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)

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