A boy runs away, learns circus tricks on Melbourne streets

Serendipity has never been so savage.

Beyond Order

Roy Maloy lies on a bed of nails. A forklift lowers a 500 kilogram block of ice onto his chest and seven muscular men break the ice with axes.

“Hurry,” Roy shouts on the Youtube video as they tire. And he remains until the ice has completely shattered away.

He tells me yesterday he broke two ribs from the weight of the ice.

I met Roy Maloy at the Mt Isa Show yesterday. He broke a record struggling out of a six metre chain tied by a random from the crowd. He did it in 21.5 seconds. When a boy heckles him, Roy throws the boy’s hat into the crowd. And when he breaks the record, he gets a woman to kiss him on the cheek and he moves at the last second so their mouths touch.

We meet through a comedy friend of ours. I take him out for lunch. He puts his folded bed of nails…

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Karma exists

Ramblings, musing and photos by a good friend of mine, who is currently backpacking with her boyfriend.

50 days of adventure on a shoestring budget

I HAVE always been a firm believer that Karma exists and more importantly when you are touring around the world, travel Karma exists.

A couple of years ago I met a lovely Aussie boy, on a very long Greyhound bus trip from Banff, Canada to Vancouver. I was broke, my shoes were falling apart and money was still a couple of days away.
So, without a second thought, he gave me $100 and said: “don’t worry about paying me back, just pay it forward”.

Even before this I had been an advocate for such exchanges and always helped the homeless out with food, tipped buskers and always been willing to lend a helping hand.

Fastforward to June 2014, and I was in Los Angeles, for the second time in my life. The city was familiar and I did not feel like a tourist, as I did the first time. Despite being…

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Existential Phlog Poem

Sometimes I feel as if a ghost,
Living life apart from most.
Watching them, their joy or sorrow,
Participating not, now nor morrow.
A voyeuristic existence,
Keeps me from real comfort hence.
It is as if a sheet of glass,
Divides me from whatever class.


People will do this or that,
And I can but an eyelid bat.
It is somehow a pleasant state,
For connection to abrupt abate.
Yet if I wish for something deeper,
I’ll be naught but the happy sleeper.
I do take comfort from the thought,
That earned solace be not for naught.


Until then I gaze quite patiently,
Thoughts of love savoured pleasantly.

Philosophical phlog poem

Started writing this while I was drunk the weekend last, and just now finished it (while sober (ok one beer)):

Reason be to wonder why,
It be to ponder pie in sky.
Why the sun do rise and fall,
To know it matters not at all.
I envy them of supreme being,
Them who see quite without seeing.


Me I know but mortal life.
Life and death and random strife.
The fruit of life be naught but love,
Found in an other or peace dove.
That be the solace I do seek,
In them others strong or meek.


I crave it so so very much,
And rarely do discover such.
Such that do feel its way to me,
While I do feel my way to thee.
So alone I be most every season,
Knowing not the rhyme nor reason.

US and UK – Epilogue – Part the Final

Venice Beach Hostel, on the right

Venice Beach Hostel

The Del Monte Speakeasy.  I mentioned it way back, but not in great detail.  It was a ground and basement level bar, and got its name from the prohibition-era (1920s, I believe) “speakeasies” which sold mostly mob-bootlegged booze from beneath or behind more legitimate shops that the right people knew to go to.  And of course since prohibition ended its upstairs area was able to become the bar, while downstairs was mainly reserved for live music.  As in the above-linked post, I enjoyed some of said music during my first foray on LA, but this New Year’s Day morning the music, which from memory came from a lone DJ, was confined upstairs.  The Del Monte was what you might call a swanky bar, but not overly so, with lots of dark-hued wood and stained glass, old-world style lights.  It was like a beautiful woman who doesn’t bother with makeup, and hardly needs to.  It consisted of a simple 20 or 30 metre-long wooden bar, facing an equally long lounge area separated by a wall with entrances at both ends and an open area in front of the bar which led to a dance-floor at the back as big as most living rooms.  Imagine a clichéd Venice Beach NYE party, and that’s what was happening within the speakeasy.  Not that that was a bad thing.  You could feel the room’s energy bouncing along your skin, as 30 to 50 people wearing not a lot despite the cold outside danced and drank – still chasing that elusive best night of the year dream we’re all led to believe NYE should always be.  I remember a bloke.  He was from my hostel.  We chatted – or yelled – to each other and drank before at some point we were on the dance floor and then suddenly there were two girls.  He danced with the taller, plumper but not unattractive blonde one while I did the same with her shorter, lithe, elfin-faced and also blonde friend.  Then, to my surprise and somewhat horror, the bar closed far too early for my liking at 2am and security ushered the four of us out along with everyone else and we momentarily found ourselves smoking on the sidewalk.  She leant in, asked me where I was staying then, after I answered and indeed pointed because I could see the hostel from there, took my hand and led me east along Windward Avenue.



She’d already gone when I woke to my alarm at 8.30am – which gave me just enough time to check out by 10am.  My 12-bed room had been empty at just after 2am the previous night but naturally, as I struggled to see through bloodshot eyes, there were three or four people snoring or dreaming away scattered through the room.  I quietly as possible showered, brushed my teeth, deodorised, packed, and left the room.  This was the day of departure, and the final one of the trip, at that.  The flight wasn’t until very late in the afternoon.  About 5pm.  I can’t remember exactly.  So, not wanting to lug it all over wherever I chose to visit last in the city before flying out, as I had done in Dublin, I left my pack at the hostel and decided to visit Santa Monica once more, via the ocean front walk.  While without notes thinking back on traversing the coast that first day of 2013 and final day of my journey, I’d like to be able to say some inspiring, even life-changing thoughts came to me.  But that almost certainly was not the case.  I suppose at least in hindsight it’s clear: life’s not like that.  Just because something significant, based on timing or impact or location, is occurring to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be greatly changed by it.  Oftentimes, things just happen.  Then you unceremoniously move on.  Then similar things might happen later.  There’s no real significance to it.  We are all but one person among 7 billion.  And I guess if one important thought came to me as I approached the Santa Monica Pier, then that was it: a deep yet not unpleasant appreciation of my own definitive insignificance.  So many personally profound things occurred to me during that trip, not to mention during my entire life, but in 1000 years – and in fact at the time – the broader world will care little, if at all.  A sense of one’s own importance is, well, important.  But such a sense should come from within, and if you look for it reflected in people, creatures and things around you, you will be disappointed by its absence until the day you die.  In other words: it was just a walk, no less or more significant than any other, from one place to another.  I took a right at the pier and entered Santa Monica.


From the Santa Monica Pier


Hollywood, I assumed, would be full of “plastic people and fat tourists”, as I wrote in justification of not visiting it.  Another justification was my experience of Santa Monica.  Today, New Year’s Day, was not my first experience of the area.  I’d briefly checked it out while in LA during October 2012.  And to be honest I felt like I was in Hollywood, or what I imagined it to be like, albeit by the sea.  Santa Monica spoke to me of one thing: opulence.  It was where La La Land’s rich or wannabe rich lived or shopped, or lived and shopped.  Perhaps, ironically, I’m a snob, but most of the wares in the area’s shops seemed designed to convey a single message, upon possession: “I’m wealthy.”  “Look how great I am.”  Clothes and jewellery and trinkets and useless pieces of pleasant-looking crap swirled before my eyes and might have crushed my spirit if I wasn’t prepared for what I was seeing.  God knows why I decided to make Santa Monica my last experience.  I would have been better off wandering off into the suburbs behind Venice Beach, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d already done that.  It was suitably anti-climactic.  Here was a trip I took, alone, across one and a bit continents in order to experience by design or accident things that particularly suited me.  And now, at the end, I was wiling away the few hours before departure in a part of the United States that reminded me only of the wanker wasteland I called home: the Gold Coast.  I suppose from that point-of-view, it was an effective way of getting back to reality.  But I was not morose.  I’d heard tell of a man who was returning to wherever he called home from a journey similar to mine, when I first landed in LA.  It was said he was “terrified”, or some such sentiment, of rejoining society.  At worst, I was resigned.  But at best I figured it was just the way it had to go, especially because I wasn’t on a working visa and had very little money left.  So I enjoyed Santa Monica for what it was.  There was the odd busking budding rock star or violinist or accordionist.  And some of Venice’s freaks were wandering around, probably pan handling.  With still a few hours up my sleeve, I decided to watch the Les Miserables film showing at the time.  Not my usual taste, but as to its quality, let’s just say I will forever judge harshly those I meet who haven’t enjoyed it.  After the movie, I estimated how long it would take to walk back to Venice Beach, catch a cab, and make my flight.  And, guessing I had a few minutes, I laid down awhile on some afternoon-sunned grass north of the pier, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Stared into the sky.  Reflected.  Then I stood up, pulled on the backpack, brushed myself off. And got going.


Loneliness Phlog Poem

It’s more cold than a winter breeze.
Vacant than a logged field of trees.
Sad than a crying clown.
Painful than a thorned crown.
Endless than the moon’s orbit,
Mournful than a child’s obit.

Wrenching than a hangman’s noose.
Vengeful than an upset goose.
Frustrating than a stubborn stain.
Uncomfortable than lower back pain.
Crippling than the most intense stress.
Is fucking goddamn loneliness.

US and UK – Epilogue – Part Four

Sunset, Venice Beach, 2012 - just to the right of where I'd surfed earlier that day

Sunset, Venice Beach, 2012 – just to the right of where I’d surfed earlier that day

Surfing is the only thing I can with any real clarity remember doing on New Year’s Eve in Venice Beach, Los Angeles.  I had spent a week there two-and-a-half-months previously, at the beginning of my journey.  (It seemed more like as many years ago.)  So the area felt as familiar to me as it could have without living and working there.  And with only one full day left before flying out the afternoon of the first day of 2013, and with money tightening, there was little to do but mostly eat and drink and absorb reliably freaky sights within walking distance of the hostel – other than enjoy one precious surf, of course.  I had walked past the iconic wooden lifeguard towers on the quarter-kilometre wide beach to throw myself in the salt water earlier that day, or the day before.  It wasn’t just the cold, but also the seaweed I later found in my budgie smugglers that made me hire a wetsuit in addition to the beaten up old longboard I wish I’d taken a photo of.  And it was cold.  While surfing during the early afternoon at Palm Beach (Queensland), Australia, even during the height of winter rarely would it be cold enough for your toes to become numb.  But that’s certainly what happened while I surfed Venice Beach.  It made me appreciate that LA was probably further north of the equator than the Gold Coast was south of it.  In equatorial distance terms, the City of Angels probably had more in common with Sydney, or at least Newcastle.  Nevertheless, I was reminded on my first wave of one of the immutable laws of surfing: it’s like riding a bike.  Numbness became a challenge, and while riding a longboard obviously I wasn’t completing bottom-to-top spray-throwing manoeuvres.  Still, it was a singular delight I instantly realised how much I missed; while gliding on two-foot gentle green glacial geysers breaking for 20 or 30 metres from the rock wall in front of Windward Avenue, right through to the sand.  There were few others out, and of those fewer still had any skill.  So I in all but solitude rode those perfect longboarding waves in literally cold sober but satisfyingly soaked bliss for as long as I could stand the temperature – which was probably about an hour.


Almost a quarter of a year’s consistent, if only occasionaly binge-level drinking had taken its toll.  The afternoon and early evening proceeded pleasantly enough.  I would have bought a burrito for dinner somewhere on the boardwalk.  Venice’s at once relaxed and freaky natures would have been increasing in end of year energy in direct yet not necessarily conflicting opposition to each other.  I watched what will hopefully not be my, but was certainly 2012’s, final frenetically coloured sunset over the Pacific Ocean.  Then I went back to the hostel to start drinking a six-pack of Coronas and smoke possibly my last pack of Marlboros minus black packaging and health warnings all over them.  Reckon I got through two Coronas, before I laid down in bed with stomach pains about 7pm. (I blamed the booze, but it was probably the burrito.)  Then woke to the sound of everyone within hearing distance counting down from 10 at, yes, midnight on New Year’s Day.  The stomach pains gone, I gathered the remaining four – warm – beers and headed out to the smoking balcony to watch the New Year’s revelry.  Where I was soon joined by hostel staff who were pleased to wish me a happy new year, which I returned, but could sense my dislocation with the groove of the moment and swiftly focused on leaning over the balcony for enjoyment of the street circus.  Putting aside location, it was no less disappointing than all NYE celebrations have been for me.  Especially the one when I was passed out drunk in Byron Bay by 9.30pm.  But not the other Byron one in which I kissed an attractive brunette tourist as the clock struck midnight – and for most of the rest of the morning.  But based on location alone, it was a little depressing to consider how the night might have gone for a 28-year-old Australian if he hadn’t fallen asleep in pain at 7pm.  It’s irrelevant.  Seconds into 2013, I knew I needed to swill the rest of my Coronas, step out of the hostel and seize what of the night left to me that I could.  So that’s what I did.  And my destination: the good old Del Monte Speakeasy, across the avenue.

Saying goodbye to 2012 from the Venice Skate Park

Saying goodbye to 2012 from the Venice Skate Park

US and UK – Epilogue – Part Three

As close as I got, or wanted to get, to Hollywood

As close as I got, or wanted to get, to Hollywood

Not because of ill health.  Not because of fear.  Nor even because of some hilarious yet potentially messy prank involving a laxative.  No, like I said in US and UK – Epilogue – Part Two, it was because of too much coffee and Mexican food that I found myself in Little Tokyo, downtown Los Angeles, desperately needing to take a shit.  That’s right.  Now, before you close this page and go back to scrolling Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or perhaps pornography, please know that there’s a reason I’ve bothered writing about this.  It’s because it took me a good couple of hours to finally find a toilet.  Probably a personal best (or worst).  The gastronomical gurgling began at some point after I walked south of the Hollywood Freeway from visiting Union Station.  But I paid it not enough heed, initially, until that is I found myself at a multi-storey, decidedly Japanese – on account of all the stores being so-themed – shopping centre.  To any attentive CCTV camera watching security staff it must have looked comical; as I quickly walked, and avoided running so as to avoid any more embarrassment, laps up and down and around the centre several times before realising the horror of the truth: it had no bathrooms.  But the torture didn’t end there.  I can even recall visiting a few likely places such as restaurants and cafes on Little Tokyo’s fringe in my desperate search for relief.  It was a close one.  But eventually, finally, I burst into a Starbucks and took care of the business – only before buying a coffee, out of guilt at what I’d done to its facilities.  Easily the worst such experience I’ve ever had, but all’s well that ends well and I’d put myself in a comfortable position in which to return south to Venice Boulevard and head back to my beach base.  I shifted my underwear once more for good measure, and set off.

Financial District, downtown

Financial District, downtown

West downtown was my route south, as I had walked north up its east.  Passed the Walt Disney Concert Hall – a ridiculous maelstrom of twisted, curving metal.  Stopped at a bar just outside of the Financial District for a pint of Guinness.  And before I knew it, and after an equally long wait as earlier that day, I found myself again the lone white among blacks and Hispanics riding the bus south-west along Venice Boulevard.  It wasn’t as if I felt threatened by my brief Los Angeles experience of public transport.  Rather, I felt like a ghost.  Which is kind of ironic, considering my skin colour compared to theirs.  It’s as if I wasn’t there.  Even when I briefly looked one of my interracial fellow passengers in the eyes, the gesture was never returned.  So I spent most of the journey reading, and being momentarily entertained by a young Latino man attempting to pickup a girl sitting on the same bench as me.  Here was a group of people so different to me, going about their lives as indifferently to me as someone in Moscow or Madrid might have been.  There’s been a certain alienating atmosphere in every bus ride I’ve taken in my short life, but never had I felt so humbled by my own at once rarity and insignificance.  A not altogether unpleasant experience, I left the bus strangely relaxed and at peace.  Can’t honestly say what I would have done that night.  Perhaps wandered the Venice Ocean Front Walk for a six-pack of Budweiser as the sun set into the Pacific horizon.  Possibly sat at the Del Monte Speakeasy bar and sipped Scotch and Coke while listening to some cool jazz.  Or maybe manned the hostel’s smoking balcony overlooking Windward Avenue, with a beer, a Marlboro and my book at the time – Oliver Twist.  Whatever happened, I know I would have slept reluctantly, because the next morning would be my second-last in Venice Beach.  And it would also be New Year’s Eve.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Cold South Wind

While the cold south wind blew,
I sat alone outside and you.

You did not what I could know,
Just as I see not birth of snow.
Your entire life’s a mystery,
And if I could but find the key.
I would throw it in a deep hole,
Unlocking you is not my goal.

Instead it is surely to learn,
What good graces I might earn.
From you dearest bella mia,
At the risk of my warm tear.
If it should slide down my cheek,
Would you in time surely speak.

Before it becomes airborne found,
And splashes pained upon the ground.
If so I would not again weep,
Until I had failed to you keep.
Keep you by my loving side,
Because of life’s own high tide.

An ebb and flow that had taken you,
Where the cold south wind never blew.

US and UK – Epilogue – Part Two

First beer back in Venice.  From memory, it was about 10% alcohol or some crazy shit

First beer back in Venice. From memory, it was about 10% alcohol or some crazy shit

Waiting for the Venice Beach-downtown bus

Waiting for the Venice Beach-downtown bus


Two events stand out from my final two days in Los Angeles.  One was a bus ride downtown out of Venice Beach.  And the other was a surf; my first since leaving home and only one while travelling.  The only other times I’d even considered surfing was while I was in Oregon, and in Brighton.  (I guess it might have been possible while in New York, too.)  But I can’t remember which came first.  Whether I surfed on Sunday and went downtown on Monday, or the other way around.  Actually, I distinctly remember how peaceful LA was while I wandered around its city streets.  Plus one street was blocked off by a market, which probably wouldn’t happen on a Monday.  So that settles it: I’m heading downtown, presently.   You might recall that I’d barely made it out of Venice Beach, much less downtown, during that first week in California.  (And I never bothered with Hollywood.  Why on earth would I?  Would have been nothing but plastic people and fat tourists.)  But I had at the time heard other backpackers mumbling to hostel staff about how to get there.  Downtown, that is.  Turns out it was a simple matter of walking one minute from Pacific Avenue along Windward to a bus stop near the roundabout connecting it with Main Street and Grand Boulevard.  Too easy.  The bus took a while, but I wasn’t exactly on my way to work or anything so couldn’t have cared less.  Plus, true to Venice, there was both street art and wind-drifting rubbish to admire while I sat there sucking down a couple of Marlboros.  So that’s what I did – surveyed and smoked – until the bus stopped in front of me. I got on, put a dollar fifty in the receptacle; and sat down the only white person among otherwise exclusively blacks and Hispanics all stopping somewhere along the about 45-minute Venice Boulevard route downtown.

Yeah?  Well, Jesus clearly couldn't save this building from looking absolutely ridiculous

Yeah? Well, Jesus clearly couldn’t save this building from looking absolutely ridiculous


This is where things get tricky without notes.  Guess I’ll just not bother going into too much detail.  I got off the bus somewhere pretty far to downtown’s south.  And then, as I had in so many other places, just started walking.  Photos help.  One of the first interesting buildings I saw was a rather featureless, large, multi-storied factory and/or office building that looked as though it had been built in the ‘50s.  The Anjac Fashion Bldg(sic).  So I guess, yeah, it would have had a lot of industrial-scale sewing machines inside.  (I’ve since realised the structure I’m talking about was actually behind the Anjac building.  So there you go.)  The interesting, or more weird, really, thing about it is that cresting the top of its drab exterior was a gothic, church-esque square steeple that fit with the appearance of the rest of the building not at all.  I kept walking.  And quickly gained a sense of how to define downtown Los Angeles: it’s a sprawling, disordered central business district with a character that seems conflicted about just which time period it belongs in and what style it’s aiming for.  Whether its buildings were very old, or very modern – and there was a chaotic mix of both – they came in myriad different styles, with no apparent pattern.  Much like Brisbane, the city seemed less planned than planted with a million different architectural seeds and simply allowed to grow how it pleased.  A true concrete jungle; even more so than New York, because at least that city had a consistent sense of style.  Downtown LA seemed right then to be the real America: liberal and free functioning, if also typically savagely unequal, in every way.  There seemed to be rubbish everywhere, too – either floating around on the street and between buildings or in huge piles of bulging black plastic bags.  Then again, Christmas had been enough days ago to have been literally discarded, and garbage men probably didn’t start their pickups again until the next day. Not a lot of bums, downtown, though. Guess they preferred hanging by the beach. Makes sense to me.

Union Station

Union Station

Messing around with a fish-eye function

Messing around with a fish-eye function

A lot of things I wasn’t interested in passed by as I walked.  Such as a basketball stadium (which I believe the STAPLES Center(sic) was) and a train which descended underground while I walked in the same direction beside the tracks.  I had no desire to ride LA’s underground – not just because I couldn’t think of a worse place to be when the inevitable big earthquake struck, but also because I was happy walking and hadn’t noticed any stations nearby my base at Venice Beach.  And you couldn’t have paid me to waste time watching a basketball match.  Eventually, I found a park with an ice-skating rink.  I was surprised to find it, because it really didn’t seem cold enough to support such a pastime.  In Edinburgh I’d never gotten the chance to ice-skate.  There was one in its Winter Wonderland, but it always seemed so crowded and I guess I was just always busy doing other things.  Certainly it wasn’t at all from a sense of longing for Emma that I wished to skate, because I had gotten over her rejection of me at least due to putting 10 or 20,000 kilometres between us.  Pretty sure I’ve already mentioned this a bunch of words back, but skating was a great substitute for surfing.  The gliding motion and the way I could manipulate my enjoyment of it through various movements of my legs really connected it with its liquid salt-water sporting sister.  Other than that, there’s not a lot more to write about.  I walked all the way up from the Santa Monica to just above the Hollywood Freeway, and back again.  The sensationally Spanish-influenced Union Station was impressive.  An interesting and potentially embarrassing thing happened in Little Tokyo – just south of the station – after I’d apparently drunk and eaten too much coffee and Mexican food.  I’m sure you can easily guess what I’m likely to write, but I’ll leave that for the next, and possibly final, post.