Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's not murder, it's ketchup

Neil Young sang that it was better to burn out, than to fade away, and on Monday morning, I felt like I had applied a blowtorch to both ends of my candle. The sleep hangover from the weekend won't lie down, instead, it leaves me feeling like a zombie throughout my 9AM class. After struggling through the day on about two hours sleep, I joined Sam on a bus trip to Northampton. He was going to join the skateboard posse Michael and I had formed, taking it from two to three, and giving us a larger reputation in the ongoing UMass skaters versus longboarders battle.

Later that night I went to Amherst Cinema to see Never Let Me Go, again the place was empty, and the film was bleaker than the future of my professional skateboard career. Worse still, once I got back from the film at midnight I had to do a midterm essay, due the following morning at 9AM. Weary, grumpy and sans tea, I pushed on, typing out drivel worthy of this blog, but with a typically leftist-student pastiche. Job done, exhaustion one step closer.

Even with my assignment handed in I took a mulligan on going out on Tuesday night. It's our lad's night out, and it always includes good times, pizza and more good times, but in preparation for halloween it was best to avoid the bars. Instead Mike and I went for a skate in the light rain. We're adept at embarrassing ourselves quite well, but between the weather and the other guys out there (who were straight out of Tony Hawk games) we opted out after an hour. My bag of tricks only contains a one inch ollie, and barely held up against their nollie, shove-it, grind 720, goofie, gnarly flip catalogue.

I made a visit to the American institution known as Walmart on Wednesday. Amherst and the surrounding towns exist because there are five colleges in the area, yet stepping into Walmart was more like a wormhole into another part of the country. The book section was remarkably anti-Obama, and the employees looked like they had just stepped off the farm. Still, it wasn't the worst shopping experience of the day. That was reserved for Target, which happened to have its floor littered with blood and every employee standing around telling shoppers the same lie about a guy who cut his hand (when security and management were talking about the suspect who got away).

Oh well, when I get sick of Amherst I head to Northampton, and that night Michael and I went and saw The Besnard Lakes play at the Iron Horse. It was a triple Canadian Bill of band's I'd never heard of, though I wasn't alone, the venue was practically empty. We caught the tail-end of the opening band, but still saw Wintersleep play second. The singer was like Bernard Fanning, and their keyboard player and guitarist interchanged through songs but I was ultimately underwhelmed. It didn't help that I couldn't stop staring at the drummer as he made a pre-vomit face with every drum hit, it proved an unusual highlight.

The Besnard Lakes started their set with some poxy light show and a tape that played some fantastic quotes. Given I had never heard them before I obviously didn't know what to expect. I was a little startled at the singer's falsetto but impressed with their general set. Their light show went up a notch, with some chequered red & white patterns rolling across a display that reminded me of the Illawarra Steelers. It wasn't exactly big budget, but it added to their space-rock vogue.

I joked around saying I was going to Amherst because I liked the idea of running into J. Mascis at the grocery store was exciting. He's an absolutely astounding guitar player and his song writing is paralleled to his shredding. He also has a distinctive grey mane and massive glasses making him hard to miss. So much so that when he walked into the Iron Horse I spotted him as soon as he stepped in from the door. It would have been fun (for me only) to tell him about why I came to Amherst, but when a guy is on a night out with his lady it's best to keep it like that. I kept my inner fanboy suppressed, though I can't promise the same if I run into Thurston Moore, another native of the area.

Thursday was the first night of our Halloween weekend, and it would be the bars of Amherst that would experience this. I donned my Santa costume-though i forgot the beard and belt, Dicky Peach and Alex dressed as old men, Michael and John were Richard Nixon and Barrack Obama, Max became a lifesaver, Jess was a bee and Lee-Roy unintentionally dressed as Michael. Despite the costumes, Peach and Alex were still getting their i.d.s checked, so our stay at Stackers was short. Monkey bar was an even shorter adventure, barely making it into the door before we were turned around. People were still eating their dinner after all.
Lee-Roy's Michael costume

Despite last week's terrible experience, we gave The Pub another go. It was dead, but there was no security at the door so we got everyone in. The youngsters kept a low profile until the place filled out, and after that it was odd to see Dicky Peach without two beers in his hands. The rest of the troupe arrived before the mad rush and Ollie, Dave and Josh had decked themselves out in ladies clothes. Dave even method acted his way into the woman's bathroom, but stopped this trend when the lines got too long.
I met the Burger King

Old man Isaacs and Peachy Claus

The Pub was full of all sorts of characters. Dorothy kept stealing my Santa hat, one guy had shaved his head so he could be a paedophile (who I mistook for Hunter S. Thompson) and a bunch of girls were cats. If you fill a room with alcohol and people in disguises they go a bit wild, and that's a very good thing.

After the pub and pizza we all ended up back in Cashin, where we met up with everyone else who went out that night. It was equally wild, as footballers, vampires and Germans had all been diving into barrels of booze. I took a leaf out of Alex's book and stole a few beers before we were all moved the party to the basement. Along the way some pirate threw a football at my beer, spraying it everywhere, an action I thought should be extended his way. Oddly enough, he took exception to getting beer thrown at him but before anything could happen my attention was taken by two cans of spray paint under a couch. From here, the old men, Alex and Richard grabbed each can and proceeded to spray eachother's op-shop jackets....along with parts of the building.
That time I met Tom Brady

When the paint came out I knew it was time to leave, and as I walked back to the hall they named after me a longboarder took a massive tumble. It was nearing 4AM and the guy was flying down the hill. Unfortunately for him a drunk Santa was the first on the scene, but credit to him, he rolled on after a few minutes of gaining his composure.

The next day I sat in the dining hall discussing that night's costume with John. Seeing all those girls in cat costumes gave me an idea. If every unorganised girl can get away with it why can't I? With some borrowed leggings (that showed off my killer calves), a tail, ears and some eyeliner I was transformed into a cat in 5 minutes. Well sort of, poor Kate had to stitch the tail to my jocks.

I braved the cold and snickering on my way to the ice-hockey. After last week's debacle I was more than happy just to get into the stadium, the fact that most people there were in costume made it great. For the final period we moved seats, this time sitting a few rows back from the glass. The seats were great, so good that I happened to get hit by a stray puck as it sailed above the glass at speed. It collected my thumb as I either tried to swat it away or catch it and as a solid piece of frozen rubber is hard as hell, it really hurt.

It was freezing outside in leggings, so Max, the Chilean Miner/minor and I went to Sunset and were greeted by a room full of fog and hussies. One girl had her shirt off whilst another got a little too excited about my inappropriately placed cat tail. The Beastie Boys (Dicky Peach, Alex and Sam (Tony Hawl)) arrived with the cross dressers and Essex. The fog machine was going off, but after some dancing on a table we all decided to head off to the Ski & Board house for a party.

The place was packed, and the owners were getting quite upset at people on the lawn. One guy even went as far to say "how do I say this in Australian; Get the fuck off my lawn!" * terrible accent included. It didn't matter in the end, Kate managed to talk her way into Max and I getting into the party. Unfortunately our beer was with Tony Hawl, so we were relatively dry from then on.

There were a bunch of girls in cat costumes at the party and it was fantastic to undermine their outfits. After a while at the party the everyone had to leave because the fuzz were about to shut it down. After a brief stop at College Pizza, who had amended their child labour issues, we headed back to Sunset, where we were joined by a bunch of Irish-American idiots.
Kate's what the hell costume.

Viva Chile.

See here is the thing, I asked one guy in an Irish flag morph suit if he was Irish, to which he replied "100%", then went on a tangent in a terribly improvised accent about County Kerry and the IRA. It was as stupid thing as I have ever come across, because being born, growing up and living in Massachusetts does not make you Irish. If anything, it's 100% American, and that is something he should be embracing, rather than a genealogy that has been bred out of his misguided brain. Anyway, his other 'Irish' mate said he was going to devouge some wings, so I took my notice and got the hell out of the place.

The next night began at Ollie's room. Michael and I had saved our best costume, Steve Irwin and a crocodile, for this night and planned on making it a good one. After spending some time at Ollie's, which was fantastic and featured an array of different characters we all headed out to find a party...only it doesn't really work with large groups. We all fractured off, and my team headed to the North of Amherst. We went past one huge party, but as a guy I refuse to pay $5 entry to someone's house. Instead we walked up the street, followed a group and joined their tail as they entered some house.

Oddly enough, the plan worked and everyone in the group got in. After a while Mike and I performed our crocodile wrestling stunt on the dance floor, only to hit and break a lighting fixture. One of the resident's was pragmatic about the incident, and told us to chill out while still retaining a grin on his face. Fantastic. Mike knew a bunch of the guy's at the party through rugby, so we managed to get more people into the party.
The Beasties

I'm not sure what time we left, but the walk home proved to be a rather incident packed affair. Being at the end of the line of people, I only saw Ollie struggle to his feet. A group of homeboys had provoked him by insulting Amanda and in turn sucker punched him. Sam and I missed the punch, and as were saw the group walk off we asked what had happened. They played it cool for a while saying they didn't know, but quickly changed to "we know what you're trying to do". I have no idea what we were trying to do, but as soon as Sam took his eyes off them he copped a fist to the face. It was a decent hit, but he didn't seem rattled. I was startled by what was happening, and without turning my back began to leave. These arseholes were simply looking for trouble.

See, we were having a great night until then and some unprovoked act of violence instantly turned it on its head. I used to get upset that the police were overzealous here, but clearly it's to stop people like the guy who wanted to fight me last week and these guys. However, they are doing an abysmal job over it. If I had been caught giving Ollie and Sam a beer I would get a substantial fine, yet they can get suckerpunched and have a group of Neanderthals get away with it.

I can only hope these guys picked on the wrong person up the road, because there are people that have something between their ears that they'd like to protect. More than that, their act was offensive to themselves as Americans. There are some absolutely lovely and great people here, yet a mindless mob painted them with a horrible brush.

We all got back to Sylvan and no one was particularly impressed. Nicholas, Alex and Dicky Peach's room mate was drunk and raging about it. His shirt was off, he flung a chair across the room at me - just as I had done to Alex the night before. He was subdued by a take-out food order, but it was curtains for me. The night was brilliant until then, so I was happy to call it and hit the hay.

So that was my first Halloween, a remarkable weekend for good and bad weekends. It's with a sense of bigotry that Australian's don't embrace the holiday because it's so American, but it is a fantastic thing. Community spirit, everyone getting dressed to go out and have fun and an excuse to eat a whole bunch of sugar is a great thing. If the rest of the world can't see that, then it is truly their loss.

*** Song
Mumm-Ra - She's Got You High
I learnt to play this on guitar today. Thought you all should have a listen.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rocky Balboa and other stories of the weekend.

Wednesday night proved to be a nice bit of civility compared to the mayhem of most nights. Matt, Michael and I braved the cold for a screening of Howl at Amherst Cinema. We were the only three bodies in the theatre, which was mildly depressing for a town that is completely made up of students. Anyway, having bought Howl in San Francisco and reading up on the beat generation it was nice to see how poetry, animation, court cases and interview tapes can converge into frames of celluloid.

The reserved night out was short lived, as I was rubber-armed into another night out on Thursday. The usual band of misfits (sans Michael) planned a relatively quiet night out to stave off boredom. Lee-Roy and I sat on the bus, while John waited for Max to arrive. Having arranged for the driver to wait, it was both shocking and hilarious when he drove off with our two compadres outside with their jaws dropped.

We managed to all meet up at ABC, drinking the more experimental beers this part of the country has on offer. Again, I tried a pumpkin beer, but this one was rather bland. The warm beer glass it was served in was of no help either. Regardless, we had already planned on leaving when I finished the pint. We ventured further down the road to the Spoke bar, finding it well populated compared to the Tuesday when we spurned the option of drinking there.

We enjoyed some $6 pitchers or terrible lite beer, watched the Guinness promo people offer shots of the black stuff (serious, Americans are shite at drinking etiquette), but generally kept the night quiet. My conversations at the pizza shop forced us to miss a few buses, but this was rectified when a nearly empty one came from out of nowhere and took us home.
Beastie Boy

Friday was still remarkably unproductive, and I only managed to fit in a tiny skate before I made it to Michael's building. Along with Richard, the three of us jumped in the car of one of Michael's friends and performed a covert beer mission. It is incredibly frustrating for a 24-year-old to feel like a fugitive every time I want to buy a 6 pack of beer, but that's exactly how it is. Then again, it is illegal to buy it for people under 21....which we were doing.

The group of us tried to make it to the ice-hockey game. We had sunk a few beers and lined up an hour before the start. However, this wasn't early enough. We were all lined up, but suddenly this system failed and everyone bullrushed to the doors. We were stuck in a mob that had no idea how to in a crowd. Worse, the police and security also had no idea what to do. We waited and were squashed for a while before it became apparent we weren't getting it. It was tragic, Dicky Peach lost his glasses and everyone else seemed to get in. Yet, when the police began tasering we thought it was best we missed the game.

That night began with assisting Dick Peach's football manager career, though the 400 hours he has put into the game lead me to believe he doesn't need it. After downing the beers, the collective that had gathered headed for a bus to the north part of Amherst. We were supposed to head to Hobart, but a conversation on the bus to some people covered in face paint and glow-sticks led me to follow them. We walked through Brandywine, leaving behind my group of friends and taking me to a party where the numbers had gotten a bit out of control. Once I found my friends, we mingled at the party, but there were so many people at the party there was no chance of getting in.

Sam and Richard had gotten lost/left the party at some point. Kate and I decided to leave as well and meet up with everyone at Hobart. As we did I saw someone I knew and had a brief conversation. From there I tried to get past one drunk guy but he was having none of it.
Dicky Peach, when he still has the ability to speak.

He grabbed both my wrists and wouldn't let me through. Whatever, I'd dealt with idiots like this before. I asked the people around if they knew him and if they could get him to let go, apparently no one did. Again, I told him to let go, but he refused and mumbled some reasons for why I couldn't go through. Now, I'm not a big guy and I'm in terrible shape, so I know the easiest way for me to win a fight is to run in the opposite way. Normally I would have tried this, but since he wouldn't let go my patience waned and I ended up getting my hands free enough to shove this guy out the way. People around began to clear and my aggression was met by the fool who wouldn't let go of me. Before things got messy (for me more than likely), just like in nightclubs, two massive guys got in the way and separated us. By this stage the ignorant prick was spurting off quips about me being an illegal immigrant, but by this stage I was more than happy to continue on my path to leave. I'm not going to lie, it would have felt great to plant a fist on this guy's chin - he had definitely deserved it for his immigration opinions alone - but the truth is I'm too small, was too drunk and didn't need to get involved in any more trouble. If anything, someone else would have done the job for me by the end of the night, this idiot was asking for trouble.

There was no triumphant Rocky Balboa sprint to the next party, instead I managed to get Kate and I a bit lost before making it to Hobart. Inside the party had mostly died, but I still managed to show enough arse-crack to offend some people and leave the joint. Alex, the famed liability, showed up late at the party. We left him behind, but he would not reappear until the next mid day...covered in sharpie. His ignominious return was enough to write him off for the next night.

We all went back to Sylvan, ordered 6 pounds of boneless wings and devoured the flavoursome, fried chicken. The room was silent save for the sloppy noise of people chomping down on saucy chicken. It was equally disgusting as it was hilarious but we didn't care, we just wanted massive amounts of chicken.

I skated down to the bottle shop on Saturday evening, barely falling off, but still receiving a giant foot cramp. The passers-by nodded in approval of my genius idea of carting beer around on a skateboard, but are not privy to what happens when you open the shaken up beverage. The beer was not opened for a few hours, as we all planned on returning to Ollie's room for a few games. What started off quietly very quickly went downhill.
Look at the fucking hipster. Pre-gaming the drinking games.

I wore a cardboard box on my head for a long time, but not before I had to start taking off clothes. It was my rule, and one that I continually tripped up on. Very quickly I was down to my underwear, and at this stage, again poured beer all over my clothes...this time my jeans. Again, my arse was showing, much to the dismay of those in the room, but I believe they were all sufficiently wrecked to not notice or remember.

Wrecked as well, I joined the group in an uphill stumble to a party. The guys from sunset were there, as were some people from a few of my classes. A few of us headed downstairs where some music playing, but on our way noticed the Josef Fritzl-esque underground room that featured a mattress and filthy basement like things.

Things got very blurry at this stage. I'm told I covered Michael in beer, and he subsequently wrestled me/dried himself on my clothes. I also spent a bunch of time talking to Kim from Texas, and when it came time to getting her number found out that wasn't her name. Oops. A bunch of guys got worked up over the UFC (it's a bunch of dudes hugging on a mat)

In my excitement for the Rangers vs Celtic game I taught a bunch of Americans some Rangers chants. Yet, my return at god-knows-what AM meant I completely missed the game. Oh well, the result was enough to temporarily cure my much deserved hangover. Before that had even happened, I went back to Cashin to see Alex, only this time I apparently threw a chair at him.  All in good fun you understand.

Today I put life on hold. Having missed the Rangers game Sam, Richard, his suite-mate John and I went for a kick-around. It was the only real thing I achieved all day and pointed out to me what terrible shape I'm in. Oh well, it was still great, even if the highlights were people ending up on their arse.

These weekends are beginning to hurt, but given Halloween is next week it's hardly going to let up. But hey, if anything, they gave me something to write about.

Allen Ginsburg - Ballad of the Skeletons
It was my glance at the Beat generation, and still a great song/poem. It would be fantastic if they made a film about this. Also, Paul McCartney does the music!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jaggy snakes and pixies

Christ on a cracker it is cold! Or not really, so I'm told. Regardless, my eyes were watering and my cheeks were freezing by the time I had walked to class on Monday morning. It's going to be a long winter, and I should have listened to my warnings about the weather.

When the sun sank into the western hills I grabbed my coat and cardigan and grabbed a bus to Northampton. Australia's Angus and Julia Stone were playing a show at a tiny, sit-down club, where a good view was possible from every posting and the sound was at a pleasant, not deafening volume. I had first seen this band in 2006, when they were supporting Paul Dempsey. It was an extremely amateur performance and I was absolutely bewildered when they started getting significant airtime. The bewilderment even continued into this year, when they were selling out shows at my local university months in advance.

It was an early show and we had missed the openers, so not long after we were seated they got up and began their set. As she sung sans guitar, Julia's hands crept me out, as she manoeuvred like Bela Lugosi in a vampire film. Angus looks like Grug, of the children's book fame, but together I was pleasantly surprised by their performance. They had a band of ring-in musicians accompany their set and even threw in a cover of a Grease song. When they had wrapped up I was happy to have my opinion of them changed. No longer will I think of that night in Sydney when a bunch of North-Shore silver spooners whispered their way through a set, but instead I'll think of their impressive set, where they captivated a tiny audience in a small town in western Massachusetts. They're talking over the world, albeit slowly.

At the end of the set we had the opportunity to meet the band. Some autographs were given (they carried around brand new textas) and Mikey managed to get a cd signed. Under the pressure of having them walk out before they autographed the booklet, Mike struggled to remove all the plastic wrapping around the disc. When things became frantic he began to shake, hilariously. I couldn't ever picture him losing his composure over Angus and Julia Stone, but with some encouragement from Angus' teeth and a bit of persevering, the cd case was opened and autographed.

The next night allowed for our Tuesday tradition to continue. We started at ABC, opening up the night with a fancier beer than Budweiser. Given that I live in a house called Lewis, I extended this namesake theme into my drinking avocation. Named after another dog named Lewis, The Lew-meister was brewed specifically for Oktoberfest, and its short term existence seemed to make the experience sweeter.

We could only afford one fancy beer, so we ventured to 'The Pub', the town's take on an English pub. No one in the group had been there before, so when we were met by a bunch of homeboys and terribly, loud hip-hop we were a little puzzled. Worse still, they gave us Bud Light, not standard Bud for the Pitcher. It was a rapid decision to leave at the end of the round, so we jogged down to the Spoke bar...only to find it was practically.

Though we had sword off it, the sweet sounds of karaoke drew us back to Stackers. Inside already were people we knew, Budweiser promotions people offering t-shirts, necklaces and stubby holders and one completely obliterated and crazy girl who is heading to Wollongong next year. The girl met Mike and I last week at the exchange meet and greet, and immediately came up to us with the bucketload of enthusiasm you only see in drunk American girls. She told us of her history in Israel, what she's going to do in Wollongong and why she drinks everyday. Not wanting to be outdone by her hilarious mouth, she acted out a charades scene involving her playing the part of a male enjoying a hand party. Her expulsion was directed my way, and in improvisation I wiped the imaginary fluid off and threw it back at her. Not wanting to be outdone, she received my charade gesture with an open mouth, dropping the jaws of everyone around.

She came and went throughout the night, offering equal parts embarrassment and humour. Given that this is America, she was not the weirdest in the bar. That title was reserved for the man in the trench coat covered in patches about extra terrestrial life. Kudos on your convictions, shame you're an idiot.

Through a Bud blur, the night ended up back in Cashin. There were some sour jokes relating to my Jewish surname and the Germans in the room, and a whole bunch of cheetos being devoured. 3AM came calling, and again, the idea of a few quiet beers with the lads had gotten away from me again.

Biffy Clyro - Bubbles
Firstly, I apologise that this is the shortened version-the normal version is too amazing for YouTube (all the servers would explode out the sheer double-barrelled magical race horse power of the song). However, I've been listening to the Biff all day and now I can't sleep. Also, the singer is a Rangers fan, and watching them play Valencia today was utterly brilliant. They only got one point, but they played their best game in a long time.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kiss the bottle

Aside from a few blood donations and some shifts at my university's gym, I have never really been one for volunteering my time or money. Maybe it's the Jewish surname or the Scottish ancestry, but I don't often give things away for free. However, on Thursday night I offered up some of my time to speak to local students heading to Australia to study.

It seemed like most of the group were heading to Wollongong, so Michael and I answered questions as best we could. I gave a quick speech about how great being unemployed and living near the beach can be, while Michael fielded private questions about sourcing particular chemical remedies. For all of our advice and wisdom, we were probably the best representatives the university could have sent over.

The next day Michael and I grabbed our seats on a crowded bus and headed along the Mass Pike towards Boston. Eoin joined us at the back of the bus as we guarded the toilet of Narnia, where it seemed people would only enter, never leave. In the few weeks since I was last in Boston, the Massachusetts greenery has continued its trajectory towards a yellow, orange and red colour palette. As the leaves fall, so does the temperature and by the time we reached our hostel the cold had already circumvented my hoodie and flannelette shirt.
Mike's costume wang.

After a quick walk around the block that involved perusing a costume store we both settled for some Thai curries at the local restaurant. Delicious as they were, we didn't linger and made tracks towards the House of Blues. Our route took us straight to Fenway Park, home of Boston's Red Sox baseball team. The massive stadium is somewhat haunting on an overcast night with no people around. Even if it is a ghost town when the team isn't playing, I'm sure the place is even scarier inside the stadium on game day.

Baseball creep

Look at that fucking hipster

The line outside the House of Blues was long, and given the spitting rain that was falling neither of us saw any point in waiting. Instead we headed to the bar inside Fenway, where the heating and Samual Adams made the waiting a much nicer experience.

Once inside the venue we set up our spot in the middle of the general admission area. We were inside for nearly an hour before there was any sign of music. All of a sudden a blonde, somewhat chubby Scottish guy came on-stage, apologised for being late and explained that his band's car had died in a bumpkin town outside of Boston. He played a song on his own while his band waited for their gear to arrive. As his song drew closer to its end, his band-mates came on stage with pedal cases and within 2 minutes were ready to play their set.
Moments after pulling his head out of his own arse, Mike shoves it up someone elses.

Their distortion pedals were foggy, the bassist sounded like he learnt to play by listening to Joy Division records and the drummer had that fantastically rigid Max Weinberg style. They were something in-between Mogwai, Sparta and Bloc Party, and put shortly; fantastic.

Though their set was cut short by transport difficulties they had done enough to win over the audience and I personally wouldn't have begrudged them for going overtime. At their final song they said good-bye to the crowd, while a few members of the audience yelled "who are you?". The man in front of us elucidated to us that they were "We Were Promised Jetpacks" and they would soon be my next googled term.

There was a very short wait before Jimmy Eat World took the stage. They started with 'Bleed American' and nearly sent the audience into epileptic fits. Not only were the lights flickering rapidly, but there were so bright that I was seeing red. Though I have seem them a few times before, I absolutely love Jimmy Eat World's live shows and even though Jim has lost his manboobs, his on-stage politeness is still there.

They played the extended version of Goodbye Sky Harbour and Jim did the outro by looping his voice over his voice over his voice over his voice over his voice. Better yet, they played Blister, my favourite song of theirs and one they've played everytime I've seen them. It was a 90 minute set that was well balanced with their staples and new album tunes. Though it wasn't as good as Soundwave this year, it was the second best time I've seen them.
Mike relives Sydney Uni

The weather was hovering a few units above zero by the time we left the concert and Michael and I were inadequately prepared. Our walk back was brisk, and even though we passed our share of girls in short dresses, one gentleman used ski goggles to protect himself from the cold.

After the show we went looking for a bar so we can have a nightcap, but even though I'm 24, the fact that I hadn't brought my passport with me meant I was not allowed in to the one sports bar we found. Tragically we settled for a midnight snack at Wendy's, and as unsatisfying as it was, it beat the hell out of lingering around the hostel's kitchen.

We planned on making an early exit from Boston so Michael could make it to rugby. My alarm went off, but we both slept in, forcing us to have a rapid breakfast (watered down tea, apple for the road) before heading for the bus to Amherst via two trains. We made it on time, and managed to get seats together on the highly competitive Peter Pan bus. The driver was an absolute gent to a lady with her young baby while she was waiting in line, but as soon as they were on the bus he gave her a hard time about the capsule she was carrying. In America your responsibilities to the law and your employer come before those of being a human.

His thick Russian accent made his announcements hilarious, but I was more than happy to get off the bus and head straight to the shower. Once washed I immediately turned around and headed to the football stadium with Jess, Alex and Dicky Peach. We got there in time for the tail-end of the tailgate and watched the first quarter of the football game.

Quickly we hatched  a plan for the night, and executed it almost immediately. A quick stop at the bottle shop for some Narragansetts was followed by a bus trip where Ollie proceeded to tell everyone about his life in a hilarious, not so subtle manor. We all grabbed a quick dinner before heading to Ollie's room, which he had converted into a table for beirut/beer pong.

The beers were flowing quickly and beirut transformed into flip cup. Better yet, it got competitive, where the English lads lined up against the rest of the world for 'The Ashes'. Us worldies were absolutely killing it for a while, making the poms look like absolute amateurs. The games got more and more competitive, the sledging fiercer and the celebrations more grand. It wasn't even 7:30 and I was already approaching the end of my cans.

Sam and I teamed up for a quick game of beer pong and even though we were down four cups to one we produced a comeback Steve Waugh would have loved to take the win. In celebration I jumped all over Ollie's bed, knocking over my beer and spilling it all over my new pea-coat. Who cares, as I told everyone in the room that my jumping was the most action the bed was going to see.

Everyone was shocked when we realised it was only 8PM. Blame it on the games, the weather, the banter or whatever, but everyone was ripped and the sun had only just fallen asleep. A group of us caught a bus into town, but for all of the lines at the bar we decided against bars and went in search of a party. With Kate and Max leading the way, we made it to the ski club party and talked our way past the people watching the door.

The party went down well, meeting some nice people and running into fellow international students. The international charm was working for some, while others were passing out on couches. Slightly confused by all the alcohol, Max and I wondered off, taking what felt like the long way to college pizza. Inside we witnessed a 10 year old kid waiting tables at 1AM, a lady giggle at our drunk accents and our attempts at getting a chicken and bacon ranch pizza.

We ventured outside to eat our custom slice and drew the attention of some passing girls. When Max told them his accent was from London one of them replied, "Oh my god London! Is that in France?"...bless American girls. We convinced the girls to walk half a block with us to the house on Sunset. Along the way a group of jocky frat boy types walk past and one decided he would throw in a shoulder. Undeterred I yelled back "What the fuck is wrong with you?" as one of the girls asked "what the hell is wrong with you, are you trying to get beat up?'. "No!" I replied, "we just don't do that where I come from," ignorant to the fact that it happens as much in Crown St Mall as Amherst, Massachusetts.

When we made it to Sunset the place was full of fog. Again they had left their smoke machine on for hours and it was near impossible to see anything. It didn't stop anyone from enjoying themselves, as I danced on the coffee table before pop, locking and dropping it. I left Max, the most innocent lady-slayer since Adam first courted Eve, with his Sunset crew and made the 30 minute walk back to Lewis.

If confusing London for a place in France wasn't a hilarious American girl moment, today I heard one of my favourites.While on the phone a girl was getting enthusiastic about a point she was making; "exactly, ig-fucking-zactly". It was like poetry. Anyway, my Halloween costumes arrived today. Enjoy the previews!
Billy Bob


We Were Promised Jetpacks - It's Thunder and It's Lightning.
Enjoy the loveliest surprise Friday night offered.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Never felt so alive, so undead.

We all piled onto an already full bus on Friday evening. People had their faces painted, there was fluoro all around and though it was early, everyone already appeared to be drunk. We were all heading to Northampton for a dub-step night at a club, but it quickly became apparent how popular this idea was. A shy young guy on the seat next to me was not so discretely trying to sell MDMA caps. He was only a hobbit of a man, but I had to admire his entrepreneurial approach to the bus ride.

We went walking towards Diva's, Northampton's favourite gay club, that is converted into an 18+ nightclub on Friday evenings. Along the way we saw hordes of people - most already inebriated - head towards what is essentially a warehouse at the end of the street in a small town. Police lights were flashing in the distance and as we walked, we saw them come closer and closer. A young man had decided to try his luck on foot, but the chubby officers giving chase had bursts of pace only seen in Matt Dunning. The guy's gamble didn't pay off, and neither did ours.

The line for the club was huge, snaking into the neighbouring automotive garage. Logic dictated that if the line outside was that big (and stationary), then the chances of ordering a beer were minimal. Instead, Max, Lee-Roy and myself headed back into the town centre and stopped by the Paradise City Tavern. we circumvented the dress codes by being foreign, but our charm would not earn us any free beer.

We stayed for a few, planned a trip to NYC to watch The Ashes and generally had a great time away from the masses of young, fluoro types. At midnight we headed for a bus back to Amherst, greeting the previously shy MDMA dealer. I guess business had been good for him tonight. Some American girls got chatting to us on the bus and joined us on our trip back to John's new room. It's a single, and most jail cells are bigger, but it didn't stop him from bringing in a large crowd of guests. Given it was Columbus weekend, noise was not an issue this time.

The next night we all ventured back up to the same building, but a different room for a couple of drinks. Again, people kept pouring in and before we knew it, the room had turned into a miniature party. Ollie was offering up his opinion, calling the gathering a "batty-fest" in his thick northern accent, but not long later he would be sucking John's toe. The drinks kept flowing, and with it came the craziness. Rubbish was being thrown out the windows, seven stories down onto the path below. Ketchup packets were being hurled at people like it was major league baseball and the floor's RA came by for regular visits to keep the noise down.

Somewhere along the way Sam and the two Essex girls and myself decided to leave. Along the way Ollie, not wanting to be remembered as a toe-sucker was barrel-rolling down the hallways. We tore down all the posters on the floor and as we walked the short distance to the neighbouring building, we lost Ollie through some safety tape and his own misadventure. We parked ourselves in Kate's room and with the famished feel a number of tinnies deliver, ordered a typically American serving of chips, onion rings and wings.

The banter was flowing like a post-wings bathroom experience and at one stage Kate revealed it took her until year 3 to say the word "the". Amazed, Sam responded "The, as in T H E R?"....err no Sam.

With that conversation and feeling sufficiently stuffed, I made it home,, passing a skunk on my way, to a night of sleep and inevitable hangover.

The afternoon slipped by, but Sam and I arranged to head to some op-shops in search of some bitching plaid shirts. I skateboarded down to the bus-stop and Sam and I, slightly woozy and very underdone made it to the Goodwill store that we weren't sure was even open. The shirts may have been terrible, but the $10 suit rack was phenomenal. I grabbed a Draper-esque number while Sam grabbed a similar two-piece effort. Not to be content at such a great deal, I added a Timmy doll to my purchase for $4.50. He now adorns my shelf, making my room feel a bit more personal, if not immature.
Living a lie

Again, I ended up back at Sylvan, this time in a room full of German's. The lady who took exception to our behaviour on the first weekend kept passing by the room. She has earned the lovely nickname from the Germans, 'Mahatma Hitler'.

Monday was the final day of the long weekend, it was no where near as productive as this week needed it to be, as all homework was put on hold for beer and downloaded television shows. Even Tuesday offered a lovely distraction.

As has become tradition, Max, Lee-Roy, Michael, John and myself went to stackers for a few pitchers. The bar filled with other international students and quickly became the happiest place on the east coast of the states. We opted out of the Karaoke, but Anja didn't. It was a brave move choosing Alicia Keys, but by the end of the song the whole place was cheering. Bad luck to whoever followed her. The beer cups runneth over all night and it was a brilliant night. An American girl was yapping in a way they are famed for. On and on she went about how to impress other American girls. It was like every teen movie playing out in front of me, but without a sense of irony. Oh well, her advice was drowned out by the progressively atrocious Karaoke. Outside the bars when I was talking to a girl I only seem to see at the wrong end of the night, a fight broke out right in front of us. With it came the cue to leave.

Again, we were back to Sylvan, looking for a way to round out the night. I went to rooms of people I had never met before and was having a great time in the mini parties. One room had a giant tv in one end, and a giant bucket bong in the other. It was the American college dream personified.

The rest of the week was occupied by learning, signing up for a trip to Canada and a wee bit of skateboarding. Tomorrow I'm off on a bus to Boston to see Jimmy Eat World play the songs from their new album I don't know.

Malcolm Middle - We're all going to die
I bought a Santa costume for one of the Halloween parties. Here's part of the inspirado.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Its pronouced tomato.

Max had made it back from New York where he was celebrating his 21st birthday. We had to play celebration catch-up and started off by heading to the Hangar. Not wanting to be underfed, we ordered over 4 pounds of boneless wings and began our quest to clear the plate. Max and I had left our passports behind, and our identifications were not sufficient enough for us to wash the wings down with beer. Instead, we washed down delicious wings with even more delicious wings.

For Max and I it didn't take long for the wings to take effect. I made my first pitstop at the Hangar, and the deposit I left was not a pleasant one. As we waited for the bus, the wing curse struck Max. All the colour left his face and for the 5 minute ride, his personality left him as well. We met Lee-Roy at Stackers and Max made a bee-line for the john. Being a shitty American bar, there was only one toilet, a fact that conspired against my wing curse. After Max finished his job we exchanged nods as I was again summonsed to the restroom.
Conchord, over 4pds of boneless chicken.

The first pitcher was there to restore fluids, but Max and I started off cautiously at first. Michael and John were occupying themselves with rifling through the Karaoke list, knowing that in a few hours time there was a good chance they'd be singing. The Bud Light girls came by and offered us a chance to enter some competitions. Better still, they gave us lei's to wear, telling everyone in the bar that we were getting suitably drunk. As predicted, there was another bathroom break, but my love for wings saw past these issues.

The banter flowed with the pitchers and before we knew it the karaoke had started. "Three words that sum up our generation, Sex on Fire," said Max underwhelming while the host butchered 2008's most overplayed song. We didn't win the Bud Lite cruise, but Max managed a free t-shirt. Not wanting to feel left out, John had nominated "Mike & Lewis" to sing Men At Work's Down Under, in the hope of getting some more terrible beer merch.

We didn't get the merch, but they didn't turn off the microphone this time so that's an improvement. We bailed from Stackers and went next door to Monkey Bar. It was Amanda of Essex's birthday too and even though the club was getting ready to close, it's an ideal place for causing some mischief.
John had become fluent in grinding and demonstrated this to all on show. Max and I just flailed while Michael was presumably off somewhere slurring his speech.

When we left the club we all missed the bus. John and I went for a walk down the street and passed a girl who had her dress pulled up to reveal everything. As John told them, "girls don't do that where we come from," the girls fired back calling us arseholes. "We're not arsehole, we're Australian!" was John's reply and they instantly changed their mind about us. Ollie, the Northern-Englander swung by and successfully took his chances with a girl in a tiara. It was his smoothest move all night, as seconds after another girl walked by and he yelled "I've seen you piss!". Apparently it was true, and it was a good way to end the night.

Two night's later I was pestered by some persuasive texting by Max to head to Sunset. I grabbed my beers I purchased on an earlier skate and headed from one end of campus to the other. As soon as I walked in the door I had my arse grabbed. I looked to my left and there was a topless girl grinding the hell out of another on the couch. For once, Sunset was living up to its reputation.

There was body shots in the background, and I was ordered to have a shot of vodka (that costs $12 for 1.75ltrs) from a girl's ridiculous chest. Instantly the night was crazy. Max hopped up on a table and began dancing. His shirt flew off, and not long after he managed the same feat on the girl dancing next to him. When the song finished, he picked her up over his shoulder, jumped off the table and toyed around for a bit. Michael began dancing to dub-step, bouncing all over the living room carpet.

Some girl started complaining about a conversation she had just had about immigration. Given we were immigrants, it seemed fair to start chanting the word. John turned it into a chant of 'build a fence' before one girl decided it was time for her to leave. We managed to convince her to drive us into town, and as we were leaving, Murph - a ridiculously drunk 20-year-old - jumped into the boot of the Volvo station wagon. "I don't know where I'm going, but I'm down," were his final words before we left for Amherst centre.

Max and I headed straight for Stackers, ordering a pitcher right away. On our trip from the car to the bar - a distance of 20 metres - we had managed to lose everyone else. We downed our pitcher quickly, and headed around Amherst looking for people. Again we settled for Monkey Bar, running into a group of fellow international students who were frequenting the place illegally. They were Zoombaing, whatever that is, so Max and I did our best to join in. Again, we flailed, but too quickly the ugly lights came on.

We made it to the bus-stop, and on the bus I began talking to a girl who was one of the Bud Lite girls from the night before. Samie was lovely enough to invite me to her place for tea, though when we arrived it quickly turned into white russians and interfering with her rom-mates personal life.

My head is sore, my body is tired and it's not even the long-weekend yet. This American college scene is beginning to live up to its reputation.

Paul Demspey - We'll Never Work In This This Town Again.
Here is the new Paul Dempsey song. He's playing Boston the night before Bob Dylan, and i'd love to go there and see him again. I'm hoping he remembers our last conversation about playing Buffalo Tom.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hey na, la la la la la la, we're the Illawarra Steelers

My Bob Dylan excitement was temporarily surpassed on Thursday night when Emma and I went out to see The Tallest Man on Earth play in Northampton. The rain that had left my clothes completely soaked earlier that day had temporarily subsided, or, was more subdued, by the time we reached the end of the entrance line. S Carey of Bon Iver - a great pre-sleep band - began playing as our position in the line edged closer to the door. Once inside and cleared by security, the Pearl Street Ballroom that I had been to on Monday for Ra Ra Riot was virtually unrecognisable, as it was now wall-to-wall with people.

S Carey's set was what you expect from a member of Bon Iver, but less sleepy when witnessed live. Some shuffling offered some clearer vantages when The Tallest Man on Earth came on stage. At certain points of the night I was stranded behind the tallest man in the crowd, but none of that mattered when the chords were strummed and the vocals exhaled.

Some of my favourite concerts (Jim Ward, Bob Evans) were solo acoustic performances, so I was already tailored to enjoy the show. The set list highlighted some of my favourite songs - Love is All, King of Spain and The Gardner - and at points during the show, the audience was so quietly enthralled by the performance you could hear the air-conditioning vents rattle in the ceiling. Literally.

At one stage Tally attempted a trick I had seen pulled off by Frank Black. It's when you start playing a song/chord and re-tune a string during the performance. Frank's experience helped him pull it off, but a repeat performance wasn't in order. A snapping sound too familiar to all guitar players rang out through the P.A., and with some perseverance Tally continued play sans string.

After the concert I headed into Amherst to meet Lee-Roy and John at Monkey Bar. They had been there for a while by the time I arrived, but we managed to fit in one beer before the club shut. John was using his accent as best he could, but at one stage a girl with a canine-gap-tooth began to flip us both off for being foreign. The ugly lights couldn't turn on quick enough, and John and Lee-Roy headed for some late night pizza. While devouring his slice, John was met by one of his classmates who repeatedly called him 'Dingo'. He offered some cultural lessons, including abbreviating pizza to 'za and left with one of the best outros I have ever heard; "Alright Dingo, I'm going to go jump in some box, do you know what that is?"
The Michael Lean of detergents.
Early Friday morning I met up with Kate and Amanda of Essex as we headed towards the box-office at the Mullins Center. My hoodie was still soaked, but it was the warmest thing I owned and the torrential rain outside was hardly going to hurt it any further. A quick stop for a giant umbrella temporarily delayed the journey but it didn't matter, we were second in line for Bob Dylan tickets. More people trickled in over the next hour, notably Michael, Richard and Sam who despite looking dishevelled, had failed in their attempted all-nighter. At 10 I was able to grab my Bob Dylan ticket for $30US and with that, fulfil an ambition of mine since Bob played Wollongong in 1998 and I couldn't go.

John, Michael and myself traded the rain in for a screening of 'The Social Network' at the local cinema. My lateness met we missed the first bus and my current financial difficulties meant Michael had to provide $1.50 for my ticket, but we made it regardless. After the screening and John's attempt to buy some skinny Levi's we caught a bus to the local bottle-shop. Michael has built quite a rapport with the Indian owner and they exchanged opinions about the current Australia vs India cricket test. To circumvent costly beer laws we divided the beer up 3 ways into plastic bags - one of which included a Bud Lite cap and about 10 bottle openers.

We enjoyed some beers at Michael's hood before heading on a trip to Sylvan to join the usual band of misfits for beer. After going through our rations rather quickly, John, Michael and I headed to the bars of Amherst. I have been informed that Lee-Roy joined us, but it was at this stage my recollections became a little scattered.

 The arrival times and departures became random numbers, and how we filled those hours is a little blurry. We (John) were talking to some girls at a table, as Michael acted like Charlie Kelly on a date. The girls left and were replaced by the Germans. Again, this is a report, not an actual memory. Somewhere between leaving the bar and getting pizza I made it onto a bus, where John was already there and heading to a party. I guess I crashed his gig, but prior to this I had been winding people up on the street and it was best I left as soon as possible

At the party I played my first game of flip-cup and it ended with disastrous consequences. The words were getting lost from my brain to my mouth, and while it was initially put down to my accent, after some consideration I decided an hours walk in the cold would be a brighter option than slurring for the remainder of the night.

In true inebriated fashion, the text messages did floweth. Below is a selection of texts sent between myself and friends. Some names have been changed. Not John's:
Exchange between Dicky Peach and I.
L: Where sm I zv sb am I?
DP: Haha, are u wrecked? Where are yous?
L: Bo idea nro
DP: Haha wasted!
L: Hitxhinf hike

Exchange between Alex and I
L: Wings

Exchange between John and I:
J: Stay safe buddy. I feel the haters here but i've got the ambition.
L: Hily crao! Si far away
J: Just hooked up. Suck it up or call a cab
L: Who? The blonde hot one? Evryone ekse was shoiteeee
J: Yeah mate. Her name. So american.
L: Jump in the box, if you know what I mean.

Exchange between Michael and I:
M: Where art thou?
L: SoaNner gjdu shidfh dhehfu dgsiw djhwoe2r
L: Outside the toilet$

....And that was most of Friday night. Foolishly, John, Michael and I had all skipped dinner that night and had mixed reactions to life the next morning. No matter, Lee-Roy offered sage-like wisdom and helped eradicate my vicious beer head-ache.

Decked out in skinny-jeans and thongs (flip-flops) I met Michael and John at the ice-hockey training rink. There was an exhibition game between UMass and University of New Brunswick. Having never seen a game before I must admit to being instantly impressed by the sport. It's as manic and brutal as it is synchronised and subtle. The skating is delicate, but the hits are rattling. UMass won and my hangover subsided.
Sylvan crew still can't get their socks sorted

Later that evening I met up with lads in Sylvan again, but instead of following them to a party, I opted for the night in. I had a date with an internet stream of the NRL Grand Final. Coming from Wollongong, supporting Rugby League is a somewhat hegemonic interest.

I can still remember the first game I went to at Steelers Stadium in 1994, where Rod Wishart scored the final try off an intercept to defeat the Newcastle Nights. I was lucky enough to meet the channel 9 commentators, who at the time were massive celebrities to me. I was completely hooked and I signed up to play for Wests Wollongong the next year. That same year I received my first Steelers kit for my birthday, a day spent on the hill with friends watching the Steelers play. I still have the kit, but it's now adorned with signatures. The last Steelers game I went to was, ironically, against St George. True to form the Steelers lost, and if I had known that it would have been the last time I saw the team play, I probably would have cried my twelve-year-old eyes out. Instead, that was left for the day they announced the merger with St George. From then my interest in league waned. My heart was broken and for 4-5 years I didn't watch a complete Dragons/Steelers game.

In 2004 my family and I went to the Steelers heritage match, where the Dragons wore the old Illawarra Steelers kit and had the inaugural team parade around the field. The Steelers beat Penrith that day, and seeing the scarlet and white on show at Steelers Stadium (now Win Stadium) that day grabbed regained my attention. As a re-baptised league fan I only missed two Dragons home games over the last two seasons. I was absolutely delighted when the team made it to the grand final, but for the first time since I left, I wished I was back in Wollongong.

Watching the game kick-off at 2:30AM from my bed in Massachusetts was not how I pictured seeing the local team win their first premiership, but you take these moments any way you can get them. As my room-mate tried to sleep I was doing my best to contain my excitement. At full-time I didn't know whether to yell or cry out in happiness. There are oceans between my beloved Steelers Stadium and I right now, but when I come back next year, it will be rebuilt - bigger and better - and for the first time, it will be home of the champions.


The Victors - Taste of Steel
This is the old Illawarra Steelers song. Crafted like a typical 80s fist pumping tune, the song is as much a soundtrack to my childhood as the New Kids on the Block, Metallica and Bon Jovi cds I bought when I was young. Give it a listen, and see how easy it was for anyone from Wollongong to fall in love with the perennial underachieving Illawarra Steelers.