One of the reasons I took a break recently is because I needed to sort out my household living arrangements given my impending UK trip. I have two cats and a dog who need a human or five to cater to their whims and need for cuddles and food in my absence. So somewhat anxiously and belatedly I decided to look for someone to share my house.
I think I’ve found a suitable candidate, but the room I planned to offer was/is too small. Therefore I agreed to let her have Mum’s old room which is where I currently house my photography gear, costumes and props. The big issue was then what to do with the contents of the small room (in Australia the “spare room” often ends up housing all the stuff you don’t want to get rid of but have no room to put elsewhere) so I could move all my kinky/arty stuff in there.
Until now a substantial portion of the smaller room was taken up with family history materials – photos, research documents, artifacts etc. While I was able to relocate most of this material I was still left with six large plastic tubs full of my late brothers artworks, writing and photos. Yesterday and today were largely taken up with a painstaking, sometimes painful, often puzzling and occasionally amusing cull.
My older (and only) brother, J-r was, amongst other things; a graphic designer, a muso, and a lights and set designer for some of Australia’s well known bands especially in the eighties and nineties. He toured with bands, and participated in any number of visual arts, performance, costume and music related activities. He favored warehouse style living, was a social and environmental activist and a kinkster. Outspoken, funny and increasingly estranged from mainstream life he partied hard, fought for what he believed in and tried to live life ethically, creatively and minimally. But because he was so environmentally conscious he hoarded stuff – lots of stuff.
The boxes I went through contained numerous diaries, sketch books, recycled drawing materials, letters and postcards from friends – mostly women, bits of paper and card many with rants, jottings and quick sketches. There were multiples of everything. Especially the promotional material he designed and copied for the bands he worked in, the radio programs he occasionally hosted and the clubs and events he worked on and in.
Early on in his life he worked mainstream graphic design jobs to get money to support his (then) wife and child. The boxes contained hundreds of originals and photocopies of beautifully rendered real estate sketches he did for a major country newspaper. His later pieces were far from mainstream, but equally numerous, as he lived and created within the alternative urban lifestyle he favored in his later years.
I know he destroyed or lost some work he did over the years, including some large scale bondage drawings in ink. The copies he gave me of these drawings were abandoned along with a lot of my own art works when I moved in with Mum four and half years ago. Firstly because I had no room, and secondly because I had not yet made the leap from vanilla thinking to a kink way of being.
J-r was always more alternative and edgier than I. But I respected his determination, his ethos, and his creativity, even though I often disagreed with his Taurean, older brother attitude. Although I often felt like the underdog in our relationship, he paved the way for my freedoms both as a teenager and now as an older woman.
We frequently traveled quite different pathways through our lives, only occasionally moving in parallel or crossing over. Looking through the sketchbooks I found an unmistakable (named) image of Bradley, the man I’d lived with and wrote about in Three Songs and a Hirsute Man. Clearly he knew Bradley before I did, and maybe I did know that, maybe it never came up or I’ve simply forgotten…
Although he lived out his last days in my home I know he chafed against the suburban cage he found himself in. Our final words the day before he died were not amicable…
For years I’ve subscribed to the fiction that we had little in common. Because we never openly discussed his kinky side I’ve had to rely on clues which are only just being revealed as I go through his possessions yet again, wearing my all-too-recent kinky lenses. Last weekend I took his set of safety shears to a rope workshop, and in these last two days my de-cluttering has revealed a number of little drawings of kink and bondage subjects, sprinkled in various sketch books.
As I sorted through the boxes I began to get a sense that he was watching me, disapproving of my discards, but also grinning his cheeky grin at my bemusement at what I was finding. I could imagine him laughing at my slowness: “See. We were not so different after all, sis. You just took a while to catch up…”
Respect your way J-r.
This post is linked to Rebel’s prompt “Underdog”. To see who else is sharing the love click on the link below.