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Free Drinks On A Spring Saturday

I am not my feature image. That is not something I can constantly be. Saturday proved this in hyper colour and surround sound. At least thats how it seems in my anxiety filled over thinking and reliving every wrong word. Why wasn’t I just chill about it all?

 

It was a rare day where I was to make an appearance at more than one event. I felt pretty good about this. It is sunny and waiting for my friend to pick me up, I stood and marvelled at the beauty of my tree lined street. The sun dappled through branches and leaves. Dappled sunlight is my preferred way to enjoy sun. Anything extra is too much and makes me want to punch people.

My friend and I go to a book launch in Yarraville. I have never been to a more crowded book launch in my life. It was taking place in a hall and it was full. There was a long table filled with delicious food: cheese, cracker, mini scones with strawberry jam and whipped cream, chicken sandwiches, chocolate chip biscuits and craft beer, sparkling wine, white and red whine. It was like church dance food from my teen years, only so much better as there was booz and we were celebrating creation of literature not creationism. I ate as much brie and fancy cracker as I could without seeming greedy. I think. And drank a couple of cups of ice cold sparkling.

As I was standing in a circle of friends a tall generically too handsome for his own good man came up and stood beside me with the kind of confidence that comes from existing in the skin sack version of winning the genetic  lottery looks wise. He is staring at me when I turn my head and look at him. ”I know you.” He says.  He is smiling as if we are friends and I am filled with the distinct impression of an opposite emotion. He has the swagger of many annoying young men of my past. ”I do not know you.” I say. ”But Im not wearing my glasses so hang on.” I phish my glasses out of my anarack pocket and place them on my face. I look at him blankly. ”nope, still no idea who you are.” I say.

Turns out we went to uni together in Ballarat. We both stayed in the double story student housing estate called Bella Guiran. We had not ever been in the same unit though. I had no memory of him and after speaking to him for too long than was probably required, I understood why. He was boring. He had enjoyed his drunken three years on college accommadation. He studied management and was now a city planner. When he asked me about what I do now. I tell him excitedly about the National Young Writers Festival and how it was such a honour to be a part of it. He responds with basic bastard crap about how we are in out thirties and couldn’t possibly be considered young. Being creative is not like management I retort. You dont simply graduate and step into a job and then slowly start to die one boring day at a time. You start the slog when ever if hits you and then you die slowly one day at a time, while creating as much as you can. There is no one way to be a writer, there is no hard and fast timeline. God I hate you. I think as we continue talking.

I rant about how living on student halls of residence was a cultural and intellectual wasteland for me. How the rape culture was rampant and toxic, with drink spiking incredibly prevalent. How the pick up charts in every unit made you feel like a loser if you didn’t do any of the things ( sleep over for sexy times, vomit from too much alcohol, shower with someone)For him it was just fun going to uni and binge drinking. He never had to make certain plans every time he went out on the town like the young women did.

He never had to deal with little things that ate away at your autonomy. Like when I got my drink spiked with alcohol by a trusted male friend. I had never drank alcohole before then due to my religion.  I never got to choose to drink alcohole on my own terms. I do of course tell this guy that as well.

”Im so glad I never had sex with any of those idiots. I declare. He tells me he goes back to ballarat four to five times a year to see mates. I never go back. I tell him.  What annoyed me the most was how he introduced himself as knowing me. The absolute gal of it. He does not have any idea who I am. Seeing me around uni and speaking to me a few times while he was wasted is not knowing me. The person he spoke to while drunk all those years ago no longer exists.  I tell him that since no longer caring what men think of me, I have become so much happier and confident. It is obvious by the way he starts looking away from me and staring out at the crowded hall, looking for an escape, that he did not envision his interaction with me going to such intense levels so quickly. I don’t do small talk. He was only at the launch because he had a high school connection to the author. Lucky for him my friend comes to get me as this guy is saying that he seems to have brought out a lot of bad memories. She has so many. My friend declares as she drags me away. I stop and get one last question out while gesturing at me face with my hands. Have I changed much since then? He shakes his head. I laugh as I walk away with my friend. He is so wrong.

The next scene takes place at a friends home on a stunning street in an area I am unfamiliar with. It is a birthday gathering that will contain me into the late hours of evening.  On entering the house I am already happy tipsy but probably also a bit rattled from the previous encounter.  I told him too much about myself, I stress inwardly. He did not need all that information. You should have just blanked him after saying you dont remember him and avoided him in the crowd for the rest of the launch. I should have simply said that it was a grand time of growth and independence surrounded by amazing and inspiring people. I should have mixed some of the truth with a portion of pretty. I loved how cold it was there. I loved the friendly goths.

As soon as I entered the home of my friend she hugged me and hugged my companion. I was going to follow her through to the kitchen when a young girl locked eyes with me. She was very nearly as tall as me. She came up to me and asked how old I was. I tell her. she took in this information without changing her expression. ”Do you suffer from Drawfism?”  I say that I don’t. Then why are you smaller than everyone hear? She asks. I fight the very strong urge to kick her in the shins and burst into tears.  In my grown up voice I answer with a ”no”.  I feel bad about feeling offended by this. It reeks of internalised ableism. Or does it? If you are asked repeatedly over time if you have a condition that you don’t have, even by grown ups, is it ok to be miffed and annoyed? Because that is how I feel. Perhaps it is because I do already know about the things I do have (not suffer, that is ableist language) I leave the little ”intellectually curios” scamp and follow my friends for a drink.

When a friend suggests I remove my anorak, I get weird and say that I wont just yet. It is warm and I do want to take it off. The paranoid voice inside whispers that if I take it off, my structural crookedness due to scoliosis would be shown more noticeably. If that little human came up and asked with her dead eyed stare why my posture was a bit weird and my bare shoulders looked rounded, I doubt I would have any patience left to explain it to her in my grown up voice. When her parents heard about it they looked uncomfortable and apologized saying that this was why she didn’t have any friends at school. I didn’t really fully relax until the little family left. It was then I sighed a breath of relief and shrugged out of my Aldi children’s Anorak, and drank my fourth drink of the day.

When it gets dark I get so emotionally vulnerable that the hostess kindly takes me out the back of house and we sit there together on the steps and look out into the dark as I talk and cry and talk some more. She helps me see that there are options and I am not so alone as I feel sometimes. Her kindness is so overwhelming and the crying and talking really helps. Its like throwing all your worst parts out into the open air and someone else catches them gives you an escape and then lets it float away and dissolve.I was not crying because a little girl had the gal to ask me questions. I know thats what it looks like. But its just that the kids I see regularly do not ever ask things like that they just no me as aunty by blood or by association. It has been years since I was teaching primary school kids and getting questions like that so often it didn’t matter. I lie, it did matter.  As I sit and cry hot cathartic tears,  the  beautiful lady greyhound comes over and licks at my tear stained cheek. It s not even an overly sloppy lick, it is more like a sniff with a bit of a soft kiss. Dogs are neat. So is having strong female friendships who let you do the cry thing once in a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Male Gaze is turned on its head and it is cathartic as all hell.

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When Candy Bowers messaged me on social media asking for my phone number I was excited. Nobody asks for my phone number these days. I gave it willingly and then experienced mild anxiety at the thought of receiving a phone call and having to actually speak over the phone.

I have been lucky enough to be on a panel with Candy about girl representation on Television.  I have taken part in one of her writing for performance workshops where a young white man had the audacity to ask Candy, a seasoned and brilliant performer, writer and singer, what her credentials were.

It turned out Candy was working on a night of live performance art with her collaborator Victoria Chiu and thought I would be perfect to play a game show host type role for a subversive beauty pageant made up of white heterosexual men. The premise sounded brilliant and I agreed with gusto. Me? help facilitate a performance that puts men in the shoes of women for a small moment in time? A chance to treat some men the way men have been treating women since the dawn of time? Yes please.

 

The men who would be in the beauty pageant all had to be volunteers. They all had to be straight. They all had to be able to look serious and not goofy. They were not to look like they were having fun. This was not your American style beauty pageant. This short piece of live performance art would have a kareoke part. The men would have to take turns singing a part of a Justin Bieber song called Baby. A song that starts nice and takes a dark turn if you listen to the lyrics.  Before that part the men would come on stage and do a short cohesive dance where they would end up standing in a row on stage after taking turns taking of theIr jackets. I would introduce each male contestant and share a couple of made up facts about each male contestant. Candy and Victoria said I had free creative agency for that. The only guideline was that the names for the men had to be hyper masculine: Hard, Rock and so on.

It can feel like every time I leave the house I enter some sort of twisted pagent without even signing a release or permission for pervs to openly share thier views on my looks and body. If your a woman you cannot even go to order a burger without some dude feeling entitled to comment on your order or your legs. If I had a dollar for everytime a man looked me up and down and said something to my face that made me feel worthless I would have a lot of dollars. Men treat the entire world as of it is a beauty pageant and they are the judge.  If you are a black woman you get over sexualized and if you are a woman with a disability you can be infantilised. That is why this performance was so exciting to me. It put me and the two woman who would be the judges, into the position of power usually reserved for white men.

Victoria Chiu got the inspiration for the show while on a trip to Singapore. She stubled across something that really affected her. She managed to take some sneaky photos to take back and show Candy. The photos were not shared on social media out of respect for the women in the photos.

In a  room with a stage and the audience of suited men sitting in the dark, Victoria watched as a collection of 10 or so women stood on stage wearing white wedding dresses. The dresses were very virginal and modest. Each woman held some red fans and did an awkward dance with the fans in their hands. They held tight smiles in place as they danced. They looked like they were there because they needed the money. Surely money was involved? The women finished the dance and then they did kareoke. When each woman had completed their song they stood in a line on stage and men took turns placing a sash with a money amount on it, over the head of the woman they had chosen. The chosen woman would then step off stage and leave with the man who had chosen them.  These women were not doing this ritual on stage for fun. There was no sense of frivolity in that room. It was sex trafficking for the already wealthy men who wanted it done with a sense of refinement and class.

 

Candy and Victoria managed to get enough white straight male volunteers and we practised about three times leading up to the show. The point of the show was to make people laugh and enjoy themselves. Candy would not explain the rather dark inspiration behind the show until after it was completed. We laughed a lot as the men learned the words to the Justin Bieber song. That song is still tattooed into my music memory.

Back stage on the night we all gathered around as Candy helped the men get into character. You are doing this because you need the money so your kids don’t starve. Candy tells them.  You are not doing this for fun, its a eat or don’t eat situation.

I think that this was the most nervous about a performance I had ever been. I did not want to let Candy and Victoria down. I wanted to be brilliant. Anything less is unacceptable to me.

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I walk on stage to applause after Candy introduces me. The stage lights hot and the microphone in my hand. I walk to the centre of the stage and stare out at the crowd of enthusiastic Fringe Festival participants and punters.

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I take a deep breath and begin with some banter and jokes about how all white men look the same to me. I have slept with many men and received pleasure from some of them. I dead pan. Tonight’s festivities involve the judgement of 12 attractive and affable objects of desireWe have three judges who will chose the object they deem most desirable. These lucky objects will be given a sash and five whole dollars.  And now it is my pleasure to introduce you to our Objects Of Desire.

 

The men enter the stage one at a time and do their choreographed dance. When they are all standing on stage I introduce them one at a time. Each object steps forward as I introduce them and then goes back to their original place in the line of Objects of desire.

HARD PACK: Hard cannot remember how he got his name.  He loves playing Bandminton and has very fluid wrist action. He dislikes injustice.

STEEL: is a landscape gardener. His fav flower is the simple Daisy. He dislikes spiders.

MERCURY: Likes to read. But, don’t you worry. He is no know it all. He likes housework even more. He dislikes bees.

BRAZEN: Loves sunny afternoon walks in nature. He is a mad keen rock climber. He dislikes that he cannot take his pet blue tongue lizard, Mercutio on his rock climbing adventures.

SILVER: Enjoys baking cakes. Dislikes the clean up.

QUARTZE: Loves chocolate. Dislikes calories.

REVOLVER: Loves his mother. They are very close. Dislikes animal cruelty.

SPIKE: Enjoys fixing up vintage dirt bikes. Dislikes mud.

IRON: likes doing puzzles. Scared of moths.

ODEN: Enjoys getting facials. Is the proud father of three cats. Dislikes it when his cat babies get unwell.

ROCK: Not THE Rock, but, still bloody good looking. Am I right? He enjoys lifting weights and taking his pet pug, Paul for a walk.   He dislikes peas.

METAL: Likes running marathons. Dislikes climate change.

After the introductions the sing along portion began. Each object of desire took turns coming up to the one microphone and singing their portion of Baby by Justin Bieber.

Once the winners were announced and all the hooting and whistling and deafening applause had died down, Candy explained briefly what had inspired the live art performance. Then it was a brief intermission before the second part of the show. I was buzzing as I went to get my free drink.  The rest of the show was fantastic and i was able to enjoy it whole heartedly.

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https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/oct/01/candy-bowers-the-door-was-slammed-on-me-for-being-a-black-woman

http://blackhoneycompany.com/about/the-keepers/http://footscrayarts.com/profile/chiucox/http://www.victoriachiu.org/

Getting Your Photo Taken can be a rebellion Against Your never ending Insecurities.

There seems to be a loose thread to this week and that thread is me being photographed. I Read more…

photography club

Today as I was walking away from thousand pound bend because it was shut. A baby boomer with a fancy camera approached me a little shyly. Hello. He said. Can I please take your photograph?
Why? I said confused and worried a little bit.
I’m retired and part of a photography club. He said. Your photos wouldn’t go on the internet. They would just be shown to my photography club.
My guard goes down. And I smile.

You look like a very interesting young person. He says.
I grin. My outfit is very very excellent. He had a good eye.

I let him take my photo. He takes a few.
I’m wearing black ballet flats, fishnets under black and white horizontal stripe high waisted shorts, buffy the vampire slayer t shirt and red crop cardigan. And my black leather jacket. Because fashion is what you buy but style is what you do with it.

The baby boomer photographer asks me what I do and I tell him I’m a writer.
He gets my blog details and my email address. He says he will send me the photos. He takes my photo while I write my details down.

He introduces me to his teenage son who is also a “mad keen photographer” The son says nothing but smiles shyly and laughs at my jokes.

It felt good. I used to worry so much about being considered pretty and sexually attractive. But being eye catching because of how I threw my outfit together and being “interesting” is so much better.

The red cardigan is a birthday present from a boyfriend years ago (10) purchased with a gift voucher to that store vicious Venus. The voucher was for 300$ I got more than the cardigan but the cardigan became a long lasting staple. Also 300$ ?? That’s stupid amazing amount of money. I should have known he was lying to me about something. Any who !
T shirt I got while drunk on the internet. Shorts I got from Japan and fishnets also from Japan Worn over Off white tights for a very cool two tone effect.

After that random interaction I got to go to The Moat and discuss all things disability and writing with two total babes who I will get to talk smart with at The National Young Writers Festival. Evan and Julia talking to you two was like talking to old friends. But friends who understood all the stuff you can’t really talk to your normal friends with as you worry it’s boring and whiny.
To get to the end of a little rant and be met with “I get that” was beautiful.

When I got home my person was on their way out to play a gig. They looked super cute.
This.
Is.
My.
Life.

You never even knew who The Buzzcocks were before knowing and loving me.

Sometimes I put my middle finger up at your memory 

As if you are standing right here 

And able to see

Orgasm addict by the buzzcocks
Was one of our many songs

It was funny because it was me

I was an addict 
In all my Sunday school classes and church teachings 

Warning against it

They never mentioned 

It was fun
You have a son now 

And i hope he becomes a better man than you

A man who Does not 

pick at a woman’s weakness 

In order to feel bigger and distract 

From how small and cowardly they are in comparison 
Sometimes I put my middle finger up at your memory 

As if you can see me do it 

Poem 

Sometimes I hear my mothers tone Come out of my own mouth

It doesn’t stress me out 

And I’m not bothered 

Anymore 

There are worse people to take after 

There are worse people to take after 

There are worse 

There are

Sometimes my tone sounds just like my mother 

The tone that gets let out 

When nearing anger

In my own ears 

But I’m not worried 

I’m not bothered 

Anymore

Sometimes I hear my mothers tone 

Coming out of my mouth

She taught me something better 

Than being placid 

Faking calm. 

All My Friends And I Alone But Together At LCD Soundsystem 26/7/2017

I did not take any photos save a couple at the start. I cannot tell you what the members of the band were wearing. If they looked like they were having a good time. You did not ned to see faces to know the whole band were having a fun time.  I was up the back and to the right of the stage. With nobody behind me, though I was free to stand and dance. Dance I did. The dance of someone ten years older than when they first became obsessed with the dance anthem poetry of James Murphy AKA LCD Soundsystem.  I was no mystery to me as to why they had reformed and decided to tour. They knew that we had all gotten older and thier songs were as important to thier fans now as they were ten years ago. Also if I was an American Band I would jump at the chance to leave the country and tour the world where people know your name and love what you do. Did they do it for money? Does it matter if they did? They have a new album coming out so its not so weird.  It makes sense.

I arrived to The venue a good three hours early.  I walked towards the entrance behind a couple in their 30s holding hands.  I made up an entire love story for them based around LCD Soundsystem songs. They met in thier 20s at a house party where Daft Punk was playing…

Because of how anxious I was that I would not be able to find my seat.  I made friends with the lady standing at the door to my sear section. Was brave enough to explain that I may need help finding my seat. She helped me with zero bad attitude. The arena was practically empty at this point and Top Forty music was being blasted through the speakers.

I went and got a cup of Cider and some chips and bought it back to my seat. I placed the cup ( after taking a few sips) and cardboard bowl of hot chips on the floor under my seat. I sent a tweet and then went to get my snacks. I promptly knocked over my full drink and spilled it all on the floor under the seat next to mine. After brief but intense sadness at the waste of ten dollars. I thought it was for the best and ate my chips.

I watched people slowly spill into the general admission floor section and all I could think was how glad I was to be sitting down. An incredibly tall middle aged man sat in the seat next to me. The seat under which I had spilled my beverage. He commented to me how this seats were alright and I was so relieved that I had a gig buddy, I may have talked too much. But there was still ages till the show started. We chatted about music and he told me he had quite eclectic taste that included George Michael, Paul Young and Blur. We were even at the same Placebo show years ago at Festival Hall.  He had just got back from Greece with his wife and was heavily into reading books about the politics of the country.

It was thanks to him that I knew that there was a DJ playing at that moment who was famous for being a brilliant hat maker. ”He is famous for his hats and he is always wearing one of his creations when he performs.”  Because I could not see what this DJ looked like on stage. I imagined the frontmen of that band Vince gets asked to Join in an episode of season two Might Boosh. Vince gets in a fight with the guy who calls himself Johnny Two Hats.  Who is so named because he wears two hats. That is who I imagined was supporting LCD Soundsystem. Sometimes being vision impaired is great for the imagination. Not so great for accurate music journalism.

When the band come out and the house lights dim, the collective excitement erupts,  The band launch into their first sone Yr City’s A Sucker from their debut 2005 release. The light art at this show was high quality and spectacular. This added to the overall sensation of seeing them live. It could be said that their earlier shows were better but I never got to see them ‘Back in the day.”

When they played Daft Punk Is Playing At My House the memories came flooding back as I stood up and started dancing myself free. In 2005 I was living on the dole and living in my first share house on Alexandra parade in North Fitzroy. Back then you could affor to live there while on the dole as long as you didnt eat much and didn’t have a smartphone monthly bill to worry about.  I had just moved to Melbourne with a gnawing hunger in my heart. I held a party but I had zero social or financial capital  so nobody came. No twitter and no Facebook meant no worries. I got drunk and danced in the tiny living to LCD Soundsystem all by myself. I was 23.

James even stopped after a few songs and amicably but firmly voiced his disdain  that the arena the gig was taking place at was named after a renowed homophobic tennis champion. ”Lets rename this place.” James said to the sound of much cheering and clapping.  He also apologised for the huge speakers blocking the view of the stage to some unlucky ticket holders.  ”If we could do without them, we would.” Jmaes said. ”But we do need them. Thank you for being here.”   Then the band starts the opening to the song I Can Change. I and my gig buddy get up out of our seats almost in unison.

Get Innocuous! American Dream.

When they played You Wanted A Hit, From their 2010 album, I am transported to 2011 (my year of heartbroken OK Cupid dates and non dates) when  I would start messaging with a guy on the now still functional and less invasive than Tinder (OK Cupid is not connected to Facebook), dating site. His profile picture was him dressed as James Murphy as he is dressed on the albums cover for the album This Is Happening. This young man whose name I cannot remember and whose face I never saw in real life,  taught me that having good taste in music did not bring the boys to yard. Sharing music taste with this elusive Fuck Boy  didn’t fill the guy with unconditional love  like it did me.  I never met him I just madly and rather obsessively messaged him and would constantly try to organise for us to meet up ( and have hot hot sex, duh. I can get wet over the idea of someone)  and he always had excuses. I just put it down to my face in my pictures that were on my profile, not being pretty enough to entice him. As I danced to You Wanted A Hit and then toTribulations I wondered if that guy was down below me sweating with the general floor crowd as he danced himself silly.  Did he remember a weirdly intense girl during his stint on OK Cupid? A girl who  acted so thirstily as if she thought they should get fucking married just because we share a love of a few bands? I will never know.

Movement. Call The Police.

Before they launched into New York I love You James told us that they would be taking a very small two minute break and then playing two more songs. These songs could be considered an encore. James told us.Which hinted to any discerning person present that there would be no encore after these two  final songs. ”We have to go pee.” James tells us. ”We are old.”

When everyone sings along to the line from New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down that goes ”Like a rat in a cage pulling minimum wage” it is with nuanced and knowing self awareness. We are older but with not even half of what we were promised growing up. The world is scary and James Murphy was not wrong but scarily accurate when he sang in Call The Police that ‘The future is a nightmare.” It is true which is why nights like this are so important. It is why art matters. How on earth can people cope if they don’t look to music and art and literature?

Someone Great.  All My Friends are the final two songs.  It is when they play the final song All My Friends that I feel myself getting overwhelmed with the brevity of my feelings about this very moment. It is all to much almost to take in and hold in my one tiny heart. I feel it almost breaking with the understanding that we are all older and one day we all will be dead. Everyone of the people that witnessed this gig with me will die. Hopefully they will die old.

I walk to Richmond train station with my gig buddy after the show. It is cool but not freezing and there is no rain just the vestiges of it from earlier. He is 6ft 3 and i am 4ft 9. As we walk we talk about our first gigs and i find out he saw Blur at Monash Uni. ”I saw a Christian rock band with my Mum  and little brother when I was 12.”  I tell him. ”at the small town hall in the town nearest my parents farm.”  I acknowledge he wins. We say goodbye at the train station and I as he walks away to get the Belgrave Line I call out ”Thanks for being my gig buddy!”

Now the only thing left to do is anticipate the new album while listening to thier old ones.