9 November 2009

And now I’m back in home sweet Hackney...walking through the rubbish in the street...smile at the lunatics who rant and rave at me...

This cohabitation thing's a lark, innit? Now that my stuff has arrived from Oz I feel like I've settled in to Salette's place, and feel more at home in East London than I have anywhere else. This really is one of the livliest and most interesting parts of the City and I can't see me wanting to live anywhere else but Hackney, nar'wha'i'meen?. Sure it has it's problems like rubbish and knife crime and appalling teenage hipster fashion, but you get that to varying degrees regardless of where you go and frankly it just adds to charm. Plus,the local street punks are at least civilised enough to hold true to the old adage of "you don't shit where you eat" and are considerate enough to travel to other boroughs to do their stabbing up. Typhoid and swans, Clarice...it all comes from the same place. Like a bruise accentuating hidden beauty...like an orchid growing out of a dog turd.

We've got everything we could want practically right on our doorstep. Columbia Road flower market is an olfactory explosion on Sundays and is right next to Brick Lane with all the curry and counter culture you can shake a stick at, plus a new bowling alley opened up last year with a kick arse 50's style American diner. It's an easy bike ride to the Castle climbing centre and I can walk to work in 20 minutes and from our office you can see a swanky high-rise apartment reputed to be owned by one of the Pet Shop Boys, presumably so they can escape from inner...inner city...inner...city...pressure.

On Saturdays we walk down the canal, past the lock and over the bridge to Broadway Market which throngs with people of all cultures and creeds, perusing the multitude of stalls selling everything from cupcakes to cast-off clothes, records to risotto, fresh fish to farty fromage, veggies to Vienna sausage. The video store has a leather tree for sitting on and hand-sewn tapestries of classic cheesy foreign moofies; there's a fresh fish shop just opened called Fin and Flounder, but you better get there early 'cos the queue is out the door; our local is a truly awesome Belgian pub called the Dove which is always heaving day or night; and our perennial favourite French deli, La Bouche, which, along with their kick arse les produits alimentaires, provides endless material for hilarious gags about their bags.

At the top of the street is the spot where Salette and I had our first pash on that magical rainy August night (siiigh), which by day is home to the numerous homeless dudes who sell stolen bike parts for beer money and fight. This leads into a lovely park called London Fields, one of many such green areas around us which on rare sunny days really make you appreciate the fleeting beauty of this part of London. A little to the east you've got Victoria Park, which is massive, and south there's Haggerston Park which borders on Hackney Road, the namesake of our neighbourhood.

A walk along Hackney Road is an abject lesson in the dichotomy that is East London. It's an eclectic blend of old and new, stylish and shabby, classy and skanky, that comes together in a glorious urbane pastiche. The old abandoned children's hospital is a magnificently run down and spooky as fuck on dark windy nights. Right next door is the Hackney City Farm who host wonderful fireside dinners using only produce and livestock raised on their land. Gambling is de rigeur amongst the working class locals so you find betting shops dotted all around the place, usually in the nicest and oldest buildings. There's a huge bingo hall called Mecca which, in the most delicious irony, is directly east of the mosque on Kingsland Road, so when the Muslims go to pray they truly are facing Mecca. Right next door is a cafe and recording studio called The Premises where Unkle recorded their last album, and two doors down from there is the HQ of the UK Hell's Angels, who recently had a huge gathering and closed off the whole street for miles in either direction. Sci-fi author and culture geek Cory Doctrow lives somewhere nearby, and pretty much everyone in Iron Maiden was born and raised around here.

The climbing is progressing well. I did my first lead climb the other week (where you clip the rope in to a series of anchor points up the wall, as opposed to top roping where the rope is already anchored at the single point at the very top) which was exhilarating...makes you realise how much faith you're putting in to this thin piece of twisted cord and brings back the old fears. But it's nothing compared to outdoor climbing on an actual sandstone rock face. Phewee! that was an adrenalin trip. A completely different experience and aesthetic to indoors...I needed a serious montage to get me through some of the trickier climbs. Once you're up there there's no colour-coded handholds to show you where to go next and the sandstone is like a cheese grater on any exposed skin. The only way is up (baby), there's no woosing out and coming back down the rope...if Rocky 5 has taught us anything it's that there's neither an easy way out nor a short cut home. The new-comer to our ragtag band of misfits, little aussie Mikey, is a total natural, almost freakishly good, thereby quickly earning our respect and scorn in equal measure.

Xmas will be in London this year, our first one together, so we're having a quiet one with egg nog and matching reindeer sweaters and the Masters of the Universe xmas special. I'm planning on cooking up a feast but it will be vegetarian on account of the hippy, so we're having a New Years dinner party at our place for all the hip young things which will give me a chance to unleash the cooking fury on some truly scrumptious Yule tide fare. Once the madness has passed, Salette's taking me to New York in January for a bit of a holiday. She's attending some arts festival and I'm gonna try and fit in some sight-seeing with her mom who's flying in from Rochester to meet me. I'm so excited! New York's always held such a mystique for me so it will be interesting to see if its reputation hold up to the the cold hard light of modern America. If nothing else I hope to get a sense of whether or not I'd be able to live there.

Following on from Azza's truly inspirational efforts last year, I've convinced the guys at work to run a team for Movember in support of men's health. Of course I'm leading the charge with my awesome trucker 'tashe, which you can see for yourself when we get the first progress photos posted. Check it out at http://www.foviance.com/what-we-think/moustache-revival-takes-hold-of-foviance-men/ and follow the link to the Movember donation page and sponsor me £2 or something. It's for a good cause and if I get £50 in donations I go in to the draw for a trip to Finland to go reindeer sledding and baby seal clubbing and all that. Go on, do a brother a solid and chip in a little something. Every donation of £2 or over gets a free prostate exam for the lads, and a free moustache ride for the ladies...you know I'm good for it.

21 September 2009

What remorseless emperor commands me? I no longer govern my soul, Completely immersed in darkness, As I turn my body away from the sun..

I've been seeing a lot of art and culture and shit over the past few months: Romeo Castelluci's interpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy in three separate performances - Paradiso, Inferno and Purgatorio, The Reverend Billy (anti-shopping evangelist), PJ Harvey (sadly past her prime), Antony and the Johnsons (one of Salette's faves), a bunch of Shaolin monks choreographed by some European physical theatre/dance legend, and an advance screening of the Yes Men movie, 'The Yes men Fix the World', where we scored a copy of their fake NY times, which was a real coup.

But the highlight of it all has to be finally - FINALLY - getting to see Mastodon at Islington Academy.

Tickets sold out almost immediately and the fucking ticket touts were straight away selling them online for 3 times the face value, c*nts! There really need to be laws against reselling, these bastards hire mobs students to trawl the internet all day long and buy up tickets to shows so they can mark them up and cash in on genuine fans' willingness to pay whatever it costs to see the artists they love. I steadfastly refuse to buy tickets from resellers because no way am I going to perpetuate their mother fucking greed, but I was really torn because I fucking love Mastodon and I missed seeing them last time. Well low and behold, the Heavens opened up like a holy zipper and drenched my face with their divine money shot when Salette surprised me with a ticket the night before the gig as an early birthday present. Are you friggin' kidding me? Just when you thought the most awesome American Girlflen in the whole friggin' world couldn't get anymore awesomer, BAM! she whips out her Spice Weasel and cranks it up a notch. I'm still geeking out about that one.

One a side note, given the sorry state of the British summer, it seems somewhat obvious to spout the old idiom, "it never rains it pours", but around that time I won a free weekend pass (plus camping permit) to the massive Sonisphere metal festival...but I couldn't go. Gggrrr! Would have been good to see Mastodon again and maybe Alice In Chains (sans Lane Staley) but friggin' Metallica were headlining so fuck that.

But I digress...

The Mastodon show was fantastic. After suffering through a truly awful and instantly forgettable cock-rock guitar/drum duo, the second support hit the stage in a flurry of tight jeans, denim vests, scraggly beards and beer bellies. If you've never heard of Valient Thorr, then by Odin's beard you've got to check them out cos' they're absolutely fucking awesome. A 5- or 6-piece (hard to tell, there was so many dudes on stage) old school kick-arse middle-aged metal dudes from Canada who look like that bunch of stoners you knew in high school who were always in a band but were never quite good enough to make it, except these guys got good. Really fucking good. Initially, I dismissed their beer-drinking frat-boy image and light-weight opening number as either party metal or a joke band, but they pulled out better and better material with each song and delivered a really metal performance. They were busting out tasty riffs and crunching melodies and swirling solos from high up on the fret board, whilst all around swirled beardy-weirdy lyrics and solid thumping drums and they totally nailed me. So much so I bought their latest CD from a dude in the hallway for £7 which features a huge bearded cosmic guy with a scythe fighting a gigantic screeching cat/eel monster, dragging it back into the swirling galactic void from which it emerged. Loud, sweaty, hairy and totally metal. Oh yeah!

Mastodon hit the stage in their usual understated fashion: no pretence, no fancy gear or stupid clothes, no between-song banter, no encores, just get up there and play the fuck out of it, all scraggly hair and manky beards and a shit-load of hard-core arse-kicking metal. Seeing these guys live is hard to describe but awesome to behold. The energy and intensity they bring forth makes it seem like they're not so much playing the music as channelling it on behalf of some higher power...like they're conduits for something larger than all of us and it's only their consummate skills as musicians that contains the incredible forces they wield and prevents us all from being consumed in a white-hot conflagration of molten scorching metal. Always a cut above the rest of the pack, with their new album, Crack the Skye, they really have lifted it to the next level. Intricately crafted songs, complex arrangements, unbelievable melodies, solid thematic constructs...such is the power and scope of their music that you can't help but feel elevated and diminished at the same time, like staring into a distant dying sun. They played pretty much all the new album, which just gets better with ever listen, but then after a brief break came back on stage to play 3 or 4 songs from all of their previous albums. All in all they played for about 2 hours, I don't care who you are you won't find better value for your metal dollar than that!

My only regret is they didn't play 'Blood and Thunder', but you can't have everything. But the biggest downer of all is I'm clearly getting too old for this sort of thing as I've lost a noticeable degree of hearing in my right ear as a result of the sonic onslaught I endured. But to quote that guy Tom who got caught perving on Lady Godiva (the eponymous Peeping Tom) and had his eyes burned out by red-hot iron, it was totally fuckin' worth it!

27 August 2009

Panic in the streets of London, panic in the streets of Birmingham...I wonder to myself, could I ever be sane again?

Blimey! It's all go in Blighty! I've been out of action for a while, down in the trenches, face down in the muck. So heaps to catch up on.

We had the G20 and accompanying protest, which was big news. Salette and I went along to a demonstration called Climate Camp which, due to it's peaceful nature, received virtually no press coverage...that was reserved for the violent stuff. All those meddling punk-arse kids with their black hoodies and make-out parties and ping-pong machines! It was quite a bittersweet irony to see nouveau-hippies protesting the pollution of the earth while throwing their ciggie butts and rubbish all over the streets, and anti-war protesters throwing bottles at police. Mind you, people on all sides of the fracas behaved appallingly with bankers waving £100 notes out the window at protesters, and the cops beating some old guy to death who wasn't even part of the protest...he was just walking home from work.

There's been plenty of celebrity sightings recently: Viviene Westwood at Climate Camp; Hugo Weaving (again), this time in Bunhill Fields cemetery just near my work; met The Yes Men (well, one of them) at a special preview screening of their new moofie; met Reverend Billy in a park in west London after he attempted to exorcise the Westfield mall with his anti-shopping gospel choir and was forcefully evicted. But the creme de la creme (of the chess world) would have to be Nick Cave. Yes, I shit you not! Salette and I took the train to Brighton for the arts festival and we sat one seat over from him. He was clearly trying not to be noticed by hiding behind a book and pretending to read. The only problem was it was HIS OWN BOOK. There was a picture of him on the back cover, for fuck's sake! And that wasn't even the weirdest part. Hardly anyone on the train seemed to notice him, apart from Salette and me and a bunch of French goth girls who tried to surreptitiously take his picture, so he pretty much kept to himself even though the train was packed. I was next to the window so could see him reflected in the glass and Salette could see him through the gap in her seat, and at one point in the journey we both looked over to see him hunkered against his window and weeping. Not simply an errant bijoux tear sliding down the cheek, but full-blown shuddering, fist-in-the-mouth pantomime sob wrack job. Just as suddenly as it began it was over and he continued with his reading. I guess that must have been the weeping train...the train in which to weep. I passed him on my way out and asked, "Hey! Aren't you Iggy Pop?" and he started crying again, the big baby. We got to chatting and I was amazed to discover that during his troubled teenage years he refused to respond to anyone unless they called him 'Catherine Nolan'. Who'd've thought?

Brighton was a mixed bag. As a seaside town it's as quaint as it gets in the UK but sadly it's quite touristy and tacky and full of fat drunken yobbos fighting and spewing and pissing in the streets. So basically London with seagulls. I've actually been there before when cycling with Dr Phil but I had no idea it was Brighton. We were there to see Diamonda Galas (whom Salette loved but I didn't care for) but the best part was dinner at her favourite vegetarian restaurant in the world, Terre a Terre, which was amazing. The food was divine, so much so that it's been added to my top 5 best ever dining experiences.

It's old news now, but for those of you who missed it I flew back to Canberra in early June after receiving news that my Dad was diagnosed with lymphoma. It was a huge shock, to say the least. Even after all these years I still imagine him through the lens of a 6 year-old as invincible. We'd had a falling out prior to my leaving for the UK and hadn't spoken for nearly 3 years so I wasn't sure what the reception would be. Imagine all the hoary cliches about a frantic mercy dash from halfway across the world, the tearful reunion, all that. After some initial reluctance he agreed to see me and thankfully we were able to put the past aside and reconcile. I'd like to think that this is a load off his mind and might go some way to improving his peace of mind, if not his physical condition. If nothing else, it's one less thing to stress about and hopefully put him in a better frame of mind to deal with the treatment.

Thanks to all of you who sent me birthday wishes. And sucks to all of you who forgot (you know who you are!). Salette made me feel very special, taking me out to dinner, buying me some cool 50's bowling shirts and even baked me a cake (the first one in years and the best one ever!)..all of which was really nice. Sadly, I didn't hear anything from the kids (the only two people I really wanted to hear from). It's not the first time they've forgotten, but devastating all the same. I guess this is karma for all the times I forgot my parents' birthdays.

Things have been really hectic since I got back. I seem to be constantly working on three separate projects at once, many of which take me out of London to client sites in bum-fuck podunk hicksville semi-rural areas. It's nice to be busy, seeing as a lot of our competitors are cutting staff or closing down, so I'm not taking anything for granted, but that doesn't stop me from complaining. The Holiday Inn at Lancaster is like a cross between an old people's home and Purgatory...only smellier...and the food's worse.

I've been through something of a mental and spiritual readjustment since coming back from Oz. I was in an emotional funk for some time and really feeling a bit lost. I felt like I was able to resolve a lot of issues which have been weighing heavy on my mind since I left for the UK, which was painful and upsetting at times but something I needed to do, for my own peace of mind if nothing else. But now that I've closed off that chapter of my past I feel somehow adrift, cut off from all that defines who I am. I'm a creature of the present: I've closed the door on the past and am now looking for the door to the future.

The problem is, I don't have a clear view of what the future is yet. I know that whatever happens Salette and I will be together...she's the one constant in this complex equation...but it's really hard to make plans because of my financial situation. As it stands, it'll take me about 10 years to pay off the debts I inherited from the divorce and the sale of the house, and I won't be saving anything during that time. I feel like I'm treading water in a deep dark well and I won't be able to get out for a long time. As part of moving in together, I gave Salette the full picture of my financial situation and it's pretty gloomy. It's getting harder and harder to get by: London was already one of the most expensive cities to live in before the credit crunch, and things keep getting more expensive. Half my salary goes in loan repayments and child support each month, and the other half only just covers rent and food, both of which have sky rocketed. I've exhausted my savings, have no capacity to save, and no spare cash for dinners out or trips away or any of the things you're supposed to be able to do in a burgeoning romance. Understandably, she's nervous about the risks of being dragged down with such a huge debt, the limits it will place on our life together, and my ability to share the living expenses...as indeed am I. Jinkies, it sure sucks being a grown up, huh?

Predictably, all of the above manifested in a huge bout of self-doubt and hopelessness, and I imagined that Salette was going to run a million miles just like every one else has when they learned of my messy past. But she didn't run: she gave me a hug and told me she loved me and that we'd figure out a way to get through it together. Just when I think she couldn't get any more wonderful, she continues to amaze me.

One Saturday night about a month ago we were watching a moofie and she ran to the loo, kicking the skirting board and breaking two of her toes. Not the same one as the previous time but on the same foot: the little one was pointing out at a right angle, it was hideous! We went to the emergency room at 11:30pm and spent 6 hours waiting for them to x-ray and set her foot in a cast. What a nightmare: the place was crammed with paralytic teenage girls, stab victims and crazy old people...and that was a quiet night. She needed to stay in to see the orthopedic dude later that morning so I stayed with her until they got her in a bed and finally got home around 5am just as the sun was coming up. An orthopedic consultant finally came by around 12 the next day and without even looking at her chart or x-rays told her to come back in a month, which was Monday this week when the cast finally came off. Hooray!

This past weekend heralded a momentous occasion when we moved in together. That's right, it's a co-habitation, bitches! It's all very exciting but I'd be lying if I said a little bit of wee wasn't coming out, too. But it's mostly excited wee. It's been a long long time since I co-habited with someone (other than flatmates) and she's been living alone for about the same length of time, so even though we're both a little scared, it feels right. My furniture and stuff is currently on a slow boat from Oz and arrives in a couple of weeks, which I'm hoping will bring a sense of permanence to my life, both in London and with Salette. Enough of the feckless drifting, it's time to put down some roots (ooh err, Rodney!).

We celebrated our first official anniversary recently (we've unofficially and goofily counted each passing month as an anniversary) by returning to the underground bar where we had our very first date. I sent her an anonymous card in the mail saying simply: "Friday 14th August. 7pm. Shunt Bar. London Bridge. Come alone. Tell no one." Which is romantic as fuck, clearly, but in retrospect it was quite an assumption on my part that she would realise it was from me, or that she would receive it at all. Thankfully she was right there right on time on and in the exact same spot as we first laid eyes on each other. The whole shebang went down perfectly...it was freakin' magical!

With all the talk of moving in over the past few months, when positing about our life together the topic invariably drifts to the future and where we see ourselves "settling down" as it were. Neither of us feel London is the place for us...despite it's charms and opportunities it has little more to offer in the way of work or lifestyle improvements. The question then becomes: where? Europe is the logical (and most attractive) choice but as neither of us speak the language(s) it severely limits our options. Even if one of us were lucky enough to find a job where being monolingual was acceptable, there's Buckley's and None of finding two. Oz and NZ are both attractive options (burgeoning and respected art scenes, great lifestyle choices) but they're simply too far away, both culturally and geographically, from the rest of the world. For me it would feel too much like a backward step; I've only seen a glimpse of the world and I want to see more before I return (if I ever do). Which really only leaves one viable option: Ummurica. I can pretty much work anywhere so the hunt is on for Salette to find an exciting and challenging job in the US arts scene which capitalises on (and is worthy of) her skills and experience. Given the current state of the States, culturally at least, this is understandably a big ask as the arts are neither supported nor funded at anything near European levels. Add to that the terminal addiction to mainstream mass-marketed brain-dead entertainment tripe gushing from the corporate-sponsored teat, and the options become considerably more scant. Frankly, the only viable option is New York, but there's a whole swathe of hurdles to overcome before we get serious about a move, not least of all figuring out how to live in each other's pockets.

There's been some really nice weather lately, but not nearly enough. Talk of the return of the Great British Summer has been greatly exaggerated as the Meteorological Office revised their official forecast for a "BBQ summer" to "possibly the wettest summer on record." People were miffed, I can tell you. There was almost rioting in the streets and talk of burning weathermen in effigy only it was too wet to get a fire going. It's rare to see British people being passionate about something, and while complaining about stuff gets them close, complaining about the weather really pushes them over the edge. It's a beautiful thing to see...

Salette's off to the Venice Bienale next week, and then I'm meeting her after that in Bologna for a week of wine, food and hanky panky, Italian style. We've been learning Italian from a free CD we got in the Sunday paper and it's actually pretty good. I'm starting to get the hang of sentence structure and conjugation of verbs and such, and I realise just how shit English really is. Mi dispiace! Voglio comprarlo se non รจ troppo caro...


31 March 2009

I'm on a Mexican Radio...I'm on a Mexican wo-oah radio...

Hola, muchachos!

This week finds me back on the hamster wheel, wondering if I ever really went on holidays as the memory fades from my mind faster than the tan from my pasty limbs. To put it succinctly: Mexico was flippin' awesome! I'd love to show you pics but unfortunately my camera got nicked. I shan't bore you with the full police report but suffice it to say that cocktails and inattention were involved in equal measure and a fair share of the blame rests with muggins here.

Theft aside, the rest of the holiday was bloody marvelous. We stayed in an eco-lodge in beach-side cabanas right in the middle of a sea turtle habitat. Wooden everything, palapa roof, compost toilets, solar- and wind- generated electricity, the fecund verdant jungle out our back door and the crystal azure ocean out the front. The sand was the consistency of creamed butter and sugar, and there were crews of Mexican dudes out at dawn each morning raking the beach and clearing away all the rubbish that washes up during the night (there's a lot) but surprisingly no sea shells at all.

We spent most of our time reading in the glorious sunshine, swimming in the sea, drinking cocktails as the sun went down, lovin' the heck out of each other and falling asleep to the sound of the ocean right outside our door. A typical day would entail rising with the sun (no clocks or calendars so you quickly lose all track of time), a walk along the beach to breakfast, a swim and a read for a few hours, happy hour and lunch at Playa Azul or Zebra, a quick shower then happy hour at Om or Zulum, walk along the beach at sunset to dinner at Zamas or Margarita. Salette speaks Spanish muy bien and was teaching me bits and pieces. My challenge for the holiday was to order dinner all by myself and I did it on, like, the third day or something: "Mi gustaria la tacos de pescado, por favor" AND I managed to order drinks while she was in the dunny: "Dos mas margaritas pronto, mi amigo! Arriba!"

I found out that there are words in Spanish which sound very similar but mean completely different things which makes for hilarious misunderstandings. Like when the waiter asked if we both spoke Spanish, Salette meant to refer to me (mi hombre) but instead said "mi hambre" which means "my hungry". Or when we went to an Italian place (Italian is big in Mexico for some reason) and she asked if there was much garlic ("ajo") in the sauce but instead said "ojos" which means eyes. Aye chihuahua! Still, you have to love a language which has about a thousand ways to say hello and goodbye depending on the time of day: ola, buenos dias, buenos tardes, buenos noches, vemos luego, hasta la vista, hasta manana.

On the whole the food was disappointing, but when it was good it was REALLY flippin' good. The place we spent most of our time is called Zamas and is run by a couple of ex-San Franciscans who really know their stuff. Not that it's hard to shine given the tourist-friendly garbage most of the restaurants are spewing up, but we were amazed at how little is made of the fresh local produce and Mexican traditional cooking. Thankfully Zamas came to the rescue with their amazing fish tacos and kick-arse margaritas, and the complimentary guacamole was divine. The place we stayed had a quaint little restaurant called Casa Banana, which wins the award for best name, but sadly their food was not that great. Although I will admit that their home-made bread was one of the best things on the beach and a staple for breakfast everyday with melted butter and coffee.

I'm as far from my next holiday as it's possible to get, but every day that passes brings me close and closer to the end of August when I meet up with Salette in Venice for the tail end of the Biannale, from where we will head off to Bologna for a week of gastronomic gloriousness.

The pain of losing Sweaty Betty is still fresh and raw, like emotional sushi. Many's the night I have laid awake tortured by nightmares of her treatment at the hands of the vicious sweaty ne'er-do-wells who abducted her, her innocence and beauty violated and subjugated by their every sordid villainous whim. In a desperate attempt to assuage my suffering I've done what any rational-minded individual would do...I bought another bike. Hooray for materialism! Luckily for me, my new work is part of the cycle to work scheme so I can salary sacrifice exactly the same bike I had before, Specialized Rockhopper, but this one (which I have named Lucy Goosey) is an '09 model and is 100 squid cheaper than the '08. I pick her up later this week, all going well.

The G20 summit is due to kick off this week as are the accompanying protests by the legions of hippy commie pinko lefty leso homos (as my dad would say) that are allegedly flooding into the city to disrupt the daily affairs of the polite folk and basically cause affront to all that's good and decent with their patchouli stinking work-shy shenanigans. Pretty much everyone has been warned to avoid coming in to the city, but those who must have been told to not wear a suit so as to avoid being made a target by blood-thirsty treehuggers. The police are on high alert for a violent confrontation and army vehicles have started appearing in side streets and back alleys close to where the action is supposed to kick off.

For fuck's sake! Just think, if the same level of repression and determination that goes into suppressing these protests was applied to the fucktards in the banks and governments that caused this whole financial mess in the first place, there wouldn't be any protests 'cos there wouldn't be any fucking mess.

It's supposed to be getting warmer now that Spring has sprung although you wouldn't know it with the amount of rain we've been getting. Still, now that Lucy Goosey has entered my life I'm feeling the yearning to get back out amongst the glory of nature and shred the fuck out of it. Look for me where ever dudes in sexy bike gear are found...

6 March 2009

Down St. Earl Street, Thursday night...In the city that sounds nice...Talking shit with my colleagues...Did we do the same degree?

All right? How's about ya? What are you like?

Prior to Xmas last year a Westfield shopping mall opened up in west London and people here went absolutely nuts about it. Me and NOAG (Number One American Girlflen) went to check it out and were all like, "What's the big deal, like, I mean, really?" There aren't any actual mall-type malls over here, Certainly not in London, so seeing the expressions of drooling awe at this shrine to materialism on people's slack-jawed mugs was reminiscent of the day when Belco Mall first opened it's doors...back in 19-flippin-78! Come on, people, this is not a revolution in shopping technology. It's just a collection of the same flashy trashy stores selling the same over-priced crap as they were before, only instead of being arranged horizontally at street level they've stacked them in a box. It was difficult to get zoning permission for such a monstrosity so it's in a pretty remote location in the North West. In fact, regardless of where you live in London, in order to get to the mall you have to travel past multiple instances of the exact same stores the mall has. Understandably, non-mall business owners are worried because people like shiny new gimmicks and the parking is free. Frankly, anything which draws the slavering hordes away from the places I go and into a convenient location easily identified by fighter planes from the air is fine by me.

What do you think popped up over Edison's head when he got the idea for the light bulb? Salette thinks it was a candle but I think it was some weird-arse prototype light bulb and he was all like, "Forsooth! What the fuck is that?"

How crazy were the Victorian bushfires? I fired up news.com.au for the first time in ages to catch up on what's going on back home and BAM! How horrifying and tragic for all those people. Thankfully Phil and the Gang, who live right in the middle of the fire zone, had the sense to get out when the going was good and ride out the firestorm in Melbourne. We all know bushfire season is part and parcel with living in a hot dry climate but 200 people dead? Come on! And you know who's to blame, don't you? No, not Baby Jeebus...it's smokers. Smokers and teenagers, what with their arson and their lung cancer and their ping pong machines.

There's a bunch of awesome music festivals coming up later this year, and I was super stoked to learn that Mastodon, Lamb of God and Machine Head will all be playing on the same bill at Sonisphere in August. Still reeling from that bombshell, I then learned that Faith No More are reforming to play at the Download festival in June. Are you flippin' kidding me? And as if that wasn't mind-blowing enough, I THEN found out that The Jesus Lizard are reforming and playing their first gig at the Forum in London! As Robin used to say, "Holy fucking shit, Batman!"

I got to go back to Dublin for a couple of days for a project with a new client. Just before I left I got an email from one of my flatmates informing me my bike got nicked Bastards! We live in a secure complex and it was chained to a metal drainpipe in our back yard which can only be accessed from inside the house...how the feck did they get in? Surveying the scene with my ultra-violet CSI semen light, I deduced that someone from the neighbouring block of flats (who have a clear view of our yard from their upper floors) jumped the shared fence, ripped the drainpipe off the wall and scarped back over the fence with Sweaty Betty in their evil clutches. As pissed off as I am about the whole thing, you've got to admire that kind of tenacity. No doubt poor Betty has been stripped down to her parts and flogged at Brick Lane along with the multitude of other stolen bikes. Can we all please have a moment of silence for the recently departed...Ave, Betty!

My plans for a visit to Oz have, alas, come to naught. There were too many timing conflicts and the NZ leg with Salette proved more expensive than we originally anticipated due to our offer of "free" accommodation ending up being for just a couple of nights and not the entire time as we first thought. So with our leave approved and our hopes of finding some sun fading faster than the advance for John Howard's memoirs, we spent three frantic weeks working on a backup Plan. It's been a really long time since either of us had to plan a trip with another person so it got off to a comical start, as we politely tried to accommodate each other's wants and needs. The comedy quickly turned to frustration, though, as the deadline approached and we still couldn't decide where we wanted to go, whence ensued a brief period of selfishness where we went only for things we knew each other would hate. In the end a happy medium was reached and on Sunday morning we jet off to Mexico for two weeks in an off the grid eco-hotel on the Yucatan Peninsula. Arriba! Our cabana is sandwiched between secluded beach and virgin jungle and there's no electricity other than what they generate through solar and wind. There's a biosphere nearby as well as Mayan ruins but the whole point of it is that there's nothing to do but sleep, swim, read books in the sun and shag your arse off, all punctuated with bouts of delicious Mexican food and killer margaritas. How ever will I cope? Maybe an occasional application of sand to the genital will take the edge off the bliss...

Jimbo was kind enough to send me a bunch of pics from back in the band days. Man, talk about a trip down memory lane. The fashion, the hairstyles, the hats! Check it out on my Facebook profile and try and control your envy at just how rockin' I was back then: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=67573&id=752123545. If you don't use Facebook then I'll post them on my Picasa site later.

3 February 2009

I pack my suit in a bag, I'm all dressed up for Prague...I'm all dressed up with you, and dressed up for him too...

Why isn't everything glow in the dark? That's some kick-arse technology right there and it's just going to waste. Imagine if you went back in time and showed some glow in the dark stuff to cavemen...they'd lose their primordial shit! I bet that's exactly how Jesus got his big break...

I daresay you've heard about the wild and crazy weather over here where we had the heaviest snow in almost 20 years on Sunday night. I looked out the window and the whole world was blanketed in a soft fluffy doona. I went outside and it was so still and quiet, and the sky was really bright...it was weird and spooky and magical. I made snowballs and threw them at the neighbours' windows until my hands fell off from frost bite and Salette made me come inside. It's so amazing! But as if that wasn't amazing enough, how awesome to wake up Monday morning and finding ourselves snowed in...the whole city got a Snow Day! They closed the schools, took all the buses off the road, trains weren't running and pretty much everyone was told to stay home and play in the snow. Officially it was a work from home day, but with most of my notes and materials back on my desk there was a limit to how much I could do. So after a few hurried hours beavering away (ooh err!) Salette and I downed tools, rugged up and headed out to play in the snow, as per orders. We had a snowball fight and made our first snowman together...more of a totem offering to the snow gods to just keep on doing what they're doing. Good job, man! There were quite a lot of people doing the same thing but still a large number who whinged and complained about the inconvenience of it all and casting about for someone to blame. I felt like a little kid surrounded by grumpy grown ups who actually resented being forced to stay home from work. Sometimes I can't believe this fucking place! For people who are accustomed to snow I guess this all sounds a bit childish and naive but screw you flinty-hearted jerkoffs! i love that all it takes is some frozen water to make me realise that the world is an amazing and beautiful place, and that things like snow and wonder and whimsy and love and all that crap exist if you're prepared to go out amongst it all and enjoy. Of course it all wore off pretty quickly the next day when the remaining snow (and there was a lot of it) froze up into hard-packed ice and the whole world looked like the back of your freezer when you haven't defrosted it for a few years.

When it comes to gifts, I'm not a materialistic person...for me it truly is the thought that counts. The gift you receive from a friend at Xmas time is a clear indicator of how well they know you and the esteem in which they hold you. Case in point: Clara bought me some super posh fancy schmancy cupcakes from Fortnum & Mason to enjoy as part of my solo Xmas lunch. Dr Phil bought me a pink jelly butt plug. Nice.

Speaking of Dr Phil, a few weekends ago Salette and I headed off to Prague for Dr Phil's 30th Birthday Extravaganza (he's just a baby!) We were booked to fly out on Friday night but delays on the stoopid Gatwick Express train meant we were 35 minutes late and 6 minutes late getting to the check-in desk so we missed out. We were booked on the first flight out next morning so headed back to my place for a few minutes sleep before getting a cab back to the airport at 4am. I don't know how many of you have been to Gatwick airport before but one of the trade offs of getting a £20 flight with a budget airline is that you're forced to employ every known mode of transport in order to get to your friggin plane. Cabs, robot trains, buses, hovercraft, skateboards, piggy backs from itinerant Polish migrant workers, I'm not kidding. Thankfully we got there alive and managed a day of sight-seeing before the party that night. Prague is just as lovely and whimsical as everyone makes out, particularly in winter when it's shrouded in mist, however I can't help but feel its glory days have passed. There's a fair bit of tarnish to the shine and decay to the grandeur these days, which some how seems fitting for a former communist stronghold, but the glory and pride of the old days has been plastered over with the tacky posters of tourism and materialism as the Praguians sell out every bit of their history and their heritage and flog it to western tourists with equal measures of vigour and disdain.

The party was a real eastern European knees up in a sweet little cafe, where the accolades flowed as freely as the Czech beer and the tears, although it was hard to tell if the latter was the result of the heart-felt accolades for the guest of honour or the choking miasma of cigarette smoke. The place was packed with Dr Phil's friends and family and although I've not known him nearly as long as most of the people there, I felt welcomed and wanted and part of something much larger than any of us and all of us put together (Phil has that effect on you, the creepy bastard). Plus I had a smoking hot American Girlflen on my arm upon whom everybody was perving. Check out the photos...

I read to my infinite dismay that some movie studio is planning a remake of Predator with Robert Rodriguez (of Mariachi and Grindhouse fame) to direct. Come on, Hollywood, seriously? What's with this remaking of classic movies all the time? Does Citizen Kane need to be remade to bring it up to speed with the cool kids? Maybe with some up and coming rap star in the lead role to get the kids into it...Citizen Kanye, anyone? Fuck no! What Predator needs is not a make over but a decent sequel. It's already perfect (and kick-ass) so leave it the fuck along, you bunch of slack-jawed faggots! Besides, where're you going to recruit a crop of bad ass 80's action legends of the calbre of Arnie, Carl Weathers and Jessie "the body" Ventura from the current crop of limp-wristed pansy boys that laughingly comprise the contemporary tough guy stable these days?

After returning from Sand Crab's Disco, I got a serious jones for Mexican food so I tracked down an authentic Mexican ingredients supplier at Borough Market and whipped up a feast for my Lady Love of guacamole, chipotle salsa, negros frijoles and fish tacos. I even bought a some proper corn flour and a tortilla press and hand made my own soft corn tortillas. Yummo, stick-it-up-your-bummo! It was abso-fuckin-lutely delish. Unfortunately the margaritas I made were a little tequila-heavy so things got a bit raucous (which is a combination of 'rawk' and 'nauseous').

There was a bit of excitement the other day when the cops smashed in Salette's front door. They'd caught some kid with a load of crack and he gave them her address as his own so a bunch of them went around with The Enforcer and gave it what for. It took them 15 minutes to get in as she had a super secure door, but they practically tore the entire frame out of the brickwork in the process. They realised pretty quickly they were in the wrong place and were super apologetic and will replace the door. Thankfully she was at work at the time but was understandably shaken up by it all and wished she was there to let them in when they knocked. Personally I'm glad she wasn't: they believed they were raiding a crack den and if they found her there they might have decided to do a repeat of the London Tube debacle and pumped seven rounds into her pretty little head.

Why is it we start to feel our most insecure when things are going really well? We try to be cool and calm but inside we're a roiling writhing tumult of fear and self-doubt. As much as we'd like to think we're Fonzie, there's a great big chunk of Potsie deep inside us (all you Anson Williams fetishists just creamed your jeans). As each day passes I find myself falling more and more in love with Salette, but I occasionally have these brief spurts of paranoia. She switches her phone off when she's at work and is so busy she hardly ever gets back to her desk during the day, so in the early days when I was sending her cute emails and texts and stuff she never responded, so I got all worried and started to imagine stuff (totally unlike me, I know). But then I found out what was going on and it was OK, and nowadays she responds almost straight away, which is nice. At the Mexican new year's Eve party this swarthy artist guy was hitting on her at the end of the night. He put his hand on her arse at precisely the same moment he looked over his shoulder to see me standing there, drunk on mescal and glaring at him like my eyesight would set him on fire. At the point he wisely chose to depart in a hurry, but Salette was so pissy pants she doesn't even remember the incident, the guy or the arse touching. All she remembers is me being all weird and upset for no reason.

I think the thing I struggle most with is feeling so plain and ordinary compared to the other guys she's dated. She's been with these amazing artists who are talented and smart and passionate and temperamental and renowned. And I'm just some jerk-off who can make a nice omlette and crack a silly joke now and then. I still don't know what she would see in me, I'm nothing like those guys. But maybe that's entirely the point: maybe I'm better than them. So then I start thinking that maybe because she's lived the wild and crazy and passionate life and is sick of it, she now wants something quiet and ordinary and dull. Is that me? Why do I feel so insecure? Why is it so hard for me to see the good things in me? Why does this sound like flippin' God-awful Goth poetry?

It's not all doom and gloom and glasses-half-empty, you'll be pleased to know. Our six-month anniversary is coming up in Feb, and I can scarcely believe it. The downside is it falls on Valentine's day, bleech! We're doing something special to celebrate but we're so NOT doing the Valentine's day thing. It's just an unfortunate co-inky-dink that it falls on that day. We're celebrating our lurve in spite of the brainless greeting card zombie drones and their minions, but we're doing it because we're in luh-huh-hurve, not because some ass-bag in a suit tells us we have to. We both planned something super awesome for the occasion and neither of us would backdown or tell the other their idea, so we had to employ the services of Dr Phil and Phillipa the Kiwi Chick to play independent mediator and choose which idea was the best. We had this big discussion about me being gracious in defeat prior to the decision coming in, but then I won, woo hoo! And of course a certain someone wasn't at all gracious in her defeat, heh heh.

Is Lou Rawls still alive? I bet I could get him to show up and sing "My Lady Love" for, like, a pork chop and a glass of bourbon...

13 January 2009

Heavens above he's on a street called love...Old cop young cop feel alright...on a warm San Franciscan night

Ok, so I think we've established that there's an inversely proportional ratio between my level of emotional happiness and the frequency of my written updates. In my defence, the tail end of last year was really friggin' hectic (how hectic, Rodney?), what with work and houses and holidays and girls and such, so throw me a frickin' bone!

Let's try and cover them in order, shall we?

Work was crazy insane in the last few weeks before Xmas. I had two huge projects to finish up and managed to pick up another one on my last 3 days in the office. It's been a thoroughly challenging experience as I work my lily-white arse off to impress everyone whilst on probation, which finishes later this month. There's been so much change in my life in a short period and, even though it's all been for the good, I was really feeling the pressure and craved some time off. It was so nice to get away from it all and have no responsibilities and drink Corona in the hot tub with a beautiful naked American girl and completely lose track of what day it was. Of course, my first day back this week I was signed up for four new projects all due to finish before February, so so much for the break. Still, in this uncertain financial environment when budgets are tightening and some of our competitors have already gone to the wall, it's encouraging to have plenty of billable work on hand.

Not surprisingly, the houseboat idea fell through. What is it about bloody South Africans and boats? Look up 'unreliable' in the dictionary and there's a picture of a South African flipping me off on a houseboat called 'BOHICA'. Not to be deterred by the continual treachery of my Antipodean nemeses, I quickly found a room (or berth) on another boat nearby and went to meet the tenants (crew) one cold and windy night after work. Good thing too, as it turns out...the place was fucking freezing! Even with the heating turned up full bore and all of us wearing our thickest parkas and scalding the skin from our hands with boiling hot tea our teeth were still chattering. Plus it smelled funny. Take a shower, you bloody sea hippies! As if that wasn't enough to put me off (and believe me it was) I then discovered that the driveway (gang plank) ices up like a mother fucker and people have slipped off only to be crushed betwixt the dock and the neighbouring boat. Screw the pirate's life...I'm staying on dry land where, in a pinch, you can pull pieces off your house and burn them without worrying about sinking into the gelid stinky Thames.

Bolstered by my new-found lub of land, I checked out two awesome flats in Hackney (which is fast becoming the new Belco...where else can you get an awesome latte AND stabbed in the guts?). They were both clean and funky, with cool and friendly tenants, and both offered me the room that same weekend. What a dilemma! It was a tough choice but ultimately I went for the newer place with the German guy and Italian girl. The move went swiftly as I have managed to limit my possessions to exactly one hire care full (or HCF on the old scale) and I got it all in the day before both my flatmates and Salette jetted off for their respective intercontinental Xmas festivities, leaving me the entire place to myself for the week. Which was kinda cool in that I got to unpack and settle in and rifle through everyones stuff in my own sweet time, but kind of a bummer in that I missed Salette terribly and was lonely and horny in cold miserable London over Xmas (there's only so much solace New Zealand pinot noir and YouPorn.com can provide). Still, it was nice to relax and be bored for a few days before jetting off on Boxing Day to hook up with my Lady Love in Sand Crab's Disco...

San Francisco is an amazing town! The weather was gorgeous - slightly chilly but great the sun shone bright and warm - and even the two days of rain were refreshing and enjoyable. The quality of life there is fantastic: people are laid-back and friendly, it's clean and safe, the City is going to great lengths to tidy up and beautify the streetscapes and buildings with trees and grass and plants and murals. Due to the strong indian and Mexican populations, there's beautiful street art adorning all manor of public edifice, like the whole town were draped in your funky grandma's quilted blankey. They're very tolerant and progressive culturally and politically, completely different to (and often at odds with) the rest of the US. The anti-Bush vibe is strong and palpable; you can sense people's excitement as Obama's ascension nears. There's a huge gay and hippy population, natch, which goes a long way to explaining why things are so laid-back and friendly (the whole town reeks of doob) and also why there are more registered dogs than children.

Speaking of Obama, did you hear who Bush has booked to stay in the Blair House keeping the Obamas out? John Friggin' Howard! That's right, not content with being the biggest douche bag in Australia, he's determined to take a shot at the world title. As if there weren't enough reasons to hate the guy, now he's going and creating more!

We got to stay will a bunch of Salette's friends all over town, which was cool. Downtown, as with any other city, is nothing to write home about but the outlying areas are where the real City can be found in all its varied and eclectic and fascinating glory: The Mission, The Haight, The Castro, Bernal Heights. She took me to all her favourite places (ooh err!) and showed me some amazing things. Dave Egger's Pirate Store is brilliant! He's a comedy writer and bought an old shop in order to set up a writing school for kids but the City refused because it was zoned for commercial purposes. So he filled it up with all sorts of weird and hilarious pirate stuff to sell and teaches writing classes out the back. We did a bit of touristy stuff like trudging up the hilly streets (yes, they're really REALLY hilly) to the base of Coit Tower, but regrettably we couldn't find the Falco Stairs (a staircase dedicated to Austrian pop singer Falco of 'Rock Me Amadeus' fame). I wanted to steal a car so we could stage a high-speed police chase ala The Streets of San Francisco but my NOAG (Number One American Girlflen) chickened out. Luckily, Tim (our hippy host and self-appointed tour guide) was a cab driver and he offered to "get it off the ground" for 20 bucks.

For those of you who dig 50's and 60's poetry, you'll know that SF is home to the Beats. One of my first ports of call was City Lights bookstore where I bought a copy of Alan Ginsberg's 'Howl', one of my all-time favourite poems. The store is a landmark in American literature, home of the San Fransisco Renaissance. I also went over to Six Gallery where Ginsberg did his first ever reading of 'Howl' as part of Six Poets (the poetry slam to end all poetry slams) in 1955, but unfortunately they were closed. That reading was a seminal moment in the Beat generation as it brought together the East and West Coast factions of the Beats in a way that Biggie and Tupac could only ever dream of (incidentally, Tupac was from SF).

If ever you were in doubt that SF is different to the rest of the US then simply eat something. The food was awesome! From the kick-arse Mexican at Tres Agaves (best margaritas EVER and it's owned by Sammy Hagar!) to the chocolate eclairs at ? to the 3-course New year's banquet at Foreign Cinema, every meal was a culinary orgy in my mouth. After NY's dinner we went to a party at the converted warehouse apartment of an edgy Mexican performance artist, which was wild. Everyone there was some form of artist or activist or creative folk, and we were asked to go as our Post-Bush persona. Salette was gorgeous as Gross national Happiness and I was debonair and witty as The Full Brazilian (ie. No Bush). Things got pretty wild as the night went on and the mescal and the dutchie got passed around (always on the left hand side), people were laughing and dancing, getting high, falling over, panties were coming off, and at one point a Shaman burned some sage and did the Four Directions ceremony, with the entire room facing all the directions in turn and shaking our hands and cheering and calling Bush a cunt.

And what about all the killer bands that have come out of there? The Melvins, Faith No More, Mr Bungle, Primus, MC Hammer, Green Day, Tom Waits, Dead Kennedys, just to name a few. Metallica is a debatable inclusion as they used to be awesome (like Journey) but now they suck arse (like Huey Lewis and the News).

I had such a great time there, I can't rave about the place nearly enough. For anyone who's lost faith in America, go to San Francisco...there's hope! I was so enamoured of it that even when Salette flew out the day before me (slight mix up with the scheduling) I still found it hard to leave. I didn't get the usual "had enough, ready to go home" blues that usually comes with two weeks away and the experience certainly provided a real contrast with dreary old London.

Salette is wonderful, not at all cold and remote like her mountaintop village namesake. Quite the contrary in fact: she's warm and very very close, both figuratively and literally as my new place is just a few minute's walk from hers. Before I knew where I would be moving we had the 'moving in together' talk but decided it's just a bit soon for that and there's no need to rush it. It's going to happen, not necessarily for any practical or financial reasons, but because we both want it to. I don't want anything to spoil what we've got going as with each passing day I learn more about her and become more and more entranced with her.

Bizarrely, the new place has free calls to Australia on weekends so long as they're less than an hour. So I got to talk to Calvin on his 11th birthday and again on Xmas day. As always, the distance between seems to become greater all the time, but they sound like they're doing well and growing up straight. I hope they're happy. It was a sad and painful revelation that the greatest contribution I can make to my childrens' development is my absence. Cats in the cradle and the silver spoon...

Hey! Harry Chapin! Fuck you!