Lazy Luddite Log

29.4.09

Culture Shock

Well I made the move to Canberra. This is postmarked a week back but only now do I get the chance to compose this entry. It has been one hectic week. To some extent it took me several weeks to move because I had existing commitments in Melbourne (such as a dental visit). To some extend it was also a case of me taking my sweet time to get into the right frame-of-mind to do this.

Tonight Petra is with her parents in Sydney and tomorrow they fly to Boston to visit her sister. It is only tonight then on the bus home that I truly understood what has happened. I was returning to my new home alone. Rather than having moved in with my partner who happens to live interstate the truth is that I have moved interstate. This is a big thing for me. So far I am coping well.

There are many friends and family who made departing Melbourne both a smooth process and a bittersweet one. I had several lovely chances to spend time with loved-ones - thanks for that. Then my longtime housemates Polly & Olav have made the process of my packing and storing of stuff a cinch. For now more than half my stuff they are storing. In the longer term it may go to Mum. Dad was fantastically useful as always in putting himself and his van at my service for the two days it took to take me to Canberra and then get himself back home.

The drive itself had moments. The Hume is hardly the most exciting of routes but there were a few things of interest. It is always fun to see the 'Rooster Tree' in the distance (I am a member of the Facebook fan-group for this optical phenomenon). Then it is puzzling to see a submarine so far in-land in the township of Holbrook. The most interesting thing however was the temporary condition of many trees resulting from the recent fires - just as in my childhood memory of Ash Wednesday so too now the trees that survived the blazes are bursting with tiny leaves all over their trunks - a fascinating play of patterns and colours.

I have done a few new things in the past week. Firstly I resisted my usual frugal tendency and purchased a CD from a service station. The selection is always very limited but sometimes you just gotta have music. I chose Bob Seger And The Silver Bullet Band - the only song that I truly wanted was the energising Hollywood Nights but the rest of this greatest hits is nice stuff and was right for a long day of driving.

Owning a CD is nothing new however. Owning white goods - that is something I have never done till this past week and now we have purchased a refrigerator (the bar fridge Petra has been borrowing from her landlords is way too small for the two of us). I supposed I should give some description of my new abode. It is on the same property as a two-story family home (the landlords) and is a small four room bungalow consisting of living room and kitchen and bedroom and bathroom-laundry. The decor very much has a Petra feel to it but there are subversive hints of Daniel here and there.

The past week has been hectic. Petra had to prepare for her holiday while at the same time continuing her Australian National Uni (ANU) course in music and languages, working as both a singing instructor and a cafe waitress, convening the ANU Choral Society and steering the committee that is organising the interstate choral festival that Canberra will host in January. I had to move in and get several thing sorted from changing my electoral enrollment to finding work (which I did - starting this week I am temping in the office of the biggest utility company in the ACT).

Petra was very keen to help me feel at home but overlooked the fact that for me a relaxed life is more inviting than creature comforts. As a result I think we got a bit tetchy with one another as she drew me into frustrating tasks like putting together kit furniture (I now have a new computer desk) and installing new software (the saga of us getting a router that will talk to both our computers has been postponed for now and at present there is a long cord connecting me to the Internet). Still it was worth it and I am sitting happily here now sending all sorts of missives into the ether. I am thankful for the perseverance and patience of Petra - virtues for anyone living in close quarters with me.

I am now here alone but am well in the habit of amusing myself. This week I will also spend some spare time in getting together with Canberran friends (sourced from my past life in the Australian Democrats or Korner or more recently choraldom). Then in a coming weekend I will make a quick visit to Melbourne while Petra is still away. By then I will hopefully have started to form some kind of routines and patterns in my new home. One week in and I think I am coping well for someone who is a bit change-averse. I think I am even enjoying it.

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11.4.09

The Den

This very short story is more the exploration of a concept than it is a story in its own right. I will discuss that more at the end of this entry. For now here is the story itself...

The den was a calm and safe place for Kim Tran. She sat in her big red leather chair behind a mahogany desk and stared at the shelves full of books lining the wall opposite her. Spending time in the den helped Kim to compose herself and think. Right now she needed to cogitate on something rather urgent. It centered on the word "exquisite".

The green library desk lamp flickered for a moment as if it were a strobe light. Kim ignored this however and interrogated the thesaurus open in front of her. She wanted to see if "exquisite" was sufficiently different from "exotic". She had been fed "exotic" plenty of times and was unimpressed by it. Those who told her she was exotic were focusing only on her French-Vietnamese background and nothing more. But was "exquisite" better she wondered. She hoped it referred to more than her looks. Maybe her suitor was referring also to her unique dress-sense or her quirky dancing or the habitual head-tilt friends told her was cute. It seemed that he had emphasized the "you" in "now you are exquisite". Kim needed more information.

Ephemeral tendrils of muffled music were creeping between the door and its frame. Kim recognized the moody abandon of In Your Room by Depeche Mode and would normally have rushed off to dance. Right now however she had to examine her brand new acquaintance more closely. She flipped open her laptop and on its screen saw a photo of him. He was barely taller than she, had long silky dark hair, a pale complexion, and a slender form that was accentuated by the long dark coat he wore. He sported a shy smile and intense grey eyes. If only her laptop could access his Facebook page she might then look at more than this image, but in the den she could only consider what she already knew.

Kim was momentarily distracted by the scent of artificial fog but quickly exiled it from her mind. The photo reminded her of something. So far her impression was one that enticed her but there was a hint of the disturbing. She looked at a small picture frame at the far end of the desk. In it was a still from an old black-and-white movie. The pallid skin... The long dark coat... Suddenly Kim remembered what he reminded her of – Nosferatu! Well that was okay - the thing worrying her was a fictitious vampiric character and such resonances were to be expected at a Goth night.

Kim lifted her tulip glass from the desk and finished off her fine cognac. It was supposed to be cognac but it tasted like rum-and-cola. This one last instant of sensory dissonance was all it took for her hold of the den to waver and fade. The books suddenly flew from the shelves in all directions and were replaced by the warm haze of the Goth nightclub Kim was standing in. Her time in the den had lasted mere seconds while she smiled a crooked smile at her bold compliment-giver. He glanced at the empty glass in her hand and asked, "can I get you another drink?"

"That would be lovely thanks," Kim answered. One drink would give her extra time in which, hopefully, conversation would tell her what she wanted to know. To think clearly she needed to stay sober, so she requested a lemon, lime and bitters. Then, if more contemplation was required she could always withdraw into her den once more.

A while ago I remarked that some key decisions we face are made in distracting conditions. I experienced this particularly at an interstate choral festival post-concert party. I wondered how different things may be if one could withdraw into a more contemplative setting. That is the central concept of this story - Kim attempts just that with her imaginary den. A recent visit to a goth night gave me my setting. My central character is very sketchy but I think that is so that anyone can identify with her (also I am lazy so the fewer words the better). I did go so far as to give her an ethnic background. This is in part because I have been privy to some discussions of a lack of diversity in fiction. It also allowed me to play with words like 'exotic' and notions of how appearance is the first thing we know of anyone. Both this and this with the same setting have been put here more recently.

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