Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dream: Of Mardi Gras, sharks and the mysterious death of Lindsay Lohan.

Date: 24th December, 2012.

In the dream, I didn’t want to do Mardi Gras but I was obliged to attend because of my membership in a GLBTI martial arts club. It was a damn nuisance on a day when I had so many other things to do and so many other places I wanted to be. And what’s more, I was running late. I raced like crazy through hot suburbia to get to the check-in booths, getting lost a few times on the way as I ran down the endless nature strips of hot grass baking in the sun. There was no shade. Eventually, I made it to the stall, which was attended by a disinterested drag queen, but when I showed by woven rainbow bracelet for ID, she told me that the club that had signed me up had already filled its quota of attendees and I’d have to wait to see if there were any cancellations from other affiliated groups. It was exasperating but at the same time, I caught myself thinking this might be an opportunity to back out of this annoying commitment.

While I waited for word, I noticed that Sandra Sully was also in the area. She was getting ready to host the Ten News at 5:00pm and was wearing a large, unflattering pink and blue dress with white spots. It was her newsreading dress, she told me. She revealed that she didn’t like the sports anchor Brad Canning very much at all. In fact, no one did. As I saw him come around the corner, wearing a light blue mink and ermine collar over his clothes like some kind of pompous city mayor, I wasn’t surprised.

As we sat on the bench on the side of the Pacific Highway at my old high school bus stop, I noticed there were sharks. They were flying through the air as though it were water - or perhaps I'd been underwater the entire time and was just breathing it as though it were air. In any case, these vicious monsters, though not tame, had agreed not to attack people - although it was hard to put my faith 100% in that undertaking. Using a sheet for cardboard to create a barrier and bop them away if they came too close, I swam with the sharks of North Sydney.

Police sirens rang out on O’Riordan St, Alexandria.  There'd been a robbery and I was right closeby. The getaway car filled with dudebros sped past me as I stood at the traffic lights and I got in. Everyone was really excited and we ended up daring one another to do the Ice Sheet Cold Swimming Challenge, which was an endurance test, swimming in icy-cold water for as long as possible. We went to the local pool in Lane Cove and got into the water. There were giant ice cubes bobbing around in it.

When I got out, it was dark and the big news of the day was that Lindsay Lohan had died. A video tribute was to be played as well as a publicly televised reading of her will - both of which I'd have to caption. Behind the scenes in the old house, I could hear the celebrities discussing the momentous event in hushed voices as they sat in the toilet cubicles. Kerri-Anne Kennerly told a friend that Lohan's family life had been disturbed and even though official cause of death was being ruled as suicide, everyone knew how it really happened - it was Bert Newton who'd killed Lindsay Lohan.She also whispered (I was eavesdropping on the conversation) that the evidence was still there to be found.

I went up the stairs to Lohan's bedroom and found it a mess. Things were scattered everywhere - a jacket, CDs, a pair of scissors, ribbons, rubber bands and a massage table. The scissors were suspicious and I knew they were somehow connected to her death. I had a psychic flashback and saw how the murder had happened - Lohan lying face-down on the massage table, passed out from taking drugs. From her perspective, I could see the scissors and ribbons on the carpeted floor through the hole in the massage table. As Bert Newton came into the room, the perspective switched back to the third person and froze as a tableau: Newton with the scissors about to stab down on Lohan's spinal cord at the bottom of her neck.

It faded to black.

Later, as her tribute video was screened on the overhead projector, there was some speculation about whether or not Lindsay Lohan had actually died at all. It was thought she might still be out there, waiting for the big reveal and so although the mood was sad, people still held out hope that everything would be OK. But the question was never resolved one way or the other.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Dream: In which I pass the Slayer test. (undated)

There was some kind of terror attack being planned against the Hogwarts Express and I was one of a crack team of operatives assigned to stop it - but first I had to get there. It was a tricky journey using the train line and along the way, it was revealed that I was one of the newly activated Slayers from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'. There were many of us in the world now and it was imperative that I find the others. \

We were on a road, driving along in a car. The grass on either side was very green and there were one or two trees here and there. I got out. I walked down a path through the park until the trees thinned and the ground gave way to sand. I was in the desert from 'Restless', the season four finale, the desert of the mind where the First Slayer lives, and I was alone. I had to walk through the desert by myself, and only after that would I be allowed to be called by my real name.

It was hot and I wasn't wearing any shoes but the sand did not burn my feet and with a great deal of perseverance, I made out of the desert, through the scraggly woods and brush and finally back to the park, dragging a sun-bleached tree branch behind me and now an official Slayer. Zoe Thompsett* was in the car and she called out my name - “Nikki!” I got in and off we went.

 There was a strange black and orange animal that was perched on top of a statue. It looked like a kangaroo crossed with a fruit bat but my guide told me that it was a fox. It was swooping down at us with great, terrifying leathery wings. We shot it down. Turns out there was a bounty on each so-called "fox" killed, by order of the Queen. Her Majesty the Queen was there and was able to clarify the point. I made to toss the carcass in the boot of the car but decided against it in the end. The animal had changed now and was no longer dead. It was now a small, furry, red and white stoat, which I decided to hold in my arms while we drove. As we drove through the country side and down Collins St near my flat in Alexandria, the stoat became agitated and started clawing and biting at my hands. It held on to my index finger with both paws and chomped down on it very hard.

 I was reunited with the other Slayers, my new sisters, while I changed my clothes into a purple evening dress so we could get onto the Hogwarts Express undetected. At the last minute, I decided to add a dark olive-green army vest to the outfit. The effect was reminiscent of Alice from 'Resident Evil'. I'd walked through the desert and was ready to go.

 * Zoe Thompsett - a friend with whom I attended both primary school and high school.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Walking while female

Hey you. 

Yeah, you. That guy from outside the Rose of Australia pub on Erskineville Rd, Erskineville, on the afternoon of Saturday, July 14. The ginger guy with the beard and the husky puppy. I went over to you and said, “Hey, that's a nice puppy.” And you responded, “You've got some nice puppies there,” staring at my chest. 

That's right, remember me? The blonde woman? 

What you said was way out of line and beyond unacceptable. Seriously, what on earth was your motivation for making a comment like that? Did you not want me to pat your dog? Because if that's the case, you should have just bloody well said so. Did you think I would react favourably? That I'd giggle and say, “Aw, shucks, mister, you mean these?” and give you a better view? Get fucking real. Does this look like a Carry On movie to you?  Or, hey, maybe you thought you were doing me a favour by commenting on my appearance  in front of all those people? Let's be clear. “Nice puppies,” with reference to a stranger's breasts is never a compliment. As far as justifications go, that is nothing more than a thin, brown streak of shite, and you know it.

What happened was that you tried to reduce me to an object, rather than the human being that I am. You decided to treat me with contempt and derision because you thought it was cool

Stunned, I froze and did nothing. I thought, “That did not just happen.” I rewrote the encounter in my mind minus the sexist put down. Turns out this is something of a common reaction when women are faced with sexist attacks like this, and many of the people who engage in this sort of aggression rely on this delayed reaction. I guess you're one of 'em, aren't you? Does it make you feel special, like an honoured member of a fraternity of arseholes?

I gotta say, I'm curious - would you talk like this to your mother, to your grandmother? Your sister or, if such an unlucky soul exists, your daughter? How'd you like it if some random mouth-breathing gobshite went up and  treated them with such disrespect? And how would they appreciate such dubious attention? Do you think they'd LIKE it, that they'd think it was FUNNY? Do you think they'd be moved to hysterics by the sheer magnitude of your incisive wit? You absolute moron.

So what's my message, then, you shit-blithering bottom-crawler? It's this: Grow the hell up and stop being such a creep because the next person you put down might not react so nicely. The next person you refer to in a derogatory manner might take matters into her own hands and “nice puppies,” might be the last thing you say for quite some time. Personally, I'd like to set you on fire and watch.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dear Diary - America 5, backtracking

So after the Rat Pack show, that was when we went to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon. My entries are all mixed up. This is from my diary (amended some) on that day, the Grand Canyon day.

So that was last night. We got the wake up phone call at 5am and HAULED ASS to make it to the shuttle bus at the neighbouring Harrah's Imperial Palace hotel in time. Voice: "It's only a model."  
We're on the bus now. 
The sun is rising over Vegas as we drive past the extravagant resorts (so that's where all the scheduled free live shows are; too late now.) through the middle to lower range hotels, the construction zones that seem to stretch forever and thence suburbia. Jarred somewhat to see how this part looks like a 'real' place. Dusty and hot, with ordinary people and a less blinding ambient arsehole quotient. This is where the people who work in Vegas live. It's called Henderson. 
The road to Henderson and beyond, going through the desert, looks in some ways oddly similar to some of the countryside I saw in Egypt: the hills in the far distance, the colours and the greater sense of age the further out you go. I keep half expecting to see a kid riding a donkey alongside the bus, selling cigarettes. 
Though there are plenty of people collecting money out on the streets for charity, I have so far seen only one guy sleeping rough out in the open. I remember captioning an episode of 'Dateline' on SBS that focused on the underground tunnel people of Las Vegas, living in the old sewers and dark, forgotten passageways beneath the city, who go out at night time to gamble. They've lost their children and partners in divorce cases, their homes to the banks and their jobs to their addictions. They've lost just about all their money but what they can scrounge, and they still go out every night hoping to strike it lucky. One day, one magic day, if you just keep on trying and wishing upon that star.... It was a pretty disturbing program. 
So I've been looking out for scurrying mole people since I got here, not without a guilty sense of ghoulish voyeurism, but I don't think I'm in the right end of town for them. I don't imagine they'd be all that welcome in the posher joints around here. Or anywhere, really, poor deluded souls.  
So that's what happened yesterday. 
We're on this bus still - the shuttle to the coach - and it's likely to be a long day. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dear diary - America 4

Amended diary entry:

Here I am up at 5am. I'm pretty wrecked. Last night, we went to a tribute show (the 'The Rat Pack is Back!') at the Rio Casino, just off the Strip. We got the shuttle from a neighbouring hotel and voom.  
It was a long wait for the shuttle bus, mainly because we were still traumatised from our airport experience a few days previous and were anxious to be super early. While we were there, we met two nice but rather bracing ladies from Kansas City. They liked my ladybug backpack, I said thank you in my natural accent, and  it just went from there. They were extraordinarily friendly, which was lovely, but sadly I was not as receptive as I could have been. I tried my best not to let on. 
Sometimes, when my mind is distracted by important functions like sulking or being hungry, it takes me a little longer than usual to adjust my settings when different social situations suddenly arise. In the case of these two exuberant young ladies, full to the brim with joy, the level of cheer I was faced with required a full system restart. The trick is to not stand still, staring like a stunned mullet while your brain searches for viable options. 

A mullet, stunned.

Anyway, it wasn't long before we were imitating each other's accents, which is to say, they were trying to imitate mine and I was laughing at their attempts. As the bus made its way through the streets of Vegas, the driver filled us in on a couple of pieces of trivia and told a few jokes. By the time we arrived, I was back in good spirits. 
The Rat Pack show was great. I really enjoyed it - the jokes were old and dated, just like the songs and the rest of the audience - and there was a really good vibe among the cast. They looked like a bunch of guys who really enjoyed what they did for a living.  
Maybe about midway through the show, the performers started to go for a bit of audience participation. Dean asked if there was anyone in the audience who was celebrating a birthday, anniversary or anything like that. As she's elbowing me ('shutupshutupshutup!'), I gesture wildly in the direction of my mother. 'Margaret!'
'Oh, Margaret!' says Dean, 'Happy birthday!'
Then Joey came out and said there was a message at the front desk for a Mr Richard Hertz -- "Anyone here who's Dick Hertz?" Audience laughs.
'You can blame Margaret for that!' finishes Dean. 
Later in the show, Sammy complains to Dean after a dance number, 'I'm dyin' here, gimme that,' aiming to pull out a hanky from Dean's suit pocket, which turns out instead to be a pair of lacy red knickers.
'Oh, these? These are Margaret's.'  
So it was a lot of fun - brilliant work from some very good performers. The only unfortunate thing for the cast was that the audience was not very receptive, or at least if they were, they weren't very vocal in expressing it. Most of them were army vets on a yearly holiday. I know this because we got to talking before the show. Included in the group were a man, his wife and cousin, all the way from Louisiana. The man, whose name I have sadly forgotten, was very friendly and was so wisened that he looked like a peanut. They introduced us to the other members of their group, who were mostly all from the Vietnam War, although some were from the Korean War. They all, without exception, spoke fondly of their Australian R&R time in Kings Cross. I asked what the best bit was, and one man replied, "Round-eyed women!" which will teach me to ask a silly question. There was even one guy who was a WWII vet. He laughed most at the affectionate, tongue-in-cheek references to Sammy's homosexuality, which made me smile. 

"What a great pianist!" 
"The guy playin' the piano's not bad, either!" 

There were some other silly ones -
"Hey, man, take a look at these great dancing pants!" 
"Dancing pants?" 
"Yeah, dancing pants!" 
"Not much!" 

"So a bunch of Italians, (says Joey), die and end up at the the Pearly Gates. 'Hey, can we come in, or what?' St Peter looks 'em up and down and says he'll go check with the boss. Peter goes to God and says, 'Boss, there's these gangsters out front wantin' to come in. What do I do?' God says, 'Let them in, of course.' So Pete, he goes back over there and he says, 'They're gone!' God says, 'What, the gangsters?''No, the Gates!'" 
Following the show, we went off to the Rio Casino's rooftop bar, Voodoo. My brother had rung us up from Australia specifically to tell us to do this because it has one of the best views of Las Vegas, and he was not at all wrong. The building we were in was huge and standing out on the top, looking down, it's as though you're seeing glittering sequins set against black cloth but in the distance, beyond all the shiny chaos, there's nothing but the darkness of the outside world.  With the full moon suspended above, it was an incredible thing to behold.
But we had to leave. 
The next day would begin at 5am at the latest and by this time it was past 10pm. We shuttled back to the hotel adjacent to ours, got temporarily diverted (lost) and arrived back at the suite exhausted and complaining of stiff joints. My parents might be described by some as old, but what was my excuse? As they went to bed, I ducked off back through the hotel and casino to the mall. It was Mum's birthday and I'd not got her a present yet. 
It was well past midnight now and the mall was bustling. I passed the ludicrous candy store, the bars and restaurants, assorted knick-knackery, art for sale and designer luggage; withstood the disorienting fake blue summertime noonday sky, clean-shaven singing gondoliers and too-clean-for-Venice canals; only pausing in my mission here and there to take photos of the whole spectacle. Eventually, I found what I was looking for. Rose pink Murano glass. Happy birthday, Mum! 
I made it back to the room, prezzie and other assorted goodies in tow, with only a few hours to go before our 5am wake up call. 
And that's what happened yesterday. Now, for today....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

America 3 - the desert

So once we'd regrown what little brain could be harvested and used for higher functioning, we hopped onto a shuttle bus and zoomed out to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon. And by zoomed I mean caught the bus to another hotel where we queued up for a while as some guy was telling us "what you're gonna wanna do." Then we made little cups of coffee in little paper cups, I learned about that strange thing called 'creamer', and THEN we got to the zooming.

Our bus driver was very informative, telling us all kinds of interesting and occaisionally not-so-interesting tidbits about the local area and its development. The local area, for what it's worth, is beautiful once you reach an area devoid of human settlement: on all sides, steep hills and ridges follow you as you drive. As the vista opens up, these ridges start to look increasingly like the skeletal remains of long dead super lizards. Snake spine country on a monumental scale. Deserts always feel old and the Mojave is no exception.

Speaking of all things monumental, the Hoover Dam is impressively huge. a grand total of 112 lives were sacrificed to its construction, not including those who died of illness such as TB or disentry contracted in the workers' camps. Interestingly, the first man to die on the job, J. G. Tierney, and the last, Patrick Tierney, were father and son. J. G. was a surveyor tasked with finding the best spot in the Colorado River to construct the dam. He drowned in 1922 in the midst of his assessment. His son, Patrick, fell from a crane 13 years later to the day. 

Back in the present day now, with the construction of the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge completed in 2010, we were able to get views of the Hoover Dam once available only to people in helicopters. It was a nice walk to get up there especially after so many days of enforced sloth, and though I was feeling somewhat unfit, I was guiltily pleased to see that many other people were struggling with the simple walk up the gentle incline to the bridge. Fat Americans, my self-esteem salutes you! Being a dick of epic proportions, I jogged back to the bus.

The next few hours of driving saw us go through some incredible countryside punctuated here and there by tiny settlements baking in the sun. If there are such things as ghost towns, which there are, these looked to be at death's door. I thought they were beautiful.

We drove through the Joshua tree forest, the largest of its kind in the world. The Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) is an ancient species that can only grow between 400 and 1,800 metres elevation. These trees are technically a kind of cactus and were named by Mormon settlers who thought the bifurcated branches of the trees looked like the arms of the prophet Joshua outstretched in prayer. Of course, some of these plants had many, many branches and unless Joshua bore a striking resemblance to a many-armed Hindu god, I don't really see the connection. At this stage, we cannot rule out dehydration-related mass hallucination. As the Joshua tree is of the cactus family and so has no rings from which to calculate its age, scientists say that if you want to know how old a specimen is, you should count the total number of branch splits and then multiply the number by ten to get an approximate age. Based on that estimate, some of those trees are over 900 years old.

The section of the Grand Canyon we visited was part of the Hualapai Indian Reserve. The people of the Hualapai tribe commissioned the Grand Canyon Skywalk, which is a bustling tourist attraction. It's a horse-shoe shaped structure made of thick and extremely durable glass that extends out over the Canyon. The views, both horizontally and vertically, are breathtaking. It costs $25 to walk on and you're not allowed to take any camera or mobile phone with you. Instead, staff take photos for you and sell them at exorbitant prices (I bought two). This was infuriating at first, but once you realise that every cent goes to the local people on whose land you're standing around and eating ice-cream on, it's hard to begrudge it.

The Grand Canyon is well deserving of its title as one of the Wonders of the Natural World. It stretches forever and from where we were standing looked to encompass the whole world. The sense of size that being at such an elevation gives the land is a real stretch for the mind to process; it just seems... not real. You can imagine how a place like this would generate endless stories -- and speaking of stories, one of the best things about the Hualapai area of the Canyon is that we were able to see the incredible Eagle Rock formation, which looks like a giant bird descending on a its prey, talons outstretched. 

If there was one thing disappointing about the Grand Canyon (and I have to really think hard to find any fault), it's that I was really interested in the local legends of the Hualapai people and adjacent tribes. I wanted to know what stories they had about how the Canyon was formed and if they had any stories about the giant Eagle or any other animal. There were lots of ravens around. Was that bird significant? All that side of things. Unfortunately, though there were many local people at the site, there wasn't much information about the Canyon's place in storytelling and spirituality. Something to look into when I get home.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

America 2 - Vegas

Las Vegas was a strange place to get used to and I think our problem was an inability to approach it in the right frame of mind - i.e., we should have been well rested and enthusiastic rather than jet lagged and homicidal. Or perhaps that's just me. Mum was certainly exhausted to the point of delirium and Dad wasn't that far behind, having already secured the best seats in delirium's VIP area and got the drinks in beforehand, as it were.

Everything is fake. There's a fake Ancient Rome with fake centurions and a fake Trevi Fountain inside it, a fake pirate ship with battle re-enactments, a fake castle which looks nothing like a real castle as it happens (one way we were able to tell) and where they do fake jousting sans fatalities. There's even a fake Venice, which is where we stayed - the Venetian hotel. Like Caesar's Palace, the shopping mall section of the place is done up to resemble a Venetian street with the stores designed to look like shop fronts. The ceiling is painted light blue with realistic-looking clouds on and with the warm lighting, it looks like you're outside on a late afternoon. This is extremely disconcerting at 10:30pm.

When nuclear winter happens, we'll have to make our bunkers look like that just to keep our mental health going. As a thing to do in a casino on the other hand, it is decidedly shitty because it's so very easy to lose track of time. "Midnight? Wait, no, it's... Oh. Where is my family?"

So with all this in mind, we found ourselves wondering if there was a fake Las Vegas resort on the Strip as well. Vegas Town would have its own fake Strip complete with fake Rome, New York, Venice, pirates, pyramids, castles, etc -- and yes, another fake Vegas. And that Vegas Town would follow the same pattern as well ad infinitum. This all begged the question - where does it all end? The answer is obvious, and I suspect you can guess at it: It's Las Vegas all the way down.

Madness takes its toll.

The Venetian is a massive place; really gorgeous and opulently decorated with marble and (fake) Renaissance art. The suite we booked into was huge, containing two queen beds and a sunken sitting room level with couches, chairs, TV and minibar. Minibar got quite the work-out during our time there. The wallpaper is cream and gold, reflecting the dominant motif of the entire hotel, and the curtains over the beds are heavy with ornate print and tassels. The suite's bathroom was large and decked out in pale marble. In addition to the ordinary showerhead, there were these two other things which looked disconcertingly like nipples from which burst twin jets of water aimed just about at shoulder blade height. It was a great shower.

So the next three days were exhausting for me because I couldn't get more than five hours sleep in a row and I also didn't have much opportunity to get out on my own and so be my own person on this trip rather than the Dutiful Daughter, or more often than not, Tech Support. Eventually, I did manage to get away, egged on by none other than a street performer doing a disconcertingly sexy rendition of the Joker. What am I saying? An even sexier version.

The street performers dress up and act in character for tourist photographs and make their money in tips. There was Dora the Explorer (desperately in need of a responsible adult!), Optimus Prime, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Mickey Mouse and many others. This guy doing a Heath Ledger style Joker, he had it all. The stance, the body language, the make-up, the insinuating himself into your personal space and then standing behind you and whispering in your ear in that voice. Brrrr! He told me to ditch my parents and "go raise some hell." So I did. Well, responsibly. After giving them directions to get back to the hotel. And it wasn't really hell, it was more like aimless wandering, but it was nice to just do that.

 I wandered in and out of casinos and bars, got lost inside another mall decked out to look like the street on a nice summer's day and found myself in a tattoo parlour, sorely tempted to get a little ink. Though there was a very good, simple design of a tree that appealed to me a lot, I couldn't think of anywhere I would want to put it on my body. There were options, but none of them I liked. While I was in there, I watched a woman get her family name tattooed on her foot (Spring) along with a flower. She was telling the guy doing the work that she was going to Paris "in France!" and how excited she was. They got to talking about art and she exclaimed how she didn't really "get" Picasso at all. The tattooist goes, "He's the guy who makes people look like pineapples, right?"And so I left and went to a pole dancing bar.

There's nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear than to stand in the bar of the pub with no strippers. They were already closing up shop when I walked in. But with that avenue closed, I was at least able to buy one of those silly yard glass slushie cocktails with silly straw everyone over the age of 21 (and some under) was walking around with. Mine had rum in it and a picture of a stripper in pink silhouette. It was also pretty modest compared to some of the giant pacifiers out there. There were huge containers in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, giant plastic steins fit to hold a good two litres of alcopop, gold coloured plastic champagne bottles worn on chains around people's necks like the most nouveau riche of bling. Though at first hilarious to my mind, it quickly became distasteful and then a total turn off. Giant babies sucking on their bottles, looking at the shiny lights.

This is what I mean about being in the wrong frame of mind when it came to appreciating Las Vegas. The idea is to see the tackiness and artifice for what it is and not be angry at it for failing to meet your standards for what passes as fun; Vegas is not a normal place and you should not have normal(ish) expectations of it.I'm 98% certain my attitude would have been different had we not gone through the horror story of getting there from LAX. I mean, we lost an entire day that we'd scheduled to get over the flight. But after finishing my litre or so of rum and strawberry slushie, I had my photo taken with some women dressed up a sexy lady cops, watched some bouncy go-go dancers and bought a novelty plastic cup. This was sufficient for me and the next day was much better.

The next day, we went to the Grand Canyon.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

America 1

Where the hell do I begin?

Let's start with the time of the planned journey and the time it actually took. The flights as scheduled had us on a journey of 17 hours. Sydney to LA, LA to Las Vegas. Easy, right? Well, it ended up being 27 hours from Sydney to Vegas. That's not a typo; twenty-seven fucking hours.

Here's how it went down.

All went reasonably well on the flight leaving Australia. Virgin Australia, premium economy. Our travel agent had told us that we'd have access to a special lounge at the airport, but 'twas not to be. Still, no worries, right? We made it into LAX two hours before we left on the same day and then it started - immigrations, customs and the goddamn TSA.

Being as we were premium economy passengers, we were first off the plane after the well-rested our-seats-recline-fully first class toffs. This meant that we were quite close to the front of the queue for going through customs and immigration. So we lined up in the corridor in front of the escalators, where a TSA official told us to stop and wait while people from a different flight that had also just arrived were hustled through first. Fine. Then after a while, we got clearance to go down the escalators. At the bottom of the escalators, there was a small rectangular room and a woman directing us into different lines. After getting out of the line we'd been mistakenly put into at first, we made it to the front of the queue for foreigners. It was not until all the American citizens had been cleared to go to the next stage that they asked about anyone with connecting flights. Our flight was in an hour and a half, so it was getting close. The woman herding us through these lines was taking her orders from the TSA on the desks in the next room and though the system she was implementing was not of her design, she was doing it atrociously.

"We have a connecting flight...."
"Ma'am, I will get to you,"
"It's quite soon...."
"Ma'am, step back inside the line, ma'am."

Time ticked on relentlessly and the room got hotter. There were a fair couple of hundred people to be processed and the queue looked like the final stages of a game of Snake on an old Nokia mobile, where the snake is zig-zagged and curled in and out as much as possible to cram maximum snake into minimum space. And we were at the front of the queue. Poor bastards in the middle or the back couldn't hear what was happening.

We made it through after a forever and were allowed into the next room and the third queue. This was the immigration check, where they electronically finger printed everyone. It took  a while, but it eventually happened. Then to the baggage carousel and out.

OK, so LAX Arrivals Terminal Styx. Finding ourselves standing blearily on the side of the road, we're trying to figure out how to get to Terminal 1. There's really not much in the way of signage and it's very chaotic, so we ask around and eventually figure out the shuttle bus to get us to the Terminal we want to be at. All systems go, we're winning the race.

We get off at Terminal 1 and head to the check-in desk but there's a problem. Wrong terminal, wrong airline. Fuck. We're late as it is but the man says if we hurry, we should be able to make it. We race to the shuttle bus stop and hope for the bus to arrive but it takes ages. Other buses pass but do not stop. Dad gets on the wrong one but I check with the driver and we avoid that particular disaster. Eventually bus comes. right, on we hop. Our terminal is 6 stops away and on the 4ths stop, there's some kind of hold up. Are these people asking directions? Why is the driver getting off the bus? FFS. Time passes and we are cutting it super fine. We make it to the check-in counter for United and get in line but when we get to the front, the woman tells us we've missed our connecting flight.

But all is not lost! She can try to get us on another one leaving at 8:30pm. Right. Tappity, tappity, this lady is working on entering everything into the system. There are three seats left on this flight and we've got them! Yes! My boarding pass is printed first but then there's this error with the computer system.  The United woman, who is herself rather disoriented ("they changed the computer system and I haven't used this one.") gets another assistant to help out. The verdict they arrive at and which we accept as fact is that these three remaining seats have been booked for us and when we get to the gate to board, the staff will allocate us the seats. Which are ours. Which are booked as of...... *click* now.

Right, brilliant, off we go. TSA, shoes off, witnessing pat downs, shoes back on, done. Terminal Lethe, we are in you. The gate is located. It's many, many hours to go until we even come close to approaching boarding time. After a coffee (atrocious) and a sandwich (is this bread sweet?), we we find some seats and wait. I curl up on the floor and sleep like a dog.

While I've slept (jerking awake every time the PA system booms, "US Service Personnel, we salute you," offering free access to a special lounge - "Become a citizen! Enlist today!"), Mum has been going to the boarding gate every so often to ask about those seat allocations. Staff tell her to wait until the plane is ready to board. The good news out of this is that when at the 11th hour (actually, it was more like the 8th hour, but who's counting?)  they change the boarding gate to one a kilometre or so away without making any announcement over the PA, we're already on our way. The plane is arriving shortly and staff are setting up. It's been hours and we feel sick, but we're finally going somewhere and that feels pretty great. We make it to Gate 70B and go up to the guy at the front desk.

"We missed our connecting flight and the woman at the check-in desk re-booked us new tickets. She told us to tell you so you could allocate our seats."
Tappity tappity tappity "May I see your tickets, please?" Tappity-tappity. "I'm afraid only one of you is booked on this flight," the man says. Reality crumbles, madness sets in. The walls shake and crack; the blackness beyond beckons.
"But the woman at the desk said we were booked on. We've been waiting eight hours. She said it was done."
"You're on the stand-by list. If there is a cancellation, you will be allocated those seats."
"But she said it was just a matter..."
"Yes, the flight is over-booked."
"I understand you're upset, ma'am, but you are on the stand-by list."

I have come to the conclusion that in America, "ma'am" is code for "person I happily compare to dog poo."

Samuel's Adagio plays as we head back to the seats. People are staring. The thing about a situation like this is that although you really want to lay into everyone within a five mile radius, you have to smile and be polite and calm, because when the only way out of this fucking insanity trap at in the discretion of one man, you have got to make that man believe you are not thinking of throttling him.

We're desolated. It's been so long. Dad has retreated somewhere and Mum is furious. I'm about to cry but am trying to keep calm for the both of them. It's seeing my parents distressed that upsets me the most. I go up and mention to the guy that if there's anything he can do, we'd really appreciate it; "My father has brain damage and this has been very, very distressing." Meanwhile, Mum starts going through her bag, giving me cash, the receipt for the accommodation in Vegas. If they can't get on the plane, I'm going alone.

You know that scene in 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' when the wild men are rampaging through Rohan aided by Saruman's orcs and a villager puts her two tiny blonde children on a horse to raise the alarm and get to safety? And they're blubbing and it's all very heart-rending?

Just saying.

The plane is delayed and it looks like everyone who needs to turn up has. We're out of luck. The guy at the desk calls us up. I'm certain he's going to tell us he's very sorry but, etc --- but he doesn't. Someone's late and they're missing out. We're in. The man is told he is a 'golden god' by the twitching blonde woman in the jacket (i.e., me) and we're boarding. Holy fuck we're boarding. It's been over 24 hours by this point in time and I've slept uninterrupted for.... none of them, really. Approximately 4 hours cumulative, I guess.

Listening to 'Space Oddity' by David Bowie while a plane goes through turbulence is fucking awesome.

Eventually, we land. Shuffling like Jack Nicholson at the end of 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest', we disembark (I will NEVER 'deplane') and after a crushing tram ride find ourselves at the baggage carousels. We're through, we've done it. Achievement unlocked: luggage obtained. Let's. Fucking. Go.

Out the door marked 'taxi pick up', we are greeted with a picture from a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Crowds of people, smoke, noise, confusion, chaos. Men in uniform shout taxis to the side of the road and shout passengers into them. The line stretches down to the corner of the building and then back up towards us, back again to the corner and then back up to us again, and then back up to the corner of the building and then, yes, back to us again. We join the queue and eventually make it up to its first bend at the other end of the building only to find there's an extra bit in it and it GOES AROUND THE CORNER.

I've never seen anything like it.

Once I went to New Year's Eve at my brother and his fiancee's flat in Milson's Point and foolishly believed I'd be able to catch the train back into the city afterwards. The teeming throng of revellers stretched on and on, and when I was finally able to start making it up the stairs, seen from above, looked like one of those magic-eye pictures from the 90s.

That suburb-wide human gridlock has nothing on the despair this crowd of people evoked in me. It was going to take hours.

Then one of the guards started shouting. Some guys had broken out of the line and had approached the driver of a shuttle bus. "NO HUSTLING! YOU KNOW THE RULES!" But from what we were able to hear from their aborted conversation, there was some hope of alternative transportation.

Can you believe it that when we made it to the shuttle bus side of the building, the man there said it would be faster if we went back to the taxi queue? Well, when the nice young man in the suit driving the private hire superposh SUV deluxe going-somewhere-not-here-mobile drove up and asked where we were going, we got the fuck in, money be damned. A life saver, a legend, a limo driver.

Incredulously, Dad ventured, "It's not like this all the time, is it?"
Diplomatically, the best man in the universe replied, "Not ALL the time...." and then less diplomatically, "but most of the time."

It was midnight when we arrived at the hotel and a while yet before we were able to check in and find our room. But the time in transit stopped at this point at 27.5 hours.

Twenty fucking seven point fucking five hours.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Hello, blog. It's been almost a year since I started. Time to dust off the keyboard and jump back in.

I think freudulently should be a word. For example, when I typed (and later deleted) 'time for a kick up the arse,' I accidentally typed 'dick.' Well, no one's perfect and my autopilot mind tends to be rather foul-mouthed. That's fine. But what I would like to now be able to say is, "...I freudulently typed, with rather dull results." Yes, Freudian works but there seems to be no adverb. We need to get a team onto this.

But I digress.

I've been trying to remember as much of my dreams as possible lately, feeling in some way that if they're going to make it so hard for me to wake up at all, I might as well take the hint and pay attention. In the grip of a strong dream, I'll sleep through fire alarms and attempted burglaries. Resetting my alarm clock is no problem. If someone calls on the phone, I'll have a perfectly lucid conversation with them only to remember nothing of it when I finally wake up hours later - as if drenched by a bucked of cold water - "20 minutes to get to work!"

The last big dream I had was after a day when two main things happened: first, I was mopey and despondent, wallowing in my relationship status long designated "forever alone"; second, I went out with a friend and met a really nice young man. There was cider and chips. We exchanged numbers and I've sent a few text messages. Nothing momentous, but very, very unexpected and nice.

So that night, I had this dream, the main feature of which was this revelation that the stars were not in actual fact up in the heavens, far away and ethereal. Instead, lying in my bed and looking up at them, I realised that they had in fact been painted on. They'd been painted on by the same creative effects team who had worked on the musical episode of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer.'

And as I watched the bow and arrow of Sagittarius appear as if by magic (but now as I knew, painted on invisibly and illuminated by fluorescent light wires mixed in with luminescent bug juice synthetic composite), I couldn't stop staring. There was a sense of dissonance that I couldn't look away from. It was like looking into the sun. It made my eyes water.

Later that day, after I'd woken, I was filled with this a strange sense of sadness. I felt like someone had just told me there was no such person as Santa Claus. Somehow, letting go of a particular way of understanding the world. There was for much of the day a sense that the rug had been pulled out from underneath me a little bit. Time to leave Narnia, kids, and this time you can't come back because you're too old. Bittersweet loss.

Later, it occurred to me that it was the proximity of the stars that was the major point of interest in the dream. They were still there after all and they were still stars; they were still beautiful and shiny and captivating, and I was still unable to look away from them. But they were less bright and closer as opposed to really bright and far away. Less glossy, more attainable.

So in terms of interpretation, I'm going with the obvious. My subconscious tends not to be subtle. The stars most likely represent dreams and ambitions - the Holy Grail of 'emotional fulfilment,' which I've been given to understand (with notable resentment and a growing sense of deficiency) requires the involvement of another human being in my life and on a romantic level. My perception of the relationships of other people as being all perfectmagicHollywood and emphatically 'not for me' was revealed in this dream as not a thing that actually exists in this universe. The fake stars never existed.

So while the 8-year-old Disney princess wannabe part of me felt oddly betrayed by social myths of happily ever after, the rest of me, once I realised the dream's connection with the skewed way I'd been seeing the world and actually understood and felt that revelation ontologically rather than superficially, felt quite liberated and refreshed.