Here & Now with S Sorrensen - Jan 28

Byron, Saturday 9.30pm:

Facial hair is big at the moment. All the cool people have it. And not only cool people, TV celebrities too.

I rub my chin and think about expanding my usual goatee. But I have a fear of looking too cool – people might think that such superficiality is important to me. Well, it’s not. I’m way deep.

What’s important to me is looking like I don’t really care what’s cool. That’s a cool look.

And the other important thing to me is how we humans counter environmental menace.

The young man sitting on the table near me has wispy facial hair. The hair on his head is long, black and pulled into a ponytail. He wears drawstring hemp pants, a sleeveless shirt and is barefoot. He looks strong and healthy. He has a Celtic tattoo and silver earrings. Feral chic.

He sips on his fruit punch, swinging his legs. It’s a hot night here in Byron despite a sea breeze that struggles to bend itself around the brick walls of the Byron Bay High School auditorium outside of which I’m sitting. Nearby, older women serve tea, coffee (with soy milk option), punch and healthy munchies from what I guess is normally the school canteen.

A girl, dressed similarly to the man, minus the facial hair but with an ornate Native American arm garter, carries a piece of cake in one hand and extends the other to touch the young bloke’s face as she slides between his legs. They swap smiles, kisses and bites of cake.

No far from where I sit, Bob Brown is signing books. A line of people waits patiently for his attention, books in hand. The book is a collection of his photographs. I’d like his book but I spent my $20 earlier on a nori roll in Byron. Anyway, I have a copy of my own book in my hand.

I have travelled far to be here. I left the safety of my shack in the hills to come to the coast to hear Bob speak. (I hope there’s no tsunami...) It’s a novelty to hear a politician speak truthfully. The planetary situation is dire but his resilient positivity, his warmth and his permanent smile give me hope.

On the wall in the auditorium hang photos of the various environmental blockades over the years. They show young men standing in front of bulldozers, screaming women with babies confronting a police cordon, grim faces of brave men and women chained to trees.

Earlier, an older man with a Hawaiian shirt, paunch and bald spot, had pointed himself out in a photo from the Nightcap blockade (back in the 80s) to the young man in hemp pants. The young man looked at the young bloke in the photo with his long hair, beard, flat belly and wild eyes lying in front of a logging truck.

The young man then put his arm around the older man and they laughed together, the older man shaking his head.

Terania, Nightcap, Franklin, Daintree, Chaelundi – a roll call of green honour.

The young folk are taking up the battle against injustice. The older warriors reminisce about their contribution.

It’s important to give.

Bob is free for a moment as intermission ends.

“Hello Bob,” I say shaking his hand. “I’m S.”

Bob looks at me blankly, his trademark smile frozen under perplexed eyebrows. He has his pen in hand and reaches for the book in my hand.

“How do you spell that?” he asks, ready to sign.

“I haven’t got your book, Bob. I got hungry. But I want to give you mine.”

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