Underthecurrent


Friday in this Town
March 25, 2017, 12:54 am
Filed under: nomadisms

The train glides over the industrial zone to the big box stores.  Below, the motorhomes are lined up along roads where no one will care.  Most have cardboard or insulation on the windows, all look a bit worse for wear from a distance and walking by, maybe unloved or just old.  It seems like a few years ago there were less.  They don’t look like nomadic freedom, sitting along curbs in the bleakest parts of the city, all closed up.  They’re more like shacks on the edges of other cities, encroaching on land too sad for anyone to bother to move them off.  Some have open windows with various kinds of covers to keep the rain out, others just have condensation, either way it’s clear someone is inside the tin box.

The store is empty because it’s a weekday, everything is tidy.  Maybe it’s passing the tin boxes, but this place feels sad too, in spite of the spring flowers lined up outside and the pastel Easter candy inside.

I buy maple syrup, pancake mix, cheap charcuterie (literally, a $5 plastic tray described as this), new underwear made in Vietnam, random things like toothpaste and razors.  The total on leaving is somehow a shock, that those $2 pairs of underwear could add up like this.  It’s a strange, joyless spending spree, almost hypnotic.

*

Why do people even live here,” he says.

People live here because it’s safe and the weather is moderate, don’t they?  Everything is safe.  It’s physically safe.  Your money is safe, relatively.  The water and air are mostly clean, for now.

Some live here because it’s the combination of this safety and the ability to not be so culturally lonely.  They can find people who speak the same mother tongue, who eat the same things and worship the same god(s).  Everyone talks about integration like it’s easy if they’ve never tried to live in another culture.

*

“I was embarrassed to admit how hard it was for me,” she said, “you think it’s a country where I speak the language and we share some common history.  But it’s different, it’s very different and it was very lonely.”



So Many TimBits
May 12, 2015, 8:42 pm
Filed under: nomadisms | Tags:

Tuesday morning Timbit bribery.  Small coffee, 10 donut holes.  Save the best for last (chocolate coconut).

Right now, for the first time in a long time, looking at this city with a lighter gaze.  Seeing all kinds of things missed before.  Maybe it’s the sense of time running down, maybe it’s the spring air, maybe it’s the step back from grinding away so hard.  Things pop out more – a building never really looked at, the sun on the sidewalk, a previously ignored stream through a park.

The way you look at someone the first and last times, if you know it’s possibly a last time, that you see them.



The Best of Times
May 1, 2015, 6:41 pm
Filed under: nomadisms | Tags: , ,

The list of names attached to the picture are from everywhere, scattered anywhere, familiar and long gone.  A lot went on to keep living the way we had – close to the ocean, mostly free, sometimes searching.

Pictures from the Good Old Days are made into collages that look like The Best Times, and I look and I feel restless, like the world is waiting and I’m here… doing what?

Wait, I was there, at least some of the time.  Were they really the best times?  I don’ t think so, objectively.  Maybe subjectively, which would say a lot.

In paradise, as far as I’ve looked, there can be a lot of darkness.  Probably because some of the most fun people, who swing so high, are prone to also dip low.  More so because the existential search that leads people to unconventional choices can be undertaken by people with tigers to tame, restlessness, or blatent dysfunction.  And then, don’t the people in this category seem to find each other, settle in, and stay too long at the party?

The effect on a place of too much of this is the tricky part, a critical mass of unhappy people sucks the energy out of even the best places.  My favorite place in the world used to go through cycles.  There would be great runs, where everyone seemed all-love.  I remember sitting in the sun and knowing that I was having some of the best days of my life.  The goodness kept building, attracting the same thing.

Other times, everything would be fractured – like there was crap in every cup of coffee in the morning.  Any good energy that would float out was met with flat affect or upset.  Happy people packed up and moved on, or gave the place a skip altogether.  Late nights over cold beer were riddled with backbiting complaint sessions.  Less time laughing, more time peacekeeping.

Strangely, it’s the fractured times that I see pop up the most when people are reminiscing, and people who were miserable to deal with (or too stoned for feelings all day every day) seem to like to revisit and romanticize the past the most, even though it was pretty average when it was actually happening.

I’m trying to keep this in mind.



Five Days
July 31, 2012, 5:09 pm
Filed under: nomadisms, voyageur | Tags: ,

This is my last week of work. Sort of sudden, bittersweet.

I looked at my bank account and booked some budget flights East, strictly carry on.

Although another week here would be too easy, I have to consider that I might not get back to Aus that soon. I still haven’t decided what October will bring, I think over the next couple months it will work itself out… and it might surprise even me.

So, Melbs and Tas and The Great Ocean Road called, and I figured: why not? Then I can swing back to get my things in Perth and have a few lingering days in WA with friends. The other truth is that my wanderlust called and if I do end up at home this small stockpile of cash will just be lumped into a practical eventuality like retirement savings or some major purchase. It could, in this moment, be so much more.

This means five days. Five days of goodbyes, packing, getting organized.



The Not So Big Day Out
December 15, 2011, 4:17 am
Filed under: gastronomy, nomadisms

I spent my day off pubcrawling, specifically a fish and chips and Mid event, predominantly in the company of those who get a seniors discount. War horses telling battle stories, about a time when only common sense governed the pubs and taverns.

They tell me about the “mad  postie” who took his chainsaw to the supporting column out front, threatening to cut down the pub. About the owner who would refuse to open after so many days on a bender, having a party for one in the cellar, eventually drawn out by police in search of beer. They talk about women from thirty years ago, and three generations of bar patronage.

We are home before dusk, tipsy on all sides,  and I can’t help feeling I need to reread Bill Bryson and compare notes. 



Affording la vie Bohemme
November 16, 2011, 1:09 am
Filed under: nomadisms, voyageur

Wages here for normal people are insane, which is why I’m always blown away by people who say the reason they don’t travel is financial. It is by far the most popular reason given, wistfully by people in their twenties. The irony is not lost on me that I earn twenty five to thirty percent of what they make (and pay for stuff like health insurance). Do they think I have some weird trust fund? A benefactor?  Who knows.

Everything I know about funding long term travel is ridiculously simple. 

1. Don’t own stuff.  Stuff costs money to get, keep and haul around.  This financial investment turns into an emotional one. Also, the modern world of travel is way cheaper with less luggage.

2. Expense is wildly variable. Striking a balance out of your normal surroundings is actually the same as living within your means at home.

3. I don’t subscribe to the ideas that I should see or do things because “everyone” does them in whatever place, or that “you only live once and will never have the chance to do this random thing you never knew you wanted to do again”. If it strikes me I do it or see it, but I’ve let a lot of stuff pass with no real long term regret. Who cares if I can sit around the hotel bar and have the biggest list of enviable status quo experiences? Pissing. Contest.

4. Allow time.  Most of my withdrawals from my “oh crap” fund are a result of not allowing enough time – for transit, to see what I wanted to see properly, to make informed decisions about where to stay and how to get there. Duress equals expense.

5. Most advice is bad. This included. 



Life at the beach
October 31, 2011, 11:28 am
Filed under: nomadisms, runaway

One week down, fourteen to go. 

Last night, staff took the leftover jelly shots from the bar halloween party and  headed to the chef’s house for a halloween party of our own. Everyone from management to kitchen hands shows up for the sunday night session after a long week. Sausages are grilled, guitars come out, bottles drain. Girls dance in the living room, the chain smokers cluster on milk crates in the back yard.

Time off here is beaches, booze and afternoons in coffee shops. There are worse ways to refill a bank account.

The regulars are a shipping port mix; fishermen, sailors, offshore riggers. Little old men who drink small glasses of beer all afternoon and tell big fish stories. It’s a mellower crew than the last job.

For those of us on the three to six month tour, it’s not a real grown up life.  We live in freshly painted motel rooms on the beach where everything from sheets to dishes was already waiting.  Groceries are optional because meals are a docket away in the dining room and included in the package. The biggest question is when the washing machine will be free. There is a lot to be said for never having to pay utility bills.