1. I was not there when my father acted out to Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ at his work Christmas party in the Link Arcade. I was probably asleep at my grandparents’ house in the bed he slept in as a child. If not asleep, then reading a Munch Bunch picture book: Dick Turnip saving Suzie Celery from an oncoming greengrocer’s truck. But my mother told me the story the next morning, and now, whenever I hear that song I think of the scene with my father climbing onto the handrail of the mezzanine —part arena rocker, part suicide-to-be— shaking his non-existent locks and mouthing: “Go ahead and jump!” to the shocked faces of his colleagues who thought he might / the uneasy conversations after he climbed down and didn’t sound the slightest bit drunk. Which he wasn’t. Not my dad. Apart from a photo from his buck’s night (Andrew ‘Undies’ Cliff tied to a clothesline in singlet and undies, a sloshed St. Sebastian) I can’t remember seeing him drunk. Indeed, when I was approaching an age where I might be offered a beer at family barbeques he sat me down and extolled the virtues of drinking from a can: “You can drink as slow as you like, set your own pace, and no one can tell how much you’ve had.” 2. Everything from that first stanza is now defunct, deceased, or rebranded: my father, Van Halen, the Link Arcade. Though there was a decade between his daredevil David Lee Roth and his death, this reconstructed scene seems to me —another decade later— the point at which my father wandered off into the ultramarine glow of the afterlife, and if I could just get back inside that arcade between Main Street and Broadway he’d meet me there for the conversation where I say everything I’ve bottled up and he listens and nods and smiles, ever-sipping from a can that never empties. (c) Craig Cliff
Craig Cliff is a writer, columnist and public servant based in Wellington, New Zealand. His short story collection, A Man Melting, won Best First Book in the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his first novel, which features mannequin makers, strongmen and sub antarctic shipwrecks.View Craig’s website here.
Link Arcade was published in broadsheet/8 November 2011. Thank you Cliff for sharing this poem with us. For permission to use the Link Arcade photo thanks go to the Ian Matheson City Archives