The Devil at 0300HRS

It’s goddamn 3.30 in the morning and I’m deprived of reality after 5 and a half hours of sleep.

It’s been a very long time, since I woke up this early and felt that familiar ache of tiredness and consciousness meld into one surreal experience.

It’s difficult to describe the sensation of craving sleep, yet be unwilling to submit. But that is what I’m currently going through now.

I know I should sleep, but I just can’t.

I don’t want to. I’m too busy thinking about something and nothing at all.

As time ticks on, and on and on … I keep thinking to myself: Why bother going back to sleep?

So the hours crawl by, time is omnipresent and completely ignored by me. I refuse to play to its’ tune. I’m too absorbed in my own existence to acknowledge it.

It’s always around this time, I feel these desperate urges.

I crave Food. Water. Sex. Music … all the darker, base instincts that I normally don’t indulge in are now rushing to the fore, and I can’t stop them washing over me.

I’ve been reduced to a less thinking state, and have become more primeval. All that remains of me, is my stubbornness to sleep.

I’m not going back to the realm of unconsciousness.

This is also the time where I really enjoy some of my darker music taste.

Ominous, rhythmic bands like HEALTH or Massive Attack really help me channel these primitive urges in a sensory manner, stopping me submitting too much.

No, I don’t need that drink.

No, I don’t need to watch porn.

No, I don’t need to go to the fridge.

No, I don’t want to punch everything in sight.

I’m OK, just staring off into the digital world, as these contradictory musical sensations blast at me from every angle.

I say they are contradictory, because they often have the most hauntingly beautiful voices, that clash with the crazy, angry, infernal melodies.

It’s the perfect way to describe how I feel at this very moment.

I want to fall into the depths of my carnal desires, but high above it all, is this perfect line of consciousness and reality that I refuse to let go of.

This rope of surreality is what makes this whole experience so interesting, so compelling that I am willing to sacrifice my health for.

I think more clearly than I have ever done before. I can remember the smallest details. I can genuinely create and envision ideas in my mind. It’s the path to a place of creativity that I often don’t get to access.

It doesn’t happen at 0330 in the morning.

No.

I can’t just wake up this early to be creative. That is artificially creating the sensation.

It has to happen organically.

I have to crave sleep, close my eyes occasionally, before snapping them awake again, the moment I feel the touch of sleep on my mind.

All I can hear right now, is the perfect song, Angel by Massive Attack.

It’s grunge, it’s slow, it’s disturbing and aches of something indescribable.

As I fight all the contradictions that fight inside of me, I can feel myself rebelling against everything outside.

It is bitterly cold, but I am warm.

It is lonely, but I am not alone.

The world is asleep, but I am awake.

I’m fighting against everything. I don’t care what it costs me. I just want to exist in this state for another few hours, deprived and thriving.

Even this very creative exercise, writing …. doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. My thoughts are sporadic, and random, but completely focused on how I am feeling right now, right here, as the sun rises, the darkness retreats and I slowly comes to term with the consequences of my rebellion.

This is self-induced deprivation, sensory and sense-wise.

You would think I would know better. I got a long day ahead of me, an active day.

But I just couldn’t sleep after those 5 hours. I didn’t want to.

I wanted to be alive, no matter how dead I felt.

Yawns are coming in hard and fast. My body doesn’t agree with this creative situation. It’s trying to shut my mind down, but music, digital lights and my stubbornness hold it back.

I can hear myself groan in weariness. My shoulders hurt viciously, from lying on my side for too long. Every time my mouth yawns open, tears of exhaustion streak down my cheeks.

I almost want to sleep now. It’s 0730 in the morning. I’ve been awake in this surrealist bubble for 4 hours now. But it’s getting harder to resist the arms of Morpheus. The ancient God needs to claim his slumber from me and the tears won’t stop pouring.

I think I’m done. I’m can’t stop resisting any more … I need just a tiny bit more slee-

~

It’s 0900 in the morning.

I ended up taking a nap, my body slumped in my chair, my headphones on, Massive Attack’s Love Me, Love Me … lyrics echoing in my head.

Not much sleep, just an extra hour, and even then it wasn’t even that deep, because my alarms were interrupting me throughout the entire thing.

Still consciousness wave-riding even when I need sleep.

Throughout that nap, I imagined all sorts of things. From messages that my friends would send to me in the future, to reading a passage from a book I’ve never seen before.

Lucidity was not on the table, as I went through so many strange scenarios and thoughts. Random memories would pop in, conversations that were intriguing, confessions that didn’t make sense, people that meant a lot to me, but were now lesser …

I’m fully awake now though. Back to my regular self, with my brain chemistry normalising with every minute. The clock has been switched back on, and is running at its normal rapid pace. I can sense time is slipping away from me, and I have to work hard to catch up.

I’m me again, civilised, and in control. No longer a slave to baser instincts and dark desires. Devoid of that surrealist rope and arguably healthier for it.

Hell, even as I am writing all these thoughts out, there is a coherency to them, a natural self-reflectiveness that was lacking in the initial start of this ramble. I’m articulate again.

But it is definitely a strange, fascinating exercise, to be creative that early in the morning, where the angel wants you to sleep and the devil inside of you flat out refuses.

The things I do to feel creative …

~ Damocles.

The Men that have shaped Damocles.

It might be an understatement, but Daniel Craig has shaped what it means to be a man in my eyes.

James Bond. Gabriel Allon. Dirk Pitt. Peter Parker. Jason Bourne. Bernie Gunther. Don Draper. Matthew Hawkwood. Steve Rogers. Jack Reacher. Sherlock Holmes. Rocky Balboa. Haruki Murakami.

Growing up, I had a loving, but slightly absent father. He was supportive when he needed to be, but much of his time was spent away, serving a community that “needed” him.

I suppose unlike a lot of other children, I didn’t think too much of it. After all, he wasn’t an abusive man or a terrible father figure, in fact there is a lot to admire about him, it was just that work was all too consuming for him to pay me any real attention.

I wasn’t bothered by it, nor do I hold it against him. Sometimes, certain people are just built with the concept of “duty” in them and they have to serve that through, no matter the cost.

So I did what I always did. I buried myself in books. Hundreds of books.

And out of those books, came a certain image of manhood that I created to suit my own personality.

Because out of the absence of a father figure, came a vision for manhood.

I’ve clung onto this vision for a long time now. It’s actually something I wrote down when I was fresh out of high school, identifying all the positive traits of my heroes. It was aptly titled …

The Kind of Man I Want to Be.

So let’s start with the biggest influence of them all.

An Art Restorer Assassin: Gabriel Allon.

Gabriel Allon is personally responsible for a lot of my false aliases. He is, without doubt, my favourite literary creation. Reading one of Daniel Silva’s books, is like listening to classical music. It is dramatic, but never inelegant. The best way to describe Silva’s prose is that you are reading something consummately classy.

The way how Silva uses words and breaks them, is always a tiny bit melancholy, but with a showman’s flair that makes for compelling reading. You are instantly immersed, because he captures an essence of what Europe should be … attractive, dangerous and indescribably rich with history and culture.

The character himself, is an incredibly unique creation. Born from the fires of the Munich Olympic 1972 massacre, Gabriel was recruited out of art school to avenge his country and be the tip of the spear that would showcase the true capabilities of an vengeful Israeli government.

Upon completion of the Operation Wrath of God, Gabriel found himself unable to paint anymore, his sense of self shattered by the violence he wreaked across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

So he plunged himself into art restoration, fixing Old Master paintings as a way to atone and seek peace within himself.

The character of Allon is moody, compelling, charismatic and melancholy.

Amusingly, there was no better way to describe Damocles at the time when he first grew obsessed with the books too.

It is thanks to Gabriel, that I learned a lot more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Holocaust and the tragic modern history of the state of Israel.

I also started to listen to more opera, just like the character. Whilst, I may not adore La Boheme as much as Gabriel does, I am a mega fan of Puccini’s Turandot.

Europe soon became this fascinating place of mystery and intrigue, and my desire to learn different languages increased after reading most of the book series.

I also took a lot of writing directives from the books, trying to recreate the easy, elegant prose that dominated so much of my reading hours.

I wanted to be an artist like Gabriel as well. It was around this time, that I actually tried to pick up a pencil and sketch more, something that I’ve recently fallen out of favour with, which is a shame. My sketches weren’t any good, but the fact that the character made me do something uncharacteristic like that is an indication of how alive he was in my mind.

Perhaps my favourite parts of the books are the way how Gabriel and his iconic team operate during a mission. Even now, I can clearly visualise what they are doing, how they are behaving and what each team member would do. It is a testimony to Silva’s talent as a writer that all the side characters jump out with a distinct personality, even amidst the chaos of a terrorist attack on the Continent.

Most importantly though, I wished I had Silva’s talent to write such beautiful scenes of violence and sex. His depiction of violence is always so haunting and lingering, a bit like hearing the sound of a beautiful melody fade in the background. Reading a love scene in the Allon series is a lot like watching a painter loving stroke his brush across canvas … the image may be one of a nude woman, but it’s never distasteful or vulgar.

For a very long time, Gabriel Allon dominated a lot of my personality. I was moodier, prone to melancholy, always paranoid and suspicious (even now, I’m constantly looking over my shoulder) and I desperately sought the arms of any woman that would have me. I found solace in my opera, my long walks and learned to really revel in loneliness.

Just like Gabriel, there is a part of me that still longs for a quiet home on the stormy cliffs of Cornwall, left alone to my devices and near suicidal walks during the worst weather.

What did Gabriel enrich Damocles with?

An appreciation for finer things, despite the ugliness of the world you inhabit.

The World’s most famous Detective: Sherlock Holmes

Another classic literary creation, it wasn’t until I married the iconic series and Maria Konnikova’s Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes that I truly became a more enlightened and formidable man.

Sherlock Holmes, represents to me, the ultimate in situational awareness and data processing.

It is through the character that I truly learnt to appreciate the nuances of bias, logic and unfiltered observation.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I would not be half the man I am today, without Konnikova’s dissection of Sherlock Holmes.

That dissertation, is what gave way to a year long process of retraining my mind and habits to a much more heightened reality. I was obsessed with the idea of truly looking out at the world and understanding just how much information is missed because our conscious mind chooses to ignore it.

One of the examples that have always stuck out to me, is the staircase scenario.

Imagine you are Watson and every day, you climb these flights of stairs to enter Holmes’ office at 221B Baker St. You take these steps automatically, sometimes cursing them for the height they ascend but it is a worthy trade off for a conversation with the world’s most foremost detective.

The question is … how many steps are there on this flight of stairs? You take them every day, but you don’t know how many steps … You think you know, so you hazard a guess of “15?”. Holmes corrects you and say there are 17.

This scenario has always stuck with me, because it brings into question whether you are truly observing life, or whether you can access your subconscious mind accurately.

Watson’s guess of 15 is actually based on his subconscious natural processing of data. It is not like his eyes and legs aren’t aware of many steps they’ve taken up the flight of stairs, they know, it is just his consciousness that is unaware of the exact number.

I learnt to separate both and can access the subconscious data at a whim, with a higher degree of accuracy than most. To feed this subconscious data, which is constantly on, I have made a more conscious effort to take note of peculiarities in life.

The placement of a wet floor sign, the way how a woman walks with heels, the style in which a child might approach me, or even the type of music being played in the background.

Couple these observations with a more military context; continual scans for exit signs, where good cover can be found, what to use as a rag in the case of a fire, the nearest extinguisher or even who has a lighter on them, I like to think that I am a lot more aware of my surroundings than the average person.

But from a more practical interpersonal standpoint, Holmes’ deductive abilities have actually made me a much more empathetic person. I am able to more accurately read people’s moods and body language, and avoid certain pitfalls that others would fall into.

It took me years to really train this mindset and walk into situations with as little bias as possible, but it was worth the trade-off. I always try to come to conclusions after examining the facts, instead of forming a hypothesis and twisting the facts to suit it.

Sherlock Holmes also taught me the idea of the English Renaissance man, a person who is skilled at being a criminal and a detective, a boxer and an artist, a violinist who will dabble in illicit substances to get further clarification on things.

I’ve always strived to be as interesting and complete a man like Sherlock Holmes. I’m not quite on his level, but I am proud to say that I feel like I am closer to the idea of him, than many others.

What did Sherlock give to Damocles?

The power of sight.

The ultimate swashbuckler: Dirk Pitt.

I was late to the Dirk Pitt party.

A fact that I rue to this day.

Because his series is one of the most ridiculous, hilarious and adventurous yarns I’ve ever read.

I was so besotted by the character of Dirk Pitt, that I actually convinced myself that I belonged on the ocean, studying marine biology.

I was never proven more wrong, when I came to the marine biology laboratory and studied plankton for 4 days straight.

Still, that did not detract my love for the character one bit.

Dirk Pitt is the epitome of an old-school adventurer. He is a womaniser, a hard drinker, a man with a taste for the finer things in life, a person who belongs out in the water, searching for the next challenge and treasure. He’s a brilliant and loyal friend to those close to him, but a terrifying, ruthless force of nature to his enemies.

Pitt also has the best quips ever put to page. See the example below.

Context: Pitt and Giordino are flying in a helicopter, on their way to a Neo-Nazi base to rescue a marine biologist and her daughter.

“How much father?” asked Giordino without looking up from the pages of his novel.

“A little less than fifty miles and another fifteen minutes should put us in the hills above the Wolf shipyard.”

“Just enough time to knock out another chapter.”

“What’s so interesting that you can’t tear yourself away from the book?”

“I’m just to the part where the hero is about to rescue the gorgeous heroine who is within seconds of being ravished by the evil terrorists.”

“I’ve read that plot before,” Pitt said wearily.

Context: They continue to fly …

“Our objective is in sight,” he said evenly, without emotion.

“Damn!” muttered Giordino. “Just when I was coming to the exciting climax.”

“Relax. You have another ten minutes to finish it. Besides, I already know how it comes out.”

Giordino looked over at him. “You do?”

Pitt nodded seriously. “The butler did it.”

Dirk also has the best taste in cars, I’ve ever seen from a fictional character.

This ridiculously over the top, romanticised version of a man is exactly what I wanted out of an adventure novel.

To think it all started with a random book I found on my parent’s library, called Atlantis Found.

The moment I finished the book, I knew I wanted more and have subsequently read and completed the entire Dirk Pitt series.

It’s hard to describe how much affection I have for the character, but to put it simply, reading a Dirk Pitt novel is a lot like watching an Indiana Jones movie. The bad guys are cartoonishly evil, the women are more of less damsels but with a hint of toughness that makes them a bit more compelling and Dirk and Al are the perfect buddy cop partners that will ingeniously scrape through despite insurmountable odds.

Dirk Pitt is unrealistic as hell, but he’s entertaining and even if I don’t have his green eyes, muscular physique and smouldering intensity, at least I still have his quips.

What has Dirk Pitt gifted Damocles?

A sense of humour is always needed, even in the darkest moments. That and a love for classic cars.

The ultimate pretender: Don Draper

I’ve always said that if I could pick a face to claim as my own, it would be Jon Hamm’s.

His portrayal of the immensely flawed, but magnetic Don Draper is easily one of my favourite realisations of the broken promise offered by the American Dream.

Don Draper reminds me constantly of how important it is possess and own my personal code on the journey to be a self-made man.

He represents to me, everything wrong with the modern man.

For you see, Don is the perfect analogy for the deep dissatisfaction life can give you, despite being on top of the world.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects about modern life is how shallow it can be, how deeply unsatisfying life can be despite being married to the drop dead gorgeous January Jones, having ownership of a perfect home, and being paid generously for being one of the top marketing men in Manhattan.

Don’s character shows that just because you’ve reached the top, doesn’t mean you will find any deeper purpose or meaning in life.

It’s why he slowly unravels, becoming more of an alcoholic, a cynic and a womaniser. He doesn’t possess any moral or personal codes that will give him meaning. Life is dull, only spiced momentarily by fleeting moments with an unfamiliar woman or poignant, harsh self reflection.

Even though, by all standards, Don Draper is not a man to look up to, I will say … the man taught me on how to mime a cigarette and flirt. He also taught me the value of never lying to yourself and be true to you, in whatever it is you do.

And for that, I’m forever grateful.

What has Don Draper taught Damocles?

What not to do on your journey as a man and how to flirt with women. Also, an appreciation for Christina Hendricks and cocktails.

Captain America: Steve Rogers

A good man.

Whenever I have an attack of conscience, I don’t follow my Christian upbringing and mention some deity.

Instead I think back to Dr. Abraham Erskine, stabbing a finger in the chest of newly transformed Steve Rogers, reminding him of his promise to the dying doctor.

And it gets me every time.

It may not be the best Marvel film in the canon, but I liked the old-fashioned story and characters, the classic good vs evil. What also made me really enjoy the character, is that Steve remains the good man he originally was, right from the beginning of his story in the First Avenger, all the way to Endgame.

There’s a steadfastness to his personality, an uncompromising element that anchors him to the ground, whilst others might get ahead of themselves. I strive to achieve that steadiness, that moral compass that always knows what to do, while others might get confused.

As much as I curse my conscience, something that regularly causes me both pride and consternation in equal measure, I have to respect it. A lot of that I attribute to a desire to be like the Greatest Generation of Americans, people who put aside their petty squabbles and troubles for the greater good.

It is that enduring spirit that I love about Steve Rogers, who represents to me that unique generation that fought the Great Depression and World War II.

A recent example of this ridiculous boy scout spirit came to the fore when I was driving home after my daily run and came across a traffic junction that was no longer operating.

For half a second, I considered just ignoring it, before reminding myself … this is why you follow EDC principles.

So I pulled over to the nearest side road, called the police, reported the situation, before grabbing my hi-vis vest in the trunk of my car and my torch.

I ended up directing traffic for a solid half hour, before the police arrived to correct the issue.

Throughout the entire thing, I kept checking my watch, thinking about the dinner that was getting cold, when the police were coming, the slight pain in my leg from earlier cramps and how I wished I bought the other torch that had a Red/Green/White setting.

But it was fun. I received just … a lot of gratitude. Flashing lights, thumbs ups, car horns … smiles … it was nice to serve the community in an instance like this, despite the potential for getting run over.

After all, this is what EDC is all about. It’s not just for personal self-defence, or an apocalyptic scenario. EDC is about helping others in a genuine emergency or potential emergency. I didn’t want to see people crash into each other, especially because at this T-junction, the corners were quite blind.

Of all the things I expected to do on a Monday night, traffic management was not one of them.

So yeah, I blame Steve for this inner boy scout.

In what way has Captain America inspired Damocles?

Be a good man.

Berlin’s Private Investigator: Bernie Gunther

I’ve always loved reading noir crime thrillers. Before I watched iconic film noires like The Maltese Falcon or Double Indemnity, I actually read the Raymond Chandler books.

So you can imagine my disappointment when I ran out of his books to read. They were so hard-boiled, gritty and remarkably adept at immersing me into the seedy underworld of 1940s Los Angeles, that I craved more.

But none was forthcoming until I discovered an anthology of books called Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr.

Again, Bernie Gunther was an absolute stroke of genius, of literary character and setting meshing together in an perfect symphony of noire story telling.

Bernie is your classic, cynical but slightly romantic private investigator, down on his luck and living in Hitler’s Germany in 1936.

I’ll just let that simmer with you for a second.

A noire crime thriller set in Nazi Berlin.

Nothing could be better. Berlin, at the time, was a cultural icon of Europe, growing ever stronger with the Nazi’s rise to power. There was a real sense of growth and optimism, but this was marred by the strong anti-Semitic sentiment that was being paraded around and the corruption that was being encouraged in the higher echelons of the Nazi party.

Bernie is the perfect hero for the story, a nobody who doesn’t care for the Nazis, a reluctant supporter because he needs to earn money to eat. He gives the audience a view into a world that is normally not discussed and is charismatic, charming and incorrigible in all the right ways.

He’s the perfect gumshoe detective; smart, tenacious and a royal pain in the arse to anyone who had the misfortune of starting a conversation with Bernie.

What Bernie has given me, is a deeper love for historical fiction writing. I love revisionist fictional history, where you can picture this character believably existing in the past, and interacting with key historical figures.

Whilst I dislike the more Assassin’s Creed approach, where the false character influences history directly, I adore the smaller stories that have these personalities inject themselves as “historical footnotes.” For example, it might say in a history book that Reinhard Heydrich had a meeting with someone in Berlin, 1939.

A brilliant author like Kerr would then turn this small footnote into his advantage and schedule his fictional detective into that meeting where they would discuss the current crime case.

Bernie Gunther was a portal to a world that I always wondered about … life in Nazi Germany, but seen through the lens of a noire thriller.

Bernie Gunther gave Damocles what exactly?

A portal into another world and how to say cynical things in a darkly amusing way.

The Napoleonic Runner: Matthew Hawkwood.

Speaking of historical fiction, allow me to indulge in my favourite period of human history: the Napoleonic Era.

Another twist on the “crime thriller set in the past”, the Matthew Hawkwood series by James McGee has delighted me ever since I saw the book cover.

It was the book Resurrectionist that really put the series on the map. Showcasing Regency London at the height of its lawlessness, grime, and uncaring brutality, the Hawkwood series follows Matthew Hawkwood, a “Bow Street Runner”, a specialised officer with more leniency to tackle crime than your average plod.

Dark, mysterious, lethal and attractive, Hawkwood was one of those archetypes that at first, seem like an edgy cliche, but his intelligence and very human reaction to danger, make him much more realistic. I loved that he held an army rank, and was skilled with both pistols and sword. In perhaps a nod to the famous Richard Sharpe series, Hawkwood was also a member of the famous Rifle Brigade that used more precise Baker rifles, and was distinguished for his marksmanship.

Reading the series, I was enamoured with the concept of a Renaissance man again, a person who had acquired many different skills and lessons over a long, active life of servitude to the King. In every book, Hawkwood showcased new sides to himself, from rudimentary Chinese self-defence techniques that he learned from a monk whilst on a voyage from America to England, to employing his criminal networks to catch a fugitive fleeing to France.

This multi-faceted element to the character was what struck me early on. He was purposefully mysterious and vague in the first book, before becoming much more intriguing in the latter part of the series.

Inspired by this example, I’ve mostly tried to keep my talents hidden. I don’t brag about them too much, nor do I go out of my way to prove I can do things better than others.

It is always more organic to reveal skills in the moment than having to prove them due to an arrogant boast.

In addition to hiding some of my talents, I’ve also adopted a lot of Hawkwood mannerisms in my writing, especially for my characters. The frequent use of “the character cursed as he rolled to dodge a sword swing at his head” or something to that effect, is directly taken from many re-read passages from the Hawkwood series.

How did Hawkwood affect Damocles?

I’ve tried my best to cultivate an air of mystery, especially around strangers and my action sequences on pen and paper are better because of this character.

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man: Peter Parker

Growing up, I wasn’t too keen on comic books. But one character that always stuck out to me was Spider-Man.

I learnt his entire story, when I begged my mother to buy the Ultimate Guide to Spider-Man.

It was through this book, I learnt every single villain, every key moment of Spider-Man’s life and all the tragedies he’s endured over his crime-fighting career.

It was a brilliant book and inspired in me a love for the character ever since.

I was so passionate about the character, that for my first skateboard, I actually bought some spray cans and made the iconic red spider logo as seen in The Amazing Spider-Man film.

I religiously re-watched the Raimi series, enjoyed parts but not all of the Garfield portrayal and am definitely fond of Holland as the titular character.

But it was really the game, Spider-Man 2 on my Nintendo Gamecube that showed me just how tough Peter has it. Delivering pizzas, rescuing balloons, stopping random crime and being late to dates with Mary Jane … I mean, I’m amazed Peter even has any time to fix the Spider suit or even socialise.

Which is sort of the point. The character of Spider-Man has always been a tragic loner, a more local hero to the population than the other Avengers. His sacrifices are always quiet and slightly soul-crushing, never really acknowledged for all the good he does, because of the horrible PR job by JJJ.

Despite the personal cost, Peter still dons the suit and goes out there to do his duty.

That perseverance and quiet sacrifice is what inspires me. If Captain America reminds me of the right thing to do, Spider-Man gives me the encouragement to keep going. He’s the continual under-dog, the guy always being stepped on and yet regardless of the world of hurt he is in, he’ll get back up and keep going.

Spider-Man reminds me that you can be a great person, have super-powers and be dating a gorgeous girl, but people can still hate you for you.

Peter Parker taught me to shrug it off and just keep doing what you’re doing.

Spider-Man’s teachings to Damocles:

With great power, comes great responsibility. Still the best line.

The CIA’s rogue assassin: Jason Bourne.

Jason Bourne is one of the few characters where I thought the films were a lot more compelling than the books.

The trilogy had such a massive impact on me that I actually lived an entire year of my high school days, going out in public and constantly checking my six.

My dedication to field craft was so compelling, that I actually developed a short-hand form of communication with my younger brother, whilst looking for our parents in giant shopping centres.

I could track people through crowds, navigate the quickest route from point A to B and even break line of sight.

My obsession with Bourne was total.

Whilst it may have been silly games as a young teen, those skills I taught myself have actually become incredibly useful abilities to have in event work, as well as de-escalating potentially nasty situations.

I know how to make myself invisible, and truly blend with society despite my appearance.

Idolising Jason Bourne was literally all about mimicking his skills. I even went out of my way to buy a monocular similar to the one he used in the second and third film.

Thanks to Bourne, I learnt how to think like an operator. How to really case an urban environment and use it to my advantage, how to really track targets and and become invisible.

Perhaps the most important skill though was how to navigate.

Early on, I realised that street names are fundamentally useless. There are too many of them, with who knows how many, repeated names to memorise and they’re also incredibly imprecise.

So I started using landmarks as reference. As long as I could “see” this particularly building, I would never be lost, because I just had to walk in that direction to get there.

The sequence that inspired this skill, was the fearsome Morocco chase in Bourne Ultimatum, where Bourne has to navigate his way through the city of Morocco to save Nikki from the Asset.

By picking a “compass” heading in his mind, Bourne is able to carve the straightest path there and get there in time to stop her assassination.

I’ve lost count how many times this exact skill has allowed to navigate cities with ease. No matter where I am, Osaka, Nagoya, Sydney, Brisbane or Tokyo, I have never felt lost in my entire life.

I sometimes wonder how clueless my life would be, if I didn’t invest all that time pretending someone was following me.

What does Jason Bourne and Damocles have in common?

Nothing. Just a habit of checking over our shoulder and never getting losing our sense of direction.

The quintessential loner: Jack Reacher

I am an avid Jack Reacher fanatic. Much like the Allon series, Lee Childs follow a yearly publication model, and so it is always with great anticipation I await the release of the next book in the series.

Unlike so many other characters on this list, Reacher has no flaws.

He is a giant of a man, with enough muscle to punch his way out of trouble and enough intelligence to solve any more complex matters for the people that need his help.

Reacher is unfailingly logical, almost mathematical in his violence and logic processing, an addict to coffee (I tried my first ever coffee thanks to him and couldn’t finish it) and he has a great sense of humour and the most masculine taste in music: blues.

Reacher is also in possession of the most enviable lifestyle in the world.

His life, is one of complete freedom.

I don’t think I’ve ever romanticised a person’s lifestyle more than Reacher.

It is perfect.

But what I wanted to delve into is his psyche.

Unlike a lot of other people, Reacher has no real brakes.

The best way to describe this attitude is if you look at the selector switch on your typical military AR-15.

Most rifles have different firing modes, to suit different scenarios. SAFE. SEMI. AUTO.

SAFE indicates that the trigger is unable to be pulled, SEMI means that for every trigger press, a single round is fired and AUTO means holding down the trigger will unleash a torrent of steel.

Military doctrine states that you always used SEMI. You can control the amount of bullets you fire, be more accurate and really evaluate what is going on, with each deliberate trigger press. You never go AUTO unless it’s an emergency.

Reacher’s mind is perpetually on AUTO.

He doesn’t know any other way to live. His fights are savagely quick and brutal, designed for maximum devastation in a short time-span. His mind is always seeking new thrills, indulging in whims.

Reacher just doesn’t care what other people thinks.

What I learned from the 26 plus books, is that my dirty fighting techniques have never rung more true and that if I am ever going to get into a scrap, I’m going to be FULL AUTO the whole way.

What learning can you possibly take away from Reacher, Damocles?

Strike first, strike hard and make sure you hospitalise the bastard.

The Surrealist Author: Haruki Murakami.

Amongst all my books, there exist the one that I would save if a fire ravaged the house.

My first copy of Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

Recommended to me by a friend, Kafka on the Shore alongside Nujabes’ nu-jazz work, has changed my life.

It is without any exaggeration that if I did not read Kafka on the Shore, I would have turned out a lot unhealthier, mentally.

It is through my journey of unpacking and understanding the surrealist dream that is Kafka on the Shore, I understood more about myself than any other book I’ve read up to that point.

I can still recall the strange fugue state my mind was in, as I learned to absorb the story and words without judgement or confusion, just accepting things for what they were.

It was this strange mental state that allowed me to really accept me for who I was, flaws, strengths, desires and needs and see what needed to be improved without any hang ups.

Murakami’s unique style affected me so much, that I started a private blog and created an imaginary friend who is as real to me as my actual friends.

In a lot of ways, Murakami taught me the power of surrealism and how its’ creativity can be used to heal and seek answers to questions that are un-answerable in reality.

Kafka taught me how to harness the power of dreams whilst awake.

And it’s a gift that hasn’t stopped giving since.

Where gift did Murakami bequeath to Damocles?

The power of dreams and how to self-heal.

The Italian Stallion: Rocky Balboa

Rocky Balboa … my fitness inspiration.

I’m no boxer. But I believe in the universal power of getting fit and improving yourself.

Which is exactly what the character of Rocky represents to me. Evidence that you can come from nothing, but through hard work and iron will, you can defeat champions.

I’ve lost count how many times the Rocky soundtrack has inspired me but it is indelibly linked to my fitness goals and progress thus far. I wouldn’t have progressed this far, if it weren’t for the power that Rocky wielded over my mentality.

I also love his character, a thoughtful man with a heart of gold, despite his background and rough appearance. He’s soft in all the right ways, around all the right people, but a hard-charger in the ring.

In addition, his protege, Adonis Creed, has inspired me through various montages, to exercise whenever, wherever, regardless of how I feel or what I’ve done the day before.

There is always a new standard, a new grind, a new benchmark to move beyond the goalpost it was yesterday.

Rocky and Creed taught me the power to believe in myself to go further, to pace myself accordingly and to not give up when the going gets tough.

Without these two boxers, I would not have a single shred of fighter’s spirit in me. I credit them entirely for helping me on my journey to lose weight, to exercise and to train every day.

They’ve made me the fittest version I’ve ever been, and continue inspire me to keep going.

What did Rocky give to Damocles?

A score, a drive and a will.

The English Secret Agent: James Bond … 007

Finally we come to the greatest influence of them all, the biggest factor that has made me the man I am today.

James Bond. 007

I don’t want to portray myself as some hardcore fanatic, dressed constantly in a tuxedo and buying the exact same clothes, drinks and cars as Bond because that would be silly.

Instead, he serves as my principal inspiration for life. I wish to emulate the character but not become a carbon copy.

I’ve always established that about myself from the beginning. I can take inspiration regarding styling and colours, but I will never wear a carbon copy outfit of character unless I’m into cosplay.

Which I’m not. Yet.

I mean, I don’t even like wearing suits that much …. nor do I have any dreams to own an Aston Martin as my first supercar (I’m a Ferrari man). I definitely do not drink alcohol, have never tasted a Vesper martini and certainly don’t sleep around with random women.

I haven’t even travelled the world that much. My only credit is Japan thus far, after 28 years on this Earth.

So why Bond? Why is he my ideal male role model when I am the antithesis of him?

Because he represents everything I want to be.

Whereas all the other characters, I can relate to on some level, Bond is the purest male fantasy character on my list.

I’ve idolised the character ever since I saw him on screen for the first time. He was everything I wanted to be; ruthless, sexy, dark and mysterious. Handsome but with an edge.

Having grown up on Pierce Brosnan, he was my favourite Bond for a while, until Daniel Craig came along and completely upended the formula with Casino Royale, which is still, to date, my favourite film of all time.

Daniel Craig became the embodiment of manhood in my eyes.

His physique was one of functional muscularity, his handsome features were etched with just the right amount of cruelty and his overall demeanour was a man who was could blend with the rich, but was slightly ill at ease doing so.

All of which I have emulated, to some degree over the years. Especially the blending with the rich whilst being armed to the teeth with my EDC gear.

For there is nothing more cool to me than a man who is well dressed whilst also prepared for war. It’s why men like Thomas Shelby, Steve McQueen and even Napoleon Solo remain such style icons for me. They perfectly blend sartorial sensibilities with combat demands.

But the man who really sold it first, was James Bond.

I also loved how Craig’s Bond could be harsh and gentle around his women. His greatest loves have pushed him to the edge, but also saved him from said edge. For some reason, his last female connection, in his final film, was hauntingly similar to how I talked to my own partner, from the soft OKs to the warm jokes.

It affected me greatly, because I know that I put on such a tough front, but the right woman will always bring out the softer side of me, without rhyme or reason. Much like how Bond himself, a man comfortable with being alone, will still need the warm touch of a woman to ease the loneliness, to soothe the hurts and calm a mind left alone for too long.

In so many ways, I’ve critically analysed the character of Bond, and taken from him the best aspects I admire.

His stoic nature, his powerful masculinity that is naturally softened by the right woman, at the right time, the way how he wear his clothes, his walk, his smooth athleticism, his coolness under fire, the way how Bond grits himself during battle … hell even locations he visit … these are all things I love about the character and have incorporated in some way into my identity.

It still blows my mind, just how excited and passionate I am for the Bond franchise, after all these years.

He is still my favourite on-screen male icon, the man that I want to be, wish to be and am trying to be.

I’ll leave aside the sexist elements, cool out with the violence and most definitely cut out the alcohol, but in a lot of ways, Bond represent the old-school ideals of a man.

To be a man like Bond, is still an inspiring motivation for someone like me, lacking that strong image of manhood.

It’s dramatic, it’s arrogance, it’s even vaguely too old-fashioned, but there will always be a need for this type of man.

A man that embraces everything there is to being male. The good and the bad.

It’s why I still idolise him so much. Because through Bond, I’m reminded of what I am, what I should be and even the steps on how I can get there.

There is a scene that will stick with me forever.

It’s the scene of Bond coming in on a yacht, the Bond theme blasting in the background, and walking off his Goldeneye residence’s dock with a spear-gun and a fish in hand. His clothes are tattered but no less stylish, with a contented smile on his face.

It was that moment, I knew I wanted more than anything to live like Bond. James Bond.

What did Bond give to you?

The ideal male role model.

And that is it …

Every single important male figure that have contributed greatly to the formation of Damocles.

There are others, but none as influential, and none as life-changing as these men.

~ Damocles.

Agent Provocatrix

Agent: Provocateur. Woman: Provocatrix.

The longer I’m around a woman, the more likely I am to find her attractive.

It is just one of those things that has puzzled me for a very long time.

Do I just fall in love with women that easily?

Why do I do it every time?

I never realised it during the moment, but now looking back, there were a lot of moments where I was quite infatuated with a number of co-workers, colleagues and even friends.

I’m sure it’s not a unique condition, but speaking from personal experience, I find it vaguely concerning that I really do just fall for anyone, as long as I am regularly seeing them.

So where the hell does this habit come from?

Growing up, I didn’t have a whole lot of interactions with girls. But I knew that I liked them, perhaps a bit too much.

I can still remember watching Top Gun on the TV and seeing that silhouetted sex scene for the first time, and wondering what they were doing. I even recall re-enacting it out of curiosity and wondering what it would feel like to hold and kiss a girl.

In primary school, I had no real concept of girls, beyond their attractiveness and a desire to get to know them better, which was promptly nerfed by an incredible shyness that only exacerbated how tongue-tied I would get around them.

High school wasn’t much better, with my only real interaction with girls being two memorable occasions … playing in a band with one of them and the other being the Year 12 Debutante which I shall elaborate now.

Year 12 Debutante is probably the greatest social experiment for all the boys in the year level. It sorts the hot from the not and I was definitely not anyone’s first draft pick.

Not that I was surprised. I had a hideous hairstyle back then, barely talked to any girls, so why on earth would they pick me?

So it came as no surprise that I wasn’t picked by anyone. But I did look on with envy when one of my closest friends got chosen. It was quite flattering to be chosen, so to miss out was a bit heart-breaking.

What complicated matters that year, were the 2 Italian exchange students who were naturally fetishied for their looks, and European nature.

Which meant that one poor girl, a slightly unpopular individual, who was a bit abrasive in nature, actually got dumped by her chosen partner for one of these Italian exchange students.

Her name was Charlie (not real name).

Charlie wasn’t really well liked by anyone in the school. I had no real idea about who she was, or what she was like, but it was a well-known fact that she struggled a bit socially. She didn’t fit in any cliques, nor had many admirers.

Still, it wasn’t right for her partner to unceremoniously ditch her like that. Especially when they had already done two practice sessions together, to try and nail the dance.

So the call went out.

By then, the sting of being rejected by every attractive girl on campus had already settled in for the majority of the male population. We just didn’t care any more. We had put it behind us, our collective disappointment now superseded by our studies.

Still, our likable Year Captain did his duties. He went around the school, asking every single group of males whether someone would put their hand up to go with Charlie.

He was persistent, and honest, acknowledging that yes, Charlie wasn’t exactly the best pick, but she was the injured party here and she wasn’t all that bad.

Feeling sorry for her, I remember fighting my internal instincts. On one part, I had no interest in going with this unpopular girl. My crush was already spoken for and I didn’t see the appeal.

On the other part, my conscience weighed down heavily on me. I should just put up my hand to be the sacrificial lamb. It wasn’t right what happened to her and I did feel sorry for her, oddly.

So I did the unthinkable. I listened to my conscience, silently cursed Jesus for guilt-tripping me and put my hand up.

I regretted it the moment I said “I’ll go.” Even the Year Captain was shocked.

But the die was cast.

So off I went to dance practice, to meet this girl that I knew nothing about, wasn’t even remotely attracted to and was instantly surprised when she ran up to me and hugged me.

“Thank you! Thank you!” Charlie exclaimed. But I brushed most of that aside, because for the first time, a girl actually hugged me and I could feel every curve against my own body.

The sensation was foreign, almost alien to me. But it felt good.

Studying her up close, Charlie wasn’t as much of an ugly duckling that her compatriots made her out to be. Her facial features were a bit “shrew”-ish, but they were symmetrical, and in all honestly, I couldn’t look at her much in the eyes, because I was still shy.

The first dance practice however went well. I was always a bit gifted when it came to coordination and the moves came easily to me, which meant that Charlie could focus on her moves.

I remember placing my hands on her waist and being as light as possible. I was still struggling through this miasma of emotion when suddenly the call was sent out to switch partners.

Suddenly, I was eye to eye, hand in hand with another girl, a startlingly attractive Armenian girl whose features were as dramatic as they were teasing. She smiled at me and all I could muster was a shy return, and we swirled around together, before it was onto the next girl.

Much to my disappointment, the routine stopped 4 people short of my crush, but I’m pretty sure if that happened, I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Charlie and I did one more practice move, including a dip and a swirl and then it was all over.

Charlie gave me one more hug before dashing off and I was left standing there, bemused and bewildered, until my friend came up to me and asked if I was OK.

“Yeah, I’m good, dude.”

I don’t really remember much about the following dance sessions, but I do remember my parents being excited for me.

I wasn’t. I felt like an imposter. Like I didn’t belong with all the other dance couples. I was the other half of a pity couple. But I was committed now. There was nothing in it, but to do it.

It didn’t help that there was a big rumour mill around this event. The rumour was that one of the richest, hottest girls in the year level was organising a huge afterparty at her place. I remember being so naive, that I asked what the hell was an afterparty and had it explained to me in envious detail.

It was an exclusive affair and again, my best friend was invited, whilst I received no such invitation. Hell, Charlie was so incensed by the fact that she didn’t get an invitation either and organised her own counter party.

And promptly didn’t invite me either.

Which naturally soured my mood to her somewhat on the actual debutante dance.

It also put to the rest any niggling feelings that I was developing for her. Because like any fool, I was getting attached to her with each dance practice. I liked the way how we held hands, how we were well coordinated and how a lot of the sessions ended with a hug.

For her to not even invite me to her party, just hammered the point home … I just wasn’t attractive enough.

But I put these misgivings aside, determined to get through the routine as best as I could.

It went off without a hitch, but my heart wasn’t in it and when the formal dance was over, everyone stormed the dance floor, whilst I sat back at my family’s table and watched as everyone else partook in the revelry.

Sick of the noise and the atmosphere, I chose to go home. I had enough for the night.

It was time for bed and to put to rest this whole bizarre romantic entanglement.

The Year 12 Debutante Ball, was the first real time I experienced this phenomenon which I shall call “provocatrix.”

It’s been a curse ever since.

The reason why I chose this word to describe how I feel, beyond the obvious Bond reference, is because all women, regardless of their level of attractiveness, provoke a reaction from me, once I spend a lot of time with them.

It’s a terrible jinx, and amusingly enough, has quite a parallel to my favourite on-screen spy with his multitude of love interests. After all, a man with that many sexual escapades, with a fondness for them all, has to have provocatrix.

So … if I examine this provocatrix phenomenon further, I’ve come to realise that it is because I create a better image in my mind about the woman. As my opinion of her forms, I suddenly get this urge to test her chemistry with mine.

I start over-looking flaws, seeing them as unique points of appeal. I find myself appreciating features on her face that I didn’t notice earlier. I start becoming more flirtatious and bang before I know it, I’m slightly obsessed over her.

It’s not good but it’s also not terrible.

Because on a positive note, it shows that I’m not the unfeeling, logic machine that I aspire to be.

But on the other hand, generating this much infatuation for a lot female strangers takes a lot of energy out of me and it also creates a lot of internal conflict.

Provocatrix clouds my judgement and I have this constant back and forth about it all in my mind.

Worse, it makes my interaction with a person who is more or less just a friend, confusing and difficult for me.

It’s like trying to pump the brakes on a runaway car going at 300km/h.

In a lot of ways, provocatrix is easily the most powerful emotional response I experience.

Everything else for me is a lot easier to deal with. Grief, loss, pain, disappointment, regrets, happiness, laughter, melancholy … whatever it is, they are dealt with efficiently and swiftly.

I know that my own emotional intelligence when it comes to the matters of the heart from my own context and experience, is remarkably high. I process emotional excess and desires in speeds that sometimes shock myself.

Being this self-reflective, I think I’m much better at handling strong emotions than the average person.

But, provocatrix gets me flustered and confused every time. It’s like experiencing a heady adrenaline rush all over again. It scrambles my normal processes and makes my emotional reaction time slower.

I start to become uncharacteristically eager to chat, resort to important talismans and am more self-conscious about myself.

In other words, the shy teenager comes out of me.

It’s funny how certain elements of you will never be buried, despite your best efforts to move heaven and earth to do so.

In many ways, I’ll always be slightly awkward around women, no matter how much better I am nowadays.

It’s ingrained in me.

Even now, despite seeing the same girl for 6 years, I can still get a little twisted inside whenever I see her. I find it difficult to believe that I am dating her.

There is always that sense of gratitude that she sees something in me, that I don’t quite understand why. I’ve learned long ago to accept her love but never take it for granted. After all, there are better looking people out there and they might even be more interesting.

In a lot of ways, I consider myself a very complete person, except for the most important aspect: being worthy of another woman’s love.

I think that is why I suffer so badly from provocatrix.

I get infatuated with the idea of a woman, which is grown organically alongside with our conversations, our interactions and every single detail of our relationship.

The more we interact, the more the snowball grows, and I start to read too much into every single movement of that avalanche coming towards me.

This feminine storm of my own creation, will keep coming, until it sweeps me up, and I land on my feet in the eye of the storm.

It’s only then, my brain synapses will kick in, logic will triumph and it will shut down this emotional storm in a blink of an eye. Sometimes this might come out in the form of a confession (rare cases) or in most instances, I’ll just metaphorically cut the strings that have wrapped themselves around my heart.

Once I am in the eye of the storm, I’m OK again. I’ve gotten over provocatrix and I can just remains friends with a girl, or literally just be myself around her, carefree and without any malice.

The most mature part of all of this, is that I never hold anything against her. I know that this is a mess of my own making and that she had nothing to do with it. It’s over-thinking in its most destructive form.

The worst part though is that I will occasionally feel some of that provocatrix tornado swirl in the form of an emotional dust cloud.

I will never really get over any woman I was once infatuated with. Once you find someone attractive, it’s hard to see them as unattractive.

But a dust cloud is a lot easier to ignore than the original tornado.

I mentioned this being a curse, because if I am honest, I’ve had provocatrix over so many of my female friends, that it was genuinely problematic.

However, writing this, coming up with my own unique term for the emotional storm inside of me, has helped immensely. I can understand the sensation better and tame it.

The biggest and probably most flattering upside to having provocatrix is that no matter how the girl sees herself, if she is friendly, warm and can laugh at my jokes, I will never consider her unattractive.

This feeling of provocatrix is only heightened if I find her particularly attractive and she shares some of the same passions I do. God forbid, if she is a bookworm or race cars …

Throughout the whole thing, I know that her physical features will grow on me, as will her small habits. I’ve forgotten how many provocatrixes I have gone through with co-workers, but they are numerous and even I’ll be the first to admit, some weren’t stunning women.

But the provocatrix happened and regardless of external beauty standards, I will always be fond of her and her unique features.

Perhaps that is why I have such strong relationships with my girlfriends.

I go through all the stages of love, before settling into being a friend and I’m comfortable there.

I don’t seek more, nor am I confused anymore.

I’m happy being the best friend I can be to these women.

The banter is no longer flirtatious, it’s just fun teasing.

Whenever I look at her now, I see someone pretty, intelligent, smart and funny, who deserves the best partner she can find.

And that partner isn’t me.

And that’s OK.

It’s why I have to careful about who I let into my life.

I just have this bad habit of falling for girls.

In other words …

Provocatrix synonym: I’m a lovesick dumbass that’ll fall for a smile and the promise of a kiss.

~ Damocles.

P.S. I chose that particular image of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley because that was the first ever lingerie ad I ever watched … and because she is wearing one of my favourite lingerie brands: Agent Provocateur, the name sake of this article.

The Frontiersman.

Red Dead Redemption 2 … arguably the most influential game story I’ve ever experienced.

I never really saw myself as a cowboy, until recently.

It’s odd that I never connected the dots sooner, really.

So much of my personality is very much based around the individual spirit, a self-made man whose stoic nature hides some very real anger.

There is the classic rebellious spirit in me, as well as my perchance for dramatic clothing with plenty of masks and hats to spare.

I also grew up reading a lot of cowboy comics, in particular a series called Cheyenne which remains near and dear to my heart.

And I’ve always proclaimed that the ideal pet for me was a camel.

I suppose I never really linked every aspect of that into a lifestyle known as cowboy.

It’s strange, why I feel like I have such a strong connection with the idea of being a frontiersman only now.

I suppose I am romanticising the idea of freedom. Free to explore and wander to the heart’s content. The idea of every day being the same, but not quite, of always being busy but able to get away from work.

The lifestyle just seems so natural.

So what is it, about the cowboy lifestyle that appeals to me so much?

Let’s start with a deep dive into my rebellious nature.

In all great Westerns, there exists a triumvirate of forces pitched against each other for supremacy over the land.

Cowboys, “Indians” and Civilization.

Cowboys and Indians are opposed to each other, because of a long feud that has resulted in many a misunderstanding and even bond to each other. They both want the land for themselves, to live their way of life in peace.

This common theme, of “being left alone to live one’s life as one see fit” is why they will normally put aside their differences to fight Civilization or Modernity in all its complexity and dominating nature.

Civilization wishes to tame both the Cowboys and Indians. They believe both factions are savage, lawless and unprincipled. The idea of a world without strict rules, punishment and taxes is an aberration to them.

The key difference here is that Civilization wishes to dominate the land, instead of live beside it.

The tragedy of the West, is that with their more antiquated lifestyle and technology and in-fighting, eventually the Cowboys and Indians lose the battle, and the world becomes a bit less natural.

For me, that battle has always been a strange internal conflict.

A big part of why I wanted to join the military, was that I would become a better self-made man, I could learn skills to survive out in the wilderness and be self-sufficient.

But there was always this strange nagging feeling that I wouldn’t fit into the regimental nature of the Army. It’s why I promised myself, if I was to enlist, to get through basic training as quickly as possible and immediately apply for Special Forces, because I liked the idea of having a bit more autonomy.

It took me a while to realise, that I could just be my own made man, with the money I made and teach myself these skills. After all, there was no real reason why I couldn’t teach myself how to survive, how to shoot a gun or cook.

I just had to get out there and pursue it. I just wasn’t getting paid to do so by a government institution. All the money for training had to come out of my own pocket.

But I could keep my rebellious nature intact. I could still live my life the way I saw fit.

It’s why I think, despite holding a deep reverence and love for the military, I doubt I would ever enlist. I’ve put that passion and dream away. I’ve made peace with it and found a new love for a new type of lifestyle that doesn’t involve me yelling “YES SIR” to anyone.

Which is how I prefer it, in all honesty.

A big part of the cowboy etiquette that I love, is that there is a strong sense of respect and honour in hard work and loyalty. They are loyal to a fault to their friends and family, regardless of any wrong-doing that they might have incurred in their lifetime.

I’m very much the same way. I’m an arsehole to everyone. No matter what you’ve done, been through or how you view yourself, I’m the same stubborn sonvuabitch to you, as I am to the person next to you.

But if I see you work hard, I’ll give you my respect.

Respect from me, is something everyone earns. It’s not easily given out, nor is it easily recognisable. I don’t hand out compliments and I sure as shit, don’t like people quickly either.

To unlock the soft gooey part of me takes a certain character and a lot of people fail to get past my ruthless professional demeanour.

Naturally this arrogant attitude to respect, automatically annoys every single older person that I’ve met. Especially the Asian variety, where a huge part of the culture is paying that revverence to older people.

My argument to that is …. last I checked, it wasn’t fucking hard to age. All you have to do is be healthy and you’ll live another year. Hell, you can still be unhealthy and get to see another birthday cake.

So why the hell should I applaud you for doing the bare minimum in life?

Age doesn’t equate to wisdom, nor does it mean I got to salute you and treat you like a superior.

~

Another crucial aspect of being a cowboy is a reverence for the land. A deep, healthy respect for the environment and being aware of your impact on it.

One of the most interesting facts I learnt, is that when a person sees a dead animal near a fresh water source, you should automatically move it away and ensure the contamination doesn’t spread.

What if there is another one upstream or downstream?

It doesn’t matter. There is an obligation to you and the environment to move it. Thousands of animals and human beings rely on that water source and if it is within your power, you should preserve it.

For some reason, that lesson stuck with me, long after I finished reading the book. It perfectly illustrated the symbiotic relationship that mankind has always had with nature, how we can help the natural world, and co-exist together.

It inspired me, much to my chagrin sometimes, to constantly pick up rubbish when I see it. Bins aren’t normally far away, and I always feel better knowing that I’m doing something to help the environment.

Would I classify myself as a person, particularly passionate about animal rights and the natural world? Hardly.

I’m just very aware of what I can do and what I should do. I have a lot more personal things to worry about. I can’t solve the world’s pollution, nor its change, but I can do a little bit here and there.

I wouldn’t even necessarily say that I am overly fond of animals either. In many ways, unless my lifestyle truly dictate that I need a pet, I’m not in the mood to get one.

Perhaps that is a very workmanlike attitudes towards animals, but it is truly how I feel. I don’t need dogs, unless they help me to hunt or shepherd cattle, neither of which I am currently engaged in.

Nor do I need my ideal animal companions, a falcon and a horse, because I don’t have enough land to support them and I don’t hunt either. I will also say, as an aside to myself, a desire to go on a hunt, doesn’t mean I should invest in both, either.

Being attuned to the needs of the natural world has always been something I’ve longed admired. If asked on which spiritual, quasi religious ideology I would pick, if I had to chose one, my first instinct would undoubtedly be the Native American philosophy.

I’ve always loved the stories about how the natural world came to be, with references to animals and a “Great Spirit” which was always more nebulous and mysterious than the Christian variant. There is something more eerie and wondrous about stories being passed down from elder to elder, knowing that some are more embellished than others, but retaining the same moral and spirit of the tale.

The power of a common “story” is infinitely more believable and touching than a doctrinal, regulated and sanitised tale that has resulted in the most published book in the world. The reason why, is because the human story-teller adds their own humanity to the story, to the myth of creation, instead of a committee than decrees “God” must have created the world in 7 days, to match a work week.

Even as a child, reading and learning through fictional cowboy stories, I felt that sense of wonder and awe for the natural world in those books, which was far more than anything I got out of reading the bible.

In creating a great mystery, you learn to be humble before it, and understand your place better in the world. Man wasn’t put here to control nature, we were designed to help the natural world and be quiet, humble shepherds.

~

In today’s world, there isn’t really a proper need for a violent man.

We are beyond that now. Less soldier, more warrior-poet.

I can see how much more mentally healthy current soldiers are now. So many of them seem more adjusted to the rigours of warfare. They’re eloquent, philosophical and incredible teachers, especially from the ones I see on social media.

They’re are now more adjusted to civilian life than ever before.

But the possibility of violence is always within everyone.

Which is why I sometimes believe in the power of a fist-fight.

The life of a cowboy is inherently quite masculine. It breeds tough people, for tough times. There’s a practicality and innate roughness to the lifestyle.

Doing such hard work and dealing with the same people day in and out, will bring out emotions that will test anyone, no matter how long their history with the other.

Tempers flare and emotions will run hot.

Violence is just another expression of that.

It’s a language in of itself. Perhaps that is what separates civilized folks and frontiersmen.

Frontier people understand that life is fleeting, that at any time, lighting itself could come down and strike you dead. It’s why they let emotions rule them a bit more.

But the way how they express that emotion is more complex. They can say a lot with a nod, a shared pipe, a quiet moment by the camp-fire or through terse words and grunts. Frontier people can afford this short hand style because almost every interaction they have with other people, is more intimate. Strangers can quickly become friends or enemies, and the group you run with, are your family.

Which is why, for some, violence is just another form of communicating.

Sometimes, you need to beat someone to make them understand.

There’s a strange logic behind it, that I can almost empathize with. Sometimes words aren’t strong enough. There will always be a simmering tension between two men. This friction can quickly boil over to resentment and other bitter emotions.

Especially considering if both parties consider themselves the alpha, and are stubborn and intractable men with difficulty expressing their emotions.

Thus the only recourse to settle differences is with fists.

There have only been 3 occasions in my life where I’ve thrown punches in anger. The first one was exhilarating. The second one was an ass-whopping that I definitely had coming. The latest one was out of fear.

But I’ve never really thrown down in a competitive way, a way to assert dominance over the other. To really show the other man that I’m the boss.

Well, actually … as I am writing this, I remember coming close.

This story I am about to tell you, isn’t really a reference to how much of a cowboy I am, but more an intriguing test of my character that showcases just how much control I have over myself, to not resort to violence.

It is the final hours of the festival. A festival that I’ve suffered through and put together for 6 months.

I’ve been put through the wringer for approximately 96 hours now. My inner rage is what put one foot in front of the other, what fuels my hoarse voice as I bark orders and haul tables with my team. I’m tense but still able to crack foul jokes and maintain a certain light-hearted banter.

After all, the festival is largely a success, but this year, there has been a lot of … incidents that have made me furious that everything did not go perfectly.

Case study 1: Some stupid kid, heartbroken over his breakup at the festival tried to jump 6 metres to the ground. In front of the first aid room. At a height that will only give him a broken leg.

Resolution 1: Security talked him off the ledge and when I got the report, all I could was give a derisive snort. No sympathy, just an exasperated sigh of frustration at the stupidity I have to deal with at this festival.

Case study 2: A ride operator makes a mistake, and a kid falls out of a Zorb ball, into 30 cm high water. He is a bit upset, but is overall fine. The parent however is incensed and starts making a fuss. I’m called over to deal with the situation. I offer the kid a towel, but he’s fine. Just wet. But no, in his father’s eyes, his child nearly drowned, is suffering from hypothermia and threatens legal action. His friend agrees and starts making threats about calling Work Safe down to the festival and shutting the whole thing down.

Resolution 2: I had to spend 1.5 hours with this irate, stubborn moron and his dense chatterbox of a friend, missing the fireworks and my team’s celebration of the new year. In the end, we agree to do absolutely fucking nothing, cos he has no case. He doesn’t thank me, is still rude, is unable to see beyond his own small personality, steals my personal towel because he’s a self-righteous prick and I’m close to punching him in the throat.

Case study 3: An actual pervert somehow manages to slip past security. Now, keep in mind, I’m paying security an extremely hefty fee to look after my festival, so you can imagine my displeasure when I’m the first one to spot this creep in the children’s area. He’s wearing a long coat, with nothing underneath but a pair of speedos and running shoes. The reason why I can spot him, is because he’s holding the coat shut with his hand, but his bare legs keep coming through. And he just got this disturbing look. His hair is greasy, he’s sweating slightly and his movement is erratic. So I follow him, constantly keeping eye contact with him, almost encouraging him to do something, because if he does … I’m going to crash tackle him to the ground and beat the shit out of him.

Resolution 3: It takes security more than 10 minutes to respond to my call and I let them and the police escort the creep out. I’m not particularly happy, because security took way too long to respond and I don’t understand how they let the weirdo in, in the first place.

So with all those case studies in mind, (there were other incidents too), be aware that my mental state isn’t exactly in the mood for any more bullshit.

So imagine to my surprise when I see a complete stranger, a festival attendee just start helping out with the pack-down. At first, I’m too busy coordinating with the food stalls to ensure a safe release. So I don’t pay him any attention. I don’t really think anything of it. It’s almost nice to have random people help us pack up.

But the alarms bell start ringing when I finally catch a breather, and can coordinate my team of volunteers, who number now in the 30s. Keep in mind, that everyone who has worked at the festival, know that I am the event manager. This festival is my baby and mine alone. This is my kingdom and no one will de-throne me. But to the outside world, no-one knows who I am. No-one is aware of my true power over this domain.

I like to keep it that way. I don’t do this sort of work for recognition or fame. I do it, because it’s fun, and I get to have more experiences with my friends.

By now, the team is well aware that during event hours, I am a tense human being. I’m unnecessarily harsh, stressed over the stupidity that surrounds me and am barely holding myself together, tottering on the edge of exhaustion and far too many Red Bulls.

It doesn’t help that when I walk over to my team, I’m holding a crowbar, and scowling.

As I am walking over, I see this stranger bossing my team around. I frown and glare. Who the FUCK is this guy? I walk over to one of my closest friends and ask who is this stranger and why is he barking orders? My friend says he doesn’t know, but he’s an arrogant guy.

I ask a couple more members of my team. They all agree that he’s a bit of a douche, he’s bossy and they doesn’t know where he came from.

The stranger is loading trestle tables into the truck, when I decide to walk up to him. I tell my team that I want the tables placed in a certain way. The stranger disagree with my orders. He tells them to do it his way.

Something inside me snaps. This is the final straw. I’ve had this simmering anger inside of me, raging for the past 48 hours.

“I’m sorry, but who are you?” I ask testily

Me?” says the stranger incredulously. “I’m the boss.”

Everyone has stopped working. They’re all staring at me and the stranger. They can’t really believe what is going on.

You can picture the scene, I’m on the left, dripping in tactical gear, my Formula 1 Red Bull shirt, barely covering the thigh rig that is decked out with knives, cable ties, tape and a radio. My right hand is tightly gripping a crowbar and I’m leaning in close, to make sure I’m hearing everything correctly.

On stage right, the stranger is all casual, a loose white t-shirt, cream shorts and sneakers that are too expensive to work in. He’s defensive, psyching himself up for this argument with me. He’s not going to back down.

Everyone, I can tell, is eager for this showdown. They want me to put this upstart in his place. I’m not going to disappoint.

“You’re the boss?” I repeat. “You’re the boss?” The stranger smiles at me cockily. Without realising, my grip on the crowbar tightens.

No.” I smile tersely. “I’m the boss.”

“No, you’re not.” exclaims the stranger indignantly. “I’m the boss! You can’t tell me what to do!”

“No. I am. If you don’t start backing down,” I threaten, “I’m going to call security and have you escorted off the premises.”

“You can’t be the boss.” says the stranger incredulously. He looks over at the crowd for support but sees none is forthcoming. “I know people! I’ve been working here all weekend!”

I merely raise an eyebrow. “You know people. You’ve been working here all weekend.” I repeat with a smirk.

“Yes! I know P—-! He will vouch for me.”

“No, he won’t.” I coldly reply. “He’ll say the exact same thing. I’m the boss here.”

“What the hell? No! I know him. He’ll vouch for me. He’ll say I’ve been working here for ages. I don’t know who you are, but you’re in trouble if I get him over here.”

I feel the urge to laugh. This little shit has no idea who I am. Who he is fucking with. The man in question is my own father. He has no clue who I am.

“Go ahead. He’s just going to say the same thing I’ve been saying. I’m the one in charge here.”

The stranger runs off and in search of my father. I just shake my head and place the crowbar down in the truck bed. I reach for my radio, exasperated and sick of the shit.

“Security? Hey, I got a festival goer who refuses to leave. Please escort him off the premises.”

“You got it. On my way to you now.”

The stranger comes over, my father in tow. He has a smug smirk on his face. I’m coldly amused.

“This is the guy P—-! He says he’s the boss and that he wants it done his way.”

“Damocles?” asks my father confused. “Yes, he is the boss. Whatever he says, you have to do it his way”

I look at the little twerp with a cold glare and cock my head.

“But … I … who is he to …” stammers the stranger.

“Look, I don’t really know what is going on,” says my father, “but Damocles is the event manager. He is the one in charge here. If you have any issues, you have to talk to him.”

My father walks away and we look at each other.

“Get your gear and leave the premises. Now, or I will have security escort you off.”

The stranger walks away forlornly. He tried to play his shitty hand, but I owed every single fucking card in the deck. He tries to strike up a conversation with my team, but everyone ignores him.

Security arrives and I motion them to the stranger, who waves at us, cockily, whilst I shake my head in disgust.

“What an asshole” I exclaim, before getting the team back into gear again. Moments later, security, reading my body language and tone, call back with news; they’ve deposited his dumb ass in the middle of nowhere, with a long walk to any available public transport.

All I could do was smile and laugh.

Looking back, I am quite surprised that I didn’t thump the bastard. He was cocky, arrogant, rude and incredibly disrespectful. He had the temerity to boss around my team, people who had been on site for 96 hours or more and somehow expected to get treated as one of the squad?

But I knew deep down it wasn’t worth it. People like that, just weren’t worth the jail time or bruised knuckles. The biggest disrespect I could dish out to a guy like that, was to not give him any more of my time.

Despite it all, the huge amount of stress and problems that the festival had thrown my way, this final problem still proved that I wasn’t ready to unleash my inner violent nomad.

Dealing in violence is easy, living with violence isn’t.

Would I ever get into a fight with my friends?

It’s highly unlikely. We’re too gentle. Too reflective and in all honesty, too soft. We don’t have the hard-edge that comes naturally to people who were raised on the frontier.

I mean, my own inclination to fight, is always superseded by my flight instinct. I do my best to prepare for a fight, but really, my first instinct is to slap some cardio on pavement and don’t look back.

I can trust my inner cornered tiger though, to fight incredibly dirty. It’s all I ever known, dirty fighting, which makes violence, as a language to me, difficult to express on a friend or colleague.

Perhaps one day, I’ll actually let my fists to the talking. It’s just hard to comprehend in the context of my own life. I’ve never fought, as a adult, for the joy of fighting. I’ve done a combat sport, but that was still civilised and involved swords, so I don’t really count that.

Perhaps, it’s high time I really invested in Krav Maga classes ….

~

The final element that I want to talk about is self-reliance and EDC.

EDC (Every Day Carry) is a self-defence and prep philosophy that stemmed from first responders and serving military members, who found themselves in risky situations when out of uniform.

Granted, Melbourne isn’t known for its high crime rate or home to a vast majority of organised crime, but I still engage in EDC anyway.

As you are probably aware, before I walk out of the house, I always perpetually have on my hip, a Pelican torch, a Leatherman Skeletool, a tourniquet and my latest acquisition, a Leatherman Raptor Medical Shears.

I am First Aid trained, and regularly brush up on my knowledge. At first, like every military obsessed fanatic, I saw my tools as a way to defend myself.

I would practice de-escalation techniques, with clear eye contact, open hands and a gentle but firm tone of voice. If things went bad, my right hand would drop to my hip and draw my torch out, blinding them, before sprinting away.

If somehow flight wasn’t an option, I would use the torch in a two high combo. I would activate the strobe effect, before delivering a uppercut with the torch.

And if somehow combat was now the only way out, the Leatherman Skeletool would come out as a last resort, and the knife would be slashing at any tendon it could find.

A torn Achilles’ tendon would make for a difficult pursuit.

But in reality, whilst I have rehearsed many of these moves, practiced and prepared myself mentally for these occasions thousands of times, my tools are just that … tools that I actually use every day.

With the small arsenal on my belt, I can help people find items they’ve lost, scan my surroundings, fix screws that have come loose, cut paper or simply hammer down an annoying item.

And it’s that self reliance, that ability to problem solve whenever the occasion arises that make me think of a cowboy attitude to life. No matter the obstacle, with the resources at hand, you can get by with ease.

You’re always ready, because you never know what might pop up. It could be a small problem like taking apart a light with your Skeletool or facing down a drug-addled lunatic who is shouting paranoid nonsense at you.

Either way, it pays to have certain items on hand at all time, and it pays to always be situationally aware.

~

I don’t want to rattle anyone bones here. I’m not making some bold claim, that I’m a genuine cowboy, that I can ride, lasso, shoot and punch my way out of anything.

In fact, I’m pretty certain, I look quite naff with a cowboy hat on, despite buying one. After all, try as I might, I can’t disguise the fact that I have never ridden a horse and that is enough to sink me.

So Damocles, I hear you ask, what was the point of this ridiculous 4000 word blog post?

The point is that I am identifying elements behind the mythological cowboy that I wish to emulate, adopt or merely note the similarities between myself and the idea of a frontiersman.

After all, even after all this time writing, I am still not quite sure what type of man I want to be.

I have so many ideas about what it means to be a man, that even just one of those, needs this ridiculous 4000 word diatribe about how I identify with the tenets of it.

I suppose, at the end of the day, I admire the idea behind the cowboy, but I’ll never really become one, despite my desire to dress, behave and act like one.

I’m too busy trying to work out my other passions into the whole persona of Damocles.

Because at the end of the day, even I don’t know the full extent of myself.

I’m still searching like everyone else.

This cowboy phase will soon be regulated next to the ranks of racer, fencer, reader, urbex explorer, event manager, shooter, and all round trouble-shooter.

God, I really need to rein myself in.

~ Damocles.

Mirror, Mirror …

Have you ever glared at yourself?

When the world is collapsing around me, I like to go to the mirror and stare at myself.

What am I looking for?

Signs of damage of course.

I’m tracing my cheekbones and noting how sharp or blunt they look. I’m recording in my mind; the sallowness of my skin tone, the weary bags under my brown eyes and even the way how I look at myself.

Am I standing straight, are my shoulders back? Can I see how much the world weighs on me? How often do I sigh … how often do I break eye contact with myself? Am I healthy or overweight again?

Am I breathing evenly or am I on the verge of some panic attack?

I take note of everything, from the length of my chin hairs, to the way how my jaw clenches when I’m frustrated, angry and determined.

But it is my eyes that I study the most.

Are they still burning brightly or have they been dulled?

Am I still the man I strive to be?

Do I still have what it takes to rise above it all?

If my eyes glare back, my jaw clenches tightly and I am breathing heavily, then yes. I still have what it takes.

I’m not downtrodden, disappointed or defeated.

I can still fight and win.

I can think myself out of this situation, slay the dragon and get home safely.

I still have more life to give, more willpower to spare, more energy to release.

I’m still me.

I’ve mentioned it before, but mirrors aren’t really mirrors in my eyes. They’re a crucial mental health tool for me and a portal to something darker inside.

I’ve always had a bit of a strange fear of mirrors. I’m terrified of the day when one day my reflection might move without my permission, or that one day it’ll talk to me.

But like any fear, you find yourself consumed slightly by your obsession with it. I’ve had long staring contests with myself at night, when there is only moonlight coming from the window to illuminate my face.

It’s truly eerie to stare at yourself in the dark. But I’m transfixed. Because the fear that I might start moving without realising it is too strong.

Mirrors don’t serve as a vanity item to me. They’re a check-up tool, to examine how healthy I am, a reminder that I can always be doing more exercise, performing better or engaging in daily skincare routines.

They help me remember important tasks and to live life more effectively without compromises to my hobbies and extracurricular activities.

I’ve always found it bizarre that the only time we can see ourselves is when we stare at a mirror.

We live our lives, knowing what everyone else looks like at all time, but only infrequently see ourselves.

It’s no wonder that people spend so much time staring at themselves. We can’t help it. It’s a constant source of curiosity, as if we almost forget what we look like.

Perhaps this is why narcissism is on the rise. A selfie camera allows you to see yourself almost instantaneously. We fret over ourselves a lot more than we normally would in the yesteryear. We look inwards and thank our genes that we are better looking than other people.

But such insecure fragility isn’t something I recommend.

Mirrors aren’t meant to help you look your best at all times.

They’re there to remind you of who you are, from every flaw to every beautiful line. From each imperfection all the way to each wonderfully unique element of you.

You’ll never look the same, when you stare at a mirror again.

Every time you look at yourself, something subtle would have changed.

It’s why I fear the mirror. It’s a powerful tool that should only be used sparingly, to remind me of who I am, what I am capable of and to reflect deeply upon the choices I’ve made that has created such change on my body and face.

When I look at myself in the mirror, I’m not just staring at face.

I’m seeing the sum of a man, who is a bit haggard, rough around the edges but is still capable.

I don’t see a particularly good looking man either.

I won’t be gracing magazine covers or turning heads on the streets.

I see symmetry, a decent jaw-line that does a good job of clenching and emphasizing my moods.

The barest hint of cheekbones, that when hit with a decent light, showcases how long my face is.

A permanent frown, that can be lit up into a smile that hurts my jaw when held too long.

Tanned skin, that is getting paler in the winter, marred by too many beauty marks, especially around my eyes.

Dark brown hair that lightens up considerably near my forehead and is perpetually sweeping right.

Dark brown eyes that would look better if my eyebrows were more defined.

Posture wise, I see a guy who is bizarrely confident in himself, constantly squared on to people, unafraid of making eye contact and always stretching his shoulders.

A relatively lean figure that could be improved with at least a 2-3 kilogram loss to ensure a more fit & trim physique.

To sum up what I see in the mirror … I’m an average male, not handsome nor ugly, with no real particularly stand out features, beyond my eyes which express a whole lot more than my facial features.

I think I have introspective and focused eyes, eyes that are constantly scanning my surroundings and looking into the past to try and prevent mistakes in the future.

But as I’ve mentioned, before this descriptive literary self-portrait …. I am not just a face.

I’m the sum of a man, plagued and blessed by good and bad choices, tired of his workplace, proud of his hobbies and working damn hard to remain interesting and … in need of some sleep or Red Bull.

I could use a walk away from my reflection though.

When I do finally break eye contact with my mirror self … I’m always haunted slightly by the idea, that somewhere else, in an alternate dimension, another Damocles is having a more successful time than I am.

And I can’t stand that thought.

~ 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.

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 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