The field where 400,000 gathered in 1969 for Woodstock.
My most memorable Christmas tree was a scraggly gum branch propped in the corner of my Grandfather’s farmhouse porch. It hadn’t even been cut – the splintered end pointing to the dusty concrete like a ballerina’s toe. The grey-green leaves back-flipped over the unnatural angle of its smokey-grey limbs, sparsely decorated with silver tinsel and baubles. I hadn’t even seen it go up. Just stumbled across it on Christmas eve and stopped, perplexed.
“That’s our tree,” said my Aunt nonchalantly, and kept on walking.
But I kept staring at it. It looked so odd to me, raised in domestic Canberra with a three-story pine tree in Belconnen Mall and a mother who toured the suburbs looking at the light displays and Santas perched on fake chimneys. All this amidst swimming pools and 113°F (45°C) heat, bushfires and daylight savings that kept me cruising on my bike until 10pm.
Seeing the irregularly shaped Christmas Gum made me realise two things: that we don’t need to conform to someone else’s traditions…and yet, how strangely we do try to meld our traditions to fit our new environment.
It’s a bit like Australian films. There is something completely edifying to see your own people and your own stories being told on screen (and equally horrifying when they cross the Pacific).
I’ve since seen the gleam in the eye of my American friends as they talk about waking to presents on a snowing Christmas day, putting their knits on to go tobogganing down the hill, returning sodden to fresh clothes, a glowing fireplace and mother’s Christmas roast. Since I am doing as the Romans do, I and five other orphaned Australians hired an SUV for the weekend and drove three hours upstate to Woodstock. We walked through the idyllic (and freezing) township to the Christmas tree float to have our photo taken with Santa, sipped on cider, brandied eggnog and mulled wine, ate an amazing roast and played poker and Monopoly by the roaring fireplace in our log cabin late into the night. We woke on Christmas morning to…well, the same barren brown woodland as the day before, but not to worry…drove our SUV up to Windham Mountain where man had made his snow for us to tube in!
On our way home we stopped by the original site of the Woodstock music festival – about an hour from the township itself. It’s just like any other field, but amazing to visualise 400,000 hippies converging for three days of peace and music. And bathing in the nearby lake…a caption I unthinkingly added to the photograph below when posting to my friends on Facebook, much to their disdain.
One month into my one year in the US and where am I? Technically unemployed and homeless, but still having fun!
My first two weeks were spent on the west coast. I road-tripped with a friend from LA → Las Vegas → Grand Canyon → Yuma → San Diego → Orange County and back to LA. That’s about 1500-2000 miles on the wrong side of the road. We kept a penalty box for each mistake I made… and if you don’t count the 7 times I hit the wipers whilst indicating, then there were only 2 instances… once turning left into oncoming traffic, and another time my wheels drifting across the roadside marker. Spatially I’m used to the driver’s seat traveling down the right hand side of the lane, right?
Three weeks into NY now and I’m almost set up. I’ve forgotten how ridiculous some of the systems are here, like banks which charge fees but offer no interest savings accounts, phone plans requiring $500 deposit before they will enable data, the dependency on credit ratings and the bureaucratic government offices. Actually, to be fair, the lady at Social Security in Brooklyn was very nice to me, but I think that had more to do with my ticket stub being the same as her house number. My SS number sure did come through quickly though.
Through friends-of-friends back home I am being well looked after; I have met more Australians here than Americans! Despite its claim, New York does actually sleep. A deserted Times Square 1:30am one freezing morning proved that to me. But there are always people to spend time with, and I have to find work anyway….
Pictures are better than words… read on to continue the journey with iPhone pictures from my first month in the US!
I made my way down to the 2-month anniversary rally of Occupy Wall Street today. The recent warm spell had dropped to an icy breeze with rain, making it difficult to operate my camera.
Because the crowds are so heavily controlled by police in riot gear, much of the rally’s energy was distracted by police/protester tensions. I saw one girl being harassed by the police because they mistook her for someone else. She began to retaliate indignantly, only escalating the situation. A fellow young male protester pulled her away, urging her to drop it. “Look at them,” he said to her of the police. “They’ve never seen this before – they don’t know what to do. They’re just frightened cats.”
I enjoyed just being there as an observer and listening to the various opinions and attitudes of Americans conversing in the street. I’ll post the other half of my OWS pictures soon – I’m struggling with a 2006 Macbook…time to upgrade I think!
Pictures after the jump!
I get so bored of travel journals. People writing about the exciting times they had in destinations you don’t really care about. I’ve been really slack with mine. Two reasons… 1. I’m on holidays, and the majority of what I do is eat fish and drink beer whilst planning the next meal. It tastes great, but you don’t really care, see? I can even show you a picture, but it doesn’t look particularly special either. And 2. I’m a perfectionist. Meaning, that if I decide to do something, I will do it to an excellent standard. But that takes time…..which brings us back to beer and fish…
I did work a little bit. I have a wonderful bunch of new photos, but I’ll want to fuss over their colour before I show you. This is tedious on my 2006 MacBook… so I’ll wait until I have a new MB pro in the States. A few weeks away. Technolust.
But for the moment, here is one image I like.
Highlight of my time in Chiang Mai (standby for boring self-indulgent) was an 800+ km motorbike ride over 6 days along the Burmese border and back around in a loop. Scenery and winding roads through Mae Salong was particularly stunning. Here’s a photo of me being photographic in a suitably exotic location.
I’ve developed a love affair with bikes. They are so visceral. I love the grind of the engine and the freedom when you throttle down the highway at 110km/hr through that crazy Asian traffic. It’s a great thinking space. Embedded in the elements of sun, wind and rain (and the occasional bee embedded in your neck), you feel proactive – you are making life happen. That’s a very twenty-something guy thing to say…
My great loves of Thailand have been fish, beer and karaoke. There is something compelling about belting your lungs out in front of a room full of drunken middle-aged Thai businessmen. Here is an incomplete list of our warblings:
- What a wonderful world
- With arms wide
- Quando Quando Quando
- I will survive
- Summer lovin
- White flag
- My heart will go on
- Just the way you are
- I got you under my skin
- Love me do
- Love is in the air
- Walking on sunshine
- Life is a Rollercoaster
- Love is all around
- I’m yours
- Cruising Together
- Grease mega mix
- Dream a little dream
- Save the last dance
- Distant sun
This is a good illustration of children’s ability to collaborate and
I am visiting a children’s home in the hill tribes in northern
Thailand. We hosted a number of games with the kids and tonight wound
up playing boxes – you win by joining dots to complete boxes. My ten
year old competitor had never played before and I thrashed him.
Maybe it’s the excitement of banding together to beat the white guy,
or maybe it’s a culture that shares a little more…either way I was
impressed that the new kid would sacrifice all his moves to set his
friend up to win the game.
An 8 hour flight Sydney-Bangkok. Two films and a bit of sleep. Lots of water, some passable food. Now I’m working and waiting for my connecting flight to Chiang Mai. Most of the shops in the airport are closed and cleaning up…except Starbucks. But they have a powerpoint, and that’s the main thing I was looking for. I must say…I’m a little disappointed in myself that I have a phone number already! Always connected…always on…doesn’t feel like I’ve travelled far…
I’m leaving Australia today – moving to NY for 12 months for directing work. Unfortunately between moving out of my house, selling my stuff, shooting a music video and all the rest, I have not had time to develop this site properly! Which will be amazing when it’s done…but it’s not done yet..
First stop today is Chiang Mai in Thailand, where I’ll be looking at completing a photography exhibition with my friend Luke Fechner. However, he’s just informed me his home is flooded, so the next two weeks may be up in the air.
Anyway, I title this post No Promises because of the many blogs that are started with vigor only to fizzle soon after. Given most of these pages are not built yet, I figure anything I add will be a vast improvement on it’s initial offering…
My films are up online, and when I get a chance to organise my photography, I’ll have galleries with prints and downloads for sale.
See you on the road!
As you wish…
I found these two in conversation in Erskineville yesterday. Seated on a roll of lawn behind the railway station, he seemed to have forgotten for a brief moment that they were just dandelions.
She was gazing into the setting sun, murmuring of her aunt’s tales of wild grass on lonely expanses of the Southern Highlands. She dreamed of morning mist drifting through temperate bushland and glimpses of snow-capped Brindabellas – a world away from terrace houses and drunk emo teenagers staggering from the back-end of King St.
The orb of sunlight captured in her crest of seeds dazzled him. As much as he desired to hold her, he knew by her full-bloomed sway that he could not keep her. Her heart was alight for foreign lands, and he couldn’t help but bend to hide his empty frame.