Pop Up

This blog is badly neglected. I don’t know why. Well I do: mainly laziness and an “I’ll get around to it” attitude. I think about it often, every day just about. I read other blogs and I intend to visit mine. Regularly I have an idea for a blog post that feels so very important at that time, it just about writes itself in my mind instantly…  usually when I’m driving or pushing the trolley around Coles or doing one of a gazillion other things. But when I’m actually near a computer all inspiration evaporates and I lazily spend my time reading others’ writing or mindlessly scrolling Facebook. Bad habits: I’m completely made up of them.

There is a lot of stuff swirling around me right now. Almost every aspect of my life has either undergone changes or is about to undergo changes and yet I can’t write about most of it. Some is personal, some is temporarily secret, some is hard to grasp and wrangle into submission with a couple of hundred words in a blog post.

I walk a constant and ever evolving tightrope between gratefulness, joy, satisfaction, plenty and yearning, frustration, crazy anger, defeat.

I want to process my life and thoughts through my writing but I am overwhelmed by too much and not enough.

By no means is this a whingey  post. I didn’t pop up to whine about anything. Life is pretty fucking marvellous really. Wouldn’t be dead for quids. I guess I’m just trying to put into words where I’m at right now. Somewhere and nowhere, like everybody else.

I’ll leave you with my go to song of the moment. You know I’ve been having a very public, very annoying yet totally beautiful love affair with Mr Frank Turner for the last two years and this song has been my almost daily mantra for the past few weeks. I’m all about the lyrics and this song says everything I need to remember right now.

If Ever I Stray

Forgive me someone, for I have sinned
And I know not where I should begin
Some days it feels like you just can’t win
No matter what you do or say.

Things didn’t kill me but I don’t feel stronger
Life is short but it feels much longer
You’ve lost that drive, you’ve lost that hunger
To pull yourself through the day.

But if ever I stray from the path I follow
Take me down to the English Channel
Throw me in where the water is shallow
And then drag me on back to shore!

‘Cos love is free and life is cheap
As long as I’ve got me a place to sleep
Clothes on my back and some food to eat
I can’t ask for anything more

Come on everybody sing it 1, 2, 3, 4

We’ve all got secrets that we hold inside
The worst little things that we try and defy
The worst one of all that you never can hide
Is that you’re never quite as strong as you sound

So I’m sorry baby, for the times I’ve hurt you
Sorry friends, for the times I desert you
Most days it feels like I don’t deserve you
No wonder that you’re all still around

But if ever I stray from the path I follow
Take me down to the English Channel
Throw me in where the water is shallow
And then drag me on back to shore!

‘Cos love is free and life is cheap
As long as I’ve got me a place to sleep
Clothes on my back and some food to eat
I can’t ask for anything more

Come on everybody sing it 1, 2, 3, 4

Come on and join me in the water
Swim for hope
Sometimes it’s hard to remember
I couldn’t do this on my own

If ever I stray from the path I follow
Take me down to the English Channel
Throw me in where the water is shallow
And then drag me on back to shore!

‘Cos love is free and life is cheap
As long as I’ve got me a place to sleep
Clothes on my back and some food to eat
I can’t ask for anything more

I can’t ask for anything more

The path I chose isn’t straight and narrow
It wanders ’round like a drunken fellow
Some days it’s hard for me to follow
But if you’ve got my back I’ll go on.
If you’ve got my back I’ll go on.

The Love Boat…come aboard, we’re expecting you…

One of the first things I remember the Comedian saying to me when we embarked on our rocky romance was that he sometimes worked on cruise ships and would take me on a cruise with him one day. It took some time for that one day to arrive but, like all good things, arrive it did. Even after he had booked me in and I had received my boarding pass from the cruise company I still didn’t believe it would happen… given our history there was a more than fair chance the ship would be full, my booking would be lost or we would simply break up as we had done on so many previous occasions.

But the day arrived, children were despatched and lo and behold I was allowed onto the ship without hiccup. Apart from it being a virtually free holiday it was significant for me because it had not been an easy road to this point. An eighteen month rollercoaster ride with totally unpredictable loops and drops. I was very happy and relieved to finally be at this point.

A cruise is a cruise is a cruise and having been on a cruise last year with the kidlets I knew what to expect. There was the full cast of characters: the drunk bogans, the drunk bogan couples, the drunk bogan singles, the drunk bogan hens groups. We entertained ourselves by creating sub-groups including “couples we never want to see having sex “and “how did those people afford a cruise”.

What I really enjoyed about this cruise was getting to know some of the crew and how things work behind the scenes. One of the things people often say to the Comedian when they learn he works on cruise ships is how lucky he is to get “free holidays”. It’s not all fun and games when you’re working on cruise ships. While he is usually on for only a short time the majority of staff are on contract for months at a time and may not see their family and friends at home for six months or more. Some form empty on board relationships to stave off the loneliness, others drink and embrace the loneliness. It’s repetitive work, in a restricted environment and you are constantly surrounded by ugly, badly behaved, entitled, drunk bogans in holiday mode. It’s not pretty folks.

During a chat with the other on board comedian he described the “before and after” effect of being an entertainer on the ship. How after you perform everybody wants to know you. What a strange little “celebrity” phenomenon that is. It was enjoyable in a creepy, weird way to experience this. This is as close as I’ll ever get to feeling like Angelina Jolie so I’m going with it.

The first couple of days we went about our business unnoticed. Hanging out, eating, drinking (a few too many cocktails), listening to music. Nobody noticed us. Then the Comedian performed and as soon as he was off stage it began. From the first drunken stupid dickhead staggering towards him and wanting a free CD because it was “his birthday” to the constant parade of people telling him they enjoyed his show (which was lovely). Because I’m mentioned in the show as the “carer” there were many remarks of “oh, you must be the carer” as we passed. And people simply stopping, starring, whispering. It is a very strange situation.

Overall I loved our time on the ship. A very rare chance to be alone together in our own little bubble. Cruising is not my favourite way to spend a holiday but a short cruise was a wonderful way for us to spend some relaxed time together. Hopefully another love boat experience is on the horizon.

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Twas the night before Christmas…

… and I was taking a moment to reflect on the year that was. OK, it’s not New Year’s Eve but this is as good a time as any… plus there’s no one in the office and my mind is a-wandering.

It’s been a big year in lots of ways but mainly emotionally. I won’t lie, it’s been fucking tough at times. I’ve said WTF? on more than two (or fifty) occasions. It’s a year I don’t particularly want to remember but I’m very much unlikely to forget. I’ve learnt a lot about resilience. I feel I’m ending the year somewhat wiser and harder than I was at its start.

In broad strokes the kids and I have survived our first full year as a single parent family… and it was OK. Mainly it’s OK because I have a support network around me second to none. My mum and dad and sister are rock solid in their ability to be there for me and the kids at any time and all the time. We are awesomely lucky and grateful. But there’s also my friends who help in all ways, from practical to emotional to just fucking knowing they are there and have my back, that I can call and whinge when needed. I might not always say it straight up but I love and appreciate every single one of the people who are my family in the broadest sense of the word.

Hmmm… romantically it’s been a rollercoaster. There have been awful days and weeks but there have been amazing times as well. I have discovered more than I can share here about myself and for that reason the highs have very much been worth the lows. I end the year in a wonderful place, hopeful of a future with someone who means more to me than I can easily describe.

I’ve learnt to recognise and accept my style of dealing with things and that has been a learning experience in itself. It’s totally glib to say but it’s OK to be me.

This year I’ve got to travel to my favourite, non-Sydney, city on the planet. I’ve eaten great food, seen some fabulous bands and shows, watched spectacular storms from the safety of my balcony, hung out with people I love, been thrilled and disappointed by my Swannies, met people who have opened my eyes and changed my perspective. There has been heartache but I’m lucky enough to say the good has far outweighed the bad.

To those who have hurt me I say screw you. To those who have loved me, cared for me and my kidlets, I say you rock and thank you…. it means everything.

Goodbye 2014. Bring on 2015… a year already bursting with possibility and all the good shit.

NYC 2014: part 2 (the food edition)

So let’s pretend the previous (now MIA) post never happened and get back to our NYC adventure. I’ve decided against a blow by blow, chronological account and do more of a highlights reel. What was awesome about NYC? Well let’s see…

I just love walking in New York. A good day for me is just going out the front door and moving in a forward direction. It doesn’t matter the destination because I’m in fucking New York and there’s always something interesting to see, smell and experience. The people, the buildings, the shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, dogs, trees, graffiti, the way the pedestrian crossing lights have a countdown clock to tell you how many seconds you have left to cross the road.. every one of these things and so many more give me pleasure. I don’t need a purpose or destination there; I’m very happy just to be.

But back to specifics. Food was mainly on the great to amazing spectrum. OK we had some crappy breakfasts with shithouse coffee (how? how? is bad coffee acceptable any more… really? how?) a few times but we also had some very good breakfasts. Of course a Douhgnut Plant donut is the breakfast of champions and my favourite – the Coconut Cream – was just as good as I remembered. We had a delicious breakfast at Dudleys (one of a few Aussie cafes on the Lower East Side) but on our second visit they forgot our order (and we were the only customers – DOH!) so they officially got deleted from our Christmas card list. Our favourite breakfast spot was Spiegel, a sparse Kosher Moroccan cafe a few blocks from home, which did an awesome granola, excellent shakshouka eggs and a very good latte. I miss Spiegel.

A last note on breakfast: we had an excellent bacon and egg roll at The Australian Bar when we ventured there at a ridiculously early hour to watch the Swans wallop North Melbourne in the preliminary final (that was also my last mention of the Swans because: disgraceful). Also… get a good coffee machine The Australian Bar, what’s the point of excellent bacon and egg rolls when you serve them with that tasteless coffee-like swill.

Maharlika. I love you. The end. But no, there’s much more. What started as a disappointing evening when we just missed out on a table at Root & Bone (this no reservation system sucks balls – and not in a good way – NYC) ended on an unexpected high. My dear sister remembered this tiny Filipino joint and suddenly we were ensconced at the bar, being served cocktails by the super friendly owner and over ordering some super delicious food. Shall we start we Spam Fries? Oooh! Really? Sounds awful… tastes DEVINE! Then onto lots of other yumminess including one of the best bits of roast pork I’ve ever devoured. Not a Weight Watchers endorsed meal by any standards but so so good.

Another highlight of NYC eating is lobster and its derivative, lobster rolls. Now I should start by saying M and I both got a pretty bad bout of food poisining on our last night and I’m 99% sure the culprit was lobster (and not the pickle backs – whiskey shot with a pickle juice chaser – that followed). BUT before that night we enjoyed lobster on a few different occasions and it was delish (and non vomit inducing). Our neighbourhood Lobster Joint was a great casual eatery a few doors down from Katz’s on East Houston. A great vibe, really good lobster rolls and an excellent Bloody Mary with a lobster claw in it… doesn’t get much better than that.

Can you walk the High Line, stop at Chelsea Market and not stop for a lobster roll at The Lobster Place? No, you can not. I actually think it’s some kind of legal requirement. So good. And of course don’t leave without a little bag of weirdly flavoured mini donuts from the Dougnuttery (Purple Pig: maple, purple potato and bacon flavour… yes please).

So where else? Momofuku Noodle Bar… a fabulous lunch of supremo smoked chicken wings and excellent (best ever?) ramen. Fried chicken… excellent at Root & Bone (finally nabbed a table at this cute place, didn’t rock our world overall though) and far less than excellent at Tom’s Restaurant (the fabled exterior of the diner from Seinfeld). Hot dogs… finally had a Nathan’s hot dog at Coney Island and sure it was an iconic experience but not one I need to do again anytime soon. As always NYC does a decent cheap slice of pizza and we enjoyed one each for the ridiculously overpriced $2.75 each near home. My heart belongs to the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop and I scoffed a Bea Arthur all by myself. The obligatory Rueben (so so) and brisket (delicious) sandwiches at Katz’s Deli. The always drool worthy burgers at Shake Shack.

Almost forgot Peter Luger in Brooklyn… maybe because I got a little tipsy and had to be carted off home in a taxi. Very old school steakhouse. Simple, delicious food, huge servings and prices, awesome steak. If you want  any more details ask someone who remembers (i.e. not me).

Pretty sure those were all the meals worth discussing. If anything else surfaces from the dark recesses of my foggy brain I’ll catch up in the next installment. Y’all come back now.

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Coconut Cream Donut (far right)… my love.

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Lobster (and shrimp) rolls at Chelsea Market.

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The best granola and shakshouka eggs at Spiegel.

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Smoked chicken wings at Momofuku Noodle Bar.

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Pancakes at Dudleys (the time they remembered us).

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The Brisket sandwich and the pickles at Katz’s Deli. Yum.

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Micko… because I love this pic.

NYC 2014: part 1

I fully intended to blog from New York, on a daily basis even, but it just didn’t happen…obviously. The days flew by and I was overtired and/or overwhelmed on the rare day I might have had time to write. Facebook allowed for the brief day-to-day snapshots of our trip which kept family and friends abreast of our adventure.

So let’s recap a little. We flew out of Sydney on Tuesday 16 September on a 1:30pm flight…which meant being at the airport at around. 9:00am. One of us (ahem, not me) suffers from a mild getting-to-the-airport-ridiculously-early syndrome. I think it’s sweet and tend to like being there early myself. It’s much better to get through all the stupid queues…check-in, security, customs…and then relax, rather than stressing out because you’re stuck in a traffic jam or one of the queues is stupidly long.

Anyway, leaving early meant there was no traffic en route to the airport and all the queues moved at a brisk pace. Thus we had plenty of time to enjoy lunch before boarding.

The flight itself was routine, very smooth. People whinge about Qantas but I thought the service and the food (my two main areas of interest, apart from not falling out of the sky) were excellent. I picked the last row of window seats which meant just two seats together; there was method to my madness but I overlooked the arsehole factor and found the space behind us was just right for dicks who want to have a loud chat while everyone else is sleeping or trying to.

A brief stopover in Dallas Fort Worth and we were landing in NYC. I was mildly anxious as there was a problem with our VRBO apartment just as we were leaving and we had been offered a different one…I was hoping it wasn’t a scam. It wasn’t. After a quick taxi ride from La Guardia we picked up our keys from the dodgy corner store and were soon enough checking out our small but perfectly formed Lower East Side apartment.

Bags dropped off we headed to the closest bar for a nightcap. There is certainly no shortage of bars in that area. Soon enough we were sharing a pizza and some bevvys at one of our many locals, next door to The Bowery Ballroom. Yeah…we were in NYC baby!

Morning number one found us wandering around our new neighbourhood starting with a breakfast stop at my beloved Doughnut Plant. (For the record the “cake” donuts are not worth the calories; it’s all about the yeast donuts and if you don’t like them I’m not sure we can still be friends.)

A much longed for Coconut Cream Donut later we were back on the street. We were meeting up with sister and BIL for brunch which meant a few sunny hours to get a feel for our ‘hood. Crossing the street we spied a familiar face: Tim Rogers, of iconic You Am I fame, was walking towards us. We recognized him and his half smile made me think he recognized us recognizing him.

Something weirdly satisfying about “bumping” into a fellow Aussie so soon after starting our NYC adventure…and a famous one at that. (Soon we were to learn there was more than just the one odd Aussie in these parts, place was crawling with downunderers.)

So onto brunch. Of course it was wonderful to see my gorgeous sister JB and her similarly gorgeous, sausage making hubby…but it was equally wonderful to meet them at the much read about Russ & Daughters Cafe. R&D are a NYC smoked fish institution and this newish cafe was a great place to meet for our first catch up meal.

Not only was it super cute, from decor to menu to wait staff, but the food was very very good. We shared a delicious platter of smoked fish and bagels with all the necessary accompaniments. Having never tried it before I’m now a huge fan of smoked sable. Delicious. Special mention to the ridiculously good chocolate French toast which was an unnecessary but wonderful way to finish the meal.

Not sure what we did after brunch but I’m fairly sure it involved a nap. That evening we met for drinks at the nearby Leadbelly and our love affair with. $1 Oyster Happy Hour(s) began. A wonderful evening of cocktails, oysters and really good food.

Are we really only at the end of our first full day in NYC? Wow.

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Happy Happy Joy Joy

Sometimes things happen which are just happy happy joy joy things. Today such a thing happened. No, McNulty didn’t get run over by a truck. No, Fred Nile didn’t get discovered in a parliamentary closet wearing a gimp outfit buggering a goat. Much, much better than that.

Frank Turner. Is. Coming. To. Australia.

Frank Turner is my gift from The Joker. When we first met he said “have you heard this?” (I’m paraphrasing) and played me a bit of “Photosynthesis” and then a bit of “Substitute” and I fell deeply madly in love with two men in the one moment. No matter what happens with The Joker he’s given me the gift of Frank and I’ll always be grateful. No-one really gets my obsession but Frank talks (sings) directly to my heart.

Since I first heard him I’ve longed to see him live. Frank is awesome live. To stand in the audience and sing along, badly and loudly, to his songs would be a spiritual experience.

Imagine my joy when an hour ago I checked Facebook to find that he’s coming to Australia to perform at the BluesFest next Easter.

Such bursts of excitement are rare and this one took me back to the moment I was invited to meet the Chili Peppers before their 1995 Sydney Entertainment Centre show. I remember getting the letter in the mail from their touring company and actually screaming and jumping up and down (I was a lot younger then).

When you’re old/er and a little tired and a little downtrodden by life and ex’s and kids and boring jobs it’s nice to get that alive feeling, the adrenalin pumping, the excitement surging.

So a year and a half after first meeting Frank Turner I’ll actually get to see him live and in the flesh, hopefully with The Joker by my side. Is there anything better than having something awesome to look forward to?