Monday, 22 November 2021

Lanz Priestley commemoration

 It had rained for a week and it would rain for a week more and I’d spent the morning shopping and having yum cha in Campsie with friends. I’d bought box cutters and gardening gloves – I planned to plant things so they could grow and feed me – but caught the bus and tram into town for the event. I left home for Lanz's event at 1pm and got back after five o’clock, so it was a full day for me, one in which I met an old friend. 

I’d once travelled to South American to be with Austin but Martin Place was the only place that the commemoration ceremony could possibly have been held in, the crowd relatively thin – there were probably a few hundred people all told – due to Huey, the weather god. A camera crew roved around among the mourners, others wielded their cameras, and the boys in blue stood off to one side, under the eaves of a commercial building and of the Reserve bank of Australia, which, four years before, had stood sentinel over the Tent City, of which Lanz was unofficial Mayor.

“Barak bukbuk baraken warangumuraj rajita nunga,” the almost-naked man chanted as people came up to the stack of burning gum leaves, giving off their cleansing smoke. The man had a stick through his nose and he talked about meeting Lanz on the Northern Beaches, and of surfing. 

“You’ve gotta help other people in need,” sang Peter Blanch with his guitar. Big city life. 

Later, there was a video shown on a large truck that someone had parked on the pedestrian mall. It wasn’t all about the city. Ethan Pinnar, a truck driver who used the word “tremendously” at least three times, talked about a convoy to Bourke for NSW Bushfire Cleanup. Mary spoke about who she thought Australians were: “We are people that look after each other.” 

Lanz was a Kiwi, but never mind. 

Others spoke about what Lanz had meant to them. There was Glenda and Roy Butler, an MP who illustrated the freewheeling network Lanz could marshal like a crazy general. Then Freya spoke movingly about what she’d lost.

Nicky said, “English is my fourth language.” Carol, Sandra, Melanie, Nicole, Lee Rhiannon. Everyone had been touched in some way by Lanz and it was a real shame that the mainstream media didn’t turn up to report on his death. It would be left to the people who knew him as a man, as a giver, as a motivator, as a mentor, as a friend, as family, as an organiser, a man so contrary and ambitious for the wellbeing of others that he’d go without if it meant someone else could have what they needed. 

Lanz was a man of ideas who inspired by his example and by his words. He was unique, one-off, “iconic” (as someone said). He was the best of who we are.

Austin had to meet a friend at Stanmore but we decided to head to Central to have a coffee. When we got there the café on the Grand Concourse was closed however so I caught the bus home.

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