Or How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Love Procrastination
Friday, December 29, 2006
It's my last night in South London - tomorrow I strike out on my own, and I have a room in a flat in Kensington to call my own. I'm excited and I'm anxious. It's going to be cold, it's going to be lonesome (as opposed to lonely), and I'm going to get very bored at nights, because I don't want to buy a guitar or a new laptop til my next pay. So I expect a lot of reading time.
Christmas was quite relaxed. I called people from home and if there was an underlying theme, it was how nothing has changed. Only real bit of gossip was two friends who finally hooked up. Then again, I don't know what I was expecting. Nothing really happens. And when it does, it's usually bad. It cured a big bout of homesickness though.
And I guess that's a wrap for 2006. What long, strange trip. I have to keep reminding myself I'm in fucking London. Me and my friend Emily almost got run over today and I thought, hey, better than being run over at home. I'm in the land of Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Monty Python and East 17.
Hope you have a happy new year, and had one too.
London (Balham - for the last time)
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Album of the year. This album has soundtracked my year, all my ups and downs, left and rights, the laughs, the dancing, the silliness, the sadness, every moment.
I've had it just about all year. It only really hit me in March, when the first song, Don't You Think It's Time, was basically on repeat play every day, after work, walking to the bus stop. It's simple acoustic hymn to future, better times, seizing the day, and I used to leave work every day thinking I had to do more with my life.
Later in the year, when the album came out, I was in love with it. The hidden track, Me & My Friends, had lines about sitting alone while everyone else is sending text messages. I loved the line, and it reminded me I was the only single guy in a five piece band and I was the only one not going home to someone.
Friend, the second track, I would listen to walking around Enmore in Autumn, thinking about the line "It's true everybody knows/people come and people go" and realsing some friendships fade and that's okay.
I saw Bob play a few times over the year and I remember synchronise dancing with a friends to I'm Coming Around at the Annandale. And discussing how Sadness & Whiskey, my favourite song, sounded a bit like a Weezer song at Newtown RSL.
I would sing harmonies openly and loudly at my desk to the new mix of Nowhere Without You and when work, life and everything got too much in the winter, I would listen to the Battle of 2004 with it's sad refrain of "I'm coming down.." over and over again.
In September I would listen to Rocks In My Head when I thought maybe I had made a stupid decision. And every time it rained, I would think of The Great Unknown's middle eight, the stupidly simple "I guess I'm stuck in the rain again."
When I finally left Australia and I felt like singing Darlin' Won't You Come ("...run away with me") and make somone come with me. And now that I'm here, tonight, I was walking through Covent Gardens, Don't You Think It's Time came on the ipod, and it was like walking through a silent crowd, as the remains of Christmas lights withered the streets.
See, you had to be there to appreciate it - and you weren't. And I don't really mind if you never hear this album, and if it means nothing to you. It meant a lot to me, and you had to be there to really get it. Oh, I can recommend it on it's musical merits or something. But that's not why I treasure this record. It's because it was my year in song.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
I'm a recent convert to Belle and Sebastian. This is the first B&S album I've bought as it came out, and it's not really what I expected. This sounds more like a glam rock Bowie album.
Two things make this record better their best since If You're Feeling Sinister, which is now ten years old. 1) The record began without lead singer Stuart Murdoch, with the band just mucking around. The result is it never sounds like a band backing a songwriter, but rather a full band. 2) Stuart wrote all but one song in the end, anyway. So it doesn't sound like a mix tape of singers and songwriters.
The band are simply on fire. It's fun, it's groovy and heck, even a little sexy. It's 70s rock and 70s soul. There's a bit of Thin Lizzy, Stevie Wonder and plenty of sing-alongs. And the bass is right up the front and funking everything up. The singles - Funny Little Frog, White Collar Boy and The Blues Are Still Blue are the best singles they've ever released. They, god forbid, rock.
They aren't the only ones. There's at least three other songs that would sound great on radio. But thanks to Murdoch, they will never be considered cheap knock offs. He fills the songs with his unique point of view. Funny Little Frog is love song to an imaginary lover. And there's plenty of stories about lost and lonely young men and women. There's no way you can figure them all out in one listen.
Then there is the really out-there stuff. Song for Sunshine and We Are the Sleepyheads are almost psychedelic. Only two songs - Another Sunny Day and Dress Up In You sound like B&S of old - sensitive, poetic story songs with many verses. They give the album much needed space.
So I'm going to stop describing an album you may never have heard and just say, somehow, Belle And Sebastian of all bands has made my favourite party album this year. There's only one low moment - To Be Myself Completely, written and sung by guitarist Stevie. It just doesn't compare to the wonderful multi layered fun that Stuart Murdoch has come up with.
I've had this album since February and I still listen to it regularly. It may lack the bittersweet reflections they are known for, but who cares? Sometimes you need to stop thinking and just dance.
Monday, December 25, 2006
The last Youth Group album, Skeleton Jar, was such a big record for me. It was the soundtrack to some big years in my life. And it's so often you wear out a band by doing that. So, I wasn't that excited about a new Youth Group record. I was ready to like it but not love it, add it to the collection, listen to it for a couple of months, see them live a few times, and move on.
So I was nicely surprised by how good this album is, and how it just slowly won me over.
First thing that's striking about this record is the confidence, and then second is the economy and the cleanliness. It's just a solid, not-flashy album. Sometimes it gets very pop, very catchy and at others it's beautiful and intimate, but it's never cheap sounding, everything is warm and precise.
Start Today Tomorrow sums it all up. It's a simple Dylany/Donovany acoustic finger picked thing, and they've put the perfect string arrangement behind it. This is not the sound of a mid level indepedent Sydney four piece. It sounds like a classic cut from million dollar record.
But if that was all, then it would hardly make this a special record. What makes this album so special is Toby's songs, and the things he writes about. Skeleton Jar was coated in sadness and regret. Casino Twilight Dogs is about release and in some ways, being reborn.
And this hit me on a deeply personal level this year. I listened to tracks like Let It Go, On A String, Daisychains and Sorry, and realised that I needed to change my life. And it gave me support and confidence to see those changes through once I did. Listening to Daisychains, and the sorrowful pleading of the line - "I could have spent all summer sitting here making daisychains" - it puts a lump in my throat as think of people I could have happily wasted more time with, but didn't.
There are so many moments like that. Let It Go's full of them - "I will hold you as you start to slip/This will feel like dying". And Toby Martin is still one of the great literate lyricists, referencing Panasonic, Napoleon and other random things to make his points. Still, as much as I can ramble on here about how good this album is, in the end, this album just ended up meaning a lot to me.
If you need more convincing, check out the glorious Under the Underpass, which reminds me of Springsteen's Thunder Road with it's sense of living young even when we might not be anymore. Or Catching And Killing, the oddest single of the year with it's fumbling bass line and spitting surreal lyrics. It's a great album by anyone's standards.
One final word on Forever Young, the cover that ends this album that has exploded in Australia. It's not their best song but it's a spooky version of a very disturbing song. It doesn't truly fit on this record but it's hardly a terrible track. It ends the album on strange note - the optimism that fills the record is undercut by the idea the singer is about to kill himself and his partner. And maybe the whole album is that naive too.
I've worn out Skeleton Jar. It was a time and a place that is over. Casino Twilight Dogs will probably remind me of 2006 forever.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
In Barney Hoskins book Hotel California, photographer Nurit Wilde has this to say about Neil Young: "I thought that the ones whose lyrics I loved must be really smart. And I found out that some of them weren't smart, they just seemed to have some sort of instinctive feel for words. Neil was one of those." Reading that quote made me think of Luke Steele.
So let's get right into the meat of it - Personality is a huge album. The name Brian Wilson was bandied about alot in reviews (along with George Harrison). Lots of strings, keyboards, backing vocals, whistles and bells. But it's all done for emotional resonance, and backed up by some of Luke's strongest and most coherent songs.
The big title, the big album cover and the big sound actually do too good a job at hiding what are really simple songs and simple, evocative and beautiful lyrics. Like Neil Young, Steele does in very few words what others take albums to do. "I gave you everything you needed/You needed more" says it all, so simply. In one of the album's highlights - the stunning Miles Away - when Luke sings "I couldn't tell you why I was so cold," you don't have to know what the hell the story is, it's just a great line of regret. That song, like so many on this album, evokes the soaring ballads on After the Goldrush.
Again, the singles are the strongest songs. God Lead Your Soul and Devil In My Yard are pop classics, the later sounding like later era T.Rex, and far more guitars than a decade of Beach Boys records put together. But it's the brilliantly titled I Understand What You Want But I Don't Agree, with it's nod to Raspberry Beret, that really shows how inventive Steele can be. For all his misses and experimentation can be forgiven for the slices of pop bliss that he finds. No other Australian musician would go so far for a song.
To the charges of overproduction, I will say, yeah, maybe. It's no more produced than All Things Must Pass, most baroque pop bands (Left Banke etc) or even Beck and Elliott Smith. It's lush, but it's hardly symphonic. And it's so much better than being a cliche driven four piece, like the oufits that ex-members of this band tend to form. It fits nicely next to Wilco's Summerteeth and Phoenix's United.
It's sad that this album wasn't a hit like Lovers. It's possibly better. So much more coherent than that record, Personality should have done for the Sleepy Jackson was Unit did for Regurgitator. Stelle is still the only artist in Australia capable of making something on the level of OK Computer, because he's the only one willing to go so far, and so loudly.
Detractors can stay in your fucking little indie band and write your fucking little indie songs.
I get annoyed when artists like Bob Dylan, Neil Young etc make these sorts of lists. Modern Times was good, but is it realy one of the best albums of the last 12 months? The most interesting musical work? Relevant? Will we look back at 2006 and think of Modern Times?
Bob, Neil, Bruce, Elvis Costello and a bunch of others all released albums this year but there was one old fart that made a record that I thought truly breath-taking, truly 2006, and truly one of the top albums of the year.
Simon is a great songwriter, singer and an acoustic guitar player. But his best work has always had stunning production. The darkness of Sound Of Silence, the huge Phil Spectorness of Bridge Over Troubled Water and the world music colours of Graceland all make Simon one step above, say, James Taylor. After a couple of samey low-key albums, Simon has found a collaborator that bring his sound into 2006 and beyond. His name is Brian Eno.
The album starts How Can You Live In the Northwest? Not a political critique, but a wonderful circle of questions we ask of eachother ("How can you live in the northwest? How can you live in the south?") but it's the sound of the thing. Distorted e-bow'ed guitars, humming and buzzing...it sounds like Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
It's a gorgeous sounding album. I can't think of a Paul Simon album that has this much guitar, this many keyboards or this much distortion. It's not Nine Inch Nails, but it's not James Taylor either. Look, it sounds like Actung Baby, ok?
In interviews for this album, Simon said that now, being 64, no one wanted to hear about him having sex. So that was the challenge...no love songs. Or at least conventional ones. Fathers & Daughter is, as the title suggests, a touching song about his daughter. Another Galaxy is about the freedom felt by a woman who runs away on her wedding day. His lyrics are playful and insightful as always. The premier Paul Simon site, Lasers In the Jungle, has essays on the first few songs and it's pretty easy to get right into them and unravel the wealth of images in there. It's a delight!
Last year I loved Songs For Silverman by Ben Folds for it's maturity. That's a big selling point for Surprise too. It's a gentlemanly album, about looking at the world of the past and future, with tenderness and hope, from an older age. Simon himself sings on Outrageous: "It's outrageous a man like me standing here and complain/but I'm tired/900 sit ups a day/I'm painting my hair the colour of mud/mud ok?" Later he asks "Who's gonna love you when your looks are gone?". It's definitely not a flower power pop song like Mrs Robinson. That was a long time ago.
And the cover? Simon just has no sense of design. Bad album cover after bad album cover. Still, it's his best work, I would say, in 30 years.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Friday, December 22, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
So they toured Australia and played to a less than full room apparently. And I got offered tickets and turned it down. A "the" band from the UK? No thanks. No one told me that they were fronted by a gay man who loves Supertramp.
So I'm waking up early in the cold, foggy, plane stopping mornings and catching crowded tubes. But it's great. A great job, a big change, and things are moving quite quickly. I've looked at a place and hopefully I'll get it.
I've come into work at the Christmas season so there's not a tremendous amount to do, and lots of long lunches. It's tiring. So tiring that I fell asleep on the tube. I'm back at the same company I was working with 2 years ago, an I'm getting emails from spammers who've held onto my email all that time. But the people here are very nice.
So, I'm still in Balham, and will be over Christmas. I'm really looking forward to sleeping for a few days, and call a wrap to this huge year.
Have a happy holidays, everyone!
Friday, December 15, 2006
For those tuning in late, Lisa and Kim are from Melbourne, Australia. We became fast friends in Paris, hung out in Spain and they've since been to all sorts of places, and have come back to London. What can I say about them. They've been keeping me entertained and making me miss Australia. They are pretty much on their return journey home, where I'm still going to be here, on my own for the holidays. In any event, it's great to have the band back together for one last show.
So I'm beginning to get the swing of swinging London. I feel like I've adjusted to the weather. It's like swimming, just keep moving to keep warm. I'm more than fine getting around. I've gone back to giving people exact money and not rounding up or down to the nearest 5 cents. I know Debenhams from my Marks And Spencers.
Like I said, it's all been a bit touristy these last few days. Palaces, parks, statues, towers, famous album covers and more. Kim took this fantastic photo of me at Trafalgar Square:
We also saw some theatre in the West End, an amazing performance of Chicago. In the foyer was a poster of Ashlee Simpson, who played Roxie but had since left. A shame. But it was amazing to see some real theatre.
It's bittersweet though because after this weekend I rejoin the workforce and pretty much knuckle down for the holidays. Next step is to sort out banking and then getting a place, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Hope everyone's doing well. If you haven't gotten a postcard from me, it's because I haven't been manage to send even one yet.
Friday, December 08, 2006
I also start my new job in a week. I realised a flaw in my thinking. I deliberately packed very little for my backpacking. Now I have about 7 t-shirts to last me a year. And one towel. True bachelor living awaits me.
I have finally taken to being a tourist here. Wandered around all the usual - Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Big Ben, some museum hopping and more. I also spent about an hour in Sister Ray, an indie record shop on Berwick Street, ie, the street on the cover of What's the Story Morning Glory.
I'm completely undecided about what guitar to buy, although I guess a new laptop now takes priority. I want to get something weird, something not found in Australia.
I wish I had something more funny and interesting to say. I did see something called a 'Dog Toilet' today, which was basically a sand box in a park. That was pretty funny.
So overall it's about a 7 out of 10. It's going to be a boring Xmas of working. And I realise that January here will be quite different to the ones in Australia. No laid back afternoons in a beer garden, no Big Day Out and side shows to round out the month. Just another, normal, everyday month.
(future blogs may be scanned from handwriting)
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I used to have a filing cabinet. It was, however, 2006, and I for one was racing head first into a paperless society. I'm trying to think of what was in it. Some manuals I was given from someone who did part of my job once. Older documents that was left from the person who once owned the filing cabinet, Lots and lots of those manilla folder like things that held the paper.
One day I had the brilliant, brilliant idea to chuck most of it out, put all the folders into the top drawer of the filing cabinet, and put snacks into the bottom drawer. And it was usually Tim Tams. If you are not Australian, you might not know them. They are a chocolate wafer biscuit with a chocolate cream centre all in a chocolate coating. They are yum.
Every now and again, you could get Tim Tams for $1.99, on special. Much better than when I had a craving and I bought a pack from the petrol station on Enmore road for $4.50. My favourite was the double coat chocolate ones.
I remember once, on Sunrise, there was some controversy about Tim Tams. I think it had to do with the number of Tim Tams in a pack, and how the double coat ones were two less than normal ones. Well, someone who worked for Arnotts wrote in to Sunrise and told us all it was cos the double coat ones were just plain thicker and less fit in a pack.
I remember when in high school, a bunch of us used to have video nights. This was before we had girlfriends. It was a grand tradition. We'd all go to someone's house, get lots and lots of videos we would not get through, have pizza and snacks. The older we got, the harder these nights got to organise. I saw lots of great films cos we would often take a punt on things. But anyway, I remember one time, and I still remember this clearly, we introduced Demi to drinking milk through a Tim Tam. I remember his look of hesitation when he started, and the look of joy on his face when the milk hit. It also works with tea but the Tim Tam self destructs quite quickly.
(If you somehow have access to Tim Tams but have not tried to drink milk, tea or coffee through it, here's what you do: Get a Tim Tam. Get yourself a beverage. Now, bite the tiniest bit off both ends so the wafer shows through. Just a tiny bit. Basically, circumcise the biscuit with your teeth. Just do it. You'll thank me. Then, holding the middle of the Tim Tam, use the now open ended Tim Tam as a straw. This only works once so be prepared to scarf down the Tim Tam and also it could get a bit messy, so have tissues ready.)
So I'm missing Tim Tams. Especially the Double Coat. And the caramel centre. The White chocolate ones are ok. I usually love white chocolate but the scientists at Arnotts are yet tp crack the code on that one. And the original is also great.
Marianne tells me I can get Tim Tams at Tesco and it wont cost too much. I'm going to go check it out tomorrow.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Let me digress. One day, many moons ago, Warwick at Greville was dealing with a customer who didn't like Paul McCartney. I'll paraphrase, but our anti-McCartney-ist, let's call him John...well John just thought Macca was a bit of a lightweight. He's pop waste. Especially Wings. Where's the balls? Where's the passion? Compared to Lennon's best solo work, which came roaring like fire from the stomach and the heart, Macca was a wet blanket.
To which Warwick responded: It's not his fault he lived a blessed life.
Which is true. He did. He was the victim of divorce, sure, but he took it in his stride. He was in a great band, made millions, laughed his way through it, married early, very little baggage and didn't find religion. Would you want him to write and sing something like 'Mother'? No. So he has his detractors but he's happier than the lot of us. Yes, it means he churns out mundane work sometimes, but the guy's blessed, what do you expect?
So I haven't made McCartney's millions, but I'm feeling pretty blessed. I sat today in Kensington Gardens, drinking a coffee and thinking about Peter Pan (it's set in that park). And thinking, for the first time ever, that things have turned out kind of all right for me overall. And any time anyone has ever said to me "You'll be fine", I've always brushed off, but they are right.
Again, let me digress. I remember something Judie said..."It's not like you're whole life is going to fall apart because you haven't booked a hostel for one night. Like, I lost everything in my life and then I died because I didn't book a hostel for one night."
Anyway that's a long ramble into what I want to say, which is I've had a good life. I really have.
I met someone today who knew someone I used to know. Who passed away, and who I miss dearly. I mumbled and stumbled my way through the conversation. And yeah, there are down times. Things go wrong. But I feel like I've made so many right moves. Like every job I've left there has been mixed feelings, but it always ends up that I left at the right time. I've made more right choices then wrong choices. Even when I've been off course, something there knocks me back on it.
So I followed my heart out of Australia. Then followed it Spain, which led me to London, which is exactly where I need to be right now. I feel like it's coming together, and the future is bright. And I look back, and I have no complaints. And few regrets.
I don't know what you think of Wings. It could be the self indulgent ramble of someone happier than you. A boring tirade that is without heart, fire or balls. Four colours, no edges. That's fine. Whatever makes you happy, I guess. But it's not my fault.
(it's late, I ramble. I prefer McCartney over Lennon. Superman over Batman. Brandon over Dylan.)
So I left Paris for London and I've been here a few days now. I'm staying with Marianne and Tim. They have been lovely to me.
I'm not writing much because I already feel I'm living here rather than adventuring here. I haven't done many tourist things. Have not been to Abbey Road. Have not seen Big Ben or the London Eye. I did find the statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.
I've gone for a few jobs and it looks like I might have gotten a good one. Been going out a little but mainly trying to get settled. Trying to figure out which neighbourhood to live in.
There's more to write but I'll do it more later. This is just a little update for those who are wondering.
Look Cath, no swearing at all.
Monday, November 27, 2006
This is Lisa (left) and Kim (right), from Melbourne Australia. They kept me laughing from Paris to Madrid. They also kept me up with a couple of rather late nights.
As expected, the Spanish birds are all over me. Is there an emoticon for the drum thing that happens when someone makes a crap joke?
Nick and Dave from Canada. We hung out in Paris together and they are two of the most head-screwed-on 19 year olds I've met. Most people under 20 I've met have been knobs of the highest order. And as Nick noted, there's not that many of them anyway. Maybe people are travelling later in life now.
This photo was taken at the gorgeous Jardin Du Luxembourg, on a beautful sunny morning. Behind them is a huge pond where people play with electric boats, a big castle and you can even see the rows of yellow flowers in pot plants along the edges. Look, it was just cool ok?
The OTHER Arc De Triomf, in Barcelona. I just like this photo.
Steph and Bron. More Canadians. Canadians are lovely, I tell you. I really want to go now. Here we are at a fancy-ish restaraunt in Plaza Real, just off Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Those lamp posts in the background were one of Gaudi's first works. Don't I seem clever? (thanks Steph).
Me at La Sagrada Familia, the church designed by Gaudi that they ave been building for 100 years and could well take 100 more. The ambition of it is simply amazing. Makes the Killers look lo fi. Over produced is the key word. But I like it. In fact I love it. I love crazy old men. And Gaudi takes the cake.
So finally, here we are in Madrid. It rained almost the whole time. It was a bit of a shambles to tell the truth. This was taken at Palacio Real, which was built almost 50 years before a british guy in a boat stumbled upon Botany Bay.
Please note the new sweater I am sporting in some of these shots.
Now, finally, Mischa Barton. I wrote about what happened elsewhere on this blog, but here's the photographic proof. We didn't touch elbows though.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
I'm about to rant. So might be a good time to press 'back' or something.
There's that famous Ian Mackaye quote about indie rock in the 90s, where he said the conversations changed from the music to the business (who's supportig who, who's signed to what etc).
Somehow the conversations have changed on me. It might be cos of Spain.
The conversations the last few nights have been about where you're from, rather than we're you're going.
I'm sitting here talking about the movie The Castle while an American guy tells me about hip hop culture, and a Puerto Rico guy tells me about Spanish. I really want to be a Louvin Brother and ask these people when did they stop dreaming? Did you come all this way to tell me about where you're from?
Maybe in Paris it was different. People ceded themselves to te city. There as a pomise here. It was less of a party town. This Spainish party life...it feels like it makes us all feel less special.
You know, talking about hip hop, I can tell you one of the things I love about hip hop, is that it makes equals out of us. Sort of. The few hip hop shows I've been to, there's certainly a greter mix of people than the influx of 20ish midle class whites that make up 90 percent of indie rock clubs. But here I am at the negative side of that. Everyone here is so boring.
Ok that's maybe a bit harsh. I just know I've been talking to people for the last two hours and i felt like I haven't gotten to know anyone here at all. This wasn't how it was last week, when it seemed I made 14 life long friends in one night.
The conversations have changed and maybe it's time to find a new bar.
Madrid (the place I've been writing so much cos there's so much time to, and I'm so inspired to catalogue the details of it, Raymond Carver style)
So Spain has been OK. Barcelona was FULL ON and overwhelming and I shouldn't have pulled an all nighter before I left. Met some nice people though, had some great food and after a couple of days really got into the vibe of it, in my own little way.
Hung out with Beth for some time. She is there studying to teach English. It seems that's all anyone does over here. I can't think of any other real highlights in Barcelona. I bought a new jumper. Ben and I walked around for a while. Thumbed through some CD shops and that was that.
Caught an early bus to Madrid to meet up with Kim and Lisa. Madrid has been dreary. I've been here three days and it's rained for two of them. You can't have everything I guess. Spent yesterday wandering around the palace grounds.
The CD shops in Madrid are fantastic. And so cheap compared to the rest of Europe. Must do shopping excursions here. Just a sea of bootlegs and rare records. Not even expensive rare stuff, just odd stuff like Epic Soundtracks solo albums and the entire solo output of Mark Olson. Who the hell stocks that crap? Madrid, that's who.
Met even more Australians here and I must admit it got me a bit homesick. Over a night we discuss Australian polirics, sport, cities and music. Today I even put Paul Kelly on random on the ipod. It's made me think about what I'm trying to achieve here in my travels. And it made me realise how Australian I am.
I did try my best Spanish in a shop today and the girl came back at me with English. Oh and she was super cute this girl. You know what's hard? Trying to chat up someone in a language you know very little of.
Ao that's Spain. Not going to San Sebastian or Bilbao after all. Flying back to Paris tomorrow and will take it from there. It was a bit of a let down really, but maybe Spain is like one of those kinda grumpy girls, that when you're high energy and up for it, tshe will be too. But if you're just moping around, then she's going to find another party.
Hopefully Wi Fi will kick back to life in Paris and photos will be coming soon.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
So I'm at this Flamenco restaurant/club. This cheapo place near my hostel (free for guests of the Cat Hostel) here in Madrid. Fits about a hundred, all seated. The flamenco is kind of crap. I'm striking up a conversation with three girls from just north of Sacremento, California. Some young Spanish fella comes and tries to chat up these girls. Which was fine because he gave us an interesting bit of information.
Mischa Barton is in the front row.
And yup, there he was. I had to put on my glasses to make sure. Wearing a yellow dress and looking a bit like the Bride from Kill Bill. Which was funny in itself but the best part is yet to come.
Her publicist must have set it up and after the show Mischa was escorted to meet the performers at the side of stage and have a photo taken. Someone with a digital camera also takes a snap. And then it was on for young and old. The place erupts with digital cameras taking photos of Mischa and the band. Like, fifty people rushing the stage for an impromptu photo shoot. Poor Mischa.
Not saying I didn't snap a couple of photos myself. But at least I took one of the crowd of photographers too. Maybe I can beat them to selling mine to New Idea.
Not geographically. Don't worry.
Any confusion or uncertainty in my life is usually dealt with by writing. Excuse me while I crap on here, I don't think anyone is waching anyway.
I think it was in Platoon when the guys in the army compare days in service. Day 200. Or whatever. This has been happening to me a lot. I'm comparing days on the road with people I'm meeting everywhere. Lots of people are a the 9 month mark actually.
How do people do it? Ben and I have been wondering what we will be by 7 months. There's a look in the eye that those people have. I'm not sure I want to be like that.
So, Paul Kelly was wrong, every fucking city does not actually look the same, but they are pretty similar. Madrid has been boring. Barcelona was also so-so. I'm eating crap I can buy anywhere. I'm seeing some cool stuff, but when you get to 6 months plus, you have to wonder, what are these people running from?
I'm wondering what I'm running from. Sure there's a lot to see and a lot to learn. But the 'lot to see' bit can be deflated by the fact I'm gong to the UK. I've never been and there's plenty to see. As for learning... I've never had too much trouble getting most of where I am, wherever that is.
So why not just keep going? There was a sign in Copenhagen. DO IT ANYWAY. But this is not something that's lasting. These hostel people, we don't meet locals. We interlope. We use the toilets, eat the food, sleep in the beds, but on a course different from living somewhere. Someimes, i wonder if I could just watch it on TV.
I have had some amazing moments, sure. In some places I've realised taking a photo is stupid, what I see just cannot be captured. But some definitely can. I'm feeling like a fake and a bum. You know that scene in Pulp Fiction?
I guess what I'm saying is that I might just get on with it. I wanted to write. To finish this fucking novel. But I don't have time. Maybe it' just an excuse. Who knows. It's on my mind. This aimless travelling isn't actually getting me anywhere. And I've always felt like I'm heading somewhere.
The Bob Ellis idea of a witness is magnified. I'm everyone's witness. I know them for three days, I know a city for three days, and that's it. And things I want to do...take French lessons, take a writing course, I'm just putting it off to go to, oh I don't kow, Prague or some shit.
You know I've been told so many times, boy you gotta grow you some roots.
That's my state of mind.
ps. there are signs in Barcelona that say 'Taxi' but have a picture of a bus.
So some thinking coming up soon.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I lost a beanie in the back of Kirsty´s car earlier in the year. I only just replaced it as I got to cold in my second day in Vienna. It cost a lot more than the two Aussie dollars i´m used to. It cost $5 Euro.
It was a simple black beanie, and it was gone by the tim I left Vienna. I think I lost it as I was leaving Vienna on the way to the airport.
Beanie number two was a dark blue one, bought in Monmartre markets for a cheaper $4 euro. I had it with me getting off the plane in Copenhagen, but had lost it by the time of the shuttle bus from the airport.
I lose a couple of beanies every year and I think it´s because I buy very sensible dark blue or black colours. If I had a wacky purple one, I´d be set.
Anyway, I got another black one in Monmartre and it´s safely in front of me as I type. I´ve been using it like a pouch or my bindle. I usually have a drink of my cigarettes and my lonely planet in it, if it´s no too cold.
When I got the first beanie, I got a pair of black gloves. I only had one after a night of dancing in Vienna. I tried to look for it the next morning at the bar but to no avail. I still have the lone glove, and I don´t know why.
The last thing I decided to pack was a pair of glasses. I don´t like wearing glasses and try not to, but I thought they might come in handy and they very much have. I´m looking at a lot of tiny maps and a lot of inscriptions and captions about artwork. Oh and big buildings that are very tall.
So I was gutted when I left them in Paris. Luckily Ben found them and they were happy and safe and waiting for me in Paris. I spent three days without them and realised how good they are.
(I still don´t like them. I brought with me my very first pair, that I´ve had since 15, when I love Graham Coxon. Of the half a dozen pair of glasses I´ve had in my life, they are one of two I have not broken)
By my count, at least two pairs of socks
I´ve taken the approach that if I´m rushing to pack and it´s late and there are socks on teh ground of the hostel room, I´m hoping they aren´t mine cos they look a bit gross. I´m starting to think some of them were mine, I´m pretty bad/good at leaving my socks and shoes everywhere as it is. Hopefully I can find some cheap shitty socks in Madrid.
My favourite jumper
The one in most of the photos. The one I got in Melbourne, blue white and red stripes. I left it in Paris somewhere. This caused me quite a bit of distress. It´s probably my favourite article of clothing. I have no idea how I lost it, it must have just been very, very careless, but I love that jumper. I´m trying to think of how I could have lost it but I can´t think of how I would not have been taking care of it.
So, in my depression, I bought a new stripey jumper in Barcelona (brown and orange). Almost bought two to make up for it. Anyway, it´s the first real major purchase on my trip. We spent the day together, my new jumper and I.
Luckily, with great pleasure, I´m happy to say Judie has found the old one and it´s waiting for me in Paris.
I was lost in Barcelona for a few hours but I was ok.
So that´s it. Not too bad so far. I´m very surprised I haven´t lost my sunglasses yet. There´s still time.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Last week I spent a couple of wonderful days in Copenhagen. The sun was already starting to set by 4pm there so most of the days were actually nights. Visited Christiania and lots of big palaces and churches. It was a lot smaller than Paris etc, and hence only had a handful of things to brag about, but in a lot of ways it made it more charming.
The biggest thing in Copenhagen is Hans Christian Anderson. There ae statues of him, a restored room where he once lived, his documents on display and even a statue of the Little Mermaid herself by a pier.
Best thing about Copenhagen was of course, hanging out with Alicia, and being looked after a bit.
Oh I met a wonderful couple on the plane to Copenhagen who had just been to Paris recreating their honeymoon on the eve of their 50th anniversary. How cool is that?
Then it´s been Paris again for a few days where I think I totally managed to avoid anything touristy really. Still so much Ive yet to explore óf Paris. But on the other hand I feel so at home in Paris already. Judy and I went swimming. We´ve found favourite food haunts, and just gotten a nice rhythm there.
I did go to the freaky ass Catacombs though. If you don´t know, it´s an excavated mass grave from when the plague hit Paris (I think). They dug up existing grave for new bodies, and the old bodies were piled underground. But the bones and things were used to make these bizarre tunnels. The walls of these tunnels were bones and skulls. It´s claustrophobic, you´re breathing in bone, you´re so far underground and the sign that some sick fuck put as you enter translates to Here Lies the Empire of the Dead and they aren´t kidding. I was fine up until the end where you have to walk a narrow staircase back out and I was stuck behind an old man who needed to stop every couple of steps. That´s when I almost lots it, I thought I was never getting out, I couldn´t breathe and I didn´t want to lean against the wall, god knows what it´s made of. The whole thing only lasted an hour but it´s probably the best thing I´ve seen.
In brighter news, met a couple of wonderful Australian girls here, Kim and Lisa from Melboure and they´ve made me feel both at home and has cured a little of my homesickness. It´s funny because we had this instant level of comfort. Check out Lisa´s blog called Insert Cool Travel Blog Name Here which I´ve linked to on the right there.
Which is odd that I find myself in Spain right now. It was somewhat last second but not last second enough. I really wanted to stay in Paris but I had this trip booked a couple of days earlier so here I am in Barcelona, waiting for my laundry. Haven´t really seen much of the place, although Beth and I walked pretty much the whole place last night, but that´s fine.
Looks like I´m going to go to Madrid after that...then maybe Prague? Who knows. I just want to go back to Paris really.
I guess that´s a bit of a boring update but I will write more soon. I have been doing quite a bit of writing anyway. You know, I need to fina a bed and beakfast in the countryside somewhere and just write. Maybe Madrid will be good for that.
Last thing - keyboards are crazy in continental europe. They´re only different in ten or so keys but it´s really annoying. That is all.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Here's a quick snapshot of where my head is at...it's been eye opening all the time, been thinking lots about life, love and the eternal pursuit of happiness. I had the opportunity to make a wish on something last week and I looked deep into my soul, flipping through my random wishes about records, girls, work and whatever, and landed on one, the one wish, that surprised even me.
There's so much death here. Graveyards and paintings. It's a bit intense. Have not been doing very much writing at all, but I sat down and wrote heaps today.
Been getting a tad homesick, but maybe more for the stability of a working life. Oh, I complain that I never lived the loose fast life style of the uni student, that I left 19-22 behind somewhere and skipped straight til the 30s...and as much as I'm enjoying life right now, it seems that maybe I missed it the first time for a reason.
Looking forward to the UK.
Met lots and lots of great people. Crushes on buildings and people almost every second.
Flying to Barcelona in the morning, with no plans at all. Should be fun. Only slightly shitting myself.
Less than 3 minutes to go so I better say goodbye.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
So all you hear about Paris is true. It just doesn’t give a shit about you if you’re not French. There’s no English on any of the signs, and I got to Charles De Gaulle airport and I wandered around for ages trying to get my bags and find the train. Finally, I figured how to buy a ticket and changed trains at Gare Du Nord station and fuck! I’ve wandered into Paris on a Saturday night.
I was flooded by a sea of people rushing at me. There were young soldiers holding really big guns just walking around. And I didn’t have the first idea which way to even pretend to head to find my connecting train.
Somehow I made it to my station, with my bags, and Paris must hate the disabled because everything is stairs. After a million flights I got out of the station and looked back at it and realised it’s the one from the movie Amelie, after she’s helped the blind man and she runs up some stairs.
l-r: Ben & Judie at Lamarck Caulaincourt station
So began Paris. The first night my dormmate and I, Ben, wandered around the beautiful Monmartre area, just north of the city. We headed up to Sacré Coeur, this massive, gorgeous church on top of the hill, looking down over the entire Paris city. To my left the Eiffel Tower. To every other direction, just a big sexy looking city. People congregate here for the view at night. Tourists, locals, couples, homeys, everyone – they just sit here on the Church steps and openly drink and smoke. Much better than the Townie.
The hostel was a bit of a blow out that night as the public area was filled with some jerks. So Ben and I just drank by ourselves, talked crap and briefly talked to some people but there was no room for people to sit down.
Day 2 in Paris started right in it’s heart. I walked and walked and walked. From every major monument to the next, not necessarily in the right order. Criss-crossing bridges at random, desperately trying to find food at one point. I walked around things, under things, over things and just as I made my way up some turning staircase – BAM! There’s the fucking Louvre right in front of me.
Stopped at Virgin Megastore for a rest and the heat and found albums by Youth Group, You Am I, Sleepy Jackson and even the Finn brothers tribute. There were so many special editions of things I’ve never seen before and somehow I found the inner strength to not buy anything.
Spent the afternoon in the Latin Quarter, which was already mostly closed on a Sunday afternoon. Walked around some more and headed back to the Hostel to meet Ben and Judie. We had plans for dinner and others at the hostel had plans for cruise down the Seine. Somehow, whilst wasting time organising, we picked up a few randoms and we all had dinner and went on a cruise together.
It was fantastic. 14 solo travellers from different countries and from all walks of life. We might not all be looking for the same thing, but we were all looking in the same place. And everyone was so open to everyone, and we all managed to get through the Metro and onto the boat and unfortunately be loud drunken English speaking tourists, yelling out bonsoir to people on bridges. For me, it was what I was looking for; meeting new people and seeing the world through those people.
Judie, out of focus, on the Seine. Her smile is so big I had to post it anyway
The night ended again at Sacré Coeur, drinking and talking to new friends til I was too tired to do anything.
Tried to make the most of the next day by spending most of it at the Louvre. I gawked at the Mona Lisa, other Da Vincis, Michelangelos, Donatellos, Venus De Milo (by Television) and a wonderful statue of a lion taking a big bite out of someone’s ass. The police turned up and one point which was quite exciting. Maybe Tom Hanks killed someone else.
Check out that masterpiece of a body
Spent the afternoon in Monmartre (god, this is turning into a “I did this, then I did this, then I wrote on my laptop, then I posted on my blog”…) and found Amelie’s café with hours to spare before catching my flight to Copenhagen, where I am now.
You don’t need me to sell Paris to you, it’s great. Come. It’s like that pretty girl that you have to talk to for ages until she finally, hours later, warms up and smiles at one of your stupid jokes and you may actually be in with a chance, but probably not.
Here’s a tip. If you’re alone at a tourist hot spot and need a photo, ask a Japanese person to take it. The photography skills that country pumps out is amazing. They’ll tell you where and how to stand and compose a shot of perfect focus and colour.
That’s enough of Paris so far. Can’t wait to get back on Thursday.
14 November 2006
So somehow we all found ourselves in the same place. 14 solo travellers, no friendship more than a few days old. It was and will be the only night all of us would be together.
And I had a wonderful night. All of us from such different backgrounds and personalities, and each of us looking for the same thing.
It was only day 4 for me on this journey overseas and think you for sharing it with me. Hopefully I'll see you again...
Saturday, November 11, 2006
I am at the Café Central where Trotsky used to play chess, enjoying a melange, which is as closed to a flat white as I can find. Don’t ask for Café Latte, it’s like milk that’s been warmed in a pot that was once used to make coffee. That time being a few hundred years ago.
So, it’s so obvious to say I love Vienna. I am nothing if not a sucker for a pretty face. But this café kind of sux. It’s too elegant. It’s like a hotel lobby. However, I can smoke here on a fancy ashtray. In fact, I’ve yet to go somewhere I can’t smoke, and I’m taking even my smoking habits to new heights.
So I’m absolutely further north than I’ve ever been. The flight into Vienna was fine. Made a few friends on the plane, and got into town at 5:30am. I watched the sunrise from an airport bus, checked into the hostel and proceeded to just fucking walk. Fran, from Melbourne, and I walked down the Mariahlifer, which seems a bit like the posh end of Chapel St, except much longer and more expensive.
We hit the Leopold Museum, and I got to the top of St Stephen’s catherdral. St Stephen’s cathedral is simply mindblowing. It would be so much easier to be a religious zealot around so much pretty. It’s funny, cos the caretakers of the cathedral were almost all grumpy. It reminded me of the photo of the grumpy security guard in front of the Mona Lisa.
We’ve done a lot of sightseeing and went to a café where we were served by a shorter, dumplier version of Harrison Ford. That night I went and saw what I describe as tourist classical entertainment with my dorm mates Jamie and Hilary. It was a mix of Classical music, opera and ballet. It was like a best of. It was a bit too crowd-pleasing in some moments, a bit show-y, but it was fantastic.
I’ve been picking up email addresses left right and centre as everyone has said I would. I’ve met one person from Sydney so far, and avoided the conversation to figure out if we knew anyone in common. In any event, my first night in Europe ended with photos with a bunch of drunken Serbians, and Jamie, Hilary and I dancing up a storm til the wee hours to Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake.
Woke this morning to track down this café and checked out the Freud museum. About to say goodbye to Vienna and move onto Paris. I’m trying to keep these updates brief, because I realise now how easy it would be to ramble on for pages and pages. And I’m someone who can do that for any topic anyway.
Everything is good. Probably spent too much money so far. Only lost one thing so far – a lone glove. Still feel like I’m on a temporary holiday. Trying to enjoy every second and soak it all in.
Hope everyone’s well. Write to me please.
11th November 2006
(ps. more photos soon or keep an eye on my flickr site)
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
So I might seem like I'm an open hearted, emotional, sharing kind of guy but sometimes I'm not. With the big things definitely not. So I've been wavinh away well wishers like flies - "I'll see you next week!" - in an attempt to keep things normal and grounded.
Well, it occurs to me that as much as I didn't want proper goodbyes from my friends, maybe my friends deserved proper goodbyes from me.
So, thank you to everyone for everything. I'm going to miss you so much. Keep in touch. Write regularly. Send me photos. I'll do the same.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
8:57am: Helped Dad with his blood test. Packed away some more stuff. Listening to Supersunnyspeedgraphic, the lp.
9:23am: Had some food. Reconfirmed flight. Window seat! Yay! Put on Hourly, Daily now. Full circle right? This is just like that show 24. But with 7 million less people caring.
10:14am: Being There is on. Disc one. Called Bec. Called Tara. First cigarette of the day. Threw out lots of old magzines. Where is my USB thumb drive?
11:19am: Casino Twilight Dogs. Talked to Casey about plans for tonight. More stuff under the stairs now. All blockmounts in the wardrobe. Second cigarette. I think my Belle And Sebastian best of next.
Monday, November 06, 2006
6) The Religiously Confused Part Of Castlereagh Street
When I was in the early years of high school, I found religion very interesting. Mainly it was because I was attending Sydney Boys High School, quite a way out of my comfy ethnic suburban upbringing. There were lots of nationalities and cultures there, not just the same five or six. Josh was the first of many Jewish friends I would make in my life.
I went to Josh’s Bar Mitzvah when he turned 13. Man, it was so awesome. His parents hired out the Panoramic Room at Randwick Racecourse, and over the monitors that usually displayed racing statistic, Josh had put on Star Wars: A New Hope. It was cool.
(Note: in these openly communitative times, I’m noting that all names used maybe false)
Anyway I point this out because at age whatever-I-was-at-the-time, religion, God and all thought of with equal curiosity and cynicism by Josh, who would never come out with us on Friday nights cos he had something on, and me, the son of the few unbelievers in an Church going/Salvation Army kind of family.
I mean, I for one was fascinated by Judaism. Such a rich long culture, with such a respectful grace about it. And of course a history of hardship. Lots of far out looking Synagogues.
There was a kid at school who was a Seventh Day Adventist. His name was Tom and he was a really great guy. Very funny. He ran funny too, but not in a way you could make fun of – he just had an odd style about him. There was another Jewish kid, who was a little awkward, had glasses, and wore a kippah, one of those Jewish skullcaps. And kids used to take it off him. Ah – kids are shits.
There were, of course, your garden variety Christians, Catholics, Muslims, etc. Even things like the Korean kids, or some of the Lebanese kids – some had it tough with their parents being really strict. They couldn’t go out after school etc. That seemed to come from the same place as religion. It’s how your parents are making you live your life. Maybe that’s cruel, but it was fairly true. In most cases, talk of religion was like showing other kids what your parents made you for lunch. You’re a little embarrassed, but everyone knows that there’s nothing you could have done. Five minutes later we’d all be equal on the touch footy field anyway.
There were two other religions that we were fascinated by. Two that were kind of new to me around this time, and I never met any kids who were these religions. The first was the Mormons. They were amazing to look at, first and foremost. So clean cut. I did spend an afternoon with a couple of American orphans years later. But I really need to move on to the second of the two…Scientology.
Firstly, the name. I don’t get it. Were these people the ones who believed in Science? It was like sex education all over again. There were kids who would somehow have that knowledge that we didn’t have – about girls, about drugs. And a couple, they kind of knew about Scientology.
We all agreed it was weird. We knew that it involved giving money a lot, some weird mind games and strange astrological beliefs (that was just the girls – ha ha). But we were willing to find out more. Josh, who has the best sense of humour you’ll ever meet, decided to come with me one day, to the Scientology building on Castlereagh St in the city (it was across from Kings Comics anyway).
So one day after school, we decided we were going to get some literature. This was almost the same situation that would happen that same year, when we tried to get Alex to buy a condom at the Condom Kingdom. That boyish curiosity mixed with a sense of danger. So Josh and I approached the building. We were looking at each other nervously. It was like we had chocolate in our pockets and as soon as the shopkeeper stirred, we’d run.
And that’s when the hat rack style pamphlet holder near the door of the building decided to fall over and die. On a windless day, it just went ker-plunk, leaving Scientology literature scattered at our feet. We had no idea what happened. It occurred to us, right away, that it could well be an act of God. All I know was that we looked like two little shits in scruffy school uniforms who just pushed over some poor people’s display thing for kicks.
Needless to say, we ran.
I haven’t thought about that incident in years, but even as weird and amazing as that was (and how far we dined on that story), that’s not the reason I love that area of Sydney. I love it because it’s right next to an Anglican Church. I remember it was years later that I noticed this. Sad, cos the Church is quite interesting to look at, but it’s kid of dulled over the years that I missed it completely.
I do wonder what, say, the roaches who live in between the walls of the two places believe in. Surely they are in direct competition. I wonder if one kicks a football over the fence, if it’s returned, or deemed lost. It’s all so confusing. All of it.