Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 238: surf mania!

After yesterday's bout of initial Horse Camp Feeling (have I told you about Horse Camp Feeling? I can't remember. There's not time to explain this instant, but just know it involves getting a quivery bottom lip and wishing you could go home to Mummy), I decided to take the bull by the horns, and I signed up for a surfing lesson. This is, after all, the Cabo Surf Hotel I'm staying at, so I thought I'd better do some frickin surfing right? And oh mah Gahd I think I'm a little bit totally hooked. I had a very nice Mexican (I think - actually he could have been from anywhere that involves having an accent) surfing instructor called Daniel to show me the ropes, and I stood up several times for prolonged stretches of what I think could actually be classed as - wait for it - surfing. And now I want to be awesome at it (actually I don't care about being awesome as long as I can just do it!) and I want to surf every day! So I am going to surf every day. At least definitely every day this week.

Day 237: flying solo.

Today I left my happy Texan gang, with whom I have had such fun, and flew to Mexico on my ownsome. My cousin Charlotte is truly one of my soul buddies, and solid crew. We always have an awesome time together and it was sad to say goodbye. And now here I am, sitting in some kind of absolute paradise. Let me paint a picture: it is 7.30pm, a beautiful light evening. From where I'm sitting, on the balcony of my garden bungalow, the ocean looks almost mauve and small fishing boats are shining white in the sunlight. The air is warm, the ocean is crashing gently on the beach and on an outcrop of pretty rocks, and palm trees dot a large green lawn surrounded by a rock wall. Behind it there are dry, brown mountains. This is an amazing place to be. But I'm here alone. This year aloneness has been a theme. It has been the year I have chosen to do things that don't go with the flow, and that generally puts you out on your own limb. It has been a year that has found me in a life situation like none of my friends (single, without child, without mortgage) which has lent me a certain kind of freedom, but has forced me to walk a solo road. And so, here I am in a place that is just so great to be, but I am sharing it with no one, except you of course. The question I am tempted to ask is "why do I put myself in these situations?". But I don't think it's the right one. The real question is, "why has my life brought me here like this?". What is it about me, what I've done, where I'm going, how I behave that leads to me being here with a little lonely thought in my heart? Does it mean anything? Am I meant to learn something? Going to a holiday destination alone is not an obvious or clever choice for me, knowing me, as I do quite intimately. I do not make new friends easily because I'm a weird kind of shy (you probably wouldn't believe this if you knew or know me, but if you know me then we're already acquainted so the problem is removed). Let's rephrase that: I don't meet new people easily. Some people are pros at finding new pals. I'm not one of them. So I'm probably not the best candidate to be dropped into a sea of strangers. But circumstance meant I had to do it to myself. Literally no one else was in a position to come with me on this leg of the trip. And I'm damned if I'm going to just go home and not experience something this amazing, just because there was no one to come along and hold my hand. But it does mean I'm here alone when I'd much rather be here with at least another. Well, I don't know why I am such a loner right now, and I'm not sure if this little exercise will force me out of my shell, but I do know that this place is a little pocket of heaven. So maybe I should stop feeling sorry for myself, be a little more thankful, and just start soaking it all in.

Day 236: shlongs and swimming pools.

What is it about pool parties that makes dudes want to get their dick out? I seem to remember an unfortunate incident on a previous trip to the states, where a beloved gal pal looked up from partying in the pool to cop an eyeful of a gay black man helicoptering his wang around for anyone who cared (or didn't) to look. She was scarred for life. Thankfully my swimming pool shlong story is more hilarious than terrifying. It goes something like this. Austin, Texas is famous for its live music scene and shoulder to shoulder bars blasting band tunes. My host and hostess Ryan and Charlotte wanted to give me a taste of this awesome thriving scene, so on Saturday night (last night) we decided to go out and get amongst it. As I may have mentioned yesterday, Charlotte was in fact suffering from a bastard of a migraine so accompanied us to dinner, but left us to pursue the louder and later part of the night. Good decision that, because the night turned out to be rather large. It's kind of funny for a teetotaler to try and claim a large night out. I mean how big can a night be when you're drinking waters? Well, large for me means lots of dancing, staying out til 4.30 in the morning and seeing some crazy, hilarious shit. (And no, large has nothing to do with the offending male appendage, but more about that later.) We started our evening at a place called Beauty Bar, where an interesting collection of hip and who cares types were congregating in the humid night heat. The tunes of choice were mainly hip hop, which I could have gotten into, but didn't because we moved on. Next up was a walking tour of the main bar strip (was it Congress? Or 68th or something?), which was a long strip of street, closed off for partying and seriously rammed with bars blaring live music and spewing happy drinking revelers. It is here that during SXSW an unbelievable line up of cool bands play back to back, side by side, in a dream parade for music fans. It's also the kind of scene that would have been the best time ever if you were at college. Of course, I'm not at college, so didn't feel the need to dive into the fray on this occasion. As it happened we ended up at a place called Plush, a concrete floored, beat-up wooden barred, graffiti walled den playing cool funky tunes and full of laid back, music-appreciating booty shakers. It was fun. Austin people, I have decided, are the opposite of uptight. They are inclusive and cool in a different way to New Yorkers, but both groups have a similar idea: let people roll how they roll, and be happy. Or maybe it was just Ryan's crew that were like that. Whatever the case, it was a good vibe. So we danced, and we yelled conversation at each other, and Aaron invented the “holding the perimeter” dance move, which successfully gave us space to pull awesome moves, and all of a sudden it was 2.30am and the club was closing. Luckily Ryan and his pals knew the people running the place (or maybe they were running the place – it certainly seemed that way) so we could hang around for a bit. And then the pool idea came up. So off we went. And that is how I came to be sitting on the side of an awesome pool on the top of a building with about 30 other mentally but quite jovially wasted Texans swanning about. I felt like I’d been plopped in the middle of a college movie. Boys with beers stood in the water chatting (one who was an ex of mine’s total doppelganger - crazy, trippy shit), girls lounged poolside and whiffs of weed sauntered by occasionally. Oh yeah, and every single one of us had jumped the fence, which at the time seemed pretty hilarious. And then the dude got his dick out. It wasn’t in an exhibitionist way, more of an I’m wasted and I wanna get naked and go swimming kind of um, bent. And naked he got and swimming he went. Which would have been fine (kind of) if he hadn’t been doing all his undie stripping and in-pool jumping right next to me. As the girl beside me said (think Texan girl accent), “Oh my God I just saw a penis!”. I actually didn’t see a penis (at least not in all its full frontal “glory”), but was acutely aware (in my peripheral vision) of the wandering pool snake meandering ever closer to my dangling legs. In the end, when Mr Snakey’s owner approached to engage in some apparently idle chit chat (I think he was off his tits, judging by the speed at which he was babbling), I had to first angle my legs away, then withdraw them altogether to avoid any possibility of contact. It was all pretty funny really. Of course, he wasn’t the only one acting crazy. Another guy kept attempting to take a nap in the water, with his face half submerged on the step (he was actually quite successful). And who can blame them? If I had been drinking, I would have been straight in the pool, wearing as I was a bikini bottom under my dress. It would have mattered nil that I didn’t have a top. I would have been the bare boobed twin to our dude with dick out. And while it may seem like quite loose behaviour, thinking about it now, I’m not sure it would have been so bad. It would probably have been lots of fun. Which in fact it was anyway. Awesome, trippy, crazy, hilarious, Texan holiday fun.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 235: food so perfect it's puke worthy.

Okay, so I know it's ridiculous that I'm blogging about a supermarket, but today I found the nirvana of healthy food shopping experiences: Whole Foods Market. This American chain is just like any other supermarket, except that it kicks every single other one's arse in every single way. It's huge, it's FULL of every vegan, organic, biodynamic product you could ever desire or need, and it has a comprehensive cafe/food bar section where you can make or pick your own perfectly balanced lunch or dinner of just about any variety. I suppose this is one of the benefits humungo populations can enjoy. Today we went there and I made an awesome salad from the salad bar (including organic quinoa - what supermarket salad bar has quinoa??), bought an organic soy latte, some organic alcohol-free wine and some organic fair trade 70% cocoa chocolate. I felt like a sickeningly perfect, stupidly fashionable, healthy, happy angel with a good karma halo - which come to think of it, might have contributed to my cousin feeling the need to hurl into a bush in the car park. She said it was because of a migraine, but you just never know.

Day 234: tubin' on the lake.

You know sometimes when you just go, man my life is cool and I am having a radical time? Today was one of those days. Last night me Charlotte and Ryan drove to Austin, the city famous for an awesome live music scene, most notably the mega band festival South By South West (SXSW). Cambria jetted in from New York a little later. And today, our radical little crew boarded Ryan's friend Jamil's totally awesome boat for some luxurious jetting on Austin's Lake Travis. Talk about fun. Except for a short-lived and really quite entertaining comedy of errors as we tried to launch the boat, the whole day went off without a hitch. In fact, it was an extended joy ride of sunshine, cool lake swimming, drink sipping, chatting and lying back to soak up the glistening scenery. It was the bomb. Oh, and I was introduced to the thrills of speed boat tubing - where you get towed at speed behind the boat on an inflated tube by a rope. So freakin fun. Apparently though, this isn't the most popular kind of tubing in these parts. The real deal is when locals all bring their inflatable tubes and their floating chilly bins/eskies/igloos, tie the whole lot together, sit in the tubes and knock back beers and wines as they slowly float up the lake. I've seen photos of this phenomenon. It's mental. And it's obviously not one I could really get into at this stage, as without the beers and wines I'd just kinda be sitting there. Speaking of which, on our boat trip I did feel the odd pang for an ice cold brew (and the fun holiday vibe that comes with) as my companions sipped theirs. I also thought it would be nice to have a cool lad along to enjoy the effin cool ride that I was experiencing. But as our boat's sound system started pumping out The Doors' Let it Roll, necessitating an instant bout of bikini boogying, and as we ponied up for another lap of speed tubin', all my pangs and pinings evaporated on the summer breeze. I was really having far too much of an amazing time to worry about a thing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 233: not just oil barons and pick-up trucks.

Okay, so there are quite a lot of oil barons and pick-up trucks in Houston, Texas. But today on my wanderings in the FREAKIN INTENSE heat, I discovered another side to this city that I wasn't expecting: its artistic side. Apparently, and until now unbeknownst to me, Houston is strong in the arts. Today I went to a gallery that proved it. It was full of really cool 20th and 21st century art, including lots of Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, Rothko, Magritte, Cy Twombly, and a cool dude I only just discovered today, Maurizio Cattelan (I know, I'm a heathen). They also had a cool collection of ancient Greek, Roman and African art, and some New Zealand Maori carvings (which was a surprise), oh and these hilarious little figurines with enormous antlers from the iron age. (I liked them.) Admittedly, it was an oil baroness that funded this impressive collection, but it was nice to see oil being put to artistic use, instead of just being poured into the ocean.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 232: crazy weirdness.

Hokey dokey. Today I left New York City (sob) and flew to Houston to see my beloved cousin Charlotte and her totally awesome Texan fiance Ryan (Yay! Hi guys). Now, I have seen literally nothing of Houston yet, but in the two hours or so I've been here I've seen some weird shit. Mainly on TV actually. In New York I watched absolutely zero TV so the shit I saw today probably has nothing to do with Houston per se. I guess it's just that seeing an infomercial on a hair removal system called a "no!no!" where the chicks advertising it kept emphasising the fact you could take hair off your face (awesome! just what every girl's always wanted!), and then seeing an Oprah show where one seemingly normal family was in debt up to their eyeballs because they didn't do laundry and just bought new clothes all the time instead, and another family ate takeaways for every meal of the day exclusively off plastic plates with plastic cutlery and cups (and spent $700 a week on food and thousands on plates a year as a result), combined with the crazy billboards I saw driving from the airport, a seriously spaced out cab driver and the fact that I am writing this in the lobby of an enormous apartment building with giant, hot pink arm chairs and quite a large number of other glam decor adornments, and the Texan accents - take a breath. I just have a feeling I'm not in Kansas anymore Dorothy - I'm in Texas! (Is Kansas in Texas? Sorry, I'm a little geographically challenged in the brain department.) I wonder how teetotal veganism goes over in these parts... Well, I guess I'm about to find out.

Day 231: a confession.

It is my last day in my favourite city in the universe (that I know of, and apologies to all the other places that I also love - New York is just my town.), and I feel like it would be wrong of me to leave without fessing up about one teeny tiny thing. Do you remember when I said something about having eaten a Shake Shack Shroom burger and a chocolate frozen custard shake (still one of the most awesomely American and delicious eating moments this trip)? I totally understand if you don't. I don't expect my eating habits to stand out in your memory as unforgettables. However, something else happened just before I did all the shroom chomping and shake slurpin'. I think I may have gotten drunk. Not stupidly drunk. Not even actually drunk by any true measure of the word. But just a tinsy bit? Let me explain. After a heady day of various awesome New Yorky activities, I met the wonderful Cambria at a cool rooftop bar (the name of which is a number that continues to escape me) with amazing views of the Empire State building and the city in general. The drinks menu had a section called "On the wagon" which I took to mean non-alcoholic, an assumption supported by the generally lemonadey quality to all the drinks on the list. Neither me nor Cambria wanted boozey drinks so we both ordered delightful sounding Blueberry Lemonades. When they arrived they tasted kind of like you'd think they should, a little syrupy maybe, but mainly like blueberryish fizzy stuff. We were having a very pleasant time, so when we finished our first drinks, we ordered seconds. It was only as we were leaving that the weird, slightly socked between the eyes feeling started to register. And then I almost slipped down the stairs, and Cambria recalled having almost fallen off her stool. Were our drinks spiked? Or was that some seriously sugary blueberry syrup? We definitely felt a little loose. But the drinks were "on the wagon". What the? The only thing we could think of was that our friendly waitress, who had commented on our outfits and was being really palsy, had decided to flick us some surprise alcoholic freebies. Weirdly enough, Cambria and me as a combo do seem to inspire people to throw free alcohol at us, and even free food. Today at Balthazar, the awesome Soho institution of stylish, French, total New York coolness (if there can even be such a combination - of course there can! It's New York for Chrissakes!), the waiting staff gave us free Champagne and free dessert (berries and cream! I did eat the cream, I didn't drink the Champagne) for apparently no reason, except that I was late and our table wasn't ready the instant we arrived (go figure). It was lovely. Anyway, whatever the case, if there was alcohol in those Blueberry Lemonades (and I think there was), what does this mean for my mission? I wasn't looking to drink alcohol, but I'm pretty sure I did drink it. Does this wreck everything? Do I add another day on the end? Or do I just continue as normal, and acknowledge that you can't control everything all of the time? What do you think? I kind of feel like I didn't fall off the wagon, because it wasn't intentional. But I've gotta tell ya, walking around in the NY evening heat feeling just a tad tiddly did feel pretty freakin fun! Does that constitute a betrayal of my own sober convictions? I don't know, I don't know. I think what I'll do, and have been doing in fact, is just keep going. If you have an opinion on where all this leaves me, I'd be very happy to hear it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 230: following impulses.

Today I sponsored a child in Guatemala, bought four colours of nail polish, lip balm, skin products, presents for family, an iced green tea and a 60s vintage bass guitar. In that order. Don't ask me why I chose today to become a caring person who sponsors children (actually it was because the nice boy telling me about the whole thing was working out in the very hot sun all day and I just couldn't say no, to him or to the little girl with a very bleak future who I could help out for 20 bucks a month - yes he totally closed me, but I'm glad he did.). Oh and the bass guitar? Well that's easy: I'm a sucker for pretty things. And for bass guitars. And I've had it in mind for a while to maybe start a solo project that basically consists of me and my bass, and I really felt that to do that well, I needed more of a signature guitar. Now I have one. It's an Italian made Eko, built some time in the 60s, with a silver sparkle body and a leopard skin pickboard. Well not actual leopard skin, but close enough. What's more, buying this bass means I don't have to buy the $7,900 White Gretsche Falcon I had my eye on. Lucky that. And yes, if you think I've been a bit impulsive on all of this, you'd probably be right. Only I have a good feeling about the events of today, kind of like serendipity was on my side. Oh yeah, and did I mention I bought a bass guitar last time I was in NYC? It's becoming a bit of a tradition. That purchase was even more impulsive in fact, considering I didn't even play bass at the time. And you know what? It worked out fine.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 229: cruising the city.

The last few days have been pretty action packed, so today I found it necessary to sleep in. Going out all day every day tends to take it out of you, especially when you're negotiating the ever-zizzing island of Manhattan. When I finally did get myself up and out, it was pleasant just cruising the streets with only the vaguest of intentions to head uptown. It meant I could happen upon things and check them out, like I did when I discovered an African music Summer Stage concert happening in Central Park. I have found on this and previous trips that if ever I feel agitated, the best place to leg it to is Central Park. It's so green and calming and leafy and sort of soft and pleasant. Today it wasn't so much that I felt agitated, only that I was feeling the gap of my distant mates and family who, if they were here on a hot steamy day like this, would be the perfect crew for a pleasant New York style picnic in the park. It just kind of made me think about what's possible and what's not. I love this city and would dearly love to live here, but what would life be like without my favourite pals and fam? It would probably be possible for me to live here, but it wouldn't be possible for all those people I love to live here too. To worry about such scenarios, of course, is silly. And, seeing as my city cruising kept me out until nearly 10pm again (the time just zings by. One minute you're having lunch, the next it's time for bed.) I think a better idea than worrying might be to sleep on it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 228: biking in Brooklyn.

Today my new friend Cambria, who has been my amazing personal New York guide over the last couple of days, took me biking in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Hipsters on bikes in Williamsburg are so ubiquitous, it's no wonder the whole phenomenon has earned a somewhat cliched rep (as Cambria pointed out, some New Yorkers like to hate on hipsters). But there's a reason so many Billburg kids take the two-wheeled approach to transport: it's fuckin fun. Brooklyn, from my first look, boasts some really pretty parks and nice leafy avenues along which it is awesome to ride. Today was a beautiful sunny day with a light and pleasant breeze to cool us as we pedaled happily around. Our travels took us to a flea market where I bought bangles and brooches, down by the water where we took in those famous views of Manhattan across the river, and then along the main drag which was littered with interesting stores and thronging with the relaxed and happy hip. It was a great day. Even my stepping up to my ankle in freshly laid wet cement didn't get me down. In fact it was a hilarious and crazy experience. And there were two good natured and helpful mechanics across the road in their yard who promptly assisted me in hosing the concrete off my shoe. Beautiful. But that's something I am noticing with New Yorkers, or many of them. They are good natured and helpful. They happily and naturally talk to people they don't know, and assist them if they can. Bizzarely, for a city this size, they seem to be more trusting of each other than maybe people are in some smaller places. I mean, even the bike I was riding we borrowed off a friend of Cambria's friend who didn't know us from Jack, and the bike turned out to belong to his flat-mate. They had no idea who we actually were, but they were still happy to lend their bike. Nice. Kind of like Brooklyn from what I could tell; nice and relaxed and open to whatever.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 224, 5, 6 and 7: the vortex of time.

What does that even mean? I'm not sure it means a lot. But then again it does. First, at least, it's my way of saying that over the last four (?!) days I haven't known what or who or where I am. Firstly I flew for two solid Wednesdays in a row. (Somewhere in between Wednesday and Wednesday I appreciated for the first time in my life that hell might not be all flaming coals and bottom burns, but rather a scuzzy beige airport departures lounge, where the planes never leave, the only food is bad Mexican, and jet-lag shudders are your best entertainment.) Then I arrived at a hotel so cool I was almost too intimidated to walk through the yellow front revolving door (actually the main thing stopping me going in was two hipsters taking crazy photos through the yellow glass. They were finding it very funny. You get that, apparently.) And then I was sucked into a world where sitting down to dinner at 11pm is normal, where my body clock is all over the shop, my orientation is seriously fucked, and I am truly an alien. New York is an amazing and majestic animal. It is at once unbelievably inspiring and terrifying. There seems to be a sense at all times that it could either lift you to incredible and dizzying heights, or swallow you whole and spit you out half mangled somewhere in Jersey. There is something about this city that asks you what you're made of. So what am I made of? Apart from one seriously delicious Shake Shack Shroom Burger and a frozen custard chocolate shake (it has been necessary for survival and enjoyment to relax my militant veganism to include the occasional bout of vegetarianism. Cheesy dishes abound in this fair land, and frozen custard shakes are something no human should ever be made to sacrifice.) I am an uncomfortable mix of tough guts and jelly belly, stand out and don't belong, confident accomplishment and debilitating fear. I am a fish out of water, pulled from my usual environment, gasping in my new air. And I'm not sure if the new air is good for me, only that it is seriously assaulting my senses. As I said, I don't know what I am here. But then again what is anyone without their people and their context? What do we mean simply as individuals? Last time I was here, my cousin Charlotte lived here, which gave me a grounding touch-point; a sense of who I am and where I come from. This trip, all of that me-ness is only contained in my head, body and what I project. And I haven't formed a proper opinion of what me means when surrounded by the intense this-ness of this place. At this point my clothes are probably the closest thing to any point of reference; I suppose I don't feel meaningful in this town yet. But what does it take to be meaningful here (anywhere in fact)? Well let's talk about ambition for a minute. Because if anything is alive in the air here, it's a desire to be someone, do something, get somewhere. This town with its enormous possibilities, invites you to rise to the occasion; to become one of those who can access every exhilarating morsel of above averageness and sensational experience that is on offer here. But that invitation is confronting. To be able to survive and thrive here, I get the feeling you need balls of steel, the ability to hustle like a pro, and yet a relaxed and happy confidence in your own uniqueness - in your own way. For a soft little kiwi lass from Sydney, all of this is quite a lot to take in one potent gulp. And it's quite a big ask. But as with not drinking for a year, and giving up animals as fodder, and continuing to try to (ahem) be a rock star, I am not this year, in the habit of shying away from the big ask. I am more about looking it straight in the muthafrickin face (you lookin at me? Are you lookin at me?). So New York City, you desirable, scary, gorgeous and intoxicating woman, let's tango lady.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 223: pack, eat, download.

Today all I did was pack, eat, and download music. Oh, and watch Project Runway. And I talked to my Dad, which I always enjoy, and he wished me safe travels and told me to keep my wits about me, which hopefully I should be able to do more effectively for lack of alcohol. I'm pretty freakin' excited about this trip. And now I really need to catch some zeds.

Day 222: a perfect Sunday.

Ah what a lovely day I have just had. It started with a jog with one brother (the other slept in), followed by a very delicious soy latte from a shop where the pleasantly accented barista was both pleasing to the eye and pleasingly interested in veganism (the things I get off on these days. Veganism? Really?). Then I took care of some pressing pre-holiday tasks (I always leave everything to the last minute and am quietly freaking out! Not really, but sort of.) and then I went to my sister's house for an absolutely perfect Sunday lunch. Dean, her husband, had cooked a delectable and wholesome spread of rustic vegetable soup (a really yummy herby broth with whole baby carrots, pumpkin, baby peeled potatoes etc in it), barbeque chicken wings (which I didn't taste, but which were a hit with the rest of the table), fresh corn on the cob and warm crusty bread rolls. And the whole family, including all my brothers and sisters and sisters-and-brothers-in-law and nieces and nephew all sat up around the table, and it was great. I also drank some of my other bottle of fake wine - a white this time - and while it certainly didn't taste like the real thing, it did taste more adult than orange juice and not nearly as sweet as some of the fake bubblies I've tried. So yes, a beautiful day of family and food and fun and almost wine. The perfect relaxing and rejuvenating occasion to fuel my cylinders before I jet out for three weeks of waahoo!

Day 221: flustered.

Today I discovered that I had been paid less than usual, due most likely to some kind of mix-up around my leave entitlements. I say "mix-up" at this point because I am giving our payroll guy the benefit of the doubt - that he is not a dodgy bastard and simply made a genuine mistake. If he gives me trouble about it, I will revert immediately to the former description and put him permanently in the category of fuckwit. Apologies, that's probably a little strong, but screwing with people's pay at any time is shitty behaviour, especially when a person is about to embark on an enormous holiday overseas. In my case it put me in a momentary state of extremely flustered. It wasn't that the amount of cash was going to wreck everything, only that it put all my calculations out of whack and put a disorganised, out-of-control spin on proceedings. It's not what you need when you're about to step into the generally unknown territory that is other countries. Anyway, after scittering around for half an hour like a startled chicken, I stopped, took some deep breaths and got on with all the holiday prep stuff I had to do anyway. Like buying a digital camera and a new iPod, and washing every t-shirt, knicker and sock I have ever owned. Important stuff. And then because I really needed it by this point, I went to yoga and did probably my dizziest class yet (that's what flustering will do for you). But now, thankfully, I am finally calm again, and I'm off to Ben's house to watch some rugby and drink some more of my fake red wine.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 220: fake wine.

It has been another quite mind-boggling week, so tonight I went home, pulled the cork on a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, poured myself a glass and drank it. I'm not kidding. I actually did what I just said I did. It was a 2007 bottle from the Nappa Valley, California, organic, vegan and sulphite free. And it tasted very much like the wine I used to know so well. Because it was wine. Wine with no alcohol in it. Sorry. That was quite a lame little build up. Forgive me. This is the closest I've come to drinking wine in 220 days. I couldn't let the moment pass without letting you think for at least a minute that I'd lost my sober nerve and fallen sort of not very dramatically off the wagon. As it happened in fact, my not falling off the wagon was doubly lame, in that I didn't actually fall off at all and that I only drank one glass of my non-alcoholic tipple. I exercised moderation in the thick of continued sobriety. Radical. Because what I think I discovered is that wine isn't very more-ish when it doesn't have alcohol in it. Weirdly enough, when you take the addictive stuff out of it, it kind of loses its um, appeal? This fake wine though, could serve a purpose. It definitely smelled like wine, and the flavour was just a touch more grapey than the boozy variety. But having it in a wine glass along with the other people in my house drinking their real stuff, I did feel a lot more like one of the gang. And if you didn't want to drink at a party, this would be a pretty awesome way of doing it undercover. So by all means give it a whirl if you're so inclined. When I bought the red I also bought a white, which has apparently won a Gold medal against other whites with alcohol in. I might try that one tomorrow. Woo. I can hardly wait.

Day 219: hooray, not hooray.

Today I proved I am not just a stupid girl when it comes to recording software and usb interfaces, and that I actually might know what I'm talking about sometimes. Hooray. However, I proved this through my discovery at the music shop that the usb interface I bought was faulty and not working. Not hooray. But then the nice boy at the shop offered me an upgrade to a better box at no extra cost. Hooray! But then there were none in stock and new ones weren't coming in for a week. Not hooray. And then it occurred to me that I'm going away on holiday for three weeks. Hooraaaaaaaay! So I wouldn't have been recording anyway. Which isn't really a not hooray, it's just a fact of life. So yes, I have solved my mic problem, and it wasn't just me being stupid, but I'm no further down the recording path than I was three weeks ago, and won't be any further in another three weeks. But somehow I still feel like I've made some progress. I guess it's that I persevered even when it was depressing and tedious as all hell, and in the end I got an answer. And I've discovered and understood a few extra little things about my computer and the software and all that crap that I didn't know before. So like I said, I'm ant-steppin' along. Hooray.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 218: icy winds and vocal progress.

The evening air outside tonight is really cold for Sydney. It's made me think I may have to wear a coat tomorrow (remember most of the time in these parts thongs are acceptable footwear, and the difference between summer and winter is a singlet or a jacket over the singlet.) Lucky I'm going to New York in a week. Too much coat wearing could have gotten very tiring. It's actually just occurred to me that I have a lot to do before I take off, and not a lot of spare time in which to do it. But enough about that. Despite myriad pressing tasks, I have managed to get back on track with my vocal exercises, and I think I'm finding a new place in my voice that sort of wasn't there before. It's giving me ideas about a possible new vocal style and musical direction for a group. So that's good. At least it makes me feel a tiny bit better about not having made it to the music shop today to talk mics, computers and usb interfaces with the tech boys there (I will conquer this mic problem if it kills me). Maybe tomorrow I will brave the icy winds (in my coat) and see if I can't make another tiny bit of progress. Not so much baby steps. More in the zone of an ant.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 217: yoga and animals.

I'll try and keep this brief, because I know I'm always banging on about yoga and how effing great it is. It is, of course, effing great, and I proved that to myself again this morning when I did a class for the first time in what feels like a million years (actually a week, but same diff). I said the other day that surely all the changes I have seen in myself lately couldn't just be attributed to my not drinking. I think yoga might have quite a lot to answer for. And in the interests of brevity, that's all I'll say for now. (Except maybe give the hot room a try if you haven't already. It might change your life.) And on animals? As a very new vegan, I don't feel qualified to launch into any kind of ear-bashing on not eating our feathered, finned and four-legged friends. However, having just finished a very good book on the subject, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, I feel it would be remiss of me not to suggest you read it too. This is not a book by a militant hippie or stunt pulling PETA activist. Safran Foer is a successful novelist who started looking into how food was being produced when faced with the task of feeding his first born son. He just wanted to be a responsible parent. And as responsible human beings, I think it's fair that if we want to eat certain things, we at least know how they came to be on our plate. Yes? So yeah, read the book, do some yoga, do whatever you want and most of all, have a good time. Tune in tomorrow for more profound statements from your local teetotal...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 216: how many humps?

Remember a couple of weeks ago, when I said no more fucking around on the music front? Well, I haven't been fucking around. I've been taking positive action to get something new happening, doing my singing practice, writing new songs, playing my bass. Then I got sick and had to stop singing for a while. And then I got stopped in my tracks by a mic recording issue that is probably tiny but that I cannot seem to solve. This hasn't deterred me, and I have made arrangements for Ben to come and have a look at what I'm doing (he knows more about these things than me), but it has caused me to wonder, just how many frickin humps must I get over before I get anywhere musically? As you know, I have been on the band and music road for a long time now in various guises. Some phases have worked more easily than others. Along the way there have been some tantalisingly close brushes with real success. But the situation I'm in right now is that I am flying decidedly solo and finding it freaking hard to drag my sack of tunes up the mountainside. Recently Ben, my former drummer, stepped into a fully formed, oft playing band poised for international touring and success. That's the kind of ease I'm talking about. That's how things that are meant to happen happen right? Or maybe they never happen that way, and Ben has just received a perfectly packaged miracle in the post. I don't know. What I do know is that his lucky turn has left me short of a drummer. I don't feel any resentment about it, it's just a practicality that needs looking at. One small consolation is that my voice seems to be getting better. I'm finding new places in it I didn't have before. Notes are coming out stronger and clearer at least in some areas of my range, and this is all good. My latest thought (like I literally had it about an hour and a half ago) is that I need to start a new band. I don't know if Ben will have time to be in two bands (judging by his current schedule) so this means I might have to start a band with entirely new people. You want humps? That's a whole heap right there. Psychological ones, practical ones, musical ones, financial ones. I just feel like I've put so much of my life into music and bands that I cannot walk away until I have produced something decent. I would like things to be easier than they are right now, but there's something in me that just refuses to give up until I get this thing across the line. I just wish there was a little less thinking and lamenting going on, and a little more actually happening. Oh well, if I'm going to get anywhere, there's nothing else to do but take it one hump at a time.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 215: a baby!

My best friend Jane in New Zealand has given birth to a beautiful little boy called Arlo. How to celebrate? With Champagne of course! And no, don't worry, I will not be drinking it. I will simply be sending my very good pal a bottle of my favourite French, so the new parents can toast the health of their new arrival. I always find the bringing into the world of fresh, new humans completely amazing, but this one in particular gives me pause for thought. Jane is the first in our old group of high school and university friends to have a child. It marks a step into a new zone, from a kind of extended childhood into adulthood for real. For Janie it will be some kind of transformation no doubt. And meanwhile, over here I am undergoing my own little transformation, if quite a self-centred and probably therefore quite an infantile one. So far on this journey, I have changed from a burger-munching booze hound suffering from chronic unhappiness and dissatisfaction, to a vegan teetotaler, generally pleased and entertained with much if not all that goes on around me. Surely all that has changed cannot be credited to not drinking? But not drinking was certainly the trigger. Well, I do not know how this will all end up, or where I will find myself on day 365. And for now that's enough about me. There is a baby boy who has newly entered this world, so welcome Arlo. I wish you the best of health and the best of luck on your travels through this extremely interesting thing we call life.

Day 214: tea and therapy.

Today I went to another crafternoon. This time it was at a totally cool cafe in Newtown called Coffee and Yarn that actually has knitting needles, patterns and even half done knitting sitting in little boxes on the tables. You can literally come in, order lunch or coffee, pick up some knitting and do a bit, then put it back down when it's time to leave. Could there be a venue more suited to our crafty purposes? I think not. Now I know that meeting up to knit and crochet and sew stuff really does have the whiff of nerd about it. But I couldn't give a rat's. It's not nerdy, it's awesome. Here's why. Firstly, crafting things for the sake of crafting things (and maybe because you want to make someone a little present or something useful) is incredibly satisfying. You start with what looks like nothing (a long string of wool or some scraps of material) and you turn it into something cute or cool or funny. It's creative. It's fulfilling. Second, doing something that is mainly handwork, puts your brain into a special free-to-think-but-not-free-enough-to-fixate-on-thoughts state. Your brain kind of calmly works through issues while your body concentrates on stitching or whatever. It's almost meditative. And then there's the chatting, which is the particular charm of the crafternoon model. Just making stuff on your own is therapeutic in itself, but making stuff with a gaggle of cool girls to talk to is the kind of therapy you just can't buy. You see chatting is how girls work their shit out. It's how we reconcile ourselves with the craziness that is our lives. It's how we find out we're not the only person in the world who feels frazzled or freaked out or silly or at a loss (or excited and happy and in love with everyone and everything, as the case may be). Am I wrong? So today, in between stitching and knitting and sipping coffees and teas, we aired our troubles, our fun plans, our frustrations, our funny stories. And at the end of it (and during it too) I felt great. I couldn't have designed a more pleasant afternoon. In fact, I was so enthused with the whole thing, I went and spent 27 bucks on one packet of tea. Expensive? Maybe. But then again, good therapy has never come cheap.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 213: no room at the inn.

Today we bid a longstanding employee farewell. A good chick, she was moving on to explore other things, and as is customary in these parts, the farewell began with lunch at the pub. By now I am extremely comfortable with being in alcohol-centric environments, and have no fear of feeling tempted to drink. But for me, this public house was not a good fit. Firstly it was a real pub's pub (whatever that means). It was rammed with blokes sculling down schooners and inhaling steaks or schnitzels and chips. Yes actually, let's talk about the menu. In an offering of maybe 25 or more mains and sides, there was not one thing I could eat. There was one vegetarian option, but it came in a buttery sauce. Or I could have lunched on hot chips, presuming they weren't cooked in animal fat. Well if I will eat like a healthy weirdo. I didn't order anything and I really found it hard to stick around for long. Oh my God I'm sounding like such a party pooper. But the reality is, if you're not drinking and you can't even eat anything, a pub full of drinking, steak-eating people doesn't hold a lot of appeal. I did have a couple of nice conversations, but after those it just felt like with no schooners, Sauv Bs or Shiraz to sink, I could probably be doing better things with my time. I guess for the time being, I'm just not a lunchtime pub-going kind of gal. And judging by how packed it was in there today, I'm sure the other patrons won't mind the extra space one bit.

Day 212: will I or won't I?

In general, when people find out about my little sober journey, what follows is speculation about what will happen when I return to the land of grog. My party line tends to go something like, I've kicked the binge-drinking thing, I don't want to be teetotal forever, but when I do start drinking again it will be in a limited and sophisticated fashion. But the reality is, I don't know what's going to happen. If history tells us anything, it's that I don't do things by halves. And just lately I have been getting little vision flashes of the fun that can be an unbridled party afternoon or evening - the long boozy barbeque, wines in the sunshine, dinner parties that last all night. It's like my brain has been giving me little tastes of what I used to like about drinking - that sense of relaxed freedom and zizzy fun. Of course, this might be my head rebelling against my current state of purity (let's not forget I am a woman of polar extremes), and even admitting these kinds of impulses makes me feel like a traitor to my clean, happy body. But there is every chance that I might taste alcohol again and tumble speedily back into my evil ways of old. Of course, another possibility is that I will be such an alcohol lightweight by that time, that a long drinking session will be physically impossible. Who knows? And actually, at this point, who cares? With 153 days to go, there's plenty more water to pass under the bridge before we start worrying about tidal waves of wine.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day 211: vegetable soup.

Work has been a little hectic this week, but this evening I found myself quite miraculously at home at a reasonable hour. Usually, if I wasn't working, I would be exercising of an evening, but because I have the cold that won't quit and a nose I can't breathe through, yoga-ing or jogging in the night air were not options. Neither was singing practice because of my current squeak-voice. And so a glorious expanse of early night time stretched before me. I decided to make vegetable soup. At the beginning of this week I ordered a box of organic fruit and veg online. On Monday evening it arrived, packed with more food than I could poke a stick at (or, more correctly, fit in the fridge). So all week I have been doing my darnedest to plough through my mountain of silver beet, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, etc. Lucky I like my greens (oranges, reds...). Tonight's soup deftly and deliciously took care of what had been a worrying quantity of vegetables, and some even more worrying tempeh whose ruthlessly earthy flavour it successfully masked. It was also exactly the wholesome and relaxing task I needed to make me feel like a happy humanoid again. And now I have megahealthy soup for at least a couple of lunches. You never know, packed as it is with organic awesomeness, it might just help me clamber out of cold land and breathe freely through my nasal passages once more.

Day 210: freedom through restriction.

Shall we add another contradiction to my ever-growing list of personality weirdnesses? Here's one: I believe I have discovered a source of personal freedom in what might seem to be its polar opposite - restriction. Recently, as you know, I have taken the leafy and vegetable festooned path of veganism. Despite expectations to the contrary, I have found this highly restrictive diet to be a very easy adjustment and really not painful at all. Indeed, as I've said, I would even go so far as to claim the restrictiveness has actually given me a new sense of freedom. How could this possibly be? Well. I have realised through recent observation, that "regular" eating, while seemingly free, comes with its own set of restrictions - although quite different ones. I have noticed that normal eating and drinking comes with a very special set of can'ts, namely all the things you can't possibly do without. People, for example, can't give up chocolate, can't give up cake, can't give up meat, can't give up cheese and can't give up alcohol. Even if consuming these things might a) contribute to ongoing weight issues and unhappiness with the state of one's body, b) make you ill, c) be bad for the planet, many humans do not feel powerful enough to shake them off. Ironically, the "freedom" to eat whatever, becomes some kind of psychological (or otherwise) addiction, trapping people in other undesirable predicaments. Through my non-drinking, and now veganism, I have realised that I am entirely free to choose what goes in my body; I do not accept the can'ts of others as the necessary can'ts of my own; I am the master of my domain. Hilariously, since this realisation dawned on me today, I have been sent a hail of food freedom tests. In four meetings in a row at work I was offered 1) a chocolate brownie 2) a box of butter shortbread cookies 3) Natural Fruit Co. lollies (delicious things) and 4) wait for it, no less than 20 pizzas accompanied by beer, wine and soda pop. But while in the past "I can't resist pizza" could have spilled easily out of my mouth, today I say "yes I can. I can do anything I bloody well like". So you see, what may have started as a restriction, is actually a freedom. I have opened myself up to the possibility of not eating meat and not drinking alcohol, instead of just blindly accepting that humans cannot live without these things. It's a choice I have given myself, rather than one I have taken away. And if I can apply this thinking to what I eat and drink, surely I can apply it to other things too. What other possibilities have I closed off just through accepting the status quo? If there's one thing people are always saying, it's that you can't be serious about being a rock star. Are there other can'ts like this I am applying to myself? Like you can't have a band without a guitarist and a drummer? Is it actually the case that the things I feel are hampering me, might actually set me free? Maybe it's time I free myself up a little, and start looking at things from the downside up.