I wrote this years ago but it is still the best song I have to end a set with.
The story is about a young guy, Steve, who I was working as a kitchenhand with at a restaurant called Torlanos on Fitzroy Street in St Kilda, Melbourne back in the mid-late 90s. The head chef was Iain Hewitson who Aussies would know from TV. (By the way, on TV he is very jovial, but my memory of him – not necessarily reliable – is of a tough-as-nails swear-bear who really used to rip into the apprentice chefs … having said that he never gave me a hard time at all, in fact he barely spoke to me.)
Although Steve held a full time job as a kitchenhand and had done so for some time, he was apparently homeless, I can’t remember if it was by choice or not. He was a great guy and an incredibly hard worker.
He used to talk a lot about becoming a DJ but in fact he never did because he suddenly died.
He never used to miss any time at work but one day he didn’t show for a few days in a row until it was eventually learned that he had turned up dead in the Yarra River. And this is where it gets weird… Shortly after learning about Steve’s death, which was reported as accidental (the police said he slipped and fell to his death while urinating in the river), I was visited by Steve’s ghost.
(I should point out here that I am not particularly interested or frequented by ghosts, in fact if not for this incident I would probably poo-poo the idea, but this definitely happened – call me crazy.)
One night I was minding a friend’s house and dog, a doberman. I was awoken by the dog going crazy one night, and I just knew somehow that Steve was with me. Steve proceeded to tell me about how he wanted everybody at work to know that he didn’t die accidentally but was deliberately pushed. He told me some details, which have become hazy with the passing of time, but from what I remember he said he had been walking into the city, all the way from St Kilda (a long walk) with some people, one of whom was a young homeless lad who was giving him a hard time about something. Steve described the guy’s clothing to me, and later I was told by a co-worker that they had seen Steve shortly before his death, walking up Barkly Street in St Kilda, towards the city, with a young guy wearing clothing that matched Steve’s description. According to Steve (or his ghost anyway) it was this guy who pushed Steve to his death while he was “cracking a whizz” over a steep riverbank edge.
I told people at work this story, and if it hadn’t been for the corroborating evidence, I am sure they would have dismissed my wild tale out of hand. As it was they just sort of said “wow, trippy” and left it at that.
Steve had two other things he wanted to tell me. Firstly, that he regretted having never made the time to properly pursue his dream of becoming a DJ (he used to work long hours). He pleaded with me not to make the same mistake; timely advice seeing as I was treading water at the time instead of getting on with my music. These were his actual words:
“If you’re going to do it, then go ahead and do it before it’s too late.”
As a result I walked out of the kitchen half way through my double shift one day soon after, and went out to have dinner with some friends of mine who were in a band called The Mavis’s. We ended up partying with Kylie Minogue that night which I took as a sign that I had done the right thing. (In retrospect it would have been wiser to go and do some work on my music career rather than get pissed – but 20/20 hindsight and all that…) I have always kept this advice close to heart, and whenever I find myself off track, I make sure to correct my course and just get back to pursuing my dreams, rather than worrying too much about money and security.
The third thing Steve wanted to tell me was that death is ok; it’s nothing to be afraid of. This has been an issue in my life, despite all my Zen posturings, so I like to remind myself of this when I am succumbing to fear (on airplanes, for example).