The Year of Living Idly – Almost Two Years (phone blog mark three)

Is the cliché that all good things, or bad things, come in threes? Never mind, I can’t dictate it for you and you’re likely to take my question as rhetorical. Beginning a blog post with a cliché aside, I figured it was time to update my journey through joblessness. This will be my third and hopefully final post on the subject, unless you count my Gold Coast amendment post made after some criticism I received in relation to comments I made about my dear city in The Year of Living Idly – The Negatives. It will also, which I thought was appropriate, be my third and final, for a while at least, phone blog (or “phlog”). And I’ll presume any criticism of those previous two to be either withheld or still pending.

I have actually worked since initially becoming unemployed in July 2012, but have remained on the dole, even if at times I did not receive payments, ever since early in 2013 – after I returned from three months’ glorious yet aimless travelling. Technically, I am now working but I don’t count it because it is only for two days per week, and it is work for the dole. I spend my Wednesdays and Thursdays or Thursdays and Fridays helping cook crisis meals for the disadvantaged and maintaining an about an acre property run by a Christian church. With other unemployed people. Depending on my mood, I either think it’s great or loathe it – just like real work. And my best prospect for some paid employment at the moment is blueberry picking, which was mentioned as an opportunity by my work for the dole supervisor. The system works. Or at least, it might. Such is life.

Otherwise I spend my days watching various TV series such as Misfits and Breaking Bad. The latter of which I’m literally half-way through the end of the final episode as I tap away at my phone’s somewhat cracked screen. Next up I think I’ll hit up the local library for the first season of the ABC’s Rake (it’s about a roughly-hewn inner-city Sydney barrister trying to keep his life in order. Similar to David Duchovny’s Californication, only with more wine and less Jack Daniel’s). I also, weather permitting, daily head to the local basketball hoop to wile away a full or half-hour trying to nail three pointers; while thinking about life and how difficult it’s always been for me to get what I want from it usually but not always because such aims require cooperation with or outright bribery of other people. I also help out my parents and grandparents with various chores they need attendance to around their properties.

On weekends I’ll generally do little else but spend the hours between 6pm and midnight sinking piss down the local sports club with my brother who is also unemployed and, thankfully, attracts all the attention of local footy boys looking to recruit and, ruefully, also attracts all the attention of any of the few attractive women who patronise it. Though for a change this weekend I’m headed to Melbourne for celebration of my best mate’s 30th birthday. He has a (rental) house, a girl and a good job. Not that I envy him of those specific things, but they are types of things I not only want but am expected to have by people (including him) who are happy to give advice they expect to see acted on but are less willing to offer practical assistance – probably because they’re busy performing the miracle of keeping their own house/job/partner thing going. Strange how a paragraph can end so differently from its start.

I had two jobs late last year which helped recover my bank account from anorexia but couldn’t permanently rescue me from the dole on account of their short term nature. The first lasted for almost six months, 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, with a two or three week break in-between stints I was recruited for. I was surprised to gain the second stint, as the first ended suddenly when the editor/owner (it was a business magazine) suddenly thanked me for my work and said she’d call me – which I felt she wouldn’t as I limped from the awkward atmosphere in the office. Considering how anti-business (or making money for the sake of making money at lots of others’ expense) I can be, I’m glad I wasn’t called back a third time. Just another notch on a belt which could do with more notches.

The second job randomly appeared in my Facebook private message inbox one day just before I’d ended my time at the magazine. Another guy and I were simply to re-write some online course descriptions for a tertiary education institution. The recruiter had been a contact of mine during my newspaper 18 months. The other guy had got me involved in the business magazine so I returned the favour by offering him half the course  description job – which gave me more time to work it around the office job a few weeks before it shut down for six weeks over summer. I spent all of that job sitting alone in front of my computer at home in my undies and listening to my own music while taking drab, outdated and boring course descriptions and making them engaging. It was great, though my humour with some of them apparently went a little too far. Can’t make an impact without pushing the boundaries.

So yeah nothing really since then, but it’s only been a few months. I can’t be sure whether people reading this are thinking “At least you don’t have to work you bastard” or “Stop taking my tax dollars, you bastard”. Well, to the first I’d say yeah, it’s relaxing but you can’t exactly plan for the future at all and it’s not great for self-esteem. And to the second I’d say, screw you. There are some incredibly rich people in this country who haven’t necessarily worked much harder than you or me for their wealth. So I think they can afford to assist with, and I doubt your tax burden would be easier without, my $250 per week plus an extra $20 because of work for the dole. To be honest, while I am earnestly looking for work, all I really want is a girl. And just one, at a time and in particular at the moment, girl. It’s not like I ever did much better with those I fancied when I had a job and didn’t live with my parents and had tens-of-thousands’ pre-travel dollars in my bank account. So why not now? Well, I’m sure some heartless, jaded or cynical people out there could suggest plenty of reasons why not now. But I’m sick of people bringing me down. Tired of unconstructive criticism. I want, no, need the fruits of my past suffering, sacrifice and hard work to start ripening.

Australia’s Rewind to 2008

What is with those fighter planes? Are we gearing up for war? Is there an arms race happening? Is the image of Abbott smiling and thumbing up from a cockpit going to come back to haunt us as the same plane dogfights over the South China Sea (or closer to home)? Jesus! When are we going to get past giving disproportionate power to sabre-rattling morons?

And on indulgence, I can’t help but find such dire economic forecasts for such a wealthy nation as ours to be so incongruous as to be hypocritical. To link it to the jets, it’s almost as if we’re being slowly prepared for war rashioning. There’s something very sickening about the news of 58 (58!?) new warplanes coming on the Anzac long weekend. Have we fallen so much in love with our sacrificial past that we’re licking our collective lips at the prospect of doing it all over again with shinier and more devastating war machines?

And if one person reading this even thinks about blaming the former Labor government for the budget debt/deficit, if I could know I would spit in disgust. Rudd took over the budget just as the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression took hold. It’s a miracle ours was one of the few share market gambling obsessed nations which didn’t enter into a recession – thanks to the government pumping money back into our own country, instead of into war machines designed to kill citizens of other nations.

On Booze (phone blog mark two)

One of my proudest moments, God bless me, comes from more than a decade ago when I was 17. With my best adolescent poker face I purchased a case of Carlton Cold from the 7th Avenue Palm Beach bottle shop. Minus a fake ID but plus an early or perhaps about rightly timed bloomer couple of days’ stubble. Success. I will always remember with glee strutting across the Gold Coast Highway with the case on my shoulder to be consumed by my two years younger brother and few months older best mate. They both passed out before me. Relatively naive to the ill effects of alcohol, I alternated, concerned, between the two of them trying to figure out if they were sleeping or in some kind of alcoholic danger. My brother woke up with purple bubble gum stuck to his face. It was awesome. Fuck any prudes, lame-os or conservatives who think otherwise.

But then again, more than a decade later, perhaps I should give pause to the effect Lady Liquor has since had on my life. It’s actually hard to identify the negatives. Or the alternatives. Perhaps I look older than I might otherwise. My liver might not be as healthy as it could be. Maybe I’ve missed out on pleasurable romantic experiences with women that I could have had with more frequent sobriety (or less-frequent drunkenness). Such hypothesising is merely speculation on an alternative universe – one in which I’m doing God knows what with my time in the absence of the brown, red, amber or clear liquids. I could have been religious, which would go dead against the skepticism (cynicism) I’ve cultivated that I can’t be sure isn’t itself influenced by the devil drink. Or I could have been a fitness freak. Not a footy boy at a high level of fitness who nonetheless gets drunk and rowdy with an entire team at his back. But a serious amateur or professional athlete with blinkers on for such distractions.

I’m just about done already, in light of the fact that there’s a large amount of hard liquor coursing through my system as I tap frustratingly at my phone while my laptop sits dejectedly nearby. I think, to be honest and not particularly positive, alcohol is a self-destructive indulgence for me. (Although I’m almost without exception a happy drunk.) I’ve never been terribly fond of the pain associated with life. The reality of living in a capitalist society, in which people will profess to care only should there be an advantage present for them to seize at my expense. A society in which the most deserving of wealth are judged not enough by their character but by the wealth they already possess. A society in which my good manners and gentle nature are seen as a weakness and my self-destructive tendencies self-perpetuatingly seen as an excuse for avoidance and malignancy. I don’t drink to forget. I don’t necessarily drink to be more social. I drink to be happy. To be more insulated from this world’s superficial and heartless realities. I drink because as people go about their lives around me I feel more content with mine only because I find their possibly ridiculous choices and opinions to be less grating. I drink because I can. Because it’s a legal and socially accepted escape from the fucking circus we call post-World War Two Western Society which has more evils to answer for than any evil empire which came before it. I drink because my knowledge of history and shame at a present I can too little control permits me to do little else. I drink, and that’s ok. I drink.

Phone blog mark one

Phone blogging. Well, it has always seemed anathema to me. And normally on my computer it would be easy for me to independently check the definition of the word “anathema” to make sure it was appropriate to my purposes. Basically I mean it’s something I’ve never been keen on. But I’ll go on faith in this context. The next obvious hurdle is the lack of keyboard. The keyboard, you must understand, is my instrument. Much less attractive to the ladies than the guitar or, well, I was gonna say saxaphone but I think these days they’re only likely to be attracted to guitar proficiency. But I spent five terms (that’s a year and a quarter) in high school doing little else but practicing typing – with mostly women who were as equally vastly unimpressed as they’ve since been by my dedication to the English language expressed via computer.  It was never about being attractive, though I’ve also long held the view that men don’t do much that isn’t geared toward enamouring the fairer sex. I just knew deep down in my geek soul that, Jesus! This shit is going to come in handy one day. And it has, financially and personally. And the militant feminist teacher I endured who’d segregate or outright ostracise her male pupils be damned. As far as I’m concerned, I got to the computer keyboard skill equivalent point that Beethoven did on the piano. Maybe. Maybe not.

I may have digressed. It’s 1.30am and I’m out the back of a share house belonging via rent to a bunch of beautiful young women from the  east-mid-western northern rivers New South Wales region who all moved here chasing the Gold Coast dream. Whatever the fuck that is. One of them is educated in floristry but works behind a bar I frequent with some, erm, frequency. As much as I’m grateful for their benevolent presence in my shit hole of an adopted town (I was born in Geelong and moved here with my olds when I was five), it seems only fair or at least truthful to put signs reading something like “Warning: Gold Coast city is much more superficial, vacuous and sparsely industrialized than it may first appear while you’re on holidays”; at any and all points of ingress to the local government area governed by a popularly elected mayor who is, let’s face it, a greedy businessman formerly of Liberal National Party colours who is interested in little other than protecting and furthering the interests of himself and his greedy businessman mates.

Now, where was I? As if you give a shit, on account of the fact that it’s difficult to attach photos to a phone blog, and I’m the first to admit that blogs without photos are about as useful as revolutionary thoughts in a supermarket worker’s head. Sorry. Was trying to come up with a better “as useful as” analogy than the good old “tits on a bull” one. Sometimes clichés are apt, I guess. My point is this bullshite is words only, and God fucking bless you fantastic bastards who have bothered to read this far. I suppose this is as good a time as any to mention that the girl, the incredibly gorgeous and crazy and weird and wonderful girl who is our (mine and my brother’s) host, has gone to bed upstairs. Leaving us both languishing downstairs on the couch enduring the agonizingly slow death throes of a fridge that looks fine but sounds like a diesel generator. This sucks (her going to bed, as much as the noisy fridge) because my couple of inches taller and 20 kgs heavier brother has had the privilege of sleeping in the same bed as her twice. (It’s a common thing for me, as a relative intellectual who lives in his arguably superior physical shadow when it comes to the fairer sex. Actually, we rarely share the same taste, intellectually, emotionally or superficially, in women, but this girl might be different.) New paragraph.

He was, apparently, a gentleman both times. I’m less confident I would be, but to be honest even in my drunken state I would give my left pinkie toe just for the chance to spend some time with her while we’re both sober. (She serves us drinks down the local sports club so regrettably I’ve always been a couple of sheets to the wind in her purely social company.) A man can dream, in the hope his reality might become dream-like in its beauty and magnificence and possible unlikelihood. Changing subject. Well I guess I’m happy with my first phone blog. It’s certainly helped me expend some frustrated sexual, romantic and creative energy. Guess I might as well publish it, after a quick read through. No one is likely to read it any time soon, especially without photos and especially (hey I got italics to work) without a post to Facebook that upwards of five people might read but none will comment on/’like’. I don’t care though. I write, in whatever and presently this form, because I want to and have to. Any readership and one day again God willing money which results is purely a bonus. Permit me to say “fuck you” to my phone’s auto correct which has so often attempted to thwart my best literary intentions over the past hour. And a sincere thank you to those who made it this far. Romance is not dead. And world peace can happen in our lifetimes.

Desire

A much older one.  From probably 2009.  A former tutor directed a subtly snide remark toward me once, about my poetry.  He was discussing professionals versus amateurs, and made eye-contact with me when he mentioned the latter.  But as if I care about being a professional poet.  Whether 10 or 10,000 people are interested in anything I write, I’m not going to earn much either way.  Though I do wish to be read, otherwise I wouldn’t be blogging.  The point is I don’t expect anything in return (though there is much that I yearn for):

 

What do you want!?

Money?  Power?  Sex?

Or all, in no particular order?

Expect not, dark existential holes,

To be stuffed with fleeting whims.

Indefinitely, the eagle flies not,

But for purpose and necessity;

With every beat of powerful feathers,

The wheel of life spins further.

Take heed, of the lined face,

With bandages, binding legs.

Blood seeps through,

But still he hobbles,

Pushing his cart of bread;

His cart of boulders.

When finally, the world crushes him,

To his grave, he will take,

The mirrored smiles and hellos,

He gives through his pain.

Though frail of body,

And with a mind which withers,

Like a rock enduring eons of wind,

He will leave a permanent mark,

With his smiles and greetings,

On those who may wish,

For things which matter not.

Trust #Americans to mix #money with #religion

Arrival

I haven’t written poetry in a while.  Below is what is known as a narrative poem, in that it doesn’t necessarily rhyme and instead focuses on telling a story – albeit perhaps in an abstract, interpretive way.  Maybe I’ll pick up writing poetry again.  Maybe I’ll post my old ones.  Maybe not.  To this day, as during university, I’m really not sure what the difference is between a good narrative poem and a bad.  Probably the popularity of the author among her/his writing community.  Either way, I won’t be posting all of them to Facebook.  So don’t despair:

 

Alighting from the train of life,

You stepped right on my heart.

A timid step, a fragile muscle;

Shocked by its own weakness.

I lay there gasping on the concrete,

As you walked away oblivious.

Exploring the inner-workings of my world,

Dragging yours behind on wheels.

???????????????????????????????

You were not there to see me,

Nor I there to visit you.

Yet together we were,

Not near, not far, but still, we.

Thrust by a gust of fateful wind,

Into each others’ minds.

But to this day I fear I do,

Yours heeded less than mine.

On Socialising

Social life has always been a bit of a not too distant and infrequently visited island for me.  And it’s not without its ironies and contradictions.  I’ve read articles about introverts, and how they’re generally able to fit their friendship group in a phone box.  That’s me, pretty much.  The irony lies in the “reading” part.  You’re not usually doing a lot of talking or otherwise interacting while reading a book.  And talking about books is largely boring unless the person you’re addressing has read the book/s in question.  So of course I couldn’t categorise myself as an extrovert while reading an article which quite accurately describes me as somewhat the opposite.  Though I read less these days, as a child characters in books were my most reliable friends.  I was a journalist for a total of a couple of years for two different organisations.  Another irony.  Obviously, you have to write well to be a journo.  And it’s difficult to write well without also being well read.  But journalists also have to be very social people, even if that means their socialisation mainly involves the asking of a lot of questions – which has tended to be my conversational staple.  But how does a person who reads a lot also socialise a lot?  Difficult.  It’s possible, at least early on, that the best journalists aren’t necessarily the best writers.  I know where my strength lay.  But there are only so many hours in the day, and I’m less effective at everything without enough time spent sleeping.

Me, far right, back during the old uni days with a bunch of people - most of whom I don't even know.

Me, far right, back during the old uni days with a bunch of people – most of whom I don’t even know.

I’m vastly less painfully shy and anti or a-social now than I was as a child, when I was known to sometimes hide when people would visit.  That growth and change was due in part to my coming to terms with myself, over the years, even if there are elements of my external world which I may never be fully accepting of.  It’s still an energy thing for me, in that as an introvert socialising drains me.  While extroverts apparently and plausibly, in my opinion, are energised by socialisation.  I’m not sure if I envy the latter all that much.  Perhaps I’m being unfair, but I’ve long held the opinion that I’ve never met anyone quite as intellectually stimulating as some books I’ve read.  In fact I’m sure that’s unfair, as people when broken down could easily be likened to books or series of books.  And of course books don’t just magically manifest themselves, and are written by people who talk to other people however often.  But when looking at the issue through introverted eyes, it’s quite an accurate appraisal.  Extroverts don’t necessarily read any less than their opposites, but I imagine what they gain from books and the like differs from what I tend to – in a word: escape.  Or in a few words: a journey for my mind that my body could never take.  I’m quite comfortable, as I should be at almost 30, engaging with people whether in person, by phone, in writing or by whatever other means.  Though the more directly such engagement takes place, the more draining it is for me and the more likely it is that I’ll need my engaged to take the conversational lead.

My biggest, albeit not constant, grumble with my latent social timidity is of course the matter of the fairer sex.  I’ve dealt with the nature of my relationships with women previously, but in this particular case the grumble I mentioned relates to the fact that rarely do women (at least in my environment) find men who are not the or close to the centre of attention attractive.  (Assuming I’m right about that, I should probably be grateful I’m not a bad looking bloke.) Plus, they’re simply more likely to be drawn to extroverted personalities.  It’s frustrating, and kind of ironic once again because naturally if you’ve a wide and dense social circle you will have less undivided attention to give to a particular woman.  That said, another about face on such reasoning is that I don’t require excessive amounts of undivided attention from a woman I happen to be close to.  And I expect her not to require me to live in her pocket 24/7, too.  But as I alluded to, in a kind of a chicken-and-the-egg scenario, it’s hard to get romantically close to one female if you’re not well-connected with other men and women.  Like I said, I’m relatively at peace with this element of myself, though I do from time-to-time detect a certain amount of self-perpetuating awkwardness from others at my lack of social integration and low frequency or duration – though in my opinion high quality – association with women.  Whatever the positive and negative consequences, as I once said to a mate after I entered a catatonic state for an hour after smoking a joint with him: I am who I am.  Superficial problems can be solved, created or dismissed, but at the core of who I am lies, I assure you, a very good yet not un-blemished and at the same time uncompromising heart.

I socialised last night.  Admittedly, while drinking – which always, erm, lubricates socialisation.  And a couple of weeks ago I attended a function during which I not only talked to several people I had never or only once met, but also spoke to all of them at once through reading – quite well, if I do say so myself – a fictional short-story I’d written for the occasion.  I’d post the video link to that, but I’ve only got it on Facebook so you’ll have to make do with the written words, if you so please.  Another admission: there was another meeting of the group last week, which I did not attend.  My justification in my own mind is that I am currently unemployed, and have been for almost four straight months, and need to concentrate on getting a job before engaging more often in such indulgences, however pleasurable and stimulating they might be.  Though if I’m being a little more honest with myself I’d have to first admit I only attended the initial reading night at Griffith University, which preceded the event at the library at which I read to a wider audience, because I was invited by a friend and former peer; and secondly admit that when I do gain work I might use that as an excuse to not have enough time in which to attend the regular meetings.  One of the elements at the core of my social being is that I am not aggressive.  I am literally a pacifist – which developed from the fact that I have visited physical violence on people and had it visited on me (and don’t care for it either way).  But what I mean is I’m not socially aggressive, in that people will mostly engage me socially and not the other way around.

Me in the red t-shirt, with a mate and some American tourists/students, back in 2009 or '10

Me in the red t-shirt, with a mate and some American tourists/students, back in 2009 or ’10

I am less lonely when I’m alone.  And please don’t misinterpret that.  In the context I’m leading to, there can be a difference between being lonely, and being alone.  For example, I can feel very alone, and content, at a music festival; surrounded by thousands of like-minded people.  But put me in the crowd at, say, a car race, and I will feel lonely, and quite discontented.  The difference is simply common-ground.  Extroverts, too, value common ground, but from observations I’ve made they are more ready to profess to or even outright lie about sharing the marginally or completely foreign values and interests of others.  Conversely, I am not.  Actually, I am comfortable stating to people with different values and interests that while I might respect their difference, I might also not be inspired to either pretend to or actually start sharing their values and interests and thus reduce the difference between us.  One contradiction in this case is, for example, that I am not interested in sport and will rarely discuss it, watch it on television or read about it.  But, I don’t mind participating in some sports and have been to the occasional live match.  It’s not hypocritical, it’s just . . . limited.  Or managed.  It would be prejudicial for anyone to describe it as lazy.  I am genuine when I say that I’m capable of deep respect for people with different values and interests to mine.  And if I’m not often with people whom I’ve spent time with before, doing things they’re interested in, it’s not because I’m hateful.  Or disrespectful.  Or anti or a-social.  Or a loner.  Or vindictive.  It’s because I refuse to patronise or outright lie to people about things I simply do not have in common with them – which inevitably means I’m sometimes or often absent.  It’s because I’ve retreated to my comfort zone in order to replenish my energy.  And if sincere socialisation steadily drains it, bullshit takes it from me quick as an opening trap door.