Finding Damo

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

Archive for the category “writing”

Just Right

A quick writing exercise that I did this fortnight with my Golden Pen group: update a fairy tale for a modern audience. As always, these stories are whipped up and posted here without too much editing. It’s all about the process, not the end result.

And, for those who are completely out of touch: a Bear in today’s society is a big, hairy, gay man.

Now read on.

Goldy slid the crowbar into the slim gap in the old windowsill and lifted it with a small grunt, hearing the snap of the window latch breaking free. She cast a furtive glance around to make sure nobody was watching and then quickly slid the window open and slithered with a practiced grace through the entry and into the darkened house. Once inside, she stood up and pushed her dirty blonde hair back under her navy hoody. She’d heard that these three were rolling in dosh. There should be enough in here that she could palm off easily. She stood completely still, listening for the sounds of someone inside the two-story house. Nothing.

She’d been casing the place for weeks. Living at the prestigious Armadale address were three men – all apparently single, all very well off. She checked her notes.

Victim 1: “Papa” (likes Hemingway, pretensions to writing) Out Tues, Thur mornings – gym.

Victim 2: “Mama” (cross-dresses on weekends, professional singer) – Works nights. Comes home late Thur. morning.

Victim 3: “Baby” (younger than the other two. At least half a metre taller than the others) – No idea what he does for a living. Early riser – out all day weekdays.

So Thursday morning was the best time. She’d watched Baby leave the house wearing running shorts and a singlet, showing off his massively hairy back and shoulders, and then, knowing the place was empty, had made her way to the window at the side of the house.

Goldy crept to the upstairs study, where she knew there would be a trove of electrical equipment. If she could hack their passwords, she might even be able to sell some of the songs and stories for cash. Inside, she found three computers on three desks. The first was a highly-customised, bright pink desktop, covered in bling.

“Too hot,” she muttered. “I’d never be able to sell that one without it being traced back to me.”

The second was an ancient clunker that didn’t even look like it connected to the Internet.

“Too cold,” she grumbled. “How can they have all this money and still own such a piece of junk!” And then the motherlode.

“Just right!” she gasped. On the third desk was a superb laptop, whirring away with incredible power. It was light enough to fit into her pocket and would sell for top dollar down at the markets. To top all this off, a yellow post-it had the words P: P0rr1dG3. She clicked the mouse, tapped the password into the login screen, and sure enough, was admitted right into Baby’s digital sanctum.

“Brilliant,” she said, shutting the lid and stuffing the laptop into her backpack.

The next stop was the living room. As she tiptoed down the stairs, she smiled at the pictures on the walls. It was definitely a strange living arrangement, between these three gentlemen of leisure. All three were in most of the pictures – scenes by a park, dancing at Mardi Gras, waving at the camera in fancy restaurants. If she wasn’t living on the streets, she’d probably have a good idea of who they were, but she was a bit behind on her popular culture, strangely enough.

In the lounge, she nabbed some more electronics – a couple of iPads, the Playstation, a couple of different screencasters. And once more, she was faced with a decision. Three watches lay neatly on the coffee table. The first was an incredibly beautiful gold watch, intricate and had Hemingway’s face engraved into the band. She hesitated, and then sighed.

“Too hot,” she whispered, sadly. She could probably get some good money for this, but the idea of today was to get easy money, not good money. Again, it was too easy to trace back to her. The second watch she almost immediately dismissed. A simple, digital piece, worn and boring. “Too cold, for sure,” she said. But the third was a treasure. An elegant looking Gucci; worth well over seven thousand dollars, although she’d be lucky to get a grand for it.

“Just right,” she said, grinning and pocketing the piece. As she did, she saw the time and gasped. Eleven o’clock! Mama was due home any time now.

Panicking, she ran back up the stairs. She couldn’t go out the window she came in, it was too obvious. She already knew there wasn’t a back door leading anywhere. Her final option was the upstairs bedroom window. From her reconnaissance of the place, she knew there was a tree within jumping distance that would take her into a neighbouring yard and to safety. You know, if she didn’t plummet to her death first.

She’d just hit the top of the stairs when she heard conversation at the front door. Not just Mama then. Crap. The door to the bedroom was open. She ducked in – and came to a complete stop, stunned.

There were three beds in the room.

“What is it with these guys?” she mused. Downstairs, there was a muted yell. They’d noticed the window. She wouldn’t get out now. Goldy crept quickly to the first bed. It was covered in iron railings and decorated with leather belts and chains. She looked to see whether she could get under the bed, and then stood up quickly, eyes wide.

“Too hard,” she said, shaking her head. The noises downstairs were louder now. They’d found the watch, and there was some loud snarling and a high-pitched sob. Goldy broke into a sweat.

The second bed was a four-poster. Immaculate and covered in lace. She could tell that if she went anywhere near it she would leave clear indentations, giving the game away.

“Too soft.”

The third bed was “Just right!” and Goldy slipped beneath the bed, pulling the already unmade doona cover down to cover her as she cowered and hoped that they would go outside for long enough for her to make her escape.

The three burly men tumbled into the room.

“Someone’s been fiddling around with my watch!” said Papa.

“They nicked my iPad!” cried Mama.

“And my laptop,” growled Baby. “Whoever they are, they’re going to regret stealing from an international wrestling star.”

From beneath the bed, Goldy gave a little squeak of terror. She knew she recognized that one. It was that guy off the TV – world championship wrestler and all-around bad boy.

“I heard something,” said Papa.

“Surround the bed, we’ll tear ‘em apart,” rumbled Baby. Goldy squealed and scrambled out from under the bed, making for the window. Mama grabbed at her, getting the back and a handful of hoody. Utilising years of getting out of bad situations, Goldy squirmed out of her hoody and dashed for the window, which was luckily open.

“Ooh, it’s a girl!” cried Mama.

“Wait, no!” yelled Papa, as the thief leapt up to the sill and dived out. The three of them ran to the window and tussled until they all had a view. Goldy was dangling from a branch, quite a decent leap away from the window. She struggled upwards and then clambered lithely across the branch and down the trunk. She threw one more panicked glance back at them before she disappeared from view.

“Well,” said Papa. “That was exciting.”

“Poor girl,” said Mama. “She should have known Baby was just kidding. We always look out for the homeless kids in the area.”

“Speak for yourself,” Baby said, but his face was sad as he watched the space where Goldy had disappeared. “Ah well, if we see her tomorrow, we’ll give her that hoody back and some money for food, yes?”

“Exactly,” said Papa. “Now, all that excitement has made me hungry. Anyone for breakfast? I’ve made porridge.”

The End.

38-porridge-ala

He said, She said…

Last night I was exploring first person POV, the unreliable narrator and differing perspectives on the same situation with a student I tutor. To illustrate the situation I presented the following YouTube clip:

I then asked her to write the piece from the boy’s perspective in first person, followed by the girl’s perspective. While she wrote, I did the same. It was an interesting exercise. Here ‘tis.

She

My stomach turned over as I saw him. This was not going to be a pleasant conversation. It was either the nerves. Or the baby.

Oh yeah, I’m pregnant.

How would he react? In these situations, I tend to get defensive. My back was up as we met and I’m sure I was sulking as I matched his step.

Finally, he stopped and confronted me.

He looked tired. Tired and annoyed.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

Already he’d annoyed me. He knew, but he wouldn’t be the one to say it.

“What do you want me to say?” I asked. His expression was part of the reason I was glad the baby wasn’t his. God, how could I have been with him?

“Well,” he said, his voice flat, “clearly you’re acting like this for some reason -”

Like this? Like my life had been thrown into turmoil? Like my future had just become that of the single mother?

“- so what’s up?” he asked. He was pretending to be Caring Guy. I was having none of it.

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

You really want to know? I thought. “I’m pregnant.”

His surprise was genuine. Hell, maybe he hadn’t known, after all.

“Really?”

“Yeah.” And then he said the words I’d been dreading:

“Is it mine?”

I didn’t want to have this conversation. I didn’t want him to be a part of my life. My baby’s life.

“I dunno, maybe.”

“Maybe?” Oops. No guy wants to hear that. But, looking at his stupid face, I figured I was better off without him. I sighed.

“Probably not.”

The look of pure relief on his face said it all.

“Thank God!” he said, and he almost sprinted from the room. I left in the opposite direction.

Good riddance.

He

She was bugging me. She’d been moody for days. When she called me and said we needed to talk, I gigured that the inevitable break up talk was imminent. And frankly, that was fine by me.

But now that we were together, she wasn’t saying anything. I decided to make the first move.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“What do you want me to say?”

I hate you? I’m sick of this? It’s over?

“Well clearly you’re acting like this for some reason, so what’s up?”

“I don’t know.” This was harder than I thought. She was withdrawn. Maybe it wasn’t the breakup conversation. I looked at her more closely.

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

“I’m pregnant.”

Whoa. That was not one of the possible options.

“Really?” No, not really, I’m just fooling. What a stupid question. I saw contempt in her eyes.

“Yeah.” Ok, next stupid question. I was on a roll.

“Is it mine?” I mean, really, who wants to know the answer to that, one way or another? I didn’t love her, didn’t even like her much. I definitely didn’t want to have a kid with her. But although I was pretty sure she’d been cheating on me, I had no desire to know for sure.

“I dunno, maybe.” My stomach lurched. Maybe was a confirmation of the cheating. I’d almost have preferred a “How could you ask that?” blowup, not this sulky quiet. My heart grew cold.

“Maybe?”

“Probably not.”

I was furious. I was ecstatic. I mourned the loss of my brief, ten-second child. I celebrated my freedom.

“Thank God,” I snapped.

And then I sped out of the room so she wouldn’t see the tears.

On a lighter note:

This YouTube clip was obviously part of an exercise for a film school or something. These two did a pretty good job. But I found another one which you might find amusing, although they would fail the sound check:

Elf-Promotion (the dwarves have all the fun)

Saturday 5th April is now Dwarves in Space Day. But it’s not just dwarves going into space. There is a wizard. There are a number of barbarians. There is an orc. Even the king of Trimador is coming along for the ride. And a goodly number of elves.

And this is an issue for a race that is so attuned to nature. Nobody thinks about the huge sacrifice they make when they join the crew of the Eagle in search of Quiddity.

Have no idea what I’m talking about? Come along to the signing of my new book: Dwarves in Space.

Where? Notions Unlimited, Shop 9, Chelsea Beach Arcade, 426 Nepean Hwy, Chelsea, VIC. 3196

When? 5.30 – 7.00pm, April 5, 2014.

What else?

Author Damian Perry will be in-store at Notions Unlimited Bookshop, to launch and sign copies of his debut humorous SF novel, DWARVES IN SPACE.

Information on the Notions Unlimited Blog and on my Facebook Page (like it while you’re there) and Google+ event (ditto).

I hope you’ll join us for drinks and nibbles. Bring a friend or six. Bring total strangers. I’ll sign books and answer questions.

signing on 5 april

Still not convinced? Here’s what people are saying about the book:

Amazon reader:

“When I started “Dwarves in Space” I wasn’t sure what I would be getting, but I have to say that all too quickly I was snagged by the witty writing, the memorable characters, the adventurous tone and the entertaining plot.”

A review from Danny – a fellow Discworld fan:

“Damian Perry has managed to not only cross the genre divide by poking fun at the tropes and cliches, but has also paid respect to them as well – and it’s all held together by an engaging and exciting story.”

 

I look forward to seeing you all there.

For St Patrick’s Day

Warning: this was written in an hour as I tried to explore the concept of a leprechaun coming to Australia for my Golden Pen Writing Club. More on the club later. It’s not proof-read, and may not make sense, but again, free stream-of-consciousness writing from Damo.

Oh, and Happy St Patrick’s Day!

The Leprechaun comes to Australia

The leprechaun stared at the jetliner with a certain amount of trepidation. And then he shook his head. Where the belief goes, he had to follow. He’d watched a number of his friends take off for America decades ago, but he’d held back, unwilling to leave this deeply magical land. But more than a century later, the family that he relied on for belief was immigrating to Australia.

He had thought about staying behind, but he’d seen what had happened to those poor fools – mere will-o-wisps hovering in the nearby bogs.

No, this was the only way. He peered around the dark tarmac, saw that the way was clear and pelted towards the luggage area, leaping into the hold of the jetliner and rolling behind a large suitcase.

“You’re gettin’ too old for this my lad,” he told himself, panting slightly as he found a more permanent hiding place in an empty dog carrier. At just over four hundred years old, he was only just hitting his stride, but his magic was a little poorly, what with the Fitzpatricks up and abandoning him for another country. He settled in for a long flight and hoped that he didn’t get airsick.

On the flight he pondered the nature of belief. There was no in-flight movie and he’d forgotten to pack his Kindle, so he had nothing better to do.

As far as he could work out, the Little People had always been in Ireland. Just as there were Skin Walkers in America and Werewolves in central Europe, Ireland grew little people. But he was pretty sure they hadn’t always been magic. No, there’d been a time, millennia ago, when both races had just been people – the Little People and the Big People. But where the Big People were grumpy and warlike, the Little People were helpful and generous. And because a Bigger could always rely on the Littles – or Li-Pers – for a spare coin when he was in need, the smaller race were gradually seen as being a magical people who could conjure gold from nothing. And of course, if you could catch one, he would have to give up his gold to you.

And, not surprisingly, that was the end of the leprechaun race. But more surprising was the fact that the Biggers’ belief in the magic of the leprechaun was so strong that the tiny few that escaped the massacre found that they could indeed draw gold from the rainbow and eventually grant wishes to any Bigger that caught them. It was an evolutionary trait – a self-defense mechanism.

But as with all magic, their powers ran on belief. And as Science and reality television began to melt the Biggers’ brains, their belief in the Little Folk began to wane.

Of course, you’ll be hard pressed to try and get an Irishman to admit that he doesn’t believe in the Little Folk. It’s part of their heritage. But deep in their hearts, they preferred to believe in the rugby or Bob Geldof. And so, as people stopped believing in the Leprechaun, the leprechaun started to lose its power.

The clever ones, such as he, latched onto families with strong belief systems and strong ties to the land. The belief was minimal, but kept them going. And as the families left Ireland, the leprechaun had to make a choice: take their chances in their homeland, or follow the belief.

The leprechaun was jolted awake by the touch of the wheels on the tarmac of a new country. He peered out through the door of his dog carrier. At the moment, all he could hear was the roar of the engines, and all he could smell was jet fuel and dog shampoo, but underneath all of that was the faint hum of the magic of this new world. Muted now, through the heavy walls of the aircraft, he could still feel the raw power of a country still relatively untouched by humans.

The leprechaun stayed in the dog carrier, whining quietly so that the baggage handler would remove him from the plane. He slipped away as soon as the coast was clear and made for the nearest fence, which posed no barrier for a magical being of his standing. He wasn’t worried about losing the Fitzpatricks. He knew where they lived and he was fairly certain he could find his way around in this new land without too many problems. After all, he had connections.

Meinong the Bunyip met him at the fence and threw a giant hairy arm around him, almost squeezing the magic out of him.

“Ow! All right, yes, thanks. It is good to see you too. Let go now?”

The Bunyip let him go with a sheepish, very toothy grin.

“Hey. Nice to meet you,” the Bunyip said.

“Likewise, to be sure,” said the Leprechaun. “You’re taller than it looks in your pictures.”

The Bunyip chuckled. It was almost two metres tall, potbellied and wide-mouthed, with huge expressive eyes and shaggy orange hair over its arms, legs, head and back. Its ears hung like a spaniel’s down the side of its head. At first the leprechaun thought it was naked, but then he noticed an iPhone headphone cord trailing from one ear down to a phone attached to a belt around its waist.

“You went Apple?” he said, gesturing at the phone.

“Yeah mate. I’m on a plan.”

The two of them had met on Faes-Book years back, and when the Fitzpatricks had decided to move to Australia, the Leprechaun had hooked up with his friend to try and organise his new Australian life.

“Yer lucky, bloke. They moved out to the eastern suburbs – plenty trees, plenty open space. And cable internet.” They moved off to a ute standing by the fence. “I got you a place with some other immigrants. They all good fellas. Oh and you’ll need a Myki.”

Settling in a new land with new companions was relatively easy for the naturally gregarious Leprechaun. His share house was within walking distance of the Fitzpatricks and he quickly got to work bolstering their faith in this new country. Gold pieces left on the doorstep and fairy rings carefully arranged in the garden led to excited chatter from the family. He made sure never to let the parents see him, but the kids frequently spotted a green-clad figure peeking at them from the bottom of the garden.

Of course, there were changes as well. He soon found that in the blistering heat of Melbourne’s summer, he had to ditch the green suit in favour of a loose-fitting cotton shirt (still green) and cargo pants (also green). A smart green sunhat topped off the ensemble and he still felt true to the spirit of his costume, if not the letter. He packed the suit and shiny black leather belts and buckles away for winter.

He got along well with his housemates, although there was some initial tension between himself and the genie – another wish-granter. But a few months in, everything was peachy and the house was always either filled with the tang of curry or the rich aroma of stew. The kappa tended to eat alone, but would always be there when the drinking began.

And as the years progressed, the nature of the Fitzpatricks’ belief changes as well. The stories of the little man in the suit and buckles became stories of the cheeky blighter who rearranged the garden gnomes. The stories spread to the neighbouring children, and then to their children, along with those of the Bunyip and the genie. The Dreaming expanded to take in all of its adopted children and, with the revival of spirituality in the Australian culture, belief in magic and fairy tales was again as strong as it was in the old days.

The leprechaun met his wife down at Pugg Mahones on St Patrick’s Day and the community of Little Folk from an Irish background grew rapidly, as all good Irish families do. Now as Australian as a meat pie, the Leprechaun still flew back to the old country with his kids, but they didn’t identify with it and he found that the visits became further and further apart.

He still regaled his family with the story of hiding in a dog carrier as he stole into the country, and his family dutifully laughed at the points when they were meant to laugh. But in the end, there were so many more stories now – stories of the double rainbow of ’45 and the World Fae Recognition Act, which led to a new peace between the Littles and the Biggers – that the old stories also came out less and less.

The Leprechaun drew in a deep breath and smelled the dusty smell of hay cooking in the sun as he drove back to his house from the airport and realised that this was the smell of home.

Better watch out – writing exercise

Back in 2012 I talked about a story idea I had based on a song called Skin Deep, by the Stranglers.

I’m getting back into the writing season, with my Golden Pen club starting up again, so I’m going to start writing small pieces that I can put up here for your viewing pleasure. My rules are that the entire story is written in one sitting and placed up without too much recrimination or reflection. Some of them I will take a good hard look at and change them for publication. Others are simply small pieces of entertainment that I will never take any further.

This is one of those.

If you haven’t heard the song, it goes like this:

It always freaked me out as a kid, and I always watched out for the Skundig (whatever they might be). I present for you, a quick writing expansion of that idea:

Many people tell you that they’re your friend
You believe them
You need them
For what’s round the river bend
Make sure that you’re receiving the signals they send
‘Cause brother you’ve only got two hands to lend
Maybe there’s someone who makes you weep
And some nights loom up ahead
When you’re asleep
Some days there’s things on your mind you should keep
Sometimes it’s tougher to look than to leap
Better watch out for the Skin Deep
– Skin Deep, The Stranglers. 1984

 

I am terrified. They’re coming to get me. The Skundig. When I was young, my parents used to play this song by the Stranglers over and over. It is my bible. It is my saviour. I wrote down the words. This was before the Internet. As many times as I listened, I couldn’t tell what it was I had to look out for. The best I could come up with was Skundig. Better watch out for the Skundig.

I’m at the train station. I haven’t been able to completely remove myself from society. But they could be anyone. A complete stranger, a most trusted friend. I can’t take the chance. Nobody is safe. People watch me when I have to move among them. I flinch from their gaze. They might be trying to brainwash me, sending signals straight into my head. Vigilance is my only weapon. Vigilance and solitude.

Better watch out for the Skundig.

I haven’t slept properly for two months. I don’t shower. It’s too dangerous. I just wish I had more information! These clues are so cryptic. They obviously steal body parts and organs. I think they sedate you with their minds and then cut off your hands. Do they eat them? Do they make more of themselves? Oh God, now I see them as constructs built out of stolen pieces of their victims!

Brother watch out for the Skundig!

Not enough information. I can’t protect myself. Did that “person” just look at my hands? Measuring me up for her replacements? I can’t tell anyone. I can’t trust anyone. I can’t sleep. How can a person live like this? The answer? A person can’t. The Skundig win. Sometimes it’s tougher to look than to leap. Quickly now, before they control my mind. Here comes the express.

“Wait, stop that man, he’s about to -”

Jump!

Dwarves in Space

The last time I was this excited, Shereen was walking up the aisle towards me on our wedding day. I jest; that was far more exciting, but this is a close second.

Dwarves in Space eBook coverDwarves in Space is now available for purchase on Amazon in paperback or as a Kindle eBook, and on Lulu.com in paperback.

It has been a long road (see my first post on Dwarves in Space) to this point. I have sent the novel to half a dozen publishers and the same number of agents. Each time I would send the excerpt or manuscript off, there would be an 8-12 week wait before I’d hear back, and no useful feedback even then. Rather than spend years sending my manuscript to publisher after publisher, I decided that I would take my destiny in my own hands and give self-publication a shot.

I had no interest in spending thousands of dollars on extensive print runs. The eBook option was an easy choice. Even those people who have iBooks and iPads still buy a lot of their digital books from Amazon. At the moment, I have a 90 day exclusive contract with Amazon. After that, I might extend to the iBookstore and Nook etc.

Anyway, the useful information:

Clicking on the links to Amazon and Lulu.com above will take you to the books on the respective sites. I’ve kept the Kindle price low to offset the price of the paperback. The print-on-demand nature of the paperback means that I don’t really make any money on it, but I don’t really care. I just want to build a market for now.

And how can I go wrong? Who doesn’t want to read a story about a young king and his wizard friend who travel through space in a ship shaped like an eagle? A ship that is crewed by dwarves, elves and barbarians with no idea how to operate an electric can opener, let alone a starship? And how could you possibly pass up a novel containing space battles between this crew and a necromancer flying the skeleton of a dragon? There are even some quite funny bits, if I do say so myself!

Not to mention gods, demons, zombies, holograms, trolls, prophecies, mice and a very famous three-headed dog.

Please enjoy my first novel while I finish off the second.

Dwarves in Space paperback cover

Also, if a novel is too much for  you, you could try one of my short stories, available for sale on AlfieDog Limited.

Both are ridiculously cheap and are available for all eBook readers.

Ted's Souls  be practical

School is Hell?

First up: WordPress got annoyed at me because I haven’t logged on in 180 days. I have no excuse. This year has been one of extreme lack of creativity. I’ve still achieved a great deal, but I’ve actively avoided anything involving writing. This is the first year since I learned to write that I haven’t written any number of stories. And I think my brain needed the break.

But now my brain is itching to create again. I’ve already started extending some chapters of Finding Damo and outlined a few short stories and plays. Come the summer (if Melbourne experiences summer at all this year) I’ll be up to my eyeballs in creative juices and spitting out new stuff left right and centre.

Can you believe that I just taught a class on not using clichés?

The overt reason that I stopped writing was the below entry. I wrote it. I planned on using a heap of pictures I drew over my high school years. I wanted to discuss it with a couple of people who had joined me in the hell that was Kyabram Secondary College.

And then I left it. I’d thrown out the pictures. The responses from my friends confused me.

And now 180 days have passed.

At about 90 days, I wanted to just post something. But by that time, anything that I wrote would have to be spectacular to justify the delay. A number of what could have been very interesting blog entries have died because they didn’t match up to the gap.

But now I’m done with school for the year. My brain itch is forcing me to write. I have a dozen topics I want to discuss. So I’m going to post this entry, fantastic or not, pictures missing, and then get on with my life.

So, here goes:

School is Hell.

I wonder if anybody actually enjoyed going to high school. Primary school, for the most part, is fun. There’s a heap to learn, and the teachers usually present it in a way that involves making posters and dioramas. Even the bullies don’t hit as hard.

I’ve been thinking almost constantly about my feelings towards high school. If anyone asks me how my high school years were, I instantly respond with “Oh God. I hated them. Worst years of my life. I was bullied constantly from year 8 onwards. It was Hell.”

In Year 8, a knob called Stewart decided to draw on my pencil case with a permanent texta. I didn’t want him to and knocked the texta away, causing it to draw a line across his shirt.

“You bastard. Don’t you know that our family is poor and I can’t afford to buy a new shirt?”

And that, to me, was the catalyst. His friends jumped on his side. And suddenly school was a horrible place to be.

And to be sure, that statement is a bit reductive. Is reductive a word? I’m sure that there were a number of reasons, slowly building, that would have had me excommunicated from my social circle around that time. But at the time, it seemed like a pretty slim excuse to get me thrown out of my friendship group.

They jumped on my “attack” on this kid as an excuse to ditch me, and it spread through the year level.

The best thing that could have happened to me was my trip to Canada in 1989. Dad worked out an exchange and we were going with him. A year’s break from Kyabram was just what I needed. The students even had a (grudging) going away party for me when I left at the end of Year 8.

I’m getting to a point, but hear me out.

When I was in Year 10, my issues were more with a couple of absolute tools than with the school in general. One moron who promised me that he would “push your head through the wall and watch your brains leak out.” His name is Joel and I’m really hoping he’s in prison being stabbed with a shiv. He’d lay in wait for me, so that I had to take the long way around the school buildings to get out without him seeing me.

The other was a dropkick whose name I really should remember. He would casually push me around for the hell of it. He was… Shannon*? He was a burly lad with a good following of hangers-on and a desire to make my life difficult. Issues with him came to a head when I was on the Central Australia camp. He pushed me to the ground because the concept of me was annoying to him.

* 2018 edit:  You can see in the comments the one I received from Shannon. I honestly remember being friendly with Shannon. I know I have a couple of friends who he wasn’t friendly to. I remember being pushed to the ground. The guy was a year older than me, was an arrogant sod. Apparently not Shannon. So, sorry Shannon, for slandering you in my blog. I need to find my drawings and Central Australia placemat to find out who was on the trip. No more random namedropping without proof.

Hamish was a good friend of mine in Primary School and Year 7. Seeing as I’d come from a catholic school and moved into the state system, he was my link into the group of friends I had in high school. His turning on me was one of the more hurtful things that happened to me. Honestly though, he turned out to be an absolute dick, so I’m probably better off without him. I caught up with him at a night club when I was in university with Scott something-or-other, another “good” friend from those early years. They were belligerent and bullying, something I thought I’d left behind from school. But neither of them actually accomplished anything with their lives, so I’m not overly fussed by their opinions.

So, the point: I have some incredibly strong negative associations with school. But if I list all of my memories of school in two columns, I’m pretty sure my positive associations will be stronger than the negative.

Let’s give it a shot, remembering the fact that these are all pretty specific, and you might be lost. Bear with me. I’m unburdening.

Damo’s list of school memories, separated by positive/negative bias:

 Negative

  •  Bullied by Joel. of course, this went on for most of a year, so it’s up there.
  • Bullied by Shannon someone.Not a major memory. just that one incident on camp that sticks in my mind.
  • Ostracised by friends in year 8.
  • Calculus
  • Zoe Kennedy – always looking to pick on a kid for something.
  • Mr Ryall, who I annoyed on a Biology camp and who took it out on my brother. He’s a lot nicer now, btw.
  • That evil cow… what was her name? She was doing the production instead of Lance Twentyman (he’s another blog completely!). And we just bumped heads from the beginning and it ramped up as  the production went on. And I’m sure, through a teacher’s eyes, that I was a difficult prima-donna, but she was evil.
  • The Year 10 city camp. A couple of kids got done for shoplifting. One girl got pregnant while her friend watched from the bottom bunk. And my friends weren’t talking to me after my breakup with Shereen.
  • All the zits and the medication for the zits. And the mood changes caused by the medication for the zits.
  • Fighting Jason – the only fight I’ve ever been in in my life. It lasted less than 10 seconds. I didn’t win.
  • Attempting to sing Time Warp at a school social and the DJ turning off the music and kicking me off the stage.
  • Being put into a remedial PE class.
  • PE class in general.

And that’s pretty much it. There is probably a lot more, hidden away and popping up as I remember, but considering my dislike of the institution, that’s a pretty short list.

 Positives.

  •  The Year 7 Pram Drag – we always ended up being completely covered in mud.
  • School productions. Again, this is probably a different blog. A happier blog. But highlights included:
    • Bats – dressing up as Dracula
    • Pippin – King Charles
    • Roll Over Beethoven and being a member of Kiss and the Beatles.
  • Vanessa Walker, who I’ve never been able to find through cyber-stalking, but who was a vibrant, happy personality, and who left at the end of … Year 7?
  • Shereen and Nat and that group. Happy, cheerful, fun-loving people.
  • Amanda and Grant and that group.
  • Justin Thompson, Jason Morris, Jason D and Lyle, who were my main social group in Year 11 and 12.
  • Craig Grummit, who introduced me to Queen and showed me what you could do with computer programming.
  • Debating
  • Georga Evans in Year 8 and Year 10. And linked to that:
  • Being asked to be a deb partner, but better still:
  • Not having to actually be a deb partner (she had to have an operation on her foot).
  • English class.
  • Literature. With Julienne Sinclair – an absolutely marvellous individual.
  • Biology and our two male Guinea Pigs that were meant to breed.
  • Photography class – for the week I did it.
  • Getting copies of Wired World of sport on copied cassette tape.
  •  The computers – the first IBMs I’d worked on. I hacked the password and replaced all of the software links with games.
  • Maths tutoring with Mick Walsh.
  • Graphic design and my In Line for the Dole Queue VCE top design (which wasn’t taken up).
  • Going out in Shepparton.
  • A VCE Info Tech weeklong camp looking at Technology and my first taste of the Internet.
  • The school library, which was a haven and a constant source of books.
  • Playing foursquare.
  • Chatting with Nick, who was weird but very knowledgeable.
  • Piano lessons with Sharon Leppard.
  • Home economics. Learning to cook is something I will never regret.

The positive list is way longer than the negative list. I had some very positive experiences at high school. Being bullied is hell for anybody. And it coloured my perception of high school for years. But now I can look at the experience as the growth experience that it was. I’ll never forgive the idiots who felt the need to torture me through high school. But I can now realise that it wasn’t all bad.

Epiphany!

Post epiphany:

I emailed this to a couple of people I went to high school with to see if they had the same perception of what I was going through. This led to a very interesting conversation. Part of that was “You realise that nobody’s going to get anything out of this, because it’s all incredibly specific?”

The rest of it is below. Names removed to protect the innocent.

Friend 1: I asked him what he remembered of my experiences in High School, as I might have blocked out some of the worst stuff.

“We went to high school?” he said. His experience was as traumatic as mine. He was surprised and upset to find out that I’d had this experience in high school. He told me about his own experiences – beatings and pranks and humiliation throughout primary school that still upsets him. He went to a school reunion hoping that things had changed to find that these people were just as ignorant and juvenile as they had been in primary school.

He has good memories of high school as well, but they are also overshadowed by the crap that happened alongside them.

I went to a reunion. I think it may have been 10 years. I enjoyed myself immensely. Most of the people I didn’t want to see didn’t show up and the people that were there were all very nice. It was a pleasant evening. The people at the reunion were people who didn’t get involved in the bullying. Of course, they didn’t actively stop it, but that’s pretty standard for high school.

The other comment from my friends was that it was good to know that even though we were in our own bubbles, not knowing what was happening to the others, that there was someone else out there who knew how we felt.

And finally, that it was sad that we travelled together through this journey, but also completely alone.

The Case of the Disappearing Sharks

NB: Every fortnight I have my Golden Pen writing group at school write a story to keep them thinking and to practise their skills. I always write one as well, as it keeps me honed and often leads to more writing. Sometimes I write something I try to get published. More often I write something very weird without a proper ending. At this point, I post it here. I enjoyed the concept here but haven’t really written something that is a complete story. Take a gander.

Caroline “Yeti” Feats looked up from her game of Words with Friends and stared at the man standing before her.

“What did you say?” she asked, sure that she’d misheard. He was in his mid-twenties and wore a loose singlet top and board shorts. He also wore an expression of severe worry.

“Gone,” he said. “Every single one.”

Yeti shut off her tablet and stood up. Her eyes narrowed and she felt the beginnings of a headache pressing against her temples.

“It’s not April Fools’ Day, is it?” she mused. “You want me to find twenty-four missing sharks? That just disappeared from their tanks overnight.”

The man nodded. His long hair bobbed over one eye.

“And you didn’t go to the police?” she asked.

“Of course we did,” he said. “They’re on the case, obviously. But they’re looking for a thief, or gang of poachers. And I’m pretty sure they won’t find any. The sharks weren’t stolen. They just disappeared!”

Yeti sighed. Her forehead throbbed. On days like this she wished she’d never opened an ecological detective agency. Obviously, she was going to get all of the nutters. For example:

The case of the ninja starfish.

The mystery of the penguin burglar.

And now The case of the disappearing sharks.

“OK,” she said, opening the Notes app on her iPad. “I’m listening now. You better run me through it again.”

“You’re listening now?” the man said, annoyed. “Oh, all right.

“My name is Chad. Chad Morgan – no bloody relation. I am one of the keepers at the Melbourne Aquarium.  We have… we had one of the best collections of sharks in Australia. And then, this morning I came into work and went to feed the exhibits. And they were all gone.”

“All of the fish?” Yeti asked.

“No, and that’s the weird thing. Every other fish, whale, eel and turtle was accounted for. The only things missing were the sharks. The Great Whites, the Tigers, the Leopard sharks. The Dogsharks and Catsharks. I thought that the rays might be gone too, but it’s only the selachii subdivision that have gone.”

He was talking about the branches of the different families of the elasmobranchii – the family that contained sharks and rays. There was a family split, sometime in the Jurassic period, and the rays and the sharks evolved separately. And thus, in the present day, the sharks disappeared and the rays were spared.

“Was it just you?” Caroline wondered, pulling up her browser and typing ‘shark disappearances’ into the search bar. “Holy mother of – no. Not just you.”

She turned the iPad towards Chad and he whistled. The search had returned innumerable results – all breaking news articles – regarding the world-wide disappearance of various species of sharks. Unlike Australia, where the disappearances had happened overnight, in a large part of the world, the sharks had disappeared in broad daylight. Apparently, at precisely 4am in Melbourne, being 11am in Los Angeles, and 8pm in Paris, every shark on the face of the globe just vanished.

disappearing-shark“I had my camera out,” read one witness statement, at Shark World in LA, “and was trying to move into a position to minimise the reflective glare, and then there was a shark-shaped hole in the water, which exploded in a rush of bubbles. It made a fantastic picture!”

Similar stories came out of aquariums and sea parks around the globe.  In thousands of bubbly explosions, sharks in captivity in every country simply disappeared.

“I’m pretty sure this is bigger than me,” Yeti said. “And bigger than everybody, really. And- wait.”

Quickly, she scrolled down the page of search results with impatient flicks, scanning the headings for one important piece of information, conspicuous in its absence.

“Ha,” she said. “I don’t think I could take this job, even if I did know where to start looking.”

Chad raised an eyebrow at her. It was lost under long, bleached, shaggy hair.

“There is not a single report here of sharks disappearing in the wild,” she explained, scrolling up and down the list. “This isn’t a planetwide abduction. It’s not an ecological disaster. I’m pretty sure it’s a jailbreak.”

“Wha-huh?” said Chad.

“Let me speculate,” Yeti said, standing up and wandering over to the window. She looked out at the ocean and shook her head. “Sharks have been around for 65 million years, not evolving much over that time. They have had a nice niche in the food chain, and they’ve been content in that place. Until now. Now, humans are starting to become a threat. We’re fishing them to extinction, along with a number of other marine life forms. They’re no longer at the top of the food chain. And they’ve had to do something about it.”

“Like what?” said the ever-obliging Chad.

“Let’s say every species has a certain amount of evolution in them. We’ve evolved dramatically from the hairless, edge-of-the-sea apes we started as. Sharks haven’t changed much at all. So they have a great store of evolution available.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works,” Chad said, beautiful brow wrinkling.

“Shush. Anyway, with the threat of humanity upon them, and their current forms no longer sufficient to keep them safe as a species, the selachii family have had a growth spurt. Somehow, they’ve evolved into a species that can transport. And they can probably communicate through telepathy.” Yeti pondered. Her headache was gone as the situation became clear. Chad was staring at her with a certain amount of nervousness. She ignored him. “So, suddenly able to travel over great distances instantly, and connected to their brothers and sisters in the wild, the sharks concoct a plan to free every shark in captivity at the same time!”

“You’re a loony,” Chad said, and turned to leave.

“I’m a genius!” she shouted at him as he hurried out the door. She turned back to the window.  “Of course, the thing to ponder now is, once the sharks have escaped, what will they do with their new-found skills?”

She looked out the window at the sea that she had loved since childhood.

“Of course,” she said, shaking her head and returning to her tablet. “It could always have been aliens.”

Dream a Little Dream of Me. Or badgers. Or Superman.

dreams are strangeCorey Feldman had it good. His character in Dream a Little Dream ran all over his dreamscape, giving out good advice and saying “Heh” a lot. He didn’t have to worry about the streets changing from moment to moment, or giant rats staring at him until he woke up screaming.

Some people are already thinking “dammit. I blog about dreaming. I’m outa here.” And that’s fine. The blog is called Finding Damo, not “Keep everybody entertained all the time”. And one of the things that has consumed my life and fed my imagination since I was a young boy has been my dreams.

Luke, I am your father!

Luke, I am your father!

I have sleep apnoea. I can’t spell it but I have it. I’m not sure when it started, but by the time I was living in Rosebud, it was getting out of control. I was only getting one or two hours of sleep a night, as I would stop breathing when I fell deeply enough asleep which, luckily, woke me up again. It was terrible. I was always tired. I fell asleep in meetings, and when driving.

And I dreamed. A lot.

dream diary lock

If you can open it, you can read it.

Two of my favourite presents ever were given to me by girlfriends. The first was when I was in Japan. Kallie gave me a dream diary. She’d decorated  the inside front cover. The book had a lock and was just awe-inspiring. It wasn’t just a Spellbox book or anything. I’m not sure where she found it, but the book, and the lovely inscription on the inside blew me away. A couple of months later, in an argument, she ripped out the lovely front page and took the book back. Which is why I’m not dating her any more. That amongst other things. But at the time, WOW.

The second was a box to keep my (new) dream diary in. I’d replaced the original with a Spellbox dream diary. Not as impressive as the original, but still, with a nice locking mechanism and decent paper for writing. Melanie made the box for me from scratch. Varnished it, and burnt a design into the top. Now the diary had a home. It was an exceptional achievement and I still love it.

dream diary box

Long before the dream diary, I still wrote down my dreams. I had a yellow notepad that I wrote a lot of dreams into. I even wrote a program in Perl when I was working at Racing Victoria, to catalog the dreams by theme and add more in as I had them. And yes, I had them. Every night was a plethora of images, whizzing through my head. I started writing them down as my conviction that what I dreamed was coming true. So many times I would experience a conversation and say “Wow. I dreamed that!” So, to prove it to myself, I started writing them down, so that I could come back to them when I had that experience again.

I’ve never experienced a moment that I have written down in my dream diary. Bummer.

One that could come true, after my last post:

werewolf dreamBut I’m getting ahead of myself. And the rest of this post is pretty much just an explanation of the dreams I’ve had, how they fit into my life, and what meaning I feel that they had/have. So I’m serious. If you hate being told dreams by your friends, even if they have pictures attached, you probably don’t need to read any further. I’m not going to get overly philosophical. I just want some of this out of my head and out onto a blog. Call it selfish and indulgent, I can handle that. I promise I’ll be more interesting next week.

Here’s the first page (all images clickable for better views):

front page

As it says here, the greatest part of my dreamscape was a place I dubbed Alternate Kyabram. I grew up in Kyabram. I lived in Heathcote, Redesdale, even Canada during my formative years, but from 1983 until 1992 I was in Kyabram. I delivered papers, I explored the back streets with my friends. I imprinted the town onto my brain like a mental brand. And as much as I tried to get away from the place, when I slept, I was back there.

There were a few changes. And streets didn’t always go to the same places. I also dragged in my grandparents’ places from Castlemaine and Kyneton, although sometimes they were the same place. And as I spent more time in Melbourne, there were roads to the city from my little country town.

Here’s the map, and a legend:

dreamscapelegend to dreamscape

here be dinosAs my dreaming was so vivid, I did a lot of reading about it. I tried to convince myself that dreaming was something special. I dream in colour, which is supposedly a sign that you are creative. I have attempted lucid dreaming and astral projection, all after reading about them in books (with no luck, sorry to say). I’ve looked at the meanings of different symbols in dreams. For example, shops and shopping centres are supposed to be a reflection of your subconscious. Next time you dream about being in a shop, take a look at what’s on the shelves. On second thoughts, for some of us, it’s better not to look too closely.

My shop’s shelves are usually filled with books, magazines and toys. What does that say about me?

I really don’t want to go on and on about this. I just wanted to whack up a few fragments. The dreams in the diary start from 2001. There are some transcribed from long before then. The last one is in 2009. When I started using the CPAP machine, my sleep was completely dreamless. I slept solidly from the time my head hit the pillow until I was woken by the alarm clock. By the time my body started to even out and my subconscious started forcing dreams upon me again, I was out of the habit of writing them down. I dream a lot more now, and probably should write them down in the marvelous dream diary once more. But I think that phase of my life is passed now.

This is its eulogy:

click for more.

 

part onepart twopart three

random nightmare

IMG_1119

IMG_1123

It is self-indulgent. I’m not seeing anything that would be interesting to anyone else. I’m going to stop now. Dreaming is an incredible invention of the human race. The number of stories I’ve sucked out of a dream… and then thrown away because basically dreams make absolutely no sense! I have, however, had a couple of dreams that have turned into quite interesting stories. And of course, there is the old stand-by for story creation:

what if…?

And I get a goodly number of “what-if” stories out of my dreams.

Sweet dreams!

Imagination and the post-y generation

tripodLast night we went to see Tripod: Men of Substance. It was a vaguely depressing show, as the boys (men, now) addressed turning 40 and sixteen years of performing. Shereen thought it was hilarious. I looked at us, 16 years ago, drinking at the Prince Pat and watching Tripod doing Open Slather. Each of them had their own coloured shirts. It was fresh and funny and we’d drink too much and stagger home afterwards.

This show started at 8.45 and we were home by midnight. Sad sad sad.

I’ve always liked Tripod. They write for my generation and my type of person. There are references to Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars and Commodore 64s. One of their songs last night was called “Waiting for the Game to Load” after putting the tape in, typing load and pressing play. Ah, the memories.

People magazine

Builders had good taste

At one stage they commented on having to go to the tip to get porn. When I was a pre-teen living in Kyabram, we used to hunt down building sites. There we would find the builders’ stash of People (tame) and Picture (less tame) magazines. I had no idea that there was anything stronger available until  high school and my introduction to working life as a paper boy. With 20 boys and 1 adult supervisor, suddenly we had illicit access to a whole new class of porn –Penthouse and Playboy at the tame end, Hustler and other plastic-baggers catering to whatever your particular fetish was at the other end.

But still, getting access to it required a bit of effort and some ingenuity. And of course, you had to outsmart your parents in the hiding. A regular rotation shift of location and the occasional emergency ditching to a friend seemed to work.

Now of course, the Internet has killed all creativity in that area. I teach a Cyber Safety unit at school. When I talk to the students about safe and unsafe uses of the Internet, I almost always have to take notes, as they list off incredibly thorough listings of sites with free access. Of course, they don’t tell me that these are porn sites. I ask them for popular web sites and they will say something like “Oh, I’m always on RedTube, sir, do you know it?” and then watch my expression closely. I have mastered the blank expression, but often I don’t need it. These students know more about free porn than I ever will (holding out wedding ring).

I got really side-tracked here from where I was going in this post. What was I going to say?

Oh yes, imagination.

Tripod’s other little gem was that boredom is the catalyst for imagination. My brother and I never got up in the morning thinking that today was the day that I would almost cut off his thumb. We would eat breakfast, sit around a bit, and then say “OK. I’m bored. What do you want to do?” And one of us would remember that there was a hatchet in the back shed, and a stack of wood that could be cut up. And of course, Justin would have to hold the wood still. And then there was the hospital trip and another experience arising out of boredom and imagination.

I’m not saying it right.

We would sit around, nothing better to do. And then Justin would point out that we could jump off the roof, onto the trampoline, and from there to the cushions and mattresses from the caravan. Mostly, he was right.

This is why I’m not in sales.

OK, last try. Dad would bring home a video camera. It was a massive thing, with a shoulder strap to hold the player, attached by a cord to the camera itself. We would spend hours creating film. We figured out how to do stop motion and would drive chairs around the backyard. We realized that if the camera was on a tripod (not a Tripod) we could do special effects, turning Elise into Dad and making people disappear. We would do David Attenborough specials through the wilderness of our backyard, and rope in our friends to create advertisements for made up soap and pet food. We let our imaginations run wild and rarely came back to earth.

bored is good

bored is good

I’m not even sure that teenagers today would get Calvin and Hobbes. “Is he playing some sort of a computer game?” “Is it something like Inception?”

Of course, there are still the precious few – those children and young adults who can live inside their minds and find the hidden worlds that exist all around the bored and the inquisitive. And imagination exhibits in other ways. The special effects that abound in today’s movies are incredible. And someone had to imagine that. Computer games are pushing the boundaries between interaction and storytelling, to great effect. Only two percent of novels are published, which means that for every novel on the bookshelves, there are … um, more (199?) that have been written, but not published, which is an amazing output of imagination. Imagination isn’t dead.

But:

Kids who spend all of their time playing Clash of Clans. Kids who don’t know the meaning of boredom due to being given iPods at the age of four. Parents who turn on the tv or the computer or the console whenever a child says “I’m bored.”

These people are giving imagination a damn good thrashing. I’m sure our creativity is diminishing as a species. And what does that mean for humanity as a whole?

It’s the dreamers, the bored and the curious who have gotten us to where we are today. If nobody is allowed to be bored, they won’t dream, they won’t have a need to ask “What will happen if I mix these two…” BOOM.

And may the gods help us then.

PS. A side not that I couldn’t fit in anywhere else: Film studios need to get past remaking films from other countries and other decades, or adapting nostalgic television into nauseating and forgettable cinema.

PPS. Today was the bored. Next week will be the dreamers. Does that mean I now have to write a curious blog post about skinning cats?

PPS. Finding Damo word count tomorrow. I’m also writing a new one-act play.

 

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