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When I told several Sydney-based friends I would be living in Newtown when I arrived in the New South Wales capital, they gave verbatim responses about how I would find it.
“Newtown’s pretty out there,” one told me as I packed up my life in south-west Queensland.
“It’s different but I think you’re gonna fit right in.”
I wasn’t sure how to take the comment at the time, but ever since my maiden stroll down King Street almost three weeks ago, it now makes sense: Newtown is a place you really can come as you are.
In 1992, I was an angst-ridden, overachieving 11-year-old. Like thousands of others, I honestly believed a subdued Kurt Cobain was singing about my life when he slurred the lyrics of “Come as You Are”. At the time, I thought it was my personalised theme song. I was wrong. The song is a musical tribute to the inner-west suburb in which I currently reside.
At a cursory glance, Newtown strikes you as a place where downtrodden creative types come to escape the judging stare of the real world. In the past week alone, I’ve spoken to two unemployed journalists, a musician preparing to busk her way to dinner and a dishevelled, 50-something writer who has been working on a manuscript since 2002. Everyone here has a story, from the well-dressed corporate type frantically hailing a bus, to the barefoot bohemian couple who seem to be celebrating a 46-year Summer of Love as they walk their Labrador.
It doesn’t matter what you look like, how you dress or how oddly you behave here – the grand Lady Newtown has seen it all before on her bustling main thoroughfares and narrow, terrace-lined backstreets. She won’t judge you and, because of her unique allure, neither will the people who call her ample, culture-filled bosom home. If you don’t believe me, just ask the bearded, tutu-wearing guy who was sobbing hysterically on King Street last Saturday.
Even the non-human aspect of Newtown is a multifarious mix of calm and chaos. As I write this from the relative silence of my courtyard, it’s hard to believe the lights, sounds and manic pace of Enmore Road are only 200 metres from here. Only the constant, near-deafening whine of descending planes overhead reminds me I’m sharing a city with almost five million people.
To me, it’s Newtown’s ability to offer both solitude and a strange sense of community and belonging that makes it so appealing. You can walk along the street wearing flippers and a tin-foil hat if you want to, safe in the knowledge you’ll retain relative anonymity.
Despite offering an eclectic range of cafes, restaurants and stores, as well as a vibrant lifestyle that is probably unmatched anywhere else in Sydney, the real lure of this historic suburb is that it provides a venue for people from every corner of the globe to listen to Cobain sing their personal theme song.
Within the invisible, council-determined boundaries of Newtown, you can be anyone you want to be, even if you aren’t sure who that is.
Just don’t try to be anyone you know you aren’t. If you do, the eccentric, welcoming old dame will eat you alive.
Today’s The Dissemination of Thought piece is the result of an unusual combination of writer’s block, laziness and a simple yet incredibly amusing blog post I read last week. More specifically, it was this piece from Miranda Ryan of The Naked Envelope fame.
The concept is simple. It’s a blow-by-blow account of how she spent a day in her life. Nothing overly exciting happened to her on during the 24-hour period but it was fascinating to see how someone can make the seemingly mundane entertaining by just looking closely and taking notice of what goes on around them.
I’ve decided to follow suit. I want to be able to sit back and reflect on how much time I actually waste in a normal day. Hopefully, you’ll find my minute-by-minute account of June 25, 2012 at least slightly engrossing.
6:21am – Open my eyes and try to figure out what day it is. When I determine it’s Monday, I contemplate staying in bed all day and wonder whether I’ll be missed in the newsroom.
6:22am – Ask myself why it’s so dark. Fumble aimlessly for my BlackBerry, check the time and realise it’s stupidly early. Throw aforementioned device back on the bedside table and curse my stupid body clock.
6:23am to 7:18am – I have no idea. I can only assume I drifted back to sleep or was abducted by aliens.
7:19am – Check BlackBerry again and die a little bit inside when it dawns on me that I’ve got less than 60 seconds before my alarm goes off.
7:34am to 7:45am – Mentally check off possible jobs I’d enjoy in lieu of being a journalist while having a shower. Hot shower tester is high on the list, as are professional bed warmer and drunken, disgruntled novelist. Notice I need to buy more body wash.
7:51am – Realise I had an 11-minute shower and consider the negative impact on the environment.
8:03am – Walk into the newsroom with my first latte of the day and loudly sing the first lines of ‘Peace Train’ after confirming I am alone.
8:06am – Stare at a blank page in my diary. Consider the benefits of being more organised. Reassure myself that organised people aren’t any happier than me and continue to drink my latte.
8:21am – Start writing a story about golf and stop to check Twitter.
8:28am – Close the internet browser and tell myself I have to avoid social media and get my work done. Pat myself on the back for being so assertive.
8:30am – Check Twitter on my BlackBerry. Quietly swear to myself about social networking and its addictive qualities.
8:31am – Notice my latte is gone. Think about writing a piece investigating the electronic heroin that is Twitter as I wait patiently for the espresso machine to provide me with another caffeine hit.
8:32am to 10:02am – This period of time is a little bit hazy because I forgot I was compiling a blow-by-blow account of my day. Judging by the number of empty cups in my bin, I had another latte. Judging by the random doodling in my diary, I wasn’t paying attention in the news meeting. Again.
10:31am to 11:06am – Interview a 12-year-old tennis player who is the number one seed in his club’s A grade competition. Watch him serve and feel ridiculously inadequate about my ability with a racquet.
11:19am to 12:48pm – Do boring journalist stuff. This includes checking emails, adding finishing touches to the doodle from the news meeting and contemplating what to have for lunch.
1:37pm – Send my final story for Tuesday’s paper to the sub-editor. Mentally fist pump the sky and refocus on what’s on the lunch menu.
1:39pm – Decide on something healthy for lunch.
1:44pm – Find myself placing my lunch order at Red Rooster.
2:03pm – Finish off the last of the chips and congratulate myself on a fantastic choice. Almost burst out laughing when reflecting on the fact I was contemplating a healthy option.
2:11pm to 2:28pm – Have a hot chocolate while sending witty text messages and wonder why there are so many boring people on Twitter.
2:31pm – Check my latest mobile phone bill.
2:34pm – Try to figure out how the hell it’s physically possible to send more than 5200 text messages during a one-month billing period. Send a text message to a friend asking them how many they send. Quietly thank the mobile phone gods that my plan includes unlimited SMS.
2:47pm to 5:03pm – Do a few interviews and complete the sports stories for Wednesday’s paper while scoffing Turkish delight and drinking another latte. Wish I bought more than one Turkish delight as I stare sadly at the empty wrapper on my desk.
5:04pm to 6:10pm – Forget once again that I am meant to be documenting every minute of my day.
6:16pm – Excitedly throw my leave application at the editor as I scurry from the building.
6:41pm to 7:03pm – Eat dinner and drink the best part of a bottle of red wine while contemplating the universe.
7:06pm – Decide opening another bottle of wine would be a poor option.
7:07pm – See no issue with having a beer in lieu of wine.
7:49pm – Put the three empty beer bottles on the coffee table beside me into the bin.
8:01pm to 8:39pm – Type up my hastily-scribbled notes and wonder who the hell will make it to 12:00pm without wanting to bang their head against a wall.
8:41pm to 8:43pm – Try to figure out why <i>The Dissemination of Thought</i> hasn’t had a new subscriber in more than a fortnight. Was about to blame WordPress for a technical glitch but then remember what I am actually blogging about.
8:44pm – Feel genuinely sorry for my subscribers.
8:49pm – Realise the intricate filing system on my laptop is nothing of the sort. Contemplate doing something about it but dismiss the notion as requiring too much effort.
9:16pm to 10:34pm – Listen to Blunderbuss for what feels like the sixth thousandth time. Wish I was Jack White.
10.37pm – Check my bank balance and wonder why they don’t advertise for ‘people who like being poor’ when seeking journalists. Make the executive decision not to go near eBay and bid on things I don’t need until I get paid.
10:45pm to 11:03pm – Have a shower while thinking about the awesome left-handed bass I want to buy on eBay.
11:05pm – Realise my excess water usage is probably destroying the planet.
11:09pm to 11:32pm – Bid on stuff I don’t need with money I don’t have on eBay. Judge an original Rubik’s Cube from the 80s – still in the original packaging – to be worth $40.
11:33pm – Decide $40 probably isn’t enough to win me the colourful little piece of nostalgia.
11:35pm – Grab another beer and ask myself why I’m bidding on a Rubik’s Cube. Secretly hope I get outbid in the closing stages of the auction.
11:41pm – Increase my maximum bid to $45.
11:44pm – Go to Google to try and figure out what a mint condition Rubik’s Cube from the 1980s is worth.
11:59pm – Post this piece and realise I’ve wasted a day. Look at the time and realise I’m tired beyond belief. Laugh manically when I remember I have Tuesday off, unlike many of my reader who will waste 10 minutes reading this post in its entirety.
So there you have it. A day – or what I can remember of it – in the life of me. If you haven’t abandoned reading mid-sentence or thrown your iPad against the wall in a fit of enraged boredom, follow me on Twitter or like the Facebook page. Hell, if you really liked the nonsensical gibberish that is The Dissemination of Thought, you can do both. Or send cash.
For a change, I don’t have much to say. I’ve spent my day off avoiding words and opting instead to draw. It was ridiculously refreshing not to have to think about sentences and conveying a nonsensical message.
I’m getting a tattoo – my second – when I head back to Brisbane in September and have come up with a rough concept I’d like to share with you. Obviously, the tattoo artist will work their magic in coming up with the final design, but I wanted the opinion of my readers about the original scribbling.
So, what’s the verdict? Do you have ink? If you do, what and where? If you don’t have any tattoos and find the mere thought of them repulsive, why?
The children of today are screwed. I was writing another piece for today, but I realised it was shit and going nowhere at about the exact time I was hit by a wave of laziness; the notes I had scribbled were scrunched up and thrown across the room, and I plonked myself on the lounge, flicking casually through the channels with no destination in mind. Amidst the soap operas, news programs and advertisements, I came across a children’s cartoon. I have no idea what it was called, but it appeared to be a terrible amalgamation of poor animation, talking dogs and painfully cheerful theme music. Was this really the best we could come up with in the 21st century to entertain kiddies? What the hell happened to the awesome cartoons of the 80s and early 90s?
Feeling lazy and overcome with nostalgia, and with Heather’s article on The B(itch)Log earlier this week still fresh in my mind, I decided to take a stand against the fucked up children’s entertainment of 2012. How am I going to do it? Easy. I’m going to regress twenty or so years and reintroduce the world to my four favourite cartoons of the 80s. Given that I’ve got intellectual maturity of a 9-year-old, it’s not going to be that difficult.
Eric Wimp was just a normal boy who lived at 29 Acacia Road until he indulged in the tropical delight, at which stage he transformed into a nutritious vigilante, intent on keeping the world safe from the evil schemes of corny supervillans. With an outfit that would make Batman reassess what it meant to wear a cowl, Bananaman got around by flying, albeit with a technique reminiscent of a swimming stroke. When the Australian Banana Growers’ Council was working on its marketing strategy, it should have looked no further than the quiet British schoolboy: he’s the poster child for potassium.
His greatest achievement? Wearing banana skins as boots and never slipping on them.
The British know comedy, and in the 80s, they were all over cartoons like a fat kid on a cheesecake. Aided by his nerdy hamster offsider Penfold, Danger Mouse was the James Bond of the rodent world, complete with flying car and an eye patch. How could you not love a Mickey Mouse 007 wannabe whose arch-nemesis was an obese toad with emphysema called Baron Silas Greenback?
The biggest question to come out of the series pertained to the preferred garb of the furry secret agent: did Danger Mouse wear pants?
Dinosaurs. Lasers. Aliens riding said dinosaurs. This concludes the lesson on why Dino-Riders was such an awesome cartoon. Hell, it was that amazing, it made kids want to learn about palaeontology; there was a time circa 1990 that I could spell the names of most dinosaurs, including Ankylosaurus, Diplodocus and Quetzalcoatlus.
Calling this detective bumbling is like calling Kim Jong-il misunderstood. As dumb as he was, you have to respect a guy with rocket-powered roller skates and rotor blades built into his hat.
Inspector Gadget was the pioneer of the cyborg anti-discrimination movement, and taught us to love our fellow man, regardless of whether they were black, white or had telescopic extremities.
Important safety tip: do not go out wearing a trench coat and ask women if they’d like to see your Gadget Periscope.
Go-Go Gadget Nostalgia!
Damn. If I could go back to 1989 knowing what I know now, my goal of world domination would be a lot easier to achieve. And I’d be able to appoint Bananaman as the Vice President of Kick-Ass Superhero Costumes. And ride an angry Pachycephalosaurus*, adorned with armour and lasers, instead of catching the bus.
* Author’s note: best dinosaur name of all time.
I’m penning this (sort of) as I scrutinise the contents of my refrigerator, trying to ascertain what gastronomical marvel I can create with the ingredients that are staring back at me. After being away for 3 days over the Christmas long weekend, I’m being accosted with forlorn stares of loneliness from the items currently residing at Casa de Fisher & Paykel. Shit. There won’t be a Michelin star coming my way anytime soon. To bring you up to speed, I’m currently eyeballing:
- a near-empty jar of Vegemite
- a bottle of soy sauce
- three feta-filled olives (which are disappearing as I type this)
- an orange
If I open the freezer door, we can add coffee beans and a bottle of vodka to the list.
Given that a vodka-infused orange isn’t a recognised meal, it’s probably an opportune time to highlight 4 signs that indicate you need to go shopping.
1. You spend considerable time trying to work out what ingredients in your fridge you can combine to create something that passes as a meal
I just realised that I have a box of Coco Pops, but I’m lacking milk to add to them. I could eat them dry, or I could attempt to drown the grains of chocolate bliss with a 2009 Barossa Valley Shiraz. In executing the latter plan, I could determine once and for all if my “Shirazco Pops” concept is commercially feasible.
While your family and friends may assert that you can win MasterChef 2012 with your ability to create innovative dishes from seemingly mismatched ingredients, soaking Froot Loops in red wine is never, ever going to secure you a cookbook deal.
2. Vodka and soy sauce are two of the aforementioned ingredients
3. You can’t remember buying some of the stuff in your fridge
There’s an orange in my fridge that represents all the fruit and vegetables currently in my apartment. I’ve got no idea whether it’s a Valencia or Navel, but a variety-specific identification of the little ball of citrus isn’t relevant to our discussion. The point is, I have no recollection of purchasing it. I’m not usually an orange kind of guy, so I’m going to have to assume that I got it when I last had Southern Comfort and Coke.
If you get to the point of having random citrus in your refrigerator that you can’t account for, it’s time to get reacquainted with your local supermarket.
4. You are on a first-name basis with the proprietor of the local Indian restaurant
In the last 7-day period, I’ve had Indian delivered on Tuesday and Thursday, while Friday saw Thai added to the rotation. I was away on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I’ve got no doubt that I’ll be getting another curry for dinner tonight, and I’m reasonably confident that if I went a week without placing an order, the restaurant’s owner would call the police and report me missing.
If your collection of menus for local restaurants outnumber the individual food items in your fridge, or worse, you have speed dials allocated for them in your phone, you need to go shopping. Urgently.
Should you ever find yourself asking, “I’ve only got expired milk and oregano left, I wonder if I should go shopping?”, the answer’s in the question. Remember: breakfast cereal and tequila sprinkled with hundreds and thousands do not a meal make.