Aporia

Gunma Prefecture, Japan.

Aporia – lacking passage.

Perhaps one the most complex realisations I’ve had in a while, I’ve come to realise why there are so many lost souls out there today, who cling to shallow ideas, instead of deeper ideologies.

In a world where the internet more or less is detrimental rather than beneficial (I would be writing this on paper if my handwriting could keep up with my mind), where people are bombarded with more information than they’ve ever have before and are living in perpetual denial and conflict with themselves, I’ve noted a singular issue, that has not really been raised when discussing identity.

Spirituality and philosophy or the lack thereof.

I can only speak from my own lens, but growing up, I remember reading this particularly bloody and violent book called The Ninja by Eric van Lustbader, in which he explores both Western and Eastern philosophies through the lens of martial arts and a unique character who was raised in Japan, but is of European descent.

Beyond the sex, violence and exotic descriptions of Far East locales, I was struck by the exploration of zen philosophies and the concept of wa (harmony) in the book, something that I’ve actually forgotten about until recently diving back into The Last Samurai soundtrack, which I listened to a lot whilst reading the book.

This spark suddenly shone a light of context on a discussion I’ve been having within myself about the current plight of young people and in particular their strange obsession with basing their whole personality around lots of arbitrary terms. Gender, sexuality, ethnicity, jobs … singular parts of a whole, yet for a lot of people, it is the base for their whole being.

Spirituality and philosophy are both dying slowly in the modern world. Both require you to slow down and ponder, something that many people struggle with in an age where technology is so rapid.

Some would even consider them a waste of time.

What is the purpose of slowing down when you are stressed about 1000 other things? You don’t have time to reflect. And when you do, all you can think about are your failures and the mountain of work ahead of you.

This attitude is exactly why spirituality and philosophy exist. These concepts help you create a mental bulwark against life, and allow you to explore parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed before. It allows you to block out the physical stresses that your body inflicts on your mind and really helps you broaden your mind to your senses and capacities.

Spirituality and philosophy allows you to avoid aporia.

Perhaps one of the strangest lessons I’ve taken out of reading those Ninja books, was the idea about embracing and relaxing around pain. I don’t brace myself or clench before a painful hit or wound. Instead I relax and allow it to do its course. The pain is less intense this way and helps you recover your wits quicker.

The same philosophy applies to spicy food. I believe that it is better to let the heat run its course, than try to find shallow relief in milk or water because the pain only comes back more acutely.

Philosophy and spirituality are very crucial components to creating good mental health and abilities. I find myself clinging to strange beliefs about equilibrium when confronted with something bad, or trying to achieve a zero state, something that I learned again through the book and my study into the concept of zen.

Other examples of my strange beliefs are: I believe that my home town, Melbourne, is actually a beautiful woman in my mind, that I talk to when I don’t want rain to hit me when I’m out.

Lady Luck is a genuine deity that needs constant ministrations and seducing to be on my side.

I can lower pain with the power of my mind, by sinking deeper into a strange level of consciousness where the sensation of pain is more tolerable. I use this at the dentist all the time.

The point is … whilst I am not a believer in God, or any real religion, I still practice some form of spirituality and apply my philosophical ideas in practice.

This brings me back to zen and the concept of zero. As strange as it sounds, I genuinely do not have a lot of thoughts in my mind. My mind is not in constant flux, stressed about something or the other. It is largely empty and quiet, activated only when I need it.

If I take this essay for example, I am not writing it out in my head, then typing it. Words appear on screen, the same time as I think them. The same happens in conversations, and random monologues that we all experience at some point in our lives.

Beyond that, my mind is not always thinking. It is still and quiet, zero.

Zero as a philosophy is a very intriguing concept. It is seen as a place of infinite possibility, an inverse of the idea that by having zero, you have nothing. Avoid the more Western idea that zero equates to nothing. In Eastern philosophy, the concept of zero actually frees you to the world. It is boundless and never ending, an endless source of inspiration and creativity.

In zero, nothing and everything can exist. Past, present, future, whole or parts … they all exist and don’t exist. There is no distinction between them all.

I practice this concept all the time, with the emptiness of my mind. Ideas come to me, like fish does to a patient fisherman. I need only to put my hand out and tickle the belly and the idea will jump out of the river and into my lap.

In a strange way, I suppose I’ve always been attuned to the zen approach to life. My belief in equality, bad or good, the ability to be attuned to my emotions but never be ruled by them … my constant self-reflection in what I can do better and what I should let go of …

I’ve always paraded myself as a man of ruthless logic and reason, but somehow that never quite described how complex I really am. I am philosophical in a lot of ways too, just not in the same vein of the famous Greek definition of the word.

Am I saying that you should practice zero? Of course not. Have you been following my greater point?

I am saying that you should explore different philosophies and see how they can help you, change mindsets or even lifestyles.

Mine is quite Asiatic inspired, the constant desire to improve oneself, and seek discipline in all aspect of life. There aren’t questions about life, about death or trying to make sense of it all, I just accept that I am here and will work to improve myself.

I don’t give in to nihilism because that is ultimately self-defeating … I just focus solely on what I can achieve in this short time I have on Earth.

So why do I use the word aporia to describe certain people living in the year 2022?

I believe that one of the key fundamental issues that people have in a increasingly non-religious world, is that people lack that inner spirituality, the inner harmony that will help them excel in life, no matter what happens to them.

Living in a Western society, it is far too easy to not discover deeper Eastern philosophies. We aren’t taught them, and increasingly, especially in Asia, we don’t get to experience them either. Famous school of thoughts in China, Japan and other parts of Asia, have now been made irrelevant in a world more globalised and arguably Westernised than ever before.

The world has moved on from deeper spiritual connections in search of something else, that will never quite satisfy the soul but will help you survive the complex maze that is the 21st Century: money.

In this contemporary world, money is more or less the new philosophy that drives people’s existence. It is not enough to be alive, but now you must own essential items that will help make you a functioning member of society.

The trust from people that you will contribute to the fabric of your community by improving yourself, isn’t there. The irony of it all though, is that you can own a car, work 76 hours a fortnight, be married with 2 kids and a homeowner and still be absolutely miserable and on suicide watch.

To truly address the hole, the void that exists in all of us, I believe that we all need to live in the present and fill it up with sensations, ideas and fulfilling moments.

That comes from a spiritual belief in something. Something deeper than selecting a part of ourselves that we define ourselves by. Something greater than our normal daily existence. It’s about exploring how we fit in the world, not how the world fits us.

For me, despite not being a very “outdoor” person (I prefer urban environments to forests), I still retain a strong belief in indigenous ideals about “Mother Earth” and doing one’s part to look after the environment you are in. I routinely pick up rubbish … whenever I see it. I address and see Melbourne as a living goddess that needs help, and have imaginary conversations with her and how we can help each other.

I still need that connection to the land, when I am out and about. What I take from the land, one day, I must return.

Equilibrium.

It’s not enough to acknowledge some traditional owner, or pass your respect to some dead ancestor of yesteryear … what are you doing now to actually pay homage to them? Are you sorting out your recycling? Avoiding going to events that create a lot of rubbish? Are you even aware of their fundamental beliefs?

Spirituality encourages a lifestyle shift in something greater than empty buzzwords. It’s so easy to say stuff and then do the complete opposite. People engage in shibboleth every single day … but how many of us actually try to take a spiritual approach to things?

How many of us actually do a service simply because you want to and don’t see any rewards?

I have a love/hate relationship with my conscience. When I see something is wrong, from rubbish at a park, to lost dogs, I can’t help but create a huge emotional conflict within myself. A part of me want to ignore it and don’t go out of my way to help, but my heart tells me otherwise and warns me I’ll regret it later. I can always find time to help someone, or do something. A couple more steps to the bin isn’t going to hurt my legs, nor is an hour spent with random dogs that escaped their owner’s home.

I just feel compelled to do something … blame my spirituality, my conscience or my personal philosophy … at the end of the day, I have to do it, regardless of how wasteful it might be or whether I get a reward or not.

I have to do it, to maintain wa.

Because at the end of the day, I have to be responsible for myself, my actions and my memories. I can look back on my memories with regret or pride. Either way, I got to make a choice, and I need to make sure that choice will create internal harmony.

If you ever find yourself struggling to identify something wrong with your life, at this current time, perhaps it is time for you to look up a philosophical affirmation or a spiritual guide.

Then act upon it. Apply it to every aspect of your life. Understand that everything you do, contribute to the whole of your life, every little thing, from skipping a meal to helping a friend. You will always be a greater sum, than just your hobbies, your friends, your possessions and your family.

You are you. Everything you are, and nothing you aren’t.

Isn’t that a strangely enlightening and spiritual realisation?

~ Damocles.

Apathetic (Screenplay)

The Shining (1980)

INT. PROHIBITION BAR

The Prohibition Bar is an old-school joint. Wooden furniture, grizzled patrons and stained glass fixtures for booths. It’s a quiet night, with only a few scattered patrons around.

At the bar, resting his weary head in his left hand, and nursing a lowball of whiskey with his gun hand, DAVID stares vacantly at the football game on TV.

Grizzled, world-weary and cynical, David is a man at the end of his tether, tired of his job and his choices. Despite his depressed outlook however, there is an air of dangerous alertness surrounding him, his “off-duty” cop look subconsciously warding people away from him as they saunter past to order more drinks.

As the crowd scream vacantly at David through the TV, celebrating a goal, the door behind the bar opens to issue in MICHAEL the Bartender of Prohibition.

MICHAEL

Hey partner.

David merely nods and stays silent. Michael slides in front of David and motions to the wall of liquor behind him.

MICHAEL

Want another drink?

In his mid-40s, Michael is classy, politely cheerful and a safe voice for many bar confessions. He had seen it all, and knew what a depressed cop looked like whilst on his break. He already knows the answer to his question.

DAVID

(tips the glass back) Yes. Same one, thanks.

Michael pockets the cash and pours another finger of whiskey out for David.

MICHAEL

(slides glass across) Long day, partner?

DAVID

(raises glass in an ironic salute) Absolutely miserable.

Michael nods sympathetically and examines the whiskey bottle which only has a few dregs left in it.

MICHAEL

On the house, partner.

David is awakened out of his state by the generosity.

DAVID

You sure?

Michael nods graciously and stats cleaning the glasses.

DAVID

(scoffs) You know, you’re the first person today to actually give me anything without strings attached. So thanks.

MICHAEL

Don’t mention it.

DAVID

If I don’t, who will? That’s half my life … delivering misery to folks who were happy before they saw me in red and blues.

MICHAEL

So why stay?

DAVID

You know what I am right? Of course you do, you clocked me the moment I sat down at this bar.

MICHAEL

You’re a first responder.

DAVID

First responder. You know, out of all three emergency services, we’re nicknamed last contacts because we’re the one that got to deliver the bad news. Not the fireys or the paras … us. Funny isn’t it? Last contacts cos fifty fuckin’ percent of the time, we’re the last ones to see the dead alive and drawing down on us. Last contacts cos we’re the last people that knew of their dead son or daughter. It’s always us that get the shit end of the stick.

MICHAEL

Sorry, partner. I assume you saw a lot this week …

DAVID

7 families in 3 days and it’s only fuckin Wednesday. Christ … I used to think that my gun and badge would make a difference, but nothing has changed in the past 5 years. It’s only me that’s taken the brunt of it …

MICHAEL

You got a family?

DAVID

Divorced. Chose the job over the missus. Probably the stupidest thing I could have done. But I couldn’t switch off at night, not even around her. So we called it quits. And no … before you ask, it wasn’t bad. Just two people going their separate ways. Probably better than I deserve, the way how she put up with me for 4 years.

MICHAEL

Well at least you’re not a total cliche, partner.

DAVID

(scoffs) So I’ve been robbed even of that …

MICHAEL

Hey now, consider that a compliment. It’s not right for anyone to be ticking all the bad cop cliches.

DAVID

Honestly, I’m just damn tired. I’m a has-been, without ever once feeling I had a moment. Shrinks aren’t working, the woman is gone, and I’m talking to a stranger, while staring down a bottle, wishing I could drown in it. What has it all been for? I’m washed up, out and left out to dry.

At the end of the day, I’m the guy no-one wants to see. I deliver death either via gun or letter and am only called upon for tragedies. Name me one time, you were happy to see a cop and I’ll show you a liar.

I serve the community in the worst way possible … reminding them of all the ills in the world and how it can randomly reach out and touch them at their happiest or lowest point.

So tell me … partner … after all I’ve done, all I’ve sacrificed … what thanks do I get?

Michael is stunned into silence. The mood is considerably darker after David’s outburst.

DAVID

Yeah … exactly that. Not a word of gratitude. Now I’m going to leave this for some other poor bastard.

David grips the bottle of whiskey and tosses it back, before taking out his service pistol and in a fluid move, blows his brains out all over the bar.

END.

Author’s Note:

There has been a pile of drafts that have been slowly accumulating on my blog. It took a bit of a personal loss for me to really get my writing mojo back. I know, it’s such a cliche, the tortured artist, but I made the silly mistake of linking my emotional state to the act of writing many years ago, so alas, I’m paying the price for it now.

This story was always meant to be dark in tone, and really .. it was a exercise on how cynical and nihilistic I could write dialogue, whilst keeping it mildly surreal and engaging.

I didn’t realise that David was heading towards suicide until near the end, when I noted that, by mentioning his “off-duty” cop look, I had to bring it back full circle and introduce his pistol, something that he would always be carrying whether he was working or not. Something that he has defined himself by while living and working and now, will be defined by in his suicide.

I made the bartender use the word “partner” a lot, to show how a well-meaning exchange can invoke a negative reaction in people, if you are not careful with reading the situation. Michael is deliberately created to be obtuse and while he is sympathetic, he is blinded by his belief in himself and his maturity, to realise how dangerously close to death door David is.

The famous axiom: the road of hell is paved with good intentions, is probably the main driver behind this story. Michael should have read the situation better and not given David more drinks and engage him in idle small talk. David … should have been more prepared to deal with the trials and tribulations of police work and not blame himself quite so much or give in to nihilism.

Remember, good intentions aren’t the same as good actions. Motive matter little to the dead.

Thanks for reading such a cynical screenplay and I hope you never ever give in to nihilistic thinking.

~ Damocles.

96HRS of RACING

Turn 10, Spectator Marshal. Albert Park. Formula 1 Heineken Australian Grand Prix 2022. 7-10 April.

I still can’t fucking believe the weekend I had at the Australian Grand Prix.

My first ever volunteer gig for the sport I love with every fibre of my being and I saw all my legends up close. I experienced so much, that even now, when I look back at it, I can’t believe it.

To do a quick summary, I have collected over 4 days:

  • An AUSGP Officials Key Chain
  • An AUSGP Officials Patch for the 2022 AUSGP
  • An AUSGP Officials Pin
  • An AUSGP Officials Cap
  • An AUSGP Marshal Minute-By-Minute Handbook
  • An AUSGP Program
  • A FIA AUSGP Tabard – SPECTATOR CONTROL MARSHAL
  • An AUSGP Officials Bag
  • An AUSGP Officials Pen
  • An AUSGP RACE OFFICIAL ID Tag
  • An AUSGP Officials Lanyard
  • An AUSGP Officials T-Shirt
  • 4 Sets of Earplugs
  • 149 Photos
  • But most exciting of all ….
    • A piece of PORSCHE 922 GT3 CARBON FIBRE
    • A piece of ASTON MARTIN AMR22 SV5 CARBON FIBRE
    • A SCUDERIA FERRARI WIN IN MELBOURNE WITH CHARLES LECLERC #16

It’s hard to sum up the crazy weekend I had, but I will try to list facts instead of trying to put them in any sort of order.

My role as a Spectator Control Marshal was simple. I was to patrol the “moat”, the no-man-land area between spectators and the track itself. If things went to shit, I was to assist the Intervention Marshals on track, clean up debris or help remove tyre barriers. But my main purpose was to guard any “beached” cars (the term coined form the fact that a lot of cars will be stuck in the gravel trap at Turn 10) from spectators and be a deterrent for unwanted behaviour spilling out onto track.

The best part of it all, is that I get the absolute best view of the on-track action. I can press myself right up against the crash barriers and look through photographer’s slots. I also have the freedom of movement to view the action from different angles and really immerse myself in motorsport sounds, sensations and thrills.

My spot was the newly configured Turn 10, in which I commanded an incredible view of Turn 9 exit, and the fourth DRS zone that was introduced for the Albert Park track. This was a fast left/right combination that would test the driver’s accuracy in nailing Turn 10’s apex and set themselves up for an overtake in the subsequent DRS zone.

Make one mistake and you would end up in the large gravel trap, where my team of marshals would be waiting with a crane, 2 fireys (firefighters) and a VEHICLE INTERDICTION Marshal, eager to put his hands on your expensive car.

Which is EXACTLY what happened to Sebastian Vettel in his first weekend back for the F1 2022 World Championship.

Free Practice Session 3 saw one of my favourite drivers on the grid, smash his AMR22 into the barriers in front of me, creating a huge cloud of gravel and smoke and my humble fabulousness was the first open-mouthed, official on the scene.

ARE YOU OK SEB? I remember yelling once or twice. But he ignored me and instead hopped out of his car and walked to the other side of the track in disappointment at himself and his accident. It didn’t help that yesterday his car broke down just 100 metres up the track from Turn 10 and I saw his grand theft moped in all its hilarity.

Minutes later, came the other AMR22 of Lance Stroll, after his accident with Latifi. He was parked around the corner, and I remember dashing down to greet him as he got out of his car, to the jeers and cheers of the Australian crowd and being astonished at how tall he was.

But the most memorable element of Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team’s misfortune was my quick investigation into Vettel’s crash site and managing to score a tiny piece of carbon fibre that once belonged on his car.

A tiny, jagged, fibrous, criss-crossed piece of an multi-million dollar Formula 1 car in my hand.

I was ecstatic.

Then came the race day itself, where on Lap 2, Carlos Sainz Jr. misjudged the temperatures in his harder compound tyres, misjudged his braking points and flew across the grass, nearly collecting Mick Schumacher’s VF22 in the process and found himself and his F1-75 beached on the gravel at Turn 10, vainly spinning his wheels to get back into the race.

For the next 56 laps, I was tasked with babysitting the F1-75, my absolute favourite machine on the grid, marvelling at every curve on the precious Ferrari and admiring the sheer elegance of the red prancing horse.

What struck me, was how small these cars were up close. For some reason, when they’re blasting around on track at 300km/h, they seem larger than life, faster and blurrier than what you imagine, but up close, they’re actually quite compact vehicles, with millions of tiny details that will catch your eye.

Perhaps it is the sidepod design, but I remember being particularly shocked at how tiny the AMR22 was, and being much more in love with the F1-75. To me, the Ferrari is a much nicer looking car, with its striking crimson colour and black accents, as well as its more traditional sidepods and design aesthetic.

For 56 laps, I was a neighbour to a legendary Ferrari and I knew that my passion for this sport and the legendary team only increased with every look at the car.

It was the finale of the race that got me worried though.

Track invasions are a common phenomenon at Grand Prix, and with every lap ticking down, I knew it was only a matter of time. After all, this crowd was like me, starved of Formula 1 for two years and eager to celebrate an awesome event. What better way than to jump onto the track and take photos with a captive Ferrari?

The crowd was only building in anticipation and I remember asking the Police Sergeant nearby for more officers. Soon there was a huge gaggle of police officers, guarding a Ferrari, and a crowd eager to touch or break something off of it.

But thankfully, everything went smoothly. We kept the crowd under control by creating a barrier between us and the car, and despite my sheer nervousness at seeing over 3 thousand people crowding all around me, we kept our cool and was able to load the precious car onto a tow truck and get it back to the Pit Lane safely.

As I watched the Ferrari set off, I was struck by the realisation that I have literally spent sunrise to sunset with cars for 4 days straight. As a marshal, our start time was 0600HRS every morning, which necessitated me getting up at 0445HRS in the morning, taking a shower and then hopping into my car for my 35 minute commute to the track.

The drive to the track was an absolute blast too, with completely empty streets, minimal traffic cameras and the sounds of my tiny Toyota Corolla roaring through suburban streets at 20km/h over the speed limit.

The soundtrack to those morning drives were always sourced from F1 itself with its’ incredible theme song, Gran Turismo’s Castle Over the Moon or Initial D’s ridiculous Eurobeat melodies, which was only fitting as I was following in Takumi’s footsteps, waking ridiculously early in the morning to prepare for work.

I loved those drives as much as I did, hanging out in Chapel Street post event, seeing all the fans enjoying themselves and finally breathing some life back into my home town. It made me so happy, seeing the streets bustle with activity and chatter again, and giving me hope that events would soon return life back to normal after the trials of COVID.

One of the most amusing asides at the event was the fact that I made friends with a lot of people there. I loved working for my boss, a typical, non-nonsense, gruff guy with a big body and even bigger heart. I did everything I could to learn from the more experienced team, from what every single flag meant, to chatting with the firefighters about their experiences in another life as a paramedic.

The whole weekend, I was so happy to be working with like-minded people, people who understood, breathed and lived racing. Folks who volunteered so much of their time and sleep to motorsport and would do it every single year without question. Without the 1000-strong marshal team at the AUSGP, Formula 1 simply would not be able to operate safely and efficiently.

I felt like such an imposter when the announcers were thanking the marshals and the grandstand in front of me pointed at me and clapped raucously. This was my first event and I honestly hadn’t done much, except stop spectators from walking into the moat (which none did) and gawk at the cars going past.

Perhaps the most difficult thing was moving a tyre barrier to and from the track, as some of the support races required them (Supercars Championship & Porsche Carrera Cup) and being called upon to help clean up the track when it was time to race for F1.

That was easily the biggest thrill for me, picking up debris and cleaning the track. I had seen so many brave marshals on screen before, doing exactly the same thing and to hear the crowd cheer as I did my duties was such an adrenaline rush. I loved it. For sure, next year, my goal is to be an INTERVENTION MARSHAL and do that job for 96 hours.

Another incredible moment was actually on the very day, where I was one of the first marshals to jump into the bus, that would drop us off at our Sector (Turn). I was yelling and laughing with glee as I urged the bus driver to gun it down the track and seeing the START/FINISH LINE in person, through the glass of this slow bus, still sent shivers through my body. I couldn’t believe that I was in some type of car and careening down past the line at 100 km/h.

Experiencing the bus ride in the morning was so much fun, really recreating the feel I was so familiar with, due to endless laps at Albert Park on my racing simulators.

But I saved the best for last. On Sunday, I got there extra early, packed my overalls away and only wore my gym clothes, with the FIA Tabard over my hoodie to keep some semblance of officialdom. Setting the clock on my Garmin Instinct, I then proceeded to run the entire 5.278km of the 14 turn, Albert Park circuit, clocking it in at a miserably slow time of 26.57 minutes.

A very far cry from Leclerc’s pole of 1.17.868 minutes.

I felt proud though and to see and experience the entire track on foot, on a quiet morning was so much fun. I was definitely helped along by the cheerful encouragement of the other track marshals at their turn, with one guy even humming the Rocky theme for me.

It was the Saturday that I was looking forwards to the most. As a reward for our services, we were allowed to do a PIT LANE WALK, an experience that people normally have to pay thousands of dollars for. That evening, I walked up and down the Pit Lane, soaking in the house music that was blasting from the Oracle Red Bull Racing garage (I mean, who else encapsulate that cool vibe?) and staring at all the cars on display.

I greeted the AMR22 again, stared at the Haas’ VF22 front wings, marvelled at the beauty of the Ferrari garage, scowled at the Mercedes team, grinned how the Scuderia Alphatauri ATO3 looked under the lights and shook my head admiringly at the colours of Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen’s C22.

And naturally I took a selfie with the FIA Safety Car, the bespoke and gorgeously green Aston Martin V8 Vantage and DBX Medical Car. I loved seeing it on track, so to literally get so close I could touch it and take a knee next to it, was fun.

I even bumped into an old friend there, a fellow event manager who I had worked under briefly and offered me a job at the AO, which I longed to take, but couldn’t due to retail commitments.

Speaking of friends, I actually made a few at the event, the chief of them being an incredibly sunny young woman, who originally hails from Atlanta, Georgia (an American in Australia? I know!) and ended up being commended for providing the best customer service at the Australian Grand Prix, with an interview to boot, an on-field promotion to second in command of the team at Sector 10 and a “COMPLAINT LETTER” being scratched out into a “COMPLIMENT LETTER” by a stranger for her disposition and desire to go above and beyond to help people.

Due to Turn 10 having a disability platform, I helped her police the platform, whenever I could, and ensure that people who had no business being there, would kindly fuck off. As the days went by, I felt more and more protective, as these people, whose lives were already difficult enough, should enjoy their superior view without idiots trying to take advantage of the limited space and with Turn 10 offering such spectacular incidents and views of the race, there were so many damn people trying to crowd them, that the young woman and I had to do a lot of reminding.

What also surprised me, was a young patron with a huge camera and lens with a monopod, who snuck into this gap that I had originally reserved for my friends. Seeing as to how he was alone with just his father, I ended up sticking up for him and pleasantly received a nice photo of me (below) patrolling the grandstands. In addition, he gave the best quote to describe Lewis Hamilton #44, delivered with all the confidence of a 17 year old teenager: “he is the gayest straight man I’ve ever seen. His clothes are just so wack, man.”

I spent the rest of the afternoon laughing my ass off and giving him free bottles of water as a reward.

And I had plenty to spare, because the logistics of the event were incredibly precise and on a scale I’ve never seen at an event before. Between races there were buses that took photographers from point to point, motorcycle riders constantly patrolled the track, delivering and collecting incident reports and a ute would blast along the track, unloading bags of ice and boxes of spring water for us. Hell, in the morning, there was a caravan of utes, just unloading bins for our drinks, fire extinguishers, SC (Safety Car) poles. flag pole stands and other necessities for our turn.

Medical and course cars constantly inspected the track in excess of 150 km/h and I couldn’t help but admire the sheer management that was on display. RACE CONTROL were constantly providing updates and opening and closing the track, and in all honestly, from 0700HRS onwards, there was always something happening on track.

Something to clean, something to inspect, something to update … the work was constant and intriguing, as was the colourful commentary from a very frustrated SECTOR CHIEF MARSHAL.

Were there any downsides to being a Marshal? Well, I couldn’t leave my sector and thus do all the fun stuff I would normally do at the AUSGP, like tickle the brains of ADF members on their toys, or practice a pit stop tyre change. Nor could I really find opportunities to sneak away and buy merchandise or get better food for that matter, because the lunches that were provided were some of the blandest food I’ve ever tasted in a long time.

But beyond those minor gripes, I would never trade my view for a more “fan-friendly” experience. It was completely worth it to get a super-close up view of the drivers, during the Driver’s Parade, in which all 20 drivers were driven slowly around on Shelby Cobras and greeted the ecstatic crowd and us, standing on the track. Nor would I ever want anything else now, having pressed my face right up against the fence and felt and heard the cars roaring past me, metres away.

To sum up, having spent all day in the sun, from dusk to dawn, watching motorcars blast around a track for 96 hours, I can rightfully say that this was the best weekend of my life so far. My girlfriend came down for race day, I protected two of my favourite brands of cars, an Aston Martin and a Ferrari, and I got to see my personal heroes, Sebastian Vettel #5 and Charles Leclerc #16 up close.

To cap it all off, Leclerc got a pole position and won the race.

I don’t think anything will ever top the high I had this weekend.

I can’t wait to go again in 2023.

See you soon Albert Park!

~ Damocles.

P.S. Due to the number of incidents and our teamwork, SECTOR 10 was nominated and was the runner up for best Marshal team at the Australian GP. Not bad for a bunch of rookies.

Doing my rounds at Albert Park. 96 Hours of Sun and Mechanical Perfection. Heaven sounds, smells and looks like this.

Tempered

Marcus Aurelius – The Philosopher Emperor.

For all of my strengths and weaknesses, there is none I value more than my temperance.

Life has a habit of taking away as much as it provides. I experienced such a transaction rather cruelly on Monday straight after the huge highs of Formula 1.

I won’t go into the details, but needless to say, it was of great personal cost, and involved the loss of personal property of which I have come to define a lot of my personality around.

Even now, as I am reliving the memory, I can’t help but sense a strange, surreal hollowness around it all. I know I am capable of processing huge emotional loads, but to continue working and be professional about it all, is surprising even for me.

I like to think that I am a very coldly angry person all the time. Some would call it passionate, but in reality, I know that I’m just venting excess emotion all the time.

To maintain a certain “calm”, I’m constantly fighting emotional build-up and letting it loose occasionally through things I like to talk about or my passions. I seem animated all the time, because I like create a controllable storm, so that my centre is calm, like the eye of an hurricane.

I think that is what has enabled me to move on so quickly, from losing something so precious to me. The years I’ve spent collecting, the money I’ve wasted on these items … they’ve been removed from my grasp in less than a hour. There’s nothing I can do to get them back, nothing I can control or really do.

There isn’t even the option of emotional catharsis through revenge.

It didn’t help that, ever since that day, there has been a slew of small shittiness that has marred every day of this cursed week.

Forgetting birthday presents, buying the wrong wedding card (it’s meant to be Mr. & Mrs., not Mr. & Mr.), book price stickers ripping off pieces of the book cover, struggles to find parking, travelling further than necessary because idiots forgot to tell me about a change in time to the rendezvous and dealing with irate customers at work … it seems that all my good karma has left and it is time to repent.

All of which I’ve deal with a cold, dispassionate amusement at how Lady Luck has seemingly abandoned me.

In these trying times, all I can do is really grasp a hold of my emotional state and try to wrestle it into a manageable state, which oddly, only took an hour after the incident, because I immediately entered a meeting for a project I was working on soon after, without any emotional outbursts.

That said, I am somewhat still reeling from the emotional whiplash I experienced in an 24 hour cycle. To come from such a high, then plummet down to such a low, is something I haven’t really been tested on before.

I can still see the after-effects of it all. I’m still sad, mourning the loss of them and I can see how my muscle memory is missing the feel of them. My usual energy is dampened somewhat, and I can definitely tell that I think too much about the question “How are you?” and struggle to answer it with my usual sarcastic attitude.

My bravado and cockiness has been taken down a peg.

96 Hours of high energy.

96 Hours of low energy.

That has been the week characterised for me so far. Incredible good luck, followed by calamitous misfortune.

Life giveth and life taketh.

Equilibrium.

Isn’t it amusing how philosophical one becomes after a great victory and loss?

I still hate philosophy, but I can’t deny that my personal unshakable belief in equilibrium is probably what allows me to move on quickly from sentiment and big emotional shocks.

The very next day, I was binning all useless items related to my hobby and collection, trashing a lot of stuff that have now become irrelevant without the key components.

In a lot of ways, I guess that speaks a lot about my ruthless and unsentimental nature. The moment something becomes useless, I bin it without hesitation. I retain a strong memory, but it is emotionally void, a black hole in which I don’t try to romanticise or look too fondly on them.

It happened, move on and find something else.

Don’t repeat the mistakes that led up to this moment and explore new ways to engage in the hobby or simply … drop it altogether.

I will say, that a psychologist would find me strange, mixing a somewhat spiritual belief in “balance”, with a cold professional pragmatism to every variant of sentiment and a ruthless attitude to emotional imbalance.

But that is how I deal with life for all its up and down. It is no secret that I ruthlessly purge my social media of extraneous friendships, because I like to know that the people I see, are people worthy of my time and investment.

Friends, like any relationship, need time, effort and money to last. Otherwise, they just become acquaintances.

It is that attitude that drives so much of my emotional control. The moment something becomes no longer worthy of time, effort and money, why hang onto it? Dismiss and move on.

Life is too short to get depressed over loss.

There are a lot of reason why I don’t have a lot of emotional baggage compared to everyone else I know. I just jettison a lot stuff in general. Rubbish can clutter the mind just as quickly as stress, if you aren’t careful.

I like to think that I empty my “trash can” quickly and efficiently before it builds up in my mind.

And in the case of this loss, I’ve purged it rather quickly, to ensure that I can still function in society and life, without any real detriment to my health.

Is it psychotic to think this way?

Perhaps there is a bit of that. I wonder if I am too quick to process difficult emotions, too emotionally detached, but then I always remember how my body language acts up around things I enjoy; how my heart-rate speeds up around exotic machines, or how the hairs on my arms stand up at the melody of a haunting song.

And I’m reassured that I am still capable of being moved, feeling and experiencing all the highs and lows of life.

I’m just quick to slam the visor down, and focus on my personal race, and ignore all the elements that don’t matter.

It’s hasn’t even been a year since I last experienced something relatively shocking. I wonder how many people would bounce back the way I have? Sometimes, even I have to question whether I’ve dealt with everything properly.

I do want to apologise for being mysterious. A lot of people read this blog and will be wondering what the hell I am talking about. What was taken from me? Why am I in such a state over the loss?

If you desire more context, I will simply say, it is a private matter, but is related to one my key interests and there is quite a lot of furore over them.

How much of a furore, remains to be seen, as of the writing of this post.

I may have had absolutely rotten misfortune in the past 96 hours, but I doubt the venerable goddess known as Lady Luck has abandoned me completely.

Even in time of crises, I know she’s always helped me escape with relative ease, even if I get a little singed in the process.

After all, life is a constant balance. Sooner or later, things will be fine again and I’ll be mourning the lack of excitement in my life once more.

It’s just a shame that the wonderful memory of my first volunteer gig Formula 1 is now bittersweet.

The happiness of your life, depends upon the quality of your thoughts. – Marcus Aurelius.

Good thing I don’t have that many in a day.

I hear you can lose yourself from overthinking.

~ Damocles.

The Batman (2022) – Cinema Review.

Y/N? Yes.

Director: Matt Reeves

Stars: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffery Wright, Colin Farrell & John Turturro.

Review by Damocles

I’m Vengeance.

Batman isn’t really a character that needs any introduction. I’m not the biggest comic-book nerd in the world, but I’ve played enough of the Arkham games, seen enough of the Batman animated series and watched all the Batman films to know when something is right and something isn’t.

At his core, Batman isn’t a particularly complicated character. He’s violence personified without the murderous intent and he’s your classic noir detective motivated by revenge. It is the city around him and the villains that live within the borders of Gotham that make him compelling, because his struggle is endless and almost in vain.

In this film, we are introduced to a Batman who is only just starting his vigilante career. I thoroughly enjoyed this approach, as we get to enjoy some of the more popular Arkham styled beat-downs on criminals, whilst trying to establish his unique intellect and emotional issues.

This is a Batman who is still a bit untested, a character who doesn’t quite know where he fits in Gotham yet and is still trying to work through his grief in the most unhealthy way possible: violence.

Pattinson is remarkable in this film, his acting mostly done through highly expressive eye movements and careful measured movements. Whilst there could have been more done to his character of Bruce Wayne, overall, the portrayal of Wayne, as a haunted and scarred man was performed admirably by Pattinson.

I particularly enjoyed the sequences where he was not in costume, relying on all black clothing, a hoodie and mask to blend with the environment. Something about the image of a masked, hooded figure moving through Halloween celebrations stuck with me, long after the film and there was such a great emphasis on realism, on how Batman wouldn’t be relying solely on his suit for reconnaissance and infiltration.

These details can be attributed to Reeves, who wrote the screenplay alongside Peter Craig. In The Batman, they have created a wonderfully dark and noirish world, with elements of Se7en (1995) and Taxi Driver (1976). Whilst the plot did muddle a bit near the middle and in parts of the third act, the pacing was excellent and immersive throughout the entire run-time, never really feeling its 3 hour length.

The dark, realistic nature of the film was offset beautifully with the more classic noir elements that have always been a strong part of the Batman’s mythos.

In Selina Kyle, we have a classic femme fatale, whose costume changes I thought were an intriguing take on the ever-changing chameleon nature of the archetype.

In the Penguin, we have the classic noir decoy character, Farrell disappearing completely into the role, unrecognisable and brilliant as one of Batman’s classic mobster characters.

In Gordon, we have the sole beacon of goodness in the film, a man who just wants to do his job, but understand that he needs Batman’s unique take on justice to hang onto the city. Wright shines as a cynical but honest man who just want to see the good guys prevail in a city as dark as Gotham.

Finally, in the Riddler, we have a fun and twisted performance by Paul Dano, who hams it up, in many ways, resembling certain online personalities that I couldn’t help but smile at the reference.

If you can see a trend, it is that all the cast involved were excellent in their roles, despite some of the more muddled parts of the plot.

Cinematography wise, The Batman boasts incredible visuals that perfectly captures the dark moodiness that has always been associated with Gotham. Whilst I’ve always loved that Gotham has had a more Gothic architecture in some of the earlier Batman live-action films, I am willing to sacrifice that aesthetic for a modern take, with a strong emphasis on darkness. There was a real sense of despair and decay that could be seen in every frame of Gotham, from the nightclub, to the crime scenes and train stations.

In having such a prevalent dark aesthetic, I thought the cinematographer, Greig Fraser (congratulations on the Oscar win!), really employed the use of colours brilliantly, with red lighting being a particular highlight throughout the film.

As for the sound, the foley in this film was ridiculously over the top. The entrance of the Batmobile in particular was enough to make the hairs on my arms stand up, a very rare sensation for me to experience in a cinema. Everything that involved the Batman, had a horror focus to his foley, from the footsteps to the score.

Speaking of score, Michael Giacchino nails the atmosphere needed for such a dark film, with a haunting, nightmarish sound that is eventually elevated to something more heroic for Batman, a sweeping, romantic but dark melody for Catwoman (excellent use of the piano) and a twisted version of a child-like melody for the Riddler.

Overall, the Batman is a worthy interpretation of the famous comic book character. It was nice to see a satisfying arc to what is normally the dullest part of the Batman universe, Batman himself and done right without any transgressions on his famous rules.

And that, in the world of Hollywood, where there are so many little things that the screenwriters get wrong about beloved characters whilst adapting them for film, is something to be celebrated.

A scene to recall: The moment Batman popped the flare and become a proper hero for Gotham, was such a satisfying character arc for the character. Also I copy this moment way too much, when I do my urbex stuff.

Yeah, the Batsuit in this film is my favourite version so far.

Fanboy moments:

To quickly cap off my inner fanboy, I would like make a shot list of the things I really liked in the film. I tried to be a bit more objective in my review, but I will confess, I left the theatre smiling and liking the film a lot.

  • The BATSUIT
    • What a thing of beauty. It’s a brilliant take on modern plate carriers and armour. I particularly loved how the Bat symbol is actually a tactical knife and magnetically clamps onto his suit, and the various gadgets that he has on his forearms and legs.
    • The green medical syringe insert, was a brilliant touch, showcasing how Batman would use any medical tools, whilst maintaining protection against NBC agents.
    • I’m a big sucker for thigh bags in general, so to see Batman sport one, was a weird aesthetic that I couldn’t help but adore.
    • The camera lens in the cowl was a neat touch and really showed how Batman would be able to analyse crime scenes long after he had left them.
    • Overall, I applaud the designers for their more modern, military take on the Batsuit. I can easily see that the utility belt is a lot more akin to modern warbelts worn by modern operators, and I liked the idea that Batman could zip up his cape to create a modern wingsuit for emergency exfiltrations, along with his parachute.
  • The BATMOBILE
    • An angry, jet-powered muscle car. What’s not to love?
    • I love the low-slung nature of the car, as well as the incredible sound design behind it. I got such a huge thrill, when I heard something akin to the V12 era of F1 cars in the sound mixing. Cars aren’t just an aesthetic, they’re also auditory porn when done right.
  • The Iceberg Lounge
    • Such a cool location, with flashing red lights and industrial aesthetics.
    • The sequence where Batman fights his way though and tosses a baseball bat at a gun-toting goon was brilliant. In fact, so many of the fight scenes clearly showcase how this Batman doesn’t care about himself, he is only out for blood, despite the danger he is in. It is only right at the very end, does Batman start to care a bit more about self-preservation.
  • The Funeral Sequence
    • Easily my favourite part of the film, the funeral sequence was so brilliantly executed and really serve to heighten the paranoia one felt on the streets of Gotham.
    • I loved the neck-bomb, the chilling riddle and the eventual failure of Batman to save the victim. I liked the vulnerability, the mistakes Batman made, trying to do his best in a shitty scenario.
    • Especially in the aftermath of the funeral, I got to see Batman do his best to escape, using all his wits, and gadgets to flee.
  • Overall … this was probably my favourite interpretation of Batman put to live-screen and I’m eager to see more.

Professional.

Collateral (2004)

What does professionalism look like to me?

Beyond basic competency in your job, professionalism is an attitude that I think is lacking in a lot of people.

It is something that you need to train and work continuously to maintain.

Just having a job, doesn’t make you a professional in my eyes. Everyone can get a job. It doesn’t matter what background you have or what field you chose.

A consummate professional, in my eyes, is someone who espouses getting the job done, above everything else.

There is a certain ruthlessness that comes with being a professional. It’s not about being an arsehole all the time, or kiss-arsing everyone you deem above you.

It is about checking your ego at the door, acknowledging problems for what they are and being pragmatic in how you find and apply solutions. Some solutions require you to bring out your inner arsehole. Other answers may be found from stroking the egos of people above you.

Professionalism means that you don’t let emotions cloud your judgement or criticisms and apply them fairly without being malicious. It means that when you are confronted with an uncomfortable co-worker or even a friend, you can disassociate your personal feelings to your professional duties.

So much of being a professional is swallowing your ego and ideals for the sake of the job.

No matter how much you might hate the rules, your boss or even your co-workers, you need to put it aside for the objective.

Complete your mission, no matter the cost.

Which is where I want to touch on the personal cost of being a professional.

No matter the job, no matter how much you might enjoy or hate the environment, there are going to be people you don’t get along with. Ideologies, morals and personalities clash all the time. I know that in my current retail role, I don’t have an ounce of respect for any of my bosses. They’re hopelessly out of touch with the situation on the ground, incredibly overbearing and controlling and I suspect, they don’t take very kindly to my maverick attitude to authority.

That said, I know that I am professional about my role. I recognise the one major benefit of this job … that I can write on this blog during dull hours of work and that I’ve somehow managed to carve a small niche, in where I am actually getting paid to write and do retail work.

This small solace, amidst all the terrible mismanagement, is what keeps me from snapping. I can tolerate a lot, as long as I can write.

Which is why, despite personal cost, I can keep a professional demeanor at work and towards my bosses. This one benefit, trumps all the negative aspect of work.

I think that is the key to being professional. You have to view everything as objectively as possible and consider what are your limits.

Knowing your limits … that leads me into something that I think all professionals should have … high emotional intelligence.

Any idiot can be a professional. It’s not hard to learn skills, once you are getting paid to do so or forced to learn them. A monkey can use a hammer, just like a university graduate with no life experience can be taught how to calculate the trajectory of a rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and it’s most likely impact point.

What is often not taught, is how to communicate effectively with people you dislike, how not to be the arsehole at work and what are your personal limits.

Some people don’t have any concept of work-life balance. Which is incredibly detrimental to their professional life. Balance in all aspects of life is crucial to success and mental health. You enjoy work more when you spend the money you earned on things that matter to you … fine dining, sports, art galleries, concerts, racing or in my case, guns and books.

Understand and explore what your limits are. Don’t be the person that clock offs from work and immediately go home every night of the week. Expend a little bit more energy into living after work. Flirt with people, interact with your bartender, dance the night away …. have good conversation or just exercise with your dog.

When you discover that you actually have a lot more energy than you think, that work isn’t everything to your life, you’re going to find out more about yourself. And when you know yourself better, your emotional intelligence is going to rise, because you’ll see everyone around you, suffering from the same difficult acts and tribulations that come with work, life and play.

When you are a true professional, you’ll find it easier to manage your work-load and can even help others out.

I’m a firm believer in the concept that everyone is born with a “backpack” on their shoulders.

In this backpack, you are going to fill everything in it. Work. Relationships with strangers. Good memories. Bad experiences. Friendships. Lovers.

Often, without realising it, we fill this backpack with stuff that we don’t mean to take on.

Our bosses’ angry tirade at us. Our lover’s trauma. Parental expectations. False ideas about who we are.

Sometimes we forget to lighten this load and it creates a huge burden on our shoulders. I like to think that everyone can carry their backpack at 80% capacity comfortably. But too often we over-extend and end up shouldering 90%, or even 110%.

If you have a reasonably high emotional intelligence, you’ll know exactly when you are exceeding the weight limit in your backpack and you’ll start dumping things that you shouldn’t be carrying in the first place. It could be as innocuous as taking a bit of time off work. Or it could be as drastic as having a conversation with your partner, about how they need to learn to shoulder their 80% better, because goddamnit, you’re already loaded down, you don’t need to be carrying their arse along as well.

This is what I mean by exploring your limits as a professional. Your personal affects your professional life as well. By being pro-active at managing your limits, you can do your job better. Less things annoy you, work becomes a bit easier to handle and you can instinctively know when you can take a little bit more than 80% on your shoulders and when you shouldn’t.

More importantly though, you possessing a high emotional intelligence means you can manage people around you better, no matter their personalities and be more flexible in how you cope with difficult situations. You will find it easier to tap into your sides of your personalities and be more pragmatic in how you approach problems.

That ability to adapt, improvise and overcame any obstacles, regardless of personal strife or ideology is what makes you a professional in my eyes.

It is such a pity that more people aren’t taught the importance of balancing all aspects of their lives. Too many people experience the same pitfall of working becoming their existence, without realising that they can exist as individuals outside of the business grind.

If you are going to work hard for your whole life, do something that makes you happy. But more importantly, don’t make that happiness only be tied to work.

Explore yourself and you’ll find that being a professional can also apply to yourself.

You can be a pro at being yourself.

~ Damocles.

Unlikely Inspirations.

I still adore Tron Legacy.

What is the strangest thing that ticked your mind over?

I want to dive into some of the strangest inspirations and left-field concepts that have been stuck in my mind since I’ve developed critical thinking.

So without further ado, I present:

– The End of the Neon Club.

Ever since I first watched Tron Legacy (2010) I became obsessed with the idea of electronic music, neon lights and bodysuits all mixed together in a special club. It became such a focal point in my imagination, that I actually designed one for my economics assignment in high school.

The idea of owning a club, even to this day, still entices me.

It’s strange that a guy, as introverted as I was back then, would consider owning a club. But I always liked the idea, which was only further impressed upon me, when I played The Ballad of Gay Tony (2009) and found how much fun it was run errands for the business and be embroiled in the tumultuous lifestyle of a nightclub owner.

It didn’t help that years later, during my quest to become a one-percenter in GTA Online you had an option to run a nightclub as a front for your illicit gains. In came GALAXY, the hottest club on Vespucci Beach and something I still regularly maintain in game, before I do any other missions. It’s fun entering the club via the back entrance, and walking into the VIP room where you can inspect cameras and take shots on the bar whilst listening to pulsating club music.

I also loved the fact that one of my favourite shows, Lucifer features the devil himself owning a nightclub and I immediately went out of my way to ensure Galaxy had a special black convertible to apt the devil’s smooth style.

Other notable influences on the club life, has been my recent involvement with an events company called Untitled, the famous sequence in The Red Circle of John Wick (2014) fame, the equally cool sequence in Michael Mann’s Collateral (2004), and the ridiculously bloody introduction to Blade in Blade (1998).

If we are talking games, how can I forget the scenes in numerous Yakuza games, the Club Bam Bam in Sleeping Dogs (2012), Afterlife on Mass Effect’s Omega and the other big neon influence, The Hive in Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011). The Hive especially, was a notable example of club design right, with all its honeycomb aesthetic and incredible atmosphere.

– The Rhythm behind Desperados in Boots

There’s no real reason why I love mariachi style music so much. But when you’ve seen as many of Robert Rodriguez’s filmography as I have, you grow to love it. It’s so energetic and jolly, with just a hint of sadness underneath. The rhythm is infectious and makes you dance and it perfectly off-sets a wild action scene with Antonio Banderas blazing away with dual pistols.

It is hard to argue with the magnetism of Banderas, when he is singing Cancion Del Mariachi and knocking out some dirtbag with his guitar.

But my first real taste of addicting Mexican music was actually found through Puss in Boots (2011) with the score mostly comprised of Rodrigo Y Gabriela shredding every string on their guitar. I’ve been in love with their style ever since and was delighted when they scored Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), even though I was less enamoured with the film itself.

Other notable films that have made me create a Latino playlist has been the unforgettable Machete (2010), the hilariously over-the-top telenovela Casa De Mi Padre (2012) in which Will Ferrell only speaks Spanish throughout the entire film and I fell in love with Genesis Rodriguez and my first real introduction to Latino music in the form of The Mask of Zorro (1998) which I still dance to regularly.

That and the 1986 classic, The Three Amigos.

So as you can see, I have a plethora of inspiration for Latin music.

Architectural Studies as seen through Heavy Rain.

Heavy Rain (2010) was one of the first proper experimental games that made me question the medium in which stories can be told. I viewed it as the first real Choose Your Own Adventure video game and have had a love for it ever since my brother and I did our first play through.

But what really got me was the main character, Ethan Mars’ profession: an architect. In our first introduction to him, you get to see him work on a large sketch-board in his contemporary office, and it opened my eyes to building design. Ever since then, my interest in buildings have been a a quiet appreciation in what I like and a silent judgement on what I hate.

This quiet observation habit only became much more pronounced when I went on my first overseas trip to Japan, with a very anthropological viewpoint to the trip. Urban planning and aesthetic suddenly became a big deal for me, and on my latest holiday, where I hit every capital (except Canberra) on the East coast of Australia and was critiquing every city along the way.

Much like any art critic, I see building designs the same way and will judge my emotional and critical reaction to them. If I had to judge all 3 cities, against each other, Brisbane was probably the most boring, Sydney the most eccentric with some of the ugliest and prettiest buildings and Melbourne is far too contemporary.

Which is to say, Sydney is the worst of the lot.

I will say, that I am largely a fan of contemporary styles, but only if it’s done in the style of Zaha Hadid (RIP) with plenty of strange curves and evocative lines. I just like a lot of glass, ceramics and steel mixed together.

I know, I’m such a prescient person, but I can’t help but think that now is the best time to live. I don’t really glamourise the past, except of course for when the Romans ruled and the age of Napoleon.

And yes, I do like their building styles back then too, not just the military.

The Skyfall behind my Fashion Study

Skyfall (2012) was the first film where I made a proper study of men’s fashion. The film both horrified me and inspired me.

First the horror: poor Daniel Craig’s suits. I’m not sure how you can fuck up Tom Ford suits, but the designer for the film, somehow gave Craig the slimmest cut for all of his suits. The material stretches far too much over his muscular frame and I remember being aghast at how tiny his legs looked, and how the blazer looked like it was about to rip apart under the strain.

But then we get to the Scottish third act and the same designer gives me the most beautiful blue jumper and Barbour jacket combination I have ever seen on screen and I forgot all about the poor fits, that dominated so much of the film thus far.

Skyfall was the first real whiplash I felt about Bond’s fashion, especially since I really started noticing better male fashion in Casino Royale (2006).

I mean, the scene in the Bahamas where Bond is just casually wearing a black Sunspel polo and light chinos was so accessible for a guy like me, that for once in my life, I felt like I could look like Bond, despite lacking Craig’s piercing blue eyes and granite masculinity.

Really diving into the fashion world, has made me more conscious of what I wear, my style and even colour palette. I borrow from all sorts of men around the world, but my staple has always been the Peaky Blinders style haircut and wearing my watches on the inside of my wrist.

Being aware of fashion, has made me glad that John Wick is always so impeccably dressed in all of his films, including bringing back tie bars. Other great examples of male fashion done right, is the timeless style of Jason Statham, who always looks perfect no matter the occasion or film or the original inspiration for Craig’s style, Steve McQueen whose eye for clothing is still influencing men to this day, long after his passing.

The in-game radio behind my DJ’s House sets

That damn nightclub expansion in GTA: Online. Not only did it scratch the itch I had over owning a nightclub, it also introduced me to the intoxicating world of European DJs. Solomun, Dixon, Tale of Us & Black Madonna. These talented desk jockeys became the source for my current obsession with house music.

I began to listen to the new in-game radio more and more, until it spilled over into reality and I was soon researching left, right and centre for new DJs. Currently, I’m loving the sets by Monki, Sam Divine, Archie Hamilton and Idris Elba, all of whom are incredible English DJs working for the Defected Records company.

House music is a true anomaly for me. It simultaneously makes me want to dance and move, whilst also giving me enough of a tempo to study and work to. It’s very bizarre. Something about the repetitive lyrics, thumping bass and smooth transitions into the next song, just relaxes me and soothes my mind to the point that I can write and work better than I have ever done in my life, to other genres of music.

It is definitely one of the most interesting facets about me and a big factor into why I am currently working casually for an Australian events company called Untitled Group, whose sole goal is to bring as many house-heads into one venue and get them vibing for 9-10 hours straight.

It’s a very recent phenomenon, and honestly, it’s been a great journey exploring a whole new genre of music that I previously, never experienced live or otherwise.

Cowboy Up.

Yellowstone. What can I say about this show, other than, I started watching it because I inherently trust Tyler Sheridan with any of his American frontier projects.

I wasn’t proven wrong. Yellowstone is one of the best epics on television right now. It’s bloody, clever and endearing. It tackles how the modern cowboy tries to make a living in today’s modern world and is an incredible spin on the age old 3-Way conflict between Native Americans, Land Owners and Corporations. Kevin Dutton shines as the Patriarch of the Dutton family, whilst Kelly Reilly stuns as the cold, complex daughter who will do anything to keep her family’s legacy alive.

I was particularly inspired by Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), whose character embodies everything I aspire to be: tough, sentimental and stoically silent. Upon seeing him, I immediately went out to a Levi store and bought a similar denim jacket, a light shade of blue jeans, and my own cowboy hat.

Watching that show, I am now inspired to take up some horse-riding lessons and I want to learn how to lasso something. The impact of that show, isn’t lost on me. It has made me long for the frontier, where nature and people are equally savage to one another, but the fleeting moments of beauty make it all worthwhile.

Thanks again, Yellowstone for being a brilliant drama and getting me in touch with my inner cowboy.

My interest in cowboys was first really piqued by the incredible Korean action film, The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008) and my desperation to cosplay as the Good character. The cavalry charge the bounty hunter made against the Japanese Army, whilst slinging bullets with his lever-action rifle on horseback is easily one of the best action scenes I’ve seen in a Western setting.

Also Red Dead Redemption 2. Enough said.

The Yakuza behind my first cosplay and tattoo wish fulfilment.

Having never really watched a lot of world cinema, to say that I was astonished and enraptured by a Japanese drama, showcased by my nerdy friend, is an understatement. I fell in love with how Japanese cinema tends to weaponise nostalgia and their strange sense of humour.

One of the big takeaways I got from My Boss My Hero (2006), was how cool the Yakuza style was and a fixation on Japanese styled tattoos. For my final day at high school, I came equipped with a wooden sword slung over one shoulder, a dragon tattoo drawn on my arm by my Dad, a black suit and fedora I picked up somewhere. I loved it even though no-one else got it.

I’m not sure if I would ever get a tattoo, as everyone seems to ink their bodies nowadays, but I know that if I did ever pull the trigger, it will most likely be related to the military.

What type of design you ask? Well of course it has to be related to Starship Troopers (1997).

That movie not only scarred me as a eleven year old kid, but it has now become a formative part of how I view satire and comedy.

I’m from Buenos Aires … and I say, kill them all!

End.

That’s all for now, but expect another part soon!

What has inspired you randomly in your life?

~ Damocles.

The Silent Tram

The tram rattled it way through the darkness of Melbourne suburbia.

The iconic whir and grind of the tram lulled everyone onboard into a strange stupor, of boredom and listlessness. For Jordan Bordeaux, this daily purgatory was his only way home, after a long stint at the office.

An unassuming man in every way, Jordan was boring and single. A man in his early 30s, he had no future aspirations or career options. He was the classic loner, happy to work in a dull accounting firm, and then head home to his humble abode and play video games for the rest of the night.

Tonight though, he had an important task.

Even now, as he stared out at the dark suburban landscape of Melbourne, the houses blurring by under weak, amber lights, and cars racing by underneath him, Jordan was still grappling with the unexpected task that has been thrust upon him by his boss.

Jordan, it’s very important to me that this briefcase be delivered to this client. He will meet you at the Burwood One Shopping Centre. Don’t worry about meeting this client, he’ll see you.

When you meet him, just hand it over and go home right away. I would do it myself, but I have to tie up a few things here at the office. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure this is part of your overtime pay. I really appreciate this mate.

Jordan, knowing deep down, he couldn’t refuse, had meekly responded and after work, had hopped onboard the 75 Vermont South Tram that would take him to the shopping centre.

Ever since that incident, his boss had been a bit colder. Today though, he seemed a bit warmer. Perhaps forgiveness was coming. Jordan was eager to keep the peace, so he decided to run this errand.

Having never possessed a car, let alone venture outside of his Richmond area, Jordan was nervous. He was used to the tram itself, as it took him home, but he had never been this far along the line.

As it was, Jordan was sitting in his usual spot, at the rear of the tram, the brown briefcase on his lap, his laptop bag underneath. The briefcase was oddly heavy, but Jordan didn’t dare open it, for fear of losing his job.

From his spot, Jordan had a door in front of him that he could exit out of, and see the whole length of the carriage.

Few souls were on this tram this late, most of them staring emptily out the window, waiting for their ride to end.

Near the middle of the tram, was an old couple muttering about a film they had just seen, the husband acting out scenes to his wife’s amusement. Their interaction filled Jordan with a envy he had not felt in a long time.

Only 2 booths in front of him was an attractive hipster girl, her classy white dress offset with black booties. Jordan found himself invariably drawn to her. Her head rested on the window, and there was something beautiful about how the light played across her face.

On the other end of the carriage, near the driver’s cabin, sat Jordan’s twin, another quiet, bored businessman in a suit, his fingers dancing his phone screen as he communicated with a flurry of friends in a group chat.

The last two occupants in the large tram, were young. A nursing student in her blue slacks was watching K-drama on her phone, her headphones blocking any sounds from the outside world.

Across from her, on one of the standing seats, was a bored teenager, his skateboard in one hand, his other supporting his schoolbag. The teen did nothing but look out the window and occasionally tap his board against his leg.

Jordan felt himself lurch forward, as the tram decelerated to a stop.

The doors slammed open, and no one got off.

Instead, a hooded man step onboard.

Decked out completely in black, the hooded figure had a balaclava that covered the bottom half of his face, sunglasses that obscured his eyes and a military styled backpack slung on his shoulder.

Scanning the length of the tram, the blacked out man silenced the tram with his presence. The old couple stopped talking and the husband defensively held his wife’s hand in reassurance. The hipster girl moved her bag across her stomach, wary and unsettled. The teen looked down, and avoided eye-contact. Only Jordan’s twin and the nursing student ignored the newcomer, unaware he was onboard.

With a blank stare at Jordan, the hooded man moved away and without hesitation, sat down with the old couple, looking at them silently.

Expectantly.

The old man swallowed, whilst his wife moved into the corner. Reaching up deliberately, the hooded man pulled the string that signalled for the tram to stop at the next station.

The old man nodded in acquiescence and minutes later, the old couple was disembarking, holding their belongings close. The skateboarding teen, seeing what was going on, also immediately jumped off, the sounds of his board skittering across the concrete pavement, a distant echo of panic.

Without any sound, the hooded man moved towards the attractive girl, and stood in the centre of her seat booth.

She looked up at him in abject fear, shaking slightly.

The blacked out man raised a single finger up to where his mouth would have been and nodded mockingly.

The girl grabbed her shoulders in fear, as the man leaned over and put his face close to hers.

Jordan watched in horror, straining to hear anything as the girl, tears streaming down her face, nodded obediently to the man’s quiet commands. Then in a burst of fear, she ducked out from under him and ran away through the carriage, frantically pressing the button for the next stop.

The hooded man didn’t move, instead he sat down in her place and placed his gloved hand over the still warm seat, as the tram shuddered to a stop and the girl ran outside into the darkness of a strange neighbourhood, nearly getting hit by a careless driver.

Jordan looked on in abject horror as the masked man ran his hand over the seat, lingering and savouring where the girl had just sat.

Run! screamed his mind. But what about the briefcase? inputted his logical side.

The indecision froze Jordan in place. He didn’t know what to do. He was an accountant for god’s sake. Sweat pooled underneath his arms, and across his forehead.

Once the seat cooled, the masked man stood up unerringly and made his way to the nursing student, her back to him. He moved smoothly and silently, his dark presence only amplified by the lack of sound coming from him.

In a freak coincidence, the tram rumbled over a piece of debris, causing the electricity to short out for a second, casting the carriage into darkness.

In that second, the masked man placed a gloved hand over the student’s mouth and slammed her head into the window of the tram.

Crack! Crack! Crack!

Blood slowly trickled down the glass and temple of the poor girl, as she lolled listlessly with the movement of the tram.

It happened so swiftly, so viciously and violently, that Jordan’s twin barely had any time to do anything before he was pounced upon by the masked man.

No! No! Urk! ….. Pleaseeee ….

The masked man was coldly efficient. Using the man’s tie against him, he wrapped it around the man, and as he twisted and choked the man, the dark figure bought his knee up and slammed it repeatedly into the twin’s head.

As the man slumped to the floor, the masked man, in a strange frantic state, scrabbled through the man’s pockets, and bag and briefcase.

Jordan, his mouth agape, began to furiously pull the string for the next stop. He couldn’t peel his eyes off the man, who was kneeling astride his twin, his hands rummaging and pulling all sorts of things out from every pocket.

What the fuck is in this briefcase?! screamed Jordan internally.

It was at that moment, the masked man took of one of his gloves. Jordan eyes widened as he beheld a blackened, claw of a hand, with viciously long fingernails and open sores. He clamped his hand over his mouth, stifling the scream that died before it come out, into a whimper.

The tram kept moving. A ghostly vehicle, amongst quiet suburbs and homes.

The masked man, ran his hand along the unconscious man’s cheek, stroking it, in a perversion of care, as his nails drew a line of blood.

Why isn’t this working!? thought Jordan as the plaintive peal for a stop kept being ignored by the driver.

Then he froze.

The masked man was now looking directly at him.

Rising to his full height, the masked man stared at the terrified Jordan, clutching the brown briefcase tightly to his chest.

Recognition of the prize, shone in the masked man’s eyes.

There was nowhere to go. The tram was not stopping. Jordan didn’t know how to fight.

End of the road.

The masked man walked slowly over to Jordan, his pace measured and agonisingly slow.

The lack of noise was terrifying. It was like seeing a shadow come towards him. It was impossible not to stare at the claw of a hand.

The masked man stood before Jordan, who was now quivering in apoplectic fear.

He stretched out his hand towards the briefcase.

Jordan, bravely or stupidly, held on.

The cut that appeared on Jordan’s right cheek was so fast that he didn’t even have time to register it, before the next one appeared on his left.

Blood oozed out from the pair of cuts and Jordan felt, rather than heard, a scream of pain erupt out of his lungs.

He sank to his knees, dropping the briefcase, which never hit the ground, because the man caught it in an blink of an eye.

Jordan Bordeaux wet himself in fear, before his eyes lolled into the back of his head, in a stupor of anxiety.

Just before darkness completely engulfed him, he could have sworn he felt something pierced his neck …

~

The masked man ripped open the briefcase and exposed the contents within to the world.

Under the flickering lights of the tram, the briefcase yawned open and the masked man pulled out what he really wanted the whole time.

3 blood bags, with a needle and catheter.

Behind him, the nursing student rose up on her haunches as did the business man clone of Jordan.

Their movement were worthy of a contortionist. From the floor, the female student stood with her legs first, before lifting her upper torso into the correct position. It was like seeing a yoga pose in reverse, and all the more unnatural because of it.

As for the clone, he merely just crawled forwards. The lower half of his body was left behind. The bizarre image of only half a man, without his legs, just using his arms to propel himself forward eagerly was something that would only be normal amongst the three of them.

The pair of them gathering around the masked man, their mouths open, teeth bared in anticipation.

The masked man stroked Jordan’s cheek in a bizarre parody of care and tenderness, sensing the strong heartbeat underneath. He scooped a drop of his blood on a long fingernail and lifting his mask, savoured the metallic taste.

Nodding approvingly, he stepped aside to let the student work, who immediately started searching for a vein to insert the needle and start the process. The Jordan clone flexed his muscular arms and began to massage Jordan’s arm intensely.

The first blood bag was filled in 15 minutes.

The second, was over in 10.

The final one, was in a record 8 minutes.

The masked man, nodded approvingly at his associates and they nodded back, their teeth still bared in anticipation for the final order.

But he shook his head and gestured to the front of the tram.

Disappointed, the pair of them retracted their fangs and sullenly returned to their seat, to pack their items, each of them clutching a precious blood bag.

The masked man looked over at Jordan, his pale features, now a sickly shade of marble.

There was just enough in there.

Leaving behind the briefcase, the masked man looked at the note written hastily, with a nervous hand.

Jordan Bordeaux // AB+ // Sentence: Voyeurism on his employer and mistress.

Snarling with amusement, the masked man pulled the string.

Minutes later, all three creatures had disappeared into the night, into the surreal suburban landscape of Melbourne.

The tram rattled on, this time quicker, as it neared a junction.

Pressing a button, the tram’s yellow text flashed red momentarily, triggering a switch in the rail.

Diverging off its normal course, the tram made its way through a darkened alleyway, where it was immediately swallowed up by a shed that opened its door when the tram came close.

Red light flooded the interior of the shed, and the tram driver stepped out from his cabin, to stare at his prize.

Like the other creatures, the tram driver had a disfigurement that needed blood to prolong his life.

The nurse needed blood to stand properly without slumping over. The clone needed blood to continue to use his legs. The masked man needed blood to cure his skin.

But the tram driver needed blood to keep his eyes.

They were incredibly bloodless. So much so, that they were nearly rendering him blind. He drove the tram almost by feel, recognising every bump, every jostle on the road.

The tram driver walked through the tram, blind and his teeth bared.

Jordan was now barely alive. But he was conscious enough to know that it was over. His boss had sent him on this tram ride to hell, to get rid of him, for being an innocent bystander.

All because one night, he forgot his keys and had to tram back to get them.

That one night, was when his boss was having his secretary from behind and they were caught mid-peak when Jordan walked in.

As the tram driver bit into his neck and began to draw the last of his blood out, Jordan didn’t even have the energy to scream, all he could do was despair silently, as he knew no one would miss him.

In a strange way, he felt a sense of relief that his lonely existence was over.

The tram driver could see again. His eyes pulsed furiously, as blood rushed around his pupils and his eyesight was restored to a familiar red tinge.

Grabbing the bloodless corpse, the tram driver opened the door to the iconic public transport vehicle and began to start up the incinerator.

The ashes would be spread in his garden later, and when the opportunity was right, the boss would be charged a significant fee for their services.

The vampiric tram driver got back into the seat of his tram, licking his lips, and wondering when the next victim would come aboard. Flicking the tram line text from red to yellow, the tram driver settled back into his role, sated and happy he could see properly again.

Within minutes of the schedule, the tram was clattering along the streets of Melbourne, none of her citizens the wiser about the dark exchange that had happened on their network.

Author’s Note:

While this didn’t quite turn out as well as I wanted, I always liked the idea of a terrifying public transport option, where things go wrong very quickly and you’re trapped aboard, but none of the outside world notices.

I was actually semi-inspired for the ending by my recent blood donation and thought I would incorporate it in.

See you at the next one!

~ Damocles.

The B30 Challenge and how it’s morphed into a daily fight against age.

I still owe a lot to Rocky.

November 17, 2019.

It seemed so long ago, that I stared at myself in the mirror and decided that I had to go public with my weight loss.

It was the only way, that I could be held “accountable.” After all, if you don’t do anything, after publicly declaring a goal, you look like a fucking twat.

What I didn’t expect though, approximately 10kgs lighter (73kgs), was how my body was going to crave exercise like a drug.

Or how my mental state is now constantly analysing the needs of my body and doing its best to self-diagnose what is healthy, what is strong and more importantly, what is weak.

The B30 Challenge, isn’t just something that I aspire to any more. It’s a lifestyle choice now. I watch what I eat (mostly), try to consume more water, and exercise a lot more regularly than I used to.

Tennis is still my number one way to stay fit, followed closely by running.

The gym membership is still isn’t an option for me. I just can’t quite convince myself to be a part of that culture, I love being outdoors too much and finding motivation on my own.

It doesn’t cost anything to get out there and run. The only thing stopping you, is your morale when you see clouds, the night sky, or feel the drops of rain or hot sweat running down your cheek.

I will also say, it pleasingly tans my body in doing so and I feel like it’s more of a struggle to fight the elements, thus adding to the intensity of the workout.

Staying in shape, has made me spend a radical amount on gym equipment. From a 5.11 Tactec plate carrier with 5 kgs weights, to a whole host of tennis equipment, the amount of gym clothes and socks I’ve spent at Under Armour is extensive and is meant to cover me in all situations.

It doesn’t matter if it rains or if I am feeling a bit wrecked from work. I got to get some form of exercise in for the day.

What has shocked me though, is how quickly it is to lose momentum, focus and discipline if you take a week off.

It is so difficult to get back into your routine once you taste the easy life again.

That is the worst part of it all for me. Getting back into the rhythm, after a week of luxurious eating and not really doing all that much exercise.

It made me realise that, with every year you get older, you need to exercise more, you need to discipline yourself harder and be more surgical about how you approach everything.

I’m currently 28 years old, only 2 years away from my target age of 30, and the goal of being in the best shape of my life.

I have to take everything more seriously now. I need to watch what I eat, really cull down the sweets and just portion everything better.

I also need to get a lot stronger. It has always irked me knowing that, even though I’m a fast runner, if I was to jump somewhere and hang onto a ledge, my upper body strength is lacking the strength to hold my body weight.

What gets me though, is the fact that exercise, never really gets easier.

I know I can run longer and faster than I’ve ever done in the past, but the first kilometre is still a kick in the ass, a humbling moment that I need to work on my pace, my speed and my breathing.

It’s shocking, knowing that despite being fitter than you were last week, it still hurts the same.

That is the demoralising and humbling aspect of exercise that we all hate. It’s what makes me want to take a break, rest my feet for a day or indulge in some sweets.

But I can’t.

Not at my stage in life. Not at the level of the challenge.

Exercising and dieting is as much a mental game, as it is physical. I have to stay vigilant against my more baser instinct to give in. For some, it’s really easy to ignore distractions and temptations.

I wish I had such strength of character.

I don’t always follow through. But I am always willing to take the first drastic step.

It’s why I need to maintain my 3 lap daily minimum. 6 kilometres, 45 burpees, 15 solid attempts at a pull-up, 75 sit ups and 30 diagonal pull ups in total, split over 3 reps.

I can’t really afford to take days off any more.

I’m not the spring chicken I used to be.

Age hits us all differently. For a guy who has always considered himself to be older than his age and is more about the net benefits of being older than younger, the idea that I need to do daily maintenance, hasn’t really changed my attitude about ageing.

If anything, it has reminded me that, this is the nature of life. The more you age, the more disciplined you should be and you can more efficiently map out your days. You should be living life smarter, planning ahead instead of panicking and procrastinating in your younger years.

It’s why I suppose I’m thankful that I took a hard look at myself and decided that I needed to change my lifestyle.

It’s about looking good in the future as well as the present. Working on yourself never really ends … it just becomes more about maintaining healthy habits and mindset.

Lately, I’ve noticed how careful I am to avoid the pitfalls of others. I’ve become more and more aware of not repeating the same mistakes that others make and desperately trying to remember the lessons I’ve learnt the hard way.

From ego-checking, scrutinising myself mid-conversation and working on my vocabulary and body language, I’m always searching for the best ways to express myself and how I come off to different people.

A stranger may find me funny, whilst another might think I’m loud and annoying. I’m more alert to what mood is being expressed on my face and I try to train myself to instantly switch expression, in order to hide away how I might be feeling and unpack them later, when its appropriate.

If it sounds disingenuous, it definitely is, but I think a big part of being an adult, is being professional in all aspects of your life.

Learning to take your ego out of the equation, identify situations for what they really are, not how they make you feel and putting aside anxiety and personal quibbles to solve a problem, is a crucial part of being an functioning human being.

Of course, to push your feelings down and ignore them is highly inadvisable, and you wouldn’t be reading this blog if I did that often.

It’s sort of why this whole journal exist. I’ve seen the benefits of being open with yourself and know how compelling a read it can be, if the writer is actually decent at being a wordsmith. My two inspiration for this whole thing, was Anne Frank and Fang from the Maximum Ride series. I loved reading their personal and private thoughts and thought I could harness a similar voyeur thrill here.

The B30 Challenge was my first real attempt at opening up to all my friends and strangers who read this blog. I found myself feeling accountable to some invisible force, that told me that I had to commit to what I set out to do.

This “mythical” pressure was exactly what I needed. I didn’t really need any encouragement or positive affirmation, I just need someone or something to make me get out there and train.

The Challenge also really boosted my confidence and my social awareness. I became more conscious about this concept I call “relationship maintenance” and how as an adult it became harder to work on, because it wasn’t something you’ve ever had to really do before (I’ll dive into this deeper in a future blog post).

I work on my friends now. I’m the one reaching out to plan things, to make sure I don’t take them for granted.

I want to be more successful in everything I do, from shooting, racing, tennis and work.

There’s not a weekend now, where I’m not actively trying to work on some event.

Haircuts are now more regular, as is my fashion updates.

Hell, I even got a skincare routine going.

The Challenge has now become a complete lifestyle change

I’m grateful for it.

I suppose the goal moving forward now, is to always look like I’m in my 30s.

Easier said than done.

But if life was easy, why bother living?

After all, you’re never too old to die young.

~ Damocles.

The Factory (Urbex)

The Factory. Photo courtesy of Alb.

Like most anal retentive operators, I have a strict routine when it comes to my Urbex gear.

I am typically overdressed for the occasion.

5.11 Tactical pants, Under Armour Combat Boots, Arcteryx grey henley, a wolf grey Pentagon Artaxes jacket, my trusted Arcteyrx beanie, and a oni themed neck gaiter.

Slung across my back is a black 5.11 sling bag, that I can throw over my shoulder and in front of me, for quick access to the contents within. On my hands, are the first ever pair of tactical gloves I’ve ever bought, Oakley Factory Pilot Gloves, now fingerless after I’ve cut off the tips, due to holes at the end of the fingers from overuse.

I have a Garmin instinct on my wrist, a paracord bracelet on my right, a Pelican 7600 torch on my hip, and about 4 knives scattered around on my person. One in my wolf grey jacket, another in my thigh pocket, a Leatherman Skeletool nestled in my thigh rig and the last one in my bag, a heavy duty Leatherman MUTT.

I take squatters seriously. It’s why I got so much defensive gear on me. You never know what will happen in this abandoned places, in the dark and silence of empty halls. In the case I lose all my knives, my gloves will allow me to deliver harder punches than anyone can dish out on me and my torch will blind anyone who looks at it.

It also helps me focus a bit better, silencing the internal anxiety and filtering through the rapid heartbeats, the nervous sweats and the heavy breathing.

That’s the security blanket that being armed gives you.

Tonight, knowing that I was heading to a more dangerous part of Melbourne, I wasn’t taking any chances. Sure, I had 4 of my friends with me, but this whole thing about exploring abandoned places was my idea, and I felt a sense of responsibility to all of them.

I was going to get my lads home safe.

The final part of my routine is load up my music. Just before my oni mask slips over my face, I have music going.

It’s always the same, the melodies that has become associated with 21st Century warfare … the strings and drums of the Middle East. I always invariably play my favourite military soundtracks. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) by Sarah Schachner, SEAL TEAM by W.G. Snuffy Walden & A. Patrick Rose, or Medal of Honor by Ramin Djawadi.

In all of them, the distinctive Middle East twang to all the scores are what gets me hyped, alert and watchful. It is like entering a trance, where I can hear, see and move better than I’ve ever had. My footsteps are silent, my eyes are constantly scanning, my ears, somehow, punch their way through the music and pick up ambient sounds better.

The score is like a pre-battle drug, a stimulant that will let me react faster to any danger.

I wanted to give you this context, because it’s important to me. The high I get, riding off the euphoria of warfighting music and gear, in dangerous places, shows you how addicted I am to this sensation. Time itself, bends somewhat when I’m riding this feeling.

Time truly is the epitome of the maxim: slow is smooth, smooth is fast when I’m intoxicated with this primeval instinct.

In a lot of ways, urbex has become an outlet for me, to explore how I would behave under danger. It’s not really about taking in the vibe or the aesthetic of abandoned places, it’s become an indulgence in how I break the law and what I can get away with.

So much of the thrill, comes from staying low, hidden in the shadows or tall grass, to avoid detection. The best aspect of it, is the stealth. We’re not there to mark territory, graffiti blank walls, destroy property or perform stupid rituals. We’re just there to observe, explore and get in and out without being caught.

Some would call it juvenile. Something schoolboys would do when they’re bored. I can’t deny that it’s true. But I’ve always had that mischievous puerile spirit in me. It’s something I’ve done since high school and I’m not going to let that character die anytime soon.

Besides, hide and seek is always more fun when the stakes are higher … like jail-time or a massive fine.

And the gamble was especially big this time.

The Bowling Alley

No lanes. Photo Courtesy of Alb.

This location was risky.

A police station was a mere 5 minute walk away. A train station with PSOs (Protective Service Officers) was literally a stone throw away. A major intersection ran along the site. Active sites (places that are still in use) literally surrounded the joint. CCTV covered a lot of the entryways and there was a constant flow of traffic that drove past.

Just getting in, was going to be tricky. There were 5 of us, in various equipment, with my clothes being the most conspicuous of the lot, but it was a price I was willing to pay to blend in with the interior of the building itself.

We ended up timing our entry, when the traffic was empty, through a hole in the fence, and making our way directly into the entrance which was invitingly dark. Oddly, off to the side of the egress point, was a ruined white couch, completely graffiti-ed over.

The bowling alley was big, deceptively large for something its size. But then, when there are no dividers in a huge rectangular space, it’s going to look spacious.

Our entryway was the front door, was on the bottom left corner, next to wrecked toilets, in which there was a grotesque discovery of live larvae and bugs in a toilet bowel, that was as dark and scum-lined as an oil barrel.

In that corner, I found myself staring at a cracked mirror, that was largely whole, but had a spider web of cracks all over it. It was strange, staring at my own reflection, the red light from my torch shining over my head, an image I’ve seen a dozen times in horror films, but was now living a scene out in reality.

I was transfixed for a full minute, wondering if something was going to appear in the mirror behind me, thinking about how fractured I looked and the surreal nature of living out a cinematic scene. It was only when my friend took a photo of me, I snapped out of my strange trance.

Damocles (me). Image courtesy of Alb

Outside, the toilet, the entire central section was completely torn up, so that you could walk where the alleys would have been. Wooden Beams lined the floor, showcasing what the lanes would have looked like if it was still in operation. It was surprisingly clutter free, with only a few beer bottles, and bits of rubbish here and there.

This could not be said for the area adjacent to the entrance. There were numerous holes in the roof, where air-con ducts could be seen, and their padding lined the floor, creating an odd sensation of stepping on carpet. Rubbish was everywhere, following all the way to the bottom right of the building.

The reception desk was tiny, in the far bottom right corner. You could see where they would have served the customers, and the desk itself was largely intact. The rooms behind them, were also surprisingly clean, with shelves that would have stored shoes and a tiny admin desk.

Graffiti was everywhere though, with an amusing pentagram on the floor and various other tags.

But the pièce de résistance, was the iconic Mr Burns, leering over the now infamous quote from the Simpsons.

The Squad. Photo courtesy of Alb.

There was something unsettling about reading the line, and a part of me wondered if this was always at the bowling alley or something done post-closure.

We found that image at the top left of the building, in the area where only bowling alley employees are allowed, the area beyond the lanes. It was boring back there, with storage shelves for the balls, knocked over and several empty trashed rooms that I couldn’t work out their purpose.

For all its intriguing graffiti though, the bowling alley was largely what I expected to be. A great big empty space, with only trace elements of what was. No bowling balls, no functioning electronic dispensers, no shoes, no TVs or anything of value. It had been stripped a long time ago and was now awaiting destruction.

Getting out was just a matter of timing. The building was so dark and sealed off, that we could shine as much light in there as we wanted. So for us, avoiding the police was a void issue. We merely jumped through the fence when no cars were coming by and then walked away to our next spot.

The Abandoned Factory.

The Factory Conveyor Belt. Photo courtesy of Alb.

The abandoned factory is arguably the best find I’ve come across. The location was not just a factory, but also several large brick sheds and compounds. What it’s original purpose is for, I’m not sure, but the entire thing has been built to last.

It’s also next to a giant sports reserve, a freight train line and there was light spilling everywhere from the main highway higher up, the sports centre and the occasional car that would drive past.

Tricky.

So we did what any criminal element would, when they want to get into a place. We stayed in the shadows, found a tree line to merge our silhouettes and climbed through a hole in the fence, to sneak around the back.

The ground was surprisingly mushy with mud and there was a lot of tall grass, which spiked my fears about snakes. I found myself judging my footsteps more carefully, all too conscious that my boots were sinking in mud and grass sometimes more than I wanted them to.

The giant brick warehouse was first. Mostly, because it was closer and less exposed than the factory and I wanted to get the boring one out of the way first.

At first, it didn’t seem likely that there were any entry points. Everything was actually well defended against intruders like myself. Windows had bars going across them, doors had been bricked up and the only large double cargo doors had been padlocked shut.

But, like most of these places,the generosity of those who had come before, showed us a way in. A ledge with a gaping window beckoned invitingly. So we pulled ourselves in and stepped into … what I suspected it was … a fookin big empty warehouse with slopes for a roof and rubbish everywhere.

I wasn’t taking any chances though, because the one thing I hate about any of these places, was the idea that I only had one exit strategy.

So my first step, is to always scope out another exit.

Which ended up taking nearly 15-20 minutes, because the warehouse was so vast and I was walking extremely slowly and carefully, without any lights, my right hand gripping a CRKT M-16 tanto knife, whilst my left was ready with the torch to blind anyone.

It was eerie to be walking in such a big place, with the occasional howl of the wind for company. But I was glad that the moon was bright enough to see my way without risking unnecessary light pollution.

Throughout the entire length of the warehouse, I saw glimpses of graffiti, rubbish and could only hear the occasional crunch of footsteps on glass or plastic, behind me as my friends made their way around the place.

With relief, my friend actually found another exit, this one even easier to get in and out from and from there I could relax a bit, and really take in the atmosphere, which was very similar to so many other places I had been to before.

The ghostly desolation that only places that have been abandoned and neglected for a long time can conjure.

The only truly noteworthy element of the place, was a strange ladder that didn’t lead anywhere atop, and a huge hole in the ground that showed the belly of the warehouse, in which, all of us displayed nervousness in checking out.

That, and what looked like the lower jaw of what is hopefully a fake human skeleton.

Hopping out, we were now buzzing with anticipation for the actual factory.

The only issue was that the only entrance was right in front of the road and quite well lit.

Timing it, we all rushed in and were stunned by the sheer metal nature of the factory.

Unlike so many of the other places we had been to, this was industrial. Sharp metal beams had cracked and were jagged pieces of rust that you could walk into. An old generator lay, rusted and disused in the corner. Wherever we shone the light, there was a slight hint of orange-brown, rust having taken over the entire area.

It was also surprisingly small for an entry way, with concrete above our head and in this basement, we found a fascinating image of another urbex explorer before us.

R.I.P Asha Dirge. Photo Courtesy of Alb.

Then we ventured upwards.

The true scope of the factory was now laid bare for all of us to see.

It was surprisingly tall and empty. Massive blocks of metal were congregated in the centre, and there was just the huge hole in the wall at the back, that we saw from behind.

Walking around, on these rusty old staircases, I found myself testing the strength of each step, uncertain if the whole goddamn staircase would just collapse beneath me.

It was fascinating … walking on these gangways and staircases where men had formerly worked, and I thought about the view they had, when the place was more pristine.

Everything was narrow and tight, with metal beams only inches away from your head at all times and the strange sensation of looking downwards, seeing nothing beneath your feet, knowing that thin metal mesh is all that kept you from falling 5 metres down onto the concrete floor.

It was the big staircase in the corner though that beckoned dangerously.

Industrial Urban Decay. Photo Courtesy of Alb.

One of my friends had already gone up, the first flight of stairs and the view of the highway and surroundings was quite stunning at night. But the highest flight of stairs was far too tempting.

I said in passing …

We didn’t come this far, to come this fucking far.

So we climbed.

The staircase creaked several times.

My heart-rate was pounding furiously with each step.

My eyes kept widening, as they beheld just how high I was off the ground.

My feet tested each step with caution.

Every single step, was oddly too narrow, too close together and was equally as thin as the last.

My hands gripped the railing intensely.

As I got further and further up, I could hear my primate brain screaming louder and louder.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how each it would be to trip on these steps, to tumble down and in all likelihood break my goddamn neck.

Still, I had the presence of mind to tell the other boys to not climb after us. They were to wait below, until we had finished scoping out the top, before heading up themselves.

I didn’t want any more weight on the staircase. The damn thing creaking with two people on it was already bad enough.

Like I said …. my first priority on any of these urbex shenanigans is to get my lads home safe.

It’s why I always take point. If something bad happens to me, they won’t have to go through it.

Thankfully, nothing happened. The view was incredible and there was the old generator that would have powered the conveyor belt. Running alongside it, was the skinniest gangway I had ever seen, stretching over the top of everything.

I took 4 steps and immediately regretted looking down.

I saw nothing but darkness and an empty void.

Committing the view to memory, I slowly walked back down and allowed the other guys to climb up.

After dealing with such heights, I had to take a breather, so I stripped my jacket, beanie and bag off and just sat in the hole, my legs dangling over, enjoying the night air after such a sweat drenched climb.

How the hell does Batman or Spider-Man do it? I thought randomly, whilst sitting there.

Heights … another thing I can conquer, but haven’t quite conquered.

Getting out was an non-issue, timing our exit between traffic and then merging back into the darkness of the night.

The Temptation. Photo Courtesy of Alb.

Urbex really allows me to experience something that I’ve always felt a strong affinity for in general: criminality.

The line between criminality and the military has always been something that isn’t explored very often, but inserting into a hostile country, ducking patrol vehicles and observing locations and egress points have the same objectives as my trespassing into abandoned property and avoiding cameras.

It’s why I’m always geared up to such a high degree. I want to trust my kit, know that all the equipment I’ve bought and collected over the years work.

Because, deep down, there is always that fear in me, that the whole world could go to shit and I want to trust my kit.

What better place and time to test it, than in places that resemble an apocalypse?

Urbex gives me that addicting thrill of seeing things that not many other people in my life get to see.

I know it’s breaking the rules, I know that I’m trespassing, I know I shouldn’t be armed with knives but I’m only there to observe and soak in the atmosphere.

It is so rare to find quiet, desolate places in a city like Melbourne and this really lets me see the darker, edgier version of a town I love and adore.

The whole experience isn’t just about testing your bravery, your senses and your reaction to the unknown, it’s about touching a darker side of yourself.

It’s about conquering the anxiety of reaching out into the dark and walking towards it, embracing it, instead of fearing it.

To explore dark, abandoned places, is to shine a light within yourself, about your fears and primal horrors.

That and it’s fucking cool that my torch looks like a flare in these wrecked buildings.

If only I lived in Europe or Japan, where there are more of these places are available to explore.

~ Damocles.

Red light helps maintain night vision. Having a Pelican 7600 with a diffuser is the vibe. Photo Courtesy of Alb. Flickr