I hope I find you well. I’m sorry if I repeat things I’ve said in previous letters, but as I haven’t got any replies from you, I guess it doesn’t hurt. So grab yourself a cup of tea, because we have a lot to catch up on.
When I contacted you last time, I was thanking you for doing that thing you did so well. Watching those plans fly into the buildings made me reassess everything in my life. I almost lost my job because of something I wrote on a website about you, but that was ok as that formal warning worked as a catalyst to many other things. I guess I was wrong about people not paying attention to the silly interweb. So, after this I focused my cynicism on my work rather than my personal life and for the first time since my fairly tricky teens I began to open up emotionally. I fell in love with photography. I started to make real close friends. I contacted my dad after not speaking to him for six years. And I even think it contributed greatly towards me returning to study and getting meself edjucated. It was really a pivotal point in my life.
But now after being emotionally burnt a few times, losing friends, discovering my dad is still a cunt and studying a fairly shitty degree, I’m trying to work out if it was worth coming out from behind my wall. Considering I’m typing this email to you from Vienna, I think it was. I’ve now have a better relationship with my mum and sister. I know that university isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. I still like taking photos. I know that even though my dad had a bad life, he still had the choice not to be a cunt. And I’ve found that not knowing what to do with your life can be both shit scary and exhilarating at them same time.
Not that I condone violence or war, but a billion out of ten for getting the world’s attention with that plane stuff a few years back. Wow, is it almost five years ago already? I was reminded of you a couple of days ago on a tram journey while I was tossing around another solid steel resolve in my head (“OK. This time, it’s going to be different”), and shit like that. As I disembarked in a fairly vague, day dreamy manner I was nearly hit by a VW Golf with the numberplate W AR 911. The "W" stands for Wien if you were curious. Not as good as the WTC911 I saw on a Mitsubishi Magna a couple of years ago, but still worth a mention. No, this isn’t me getting delusions of reference here, but we all receive messages from the universe from time to time. And number plates seemed to have been a constant in my life. When I was growing up, there was a game my sister and I played while driving on our many journeys to visit Victorian relatives. After the excitement of driving past Eagle on the Hill and the monster 24/7 servos (which, apart from the one near the airport, were the only 24/7 anything in Adelaide at the time), we would press our faces on the windows and make up amusing acronyms matching the number plates on the passing cars. Funny family stuff which I’m sure we got from our maternal uncles. After my parents broke up, my uncle Jamie, who was always a bit of a drongo, made the clanger comment about my mum’s number plate VEM – Which he stood for “Vinnie’s Ex Missus”. Classic in-joke that I’m sure is lost on you. I know it seems like a bit of a bogan thing to do, but it passed the time and stopped us kids bothering the olds until we got to Keniva, where we would always ask dad to stop the car with cries of “Kaniva wee dad”, even if we didn’t need to go. Anyway, with the introduction of personalised plates (which I was also a victim of), and the onset of puberty, the fun of this childhood game lost its edge.
So do have a family? You know, wife, kids or are you hanging out for that Martyr = 77 Virgins thing the western media likes to ham up? Maybe you’re gay? Imagine that, the big bad boogieman from the Middle East is into other guys. Wow, George W and his minions would have a field day. They could then lynch a whole other group of people they don’t like with assumed permission and have themselves a big ol’ fashion lynchin’ party. I’m not exactly worded up on how Islamic faith looks upon our pink brothers and sisters, but going on how other religions interpret homosexuality, you guys probably don’t dig it either. I'm not sure what the problem is as I’ve had some pretty fun times with gay friends. They really know how to party. There’s a few other things about Islamic faith I don’t have an idea about. Is it like Christianity, where there are several different versions, all claiming to be the real version? And what’s with the beards for men and covered heads/faces/full bodies for women? I was in Vienna during Austria’s nastiest heatwave since records began, and I saw an Islamic women in the full get up (covered head to toe in black, with only a small slit for eyes), walking around, breathing heavily and stopping every few metres to rest. I can imagine that in the Middle East, people would be more acclimatised to the heat, but still, shorts and a t-shirt would probably be more practical. Then again, people in western society are fooled into thinking they need to look a certain way just to be accepted. Just look at guys with their collars up and girls with their eating disorders. I guess if I had the choice, I’d prefer to be brainwashed by something that wasn’t as insidious as Cleo, TV and “the right thing to do”. You do have a very nice beard though. Well contoured and very distinguished. When I grow beards, they’re bad for a few reasons:
- My beards are red, when my head hair is clearly brown
- Mum says I look like “you-know-who” (no, not Voldermort, someone worse)
- By about week two my neck itches so much I just want to shave the thing off
- Beards don’t really do it for the ladies
While I’m writing this, I’m listening to some tunes on the mp3 player my sister gave me. Really quite the perfect gift, next to Vegemite and Tim Tams for a random traveller such as myself. The gesture of music from home is appreciated, but the Kasey Chambers and Missy Higgins had to go. I’ve now got a mish mash of old and new on there. At the moment, one of the tracks from Thom Yorke’s new solo album, The Eraser is playing. The track is Harrowdown Hill, and the rest of the album is a bit like the more out there Radiohead stuff which came along on with Kid A and Insomniac. I saw them perform in Hungary a couple of weeks ago and you could tell they enjoyed playing the new stuff a little bit more than they did the old. But only a tad. Street Spirit still did it for me (with the help of a low flying jumbo), and Just – I danced around singing along as loud as could. Strangely, if it started raining, I would not have minded.
If you don’t have a family, then do you have a lady friend? You know, are you someone’s gentleman caller? I’ve been having love hurts for the last few months, but I recently started hanging out with a girl and it looks like we might travel together for a bit, check out Eastern Europe for a month or so before her life has to start again and I keep on travelling. I’m a little cautious about the whole thing, because last two times I went travelling with a partner, it didn’t go so well. The story is I met this girl a couple of years ago. She is, or at least was a cool geeky chick, with fairly broad music tastes (you need it growing up with a staple diet of Adelaide live music), good looking and a bit of a nutter. My type huh? We tried the relationship thing once, then broke up for a while, got back together and tried it again. It felt better this time. We had the same friends, our families liked their new pseudo in-laws and everything was rosy. But there was an issue. I wanted to go travelling and she didn’t. But not wanting to lose our relationship (or contradict
I got a DVD of music from one of the girls I’ve been living with here in Vienna, and there was some good stuff on there that I haven’t heard in ages. Do you have an iPod like gadget with you? You get into Pink Floyd? I remember going into Student Radio one night where some guys were doing their late night show. The studio stunk of dope, which I couldn’t care about, but knew that if the station manager found out I would get my arse kicked. Anyway, they were playing a track from Wish You Were Here, which is chock full of Doctor Who synths. These guys are both well versed in music, but one of them had the “I’m so cool because I like music you’ve never heard of” attitude. They started talking to me as if had never heard of the band and that Pink Floyd was their own magic discovery. They were taken aback when I told them my parents were pseudo hippies who brought me up on the stuff, and listed off some of my favourite tracks. I’m not trying to dance around here saying that I’m cooler than anybody else because of this, I just hate it when people assume you’re an idiot because you don’t dress a certain way.
Ah.. the song cut short. Must have been some shit on the disc when it was copying. Next track.
The Police. No, not the real ones. You know, Sting and the other two guys. Sure, they’re daggy, but most pop music is. Walking on the Moon is such a good song for when you meet someone new. Even better if it still means something when you’ve got some history behind you in a relationship. Roxanne. I did this at karaoke once when I was quite drunk in the Unibar (That really narrows it down to a specific day). I got bored in the bits I didn’t know, but screamed the "Roxanne" bit with my best Jimmy Barnes voice. What is your favourite karaoke song? Mine’s November Rain. All 8:57 of it. You can sit down and drink your beer during the four (count them, 4), guitar solos. This is closely followed by anything Australian. Maybe something from Whispering Jack (Don’t laugh, they had it in Japan), or AC/DC. There’s a club here in Vienna that offers a practice page on their site, so you can hit the stage knowing all the words to your favourite “indie” hits, having practiced in your jarmies at home first.
Oh. And now Sting is singing about politics in Russians, a song about the cold war tensions during the 1980s. You know, kids growing up these days only know the Middle East as the place where terrorists come from. My grandmother still doesn’t trust the Japanese. Do you guys still hate the Russians? Isn’t that what Rambo III and James Bond: Living Daylights were about? US and UK government agents helping the Taliban fight the nasty commies? Oh how times have changed. It’s funny that when united against a common foe, differences are thrown aside. But when that foe is defeated, you turn on each other, scrabbling to be on top. I guess that war with the Russians was more about land than it was about ideology. This song is a fairly deep for a pop track. Sounds like something news services would put under slow-mo, black and white video of little orphans in Chechnya. It makes reference to the cycle of violence in the world and how if you don’t think of the kids, they might just grow up hating the same people their folks did. Like the number plate thing I talked about earlier, it is really surprising when you realise just how much your childhood influences your adult life. Just recently I figured out that the reason I feel weird while swimming is actually an irrational fear based on a couple of near drowning experiences when I was a kid. Same with drugs and conflict. The only thing I remember of my parents when they were together was that they were either fighting or stoned. Now I avoid conflict to the point of bursting and don’t smoke drugs to the point of appearing like a straight edge. Learning from your parents mistakes is really important for evolution. How was it for you when you were growing up? From what I’ve read, you come from a fairly wealthy Saudi background, with its roots in oil (der), and construction. This is all getting a bit Freudian, but do you think teenage rebellion is more about the evolution of society than it is about zits, boobs and wet dreams? Is this why you hate capitalism so much? No, not wet dreams. Your family relying on cash from the whities to buy the same shit they think is important. Rolls Royce and Gucci don’t come cheap you know. How much do you value respect? I guess it depends on what kind of respect we’re talking about. If it’s the type where you respect your purported religious beliefs, you would been up there flying one of those planes instead of one of those other guys.
Hang on.. If there was one thing I have learnt at uni, it was typing while lying on a bed only leads to a sore back.
Ok.. better. Where was I? Bugger. Lost my train of thought.
That paranoid bit of my brain was thinking that maybe, just maybe, the whole September 11 thing was all a big conspiracy, and you are actually in some underground bunker in Area 51, hanging out with ET and Elvis, getting wheeled out when ever GWB needs to poke some fear into his people. If this isn’t the case, do you reckon that forth plane was brought down by the passengers or was it shot down by US fighter jets? And that website showing close up pictures of the Pentagon after it was hit. It doesn’t look like a plane was there at all. I guess you don’t want to share your location with me anyway. On that, how do your cronies know how to contact you? I’ve heard the terms “activity” and “chatter” used on the news when referring to suspected terrorist cells, but I never really worked out what that meant. My logic says if the Feds are listening in on some “chatter” and people start talking about putting bombs on trains, you think they would have some idea where they’re at with all that spy gadgetry you see in Spooks and the like. Surely there are other methods you guys are using to talk with one another. There can’t just be radio silence. But at least with silence, there’s no chance of miscommunication. Imagine that. You send your dudes off into the wilderness with the intention of recon, only to fuck up the original plan by passing confusing messages between one another, thus losing them in action. I guess the problem is with radio silence is that you never quite know when it ok to start the “chatter” again.
It is a little ironic that the weapons, training and money given to you by western governments is now being used to attack them. Maybe it’s to do with your team taking its situation for granted. You sit there in your cave sending out guys with bombs strapped to their bodies, disguised as just another Joe Blog, blowing themselves up in public places to cause maximum carnage. Do you reckon it a bit hypocritical attacking the system where you got the majority of your strength, or is it just poetic justice? It’s a funny old world. Though I do agree with you that the west needs a good kick in the pants occasionally just to remind them how good they’ve got it. Do you get to see the news much? Does your mum still record Aljazeera every time one of your tapes gets played? You’re clever to use the old analogue stuff, as most of the digital gear carries serial number information on the recorded media. For no particular reason of course. I read about how with most old school magnetic tape you can tell roughly where in the world it was recorded by the slight variations in the position of the iron oxide particles due to the different magnetic zones of the earth. Crazy stuff.
And seeping through the headphones is Please Bleed by Ben Harper. I’ve liked Ben Harper for a long time. Shit, I remember giving a Ben Harper – Live at the Tivoli poster to an old flame. Now he packs out the Entertainment Centre. Did you ever go to the Tivoli before it turned into The Tiv? I never really got into Ben’s recorded stuff, but he’s a fantastic performer and his live shows are always impressive. Lately I’ve grown a bit tired of his stuff, but it’s not the music that has soured. It’s that pious, ‘I smoke pot and have
So, I’m sure by now you’re asking yourself, “why the fuck is this guy emailing me again?” Well, I feel I need to explain myself. I’ve had friends and family emailing me about a comment I wrote earlier in the week about an old girlfriend. You know, the one I was talking about earlier. We broke up.. blah blah blah.. Eventually people move on, which is all part of life. And when people tell each other, there is always an emotional pang inside, signalling the real end of things. I know for me, a dose of sexual healing (it’s a Marvin Gaye song and not Ben Harper you dredlocked fuck), is good for the self confidence and through some weird plutonic love/romantic love confusion, good for the soul. Figuring I’d be a good sport, I told my ex about meeting someone new, using the most sensitive language possible (taking it slow, being cautious, making me realise what an arse I’ve been), which roughly translates to “I’m having fun with someone new but I still care about your feelings”. I’d assumed she had done the same, with her having a very similar plutonic/romantic confusion as mine. How the news was made official to me was not as gentle as my version, it was quite the opposite. It was fairly personal information which tore me apart. But it was just that: Personal. It was not something you share with everyone, and certainly not something you share with you most recent ex boyfriend. Sure, I have conversations like that with an ex girlfriend and I do find them funny, but there’s eight years between our relationship and her amusing anecdotes. I was going to tell you what she said, but I figured “no, that’s her personal stuff”, So if you want to know what she said that was so offensive, you’ll just have to ask her yourself.
Tomorrow I head to Prague with Thomas and Barbara, where I’ll hang out with Martine from Adelaide and check out some of the secret non-bridge sites of the city. I’ve already been recommended a skate park, cocktail bar and café to peruse, so I’ll let you know how I go. I’m planning on heading through Turkey and Iran after Eastern Europe, is there any place you recommend I go? And more importantly, after those bombings in Turkey recently, is there places you recommend I don’t go? I know I’m white and take my global position for granted, but I really like Turkish food (if you’re ever in Melbourne, check out Alasyas in Brunswick), and I would love to see Iran, as I feel it hasn’t been getting the best press lately. Maybe if I make it near where you are chilling, I can come over and cook for you. So far, it’s been a really good way of sussing out the locals when arriving in a foreign city. I’ve met so many cool people this way, and I have a completely different impression of Vienna then what is presented in a guide book. Maybe you should consider having your enemies over for dinner rather than blowing them up.
Take care and make sure you get some sun.