What Was You Are Here 2013?

It was a festival that happened in Canberra, and a bit on the internet, and a bit in people’s heads, and a bit elsewhere maybe, but mostly in Canberra from the 10th to the 24th of March, 2013. It was so much and so many things. It was several of these things for me and maybe for you too. It was planning and preparation and going over the neon program. It was something you had to experience. It was heading on in to Smiths Alternative Bookshop bursting with so many lovely people that it seemed I couldn’t talk with even one, but I ate a lot of party food, bought a copy of Burley, heard wonderful words and hugged some of those people. It was gRage that night and every weeknight with the ‘in-compere-able’ James Fahy and projections from laptop to screen: Marilyn Manson, Nina Simone, the White Stripes, tUnE-yArDs, Xiu Xiu and more and readings, and popping in late one night to be blown away by Adam Cooke’s band. It was movies like Conan the Barbarian with both director and live commentary. It was one stage, many bands, one song each, a mixtape love letter to and from Canberra. It was when the baby tottered up to the stage in the MC gaps in the middle of all that and “uh, awkward, we left you in the KFC carpark, son” and then it was everyone crowding in close to dance hard to Fun Machine and don’t trust their naked bodies. It was Art, Not Apart full of crepes, performance, music, sun, people, art. It was WORDLAB and a to-do-list love letter limerick, a calming mantra, haikus aplenty, missives mostly written  and oceanic, collaborative, dinosaur, punderful, political cake design. It was wonderful volunteers. It was wandering buzzing distracted. It was Mall Stories, uploaded to my mp3 player, waiting for a post-March empty weekend. It was how I chaired a small panel and it ran smooth, free and well across a multitude of topics, detouring into a plague pit perhaps, but towards a quiet confidence in Canberra, among many other things. It was Hadley making me laugh nervously just by his uttering of ‘Christmas’ and the popcorn bags, beep test, music and more. It was Monique seamlessly crashing the performance at the lovely The Near and How, even though she didn’t have a giant head, and also Monique being poisoned by the honey of a dead beauty queen and also Monique and Josh on a couch and also lovely people like Monique and Josh on a couch sending a message for me because I forgot my phone and my jacket. It was Joe Woodward in Trinculo’s Bathtub and Emma Gibson and The Cell and THE ICE AGE. It was meeting old friends, some from interstate, some from across town, some from down the road who I hadn’t seen in a while. It was saying hello. It was conversations striking up. It was new faces and faces I’d only known from the internet and how they inhabit new dimensions now. It was meeting new friends. It was Prayers in the Streetlight and Der Wolf and how, despite everything, even a whole new second backup space, I hid and flicked on headlights and it went wonderfully several times over and the cleaners came by amidst all the cars and it was an extra audience member standing there. It was watching the responses to the balletic, clownish, confrontational, wonderful work she’d made. It was panic and success, both shivering. It was Hashemoto crammed into a van, Poncho juggling, automobile gallery, mannequin accident, full-spectrum carpark wonderment. It was Yvonne, Gemma and Pete making rad music together and they didn’t even have a name yet but I would buy their CD yesterday. It was Walter Burley Griffin having a lot to answer for and I want to know more. It was DEBATE. It was real. It was good. It was staying for a bit more. It was gliding across quiet Tuesday night streets to the beautiful off-centre centrality of the National Film and Sound Archives, with Pablo on a cherry picker, performance magic, heckling sailors, black and white mashup, Shine Tarts, double saxophone and overall radness. It was [_____________{insert yr experiences here}_______________]. It was a Eulogy for a City, and so many hidden and personal histories and new ways to notice. It was a highlight. It was all the highlights. It was calling from a dirty payphone about aforementioned because I couldn’t leave, not yet. It was dashing back for a second run in the original space and flicking on and off again and maybe the backup to the backup plan was actually the best? It was walking past BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! and hearing the yawps from within, but opting instead for a celebratory dinner of  burger and waffle with Yee, with Fun. vs Fallout Boy on the TV, as the festival continued around us. It was compulsively re-checking Facebook, Twitter, photos, #hashtags, Vimeo, YouTube and email, from work, home and elsewhere. It was Heartbroken Assassin. It was wishing I got my nails done. It was wishing I made it to that other one. It was mistakes made and lessons learned and the things forgotten and the failures and all else imperfect. It was more dining out and takeaway than has ever been usual and the Moon Girl and the waving puppets in the forest and then iPho and then a dance piece I didn’t understand but I found impressive skill and beauty in it by the end. It was being a Literally Too Many DJs passerby. It was Pearl’s Ode and We Are Perpendicular and running out of superlatives and adjectives for my enthusiasm. It was finally seeing Rosie play the cello. It was walking into a darkened old menswear store to join in on a listening party and sinking right into the couch, closing your eyes and disappearing into the music and stories. It was Scissors Paper Pen and editing Papercuts reviews at work and at home and being impressed at how little I had to do — a comma here, a hyphen there mostly — to buff up an already brilliant review or seven and then they filled the front page. It was not wanting to be at work, and my work reflecting that for a fortnight. It was Something Else and that was, as always, something else and so very much more than exhausted puns. It was my last event before Smiths Alternative dropped the Bookshop. It was “Are you there God? ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU” and a Ramones cover and so so good. It was dancing perhaps more than I’ve ever danced before and a kind of perfect circular symmetry with the last time I danced to ‘Hey Ya!’, and an understanding of why Lady Gaga et al are so popular because when the right song plays loud in a dark room with all the bodies and minds unique and unified and even amidst unheard conversations and even with the cops outside you just wanna DANCE. It was only a glimpse of a wonderful zine fair and the ZINES and many more to come? It was Paul Magee vs. Tim Kent vs. Andrew Galan vs. Barcham the ‘Sound’ Guy and what a wonderful celebration of the possibilities of poetry in multiple people’s minds and mouths and bodies it was. It was laying the festival to rest with dedicated remnants and styrofoam cup candles and me dubbed an inflatable-liferaft-fulla-leftovers pallbearer, a processional down the streets, through the bus interchange and through Garema Place ‘as I went down to the river to pray’ and into the old Watch House that I didn’t even really realise was there before this festival and we laid the raft and the bits and the pieces and the memories and the festival down and with the guitar smashed the festival felt over, but we stayed a while longer for a Landlords hip-hop tribute to what was and to Canberra and then the guy in the bunny suit came on and people didn’t know what to do and people began to leave so eventually I did too and I walked home and it was needing a good lie down and a bit of telly maybe, then talking as we go to sleep.  It was true festival hangover, a sugar-rush art-high come-down. It was something you want to keep hold of, think of, write of, talk of, and about, for weeks and months and probably years later. It was the end of many things and the seed of many others. It was all of these things, and more, and moreso for so many others. It was You Are Here 2013. It was awesome. It was.

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The prodigal blogger returns

Good gravy, what say we surpass this stagnant state of non-blogging, eh? A new year, a good quarter done, much to catch up on, much to do. So: let’s.

Digits? Commence list exposition!

  • I’m still enjoying work at the NLA, a good six months in. It seems I’m finally getting the hang of the whole work/life-outside-work balancing act, with the inevitable occasional wobbles and hiccups.
  • I am against the word that is spelled ‘hiccough’.
  • When something is too spicy for me, I get hiccups.
  • I like to insert irrelevant items into lists.
  • I can’t decide whether lists are inane or wonderful. Or maybe both.
  • Scissors Paper Pen continues apace — onward and upward, even! We’ve put on events all around central Canberra: at the Phoenix Pub, Lonsdale Street Roasters, the National Library, and, during the You Are Here Festival, several other places (and all this YAH business will be expanded upon at a latter dot, but for now I sing praises to Rosie Stevens for ably organising so much SPP/YAH-related stuff while I was off gallivanting in places like NYC [again, latter dot] and she did and does a whole stack of good stuff so go read her blog already).  O, and SPP won an Express Media award! As for the future, we at SPP have further plans of great excitement, online and off. Rest yourselves assuredly. For now, we do hope for your involvement in future SPP happenings, dear blog reader, and offer you some of the podcasts we’ve got so far, with a promise of much more SPP goodness a-comin’.
  • Did somebody say podcasts? I have been going certifiably insane for the things in the past few months. JoMad: I Heard You Like Books?Radiolab, The Rereaders, This American Life, Paper Radio and all sorts from the ABC. You have suggestions for more? Fire away!
  • Speaking of electronic wonderment, I got me a Kobo Touch for Christmas! It’s pretty great. Once I got past the novelty factor, the accidental dropping of my keys on the screen (tiny spiderweb crack attack!) and other miscellaneous gadget glitches that keep such devices devoid of some elusive holistic rightness and romantic charm, I have found it most excellent for a variety of reading materials! In fact, it’s really good for travelling, which is handy because…
  • In February/March, my first ladyfriend and I did travel overseas for a fortnight! For me, it was my first time stepping outside the bits on the map marked ‘Australia’, so it was definitely a Big Thing. We went to New York, we went to Montreal, we passed through Schenectady on an Amtrak train, we sat on planes for days, the whole bit. I may just dedicate a future post solely to such travel stories. Oddly enough, I haven’t written anything substantial about it since I returned ashore. However, we did keep a daily travel diary and I did send a dozen postcards while international. But in summary:

It was excellent. USA! NUMBER ONE! YEAHHHHH.

  • And then we returned to the calm clamour of Canberra, amidst the second annual You Are Here Festival. It’d been going for a few days when I arrived, but my festival began when I, mildly jetlagged, popped into that long-abandoned newsagency, redubbed The Newsroom. I saw The Cashews playing to a room full of all sorts and it was golden gorgeous and I was Home. Over the next few days, I witnessed multitudes of poetry, the best debate ever, a wondrous harp + laptop duo, got pub quizzed at, experienced comedy as religious-educational experience and hunted for miniscule artworks around the CBD. Even in my, still limited, experience, it was awesome and I can’t wait for next year. In the meantime, I’ll be extracting some of the goodness from the YAH blog and its associated multimedia webtunnels.
  • Speaking of what has been but remains rad: making and sharing mix CDs and sending postcards, letters and other postal delights! Been doing it since Christmastime and it’s a weirdly great thing and if you are still reading this I will send you a postcard or a letter or something if you give me yr address or hey also look at this PO Box 251 Campbell LPO 2612 get on that like a total hipster before it’s too cool.
  • But seriously what even is a hipster? I think it is an excuse to just dismiss something and it’s a lazy term mostly.
  • Lazy? I rode a friggin’ segway on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.
  • And I kinda finally learned how to iron. It took 25 years. No segue.
  • Even though I’d not been blogging for months ’til this outburst, I have been writing. I have words forthcoming in Burley. And you remember that You Are Here thing I mentioned? Well one Julian Fleetwood launched another thing during it called Mall Stories and I have a story in it about this one time I worked at a bookshop, and a voice actor reads it out to you during a self-guided walking tour and everything. I’m planning to actually finally do the tour this coming weekend! You can too! Preferably in the Canberra Centre, but in any case you should download it and go walking around a mall, or anywhere. Just listen. I know it’ll be good. But anyway, beyond those writings, I’ve had a few rejections which are always good for both reflection and a short-back-‘n’-sides on the ol’ ego, plus I have a number of writings pending and hey, I wrote this blog post list and it has like a dozen dot points already, what else do you want from me?
  • Huh?
  • Geez.
  • You’ll see!
  • Okay, I’ll stop the dots.

And there you have it: blog post! I hear there’s more where it came from, just quietly. So commence overlapping of your digits in anticipation and I’ll dedicate mine to punching more characters.

(postscript/edit: it was only after posting this that I thought to check the definition of ‘prodigal’. Apparently it actually means ‘wastefully extravagent’. Did everybody else know this? I clearly did not pay enough attention during Sunday school, but hey, now I know and I guess I am rather prodigal with my words/dots?)