soundtrack : björk - unravel (acoustic)
i am not fond of the journey as a metaphor but what i am fond of is a ‘real’ journey functioning as one. this one has all the ingredients: i’ve just turned 60 — 44 years ago i left utrecht and two l o n g years ago i finally came back. and now, deep in the midst of a critical personal emergency, i’m returning to australia — perhaps just briefly, but make me an offer — to reconnect with old friends, ex-friends, ex-lovers, ex-collaborators — and places. perhaps they can make me feel like i exist.
there is one person in particular. she’s the reason i decided to go now. i hope she’s still alive when i get there.
it’s a long way and i don’t know what i am going to find there and i don’t know what’s going to be here when i get back.
how could something interesting enough to write about not happen?
suddenly i begin to feel like i am already going — two years later and seven days before i go, i am already on my way back.
there is a lot to be done, the packing, the making of the place less uninhabitable for an Other, and a thesis in theology — or cosmotheopoetics 🙂 — to finish. well now there is an unexpected development.
someone asks : what is my intention?
i only believe in kali just before going on a big journey. maybe it’s not too late.
maybe i’ll just press ‘send’.
thesis breakthrough. that doesn’t sound very interesting and it isn’t but i can’t go on this journey until i finish the bastard.
i visited mother to say goodbye. there is so much to say about mothers. she was noticeably more clingy than usual. she gave me three handkerchiefs, used but washed obviously and beautifully ironed, in a box with some money and a little note saying, ‘mothers used to ask their sons when they travelled if they had a clean handkerchief and some money — so now you’ve got both.’
mother asked me to email her. at 83 she is proud of her ability to send and receive emails and look things up on google. she says, ‘old people can look things up on google too you know’ if someone tries to pull the wool over here eyes.
i read an article which claims that now google is god. if you look at google trends you can see that googling ‘god’ is far less common than googling ‘google’. as a (post)atheist i can understand why someone would google ‘god’ — but googling ‘google’? anyway since when did the number of google searches determine the divine status of something.
i could send mother the url of this blog but i think i would write less freely.
whilst visiting mother the postman delivered a parcel which had been deemed lost and i received a nice email from someone in response to one i sent weeks ago and had forgotten about. someone else sent me an aeroplane letter, a phenomenon i had not encountered before. the thing about it is that you’re not supposed to open it until you are on the plane. i wonder if the letter inside says ‘i told you you weren’t supposed to open it until you are on the plane!’
for years you travelled to europe from australia in the middle of summer when it was 40 or 35 degrees and you would land in the gloomy dutch landscape where it might be 5 or 1 degrees. it was like a parallel universe. and then at the other end of 4 or 6 weeks you would head back to australia. and when you get off the little plane at wagga airport the heat would hit you like a ton of bricks. it would be like you’d landed, not in hell, but on some hot distant planet. and it was.
A cool change came during the night, I think I’d just managed to fall asleep. My body has been listening with every pore for each tiny breath of slightly cooler air and sucking it in — and then suddenly whoosh!
It can make you weep with gratitude to get some relief from the heat. You knew that from Australia, but Australian heat is different. The Australians, the trees, the rocks, the very ground you walk on, is used to it, accepts it, is part of it. Here it is foreign and strange and everything and everyone objects.
i’ve spoken at length (to some people) about why i love rain, each individual drop says ‘you exist’— and this morning it came, they came. the drought is not over by any means but after days or weeks of a heatwave and facing the abyss, being in it — and when i was not in it, alternating between staring into it and turning my back on it, i love each and every one of those raindrops and i am being loved by them.
mother remembers how hot the sun felt on her skin in the summer of 1944. it was a race between 2018 and 1944 for the hottest temperature ever recorded in the netherlands. 1944 won by 0.2 degrees.
i looked everywhere for the blood moon but to no avail.
the thesis is done and gone. did i mention i have another assignment to hand in before i go?
maybe it would be good to hole up in these woods for a month when i get back to old europe…?
thesis done ✅
last submission done ✅
theology cosmotheopoetics finished ✅
there was a friend i was going to australia hoping to see one last time, but she is dead now.
she died looking at the lunar eclipse.
they’re going to let me say a few words at the wake. i will have to try and not say something about the ten to the power of 500 universes and the eleven dimensions — but i have asked if it would be ok for me to mention that she ended her own life.
it will be a stonking relief to get the hell out of here but i am looking forward to coming back more than i am to going — i expect that will dissipate once the plane takes off … and i can finally open my aeroplane letter!
20:50 : last sunlight in utrecht
i think i’m ready. but … what does being ready entail exactly?
6:21 am i am ready oh lord.
(btw fyi : i don’t really believe in god
but i’m sure he doesn’t mind —
nor do i really believe in coen verbraak
and neither do i expect him to mind — i still
watch his programme and yell why don’t you
shut the fuck up and let them
finish what they’re saying, at the TV.)
willem gelooft ook niet in god of trouwens : nergens in. (“een klein beetje in mezelf…”)
in het nederlands you can say,
when you don’t believe in anything
’ i ‘believe in nowhere’
or in nothing, it’s up to you.
tonight i get on a plane to abu dhabi but first i get on a train to go and see my long suffering parents.
i arrive in Abu Dhabi.
i spend 10 hours in the Aerotel Aiport hotel in Abu Dhabi.
i arrive in Melbourne.
I am awake at 4:38.
Sad facts discovered on returning to Australia #001 :
My team are the premiers and they’re a game clear at the top of the ladder but I don’t like going to the footy anymore. This is not nostalgie but simple fact : Footy used to be a bunch of boofy blokes running out onto a paddock and kicking the ball and people yelling at them. Now it’s like a fucking tV show and here I am sitting in the MCG getting yelled at by ‘commentators’ in between quarters. The players are ‘media personalities’. I think I preferred my team when they were gallant losers. And they were nearly that last night, except not so gallant. They didn’t look like the best team in the league. They looked like they were dialling it in. Only Rioli looked busy and into it. And Jack Riewoldt of course. He always does. But you can see he thinks he’s a star now. The problem is both a blessing and a curse : if you’re successful, you start to believe in your ‘self’. In our culture believing in yourself is supposed to be a good thing. In fact it is everything. But there is a problem and it is two-fold:
- Actually ‘you’ (as in ‘i’ or ich) don’t exist and
- You’re never as good as you think you are.
It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful clear Melbourne winter’s day.
on australian tv : ‘financial well-being’ tips from middle class american expert person with expensive hair and teeth : pay off debts, don’t have coffee out as often, have holidays in australia.
ha ha ha
Today is a rest day. A sleeping day. And an eating day hopefully. One of the exciting features of jet lag is that you don’t want to eat when there’s an opportunity to eat and you can’t predict when you’ll be ravenously hungry, but it’s usually not long after there was an opportunity to eat. I did have the foresight yesterday to call into Babka and purloin a Turkish bread for which I was grateful when I woke up at 04:35 today. All in all I’ve been in pretty good shape considering — if a little teary.
Yesterday I was reunited with a friend who confessed how angry she had been with me for leaving Melbourne. I was overcome with emotion and speechless, which is unusual for me. She said, here I was thinking you loved Melbourne, and I said, well I do. And I think now you mention it, I might be angry with myself for leaving, but that ship has sailed, the bird has flown, it’s water under the bridge. And now I’m trapped in Europe.
Jeez the Yarra river runs fast over by the Abbotsford Convent.
I love it there.
I did the radio interview. It went OK I think, considering I’m pretty jet lagged. The interviewer was nice but she took the approach of sticking to the questions she had prepared and not engaging with or responding to my answers which makes it a bit like you are talking into a vacuum. It wasn’t live to air but live to tape, as it were, which is the worst of both worlds really but it cuts down on production time. Still if it had been live to air it would have been fine. The real problem with radio is that you can’t easily do silences because people wil think there is something wrong with their radio. And I use silence in conversations, not only as a tool, but to take thinking time when answering a question. So in the interview I either didn’t get the opportunity to finish what I was saying or I was brief in my response so I wouldn’t get interrupted. The programme is called Reflections and it will be broadcast and available online in October here
the condemned man ate a hearty meal of lasagna at d.o.c in carlton and it made him very happy.
a smooth flight to canberra.
a nice walk by the lake. cold!
a mob of kangaroos … flocks of screeching cockatoos … deep deep red … crimson rosellas is what they must be! and i thought i saw a platypus swimming. my friend said it was ‘just’ a big water rat but he didn’t even see it.
after a not too bad sleep, a not too strenuous just long enough to feel like i got some exercise hike in the namadgi national park with my friend. it was awesome, humongous rocks, not another human being to be seen anywhere, just lots and lots of kangaroos, some quite curious. complete silence, except for the birds and the rushing of the leaves in the majestic gums and our conversation, which was wide ranging with no topic off limits. ok yes that’s code for : we talked about sex.
snow! well we are in the australian ‘alps’ after all. such a pity they couldn’t come up with a better name for this mountain range.
on the balcony of the apartment where i’m staying there is an image of ganesh the elephant god. good work hindus! a god of beginnings (and a remover of obstacles) is an awesome idea. apparently the direction in which the trunk is pointing is significant but no one can tell me what a left pointing trunk … um … entails.
the last day in melbourne*
25 in sydney today but i am not in sydney, yet. melbourne is grey and windy and 12 degrees.
i am reunited with my computer* (which was not in fact stolen but left at the security check canberra airport) and ready for the last day of the first half of the trip. tomorrow i break up camp and leave melbourne for the last time and begin moving north.
*apparently no one says ‘computer’ anymore. i am a fossil.
- why have you stopped writing your travel journal? someone asks.
- wow someone is reading it! and checking to see if it has been updated…
well yes, i have been spasmodic with my updating. there is so little time and i am writing, but publishing your writing is a big responsibility. i plan to update the in-between days as time permits and i’ll keep the journal going, at least for a while, when i get back to europe because in some important ways the real journey will begin when i am back there — but for now, today, here, i am in sydney breaking up camp and moving to lithgow in the blue mountains. there is one week left in australia. ganesh has been and is being kind to me, as has kali, in a myriad of small ways.
ps you can blame the australian writer robert dessaix and his book what days are for for getting me started calling on hindu gods when on a journey. i asked the publisher to send him a copy of my book and he emailed a note of thanks. i am thrilled that my book is somewhere on robert dessaix’s bookshelf.
lithgow : a change is gonna come
in the café i say to him: if you can be quiet and listen you’ll hear one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded in the entire history of human culture — and he listens but really the volume is too low: to experience the sublimity of this song you need to hear the voice of otis redding, and the brass section, soar.
turn it up, bartender!
is i’ve been loving you (too long) about the inverse situation? or about what happens next, or what happened before? listen. the definitive version of that song for me is from his performance at monterey in 1967.
lord have mercy.
the last day. that was not a holiday but an endurance test.
day one the second
well i am here but that is all that can be said about it.
i think my jetlag may have receded a little.
how do you give feedback on air b&b which is not mean but which still more or less accurately reflects your experience?
you could critique the ad:
- in the ad you should say not that you have renovated the house yourself, but that you are in the process of renovating it and quite a bit remains to be done. you might add that the neighbours too are renovating their place themselves so expect powertools and hammering noise and other blokes noise on the weekend and in the evenings.
- where in the ad it says “there is a fireplace” you should add “but you can’t use it because there are problems with the chimney.”
- the ad should say : the place is absolutely chockers with my stuff so there is nowhere to hang or store your clothes.
or is that too mean?
a long walk in the forest
i didn’t reach the forest
the forest reached me…
the sound of acorns falling :
plop plop plop-pop
(the latter from a sudden small breeze)
another walk in a different forest
i was looking for an entrance to the kingdom of the fairies — it’s supposed to be where you can see a circle of fairy ring champignons (or scotch bonnets) growing but perhaps i have to come back after the rain.
Nostalgie: “Hoe sneller de tijd naar ons gevoel gaat, hoe vaker we een verfraaid verleden oproepen, constateerde cultuurhistoricus Olivier Rieter. De term nostalgie stamt pas uit de 17de eeuw en had destijds meer de betekenis van heimwee. ‘Nostalgie is een vlucht in de veronderstelde veiligheid van het verleden. Het verleden wordt verfraaid, er wordt naar believen in geschrapt en er worden dingen aan toegevoegd zodat we ons er behaaglijk bij voelen. Ik heb het daarom over nostalgieën, omdat er heel veel verschijningsvormen zijn, van vintage tot re-enactments, van Boer zoekt Vrouw tot de sepiagloed die over hedendaagse foto’s wordt gelegd, van nieuwbouwwijken in retrostijl tot museale reconstructies van de jaren vijftig — die trouwer aan het verleden zijn dan het verleden zelf.’” link↩