He was a study in tragedy…because of what he had become from what he once was. In the early days, you’d see Steve sitting in a tatty, stuffed lounge chair in one of the many dives and squats he frequented down “The Bay” (Glenelg) , his acoustic guitar cradled in his lap, a wide smile on his fragile delicate featured face, and he would be engaged in an enthusiastic esoteric analysis of the meaning of life with any young lass nearby…these young women were usually itinerants passing through the squat and were themselves in search of that elusive “me”…most of them were in reality middle-class hippies escaping from stultifying pre-war generation parents who wanted to see them betrothed and off their hands and into a “good marriage” w/kids before they were 25 yrs old…So they were out for a bit of adventure armed with bright eyes, an experimental nature and a regular supply of the pill.
Steve was keen to assist in all facets of their education.
And so he cultivated this air of the “wandering minstrel I ” with a repertoire of light, airy conversation, a mix of rote-learned poetry, a permanent smile and keenly agreeable nodding head with a rising crest of wavy hair brushed so it resembled the southerly break of surf at Boomer Beach…and a regular supply of nefarious substances he was willing to share to these “soul mates”.
Steve always had that guitar handy and now and then he would pluck…not a complete tune…but bits and pieces of chords…he’d place that rolly-ciggy in between his lips, squint his eye from the trickle of smoke and concentrate on striking up a bar or two from a known song..but that’s all he’d do…a bit of a recognisable chord or a bar or two…and then he’d interrupt his “playing” to extract the cigarette and place one palm over the strings and extrapolate on the musicology of the unplayed piece.
He really was impressive in his knowledge of the deeper meanings of those songs.
He drove from squat to pub to dive to party in an old Austin A40 convertible..and it suited him..the paint was faded, the bumptuous shape contrasted against his willowy youthful form, and the fact that it was a convertible meant that he could place that guitar in a conveniently visible place in the back seat…just in case it was needed.
This lifestyle continued for some years, right up until the mid-seventies, when both grotty squats and free-wheeling hippy girls started to be hard to come by, and Steve now a tad older and showing his age, never being the most employable type of person, was reduced to couch surfing on friends benevolence and trying to chat up the girls who frequented the bars in the Seacliff Hotel..His fortune in both categories was soon exhausted and he started to take more drugs and in consequence look more seedy.
His once-brushed wavy hair grew more lank and he substituted brush for Welsh-combing..His once boyish laughter now became more a hardened shrill and that wide smile a cruel grimace..the end game was approaching.
One of the last times I ever saw him, was at the front bar of the Seacliff Hotel..he’d been living in a distant suburb so had not frequented this side of town for a while..Now here he was sitting on a bar-stool in that girly cross-legged manner he always had, the rolly in hand and the other arm pressing down on a slim leather satchel on the bar top…I said my greetings and passed the usual idle chatter with him, but the leather folder drew my attention..
“What’s in the satchel…sheet music?” I pointed.
“This..” he said in a secretive whisper “Is my evidence”. He smiled his “new smile”.
“For what?” I persisted.
“For a claim I intend to bring against my ex-landlord..” and he gently tapped the folder “It’s all recorded in here..every leaking tap or faulty door lock..I’ve got them all listed down…oh yes..he won’t get me that easy…”
And he proceeded to relate to me the ongoing conflict he had with his last landlord and why he was thrown out of the old shack he was renting…It was a sad tale of the obvious..and Steve ticked off on his grubby hand, every perceived insult, every incriminating action, every bit of “evidence” that he was sure would secure him a hefty compensated win in any court of law..of which it was only a matter of time before he would “consult his lawyer” and . . .
Steve had almost lost his mind…and that guitar he would always have by his side was nowhere to be seen…I remarked upon this anomaly later to Mark..
“Nah…he pawned it to buy some “gear”…”
“That’s bad luck, he must miss the playing.” I whimsically observed.
“What playing?…” Mark snorted “ He was lucky he could put those chords together that he did!..I was there when he first bought it from the pawn shop..he never could play a full song, it was just an image he projected for the girls..”
I nodded a disappointed face and went back to my beer..it’s never good to see anyone fall from grace.