In another world, I wrote:
I used to think we lived in a democracy, but we don't. We live in a bureacracy; and it's all about making resolutions about making regulations for setting plans for writing reports.
That was in an article I wrote just after attending a Newcastle City Council public meeting. They had the idea of making a 'City Cultural Precinct' in the middle of Newcastle as a way of attracting artists to the city. It was and is a crazy idea. They could never agree on the borders of this precinct, they didn't have a clear idea about which artists would be working in this precinct (and which artists wouldn't), and they had no clue what date the precinct would be ready by.
The council was always planning to move organisations into different buildings; restructure the Library; and rebuild the art gallery, but it never seemed to happen. The motto of Newcastle City Council always seemed to be: "never put off for next year what you can put off for a decade."
In the meantime, organisations closed down; buildings grew derelict; businesses shut up; and people sat in the Newcastle Community Arts Centre on Parry Street and held interminable meetings in which they discussed future meetings they were going to have.
But there was another Newcastle. Over the three-years plus that I lived there, I can remember helping Liz to set up her store on Hunter Street, sitting in at the first meeting for a new zine committee at the Octapod building on King Street, seeing a Steve Martin play at the Repertoire theatre in Lambton, arguing with dreadlocked socialists selling Green party propaganda at the zine fair in the Honeysuckle markets, drinking too much with Fiona at the Sydney Junction Hotel on Beaumont Street, chatting to Sue Leask (and her Linda Jaivin-style hair) at the Pepperina bookshop on Bolton Street just two weeks before she shut up shop for good, and reading (or rather shouting) poetry at Dean Winter's Cabaret, opposite the now-closed Pepperina bookshop.
Good times? Sure, there were those. And then there was the time I first walked into Graphic Action. They were just next to The Rock Shop at the time, on Hunter Street; and I had just moved to the area. You know how occasionally you get weird author fetishes and for months on end, you comb the bookstores looking obsessively for books by that author, and often only that author? Well, at the time, I had a Michael Moorcock fetish. I wasn't expecting to find anything in particular, but I went in nevertheless. I had a vague idea that they might have stocked Elric of Melnibone comics, so after flicking through some of the collection at the back of the store, I asked the fast-talking guy at the counter if he had any Michael Moorcock books. He went to the collection and showed me several copies of Michael Moorcock's Multiverse.
That fast talking guy was James; he was a member of a local church, and a local theatre group; his father had been a state politician or a federal politician or something like that, and he was part of a local rap band. He was great company: smart, knew what you liked, funny, full of ideas, and usually ready to talk. But the business was his, and he knew business alright; he started working at another local comic store, and then started up in Graphic Action.
There were other guys working at GA as well; Liam, always good to talk to, and easygoing Callan, who was in a band called The Pints.
Later, GA moved to the opposite side of Hunter Street, near the Salvation Army employment offices. This second location for the store differed from the first principally in that you could actually move between the shelves and not get jammed between other customers.
Truth be told, I wasn't the biggest customer of GA. I've never been very interested in comics. But key finds there include the aforementioned Multiverse comics; Joss Whedon's Fray comics; and almost all the Howard the Duck books (which still remain tantalisingly almost-but-not-quite complete).
Ah, Graphic Action. If Newcastle had more places like you then ... it would be a city with two comic bookstores.
Tim, your links stink, you fink!
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- The briefs...
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