I can’t figure this tracking thing out.

January 31, 2007 at 1:14 am (Uncategorized)

_uacct = “UA-1273532-1”;

A friend recommended I check out Google Analytics as a way of tracking who is coming to this site, where they’re coming from, and whether or not they’re ever coming back…A pretty neat (if a little scary) concept, if only I could figure out how to install the damn thing properly…

It said to copy and paste the above code right before the body tag of each page. Is that here? Who knows? I’ve looked all over my site, and I can’t see a single body lying around, dead or alive, anywhere… It’s just mystifying, the technology of it all. I don’t get it at all, it’s just that they have kindly made so many things so simple that even a technophobic halfwit such as myself can get online and go crazy. Unfortunately, this looked and sounded relatively basic but is proving vexing. I don’t think I’ve pasted the code in the right spot. And I don’t have a clue where the right spot is.

Mercifully, WordPress also counts views to the site, and I can check those stats anytime, but they don’t know things about you, and if they do know, they’re not telling. The Google thing sounds much more invasive, which I’m sure anyone reading this will feel nicely reassured by. It seems they’re out there with their satellites and GPS and other sinister little tracking devices working hard to tell me what they can about what’s going on in the backyard of my own little cyber patch. There’s a weird, voyeuristic, peeping tom element to the whole thing that seems a little unsavoury, but it’s also, I must say, quite seductive. I can’t help but wonder about you. If you’re there, looking at me, then I’m here, looking at you, looking at me. Crazy, isn’t it? Come on, give us a wave.

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The Art of Sucking a Long Weekend Dry

January 30, 2007 at 3:51 am (Uncategorized)

Apologies if you clicked on the link to the Dymocks Building and were taken to the bookshop. I have fixed the link now, so either click here for a virtual tour of the subject of yesterday’s post, or enter the site from the corrected link in the post.

Meanwhile, the glorious weather continues unabated. This is good news, because a great friend of mine, her baby bump, and her boyfriend hit these shores from London next week. Fingers crossed the meteorologists have a fine reception forecast. Mornings here at the beach are great. I’ve been for a run, a swim, and a little tootle on my bike, which I’ve decided to name Daisy. She now has a little detachable wicker basket sitting up front, and a heavy duty lock to ward off any thieving types. I love my bike.

Daisy came along just in time for the long weekend. Friday, Australia Day, we ended up staying in our own courtyard, reading the papers and drinking coffee whilst I shamelessly self-promoted myself to accommodating family and friends (I had a travel feature on PNG in the long weekend edition of The Sydney Morning Herald… which means a pay day, yippee!) . Then we opted to throw open the doors to the usual suspects for afternoon beers, the drop-in being alive and well in these parts. So we kicked back with a few friends, went for another swim, rolled out some snacks, played some tunes, and slurped back a couple of cold beers. Perfect.

Llew had a surfboat rowing carnival out front on Saturday, and a big one it was, too, with crews coming from all over Australia. It was too crowded on the boardwalk for Daisy, but I did do one heaving, hot, reluctant lap around by foot. It was an airless scorcher, but that turned out to be the calm before the proverbial. As I fell into the ocean, sweaty and exhausted, the southerly arrived to wreak havoc right along the beach front. Sand in the eyes, tents uprooted and tearing through the air, soft drink cans, burger wrappers, and plastic bags sailing overhead with none of the charm suggested by the latter’s graceful dance in American Beauty. Nope, this was just rubbish in a wind tunnel.

After the southerly passed through on its northward march, we did get the bikes out and went for a bit of a cruise around the ‘hood. This is when I discovered Daisy is more than just a pretty face – she was taking those hills like a pro. It didn’t take long for us to decide we’d earned our reward, so we went to a new bar on the beach front, Henry Afrikas, for a drinky poo. Comfy couch, tasty morsels, cold tap beer, killer views – tell me, please, what’s not to love? Then there was just enough time to get the bikes home and quick change before dinner with friends. We wandered down to Will and Toby’s for a drink, and then thought it was our civic duty to sample the Henry Afrikas upstairs restaurant.

A bit of a mixed bag, to be honest, but what a cracking spot. The service was present but a trifle incompetent, the food derivative and unexceptional, but the wine, laughter, and conversation flowed, and we spent the night looking over the towering Norfolk Pines and the inky surf, lit up by the moon on a lovely starry night. Not a bad way to kill a few hours, not bad at all.

As if that wasn’t enough, we had a repeat performance of the coffee drinking, brunch eating, paper reading, post-swim towel drying out in the courtyard in the morning, a big fat bike ride mid-afternoon, pies and sauce on a garden seat on the scenic walkway to Shelley Beach late afternoon, then home again for a barbeque and catch up with some old friends. Once their 2 year old son announced, very firmly, that it was time to go home, Llew and I waved them goodnight and curled up on the couch with ice-creams to watch one of the better films of 1991: Night on Earth, by Jim Jarmusch. And so that was our ‘Three Days on Earth.’ As long weekends go, it was a beauty.

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Taking a Turn Around the Dymocks Building

January 29, 2007 at 7:37 am (Uncategorized)

If you’ve never done this, I recommend you try it one day. The Dymocks Building is so cool, at least partly because it always feels like no one else knows about it. Of course, people do (they must – the lifts are always brutally crowded), but somehow the floors are always whisper quiet, and I’ve never passed anyone when I’ve taken the stairs. What is the Dymocks Building? Well, it’s something of an anachronism these days – it feels like time travel, visiting its various levels of specialised, eclectic shopfronts, organised in a manner known as ‘bazaar’ shopping. There are dedicated floors – like Levels 3 and 4 are for jewellery merchants, and Level 7 is for travel specialists and vaccinations, and Level 2 is just the start of bridal, which keeps cropping up no matter where you are in the building. It’s a trippy joint.

It has a fabulous, grand vestibule worth a stickybeak at any time, since the present building dates to 1932. That makes for some interesting period features, if you like that kind of thing (and I do): terrazzo tiles and marble floors, oak-framed shopfronts on every level, and the glazed granite terracotta used in the lobby, the staircase, and the building’s unassuming, Georgian exterior. The lady has style.

I went in today to get my engagement ring polished and the emerald tightened. It’s been tinkling in my ear, which doesn’t strike me as the most secure thing a gemstone can do from its setting. I instantly found what I needed on Level 4. Steven from R & R Jewellery Polishing sent me around the corner to Sergio the Gem Setter, who inspected my ring and sagely pronounced “It is possible.” Good. I left him with it, and returned later in the afternoon. Twenty bucks later, there’s no tinkling sound. He said “You take now to the polisher?” and I said “Immediately, yes.” This answer was met with a curt nod of approval, and I left Sergio behind.

Back through the security grille at R & R, I handed my engagement ring over to Steven and we had a brief, confusing conversation concerning the relative merits of brushing the metal side to side or forward to back. I think I looked and sounded appropriately clueless, although I did remember to say “I like it with a matte finish.” That’s the sole line I have in my jewellery repertoire. He had oil all over his hands and under his nails that reminded me of visiting my grandfather’s Burton St garage in Darlinghurst when I was a child. Granddad’s hands always looked just like that, darkened with work and oil and metal. It made me feel nostalgic, seeing those filthy, careworn hands, and that’s exactly what the Dymocks Building will do to you. It casts that kind of spell. I felt like I should have been wearing hat and gloves. He handed me a business card with his oil smudged fingerprint edging onto the company name. 428 George St. Acquaint yourself sometime.

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I want to ride my bicycle…

January 26, 2007 at 2:34 am (Uncategorized)

Okay, I hate Queen, I think their music’s utterly painful, but I do at least share the late Freddy Mercury’s sentiments on this one. I have been ogling, coveting, lusting after other people’s bikes lately. I’ve really, really missed having one in the years I’ve been back in Sydney. I last owned a bike in London, and I’ll share that little story with you now.

We were living in Clapham Common, on the notorious Northern Line, and I was starting to develop some evil mix of claustro- and agoraphobia from travelling on the tube to work near Covent Garden and back every day. One morning, I got down into the bowels of the earth, and something was horribly, horribly wrong. There were people everywhere, and it was hot, damn hot. There was some problem or other, and all the little commuting sardines were standing rigid on the platform and up the stairs, and there wasn’t even enough air for the ritual canary, let alone the thousands of us. It was so awful. I somehow wormed my way to the far, far end of the platform, thinking that if I could just get to the tunnel opening, I might be able to smell freedom. No. No freedom there, just the sweaty and the damned.

Tightly packed tube after tightly packed tube started rolling through the platform, and the shuffle was interminable. Waves of sickness and panic kept ebbing and flowing through and around me – you could sense the despair. Then a tiny window of space eventually opened up in front of me. A tube pulled in, and a door stopped right in front of me and slid open. There was a guy so tightly jammed in there he half fell out when the door opened. He looked at me, gave me a wry smile, and gave me a little “C’mon” gesture with his hand. I cocked my head at him as if to say “You’re joking, right?” and he gave a helpless “Or…you could stay here” shrug. I looked to my right, looked to my left, and then launched myself at the door like a fly going SPLAT on a windscreen. This suited stranger basically had to grab me to stop me simply falling out again, that’s how tight a fit it was. The door slid shut behind me, and I took a deep breath.

That was my mistake. B.O. Reeking through the airless carriage. The kind stranger gave another “Oh yeah, that…” smile, and we looked around feebly trying to identify the source and move away from it (ha ha – move??!!). Then something happened. I snapped. Somewhere between Clapham Common and Clapham North, in that dead, defeated silence, my near-hysterical voice boomed through the carriage:
“I CAN’T STAND THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Wordlessly, people around me evacuated the immediate area. It was just like in a cartoon, when the dust cloud hovers for a few seconds after Tom and Jerry have taken off. No one was near me. I was the crazy person. I suddenly had all the room in the world. I could have star jumped on the spot had it taken my fancy. I briefly regretted not screaming my head off sooner, it sure gets things done, then noticed we were pulling in at Clapham North. I gathered myself, held my head high, and strode purposefully off the tube.

Back up there in the real world, breathing fresh-ish air, I called work.
“I’m going to be late. I’m waiting until the tube clears. It’s just not civilised.”

Coming from the convict classes, they probably thought that was a bit rich, but they accepted my explanation, and I sat in a cafe in Clapham North and had a coffee until it was safely past peak hour. After work that day, I bought a little red bike, and for the remainder of my time living in that great city, I pedalled around everywhere, loving London more once I started to know it as a bike rider.

So. Yesterday I bought a bike. It’s fantastic. It’s called a Townie 21 – it’s like a little retro beach cruiser. A seriously comfortable ride, and a serious sweetie as far as I’m concerned. I rode it home from the bike shop yesterday, but that only took a half hour, so I stayed on it for a while, coasting down the beach front a couple of times actually singing to myself. I feel great on a bike. It’s like being 10 years old again. So that’s my Australia Day, people. I’ve already had one swim, and I daresay I’ll have another, and Llew and I are going to go ride our bikes down to the harbour side for an afternoon beer in the sun.

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Say it isn’t so…

January 25, 2007 at 1:11 am (Uncategorized)

In a week where we have already had to wave a fond farewell to the Pulsarnator, this latest demise really seems too cruel. Our dishwasher is dying. It’s haemorrhaging water. One might, if one was wanting to give an accurate picture, even describe the water-letting as a complete flooding of the kitchen.

I’ve tried stopping it with a snugly fitted towel. I’ve tried pausing the cycle and peering in at the sudsy mystery that is its internal operations. I’ve tried ignoring it and sort of willing it better. Nothing. No change. If anything, the flooding seems to be getting worse.

You might not think losing a dishwasher is any great casualty, but I beg to differ. Do you have any idea how many hours of my life have been sacrificed to the washing up? I actually shudder to think. I’ve always given a lot of dinner parties – this past year has been the biggest drought on record, for some reason we just didn’t have a lot – and this is the first time – THE FIRST – I have ever had a dishwasher at home (London doesn’t count because, whatever that ridiculous thing was, it was the size of an underwear drawer, and our table was the size of the kids’ table at Leggoland, and the fridge was fit for a pigmy, so there were no dinner parties there, ever).

I also have obsessive compulsive tendencies I’ve had to reign in over the years, so I don’t like dirty dishes piling up like so many sour accusations. I can’t just leave it all there, and it freaks me out that people can. Must get rid of the dirty dishes. And with the dishwasher, you just pack it all away and shut the door. Gone. Lovely.

Having a dishwasher, which we excitedly inherited from Llew’s parents when they upgraded a couple of years ago, has literally improved my quality of life. This is particularly the case because I work from home. This doesn’t make me a happy housekeeper. It makes me someone who works from home. People seem to get a little confused about this, so let me spell it out. I work from home. And that doesn’t mean I have a full time job as a housekeeper (although I know on some level Llew secretly hopes it does). Certainly I do a lot of our housekeeping – and it quickly, scarily morphs into a full-time job if I don’t control it – but it’s not the purpose of my being here. I’m at home to write, and so write I shall, housekeeping, bill paying, cooking, cleaning, watering, washing, mail sending, diary keeping, and all ’round household managing be damned.

So the dishwasher is a crucial aid. It helps me work from home because it saves me a pile of time. It helps me work from home because when everything is in it, waiting for a full load, I don’t see it piled up next to the sink like a snide denouncement. It helps me work from home because it reduces my procrastination tools, of which the washing up was once key.

I’m not going back, you know. I’m just not going back there.

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So Tired of the Bullshit.

January 24, 2007 at 1:15 am (Uncategorized)

Christ Almighty, I am so sick of the tabloid press in this country. Actually, I’m not even sure the broadsheet press is, on certain issues, faring any better at all, but at least the lone voice of Jack Marx at the SMH clearly has their number.

Why is the Daily Telegraph (for one) inciting racial divisions? Why aren’t our media bodies answerable to any kind of regulatory body? Why are they abusing the hard won ideal of a free press? It makes me sick to see the gross cynicism of some of these inflammatory headlines.

This flag beat-up is just another load of shit from reckless editors hoping to start a paper-buying spree. The Tele’s headline yesterday was something like ‘Big Day Out-rage‘, with a subheading in bold, block letters calling on people, good old “ordinary” (gee, what does that mean…?) Aussies, to take their flags out in protest of the “ban” (there’s no ban). Give me a BREAK.

If anyone had bothered to check with the Big Day Out organisers, they would have found out, very, very easily, why they have asked people to leave their flags at home. They’ve said it very clearly on their website for all the simpletons who might be a trifle confused, so I’ll put the link here.

Of course, The Tele didn’t want to check with the organisers, and neither did John Winston Howard, and neither did Morris Iemma. If they bothered to get their facts straight, they’d quickly realise it’s not the story any of them is after. There is a story, though, it’s just not the quick-hit wave of rhetorical BULLSHIT that’s currently being pumped through everyone’s ears and eyes.

The story is this. There are some people who have taken to using the Australian flag to symbolise a particular set of “Australian values” (another grossly over-used and misapplied pearl in the arsenal). This set of “Australian values” is based on the notion of exclusion. You either embrace and represent this elusive set of oddly unnameable values, or you don’t. You’re either a Proud, Top Aussie in the Tradition of the ANZACS, or you’re not. You’re either in the smug club of aggressive, overwrought, excessive nationalists, and naturally a wildly enthusiastic flag-waver, or you’re not.

And if you’re not, so the pathetic, so insultingly PUERILE logic goes, then you’re just plain old un-Australian. And on Australia Day, there’s nothing worse you can possibly be. Short of a terrorist, that is, which, if you don’t want to kiss the flag and wrap yourself in one for the day, you must certainly be.

WHY OH WHY aren’t politicians and editors looking at the story underneath all this crap? Why aren’t they asking themselves and the rest of the country how it came to be that for some, the flag has come to symbolise intolerance, racism, hatred, and violence? Why aren’t they asking themselves and all of us to consider why it is they have leapt to condemn the event organisers, but not the people who have taken the flag and abused its purpose so shamefully, in the Cronulla Riots, and at last year’s Big Day Out, and on many other occasions when a kind of white supremacist attitude seeps out onto the ground like spilt blood? Why isn’t anyone calling that kind of exclusionary aggro un-Australian? Why isn’t anyone examining the fact that, much to my horror, it patently isn’t un-Australian at all?

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Farewell, valiant Pulsarnator

January 23, 2007 at 2:22 am (Uncategorized)

The word went out on Llew’s mobile yesterday:

Sad news! The Pulsarnator died in her sleep last night… After a long battle with salt water, she finally fell victim to rust. She will be taken to the wreckers after a private ceremony.

Yes, our beloved little blue Nissan Pulsar, affectionately known as the Pulsarnator, is off to that scrap heap in the sky. I felt quite choked up when Llew called to tell me the old girl had failed registration and had to be taken away. It’s been such a good little car. Always (well, mostly) turning over on the first try, regardless of how long we’d left her abandoned, always (well, mostly) going the distance, always (no, really) exceeding our expectations and seemingly expanding her own capabilities at will.

The Pulsarnator has seen us through so much. She came along just after Llew and I got back from our years in London, and for that first twelve months back in Australia, when we were living apart, the Pulsarnator ably ferried us between Palm Beach and Bondi Beach. When we moved into a campus apartment for my year as a resident academic tutor, the Pulsarnator seemed to stretch its limits, taking all those loads of furniture and belongings in her stride. When my beloved grandfather died, it was the Pulsarnator Llew drove me in to go and say my last goodbye. A few days later, the Pulsarnator was one of the cars following slowly behind the hearse to the crematorium, and it has taken me there, to the rose garden in which my grandparents’ ashes lay, ever since.

We moved back to Bondi into the much-loved Glen Street beach shack, and the Pulsarnator spent many a night trawling up and down the hills of Bondi looking for an elusive park to call her own. In this, she was not alone.

The following year, my young, lovely niece was killed, and it was the Pulsarnator on that desperate, awful early morning that drove hours through the rain to my sister’s door. When the time came, the car brought us quietly to Sam’s funeral, and many times since has helped me deliver flowers to her sunny resting place.

About six months later we thought perhaps the Pulsarnator was gone for good, when on the freeway returning from Canberra and Sarah’s 30th birthday party, the Pulsarnator slid to a silent halt and could not be revived. Poor Margery had accepted a ride with us, thinking it would get her to work on time, and instead had to jump in with the tow truck drivers, hitching her skirt and climbing aboard. They couldn’t take the car, I forget why, but they did eventually see Margery into a cab (rather late for an important meeting I think she might have missed). Llew and I stayed with the Pulsarnator, eventually help arrived, and she rallied, emerging from the garage a few days later as good as new.

A year on, and Llew and I drove the Pulsarnator down to the South Coast on the spur of the moment, leaving Bondi at around 3 o’clock in the morning and driving down to see a house we’d spotted on the internet and thought might be a good spot for our wedding. We stumbled our way slowly through Culburra in the pitch darkness, and then drove the car up to the point, sleeping for a couple of hours with the sound of the waves crashing below us. We woke up cramped, hungry, and hot, but a couple of hours later, we had found our wedding venue. It was absolutely perfect.

After the wedding, we flew to India on honeymoon, and when we returned, I was hospitalised for two weeks with typhoid (yes, I had all the injections. There are three types of typhoid, and only two are covered by the vaccine. No, no one mentioned that at the time). The Pulsarnator brought Llew on a nightly vigil to my side, and took him home again when the nurses eventually kicked him out. I was five days out of hospital when Llew took a Monday off work, and we drove the Pulsarnator to Manly to inspect an apartment for sale. Two years later, almost to the day, that same apartment is now our very happy home.

Our lovely, daggy little car. It has taken us well beyond four weddings and a funeral. It has taken us to visit ailing friends and relatives in hospital, and it has taken us to greet new life as our friends have welcomed babies into the world. It has taken us to parties, christenings, movies, barbeques, dinners, art exhibitions, weekends away, vineyards, restaurants, plays, and concerts. It’s held the weekly shopping, and somehow supported our enormous sofa on its roof. It has shown personality well beyond what is even possible. We will miss her, our dear Pulsarnator, but we won’t ever forget her.

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Still Speechless.

January 22, 2007 at 2:59 am (Uncategorized)

It was very nice.
Oh, honey it was paradise.
(Berlin, by Lou Reed)

How to explain my euphoria? Well, it’s across several levels, and it’s lasted for days. The first thing is that I have never been so close to one of my creative heroes. It would be like Llew sitting in the same room as Brett Whiteley. Rib crushing in its excitement. Lou Reed’s songs – his poems – have been dear to me for more than half my life. I have pored over the words, held them close to me like a lover, and lingered over their tiniest details and cadence. I have envied him his talent, and invoked his words like prayer. I was shaking in the State Theatre, I was so electrified to be there hearing that so familiar voice, seeing that oddly familiar figure on stage. At times during the performance, my eyes flooded with sudden tears that surprised me as much as they surprised Llew. It was like listening to the sound of my own heart breaking.

The State Theatre is a wonderful space, ideal for the aural torment of Berlin. It’s so intimate, somehow, that it feels like you’re an intruder, a voyeur, and it was perfect for this performance because that’s exactly what you’re doing when you listen to this album of Lou Reed’s. Watching. Witnessing with your ears.

And the Sydney Morning Herald reviewer on Friday, John Shand, didn’t mention this, but the atmosphere was intoxicating. We were all there worshipping at the temple, sure, but it was so emotional even Lou Reed was audibly choked up by the end of the rousing and sustained standing ovation. John Shand’s review was very careful to express how familiar John Shand is with the album, and good on John Shand for being such a diligent study, but he omitted one very important detail. Everyone absolutely loved it. Ate it up and then licked their fingers. And I don’t know that any performance of anything, anywhere, has ever made me feel the way I felt watching Lou Reed perform Berlin .

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Waiting for the Man

January 18, 2007 at 5:19 am (Uncategorized)

Last night, Llew, his parents and I had dinner together, then went to Kaidan: A Ghost Story for its opening night at the Opera House. It was fantastic. The choreography was both whimsical and chaotic, and the design subtle and stunning. But what pinned me to my seat and made me break into a light sweat was the music. The taiko drumming was intense, athletic, emotional, and exhilarating. It was really overwhelming. I was slack-jawed by the end of it, completely caught up in their heart-pounding rhythms. WOW. Talking about it later, Llew said he thought the ensemble deserved a standing ovation – and he’s probably right. Perhaps they’ll get one, maybe several, over the next ten days it’s playing. I hope they do.

Once we got home, we agreed to get up at 4 am to try our luck at the Tix for Next to Nix booth in Martin Place. Tonight is the opening night of Lou Reed’s Berlin, and the booth was selling a few precious tickets for the show, at the greatly reduced price of $25 a pop. I went to bed with Caroline Says playing through my over-active mind, and slept lightly, until exactly 3:48 am, when my brain evidently decided to shake my body awake. Time to get up. Time to get into town. Time to queue.

I lay on my side staring, unblinking, at Llew, willing him to wake up those few minutes ahead of schedule. Nope. No such mental activity disturbing his slumber – he was out cold. I stared and stared and stared, and then finally the rude, pealing alarm went off. “Wakey, wakey,” I added helpfully. He seemed to be in denial, so I got out of bed and turned on the light. “Time to get up,” I said. Llew cried out as though I’d stabbed him, but dragged himself out of bed and hit the shower. He had to get ready for work, and had to put on a suit and tie. How’s that for a rough morning? But, champion that he is, he did it.

We got to Martin Place at 4:45 am. I joined the queue whilst Llew parked the car. There were about 40 people ahead of us. Most had camped out since 6 o’clock last night. Some, like us, had joined the line since 4 am. Nearly everyone was queuing for Berlin. A handful of people were there for La Clique. More people soon arrived – we couldn’t have been last in line for more than five minutes. You can buy a maximum of two tickets at the booth, so I glumly counted about 80 tickets ahead of us – way more than I understood were available. Was it even worth waiting? Who knew?

Llew sourced us some truly dreadful coffee and ham and cheese croissants from Wynard Station at about 5 am. We reminisced about lining up for the Vatican Museum in Rome in October, at much the same time of morning, and with much the same breakfast (except with much better coffee), and looked around sizing up the assembled queuers. The artfully sonic youth held court as they tend to in these situations. They slouched around smoking in retro clothing, listening to their iPods and drinking. One rangy teen loudly, drunkenly extolled the virtues of Pete Doherty whilst sucking on a lollipop and trying to engage the dog, Drusilla, in conversation. Drusilla just put her snout in a leftover cup of instant noodles and ignored him. Some slept on grotty bags, and most of the guys had alarmingly flat arses, their stripey underpants permanently on display. The girls spoke with affected American accents, wore black, occasionally fed the dog and juggled – poorly – an assortment of round fruit. A drunk turned up. He wasn’t there for tickets, just the company and the eternal hope of free cigarettes. There was one other man in a suit. He had a deck chair and a broadsheet newspaper and he was four people ahead of us.

Llew and I sat on milk crates and read. At 6 am, he walked around to GG Espresso on Pitt and returned with some good coffee. I bought a copy of the Big Issue from the vendor who was close to the front of the queue. Lou Reed was on the cover. I read the story and felt a tightening in my throat. I looked at all the people ahead of us and behind us and felt the chances slipping away from me. Shaking it off, I put my head back in the mag and read it cover to cover. Llew went to the office to do some paperwork and kill some time. I started reading a book.

Llew returned. By now I was standing, and the queue had tightened and formed some kind of order. All the sleeping bags were rolled up, and the deck chairs and rugs stowed away. At 8 am the booth opened. The line moved in an orderly fashion. Everything was strangely silent even as commuters started streaming through Martin Place. The Lou Reed tickets kept outlasting all predictions, giving us shot after shot of hope. They moved from seated tickets to standing room only, and I stopped breathing as we got really, really close. Then a girl in enormous white sunglasses held up two tickets and made a ‘V’ for victory with her free hand. Lou Reed was sold out. She had the last two tickets. A Sydney Festival volunteer came out and made it official. I stumbled out of the line, tired enough to be close to tears. There were five people ahead of us in the line, and two of them wanted tickets to La Clique. It seemed too cruel, too close, too utterly predictable to bear. I looked at the couple of hundred people snaking around behind us, too far away to hear, pitied them, then forgot them.

We approached the pretty teen who had told us hours earlier that she would be selling her second ticket. She wanted to confer with her friends and was reluctant to commit. We went over to the GPO steps and looked at her, waiting, afraid of pushing too hard or moving too fast. I couldn’t say a word. She agreed on a price but then backed off, leaving us to go and talk to her friend. I left Llew and went to the nearest ATM so that if (if if if if) it happened, we would be cashed up and ready to roll. I moved like a zombie. A pretty damn fast zombie, but a zombie nonetheless.

Within minutes of my return to the GPO steps, somehow it was done. Their names were Nina and Owen, and they sold us two tickets to Berlin for a little less than the full ticket price. Not next to nix, but not taking the piss, either. Good kids. It was fair, and I was ecstatic. Actually, I was in shock.

Berlin has been called the most depressing album of all time, but I’ve always loved it. And now there’s absolutely no chance it’ll ever be depressing for me. On the contrary. I’m all but clicking my heels. Lou Reed, here we come. Thank you, Nina and Owen, you’re my heroes.

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The Biblioteca

January 17, 2007 at 6:06 am (Uncategorized)

I just signed up to become, belatedly, a member of the State Library of New South Wales. Because I’m a PhD, I get a super snazzy Gold Card, which gives me access  to cool stuff like manuscripts, pictures, oral history and rare maps from the Mitchell and Dixson Libraries and the State Reference Library. Nice one. It’s not the VIP list a lot of my friends would choose to be on (that would be, say, Tank and Bondi Icebergs…), but I’m rapt. I love libraries (no surprises there), but I’d forgotten just how much. The State Library is both a hive of activity and an oasis of calm. I am blogging from there right now, on e-resource # 17, and the noise of my typing is the most disruptive sound in the room. Everyone else is very quietly, earnestly looking stuff up. I remember spending hours and hours in the National Library in Canberra during my undergrad years, and I bet this place is chock full of people in a similar stage of life right now. There’s lots of young men with long ponytails and abundant facial hair, and nothing says student like the hirsute. None of these guys has to work in an office. It’s all Nirvana t-shirts, ripped jeans and Converse. Oooh, before I come over all stereotypical, here’s a young glamourpuss just wandering in – possibly she’s lost. She looks lost. She’s nervously clutching a Louis Vuitton shoulder bag, has enormous Dior sunnies, plenty of bling, fantastically large breasts she’s now leaning into a very flustered information guy’s face, white shorts – yes, white shorts – and improbably high heels. Classic! What’s she doing here? Not much – she’s with her little brother, by the look of it, and he’s the one who needs a computer. She’s just standing around looking deeply perplexed.

It’s also perfectly temperature controlled in here. It’s really rather pleasant. I might just sign off and wander around getting acquainted with the place, flashing my card at every available opportunity because I can. You might be wondering how it is that I am only just signing up now, but the answer’s very simple. Interlibrary Loans. They were my lifeline at UNSW, and they did so much of the work for me. It was fabulous, especially for a lazy student like me. As a postgrad, I was able to use ILL as often as I liked, and I worked them like dogs. All I had to do was figure out what article or book I required, fill in a little request online, and wait. They did all the schlepping for me, frequently sourcing material from overseas, where a lot of the DeLillo stuff lives. They were my champions. I thanked the faceless, nameless heroes in ILL in my thesis dedications, but that felt inadequate, so I went one better and took in a card and thank you present – edible, of course – the day before I graduated. They were stunned. Apparently no one’s ever thanked them before – not in person, anyway. And not with boxes of chocolates and biscuits. But as I look around at all these students, and as I recall the hours and hours I spent as an undergrad looking for some obscure article or other and cursing the days of the Dewey System, I am struck again by just how much they did for me. Now that hellish time is over, I can embrace libraries everywhere once more. It’s only just occurred to me that I was so traumatised by my days as a postgrad that I have been avoiding libraries ever since. No  more. I couldn’t stay away forever. I heard it calling me from Martin Place, seducing me with all its possibilities and rare holdings of knowledge and history. Awesome. And even better: now I’m here just for kicks. Bliss.

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