Phil Collins – Part Two of Two

A revelation about that Adele chick’s music came to me recently.  It couldn’t have if I wasn’t in the frame of mind I am now.  See, without providing any specific examples to support the argument, Collins’ music to my mind taps in and relates to people’s emotions.  Adele’s, on the other hand, manipulates and exploits them.  Again, I’m not going to provide evidence.  It’s just the way it is, or at least the way I see and hear it.  And I’m seeing (and hearing/tasting/smelling/feeling) things pretty bloody clearly these days, finally.  It seems to me that an artist of any persuasion should be very careful to relate to instead of exploit people and their emotions.  I can’t blame Adele for doing so.  She does have a wonderful voice.  And she’s also at once the product of a relentlessly capitalistic culture and commercial music machine.  Collins, too, is a part of and a product of that culture and machine.  Yet he I’m sure chose long ago to stick to the path of creative purity and it paid off for him through not creatively bankrupting himself or emotionally cheating his fans or his connection with them.  I, and we all whether we’re creative (in the ironically strict sense of the word) or not are capable of that choice, too.  My choice is to be true to myself, to the people around me, and to the things that I do, creative or otherwise.  And now it’s a deliberate, instead of just instinctive, decision.

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Me, camped by the Squamish River, British Colombia, Canada, late 2012

I did end up reading a Wikipedia article about Collins.  (Still not sure if he has a book or books.)  And, incredibly, it contains information which fits almost eerily perfectly with my comparison of him and Adele.  Apparently, in 2014 “Collins announced in an interview with Inside South Florida that he was writing new compositions with the English musician Adele.  Collins said he had no idea who Adele was when he learned she wanted to collaborate with him.  He said ‘I wasn’t actually too aware [of her].  I live in a cave.’  Collins agreed to join her in the studio after hearing her voice.  He said, ‘[She] achieved an incredible (indeed) amount.  I really love her voice (doesn’t everyone).  I love some of the stuff she’s done, too (funny how derivation expertly masquerading as originality can, at first, avoid appearing to even the most savvy sensibilities).’  However, in September 2014, Collins revealed that the collaboration had ended and he said it had been ‘a bit of a non-starter.’” (http://bit.ly/1FMxC7h).  I was surprised to find this, but I was not surprised by what I read.  The link to my situation is obvious: not only had I come to finally realise the truth about myself, I had also come to realise (perceivable, based on my limited sensory experiences) truths about the world around me to the point in which I had inadvertently made a coincidentally-timed observation about one musical artist and his dawning distaste for another.  To wit: my interpretation of the above Wikipedia excerpt is that eventually Collins discovered he had creative conflicts with and differences from Adele.  Of course, those who are fans of the latter, but not the former, might infer differently.

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Sunset, Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California, New Year’s Eve 2012

The future is bright.  I’m now capable of more consciously effectively operating in reality.  I understand the world better than I ever have, even if I still have many, many problems with it.  And I understand my place in that world better; indeed all but completely accurately.  Though that’s not to say I think I have some special place in the world beyond that which I might make, with others’ help.  Why is the future bright?  Firstly because it always has been, or had the potential to be.  And secondly because I’m now better able to realise why it is, or certainly can be if I play my proverbial cards right.  I’m free.  Not free in the sense that I can do whatever I want.  Not free in the sense that I’m capable of anything.  Free in the sense that I’m capable of what I want to do, as long as I’m conscious of those things – some of which might also be things I want to do, albeit with lesser priority – I must sacrifice in order to do what I want to do.  I certainly want to write, as evidenced by the fact that I am right now and have many times previously.  I certainly want to love, as evidenced by the fact that I am truly in love with the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met (again, besides my mother).  And I want to live.  And I will live not haunted.  Not scared.  Missing nothing.  I am, alive.

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Phil Collins – Part One of Two

All my life, I’ve been haunted.  Or scared.  Or missing something I could never quite comprehend, much less expect to discover.  With the sometimes benevolent and other times malevolent benefit/detriment of hindsight, I’ve wondered if it’s been because I was born 10 weeks premature.  Or because I was never truly born, but instead surgically removed from my mother (via caesarean section).  Or because as a result of my prematurity, my first few days and weeks were spent in a humidity crib, when they otherwise would have been spent bonding with the most important woman, at least by virtue of creation, I’d share my (but not all of her) life with. Maybe.  But I’ve since realised it almost certainly (albeit not actually certainly) had nothing to do with missing something I’d had trouble finding.  Or holding on to a never productive pain I probably just imagined from an immediately but progressively (but not always quickly enough) less painful childhood.  It really was about imagination.  Or more particularly paranoia.  But that’s all.  I’d imagined certain horrifying realities about my life and ignored or repressed actual, more pleasant ones.  I could never be as free as I deserved until I accepted that some pains are normal; and others are the product of fantasy and fear and paranoia and, simply, poor influence or advice or treatment.  No more.  No more.  No more.

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Me, Melbourne to Adelaide and across the Eyre Peninsula to Cactus, south of Penong, and back to Adelaide surf trip, 2011 – photo Ross Dudgeon

Phil Collins has always been an artist I’ve admired and enjoyed, albeit not known a lot about or patronised to any serious degree (I’ve never bought any of his music.  I plan on doing (or downloading) so.  And at least reading a Wikipedia article about him.  I wonder if he has a biography/autobiography?).  An ex-girlfriend of mine used to listen to his music in order to get pumped up for our first few dates.  It worked (arguably to ill-effect, eventually).  I for one, like I said, have always enjoyed his music but, and this relates to the point of this piece, whenever I’ve heard it I’ve had frustrating difficulty figuring out what his name was.  It was always on the tip of my tongue or brain.  And even with time it would never pop into my head.  (Apparently when we experience such “tip of the tongue” moments, our conscious mind might give up but our subconscious usually continues working on the problem and offers the revelation later on.)  I’d just hear his music again at some point later, and experience the same frustration at not being able to figure out who it was by.  Over and over again, kind of like how life feels when you’re not enjoying it.  Or avoiding enjoying it.

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Sunrise over San Francisco Bay Bridge

Again, no more.  It fits perfectly with the enormous corner my life has turned, and the not so horrifying or debilitating truth about who I am and my current and potential place in the world.  I used to struggle to bring Collins’ name to my mind and/or lips (perhaps it’s no coincidence that my first name is “Colin”), just as I used to struggle to be honest with myself and avoid engaging in paranoid fear about the almost completely self-invented lies I for some reason perceived as terrifyingly true.  Not long ago, after I turned the corner (unashamedly aided by psychoanalysis and depression/anxiety medication) in my life I was listening to the radio and one of Collins’ songs came on, and I was able to summon his name.  Pretty well straight away.  Finally!  It felt so good.  So symbolic of what I’d been struggling for.  Struggling to be honest with myself.  To love myself, non-narcissistically.  To be unafraid.  And my reward, or one of many, was the ability to put a name to some wonderful music which, it’s now obvious, so tellingly and symbolically happened to be by someone who shared my name (albeit switched with his surname, and an extra L added.  It’s always annoyed me when people add an extra L to my first name).  Fear is useful, sometimes.  But even if I still had rational fear, I had forever, I hope, lost the fear to rationally realise.  I was free, of that.

Waltzing Matilda and hot German backpacker

I’M 500 kilometres from Mount Isa when I wake in a motel room in Winton, central Queensland. Plenty of time to make  it to the Irish Club at 7pm for the work Christmas party.

But.

I get distracted at the Combo waterhole. It’s supposed to be the setting in Waltzing Matilda. I’m excited. I get a little carried away. I blame the 41 degree heat.

I reenacted the photos from the song. It wasn’t bad considering I didn’t have a tripod, a sheep, any law enforcement officers, a tucker bag. But thanks to a handy fork in a Coolibah tree, and some “subtle” changes in the song, I managed.

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, 

under the shade of a Coolibah tree. 

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And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boil [shut up! I forgot that part]

You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me. 

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong, 

Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee. 

And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his CAMERA bag [Shut up! That’s all he had on him]

You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me. 

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Up rode the squatter mounted on his thorough-bred

Down came the troopers One Two Three

Whose that jolly jumbuck you’ve got in your camera bag, 

You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me. 

Up jumped the swagman sprang in to the billabong

UP YOURS, said he

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And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Waltzing Matilda Waltzing Matilda

You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong

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You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

So yeah, that filled in some time. But there’s more pure Australiana to fill into this story. You see, further up the same road is a place called McKinlay.

There’s one interesting thing about this town. It happens to have a pub called the Walkabout Creek Hotel.

It’s the pub in Crocodile Dundee.

So I’m driving past when I see a bunch of people standing at the front of the pub. And I’m thinking “what’s happening here?” So being a journalist I stop the car and change out of my muddy swimming gear and walk up to the pub.

A middle aged couple are getting married in the pub, and the reception is open to anybody. Wedding gifts are donations to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

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This drunk middle aged publican of another pub 200 kilometres away buys my drinks. He shouts “this better be front page of your newspaper. Front page! Front page!”

I said I would try to get it front page.

“Bullshit!” he shouted. “It better be front page.”

A blonde haired girl with the lightest blue eyes I have seen walks to him and talks in a German accent, placing me into this conversation triangle. I talk to her and the publican says “oh, are you single?” and a bit later, “I’m sorry, I’ll go away” and makes a big show of it, embarrassing her and I.

But when he does go subtly she and I talk despite the loud music and the cackles and jeers from across the Walkabout Creek Hotel. I cannot remember her name, but I know she works at the petrol station, that she lives in west Germany, that she has never eaten Vegemite, that she is in a gap year from High School and intends to study economics at university.

“This is my first Australian wedding,” she said. “Are they all like this?”

I tell her no. This is quite casual. I think she seems relieved. She asks about Mount Isa, and I say that if she visits there’s a cinema and several pubs and clubs, and if she visits we should hang out. I think “oh well, might as well go all the way” and I put my number in her phone.

I leave shortly when she goes to Skype her grandparents, but she seems surprised I’m leaving so soon. I tell her I’ll be at the hotel’s Christmas party next Saturday night. What have I done! It’s 200 kms from where I live and I have work the next day.

But I take the wrong car. I steal the prop from Crocodile Dundee instead.

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Leave grandma and go wrestle with cowboys

ONCE I was a freelance journalist based in Perth.

10 months of the year I lived with Grandma and watched Breaking Bad.

That’s a joke. Because it only took two weeks to watch all the episodes.

The work didn’t come often. When I did I enjoyed dressing in a suit enjoying how people treated me more important than what I was. And I enjoyed bludging three out of four weeks.

But I couldn’t do what I did forever.

Because of money!

A week’s work was enough for me to live the skinflint dream for three weeks but if in the months that followed my car broke down or I ran out of rego I was screwed.

Thank God for grandmas. Even if she was a control freak sometimes.

Grandma would be worth her own blog post, but that’s not where I’m going with this. It’s really just chatter to explain how desperate I was when I took the job as a reporter in Mount Isa, Qld.

Two days after my interview I learned that a snake ate a crocodile in the nearby dam. Maybe you heard about it.

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The Brisbane Times

I still have not forgotten my flight into Mount Isa airport. You can see the dam where a surely dead bloated snake haunts. You can see the mine. And you can see the town in the shadow of it.

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This photo wasn’t taken from the conventional look-out position, which you can see in the photo if you know where to look. Photo: Chris Burns

The copper and zinc deposits in the region are rich. We’re not just talking Mount Isa. In fact, Cloncurry, the next town over, is more productive when it comes to mining copper.

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Holding native copper at the CuDECO Rocklands site in Cloncurry. This may look like dirt, but it feels like a dirty shovel.

The other thing is how many uranium deposits there are in this part of Qld. The legalisation of mining uranium is a big deal for Mount Isa since there are at least three deposits nearby.

The last uranium mine in Qld is at Mary Kathleen, which was closed in the 1980s. It’s open for the tendering process as there’s more uranium in the ground. In the waste piles there are also rare earths elements. There’s only one mine in Australia that mines rare earths. They are used for making advanced technologies like batteries, and camera lens, and lasers.

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I’m standing in front of the old Mary K uranium pit. There are rumours that some locals like to swim in the pit. I believe it.

Mount Isa tries to bring in the tourism, and it does this through Outback at the Isa. Years ago, tourists were allowed to tour the Mount Isa Mines. Unfortunately, restrictions and safety concerns increased. So a fake mine was built in the town.

Here’s a rare photo of the underground Hard Times Mine, as the tourists are not allowed to take photos.

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It’s not all about mines though. You’ve got the traditional station owners and rodeo sports. Mount Isa is proud of its “world famous rodeo” but the nearby town Cloncurry also has a good rodeo too.

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So what I’m trying to say is this; go out and get a job in the country, explore, do more. Ride a bull.  Get drunk with mining CEOs. Wrestle with cowboys.

 

The first ‘love letter’ I ever sent

Below is the first love letter I ever sent a girl.  The reason I’ve used inverted commas in the title is because the word “love” is perhaps a bit of a stretch in this context.  It would be more accurate for me to say that it was a romantic letter, and that I’d hoped at least the seeds of love had been planted by the sending of the letter – if not beforehand.  To be clear, I felt I could have loved her but did not at the time and it seems may never actually love her.

Unlike the previous letter I blogged about, in which I came to terms with an abusive friendship, I did actually send this letter.  When I first met this woman I asked her: if she had a band poster on her wall, which band would it be.  I sent her the letter accompanied by a poster of the band she mentioned.  It was simply left it outside her house early in the morning before work, after which I started playing the waiting game.

I won’t publish her response, because that would be disrespectful to her privacy.  It would be fair to sum up her reply in these terms, however: rejection.  She did not share my, or similar, feelings.  I was very disappointed.  Naturally I said to her that I was only “a little” disappointed.  As you’ll read below, I don’t often these days come across women I’m fond of – not to mention women who are fond of me.  And it was disheartening to say the least to be rejected by a girl I thought I was compatible with.

I may post this to Facebook, unlike the previous letter.  It’s risky, because “she” is on my friends list.  However, I tend to remove women from my friends list if I’m romantically interested in them and, through whatever means, I discover that I’ll never enjoy a relationship with them.  Then again, if she bothers to read this, she may save me the trouble of ending our frustratingly superficial online platonic relationship.  On the other hand, her lack of interest in my previous blog posts (not to mention me, myself) was suspected and is now obvious, so it will probably miss her radar either way.

I wrote below that I was not looking to manipulate her emotions.  That was a small lie.  Of course I hoped that the gift of something close to her heart and an emotionally honest and flattering romantic letter might stir something in her heart if it had not already been stirred.  Alas, it seems it was not to be.  I did figure if she liked me already, she would have responded favourably to the manner in which I reached out to her.  And if she didn’t like me, she wouldn’t respond favourably.  Now you know, as do I, the outcome.

Overall, I’ve decided to blog it because it is a significant step in my writing journey – which will hopefully be a journey increasingly closely tied to my life as it progresses inevitably toward the grave.  If through it I could not find happiness in the arms and heart and mind of a beautiful woman, then I’m consoled by its stand-alone passion and rawness and innocence and hope and beauty (if I do say so myself).  You can make up your own mind about it:

(There are actually two letters.  The first one was the 400 word edited version I actually sent.  The second is the almost 2000 word one I’m glad I didn’t.)

Dear _______,

I’ll be as brief as possible: I care for you.  (Perhaps that sounds a little immature.  I like you, I dig you, I care for you; it all means the same thing.)  I care for you a fair bit more than I have for any other woman in the past few years, in fact.  So here’s my number, in case you feel similarly: ______________.  But if you don’t, don’t worry.  It’s been enjoyable simply knowing a girl worthy of affection, for a change, and this is merely a way of finding out for sure how you feel in return.  Far from an attempt to manipulate your emotions, it’s instead an attempt to discover them.  And if there are none to be found, I’ll get over it.  Honestly, I’m not sure whether you like, loathe, or are unmindful of me either way.  You can be difficult to understand.  But I do want to understand you better.

I would have brought this up to your face but didn’t feel like I was going to get the chance, in any other setting than ______________________, any time soon.  And I’ve been at least a little drunk at all previous opportunities.  I’m kind of shy, but also a hopeless romantic.  It hasn’t worked very well for me so far, but it is who I am.  I can change superficial things about myself (such as smoking, of which I’m keenly aware you’re not a fan), but I wouldn’t want to change who I truly am in the depths of my heart and mind if I could.  You are, to me, deeply intelligent, witty, weird and beautiful.  I know I’ve made you smile a couple of times, and it would be my pleasure to spend more time with you in the hope that I can repeat such a miracle.

 

Stay as you are,

 

Colin

 

PS: The poster is a gift.  Please keep it and don’t feel you owe me anything in return, except perhaps thanks.  And I have no idea who _________ are.  (They seem ok according to Wikipedia.  I’ll have to give them a listen.)  Their poster came unexpectedly with __________.  Added bonus if you’re a fan of them too, I guess 🙂

PPS: Please note that I’ve never written a letter like this before, to anyone.  I trust you’ll respect its sincerity, whatever your response – assuming you decide to respond.

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(The original, far too large and unsent letter.)

Dear _______,

At the conclusion of this letter, I will leave my phone number.  In the event that you contact me (whether by phone or otherwise), I will hope to gain that which I desire most: to spend more time with you.  And, in the event that you don’t contact me (or you do with the sad news that you do not feel similarly) I will gain at least the consolation that I can cease thinking of you in romantic terms.  I trust that you’ll take this correspondence seriously.  I’m an awkward conversationalist, in that I don’t always say exactly what I mean, and nor might I mean exactly what I say.  But when I write, I do so emphatically (though of course the context of what I write can change over time, and even in writing it’s not always possible to express oneself perfectly).  I find it daily sad that we seem to live in a very un-romantic age – an age in which people connect because of politics or superficiality above genuine fondness for each other.  I’m sure as someone interested in floristry (assuming it holds some romantic value for you) that you’ve noticed that sad reality.  So here is my perhaps foolish but certainly genuine attempt to break free of that modern banality.  How such an effort proceeds directly beyond this letter, is up to you.  I mainly want you to know you are the most dorky, witty, intelligent, weird and beautiful woman I’ve ever met, regardless of how you might feel in response.  I want to stress this point: the primary purpose of this letter is for me to convey how I feel about you.  Not to attempt manipulation of your feelings for me.  If you don’t feel similarly, I will be consoled by the fact that I have at least made an attempt to capture your heart.  And I will gracefully retire from seeking your affections, if they are not forthcoming.

I’m a shy man.  It’s always been that way, though I have learned to act otherwise.  You see, I’m an introvert.  Human interaction drains my energy, while if I was an extrovert such interaction would boost my energy.  That said: I am not a coward.  I have consistently during my life put myself in social situations which I’ve known would be more challenging for me than they would be for extroverts, because I’ve known they would strengthen my ability to interact with others.  It does work.  I’m a natural writer, but I was not a natural journalist.  Nevertheless, I managed to become – for however short a time – a journalist, because I forced myself to.  (One of the most important lessons I gained from leaving journalism was realising that the cost of reaching a goal can outweigh the reward of gaining it, no matter how much you wish to.)  Such actions have before, and will again hopefully more consistently until the day I die, prove instrumental in any successes I’ve had.  Unfortunately, putting myself in uncomfortable social situations has not always improved my skills with women I’m fond of.  Firstly, this is because women are much harder to understand than men.  I am a man, which makes it easy – but also sometimes boring and unstimulating – for me to understand other men.  Women on the other hand almost literally seem to exist on another planet (if you’ll forgive the cliché), which in fact makes it more interesting to try to understand them – even if such a prospect is consistently challenging, sometimes to the point of impossibility.  I very much want to understand you better, and am pleased by the extent to which I already do.

I fear that the above admissions might lead you to conclude that I am weak.  Try as I might to convince you otherwise, I know you well enough to be sure yours is a mind not easily changed.  But know this: I believe that when a man is fond of a woman, he should be at least a little awkward around her.  If a man you don’t know very well is entirely comfortable around you, then I’d argue he doesn’t really respect you.  If you’re only looking for a one night stand, then I guess that doesn’t matter.  But anything more than that, and his ease of companionship can mean only one of two things: he’s a consummate ladies’ man (which probably means he’s only interested in a one-night deal), or he lacks respect for you.  Which brings me to this crucial point: I care for you, ______.  I enjoy your company, even though unfortunately I’ve always been slightly or very drunk in such a situation – excluding the single time we visited the beach together.  I find you to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely lacking in pretension compared to many other women I’ve met and sometimes cared for.  And though I don’t meet many women, I have met plenty.  You stand, figuratively, tall among them all.  It’s actually been a long time since a woman has been as dear to me as you are.  And that’s not because I’m picky.  It’s because I’m honest, at least to myself (and you, here) about my emotions.  You are, physically, beautiful.  And I think you know that.  But I wouldn’t give you a second glance if I didn’t feel the same way about you on a deeper level.

As far as your opinion of me, I don’t wish to speculate.  But I’d like to give you a reassurance: I not only can, but will change from the way I am now.  I’m well aware that I smoke, that I drink, that I have little to no work and that I live with my parents.  But these are all superficial parts of the present that have not always been and will not always be.  I’ve always planned on giving up smoking at some point around my 30th birthday (November this year), and am already succeeding most weeks in only smoking during the weekend.  Drinking at least on weekends has been a part of my life since I was about 15, and I feel less pressure to quit or scale it back than I do with smoking.  Though I probably will as I get older.  And obviously I don’t plan on being unemployed or living with my parents for the rest of my life.  I am fit, I am smart, I am well educated and I am a good and happy person.  And I plan on doing big things with my life, or die trying (mainly writing a book or books – and travelling as extensively as possible).  And I also plan, with hopefully not too much more trial and error, while enjoying and achieving in life on having a woman by my side to whom I feel intellectually, emotionally and physically attracted and connected.  Which is how I feel about you, albeit not as deeply as I might if we spent more time with each other.  And, look, I know what happened with _______.  And I don’t really care.  He is sometimes a womaniser.  And I don’t mean that as an insult, because he would agree.  He does it well, and with the respect for women that we both share.  But he is much better at separating sex and emotional attachment than me.  I tend to agree with the Hunter S Thompson quote: “Sex without love is as hollow and ridiculous as love without sex.”  If ______ had answered “Yes” when I asked him if he was emotionally interested in you, I would have been less likely to have indulged in thoughts of you in that way.  But he didn’t.  And I have.  And nothing short of a rejection from you will change that.

Until I hear from you one way or the other, in response to this letter, you can expect me to continue pursuing you.  Obviously this might mean an overt question, to your face, about the matter. (Assuming I get the chance, while sober.)  But this pursuit is more likely to be more subtle and indirect.  As long as I am unsure of your feelings for me, I will be attempting to discover them.  But you should know: I am looking for work interstate.  I was initially hurt by what happened between you and ______, though that’s not your fault as you were obviously unaware of my feelings.  I quickly got over it, but it did drive home what I’ve always known: that this city doesn’t suit me and sooner or later I will have to leave.  That said, I have never ruled out meeting a girl here that I might have a connection with.  Which both makes sense and carries a nice irony in this case, as you are neither from here and nor are you – thankfully – anything like the “typical” Gold Coast girl.  Please be aware that I’m not delusional.  I’m not pretending that I know you.  But I know enough to want to know more.  And I’m not assuming that you care for me in romantic terms at all.  I’m instead merely hopeful.

I’d like to leave you with something that in some ways symbolises my feelings for you, and hope that you will relate to it.  Many years ago, I played a Playstation game called Final Fantasy VII (which I still own, though I no longer own a Playstation).  To put it simply, it’s a role-playing game in which a young man joins a band of eco-freedom fighters battling a corrupt company that is sucking the life-force out of the planet and selling it as energy (pretty obvious parallels with the oil industry there).  One person who joins the band, after the young man comes across her, is a young flower-saleswoman who works in the slums.  Type “Cloud meets Aeris” into YouTube if you’re curious.  It’s quite beautiful.  I’m not going to over-analyze the significance of that when it comes to my feelings for you.  You just reminded me of it, is all.  I think that’s important. That people you care about, in whatever context, can remind you of the good things in, and good memories of, life.  I’ve been naive and arguably stupid enough to have written poetry for women I’ve cared for before, _______.  (It’s kind of funny when I think back on some of my bumbling romanticism.)  But I’ve never written anything quite like this for any one of them.  With that in mind I trust that, whatever your response, it will be genuine.  I might hope that my feelings are returned but, failing that, I at least expect them to be respected.  I will obviously see you at ________ at some point after you’ve received this letter, but I’m happy to pretend it was never written or talk about it openly, or whatever in-between, as you wish.  I could give you a lot, a little, or no love.  And of course I would be grateful for any you might give me.  The choice is yours, and all I can do in return is respect your feelings.  In fact your feelings are just about all I really care about right now.

Sincerely,

Colin

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It’s so tragically typical: I wouldn’t have blogged this if it wasn’t for her rejection.  Or in the event of reciprocation, I wouldn’t have without her permission.  It’s somewhat symbolic, almost to the point of cliché, not that my writing keeps me alone but that I’m so predictably kept alone by virtue of being a writer.  It’s almost a test.  A test to see if I can become successful even in the absence of comfort from female affection.  (Though I do believe writing success would bring me female affection.)  It just seems that now, when I’m under-employed and living with my parents, that now is the best time for me to find a girl who loves me for who I am and not what I’m capable of achieving.  My life is more basic, simple, stripped-back than it’s ever likely to be again.  If I was to be loved by a woman whose affections I return, it would be certain that she loves me for who I am and not superficial qualities.  I hope for this to happen.  It probably won’t, if the above is anything to go by.  But I remain perhaps deliriously optimistic.

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.

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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.

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From the Santa Monica Pier

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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Downtown

Downtown

US and UK – Epilogue – Part One

Figured I'd post six of some of my favourite photos from the trip, in this post - beginning with Yosemite National Park

Figured I’d post six of some of my favourite photos from the trip, in this post – beginning with Yosemite National Park

 

Potlatch State Park, Washington

Potlatch State Park, Washington

It’s a little underwhelming to look upon, then away from with remorse, a blank notepad at the best of times.  And it’s especially so, for me, while trying to bring to an end the story of my two-and-a-half-month trip through the US and UK.  If only I had upon arriving home bothered jotting down its final few days.  But it doesn’t matter.  The even vaguely important stuff will come to me.  This word machine was set in unstoppable until conclusion motion the moment I scribbled in red ink the heading “United States of America 12/10/12” above those first blue lines – whose lack of any further scribbles is, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant.  The show, as it were, must go on.  So here, we, go.  I might as well have arrived on another planet when I exited LAX International Airport.  Half a day earlier I’d with sadness looked my last at least for now upon a British sky consistently obscured by cloud.  And presently I gazed into the heavens above California to see only an equally consistent light blue barrier between my eyes and the endless universe.  It was still cold, but not nearly as such as it was in the UK.  And the sun.  The sun!  The SUN!  That blissfully warming heavenly being.  How I’d missed it.  Despite its occasional peek between clouds on the eastern side of the Atlantic, I doubt I’d seen it for at least most of any day since New York, just under a month ago.  Roughly 70 days since arriving at LAX on October 12, I’d found myself there again – albeit wearing jeans instead of shorts, and a jacket instead of just a t-shirt.  And I still had to catch a cab into Venice Beach, because bus routes in Los Angeles are almost as incomprehensible as they are on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana

Half an hour north-west of Squamish, an hour north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Half an hour north-west of Squamish, an hour north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

I know for sure I enjoyed two full days in LA before heading home across the Pacific Ocean on New Year’s Day, so it must have been Saturday, December 29, 2012 – the same day I’d left London.  I’m no good at figuring out time differences.  The cab driver was listening to some pretty cool music.  (Don’t ask me it or its musician’s name, because I can’t remember and the phone I noted it down in has since been thrown on the scrapheap.)  It was pretty refreshing to come across a cabbie who actually listens to music, instead of driving around in silence beyond obligatory inane chatter about the other fares he’d had.  Before long I was, once again, amid a deepening winter I’d thankfully escaped from more northern endurance of, standing outside the Venice Beach Hostel.  Aside from the temperature, the only other difference was the bum population.  It had exploded.  There seemed to be three times as many homeless people as there had been during October.  I guess they, like me, had migrated south seeking more salubrious surroundings.  Whatever the reason, and just wait a second for me to climb on to my pedestal: America, get your shit together.  Your widespread homelessness is not just a sign of laziness and poor life-choices; it is a sad indictment on a society that has lost its way, not to mention its empathy for those less fortunate (an indictment I lament to be forced to increasingly level at my own country, especially since pivotal political and cultural events on September 7 last year (the election of a national government with utter contempt for the equality which until then had partially, if arguably, defined Australia)).  Ok.  I’ll take a deep breath . . . exhale, get down from my pedestal, then continue telling you about my second stint in La La Land.

Holyrood Park, Edinburgh

Holyrood Park, Edinburgh

Manhattan, New York

Manhattan, New York