Hollywood Walk of Fame ( Shame)

As Catch up with a Mate month 2017 come to an end – a nostalgic post.

Picture this: a 23-year-old Austinmer girl catches a plane from her temporary home in London, bound for the US, to reunite with a best friend, studying at San Diego University.

After much socialising and sight-seeing, best friend encourages solo travel to L.A, and proposes a nights stay at the Venice Beach Cotel ( Hostel). Girl from Austinmer, via London takes advice to heart and catches a grey hound bus L.A bound.

Girl from Austinmer is lost for words, over come by the sights, sounds, smells and size of the concrete monstrosity that is L.A. Venice Beach is her refuge, along with countless vodka and oranges downed at the hostel bar. Venturing out into the night with new-found friends, she is refused entry at a Santa Monica Bar. Aussie charm open’s doors, but no sooner had she entered the club, that the urge to be sick is overwhelming.

Sitting the gutter, feeling somewhat better, being comforted by ….someone….she is escorted back to the hostel.

‘ Girl do you want a tatoo?’ is the last thing she remembers being asked, before vomiting, into her hostel room bath tub.

Girl from Austinmer, sits feeling so sorry for herself the next morning on a bus tour of Hollywood. Jumbo sized lemonade from 7- Eleven in hand, as the tour weaves and winds its way across the city. She is sick countless times.

At midday, the bus tour sees her alight at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is underwhelming, it is dirty, it smells. The glitz and glamour of the movie industry is nowhere to be seen.

She walks up and down the boulevard, glancing over names in pavement,  Michael Jackson, Shirley Temple, but the heat of the day forces her to take shelter under the cover of a shop awning.

Then a voice: smooth, velvety, deep, croons in her direction:

‘ Girrll, you qualified!!’

The effects of her hangover takes hold, muddled head, slow comprehension – did he mean her?

The voice comes at her again ‘ Oooo Girrrlllll, yes, you, You qualified!!’

The girl from Austinmner realises the man’s comments are intended for her. He points at her lower back, smiling broadly, revealing a sea of white teeth.

She swivels at pace, turning her back towards the reflective glass of the shop front, pulls up her t-shirt.

Bunnies, two humping bunnies, making sweet sweet love have been drawn in thick black texture at the base of her spine.

Face red, she pulls down her t-shirt, hikes up her pants, holds head high, composes self and heads to towards tour bus.

Bestie greets girls from Austinmer at San Diego Grey Hound Bus terminal. The ‘ tatoo’ and the story surrounding its origins are retold.  Camera lights flash – paparazzi. Laughter, plenty of laughter.

Yet all I could hear was that  deep velvety voice ‘ Girl, you qualified’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Lessons, Thanks Leonard

At the start of 2017 I boldly declared I was done with life lessons after being dealt yet another setback.

Five months later I realise I could not have been more wrong. Opportunities for learning are ever-present and we can choose our response – what a luxury!

We either solider on, push through and stay true to tried and tested behaviours and thought patterns.

Or we stop in our tracks, we pause, we reflect, we ponder. And when we do get going again, we do so with new insight and purpose.

The late Leonard Cohen wrote ‘ There is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in’

Lately, the ground beneath my feet has been unsteady, yet I remained committed to the familiar routine, not willing to acknowledge its short comings.

And then a moment of clarity – the light flooded in and I saw clearly what I had to do.

The old ways of being loosened its grip, and in its place, the immersion of a women, self-assured : with an over-supply of the tools needed to solve the problem that had been  troubling her all along.

A personal epiphany, one I will not shy away from, rather start the process of integrating  lessons learnt into aspects of my being.

I am thankful for yet another opportunity for personal growth. I am forced to eat humble pie : I was wrong, I am not done with life lessons!!

 

 

 

Ode to Olly Alexander

Well, nothing’s gonna hurt me with my eyes shut

I can see through them
I can see through them
I am drawing pictures I’m evading
I will not use them
I will not use them
Again

 

Vocalist Olly Alexander, of the British electronica trio, Years and Years, has described his song ‘ Eyes Shut’  as “a personal torch song.”

“It came out of a very depressing time. I didn’t intend for it to be on the album, but we started doing it live with just me on the piano and people seem to respond to it.”

I respond to this song. It is musical perfection for me, compliments the life stage I find myself entering.

Over the last 6 months, I have attended events of significance. The passing of time marked by a school reunion, a milestone birthday.

At both events, I found myself in tears. Sobbing on the way home from one celebration, public display of emotions at another.

I was never one to show emotion. I kept so much in for so long. But I welcome this change.

Everything used to hurt as I strained to keep my eyes open, fearful that night terrors would be more painful than  the reality of drawn out days.

It was a Saturday night’s milestone birthday  I ‘ think’ I heard through the laughter, tears and general revelry, the voice of an angel, Olly Alexander.

What I think I heard, lead me to return to the band Years and Years music yesterday at work.

This continued at home, song after song warmed up the winter chills that cloaked Sydney.

‘Cause I wanna be bigger than life
For you
For you

‘Cause I wanna be bigger than life
For you
For you

Yet on Saturday night, as this splendid voice pierced the party atmosphere, my tears flowed.

Upon reflection, familiar faces at school reunions and milestone birthdays  have a tendency to bring the past cascading back. Such events remind me of the heaviness I carried around for decades that consumed my ability to see with clarity the possibilities in front of me.

Nights such as school reunions and milestone birthdays also help to reinforce that whilst confronting the past has and will continue to be painful, I am travelling in a new direction.

The tears will continue to flow – I can’t stop them – and I don’t want too.

But eyes shut, eyes open – I have arrived in the here and now.

Would Justin Timberlake’s Brittany Spears break-up inspired number ‘ Cry me a River’ have been a more appropriate song to pen these self revelations too?

No, Olly Alexander and his Years & Years comrades are just what I needed to delve a little deeper into the never-ending process of self discovery.

Voice of an angel, thank you xxx

High School Horror

This tale, repressed for many years, finally surfaces.

It is a true story. Every school teachers nightmare, to the student, incomprehensible.

I am dropped off by my Mother, on her way to work at Holy Cross Primary School Helensburgh, at the Hindu Temple situation on the outskirts of town.

It was 7.26am, the morning mist heavy, parts of the temple and surrounding bushland were cloaked in soft white. At the entrance to the holy site, were numerous pairs of shoes, neatly lined up.

Alone, on the outskirts of town, mist and fog, pairs of shoes without owners, at a temple in Helensburgh, a place so ungodly it was considered ‘ Other’, not part of the South Coast or Sydney. As a Catholic student I was out of my depth. I knew very little about Hinduism and rarely left my beachside residence for a suburb 200 metres above sea level.

Just as my craving for company that morning reached fever pitch, the two buses, containing the entire contents of Year 11 arrived.

The group of 80 plus 16 and 17 year olds entered the temple on mass, lead by Head Teachers and coordinators of Religion. We were here to learn first hand about diversity and devotional practice.

I don’t know about the rest of my class but all I could think about was the paired shoes at the entrance. Who owned them? Why were they left unaccompanied?

I remember sounds from the surrounding shrubbery, the birds songs, the trickle of water from nearby streams, the crunch of the sand beneath feet as we walked around the temple, with its unsealed surface.

I remember a small crowd of students circling a ‘ statue’ which lay face down, seemingly having fallen from its base the night before. Could wind really be that strong to uproot concrete fixtures? Had the temple been vandalised over night?

Students that had been busying themselves at the far corners of the shrine, ogling over points of interests began to flock back to the scene of the fallen ‘ statue’.

Camera flashed, chatter escalated, tears formed, nervous laughter.

The ‘statue’ was a person, a real person, a young women, not much older than my school comrades.

In that moment, lives changed. Our innocence ( if there was any left) shattered, we had witnessed the brutality of life, the hardship, sorrow and levels of desperation and despair.

Teachers ushered us back onto the bus, doing their best to dispel rumours that has begun to circulate ‘ I think I know her?’ , ‘ Did you see her face?’. They made the collective decision to proceed with the itinerary of the day, cathedrals and synagogues. We drove of in the direction of Sydney.

As for me and no doubt others, my mind stayed well and truly in Helensburgh, that day. 22 years later, the imagery of shoes, countless pairs of shoes still haunts me. And the overwhelming sense that morning, as an early drop off excursion goer, of being horribly alone.

Afterward

The story made the Illawarra Mercury the following day – but in an age before digital print, one must ask themselves, Did the really happen at all?

I kept the letter that my School distributed to our parents / guardians the following day – it makes for an interesting read and some what supports my memories of events ; February 23rd 1995

32 hour Party People

Having returned home for the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend, over a red wine at Headlands Hotel, Austinmner with the parentals, the subject for another nostalgic post took hold.

The discussion was around music, and my extensive collection of ticket stubs from late 90’s, early 2000’s concerts. I think I made the comment that ‘It wasn’t always fun and games back then’….

It was December 98. Main characters assembled : Kate S, Jess, C- Ron and movie extra Chris Hopkins. We were attending UK electronic music act ‘The Prodigy” at Selina’s, Coogee Bay Hotel. We were overly excited, ill-equipped, naive, from Wollongong.

The gig was EPIC. Like nothing we had ever experienced. The gig was a mosh pit from start to finish and I feared for my life on many occasions. The big beat music exhausted everyone, sweat dripped from the roof, body heat reached fever pitched. It was a life affirming.

The next morning we awoke from our temporary resting place at the YHA Sydney city , and rallied the strength to do it all again. Our next musical adventure was to be Homebake, an all Australian outdoor music concert in Hyde Park.

We were overly excited, ill-equipped, naive, from Wollongong. Having underestimated the energy zapping nature of the gig the night before, we had little in reserves for an all day outdoor festival.

And it rained. Homebake became Mudbake. I recall very little of the festival other than Jess had a plastic water bottle, filled with vodka, that she had offered to C- R0n who was thirsty? He took a large gulp, eyes widening as he did – and not one to waste, the alcohol was swallowed – followed by anger, silent treatment and Jess’s laughter.

We packed it in early – the rain, the mud, our depleted energy levels, the Prodigy drum and bass from the night before outclassing the more conservative Aussie music scene that day.

We boarded a city rail train at Central and accepted our fate – the long train ride South.

Some 20 minutes into the journey, in our carriage full of festival misfits, coming down from chemical highs, the train came to a sudden halt.

Jolted out of my slumber, I recall thinking the train had run over a bike, collided with a metal object on the tracks.

Time passes and we de not move. We look out the window of our carriage to see men in forensic uniforms walking up and down the train tracks.

I am not longer sure who forms part of this movie of memories – Kate S, Jess are surely with me, C- Ron and Chris Hopkins, are they in the other carriage?I remember seeing the men in what appeared to be white space suits thinking – is this really happening, has our train really collided with a human being on Saturday night at Allawah Train station?

It was 1am before us Gong girls and boys get home.

The next morning, or was it a few days later, I read in the paper that our train had indeed hit a person, and that he remained unidentified, the John Doe of Allawah train station.

Fast forward to last night and it is some 19 years after Kate S, Jess, C-Ron and Chris Hopkins had been 32 hour party people. I did on online search to see if the John Doe Allawah case had ever solved.

The search revealed nothing.

Sometime when I think of all the adventures I had in my youth I almost have to pinch myself and ask ‘Did that really happen’?’

When an internet search does not verify my version of the truth I am left wondering….

But I will always have the music….

 

 

 

 

 

Catch up with a Mate Month 2017

Out for dinner last night, a home cooked meal at a friend’s place,the conversation turning to my blog writing and the concept that each June I would embark on a month-long campaign of solid catch ups.

My friend asked ‘ How is Catch up with a Mate month going?’

‘ This is it in action!’ was my response ‘ You are part of it!’

Shared laughter – she had no idea!

I admit that in the seven years I have been writing this blog, some years with a steel gaze on June, an unwavering focus on catch ups with anyone and everyone, and some years, only noticing in August that I failed to celebrate friendship at all!

Truth be told – Catch up with a Mate month and the concept that shapes my writing, has cross pollinated, manifested into all aspects of the life I live. I no longer spend one month focused on friendship, it has become part of my everyday. My friends, family, loved one, pets are my world.

To honour all that is great about catching ups, to give you an idea of the person I am, the person I am becoming, the person I aspire to be….I came across this passage by Dr Brene Brown, an US based Research Professor in Social Work.

” I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”~ Brené Brown

Run DMC – It’s Like That

Over conversation in Camperdown Memorial Park with my favourite Brazilian Australian family, I took a trip down memory lane.

My friend was eating a late lunch, fueling himself for an evening concert at the Sydney Opera House, part of Vivid 2017 Musical line up. This friend, possessing a vinyl collection so extensive it suggests he was born in the wrong musical decade, was attending the Avalanches concert. Aussie Hip Hop Royalty – the Australian ‘ Beastie Boys’.

Those who know me know my questionable taste in music, but at the mention of the Avalanches, for a brief millisecond, I was able to draw from my lapsed appreciation of true talent.

‘ Oh, I saw the Avalanches back in 1997, at Woonona Bulli RSL club. They had just released the hit ‘ Since I left you’

‘ Wow!!’ remarks my friend ‘ That would have been the perfect time to see them!!’

I have not checked in with my friend to enquire how the band, some 20 years later, were received by fans old and new. Rather, I have spent time reminiscing about my late teens and early 20’s, when attending music concerts consumed entire pay cheques.

Today I looked over ticket stubs from the late 90’s and early 2000’s – Blur, Portishead, Moby, Faithless, Ben Folds Five, Veruca Salt, Pulp, Alanis ( x 3),Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day to name a few.

And then the questionable – Ricky Martin, Human Nature, Enrique Iglesias.

Oh, and don’t get me started on Australian bands – The Whitlams, Crowded House ( adopted from New Zealand) Powderfinger, Silverchair, Regurgitator…..

But the search was undertaken with a particular ticket stub in mind – Run DMC,  the American Hip Hop group that hailed from Queens, NYC, had played at Waves NightClub Towradgi Beach. I was certain of it – I had been there, but some 19 years after the event – it seems implausible.

Ticket stub found, Run DMC played in Towradgi, greater Wollongong City, June 12th, 1998. I was 19 years old and wearing a woollen jumper and high heals. To say I was ill prepared an understatement. In need of a musical education and about to witness a live concert by the globes most influential hip-hop act. In Wollongong.

Next time I see my Brazilian Australian friend, I want to ask how the Avalanche concert was. I want to chat to him about that night in June, 1997, when I wore a woollen jumper and high heals to the Run DMC concert. I know we can both have a good laugh about that…and then some!!

 

 

 

 

 

Resilience Personified

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For a number of years I have steered clear of the Sydney Writers Festival ( SWF)

But for some reason, this year, I glanced over the program. I’m not an avid reader, I write blog posts from time to time but I love story telling, and listening to accounts of lives well lived.

The 2017 SWF seemed a good a place as any to stumble across autobiographical accounts of unique life perspectives.

And so I found myself in the audience last Sunday morning at Walsh Bay, surrounded by other curious souls, for a one hour panel conversation with Ms Turia Pitt.

For those unaware of Turia’s celebrity, in 2011, whilst completing an ultra marathon in Western Australia, she was caught in a grass fire, suffering burns to 65% of her body. The sheer grit, determination and resilience this young women has shown, to get her life back on track, on her terms………..word fail me.

Last Sunday’s audience laughed, cried and sighed in unison, as Turia walked us through her life story. She made it easy for the audience to digest the pain, suffering and trauma experienced in the 2011 grass fire and continuing recovery, by her unwavering sense of humour.

I was captivated by her spirit from the moment she walked onto the stage, till the conclusion of the hour-long interview, when she graciously accepted offer from the audience to go for a surf and to drink a beer at the local pub with another.

Resilience personified.

When it was over, and our clapping serenaded her off stage, I left the auditorium and wandered aimlessly for about 10 minutes. It was an attempt to process all I had just heard.Surrounded by Writers Festival patrons, I remained inward in thought.

On Wednesday Turia Pitt featured on Charlie Pickering’s show ‘ The Weekly’ on the ABC. I happened to watch the interview. Again, I was mesmerised.

And yesterday, I got the chance to chat with my Mum- about the Writers Festival and the Weekly interview. My Mum has seen Wednesday nights interview and in a three words she nailed it ‘ Turia upstaged him ( Charlie)’

Yes, that was exactly it – Turia upstaged Charlie Pickering on the Weekly, and she certainly upstaged the interviewer on Sundays panel at the SWF.

She had upstaged us all….been through the unimaginable, refusing to give in to the pain and trauma that to this day, has capacity to consume her.

It was inspiring to listen to her first hand account of what it takes to live a life, not one defined by an event, gender or occupation, but by hope, strength, determination and love.

Turia has chosen the harder option, and as a result we are graced with the gift of her tenacious spirit and insight.

She is resilience personified.

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