Because the world needs more overwrought candour.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

My cousin and his partner are over and they have accessorized into kids, two of them. They are both at the Adorable stage. The eldest is about three or four and has just discovered dinosaurs, so my legs are saturated in kiddy-sputum. Rarrr, I'm a T-Rex. And a little monkey who likes being tossed upside down and bounced on a big yellow ball and covered in blankets and tickled and sat on my knee and read to. I want him as my own. I'm not ashamed to admit that it makes me enormously clucky.

In fact, I'm planning a cunning abduction, complete with forged note in kiddy writing - "Mum an DAd I'M LeaVing HoME." - and a sheet twisted into an escape rope. They can have him back when he changes into a pimpled conduit for hormones in ten years time. Till then, he's mine. MINE. MIIINNE.

Every time I encounter my Perth-dwelling batch of second cousins (I've got at least ten), I melt. I crave them. I know it is just a cunning biological scheme designed to propagate our species, but the fact that it's an evolutionary plot doesn't make it less magical. Side note: Love is just the same. You get an enormous gush of joy and hysteria in the introductory phases, followed by a settling, a normalising, until one day you wake up and realise that your passion has transmuted into comfort and you've got two kids and a stranger in your house and by that time it's too late for anything other than an affair. It makes perverse sense - if you're googywoogying and honeypieing throughout marriage, it will be less stable for your offspring, cos you'll spend less time on them. Nature always settles back into a comfort, a moderation, once the ploy of love-chemicals has worked. I resent that. I really do. Well, I would, if it wasn't so addictive.

One amazing thing about kids is what they do to previously 'cool' people. My cousin's partner is pretty hip, but her funky worldliness has managed to translate to bravery in the face of saliva and poo, which is pretty impressive.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Bike rides and decisions

I've just got back from a weekend riding my bike down the Great Ocean Road. My housemate Ryan and I were hoping to ride from Geelong to Warrnambool in three days, but that was an impossible goal. We made it half-way, to the Otways, and that was hard enough. It's the most challenging physical feat I've ever put myself through. A hundred and thirty k's over three days doesn't sound like that much, but I'm not especially fit, and the road ducks and weaves along the coast like a nimble soccer player. The first day we made 70 k's, to Lorne, and although once I nearly threw in the towel after a particularly agonising hill, after that I was in the zone, and miles flew by. But on the second day came the rain, driven by thirty-knot winds. I've never had to pedal downhill before. Ryan and I took turns in taking the lead, while the other took advantage of the wind break. It was painful, agonising, and intense. The last ten kilometers into Apollo Bay were the most difficult; not so much hilly as consistent wind, scattered showers, and legs burning. I wanted to give up and collapse on the roadside, but there was no easy out, no escape button, no way of getting home except via my two legs and my two wheels. The welcome sign outside Apollo Bay reads: 'Apollo Bay: Paradise on Earth' and I agreed heartily. The third day, I woke with a head cold I thought I'd left behind in Melbourne, so I baulked at the proposed plans for the day. Kilometers mean so much more on a bike than in a car. (Un)luckily, ten k's out of Apollo Bay, Ryan stopped to pump his tyre up only to discover that the pump had actually deflated his tyre completely. I was actually pretty glad to head back to Apollo Bay and catch a bus. By the time I got home, I was delirious with exhaustion and the head cold. It felt like an eon had passed; new writing on the whiteboard in the kitchen, dirty dishes, housemates looking different. It was like a purge, a washing of the past, ridding myself of the stresses of the internship and of my broken heart. I feel different, clearer, resolved.

The funny thing is, this post had a different ending, an anticipation. I was going to try to cut off my friendship with her entirely; my jealousy was too much. It was like swallowing bile, to know that another had taken that specialness. I worked on this decision, and was sure that it was the right thing to do. But as soon as I saw her, I crumbled. My jealousy evaporated with the last vestiges of love and now I am clear, which feels fantastic, liberating. Almost, I can treat her like anyone else, approach her with ease, not expect anything more than a smile and a chat. This is a happy ending (although a bit delayed).

It's strange - rid of this, suddenly I am aware of how many beautiful, wonderful girls there are. I'm already cultivating small crushes wherever I can. It's amazing how much I didn't notice about the world, sitting in my little headspace.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Gradually I am unpicking the claws of love, gently dislodging the suckers from my heart and soul. Love is a black hole with limits, a framing of life around the beloved, a centering as deadly as any other addiction, any other obsession, one that declines contrary evidence, excuses itself from social mores.

On Tuesday, I had nothing to do for eight hours at my internship. I surfed the net, read interesting articles, rearranged my email. I catalogued those from her, put them in a folder. Tucked away; relegated to history; filed, encyclopaedized and arranged in a rough chronology of falling together and falling apart. I re-read them all, with a faint sense of disatisfaction, anticlimax, like watching a show you loved as a child. Without the blinkers, they are normal, perhaps with leanings towards love at times, but countered by distinct leanings away as well, a lukewarm connection. Did I need her, need something so much at the time? Yes, I did. Farrago - my dream for three years- had finished; I had no real purpose, so I made her it, for a while, made her my dream. And like Farrago, when the dream pushed through the warm haze of sleep and fantasy to define its rigidities, elements of take and give, ranges and slopes of reality, closenesses and absences, I had to work hard to maintain the warmth of the dream in the face of neutral, nuanced reality.

My emotional exhaustion is lifting. I'm appreciating other people now, which is a step, I suppose. Other people now have the possibility of becoming wonderful.
Ok, it might seem like I'm in a posting madness, but I haven't been able to access the net, so these are from the last two weeks. Here's another:

Colder air, grey skies. The only remnants of summer are the sunsets. I'm about to get sick - I can feel it in the back of my throat and the disconcerting, fragmented way I wake up. I was thinking about sickness, how it shrinks your world, compresses it and forces you to live through your body. Me, I spend a lot of time in my head, thinking, feeling, and I don't come down to visit my body much. Sickness is an imposed return home - the testing out of bodily sensations, quantifying my body from day to day, collecting and comparing symptoms, testing muscles, trusting drugs and my white cells. It's good in one way - it grounds me - but utterly boring in another. The body is so limited. Like the mind, it has needs and methods of expression, but the body is crude in its requirements - hunger, thirst, illness are all generic reactions. I hate trying to describe a pain to a doctor - sharp, stabbing? just to the right of my kidneys? I've got no idea. It hurts somewhere right now and I want it to stop.

Drugs, etc

I went and saw RJD2/Kid Koala at the Prince of Wales last thursday and took a pill. I was a little reluctant, since the last few I've had were pretty mediocre, and made me resemble a zombie the next day. But this one was fantastic. Buzzing away, dancing freely, with liberated hands and feet, my mind went wandering, as it usually does. I started thinking, looking back over the past two months or so. It dawned on me, in a serotonin flash, that this was almost the first time I'd felt happy, felt upbeat, since the start of the year. Sure, I was high, but these emotions felt musty, unused. I'd felt pretty good after I got my first article published in the paper, head crammed full of cold air and tranquility, calm and slow and at peace, but these were almost foreign emotions. And I'd even fooled myself. Normally I can fool other people perfectly; I've always been the counselor type to my friends, and I find it boring to talk about my own mental state, but more recently, I wish they would ask, would probe like I do. Is my facade that impermeable? Do people assume I'm ok cos I always appear to be? Because I find it boring to be down around people, so I force a positivity? Being around people always cheers me up, so I suppose it's a bit of a bind. But I've never fooled myself this well before. I kept rationalising: I'm doing everything I wanted to do this year; I've moved out, got a casual job as a writer, doing a great internship, learning Indonesian, doing a telephone counselling course, finishing off uni, so of course I'm happy. Nup. A lie, all a lie. A convincing appearance of reality, the willing of my ideas to change reality. I've been more lonely than any time I can remember, the loneliness that comes from being around people all the time; good people, solid people, fun people, but still there is this hole. Perhaps it's always been there. Perhaps it relates to limerence (I posted on this recently). Perhaps I just want to be in love, perhaps that gives me meaning. But I don't think so, I think even love is a veil - a pretty veil, a satisfying veil, but a veil nonetheless - and that the real root of my disatisfaction lies deeper. Perhaps it's losing my faith (or finding that I never really had it), perhaps it's the absence of a metanarrative within which to position my life, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. The things which make me happiest are love, travel, and writing, and these things are escape hatches, temporary abandonments, detachments. I see other people, I see this same hauntedness, I see rings under eyes, sideways glances amidst conversations, sadness amidst laughter.

I have no answers to this yet, but at least I've discovered that I am unhappy. And this is why I value drugs - the pill let me find this out. I've never been tempted by the repeated escapes, the 8-hour/twice weekly binges, the splurges of brain chemicals so attractive to the rave set. In fact, I think it's no exaggeration to say that the people I've met at raves are the most selfish I know. There are no friendships there, without chemical enhancements. I can't stand that, I can't even see the appeal. But as a transformative tool, drugs are hard to beat. You temporarily step outside your established confines of your personality and methods of thinking, and become able to inspect yourself as if you are someone else (which, for a brief while, I suppose you are). I find it pretty valuable. Perhaps I would have unearthed my disatisfactions myself sooner or later, but I find that drugs offer a neat break with conventional reality, a useful perspective. It's like holidays - I always find I change the most when outside my daily habits and habitats.
I hope this happens to other people as well. A few days ago, secure in the present, reading in my room with a stable mind, I was struck from behind by a memory I'd long tried to suppress (with reasonable success). The sneaky bastard somehow escaped, and came to remind me of who I was, only a few years ago. "Psst - does this sound familar?" it whispered. "Do you remember yourself as this, speaking to a manic-depressive high school friend, saying hey it's not all bad, look at all the famous artists, musicians and creatives who drew their spark from the turbulence within? You should remember how smugly, how easily you glossed over this suffering, how glancingly you addressed this - a hard thing to come to someone over, a difficult admission.

I remembered, and I winced. Wincing is a useful, common reaction to my geeky, awkward past. Good god - the injuries I inflicted with my faux connections with people, with my aspirations of understanding. It's the extent of my unknowing, the way in which I arrogantly dared to conflate my adolescent angst with my friend's affliction which makes me cower, try harder to bury it.

And more. Easter weekend, returning home to my family. Mum discovered an old home video, 1998, and coaxed Row and I to watch it. I could not sit down and watch it for more than five minutes. I recognised myself only as a satire, a caricature. Did I really have bleached hair? Did I really speak in monosyllables and grunts? Was I that awkward, that fumbling, that disconnected?

Talking to a friend, a psych student recently uncovered this: Repression is a useful evolutionary tool, employed to allow us to live life forwards without being hamstrung by the bloodiness and messiness of the past. It's not something to be conquered, but to be appreciated. Too right.

I hate it when I come across a much better writer than me. I've never been particularly good at losing, or coming second (or winning, for that matter, so I usually just don't get involved in competition). But with writing, the skill I want to spend my life acquiring and using, I have to play ball, take part in this game of comparisons. So take a look at this guy: Checklist: young (tick) male (tick) local (tick) uni student (tick) kickass writer (tick). And understand my frustration. It's quite amazing - within the short time I've been aware of this site/guy's existence, I've automatically - automatically, without thinking about it or planning it in any way - tried to rationalise his superior skills out of existence, out of contention. He's probably 28. He's probably had lots more life experiences. That's why he writes impressive poetry and pens superior blog posts. God, it shits me that I do this. And also he exists. I mean, I'm a lot better at writing now than I was four years ago, when I started uni, started writing for Farrago. I can still remember one of my opening sentences for a piece on the Cave Clan ( - check them out, tag along). I was Grand Master of Purple Prose. Check this: "It is Friday night, and I am 4 metres underneath South Yarra in a huge stormwater drain called Anzac. From down here I can see the legs of the painted people of the night." Painted people of the night, indeed. I've thankfully improved since then, but I'm still drawn towards flowery/emotive language; I am still attracted by obscure adjectives. This person, this, the compared, seems a cut above; intelligence without overt elitism, polish without glitz.

The common refrain of my jealousy is this: discovery, resentment, undermining, grudging respect, mild plagiarism.

When it's Jonathan Franzen, for some reason it's ok. He's in America, he's forty, and although I'd like to write a book someday, someday is nowhere near now. But this is a lot closer to home. Demigods are high enough above to worship without jealousy. But the trappings of aspirational writers (such as myself) include a decent dose of envy.

In other news, and as a self-esteem counterweight to the previous bit, I've had a couple of articles published in the paper, which is arguably the most exciting thing to happen to me in a long while. The sheer bloody terror of realising I have no idea of how to write a news story, followed and mingled in with the slow relief of my automatic writing skills kicking in, the snipping, note writing, the untidy threads up and down the page, the piecing together, culling, rewording, refocussing, restructuring, the cleanup of stray sentences and the polishing. For all that, they still haven't been brilliant, but who's ever satisfied with their own work? It got published (after being lightly shredded by the subs) and my name and my words were ferried out around Melbourne and beyond, and people presumably read them (on the morning of my first article, an acquaintance: "Oh, was that you? I half-read that piece"). I floated home, got drunk and loud with my housemates and fell asleep, looking at the ceiling, dreaming dreams in the soft warmth of alcohol and pride. Right now, I want this. I want to be this life.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

i can see the course of my life, the broad strokes filling in and it scares me. i don't want to end up like my dad, a good, competent, loving man who can relate to people well, who can be the life of the party, but has no close friends. i want to get away from this, form close links. i envy people who have in-jokes. my friendships seem fleeting, even the oldest, airplanes landing and taking off amidst the rest of life's parade.

depression today. greyness, busyness to occupy our headspace in the wake of clouds and grim. the eternal wondering what life is all about. em reckons the purpose of life is to live, which it is, but that answer effectively denies the existence of the question. and even though she's right, in one sense - the purpose of this time here is to be in this time here, to live life fully, to embrace it without pondering sadly, or indulging in existential angst. and still, still the question will not evaporate, no matter how many referrals or denials of its existence.

from my christian roots, through the lingering sickness and death of my brother, to here and now. i get a lot from christianity, which i think in a lot of ways is the most amazing set of morals and lifeguides ever to grace this planet, but i simply cannot make the leap of faith, the multiple leaps of faith, the adoption of dogma, structures of belief. instead i settle for the 'something else' that people settle for when they don't want to believe in god but can't face up to their own personal extinction, waiting for them under a tree, in the middle of a road, in the middle of the night in their own beds. "yeah, i believe in something" we say vaguely. i mean there's no theoretical problem with god. creationism and evolution can dovetail neatly, with a modicum of effort. the big bang, the moment of creation, who's to say. but when you get down to it, what's the point of mucus? no, really. what's the point of railway waiting, what's the point of two month olds dying in africa, what's the point of the appendix? if life is the prelude and death the true beginning, and we are tested throughout life, where is the possibility of being tested when we are bored? what moral choices do we make watching tv? do we adopt a millionth of the responsibility when we see images outside courtrooms, as cameramen hunt their prey and tell us that he or she is guilty without ever saying so? are we responsible for this? will it be held against us?

and yet the current alternatives, the apparently better methods of living are intellectually bankrupt - (a)moral relativism justified by nihilism, limp new-agey 'philosophies', the acquisitive hyper-greed whose death was prematurely celebrated in the 80's, naked ambition, tech-utopianism, individualism with a streak of selfishness, bland pop buddhism ... the list goes on, and on. after 2000 years of christianity, this mishmash of insipid proposals is its replacement? jesus would be turning in his grave/throne. hang on, i revolutionised society, threw out the brutal ol' eye-for-an-eye, introduced the novel idea of love-thy-neighbour (love in the sense of charity/giving) and offered heaven for all those keen, and this is mark three? sure, we don't slaughter each other in debate over the most pious way to boil an egg anymore, but cmon, what happened to survival of the fittest in the ideas n philosophies arena? survival of the most vague and self-interested, more like.

but perhaps i'm being too eager - we're living in a post-christian era, apparently, and this is the vacuum. nature should start abhoring it soon, and we can all look forward to a rebirth of something more promising.

one other thing: what's with second generation migrants and fast, hotted up cars? the sons of post ww2 greek and italian immigrants acquired beasts with a bone-crunching thrum, and now the sons of the vietnamese and chinese are importing hot cars via the grey market, lowering them to just above the ground, outfitting them with fat exhausts and cute, ethnically identical females and driving very fast for very short periods of time.

my theory: poor immigrants work hard, provide their kids with the things they never had, the kids get part-time jobs and drive the trappings of success. twas probably the same with the irish fleeing the famine - come second generation, out come the sleek carriages complete with oat-fed horses toting black, shiny coats.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

This is a five minute procrastinate from finishing my essay (due tomorrow, worth a lot, word length: 3000) but I'm not as stressed as I'm gonna be.

I've done a tad of self-analysis, which is usually quite fun (thinking about yourself generally is) but this one came up with something surprising. I've been researching an article on online infidelity, and whether the internet has boosted the incidence of affairs (short answer: yes. a lot) Anyhow, I came across an interesting article by Angela Lewis, a Melbourne researcher, on the concept of limerence. Basically, limerence is the phenomenon of falling in love just to be in love. It's kind of an addictive thing to these people, whose community, upon reflection, I have found myself part of. Yup, one of those simple-yet-accurate discoveries that took too long to find out. If I'm not in love, I'm miserable in my daily happiness, and when I am in love, I'm miserable and joyous, depending on the time of day, current lover, and depth of overwrought analysis. I'm trying to figure out if I want to break this link or if it's so fundamental I wouldn't be me anymore. I think it's prolly the latter. I mean, it's not such a bad vice to have, is it? I'm not into money or physical things, only really into sex because it means I get to lie next to someone, drugs are boring and self-indulgent, and in terms of career, it's not something I get excited about often, and when I do, it wears off pretty quick. I mean, sure, I want to be a kick-ass, high-paid writer, but fuck, I know if I ever get there I'll look around and think is this it? No, give me love, please. The highs, the lows, the licence to treat life like a lark and time as a servant, new places, old comfortable places, outside inside upside down. Sure, I make a fool out of myself, but watch some office politics and see who's the bigger idiot. The only problem is at the moment I've got a temporary respite, and the numbing hole, the lack of narrative in my life is killing me. A old friend of mine (on the border of becoming an Acquaintance) shits me because he isn't happy unless he's unhappy, unless something's going wrong, unless he's tired, or broke, or sick, or depressed, or full of loathing for the world, or all of the above. But I'm not really that far away. A second cousin, perhaps.

I realise, of course, that this has been a Privileged Whinge, brought about because I'm not suffering sufficiently in a material or spiritual sense. Give me ten years and a mortgage and I'll be over love. But for now...