Sunday, May 31, 2009

...I need you more than want you and I want you for all time'





There are a few things that really bring on the reality of how far away I live from where I was born, not the large number of 10,000 plus miles, or the 24 hr. plus plane ride. No, something that makes me feel the distance is the reversal of seasons, and reading my friends posts or blogs, as they are going into summer, the sudden burst of energy that is so apparent one can feel it through the paragraphs. Meanwhile, here, the day is ever shorter, darker, and colder. As I am cutting back plants that have turned brown and withered, the air I breath feels cold and that unsettles me, I want to race back into the comfort of my blankets and a nice book.
Here, instead of starting, things are shutting down. The croquet competitive season is closed for winter, Zok received only two awards, but of course he won those coming into play after not playing for months, and he only entered two competitions to begin with.
There are also the differences in basic amenities that I took for granted in America or Europe such as heat and broadband. Our household broadband gets 'shaped', we pay for the amount of broadband we use, in a method not unlike early cell phone minutes, we have "unlimited" speed (which is actually about forty times less the speed of our broadband in Stockholm, yeah I said forty times less), until we go over our allotment then we are on DIAL UP speed. Dial up speed translates to no blogging, and very little else, only the most basic pages load within about five minutes, most time out. This has been the case for the last eight days. Tasmania is on course (or so the rumors say) for DSL 2, which would catch us up to the rest of the wireless world but that is years away. Speaking of years apart, last night I saw a T.V. ad for gas, as in natural gas, as in some households here will be able to get natural gas for heating in their houses. I have been enjoying Zok's first winter here, expressed by his always having a fire ready to go, this morning the house was about 62 degrees in the warmest room, so we are enjoying a fire before noon. (I would rarely be so bold, I hate to have to add wood to the box because I am inept).
So winter is here, with its cold air, and darkness, soon I will be delving into some long Trollope or Bronte sister novel to while away hours that can't be used up skating due to wet pavement.
There is also my pass time of listening to new records, which lately is plentiful, the new Iggy Pop 'Preliminaires' is amazing, the latest Iron & Wine 'Around The Well' is great. Winter has its own pleasures and I will enjoy them, and try not to feel too exhausted, or far away while enjoying the dizzying schedules of BBQ and summer activities happening on the other side of the planet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Speaking in architectural tongues







I dislike the feeling of homelessness. After I had to sell my house in Seattle, I kept one of my house keys and I wore it around my neck like some superstitious talisman. Sometimes just having my own car was enough to stave of the feeling, so when I was on a road trip across America, that was okay, as I had my car. During the time between graduation and my Visa to Australia being granted I was adrift for over a year, my belongings were in storage, I had some boxes scattered between the people I could impose upon, and a bit stashed away in the apartment in Stockholm, the feeling of homelessness weighed heavily. For me, many such events are cumlative, there have been many times that I counted myself lucky to even have a car to stay in. These times in my life created an attachment to public buildings. Museums, libraries, galleries, and parks. Places where time can be wasted, energy regained, without needing to spend ones money or answer questions. I always gravitate back to these places, if I find myself frazzled in the CBD of Melbourne, I go to the first available public building, usually the national gallery. Inside there is peace and quiet, a bathroom where one can freshen up, and coffee to be had.
Another side effect is my slight obsession with housing. I have always loved to look at historic houses, houses on heritage lists, houses built by notable architects, or simply walking through neighborhoods at dusk, the time of day where glimpses into windows can be taken. Australia is fascinating because building your own home is not just attainable it is a normal event. I meet people all the time who built their homes, planned their gardens, own plots of land. This ability to be able to be a normal person, with a normal income yet still buy land and build a home is almost taken for granted here.
The 'Heide I, and II' is a home in Bulleen, a neighborhood outside of Melbourne central. The house was one of the first modern homes, and is one of a small list of modern homes on the heritage list. Most of the others are in a the Kew neighborhood, but I haven't been able to find them. This one is now officially a museum and therefore public and easily accessed. Like Werribee Park, there are sculptures littered among the grounds, a very popular Australian occurrence, indicating that there is still more room outside then in. Zok finds my desire to visit these places strange, but there are not a lot of open houses in Australia, certainly not like Seattle or San Francisco where I could pretend to be house hunting about once a month. I find nothing more satisfying that being allowed free range into some persons home. Most homes that I would want to see here are not put on the market in that manner so I need to get my fix somehow. I do a lot of house visiting while I am in the U.K. where rich country homes are still open once a month to the public. This is always a good time, but imagine having a home that is later converted into a museum such as the Heide or Rodin's home in Paris. This for me is the pinnacle.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Toxic Avengers vs. Dead Ringer Rosies




As many know, I have been skating obsessed. In late March when I went to my first 'fresh meat' roller derby practice I didn't think I would make it past the one night, within a month I had my own skates, and a set of outdoor wheels. I started skating three nights a week (due to my passing the beginning skill set put forth by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association), and also skating outside each day. Taking time off (due to a small injury) and going to Melbourne was a blow. The time off though was balanced out by Zok extending our trip by one night so that we could attend the second bout of the third season for the Victorian Derby League. Latrina who coaches our fledgling Tasmanian team skated for the V.D.L, and I think she is on sabbatical here in Hobart working on a play called 'the falling room & the flying room' which will be performed at The Theatre Royal June 10th and June 11th here in Hobart.
I thought there would be maybe a hundred people, I think I had that impression because of the fact that the bout was in an outer suburb (actually about ten minutes from where Zok grew up), and because the general sentiment is that Australia has such a low population, that many 'crazes' don't catch on. Well, Zok and I both estimated the crowd to be close to five hundred people. People in grandstands, outside the rink and on the rink. There was merchandise, half time entertainment, girls hawking items as well as food and drinks, and a concession stand with of course, cheap beer. Many of the audience seemed to be regulars who had pillows, coolers, and blankets. Zok took some photos and video, I was too engaged trying to unsuccessfully hear the referees, and watch all the action. The Toxic Avengers won (girls in yellow), they had a player 'Kittie Von Krusher' who was tall, fast, and unafraid to plow through the pack and/or take a hit. Many of the girls were good, I don't mean to single any one out but her presence was pretty attention grabbing.
I think that Zok is poised to be a coach, as all his comments centered around what he thought could have been better. He was surprised by the amount in attendance, and of course had both the door and merchandise calculated in his head as well as ideas for better security and sound system. Hopefully he will be as enthused to pitch in when the Convict City Roller Girls are ready to go. For myself, I find it hard to imagine myself actually competing.
For those of you that want to know more, look here:
http://www.wftda.com/
video

'...lost all my money now I'm all alone, city boy stole my car, city girl stole my heart...'

Driving into Melbourne, at night due to our 5 hour delay...
Along the freeway there are many different colored panels and lights

People!
Our plane, delayed and waiting for a replacement crew member, a crew member that flew from Melbourne to Hobart to return on our Hobart to Melbourne flight.

Zok and I went to Melbourne-which is for us; 'going into the city', even though the city is about an hour away by plane. There are cities in this world that I love; Stockholm, Paris, Chester, and Seattle are among them. There are cities that I love conditionally, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and Barcelona. Some cities though I can't get past my ambivelance, and Melbourne is high on that list. On the one side there is shopping, museums, night life and lots of places to eat, on the other hand there is the traffic, the noise, the long distances that emcompass the sprawl of the greater city area. All routes seem to be the same, so that we are often driving along the same route in some nightmarish, endless, loop. I truly believe that Australian radio exists for Australians to hear themselves talk, there is at least thirty minutes of talking for every two songs. There is no pattern to the programming either, the same station that plays a T.Rex song will follow T.Rex with a song by Midnight Oil or Icehouse.
Also and more importantly, Melbourne is often the city of missed opportunities, the place we want to eat at will be closed, the shop we liked will be gone, the event we want to attend will be over the day we arrive, or starting the day we leave. I take a cities tone and ease very personally, and I don't think that Melbourne really wants me to stay any longer than I need too.
Then there are the people, people in an amount to which I find shocking when I come from Tasmania. People out, at all hours, at all volumes, crushing and pushing. If I ever had the city edge, to block out the ugliness, and to navigate a crowd, I have basically lost that ability.
There are a lot of public art works along the freeways, the over passes, bridges and tunnels are all done artistically which is a good example of my torn feelings, as one part of me thinks 'Wow, what a great thing to do.' while another part thinks 'Wow, there is so much traffic and so much time spent on the freeways the state actually paid to have art places along the busy stretches.'.
Zok and I drove about 355 km during our three days there, and since we rented a Prius, the cost for gas (petrol) was only $16 AU at $1.22 AU a litre, (or about $4.88 a gallon). The Prius is also quiet and comes with a built in feeling of smug to help one along. Zok and I did get to have a nice dinner with his friends Michelle and Trevor, who are a class example of city dwellers, they vacation, have a low maintenance condo. in the city, rarely drive, and live to dine out. They love their city and it seems their city loves them back. They took us to a lovely French restaurant called 'Bistro Vue', I can attest that the ambiance was delightful and the wine lovely, for information on the apparently very tasty dead beasts, one would have to ask the carnivores of the table, (Zok is behind me saying words like 'clean cut of meat', and 'tender, very tender'). We also visited all the family that we were able too, and somehow came home with two full check in bags of food, and household items.
I learned a new Macedonian word 'Kalinka' which means Pomegranate, and which I have spelled phonetically for you here. Melbourne has enough of a Macedonian population that there is a 24 hr television station that is available, broadcasted from Macedonia. This is what is on in Zok's mothers home, (unless 'deal or no deal' is on). Zok did take me to see a Roller Derby bout and I finally made it to the Heide Modern Museum located outside the city in Bulleen. One thing I truly appreciate about a trip to Melbourne, is that I am always insanely grateful to return home. There is much dancing about, exclamations of, and touching to reaffirm that everything is real.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"...Honey Pie you making crazy, I'm in love but I'm lazy...'






Is the season still autumn? Yesterday brought weather that could be described as summer and today, well today would be winter. I guess autumn is being left out. A neighbor was kind enough (or mad enough if she had any insight on Zok's latest obsession) to give us pears from her garden. I must say that I was completely wrong about the pears, they looked sad, small, and a bit well dare I say ugly. So imagine my surprise when I tasted one, and declared the ugly little thing-a taste of perfection. Suddenly I wanted to hide them all from Zok and the inevitability of becoming...pie. Why add sugar and spices to something so pure?, so tasty?.
Perhaps the pears felt as I do because they did their best to give the baker trouble. They became so juicy while in the oven that there was a bit of a pie collapse. However, as with my first impression, although they looked a bit ugly they were very, very tasty.
Other than pie, Zok has been making English style scones, for various social events. The end of class here involves 'bringing a plate', as does our annual Croquet meeting, so scones and fresh jam is our contribution.
Upon a random invitation we also experienced the local chain cinemas' version of 'Gold Class', Zok has been curious and I have been wary. But the invitation was a good excuse to try it out. The theater has about thirty seats, which had been completely booked out by our local sci-fi/comic shop. Apparently they often all get together for the first night of certain movies. This made the experience much nicer than if we had just gone on our own.
The screen was large by Australian standards but nothing like an American cinerama. The seats were a cross between a lazy-boy chair and a first class airplane seat. Any snack item can be pre-ordered for exactly when you want that item to arrive for example, half way through the movie. There is also a 'call button' for sudden or forgotten urges. For me the ticket price was spent to be in a room full of like minded people who neither shuffled, spoke, or forgot to turn off their cell phones. I of course am more fond of a off beat cinema, the type I have described in other posts, that random sort of dollar theater with busted seats salvaged from some forgotten venue, or couches and chairs set up higgledy-piggledy. I have to hope that this type of theater will always be found on a side street as with the one we found in Croatia. The gold class marketing ploy seems some way of the future, which was fitting as we were watching a modernization of classic Star Trek. Part of me felt ashamed to like this new version, as if I am turning my back on all things of the past I still enjoy, rotory phones, black and white prints, mechanics that do not involve any computerized parts. As long as I can find both-well then I guess I should take heed of the lesson I learned with the pears.

Monday, May 4, 2009

'you should have been here last night to hear what the big dipper said to me'







I fear that Zok's pie aspirations have grown beyond the capabilities of my exaltations; ("delectable, mouthwatering,tasty, lovely, Zok you are a culinary genius!") -to the point that he now needs more people to feed his pie ego with praise.
So, he then conned the neighbors into a night of Scrabble playing and pie eating. For this, the third pie, he chose to make a four berry pie; blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, and finally blackberry.
Zok made small decorations (by hand!) to represent each berry that was baked into the pie, he used a paring knife to show the berry upon the vine. Please observe his handy work upon the top of the pie.
Our neighbors were very gracious in their praise-Sue (she knows what's good for her, I mean our yards are only divided by a fence) even took a photo as she thought the pie was so pretty. I thought they did quite well, as this is their second pie and although one might think that pie praise is easy to keep up, well until you are faced with pie after pie...then new compliments/adjectives become harder to find.
Pie and Scrabble was an excellent combination, and I am not just saying that because I won said Scrabble game.
Also to be fair on the topic of obsession, we are both a bit obsessed, my waking thought was 'You say PIE!, I say SKATE!', and I am pretty sure I heard Zok muttering to himself about making smaller, individual pies...