Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Odd jobs

Job-seeking is a bit of a psychological twilight zone. You need to be at your most look-at-me confident at a time when you're most likely facing more rejection that you usually have to deal with in a year. When crafting resumes and gilding key selection critera, you're forced into remembering all these past jobs you haven't thought of in ages, and then you have to somehow make that experience not only relevant to your current situation, but also make yourself look like a star. It's not unlike looking back on past relationships, particularly in that sense of selective editing and the rose-tinted glasses you need duct-taped to your head.

The forced self-reflection and the odd rejection make for a heady emotional rollercoaster. But as crazy as this process is making me, I've always been fascinated by other people's career trajectories (particularly the early struggles) so I thought I'd share. On that note, get comfortable. I give you:

Every Job I've Ever Had (pretty much)

Age 11: St George Bakery

Pretty sure this violated any number of child labour laws but however my mother made it happen, I’m grateful for those couple of Saturday morning hours each week spent sweeping up sesame seeds and polishing the glass front of the pie display case. It was back when the Fullers still ran the bakery and Saturdays were especially special because Charlie would bust out the doughnut machine. It was hypnotic, the squeezing of batter rings into spitting oil, the rolling into sugar and cinnamon. And at the end of it all I’d walk home, exhausted but with paper bags full of leftover lamingtons and finger buns. And, if I was lucky, doughnuts.

Age 16: Cotton chipping / St Ursula’s Tuckshop

There’s no shortage of cotton in the George, but looking back it still seems a bit random that I spent a few days of my school holidays hacking weeds out of fields of cotton with a hoe. Not the work, so much, but the fact that my dad came along with me; either to chaperone or to make some pocket money of his own. The rest of the crew were seasoned chippers, mostly chirpy and chat-ready old biddies from town. Once I got back to boarding school for my final year I wanted to keep my fiscal momentum going, and so scored one of the three prized jobs for boarders at the school tuckshop. Ever greedy for the approval of people I barely knew, I spent my afternoons clandestinely doling out extra lollies to those I deemed worthy. I am proud to say this was the last time I worked with a deep-fryer, too. Who knows what the coming months hold, though?!

Age 17-26 (sporadically): Grape-picking

See here.

Age 17: Kitchenhand, the Merino Motor-Inn / Childcare Assistant, Warrawee / Night Fill Ninja, Four Square Supermarket

For six months after leaving school I moved back in with mum and dad, deferring starting university in a bid to gain financial independence. I had nearly a full year before I could legally go to pubs anyway. Turns out it’s hard to make much coin when you’re still being paid as a minor. Copping $7 an hour or so was really just the salt in the wound after working 2-3 jobs simultaneously, which variously saw me carving basket garnishes out of oranges, up to my elbows in baby poo, and rotating stock in the wee hours. This period was made more miserable by my lack of a car or drivers license, which is why one of my most enduring memories of this time is of trying to frantically pedal my old mountain bike while a small dog had its teeth latched onto my sock. Also during this period, my friends, who were generally embracing the bacchanalian excesses of Centrelink-funded university and college life, liked to refer to me as "budget boy".

Age 18-20: Assistant Manager, the Queensland Copy Company

I’d moved in with Madge in Red Hill and we were both keen to get jobs. She’d made better progress than me, having got as far as the photocopying shop up at Paddington to do up some resumes. The owner, Annie, offered her a job on the spot. Luckily for me, though, Madge had her eye on a waitressing gig at the Broncos leagues club – and so I found myself employed without so much as an interview. It was a perfect job for a uni student. I must confess I often gave unauthorised discounts to local bands printing posters and this amazing googly-eyed kid who’d come in every few months to photocopy his zine. And the number of parties held at Bramble Terrace during this period which featured elaborately collaged invitations is purely coincidental. The shop was eventually bought out by the expanding bottle-o next door, but whenever I’m there buying a cheeky cleanskin I feel a pang of nostalgia for the scent of toner and the hypnotic, endless unspooling of the large-format laminator...

To be continued...

Shootin the shit with Hunter S

This is pretty old, but still fun. A fresh faced Conan O'Brien tried for years to get Hunter S Thompson to appear on his show, but Hunter would only agree to an interview if Conan came to him. And if they had hard liquor. And guns. Maybe he was bluffing, but Conan showed up with a film crew.

The great Dr Gonzo seems appropriately baked in this clip; almost like a cariacature of Johnny Depp's potrayal of him in Fear & Loathing. Besuited butlers add to the surreal sight, and there's a crazy moment where the safety guy pushes Hunter's whiskey out of the way of the machine gun he's lining up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Off the wall

So things got a little quiet here for a while, sorry chaps. I was off playing tour guide/tourist for a special envoy from New York. Looking forward to sharing some of our adventures with you now that normal blogging service has resumed, and this seems as good a start as any.

First port of call was the money-shot of Sydney Harbour, from the Glenmore's rooftop - after all, nothing completes a view like a beer and a $10 steak. Somehow, I managed to get us lost. But for me getting lost tends to precede some of my best discoveries, and so it was on this day. Getting our bearings beside the growl of the Cahill Expressway, we were suddenly looking down onto a much calmer scene. A giant hot air balloon, adrift in the King George V recreation centre.

How did I not know about this? I asked myself as we peered down upon the mural's whimsical details; an elephant, a camel, a kite aflutter, some bikes. It's been there since 1983, the work of artist Peter Day. In a cute (and timely) twist, Day returned 27 years later to paint another mural there. "The Great Southern Wall" depicts the early history of The Rocks, and was only unveiled in December. With this latest contribution, and an army of volunteer helpers, the KGV now boasts that it's the world's largest community mural.

Personally though, that dreamy hot air balloon hovering behind the basketball hoops remains my favourite part. When she opened the completed mural late last year, Sydney mayor Clover Moore paid tribute to all the little hands that help finish a work like this. "The first stage in the mid-1980s took a staff of 10 artists and about 500 volunteers – most of them children – nine months to complete."

It's ironic that murals can be so easy to ignore. The 80s were the heyday of this most democratic and public of artforms, when artists and communities came together to splash social comment on bare walls in bold colours. Today the paint has faded, and the messages behind them seem quaint and idealistic. We prefer our street art unofficial and unsanctioned, stencilled secretively and cynically. It's only in places where the authorities work to restore and conserve murals that they stay bright and topical. Like in San Francisco, where Diego Rivera kicked off the whole mural craze in the first place, and whole streets of the Mission still bloom in full colour.

Elsewhere, old brushstrokes fade as small voices debate how best to preserve them. Most grey-beige days we'll walk past them blindly. But every now and then someone will get lost, and see the same old streets in new light, and feel the promise all those paint-stained kids must have felt back before I was even born.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Big love, little love

You know what else rolled around again blindingly fast? Valentine's Day. I want to rail against it, but that just seems kinda lazy. (Which isn't to say I haven't whinged about Valentine's Day for most of my life).

I'm still really proud of the post I wrote for Valentine's Day last year. And I still think that the best antidote to the consumerist bullshit of this hackneyed Hallmark holiday is to think about the people and things, both grand and simple, that you love. Even if it's not a reciprocal relationship - like the way I feel right now about my bike Baby Blue parked here bathed in sunshine in my new room, like a work of art - just the act of loving can be energising, inspiring, and grounding all at once.

I feel so loved right now. Considering my current state could be generously termed "bohemian" - or more dramatically, "destitute" - it's purely through the kindness of my amazing family and friends that I'm now sitting at the biggest desk I've ever had, job-searching in between long swims and bike rides and yoga with my sister, and day-dreaming about getting back to New York.

And then that city's a whole other love affair in itself. It's frustrating that that big love feels so far away, and for so trivial a reason as money. But just knowing that it's there waiting, and how good it will feel to be back there, will be enough to make the days fly by. That, and all the little everyday love moments: laughs with old friends, tumbleturns, cooking in other peoples' kitchens, baby giggles, backyard cricket, swapping well-loved books, frangipani on the summer air, the crackle of vinyl, cat stretches, and coasting down hills on a baby blue bike with spokey dokes. Each day its own little love letter.

Hope you found lots to love this Valentine's Day - and every day.

At the drive-in

If having your surname bastardised into an adjective is a sign of having made it, congratulations Daz. This is the most Hanlonian adventure put to film yet. It features a derelict old drive-in theatre, a devious adventure, a mum-napping and some smoulderingly masculine soldering and hacksawing. And speaking of bastards, there's even a cantankerous cameo from Bob Ellis.

It's the brand spanking new video for "Butterfly Bones", from Darren Hanlon's latest album I Will Love You At All. Directed by regular Daz collaborator, Natalie Van Den Dungen, it's a lovingly-shot tribute to a country town and a forgotten but no less fascinating institution. You might recognise faces like Rhys Muldoon, Tina Bursill, Jess Tovey and Bec Rigby. You might love lines like "when one year ends and another begins / and the sky is a shower of sparks / with your skinny-girl arms with their hairs on their ends / like exclamation marks". You might just be a Bob Ellis completist. There's something for everyone. Check it out.

Daz is going to put some words up here about the experience of making the video at the old West-View in Dubbo. When the site came up for sale late last year there was a small flurry of excitement that someone might get it going again. You can join a Facebook group to support the reopening of the drive-in, but I think what may really be needed here is someone with a shit-ton of money and a nostalgic streak. According to the agents, the site hasn't been purchased yet...

Darren Hanlon will tour nationally over the next few weeks - check the dates here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Monkey business

Hard to believe it's been a whole year since this little guy first joined us. Especially when I think back to the teeny tiny fragile little bundle who arrived so early - compared to one-year-old Louis, who seems fatter each time I see him. His teeth are coming through at the moment, so his smile looks a little different every few days. It's a smile that gets a lot of use. This kid knows how to work a crowd. It was pretty tough trying to squeeze in a birthday cuddle with him today, all his doting grandparents and aunties and uncles did not want to give him up!

If I knew any other babies to buy presents for, I would totally rip off the amazing book Louis' auntie Carol found for him: M is for Metal. It's an alphabet book of Dr Seussian rhymes, with the common theme of hairy hard rock. From Akka Dakka to Zeppelin, via Gene's tongue and groupies, this book is genius. And it's Aussie! Created by music writer Barry Divola and artist Paul McNeil, you can have a sneak peek flip-through here. My favourite was:
S is for Stones
That just keep on rolling
Most of their fans
Have now switched to
Lawn bowling
Anyway, being unemployed I had little money for presents but lots of time on my hands, so I made the birthday cake. Regular readers will know of my obsession with kids' birthday cakes of the old Women's Weekly stable, but believe it or not they've never done a monkey (Louis' spirit animal).

Luckily all my time spent procrastinating on recipe blogs paid off and I remembered Smitten Kitchen's monkey cake. Deb made a delicious two-layer banana cake with chocolate and buttercream frosting. I didn't really tweak the recipe, except to use half a cup less sugar in the cake and to add some gratuitous smarties. As my friend Reboot wisely said, "Smarties are a must for any one-year-old's cake! Just because they might choke on them doesn't mean we can't pick them off and eat them! Also don't be afraid to cover it with 30-something candles - always a good challenge for the blower regardless of age!"

Meanwhile I have a whole book of Party Animals, cakes decorated like various adorable wildlife, and there are at least six I am dying to try. Starting with the ice-cream cake echidna, with TeeVee Snack spines and a coat of Ice-Magic. So if you know of any little kids with birthdays coming up, or even big kids, who might be up for some novelty cake action: holla!

Cabin fever

In a perfect illustration of how much Brisbane feels like it's come alive in the years since I moved away, I fell for a little cafe on the weekend which was a musty old pharmacy the last time I lived in the neighbourhood. My little sister's just moved into that area that's either Ashgrove or Red Hill or Paddington, depending on who you ask. Her new pad's a few streets from the townhouse I called home for most of my uni days, in Bramble Terrace. She and her mates recommended this new-ish hole-in-the-wall on Enoggera Terrace. It's called either Cabin or Cabinessence, depending on how fancy you want to sound.

Cabin itself isn't fancy. If you want anything other than coffee, mind-blowing avocado toast or a pot of tea, you'd best look elsewhere. My sister recounted a telling anecdote about when she took a couple of more conservative country boys out for breakfast. When she asked at the counter for a menu, she was told by the person behind it, "I am the menu". The boys were already out the door.

Granted, our coffees took their sweet time in arriving to our street-side table. But when they did, they were gooood, and served on vintage saucers while each table's sugar bowl sported a different old novelty teaspoon. Little touches like these made it feel like a treat to sit on cushion-topped milk crates and mismatched old chairs, flocks of pot plants adding to the nanna's-sunroom vibe. I've passed the joint a few times since, and it's always pretty packed. And - seriously - that avocado toast is something else.

It was all part of a perfect Brizvegas Saturday: an early start at the West End markets + round two coffee at Cabin + window shopping down Latrobe Terrace into Paddington + accidentally spending the last of my funds on a cheeky lil Karen Walker dress (seriously, Meow Meow's closing down and there are some crazy bargains to be had) + lunch dumplings from the Kelvin Grove markets + an afternoon nap in the air-con + riding Baby Blue over to West End, listening to Yeasayer while my huge old pleated skirt threatened Marilyn Monroe moments + rounding out the night boogying to blues at the Boundary after jugs of Coopers and a delicious cheap dinner.

So yeah - I'm gonna be in Brisbane for a couple months. Wanna hang out? x