Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Driving: It's Not The Greatest

I have been driving for some time now. Unlike many people I know, I got my license as soon as I was legally able to. Of course that doesn't mean I really actually like driving. In my adult life I have been reliant on more modes of transport than most people: car, bicycle, scooter, public transport. And, to be honest, I don't really like driving a car. Quiet country roads are ok, but driving in traffic stresses me out more than you can imagine.

Admittedly, one of the best compliments I ever got for my driving was a guy who said in all sincerity:

"I like driving with you, Sarah. It's like being on a ride."

Th-thanks? I guess?

It's not that I'm not a good driver. I am, at the very least, competent in not causing people grievous bodily harm when I get behind the wheel. I remember talking to my first housemate about this subject once. She confessed that she'd had no less than 12 accidents in her driving career, all of which were her fault. Two of which involved her driving into shop fronts. I asked her how she possibly managed to get insured with a record like that and she informed me that her actual record was clean because she'd never reported any of the incidents. Guys: I'm not that bad.

My dislike for driving a car can probably be traced back to when I was first learning. I was being taught by my dad, driving around quiet streets in Newcastle. One day, we started getting a bit adventurous and ventured onto a slightly busier road. In a nightmarish scenario for anyone who is just learning to drive, the brakes failed. What makes it worse is that my father didn't believe me that the brakes had failed and just thought I was doing something wrong. Luckily, I managed to get us home safely with Dr Dad chastising me all the way for not using enough brake. I parked the car with the handbrake and went inside to collapse in my room in a nervous heap. About ten minutes later, he knocked on the door and confessed that he'd looked at the car and discovered that the brakes were actually completely shot and we were lucky that we hadn't been in a serious accident. Excellent news for any 16 year old L plater.

But I did go on to get my license and drive relatively safely for many years. When I moved to South Australia, I spent a long time not driving simply because I don't have a car. Luckily the public transport here is decent enough that I didn't really need one. Nowadays, Meattrain trusts me enough (for some reason) to let me borrow his car from time to time.

I can remember the first time this happened. It was late and Vegatrain and I wanted to do a Maccas run for some tasty no-meat cheeseburgers (don't knock it until you try it you guys). Meattrain said that if we brought him back some real man's food, I could borrow his car. The problem with that was that I hadn't driven a car in about six months and had spent the last three days playing a substantial amount of Grand Theft Auto. Not a great combination. I climbed behind the wheel and my instant reaction was 'Ok, let's ram some cop cars! What guns do we have in case we see some hookers?'

Luckily, our destination was only five minutes away so nothing drastic happened.

-Smackie Onassis

Friday, April 16, 2010

Adventures Update: The Mountain Goats

I have this habit of foreshadowing my own actions more than seems statistically likely. Admittedly, everyone probably does this and I'm just the only one who has a record of it because I write everything down in a borderline obsessive compulsive manner. Although I must say that picking up amusing patterns in my own life is sort of the aim of the whole endeavour, so I'm quite enjoying it.

Last night, after writing that entry about being an indie wanker, I went to see the Mountain Goats. Vegatrain and I were quite excited about it because, obviously, we're music nerds and are obligated to get excited about John Darnielle.

Sadly, going to gigs is a bit of an ordeal for me these days. I have this awful affliction where I love indie music but I hate all the wankers who are at gigs for the wrong reasons. If you're wondering, the wrong reasons include: to look 'hip', to pick up indie girls, to get drunk and draw attention to themselves to the detriment of everyone who has paid to see a band that probably doesn't often come to Australia, and so on. The 'Mumford and Sons' crowd, as I call them*. It's very conflicting for me, because those people are at every gig I ever go to and it drives me bonkers when I just want to watch a band that I really like. One particular thing that annoys me more than it should is hipsters who spend hours perfecting an outfit that they think makes them look 'creative'.

Here is my message to hipsters everywhere: STOP TRYING SO HARD. I have been friends with a lot of actually creative people and the thing is, they will never spend that long making themselves look cool for a gig. They're too busy writing stories and playing instruments, thinking they should probably start getting ready but getting distracted by an idea before throwing on some clothes at the last minute and running to catch the bus. And while I'm on the subject, there is a major difference between finding something a bit funky in an op-shop and making it work and spending half an hour flipping through over-priced cardigans at American Apparel until you find one that makes you look 'indie' but still shows off a bit of boob.

I get way too annoyed by douchebags at gigs. To the point where it's a problem. I have punched jerky guys at both Splendour in the Grass and St Jerome's Laneway Festival, simply because they were clearly ruining the experience for everyone within a five metre radius of them by being drunk during the opening act, climbing on each other's shoulders, pushing people over who were significantly smaller than them and yelling over the music. At a punk gig that would be fine, but when it's the xx or something it really doesn't fly with me. And while I never want to hurt people, if you're as poor as I am and have spent the last fifty dollars in your bank account to see a band you've loved for years and some total fuckknuckle goes out of the way to make the experience unpleasant, it gets a bit frustrating. I now have to actively remove myself from these situations, just because I don't want to get a reputation for being the 5'1" girl who goes around indie gigs punching douchebags. Except for the small part of me that totally wants that reputation. I could call myself 'Buffy the Hipster Slayer'. But I won't, no more punching. No more.


Vegatrain and I missed the bus and we were running late to see the Mountain Goats. I had just written that thing about being doomed to be an indie wanker for all time. We called a cab and jumped in the back. The driver was listening to a local commercial station but because I haven't listened to the radio in such a long time, I sort of forgot how commercial radio announcers operate. The guy was doing his back announcement/promo spot, talking over the intro to some awful dance song. But the thing is, because I listen to a lot of ridiculous music on the internet, I automatically assumed that this was a remix that someone had made of a local DJ making announcements. What's worse is that I wasn't even surprised.

And it gets better. We got out of the cab and were hurrying to the show. As I've mentioned, we were running late and really didn't want to miss any of it. I ran up to the gate, but there was a car driving up onto the path that stopped in front of me. I turned around, slightly annoyed that I was clearly going to have to wait for this car to be let through and thus be even later to the gig. But then, I looked into the window and it's John Darnielle at the wheel with the rest of the band in the passenger's seats. And they were all laughing at me because I really obviously recognised them straight away and was literally caught in the headlights for a moment. Vegatrain and I moved to the side, pretending that we didn't want to go inside yet anyway and just started giggling hysterically like teenage girls at a Miley Cyrus concert.

And sure, they were driving quite slowly and didn't even come close to hitting me but there's a very small part of me that wished they had. As you know, I've suffered more than my share of ridiculous injuries and am still recovering from the latest one. I suffer from a brutal combination of being both a total klutz and a massive hypochondriac, meaning that I actually considered making a list of all the things I wanted checked out before my last doctor's appointment, just so I didn't forget anything. But if the Mountain Goats hit me with their car, that would just be my favourite injury for the rest of my life. You can't top that.

-Smackie Onassis

*Seriously, don't ever mention Mumford and Sons to me if you have anywhere to be in the next half hour. In brief, I think they are a mediocre band who have taken all the groundwork done by significantly more talented and original bands, released a commercial tune that they've labelled as 'indie folk' and convinced every douchebag in the world that they are the pinnacle of folk music. If they weren't so successful it wouldn't bother me, but for the fact that there are so many other folk bands out there who are so much more original and talented who get none of the acclaim and attention and financial rewards that Blandford & Sons get. And I go on like this for about thirty minutes. But the best comeback I've heard to that was from a guy who I went to high school with who responded by saying:

"Sure Sarah, but unlike most modern folk bands, they're successful."

Shot through the heart, and I have only myself to blame.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On Being An Indie Wanker

I'm going to put it out there: I talk about music a lot. I can't help it, it's a subject that really interests me. I also know a preposterous amount about it, which helps. Unfortunately for everyone I talk to, I don't own a radio or generally pay attention to the outside world (much) so the only music I listen to is stuff I've found on the internet. And that's okay, the internet is an acceptable tool to use for that nowadays, there's a lot of great music out there that most people otherwise wouldn't be hearing. And hey, they play some of it on the radio too. But I'm a bit adventurous and experimental in everything I do and, ok, admittedly, sometimes I look up bands because I like their names (I still maintain - Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin are actually a good band). As a result, I've become so obscure that people now haven't even heard of the genres of the bands I listen to. On a personal level, I'm okay with that. I really enjoy the music I listen to. But sadly, if you start talking about a new Swedish folktronica band (seriously though), people will almost definitely think you are a wanker.

To be fair, I'm not denying that I'm an indie music wanker. But I have a little story that I think you should know before you judge me too harshly.

When I was a kid, my parents won a lot of raffles. They were just those awful, lucky people who win everything they enter on a whim. I can remember them winning a 'Mystery Flight' which turned out to be to Perth (gee whiz guys, why'd you make that one a mystery?), and a chocolate bunny one easter that was as tall as I was. There was also a movie/soundtrack pack that they'd won at the local Video Ezy - Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. My parents sort of put it aside and forgot about it. Then one day, maybe a year or so later, I was looking through their cd collection and picked up that soundtrack. I started listening to it and well, I really liked it. It got put on my regular rotation. But then our house got broken into and they stole a bunch of cds, including that one. Or so they thought. The cd was still in the player because I listened to it a lot, they'd just taken the case. Take that, crime!

I kept listening to that compilation, liking it more and more. I was just a kid and the only other music I knew was whatever was being played on the radio. Nothing else I'd heard was really like it. But because I didn't have the case and google wasn't really a thing yet, I grew up not knowing who performed some of my favourite songs.

I looked up that track-listing today. Of the songs that I can remember being my favourites, there was a Swedish alt-rock act who list the Pixies and the Go-Betweens as influences, an experimental dream-pop singer who was also Swedish and, of course, Radiohead. And not even Creep or Karma Police, it was an obscure b-side. Smackie Onassis, age 10, indie wanker.

I'm not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, this confirms that I always have been and always will be a total indie music nerd. On the other hand, this also confirms that it's not because of society, I am actually just like this. And there's probably nothing any of us can do about it.

Look forward to many more years of obscure mix tapes, my friends.

-Smackie Onassis

Monday, April 12, 2010

Adventures Update: Melbourne Comedy Festival

You may have noticed that I haven't updated in a few days. It's ok - I haven't died in some kind of ridiculous accident. I'm in Melbourne! I haven't been writing at all, both because I have been very busy having adventures, and also because I lost my glasses the instant I arrived in Melbourne. I don't know what it is, but every time I'm in this city I lose something ridiculously valuable the moment I arrive. Last time it was $300 in cash which was especially fun as this happened shortly after realising I'd left my wallet, complete with ID and credit card on Vegatrain's bed, thousands of miles away. This time it is my glasses. I also lost one of my mittens, but no-one can help me find it because they just get so distracted by how adorable that is.

Here are a few thoughts I have had during this trip:
  • I am terrified of pigeons as it is. Most birds are pretty scary (except cockatoos, they're fantastic. I guess any bird that can sing, dance and insult people is ok by me), but I especially don't like pigeons. People call this an 'irrational' fear, but they're wrong. It's not irrational, they're terrifying. I don't trust any creature that is incapable of feeling fear. But at least in some places I can look at the pigeons and be reassured that they're just fat, fluffy little morons who will probably leave you alone if you throw a crust of bread far enough away. But see, in Adelaide we feed our pigeons bread rather than heroin, which is the only way I can explain Melbourne pigeons. They look like the living dead, all scrawny and crazy-eyed and they fly right into your face. I'm not sure that they're not all actually zombies but no-one has noticed yet because they're so used to ignoring them. Terrifying.
  • A thing that happened to me in the airport: I was walking through the metal detectors when a security guard starts looking at me funny and gestures for me to stop. I instantly got a bit nervous. I thought that I wasn't doing anything illegal, but you can never tell with airport security. He gestured to my water bottle and asked what it was. I stuttered out that it was water, remembering that water bottles have been banned in the past because of the possibility of liquid explosives. He glared it me and told me to take a drink, which I did without hesitation. He waved me through. I was relieved. The thing is, I would really like to know why they didn't just do that in the first place, rather than going through all the hoopla of banning water and then charging $5 for a tiny bottle on every flight. Commercial flight has honestly become a competition between airlines and passengers to see who can rip each other off the most, and as a result I no longer feel bad about stretching the definition of 'cabin baggage' to it's loosest possible terms.
  • I have been a bit anxious recently. Well, ok, a lot anxious. Vegatrain has been telling me that I should take anti-anxiety pills and I kept telling him that I didn't have a social anxiety problem, it was just the fact that the majority of people who are in public places are totally and completely awful. However, then I had this assignment due for Psych 101. I had a lot of technological difficulties that I'm not going to go into, but the result was that I was too stressed to even look at what the subject of the assignment was. I eventually did look at it and discovered that it was on stress and coping methods. If there is one thing that is going to make me learn my lesson, it's poetic irony.
  • I was in the backyard of Sally-Tsar's house (where I am staying) the other day and I saw a shape in the sky. I looked up to see whether it was a bat or a bird, because I have the same curiousity levels as your average five year old*. It was a goose. A motherfriggin goose, flying across the night sky. I asked Sal if this was a common thing to see in Melbourne and apparently it's really, really not. The problem with being a tourist is that if something amazing and unusual happens, you're not quite sure it doesn't happen every day there. Like the time I was in London and it started snowing while I was on the top level of a double-decker bus. I thought it was a very pleasant English scene, not realising that it's extremely unusual for it to snow in London at all, let alone in April. Wizardry, obviously.
  • I really like Melbourne. When I was growing up and had to go to Sydney to see any major bands that came to Australia, I always thought I hated big cities. It turns out I just hate Sydney. Seriously, the only reason there is even a debate about whether Sydney or Melbourne is better is because there are so many people who live in Sydney. They seem to take pride in the fact that they can always pick a tourist on their turf. What they don't realise is that everyone else in Australia can pick when somebody is from Sydney and it's because they're usually awful. But they seem to think that their city is just the bee's knees, always going on about how they have the harbour bridge and the opera house. Yeah, well, we have human decency but you don't hear us harping on about it. Melbourne, let's be best friends.
  • A list of people who have a show at the Comedy Festival that I would probably make out with: every person who has a show at the Comedy Festival. But especially Andrew Mclelland and Deanne Smith. Which is infuriating because I met her and spent the whole conversation trying to figure out why she looked so gosh darn familiar, then realised I have only watched all her videos on youtube. Friggin facial recognition issues.

But now, I'm leaving on a jetplane, don't know when I'll be back again. See you this afternoon, Adelaide.

-Smackie Onassis

*Coincidentally, I also have the shoe size of your average five year old. The shoes I am wearing now I just bought from the children's section of a shop down the road and they're pink boots and they're fantastic. Kids get the best clothing options these days. I made a friendly comment about how great it is to be able to fit into children's shoes to the woman behind the counter, who responded by developing an instant and irrational hatred of me. I really don't get why woman are embarrassed to have big feet. No-one cares, you guys. Admittedly, I do have feet small enough to qualify for a position as a geisha so I haven't ever experienced this first hand, but I still don't get why having big feet is apparently something to be ashamed of.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More About School

I have mentioned a bit about my time at school. I was always kind of a geek but had the good fortune of being considered funny so most people put up with me. I was happy with this arrangement because it was so easy to be funny at my school. There was just so much comedy gold everywhere to be seen.

Probably the best source for cheap entertainment in the entire school was the librarian we had for the first few years of my time there. His name was Mr Cox, which led to a lot of very obvious jokes from the student population. But in my humble opinion, his name was the least funny thing about him.

We referred to him as the Book Nazi. His demeanor was very similar to the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld except instead of soup, it was books. There had to be total silence in his library at all times. God help you if you were chewing gum. I remember a friend of mine once accidentally dropped a book from the library's upper level and I will never forget how terrified I was for her safety.

But it gets better. Cox the Book Nazi was, in his spare time, a reasonably successful square dance caller. Seriously. A few friends of mine looked him up on the internet and found that he released his own recordings of him calling square dances, giving it a bit of the old 'Dosey Doe and around you go!'. And people actually bought them. When we discovered this, it was an incredible revelation. Word spread around the schoolyard pretty quickly.

At some stage the school found out about this hidden hobby and dealt with it the way that high schools are legally required to deal with this things. That is, the way they are required to deal with these things if you live in a Saved By The Bell-esque sitcom. They put him in charge of our PE class for a week. I don't know if you've ever been given square dance lessons by a psychotic librarian with anger management issues, but it's a strange experience. He would be up on stage in a cowboy hat, dropping phrases like 'square your sets!' and throwing in a few rhymes while intermittently screaming at any student who dared displease him. There were a lot of detentions given that week.

Another of my favourite staff members was a history teacher whose name I won't mention, because it was a bit less common. Like many of the teachers at my school she was widely regarded as being totally and completely insane. Personally, I quite liked her. I remember our first history class in year 7, she asked everyone in the room to tell the class two things about themselves. A simple 'getting to know you' exercise. The girl sitting next to me (the same girl who had the misfortune of dropping that book, now that I think about it) mentioned that her favourite food was tiny teddies. We moved on. But our teacher, not so much. The next class she came in with a huge box of tiny teddies and gave them out to everyone in the class. Except for the girl sitting next to me. I should point out that there was literally no reason for doing this that isn't simply messing with a new generation of awkward teenagers.

She also sent me on the single greatest errand I ever carried out when I was at school. I loved running errands for teachers and it wasn't a brown-nosing thing - it was more to do with the fact that it got me a free ticket out of class for as long as I could stretch the errand out.

"Sarah, can you take this note to the front office?" she asked me in class one day, "Tell them it's from me, they should give you something to bring back."

I nodded and wandered out into the corridor. Obviously, I read the note. I was a bit confused when it only had three words on it: 'Bag Of Money'. I wasn't sure what this meant. Had my history teacher finally snapped and was sending the school office a poorly worded ransom note, using me as a messenger? Or did she just fancy her chances of them assuming someone else had ok-ed giving her a free bag of money?

Either way, I handed the note in to the front desk, telling them who it was from. To my surprise the office woman simply nodded and handed me an actual bag full of cash. I considered trying this for myself many times, just going up to the office with a note that said 'Every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD' or 'Free Maxibons for life' and seeing whether they reached into that cupboard and pulled out what I wanted. I was never game.

I got along well with that teacher, probably because history was one of my favourite subjects. I was always extremely interested in the way that ancient people lived. As I have mentioned, my aunt in England dabbled in archaeology (or, as I like to describe it 'Jetting around Europe digging up ancient remains with Baldrick from Blackadder'. In other words, my dream life) so I had a bit of an inside scoop on this whole ancient history business. It seems impressive in Australia to find something that's more than 50 years old, but over in Europe they're falling over historical artifacts. They can't build a carpark without having to do a full excavation. I remember hearing the story from my mother about how one of my aunt's neighbours had been digging up his backyard and had discovered a human skeleton. It was quickly cleared as not murder due to it being thousands of years old, probably Roman. It was a small country town and the neighbour wasn't quite sure what to do with the discovery, but knew that my aunt was involved in archaeology. He just gave the skeleton to her to deal with. My aunt, being a very busy person, put the ancient human remains in a box under her bed until she could find a spare moment to deal with them. She was that chill, she didn't mind sleeping with literal skeletons in her closet. Although it was even worse because they weren't in the closet, they were under the friggin bed.

Because she lived on the other side of the world, I didn't get to see her that often but I did speak to her on the phone sometimes. I recall a few months later remembering the skeleton incident and asking her how she had ever resolved it. I will never forget her reaction.

"Oh yeah," she muttered, "I should probably get around to doing something about that."

Best relative ever, seriously. Hopefully she did end up remembering to deal with it, because I never did hear what happened with that.

But back to school. As I say, I was very interested in history, but was also a slightly sarcastic teen who didn't quite understand the best applications for her sarcasm. I was in class one day, passing some judgement on an ancient civilisation. My teacher decided to stop me to teach me a lesson, as they tend to do.

"You know, we live in a very different society today. You can't judge those people by today's standards," she mused.

It was a very good point, but I would put what I said next as the single greatest academic comeback I have ever used.

"Yeah? Well, watch me because I think I just did!"

At least that girl who sat next to me got a laugh out of it.

-Smackie Onassis

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Facebook's predecessor was called Facemash and I totally would have preferred that

I have mixed feelings about Facebook and its social networking companions. On the one hand, it's free entertainment. I get to be an idiot with my friends even when they are not at my house. On the other hand, I have ended up totally losing respect for people I once liked because of their online behaviour. There was one girl in particular who had been a good friend of mine for years in the past. When I moved to the other side of the country, I tried to contact her in at least five different ways. I tried calling her, emailing her, writing her a real physical letter, texting her and sending her messages on Facebook, all of this spread over a period of about 12 months. She didn't actually take the time to reply to any of them. She did, however, take the time to spam my Facebook feed with endless photos she'd taken of herself in the mirror and constant reminders to see some local amateur play she was in. Now, I don't mind people using Facebook for promoting things they are doing. It's the perfect medium for that. But if you are writing multiple updates a day telling people to come see your show for several weeks before and during the production, I think you should probably seek help. It can't be healthy to need that much constant validation.

When 2009 rolled over into 2010, I culled my friends list to delete all the people who hadn't made any effort to contact me in the last year. As a result, I got 99 friends but a bitch ain't one.

To be fair, that wasn't the only reason I deleted more than two thirds of my friends list in one hit. See, when people talk to me in person regularly they can kind of understand where I'm coming from. They know that most of what I say is a joke and that I find being inappropriate amusing. The problem is that my sense of humour doesn't always translate that well to brief conversations on the internet.

I have a file on my laptop where I write down things I want to say if they seem a bit suss, then think them over objectively and decide whether I can get away with them. I have mentioned it before. It seems like overkill, but it has saved my arse a few times now. My favourite example was when a girl I hadn't seen in awhile asked her friends list about skiing in Japan. Without thinking, I typed out the phrase 'I hear they've got some wicked slopes in Japan!' before realising what I'd said and hurriedly deleting it.

A second incident occurred when Buglustre's brother was being pressured into watching a movie or some such. I hadn't heard of whatever it was they wanted him to watch but I was kinda tempted to add to the conversation, for no reason other than to be creepy in the name of personal amusement. I wanted to chime in out of the blue with: "Yeah, do it or we will all gang rape you". In a lot of situations, I would have been fine with saying such a thing. But considering that I was on a mission to be the first friend of his sister's that this guy was not afraid of, I eventually decided against it.*

I have a few theories about Facebook. Not the people who use it, but Facebook itself. I have a sneaking suspicion that there's more to this beast than meets the eye. I have thought for awhile that Facebook has become a sentient being but I wasn't sure what it was that made me suspect such a thing. Not only am I now quite sure that Facebook has its own personality but, you guys, it's kind of a jerk.

My first clue came when they added those little word things that you have to retype to prove your humanity. There are a heap of websites dedicated to people who have read those two 'random' words and gone 'HEY! Hey, that's mean!'. There are the apparent insults, things like 'Smells Bad' and 'Fart Brains', or the strange and disturbing instructions such as 'Beat Wife' or 'Kill Everyone'. Admittedly I made all of those up, but I've seen the type of phrases that have appeared and none of these would surprise me in the slightest.

Another piece of evidence for my 'Facebook is a Jerk' file came when they introduced Friend Suggestions. It seemed like a good idea, finding people you might be interested in knowing based on your mutual friends. I have since suggested that the slogan for this feature should be 'Friend Suggestions: Reminding You Of Every Awful Thing You've Ever Done'. Facebook keeps suggesting that I contact old flames who I hurt kinda badly, family members I really should have contacted sooner, friends I lost because of some stupid reason and so on. Friend Suggestions is that guy at a party who brings everyone down by reminding them of all the things they'd rather forget about, then proceeds to get mind-bendingly drunk and mistake your TV for a urinal. Nobody wants to talk to that guy, but there is apparently no way to get rid of him.

But the real evidence that Facebook is alive and jerking comes when it glitches. Things get a bit mixed up in unpredictable ways. The biggest example of this that I can think of came when I was discussing something on someone else's photo. I was informed by the person I was talking to that they couldn't read my comments and all they could see was that Facebook was saying I'd posted them on January 1st, 1970. I thought this was a bit strange and inconvenient but didn't think any more of it. Until I had a quick look around me. I saw the lava lamp in the bathroom, the big reflective sunglasses on my desk, the flat shoes I was wearing that say 'Love' on one toe and 'Hate' on the other and heard the sounds of Hall & Oates drifting out of my headphones. I remembered that I write under the name Smackie Onassis, for crying out loud.

"Fuck me," I thought, "Facebook's having a go!"

I'm sure there are a thousand more examples out there of Facebook being a prick but if I had any doubt, that alone would be enough to convince me.

-Smackie Onassis

*I have now been informed that I have succeeded in my mission and it is mostly because of this blog. WHAT IS UP "MARY-ANNE"? :D

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Things You Can't Get Away With In A Small Town


It's hard to pull any kind of antic in a small town if you don't want everyone knowing about it by the morning. Believe me. Even the people you don't know are probably good friends with everyone you have ever met. It soemtimes makes it kind of hard to get away with... well, yeah, anything.

Here are a few things you should especially try to be careful with:

1) Online Dating
Some people still try to use websites like RSVP when they live in places where everybody already knows everybody else. Places like Newcastle. I know, because I tried it once. To be honest, I wasn't really looking for a relationship at the time, I was just kinda curious about the whole thing. As it turned out there were actually quite a few local profiles on there and I even started chatting to one guy. I thought he seemed nice, but then I asked him what he did for a living. It turned out we worked for the same people. In the same location. It could happen to you.

2) Repeating Gossip
Yes, people do this even more than usual in smaller towns. It's unavoidable. The problem is that they really shouldn't, because you never know who can hear you. I remember once I was waiting for a friend of mine at a cafe. There were two girls chatting nearby and even though I wasn't intentionally eavesdropping, I couldn't help but hear what they were saying. Because they were talking about me. They could see me perfectly well - the problem was that they didn't realise it was me they were talking about. They were telling a story about something I had done, not knowing that I was sitting a mere couple of metres away from them. I responded by feeling incredibly awkward and deciding to wait for my friend outside.

3) Cheating
Cheating is a strangely powerful thing in relationships. Some people don't see it as a big deal, but others view it as some kind of dating apocalypse. It is strange to then see the things some people think they can get away with.

The bass player of the band I was in was just One Of Those Guys. When we would go touring he had this thing of saying "Not my state!", "Not my country!" or "Not my postcode!" depending on our current location. The implication was that he thought being in a different postcode meant he could cheat on his girlfriend and not feel bad about it. Someone really should have told him that this doesn't work quite so well if your girlfriend is in your band, something I found out about the most awkward way possible. I had joined only recently and we were on tour. He had drunkenly come on to me before we'd left and I'd told him I thought it was a bad idea. In an attempt to bond with the only other girl in the band, I mentioned this to her over a drink.

"Has he ever hit on you?" I asked.

"Actually, we've been going out for two years," was the reply I received.

Kind of awkward, yeah. Although, admittedly that is not so much a small town thing as a 'Don't cheat on your girlfriend who is in your band with the new girl you have hired to be in your band' thing. I think that's good advice regardless of where you live.

-Smackie Onassis

Friday, April 2, 2010

Street Folk

Every town has its fair share of street crazies. Adelaide has that guy sitting out the front of Hungry Jack's playing a glockenspiel. Sydney has... well, the entire population of Sydney. Newcastle had quite a few of its own special breed of loonies.

The most prominent was probably a man the media dubbed the Serial Pest. In his personal life, he went by the name Shock. He was a skinny man that I would always see darting around the streets with his long, frenzied black hair whipping around his head. He reminded me of Sirius Black straight outta Azkaban. He was always seen with a cat that just hung around on his shoulders. The cat never seemed to mind. It probably liked the attention and the fact that it didn't have to get up. Cats are like that. I did also once see a man walking down the street where I worked with an honest to god parrot on his shoulder, although sadly I never saw him again. I guess he had some swashbuckling to do in another port.

But Shock stuck around in Newcastle for a long time, making headlines where he could. He liked to crash any event that happened there and he wasn't selective about it. Sport, politics, arts, he would be there, making a scene. I don't know what he would actually do, just that the media would always be complaining about him the next day. I remember hearing from an arty-type friend of mine that when he wasn't occupied with being mental, he actually did performance poetry or some such. She said that yes, he was off his balls insane, but it somehow translated reasonably well into the poetic medium. I guess I shouldn't be that surprised.

They were often artists, the Newcastle crazies. I guess we had the This Is Not Art festival, which kind of encouraged that sort of thing. I remember when it was just becoming a big deal. I was in high school and home economics required me to make an apron. There were marks for decorating it, but I couldn't really be bothered so I just wrote 'This is not an apron" on it and handed it in. No-one in my class got it, but my teacher thought it was great.

There was one guy that I never quite knew whether to feel sorry for or not. He was a middle-aged asian man who busked in the mall. And when I say he busked, he stood outside the 711 every day shouting the words to popular songs at the top of his lungs. A capella, if you could call it that. He had a hat set up in front of him for people to give him money but I will never know if anyone actually gave him anything. Don't get me wrong, I would have given him a few bucks. I was just a little afraid of going too near him.

My favourite street crazy in Newcastle was a "musician". I say "musician" because he was most well known for playing music, but I'm not sure he actually knew how to play any of his instruments. He sat on the same street every day playing the bongos and occasionally the ukulele. He surrounded himself with his own crayon drawings that he offered for sale. His beard was always dyed two or three different colours, purple usually being one of them. I called him Bongo Man until he introduced himself to me with his real name and I adapted it to Bongo John. Occasionally Johnny Bongos.

He introduced himself to me because I lived near the street where he played and spent most of my time wandering around wearing outlandish outfits.

"You're a bit of a gypsy, aren't you?" he grinned toothlessly at me one day, "I see you walking around here all the time."

He told me his name in between incoherant ramblings and I told him mine.

"I hear you do a mean version of I Shot the Sheriff," I said to him and he broke into it without needing any more encouragement, accompanying himself on the ukulele. He didn't seem to know the chords, or the words for that matter, but it was high quality entertainment. I gave him my change every time I saw him and chatted to him about music. I seem to remember him playing a song with my name in it, but every artist has a song with my name in it and I can't be sure which one he was trying to play. I suspect Hall & Oates or Bob Dylan. He was always asking me to come back to his "art studio", but judging by the fact that he was an old man with a multi-coloured beard singing incoherantly on a street corner, I always passed up the opportunity.

-Smackie Onassis

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Feelings are boring, Kissing is awesome

Over the years I've had a fair few "romantic entanglements". When I was at school I always developed crushes very easily, usually on my friends. Unfortunately for me, they usually looked at me as one of the boys rather than as a potential ladyfriend. The people who were interested in me were people like the kid who was mad for buses. Don't get me wrong, he was a good guy, I just wasn't interested. However, that's not to say I didn't date at all.

One of the first guys I went out with was a guy I did theatre with after school. I really liked him, he was a sweetheart. Unfortunately my friends did not. He was a bit of a geek and so they ripped on him mercilessly, constantly pressuring me to break up with him. Eventually they made up this whole big thing about something he had apparently said about me. I knew it wasn't true, but I broke up with him anyway because I was sick of my friends being jerks. "Peer Pressure". The guy actually wrote me a really sweet letter explaining that there'd been a misunderstanding, and that he was sorry for anything he might have done. It really touched me, but I didn't reply and I felt guilty about it for the rest of high school. At that stage I wasn't expecting to see him ever again.

When my friends and I went to schoolies, we didn't do the whole Gold Coast thing. Instead, we went to Byron Bay after the official schoolies time had ended. It was cheaper, and there would be a significantly lower douchebag quotient. We were out dancing when I saw a friend of mine being chatted up by a guy. A guy who looked very familiar.

"Hey," I sidled up to my friend when the guy had gone to buy a drink, "What's the name of that guy you're getting all friendly with?"

She told me and sure enough, it was the guy I'd dated when I was fourteen. I'm not sure how that even happens, considering how far away from home we were, but it was him. It could have been very awkward. Luckily I'm not the type of person who cares about these things and I thought it was hysterically funny. I even got to make my peace with the whole situation, telling him how bad I always felt about breaking up with him. He told me that he'd always felt bad about some of the things he did to me too, things I didn't even think were a big deal. We laughed, forgave each other and I told my friend that he was a good guy and that she could go out with him if she wanted. They ended up dating for about two years, I think.

The guy I had the biggest crush on in school was a guy who basically disappeared after we graduated. People saw him around occasionally, but no-one really knew what he was doing. What I remember about him was that he lived on a working cattle farm and was a die-hard supporter of communism. He was a down-to-earth country boy, but he was also a total weirdo. One of the conversations with him I remember most vividly was about garlic, of all things. I was talking about how I needed a mint because I had eaten something garlicky. He questioned why I would want to get rid of a delicious garlic taste. I told him that while it was delicious, other people might not be so fond of it. Other people would especially not want to kiss me. He informed me that he liked garlic so much that he sometimes picked up whole cloves of garlic while he was walking through the kitchen and ate them raw. I nodded, trying to figure out if he was insinuating that he wouldn't mind kissing me. Whether he was considering it or not, he didn't kiss me.

The problem was that he was so strange I could never tell if he was flirting with me or messing with my head. I remember once hearing him say 'Hey Sarah, want a date?' only to turn around and see he was offering me part of his lunch. To be honest, I love dates so this was just as good, but it was still confusing.

I didn't hook up with my friends a lot in high school, unlike a lot of people. That is, until we all turned 18 and started drinking legally. I thought kissing was the bees knees and so did it most times I was drunk. I rarely went any further with the guys and now realise that I probably must have looked like something of a tease. But guys, I just really like kissing.  

There was one particular kissing story from when I was in year 12 that was repeated back to me by almost everyone I knew the next day. We had all gone out to celebrate our upcoming graduation and gotten quite drunk. Yes, in Newcastle we started celebrating our graduation before we even graduated. It was on a weeknight too and we all still had to go to school the next day. It does kind of seem to defeat the purpose.

I ended up spending most of the night macking on a friend of mine. The problem was, I'm quite short and he was one of the tallest people I've ever met. He was at least a foot taller than me. Probably more. Our friends were pissing themselves. They came up to me afterwards and told me that it was like watching an honestly funny comedy sketch. I haven't seen that guy for years, but I have actually heard that he is now doing stand-up somewhere on the other side of the country. I can't help but wonder if he has ever told that story.

-Smackie Onassis