16.6.08

Nostalgia

I want to tell you everything.
Every little tidbit of fact, fiction and fantasy. I want you to smell the fish sauce and the dank rice fields, feel the salty sweat pouring down my sideburn, the crazy sensation of being an outsider in the middle of something so out of control that it actually has an order to it. I want you to know about how I almost died twice crossing the main highway in Phnom Penh; or the bewilderment I felt when our Yellow Little Miss Sunshine Minibus almost tipped in a mudpit after a petrol tanker derailed on the way to Kompong Cham. I want you to settle into the long stretches on the potholed road, absorbing foreign palms and shanty box hamlets and faces of the good people smiling as you pass on by. I want you to hear the cacophonous roar of motos and tuk tuks, the never ending beckoning of the drivers and dealers, and the poor kids desperate to sell you their bangles and postcards with sorrow in their tiny eyes.

I want you to know how compromising it can feel to be a lone Westerner in a country where many people have been so traumatised by a brutally macabre past and continue to reel in significant poverty with desperation that has no end. I want to tell you about how you rethink, re-analyse in detail everything you once believed when you’re so far removed from your regular, safe cotton-lined comfort zone, witnessing in person the sort of daily insanity that goes on in a crazy, unbelievable, chaotic part of the world.

I want to tell you everything. But I don’t even know where to begin.

It’s a struggle for even me to know what’s going on. I’m barely coming to grips with where I find myself each morning and what the hell I seem to be doing here. It is a month since I embarked on this journey. I can’t tell if it feels like a week or thirty. I feel like a man in temporal limbo, wedged between two realities; an old life and a new one. I wish you could feel just how truly weird that feels. Maybe you have already.

I want to tell you about how time feels meaningless. Like in a Tim Winton story, ‘coming and going in waves; fluttering and sifting like dust, rising, billowing, falling back on itself.’ Time flows through us and not the other way around.

And cyclically, without fail and without choice, the times of your past always return to fall back on you just like Winton’s wave.

Lying in a luxurious health spa back in Laos receiving a right Royal pampering, the pleasure was so trance inducing that I found myself revisiting every single one of my twenty-four years on this planet, floating through every event and highlight and potent memory, deeply and thoroughly. It summed up a common theme of late. Almost every day on this trip I seem to cop whiffs of scents and flavours and words and visions that plunge me thick and fast back down the golden path of my memory lane. A concentration of distilled memories. Things I haven’t thought about for so long and forgot existed…

…When I broke my leg at the age of two. Watching Neverending Story and Flight of the Navigator. My Nana Barb. The Christmases – that one year it snowed in Croydon and how magic it felt looking out Barb’s window. Easters at Point Lonsdale and Merimbula. Birthday parties. Chaotic meals at Nan’s. My old houses, my old rooms and my old basketball posters. Ghostbusters and Batman and Ninja Turtles. Playing basketball on Saturday mornings and feeling like a legend. The feeling of my growing little imagination being set on fire with all the amazing possibilities of what lay ahead

Whether it’s the pure fact of being away from my normal zone of comfort, some sort of strange mid-twenties crisis, or the fact that Mercury is moving retrograde through Gemini, something’s making me go over my past in great detail of late and all I can do is ride it out. And so as I fill my soul and consciousness with amazing new input and experience in this crazy land, there’s a massive interplay going on at the same time with the inner world of my past. It’s a constant internal rollercoaster of the most bittersweet. Debilitating, exciting, spine tingling, at times quite lonely. It’s a cocktail, a triple shot in a great Taco Bill pancho villa fishbowl, and it’s happening right now.

In my trance, I sifted on to the first time I ever wailed solo sax in front of a big crowd, the twinge in my fingers, the lights, the adulation and adrenaline, the electricity. Starting the band, getting gigs, meeting amazing people and rocking out. That feeling of ambition that I’d forgotten and let slip away as the years ticked past. That naivety, that glorious carelessness. The idea that anything was possible.

It retraced territory of the sad times. The overcast morning when Kev layed across a Lilydale line train track. Watching Mum break down in front of me. I was stoned and the sledgehammer took its time to hit. For weeks, months, I’d get blazed in my bungalow and feel ethereal spine chills listening to Kev’s Manfred Mann and Beatles vinyl. ‘Davy’s On the Road again’. That chilling 70’s drawbar organ sound.
Felt like he was sitting right there next to me.

I dwelled on the more recent years, of all the ‘firsts’. That sensation of becoming your own person, the knowledge of having the whole world in front of you; of growing up, getting older, slowly, sometimes begrudgingly, falling into the responsibilities of becoming a man.

The first beer, the first parties, the fresh faces. The night I made a drunken tit of myself at Evs 18th and threw his esky lid onto the Alamein train tracks. The litany of tunes that provide the soundtrack encapsulating every one of those memories during that time, and the deluge of emotion that fills your aching, nostalgic soul when you play them all back. You long to be there. In your mind, you’re there. It all floods back.

…Time folding back on itself…

I remember the first sensation of love and lust. The first date on the banks of the Yarra, feeling for the time the tenderness of a girl’s smooth skin and her lips under the moonlight and that excruciating intoxication that would never leave. The first night in bed with a woman on millennium eve.

Nostalgia seeps in again.

I floated back to the years when school ended. One of the greatest waves of all time. An unforgettable euphoric era that everyone around me was in on; a momentum of wild abandon and sheer elation that just wouldn’t stop building.

That time.
That neverending, magical, amazing rite of passage time.

Those times used to fall back on me in the night and cut me deep when my life was already changing so much, already cutting and plunging me into unfamiliar territory. It would make me well with such bitter nostalgia that sometimes I couldn’t see past the next day for want of the magic gone by. But I’d gotten over that. I’d forgotten about all that stuff. Learned that time was your friend and not a tyrannical monster like Pink Floyd used to tell me. Suddenly now those old feelings are back in droves and I ask myself why.

It’s a bittersweet, wild, amazing journey this thing called life. I haven’t mastered it myself, and doubt I ever will. Just when you think you’ve got it nutted out, the universe throws you another set of hurdles. When the going’s good, its usually pretty damn good…when it’s not, it can be pretty rough. Or at least, pretty bloody testing. More often than not there’s a fat jewel at the end of a long, hard cycle of introspection; a clue, a revelation and a pointer to the next destination.

I’m living a dream over here, something which is going to become clearer when I have the vantage point of looking back on it all in hindsight. I guess that’s why I’m wondering why all the old stuff is returning thick and fast so suddenly and furiously right now when I should be taking in all the new inspiration. It’s not just a fleeting thing, because its been going on for weeks.

Winton’s right, time travels like the waves. Like the energy behind life itself. And life, existing in time, comes around again and again, like the solstices and the seasons, the rotations of the moon and cycles of the planets. Sometimes we’ve got to relinquish the past and make leaps ahead without a sliver of thought for yesteryear. Then there are times like these when the past heaps on us like a closet door opened, jam-packed full of old boxes of stuff. It comes tumbling down on your head to interact with the present, to guide us, progress our beings and give us more juice to jump even greater leaps up the track. That linear timeline of memory, those remarkable little nuggets of ‘now’ always come back to remind us just how integral they were once upon a time. And no matter how painful or nostalgic or bittersweet they’re back for a reason. Spinning like coloured streamers on a maypole; cycling around, intertwining, folding back and unfolding on schedule.

These waves that make up the very person we know ourselves to be and create that person that we are set to become. They are never, ever going to leave us.

And for now, I think I’ve told you everything I can.

2 comments:

Ryan Harriston said...

I have been there myself buddy. When out of the comforts of home our mind is clear with new thoughts. We utilize our imagination more with each new passing moment. Very exciting to travel and reflect on how precious the moment is and how fortunate we are to have been born where we were. We could have been brought up in a 3rd world hell. Would we have realized it or just taken what had been given us? Keep bloggin mate, it keeps us aware of our place here on earth. Hope to link up with you when you get stateside. Talk to you soon Cam Sandwich!!

Ryno

aj said...

Isn't it funny, the nostalgic thoughts that flow when you are far removed from the faces and places you are so familiar with.. I guess it's some kind of security blanket in most of us, or some at least.. I figure some live always purely in the moment but i tend to get super reflective when I'm far from home. For me it's a balance of living in the moment more than ever whilst traveling and then naturally reflecting for comfort reasons when it all gets a bit much.. Sometimes I also wonder if these specific memories will ever dig their way into the conscious mind ever again.. It seems we loose most of them eventually given a long life.. I wonder if it's those times that you are waving good bye to some of those old memories??? Sometimes i guess!! I try to consciously catch those memories just incase, but then sometimes i think i start to remember those times through adult eyes and i don't like that so sometimes i just let them go.. .If that makes sense!! It's the same with photography, always on each travel, the scene that strikes me the most, the one's that knock the wind out of you, i never take a photo of those moments.. They are best left for future reflections...
Anyway, enjoying the blog, I'm off for a ride in the You Yangs!! AJ