576 Hours of Performance.

24 Hours of Le Mans

Tuesday 12th 2022 0900HRS ——- August 4th 2022 2000HRS

24 Days of Non-Stop Work.

In what has to be the worst scheduling conflict of my entire professional career, I had accidentally booked myself in for work every single day.

I didn’t even stop there either, I made sure my calendar had social agenda items, space for deep emotional talks and time to work out.

Looking back on it, I’m not even sure I remember exactly what I did. Certain moments stand out … crucial make or break flashpoints that defined how my mental state was going to cope with the next day.

Mostly, the 24 days were filled with what I call “Operational Fugue:” 80% boredom followed up with 20% of sheer panic.

Which means that I don’t really remember any strong details from those 24 days, because they all started to blend together into an miasma of constant work.

All I knew is that I had to keep trudging along … right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot … until I could finally wrap it all up.

So if the days start to blend together, what are the flashpoints do I actually remember?

Go-karting was one of them. As was the RUN MELBOURNE Marathon event I worked at. EDUTEST was another. A run-in with a friend I hadn’t seen in nearly 5 years. An emotional break-down. Donating blood.

And finally saying goodbye to my retail job.

When I look back at my calendar, that is surprisingly accurate. These are all the main flashpoints that really defined the 24 day work stint.

So perhaps my memory is not as shot as I originally thought it was.

However to truly understand why I embarked on such a long working stint is to appreciate that my event career is finally starting to take off.

Traditionally for 2022, I have been working 6 day work-weeks. I will do my obligatory 5 days at my retail store before giving myself an opportunity over the weekend to work at some event. Which meant that my Saturdays would be booked for an event gig, before heading back in to retail for a shorter Sunday and recovery on Mondays.

Everything was quite well balanced, all things considered, because the work load at my extremely quiet retail store was light. I also thought of my event gigs as a mini-holiday, a welcome reset from the drudgery of retail, because the energy and vibes of an event was so adrenaline-soaked, that it reinvigorated me for the week.

So … because I was working that extra day, I started picking up gigs left, right and centre. It didn’t matter what kind of event it was, if it was paid, I was going to be the known as the ever-competent, strong Red Bull Mercenary.

Why Red Bull? Because my event uniform, regardless of any event I attended, was the same. A Formula 1 Red Bull polo shirt, with dark navy cargo pants, a drop-leg pouch on my right thigh with cable ties and a Red Bull can sitting comfy inside, two multi-tools and a torch on my right side and a pair of Mechanix gloves on my left hip.

Besides being a stunning, loud and professional design, the Red Bull polo shirt instantly created a certain a myth around me. It was my personal brand. This was a conscious statement, that you could rely on my experience and abilities. It also spoke about my passion for motorsports, and could even be interpreted as a further testament to my love for all things precise and mechanical. Finally, because the polo shirt was just so loud, it also acted as an low-key high-visibility shirt. Everyone couldn’t mistake it for anything else.

It meant that everything I did was scrutinised and noticed … and I had no issue with being nicknamed “Red Bull” whenever I was needed.

Thus my reputation amongst a lot of different event companies was growing. People were getting impressed and eager to hire me.

Which is how I scored a job at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) and the Melbourne Showgrounds.

Both of which have been extremely fun so far and thus enabled me the exit from retail I so desperately wanted.

But the problem was, because I was full-time in retail … this meant that I had to give 4 weeks notice.

And being the moron I was, instead of taking 2 weeks of leave, I decided to ride it out and somehow balance three jobs in one long 576 hours stint.

This meant that on the days I wasn’t working at retail, I was then rushing to the Melbourne Showgrounds to start my career there, or heading out to see friends after work. I crammed my schedule so tight that there were days when I left the house at 0545 and didn’t get home till 0400 the next day … which meant that I nearly spent 24 hours awake.

Thus those flashpoints stood out very strongly in my mind. Because they were the moments that just stand out above the constant grind.

Go-Karting was fun because I went with two new friends who have never tried it and I was the quickest racer on track, easily lapping many people around me.

It also reignited in me the old spark, of what I still crave, the smell of petrol, the slight loss of control when the back-end flicks out, unable to keep up with my turning angle and the absolute thrill of delivering a clean lap, whilst over-taking slower karters.

But if you asked me to describe the experience in vivid detail, I’ll struggle to do so, because the night became a blur very quickly, because by the time the lap was finished, I was already prepping myself mentally for work the next day.

The RUN MELBOURNE event was unlike any other I have experience. It didn’t help that the day before I was working at the Showgrounds, on EDUTEST, an academic exam aimed at high school students, to assist with their application to better schools.

I saw none of the exams for the record. Arriving at 0650 after a long drive, with an overnight bag slung over my shoulder, I put everything down quickly and was instantly sent to work … traffic managing over 4000 cars.

In the rain. With stupid rules that meant that parents had to leave their child behind in our care and then exit. In which the exit only worked perfunctorily because there was a traffic light that only flashed green too infrequently to allow this sea of cars to exit out of the venue.

Thus creating a huge backlog of cars that stretched for ages and kicked off what I called “the soccer mom” phase, where angry parents, frustrated at sitting in their cars for hours now began to complain loudly and get out of their vehicles to voice their opinion to us, the staff who have nothing to do with the organisers.

And it was terrifying, seeing a flash crowd hop out of their cars, 8 at a time and begin to echo their harassment at you. Soaked, tired, and already close to half of my 27K steps done that day, I mostly resorted to polite pleading, for understanding and pointing out the fact that they didn’t need to be soaked whilst waiting.

Luckily, this mollified most of them, but the complaints were a constant throughout the entire day, and it was extremely difficult to maintain a customer service mien for what was a 8 hour shift. However push through I did, despite the rain, the shitty attitudes and the slow ache in my feet. Because at the end of the day, this was the kind of work I loved and wanted to do for the rest of my life. Nothing else could compare, especially the drudgery of retail to being outdoors, in the elements, working at an event.

But the moment the shift was over, I began my journey to the city, hooking my heavy duffel bag over my shoulder through crowded trains, where I had booked an South Yarra apartment for myself, because in all honesty, what I wanted and desperately craved was space for myself after weeks and hours of work.

And it was perfect. Quite possibly the best highlight of the entire 24 work day stint, because it was spacious, quiet, had a nice view of the city and I was alone. I could truly just let my guard down and just live in the moment, despite knowing that I had to get up by 2am the next day.

So I sorted out my kit, walked out, grabbed nearby Greek food at the restaurant opposite my apartment, did some light grocery shopping; an orange juice, a Red Bull and some muesli bars, and then sat in front of the TV and just relaxed.

Then it was off to bed at 2000Hrs, and I slept fitfully, unsure if I was going to miss my alarm.

I ended up waking up early, staring out at the city view and noting how dark it was outside. I took a shower, downed the orange juice, and put on my Red Bull event uniform, then hunted for an e-scooter to take me to the venue.

Scooting along the road, I caught the remnants of a wild night out for a lot of people at 3am in the morning, drunkards passed out on the street or stumbling along the road. But I was too preoccupied with looking for the venue at Olympic Park to care.

RUN Melbourne ended up being one of the more interesting events I’ve ever worked at. The staff were all consummate professionals, at first slightly taken aback by my overwhelming amount of kit, but were soon reassured by my own event history and knowledge. I was a 2IC to one of the key organisers, and within an hour, was given a radio, autonomy and a section to look after.

It seemed that whatever I was doing, taking initiative, performing tasks with confidence and competency, was working.

My main role at the event was to spot the podium finishers for each of the races, the half-marathon, the 10K and the 5K run and then help with the pack-down.

Both of which went pretty flawlessly, except for the length of the event itself, which surprised me by finishing by 2pm in the afternoon, especially when you consider that it only started at 6am in the morning. But what really shocked me, was when I looked at my clock at 1000 and realised to my astonishment that I had been up and working for 7 hours by that point.

It was right then and there, I took my first Red Bull of the day.

So for the rest of the day, I was lugging crowd control barriers to and from spots, taking down marquees, and emptying hundreds of litres of water and Gatorade bins.

It was glorious, physical work under a warm sun, and I ended up being good companions with a lot of staff, for my technical knowledge and friendly banter.

By the time 1700 rolled around, I was physically spent and I could feel my legs were shaking from exhaustion, the previous day’s stint of 27K steps, now superseded by 47K.

I ended up consuming 3 Red Bulls that day, the last two, taken one after another, to get me back to my accommodation.

The sleep I had that night was instant and deep, only to be rudely awakened at 0700 to prepare for the Monday’s continued pack-down. It was lighter work thankfully, but it did feel longer, considering how much truck-packing there was and how tired I was after yesterday’s efforts.

But by Monday’s 1400, I was on my way home-home, and ready to collapse for the rest of the day.

Most people would have taken the next day off.

Not me. Tuesday morning, I was in my retail uniform, serving customers again and thinking about how much longer I could keep this constant work performance up.

When I look back at this long work stint, I realise that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be. As long as I paced myself, didn’t let the stress of working too much get to me and just slept at regular hours, I knew I was going to be OK.

I’m still surprised that I never got sick once during that period, or even now. With the amount of people I was seeing, the outdoor conditions and the bizarre hours I was eating at, I was sure that at some point I was going to get sick.

But it turned out I was a lot healthier and stronger than I thought.

Long challenges like these remind me that maybe I am a bit more capable than the ordinary person. That maybe, just maybe, if I was successful in enlisting in the Army, I could have survived the SAS’ Selection and become one of the world’s most feared Special Forces warriors.

It’s also touched on a strange nerve I have, about how much I’ve changed into a workaholic.

Because despite some heavy emotional moments, I kept my head up and did what I had to. I went to work. I had tough conversations. I stayed true to myself. I met with friends, despite my exhaustion and I fulfilled my duties.

I don’t think I could have asked more of myself, but somehow, despite doing all of that, for 24 days straight …. I still get this feeling that I could have given more.

But maybe that is just fanciful thinking.

~ Damocles.

To have everything ….

It never ceases to surprise me, how life can still be so lifeless despite having everything.

There is a certain attraction to nihilistic thinking when you have everything you could desire.

When I look at my life, there is so much to be thankful, grateful and appreciative of.

Allow me to list just a few of these elements:

  • A stable family unit – a community leader father, a sweet & loving mother, and a self sufficient younger brother
  • A close-knit group of friends, all of whom are quite respectable people in their own right
  • Working in desired industry and making a name for myself, thanks to my iconic self-branding
  • Relatively fit and coordinated in comparison to a lot of my other friends
  • Decently intelligent, with a focus on quick-analysis and rapid problem solving
  • Live in a prestigious and safe neighbourhood, with plenty of parks and shopping centres close-by
  • Owns a car with decent mileage
  • Does not have any physical defects or disabilities
  • Debt-free, with a decent income
  • Am decently popular with people, and with a reputation for reliability to boot.
  • Has access to a professional network that is quite influential in wider Victoria and a support network that is remarkably generous.
  • Has reasonably good taste in many cultural elements, from food to fashion and broader aesthetic appeal.
  • Am not terribly ugly
  • Am only attracted to healthy women, both mentally and physically
  • Blessed with a lack of curiosity regarding drugs, alcohol, nicotine and other narcotics
  • Seem to have a special relationship with Lady Luck but am not a gambler

When you look at my life, as a considerable whole …. there is very little to criticise. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have steered and be guided in all the right ways.

So why is it that I keep getting these urges to throw it all away?

When you have everything, there is this strange feeling that you should have nothing.

Perhaps this emotional response stems from the bizarre notion that maybe in life, I’ve made too many correct decisions, that I haven’t really fell from grace and had a proper chance to learn from my mistakes. I’m almost too responsible, too balanced to the point that I am seeking out cheap thrills to make up for some defect in me that is entirely made-up.

Because when you have everything, you start making up your own problems to solve.

If that concept is true, that I really have made too many right choices, then it would explain why the main complaint about my life is all centered around the notion of boredom.

Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat  – whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.

And when you’ve made as many correct decisions as I have, and live such a sheltered life, it’s bound to get to you. I can’t seem to make mistakes, regardless of how terrible my life might be.

In some cases, even my most severe mistakes are covered off by Lady Luck herself.

Perhaps I am underestimating my own mental fortitude, that others might have fallen from grace even with all the opportunities I have, but I still haven’t quite found that challenge where I’ve felt like I had to give it my all.

It’s why the idea of starting afresh, alone, away and far from everything I’ve ever had seems so enticing. Because there is no greater challenge than trying to make something of yourself with a blank canvas.

I suppose that is why I find writing so soothing. Because I start with absolutely nothing but a blank piece of paper. It is starkly white, devoid of any creativity or thought. It is truly empty.

I’ve reached this strange crossroad in my life, where I feel this urge to just disappear and see what I am truly made of, without help or anything comfortable. It’s strange to reject such a wholesome, perfect lifestyle where I am truly blessed with incredible people and opportunities but that is just how I feel.

I like to think that I am a self-made man. That I’ve gotten this far without any true assistance or hand-holding, that my mistakes were mine to make, my luck is mine to own and that my life is truly mine to control.

But the more I ponder about it, the more I can’t help but feel like I’ve been too lucky. Like the consequences for my life have not been severe enough. It is such a bizarre concept, that even now I have to admit that it sounds like I am making up more problems again, just to justify some stupid insecurity.

I just want to feel like my life is tougher than it currently is. It is hard to hear praise for my current lifestyle, without feeling like some imposter, like I haven’t really truly earned the compliments because deep down, I know I haven’t worked hard enough to deserve it.

I suppose it falls back to the question that I’ve always struggled to answer.

Do I work hard enough?

People around me seem to think so. They’re calling upon me to rest, to slow down and smell the roses.

But I don’t know if I am working that hard. It seems like everything comes so naturally for me. That I got plenty of down-time even during my shifts at work.

Perhaps it’s not work that I really want more of, but stimulation. I want to experience that rush of everything working perfectly in unison, mentally and physically more often. But too often it’s one or the other.

With event work, it’s generally more physically-intensive, whilst with my general hobby of writing, it is obviously mentally stimulating.

Where is the job where it becomes both? I already know the instinctive answer deep down, that I can only find that in the military, but I’ve put those dreams to rest already.

I know that the closest I am going to get to that rush of both mental and physical taxation, is when I can finally organise my own festivals without any interference. My ambition in that sense is still very strong. The desire to create an event that will be remembered and renowned the state over is still burning very brightly.

I just hope that my apparently endless good luck will allow me to keep this original idea to myself, before someone takes it and cocks it up.

However, back to the question at hand …. do I work hard?

If I said Yes … I don’t believe myself.

If I said No … I also don’t believe that either.

So like most of my life so far, it seems like I am merely coasting along, cruising on my luck and genetic talent …

It just feels so lazy, like I am not truly living life as I should be, working much harder to achieve my goals.

In a strange way, I envy so many of my friends for their daily struggles. Life for them, seem so much harder.

It looks genuinely more tiring, more energy is required to survive, whilst I am over here, merely getting by with ease, no problems or issues at all.

That is why when they praise me for seemingly having it all put together, I instantly feel like I am not worthy. I don’t struggle as much as they do, nor do I put in as much as they do.

I don’t suffer as much as they do.

I know … what a stupid problem to have.

These feelings of unworthiness are such a strange issue to have, in my seemingly perfect life, but like most insecurities, they eat away at you and will never quite fade away.

Still, in the broader context of things, it’s a lot better to always feel like you have to work harder, achieve more and be better than hold yourself on a pedestal.

So even now, these feelings can be seen in a positive light, an additional boost of motivation to be better, so that one day I can feel worthy of the things I’ve achieved.

Yeah …. I got too much going for me.

Sorry.

~ Damocles.

K-9.

Recently, I’ve been finding myself longing for a dog.

Perhaps it was just a very trying week I went through, but there’s no denying the fact that I’ve been quite touched by the two pets that have comforted me when I was feeling my most down.

For a very long time, most of my friends have mentioned that I would be best suited handling a dog for a pet. With my active lifestyle, military obsession and fondness for all things expressing disciplined aggression, I suppose it is only natural that a dog, preferably one suitable for K-9 application would be my pet of choice.

There is something remarkably sweet about how perceptive dogs are too, the way how they look at your with their eyes, sympathy pouring out from their pupils and the manner in which they keep you company when you are down.

It is the perfect, quiet companionship that everyone needs once in a while.

Nowadays with where I am at mentally, I’ve never really given as much serious thought into owning a pet, as I do now.

I am all too aware of the cons.

The mess pets leave behind, the cost of owning one, the daily exercise, the fact that I might one day grow to resent the poor animal, due to some of the inconveniences that might arise, fur in general …

But there is just something undeniably sweet about having one nearby to stroke, feel comforted by and sense the unconditional love. It is such a pure feeling, something that I’ve noticed is in short supply nowadays.

I can already picture myself running alongside with my dog, raising it up from a young pup to a grown adult and overall just enjoying my time with a pet in my life.

So what is holding me back?

I suppose it’s the demands of the pet. Working in the events field, I know that I have a lot of long, irregular hours, with some of them stretching multiple days in a row. I can’t bring my dog to every event, in the hopes of exercising it during my break. I also suspect travelling all around Melbourne will keep me away from my pet frequently, which is equally neglectful.

Nor could I see myself feeling comfortable knowing that the poor creature is stuck in a tiny apartment with me, with barely any room to run around, as that is a serious consideration for the health of the pet.

I also fear the emotional attachment, as strange as that sounds. Having a pet pass away is a highly tragic moment in any pet owner’s life and that is a piece of emotional baggage that I could do without. The loss would be devastating to me and whilst I will doubtless recover, knowing myself as well as I do, the world wouldn’t be quite the same without the dog in it.

In a lot of ways, this reflective piece about dogs and the benefits they would bring me, versus the negative effects is emblematic of how I view the world.

I’m afraid of the emotional investment in a lot of things. I struggle with the leap of faith that is needed to dismiss the cons of a beneficial relationship and just appreciate good times for what they are.

Instead I over-rationalise, drive logic in where emotions rules and try to stop things before they have even started.

I mean this is the perfect case in point, all the benefits of owning a dog is clear.

Having a dog would enrich my life, teach me to be more responsible, get me active and provide comfort when none is forthcoming. I would come home to a much friendlier and warmer atmosphere, and enjoy some quiet companionship when I need it.

In a lot of ways, having a dog would do a lot to remove some of the recurring existentialist issues that I seem to have a habit of repeating. A dog would keep me busy after work, forcing me to exercise when I don’t want to, and be my friend when I don’t really have any to call upon.

It would be a wonderful reminder that in spite of all my flaws, problems and issues, I am still loved in some shape or form.

All the benefits of having a pet are there, staring at me in the face.

But I can’t quite accept it.

Perhaps that is the biggest running joke about my life. That I am so used to caring for others, that the moment something can care for me, I shy away from it.

It is almost like I am incapable of accepting help, only offering it.

I pre-emptively dismiss any help thrown my way, being a stubborn jerk about it, refusing to admit to an extent, how much I actually need help, before turning around and complaining about no-one doing anything to assist me.

How ironic.

I suppose that is all the more reason to invest in a dog. At least their feelings aren’t hurt as badly by my actions, like some of my friends. I can’t resist the sad look in a dog’s eyes, any more I would push away a sultry woman pouting prettily at me.

If that is the case, then I might as well indulge as much as I can into this fantasy.

What breed would I pick for my first dog?

Ideally a good medium sized dog. People have often associated me with the most iconic K9 breed, the German Shepherd, but ever since I watched John Wick 3: Parabellum, I love the size, look and intelligence of a Belgian Malinois.

I wouldn’t be above a classic Labrador Retriever or a Beagle either. In short, my choice of dogs are your classic shepherd breeds, big enough to be fast and strong, smart enough to save you and aggressive enough to take down threats.

What would name your dog?

Ideally my pet would be male but I’m not opposed to a female dog either. If it was male, I would name him Sabre, a call back to my fencing days in uni as well as a small reference to the British military vernacular.

If I had a female dog, her name would be Halle, an obvious nod to the actress Halle Berry and her kickass role in the third John Wick movie.

What would your daily routine be with your dog?

Ideally I would do exercise twice a day. Once in the morning, a brisk, short run and then a longer walk/run in the evening. If I lived near a beach, it would be nice to do laps along the sand with the dog in tow, and using the exercise equipment along the coast. I would naturally feed it around the same time as my dinner and lunch and ensure that it is cleaned weekly.

I think I would also enjoy playing fetch with it too, with a frisbee or a chewed up tennis ball.

How would you treat your dog?

Like a dog. They’re a pet after all and at the end of the day, they’re not going to solve all my problems and be some miracle cure. Owning a dog means that I still have to look after it, and take care of it. There is a duty of care to the animal and I have to take that responsibility seriously.

It’s not a child, nor is it my best friend. At the end of the day, it is an animal, albeit incredibly loyal and loveable.

It will be one of my best companions and I’ll do everything in my power to ensure it enjoys all the benefits of being my friend, but I’m not going to kid myself into anthropomorphizing it further than its name.

What training would you give your dog?

Obviously I want to ensure that my pet is incredibly intelligent and obedient. If I can’t stand stupid people around me, I don’t think I would want a stupid pet either.

To have it do all the classic “sit, stay, play dead” would be ideal, but obviously with my military obsession, I would love to have my dog be trained to the same level as a police/military K-9 unit. To have a dog that can be fun, lovable and cute, and then at the click of a fingers, turn into a fur missile would be incredibly empowering.

It would also just be awesome to see my dog take down a human being.

Would I get another dog or stick to one?

Just one. One pet is more than enough.

When would you seriously consider getting one?

Not until I’ve fully settled down into my new job and moved out properly. There is so much change happening this year, I am not ready to bring in a pet. Even then, I have to settle my misgivings about pets and the emotional investment they require.

At the end of the day, as much as I am suited for a pet and a whole lot of other desirable elements, at this point of my life, there is so much uncertainty that I can’t commit to the idea.

I like doing things right. If I can’t settle other parts of my life, then I should not be anywhere near taking care of another sentient creature.

Still, one can dream I suppose. No harm in that.

~ Damocles.

Sleep with One Eye Open

You need to earn your sleep …

One of the most intriguing side-effects of my extroversion is the new twist on my insomnia.

Perhaps it’s not really a new twist, per se, but more of a confirmation of what I’ve always suspected.

That I need to earn my sleep.

Sleep, has always been an elusive element of my daily life. It’s still a mystery to me, how easily people succumb to the arms of Morpheus. I dislike sleep, because it goes against every single paranoid instinct I have.

I understand that it is a necessity to living, but to be knocked out for so long, without any true awareness of the outside world, has never quite gelled well with my overcautious nature. It’s why I’m so determined to cut down the amount of hours I need.

From 8 to 6, dipping occasionally into 5 … the less I need to operationally function daily, the better I feel overall.

Beyond my usual diatribe about how sleep is a waste of time, and the fact that I dislike knowing an entire third of my existence is spent unconscious, slumber is very much designated an “award” in my head.

In order to go to bed at a reasonable time, I need to be exhausted.

My mind needs to be clear, free of any distracting thoughts and my body needs to be genuinely tired.

It’s a bizarre system.

I can just sense when my body feels like it has not done enough. It refuses to rest, instead it becomes restless. It wants to exercise, to push itself so that it can go into recovery mode and use sleep as a means, not an end.

When I’ve had a lazy day, I notice that I don’t feel as tired, and that my mind goes into this overactive state, where I become too alert, too mindful and thoughtful. I start over-analysing things, and the need to write is stronger than ever.

It is times like this, I know that I need to walk.

The desire to go out, dressed against the elements, anonymous and alone is the only cure for what happens when I’ve been resting for too long.

It is calming, soothing even, to feel the bite of the night wind, listen to the silent screams of lonely cars down the road, feel the soft footfalls against concrete and embrace the solitude behind the myth I’ve created for myself.

The quiet man, walking alone in the dark, fearing nothing.

It is this small exercise that finally allows me to sleep. Without doing it, I feel this strange sense of atrophy. Like I ate too much food and didn’t do enough to exercise it off. Like I’ve wasted my own time or day, simply existing.

Something nocturnal in me just awakens when I’ve spent my day being too lazy.

Mind you, this is only halfway through a consecutive 22 day work stint. For context, the past 11 days I have spent doing multiple things every day. I’ve haven’t really spent any time at home.

Each day has consisted of working either at my final shifts in retail or at my new events home-base, the Melbourne Showgrounds.

Then I’ve pushed myself after, to do something more; working out, enjoying the presence of friends, running errands … there has always been an extra activity after work. I don’t get home until it is quite late and by then I’m ready to do my skincare and head to bed.

So tonight was especially strange. I actually had a breather, a night in. I could just go home and put my feet up.

There was just something so slow and indulgent about the night, that I couldn’t full enjoy myself. I knew that I had earned this rest day, that I should slow down and just soak in the sheer atrophy of the moment.

But I couldn’t. My mind buzzed, as if it was distracted by its own boredom. My body was restless too, as if it was confused as to why it was allowed to recover after the rigours of the past week and a half.

So here I am, writing at the normal creative hour of 2AM, unable to sleep, simply because I felt like I hadn’t earnt that reward yet. There is no other way of putting it. I can’t rest easily because deep down, I felt like I hadn’t done enough to earn it.

Perhaps I have become a workaholic. That only through work, I find purpose, meaning and drive to my life. I love working, keeping busy and feeling like I’ve accomplished something that day.

But in reality, if I was to look at the bigger, darker picture, what have I really done? After all, isn’t existence aimless?

If I was to give that thought, an extra nanosecond of consideration, I would never get anything done. I know that the work I do, is rewarding, fun and gets me out of bed at the strangest hours. It may not be much, guarding a gate for 6 hours or manning an empty store for 8, but it is enough for me to retain something out of my life.

It is that desperate need to cling onto my work, that really drives me forwards nowadays. It’s why I can’t really enjoy my lazy days anymore. My extraverted nature makes me feel like I’ve wasted my time, just existing, instead of enjoying.

Home is now considered a place where I prepare for the day, and tomorrow. If I am at home for too long, I need to leave. I need the company of strangers, the idea that people out there exist and that the world is not limited to my four walls.

Only by knowing how much I’ve achieved in a day, do I reach that calm mental state, where I am too tired, to think, reflect or even react to anything. There is nothing my paranoia can do, because I’m exhausted, satisfied and at peace.

All I can do is sleep now and feel my body work its magic, in repairing itself as I do so.

The phrase sleep with one eye open is a reference to how alert you need to be, to snap awake at a moment’s notice to react to any form of danger.

I work myself to the limit, so that I can finally put that to rest and sleep with both eyes shut.

~ Damocles.

Stale (Screenplay)

EXT. TOKYO BAR

TAKAI and AIYA are sitting outside a bar, beers in hand. Aiya is the more sophisticated of the two, dressed elegantly in a simple black dress. A cigarette dangles carelessly sexily from her mouth, and she is looking out at the road, where the occasional traffic will pass by to add some company to their lonely sojourn.

Takai is dressed more plainly in a worn suit, sans tie. He is a man who is fuelling the melancholy atmosphere. He’s sad, but not depressed, reflective but not lost. His hands are always fidgeting with something when he is thinking hard about something. In this case, the beer in his hand is constantly rotating with every thought.

TAKAI

How long have we done this dance Aiya?

AIYA

Long enough to know to we should stop.

TAKAI

So why don’t we?

AIYA

(looks over at him puzzled) Stop?

Takai nods seriously. Aiya considers the ramification of his question in silence for a moment.

AIYA

(shrugging) I’m unhappy, I suppose. That’s why I don’t want to stop. Why do you ask? Do you want to stop seeing me?

TAKAI

No, of course not. I guess I’m just wondering whether this whole thing is really worth all the trouble for you. Am I worth it?

Aiya reaches out to Takai and stops his hand from fidgeting with his beer. They look at each other poignantly. There is a quiet moment between them, where Takai is unable to meet her confident gaze.

AIYA

Of course you’re worth it. I have a lot more fun with you than Yoshi.

Takai falls silent at the answer. He isn’t particularly pleased or upset at the response. He lets go of Aiya’s hands and goes back to fidgeting with his beer and staring out at the road.

TAKAI

Do you love me Aiya?

AIYA

(pauses) Why do you ask Takai? What has gotten into you just now?

TAKAI

I’m not sure to be honest with you. I guess it’s the music and the time of the night (looks at his watch). Yeah, it’s definitely the time. I always start feeling a bit melancholy around this hour. I’m sorry Aiya, I know we’re supposed to keep things light between us.

AIYA

(gives him a pitying look) If it makes you feel any better Takai, at the moment, I am more in love with you than Yoshi.

TAKAI

(rolling the words off his tongue) at the moment ….

AIYA

(an exasperated sigh) I mean it Takai. I do love you more right now than Yoshi. But I think you already knew that this dance between us was always meant to be temporary. You know me … I will always want another dance partner. Even Yoshi knew this before he agreed to date me.

TAKAI

Have you always struggled with staying with the same partner?

AIYA

I suppose so. I’ve never been lacking for boyfriends. I guess it’s easy for me, which is a lot more than I can say for other girls. But they don’t have to deal with something I call the stale factor.

TAKAI

The “stale” factor?

AIYA

Yeah. I first started noticing it, when I dated my first boyfriend in high school. We were together for nearly 2 years. It was nice, but empty at the same time. We used to make love in the lockers when no one was there. I loved the way how he played with my neck. It was the most sensual massage I’ve ever gotten from a man.

Aiya pauses as she looks reflectively off into the distance, sipping her beer. Takai looks at her thoughtfully, his eyes intrigued and thoughtful, fingers still playing with his own beer.

AIYA

I thought I loved him. But then the stale factor came through. Everything he did bored me. I couldn’t make love to him any more, without feeling like it was a chore. Even the way how he played with my neck started to feel perfunctory.

TAKAI

When did the stale factor kick in?

AIYA

About a year in.

TAKAI

Is it always a year?

AIYA

Sometimes more, sometimes less. I suppose it is always around a year.

TAKAI

Can you describe more what makes a person stale? I suppose my time is coming around the corner soon.

AIYA

(reaches out to steady his fidgeting hands) Relax Takai. You’re still a while away. But being stale is a lot like listening to your favourite song too many times, that it loses its power. The melody doesn’t stir you anymore, and the rhythm is too predictable.

When you listen to it again, you start to question why you liked the song in the first place. And with each repeated playing, you can’t get rid of that question. It starts to be linked to the song and so whenever you listen to it, or hear it out on the street, the question gnaws at you.

So I have to end it. Because at some point, I will never get the answer to that question. That’s the stale factor. I can’t shake the question away from the music or the lack of love from the man.

Takai nods solemnly at Aiya. He can sense his time is around the corner. Already Aiya is starting to lose interest in him. He has signs of the being stale. He takes out his wallet and puts some cash down on the table.

TAKAI

I’m going to head home. Thanks for letting stay over last night Aiya. I’ll see you soon?

Aiya merely nods, understanding how he feels and takes another drag from her cigarette before realising her manners and standing up and kissing him gently on the cheek.

AIYA

I’m sorry Takai.

Taki shakes his head and kiss her gently back on the cheek, before squeezing her hand sadly. Hailing a taxi, Takai jumps in, looking back at Aiya, who is now alone, sitting with a beer in her hand, a cigarette in her mouth.

Just as the taxi pulls away, Takai sees a random man approach Aiya and she gives him the same disarming smile that entranced Takai when he did the same months ago.

Author’s Note:

Inspired by my latest read through of a short story collection, First Person singular by Haruki Murakami, I wanted to try and convey some of his dialogue in film format.

I’m not quite sure I struck the right tone of melancholy, reflective and whimsy, but I was oddly impressed by how smooth writing this was. So I’m quite pleased with it overall.

Hope you enjoyed it!

~ Damocles.

Pressure

No Time to Die (2021)

For the first time in a while, I needed an alarm to wake up.

Normally, I am up by 0700HRS, ready to face the day. Six hours is all I really need to function properly. Any more, I become a sluggish mess, unable to face the day properly.

But today was different. I slept fitfully, afraid of the future, unsure of my place in history and feeling for the first time in a while, the burden I was carrying.

I hadn’t realised it, but slowly, ever so gradually, pressure has been building up in my life. A force that weighs heavily down on my shoulders and it’s everywhere. Friends and family, lover and enemy, work and desire.

I’m not even sure where I should be looking anymore to fix things. Life has built up so much tension that it’s now almost accelerating beyond my control. I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions, agreeing to, too many things, over-committing to a new lifestyle.

Perhaps, I am too greedy to live at the moment. I literally feel like I don’t have enough time. I’m forgetting little tasks, am becoming incredibly reliant on my calendar to remember certain objectives and I’m been committed to this insane 6 day work week for the past 2 months. I almost can’t catch my breath because by the time I do, I’m already sorting out the next item of work I have to do.

In a lot of ways, I’m truly living life at a pace that shouldn’t be sustainable. Already I can see the smoke billowing out from the frayed edges of my mind, my mental threads catching fire as they desperately try to put out the constant fires that keep popping up in my life.

It’s gotten to the point where I’m not sure I know how to relax anymore. I’m living life almost purely in the moment, reacting to everything, instead of planning ahead for them. I’m swimming furiously against the rip tide that is slowly taking me further and further away from the safety of the shore and I can tell I am getting tired.

Yet for all the pressure that has been mounting on me, I can still sense that I’m not that far gone yet. There is a part of me that is still clawing away, clinging on by my fingertips and refusing to give up. Whether it’s misplaced arrogance or sheer stubbornness, I don’t want to let this new lifestyle beat me.

In fact, I want to own it.

However, it would be foolish for me to not acknowledge all the emotional turmoil that my life has thrown my way. That is the purpose of writing everything out after all. I need to do this, whenever I am struggling, to help me see the way out. To cleanse the palate of all its trouble and prepare my mind for the solution, no matter how tough it is to execute.

If I had to really identify all the sources of tension in my life at the moment, it would boil down to those six elements I listed above. Friends, family, lover, enemy, work and desire.

Friends are easily one of the trickiest ones to deal with at the moment. Some are forlorn individuals, people who I feel compelled to help out of their current mental predicament. Others are now classified as enemies, people whose very presence I am challenged by.

They are all long-term projects that are ramping up in intensity. Some are coming to a head and others are just starting to depend on me. All of them, rely on a simple equation from me. To be as strong as a rock, to allow these people to dash themselves against me, in a storm.

I don’t know what it is about me, that I feel compelled to help so many people, despite the inherent stress, additional energy and strain on my daily life. But like a moth drawn to a flame, I can’t resist the urge to bring others up. I want the people I care about to be on my level of confidence, self-assuredness and health. Perhaps its terribly vain, but I only want the best for my friends and if they are truly happy with themselves, then I can relax around them, knowing that I did my part to help them reach a certain mental nirvana about themselves.

However, being that rock, that foundation in which people can rely on me, no matter the circumstances, is surprisingly taxing. Looking back at the last 6 months, I’ve never realised just how stable and reliable I am, to so many people.

Which, as an aside, is incredibly disappointing to recognise that so many people are helpless without a Damocles to sort them out. I don’t like being deemed necessary or crucial to success.

A naive part of me, still believe in the best of people to properly solve their own issues, but a cynical voice will always arrogantly counteract that naivety with a stern rebuke: without you, a lot of people are lost.

So much of what I do is under scrutiny all the time, which creates additional pressure to perform. Not that I’ve struggled very much under the spotlight, if anything, the drama queen in me, relishes the moment. But it does add an extra weight on my shoulders, knowing that people are always watching what I do, what I wear, and what I engage in.

Which brings me to my lover. An awkward situation has arisen and on our anniversary, now everything has been put into question. We’ve been doing long-distance for nearly 2 years now and there is this sense of inevitability of choice about it all now.

What will we do?

One of us has to give to support the other and it’s an incredibly difficult decision to make.

This neatly ties into the next two elements: desire and work.

My events work is finally taking off. I am inundated with work, my value is finally being recognised and people are now actively searching to hire me. The dream is now becoming a reality. My excitement over this prospect is genuinely palpable and all I want to do is work more, more and more.

I am currently engaged with almost 5 different events companies. My own company, Tofu Events, being that almost. Each company has given me an absolutely wide breadth of experience and work to engage in.

JT Production Management has offered me the best look into the corporate style of events as well as a firm grasp of how online conferences operate. They are growing fast and are undeniably professional and fun to work with. Their camaraderie is infectious.

UNTITLED GROUP has given me the biggest breath of fresh air I’ve ever felt, offering a totally alien environment to me. With just three events, I’ve transformed from an introvert to an extrovert, relishing meeting strangers and having an absolute blast at their House events. This Australian company is recognised everywhere, are consummately cool and I am forever grateful for being a small cog in their vast machine. The crowds at these events are the people I’ve always wanted to meet and it’s been an amazing and eye-opening look into how non-Asian companies operate their large-scale events.

Melbourne Showgrounds is the latest event venue that I managed to score a contract with. Having worked with them before for my Lunar New Year Festivals, I am all too aware of their prestigious history and am eagerly anticipating getting stuck into one of the most iconic Victorian events of the year, the Melbourne Show. The venue is a vast behemoth to walk, and I recall averaging close to 40,000 steps per day just serving my tiny festival in just one location of the Showgrounds. Whatever the job they’ll ask of me, I’m eager to see if its as physical as it appears to be, because at the end, I’d rather do physical labour, under a hot sun then sweat away at a keyboard under air-conditioning.

The final event company I am contracted to is the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). MIFF is one of the best film festivals on Melbourne’s social calendar and I’ve been a huge fan of its line-up since it first promoted itself to me in 2015. MIFF isn’t just a chance for me to get paid, watch free movies and be apart of one of the oldest film festivals in the world, it’s also an opportunity for me to reconnect with my love for film and see what movies can do to move me again. It’s going to be a fun August and I’m incredibly glad I took the gamble to quit my retail job to take this opportunity with both hands.

So with work ramping up, the desire to get stuck into it, only intensifies. I don’t know if I’ve become a workaholic, but there is something incredibly fulfilling about maximising every day, as if it was my last.

I exercise lightly every day, with more intensive work-outs scheduled in for 4 times a week. I sense a strange restlessness when I am at home for too long and have eaten a bit too much over my normal daily limit, so I force myself to exercise more or run 2.5km to my local 24HR shopping centre for some strange lonely company.

I strictly adhere to a basic diet, to keep my weight down, whilst indulging occasionally to keep my sanity. I pack my days full of activities after work, because I know that if I don’t, I’ll just let myself go.

There is almost this level of self-punishment or desperation to how much I do in a day. I know, deep down, it stems from this inherent irrational belief that I have lost too much time to a silly pandemic. I’m doing everything in my power to make up for lost life and it’s deservedly being described as overcompensating.

But the desire to keep living life to its absolute maximum is too strong to ignore. It’s like I have my foot jammed all the way down on the pedal and I absolutely refuse to lift off or brake, despite the looming turn.

I’m being undeniably selfish at this point of my life. I’ve riding the dragon and I won’t be bucked off it. I lost the opportunity to go on this wild roller-coaster 3 years ago and this time I will not budge.

But at what cost? Will I sacrifice my girlfriend’s happiness, our time together and all the memories we’ve created to keep riding this career high?

There is no questioning that at the moment, I have incredible momentum. To lose it, will be lose another opportunity to get into the position I want to be in the event industry. My work gives me purpose, drive, commitment and personal satisfaction.

But my girlfriend does too.

What will I choose?

What will she choose?

I got no idea, but there is no denying that I do not want to let this go for myself. I’ll never forgive myself if I do. I suffered terribly once when the Army rejected my application to enlist.

I’m not going to go through that again. Life, at that time, was nothing but ash and echoes. It shook me to the core that I couldn’t do the dream job I’ve longed to do for my entire teenage years. And it took me years to rebuild myself and find a civilian industry where I could truly feel like it was my own and give me all the satisfaction that the Army would have.

Yet, I don’t want to lose her either. Yes, she’s said that she would come back, just to be with me. But instead of being grateful and relieved, I felt worried. She’s a gorgeous woman, and despite many years together, I’ve always felt inferior to deserve her.

My automatic instinct was that: I wasn’t worth it.

Then I also considered the fact that I wanted her to experience the same personal satisfaction in her career. Being by my side, whilst I was living and experiencing the highest career high on my life, was going to be rough on her. She had much better opportunities in her industry where she was. If she worked hard enough, she was going to find people who would give her a shot.

To throw that all away and 2 years of study, just for me, didn’t sit right with me. Melbourne didn’t have the same career opportunities in her industry. It was going to be a much harder, longer and riskier road down here.

And I don’t know how strong she will be. Or how strong I will have to be to support her as well.

My biggest fear is that one day, she will wake up next to me and resent me for sacrificing her dreams to be with me.

I can’t handle that to be honest. My biggest rule when it comes to relationships, is that we walk hand in hand together. Not weighing each other down with additional baggage or one of us pulling the other along.

I’m afraid of the choice we have to make together. That is the biggest pressure on my shoulders right now. There’s no denying that love is the hardest and most difficult element that exists in the world.

What kind of person am I when faced with this type of decision? Whatever I pick, will determine who I will be forever.

There is no greater sense of fear around the question of what sort of man will I be when faced with a decision of this magnitude. This pressure is what caused me to sleep fitfully and need an alarm to rise to meet the day.

It is as much her choice, as it is mine.

That alone is what drives me mad.

I’m always in control of my life, my decisions, even my emotions. To let someone dictate the ebb and flow of my life … it terrifies me. For a lover, I will begrudgingly allow some level of control. For a friend, I will only permit a small modicum. For an enemy, none.

I have to withstand this pressure just for a tiny bit longer. To think that all of 2022 was building up to this moment, from a gentle simmer to a rapid boil, I should have seen all of this coming a bit better.

But that is the price you pay for being purely reactive for so long. You can’t plan for things like this, all you can do is improvise, adapt and overcome the best you can.

They say that diamonds are made under pressure.

They never mention the fact that you need to withstand about 725,000 pounds per square inch to get there and I’m already starting to fold.

The furious and unrelenting nature of all this pressure around me will soon either make or break me. I chose this though, so I will see it all the way to the end, when the world finally relents or this will be my undoing.

Life has gotten to the point where I literally have no time to die.

How very apt.

Was I stupid to love you?
Was I reckless to help?
Was it obvious to everybody else?

That I’d fallen for a lie
You were never on my side
Fool me once, fool me twice
Are you death or paradise?
Now you’ll never see me cry
There’s just no time to die.

~ Damocles.

The East Coast.

Taken near Bruny Island.

If you had told me that I was going to visit every single Eastern Australian Coast Capital in 2022, I would have told you to sod off because I don’t have time for such nonsense.

Yet that is precisely what I did.

It has been quite the experience to rate, compare and rank each Australian capital to each other.

Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart and Sydney.

I visited them all and if you think that is the rank from best to worst, then you are absolutely correct, with a small caveat … Sydney is far, far, far worse than Hobart than what that tiny list suggests.

I would like to start this whole blog with a tiny writing exercise, in which I will attempt to capture the essence of each city in under 25 words or less.

Melbourne – The gilded metropolis, with an emphasis on contemporary aesthetics, whilst subtly weaving history and privilege into every aspect of urban planning. Attractive and convenient.

Brisbane – The River and Sun city. Picturesque, a little bit unassuming, but delightfully warm and relaxed. Far more urban, than one would expect from Queensland.

Hobart – Australian Gothic. A small city ruled by water, mountain, and fog. Scenic in the extreme, it has a dark side that creeps in via roadkill.

Sydney – The Janus town. Ugly and pretty, developed yet unkempt. Famous yet derided by all. A poorly designed mess that truly does not represent Australia well.

Melbourne – The Perfect City Design.

Obviously being born and raised in Melbourne, I have an overwhelming affection for my home town (to the point I actually visualise her as a woman, like the comic character The Spirit) but I also like to think objectively that it is undeniably true that Melbourne reigns supreme over all other capitals in Australia, purely because of its brilliant urban design and planning.

It is a city that has too much money to spend on itself, and so engages in self-care constantly as well opening its doors to the world, in a way that is thought provoking. Unlike other cities in Australia, Melbourne is obnoxiously snobbish, daring every tourist and traveller to truly explore her depths whilst sneering at those who just go to the boring tourist traps.

Amusingly, even Melbourne’s tourist traps are actually well designed to ensnare people further into exploring what they have to offer. Federation Square is a good example of this philosophy … it’s not just a horrible contemporary eye-sore, it’s also host to a cinema, a gallery and several excellent restaurants and is the most popular meeting spot before an adventure into the CBD.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Melbourne though are her outer suburbs like Fitzroy, Collingwood, Richmond and St Kilda. Each of these unique environments boast restaurants that rival anything in the city, in fact, quite a few of them surpasses the high standards of the CBD. To have such developed and sophisticated outer suburbs is almost uniquely Melburnian, which I believe is only made possible by her extensive tram network, which allows incredible access to Victoria as a whole.

Imagine a foreign Formula 1 fan coming to Victoria, to watch the Albert Park Grand Prix. With just one tram, they can get access to the famous St. Kilda Beaches, the South Melbourne Market, Melbourne Museum and Crown Casino and if they are going from Albert Park, all they have to do is wait 10 minutes to enter the CBD itself.

If, for some reason, they continue on that 96 tram, they can go all the way to Brunswick, a hip suburb with incredible Middle Eastern food.

Melbourne’s thriving diversity, interconnectivity and sheer abundance is all due to the cleverness of her urban design. Everything is future-proofed, to ensure maximum comfort for all who live in her borders. Even the overall architecture of Melbourne is a stunning cityscape of modern and historical, with real care and respect given to the bigger picture of what Melbourne should look like and does look like.

So if Melbourne is a sweeping, expensive and carefully curated town, what does that mean for my second favourite city, Brisbane?

Brisbane – Relax by the River and Sun.

If I have one slight complaint with Melbourne, it is almost too convenient. Everything is laid out in a grid, the most sensible urban planning decision on the Eastern Coast. You don’t quite get that sense of awe for the waterway as you do in other cities because the CBD is so tucked away and neatly organised.

Brisbane though, owns her waterway like no other city. The Brisbane river is a stunning feature that perks up the cityscape the moment you cross Brisbane’s multiple bridges. Just like Melbourne, the Arts centre/entertainment complex is on the “Southbank” however it is a lot more like an attractive, expensive island, compared to Melbourne’s version.

Brisbane’s urban design is a lot like the sunny disposition the entire state of Queensland is known for; sprawling, a little bit lazy and infinitely open. The streets really allow for the sun to shine down, and the capital’s slightly hilly nature really helps you capture the sense of how big, yet approachable the city is to walk. There are a lot more open spaces in Brisbane, such as the Brisbane City Hall or the Queen Street Mall.

These design choices, really accentuate the fact that Brisbane moves as a different pace to Melbourne. There isn’t a strong sense of urgency, nor does the city have that focus on corporate culture that is so iconic to Melbourne. The buildings don’t try to scrape the sky, there are more fun and homely pop ups like a trash/treasure bargain market in front of the library and in a lot of ways, the streets encourage you to slow down, because they stretch longer without interruptions.

However, Brisbane’s buildings are also a lot older. They have this worn feeling to them, that they have existed for many years, clinging onto an older, more quaint Australia. Their arcades and strips are older, less well maintained and are actually in use more than the ones in Melbourne, who in contrast, emphasizes the gimmicky nature of them, with more niche stores like divination shops or bric-a-bracs.

The trees also overhang the street more, casting a darker shade over the streets, to offer solace from the sun. Perhaps the most telling feature of all the cities I’ve visited, is that Brisbane doesn’t seem willing to give up her old, ill maintained shop fronts, a stark contrast to Melbourne, where the city always encourages a rapid turnover in order to keep up appearances.

By far my favourite feature of Brisbane though is the Streets Beach, which is an absolutely stunning idyllic Australian summer urban beach landscape. An actual urban beach, Street Beach overlooks the Brisbane River and the CBD, and is perfectly designed with a small tropical garden nearby, plenty of shop fronts and restaurants and more importantly, it is the perfect location for an event, large or small.

When I walked the area of Streets Beach, I was blown away by the intuitive design and genuinely wished I could host a festival of some sort in the space.

It also made me insanely jealous that Melbourne hadn’t thought of this feature yet.

To sum up, Brisbane is the perfect getaway city. Urban enough to make you feel the city vibes, but slow enough to differentiate it from your home town.

Hobart – The dark harbour town.

Hobart is easily the smallest city out of the four. But like a small dog, it barks very loudly. It makes up for its’ size with its sheer audacity. I’ve never been to a city where there is a theme to everything. Much like her Nordic counterparts, Hobart is dictated to and by the water. To experience’s Hobart magnificence is to literally see a city appear out of the fog, nestled along hills and facing the open ocean.

Driving around Hobart is a pleasure, with plenty of eye-catching moments of nature doing her best to awe you with her beauty. The snow-capped mountains are always a delight to see above the the city, clouds so close, that you can almost fool yourself into thinking you can touch them.

Back to the idea of a themed city, Hobart’s biggest focus is on the nautical. There is a Museum dedicated to all things maritime, restaurants really lean into the marine themes with riggings, pirate ships and other paraphernalia scattered everywhere as decoration and the actual heart of the city is actually based right on the waterfront.

By all appearances, entering Hobart is a lot like venturing ashore for the first time after a long voyage at sea. It is Australia’s Harbour town, small and welcoming to tourists but because of Tasmania’s isolated nature and harsher conditions, there is a chill to the friendliness.

Throughout the trip, I observed a slight arrogance amongst those who have lived there their whole lives, knowing that they’ve managed to carve a piece of paradise for themselves. I can sense that they are a little bit unhappy to share it, despite knowing tourists like myself sustain them.

It doesn’t take long to cover the entirety of the island of Tasmania, just a three hour drive from Devonport to Hobart, but everywhere you go, you can sense the almost Nordic loneliness that permeates the island, despite its’ beauty.

And on brand with her more famous cooler Northern European counterparts, Hobart’s food is excellent, no doubt spoilt by the freshness of all her ingredients. To add further comparison, many of the residents are dressed practically with typical winter colours of dark orange, greens and similar earth tones, and there are hundreds of houses that stretch up mountains with a strong communal sense about the city.

Everyone seemed to know each other and thus I definitely could sense how my, more fashionable choices in clothes, such as a long coat or a military outer jacket stood out from the more common down jackets and vests.

Architecture wise, Hobart captures the feeling of an older Australia, a snapshot into the past with her diverse styles all colliding together, that barely feature any modern aesthetics, a far cry from Melbourne’s ultra contemporary choices. This is a town proud of herself and her heritage, pushing back against change and desperately clinging onto fonder memories.

I mean, there isn’t a single 7-Eleven in Tasmania, as far as I could tell.

That itself is evidence that Tasmania, is proud to Tasmanian. It will resist globalism as much as it can, proud of its home grown nature and bounty.

Yet for all her beauty, this is the capital with the most roadkill in the nation, and houses the most singularly repellent Museum I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing. The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is actually the perfect summary of Hobart’s strangeness. Compelling in a dark sinister way, you are drawn like a moth to her weird seductive ways.

It leaves you feeling hollow, like something sucked something vital out of your soul. Museums are an important indicator of the town’s taste and values. Hobart, for all her external appeal, is far too edgy, nihilistic and repellent for me to be attracted to her any more than a surface level.

Whilst I could see myself living in Brisbane, I can only ever visit Hobart. As for Sydney … I’d do neither.

Sydney – The random rival.

Sydney disgusts me to the core. This isn’t even an objective outlook to the town, I’m just far too Melburnian to acknowledge anything good to come out of that town.

The rivalry between these two sisters east coast capital is so fierce that the government decided to compromise and create Canberra to mollify both of them.

But there is no arguing that the late development and the Gold Rush blessed Melbourne for decades to come. Sydney may be the older city, but it’s urban planning left a lot to be desired.

Arguably the most distinctive element of Sydney is just how many juxtapositions it is characterised by.

It has some of the most attractive buildings on the East Coast, yet also simultaneously the ugliest. The best example I can give of this, is the Downing Centre Local & District Court building, which has gorgeous gold accents on its classical style and is immediately eye-catching.

And the reason why it is so arresting because every single building around it, looks plain in comparison and does not complement the Downing Centre at all.

This bizarre aesthetic and design choice, is prevalent everywhere throughout the whole town. Traffic is genuinely awful because of its many one-way streets and the fact that Sydney is bisected down the middle by the Darling Harbour, thus making the layout of the city even more confusing to tourists.

To travel from one side of the CBD to the other, involves a long trip down and then up and the tram system is incredibly poorly designed, with multiple lines that rarely connect with one another.

It isn’t really the fault of the town herself, but the sheer inefficiency of getting around, and essentially forcing people to take public transport to get from one end to the other, means that you don’t really get a good sense of the city and her flow.

There is a genuine arterial flow to Brisbane, Hobart and Melbourne. All of their major stations and traffic can be sensed whilst on foot.

Sydney lacks that flow, because it is simultaneously too damn big and yet curiously too small. This is a town that doesn’t know what it is. Is it beautiful or ugly? Big or small? Rich or poor?

Unlike Melbourne, where you can sense the wealth with the breadth of the street and her high level of maintenance, Sydney doesn’t possess such evidence. Too many buildings are under construction, grass growing along the road is unkempt and wild, and the trains could be a lot cleaner.

There isn’t that sense of differentiation when you get closer to the city, as you see with Brisbane, Hobart or Melbourne. Instead the same sense of inefficiency and mess still resides in the city’s centre and all you’ve really done is swap a poor neighbourhood for a poor city.

Throw in lockdown laws and a town where rent is enough to cripple you financially forever, and you got a town that you couldn’t pay me to live in, let alone stay for a night.

There aren’t really enough words to describe why I despise Sydney, but you know it is bad, when I question the aesthetic and design of some of their traffic lights.

Overall …. Melbourne is still the Queen of the East Coast.

The best overall food, bars, entertainment and culture still belongs to Melbourne. There is no city quite like her in Australia. The sheer efficiency and design behind her streets are a huge part of what makes her attractive. Melbourne is sensible, simple and deceptively smart in how she allows her visitors to explore her secrets and attractions.

She is a truly modern city, with an emphasis on elevating the CBD to a higher standard to the rest of the suburbs. To enter the city of Melbourne itself to put aside the charming bohemian atmosphere of Fitzroy or Collingwood and truly engage in business, pleasure and arts to a higher degree.

Convenience is everywhere, from free trams to catch, to hidden cafes and alleyways, everywhere you go in Melbourne, it’s easy to get lost and find your way again.

This sense of curiosity is only further bolstered by the fact that Melbourne is ever changing with the times. She will always be at the forefront of what is trending and even set the trend, because she can afford to do so.

That is why she remains the fashion capital. That is why she is the sporting capital. That is why she keeps winning the most liveable city in the world. Melbourne encapsulates the best modern Australia has to offer to the world.

That said, I enjoyed my visits to Brisbane and Hobart. Brisbane is the perfect getaway town. It is uniquely attractive because of its’ slower pace and focus on really showcasing what Queensland is all about … chill beach vibes and a less pretentious attitude. There is less snobbery in Brisbane than there are in the rest of the cities.

Brisbane doesn’t have to boast about how cool it is, the people who live there already know. They chose Brisbane as their home, because they didn’t want the hectic lifestyle of a Melburnian or a Sydney-sider, but they didn’t want to be as weird as a Hobartian.

Brisbane is the idyllic Australia. The one that is promised by all of our tourism ads. Go to Brisbane if you really want to believe in our beach advertisements.

Hobart is the forgotten small town, and it’s happy to be erased from memory. But because it’s been neglected, it has gotten a little strange in its isolation. It’s dabbling in the occult, the bizarre and the downright depraved. It’s why a festival like Dark Mofo can exist. The art depicted in Dark Mofo is definitely the worst form of creativity humanity has to offer.

Disgusting sex machines with angel wings, nihilistic pseudo art pieces, ovaries being sold as NFTs … it’s all been approved by Hobartians, as an acceptable form of expression. The constant sight of death from roadkill is getting to them. They’re getting stranger and stranger, more detached from the mainland and they’re seemingly proud of it.

Hobart is Australia’s gothic centre. It’s freezing, dark and a little disturbing.Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) fits perfectly within the atmosphere of Hobart.

To walk the streets of Hobart is to stroll the streets of one of the most attractive cities in Australia, but for some odd reason, you keep wanting to check your back, because when night falls, it gives you an eerie feeling on the back of your neck.

The less said about Sydney’s sins, the better. It will defeat Melbourne, because at its core, it’s a little bit rotten from all the lies it’s told the world.

The Opera House and the Bridge? Overrated attractions.

A city that needs to be locked down after a certain hour, cannot be her true self. She’s forever trapped in a cage. Even tiny Hobart gets to express how weird it is after dark. Sydney will never get that opportunity to be herself, until they remove those laws.

So this was my big analysis on all the major capitals of Australia’s East Coast.

I’ve chosen to ignore Canberra, because it doesn’t really count as a tourist attraction on any level, with its snake-pit of civil/public servants and politicians.

And if you haven’t guessed it yet, Melbourne is the best girl.

Always will be.

~ Damocles.

If Trouble Was Money

Numb – Gary Clark Jr.

Life was good for Daniel.

He was in the zone.

The beat was hitting just right, there was just the right amount of alcohol in his system to enjoy himself, without losing control and the girl in front of him was smoking hot.

One of his boys, a charming Scouser with a cockney accent came up to him and passed him another beer, as they continued to dance.

Daniel grinned at his friend and as the chorus swelled up, they both yelled in unison.

Beautiful, Beautiful Is Boring!
Beautiful, Beautiful Is Boring!
Beautiful, Beautiful Is Boring!
Beautiful, Beautiful Is Boring
!

Then the band, a dark edgy pair of female punk rockers, known as BONES UK, shredded their guitars and both men banged their heads away, lost in the musical moment.

Just as the music peaked, Daniel’s phone rang and he could feel it vibrate away inside his coat.

Frowning, he pulled it out and stared at the screen.

“Ahhhhh bollocks!!” cursed Daniel as he realised who it was and in an instant was sobered up.

“Harry, mate! I got to go bruv. I’m sorry man. It’s Abby.” apologised Daniel, as he pulled Harry close.

“What?! Did you say Abby? Ah sorry bruv. Yeah I get it. Go!” yelled Harry over the din of the concert.

Daniel gave his mate a hug. “I’ll catch you soon yeah? Fill you in on the tea soon bruv.”

“No worries man. You mind if I chirps your peng ting though?”

Daniel laughed and cuffed Harry around the head. “Tosser! Yeah go for it, ya numpty.”

Harry grinned at Daniel’s consent and immediately forgot his best mate, as he focused his attention on the girl who Daniel was hitting on for the entirety of the concert.

As Daniel started to make his way through a raucous crowd, he looked down at his hand and realised that Harry had stolen the beer from his hand and was now offering to the attractive blonde.

Laughing to himself, Daniel grabbed his coat from the check out chick at the front desk and made his way back out into London.

At a tall, lean, 185 centimetres tall, with dark ebony skin and a magnetic smile, Daniel Abara’s model looks were only accentuated by his grey tweed coat and tortoiseshell glasses that made him look younger. He was the iconic British upper class schoolboy. Confident, polite, always up for a good time and impeccably dressed for any shenanigans, illegal or otherwise.

Women and men would stare at him, as he walked down the street, entranced by his natural cocky swagger. Daniel Abara was truly on top of the world.

Except for this one girl.

Hunching himself into his coat to protect himself from the iconic English weather, Daniel pulled out his phone and rang back Abby.

“Abby? Hi! Where are you?” asked Daniel urgently.

“Oh Danny, I’m a mess right now. Please help me. I’m at St. James Square. Please hurry.”

Looking down at his dress shoes, Daniel swore inwardly and began to break into a jog. Replying back to Abby calmly over the phone, Daniel said “OK Abby. Hang on. I’ll be there in a jiffy.”

From the Wigmore Hall to St. James Square, was a solid mile, in the direction of the Thames. As his feet pounded the pavement, Daniel wondered to himself, how many times it was now, that Abby would call him up in the middle of a night and ask for help.

Probably a solid dozen by now thought Daniel as he ran down New Bond St, ignoring the horns that blared at him angrily from behind.

Why I keep helping this chick is beyond me. Before he could query his own statement further, he saw the picturesque garden of St. James Square.

Running through the gate, Daniel scanned the small garden anxiously, before his brown eyes settled on a lonely girl, her long legs up to her chin, her pale arms around herself, as she rocked silently on the bench.

“Abby…” whispered Daniel as he moved towards her. This situation looked different to the previous rescues. There was something haunted in the way how one of his oldest friends moved.

Keeping his hands in front of him, Daniel moved slowly towards Abby, concern suffusing his handsome dark features.

Up close, Abigail Robinson was your definition of a stunning attractive British blonde. Svelte, elegant, refined and almost too good looking. No matter the angle, Abigail presented flawlessness and seduction. Full lips, a straight nose, large blue eyes and a strong, sharp pair of eyebrows. A slender body that had enough curves to draw attention, without sacrificing fashion appeal.

When she smiled, dimples graced her cheeks that would stop traffic. But it was when she was crying, Abby’s true magnetism shone through. Her big blue eyes would hold your attention and melt everything away, until only her problems existed in the world.

It was her melancholy that made her an overnight sensation.

Abigail was one of England’s most in-demand It girls, gracing both magazine covers and nightclubs with equal abandon. Her star was rising and it seemed to Daniel, that his friend of 10 years was soon going to outgrow him.

To see her here, all alone, without an entourage to look after her was something extremely bizarre. Especially with the way how Abigail was dressed, a golden low-cut shimmering dress that shone under the amber lights of London.

Daniel walked up to her, unsure if it was really his friend.

“Abby?” asked Daniel in a half whisper.

The girl looked up, tears running down her cheeks, and sobbed in relief.

“Danny! Oh, thank God you’ve come.”

Daniel instinctively took off his coat and wrapped it around her shoulders. Sitting down next to her, he placed his hand across her shoulders and brought her in close.

“Abby, what the hell is going on? What are you doing out here alone?”

Abigail looked at his gentle expression and unable to control herself, burst into tears. Daniel recoiled slightly in shock, before bringing her in even closer, her arms wrapping themselves around his torso.

“It’s alright Abby. It’s OK. I’m here.” whispered Daniel soothingly. He rubbed her back tenderly, confused and concerned as one of his oldest friends continued to cry into his chest.

“What happened Abby?” asked Daniel in between her sobs. But she remained mute. Sighing, Daniel looked around at the desolate park and winced. Pulling out his phone, he called for an Uber before nodding seriously to himself, considering his options as he noted the 4 minute wait.

OK, first thing first. Just like any Abby rescue mission. Let’s look for her kit. thought Daniel, as he looked around for any of Abby’s possessions, as she clung to him desperately.

“Take it easy, darling. Did you bring anything else out here, other than your phone?”

Abby merely shook her head in his chest. “OK. I just called an Uber. We’re going to your place OK?”

Abby violently shook her head.

“OK, OK. We’ll go to mine then.”

Abby nodded silently.

“Christ Abby …you’ve really outdone yourself this time.” as Daniel settled back and continued to rub her back comfortingly.

The shudders started again. Daniel sighed again, in as many minutes.

They stayed together for a few minutes, with only the sounds of the city and her sobs to accompany their lonely comfort. Just as Abby began to relax in his chest, the lights of Daniel’s Uber flashed through the trees of St. James Park. Daniel shook Abby gently, however she refused to move.

Wrapping his arms under her legs, Daniel effortlessly lifted one of Britain’s top models and carried her to the car, where the considerate Uber driver recognised the situation immediately and hopped out to get the back door. Daniel nodded his thanks and placed her down gently in the backseat, before doing up her seatbelt and climbing in himself.

“Sorry bruv, but slight change. Instead of Camden, can we go here instead?” Daniel punched in the new coordinates for his apartment in Greenwich to the app.

“Yeah, all good, guv. She alright?” asked the driver, concerned.

“Yeah, she’ll be OK.” said Daniel curtly, shutting down the conversation.

The ride to his apartment took less time than he anticipated and Daniel left a 5 pound tip for the driver, when he opened the door again, as Daniel carried the wreck of an Abigail Robinson into his apartment complex, where he flashed the security guard with his ID dangling from his mouth.

By now, Abby was almost asleep, her consciousness fading in and out of her emotional state.

The guard raised an eyebrow but buzzed him through, calling the elevator to the 7th floor. Daniel nodded politely in gratitude. The whole night was only going smoothly due to the kindness of strangers.

As Daniel stumbled out of the elevator, his arms burning, he set her down on the floor before swiping open his apartment and holding the door open with a foot, whilst he bought her in, before placing her on his bed.

Wiping the sweat from his brow, Daniel wrapped his blanket over Abigail, before heading into the bathroom to change.

As he shoved his dirty clothes in the laundry, Daniel caught a glimpse of himself in his hallway full length mirror. The tired, stressed Daniel that looked back, was a far cry from the easy going version only an hour earlier, and a lot less impeccably dressed, with tracksuit pants and a worn dark grey shirt with the words of his favourite band, MUSE written across it in block letters.

Shaking his head, Daniel walked into his kitchen and put the kettle on, pleased that at least his apartment was clean. It was large, even by London standards, spacious enough to fit a small home gym, and a walk-in wardrobe. A spare bedroom operated as his study, which was filled with custom military jet models that he had painted and collected over the years.

Glancing at the antique clock that hung on the wall, he sighed at the sight of the hands reaching out to 1am and walked back into his room, to check that Abby was fast asleep.

Grabbing a spare blanket and pillow, and smiling forlornly at his friend, Daniel walked out into his kitchen, switched off the kettle just before it was about to whistle and made a comfortable makeshift bed on his couch.

Flicking on the TV, Daniel settled himself in with a cup of hot chocolate, some digestives and surfed the channels, until he came across a relaxing music channel that only played progressive rock.

In what seemed like only moments later, Daniel woke up, bleary eyed, to feel a weight on his shoulder. Abby had woken up, changed and was now only wearing one of his large T-shirts, another one from his rock collection, a white print of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland. Her bare legs were stretched out next to his, her blue eyes were closed, as her long blonde hair flowed down his chest.

How many times has this happened and I’ve done nothing about it. wondered Daniel. Sitting up, Daniel heard Abby sleepily moan, as his comforting warmth faded away from her and she also began to wake up.

As Abby stretched, Daniel looked up at his clock again and winced. 3am in the morning. Still, no time like the present to have a deep and meaningful conversation.

Shrugging internally to himself, he put on the kettle again and waited in the kitchen, whilst Abby covered herself with a blanket to keep the chill away.

Pouring out hot chocolates again, Daniel handed one to Abby, who nodded her thanks gratefully.

Sitting at the end of the couch, their legs touching mid way across the leather, Daniel raised a suggestive eyebrow over the lip of his coffee mug.

Abby licked her lips nervously and sighed heavily.

“I fucked up big time Danny and I’m paying the price for it.”

Daniel looked at her concerned. “How did you fuck up Abby? What happened tonight? Where was everyone? I mean, where’s Topher, your manager? He’s always by your side.”

“That’s the thing Danny, Topher is the problem. He … He …” Abby’s tears began to flow as she struggled to get the words out. “He …” Abby began to gag as the memories came flooding back.

Sensing the coming eruption, Daniel reacted quickly, slid his hot chocolate onto the coffee table, grabbed the nearest waste bin with liner and placed it under her mouth, whilst holding her mug with his free hand.

Abby vomited. Desperate, emotional and traumatic dry heaving. Her whole body was convulsing with shame, fear and disgust.

Daniel knew deep down what had happened, but he was too shocked to truly grasp what had happened to his beautiful friend.

Handing her a tissue to wipe her mouth, Daniel got up and grabbed an diffuser, to waft away the smell of bile.

This time though, Daniel sat down next to her and put his arms around her. Her body was still shaking, but it calmed down slightly when he softly stroked her head.

“He raped you didn’t he …” said Daniel with a terrible finality.

Abby nodded. She didn’t have the strength to say it. To say it aloud, would be to acknowledge that everything inside she was feeling was true.

“Oh Abby … I’m so sorry.” whispered Daniel. There was nothing more he could say. He didn’t know what the hell to do.

Normally, when Abby was in trouble, it was literally as simple as picking her up, taking her home, tucking her into bed and sticking around, until they both woke up in the morning and she would rant about her wild night over mugs of hot chocolate and left over sourdough.

Daniel knew then, that there wasn’t going to be any sleep. So he stayed beside the broken British model, softly stroking her hair, and her shoulder, silently trying to inject some strength back into her, as his long time friend clung onto him, despairing and trying to forget, but unable to remove the pain she felt in her heart and in her stomach.

It was around 7am, when Abby finally found the strength to be more herself. She took a ragged breath and tried again. Daniel squeezed her shoulders encouragingly.

“That’s it Abby. There’s only one way through this, girl.” Daniel paused and lifted her chin, so that she could look at his earnest brown eyes. “Tell me what happened and we’ll sort it out together, I promise.”

“I feel so disgusting Danny.” said Abby sadly. “I can still feel him inside of me and I can’t get rid of him. I hate myself so much right now.”

Tears streaked down her cheeks, but this time the convulsions weren’t as strong. She was slowly coming to terms with her trauma.

“I went out alone tonight. It was just Topher and me, going out to Luv, the nightclub. After the week I had, fucking 3 shoots in a row, I just wanted to let loose tonight.”

“I wasn’t thinking straight Danny. I really wasn’t. By the time I got changed, I was already a bit tired. I actually thought about cancelling and staying at home, but Topher insisted … he told me that this was the perfect way to relax.”

“God, I’m so stupid. My whole life, I’ve always let other people tell me what is good for me. Like they know me better than I do. I wasn’t feeling it at all last night. I thought Topher understood that, so about an hour in, I asked him to get me a glass of water.”

“I honestly don’t know what happened after that. I think he roofied me … because the next thing I remember, I’m inside a cab and he’s touching me everywhere and I can’t control my body.”

Abby dry-heaved again as her body relived the sensations. Daniel hugged her tighter, horrified.

Wiping her mouth with a wet tissue, Abby took a ragged breath.

“Next thing I know, I’m in my apartment and he’s lifting my dress and he … he fucking RAPED me Danny.”

Painful sobs wracked Abby’s slim frame and she began to bawl her eyes out in earnest at her confession.

“Oh God … Oh my fucking God … I …think I …”

“No, No, No.” whispered Daniel. “Let’s not go there. I’ve heard enough. It’s OK. We’ll get through this, I promise.”

Abby nodded slowly. “Thank you Danny. God … you’ve always been here for me, but I’ve treated you like shit. I’m so sorry. Oh my God, I didn’t even ask you what you were doing before you came for me … I’m the worst. I’m so sorry Danny. I really am. I’m such a fucking toxic mess …”

“Oh for the love of God, it’s OK Abby.” smiled Daniel ironically. “An abandoned Bones concert is skint to what you went through tonight. Come on, we got to get you cleaned up. You want something to eat?”

Abby nodded vigorously. “Please.”

“OK, well, jump into the bathroom and take a hot shower. Trust me, it’ll make you feel a lot better. I’ll get some bacon, eggs and toast going out here.”

For the first time, since the fateful phone call, Abby could stand on her own. Daniel nodded approvingly at her, proud. “That’s it. You got this, girl. Brekkie will be waiting for you when you come out”

As the sounds of the shower running and the crackle of bacon mixed together, Daniel looked over at his stereo and put on a slow song: Sway as sung by Anita Kelsey.

Laying out two plates and piling a generous serving of eggs and waiting for the shower to stop, before toasting the bread, Daniel poured out two glasses of orange juice and smiled at Abby, who came out, rubbing her long blonde hair with a towel, still dressed the same way.

“Thank you Danny.” said Abby gratefully as she sat cross legged on the kitchen chair.

Daniel nodded silently as he leaned back on the kitchen counter, drinking his orange juice thoughtfully.

Abby ate gratefully, the food slowly restoring some sanity to her fractured mind. A question suddenly burned in her mind and she looked at Daniel with a slight panic, as a realisation struck her.

“Can I ask you something Danny?” queried Abby with a hint of trepidation in her voice.

“Yeah, course you can, what is it?” replied Daniel.

“This is going to sound really dumb, but I just realised that whenever I’ve needed you, you’ve always dropped everything for me. Can I ask why?”

Daniel felt his breath catch, as he beheld the girl who he had fallen for a long time ago, but could never quite articulate how he truly felt.

He looked away from her blue eyes, unable to really express himself.

“You know why Abby. I think you’ve always known. But I guess the timing was never quite right between us.”

Abby looked away from Daniel. “I’m sorry, Daniel. I truly am. But I don’t see you that way …”

Daniel took a deep breath. “I know Abby. I’ve known that for a long time too. I’ve gotten over you in a lot of ways, but not enough to stop helping you when you need it. We’ve been friends for a long time, and that hasn’t changed.”

“I’m a toxic mess Danny. You don’t need me in your life. You need a woman who got her shit together. I mean look at me … I honestly don’t deserve any better. I ..”

“Hey!” interrupted Daniel. “You didn’t deserve what happened to you last night. What Topher did to you was fucked. And I sure as shit, ain’t gonna let him get away with it. Who knows who else he’s done this to? No, Abby, we’re going to get that bastard. You definitely did not deserve what happened.”

Daniel moved closer to Abby, holding her hands.

“What happened to you Abby? You’ve changed so much over the years. You’re not the same girl I remembered when we first met. Do you remember what happened?”

“I kicked your bully in the head.”

“That’s fucking right. You stood up for me, when I was being bullied at school. No one else did that for me. What happened to that feisty, hellraiser? You need to be that girl again.”

Abby looked away from Daniel’s brown eyes and stared at their entwined hands.

“I’m not sure I can be that girl again Danny. I don’t even know if she still exists.”

“You got to find her again Abby. Because at least that girl knew what she wanted to do with her life. The one before me … she’s on a bad track and it doesn’t look like she knows how to get off.”

Abby sighed heavily. “I know Danny. I know.”

She looked up at Daniel, transfixing him with her blue, melancholy eyes again. Every time, Daniel always fell for them. They were too mesmerising to ignore, too deep to not fall for and far too expressive to dismiss.

“But seriously, Danny. Thank you. I don’t know where I’ll be without you.” Abby squeezed his hands and kissed him gently on the cheek.

“Any time.” said Daniel with a smile.

Author’s Note

It’s been a while since I last wrote something and I can already sense the rust when I was writing this story. It’s a bit meandering in places and arguably, I’m not too happy with the conclusion.

This is a shame, because I actually had a really strong idea on where this was headed, but then my holiday came and put everything on hiatus and thus I lost track of the pulse.

I was inspired to write this, because I’ve been recently thinking about my new lifestyle and how much easier it is for me to be supporting friend, than what I used to be. Whether its a new-found confidence or better perception into people, I’m a bit more abuzz with the ability to comfort and reassure people that things will be alright.

Anyway, whilst I wasn’t super happy with this one, even bad drafts get published on this blog, so hope it wasn’t to terrible to read!

Until the next one

~ Damocles.

Being the Firstborn

When I compare you to other guys, I just think to myself, Damocles wouldn’t have done that. He would have taken care of that differently. It’s strange … none of the guys I know just help people, because they want to. But you do.

When I look back at my own life, all I see is a boy who became a man extremely quickly, because he truly believed that you were never too young to die.

There was almost zero hesitation, in how much I wanted to transform myself into an adult. I had no particular illusions about the “romance” behind childhood. I didn’t want to be babied or treated like some naive child.

I wanted to be a man.

Part of that mantle, meant that I had to grasp the concept of “responsibility” early on. I had to learn how to deal with the stress, the commitment and the rigours of accepting tasks. I couldn’t fail in doing things, because they were now in my charge.

I was beholden to my word.

And the only difference between me and a child, is that I am answerable to something greater. People are counting on me to do right by them, and I can’t let them down. Nor will I ever let my standard slip.

I’m stressing this, because recently, I’ve come to realised that I’ve always behaved like the oldest sibling in any scenario. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a stranger or a close friend, I’m always going to default back to the big brother act.

This means that I can’t drink as much if at all. I’m not allowed to let people out of my sight. I’m always watching for trouble. Cleaning up after people. Making sure everything is going smoothly. Checking up on whether people are OK. Driving people home.

I literally can’t relax properly. Perhaps, I never really will. There’s always some kind of duty I have to fulfill wherever I go.

If I could describe this feeling, it would be one similar to a military or police officer, who happens to be off-duty. You can’t switch off your situational awareness or the mantle of responsibility that you carry on your shoulders.

You just have to embrace the fact that you are always going to be more conscientious, more alert and more dutiful than the average person out there.

I’m not bitter about it either.

I think I learned that about myself ever since I was a teenager and my indecisive friends couldn’t find a spot to eat. I would take charge and literally march all ten of us into a restaurant that actually had space for us and help them order their food.

Even then, at the dumb age of 17, I was looking after people. Solving problems for them, that seemed easy to me to break down into logical conclusions and steps.

Do you feel like chicken? OK. You don’t like sauce right? OK, so avoid that dish. Yeah, yes. You want to eat that one. Hi, waiter, yeah this table is going to have ….

It’s come to the point now, where the menu is automatically handed to me and I’m ordering for the table.

But it’s not just that either. Having worked years in hospitality and now retail, these industries have left an undeniable mark on my personality and attitude.

Beyond my no-bullshit outlook to life and my favouritism to people who have thankless jobs, I am always conscientious about how I treat staff.

I clean up after myself in food courts, placing my tray at the bins, instead of leaving them at the table and am always trying to be as friendly as I can be and make staff jobs as easy as possible.

I don’t even like doing refunds, because I know it affects people’s KPIs and so I make an effort to get my size right, the first time. It’s the least I can bloody do.

I know how rough it is, and I will never try to make life more difficult for the staff than it has to be. Because hospitality was my first real job, I’m always thinking about how tough it is for the workers, and the shit they deal with. I’ve been there and done that and been disgusted by some of the thoughtlessness that people espouse at workers.

I never want to be that customer that ruins some poor, humble employee’s day. I do my best to assist, from stacking plates, delivering dirty glasses, eating neatly and tidily and reading the room when they clearly want us to leave.

Even when it comes to the humble cleaners, I make an effort to smile and nod at them, to show some appreciation. It is these unrewarding jobs that always tug at me constantly. At work, in the big shopping centre, I’m always trying to make an effort to acknowledge these poor guys, for all the walking and invisible work they do.

Picking up rubbish is another big proponent of my life, that started way back when I was in primary school and participated in my first ever Clean Up Australia Day. I found it immensely gratifying to clean up areas that have been littered and even though I am not as conscientious as I should be nowadays, I still make an effort to pick up rubbish if it is near me and near a bin.

Some people would call it being ridiculously Japanese about it all, but I really just see it as “if I can do it, then do it.”

All these examples were listed to me by my partner, whose quote I used above.

Which honestly, pleased but also puzzled me.

Because when I look at my behaviour, I don’t really have a proper answer as to why I do what I do, except … something incredibly lame called duty.

I hear that call of duty constantly in my head. I can probably track it back to my obsession with the military and always feeling the need to be ready to serve the greater good.

But if I look further than that, I suppose I resonate strongly with the mythology behind America’s Greatest Generation, men and women who responded to the call of duty, honour and country without hesitation. They put their health, lives and livelihood on the line, because it was the right thing to do.

Nothing lesser or greater.

Just doing something, because it’s the right thing to do. No reward, no praise, no bragging, just doing a good deed because it should be done.

It explains why I love the modern comic book myth behind Steve Rogers, and if I was to dive even deeper than that, I can probably thank my Christian upbringing for a lot of my moral compass’ decisions.

Whilst I’m more or less atheist, with a teenage obsession for Christian mythology (not religion) and an appreciation for Zen Buddhism, my upbringing was relatively devout.

I am baptised and confirmed, my younger self being quite into the religion, to the point where I was rereading my favourite stories from the Bible, out of sheer joy of reading an exciting story.

I suppose I’ve never really acknowledged just how much of an impact Christianity had on me growing up. It was always something I’ve dismissed, because of my current attitude towards religions and in a way, I am faintly embarrassed about the whole thing.

There is no mistaking though, the effect of being a Christian had on me though. I’m tougher on myself than most people are, more aware of my actions having a significant impact and more guilt-prone than the average person.

Guilt … it’s something that always weighs heavily on my mind. I despise the concept of Original Sin as much as anyone, it’s stupid, unnecessarily harsh and overbearing.

I still can’t deny the fact though, that I always feel like I am doing good things to secure some mythical spot up there. It’s foolish and I’ve often said with plenty of bravado that I’d rather go to Hell, than obey some phony God who thinks he can dictate what I can and can’t do.

Still, the fact that it plays on my mind, all the time, is an indication that at some fundamental level, I can’t shake that belief away.

I think that hidden fear, is what drives so much of my good intentions. I always care about people who are below me, work hard to make my friends happy and do my best not to burden them too much with my own problems.

I pick up rubbish, clean up after myself, eat neatly to avoid creating additional mess and am constantly greeting people in thankless jobs.

Hell, I even have this habit of giving a thoughtful salute to every single first responder I see blitz past me with their blue and reds flashing.

It all comes so naturally to me, that I didn’t even realise what a Boy Scout I am, until it was pointed out to me.

In a lot of ways, I treat my elder brother status almost too seriously. I should really just turn off this side of me and learn to loosen up, but it’s so deeply ingrained that I can’t help it.

I find myself rearranging empty plates, tidying up napkins, and serving water to my friends, when I don’t have to. It’s autopilot now, a role that I’ve accepted with both hands.

Sacrificing my fun for others, but not in any way where I expect thanks. I just enjoy it now, being the sober, responsible one and I know how to unlock the fun side of me, so that I can put people at ease around me.

After all, no-one really likes the guy who is the only sober one, when everyone else is blasted.

But that’s part of the role I inhabit. I’m always going to be one that makes sure you get home safe, the one who is always in control of any situation, the guy you know you can depend on, to have your back and make sure nothing happen to you.

You can start the fights, but I’ll be the one that will come in and finish them for you.

I used to wonder what it must feel like, to know that someone has your back always, that there is a warm reassuring presence by your side any time, anywhere, until one day I realised, that there was no-one who would ever provide that feeling for me, because I filled that void for them.

So I just had to fend for myself, and be the self-sufficient, tough sonvuabitch I was born to play.

Being the firstborn taught me the power of responsibility. I had to look after people under me, age, experience or rank wise. I had to grow up faster, smarter and deadlier than everyone beneath me.

Perhaps I learned this lesson so early on, I’m not afraid of leadership or being the responsible figure in people’s chaotic lives. I didn’t mind being different to my peers. Yes, I was duller than your fun-loving type, but infinitely more capable and dependable and eventually that would shine through.

When you’re the oldest child, duty is thrust upon you, whether you want it or not.

It’s up to you whether you listen to that call of duty.

I made it my mission to always answer, no matter how big or small the task is.

Because at the end of the day, you’re only ever going to answer to the standard that you walk past.

And despite being a civilian, I’ll always try to uphold the highest echelon and standards of military service members.

Because that is the kind of human being I want to emulate.

~ Damocles.