April 27, 2005

Chaos descends

Thursday, 21 April 2005

An email came out of the blue from Mum & Dad, telling me that Dadís got bowel cancer. Too early to say how bad it is, heíll have to go for a colonoscopy on Tuesday. I phoned him and heís very calm about the whole thing, though it looks like heís finally been prompted to retire from work. Heíll be in for chemotherapy which could make him sick for a few months. He said there was no need for me to rush back to NZ just yet Ė but I did take it as an excuse to have the next couple of days off work. Seems like a Gordian Knot solution to the work problems this week. I now have four and a half days free, which is time to fish around for another job, find a musical instrument and get my head sorted out. Iím on the train back to Melbourne as I write this.

25 April 2005

OK so Iíve had my long weekend off. I donít feel entirely rested because Iím extremely nervous about work this week. I could get my ass kicked trying to sell door to door in Melbourne. Iíve been in Australia just over a month and am back to where I was at the beginning, facing the prospect of having to go home early if my savings run out.

I have improved my overall situation outside of work though Ė I went and bought myself a banjo, so I donít have the frustration of not being able to play music. I spent a large chunk of the weekend teaching myself to play my new toy. I like the feel of it, and in a way itís easier to get motivated to practice than guitar. Next I have to figure out a way of playing live and taking it to an audience.

The banjo is proving very satisfying so far, though with the open chord tuning (ie if you strum all the strings without fretting any notes you get a G chord, whereas on guitar you get some kind of weird Em7+11) it is a little too tempting to get into a modal groove and stay there forever, and it probably takes a bit more effort to play something that's not in G. I should be able to figure out how to transfer any of my own songs to banjo, so it'll be good for playing live. It doesn't necessarily sound bluegrass - Mike had a go and made it sound Chinese, and there's an American banjoist Eugene Chadbourne (one of John Zorn's buddies) who likes to play Bach on it as it sounds like a harpsichord. Unlike a harpsichord though it can play loud or quiet, so there's a full dynamic range - it doesn't have as many low notes as a guitar though, so might sound best with some kind of bass accompaniment. Maybe for a solo act I could make backing tracks for myself on the computer and play banjo with it - could be great for hypnotic one-chord stuff. But right now my fingers are starting to get sore - a month without playing has left them soft.

As for my other music playlist, I've been getting into Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. Some of his stuff's a bit bland but this is a really interesting album, made when he was 23 (an important age for making bold original statements). The instrumentation is acoustic guitar plus woodwinds and strings - meandering arrangements, oblique lyrics, and his vocal style is pretty full on, so right up my alley.

On Saturday I went with Mike and Cynthia to the Dandenong Ranges for a bushwalk. This involved getting a train from Brunswick to the main terminus at Flinders Street, from there one stop to Richmond, changing train and going to Burnley, getting on a bus from Burnley to Box Hill, then another train from Box Hill to Ferntree Gully. This took 1Ĺ to 2 hours and we had to repeat the process getting back. The walk was good, though having been walking on flat ground the whole time here I found the hills surprisingly hard on my calves. Australian eucalypt forest looks, sounds and smells quite different from NZ podocarp or beech. Other things like street crossing signals, driving on the left and speaking English are the same, but the trees & birds are something else.

Today I got up early for the ANZAC service at the Shrine of Remembrance, but of course not quite early enough and just missed the train, so that the ceremony was ending as I got there. I can report that there were thousands of people gathered, and thereís been a lot of media hype about it for the past week or two. It does seem to be emphasised more than in NZ Ė maybe itís just a more militaristic country, with troops in Iraq and the police carry guns. None of my family were soldiers; Iím not sure how to feel about the whole ceremony other than my usual paranoid sense of alienation/exclusion from the great mass of humanity there. Baked beans with sausages and egg were being served for breakfast Ė not my favourite food, Iím in love with the Turkish and Lebanese food places near my flat in Brunswick. Things like olives and feta cheese are actually affordable here!

Tuesday, 26 April 2005

Time to get up for work. Really all I have to do is speak to people with authority about green electricity (and donít give them room to manoeuvre and say no). I might even be able to use my nationality as an advantage Ė play the clean green image card. About a third of people I spoke to over the last couple of weeks spotted my accent even when I couldnít hear it. If I have to read out a number seex on the bill that gives it away. Anyway, see how it goes. Isnít courage being afraid and doing it anyway? Thereís a message to take from the ANZACs.

Today itís also my Dadís appointment to get a colonoscopy to find out how bad the cancer is. Best wishes Dad, Iím thinking of youÖ


Two sales today, or $46 Ė not enough to live off, let alone save. Theyíve moved us from visiting existing gas customers to cold-calling new doors. Personally I didnít find it any harder than last week, but most peopleís numbers have dropped and mine were lame enough already. I like the work itself but I simply canít afford to keep on with it. Iíve also been getting a bit of athleteís foot from walking around in my tramping boots all day every day. As it is, no major regrets though Ė itís been an interesting set of experiences, seeing parts of Australia that are off the tourist routes, and even generated some material for writing. Thereís actually a good comedic film script in there if I can apply myself to it.

Dad had his colonoscopy but we wonít know the results for another week or so.

As for me Ė back to square one. Jobhunting. All fingers fervently crossed...

Posted by fiffdimension at April 27, 2005 12:07 PM | TrackBack

Sorry to hear about your Dad - keep him positive if you can, the power of mind over body is all-important in these cases.

Astral Weeks is a classic - apparently VM recorded the vocals on his own, and then the musicians improvised with it after - top jazzers at that, including Connie Kay from MJQ and Richard Davis who played with Eric Dolphy on Out to Lunch.

Good luck

Posted by: Joe W at April 28, 2005 09:28 AM

All the best for your Dad, Dave. Yea, Astral Weeks is a pretty good album.

Posted by: arcite at April 28, 2005 11:29 AM

Oh dude, sorry to hear about your dad. Get in touch with the Cancer Society (via their website in NZ, or the eqivalent over there) because they are great with information and practical support.

Posted by: phreq at April 28, 2005 05:17 PM

eep, sorry. have been crazy crazy busy, only time i get near the internet is when i'm at school :/

the cds never arrived - i meant to tell you that i went looking for 128 aro st and it doesn't exist - presumably the cds got return-to-sender'd?

as for the stuff we did with Nigel and Simon - i haven't seen Nigel in ages, may go visiting this weekend, if i do i'll try and get a copy, get him to pass one on to you too.

will reply to your emails at some stage, promise.

Posted by: Damian at April 29, 2005 02:28 PM

I'm so sorry too, that's really full on. I hope he'll be ok.

Posted by: Fi at April 30, 2005 01:27 AM
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