'The Not-London Review of Brook(e)s' by Sam West

Hey! Here’s a little sneak peak of what’s inside our latest print issue:

 

The Not-London Review of Brook(e)s

by Sam West image

I bought a pair of Brooks running shoes for the purpose of this piece. I don’t like them. I didn’t think I would and I don’t. My girlfriend won’t hold my hand when I wear them down the street. She’s the first to admit she’s superficial. I tell her “it’s ok, we all are.” She says she knows. She’s very honest about things – that’s one of the reasons I love her. Still, I have to settle for walking beside her when I’m wearing my Brooks as though I’m her over-friendly buddy. I don’t want onlookers to think I’m the guy who really wants to sleep with her but has to settle on walking animatedly beside her; the guy she goes to for advice about guys she actually wants to sleep with. I’m not that guy, I fucking live with her! We have the same brand of electric toothbrush. She farted in front of me the other day (there was glass door between us at the time, but she still announced the fart and giggled). I want people down the street to know that I am in love with this girl and that she lets me have sex with her. Which is normally is the case, unless I’m wearing my Brooks.

I blame Michael Jordan and (to a lesser extent) Andre Agassi. These men convinced me and my peers that Nike was the coolest sports brand back when I first started caring about brands; they lay the foundation for my distrust of Brooks. (Well, maybe not Agassi so much; hell of a return of serve though, and as far as I can tell the last tennis star to have even a semblance of personality. Michael Jordan on the other hand was so skilled and charismatic they stamped his fucking silhouette on his shoe – I doubt that will ever happen again.) Anyway, even after I realised that I didn’t have to pretend to like sport to be liked, the damage was done and Nike were it. I associate Brooks with three things: my dad wears them (he’s a great dad but he’s daggy as hell); runners who feel they need to flash really, really colourful shoes like high-biz beacons of superiority wear them; and drug addicts who stopped giving a shit about their appearance long ago and just need something comfortable to get them to their next hit wear them. Now I am wearing them. They are pretty comfortable though. One and a half stars.

I used my new Brooks to walk to Merri Creek (the closest thing I know to be a bubbling brook, although I don’t think Australia technically has bubbling brooks). It was okay – bit of a shit day for a walk but I did see some cool and friendly dogs and it was good to get some semi-fresh air. I say ‘semi’ because the condition of creek itself is a bit dire. According to an article I read in The Age, Merri Creek is Victoria’s most polluted waterway. It snakes through the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne like a dirty reminder of our ecological failures. Me and my friends made a raft to float down it once. It was fun, but putting our feet in Merri Creek left a strange and hot and greasy feeling on our skins. We abandoned the raft on the side of the river, adding to the growing crust of trash along its banks. The creek smells weird too if you get too close, like wet mud and fermented takeaway food. Ecologically, I give Merri Creek half a star. The place has vibe though, and one hell of a bike track. That counts for a lot.

image

Merri Creek is also most likely the site of the signing of Batman’s Treaty, which is the first and only documented attempt of early European settlers trying to negotiate land rights with Australian Aboriginals. John Batman was a businessperson; he was almost definitely looking to fuck over the Wurundjeri people. (Even in 1835, 40 pairs of blankets, 42 tomahawks, 130 knives, 62 pairs scissors, 40 looking glasses, 250 handkerchiefs, 18 shirts, 4 flannel jackets, 4 suits of clothes and 150 pounds of flour doesn’t seem like a hell of a lot to pay for 600,000 or so acres of arable land.) But at least he recognised the Wurundjeri lived there and were entitled to some kind of compensation. Not that it mattered because New South Wales Governor Richard Bourke declared the treaty “void and of no effect against the Crown” a couple of months later. Between the white guilt and the ecological guilt, Merri Creek is pretty much a brook of guilt. But the place does have vibe, friendly dogs, and a bike track that absolutely zooms. Three stars.

I used my now muddy/stinky Brooks to walk home to get in touch with the only other brook I know of: Brooke Fielke. Brooke Fielke is a person I used to know when I was about sixteen. I didn’t know her very well then and I know her even less now but she’s the only Brooke I could think of who would foreseeably accept by Facebook friend request. Her brother writes for The Lifted Brow too so I know she wouldn’t be too weirded out by my attempt to interview and review her. Here is the unedited transcript of our Facebook conversation:

Me: hey Brooke how are ya? Weird question: I’m writing an article for The Lifted Brow (you might know it, I think your brother had an article in the last issue). Anyway, I’m supposed to review some of Melbourne’s brooks. I thought it could be cool if I also reviewed someone named Brooke, so do you mind if I ask you some questions…

Brooke:

Hey Sam! Thought it might be for something along those lines, yeah sure go ahead.

Me: hahaha can’t believe you saw this coming! Let’s see, I haven’t really thought this through too much. I guess, first up, how do you feel about the name Brooke? How has it served you so far? (thanks for helping out with this by the way!)

Brooke: I actually really like my name! It’s good that it’s associated with bubbling, something positive.

I also like that its not too common. One syllable can be a bit tricky at times but that leaves room for a wide range of nicknames.

Me: Fair enough. I have a common name. It can get confusing in multi Sam situations.

So I’m not really sure how this is going work yet. It’s supposed to be a review of brook(e)s so I guess I have to ‘review’ you. Which is weird because we haven’t hung out since the UDL-fuelled high school party times and even back then I can’t honestly say I knew you that well, but I do remember liking you and thinking you were a pretty bubbly, easy-going person. Do you think you’ve changed much since back in the day?

Brooke: Hahaha no I believe (I hope) I haven’t changed much from that! If you need any specifics fire away!!

Me: This is good news. Well I guess I want us to try and ‘review’ your life in some way. What do you think should be the best yardsticks for reviewing someone’s life?

Brooke: Hey Sam, I’m not quite sure, you tell me.

Me: I’m not really sure either, I guess ideally you’d judge someone’s life based on how kind, generous, and tolerant person they are; how open-minded and fair they are, whether they have a decent sense of humour, whether or not they give a shit, genuine interestingness and interestedness, genuineness in general, loyalty, passion… all those sorts of things. In my experience though, these are not always the first yardsticks we use to measure people. Do you agree? I know I find myself judging people based on superficial stuff all the time; it’s difficult not to. How ‘bout you?

[Brooke never replied to this question. Maybe I should’ve asked her about her favourite Brooke-based nicknames before plunging into the deep stuff. A couple of days later I tried phrasing it differently.]

Me: … sorry that was probably a bit too heavy a question. The deadline for this is tomorrow so let me put it another way: if you had to give your life a star rating out of five, what would it be and why? (Doesn’t have to be detailed or serious at all, just say what first comes to mind if you want. Also, if you don’t get time or don’t feel like answering no stress, thanks so much for helping out so far!)

Brooke: Hey Sam, I absolutely agree with you, what first comes to mind is usually your career as I guess people believe it defines who you are. It’s also extremely hard for people to define who they are with qualities as they are afraid it makes them look arrogant. Most people need something quantitative and definite. I guess I aspire to be what you have mentioned above, I am finishing my masters in psychology and one of the main things is to look at yourself so you are completely aware of you limitations and shortcomings. I know that I can be fiery however believe I can also be extremely empathic. My line of work and study does define who I am. I work with Children from very disadvantaged areas who are vulnerable to acquiring a mental health diagnosis or already have one. I hope this helps. Good luck!

Me: You’ve been super helpful, thanks again!

Brooke: No worries, send me a link when you’re done, would love to read it.

Me: Definitely will do.

You can’t judge a Brooke by her cover but you can judge her by a patched-together Facebook conversation. I judge her to be savvy enough not to be lured into appearing arrogant to a practical stranger. She’s also honest enough to admit that what she does defines who she is. What she does is help disadvantaged children so I guess it makes sense she’d say that. I have no idea how challenging working with children who’re at risk of developing mental health problems is, but my guess is: very. So props for that. Until recently, I’ve made most of my money at a beer tap facilitating the same drunk idiocy that often leads to child neglect so it makes sense I’m compelled to write soul-searching twaddle to help define my own self worth.

I was a bit thrown by Brooke’s use of the word ‘empathic’ instead of the more common ‘empathetic’. It concerned me that maybe her word was more grammatically correct than the one I would’ve used. If she was better than me at helping kids and grammar I would’ve labelled her a smarty-pants and taken off half a star. But I looked it up and technically we’re both correct so it’s all good. I also recently realised she capitalised the word ‘Children’ for no apparent reason so… yeah. Overall she seems like a GC – not exactly my kind of GC (I would’ve preferred a little more self-depreciation and a token question thrown back at me so I could get a chance to brag about my life) but a GC nonetheless. She also took the time to help me out when she didn’t need to and I get the impression that she genuinely does that for people a lot. Four stars.

image

(all illustrations by Sam Twyford-Moore)

——> Get your copy of TLB19 for $9 here