Friday, August 31, 2012

I Picture Things A Certain Way.

My Dad died the day I moved out of home.

To say it was symbolic would be, I suspect, to labour the point.

Yesterday marked two years exactly since ol' mate Bill died peacefully at home, after dealing (I refuse to succumb to the bullshit of verbs like 'battling') with cancer for the past two years.

Late August always reminds me of these two (kinda, you know) pivotal moments in my life.  The weather is always a bit nicer...a small taste of what's coming.  There's that hint of heat in the wind blowing off the coast.  Everyone seems a bit happier, as if rising from a four month slumber.  So it is that this part of the year reminds me of moving out and dad's death.

My music tastes are pretty seasonal.  This time two years ago I had recently purchased Dinosaur Jr's Green Mind record.  I was listening to it a lot.  I didn't love it, but there was something about the mid-western mellowness that appealed to me.  As is the case with most music, this record has now taken on a nostalgic role, reminding me of those strange days two years ago, where I wandered my new house, building Ikea furniture, thinking about the fact I'd never speak to dad again.

This day two years ago I didn't go to uni.  Dad had been dead for fifteen hours and I decided, as mentioned above, to hang out at home, and build furniture, try and sort out why the power wasn't on, and maybe do a bit of gardening.  The weather was almost identical.  I remember sitting on the porch by myself, perhaps not entirely aware of what was going on, as a warm breeze went through my (still long) hair.  I briefly considered taking up smoking.  I just as quickly dismissed the idea.

From the stereo in the living room, just recently set up, Green Mind was blaring.  I thought about crying, but decided it wouldn't reflect my mood, which was probably closer to confusion than sadness.

I thought about the farce that had been getting the fridge into the kitchen, noting to myself that I should tell dad the story, then remembering that I couldn't.  I found this incredibly frustrating.

The sky was cloudless and the sun was just that little bit warm, you know that feeling in late winter/early spring, where you feel warmth from the sun, and your body kinda shudders.  I realised this moment was going to be remembered for a while.

Today I went for a ride and listened to Green Mind again.  When the record ended, I stopped, and played it again from the beginning.  The weather, like I said, was pretty similar to two years ago.  Maybe a little colder.  Or perhaps I'm just remembering wrong, so keen to create a neat narrative.  It probably doesn't matter.

Riding my bike today, I felt the sun on my legs, and thought about Ikea furniture, no power, and wanting to cry, but not really knowing how in the circumstances.

When the self title track came on, I thought I might cry.  It wasn't sadness I was feeling, but relief.

It's nice to feel happy again.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Evil That Men Do.

Today I got up early.  I had a plan in mind.  I'd bumped into Jim yesterday.  Jim is a masters student at Melbourne Uni who I had gotten to know last year while completing my honours.  I've become increasingly interested in the things he is looking at in his thesis: namely the emergence of myth and intellectual dialogue, and how it has affected philosophy (or more like thought really) for the past two thousand-ish years.

With this in mind, I took the tram to Melbourne Uni early this morning to go have coffee with Jim.  It was a great chat.  We talked about my various misgivings in regards to current philosophical debates, why I was enable to engage with it, the dangers of adherence to dogmas (whether intellectual or every-day), literature, politics, etc, etc.  It did, it's fair to say, span some pretty serious (read: hardcore) topics, and ones that I hadn't had the opportunity to broach while wrenching in a bike shop.  It was exciting, illuminating, whilst simultaneously being terrifying.  I hadn't felt that kind of creative buzz for a long time, and I wasn't quite sure what to do, now that I could feel it bubbling away in my belly.

I left Jim, two coffees down, a reading list of his suggestions as to where to start reading again (surprisingly, the analysis of the history of thought it remarkably hard to get a grasp of) with a happiness I hadn't felt since I bought stationary for my honours year.  Jim hadn't just helped me sort out my ideas, he had also dismissed my various misgivings re. me having another shot at academia.  There wasn't any harm, he pointed out, in damn well trying.

Fair enough.

I was so happy that I didn't even care that I got busted for no ticket on the tram; the thought of me getting a fine in the mail at this stage, an arbitrary and distant concept.

When I got home I found out through my friend Sarah that an old family friend, an artist who had actually painted my portrait when I was seven, and with whom I had spent a lot of my childhood with when I lived in Italy, had died on Tuesday.

After that I felt pretty bummed out, and all the progress I had made that morning suddenly seemed very distant and far away.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Macabre Eternal.

The car park for Northcote Plaza is strange for two main reasons.  Firstly, it's kind of convoluted.  It twists and turns, is narrow where it shouldn't be, and is kind of wide where it's perhaps entirely unnecessary.  The second reasons is in regards to the birds.  You won't notice this during the day but if, as I have, you ever wander through there between 12am and 6am, you will notice there is an absolute cacophony of bird noise.  I'm not talking a pleasant kind of lulling sound, the likes of which might allow you to fall asleep, I'm talking Supreme Racket.  The kind of sound that makes you imagine the birds all have cruel faces, all gathered around some limp and dying bird, as they all caw-caw caw-caw for this dying birds head...or beak or something (I don't know what symbolic piece of the body bird's would call for if they were calling for death).

The reason this is interesting is that the bird song starts well before birds are meant to wake up which, as far as I know, is anywhere between 4.30am and 6isham.  So if you wander through there in the middle of the god damn witching hour, there is this absolute god damn racket.  It's very disorientating, firstly because you're usually unsure of what time it is in the first place, and secondly it causes a sort of despair (in the like 'omfg i have to get up in like two hours' sense).  In short, it makes it seem much later than it actually is.  I had a huge panic attack the last time, thinking I had been out all night, and knowing I had work the next day, only to discover it was in fact 12.30.

Why, then, do these birds start making the ruckus so god damn early?  I pondered this for a while, occasionally making side trips late at night to ride or walk slowly through the car park, trying to figure it out.  (For those who want an insight into the mind of James Kent, this is the kind of shit that preoccupies me for a large part of the day.).  The answer came to me suddenly one night a few months ago, as I stared up into this tree, the sound of babbling birds literally making it appear the tree had some kind of schizophrenic awareness and was screaming at the world.  The lights used in the carpark are exactly the tinge of what I want to call 'dawn' gold.  Since there are a lot of them, the whole car park is bathed in this kind-of-but-not-quite pre-dawn glow.  Basically, the birds think it's dawn before it actually is.

No shit Sherlock.  I felt immensely clever for figuring this out, but also a little saddened that the answer was so glaringly obvious.  I was also secretly shattered that there was no evidence for some sort of bird witch craft going on in the car park.  You know, X-Files styles.

So kind of smug but sad I pushed on, glad that I could throw my proverbial tie behind my back and comment to no one on particular that this was, indeed, the end of that particular chapter.

It was only a little later that the horror of the bird's situation became clear.  Imagine starting up the pre-dawn party a good six hours before it actually arrives.  Not only that, but due to what I can only assume is one of the more primal birdy instincts, they don't seem to be able to over-ride or learn that, in their particular environment, golden glows do not mean the arrival of dawn.

The only human equivalent I could think of is that incredibly tense but happy time you undergo in the five to ten minutes before your favourite band comes on stage.  There's that butterflies in the stomach feeling, the impatience, the wondering whether you should pee, the adrenaline caused by knowing that particularly burly man next to you is surely going to cause all kinds of hell to your kidneys at some point.  But then the band comes on and you lose your shit and carry on with your shirt of in a very male-look-at-me display.  The closest I can think of (carrying on with the clunky analogy) to when this experience turned into the birds at Northcote plaza experience, is when I saw Slayer in 2009.  (By way of backstory I should detail that the cleches are in fact true.  Prior to this show I got madly inebriated, walked to festival hall in a large band of long haired louts, screaming Slayer at any passer by that looked like they would not retaliate.  It was awesome.)  Slayer didn't come on for ages, even after Megadeth cleared the fuck out, and the stage went dark and the tell tale screams of SLLAAAYYYEEERRRRR from big fat drunk men got louder (a key sign that Kerry King is at least, you know, within earshot).  I was inebriated and excited and feeling aggressive and just wanted to fucking crowd surf already, but there was no sign of the band appearing.  Tensions mounted and some Megadeth v. Slayer scuffles broke out, proving of course that no one here was in anyway remotely interested in Fugazi.  At that point, come to think of it, neither was I.  Once the band finally did emerge, perhaps in one of the most unpleasant shocks of my life, Tom had lost his voice, and proceeded to indulge us all in a very expensive, very bad karaoke session.  I suppose, in terms of the birds, that's the equivalent of the dawn finally coming and it's raining acid or something.

Piss take human analogy notwithstanding, I am quietly kind of horrified at the purgatory I now feel sure these Northcote Plaza birds live in.

Bird experts please feel free to correct me if I am unjustified in attributing absolute moral and existential despair to the birds of Northcote Plaza.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Just now Brendan asked me, a look of slight concern in his eyes, "are you ok James (I actually think he said Jamesy, but that makes me sound dickless).  You seem like you're losing your mind a bit..."

I replied that maybe I was.  I mean, last night, I spent a good thirty minute period in which I was fairly certain, no, sure, that I was the fourth man in Great Britain's pursuit team.  I tossed and turned in bed, unsure of what to do, knowing that we had already won gold, but also being overwhelmed with some sort of omnipotent expectation.

I should, I suppose, offer as backstory the fact that on Saturday I ate some dodgy indian and have, thus, spent the past two days vomming, running for the toilet, or wandering the house believing I am a member of the gold medalist pursuit team.  

So I can perhaps blame the delicious veggie curry for my immediate insanity, all drool filled fitful sleeps, and inane facebook statuses.  What I probably can't blame the curry on (or maybe it was the roti?) is my general change in attitude in the past few months.

This isn't a James cracks the sads post.  At least, if it is, I'm trying hard for it not to be directly about me,  per se.  Anyway, Rolly has solved my problems by telling me I should go to LA to visit Tom Singer.  He thinks that would set me right.  He may be right, and if I had more than $220 dollars to my name, I might even give it a shot.

But anyway.  For the past two years, where I was in inverted commas 'training', I developed for the first time what I'll call, for the sake of convenience, a SPORTS VIEW OF LIFE, or, SVOL.  This essentially entails living and viewing life through your chosen sport.  It involves doing the sport, preparing for the sport, eating for the sport, not to mention all the things you end up not doing, for the sake of the sport (think drinking, eating to excess, going out, etc.).  

It should be stressed that this way of looking at things has absolutely no correlation (in fact it may be negatively correlated) to your particular skill or aptitude at the given sport.  I could provide you with a long list of elderly gentleman who have dropped several k's in wind tunnels.  By the same token I could think, just off the top of my head mind, of the young kids who, and I quote "just race pushies a bit" who are currently racing the National Road Series and beyond.

So I was pretty caught up in SVOL.  Not addicted.  But pretty into it.  This, in turn, leads to a particular  kind of, not so much outlook, as lack of outlook.  Not much going on upstairs.  Brain function reduced.  Creativity zilch.  Just look at my blog in 2010/2011.  Pretty dull reading, for the most part.  That's another offshoot of SVOL.  Anything you end up writing (it might be the same for artists and musicians but it seems to me those cohorts are less likely to become entranced with sport.  This may be a gross generalisation) is usually about SVOL.  Thus, as your entire entire life revolves around this, like, one thing you love, the ability (at least in my case) to think creatively, imaginatively, outside of dogmas, becomes harder and harder.  Then, as the fatigue sets in (not fatigue from a hundred miler.  Like, real fatigue.  Fatigue that comes about because you've ridden your bike with no respite for a year and half, without the base to back it up), you find yourself utterly unwilling, unable, to write a short story, let alone some shitty blogpost about how you are tired.

But that's finished now.  At least, for now.  I can't promise I won't get caught up in the 'just gotta get another fix' outlook that is low grade amateur racing.  Back on the bike, I can feel its allure, even after a month of very easy pedalling.  But, still, the spell has been broken.  With it, it seems, my old mindset has returned.  I'd almost forgotten it existed.  Where the SVOL me is focussed, willing to make sacrifices, dare I say...happier (this is complicated and would require a footnote in normal circumstances...I don't necessarily mean happier in it's pure sense, more in a 'life is simple' sense), the non SVOL me is a bit more erratic, much more creative or imaginative, and perhaps, a bit more up and down.  Take right now for instance.  I'm lying on the couch, under a blanket, eating a boiled potato.  It's cold and dark outside.  A year ago that would have meant 'holy shit it's getting late I better turn in for the (insert distance) ride tomorrow morning.  Now, I look out into the dark and see lots of different things: of my still latent kind-of-fear-of-the-dark, of my suspicion that the night is still kind of evil, that I am, in some fairly strong, metaphysical sense, entirely alone.  One thing is for sure.  None of my thoughts are SVOL related.  It's taken some time.  After a few months, the fatigue that I had accrued slowly lifted until, about a month and a half ago, I suddenly felt like my old self.  Switched on, brain connecting dots it once would have passed by in a haze, a sense that there was something stronger, something more to connect to in the world, beside just the sports bubble.

This is kind of a double edged sword.  On the one hand, I am reading a lot, writing a bit more, and generally feeling more involved with, I don't know, 'arty stuff'.  On the other there is a tendency for me to focus more on the dark outside the window.  But it's this kind of stuff that reminds me of when I was a kid/youngish adult.  That fear of darkness as a kid.  Like, pure darkness, where you can't see your hand in front of your face.  Bushes moving at night for reasons you're not certain of and care even less to investigate.  Strange, semi-autobiographical pieces of writing that teachers mark well, but also include a proviso: ie. what the hell are you on about?  In short, a slight sense of alienation from the rest of the world.  Not in a negative sense necessarily.  More in the way you view the world.  A slight removal from it.

SVOL means you are very much caught up in the HERE AND NOW of both the world and yourself.  You don't really have the time, or the mental facilities, to look outside and wonder about stuff.

But, here, right now, I am looking outside.  It's pitch dark and I can't see a thing.  And the wind is blowing.