Spain. Benjamin was unpacking his books from boxes; not merely glancing across his beautiful collection, remembering the great writers he had read, their ideas, their style. This was a moment for the physicality and sensory nature of the book experience.
“I am watching Richmond versus Collingwood, yes I am” – for some reason I prefer to use a comma rather than a full stop. I prefer the sense of flowing; the sense of speaking rather than writing slowly. This sense of fluidity, of one sentence running into the next begs me to continue my thinking, to diminish the distance between what happens in the mind and what happens with one’s fingers and the keyboard. I remember Benjamin’s dense handwriting, rapid scratchings across the page. Writing is a performance: the fine metal and ink across a page – with its soft sound of scraping. The tak-tak-TAK-tak-TAK – and its variations from a typewriter. No wonder David Malouf produced a volume titled ‘Typewriter Music’.
The noise of the clanging typewriter keys banging against the paper on a typewriter has been diminished with the advent of computers and laptops. Each laptop keyboard probably has its own sound. The keys fall on cushioned pads; the sound only indicative of the vehemence with which the writer writes and asserts her thoughts. And then, touch screens render writing to a silent act. But, no, the user of touchscreens can turn on the sound so that she is aware that one is striking a key. And from the same device one can invoke the past through using an antiquated telephone ringtone.
“I am watching Richmond versus Collingwood, yes I am” and I am thinking I have already seen this before. This becomes evident from early on in the game: the Tiges appear listless, without energy, without a sense of attack. But I remember in even those previous losses, the team were into the game, playing like themselves, playing they could. And for all the pre-game hype, the excitement from the fans who have sensed the occasion, the players either remain indifferent or are unable to channel this energy. So much for the talk about loving playing in front of big crowds and for rewarding the fans. The players are wearing their usual uniforms: some in The Black and The White, others in The Yellow and The Black. I guess there are the same numbers of each, but those in The White and Black spread further, run faster, tackle more regularly. Those in the Yellow and Black, our mob, looking like their chasing after the script; they’re playing the necessary role of defeated and beaten player.
This is no thrashing but nor it need to be. The Collingwood don’t have much of a need to get out of second gear. The Richmond don’t get out of neutral. I am watching the game deep into the last quarter and I remain stupidly naive, optimistic and hopeful. Commetti says, “stupider things have happened [than the Tiges winning from here.” Macavaney says, “such as?” Commetti says, “I’m trying to think of something.” The game has drifted just like so many other nameless defeats. The game has turned into a pre-season game by the last quarter. The Tiges flatter themselves by scoring seven goals. But, there is no pressure and no urgency. The score that the Tiges should remember was the 3/4 time score. The Club’s website will fill up their quota with stories of ‘Lloyd lighting up the MCG’. No kidden the other players were that bad that a first game was the only shining light. But the fans come to the Game to watch a team not an individual.
“I’m watching Richmond versus Collingwood, yes I am” and I’m thinking of Kurt Vonnegut’s most famous maxim: so it goes. I want to turn it into a crude Okker-ism and make it “so it bloody-well goes”. The commentators again say “it’s been x-number of years since Richmond beat Collingwood…this is seven on the trot now blah blah blah”. I am remembering that whenever the hell it was I was in a bar on High Street Northcote watching Chris Young play his beautiful reeds with Mark Finsterer playing his lilting, malleable guitar. Two old friends playing in a small bar, to a few friends, family and wine drinkers. Chris was coming back from a depressive bout and I had missed his accomplished, mournful and rough clarinet playing – particularly that on the bass clarinet which would rent the air apart.
Mark, receiving a text message that Richmond had won, improvised upon The Yellow and Black Song and I thought, “so it bloody-well goes; of course we won” – despite our ignoring of the game and the team. And I bemoaned the team and the promoters: next time tell us beforehand that we’re not going to see this for another five years or however long. So it goes. The players aren’t being burnt to death in the bombing of Dresden and yet their faces hang so low one would think there is not another 18 rounds to play let alone another game in six days time. “There is always next week” is the rough approximation of “so it goes” into the dictionary of footy cliches.
“I’m watching Richmond versus Collingwood, yes I am” and I’m still thinking of Kurt Vonnegut. “Prepare for disappointment rather than satisfaction” – I paraphrase him. Yes, this is the reality. The reality that just goes on in such a manner. I see Damien Hardwick expressing too his pain and frustration at the losses. He too sounds like a fan. But he has already invoked history to repeat itself as in the manner of last season when the Tiges turned it around on a road trip against the West Coast Eagles. I’m not sure that history will repeat itself, just because it was politely asked to do so at a nice little press conference with lots of journalists. I’m preparing for disappointment and bracing myself for the pleasure of seeing the Tiges play well.
Come on Tiges.