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The big Apple: Week 10: Blogging for survival

I hadn’t intended to engage in multinational corporate sabotage. It was purely circumstantial.

I was thinking about meeting my friend, discovering the easts and wests of the New York streets, getting lost and being found again. The Public Library, Grand Central Station, Times Square, shopping, eating and inhaling the life of the city. Today I was Lisa the trashy tourist and at days end I expected to have a full SD card and a plastic statue of Liberty.

We both started the day at different ends of New York, hoping to collide somewhere in the middle. She was in Manhattan and I was in the Bronx. Not so hard for a New Yorker. Mission incredible for us two. We both suffered from being newly arrived and topographically disorientated. She struggled with up and down and I struggled with north and south. Remarkably, we did find each other, breathless from running the wrong way up streets and red faced from getting lost.

I ate a hearty breakfast when I arrived, realising you needed a steak and a protein shake before you head across town. Deb consoled herself with a strong coffee. I threw a bottle of sparkling mineral water in my bag. On reflection I should have taken her lead.  

We stepped out together in weather that wasn’t rated in the Luxe guide. A confection of drizzle and heat which turned New York into moody musical, all damp with not much song. The general air of helpfulness that had infused my interactions with the city evaporated in the steamy angst of trying to stay stylish while being saunaed in your clothes. 

New York first became suspicious of me when I entered the map room in the public library. A beautiful and rarefied space filled with the cartography of history. And people. Quietly considering their place in the universe. Very quietly. Actually silently. And my shoes. Somehow they had managed to trap a greedy portion of the city’s rainfall inside them. And they set up a squeaky, watery addition to the musical just as I stepped into the room. Assuming the benign smile of the overly medicated I walked around the room. It was slightly strained.

Next stop was Grand Central Station. We accosted an office worker on a cigarette break to ask directions. In a Peter Stuyvesant fog she mouthed the word ‘east’ and pointed languidly in the general direction of God.  Sure enough at the nexus of uncertainty and imminent melt down we arrived. And tumbled through the entrance in a festival of ‘we found it’!

It does have an air of grandness. I sought a vantage point from which I could capture the picture that already existed in my visual memory. The moment is poignant. When life meets cultural icon. I breathed it in. This is the electricity that generates future hope. That one lifetime has an endless supply of awesome.

I ran up the stairs. And into the newest Apple flagship store. It is expensively understated. No walls, no garish advertising. Just glass and technology. And the greys and the blacks of the New York uniform. Stylish, well groomed and well heeled. It took me a moment to try and comprehend what kind of post colonial treaty had been bargained with the people of New York to claim this prestigious shop front. But I’ve never been good at world domination.

Now that I had stopped running I needed to catch my breath. I already felt a little conspicuous standing amongst the iPads. Panting. With the large sign on me that read ‘yep, not from around these parts’. I thought I could strike a more casual pose so the laser beams could turn on someone else. I pulled out my mineral water. 

I’m not sure of the physics of it all. How one small bottle of water, when shaken, has a force multiplier of infinity. It was amazing. It just spread so far. Onto so many things. So many really expensive things. One composure shattering drop at a time. My suffering was short lived. Quietly, without ceremony, a cleaner appeared with a large mop. And mopped me back down the stairs.

I guess only some of us are naked in the Garden.


Waiting for what gods know.Week 2:Blogging for survival.

Today I’m waiting.

Every day has a little bit of waiting. It’s the density of the time that matters. Today it’s like mud cake. Leaden, dark, eaten with regret. It sticks in my throat and I need a drink of water before I can form words again. Mud cake waiting.

Last week while I waited, I read a delicious Murakami novel, the quality of my poise heightened by a chain smoking Japanese detective looking for a star marked sheep with tendencies towards world domination. This week, in my haste to wait, I choose a novel set in the dusty Australian outback. All dry, with laconic men and women who don’t brush their hair. I start to sweat. I could be here all day.

My synapses snap. Biting back against the bondage of this book and this place. And yet I must wait. Monkey mind turns inward to the memories of feeling. To the locus of the waiting stories. To add another layer of sedimentary evidence to the fossil record. Of how I have lived with waiting.

I think of when waiting has nearly undone me with pleasure. As a child before Christmas, for my turn on the swing with my father pushing me into the sky, for dessert, for a sleepover, for Sunday when I could wear my new shoes with the big bows on them, for my baby brother to be born and for my own room.

As an adolescent I waited with anticipation for permission to do the things my older sister did, to get my ears pierced, to spend my pocket money on records, and stay up late. I didn’t wait for a boyfriend but when he came, I waited for him to go away. I waited an agonisingly long half moment for popularity and was surprised by the joy of beloved and singular friendship instead.

In my adulthood waiting comes to call with a litany of specters. I have waited for word from a lover lost in freewheeling adventure, and for my child to tell me he is safe, for a Doctor to say ‘it’s nothing serious’ and for the figs to ripen on the branch. For summer to end and then for winter to end. For a heartbreak to heal and a cake to rise. And for what gods know.

It is not uncommon in my part of the world for people to ask themselves a rhetorical question: “And what was I waiting for? God knows!” or to say “God knows what I was waiting for”. Elongating the knows and emphasising it with heavy Australian drawl. As I sit here today, in my mud cake waiting, I ponder. Does God know? This is not a theological rumination on my part. This is a reflection on the quality of my waiting. While my fossil record will clearly show an egregious placement of artifacts sifted from sadness and pleasure, it will never show that I waited for God knows what.

Waiting is a bitingly human conundrum. And while we might wait until the weather clears or the rain falls or the world turns, we are waiting so we can do our next bit of being human. Eating, sleeping, working, driving, performing, harvesting, droving, mining, filming, gardening, kissing, camping, playing the ukulele, skydiving, investing in the stock market, whatever. The gods don’t bother that much with finding out what the heck I’m waiting for and the feeling is pretty mutual.

Something always happens to end waiting. Always. Even if it is a long wait, a lifetime maybe. And that’s what we wait for. The end of waiting.

And perhaps that is what gods know.

The absolution of water

If I was to count the hours spent at my kitchen sink it would total the lifetime of most small to medium sized animals. It would surpass the lifespan of any insect, and it would make a laughing stock of the usual life expectancy of any modern technology. In my reckoning its right up there with the time it takes to break down uranium waste and disposable nappies.

My reckoning of the lives spent at the kitchen sink, comes with a rhetorical question. Why? Apart from the obvious: washing dishes, rinsing vegetables and filling kettles, why do lives get consumed and exhausted in this domestic water ritual?

As I prepare for the ritual by donning gloves and anointing with dishwashing liquid my mind seamlessly turns to other times, other memories. I remember speaking to my mother’s back as she vigourously scrubbed some baked on grime, confessing first loves, petty misdemeanors and private longings. I also recall taking side swipes at my sister for sneaking out of the house without our parent’s knowledge while we stood at the sink. And then there were the confessions that were made to me, as I pretended to be transfixed by the very same ritual. Moments of life. Moments that were as spontaneous as they were orchestrated. Moments that required the absolution of water.

I now smile ruefully at the emerging lingua franca of the sink. Domestic goddesses abound. Yet our collective mythologies have always provided us with water deities, gods drawn from water, born in water and mastering water, or trying to. Who is god without water?

Rather than a question on the existence of god, it is a musing on the sacred act of everyday life. For if my divinity has been experienced at my kitchen sink, then it has been time well spent.

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