Tuesday, 16 April 2019

The emu parade

This is heartbreaking

I'm perhaps not in the best frame of mind at the moment, or ever, but even so, the thought of 1) this being the way I will discover beyond any shade of a doubt, once and for all, that I am incontrovertibly and irreversibly getting old, and 2) the vivid kinesthetic image of myself, old but for the moment somehow mercifully shielded from quite knowing it, shuffling pointlessly along in a shabby torn drool-stained overcoat and decomposing footwear of the type that in its prime could only have aspired to being described by Felicity Kennett as 'shit shoes', struggling pitifully floorwards to pick up a bit of rubbish I have just spotted, scrabbling feebly with my weak and carbunculous fingers at the rubbish mirage only to having that brief and dim flare of hope extinguished forever on finding it is only a pattern in the treacherous, rubbish-mimicking carpet, but above all that 3) it is John from Parkdale who knows how it will all transpire and in the best tradition of depressing locations for sibylline utterances has chosen the Herald-Sun as the setting within which he shall cause the veil to be rent from top to bottom, is making me very sad. I didn't think I could be sadder, but it seems that I can.

Go, go, go, said the bird; human kind cannot bear very much reality.

Nobody's going to rescue me, I understand that. I'm rescuing myself. I think.

Old patterns are the continuing theme of the analysis. It's hard going. I can't really explain, and of course, there isn't any reason to explain nor anyone to explain it to. The godhead John of Parkdale already understands this, along with everything that has ever happened or will happen, wordless and deep inside of people and in the relations between them, and in all the vast untrodden reaches of time and space where people have no business to be. Comforting, in a way; nevertheless, I am having a rough time of it in private as well as in public. So therefore I want to leave just a small piece of rubbish lying here, on this orange, yellow and magenta carpet (such a poor choice for hiding the dirt, but practicality has never been my strong suit) to provide for a future in which I might come back, getting old and decrepit, with hairy warts growing out of my warts but also with this time in my life long ago over and done with, and in the discernment of this piece of rubbish I might understand and make sense of what this experience is that I've been putting myself though and I might be able to see and appreciate its meaning and value.

Monday, 15 April 2019


Vinnie is sitting on my arm and chewing / licking the fur on his own. I wish he wouldn't. He's stopped kneading me in the belly at least. He appears to be immensely happy. If I liked him more I could at least vicariously enjoy his happiness.

This paragraph is from a review of a group of books about the prescription opioid epidemic going on in the US.

When I read this I recognised it as a description of exactly how I feel in the savasana / corpse pose phase of yoga. Absolute peace, contentment, stillness, balance and ease.

But right now at this minute there is a stupid cat sitting on my arm. Also there is a place on the skin of my throat that won't stop itching and I am extremely annoyed about almost everything. Anzac Day, stupid arrogant selfish people, liars, death, the weather, a smell in this room that I cannot get rid of and that sickens me to the pit of my stomach, the swallowing up of my time and energy in vortexes of rubbish that does not matter. Just before I woke up this morning I had a revolting dream which I am ashamed of and which I suppose I will tell my doctor about when I see her tomorrow, to show her that I have caught the note of reproach threaded through recent serialised conversations about whether I believe that I really am important to her as a human being and that she does not find me to be, in some unnameable way, lacking. She actually asked me that: do you believe that I care about you? And one of those very strange things that happens in psychotherapy happened: I couldn't answer, although I certainly tried to. I sat in a silence that is the polar opposite of the silence of savasana, and my gaze travelled anxiously around the room. It seemed that I could not say Yes but neither could I lie to her, even though I wanted to assure her that I have no doubts or hesitations that of course I know she cares for me. Some weeks ago I made her a sort of offering in the form of an account of something I've never described to any other person - a dream I used to have when I was really small and sometimes still have - and to be quite honest, I am disappointed in the interpretation she presented me with. The content of it was suitably and satisfyingly nasty, that's not the problem. Where I feel a little let down is in the singleness of the interpretation. I feel like if I kept on having this horrible dream for forty years it must have meant a lot of different things across that time. 

When I arrive at work at about a quarter past nine on Tuesdays I've already been up for four hours and it feels like the day should be almost over. I'm getting better at lap swimming, thanks in part to Leonard passing on to me some of the surprisingly technical knowledge he's acquired in his weekly swimming lessons. I do my laps then I get in the sauna, because I have this belief, although I don't really believe it, that heating yourself up kills germs. The same people are always in there on Tuesday morning. There is a very hairy man who must talk, and if he doesn't succeed in engaging somebody in a dialogue he rubs his fingers in a vigorous circular movements around the thicket of hair on his chest and it makes a sound.

After the pool I go to Carlton and eat eggs and read the Herald-Sun so I will have strength and know what it is that I am up against. Last week the waiter brought me a plate with three pieces of toast and one poached egg. What's this, I said to him. My goodness, what on earth is this? Is this a joke? I said. He appeared confused. Bambini? he said. I said no, Semplice, he said Ah! Semplice and he took the plate away and came back a few minutes later bearing the same plate only now it was sporting an additional egg alongside the previously presented materials. I felt humiliated and sad but I ate it anyway.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

paint me like one of your Rone girls!

My colleague L and I drove up into the hills, this evening after work, to join the 26,000+ people who've now visited the 'Empire' exhibition at Burnham Beeches. Link, because I don't trust myself to explain the scenario, if you don't grasp it already. Not without contaminating the description with cynicism and carping. I mean, those things are fine and necessary, but strategically you should say some nice (or at least neutral) things first, to dispel any suspicions that you can only be a sniffy little bitch about things that other people like and find to be good. I've fucked this up already, haven't I. It's been a long day. Along with all the other normal workplace fires that needed putting out today it wasn't even ten o'clock before I found myself giving an impromptu tour to a group of public servants who turned up un/expectedly from the Premier's department because I could not find a volunteer to do it and I also had to stack up ALL the furniture in the three teaching rooms at work so the carpets can be steam cleaned over the weekend. Well, anyhow, Burnham Beeches. I've wanted to get inside this house since I first saw it (I think that might've been in Leonard's first winter, we went to walk in the Alfred Nicholas Gardens up there in Sherbrooke and there it was, this huge beautiful empty neglected inexplicable house rearing up out of the cold wet trees) and that is what happened and I was not disappointed, it is an extremely lovely building and the stuff with which it is currently decorated does not interfere with what the house has to say about how to raise a structure of concrete, steel, glass, plaster and wood in a clearing amongst trees so as to live for ever in complete happiness.
You know, my job is essentially identical to the task which I gather was given by the building's current owner, filthy rich chef Shannon Bennett, to Tyrone Wright, the artist who led the project. Explain this 1930s building and park to a public that has total and complete collective amnesia about anything that happened before its own childhood, but despite this - or because of this - rushes to sacralise any story, or object or place which seems to open a door to a forgotten past.  

And also, I might not sound like it sometimes, but I really love the essence of my job. Like every other kind of work, the secondary things get in the way and are frustrating and sometimes they drag me right down, but the main game is good, worthwhile, stimulating and interesting work. So I understand and have sympathy with what I take to be the spirit of the exhibition. The enigmatic inner life, or memories, of this wonderful house needs unpacking. 

Other times when I've been in places that have this abandoned quality they produce this feeling of almost desperate longing to see something of the richness of texture I imagine they used to have. The exhibition is trying for that richness, without denying that the building is no longer inhabited or habitable. 

But I just have to say, I thought the way this was done is uber-kitsch. It's Trechikoff for millennials - ruin-porn style. As we walked through the rooms L and I talked about what we thought could be done with the building that might keep it alive without ruining it. We didn't come up with much. I would really hate to see it municipalised or even worse, museumed in some way. One quite good thing about the exhibition was the total absence of signs of curatorial interventions, or worse, explanations.
They didn't need to try so hard. I think a lot more could have been done with a lot less. The sound, for instance,  was extra-highly First Year Art School. I've spent most of the previous two days listening to a new record from On Diamond and as I walked round the house I though how much better a soundtrack that would've been, straight out of the box. Reaching too hard for significance comes out dorkier when the medium is sound than in almost any other medium.

The fabric of the house looks terribly fragile, especially on the upper floor where water damage to the roof is extensive and severe. I didn't really enjoy seeing this legacy of neglect and decay romanticised. I hope the house survives.


After exploring the house and some of the park we got back in L's car and drove to Belgrave. Google Maps gave us a bum steer and also a fire truck made us take a detour, so it was forty minutes of winding mountain roads in the dark and I soon became more carsick than I've been for decades. It was absolutely miserably awful. My head was heavy with hot nausea, hands and feet were throbbing, I assume because somehow my blood pressure became elevated? Eventually we got to the main drag of Belgrave which remains the interesting and cool street I remember from early childhood, and we got pizza and had a long and intense Woman conversation which is not relevant to the present discussion. And then I waited forty minutes on a cold platform for a train, and ultimately arrived home after almost three hours, incredibly, of chilly PT reverie.

Sunday, 7 April 2019


Nature notelet 
Some skylarks are ascending while singing lustily. Great tits reply loudly from the hedgerow. Soon summer visitors will arrive to enrich our countryside. Fewer blackbirds strut their bravado than in recent years. One was attacked by the local sparrow hawk, leaving a sudden puff of feathers in mid afternoon sun and a chastened owner to hide in the oilseed crop. Ants, small solitary bees and a queen wasp prospecting for a nest site are lured from their winter hideaways. Small nettles are showing and the goosegrass is preparing for a growth spurt to swamp competitors for the strengthening daylight. Trees and bushes unfurl soft leaf and flower buds, an invitation to grubs which in turn will provide protein for new songbird chicks;
 Pinvin is still pinvinning lyrically away, thank goodness, I am glad I thought of checking on them, and not only because of the great tits and the hanging semicolon. I suppose Pinvin has its own darknesses and griefs and flaring absurdities but whoever puts together the parish newsletter is sensible enough to leave them out entirely. Presumably the readers of Pinpoint know all about all of that without needing to be told. This month there is a recipe for Fudge Brownies which is not something I have ever cooked or even considered cooking. I don't think I will give them a try.

On fb last week M said she'd discovered her phone had been silently counting her steps and recording the data in its Health app, so I looked at my phone and it had been doing the same thing; most weekdays for the last month it's been recording somewhere between twelve and twenty thousand steps daily, ten to fifteen flights of stairs and 20km riding. What the phone doesn't know, goddamn its beady little eyes, is I that I also do yoga and try to swim 2km laps two mornings a week. I don't do any of it well or with an appropriate degree of enthusiasm. It does serve to get me out of the house. I'm not going to the gym this year. On Wednesday evening I drank a glass of wine and showed V the liquid way in which the flesh ripples on my upper arm when I raise my hand and wave it. I told her I had videoed this spectacle and given careful consideration to posting the video on my blog but in the end I decided against it. See, I have limits, I told her. No you don't she said. But she's wrong about that. I do.

On Saturday afternoon I went to return my parents' car to their home in Ballarat and as I set off I thought, grow the fuck up and don't put on Google Maps navigation, you've driven to Ballarat many thousands of times and you can find the way there without wasting data. So I took the wrong lane where the road divides just by the Essendon shopping centre which a plane crashed on top of last year and then I decided rather than be bored and annoyed by Ballarat Road I would just drive on past the airport and face the consequences afterwards. So I took myself to the Aircraft Viewing Area
The Aircraft Viewing Area is a site of power and significance almost unmatched in Melbourne's psychic landscape. Normally when I go there it is a gift to myself en route to craft camp or on the way home. It's not just the planes (although they are pretty fucking great) it is the amazing atmosphere of love and vulnerability and peaceful unity among the pilgrims gathered there, in our cars, with our phones, some of us eating kebabs or ice creams, some of us just staring at the sky. The car beside mine was a station wagon with the tailgate up. In the back, on a mattress they had bent and propped against the back of the rear passenger seats, lay two women clasped in each others' arms. In front of my car stood a man and a woman in white djellabas and purple turbans. They photographed themselves smiling with joy as jets landed in the background. Sometimes I have tried to persuade other people to go with me to the Aircraft Viewing Area but never yet have I been successful in this endeavour. It doesn't matter. I have enough love in my own heart and soul to saturate the entire Aircraft Viewing Area with brightness and beauty all by myself.

After I hung around there for a bit I drove on. I was tempted to take the Lancefield turnoff. The light was so good and the air so mild, and I might have found out at last what it's like to go to Lancefield without having anything with you that needs to be sewn. I have not sewed anything at all since last craft camp, you probably haven't sewn anything either in that space of time, but for me it is strange, although admittedly nothing much is normal these days. I actually haven't even worn the garments I did finish.  Having written that sentence I got out of bed and took out of a drawer a silk slip I made in Lancefield and now I'm wearing that instead of my pyjamas, as if I am Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof lol. Well, back to this picaresque narrative. I didn't think of it at the time but there is a very appealing-looking guest house across the street from Sewjourn which I always wonder about when I walk past. But instead of turning right I turned left and took the Diggers Rest-Comadai Road, which winds through eucalypt forests and olive groves and past burned-out pubs and houses painted with the Australian flag, and into which you just have to put your faith and trust for what feels like a very long time, until it eventually deposits you on a high bright plain just north of Bacchus Marsh. From there it's just the freeway.

All my life I've liked the blue roadside signs that tell you what services are available in the towns at the next turnoff. There used to be more with petrol bowsers on them but now it's usually just the crossed knife and fork and the single bed with a rounded headboard. I remember being small and sleepy in the back seat in the dark and seeing these signs flash up for a moment in the headlights, and imagining the places we were not going to, how they were patiently waiting in the unknown darkness for tired travellers who decided to go no further that night, strange, but so comfortable, so quiet and snug, with crossed knives and forks laid at each place around the polished wooden table in the corner by the gently crackling fire, and upstairs the white bed heaped high with cocooning eiderdowns, in a warm dark blue room which lamplight has made soft and warm and dim. I was very hungry as I drove, having hung around too long at the Aircraft Viewing Area to have enough time to stop somewhere and get something to eat. That crossed knife and fork made me think about food and my stomach demanded the attention I needed to give to the road, so I turned up the music and drank all the water I had with me.

I got into Ballarat with twenty minutes in which to drop off the car and get back to the station for the 7:13 train to Melbourne. At the last set of lights I saw the occupants of the vehicle by me looking down at the wheels or perhaps at the door or side panelling of my car and then they were speaking to me. I turned down the stereo, opened the window, took off my sunglasses and said What's up? All four of them seemed at first to be speaking at once then the driver leaned across and said I wouldn't mind going down on you, and they laughed, and I said Oh my god that's so disgusting, and the lights changed and I turned and then I arrived, opened the gate, drove in, went into the house, used the toilet, opened the garage and parked the car, locked everything and called a cab. The taxi came very quickly and I was still shaking. I felt grateful to the driver for being a bored normal person. He said You should easily get there, meaning get to the station on time, and I did arrive on the platform just as the train rolled in.

On the train I watched as fields slid by, animal and trees and houses in them, all of it growing darker as the sky got brighter, then that got darker too. The carriage was almost empty. At Bacchus Marsh three girls got on. Although they were exponents of the style which involves making yourself look as much like Kim Kardashian as you possibly can, and I dislike this aesthetically, I immediately liked all three of them very much because they were so clearly enjoying themselves and didn't give a fuck about anything. The one with the longest ponytail and darkest spray tan reminded me of myself at that age. She was drinking from a can of cider and also applying her false eyelashes. I have never seen this done before and I watched carefully. I don't think I will ever need to put false eyelashes onto myself, although it didn't seem all that difficult, not really. When she was done she put the little tube of glue back in her bag and sat forward to talk to the others. Her left breast fell out of her singlet top, or rather the top sort of drifted off; it was a combination of a not very well fitting garment and breasts that are not big enough to have any gravitas or dignity of their own, something I also recognised from that age and every age since then.  More friends got on at Caroline Springs and I got up and moved away so they could have the seats on both sides of the carriage.

When I got off the train I felt very old but also quite happy to be old, or at least happy to not be going to the places that I suspected all the other passengers were going, and not going there in high-heeled shoes and tight white trousers.  The sense of Saturday Night alienation flooded into me as I walked on the station concourse towards Spencer St. And then as soon as I got onto the 96 tram it vanished as quickly as it had come; here I was; back in the city, back to myself, my silence, my quiet unobserved transit, my life.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

a yellow bangle

I feel awful but it must be said, I would feel heaps awfuller if I didn't have this almost perfect yellow bangle, probably twice my age, that I bought for 50c in an op shop today. I will sleep in it. May this bangle not turn out to be the thing, like Wilde's blue china, that I shall find it harder and harder to live up to each day.  I wish I knew who had had it before me. A piece of jewellery is such an intimately personal object. The op shop is in the division of Kooyong so there is a strong possibility that the most proximate owner was Josh Frydenberg. I have banned myself from all conversational topics touching upon members of the Liberal Party, and members of the political parties that the Liberals don't put last, for at least a month. It's not as if I want to talk about these people, far from it, but there is a simplicity to the exercise of framing my thoughts about them and to not framing my thoughts about everything else that's bothering me.

I don't particularly intend to be vague in speaking of 'everything else'. It's not possible to separate it all out, that's the thing. It's my work, my physical health, my relationships, my sense of self, my future, it's egregious and worsening environmental and social and political problems, it's the interrelatedness of these things structurally and in my thoughts and feelings about them. I'll pull out a few choice highlights in the ugly feelings department in a moment, it's what I've opened this page to do, but the only comment I want to make about all of it (I definitely don't want to discuss any of it) is that I know the reason everything hurts this much and I am so fragile is because hard and difficult feelings are now, for maybe the first time in my life, not bound and contained and subject to the distancing effects of rationalisation. Instead they're mobile, very suddenly, transferring and travelling like sparks flickering in a closed circuit from one position to another.

Knowing this, I can't talk to myself about what I feel, not in the sense of talking the feeling down or away. I can only feel it. I don't have access to the containing and stabilising certainty of being able to reach a decision about, for instance, an intense feeling of uselessness and worthlessness that descends to envelop me like a dark cloud for half a day; does it belong to the situation I am linking it to or have I transferred it there from something else going on that I can't quite see so clearly? Or does it come from distant experiences?

Possibly, probably, the habit of asking myself these questions about experiences of strongly painful feelings has outlived its usefulness. In a real sense it is not helpful to ask myself why, with no physical cause, I feel painfully sick in the stomach and at the same time ravenously hungry, as I have felt most days this week. What is helpful is surviving such feelings, which means taking some practical steps such as eating enough healthy food and trying to carve out time and make occasions for enjoying life, but it also means drawing on the psychological strength to just accept that feeling bad is a thing and it can't always be wished or nursed or pushed away. I continue to hope that I won't feel this way for ever, that I might regain some capacity to experience life as a condition other than relentless struggle. I don't hope for a life of never feeling bad. That is life lived in a condition of frozen detachment. If you care about anything or anyone, you will sometimes suffer. I just want to not feel so bad so much and to not be undone by pain when it does come. Sometimes I notice a person in a public place who seems to be happy and I think Oh yeah, see, it's not impossible.

Dear reader, this is what I imagine you are thinking at this juncture. You're thinking Oh this tedious self-pity. Why does she not just pull herself together and do something about whatever it is that causes this endless whining.  Whether or not you are indeed thinking such things, I am quite convinced that you are, because how could you not?

I've been reading Kate Manne's book Down Girl: the logic of misogyny. I recommend it without reservation, and unlike Adam Phillips reviewing it in the LRB, I don't think that it's the kind of book that will only ever be read by people already on side, because I'm in complete sympathy with the basic premise that we live in a patriarchy and misogyny is how patriarchy polices its order, but the book has actually made substantial shifts in my thinking about two big questions - why that situation is and how it works. Within half a dozen pages it's obvious it's a seriously important book for more reasons than I need to go into here but one that resonates deeply with me is Manne's explicit and continual attention to the discomfort of thinking about misogyny - guilt, shame, embarrassment and other spurious responses prompting us to turn away from looking long and hard at the operations of patriarchy and the mechanisms by which it upholds its regime. I've been reading with a kind of frightened and minute attention that feels like walking on an intellectual highwire without a net. It's a little like what women said about reading The Female Eunuch when it first appeared - this terrifying ripping away of the veil - but Manne is very different to Greer in training and maybe temperament. There is no urge to shock and provoke, there is brisk and self-evidently sound reasoning. Again, I second-guess my own emotional response to this material, but inside the mode of thinking operated in/by the book that feels like honest self-scrutiny rather than self-undermining and I am grateful to the book, independent of what I'm learning from it, for reminding me of the importance of that distinction.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Great news

So Pauline Hanson got bitten on the face by a tick and it gave her what her own nazis described as "neurological symptoms" - does this mean that a part of the tick's brain got sucked through the bite hole into the vortex of stupid/evil and presented observable symptoms of (tick) neurology as opposed to the previous presentation which was just symptoms of mould? It does. The tick is doing okay I trust and the poor darling will be well enough soon to sit for the portrait of it which will be painted on the Cremorne silos, in the softest, richest most costly and glowing tinctures known to Art. You only use about ten percent of your brain anyway, less if you're right-handed.

Other than that, and the Get Krackn season finale, which elicited from me the actual tears of multiple strong emotions, this week has been the kind of super not-wonderful scene which leaches away lots of energy at best and gets you fired from your job at worst. Fortunately somebody else chucked a massive tantrum in the office on Thursday and I found the spectacle both cathartic and also a sobering reminder that as satisfying as it may be to lose your shit, it pisses some people off and frightens others and when the satisfaction passes you will still have to deal with the fallout.