Notes From Australia – Feb 2006

Feb 15

Helloooo from Sydney! We have arrived after a dry flight with most people hacking and a delay with quarantine because someone was ill in a questionable way. We have arrived and all the kissing goodbye and hauling of drums and guitars and bags for which we were threatened numerous times (too much stuff and too damn heavy-but oddly, none of it for vanities’s quest), are wafting in dark purple strands out there in the Harbor. Darling Harbor, it’s pronounced.
The first blessing off the plane was rain, soft drops on the luggage cart, and everything arriving on the trusty belt. Then David R.’s happy face as we filed out, then the sweet night washing over my skin and curling my hair.

Coming into the city was relaxing, packed as I was with the luggage in back, listening not really to the conversation in front, more drifting among the palm fronds and Sycamore leaves in a state of absorption. The growing familiarity of streets and names, landmarks and feel of things, the sinking into love of being- here-why, don’t know, it comes in currents that take my mind out, in, out, in.

There will be plenty of work this tour, we have a show everynight and of course I have interviews and t.v. And radio during the day, but I get to play Mardi Gras, and nothing I think will happen will happen, and vice versa-so I’ll just just gaze at the international water, all sunless and dark, and at that flashing beacon across the harbor, and into the path of florescent light laid accross the cobble stone ripples to my window. And I’ll get up and yogize, and I’ll read a fabulous book, although plans are wicked and sinfull. Take care-S.

Feb 16

Well my friends, it’s been a fun fun day. Even though I only slept in between smashing mosquitos against the ceiling with my pillow, I awoke refreshed, excited to have my day in Sydney. Of course there were interviews, but I had a run along the Sydney Cove, which is how it’s referred to on maps, almost to Mrs Maquerie’s chair, although I had to get back for an interview, so once again I don’t know exactly where she sat by the water.

I did find out more about her, however, aside from that she also must have walked a great deal, or been driven, because she has a road, too. I read about her follies, according to an artist who made a very large bird cage out of symbols that represent every over the top move she made. It’s a scary sculpture, at first I thought it was Auschwitz because of the barbed wire and the bones and the arm at the top vengefully clutching a dagger, but it’s about Mrs Maquerie who ruled here for about ten years in 1800 (my memory could be way off on this, it was raining quite hard) and wanted to bring the glory of the English empire even more specifically to the said area, in terms of architecture and Norfolk Pines etc. Well, I bet she never thought she’d be ridiculed right in the middle of those beautiful botanical gardens. I wonder if she knew she’d have a famous seat. The road was most likely in her vision.

I finally got to the Art Gallery Of NSW, David R. Whisked us in after the last interview just a bit before closing, and even in the very short time I really…

Feb 17

Sooo, I don’t know where I left off and it doesn’t matter, because that’s the nature of the road. Did I write that it was raining and I went to the Museum? I think so, but I have to go back because I didn’t get to REALLY absorb and cherish the works. The Works, I like that.

I woke up this morning like a kid who slept with her school clothes on, rearing to go. My manager gave me an idea for a song because of a conversation last night, I don’t ever let someone give me an idea, but this was more like a challenge to unearth something long hidden but controlling a part of me nonetheless. I don’t mention the very personal, uncomfortable things on these notes because I need them for my work, which is the only place they can become something new, something pulsing with life and moving, rather than gunky and irrelevant. Now you know, I consciously stay on the surface while dredging the sea floor with a rusty rake connected to an invisible cord, and then, alone in my room, I examine the sludge covered jewels.

We are on our way to the Blue Mountains, my favorite part of Oz apart from Sydney. We just rehearsed with a guitar player for the Sydney shows, oh bliss! To have a guitar again, just for these dates, I miss the whole band. That is probably the aspect I miss most about having commercial success, because even though I love small clubs, an intimate audience, I love having the financial ability to afford one more muso on stage. Oh well, I’ll get there another way. Tonight’s our first show, the streets are HOT like a skillet on the flame, and no oil. What adventures await….more later…S.

Sophie and Darius aka “Dazzer”

Feb 18
Oh man! I just met the wise woman of my wanderings, her name is Patricia, she was born in 1934 in Britain, and I shall tell you how it all came about, I cannot be pedantic, though, because I need to remember everything she said.

We were walking up Lady Darley’s path, after having gone down, at which point we first met Patricia, as she and her husband were walking up. She said, “how far is it to (something’s) point?” And we said, “you’re almost there”, and she said, “Jolly good! I’m not as fit as I used to be!” Of course, I thought she was adorable. Then on our way back up I saw a King Parrot in the trees, and I was whistling for Gigi to backtrack because even though we had to get the boys, she wouldn’t want to miss a redheaded parrot.

Then, all things converged at once. As Gigi came back so were Pat and her husband coming down, and Pat saw my face and immediatly caught the vibe, she looked in the trees and shhhh’d her husband. When the sacred Parrot flew off into the valley she said that all the Parrots are down there, in the valley, and 20 years ago, when there were only chairs going all the way down there (and if you saw this valley, you’d be scared to take a wobbly chair), she stood under the Eucalyptus trees and saw all parrots and Cockatiels-…

On every limb. Why chairs going down, I asked. “Oh, the miners got down that way”, she said, “we didn’t have this technology then. There was coal, yes, all this is built on coal, running from (somewhere) to (somewhere).” She made the shape of a river moving with her hands. “Is coal ever a liquid?” I asked. She looked puzzled. Then she said, “Trees then Coal then Oil”, “you know, the trees gone lays bare the topsoil, and the winds do this and that and then after a long time there is oil”. Now, she was explaining it, but I wasn’t getting the exact time frame and chemistry like she thought I was, and I didn’t dare interrupt her, because then she went into the Kyoto accord. “And Australia didn’t sign it”-“neither did America” I added dolefully, “but Britain did!” She exclaimed, licking her finger and smearing it against the sky. “Why are the governments of Australia and America so similar?” I wondered aloud. “Because the countries are so big, “and could be self contained”, I said, “yes, but,” she replied, “You can get around Europe without a car…” And she delineated this difference between us and them with personal anecdotes. I said that you don’t need a car in New York, and then she reminisced about Connecticut, how they’re Yankees, like home, a bit more restrained (and she was hinting, “more polite”), and, on the subject of Americans, she threw us a bone. “During the Blitz when all the children had to evacuate to the country-” “Suffolk?” -“yes, I was just nine, and the Americans would ride us around on bicycles, because there was no petrol, of course, and they gave us chocolate. And one day, being ridden on Surrey lane (?), we yielded to a car of American soldiers crossing a little bridge, and one leaned out and said, ‘Roosevelt’s dead.’ He was crying. I’ll never forget that.”

She talked about the glamour of the movies coming out of Hollywood in those days being the only glamour there was, and how she went to Hollywood in the fifties and didn’t have a car and were thrust among junkies under a bridge while riding the tram, and how she felt so badly she brought them back bread-but they didn’t want it. In short, it wasn’t the Hollywood she’d imagined. Then she talked about being a woman in the 60’s, and the advantages of that, and by the end was comparing sir Dudley (of queen Elizabeth) to Bill Clinton, in a good way.

I’m rushing because my manager wants this blackberry, more later on why this woman enchanted me. S.

Feb 19
Hello dearest people, I am on a terrace overlooking Sydney Harbor, between the bridge and the Viking hats opera house and I have to tell you: this part of the earth has such a strong pulse, even these waves in this cove are bigger, thicker, chalky greener.

The Basement show was fantastic, I had a particular thrill giving my banjo away to Eve from Melbourne, who said she never even gets a smile at the toilet. She was a doll. Thank you, wild gals from LOTL, for making that drawing possible, and for supporting the show, and for putting me on the cover of your sexy mag. More later-after we party hearty at Mardi Gras! S.

Composing Notes to You

Feb 20
Dear ones! I awoke in my darling Sydney, among the pearly grey, green and light bulb white clouds, in between the bridge and the viking helmets. I moved from the Sebel to the Hyatt yesterday in a flash because this guy Ian at the front desk was so unbelievably rude and inconsiderate, and he seemed to enjoy it, just before the show at the fair grounds, that I changed hotels within ten minutes. What a stroke of fate! I used to stay here on my Sony days, and its simply a sunnier, happier place to be, and it has a pool, and lovelier views.

Aussies are characteristically so kind toward me, and I believe that’s their general nature, they’re mates, that when a cad like that Ian musses up my ability to do a great performance, or tries to, it’s like a bully stomping on your sand castle. So that’s done.

The show yesterday was tops! What a yielding audience, so much energy flowing, so much eye contact and singing to each other. The heat was inescapable, but I don’t complain about the heat and humidity because I secretly love it. It’s a quirk, even those New York City summers when people are driven crazy with hot humidity make my body feel fab. Of course, I did contemplate jumping in the Harbor, but that’s because it beckons, like a Siren. Being on tour is like having dreams because the experiences are so intense and symbolic, like meeting Patricia among the Eucalyptus trees, and I suspect that the red headed parrot orchestrated it.

Before that encounter I woke up like a shot at 6 am and was drawn outside by the sunlight and wind through the leaves, which was even, like a rain stick. I walked and stopped intermittently to write an unfolding realization, it was as if the rocks were teaching me. And then, after coffee on the veranda of the hotel-Lilianfels (divine!), I had the most exquisite swim in the pool which is the colour of the blue mountains at 9 am on a summer morning with a storm coming in from the West. That pool is actually why I stay at Lilianfels, and I felt like a mermaid. And I wondered if sharks ate mermaids, I am very afraid of sharks.

So, you see, just as Patricia said phrases I can’t get out of my head, and I cried when she talked about ww2 and the children being sent to suffolk and the American soldiers and the chocolate, and I said, I want to be like you” and she said “you have only to do it” and she knew what I meant- she’s a woman with principles she’s tested and lived throughout her long and adventurous life. She has children who like her, whom she visits all around the world and whom she quotes because they give her things to think about. She hasn’t let go of her perspective, or her vantage point, but she’s expanded it and incorporates new experiences. She was open enough to say,”the next time you’re here come for dinner and drinks”, and my manager said, “aww, she won’t be back for a while and by that time…” And Patricia said, “you never know, it’s like ripples in a stream.”-turn into waves of enlightenment.

You see, so many people of this generation only know how to use people, they don’t really enjoy the magic of sharing ideas, this generation is all about money and notches of power, whether its sexual or financial. Patricia said to me “well we’ve had certain advantages”, and she meant simply that we were able to develop our minds, that we are able to move through the world, not richly, but as individuals, free, not as slaves. That is still valuable. She recognized herself in me, and I in her. More later, got Radio 2. S.

Feb 21
High from Sydney Harbor, I can’t call it Sydney cove, it’s not as romantic. I have minutes before the Carrie Anne show, but I want to thank you for your messages to me and the band, they’re fun to read, and I wish I could respond to each of you, but there is so little free time. After this live t.v. I have radio and then I want so much to go back to the art gallery of NSW, but not without walking through the gardens, and Oh! There is a prisoner’s museum, won’t that be awful yet fascinating, considering what I’ve learned about the “criminals” and the free settlers.

I just hit on something. I was wondering why religion doesn’t feel oppressive here, it’s not always in your face and exploited, I don’t feel people are sizing me up with that polyreligious maniacal enthusiasm we have in the States.

Perhaps it’s because the British who came to the states did it in large part for religious freedom, and Puritan repression was so strong from the get-go. And then every person who came also brought a strong religous past, whereas here the convicts were sent to work as sort of punishment and the free settlers were sent to make sure the convicts stayed in at night. In other words, people didn’t come for religious freedom then, they came to add Australia to the British Empire, which is not an act of rebellion against the reigning beliefs.

Well, I spell terribly and I’m sure my questions could be very well answered by others, so don’t take offence, I just wonder about things. Gotta perform! S.

I have to make a correction about the Hyde Park Barracks, the soldiers, constabulary, would be locked up at night and the prisoners went wild, and then the soldiers came out in the morning to clean up. There. S.

Feb 22
This is Gigi’s contribution to the road notes, she is, characteristically, dictating from an Italian restaurant facing Lady Maquarie’s chair:

“All I want to do is find a sandy beach to sleep, and so far I’ve only found a park bench and a drum case to lay my head down. When I get home, I’m gonna have to go on a major diet, ‘cause all I do is eat to keep my energy up, and then I’m so full I’m too tired to go running. At time I hallucinate that I am in New Yok City, because of the humidity, last night I helped Sophie back with her guitars and saw a giant mouse running toward us. I leapt on the sofa and screamed and wouldn’t leave until Sophie killed it. She did, but it was a giant cockroach. She protested that it wouldn’t hurt us, but I made her kill it and throw it over the balcony. She can sing, true, but she’s also brave.
I do have one last comment, an observation, that occurred during the autograph signing at the Slide Lounge, which I will also include in my essay about dating pillow riders on the road, let’s just say it was a close encounter with the cheapest kind. Sorry to leave you hanging, but I have to wait until we leave this town, because I don’t want to be maimed by before we reach Tazzy.”

Well, I suppose Gigi would have more to say, but the food has arrived. She wants to add, in between mouthfuls, that this is a” beautiful country with lots of generous people.”

And I want to add that I’m getting a handle on Aboriginal art and I understand why I love one artists in particular, so far, above the others I’ve seen. Also Claire Burgess and her husband Denny, who’s a super famous muso here (the Master’s Apprentice) are the best agents ever! This is the most fun country to tour in! S.

Feb 23

I’m so sad today, we have no more shows in Sydney, and after Paramatta tonight, we leave for Tazzy. I don’t know why I’m sad, but I woke up unresolved and when the breeze swiped me coming recklessly off the harbor, I cried. Oh well. Could be also that although I plan to return next year, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”. Hopefully not. So, here I sit between the Bridge and Opera house, breathing.

I saw a strange thing this morning at Starbucks, where I went for my cup of joe, first thing. A man with thick, white hair swept back and a wide, prying face sought mine, and everyone’s, like a flasher. He was wearing a bright red smock, or apron, and on it were a swastika, the communist party emblem, and a two letters that looked like a “w i”-Chinese, perhaps. They were stacked big and boldly printed, the man was dying for a confrontation. He made me sick and disgusted, and it felt as if he should be arrested, or his head should be shoved into a vat of boiling fat.

No one wanted to show their consternation, because he basked in it like the morning sun. Where did he come from? He was holding flowers. What is the significance of this day? I have to write more later, I have allot to tell you and we’re packing up. S.

I want to just describe to you, in my uneducated way, what I remember from the art gallery of n.s.w., because I’m just beginning to look at paintings and sculptures in the last few years, and in some sense, my naive approach makes me feel free to share my feelings.

The first picture that alerted me was Underground Train by Weaver Hawkins, perhaps we’re related. It was like an Agatha Christie story in the sense of characters having an outside appearence and perhaps an altogether different inside personality. And yet, there was a wonderfully mundane aspect of ordinary people riding the subway into the city to work in office buildings on a Thursday morning. I choose that day because they looked tired, and each passenger was either reading their own paper, or glancing at some one else’s, or resting their eyes, but there wasn’t one peaceful or easy going or even excited face, and the light was a claustrophobic yellowish hot colour, and everyone looked resigned but also somewhat trapped. It was done in Australia in the 1920’s. There were only two women, and they weren’t equal in dress or stature to the suited men, one looked like a secretary and the other looked like a tired janitor. Yet this painting still has a romance, a mystery. Then I saw, or felt I was seen by, a self portrait by Lucian Freud. Even though I highly value his work since 10 years ago in New York, this small drawing grabbed me afresh.

He reminds me of Van Gogh in that every line of his pencil (or whatever he’s drawing with), is making a distinct direction, like a magnetic field of energy is guiding the line. This portrait is called reflection and each mark is a feeling, an emotional occurrence in his life, like a memory etched into his sad, intelligent, and in some places, heavy face. I want to look at each line’s relationship and function within the whole, and I step back and walk away and keep looking back, ‘cause I still haven’t gotten it. He’s not mathematical, he’s not drawing an equation, he’s presenting an answer, one I don’t understand. More later. S

The last artist I’m going to write about is Robert Macphereson. His big Hot Dog painting cracked me up, and then the 45 egg signs. If I were an alien trying to describe humans to my friends, I might make pictures like these. They seem to be saying, “what do you make of this? Earthlings really love and understand the meaning of it.” S