Monday, May 29, 2017

Things to Leave Behind

I once produced a television segment about de-cluttering your life.  Actually, I pulled together four such masterpieces – breakfast TV is a Groundhog burial site of repeated content (there’s only so many questions you can script for a candid in-studio chat with Elmo, but the shameless media whore keeps visiting Australia anyway).

In any case, brekky TV was often about becoming a brief, unwilling expert in a topic I couldn’t give two shits about – the salt content of cereal, the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, the reasoning of climate change sceptics … the annoying part was always the information I’d retain.  But no matter what, the rules of de-cluttering wouldn’t stick.

I’ve never been good at throwing things out.  Nothing proved that more thoroughly than packing up my life recently to move overseas.

There was an alarming range of inexplicable, dust-gathering crap.  I’m not talking generic crap, like every magazine I ever bought, or several large boxes of miscellaneous seashells – it was character specific, to say the least.

I’m a jeans girl by nature – in fact I’d say there are some people in my life who’ve only ever seen me sporting god’s gift to trouser material.  But my heart isn’t made of denim, it’s made of dreams and aspirations (and, on a biological level, some other stuff I’m sure), which explains why I found two separate piles of jeans labelled with these post-its:

'Fits, but not comfy' - thanks for the heads up Past Self

'Aspire to Fit (what the hell was I thinking?)' - now Past Self is trolling me... such a bitch
Yes, the piles were substantial, there were far too many pairs of pants… several of which had never been worn.  But there was also the belief that those post-its were so important to their accurate storage that they stayed with them when I moved inter-state two years ago.

Those weren’t the only notes addressed to me that I held on to – I had also stored every abusive missive anyone had ever left on my car windscreen.  I don’t know why… some of them have awful spelling, which was probably amusing at the time.

Still, I’m glad I did, because this particular message….

...helped jog the memory regarding the mysterious can opener in my collection.

Which I now recall purchasing in a fit of whimsy and leaving on my dashboard whenever I parked behind that same car.  Because there’s no higher former of comedy than a prop-based gag targeted at one person you’ve never actually seen, on the off-chance they’ll see it, remember something that pissed them off enough once to leave an angry note… only to be charmed by this jesting response.

That’s how my brain works sometimes.

Of course selling my car as part of Operation Hemisphere Change meant saying farewell to a wide array of novelty items I’d avoided throwing out for years.

I don’t know what I’ll do without that pen from that New York bar I got wildly drunk at once in 2007.  Will the Yaris even start without the hammer that lived under the passenger seat (in case the vehicle veered off a bridge and into a body of water)?  And who would even bother owning a car without keeping a monkey* and a top hat in it?

Eventually, the nostalgia of magical, but admittedly worthless objects from every moment of adulthood gives way to a brutal rhythm.  When trying to distil your life into a single suitcase, culling gets real.  The strange rat king of necklaces that has been slowly growing for 15 years goes in the bin, along with the hand soap from a bizarre little ghost hotel just outside of Bologna, and the yellow folder so optimistically labelled ‘Ideas’ that has remained empty for its entire existence.

As void of contents as the day it was made
Then there are the things that shouldn’t be hard to throw away at all.  Yet, when it came to my leg and arm braces, I paused.  Briefly, ridiculously, I wondered if I might still need them somehow.

At the very least it felt like they needed a ceremony.  Or a bonfire.  Instead they got a wheelie bin.

The things we hold on to often make so little sense.  Like the clothes worn to a funeral – bought on a frantic, blackly comic shopping spree because I hadn’t packed anything mourning appropriate.  I’d consciously chosen not to.  I thought it would be bad luck.  Because that’s also how my brain works sometimes.

I know I’ll never wear them again, and yet they were put in storage.

We accrue so much traveling through life.  Even when you know it would be better to let it go, it can still be hard to truly leave some of it behind.  Especially when it’s the kind of stuff that doesn’t need to be accounted for with removalists or airline baggage limitations. 

Often you don’t even notice you’re carrying it.  Some things will be with you forever.  And sometimes it’s a broken hairbrush you’ve had for 14 years.

Don’t worry, it’s gone to the great big Hairbrushery in the sky.  Because ‘Hairbrushery’ is a word.  It’s Painefull, for ‘fancy landfill’.


Painefull Out

* = Fyi, the monkey’s name was Jo.  I know that would have been a burning question.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Most Painefull Collection

Confession number one: I still use CDs to listen to music.  Not in addition to Spotify, nor in conjunction with a curated iTunes account – I listen to CDs exclusively.


Let the record show I am not trying to be retro, and this is not some sort of proactive choice – I use CDs because it’s what I started with, and the act of changing over to digital always seemed to require more energy than I could muster.  You know, like combining your super funds, engaging in a thorough skin regime at the early age your mother insisted, or, in the case of so many Americans, voting*.

Confession number two: It has recently become apparent that I have never thrown out a CD.  Ever.



Like a pristine skeleton, or a perfectly preserved mummy, my collection remains untouched – an archaeological find that appears to document the limping evolution of my musical taste.

The beginning of said evolution can be traced back to one pivotal moment.

I was 11 years old when I arrived at boarding school for the first time.  I was nervous, excited, shitting myself and generally thrilled all at once.  Each item of my clothing had my full name stitched into it (including every individual sock), my uniforms were pressed, my preferred teddy bear was discretely packed, and my unwitting middle class, white privilege was polished to a high gleam.

But my pride and joy, my ace in the hole, my sure-fire ticket to the social summit of high school was the CD collection I carried in its own special bag on my lap for the length of the trip in.

It was 1997.  Meredith Brooks was all about the ‘Bitch’, Mariah Carey was all about the ‘Honey’, the Backstreet Boys were all about ‘Everybody’… and I had never heard of any of them.

I was raised on Ella Fitzgerald, Cat Stevens and Babs Streisand.  I grew up with Nina Simone in my ear, while Kiki Dee reassured Elton John in my heart.  And all of them were stowed in my special little bag (along with cast recordings of Les Miserables, South Pacific and West Side Story).  Not only did I pack a Bette Midler album, I was so convinced it would be hot property I labelled both the CD case, and the CD itself.


Thank god high school girls are so historically kind to each other, right?

My first dorm room came with two strangers the same age as myself – Smith and Bruno (before long there was a Podge, a Chum, a Morti, and a Buttles, because sometimes, yes, boarding school is every cliché you could possibly imagine).  Almost straight away, I sensed that we did not speak the same musical language.

They spoke fluent Garth Brooks, with accents of Shania Twain.  I, in case this wasn’t already screamingly apparent, had inherited all the tastes and inclinations of my middle aged parents.

So I did what any self-respecting pre-teen would do – I hid my special bag of Broadway classics and era-bound divas under a pile of shoes in the bottom of my closet and never spoke of it again.  And by sheer, involuntary osmosis, I found myself learning every word of ‘Standing Outside the Fire’.

That was the true beginning of my musical miseducation – the long, stumbling road towards discovering what I actually enjoy listening to.  And my untouched CD collection is the time capsule that documents that journey into the heart of darkness, from Britney to Ren & Stimpy (which explains my knowledge of all the lyrics of The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen Anthem).


Sorting through the hundreds of CDs has been akin to an anthropological investigation. 

Apparently I departed the Jewel train after purchasing 0304, her inexplicable foray into dance music (retrospectively it’s likely she was just Taylor Swifting ahead of her time), it’s entirely possible I believed ‘Roxanne’ was a song originated for the soundtrack of the film Moulin Rouge, and it seems I really, really liked Dido for a couple of years.

This Tutankhamun-esque treasure trove raises far more questions than it answers. Questions like:
  • How many times could one teenager buy an album because they liked one song on it, before they learned their lesson?  Creed, Wheatus, I am absolutely looking at you.
  • Why don’t I recognise anything on this dance album?
  •  Who is David, and why do I have his copy of Parachutes?
  •  So much Dido and nothing by the Spice Girls… why?
  •  Did I really adore Ben Lee’s ‘Gamble Everything for Love’ so much I needed to own both the single and the entire album?
  • What could possibly be on the homemade compilation discs I have mysteriously labelled with such descriptive titles as Cool and Mum’s Mix? In the case of the second one… a lot of Dido.
  • And above all else, the greatest, single most important question, which continues to haunt my entire generation: Aqua. Question. Mark.

I’m finally forcing myself to do a cull… but, Dido help me, how do I pick?  What makes a CD essential?  While digital users would undoubtedly say “nothing”, 11 year old me would probably just point at the bag of discs hidden under that pile of shoes back in 1997 (like a creepy, wordless, movie ghost child).

Neither answer is particularly helpful.  It's all too hard...

I'm giving myself a dance break.  I just need to pick the CD, turn on the machine, load it, skip to the song I want, and hope it's not too scratched to play...


Painefull Out

* = All to be filed under Things That Would Be Good For You If You Just Bothered.