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April 13, 2002
Relocation, relocation, relocation
Reading Po Bronson's The Nudist on the Late Shift. The title reveals an awareness of marketing, but the book is actually about people in the computer industry, and what drives them. Bronson's good at conveying what Silicon Valley feels like, and why people are excited to be there. His skills in this area are so good that, for a moment, I considered moving to Silicon Valley and trying to find some venture capitalists.
Apparently that's what people do: they hatch a great new software idea, and move to Silicon Valley to find wealthy, adventurous people to bankroll them. So, for a brief moment, that's what I wanted to do, except my idea was to get rid of the middle man (the great new software idea) and just get the funding.
The book starts with this:
By car, by plane, they come. They just show up. They've given up their lives elsewhere to come here. They come for the tremendous opportunity, believing that in no other place in the world right now can one person accomplish so much with talent, initiative, and a good idea.
Reading this so soon after being in Sydney makes me wonder where I should be living. What I really want to do is write: songs, stories, jokes. What I've already done a lot of is travelling, and wandering, and moving house. I've done a lot of all that stuff. Always looking for greener mirages, for somewhere better, for something else.
For the first time in my life, I'm starting to think that the best place to get some writing done is where I am right now: at home, in Fitzroy, surrounded by a pile of books, with a guitar just nearby, and with a Melbourne sky outside threatening a long winter.
I've never felt this before. It's a profoundly weird feeling.
July 13, 2002
The light shining through a cloud of dust
The anguish is over. I have two new housemates: La Chica and DJ Hardware. They've already brought new energy and life into the house. But with new energy comes a loss of the old. And the old has gone, man. Guan-Ji and Silence packed up their stuff and left behind a cloud of dust. They're outta here.
This is an occasion worth marking. After all, Guan-Ji and I have lived in the same house for fourteen months. So here is:
The dragon of Rae Street
A year ago. Guan-Ji is cooking. But he's not cooking particularly well, with the mindful awareness of The One True Cook. He stumbles out of the zone. He loses his focus.
He sets fire to his dinner. Smoke starts billowing out of the kitchen.
"Ah!" says Guan-Ji, "dragon fills house with unlucky smoke!"
Once the meal had been safely buried and the service was over, I asked about the dragon. Turns out that the dragon comes to visit once in a while. He flows through the house, moves through the backyard, and ends up using the loo, at the very far end of the house. I'd already become aware of him, and had noticed the other indications of his presence: the dragon motifs on several items of furniture, the overall feeling of safety in the house, and, perhaps most conspicuously, the scorch marks on the lounge room wall. The scorch marks didn't really do very much, unless it was a night with a full moon. Then they'd start glowing and spelling out random messages. They were like fortune cookies from a particularly deranged Chinese restaurant. One message was simply "Dragon lives here." Another was "Leave house now! Dragon has date!"
Some people might interpret this talk of dragonhood as a kind of Feng Shui thing, a kind of metaphor for the positive energy flow of the house. But ... come on now. I mean, really. Tsk tsk. It's just a dragon. It's not a malevolent spirit. It's not a Jehovah's Witness. It's not a sales representative of a telephone company. It's just a goddang dragon. Other houses have mulberry trees, or visiting willie wagtails, and this house has a dragon. It wasn't planned that way, but it's what we have. We live in a lucky house. And with great luck comes great responsibility.
At one point we had a runaway avocado tree growing in the backyard. It was growing out of a drain. It was growing very, very rapidly. It displaced the drain cover in record time, and seemed primed for world domination. But by displacing the drain cover, it'd exposed Something That Should Not Be Disturbed. It had exposed the pipe leading to the Elaborate Underworld Beneath the house.
I became concerned that this might hurt or confuse the dragon. He might come flowing through the house, get halfway across the backyard, and fall into an alternative reality.
This wasn't good. Action was therefore needed. Dragon far more important than runaway avocado tree. So runaway avocado tree cut down. Drain covered up with with bricks. Visitors from Elaborate Underworld Beneath turned back.
The result? Dragon happy. Dragon not bring sales representatives. Energy keeps flowing from front door to loo. Scorch marks don't light up when easily frightened visitors are in the house. Dragon takes date elsewhere.
Rule of the dragon
Guan-Ji and I were both born in the Year of the Dragon. It doesn't take much to realise that this is an especially good year to be born in. Look at the competition: the Year of the Pig, the Year of the Bump in the Head, the Year of the Fluffy Slippers. Dragons can eat their competition for dinner, and are accustomed to doing so in the finest restaurants.
Guan-Ji had a thing about dragons. His Special Shirt, the one he'd wear only on important occasions, featured an elaborate dragon motif down one side. He never overtly said this, but this shirt was a part of his "alpha housemate" routine. By some kind of unwritten code, he was the only person in the house allowed to wear a dragon motif.
So his departure means a change in my own status. I'm now the alpha housemate. From now on, I wear the dragon motif. From now on, my word is law. I make the rules. All the rules. Even the stupid rules. Especially the stupid rules. I make them all, man, and I make them whenever I damn well please.
Guan-Ji has left the building, and in his place is a cloud of delusion. It's where I live, man. Come visit some time. Let's see what the scorch marks do for you.
July 14, 2002
The Elaborate Underworld Beneath the house? What?
Oh, didn't I mention this before?
Well, I'm sure one day I'll get around to explaining it. But there's a theory that the Elaborate Underworld Beneath is where the sales representatives actually come from. It's where they dwell. There are, of course, other theories ...
July 15, 2002
Zeno and the paradox of Fitzroy
Q. If Zeno stood at one end of Rae Street and shot an arrow down it, would the arrow hit the other end?
Q. If Zeno stood at one end of Rae Street and shot an arrow down it, could you explain why it wouldn't hit the other end?
A. Oh. Well, it's fairly straightforward. An arrow fired down the length of Rae Street wouldn't make it to the other end because Rae Street is a very long street. As they say in the classics, "it's, like, really long." Several times I've attempted to walk its entire length, and was forced to retire hurt. An arrow has no chance at all of covering the entire length, as Zeno once famously demonstrated, while swaying around looking tipsy.
There's a great theory around here that Rae Street is actually infinite. At the very least, it's so long it's hard to measure accurately. Ergo, it's infinitely long. This theory is lent extra weight by the lucky fact that it's in Fitzroy. There are many people around here who wish to believe they have a ringside view of infinity.
Q. If a tree falls on Rae Street, and hits a mime, what do you say?
A. "Zeno, pass me that bow and arrow. Let me see if I can hit something a little nearer."
August 15, 2002
Three obscure views of Fitzroy
Currently reading and admiring One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by the Japanese woodblock artist Hiroshige. The images were first published in 1858, but they all look as if they could've come out this year. Or even next year. These woodblocks are a century and a half old, and they look brand new. I'm overwhelmingly impressed with Mr. Hiroshige.
His gift was to focus on one place, one city, and to depict it in a multitude of ways. The variety on display is fascinating. His city is the one that became Tokyo, and he shows us what it looks like in all seasons, up close, far away, and all points in between. One of the prints shows, in the foreground, a barred window. On the windowsill sits a cat, which looks through the bars out over a paddy field. Mt. Fuji stands in the distance, almost as an afterthought. A flock of birds rises in the sky.
This one woodblock has detail enough to keep the eye happy for a long time. It's a wonderful image, and it's one of many.
I wish I could express myself visually. Then I could put together a book of my own woodblock art. I could call it Three Obscure Views of Fitzroy, and never find a publisher for it. Or I could find myself an artist, or kidnap myself an artist, and strongly imply that we work together. Nothing major, just a short series of three images, starting with:
Obscure View of Fitzroy, #1:
A cat sits on the windowsill of a rundown Fitzroy house. It looks through a barred window over the inner city street scene below. University students pass by, carrying textbooks, wearing glasses. A well-dressed woman in her late twenties talks on a mobile phone. Two cars compete for the same parking spot. An outer suburban tourist attacks a performance artist. Mt. Fuji doesn't rise in the distance. On closer inspection, the cat turns out to be a painted statue. On even closer inspection, its pricetag is still visible.
August 18, 2002
A dazzling display of potentially edible weirdness
Yesterday I found myself walking along Victoria Street in Richmond, and decided to buy some okra, one of the world's great foods. I found several Asian supermarkets that sell it, but sadly they kept their okra on the footpath outside. Victoria Street is fairly polluted, and I didn't want okra heavily laced with carbon monoxide.
So I started looking for a place that kept their okra inside, and I found one. But this minor success raised a new problem. I can't go inside a large Asian supermarket without having a good look at absolutely everything in there. And in a large supermarket, like this one, that can mean the loss of several hours. I spent something like twenty minutes just looking at the tea section, and then I remembered that I don't particularly like tea.
Eventually I stumbled out with a jar of eggplant pickled in chilli (why?), some mysterious black tea made of black beans and sesame seeds (why?) and a packet of soup seasoning that has "sea tangle" as one of its ingredients (why?).
I love Victoria Street. There's something enormously appealing about spending a few dollars on exotic foods that I will almostly certainly never eat.
A second obscure view of Fitzroy
In the middle distance is a tree. It stands in front of a two-storey terrace house. In the foreground is a letterbox, with a sticker bearing the words "deliverers of junk mail will be tracked down and incinerated."
An enormous quantity of junk mail is crammed into the letterbox. A phone company sales rep rings the doorbell. A print of Mount Fuji hangs on a wall inside the house, clearly visible through a barred window. A performance artist dangles upside down from the tree. He is being hit on the side of the head by a young man wielding a wad of junk mail. A crescent moon rises over the house. The doorbell electrocutes the sales rep.
August 25, 2002
The third and last obscure view of Fitzroy
A match is in the foreground. It's just been lit, and has blazed up dramatically. Behind it is darkness. Dramatic darkness. Above it is darkness. Dramatic darkness. Next to it is darkness. Have a guess what kind.
Apart from the lit match, the entire woodblock features darkness.
The artist comments:
What I find intriguing about this particular woodblock is how much it leaves unsaid. The eloquence of silence, man. There's so much eloquent silence going on here that I feel like walking down Brunswick Street with a megaphone, yelling at people.
Has the match been struck to smoke a cigarette? To light a candle? To perform a scientific experiment? To light an oven? To melt wax over a performance artist?
The real beauty of the idea is that ... we'll never know.
And to be honest, I don't even know.
But, as an artist, my role is to find ways to express that delicate, poignant, dramatic state-of-not-knowing. That, to me, is the essence of Fitzroy.
February 24, 2003
La Chica and the emu
Moving house, for many people, is a tiring, cumbersome operation. Not for La Chica, though. Six months ago she arrived from Spain and moved into the house in a record-breaking time of three seconds. She arrived with a suitcase and a stuffed emu. She put the emu on the mantelpiece and announced that she'd settled in.
What seemed peculiar was that she'd arrived in Australia already armed with an Australian souvenir. This seemed the opposite of the normal arrangement of going somewhere first, and acquiring a souvenir while there. I made enquiries about this, and she said that the emu was a going-away present from her friends in Majorca. "And for my friends," she said, "logic is not important."
So for the last six months La Chica lived in the front room with her emu. She was a very easy person to share a house with, partly because she remained, at all times, outrageously Spanish.
At one point late last year she told me about her family's custom of eating twelve grapes in the last twelve seconds of New Year's Eve. On December 31, as a result, I attempted to eat twelve grapes in twelve seconds. I failed. I didn't realise you could prepare the grapes in advance, so I lost a few valuable seconds picking the stalks off them. I also didn't realise that you could use small grapes.
I was also foolishly trying to combine customs. My grand-aunt, who came from Glasgow, had a habit of opening the front door on the stroke of midnight, to let the old year out and the new year in. Ever since childhood, I've been doing the same thing, but then I met La Chica. This time I opened the front door while chewing a mouthful of grapes. The combination proved tricky, but I enjoyed the challenge. And it got me thinking about extending my set of rituals. Perhaps in years to come I'll mark the start of the new year by riding a unicycle to the front door while eating grapes and shouting at the neighbours in a language of my own invention.
Operation Desk Nab
A few months ago I went for a late-night walk and discovered a good-looking desk sitting on the pavement further up Rae Street. I tried to move it and realised that the frame was made of solid steel, or solid lead, or solid plutonium. I couldn't lift it by myself, and couldn't even budge it by myself. I could see, however, that I wanted it by myself. So I walked home to get my Kombi, and I knocked on La Chica's door. "How do you feel about helping me to steal an abandoned desk?" I asked. "Oh, sure," she said, "I'm Spanish." She put some shoes on and announced that she was ready to leave. "You're wearing pajamas," I said. "I know," she replied. "It's only two seconds later, and I'm still Spanish."
So I drove a pajama-wearing Spanish girl up the street, and we stopped next to the desk, and had a closer look at it. As well as being difficult to lift, it was also annoyingly large. We spent twenty minutes trying to figure out a way to get it into the Kombi, and eventually found a way to get some of it in. Two of its legs were sticking out the back of the car, and we didn't have any rope to tie things up. So La Chica volunteered to sit in the back and hold on to the desk.
This seemed like a good idea until I started the engine. Then I became terrified that I might hit a bump and launch La Chica towards the moon. So we drove back at a grindingly slow pace, and after a few minutes of this, a couple of other cars bunched up behind us. We spontaneously formed a slow-moving motorcade, with the desk serving as a kind of mock coffin. I played Beethoven's Eroica Symphony on the car stereo, and several pedestrians stopped to salute.
When we got back home I realised that the desk was too big to fit into my room, so I offered it to La Chica. "That would be useful," she said. "It'll give the emu something to look at."
Time has passed, but Operation Desk Nab remains a vivid memory. Of course, La Chica herself also remains a vivid memory. Last week she bought a car and moved out on the same day. She put her suitcase on the back seat and drove off into the sunset. But she left a few things behind, with a promise to pick them up sometime soon. She left the desk, owing to technical problems moving it, and I was astonished to find that she also left the emu. She carefully wrapped it in protective cloth and stored it in a cardboard box. Her family has a long tradition of this, apparently.
La Chica has gone, and I miss her already. And I've been left holding a stuffed emu in a box. In a funny kind of way I feel like a spokesperson for a generation.
April 10, 2003
Three people and one fork
I've become so accustomed to my lifestyle that I can no longer recall if it's normal. I've also started to wonder if it's even desirable. I've just taken a stroll around my life, trying to work out what I've got and whether it's working.
I started with a furniture inventory, as that seemed the easiest way to begin. I have a bed, an elderly trestle table, and a great number of bookshelves. Sadly, on the large possessions front, that's it.
The house, meanwhile, slowly gathers more furniture. People move in with all kinds of stuff and eventually move out again, leaving behind useless things they are no longer willing to carry. The house has become a museum for concave lounge suites, dangerous chairs and mismatched cutlery.
It's a sad reflection of my life that I'm nearly forty, and my crappy old house has more furniture than I do.
Recently Mayhem came over and we stood around having a chat. Eventually she suggested that it would be more comfortable to talk sitting down. I disagreed, but nevertheless pointed out the one part of the lounge room that had been vacuumed this century. "Hmmm," she said, inspecting the floor in question, "perhaps we could go to a cafe."
Things are even worse in the cutlery area. There are three of us living here, and we have just enough knives and spoons for us all to eat breakfast at the same time. But we only have one fork, which means that dinner tends to be soup. It's like living in an orphanage.
Luckily, the three of us are coping well with this desperate arrangement, and have formed a caring, supportive unit. Here's part of a recent conversation:
Mispel: How was your day?
Unfortunately, the litany of woe continues. In addition to the broken furniture and the lone fork, the house is also the victim of HRC syndrome. Our HRC stands ominously at one end of the kitchen, masquerading as a fridge.
It certainly looks like a fridge, and is occasionally capable of sounding like a fridge. But it fails bitterly when it comes to working like a fridge.
It's incapable of keeping anything cold. Instead, it just sits there, using electricity. It has a dial that sets the temperature, but, in a masterpiece of irony, it doesn't need to be a dial. It may as well be a sticker. Our fridge keeps everything at room temperature, because our fridge is a HRC. A heavily reinforced cupboard.
One of the disadvantages of HRC ownership is the danger of temporarily leaving the house. Recently I spent the weekend in Yackandandah, and when I returned I opened the fridge with extreme trepidation.
In the freezer section (or the "upper cupboard region") was some nice cheese that I'd bought a week before. I donned surgical gloves and attempted to peel it off the shelf. To my surprise it came off very easily, and with sudden delight I realised that it might still be edible. A preliminary autopsy revealed good news: not all of it was green. Small chunks were still yellow, and this seemed to offer a slender ray of hope.
Just to make sure, I cooked it a few times, and plonked it on some toast. Then I sat on the floor and ate it with the only available fork.
This, then, is my life. Despite the rareness of forks and the abundance of useless furniture, I have yet to give up hope. I continue dreaming of other worlds, of other lives.
April 15, 2003
Casus belli: one good fork
Both Mispel and Arena have pointed out that I haven't been completely honest in my description of the household fork situation. It seems that in addition to our one proper fork, we also have a couple of high table forks, the kind that are occasionally used for dabbing at caviar. In my two years of living in this house, no caviar has ever appeared to be dabbed at, so these dainty little forks are finding little usage. They're so small that using them can add an hour to the time it takes to eat a meal. They're so dainty that using a straw is more effective. This is true even for eating toast.
As a result, I felt justified in ignoring them, and feel confident that I've been honest in saying that we have only One Good Fork. And our One Good Fork is causing the house internal conflict and anguish. People use it and then fail to wash it, or fail to return it to the kitchen, or, in a more general way, just fail.
Enough is enough, I've decided. Earlier this morning I formed an executive committee to address the fork problem. After several hours of intense negotiation, I've decided that a military solution offers the fairest deal for everyone, but especially for me. Accordingly I've formed a one man vigilante army. I haven't had the time to go and buy some khaki and a helmet, but I've opened hostilities with a startling piece of military genius.
So hear ye, hear ye. From now on the fork will be kept in a secret location in my room. As of 12:45 hours today, Eastern Standard Time, I'm taking the fork hostage.
April 16, 2003
War in Iraq diminishes in importance
I'm upset. I'm discouraged. I'm devastated.
Someone has stolen my hostage.
April 17, 2003
The wonders of the Fitzroy police
I'm sure the Fitzroy police have a hard enough job, but even so I was a bit unimpressed with the service I received from them.
This a word for word transcription of our two conversations today.
Me: Help! Help! Someone has stolen my fork!
A few minutes later, after a bit more thought:
Me: This is Sean Hegarty, military renegade. I wish to report a serious crime. Someone has stolen my hostage.
And lo, they came. They came very, very quickly. In a helicopter and everything.
But their jovial, we're-here-to-fight-crime demeanour rapidly evaporated when they discovered that the hostage wasn't a human being. I tried to explain that human hostage taking was quaint and old-fashioned. "I'm on the cutting edge of military crime," I said. "I don't even have a proper uniform."
In the end they were fairly good natured about it, and let me off with a long lecture about the dangers of wasting police time. Even better, one of them searched the kitchen and found the fork. It was hiding under a dirty plate. The same guy also gave me some useful advice. "If someone is nicking your cutlery," he said, "just put a lock on your door."
April 25, 2003
Alternative uses of dainty little forks
Last Thursday, after the police left, I figured it would be a good idea to put a lock on my bedroom door.
So I did that. I went out and got one, and put it on the door, and tried locking it. All was well: I had myself a fully functioning deadlock. For an hour or two it was a cool new toy. I'd leave my room, lock the door, and stride purposefully into the kitchen. Then I'd suddenly say "ah-hah! An idea!" and return to my room. Then I'd look all surprised to discover a locked door.
Both Mispel and Arena thought this was rather amusing, at least for a while. Then they both went away over Easter. I'm not sure if there was a coincidence.
Having the house to myself was great, but it was only great for about two hours.
Then I locked my keys in my room.
And because it was Easter, it was difficult to get a locksmith. When I finally convinced one to come he got the lock open in about three seconds. To my great dismay, he used one of those dainty little forks. To celebrate my return to my own room, I sold him the lock, and used the proceeds to buy some caviar.
April 28, 2003
Two observations from the streets of Fitzroy
Late April seems to be Fitzroy's season of dead birds. Everywhere I walk I come across yet another corpse of yet another bird. I'm puzzled about the reasons for this. Perhaps it's the change of season. The weather has suddenly turned colder and wetter, and so have a larger-than-normal number of birds.
There are many houses in Fitzroy with posters in the window saying "This household opposes the war in Iraq." This I understand.
There are no houses in Fitzroy with posters saying "This household supports the war in Iraq." This I also understand.
But there are also no houses in Fitzroy with posters saying "This household is undecided about the war in Iraq and would like more time to think about it." This I do not understand.
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