On Saturday nights, Archerfield Speedway becomes a dangerous feline ecosystem. Animal-like vehicles group themselves by species in the pits, readying themselves to race each other on the track. Sprintcars are the king beasts here, their majestic engines bellowing out like lions. Outlaw sedans growl panther-like, while modlites—comically tiny things—screech like feral cats once they’re in motion.
Welcome to Round 13 of the KRE Race Engines Sprintcar Track Championship, one of the last races left in the season. Stakes are high tonight. In the pits, drivers are strapping themselves into their assorted vehicles. One sprintcar driver has a personal motto plastered onto his dash: “Hold it wide open ‘till you see God … then lift!” Mantras help when you’re steering a 900 horsepower vehicle with a power-to-weight ratio finer than a Formula One car, and a purpose-built 410 cubic inch engine that generates speeds of up to 135 kilometres an hour. When men talk about these cars, it’s like they’re describing something sexual.
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The Long View is a series of ten long review essays (up to 3000 words) on Australian writers and writing, commissioned by Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre. You can read the other essays here. I chose to write about AIDS in Australia and Timothy Conigrave’s 1995 memoir Holding the Man.
Tracing the origins of HIV and AIDS is a slippery task. You can always go one step back. For Australia, HIV was an American import, helped along by gay men who frequented cheap Skytrain flights between here and San Francisco in the early 80s. Before that, there was so-called Patient Zero, a gay and promiscuous French-Canadian plane steward who knowingly and unapologetically infected hundreds of men around the world, triggering off a global epidemic. And we can go even further back than that, to the moment of first transmission: most likely an African hunter who contracted a simian version of HIV by accidentally mixing his blood with a chimpanzee’s while slaughtering it for food.
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People pinpoint the start of winter in all sorts of ways. Australians like to keep things neat and go by the calendar: winter officially starts on June 1 and finishes at the end of August. Simple. For those inclined towards astronomy, the cold season is defined by earth’s orbital position in relation to the sun, with its midpoint – winter solstice, the shortest day of the year – signalled by the midday sun appearing at its lowest point above the horizon (June 21 this year). My personal method is far more instinctive. I know winter has arrived when I find myself making roasts, craving nothing more than hot tea and a doona, and waking up so cold that I weep ice and question my will to live.
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