Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Remember Me Like This

One week back in the States... one week of losing my lovely hard earned Sydney tan under the harsh hospital flourescents I've been subjected to since last Tuesday. When your mom is in the hospital, you go. Differences, grievances, difficulties aside to be dealt with later.

I knew my mom was sick the day I flew out. I found out that day... "Go," said Dad. "We'll just be doing tests, nothing much will change." Sadly, that wasn't true. Alot changed, and my mom was hospitalized the day after I returned.

My hometown, Encinitas, is alot like small towns in Australia. In fact, I've often told people that I think what I like so much about Australia is that it reminds me of the San Diego I grew up in. The beaches for sure. My parents' place is about 3 miles off the coast - we used to ride our bikes to the beach as kids. Grab some Mexican food for lunch, stay there all day...

The hospital is right by my high school, both of which have ocean views. It's colder here than it was in Sydney (well, it is summer down there) and a bit cloudy, but that Pacific sparkles just the same for me. It has always been a calming thing for me, my ocean, my private beach, my Encinitas.

Having the memories of my recent Sydney sensory overload crashing with my current surreal family beachfront drama is making one song stick in my head... It doesn't really have much to do with either, but it's there anyway. It's beautiful Van Morrison rip off by an Australian band, the Triffids, called "New Year's Greeting (The Country Widower)." When I was in Sydney in 1999, leaving on December 30th (I was determined to do the year 2000 with my friends back home in Cali), this was the last song I heard on the radio (Triple J, yum). It's on their last album, The Black Swan ('89), which is long out of print... I heard they were being reissued in the UK, but God knows... Singer/songwriter David McComb passed away after a car accident in 1999.

I have it on a tattered old mixed tape my ex-boyfriend Tim made for me to listen to the first time I traveled to Australia and New Zealand. If you can find it, give it a listen. It's beautiful. Thunderstorms and peace, moonlight and chaos, sort of how things seem to be right now...

New Year's Greeting (The Country Widower)

I got a little place to myself up on Stony Ridge
I got it made in the shade
Sleep in till the afternoon - leave my bed unmade...
No one breathing down my neck,
Black coffee in the shade
Whistle a little of whatever AM radio plays
As for letters and provisions -
Well, it's a long walk to the cornershop
It's January - it's a big decision
To either think of you, or not

And I'll send you a new year's kiss and I hope you will remember me like this...
I'll send you a new year's kiss...

I've got two good arms one bad leg,
One weekly social security check
I can make an honest dollar but I can't keep track of where it went
I got a good black dog, so I don't need a phone
He smells bad weather coming in his old dog bones
Don't need no eyewitness news, no 7/11
No eyewitness news, no 7/11
No southern fried chicken, no man from Prudential give me
Good times, easy terms, eyewitness news...

In the evening when the skyline is cut in two
By a figure closely resembling you
When matches won't light, and I'll double take
Wind shudders to a halt, and maiden roads are washed out
And all around, as far as the eye can see
And all around, as far as the eye can see
And all around, as far as the night can see
just the gaping mouths of you and me

(I'll send you a new year's kiss... I'll send you a new year's kiss...)

Well I hear you're riding a new horse in the sun
I hear you're riding a new horse in the sun
Sure hope those Sydney shoeshine boys don't take you for a run
I still want you back when it's all said and done

Let the sky roll back
Let the ground give way
The season's upside down
The wind has turned around
To either think of you
...or not

(ps: RIP Juli's mom)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Rockaway Beach

This weekend in Sydney was, well, sweltering. In many ways.

Saturday was just a nice stroll through Newtown, which reminds me alot of Berkeley. Little cinema playing the indie films, a couple nice record shops, thrift stores (didn't find anything good though), boutiques, and about a million Thai restaurants. And cafes. The main drag, King Street, goes on for a while and there were plenty of folks milling about. Hipster couples, lesbians that look like 12 year old boys, babies with Ramones t-shirts on - you know.

Saturday night though... Well, that was some trouble. Probably because I was hanging out with my other friend Nick, an absolute wild man who knows anyone in any band in this country (I'm convinced). We started out at the Hopetoun Hotel, which had a room perhaps the size of the Silverlake Lounge crammed packed with people. (Keep in mind it had been nearly 100 degrees this day.) We checked out a band called Belles Will Ring, who were pretty amazing. Anyone who is a fan of that current wave of dreamy popsters who have a touch of 60's to them (think Rogue Wave or Fruit Bats) would dig this band, and they tossed in a little shoegaze as well. Fantastic.

They were followed by Dappled Cities Fly. This was a band a friend had emailed me about earlier... "Since you're in Australia, Mo, see if this band is playing." Then Nick mentioned, the same day, that they were playing. "You know, they recorded in LA - with someone from Grandaddy." "Really?" I said. "Was it at New Monkey Studios, perhaps?" It was. My friends own that studio. Formerly Elliott Smith's studio. Go figure.

So the band was fun - they came in with giant balloons and proceeded to nerdrock hard with occasional new wave keyboards. (I kept thinking of the Shins, although that isn't totally right.) I wasn't as into them as the other band, but they were still fun. To be fair, though, by this point the entire party I was with was well under the influence of drinks and a few mind altering substances, so we left and went to Vegas.

Vegas is a "secret" club (I stopped into it the night of the Twilight Singers show, but couldn't stay) which is tucked away within a totally gross dance club. I guess you have to wind your way through the Euro trash to get to the cool kids? Regardless, we went there with a guy named Bo who it turns out was in a band of note whose name I've completely forgotten at the moment. Damn drugs! We were joined by his bandmate Nick (everyone is named Nick here!) for a while. I was introduced to the DJ - a sweet young thing named Owen - who was doing mostly garage rock and actually had my Mummies request. This means that when it was played, I got up and yelled a bit.

Once the "influences" wore off, I was wiped out and wandered home. The next day was a beach day, my last full day in Australia...

I took the bus to the Waverly Cemetary - one of my favorite places in Sydney just because it's so beautiful. An old, and old school, cemetary, stacked with marble angels and crosses, on a beach cliffside. Since it was a gorgeous day, the blue sky and the blue sea behind these bleached white memorials just wowed me. Like last time.

Then a short walk to some other beaches before landing at Tamarama (which I hear is nicknamed Glamarama), a beautiful and sundrenched beach. Today I actually took a swim. I couldn't tell you how - perhaps it was just that hot - because the water was fucking freezing. I'd been cooling off in the water on previous beach trips, but today it seemed positively arctic. (At a lifeguard tower, they had noted: "air temp: 97 degrees. water temp: 57 degrees. Can't remember it ever being that cold!" So there you go.)

After Tamarama, it was a walk along the cliffs to Bondi, where hung out and read for a while before meeting with my other friend Nick for dinner. This Nick I've known since about 1994, a silly and vibrant person with, truly, a heart of gold. Talya couldn't join us, but we had some great quality time before saying goodbye. We even drove around and tried to find a place to view Comet McNaught, a comet in the Southern Hemisphere visible to the naked eye (thanks for the info, Dad!). I'd been thwarted by tall buildings and city lights all week, this evening it was a hazy sky and no stars were visible...

And that's it. I'm on my way home. The whole time I've been here, I've had one song running through my head... The Church's "A Month of Sundays." The tone of it is so beautiful, the sound of it reminds me of this place. Find it online and give it a listen if you can.

Bye, Sydney...

A Month of Sundays

Badmans woman with that look in her eye
You stop to wonder as she passes by
Something inside you is never the same
Something outside you is always to blame
Follow her home where she lives with some friends
They have some good things to add to the blend
The games expanded, invaded the place
Youre the only one whos forgotten his face

Youre saying no no no I must be on my way
But it really has been a pleasant night
And you go so slow hope they'll ask you to stay
And indifference gives you a fright

Walking outside you come to a door
You go inside and you wonder what for
At least its good to be out of the wind
You turn around and the clocks all begin
Just like the winter your memory thaws
Just like the ocean your memory pours
So many pieces to match or to find
So many doubts to have in one mind

It's hard to see how the tables have turned
It's hard to see how the people have learned
It's hard to watch the past drizzling past
It's hard to watch them picking the cast
And it stacks up badly that it never makes sense
You sense that sensation is whos paying the rent
And she beckons to you with her fingers and lies
She says: cant you slice the price of your paradise...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Only A Nobody Walks in L.A.

On thing I really enjoy about my vacations is that I do lots of walking. Lots. Like miles and miles every day. Yesterday turned into one of those days.

I started out by taking to ferry to Watson's Bay, which was a beautiful little fishing inlet over a 100 years old. I had intended to wander up to Lady Bay, an "exclusive gay nudist" beach. Although Talya and I are neither "exclusive" or "gay," we opted to try the "nudist" bit. But there was no bus service to the beach, and the walk would have taken an hour, and we already had a hike planned, and then had to depart from a different ferry...

So no nudie action. We did make it to Shark Beach though for more average topless stuff.

We also went to Vaucluse House, which is just an old mansion in a rich suburb overlooking the beach. Beautiful grounds with a creek and everything. There was some sort of fashion shoot going on, and as we walked past along the trail, a guy from the shoot made sure to let us know "We're doing a shoot here, so don't get in the way."

My immediate response was, "Please. I'm from L.A."

What I found most interesting about the history of the family that lived in Vaucluse House was that, although they were rich, they were outcast by "Sydney Society" because they came from poor origins. Unmarried convict parents, that sort of thing. Rose from the depths to become monetarily successful, had a great family life, but rejected by society. What I find ridiculous about this is that the majority of white folks on this continent sprang from the same roots - it was founded mainly by England's rejects: convicts and the like. There wasn't a whole lot of "noble" blood here to begin with.

So anyway...

The hours long trek back to Rose Bay took us along clifftops and through bushland with massive spiders and all sorts of crawly things we heard but didn't see. I escaped with only 2 mosquito bites.

I get teased for walking in LA, but walking is a pretty awesome thing. You see all kinds of little things you would miss otherwise. And in a place like Australia, you better be paying attention or something can bite you on the ass. Literally. With lots of venom. I was lucky it was just a li'l ole mozzy.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thank You For the Music

I did three things of note today. Touched a koala, bought shitload of records, and got drunk at the Annandale Hotel.

I went to the zoo. I know, I know, SO touristy, but I fuckin' like the zoo. Especially when you're in a country filled with freaky animals (only New Zealand can top it for the pure freak factor). I walked right up to a wallaby for a pic; it absolutely did not care. But the best is that if you pay a little extra, you can get right up in with the koalas. Now, they are pretty much stoned out of their minds all the time on eucalyptus, so they don't even notice you're there. But the one I stood next to woke up when I got there, and started scratching himself, like THERE, when I sidled up to him. Such a boy! But very soft. Kinda like my cat.

After the zoo, I went to the amazing Red Eye Records for some shopping. I essentially spent the equivalent of my rent there. (I'm only joking a little.) A nice guy named Matt helped me out. I showed him what I was getting that I already knew, and he added on. Only bands from Oz & a couple NZ ones I had to catch up on. As we talked a bit, he was incredibly impressed that I A) had worked info at Amoeba ("the best record store in the world, I'm told!") and B) had DJed at KALX for a decade. Made me very proud of my alma maters (or however you spell that).

Then, on to the Annandale with my friend Nick. The Annandale is a bit like Spaceland - sort of the up-and-coming spot for bands breaking through, cool new stuff, etc. Here were the cute hipster boys! Bonus. We had a couple schooners of New (pints of Toohney's, I think) and I got drunk. I also was enthralled by Gareth Liddiard and Mike Noga, of the band the Drones, who were absolutely amazing. Very intense - I guess as a band they rock pretty hard, so I was seeing an acoustic performance which was unusual for them on all accounts. I felt pretty lucky. Headlining was Loene Carmen, who was magical in her own right. Sort of an Aussie cross between Hope Sandoval and Bjork, with dreamy (but not reverby) guitar. Wonderful.

Music was what brought me to Australia the first time around, and I'm glad it's as great as I remembered...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Black Hole Sun

Something happened to me yesterday that has never happened to me before. I got a sunburn.

This is really quite shocking. I know that Australia is the place where the ozone hole resides, and I took extra care to SPF up (even though I have a nice natural pigment that usually withstands that whole burning thing), but I guess I forgot yesterday when I went for my walk around the harbor and now I have a lovely burn that traces my tank top.

So much for the topless sunbathing effect from Bondi.

Regardless, I hopped back on the ole cancer horse and took the ferry to lovely Manly Beach today, where I wandered to the far, far end of the beach. Away from screaming children and men in speedos (this beach was a bit more touristy than Bondi). There were a couple surfers and a few other gals going topless, so I again joined in. Kinda. Had to sort of cover that burn. I'm going to have all sorts of confusing lines when I get back.

The ferry ride back was wonderful (thanks in part to some home made ice cream I'd picked up along the way), but the best thing about it was the fact that I had two lovely old ladies to eavesdrop on. They had obviously been friends for ages. They were talking about art and culture and architecture and men. At one point, Old Swedish lady pointed at a restaurant next to the Opera House and said, "I had a nice lunch there with a man - but I've always wondered what dinner would be like." Old English friend said, "Why didn't you two have dinner?" "Well, he was 80 years old and won't go out at night anymore."

This made me chuckle a bit, and they caught me. Old Swedish lady said, "We take what we can get!" and we all laughed. I said, " Are you kidding? I don't even get lunch!" They liked that. It turned out they had been friends for 60 years, having met on family vacations in England, and stayed close all these years. Swedish lady lives in Sydney now, and English lady visits her every summer. When they got off the ferry, they were giggling about something... It was just so nice, to see old friends like that. It made me feel especially lucky to have as many friends as I do, whom I've known forever. And hope to keep knowing.

And maybe one day we'll take some exotic vacations together and giggle about men. (I'm looking at you, Rachael.)

After I cleaned up, I ate the fanciest and tastiest dinner I've ever had in my whole life, got hit on hardcore by a nerdy Italian man, and checked out the sky because my Dad wants me to get a picture of this comet that's just come into Sydney's skyline. I didn't see it tonight, but I've got a few more days to find it...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Take A Walk on the Wild Side

Today involved lots and lots of walking. And looking at prehistoric birds, amazing panoramas, and loads of water. Even more than at the beach yesterday.

I met my friend Talya at Circular Quay, which is pretty much the main transport hub in Sydney and right next to the Opera House. And the Opera House is truly a beautiful thing, up close and personal. The tiles have a lovely shimmer... I've been in love with it since the first time I saw it. We went to walk to Harbor Bridge. Now, there's a walk you can do in teams, tied together with ropes, which takes you over the top of the thing for the best view ever. You pay for this view by handing over a pile of cash and all of your fears. We kept our fears and our money and went up the 200 stairs to the museum bit which had just as lovely a view, without potential deadly results.

Then we went to the botanical gardens where the fruit bats were stretching in their palm trees and the giant black headed bald crane like things were trying to steal our sandwiches. Don't even get me started on the giant cockatoos, the bastards. But it was beautiful, just trudging along the harbor.

We also took a ferry to Luna Park, where Talya then confessed she wouldn't ride any rollercoasters with me. Why is it so hard to find a rollercoaster buddy these days? Sigh...

A trip to the Sydney tower was next for more touristy views, to be capped by the OzTrek. It was mandatory. It was drek. A very low rent version of a Disneyland "Soaring Over California" thing, except with more whiplash and a corny narrator. But kinda fun anyway.

Then a stop in the Strand, a gorgeous mall built in 18-something or other filled with Australian designer clothes that would have looked great on us if we had loads of cash. So where are my rich Aussie hunky men?

I know, I keep adding qualifications. But you know what? I still have one hell of a tan.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Let the Sunshine In

Yesterday was totally all about the beach. Beach beach beach. Bondi Beach, to be exact. The place where The Oils (Midnight Oil) got their start. A former working man's beach which was most recently the sight of the Olympic volleyball tournaments.

After a bit of confusion trying to meet Nick & Talya (it's both glorious to be without a cellphone and annoying, but there are payphones everywhere), I wound up doing a little bit of beach shopping (more dresses - I'm becoming a complete dress queen) and I just went to the water.

Bondi Beach is a glorious swath of light sand, surrounded by wedges of stone and tidepools that would make my Dad drool. On one end were the children and the dogs, on the other were the surfers, and inbetween were the common folk like myself.

I chose the surfer side.

I spent the day reading topless. Oh yes, you can do the topless thing here! Fortunately, I was all one color anyway so it wasn't like I was suddenly flashing anything too blinding. And I was surrounded by other girls for the wandering surfers to check out as well. I felt a little naughty, but it was far too fun.

I was reading "Lords of Chaos," that book about the Norweigan death metal scene where the guys in the "Black Circle" go about burning churches and killing strangers because they know that is how to truly be "evil." It's a fascinating read. After a couple hours on the beach I had noticed a group of crazy Asian dudes, all older - like in their 60's - wandering the beach and asking groups of girls if they could take pictures. One of them meandered over to me... thankfully, I was lying on my stomach at this point so he couldn't get the full frontal.

He squatted alongside me and smiled. "Yes?" I said. He pointed at himself and said, "I am from Korea." I pointed at myself and said, "California." (I tend to respond with "California" if anyone asks me where I'm from. I like that better than the United States.) He said, "I am from South Korea." I responded, "I am from Los Angeles." He looked at me wistfully and said, "Can you speak Korean?" I answered, "I can speak no Korean at all, sorry." (I've been mistaken for alot of things, but Korean ain't one of them. He looked very sad for a minute, then leaned over and put his hands on my book. It happened to be open to a picture of Dead from the group Mayhem after blowing his brains out (said brain sitting on the floor and the walls covered in blood). He sort of caressed the book and I lamely said, "Um, it's about heavy metal?" Then he sadly walked away.

At the end of my day I had some fish and chips on the seaside and convinced the hunky guy behind the counter to take a break and sit with me for a minute. He was funny, said he wasn't going to give me my food unless I gave him a smile and I said, "In that case, you're stuck sitting with me, because my laugh is better than the smile." Sold! Good one, huh? But I left him and his pooka shell necklace at Bondi, and went back to my place in CBD (downtown) for a wash before heading out for a walk in nighttime Sydney.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lost in Wonderamaland

I'm in Sydney, Australia. The weather is beautiful - it's the summer I missed in '06. I've already done lots of wandering, found myself in a secret "rock and roll" club, seen my friends the Twilight Singers perform a terrific show, caught a movie, done some shopping, seen some friends... and only have scant minutes here before I head off to the gorgeous Bondi Beach for a day of lazing under the ozone hole. Still distracted by troubles at home, but there's nothing like crashing waves on sandy shores at shark infested beaches to help you think less of that...

Greg said on Saturday night that I was already talking like an Australian. I tried to tell him that I always seem to pick up mannerisms like that and he goes, "Mo, I get it. You're a myna bird. I just get to bust your balls for it." So when I get back, if I'm still saying things like, "I'll ring you up so we can go for a bite and perhaps a bit of a drink, that would be fantastic," just think it's cute before it wears off.

Oh, and this computer won't let me check my own profile because evidently there are naughty words there, so if you are commenting... it'll be news to me for another week or so.

I already don't want to come home. Can't I just play on the beach with some hunky Aussie guy who just wants a little pash & dash? Well, that remains to be seen... ;)

So, armed with the hottest bikini I've ever had, an adorable sundress and unlaced Keds (flats, people - I'm actually wearing flats), I'm off to the beach. I hope y'all don't hate me too much.