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.


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…

Countdown to Christmas 2013, Week One

I’ve been posting a kind of advent calendar on Facebook where it is not very much appreciated, sadly. Then it occurred to me that there are more people who might not appreciate it, either, who cannot be reached via Facebook, and I decided to do a weekly summary of the advent goodies so far. This year, I have attempted to dig up some rarities and inspirational items. They’re all well worth a look or listen. Enjoy!

Sarah Brightman starts us off with a traditional tune from her beautiful Christmas album, “A Winter Symphony

I apparently forgot to post something on the 2nd, or it was removed without notifying me, but I did change my profile pic to this lovely Victorian greeting card


Back to the music with a selection of joyful ruckus by Phil Spector

I had no idea that flashmobs were still done, but this one assembled at a mall and surprised shoppers with carolling

Behind the next door, we find more music, this time from guitarist John Fahey, who plays a medley of Russian music

St. Nick regals us with the reading of a poem. I had previously thought of Charles Bukowski as that dirty old man who wrote weird books, but it turns out, he also composed beautiful poetry. In this video, “The Laughing Heart” is read by Tom Waits. For those who don’t understand English too well, the video has German subtitles.

Which brings us to door number seven, behind which hide The Monkees. Yes, really! They also had a lovely Christmas episode on their television show, from which this Spanish traditional is taken.

To see the videos, just click the highlighted areas of text. Videos will open in a new window.


Meet the New Band

First, there were Bad English. And Bad Religion. Now, I and Mr Aberfeldy proudly present Bad Poets’ Society. Introducing Miss W.G. Macallan from Speyside and occasionally guest starring Nicolaus Lenau on keyboards, here is their first hit, Late Night Blues:

Drowning my heart’s sorrow/ in Scottish liquid gold/oddly fitting the heather-hued bruise/”uisge beatha”/what new beautiful life will it give to my pain?

The band are happy to send you an autographed t-shirt. Don’t be surprised if it arrives appearing all black; they were too depressed to have their faces printed on it, and the autographs are done in black Sharpie, which was the only thing available..

Vyv Does Oz: Come Together

First, a hearty g’day to my most recent visitor via Telstra, location merely identified as ‘Australia’ (a tiny island off the New Zealand coast, as we know). Second, apologies to all those visitors who for some odd reason keep coming to read about my rye bread adventures. The first try turned out rather disappointing, and I honestly haven’t had the balls to try again – not that I’m not normally ball-less, for obvious reasons.

As I gleefully noted yesterday, there are 41 days left in my calendar until I can quit retail hell. I have been assured that I’ve earned enough dough to finance my excursion to the Bushland, so it is with great relief that I will make my escape one day before my birthday. And since I know how difficult a time you have all had, my dear readers, I will now finally unveil some of the facts about this trip.

I am going to Perth, Western Australia, dubbed “City of Light” back when residents lit up the place as John Glenn passed by far above. That was back in 1962, obviously a momentous year for many reasons. Why am I going to Perth? Well, for one, it looks like this:


(I do not own this picture. It belongs to someone who previously posted, then apparently deleted it from Flickr. This is a cached copy from Google. I hope to replace it with my own shot when I get back)

For another, it was a flea brain idea with no real reason behind it other than a somewhat goofy joke about winning the lotto and buying a derelict house in the lovely ‘burb of Peppermint Grove, whose postal code happens to be nearly the same as my old telephone prefix from Frankfurt. I had a penpal in WA once, but it wasn’t serious, and going to a desert state never occurred to me, but here we are. Made for each other, perhaps.

I’ll be leaving German shores on April 17, which will hopefully get me to Perth on the 18th, even though my flight plan has been changed about fifteen times since I booked my ticket. That’s ridiculous. I’ll enjoy two weeks in the ever-changing city with the worst customer service outside of the United States, if you can believe recent articles in the WA Today, then return to homesoil on May 2. Why? For one, I wanted to be in Perth for ANZAC Day. Blame it on Sydney. I was THERE for ANZAC Day, and yet totally missed all of it, so I’m going to satisfy my curiosity about how the Australians spend their version of Veterans’ Day. Whilst planning this trip, I accidentally discovered an oddity besides that, which I like to call the Mystery of April 18.

You see, back in 1989, when I had first made an attempt to get across the pond, I had actually applied for and been granted, a travel visa. I found it a few months ago in a long-since-expired passport. The issue date was April 18. Haha, I thought, and kept on rummaging through my drawer in search of some documentation I needed to get my job. Then I came across the passport I used in 2006. My entry visa was stamped April 18. When I originally planned the Perth visit, I chose the departure date based on the fact that my BFF wanted to accompany me, and I wanted to leave shortly after her boyfriend’s birthday; hence, the 17 April date. That now, again, I shall set foot onto red soil -albeit buried under concrete- on 18 April is downright spooky.

I’m flying with Qatar Air. Why? Because when I flew to Sydney, I did not, and this happened: I arrived at the airport at six o’clock. In the bloody morning. Which got me to the hotel, exhausted, sick and in desperate need of a bed, by seven. The staff were very apologetic, but they were fully booked (because of ANZAC Day), and my room would not be ready until that afternoon. I crashed, literally, in an armchair in the lobby, surrounded by various members of various marching bands, as well as piles of instrument cases. Luckily, a room was found by eleven o’clock, and I promptly spent my first day in Australia in bed. Hoping to do better this time, I expect to arrive late in the afternoon, so that I can settle in and go to bed at a more reasonable hour.

I’m not booking a hotel. Why not? Because it’s been discouraged from everything I’ve read, and because I’ve found airbnb. People privately rent rooms and even apartments and houses, and the pickings are far from slim. I also appreciate the user/visitor feedback people can give, and the vast range of accommodations. If my first choice should fall through, I’m looking at staying in Freo. I’d rather be close to the ocean and have to go into town to do stuff, than the other way round. If you’ve grown up landlocked, like I have, you understand why.

Thanks to the fantastic webbing of Facebook, I find myself in the odd situation of knowing Perthites now: original Perthites, ex-Perthites now congregating in Melbourne, ex-ex-Perthites who have happily settled into their hometown, and folks who moved there for various reasons from other places. Who knows if any of that means anything, but it may at least lend some inspiration for an evening or two out.

And so things stand as of today. As snow falls outside my windows, whereas in WA temperatures are routinely in the 30s these days, the whole notion of going to a place where palm trees grow, cars drive on the wrong side of the road, and people make funny faces at my English until I pretend to remember how to “talk properly” (leading my friend Nigel to exclaim that I sound ‘like a Canadian who’s lived in Europe for some time’) seems like the fog-brained dream it was a year ago. Yet, I can feel that little excited spark building somewhere deep inside my restless soul…

It IS the End of the World As We Know It

Much as I loved my decade, I’ll be the first to admit that the Eighties produced a lot of things that are better left forgotten in the mists of time. You know what I mean: shoulder pads, neon makeup, Pia Zadora. Sure, we all participated gleefully, because it was part of growing up in a decadent decade. But then you did grow up, and as you emerged from the candy-colored tunnel of frivolity, you were suddenly faced with adulthood and people like Midnight Oil. Or REM.

When I first encountered REM, there was no such thing as “college music” in Germany (and how could there be? Universities didn’t start converting to a similar system until 30 years later!), MTV still played music, and the main categories of music were rock, pop, heavy metal and alternative. If it had not been for the Irish Pub in Sachsenhausen, I would have missed out on a very large part of my musical education. At the time I started my brief stint as party girl, I was still contemplating how I might go about getting to Australia or living in the UK, but then along came the Americans with their weird mixed tapes, and suddenly, The One I Love wore a Hairshirt, drank Orange Crush and sang in unintelligible mumbles about things only grown-ups should know about. Michael Stipe didn’t begin to sing in a more understandable fashion until much later, and I feel vindicated that none of our American friends truly understood everything he murmured into the mic, either.

Over the years, REM became part of the soundtrack of my life. I remember very well sitting at El Torito’s in Monterey with some friends, sharing strawberry daiquiries and loudly singing along to “Man On the Moon.” “Losing my Religion” set new standards in story-telling in music videos, and “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” was the sole reason we queued up at the music store in Laurel in the middle of the night to be there for the debut of “Monster”, an otherwise woefully mediocre album.

Once, when we moved across the continent, we actually took a side trip to Athens, Georgia, just so we could see where REM came from, what inspired them.

In all those years, I only managed to see them live once, just before they rocketed into superstardom with the release of “Green” in 1989. They were playing the Kongresshalle, a relatively small venue near Frankfurt’s main train station. The place was packed. The stage was tiny and hardly elevated above the floor. Had I not feared the masses up front would crush me to death, I could have reached out and touched… someone. It was all wild, frenzied fun. I didn’t buy the t-shirt, but I think I still have the tour book.

In the last decade, the band seemed to lose steam. When I look at the track lists from “New Adventures in Hi-Fi”, “Reveal” and “Around the Sun”, I feel at a loss. But “Accelerate” was soon hailed to be REM’s return to form and a splendid comeback album, so it’s a bit sad to see the comeback only lasted three short years (and spawned another album, Überlin). Just when it appeared that REM might be the one band from Out of Time who might manage to become everlasting legends like the Rolling Stones, they decided to do it their way and bow out of the game gracefully, on their terms, while the love of the fans was still warm and the music still played in our heads.

For me, saying goodbye to REM is not just saying goodbye to an iconic rock band, it truly is the end of an era as it erases the last of the echoes of great times at a pub long gone. To quote another great band: Thank you for the music! At least, we’ll always have Frankfurt…

Life is a Highway

Well, it’s really more a one-way street, but that’s not really the point. The point is, we keep traveling a little further every day (I’m ITCHING to digress here, the options are nearly endless! but I won’t). On this gloomy morning, I’m once again reminded of a quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: A year passed: winter changed into spring, spring changed into summer, summer changed back into winter, and winter gave spring and summer a miss and went straight on into autumn This year, certainly, winter stretched far into what is normally spring, thereby completely displacing one season, after which it immediately got scorching hot for a few weeks, and now -just when the outdoor pools are readying themselves to deal with the masses of children and young people starting their summer vacation in a couple of days- the weather turns to total crap. This morning, it was already so dark, we should’ve carried a flashlight on our walk. But we didn’t. I’m defiant that way.

So we’re heading down a badly illuminated path into an opaque future, but things keep changing anyway, don’t they. Tomorrow marks the last day of my workout challenge, and overall, I am pleased to report that I am satisfied with the results. I’m even happier about the fact that I’ve found new inspiration in this exercise business; finally, my inner runner has decided that it might be time to challenge myself there, as well, thus laying the cornerstone for yet another little blog-assisted project. I think in this case the cool, wet weather actually helps, since I prefer to run in these temperatures. Nothing can stop me now! Well, until the first freeze, that is… 😉

For all of you who need a little pickmeup today (and I know I do), here’s Tom Cochrane with today’s title song. Safe travels!