Tag Archives: chattering cat

Traversing the Tinderverse

16 Aug

The Tinderverse is a bewildering flotsam of social media space junk. The lost and the lewd, the peculiar and the promiscuous- they all hover uncertainly amidst Internet acronyms, unselfconsciously meta profiles, and enthusiastic emoticons. In my mind, Tinder embodies the Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars: a quagmire of freaks, all killing time in between misadventures, all disappointed that they can’t play with their droids, and all waiting for the chance to unholster their weapon.

He’s 5km away from me and has a gun. Shit.

And I’m in the middle of it all. Looking for a young Harrison Ford. And just trying to get to fucking Alderaan. 

Bam-chicka-wow-wow: Storm Trooper porn


Hold on…Alderaan explodes, doesn’t it? 

Well that doesn’t work as a reference. 

I mean, I’ll never make it there. 

And I’m three decades too late to find a young Harrison Ford. Young Mr. Ford doesn’t exist anymore. Not even in the post-apocalyptic Tinderverse.

Wow. That just makes that whole metaphor kind of…depressing. 

And meta as fuck!

This is apparently two images of the same man. And that, my friends, is a failed Jedi mind trick.

Anyway, every now and then, your weirdness meshes serendipitously with the weirdness of another, and you find yourself on an actual date.

The Muso was a horrifically cute fellow that I went out with a few times last year. He was the main songwriter in an unsigned prog-metal band​. I matched with him and, feeling frisky, decided to break conventions by sending the first message: “Is the state of Sydney’s live music scene so calamitous that a musician has to find women on Tinder?! Don’t girls just peg their underpants at you as you walk down the street?” 

Apparently, being nerdy enough to use the word ‘calamitous’ as an online mating call endears you to some people and, impressed by the size of my dictionary, he invited me to beers at an achingly hip pub in Bondi.

Our first date ended with a warm smile and a chaste hug. And it was refreshing. Old-fashioned. Other-worldly, even. The force was strong in this one.

He messaged the next day to say that he’d had a nice time and would love to see me again.

How nice, I found myself thinking, to be in the company of a dude who didn’t make his desire to wrench my legs asunder the focal point of our time together. It’s refreshing. Old fashioned. Other-worldly, even.

And the second date? Well, it started with a beer and it ended with the phrase, “I’m seeing a psychologist because they think I’m somewhere on the autism spectrum. You’ve heard of Asperger’s, haven’t you?”

Ah. So I was wrong- the cute musician boy wasn’t not making a move because he was a gentleman. He was not making one because he couldn’t pick up on my ‘I am amenable to the concept of being kissed by you’ social cues.

Fuck.

Nothing’s easy, is it?

His announcement should have signalled that he wasn’t the droid I was looking for, but I didn’t want to be judgemental, especially since he a) played lead guitar and b) continued with, “Being a nurse I figured you wouldn’t run away. Thank you for not running away.”

Heartbreaking, no?

And there might have also been c) he had a pierced tongue.

But I’m not admitting to anything there.

And I figured that the words “autism spectrum” were more palatable than “casual heroin habit” or “I only killed animals as a child”, so I agreed to a third date.

It was on New Year’s Eve. We were going to have a socially isolated quiet evening at his house. He was stoned when I arrived. I was unimpressed. He misread my facial cues and offered me a joint. I poured myself a glass of wine instead. He began to sermonise that weed is healthier than alcohol. I became irritated. We debated. The exchange became somewhat heated, then he blurted out, “I was an accessory to murder once.”

Wait- what?

An accessory to…what?!

Was this a debate technique? Misdirect your opponent with ejaculatory disclosures? Why was he telling me this? I hadn’t even kissed him yet. And, in the timeline of relationships, should your lips not briefly converge with another’s before you unlock your closet and dump a pile of rotting bones on them?

As I pondered this, his cat jumped on my lap. I began to stroke the beast’s head; noticing for the first time the disquietingly large number of Pop! Vinyl dolls there were in his lounge room. The entire cast of Dr. Who was there- he’d collected the Spectrum out of them. They stood, crowding every surface: an army of esoteric sci-fi characters, mute, but somehow proud in their zanily proportioned, bobble-headed glory. They were all spaced precisely three inches apart. They were all angled to face the lounge we perched on, and they were all

Watching

Us.

I took a swig of wine.

And, under their unyielding, inanimate gaze, the Muso told me his story, giving it the sort of unerring attention to detail that only an Aspie can muster.

The murder happened during a drug deal gone bad, one that took place in a dowdy, inner-west flat. My soft-spoken, seemingly gentle Muso was there with a volatile, steroid-injecting acquaintance. They were visiting an emaciated dealer. To buy an ounce of pot. The PlayStation in the corner was broken. There was a hole in the curtains. And a blue Louisville Slugger softball bat was by the door to the kitchen.

To cut a long, disturbing story short: Steroid smacked Skinny with the bat mid-deal.

Completely out of the blue.

Ha! Geddit? ‘Cos the bat was…?!

Golly I’m clever.

Anyway, Steroid hit him once…twice…a handful of times. Skinny collapsed on the carpet. The Muso started to rise from his seat, buttocks hovering over cheap pine, when Steroid turned, pointed the blood-streaked bat at him, and told him to “wait in the fuckin’ car.”

Unsurprisingly, he obeyed.

“He had the new Slipknot album,” he told me, scratching his knee through his shorts, “so I just listened to that while I waited.”

“What song?” I interjected. “‘Wait and bleed’?”

He frowned. “No. That was on their first album.”

I rolled my eyes. Friggin’ Aspies. “Never mind. Continue.”

When Steroid emerged, the Muso asked him what happened. Steroid stripped off his bloodied shirt, wiped himself with it, threw it in the car, and told Muso to clear it from his fuckin’ mind. 

Muso left Sydney the next day. He boarded a train to Queensland, planning to move back in with his mum. On the way there, in a burst of melodrama, he threw his SIM card out the window.

“So I couldn’t be tracked,” he explained.

I ran a finger over the rim of my wine glass. “Did you call the cops?”

He looked at me like I asked if he’d changed his underwear. “Of course not-”

Of course he hadn’t changed his underwear: Aspie’s don’t like change (!!) 

“-He’d have killed me,” he finished.

I paused. “Did you ring an ambulance?”

“Nup. Too risky.”

At this point, the cat on my lap had begun to feel suffocating. “But you could have anonymously rang one and saved his life. Does that bother you?”

He frowned, genuinely confused. “Why would that bother me? It was none of my business.”

Holy-fucking-hell. He wasn’t ‘somewhere on the spectrum’, he was Aspie as shit. Aspi-er than Susan Boyle.

And funnily enough, that night after I left, ‘I dreamed a dream in time gone by…that I was high…and playing softball…I dreamed the game had gone awry…’

I awoke the next morning to a message from him. He wanted to progress to “a dinner” because he felt that we connected on “many levels”.

Which, in a way, we did: we were both smokers, both socially awkward, and both fans of Karnivool.

The only problem was that pesky ‘accessory to murder’ nonsense.

Because it wasn’t the ‘my sister’s boyfriend used to abuse her, so I gave her a gun to defend herself with’ kind- which, under the right circumstances, I may or may not be able to justify- but the ‘I sat in a car while one man bashed another into a pile of broken bone and brains’ kind.

Which is, generally speaking, the disturbing kind.

I mean, ‘once there was a time when men were kind, their voices soft, their words inviting…’

Sorry. I’ve got ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ stuck in my head now.

Anyway, I wasn’t going to go on another date with him any more than I was going to part his arse cheeks and wear him as a hat.

So I replied to his text with a generic and insincere ‘thanks for the lovely night/ maybe we should just be friends/ best of luck in the future’.

His response came three hours later: “Well FRIEND, I appreciate your honesty. And since you don’t want to date anymore, how about you come and see my band sometime, FRIEND.”

I shivered, He’s really got to work on recognising those social cues.

I threw my SIM card out the car window.

 

 

Trawling Tinder

8 Aug


I’ve never had a good experience on Tinder. And yet, like a woman trapped in a co-dependant union, I keep going back.

Because Tinder is fucking hilarious.

Pockets of humanity lurk on there and trawling Tinder freaks has become a perfectly acceptable way to spend my weekend.

He Gives Good Head

Take this guy:

img_0352

Check out what he’s holding. Doesn’t the image of a man with a decapitated goats head scream, “IT PUTS THE FUCKING LOTION IN THE BASKET!”?

Who’d make that their Tinder profile pic anyway? I mean, doesn’t that just get your goat?

I’m ‘kid’ding.

Can you see where this is ‘head’ing?

Ooh- maybe he’s trying to allude to giving good head?

This joke is old now. It’s time to put it out to pasture.

Pre-Battle Banter

Some men on Tinder are only after one thing.

TinderMan1: “So are we going to meet? What’s your address?”

CC: “We can meet, but I’m not giving you my address. How about a coffee?”

TinderMan1: “We know where coffee is going to end up, so just give me your address.”

This vexed me: Where, exactly, did this audacious prick believe that coffee was going to end up? Does coffee herald coitus? Not necessarily. Coffee can wind up in lots of places: a manic discussion on Jack Kerouac. A hilarious foam-on-the-upper-lip moment. Hell, I could be a stage five clinger that thinks espressos will mean babycinos.

CC: “You see, coffee is my he’s-not-an-axe-murderer-and-I-can-invite-him-into-my-house insurance policy :)”

TinderMan1: “Yeah. See, I work in the music industry and I can’t afford to buy every girl coffee.”

As this message was read, a thwack echoed across the city as the drawbridge to my lady-parts slammed shut.

CC: “What a shame: I’m a gold-digger and I’m not interested in poor men. Better luck next time.”

Luckily, the men on Tinder are a production line and Tinderman1 segued seamlessly into Tinderman2.

TinderMan2: “Where do I work? I work in banking and investments. So how about a vino sometime?”

When I didn’t expeditiously respond, he messaged again.

Tinderman2: “What, is working in finance a deal breaker? :P”

CC: “No. It’s not a deal breaker at all. In fact, it might even be fun to have a drink with someone devoid of a soul :D”

He blocked me after that. He wasn’t devoid of a soul, but apparently devoid of a sense of humor. My sardonic wit often combusts in the tinderbox. I was blocked by another fellow after I playfully said, “Don’t get too excited to meet me- I might yet be a convincing pre-op transsexual ;)”

Testing my Patients

I recently matched with a bearded bloke from Enmore whose profile spoke of ‘sustainability’, ‘craft beer’ and ‘meat trays’.

My, how I do love a hipster.

On our first interaction, The Beard gave me his Instagram handle and invited me to stalk him. I did. There was- amid jumpy iPhone footage of a plethora of live bands- a surprising number of posts dedicated to Shiner Bock beer. These were photographed in glistening, moist, pornographic glory. I counted eleven pictures of beer, but hardly any of him. There was more beer than beard on there.

I pulled out my phone and typed, “Saw your Instagram. Nice. I think my first question is: are you still sponsored by Shiner Bock?”

It was a whimsical bon mot that deserved, at the very least, an emoticon smiley. Instead I got a long, not really coherent explanation that was so convoluted, I wondered why he didn’t just type the word ‘no’ and save us both a lot of time.

We decided to meet for a drink at Newtown. I caught public transport in. Trains weren’t running due to trackwork, so I arrived ten minutes late, breathless and nervous. I scanned the crowd, my gaze finally settling on what I can only describe as a ‘demented lumberjack’. And he wasn’t okay.

Neither was I, actually.

Because who this bloke was in the Tinderverse and who he was in reality was somewhat incongruent.

The man from Tinder was bearded, smiling, slender. He wore Wayfarer sunglasses in one shot, clutched a bass guitar in another. He drank from a stein. He posed with a mischievous pug.

And the man trudging towards me? Well, he was the kind of overweight that usually has the adverb ‘morbidly’ attached to it. His soft, round midsection poked through a threadbare, black sloppy joe that was long ago washed to grey. It was, at least, clean. There were no obvious cum-stains or spag-bol remnants on it. His beanie, on the other hand, was coated in a powdery white substance that was, at best, cocaine and, at worst, dandruff. His face and eyes were completely flat- nary a flicker of emotion was spared for the jittery brunette before him.

And really, an expression would have been nice.

Because I’d only made a tiny bit of fucking effort in getting there.

I’d only spent an hour or so trying on outfits in my bedroom in a Tassie-Devil whirlwind of cotton. I’d only spent ninety fucking minutes battling rail buses, half of which was time spent in close proximity to a man with a facial tattoo who overused the word ‘cunt’. And then, when I changed buses at Strathfield station, there was only that tiny, little argument that I got into with the douche-bag in the hatchback; the guy who, after clocking my vintage army jacket and Doc Marten boots, decided that I was a Neo-Nazi. The dude that then began to trawl me in his car, chanting things like: “Where’s your Swastika, love? Adolf, hey? Seig Heils! Yeah! Nice boots Adolf!” through the open passenger window as I willfully ignored him for as long as I could.

‘As long as I could’ turned out to be ‘half a block’. I snapped after that and shouted- yes, shouted– “Go fuck yourself, you Peugeot-driving wanker!”

Not my finest moment. If I didn’t look like a scary skinhead before I started shouting at passing motorists with wild-eyed zeal, I certainly did after. Something clever and punchy like: “How dare you call me Adolf! Call me Eva. Or Miss Braun, you socialist swine,” would have been better.

Fucking l’esprit d’escalier.

Anyway, this bummed me out, because I thought that my carefully-chosen outfit said, ‘I’m stylish without trying too hard and my Heathers t-shirt says that I understand and embrace cult pop-culture references.’

But it didn’t. Apparently it just said two words: Master Race.

But, back to The Beard: when he greeted me, it was in a monotone, and he slurred his words.

Oh fuck, I thought. Is he drunk?

He leaned in for a kiss. I offered a cheek. He rested a paw uncomfortably close to another cheek. I pulled away. His hand lingered on my jeans like Velcro. He told me about his Sunday: a long walk with a friend that was hard because he got “munted” Saturday night, but a walk that he persevered with nonetheless because he’s “a fat bastard now”.

Then he asked where I wanted to go. We could go anywhere except The Townie. He’d been kicked out of The Townie last month- a feat that I, nor anyone who has ever set foot in The Townie, would think possible. But it was. The Beard’s version of events was: ‘I slur even when I’m not drunk.’ The bouncers was: ‘Even so, ten beers and a broken chair is inappropriate, and you have to leave.’

He asked if I’d eaten, the memory of his fat arse breaking a chair seemingly jogging him back to food. “Let’s go to Mary’s. You ever been there?”

I hadn’t.

He wiped his mouth. “I can’t believe you’ve never been to Mary’s,” he exclaimed in a flat voice.

We began walking up King street, taking a left turn down an alleyway. He led me through the darkness, deep into sex-crime central, before stopping at a place that had no signage, just a bare red bulb glowing above the door.

Oh Christ, I thought. He’s taking me to a brothel. Or a rape dungeon.

It wasn’t. In fact, Mary’s may be the only good thing to come out of that night. Mary’s is a dingy, heavy metal pub that serves fried chicken so consumable, I’m fairly certain it was a Breaking Bad, crystal-meth laced, Los Pollos Hermanos bird. They also serve a fried chicken dish named ‘Larry Bird’, which tickled me. Immensely.

He sat opposite me, studying me with open curiosity. “So how’m ah’doin?”

I put down my piece of chicken. “What?”

He wiped his mouth. “How am I doin’ on the date?”

I was taken aback and laughed. Loudly. “HAHAHAHAHA! That’s a…question. Isn’t it? Look at you asking…questions.”

“Is there like, any chance of,” he paused. “You know…”

Oh please God, don’t say it.

“Because I don’t go for casual stuff,” he continued. “Mostly. Like, I had a friend with benefits once, but that ended. It’s not me. There was one Tinder girl who took me home. That was weird because, like, she was tall and our feet touched during it. She left straight after it.”

I’d like to pause the story and assure you that I am absolutely not making this up. He absolutely said this to me, and as he spoke, I was absolutely conducting a mini-mental examination on the poor bastard: What the fuck is he talking about? That didn’t make sense. That was thought disordered as fuck. And I think he’s derailing. Is he derailing? No, he’s totally derailing. Is he a patient somewhere? I bet he’s a schizophrenic.

He wiped his mouth again. “You’re, like, big- for a chick, I mean- aren’t ya? You’ve gotta be five eight or…?”

Maybe I should ask if he takes Clozapine. The belly. The drool. Fuck! Okay, this is weird. I think I’m accidentally on a date with a fucking-

He considered me. “How do you usually go on Tinder dates? Like how do you do this?”

What the shit…? Oh no, he’s staring at you! Quick, say something now! Change the subject! Talk about  the chicken! Larry Bird! LARRY BIRD!

He left to use the bathroom. I took the opportunity to broadcast my woe on Facebook. When he returned, I casually brought up the uni assignment due that evening. I’d already done it- it was submitted earlier that afternoon, in between leg-day at the gym and my ‘yuck, I now smell like a diseased yak’ pre-date shower. I didn’t know that The Beard was going to be a living nightmare and I wanted to be free from responsibility if he wasn’t.

“So I have to leave. Right now.” Which is a shame, I tried to say with my eyes. But, you know, responsibility. Stuff.

“Have another beer.”

“I can’t.”

“I’ll drive you home.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that! To Hornsby!”

“It’s an easy drive.”

“No, it’s fine. Besides, you’ve been drinking.”

“Only four pints.”

In two hours. And I don’t want to die in a fiery car wreck. At least not before I erase my Google Chrome history. “Really, I’ll get the train.”

He walked me to the station, I glanced at the board and saw that a train- although not my train- was leaving in two minutes. “Two minutes! Nick of time. I’ve really got to run.”

He responded by grabbing me around the waist and grinding his crotch into my hip like a horny Doberman. He went in for the kiss and, again, I offered a cheek. He smelt like chicken. Craft beer. Plague. Peristalsis. Hormones. And desperation.

I boarded my train feeling fed-up. You can’t go on a bad date without it draining you of something. Even if you enter the evening with no expectations, you leave robbed of a little effervescence. I can usually see the funny side, and writing about it fortifies me, but there are times when I can’t help but wish I could go back to that heady period in my early-twenties when the world didn’t seem to be full of weirdos.

Wanting a little pick me up, I opened Tinder.

And found this guy.
img_0023His profile states- with a two-finger salute to the rules of grammar- that he is “the badboy you’re mothers warned you about”, he’s “the real 50 shades baby.”

He’s also a poet, because he goes on to claim that he’s “hung like an ox”,

“enjoys nibbling at your…”

“and making you scream with his…”

But only blows his load into socks.

Okay, so I made that last one up.

Tinder, hey?

Shit.

A Shitty Thing to Write About

6 Jun

0G6KGyX

It was a bus shelter empanada that made me break that bathroom in Cartagena.

Three hours before consuming it, I was in a seedy cantina with my new friend, Atlanta: an ex-army medic and survivor of the Fort Hood massacre. Atlanta’s PTSD had pushed him to the north east of Colombia where he volunteered at an isolated jungle hostel, periodically returning to civilisation to replenish his stocks of rum and cocaine. It was on one of these trips that we met, striking up a conversation as he urinated on a police car—the sort of introduction you can only have in Cartagena. After an evening of mayhem and laughter, he decided to smuggle me back to the Sierra Nevada, too.

We found a bus shelter hidden in a laneway that, for reasons unknown, was still selling tickets in the middle of the night. We asked the emaciated Morlock behind the counter for two on the early bird bus to Buritaca.

“And,” I added as an afterthought, “one of those empanadas.”

“I wouldn’t eat that,” Atlanta said, eyeing my Colombian surrogate midnight kebab.

He had a point: it’d been baking under a heat lamp like George Hamilton for the better part of the millennium, and the hands that plucked it from the cage were varnished with grime. Nevertheless, I took a bite. It was basically Whiskas in shortcrust pastry; and while a reasonable person might think, ‘Yuk, if I wanted to eat something crusty and fishy, I could just track down Lindsay Lohan and have a gnaw on her’, I was too stubborn to admit that he was right. So I forced it down with the vigour of a dickhead.

Back at the hostel, I clambered into my bunk, set an alarm for quarter past dawn, and dropped into sleep.

My stomach woke me before the alarm could. Apparently the piscine abomination I’d just consumed was so fetid that my body’s only option was to violently expel it. Right. Fucking. Now.

I vaulted off the bunk with an athleticism that I don’t possess and spent the next hour trudging to the bathroom and back until I gave up and lay on the floor, my head resting on the tiles, breathing shallowly through my mouth like a pregnant kelpie. I was okay with this—what little pride I had was lost when vomit had leaked through my fingers when I didn’t make it off the bunk in time.

And, on a side note, I’d like to apologise to the girl in bunk number seven. If you send me the dry-cleaning bill, I’ll reimburse you.

At about 3:45a.m., my belly gave the sort of ominous rumble that tells you to find a toilet, trash receptacle, or tin-can of sorts. Exhausted, but desperate, I grasped the side of the sink, intending to use it to lift my turgid carcass from the floor. As I pulled myself up, the basin came out from the wall, separated from the porcelain column it rested on, tottered elegantly in midair for a moment or two, and then crashed to the ground like Newton’s apple.

So—to recap—I was trapped in a bathroom wearing a Peter Alexander singlet in fetching, vomit-fleck yellow, and men’s Target-brand boxer shorts with an erroneous, easy access crotch panel. Half-digested Nemo could be found in my hair. My hands clutched part of a sink with the remainder scattered in shards around me, and, to be honest, I probably smelt like a sex crime.

My stomach rumbled.

Oh, and I still needed to go.

The remainder of the basin dropped from my fingers.

 

Shortly later, I snuck to the reception for confession.

The night porter was sitting at the desk, his feet crossed at the ankles, a block of chocolate resting on his belly. He was engrossed in his laptop, which was playing pornography. He jumped when I approached him, dropping his chocolate (which is a nice euphemism for what I’d just been up to myself, really), adjusting his glasses and offering an uncertain, “Hola?”

I attempted to explain in manic Spanglish, trying to highlight the fact that I hadn’t intended on smashing the bathroom like Keith Richards on crack, but an empanada (“Which might have been cat food. You know, el gatto.”) caused me to vigorously evacuate everything from my system which had, inadvertently, caused me to break the bathroom.

Perdon?”

“I’m not on drugs you know,” I babbled. “Honestly.” For some reason it was very important to me that he know this. “I mean, I know it’s Colombia but I’m not.” I blinked, my anxious eyes jittering across his face. “I promise. But the bathroom is—”

From the desk, the naked woman on the laptop let out a moan. We both glanced at it. With one hand he slammed the lid.

“—completely fucked.” I finished.

He explained that his English was not very good, and even if he spoke fluently, he’d struggle to cohere the nonsense that I was hurling at him, so I should just shut the fuck up and show him whatever the hell I was ranting about.

To paraphrase.

I led him to the bathroom, head bowed like a war widow. He looked in. Coughed. Crossed himself.

I glanced up.

The toilet hadn’t flushed properly.

Fuck.

“The other bathroom,” he began, a smirk on his lips. “She is okay?”

I frowned. “I guess so.”

He locked the door. “Then use other bathroom tonight.”

That was it?

Wait—that was it?

He just shut the fucking door? I could have done that! In fact, why didn’t I just do that?

“They fix in morning. Now it’s late. You sleep.” He laid a paw on my shoulder and, remembering the porn, I tried not to think of where it had been.

“You need something else?” he asked.

“Do you have any Gastro Stop?”

He frowned. “I don’t know what this is.”

“How about a cork?”

“Goodnight, miss.”

 

The following morning, Atlanta was in hysterics. “I told you not to eat that shit!” he crowed.

“Be kind to me,” I mewled.

Dehydration had pulled my eyeballs into my skull and the soles of my feet were laced with micro-cuts from the porcelain. Brittle and wan, I was shaking like a dild—

…um, like a…llama. With Parkinson’s. Yeah.

I’d run late for the bus, too. Which was total bullshit. Colombians operate on ‘Colombian time’: a vague assemblage of moments distinguished by phrases such as ‘mas tarde’ and the idiom ‘ahorita’, which, to Colombians, means ‘Nowish…ish.’ It’s impossible to be behind schedule when even a nebulously binding reference to time is abstract. This bus driver was apparently a German expat because Atlanta had to bribe him to wait for my leaky arse.

“You want drugs?”

I peered at him through knock-off Raybans. “You think cocaine fixes everything.”

“I’m not sharing that. I mean these,” he fossicked in his pockets, dropping loose tobacco, receipts, lint, and lighters on my lap before presenting a battered pill packet.

I turned it over. “Codeína?”

He nodded.

“You want me to take,” I squinted at the packet, “sixty milligrams of codeine for food poisoning?” In a distant part of my brain, my nurse training came online. “I don’t think it’s indicated for that.”

“Codeine causes constipation,” he began with forced patience.

It’s true, codeine can turn chia seeds into concrete…and we had eight hours before we reached Buritaca…

“If nothing else, it’ll help you sleep. Keep the pack,” he grinned. “I’ve got shitloads.”

That pill packet would resurface a year later on a bus in Nepal.

 

My gorgeous sister and I had travelled through there in January and—aside from a slightly rapey overnight train, a pair of sunglasses landing with a squelch in a squat toilet, and a clutch of hysterical pilgrims that nearly swallowed my blanket-wielding sibling whole—we’d navigated it without incident. I even swam through crap and corpses in the Ganges, managing to emerge free from sin and dysentery. So when I kissed my sister goodbye in Pokhara, feeling bulletproof, I did what any cocky tourist would do: I gave salmonella prevention the middle finger and ate a discounted hamburger.

The following day, when the rancid meat was somewhere in my jejunum, I boarded a bus to Kathmandu, fragile and cranky. Initially, my ire was blamed on the obnoxious Americans behind me: the ones comparing the selfies they’d taken with malnourished, haunted, but tentatively hopeful Cambodian orphans on their recent poverty-porn world tour. At the first rest stop—with six hours left on a bathroomless bus—I sprinted off to abuse a roadside toilet. It then became as clear as the second line on a pregnancy test that I was screwed.

Buying a bottle of water, I downed the Colombian codeine along with a handful of Gastro-Stop, hoping to calcify the evil that was incubating within me. It worked and six Gastro-Stops later, I was in Kathmandu.

I disembarked into chaos, knowing that my hostel was somewhere, unsure of where, but trusting HostelWorld’s claim that it was a $3 cab ride away. The first two taxi drivers didn’t know where somewhere was, but could get me everywhere else for $5. I declined, and since they didn’t want to go nowhere, they followed me around until I tersely said that I wouldn’t be going anywhere with them.

The third driver didn’t speak English, but nodded with the sort of earnestness that I find charming. I showed him the address on my iPhone—a move which proved to be as useful as a bathroom door around Oscar Pistorius—he couldn’t understand it and I couldn’t pinpoint where Samjhana Street was in the melee before me. We drove through crowds, sporadically stopping to ask random strangers for directions, my iPhone proffered like pocket-sized oracle. In three Gastro-Stops we found it. I checked in, went upstairs to my room, and passed out on the stained futon.

I awoke just before midnight in a batten-down-the-hatches state that can best be described as ‘gastrointestinal Armageddon’. Throwing open my door, I bolted downstairs to the dingy washrooms. This became my first evening in Kathmandu: a veritable red, white and green kaleidoscope of bad decisions punctuated by a shitty staircase. In desperation, I took my entire stash of Gastro-Stop, something that may have caused mild delirium because I recall kicking open the toilet door at one point and swaggering to the bowl like John Wayne after an enema, snarling, “Hello again, you old bastard. Remember me?”

Even though I’d booked the hostel for three nights, I decided to leave early the next morning, because fuck running up and down stairs like Tom and Jerry. I splashed out on a hotel that had a bathroom in the room, packed my bags, and headed to the front desk.

Not wanting to pay for the whole stay, I approached the clerk with a smile and said, “Hello, my grandfather’s dead. Can I check out?”

In Australia, a family emergency trumps a cancellation fee. In Nepal, it opens up a negotiation. With a small nod of condolence, he tallied my bill, swiped my card, and presented me the receipt as if it were inconsequential: bacon rind given to a hungry dog. I glanced at it.

“You’ve charged me for three nights.”

“Yes.”

“But I’m only staying one.”

“Yes.”

“But,” I paused, trying to direct my thoughts through the fog of fatigue. “Can’t you…?” I trailed off, letting the sentence rot in the air between us like a bag of liposuction fat.

He slid a notepad and pen across the counter. “What is your offer?”

I stared at him. “What?”

“You tell me what you want to pay and then we discuss.”

“But…I,” pause. “No! My—”

“And I’m sorry for that.” He tapped the pad, looking delighted. “Your offer?”

The only offer that felt appropriate was a bucket of dicks for him to suck but I had no idea where to unearth such a treasure—not in Nepal, anyway—so I gave up. I reasoned that the money wasn’t worth the very real danger of shitting my pants mid-negotiation—a tactic that could have worked in my favour, but seemed like the sort of thing I’d ultimately regret.

 

Outside, the streets were still quiet and I stopped at the only pharmacy that was open. I bought the essential narcotics from the white-smocked clerk, neglecting to do the currency conversion in my head. Later that evening, I discovered that he’d charged me roughly three times the amount he was supposed to. A fact which bothered me roughly three times the amount it should have.

Sure, it was a minuscule amount of cash to me but a modest amount to him, but I was vexed: It was wrong, I was just a tourist. And I was sick. Vulnerable. He was taking advantage of that. He was shitting all over me. I had to say something—for colonically-challenged travellers everywhere.

Two days later, lathered into frenzy, I strode to the store with my indignant inner monologue juggling words and phrases in my head like linguistic Sudoku. I stormed up to the pharmacist, struck my fist on the counter, and said—among other things—“You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”

Yep. Apparently food poisoning turns me into Dorothy from Oz. I mean: who says ‘ought to’ in general conversation? What the fuck was that? Why not just go all-out and put my little soliloquy into iambic pentameter?

At the end of my rant, he was flummoxed. Here we go, I thought. He’s going to find some ridiculous justification for it.

“Madam,” he began delicately. “I’ve never seen you before.”

My first reaction was shock, “What?” which slowly gave way to confusion, “I was just in here the other day,” then realisation, “Oh,” and finally, a throbbing mortification: “You didn’t serve me, did you?”

He shook his head.

I looked around, trying to pick the offender from the line-up of neat men in matching uniforms. “Does your twin brother work here?” I gave what I hoped was a charming, disarming, and completely non-racist smile. “Maybe he served me?”

“Madam, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Okay,” I turned, and then looked back. “Just, you know, don’t overcharge tourists. Not that you do. Because, um, we now know,” grin, “that you don’t.” Pause. “I’m a nurse by the way! Yep. An egalitarian nurse who is totally supportive of refugees and…”

I prattled on like this for a while, determined to dig myself out of the hole I’d just placed myself in.

Perhaps I should have just buried my shit in it instead.

Most cats do that, you know—bury their crap.

But not this one.

This cat flings it into the ether of the internet in a scatological frenzy.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Forehead

21 Dec

I’m getting dumber as I age, because in my 33rd year on this planet, I decided that it was time to inject poison into my head.

Botox.

God knows why. It was largely curiosity, which appears to be the driving force behind my every impetuous decision. And you should know that the word ‘largely’ is used rather ‘loosely’ there.

Ten days later I fucking hate it. Hate it. And there’s nothing I can do about it, either. I’ve got to marinate in my stupidity and wait for my vanity to wear off, which will take approximately three months. This is just long enough to come to terms with the fact that I’m ageing, and also dream up a bunch of Botox jokes that’ll never get old.

Ha!

So, it’s an ordinary morning in an unnamed laser clinic in Sydney’s inner-west. I’m in a plastic chair, fingers clutching the leather satchel in my lap, and I’m grinning like a fuckwit before a woman with an I’m-still-funky-in-my-fifties orange dye-job and freakishly smooth skin. She repeatedly calls me ‘Gorgeous’ in an attempt of camaraderie that’s about as natural as her hair; and she is hovering over the top of me: an odd, waxen Skeksis from a nebulous era.

I trace a finger lightly across my forehead, emphasising that my presence in her salon is only spurred on by the appearance of “some fine lines starting across here”. I’m not, you know, vapid or anything.

Her hazel eyes zero in on my face as her throaty voice corrects me. “No, Gorgeous. Those are deep lines. Quite deep for thirty two, actually.”

Great. Apparently I’m ageing in dog years.

“And you’ve got a frown line beginning here,” she continues. “That’s a fine line.” Pause. “There’s one here, too. And your crow’s feet could do with a little…” She puts down the marker that she’s been using to Crayola my face with and picks up a brochure. “There’s a package available for treating two areas or more. It’s discounted at the moment,” she makes a show of flipping pages even though I’m fairly certain she knows the price by heart. “$459,” she glances up, her emotionless face incongruent with her tone. “It’s our Christmas special!”

Now, to put the cost of these injections into another context, $459 is roughly equivalent to the GDP of Liberia.

*Pause for effect.*

And, if a woman were to get this package four times a year (once every three months) her budget for facial paralysis would be the annual income of a Vietnamese fisherman.

Or, in other words, it’s a Christmas special fit for Tiny Tim himself.

Essentially, this package would make everything from the cheekbones up immobile. And, while this did appeal to my narcissism on some primitive level, I declined. At least until I learn how to express myself like a chimpanzee.

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The side effects are listed as she preps the syringe. “…drooping eyelids, bruising, headache, a heavy forehead-”

“Wait, wait,” I stop her. “A heavy forehead?”

“It’s not a pleasant feeling, but you do get used to it. You might have to raise your chin to read anything above eye line.”

I stare up at her. Without lifting my head, incidentally.

“I’ve got a date tonight, I’ll be alright for it, won’t I?”

“Of course. Just remain upright for the evening. If you lay down there can be complications.”

“Complications?”

“It can spread and paralyse other areas of your face.”

Best birth control ever. Sorry cute musician boy, I can’t shag you- unless you keep me perfectly vertical during the entire event- because nice girls don’t let their face get fucked on the first date.

Three days later I can’t move my forehead. And I’ve tried. When I do, one eyebrow twitches and the other flattens- I’ve nicknamed them ‘Mr Abbott’ and ‘Mr Shorten’, respectively. Yuk. Yuk. Yuk. What’s more- or possibly, what’s worse– is that she put far too much in. My eyebrows, once as delicately arched as the Bridge of Sighs, are now two broken roller shutters hanging over my face. I’ve devolved into Cro-Magnon woman. The skin under one brow bags attractively- sort of like a prolapsed uterus. I look like a Fraggle with a busted facial stitch.

Marlon_Fraggle

And one could argue that I am a complete muppet for doing this to myself. I mean: I can’t express how I feel about the results. I’m absolutely horrified, by the way, but you’ll have to take my word for it because I’m currently unable to convey that emotion.

And there’s got to be a feminist rhetoric hiding in that statement. Botox caps our emotional range. It lobotomises us, turning us compliant, docile. The patriarchal hierarchy is dimming our fire, man! The bastards. In Renaissance Italy, women used to drop belladonna into their eyes to dilate their pupils, which was the socially agreed upon sign of beauty. The side effects? Blurred vision and eventual blindness. So they were pretty as, but, you know, utterly fucking helpless. This sounds insane, right? Well, I posit that cosmetic injectables are the belladonna of the 21st Century. Don’t believe me? Botox is a compound of botulism, a toxin that was manufactured for chemical warfare in the Gulf War (among other places). Not only do we now inject this shit into our faces, but we pay people for the privilege. If the ridiculousness of that isn’t smacking you in the face like an autistic toddler, let me throw some farce comedy in to drive the point home: shortly after my botulism injections, I went and got myself an anthrax exfoliating peel and an ISIS labioplasty.

So my skin is now smoother, but in being frozen from the eyebrows up, I’ve lost something of myself. Botox has literally and figuratively flattened me out. My face- once earnest, friendly and reactive- is now a mask. I have permanent Resting Bitch Face. I’ve become Kristen Stewart. I didn’t realise how much I used facial expressions to communicate: to convey interest, surprise, to build rapport. Without my eyebrows, I find myself nodding a lot, like a bobble-head dog in a Chinese lady’s Corolla. In my haste to preserve my skin I’ve incapacitated a chunk of it, turning it into a metaphorical comic book that sits on the shelf in a plastic sleeve- the one that you never read and therefore never enjoy because you’re worried about a crease diminishing its value.

And I don’t know if that’s an equal trade-off.

Because I earned those wrinkles.

Sure, through smoking, but also experience. The furrow of worry above my left eye is courtesy of being trapped in Cuba with no money, no escape and no passport. The one above my right? Nursing violent lunatics for four years. That one there? A university degree. This vertical line above my nose? A crazy ex-husband. They’re the physical manifestations of a life lived. They’re my fault lines, each forming from the minuscule internal shift that has occurred from being thrust under a pressure that has tested me, nearly broken me, but ultimately fortified me. Would I trade them for a boring life and a smooth forehead?

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And, if you’re hurtling towards the bathroom mirror every morning to marvel at the way your face has subtly shifted in the past ten years, it means that you’re still alive with your motherfucking marbles intact, which means that you’re incredibly fucking lucky. And if, like many of us, you’ve been challenged in your life; and if, like many of us, your body is now a roadmap of your emotional scars, you should stand tall because it means that you’ve not squinted in the headlights of adversity (or, if you have crow’s feet, maybe you have) but bore a brunt instead. So be fucking proud of it. Don’t erase it.

Besides, as a smoker, I’ll probably have a few more wrinkles than the average girl, but that’s the price I pay for sucking nicotine through a little tube every few hours. Getting Botox to ward off the effects of that is like going to church for Sunday confession after you’ve spent the week beating the shit out of your wife.

Back in the clinic, when I decline her $459 package, the Skeksis warns me about the importance of injecting the rest of my face as a preventative measure.

“I never started getting it until late and now my frown line just won’t go away.” She points at her glossy forehead.

I squint. Nothing. There’s nothing fucking there. Michael Jackson’s sexuality was more pronounced than that wrinkle.

“Preserve your beauty now, Gorgeous. You don’t want to wind up looking like me.”

I blink, considering the sentence that’s running through my head, choosing to remain politely silent instead.

No. I certainly don’t want to wind up looking like you.

Cropdusting Hipsters

31 Oct

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It all started when I farted in yoga.

It happened once, twice, three times a lady flatulist.

Not many girls own up to a fart, so at first I pretended that the pop was simply a wayward hip joint being wrenched from its socket like a newly-weaned, puppy farm kelpie. It kept happening though: every class I’d cropdust inner-west hipsters like a leaky Vietnam war jet, blithely turning the yoga studio into a miasma of my own special brand of Agent Orange. And sure, those bastards were breaking wind in uttanasana waaaaaay before it was cool, but some poor fucker was going to get their improved flexibility with a side of asbestosis. Seriously, I was about to be swapped out of the class on an emissions trading scheme for a sacred cow. I had to do something. So I tried a champagne cork. My li’l butt-plug became a rogue missile that rebounded off the wall and wedged in my instructor’s man-bun. It nearly took his eye out, actually. Thank god he had those vintage horn-rimmed Ray-Bans on.

Blaming it all on poor digestion, I briefly turned vegan. That was an experience. A windy one: I didn’t realise that eating legumes would cause me to fart more. Why did nobody tell me that? I dropped my guts so often that I’m probably due for a stoma. And it’s fucking hard to be a vegan. Not because of what you can’t eat; but because you have to master a brand-new tone of voice. The most important part of being a vegan is telling everyone that you’re a vegan. And you have to learn to say this correctly. You want only a modicum of snarkiness. You should imply superiority without sounding grandiose. Do this wrong and you’ll get punched in the face. And you absolutely cannot get punched. Trust me. A physical blow is devastating to a vegan- they’re all dangerously low on iron because vegan food tastes like unwaxed cardboard, elder abuse and broken dreams.

Next I tried The Paleo Diet: one of the most baffling marketing gimmicks this side of a Toohey’s commercial. Paleo is astoundingly popular in Australia- Woolworths are in the process of creating a mastodon section in the frozen food aisle as you read this very paragraph, so it’s not likely to become extinct anytime soon. In my brief stint as a cavewoman, I discovered that you can eat a large variety of foods. Such as bacon and olive Paleo bread served with thick, creamy clarified butter.

I wasn’t aware that Cro-Magnon man cured meat. Or baked, actually. Is Betty Crocker that fucking old? And what cavewoman churned butter? Was that while getting Bubba Yum Yum to stop scrawling on the walls of the cave and consume their autism-averting bone broth? And I have a math problem for you: how much kombucha do I have to drink over what period of time before I get the ‘Pete Evans manic gleam’ in my eye?

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That man is the Charles Manson of the food industry. Have you seen his Instagram page? It’s just drenched in clarified smug. I’m fairly certain that if you scroll backwards through it at a high velocity you’ll generate enough Newtownian energy to play Helter Skelter.

Another weird Paleo thing? Activated almonds. Yep, just because Pete Evans is a dick, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy his nuts. How do you activate nuts? Well, first you soak them in salt water- so the special, miracle Paleo enzymes are released- then you bake them over a low heat. And yes, cavemen totally did this. It’s how we evolved evolutionarily- activated almonds gave us the energy burst needed to outrun the sabre-tooth tiger. Everyone knows that. God, read a book. Activated nuts are easier on your colon, too. So not only will your anus love Pete Evans’ nuts, your shit won’t stink, either. I have to admit that my nuts felt awesome after they were activated. They were so salty and warm! I couldn’t stop playing with them. And I don’t know why Pete Evans doesn’t say to women, “Hey baby, do you want to come over to my place tonight and help me activate my nuts?”

There are people in this world who spend their time thinking about the dichotomy of capitalism and world peace. Me? Paleo pick-up lines.

Anyway, when my Paleolithic era died out, I latched onto the I Quit Sugar bandwagon and rode it to glory.

I Quit Sugar isn’t a diet. Sure, it involves drastically reducing your calorie intake and cutting out entire food groups- just like a diet- but it’s more than that. I Quit Sugar is a cult way of life. That will make you healthier. Glowier. Better at calculus. See, your body metabolises fructose differently to other sources of fuel. For example, when you drink Coca-Cola, your pancreas release insulin. You knew that, right? Well what you may not know- and I didn’t until I started reading Sarah Wilson’s blog- is that insulin then reacts with the soda, causing the glucose molecules to bind together to form a miniscule troll that will then take refuge in a pocket of your liver. Consume enough, and the pocket will begin to harden, calcify, and resemble a cave (this is why I Quit Sugar is so similar to the Paleo diet). If you keep consuming sugar, your body becomes acidic, and the troll will magically procure a pitchfork. The pitchfork then permeates the cells of your mitochondria to give you diabetes, adult acne, unfuckability, and high-magnitude emotional instability. Before you know it, you’re spinning off into a banshee’s orbit, screeching at people, dousing the world in vitriol because some lazy motherfucker forgot to refill the photocopier’s paper tray. Again. Bastard. This causes a chain reaction: the other person gets angry, stews on it, goes home, kicks the dog, slams the fridge door, and crushes their son’s 5th birthday cake- the Power Ranger one that the nice old lady down the street baked for him. The son will then grow up with soul-crushing feelings of inadequacy, which leads him to externalise, shag your only daughter, and dump her in front of the entire school, breaking her heart.

All because you drank a fucking Coke. Shame on you.

So, in summation: Sugar is evil. And, like Buffy, we must roundhouse kick it in the temple.

Odd things happened when I quit. My shopping trolley, for instance, was suddenly stuffed with kale, maca powder and coconut water.

Coconut water. Something that I once proclaimed to be “the only substance in the world less palatable than jizz.”

As the month wore on, my blood sugar levels stabilised, my stomach flattened, and my energy levels increased in direct correlation to my sense of puffed-up superiority. Before I knew it, I was becoming one of those horrible people that post their dinner to social media. Although, I must have retained some modicum of CC-ness because I added the hashtag ‘peteevansisadick’ to everything.

By day 35 I was running at 88% macrobiotic: almost at full Gwyneth. I felt amazing. I was a better person. Better than you. Better than Jesus. So I decided to bake brownies for everyone, which is what Jesus used to do for his disciples.

Don’t believe me? It’s true. Jesus used to bake all the fucking time. He wasn’t a Palestinian. He was a Paleotarian. It’s just a mistranslation. Pete Evans is writing a book about it. It’s self-published. Due out later this year. I believe it’s called, You have to eat Paleo to get into heaven. Apparently Bubba Yum Yum got smart from being fed bone broth instead of breast milk and wrote delicious recipes on the cave walls, which Jesus then found when he spent three days in there over Easter. He was resurrected to bring Paleo to the world. Where do you think the “loaves and the fishes” thing came from? It was smoked mackeral on gluten-free Paleo bread.

Anyway, since I’d been so healthy for so long, I decided to eat some batter. I dipped my finger in the mixing bowl, scooped out a large chunk of sugary happiness, and-

It all unravelled quite quickly.

I came to three hours later, snapping back into reality like a KGB sleeper agent who’d just heard their trigger phrase. I was on my kitchen floor, foetal, with a mixing bowl on my head. Around me, a nest of sugar packets, brownie batter, a mangled rubber chicken, clotted cream, and pinking shears. I have no recollection of what happened and my thongs are still missing. It’s possible that I traded them for some sugar. Or a rubber chicken. And I spent the next seven days consuming more chocolate than Honey Boo Boo’s entire family- including the inbred, extended brother-cousins. I was more saccharine than Delta’s post-leukemia album.

Banning sugar had given me a total ‘don’t push the red button moment’, and when I allowed myself to linger within the vicinity of the button again I not only touched it, but licked it, fondled it, and spanked it with synthetic poultry. I needed a detox day, I told myself. 24 hours where I consumed nothing but vegetables and green tea. That’d pull me out of Willy Wonka’s rabbit hole. I’d reset everything and I’d be okay.

I made it to 5pm before driving to the shops and purchasing a large jar of Nutella, which I then consumed for dinner.

That’s not true.

The double bacon cheeseburger with extra avocado (that’s a vegetable…right?!) was my dinner. The Nutella became dessert. A dessert that I ate directly from the jar with a tablespoon while wearing little more than shame, a basketball jersey and a pair of Batman knickers. Well, I could only bring myself to eat ¾ of it before coming to my senses and throwing it in the bin.

Okay, that isn’t true either.

I consumed roughly ⅞ of the jar before digging the remaining slivers out with my fingers, smearing them across my cheeks like war-paint, and watching Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson on Netflix, because when I cross that sticky brown line into debauchery, my instinct is always to round it like a marathon runner and sprint into the forest faster than a Delorian trying to travel through time.

At 32 years old I should know what I can and can’t do in relation to dieting. Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of person that can airily attend a few extra spin classes and skip dessert in order to fit into last summer’s bikini. When I diet, it starts as, “I’m only allowed to eat broccoli and cottage cheese, upside-down in a darkened room, while an organic lemon myrtle candle burns,” before eventually degenerating to, “So, I’ve spent the morning burning myself and smearing Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream into the wounds while crying and listening to The Smiths.”

So I quit quitting sugar because I didn’t want to be a quitter anymore. I had to. I Quit Sugar nearly turned me into Sally Struthers. So I threw the whole thing away and decided to face reality, to be a grown-up and be honest about where my digestive issues stem from.

Blocked chakras. Obviously. Specifically the sacral one.

So I’ve just booked the Flowering Lotus Spiritual Retreat. It promises to be a “magical journey through Mother India” which includes meditation, reiki, introspective rituals of the sacred goddess and, for some lucky participants, a Delhi Belly purifying cleanse. Inner Peace is guaranteed in the fine print and since I’ve booked before December 1st, I receive a free colonic irrigation upon arrival. Woo!

Fleurgen the Stereo Muppet

18 Sep

Six months ago I bought an $800 car- a dusty red Charade manufactured back when Paul Keating was Prime Minister. I dubiously christened her “Cherry Bomb”.

She was bought from a fellow in Darlington. From there, Cherry travelled nine kilometres before having a hot flush and overheating on a busy road, ultimately forcing me to tow her like a menopausal beached whale to my mechanic. After some tinkering from him, my $800 bomb became my $1100 baby. We shared a few volatile months that were punctuated by agitated dashboard slaps, emergency radiator refills, and cries of “Just move you old whore!” Shortly after returning from an impulsive and ill-advised road trip to Melbourne, Cherry Bomb died, and I abandoned her on the side of the road like a Bangladeshi baby girl.

Then I bought another car. A shiny blue Citroen: round as a bubble, pretty as a daffodil, and reliable as a mule. I called my darlin’: Clementine.

Clementine deserved a new stereo. Speakers, too. Other stuff. I’m not sure what- I’m not fluent in tech…but something heroic that could handle Meshuggah being played at a volume best described as “unwise”.

I turned to Google. Found Fleurgen. Fleurgen has a 100% 5-star Google review rating. RodBallz2164 claimed that Fleurgen is a “wizard” that does “seriouse jobs n wiked shit”. DriftMaker called him the patron saint of car stereos before adding: “Don’t let the size of the shop fool you! lols! Hes an awesome dude too.”

Sounded good. I emailed Fleurgen. He instructed me to visit him Friday.

On Thursday night I had a few quiet beers with my best friend, The Reader. Because we’re horrible influences on each other, our three craft beers quickly devolved into being the last two inebriated idiots badgering staff at The Absinthe Salon, followed soon after by a dodgy kebab that may, or may not, have contained some minced dachshund.

So on Friday morning we’re both in a fragile state. Through a green groan, I tell The Reader about Fleurgen.

“Who?”

“The dude who’s installing my car stereo. He’s Swedish. I’m sure his workspace is filled with misbehaving chickens and that he says, ‘fleurdy der, der fleurdy der…bork bork bork!’ as he works.”

Just to, you know, ram that reference home for you all. Bork.

Just to, you know, ram that reference home for you all.
Bork.

“We’ll go,” I continue, “Meet him super quickly, then have wanky inner-west coffee somewhere.”

“And bacon.”

I grin. “Pork pork pork!”

*

The first thing you notice about Fleurgen are his teeth, because they aren’t really his teeth at all. They’re Gollum’s. Despite this, Fleurg smiles warmly, talks quickly, and repetitively answers his mobile phone during the consultation.

My knowledge of car stereo systems is just behind that of Toad from Wind in the Willows, and, in my hungover state, I’m about as green as my foppish, amphibian counterpart. I try to explain my audio needs to Fleurg, “I listen to music loud. And I listen to a lot of metal,” I swallow, willing myself not to fleurg recycled absinthe all over Fleurg’s floor. “I don’t want anything too extreme, no doofwoofer thingies,” I croak, “Just something that can frighten the soccer mums in traffic.”

Instead of answering, Fleurg leads us to his ute and folds himself in, leaving a pale, hairy leg protruding horizontally from the door. The Reader and I eye each other. Fleurg emerges and encourages me to get in. I do. He flips a switch and Swedish gangsta rap straight outta Stockholm assaults my ears.

“Sure,” I say, once he’s mercifully turned it off. “Sounds good.”

He grins wolfishly. “Well, that’s expensive.”

“Too good,” I quickly clarify. “I’m not worthy of such a sound.”

Fleurg then enquires about my budget. I evade the question, knowing that an answer will betray both my lack of knowledge and my deep pockets. He studies my car, muttering words like “amplifier”, “head unit” and “tweeders”, which sound like the unfortunately named sidekicks of a meth dealer to me. Fleurg suggests that I “soundproof” my ride, something that involves ripping my doors apart and stuffing them with what appears to be Ikea bubble wrap.

“It’s to create a speaker box,” he explains. “I can skip this but it really won’t sound any different after an upgrade and you’ll be wasting money.”

It’s all got the vague aroma of bullshit, but absinthe numbs my olfactory receptors and I was out of my depth the minute his jargon morphed from dB’s to THD’s, so I agree and ask for the quote. $1300. A quarter of the price I paid for the fucking car. It’s more than what I’d expected, but Fleurg is the best. And the best costs money. And it’s what Opeth and Katatonia would want to be played through, so…

“That’s fine.”

As he’s taking a small deposit, Fleurg asks where I work.

“I’m a nurse.”

“Oh, so you know about signalling molecules?”

My stare is blank. “I’m a mental health nurse. Not, you know, a real one.”

“Oh, mental health,” he clasps his hands together. “No. Even more relevant. Yes. Wait, please.”

He leaves, returning a minute later with a small photo album.

And then it got weird.

Because for the next ten, cotton-brained, dry-mouthed, we-are-both-way-too-old-for-this-shit, and-maybe-that-shot-of-mescal-was-a-bad-idea minutes, Fleurg shows us pictures of mouth cancer, ulcerated flesh, STD-ravaged genitalia, and limbs smeared with autoimmune skin disease, all juxtaposed with images of slightly less grotesque versions of the aforementioned. The Reader retches, swallows, and absently touches the cigarette packet in his pocket. Fleurg doesn’t notice. He’s enthusiastically flicking through the album like it’s a twisted Playboy– illness porn. He claims that the sole credit for healing goes to ASEA.

Make that ‘science porn’.

“What’s ASEA?”

According to Fleurg, ASEA is a scientifically sound revolution of molecules and atoms that are created in scientifically advanced ways and used in the fantastically scientific science of curing disease scientifically.

ASEA is the fountain of youth. The next big thing. It can fix anything. Anything. Did he mention that? Cerebral Palsy. Tuberculosis. Acne-scarred skin.

“Acne-scarred skin?” The Reader asks dubiously.

Fleurg nods. Anything. In fact, Fleurg’s been drinking ASEA for years.

“ASEA cures anything. Anything!”*
*except poorly fluoridated teeth

The Reader raises an eyebrow, “Drinking it?”

Yes. ASEA is water. Salt water, actually. Filled with miracle molecules.

I gaze at Fleurg, wanting to ask if he has any magic beans to sell us, as well. Before I can, he gets to the point: ASEA is, to be blunt, a pyramid scheme.

That I can buy into.

For the low, low cost of $259 per month.

Then, I can then sell ASEA to my patients at work, making a tidy profit in the process.

Simply by encouraging the mentally ill to exchange their antipsychotics for magic saline.

I’m not sure how that fits into that pesky ‘duty of care’ thing we nurses have.

Fleurg isn’t either. “Hmm, maybe you just refer your patients to me- keep things simple for you.”

I agree to it. I’ll agree to anything just to get the fuck out of there. “Yep, I’ll take a look at it…No, it sounds very interesting…Yes…No, of course I will. Just, ah, email it to me, and I’ll, um, look.”

By offering to buy the Kool-aid that he drinks as opposed to the stereos that he is meant to be fucking selling, I have pleased Fleurg immensely. “Goodbye, Happy CC!” he cries. “I send you information tonight!”

The Reader and I barely make it into the car before we begin cackling like jackals.

“What a fucking lunatic!” he exclaims as I speed out of there. “I just knew he’d be nuts. Fucking Scandinavians.”

*

Two hours later, over a cup of the inner west’s finest coffee: An overpriced, single origin blend infused with Guatemalan hayfever and Colombian orphan tears, we dissect ASEA.

I look up from my phone. “It is salt water. Literally. The bottle lists the ingredients as ‘salt’ and ‘water’. And, on a side note, the company director looks like a member of NAMBLA.”

The Reader leans in to look, smoking and smirking. “I think we should sell everything we own and buy into this. We’ll be rich as Nazis!”

I switch to Google stalking Fleurg. “According to his LinkdIn profile, Fleurg is a health and wellbeing enthusiast who believes that the apocalypse is coming.”

“Fruit loop. I might start selling my pubes as organic dental floss.”

“If they’re paleo you might be able to get Pete Evans to spruik them.”

“Think he’s on the wank-water bandwagon, too?”

My coffee cup clatters to the table in mock indignation. “It’s ‘ionised molecular saline’. Not wank-water. It cures cancer. Get it right.”

*

Later that evening, I receive a voicemail from an ASEA associate, a woman named Gaia who tries to build a rapport- or possibly credibility- by opening with, “I’m a nurse, too”. She then…speaks with…odd…pauses during part…s…of the conversation, almost…as if she was reading it…from…a script that had a large…cancerous…tumor on it.

Apparently ASEA have found a way to clone William Shatner into a female’s body, as well.

Fifteen minutes later Gaia calls again.

Then once more after four days.

Next, Fleurg emails me: ‘Hello Happy CC, Do you have steering wheel control for the radio in your car? Do you still want to be able to use this?’

‘Yes. And definitely,’ I type, finishing the sentence tersely in my head: I’m not sure what else I’m about to pay you over a thousand fucking dollars for.

His reply comes the next day. He’s ordered the part. But he can’t guarantee that it will work. Apparently, Happy CC’s car is “a borderline”.

Oh, no, I think. Clementine is a PD. I guess that explains the scratch marks around the doors. Maybe some ASEA in the fuel tank will cure her.

Untitled

But that wasn’t the end of the email:

With regards to the Redox Signalling molecules i spoke to yo about.

Here are a couple of links to short info videos:

www.amazingmolecules.com

Watch ” The Redox Breakthrough” (9 min)

” ASEA The Genesis” (21 min)

I like ” Doctors and Science” (5 min)

If you have further interest i suggest that you attend ASEA Discovery Event in Ryde this Saturday morning starting at 10, for about two hour.

This will be part of mainstream health care not to long from now.

You will hear real testimonials face to face.

Come along and have some fun a great bunch of people!

It was an event such as this that it convinced me it is something i need to be part of. This is an exceptional opportunity not only to seriously help people …but also to get paid for it!

Ver-fucking-batim. I think Fleurg’s positive Google reviews were left by fellow bricks on the ASEA pyramid.

*

“Don’t fucking go to that!” The Reader shrieks when I tell him. “It’s probably in a fucking dungeon where they make you drink their atomised rape-water and molest you to Swedish gangsta rap!”

“Think they want to ‘pork pork pork’ me?”

“Or maybe ASEA is just the bottled tears of their investors. It’s all just too fucking strange. Cultish. And how do people fall for this shit!?”

*

So, in conclusion, it wasn’t the redox that signalled to me on a molecular level that I was making a mistake in getting Fleurg to install the stereo in my car. It was an intuitive twang, something as thin and fine as gold filigree that plinks in my gut every now and then. I used to ignore them, often finding myself in horrific situations- like, you know, the time I was fucking robbed in fucking Panama– but I try to listen now.

Or, more succinctly: I tell Fleurg to fuck off.

I find a well-known car stereo franchise that afternoon. I speak to an earnest young man who quotes me $500 less than Fleurg. So far so good.

“And can I still use the steering wheel controls already in place?”

“That’s going to cost a little bit more.”

I hold my breath.

Keys click on the computer. “That part costs $15.”

My breath exhales in a rush. “And it’ll work?”

He eyes me strangely. “Well, yeah.”

I glance at his pasty, unfortunately pock-marked skin. Acne-scarring. Obviously not an ASEA enthusiast.

I grin. “How much deposit do you need?”

6ebb3c76fce9319fb54e82c7bc95e46e

A Post About a Threesome…

13 Jul

Ha! I’ve busted you, you perverted little sausage. This isn’t a story about a threesome at all. I’ve told a lie in a blatant ploy for attention that stops just shy of ‘tawdry’ by my omission of the word “lesbian”. My salacious title is just pandering to the voyeur in all of us. It’s my ‘now that I have your attention’ moment. There is no fornicating to speak of in this post. Just pornographic self-publication.

I am endeavoring, like The Little CC That Could, to get my book published via Kindle Scout. It’s called Funereal. It’s a black comedy. About a fucked up family squabbling over a will. There’s a twist at the end. And the heroine gets committed to a loony bin. That’s not the twist, though. That’s like, a plot point right near the beginning. It’s dark in places. I tried to write a sex scene. And failed. A monkey smokes a Parliament. And the word “fuck” appears 221 times, making the book 0.39% ‘fuck’.

The tagline is: And you thought your family was bad.

And it’s good. I promise you. Don’t believe me? Here are some recent reviews that I’ve gotten:

“I’m so proud of you honey. No, I didn’t read it, but you wrote a novel! Look at you! You came out of my vagina and thirty years later you wrote a whole book! Kiss, kiss. Dinner is at 6pm Tuesday.”

-Mum

“It’s not bad. That doesn’t mean that it’s good but…well…it’s done now. That’s something, right?”

-Uncle Theodore

“CC, I paid you to edit my sociology essay, and you send me this? Where is my essay? If you don’t replace this nonsense with ‘Merits and Demerits of Media for a Society’, I’m taking it further. You can’t hold my essay ransom until I write your book a good review. It’s unethical. And answer your goddamn phone. Return my damn calls. Goodbye.”

-Girl I met in the Manning Bar at Sydney Uni

“One of the greatest, most provocative and enlightening books of our generation. ‘Fight Club’ is an absolute must read.”

–A positive review for a totally different book.

“It’s hilarious. Well written. Compelling. Full of well drawn characters that seem to jump off the page. The next time you hear the name ‘Casey Millikin’, it will be alongside names like Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare.”

-Homeless man at Central Station who is, on a completely unrelated note, now $50 richer.

“You surprised me, its actually not that bad. The bisexual musician character, that’s based on me, isn’t it? Your saying you want to get back together, aren’t you? …No? Oh. …Well, your writings shit. Prick tease.”

–A grammatically inept email from an ex-boyfriend.

“Okay, just so we’re clear- if I write a good review for your book, you blow me. Right?”

-Something that never actually happened.

“CC, I’m going to say this one more time: Stop contacting me, stop stalking my Facebook page, and leave my secretary alone. The poor woman is two steps from a nervous breakdown. Threatening her cat was completely inappropriate of you. Yes, I gave you an ‘F’ but it was ten years ago and I stand by it: your poem was dreadful. You need to move on with your life. And stop sending my mother your smutty novel. I have no idea how you got her address but she’s had a stroke. She needs rest. The nursing staff have your picture and have been instructed to refuse you entry.”

-As Associate Professor Barnes can now attest: you never give CC an ‘F’.

“Alright, alright. It’s good, okay? There. Please stop crying. You’re so ugly when you cry.”

-Beneficial friend #23

I should probably tell you how Kindle Scout works. It’s basically crowd funding. I put my book up, you read the beginning of it, you peruse some Q & A I’ve done, you read a short- and not entirely truthful- bio of me, and then you log in with your Amazon account and nominate me in your top 3. If I’m popular enough to get selected for an eBook deal, you get a copy of it for free. Either way, you get a personalised thank-you note from me just by voting. It’s Sally Field’s acceptance speech from the 1984 Academy Awards- you know the one. She says, “You like me. You really like me.” in it.

And, just to add a sweet little kicker, if you vote for me, I’ll totally get Megan Fox to date you. Don’t believe me? I met her earlier in the year. She was an inpatient at a ward I used to work in. Lovely girl- a little volatile when she’s coming down from crack- but nice nonetheless. She has what’s known as a ‘grandiose delusion’. Sure, she’s let herself go a little bit since Transformers, but if she’s still heavily into the gear I can probably call in a favour from her. Guys, you’ll love her. Heroin has taken almost all of her teeth. They call her ‘Gummy Joe’ now. And she might even be a bit manic- and we all know what that means.

I’m kidding.

But in all seriousness- the book is good. Everyone who I’ve shown it to has read it in one or two sittings. They’ve laughed out loud. They’ve disliked the anti-heroine but found themselves rooting for her anyway. When I got it professionally edited, the feedback I received was, “It’s great! I stayed intrigued and interested to see what was going to happen next all the way through…The chapter titles work well; I loved the humour, enjoyed the profanity and the gutsy-but-fucked-up heroine.”

So, there.

And you know what? Fuck it, I believe in it. think it’s good and sometimes that’s all you need- delusions of adequacy.

Here’s the link. Vote. Not just for me, but for your country. Vote to stop the tyranny of ISIS in it’s tracks. Vote for the second helping that Jenny Craig won’t let you eat. Vote for the cake you dug out of the bin and ate with your hands after the last attempt at fitting into your skinny jeans failed. Vote for your dog. For the one-legged pigeon that confronts you on the way to work each morning. Vote for the red wine that you drink out of a chipped coffee cup when you can’t be bothered to do the washing up. Vote for Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Vote for the hug you get from your best friend when the man/woman/dishcloth breaks your heart. Again. Do it for God, because s/he would totally read Funereal. If you believe in that sort of thing, look at it this way: God put this in my brain for you to read, so you have to vote or God will get cranky. And we don’t want an angry God- Nepal can’t handle another earthquake. You don’t want that in your conscience, do you? Hmm? Well, vote. Now.

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/42SZ05LUODJV

FUNEREAL – ON KINDLE SCOUT

Sharpening claws with a Swiss army knife

24 Jan

Switzerland was a girl that you simply couldn’t feel neutral about.

Ha! See what I did there?

Don’t get me wrong, she was quite friendly; but she was also a European princess, the only daughter of rich parents, who would frequently say offensive, ignorant and moderately hilarious things, then chastise you in a prim voice (“You have no right to speak to me like that!”) when you dared to question her questionable logic.

I’d managed to conduct a few surface conversations with her when I first arrived at The Royale, always with a moderate amount of social lubrication, usually without incident. But, like a cancerous tumor snaking it’s way through your white matter, she would eventually wear me down and annoy the shit out of me.

Bärengraben

There were two things that Switzerland hated in this world: dogs and poor people. And, after a week of incessant teasing from Atlanta and I, I’d say that we now occupy spaces 3 and 4 respectively.

Virtual high-five to my jungle comrade.

Her hatred for poor people became apparent during a conversation Atlanta and I had with her about zoos.

Switzerland: “I think zoos should be banned. It’s completely cruel to the animals.”

Atlanta and I debated with her, bringing up conservation efforts, breeding programs, care for sick and wounded animals that may die out in the wild…

“I don’t care. It’s cruel. Lions should not be suffering in a cage in Switzerland.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “They aren’t really suffering. They’re in large pens being taken care of by people with degrees in zoology. It’s not like they’re living in the ghetto.”

“I don’t agree with it.”

I tried a different tack. “Okay, how about this: not everyone is fortunate enough to travel to the Serengeti to see a lion. Does this mean that they haven’t got the right to see one in their lifetime?”

“I don’t see why animals should have to suffer because some people are poor. It’s not the animals problem that they don’t want to work.”

Yeah. Uh-huh. That’s right- fuck all you poor people.

“It is cruel,” mini-Rinehart continued thoughtfully. “Switzerland is cold, you know. A lion has no business being there.”

“I had no fucking idea it was cold in Switzerland,” I snapped. “Thank you for the geography lesson.”

Pet Semetary

Switzerland fell in love with a stray cat that occasionally hung out at The Royale. It was a horrible little black thing that I christened Church due to the fact that it looked like it had come from the wrong end of the Pet Semetary. Switzerland would cuddle it, coo at it, and feed it spoonfuls of her dinner. From her fork. While she was still eating. When Atlanta and I began to wind her up she would retreat to the hammock, holding the cat like a security blanket, glaring at us, and smacking the nose of any canine that came within a ten feet radius of her precious pussy.

One lunch, as she was feeding the beast prime backstrap beef that had been cut from a freshly slain cow that morning, Atlanta was watching her in bemused horror. He elbowed me and whispered drily, “I’m sure there’s some local Colombians who would like that meat. I’m going to kick that cat so fucking hard when she leaves.” He paused, then said loudly, “CC, did I ever tell you the story about the cat empanada that I was served?”

“Cat? As in cat food?”

“No, as in cat meat. El gatto.”

“Bullshit.”

“It’s true. There were no pollo empanadas left so I ate cat. Doesn’t taste too bad, actually.”

Switzerland spooned a mouthful of soup, willfully ignoring us.

“You’re not doing that cat any favours by feeding it, you know,” Atlanta piped up.

“Why?” she asked, stroking the creatures head.

“Because you are taking away it’s ability to procure food for itself.”

“It’s a domestic animal.”

I took up the bait. “He’s right. That’s why you can’t feed the birds in wildlife parks, they lose the ability to hunt. That cat is going to wind up starving to death if you keep feeding it.”

“Cats don’t hunt.”

“Yes they do,” Atlanta and I said as one.

“It’s someones pet,” she huffed.

“This is a Colombian cat,” Atlanta offered. “Colombian cats aren’t like regular cats. They’re tough. They carry a switchblade and-”

“I’m sure someone will feed him,” she stroked the cats chin and continued in a baby voice, “he’s so lovely.”

“I won’t feed it,” he added cheerfully. “It’s going in the furnace as soon as I get hold of it.”

“Wait,” I said, putting down my spoon. ”Do cats carry a switchblade because people try and make empanadas out of them all the time?”

Inner Beauty

I can’t be too unkind to Switzerland. She did have a good appreciation for aesthetics:

“I really want to get married one day, but only to a blonde man. With no body hair. I hate body hair. That’s why I hated Brazil. It’s full of little, ugly, hairy people. I like blonde men and they have to be from a good family. I haven’t had sex in six months you know, I had to mentally prepare myself when travelling Africa for no sex because I don’t like African men, but I thought I’d find at least one blonde man in South America,” she turned to me and added thoughtfully, “I loved Australian men.”

I wanted to tell her to get her manicured, upper-class claws out of the pool of Australian men that my friends and I fish from. I should have pointed out that there are more blonde men from good families in South Africa than South America and that she should probably just fuck off back to Cape Town. She could even buy the baby she always wanted: “I’d love to buy an African baby. But only a cute one. Not an ugly one.”

And there was the time she did acid: “Everyone became ugly. I couldn’t stand it. I hid in my room for the night because I was just surrounded by hideous looking people. It was really quite frightening.”

Despite being constantly frustrated by her, I travelled with Switzerland for a bit, purely for the convenience and safety of having a human being beside you as you traverse Colombia. If you’re thinking that I was only using her- well, you’re right. I was. If you are tittering at what a horrible human being I am- well, you’re wrong. I’m fairly certain that she was doing the same thing: “I’ll stay at the hostel you are staying at in Santa Marta…maybe I’ll find some cool people to travel with there. It’s a drag being with the same six people every day. I need to find someone fun to hang out with.”

When international relations collapse

But, one evening, I very nearly throttled Switzerland.

We were at the beach, drinking fresh juice and staring at our phones, willfully refusing to converse with one another. We’d spent the better part of the afternoon bickering like pensioners at the bus stop. We’d heard a story a few days earlier about a rape ring that was once operating out of a popular party hostel in Medellin. It was a horrific tale that scared the pants off me- oh my, what a terrible pun that was- Switzerland, however, didn’t want to believe it because she had plans to stay there.

Switzerland: “I don’t think that people were really assaulted in the hostel in Medellin. They would have said something.”

“They probably reported it to the police who hushed it up.”

“Yes but I don’t understand why you wouldn’t write a bad review on Tripadvisor.”

Imagine reading that: Cindy gives XXYXY Hostel, Medellin 1 star, ‘The gardens are lovely but there is a good to fair chance that you will be viciously raped in them.’ 

Switzerland was staring at me. “Um…,” I said finally, “Shame?”

“Well they don’t have to put their real name.”

“Look, sexual assault is handled by every person differently and many people don’t shout about their experience. Most sexual assaults go unreported, actually. It’s that Victim Guilt thing.”

“Oh, I don’t believe that.”

I stared at her. “Well, honey, mental health is my fucking job and I know a little bit about this.”

“Yes, but I’d report it.”

“You don’t actually know what you’d do until it happens.”

“I’d go to the embassy and create such a fuss that the hostel had to be shut down,” she continued. This was a debate technique that she employed often. When your point trumped hers, she would continue on as if you hadn’t spoken. This would then cause an agitated silence from my end, and after a beat she would say in a little girl voice, “I wonder how the kitty is.”

At 5.30, I ask her if she wants to head back to The Royale. She agrees. Two minutes later she asks, “Oh my, how are we going to get back?”

I tell her it’s not a long walk. “But it’ll be dark soon, we’ve got to go now.”

She pays her tab, picks up her thongs, walks into a tent, and engages in a fifteen minute conversation about handmade bracelets while I tap my foot and swear under my breath outside.

“We have to go,” I urge her. “Now.”

“Yes, yes, I just want to buy a bracelet.”

You’ve had all fucking afternoon to buy a bracelet you vapid whore, I shout in my head. Get your silver spoon arse off that chair and let’s fucking vamos, Swissderella.

Eventually we leave. Somehow the conversation falls to the minimum wage in America.

“You know, I wouldn’t even get out of bed for $6 an hour,” she said.

“Well, some people don’t have a choice.”

“I used to babysit my brother and get $250 a week from my parents just for eating pizza and watching movies. And I got $30 an hour for my other babysitting jobs. I don’t see why they can’t just do that.”

There you go America: your economic woes have just been solved.

“I miss being fifteen. Life was so easy then.”

It’s bait that I can’t help but take. “Easy? You are travelling through Colombia,” I spat. “You haven’t even finished uni yet, what, exactly, about life is hard?”

Silence. Switzerland has now fallen ten passive-aggressive metres behind me. On the main road, we pass the marker that states it’s one kilometre back to the Royale.

“Should we get a lift?” Switzerland calls out.

I stop, looking around at the complete absence of anything. “From where?”

She points at a nearby farmhouse. “I’ll ask if they can drop us off.”

She approaches the porch and asks a random Colombian for a lift as if this is perfectly normal behaviour. I wait by the road, the darkness growing as quickly as my ire. We waste ten minutes of twilight as she tries to explain the location of an obscure jungle hostel to a flummoxed local who looks as if he wants to somehow evaporate into smoke to escape her pushy arse.

“It’s kilometre marker 46. You know the one,” she huffs. “It’s right there.”

After a beat she flits back to me. “He will take us but he can only take one at a time, so do you want to go first?”

I stare at her. “You can’t be fucking serious.”

“Or you can wait and I’ll go.”

“I’m not getting,” I spit, “on the back of a strangers fucking motorcycle.”

In my defense, walking into a house in a dangerous country and trusting that a stranger will take you 1km up the hill out of the sheer goodness of his heart is something that I consider to be ‘retarded. Deliverance retarded. Non-Academy Award winning you’ve-just-gone-full-retard, retarded.’ And if I was stupid enough to agree with her harebrained scheme, my two options were completely fucked: I could be the first on the bike and hope that I wasn’t going to wind up, at best, robbed in a field somewhere, or I could stand on the side of the road at night and hope that I wasn’t going to wind up, at best, robbed in a field somewhere. Furthermore, she has spent so much time trying to convince this Kogi fucktard to double us like Evel Knievel on the back of his motorbike, that it’s now nighttime. So, I snap. And I had every right to do so.

“You can catch the fucking bike if you like. Fuck this shit. Fuck you, fuck the franc, fuck Tag Heuer, and fuck the Red Cross, I’m fucking walking.”

Okay, I didn’t exactly phrase it like that. But my dummy was spat unceremoniously across the road as a Colombian man watched the exchange in shock.

Switzerland gathers herself, sighs, and follows me as I steam down the road.

“Take the fucking bike,” I call over my shoulder.

“Well obviously I’m not going to let you walk alone,” she huffed.

Santa Marta

She followed me to Santa Marta and we spent an awkward night making stilted conversation in the hostel bar. Prayer in C by Robin Schultz came on, and Switzerland let a small piece of empathy slip: “Oh, this song reminds me of my friend who died of malaria. I used to listen to it over and over when he…” she looked down at her wine.

Maybe she is human after after all, I found myself thinking. But, before I could pat her hand and say something forced and inappropriate, an insubstantial summer breeze flitted back across the table: “You know,” she said leaning forward, “the last thing I said to him was, ‘At least with malaria you’ll be nice and skinny’. He was dead a week later,” giggle. “Not a very good thing to say, was it?!”

The next day, she boarded a bus to Medellin and we made the thoroughly insincere promise to “catch up again!”

I don’t think I will. Having a body next to you when you trawl Colombia has it’s advantages, but having the wrong body is a CATastrophe of Pet Semetarian proportions. Sometimes travelling alone and relying on your instincts is safer than being with the wrong person. Besides, she would have dumped me as a companion when she found out I was poor, anyway.

Watch out where the huskies go…

20 Jan

A Colombian coke binge seemed like a good idea at the time.

Don’t judge that statement. I don’t actually do drugs in Australia, you know.

She adds defensively.

Don’t get me wrong: I have. On many occasions. The majority of my university years were spent in a purple haze. My memories of that time are so smoggy that I might have studied in Beijing…it’s possible, you know- I smoked a lot of pot and can’t be entirely sure where I was at that period of my life. I’ve enjoyed so many illegal narcotics that several of them don’t work on me anymore. My brain has mutated and apparently developed anti-bodies to most strains of MDMA. My time on drugs can be summed up by the word ‘Disneyland’, and I ceased with my sanity and without any stories that involved me robbing someone or sucking something to fulfill a suburban white girl Ecstasy habit.

In other words, I did the shit out of drugs and passed with flying colours.

But the first rule in the Drug Users Handbook is ‘When they stop being fun, it’s time to move on’, so I stopped taking them, choosing green tea, smugness and meditation instead.

Then I got to Colombia, a country that looks at an afternoon bump of cocaine much like a double espresso- it’s just a little pick-me-up to get you through that post lunch drag. It’s their cultural siesta. In fact, in Colombia, cocaine is cheaper than beer. I’m a traveller on a budget. A temporary coke habit was the fiscally responsible choice, really.

It’s my second night at The Royale and Atlanta and I have just left the party that is blazing through the bar. We clamber up fifty dirt-hewn steps by the light of our mobile phones to arrive at my room for the evening: a man-made hilltop cabin that overlooks the jungles of North East Colombia. The next morning, a woodpecker will rythmically slam it’s beak into the balcony railing, acting as a natural alarm clock, and my blurry eyes will peel open to a glorious view of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This night, though, Jim Jefferies is playing on my laptop, a half filled bottle of rum sits, uncapped, by a cheap lamp that is perpetually surrounded by Colombia’s largest jungle bugs, an open packet of tax-free Venezuelan cigarettes lays on the bed beside me, and the table is covered with AUD$1600 worth of Colombia’s finest disco shit.

Over here, five grams of cocaine is worth less than a packet of cigarettes in Australia, and our transatlantic bounty is spread haphazardly before us. We dip our noses into a pile of white snow like talkative, debauched huskies. We rack line after line and when I feel my heart start to beat faster than an ice addict masturbating after three days of no sleep, I take a break, chain smoking cigarettes and talking about myself as if someone gives a shit. As I natter, Atlanta blows a handful of coke in my face like a child with a dandelion. As an Aussie, this sort of behaviour is hard to get used to. Coke in Australia is more precious than the purity of your first born child. When I arrived in Colombia, I was still chewing the empty bag to get every molecule of Charlie into my system, by the time I got to Rancho Relaxo, it was so prevalent that I was giving myself cocaine milk moustaches for cheap laughs. I had cocaine smeared on, and snorted off, several parts of my anatomy. The whole thing was like a scene from Blow.

My mum must be so proud of me.

My mum must be so proud of me.

Atlanta and I rant at each other with the manic, misplaced sense of self assurance that copious amounts of narcotics brings. The hours slip away, and eventually the party downstairs disbands. Aside from our two person and a-man-on-a-laptop-screen party, all is silent.

Then a gun shot cuts through the night.

Upon hearing it, Atlanta immediately snaps to life like a KGB sleeper agent who has just heard the trigger phrase. He pauses Jim Jefferies, slams the lid shut on the laptop, pulls the plug on the lamp, and plunges us into darkness.

“Someone just got shot at the checkpoint.”

I struggle to sit up on the bed. “Where’s the check point?”

“Just out the front of the hostel.”

“Just out the…what the fuck?” I screech.

“Be quiet, I want to listen.”

Everything around us is silent. I have now leapt, in one fluid, drugged-out motion to stand at the balcony, clasping the rails with a labor-inducing fervor. I peer apprehensively over the blackness of the hostel into the jungle before me. The amount of cocaine in my blood has surpassed ‘excessive’- I’m currently at ‘Charlie Sheening’- and half a bottle of rum is slowly digesting in my stomach; but in that moment I am more sober than Robert Louis Stevenson at a Logie’s after party.

Yeah. I couldn’t think of anything funny so I went for nonsensical instead.

Anyway, nothing can kill a buzz quicker than South American jungle paramilitary. I stare at the night stretching malevolently before me and begin to wonder if I’m about to die with cocaine boogers caking my nostrils and an M16 jammed beneath my mandible. Full scale drug paranoia hits me. “Are we safe?” I squeak.

“Yeah, they probably just shot someone trying to smuggle something over the border.”

A drug shoot-out. In Colombia. In a guerilla and paramilitary soaked area of the jungle that I probably shouldn’t even be in. Where I am currently fifty shades of fucked up. ‘I’ll take ‘Stupid things that gringas do’ for $500 please, Alex.’

“Drugs?” I squeak.

Atlanta laughs. “God no,” he drawls. “The biggest thing being smuggled into Colombia from Venezuela right now is gasoline.”

I glance at the 10c per packet, tax free, Venezuelan cigarettes beside me. “And illegal tobacco?”

He nods, switches Jim Jefferies back on, and settles back in the chair to rack up more lines. “It was probably just a warning shot fired into the bonnet of the car as they tried to sprint across the border. It’s nothing.”

I’m in the middle of nowhere and a gun has been fired fifty feet away from me. To anyone who doesn’t live in a South American Golden Triangle, it’s fucking far from nothing. Atlanta is an ex army medic who grew up in Georgia. Gun shots probably accompanied the majority of his lullabies. Rifle fire is like elevator music to him. I’m from Sydney, the place where gun crime is as common as egalitarian bogans. In short, this is far from a normal occurance for me and I’m fucking terrified. Has someone just died? Are the military going to come into the hostel and look for witnesses to shoot? Or were the shots fired from the guerillas in the Colombian mist, and not the military at all? In other words, am I going to fucking die?!?

Atlanta sees the look on my face and immediately switches into Southern gentleman mode. “Anyone coming up that hill will need a flashlight and we’ll see them. We’re safe.”

This calms me mildly.

“Besides, it’s nothing like the time the military stormed this place and Boss Connecticut and I had to negotiate with them while we sent all the guests to hide up in the jungle with their passports.”

Any calm that has settled in my drug-addled brain leaves abruptly. “Um,” I begin. “What?”

“It was fine. They just came in with guns because they wanted money.”

“Wait..what?”

He offers me a rolled up fifty mil bill and explains. One sleepy evening, armed militia stormed the property with machine guns drawn. The hostel staff sent the guests up into the mountains to hide with their passports- you know, just in case negotiations with the armed men went sour and they had to flee the area and/ or country. The guests hid, presumably discharging bodily fluids from circular orifices while below them, agitated Spanish raged as the owners renegotiated with heavily fucking armed, mildly fucking sociopathic, post adolescent, testosterone fuelled military.

“That won’t happpen again. Not tonight, anyway.”

I glance at my bag which contains my passport and a laptop which can probably be sold for a plane ticket in a pinch. “Are you sure?”

Atlanta glances at me. “Calm down, Tweak.”

“I’mnotfuckingtweaking,” I snap.

He ruffles my hair. “It’s going to be fine.”

To be pompously continued in the next post…

The Panamanian Pirate Story: Guns, Guts and Bellies Full of Rum

10 Jan

It took Panama City 67 minutes to rob me.

Yes. Rob.

Again.

I know, I know.

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It’s kind of sucky being known as ‘The girl who got robbed’ in hostels. I’m getting good at being mugged, though. Not a tear was shed and I could even crack bad jokes to fellow travellers later that evening.

What I didn’t know when I arrived in Panama City was that I had booked a hostel in the ghetto. Unintentionally. I’d travelled there to catch a boat to Colombia through the San Blas Islands, and had simply booked the place that offered such a trip. After the robbery I would begin to notice how poor the area was. The razor wire that stretched endlessly over the fences of every house. The barred windows. The belligerent drunks. The cops that shook money from locals in front of you. The nighttime symphony of car alarms and gun shots.

Yes. Gun shots.

Crime

It’s 5pm. My plane skidded down the Panama City runway an hour ago and I have spent the last 30 minutes exploring the local area. It’s close to twilight, so I decide to head back to the hostel. I inevitably get lost and try the GPS on my phone. The GPS isn’t working. The phone goes in my pocket and I turn down a street that should be the one my hostel is on.

The police would later tell me that I have just walked into one of the most dangerous areas in the city, a place that even locals avoid. Simply being there carried the same level of danger that rolling through the favellas in Brazil in a diamond encrusted wheelchair whilst smugly fanning oneself with hundred dollar bills would. It doesn’t look malevolent, though. It looks like an ordinary residential neighbourhood in Central America. It reminds me, ironically, of Havana. Kids are skipping rope, ladies are parked on wooden crates outside their flats, and old men are lazily smoking on balconies, surveying the street before them.

It’s light out and the street is crammed with people, but as I walk my spider sense begins to tingle. Something feels dangerous. Wrong. Something in my gut says that I need to turn the fuck around. Immediately.

Of course, I ignored my intuition. Stop being a pussy, CC, I thought. It’s just because it looks like Cuba. You’re overreacting.

I pass a cross street. A guy follows me. I turn around, he grabs me, pins me to the bonnet of a car and, for the second time in as many months, I find myself grappling with a large Afro-Caribbean local. When you’re catnip for thieves, one robbery is much like the next and can be described in a bored, concise manner: We struggle, I gouge at his eyes- yes, I really did that- he pulls his head back, undoes the clasp on my bag- impressive considering it was an anti-thief backpack that usually took me ten minutes to undo- and snatches it from me. I manage to keep hold of one strap and pull back, he takes a swing at me, I duck-

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-kick at him, miss, lose my grip, and watch him sprint away. I hesitate, give chase, turn a corner and deduce that he has disappeared through a doorway that appears to lead to a residential courtyard. There is a lady standing at the door. She is staring at me. I don’t follow him. I hang my head and return to the street like a defeated pussy…cat chicken. Just like Cuba, my headscarf and sunglasses have flown off my head in the attack. In Cuba, they were delivered to me as the neighbourhood children crowded around to help. In Panama, my counterfeit Raybans are gone, and my headscarf lays forlornly on the ground. I pick it up and note that the locals are still resolutely refusing to catch my eye.

Yes, my attack had witnesses. At least eight. Did they do anything? No. One woman was sitting three feet away with her two sons. That hurt more than the robbery, actually. The fact that a mother would sit and watch a woman get attacked by a large man and not even squeak. But, I would quickly learn that they fucking hate tourists in Panama. Hate them. If anyone has had a different experience I’d be glad to hear it, but my time there was marked by abject hostility from nearly every local. Shop assistants would roll their eyes when I asked them to repeat rapid Spanish. Dutch backpackers told me stories of locals spitting at their feet and calling them a Gringo. The vibe of Panama City is, ‘you have and I don’t, so fuck you’.

Now, admittedly, there is a juxtaposition between locals and tourists. 3km away from the slums is a mall filled with Hermes, Cartier and Chanel. It even has a horse riding shop stuffed with leather saddles and jodphurs, and I haven’t seen too many fucking ponies in Panama City. So, in a way, I can understand their disdain for us, but in another I say, ‘No, fuck that, and fuck you, Panama.’ Every major city in the world has a schism between the rich and poor. Walk the Champs-Elysées and you will see rich tourists strolling past homeless beggars clutching cups of coins. It’s the same in Sydney, in New York, everywhere. It’s life.

Which brings me to my next point. Or rant. No, let’s say ‘point’. Rant sounds angry. The belief that people steal in Central America just because they’re desperate.

Piss off.

Seriously. Piss. Off. I’ve been thinking about this a lot today and I have managed to formulate an argument to make that statement shatter like windscreen glass. I’m in a quarrelsome mood, too. I’d be happy to engage anyone who disagrees with me in my crosshairs in a stirring, expletive filled debate.

Rant

The Gina Rinehart’s of the world aren’t being bag-snatched. Thieves target tourists- and locals- in their own areas, not the in rich, touristy ones. If it were solely about desperation, they would be going for the fattest targets.

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We aren’t in Sherwood Forest, and tourist theft isn’t an action that bridges a socioeconomic gap. It’s opportunism. Nothing else. The truly desperate aren’t usually the thieves, anyway. They are the broken-down beggars you see clutching Styrofoam cups on the streets.

Plus, if it were sheer desperation, the street vendors would routinely have food stolen from their carts by starving Oliver Twist types. They don’t. So that argument is bullshit. The men who have robbed me in a mildly violent manner, and those who have robbed other travellers in a majorly violent manner aren’t simply acting out of need. That’s like saying rape happens because men get horny. Sure, ‘need’ is a factor, but there’s a whole lot more bubbling away in the cauldron. Disenfranchisement only leads to crime if it breeds contempt, and that’s an individual response to a situation. I’ve been in poor countries- Thailand, Cambodia, Mexico- that don’t have hostile locals. Anyone who is happy to fuck over another human being just so they can have a little more, whether it’s a poverty line bag-snatcher or a wall-street banker that embezzles billions of dollars- because rich people steal, too- is a dick. A pure dick. A limp, warty, flaky one. There is no justification on this planet that will make me believe that inflicting fear or violence on another human being is acceptable. I don’t give a fuck what your bank balance is.

Take my Cuban experience: Cubans aren’t starving. They get a food ration from the government. Sure it’s not a lot, and the wages- roughly US$30 a month- are extremely low, but you can buy a cup of coffee in Cuba for AUD 4c. Four cents. It’s all relative. And the literacy rates and healthcare in Cuba are among the best in the world. Many Cubans are healthier and better educated than Americans. The dude who robbed me there was not an emaciated, poverty stricken fellow. He was sinewy, he was dressed in clean clothes, and he had shoes on his feet. He didn’t rob me because he was desperate, he did it because I looked like a tourist and he figured he could get something from me. It was greed not need.

Guts

A few days later, I go to the tourist mall to get another backpack. I succeed.

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Hooray for me. $30 lighter, I hail a cab on the street and ask to go Hostel Mamallena. The driver nods.

“How much?”

He holds up three fingers. “Three dollars.” His pinky nail is the length of your average cocaine aficionados bump digit. I want to ask him how he finds adequate amounts of keratin in the fried chicken and chips laden Panamanian diet. I don’t. I just nod and bundle into the cab. It pulls away from the kerb.

“It’s five,” he says, glancing back at me.

“What?”

“Five dollars.”

I lean forward. “So it was three dollars out there but once I’m in the cab it’s five?”

“Yes.”

“That’s bullshit.”

“Okay, four.”

I had paid $3 to get from the hostel to the mall. It’s a scam, but it’s also just a dollar, I’ve also just been robbed, and the principle of the matter also just seems unimportant. I belligerently agree and sit back in the seat. As we drive, I notice that he is periodically turning around and staring at my legs. It’s fourty degrees outside, and I’m dressed in cut-off shorts and a singlet, my hair tucked into a hat. Uncomfortable at the attention, I pull my shopping bag over my lap. He continues to appraise me in the rearview mirror. Abruptly, he stops and picks up an old man.

What the fuck? This isn’t a fucking collectivo taxi.

They speak in Spanish and he drives the old man in the opposite direction, detouring, so I now have no idea where I am. Why did he pick up an old man when he already had a fare? That’s weird. I move my phone from my pocket to my underpants. I have nothing else of value on me, I tell myself. I have USD$9. That’s it. You’re fine, CC.

I don’t feel fine, though. My heart is hammering, adrenaline spiking. My gut instinct is saying- just as it did just before I was robbed- that something is wrong. He drops the old man off and continues to stare at me in the rearview mirror. I look out the window, trying to look completely blasé while engaging in frantic self-talk: I have nothing monetary on me, so robbery isn’t a threat, but what if that’s not what he’s after? I recall the way he was staring at my legs. I suddenly feel completely naked in my skimpy summer clothes. I tell myself that I’m being paranoid because of my experience thus far, but then I realise something: I might be. This could be completely innocent. I could just be a neurotic, narcissistic woman who believes that random men are desperate to rob and/ or rape her.

Or

It might not be. My gut- usually accurate- could be right and I have two options: I can get out of the cab now, on a crowded street, and be a safe potential neuroitc, or I could stay, convince myself that I’m just being silly, and open myself up to the possibility of something horrific happening.

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And, well…Fuck that.

The cab stops at traffic lights. I throw money at him and exit.

Trying to hail another cab is difficult. When drivers do stop, they completely refuse to take me. Eventually, one agrees. His son sits in the front seat. He drives the opposite way that the first cab was taking me. Two minutes later, I am at the hostel. I give him $5. He looks for change.

“Do you have a dollar?”

I take the coins out of my pocket. “No, sorry.”

He looks at my outstretched hand, takes two quarters, and gives me back my $5 note.

Which proves my point: a cab driver with a small child is arguably going to be more desperate than a twenty-something one- cocaine habit or not. The latter immediately scammed me, then drove in the opposite direction to where I was supposed to go, even when I gave him the exact address of the hostel. Thinking about that too much scares the shit out of me. The former took me straight to my destination and charged me the correct fare. There are cool people and fuckheads in this world, and the two exist beyond races, borders, and socioeconomic statuses.

Epilogue

It’s morning at the hostel. I am smoking and chatting to Illinios, a retiree, when a group of people storm through the gate. They clutch waterlogged backpacks, looking drained and fed up. I recognise one- the Canadian from my dorm that I had spoken to on the evening I was robbed. He was meant to be on a boat halfway to Colombia right now. I ask what happened.

The captain of the boat got pissed on rum, raised a sail in a direct wind, and capsized the boat.

Everyone went overboard.

All electronic devices and cameras suffered irreparable water damage.

If it was nighttime, people would have died.

If it had happened two miles later, people would have died.

Canada was pissed off, but philosophical, “We could be dead. Or injured. It sucks, but luckily we were near an island and my family and I are safe. It’s the fourth boat that has sank this week, you know.”

They don’t mention that on the website.

I told him that I had to cancel my boat trip for a flight to Colombia instead.

“You’re lucky. Don’t go on the boats, they suck and are dangerous.”

Canada’s dad walks out. He turns to me, “If you find my iPad, can you give it to the staff? I left it in our room accidentally before we left and it’s not there now.”

I take a drag of my cigarette. There’s an iPad that was placed on my backpack yesterday. It wasn’t mine, and I figured that a dorm mate was using my rucksack as a make shift table of sorts. “Is it in a black case?”

Daddy Canada looks hopeful. “Yes.”

“Wait here.”

His face lights up when I give it to him. He throws me into an over-enthusiastic hug, kissing me loudly on the top of the head. “Thank you! Thank you! I was so angry that I left it at the hostel, I thought I’d lost it. But lucky that I did because we now have a lifeline! Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

This surprised me. “Um, nothing.”

He throws me in a hug again.

I’m not adding that part to tie it into a

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‘see, I was robbed and I’m still honest, aren’t I a good person’ moral because I honestly don’t think I’m any better than anyone else for giving him back his iPad. I did it because I’m a Nomadic Nimrod who frequently finds herself in the sort of crisis he was in, I know how welcome help- no matter how small- can be. I’m not a saint, I’m just paying things forward.

Canada said that I was lucky for cancelling the boat. I had to, when I was robbed, I lost the money for the trip, which had to be paid to the captain in cash on departure. Unable to justify the frankly exorbitant cost of the boat after the theft, I booked a flight instead. I didn’t like doing this at the time, mind you. The exact thought that went through my head was, I’m not even getting the fucking boat now. What a fucking waste of money. I’ve travelled briefly to fucking Panama to donate several hundred fucking dollars to local fucking scumbags before fucking off again.

Now? Well, I don’t want to degenerate into a pompous ‘everything happens for a reason’ lecture, but maybe I am kind of lucky.

Or, maybe I’m just justifying being robbed like a Roaming Feline Numskull again.

But maybe if I hadn’t been bag-snatched I’d have gotten the boat. Maybe it would have been lovely for a night. Maybe we’d have then crashed. Maybe I’d have lost my phone, laptop and camera. Maybe I’d be deposited like a wet sack of garbage in Panama again, with the knowledge that I now had to find a flight to Colombia, a bed for the evening, and an argument strong enough to beat the hostels ‘No Refunds on Boat Trips for any Reason’ policy.

Maybe, things aren’t so bad at all.