Tuesday, December 28, 2004

"What a year this has been/ lost my love, shed my skin..." (Alex Lloyd)

New Year's is my favourite holiday. Its a night that was made for one as addicted as I am to purging the past and pinning everything on the future. To symbolic severences and unrealistic expectations. Plus its *expected* that you get legless and fall down the stairs, so it was always going to be a favourite.

As 2004 wanes to a yellow sliver in time's sky I find myself reflecting on the past year. I will now, without apology, engage in the shameless cliche favoured by tabloids and entertainment mags at this time of year and compose a list of the year that was...

Since I last donned a party hat and settled back with a glass of champers to wallow in nostalgia for the very recent past, I've had three new jobs:

1. I've waited on an ageing former CEO now posing as a journalist until his increasingly ridiculous demands began to piss me off. I uncharacteristically took a stand over one such demand and was fired soon afterwards;
2. I've worn a Madonna headset whilst working for the Australian Electoral Commission during the lead-up to the Federal election. Highlights include one of my callers turning out to be a voice from a former life when I worked on Saturday morning telly and learning to play poker on a filing cabinet;
3. Finally (for now) I've ended up at Borders, which one service manager suggested is where creative people come to die (! my colleagues are actors, DJs, filmmakers and musos but -- apparently "(Borders) stamps it out of 'em") but where I have found a great bunch of people with whom I have a lot in common, and a pretty decent discount on all the books, music and movies my little heart desires.

At the beginning of this year I left my first full time gig -- an admin job that has me appreciating the brilliant British mockumentary The Office in a way that would otherwise be impossible, and which led to new knowledge and discoveries on topics as diverse as salsa, central locking actuators and alan keys. This gig was also the source of two of 2003's four crushes.

2004 has been a slow year crush-wise, with an ill-fated work crush that began in October making a late bid for the year's only new crush. For a more in-depth account on what went wrong, see the lyrics of the Rick Springfield classic Jesse's Girl.

I went back to school after a two year hiatus. For the first six months the novelty of studying Descartes in the morning, Gandhi till lunch and John Cusack films in the afternoon was thrilling, especially when contrasted with the last ten months of eight hour days, five day weeks and relentless data entry interrupted only by hellish customer service. By second semester tho, the novelty had begun to wear off and I became just another Uni slacker. But still glad I wrenched myself away from an easy dead-end job in pursuit of something else.

In September I received an unexpected phone call telling me to prepare for a freebie trip to Miami in a fortnight. There I saw more beautiful people in a five k radius than I am accustomed to seeing anywhere, chatted to a few, discovered my new fave summer bevvy: the mojito and, in one surreal, disaster-movie-esque episode, we fled Hurricane Jeanne early one Florida morn.

I got a gig reading the news on community radio and got to ring politicians and policy-makers and record soundbites like a real journo.

I wondered what I would be when I grew up.

And I've met some strange and wonderful people: at work, at school, at parties and on buses. A good year, on reflection, an ordinary year with no event you could call singularly life-changing. But sometimes I wonder if I'd been catapulted into some of this year's more memorable events before they happened, what I'd think? For example, if I'd stepped outside for some air at last year's New Year's Eve party -- out of a crooked doorway, plucking a faux cobweb off my black dress and dodging a bent spoon dangling from the porch ceiling (it was a Matrix-themed party) -- and been greeted by the ghost of New Year's Future (to paraphrase Dickens) who showed me snapshots of myself from the coming year. Future me drinking Belgian beer on a grassy oasis in the middle of the city at dusk, talking and laughing with people that Matrix Party Me didn't recognise. Or reclining on a beach in Florida, when I should be in school. Talking solemnly about current affairs and soccer results in a darkened studio somewhere in the bowels of RMIT. Or working at Borders -- arranging stuffed sheep like skittles and bowling with a colleague inbetween customers.

I would have been shocked, intrigued. I might have poured the rest of my glass of Chandon brut into a pot plant and gone inside, and told noone of the wonders I had seen. Even this ordinary life would be extraordinary if it unfolded all at once on New Year's Eve. Because it's as yet unknown... the things you will do, the people you'll meet. Exciting, innit?

(And no, I haven't started on the champers yet... I get like this this time every year ;))

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

"You spend your life watching others live theirs, but what does a voyeur see when he looks in the mirror?" (Saw)

This past week I have rediscovered the dual thrills of big-screen cinema and cheap arse Tuesdays. I tend to avoid the cinemas, catching only a handful of new flicks a year and generally waiting for the DVD release or the cable premiere and it really isn't the same. Last Tuesday I saw Garden State -- a sweet, off-beat love story essentially about waking up to life, with a blissful soundtrack featuring the likes of Nick Drake and The Shins. Today I caught Saw -- the stellar debut from two Melbourne boys named James Wan and Leigh Whannell.

Saw was excellent. A sharp thriller that was at turns tense, emotional and comic. I love the horror/ thriller genre but am hard-pressed to recall the last time I actually saw a good one. Usually I emerge from the couch or the cinema disappointed and feeling somehow cheated, but not today. The Saw experience for me wasn't just a cinematic one tho, it triggered emotional cocktail of nostalgia, pride and envy.

Nostalgia because seeing Leigh again reminded me of Saturday morning telly. Of surreal, early morning walks down the ABC corridors to make up, strolling down Selwyn Street to the ABC studios with him to catch the premier of Dylan's short-lived Friday night variety show, The 10:30 Slot ("The Slut... that's what we're calling it around the office," Leigh quipped to me once), sitting next to Leigh on a fluroescent couch in an Elwood house/ TV set, squinting into bright camera lights and trying to discuss the Alex Garland novel The Beach in a way that was simultaneously laid-back and witty. Leigh was the age I am now when he was Recovery's resident film reviewer. I was 16 when I started there, too young to fully capitalise on the experience. Now five years later he's doing what he always wanted to do, and in a big, Hollywood, all-star cast kinda way. That's the envy right there, I guess. He had, not just the talent, but the guts and drive to write a feature film. I can't seem to write anything longer or more scintillating than a shopping list. So what of pride? Well its silly, I had nothing to do with the success of Saw or its spunky, talented scribe. I haven't even seen Leigh in three years. Yet I'm proud of the man. I actually am.

Ah, but they grow up so fast.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

"Everybody says 'thats no way to behave', but I just got paid and I'm kicking oh-uh-on..." (The Fauves)

Ah, the work Chrissy party, long may it reign.

Its always kooky seeing your work mates in a social context for the first time. You may think you're all pretty laid-back and jokey at work, but outside the "office" (or in the Pancake Parlour next door to the store, as the case may be!) is when you hear what everyone really thinks. There's always gossip about a work place romance or shag-a-thon - whether its one that happened, is rumoured to have happened, or should have happened - and there's bitchin about the boss nobody likes (even if he's sitting three tables away with the rest of management and is actually a nice guy, just misunderstood). You get to meet people's partners and if you're lucky, and the beer is flowing, your esteemed colleagues might start to entertain you...

I'm speaking as designated driver, here, which I was at the Borders Chrissy bash on Monday night. Because I was sick and because I had work at 8AM the next morning, mainly. It was probably a good thing. Anyway things didn't really start rockin until the after party. And before long I was drunk by proxy - you know that phenomenon when most people around you are so drunk that you loosen up too, and find yourself saying things you wouldn't normally say, spilling your lemon lime and bitters all over a colleague and dancing to hip hop - things you normally only do when under the influence? That was me.

It started when the pancakes were cleared away, and management and the married couples had gone home, and many arguments had been had about the best place to kick on: the rest of us piled into 3 or 4 cars - my ageing Laser included - and headed for the much-maligned Knox O-zone, despite a lot of whinging. For those of you who don't know Knox, there is a stigma from which it will never recover, despite a multi-million dollar extension, pubs, lounges, restaurants and a traffic-lighted street known mockingingly as "mini Chapel". I know this all too well, because its my local.

The place was jumpin for a Monday night - apparently its hospitality night, the "weekend" for those who work in the weekend industry. We started at the Irish pub, for free drinks (if you call the coin toss) and a good old-fashioned pub sing-a-long to such classics as Summer of '69, Blister in the Sun and You're The Voice. Then we made our way across to Lou Lous, a restaurant-come-nightclub, where we danced till dawn (or 2AM in my case) before reluctantly calling it a night.

The next day not much work was done, but a whole lot of re-living the night before was. After work I caught up with some gals from high school for our traditional Chrissy picnic. Five hours of non-stop nattering about the past, present and future, imaginary trips to Fiji and real ones to Italy and Norway, school, work, boyfriends and the ugly best friend phenomenon (every good-looking guy you meet has one) didn't do my fading voice any favours... but the Mars Bar cheesecake was excellent.