24 November 2008

Gay lady, Mayfair in the morning...Hear your footsteps echo in the empty street...Early rain, And the pavement's glistening...

S'up, Ninjas?

There must be something in the air tonight, oh Lord. Once I get start a-movin' and a-groovin' and changing my life around, the snowball of change turns into an avalanche and before you know it I'm slowly suffocating under a sea of ice clawing and screaming for the big slobbery dog with the barrel of brandy around his neck to hurry the fuck up and dig me out. Not content with an awesome new job and a super hot new American Girlflen, I've decided to move out of the Aussie Embassy in Clapton and onto a houseboat.

As our regular viewers will recall, I was all lined up to move onto a houseboat with a South African bird a couple of moves back, but it all fell through at the last minute. For some reason I've been thinking about it again recently but it's just so hard to find a vacancy unless you're in the know with the sketchy riverboat folk. I did some half-hearted searching and lo and behold found an ad on Gumtree by a South African dude who was yearning for a life on the low seas but couldn't find anyone to do it with (ooh err). I gave him a call and we seemed to have a bit in common, so we met for a beer to sniff each other's bums and got along famously. Clearly it takes a very particular kind of person to want to commit to this type of enterprise so no surprises that we're of a similar temperament and outlook (he's a geeky sarcastic jerk off, too). He had an awesome boat lined up but was struggling to find someone who could handle the adventure so we went and had a look at it on Saturday and I brought along Salette's friend Naomi who just so happens to be a qualified sea captain...I shit you not! Don't back chat her, she knows boats. So while us lads were up top pretending to be pirates and snagging each other's groins with the gaff hook, she was crawling around below decks checking out the bilge and the poop deck and what not. The boat's not exactly in prime condition but it's more than livable for the short term (ie. until our short attention spans fixate on some other stupid hare-brained scheme). They're asking way too much for it given the condition, so we're gonna low ball them and see what happens. If this one doesn't pan out then we'll keep our eye patches peeled for another 'cos that's how pirates roll.

Work is really kicking along at the mome. In a bizarre fit of enthusiasm I volunteered to run two projects simultaneously which, although manageable, is proving to be an exercise in finely balanced chaos. If I was to represent it in interpretive dance I would be constantly oscillating between "Trees Swaying With the Wind" and "Bats in Your Hair". Still, I said I wanted a challenge and I'm back doing what I really love...

Speaking of things I really love doing, Salette is fab. Every minute I'm with her she more truly earns her crown as the most wonderful thing that's happened to me in a long long time...maybe ever. She broke her toe on Friday night, the end result of an unfortunate combination of cheap champagne, poor co-ordination and a casually placed kitchen stool. We spent 2 and a half hours in the A&E waiting to get it strapped up (more for the patient's frame of mind than any real medical benefit) but luckily we were out just in time to make it up to Islington to see Russian Circles play live. Those guys are awesome! They're a three piece instru-metal act from Chicago and they sounded incredible. Without a vocalist, you don't have to mix down any of the instruments so everything comes through at the same level, strong and crisp and clean. The drums were mixed right up and cut through the meandering waves of guitar and bass like percussive pugilism...the acoustic equivalent of a punch in the face. The fremitus slammed into us, making our clothes vibrate and our eyes blink involuntarily but it wasn't so loud that your ears hurt or that the higher frequencies got drowned out by the thrum of the lower. Their new album is called 'Station' and is by far their best work. Listening to it you could swear that each song is from the soundtrack of a movie, or should be. It's very emotive and affecting music, which I think can be said of most instrumental pieces. Without the subjectivity of the lyrics, your imagination can make up whatever narrative you like to accompany the music, which makes listening to it a very intimate and engaging experience.

Salette is very keen to give me a balanced view of the contemporary arts. To compensate for the abysmal cabaret show at Bistrotheque, she took me to see a guy called Justin Bond who is, like, the transvestite Jesus of cabaret. She used to know him back in San Francisco years ago when he was just a kid starting out but now he's a cabaret legend. He's a really talented performer who totally knows his craft- equal measures of wit and bitchiness, socially and politically aware but profane and kinky as hell - and a hell of a singer. She also took me to see a brilliant dance troupe called DV8 who did an amazing powerful piece on the persecution of gays and lesbians through religion, which more than cancelled out the awful lecture we went to by a leading German dance choreographer that turned into a naked bondage show...a brain-achingly boring naked bondage show (I know...I didn't think it was possible either. Surely combining two totally awesome concepts could only make something so super awesome whole that eclipses the sum of its parts? But then, Aliens vs Predator...'nuff said). Always a surprise with this girl!

We're off to see Dylan Moran tonight, which I've been hanging out for for ages. Once again the immediate future's looking bright on the live music scene and it promises to be a Very Metal Spring with Fantomas playing their 'Director's Cut' album in December, Lamb of God in January and Soulfly in Feb.


4 November 2008

Raining blood from a lacerated sky...Bleeding its horror, creating my structure...Now I shall reign in blood!

Fuckin' Slayer!

It was a cold and rainy Halloween night as I traipsed across London to the Hammersmith Apollo for the Unholy Alliance III show. Getting anywhere in London these days is an exercise in frustration and delay, particularly as I received a text message from the promoter saying that the doors were now opening at 5.30 instead of 7.30 as originally planned. Luckily I'm allowed to leave work at 5 these days but I had to stop off at the Barbican to give Salette the stuff for my Halloween costume so she could take it to her place (she was waiting in line for stand-by tickets to see Antony and the Johnsons).

Metal gigs these days are a strange affair, not like when I was a lad. The metal chicks are all super hot and spend ages on their outfit, hair and makey. The dudes are all bald heads and stoopid beards and every one's trying to out obscure each other in the band t-shirt stakes. I'd anticipated this and had picked up a bitching metal t-shirt from threadless. It featured a naked barbarian chick riding a dragon which was spitting out a huge fiery skull which was about to eat a unicorn. It had nothing to do with any band at all...how obscure is that! It was hilarious watching everyone trying to manoeuvre to check my shirt out of the corner of their eye and failing to make out any kind of logo, subtly moving around behind me to see what was written on the back.

It was a night of highs and lows. The major disappointments were:

  • Missing Mastodon 'cos I was stuck in the cloak room line for 45 mins;
  • Trivium.

The major highlights were:

  • Hot skanky metal chicks;
  • Trivium leaving the stage;
  • All the Trivium fans leaving before Slayer came on;
  • 'Raining Blood' and 'Disciple' live;
  • 2 new Slayer songs;
  • Blowing people's minds with my obscure t-shirt;
  • Getting a kick arse new Mastodon t-shirt of a sasquatch eating a stag;
  • Trivium dying in a horrible bus crash on the way to another gig.

Sadly, I made that last one up.

I can not overstate just how shit Trivium were. I do believe they've invented a new musical genre: Hairdresser Metal. How the hell those bozos even got on the bill is beyond me, let alone how they got billed above Mastodon. Those guys aren't even metal enough to cater Mastodon's parties. At one point, the lead dude shook his gorgeous mane of primped and permed curly locks and declared, "We thought the mother fucking fans in mother fucking America knew how to bang their mother fucking heads...so are you mother fuckers gonna prove us wrong?" Are you flipping kidding me? Who even says that any more? Just because you wear tight black jeans and basketball boots doesn't make you thrash, you try hard guido cock suckers! The nadir of the whole sonic abortion was when they covered 'Iron Maiden' by Iron Maiden. Dude! We're in Hammersmith, yeah? This is the Maiden heartland! People here name their children after their favourite Maiden song. Even Iron Maiden are reluctant to play their stuff in Hammersmith 'cos the fans are so super critical. Half the crowd turned their back on the stage, which I thought was a nice protest. There were myriad other examples of suckiness which, in the interests of minimising the collective nausea, I've summarised in the following dot-point essay entitled, "Why Trivium Suck":

  • they just do...it's a universal constant...whenever scientists measure suckiness they do it in increments of triviums;
  • wireless guitar feeds and an array of steel ramps allowed them to caper and run about on stage like excitable new-born fawns on a spring day;
  • seven microphones so they could sing wherever they happened to be at;
  • five smoke machines;
  • saying things like, "Put your mother-fucking devil horns in the mother fucking air, mother fuckers";
  • everybody sings...badly;
  • matching guitars;
  • smashing their matching guitars;
  • they wear muscle shirts;
  • they wear muscle shirts with their own band logo on them;
  • they spend more time doing their pretty hair than writing songs.

Still, I guess such a monumental display of suckiness could only help to emphasise just how fucking metal Slayer are. It was ironic that Trivium chose to ape the look of mid-80's thrash (slightly less ironic than being run over by an ambulance, but slightly more ironic than fat people drinking diet coke), because it only helped emphasise how un-thrash they are. I thought back to '86 when the Big 4 of Thrash Metal reigned supreme: Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth. Individually, those bands were the pinnacle of speed and hardness and anger and evil. Collectively they were pioneers, they invented a genre and were so far out in front of everyone else it was like there was no other music. But where are they now? Megadeth and Anthrax both died long slow deaths, with frequent line-up changes and constantly re-interpreting themselves, but were never able to maintain the rage and calibre of their early years. Metallica, while arguably the most successful and well-known, are also the biggest sell-outs of the bunch and are now nothing more than the poster children for corporate whore pop bands everywhere. Slayer are the only one of the four who are still playing the way they always played, and with the original line-up to boot. The songs are still as fast and hard and angry and evil as they were back in '86. Reign in Blood is unarguably the quintessential metal album, and Raining Blood is arguably the most metal as fuck song ever written. They've been consistently slaying for over 20 years and in that time they never sold out and they never sucked. Let's put this into perspective: Tom Araya, bassist and lead singer, is 47. I used to listen to these guys when I was 15 and I'm still listening to them at 37 and they're still blowing my fucking head off.

The English seem to find some stoicism in living life as unpleasantly as possible. Ironically as if by deliberately and consciously experiencing the worst in life it somehow makes life better. Everything's an exercise in self-deception and self-delusion; constant references to "The Great British Something" as if by calling it great it must be so even when we all know it's complete crap. Much in the same way as Americans call hamburgers "sandwiches"...

Work is going super well. This place is the exact polar opposite to the Salt Mine: people genuinely give a shit about you, they work reasonable hours, the bosses practice what they preach and leave at 5 and are the first ones down the pub on a Friday. Speaking of Fridays, every week the company buys pizza for all the staff for lunch and they put on a tab at the bar across the street to force everyone to leave at 5...awesome! I did something this week I haven't done for almost 2 years: sat in the park and read my book while I ate my lunch. I've not done that since summer 2 years ago when I worked across the road from Glebe Park, it was wonderful. Bunhill Fields cemetery is just down the street from here and has loads of benches scattered about. William Blake and his wife Catherine are buried somewhere in there (the gravestone simply says their remains lie nearby) and people regularly leave flowers and coins as tributes (Blake died a near pauper in relative obscurity, his final act on his deathbed was to sketch his beloved Catherine). It was a little chilly but the sun was shining and I was all rugged up and despite all the other people there with the same idea it was lovely and peaceful. It's so nice to be working somewhere where I have the opportunity to take a lunch break, sit in the park and read, and go home at a reasonable hour...I'd forgotten what that was like. There's two teams of consultants, or clans, with their own clan names: the other team's is lame but we're called Wu-Tang because, as we all know, Wu-Tang Clan ain't nuttin ta fuck wid.

I went to a Halloween party on Saturday night and my costume was kick-arse. The theme of the party was Movies and the sub theme was Death, so I bought this huge styrofoam ball and made a Death Star helmet. I spray-painted it grey and drew on some detailing and then stuck all these little tiny Star Wars fighters all over the outside. I bought a couple of slightly larger models of Darth Vader's tie-fighter and Luke's X-wing which I suspended on wires just to give it some movement and false perspective. I was both the coolest and the nerdiest guy at the party, which was evidenced by the fact that I won two, count 'em TWO gold medals for Best Costume and Most Awesome Costume. But awards don't mean anything when you get to go home with the most beautiful girl at the party...Salette went as Pris from Blade Runner and she looked so incredible it made my mouth water, gggrrr!

I had some sad news last week as my step-dad passed away after a long battle with cancer. I was really disappointed I couldn't make it back for the funeral but I wrote some words and my little sister read them out for me, bless her little cotton socks:

Remembering Mal…

There’s a disclaimer at the start of most TV shows which warns of “Adult Themes”, which I never quite understood. What, exactly, IS an adult theme? Taxation? Mortgages? Hair loss? Life never stops teaching us lessons and sadly I’ve learned that the most adult of themes is the death of a parent; that’s when you know you’ve really become a grown up.

As a child growing up, you have this idea that your parents’ lives reach a plateau and stay the same, never changing: they’ve learned all they’ll ever learn, seen all they’ll ever see, done all they’ll ever do. But once I became a parent myself I realised that as time goes by, my parents’ lives have changed far more dramatically than even my own because they have to endure the highs and lows, the joy and the pain, of not only their own experience but that of their children as well. Like riding two roller coasters at once. How exciting and terrifying it is to see your kids making the same discoveries and mistakes you did, learning life’s hardest and most wonderful lessons, but as each day passes realising your ability to influence and protect them lessens.

I remember the first time I met Mal: I was 7 or 8 and my mum took me and my sisters to the West Belconnen Football Club for dinner where he was the Secretary Manager. There was this promotional event going on called “Bowling for Chooks”, which was an indoor bowls green with frozen chooks for prizes and not, as I excitedly imagined, a ten-pin bowling alley where they let you madly fling frozen chickens at the pins. Just one in a long series of childhood disappointments. Poor Mal already had his work cut out for him even before we met: not only did he have to overcome the stigma of not being good enough for my mum (I was the only one in that particular category), but he also had a moustache. Even at the tender age of 8 I had developed a healthy suspicion of dudes with mo’s.

But he seemed like a nice enough guy, and he let us gorge ourselves on free Coke and chips all night (there’s perks when your mother is sleeping with the boss). So before any of us knew what was happening, he and Mum were getting married. I still remember the day they packed Mal’s 4 boys, my sisters and me in the registry office in Civic for the ceremony. I also remember the look of embarrassment and rage on Mum’s face as she continually turned around to Ssshhh! us as we giggled uncontrollably through the whole thing, which, of course, only served to set us off even more. Mal was cool, though…he got the joke, and he laughed along with us.

Soon after our lives were turned even more upside down when we packed up and moved to the pub in Woodstock, pretty much the middle of nowhere. I never understood why Mum and Mal would choose such an awful place to start our new lives as a family, and I was very angry and resentful, which I now know was unfair. Grown up decisions are never as black and white as children would believe them to be, and I know only too well that often we are forced to choose between two unpalatable options, knowing that whatever we decide someone will be hurt, but hoping that one day those we love will understand that we can only do what we think is best at the time and that everyone deserves to be forgiven for their mistakes.

I regret that Mal and I were never close. Time and circumstance conspired to create an emotional gap between us that neither was able to bridge, due mainly to my reluctance to accept anyone as a replacement for my dad and my slow but inevitable withdrawal from my family into an introspective surly teenager. Life wasn’t always easy or pleasant for any of us living in the pub, and it was hardly a conducive environment for a new family to bond and grow. But for better or worse, I know that Mal always wanted the best for us and that he truly loved my mum and did everything he could to make her happy. And for that alone I will always admire, respect and love him.

Goodbye, Mal...

21 October 2008

It was the time when Brussels dreamed...It was the time of silent film...It was the time when Brussels sang...

Back to the real world, siiiiigh...

I had such a great time in Paris and Brussels. The weather was amazing, particularly given it's Autumn; the sun shone every day, I got some colour in my pasty pommie skin and I got to model all my new tshirts. Plus I got to spend an entire week with Salette, sleeping in every day, staying up late drinking cocktails, and getting tangled up and lost in each other. Paradoxically, we lost all track of time but the week just seemed to fly by. I was surprised (and delighted) how well we got along given we were never out of each other's company the whole time AND she got the flu towards the end. Coming back to gloomy old London was something of a let down, compounded by the separation anxiety I felt when I had to go home on Sunday night, and then I got sick on my first day of work.

Paris was Paris, only this time I got to see another side of it than the through the purely tourist lens. I didn't realise quite how many tourists there were until I started seeing other parts of the city, although there suddenly seems to be a law in France requiring everyone to smoke all the time and stare at my girlfriend. What the fuck, Frenchy? We stayed in a lovely hotel in the Marais with lots of windy little streets and cute cafes nearby. I got to meet Salette's brother who was on a detour from a work trip and I got the whole "what are your intentions with my sister" routine (luckily I had anticipated this and was prepared with a suitably laconic response). We ate loads of fabulous French food and got a hot tip from one of Salette's artist buddies on the best Italian place in Paris. We saw an amazing artists-in-residence centre that used to be the city funerial depot in the 1600's, so it was already a magnificent building, but they ripped the guts out of it leaving two massive open areas with modern workspaces and living quarters scattered throughout. It seemed like the whole of Paris turned out to see it on the open day and the bulk of the funding came from government which really gives you an idea of how importantly the Europeans view the arts. Contrast that with England where there's nothing even remotely like that kind of centre, let alone that level of funding for art, contemporary or experimental or otherwise; here it's all musical theatre and pantomime.

The highlight of the trip for me would have to be Brussels. It's a really wonderful city, quaint and clean and beautiful. The architecture is gorgeous and the streets are cobbled and plus there's hardly any tourists so you can walk around pretty much everywhere without being buffeted by the rampaging hordes or molested by armies of African dudes selling trinkets. We stayed in this lovely B&B with exposed beams and a mezzanine bedroom which was right across the road from the main prostitute pick up zone, although surprisingly it wasn't the least bit tacky or sleazy. We saw a brilliant live performance piece by a New York theatre company called 'Rambo Solo', where this guy described the book "First Blood" in it's entirety while behind him three video screens showed him doing exactly the same performance in his apartment at three different time periods. Seafood is big in Brussels, much to my delight, and the food was perhaps even better here than in Paris. We drank a staggering array of beers brewed by insane monks in ridiculously elaborate glasses and only barely made a dent in the available options. Salette did her annual clothes shopping pilgrimage to her favourite fashion designer and even let me pick out a couple of things for her to try on (she didn't end up buying any of my choices, though).

Can you believe it, Xmas is fast approaching and it looks like I'll be stuck in merry old England this year. It's stupidly expensive to fly back to Oz at that time of year and I'll only have accumulated 3 or 4 days of leave in the new job, so even if I could I couldn't. Salette is heading home to do family stuff in a cabin in the woods of Minnesota so it looks like I'll be hanging on like a solo...it's been a long time since I spent Xmas on my own so I'm not sure what to do with myself. They've just cut the price of an Xbox to £100 over here so perhaps a week of nerdy gaming locked away in my festering dungeon of manly funk would be a fitting xmas pressie to myself. I'm meeting Salette in San Francisco on Boxing Day so she can show me around her old stomping ground and show me off to her friends. We'll be there over New Year's as well so that will be cool. Have to start doing my research on all things San Fran...if anyone knows of anything worth seeing, help a brother out.

I started my new job this week and so far it's going swimmingly. Everyone's so nice! They've really welcomed me and gone out of their way to help me settle in. Granted, it's only day 2 so no doubt by this time next week they'll pull off their people masks and reveal themselves as the hideous alien fiends they are and attempt to lay eggs in my stomach. As you might have guessed, I'm still struggling to shrug off the robes of cynicism and suspicion of people who are being nice to me at work. It's been so long since I encountered genuine niceness and people pay attention to me because they're interested rather than acting out hidden agendas or using me to further their own ends. There's already a project lined up for me to start on, plus I've volunteered to write a pitch for some research work in the Czech Republic (which I've tentatively titled "Czech it out!"). I've got two weeks to settle in and get up to speed before diving in head first, which is exactly the way I like it.

Things couldn't be going better at the moment and the surest sign of that is I'm not in the least bit suspicious or expecting the other shoe to drop. I'm just making the most of the these good feelings and enjoying the change in fortune while it lasts...

6 October 2008

Went down to the Chelsea drugstore to get your prescription filled...Was standing in line with Mr Jimmy And man, did he look ill...

Only four more days in the Salt Mine...

There's a big few months of live music coming up over here. Last week I took Salette to see Gotye at Bush Hall in Shepherd's Bush on the end of his European tour. The venue was awesome, small and classy, but he was a bit unwell and the place was full of drunken Aussies who'd rather chit-chat at the top of their voices than listen to some kooky kick-arse music. I've not seen him before and only knew two of his songs ('Heart's a Mess' and 'Learnalilgivinanlovin') both of which I kinda like. I'm geeking out over seeing Unholy Alliance on Halloween night - Slayer, Mastodon, Trivium - then there's Russian Circles in November, and Fantomas and Isis in December.

This week got off to an interesting start as Angry Man slipped the chain at the local post office when they lost not one but two of his packages. Then I got along to the local sexual health walk-in clinic for my first ever check up. Now that Salette and I are starting to get serious (I slipped a "Will you go with me?" tick box note into her purse, and administered The Frigid Test with spectacular results) I figured it was about time I found out just how skanky and diseased my boy junk really is. She got tested only recently (all clear, woo hoo!) so you might say there was a modicum of onus upon moi to do likewise (if I ever want to get laid again, that is). I can't decide if it's a sad indictment or a refreshing burst of enlightenment that the ultimate sign of commitment in these crazy modern times is a mutual sexual health screen. "I'm free of disease" is the new "I love you", and "I'll never hurt you" has been replaced by "I won't kill you with my dick." Who said romance is dead? And all I had to do was endure the ignomy of having a swab the size of a baguette shoved up my pee hole. A small price to pay to once more ride bareback on the saucy sexy gelding of sauce along the sexy beach of saucy sexiness.

I was intimidated by Salette at first...truth be told I probably still am a bit, but it's slowly turning into awe and admiration and amazement. It's not just how I feel about her, it's how she makes me feel about me. I'm a better person when I'm with her and I'm starting to see what she sees in me...I always suspected I was awesome. I know that I'm in love with her but I haven't told her yet; I've wanted to so many times but she calls me Swifty because she thinks I rush into things. It's not the first time I've been accused of falling in love too hard and too fast (wait, or was that sex?) Plus, what if I tell her and she doesn't say it back and it breaks the spell and I realise I've been hallucinating this all along? I had a nightmare that I showed you all the picture of us from Dr Phil's party and you all said, "There's no one in the picture but you." But I wouldn't say it because I want her to say it back...just because I want her to know that's how I feel and hope that it made her happy. Still, a little reciprocation is always nice...reciprocate my brains out, baby!

I've missed being in love: the fragility of it, the power of it, the indescribable joy and the unbearable pain of it. Love is the only contradiction Nature will tolerate. I feel consumed by her, like I can't expand fast enough to contain this feeling inside me. I have no recollection of my life before her and am terrified by the thought of a future without her. Do you think I've finally atoned for all the people I hurt and Baby Jeebus is allowing me to be happy again? Is she is my reward for enduring the wrath of the Harpies? Or did I go insane from loneliness and grief and simply imagine my perfect woman?

And anyway, I SO do not rush into things! Ok, maybe I do but only when I know in my heart they're real and they're right and they're worth taking a chance on. Otherwise I'm all defensive and Pat Benetar...ask anyone. I sense that she feels the same and I know she's been hurt before too; she's unsure and cautious and she wants to know that I'm not gonna run at the first sign of affection. Hardly! I'm like a starving puppy tied to the clothesline of neglect in the backyard of indifference who's getting his first proper meal of chunky Pal affection at the RSPCA shelter of love.

Little by little I sense her slowly opening the blast doors of the furnace of her feelings for me, and I'm basking in the heat. It's truly wonderful to discover someone who likes you just as much as you like them and to see them dropping their guard to let you into their fortress. I'm taking advantage of our trip to Paris to maximise the romance factor and tell her I love her in some super romantic location. Should I do it pre-shag or post-shag, do you think? Which would have the most impact? I kinda feel that mid-shag might lose some authenticity, or be drowned out by the moaning.

I hear from the kids less and less these days. I write every week but I maybe get a reply once a month or so, and even then it's only a couple of lines. It's hard not to take it personally but I guess this is the price I pay for leaving them. The price of my happiness was to lose the only two things that made me truly happy, the only two things I did right in this life, the two things I'm proud of and love the most, who'll always be the best of me. I only hope the trade off from them forgetting about me is that I start to fade from existence and become invisible so I can spend all my time in the girl's change room at the gym and become known as the Crying Pervy Ghost Guy.

29 September 2008

Feel inclined to blow my mind, Get hung up feed the ducks with a bun, They all come out to groove about, Be nice have fun in the sun...

I've decided I'm not a big fan of symmetry. Symmetry is a purely human conceit; it doesn't exist in nature. I'm of the mind that if aliens were to start abducting us and replacing us with eeevil cloned copies, then they'd cut the typical manufacturing corners and just make one half of a human mold and flip it, filing down the seam where the two halves joined. It must be way expensive to make eeevil human clone drones so natch they're gonna try and save some alien bucks. But this is why we need to be extra vigilant of our loved ones and colleagues. Look closely at everyone around you and make special efforts to be as asymmetrical as possible. Join the movement, brothers and sisters! Celebrate your inconsistencies and free us from this intergalactic space scourge from beyond the stars and beyond!

I had the most wonderful weekend with the lovely Salette. The weather was ridiculously (suspiciously) good; more sun in two days than in the whole of the summer just gone, or so it feels. On Friday we went to see John Pilger present his 2003 film on the war in Afghanistan, which replenished my reserves of righteous indignation against all old rich white guys in US politics...gggrrr! On Saturday we slept in and went to Broadway Market in the afternoon. That night we went to a wicked Decadence party at Dr Phil's Lurve Surgery to celebrate his 10th anniversary in London and the official granting of his 'Dr' title. It was a costume party, the twin themes being Decadence (for the clever people), and Doctors and Nurses (for the conceptually retarded). I wore my brand new Paul Smith pajamas and leather slippers (cos there's nothing more decadent than wearing your jammies ALL day) and Salette wore a pretty party dress (phwoar!) and made this necklace out of playing cards with pictures of famous dancers on them (a deck-o-dance...get it? HAH! Smart and beautiful...siiiiigh). She looked incredible! It was the first time anyone had met her and she totally dazzled the room. All the guys were coming up and high-fiving me and going "Doode!" and all the girls were like, "Oh my god, she's GORgeous! What's she doing with you?" But I didn't even notice any of them, it was like there was no one else at the party, all I saw was her. Someone took a really lovely photo of us so if you're a Facebook junkie check out the two tagged photos of me to prove that she's not imaginary...

We're spending every weekend together now, and meeting up twice a week and phoning every other night. It's getting harder and harder to be apart from her, but when we're together it just keeps getting better and better. She's like Cupid's defibrillator, shocking my sere heart back to life and now it's swelling and racing and soaring and if I'm not careful it'll burst and cover everyone in gooey love-sick heart jizz. CLEAR! I can't even remember what I used to do when I didn't know her...I can't even remember my own name half the time.

The Paris/Brussels trip is all booked and I'm SO excited. Ordinarily the prospect of spending an entire week with someone would give me ulcers, but for some strange reason I'm looking forward to it. A whole week, eeeppp! We're going on the train and because of my last-minute inclusion I wasn't able to book seats next to Salette. But fear not, this gives me an opportunity to take our relationship to the next level by wearing a trenchcoat and dark glasses and following her every move from behind a strategically-placed newspaper. Pretty much like I've been doing since we met. Either that or I could just swap with whomever is actually sitting next to her. But that just seems like the easy way out...

In the interests of cross-cultural exchange (no, it's not a euphemism for sex, you sad pervies), I'm taking her to see Aussie singer-songwriter-kookster Gotye this week at Bush Hall. I finally managed to snag tickets to Dylan Moran in November, which promises to be brilliant, although I suspect they're crap seats.

I feel very lucky to be at this point in my life, having what I have, feeling what I feel. At the risk of sounding maudlin, it seems like I've emerged from a wilderness of sorts in which I was lost for a number of years. But don't worry about a slide into complacency...I'll always remember what I went through to get here. King Solomon once had a jeweller make him a ring with an inscription that would make him happy when he was sad, and sad when he was happy. It said: "This too shall pass." I find that a bit of a downer so I prefer this kick-arse one from Dr Seuss: "I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind...Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat, I'm all ready you see...Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!"

17 September 2008

I know you've deceived me, now here's a surprise...I know that you have 'cause there's magic in my eyes...

I need a favour from one of youse. I'm trying to track down a copy of a CD from 1998, a tribute album by a bunch of Aussie artists called "To Hal and Bacharach". It's almost impossible to find these days, specially over here, but if any of you can track down a new or second hand copy I'd be muchas grateful. Help a brother out...

I've got a new job! Woop, woop (dat's da sound of da Police). It's at a specialist usability firm, smallish but with good growth throughout their short lifespan, and a really good vibe. I'd seen some of their work previously and was heaps impressed and they completely won me over with their friendliness, honesty and genuine give-a-crap-about-people-ness. I went for a couple of interviews and my affection for and confidence in them just grew and grew. They offered me the job and I took a couple of days to think about it but my mind was pretty much already made up. But then the CEO rang me to tell me how taken with me they were and how great everyone thought I was and they were really excited by the idea of me maybe coming to work for them, and that just sealed the deal. It really put things into perspective and provided the perfect contrast between a company which genuinely cares about its people and its work and its clients, and a company which measures your worth in terms of how much money they can wring out of you before you cark it. How many CEOs take the time to call you personally and kiss your arse? I feel happy and hopeful and excited about the move, which is a good sign particularly in this atmosphere of Credit Crunch doom and gloom, where 5,000 people can lose their jobs in a single morning. I feel good about the decision I've made for better or worse, and feel this could be the change I needed. My last day with the Company is 10 October and I have a week off before I start the new gig. I might even manage to squeeze in a lightning visit to Oz in between. Stay posted.

Then again, the change in mood (thanks, Kids in the Kitchen!) could be attributed to another unexpected source...

Salette and I spent the most wonderful weekend together...literally the entire weekend. We met for brekkie on Saturday and didn't part company until I went home at midnight Sunday. Normally I start to get a bit antsy if I spend 7 or 8 hours with other people and need some quiet time in my isolation tank. But when I'm with her, time ceases to have any meaning and suddenly two days have passed and I feel like it's gone way too fast.

After breakfast she took me to an incredible audio performance piece at the Royal Opera House. It was set up downstairs in a darkened performance hall. It consisted of dozens of tripods of varying heights upon which were mounted aluminium bars with speakers lashed to the ends connected to a simple circuit board. The speakers were of many different sizes and had a red LED mounted on the top. The artists were two guys in dark wool suits who entered the space and activated one of the towers so that it emitted a single continuous electronic tone. They adjusted the tone with a small screwdriver until it reached a certain pitch, which, while harmonious, became quite discordant and unpleasant after a while. They then went about activating all of the other towers one by one, adjusting the pitch of each to correspond to the height of the tripod: shorter ones had deep pitch, average ones mid-range, and tall ones high pitch. As more and more tones were activated, the sound slowly started to build into a complex cacophony, not quite noise but not quite music, and something quite remarkable happened: even though they were all effectively emitting the same continuous tone, the combination of different pitches and your physical location to the towers meant that the sound seemed to be changing, lilting upward and downward through the register, oscillating and flowing, like it was comprised of many different voices all singing the same song but frozen in a moment of time.

The towers were hooked up to a control boxes in groups of three and, once all were activated, the boxes were turned on which made the arms rotate at different speeds which took the experience to a whole new level. The middle of the floor was roped off so you could get close to the piece and move around it which meant it sounded completely different depending on where you were standing. It's hard to describe what it was like - I thought it was like an alien mating call, Salette thought it was the muzak they play in Heaven's waiting room - but there was a real physical presence to the sound. It had depth and shape and texture and you had the sensation of being enveloped by it as the lower tones set off a pleasing fremitus in your chest and the higher tones danced about your ears. Then suddenly the lights went out and we were submerged in an ocean of darkness and sound and all you could see were dozens of red LEDs spinning and dancing among this incredible sound...like twin souls chasing each other through an infinity of frozen music.

After 40 minutes or so they started shutting down, first the rotation, and then the sound, one tower at a time. To my surprise, I felt a tinge of sadness as each one went silent; it was as if having created something beautiful, they were now destroying it...like killing a panda. As they inexorably made their way through each tower there remained only one, the first one, and I found myself dreading the return to silence. In my head I was begging them to leave it on just a little longer. But finally it too went silent and we stood for a few minutes in this dim dark space which, although full of people and equipment, suddenly felt stark and empty. It was truly an amazing experience and my description can't do it justice, but it is something I will never forget.

That night we went bowling at All Star Lanes, just to bring some white trash balance to the day's high-brow arty-farty activities. I won by 3 points (129 to 126) but as Salette used to be in a bowling league many years ago I can't help feeling a certain amount of graciousness was in play. On Sunday the weather was absolutely gorgeous and sunny and Salette chose to forgo her ticket to a 9-hour long Robert LaPage play (which she'd been dying to see for ages) to spend the day with me. Aaawww! We had brunch at Smiths of Smithfield and made fun of the French waiter cos he didn't know shit about waffles even though he pretended to (as if the French know ANYTHING about cooking...oy!) Then we headed over to Hampstead Heath to walk off the delicious brunchy goodness. The weather was suspiciously good for Autumn, and it was so lovely to just wander about and get lost amongst the hills and the trees and the ponds, talking and holding hands and making out and goofing off. Suffice it to say, I'm falling for this girl in a big way. I never thought I could feel this way about anyone ever again...partly because I didn't think I'd ever find anyone so amazing, partly because I never believed someone so amazing would be interested in me, but mainly because I thought I was incapable of feeling anything any more. I'm like a teenager with a crush...it's cheesy and pathetic and brilliant! Each time we're together she just gets more and more amazing, and I'm so caught up in how good she makes me feel that I forget to wait for the other shoe to drop. When I'm with her, time and the world simply disappear and there's just her and how she makes me feel and the way she looks at me that makes my stomach go all funny.

I'm in trouble, here...

8 September 2008

Gin in teacups, And leaves on the lawn...Violence at bus stops, And the pale thin girl with eyes forlorn...

Ok, it seems my banana analogy was a little too thinly-veiled for some of you slack-jawed double-Y chromies to interpret. The thing I was talking about losing and then getting back again was love. The delicious banana I found is called Salette and she's not really a banana...she's a pretty bloody super girly. Got it? Do I need to draw you a picture?

Our Lady of Salette is originally from San Francisco (yes, another American...but I've kinda got a taste for them now) who's been living over here for 10 years. She's amazing: cute, pretty, smart, tall, blonde, quirky, captivating, and a bitching pasher. She's got a bit of that Elaine Benice thing going on which totally melts my butter. Also, she's older than me but don't make the mistake of calling her a Cougar...it's not a compliment, apparently. She works for an arts council who fund art projects and promote and support all forms of contemporary art. She's wikkid passionate about her work and knows heaps of cutting edge arty farties. The other night we did a tour of some East End (which is the new West End) galleries on Vyner Street which all held an open night so it was quite a mixed bag. The ratio between the cost of the booze and the calibre of the art is inversely proportionate: the richest galleries gave it away free but the art was garbage (in some cases literally). Most of it was pretty lame post-modern stuff but at one gallery there was this kiwi dude who painted awesome character portraits on old fridge doors and car bonnets and oil cans. I really loved his stuff, it typified that lowbrow asthetic that totally rocks my boat. Pity the cheapest piece was £1800; I don't know art, but I know what I can't afford. All these galleries are right on my doorstep, scattered throughout the lanes and alleys off Mare Street in between these amazing grotty bars and cafes and performance spaces, and I had no idea they were there. A whole new world is opening up to me and I'm really loving the East End, all thanks to this willowy blonde amazon who came out of nowhere and spiked my heart's drink with her Rohypnol of lurve. Get this: last Friday night she took me to see Batman at the IMAX...can you spell 'Dream Girl'?

On the weekend we met at the Hackney flower market which I've never been to (my deflowering, as it were) and is only open on Sundays. It's kind of like going to the fruit markets except there's twice as many spruikers and they're all screaming at you to "check out me gladies...best gladies in London...ON-ly a fi-VER!" (for some reason everything costs a fiver). Thankfully it was overcast so there weren't as many people as there normally would be. We wandered about there for a while, soaking up the atmos and making fun of the locals, before succumbing to our growling stomachs and venturing over to this cafe/bar called Bistrotheque for brunch (the same place we went to for the hideous cabaret night on our third date...brunch was date number eight). The place comes pretty highly recommended and I have to admit it more than lived up to the hype. They blitzed the eggs benedict litmus test (eggs runny in the middle, ham lightly grilled, home-made hollandaise, sprinkling of chives) and may even have toppled The Yellow House for the brunch crown. They have a grand piano which this hip young dude plays lovely classical arrangements of contemporary songs, adding a really classy edge to the gustation. Half of the fun is trying to guess what you're hearing first, and then recoiling in shame when you realise it's "If Ya Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart. Salette mentioned she really likes "Love Will Tear Us Apart" so when she went to the loo I asked the guy if he would play it when she came out, and he totally did...the timing was perfect! But then she wouldn't believe me when I told her I requested it. Jerk! Who said romance wasn't dead?

We spent the rest of the day wandering around Brick Lane (which is fast-becoming my favourite part of London) and Victoria Park walking off our breakfast, talking, holding hands, letting the time get away from us and watching the world slip by. Before I knew it, it was 6pm and I had less than an hour to get to Victoria for Dr Phil's surprise PhD dinner. Even though he'd finished his thesis, he's not officially a doctor until the examiner signs off on it. So today was the sign off day and on Sunday night Clara arranged for a bunch of us to meet at a Thai restaurant and surprise him. I only just made it as I had spent 20 minutes walking around the block trying to find the place only to realise that I'd been standing right in front of it about 4 times. But everything worked out fine in the end. I had a cocktail called Lava Under the Sea and ordered the red bbq duck curry and it came served in half a pineapple which was even more awesome than it sounds.

I've got a huge couple of months coming up culture wise: The Unholy Alliance (Slayer, Trivium and Mastodon), Regurgitator, Motorhead, Russian Circles, Dylan Moran. I'm really torn about seeing Slipknot cos they're kinda gay but Machine Head is supporting so METAL DILEMMA! And now I have a pretty bloody super girly to take along...although I'm not sure she's a Slayer kind of gal. Might have to be hanging on like a solo for that one.

I had a job interview with a specialist usability firm the other day, which went well. They've asked me back for a follow up on Tuesday. I'm not sure they can afford me but it feels good to be disloyal to the Company. Bunch of heartless soulless feckers. It's not ALL about the money, you know.

3 September 2008

You might laugh you might frown...Walkin' round London town...Sun is in the sky oh why oh why would I wanna be anywhere else?

B'jour, mon amis!

I've decided that "b'jour" is French for "g'day" so feel free to start using it, but make sure to cite your source correctly.

Much to my delight, this past weekend saw the opening of the Cans Festival Part 2. Staged in the same disused railway tunnel as the previous festival, this time around instead of stencil artists the focus was on more traditional graffiti art. And as per last time, the calibre of the art was astounding. There's some supremely talented people running around out there, and when they're not smoking blunts and stabbing up yoofs they're creating some truly impressive art.

Got my performance review which was disappointing but hardly surprising. The culture of this place is such that you're only measured on your most recent project and then ranked against your peers on a bell curve type dealio like in school. Therefore, as in school, the highest performers are pulled down and the lowest performers are pulled up and everyone else is averaged out into a vast smear of mediocrity. So despite working my arse off to try and impress everyone and set myself up for promotion next year, I'm ranked right in the middle of the grey wasteland known as "consistent with", which means that even if I pull off an absolute blinder of a year (highly unlikely given my level of motivation) it's still almost impossible to make the grade for promotion. It's typical of the dog-eat-cat nature of this business and this organisation and one of the main reasons why I've decided to get out. I sent some feelers out last week and I've got an interview with a specialist usability consultancy later today, so fingers crossed. The woman I'm speaking to graduated from Canberra Uni and worked in the public service...two degrees of separation strikes again! I'm hoping that by getting back into a small team environment and focusing solely on the work that I love doing my soul and my faith in mankind will be replenished.

Add another double entendre town name to the list, as Dr Phil and I went biking this past weekend in Titley. I got my first puncture coming down a wicked steep downhill run over chalk stones and log steps, which was a kind of right of passage I suppose. All I know is I haven't had to fix a tyre since I was about 12 and doing it in the middle of the forest is a lot more frustrating than you think. I was a bit disappointed with the layout of the ride as there was far too much road riding to start with and it ended on a huge mutha fuka of a hill climb. Plus, Dr Phil has been hitting the donuts a bit too heavily lately so his fitness was way down and we were forced to stop off at a pub halfway through so he could visit the ladies toilets to change his tampon and have a cry. We were there so long that the guy who follows behind and takes down the route markers caught up to us and it was a Hansel and Gretel-esque race for the finish from that point on. Instead of energy bars they gave us these free sachets of tropical flavoured protein gel which I've not tried before but I hear are pretty good for a quick energy boost. Unfortunately, they had the precise texture and sensation of swallowing a gobful of some Hawaiian guy's cum...or so I imagine. Ladies, back me up! So after we'd snowballed that stuff back and forth for a while we continued on our way and eventually overtook a whole gaggle of stragglers, which I'm sure did wonders for Dr Phil's flagging sweaty gasping sense of self-esteem.

Ok, it's time for a grandpa moment: young people take a lot for granted, they think everything's infinite and that life can only ever improve. But as you get older you realise that time is precious because nothing lasts forever and anything you have can be lost. Take bananas, for example. Bananas are finite. I've eaten a lot of bananas in my time but I'm pushing 40 and, as a conservative estimate, I reckon I've only got a good 9000 or so bananas left in me. That kind of puts things in perspective, and makes it all the more annoying when I get a bad banana. Young people, they get a bad banana they just throw it away and reach for another one. But I don't have that luxury. I have to make every banana count, savour it, make it last, wring every last molecule of potassium-drenched goodness out of that sucker. And if there's the occasional brown mushy bit, well that's all part of the banana experience so I'm just gonna enjoy that as well. It's a cliche, I know, that you can't fully appreciate something until you've lost it, but I would go further and say that you can't fully appreciate something until you've lost it and then got it back again...

I've found a lovely delicious banana...her name is Salette.

28 August 2008

Haiku du jour...No. 3...

Autumn in Paris
Golden skies set hearts aflame
Wishing you were here

26 August 2008

Hold me close and hold me fast…This magic spell you cast…This is la vie en Rose...

Jour trois:

Today I headed over to that other great Paris icon, Notre Dame. As the old Broadway song goes, “There ain’t Notre like a Dame! Notre…in the…world.” After a false start in a completely different church I eventually found the place. I was super bummed not to get to go up in the towers and see the gargoyles but there was a minimum wait of an hour and a half in the rain so I thought “nique cette merde” and figured I should leave something for the next visit. Gives me time to work on my Hunchback impression…Sanctuary! Besides, there’s plenty enough to see on the ground floor. This place is amazing! Say what you will about the modern day church, they sure know how to spend shitloads of cash on expensive pretty decorations.

I was a bit sick of churches at that point and headed up north to Montmatre, the famed art district. Of course, after wandering the rain-soaked cobbled streets, where did I end up? Sacre-Courte, the church on the hill. Sure it's nice and all, but really it's just another church, you know? The highlight, though, was this Spanish lady who was trying to touch a statue of Jeebus and set her umbrella on fire on the votive candles. As I was chuckling away to myself this massive chandelier came plummeting down and just missed me. Clearly there are limits to God’s patience for my blasphemy, and even I am not oblivious to his way of saying, “C'est ma maison, chienne!”

My French pronunciation was getting a lot better, at least according to the cute French shop girl who served me that afternoon. Either that or she was asking if I was from the Traybien Islands. Regardless of which, it still sounded hot! French is a beautiful language, all smooth and syrupy like molten honey. All the rough edges have been rubbed off the consonants and there’s a constant throaty “gggrrr” like you’ve just swallowed some chocolate mousse which makes everything you say sound like flirting. It’s all very seductive and your mouth feels good saying the most mundane things. It’s like aural sex! I’m sure most people thought I was a crazy homeless guy as I wandered the streets repeating everything I overheard or read under my breath just to see how it sounded. I got a little more confident by the end of the trip and branched out from the odd timid and hesitant “bonjour” or “merci”, but whether or not people here understand much English (which many of them seem to do) you can still get by pretty easily.

I saw heaps while I was here and enjoyed it much more than I expected. I didn’t get a chance to see the catacombs or the gargoyles but I’m pleased with the amount of ground I managed to cover in trois jours and was surprised how much I liked the city. I’d like to come back some day but I reckon it would be a much better experience if you came with someone special. There’s definitely a sense of romance or fantasy about Paris - the idea of it, the myth, the fantasy - that threatens to build your expectations up to a point where they can’t possibly be met. But somehow Paris manages to carry it off. There’s an arrogance here that is very different to what I was expecting, and surprisingly attractive. The French are very self-assured, they know Paris is a wonderful city and if you don’t get it then there’s no point them trying to explain it to you. Part of it is the history and the character and the soul of the place. It’s easy to think of Paris as all style and no substance but, unlike London, Paris has more than enough of both to put paid to the hype. But I think to get the most out of this city you definitely need to bring along a sense of romance. Romance is everywhere, from couples holding hands or staring wistfully at each other or making out in churches, to the hard-core porn on free-to-air tv. Which makes it all the more difficult to be here on your own because you feel left out of it. It’s definitely no place for a ménage a un. You just end up standing on bridges in the rain and sighing a lot...

Admittedly some of the romance is lost when you’re surrounded by squaking gaping tourist hordes every hour of the day. If it’s not pasty Brits arguing and complaining it’s out of breath Americans rushing about madly checking things off their sight-seeing checklist or Aussies butchering the language with their cries of, “B’jour, mon sewer. Donny mwar lee toilet, sieve ooh play?”

And so we bid a fond adieu to Paris...Jusqu'à la prochaine nous nous réunissons.

Although it happened in the dark of the night…I was strolling through the streets of Paris, it was cold it was starting to rain...

Jour deux:

I started the day in typical Parisienne fashion with breakfast in a cafe. You can't quite comprehend how much time the French spend in cafes...it borders on unnatural. Granted, the coffee and pastries are really good but still. All the chairs face the street so it's like you’re the audience in some grande théâtre de la vie. I was expecting the waiters to be super rude, not least of all because I could barely speak two words of French. But I think what some people interpret as arrogance is simply efficiency: these guys really know their job and are so good at handling people that language doesn't even factor in to it. They just know what it is you want and get it to you with a minimum of fuss or palaver. I can honestly say that the omelette I had that morning was the single most delicious thing I have ever eaten during daylight hours. I would go further and say that the previous holder of the most delicious crown could have been eaten, digested and crapped onto a plate by comparison. It was like a barely substantial cloud of butter and egg bursting with ham and Gruyere cheese. My mouth had a deliciogasm. Mind you, the three cups of cafe allonge that I had could have influenced my judgement but it was fucking good nonetheless.

As the sun was shining I went for a wander over to the Louvre to take in a bit of culture and shit. France has produced some wonderful artists and some breath-taking art, no question, but I can’t help but feel the Italians just ownzrd the Renaissance. They were able to capture the passion and the fire of the period in a way that makes the French seem mundane and pedestrian by comparison. Although I have to admit I’d never seen so many smiles as upon the French sculpture so they clearly had a sense of humour long before Jerry Lewis came along. And the religious dudes did an awesome job with the demons. The Mona Lisa was somewhat underwhelming; it’s a lot smaller than you imagine it will be and there’s simply hordes of tourists swarming in front of the thing plus the security barriers so you can’t really get very close to it, I gather due to the numerous attempts to vandalise it over the years. Geez, it's hardly Piss Christ, now is it?

Tiring of the indoors I jumped back on the Metro and headed to the Cimetiere du Pare, final resting place of such giants as Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. Museums and cemeteries seem to be an unintentional constant of my travels, much like squirrels and geese (although you'll be happy to know there was none of the former on this trip, much to my dismay). The cemetery was lovely and peaceful, very gothic with it's winding cobblestone avenues lined with leafy trees and decrepit sepulchres. Predictably there were more people around Morrison's grave than were at the Mona Lisa. He's in quite an out of the way location tucked behind some larger tombs in a very unassuming grave with a modest stone marker. Apparently the headstone has been replaced a number of times due to souvenir hunters and his family pay a large annual sum to remove graffiti from the surrounding graves, but there's still a few gems if you look hard enough.

I finished the day as I'd started it, in a cafe. But not just any cafe...this was Les Deux Magots. Those of you with even a shred of indy street cred will know that this is the cafe where the giants of the artistic and intellectual world would congregate: Hemingway, Morrison, de Beauvoir, Sartre, Camus, Picasso. Admittedly it's lost some of it's edge over the years, but even still sitting there as the sun went down and the crowds wandered past and the jazz buskers played across the street, it was hard not to feel inspired. I ordered my double espresso and my Heineken and my cognac and whiled away the hours scribbling haiku on the back of postcards, feeling if not quite a part of the gang then privileged to sit on their coattails, and it was tempting to think that some psychic residue of their collective cool cachet rubbed off on me. And as the alcohol mixed playfully with the caffeine in my bloodstream it became easier to imagine that as the gawking tourists drifting by looked my way perhaps they saw more than just a sweaty tipsy jerk off with sore feet and a broken heart...

À être poursuivi...

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay… I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café...

Jour un:

Bonjour, le bitches!

It’s kind of apt, I feel, to arrive in Paris by train. There’s something romantic and old fashioned about train travel. Sure modern trains are fast but there are much faster modes of transport…trains require patience and force you to reflect on the world as it passes you by. That's very French. As French as infrequent bathing and surrendering at a drop of the hat.

Trudi hooked me up with a quaint little hotel in the Ville de Puteaux which is west of the city centre; it’s small and a bit out of the way but it’s clean and the staff are friendly. Plus there’s no bed bugs which I understand is good for at least half a star in the official rating schema. The bathroom was très faible...you had to stand in the shower to go to the toilet (not that I was peeing in the shower, it was just really close to les toilettes). It was a pretty easy commute to the city proper on the Metro which rivals London’s underground in efficiency and ease of moving about but doesn’t seem to have any of the delays or breakdowns. I would have liked to take buses in order to see more of the city but that’s a project for next time. The entrance to some of the Metro stations have these awesome art deco sci-fi signs which look like alien street lights out of a Jules Verne novel. It’s the little touches of whimsy like that which really add to the magic of Paris. It’s no surprise the Bauhaus art movement never took off here; they don’t mind if something’s unnecessary or impractical so long as it looks good.

The French may not be able to fight, rock or make a decent mojito, but they sure know a thing or two about architecture. Like most European cities, Paris is spread out over a vast area but still manages to have a quaint crammed in feel. There are almost no skyscrapers, or indeed any buildings which reach over 2 or three stories. But the facades of some of the buildings are just breath-takingly elaborate. The exteriors verge on works of art...so much so it almost pains you to go inside. But when the weather is as crappy as it was on my first day, sometimes it's a pain you can live with. But still, even in the rain, Paris is a beautiful city. I wandered past the Palais Royal and the Palais Petit and across the Pont du Alexandre III towards the Hotel de Invalides (which is neither a hotel nor full of invalids, unless you count the hordes of elderly tourists getting in the way of my photos). Because the skyline is so low, you can pretty much see all of the major Paris landmarks from anywhere on the river, so getting your bearings isn't too difficult.

It was around this point that some gypsy street kid tried to scam me. They do this thing where they target the obvious tourist and bend down in front of you, pretending to pick up a ring or piece of jewellery which is hidden in their palm. They offer it to you as though you had dropped it. When you tell them it’s not yours they make a big display of showing how it’s too big to fit on their fingers and offer it to you “for good luck”. If you’re silly enough to accept it they then ask you for some money in exchange. Thankfully I was hip to this game before I got here so I pocketed the ring and kneed the little prick right in the pommes de terre.

I wandered over to the Eiffel Tower which is another one of those classic architectural icons which doesn’t quite seem real, even when you’re standing on it looking out over all of Paris. Paradoxically, it seems both smaller and larger than it should be but is so ingrained in your imagination that you struggle a little to believe that you're actually standing in front of it, let alone atop of it. And it's brown...eeewww! Taking the elevator to the top seemed like the chumps way of ascending so I took the stairs which made it feel like something more of an accomplishment. Regrettably, all of the chumps were waiting for me at the top so any chance to be alone with one's thoughts as I gazed out over the expanse of Paris while the sun broke through the clouds at dusk was completely lost as a seemingly endless procession of fat tourists of all nations and creeds jostled to pose with their over-priced tumblers of champagne around the observation deck. Then I had to take the stairs all the way back down. Hard to believe that even in Paris one's sense of romance can be trampled underfoot.

Tiring of the hordes and the incessant drizzle, I wandered back to the Metro via the Arc de Triomphe, which was something of a disappointment as you have to pay money to see it up close. You can get a decent view from the edges of the roundabout surrounding it but if you want to get right up in it's grill you take these subway tunnels underneath the street and fork over a ludicrous amount just to stand beneath. Instead I braved the insane traffic hurtling through the roundabout for your standard postcard shot.

After seven hours of wandering my poor feet were killing me, for the most part due to my brand new Chuck Taylors which I'd bought specially for the trip. So it was back to Puteux for a scrumptious dinner of cheeses and meats and pastries and a little too much wine before hitting le sack in preparation for some serious sight-seeing the following day...

À être poursuivi...

14 August 2008

Restaurant in a West End town, Call the police, there's a madman around...Running down underground to a dive bar, In a West End town...

I learned a couple of important lessons this past week: 1) trust what you feel (or don't feel, as the case may be). We don't have to justify what we feel in our hearts, we don't have to conform to an ideal, what's in our hearts belongs to us. And 2) having Olympic fever in this country really sucks cos England are only any good at the posh sports so every time you switch on the tele all you see is badminton and sailing and equestrian. Although I did manage to catch a few rotations of the women's gymnastics (pwoawesome!) which, as a 16 year old dude, was an erotic wonderland. As a 37 year old dude watching 16 year old nymphettes caper about just makes me feel tired.

I went to a Tiki bar in Kennington with Dr Phil and Yosemite Laurie and the rest of the gang last Friday night which was a real hoot. Plenty of fab cocktails and swinging lounge music from the 50's and 60's, and GASP! even dancing, albeit in a parodic and self-effacing way...plus I was drunk.
There's even photos on Facebook, eekk! Saturday was spent in hangover recovery mode and Sunday I rode up to Epping Forest again to explore some more of the trails that the local mountain bike club maintain. There's some some super curvy downhill runs and the rain the previous day made things nice and slippery and icky.

I went to the moofies on Sunday night to see Elite Squad about the police special forces unit, BOPE in Rio. It was surprisingly good, very gritty and tense and a real eye-opener in to the rampant crime and corruption in Brazil as a result of the drug trade, and the ever-present violence it begets. It was interesting to compare it to the Hollywood abortion Wanted as both were hyper-violent but whereas the Americans glamorise violence, Elite Squad focuses on the consequences of violence and the pain that filters through to affect so many lives. Suffice it to say, I've no plans to holiday in Rio any time soon. I'm not suggesting it's a violent place but let's just say there's a good reason the cops all have their blood type sewn into their name tags.

I'm often accused of being immature, to which my standard response is, "Your FACE is immature!". Why does the word 'immature' have to have negative connotations? The inference being that you're acting like a child. I think it's an admirable quality, quite frankly, and would most likely consider it a compliment if I didn't know the patronising pusillanimous prick making the accusation was trying to insult me. Maturity is subjective: it can only be measured on someone else's scale, and if you don't like/care about that person then why care what they think of you? Whom of us is in any position to judge another? There's a huge difference between being immature and being irresponsible...saying, "I don't care what you think" is very different from "I don't give a fuck." Not that I necessarily care what anyone else thinks, but I freely admit to being immature...I like being immature. If more people stopped worrying about conforming to norms of behaviour they don't understand and just gave in to impulsiveness occasionally the world would be a much more relaxed and fun place in which to live.

Maturity isn't what differentiates children from grown-ups; what differentiates them is regret. Grown-ups, responsible grown-ups, play both sides of the responsibility see-saw - cause and effect, action and reaction, you reap what you sow, and all that. Accepting responsibility for your actions means accepting responsibility for the consequences those actions might cause. We can't always make the right decision...I don't even think there is such as thing as THE right decision...we just do the best we can with what we've got at the time, and always atone for your mistakes. Pride can be a seductive whisper in the ear of your Ego. Despite what people say, sometimes it can be too late to say "I'm sorry", but some of us just have to live with that.

I've stumbled upon something big...something so big it will change everything you thought you ever knew about men and women. Us men today have not been around very long; we are not the men who evolved from our cro magnon ancestors, we're like men v2.0. Many years ago women discovered that they didn't need men to reproduce so they killed all the men and only kept stores of jizz for making more girls. Things went pretty good for a while, everyone was nice to each other, the place was clean, everyone was making out with everyone else, it was hot! But then, women being women, they started turning on each other and getting bitchy cos they no longer had any men to whinge and nag at and they started killing each other off. This meant potential doom for womankind so they were forced to clone men but they made sure to modify us genetically just enough so that we would forever be under their control without even realising it. They control us with their mindgames and their perfumes and their vaginas, dudes! How's THAT for a conspiracy theory? Explains a lot, though. I reckon somewhere in the world, deep in a bunker, in the command centre of some secret chick cabal, on the desk of the top chick, a red warning light is going off...

I've got two weeks holiday starting later this week and was initially looking forward to some serious bludging and growing a sweet Porno Joe moe. But even I can't justify wasting that much time with idle slacking and self-abuse, so I'm making travel plans. First up I'm off to Dublin for a few days to catch up with some friends and replenish my Guinness levels. After that it's a weekend in Paris; I bought non-refundable train tickets for American Girlflen and I but obviously she's not going to want to come along now and it would be too much of a betrayal to take anyone else (Dr Phil had already booked a trip to Brussels, the selfish prick). So I figure I'll go le petits hobo and check it out by myself. I'm not sure Paris is the best place in the world to get over a breakup, but if nothing else I'll get to do my Edith Piaf impersonation in the one place in the world where someone might appreciate it. Plus I can hang out in the cafe where Hemingway and Jim Morrison used to get pissed and write their stuff.

In the new year I'm proposing a road trip of epic proportions. Brace yourself...Vegas. That's right, the city that, just like your mommas, is always open. Plus, Vegas is an anagram of 'vages'. Los Vages in Las Vegas '09. Who's with me, men?

4 August 2008

And look at me your mum...squatting pissed in a tube-hole at Tottenham Court Road...

Over the weekend I watched the whole first series of Underbelly. Phew, that's some good tele! Dare I say it, the best gangland cop dramatisation since Blue Murder...or Cop Shop. That chick who played Roberta Williams was awesome, although she reminded me a lot of Fiona. You've gotta love the Aussie spirit of television production which lets every single actor in the country have a role...kind of like the thespian equivalent of the lucky dip at the school fete. Who'd have thought Channel 9 would have the cohones to make something like that, let alone air it. And let me say how glad I am to see a bit of boosie back on the small screen. I understand people in Victoria still aren't allowed to watch it cos it's on past their bed time or something...

Bit of a quiet time on the work front as the leave year draws to a close and everyone desperately tries to use up their holidays or lose them in the changeover. There's a few people leaving the team so we had a work do at this Brazilian BBQ place (that's right, Brazilian...no one had any pubes). You grab yourself a plate of token salad and then spend the rest of the night fending off these dudes who bring over great hunks of roasted meat on swords and slice it off right there at your table. It was awesome! And SO tasty...it was a cavalcade of carnivorous goodness. There was a fair amount of groaning and straining to dislodge the morning after meat plug, but it was worth it.

Afterwards we went bowling, which is always tops fun, but even more enjoyable after your fifth dark and stormy when you decree that everyone has to do a little dance after each spare or strike. Fortunately, we were all on fire and the strikes were coming thick and fast, like a Japanese bukkake moofie. Unfortunately, most of us are white guys so we very quickly ran out of dances and had to suffice with poorly-timed high fives and lewd thrusting motions of our groinal areas.

On a sad note, Staci (that's not my name!) and I broke up. Truth be told, it was me who did all the breaking, and I feel like a real jerk. Admittedly, we're very different people and at first I thought that would work because if you're both the same it's like dating yourself, right? But it didn't seem natural, like I was trying too hard to overcome the differences, I just didn't feel it. Which is fucked up because she's an awesome lady: smart and pretty and funny and cute and sensible and honest and generous and sensitive. So why didn't I feel it? What are you, Sigmund Freud? How the feck do I know. I can't change the way I feel and for better or worse I have to trust my feelings...even if my insides are broken and stupid. Jerk!

The good news for her is that, if Fate is true to form, the next person she meets will be the love of her life...

On Sunday I needed to clear my head so I braved the rain and went for a ride to Harlow, about 20 miles north of Clapton. I'd bought Sweaty Betty some new shoes (ie. pedals...it's not easy to athropomorphise a bicycle, you know), pretty gold numbers that scream 'slut' but whisper 'with money'. Of course it pissed down the whole way there and, even though there's some lovely towns and countryside to ride through, you're still on the motorway so it's pretty dismal ride. Luckily, I was surrounded on both sides by Epping Forest so on the way back I went off road and hit the single trails and was able to make it almost all the way home without having to touch the tarmac. The rain eased up and there wasn't a great deal of mud so it turned into a really nice ride; the forest is deep and lush and quiet, the smell of the wet earth, enough hills to make you feel like you worked for it and enough lengthy downhill runs so you could let rip and feel like a ten year old on your first bike. I'm paying for it today, though, mainly in the calfal and goochal regions.

The bright sunny days are becoming fewer and the rain is falling all the more frequently these days. This is both a literal and a figurative observation...a change is coming, I fear.

31 July 2008

Blink and You'll Miss it...

Here's a blast from the past for you...any of you old school HTML 1.0 code monkeys remember the blink tag?
Check it out, in all its blinky irksome grand mal inducing glory.

I'm bringing back the blink, baby. Back from the brink, baby. I'm Colonel Clink, baby. Hooogaaan!

28 July 2008

It's navy blue, it's crimson lake...It takes the cake and no mistake...For goodness' sake take a look at those Blakes...

Are people who hate Xmas Santa-claustrophobic? Jeebus, can you believe we've rounded the Yuletide horn already? How time flies...

The Season of the Mooch kicked off to a great start this week with me winning tickets on the Perfect Commute Home. It was a promotional thingy for some Czech beer company who rented out a ferry and took us on a leisurely 3 hour cruise along the Thames from Canary Wharf to Putney Bridge and put on free booze and bbq. Below decks there was putting and Wii and massage action but who cares about that when you're up on the open deck sitting in the late afternoon sun drinking free Czech beer and eating bbq prawns and fillet stake by the trough-full. It was one of those magical activities that combines three of my favourite things: sloth, beer and mooching. And anything you do is immediately made more sophisticated and classy when you do it on a boat, even shouting drunken slurs and flashing your turgid dude at tourists as you sail under London's many bridges. Heh heh...turgid...

London can be a very proper and stuffy and "up itself" kind of town, but if you keep your eyes peeled every now and then you get treated to some fleetingly wonderful flashes of whimsy. I've taken to riding on the top deck of buses, mainly so I can sit in the front seat and pretend I'm driving (no one ever sits next to the dude who's going "brrmm! rawwwrrrr! beep beep! eeerrrrrkkk!") but also because it affords you a view of the city that you don't get at ground level. There's a rather creative (and seemingly demented) individual in my neck of the woods who fashions these bizarre creations out of potatoes studded with toothpicks and cotton buds and painted in nauseating kaleidascopic swirls of flouroscent paint, which they then throw on top of bus shelters to slowly rot and decay. I have no idea what sort of statement they're trying to make or who the intended audience is (the psychadelic mutant hedgehog apreciation society?) but I love them anyway. And you have to admire the tenacity and persistence of the artist as these things (sometimes two or three) are on top of EVERY bus shelter in my neighbourhood, perhaps 50 or more, and are replenished on a monthly basis. Perhaps not as quirky as the Tuberculosis festival but, then, unlikely to give you a horrible respitory disease. All it takes is a little bit of randomness and mystery to brighten one's day...

On Saturday American Girlflen and I went along to the British Motor Show. There was all manner of vehicular priaprism on display but that shit doesn't impress me...I'm only in it for the concept cars. It's remarkable to see what car manufacturers are abe to come up with when their imaginations are unfettered, particularly when you compare it to the inane carbage they produce for the consumer market. Hyundai and Kia are prime examples: I wouldn't vomit on any of their cars, let alone buy one, but the concept vehicles they had on display were kick arse. Mind you, there were still plenty of nicey pricey cars to see: Ferraris and Lambos and Zondas, oh my! They supposedly had a Bugatti Veyron there but I never saw it. What I did see was the brand new Ford Focus RS, the latest version of my beloved XR5, and hoo doggies is that car hot. I believe the appropriate automotive adjective is "PHWOAR!" They picked a particularly cacky shade of green for the paint job and the spoked alloys are way lamer than the previous snowflake design, but it's still an awesome car. Check out the numerous photos (and pass the dutchy) on the left-hand side...

On Sunday we went to see The Dark Knight, which I was cautiously excited about, but thank the baby Jeebus, it was awesome! It's all about Our Heath, of course, and he does a brilliant job, all creepy and psychotic, everything that Jack Nicholson could have been but wasn't. My only criticism is that the timing of the ending seemed all wrong with the Two-Face bit tacked on...after all the frenetic crazy Joker action it kind of wheezed to an end like an asthmatic with an armload of heavy shopping. And the scary Batman voice is a little bit cheesy...like he's chiding his Batpuppy for peeing on the Batrug. I was impressed with Heathy, what a way to go out. He did a super job...I was gonna say "a killer job" but I think it's still too soon for puns, don't you?

I had a day off the other week and was out riding in Hackney. I've taken to checking out more of the local area as Sweaty Betty allows me to venture further afield than I normally would on foot. The traffic was horrendous, worse than usual, and backed up for almost 5 or 10 miles. As I got closer to the thick of it, it appeared the police had taped off a major intersection which forced me to get off and walk along the footpath (and don't the pedestrians just love that!). But as I cleared the intersection and prepared to remount, I saw they'd taped off another four or five intersections...almost the entire length of the street. Normally they only do that when there's been a serious car crash but I couldn't see any wrecks or debris or anything. If they'd cleared the cars away then why keep the street blocked off? Cops were posted at each subsequent intersection, and every now and then there were cardboard boxes and plastic skylight domes placed at various intervals on the road. Had there been some sort of storm damage, I thought? Hardly warrants closing down a huge stretch of road, just clean it up already. Clearly there was no threat from structural damage as pedestrians were free to move about along the pavement on either side of the road. As I got to Hackney hospital I saw an orange and yellow two-man tent pitched next to a bus shelter and suddenly it became horribly clear. I'd seen a similar tent on the tele only the night before on the news: police forensics set them up at crime scenes to protect sensitive evidence or to cover a body. It appeared that some local lad had been stabbed further up the street and the boxes and domes were covering up splatters of his blood as he ran along the street. He made it all the way to the steps of Hackney Hospital before he collapsed, judging by the vast amount of blood that neither the tent nor the numerous cardboard boxes strewn about were able to completely conceal. It covered an area of perhaps 3 or 4 metres in diameter and was traced through with swirls and smears as though one or a number of people had writhed or slid about, like some demented abstractionist finger painting. It's disconcerting to see someone else's blood, particularly in large quantities, because it never looks quite real...it seems too dark and syrupy...but somehow you know exactly what it is. All I could think as I stared at the place where this kid's life literaly flowed away was that this was no place to die. Put aside the irony of dying on the steps of a hospital, but to die here of all places in the dirt and the glass and the rubbish and the dog shit and the fossilised chewing gum and the empty Stella cans. Who was this kid? Did he live? Surely no one can lose that much blood and survive. Did he die alone? Was he afraid? Was someone holding his hand and telling him it was gonna be ok? Or did the taunts of his attackers usher him into the Great Whatever? There are few constants in life, other than it is short and random and cruel...all of which can be succinctly semaphored by a congealed bloodstain on the footpath. We can choose where we live but we can't choose where we die.

Speaking of knife crime, how's the chick getting stabbed down at Charny shops? Go Charny!