Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The superpowers of logic and maths combine to make drinkable a sub-standard coffee with the additional benefit of Cosbys

Rainsoaked and wracked with freezings chills I diverted my path home to secure my tenth cup of Paper Cup coffee knowing that it would ease more than my saturated shivers but I was a little wrong. The new barista, under the watchful eye of the Scottish man who has perfected the art of coffee making, made my usual coffee. I clutched the cup carefully under the shelter of my umbrella as I walked home. The fury of the rain making it impossible to do anything but chart a careful course and hope to avoid being wrecked against a fence or parked car.

I took my first sip in the shelter of The Peach, it was disappointing, the milk had been scalded, not burnt but definitely scalded and this got me to thinking about maths. I am sure there must be some kind of mathematical theory about the tenth one of something being different, why else would metric have invented itself?

Then I got to thinking about things in tens and it occurred to me that if every tenth coffee was sub par it was part of a larger plan to highlight the perfection of the other nine cups of coffee. Like the idea of good needing evil or light needing dark. Then it occurred to me that this was just like 'The House of Cosby's', but in reverse. If every tenth cloned Cosby has superpowers that can save the earth then the other, the in-between Cosbys, are worth making. So it is with Paper Cup coffee, every tenth coffee might be flawed and listless on the tongue but it is worth drinking for the sake of the in-between coffees, the ones that have the superpower of making me feel good to be on this earth. If you think about it mathematically that's a pretty good equation, especially if you have a loyalty card that makes every tenth coffee come for free. Maths and logic, saving the day, for once.


Nor breath nor motion

I can't remember how it all goes.

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

But I don't suppose it matters. The venue for yesterday's horrifically frightening job interview had those words painted across the office walls and I keep wondering why. Was it just because it mentioned ships? They have something of a maritime streak running through their core business. It was one of those frightening interviews, a full panel, them loaded with tea cups and reference papers, me on an armchair feeling marooned and a little at sea. It was neither bad nor good. I could have been better but there is always in everything room for improvement. My hours of preparation seemed to leave me unprepared, I had not correctly guessed at what they might ask, nor why. There was the one obligatory 'what attracted you to apply for this role' question which I was prepared for but at the last moment discarded my rehearsed answer and went in a peculiar direction. It felt like neither a bad nor good idea. It is notoriously difficult to judge the outcome of these kinds of things. They informed me it will be several weeks before they have a final answer and I discover whether or not I shall be obliged to pass under Coleridge's haunting words each morning. 

I walked hunched and freezing from the interview, down by the waterside to the long and ancient wharf where Grizelda works. I was dodging hale like bullets, throwing up a wake of water with my heels. I was aiming like an arrow towards a place where I was already known, where I didn't have to attempt to explain and re-explain my whole being in three sentences or less at four minute intervals. I sat on the curiously placed lounges in Grizelda's workplace and whiled away half an hour talking amongst her colleagues. Nothing of any importance was said but it was almost enough to reset me back into being, just sitting in a place where people know my name.

Today I have neither breath nor motion. I made my tea with knots of rope, dropped sails down the mast to fashion into dresses. It is difficult to determine if I am sleeping or awake. But is not unpleasant. I am here inside The Peach warm and dry in drastic contrast to yesterday's encounter with the elements. When I arrived home I hauled off my boots and tipped out genuine puddles of water, I peeled off three layers of saturated clothes and spent ten minutes under the hot jet of the shower before I began to feel any kind of warm at all. I'm beginning to wonder if these elemental trials of woman versus nature are an ordinary part of the job seeking process.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Important points to remember not to mention at tomorrow's frightening job interview

  1. My imaginary submarine.
  2. Obsessive recurring thoughts about discovering Antarctica.
  3. Tendency to attempt to calculate my longitude by chronometer when seated at cafes.
  4. Voyages on my imaginary submarine.
  5. That summer I spent snorkelling in an inland swimming hole.
  6. Being frightened by the idea of falling off the continental shelf.
  7. Design plans for the unitard uniforms on my imaginary submarine.
  8. Spooking like startled a horse every time I see a fish whilst snorkelling.
  9. My drawings of a diving helmet for my cat.
  10. My fervent wish to attach a mast to the roof of The Peach and be the first person to sail a house to the supermarket and back again.
  11. That time I dove into the midnight ocean yelling, 'don't worry I'll be fine but if I'm not just tell my mother I was taken by the sea'.
  12. The two litre plastic bottle full of sea water I keep under the sink in case of ocean-needing emergency or similar.
  13. That I wrote a list of points to remember not to mention.

Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues or yet another inexact album review


Most songs on Helplessness Blues sway like trees bending before a gathering storm. There is an elegantly organic sense of momentum and meaning conveyed within the earnest and open harmonies and bare and urgent strumming of acoustic guitars.
All of the expected noises are present, you already know what Fleet Foxes sounds like, and it is comforting to hear the same sound grown into new and more reaching songs. Some are saying the arrangements are more ambitious, maybe they are, but it is safe to ignore those kinds of thoughts and just press play.

I adore the echoey drum sound that plonks through the whole album like an asthmatic child running after his friends. And of course the harmonies, and melodies that surge and retreat like waves. But what I’m really loving right about now is an unexpected existential strangled trumpet freak out. I like those but don’t worry there is only one on the whole album and it doesn’t interfere with the gentle posturing of the album as a whole.

You might need to put on your earnestness hat to properly listen to Helplessness Blues, it will help. It is also best to leave a respectable distance between you and your speakers when you are playing this album. If you sit too close you’ll be listening wrong. This album requires space, distance and a kind of pottering activity to be heard at its best. I suggest tidying the kitchen and then baking a cake, with love.

People keep mentioning the beautiful lyrics on this album but so far I have allowed the sound to wash around unsullied by literary critique. That is a rare and important gift. The only other album I listen to like that is Unhalfbricking by Fairport Convention, which led me to miss the point entirely on most of the songs but I don’t really mind. Sometimes an album is just for listening to and its best to bow down and be grateful for the invention of sound.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Every seven years I forget that I am an idiot and require reminding

Unfortunately I was reading through some of my old journals last night. It seems clear that people who burn their journals once they are full are more sensible than me. Apart from rediscovering that I am an idiot across all the years, aspects and facets of my life I found one interesting entry.

Some years ago now I wrote constantly about longing for a correspondence with someone, someone who would read all the letters I could write, one a day, two a day, three a day but never write back, not ever. I longed for somewhere to send letters where they might be read, where I might at least in part be understood, a one way dream absorber so that I could empty my head. If only I had known about blogs I might not have filled so many pages about trying to send letters to nowhere.

I suppose that's all this blog is really, a letter to nowhere.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

An intimate festival in Sydney's Town Hall

I heard him begin to cough from across the aisle, the air rose within him like a great tide and then stopped.  I heard him again begin a cough but the air rushed neither in nor out. I turned my head to find him in the dark hall. He stood in shock and emitted a muffled bark. Stood like a marionette raised on strings. He reeled then, first forwards then backwards while his legs wound around each making nonsensical patterns on the old floor.

I sat in silence, willing the breath either in or out of him but he did not breathe, he fell like a rag doll against my legs. His feet were still winding about, walking imaginary steps, he clutched a plastic water bottle to his chest while I held him upright in my arms. The warmth of him through his jumper, through my jeans, took me by surprise as though I had bent down to hold a stuffed bear and found myself with a mewling infant instead. The heat coming through his clothes, the winding feet,  the never-ending struggle for breath, this man was desperately alive.

My friend Lawless flew out of her seat and down the side aisle of the hall, the ease of her steps incredible in their contrast to the warm flailing man in my arms. My focus on the man was so intense I had already forgotten the easy slide from one breath to another, the possibility of flight on foot, the possibility of anything but sinking out of existence in an agonising waltz.

I did not raise my eyes but if I had I would have witnessed the silent stare of the pipe organ's great mechanical lungs capable of causing a state of reverie with each breath. This is when I wanted to run, my only thought to make it up to the eyrie and pull out all the stops, cause the organ to breathe with mighty force, pull the air up and out of this man's lungs and out through the screaming pipes so he could live. But I sat with my hands flat against his rigid back feeling the heat of him increase with his struggle. And then they swooped, his friends calling, 'Geoff Geoff are you alright!' and the officials from the town hall and then the people in seats around us.

He was stood up and half-dragged to the back of the hall, clutching at his plastic water bottle, where the medical staff Lawless had magicked out of the air would do something, what I am not sure, to unstop his one crucial air pipe and set his lungs back into regular unthinking motion. I sat back silently in my chair and realised the speakers on the panel had not even paused, Lawless returned to her seat and so the evening carried on under the silent watch of the grand pipe organ whose powers of breath and life remain untested.

Interesting and new

I've heard people say they have been so frustrated they wanted to tear out their hair or scream or both at once. I have felt frustration before but never to the point where I am simultaneously shouting, crying, jumping, throwing things and falling down upon the floor. This is an interesting and new development in being the editor of a magazine. It's all a rich tapestry I 'spose.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Storm in a paper cup

I love the cafe Paper Cup, it has a map of the world, an excellent selection of magazines, an interior endearingly like an Ikea catalogue and astonishingly good coffee but is has caused more than one mild existential crisis on my part.

The Peach is situated in a position equidistant from two IGAs, one in Stanmore and one in Enmore. For almost five years my IGA of choice has been in Enmore, not that it is superior, it is just located in a place of greater possibility. There are at least seven thousand cafes, shops and people on Enmore Rd at any point in time and of course it is a short walk down to Newtown where most of my friends, my PO Box and the world at large resides. It was never a difficult choice to turn and left and head to Enmore, not until Paper Cup opened its doors.

I once had a coffee at Paper Cup that was so good I sat in astonishment, holding the steaming cup against my heart as an offering to my internal gods, who had never before that moment been satisfied with anything. It was a perfect cup of coffee, the kind of flavour that other cups have hinted at but never actually delivered. I have drunk nine cups of coffee from Paper Cup since that first moment and am yet to be disappointed, in fact I have begun to experience constant cravings.

Lately I have chosen to turn right and walk to Stanmore, purchase any necessary items at the IGA and then cross the road and once again experience the satisfaction of delivering my inner gods the perfect coffee. What comes next is the main problem. Stanmore, on that side of the tracks, is a terrible place to be, there is a meth clinic masquerading as a doctor's surgery, a pharmacy both ancient and over-stocked with lavendar powders, a primary school full of screaming children running about randomly like behatted fish in a barrel and the distinct absence of everyone I know. There is nothing to do there,  nothing new to observe, there is no one to talk to and it is double the distance to my PO Box and collecting my letters begins to feel like a chore.

Every time I leave the house in search of coffee or supplies I stop at the front gate and face a minor crisis. Should I turn left and top up an inferior coffee drink with the delights of the world or should I turn right and once again experience transcendence with the ritual satisfaction of inner gods? It is an existential crisis that needs to be experienced to be believed.

The enormously frightening job interview

On my way to The Enormously Frightening Job Interview I was telephoned by another employer and asked to attend Another Enormously Frightening Job Interview next week. So long as I am not averaging more than one a week I think I can cope with this ratio of reality/abnormal fear and only use the usual amount of underpants in a week. In other news Grizelda has super vomit, she vomited in the bathroom two days ago and the smell is as fresh as if it were a steaming pile upon the floor. We have discovered a new kind of very mild superpower.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Every afternoon, before homework

Walking straight into an Autumn setting sun clicked sense memory into action and suddenly I was eleven years old trotting a straight and terrifying line from one end of the arena to the other on a patient little shaggy pony. The sensation of my own footsteps gave way to the jarring little tap taps of a beginner rider learning to feel the rolling rhythmic power contained even within a patient little shaggy pony, whose tiny hoofbeats sounded like thunder in my terrified ears.

Unexpected difficulty typing a word has no correlation on the emotional front

Helplessness is a difficult word to type. So much hovering over 's', 'l's where you don't expect them to be and the sound in your head is quick, so slippery that fingers have trouble tapping the right double rhythm. Helplessness. But that's not what I want to talk about.

There have been dreams that follow me through consciousness, close as a cat, changing the tone of whole days, changing the angle of my hand as I stir sugar through an otherwise bitter coffee. This time being unemployed is not my fault. The corporate opressor moved operations offshore leaving me in unexpected freedom and there are no bars on my cage. Each morning I stir from dream into action, rising even as the others are still readying themselves to breach the warmth of The Peach dressed in workplace disguise. I can return to bed, hot coffee in hand, cat at my heels, and sift through possibilities with determination. It is always a relief when helplessness is merely a word to type and not a thing to feel.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

SLAMMATOWN - This old peacock world


Illustration by Onnie Cleary

There are days when keeping a heart beating takes more energy than it’s worth and on logical reflection the notion of carrying on is at best a farce. This Sunday people knelt and prayed for the magic Jew they nailed to wood, felt love, hope and gratitude in their hard little hearts. I sat at home eating chocolate and snivelling, wondering whether drinking seven coffees in a row would push the boundaries of my beating heart so fast that it would suddenly stop. Death by coffee in my favourite cup.

Some people wear sorrow with grace. Wave their wan little fingers at translucent tears on porcelain skin, sit elegantly folded under blankets with gin. I hate those people so I walk. Train tracks, highways, back lanes, anywhere I hope the world isn’t but like I said the world is a peacock and I’m no better than a hen. 

There is unfortunate magnificence in the minute, the overblown, the absent, the present, the two severed fingers on the railway tracks. That was some trick the train played, taking for itself a sample of the things that made it, the two things who first took up a pencil and dreamt it into shape.

I had an abhorrent conversation the other night while a self-confessed manipulative liar poured wine after wine and I discovered what it was like to go glass for glass with someone accustomed to becoming drunk. He was helping because I had asked him to help. He was talking about ways to make it work. Ways in which to wake up and go willingly into harness every nine to five, and then again, and then again and then again, to earn money.

There are more than two kinds of people but today only two of them count. Those who can, and those who rejoice because they can’t. Two sets of shoes a person can walk in but the catch is in the choosing. Most people don’t stand back and make the choice, most people don’t sit down and write lists to see if living is worth it, not that I’m aware of. 

Now because you reading this and some of you have soft little souls I’ll tell you this. I’m only taking today, just this one day, to sit down and moan like I mean it. I’ll spend the day cat-curled and rattled. I’ll spend this whole day asking what shall become of me but tomorrow I’ll probably get up and walk. I’ll probably go visit those severed fingers and wonder else they dreamed of. 



This will be the last SLAMMATOWN for a little while. The editor at RHUM has been kind enough to let me take a little break.

Pancake Mozart surprises self with super glue in hair

It occurred to me this morning, half way through supergluing a ceramic toast rack back together, that the life a retired and not too elderly gentleman would suit me enormously. Before 9am this morning I had eaten breakfast at the kitchen table whilst listening to classical fm, had one and a half cups of tea, read two chapters of a natural history book about earth winds and decided I was very happy indeed.

There might be something significantly wonderful about purposeful pottering interspersed with civilised activities such as sitting at the table to have a cup of tea. It has been a long time since I was civilised enough to eat breakfast, with a knife and fork, sitting at the table. I usually forage for food in the cupboard or fridge and eat it walking down the hallway, or standing at the kitchen sink staring idly into the middle distance.

I was going to light a fire in the library and work at my manuscript in there for the rest of the morning, with a tray for tea, until I remembered that I have run out of firewood and the work table in the library was replaced by a drum kit some time ago. This was the first clue that my life was not as lovely as the early morning made me believe.

Shortly after remembering about the firewood I discovered an alarming amount of super glue in my hair. It occurred to me that I had other more boring things to pursue than making notes on earth winds for my manuscript such as preparing for a job interview on Monday, pushing PAN issue 2 to print, cleaning out the cat litter box and applying for more jobs so as not to rely to much on Monday's interview. Boring. Not only boring but nothing like the orderly life of a retired gentleman, or retired colonel, or retired sea captain. Nothing like it at all.

At least I have the memory of two unsullied hours of what life might be like, sunlit and calm with clear acres set out sparse and free for ordering ideas, objects and music upon for no other purpose than just for me.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Flying solo cheese, one mystery key and evil soup of almost ultimate doom

The cheese flew across the aisle at high speed and smacked into the floor. Nothing too unusual about high speed cheese except that there wasn't anyone else in the supermarket aisle. The cheese was flying solo.

In other unusual events I found a key in my PO Box in an unaddressed envelope, the key is wrapped in a piece of paper with '1727' written on it. It is a mystery key.

As for the soup, I don't want to talk about it.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Translucent and a saturated yellow


I found a yellow plastic toothbrush in the depths of my least favourite armchair. My brother telephoned this morning to ask if he had left his keys at The Peach last night.  He bade me look for them and I obliged unwillingly. Removing the seat cushion from the armchair and plunging my hand into three decades of crumbs, coins, dead things and anonymous detritus was not one of the things I had thought to do today, before I was halfway through my first cup of coffee.

The Thursday before Easter I was somewhere in Spencer’s house when I thought ‘this is the closest thing you can experience to plunging your hand into a sack of grain, when you live in the city’. Spencer was not in the room at the time. I do not recall which room, which level of the house, whether inside or out. Since that night I have been trying to remember what that ‘thing you can do’ is. It is not plunging your hand into the depths of a least favourite armchair that is in every way identical to the other armchair, except in rank of favour. Spencer’s house contains no large jars of buttons, no small sacks of slipping particles cool and willing to part for the casual plunging of flesh. It has become my second most recent mystery.

The yellow plastic toothbrush is problematic. I have never seen it before, I can not attach its ownership to any known face. It is impossible that is owned by the cat, who also favours the other chair. The handle of the toothbrush is translucent. The bristles a usual kind of white. The yellow is heavy, saturated, unpleasantly reminiscent of the first passing of water after a night spent drinking gin. The ability to pass water was one of my first and earliest mysteries, since solved by the clockwork power of science.

I left the toothbrush in the chair, not back in the depths but underneath the seat cushion. It seems important that it not be entirely removed from its chosen home but left almost where it was, where I can lift the cushion and observe its journey through time.