North Island, New Zealand

Today we are leaving America behind to fast forward to 2012, when I last visited one of my favourite countries: New Zealand.

I have been to New Zealand three times, most recently for the wedding of my dear friends Amy and Nicola.

We stayed in a cottage in a quiet inlet. Nights were spent watching movies and eating cheese, drinking gin and indulging in general merriment.

New Zealand is stunning in a tactile, earthy sense. It is a country I could spend weeks in alone.

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Erskineville

We’ve managed to build cranes taller than city skyscrapers, topped with glowing red lights to signal to the aeroplanes we have made, tonnes of steel and human souls that somehow stay afloat on air that barely seems to brush past us on the ground.

Yet we have not found a way to make power lines beautiful.

Instead we convince ourselves there’s something peaceful in the way they loop lazily, fragmenting a dusty rose sunset over the city.

- Erskineville, 27th October, 2014, 7:46pm or thereabouts.

LA to Vegas

Our road trip began in Los Angeles, after we flew into the barren LAX.

We stayed in Downtown Los Angeles at the Figueroa Hotel, notable for its Spanish influences, kama sutra decor and proximity to The Original Pantry Cafe.

We arrived, hideously jet-lagged and made the dubious decision to drive to Venice Beach to eat tepid nachos without sleep, a GPS or anyone who’d driven in America before.

That night we discovered America’s free-pour policy and sat around the hotel’s green-lit pool, drinking gin, planning our departure the next morning for Las Vegas and our first experience of the long, hazy highways of California.

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Devil’s Basin & Zabriskie Point, Death Valley

Death Valley is a dangerous place.

Signs warn you of deaths on the dunes where people have wandered out without water.

The dunes themselves are hypnotic: white sand rising in cresting waves, breaking against dark mountains far in the distance. It’s easy to imagine people being drawn to them against better judgement.

The flats are stunning. Sharp crystallised salt crunching underfoot, biting your fingertips as you brush them along its surface.

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♫ ‘In My Time’ – Kurt Vile

Monument Valley

This time three years ago I was in America, on a 10,000km road trip of the west coast.

We stayed in Utah and drank bourbon in our hotel room and gambled with a pack of cards printed on the back with warnings about bear attacks.

Monument Valley is vast and silent and when the sun sets, the shadows loom across the desert.

We sat in the dust and watched, as the air grew cool.

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♫ ‘Endless Summer’ – The Jezebels

Scareport

Yesterday I had to go to the airport to pick up a watch.

It sounds like a scene from Pulp Fiction, but I assure you it is real.

There I was, carrying a ticking parcel through an airport I had no business being at.

Airports make me nervous because they are run by rules and filled with people who will get angry at you if you break the rules. I am conditioned by 13 years of Catholic schooling and not just Catholic schooling but Catholic schooling by De La Salle brothers and by nuns and not just by brothers and nuns, but by ex-nuns, the scariest of all religious figures.

I have a few mildly offensive theories as to why ex-nuns are more terrifying than regular nuns. Everyone knows the horrid feeling when a relationship breaks down. Imagine that the relationship was a marriage and your husband was none other than Jesus Christ and it didn’t work out. That’s what an ex-nun contends with when she slips out of bed every day.

So I do not like to break rules and I have a healthy fear of religious figures and airports make me nervous.

I’m also not entirely sure how secure airports are. There seem to be a lot of signs telling you where you are not authorised to go, but nothing other than Catholic guilt preventing you from doing so.

I was alert and alarmed as I tried to find my way out of the domestic terminal to the DHL building where my watch awaited me. It was difficult, I’d never left the airport without jet lag before and there seemed to be a lull in the arrival of planes, so I couldn’t even follow the zombified crowds pushing their way to taxis and my GPS was telling me DHL was located in the middle of a runway.

Eventually I found an elevator hidden under a set of stairs next to a utility closet and a threatening unmarked door. I tried to work out the likelihood that the door led somewhere very important and that not signposting the door was some kind of panoptic-esque deterrent from entering. I didn’t touch it in case of electrocution.

Finally I found my way out and was hit with a blast of humid Sydney air, a precursor to much worse weather ahead.

I could see the DHL building shimmering in the distance. “Bonjour, DHL,” I whispered to myself. “Bonjour.”.

I began an approximate seven minute walk to the building, keeping my eye out for other security features to be alert and alarmed about.

I watched the expressions on the faces of the drivers swooping past me to pick up arrivals. “Poor girl,” I imagined they were saying. “No-one to pick her up and she’s not even got sensible shoes to walk home in.”. I considered briefly attaching a sign to my front which would tell these busybodies that actually I was just there to pick a watch up in an approximate 14 minute round trip and then I would be on my way, thank you very much but suddenly something very strange caught my attention.

There, beyond a green sign which told me I was not to enter unless I had proper credentials and that the area was patrolled regularly, was a sight that made me almost renounce my Catholic guilt and break the rules.

In a large, fenced-off carpark lay a small cafe, like a mirage of a pond in the desert. Many men stood around this cafe, chatting noisily to one another, gesticulating wildly. I crept closer.

Hundreds of taxis were parked neatly in bays in front of the cafe, some occupied by drivers doing any manner of daily tasks: eating a sandwhich, talking on the phone, clipping their nails.

Weaving around the bays were cruising taxis, all seemingly following a particular route which made sense to them, but which never seemed to leave the car park itself.

Around and around they went and I began to feel as though I had seen something I shouldn’t have, like this was a factory where taxi drivers were made, or the graveyard where they came when their operating system had become infected with bugs and all they could do was steer in circles.

A limousine with dark windows slowly cruised past, causing me to jump and hurry on my way lest I be bundled into the boot and tortured until a forgot what I had witnessed.

After picking up my watch to some small fanfare when my required photographic identification was produced and there was some discussion as to why in person I didn’t appear to be wearing a wig of very dry straw, I hurried back to the airport, taking great care not to look anywhere I shouldn’t.

With my ticking package I boarded a train, and melting into the crowd, hoping to lose any security detail I had picked up on the way.

Shutterbug

This morning I was reading the specs for the Lumix DMC-GX7 because I’ve wanted a Lumix for a while: a camera that takes incredible photos but isn’t as heavy or require as much gear as my DSLR. Then I remembered two things: my debts and my rule about not buying new tech before I’ve pushed my current gear as far as I can and I’ve barely scratched the surface of my Canon’s capabilities.

I think I probably will go down the Lumix route eventually, especially for travel, but in the mean time I can scratch the itch by putting down my iPhone and picking up my Canon. As best I can tell, the last time I really used it was 2012, and the amount I’ve forgotten since then is shocking.

Bare with me while I remember how to do this and how much I used to love it.

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Making It A Home

Today we went to Ikea to buy bedsides tables. They’re nice: a dark brown wood with two drawers, lined with blue and cream paper and a small shelf in the top one, which I plan to use to stow my rosebud salve and the gorgeous silver pen B got me for my birthday, which I am using in the first paper journal I’ve ever manged to keep. 10 years of blogging and I guess I’ve finally realised not everything should go online.

Not having bedside tables has really been bothering me, partly because our bedroom is quite big, but was so far empty of anything but the bed, which made it feel like a hotel room and the least homely room in the house, which is a problem for me because I still live like I’m sharehousing and spend a lot of time alone in the bedroom – reading, listening to music. I like a room I can shut a door to.

Another reason is that it takes a lot of medication to keep me going. Every day I have to take five tablets, an extra on Saturdays and Sundays, and my routine has always been to have them beside me and take them when I first wake up. If they’re not there, I forget to take them and only remember about three days later when my skin starts tingling and my brain starts to buzz.

My next job is to kill all the weeds in the old vegetable plot in the back yard and turn the soil. I’m not particularly interested in keeping it as a vegetable garden, so instead I’m going to flower bomb it with all different kinds of seeds, just mix a tub of ones I have been buying or gifted and just throw them in and see what comes up.

I start a new job on Monday, as does B. I’m looking forward to it. I always really enjoy the first six months of a new job where time flies by as you learn new things. It’s in Rosebery too, which has the benefit of being quite close to home, as well as a suburb I’m completely unfamiliar with. The role is quite independant, lots of working by myself in a (literally) soundproof booth. In a way, it couldn’t be more perfect, my last couple of roles required me to be contactable almost all the time and I am at a place now where I need a lot of space.

It’s been a very strange year.

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Bill Collins Is My Homeboy

For a very long time I’m not sure that I knew movies existed unless they were introduced by Bill Collins.

His camp appreciation for everything Technicolor and glamourous was matched only by mine. Every week I would religiously watch whatever he programmed and two of my absolute favourite films still stem from those afternoons spent sprawled in a green velvet armchair (what else?) in the lounge room.

Blithe Spirit, based on the Noël Coward play of the same name, is a darkly comedy about a man who accidentally raises the spirit of his first wife, who is determined to wreak havoc on his second marriage. It’s a kind of precursor to all the films and television series with a brow-beaten husband and a much more wiley female counterpart.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes needs no introduction (except maybe by Bill Collins). I probably saw it close to 30 times before I was even an adult. I love everything about it: Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell are gorgeous, every scene is completely luscious and it’s the diamonds of this film that I covert more than a ring.

Perhaps wanting to  cultivate my interest in Old Hollywood, Mum lent me her copies of Kenneth Anger’s notorious Hollywood Babylon books, which revealed a much sleazier and darker side of the industry, which was rotten to the core and required the sickenly cheerful wash of Technicolor to cover the decay.

A couple of years ago I found a copy of the first book for sale in an antique store in the Blue Mountains and pounced on it. The owner of the store tried to explain the history of it to me, but I was already well aware which pages the book would fall open to of their own accord if I flicked through it.

Right now is the perfect weather to revisit some of the films of this era, Sydney is damp and cold, snow is falling further west and I have absolutely nothing to do this week, so each afternoon I am going to stretch out on my pleather lounge (for shame!) and re-watch movies made for a completely different audience.

A Freight Train Running Through The Middle Of My Head

B and I have been trying to have our lights out my 10:30 each night, but it’s hard. Every book has just one more chapter and every game has just one more level, so it’s usually closer to 11:30 by the time we’re done.

B is one of those annoying people who is awake one second and asleep the next. I am one of those equally annoying people whose brain comes alive as soon as the lights go out.

Last night was particularly bad. I was so energetic I could’ve run a marathon, even after I took melatonin. I was excited, I think, because today I had two job interviews and I felt pretty good about both, so my brain wanted to imagine how fun life will be when job hunting is over.

I woke up again at about 3:30 this morning when my phone vibrated. The NBA season is about to start and I forgot I still have my NBA Game Time app set up from last season. Sadly the message it displayed was not good. Kevin Durant, last season’s NBA MVP and hero of my team, the Oklahoma City Thunder has fractured his foot and the first game of the regular season is only two weeks away.

Of course, this meant I was wide awake, waiting for a sane time to message my friend Sam, another Oklahoma tragic, to discuss with him the news. We’ve both agreed that there’s benefits in having a fresh Durant later in the season when games start to matter more. Still. I feel so bad for him and for the team.

I’ll probably write much more about the Thunder this year and why I love them and NBA. It’s the healthiest addiction I’ve ever had.

It wasn’t a great start, but today was a pretty awesome and in the last 48 hours, I’ve made some decisions I feel really solid about.