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February 25, 2005

themes trapped inside the suburban dream

Coasting around the shopping centre today, I am struck by a prevailing sense of dejection. I feel as if I am being bombarded with signs at the moment, which mill around my ears and whisper into my consciusness in a maddening chatter. Everything seems suffused with meaning, but what? But what?

Things i saw today which made me feel disturbed: a yellow balloon with orange bunny ears, jerking around on a white stick, stuck inexplicably into a chain fence. A sign in my favourite book exchange stating it was closing after 23 years because of a dramatic increase in rent. An enormously fat lady choosing between glistening dishes in a foodhall chinese takeway, sucking all the while on a giant chocolate milkshake from Wendy's. Endless red faced, tantrum-throwing children, squawking, arching their backs and screeching, while their dumpy mothers adopted bovine expressions and ate, loaded groceries, fingered fabrics, in a blank, dim-lit haze.

I spent about half an hour hovering in front of the car air fresheners, unable to decide on anything, bending and squatting, picking things up and putting them down again. Did I want forest fresh, sea breeze, or vanilla? Would it be refillable, a dangling, fun-shaped toy or one dimensional? A dancing Elvis or a bumblebee? The endless choices surprised and baffled me - I had never ventured into the world of car accessories before. When the warning voice crackled over the loudspeakers, advising security to study camera three, I felt suddenly guilty for hovering so long. Sure the camera's beady eye was trained on me, I hastily picked a good old-fashioned magic tree. And it stinks.

February 24, 2005

the spaces between

It is the television that bothers me most at the moment - I regard it with quiet contempt. Switched off, it sneaks sideways glances at me as I read peacefully on the couch, imploring, trying to convey a seductive promise while stripped of picture and sound. But nobody else is around, and I revel in my power - not even the red eye of standby is allowed to wink at me! I can stroll to and fro, content in the kind of silence that fills the house with pitched noise. I am blissfully unaware of the world.

But when they are home, clingy fingers are drawn as if upon strings towards the remote control. The television is allowed to spring into life at the very worst time of day, crowing as it shrieks a cacaphony of noise, coats the room with the sickly promise of consumer delights. Sinking into the floral couch, they slip into numb and flick aimlessly between the suspenseful thrill of Deal or No Deal and The Price is Right, registering little emotion on their faces as they watch the suburban dream played out again and again.

All I hear is noise, noise, noise! Forced to slink off to my room, I lie on my bed, breathe deep, try to recapture the quiet. But sharing my headspace with Larry Emdur, how will I ever find peace?

February 8, 2005

slipping backwards in time

Where has this summer gone? The nights are already getting breezy and the wind bites you in the ass when you least expect it. I am in a funny phase of life at the moment, where I get really bored and start having obnoxious thoughts about sneaking off to obscure locations, but am still so busy as to barely have enough time to think! These emails are like therapy, kinda - I can sit down and think "Right - where am I at? What am I doing? Do I have cute and amusing stories to share? Or am I falling slowly into the mist and fug of the inner suburbs?"

First big news: The end is nigh. My Myrtle Street days are coming to an end after nearly three years, as after much consideration and an examination of the bank balance I have decided to find pastures new. Perhaps it started that day when the ceiling collapsed on me when I was standing in the shower. Maybe it was the day that I stood looking in amazement at the huge tree branch that had fallen on the backyard, obscuring the courtyard and confusing the cats. Or maybe it was the day when I realised that streak of mould near the kitchen sink was never going to come off. In any case, something started to grow inside me, slowly, that I recognised as a need to move and change.

Since then, I have discovered the horror of the urban rental market, as house after house has fallen by the wayside due to a distaste for cats, poor luck on my part (a failure to be the lucky candidate picked out of a hat when it came down to a nailbiting finale) and the failure to cough up extra cash when it comes down to a sheer competition of capitalist capacity - people bribe the owners these days! As it is, I have spent many weekends schlepping around from house to house, falling in love and tasting the bitter disappointment of rejection time and again. (This is after three houses - imagine how melodramatic I can get after six!)

Still, I am hopeful, half-packed. Books are in boxes and cats are looking wary. In the meantime I have been dragging my sorry ass to work at Scitech five days a week, where the flashing lights and whirring dials have not failed to distract me from a yearning for the glistening kiss of journalism. Tonight is the first time in ages I have sat and actually written anything vaguely creative, with the rest of my time devoted to writing glowing scientific corporate communication, playing politics with a careful mixture of frivolity and finance and pecking away at the keyboard of rat-race relations. To perk up my brain cells, I have been going to a shorthand class every Saturday for nearly six weeks, with another six to go. I am amazed at my resilience in this instance, because doing anything vaguely taxing on Saturday mornings, when the softness of bed and the crinkliness of newspapers beckons, is harder than at any other time. I am propelled by enjoyment, determination and a vague affection/fear for my teacher, who is a Mary Poppins-esque, dear little lady, with the telling signs of botox and the permanently surprised eyebrows of the surgically enhanced. I also like reducing words to squiggles.

For fun, I have found it difficult to let go of my lingering proclivity for freebies. When I go to events, I review. I go to the opening of art exhibitions and avail myself of the free, cheap wine and mediocre nibblies. I have volunteered to work at the Perth Writer's Festival and as a result get to meet one of my most admired authors in the flesh, offer her tea, stumble around my words or say not much at all, look cool and aloof (I have always regarded favourite authors with the same reverence as rock stars - I had to wrestle with grannies to meet David Marr, author and host of Media Watch, only to mumble and blush and feel awkward in the presence of his looming, acidically gay, intellectual presence). I am going to see good palys, bad plays, obscure dances, all night dancing, thoughtful films, rarely the pub, never the dodgy ones. I am, of course, about to renew my addiction to "The OC" - possibly the best teen dream drama on TV and the perfect way for brain cells to relax!

What else to say? My boyfriend's mum is dying, horrendously in the clutches of the cancer that is going to kill her, and I am ashamed of my fear of having to confront death. I feel powerless to do anything except to sit, watch, wait ... I am angry about the body's capacity to betray itself. Still, we are talking, looking out for each other, dreading the call that is now likely to come any time soon. On the subject of talking, I have also recently come together with a few girlfriends in a "women's group" (groan, you say - but wait!) which is actually just a chance for we ladies to get together, talk honestly and openly without judgement, without offering advice unless asked, and without hijacking the conversation and steering it back to our own experiences. It is a great experience learning how to sit and listen properly, and a surprisingly different way of communicating. We have all had to fight the urge to jump in and say "That happened to you? But that happened to me!" So far, so good. The environment we build in the first minutes of such peaceful communication is quite amazing - calming, free.