My Disastrous 18th (JMag – 2007)
This article was originally published in the ‘Secret Lens Business’ section of JMag #11.
This photo, which has had its singed edges digitally repaired, is the only known evidence of the most catastrophic function in the history of Tasmanian event management – my 18th.
The day started well. I already felt blessed that my birthday fell on a Saturday. I stepped out of the hairdressers into the clean north-west coastal sun, my hair freshly tipped and spiked. I was a product of my time, wearing product of my time – fudge factor three from memory.
The week prior I had been arguing with my dear Mum. She didn’t want me to have a big party – but she didn’t understand. I was the president of the Hellyer College S.R.C. I needed a hall! I needed a band! I needed a personalised t-shirt! After a spate of ill advised phone calls trying to convince venue managers I was my own Father, I found a couple who kindly agreed to let me hire out their hall in Hiclare on the proviso there’d be adult supervision. (me.)
I organised a bus to pick people up from downtown, and handed out flyers at school. On the day, I decked out the hall with a games table, giant birthday card, balloons and funny parodies of signs from my footy club’s change rooms. From: No-one ever drowned in sweat. To: No-one ever drowned in beer (except Bon Scott).
At 8pm the first beer was cracked and friends started sprawling in. With a rev of disappointment the bus turned up mostly empty with my best mate Josh telling me I owed the driver $80. I recovered, collected some presents from excitable friends and chugged down my Boags Draught stubbies while the band played Tool. A fire was lit in an outside drum, while behind the glowing laughter a steady stream of Ute’s crunched in like metal bumblewasps. My team-‘mates’ from the South Burnie Under 18’s had arrived, and the pin on the party was pulled…literally…out of a fire extinguisher.
A footy ‘mate’ started spraying it around like Satan’s party popper. By the time he’d finished, my girlfriend ran up to tell me that some footy ‘mates’ had thrown most of my presents in the fire. By the time I made it outside, I was informed that some F ‘M’s’ had used my birthday card pens to write homophobic graffiti about me in the toilets. On my way to the gents I discovered that F ‘M’s’ had started a crude honour wall and were signing their names on the bricks. Across the room I could hear smashing bottles. Some F ‘M’s’ had bypassed my games table and were playing wino darts. I was halfway over to them when I heard a distant explosion, followed by yelling.
A F ‘M’ had stolen a jerry can of petrol from a neighbour’s garage and thrown it in the fire. I came outside to find a parted sea of 200 onlookers, mostly strangers, all staring down at the cement now riddled with spot-fires. While I ran for the other fire extinguisher the F ‘M’ had to be taken to hospital with second degree burns. While all this was happening, the biggest F ‘M’ had managed to pull the huge wooden Hiclare Hall sign out of the ground, snap it in half, and throw it on the roof.
I sat the rest of the party out in the shelter of a friend’s car, smoking ciggies and looking on at the post-war fallout. The next morning, I woke up to heavy rain, having slept on the hall floor with my girlfriend. With the hangovers of our lives, we set to scrubbing at grafitti, breathing in metho, bourbon, urine and vomit.
While sweeping – I broke the broom.