Expat@Large

Rain

Posted in blah blah, bored as fuck, dying any minute now, long time no post, rain, writing by expatatlarge on October 2, 2010

It is raining; a long “shhh” that is both distant and near. There are memories dull and deep that this sound evokes*. It is hard to place where the “shhh” comes from, the present or the past. I turn my head this way, that way. The rain’s loud hushing is coming from everywhere, everywhere outside that is; the trees and bushes and flowers, from the pool surface, from the paved paths, from the air itself. The rain’s hush is so loud, so continuous, so all-enclosing that it takes an effort to hear it, to realize that there is a sound. Water for fish.

Golf is out of the question, I guess. Did I bring my full set for nothing?

Thunder grumbles loudly, ignoring the rain’s request for silence. I want to write something, I want to sit outside while I write it. On the balcony, pebbles have been laid in white in a single large floral pattern, maybe a tree shape, against brown background pebbles. Half the balcony is exposed to the weather, half sheltered under a rendered-concrete, not quite terra-cotta, more peach-coloured roof. There are four narrow windows in the wall at the left side, spaces between columns of the concrete. The wooden chairs and their single green, square cushions are wet however, as is the wooden table. Even though the furniture is several feet from the rain, splashes from the large drops that fall from the edge of the balcony’s roof onto the pebbles are leaping back at the table and the chairs, or they sneak through those narrow open spaces between the columns, hopping from the pebbles on the floor of the balcony next door. The roof-drops make a cracking sound as they explode against the pebbles, a sound like turned-back knuckles. There is no rhythm to these drops, they fall at random. After I wipe the water away with my bathroom towel and pull the table and one of the chairs even further away from the open half of the balcony (hardly a balcony really as the three steps at the end take you down to pool level, there must be another word for it – porch?), I move them toward the glass door to my room.

The splashes continue to leap at the table, at me where I sit, even at the laptop. There are splashes like tears on the screen as I type. You should see them. It is raining heavily now, then it becomes softer. The “shh” is almost a shout, almost a whisper.

Thunder rolls from the clouds like a god turning in his giant creaky bed and the rain picks up again, heavy and inevitable, like death, like metabolic syndrome.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wanted to write today, if not on some novel or short story at least in the blog. Be funny, be grumpy, amuse, but nothing comes easily this morning so I describe things. When I am not writing, internally heard passages of fiction-like observations come into my head, but I have no chance to write them down as I am walking or shopping or drinking beer or eating or getting a blow-job in a massage parlor. I can never remember them later. Mostly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Is it off season in the back-lanes of Hua Hin around the Hilton? The many beer bars are sparsely populated, only a few customers in this bar, one in that bar. Many bars are empty. The girls who are still awake, who have not given up hope at 10pm, these girls call to me, bar after bar. (Are there more bars here than last time?) Hello, they call. Welcome. Hey mister, come in.

Some girls are pretty, most are not.

Taxi!”

~~

“The blustering wind scatters leaves like seed on barren ground, it bends the trees in supplication. I stop the cross-trainer, take a breather, look out the gym window to the road by my flat. I see a yellow bird, a small-to-medium sized bird. The strong yellow, makes it easy to find and see it skitter from a branch on this tree to a branch on that tree. A yellow bird. How beautiful.

Maybe it eats its own weight every day. Steven Wright wonders: how does it know how much it weighs?

I start the cross-trainer again. My heart rate is displayed. It is in the fat-burning zone.”

~~

“The roar of cicadas, I notice this roar finally. It is amazing, it has built up so gradually that I didn’t notice it, like a frog in heating water. It is deafening: If I was talking to someone, if I was with someone, I would have to shout.

The eye-burning vapour of eucalyptus leaves. I walk on soft sand that has been spread across the prepared walking path through Litchfield park. Hardly natural up here on the top of escarpment. Scrambling across rocks not strictly on the trail to get a better view I observe the thin waterfalls, the deep pools at the base of the cliffs. There are safe cascades sometimes, where girls in bikinis and men in surf-shorts bathe languidly. Dry season, low water, no crocodiles. It is safe for those sybarites in the pools. No-one will be eaten today.

I did not bring my bathers, my togs, my swimmers on the drive from Darwin (speed limit 130kms/hour! Outstanding in a rental!) The bathers are in my room. I berate myself as the dark water looks so cool, is so inviting.”

~~

“Under my big toe, on the ventral surface of my right hallux, something feels uncomfortable, a slightly piercing pressure, a princess’s pea. When I lift my foot and prod under the breach at the font of my sandal there only a small leaf caught underneath, a soft and innocent leaf. Soft? The neural sensitivity is returning, perhaps; a leaf like this shouldn’t bring such pain. Maybe the drugs are losing their potency in my system. This makes me a little bit sad, makes me a little bit angry. The drugs stabilise my mood as well as try to kill the pain. Every emotion is a little bit.”

~~

“The siren sounds and everybody – 100,016 everybodies – take a large breath in. How can so many people be suddenly so silent? It is like a film, unreal and false, believable despite its cruel unbelievable essence. Some players fall to ground and lie on their backs to stare at the sky. Clouds are gathering, I wonder if they notice. The players who are still standing place their hands on their heads and walk around in a stupor. Some are crying, some blank-faced. Even the players lying down have their hands on their heads. Why? Is this the response to frustration, to disbelief, to resignation, to the realisation that 140 minutes of grueling, body-breaking effort, of continual effort, of hard non-stop running up the extensive playing field (amazing fitness), of leaping and crushing and fast twisting, turning, slipping away from the ball-hunger of the opposition team keen to bash you down and steal the Sherrin – all this has been in vain. OMG, has all that hard physical and psychological preparation of the entire year been wasted? A draw in the Grand Final? It cannot have happened, yet it has.

Rain falls within a whipping wind as we walk home from the ground. Appropriate.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am still getting splashed by the rain. It’s heavier again. The roar of the hush continues everywhere around me, like cicadas in the bush, like the birds (are they yellow) in the trees on Orchard Rd.

I wonder what to write about.

E@L

* plagiarised from Ogawa’s “The Diving Pool” which I am currently reading while not typing this.

Nobel Prize For Literature Goes To E@L

Posted in blah blah, books, Nobel Prize by expatatlarge on October 6, 2009

For collecting literature that is, not creating it.

Fuck, what am I going to with all these books? Izzy had to buy another IKEA shelf to catch the overflow in her room as I store most of my S-F stuff in there. The lounge room is packed, – four bookshelves, one of them double stacked. My bedroom has its double set of tall IKEA construct-a-shelves which were meant to just hold the books I am currently reading but now they are bloated and double stacked with just my recent (last 12 months) purchases!

Even with my current purchasing criteria of a) nothing contemporary and b) nothing American, (unless the book is recommended by friend, Dick Headley or Martin Amis) things are getting out of hand.

It’s just the way I am…

I get into a conversation with someone and have to buy the political philosophy books I should have read before even attempting to participate in the dialogue. I have an idea for a story set in the Russian Gulags and therefore I have read (purchase I mean) everything about Mandelstam and Akhmatova and Solzhenitzen and Stalin ever written. Someone asks about happiness and I grab all the psychologists and philosophers I can find who have an opinion. My head spins as my piles of books grow.

Because you see:

Books expand to fill the shelves available.

And then some.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Meanwhile we wait and wonder for Thursday, the day that the Swedish Spending-Profits-From-Dynamite Academy pronounce on their deliberations for the real Nobel Prize for Literature.

Does anyone have any idea which obscure unpublished Andean poet or Namibian blogger/twitterer they will throw their dart at this year? Which one that is still alive that is, as all the famous people (who deserve to be famous) seem to be dead at the moment. Except in and around Australia!

My sincere and unbiased guesses for the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature:

Les Murray – Australia: The big bloke is still kicking on, so go on, give another Australian a plaudit (can we claim Coetzee, since he lives there?) Les has actually has been short-listed before, so this really is a serious suggestion. Either Les or…

Clive Barker James – Australia: Because, let’s face it, he’s funny and he’s on TV and he keeps churning out books, which is what counts, PLUS if Les and Clive were in the same room a) you wouldn’t fit in and b) you couldn’t tell them apart. Plus he’s a buddy of Martin Amis (who hasn’t got a chance for the Prize as he is too short, and it turns out hasn’t even read “Journey To The End Of The Night” all the way through.) Perfect unexpected but popular choice.

Germain Greer – Australia: the harpie of Earl’s Court has been immensely prolific in upsetting everyone, even claiming the Mrs Shakespeare (she of the second-best bed) wrote all Will’s works. Well if she didn’t she should’ve, just to stick it up ’em. The Swedish just love a rebel.

Other than that I can think of anyone writing currently who deserves the kudos. Apart from Thomas Pynchon, who is currently running at 9/1 on the books, well behind Amos Oz (OZ? Not an Aussie?! – no, a popular Israeli novelist), Joyce Carole Oates and Assia Djebar (Assia, not Aussier?! – no, an obscure Algerian novelist). Not to mention Philip Roth.

Go Les, go Clive, go Germaine!

~~~~~~~~~~

Nice to see an actual Australian (despite the headline, she was born in Australia but has dual American citizenship), Prof. Elizabeth Blackburn, has already received a third of the Nobel Prize for Medicine this year, even though it seems she did at least half the work, having collaborated with both the other winners on the two breakthrough achievement recognized by the Committee. I wonder, do they have to split it equally? Is that really fair?

As far as the other prizes go, I think Joseph, the guy I was having a chin-wag with the other day should win the Economics Nobel Prize. He was convinced he was 100% correct on everything, including all the reasons that the world economy is as fucked up as it is right now, and I couldn’t prove him wrong at all because I am just an armchair socialist with my head up my arse* (uncomfortable way to watch TV).

His buddy, Comb-over John, who is currently arguing that Old People (check the Sunday schedule – note the presence of Germaine Greer!) should be turned into green crackers and distributed to the hungry of the world, should get the Politics Nobel nod. Nice one, John.

But that would only make three!

For my money, the guy who created iSnack 2.0 should get the Chemistry Nobel Prize. Putting Vegemite and Cheese IN THE SAME BOTTLE – what an unsurpassed victory in molecular bonding. And that makes…

Four!

If we can just get the Lit prize, and we have a genuine show with my choices I reckon, that might give us a real chance of winning the most prestigious cultural medal tally in the world for 2009!! Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

C’mon Noble Aussie, c’mon! Aussie Aussie Aussie!! Prize! Prize! Prize!.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kulcha? We just ooze it.

E@L

* private correspondence.

Staring Into The Headlights

Posted in blah blah by expatatlarge on October 4, 2009

This life, well it’s slipping right through my hands.
These days turned out nothing like I had planned.
(Powderfinger: “These Days” – OdysseyNo5)

Planned? Who plans anything these days? Who has such control over the chaos of time so that planning would work anyway? Best to slide in easy each morning, go with flow of whatever pops up, ride out the bumps according to the Rule of 10. Will it matter in 10 seconds? 10 minutes? 10 days? 10 weeks? 10 months [important during sex]? 10 years? Where am I to-day, tomorrow, next week, next month? Wherever you need me, I guess. You pay the airfare, the hotel, I’ll rock up and say Hi to whomever you want me to say Hi to. Wherever I lay my hat, as they say. I’ll even sit here and let them come to me on occasion, though I know they’re only here for the shopping.

So the annual trip to freezing Chicago all of a sudden doesn’t look so permanent after all. Done it twice now, so OK even though I was ill last year (food poisoning in the Windy City! Hooda thunk?) and I haven’t yet seen Buddy Guy (a guitar hero since I was 14) jamming with Matt “Guitar” Murphy like some RSNA historicals, I’ve had a good time there once, no need to keep trying for it again. He’s not playing hardly at all I hear. Might even be dead, everyone else is these days.

Instead, it looks like I will have to do a “3rd Man” rerun instead and hit the European Congress, which is held in Vienna in springtime. Ah Vienna! Never been there. Wonder if it will too late to go skiing as well?

SOoooo I haven’t planned to stop blogging or anything, it’s just that I don’t seem to have had much in the way of free nights or days of late. When I was Ill I didn’t really feel like writing much, and then back to work for some mega-catch-up and then the weekend off to the AF Grand Final.

~~~~~~~~~~

When I first came to this island
That I called by own name
I was happy in this fortress,
In my exile I remained
But the hours grew so empty…
(Audioslave; “Out of Exile” – Out of Exile)

Not lately, not so empty, and not this Weekend certainly. Been busy as a one-armed man who is very busy.

Friday night, after enjoying some wine and several beers with Indy at Cuppage and that Scottish bar near Wheelock, and seeing him off for his connubial bliss, visiting blogger Skippy-san FORCED me to head to the 4FoW to see if anything had changed except the prices, but we just bought some pirate DVDs and left early (midnight). Skippy then skipped out (alone, and best wishes for the daughter’s wedding). However, just drunk enough to commit the drunk’s first degree error of judgement – thinking I wasn’t drunk – I skipped on (also sans girl) to the PoW (Prince of Wales in Little India) to catch up with some other intellectual friends for more beers and for a deep discussion of Joyce’s “Ulysses” as well as some competitive arm-wrestling to settle issues of etymological accuracy in certain passages of the Oxen Of The Sun episode.

We actually DID talk about “Ulysses”! – and I didn’t bring it up, I swear. This guy was immensely impressed that I had read it, whereupon I pointed out that reading it is not quite the braniac accomplishment that the writing of it would have constituted. Finished there about 3:30 am with aching arms from the wrestling contests (won 1 – lost 1). I remember doing arm wrestles in Wanchai one night (early-morning actually in Devils Advocate) and the short-term memory wasn’t working well at the time so three days later I was trying recall where the DOMS could possibly have come from – I hadn’t been masturbating THAT furiously! Then the image of me and a buddy from Andover (near Boston) playing up for the waitresses slowly formed. Ouch.

Saturday was a re-run of the Grand Final with Aussie meat pies and Aussie beers at Indy’s place and we invited Skippy to CARE – the “Compleat Aussie Rules Experience”. Or the experience of watching me get excited by Aussie Rules, more to the point. Then, after Skippy skipped out again, gin and tonics were placed in hands and we watched Star Trek (why didn’t everything collapse around the red-stuff if it was so gravitationally strong?) until I fell asleep on the couch. But I had to rise and push on as I had BBQ dinner later to attend – and copious beer and wine to be sure – at another buddy’s place. Steaks form the Aussie Butcher – where-ever that is – joking – were brilliantly tender and flavorsome.

But man was I rooted last night! Apparently I could finish the end of words properly during the dinner-table conversation. Slurry words drunk, oh dear. Cormie Attaxy, ma’am!

The old body was having trouble coping with those two nights out when I eventually awoke this morning, so I politely avoided the invitation to margaritas at Iguana this afternoon. Those drunken yobbos you saw there, making fools of themselves probably, well the group did not include E@L.

I swear that the joints are rusting, the pipes occluding, the flay-rod out askew on the treadle…

~~~~~~~~~~

…But the hours grew so empty
And the ocean sent her waves
In the figure of a woman
And she pulled me out to sea.
(Audioslave; “Out of Exile” – Out of Exile)

An old friend sent me an email today offering to introduce me to a female friend of hers back in Geelong… What to do?

There was a time after my divorce when I was realizing how tough it was to survive with a kid in private school on only one (I once thought relatively good) income. The taxes were slogging me and the union’s salary-packaging didn’t work for me as my home loan was a private one. I started getting a bit mercenary and was consciously checking out the female medical imaging people at the meetings and conferences that constituted 100% of my social life in those days. Where else could I look? I couldn’t go out bar-hopping at night as I had a kid at home there needing care and support (“NAT! Get off the computer and do your HOMEWORK!” – Now he is an ace computer programmer of course.)

I recall one night just talking innocently to a lady after a meeting in Melbourne – we were talking about the internal politics of sonography of course – and I remember gradually realizing how pleasantly attractive she was. I had seen her round for years, a nodding acquaintance. Tall, fair-haired, relatively slim (like I can be size-ist!), well-educated and sincere about her convictions, and with a soft, husky voice that rolled nicely off her tongue, giving it immense character. Then for some reason I had caught a chance view of the back of her hand – maybe she was holding a coffee-cup or something – but I noticed how it had started to show the increased crenelations of age, or rather exposure to the elements like the darkroom chemicals we still used in those days. Was she older than she appeared? No, she must be my age. My faint stirrings of interest suddenly dissipated. It was strange. So sudden, so shallow, my reactions.

Later that night, back at home in Geelong, I examined the back of my own hand, something I thought that, hey, I knew. My god, it was graining up too. Little cells of surface wrinkles much more around the knuckles; they had never been there. Even a small spot of melanin, a liver spot or two. I had never noticed these changes on myself before. I always considered the skin of my hands to look and feel young, indeed kept young by the ultrasound gel that I was awash in most hours of the day. Not a working-man’s hands. How silly of me. We all grow old, I realized, for the millionth time. Show me a garden that doesn’t have fading roses as well as blooming ones.

Next time, next meeting, I would make a real effort to get to know her. And I did get brave enough to invite her for a coffee (or was coffee the first time?), anyway we chatted again… where she excitedly told me how she and her fiance were moving to Queensland for the warm weather (it was winter in Melbourne I recollect) in a fortnight and how she had a great job at a well-paying clinic and how they were going to get married at Seaworld… I led her to her car and she drove away into dark night.

Then I met somebody else… (another novel there.)

~~~~~~~~~~~

And I met the lady with the husky voice in Sydney just the other week. She was exactly as pleasant and nice as she was twenty years ago. She was surprised at how I had remembered her name without having to look at her badge. We chatted, laughed, though we had nothing much to reminisce about really, just our contemporaneity – she WAS my age. And somehow, at some stage I managed a glance at her hands, (the instant I noticed her by the book display, the aging of skin came to my mind – as did her name) how young and supple the glowing skin seemed. There was a wedding band and other rings on her fingers.

– Yes we are the old fogies now, she laughed. You look exactly the same, she lied.

– Right, sure! No hair, twice the size, I said. But you, I said, you look like… (words failed me. She looked great!)

And I thought of what could have been.

And I think again tonight of what might yet be.

E@L

[Early readers, hey, sorry for the typos and the ellipses. Hope it reads better now.]