Sarah Jane Doe

Monthly Archives: June 2012

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Throwing up is hard to do

Fresh ginger and Leatherman multi-tool

See this picture? Yeah. Two days in to some nau-sea-sickness, I took this picture to document my beautiful, natural Ubudian recovery. I had fallen, sure, but I was on the mend. At that stage I liked to think the fall had been a controlled descent. I did my best to lie down gracefully with my feet elevated after throwing up my bright green salad lunch and a double-cold-pressed-cashew-milk-coffee in Alchemy, wherein my super-cool author lady luncheon companion Sarah did me the supreme honour of turning promptly from willowy, hilarious glamourati into level-headed-mother-of-young-child-used-to-dealing-with-vom, and arranged an immediate and graceful evactuation of the premises.

I went home and vomited a lot more. I’m not a vomiter. It’s hard for me. Takes a long time. I spend hours adrift on the Sea of Nau before the main event. A day passed. I began to get extremely thirsty. My lips chapped. Every swallow of water made the sly promise of staying down only to collect into enough volume for a high-velocity torrent a few hours later. I took the anti-emetic Stemetil that I had wisely packed for a tropical excursion (despite only having suffered ‘traveller’s sickness’ three times in fifteen years and countless trips overseas) and threw those up too, until none remained. Thirstier and thirstier, I looked at the rattan ceiling and composed impassioned correspondence to the manufacturers of Stemetil suggesting fundamental changes in their delivery method. Topical lotions, single-use-syringes, fast dissolving wafers. Eye-drops. Lip-balm.

At the point where my eyes had begun to shrink into their sockets and my pee was clinking into the bowl as crystals of uric acid, I summoned the fortitude to look at my swimming computer screen and Google ‘how keep watr dwn f ur dyin’ and the wisdom of the internet responded with ‘small spoonfuls water’. The internet also delivered a truly terrible story of two Canadian sisters who had just died in their hotel room in Thailand and – because I catastrophise, especially when ill – I went down a black, black hole of what-ifs that only ended once I remembered I had repatriation insurance so at least my pale little body wouldn’t cost anyone money to ship it home.

Then I cried. Well, I tried too, but I had no water for tears. The internet said this phenomenon is followed shortly by death. I screamed (whimpered) for my housekeeper Nyoman, who came in tut-tuting with a flask of boiling water and some ginger and rosella tea. He changed my sheets and cleaned my bathroom with surgical attention, and sent my clothes off to the Ubud Eco laundry, because y’all might remember from previous posts about my first world problems that the toxic-avenger smells of the detergents they use in Indonesia make me gag even on a strong stomach.

I started to feel better. Determined to Definitely Not Be Ill Like Losers Who Aren’t Real Travellers And Such, I took myself on a small quivering excursion to Bali Buddha, where I bought some organic ginger. Once home, I remembered I’d packed my favourite multi-tool, the Leatherman aka ‘Leathery’, and peeled the ginger and took this smug picture of my clever, natural, grown-up approach to wellness and self-sufficiency.

At about 3 a.m. (nothing good ever, ever happens at 3 a.m. unless you are on your honeymoon) I had a seizure. Before I could think what to do next, I had another one. As it subsided, I realised my body was so indescribably freezing that I needed to get extra blankets, jeans, my leather jacket – possibly lie under the mattress itself – all things which were not possible because my limbs were now suffering intermittent spasms like the aftershocks of a powerful earthquake that I had no option but to ride out in cold, dark terror. I thought about the Canadian girls and I thought about my family and I thought about how nothing like this had happened to me before and I thought about how human I was and how small I was and I called for my Mum in my head and I said the Boy’s name aloud to prove I was real and then I passed out.

Was this overly dramatic? Hilarious in hindsight? I’m not so sure. I don’t think I know where the edge is with illness anymore. I do know I woke up. A day later. On my back. In a watery gruel of feces. Cheeks plastered with vomit that I was very lucky not to aspirate. The pain in my muscles and bones was like nothing I’ve imagined in the realm of natural illness. I was surprised they could bear my now 52 kilo frame. This, along with the sudden plummet of core temperature, spelled dengue ‘bone-break’ fever to the admitting hospital, but no rash developed so they didn’t test for it. There’s a current outbreak and the only treatment is ‘fluids’ anyway. They sent me home.

I got worse. I went back. They tested my blood for bacteria. They tested my poo by handing me a pair of disposable gloves and a plastic jar and asking me to ‘shit in my hand’ and wipe it in the container. The toilet was dirty, the walls were peeling. They offered to hospitalise me and I responded the best way I knew how. I threw up on their floor and went home again. On the way home I checked my phone and the picture of the ginger and knife flashed up. It looked like my intestines and what was happening to them. It became totemic of my failure and misery. It made me throw up to look at. It made me throw up every time I thought about it. I tried to delete it and failed at even that.

Over the next five days lots of people helped me. I emailed the test results to my two mates who happen to be a boyfriend/girlfriend trainee-doctor-duo who tag-teamed a long distance diagnoses and prescribed the magical tummy-bomb Flagyl that worked overnight. Despite enduring non-stop nausea of the kind documented by my pregnant friends that made me swear with every wobbly breath that I’d never allow myself to get knocked up, the fact that one of these doctor friends is going to be a pediatrician also made me swear to have children just so they can get sick and I can take them to her.

The Boy called my sister-in-love, who went straight from handing in her final essays for her postgrad on-something-too-complex-for-me-to-understand to a medical center, where she talked a doctor into the codeine and Stemetil not available in this country. She got on a plane with them and arrived expecting to nurse me instead of hang by the pool in matching bikinis as planned, without so much as a shrug. Every member of my family who knew, every friend at home, every new friend in Ubud – all of them flooded my online areas with goodwill and love. Thanks all. Thanks and thanks and thanks.

And sorry I didn’t respond. It’s just that throwing up is hard to do.

 

Home in away

hydrangeas in ubud

Every morning I wake up in away. Far, far away. Mornings are my favourite time of the day in Ubud. The light is brilliant, faceted, aquamarine. The air is always perfectly still, scented with the incense and petals arranged on thousands of tiny, banana-leaf-plate offerings made to The Gods Who Eat Flowers For Breakfast. Roosters are laughing, hens are chuckling, and doves with giant bells round their neck are humming softly. Dogs set off trotting on adventure, and on my way to second breakfast, I invariably pass a cat with the wind up its pants, whipping through a paddy chasing butterflies and trying not to get its feet wet.

My bright rubber thongs flap along past freshly washed doorways on quiet streets, and most stores are still sleeping with signs saying ‘we’re open when we’re open’. My spot at Bar Luna is always free, waiting for me under overhanging masses of passionflowers. Children walk past in adorable school uniforms, giggling and singing and disappearing into laneways. A little boy casually puts a wooden flute to his lips and produces an exotic tune so magical and deep that I want to snap every plastic recorder in the Australian primary school system and replace them. Immediately. Away gives home such a beating sometimes.

But coming to the end of my first month here in Ubud, I’ve found home sneaking in here and there. I have taken to buying bunches of hydrangeas at the morning fresh food markets. These giant pastel stems look as incongruous as I do next to all the bright oranges and reds of the tropical fruit and flowers. I had no idea they even grew here. They look like summer holidays at my Nan’s house, and my bedside at home in Alfred Cottage.  I put them in my Ubud bathroom and their big puffy faces never fail to make me smile.

I’ve ferreted out the only three coffee spots capable of producing a cup like Fitzroy’s finest (Bar Luna, F.R.E.A.K. and Seniman) and find I can no longer start my away day without a strong home latte. Piling two teaspoons of rough brown crystals (or lumps of sticky palm sugar at F.R.E.A.K) on to the heavy foam, I watch until my sugary Atlantis is swallowed with a plop. Stir. Sip. Repeat. Home*.

*Note: this description of ‘home’ as good strong coffee and hydrangeas is probably not a platonic ideal – what’s ‘home’ for you gentle readers?

Yogier than thou

sarahjanedoe at the Yoga Barn

This is a phrase I’ve come to hear often on chat sites and travel posts about Ubud. It’s also popularly modified as ‘more yoga than thou’ and ‘pretentious asshats’. I’ve been practising yoga for nearly four years. Let me tell you what’s wrong with that sentence o’mine. First up, everyone keeps telling me yoga means ‘practise’ so that’s just a terrible tautology right there. Also, I could count the times I’ve ‘done’ yoga during those years on my (splayed, energised and enlivened) fingers and toes, one go round only. I started doing it in 2009, stopped mid 2010, picked it up again early this year, sweated through it, quite love it. And this is significant because I’m allergic to exercise. In the literal sense, not in the bad 90s sitcom humour one. Exercise makes me cramp and want to be sick and run away (amble away).

But yoga? Yoga makes me feel great. Not in a self-deprivation/Nike commercial/wheat grass shot this-must-be-good-for-me-because-it’s-so-shit kind of way, but in a whole-cake-to-myself way.  It’s like Valium. With a lot of sweat. But still. Valium. If someone told you that on the other side of an hour and a half of some funny bending, stretching, a few oms and shanti-shantys (as far as I can tell these are  sacred Indian songs of the sea) and a bit of a group- nap that it would feel like a post-coital glow plus three Valium, you’d probably do it. Yeah, you would. If it was the only way to get caffeine, I’d do it (everyone would do it). It’s great. Great! It’s just a terrible damn shame about its press.

I’ve been hanging around Ubud for three weeks now, frequenting some stupendously good cafes and eateries that get reviews like ‘would not look out of place in L.A., New York or Sydney!’ which is crap because they would look wildly out of place; the food and juices are far better, more varied and so cheap you could just return the enormous menus and say ‘yes’ and still have change. So, you know, you do. Work your way through the tumeric, honey and lime cooler to the green tea, espresso, white chocolate and soy frappe, before ordering a cheesy burrito with a side of bacon (because you can). What does this have to do with yoga? Well, a lot of us are going to yoga. And then coming to these cafes (particularly Kafe), setting up with a laptop, the International Herald Tribune and saying ‘yes’ to the menu. And if you look at the internet chatter about Ubud, this equates to the kind of assault on the traditional tourist culture of Bali (Bintang singlets! Plaited hair! No chilli in my NARsee GOREing, and turn up Khe Sahn!) that deserves the pointy end of the scorn stick.

Punters report annoyance that ‘their’ cafes are overrun by yogier than thou types, typified by ‘yoga clothing’, and ‘smiling’ and general…’yoga-ness’. As far as I can tell, none of these people are trying to convert anyone to downward dog or doing much of anything except for smiling and eating their organic red rice in silence (the smiling is true, they keep getting us to smile in class – the Yoga Barn philosophy roughly equates to ‘soft eyes, soft face, soft throat – can’t lose!’) so I was surprised to hear this level of crank about it. Especially when many of the regular Yoga Barn attendees are, like me, stealth-yogis. We are the great untanned. We do not glisten and glow, we sweat and redden. We have no kundalini tattoos. We don’t have beautiful posture and Portuguese  accents or a sitar. Many of us have old injuries to get past or some serious Western weight to attend to, and – hey, we might not be hot but we aren’t stupid – a massive platform above a waterfall, rice paddies and expansive koi ponds with top teachers seems like a great place to get started.

So if you wander into Clear or Kafe or Bali Buddha to get a snack and you see some gorgeous, honey-limbed thing twisted into happy-pretzel on a cushion and this inexplicably GIVES YOU THE SHITS, just remember the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘No one can make you feel less-yogier without your consent.’*

*Note: I’m paraphrasing slightly, but everyone knows Eleanor was boss at yoga.

Living a fantasy

Now that my blood consists more of antibiotics and anti-mucoids than cold and flu germs, a walk past this little stationary shop here in Ubud filled me with heart and purpose: I’m here to write! Yeah! Fist-pump! Back to the room, dig out that manuscript, on with the show!

Many of you are writers so you’ll know that wonderful feeling when you pull out old work and look at it with fresh eyes and delight yourself. Hungry for this sensation, I put a tissue up each dripping nostril, turned the fan up to causing-the-woven-rattan-ceiling-to-tremble level and told the warring Asiatic squirrels in the coconut tree to keep it down, or else. Then I settled in to immerse myself in my own brilliance.

This is what I read. ‘Exposition, exposition, exposition, quip, exposition, exposition, cliché.’  Notes, notes, notes, ‘Filler, exposition, exposition, cliché, filler, exposition, exposition.’ And repeat.

In case you don’t believe me, here’s an example of just how bad things currently are. The names of my two chief evil-doers are Karl and Darius. I might as well have called them Cruel and Devious and been done with it. Our hero? Bastian. Last bastion of hope, freedom, and terrible punning nomenclature. I could cry (I may have cried).

For a life-long lover of quality fantasy fiction, this is pretty terrible news. After deciding I didn’t have the energy or implements to kill myself (I also like my housekeepers so much I hate troubling them for extra loo roll, so corpse removal would really be a whole new level of imposition) I read on to see if anything could be salvaged. Around page 87, one  of my appallingly named characters finally stops being a caricature and becomes a character. My sigh of sheer relief was fulsome enough to give the squirrels pause and this writer a glimmer of hope for the next few months of work.

Still – ouch. What happened? My only comfort is that the very first part of Game of Thrones wobbles in the same way. Lot of good versus evil, a direwolf for every child, exposition, exposition, cliché, exposition – and then good old George R.R. Martin seems to forget that that he’s setting things up for a ‘Fantasy Series’ and lets his characters run free. To, I would argue, the benefit of all mankind.

Shippey, my favourite Tolkien historian, writes that successful world building happens when the author stops giving us backstory and prescription and simply offers us a ‘corner of the eye glimpse’ of the world they’ve created – the kind that intimates that all sorts of complex events and histories have occurred; that fabulous cities exist, and people have loved and lived and died in them. For reals. It’s going to take some serious time for me to do this. Meanwhile, a little help from my fantasy-loving friends would be hugely appreciated. Names. Some masculine, some feminine. And it will be the last thing I beseech-th of thee-th*.

*Note: by ‘last’ I mean until I need help naming everything else and then move on to help with the religious-exclamations-occuring-in-slang-speech-of-the-currently-unnamed-eastern-most-city.

New moon party

I’ve been pestered for photos of the special Ubud party I tailed my brother to last Saturday night. Turns out the only publishable one I have is of the new moon, visible through the clouds hanging over the trees on our mysterious route there (complete with secret hand-drawn map).

This moon was the only light to reach into the absolute darkness of the jungle on what turned out to be just a short ride from my tiny new home in the heart of town. After much giggling and carry on, including several false starts, false arrivals, and me learning the bahasa Indonesia for ‘I’ve got a little problem in the back’ (my front-seated brother to the driver, often and unfairly) we finally hit the mark and turned with purpose onto a single lane cut straight across an inland ocean of floating rice crops.

Tiny fireflies turned into fields of ‘lampu’; little covered candles that numbered into the high hundreds. Our new Swiss friend Alejandro later described the end of his ride on his scooter through the same darkness to come upon the phalanx of gracious, uniformed attendants greeting us at the front of the huge main house as ‘beautiful…’ in an accent that serves the meaning much better than if you imagine mine.

Inside, one of the guest DJs played a particularly inspired swinghouse set and smiling staff refilled drinks in a whirl of iridescent limes and sparkling ice cubes. The pool glowed in the exact same shade of  blue as the Bombay Sapphire bottles clinking around it, but much more than high-quality liquor and fancy water features, the luxury of sheer space cannot be overstated. All around us the still, high water in the paddy fields reflected the new moon like endless tiny mirrors on an Indian cushion, and we were all we could see of the world until the darkest edges of the jungle. A glowing heart of music and pinwheeling limbs on a tiled platform high above radiating terraces, it seemed quite possible that we were all there was, and this was the only party on the planet. Yes, it was smugalicious.

And so it went on until one by one the littlest flowers begin to wilt, falling gently into tiny sparkling heaps of stardust and sequins on the cabana chairs and pool lounges dotting the large estate. Not one Cinderalla misplaced her Loubs, but Very Expensive bags overloaded with smart gadgetry and scented like duty-free counters lay abandoned all over the place, and I spend a good twenty minutes reuniting the soft, fleshy petals of quilted Chanel with the correct Sleeping Beauty after deciding I was clearly the Fairy Godmother of the piece.

Somewhere in all the excitable kissing and meeting and greeting and sloshing of drinks a (probably very limited edition, elite, single origin) flu virus was also passed around. So this Saturday night I’ll be enjoying my cocktail of antibiotics, distilled water, paracetamol and pseudoephedrine alone in my room, but if I turn the music up and close my eyes, I can still picture the new moon and the lampu, and that’s enough*. For now.

Note: by ‘enough’ I mean please-send-six-boxes-of-Nurophen-Plus-and-the-next-four-seasons-of-Friday-Night-Lights-terimah-kasih.

Truthiness

A dear friend emailed me here in Ubud to tell me she loves reading this blog, but that she wanted to make sure I was really A-OK and enjoying myself. At first I wondered what part of the delicate sub-text I’M HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE was failing to convey my heart-bursting joy. But she had good reasons for wondering, and I think they’re worth addressing. My friend is one of these clever selfless creatures who works with peoples’ minds when they become concerned about them. Or someone else does and you find yourself in flexi-cuffs. She sees a lot of pain and confusion (coming from younger people in particular) as the post-modern human juggles various online identities and personas, always scanning for likes and reassurance and struggling with their ‘status’ in more ways than the obvious. My friend knows that reality checks are important.

I’m going to leap now from all things social-networky and online and much written about, to the sticker families on the backs of cars. Where I live in inner city Melbourne these don’t exist because we are all way too not-Bogan-unless-it’s-ironic-or-actually-comfortable-like-Ugg-boots to do this (yes, I do understand the contradiction in all being cool in exactly the same way which renders it uncool, la la la, it’s a joke, but having said that – we’re wicked cool). I’m confident of this assertion because a quick trip to Sydney’s Northern Beaches revealed the opposite problem. I thought I enjoyed it when people expressed themselves. Turns out I want their cars to explode taking Perky Athletic Mum and BBQ Beer Dad with them.

What further depressed me when witnessing this suburban tidal wave of assery was the lack of joke stickers – no one had thought to put up even the basic stuff like six Fat Dads or some pets in compromising positions. I came home enraged by these homogenous white hetero stickers and once I finished my tirade the Boy only asked thoughtfully, ‘What happens if one of them dies?’ Mm.  How long do you drive around with Mr Snuffles on the back window before you have to scrape him off? Do you start with ears or tail? And what if it’s not your labradoodle? What if it’s Mum? What if Dad just leaves? When do you admit it publically? And do you start with a limb? What do you put in the hole left behind? Or do you just cross him off? Quite apart from these conundrums is the alarming disconnect you get when driving past Happy Skinny Yoga Mum and Smiley Pretty Girl to find two dumpy females of very different ages but unfortunately similar expressions, both hot and harried and yelling at each other in the car. If I’m uncomfortable with that distance from the truth, how do they feel?

Meanwhile it feels very natural to me to express; to overexpress, to hyperexpress, to throw sixty words in the air like clay pigeons and blast them with an AK47 of an idea. I can’t help it. I like doing it. I like reading it when other people do it. And as much as I understand there is no such thing as truth – and that everything I leave out by accident or design is another version of my life – what I’m looking for when I write in this way is an essential truthiness. The closer I get to it, to the essence of what I’m actually experiencing or wanting to share, the better I feel. I’m soothed by communication. And I feel a rising pressure inside when I don’t or can’t. Maybe that’s all the sticker family people are doing too but they’re thwarted by their materials. Maybe if there was a Chubby Gamer Girl Who Likes Gay Jap-Anime Porn and is Worried About Being Accepted and her Balding Overweight Dad Who Loves Classical Guitar and Longs To Kill His Floor Supervisor I’d feel better about it all. Truthiness*.

*Note: sarahjanedoe is as much a real live sarahjane as a janedoe. The level of anonymity is quite low. The pictures are all mine and taken by me or my family unless specifically credited. Ditto the thoughts, feelings and ideas.

The trouble with trouble in paradise

I’ve been dying to use the title ‘trouble in paradise’ for quite some time now. Exciting, isn’t it? The juxtaposition? Trouble! Egads man, where? Paradise! (dramatically sharp intake of breath) But by Jove, that’s the very last place you’d expect to find it! And just like the Twisty-and-Fanta shellacked readers of the Herald Sun, I still get a shiver every time I see ‘trouble in paradise’ writ large in Times New Roman.

I forget where I first read it. It was probably a re-issued Nancy Drew title, or perhaps the local paper in the Sydney seaside suburb where I spent my adolescence. It’s the kind of phrase the avid reader/junior writer regurgitates with ease and pleasure for use in a school assignment. I remember itching to pull it out during my first job as a journalist for a small newspaper in South West Florida. The paper was circulated amongst honeymooners and retirees on a beautiful barrier island, and contained a lot of earnest stories about the superior quality and affordability of holiday accommodation and eateries. Looking for real action, I ‘embedded’ myself for 24 hours with the emergency services at the local fire-station.

All kinds of unexpected things happened during each of those hours, and I went back to the office ready to pump out an authentically shiver-laden ‘trouble in paradise’ piece, only to discover that I wasn’t allowed to write any of the good bits (‘You want tourists and snow-birds to read this? Are you gosh-darn kidding me? Show it to advertising – those guys sure need a laugh today’) so it came out with a ridiculously long and bland title (slapped on by our roundly-despised acting editor) that went something like ’24 hours with people who are allowed to use sirens and can cut your car in half please drive carefully on our island home turn to page 11 for your Dairy Queen voucher’. Thwarted.

So here I am in paradise; real, proper Paradise™ with faultless weather, swaying palms and exotically beautiful inhabitants who smile all the time and wear colourful costumes and get about with a lot of things on their head like tropical fruit and monkeys. And where’s that editor now, mm? Hopefully not still correcting someone else’s film review from ‘on celluloid’ to ‘on cellulose’ and then claiming this to be the fault of her ‘Apple MacIntyre’s spellchecker’ when a hundred emails are received from nasty old Republicans with too much time on their hands joyfully denouncing the author’s apparent ineptitude at discerning between film and paperstock.  Nope, she’s nowhere to be found and it’s highly unlikely she’s even heard of Webby Logs, so here it is:

Trouble in Paradise.

I’m a big lover of both frogs and fireflies, and at first I was thrilled with sightings of each of these creatures in the dark, swaying paddy fields of Ubud at night. But now? Well, there are just so many of both that I fear I might tire of them, and nothing spells ‘trouble’ quite like ‘passé-firefly’.

One of my chief reading-over-coffee pleasures is a physical copy of The New York Times; a newspaper where they still have those super-fancy extras like sub-editors, and journalists who travel outside the tri-state area and stuff. I can’t find it anywhere in Melbourne so it was a very pleasant surprise to discover that I can get daily copies here in tiny Ubud for about $3 from a hawker up on the main street. However, what was a simple joy has now become fraught and complex – today my new friend Alejandro told me about a lovely bakery where I can get copies for free and spend my $3 on a smoked salmon sandwich with fresh sourdough while I do. So now every time I read it I have to feel guilty that the poor streetseller has probably lost my business for the next few months, while I ingest a totally non-macro-Zen-Ubud recipe of fluffy white bread and Philly. Thanks Bali. Way to make me feel disgusted with myself yet again.

Finally (because I’d hate to disturb you with any more outrages, gentle readers) the relief at having a kilo of my dirty clothes returned to my room washed and pressed for $2 evaporated when I ripped open the plastic to discover that the smell of a thousand colliding artificial fragrances did not. After a restless sleep last night in PJs that inspired a kind of olfactory claustrophobia akin to having my head stuck in a feedbag of laundry powder, I anticipated the showdown with the host of my domicile this morning when I’d have to try to explain that I wished my clothing to be less clean in future. After rehearsing various scenarios and fretting about the outcome, I presented the complaint using words from two languages plus a little dance and some rending of the fabric on my back and was told ‘OK, you want not so strong smell? OK, OK, so sorry, no problem!’ All that catastrophising for nothing! What, does he think I do that kind of worrying for free? Ubud – writers’ paradise? Maybe. But with trouble, I tell you. With a lot of trouble*.

*Note: the use of the word trouble in this instance may actually be limited to things that, outside Paradise™ would be labelled ‘minor annoyances’ or ‘petty grievances’ (abbreviated simply to ‘petty’).

I can haz party?

i-can-haz-party

I’m going to a party. A big party. The kind of house (luxury villa *cough*) party you see in the movies – hosted by DJs who’ve flown in to Ubud with their friends and followers and models and drivers and the models’ luggage and drivers for the models’ luggage. I’m not on the door per se, but my brother is (of course he is – from about three different directions) and I suppose I could pass for some kind of agency chaperone for one of the youngest beauties if there’s any trouble. Anyway, it’s great news because I LOVE PARTIES. Parties are boss.

I have been attending and enjoying parties my whole life. Ages three to ten were particularly hectic. My brother and I were on the exbrat scene, and we hit it pretty hard.  It was always tough to calm down during Monday nap-hour after Primary Colours 101 or Macaroni and Paste: Drying Times, when your head was still full of the action, the music, the sweets, the games. You gotta put a little distance between you and that Canadian kid, you’d tell yourself, his reading level is so not where it should be. Yes, he plays the tambourine like it’s Bowie to his Jagger, but that’s not enough. When the Korean twins celebrate their fifth, they aren’t gonna mess around with the guest list and you know this. Start saving your Great Work! stickers for them and hey, check out that Play-doh they’re always snacking on. Shared diet tips are a great in.

Sometimes I confuse how much I truly love going to parties with having a party, and I say things like ‘let’s have a party!’ and then I do things like invite people to have a party. Crazy, right? Because suddenly I’m having a party. And I can’t be allowed to have parties. This having-a-party thing attacks me so often you’d think I’d learn not to do it but, unfortunately, it’s still happening. If you are ever invited to one of my parties (if that’s not already all of you reading this, stick around a few days) here are some tips to help us both get through one.

Don’t arrive early. (Or on time. Or close to on time.) Startled and trying to cover it with false bonhomie, I will scream your name so loud that your family members in other states and countries will flinch and shiver and worry about you. I will then steer you around my house/other unlucky venue for the next hour while I apologise for everything in it; for its lameness and its poor lighting, for the cleanliness and quality of the substrate and garden tap, and I will insist you are going to have a shit time and I’ll apologise for this too. At the same time I will fixate on various guests you may know or have heard of who haven’t arrived yet and insist to you they are definitely coming, and perhaps we should call them every few minutes – call their friends, their boss, the police, check for downed bridges, whatever – to make sure they are seconds, seconds away from coming to your aid.

Don’t arrive late. I will believe I forgot to invite you and I’ll invite you another sixty times using all of your numbers and devices and a carrier pigeon with a razor sharp beak. I will also send the police to check for you and I will further torture the already-arrived guests by having them search the internet, emergency frequencies, and satellite imagery from weather monitoring stations to establish for certain that there are no downed bridges.

Don’t arrive. If you come to my party I will forever believe you had a terrible night filled with the kind of insufficient heating/cooling/ice/music/drinks/food/games/dancing/conversation/hook-ups/lighting and lolly-bags that will make you think I’m bad at parties and, ergo, a bad person. To save you the further awkwardness of ending things first, I’ll have to cut you loose the next day and we’ll never be friends again*.

*Note: in this case ‘again’ means until I forget I can’t have parties, which is usually such a short duration of time that you won’t have noticed we aren’t friends anymore. This is actually great because I like to have parties and I’d SO love you to come.