Wednesday, January 26, 2011
God I am crap at this formatting thing. Nevertheless... We are in a place called Lorne right now. South coast of Victoria, and rather than head into our new city we are driving further down the coast because it's just so Goddamn pretty and we don't have jobs to start on Monday or pets to feed or anything. We do have jobs to find and a place to live to find and a pet to buy to feed to find, but reality can wait a few more days.
I am properly back into the outdoor, hippy-type thing. I was hooked on cold a few short weeks ago but am back into the baggy clothes, barefoot, sun-tanned lifestyle and can't imagine life being any different. Rainbow Serpent was amazing. Such a well organised party. I love camping, love the music, love the craziness of it all. It seriously needs to think about being a longer festival (four days just isn't enough), but I am grateful for it existing at all.
Bumped into friends from Adelaide who we haven't seen in years. We had lost numbers and email addresses and everything and randomly bumped into them at the markets. Partied a bit, lost them throughout the weekend, caught up on the dancefloor again, then as we were packing up to leave at the end of the party realised that the flag pole marker at the campsite next to ours that we had been using as a guide home was theirs; they had been camping next to us all weekend.
The party was excellent. So many Sydney friends... I had the 4am horrors for the first time about leaving Sydney. 4am is great to party through or sleep through, but when you wake and think it's a terrible hour, and it goes on for hours. At the core of my being I am quiet ad solitary and not very good with people, but these past few years I have amazing friends and I am leaving so many of them. Some were at the party, others were not. At 4am, I missed them all and really wasn't sure why I was leaving Sydney.
And I really missed a couple of friends who weren't there. They know who they are. Really missed them. I hope you felt the love.
There was much laughter though. A favourite moment was when the husband of a friend told The Dreaded One that he had spent the weekend trying to connect with me but it didn't seem to be working. The Dreaded One told him, "What you have to understand about Lee is that he wanders around living inside a bubble, but once you get inside that bubble he's quite nice and quite funny." He said he was going to perservere and get inside the bubble. He didn't need to persevere. I took notice and he is indeed a lovely guy and I hope we are friends. That was my favourite conversation about me that I wasn't there to hear. I like that The Dreaded One said that. She could just as eaily said that I am a wanker and to not bother.
We've made friends from Melbourne who we are seeing next weekend. Friends of friends, it's all about the friends.
Lorne... cute little beachside town. We pulled up outside a hotel, whipped out the lappy and booked a hotel online because it was cheaper to do it that way rather than walk in and make a booking. I fucking love technology.
Friends rocked up to our nice hotel with our stunning view overlooking the beach in three campervans. It was a few more people than we were expecting but cool, friends of friends are friends. It doesn't always work out that way but this time it did. I would welcome these crusty, manky doofers into my home anywhere as much as I welcomed them into my hotel room. Cool people, new friends. We ate and drank and celebrated a birthday on Australia Day. I even sang that fucking birthday song. It was all very cool.
Now the place is empty except for music and cockatoo screech. I am listening to more Goddamned Posford because he is that good. I have just chatted to kid sister in San Francisco for almost an hour and there are unicorns and angels down in the street... okay, life is almost that good.
Tomorrow we head down the coast to The 12 Apostles and Port Campbell, possibly to meet up with our new German friends, hopefully drink some wine and swim under a waterfall, and at some point contemplate the future.
The photos above? Some (not nearly all) dear friends, and me and my new funky arsed hat with its funky arsed feathers. Fun times.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
I have this special friend... let's call her Pork Products. Why? Because she likes to call me Pork Products and I just think it's only fair that if she calls me Pork Products, we all call her Pork Products. It's a kind of reverse psychology thing. She started calling me Pork Products so I started calling her Pork Products in the hope that she would cease and desist. Alas, she calls me Pork Products with even more enthusiasm than before. A typical conversation might go like this:
“Hello, Pork Products.”
“Hello Pork Products!”
“No you're Pork Products!”
“No you are.”
“You are the original Pork Products.”
“No you are.”
It's this kind of sophisticated mind play that keeps us bonded. We're like a couple of classical Greek philosophers when we get together.
Imagine my relief, then, when sitting in Mission Dolores Park in San Francisco one such conversation is interrupted by a couple of trippers who are quite clearly tripping hard, one of whom is a self professed “Qualified High Priest of Diana” who wants to bless me and The Dreaded One because we are Australian and he studied Australia for a fifth grade project.
“Oh yeah,” he enthuses. “I love Australia. I want to go to Sydney and Perth and Melbourne and Adelaide and Brisbane and and and I want to see marsupials and... did I mention that I'm a High Priest of Diana and can I hold your hands and give you a blessing?”
“Sure dude,” I reply, “knock yourself out.”
High Priest's friend rocks back and forth as he starts rapping about how cool it is to be sitting on a hill with Australian marsupials, High Priest takes The Dreaded One and me by the Hand, and Pork Products just about wets herself with laughter, because this is exactly the kind of shit that goes down daily in Mission Dolores Park.
High Priest (highest one ever, I suspect), looks to the heavens and starts his blessing. The words spill forth and weirdly... so weirdly, he is coherent. What he is saying all makes sense. It's like he's tapping into something higher. It's an actual blessing. It's like he knows us. It's like he's on the hotline to God. It's like he's picking up the news from the cosmos, and unbelievably, I feel something. I am moved. Some of that emotion stuff, it stirs. WTF?
I can see The Dreaded One has been moved too. Even my beloved Pork Products has stopped giggling; she has been moved as well. This guy clearly knows his shit.
“By the way,” High Priest of Diana tells me at the end of the blessing, “while I was holding your hand I was picking up the vibes of... Zeus, Poseidon and Buddha.”
I look across at Pork Products. She hasn't moved, but quite clearly she has mentally smacked herself in the forehead. This is the very last thing she wants to hear. She's been trying so hard to make this Pork Products thing stick, and then this. Zeus. Poseidon. Buddha.
Am I going to pick up this ball and run with it? Am I going to milk this for every last drop? Am I going to battle Pork Products with my divinity and mythology and all round coolness? Um, yes?
San Francisco, I love you.
Grumpy is Lee Bemrose (AKA Zeus, Poseidon and Buddha). They are contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, January 09, 2011
In a mellow mood right now. We're staying in the place below, The Inn at 943 South Van Ness, Mission District, San Francisco. Our room is the big bay window on the second floor. Above is me reading Eat, Pray, Love in that very Bay window. I'm feelling chilled, enjoying the book and listening to Zoe Keating's Into The Trees (again).
I know I've said I could live in most of the places I've been to. I've had the piss taken because of it. Fact is, as this trip draws to a close (fuck me if we won't be partying at Rainbow Serpent in less than two weeks... so much to do before then), but it's true. I haven't missed Sydney once (The friends, yes, the place, no), and I haven't lived in Melbourne yet or even set up a place to start living there, so I really feel no loyalty to Melbourne. It just feels like a better place to live than Sydney.
But looking around at San Francisco... it's an exciting place, the food is so good, the weather is mild and just look at these San Fran buildings. They are everywhere and they are so beatuful - I'd really like to live in one for a while. Set up a writing desk in one of the bay windows and get back to some real writing. Apparently The Dreaded One can get an American passport so maybe it's possible. There is still so much to explore here that I know I want to come back at least to visit, but why not explore the possibilities of living here?
There is reality to deal with, of course. Always the fly in the ointment. Employment is the biggie. As it is I don't have any particular skills that will guarantee me work back in Australia, let alone a foreign country. The idea when we settle in Melbourne is for us to start our own catering company and for me to pick up whatever freelance writing I can, maybe have a proper go at some travel writing, but it's all going to take time. It would take a much longer time to do it here... (as I write this I lean over and tell The Dreaded One what I am writing and she has suggested looking up what the competition or prospective employers are like here)... thing is I just don't want to work for anyone else for any longer than I have to. I'm not very good at it. Or rather, I've just been much happier when we've been self-employed. (The Dreaded One has just whipped out her Android and is looking up catering companies in the Bay area).
I don't know where I'm going with this. Elizabeth Gilbert's book is making me want to write. It's making me want to keep traveling. I'm very aware all of a sudden that our trip is nearing the end. Naturally I feel less than thrilled about this. More importantly, I feel extraordinarily priveleged to have experienced it at all. It only took the minor upheaval of selling our home (such a short sentence but I can't explain what we went through to actually go through with it... all the sensible people insisted we were mad and irresponsible; our traveller friends and our doofer friends were supportive so it was a confusing time), and we still face a lot of unknowns but it was all worth it in the end. Best thing we've ever done.
I suspect I'll hit Rainbow and be dancing with friends and will feel at home. I always feel properly at home when bare-footed and dancing in the sun surrounded by friends. Funny concept, feeling at home when you're in a field with music and friends. But I know it will happen. And we will probably start putting down roots in Melbourne and life will take us in another direction.
Thing is, you just never know. This time last year I had no idea I would be here in California, hanging out with my beloved spiritual kid sis. It would be months before the idea of selling up and travelling would even be planted, a couple of short months after that that our home was sold, our life packed into boxes, world trip planned and us making it through those final, hectic days to be Madrid-bound on the start of a very cool adventure.
You just never know.
Friday, January 07, 2011
I've covered quite a lot of ground on what has become Grumpy's World Tour Of Friends. In five months I've lived approximately 35 Cities or towns in nine different countries... not bad for a lazy bastard like me. There has been all the stress and hitches you expect in such a long haul and somehow Mrs Grumpy (aka The Dreaded One) has put up with me through it all. I'm not exactly a stress head, but for a chilled out dude I do have me share of neuroses and occasional outbursts of sartorially-induced hysteria. It's best you don't ask.
I've learned a lot about all the places I've visited, and this week's column is a bit of an over-view.
In Madrid I discovered that most of the male waiters appeared to be frustrated matadors. Some of them were some of the angriest bastards I've encountered, especially if you ask a barista to make a cappuccino, which I did time after time because the reaction was so funny. It infuriates them, which is a cack. Arrogance of the French? The French don't have anything on the Madrid guys. In fact the French were lovely people. My time in France was basically one long party followed by one long hangover. In Berlin I realised that no one goes anywhere without a drink in their hand, preferably bagged bottles of beer but wine is also acceptable. God knows what it's like in October. No kidding, the very efficient Berlin trains were jam-packed with drinkers at all hours. In Portugal I discovered that no matter what restaurant you went to, no matter what they called the dishes, the menus were identical. Same six options on every single menu no matter if you ate at a cheapy in a back lane in or a five star place, all the same. I got excited about something called 'Secret Pork' in one place, thinking it was some esoteric variation of the ubiquitous sauceless grilled pork only to discover there was no secret about it, it was exactly the same sauceless grilled pork as all the other sauceless grilled pork. In Italy the most striking national trait was passion. They are passionate about everything from art to icecream. In random places you'll even come across bridges almost collapsing under the weight of thousands of padlocks, tributes of passion between couples with their names engraved on the locks and the keys thrown away. You have to love that kind of shit. And football? The Italians start singing their myriad team songs hours before the game... and all we Australians can come up with is Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie oi oi oi. In snowy England I found another national stereotype alive and kicking: The Whinging Pom. With climate change being harder and harder to ignore, England is being more snowed under than ever. The snow belts down each year, roads turn to chaos, airports are closed and letters to the editor flood in: someone is to blame and something must be done. I asked why no one has snow chains and was met with the reply, “Why should I buy snow chains when I will only use them once or twice a year?” Erm... because once or twice a year those snow chains are going to save your arse. Same snow stuff happens in America and the Yanks get up like a cowboy thrown from a horse, they dust themselves off and get on with things.
And this has been the biggest revelation for me – Americans. I came over here and kicked the saloon doors open armed with a whole bunch of preconceptions and it turns out I was firing blanks. For example, hands up who thinks New Yorkers are arseholes? Just as I thought, heaps of you. Well you're all wrong. New Yorkers and San Franciscans are so polite and friendly and helpful and just all round nice that at first I was suspicious. Was this some new mugging tactic? Stun them with nice and then attack? Because one thing I knew without a doubt was that I was going to get mugged in America by some arsehole American. And while I'm sure there is a fair bit of crime about, aside from the minority of shooty and stabby Americans, most of them are just so... nice. The more time I spend here, the more I realise I could live here, not something I ever expected to say.
Who knows – I might even end up being nice.
Saturday, January 01, 2011
Wherever you are, happy new year to you. However 2010 has been for you, I hope 2011 is better.
As for me... I left a job I had no heart for. I was treading water which was fun for a while but I realised I need some challenge. I need to learn. In a way I still don't care what I do for an income because it's just a means to an end, but at the same time I need some stimulation.
So I quit that and we sold our home and travelled. It went something like this:
Madrid (Spain) 12th Aug - 18th Aug
Boom (dance party in Portugal) - 18th Aug - 25th Aug
Sintra 25th - 28th Aug
Pria Macais 28th - 30th Aug
Lisbon 30th Aug - 2nd Sept
Faro 2nd Sept
Seville (Spain) 3rd Sept - 6th Sept
Granada 6th Sept - 9th Sept
Denia 9th Sept - 12th Sept
Ibiza 12th Sept - 21st Sept
Barcelona 21st - 25th Sept
Arles (France) 25th - 28th Sept
Marseilles 28th - 30th Sept
Cassis 30th Sept - 1st Oct
Arles 1st Oct - 4th Oct
San Rafael 4th Oct - 8th Oct (Day trip to St Tropez, that's where the photo was taken)
Nice 8th Oct - 11th Oct
Levanto (Italy) 11th Oct - 15th Oct
Pisa 15th Oct - 17th Oct
Florence 17th Oct - 21st Oct
Rome 21st Oct - 26th Oct
Venice 26th Oct - 29th Oct
Berlin (Germany) 29th Oct - 5th Nov
Prague (Czek) 5th Nov - 11th Nov
Paris (France) 11th Nov - 18th Nov
London (UK) 18th Nov - 24th Nov
Brighton 24th Nov - 6th Dec
Oxford 6th Dec - 9th Dec
New York (USA) 9th Dec - 15th Dec
San Francisco 15th Dec - 22nd Dec
Napa Valley 22nd Dec - 24th Dec
Lake Tahoe 24th Dec - 27th Dec
San Francisco - 27th - 12th Jan
We've covered quite a bit of ground and I've discovered many places I could relocate to. Faves? Hard to say because each place has its own unique personality to offer. Madrid had art, food and lifestyle... in fact that was all of Spain. And Italy and and France. Had my most perfect lunch at a beachside place in Barcelona, think it was called CDCC. Magical afternoon. Ibiza was fun and as with everywhere except Seville, I'd go back at the first opportunity. Berlin lived up to the hype - great new city with a fascinating and fucked up history. Checkpoint Charlie moved me to tears a couple of times because amid so much War history, here was real hope and in the end triumph, some glimpses of all that is good about the human spirit. There's a photo of a border guard helping a little boy getting through the barbed wire that has imprinted itself on me. The guard looks terrified that he is going to be spotted and the boy holds his arms up, expecting to be lifted to join his family on the other side of the wire. The look on he guard's face is amazing. Sheer fright, but you know he's going to help the kid. I love it. I love that so many of the guards helped their fellow Germans cross the border by turning a blind eye or being the worst shots in the army. Sadness in the history of the Berlin Wall, but happiness as well.
I loved Paris as much this time as I did last time. I still didn't encounter the arrogance of the French. I think it's an out-dated cliche. The people were as friendly as all the others we encountered, and I loved being in Pigalle with its seediness, art and history. And Areles... that was one long party finished off with a very long hangover.
The UK... hmm. I thought I loved London last time. Probably I did. This time however I just didn't get as into it. For the first time I really saw a national stereotype in action: The whinging Pom is real. A snowstorm closes down airports in the USA and the people get on with it. In the UK? Papers and forums are filled with anger and finger-pointing, someone is to blame and something must be done. There is such a big difference between the people of the UK and of the USA. The UK is gloom, the USA is bright. I enjoyed my stay in the UK and I know lovely people there, but there is a very real culture of complaint.
And this has perhaps been the biggest revelation to me - The USA. The people here are genuinely friendly. Strangers ask how you are and hearing your accent, they ask where you are from and then they ask about Australia. This is not like Turkey where they are merely trying to make a connection to get your money, they are simply curious and want to know about this far away place. I thought New Yorkers were meant to ba arseholes (and of course you get arseholes in all flavours) but for the most part they were really friendly people.
I think my impression of the USA is best summed up by our day trip to The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Ellis Island really captures what good intentions America had. America had open arms to refugees from all over the world. The fluctuating population statistics on display are fascinating. Such good intentions, youthful America had, but somewhere along the line these good intentions were replaced with arrogance. It's not the people overall, it's the government. The people I've met have been some of the friendliest people in the world, and I want to come back to this place to explore further, something I just wasn't expecting. The only individual Americans I had a bad impression of were a jaded couple in Marseilles who were complaining about the arrogance of the French and how they have never been endeared to the French. Hell, I'm more convinced than ever that you attract exactly the kind of shit you are expecting to attract, at least as far as the way people treat you.
I've been very lucky this year. The trip has been awesome. I've met up with friends from home in all parts of the world. We've been lucky with the weather, we've been lucky with travel with nothing going wrong, no luggage lost, no major delays or major hitches. The relationship between The Dreaded One and myself has been tested, as you'd expect from being together 24/7, especially after selling our home and leaving our jobs. There has been stress but we seem to have pulled through and still seem to be friends on what I've started calling the Lee & Ann World Tour Of Friends.
I'm writing this in the living room of this place. It's gorgeous. It smells of pine from the 10ft tall Christmas tree. There is classical music playing and I'm sipping some complimentary Californian sherry and waiting for my spiritual kid sister to arrive. The three of us will goof off for the day, maybe grab a bite to eat, have some laughs, maybe go to Golden Gate Park. Hopefully my swollen knee will have gone down enough for me to dance at the psytrance party we are going to tonight. I danced too much the night before last. I need to remember that I'm not 17 anymore.
So that's me for 2010. Rainbow Serpent is going to soften the blow of going home. And then? New life in a new city. I don't know what's going to happen. But I've been in a similar position before. It's going to be fine.
Good wishes to you all for 2011.