Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Imagine That.

A good imagination...

Shereen and I sat down with a financial planner last night and discussed getting life insurance. I’m growing up! But now that I’m worth more dead than alive, I’ve had to accept that I’ve just taken the first step towards accepting that I’m going to die. I mean really, why would you bet an insurance company that you were going to die if you knew you were going to lose?

Dammit.

But never fear, bloggy followers, I am not talking about death, save as a lead-in to a commentary on imagination.

I spent a few weeks as a child wide awake each night terrified that I was going to die. As an adult, I’ve always assumed that it was a normal stage of development. You start off and everything is part of you. And then you want someone to feed you and they don’t and you realise that they are an independent entity. And eventually you realise that if they can go away and not come back then you might end as well.

For me, that was compounded, I think, by an incredibly vivid imagination. At night, trying to think of what death would be like, I could feel the wood of the coffin on my skin. I would try and drag a breath from a space completely devoid of air. I couldn’t imagine being dead and at peace. I could only imagine dying and the fear and panic that went along with that.

I’ve never written about that before. But I’ve written about almost everything else. And I know that I’m not famous enough for people to care where I get my ideas, but I’m going to tell you anyway. It is an insight into my warped mind and where a simple idea can take me.

The most convoluted idea for a story ended up being a short story called Have your Lamington and eat it too. I was living in Seymour, walking home from the bakery, eating a sausage roll. Bits of pastry were flaking away and dropping to the ground. I watched ants take the flakes away – a tasty meal – and had an epiphany: it is incredibly difficult to eat every little bit of anything! Imagine, then, if you had to eat a magic lamington in order to gain a special power. Imagine if you had to eat ALL of it for the magic to work. And imagine that something really bad would happen to you if you didn’t eat it all. I watched the ants drag crumbs of sausage roll down beneath the earth and decided that some poor sod wild have an extremely unpleasant time getting hold of those last few crumbs.

Ted’s Souls came out of a conversation with Dave, where we tried to figure out what the appendix did. It seemed like as logical a storage place as any for the human soul.

Shoot for the Moon was an exercise in sense-writing to begin with. I wrote a scene with as much sensation in it as possible. It turned into a proper story because I wanted to explore a world where nearly everybody was a werewolf, because really, it wouldn’t be that bad – most of the time.

Dwarves in Space began as an image of a group of dwarves lighting fires in the hold of a spaceship to keep warm and ponderings on how a wizard would survive in an environment of pure technology.

And Finding Damo evolved from a desire to tell the story of some of the stupid things I’ve done along with the idea that there might be a junior Perry out there somewhere that I don’t know about.

I have a story that deals with what the heir to Prometheus would steal if we got another go at Break-and-Entering Olympus. A story that came out of a minor nervous attack over the thought that, on a train, you’d have nowhere to go if the passengers suddenly turned into homicidal maniacs (yes, I think about these things). A story based on the observation that when you kill a spider, the corpse doesn’t always stick around (and so, is it really dead? Or are spiders immortal?). And a story based around a song called Skin Deep. I never knew it was called Skin Deep as a kid. I just remember the line: Better watch out for the skundig. What the hell are skundig?? That was a year’s worth of peaceful sleep I’ll never get back, I tell ya!

Come to think of it, “Better watch out for the Skin Deep” also has incredibly creepy vibes.

Lots of stories in my head!

Anyway, there are thousands of stories in my head. I should stop talking about them and go and write some. And if you know anyone who wants to buy some, feel free to send them my way.

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The Money Fairy

So.

Have I told you about the Money Fairy? He or she is both blessing and curse. Throughout the years my relationship with money has been a tenuous one. I’ve never felt incredibly poor, but every time I try and get on top of my debts and into the black, something happens to dump me right back in the red again.

The Money Fairy

I get an unexpected windfall from the taxman, and then my car stops dead in the middle of Burwood Highway.

I work in Japan for a year, saving up a nice little nest-egg and then decide to go back to university full time.

I’m almost done paying off my loan, which will leave a good percentage of my wage free for savings and then I fly off to Europe for a couple of months.

Some people, including my fiancé, scoff at the Money Fairy. They tell me there is no such thing. But every time you say you don’t believe in the Money Fairy doesn’t exist, another Money Fairy dies, people!

Which may not be such a bad thing.

My point being, the Money Fairy won’t ever let me starve, but she never let me get ahead either. So when I find that there isn’t enough money to pay for the car rego one year, someone pays me back some money I lent them a couple of years previously.

Or I ask my Mum. She’s been a good agent of the Money Fairy.

But this isn’t about me.

I want to inflict Money Fairies on certain people. Kevin Smith? Needs a Money Fairy. Tripod. Money Fairy. Three of them to be sure.

Sam Raimi? No, he’s fine. Give him heaps of money and he makes Spider Man. I am NOT complaining there.

But I was saying to my fiancé last night: “I really want to watch Chasing Amy again. I love that movie!” I’ve always put Smith down as one of my favourite directors. His writing is brilliant and his movies are incredibly edgy.

Oh, hang on. No. Not are. Were. Someone in his or her wisdom decided to give him a massive stack of money and see what he could do with it. It’s hard to write about the woes and escapades of a bunch of New Jersey misfits when you’re eating a Nobu-burger from a gold-plated dining setting while your maid massages your toes. Kevin’s best work is now coming out of his Twitter account.

When Tripod released Open Slather, my friends and I all became instant fans. We went to gigs, bought t-shirts and cds and hoped that soon everybody would know how cool Tripod were. And then some people found out how cool Tripod were. And they got on TV. And started releasing studio versions of songs that were really only funny live…

But they did do Tripod Versus the Dragon. And I live in hope that they stay funny and stop releasing albums of re-recorded old material just to make money. And have to start scrounging for gigs again. And get funny.

Does true genius only come laced with a tinge of desperation? Is Stephen King’s Carrie superior in every way to Bag of Bones? The former was written while he was doing night-shifts at a laundry and teaching. The latter was written in his Maine mansion between signing limited editions and dabbing truffle oil from his chin with a lace napkin.

In my head, Claudia Christian is saying “I’m not bitter!” which was her catchphrase at the Multiverse Con, shortly after being cut from Babylon 5.

I’m not bitter. Or jealous. I really mourn the loss of quality, edgy writing that we discovered from these famous writers, directors and performers.

Simply because nobody thought to inflict a Money Fairy upon them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and reset the Fairy trip-wires around the house.

Excuse me?

yawn

yawn

I honestly don’t know how to beat last week’s blog. Thanks to everyone who commented. I’m glad it had such an effect. However, in the interests of continuity, I’m going to pretend it was a season of Dallas: “Wow. That was an incredibly vivid dream! Everyone loved my blog. Oh Gods, I’m late for work!”
The PTB (Powers That Be, not Psycho Teddy Bear) beamed an incredibly vivid dream into my head last night. Completely different from anything I’ve dreamt in years. In it, I was in a massive house and. . . did you just yawn? I can’t believe you just yawned! That’s incredibly rude!

Is it? Apparently. I was at a student radio session this morning and the local radio guy was making comments on how the boys had performed during the show. He kept picking up on the fact that one of the boys was yawning. “You shouldn’t yawn in public. If you have to yawn, cover your mouth. It’s extremely bad manners!” I don’t know. Yes, it’s bad manners, but is it extreme? And should there be some allowance made for the fact that it’s only eight in the morning and we’ve all been up since five? But why am I defending the lad? Manners have gone completely out the window since my day!

Gods I feel old.

Call it Manners Evolution. What was completely inappropriate when I was a teenager is now commonplace. And it might be family based, or region based, but I’m surprised at some of the behaviours students and strangers don’t consider to be even mildly rude. For example, mealtimes were always sacred. You wouldn’t answer the phone at dinner time, and the world didn’t end. This was before mobile phones (cell phones for the weirdo foreigners – sorry, was that rude?) but the concept remains the same. Unless you’re an on-call professional or worried parent, there is no reason to answer a phone during a meal. Don’t even get me started on people who have the phone on the table throughout the entire meal, or those who hold text conversations during dinner!

Aside from dinner, mobile phones in themselves are a curse of modern society and something we just have to get used to. I personally love listening to other people talk loudly about their medical conditions and secret affairs on the number 55 tram into the city. Gives me something to write about. So by all means, keep it up. If I attempt to strangle you with my headphone cord, it just means you’re either a) boring, or b) severely limiting my ability to concentrate on the book I’m reading.

My fiancé’s bugbear is road rage. Vans and urban 4WD lunatics in particular. I love watching tiny angry people in massive vehicles taking out their frustration on other drivers by tailgating – nay, LOOMING OVER – their victims. It’s like BattleTech. Inside the “safety” of their giant robots they feel invincible. If I can’t see the wheels of the driver behind me, I slow down until they either get the message or get out from behind me. I’M TAKING BACK THE ROAD PEOPLE!

I actually enjoyed a column by Andrew Bolt where he talked about manners and basic common sense. Of course, he was leading up to the fact that if you are a teacher, you really shouldn’t make porn videos with ex-students and allow them to be leaked online. By “allow” I mean “don’t put a password on your phone so that anyone can steal it and copy the files onto their own drives”. But his initial comment was that we now need signs in the toilets of businesses telling us not only to wash our hands after going to the toilet, but how. He goes on to say that once upon a time, it was a sackable offence for a teacher to be caught gambling. I’m not sure what you have to do to get sacked now, but apparently, making porn doesn’t count.

I’ve been wracking my mind the entire time I’ve been writing this trying to remember why I wanted to write about manners in the first place. I’ve finally remembered and can now stop waffling.
When did it become ok for individuals to start eating at restaurants before all of the meals come out? More importantly, when did restaurants start to think that it was acceptable practise to bring meals out staggered over the course of ten-twenty minutes? It used to be that meals for a table were kept in a warmer, or prepared so that they all came out at once. If one person at a table hadn’t received their meal, it was because the waiter didn’t have enough hands. For the last few restaurant meals I’ve experienced, the arrival of main meals has been almost random. I’m naming names here, because I really like Thai Nee Café on Lygon, but our last couple of meals there have not been pleasant experiences.

It is most definitely ok for diners to tell their companions to “start without me, it’ll get cold”. It’s the choice of the diner, and shows consideration to the others in his or her party. It is most definitely NOT ok for restaurants to take that as complicity in the seemingly standard practise of not serving an entire table at once.

Pick up your game, restaurants. Manners still matter. People shouldn’t have to choose between a cold meal and a cold shoulder.

Now excuse me, I have a commuter to strangle.

The gap in the picture

Before I start, I should warn you. This one’s heavy. Really heavy. If you’re looking for light-hearted comic relief, take a week off from Finding Damo and go and read Least I Could Do, which is a fantastic online comic strip. Next week will be lighter. I promise. I really want to start getting into the characters I deal with in Finding Damo. I want to look at their motivations and, as I mentioned in the first couple of posts, the meaning of success, which is an important theme in the novel.

But I keep getting sucked in by real life. In this case, I was thinking about my upcoming wedding. And my brother’s wedding. And my sister’s wedding. My graduating to become a teacher. The birth of my nieces and nephews. All wonderful, happy joyous times. All missing one vital participant.

My father.

Ian Perry was an incredible man and a wonderful father. He was as full of life as any man can be. He was involved in all aspects of the community and was surrounded by friends and colleagues who had nothing bad to say about him.

He died of cancer back in 2000. His funeral was inspiring in the number of people who came to pay their respects and the great things they told us about him. I looked around on that day and realised that if my funeral was anything like his, then I would have achieved as much as anyone could expect.

I look back at myself in my 20s and think “hmmm, mediocre.” Not bad, not a complete loser, but really, not having done anything particularly worthy either. My job was enjoyable but ultimately not going anywhere. My relationship at the time very similar. I was marking time.

Dad’s death pushed me to action. My first action was to run away. I ran to Japan – culturally and linguistically as different to Australia as possible – to teach English. Dad had always told me that if I was going to travel, that I should go to an Asian country. That had nothing to do with my decision to go to Japan – that decision was my partner’s – but it was utmost in my mind on a number of occasions while I lived there: “Dad should still be alive to see me living in Japan.

By the end of the year I knew that I loved teaching. I applied to Bendigo University to do my Graduate Diploma in Education. When I graduated, at the same time as my sister, I looked at my graduation photos and with one part of my mind I saw our triumph and success and with the rest I saw the gap in the picture where Dad would have slotted in.

I was ecstatic when my brother asked me to read something at his wedding, but teared up on the day as the first of us to get married did it, surrounded by friends and family, everyone we really loved, save one. Again, there is a gap in the wedding photo. My sister’s wedding, the birth of all four of his grandchildren. Gap gap gap gap gap.

And that gap isn’t a bad thing. I don’t always look at the gap and feel sad. The gap is my father, still there in his absence. I don’t want to get into the minefield of religion and the afterlife, but even on the most basic level, I look at those gaps on my good days and see that his non-presence in each of those photos, those life-events, is the reason why those events happened. Most certainly, the joy I hear in the voices of Dad’s ex-students as they reflect on his teaching was instrumental in my becoming a teacher myself, hoping that I could inspire a generation of students in the same way. I’m still working on that.

Spoiler alert for those who love How I Met Your Mother, but are a few seasons behind…

Everybody left with me is up to speed on HIMYM? Good.

When Marshall’s father died, my fiancé and I, who have both lost parents, were deeply affected. What was worst for me was Marshall railing against a world that would take his father from him before he could show him the man he had become, the man he would become. My own grief is expressed in the same way: why the hell should my father be taken from me before I could show him what I’ve become? I’ve been to Japan, I’ve become a teacher, I’ve finished my novel and now I’m getting married. And I did all of that after he died. I have no idea whether he’s up there watching over me. I might believe one way or the other, but I don’t know. So I really would have preferred that he was down here and I could see the pride in his eyes. I’ve accomplished so much in the time since he died.

Is melancholy the word I’m looking for here? A sweet sadness, looking back at the man he was and the gap in the picture that is. In my mind, in the man that I have become because of him, he will definitely be there at my wedding.

I just wish he could really be there as well…

Food glorious food?

I love to cook. I love to cook and I love to eat. Some of my great happy moments involve Duck Risotto from Fifteen, an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet at a hotel in Sydney and Coles Christmas Pudding-flavoured ice cream while watching Stargate. I will happily spend a day in the kitchen preparing meals for friends, especially when I get to try out a tricky new recipe.

I’m not a master chef. My food rarely looks pretty. But I rarely get complaints from anyone over the age of ten.

So imagine my chagrin when I visited my naturopath and he gave me a list of foods I needed to avoid. All of a sudden, my forest of food was reaching out to snare me in its allergen-filled stinging tentacles.

chips and currywurst

potatoes, no, tomatoes, no, red meat, no, curry NO!

Here’s a sample:
– no red meat, gluten (that means BREAD people!), sugar or dairy.
– no curries or chillies, potatoes or peas (seriously, peas?)
– no lentils, tomatoes or chickpeas. Lentils and tomatoes! Because when you get rid of red meat, the go-to replacement foods of choice are never lentils or tomatoes!
– no nuts. And for that, I apparently have my blood type to blame.
– oh, and no citrus or acidic food. Fish is ok, but everything any chef ever put on a bit of fish is off-limits.

That’s fine. I love a challenge. But although in these days of mid-life health-consciousness, I expected to avoid ice cream and pizza, I never thought I’d be staring longingly at a jar of peanut butter, or salivating over spaghetti bolognese.

Italians hate me. They’ve built an entire cuisine around food that I can’t eat. I went out for lunch with friends on the weekend, looked at the menu and almost burst into tears. It looked so good!

Fine. It is good for my health. I’ll suck it up. And I’ve found a number of superb recipes, expanded my repertoire of meals and discovered that gluten free, sugar free, dairy free fruit cake doesn’t have to be disgusting.

But why are there so many fantastic gluten-free recipe sites on the ‘net? Everybody I talk to now seems to be coeliac or lactose intolerant or has a severe reaction to peanuts. Case in point: I went to my friend Cate’s son’s first birthday party. There were snacks and goodies galore! And every snack was specifically designed for a person at the party who was intolerant of some food or another, either physically or morally. These treats were glucose free. Those were free of sucrose. The lollies were specifically chosen to avoid certain food colours. There was a fort around the peanut free area to prevent unauthorised nutty access. No dairy, no onions, no eggs, no badly treated animals. This party demonstrated:
1. The boundless inventiveness of humans in creating suitable foods from weird and wonderful ingredients, and
2. That something is wrong with the modern human and/or modern food.

Of course, it could be that these allergies have always been this prevalent, and suspicious deaths and belly pains were attributed to witches. But it seems that even since I was a child the instance of peanut and wheat allergies has grown exponentially. I am not the type of blogger to look stuff up. Looking stuff up kills conspiracies and more often than not proves me wrong. So I’m just going to rant based on suspicions and half-formed truths.

They’re putting something in the food. They’re genetically modifying wheat and nuts to use as weapons. We’re more than usually rapidly evolving to no longer need food. But we haven’t fully managed to live off happy thoughts yet…

But until then, I’m happy. The multitude of food intolerant people out there provide me with boundless recipes to let me dine in the standard to which I have become accustomed. I can order sweet potato pizza from Crust with a gluten free crust. I can make a chicken bolognese with GF pasta and a pumpkin base. And risotto is my new best friend. The staff envy my lunches as they trudge off to the canteen, and I’ve dropped 10 kilos in just over a month.

So I say, bring on the food allergies! Now, where’s that epipen?

A likely Scenario

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