Finding inspiration or: The joy of writing in your local café

After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game, or whatever, or even talking to someone you’re not vitally interested in.

Henry Miller

 

Cafe Writing

 

Lately I have been trying to write in cafés. OK. I tend to do less writing and more eavesdropping-disguised-as-writing. It makes me feel a little bad.

A little.

Because I know I am going to stumble on some gold soon.

I remember chatting away with Steve in this little teeny coffee shop hidden away in some teeny lane-way, as Melbourne likes to do, and there was this guy sitting nearby with his notebook open, pen poised … I was sure he was writing down our conversation. It made me whisper even though we weren’t saying anything all that intriguing or eavesdropping-worthy. If we had I would have written it down.

That is the gamble you take if you enter a relationship with a writer.

Just saying.

I remember thinking how I couldn’t do that. Sit in a café and steal write.

Until I did.

During my masters I wrote an entire scene (even stole some direct quotes) from the very loud, very interesting, conversation a mother and daughter were having near my lonely table in a café. I took it to my lecturer for a dramaturgy session (code for – I am going to rip your writing to shreds and you are going to take it) and waited, with bated breath, as he read through it. He loved it. I, not good at taking compliments, had to dismiss it in some way and explained how I had stolen it from a conversation at a café. “Do more writing in cafés then,” he said.

So I have been.

And I think that’s OK.

I like my café. The coffee is good. That helps. And there is a sunny table. And whole range of characters to watch and listen in on. That helps too.

I watched a woman gulping water. It made me feel sad for some reason. Her shaky hands sneakily applied lipstick, one hand holding a tiny mirror, the other wobbling around her lips. She kept her bag nestled on her lap like a precious pedigree cat. She kept her head lowered at an angle that suggested she wasn’t well or didn’t feel worthy to look up or both.

I saw another woman looking at the waiter through squinted eyes as he explained the specials. She kept her hand elegantly under her chin and asked a lot of questions in one those affected Australian accents. She ordered a latte to have after the meal. The meal she chose was not the one she had asked a lot of questions about. She had wondered if the goat’s cheese was very strong. She didn’t like strong goat’s cheese. The waiter told her it was very young, very fresh. I don’t think she believed him.

At another table I saw someone who used to be someone. He kept his head in his hands, pretending to not want anyone to notice him or attempting to recover from a hang-over or both.

Another waiter was just waiting. Cloth in hand. Hoping for a spill. I hoped not to accommodate but I do have a tendency for spilling things and other general clumsiness … “Spilling things and other general clumsiness” – could be the title of something, someday, maybe … The man who used to be someone makes me question why I even bother writing at all. He used to write and star in a sit-com. And now look at him. I wish he’d speak so I could scribble down his conversation.

I overheard a couple talking about dividends and CEOs and maintaining the asset and fragile infrastructure and the sector. They talked about the sector a lot. And repeated what the other said, a lot. She was very agreeable. He was very loud.

SHE:   You’re sounding a bit disillusioned about the sector.

HE:      I’m not disillusioned about the sector.

I think they’ll be popping up in something.

I overheard a conversation that jumped from conspiracies about MH370 to Shane Warne to the GST on baby clothes.

Gold? OK. Maybe not yet … but I am filling up my notebooks with characters and ideas and weird little snippets of conversations that could, maybe, one day, turn into something. Hopefully … we shall see. It could be the change of scenery, it could be the ridiculous amount of coffee I am drinking but, either way, there is inspiration to be found and stolen from your local café.

Being stood-up

SONY DSC

I hate waiting.

And yet here I am.

It is a lot warmer than I thought it would be. The flies are those sticky, needy types that just want to sit on my arms / legs / face no matter how many times I brush them away.  Sweat is running down by back, inside my dress. I hope like hell that no one notices. Sweating is disgusting when not directly related to exercise; even then it’s not very attractive yet more acceptable. Here I am sitting at a café sweating like I’ve just run 5-kilometres or something.  I shouldn’t be sweating like that. Should I? Women don’t talk about sweating so it worries me that it is abnormal or a sign of something abnormal … I didn’t expect it to be so hot.

The flies continue. The sweat continues. I wish I had worn a hat and sunscreen and been sun-smart and slip-slop-slapped. Why didn’t I think of all this before choosing the outdoor table with limited umbrella coverage? If I get skin cancer because he is late I will kill him.

He was meant to be here twenty minutes. We had arranged this coffee catch-up only a couple of days ago. The place was his idea. The time was mine. 10.30am. I texted him as I left my apartment. I texted him when I arrived. There’s been no response.

When I arrived, I told the young woman who called me “ma’am” and made me feel incredibly old, that I was waiting for someone. The people at the other table heard me. The waitress brought out an extra glass of water and an extra menu – “Here you are ma’am, in case your friend wants breakfast” she smiled and added “ma’am”. I wanted to throw the water in her face. But I didn’t. Besides, she’d probably call me ma’am as she cleaned up the mess and offered me another, fresh glass of water and so the cycle would continue …

I sit with the empty chair in front me, the untouched extra glass of water, the unread menu.

Half an hour late.

Now I’ll look like some kind of jilted bride if I up and leave before he arrives. I will look like a complete idiot. I’m sure that couple at the table near mine live in my apartment block. I’m not entirely sure but they did walk from the same direction as me to this spot, look a little familiar and seem to be watching me now and then, sizing me up. Probably wondering if I am the girl from their apartment block. They’ll probably go home and laugh about that neighbour being stood up at the café. I’ll hear them laughing too. You can hear so much in the apartment block; couples’ fights, couples’ make-up sex … and so the cycle continues. They probably think I’m having some sort of secret affair and I’m waiting for my lover who has decided to stand me up on this day after Valentine’s Day. I really, really need my dear, gay friend to turn-up right now so they can see I’m not cheating on my boyfriend, so they can see I’m not some philandering loser.

But he still hasn’t answered his messages.

Maybe he met someone last night. It was Valentine’s Day. Maybe that’s it.

The waitress who called me ma’am just looked at me very apologetically. I don’t know how to make my getaway …

“Would you like a cool drink or something ma’am?”

Shit. She notices the sweat. She can see it. Why else would she ask if I wanted a cool drink. A cool drink? At a café renowned for its coffee …

“I’ll have a peppermint tea.”

Shit. Shit. Why did I ask for peppermint tea? It’s hot. It’s hotter than I had expected.

“Yeah, just the peppermint tea. While I wait. For my friend.”

Shit. Shit. Shit. Why did I say “My Friend”. Friend could mean anything. Anything. I remember when I had my first boyfriend in high-school and if he came over to any family sort of thing, Mum would always refer to him as my “friend” and I hated it. Hated it. It sounded so patronising. Now it just sounds like code for “my lover”.

“Of course ma’am. Right away ma’am” – what the hell is with this ma’am thing? It sounds like she’s the Prissy to my Scarlett O’Hara or something. I’m not looking for a maid. I’m not living in the deep south of 19th Century America. I’m not old enough to be a ma’am, surely?

She moves away with her ma’am and her apologetic look and I keep on looking up and down the street, keep checking my phone, keep writing, looking busy.

Someone else brings me the peppermint tea and this one doesn’t say ma’am. Thank goodness.

The sun is moving so it’s not as sweaty as before. But the flies don’t let up. I should have sat inside … Thirty-five-minutes.

On my first date with boyfriend I must have been half and hour late. Half an hour is a long time. I hope I texted him back then to say I’m just running late, oops, sorry, I’ll be right there. I feel bad imagining him sitting there, waiting, wondering if I was even going to show up. I hope I did text him. I will have to ask him tonight.

Maybe my friend had an accident.

No. I’ll go with the other scenario. He met someone. That’s better.

The couple next to me have finished their organic quinoa salad with soft boiled free-range egg, sumac corn, coriander, pomegranate, avocado, pistachio and citrus dressing … and side of bacon. Somehow bacon just doesn’t seem to fit that equation … Oh well. At least they’ve finished. Once they’ve gone I can go.

He gets up. This could be it.

I think he has gone inside to pay the bill. She is cheating at the crossword they were attempting over breakfast with the assistance of an app on her Smartphone.

He comes back and now she goes inside. Why can’t they just go already so I can leave without looking stupid?

If only I had a dog. That would solve everything. The dog could drink the extra glass of water. He may even sit up on the extra seat. I’d call him Dave or Corey or something and order him his own side of bacon.

The dog I would call Dave or Corey or something …

A woman in exercise gear (the brunch uniform even if it looks like you haven’t actually exercised in the gear ever) has just tied her dog up near me. I can’t claim this one as mine; the guy at the table saw the exercise-gear-woman tie it up and wander inside for her skinny latte. Now the guy, clearly deflated by his girlfriend’s successful completion of the shared crossword, comes over to pat the recently abandoned dog. I think he wants to see what I’m writing. You can read it on my blog, I want to tell him. But I don’t. I just do that not so subtle arm across the page thing, like the super-smart kid in math class who didn’t want anybody riding her mathlete coattails.

11.15am. That’s 45-minutes. I can’t wait an hour, especially as I’ve heard no word that he is even coming. No word that he is actually OK and not lying in a coma in the local hospital … no, he has met someone. I am sure that is it. Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.

An overweight, shirtless man with a vast collection of tattoos stalks past me, muttering something about the dangers of choppers. Or coppers? I don’t like to ask him to clarify. I don’t think he’d like me to ask him to clarify. My dress sticks to my back. My once straightened hair is shoved into one of those cool messy buns all the girls do now, except mine is more mess and less cool.

Finally, my maybe neighbours leave.

47-minutes.

Still no response.

I am going to get up, hold my head up high, march inside and pay for this overpriced peppermint tea. The other teas here sound amazing: Silver Fox, Genmaiche, Ancient Moonlight … No, don’t hide in the menu – get inside. Go.

11.25am. Peppermint tea finished. Operation head-up-high, this-was-not-a-date-and-I-haven’t-been-stood-up-at-all-my-friend-is-just-busy-or-hung-over-or-madly-in-love-or-in-hospital-or-something is about to take place …

I pay without one sympathetic, questioning, judgemental look.

I leave –

“Thank you ma’am,” the waitress smiles weakly as she picks up the still full extra glass of water from my table for one …

Dear Abby

Dear Abby,

You turned 12 earlier this month and you still haven’t received a card or a gift from me. I have sent it. I sent it late. But I did send it, and a gift, so it should be in your letterbox any day now. Honestly. I am so terrible at this Long-Distance-Aunty stuff. It’s not like I forget birthdays and important events – I usually buy the card and gift weeks in advance and pop it on my desk and then the big day comes and goes and the gift and the card are still on my desk. It can’t post itself. I know that. So why don’t I just post it on time? Why don’t I? What is that about?

I have a One Direction collector card and lollipop pack thing sitting in the top kitchen drawer. I don’t know why it is in the kitchen drawer but it is. Every time I need a tea-spoon I see it; Zayn, Louis, Harry, Liam and Niall mocking me and my inability to post things on time. I bought you the collector card and lollipop pack thing on a whim from the local 7-11 months and months ago. I thought, I should send Abby a little something, let her know I’m thinking of her … But it just ended up in the drawer. You probably don’t even like One Direction any more, do you? Have they suffered the same fate as Justin Bieber who you didn’t like, then you did like and now you don’t like again? Bieber spat on one of his fans so I think you made a good decision to move on from him (1D haven’t spat on anyone have they? Oh, and did you notice I wrote 1D – that’s cool right?). What is with that behaviour? I suppose there is a lesson in it for all of us. If you ever get so famous that you think it okay to spit on someone who adores you without even knowing you, the same person who has, in some way, however small, elevated you to this level of fame where, for some reason, you can get away with the aforementioned behaviour then maybe it is time to just take a step back and rethink your life choices.

Now, I have never spat on anyone and I don’t think I ever would. Someone spat on me once. I was on the tram and this woman thought I was spy and said some disgustingly racist things to me (even though I’m not the race she seemed to think I was) and then she spat on me. Yep. That’s when I moved. In hindsight I probably should have moved when she thought I was spy but I didn’t want to be rude or judgemental or anything. So, instead, I got spat on. It was really gross. At least you could bottle up Justin Bieber spit and sell it on eBay to some Bielber for a lot of money.

Even though we can roll our eyes at Justin’s spitting there will come a time when we all, metaphorically, spit on a fan. We will do something that we know isn’t right or makes us feel horrible inside because we want to fit in or feel better about ourselves. Especially when you are 12.

I did it.

I said some really mean things about people when I was hanging out with this so-called popular group (our relationship didn’t last long but it has had a lasting effect). I remember them all laughing at one girl and her bra; a whole group of us laughing over something to do with her bra-strap. It was something so minor and idiotic, absolutely nothing worth laughing or picking on someone about, but I was going along with them because they were the ‘popular girls’.

I felt horrible inside. But I didn’t stop them. I was part of the group.

This group would relentlessly pick on someone because they were fat or thin or short or wore coke-bottle glasses or stumbled over an answer in class or wore the wrong sneakers or couldn’t run fast enough or didn’t play netball well enough or fell over or cried or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time …

It was at this time I also decided to stop eating. The ‘popular girls’ liked me, I was in their group, and I knew the only reason for this sudden acceptance was because I had lost all that baby-fat people love to talk about. Why do people do that? Talk about baby-fat like it is something they can have a comment on like the weather. Is it anyone’s business? Really? Well, I noticed as I turned 12 that is became everyone’s business. People loved to talk about how I was losing it, the baby-fat, with a mixture of sadness and relief in their voices. They all noticed, even my well-meaning year 7 teacher.

What they didn’t notice was that I was losing more than the baby-fat. I hadn’t realised that losing baby-fat is just something that is meant to happen, that is just a part of growing up; nope, I thought it had all started because one day at school I skipped lunch. Now, I’m not dumb Abby (I was reading George Orwell right alongside Sweet Valley High) but that is how anorexia made its way into my brain and took up residence for awhile. So, I kept skipping lunch and eating as little as I could when I was being watched. It was stupid and it made me feel horrible inside. I wasn’t spitting on a metaphoric fan; I was spitting on myself. That is just as bad and even weirder, right?

But, I was 12 and I thought that being really, really skinny would mean the popular girls would accept me and I would be happy. But it felt funny inside. It wasn’t right. I wasn’t happy or healthy. But I didn’t stop it. I was part of the group.

So much of what I was doing when I was 12 was about impressing other people and not about impressing myself. If I could go back and be 12 again I hope that I would be able to be more myself and stand up for the people getting metaphorically spat upon on by the metaphoric Justin Biebers of the school.

When the leader of the popular girls decided we should write a very awful letter to our delightful music teacher I said ‘no’ and I finally left the little in-crowd. They were pretty spiteful but I managed. I discovered that the term ‘popular’ is very misleading in this context Abby. The ‘popular’ crowd tend to be the least popular, they are cliquey and cruel and not many people really like them all that much. Why should they like them? They were bullies. And I was a bully if I stayed with them.

I would like to say that that was that – from that moment I was on my own path and didn’t care what people thought … Of course I cared. I cared when they all started laughing at me and my shoe-laces (which were once considered very cool) and my skinny arms and my inability to play netball. But it gets better. It really, honestly, truly gets better.

I feel like it all begins when you are 12; that idea of going along with the majority, not wanting to cause a fuss, not listening to that little voice inside you that knows that you shouldn’t be laughing at / picking on / gossiping about someone, wanting desperately to ‘fit in’ (whatever the hell that means) …

Abby, please don’t fit in.

Don’t be one of the crowd. The crowd, particularly the ‘popular crowd’ are boring. They really are. Be yourself. Don’t change who you are, what you stand for or what you look like for anyone. You are not boring. Listen to that wonderful Abigail who is inside you and trust her no matter what. If something isn’t right call it, speak up, make it right. Don’t be scared to be different; be proud to be different.

Start your own popular group and actually be popular – inclusive and interesting and different.

And don’t, ever, spit on your fans.

You are a wonderful human being Abby. You are. Enjoy being 12 and enjoy being you.

Happy (belated) birthday. Now, let me know when that card finally arrives.

Missing you and sending lots of love,

Katy

xxx

***

An open letter to my 12-year old niece, and all 12-year old nieces, for the Daily Prompt Weekly Writing Challenge – Dear Abby

Thoughts from the waiting room, again …

Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

George Burns

My audition was scheduled for 1.40pm. At 2pm I still had not gone in and there were three other blondes waiting with me, looking nervous and eager and far better suited for the role than I did. At 2.10pm the casting director asked if any of us were in a hurry. I had seen them checking their watches and tapping their feet and drumming their fingers. Of course they were in a hurry. Of course they had somewhere else they had to be. It’s not like sitting in a waiting room to audition for a non-speaking role in a local television commercial pays the rent.

“No. I’m fine,” they all giggled through plastered smiles.

“Actually, I do have to get back to work soon.” As I said it I could feel the other blondes settle into the uncomfortable plastic chairs triumphantly thinking one less person to compete with; one step closer to nailing the gig. I suddenly felt like I was a strategically-challenged character from The Hunger Games. I felt sure that if that casting director had asked them to tear me from limb to limb they would have done it without hesitation.

“Always say yes. A casting director likes a can-do attitude,” an over-paid, washed up film and TV “acting tutor” once preached to a class of young, wannabe actors. I was one of the wannabes – sitting there, soaking it all in because, well, this tutor had been a star on some now defunct Australian television series so they would know, right?

“They ask if you can ride a horse, you say yes. You just say yes,” he declared between name-dropping and performing excerpts from the show. The class scribbled down his wise-words.

“Isn’t that dangerous?” I asked and all the wannabes stared at me, wide-eyed, not understanding how I could question the oracle who had once been nominated for a Most Popular New Talent TV Week Logie Award. “I mean, if you don’t know how to ride a horse and pretend you can, you could break your neck -”

“It’s not pretending – it’s acting,” one of the wannabes informed me. (I am sure she is probably huge in L.A. now.)

The washed-up tutor looked at me sadly and shook his head of wonderful hair. “You just say yes. OK? To everything. Just say yes. They can work out the logistics later.”

I am always reminded of this brilliant class as I wait for castings and watch the actors respond to any request with this amazing level of enthusiasm that I, personally, would think better suited to winning the lottery or being given a puppy or meeting your long-lost sister for the first time: Can you fill out this form? Can I take your photo now? Are you available for the shoot dates? Have you done a commercial for a similar brand? Can you smack your head against this wall?

There are so many people out there who think they want to be actors (I propose that many of them don’t actually want to be actors; they want to be famous, which is a completely different career choice) that the competition for even a non-speaking role in a pretty ordinary television commercial is fierce and brutal. Because, as all actors are told, “you never know” … that pretty ordinary television commercial could be the Turning Point, the Moment of Discovery, your one chance like Meg Ryan in a Burger King commercial. You just don’t know where this seemingly crappy commercial could lead you. So, we are told, you can’t give the casting director any reason not to consider you for the role.

“So, what’s the latest you could stay around for?” The casting director asked me. “Like five minutes? Ten? Honestly, tell me honestly.”

Honestly? Honestly? Honestly my audition was scheduled for 1.40pm it is now 2.10pm. 2.10pm. Honestly I should have finished the audition and been about to sit back at my desk, back at my boring, soul-destroying, monotonous job any minute now …

I could feel the competition waiting for the casting director to lecture me about the importance of an actor being flexible and available and willing. Waiting for me to leave. Waiting for their moment. Waiting for their big break.

“I can wait. I’ll let my boss know. It’ll be fine,” I smiled through a plastered smile.

It wasn’t like I was lying about my ability to ride a horse or something could actually be dangerous.

“You sure?” Could this casting director see through me? Was my acting this bad?

“Yeah, yeah. I’m happy to be away from my desk to be honest,” and I meant it. That bit was true.

She smiled. I smiled. The competition pretended to smile.

And I waited.

I didn’t get the gig.

The Neurotic Writer Cliché Thing

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.

J. K. Rowling

So …

I had been going really well with this blog until I was ‘freshly pressed’.

It was easy to keep on blogging to three followers and my Mum.

A well-meaning person asked how I could write anything after the freshly pressed post; “How can you follow that up?” she asked in a well-meaning way because she is a well-meaning person. She explained, well-meaning-ly, how she would be too scared to put anything else out there after that sort of ‘recognition.’

I laughed at her well-meaningfulness – yeah, right …

Then I thought.

And thought.

And did just as she predicted.

I wrote nothing.

I was busy. I was working. I was putting on a play. I was going out for a run. I was cleaning the house. I was calling my sister. I was popping to the post office. I was meeting a friend for coffee. I wasn’t sleeping. I was cooking an elaborate meal. I was working through my lunch break. I was reading. I was – I was – I was … avoiding.

I was scared.

I felt like Alanis Morrisette trying to follow-up Jagged Little Pill … minus the worldwide acclaim, success, fame, money, talent, musical ability, friendship with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Grammy Awards etc etc etc … OK, so, maybe not quite like Alanis but I am sure you understand what I am saying. (And, for the record, I really loved her follow-up album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie)

I found that I couldn’t write. Anything I started wasn’t good enough, witty enough, political enough, relevant enough … blah, blah, blah, really, I was just scared.

I was scared of writing on my blog.

Isn’t that one of the most ludicrous lines ever? I was scared of writing on my blog … When I put it like that I could finally see the ridiculousness of the situation.

Chemical warfare is scary. Failing at a blog … I don’t even think that is a ‘thing’, right?

It is time to put things in perspective.

It is time to break the neurotic writer cliché thing and just get writing.

OK. Who am I kidding? It isn’t that easy. Being a neurotic writer cliché thing means I rarely put things in perspective.  But I can make a start …

So, thank you “Freshly Pressed” and the extra 197 followers and my original 3 followers and my Mum … I will keep on writing … And I hope you will keep on following …

Choosing the Greens and losing a Facebook “friend”

If we’re honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband. Not withstanding all his or her faults, you find that he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he’s employing someone while he is in fact a boss.

Tony Abbott

This election was just awful. In the strange barren wasteland of meaningless slogans and bigotry, with tumble-weeds of sexism to break the monotony, the only glimmer of hope was the Australian Greens. The Greens were the only party with a positive message, a vision and sense of compassion and humanity. If I value these attributes in a human being surely it is not too much to ask for them in a political party? Instead, we watched the two major parties battle it out to see who could treat some of the most vulnerable people in the world with the most cruelty … and win votes for it. So it was with pride and relief that I celebrated Adam Bandt’s retention of his seat in the House of Representatives. The fact that Adam Bandt is my member of parliament, the person who represents the place I live, made me so grateful I took to Facebook with my joy (as you do).

“Very thankful for Adam Bandt right now” I wrote. (24 likes – thank you friends)

Short, to the point and positive. I didn’t want to get bogged down with name-calling. But I could have. I didn’t want to be negative. But I could have. What I didn’t expect was someone whom I hardly know to respond to my harmless status update with name-calling and negativity.

I was surprised. The last time I had seen this “Facebook friend” was in an embarrassing moment in a supermarket when he thought I was someone else. Really. He knew my name and felt he could shout it out to get my attention, which he did, and then proceed to tell me all the amazing things I had been doing. Problem was they were not my amazing things; they were a mutual friend’s amazing things. “I’m not her” I had to tell him, almost apologetically. I had felt bad for him but I barely knew him and that incident simply cemented the fact. He was a friend of a friend whom I’d met once. Based on this fleeting moment he had decided to request me as a friend on Facebook and, based on my naivety, I accepted.

I won’t be doing that again.

I think there has to be some sort of criteria for Facebook friendship. Maybe it could look like this … You can be my Facebook friend if;

1. We have met more than once, or

2. We have spent more than 2 minutes chatting and conversation included more than just ‘hello’ and ‘how do you know **insert mutual friend’s name here**?’ or

3. You know who I am if I happen to bump into you in the real world (e.g. the supermarket) or

4. We would actually be friends in real life (I like to think that even though Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t meet criteria 1 through to 3 he would definitely meet number 4)

This Facebook friend did not meet any of the above criteria, so you can imagine my surprise when he felt he had the right to write the following –

Fuck the Greens. Should be renamed Weeds!

Hmmmm …OK …  I wondered why on earth he would say such I thing. Again, my naivety got the better of me. Here was his reason:

Because they sided with Labor last time to have influence and fucked the country. They are anything but the organic organisation they claim to be.

There were many, many holes in this argument … The truth is this man was simply spouting the slogans of the campaign and right-wing shock-jocks. There was neither evidence nor truth to what he was saying. There was also no need for him to say it. The election had been called and Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party had won … Why did I need to hear this rubbish (all of which had been all over the Murdoch press) again? Why did it need to be written on my wall? Why couldn’t I just have my moment of happiness for Adam Bandt?

So, I explained why I voted for the Greens …

I really don’t appreciate the hijacking of my positive status for this Andrew-Bolt-esque rhetoric … I am proud to support a party which has vision, compassion and a strong sense of social justice. I am proud to support a party which holds big polluters and mining companies accountable. I am proud to support a party which believes in climate change and the importance of renewable energy. I am proud to support a party which believes in marriage equality and quality education for all and the rights asylum seekers. I am very proud to be represented by Adam Bandt … Thankfully we live in a country which really isn’t all that ‘fucked’ (despite what you think the Greens have done to it) so you are more than entitled to voice your opinion – I simply ask that you are respectful of mine and refrain from posting this rubbish on my wall.

(4 likes – thank you very much)

In return I got this:

What you call hijacking I call the right to post an opinion in an open forum Katy. If you want an open meadow where everyone eats grass contentedly with your opinion then do one of two things … a/ don’t post or b/ expect opposition. You have undoubtedly been drawn along on a quasi organic wave that posits so-called “equality” regarding climate change and education and human rights but in the real wash-up is a just a soapy Labor puppet. Don’t rubbish my ‘opinion’ unless you have more than rhetoric from a campaign brochure.

(for the record, the above got ZERO likes)

That was then I decided this Facebook relationship was OVER.

Done.

I didn’t feel the need to explain to this man that:

  • I read about every political party which was running for a seat in the upper and lower houses (this includes the minor, minor parties like ‘Bullet Train for Australia’ and ‘Stable Population’ to name but two)
  • I made a very informed decision about supporting the Greens based on my reading of their policies and comparison with the policies of the Liberal and Labor Parties
  • I actually have a real interest in politics which goes far beyond ‘campaign brochures’
  • I enrolled to vote before I turned 18 because I was actually that excited
  • there is no “so-called equality” in the Greens’ policies … It simply is Equality
  • the Greens do not pretend to be an organic party – they are a political party so of course there is hierarchy and procedure … That is part of being a political organisation
  • nothing in my post was actually taken from the Greens’ ‘campaign brochure’ (but your rantings were clearly lifted from the Murdoch press)
  • I don’t think everyone should eat grass but if people want to eat grass and stand in meadows then power to them
  • I don’t know what an organic wave is, quasi or otherwise, but I am very confident I have never been ‘drawn along’ one
  • Facebook is not an open forum … I choose who I am friends with and who can see my posts and who can post to my wall and so on
  • I don’t need to prove myself nor my understanding of Australian politics to you … but I do need to write about it on my blog …

As I thought about my reply I suddenly realised; I don’t have to enter into this. I don’t have to waste time and energy on this man I hardly know … Why would I? So I didn’t. I de-friended and, moments later, got this private message:

You’re better than that. Counter my argument or reliant but don’t be pathetic and stop the dialogue.

Charming … Why, yes, of course I will reignite the ‘dialogue’ when you ask me so nicely you charmer you. No thank you – I would prefer to be pathetic and stop the dialogue. (Besides, when he wrote ‘you are better than that’ I couldn’t help but wonder if he actually meant me or our mutual friend … She may be better than that – I have just proven I am not. Whatever that means.)

I am friends with enough Liberal Party voters (at last count I know about 4 of them … I am sure there are more, they just don’t want to admit it and I don’t blame them) to know that you cannot change someone’s political views. It is something you need to discover for yourself. You can be coaxed, sure, and encouraged, definitely, but in the end there is nothing I could write on my Facebook page to make this man turn around and apologise and understand why I voted the way I voted.

But you know what? None of my real friends who also happen to be Facebook friends who also happen to be conservatives felt the need to abuse me for my status. Maybe it was because they won. Maybe it was because they believe that there should be a range of voices in government representing a range of concerns and interests. Maybe it was because they are respectful. Maybe it was because I didn’t say anything to ‘rubbish’ their political views. Maybe it because they can see why I voted Greens because, well, they actually know me … Maybe they know they cannot change my mind just like I cannot change theirs.

I could explain how Australia is in very good economic shape, that a price on carbon is needed, that a mining tax is brilliant, that seeking asylum is a human right, that Denticare is an excellent incentive … I could go on explaining so many policies and positive changes but I know it would be for nothing. I know it would be countered with an empty slogan, a catch-phrase, a sound-bite heard on the radio …  or what they believe is best for them, or the country, or both … So I will continue to post what I believe and hope they click on the link and start to read more widely and more wisely and make up their own minds. But I will not shout and argue and name-call because that is one way not to get votes.

I will have to live with a Liberal Government for the next three years (at least) but I do not have to live with rude Facebook friends. I value positivity, vision and sense of compassion and humanity. If I value these attributes in a friend surely it is not too much to ask for them in a Facebook friend? And, for the record, even Tony Abbott on the day of the election suggested that someone, who had just laid out her concerns for the country, would be better off voting for the Greens … Just sayin’

 

My beautiful actor friend or; rethinking this whole acting business (a short reflection on a bad audition)

It’s a business you go into because your an egocentric. It’s a very embarrassing profession.

Katharine Hepburn

My friend is an actor. She is beautiful in that unorthodox way. She wears a big hat and no bra and smokes cigarettes with the grace of Bette Davis. She gets calls from her agent whom she calls “darling”. She never apologises. She never orders lunch but eats most of mine. She is always on her way to something, usually an audition. She knows she is good. She doesn’t care what you think. She doesn’t let you think she cares what you think. And you believe she doesn’t. She can wear red lipstick. She can get outrageously drunk. She can be the centre of the attention. She is The Actor.

I’m not like that.

I wish I was.

I think it would help me, you know, as an actor or at the very least it would help me feel like one.

I hate meeting new people because I know that question is coming; “What do you do?” My actor friend answers that question beautifully. By the end of the conversation they’ll have her autograph and will have posed for a selfie with her to pop up on their Instagram account (she, of course, has her own, fabulous Instagram account you’d be very fortunate to appear upon – all grainy and 1970’s chic) so they can show their friends who they knew before she was famous. Because she is going to be famous. I answer the dreaded question with a mumble (oh, yeah, I’m trying to be an actor … and a writer) and this apologetic upward inflection which makes me sound desperate and unsure. These are not the attributes one associates with an actor … or a writer. OK. Maybe a writer but definitely not an actor. Basically, I am the wrong cliché. I wouldn’t mind being like the incredible cliché which is my actor friend, that I could handle … No, instead I fall into the kinda-artistic-loser cliché played by Woody Allen – I want to be Annie Hall not Alvy Singer goddammit!

My beautiful actor friend smiles apologetically when I try to tell her about my sporadic auditions. She says she understands but it seems more like sympathy than empathy. She eats most of the salad I ordered (she couldn’t possibly eat lunch) between taking long drags on her cigarette as we talk about the auditions we’ve lucked out on. At this point, I am still happy just to get an audition. I know she thinks that is naïve. Her auditions are for the major producers of major production houses for major prime-time dramas. My auditions are for television commercials. Sometimes I even get lines to prepare.

I know Mum would say, “you’re an actor – just play that part, the part of your actor friend”. Oh Mum, you just don’t get it. My time at drama school was all about finding my “authentic self” and losing the ego and learning important skills like how to somersault. (I am not ashamed to admit I couldn’t do this before drama school and since drama school I have used it once – not for an audition or a part. Nope. I just kinda did it because I could. And I was drunk. Yay for drama school!) I left my training before the end of the degree and missed out on all the narcissistic, vanity building, self-confidence stuff which seems to make up a lot of the final year (and they need that, they really do for the go-sees and the showcases and the meet and greets and all that).

Instead of finishing my actor training I started writing.

I think I can see where all this went wrong.

But it hit me, you know, how stupid this acting thing is as I was packing an imaginary bag for an imaginary camping trip with my imaginary children for a very real audition for a very real television commercial. The camping bag was floating in mid-air because that’s what the casting director wanted 1. for eye-lines and 2. to make the audition as awkward as possible. It was lucky we were using an imaginary bag. As I packed this bag full of all the things you need for the perfect camping trip (I chucked in all sorts of goodies – fishing rods and mountain bikes and croquet set and boxes and boxes of wine … I was summoning my inner Mary Poppins) the casting director took a phone-call. Right there. Not an imaginary call – a real, live phone-call on his real, live iPhone. Strangely this is not considered a good sign. In that moment I thought – what would my actor friend do right now? How would she handle this situation which has, unbelievably, grown even more awkward. I considered doing a somersault. Nope. She would not do that. I know what she would do – she would keep on going. So I did. I packed that bag beautifully. I didn’t wait for him to get off the phone. I packed and packed and smiled at my kids and ad-libbed something about sleeping-bags and finally he called “Cut” … Well, no he didn’t actually call “cut”. He was still on the phone. Calling “cut” in the middle of the phone-call would just be rude. No, instead of breaking phone etiquette he did this weird, silent little hand movement in front of the camera. It reminded me of Joey from Full House: “Cut, It. Out” – I nearly said that but remembered my actor friend and refrained.

While I waited for him to finish his phone-call so I could resume packing (the kids were getting really restless too – they just wanted to go camping, is it that difficult?) I thought about this acting thing. It dawned on me, I could never be like my actor friend because I know what she would have done. She would have stormed out of there and called her agent and told the darling that she would never be humiliated like that again and if they couldn’t send her to real auditions then she would seek representation elsewhere, and she would get it too.

The casting director resumed the audition (minus phone-call) and changed up the scene (goodbye imaginary floating suitcase; hello imaginary steering-wheel) and I continued. I didn’t storm out. I didn’t call my agent. I didn’t get the part.

I don’t really know if my actor friend would have stormed out. We are all so conditioned to take this thing so seriously, to see everything as some sort of ‘opportunity’ (you just don’t know what this will lead to / who will see this / what this director will do next) and to understand that there are many, many actors out there (all of whom are willing to stab your eyes out with a chop-stick if it means getting a line on a crappy television commercial) that we are too scared of making the wrong impression so put up with the awkward and the humiliating and the downright rude.

And you know what?

Being beautiful in that unorthodox way and wearing a big hat and no bra and smoking cigarettes and calling your agent  “darling” and never apologising and not eating lunch and always being on your way somewhere and knowing you’re good and making them believe you don’t care what they think and wearing red lipstick and getting outrageously drunk and being the centre of the attention … maybe all that actually does help deal with the crazy of being The Actor.

Or  if that fails, maybe just doing somersaults. For no reason.

Or giving it all up to write.

Maybe it all helps.

Maybe it doesn’t matter at all.

Because, in the end, it is only acting – it is only make-believe.

 

An unexpected cab ride; or, things I learnt from the taxi driver

NYC Cabs, New York 2008, Katy Warner

I think that anybody’s craft is fascinating. A taxi driver talking about taxi driving is going to be very, very interesting.

James Lipton

Today I had to catch a taxi. I don’t do that very often. Whenever I do I like to imagine I am Carrie Bradshaw and I am in New York with amazing shoes and the salary to afford it (the taxi and the shoes). This particularly taxi was taking me to Brunswick (which is not quite New York) because our borrowed 1988 Ford Laser refused to start (which is not quite Carrie Bradshaw’s style) to get me to a casting (which means I am not even close to being able to afford those shoes).

I love talking and I particularly love talking to taxi drivers. Sometimes it works out (I’ve had some enlightening political conversations). Sometimes it doesn’t (I’ve been asked out, rather emphatically, on a “date”). But it is always interesting.

Today I had a brilliant taxi driver who got me to Brunswick

a) on time

b) alive

and, as bonus, we had a nice chat during ridiculously expensive ride (which I didn’t feel so bad about paying due to a and b, above, but not necessarily in that order).

He told me he was trained nurse. Nursing was his passion. It was all he wanted to be. It was the job he loved most in the world. But here he was, driving a taxi because Australia would not recognise his four-year degree from a University in India nor his extensive experience. “Driving a taxi is better than nothing,” he told me. His positivity was incredible.

Along with some wonderful positive thinking, here’s what I learnt from the taxi driver today:

  1. Being called “Boss” has nothing to do with Bruce Springsteen
  2. Always speed up when approaching an amber light because “you never know which ones you will make”.
  3. Education is important (but Australia only recognises those educated in the western world) (i) Australia has a tendency to treat people from non-English speaking backgrounds in the most shameful way
  4. Taxi drivers have to deal with some of the most awful people in the world (“I think when people are drunk,” he said, “they just don’t realise what they are saying”) (i) Some people are gross when drunk (ii) Some people are gross all the time
  5. Positivity can be contagious
  6. Taxis trump public transport (i) Guaranteed seat (ii) Less likely to be coughed all over / sneezed all over / stepped on
  7. Ray-Bans are cool
  8. I am pink – like my EFTPOS Card (I’m taking that as a compliment)

I wish more people would speak to their taxi drivers. Yes, sometimes you may have to give the driver directions, yes, sometimes the driver may just be a jerk, yes, sometimes the driver may have bad-taste in music / jokes / appropriate conversation starters or a turn out to be some sort of homicidal maniac or racist / homophobic / sexist / angry, angry person … But we all know people like – besides, it always makes for great writing / blogging / dinner-partying material. Speak to your taxi driver – you never know what you might learn …

What I wrote or; getting out of the office

I had to get out of the office and away from the desk. My head hurt. And my soul. Dramatic? Maybe. But I’m sure that was where most of the pain was coming from. I just wanted to get a little bit of this sunshine everyone (everyone who didn’t have to make revenue spreadsheets and rewrite copy for incompetent people who were asked to write their own copy but just couldn’t seem to do it, probably because they were enjoying the sunshine) was talking about.

I finally make it out outside.

I find the only table in the sunshine. It’s covered in bird shit. Covered. I wonder if the bird had some kind intolerance thing. Do birds get IBS? That would be terrifying. Anyway, the table delightfully decorated with bird poo is the only table in the sunshine and I have forgotten my cardigan. So I ignore the white and brown flakes and mounds of god-knows-what-these-birds-have-been-eating and sit down to write.

The smokers are out in force. The work-place hierarchy still firmly intact as the power-suits of the heads / managers of this and that smoke in prime position on the manicured lawn whilst  the cheap-suits of the security guards smoke in the dirt and wood-chips and litter that fills the sad flower-beds.

Once the power-suits crush their cigarettes into the lawn and rush off for some important meeting with some important client, the security guards take their places.

The short security guard has issues with his lighter and speaks in series of questions; “Oh, really?” “Fair enough?” “Two extra hours today makes it a long shift?” “I bloody hate Vodafone?” “I need a new lighter?”

I wonder if he ever got the answers he wants. His fellow security guard seems unlikely to argue with him. He looks like a very unassuming man and wears square glasses. I wonder what made him choose

a) to be a security guard, and

b) square glasses

I’m not brave enough to ask him. Besides, his colleague has more than enough questions for him.

“I’m loving this sunshine?”

Their voices and cigarette smoke drift over me.

Sometimes I wish I was a smoker. Without the cancer and wrinkles and yellow teeth and bad skin and addiction and harm to unborn babies and gangrene and all that stuff … But … Still … There is still something immaturely romantic and ridiculously ‘cool’ about the cigarette. Like Leonardo DiCaprio playing Romeo in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet.  Like  Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Like Rita Hayward or Lana Turner or Ava Gardner or …. OK, who am I kidding here? Maybe it is because it gives you something to do with your hands. Or an excuse to have a bit of breather, outside on your own for a moment, during a full-on dinner-party or family gathering or something without looking totally rude. A breather? With a cigarette? Who am I fooling? It smells disgusting. I know it. I want no part in it. I am that person who gives you a filthy look as I rush past you on the street to avoid the killer passive smoke of your disgusting habit. I am that person who coughs loudly when you light up too close to me in the beer garden. I am that person who feels like they deserve some sort of medal, or at that the very least an impromptu performance by a mariachi band,  when they tell the doctor – “No, I don’t smoke” … But still. Some days …

Maybe it is because I feel like an idiot sitting at a table covered in bird excrement writing away whilst surrounded by smokers. Maybe I am feeling a bit of peer-pressure.

The sun moves and suddenly I am sitting at a table covered in the faecal matter from a flock of birds but minus the appeal of sunshine  … or a cardigan. I try to ignore all of those facts – the lack of sunshine, the lack of a cardigan, the abundance of bird poop – and focus on the positives: I am outside, I am away from the desk, I don’t smoke, I am not a security guard.

The sunshine gets locked behind the clouds and the wind picks up. A dry and miserable looking leaf snuggles up to my foot. I try to shake it off but it doesn’t want to leave me – clinging to my boot like the sooky two-year old who cannot be without its mother and , before they know it (where does the time go), he is twenty-five years old and still living at home and playing on his X-Box whilst his mother still does his cooking and washing and ironing and even though she hints loudly that he should find a place of his own, they all know he won’t be going anywhere because he’s got it too good. Like this leaf. But enough is enough. It is time for it to stop being so clingy and find its own way in the world. I get tough.

The security guards notice.

I wonder if they are out here to protect the leaves.

Or find new recruits for the security guard team.

I was pretty tough.

Or maybe I was too tough and now I am a ‘person of interest’.

I make sure they can see my lanyard and staff pass thing – just so they know I am on their side, nothing to worry about here. Just a leaf. Just a leaf.

Another three security guards join Shorty and Square-glasses. They are all smoking. I wonder

a) what is the collective noun for security guards?

b) do all security guards smoke?

c) have I done something wrong?

Shorty’s questions are getting louder – I think he is showing off for the other, taller security guards. He stands like a politician and gestures a lot.

The smoke continues to drift over me but the sunshine never does come back. I wish for my cardigan and a clean table but neither come – the end of my mini-break does though. I remember in grade 1 a kid asking the teacher why five-minutes could feel so long when we were waiting for home-time but feel so short when we were doing something fun. Like French Cricket. Our class loved French Cricket. She said it was exactly the same amount of time. I don’t think she understood the question.

And so I head back to the world of spread-sheets and data-bases and invoices and wait for home-time …

 

 

Thoughts from the waiting room; or, Acting is Weird

Acting is the perfect idiot’s profession.

Katharine Hepburn

Nothing like a last-minute casting to brighten your day. And this one was really last minute: a call from the agent at 1.30pm for an audition at 3.30pm. Fortunately, I could take a late, long lunch-break for this audition for a non-speaking role in an ever-so-slightly-but-not-too-much-to-cause-outrage sexist television commercial.

I made it the casting waiting room, got the obligatory up-and-down from another woman possibly auditioning for the same, highly coveted role and waited and filled in the form that wants all my measurements in centimetres and thought (hopefully not out loud):

Acting is weird.

Although I’m not even sure this could be classified as acting. My success in getting this role seemed entirely based upon my ability to smile. Last week, it was based on my ability to look like a model but not too much like a model, like an approachable model, the girl-next-door-meets-Bond-Girl-type (if that’s even a type), and to keep it natural but not so natural that you lose those elements of looking like a model … I didn’t get that gig. Obviously.

But this gig … I can smile. I do it everyday.

I wasn’t nervous, just intrigued to see how on earth the casting director could actually direct a casting for this role.

There were a few auditions for different productions on in the casting offices that day. I watched nervous actors try desperately not to look nervous as they studied scripts and mouthed their lines and checked their watches. I watched mothers whispering encouragement or instructions or threats (or all three)  at their 3-year-old daughters as they fixed their piggy-tails and kept an eye on the casting director’s door. Your audition starts as soon as you enter the waiting room – another tip from another acting class.

I went to an audition for a ‘young mum’ role and was partnered up with a child for the casting. The casting director told me that she looked more like my sister than my daughter which I thought was pretty cool considering this kid was like 9. And a boy. No, no, she was definitely a girl. Now, I am absolutely old enough to have a 9-year-old daughter so I took it as a compliment that I didn’t get that gig – too young to be cast as a ‘young mum’ … Or, possibly, the 9-year old looked more like she was 17 and in that case … No, I’m sticking with my version of the story. Anyway, maybe when called on to audition for ‘young mum’ roles it is safer to ‘bring your own baby’ as I could see was happening in this waiting room.

But, for this audition it didn’t matter.

No children necessary.

I just had to smile.

And that’s exactly what I did about fifteen minutes later as I headed into the audition room.

Smiling and some miming.

They don’t really cover that at Drama School.

The casting director was very positive and said I was in with a very good chance for this one …

I didn’t get the gig.

I think I need to work on my smiling and miming.

Acting is weird.