The Wandering Id

A Blog by Jimmy Sky – featuring reviews, interviews, stories, music, poetry, politics, art, travel notes, journal scraps and pieces of Jimmy's soul,

Winter Machina

Our machine dismantled beneath us
 Painful silent amber springs
 I slumbered
 Two eyes cut from three
 Ears keening with familiar footsteps
 Slow lumbering like distant stains
 We were dreamers full of cold winter
 I awoke in fright
 Crow trios loud in prophecy
 Our cabin door lay open
 Your cloak on its hook no longer
 Snow landing soft like feathers
 I was alone
 Gathering up my fur
 Nodding slow and sheepish
 Thudding oak and slamming door
 A shock to my system
 Every window clean
 I shivered
 Hell
 How to announce
 To formless earless deafness
 You hastened slowly
Reticent
 Seeking to delay my sorrow
Joyless
My second sight is hollow comfort
Like jagged crystal
A single choice
Chewing stale predawn bread
 Feign sleep
My parting gift your sweet release
Guilt free footprints
 Like dawn cascading 
 Golden fire
 On freshly fallen snow
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‘Something True’ is Coming

I’ve been harping about my next musical foray for a while now. I’m happy to say it’s coming along nicely. I took the C-Side route again, mostly because it’s familiar and I have control of how it comes out at the end.

For anyone new to my balderdash, ‘C Side’ refers to a purposeful bedroom recording style, using specifically cheap, minimalist equipment and a production ethos of ‘keeping the pops, bangs and even a few mistakes’. Mastering follows the same ethic, undertaken using little more than EQ software and for the most part, LANDR–  an automated online program. It’s a quality testing tool, but also carries the risk of automated peaking and other anomalies. It’s cheap, it’s fast, and it matches the garage ethic from a mastering perspective.

Why create a C-Side, that is, a song with less production quality than a B-Side? A song that might otherwise be cut from a record altogether (thus the ‘C’ in ‘C-Side)? The choice began a long time ago, when being poor meant producing lo-fi demos for the purpose of promoting one’s band. If you got signed, or heaven forbid ran into an investor-manager, the grand unicorn of music, you could then afford to create a decent recording. Until that moment, you were stuck with something arguably less than brilliant. Since then, bedroom and basement studios have sprung up all over the place, with some of the results being quite outstanding, blurring the line between high-end recordings and independent in-the-box creations (at least, for a lot of listeners).

For some of us, the difference has been historically palpable (for the most part). Traditionally, digital recording comes across as thinner, softer, we use the terms width and warmth to describe the sound of something we wish we could hear and that something comes from a big desk and old school mastering machinery (with someone who knows what they’re doing running the show). As time has worn on though, and the aural line has blurred, some of those old demo style recordings have become a bit nostalgic. There is a particular sound to them, evoking a feeling, a time, a place, and the memory of massive back-catalogues of early recordings by really great bands, now mostly lost to time.

With nostalgic sounds and a changing landscape in the mix, my recording situation begged the question, if high-end digital equipment can produce sonic outcomes that compete with traditional methods (at least, until high quality listening equipment comes into play) how much play remains in those old digital recording methods? Should I invest in expensive recordings, or, given the emotive nature of my writing, allow some emotion to flow into the recording process as well? The emotion in this case being, nostalgia.

I chose to embark on the journey. I was curious to find out, with one microphone, a super-cheap interface and an out-of-date program, how far I could push the envelope (no pun intended). Given the limitations of what I was working with, what I heard was worth celebrating. It reminded me of those bands I remembered grabbing demos from in my early youth. Slipping that CD into the stereo, loving the song but wondering ‘why doesn’t it sound quite right?’

It may seem counter-intuitive to work in such an environment, but I was genuinely curious to find out what would happen. I’ve enjoyed ‘lo-fi’ recordings throughout my life, and found some of them do carry a particular magic, so why not take a stab of my own? There’s a ‘live’ or at least ‘real’ feel to it when you keep some of the hiss, pops, clangs and bangs, an organic noise coming from an obviously dead space that is intriguing.

The program doesn’t allow ‘snapping to grid’ or any of those fancy automations, so recorded sounds have no choice but to act more naturally than they might in a more expensive, modern digital space. The computer freezes, often, setting back the work. In honesty, the particulars of the ‘C Side environment are for the most part, frustrating. The lines aren’t top notch, there’s lag, the program interprets distortion and compression in a form only music nerds from the late 90s/early 2000s might remember (and wonder why the hell I would ever want to touch something like this in my life when advances were made beyond it). It takes work, to work around those issues. Every time. There are few plug-ins, and those packaged with the program mostly centre around basic effects and EQ. Although I’m sure I could buy some that would be retrospectively compatible, that action would defeat the purpose.

With this reasoning at hand,  and carrying a personal flame for the underdog, I grew fond of the ‘C-Side’ process. I’ve made a number of records using this method now, and have been smitten with some of the results. Some weren’t much to hear, but they stand as interesting pieces of sonic adventure nonetheless. Today I’ve become so familiar with my trashy digital space that despite knowing a given song might come out shining if I take it to a decent studio and work with a talented engineer, I remain curious as to what this limited space will present next.

I sometimes wonder if the entire experience isn’t a metaphoric exploration into the reasoning of multidimensional souls choosing to trap themselves in a limited three-dimensional existence. It could certainly explain a few things, on an existential level. I probably shouldn’t digress too far though.

Aside from the physical aspects of recording, ‘Something True’ will be exactly what the title suggests. ‘Something Old’ was the same, aptly named as it represented a collection of old songs I’d never managed to record to a remotely listenable degree. The latest addition to my little library of sonic rambling will be a collection of truths. While it’s true that most of my songs have a basis in truth anyway, at the very least, emotional truth, the poetry of ‘Something True’ has its basis in real and definite events.

In poetic tradition, the songs won’t be starkly obvious in terms of their origin story, as part of the purpose is personal interpretation, followed (hopefully) by catharsis or inspiration. In a couple of cases, the story may well be amended slightly, to divert from an arguably darker reality. Regardless, ‘Something True’ has been, and continues to be, an adventure into my past, dredging up old stories, old emotions, and old wounds.

The process of drawing out songs from a real-life space has been therapeutic, but also rather difficult. I’ve touched on this in my previous entry, ‘How To Dig Deep For a New Record’, covering the extent the process has affected me so far. Have a click if you’re interested. Suffice to say, there can be a link between digging deep in the dramatic arts, and digging deep in writing music, or literature for that matter.

So what is ‘Something True’ going to be about? Succinctly, it’ll be a bit of a life story. The tales touched on will come from various points of my lifetime, knitting together a picture of a man for those who know me, and hopefully, a portrait of the harder times of one person’s life, for those who don’t. The purpose is not, in any way at all, for people to feel sorry for me. I’ve had hard times, but so has most of the population on this planet.

No, the purpose is connection. Connection to pain, to depression, horror, loss, to romance, love, friendship, forgiveness, to life, and through those unreal windows of skewed, traumatic perspective, a healthy escape to something real. A better life. I feel that as people, we connect ourselves together, individuals touching on each other’s experience, contributing to the whole. That’s how we dig ourselves out of a hole.

Another key difference for this record comes in the genre. ‘Something Old’ took a dive into my punk metal roots, a space I lived in musically for a long time. As a result, the musical range passed from rock, through punk, into screamo and metal, all with a garage finish. This time around in ‘Something True’, I’ve taken one step forward, and two steps much further back, landing among the folk sounds of my early teenage years. There’s a touch of rock and a touch of punk as well, a few keyboard, drum and piano sounds, but the central instruments are a 12 string guitar and my voice.

The final difference comes from the age of the songs. For a long time, the bulk of my solo work has centred around old music, songs written years ago that I felt deserved a fresh face. Many of them had never breathed recorded air at all. This time the oldest composition dates from 2016. Every track is fresh, with brand new songs encapsulating very old experiences.

Below is an update on song titles that will definitely be included (song order may differ):

The Last Song
Down In Old St Kilda
12 and 37
Jewels on a Distant Past Horizon
Suddenly Something
Friendzone
I Hated Myself
Standing Up
*
**
***
*****
*******
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Through Cracks and Brambles

Your journey was long and piercing
 I've no wish to fatigue you further
 Understand my hands are tied
 By ventricle vines most ancient

My walls are seasoned
 Clandestine like public smiles
 Please know my truth darling
 Mine has been a life caught napping

I'm aware of your forest battles
 Your incomparable courage and mettle
 I take no pleasure in your struggle
 My heart weeps behind oak and stone

Had I foreseen your debarkation
 Eyes turned exoteric
 Perhaps by deviant foundation
 My fortress might be inconceivable

I'll not insult your shining honour
 By couching falsehood in polite parlance
 Your deservedness exceeds glory
 My responsibility stands endless

Through murder holes my admiration
 Like some regretful river
 Your indomitable womanhood
 Shimmering as polished silver

I fear for you, inamorata
 Beyond all truthful adoration
 No living being is mercifully gifted
 With a blessing of tirelessness

Your nature bleeds my frustration
 You will without doubt blame yourself
 Please accept beyond scratches and falls
 The fault lies over this wall

The man your heart names Valentine
 Weak-willed from landing lonely
 Hearing the populace keening
 Plucked the Fool from his Tarot

Wandering with heavy sorrow
 Burdens only my love might fathom
 With Chronos tossing reckless sand
 Hope withered under harsher sun

My hearing pricked up dog-like
 When cresting romantic wordplay
 Convincing as an avalanche
 Said 'she is coming, she comes today'

Between gorges named Yearning and Grief
 There lurked a face familiar
 Terracotta ambivalence
 Cool bejewelled fingers reaching

Her spider tendrils magnificent
 Beautiful selfish mourning
 For a single dark moment
 My eternity forgotten

Enveloped in affection
 Ignorant infidelity
 Like sunshine melting cold snow
 My liquefied betrayal

Your love lives without equal
 Excruciatingly without bounds
 Infinite in understanding
 Envy remains alien

Your patient words like caresses
 You'd speak of your midnight absence
 Wrapping my soul in pillowed comfort
 Absorbing me in forgiveness

With this vision by light bequeathed
 I stand fearless in absolution
 No fear for our reunion
 I desire you like no other

Yet this wandering goat legged ape
 Yearning for the bosom divine
 Lay down with jagged mortality
 Rising up in mountainous bonds

All pleasure from imperfection
 Comes calamitous and costly
 So in time my taxes paid
 Bought furrows crows and fallow fields

How could I remain without dishonour
 When my early fires crumbled
 Beacons doused morose with loss
 For little more than temporal dross

How you'd have tittered like topaz
 Ignorant by virtue of purpose
 Declaring ever so cheekily
 'How typically dramatic'

But in blindness lives no succour
 Without your light nor guiding mirth
 So throwing down my thorny hooks
 My books became foundations

Heretofore your pained bravado
 Despite contrary exclamations
 You willingly exonerate
 This criminal before you

So tear it down I beg of thee
 Stone by stone and thorn by thorn
 Would that my former glory aid
 Or ageing courage persist

Through cracks and brambles enter
 Wipe clear this cracking mask of clay
 These parapets demolish
 May burning oil become as wine

Here beneath my ruined tower
 Spread out your battered bloody cloak
 I'll offer you my knife and heartbeat
 A life to trade for false desire

I'll lay me down beside your grace
 Mesmerised by lover's mercy
 Our tears entwined like salt water
 At last like heaven your laughter

Stars will rain like weary diamonds
 Time will drop the wheel for slumber
 Your arms and lips like a nebula
 My heart explodes with creation

In this trembling tiny moment
 You hush my nervous confession
 Hither should hurry no decay
 No jarring sound nor feeble word

We're both aware I might have waited
 Traipsing aimless on windy shore
 Yet no faun found truth in theory
 To be human is to be humbled

An observer might keenly comment
 Though my eyes and ears ignore
 For eons you tarried beyond
 And perfection is a dreamer

But each heart entangled together
 Hears louder its beating twin
 Our soul obsession our one devoir
 Together forever my darling

 

And From the Kingdoms of Men Shall Grow No Sacred Tree

White feathers flutter to the ground like a lynch mob
Blood spatters scarlet onto leaves like a heart throb
Child trembles dutiful with tears for a best friend
Shock thunder murder but proclaimed as a Godsend

Time fathers damage on the womb of experience
Guns guns guns choking drowning blue-eyed innocence
Fear as a baby flees to scrub under hot sun
Rage shooting phallic into trees from a big gun

Gold tanning umber in a sea shining brightly
Scars hidden weeping in a room silent nightly
Ripe fingers plucking skin of social dissonance
Slick temple shudders like a corpse no resistance

Swim rapid rivers from the raft comes no answer
Down down down sinking deep wounded like a Cancer
Eyes burning agony with visions of Gaia
Trains planes and sarin bombs like butchers for Maia

Burn burn burn screams within a cremated spirit
Turn turn turn worship plastic death without limit
Proclamations like silicone melanoma
Excavating psychological lymphoma

Cope swallow concrete for improved mentality
Smile glinting daggers silver tongued brutality
Watch gleeful demons as hearts and souls devoured
Shriek manic grinning filth an old world deflowered

Blood dripping oily from the mouths of false righteous
Kill consume replace repeat like Onobrychis
Death decides and life collides with beastly culture
Breath bereft big brother builds a common vulture

Fire fire fire exploding lead on population
Liar liar liar clamours the crowd in exaltation
Laid to rest old values like gravestones overturned
Paid to test our patience like politicking spurned

Death burns bright on forms unmarried to their gravestones
Good old fashioned holes dug for dying human clones
No memorial for death and less for our lives
Slow hapless descent into darkness into knives

Beg Orwell’s children beg just one moment to grieve
Beg but beware Clockwork Oranges who believe
War before weeping douses Ares with sorrow
Hate before Vale and no ancestral barrow

Die die die die shall be the words of false peaceful
Why why why why loud wailing brazen deceitful
Gone shall be hope from horizons Argus might see
From the kingdoms of men shall grow no sacred tree

Still standing lonely on a mountainous cliff side
Breathe before memory and bleak futures collide
Wait in cold shadow til fear and horror subside
Leave lonely your species for tears long ago dried

How to Dig Deep for a New Record

A wonderful aspect of the musical journey for an artist is the capacity to grow and evolve. Over the years I’ve been guilty of that. More to the point, since growing a little older my music, art and creative space have moved from serving as an outlet for obscure, painful emotions, loud distortion and dark poetry, right back to the world of my early teens, a dreamy series of muddy love stories. I’d write an album called ‘Full Circle’ but I think that’d be too obvious.

Passing through the current record has been interesting. I’m strongly tempted to run my ‘C Side’ production values (meaning, a specific method of recording in a bedroom with certain pieces of equipment) and release directly from there. It seems wanky, but I’m a huge fan of ‘flawed’ production values, that is, keeping some of the clicks, pops, knocks, hisses, peaks, and even a couple of bum notes here and there. I really do believe it enhances the experience, depending on the song.

Having said that, some of my favourite tracks of all time have very slick, expensive, and flawless production values, so it’s a tough call. Money is a factor too, but let’s be honest, if you want something badly enough, you’ll make it happen. As a result, it really is a difficult stylistic choice.

Naturally the ‘C Side’ treatment serves as my go-to preproduction method; it happens in my house anyway, might as well. From there though, the question begs, should I make use of a producer and a studio that will do the songs justice, or does ‘raw’ do them justice? This time around matters are complicated because I’m finally writing new material (for the most part – Wedding Dance is yet to see the inside of a studio), and that material is a journey in and of itself.

This record will be called ‘Something True’ for a reason. Most of my songs are true stories mixed with poetry, metaphor and allegory but in this case the words are much closer to home. I don’t tend to create from a jovial position either, so it’s been an emotional deep dive.

To be precise, I’ve broken down in tears a number of times, reliving memories, experiences and a whole lot of pain. In order to create the music, the words, to allow a pure, unadulterated and effortless flow that doesn’t require premeditation to write, requires a specific emotional and psychological space. It’s open, it’s vulnerable, and most of the time it’s outright agonising. Sure, people have suggested in the past that I could just use the tree of perfect chords, or rely on rhyme, beat and thematic motifs to make songs happen. Regrettably for me, I’ve always felt even more like a fraud than usual if I take that route. So it’s got to be the open road of personal experience. Generally speaking, personal wounds.

Of course the process is cathartic and a few streets cheaper than ongoing therapy so it’s not as if I’m just pointlessly torturing myself. I like to think it boasts similar results to therapy, at least to some degree. A little piece of my soul horcruxed into a song in exchange for a measure of piece.

The point is, it’s been tough, and it isn’t over. I’m only four songs in (five or six if I include songs I haven’t yet preproduced). When you put yourself through that much intense emotional turmoil for the purpose of creating something, it’s natural to desire an impressive outcome. The road ahead will shed its light as it’s meant to though, I’m sure of that. Still, the question remains – to ‘C Side’ or not to ‘C Side’?

Here’s a by-no-means-set-in-stone song list so far:

The Last Song
Home Run
Jewels on a Distant Past Horizon
Suddenly Something
What It’s All About (Acoustic)
Standing Up

 

Parisian Dream Boats, or , Wasting Anon

If we could travel
 All over without it
 What need have we
 Bearing brazen loads
 Mesmerised octopi 
 Chained like cattle
 I'd always wished for succour
 Twin pillars of sun and moon
 That deep dark blue room
 You know the one
 Before we float on up
 Watching our own faces
 I blew in on a half truth
 Carving gods in my own image
 Deafened
 The water was louder in their voices
 Hundreds then thousands
 Distracting
 Like blood and wine and madness
 Tongues reaching toward a stage
 I was forced, I had no choice
 We had no gilded gills
 Not for this ocean
 Not for this lifetime
 So built my own superhighway
 Lined with herbs
 Buttons under the tongue
 A half life
 A single foot past the pillars
 When I passed under the porcelain
 Right at the end
 Now that was truly something
 I could never be sure
 Maybe the door was left open,
 Glimmering purpose
 After all the broken bottles
 Yet rainbows followed
 My downward ascension
 Birthing bloody placenta
 And umbilical choking
 Soul windows by three
 A new world
 Almost the heart's desire
 Almost
 What I'd always wanted
 But drawn clumsy
 Like a broken jewel

 

A Little Story About Food

The modern world is a constant source of comedy and simultaneous frustration. A great example is the rising notion that vegans in particular, and vegetarians by association, are bullying the meat-eating populace. It’s a colossal joke of course, considering majority rule and the history of vegan/vegetarian movements, but there it is.

My personal experience with meat and the general meat-eating population has been a long and varied journey. As a child I was raised on what for a time was considered typical Western fare; lamb casserole, ham sandwiches, hot dogs, spaghetti Bolognese, sausage rolls, meat pies, and chicken at Christmas (yes that’s right, a chicken at Christmas was considered a special treat in parts of Australia, but let’s not digress too far). I disliked most vegetables, aside from potato, (thanks, Irish genes) and was once quoted as a young child as asking for “a ham sandwich, with MEAT!”

Among my favourite dinners, beef lasagne. Bored or wanting a snack, I’d probably opt for jerky if nothing sugary could be found. Suffice to say, I wasn’t exactly brainwashed by granola-bathing hippies.

As a child I questioned a lot of things, to the point where people felt I was either too smart for my own good, or just pestering them. Food wasn’t something I generally had an issue with however, unless it was a vegetable. As a result, I had no qualms with keeping chickens and collecting their eggs, or looking after and milking a dairy cow. Even when people talked about hunting and killing food, this seemed quite natural to me. After all, I witnessed animals killing and eating each other every day.

One sunny day, our pet calf, the child of our beloved dairy cow, wandered into the neighbour’s property. The neighbour was a self-professed pacifist, vegetarian, Buddhist, all the jazz of someone who claimed love of all living things. He promptly delivered the calf to a slaughterhouse. Given I understood this person to be a vegetarian, and also the basic tenets of Buddhist non-violence, this action shocked me.

For the very first time, the link between the slaughter of animals and the consumption of friends became clear. The nature of human hypocrisy was also laid bare, but, that was another matter entirely. It would take a number of other issues to eventually lead me away from meat, but this was the first key incident.

The next traumatic incident involved my father killing one of our chickens. These were friends I’d raised from egg to adult. Ironically it was a rooster, killed as it was attacking and killing the other chickens. Essentially, it had gone mad and had to be put down. The chicken died in a wash of blood, an inevitable outcome. It occurred to me then that this is how our food is made. Even then, I wasn’t deterred. Food was food, the cultural divide between eating friends and eating food that all meat-eaters seem to share remained strong for a long time. It wasn’t until I came to a deeper understanding of meat, philosophy, nutrition, slaughter en masse, and indeed hunting itself – alongside how these factors played into the wider consumption of meat in general – that my opinion began to change.

Delving into old Wiccan and Pagan culture as a teen was part of a wider theological and philosophical search for meaning. Spending time with Australian Aboriginal peoples, and making a study of native cultures worldwide, I noticed a congruence in terms of deep respect for the link between humankind and the animals we kill and eat. A seemingly constant notion in one form or another that there is a spirit of contest, that exchange, was clear. For many, offering respect to the spirit of the animal itself, was paramount. I understood this kind of thinking. Deep in the mysteries, ‘to live is to hunt, to hunt is to live’ became something of a moniker. Years later I would find the axiom was also taken on by the Transformers.

In my early teens, with these thoughts in mind, I fancied I might enjoy a Pagan or medieval diet. I went about with a hunk of bread, some cheese, a bit of salted meat and a flask of juice during the day. Occasionally I’d get into some berries. Realistically I had no idea what I was doing, but I had fun, and any such activity came with a measure of self-study, introspective thoughts projected onto a wider world. Eventually my family tired of the practise and begged me to return to eating a ‘normal’ diet. 

Years passed, and I was forced into the study of Economics for a time. As always my studies were both curricular, and extra-curricular. As a result, I aced the subject in my senior year, gaining a Dux from my school. I hated Economics though, it seemed an entire profession devoted mostly to common sense. In studying far beyond the high-school level on my own time, most of what I encountered seemed full of semantics that in real time consistently eventuated in backward thinking due to over-thinking the common sense basics learned in the first economic instance. Hence, current world fiscal and economic structures, backward and based mostly on the semantics of credit.

Economics did, however, point out the essential notions of supply and demand. Dovetailing these ideas into biological systems highlighted the rate of environmental waste occurring due to the meat industry, (which at that time I would interpret as the fast food industry – other, more insightful minds would later point out that the slaughter industry in general is a disruptive, species-ending juggernaut) and impacting the overall resource base that is the planet itself. This of course, still outside the emotive and empathetic notions attached to animal slaughter, which would come next.

Meanwhile, some of the prevailing myths associated with meat consumption persisted. The concept that one would become weaker, malnourished, if meat wasn’t consumed. In the midst of that argument, I discovered the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, wherein among many other stories he tells of his journey to England where his vegetarian diet is denounced as insanity. In this tale, Gandhi takes up eating meat and drinking wine, as English people assure him that in the English climate, he will most certainly grow sick and die without consuming these items. Gandhi becomes sick, and nearly dies as a result.

Not long after, I started reading nutritional journals, science-based articles, the for and against arguments; researching the idea that meat is an absolute necessity to human life. Naturally, the more I uncovered, the more the science seemed to say it all – the jury was still out, but evidence suggested that we could at the very least, get by without the need for meat. This evidence by itself, shocked me. Reading about links between over-consumption of red meat and cancer, about meat as a singular protein source being a myth (culturally denied at all costs during my youth) shocked me more.

Even at that point, a pro-meat attitude persisted. At the core of this attitude lay three key issues; firstly, the verbal assault on vegetarians launched by any and all meat eaters that I knew. Vegetarians were hippies, weak, foolish, stupid, vapid, stoners, and ultimately needed protein. Alongside this, a consistent belief, drawn from culture and childhood, that vegetarian food was at best, bland, and at worst, vomit-worthy. Second, the ongoing concept that it was a natural thing to kill and eat your food. Lastly – bacon. No joke.

Bacon was a tradition for me, above and beyond all other meat sources. It was responsible for joy in my palette, my defence of meat-eating, and the size of my stomach at the time. It wasn’t until I realised how fat I was getting from a consistent diet of bacon and egg muffins and chocolate shakes – yeah you know what I’m talking about – that I really thought seriously about going veg for the first time.

Even my own health wasn’t enough however. I reasoned that I could cut down and things would go back to normal. After reading a study showing that bacon is literally addictive to humans however, I decided to cut it out altogether. Too easy to fall back into the habit, after all.

Alongside my many adventures, I discovered the Hare Krsna movement. A theological study from my early years, I never placed much credence in their food, as my father had transposed a few good meals out of the Krsna cookbook – but as a child, I couldn’t stand the chili and capsicum-rich flavours he liked to add. As an adult, revisiting for the sake of cultural infusion, the Hare Krsna farm was successful in shattering forever the notion that vegetarian food was boring and unpalatable. I would return to the farm for food on a regular basis, because the rich, tantalising flavours were for me, incredibly unique. Still, I wasn’t about to make the change based on a religion – given that I myself am not necessarily a religious person.

Meanwhile, I fell in love with a gluten-free, lactose-intolerant coeliac. She wasn’t a hipster either, she was the real deal, the kind who would sit down to a wonderful meal, love every second of it, then a couple of hours later be writhing in pain begging to be put out of her misery. As an aside, anyone who claims a gluten intolerance when they don’t have one, is a one hundred percent douche bag. There, I said it, please join me in denouncing faker-hipsters. Some people have real medical issues.

Regarding diet however, my then-lover was required for medical reasons to be very strict with her diet on a variety of levels. I quickly noticed the benefits of a more frugal eating regimen, but we also agreed on how boring her culinary life was. This inspired further digging into the general well-being of best-practise diets, mostly to assist the enjoyment of food.

With a fully-grown adult palette and a sincere reason to broaden the horizons of the tongue, we discovered a number of vegetarian options that made a lot of sense to her health. Cutting out schnitzel, or frankly anything involving dairy and breadcrumbs, was a large unconscious step in a new direction. With the nature of coeliac disease in mind, and new reading on the powerful acids required to properly and efficiently digest red meat, that went by the wayside, and we embraced a new life as dairy-free pescatarians.

I lost weight, felt healthier than I’d been in a long time, and surprised myself with the strength I was building into a now mid-twenties body. Eventually we broke up, and I fell back into the meat habit. Walking along one day, I recalled how much I enjoyed the old meatball sub, so I bought it and bit in.

The marinara was immediately rich and inviting. Then, the meatball, somehow marinara-free. The biggest shock to the life of my tastebuds came in that moment. I hated meatballs! I had never really loved them, it was the engorging taste of tomato and herbs that fuelled my lust for the meatball sub. I was floored.

So began a three-month indulgence in ‘pure meats’, the cooking, eating and sampling of meat cooked without the addition of flavouring. I realised that the fish I’d enjoyed as a child, was smothered in lemon and herbs. The Bolognese, a tomato base. Even the ham sandwich was mostly a bread-and-butter combination. Such a discovery in flavour flipped how I viewed food in general. An entire world of flavoured vegetables opened up for me to explore in my own kitchen, an activity I’d been loath to try in the past due to a general sense that vegetables sucked, and the Hare Krsna people who made them taste good might actually be working some kind of strange magic.  The downside of all these discoveries; meat, for the most part, tasted like rubbish on its own. 

At this point, I went veg for a time. Having the backing of my previous research during life with a food-sensitive person helped greatly. Weighing up carbs, protein, fats, and sugars didn’t seem to be much of a challenge. The key issue came when I started telling people I was vegetarian.

Read that again: not vegan, vegetarian. You know, by consideration the ‘less militant’ of the non-meat variety (or something like that, so I’m told). Generally the issue would only arise if I was offered meat, and turned it down politely. The questions would begin.

“Don’t you like meat? It’s really good! Try some! Why don’t you just try some?”
“How do you get your protein?”
“Well, I like meat. Just cause you don’t. Do you have a problem with that?”
“You know you’re meant to eat meat, right? Don’t you ever feel weird, or left out? I would.”
“If animals weren’t meant to be eaten, why did God make them out of meat?”

These were among the kinder questions I would be asked, on a relatively regular basis. Of course there were other, more ignorant attacks. This one was my favourite, mostly because it was said as a laugh, but again, these comments were on the light scale of things I would experience in…Oh let’s say regional Australia. There I received all manner of comments on my manhood, sexuality and general morality due to refraining from eating meat.

Thankfully I was already accustomed by this point to the various abuses humanity is only too happy to level on anything it considers remotely different to itself. As a result, I coped. Occasionally I had a laugh, and less occasionally was forced into conflict. Thanks, humans, you’ve always been so supportive.

Eventually the social pressure from within close-knit groups beat me down and I went back to a meat-based diet, essentially eating meat when in social company. Then, at last, came the moment of real change.

I was trawling the internet (an addictive habit I’ve yet to kick) when I stumbled across a new machine to be implemented in a number of slaughterhouses world-wide. You know the one, it strings the animal up while still conscious, and like something out of a bad sci-fi horror, saws the animals limbs off and tears it up into pieces. It is extremely efficient, cost-effective, and basically, a work of pure evil. 

Up to this point I had been at least partially supportive of meat consumption in a modern context, by virtue of slaughterhouses making excuses around ‘humane treatment’ and ‘fast kills’. I had no issue with the culling of kangaroos that were going to starve themselves to death by overeating their own food source anyway, and the subsequent use of that meat for food. I sure as hell never had any problem with subsistence hunters. 

This machine hit me right in the conscience. At the end of the day, on a fundamental level, we all acknowledge two things, if we’re not kidding ourselves; firstly, that animals are far more intelligent than we like to pretend, but secondly, the circle of life has been, and continues to be, somewhat brutal. Up until this machine, the duality of these two fundamentals meant I could feel bad, perhaps, but would still be required to acknowledge meat consumption as part of my reality. 

The machine blew that balance to pieces, ramping the first fundamental to an extreme degree, effectively obliterating the second. It did this by illustrating how absolutely inhumane, unnatural and horrific those in control had allowed the industry to become. From that pivotal moment, my research into how modern meat is created intensified, with one unhappy surprise after another. Evidence on the reality of animal cruelty in abattoirs, the broken legs of calves, battery cages, lie upon lie upon lie heaped in a great mound of rotting carcass-like horror. Add to that the prevailing science of the day, the ravages of the industry on rainforest and the environment, and it became apparent there wasn’t even a decision to be made.

It was obvious. The time of the subsistence hunter, the time of excuses for human consumption of flesh, was long over. We were now making excuses for the wholesale slaughter of at least semi-sentient beings, following lives spent in squalor and pain. We were excusing the mass destruction of species upon species, for the sake of food preferences. Not requirements, but preferences. My taste buds alone were my excuse for supporting the ongoing incursion of McDonald’s into a South American rainforest.

On top of all that, my favourite fish – a common fish, the Tuna – turned up in the media as a species on the decline. Predictions made that with the current rate of consumption, the Tuna would be extinct at some point. When I was a child, this would have been considered pure fantasy.

You can crap in the backyard of your own species, but you have to ask yourself, what gives me the right to do this, vicariously no less, to everything else? At least if I was doing it directly I wouldn’t feel like an utter coward. At least if I went out there with a gun, or a bow and arrow, and nailed that animal myself, I could call it some kind of contest. A trade. Life for life. This was just a sick perversion masquerading as a good time in pretty packaging. As it stood, I couldn’t do it anymore. I had to give meat away, for good.

So I did. 

Since then, I’ve undergone a long social journey, first as something of a culinary pariah in parts of my social circle, due to my ongoing difficulty with putting people in their place. Once I learned that skill however, alongside maintaining the usual measure of politeness and gregariousness, I received a lot less flak from meat-eaters. This isn’t of course to say that many of my meat eating friends have not been polite to me. They have. Some are a joy to be around, they don’t ask questions, they just go with it. There’s a couple of them I could mention in fact, who go out of their way to include me. It’s lovely.

This is new for me though. The notion that the only offensively militant camp is the vegan camp, to me, is laughable. Far more meat-eaters have been all over me like a zealous rash, than have not. Tell them off, and suddenly they switch teams and start preaching about how you’re forcing your ideology down their throat, and, you should allow people their culinary choices.  

The sad part for me is, I get it. I spent a solid section of my lifetime living within the ideals of the meat consumer. Frankly, if we lived in a different time, and folks were out hunting for the purpose of survival – or even if they tended the animals in a kindly manner, giving them a good, happy and wholesome life before swiftly and quietly ending the animal’s life – I could easily, culturally, philosophically, biologically justify the entire concept. Hell, when I travel again, should I end up in a vast wilderness among tribal peoples, I’m most likely to go out hunting with them, bring down a beast and share the meal with the tribe. Seriously, I’m more than okay with that, and I do not believe that makes me a hypocrite. 

Today however, I’m living in what we like to think is an advanced, civilised culture. A civilisation that praises the humanities, the arts, and progress. Yet somehow the best analogy I can make for this kind of “progress”, is the monologue given by Saruman in Lord of the Rings as his hordes rip up the forest. 

The Gift of Grief

To the Strangest Angel So Far

This letter is written to discuss how being hurt can be a good thing.  I’m not speaking about bondage, domination, whipping, caning, pinching or anything even remotely sensual. I’ll thank you to keep your head out of the gutter. We both know you’re better than that.

Better is a good place to begin. A long time ago, I wrote a song with that title, and it wasn’t a Rocky Balboa style montage. It hurt deeply to write, and hurts to play to this day. I begin with Better, and the idea of better, because that is how most of my early life was characterised in one way or another. The irony of this was that nothing was really wrong with me physically, or even in terms of the chemicals shooting around my brain.

For this story to make sense, I must touch on my original state. I was a very emotional child, and very in touch with  grief. When I first heard the song ‘Steven’ by Alice Cooper, I immediately connected the pennies with parental death, and instead of being frightened by the theme of death, I cried. Not for a short time, either. For a good half hour, the fundamental notion of grief and loss was palpable. I understood what it meant to grieve, and in hearing that song, I grieved with the singer for the passing of loved ones, real or otherwise. This was my natural state, a pure outlet of connection and emotion.

I was encouraged, violently, to be better from that age. To work harder, to strive, to achieve. At the same time, I was belittled and had it drummed into me that I was nothing, that I would never amount to anything. I’ve written previously on other traumas and uplifting experiences I was privy to, so I won’t digress too far. Dichotomous a background as you can imagine, the benefits included a survivalist will, idealism, and the urge to never give up. Sadly, these impulses were counteracted by depressive tendencies, emotive reactivity and idealism.

Incidentally, if you didn’t get the joke just now, you probably wouldn’t get idealism – but I know you did, and you do.

With any unfair hurt comes a set of conflicting emotions. The urge to seek recompense, or to exact revenge, levelled against notions like forgiveness, moving on, and the best vengeance being a happy life. In the modern age we like to share all these memes and videos describing how simple, how easy it is to just deal with emotional blows, betrayals, attacks, as it is second nature. We tell ourselves it is normal to be measured, calm, peaceful. We love to respond with negativity and criticism whenever somebody reacts to what’s going on their lives with anything other than sage counsel regarding themselves and others. If someone freaks out publicly, the proverbial room of their friends and associates empties, the remainder swooping like vultures to pick at the carcass of recently butchered dignity.

Sadly the idea that humanity is a measured animal is built on utter bullshit, and this would be something I’d learn, repeatedly, more often than I would like to admit or imagine.

So there I was, striving to be better. I was doing my best to uphold old school moralities while conflating and reconciling them with new school ideas. I had already experienced innumerable moments of hurt, unfair hurt, hurt that rooted its reasons in so-called love, or lessons to be taught, or experience. No great explanations, but hurt regardless. A consistent theme permeated, and it went deep, pushing up weeds made from anger, blame and a strident wish for co-existence justice and peace. Suffice to say I was trying to be a great person but I had serious issues.

Enter romance. A new but somehow familiar feeling mangled together through partners lying and cheating; the put-downs, the emotional scarring from allowing yourself, finally, to open to vulnerability, only to be shot down by bullets of disdain for perceived weakness or an inability to cope with the reality of another human being’s experience. The cliches that men shouldn’t cry, that men should suffer in silence, sickened me, but they were thrown in my direction and I swallowed them in the name of love.

The idea that nothing attracts the eternally asexual attentions of a woman like the tears of a man had become normal.

In hindsight the consistent theme was almost too obvious, but I couldn’t see it. Another partner to judge, to elevate me to pedestal status while dragging down the constituent pieces that represented who I really was. I had been abused and the dark beast riding on my back was looking for more. There is no other explanation for consistently chasing lovers who would constantly pick, laugh at my misfortunes, and physically attack. Even a dacryphiliac made an appearance in the paramour parade.

After that, including my lovers in concert with the rest, the avalanche began. Work colleagues, friends, fellow artists, salespeople, politicians, the high, the low, the rich, the poor. The consistency of laying blame for actions taken against other people, the idea that denying accountability and making counter accusations wasn’t a black joke but a daily ritual designed to keep any given individual afloat, hurt me incredibly. The wall went up, thorns and all in my heart of hearts, and I wasn’t even aware.

By the time I met you, I had begun to believe that life was about pain. I had started to convince myself that reconciling oneself with loss, with the intrusive reprisals of, well, everyone, was simply how it had to be. Every time something or someone hurt me, without fail I could – whether I admitted it or not – point to something they had done to me, some selfish, vile intent unworthy of the ideals I craved to be a part of and would only ever half achieve in human form. Yet halfway was a billion streets ahead of those I surrounded myself with, and so I suffered, and suffered, and suffered. My deepest self always found a way to surface of course, in silly jokes, in eternal optimism despite the ongoing pessimism of depression. Nonetheless, I had made a habit of mistaking crimes against my soul for grief.

Worse, I’d forgotten how to grieve, and I had lost the ability to hurt in the purest sense.

When you arrived, I wasn’t ready, not by a long shot. Perhaps neither of us were. Covering our scars from previous romantic battlegrounds, we discovered something truly special, a kindred spirit of self-blame with a penchant for self-destruction through nothing more than the will to give. You wanted to give of yourself to me, and I to you.

Two doormats waiting for the boots to roll right over us.

With you the boots never came. The number of times you scolded me for not accepting assistance, for trying to constantly be the giver regardless of the thanks I’d likely never receive…well today you’d be happy to know I laughed about that. They were the strangest arguments I could imagine. This beautiful gossamer darling pointing a finger and demanding I let someone else do something for me. Vice-versa too. It was beautiful.

When I started to spill, my ‘big emotions’ as you called them rushing forth in a torrent of seemingly senseless, angry word-jumbles fraught with past, present and future fears, I couldn’t see the gifts you were giving. I saw them later though, when I cried in your arms. When I apologised for speaking so much shit, and you just smiled, telling me it had been inside for too long, that you understood. You told me how behind it all you could see how much I was hurting, how the urge to be alone was an illusion I’d managed to convince myself was a necessity; how I’d learned to quickly and easily convince anyone worth a damn that they ought to leave me high and dry, ready for the next abuser.

I sometimes wonder if I ever managed to convey the simultaneous sense of embarrassment, relief and awe that your gentle manner of healing left in me. I know I gave some gifts to you too, similar acts of service. Words of wisdom, gentle praise, understanding of your faults, and above all, a staunch rebuke for blaming yourself. I suppose acceptance was my gift for you. Your gifts outshone mine at every turn though, and this too was something entirely new. I wasn’t ready for that either.

Regardless, your greatest, most exquisite gift was yet to come: when you left me.

It seems insane to say it. When I describe how we were kindred souls, how we nurtured and loved each other, how we gifted such incredibly deep, beautiful restoratives on a soul plane, it makes no sense. Sadly the truth of existence is based on impermanence, and the truth of us, was that we would end. You were a wise woman, a healer at heart, a scientist and a deeply serious creature. Uncovered at last, I’d rediscovered my fool, my universal child, and he wasn’t the man the wise woman dreamed of. Perhaps one day in the distant future, but more than likely not in this lifetime.

Like all children, there came a time when you had to let me go. The irony was awful.

Then it came. A deluge of pure, unadulterated grief. I cried, great, big wracking sobs. I’d lost someone, and something, of immeasurable value. I couldn’t help but grieve, openly. Therein lay your most incredible gift. Unlike every hurt since I was a child, you gave me no reason other than the reality of an ending. No crime against me, no gossip, no false, evil words, no blame, no theft, no violence, no hate, no spite and no gain. You had left  me, for my own good, and for yours.

How could I hold anything against you? I could not.

To lose you, my angel, hurt more in a sense than any breakup I’d ever experienced. Not because you hurt me with your hurry to leave – although in a sense that’s also a truth – but largely because it was pure. You opened the gate and the pain poured forth, rushed by the tide of former agonies, that old pent-up sludge flying by and vanishing in the wake of simple, reasonless loss. I’d cried before, sure. I’d raged and broken sentimental objects, laid myself out for days on the floor, eaten myself stupid, self-harmed, abused friends in the middle of a drunken rampage, you name it I’d done it in the name of so-called grief. That was the trick though; all those times before, it wasn’t really grief. It was hurt, but it was the kind of hurt you deal with on a battlefield, or lost in the woods, hounded by wolves with only your spear for protection. This, oh this was so much more.

This was grief, and at long last I understood what it meant to lose someone worth keeping. Someone of value, someone who you might admire. Someone who had truly loved you before they decided to leave.

It is the most peculiar feeling, to speak so positively of something so painful, something that still gives me pause to shed a tear from time to time. I have thanked others in the past, for their lessons, for teaching me how to patch wounds with nothing but the fierce will to survive; or for teaching me not to trust. You however, the Strangest Angel, I thank most of all, for teaching me that I was not the only one with the will to give; for showing me how I really look when I act like me without fear of destruction; and most of all, for reminding me once more how to grieve.

You may not understand, although I truly hope you do. I love you for this. Grief is a pure and natural event, so necessary to our continued happiness in the long run. Aside from love, gentility, beautiful memories of kindness and comfort, you gave grief back to me. Thank you, now and forever.

Sincerely yours.

In Place of Grace – From Script to Screen – Part 2: Casting and Contracting

Previously in Part 1, I blogged about writing the script for ‘In Place of Grace’ and gathering support for the concept. I didn’t mention it at the time, but the script managed to pass through more than fifteen versions before landing at something acceptable, and then it was dissected again by just about every crew member who came on board. Having a decent amount of screenwriting experience and deciding to purposefully deviate from a number of script conventions was something of  a challenge, particularly given the subject matter. The conceptual ‘three act structure’ may have worked very well, but I’ve never enjoyed convention and since I was suddenly writing a short feature, somewhere between a ‘proper’ movie and a short, I decided to toss in some peculiarities while still attempting to maintain a cohesive story line, subplot and a sense of mystery.

For that to be followed by the rest of the production team pointing out that they didn’t want to live with what I’d purposefully created, and requesting the very conventions I’d omitted, be inserted in order from them to work effectively on a project, was a very different kind of challenge itself. Receiving ‘Screenwriting 101’ on repeat however, simply because I made a differing stylistic choice, was much tougher. People can be very assumptive. Nonetheless, film is an incredibly collaborative animal, that I knew from previous experience as an actor and a writer, so I went as far as I could in taking on the requests of the team and disciplined the work as far as my artist’s ego would allow.

By this point we’d made it to version twenty or so, which was Version 8 on paper. We had also made inroads into the direction we wanted to take with the visual end of the storytelling,  so the next step was casting. As there were only two full-time people on board at the time, (everyone else was consultative or more production oriented) it fell to me to play Casting Director, another skill set I wasn’t really across. Thankfully I’m a fast learner, had watched very closely the actions and communication of people casting me in their films, and most of all, had a very strong vision in terms of what my characters might look like. Lastly, being an actor myself, I had a pretty decent capacity for understanding the potential of an applicant to play the intended role. Plus, I had the added bonus of screening my choices with Jordan, who did have experience.

A momentary digression from the story; I’ll say this now, if you’re selling your script (I’ve sold a couple, far too cheaply and given away more than I care to recall at the request of friends and colleagues over the years) probably don’t worry about it. However, if you’re going to be involved in the production end, the space that requires an eye for camera, make sure you have a vision. I didn’t expect to be involved at such a deep and inclusive level – I mostly write spec or actor’s scripts, easily interpreted from a variety of viewpoints because, well, minimal direction means multiple potential paths. A script that is mostly dialogue leaves a great deal for the Director, for the story boarding and cinematographer to make decisions with. I know we can all look up NBK or other neo-classic screenplays and see full direction, sound, the works, but it is also considered somewhat insulting to the Director, to the Actors, to the DOP, basically to most of the people involved, if you’re just the writer and you start including all of that direction.

With IPOG  however, it happened that I was unexpectedly hands-on at every phase.  Luckily I never write or create without a more or less all-encompassing vision in the back of my mind, the irony of which meant that when I stepped out of the picture further down the track, we were set up to be in a mess because the vision lived with me, not on a shot list or in any detailed notation. But I’ll get to that, the exciting stuff comes much, much later.

Back to casting, and of course, contracting.

Oddly enough, having worked in the music industry and also corporate management, I knew my basics in terms of how to put together a contract. What I didn’t know, was how to write a contract for people in film. The good news was that being an actor, I knew what I’d want, and being the person essentially responsible for the film, I knew what I would want there too –  so I just wrote one that seemed protective for both our production, and our actors as well. It’s not every day you come across a contract that demands you have your own insurances (if required – even though we were supplying public liability anyway) but also mentions that it is the production’s responsibility to feed and water you as a minimum. In hindsight, somewhat bizarre on both ends, but as I said, I was doing a job I wasn’t really cut out to do . As a result, pretty easy outs for all concerned if things got nasty. What can I say, I don’t like to mess people around.

Casting was crazy. We had more than 120 applicants for a variety of roles, and thank goodness I decided to finally get a bit tough with something (I have a bad habit of being too nice when it’s just not productive). So I became very specific, sending out an email to all concerned offering only deferred payment based specifically on successful crowdfunding outcomes – which as we all know is a way of saying “we get paid, you get paid, otherwise you work for free”. I also decided to opt for self-testing (video audition via email). This meant we didn’t have to book rooms, co-ordinate large numbers of people and generally cause ourselves a larger headache than we needed.

I have to admit, despite the numbers, the volume of emails required, the sitting through audition after audition (some of which were great, others…not so great) casting is a lot of fun. You get to see so many interpretations of a piece you’ve created for others to work with, and so many varieties of talent, it’s something of an amazing experience.

For some characters, going through the auditions is painstaking, and very difficult. I’ve certainly never been faced with having to let down the audition hopes of about twenty little girls. Other times it is a simple, easy process. The moment I laid eyes on the audition tape for Anja, for example, I actually said out loud, ‘there she is, that’s Anja’. I emailed Jordan straight away, saying ‘we have our Anja, what do you think?’ and of course because Anja was literally speaking to us through the screen, she was given the role.

Eventually we settled on a rather fantastic cast. The contracts were in place. We felt like we were ready to roll. Little did we know what was coming for us.

 

Semantic Romantic

I was sitting here reminiscing about some of the good times I’ve been through, some of the wonderful people I’ve known and I thought of one friend in particular, a person who has been a great pal to me over the years. A lovely woman indeed. Ironically, I think the worst of advice I ever listened to in my life came from that same almost-lifelong friend, when she said, (quite emphatically and passionately I might add) “please, please don’t become a priest” .

To explain, I was considering a monastic existence at the age of 17, being rather obsessed with all things esoteric and faith-based at the time. Terrible advice. Absolutely shocking given where I was headed, compared with the future events of the rest of my life. Now that I’m finally free to pursue something in that vein, after having lived far too much of life in probably too short a time, I’ve become disinterested in attending to a place of idealism and purity the way I would have at 17. I’m now far more interested in material things.

 I mean, I could blame myself and take accountability for my own actions and decisions. I could admit that she was basically just agreeing with my deeper self at the time. I could even go as far as to say, had I ignored her it would have come crashing down and I’d be right here where I am anyway – but where’s the fun in that? Instead, I decided to take a look at how far I’ve come in terms of romantic idealism, because once I decided not to follow the monastic principle, I turned instead to a far deeper, much earlier drive that had lived within me, possibly since birth.

Romance.

I find it kind of sad that since I was a child, one of the things I wanted most was that loving feeling, the one Elvis talked about losing in his song ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’. I didn’t really get that song as a child, instead,  ‘Love Me Tender’ was an instant favourite, it touched me deeply when perhaps I should have been too young for it to do so. Regardless, that search for romance, for the slightly wild, slightly crazy out-of-the-blue thing I hadn’t yet discovered on TV, burned within, very early on.

I met this little girl when I was three years old at kindergarten. I told my grandma it would be nice to marry a girl like her. I was into ideas like marriage at the age of three. She thought it was adorable, and told me later on I was involved unwittingly in a love triangle, as a second little girl had expressed similar feelings for me.

Quite the drama for a three year old.

At age five I was painting my ‘dream girl’ and my ‘dream ghost girl’, the dual image of what I then viewed as the potential loves of my life. That was the time I’ve described previously when a long-winded argument with my father over choosing one (which I refused to do) resulted in my bursting into tears at the thought. Such was again, my early passion for the ideal of romantic love.

 Around the age of six,  we were travelling, staying at a caravan park. I met another little girl in the common room, and all I wanted to do was share my bag of lollies, watch a movie with her, and hold her hand while we watched TV. She was very happy with that idea, so that is exactly what we did. We were both really, really sad when we parted ways.

 Apparently it was the sweetest thing anyone had seen in forever.

 By this point of course I had discovered television, and books, and was enthralled with fantasy, science fiction, and in particular, the romances that went with them. When I was 11, I told my father an incredibly detailed description of my future wife, complete with her name, the names of our children, our occupations, and what we enjoyed doing together. When he asked how I knew this was going to happen, I told him it was fate. The emergent theme destined for continuous flowering: that these things must occur by virtue of their own predestined nature. I romanticised people, relationships, and life.

 I’ve been the Ted Mosby style dreamer for a long while, a believer in ‘the magic’. Further to that, I’ve also been a great believer that romance grows from passion, a spark, something intangible that drags you together. It happens for a reason.

 However, now as a grown man, after a few relationships and many romances, some lovely, some terrible, all ended – and now that I’ve had the time to watch human interaction over and over again – more and more I begin to conclude that a great romance may actually be quite a premeditated activity. It seems to have little if anything to do with magic, and everything to do with goal setting, building, motivation and people manipulating each other’s wants and needs to create a given outcome.

Finding a compatible mate in the first place is played like a game, a strategy used by both sides to capture their intended quarry.  Coming together in romance appears to be rooted in an assessment of congruent values, likes and dislikes. You could just as well have it all arranged for you by a third party – like an app, or your parents. Further on, that those people both have their togetherness at heart seems the only effective thing keeping them together. Certainly not a deep and lasting concept of infinite love for one another, that seems certain. Rather, and again, strategy, be it compromise or otherwise.

 It seems that romance in terms of success, is a matter of semantics. As a result, anyone who is not geared that way, might be at best, adrift at sea, unless they’re extremely lucky. For a person who has been compared to a ‘combination of Ted, Gomez and Sartre’ the notion of premeditation in terms of seeking out meaningful romantic love feels something like poison ivy. I have begun to conclude therefore, that romance is better off without me, and perhaps the monastic life would have been a better choice.

To the romantics out there, myself included, I trust that I am romanticising negativity, and therefore, I am wrong, and a new sun shall dawn on the dew of love once more in some far-flung but not-so-distant future.