Tag Archives: writing
In the swift whirl of time music is a constant, reminding us of what we were and of that toward which we aspire. Art thou troubled? Music will not only calm, it will ennoble thee.
—Ralph Ellison, Living With Music
I have been acquainting myself with my small vinyl collection of Jean-Luc Ponty this week. Of the four albums of his that I own, I had previously only listened to one of them, and that was many years ago. His name had entered my radar sometime in my early twenties, in the fledgling phase of what would become a lasting affair with the music of Frank Zappa, and so, each time I spotted a Jean-Luc Ponty album I would diligently add it to my collection, assuming that one day I would fully appreciate his music without the psychological support of Frank Zappa’s presence.
If music has ennobled me, and I believe it has, it has nevertheless failed to equip me with the vocabulary to write about music. I have wanted for days to write you a poem about John McLaughlin’s Lotus Feet performed here with Jean-Luc Ponty and Zakir Hussain, but my desire to share the music and video has overwhelmed my patience. I will keep working on the poem, but in the meantime I would like simply to direct your gaze toward the radiance of John McLaughlin’s smile. If there is one thing I truly aspire to, it is to learn how to smile like that, again. Also, the music is painfully sublime:)
1. Power mimics nature: power is a technology, and technology imitates nature. This is why the presenter on the left is the senior of the two.
2. Sensation is the unshakable self-assurance of matter; or a whatchamacallit is the permanent possibility of a thingamabob.
2.1. I know what it is but for the life of me I can’t recall it. A? No. B? No. C? No. d… e… f…
3. Certain kinds of caterpillars leave a thread of silk behind for others of their kind to follow.
4. Slow shutter bokeh shows sapphire skyglow subtly streaming through leaves.
5. The little hummingbird-like bird that fed here yesterday hasn’t returned since, and won’t return today: little birds don’t venture outdoors at this hour.
6. It’s too late to wait for the world to change now. There’s not been a hint of a breeze for three days. Let’s have a looksee at what can be done here to change it.
This is a reblog of a post dating back to January 2011. Thanks to the National Library of Australia and the awesome Trove database, I finally found some actual newspaper evidence to support my show and tell story!
Indian Pacific train derailed
I see now that I got the month of derailment wrong (’twas January, not March), the train was going in the opposite direction to how I remembered it, and there is thus an undisclosed gap of a school year between the ‘last service centre’ and the Red Rattler back to Sydney. I wonder how many of my other distant memories are travelling in the wrong direction.
From what I can piece back together, it must be
March Jan of ’78. The Indian Pacific Express from Broken Hill to Sydney Sydney to Broken Hill has been delayed at Parkes. Major flooding is threatening the stability of the main line between Parkes and Orange.
The driver probably announces that he is taking an alternate line to
Sydney Broken Hill. It’s not the only explanation I can imagine for the story that develops later, but it makes sense.
The Indian Pacific Express is pushing through floodwaters. A 9 year old boy has dozed off with a can of soft drink cradled in his lap. The excitement hasn’t worn off, but it’s worn him out.
The boy is jolted awake. He is leaning into the window, or perhaps he is leaning into his mother’s shoulder. He can’t remember all of the details. He remembers the soft drink soaking his front.
The luggage has been thrown out from the overhead compartments and is strewn throughout the cabin. No one has been clobbered by it. Mum’s solid-steel make-up case has landed in an empty seat.
Water is rushing past the window on my side. The other side is pointing at the sky. People must be feeling safe enough. I can hear them laughing and chatting.
“I just moved from that seat to play cards with my mates back here,” the man from the empty seat tells my Mother.
“A woman was just walking through to the next carriage when we went over,” says another. “I hope she wasn’t still out there.”
I think it must be getting dark. We are staying where we are. I don’t know what’s happening outside the train. I don’t think anyone has come to rescue us.
We sleep on our sides through the night. Buses come in the morning to pick us up.
It is a long walk through the water to the buses up on the hill. It is a long drive through the water. Cattle are drowned and floating in the water outside the bus. I think maybe one bumps against the bus. I remember the dead cows. They are mostly black and white, and they are dead.
We have left the last service centre. I think it was an Oaks. I had a milkshake while I was there and now I am vomiting into a plastic bag on the bus. The bus stops and I am let outside to vomit in the mud.
Now we are on a train again. It is a Red Rattler and it is taking us to Sydney Central. It is very hot inside and the seats are hard and everything is rattling. I can see Dad there now on the train. I can’t see him until then. Maybe he came to meet us? I don’t know, but he is not very happy. He is annoyed and uncomfortable, and none of us are talking.
I am back at school. It is my turn for show and tell. I explain how the water washed under the tracks and lifted the sleepers. I explain how the line buckled and twisted and threw the train onto its side. I explain how the driver was given a choice to stay at Parkes or to go ahead and that he chose to go ahead on the other line. I explain how if we had gone on the main line, we probably would have been worse off.
Some of the boys and the girls in the class start laughing and telling me I am lying. Train tracks can’t buckle or twist! Sleepers can’t get washed out of the ground!
I start to get teary and angry. The teacher tells me I am lying and tells me to sit down. I demand that it is true. The teacher is annoyed now and is making me sit down.
“Your turn is over, Brad. It is a good story but that is not what show and tell is for.”
As a child, my pencil and crayon drawings were very formulaic. I would typically start with a mountain range and then build a house at the base of it. The house would consist of a square and a rectangle beside each other, a triangle on top of the square, and a parallelogram on the rectangle. The square was where the door went, and two windows went in the rectangle. Around the house I would draw some trees, grass tufts and flowers. Then I would put some birds in the sky and finish it off with a ball of sun in the top right corner with nice straight rays of light pointing at the house.
With this memory in mind, and with my 47th birthday approaching next week, I have reconstructed one of my children’s drawings from a few items I found at hand. The result is a bit puzzling to mind, which insists on decoding the whole process and psychoanalyzing myself.
I figure I have either lost my childhood innocence, or I have regained my sense of youthful playfulness. Can both of those things exist together?
Next Saturday I will have been completely alcohol free for a year. I’ve lost 26 kilograms, regained a love for my life, and people who see me regularly are saying nice things about how well I’m looking. I’ve even reduced my tobacco usage by $200 a month.
If there’s a downside to recovering from manic depression (let’s just call it that and be done with it) and accepting the results of all the associated weird public behaviour that I’ve been responsible for during the last 5 years, it’s the awareness that I knew exactly what I was doing, even when I was drinking a full 1 litre bottle of whisky each weeknight and passing out in the laundry after vomiting in the wash tub. In fact, when I inspected this house I am renting there were two deciding factors that led me to apply for tenancy. Firstly, the undercover outdoor area where I could smoke and drink while reading and blogging. Secondly, the large metal wash basin in the laundry for me to vomit into and wash away the mess without too much fuss.
There was no particular reason for me embarking on the challenge of straightening my life up. I wasn’t dissuaded, for example, when I knocked three front teeth loose after one particular passing out event in the laundry. I simply grew tired of the fact that my body wouldn’t give in and give up my ghost. I kept waking up every morning and arriving early for work, and doing my work well, and leading an apparently normal life among my workmates. I didn’t try to make friends with anyone at work, and when people tried to be friendly with me I did my best to be polite and professional while remaining distant. I would even refuse Friday arvo beers and snacks.
There is no doubt a much longer story I could reveal here. If I were to continue on from here I would pause to quote Edward Dahlberg…
“When one realises that his life is worthless, he either commits suicide or travels.”
then I would counter it by noting that, while my initial response upon reading that quote recently was one of absolute agreement, I have found on further reflection upon my own experience that it’s quite possible to balance suicidal behaviour with travel. But to go any further from here I would need to explain how the kind of suicidal behaviour I was engaged in is equivalent to ‘committing’ suicide in the manner that Edward Dahlberg meant it. Frankly, I don’t want to go any further with it. I’ve moved on, and I don’t feel there’s anything more to be gained from dwelling on it. Nothing to be gained for me, and nothing more to be gained for anyone else.
I had a piece of furniture delivered today. Then I went out and bought a TV and a DVD player to put on it. It’s the first time in 5 years that I’ve allowed myself to buy anything that might pin me down to one place and dare me to call it my home. Soon I will buy a bed frame and stop sleeping on a mattress on the floor. I will still be traveling, but probably less often and not so far away from home.
Way back in August of 2010 I bought a bromeliad for company. It was very much a pup at the time. 6 months later I sent it away to live with my parents, and I spent the next couple of years living in the bush with my car and a tent.
Fast forward to August of 2014 that little pup had had many more pups, was flowering in two places, and despite having seemingly run out of room was immaculate green through and through. I reclaimed it and brought it back home.
It was happy enough for a while. I started researching methods online for separating the pups since I was feeling bad about it being so cramped. None of the online methods left me feeling truly confident that I could separate them without doing irreversible harm, so I kept putting it off.
One fateful mid-summer morning I tenderly placed it out in the yard for some sunshine before going to work and proceeded to forget about it for a few days, since it was so hot at the ends of the days the only thing on my mind was to turn the air conditioner on and lock myself inside. When I finally thought to bring it back in, half of the leaves had burnt dry.
I was devastated, but over the last few months it has bounced back and started to shoot out more pups. Given that it’s just turned to winter down under, now’s not the ideal time to be re-potting but I couldn’t bear leaving it any longer, what with all the worry about how the new pups would fit in to that twee little pot.
Less than $20 worth of potting mix and plastic pots later, and only one spider to find a way under my collar!, I’m feeling much better. I hope they are too. Wish them a comfortable winter. It would be a delight if August 2015 brings more flowers.