About thirty minutes ago, I wrote:
Today was packed so full of awesome I don’t have time to blog about it until tomorrow. It did involve coins in my bra, a chance re-meeting, six hours of fruitless lurking, a zombie apocalypse planning session with someone whose name I didn’t catch, and a perky song “based on a true story about when I fell down a cliff and broke both my legs, yaaay!”
Celia just microwaved spring rolls for my dinner. It’s 1:00am. I shall now elaborate on the above, while it’s fresh in my mind.
Since getting up at 4:30am last Friday, I’ve been given a year’s supply of mucus and headaches. Today, finally, I reached the point where I feel pretty okay physically. Mentally, I awoke feeling good. And the sky was sky-blue, which I like. “Sky-blue” is what I call accurate reporting.
I heartily enjoyed my first session, in which authors Carole Wilkinson and David Metzenthen talked about journeys. They were entertaining, and they’re also much older than me (which reduces the “crazed jealousy” effect you may have observed earlier).
Then I had six hours free, so I lurked in and around Federation Square and Swanson Street, smiling winningly at everyone who walked past in case they were a publisher. (Which they weren’t.) Although one guy asked me if I was “the drummer from last night”. (Which I’m not.) I also tried to look super publishable, while chowing down on lollies and contemplating the fact that I was within 7 days and within 500 metres of being in exactly the right place at the right time – but I might as well be back home in Canberra for all the good my general proximity was likely to do.
One view out of Federation Square:
During the lurking I investigated the RMIT Capitol Theatre, which was emphatically locked (with a chain). Since I was two hours early, this didn’t surprise me. I made friends with a volunteer half an hour later, and accidentally-on-purpose snuck inside, but (after discussing the zombie-friendly glass doors) I exited when it became clear I was Not Allowed. So I lurked some more. During that time I obeyed reader W’s suggestion that I do some flirting, and SMSed CJ asking what he was wearing (officially, today’s awesomeness is flirting). He said, “Black long-sleeve T-shirt, blue jeans, blue boxers, white socks, and a smile.”* There followed a series of SMSes that shall never ever be repeated, but made me giggle and blush a great deal. It was indeed awesome.
And there were horses (presumably placed here in case Crazy John gets a sudden cowboy urge):
Then I went back to the Capitol Theatre (now open to the general paying populace) and made another friend. While chatting with her, I glanced across the room.
“Huh,” I said, sitting back slowly. “I think that’s [name of YA publisher I talked to very briefly at the July con – my only direct point of contact with that extremely large publisher, ever]. Yep. Yep, it definitely is.”
And so I went and said hello a second time. The serendipity of that will stay with me. Saying hello to people in her particular line of work is ultimately what I’m here for. Thus, much yay. Sometimes, being within 7 days and 500 metres of a fateful meeting is enough.
That session was Cory Doctorow’s talk on Copyright versus Creativity, which was very funny and enlightening. He said (and I’m paraphrasing): 1. If someone puts a padlock on something that belongs to you and doesn’t give you a key – they’re not doing it for your benefit (copyright law that supposedly protects author ebooks also means the author themself is unable to legally lend their ebook to a friend – or put it on a different reader). 2. It’ s hard to monetise fame, but it’s impossible to monetise obscurity (just getting people reading your work at all is great – something I know very well, since my twitter tales are free). 3. Ideas don’t want to be free; people do (the internet is the ultimate in free speech – and will remain so whether we like it or not).
He also mentioned that DRMs are silly. And that if China can’t control the flow of information, NO-ONE can.
A gorgeous Helen Mirren lookalike (another friend I’ve picked up along the way – a startlingly classy one) and I intended to get dinner before going over to the Toff in Town for the launch of “Going Down Swinging” #30 (which, as I MAY have mentioned, I’m in – but as my leaner, meaner Felicity Bloomfield self, since there’s some tasteful evisceration involved. I’d call it steampunk horror, personally).
We ran out of time and had a “dinner” of sparkling white (hers) and Baileys-and-milk (why yes I *am* extra lactose intolerant lately, thanks for reminding me! Where were you five hours ago?) She took a good long look at the bar boy (who could have passed for 16 – and I know for a fact he doesn’t have chest hair) and said, “Ooh. I like *THAT*”
Ah, le travel experience. One day travelling throws you in the gutter of life to kick you in the face, and the next day you’re perving on the locals with a stunning 60-year old BFF.
And then the launch began, hosted by That Guy off Rockwiz (who enjoyed himself immensely). Helen Mirren was determined to get a good seat, so we sat directly in front of the stage – a position that I appreciated more and more as 150 people crammed in, including many standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the back, and half a dozen sitting squished between my legs and the stage. I’d already gotten overexcited and left all my worldly goods with the cloakroom – except my cash and cloakroom ticket, which I placed carefully in my bra (including the change from buying Baileys).
Strange things happened. It is, after all, a literary magazine. The room was decorated with words on the walls – some fragmented poem involving a butcher and candlewax and one or two naughty things.
Among an acapella poet duo (Miles Bartlett and Emily XYZ) and a lady who performed a poem about teen pregnancy (while 9 months committed to the role) was a sweaty man in a lime green frilly shirt. He was the best. Among other things, he performed two poems on getting drunk, wandering around Melbourne, and falling down. He paused partway through for a Napoleon Dynamite-style dance moment (and later on, a slow-motion bar brawl with an invisible opponent).
Best. Poems. Ever.
And then, when the magazine was officially launched, the promised music began. The group was Flap. The sound was swing. And the last vestige of my resistance to Melbourne’s charm fell away. http://www.myspace.com/weflapon
There were five:
The shrugging drummer.
The double-base player with the old-style paperboy hat (he was tall, but not as tall as the double bass).
The frenetic violinist with the Great Big Bushy Beard and mad, shadow-rimmed eyes (he looked exactly like a bushranger who’s been alone in the desert a week too long – and also had a Marvin the Martian shirt).
The male singer and trumpeteer, who wore a tight-fitting Hawaiian shirt and looked deceptively sleepy, but played and sang with a hypnotising intensity. His voice was like a cat in the sun: relaxed perfection – but you know that if you touched it wrong, you’d die.
And the female singer, who wore a sailor dress (with full and sagging pockets) and red boots – who was bonde, with blue eyes and dimples, and who played the banjo. Her voice was like a kitten: soft and adorable, and even the bites feel good. She’s the one who said, “that song was based on a true story about when I fell down a cliff and broke both my legs, yaaay!”
The guy sang a song inviting us to his funeral. That was fun too. And the rest.
“Tomorrow is a FAT man. . . with no arms or legs.
Tomorrow is a FAT man. . . with no arms or legs. . .”
This was one of those bands that speaks to each other without words, and loves one another intently. They laughed and played and laughed for joy, and they rocked out at one another’s solos. As the crowd thinned to merely packed, I put my feet on the stage, letting the sound shake my ankles and knees as I began to shiver from cold (and not care a bit). Writers often run seminars on knowing your “voice” – that band knows their voice. Especially the crazy-eyed bushranger violinist, the sleepily intense trumpeteer, and the banjo-playing sailor girl who laughed and wrong a song when she couldn’t walk. If people like THAT can exist – and exist so very well – then so can I.
I suspect the violinist was the greatest musician among them. The music of him cut and screamed and shook, and it was good. That’s how violins were played in the Garden of Eden – before sin was invented, when no-one knew what pain was.
In tribute to this month’s “Killer Robot Cat” tale, here’s a link to a fabulously creepy article on actual CIA technology using cats – it does involve animal cruelty, so consider yourself warned.
*I only just realised that he apparently doesn’t wear shoes to work
It’s now 2am so I’m going to sleep. I’ll edit this and post it tomorrow. Oh! And add photos. Here’s the Yarra River, which is perfectly easy to find when you’re not having a panic attack:
Tomorrow (I’m writing this tomorrow, which is to say today, now I’ve woken up):
My nephew is five years old. He hasn’t benefited the world in any way, and nor does he need to – ever. It’s perfectly easy for anyone to understand that his life is valuable regardless of what he does or doesn’t do with it. I’d never expect him to justify his existence to anyone – that’s ludicrous.
My own life is a different story. The true reason I’m so devastated about not being published is that I have to change the world. If I don’t change the world for the better, I don’t deserve to live. So being too sick (anxiety disorder, aka mad as a spoon) to even pay my share of the rent makes me a negative force – someone the world is better off without.
This is particularly difficult since 2006 when I gave up my rather self-flagellating goal of moving to a slum in Indonesia to teach English to street kids. How could I possibly stomach letting those kids die in poverty so I could write stupid books about farting and pirates? (And yes, my books are a positive thing – unlike, say, “Twilight” – but they’re not going to save lives or transform slums.)
I was about twenty when I was able to intellectually understand that third world poverty wasn’t personally my fault. I had a few good years (psychologically speaking), and then I became mentally ill and rewinded my happiness to my teen years – but without the prop of my precious future slum to help me.
I feel angry at CJ every day, because he simply accepts his existence as a good thing, and doesn’t need to think about it at all. While I feel guilty for existing. It drives me. . . well, crazy.
This morning as I made weetbix sandwiches (peanut butter and honey, my peeps – try it) I still had Flap in my head, and the sheer beauty of seeing an honest and whole-hearted existance. For the first time in six years, I thought, “My life doesn’t have to mean something. I can just do what I feel like, because I feel like it.” This was so unusual I quickly sat down to try to catch the thought in words.
The spectre of mournful Indonesian kids immediately rose before me, familiar as my own face (and innacurate – all the slum kids I’ve met were normal kids, not angry ghosts). And I suddenly both knew and believed (because it’s just obvious) that they do not deserve the power to make me unhappy.
Can I hold that thought in my head, and actually enjoy my life for the non-heroic, non-epic kinda nice thing that it is?
Maybe I can.
And all because of a mad violinist bushranger and a pretty banjo girl in a sailor dress.