Sunday, February 22, 2015

Back Down The Stairs

Sometimes, locals call Melbourne's downtown area The CBD - The Central Business District. I think this is when they wish to elite the feel of an afternoon they have to spend there.

"I've got an interview at my lawyer's office in The CBD."

"I'm gonna meet up with her in The CBD and I'll break up with her then."

"I gotta drive to The CBD to get a sandwich."

Something like that...

Mainly though, most everyone in that Southern city of trend, comfort, effort and caffeine calls it The City.

The City is laid out across a perfect, square grid of streets, laneways and tram-tracks. There was a time when most of that grid was a dangerous place to walk at night. There were a few open and well-lit boulevards with generously wide, slate-coloured sidewalks and they were a safer bet. As were the dim rooms behind doors cut out of the side of buildings which were filled with booze, pasta and heroin dealers. They felt particularly safe. But other than those few beacons, everything else was grey and foreboding.

This is how I remember it - recalling The City now and how it seemed to me then. It may not have been like that. It is however important to this story that you know it was like that. Before. That it was Dangerous and Criminal. And not in an exciting way. You should know, that at night The City was once a quiet and sinister grid made up of a heavy darkness and stillness that would only be broken on occasion by the screams of a desperate escape and the shining reflection of a street-light off a switchblade.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Light On The Bridge

The first message came through as I was searching for new pictures of an old girlfriend. Facebook was new to me. New to most people at that time. Now it is something else. Back then - in its early days - for me it was a way to play with fantasies.  A thought or a feeling or a memory would rise into me as I lay back on the couch or whilst dipping a rice cracker into a tub of hummus and I'd bend open the laptop and search for an old name or face to add to my Friends List. Or send some vaguely provocative message to someone already on it.

Fantasy is so easily spoiled by action and I spoiled a lot of fantasies by rambling around Facebook with the taste of pureed chickpeas in my mouth.

This particular 'First Message' was from someone not on my Friends List. I didn't recognise her either. It was a girl and she was certainly a stranger to me.

"Hi. I'm ----. How's your Friday?"

That is what the message said.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Keep In Touch

Her parents named her after a writer I'd never heard of before. Neither the name nor the writer. I was behind the bar and had just made her and her Korean friend a Vesper. That's a gin and vodka drink that's shaken with a dash of Lillet. The white one - not the Lillet Rouge. 

She asked my name and at the same time her friend asked where I was from. It is polite to answer those questions directly and honestly and then ask them back in return. This is the way things are expected to go. Once, for about two months, I used to tell people in a posh part of Hollywood that I was from Mumbai.

"You know - the place with the bombs and the cricket and where they answer the phone when you call Verizon..."

That's different though - I was trying to be impolite and unexpected back then. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Letter: When I Was a Kid, I Was Really Young

I was eleven years old when I started 7th Grade. I think you're supposed to be twelve. Twelve turning thirteen. I think you're supposed to have your Bar Mitzvah in 7th Grade. But I was eleven, turning twelve.

It wasn't that I was smarter or more advanced or anything like that. It was a time of the year thing. See, the people who decide such things have a cut off point -  a date on the calendar - and if you're born after that day they bump you in with the next intake. The next year. I was born just in time to ride just above that line. I snuck in by a matter of days.

All of that which is only to let you know that I was eleven when I started 7th Grade. It is important to be accurate. Even when telling fiction...... especially when telling fiction.

I was brand new to this Secondary School, but I did have some history with the place. It was part of a small private school that ran all the classes from Kindergarden to 12th Grade out of one asphalt, tanbark and orange brick campus. So signing up for the Secondary School simply meant rocking up at the same damn address, with the same damn tanbark and same damn asphalt. The only changes were the new teachers and a new principal to answer to.

But I had more history than just that with the place itself , I also had history with said 'new principal' - a man we shall call 'The Baker's Son'.

That history had been foisted upon me. I hadn't asked for it. Nor did I even know it was available to be asked for. It wasn't a history that I had made or participated in or been present for. It was a history that my uncles had cultivated through years of arrogant and pointless struggle against the stubborn and petty force that was The Baker's Son. He then turned those collections of running battles into a grudge to be played out with and upon me. Their history was now my history and with all that hanging around, I started Secondary School..

Years later, as an older and far more distant fellow, I'd come to understand The Baker's Son better. His way. His method. Why he acted the way he did. It was not due to some misguided romantic vision of providing us with that which we needed to face the world. It wasn't because he had an idealised notion that what he was doing was for our best. It was because he was - and I'm sure, still is - a Pathological Narcissist. A man without reproach. Who felt no empathy and was filled with the zeal of a predator who wanted nothing more than to inflict pain. Or something.

But back then, as an eleven year old, I simply thought he was an arsehole. Though, to be fair, that too was certainly accurate.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Mop and Repeat

For me, it is Bleach. The smell of Bleach. To be precise, it is the smell of Bleach, diluted with warm water and dragged over white tiles with a damp and clean sponge-mop. As the streaks evaporate and the smell of watered down Bleach lingers with only a hint at its potency - that smell. I like that smell.

It is not nostalgic nor evocative nor comforting nor escapist. It is just a smell. It is its own thing and I like it for what it is - without your judgment or need to explain it to or for me.

The time some waiter told me that he liked the smell of Gasoline, was the first time I realised that folks out there like some fucked-up smells. Gasoline? The smell that rises up off those few drop that drip out when you pull the nozzle back out of the tank at the gas station? That smell? Really? Why?

Because he did. Because I like Bleach. Because her neighbor likes a reed diffuser set (do you know what that is?) that pushes out a sickly sweet and thick odor, that can only be described as: a plastic cup of coconut bubble tea sweetened with a kilo each of icing sugar, sweet & low and stevia, so that it's almost glowing.

Because your Mum likes the smell of the ink and paper in the glossy magazines at her divorce lawyer's reception. That smell is also there at her personal trainer's, her realtor's and her osteopath's. Because his boyfriend likes the smell of nail polish remover. Because they said they like smell of wet dirt.

Because you like what you like. Whatever weird smell you like. You goddamn, fucking weirdo.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

And A Plastic Warning

Farringdon is such a fun word to say.

Say it:


It can also be a dramatic word to say, if you can pull together a partly hoarse voice filled with a jumble of recognition, remorse and wistfulness.


It is after midnight and I'm not drinking nor drugging - neither myself nor someone else. So it is just me and the beige mist and the cotton touch of the sheets and the still, thick warmth trapped and left over in the room - even though the heat of a blazing afternoon has long set off and away. That balmy, floating atmosphere tangles and fights with the cool breeze entering in off the fly-screen door that opens out onto a timber-slat decked courtyard.

Except those slats ain't no timber.

They're plastic or resin or composite or something. I'm not exactly sure. I just know they are not timber. The landlord told me that. We were signing the lease and he hadn't said much and I'd asked even less. The questions usually come when one party doesn't pay the rent or another party doesn't fix the rusted hot water system. But I was just signing the lease and he was just giving me the keys. Neither of us had any need for questions. I just silently scribbled away and he spoke none.

Except for on his way out.

He picked up the papers and after putting a hand on the front door handle, he turned back around, pointed with his chin and said:

Thursday, October 16, 2014


I live in an aluminum half boatshed. I eat panadols three at a time and drink sharp mineral water. I fall in love when I shouldn't and only take intimacy in ounce shots when I should. I report on places I'm not in and tell stories that you think are true. I find hope and lose guitar picks and take time and miss calls and respond out of order. And I'm lucky. Luckier than you. For sure.

I like accents. I like it when there is a disconnect between what is being said and the accent it is being delivered in. Like a French person dropping Australian slang, but slower and rounder and more romantic than we would spit out the same phrase or shortened word. If I didn't want to be the sort of writer that I now don't want to be, I would have written that I like it when there is a "dissonance to the delivery". But I don't want to be that sort of writer. And I don't want to put a baby in your guts. And I don't want to know what your dietary requirements are. And I don't want to pretend to care.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

a hyphen is as good as a comma to a blind man

A few years back there, somewhere in the middle of England, I meet this guy. Actually, now that I think on it, I remember exactly where it was that I met him.

Just below the dawdling canal running through Startford-upon-Avon, winds a road heading east out to Wellesbourne - or some town just as equally dull. It was on that road that I met that Welsh-born, Midlands-raised, Red-head. Let's call him 'Welsh-Red'.

If you head the other way on that road - towards Bidford - you'd find yourself along a stretch of tar flanked by houses of the very rich and the very poor. No pattern to their procedure - they just all jumble in all together. A few mansions, then a shack, then a twisted metal garage door, then a tiny yellow car, then some more large houses, then a council flat. Another council flat and then a bald, high-price lawyer leaving the sprawling, low-slung house he bought for his bride some twelve years earlier. He was just dropping off the kids.  He doesn't live there anymore. That same bride done tossed him out months ago. She had been OK with his late night fraternising at the office, but once the gaggle of single mums in that line-up of cars outside school learned that he had unzipped his trousers with one of their very own in that very same line-up, well, you know...disloyalty, shame, embarrassment, betrayal, rage... it all leads to the same place - late Saturday nights at that grey-toned house with the kids and the estranged husband replaced by young men, strong drugs and un-eaten take-away. Only way to treat that particular pain....

But all that is on the road to Bidford. I met Welsh-Red on the road to Wellesbourne - whole different set-up on that side.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Don't Remember

I can never remember which stripes are meant to be the slimming ones. Is it vertical or horizontal? I've been told that this is the stuff that matters, but I can never remember which ones are which. So I don't wear stripes. Not the vertical nor the the horizontal ones. Because I can't remember.

There is so much I don't do simply because I don't remember.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Always a Train

Elizabeth Cotten.

I have her story in my mind. A story about her. It might be true. It might not be. She is a real person. Was one anyway. You can see how real she is in the photo above. Photos don't never lie. So she definitely had a story. I'm just saying that I might have confused myself by borrowing a few different parts from other people's stories and then brought those pieces together into one story and then gone and attached all of that to her. That is certainly something I've done before.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Make It Stop!

Time for a rant. It's been a while. I'll get back to the more lyrical stuff in a minute, but today I’m gonna get my Grumpy Old Jewish Man on.

First let me identify my target: Food Bloggers.

So Food Bloggers are those clowns that maintain personal sites that cover things like:

  • over pictorialised restaurant reviews, complete with contrived metaphors and over anxious emotional descriptors;
  • essays that unnecessarily (and failingly) attempt to use the depth of narrative and style required for a first hand account of a Spanish Civil War battle for a recounting of a Wednesday night spent following Grandma's chocolate cake recipe;
  • breathless stories of some food-stuff that an old sorority sister found in a tiny store with the tag 'Gourmet' or 'Artisanal' or 'Overpriced Nonsense' plastered across it;
  • and other vapid topics and posts that, to be frank, I just couldn't be bothered to Google, check and then describe to you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Of Paragraphs and Choices

The Fork in the Road.

We've all been there. Several times. Maybe you're not out on The Road as often or much as I, but you've certainly seen a Fork or two. Even if your Google Maps works better than mine and you felt you thought you knew what was coming over the next rise, you still have to take and make decisions on whether to turn right or left. Most often I only realise that I had come up to a Fork after the fact. This is when a route I take perhaps doesn't work out as I expected it to and after mentally retracing my steps, I become aware of the singular, fateful choice that is that one 'wrong-turn'.

But there are times when I know I'm facing a Fork at the very moment I come up to it. It is so clear, that in my mind I see it as a real scene. I am wearing a faded brown suit and an emerald green button-up-vest that are both laced with thick markings of dust that have risen up off the road and clung to the parts of the material that are most moist with sweat. My right shoulder is slumped down due the stiff, red leather suitcase that hangs from my right hand. Across my left forearm and cradled into my stomach, lies a bouquet of wildflowers, wrapped in a light, tracing paper. I don't know exactly how long I’ve been carrying this spirited melange of purples, yellows and whites and neither do I know whom they are meant for, but they seem as fresh and as lively as the ones still growing and attached to the ground around my feet.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Um, What's Your Number

If you could quote Tex Perkins, Gillian Welch and Lester Bangs. If you could recite the entire lyrics to 'Isis'. If you read Doctor Gonzo's letters. If you got the desert in your toenails and hid the speed inside your shoes. If you had wet hair, black trousers and smooth, bare heels. If you cooked linguine with saffron and cream and fresh crab and diced sea bass and barely sauteed scallops. If you ate New York Strip steak, that had been brutally char-grilled just past rare.

If you danced for me and let me sing for you. If you sat, stayed and cheered for a fourth quarter comeback. If you had seen Melbourne in the rain, Nafplio in the chill and Prague in the snow – and you still wanted more. If you have dug a hole in the sand, filled it with hunks of dried Red Gum wood and lit a searing, midnight bonfire, that made nearly as much noise as the crashing surf in the distance. If country music had saved your life.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

They Call It Black Friday, But Tuesday's Just As Bad

Coming back up Wilshire, as we slowly made our way out of Santa Monica and towards Brentwood,
both of our easy strolls gave way to pronounced limps. We had started our walk back at 3rd street and were now approaching the 20's. The Virginian wasn't equipped with the right footwear. That was her excuse. Mine had more to do with the same 'old before my time' afflictions that come and go like the weather over the bay. Whatever it was, we both needed a break. A little pit-stop from the exercise.

Around where we were, Wilshire opens out into a wide, multi-lane carriageway, buffered on each side by stubby commercial spaces. It has the feel of those wide, winding highways that accountants ride through as they make their way home after work, past outer suburbia and on towards the outer, outer suburbia of their pre-fab McMansion houses. The white noise of never ending cruising steel, crunching changing gears and screeching brake-pads is often accompanied by a visual palate of blacks, greys, charcoals and browns. All over the world, such exact roads exist and on their sidewalks, as this all rushes past you, one tends to feel lonely and silent.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Red and Yellow

I'm listening to a lot of Tom Waits lately. And Tex Perkins. It has been almost exclusively the two of them on the iPod. They both have more than enough stuff out there to keep me occupied for endless afternoon walks through the rolling and sweeping - yet concise and compact – silent , side-street opulence of Hancock Park. Both of their recorded works cover an almost unbelievable variety of styles and genres.

Waits started off with a traditional wounded, boozy, New Orleans feel and then progressed towards the more loose and avant-garde - sounding something like a giant, red circus tent with straw flung across the ground, silver shining stars stuck to the roof and the smell of whiskey mixed with elephant dung hanging about your ears. Tex's sound started off more experimental, bawdy and bourbony and has slowly made it's way to traditional and nontraditional Country, with little pit-stops for disco, ladyboys, drum machines and heroin-addled-bluesy-funk.