Day Four of this 30 Day Writing Challenge requires me to write 10 Interesting Facts about myself. Having completed them it strikes me that I could have just said things like ‘My t-shirt collection is largely either shirts from gigs, pop culture references or campaign shirts for various issues,’ but after yesterday I was in a nostalgic mood so…
10 Interesting Facts About Mark Riboldi (that’s me!)
- During the awkward early parents-separating-while-I-was-going-through-puberty stage, my Nan broke her hip falling down the stairs in the hotel she worked in and Mum had to go to Queensland to look after her. I didn’t want to go to Dad’s place so instead I crashed at a place where troubled boys like me stayed. It was basically a bedsit and was out the back of the Monastery of the Brothers who ran the Church and school I went to, and was on the same block of land. Some of the Brothers encouraged me to go to school, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to float in the pool and look at the sky or listen to one of the three cassettes I had: Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, Bryan Adams’ Waking Up the Neighbours and The Travelling Wilburys, Volume I.
- In high school I was also an altar boy for a few years. It was pretty awesome: I got to hang out with some (relatively) cool older guys, got an early taste for red wine, and didn’t have to actually sit and listen to the Mass. I stopped doing it after Brother Greg (who was also our school principal) got me to be one of the servers (that’s what we were called) at the funeral for the mother of one of my best friends from primary school. Dan’s parents had divorced years earlier and he’d moved away to Campbelltown. I went and stayed with them once and Dan and I stayed up late at night watching Aliens and it scared the shit out of me (in a good way). Brother Greg hadn’t told me whose funeral it was, or that Dan’s mum had killed herself. I was pretty damn angry and quit in protest.
- Speaking of fury, I once punched a hole in a real estate For Sale sign on Victoria Road in North Parramatta. I was 18 and a friend of mine, who I had a massive crush on, had just had a snog-fest with some other guy at Kicks nightclub at Parramatta RSL. I hadn’t told her how I felt and I was drunk, so I thought punching the sign would make me feel better. It REALLY hurt my hand, so I guess it kinda worked. I developed different coping strategies after that though.
- I am pretty good (but not excellent) at chess. I didn’t really realise this until one day at uni when a guy ran up to me and said You’re Mark Riboldi, right? I beat you at chess once in Year 6!, and then ran away, and then I remembered the after-school chess tournaments that Alex Falzon or I usually won. My mum and grandfather taught me to play by handicapping themselves – removing pieces like the queen or a rook, or both – until I could beat them, then slowly they built up the difficulty level. I beat my granddad with a full set once. Then I dropped the mic and walked away.
- I did a LOT of student theatre when I was at uni, being involved in some capacity with over twenty shows in my five-and-a-half years there. I wrote three short plays, directing two of them myself. One of them was an Australian soap opera based on Dawson’s Creek which was hilarious. I was also the deadpan guitarist in a comedy folk trio called the Giggles with my two best friends. At first we wore skivvies (mine was yellow) but then later we switched to bowling shirts with our names embroidered on them. We started out being the house band for the uni Comedy Revue and became so popular that people used to start clapping when we came on stage. We won the band comp on points at Macquarie Uni one year, beating Skulker, but they were awarded the victory because our lead singer was the President of the Student Union. I often wonder whether we’d now be one of Sydney’s Top 3 Comedy Folk Trios if we’d been allowed to win.
- Between uni and living overseas for five years I was the ‘Obligatory Catering Manager’ for the State Hockey Centre for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. That meant I was responsible for making sure the volunteers, media and VIPs got fed. I was overseeing about 30 staff and got to ride around in a golf buggy. After the first couple of days of ironing out the kinks in the processes we’d set up, it was a pretty easy gig. Almost every night after my shift ended I would go down to the main bar and get drunk with all the fans and athletes and media. The night Jai Tourima got a silver medal was huge. He came to the bar and we sang and drank until they kicked us out. I ended up in the hotel room of some Canadian journalists who kindly dry-cleaned my shirt for me so I could wear it the next day.
- Between leaving Australia in 2001 and finishing my MA in Creative Writing in 2009 I wrote the better part of four novels and multiple drafts of a screenplay. The screenplay is a psychological horror film about a teenage boy haunted by his mother’s ghost. It’s mildly interesting and I’ll probably return to one day, whereas the novels are probably best left unfinished.
- I once unknowingly invited a Holocaust denier to a Palestine solidarity event my boss was organising, and then made a comment to this person in a reply email that on reflection could be (and subsequently was) interpreted as anti-Semitic. Because politics is brutal my name ended up in the press, the story got on the front page of The Australian, and people in my own party were baying for my blood like a pack of sausage dogs. Worse than any of that was when I realised what I had unwittingly done and then thought how it might affect my Jewish friends. They were all very lovely, and understood that while I had made a stupid mistake I was not an arsehole. I have lovely friends generally. I’m very lucky that way.
- The same week that the previous interesting fact was hitting the shit-flinging fan, I met the Dalai Lama and shook his hand. He was at NSW Parliament for an event because Sydney University (allegedly) had caved in to pressure from Beijing and had not given the gentle old bloke a place to speak on campus. An MP friend of mine had asked me to take photos, and as His Holiness walked down the row of people one-by-one, shaking their hands, I realised that if I popped myself on the end of the queue he would probably shake mine. And he did! It was electric. I was tingly for half the day. The man exudes an infectious bubble of peace and loving kindness.
- I had a really odd Easter long weekend just past. On Good Friday morning I found a guy I knew from uni killed himself, leaving behind an estranged wife and two kids. Then on the Sunday evening I visited a dear friend who was in hospital with cancer, the worst kind, who is fighting it with everything he has. I hadn’t seen him since he’d been sick and we had a grand old time, talking and joking about pain and drugs and life. In between these two mortality-related activities, I saw two films, hung out with friends, did some work and read a bit. It feels a bit like I’ve been through some kind of crucible and come out the other side changed.