Location: New South Wales, Australia
Date: 2001-2010

Posted December 2010

We arrived in Taree October 30, 2001, unpacked and settled in. The first thing I unpacked was the computer. I couldn't wait to get back on line. Four days later, November 3, 2001, aged 19, my young cyber friend was killed in an auto accident but I wasn't told until 6 weeks later. I couldn't understand why he hadn't emailed as usual. We'd been regular online friends for well over 4 years.

When I eventually received news of Kyle's death (not his real name), I was dumbfounded and devestated. Not even the death of my parents came close to the grief I felt at losing Kyle. He was my lifeline to sanity after all the crap I'd been through.

My next savior was Kyle's friend Stuart (also not his real name). Stuart was having a tough time dealing with the death of his best friend, and sought solace in drugs... serious drugs. For the next 18 months we wrote each other. Stuart chose me to be his friend and mentor (as Kyle had) during his desperate times. The therapy worked and the kid pulled through, albeit with great difficulty and immense courage.

In 2002, I suffered a heart attack. After spending 2 days at the local hospital, I was flown to Sydney's Royal North Shore hospital where I underwent stent surgery the next day. The following day, I was on a train back to Taree. "You must be as tough as nails," my older bro said when I told him hehe. He had the same problem when he was that age and spent several weeks in hospital. Not this kid. I had Stuart to worry about.

Stuart was frantic when he discovered I'd had a heart attack. He thought I'd died. As soon as I got back home, I was online explaining that I was okay, much to Stuart's relief. Then he gave me a lecture about "taking it easy at your age" and yadda, yadda, yadda. He was worse than the bloody nurses.

By 2004 or so, I had a stack of material about both Kyle and Stuart. A lawyer friend in the States urged me to write a book. I declined at first because I was reluctant to resurrect so many painful memories. "You'll regret it if you don't," my friend said. So I relented and wrote 2 books: Green Room, so called because of Kyle's love of surfing, and Green Room II, the story of Stuart's battle with drugs, grief and self-loathing. Click here for Gary's Books

Meanwhile, there was a continuous battle here at home. Lindsay and Sue are both alcoholics who also suffer epileptic fits and various other disorders. Things have improved out of sight these days (they're off the booze), but back then they were a real handful. I shoulda been a shrink or a paramedic.

In 2007, I decided that traveling Oz would be a wonderful way to fill the rest of my life with adventure and purpose, so I bought a porta-potty. Not only that, I bought a 2-man tent. I also created this web site. But my willingness to become a vagabond was no match for reality, which was and remains the lack of money. Not that I've given up hope! No, no, no. Sooner or later... and you know the rest of the story. Besides, I haven't used the porta-potty yet.

Oh yes... back in 2002 I bought Tough Titties (note the license plate). I'd been without a car since I sold the Kombi back in '95. I saw TT by chance just down the road with a 4-SALE sign on the windshield. $1000? Cool! I had that 1971 Holden HQ Premier for 7 years and it hardly cost me a penny, then I sold it in 2009 for $1850. My next car was/is Bluey, a Nissan Nomad.

So that's about it really. There are, of course, many other stories I could tell about my time in Taree, such as a brick hurtling through the glass front door with a blackmail note attached, but let's not go there. I'm hoping that the time I have left on this planet will be interesting enough to keep both you and me amused.

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