There are many stories I could tell about my time in Jakarta. Here I offer one: the story of Marcus McAdam and his mix-tapes.
One downside of living in Jakarta was that we were cut off from the culture machine that had dominated life in New Zealand. At home, I’d been cultivating a passion for Blondie and the Cars. At the bustling markets of Pasar Baru, I could pick up any number of pirated cassettes, and I compiled a back catalogue of every band I’d heard of. Yet, there was no Western radio or television stations in Jakarta at the time, and no internet to browse in pursuit of the latest thing. I soon discovered how dependent I’d become on the weekly chart countdown. I didn’t lack for entertainment, but I had no idea what kinds of entertainment were cool. With my teenage years on the horizon, this was a serious problem.
Into the breach stepped Marcus MacAdam. Marcus was my friend Andrew’s older brother. At fifteen years old, Marcus knew everything about anything worth knowing about: bands, movies, comics, all the important stuff. He was a legend. Marcus left Jakarta for boarding school in Perth shortly after my family arrived in Indonesia. Twice or thrice a year he would fly back to Jakarta with news of the outside world. Marcus introduced me to the pop-cultural references that (for better or worse) defined my teenage imagination: Alien (‘…and this thing just explodes out of his stomach!’), KISS (‘…and then Gene Simmon goes HUURR and fire comes out his mouth!’), and The Savage Sword of Conan comics that satisfied my hunger for epic fantasy long after umpteen readings of The Lord of the Rings had taken the shine off the trilogy (‘…plus there’s a movie in the works, starring this Austrian bodybuilder, Arnold Schnizelburger!’).
Some might say that Marcus MacAdam had questionable taste. What the hell – we were kids. Marcus brought Western pop culture to our gated compound, and for that, we were very grateful.