30 for 30: Glasses

30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.


Glasses, those hideous glasses...

I wear glasses.

Actually that’s a lie.

I mostly don’t wear glasses. My eye sight is not THAT bad, but I can’t pass your average eye test to get a license. Over the years I have learnt to live without glasses.

I find them uncomfortable. And maybe it’s because I don’t wear them enough, but I’ve never gotten used to it. They steam up, they feel weird when I smoke and are useless in the rain.

I also like looking people in the (fuzzy) eye. Something about wearing glasses makes me feel like I’m in fancy dress. I’m pretending to be the me that wears glasses. I take my glasses off when I meet people. I just feel like I’m lying to people otherwise.

But the real reason I don’t wear glasses is because usually I’ve lost them. Or broke them. I’ve gone through over a dozen pairs, some barely survive a month.

My latest pair, I got them two weeks ago. And over the weekend I left them in Cardiff, but managed to drive back and get them – 4 days later. And they are expensive, so once broken or lost, it could be years before I replace them. The ones I recently replaced, well those were lost in Berlin 8 months ago.

It’s a tempestuous relationship. They seem to always be trying to run away, or commit suicide. And I don’t like them that much anyway.

So many people I know have glasses. Many might not wear them all the time, but I don’t think it’s a minority thing.

Has years of monitor use destroyed a generation of eyeballs? I think maybe. Monitors have gotten better, but in the 90s, I spent almost all my spare time in front of a shitty little monitor. My whole age group did.

Even now, when I spend too much time in front of a computer, my eyes hurt. And the ones who carried that daily computer-staring over into office jobs? Well, we are a Glasses Army.

My Mum, Dad and my brother all wear glasses. Not all the time but we all have them. Our kitchen table are sometimes covered with them, along with wallets, keys and other pocket paraphernalia. So maybe it’s genetic? Does my family have weak eyes? Or maybe it’s racial – many Asian kids have glasses. Who knows.

But it’s funny to think, in school, being someone with glasses was not the majority. And of course, it left you open to hopeless jives of “four eyes” and whatever. But it’s been many years since I’ve heard someone being made fun of because they wear glasses. Even on TV or movies. It’s just over.

Why are glasses designs so shit? It’s another reason that my heart is against glasses. What people make, and what seems to be popular, doesn’t click with me.

There are these mad looking designs out there. Huge patterns and logos scarring what would be nice glasses. On my last hunt, I barely found anything I liked.

For many years, in school, I had very thin, almost invisible frames. I lost them immediately. $100 or so of my folks money – bam! Gone.

Later in my teens I got a spare pair – black rimmed ones. They stayed with me for almost a decade, when the more expensive, thinner ones came and went.

When I went back packing, I decided to take these spare, black rimmed things with me. I lost them. But I like the style now. Black frames – that’s me.

Of course, proper black frames are classic, aren’t they? It’s like a thin black suit. All across popular culture. Clark Kent. Buddy Holly. Elvis Costello. And personal heroes like Rivers Cuomo and the members of the band Sloan.

In culture, glasses have been historically a sign of weakness, I guess. But it’s also been a sign of smartness. I do sometimes wear my specs to feel smart (it doesn’t work).

There was a time, aged 17, in the heart of my obsession with the band Blur, wear I wore my glasses when playing in a band (I also wore a lot of adidas). They broke. And I hate wearing glasses when I play. Sweat always steams them up, and I sometimes hit my the microphone, scratching them. So I stopped that madness.

Which is a little bit of a shame. Look at people like Buddy Holly. And Costello. Those glasses are their icons. A Buddy Holly best of just needs to have the glasses on the cover. It could have been some defining thing. Now they live in a box on the shelf, taken out mainly when I go to the cinema.

No wonder they kind of hate me.

Someone asked Bruno once if they could try on his glasses once.

He replied, “Can I try on your bra?”

It’s a line I’ve stolen.

Glasses are not a toy. I don’t like passing them around. Don’t ask. Only if you’re a friend. And you have a similar or smaller head size to me. Thank you.

I like girls with glasses. I always have. Nerdy/smart girls. Although two people kissing with glasses on is weird. Even just the hello peck. I’m afraid I’ll hit something, and an airbag will explode over my eyes.

I did, because I was asked to, had sex once with my glasses on. So, here I am, a guy who finds glasses uncomfortable, makes him self concious and weird. Have a guess how that went.

So what about contacts? Or laser eye surgery? I don’t think my vision is that bad. And I’m used to it now. I don’t really work with my eyes anyway.

They are a pain. Whenever I move, I pick up my glasses and think – you! I have to pack you too! Bastards. They just sort hang about no matter what.

But it’s like a bad marriage I intend to stick with it. Whenever I go on trips, I have things that I know I need. Like toothbrush, keys, wallets and ipods etc. These dozen or so things I will always bring. And the glasses case is a part of that. It has been something I’ve been doing all my life. I can’t quit her now.

My new specs

We shared some history, this town and I

There’s a bit of catching up to do on this thing.

The last few months have been up and down. There was a big issue at work that almost made me walk away. Emergency passed, but I’ll be frank; it shook me up. More than anything it was because my happy little bubble of being in London got truly burst.

Life picked up again and I spent some weeks at home.

I have so much to say about Australia. So much. Friends. Family. Elections. Houses. Music. Life.

I loved my time there. My friends (who let’s face it, are still the only people who might be curious enough to be reading this). But there was such a feeling of leaving things unsaid.

The song that comes to mind is Flame Trees by Cold Chisel. It’s such a great song. I felt like the only tourist in town. Visiting where others live. A strange pinch in the gut when conversations would lead to things happening after I’ve gone. Get togethers I wouldn’t be a part of, gigs coming up…etc.

So, not shitcanning anyone or anything here, but since I’ve been back, the common question is, of course, ‘how was Australia?’

I’m not sure what to say. It wasn’t, clearly, a three week concentration of the best things I could ever do in Sydney, slipped right back in and lived like a king. And that’s not anyone’s fault.

The really odd thing upon returning is how much THE question, the ‘how was Australia?’ question, is asked with sympathy over here. It’s more a sense of ‘did you get through it?’.

I feel like, I barely did. I got to see a lot of people – but not enough. I wasted a lot of time. I got pretty stressed to the point of intense sickness. All the places I couldnt wait to go back to, didn’t feel like home. Everyone says I’d be surprised how little changes. But I was more put off by the small changes that did happen.

It’s not a new feeling, I’m sure. Flame Trees alone nails it, and nailed it a good 20 years before I felt it. The saving grace is the words from someone I didn’t know very well, sharing a cigarette in the London cold, telling me it gets easier. It’s just odd, and completely unexpected, that Sydney would not be easy.

The one practical lesson that floats up immediately is to not do things for old times sakes. The townie was a bit depressing. Where as seeing friends new houses and things seemed very exciting. Still, it felt like I’ve arrived very late at a party, and I’m far too many drinks behind to catch up.

I love Sydney. I spent a surprising amount of time on my own, though not by choice. Stuck somewhere or other and I found myself wandering through a lot of old haunts. The sun setting whilst walking through Camperdown Memorial Park one day. Walking over the Harbour Bridge. Even Parramatta, the crazy expanding Borg Ship that is Parramatta.

I was pretty inspired by it all, an there is something I want to say about all that stuff. Like I said, I have a lot to say about Australia and I’m writing a lot of it down.

So since being back, it’s been pretty normal up and down of pretty normal life. Christmas was, well, it happened. New year’s was good, an nicely sensible. Back at work and very busy. I was already working last January, and for the first time in London, looking over the cold Winter of Kensington, I think, here I am again.

Which is all a pretty long way of saying, not much to report. Things are… fine.

An Unrecorded Song

I read a lot of biographies. My favourites are ones like Nick Drake – The Biography by Patrick Humphries. It’s full of interesting stuff – who knew that the tall skinny (and remarkably handsome) Drake was born in Burma? But it also has what may be a dying art in biography – a sense of mystery. He died so early, in such obscurity, no one kept records.

Are we the last generation of lost records? By records I mean official documentation. I’m pretty sure from 1990 or so there accurate records of every place I’ve ever lived. I’m sure if someone wanted, they could easily find all the places I’ve travelled, and when. There’s a computer somewhere that has every journey I’ve ever taken. Except maybe one trip from Korea to Taiwan where I was issued with a paper ticket. Maybe, that’s the one black mark.

And I like the black marks. I like not being able to join the dots sometimes. I like to think there are things that people never know about eachother.

This isn’t an anti big brother rant. This isn’t me walking down your street with a sandwich board saying the government is watching you. It’s just a belief that a life can be more than what can be assumed from documents, even interviews.

Have you tried googling yourself? Then, there are now myspaces and facebooks. Facebook, you can even tag photos with people’s names. There are many photos of me I’ve never seen. Then there’s Youtube! How long before you’re there, in the background of someone’s camera phone.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like a bit of mystery. It doesn’t feel like I can do much these days without people knowing about it. Which is fine. But sometimes, when you are somewhere, and you realise, no one knows where you are, or what you are doing, can be a beautiful moment.

I have to believe that there will always be mysteries in the world. That we cannot be captured simply by the tracks we leave behind. And that there are things in the world that cannot be looked up in Wikipedia.

They put out another Nick Drake collection this year (in the same month there was ‘new’ releases by Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley). I didn’t get it, but I have plenty of Drake boots. He did a lot of covers and just jamming stuff. I have to believe that maybe there is a beautiful song he wrote and played that maybe is never recorded, that I’ll never hear. I have his three albums, and about 10 other collections, boots, demos and stuff. And after all that, I want to be able to say that it was just a part of his bag of tunes.

No one knows if Nick Drake’s death was an accident or if it was deliberate. I don’t want to know. I don’t ever want to know everything. I want to keep guessing.


Famous People I’ve Seen On the Streets Since I Left Home

The new irregular series

Who: Mischa Barton (twice). You know, the skinny one from the O.C.
Where: Once in a restaurant in Madrid, and six months later at a Shins gig in London where we stood next to eachother.

She is actually quite stunning. But I find it interesting how many girls say this too. The ones who were with me when I saw her have all commented. She is also very tall, and I think possibly the most famous person on this list.

Who: The dude who died at the end of the first Lord of the Rings, in that really long drawn out scene.
Where: Just at the pub, on his own. Having a pint. No trace of over acting at all. He looks a bit like my mate Simon.

Who: J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr fame.
Where: Near Denmark Street in Soho, the guitar capital of London. I was very much going to go up and say hi and say how I liked his music…until two kids beat me to it. So I walked on, as if I was meaning to walk past the whole time.

Who: Mike Skinner of the Streets
Where: PC World, Kensington. I was too distracted with my broken laptop to see what he was doing.

Who: The dude who gets picked on in fat fighters, that recurring sketch in Little Britain
Where: Virgin Megastore, Oxford St. I didn’t see what he bought. Maybe Little Britain on DVD.

Who: The entire cast of the IT Crowd
Where: a little cafe between work and home. I love that show. It was very exciting actually. I noticed one of them first, then the others. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to imagine that people in TV shows are all friends. To see that they are was great.

I’m sure there’s more but, you just don’t get this type of celeb watching in Sydney.

More when I remember…


I’m gonna wait til the midnight hour

I’m not very good at sleeping. I’m not sure when exactly I was supposed to learn this skill, but I never did.

It’s not like I need more reasons to love Tom Waits, but he once said something to the effect of sleeping at night is another way society makes you conform. Certainly, magical things only occur after midnight.

Firstly, the world is your own. I walked home from a night out last week, past the world famous Royal Albert Hall, around 2am. And I stopped in front of it and realised, I am the only person in the world right now, standing here. No one is walking past, or about to. Maybe if I walked into Hyde Park, I could have had the whole thing to myself.

Okay, so when I can’t sleep I don’t necessarily go wandering in parks. But you feel more alive when everyone around you is asleep. If there is someone of something watching over us, you have their attention. If there’s songs to be plucked out of the air, the air is clear for you to grab them.

My mind is at it’s clearest after midnight. I know this. I often manage to get a lot done, if I’m writing, or even just cleaning or sorting something out on the computer. Even Ikea furniture construction. And Tom Waits is right. When you’re on a roll, why does the world say you have to sleep?

The argument against, of course, is if I got good healthy early nights, my brain would actually work in the mornings. But there is a part of me that thinks if I go to sleep before 12, I’m wasting precious time. And once you hit 12, 3am’s a piss in.

The idea of sleeping pills has been considered and considered too scary. I get addicted to things enough thank you. The fact I eat crap every day may also be making something in me not balanced. Is there a sleep vitamin? Pot smoking and wanking have also been suggested. I will not admit publicly to either but in any event I’m still not sleeping.

So back to what happens when you’re awake past the witching hour. Listening to music is always like listening on headphones, whether headphones are used or not. You’re more attuned to the details of it. It’s far easier to lose yourself in the world of a late night movie (or more likely an episode of the Sopranos). And when it’s raining…geez you should have been there to sit and just watch the rain from my old place, with some light music on. Something like Still Crazy After All These Years.

The real magic happens when you’re not alone. When you have someone to call. Londoners were especially great, and now I guess it’s true for Australians. Perth was always good to me. But sometimes you find someone online, and you’re both up, and you say, gimme a call…

Sometimes it’s easier in this day and age to just stay online. But when you’re crapping on at two in the morning… you know the scene when William calls Lester Bangs in Almost Famous? And Lester says, the greatest currency we have is the moments we share when we are uncool. You’re not at the pub, you’re not out, not worried about people overhearing. Some good stuff happens. I used to talk til the sun came up. I was working part time when this was happening.

Work really kicks this part of one’s life in the ass. I need a planet with longer days, and I don’t see terraforming happening in my lifetime. It has occurred to me that sleeping better may be something I need to work on, but I’m not sure how. Hopefully old age will just get me and I just sleep all the time like, well, my Dad. There’s always hope.

Okay, I should be sleep. Society, it seems, has got it’s claws in me again. It’s been nice talking to you. I’m going to try and dream my dreams.

(apologies and thank yous to Kim and Laura)

Little Things: Part 1

So, allow me to tell you what really sux.

It’s the little things that I can’t share. Either you had to be there with me, or the people with me now are still getting to know me and don’t get how interesting I find little funny things.

Then I remembered I had a blog, and I had if you are going to be excluding and indulgent, then there is no better place for it.

1) The song ‘Up the Junction’ by Squeeze. I love this song. I remember sitting in the Town Hall Hotle in Melbourne after a gig and a friend with a guitar played this song and it just blew my mind.

Cool thing is he first line of the song mentions Clapham, a suburb I’ve spent a lot of time in now that I’m in London.

How great is that? See how indulgent and uninteresting this all is?

Be excited for me please. And track down this song.

2) My email address has ‘Baker St’ in it. Yes, it’s a Sherlock Holmes thing, but also a Gerry Rafferty thing, with his seminal song Baker Street. I put this on a Yacht Rock compilation for friends recently. It makes me laugh even now.

3) I wrote a story once about a character named William Miller. The name came from discussions with my friend Sophie about a good name for me if I decdied to change it to play music. We decided on William Miller because it was a combination of country artists last names – Hank Williams, Lucinda Williams, Victoria Williams, Rhett Miller, Lisa Miller, Buddy Miller. We later realised it was also the name of the main character in the movie Almost Famous.

So at Portobello Road markets on Sunday I was sifting through t-shirts and found one that said “Bill D. Miller – State Senator”. I bought it immediately. It was pretty weird ok?

Okay, that saves me boring people in person for a little while at least.


Things I Miss About Australia 2: January

I know exactly what you’re doing.

You’re starting to wake up early again, restless from the heat.
And you’re lightly sweating as you brace the trains
In the brilliant sun that you don’t appreciate til winter.
Your head swims over jokes and stupid behavior
From yesterday afternoon at the pub that turned into last night.

The office is half full, and I’d be joking and lazing
Feeling sorry for the two people who look busy.
We’d complain how no one is sending us any emails
Except those we are jealous of, those still away
In Byron Bay, Nelson Bay or is it Jervis Bay?

There’d be afteroons where we’d all look at eachother
and we know what’s on eachother’s minds
So we all decide to leave early, grabbing the day by the balls
Living that day for an extra hour and a half
Before the working year really starts and turns it all to shit.

There’d be those friends who’ll surprise us by being at the beach
The one time a year they interlope into Bondi
With beach towels and swimmers we never knew they owned
While my real Bondi friends will ridicule those same interlopers
With a smile, a tan and a demeanor that comes from being truly Bondi

The rest of us will stay in our brick and concrete suburbs
Opening windows and doors wide, damn the risk of the fly invasion
And talk about which Big Day Out Sideshow we’re all excited about
And see a band at the Hopetoun, first on before the sun has even set
And we’ll drink out the back and discuss what we did for New Years

Even those who never go out, we’ll see them once or twice.
Their young kids hit the parks and their young fathers hit the bars
And the girls will wander in, still in their summer crop tops
Even the ones that don’t have the great bodies
Are offering their freckled arms and cleavage to the sun.

And soon those girls will be wearing unrevealing coats
Towels and swimmers will be put back in the bottom of wardrobes
Sleepy people will return in station wagons or discount airlines
And the working days will drift late and the billiant sun will set
And you’ll curl up in your cold quilt and wait for January.