21 July A very tiring day and more to the point a day of being tired. In fact I have never been so sleepy on the road in my life and probably a danger to everyone. I always think of the opening part of Beetlejuice. There was a moment when I began to think too much of how the signposts on the side of the road were like burnt matches. Anyway after a while I did something else I never thought I’d do, I pulled over and had a powernap. Once I got over anticipating every car that went past crashing into the back of me (and sending us both over the side of the mountain I was parked on) I probably did doze for about ten minutes. It made all the difference, I felt perfectly normal afterwards.
For some reason the only radio I could get was local ABC in Canberra (I never forget their call sign, 666) and once I left Queanbeyan I couldn’t get that either, so I had to listen to CDs. The CDs I listened to were Hot Rollers, Antenna, Kylie, Panel of Judges, Scritti Politti. Thank you all.
Batemans Bay and Ulladulla are, I have to say, a little horrible in a few ways. They are over-commercialised and overbuilt and being more and more overbuilt all the time. Big vacant lots with announcements of forthcoming bullshit facilities no-one needs. Or am I wrong. I felt like I was on the Sunshine Coast or some other place I didn’t particularly want to be. I am sure up till about ten years ago they were the greatest places on earth. One day they may be again.
It is tinkling down with rain, which is the last thing I needed on a day which was supposed to be all about taking photographs. Hopefully there will be some breaks as I am unlikely to be passing this way again in the near future (unless I absolutely have to).
It’s funny how when you listen to a lot of music on long drives some records are good because they are bugger all to do with anything – they add an extra layer onto your experience and remind you that there’s a whole other world out there – whereas others seem to totally add to the experience.
This is probably partially about your attitude at the particular time which is related to your comfort level in the terrain you’re driving through, and I suppose how attuned you feel to the music (or whatever else it is) you’re listening to. And of course the fact that, since about 1930, we’ve all often experienced that absurd notion that the visuals are very tied to the aurals, even though we know in our heart that most of that (apart from the odd occasional snap on the snare/some young guy clutches his heart) is in our imagination, or rather, our lacks of imagination, since for some reason our poor minds still can’t get totally into the idea that seeing something at the same time you hear it isn’t random.
Earlier this year I ran into Geoff from Sly Hats in the library at Latrobe University and he gave me a copy of his new album. It’s the first Sly Hats album, though it’s really Geoff’s second album because there wouldn’t have been much to last year’s Crayon Fields album without him (as much as the band were spectacularly empathic players). I played ‘n’ liked it but it didn’t bowl me over, I think in part because there is a frisson of sixties LA to the sound that I have heard too much already from real sixties LA people (Beach Boys and other Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, Harpers Bizarre etc etc). But today, driving through and getting lost in Vincentia and looking for Jervis Bay ‘village’, I chucked it on and it all gelled.
I suspect, though I could not be certain, that it is a breakup album, with a measure of post-breakup seduction of the narrator (though he certainly doesn’t object) by others there as well. Geoff has a number of peccadilloes: one revolves around ‘sips’, another seems centred on ‘lips’, and the whole thing takes on a slightly cannibalistic air. [NB later I read in Mess + Noise that Geoff could never write from the heart, according to him - ha!]
There does appear to be a number of different singers on the album (unless Geoff is more versatile than he initially appears) but they do not seem particularly to offer different points of view, rather contribute to the general variety of atmoses, like flicking through one of those books of old logos or patterns for pressed metal ceilings. One song in particular has what sounds like a cinema organ on it, as played by someone who might not have been unfamiliar with Gary Numan’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and the work of Storm Thorgeson. And recently I had it in my head under the impression it was some old record only half-remembered, rather than some new record dislodged from context.
In Culburra, which is not exactly the wilds but it is a distant strange semi-suburb south of Nowra, I saw a teen in navy blue tracksuity stuff step achievedly from a 4WD in front of his modest two storey house, in his hands (cover out) the new Harry Potter.
Annabel and I went on field trip through Marrickville – Earlwood – Rockdale – Arncliffe – Ramsgate – etc and I found about three sites out of the 20 or more visited that were really interesting, but that’s OK, as I said (but only realised it was true as I was saying it) to Annabel, it’s as valuable to know what’s there as it is to know it’s useful for the project.
It did not rain very much, and the Sydways was very handy. We had chips at Brighton-Le-Sands which I have to say is a terribly ugly place.
Yesterday was spent mainly at the SLNSW, which at the moment is a bummer because the Mitchell is closed. They have a temporary Mitchell which is a few tables in a corner of the downstairs part of the regular reference library, and there are huge amounts of stuff that are unavailable (or should I say ‘there is huge…’). I irritated a skinny man with a ratty beard by ripping up my request slips to bookmark pages I wanted to photocopy. I also had massive heartache at the photocopier whereby the only landscape A4 setting automatically converted to something called ‘8K’, which meant the end result was akin to looking through Ned Kelly’s headplate aka from the inside of a letterbox. Like many such situations it’s egregious enough to see it happening, but it is doublegregious to then have to explain it to a librarian when you’re trying to fix it. In the end it was unfixable.
A short time ago (it is 5.47 am) I awoke from a dream wherein I was reading to my brother Michael from an old American examination on road standards, I suppose from a surveyor’s qualifying exam or something. Question one was something about road surfacing or correct qualities or something. The second and third part of the exam read: ‘What gives? Haves; gives?’
I saw four beagles yesterday walking around in Alexandria. Four separate beagles! When I told Mia this on the phone she said well, they are a popular breed which is true (though I noticed last week that the generic Safeway brand of tinned dog ‘meat’ had stopped using beagles on the label) but at least one of them was quite old. I didn’t do what I once would have done, run up and enthused to the owners about the benefits of a beagle, because I now realise that is strange behaviour. Except maybe in the general Jacana region.
28 July 07 The last few days have been workwise a time of diminishing returns. I seem to end each day more exhausted and yet having actually covered less ground. The weather has been quite pleasant by and large. I think the most productive day was probably 25 July at which time I went to Bankstown and found some lovely remnants of vintage old progressive Bankstown including some very pleasant mosaic work on the side of a shop and (though the photograph totally does not do it justice) a Dickens meets Dr Caligari rear view of shops/flats from probably the 70s. In main street Bankstown.
My irritation with Sydney peaked at a certain point when I was in amongst the appalling drivers, terrible roads (complete lack of street signs etc) but I reconciled after a time and now feel accepting. I realise I will never know the Victoria I left again, as Bracksy and Thwaitesy will both be ‘gone’ by the time I arrive, though I did always quite like Brumby, but I would have liked a chance to know I would never see Bracks’ Victoria again. Never mind. This is one of the reasons why I refute the idea of ‘changing the course of history’, as though history was a pipeline that continues to deliver the same stuff until someone makes an impact. You know.
30 July 07
Amanda’s party was a blast, a small affair dotted with celebrities and friends (same thing) from long ago in equal measure. I was pretty impressed with the enormous amount of alcohol but amazed by the fact that quite a bit of it remained afterwards. Amanda and Greg have these amazing cats, who I enjoyed very much. The party went very quickly, considering we went to bed at either 4.15 or 3.15 (accounts differ). The Lighthouse Keepers played which was a rare occurrence and went well, though of course I know there were songs they should have done that they didn’t. At least they did do ‘Power Ring’ and ‘Wheels across the desert’, and ‘A time of evil’ so it’s all good. Annabel’s poetic tribute to Amanda was another highlight and not only was the work itself magnificent but the delivery (entirely from memory) a great achievement.
Mia came down for the night and so we saw each other for the first time in a week (we are not that used to being apart) but then she was gone the next morning (that was yesterday) so it has been an interesting slow reintroduction, as I will be back in Mel tonight.
Today I have driven across a substantial part of Australia, from Sydney to Canberra via Nowra/Princes Highway. I had a devious plan to take a short cut called Wandean road from Wandandia to Braidwood, which was a bit risky as it was marked on the map as unsealed. I thought this was an OK risk as it would be interesting and even if it took twice as long (which it surely wouldn’t), every part of my being was against going so far south as Batemans Bay again, particularly since it’s shit anyway, but also because it seems so far out of the way. Except they were doing roadwork in the road at Wandandia and I couldn’t find Wandean road. Finally after a couple of times back and forth I did find it, and got on it, and thought, hmm, this is OK – a few potholes but I can handle this. then it started to get kind of gravel. Which didn’t seem that great but I figured it would probably settle down. Then about 1 km from the Princes Highway it turned into an orange nightmare covered in huge rocks. I didn’t photograph it as I couldn’t imagine myself ever feeling sufficiently unpissed off to blog politely about it. I had to turn around and come back. What with missing the road a couple of times and so on I had probably wasted an hour, AND I had to go to Batemans Bastard Bay. I grinned and bore it. What I wasn’t expecting hours later when I got out of Braidwood was seeing the other end of Wandean Road – it looked so gloriously beautifully made you wouldn’t want to drive on it for fear of messing up its tarmac. I hope, in case I ever have to drive between Nowra and Braidwood again, that somewhere between those two towns there is a little person with a steamroller or whatever it is they use, asphalting Wandean Road into submission like a mother.
As I write I am in Bungendore which is nice enough though holds no real excitement for me. But I was told by a girl called Skye (true, but so what) at Qantas that my plane from Canberra airport is leaving an hour later than it should be, because of a ‘disrupt’. (Probably itself due to a disruption). So I have to cool my heels in Bungendore – or somewhere, anyway – until I can take off. Geez!
Listening today was: Architecture in Helsinki, Powderfinger, The Titanics. The Titanics was a surprise pleasure, particularly the song ‘Stalkerbait’ which occurred to me a short time ago might be some kind of joke about Spiderbait, but what’s the joke? Also, a bit of Radio National. Thanks everyone!