13 December 2018, Carousel, Albert Park, Melbourne , Australia
As prepared for delivery. Nick ad libbed a fair bit, and I’d highly recommend the video version.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on what we loved so much about Greg, and it’s been impossible to narrow it down to a few things. There are things like his love, humour, and intelligence that cannot be replicated, so we’ll all just have to remember them fondly.
What I’d like to talk about are the attitudes Greg brought to things, that each of us can try to adopt a little (or a lot) of.
So I’d like to talk about three things.
1 The often comical lengths he would go to in order to avoid doing something he didn’t want to do.
2 His attitude when he decided he was going to do something that he really didn’t want to do.
3 The way he approached things he did want to do, like an excited child.
1. Greg rarely did anything he didn’t want to.
If it wasn’t essential, it didn’t get done.
If it had to be done, and Greg didn’t want to do it, he was famous for throwing his credit card or fistfuls of cash at whatever it was until it sorted itself out.
For those of you who have not heard of the Falls Festival, it’s a large music festival that happens over the New Year period at a few locations around Australia.
I ran the bars at the Tasmanian Falls Festival for a dozen years, and half the people in this room have at some time worked there. Greg “worked” there five or seven times. There was a lot to love about working in the bars at Falls. Spending four or five days with a hundred good friends, listening to great music and drinking lots of beers.
Greg loved it.
Well, most of it.
Greg didn’t like camping.
In all the years he worked there I don’t think he ever packed up a whole lot of camping gear into a car and took it to the festival, set it up, then , later, took it all down, packed it into the car again, and put it back where it was stored.
You know, the usual experience of camping for most people.
So Greg came up with all kinds of inventive ways to camp at a festival without doing any of the camping things. He’d sleep in other people’s tents, he’d buy a new tent and leave it behind.
One year he got someone else to buy him a tent and take it out down to the festival for him.
Unfortunately that someone was Shippo.
Shippo, knowing exactly how tall Greg was, bought a tent that was just a little bit too small for Greg across its longest point.
So there was no way Greg could fit into the tent.
Fortunately, Greg was a creative and resourceful man, and he overcame this by drinking so much that he didn’t care where he slept, and fell asleep with his feet hanging out the door of the tent.
But when it comes to not doing something he didn’t want to, nothing tops offering to pay someone $100 to pack up his tent.
To put this in context, the tent itself probably cost less than $100, and Greg had just worked for minimum wage at a festival where, after tax, he probably hadn’t made $100.
The thing is, he didn’t even have anything else he needed to do. He basically watched as his tent got packed up for him.
A spectacular unwillingness to do something he didn’t want to do.
2. Anyway, he wasn’t always like this, which brings me to point two.
There were some things that Greg didn’t want to do, that he put his head down and did anyway, and they were equally entertaining to be a part of.
Back in 2009, we decided we were going to do the Oxfam Trailwalker.
Greg had mentioned he needed something to focus on to get him active, so why not sign up to walk 100km?
To say that Greg did not enjoy long walks would be an understatement. He probably disliked long walks as much as he disliked packing up tents.
Our first training walk was an 11km circuit in Freycinet. The Wineglass Bay walk basically starts with 1km of very steep uphill, followed by 1km of very steep downhill, then finishes with 9km of reasonably flat trail, walking around the hill to get back to the start.
Greg had made it about 500 metres when he decided he had had enough.
We had a bit of a chat about whether he was giving up on the training walk, or the whole 100km walk in a few months, or just life in general.
He had a bit of a think, then shouted “Harden the fuck up” and got up and marched to the top of the hill.
I asked him at the top if he wanted to turn around and go back down, or continue on and he decided to march on down the other side into Wineglass Bay. Once down the other side of the hill he decided he’d changed his mind, and would like to have turned around at the top. And this was typical of the kinds of conversations we’d have. Greg knew full well he couldn’t travel back in time, but we had the conversation anyway.
So I explained that would mean walking back up to the top, he changed his mind again and we set off.
Then, on that walk, it became clear what walking 100km with Greg was going to be like.
He didn’t like being bored, and was rarely silent.
If he wasn’t singing he was starting random conversations.
“Walk a mile in my shoes”, a phrase that usually means to understand another persons perspectives, experiences, and motivations became a request to swap shoes. So Greg would say “Walk a mile in my shoes, because then I could walk a mile in your shoes, and your shoes look like they’re better for walking in. Wanna swap shoes?”
So our first training walk was punctuated by Greg shouting/singing “Walk a mile in my shoes” as his converse one stars gave him blisters.
To his credit, Greg trained pretty hard for the walk. We didn’t finish, but we did make it about 65km, which is one and a half marathons.
It came to a rather abrupt end when, as Ren put it “I remember turning and seeing him sprint past me at about 2am; I was gobsmacked. Where had his energy come from? And then he catapulted himself into a Y shaped tree and projectile vomited, from whatever food had been served at the last checkpoint…”
So when Greg committed himself to doing something he really didn’t want to do, he often showed real strength, and pushed himself until he found a Y-shaped tree to vomit in.
3. So finally, my last, and probably most important point: If we’re going to take anything from Greg’s life that we try to incorporate into our own, it’s the way he approached things that he did want to do.
The fun, the childishness, the stupidity, the whole new language that developed, spawning in-jokes that will last for decades.
So I’ve told you a story about a bold, but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to walk 100km, let me tell you another story about trying to drink 100 beers.
We were sitting down for our first beer after setting up camp at Falls on December 28th the day before the Falls festival kicks off. Greg and I both cracked open a beer. My phone rang and it was one of the suppliers trying to arrange a restock on new years eve. We chatted for a few minutes. As I hung up the phone Greg finished his beer and got up to get another from the esky.
“Do you want another one mate?” He asked.
I’d been too busy talking to drink, so my first one was still full.
“Nah, I’m right mate.” I replied.
Greg then cracked his beer took a sip, and looked at me and said
“It’s not a race mate… but I’m winning.”
And so it began. Somewhere in the first dozen beers we agreed to race to 100 beers, with the goal of getting there before the year ended in four days time.
I was chatting to Gus yesterday, and apparently Greg texted Gus at that point to say something along the lines of “I’ve challenged Nick to drink 100 beers. I think I may have just signed my own death warrant.”
My counter point would be that he hadn’t simply signed it, he had drafted it, had it printed on fine paper, and demanded it be signed.
Anyway, I digress.
Greg didn’t really enjoy ‘working’ at the festival, so I’d given him the seemingly simple task of band riders.
It involved putting a few items, maybe a case of beer, some wine and some spirits, into a tub for each band. So basically a five minute job for 50 bands, 250 minutes, or just over four hours of work across three days.
That said, it did require attention, and probably wasn’t the sort of job someone trying to drink 100 beers should have been attempting.
On day two of the race we had successfully covered 25 beers in the first 24 hours, and I remember Greg coming up to me with a bottle of Chimay, a Belgian trappist beer and smirking while drinking it, saying
“It doesn’t matter if you get there first, I’m going to get there fancier.”
“Where’s you get that beer mate?” I asked.
“Oh, there was a whole lot of stuff left over from the band riders.”
Then a few hours later.
“Hey Nick, about those beers I was drinking earlier.
It turns out two of my band rider pages were stuck together, so I was missing about ten bands.
We did need those beers after all. … So I’m going to need someone to drive me into Hobart to buy some more.”
So not only was Greg not doing his simple job very well, he now needed an assistant to help him with it.
Greg was gone for three or four hours, because Hobart was somewhat different to Melbourne, and Greg couldn’t simply drive to a Dan Murphy’s and buy replacements. I assumed he’d been sitting in the passenger seat drinking beers trying to get the lead in our race.
We’d been having a steady beer an hour for the last day, but I sped up a little and had about six beers while he was gone.
When he returned he was surprisingly sober, and he then realised he’d forgotten to have any beer while he was gone. He was now about eight beers behind.
Over the next few days hilarity ensued. Greg made numerous attempts at catching up, which almost always involved him drinking so much in a short time that he’d need a nap.
By about 7pm on new years eve I was not far off hitting the 100 beer target. I was on about 95 beers, and reasonably confident of finishing on time. Greg still hadn’t quite caught up, and he was about five beers behind,
As you can imagine, Greg took it al in his stride and accepted defeat graciously….
Actually, no he didn’t.
He started slapping beers out of my hand forcefully. Every time I opened a beer Greg would spring out from somewhere and smash the beer out of my hand.
After Greg had slammed his hand down onto three beers in a row, leaving my beers dribbling all over the ground, I began putting my other hand protectively above my beers. Sure enough, my beers started flying upwards as he smashed them from below. Then they started flying sideways. There was no way I was reaching 100 that night.
We wound up going to bed on 98 each.
On new years day be both sat down and opened our 100th beer together at around midday, and congratulated each other on a race well run.
Then we headed off to the staff party where we drank another 20 or so beers.
Hilarity there ensued. After numerous people doing laps of each other (explain the lap) Greg and I decided that we should try to do a lap. After a quick rock-paper-scissors, it was decided Greg would do a lap of me. Surprisingly, Greg was over my shoulder and heading down my back before we fell and nearly broke the floorboards. Fortunately Greg broke my fall, and I was ok.
Greg had a bit of a limp for a month or six.
There’s hundreds more stories of Greg pushing fun/silly adventures. I remember him regularly suggesting at 1am, after a night of watching blues and drinking beer at The Rainbow, that we should head to the Black Pearl for some Espresso Martinis to ‘sober up’.
Any protests were met with a sharp, “I don’t need excuses I need results!”
There was no denying a Greg on a mission.
The Black Pearl encourage using tabs. They issue cards for their tabs which have a message on them that reads something to the effect of “If you find this card in your pocket in the morning it means you’ve left your credit card behind the bar. Please come back in at 5pm to settle your bill.”
Needless to say, there’s countless text messages between Greg and me where one of us asks the other to meet at the Black Pearl at 5pm on a Saturday. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t uncommon for the same text message to occur on the next day.
And so I need to finish up with those three messages. That we can all take with us:
1. Try to avoid a few things you don’t want to do. Maybe go to extreme lengths to do so.
2. When you do commit to something you don’t want to do, give it your best. Work so hard that you throw up in a tree.
3. Most importantly, throw everything at the things you love. Take others along with you. Do it with such enthusiasm that other can’t help but want to be part of it.
So, I was trying to think about how to finish this up.
I thought “how do you finish up a speech about a mate you’re going to remember for the rest of your life?”
I thought maybe something emotional, maybe something funny, and then I thought, nah, something childish.
So, to the memory of Greg I say: mate, it’s not a race, but I’m winning.
Cameron Fink and Knockers finished this stunning memorial off with musica;l number.