The Easter Transfiguration of Baz
The East Coast hamlet of Toonalook Waters may soon share the same iconic status as religious hotspots Mecca (Islam), Jerusalem (Judeo Christianity), Varanasi (Hinduism) Kathmandu, (Buddhism) and Ballarat (Remorseless Dead-Eyed Pedophiles), as details emerge of phenomena that many are describing as nothing short of a Good Friday Miracle.
According to witnesses, long time self-proclaimed Local Enforcer and Total Caaarrnt Barry Cornell (if you don’t know Barry, meet him here) copped his board in the noggin after mistiming a regulation re-entry while out regulating at Toonalook backbeach Wednesday afternoon.
While the severe blow to the side of the head from his ToonaStix 6’2” didn’t render Cornell unconscious, it did however render him speechless – which according to local surfers is highly unusual for a man of Baz’s nature.
“Baz runs his gob something shocking, being a Total Caaarrnt and all,” says local stalwart Dean Baildon, “Ya hear the Caaarrnt before ya see him out in the water. When he hit his head we were all bracing for the spray: blaming his fucken board, the fucken wax, the fucken wind, the fucken tide, the fucken blowins, what he had for fucken lunch, fucken China, fucken Council, fucken Scomo, El-fucken-Nino, fucken 5G, fucken whatever… but he just stood there in the shallows, staring into the middle distance with his mouth hanging open for like five minutes. Then he walked up the beach, up the track and went home. Didn’t say a word.”
Upon returning home, neighbours report Barry wrapped his grazed head in tape, removed his wetsuit and spent the next 36 hours, ensconced inside his fibro rental, wearing nothing but a towel and foregoing his usual excursions to his porch for a spliff and extending his middle finger at the procession of cars heading past to check Toona Point.
With decades of pre-emptive Covid protectionism affording Cornell ‘unofficial mayor’ status among the folk of Toona Waters, Bazza’s uncharacteristic retreat drew a small gathering of curious onlookers, which grew into a full-moon vigil attended by perhaps a third of Toona’s 230-strong population, many bringing camp chairs and blankies.
Shortly before sunrise on the morning of Good Friday, possibly sensing that it would be in Toonalook Waters’ best interests if everyone dispersed, Barry emerged from his cocoon, and addressed the crowd from his doorway.
The following is a transcription of Cornell’s speech.
Good morning and thank you for your love and concern everyone. As you know I copped a little head knock in the surf the other day! I knew the guys down on the other peak were watching me, I pushed it too hard trying to impress ’em with my closeout reo, front foot slipped and bang. Got me real good!
I’ve been trying to understand what happened to me so I can share it with you properly. I think language – let alone my limited vocabulary – will be inadequate but bear with me. I’ll do my best.
The moment that board collided with my skull, my concept of the world and my place in it was turned inside out, upside down, and back to front in a blinding flash of white light.
I’ll never forget standing in the shorey, with the treble fizz of the whitewater matching the ringing in my ears, suddenly not knowing who or where I was.
As my vision returned, I saw what was in front of me – REALLY saw it – for the first time, as part of a living whole. Where moments before I just saw two-foot rip-bowl backoes now I saw the shimmering oceanic sphere; in the out-thrust headland I saw the history of the earth, in the people on the beach and in the surf I saw myself.
I know, trippy right? The closest thing I can think to describe it is like the first Apollo space missions in the late ‘60s. Astronauts back then were test pilots, air-force men, engineers, scientists. But they’d return to earth as philosophers and seekers. They’d talk about looking back at the earth from space – being able to cover it up with their thumb – and realising how idiotic our terrestrial concepts of separateness are.
And I know it sounds like a bit of a wank, and I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand it, but it’s dawning on me that my idea of self has always been a fabrication. And I know that, just as I’ve always been a Total Caaarrnt, we all have a bit of Total Caaarrnt in us: we walk through our vexed, short, precious lives pre-loaded with all the same human instincts, conditions and responses as eachother.
In a way, we’re all basically cells that make up one living thing, and our individual lives are, to quote Jung, “A luminous pause between two mysteries that are yet one”. Given this and other awakenings, I look at my decades of being a Total Caaarrnt with a degree of sadness, and I am so sorry for whatever harm I caused in the name of an illusory construct.
At this point, Barry fell silent, looking east beyond his perplexed followers towards the sun, now beginning its journey over the horizon.
A young man broke the reverie. “So Barry, how does this strange new world view of yours reconcile with the influx of Blowins over the Easter break?”
Barry smiled and replied quietly.
I thought this question might be asked. We’re living through such an uncertain and confronting period in history. It’s going to amplify our human responses in all sorts of ways.
Now, obviously, is the time for us all to retreat, to go within. It’s not the time to travel, least of all to go looking for waves. So people shouldn’t visit here, or anywhere, right now.
We’re so blessed to have waves in our backyard here in our beautiful Toona. I can only speak for myself, but I doubt I’ll be surfing over the Easter break. I don’t think I could enjoy riding waves knowing my brothers and sisters in cities and towns a few hours up the road are doing their bit and staying home. And even though currently I’d lawfully be in my rights to go get a few, in some small way I know my presence out there would add another number to the crowd. And so in solidarity – not just with out of towners, but with the whole of humanity – I’ll go without waves for a while. God knows I’ve had more than my share over the years.
I’ve seen posts from well-known surfers – so in thrall to their own virtue – complaining about surfing in still-busy lineups, seemingly unaware that the crowd is made up of … individual surfers like them!
Like I say, there’s a bit of Total Caaarrnt in all of us, and surfing certainly seems to bring this aspect to the fore. We’ve used surfing to take so much: we’ve exploited third world islands; we're dancing bears, selling Jeeps and Audis; we’ve built energy-guzzling wave pools; we burn fuel criss-crossing the globe (making free-surfing clips that show us as mysterious, knowing, attractive vagabonds while at the same time hating on anyone who dares visit our home beach) – all in the name of something as simple, beautiful and pointless as gliding across a wave face.
At this stage the sun had cleared the horizon and was bathing Cornell’s face with intense, beatific illumination as he uttered a benediction of sorts.
Maybe as surfers, this crisis is our chance for some kind of growth, Let’s match the purity of riding a wave with humble heart and compassionate mind. Again, I can only speak and act for myself. I don’t know the answers and it’s OK to admit to uncertainty.
Thank you and love to you all.
At approximately 6:20 am, momentarily blinded by the morning light, and perhaps weakened from 36 hours of spiritual contemplation, witnesses report Cornell – turning to make his way back inside – stumbled, tripped, and smacked his head with a violently loud thud directly on the door frame.
After an extended pause, Toonalook’s enforcer-turned-spiritual leader shook his head slowly, swore quietly, and appeared startled and annoyed to look up and see the assembled crowd on his nature strip.
What the fark are you caaarrnts doing here? Garn, piss orf will yas!
“He’s back!” yelled a young admirer, and there was much rejoicing.
// DING ALLEY
Ding Alley is two old mates from Footscray TAFE: Cartoonist David McArthur is a smooth natural-footer with an enviable sense of timing; writer Gra Murdoch is an erratic goofy-footer with an unshakeable fear of the barrel.