Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Courtesy of the Royale... Pi reckons they're the best burgers in New York. It was damn good, but I won't shy away from further market research just to make absolutely sure....
How amazing is Lewis Carroll?! Or, to be correct, C.L. Dodgson. The playfulness and linguistic dexterity of Alice had me utterly captivated, and brought back many a dreamlike Disney memory like so many acid flashbacks. I just adore the croquet scene, a menagerie of hedgehog balls and flamingo mallets:
The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo: she succeeded in getting its body tucked away, comfortably enough, under her arm, with its legs hanging down, but generally, just as she had got its neck nicely straightened out, and was going to give the hedgehog a blow with its head, it would twist itself round and look up in her face with such a puzzled expression that she could not help bursting out laughing; and, when she had got its head down , and was going to begin again, it was very provoking to find that the hedgehog had unrolled itself, and was in the act of crawling away...
The store also hosts events (I must admit I first saw it on Gossip Girl in one of Lonely Boy's scenes with real-life author Jay McInerney) - and there's a great one coming up. On October 12 Nick Hornby and Ben Folds will appear in conversation about when music and writing collide, and the release of their collaborative album Lonely Avenue.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Just as songs can evoke specific memories, certain albums will always recall certain chapters in my life. Radiohead’s OK Computer is finishing school, working in childcare for $7 an hour and finally getting my license, and nights feeling paranoid about the future. The Shins’ Wincing the Night Away is moving to Sydney, feeling lost and lovesick and hopeful and homeless. Florence & The Machine’s Lungs is pounding my bike around Brisbane and Sydney summer streets post-break-up, everything veering between achingly beautiful and just aching. And now Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs will forever be the weeks of delicious release between finishing work, saying goodbye to Sydney, couch-surfing in Brisbane and returning home to the George. Aside from the fact it’s a damn good record that bears constant replays, at a time of returning to the haunts of my younger days - from uni to childhood- I couldn’t have had a better soundtrack.
Arcade Fire have always made albums that are thematic, though Funeral and Neon Bible tackled quite different ideas. But I feel like they’ve never done anything as strongly tied together as The Suburbs. I’m not sure you’d call it a concept album per se. These are songs of innocence and experience. The suburbs mean different things at different times of your life – there’s sepia-tinted nostalgia for the streets where you played as a child, but then those same streets grew suffocating in adolescence’s grip. Things come full circle in adulthood, when you might even consider returning to the suburbs to settle with children of your own. These are songs about returning home – and seeing how much has changed, and how much has stayed just the same.
The opening line sets the scene: In the suburbs / I learned to drive. Images like this recur, and it’s rather genius to lean lyrics and songs on experiences that are so universal and evocative: learning to drive, childhood haunts, schoolyard loves, feeling trapped , running away, returning home. Lyrical callbacks add to the album’s cohesiveness – whole couplets are repeated in different songs. The closing track is an eerie acapella version of the first, title track.
The tracking is cheeky too – strings swell while Win declares himself a “Modern Man”, but in the next track “Rococo” he’s scathing of “the modern kids”: let’s go downtown and talk to the modern kids / they will eat right out of your hand / using big words that they don’t understand.
I love the two-song set piece of “The Sprawl”. Part one, “Flatland”, is a minor key lament of the “get off my lawn” variety – returning home to see your old place and finding it gone. It moons on moody, cinematic strings, a baroque ballad that would make a neat little film. I love the reminiscence of that first taste of freedom on a bike:
On the reflectors of our bikes
Said do you kids know what time it is?
Well sir, it’s the first time I felt like something is mine
Like I had something to give
The last defender of the sprawl
Said "Well, where do you kids live?"
Well, sir, if you only knew what the answer's worth
Been searching every corner of the earth...
Then things change up as Regine takes vocals joyously for part two, “Mountains Beyond Mountains” – they heard me singing and they told me to stop / quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock. There’s a synth arpeggio that I feel owes something to The Knife’s “Heartbeats” and I could be imagining it, but the breakdown reminds me of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”!
Throughout the album there are traces of Neil Young, Tom Petty, even the Byrds in the chiming riff of what i think is my favourite track, “Suburban War”. But there are also lots of retro electronic touches, bearing out a quote from the band I saw where they said they wanted the record to be some kind of mix of Neil Young and Depeche Mode.
The suburbs have long been a muse for all kinds of artists – from Jeffrey Smart’s flat, uninhabited paintings, to the prescription sedation of The Virgin Suicides; from the suffocating communities of Cheever and Updike, to the family doldrums of Daves Eggers and Sedaris. For mine, this album helps explain why the suburbs are such fertile ground for creativity – their streets are paved with childhood memories, nothing is done far from the watchful eyes of parents and teachers. The same nurturing that makes you feel safe as a child, represents limitation as you get older. A friend noted recently that it seems as though books must concern children and young people to be considered great literature. Obviously there are exceptions, but it’s a solid theory. Is it the limitless worldview of children that’s so seductive? That moment of coming-of-age, just before anything-is-possible becomes loss-of-innocence?
Apologies for such a long post (and I already wrote earlier about the video for "We Used To Wait"). But The Suburbs really got me thinking about youth, aging, nostalgia, creativity and escape. I reckon it could stir a lot for you as well, if you haven't already fallen for it.
This laidback East Village eatery champions seasonal, local ingredients - simple food done damn good. After a bike ride we perched up at the bar, delighted to discover that all drinks are half price from 4-7pm Sundays. When they're five bucks, why wouldn't you test each of the cocktail options? We started with the new Bite of the Concords, made with muddled concord grapes and lemon-thyme. So fabulous, as was the Back Forty (basically a whiskey sour with maple syrup), a classic gin martini and the gin and prosecco concoction. The friendly bartender swore by the Red & Black though, an unlikely sounding margarita with strawberries and black pepper. My companions agreed that this was their favourite.
By the time the kitchen opened at 6pm, we'd had plenty of time to plan our attack on the menu. And despite how long we had to get our expectations up, the food was fantastically good. We started with the Kale Caesar Salad (with fried chickpeas and white anchovies), and a seasonal special of clams cooked in beer, with bacon and black-eyed peas:
For mains we reveled in a rare and tasty Ancho Pepper Lamb Sausage served with chickpeas, and the amazing Goats Cheese Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms, with a summer succotash on the side. We didn't leave a scrap on our plates.
Finally a plate of oven-warm cookies - peanut butter and double choc - nestled up to a caramel-pecan slice rounded out the evening sweetly. I'll definitely be hoping to eat (and drink) at Back Forty again!
Sunday dawned cloudy and hungover in East Village, so our planned bike ride to Williamsburg didn't quite come off. We did, however, bike along East River; spying Brooklyn out across the Hudson, passing baseball games and joggers as iconic bridges spanned above us -first the Williamsburg Bridge, then the Manhattan Bridge, and of course the Brooklyn Bridge. When we reached the southern tip of the island we discovered the New Amsterdam market at South Street Seaport. Held in the Fulton Fish Market, with the Brooklyn Bridge's sky-slicing suspension cables within sight, the markets specialise in local, organic and artisanal produce.
Before we got to the food though, I fell in love with the gorgeous, locally made bikes (complete with wooden crates for ferrying your markets fare home) of Bowery Lane Bicycles.
We nibbled cheeses, sipped mead, and sampled handmade ice-cream with the unexpectedly delicious flavour of "beer and pretzels", before hoeing in to succulent baby beef burgers from Jimmy's No 43...
...and delectable Luke's Lobster Rolls...
...And for a final sweet treat I bought some fabulous caramel corn from Liddabit Sweets. But this was no ordinary caramel corn - it was also flavoured with bourbon and candied bacon. Have I mentioned how much I love America? A country where anything, particularly the addition of bacon to anything, is possible.
The next New Amsterdam Market is on October 3.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Fuelled by ruby-ripe street-corner strawberries, I wandered acres and acres - from the Met to Belvedere Castle, Sheep Meadow to the Bethesda Fountain. Naturally, I got hopelessly lost. Unfortunately, so did my lens cap when I tried to have a paddle in the lake.
Everyone else had similar ideas to soak up the sun. I saw people doing all kinds of things - from stripped-off sun-bathing to rock-climbing; croquet to tightrope walking. And there are SO many people on bikes, from the sublime (girls cycling in heels who look poised to be papped by the Sartorialist) to the ridiculous:
Despite the thrill of seeing Lupe Fiasco this afternoon, jet lag did indeed catch up with me. After walking the forty-odd blocks home from Grand Central, eating a slice of pizza as big as my head and assuming a horizontal position, staying conscious is suddenly a very tall order. Out the window lightning is popping like paparazzi flashbulbs over East Village tenements, and my feet have the biggest blisters you've ever seen. Life is good.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Lessons I have learned in the past 24 hours (I think - my sense of time is all over the place at this point):
1. Know airports heighten your latent anxieties and also know you have to catch public transport for an international flight? Not the best time to decide to kill an hour blowdrying and straightening your hair. (even if it does look fabulous this side of 17 hours on planes)
2. Sprinting around airport terminals? Not the best time to be breaking in your hott new pair of high chocolate leather boots.
3. Checking in an hour before your international flight departs? Not the best time to ascertain that you were supposed to apply for a visa online before this point.
That's what I'm here for guys - making ridiculously stupid mistakes so you don't have to. But next stop - New York. Makes it all worth it.... xx
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Many athletic pursuits claim status as "the sport of kings", but for the lazy there's one sport that takes the crown. Lawn bowls. Traditionally the domain of the retired - snowy-haired old ducks and elder gents with their shorts pulled up to their armpits - lawn bowls has enjoyed a renaissance among the young in recent years. A number of factors could account for this revival - the dapper all-white dress code, the popularity of the movie Crackerjack, clubs relaxing their previously draconian rules to attract a younger clientele. But mostly it would have to be down to the fact that uni students will always sniff out cheap drinks, and the prices at bowls clubs are straight out of the 1980s.
Bowls always held a special place in my heart. Dad's promise as a footy player was cut short by injury, so he took up lawn bowls. He was the youngest club member by at least a decade or two, but embraced the sport with gusto. There is, after all, something rather zen about a sport you can play while holding a beer. As a result my sister and I spent quite a few childhood hours running around the St George bowls club high on "red drinks" and the acid fumes of salt-and-vinegar chips.
There's something really calm and dignified about the expanses of lawn (don't talk to me about the new, neon "supergrass" greens) and players doddering about all in white. Of course, some of that dignity evaporates when you head to a club like Toowong, deep in University of Queensland heartland. On Sunday my sister threw a surprise 25th birthday party there for her boyfriend, complete with themed cake:
It was a fantastic day out - the rain held off, everyone dressed up in op-shop finery, by the end of the night everyone was singing and dancing in the club-house. And it's not every day you can buy drinks at the bar while wearing no shoes....
These are old as the hills (or, at least, my own uni days) but here are some haiku about lawn bowls:
Saturdays with dad
Softdrinks while he worked the bar
No shoes on the green.
Scolded by ladies
Sharp faces, white hats; great towers
Of varicose veins.
The men grew old
Pants pulled higher, more empty
Stools, pokies chirrup
Now I too wear white
With pride and cheap-drunk joy and
Only a little irony
Happy birthday Shed!
Every Sunday afternoon the gang get together at Musgrave Park in West End (near the pool) for thrills, spills and, if this weekend was any indication, sausage sizzills. Then again, this weekend just passed was a special one - while I rocked up on Baby Blue expecting a casual get-together, I had actually stumbled upon the national hardcourt championships. There were teams from all around the country, heaps of fans and a great vibe. I took some video (apologies for the quality and the wobbliness) so you can see for yourself how crazy it is:
I haven't been to roller derby yet but I imagine it's quite a similar atmosphere, and I reckon we need to come up with a badass name for bike polo - along the lines of "murderball" for wheelchair rugby. Or perhaps someone could design a poloX logo with a skull and crossbones... Something about adding wheels to a sport seems to immediately up the ante!
It was a field day for photographers and sure enough there are some amazing images to be seen - check this out. There were also heaps of cool bikes to perve on:
Wish I could've stayed all day and even had a go myself after the serious games were over... From what I can gather the Melbourne team (the ones in red in the video) won the day. So if you're looking for some Sunday arvo entertainment and have a jones for bikes and a thirst for violence and longnecks, get thee to some bike polo - it happens all around the country.
"I notice there's not much sport on there," he said.
Dude, I appealed. Have we met? I was the one kid in the world who loathed Fridays because it meant spending interminable hours of the afternoon standing in the burning sun in the cricket outfield, praying none of my primary school compatriots would be able to hit the ball far enough that it would come near me. I was the kid who couldn't even hit the ball in teeball. I was the one left shuffling my feet and staring at the ground while teams were chosen for cricket, softball, soccer... I was the kid netball coaches would put into the elite squads thinking that the height advantage would outweigh the lack of skills, and then had to leave me on the bench for the rest of the season. At one point I was leading goal-scorer for my futsal team - but all three were own-goals.
So no, Jay, not a lot of sports on here. Until now. Sunday was a sports overload - two very different athletic pursuits, but both were awesome. It was a day of lawn bowls with a brief, intense interval of BIKE POLO.
And much, much later in the evening, back at the bowls club, the two sports kinda intersected...
Thursday, September 16, 2010
My Sydney bike is cluttering up my poor ex-housemate's patio, and since I don't know when I'll be back in Sydney, it feels wrong to deny Big Red her love of the open road... er, bike path. It's a girls' frame but I reckon a dude could totally get away with it; and it's rather large and would suit a taller rider. SO if you're a tallish lass or girly-man who's been thinking about getting into bike riding, Big Red could be a great start. She came to me free, like a serendipitous gift from the gods of roadside collection, so that seems like the right way to send her back out into the world. Lord knows I'll miss her, but it's time for her to have adventures with some new friends.
Email me or comment if you'd like to have a test ride (she's currently cooling her heels in Randwick), and I'll hook you up.
...Sitting under the hills hoist counting the stars, smoking and listening to Band of Horses... Discovering liquid eyeliner (thanks Ferris!)... Devouring fresh goodness from dad’s garden – homegrown herbs, celery, spinach, chillies and sweet little sugarbomb carrots...
...Playing cards with my nanna (and even winning occasionally)... Trawling through faded old family photos and boxes of notebooks and diaries full of memories...
...Sitting in cafes scribbling, trying to design logos for the Handsome Darlings sausage dog stud... Reading through old travel journals and starting to feel the butterflies of adventure in my tummy... Catching up with great new(ish) blogs by my talented mates Alison and Mel (both highly recommended)...
...Crawling around trying to keep up with puppies to take their photos... Switching out uncomfortable races shoes for daggy Cons and feeling like a whole new person – and ready to dance!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Everyone’s at the pub on a Friday night after a long week; footy blaring on the TV, the girls from down the road playing guitar and various mates joining in on guest vocals, rounds being shouted, rollies being bummed, kids busting moves on what passes for a dancefloor. You can detour through the park on the three-block walk home, throw yourself down a dewy slippery dip and then dissect the night over bacon and toast and tea in someone’s kitchen. By the time you wake up, the night’s gossip has already filtered out to the rest of the district.
I’ve waxed lyrical before about the joys of bush races, but now I can happily report that even without ponies their fun is hardly diminished. Days of deluge in the lead up to the Morven races meant that the track was too wet for actual racing, but that didn’t deter a turnout of a few hundred people. Little kids raced around in baby akubras and handcrafted belts with their names embossed across their bottoms; hopped up on sugar, charred sausages and the novelty of seeing more people than they might in months.
Everyone was still in their races finery and the fashions of the field were still hotly contested. It can be a lucrative sideline, and so even at the most remote race meets you’ll still spot the odd lass who’s gone all out for sartorial glory. You can tell those who do the FOF circuit by touches above and beyond the standard country races garb – a net glove here, a seamed stocking there, vintage-style tailoring and jaunty pillbox hats with little lace veils... And when it’s your best mate, with hair curled by her mum, who triumphs over a seasoned campaigner like that, the thrill is magnificent.
You’ll never dance like you do in the middle of a crowd of rum-sozzled revellers of all ages, to music you don’t even like blasted from hired speakers on the back of a truck – people reeling and careening around you like a carnival ride on the verge of falling apart. And you’ll never see as many stars as you do sprawled in a swag in the back of a ute, even if you have to do so while listening to Garth Brooks’ greatest hits being blasted by someone else in the carpark.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
This time next week... I'll be on the plane. New York bound, with nothing more organised than a couch to crash on. It's been coming for so long it feels surreal that the departure point is finally almost here - particularly from my current perch. Manhattan feels like a different planet to the broad, jacaranda-lined streets of the George. Have been reading the sporadic journal from my last trip though, which helps to get into the mood. My first entry, from new year's eve 2008, reads pretty smitten, and I only proceeded to fall further in love:
"New York is incredible, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. People seem to sense that I’m not from around here – could be my willingness to make eye contact, or the squealing at the snow, or constant grins and disbelief that I’m actually HERE. Everyone on the street is friendly, with a ready smile and the occasional whistle. The doormen all tip their caps as I pass down 86th Street, and the coffee vendors are always up for a chat.
"I arrived in darkness on Sunday night, after a death-defying ride on a shuttle bus from JFK with some similarly white-knuckled fellow passengers. New York roads are a chorus of discordant horns blaring and hand gestures; the clichés were accurate in this respect. En route I chatted with a Norwegian exchange student and her Californian friend, as we picked out the profile of the Empire State Building from the skyline, Manhattan nightlife twinkling into existence around us one bulb at a time...
"New York makes me feel like a child, in the best possible way. Everything is slightly dreamlike, in that I’m constantly surrounded by things I’ve seen before, suddenly made real. There are echoes of déjà vu everywhere, and not just from my current Gossip Girl obsession (the Met steps are still under construction, and it was too cold to attempt a yoghurt there anyway), but an entire lifetime of films and pop culture.
"No sooner had I reached Central Park than I was met by a squirrel - delightfully exotic to me, but I suspect more dime-a-dozen here than possums are at home. I passed a children’s playground and soon found myself on the running track around Jacqui Onassis Reservoir. Of course at this point I could no more put a name to the body of water than I could join the joggers, but with my iPod on what proved to be a mostly fortuitous shuffle, I followed the path around.
"There were ducks and picture-book rushes and the whole scene was quite picturesque, my runny nose aside. That familiar sensation of starring in a life-changing montage in the film of my life began to kick in... and then "Khe Sanh" came on. It changed the mood a little, but by clinging to lines like the last plane outta Sydney’s almost gone, I got through it. Soon enough the crisis had passed (gloves negate one’s control of the iPod clickwheel, you see) and I was on Fifth Avenue...."
The patriarch, Handsome Darling, shares his owner's talent for posing for photos. His harem, which now extends to five bitches (sounds so gangsta), all have equally elaborate names. They could all well be characters in a convoluted romance novel.
The girls are mostly named after various friends - Pepper is named for her markings, but Cherry is after a strawberry blonde pal, Lady Valentine after Sarah, Darling Emily for our third musketeer over in the UK, and chocolate brown Truffles Fletcher after yours truly. I may be biased but Truffles is clearly the cutest. She takes after her namesake in other ways - she is ALWAYS eating.
Nightly spooning with Handsome was taking things a little far for me - I think he sensed me as competition for Reboot's affections, because he kept inching me closer to the edge of the bed - but when I had a hungover siesta on the lawn while cuddling Truffles and Darling I had to admit it was rather comforting. They're not quite up to multiplying just yet, but if you fancy your own mini sausage I'd be happy to put you in touch with the breeder....
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I always feel there's a small glamour to being able to dole out your details to those deemed deserving... Perhaps the impulse of some of my dormitory contemporaries to write their number on clothes pegs and pin them to suitors at school socials, was not so far removed from Dickensian and Austen-tatious ladies leaving calling cards when making visits in society?
Anyway. I didn't want to give up the idea of business cards just because I'm currently between businesses! I needed something flexible and a bit different. So... until my situation is permanent enough to justify some gorgeous old-fashioned letterpress on gorgeous paper, I'll be making my stamp on whatever works - calling cards, stationery, prints of my photos, new acquaintances' wrists... I'll be like a roaming door bitch...
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The book was first published in 1989, published in Australia in 1994, so I was suprised the internet was well-enough known territory for a book of that era. I still recall what a big deal it was in 1997, when I was in my first year of high school, that we had a single computer connected to "the web". You had to put your name down ages in advance to get 15 minutes on this mystical machine in the school library - rumour had it some girls in grade 10 had found naked pictures of Brad Pitt on there. Ooh la la!
Anyway. Back to Public Exposure:
It hadn't taken too long to set up the computer and run some of the basic programmes which came with it. The word processor was straight-forward enough, though for the really clever tricks they'd have to study the manual. The same thing applied to the spreadsheet and database.
"The spreadsheet"! Read the manual!! Let's get to the juicy part where the Junior Gazette team test out a link-up with their school, Norbridge High:
In the school Danny McColl, Staff Photographer on the Gazette team, sat in front of a computer console. He was speaking on the phone to Lynda, back at the newsroom. He confirmed that he was ready and set the modem at his end ready for use. Preparations were completed at the newsroom too. Lynda crossed her fingers and breathed rather than spoke the words, "OK. Here goes!"
Danny, in the school, echoed Lynda's tension with his own "Here goes!" He struck the first key. Anxious eyes in the newsroom watched the blank screen for what seemed like an age. Suddenly, and marked by a sharp intake of collective breath, the words MESSAGE BEING RECIEVED flowed, letter by letter, across the screen. A pause and then came THIS IS A SMALL STEP FOR MANKIND BUT IT IS A BIG ONE FOR THE JUNIOR GAZETTE! Another pause and MESSAGE ENDS....
1989, punks! I had just started primary school... I believe they may have had an Apple Mac at St Pat's at that point - the kind that took the original, actually floppy, discs.
OK, fine. You've seen through me. This was just another thinly veiled excuse to blog about Press Gang. It's just so well written and clever and kids somehow put out a newspaper and Spike is a total dreamboat! Lynda 4 Spike 4 eva....
It’s amazing how many times you can read even the most densely incomprehensible phrases when their conclusion is that you appear to have successfully been freed of a potentially life-threatening disease.
My wife Maxine, notwithstanding that she is a former health reporter, was as scuppered at the medical detail as I was, but that didn’t stop our joyous tug of war over the two pages. Never have the words: “nil”, “none” and “not found” been so gratefully received.