Thursday, January 31, 2013

one love

I heard this song for the first time on Monday evening. I was on the couch; it was a bit after five in the evening, and I was still in my boxers and hadn't brushed my teeth, and I was about to watch Bridesmaids. I'd been feeling a bit funny all day; verging on the kind of pre-menstrual where you hate yourself, so I'd been trying to take it really easy, and just doing my own thing. I was certainly emotional; but I'm emotional whether I'm getting my period or not. Everything seems to go to my blood.

This made me cry. It's very simple, which I might usually think lazy, but when the message is this important, is perfect. It's unashamedly emotive, and probably a bit cheesy, but it has to be.

I feel strongly about many, many things, but I feel particularly strongly about marriage equality. I know I've written about it before. It's just that it's not enough for me to just express how I feel when I vote, or when people are talking about it. People who oppose marriage equality don't wait to be asked; their feelings seems to burn a hole in them, and every time they say what they think, a bit of the humanity in the world is smothered. So I want to say again, loudly: MARRIAGE SHOULD BE FOR EVERYBODY. 


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hot Town

Summer makes the city feel even more metropolitan. I think of pictures of New York in the fifties and sixties; the melting streets, lolly-coloured shorts, ice-blocks, hopscotch, and always with the busted fire-hydrant.

Sitting here on the couch, I feel the energy of those pictures. I hear voices from other apartments - yesterday evening an argument - echoing off the walls of the light-well, diffused by the non-stop whirring of the fan. I hear television chatter, and cutlery, and music. We each have our windows open and our blinds up; we are communal.

The impending dark isn't something to race against; its approach is gentle.

Every sound indicates life; everyday life, the kind of life you don't hear when it's cold, and the air is so close, a cough or a laugh won't break it - it simply stretches it, curves it back.

The sounds are unremarkable, except in their intimacy. When else do you hear cooking, or crying, in your own home that isn't from your home? In summer, the rules of privacy in an apartment building bend. Your own life, separate in its own compartment, becomes one of many; your experience becomes one of many, looking up at the same patch of sky at the top of the light-well.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

old/new same/different

This has been a Tuesday that felt like a Monday. It reminds me a little of when I was at school, and I felt like every single day was the same, and that it was only that way for me. I love how dramatic and self-absorbed teenage years are, but I feel sorry for the girl who felt that way; like she was just waiting for 'life' to start.

Because of her, I still live as much in my head as in this world. As least partly because of her, I am so moved by books, and films, and music; for a long time (in the scheme of things, not really that long) they were the only way she felt she could experience anything.

I wonder if she still exists. Maybe she's there when I feel self-conscious, or unsure of myself. I wonder if I would even recognise her. I was - maybe still am - a bit hard on my former selves; they had so many faults and cringe-worthy characteristics... but I wonder if one day some of those things will seem okay, like the nerdiness that used to make me feel so wrong and which I tried so hard to suppress, which now seems just a part of who I am, and only matters as much as I let it.

Anyway, I was listening to Coming From Reality this morning, and when I listened to this song, I felt the impulse to sing it to someone, which is something I used to imagine a lot from when I was a teenager in my ivory tower. Except that this time, the someone wasn't someone I know; it was anyone, just so they could hear Rodriguez, and I could be part of it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Week in The Life

The girls have made a fort out of their body-boards in the back of the ute. Lizy sits outside it.

Vincent: Are you the guard?
Lizy: Yes; if anyone comes, I will slice them up, and eat them for my healthy dinner, and cut off all their hair, and wear it for my winter coat.

I can't capture the tone and expressions accompanying this, but I can tell you that she is only five, this came out of her wonderful little brain without hesitation, and that if I ever put together a posse, she will most certainly be in it.

Yesterday we booked flights for our first visit back; less than a month from when we leave. It's soon - sooner than I had originally thought would be good for me, but now I think it's best for everyone, including me, to know that it will be like this, and that my new life will be completely entwined with this one. Also, we found out the day before that Rodriguez is coming (Rodriguez is coming!!!), and playing in Auckland the day of my parents' 40th wedding anniversary, which is also St Patrick's Day. Ordinarily I might be upset that one of my favourite religious festivals (harhar) falls on a day when I can't really get shit-faced, but after last year's sterling effort which saw us both coma'd before six o'clock, I think just a couple of beers will be observation enough. I should clarify we are not taking my parents to the gig; but isn't it lovely for them that he decided to come at such a special time?

Almost all of the admin is done for the move; sea-passages and motels/aunty's houses booked, apartment notice given (which was replied to with a list of things we need to do that is as long as my arm, and includes being ready for people to be shown around almost immediately), bosses told, moving organised. Now the really fun bit begins; the goodbyes, and the packing. I have decided to impose on myself a book amnesty, and my first goodbyes are to the small pile of books in front of me of which I took guardianship when my sister sold her first house, and I told myself the books belonging to my brother would be safer with me. My range of concern was limited; classics and philosophy. But now they've been with me so long that I can't actually remember if some are mine or his, and while my natural instinct would be to keep any book that might be mine, having called this thing an amnesty makes me feel as if I should give those things up too. This isn't helped by a visit to a very well-read friend's house, where I saw she owns twice as many books as I do, and gave me not only book-envy but a sense of wasted time; I am five years older than she is, and I only have this many?!

Spending the past week with my family and a couple of my friends has made the prospect of leaving a bit harder. Just hanging out is more special to me than special events; it's the in-between stuff, like having breakfast, or hanging out washing, or after-dinner sitting on the deck talking that I like the most, and there has been lots of just hanging out. But anyway. I've been listening to this song a bit, and pretending it's really about me and Vincent. Making it all a reality is going to great fun for all of us - I am no-one without my crew of family and friends, and with this move, we're getting closer to all of it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Actual Forever

Some adults try to erase their early histories. Having been a rule-loving, inherently nerdy child with the taste of an old woman, I understand. This is why I rejoice when I remember something I loved as a child that still stands; something that doesn't make me want to hide my head in shame, or have to laugh about because it's so tragic. I'm afraid the list probably isn't extensive; lollies are the first things that come to mind. However, yesterday I watched The Sound Of Music with my niece, and when Baroness Schraeder appeared on screen and I realised I had stopped following the story to try to figure out how I might make my skirts looks like hers, I remembered my fascination with her from many moons ago, and I was glad.

I don't remember the first time I saw The Sound Of Music, but my memories of watching it as a child are all at my Aunty Anna's. I don't know why my sister and I got to go and stay at her house sometimes, or where her youngest daughter who is only a couple of years older than my sister was at the time, but I remember staying there, and all of the things it meant. Dancing nude to Splish Splash before jumping into the bath. Appletise. Peanut chocolate, from the tin under my aunty's bed. Her walking around topless, and trying to coax us out of the prudishness our father had instilled in us. And The Sound Of Music.

I am certain that Baroness Schraeder won me over immediately. She was beautiful, she reminded me of my mother, she had poise, elegance, and above all, a wardrobe to die for. At the time I probably didn't appreciate her "casual" wardrobe (which is amazing) so much, but her ball-dress had me in raptures. All I wanted for my Mrs Hart (an alternative to Barbie of which my mother approved because Mrs Hart was married, brunette, and modestly attired) was a dress like that; light gold, with that shoulder detail! Eventually I was a given a set which included a maroon evening gown with a fishtail that felt like something the Baroness might have worn on another night, and my heart sang. I had no illusions about ever growing up to be like her; she was a symbol of what I realised was unattainable, although I'm not sure why... and so she stayed perfect to me, even though I was pretty sure she became a nazi, and Maria was better for the children, and she said that thing about boarding school to Uncle Max which was reminiscent of Vicky in The Parent Trap (although even then I'm pretty sure I knew their tones were not the same.)

As an adult, Baroness Schraeder remains completely enchanting. I love when she tells Maria if she has any problems becoming a nun, she'll be happy to help, and her speech releasing Georg from their engagement makes me cry. And her wardrobe... oh her wardrobe.

The dress:

And my favourite outfit these days; the long skirt with the sash, and the blouse that hangs just so. Baroness Schraeder. Thank goodness some things are forever.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


It's only just hit me that what we are doing can't be described as moving. Moving is what is happening to my bed, and my books, and my collection of suitcases. They will be packed up, put into a truck, and then I will put them in my new house; probably somewhere similar to where they live now, in my apartment.

I was in the shower (Jack Donaghy would call this the Shower Principle) when I realised what I am doing can be described as. Transplanting. Unlike my books, I have roots here that go very, very deep. I am completely aware of and sensitive to what is around me; the light, the climate, the people, the landscape.

When we drive around Auckland, I always point out landmarks to Vincent. There is the Logan Campbell fountain, where my mother used to take me when I was small, and would hold my hand while I walked around it, balancing on its rim, pulling along my little plastic yellow tug-boat. There is Eve's Pantry, from whence Uncle John would buy gingerbread men for me and my sisters when he would come to stay. There is the bar that used to be a dairy, where we used to play Street Fighter, badly. (I was always Dhalsim.) There is Gee-May's house.  There is the cafe where my sister worked, and where I would change out of my school uniform and into clothes I'd stashed in my bag when I was wagging school to hang out with my boyfriend, but tell her school had finished early. There is the cafe where I worked, underpaid, hungover, constantly complaining but actually loving it, with Roach one of my best friends, and Ben who would drive us because only Roach had her licence but her headlights didn't work, and Mateina who looked tough and scary but was the sweetest, and Tina who had the worst bleach job ever, and Hilary whom we all hated a bit because she was so pretty, and Allee who was torn because Hilary was her friend but was leaving her behind a little bit and it was probably kind of a relief to complain about her a little. There is the bridge where I used to meet Mary between lectures to go and share three pakora for $1.50, or a piece of pizza if we had $5. The bar where I have gone for years and years but always think of as the place where I told Vincent how I felt about him. The old Sailor's Home, where I fell in love with him. The street where we lived in Kingsland which we call The Old Neighbourhood, and used to talk about returning to but kind of knowing that way leads on to way. 

The landmarks I don't need to point out are the ones I will miss the most. My parents' house, which is currently inhabited by my father, my mother, my sister, my brother, my niece, Oscar, and Lucy; next door to Claudio and his family, and down the road from Yoke, and the flats where Hammad used to live, and across the road from the flats with the mean new people who just moved in. The shop where I work, which I have looked at so long I think it is a part of me. My new neighbourhood; the shops, and bars, and pubs, and cafes, and restaurants, and convenience stores that I walk by every day on my way to work, or anywhere. And  my apartment, which at times I felt I was only tolerating, but always really knew I loved and was just like what I hoped I would one day live in when I was a kid. Just for a while.

Every day on my way to and from work, I must pass a hundred people. I look at their faces, and sometimes at their hair, or their shoes, or their dresses, or what they're carrying, or what/who is in the pushchair. Lots of them weren't born in this country, and it makes me happy that we can all be here, and live around each other, and occasionally whinge about the smells each other's cooking makes.

I know I'm not a refugee, being forced from my home, with few or none of my belongings. Like Tootie says she will (but then doesn't have to), I am taking everything. But for a person, there are always things you can't take with you. That's why it's transplanting.

I am going to put down new roots, and learn to be nurtured by new things. I am going to force myself into the community; drink at the pub all the time, buy the same thing from the dairy to make it easy to remember me, go to all of the town happenings, and walk the streets. I will compare things with Auckland sometimes because that is what people do, but I'll remember that we chose the place because we love it. And there will be hard times, and lonely times, and sometimes there won't be enough people to share the happy times. But it will all be okay, because of one person. And we will be back.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Year That Was

It's not usually until my birthday that I reflect on a year; what happened, and what I learnt or became. December is just so busy; Christmas preparation, and then Christmas, and then the minute that's over it's on to packing for holidays and hoping for sun, and then the new year is here before you can say 2012, let alone think about it. It was strange hearing people say it had been a bad year; it seemed tactless to ask why, but I wanted to - not because I don't think a year can be bad. It just seems a long period to be having a bad time of things, and so unfortunate for things to have been so unpleasant that they define the entire year. Maybe it's because I remember things in terms of my age; when I think about the worst time of my life, I remember what we all looked like, and where we lived, and what we were doing rather than the year. Maybe I'm just prone to thinking about things in relation to myself.

Anyway, Vincent and I had planned to talk about our year's bests and worsts but then we ran out of time, and although I'm not sure they will be of any interest to anyone else, here they are. A personal wrap up of mostly impersonal things in 2012, the year that was.

Best gig: Bon Iver. This could have been an almighty disappointment, considering my expectations. Instead, it was completely transfixing, temporarily transforming, and transcended what can be articulated in words.
Worst gig: Justin Townes Earl. What a whiney dickhead.
Special mentions: The Specials, which were the most fun. Fleet Foxes, which had the best live vocals (no surprise there). Beirut, which had the best crowd-singing and most inspired us to learn instruments (project for 2013 - trumpet for Vincent, trombone for me).

update: Worst gig should have been Radiohead! such disappoinment... such self-indulgent prickism.

Best movie: Beasts Of The Southern Wild and Searching for Sugarman. Both of these completely took me out of myself, but left me completely inspired to be the best I can be. (Sorry about the vomit.)
Worst movie: Two Little Boys. I wanted so much to like this, or for its flaws to be forgivable or at least funny, like those in Good For Nothing. But it was really, really bad, and it wouldn't be fair to all of the amazing NZ films to say otherwise.

Best tv: Mad Men, Season Four. Like an injection of The Sopranos; dark and infectious humour juxtaposed with unbelievable tragedy.
Worst tv: Almost everything on free tv, but I'll go with Dr Phil, because he's a smug, paternalistic arsehole.
Special mentions: New Girl, which is very enjoyable and occasionally surprising, in spite of its safeness. Girls, which I was prepared to hate but ended up loving because it's hilarious and Hannah is so perfectly flawed. 30 Rock, which I can watch over, and over, and over, and still laugh.

Best book: I should begin by saying I didn't read anything written in 2012. New fiction takes a long time to trickle down to me; there are so many classics to get through! So my best books are: Published - Breakfast Of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut. I highly recommend this; it's totally original, insightful, and often ridiculous. Unpublished (but watch this space) - Vincent's book, Swing Towards The Mainland.
Worst book: Welcome To The World Baby Girl, by Fannie Flagg. Was Fried Green Tomatoes just a fluke? This book was completely horrendous, and patronising, and at times made me wonder if it was a big elaborate joke. And I chose it over The Bluest Eye at the Unity book sale! Never again.

Best website: Jezebel. Hands down.
Best magazine: Tar. I just discovered this yesterday, but the issue is from Spring 2012, and is just miles better than anything else I've looked at in the past year. The usuals have become so predictable; I swear I've read the same article in different frankie issues about ten times (besides which they persist in catering almost exclusively for middle class white girls), and while Vogue still does the pretty stuff very well, the ratio of good to bad articles is around 1:5 (Australian Vogue 1:10), besides which it's Vogue; rich, inherently racist, and unashamedly capitalist. Tar is innovative, presupposes I have a brain, and errs a bit on the cheesy side when it comes to art, which is cringe-worthy but also refreshing; to them it's okay to be really passionate about something, while everyone else equates cool with ennui.

Best restaurant: Mexico. I resisted this for so long, knowing exactly what the owners' dream was (to make loads of money - accomplished) and who was queueing up outside it every lunchtime for months (every pretentious idiot in the city)... but now we eat there once a week. The food is simple and pretty consistent, the decor is great, the staff are efficient, slightly haughty in a strangely appropriate way, and don't hover, and it's totally cheap.
Best shop: Junk & Disorderly. I only went once, and am a bit afraid to go again, considering we're moving cities and last time we came away with a couch.
Best bookshop: Jason bookshop. The most peaceful place in the city, and impossible to leave without buying something.

I know I've missed all of the important things like political events, and disasters, and people who died, but it's not because I haven't been thinking about them, it's just that I really don't want to 'best and worst' those things. For me, 2012 was a really good year. But I think 2013 is going to be even better; not necessarily because it's happier, but because it's going to be an adventure, and a challenge, and pretty scary.

Onwards and upwards, comrades!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Year That Is

Not long before twelve, I tried to do a symbolic and physical poo. I thought about flushing away the waste of the year (although in hindsight I remember learning how long it takes the body to digest food, and realise the enormous steak I had put away earlier that night probably only just exited this morning?), and when, despite my best efforts, my body only barely obliged, I was pleased to think that 2012 had been such a year that only a little needed to be expelled. It made so much sense, after an afternoon-evening-night of mind-clearing alcohol.

The countdown wasn't one of our best, but it didn't matter in the least. We were dancing and trying to decide on the year's song (a tradition), and had just thought Psy really had earned the spot and that we were ready with a minute to spare when the fireworks in the estuary began, and we all ran out and started cheering and saying Happy New Year and kissing each other. Earlier in the day, Vincent and Paul had seen a barge going out into the middle of the estuary as they set off for their harbour crossing, and overheard a grandfather explaining to his granddaughter what was on board, which they had relayed to us when they came back, and we all got very excited. During the fireworks our timekeeper came running out onto the deck with the clock and began the countdown and then we all started cheering and saying Happy New Year and kissing each other again, and it felt so beautiful and special to be watching fireworks with which we had nothing to do, and being together, and pretty much having completed a human pyramid only half an hour before.

Not long after, I went to pee and found I was able to do a bit more, and when I looked down at it, it was a perfect replica of a fortune cookie. I couldn't have been more elated. I ran upstairs to tell someone, and thought maybe it meant my future lies within me (it makes more sense when you are drunk) but the first person I told thought maybe it meant my future is shit. I reject that, and even if it's true, my excitement means that I will still find happiness in a shit future.

The rest of the beginning was a lot of dancing and a bit of dj-ing, which I discovered involves a fair bit of manipulation through music. I kept people up as long as I could, and then during my concession song was inspired by Neil Young's invitation to go out and feel the night, and cajoled Vincent into taking me down to the estuary for a nature swim. It was short, and my ears were very sore after I put my head into the freezing water, but it sealed the night as the best possible start to a year. The Year That Is.

Earlier, Rhi and I had bullied Shane onto the dancefloor by boxing him in with dance moves, and came up with the year's modus operandi: Change through Dancing and Bullying. The gods lead she who will; she who won't, they drag. Etc. But with love.

Happy New Year, everybody.