Monday, March 28, 2011

When I pass by, all the people say, "just another guy on the lost highway"

"People tell us the American dream was about owning a house or something. That's never been the American dream. The American dream started with exploration and heading into the wilderness to find what's out there. I'm just an extension of the people that came before me. A lot of us stopped doing it, so it became like a marvel, but it shouldn't be."

Todd Carmichael - coffee roaster/first American to reach the South Pole on foot.

Coming back to a rainy, and borderline freezing Amherst made Florida feel like it was the other side of the world. Together, Max and I had travelled through four states and were in transit for 13 hours. From bottom to top, America is an extremely diverse place, but the area I've chosen to rest my head happens to have a modest and bashful sun. My patchy tan, itchier than a mosquito's banquet and the only souvenir I took from Florida, remained hidden under the piles of clothes I've since had to reacquaint myself with.

Still, if Florida felt far away, for the first time in a while, home didn't. The previous day's exhaustion scuppered my plans of an early start as I slept through my alarm and rushed straight to physical therapy. The weights increased, and I managed to fumble a medicine ball enough to hit my face (the moneymaker) and shake up all  the mucus of my man-flu in manner that flowed like Niagra Falls.
Female stubby holder, while you're having a can you're holding 2.

None of that was going to stop me from rushing to the post office, as my roommate had told me earlier that I had a parcel to pick up (he also threw away the slip needed to pick up the parcel).Luckily for me, as well as being generous and extremely considerate, my friend Dana had the intelligence and foresight to send me the tracking number. Bonza, I was still able to  pick up a box of Australian swag. Vegemite has never tasted better, and as I sat at a bus stop reading the accompanying letter with it's incredibly sweet words, I was reminded why Australia is still home.

I was over the moon to be the recipient of such attention, and when I got back to campus I discovered that the United States Postal Service was feeling particularly generous o the day. My family had surprised me and sent a package that came complete with giant Caramello Koalas.
First Mi-Goreng since August.
Going away for a year meant I missed my brother's eighteenth birthday, and Miami's terrible internet meant I also missed an opportunity to speak to him. I managed to send his present on time the other week, so I was a little surprised when I saw a wrapped gift with a note marked "From Geoff" in my mum's handwriting. I pondered what kind of joke he'd play on me, and as the parcel was soft I would not have been at all surprised if he had mailed a bunch of serviettes for a laugh. My curiosity was killed as I opened my first wrapped present in nearly 9 months and was greeted by a blown up image of my brother's face on a white t-shirt. Brilliant.

There was a note from my sister Kate, and a card from my Mum also stuffed into the parcel and if I wasn't spoiled enough I also received a postcard from Amanda in Canberra. It was as if xmas finally rolled by, and like most things I do, it was characteristically late. A wind that felt like it had travelled straight from the North Pole followed my first day of classes in two weeks but had no chance of killing my mood.

During the last weeks that preceded this venture I made an attempt to be mindful of my coffers (I failed, invest your money in red ink, I'll be keeping demand up for years). Part of that meant turning down a Henry Rollins performance in Wollongong, and though I contemplated sneaking in, the truth is my balls are not big enough for such an adventure. I saved myself $70 that night, but in a fortunate turn, my favourite loud mouth would play a show in Northampton for less than half the cost.

Henry Rollins is an entirely fascinating character. The more I listen to him speak or read his words, I feel his voice is one of reason, and his delivery perfectly treads the line between vitriol, acumen and humour. His previous life as a punk rocker and subsequent musical and acting segues provide him with enough anecdotes to cover thousands of pages - which he has done, successfully. When I'm often impressed by the quality of his work, the constant stream with which it flows and his inability to sit still are just as fascinating. When asked the hypothetical question about which three people I'd share a dinner table with, his name would be at the top of the theoretical list - Billy Connolly, Frank Williams, Alain De Botton, Jack Kerouac, Katy Perry, Bob Dylan, Kim Gordon, Alain Prost, Natalie Portman and any woman that inspired a Bruce Springsteen song (especially Sandy) can fight it out for the rest.

But enough of that hypothetical business, it's time to return to reality. If you think I'm going to repeat the things Henry Rollins talked about like some thoughtless fan-boy, then you're right. He opened the night talking about his 50th birthday, played out a conversation with a Tea-Party supporter, talked of the first time he met Metallica (at a Black Flag show - Lars Ulrich redemption pts +10) and how Matt Groening hasn't spoken to him since he re-enacted Dennis Hopper's scenes from Blue front of his daughter...and Dennis Hopper.

I was amazed to find he had recently travelled to North Korea, Vietnam and parts of Africa, and knowing him there will be a great book about it in the not too distant future. I find the way the man lives his life inspirational. There's never a moment of sitting still and looking back, an activity I feel still occupies way too much of my life. When he's not picking up random jobs in whatever field suits him the moment he opens his eyelid, he is equipped with a notebook and a backpack exploring some land he'd never seen before. He said the results of his existence leave him "under-slept, under-appreciated and over-budget", a statement that has 67% resonance to my own existence at this stage of my life.

Watching Henry speak for two hours was an amazing experience, and I'm absolutely filled with pride at the fact that I merely shared a room with him. Whether you agree with his ideologies or not - and I personally feel he has an excellent bullshit detector and gets straight to the point - I feel he is someone America should be proud to call one of their citizens. He may not agree with the wars his country fights, but that doesn't stop him travelling across the world to perform for and offer his support to the troops fighting in the name of the flag. It takes a big man to put aside his own beliefs for the sake of those who will disagree with him, but that's the guy he is.

I'd like to say I took all the motivation gathered from the show and carried it with me for a long time, but the truth is by Thursday things had returned to the way they were. It was another night at 'The Pub', with enough beer to keep me away from the preceding 9AM class. In fairness, I learn more drifting in and out of dreams about designing skyscrapers and pig farms than I do in that class.

Still, things could have been way worse for me that night. Despite being a stinking pool player, and not having enough guile to thieve a packet of chips from Subway (believe me, I tried), I have the solace in knowing that I didn't spew all over someone else's clothing. Becs did. It was equal parts disgusting and hilarious.

That night was also not the best preparation for the following day's exam. And over the last few weeks I've felt the motivation towards school work being sapped from me. I know it was hard work (well, moderately annoying work) that got me over here, but continuing to do so here has felt like a sphere, pointless.

Again, things were not helped by going out on Saturday, skipping dinner and drunkenly confusing myself for an artist all over Dicky Peach's wall. Today's exam was a reminder that despite my best efforts to argue, this year isn't just a holiday. I'd managed to avoid anything remotely close to work over the weekend despite having two weeks of no work before.
Apollo Peach

There's only 5 weeks left of the semester, and the whole school experience has travelled by at a speed more akin to a concord. I'd like to think I'd make a more concerted effort to push my marks up, but the remaining moments feel like they should be better spent with friends. When I was trying to get classes signed off for the whole experience I remember one teacher remarking "it's not quite a match up to a course here, but the experience you'll get over there will make up for it". That's hardly an academic approval towards slacking off, but right now I'm yet to find a balance between the two. You're told to seize the day, and when they're running out, spending them with buds and not books seems to suit it pretty well.

Blueline Medic - Making The Nouveau Riche
I was feeling somewhat patriotic writing this, so why not share a song by one of the country's most underrated acts. An Australian song about bludging and welfare hits home pretty hard. It also happens to kick a fuck-tonne of arse (or ass for the North Americans)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunrise to Sunset

Today I went through four American states, from sunshine to snow. This is exactly what I signed up for.

Sink, Florida, Sink

I was not exactly upset at leaving Harlem – the early nights, sirens and starkly empty streets don’t exactly represent the postcard version of New York that is sent around the world. Regardless, I’d done my best to get acquainted with the place. I’d established a regular order at the local deli and seen the same vagrants and street-toughs repeatedly.

It took an hour-or-so on the subway, but the middle of Brooklyn was about a world away. In a rejuvenated post-industrial neighborhood, the buildings may not be as pretty as Harlem’s brownstones, but the shops don’t serve you behind bullet-proof glass.

It took Sam and Max a while to make it to Brooklyn, and my week alone in Harlem probably meant I was happier for the company than them, but I made the most of the remaining solitude by exploring Williamsburg.

The hustle and bustle of Manhattan was removed, and a new calm of being able to walk the streets at my own pace and in a straight line brought with it a nice reprieve. The slow jaunt took me to a remarkable skateboard shop that came complete with adjoining half pipe (gnarly) and the neighboring Brooklyn Brewery. For a while, when the sun was out and the hipsters were still in bed, there was no nicer place in the world than Williamsburg.

Finally, I met up with Max in Manhattan before hightailing back to Brooklyn to catch up with Sam. We reacquainted ourselves again with L line and haggled our way through Chinatown for last minute Miami supplies. Lower-Manhattan occupied the earlier part of our evening, wandering through the financial district as the sun eventually set.
Freedom Tower, the good elf and double Sam

Max, the Londoner of the group, had gone to the same school as a few of the lads from Bombay Bicycle Club, and our Spring Break in Miami had a slight delay so we could catch them in Williamsburg. I can only imagine how it would have felt for him seeing his classmates play to sold out crowds in New York City. Save for some locals, the crowd was mainly made up of Brits arguing about who had travelled further (I won).

Bombay were impressive, and the main lad, Jack, has a musical maturity that is clearly beyond his years and the rest of his band. There was some oddly out of place fistbumping, but what the crowd saw was an excellent young band who have the world at their feet.
Max St Max

We dragged Max away from his catch-up with the band (though he struggled to get through to them as they were being badgered for photos from the crowd. The bar with the big beer cups ($4 for 32oz) was the destination and despite being as lively as a nursing home, we still managed to get a free round courtesy of a trolleyed Irishman.

It was a comparatively early start for Sam, Max and I, and despite the cold of New York in March, we donned our summer kit and headed to La Guardia. Six of us had four different flights and throughout the day we staggered our arrivals into Florida.

I try to avoid flying where possible, generally favouring an overland approach to travel, but with a discount airline and a time disadvantage Spirit airlines were our courier to sunshine. Max and I landed in Fort Lauderdale and made our way to South Beach via a shuttle. The 40 minute trip offered our first glimpses of sunshine and palm trees. The city had a sense of familiarity about it drawn solely from the countless hours spent bashing a PlayStation controller on GTA: Vice City and the final part of the journey took as past the water channel with large cruise ships on one side and mansions with private yachts on the other.

The staggered flights came back to haunt us as no one could check in until Dicky Peach arrived…at 9PM. Still, there was enough time to reacquaint myself with the sun, the sand and summer for what had begun to feel like a lifetime.

A few others had been in Miami earlier, and for some other guy staying at the hostel the trip had already resulted in a broken foot. The lucky lad had found himself in one of the lifeguard towers with a female companion, but when one of the local police shone his torch on them from his quad-bike he panicked, jumping off the edge and landed at a bone-shattering angle. He continued on with his broken foot for a day, and immediately after jumping off the tower climbed back up to apologise. The guy felt embarrassed by the whole situation, but for the rest of us was a brilliant start to Spring Break.

The quick turnaround from Peach’s late arrival culminated in donning my nicest shirt ($15, JC Penney) and heading out to some of Miami’s wankier clubs. We walked past the crowds of girls showing as much skin as they did at the beach and guys with popped collars before lining up to enter ‘Mansion’.

There was all sorts of table service and grinding that made the club a ridiculous place, but two things stood out in defining the night. Firstly, a bottle of beer was $10 sans tip, and secondly you could, and people did smoke everywhere. Attendants walked around selling all sorts tobacco, and Sleeves acquainted himself with a cigar. My interest in paying such inflated prices for anything was as high as my interest in how much the punters standing around me spent on their neck chains. I left after an hour or two feeling poorer than I had for a long time, but content in knowing I wasn’t being duped by what was essentially thievery.

The next day began at the beach, and for the first time I was finally able to get my head wet in the Atlantic. It had been almost a year since I’d visited the beach, and on my previous unemployed summer I’d become well acquainted with the waves. To say I’d missed it was an understatement, and drying off in the sun had hardly felt better…or as hot.

I can’t recall how many hours we spent on the sand that day, but kicking a ball around and swimming with mates carried with it a certain euphoria after what had been a rather frigid 4 months beforehand.

It became apparent that America had taken its toll on the bodies of most of us, with our tiny frames but flabby pale skin left us looking like Pete Doherty. Still, America still had a role to play on our physicality, as that night I would discover an impressive amount of sunburn that resembled a Polish flag and hurt like a German invasion.

Max, Bella, Elle and I walked up and down Ocean Drive with the countless tourists and restaurant hawkers trying to get us into their establishment. All the menus were the same, and it was happy hour no matter what the time of day was, but finally, we settled on one somewhere in the middle of the strip.

The cannelloni was nice, and the Bloody Mary was strong, but somewhere along the way the night began to go pear-shaped for myself. We’d found a cheap bar earlier, and $2 tall cans of PBR were the order for the night. Elle and Bella joined Max and I in games of beer-pong on the table that is a permanent fixture in the bar and things were getting competitive to the point that team photos and kissing partner wagers were put into action.

A couple of rounds were played, and with some coercive arguing I’d managed to be on the winning team for all of them. I began chatting to some UFC fighter in training and his surgically enhanced girlfriend before my tape stopped recording. They were incredibly lovely, and even chanted my name during the beer pong game, however, somewhere between games and conversations I just wandered off into the night.
Team photo

Some sort of self-preservation must have kicked in, because according to receipts and reports I raced back to local 24/7 pharmacy for some ice-tea and aloe vera cream for the brutal sunburn that adorned my back.
The tea was drunk, the after sun care applied and then sprayed all over the room. The excitement got the better of me by this stage, and before midnight, and the leaving time for everyone else I had put myself to sleep for what turned out to be a 12 hour coma.

Job done, two nights in and I was already wrecked.

The beach offered a cure to a hangover that no other solution could. The waves were tiny, the water was clear and the temperature, though not hot was the perfect amount of warm that wakes up every part of your body. I wasn’t feeling 100% for the rest of the day, but from the wake-up to stepping out of the sea had changed me into a new man.

The rest of the day was a rather timid affair, with the embarrassment of the previous determining that things would be taken a little slower. But like a race car approaching a hairpin, it was only a temporary slowdown before a rapid acceleration into stupidity. It was of course St Patrick’s Day, and though he is from Northern Ireland, Dicky Peach approached the holiday like it was his birthday, Christmas and New Year’s all rolled into one.

We all let him have a head-start, but by the time we’d joined him around lunch time at Waxy O’Connor’s, the Irish pub, to watch sports he had well and truly started. I watched Rangers get rorted out Europe before leaving Peach with his 6th or 7th pint.

A quick dip prepared us for the rest of the night before returning to Lush, the same cheap bar that I had dominated beer-pong at before sprinting off into the aloe vera coma. The town’s Irish bars had adopted the nightclub policy and were charging exorbitant prices for entry and product, and despite the emptiness, a group of relatively poor students care more for cost than reputation.

The rounds were constantly coming, and before too long it was determined that we’d all end up with tattoos. It was a group exercise, and for the next few minutes debating stupid ideas was the lead topic at the table.
We tried to encourage Alex, to get the word ‘tight’ on his arse and if that wasn’t harsh enough, Ollie felt ‘pussy free since 89’ would be funnier (even if the date was wrong). It was all but settled and just needed a bit more liquid encouragement before reality would arrive.

Somewhere along the way Dicky Peach fell asleep on the toilet (again) and Max led another Oasis sing-along and celebrated by reenacting a Formula One driver’s celebration but replaced champagne with a can of PBR, pure class.

The group moved on from the bar looking for food and tattoo shops. In a drunk-stupor the idea of a tattoo skipped Sam and we headed to the ocean. We met a group of locals and got chatting to them for a long time. It was so long that phone calls began to pour in about our whereabouts, and before long Becs, Elle and Max joined in for some late beaching.

We had no swim-gear, and the au-naturale swim costumes were revealed by a quick dip in the ocean. Neil, a random guy we had met earlier joined the late night swim and when we realised the water depth was not enough to protect our dignity we returned to the shore to get redressed. A quad bike riding cop came by after and was nice enough to tell us how he has the best job in the world watching people have sex on the beach. He even let me shine a torch on a couple while Becs yelled at them to stop. It was the most authority I’ve had for a long time.

We made a pact to have a quick nap and wake up for the sunrise at the beach, but given the state we were all in before counting sheep, that target was duly missed. Though disappointed, the next morning brought with it a pleasant make up.

Max tapped me on the shoulder with the enthusiasm of a kid who just discovered a reward from the tooth-fairy. There was a cling-film covered foot being thrown through the air and it belonged to Ollie. While we were off swimming around in our birthday suits, both he and Dicky Peach had persevered with their intentions and were permanently rewarded. Ollie’s foot now says ‘Good Ef’ as if to say good ef-foot (good effort) and Peach now has a lovely scroll that reads ‘Your Mum’ on his right bicep.

Ollie wrestled with the permanence of his decision while Peach was presumably still drunk from the night before in his enthusiasm for his new mark. Regardless of that, he still spent the rest of the day in bed having exhausted himself celebrating the day before.

An Australian guy staying at the hostel was a day late to the party. When everyone was moderately relaxed and waiting for dinner he was steamed to the point of pouring his fruity concoction all over the shop as well as falling onto his arse and laying there for a good five minutes. Worse still, if his slurred accent wasn’t bad enough, he was advertising his nationality through a hyper-boganed Australia visor. There was a temptation to replace it with a New Zealand one, but they’ve had enough of a bad run lately. He was last seen running outside and trying to jump through the open passenger window of a slow moving car.

Still, while he was a wanker because he had pickled himself alive, another Aussie absolutely loved telling everyone how he was studying at Yale and grew up in Bondi. He constantly dropped “Oi!” at anyone who was in his surround, and that group changed every day, as it seemed most people saw through his big-noting exterior. The two of them were horrible, and I even had a couple of friends point out to me how bad Australians are overseas.

The next night offered an opportunity to make a complete hypocrite of myself by acting like an equally wanky antipodean. While Sam and Alex were eventually forced out of Lush for not having sufficient identification, Peach, Max, Becs, Sleeves and I all stuck around to enjoy cheap PBR cans. We were even treated to an impromptu and unenthusiastic pole dance from some random girls.

With enough beer bravado we ventured to the tattoo shop to complete the pledge from two nights before.  Dicky Peach’s beer brain directed us to the store that left their mark on him. I scanned through a computer and copious amounts of porn trying to find the right image to get emblazoned on my arse and when I finally told the guy what I wanted and where he began to erupt in a tat’d up ball of fury.

“I’m not gay, why would I want to tattoo a robot onto your arse?”, was the general flow of the conversation and after about two minutes of anger and a $500 price tag we left. Unfulfilled, but with remnants of sensibility we decided to accept the defeat of such an acquisition.

When everyone else went home, Dicky Peach and I went out to search for Alex, who was off partying on his own at some club he kept telling us was awesome. It wasn’t, and when we all left he went out in search for somewhere else. Later reports by Alex said he ended up in some gay bar. Still, Peach and I were still out in search for a degree of entertainment. As we approached the hostel we worked out the cheapest thrill would be to steal a hubcap from a car.

It was presumed to be easy, but in the land of chrome wheels, finding hubcaps was proving to be rarer than hen’s teeth. The cars that have hubcaps were cable tied to the wheels, and when we eventually found a suitable target, the car behind it lingered with the engine idling for too long for us to make the grab. We tried to wait it out in an ally, but instead turned around and headed to the hostel before finding an eventual goldmine. Across the road from the hostel were two absolute bombs of cars, and with a swift pull Peach had a hubcap in his hand and our little legs sprinted back to the room. The hubcaps adventures would eventually end on Max’s pillow as a nice surprise for him when he rolled over.

It was a late end to the night but the hostel staff barged into our room at an ungodly hour trying to unsuccessfully wake up Alex. “Wake up! Your boat tour is about to leave”. Wait, what? Boat tour? Apparently Alex’s post gay bar adventure included booking himself on a trip around the waters of Miami as soon as he got back…or an hour before he was supposed to go. It was cracking drunk form, even if it wasn’t a tattoo of ‘your mum’.

We spent the final day in Miami at the beach, catching what would be the last warm sun-rays for a few months. Despite the fact that there was finally some swell, we did our best to make it a calm and relaxed day. It didn’t quite go to plan, as like the GTA video games when you get 3 stars a number of police cars and helicopters arrived on the scene.

There were a total of 23 police cars, one van and numerous quad-bikes as some rumble had started at another part of the beach. People kept rolling out, but there were no bloody bodies and only one guy in handcuffs. It seemed like an act of police boredom or any excuse to break up a crowd.

With that bit of excitement pushed aside, we spent the remainder of the night by the beach as the shrinking supermoon provided ample light for us to sit around, talk crap and smoke cigars. It was a real nice way to end what had been a very fun and hectic week.

Many of my friends kept referring to Miami as paradise, and while I can agree that the weather and ocean really do sweeten it up, paradise it is not. I’ve been spoiled by great weather and beaches for most of my life, so I felt I could see through that part of it. Art Deco buildings aside, what it left wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.

Though some people (who all seem to be found on South Beach) care about $400 polo shirts and chrome wheels, I really don’t, and on a wet day in Miami I think that’s what would remain. It was great for spring break, and great to see the sun, and that’s all I took from Miami. On another trip I’m sure I’d think differently of it, but for this one it was all about the beach and bars and that’s pretty much all I saw. Key West and the Everglades will be put aside for another time.

*** Song
Jonsi - Animal Arithmetic
Sigur Ros are a great band to fall asleep to, so when I tried to the do same with Jonsi's solo album I was pleasantly shocked to find that things had turned around. This is the kind of song you want with your first cup of tea and morning beach swim.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Not While Walking Is Still Honest

Asbury Park is quickly becoming an unattainable adventure. Not for the first time, I could not be bothered dealing with the weather for the sake of being stuck out in for hours on end. It's a box that'll remain unticked until I'm next down here, and by then, the sun should be shining bright enough to help me cast a shadow on the missed opportunities.
It wasn't all disappointment though. Amongst the spitting rain and huge crowd gathered for a college sports game at Madison Square Garden I met up with Matt and Olivia for a post-Bright Eyes feed in Chelsea. It wasn't a fancy restaurant, but it wasn't $1 slices of pizza either. With that in mind, I did not expect my Earl Grey tea to come with two serves of gypsy woman asking for change, but that's what happened, and since I've gone all 21st century and only use card, they were out of luck.

The rain continued to pour, and despite our best efforts exploring thrift stores and Macy's, could we find a pair of shorts for Miami that weren't more appropriate on the leg's of some 40-year-old Dad type. Either that, or the homeboys that roam Harlem at night. Unrelenting, the rain forced us into a cinema to seek a reprieve for a few hours courtesy of Rango before finally going our own ways. It was no Asbury Park, NJ (which I've heard is terrible), but it wasn't wasted time either.

The next day the sun would occasionally show itself from behind the grey blanket it had been hiding under.The night before some idiot in my dorm was turning on the light and talking loudly on his phone at weird hours with no regard for anyone else. When getting ready the next day I kept this in mind, and stealth-like and in the dark I did my best to get ready. When rearranging my locker my computer slipped out from about 4ft up and hit the ground. It made a slight thud, but it didn't seem like enough to worry so I went on my way to Chinatown.

I had previously walked across the Williamsburg and Brooklyn bridges, and inbetween the two lay the unaccomplished Manhattan Bridge. With Brooklyn Bridge currently wrapping itself in a cloak of scaffold, Manhattan Bridge is the prettiest of the three. 

Before embarking on the path that leads straight into downtown Brooklyn I got to take advantage of the ever-expanding Chinatown and all of the oddities that people to seem to buy. I've been to a few Chinatowns around the world, and even if they're all coloured by the city they inhabit, the one thing they share is the smell-fish, spices and the sweat of thousands of short people fighting for the freshest piece of ginseng root.

I was chased out by the waft of fish-sauce (it's like boiled shit) only to discover a random fruit market at the base of the bridge. I may be 25 in a matter of months, but I regretted not buying a $1.50 bag of mandarins to throw at trains as they rode past me on the bridge, but such is the lessons learned in life.

Those same trains that deserved an old fashioned citrusing caused the bridge to vibrate and rattle as they rolled past in both directions. It's amazing feeling on an object you believe to be so structurally sound due to its size, and while it is disconcerting to a point, it's enlivening for the same reasons. The trains make some racket, and I remember sitting in a Dumbo park with Michael in August while his verbal diarrhea tried to cut through the noise of metal on metal. As they blitzed by I was reminded how quickly the time here as done the same thing.

The view of the city from the bridge is spectacular, but the bridge itself, adorned in graffiti has it's own urban beauty. I spent half of my time stopping to admire the view and the rest trying to figure out how people climb it. It might only be a bridge, and they are there to be crossed, but there was a nice feeling when I crossed the final one of Manhattan's big three. For so long in my life they'd been props in popular culture, but now they're landmarks I've seen and experienced for myself.

The sun really came out in Brooklyn and from one side of the bridge to the other felt like a new world. The buildings aren't as tall, the streets aren't as crowded and the place is more relaxed for it. Sure, it's gentrified and world's apart from Jay Z's songs, but it's a nice break from the tourists of Manhattan.

I walked past the brownstones of Brooklyn's prettier parts and made it to the promenade. The views are of lower Manhattan, and fittingly they've placed their own September 11 memorials around the walk. I don't recall the time of day I was there, but not being a pram pushing new parent, I was remarkably out of place.
Broken wharf.

The sun began to set, and I headed back to Harlem to avoid any possible gun-crimes. Being a white-boy I stopped by Starbucks for a cup of tea only to have my $2.50 transaction embarrassingly declined. I've had money problems here before, and with little to no contingency (because I'm punk!) I went back to try to figure out the problem. I opened the lid of my laptop and was met with this.

first world crisis.
I yelled "fuck" loud enough for someone to come out from their room to see what was wrong. It was an emotional response I'm more than a little disappointed in myself for producing, but the reality was I was looking at a few hundred dollars to fix it, with seemingly no way of paying. I was generously offered another computer by someone to check my money and when all was well I had to move onto fixing the problem that lay cracked in front of me. I called some shops in the city, the minimum repair was 1 week and $300.

I couldn't bare to deal with the problem at the time, and luckily had prepurchased a ticket to go see Against Me! and the Dropkick Murphys play in midtown. I walked up 8th avenue, and on the corner of 48th street was a firestation with its doors open. On the wall was the portraits of 10 of their fellow workers who had perished on September 11. The doors weren't open for public view, and the portraits aren't exactly there to stared at, but seeing them provided a nice perspective on how important a bit of extra debt and cracked plastic really is.

The line for the concert snaked around the whole block, going from the middle of 52nd street to the middle of 53rd. The venue had been on fire a few days earlier, and with the best efforts of those aforementioned firefighters the concert continued...though everyone from the two levels was now onto one.

Being a Dropkick Murphys show everyone in the crowd was that brand of fake Irish I've come to dismiss. The bands were the same, with the opening folk band, The Parkington Sisters, offering their old sailor and folk covers. They covered Dirty Old Town by The Pogues, and Ken from the Dropkicks came out and joined them as the small crowd sang along.

Off With The Head followed them and were angry man music.

I used to really love Against Me!, seeing them in Paris was an amazingly fun show and moment of my life and even when their fans accused them of selling out I still remained partially attached. Their last album, though still good, is an about turn from their earlier stuff. I understand why bands want to evolve, and why they want to put food on the table for their families, but they were onto such a good thing before I questioned why they changed.

The band, complete with new drummer (Max Weinberg's son!) immediately burst into 'Walking Is Still Honest', a song from their earlier days that seemed to startled most of the audience. The energy and enthusiasm of old is still there, but the context of a support band on a big stage meant there was a gap between where they want to be, and where they should be.

It could have been the pressure of the shorter set, or it could be that they're still just a basement punk band at heart (they left their keyboard player behind, phew) but they wasted no time between songs. Better yet, they focused on their earlier songs first.

It was an unrelenting approach and for that my respect for them came crawling back. For the first time I heard them play 'Miami' live and 'Reinventing Axl Rose' was performed with such vigor I wondered if they were singing it in support or disdain for themselves.

Now, I won't deny I'm not the biggest fan of the direction on and off recording tape they've taken, but I will say they are still worth seeing live. The old songs are still great and their new tightness and professionalism means they play them brilliantly.

I was finally convinced they still have something to offer when they closed their set with 'Bamboo Bones', 'Pints of Guiness Make You Strong' and 'Thrash Unreal'. They're three of my favourite songs by them, and when the last chords rang out I would have been more than happy to put up with them playing their new album from start to finish just to have them remain on stage.

They proved me wrong on the live front at least, and history still says their back catalogue is's just  that overproduced sing along stuff of White Crosses was a bit hard to deal with from a band that was originally an acoustic guitar, drums and a tape recorder.

Not to worry, if I was after the lo-fi punk I got in when Billy Bragg played out over the P.A. while the Dropkick Murphys set up their big band. By the time the curtains came out and revealed their massive live up the drunks in the crowd were sweating and thrashing about all over the place.

The Dropkick Murphys aren't exactly renowned for having a diverse musical style. In fact, it felt like one long sea-shanty stretched over two hours. That's not to say it wasn't fun or good, because it was, it's just that I got what I expected.

I was impressed when the band's bagpipe player came out, and despite them being the missing link between noise and music I absolutely love them. They haven't sounded the same to me since my Gran's funeral when the lone piper played outside as we all left the service - and tonight was no different. I thought the band was infinitely better when that guy was on stage blowing his lungs out.

The band are quite good to their fans, and gave a shout out to a family they had invited to the show as their husband, brother and son was a massive fan and passed away while serving the in the military. They even had another guy from the crowd crawl past security and sing an entire song with them before revealing that he does that everytime they go to New York.
fucktonne of people on stage. Also, angry thrashing bald man.

To close out the night they invited a whole heap of the crowd onstage with them. It was absolute bedlam, and there must have been easily over 100 people encouraged to go mad out there. It was a perfect way for them to end the night, as I don't think they had any other chance of getting rid of them. One guy, in a kilt showed the whole crowd quite explicitly that he was not wearing anything under there. That was time to go right there, the late night walk to Harlem was waiting for me.

Oh yeah, today I spent $300 on a new computer, such is my blogging addiction. It'll mean Spring Break will be a bit more reserved than I wanted, I'm just looking forward to swimming in the ocean.

City and Colour - The Girl
I'm ashamed to admit I listen to and like this song, but kudos to him for spelling colour correctly.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Road to Joy

Alright, I'll freely admit I don't like spewing coins from my wallet, so when I see what I think is a bargain, I'll jump for it. The most recent of which was my current residence, New York Hostel 99 in Harlem.

It's a nice place, with clean rooms and good social spaces. You even get a towel! For $18 a night it's a pretty sweet deal right? Well, not quite. There's a catch, and that is Harlem.

It's nice by day - with street vendors selling out sorts of smelly stuff and a melting pot of all sorts of cultures. However, when the sun goes down you'd be better off anywhere but here.

The traffic delays in Connecticut and check-in delays here meant I didn't go out as early as I planned. Still, it was just before 7PM and on my way to the Subway stop I'd already walked past one guy taking a leak on a payphone while his junkie lady-friend/accomplice stared at him with eyes more vacant than half of the buildings here. No matter, I was more distracted by the bullet proof glass at the fried-chicken place across from him...

None of that mattered when I made it to Chinatown though. I was there to see Rival Schools. Across from the venue a homeless man was drinking hard liquor and telling off anyone who passed by. I brushed off the usual "your mum" jibes I'd heard countless times from Sweaty Mike when he struggled for a comeback, and so did the policeman, who seemingly couldn't give two fucks about a guy drinking in public (read that UMass po-po).

The venue, Santos' Party House was decorated in all sorts of fluoro. A giant spacewoman hung from the ceiling and paper signs were placed around the building with quotes like "FEEL FREE TO FEEL FREE".

The first band, Radar Fiction, were infinity shades of terrible. Musicians shouldn't wear a shirt on tie on stage, especially if it's not tucked in, more especially if you don't wear one to work and even especially-er, if you're not Elvis Costello. Putting their terrible mix aside, I couldn't help but notice how much of a shit Ian Curtis the singer was, and how if his family hugged him more as a kid this middle aged attention seeking could be avoided.

VS. Antelope were much better.

Rival Schools, were much much betterer. Walter Schreifels is probably the most underrated musician in the world, and even with the number of fans he has, the title still fits. The room was packed like a subway cart at peak hour and the room went a bit mad when the band made it on stage.

It's been 10 years between albums, but that all seemed irrelevant to the band and audience. They jokingly played ska versions of songs and moved about with the energy of one of their earlier incarnations in hardcore bands.

They may not have played my favourite song of theirs, but they ended their nights by covering The Smiths' 'How Soon Is Now?', a more than adequate substitute.

Through some sort of miracle, I made it back to the hostel without being slain. The next day, after the best sleep I've had in weeks, I decided to spoil myself because staying in Harlem means each meal could be my last. Vegetarian Indian food that claimed to have some sort of spiritual healing powers was the choice and after the recommendation of my cousin Owen, Ayurveda Cafe was the place. I'm not sure the 7 dishes did much to cleanse my spirit, but it certainly filled me up with deliciousness.

Walkig from 129th street to 94th, I couldn't help but notice a lot of people were trawling about with black shit all over their forehead. More and more walked by, and a few even began to resemble crosses. Finally, I saw a sign outside a church announcing something about Ash Wednesday.

See, my parents raised me to be religiously-ignorant. I remember when I was in my early years of primary school and asking my Dad why I wasn't christened. He remarked that it was because he didn't want to force a religion on his kids and that if we wanted to follow one it was always going to be our choice. It'd be over 15 years since that questions and I still remember it very clearly. Such was the apathy towards spirituality in my house that I didn't know what Hanukkah, Mecca or communion was until much later.

Until today I thought Ash Wednesday was a bushfire, but it turns out it's the start of lent, where you walk around with stupid facepaint - looking like a bell-end - and give up stuff in the name of god for a days. I can't really understand the point of the whole process, and if you want to prove you're not an oxygen thief, and are infact, a good person, then simply go and act like it...everyday. Hold open a door for someone. Donate blood. Adopt an animal. Write someone a letter. There was an axiom painted on a wall in a Wollongong kebab shop that read, "it costs nothing to be nice", you don't have to wear charcoal on your forehead to prove it. But hey, I am thankful on this religious day. I'm thankful that my parents taught me not to care for these types of things. Time is finite and life is short, there's no need to carry a cross on your back for the sake of an afterlife that has no proven existence.

If I was looking for something to believe in, I found it across the park at the Guggenheim. It's an amazing emblem to what we humans can achieve. From the outside Frank LLoyd Wright's Circular motif looks like an orange being peeled. The inside spirals around a one-way path where once you reach the summit, you don't want to take the elevator to the ground floor, but instead go through the whole experience again.

The exhibit at the moment focused on modernism from the early 20th century. Georges Braque's cubist takes on musical instruments demonstrate a pinnacle of creativity, or a splendid side effect to horrible double vision. The Kandinskys showed his evolution from sceneries to Bauhaus, and even some of the draft sketches were enough to make me marvel. Gleize's 'Head in Landscape', Delaunay's Red Eiffel Tower and everything by L├ęger proved that we don't have to look to the skies for answers, we can find enough inspiration through the people on this blue dot in the galaxy.

All of those aforementioned were the undoubted visual highlights, but if there is one person to explore more it's Umberto Boccioni. He was a futurist who never got to see that far into it. His life was compressed, achieving more in his short years what other families do in generations. His sculpting hands were wasted when he was activated by the Italian Military during WWI, and not long after he was killed in a training exercise.

From the loveliness of the Guggenheim I headed for the bustle of Chinatown in search of cheap sunglasses ahead of Miami. I found some, they're incredibly dodgy and what you expect for $6 of value. I even managed to spend a whole $2 on Chinese bakery treats to fill myself up. It's the absolute perfect place for a man of my financial hesitance, but comes at a cost of non-stop people traffic and smells that I couldn't describe through any keyboard.

The Chinese bakery food was so good that I ultimately missed my Subway stop and got about by foot for an extra hour or so. As the sun set I headed towards Midtown, enjoying the lit up skyscrapers showing off in the night.

Fifth avenue at night is remarkable for what it does to pedestrians. No longer are they staring at footpaths, or avoiding eye-contact. Instead, they're eyes are firmly set on the Empire State Building that is a beautiful figurehead in the night skyline. Tonight the lights were white, and under its own natural colours, it was the most beautiful I had ever seen it.
The reason I was ventuting to Midtown was to finally go inside Radio City Music Hall. Woodie Guthrie played there, and recently schooling commitments meant I had to take a mulligan on The Gaslight Anthem's show there, but tonight was Bright Eyes. A band I got into way after it was cool for people with sill haircuts to enjoy them.

Before the show I went by the Rockefeller Center, watching the last of the winter's ice-skaters perform their penultimate pirouettes. There's certainly loads of talent, but for all the prancing about and camp hand-gestures, I'd rather be a shitty guitar player and writer than lord of the ice. Well, that and a broken wrist.

Will accept tripod donations
Once inside Radio City Music Hall, I was pleasantly surprised by the all female opening band, Wild Flag. It's odd that supporting bands are any good (see the top of the page) but these girls, despite their lack of bass player, were extraordinarily talented.

Somehow, in my 24.75 years I had missed out on Superchunk. It's a giant shame, because they were brilliant. Old punks still punking it up in front of a bunch of 20-year-olds. If it weren't for a curfew and inevitable setup times between bands I would have loved to see them play a longer set. Either that, or they were one or two more rock-jumps from a zimmer frame.

Bright Eyes, the band I listed to as a 22-year-old man with a job and car instead of hormonal 16-year-old girl have impressed for the last few years. Conor Oberst is a prolific songsmith whose voice, though it can be grating, delivers the kind of songs that Dylan and Springsteen would be proud to call their end.

The intro from the People's Key was played over the P.A. before Conor started Firewall with his downtuned telecaster. Like a lot of great live bands, they play simple songs with an expanded sound base. There were two drummers playing in tandem, lapsteel, two keyboards and a bass player accompanying throughout.

The perception that Bright Eyes is just one man was debunked tonight. Mike Mogis on guitar offers just as much to each song as Conor's vocals, and with tonight's setlist got the chance to prove it. The band was tight, and not afraid to switch between instruments again. They played some of the folkier songs from earlier albums with a distorted take but when the sincerity was required, the dynamic shifted accordingly.

Shell Games,Triple Spiral, We Are Nothing And It's Now, Arc of Time and Road to Joy were obvious strongpoints. However, the highlight remained Poison Oak. The slow acoustic song, along with Landlocked Blues was the reason I started to change my mind about a band I previously had no time for. The room was silent at the start, offering all of the subtlety the acoustic required, but when the full band came in, with additional trumpet, the song was complete. It was beautiful, and for those 5 minutes the best song my ears had heard.

The set was cut short because of timing issues and amps blowing up. The new album sounds spectacular live and the band proved that it's more than a one man show. I haven't seen as many bands in 2011 as I would have liked, but if that were the last, I wouldn't be upset at all.

It's 3:30AM, I should go to bed.

Jim Bryson and The Weakerthans - Freeways In The Frontyard.
This album is a creeper. Before bed, on a bus, doing homework, whatever-it's perfect for them all.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars

What ignorant lives we'd been living. All along 40oz (1.18 litres for those playing at home)bottles of PBR have been available for $2, yet I've been spending dollars at a time on cans. The error of our ways was discovered when we went to visit Keri for a drink or two before going to 'The Pub'.

Her apartment sits behind the town's main street (not to be confused with the less significant, Main St). At the summit of the building, the residence had been shaped by the pitch of the roof. We sat around playing drinking games until the 40s ran out and then it was time to head to 'The Pub'.

Max, fearless, was approaching people around the bar, posing in their photos and asking the question "how much does a polar bear weigh?". The answer, "enough to break the ice", had obviously gone around a few times and was answered immediately by some in the bar. One girl, who guessed I was from Australia asked me to guess her hometown. When I came up with Billerica she responded with a level of disgust I hadn't anticipated.

It turned out I was right, and instead of marvelling at my lucky guess, she made an assumption that I was stalking her. What? There's a trillion bumhole towns in this state and only four of which whose names I can remember. Oh well, she wasn't the worst person out that night. That title belonged to the girl I met who visited Sydney and complained it was full of Asians. Clearly she hadn't eaten beef pho from Sussex St Food Court otherwise she would have kept such stupid remarks to herself.

The next night offered us an opportunity to avoid those types at a house party. I went to visit Joe and Eoin in my building beforehand and put in a solid Mario Kart session before donning Joe's thrift store sweater and heading out to the house in the suburbs.

It took a wrong bus and a bit of a trek to get to, but once we were entering Joe and I turned around, started walking outside and told people it was the wrong house. Two were gullible enough to believe us. Inside, the sweater was just that, and I had to try to get any heat reprieve. The snow outside was deceptive, it was absolutely steaming indoors.

A dog was running about the place, freaking out Dicky Peach with every tail-wag. Drunk Germans were stumbling about the place and eventually chalk was grabbed and decorated the blackboards that adorned the house walls.

The chalk also found a way into Sam's beer, and while it was a laugh at first, chemical reactions I can not explain forced the beer to erupt like Vesuvius and pour out more than one person could finish. With that the bottle was passed around and a new, hygienically challenged game was invented. When one 40 went flat another was opened and the same trick was done again.

There's an obvious flaw to this game and when the moustachioed police came along to shut the party down we had to finish the drinks. Quickly. Given that he paid for them, it was only fair that Sam should also be the recipient of four subsequent pieces of chalk in his mouth.

There must have been something special about that chalk, because he sprinted off like a cheetah to The Spoke minutes before the bar closed. We managed to get our order in and in the line for the bathroom I scored to find a free Bacardi cap. Sam, in his rush to drain his lizard entered the ladies room. For a while it wasn't a problem, everyone was doing it, he just happened to exit when a woman was in line to get in. Snap.

None of that mattered in the end, we were so late in arriving that we hadn't even seen the bottom of the cup before the place closed. There was a quick stop at sunset before a segue into someone's room in SouthWest. The chalk was also doing off things with my brain as I was trying to convince people my name was Pablo, unsuccessfully.

We tried to leave, but subtlety had not joined us. We must have been causing some kind of kerfuffle as the R.A., pissed off at our behaviour in relation to the time on his watch, aggressively confronted me on who we were visiting. Struggling to take him, or myself seriously, I tried to channel Trailer Park Boys and said it was some guy called Craig down the hall. He didn't buy it, and no matter what state I'm in I have little respect for aggressive power-trippers so we all bailed.

Sam and Dicky Peach kept talking about "Craig", or "Creg" as they called him all the way to the duckpond. Suddenly, through some kind of idiot magnetism we were attracted to the idea of walking across it. It's still frozen, though not completely, and with the warming weather there probably wouldn't be another chance.

Now let me explain for one moment, that it's almost impossible to walk across an icy surface in skate shows without looking incredibly camp/stupid/special.

Sam and I kept edging out further, like playing a game of icy-chicken. We'd each take turns going out further, and Sam, trying to cement the title decided to tackle me...on the ice. If there's one thing I can attest to, it's the hardness of ice. When I hit, I managed to fall right onto my left wrist and eventually my knees, leaving them equally bruised. No matter though, I had to out-stupid Sam and pick myself up and walk out further.

We knew if someone fell in there was no way anyone else could get them out, and that at 3 or 4AM there was very little around in help. That didn't stop us from trying though. We got to the point where we could see the ice in the middle losing it's colour due to the water that was not far from the surface and turned around. It was horribly unfulfilling to give up, and we debated trying again for another 15 minutes before finally calling it quits.

Since the whole state of Massive-poo-shits thinks it's Irish and that St Patrick's Day falls during spring break they do their celebrating a bit earlier. On my trip to pick up my guitar I already witnessed drunk girls in green falling into snow and it was only 2PM. When we ventured out to the bars at the early hour of 9PM the place was already full of legless punters looking for their clover to be stroked.

One guy, off his tits, started drinking our beer out of confusion and didn't last much longer before he was forcibly carried out by some pub muscle. Evan, the only man I've ever met who has lost his pants without even going out to a club, bought me an Irish car bomb, and moments later would give me a Rick James slap for my troubles. Fine form. Steve was much more generous, buying some drinks but withholding the slaps.

The police came in checking I.Ds. He had no problem with my cracked Australian licence - I guess those grey hairs are helping my cause - but Alex held onto his fake British licence while Sam happily handed his over. The officer was thorough in his inspection, bending and scanning the licence for signs of counterfeit. He passed it back and asked "UK?", "yup, you'd be wearing a hat over" and that was that. He failed to see the point on the back that says it's not real and didn't give a shit for Alex's either. Brilliant.

People were actually playing good songs on the jukebox, and when we were singing along some guy came up and asked me if we were in a band. "Yes, we're from Northampton". Oh great, he kept inquiring and somehow Sam, Max and myself all picked out individual instruments we all played and listed names of venues in Northampton we'd played. "Well what do you sound like?" he asked. "Do you know Sonic Youth?", "No.", "well we sound just like them, I'll let you know when we're playing next".

The guy was too drunk to notice the complete and utter bullshit that was spewing out right in from of him, however, the disgust of the bar at our next move could not be hidden. The songs on the jukebox rolled around and finally Y.M.C.A. began to blast from the speakers.

We sang, we danced and we took the piss, but the sense of irony for the room must have been flushed down the toilets with all their money. One girl even had the audacity to tell us that "the whole bar hates you right now". If there was a moment that defined the gap between cultures that was it.

The bar lights came on and we all ventured to Sunset via the pizza shop. We went inside, but the place was empty and we decided to head off. Suddenly, some Jeep driving erratically pulled up the driveway, came to a sudden halt and a bunch of people rolled out. We turned around and joined them.

The lads had been out since the AM celebrating and when they returned were still looking to kick on. For once the smoke machine stayed dorment and I sat on their stolen movie theatre chairs watching as two of them wrestled all over the room in a hilarious manner.

When the booze and wrestling caught up with them we elected to leave and on the walk back were stopped by some guy saying he met us last year and that one of our friends was in a real state. We'd completely forgotten about Alex and though he normally has a pretty good sense of solo partying, this time it had gone wrong.

We found him hugging a bollard and telling people his name was "Sam". He was offered a ride back to his, but there was no way he would have lasted the two minute trip. Instead, Sam and I would spend the next hour carrying him up to Sam's where he would retire for the night. It was a hilarious, yet frightening performance and though we only parted two hours earlier, what he got up to in the mean time will remain a mystery.

Right now I'm on my way to spend a few days on my own in New York City. It's pre-empting Spring Break and there are gigs-a-plenty to attend. The trip so far has been highlighted by some major traffic jams in Connecticut, but for $1 bus tickets who am I to complain?

Also, just found out that June 30 is the day I return to Australia. It's settled now, by my feelings about it are anything but.

Rival Schools - Used For Glue
I'm seeing this overly bouncy band tonight. Wahey! This song kicked so much ass in 2001.
I saw the singer, Walter Schreifels, play an acoustic show in Sydney last year. He was brilliantly charismatic and his songs were so removed from his previous career as an angry man. He's the Midas of hardcore.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk

"Now I play the guitar like I’m touching a girl. I used to play it like I was touching myself." - Ryan Adams after breaking his wrist.

Last Friday's snow did its best to stop me, and Saturday was without a repairmen. Finally, a week late, in this tiny, climate-challenged town, I was able to get my guitar fixed.

I had carried it with me from L.A. to Seattle, across the air to the East Coast and finally to Amherst. Sharing a room meant I didn't play it as much as I like, and breaking my wrist meant I didn't play it all. But on January 14, when my cast was cut off, I realised how much I missed strumming the strings. 

I wasn't immediately able to play it again - it has taken nearly two months to get most of my movement back - but I after my first physical therapy visit I was encouraged to pick it up again as soon as possible. A few weeks after I finally did.

In absence of regular attention, the strings had crusted up and lowered their tuning to the point of sounding like a baritone. I gave it a quick tune up but immediately noticed that something was very wrong with the sound. The intonation was awful and the frets were buzzing like an electric toothbrush. I could alleviate part of the problem by placing a capo on the 5th fret, but playing so high up the neck was still aggravating my wrist. The neck was bent in a way that looked like my wrist moments after I hit the snow. The hot and cold of the last few months left the wood with same effects of a visit from a blind sculptor.

My physical therapy visits were often a cause for embarrassment. The grip strength on my right hand was 40lbs, while my left could only achieve 5. I'd grab and pull rubber tubing of different lengths and strengths for reps of 20 or until the shaking of my arm got too bad. The fluid and other swelling around the joint would then get massaged in preparation for stretches that a contortionist would giggle at.

As the weeks went on I began to feel the strength and movement return. I'd purposely lose count of reps so that I could add a few more on to each set. When I wasn't struggling to complete arm curls with a 2lb weight at the physical therapy room I would spend prolonged exercises in my room with the equipment they had provided. My supination is still limited by a pain that feel like an elastic band at its limits - with a few muscles and joints disagreeing on how far and in what direction they're going to move - but everyday usage has almost returned to normal. Drinking a pint of Guinness using on my left hand proved this.
home gym

My visits were coming to an end on Thursday. I completed a series of tests that confirmed my movement at this level is better than average. The strength, though not great before, is still plainly absent. When I finished my appointment I was sent on my way to see my original doctor for a follow-up. There was some prodding and yet another x-ray and he seemed ecstatic at the results. However, with one look at my left arm compared to my right he prescribed another 10 visits to physical therapy to find that aforementioned strength.

It's been over 12 weeks since the injury and the whole experience from the medical side of things has been perfect. From the free ambulance ride (with sirens!), to the young orthopaedic doctor who was telling us where to go out that night while he used his entire body weight to straighten out my fractured bone, everyone has been completely professional and highly personable. Even the doctor here gave me his son's contact details so he can direct me on where to go in Miami.

It's taken time, exercise and a fuck-tonne of money on insurance but now when I pick up my guitar the notes resonate with a newer meaning. I remember saying to someone I would have preferred to break my legs over my hands so that I could still play guitar, and though I'd prefer to break neither, I still stand by the quote. Now I'm absolutely rapt to be able to pick up my guitar again. Playing shitty folk songs and annoying my room-mate has never been as fun, nor has it ever taken such a journey to get here. Bob Dylan, watch out.

Ryan Adams - Learn to Love
This is the first song Ryan Adams wrote after breaking his wrist. It's always been a beautiful song, but for 12 weeks its been intertwined with notes of aspiration. My fingers and ears aren't connected like his, nor are my words as poetic, but it was, and still is a great song to put on a pedestal while I try to make my hand stronger than before.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We spend our time searching for security and hate it when we get it.

Finally. We're regulars. It was all validated when Dicky Peach went to the bar at Stackers and the big man that has been seeing our faces for months said "pitcher of Bud for you and that guy right?", pointing to me as I was withdrawing many from the cash machine. He continued, stating that until we came along they had never run out of normal Budweiser before, with all the Massholes preferring the 'Liter' variety of what is an already average brew.

I guess I had enjoyed too many pitchers of that stuff, as my walk back in the snow and few hours kip left me feeling absolutely rotten the next day. Miraculously I made my early class, but hiding from the snow in the cover of my bedsheets was the only way to deal with the rest of the day.

At first it snowed, and then it rained and finally it froze. I was still shabby at 9PM, but the 150 jell-o shot party was enough impetus to pop a few painkillers and be on my way. I missed a bus waiting for Max and giant freezing puddles gobbled my shoes as we navigated the maze that is Pufton Village.

"No peeing in the sink" were the words that greeted me in favour of "Hi, how are you?", but after the last party at this house, it was easy to feel empathetic toward the host. The shoes were off at the door, and immediately lost in a damp pile of leather. People were tripping and slipping over them all night, but most of the attention was focused on the jell-o shots that were prepared earlier.

They made their way around the house/one big room and into the mouths of many. Mine didn't travel so far, instead finding a temporary home on my pants. The shots hit, and like any setback in life, some people took it worse than others. Teenagers were spilling drinks and others were stealing them.

Poor Joe could barely walk due to a knee inflammation that made it look like it belonged to an elephant, not a skinny English lad. Regardless, his highly recommended calf massages were a big hit, and even earned him assistance on my part when it came to putting his shoes on.

Alex, after a belly full of beer was channelling his look-alike, and in Justin Bieber fashion was dazzling the opposite gender. Sort of. In a battle of beer bravado vs beer charm, it is fair to say the former one, but he gets points for trying.

Still, at least he wasn't trying to steal my Nikes like some random girls, or spilling drinks and falling asleep, like a 16-year-old high school guy was. Better yet, he didn't even fall in the snow like I did on a urination adventure.

When the party came to a close the icy paths got the better of me. The taxis had all left, and there was no way a person of my balance would have been able to make it back over the frozen puddles and paths. Luckily, Ollie also had some of that charm on, and convinced a girl who was heading home from work at 3AM to turn around and drive us home. Job done, crisis averted.
Minge: man fringe/he-bang

I did my best to replicate a Sunday at home and spent the day watching sports. Rangers won, Birmingham City won and St George Illawarra became the first Wollongong team to be world champions of anything (corruption, racism and murder aside). It was so much like a home Sunday that Sam Diego and I even stopped by a bar for an afternoon pint, only to find the place was empty and that a bass-fishing competition was being shown on the shiny flat-screen televisions. What the hell? This is the land of the television show "Cheers", I thought they understood how bars and Sunday sessions worked.

Oh well, the Sunday was about to get a whole lot better. Jessie commandeered a vehicle and drove Sam and I out to Northampton to see 'Tennis' play. The opening band didn't raise my heart-rate. They dressed like my previous career, I.T., and like that previous life, I wasn't exactly upset when the time to say good-bye came around.
yeah, trees get covered in ice here, no biggie.

On the other hand, Tennis were fantastic. Their story goes like this; husband and wife from Colorado sell their things, go sailing for a while, return to land and write an album. It's a tale of sweetness, and their sound reflects that in their waltz-like tunes. On stage they're a picture perfect couple, bopping about and sharing the occasional glance between eachother. I still remember watching The Weakerthans play one of the best shows I've seen. Everytime John K. Samson would duet his body and head would face the crowd, but his eyes were fixed firmly on his wife, who sang with him on his right. In both instances, the tiny venues the bands played at had an added level of intimacy to the performance,

Anyway, Tennis were fun, cute, sweet and pretty appealing to the Brooklyn-esque crowd that assembled. The husband and wife were joined by a drummer, and despite their lightweight approach to equipment, they filled the room with plenty of sound. Noho had been incredibly barren for shows this semester, but Tennis proved to be a lovely start to what is an upcoming run of concerts.

When the calendar turned over to Monday we all went out to dinner for Renita's birthday. The meal concluded with a visit to Stackers, and it was my fourth in five days. That was enough for me to throw a smokebomb Lee-Roy Chetty would be proud of.

Little did people know that when I left stackers I made a hasty sojourn to the University of Wollongong to see my friend Rowan and grab a cup of coffee. I'm back in Amherst now, but it was a nice, yet brief interlude.
Old friends, good coffee.

Finn Brothers - Won't Give In
I hope New Zealand feels better. I'll always be thankful they gave the world these two.