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 then really you should be there.

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you know you want to…

flat ocean

Some days I feel like turning in on myself.

Inverting my body. Insulating it against another long sleepless night.

The mind seems to work menacingly in the darkness. Fighting a one-fisted battle. Magnifying only wrong.

~

There was a beach yesterday, steel gun blue. It lay proudly flat, all the way to the horizon, defiant of the sign declaring herself a surf haven.

Wave riders paddled out over marginal lines of foam. They radiated disappointment. Yet she remained unfazed. Unbending.

Unaffected by anyone’s desires or duties.

~

And I think of her now as another restless night lies heavy, full bodied upon my skin.

Perhaps it’s the strange weather we are experiencing. Melting heat, unrelenting even when the evening star appears, followed by descending thermometers which force us to search at the back of dim closets for the jackets we thought we didn’t need anymore.

Or perhaps it’s my innate curiosity. Leading me places I should have ignored. One click further than I should have gone. Instinct fail. My ocean, turned simmering seaweed-green, melancholy bubbling up from beneath a very private surface.

I lie my head back on the pillow and listen to new music that soothes.

It’s obvious why I’m sleepless. I spent half the day involved in speculation. Conversing in legal phrases, maintaining a hard arsed poker-face. Puzzling over ways to unlock my cage.

Or maybe, figuring out ways to remain satisfied within its’ confines. Sad self preservation.

~

I always feel rooted when I have to rely on anyone else to solve my problems.

I want to steer the ship. Chart the course. Feed the crew. Tend to the sea-sick.

I want to be the Captain.

~

I admired the sea yesterday. She seemed brave. Unaffected by guilt.

But the truth is,

the ocean is no free spirit.

She is governed, like the rest of us, by the pull of the tides…

and the moon…

and the gravity of our being.

So freedom is therefore not possible for the sea either…

wild soul that she is.

~

photograph: Gunnamatta Surf Beach, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. Australia.

 

 

 

air of change

I live next to a winding walk-bicycle path that meanders along a creek, bordered by low hanging gum trees and other native shrubbery. It’s a constant source of joy, particularly for the kids, who bike ride on the path, scooter, walk or run with either myself or their dad trailing behind.

I like to walk it for another reason…the clear-your-head kind of reason.

It blows the fuzzies to kingdom-come in around twenty minutes. Particularly in the early phases of the evening when grasshoppers serenade you with their knee-songs, stopping only if you crunch a little too close to their choirs.

And it was one of those walks I took today.

A mind cleanse, end-of-year-is-fast-approaching, walk.

By myself.

Oh-nine has on the whole been kinda okay. Can’t complain too much…even if it did pose a few hairy moments…

a birthday I wasn’t looking forward to and a business decision that needed to be made.

As I was thinking of both, a young woman in incredibly tight lycra overtook my own relatively brisk pace with her strut-of-youth…

you know the kind…

all perk, not a millimeter of jiggle…anywhere, long perfect fake pink nails clutched carefully around matching pink weights, i-pod blasting out a beat, blonde ponytail whipping from side to side.

It slowed me a bit. Or, maybe floored me a little. But it didn’t completely break my stride.

I began thinking back to my own early twenties. That enormous feeling that the world was a bowl of possibilities. Everything back then was magnified and dramatic.

Having children certainly pops the ole perspective-specs on you.

Some cyclists whiz by me, puffing and ringing their tinny little bells. I step to the side and realise I’m right near a well known mark in the pathway.

A mark that is embedded with my family history.

Last year the local council spent a ridiculous amount of time fixing a section of the walk path. It became a source of mirth over how ‘fekkin long’ they took to do it. And the kids joked about sneaking out at night to carve their names into the concrete…

I frowned a lot about it… but on the inside I was laughing. 

One afternoon we returned home to find a brilliantly dull-grey square of freshly laid cement, roped by orange flags…

and not a council worker in sight.

My son looked at me expectantly.

I dunno…

my stars must have been aligned with the planet Whogivesadamn, because all my previous lectures about the huge cost of vandalism to our society blahblahdy-blahblah dissolved and I simply nodded.

It was all the boy needed, tearing down the street, picking up a good sized twig along the way.

I went inside.

After a few minutes he came back from his little escapade sporting the cheekiest bloody grin on his face.

He proudly announced that he had written… my name in the concrete.

WTF! I nearly died on the spot!

I rushed down the path to see if I could undo what he had done…and found…

 

I turned around to see everyone pissing-their-pants laughing at me.

M and A are my kid’s initials.

Clever bugger, I thought. 

Ma.

It’s a word that resonates sweetly.

It plucks at violin strings, even when said in the whiniest of tones.

It’s precious and also so very common,

and yet, from two voices it’s mine and mine alone.

Up ahead of me on the track is the little old greek couple that walk every day, foul or fine skies. They constantly look grumpy with each other, but I think that it’s just the aged-weathery look of their faces, for they always walk closely, side by side. A kind of synchronised gait of the old and maybe still in love.

As I pass around them I smile and nod, and they return the greeting in the time honoured gesture of strangers who share a passing moment’s bond.

I’m travelling steadily now, thinking of silly things and of important things, like how long it will take me to remember to write 2010 instead of 2009 and of the places where I may have hidden my confidence…  when I find myself back at the marks in the footpath.

As I look down a bead of sweat falls right between the letters. Or maybe it’s a tear.

I feel that there’s an undercurrent in the air, it’s obvious that there’s a good chance for change.

I’m not quite ready for it yet,

but I lift my face up, straighten my back and walk a little faster towards it anyway.

Slipping Up in Life

by Matt Lacey

Staring up at the cracked plaster and the naked, orange glowing light
bulb, Wilbur wondered how the events of his life had brought him to
this exact moment. That is to say he pondered the course of the last
ten years or so, not the last few minutes – which had merely involved
waking, tripping, yawning, falling and walking, though not in that
precise order.

All in all he decided, life had been kind; it wasn’t all smooth
sailing, a fact his head would currently attest to, but on the whole
he was happy, healthy, and above all, no longer lonely.

===========

 

 

 

 

 

The 100 word challenge is being run, or being done, by several twitter pals I know.

 It’s a fair bit tougher than it looks! Have a go…it’s a great writing challenge!

Thanks Matt for sharing this with us…

Are you sure that this is your very first piece of fiction??   Kudos!

For more info on the 100 word challenge… follow these people on twitter or the links to their web pages:

@Quadelle   http://www.quadelle.com/2009/12/hundred-word-story-escape/

@Velvetverbosity  http://velvetverbosity.com/100-words/   (Velvet’s whole being/blog wraps deliciously around 100 words! Check her out! I’ve even interviewed her using only 100 words… )

@Slouchy  http://www.slouchingmom.com/2009/12/hundred-word-story-staying-course.html

 

Have fun with the challenge and be sure to let me know if you have a go!

 

I was recently interviewed by Rizado for Neil Kramer’s Great Interview Experiment 2009.

Rizado posed this question to me,

“Name your top five foreign locales that everyone should visit?”

Whittling down the list of amazing places that I have visited – to just five… became a battle of the senses…

 
 
 
 
Travelling to satisfy your five senses
 
 
Sight
Beijing, China
Beijing is for me the ultimate in contradictions, it’s all high-tech lightning speed, nestled beside ancient hutongs and revolutionary scars.
It’s all about the sights.
The bustle of humanity, the snaking Great Wall, the immensity of the soul-breaking Tiananmen Square and the most delicious of them all, The Forbidden City- home to the Dynastic Emperors and their hundreds of Empresses and Consorts and Concubines and a mind boggling array of offspring. The grounds of which are now visited by Chinese tourist families, who sightsee the magnificent ancient ways of privilege and excess, holding the hands of their single children tightly.
 
 
 
Touch
Pentecoste Island, Vanuatu
Every year the local men of this island village perform an amazingly-scary ritual called N’gol or Land Diving,  jumping head first from hand built scaffolds miles in the sky. And between them and death is their Gods and a single ropy green vine.
But this is not what will touch you in Pentecoste.
As we snorkeled the azure waters pointing in delight at extraordinarily coloured corals and fish, my daughter met a smiling and happy island girl on the soft sands of the beach.  And by the very nature of little girls there was no shyness or awkwardness over language barriers, there was just an immediate friendship.
They showed each other their bags.
My daughter had her DS and ipod and lollies and toys and other girly treasures.
The smiling and happy island girl had a shell and the stub of an old grey-lead pencil.
It was a lesson in the material nature of happiness given to my daughter, like a gift wrapped in banana leaves, that touched all of our hearts.
 
 
Taste
Rome, Italy
In Rome I was taken to a restaurant that screamed so badly of cliché it almost made my eyeballs bleed red, white and green.
From the expected check of the table cloths right through to the stubs of melted candles stuffed into old bottles of chianti, still in their little straw bikinis.
The waiter seeing that we were foreigners took it upon himself to organize the menu. He said it would be traditional. I wasn’t holding out for too much.
But what followed was a meal that was operatic to the palate.
Simple pane, bread slices drizzled with olive oil, melanzane- vinegared slices of purple skinned eggplant, forkfuls of mushrooms clinging to tomato drenched tagiatelle, tender osso buco scattered with shavings of aged romano cheese and flat leaf parsley, and limone gelato so glacial and lemony-brutal that our lips remained puckered in ecstasy till the following morning.
 
 
Hear
New York City, U.S.A
Good Lawd, the cacophony of New York is the sweetest clang of music to my ears. It’s a heady brilliant scream of conceit, from a goddamn sexy bitch who has every effen right to be conceited.
Traffic and music and words and food and art that’s the hiphop-techno-crunch-folky-rock-ballad of your soul.
And the taxi driver who drives with one hand on his horn and the other waving the bird as he screams out the window at the arsehole who just cut us off.
Don’t worry, no probs, we’re in no hurry! we say wide-eyed-petrified from the back seat.
S’okaaaay the taxi driver sings bringing his head back into the cab,
Relaaaax man!
This is how we do things in New York.
 
 
 
Smell
Melbourne, Australia
On any given summer evening there is a smell that wafts, tantalizingly over the suburban fences of my home town, Melbourne.
Can you smell it? Come stand at the front of my house, yes, right here on the footpath. Lift your nose to the air, breath it in deeply. That’s the inhalation of Australia.
It’s blended gum leaves, fresh cut lawn, and steaks grilling on the bbq. You can almost taste the potato salad and smell the coconuty sunscreen on the children who are running around in their bathers eating sausages in square bread squirted with tomato sauce.
The salty air of the ocean is twenty minutes to one side and dark mossy smells from the foresty mountain ranges are twenty minutes the other way.
And in between, is the brackish upside down river that courses through a city so multicultural that it simply smells of the foods from all nations.

 

You can read the full interview here.

Thank you Rizado… it was fun talking to you about one of my great loves… travel!

endings and beginnings

In honour of our month of blogging inspired by Mary Schmich’s Commencement Speech of 1997,  Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young  it was decided that a fitting way to end our journey-of-torture-and-pain would be to write our own commencement speech.

(Well… it seemed like a good idea at the time…)

 

So Ladies and Gentlemen,

Forgive me this indulgence,

and

Without further ado… 

I welcome you all,

and offer this Guide to life for graduates.

 

 

Dear class of 2009,

 

Today is not about endings or beginnings.

It is about continuations.

 

From the moment of conception it’s true that you were already the winner of that million to one swimmy-race. Keep striving for success. For aiming low becomes nothing less than a self fulfilling prophecy.

 

Don’t wake up grumpy in the morning. It’s a doleful waste of time and it certainly doesn’t make the coffee taste any sweeter. 

 

Don’t drink and drive. 

Don’t sms and drive, don’t talk on your mobile phone and drive, don’t do your lipgloss and drive, don’t twitter and drive, don’t eat a big mac and drive. 

Do sing and drive. 

 

Speculation is the work-of-the-devil. Think clearly and plan ahead for any eventualities but know that speculating on what other people may or may not do is like trying to catch moon dust with a tennis racket. 

 

Never be afraid to admit when you are wrong.

Never be afraid to reach out a hand for help. 

Always say thank you. 

 

Remember there is very little in this world that is not about advertising. Impartiality on all accounts rarely exists. Deal with it. 

 

When you fall in love allow yourself to free-fall hard. But never fall for anyone who wants to change you.

Unless you have a bad underwear habit that needs amending.

That change is perfectly acceptable. 

 

There’s nothing wrong with men being men and women being women. But there is definitely something wrong with inequality.

 

Note that the universe is a place of synergy. Even the most annoying bug has it’s reason for existing in this chain of life. There is only one thing that does not belong and should be eradicated from this planet.

And that is prejudice. 

 

The voice inside your head is powerful. Tune in and pay attention. 

 

Never forget to enjoy simple pleasures. When you were a child a trip to a park with a sand pit was a delight. As we grow older cynicism controls our excitement meter. Don’t ever forget the wonder of flying through the air on a swing, or the first suck of a shiny red lollipop.

 

Look inside when you are troubled. Rarely will you find the true answers that you seek from any external source.

 

Not everyone you meet on the internet is a freak or a geek or a sexual deviant.

Most are,

but not everyone.

Absorb technology and stay ahead of the latest fads but don’t forget to read books. Real books made from real paper with real spines and real smells. 

 

Flowers die, diamonds are forever. But if you can’t afford diamonds, write a letter.

 

Walk straight, tall and proud. Never hide behind grey clouds when you can be wearing rainbows.

 

Be a traveler not a tourist. Inhale the sights and taste the sounds. Read the Lonely Planet guide from front cover to back, but then leave it at home. 

 

Attitude belongs in a box with all the other remnants from your teenage years. It will have good company with pimples, underage binge drinking and MSN. Pop a lid on it and reminisce about it when you are fifty.

 

When you apologise do it with sincerity or don’t do it at all.

 

Choose items with the least amount of packaging. Buy chicken that has roamed the earth and is hormone free. Grow fresh herbs in your own garden. Take smaller steps in this big world.

 

Till the end of your days keep your brain active. Your hips may fail and your teeth may drop out, but if your mind is alert your life will always be Spring.

 

Perspective is everything. And Dogs are not accessories.

 

Potential unrealised will be the biggest regret of your life. Don’t have regrets.

 

Good Luck Class of 2009.

 

Continue on this path graduates, and try not to allow anything or anyone to interrupt you. 

 

Interruptions may at times happen.

 

But is entirely up to you,

as to whether you stumble over them,

or let them completely halt you.

 

 

full circle nostalgia

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth. – Mary Schmich

 

 

 

When I was a kid we walked to school every day, rain, hail or shine. We had to cross over Simonelli’s farm to get there. Marcello sometimes played his…what do you call it in English again? Harmonica? Si, yes, the harmonica…he played, I sang and we did our best not to fall in the ditches on the way…

 

When I was a kid I rode my bike to school or sometimes Mum drove us in the yellow station wagon. It was only three minutes by car. Lucky…cos listening to her home-made mixed cassettes was not ‘groovy’, not ‘groovy’ at all. Back then all I wanted to do was listen to was Abba… but instead I got Simon and Garfunkle and Carly Simon. It took me forever, but eventually I appreciated mum’s choice in tunes. Yeah, I really did.

 

When I was a kid mum drove us to school every day. She said it was too dangerous to walk by ourselves. Gawd I hated the cd’s she played. Robbie Williams mostly sucks. I thanked-the-lawd for my i-pod.

 

When I was a kid we always tried to carpool to school. Mrs Wilson let us listen to the free-to-air radio, but dad always had some oldies playing… stuff like Kings of Leon and Robbie Williams and some vintage Queen. He always said that Robbie Williams reminded him of Grandma. I don’t get it. But I do miss Grandma.

 

When I was a kid Mum always drove us to school, heh, as long as she’d remembered to power-up the car. Poor mum, every second week we were running up the staircase to Mrs Arnold’s apartment to try to mooch a lift of her. I liked Mrs Arnold’s car though, each seat had it’s own flat screen and dock station. Back then that was a big deal.

 

When I was a kid I just fired up my lappy and bing I was at school. Well… I guess the air’s a little better now than it used to be back in my day. Music? We used to file share podcasts on g-wave 19.0. I know, I know… it’s old fashioned protocols for you mod guys. But that’s how we did it back in the good ole days…

 

When I was a kid we walked to school. Son…we’d all learnt our lessons by then.

 

combing

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85. -Mary Schmich

 

 

The regular walked in and for the first time she was wearing a happy-coloured head scarf.  Coffee’s on me today, I told her. Decaf right?

***

I only ever fancied men with dark, dark hair, but Legolas and Spike once caught my eye. However, they’re not human are they?… So does that really count?

***

She was bigger than Miley in China, a pint-sized-fair-superstar. The locals all wanted to pose with her for photos, but none ever, ever touched what they prized the most, her long, spirally, spaghetti-coloured hair.

***

Granny always was a red-head. Frizzy, curly and cropped short. An orangey-halo. The day she stopped dying her hair I stood frozen on the linoleum floor looking up at her. She was completely grey. And she suddenly looked old…like a… granny.

***

Shite the hairdresser sighed holding my hair in one hand. At least I wont need to thin it out anymore, he said, oh…don’t worry…I doubt anyone else would notice. I looked down at the effen-awesome-heels I was rockin’.

***

What are you doing? I asked eyeing the box in the bathroom. It’s just getting too grey he said. But I thought quietly to myself… that’s the way I like it.

***

Dad was completely silver by twenty-five. Look at my back though, he would say…not a silver one there. Go fucking figure.

***

Our friend the ginger-ninja once admitted that she couldn’t find a scrunchie so she used a g-string to tie her hair up with. My daughter wanted to know where the ginger-ninja got a violin string from? I wanted to know who the bloody-hell still wears scrunchies?

***

Nonno’s head looks like a bowling ball! They laughed. Hey! I said, that’s not a nice thing to say. What? Why? We love bowling!

***

My hair is curly and I straighten it every day. I curse at it, and at how effen long it takes to make look nice. And then I remember the regular.

And… I curse at it a little less.

 

 

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out. –Mary Schmich

 

 

For the past couple of years my son has begged during the Christmas hols to work at my café so that he can earn a little extra pocket money.

Only problem is he was nine when he first started asking…and well… although my capitalist heart beats to the sound of cheap labour even I knew that would be breaking some terribly important child protection laws…

But he was devo when I said no, so one day I allowed him to tag along with me and armed with a green-cloth set him about cleaning vacated tables and flat-packing cardboard boxes for recycling… all under my eagle eye.

Last year he even asked for a work uniform. He’s a tall lad, in fact at ten he was taller than some of the fully grown staff I’ve hired and he looked so terribly eager that I thought…well what was the harm?

The manager bossed him around good and proper, told him he wasn’t allowed anywhere near the kitchen and sent him off to empty bins and clear tables. Surprisingly he was actually quite good at having a chat to the customers as he cleared away their little messes, and as his parent I was right pleased at how well he conducted himself for someone so young.

An elderly lady took the time to tell him he was doing a very good job, then her husband asked,

“How old are you sonny?”

“I’m ten” he answered.

“And do you work here?” the old man said.

I suddenly had a nooooooooooooooo-in-slow-motion-moment as I heard him answer proudly…

“Yes, yes I do.”

I could have swore that the old man dropped a wrinkly little F-bomb as they turned and walked away mumbling something along the lines of ‘damn cheek the owner has’… and I remained on high-alert for a letter from child services for the next three months.

 

Luckily none arrived.

 

At home that afternoon my son was busy telling a relative about his “new job”, and this relative, being the stirrer that he is, got my son all fired up…

“So how much do you get paid?” the stirrer said.

“Mum gives me five dollars an hour.” my boy proudly answered.

“What? Only five dollars?” the stirrer said with a mock-astonished tone to his voice, “Mate, you’re getting ripped off!”

“I am?” my son answered, puzzled “What do you think I should be getting?”

“Geez well your mum owns that café, let’s see, she should at least pay you ten bucks an hour.”

 

I sat waiting for a call from the Shop-assistants union… and sure enough it came a little later that night…

 

“Mum,” my son said with an exceptionally brave look on his face, “can we talk?”

“Of course.” I said…knowing exactly what was coming.

“Well I’ve been thinking about work […you know I’m trying very hard to stifle a giggle and keep a straight face at this point…] and I think I probably should get at least ten dollars an hour.”

“Hmm,” I answered casually, “you know, you’re probably right. Sounds only fair.”

My son looked jubilant.

“But,” I continued “if I give you a pay rise then we need to consider the cost of the things you eat and drink when you’re supposed to be working… so let’s see, you had an iced chocolate and cinnamon scroll at the start of your ‘shift’ today… then you had a sausage roll… oh and a bottle of water… and when you left you took a banana muffin…so let’s see that adds up to…hmmm… oh imagine that…you actually owe me six dollars and forty-five cents.”

I hold out my hand.

“Oh,” my son said “on second thoughts I think I’m pretty happy with the five dollars an hour… ”

Thought so! I think to myself as I watch him sheepishly backing out of the room…

dominos and card games

Respect your elders. -Mary Schmich

 

1979 

She sat very quiet. Some might say as quiet as a mouse, although really she was more of a chameleon. Merging with the beige couch, her little knees together, back straight, eyes looking, but absolutely no speaking. 

When it was time for dinner she was beckoned to join the adults at the table. In front of her the grandmother placed a fine bone-china bowl brimming with hot soup. It was thin with golden coloured slicks of fat and a twig of limp dill floating on top. She was afraid to eat the dill because she didn’t like the look of it. So she took her spoon and carefully maneuvered her way around the bowl, pushing the herb to one side and doing her best to avoid the lump of soft carrot that lay on the bottom. She would have liked to have a piece of the hard rye bread that sat in the silver bread basket, winking darkly at her from between a crisply folded cloth napkin. But not one person offered it and she would never reach for it, nor ask. So thoughts of sopping soup up with chunks of brown bread remained just that, mere thoughts in this child’s mind. 

After dinner she returned to the couch, knees together, back straight, eyes looking, but absolutely no speaking. The grandmother placed in front of her a rectangular box that she knew was filled with neat rows of black domino tiles. The grandfather smiled briefly and then returned to his adult conversation assured that his granddaughter was now well entertained. But dominos were not much fun to play with by your self. She touched the top of the box and slid the lid back and forth on the tiny wooden grooves. Then she wondered to herself if the dominos ever felt as though they were living in a coffin.

 

2009

She sat very quiet. Some might say as quiet as a mouse, although really she was more of a chameleon. Merging behind the beige couch, suppressing the giggle that bubbled up into her throat as she spied on her grandfather, walking backwards and forwards, ever so near and yet still ruminating loudly on where-oh-where could she possibly be? Finally, bursting with impatience, she leapt- arms wide open to surprise the old man who never failed to clutch at his heart as though the shock would be the very end of them all. 

He took her by the hand to the table where the grandmother had placed a hot bowl of penne to cool ready for her, white and floating in butter, just the way she liked it. The grandfather got her a soft bread roll and the grandmother gave her a glass of cool lemonade before they sat to their own meal of pasta drenched in red sauce and smothered in hard flakes of stinky cheese. 

After dinner they sat together for hours, slurping on orange segments and spitting lupini skins. They taught her the old village card game of cups and clubs, smiling at the grandfather’s obvious attempts of cheating by storing aces in his top pocket, purposely visible so that his granddaughter would be delighted at catching him out every single time. At the end of the game he played a trick that she adored, pulling a shiny gold coin from her ear. She smiled and laughed out aloud with the joy of it all- throwing  herself into his arms for a long hug which ended with two little kisses on his bristly cheek. Then he popped the shiny gold coin in her hand and kissed the top of her head in a quiet blessing of praise for the precious gift he had been given.