Monday, July 19, 2010

[Not so good] Food and Wine Show

Saturday afternoon - 3 to 5 pm - there's 2 hours of my life I won't get back.

Why? Because I spent doing my best bovine impersonation, along with about half of Sydney's population, at the [NOT] Good Food and Wine Show.

This is my fourth visit and last. It started off as a way to showcase interesting, often small, food companies and their offerings. A chance to taste some things you might not see at the supermarket. An opportunity to see some chefs in full flight (Big Jay and I saw Gordon Ramsay a couple of years ago, which was entertaining if odd, with the audience screaming like he was a rock star... and if anyone recognises rock-star-style screaming it would be me).

Anyway, this year I went with my mum and sister and it was awful from the very first minute when we were squeezed in there like toothpaste going back into it's tube. There were so many people we barely got close to any of the stalls and only tasted a handful of items. Most of the time we were shuffling along with the throng, having our feet stepped on and my nanna trolley (which is useful for bringing home the sample and "Show Special" bags) tripped over.

The moment I knew this show had lost the plot was when we spotted the Lean Cuisine stand. I don't think there's any real need to spell out why I think a Good Food and Wine Show is no place for Lean Cuisine.

What I don't understand is why they can't break it up into "sessions" and only allow in a limited number of people for each session. It just seems logical to me. That way it would be an enjoyable experience rather than one I couldn't wait to get out of.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The death penalty

This story in todays news has had me feeling sick all day. I remember very clearly when this horrible thing happened and today's sentencing has brought up all those feelings and worse.

I don't believe in the death penalty. I think as a society we should be better than that.

But I strongly want to harm the man involved in this crime. I would happily fire the bullet, press the button or inject the lethal dose. Whatever his background, and undoubtedly it is awful, he is a wretched human and would be best not on this earth.

Generally I can see the other side of most crimes, at least imagine the motive, the accident, the whatever set of circumstances led to something horrible happening. I can feel a tiny bit of sympathy towards the criminal, even to a tiny degree.

But this story is so awful, so disgusting, that I feel nothing but horror and anger and vengence. I imagine my own daughter so terrified that she jumps out of a third floor balcony, naked, to escape the horror which has befallen her. The feeling which arises is pure loathing towards this creature which would do something so degrading, so disgusting to another human.

I feel so much for her family and the families of all those involved. I want to hug them but I know that would do nothing to ease the emotional agony they must suffer for the rest of their days. I feel for the police, the hospital workers, the social workers, the court workers, everyone who has come into contact with this case on a professional level because they would know details that would make this story not just horrible but an absolute nightmare.

I don't often feel this level of anything about crime; there is so much on the news I rarely give it a second glance, but this is one of those stories which has got under my skin, like the Bilal Skaf gang rapes, makes me angry and sad and fearful and wanting to wrap my children up in their quilts and lock the door and stay away from the world.

But of course that won't happen.

What I hope does happen is that this Brendan Dennison monster gets what he deserves in jail. I know this makes me less of a person, a good person, that I hope that I am, but I can't help it. I want him to suffer, I want some other evil creature in jail to do to him what society is not able to do.

More than anything I hope that the innocent people involved in this are able to find some sort of peace.

Eating your own vomit

It's well documented how I feel about Robbie Williams. He is my fantasy sex on legs.

But today's announcement that he is getting back together with the boy band that spawned his career is akin to eating your own vomit.

For a start he has built a career on shitting on the band, it's members and his entire time with them. Having read his biography Feel I don't recall a single positive word about his experience with Take That.

Furthermore Take That were a boy band and I am fairly certain that none of them can these days be referred to as boys. And there is nothing more pathetic than grown men doing what must be done when they are recreating a boy band: i,e, doing naff dance moves while singing even naffer songs aimed at 12 year old girls.

It's not like he needs the money and I'm sure he didn't just wake up one day and realise he actually loved Gary Barlow instead of despise him.

So what's up? The whole things smells very bad to me and I am going to try very hard to ignore it. Hopefully it will just go away. Because if I see Robbie doing some lame choreographed dance routine alongside his old mate Gary there will be vomit, mark my words.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Why the only thing we'll leave our children is the mortgage

How is one supposed to save, or even live within one's means, when every email brings a temptation?

At the end of the month we're going to see Stephen Fry.

Two weeks after that KEVIN SMITH. Yes, I have to say it in capitals because it's fucking KEVIN SMITH. KEVIN SMITH. KEVIN SMITH.

Talking. Live. In front of me. In the same room. I'm not dealing with it very well.

Then we have tickets for A Day on the Green in December featuring Blondie and The Pretenders.

I think there are other things in between but I'm too lazy to go have a look in the ticket drawer.

There is more to come. The rumours of Robbie Williams, Kiss, Pink touring are just the start.

Make it stop. Or hide my credit card.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Palmer Street

[Warning: This is long and tedious and of little entertainment value. Just a meander down memory lane. Not of any interest to the casual observer. You have been warned.]

Sometime in early 1984 I moved into a terrace house on Palmer Street in Darlinghurst with my friend Yolanda and a bunch of skinheads. I wasn't quite 16 (or maybe just), I was a skinhead girl and I was having the time of my life.

I was quite a tragic for subcultures in those days. I had started off at 13 as a new wave, Rocky Horror type: black tutu, one leg red/one leg black leggings, pointy shoes and crinkly hair with a giant red bow. We hung around at the old (then brand new) Hoyts Cinema complex in George Street, the heart of Sydney. We drank cappucinos at the cafe and smoked cigarettes with an exaggerated coolness. We hung out with gay boys and older boys/men who should have known better.

From there I progressed to a baby punk, when Frank and his brother Alfred arrived at our school. They were punks and they introduced us to the scene and to two boys who were to become very important in my life and the life of my best friend A. Sid and Dean (aka Fang) were from the bad old Western suburbs and had just been released from Minda, the childrens' home, when we met them. We didn't know jack shit about "punk" but we were rebelling and this seemed like an express route to where we wanted to be.

Punk was good for girls who didn't fit in with the "pretty and popular" model. It allowed us to take ugly up to an art form. We thought we were saying "screw you" to the society and its rules and regulations but we were just signing up for another society with a different set of rules.

My uniform consisted of variations on this theme: tartan mini skirts with ripped fishnets, simple white dresses I had made myself with words of my favourite punk songs written on them in blood like scrawl, a giant jumper hand knitted on huge needles from green mohair (my green pubic hair jumper), resin penis shaped earrings.

When we decided to move across to the skinhead camp I think it was a simple style decision. We actually thought out parents would be happy at this change. Before I go any further it is important to clarify the skinhead thing. Most people think skinhead = racist thug. To a large degree that is true. But when I entered the scene it was neatly split down the middle: Oi skinheads (previously mentioned racist thugs) on one side and Ska skinheads on the other. As the name implies Ska skinheads were into Ska music (you know, The Specials, Selector, Bad Manners, The Allnighters). The Ska skins were into the look but had a much more benign attitude.

So that's where I found myself during Year 10 high school. Cropped hair with long fringe and tails, tight jeans or tartan skirts with Doctor Marten boots and Fred Perry shirts. I have to say it is still a look I love but you just don't see many skinhead girls (or punks or mods) around these days... or maybe I just hang around the wrong circles.

I started working full time at the beginning of December 1983, four days after I finished school at the end of Year 10. I can (modestly) say I was quite smart at school but I couldn't be bothered working hard to get the marks and I was anxious to get a job and start my "real" life. I was lucky to be offered a job at HCF, in their art department, after having done work experience there earlier in the year. Not only was I working and earning reasonble money but I was doing something "creative", the dream of any school leaving teen.

Life reveloved around working and partying on weekends. Friday after work we would hit the Royal George Hotel (now famous as the Slip Inn, where whatshername found her Danish prince). It was skinhead headquarters and where it all happened on Friday and Saturday nights. We would start by drinking copious amounts of KB lager (no wonder I can't even stand the smell of beer these days) and would end the evening by finishing up whatever drinks were left on tables. We had no shame; we were teenage pissheads.

What I remember most about that time was the "us" and "them". "Them" were the big boy skinheads and their girlfriends. John Duffy, king of the skinheads, is a name and face I will never forget. No-one fucked with John; from his bitten off ear to his stocky, brick shithouse build, everything about him yelled "don't screw with me, arsehole".

Then there was Big Phil, gorgeous, MG driving, in the Navy, so far out of our league he may as well have been from Mars. Big Brian, aloof, arrogant, gorgeous, we all hated him but secretly had a crush on him.

The "us" were me and my gaggle of skinhead girls. We were mostly middle class teenage girls having an absolute ball. We were getting pissed, taking drugs, seeing bands, dancing, living life. It was an amazing time. It was also the junior skinhead boys. The ones who weren't up to hanging out in the major league.

I fondly remember Little Brian, who was a sweetheart and with whom I had a one-time fondle in the dirty garden behind the Royal George. He came from Galston which was impossibly far from the heart of civilisation.

Later there was my Neil and Little Michael and Big Brett, but Palmer Street was before all that.

I got to Palmer Street via Paddington. Paddington was where Yolanda and her boyfriend lived in a tiny one bedroom flat when I moved out of home. It was very sudden. I think it came about like this: I was out on Friday night, I rang my mum to say I would stay at Yolanda's house because we were going to have a late night (and after all Yolanda was "older" at 21, and obviously mature and responsible), mum said if I didn't come home I shouldn't bother coming home. So I didn't. Well, technically I did the next morning to pick up some clothes in plastic bags, but I didn't live at home again for any considerable period of time ever again.

I moved onto a mattress on the floor in Yolanda's living room and life was so fucking good. It was the pub every evening after work, it was hanging out with my friends, it was no rules, it was sharing $2 bundles of newspaper wrapped hot chips for dinner.

Sometime during that first month or two we were taking a walk one night when we noticed a big terrace on Palmer Street with a For Rent sign. We thought it would be cool to get such a big place and fill it with our best friends. Somehow we managed to rent it (the concept seems so ridiculous today, when you virtually need a reference from the Prime Minister and a gazillion dollars to rent a studio flat). They rented a six bedroom terrace house 5 minutes walk from the city to a couple of barely employed teenage girls. Shit!

Yolanda lived there with her boyfriend (whose name escapes me, but I can picture him quite clearly). I shared a room with a girl called Natalie who was Brinley's girlfriend. At that point we lost all control and the other residents seemed to be a constantly shifting group of skinhead friends and friends of friends. You just never knew who would be at home when you got there from work every afternoon. One afternoon we arrived to find the living filled with a couple of the "regular" boys and the prostitutes from the brothel next door. In our weird "feminist" way we were not impressed.

An important part of that time was "Evil" Jeff. A skinhead with a monster reputation but a guy we loved and tried to take care of, despite, or maybe because of, his frailities. Namely heroin. The night he OD'd in the big front bedroom will always be etched in my memory. Being woken up by the commotion, stumbling into the room to find him cold and blue on the floor, standing aside as the ambulance people rushed in. They gave him an injection and he sat straight up and lit a cigarette, swearing at the people who had just given him back his life.

I remember preparing him for his regular court visits by putting foundation on his heavily tattooed face and neck; making him appear a total freak rather than just a very scary mofo. To the world he was frightening and the sort of person you would cross the street to avoid, to us he was a pussycat and we loved him. I heard much later that he got killed by a train, undoubtedly in some sort of drug induced stupor. I didn't understand what his demons were at the time, I was a baby with no life experience, but looking back I wonder what it was that had made him into who he was when I knew him. Rest in peace, dear Jeff.

We used to drink at the Lismore Hotel, which was on the corner of Pitt Street and the little lane which runs between it and George Street, right in the middle of the city. It's long gone now. The Lismore was run by a little mean Greek guy called Nick. He hated us but we were generally his only customers so he couldn't chuck us out, underage or not.

A skinhead called Spike, who originally hailed from Canberra, lived in one of the Lismore's upstairs bedrooms. He was much older than us, late twenties or even thirty (or maybe he was 22 and we just thought he was "old" in the way teenagers do). He was obviously a damaged man, to be living alone in a pub and hanging out with young teenagers. I'm sure we made fun of him but tolerated him because he was sweet and gentle and bought us drinks.

I have so many swirling memories which are hard to pin down, isolate, get into clear focus. I am quite sure that I have many of them confused in terms of the time line and who was involved. I want to document things as they float up in the murky pool which is my memory because I am scared that this precious time in my life will simply fade away like a cloud in the breeze. Those people meant so much to me and yet I am finding that their names are getting harder (or impossible) to recall.

For example, there was a beautiful young skinhead boy who hung around with us for a time. He shared Yolanda's living room floor with me for a while when he was coming into the city to do summer school at the University of Sydney in preparation for his HSC. He was big and tall and my memory of him is that of a labrador puppy, all eager but shy affection. He may have had a crush on me but I was after the bigger fish and looked upon him like a little brother (though he was probably older than me).

His time with us ended so tragically it makes me ill now to think about it. There was a party at one of the big league skinhead's flats in Bondi. We went for a while but it wasn't for us. These were the heavy weights and they were mean and drunk and even we knew that we were in dangerous territory. Our friend (why can't I remember his name? he was so special to me!) turned up at the party late, after we had left, or maybe he had stayed after we left. Either way, as these things usually happen, he had taken a beer from somewhere he shouldn't have or there was a misunderstanding about the beer he was drinking. He was a babe in the woods and the wolves attacked. We heard later he had been beaten savagely. He had ended up at St Vincents in intensive care. His family wouldn't let us in to see him (who can blame them). If he survived (and for some reason my memory tells me he did) his parents whisked him off to the safety of their suburban home and we never saw him again.

When I look back I know it was only pure, stupid luck which enabled our survival. We were such stupid, innocent, arrogant little girls playing in a very dangerous big world totally out of our league and out of our control.

But fuck I never ever ever felt so alive as I did then.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Beth I hear you calling

I learnt an interesting factoid the other day.

Beth was Kiss' first US Top 10 hit. It was actually the B-Side of Detroit Rock City (or was it Shout It Out Loud?). Either way it's not a song which yells "KISS" at you. It's a ballad, a love song, it's accoustic. It's a song I absolutely love.

Like its sister Hard Luck Woman it's a song written and sung by Peter Criss, the drummer, and for me both songs are fantastic. They both pull at my heartstrings (yes, there are some there, well buried) and make me wonder how a drugged out rocker like Peter Criss could come up with such incisive lyrics.

But really the surprise is that this little song struck more of a chord with US radio listeners in the late 1970s then the real Kiss songs, the big songs. For my money Detroit Rock City and Shout It Out Loud are what Kiss are all about; the big stadium anthems which I just love singing along to in the car.

Sorry to bother you with that weird little tidbit. Just thinking out loud (as oppossed to shouting, I guess).