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The Light at the End of the Tunnel - Dispatches from the Mind of a Miner (Day 1, Oct 31, 2012)

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What Am I Doing Here?

So I've lost so much money at the past few festivals where I've performed that I've had to get a real job. Not that comedy isn't a real job, it's actually four real jobs. All of them part time and no wages, but as a comedian who produces my own shows I'm a publicist, producer, flyerer and writer. On the good nights, I'm also a comedian. On a typical day, I'll wake at 9am and work until 7pm, flyer up until my show, do the show, ignore all the compliments and good reviews, obsess about the shit review from a week/month/year ago, drink away my depression and collapse around 1am. Then wake up and do it all again.

Prior to Edinburgh, this plan had been going well. Drinking was more to celebrate than commiserate, positive comments stuck and I was eking out a living. The master plan involved continuing the hard work, hoping to slowly increase audiences over the coming years, paid spots at comedy clubs in between, and one day get a television or radio offer for a current events type news satire thing. Or breakfast radio. Or a kids show. No, never a kids show. I'd rather work on Today Tonight, but you get the idea.

Then Edinburgh happened. I got audiences, mostly by handing out free tickets, but still there were people at every one of my 50 performances. No cancellations. Then the Sydney Fringe, then the Melbourne Fringe, and these festivals weren't disasters either. In comparison to a lot of other people's shows, mine were a runaway mediocre and underwhelming success. Plenty of people told me how well I was doing just to continually get audiences, that I'm a good sometimes great performer, and it was well worth sticking at it.

Throw in some cut price bargain basement travelling in between those festivals, and there's now two maxed out credit cards, a thoroughly exhausted overdraft and some lovely people patiently waiting to be paid what I owe 'em, while tapping baseball bats into their palms. Ah, they wouldn't really hurt me. We all work in the arts. But their scowls from across the bar are leaving some heavy emotional scarring.

Point is, apart from a few nasty reviews and the odd detrimental audience dispatch, the majority of my audience believes that I should preserve with my comedy career. Only problem is, there's this massive mountain of debt that says 'NO WAY SOCIETY HATES YOU THIS SHIT COSTS MONEY HOW DARE YOU FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS GET A JOB YOU LOSER'.

So I'm now an admin assistance on a mining site. In Australia, and that's all I'm saying. To protect the privacy of the mine, and everyone who works there, I'm not going to tell you the location or their real names. The main reason being, I don't want to be caught badmouthing or just being honest about what working on a mining site in Australia is really like.

The people in charge, they have a lot of money. Like, heaps. Like imagine all the money you possibly ever can ever. All the money that will fit inside your mind. Squeeze it in there. As much as you can. Then times that by ten. That's what these people spend on a weekend. When they're staying in.

That's right, there's money in them there hills. So I'm going to expose the massive excesses, horrible environmental standards, and the exhausting of another of Australia's finite resources, that belong to all of us, for the profit of very few. Or not. Maybe it's all quite lovely and responsible. I don't know. Stick with me though, and we might find out.

Another good reason for not telling you where I'm going, is that I don't properly know. I know the state, but that's about it. Leading up to my departure, people kept asking me where and every time I honestly replied, 'I'm not sure.' I've been busy, and I don't really care.

It's the middle of nowhere. It's going to be very hot, and very dusty, and at some stage, there'll likely be a big hole in the ground and a lot of very upset locals and environmental groups. How do I feel about that? Not great, but maybe by writing about it and living it, I'll at least develop a more educated opinion on the whole thing, and afterwards, I'll need extra bags to carry all my money.

A month, then a week, then a day before I left, I still had no details of what I'd actually be doing. I did buy some steel cap work boots though. Wore them for a day, and now have blisters the size of golf balls. Well, not quite. Maybe angry marbles.

I don't have any high vis shirts, and only one pair of jeans. The uniform is long pants and a long sleeve high visabilty shirt, every day. So I don't know what I'm doing, where I'm going, and I don't have enough or any of the right clothes. Basically if I ever manage to make it to the right place, I'm not going to be allowed in, and a week from now, I'm going to smell terrible.

It's a Fly In Fly Out mine, via a Qantas Link plane. I thought planes with propellers were banned sometime around World War II. Wrong. When we landed, if felt like we crashed, but that was just the full force of the tyres hitting the tarmac, as felt in my seat situated over the landing gear, and separated from it by a sheet of aluminium only slightly thicker than a budget role of aluminium foil. Really, it was quite safe and I'm a wimp. Honestly though, who isn't a bit scared of flying? If we were meant to fly, we'd have wings. Still, it beats sitting on a bus. And statistically speaking, a whole lot safer, and by 'statically' I mean 'in actual fact'.

From the airport, there were two buses to the two separate accommodation sites. My name was on the list for one. My name was on a list! At least I was in the right place. Halfway there, the driver stopped, apparently my name was on the other list too. So I was transferred onto the second bus, by a complicated changeover, like an awkward and boring spy film where the other people aren't spies, just overly tattooed men all up past their bedtime and blaming me. At that accommodation site, my name was not on that list. So I got a lift from a very nice older gentleman in the appropriate high vis to the other accommodation. Confused? I was, and worried I'd be sleeping in the desert, which is exactly what was 100km in every direction.

At the other accommodation site, a New Zealand bloke still buzzing from his purchase of Soundwave tickets turned down the Offspring's 'Self Esteem' long enough to give me a room key. Lovely bloke. Cracking song too. Reminded me of my teenage angst, which I now realise was just extreme sexual frustration, and my current angst at having put everything on the line to follow my dreams, apparently doing quite well for two years, and still ending up here.

So what was the accommodation like? Imagine a caravan without windows and slightly smaller. Or half a corrugated insulated shipping container crammed with an air conditioner, bed, table, television and toilet. Certainly not spacious, but far better than backpacker accommodation, then again so is a bed of nails. Really, it's not too bad and the food's great.

Up at 6am tomorrow for orientation at 7am. If I sleep through my alarm, that'll be awkward. Nobody's allowed into orientation late, and you need to go in order to be permitted onto the worksite. Then next orientation isn't for a week, and being stuck out here for a week unable to work, even though I don't know what I'm doing, I'm still no good to anyone. So if I miss it, I'll probably be fired, sent home and made to pay for all my flights. That's just what I need. More debt. May as well just change my name to 'Christopher Skase'.

Oh and something else. The people here. More on them soon, but it's exactly like a nightclub after 2am. Big rough men who seem nice, but possibly on the verge of violence, especially against me, the guy in the sole Hawiian shirt, my attempt at high vis until I have a proper shirt.

Also, in keeping with the 2am nightclub analogy, there are a very proportion of women here, all as rough as the men, and with more tatts. If there's any picking up out here, I reckon it could go either way. These women could easily lift one of these men, and I just hope none of them corner me. The whole place does have a bit of jail vibe about it. I wonder should I skip sleeping, and stay up all night fashioning my toothbrush into a shiv? You know, to protect the sanctity of my bumhole.