Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Old man look at my life

If I dissected him I'd find nothing but chalk and wish bones. Great piles of wish bones and crumbling white chalk, dry and crackable as twigs. Aching forward steps. His pace might have been languid, if it wasn't for the chalk, if it wasn't for the wish bones. I pushed him over and now I'm going to pry him apart and try snapping his innards for luck.

Geographical facts in numbered list form but not in chronological order

  1. The IGA on Enmore Rd smells like dill and offers cold comfort from the hot thick air.
  2. Enmore Rd is swarming with beautiful boys sporting traditional 80's metal hair, bandanas and leather pants. Quite a lot of them are wearing Skid Row singlets, the kind with wide open arm holes exposing skin drawn tight across ribs.
  3. The best example of the swarming men was one young one in read snakeskin pants.
  4. One hour ago I was drinking coffee on King St with two people, one of them was more eccentric than I am, and also slightly creepy at times. At one point he mimed throwing a sheet, thousand count Egyptian cotton, over my head and then pressed a finger to my lips saying 'shhh, shhh'.
  5. Nine hours ago I paid twice for my morning coffee on the way to work, once for today and once for yesterday when I forgot my wallet and they made me coffee anyway. This is the benefit of putting up with inane small talk from cafe owners every day.
  6. Six hours ago, in my office, I was listening to Mr X's new album when a wasp flew into my dress. I performed the most remarkable dance.
  7. Robert has performed his last day as a not-for-profit slave worker in Ultimo and will from this night forward be a Writer, he insisted on the capital W. I do not doubt his success.
  8. Walking home the humidity was so high I feared I might at any moment sweat myself into non-existence. Vanish right into thick air.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Some call it the Emerald City

My brother sat perched on a bar stool peering out the window at people scurrying around in Surry Hills. He kept exclaiming, "Look at all the people! All those people going places! Look at that guy, and that guy, look at them over there!" like he couldn't believe the volume and variety of humanity of going about its business.

I used to exclaim like that when I first moved to the city, even sit for hours making notes. I couldn't believe my eyes. It felt so strange to see so many people moving about all around me after decades of knowing three streets away from wherever I was there was nothing but distance, mountains and sky. You could walk out the front door of my old house and walk for hours without arriving anywhere at all.

The city feels like a dreamscape sometimes and I still want to exclaim but I'm more likely to close my eyes and see if I can feel it, as well as see it. I'm still waiting to wake up back in the old town and realise I've had the most amazing dream.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A.H. Cayley's Confession Booth and Rhys Muldoon's fake santorum

I seem to have accidentally joined a hypothetical band with Adam Lewis* and Matt Banham. When I say joined what I mean is bullied into saying "Maria" when pointed at by Banham while Lewis croons a long 'ooooo'. I think we will be very popular.

I've never met Matt Banham before but people, like P. Street tell me that I should have. The first thing Banham ever said to me, and other people in the room, was a long drunken tale about shitting his pants twenty minutes from home. Yes it was crass but not quite as crude, when listened to first-hand, as the story Rhys Muldoon told about concocting fake santorum in his kitchen to fool Ben Mendelsohn with.  I do not know why this occurred, or when.

I knew it was going to be a strange night when Mr X cancelled last minute, citing exhaustion. It's a good thing he is not a celebrity, we all know what 'exhaustion' means when someone is a celebrity. In the case of Mr X I suspect it was a case of being very tired indeed. The strangeness began when I immediately rang and booked a taxi for myself without pausing or making a clear strategy for using in case of emergencies, which is what I usually do when I have to get picked up in a taxi by myself. This time I calmly thought oh well Mr X is tired, sucks to be him, and then went about my solo-taxi business. The taxi cost five million and twelve dollars and fiftybillion cents, due to traffic. Strange event number two, I cared only mildly.

Many odd things occurred but none so odd as my catching the train without bothering to look at where the train was going, after I had already decided to catch a taxi home. I wound up on a fast train to Bankstown, for those who don't know where that is don't worry I don't either. Judging from the other passengers on the train it is a sub-level of hell. I had some time to think, on the trains, about the oddness of the evening. It is a great shame that I am now too exhausted to write about it, a great shame indeed.

It is good though that no one has changed any of the signs at Central Station so that they read Entrail. This would be possible by the simple removal of the letter C and the small addition of an I.

* Listen to Adam Lewis's radio show, it's quite good.

Oh and the reason I left the house with box of PAN magazines was to attend A.H. Cayley's Confession Booth. A.H. is the Chief Sub-Editor of PAN magazine and once pulled all the legs off a spider, I believe she was an infant when the leg-pulling incident occurred.

Monday, 20 February 2012

You are boring

Work - challenging (in an odd but not bad way)
Home - peaceful (and mildly clean)
Friends - all fine (unless they are pretending)
Family - no problems (and presumably still alive)
Manuscript - going (yes)
PAN - in progress (a way to go but in progress)


All work and no play makes Dale a dull girl.

I'm not seducing disaster, merely making an observation, pass me the champagne.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

If I could turn back time

I would swap Paul McCartney for John Lennon. There is a reason Paul was never asked to join The Traveling Wilburys.

Portraits & lemon wheels distract island resident

I took this dodgy photo of Lyndal
Grizelda has gone away for the entire weekend, left Friday morning and won't be back until Sunday night. I consider this to be incredibly excellent, good fortune on my part because I have been in need of uninterrupted time to work on my manuscript. All week I've been excited about having all this time, so excited I have named this weekend My Island.

I planned to spend every waking moment from Friday after work until Sunday night in a deliberately blissful state of writing reverie but as it so happened one or two things popped up. The first thing was work, stupid fucking work, I ended up working until almost eight at night, until Spencer came in the office door with a Rolling Stones poster and the pronouncement that he was bored and sick of waiting for me to finish. We had planned, earlier in the day, to travel together to official distraction number one.

Official distraction number one was having our portraits taken by the excellent photographer Lyndal Irons, who happens to be a friend of ours. The portraits were Lyndal's idea, not mine. When we got to her house the lounge room was transformed, huge light panel thingos and boxes that look like amps but aren't,  they were giant light-controlling box things. We all sat in the back yard drinking beer and yammering in our way until Lyndal called us in one at a time to take her shots. I don't like having my photo taken, I'm not at all photogenic, I'm all surface, no shadow, unlike Spencer who has more angles than a geometry lesson, but when Lyndal asks me I'll do it.

It was odd just sitting there, occasionally being directed to turn a little this way or another. Lyndal looked busy, changing settings on everything from her camera to the giant light-controlling boxes, moving big things on stands around. I have no idea at all about anything to do with photography, except this, when she works there is a beautiful intensity about her. She becomes transformed and it's mesmerising.

Official distraction number two came the next night. I had two to choose from, one party where Spencer was the dj and I'd know about a billion people. The kind of party that I might easily find myself still at as the sun rises or a party at Mr X's house where I would know almost no one and would most likely stay well within the limits of tame. I chose the wrong party if my purpose was partying. I went to Mr X's house to help his lovely housemate celebrate her thirtieth birthday. It was a mild party, the housemate's friends were over-groomed and simultaneously over-confident and embarrassed. The embarrassment became evident when the housemate declared it was time for an air guitar competition. There were grown men hiding behind the lounge to avoid being called up to compete. If I had declared such a competition at my birthday party a few weeks ago I'm fairly confident that at least three pieces of furniture would have been destroyed in the resulting mayhem. As it was Spencer, Madam Squeeze and  AHC performed a five minute interpretive dance piece, with moonwalking, P Street and E from next door waltzed mightily into the refrigerator, Abdullah did something entirely unexpected and I injured myself jumping around with a bucket on my head, and at least three highly shocking yet hilarious events occurred before midnight.

At Mr X's tonight three sets of people competed in an abashed manner and then rejoined the herd as quickly as possible. The poor birthday girl tried getting everybody to do it at once, and then tried to do just general dancing but nothing would work. They all stood there hoping not to be noticed. I felt sorry for the poor girl who is obviously quite a bit more fabulous than her general network of friends.

Around midnight a serious case of the yawns set in, just as Mr X reappeared from the kitchen with a mug of gin and tonic that included a whole wheel of lemon. I suppose I might have stayed and talked merrily with Mr X and the small band of people I have come to know but the yawns got hold of me mightily and skulked back through the back streets to The Peach. I wrote for a few more hours but now I'm giving up for the day. It's three in the morning and I've run out of steam.

I'm hoping tomorrow, with no scheduled official distractions, I can get back to island living.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Don't go changing

Years ago I read both of Lauren Bacall's autobiographies. I remember little about them, in the first volume  she married Bogey, it was difficult to convince him to buy a house and then he died and she kept his silk shirts to wear as her own. In the second volume Ms Bacall set about ridding herself of most of her earthly possessions because she was ageing and didn't want to die with a big house full of furniture.

I might have reached the second volume stage of my life. I used to want options, for everything. Options about pens, ballpoint, cartridge, fountain, quill, expensive, very cheap indeed, glow-in-the-dark, blue, black, orange, green, purple. This one example of pens may give you some idea as to what is going on inside my cupboards, drawers, shelves and wardrobes. I want it gone, everything except the silk shirts.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Just listen

Josephine Rowe, one of my favourite writers, has introduced me to The Moth and now I can't do anything except listen.

Read about Josephine's vist to The Moth HQ in NYC over at Dumbo Feather (and then get the Stitcher podcast). Yeah that's a lot of links, shut up about it and just listen.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Damp towel brings joy to undisturbed woman who sits contemplating doing a crime

Everyone is talking about love, who loves them, or doesn't, or should, did or could or who they love or don't, or want to, will do or could. I'm not listening to them because as usual I am thinking about myself. I used to love and it was terrible.

Sometimes it was fine or good or mildly excellent but most of the time it was terrible. In theory it was good, someone to share the bills and the worries and the joys and the chores and the adventure but most of the men I have loved, even platonic love, were impractical creatures and more trouble than use in most matters. Almost all of them were deliberately selfish, except Artboy who was basically Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia but without the expensive wedding dress.

When I reflect on the compromises I used to make, the effort I used to go to, the time and energy and worry I gave away, I feel a little ill. Like a mild dose of flu of experienced at high speed but then it is gone and I am here again. When I say here I mean in The Peach, in the present, in my reading glasses and a damp towel with nothing on my mind or my to do list except what I want.

This is ideal. What I love is this, being able to sit around in my reading glasses and damp towel and know that I will remain undisturbed. Well at least until Grizelda shouts down the hallway about cupcakes. She is insisting on making red cupcakes with heart-shaped pink icing thingos to give to the people at her work tomorrow, because she is thinking about love.

I am thinking about stealing one of the cupcakes and how fortunate I am to own more than one towel. I plan on leaving both towel and cupcake wrapper on the floor overnight.

I don't know

A man I didn't really know died recently, I'd met him once or twice at events hosted by one of those not-for-profits that invade every aspect of everything ever thought of. The not-for-profit decided to sell memorabilia at one of their events and the man, the now-dead man, trembled his way over to the table to inspect the goods.

He took a while moving between his seat and the merch table at the back of the hall, you could see his navigation systems were having some trouble and his legs, though willing, bowed and angled like they were bearing the weight of an eight-tonne truck and not the birdlike body of an elderly man. He fingered some of the merchandise, letting it slide between his fingers before putting it down again. He opened his wallet but came up a little short, I offered, because I was working the merch table, to let him pay the balance later, but he declined. Angling his head and taking a last look he went to walk away but his wife spotted him and came over. He politely enquired as to whether she might have some money about her person and pointed shyly to the merch.

The wife, elderly and impeccably groomed, gushed, "Of course you must have one my darling" and immediately produced a large amount of cash, in hundreds, from thin air. She might have been pompous if it wasn't for the tender glance she shot in her husband's direction. He fingered the merch once more before reverently choosing one and carefully stashing it in his battered old briefcase. Earlier in the proceedings he had introduced himself to me and proudly stated that he was back in action and ready to be of service once again. I had eyed him warily wondering if he wasn't a crackpot who'd wandered in from the street but was soon sure of his status in the group when The Captain of the not-for-profit made a show of shaking his hand.

At the time of the showy handshake I felt a shiver of disgust, not for the man but for the closed in world of not-for-profits. I found myself in a state of involuntary reverie about community marching bands and pony clubs. Those places seemed haunted by elderly people who did nothing but yell at children like me to sit up straighter on my pony or hold my clarinet at different angle. Back then I wondered why these elderly yelling people were tolerated when all they did was wear the club tie and yell and complain about things. I know better these days but at the moment of the showy handshake I felt a childlike urge to gallop off or deliberately play in the wrong key.

During the speeches, and the reading of the minutes and the chugging through of the agenda I watched the old man from my perch at the back of the room. I felt my own small tenderness for his dear old head as it bent over his shaky notes. I wondered what he was writing and why. The secretary was taking official minutes and the room was packed with emeritus academics who surely must have one or two memory cells between them. He persisted with his intense concentration and note-taking right through to the end of the proceedings.

When all the other academics and assorted official people were braying loudly over full cups of expensive wines and rocking back and forth on their heels in a mildly demented manner the old man was sitting lightly on a plastic chair in the corner. Every so often he would take a peek in his briefcase and stare fondly at his merchandise. I made a note to post him a receipt with a kind note, something simple about how the not-for-profit was terribly glad he was "back in action".

I never saw the man again, he died before I had a chance to make up for the insolence of my youth, all those times I rode off at pony club with my nose in the air, or declared at band practice that someone was 'not the boss of me'. There's probably something I should think of to tie this little anecdote up, finish it up with a concluding sentence but I just can't think what it is. Perhaps it is enough that I noticed him, that outside of his family and friends and the official mourning accompanying anyone who has achieved great things there is someone else who will remember him. Or maybe it isn't. I don't know, maybe I'm just feeling sentimental and in five minutes I will have forgotten all about everything.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Number nine

Recurring dream of giving speech of thanks at dinner party on The Peach Deck. During the speech it feels important to explain to all ten guests how I first met each one of them, as though joining dots in invisible puzzles. The dream repeats itself, sometimes two or three times a night, every night, without respite.

In the dream I am making a speech to friends, giving thanks for making known the possibility of joy, sketching lightly old histories of sorrow and how I arrived here in the city like a refugee clutching wildly at any shred of will to live and continue on into tomorrow.  I remember I used to vomit on the way to work, every day, less than half way to the train station, I was so tightly wound and simultaneously undone I could barely breathe. And then there is now.

The speech is disturbing my sleep. I lay awake before dawn reciting it like an elongated mantra. At first I dismissed it as yet another folly of the unconscious mind but instead of forming a long-winded aphasia its meaning daily increases. Perhaps it is my ode to joy.

So this is thirty five

Too preoccupied to be bothered with pondering about significance of age. You see there are at least ten plates losing momentum rapidly and my motivation was at least partially depleted in that glorious moment when friends were drunk and shouting from The Peach Deck and I was dancing in the hallway with a bucket on my head. There's that letter to Mr Goldblum I'm still working on, a forty centimetre stack of submissions to PAN, the manuscript to be dealt with and nobody has realigned the coloured dots in the hall for at least a week. Bob was right about times. Changing so much it has become clear that joy is a very real possibility.

Seriously though

It really is hard to write that letter.