394 Flashback to OZ '90: hitching dreamtime to Moby Dick thru the outback
[ ... continuing our archival autobiopsychogeography, from where we left off in New Zealand, we now move on to Australia. Should perhaps mention that we never really had ambitions to travel to NZ or OZ ... mostly we were just travelling thru trying to get to Indonesia + SE Asia—our target destination. Generally we weren't so thrilled about Oz cuz it burned a hole in our pocketbook, money that could've been better spent in Asia. Here's the next page in our own handwriting (our habit of consulting the I Ching derived from John Cage):]
[... continued from above...] This is a state of perfect equilibrium ... tho it warns "just when perfect equality is reached, any movement may cay cause disorder to return." I dig on this travel guidance, as relates to unstable attractor points + chaos ... Sydney the unstable basin of attraction. It also says "the transition from the old time to the new is already accomplished. It is a time of great cultural refinement."
Sydney—Nov 2, 1990
Indeed! The 2nd continent i've been on (does the South Pacific belong to 1 of the continents?) ... tho Australia seems more a standalone island, an amoeba that split off from Antarctica—the most unique + isolated continent. I'm here, recompiling Gondwanaland in my own collective unconscious. Up on a hill overlooking the downtown, the opera house, the harbor bridge, the harbor, the botanical gardens + the shipyard where a large frigate is being towed w/ all soldiers on deck ... + the sun feels real good, tho the flies here are real pesky, persistent about entering orifices.
The plane in Christchurch was late. I waited in the terminal, the only non-Japanese besides the Air New Zealand workers. Then the 3-hour plane trip ... hatch opened + that rush of warm air is exactly what i needed. My 1st impression was that Sydney felt like San Diego ... not sure why ... the climate, the eucalyptus smell, the feel of the air. Took a bus to Kings Cross. Found this place called the Barncleuth house full of hippy vegetarians + got a bed in the stockroom w/ this shady character who i have yet to see fully awake. It was 12 noon + he was lying in his bed making weird grunting sounds. Needless to say, i took my passport w/ me.
Went + got Thai food—most satisfying vegy green curry. Possibly the best meal i've had since i left. Proceeded to wander til i was very lost, all around Kings Cross. Prostitutes + junkies + sleazeballs galore. Went to Victoria st. (hostel row) where everybody sells their cars on the street—but no motorcycles. Wandered thru the botanical gardens to the Opera House‚ the single most magnificent piece of architecture i've ever seen—specially when propped under the harbor bridge. [ink fades, then switches color] ... shit all my pens are drying up. Laid down in front of the Opera House + fell asleep.
... strange place to wake up—specially as i had not really "woken up" since i left NZ. Was tired so i walked back to Kings Cross + bought Moby Dick + The Odyssey ... should keep me busy for a while. Took a nap + then went back out to get pumpkin soup. I've never been propositioned by so many prostitutes + pimps. "Do you wanna have a go?" ... really sad looking teenage heroin addicts—pasty white + strung out w/ purple blemishes + bruises + needle marks. Guess prostitution must be legal here, cuz they don't try to hide it. Walked down the drag looking for soup, but only stage shows ... "fucking + sucking on stage". Mildly curious, 1 day i'll get up the nerve to peep into 1 of these places—from a biological point of view it'd be weird to watch humans have sex in such an environment, on display on a stage under bright lights. If only they weren't so sleazy + looked happier about it—not to mention healthier looking ... + had a sense of humor about what a strange ritual they are performing, in an anthropological sense. As it is, they take it very seriously. And what are you contributing to by patronizing those places?
Instead i went + read Moby Dick in a cafe ... haha, of all books. That's all Moby Dick is— porn in disguise ... 1,000 page treatise on the mother of all phalluses (phallusi?) ... or actually, perhaps an androgynous sex symbol. Went back to the hostel—my roommate still asleep + everybody else watching Predator so i went back to the only place i could read—on sleaze row. It was on the verge of a thunderstorm all night + kind of eerie. Woke up + was out by 7 a.m. this morning. Bought the want-ads + went downtown to have a look around.
Frustration. Indecision, mostly over modes of transportation ... the dilemma of mobility. How to get from here to Darwin + see everything in between without spending all my money. My initial choice was a motorcycle, but this hinges on availability, not to mention price + the stress of reselling it. I went to a used cycle place—they had a bike for $1000, which i even took for a test ride around town (what fun!) but i smelled a scam in the form of racing fuel—a means to boost performance? And the ones in the want ads are all in the suburbs + i have no practical means of getting there to see them.
I virtually live on Victoria St. I'm in my favorite take-a-way Thai place now + it looks like i may have to leave as i am occupying the last open table (...now i'm back in my closet of a room w/ Ravi Shankar pouring under the door). Up + down Victoria st. calling dozens of numbers ... becoming increasingly disillusioned w/ the lack of cycles + high prices. Prospects seem to be shifting toward hitching a ride w/ someone. Tho with the price of gas being what it is here, sposedly hard to hitchhike. You might get a ride, but you have to pitch in for gas. And usual people arrange it in advance. No luck so far on the bulletin boards finding someone going where i want to go. Buses + trains seem out of the question. The price i'd pay for a train or bus pass [could surely send me to Tibet ... CONT BELOW]:
[So i went...] to the zoo (cuz it was Saturday + nothing else to do). Took the ferry over—nice ride thru the harbor. It was OK as far as zoos go. Mostly dismal caged animals .. tho the Koalas were great. Got close enough i could've reached out + touched them ... + the platypus—talk about a sick freak of genetic engineering. But the most outrageous specimen was the southern cassowary ... this huge emu like bird w/ big club feet, a blue head, a big body covered w/ human looking black hair, some thicker like porcupine quills. Its head + neck were a bare red + bright blue + it had a huge bony protrusion on its head. It looked vicious w/ slanty eyebrows + seemed to have a particular fetish for me, following me w/ this intense piercing eye contact + throwing itself at the fence trying to attack me. It had huge lime green speckled formica looking eyes. (I'm sitting in a cafe now + they are playing the Cowboy Junkies). Zoos are strange. Kind of like a biological art gallery ... here's a piece the artist made when he was 6 (Australian lung fish). The chimps are intense ... their social interactions are so complex + their eyes so human. It is also curious how the only people at zoos are parents w/ their kids ... who are they fooling? They're the ones enjoying it. Went back to the botanical gardens + fell asleep. Went back to "the cross" + hunted for a way out of this strange attractor. I've been here 3 days + all i've seen are buildings + pavement.
Grrrr ... i feel trapped by the endless arms of this sin city. Prostitute mother + daughter crying in each other's arms on the street, in tight shorts + blotchy skin. Everybody unhealthy looking. I long to see beautiful people. Esta indecision me molesta—once i get out of here—which is tomorrow—i'll be all right. Or, «if i go there will be double?»
Took the subway (filthy + sketchy) across the city to look at this motorcycle being sold by this bohemian Israeli dude that lived in a house full of new age gypsy freaks. We went riding on the freeway at tremendous speeds. Nice bike, nice deal—it's just not worth it to go thru all the trouble of having to sell it after (and risk not recouping the cost) ... specially as i don't want to spend too much time in Oz. Besides, i tossed the coins + they came out: [I CHING signs for ABYSMAL (danger) x 2] i.e. "extreme danger" ... took this as a premonition.
This place is insane ... this street is full of strange people. There is a fair of some sort—street vendors, food, concerts, lots of strangeness. Loud live music pouring from every open doorway. Products + smells from all over the world. It is all becoming a blur bouncing off from all sides. I drink too much coffee + eat too many snacks .... digging a hole in my pocket + feel generally uninspired + can't relate much to the culture here [postcard of Sydney Opera house]
in transit Sydney to Adelaide—Nov 5
Alas, i escaped Sydney's clutches. Hovering a few feet above the horizon at godspeed. Endless fields of waving violets embroidered w/ occasional eucalyptus. XNT express ... miserable wretch of a train. But better than sharing a closet w/ the janitor ... yes, that crazy guy i was sharing the "room" w/ was the janitor! Never heard him speak, just sort of grunt + moan in his sleep. But the hostel people informed me as i was leaving. And they weren't joking when they said the "stockroom" ...
The last day in sleaze city got the nerve up to go into 1 of those strip joints. Shady character at the door wanted $10 but i didn't have it, but he let me go in anyway. Dark room thru the red velvet curtains. A video was playing of some women giving a guy head ... very loud, sound of a body heaving + breathing, thru distorted speakers. I was embarrassed to be there, but sat down, slouching in my seat. Some girl comes by + asks if i want to go upstairs ... $50. No thanks. I hope i didn't offend her. A few other guys were there, but they left w/ prostitutes. I sat there for a while watching lame videos—getting redundant, not at all sexy, definitely not sensual.
Was about to go when a bunch (30 or so) of Japanese businessmen came in as the "live show" was to begin. Couldn't believe what i was about to witness. The things i'll do for experience, to keep an open mind. A girl came out + stripped ... actually, she was a decent dancer + i felt sorry for her cuz she was trying to make more of it then it actually was. Her intentions were definitely not appreciated. I was the only one that clapped. She ran out afterwards (in a sweat suit) like she'd finished a hard day's work. What came next was quite funny ... this skinny sleazy woman w/ tattoos came out + stripped (to very loud disco music). Then she started rolling about on the stage spreading her legs. She got up (far from graceful) + went thru the audience, sitting on guy's laps, shoving her tits in their faces, etc. Luckily she ignored me (slouching low) as i wouldn't have known what to do.
After a while of this—going person to person, checking for hard-ons—she grabbed this guy from the audience + pulled him on stage. He acted all macho + ordered another drink while she went + got a blanket ... i really couldn't believe this was happening. She undressed him (in a far from erotic manner). He looked funny—this fat hairy naked man w/ a small limp dick. She looked a little irked, called offstage for a condom. She (awkwardly) got him to lie down + somehow finagled the condom onto a limp penis. Then she went down on him while he lay there motionless like a beached whale. She sucked + sucked, but when she came up for air he still wasn't hard ... a rather awkward predicament. She mounted him + tried to get his soggy limp member into her, bucking + thrusting ... this went on for quite a while, to no avail. Finally she got off, pulled the condom off + twirled it around over her head + flung it offstage like she had conquered him. She was the matador + he the dead bull, laying there defeated. Everybody cheered + the guy flipped the audience off. As the curtain closed, he lay there naked under the harsh lights, spread eagle on the stage like a beached whale.
Then this girl comes out + sits next to me + starts talking, asks if i want to go upstairs. I said no, nothing against her, but that i didn't have any money. "Honey, what are you doing here if you don't have money?" Good question. I told her i was just curious to see what this was all about, that i'd never seen anything like this before. She lightened up + asked me what i thought ... "intresting," i said. We sat there talking for a bit in the silence of perverted men. She asked where i was from + when i said California, she asked "how far is Los Angeles from California?" Maybe she meant it as a profound question i don't know.
The next act came on + they were looking for "participants" so i figured that was my cue to split. I'd seen enough. I escaped to the comparable sanity of the street + looked back ... now at least w/ a glimpse of knowledge of what goes on in these places. Sort of sad. The concert outside was still going on ... "Elton Jack" was playing—an Elton John cover band. I ran into Ron + his gang + hung out w/ them watching people get drunk + rowdy.
This morning got up early (7 a.m.)... i only had 60¢ + the banks weren't open yet. Not enough for a cup of coffee so i threw it in this sax player's hat who was playing nice early morning music on a deserted street, trashed w/ remnants of the previous night's debauchery. Debris that carried the historical record of laughter, of fights, of good times ... all contained now in broken bottles, used condoms + fast food carry out containers. 10 steps after tossing my last coin to the sax player, i found a $2 coin ... just enough for a cup of coffee! Karma.
Spent the morning doing errands + hanging out eating kiwis on the beach w/ the local bums. It's really intresting the way "bums" communicate w/ each other, in their own language as if they are a separate species. They grunt + roll cigarettes out of used butts. Saw 1 approach a bum friend ... hesitate, then quickly thrust a cigarette out for him then rush away nervously w/o a word. Like the chimps in the zoo ... but schizophrenic.
Got the subway downtown + hopped on the train. My seat was in the only car full of cigarette smoke. Just my luck. Tried to find a seat elsewhere ... played musical chairs w/ the ticket guy who kept telling me where i couldn't sit. When i did finally go back to my seat, a crippled guy was occupying it w/ his crutches next to him. So i just stood for a while + found some place else. Must've sat in a dozen different seats til people would return + claim them. Now, finally i have my own seat in a car that is full of beautiful teenage volleyball players ... innocent blonde products of privileged families, that just want to have fun. Surreal. Every time i walk thru the car they giggle + whisper to their friends—they all turn around + look, then quickly turn in giggly hysterics. Oh, wasn't high school such fun? Not that my h.s. experience remotely resembled this. I'm sure all the teenage pheromones in here will make my beard grow faster (read this somewhere)!
The crimson sun is setting over sweeping violet plains. I have to get off in an hour + switch to a bus. I won't arrive in Adelaide til tomorrow—20 hours. On the map it is a very short segment. I guess i'm used to being on islands (what constitutes an island anyway?).
[either i wasn't taking photos or they didn't turn out, as i dont seem to have any photos of this part of my trip]
... nice name anyway—Adelaide. Like a friend that is boring, but mellow + reliable. It's well-structured + solid. The downtown is ringed by a square moat of parks. Just got my iced coffee + it's gotta a scoop of ice cream in it + tasted wicked.
The bus ride was miserable. I dont know what it is, but the more people try to make busses "civilized" + comfortable, the more i detest them. This bus even had a TV + a video machine. No windows (that opened) + frigid, stale air-con + i was wearing shorts. Just give me an open window, that's all i need. I had my seat (a double) but moved in the middle of the night when these old fart couples got on + sat next to me making all this noise. Moved to the back, but then some fat guy who takes up 1.5 seats got on + sat next to me.
The bus had 3 drivers, as if 2 wasn't enough. It was an dreamy sight ... the Australian countryside by moonlight. Vast plains, wheat fields + pastures, storm clouds + strange shapes. I had to use my imagination. We finally stopped + i walked to the edge of the silence, near a babbling river. This all reminds me of central California—the drive to Chico—the same smells, the same warm night air. To think just 4 months ago i was driving Wally [the camper i lived in] across California + broke down, slept in that trucker parking lot off I-5 w/ the warm smell of asphalt.
It was exhilarating to watch the sun slowly bring the countryside to life, the landscape i had yet to see. Slowly, in purples + reds + dark hues. I scanned the plains for kangaroos + the trees for koalas ... but wishful thinking. Only fucking sheep. I hate those wretched creatures + i'm sure their hating life too. Finally i saw a few kangaroos hopping around—basically in someone's yard.
Got into Adelaide at 8:32 a.m. (2 minutes late for a 20 minute journey—such absurd precision!). Walked around forever as the 1st 2 hostels i checked no longer existed. Wandered thru downtown—finally found Rucksackers Intl hostel. Threw my bags on the bed + headed back out. Meandered about. Bought a hat (Chinese people's party) + got the sides of my head shaved. Need a change of image. The red star symbolizes anonymity.
Called these dudes (or should i say blokes) Ivan + Simon to see if i could get a ride to Alice Springs (from a flyer i saw on a message board). Booked space on the Ghan (to fall back on). Ate wholesome vegy food. went back to Rucksackers + spent about an hour shaving off most of my "beard" ... down to a goatee. There's only 1 sink in the hallway so all these rucksackers wandering by thought me kind of weird—scraping + cutting excess fuzz from my face w/ a dull razor + no shaving cream.
I took a nap at 4:00 + was woken up by Ivan + Simon at 6:00. Was having weird dreams, in a sweat as it was really hot/thunderstormy + felt spaced out ... but i guess i made an OK impression as they consented to have me along (as if this was an "interview"). So off we go tomorrow in this big white Holden station wagon—full on outback boat—i dub thee "Mobius" after not only Moby Dick but the Mobius strip of non-orientation. They pick me up mañana at 10.
Went back out + played harmonica in the park then went back downtown. Adelaide has a large Greek-Mediterranean population ... dozens of falafel holes in the walls, Mediterranean nightclubs + taxi drivers speaking Greek. Even the signs are written in Greek ... shit, i'm already forgetting the Greek alphabet. Really sad. Some rocker girl w/ a leather jacket was singing "this 1 goes out to the 1 i love." I asked if she knew any other R.E.M. + she said "who?" ... i let it slide + bought her a lemonade (she looked thirsty). I walked s'more til these cops started following me so i shook them off, went into this weird cafe where i sit now—very spacious w/ lots of plants + trippy pictures.
Hawker (Flinder Mtns)—Nov 7
Finally ... my bare feet on dirt instead of concrete. Chaotic greenery instead of orderly windows + steel. Silence, still air. At 10 AM Simon, Ivan + Ray picked me up in "the white whale"—Moby—and off we were. A funny lot we are—all the accents blended together. All we need is a Scot. Here i am, used to Kiwi + Oz-speak, now in the presence of Brits + Irish. Not too exciting a lot actually, but can't complain. Ivan, the car owner, is an ordinary slightly conservative guy. Simon is a British version of Teo [friend of mine in California] w/ curly red hair + a generally pleasant air. Ray, the smiling Irishman w/ crooked teeth. We escaped the suburban sprawl into grasslands—dozed off + on, reading the landscape. I introduced the idea of the ashtray fund, which went down well [wherein everybody pitches in say, $20, + all common expenses are paid for from this, until it's depleted + everybody adds $20 more...]. Gas is really expensive here—ends up it's actually not that much cheaper than the bus.
We diverged to Flinders—off the main road a 100k or so—great terrain. Up my alley, rugged + red. Stopped at a ghostown on the way, an abandoned settlement. There are abandoned structures everywhere. Half the cities on the map are marked as "(deserted)" ... leftovers from the opal mining days. The little towns (populated) are actually not as backwardass as you'd expect (like back home). Actually, the landscape reminds me a lot of the area near Chico. It was also scorching hot like Chico. Found a campground ... $11 for 4 people, not bad. Went for a run out on some old dusty roads w/ Ray. Real strange characters here. Brown leathery old men w/ stringy hair that live in tents by themselves listening to transistor radios.
Most excellent day! Sunrise ... flies buzzing incessantly. Walked around the deserted town, every one still asleep. Got an iced coffee at a gas station. Came back 2 hours later— everybody was up. Packed + split. I took the wheel today ... fun ... the thing drives like a boat. Did a loop, first to "Wilpena pound"—a huge depression between a ring of rugged mountains (the Flinders range). Stopped + hiked for 3 hours to the top—great view. At 1 point i walked ahead + smelled this strong horrible stench ... i recognized what it was ... Pan. Yes, there he was, a big woolly wild mountain goat w/ twisted horns + a shiny long blond goatee. Also saw a big lizard, maybe a foot long, w/ a club-shaped tail, a pink mouth + a black tongue sticking out trying to gum me to death.
After that we went to the "sacred canyon". The roads the rest of the way were of dirt + fun driving. I saw the first emus—5 of them—running like Bohemian dinosaurs. Huge suckers, about as tall as me w/ shaggy feathered bodies, club feet + fearsome eyes. Then—yes—finally saw 3 kangaroos lounging under a tree, a family. They must have been red kangaroos cuz papa was huge. His tail the size of an elephant's trunk. [drawings along the top]. They eyed us w/ suspicion, but were too lazy to run. Sacred canyon was just this small gorge but it did have some interesting Aboriginal art—mostly engraved circles—carved in the cliffs. There were also crescent moons + emu tracks.
Onwards ... more kangas + emus + cockatoos + gulas everywhere. Gulas are like cockatoos but pink + gray + they fly around in flocks of up to 20. It's wild seeing these exotic parrots—that people in the states pay hundreds if not thousands for—scavenging on the side of the road w/ emus + kangas running around.
Things got really exciting when we hit Bunnyroo (sp?) gorge. The road crossed the river maybe 20-30 times—at times a few feet deep + very wide. Now it seriously was a boat. After a few more runs though the river, twisting back and forth (the road could only follow the river) i relinquished my pilots seat for an aerial navigation position sitting up on top of the backpacks on the roof + jumping off at crossings to find the way thru the river. Took a swim in the river only to find i was covered in leeches. Beautiful gorge drive, rugged scenery. Saw a few more wild mountain goats + chased some emus on foot down the river + got a few yards away from them.
Spent the whole day like this ... on Australian safari. Listening to "Van Dieman's land," chasing kangas, switching between the roof navigation spot + driving. I made a discovery that has yet to be overruled—every sheep we saw was facing south ... hundreds of them, different flocks, always facing south.
Got back to town + some locals yelled at me to get off the roof. Everything was closed so we had to eat at the pub. All the local "rednecks" (Australian variation thereof) were there. I was wondering why they were all staring at me in such a hostile manner until i realized i was wearing my people's party commie hat. Not only this, i wasn't drinking beer—a mortal sin in Australia. When we walked out 1 of the guys asked "who was the guy on the roof?" They all pointed to me + stressed that i was American + they weren't. They said if they ever saw me up there again they'd take target practice on me, tho they were half-laughing. The others quickly ran out the door.
Coober Pedy—Nov 9
This is the kind of shithole where i could spend the rest of my life ... just a pile of scraps + trash in the middle of nowhere. Long day driving, over 700K ... endless expanse of flat plains ... even saw a camel. The signs are funny [drawings] Passed a great salt flat ... like a white ocean. Flat as a mirror. Licked it + sure enough tasted like table salt.
"Tossed the pig" w/ Ivan ... an English pub game where you roll pigs + get points depending on how they land—"shorter," "double razorback," "trotters," etc... fun game. I love driving tho, thru the endless nothing.
Made it to Coober Pedy—an old opal mining town. Everything is all about the opals. Piles of earth everywhere, signs that say "no explosives allowed in the theatre." All the establishments are underground ... the "underground hotel" is literally just that + the "underground cafe" ... even an "underground bookstore." It's too hot here to live above ground + besides, all these tunnels + rooms have already been dug out ... may as well reoccupy the space. No underground camping tho—have to sleep on gravel out in the open. This town would definitely not win any Rotary Club Awards. Random dump in dusty dirt fields w/ broken bottles. Aborigines drinking whiskey, little kids w/ cans around their necks that they keep filled w/ petrol so they can sniff + get high. Really depressing. Even an underground church. Lots of people that have tried to make their fortune in opals—sposedly some made millions. Others not. Stories of a tourists looking around for a day + finding a few thousand dollars worth. Maybe we'll have a go at it tomorrow. I wouldn't mind hanging out in this town. These guys at the campground are real Crocodile Dundee types. Digging for opals. They were barbecuing lizards + reeling all sorts of yarns about killing crocs, eating roos + how they made $4000 today finding an opal. Unlikely stories. This is the place they filmed Mad Max III. Any movie filmed here must be cool ... already straight out of a science fiction movie is what it is.
(In transit) Ayers Rock—Nov 10
The sun is setting. Won't get to Ayers rock by sunset. All for the better ... i can contemplate its massive dark shadow all night then wake up before dawn + take it all in in full glory as the sun rises on it. What is it we seek driving 1500 km to view a large rock?
I just finished Moby Dick... appropriate enough—for what was it that capt. Ahab was searching for anyway, in killing the big white whale? He never found out. The white whale in the ocean—the dark abyss of the subconscious—the death + fear amidst which the white whale swims ... + the huge red rock like a giant bloody heart in the dead center of Oz.
The analogies also sweep human nature. But as i have not seen the rock i'm not prepared to speak of it yet. There must have been a fire as the horizon is thick w/ milky gray, purple + red lines. I should be watching—[different color ink] (later) teased by the silhouette of the Olgas. Magnificent reds ... + in the distance waits "The Rock" ... the most famous rock in the world perhaps. 3 km long, 348 m high + sposedly only ⅓ of it is showing, a rockberg. A fossilized landlocked Moby Dick. What is it that brings people coming to it? 1 day's drive from Coober Pedy, which is 1 days drive from Adelaide, another day drive from Sydney + who knows from there. Today, another day of endless plains—emus, wild horses + camels, these strange melons i collected as ammunition.
Land! An ocean of land. Tent pitched on hard bedrock. Fire. Warm night. As pleasant as pleasant can be. Going to bed early to wake up at 5 to climb "it".
Mecca—Oz! Pumping blood from the source ... the sun, crimson red spilling onto the endless plains. Woke up still in darkness + headed off to the rock. We were not alone—loads of tourists going to watch the sun rise. Magnificent. Then like a holy pilgrimage they all flock up the side in a long winding trail, holding on to a chain. 3 km, straight up. I went up barefoot. [... drawing of whale/rock, followed by a page of Simon's impressions, neither of which we include here ...] Like walking on a bloody corpse ignited by the sun. Shooting Moby Dick w/ our cameras as harpoons. As we reached the summit the wind came pouring over (where was the water to balance things out?). A fire was blazing on the horizon making the sun look magnificent. The wind was the equivalent of sticking your head out a window going 55 MPH. Why this huge red rock sticking up out of flat plains? Sure there's a geological explanation, but i don't buy it.
Then we went to the Olgas ... not a soul to be seen (20 km on a dirt road). If Ayers rock (Uluru) is the phallus symbol, then the Olgas are the equivalent feminine counterpart. Curvy + bodacious. We walked up the gorge—towering mounds hovered on either side—even higher than Ayers Rock (540 m). Birds sang in the bush. The crotch off limits.
We returned (running on fumes) + had a swim. I walked into town looking for books on dreamtime. Lounged by the pool all day then returned at sunset to Ayers rock. Cameras everywhere in anticipation. A bit anti-climatic. The whole scene is very pagan + eerie, the way every 1 congregates. All these people watching the sun reflect off a rock—and die ... the blood slowly coagulating to black.
Alice Springs—Nov 12
Where does she spring to? What does Alice spring forth + from what? After a final walkabout around Uluru—gazing at the intense rock paintings + aboriginal art + strange formation looking like a whale's ribcage—we took off. Passed the Hebury (sp?) crater—actually 4 craters. Marginally intresting. i drove the last stretch to Alice Springs (500 k from anywhere). In the middle of nowhere ... which is somewhere.
I don't believe it ... the big Darwin—Adelaide solar car race passed thru Alice Springs today + we missed it. Sometimes i could kick myself. Not like i was terribly occupied, i just didn't find out til it passed thru.
Scones for breakfast at Todd Mall w/ Ivan. We looked around looking in bookstores + Aboriginal art studios. Good stuff everywhere. I'm really fascinated by this dreamtime mythology + the symbolic paintings. Got a few books to read up on. Went back, fixed the flat + hung out w/ these Kiwi characters—bohemians sanding down used sparkplugs to re-use—filling us in on the art of how to make your car look better than it is.
Read by the pool, then went back into town w/ Simon. I suggested hitchhiking but he said he didn't want to ride in a "car full of Abos". I figured i had to deprogram his prejudism (fear) which he admits he can't help, it's ingrained in his culture. The 1st ride that stopped was 2 very scruffy Aborigines in the trashiest car i've ever seen ... nothing worked (except basic mobility) + all the interior was ripped up. A son + his father. The son had just had his 1st kid the day before. The father (grandfather) had a huge mop of scraggly hair + a wild face + didn't speak at all. They were very kind + let us off downtown. I didn't need to say anything to Simon—let the gesture speak for itself.
Hooked up w/ a ride to Darwin, leaving Thursday. The guys we met in Ayers rock that were gonna take Ray + i to Darwin are in the hospital + their car is wrecked. They had a blowout + rolled off the road. We could have easily gotten in the car back then at The Rock + we too could be in the hospital ... or worse. It's pointless to think about all the possibilities, of fate. So my next ride is w/ Adrian + Susanna—a responsible looking couple from Boston. Tonight I sleep in the car as i sold my tent (the coffin) to Simon. Oh well, this car looks like a Hearst—good enough to take me dreaming.
Dreamt i caught this fish—it was a big one + was on the line for quite a while. Somebody told me a cop was coming ... evidently it was against the law to be in the act of catching a fish, but not once it had reached shore. So i struggled to pull it ashore before the cop caught me.
Went to Simpson's gap + Standley's chasm (yes, sounds obscene). More boring gorges. A weird feeling came upon me at Standley's chasm ... we climbed way up, far above the tourists, where there was a crystal clear pool the size of a bathtub. I jumped in + was refreshed. Put my clothes back on + we continued climbing + a strange sensation overcame me—hard to explain. I felt numb + tingly + completely relaxed, but i wasn't invigorated, it was more like fatigue ... a deep weariness emanating from the pit of my stomach. It felt borderline good. There were weird crystals everywhere, in a fireplace design. I imagined all the Aborigines + all the activities that had occurred there, as if in a vision. The air rustled + when i sat down, the ground undulated like i was sitting on a giant serpent. Sounds silly + maybe i was sick or something, but that's how i felt.
The Aborigines have been in Oz in the same state for 40,000 years .... 40 fucking thousand years! Some 2,000 generations ... + to think how much we've fucked up the environment in 5 generations. Maybe it all lies in the fact that Christianity dictates that man resides over the animal kingdom. Aborigines believe nature—biological life + the geological landscape are all symbols ... + that "the role of mankind in the drama of life is to re-create thru ritual + ceremony the external moment of dreaming (primordial event) by calling upon the assistance of all nature, organic or geological." This makes for a much more interesting lifestyle in my opinion. ... for what is it about features of the landscape or animal life that ceases to astonish us? Do we project emotion + intellect metaphorically onto the natural world or did these elements create us in the state we are? The important thing is not finding the answer (no one will) but the process of looking for it ... style ... making a game of it—an odyssey of metaphors, piecing together the elements—earth wind, fire + water ... + applying this to our lives, to anything—legends, myths, rituals, music, art.
Tenant Creek—Nov 15
43° C—109°F. Bloody hot. Like being in an oven. Woke up + it was cloudy. Adrian + Susan impulsively decided to leave early since the weather was cool, so Ray + i switched from the white station wagon to the blue. I'll miss Ivan + Simon, they were really cool.
Things were shaky at first w/ Adrian + Susan. We stopped for gas + i brought up the ash tray fund method. They gave me a harsh look + said they were keeping track of it + would charge us at the end. Ray + i looked at each other questioningly... we were used to this laissez-faire lifestyle of farting liberally, having our feet out the window + singing at the top of our lungs. But they were living up to their uptight Boston yuppie ways. She was about to put in a tape that i handed her when Adrian says, "oh no, let's talk." You fucking kidding me? They had their windows all the way up + it's boiling hot + he wants to engage in rigid, uptight conversation ... "so what do you do in Santa Cruz?" ... + he doesn't seem keen on letting anyone else drive.
6 or 7 straight hours of this ... only stopped for a few seconds at this crazy roadside house—the walls were covered in 1, 5, 10 + 20 dollar bills that people had written on + there was a clock that only had a second hand ticking round + round ... classic. Also stopped at Devil's Pebbles. Round granite boulders in piles + strange formations. Oh yeah, we also passed at least a dozen of the solar cars that were in the race. Space-age + trippy + very quiet w/ a person scrunched up in a usually tiny compartment. All the designs were different ... some had panels that follow the sun, box shaped ones, ones that towed trailers of solar cells. [drawings of the various designs]
It was overcast so they weren't going too fast (60 KPH) + were accompanied by trucks + campers that had to put planks down at all the cattle guards. Got here, took a swim, then went running + worked out w/ Ray. Had 3 B's for dinner ... bread, beans + beer + Adrian + Susan loosened up a bit.
Slept in the backseat, bathed in sweat tho all the doors were open all night. Nobody slept ... too hot. On the road by 7—push on—heat, more solar car teams camping on the side of the road. Road trains w/ 72 wheels (+ Americans think 18-wheelers are big) that took up both lanes. Petrol stops in the middle of nowhere w/ other cars full of dirty + sweaty bohemian nomads.
After 6 hours we came to Mataranka thermal springs ... at 1st we went as a joke, considering it was so hot, but actually the pools weren't that hot. Clear + cool + refreshing, but full of tourists. Fruit bats filled the surrounding trees, screeching + acting weird. Ray + i tried to get to the river to find crocs but only scared a troupe of a dozen wallabies. Parrots filled the trees. We went to the beginning, the source, rainbows springs. A truly mystical spot. A deep crystal clear pool of water emanating from the earth forming mesmerizing patterns on the surface ... like a dream pool. Imagine hitting this after trudging thru the desert ... a true oasis. Found this killer campground near Katherine + the river. Great pool w/ a waterfall, BBQ pits + nice gardens. Started the fire then got slammed by our 1st monsoon. At 1st it seemed it would just skirt us, but then it hit head on—instantly flooding everything. The smells were excellent, the birds freaking out in delight. There's ants here that trip me out cuz they move like they are under a strobe light + they have green abdomens which they hoist in the air when threatened. Had a good dinner—"fajitas" ... fried onions, peppers, mushrooms + tomatoes in pita bread w/ refried beans, sour cream + hot sauce. We were frantically gorging while sniffling + sweating profusely, while this family of clutsy ducks begged at our feet. The rain definitely made a difference on my mental state.
Darwin! Nov 18
The apex of Australia. I can smell Indonesia in its fragrance from here. Sitting here under a giant bunyan tree w/ its vines hanging down. It's before 7 a.m. + already sweltering. Yesterday i woke up even hotter, sticking to the vinyl of the backseat, covered w/ mosquito bites. Weird night sleep. I initially slept virtually naked on the roof of the car, but too much weird shit was falling from the trees. I'd wake up to weird noises + saw a few dozen kangaroos nibbling on the grass of the campground, frozen like statues when i lifted my head up. I got up to get water + they all went into a frenzy, hopping about. Funny scene.
We went to Katherine Gorge + rented canoes—2 of them—1 for me + Ray the other for Adrian + Susan. Paddled around for 4 hours, taking breaks to splash each other or take a swim or dive off the sides of the gorge, which towered 100s of vertical feet up. 'Gorge'ous ... which came first the word gorge, or gorgeous? Some tour boat was pointing out crocodiles but Ray + i couldn't see them, even at a closer look ... + here we were swimming?!
Then on to Darwin ...thru a tremendous monsoonal downpour. They dropped me off, then Ray. I went the Yacht club + harbor to see if there were any boats going to Indonesia ... but no such luck ... it's the wet season—cyclones—all the boats are moored up.
Walked thru an endless maze of some industrial area trying to get back. Who should pull up, but Adrian + Susan ... just as i was enjoying my solitude. They were really irking me off—they had been in a foul mood all day, ever since their brand new electric coffee pot that plugs into the cig lighter worked once to make Ray + i cups of coffee but not after that when they tried to make some. They are seriously type A. They picked me up + told me they weren't going to the cocktail party Ray was at ... + thusly i wasn't going (unless i took a taxi) ... then they assumed i wanted to go eat w/ them .. why not? No 1 else to eat w/ + no wheels of my own to get around. We stopped at these cheap food stalls + i was in the process of ordering when they informed me they wanted to look some more. We walked around for hours, both of them in a vile state complaining about the state of their room ("it's got a hole in the floor" ... + "the bathroom doesn't have a lock"). [... more bitching about this uptight couple ...]
Finally we ended up back at the original place—an outdoor courtyard full of all these intresting travelers ... + i'm stuck w/ these boring killjoys. I asked them if they wanted to do something (it was saturday night) + they said, "no, let's sit here + chat" ... fucking gag me! They droned on about their boring marriage, etc. til finally i just said i was tired + split. They wanted to make plans for breakfast ... shit no! That's why i'm hiding here under this tree where i came to the grand conclusion that the theme for today—since it is sunday + i cant do all my errands—doctors, p.o. etc.—is to fast. To give my system a rest, put nothing in it. In protest to the lameness of sundays + its disruption of the flow i will refuse to eat today. Also to mentally prepare myself for the orgasmic binge-eating i'm soon to do in Indonesia ... if i can figure out how to get there.
[The next few pages digress into sketchy stream of consciousness, regrouping + contemplating our next move ... w/ brainstorming word associations ...]
[... apparently we also got some new pens + glue so was messing around w/ them. Anyway ... so now it's Nov 19, still in Darwin] ... i'll just cover it up. Yah. Sunday spent at the Indo-Pacific Marine aquarium ... 1 of the 4 aquarium that has successful living coral tanks. It was all fairly technical. You watch a video that tells you all about it before you even go in. Some woman vigorously explained it all to me—she was very enthusiastic + sweat profusely. Sure enough ... live coral ... totally self-sufficient tanks .. they only fed the larger carnivores such as the lobster or decorator crabs. They even had a stonefish ... forever ingrained in my mind. Just the sight of them horrifies me. I told the woman about getting stung by 1 in Aitutaki a few months before + she said i was lucky to be alive. She said the fact that the dorsal spine went all the way thru my finger actually helped in that a lot of the poison probly shot out the other side. Note: the stonefish has 13 spines ... imagine that. What a bastard. [... at which point we drew a stonefish ...]
You can't swim in the waters around here—if the stonefish doesn't get you, then the box-jelly fish, sharks, crocodiles (saltwater), blue-ringed octopus, cone shell (which shoots poison darts), etc. will kill you .. + many other things will cause you a great deal of trouble. Spice for life. Also went + saw "Presumed Innocent" (been a while since i've seen a movie in a theatre).
This morning i woke up eager to do chores + break my fast, but nothing was open + i had no money. Ended up being almost 38 hours that i fasted. Had a bowl of mueslix + felt full right away, couldn't eat another. Went to the P.O. ... got a tape from Kevin (which i'm listening to now) + a letter from Joel. Geez, what a dismal life ... if his life seemed far removed then when i was in California, it definitely does now. But yes, new Cocteau Twins! ... + she's singing in english even + the drums throb something fierce, grinding w/ eerie overtones, yet blissfully euphoric. They hit the mother lode ... the main vein .. straight up my spine, injecting straight to my head.
Did the errand circuit—banks, travel agents, photo places, stationary shops, bookstores—then settled at the point to make collages + write letters. Whales were breaching right off shore. I was having a blast w/ my new tape ... all these pictures, photocopies, postcards, etc. to splice up + these swell pens [.. some of which i was using to write in the journal ...]. This Indonesian man (Benny) came up + started chatting. He was intrigued by my American accent. He learned British english + was teaching in Darwin for a year. A welcome + inspiring foreshadow to Indonesia. Such a friendly attitude ... he was telling me how anyone in Indonesia will come up + talk to you, unlike Australia or the U.S.) where people tend to feel threatened if approached without a reason. He wanted to take my picture then another w/ us together. I took our picture + he thanked me profusely as if letting me take his photo was an honor.
Then i went to meet Bob, this guy w/ the plane ticket. Really funny, fat Scottish man. [ ... then we went into the logistics of how we were going to buy a cheap ticket from him + about how we pigged out at Sizzler's, listing everything we ate ...] My theory about the cheese toast (containing appetite suppressant) was confirmed ... they brought it out just like they do in the states, then eyed me grievously when i wouldn't eat it. As they say here ... "ta" [Then we doodled a bunch of geometric designs + consulted the I Ching ...]
G'day, mate. Went to the doc, had to fork over the consultation fee + pay him to inject gamma-globulin in my bum + get the script for Chloroquine + Malarone. Remember Derek: Tuesdays! Tuesday mornings. Thens when i dose up. God damn mosquitoes will suck poison if they try to bite me.
Met Bob + we went to Merpati + pulled the maneuver [more details of how we got this ticket from him for $130 (instead of $300), finagling w/ the travel agent, back when tickets were transferrable]. Went + had iced coffee w/ Bob—intresting guy. Was it just a few days ago that i came to the conclusion that being a chef would be the ultimate profession? Well he reconfirmed it ... he's a bona fide chef. Spices are his tools, his medium, his paints. He makes upwards of $40,000 a year cooking, anywhere in the world, even on cruise ships (how he got here, on the Queen Elizabeth II). Fish is his specialty ... + Asian cooking. I was inspired—this man has turned his art, his passion, into a practical means of sustaining himself + travelling the world. His girlfriend is also a cook. She's Irish (southern) + he talks of his ambition to return to this small fishing village there to start a restaurant. He spent a lot of time in England + abroad so didn't have much of an accent, but when he started talking about Scotland his accent came out, a thick Scottish drawl, as if the accent was associated w/ the place where he had memories.
Idea for a book: person travel travels the world w/ just a backpack. Upon inspection this pack contains maybe 1 change of clothes .... the rest is all spices. A fucking arsenal of spices + special knives + utensils. He cooks his way around the world. Makes friends by cooking for them, seduces women w/ food. Food as an art form that numbs senses + transfixes people. The correct usage of these spices give him special powers, like he is a magician. He bribes officials by cooking for them. He sedates people, he pacifies thru cooking. Solves all the world's problems. He spreads pleasure w/ cooking. It is a religion. For food is the only thing we really (physically) ingest... besides air + water. Which reminds me—a cool Malay saying—to go for a walk is "eating air". Cooking involves all the elements—fire, vegetables from the earth, water + air. Cooking is the basis of culture. We eat to live.
After leaving Bob i went to read the Moon publication's Indonesian Handbook in the park. Was just about to embark on the daunting task of learning Indonesian—thinking about how to go about it methodically—when who should walk up but Benny. He wanted to know if i could correct some of his english translations for him + he would pay me $10 an hour. What a great way to learn Indonesian—a sort of language swap. I said i'd teach correct his english if he taught me Indonesian. Deal. We went to his home—this guy was way too kind—he kept offering me drinks + food. I corrected him as he translated—i.e. into english that flowed, what i would say in the same situation. Then he would read in Indonesian ... it's much easier to learn watching the person pronounce it. He was way into it + we both learned a lot. He wants me to go to the Moluccas (where he's from) + teach w/ him. Just go to be seen by his students + see how a "real" American speaks english. Never thought i could be so novel just by being myself! It won't be out of the way to go ... [... at which point we drew the below map, mapping out our planned itinerary. The $60 ticket we mention from Medan to Penang was a requirement, they wouldn't let you go in unless you had a ticket out... ]
[ ... cont from above...] Rain pour on me! Making this pen bleed. Shit, it's really coming down. Under this shelter, the big drops splash. The clouds glow an orange grey in the night. When it rains, it pours. if it's not too hot, it's too cold. If it's not too dry, it's too wet. Always the extremes.
Another day... wrote Kevin a collaged "letter" ... a picture book. Lots of fun. Got my B+Ws back, ½ of them didn't come out. Not sure what the deal is w/ this camera, should have practiced w/ it some before coming on this trip. [ ... it was a little camera that we got used right before the trip ...] Some boring man talked to me in the park for hours even tho i had my Walkman on + was ignoring him.
Met Benny at 3:30 after swimming in the hostel pool + only realizing after that all the girls were naked. Swedes. Benny wanted to take me to some shopping center. Ok. I'm game. 30 minutes by bus. [... at which point we described how tacky + trashy the mall was + how boring + strange it was that Benny was trying to impress us by showing us all the Xmas displays + modern commodities in the stores ... ] Then we went back had a beer + he played me some Moluccan folk songs + showed me this incredibly boring video of Moluccan dancing + singing, recorded at what looked like a high school talent show. Most of the songs were westernized ... impassioned versions of 70s folk tunes gone bad ... i was going crazy, getting uncomfortable, sitting in this formal living room trying to be polite. Molucca is very different from Bali or Java. No gamelan. Their music is like Christian folk music. The Christian Indonesian islands seem really boring, compared to the Hindu Bali + Muslim Java. Finally made up some excuse + bailed. [... followed by a few pages of pasted in postcards + this...]
23 Nov 90
Today is my birthday back home astronomically speaking. Didn't do much exciting on my birthday. Sent a bunch of stuff off at the P.O. then went + saw a matinée to escape the heat ... "Flatliners" .. overdone w/ an atmosphere aimed at fashion-conscious hip people. Then at night i went to some Irish pub. Was sposed to meet Bob there but he never showed. I figured Ray might be there but he wasn't. I stood around awkwardly by myself + watched raucous Irish folk music. The violinist was an 80-year old woman + she rocked. They played Pogues, Waterboys, Gerry Rafferty, etc. There was 1 girl in the whole place that i thought was good looking + right as i'm thinking this to my surprise she comes up + buys me a beer. We sit down at this table w/ 3 other people when she (Liz) hops up + starts dancing around the place like a crazy free-spirited gypsy, never to return. The other people—2 Dutch sisters + a guy from Jersey weren't too exciting. They'd been in Darwin 3 months, not working, just hanging out ... + i thought i was going crazy after 1 week! The 1 Dutch girl states: "I don't like America." ... yeah, so, who does? Where have you been in the U.S.? i ask ... of course ends up she's never actually been there, she's only seen it in the movies. Says "all Americans are uptight + loud + concerned w/ money." Not that i don't agree, but more + more i'm starting to find myself getting defensive about it. Told her she was naive, making ignorant stereotypes. After that i just watched the band + the white people dancing around like they were running in place, skipping about, a very lively + cheerful jig i suppose ... arms flailing, people spinning, legs kicking out. But the Dutch girl put me in a sad state. Getting tired of being associated w/ this place i was born. The world map in the hostel kitchen has a big booger where America is. As if Europeans are better ... Australia certainly is worse, people for the most part uptight, racist + sexist rednecks.
[... more pages of postcards + doodlings...]
Something tremendous is happening ... not that this miserable pen can articulate. Nor my useless body. I'm a ghost, a wandering transient. My emotions so visceral they are taking on a physical presence. Maybe it's the gamma-globulin booster shot? Or the Malarone. I feel i can transcend reality. I could fly if i pushed a little harder. What is that in the breeze? That blows in a moment just passed? Trying to capture it, over + over again w/ each passing instant. It's all allusion.
Called everyone this morning. Immediately struck dumb by the greasy, plastic receiver, slimed w/ the tears of the traveler before me. "Hello, US Sprint" ... a shitload of passing numbers ... is this really me speaking? Suddenly self-conscious. A disconnect, halfway around the world talking thru a plastic cord. I hear my voice echo back. I'm in the lobby of the Sheraton + suddenly the Harlem Globetrotters walk thru. I tell Susanna this but it sounds stupid coming out. Our environments are on different wavelengths. Trapped by the dichotomy of expression + words. Two dramas suddenly connected over a wire thousands of miles long. A fucking wire ... how is this even possible? The absurdities of technology. Diverging dramas trying desperately to see if they'll ever cross paths again. Reality checks. Like walking out of a movie into the bright sunlight on a familiar sidewalk, suddenly realizing who + where you are ... as if this whole trip was 1 big long "trip". Puts things in perspective. Still feeling superhuman, immune system dosed. Not wanting my bubble burst. I can fly. I can do anything. I am, i am superman. Feeling oppressed when she says "I still love you." What else is there to say in response? Who was it said this was like a holding a gun to someone's head? Vonnegut? I snap into rational mode + dish out the facts, name the places + dates of where i've been + where i'm going. Then we're cut off, just like that. Meant to be. Then i call Kevin. Get Eric on the phone. I'm still in a funk. This all exists only in my mind. Self-conscious as if my inner thoughts, my contemplative state, suddenly invaded. I hear a questioning air in his voice, "how are you doing?" not meant in the reflexive way, but like, how are you really doing. I hate phones. Voices sound so different. Eric says the letter i wrote him in NZ struck a chord in his heart. I stumble on my words, not sure what to say next. Not living up to what i wrote. What the fuck's wrong w/ me. Do they feel like i do? Kevin finally gets on. Sounds sincere. Is this really Kevin? Sounds like he is on drugs. Or maybe he is self-conscious like me. I hate to imagine what i sound like to him. If only somebody would tell me, slap me in the face. Shut up Derek. If you weren't so fucking paranoid you'd realize you're lucky to know these people. Just relax + be yourself. Drive your car up on the lawn + let it all hang out. Why does this happen every time i call home? I call 2063 back to talk to mom. Not there, get Kevin on the line again. Hey dude, what's up?—then disconnected. I contemplate whether i should call back. Figure better not to, leave it at that.
[ + here are the books we read during this period, that we listed in the back of the journel...]
Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Nov 11)
Life, the Universe + Everything by Douglas Adams (Nov 13)
Mysteries of the Dreaming: the Spiritual Lives of Australian Aborigines by James Cowan (finished Nov 16, in the outback of OZ).
Aboriginal Stories of Australia by A.W. Reed (Nov 19)
Paperbark: A Collection of Black Australian Writings (Nov 23)
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