Who is the Monkey? I, Mentor


Who is the Monkey?

I, Mentor


Life changes, the A-Team, and what we want to be

Sydney, Australia
12th May, 2004

All change. The hazy skies of Delhi shift to an clear blue in Sydney. The aroma of hot spice gives way to a clean sea breeze. The sullen heat of an Indian spring changes into the crisp air of the Australian autumn. Long days turn to short. Time for me to change, too.

There are those that believe that Face of the A-Team was the most important man who ever lived. If the team needed a college professor, he didn't let a lack of diplomas and dusty library time hold him up. He put on a pair of glasses and a tweed jacket and he was a college professor. If Hannibal asked Face to be a plumber, he didn't hestitate. He didn't mutter questions about pipe-benders and the double rate over weekends. No. He put on another pair of glasses, and another, dirtier, jacket and he was a plumber.

He could be anything the team needed. He showed us that we can adapt to a changing world. That we can be anything we want to be. We don't have to be limited by anything, not even our checkered past as a half-crazed Vietnam vet on the run for a crime we didn't commit, or a mercenary who expends whole magazines of AK47s and never hits a thing. All we need is a positive attitude, and that Faceman smile.

And a wig, maybe.

The Clown's Apprentice

"Think fast!"

It was raining. Everyone else ran down to the beach, to huddle under the bivoucaked rafts, and shiver on the cold beach. Not me. I wanted a beer. My instinct told me I could get one on the far side of the compound. I ran.

It was end of the rafting season, two days of yelling on the Bhote Khosi river just before I left Nepal. Not much to report. The usual whooping and splooshing, and cries of "Jesus Christ!" The girls, of course, fancied the hell out of the rafting guides - followed by the usual whooping and splooshing and cries of "Jesus Christ!"

(Rafting guides, like dive guides, ski guides and even, for some reason, fat tour-bus drivers, always get the girls. Something to do with big muscles and a command of the situation. It short-circuits a woman's libido. I think it's a damn shame I never found out about this in time to become a guide myself, but other than that I hardly even notice this sort of thing any more. It's so predictable it's monotonous. Curse their eyes, the lucky bastards.)

I found the bar. The beer. The pool table. My opponent was small, pert with gleaming eyes. She could sink a ball with devastating ease. I decided to distract her with charm and wit.

"So, you work for the kayak school?" I moved round the table, lining up my shot.
"Yes, it's fun but only temporary."
"So what's next?" Perfect. I was on for a corner pocket, and with luck could set up the next shot.
"I'm going to tour Europe for six months."
"Doing what?"
"I'm an apprentice clown."

I almost sent the cueball off the table.

And Then I

It's important to keep your cool when trying to make an impression on attractive young women. Be confident. Be in charge.

"You're a what??" My face was slack with disbelief. My mouth opened. My eyes bulged. I looked like a goldfish with hemarroids.
"Yes. I used to be a dancer. Then I realised what I really wanted to be was a clown, so I studied with a top clown for a year. Now I'm perfecting my characters."

"And my stilts."

I tried to regain control. It was hard. Most people I meet are as confused as I am. I meet doctors who yearn to be architects. Architects who want to be plumbers. Plumbers studying to be teachers. Teachers on their way to being psychopaths. The world is a merry-go-round of crazy dreams and frustrated desires. It's rare to find anyone who really knows exactly what they're doing.

And to find them on steam-powered stilts.

"It's my speciality." She demonstrated with her hands. "The stilt catapult fires you off the ground through 180 degrees and then you right yourself back on your stilt ends. It's great fun."

It sounded fun. She was going to Europe to meet other clown friends, who sounded fun, to tour around entertaining people at festivals. What fun. I was green with envy, of course, as I am of anyone who knew what they were doing in life. Meanwhile I had to go back to working in a cubicle. In front of a machine. In the silence. I realised, again, how much I needed to renovate.

But where to start?

Bigs and Smalls

Australia. I've been here before. Then I allowed my galloping fear of all the creepy and poisonous creatures in the world, otherwise known as everyday Australian bugs, to haunt my every step. This time it's serious. I'm going to find a job and stay here. This time, nothing's gonna hold me back.

I get up, check my shoes for funnel web spiders, search for job leads, come home, check the kitchen for funnel web spiders, hunt the internet for job leads, check my bed for funnel web spiders, and go to sleep. The next day, if I'm still alive, I do it again.

A few days ago, I was a devil-may-care adventurer with gleam in my eye and a lust for adventure. I walked lightly, taking what came and damning the faint-hearted.

That will no longer do.

Now I must be reborn as a professional. A serious-minded go-getter and team player, bringing passion and excitement to the business of... er... whatever business I'm supposed to be in. I need re-novation. I need drive. I need a new suit.

It would really help if I knew what the hell I ought to be doing. But, clowns aside, who really does? We go to school to study some vague mish mash, continue to college to study some vague mish mash, we get a vague job and we end up confused. After ten years of bumbling around we realise that we're unhappy, but when we try to change we don't know where to start.

Where to start? I'm too old to start a band. If I apply for a new type of job I have to get past all the recruiting agencies, HR departments and middle managers who exist solely, it seems, to keep me out. I don't fit the job profile. I have no experience. And even if I scheme your way in, how can I tell if the new job is for me until I've done it for a while?

It's depressing. But there are shelves of books to help me out. Vast numbers of books. Websites. Personality tests. Attribute profiles. The books tell me to be confident, to be spiritual, to know myself, to find the language of the heart and on and on. Blah. Blah. Blah. They use metaphors - find the Colour of my Parachute, the essence of my flower, feel the force of my fear and generally get the hell out of town.

All this could mean only one thing. There is more money in writing career guidance books than there is say, in having a career. If I write one, I could make a mint. All I need is a simple, attractive metaphor around which I can build some generally applicable homilies on the positive effects of positivity.

So keep an eye out for Faceman: Self-Empowerment Lessons of the A-Team, coming soon.

Or else I shall buy a wig. And go to clown school.




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How I got around:
Singapore Airlines to Sydney. Very civilized.