Thursday, May 28, 2009

Duelling With Devils

Theme Songs of the Day:
  1. "Paper Aeroplanes", by Angus & Julia Stone
  2. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", by Neil Young
  3. "Neopolitan Dreams", by Lisa Mitchell

MAP OF TASMANIA, CIRCA 1916
APPROX 240KM SOUTH OF MELBOURNE


I'm going to Tassie. Tasmania, that is.

When I share that with the locals in Melbourne, I get one of two responses:
  1. "Why??"
  2. "Aw, yeahhhh, Tassie is BEAUTIFUL!"
I've heard that Tasmanian Devils really do spin around like in the Loony Tune cartoons. I've heard that Tasmanian Tigers aren't really extinct, if you know where to look for them. I've heard that some of the wildest places on earth are still pristine and hiding in this little corner or the world that most of mainland Australia has forgotten.

My travel companion for this leg of my journeys is Jill Rushton, the lovely Canadian that I met in Maui earlier this year at a pivotal time in my life:

After Christmas 2008, I sank rapidly into a fairly deep depression in which I did not make it out the front door of my house for most of January. I would lie awake at night waiting for sleep to arrive, listening to my inner monologue loop endlessly around thoughts of "Why did/didn't I do this; Why am I so far away from where I should be; How in the hell did I get myself into this mess; How the hell am I going to ever get myself out of this mess; Who do I think I am [bloody useless fool]; yadda-ydadda-yadda-doom-and-gloom-ever-downward-spiraling-blah-blah-blah......"

In the morning I would awake and lie catatonic, staring at the wall for an hour or so before mustering up the courage to get up and have a shower to face the sunlight. Being surrounded by so much natural beauty didn't help at all; it only heightened the contrast between how I felt within and the cheery surroundings without. I kept the blinds over the window to wallow in as much darkness as I could and found solace by distracting my mind with hours of mindless sessions on YouTube watching conspiracy theory movies, alien encounter clips, and other random obscurities.

My brother was a great support to me in this period, holding a safe space for me to move through this process, giving me room and permission to wallow without judging me, as if he knew all along that I wouldn't allow myself to linger for too long in this place of self-pity.

"I don't feel like doing anything, or seeing anyone today," I would announce gloomily. "Then don't!" was his cheerful reply.

I've never understood people who have had challenges with "depression", rather heartlessly writing the condition off as a sign of a weak and undisciplined mind. It's not. It is very real, and can be very scary - even to the most self-aware individuals. Depression is a very elusive, seductive creature: it beckons silently to you, lulling you into a sense of security and then drowning you in your own heavy thoughts. I can see now how the weight of it all could quickly add up and become unbearable, especially without the love and support of family and friends around you.

After a week or two of moping around the house all day and feeling lousy, I forced myself to get out into the sunshine, into nature, and do something, anything I could find joy in. This is when I started blogging, volunteering, hiking, sailing, swimming, surfing....anything to get me out of the house and having fun.

This was also a time to make peace with some lingering open wounds upon my heart, and move on into the next
phase of relationship where you allow yourself to enjoy a person for who they are, wherever they are at, warts, old hurts, and all. After a two-year absence, I returned to Maui for Chinese New Year's Celebrations, which had become such a big part of my previous life, and was welcomed back with open arms, as if I had never left.

So it was there that I met The Canadian, her travel companion Kristen, and their chaperone [the perpetually hungover] Knuckles Tulio while stealing away to the hot-tub to relax muscles sore from a day's worth of Lion Dance and Kung-Fu performances. After two years fighting tooth-and-nail against brain cancer, Jill has recently lost the most important person in her life , and has embarked upon a journey to "rediscover both what's important to me and what makes me who I am." You can read her blog by clicking here.

Here I am, after moping around for the last month or so about losing everything, reawakened and finally enjoying all the beauty of life surrounding me... my breath is knocked out of me and silent tears stream down my face as I discover her story and see Facebook photos of good times....recent good times....shared with a loved one who has only recently left us. And again, I am reminded of what is truly important, and how lucky I really am. And of how beautiful, cruel, and beautiful life can be.

That experience has humbled me, and deepened my appreciation for the beauty of people and places surrounding me. I hope I never lose this perspective.


We're never really alone, are we? Our experiences may feel like we are the only ones going through this, indeed who has ever and will ever go through whatever it is that we are going through at that time... but the fact is that we are all more similar than we are diferent. We can find more that we relate to in others, than we can often find in ourselves. There is comfort and solace in the bond that exists between those who have had a shared, or shared a similar exerience. And we are all sharing a very similar experience - it's called the human experience.
"Are we human beings having a spiritual experience?
Or are we spiritual beings having a human experience?"

-overheard at a cafe, a long time ago-

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The Canadian has been traveling throughout Australia spending time with friends across the continent, blogging about her journeys here. The plan is to meet up in Melbourne, and head down to Tassie to share the cost of a campervan to explore the island for a week.

I've organized a stay with Peter Bedford, whose CouchSurfing profile says that he lives on 60 acres of wild bush in the mountains of Tasmania where "he and his family and working towards creating a self-sufficient lifestyle." Sounds wild.

The Guidebook to Hiking in Tasmania that I bought describes some amazingly beautiful multi-day treks, which I hope to somehow accomplish despite our lack of cold-weather gear. There is no agenda other than to explore, experience, and explore some more.

I am really looking forward to getting on the road again with new friends, and to making even more new friends, and to learning whatever lessons Tasmania has in store.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

From Dawn 'Til Dusk: Hog Wild

Theme Songs for the Day:
  1. "Give It Away" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
  2. "Alive" by Pearl Jam

THE MISSING APOSTLES
[OH YEAH, THAT'S SOME OF THE ICONIC "12 APOSTLES" IN THE BACKGROUND...]


My chest is still rumbling with the unmistakable growl that can only come from a Harley.

My hands are cramping so much that my fingers hurt as I type.

My head is still ringing with the sound of wind in my ears.

My mouth is still twisted into an ear-splitting grin.

My buttocks are numb.
  • 2 best mates
  • 1200 ccs [mine...well, ok his wife let me borrow hers - thankyou Lisa!]
  • 1690 ccs [his...dat buggah...]
  • 11 hours on the road
  • 500+ kilometers traveled
  • 3 new muscles discovered

MEN AND THEIR MACHINES, OR
BOYS AND THEIR TOYS


Last night I was so excited I could hardly sleep. After downsizing my car to a motorcycle during the last months I remained in Hawaii, I've not ridden for almost six weeks and withdrawals have been kicking in... gazing longingly at bikes parked on the sidewalks of Melbourne, snapping my neck to see the machine responsible for causing all that lovely ruckus as it whines or growls or putts its way down the street...

When I jump out of bed at 6:30 this morning, my feet barely touch the ground as I pull on two layers of thermals, two layers of socks, two layers of tshirts, and then put on my borrowed riding gear. We hit the road a little after 7am, and I am thankful for the neoprene ninja mask keeping my face warm that I bought this week. I am not to feel my toes, or fingers, for another two hours when we stop for breakfast and coffee in Lorne.

The Great Ocean Road winds its way down some of the most rugged, and beautiful coastline of Australia. Loking out at the massive seacliffs that stretch away, you can feel the slow march of the entire continent's landmass into the Southern Ocean. Two thin lanes of cars and motorcycles skirt these cliffs - many of them sheer drops into the surf below - whizzing only feet away from each other at 100 kilometers per hour [kmh], separated only by a white stripe on the pavement.

Then the road turns inland, and rolling hills emerge from native forests, and asphalt carves sweeping turns through the changing terrain. The twang of eucalyptus oil fills our noses as the bike engines roar and crackle through the bush.

At one point, we shoot out of the mottled eucalyptus canopy into a cloud of blue smoke drifting across the roadway. The trees have changed, there are
now pine forests stretching away to the horizon, and on either side of us are clearings littered with stumps, bright yellow heavy machinery, and smoldering piles of brush... my first thought is that we are passing through the remnants of Black Saturday, until I realize that the fires did not pass this far south. Then the scene is gone like a bad dream, and we plunge back into the eucalyptus forest at 100 kmh, and the acrid smell of burning pine is replaced again with the smell of koalas' favorite food.

The weaves and twists and turns are hypnotic, and the hours and kilometers fly by as we hit our groove: lining up our entry points and lines, leaning into the turns, and accelerating out into the next curve. My mind, which had been fluttering from randomness to randomness, quiets itself,
trancelike. Each moment flows into the next, one long, smooth, continuous motion with no end and no beginning, ebbing and flowing with the surge and retreat of the bike's power. Man, machine, and the open road become one.

Until the conscious mind pipes up again, saying, "Where was I? I suppose I had better ride this bike now... who was riding it all this time?" ...and the moment, the magnificent flowing moment with no end and no beginning, which could have lasted 5 minutes or 45 minutes in real time... that moment passed.

I understand a little more about the allure the motorcycle, a.k.a. the meditation machine, and the open road holds for certain souls...


END OF DAY:
CHASING SHADOWS ACROSS THE LAND


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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

a conversation with Dean Steele-Bennett of Melbourne Greendrinks


TEN MINUTES WITH
DEAN STEELE-BENNETT

When I first meet Dean Steele-Bennett, he is a blur of smiles, handshakes and laughs as he works his way across the crowded restaurant. He is sporting a very stylish Melbourne-black tie, and is surrounded by beautiful people.

I grab him as he walks past and ask, "If you were a new college graduate with an education and interest in sustainability, who in this room would you talk to about getting an awesome job in that field?"

He pauses, surveys the room quickly, and says, "I know just the person...". I introduce him quickly to Vanessa, whom I have just met at this Greendrinks event, and her jaw drops as she rushes to follow him through the crowd to meet his contact.

Dean is the organizer of Melbourne Sustainability Drinks, one of 3 events listed for Melbourne on the Greendrinks website. He is a volunteer "green collar mentor" to the Fellowship participants undertaking the sustainability leadership program at the Center for Sustainability Leadership, and actively volunteers with other community organizations as well.

"I want to help show people how they can have a fun, cheeky, rewarding, and planet-friendly lifestyle," says Dean. "Living a more sustainable lifestyle does not have to be extreme."

Dean is a co-founder of The Shaper Group, a group of companies that work with businesses, government, and non-profit organizations who want to embrace sustainabilty. Their focus is to help these organizations imrpove their competitive advantage and reputation by embracing more sustainable business practices.

Prior to co-founding The Shaper Group of companies, Dean held various management, consulting, and senior research roles for Russell Reynolds Associates, Korn/Ferry International (FutureStep), and KPMG Executive Search. In addition to successfully identifying CEO, C-Suite, and other executives for leading ASX300, Fortune 500, government and higher education clients internationally, he is passionate about making a positive difference in his community...and is just a very fun guy to hang around with!

For more information about the origins, benefits, and future direction of this event, watch the video interview posted above! Click here for the trailer...

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Links to resources mentioned in the interview:
  1. Future Canvas
  2. Sustainable Living Foundation
  3. Sustainable Living Festival
  4. Carbon Innovators Network


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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Street Music

AUTUMN SUN ON MELBOURNE

Melbourne's streets thrum with music, art and life at all hours. It's one of the things I love about this city.

The other day, I walked with the crowd up the stairs from the train platform at Flinders St station, in the midst of a mystical musical landscape created by a busker sitting on his guitar amp caressing his strings. The guitar had a clean tone, and the sweetly haunting music cascaded down the steps and washed through the crowd.

As I neared the top of the steps, a voice like butter wove lyrics that were vaguely familiar....after a couple more steps the penny drops, and I marvel at his strangely sweet version of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters". His music is like eating foie gras: it's oh-so-good, and it's oh-so fine... and you know there is a dark side to the pleasure you are indulging in the whole time.

I step onto the crosswalk and into the night, surreal now with his music fading into the background of moonlit
city streetscapes.

It happened so quickly - the time it takes to walk up a flight of stairs, through the train station turnstyle, and to the sidewalk. I have the presence of mind to flip a $2 coin into his open guitar case, but not to stop and take a photo; though my guess is that would have diminished the surrealism of the experience. The moment, and the feelings he evoked in me, are etched into my memory banks of Melbourne.

Walking around the streets of Melbourne, this kind of experience can happen at any time, so rich is the tapestry of buskers... I have seen child prodigies on pianos, flautists, guitarists, quartets, preachers, acrobats, jugglers, beatboxers, comedians, and freaks... some talented, some you would pay to shut them up...

The other day I read an article in the newpaper about Rupert Guenther, a Melbourne street-busker who honed his unique style of improvising classical music on his violin for five years, eeking out a living by playing music for passers-by.

He attended a masterclass in February at the renowned Julliard School in New York being given by Dr David Dolan, a professor at Guildhall and the Menuhin School. Dr Dolan was so impressed with Rupert that he suggested he audition in the UK at Guildhall's Centre for Classical Improvisation and Creative Performance. Rupert took his advice, and is now on his way to becoming an internationally acclaimed artist and teacher, like many of his alumni at the prestigous school.


Sounds like a screenplay in the making... I just love the creativity that just oozes from the pores of this city!


video
NOT RUPERT GUENTHER



NOT RUPERT GUENTHER EITHER!


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Friday, May 15, 2009

Melbourne Greendrinks!

video
MELBOURNE GREENDRINKS!


Sustainability Drinks Melbourne is one of three similar events that is listed on the greendrinks.org website, and is held on the first Wednesday of every month at Tjanabi at Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne.

Organizer Dean Steele-Bennett started this event 18 months ago with 5 mates over a beer. They were lamenting the lack of a fun, informal, open forum for like-minded individuals concerned and involved with Sustainability issues to meet - as real people, instead of job titles or organizations - and collaborate on solutions...and thus was born Sustainability Drinks Melbourne! Six months later, a guest at their event told them the story of Greendrinks, and a new challenge was born.

Steele-Bennett selected Tjanabi as the venue for his event specifically because of their focus on "supporting practices that sustain the environment". The owner, Carolyn Briggs, is a Senior Elder and Spokesperson of the Boonerwrung people - the indigenous peoples of Melbourne. Tjanabi's menu features such traditional ingredients as kangaroo, emu, crocodile, wild boar and seafood. These foods are combined with some of the best quality regional and seasonal produce from the Gippsland region.

The event is marketed exclusively by word-of-mouth, and RSVPs are required, as Sustainability Drinks Melbourne regularly attracts 200+ people, and has to turn away 50-100 people each month due to the restaurant's capacity.

The organizers read about New York Greendrinks' record-largest GD event, with over 800 attendees, and began plans to set a new record for the largest Greendrinks' event in the world. This came to fruition on February 15th 2008, as part of Melbourne's annual Sustainable Living Festival. Sustainability Drinks collaborated with the organizers of EnviroDrinks and the O2Australia network, when a massive Greendrinks event was held in Federation Square with over 2,000 people in attendance!

This month's Guest Speaker was Marcus Godinho, founder of Fare Share, a non-profit organization whose goal this year is to deliver 1,000,000 free meals to the homeless and hungry population of Melbourne. Marcus was named to Melbourne's 100 most influential people by local newspaper The Age last year.

Fare Share turns good food that is otherwise destined for the dumpster into restaurant-quality meals for charitable organizations since the year 2000.

Over 1,500 volunteers are supported by only 5 paid staff, which includes two professional chefs. Local companies of all sizes utilize the volunteer program as a team building exercise, and do their part to contribute to their communities. The companies often realize additional benefits by reporting on their teams' participation in their annual Social Responsibility Reports.

We had a great night out with the organizing team and fellow attendees, continuing the conversation with new friends at a bar across the road at the conclusion of the event. A number of people walking up and introducing themselves to me throughout the night - everyone was warm, friendly, and interested in what the other had to say - there was an excited energy of innovation in the air, like we were all participating in something special. What a great environment for collaboration!

Later on, Daniel tells me that the typically diverse crowd that night included venture capitalists, documentary film-makers, governmental policy-makers, private consultants, students, job-seekers, entrepreneurs, and even an eco-friendly brewmaster. Stay tuned for an interview with the Organizer of Sustainability Drinks Melbourne, Dean Steele-Bennett!


For more information on how to support Fare Share, visit their website or contact Marcus at:
T: +61 3 9428 0044
M: +61 416 180 802
E: marcus.godinho@fareshare.net.au

For more information on Sustainability Drinks Melbourne, visit their website or contact Dean at:
T: +61 3 9614 6511
M: +61 424 507 446
E: dsb@executiveshaper.com



MORE PICS


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Monday, May 11, 2009

Chloe

YOUNG & JACKSON'S PUB,
HOME OF GRANDPA'S FAMOUS GIRLFRIEND:
CHLOE


The first time I ever saw a naked woman was at a bar with my Grandpa.

My Grandpa, Keith Lynch, owned the McKinnon pub [about 1/2 mile away from where Mum & Dad live today], and brought up Dad and his 3 brothers here
; as a result the Lynch men are a very colorful bunch...our family get-togethers are always fascinating affairs!

The misadventures of the Lynch boys
growing up in and around the pub would make for a great novel: pet snakes escaping into the neighborhood, unexpected overnight stays in the walk-in fridge, fast cars, and the girls next-door to name a few...but these are other stories that will be told another time...

This is a Grandpa Keith story [of which there are also a great many tales of misadventure], and I digress.

In 1985, the year before we moved to Oz, Dad took me on a scouting trip to Melbourne to prepare for the family's move the following year.

Grandpa was, of course, tickled to see his eldest son's eldest son come to Melbourne for the first time and took it upon himself to show me around. He booked us an all-day bus tour [highly recommended!] which included, among other things, a visit to Healsville Sanctuary to see a real live kangaroo, and a stop at Ferguson's Winery for lunch and a tour. breakfast that day was my first Aussie four'n'twenty meatpie [no the ketchup did not look like that on my pie]...

Long story short, after the tour was over and Grandpa had charmed all the ladies on the tour bus over lunch at the winery, he says, "I want to introduce you to my girlfriend", and takes me to the famous Young & Jackson's Hotel, across from Flinders Street station at the entrance to Melbourne central business district.

Grandpa sits me down at the bar, my 8-year old legs dangling off the barstool as I peer over the countertop, and orders himself a pint of beer, and me a shirley temple.

We sip our drinks and then raise our glasses to toast his girlfriend, "To Chloe!".... who is the 12 foot high nude oil painting hanging on the wall next to the bar!

"Sweet things do not go well
with a bitter Aussie lager -
Chloe is an exception
"

-Rafal Zakrzewski, Beer Historian (2001)-

Today,
the bar is different that I remember. My feet no longer dangle from the barstools, and I can lean over the countertop to order my own beer. Chloe now lives upstairs, overlooking the busy intersection that is home to Federation Square, St Paul's Cathedral, and Flinders Street Station.

I take a moment to myself today and climb the upstairs to visit her; she hasn't aged a day. As I hoist my glass to toast her, an old digger and his wife wink at me and comment about the gleam in my eye.

Here's to Chloe!

TO CHLOE!
AND TO YOU, GRANDPA...



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Sunday, May 10, 2009

voyeur

THEME SONG FOR THE DAY:
  1. "Guaranteed" by Eddie Vedder, from the soundrack "Into the Wild"

ACLAND STREET ROOFTOP

Today I people-watched.

This afternoon the sun broke through they grey of this morning, and so I ventured down to Acland Street in St Kilda, the wonderful little corner of the world that my Dad affectionately calls "The Armpit of the World".

It is such a surreal little stretch of asphalt, the gaping maw of Luna Park welcoming you to an avenue lined with cakeshops and coffeeshops and bookstores and boutiques. Garish characters on rooftops leer at you and wander the street muttering to themselves, while artists and musicians and other denizens of bohemia sit and sip on flat white coffees, passionately discussing existentialism, politics, music and art.

This trip to Melbourne has
so far been a wonderful whirlwind of reunions with family and friends, a blur of lattes and pints of beer and delicious meals shared with warm conversations and catchings-up. I feel like I could quite easily spend the whole of the next 12 months looking up old friends and acquaintances... It would be so easy, and so safe to just stay here...

As I wandered through the streets and gardens today, I observed myself observing others, a surreal feeling of watching a movie that is playing out in real time right before your eyes, except that you are participating, and watching, all at the same time; a lucid dream, except that I am wide-awake...

...a now-familiar feeling has been growing in my belly - it is the feeling that bubbles up to my conscious thought stream and whispers "I am no longer here". I am ready to move on.

Being a happy child surrounded by loving family in Hawaii is a blessing that I shall always treasure - all my childhood memories are full of joy and laughter. You don't truly appreciate the beauty of a place until you leave it.

As little people we all make decisions about ourselves, other people, and the world based upon our experiences, that shape our thinking, and therefore our words, actions, and habbits....and therefore our REALITY.

The
despair, angst and sheer anger that I felt during my teen years served to drive much of the outward material successes I enjoyed in my 20s, though has long since faded. Anger, when focused to a point, can create positive results. The problem is that anger is a poor foundation upon which to build a legacy, and, when suppressed, will explode violently.

This stands in stark contrast to my current experience of Melbourne: peaceful, joyful, and connected. I have made my peace with this city, and with the experiences and emotions of the past.

Today I wandered and watched, enjoying the simplest details - snippets of conversations overheard in the street, the laughs of a young family tending to their plot in the community garden, the cacophony of screeching seagulls and cawing crows bathed in the soft, warm glow of the afternoon sun. The big, cold blue sky stretches far away above me, fading into deep indigos as the quiet drama of another Melbourne sunset slips away on the horizon.



"...A mind full of questions
And a teacher in my Soul
..."

- "Guaranteed", from the soundtrack "Into The Wild"
by Eddie Vedder
-
THE ARMPIT OF LUNA PARK


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