HELLO INTERNET BOY #27: this is hard

to be honest this project has become hard and i’m not entirely sure why.

It’s difficult to evaluate a situation when you’re in the middle of it, like when everything is on fire, you know that everything is on fire, but you might not know why yet, that it was old Mrs Henderblurgh falling asleep with a cigarette in her bed. That is a massively melodramatic metaphor, but my point still stands. This project has become hard. I don’t believe in writer’s block – i’ve never sat down and not been able to write what I want. But in this case, it’s not so much that I’m sitting down and not being able to produce the words, it’s that the project feels like it doesn’t want to be written. There’s a sense of finality to the experiment – I went overseas and I met my internet friends and they transmogrified into real person friends and that’s that. The process seems so normal, it almost seems unremarkable. Not that they’re unremarkable, just that they’ve become a more coherent part of my life, a more private part. Before this, they existed only on social medias and websites. They seemed part of the world, partly owned by everyone. Now they are like the majority of my friends, folded into a more private seam of my life. Now that I’ve written about meeting them, it’s difficult to write beyond that.


or perhaps it is because my confidence was shaken quite severely after I received some feedback from one of the stories I posted, which upset its recipient. It was all resolved, it was all as honest as mistakes can be, but it made me second guess the practice of writing about other people, about filtering a life into a story. It made me remember the heady days of fiction, where nobody can be hurt because it’s all make believe, all untrue.

But the best way to solve things like this is to write through them, and write about them, so I’ll just keep writing and see what happens.


NYWF 2015: The happiest time of the year is here agaaaaaaaaaain

It’s that time of the year again, when the decrepit old cow that is the city of Newcastle is covered in a fresh infestation of young writers: The National Young Writers Festival.

This year is probably my tenth year of attending the festival in some form – I’m writing up a kind of review, a kind of nostalgia trip for my Cliffwalk event on Saturday morning, where I go through the memories that remain from ten years of writerly festival fun. I goddamn love this festival, and I’m so excited to go again. It’s insane to me that I’ve been going for so long. Here’s my oldest photo of me at the festival.


Look at all that hair. Look at the youthful optimism in my eyes. And now look at me.


This year I’m doing a bunch of cool things, the details of which will follow. We’re bringing the dogs up again, considering Ernest was the goddamn star of last year’s festival. I’ll be launching (AGAIN) A Man Made Entirely of Bats, which has always been a dream of mine – having a goddamn book at my favourite writers festival. Pretty spiffy.

I also can’t stop thinking about the fact that my friend Kat Muscat won’t be there. NYWF has always been our time – considering she lived in Melbourne and me in Sydney, it was the one time a year we were guaranteed to spend time together. It seems unfeasible that I won’t catch her walking down Hunter Street, or catch her eye across the room. This year’s festival has been dedicated to her, which is so suitable, considering she represented so much about what NYWF is.


Here’s the things I’m doing!

subbed in: XXL | Foghorn Brewhouse | Thursday, 2 Oct, 7:30pm

Reading some cool INTERNET LIT with some COOL FOLKS. This is gonna be a party.

Walking Tour: Clifftop Tales | Starting from Staple Manor, 48 Watt Street | Saturday 3 Oct, 9.30am

I am basically recollecting all over the goddamn place. Ps, I have never lived in Newcastle.

Short Stories | United Services Club (aka GUN CLUB) | Sunday, 4 Oct, 4.30pm

This was gonna be a panel with Jack Vening, Abigail Uhlman and me, but Abigail dropped out, so now it’s a conversation/ continuation of the greatest romance ever told. Me and Vening are going to talk about short stories and make too much eye contact.

Late night readings Breakups and Breakdowns | Royal Exchange | Sunday, 4 Oct, 10.30pm

I’m gonna read a story!

Hope to see you there!



When I left the US, I felt like I was ready to slip back into my life, like a greased up seal into a warm bath. To quote Spencer Hastings quoting Winnie the Pooh, ‘How lucky I am to have known somebody and something that saying goodbye to is so damn awful’. I was ready to face reality, but with a host of great memories backing me up, like sassy broadway dancers and this was my big solo number in the musical of my life, which is probably called something like ‘That Stupid Guy – on Ice!’

But reality, in all its inimitable style, has really managed to be quite grinding. As always, there is an adherence with jotting down emotional truths in this series that I am usually quite comfortable keeping to myself. Mostly because when you write about your minor troubles, you sound massively whiny. But glossing over little whiny truths is the beginning of the rose-tinted glasses recipe.

There were lots of little things – the sudden realisation that I’d massively under-planned my budget and I was broke, the credit card debt, the endless jet lag, the cold, cold Sydney winter. There was sitting in the hospital as the doctor failed again and again to insert a needle into my hand as he made small talk about my trip. ‘Sounds amazing’ he said, jabbing into a new clenched vein, while I held a bandage to all the other ones. ‘Bet you wish you were back there now!’

There was the moment where I fucked up an opportunity I was working really hard towards, and an argument with a journalist who misquoted me, a big decision I have to make, without the framework to actually do it. A friend died, and then I watched as people who were close to her were devastated and destroyed.

Life was really being very real, you know?

Even the project itself, which had been giving me little sparkly, tingly feelings that I find I get when I’m doing something special, something exciting, even that became tainted somehow, when one of the first things I published when I got back into the country managed to massively upset one of my roadtrip buddies. It was purely my mistake, a mixture of a poorly written sentence and a flagrant disregard of why mentioning that story and those issues could be upsetting. All those questions about the legitimacy of writing about people’s lives, the hows and the whys of reducing friends into quick stories with three measurable beats and a trite takeaway, they suddenly seemed far more pressing, far more of a concern. The impetus to actually write anything dried up, and I’ve been waiting patiently for the words to come back, which they’ve now done, today, while I am hopped up on medication. Last night I woke up sweating and expelling various gross things from my face and I thought I was back in New York, when I was sick there and I tried to blow my nose softly so I wouldn’t wake up my sad European AirBnB hosts who were sleeping in a loft bed about 42 inches from me.

The problem with reality is you can never fade away from the hugging scenes with four cars driving off in different directions after A has been successfully unmasked. Instead, there’s always another series to milk. The episode just keeps on going. It’s messy and weird. But at least everyone gets new haircuts.

The last paragraph probably makes no sense if you haven’t seen Pretty Little Liars. Oh well.


HELLO INTERNET BOY #25: Bye, bye, bye (Bye bye bye)

I am sitting in LAX with a big glass of wine and seven hours ahead of me until my flight back to Sydney. I don’t really mind the wait because it is the opposite of panic. Later on I will power-walk up and down the terminal like my mother used to when I was a kid. I will douse myself in creams and unguents in Duty Free. I will spend the last of my US currency on a chocolate bar.

In Chicago, a security guard named McBeth checked my hands for explosives. There’s not really anything else to this story, I just want to remember that someone named McBeth exists in the world. I hope he isn’t an actor, because then his castmates would have to call him ‘The Scottish Play’. On my plane from Chicago, there were two dogs and a cat. I asked the guy with the dogs if he’d sedated them, as they were completely silent the entire trip. He looked at me like I was a monster. My dogs would have gone insane and probably crashed the plane.

It’s good to write all these details down, because it’s the specifics that disappear first. A security guard just zoomed past on a segway. Some kind of teenage sports team surrounded my chair and all shook hands earnestly. They’ve moved now – maybe they can see I’m writing about them. When I look at all the photos in my phone, there are already some I don’t remember taking. I’ve seen so much art in museums that I can’t possibly remember it all – just the broad strokes, the famous ones, the idea of seeing them. But it doesn’t invalidate how much I enjoyed looking at them in the moment.

This trip has been a soup of different feelings – it’s been scary, sad and boring, and also exciting and mind blowing and comforting and calm and all the other superlatives. It’s felt like it would never end, and like it was rushing past in a flash, like when my road trip buddies would yell ‘we just passed through Kentucky’ and I didn’t even KNOW we were in Kentucky.

I’ve met people. I’ve met old old friends for the first time, which is a sentence that sounds like it contradicts itself, but i’ve proved it doesn’t and it was a beautiful feeling. I’ve met new, amazing people, that are wonderful and that I respect and that are just great. I’ve met people who are probably not amazing, but shit damn they’re going to make some great microfictions.

I’ve seen things – I’ve sat in the green room of the UCB theatre before going on stage myself, and recognised the couch I sat on as the same one that Amy Poehler and Horatio Sanz ate pizza on in a video. I’ve been up tall buildings and looked at famous vistas, and climbed bridges to look at beautiful lakes and forests. I’ve driven past gas stations owned by the FBI and giant Jesus statues and scary country roads that practically scream “meth”.

I spent more time sick than I wanted, and I had a lot of nights where I had to go home to look after myself. Sometimes I didn’t know if I was bailing because I was looking after my physical health, or because I was overwhelmed and needed to look after my mental health. But in the end, I managed to do two comedy intensives and not miss a day, and not poison myself with all the food I can’t eat, so I count it all as a win.

I feel like I’m supposed to be sad that it’s over. I’m not, I’m just happy that it happened. I feel like I had amazing experiences. I learnt a bunch of really good comedy know-how. I wrote a bunch. I had lots of fun. I didn’t learn anything about living more in the moment or appreciating stuff, because I’m not writing Eat, Pray, Love. I don’t think you’re meant to treat every day like a traveller, because there’s other stuff to do. I dunno, I haven’t thought this through. I’m also not sad it’s over because I’m lucky enough to have a life that I’ve been missing intensely. I’ve missed Bridget every second of every day, and my dogs, and my gorgeous friends and their space-frat-christmas parties, and my family. I’ve missed my home and my silly job and my shoes and my city and my shirt and an egg. I am very lucky.

It’s also not quite over, because I have so much more I have to write about this. But I feel like leaving is a feeling you have to write in the moment, so I have to write this right now. Because it’s a feeling that is bittersweet and nostalgic and makes you look forward to getting home and sad you’re leaving. It’s also good to write about now because I’ve had seven hours to sit around, and I already wrote it once and Facebook deleted it, but here I go again. But mostly I need to write this now because in twenty something hours I will be tired and jetlagged and stinky and cold and hungry and the most I will be able to manage is an MS Paint picture of me flipping off a map of the world, and this feeling right now will be gone. So yeah, goodbye America! You’ve been everything and more! See you soon, home!

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016


HELLO INTERNET BOY #24: The Second City

Today I finished my last day of classes at Second City in Chicago. For an entire week I studied Level 2 Sketch Writing in the morning and Level 2 Improv in the afternoon. Then I’d go home, eat dinner, and either write a sketch or see a show, and then usually wake up early the next morning and write another sketch because the first one was dog shit. It was intense and tiring and mentally draining, and it was THE BEST GODDAMN TIME I HAVE EVER HAD EVER. Turns out that immersively nerding out in a world-respected comedy training centre is precisely my jam.

It’s been a long time since I studied at university, and when we were given my first night of homework, there was a little part of my brain that thought ‘I’m an adult, I don’t have to do this’. There was a much larger part of my brain that basically had a giant boner for sketch writing homework though.

In class, we dissected everyone’s writing according to the rigorous yet vastly accessible formula that we’ve learnt for writing sketches. My class is eight women and me, and everyone is intimidatingly good at writing. My first sketch is given a point for having a single memorable character, but that’s it – I’ve given no thought to the action on the stage, and the story is limp and barely transforms. But then, because it’s a good class, we are given the tools to recognise why the sketch didn’t hit those points, and strategies to rectify this. A couple of days later, I’m given the chance to rewrite a sketch, and I am surprised at how pleased I am, at how much I really wanted to make it better and to have it succeed. My first instinct when something isn’t great is just to scrap it, and write something else.

Our teacher, Jay, is friendly, funny, and possesses an iron hard focus. Somehow while everyone gets distracted by what seems a hilarious non-sequitur about a character named Loretta Fuckmebutt (of the Tennessee Fuckmebutts) Jay is laughing along and then instantly absorbs it into the lesson, and suddenly your mind is blown. Jay kept apologising to me, but insincerely I’m pretty sure, and saying ‘sorry, this class is a secret feminist tutorial’, which I kept smiling along to, but also was secretly thinking ‘yasssssssss this is heaven’. One of our assignments was to write a sketch with only female characters – Second City had identified that female representation in their sketches was still an issue, and their method of dealing with it was to make sure people are forced to write from female perspectives and female characters, beyond the idea of ‘Mum #1’ or ‘SLUTTY WAITRESS’, until it is normalised, and the entire idea of NOT writing equal roles for women becomes unnatural. Sitting in class with eight of the funniest, talented women that I’ve had the pleasure to meet made this feel like an incredibly important thing. Slow clap, Second City.

In the afternoons it was time to run around and be a dickhead in improv, which apart from being exactly as fun as I wanted, was a great way of getting myself out of my head after sketch. I’m starting to get this blank, malleable mind when I do improv, which is able to react and formulate responses and plans and characters in the moment, but doesn’t go into a scene with a whole bunch of backup plans like when I first started, as if I could cheat by thinking ‘if all else fails, just pretend to be an astronaut’. There’s also a great focus on story creation/ workshopping an idea through improv at Second City, which really appealed to me. I’ve also started noticing differences between improv schools – some of the ‘rules’ I learnt at UCB in New York were directly contradicted here.

My improv teacher, Irene, is one of those people who always seems to be slightly dancing. She has an amazing ability to force people out of their comfort zones while smiling incredibly brightly, so you don’t even realise you’ve just been bullied into doing something really dumb, because she just seems so happy about it. She also seems to genuinely enjoy watching people do dumb stuff. Throughout the week she gestured with a thick bandaged finger, because on our first day of class she stuck it in a blender and had to get eight stitches. Later on she went on to lose the nail off it. But it was hard not to notice, and follow every single direction that the finger pointed out.

Today I am going to walk halfway across the city and see some art – I’m doing this because I haven’t really seen any of Chicago, just this weird triangle between my AirBnB which is full of jocks, and various comedy theatres. I apparently have to go and look at a statue of a giant bean. I love this city.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016


HELLO INTERNET BOY #23: Southern Man

Our last stop on the road trip was Charleston, South Carolina. It was hot as hell, the kind of heat that makes it hard to breathe and made me believe I could hear my skin crackling and burning. We wandered down cobblestoned roads and took detours through overgrown civil war era graveyards, where you could hear cicadas and all the gravestones were unreadable and covered in vines, or if you could read them, everyone died at a ridiculously young age. There were old, beautiful pink houses, and you could easily imagine the city as it looked like hundreds of years ago. It was beautiful and stifling. We walked down to the water in the vain hope of a breeze, past sweating fools getting married in a hot gazebo of bad choices. I felt like I should be representing my country better – hell, my childhood was basically a who’s who of desert regions, but my weak, milky skin was having none of this. We went to a museum which was in one of the original slave trade buildings, and learnt about the buying and selling of people, and it was awful and beautifully air-conditioned.

And we walked past the church where the shootings had occurred only a couple of days earlier. It was weird – I felt like the city should feel different in some way. I later found out that there were protests and vigils that night, and a Confederate Monument that we looked at on the foreshore was graffitied with ‘Black Lives Matter’ sometimes shortly after we were there. We had some kind of hot discussion about confederate flags, in which everyone was agreeing about how shit it was, but it was so hot it felt like an argument. Michelle told us about the drills she has to take her class through in the case of a shooting – she has to stuff as many as possible into the small class bathroom, and hide with the rest under the desk. She has to cover the windows and put up secret signs to show that she’s in there and hiding with twenty children. Lyndsay talked about having to do similar things in high school, and about metal detectors and campus policemen with guns. It felt insane to me. I couldn’t imagine being a child who not only knew, but lived in fear of gun massacres. Then again, my school was full of deadly snakes, so perspective. All over America while this was happening, people would say things along the lines of ‘sorry about racist, gun-filled America, bet your country is looking pretty great right now’. But unfortunately, our country is still horrific. Sure, we have gun control, but we also ship children to offshore concentration camps, and are quietly and efficiently bringing about another stolen generation due to the amount of Indigenous people being held in custody. We have race riots that I remember seeing from my sharehouse window. Australia is still deeply embarrassing.

We stopped off at a place for lunch that was named after an African-American slave who lived well over a hundred years old, and we ate southern food. Southern food is weird and delicious and full of butter, and I tried cornbread and sweet tea and pickles and chicken fried chicken. Every meal was enormous. A lot of it is corn based and therefore gluten free. A huge line formed outside the restaurant, as we’d apparently just beaten the lunch rush, and we saw two people with parasols walking past, and I tried to imagine what it would have been like when women were expected to wear bonnets and corsets and giant dresses in this heat, and it seemed insane to me, and also the cliche of the swooning southern woman suddenly made sense, after a few hours of walking around in my black jeans I could have had a swoon, just you watch me.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016



In Columbia, the real world desperately needed Michelle’s attention again. This was a shame, because she had basically single-handedly organised our entire trip and driven us around and explained why high school kids took her on dates to gas stations (the answer is West Virginia, and it was a FANCY gas station) and why her shithead ex who also played the game might be wandering around her old college town still. But in Columbia she had to go to her partners graduation from medical school and get all dressed up and fancy. And while we were travelling around, while we were day drunk and sleepy in our cabin, she suddenly had to write an essay in order to get the job of her dreams. The real world has trouble letting Michelle go.

The rest of us went to the after party of the graduation after drinking some beers in the most quintessentially American bar I can imagine. It had plates all over the wall. I can’t explain it better than that. The graduation after party was in a fancy cocktail bar with a live jazz band, and for the first time since I’d become traveller Patrick, I felt like I wanted to be real world Patrick again. And the reason for that was very simple: clothes. There I was in my sneakers and stinky travel t-shirt, rubbing my tourist shoulders with well dressed, freshly minted doctors, and I felt off. I like clothes a lot, and I wanted to be wearing some nice shoes.

There was also the fact that we were Michelle’s weird internet friends, and they were her fancy doctor friends. We weren’t sure if we should even say that we are ancient nerd brethren, and instead lie, and say that we are a travelling tuba group or something more respectable. Steven spilt his drink all over the floor and the only topic of conversation I could think of was ‘when I get back to Australia I’m having a colonoscopy!’

But it was fine. Jazz is such a wanky thing.



I wanted to buy some crazy American t-shirts where eagles are made out of flags and carry a wingful of guns and underneath it says ‘Freedom’, so they took me to Walmart. I’m not sure if Australia has an analogue to what Walmart is, but I vaguely knew its reputation through a thousand absorbed references via pop culture. Walmart didn’t disappoint. I walked into what I can only describe as a fluorescent aircraft hanger full of crap. Things spilled from the shelves into the aisles, and rat people pawed through the miscellanea in search of salvation. At one point we got stuck behind a slow moving behemoth who has absorbed their trolley into their body and took up the entire lane and glared balefully at anyone who tried to overtake. We made the mistake of asking an employee where the crazy t-shirt section was, and they gestured with one limp hand towards 3/4 of the shop, which could probably fit the entire population of small European nations, depending on how you stacked them. I went to look at the cookies and discovered that everything has peanut butter in them, everything in the entire world, and I’m ok with that. When I went to the cashier with my cookies and my shirts, I swiped my card and it made a weird beeping noise and she just wandered off, never to return.

It was everything I dreamed of, and more.


HELLO INTERNET BOY #20: Duelling Piano Bar

When we drove out of Cincinnati, I saw a sign for something called a ‘duelling piano bar’ which I thought sounded hilarious, and I took a photo of it. Little did I know that duelling piano bars are a thing that are in lots of places. I was promised two things on this road trip, and one was that they would take me to a Walmart and show me what horror was, and one was that we’d have a night out at a duelling piano bar.

In Asheville, North Carolina, we stayed in a ridiculous suite with a giant two person (or potentially six person probably) bathroom, which is because you can get amazing deals when you’re travelling in the middle of the week. I was super excited about the shower, but in the end it was basically just a really big shower and not overly exciting.

We went to some beer garden and played giant jenga again, which also seems to be a thing, and we wrote Aelyrian slurs on the jenga blocks. It’s still endlessly funny to me that people in North Carolina are playing giant jenga and reading elvish insults. Michelle and my character’s are in the same elvish noble house, the once extended Al’lende clan. I was one of the many black sheep, while Michelle was the strict grandma. We wrote ‘House Al’lende RUNS this empire’ and laughed like only giant nerds on a giant nerd roadtrip playing giant jenga can laugh.

By the time we got to the duelling piano bar, I was well-beered and ready for whatever the hell a duelling piano bar was. Two men sat on a stage, with pianos facing each other, and one was singing. People in the crowd sang along. It turned out that you gave them suggestions along with some money for songs to sing, and then they sang them. I’m not sure exactly where the duel came into it, except that perhaps they were competing for tips?

One of the piano players was a vaguely ex-military looking guy with a buzzcut and a big gut and giant pouchy eyes, and he really led the night in the banter. A lot of the time he teased people into singing or made off-colour jokes. The other guy was handsome and had a jaunty show-tunes voice and he sometimes made jokes about boobs, but when he did, he stared blankly into the distance like he was dead inside.

It was a stupidly fun night. My friends requested Land Down Under in honour of me, and we started getting insane about requesting songs. A lot of songs about North Carolina were sung that I’d never heard before, so I just bopped my head along like an idiot in case I was singled out for not being enthusiastic enough.

And then some people in a wedding party were invited onto the stage after a song was requested for them. The military piano guy made them play a game where they sang a song and touched each other in different places when he sang, which heads up, basically meant he sang the word ‘boobs’ a million times, and it was excruciatingly uncomfortable. Then the future husband guy, who was wearing a polo shirt and cargo pants and had a mean, bored look, started trying to ‘join in’ on the fun and rib his future wife, which meant he kept saying things like ‘I’m not marrying her for her smarts’ and ‘she can’t do math, but she looks good’ and it was just the worst thing.

Sometime preceding this, Lyndsay, who can drink more than the rest of us combined, had tipped into slightly boisterous tipsy, and had ordered shots of something sweet and gross for everyone and started heckling the misogynist husband bro.

‘Boooooo’ she yelled, while everyone clapped and cheered.

‘You can do better!’ she yelled to the lady.
‘It’s not too late’.

It was clear the lady was pissed as well, an eventually she left the stage. Later on, we would see the dude leave the women’s bathrooms with a smirk on his face and it was just the grossest thing in the world.