Friday, 27 January 2012

The Neighborhood Shuffle.

I’ve lately grown a real fondness for road stuff. When I have explained road stuff to people before, they have said ‘oh, you mean hard-rubbish’. But I don’t think that I do. Because it’s not rubbish to me. No way.

Now that I am without a job, my sense of what is cheap and what is expensive has changed. For example, last year I went to Ikea and I felt like a queen. Or at least someone who was about to marry in to the royal family, but couldn’t yet afford stuff that had been pre-assembled. What a thrill it was to be able to purchase so much reasonably priced flat-pack furniture. And coriander. And meatballs. Last week, after three months of joblessness, I went to the same Ikea and rather than buying furniture or meat-goods, spent my time considering how many free Ikea pencils was socially acceptable to take home (I think three).

So road stuff is my new thing. Going for a walk or drive is now a shopping expedition. Rather than concentrating on the task at hand (fitness and/or transport), my mind has taken to scanning curbs and corners for stuff that other people deemed not worthy to have in their homes, but which I would consider truly worthy of my own in this time of need (Mum, it’s ok. I truly do not consider myself to be in ‘a time of need’).

I have always been a keen op-shopper and I like to think that road-stuff-collecting is just the logical next step. All that’s different is that 1. No one had to borrow their cousin’s ute to drag their old chair to the op-shop 2. No one (me) has to pay any cash that they don’t want to part with, and consequently 3. No charity benefits… so I guess that sucks a bit.

Now I’m in Melbourne, I live in a large apartment building where I assume a lot of other people live (though I never seem to see them… where are they?!). This apartment doesn’t really have a nature strip, but instead a section of concrete outside the building that acts as the nature strip for the whole building.  One day when I was coming back home from a business meeting (let’s say…), I noticed a box of kitchen utensils sitting on the ground on this concrete strip. When I left the building next, I noticed that a filing cabinet had joined the kitchen utensils. Next time I went, there was a jock strap (I promise this is true), which was joined by a desk. The next day it was all gone (as I write this I consider that maybe it was hard-rubbish day… but I don’t think so.).

I’ve decided that a good name for all of this is The Neighborhood Shuffle (which is also a good name for a non-confrontational partner dance).  To begin, everyone takes the stuff in their homes that they don’t like, and puts it out front.  Then everyone in the neighborhood pretends to go for a drive, and leaves their Holden Hatchback (or whatever) running while they guiltily grab the chair (or whatever) they want and makes a guilty getaway (even though they are pretty sure this is why it was there to begin with). So all the road stuff stays in the same basic area, but everyone is happy that they have less cr*p weighing down their lives, plus some extra cr*p that was weighing down someone else’s life. Seems to me like the most amazing environmentally-friendly money-saving new-stuff-getting partner dance of all time.

So long as it wasn’t just a chair that someone accidentally left out the front of their house. That would be bad.

Here is a chair that I accumulated recently in The Neighbourhood Shuffle.  I'll be playing some music this Wednesday 1 Feb at Libation in Fitzroy. Probably on a different chair.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Why Art is Great.

I’ve always told the worst stories. You know that moment when people say ‘Hey [insert your name], tell [such and such] about that time that [whatever happened.]'. I fear this moment. It’s not that I don’t like stories. I just don’t like them when I tell them. And that’s because they’re bad.

Usually it’s somewhere around the middle of the story that I’ll forget the point entirely. Because usually this is when I notice that everyone is listening. I'm not really sure how to describe what happens next, except that if feels as though I somehow float outside of my body (like a dream-sequence in a halloween episode of The Simpsons), and start watching everyone watching me. Then I usually trailed off, or grab on to any old point that’s floating around my head and pretend that it was the main point of the story from the start. Generally that goes very badly. Welcome to my brain.

This is what I like about song-writing. You get to plan the whole thing before you start, no-one asks tricky questions and at the end, and people either ‘get it’ or they don’t. And so long as you don’t make faces, it’s ok if you trail off because people will think you meant to. And if people ask you what a particular song was about, you don’t have to explain. Because art is great like that. 

But, I should probably be able to explain.

Which is one of the reasons that I’ve taken to writing this blog. The idea is to practice of writing a concise story. A story that says something. Something, and not ten things, and not nothing. Looking at last week’s blog… I’m sure I’m not there yet. But no harm no gain, right? Right? Not like it's a public forum or anything.

Someone arty told me yesterday that any idea is worth pursuing. The annoying thing about good advice is that it gives you no excuse not to take it. So this week I will practice having confidence that my stories are worth telling. 

I figure if I can limit out-of-body experiences in the process, that’s probably not a bad thing.

 I’ll be playing at Libation in Fitzroy on Wednesday 1st of February at 8.30pm.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Colder than a...

My feet are cold. Very cold, actually. And it’s the middle of summer. The middle of summer, and my feet feel like foot-shaped icy-poles.

Cold weather makes me feel like having lots of showers. In this age of water restrictions I guess that’s not cool though. And besides, my shower has one of those water-savey devices which make me think H20 is out to get me, one watery pin-prick at a time. So another shower is out of the question.

You might have guessed that I haven’t decided what this blog is about. You’re not wrong. So far we have covered my intolerance for the slightest air-chill, and my love for showers. So for lack of another idea, here is a story about a time I have been cold before. I know that you’re interested.

Before I lived in Melbourne I was in the lovely coastal town of Torquay, with my anonymous flat-mate Eliza and our pet rat Albert (who lived under the fridge). Our little flat had a lot of local history, seemingly having housed almost everyone in the town at some time or another. Generally when I mentioned my address to a ‘local’,  they had some story to tell about ‘the time I threw a TV off the balcony’ and ‘the time the car-port collapsed on my aunt’. It’s possible that my own story will be less exciting than these, as it’s about ‘the time I thought I was going to die from cold and spores’.

The little town of Torquay, it seems, gets surprisingly chilly in winter. I’m not sure if it’s the wind from the ocean, or the fact that all the tourists have gone home and so there is generally less body warmth in the air. But this chill means business.

Our flat was two-story, and I was lucky enough to have acquired the larger room at the bottom of the stairs. This room had formerly housed two people comfortably, but somehow never seemed to be enough space for me. When I arrived in the house it was summer; which is a magical time in beachy towns and seems to involve nothing but surfing and barbeques. I lived in Summer Bay, and I loved it. Slowly though, as the surf got colder and more aggressive, so too did the weather. And so too my bedroom.

Mushrooms grew out of the floor when it rained.

After a week of excess showering and no sleep (due to cold, as well as fear of spores), I came up with a brilliant plan. At bedtime, I would run into my room and jump from the doorway onto the bed (to avoid getting wet socks). Ideally, everything I needed from that point was already within reaching distance. First I put on my pajamas - sometimes over the top of the clothes I had been wearing. This allowed me to keep any body-heat that I had accumulated over the day, as well as avoid my skin coming into contact with air. From this point I created an intricate system of layers on top of my clothes-pajama base, like parfait. This involved anything up to and including a woolen jumper, tracksuit pants, socks, ugg boots, multiple blankets and beanie.

Under the covers, and dressed in what I believed to be sensible sleeping gear, I began the process of actually sleeping. This usually started by putting the doona over my head and hoping breath would warm up the bed (as well as protect me from spores). I would then shut my eyes very tight, and wait for sleep to come. Sometimes it even did.

The best part about all of this was the dreams I had, due to my eventual over-heating. Big adventure dreams. You know then ones; when you’re a pirate and it’s your job to chase antelope through the Amazon armed with nothing but a bubble-gum dispenser. Usually I would wake up when I ran out of oxygen, at which point I would remove a layer or two. The only problem was that I was so exhausted from oxygen deprivation (from being under the doona) that I may as well have not slept at all.

But at least I was protected from spores.

This tent is where I spent the coldest night of my life, at the Blueprint Music Festival in Ararat. I put this tent up all by myself (it fell down).

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Why Idiocy is Expensive.

Why do people keep stealing my money? Actually it’s more like phone companies ‘taking’ my money. And it’s not really stealing if I owe it to them.

Recently, my anonymous (but numerically named) phone company deducted $400 out of my bank account and I didn’t even get to say goodbye. I only realised this when I rang the bank for an entirely different purpose (I’m pretty sure the women on the other end thought it was for a chat). We chatted for some time about all kinds of things; my plans for New Years, what I’d been up to in the holidays, and eventually the fact that my account had been overdrawn by a hideous amount of cash. Together we agreed that I would need to transfer some money before I could have any New Years Eve fun, and privately I agreed that she should mind her own business.

Aware of my own financial-management limitations (last week I got three parking fines) but eternally optimistic, I came to the conclusion that it must be some kind of mistake. I decided I would make a quick call to the phone-people, and together we would rectify the mix-up. Probably we’d all have a great laugh, and afterwards they’d send me a promotional cooking-apron for my troubles.

After being put through to three different audio-menus (one of whom I am sure was just some guy called Brett who didn’t want to answer his head-set, saying ‘Press 2 to be put through to someone else…”), I began pressing ‘0’ many times until the phone started ringing. I took this as a success, and gave myself a mental high five.

While I waited for someone to answer, I practiced my best ‘assertive voice’. This is the same voice I use on Oscar (my family’s Fox Terrier), but without the American accent (My Dad is American and so to be obeyed other family members need to adopt an accent too). In my new voice, I practiced sentences like “I’d like you to put the money back into my account”, “Can I please speak to your supervisor?” and “Get in your basket”. After this I happily imagined what my new cooking-apron would look like, and all the parking fines I could pay with $400.

It all happened quite quickly after that. The nice man who I spoke to said the reason the money had been deducted was because as a client of the company, I would be required to pay my bill every month. In my weakening assertive voice, I asked why the bill was so high. He said it was because I had used the phone a lot, and asked if I would like to go through the bill together. I said “No thank you”. He suggested I take a look at the bill that had been emailed to me the week before. I said “Ok”. After mentally running through my list of practiced expressions (from paragraph above), and realising that none of them were quite appropriate I said “Thank you” (assertively, I thought) and hung up.

So basically, all that I have realised is that being an idiot is a luxury that I can no longer afford. Maybe that’s for the best.

Here is a lovely old house/church that I saw over Christmas, in the adorable town of Braidwood. There was also two antique lamp shops on that street.