Drowning the Dream

Have you ever harbored a dream? Not just had one, but kept it, hung on to it, stashed it away in the depths of your heart to be dusted off whenever the time for it was finally right?

As long as  I can remember (and my sister says it’s been at least 30 years), I’ve wanted to go to Australia. Not just GO, but EXPERIENCE. BE there. Perhaps not forever, but certainly fully, completely, for a while. At the same time, I cultivated the unfortunate attitude of rolling with the punches, because, self-help books and Internet memes tell us, things “will work out”. And they do, of course, but what the gurus don’t tell you is that you have absolutely no say in the how or when.

According to the Chinese zodiac, this is the Year of the Monkey. It’s an anything-goes kind of energy that can bring change when you least expect it. After the year we had in 2015, change was/is sorely needed, and as I strolled down a busy street in Fremantle last spring, the salty ocean air wafting up my nostrils, it felt for the first time in a very long time as if change might really come. Change for the better. It seemed positive.

That Schäfchen, our elderly guinea pig, died almost immediately after my return seemed to contradict that trend at first, but then I thought, now it’ll just be the two of us. Surely we can make things happen in our favor with one cat and two bunnies. DH’s dream is to return to Germany, to be with friends and write his bestseller that’s been on his desk for some time. I figured I might toodle off and follow my dream for a little while, killing two birds with one stone: I’d BE in Australia and make money, because after all, I am in one of those professions everyone claims to be looking for.

After initial reluctance to even consider this, DH and I sat down to look more closely at what would need to be done. Since we’ve just recently added two kittens to our family, he would have been more comfortable had I been able to take the rabbits with me, but alas, unless you’re coming from New Zealand, Australia won’t allow rodents (which makes perfect sense, since ours are desexed, indoor rabbits but hey, let’s not quibble). Anyway, he’d be stuck with cats and bunnies, but still asked me to investigate further.

I did. And what I found was Reality giving me a toothy grin and a big, fat Fuck You! In order to not screw up my visa application, it would be best to hire a migration agent. One returned a quote of $200 to make sure my paperwork was in order. That doesn’t seem so bad, does it? Then I must fork over $500 to the reviewing body in question so they can use my application stack to hold their desks down for three months, after which time they may approve me and may award me enough points to propel me to the next step in the visa process.

I’ve now spent $700 merely to get to apply for a visa! No clue how much that costs, as from here on, things get a bit murky. In any case, should Immigration and Border Control grant me a visa, I’ll have to get the obligatory health check, which back in the day I moved to the US was around $150 (for the US, 20+ years ago, if I remember correctly).

By now I’m out roughly a thousand dollars, after which I’ll have to find a job. The application process alone would eat up any and all savings I currently have, which is not an option for an unemployed person. In short, I can’t afford it.

Anita Goa writes on her blog that the Pisces moon brings release. I guess that means it’s time to use this dream to feed the fishes.

Now go back to the opening lines of this post. If you answered yes to my questions, you’ll know exactly how I’m feeling right now.

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Perth’s a Bitch, and then you cry

See what I did there? Of course you did (NOT!)… it’s not quite so dramatic, really, but why don’t we just start at the beginning, if I can still get my head straight. Which, after 27 hours on various airplanes, is easier said than done.

I was pleasantly surprised by the entire Abu Dhabi leg of the trip. I had a lovely lady from Pakistan as my only neighbour in the row. We chatted, she shared some snacks with me, it was nice. Although I’m almost 100% certain this was not the extra legroom seat I had requested, it was comfortable and plenty roomy. The food was excellent. Which is a good thing, as the “light lunch” turned out to be the same thing as the vegetarian dinner option, just without cheese. I still enjoyed it the second time around.

Abu Dhabi’s airport is well organized and has lots of things you can do, mostly of course shop and eat. Also, shower (and for free), if you happen to have toiletries and a towel, which I did not and did not feel like purchasing. I might take them up on that on the return trip, though. Meanwhile I can report that the dry shampoo I ordered for tons of money is worth every penny and works like a charm.

Airport security consisted of a line-up of blokes who were really nice and even funny. Then again, I was there pretty early, which is always a good thing. No silly security scanner, no arguing that my deodorant is really NOT a can of Coke…

Boarding for Perth began on time. And then time stopped. Due to high traffic over Musqat, we sat on the runway for an hour. Which, you know, wouldn’t be a big deal if the seat was ok, but sadly, it was not. I had paid $150 for that whole legroom thing, which placed me in an emergency exit seat whose back did not recline and that, of course, had no storage in front (though I sneakily used my own seat to stuff things under). We ended up getting in with a delay of only 40 minutes but my back is shot and my arse sore as hell.

The food was ok. I had the fish biryani, mostly because the vegetarian choice was, oddly, garlicky mac and cheese, and I didn’t want to do that to my host, Ian, who was picking me up in Perth. In the middle of the night, we were served sliced apples as a snack. In the morning, they gave me neither breakfast nor something to drink. Fuck them.

Flying into Perth in daytime is quite something. You come in from Indonesia and get to see the entire WA coastline from about Port Hedland on down to Perth. The country up there is mostly just some bush and red dirt. LOTS of red dirt. A bit further south it begins to be divided up into large parcels which at least from the air still look like nothing more spectacular than red dirt, until even further south you start hitting farmland and getting more trees and bushland. Pretty cool, actually. I tried taking some photos for you guys but my camera ran out of juice before I got to the really good stuff.

They weren’t kidding when they said there’s been lots of construction at the airport, either. The new scan-your-passport-yourselves, you-silly-buggers stations are perhaps quite de rigeur but as I was an automaton, I ended up in the line for the real life border patrol agents, anyway. And you know, the sheep in the other line were no faster! You have to scan in your passport, answer security questions, then the machine spits out some kind of paper that you have to walk down to another machine 15 metres away. There, you insert the paper, have your noggin scanned, get the paper back, then take it and the passenger card, aka “you’re all dodgy people to us customs people”, down to Customs.

I nearly had a heart attack when I got there: the line doubled in on itself several times, then went behind a wall and performed another few doodles! See, we weren’t the only flight who didn’t come in ON time, but they all somehow ended up there AT THE SAME time! What a joke. The nice thing was, I handed the customs lady my questionable-suspect-card and she… sent me straight through! No scanner, no unpacking suitcases, not even a sniffer dog! And so I had time to visit the friendly folks at Vodaphone to get a new chip for my old mobile before my ride arrived.

Clearly, though, Perth is not nearly as excited about having me here as it was last time. When I finally had the internet up and successfully identified five of my Facebook friends (one of whom was ‘identified’ by a photo of Tony Abbott – rrrright) just to log in, I learned that the barbecue I was supposed to go tomorrow has been postponed. So, no welcome gig by the Spudniks, no burger with beetroot.

I am, however, freshly showered and have had a cup of tea. Now to put up the feet for a bit…

Vyv Does Oz: Cold Feet, Warm Hearts

My great-grandparents had on their wall a framed piece of embroidery with the lines “Wo man singt, da lass Dich ruhig nieder, /böse Menschen haben keine Lieder” (roughly: where there is singing, gladly rest your head /where evil dwells, no song is to be had). Taking this as my motto for the upcoming trip, I couldn’t be safer anywhere else. Most of my friends on the other side of the world are musos. Phew!

At least for a few days I’ll be staying at a fabulously beautiful place in Bassendean, nearly exactly opposite to my pad in Swanbourne. If you’d like to take a peek at Cook House yourself, feel free.

In order to provide you, my three-and-a-half readers, with the most bang for no buck, I have unearthed my old Flickr account where I will post trip pics as I go along.

My schedule is beginning to be occupied with gigs and barbecues and theatre visits and coffee meets, all of which is certainly giving me the warm and fuzzy. And yet, the first bell that rang in my head when I woke up this morning sounded an awful lot like “Idontwannago, I dontwannago!” Considering there are still five days left until departure, this does not bode well. Not that the sudden case of cold feet is entirely unexpected; I suffer from a minor version every time I’m going anywhere, and if it’s just to a local event. Even if I’m really, really looking forward to it. Not sure why it gets that way, but there isn’t much I can do besides talk myself down and carry on with life.

Vyv does Oz, Take 3

Getting to Australia the first time took roughly 17 years from start to finish. The interval between Sydney and Perth was only seven years long. And now, it’s shrunk down to three. I take this as a sign that I’m either going to croak soon or get back even sooner next time. But who knows, my crystal ball has been rather murky since we moved here.

In any case, the time for travel is very nearly upon us again. In fact, yesterday was my last day at work. Another notch in the retail belt. I can’t say the customers have grown on me very much, although we did have a handful of lovely regulars. Everyone else: mainly shitheads. But that is material for a different kind of post. Let’s talk about some more pleasant matters.

Australia, land of sun, sea, sand and snakes who frolic on the beach. To my still fresh surprise, I am actually visiting friends there. And doing a fair amount of state hopping, which is only possible because my stays are also getting longer. Where I walked off the pounds during ten days in Sydney in 2006, I spent fourteen glorious days toodling around Perth three years ago. But this time, dear friends, I won the holiday jackpot with five whole weeks of sightseeing, music and flat whites. I’m returning to Perth, previously much snubbed by me during penpal days, voluntarily and happily, then casually jetting to Melbourne to see what they’ve got to offer, and up to Brisbane to find out how my former classmate ended up there when nothing in her bio could have predicted it.

Honestly, I am excited. But also regularly waffling about the grade of excitement. While I enjoyed Perth quite a bit last time, it was also occasionally quite challenging. This time could be far better or far worse. What will people’s expectations be of me? What are mine of them? And what will I eat for dinner once I move out of my AirBnB place in Bassendean, where my hostess will cook for me?

The journey begins on March 30.

Alone on the Beach with Dylan in a Playful Mood

Shall I compare thee to a summer peach?
Thou art as fuzzy but more succulent
I whisper prayers to your sun-warmed flesh,
my head in worship of your ripeness bent.
You laugh at me from underneath your blue-brimmed hat
That pearly laugh which I adore
That makes my heart grow wings and fly,
confounding seagulls in the azure February sky.
My stomach somersaults on summer’s salty rim
while lips meet lips and skin caresses moon-kissed skin.
The world, unlike myself, cannot intrude beneath this blue-brimmed hat,
and for that, I love you even more.

A Light Shining Through

It’s February 2nd, 2014, and David is dead. It is actually the fifteenth February 2nd on which David is dead: a sad, angry, hollow anniversary. Originally, I had planned to write something special for the occasion, something poignant, moving, sensitive. I wanted to climb out onto that proverbial limb, turn my soul inside out and really plumb the depth of loss. It would have been my best piece yet. But there was no way, in my mind, to pull this feat off without sounding like a poser, a dead-rock star groupie. In the end, it is beyond me. Which fairly describes this whole inexplicably complicated, messy desire to write anything at all in the first place. David is, in so many ways, just beyond.

But where there is loss, there is legacy; certainly that holds true in David’s case. For me, he has been an inspiration on more levels than I realised existed, and thus, even in the black hole, that “gaping lack of him” (to clumsily paraphrase from one of his well-loved songs), there is a tiny sparkling light to be found that we should do everything we can to encourage and spread.

So, instead of teary-eyed grief, let me share today some slightly cheeky remembrance, originally dedicated to another flame extinguished too soon but equally applicable (even if the timing is off):

Are you still gone?
Let’s see…
No, there you are -oh!-
on the shelf, well…
Ten years have passed
And we’re still going strong
You’re still dead
And I’m still not
What have you left me?

Words, both sound and print
Pictures, both colour and grayscale
Memories, both real and imagined
I’ve learnt more about you
You have not disappointed me

Instead, you’ve made me
Smile at your name
Look forward to seeing you
Write my thoughts to you
And on occasion made me cry

All that is what you’ve left me
Quite a legacy, for ten years
And we’re still going strong
We’re still…

Vyv Does Oz: Driftwood

Yesterday, I ran out of steam. It’s not like I’m exhausting myself with activity, no, no. I’ve gotten used to the caterwauling birds in the morning, although it’s still slightly bizarre that I can hear them but not see them. Invisible banshees in the trees. I’ve enjoyed getting out and about, conversing with people (at least that stereotype about Australians holds true in Perth, they’re a friendly bunch), learning new things I didn’t know before, and occasionally making an idiot of myself, which is required by anyone travelling abroad and attempting to bridge breaches. I was on a roll.

Yesterday, I slid right off like butter off a hot bun. Instead of doing the touristy bit, I did the surly lonesome warrior bit and hid myself in plain sight: first on my home beach in Swanbourne, then Cottesloe (where I wandered from a dune to a bench to a rock to a bench, and it’s not the biggest beach in the world), then – after an inexplicable fit of energy- in Freo. And there I stayed, until the arrival of my dinner companion released me from stasis.

Perhaps I’m just tired. Perhaps it takes too long for the sun to come out (check back in a couple of hours, right now, there’s not much to be seen). Perhaps I’m getting too old to do this on my own. And perhaps, if I scratch the pretty patina off my achy bad poet heart, it’s something else entirely. This funky feeling didn’t start here, but it’s managed to cling on through various timezones and plenty of fresh air, like a cheap tattoo. I did my best to avoid shlepping too many pre-conceived ideas to this place, but perhaps I was hoping for a cure for the blues. There might be something wrong with me, after all.

Or, perhaps, I’m just not eating enough. Well, I’ll be damned if I let this bullshit tarpit keep sucking me down! This too shall pass. If you would kindly refrain from making snippy comments in the meantime (not that that is going to be challenging, seeing how many comments are left here normally). You’ll just have to suffer through more beach therapy and associated pictures.
Swanbourne Beach