April 28, 2006
Today I saw two of what are commonly referred to as junkies walking along William Street. This is significant only because I am now able to recognise in them the addictions they support. More correctly, I think I am now able to recognise some addicts when I see some of them. I don’t presume to have a radar for it, just that I may have uncovered what that veil means; that hypnotised, repellent energy that surrounds some of the very desperate and hungry-not-for-food types that I see regularly in Northbridge. A certain naivete has been mine, when it comes to the world of serious drug-taking, and I have only just started to conceive of it as existing, physically, in the jaded eyes and grayed skin of people who I might pass on the street. It’s just not something that my parents ever taught me about, and not something I ever thought I would need to know. So to learn this for myself has been both an ennobling and a depressing kind of education. Proof positive of adulthood, or maybe just that there is a needle exchange around the corner from my home.
It always arouses my interest and my real sympathy when I see people who have signed over, if not their lives, then their idea of happiness to the needle. Sympathy because I am the nurturer of my own slightly addictive personality, and interest because they live in a whole other world to the likes of us who look forward to such imaginaries as the weekend or the latest Veronica Mars episode. All they want, the folklore goes, is another hit. We want so much more. Or do we? Could we really want more than they, if what they want is a lifetime’s experience, all the colours of the rainbow condensed into the exact shape of their body? Who wants more, the junkie or the journaller? I am in no position of authority, but I think that we both still want as much as each other. And for reasons I cannot yet explain, that may be the most important thing in the end
I know that the sunshine we were walking in today was the same for all three of us. That the strong light must have assured them in some way that it was mid-morning. And whether they cared or not, I enjoyed it with them. I was touched by how closely they held each other—-closer than you see most people hold each other on the streets. But I know they had just scored. I know this now. It’s a knowledge that can’t be undone. That’s all.
April 23, 2006
Patrick is a spy
Look at Patrick with four computers in front of him. He is so 24.
Patrick loves spies. Lately I have been bringing home every spy book I can for him … fiction as well as history. I think he will write a spy novel one day—-I know I will never stop hassling him until he does. I think he will create an alter-ego for his pulp, something like P Thomas Pittman, or P T Pittman or something like that. I don’t know much about spies except that married ones can be highly effective and that the first rule of private detection is to always dress a little above the going standard, but already I can see that espionage has a lot in common with ninja. Both rely on the practices of invisibility.
I asked Patrick if he might write a techno-thriller, á la Matthew Reilly because he likes technology so much. But he said no, he just likes spies more.
April 22, 2006
Great hair means never having to say you're sorry
That the seventies were the coolest decade can be in no doubt and this picture of Ali MacGraw is one of my favourite fashion photos from that era. Who else was born to wear top-to-toe lavender and stare, paranoid and disturbed into the camera lense? She is my number one style icon, just edging out Julie Christie, Mia Farrow and aspects of Diane Keaton. I permitted myself to read her autobiography “Moving Pictures” as my last trashy read before university started, and it was mostly bad, but she’s so open about her former man-addiction and alcoholism that you have to respect her guts. And she provided a rare account of the 70s film industry as told from a woman’s point of view: after all, she was married to both Robert Evans and Steve McQueen. And like all the best celebrities, she is now an animal rights activist and advanced yoga practitioner. Her yoga video is, reportedly, notoriously difficult.
I love Ali’s look because she is not so much a pretty girl (they are a dime a dozen) as a handsome girl, which is a lot more interesting in the end. She’s a great antidote to all the froth and frippery of today’s Mystic tan set and her preppie-conservative style means she’ll never look like a fashion victim or a slut (sorry, but there is still no better word to use). The camera may love her, but she doesn’t love it. You can see it in her face—-she never bought the lie.
April 17, 2006
When Good Habits Turn Bad
I work in a bookshop, a really cool one which has lots of old books from the ‘sixties and ‘seventies and even earlier. I have a particular weakness for old school self-help books; you know, those little volumes with crappy paper that’s nearly brown with age and that have snappy titles such as “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life”, “How to Release Nervous Tension” and “Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do”. A bit of research on the internet always yields an enthusiastic fan base, and I have collected some real classics along the way, stuff that is a lot more effective than the new guys like Doctor Phil and Deepak Chopra. I read them in a salty bath at the end of the day and it’s a delicious, G-rated indulgence that always makes me feel like getting up early the next day and eating more whole grains and leafy vegetables. Which should only be a good thing, except for the fact that it becomes addictive, and one self-help book leads to another because, ultimately, one person’s system is only right for one person, no matter how much of that calculated “flexibility” is factored in to each. Nevertheless, I remain fascinated by an industry which is devoted to introspection and self-service and I think it’s mostly good that there are books out there for people who either can’t afford/are too embarrassed/wouldn’t know how to go about finding help from people in the flesh. So long as the book isn’t too esoteric, religious or political, there is usually some pearl of good sense that can make a big difference if it is applied in the right way, particularly if it is from the classic era of self-help, before the market was saturated by charlatans and conflated with new-ageism. However, for me, the time has come to shelve those old Bantam Non-Fictions because (a) I am not a middle-aged smoker with a paunch who is about to wake up and realise I never really knew myself, and (b) too much time spent on lists and exercises takes away from the time I’ve got now, to do the things I already know that I really want to do.
I usually get about one fifth of the way through these books and then I skim the next two. If they seem really good, I start the exercises. Do some automatic writing and then refine my goals and prioritise the activities that will get me there. But after too many years of commencing someone else’s program for my self-improvement, I realise two basic truths—-that I now know myself almost entirely, and that if I haven’t got what I want right now, it’s just because I don’t want it enough yet.
I started another one of these lists tonight, as suggested by Alan Lakein, the father of Time-Management in “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life”. It’s a good little book. It’s not flashy, not time-consuming and is very practically-oriented, but after scribbling down my long, medium and short-term goals, I knew I couldn’t progress any further with it. I know inside where I am now, where I want to be and how I will get there. All that’s left to do is to keep going on the path I’m already on, just doing a little more every day, be it getting up 15 minutes earlier, stretching before bed, or forcing that extra glass of water down me instead of a cup of coffee. I’m not pissed off that I spent an evening starting a time management program I’m not going to use, because I saw that the words I wrote down had more substance in my heart than they ever could on a sheet of paper. Yes, I see myself moving away from academe and more into the health-based professions. No, I can’t hardly wait to get back into dress making and textiles. Yes, I will write that novel and ride horses and grow buttercups in my garden, even though they are a weed. It will all happen. I’ll work with those who need me most, and I promise that I’ll do whatever I can to help my friends, the animals, receive the respect that is their every right. It’s just that this year is one of those bridging years, one where I’m locked into a project I have to do in order to get enough cred to move up a notch in the world where the broadest of brush strokes take place. It’s just one of those years. I hope I can remember that three months from now, when I haven’t done much that really feels like fun. I hope I can find the resolve to stick with the project of an honours dissertation when all I want to do is start a western-inspired fashion line that doesn’t turn faux-rock chic because that’s cool for a nano-second (which is, realistically, as long as I could ever last in fashion, anyway). I hope I can stay on track with Walt Whitman and Annie Dillard when I have just discovered Doris Lessing and the world of new school crime fiction as led out by George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane. I hope I can stay true and continue to turn down the offer to manage the bookshop I work in, though I would learn a lot more about book dealing and earn way more moulah. I hope I can manage to shrink my thinking back down into angles, when I have become round and don’t want to think in triangles any more.
My nana always said I was interested in too many things. I’ll continue to take you on, on that point, nan, but you are right about the need to focus. I see this more than ever before. Sometimes we need to narrow the vision so that its widest form has space to breathe. Sometimes we need to remember the honour of sacrifice, and gladly deny ourselves pleasure for the sake of the wide, the long, and the best, not the merely better.
Don’t you just know I’m going to write a self-help book myself one day?