Sunday, 24 February 2013

I Miss Holding Your Hand

I miss holding your hand.
The way that you didn't give a damn.
That it never occurred to you to care what other people thought.
That you never even paused to consider that other people might care.
I miss the casual, thoughtless closeness.
The warmth and support.
The total lack of agenda.
I miss how it was so easy for you.
How you made it easy for me.
How after a while I didn't even think about it either.
I miss the quiet times as much as the crazy times.
But most of all, I miss holding your hand.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Logistics And The Confusion Of Solitude

I think it's the default for Australians that when you say 'travel' they think 'overseas'.

You say "I'm thinking of going travelling again" no-one is going to think you mean anywhere on our own continent.
We don't talk about it like that.

It isn't that Australia isn't freaking huge and that going from one side to the other isn't a pretty impressive undertaking but the language we use tend to downplay it a bit.

It might partly be because when we travel our own country there are a LOT of bits that most people skip unless they're feeling particularly intrepid and enjoy off-roading.

You go for a 10 hour drive in Europe and you will cross several countries, each with their own languages, sights to see, cuisines and places to stay.

You go for a 10 hour drive in Australia and unless you're going around the coast odds are you better have some spare tanks of fuel, a good supply of water, a tent, and possibly an EPIRB.

There are whole chunks of the country that are either too much trouble, too dangerous, or too barren to be of much interest to anyone except scientists and prospectors*.

But wide stretches of sun-baked desert aside, when I think 'I haven't been travelling for a while' what I mean is 'I haven't been overseas for a while'.

I do want to see more of my own country but it has never been a pressing thing.

It'd be a lot easier to do regularly than getting the money together to fly around the globe but it just doesn't pop up as an automatic option.

Unless you're heading to the coast or the slopes, people tend to be a little bit surprised if you say you're heading somewhere on the mainland without a particular reason.

You live in Melbourne and you're heading over to Perth?
You got family over there?
You don't?
There some kind of event you're attending?
There isn't? You're just interested?
And it isn't school/summer holidays?
Oh... OK, fair enough...?

I'm probably overplaying it a bit but if I told my family I was going on a month's trip in Europe by myself, hiring a car and tooling about a bit they'd wish me good luck, tell me to be careful and to bring them back some souvenirs.

If I told them I was going to take my car and go on a roadtrip up the coast by myself they'd be a bit baffled.

Travelling to another continent by yourself = makes perfect sense.

Travelling around our own own country by yourself = a bit odd?

It's something people are supposed to save up until they retire, buy a caravan and become a grey nomad.

The thing that kicked off this train of thought is my wanting to follow through on my camping obsession a bit more regularly and realising that if I actually want to get it done I'll probably have to do it by myself.
My friends and family all have jobs, financial commitments or restrictions, and/or children and pets to wrangle.

Getting them to come camping would involve a lot of forewarning and planning, could by necessity only take place during particular times of the year if I wanted certain people to be able to come and could end up with me banging my head against a wall because argh complicated!

I could probably arrange a few short trips with different people but anything longer would involve a bit of fiddling about.

Same with if I wanted to go and see a bit of Tasmania or Queensland.

People either might not have the money or the freedom to get away.

So if I don't want to hang around and put it off that means I have to look at whether I want to do it by myself.

And the answer to that is... kind of?

There are parts of the country I could quite happily go and see by myself.
Go and spend a week on the beach up on the sunshine coast, go on some nature walks in the rainforests and national parks in New South Wales and Queensland, go camping and checking out various towns in Tasmania.
But there are other parts of the country I'd like to see with other people, some of the cities and certain landmarks or areas.

There are some things that you really want someone to be standing with you for, just so you can turn to them and say 'hey, look at that, isn't it amazing?'

There are other things you can enjoy quite easily by yourself.

There might be a bit of 'how you think things will go' vs 'reality', in that depending on what kind of person you are spending that amount of time by yourself could either be freeing or make you feel a bit anxious.
And the driving involved in a long roadtrip by yourself could either be meditative or brain-meltingly boring.

It's hard to say.

So I've got two tasks in front of me:
  • having a proper think about which parts of my own country I want to explore; and
  • explaining to people that I'm going on a trip by myself and no I've not gone crazy, got depressed, or decided to 'find myself'.
This could take a while.

*Apparently this is becoming a thing again!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Danger Of Stereotypes

America, we have a confession to make.

When I say 'we' I mean most of the rest of the world.

I've appointed myself spokesperson.

I'm sure this will cause no problems whatsoever.

Anyway, America, here's the thing.

We kind of don't think of you as real.

I mean we know you exist, it's kind of hard to pretend you don't what with your citizens who travel and all the stuff you do and produce but it's the producing thing that's kind of got us screwed up.

You make a lot of movies.

And TV shows.

Most of the movies and TV shows.

And because of this your country kind of seems like a giant living movie set...

You drive on the wrong side of the road - just like in the movies.

You have diners with drip coffee and a bewildering selection of pies - just like in the movies.

You make fun of each other's states and accents and the various wide range of communities and lifestyles.

And this is problematic for some of your citizens because, well, you typecast them.

People with certain features or specific Americanised genetic backgrounds are cast in the same sorts of roles and then their real world counterparts have to deal with being seen through that lense.

Some of the stereotypes people are fond or proud of, others not so much.

People from one part of the country only know what hilarious accented sidekicks or ominous accented villains have taught them.

That's kind of goofy and funny for us foreigners until we realise that our ignorance about what the people of Louisiana or Minnesota are actually like is an ignorance shared by many of their countrymen* and women.

When we were travelling in Europe my brother and I met an awesome writer from Texas who reacted with suspicion to our curiosity and enthusiasm to know what being from Texas was really like.
She was used to people from her own country slapping 'Yosemite Sam' type assumptions over her and then being jackasses based on those stereotypes so it took us a while to convince her we were genuinely interested.

The amount of times we spoke to people from different parts of America and were told 'We're not actually all gun nuts in my state**' or 'Yeah, we're not all a bunch of tightly wound prudes where I come from' was fascinating.

You get some of the same lack of representation of people with stronger regional accents in most countries, there are some accents you just aren't going to hear on national broadcast radio or TV in the UK for example.

But it just seems like given the size of America and the size of the population that this phenomenon is much more pronounced***.

It's that very size that leaves many people operating under the influence of these stereotypes as they have a finite amount of time, brain space, and in many cases damns to give about such a broad range of communities and their traditions.

I suppose what I'm saying America is that, even though we can often catch ourselves out here thinking of you as a giant movie set, sometimes it feels like you treat parts of yourself like they aren't real either.

So while we as a global community are working on making sure there is a more representative array of people of different genders, races, sexualities and religions in TV shows, movies, books and on radio; you could make an effort to toss some people from your less represented states into bigger roles and just make them normal people expressing their differences without comedic effect or self-consciousness.

I know it'll take a bit of effort but I figure it'll be worth it for the kids who get to say 'Hey, that person sounds like me and they aren't getting laugh-tracked out of the room every GD time they turn up! Hooray!'

And then the rest of us will get to learn more too and even if we're still staring at you like slightly creepy weirdoes because holy crap, you're actually real and not just on my DVDs! we'll at least be more accurately staring at you and you'll be more accurately staring at yourselves.

[I am sure there are quite a few shows where people from different states get to roll along, contributing to the show without having to fulfil a special extra purpose but speaking as a casual viewer of a selection of comedies, dramas, crime shows and movies, there aren't as many of them as would be helpful. Feel free to recommend some good ones to me though!]

*What's a gender-neutral term for that that doesn't sound clunky as hell? Co-nationals? Yeesh

**This lad qualified his statement with 'There are quite a few gun owners but we grew up respecting guns, that trigger happy bullshit is not tolerated'.

***Or at least we see a lot more of it because you make so many of our TV shows and movies and books.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Afternoon Puzzles

Dear police officers,

Why do you like setting up the breathalysing stations at 1pm on a Thursday?

I know Thursday is pay day for a lot of people but how many of them have managed to gather up their pay and get drunk by 1pm in the afternoon?

I know the point is to set up the stop points in unexpected places and at unexpected times so people can't prepare or anticipate or avoid you but when you set them up in places hardly anyone goes or at times when it is highly unlikely anyone would be pickled...

Do you actually want to catch anyone, police?

Or do you find it annoying and just want to meet your 'yes, I set up a bloody breathalyser station and tested people this bloody week' quota with as little paperwork required as possible?

Because almost every time I have to stop and puff into that little testing device it seems to be at a time of the day when you would not be netting a huge catch.

I'm not sure if I'd be more worried to find out that you were all fed up and listless and feeling unmotivated and unappreciated and just going through the motions or to find out that you are on the ball and there is an underacknowledged culture of morning and midday drinking that I have not heard about...

If it's the first, hey, you guys are doing good stuff, keep up the good work, you look cute in your checker-brimmed caps.

If it's the second, don't tell me, I'll just keep driving carefully and watching out for idiots and not worrying that the breakfast boozing population of Australian could wipe me out at any moment.