HELLO INTERNET BOY #29: Eggs eggs eggs

I just ate scrambled eggs on gluten free bread, mixed in with green capsicum. The smell, now and perhaps forever, reminds me of the little AirBnB I stayed at in New York. I ate that same meal every night, sometimes travelling back on the L train and rushing up to the apartment just to shovel some barely cooked yolk into my mouth before travelling back into Manhattan to catch a show at UCB. Every time I made it, I was almost paralysed by embarrassment, completely sure that my dour eastern European hosts were judging me. They always seemed to be lying in their loft bed that overlooked the kitchen, always stirring and whispering as soon as I fired up the hot plate, as soon as I deftly stole more of their olive oil and pepper.

I didn’t just eat eggs because I’m an unadventurous cook who could almost literally eat the same thing for every meal. Only a week after I got back from the US, I went into hospital for my colonoscopy and endoscopy, or as I like to call it, getting double-teamed by the doctors. The reason was that for a full year I’d been getting horrific stomach cramps, that would put me out of action for days, either in crippling pain or acid nausea. I was tested over and over again for tumours and cancer and ulcers and babies. I got incredibly good at popping up my good vein for blood tests. I got thin and tired and depressed. I finally got a recommendation for a gastroenterologist, who after going through all the tests again, came up with the incredibly unsexy conclusion that I had irritable bowel syndrome. He booked me into hospital to make sure it wasn’t cancer as well, but in the meantime he put me on an exclusion diet, where I basically had to cut everything except basic proteins out of my diet, and then gradually reintroduce things to discover what it was my system was incapable of digesting. By the time I went to New York, I was two weeks into the reintegration diet, and had discovered I couldn’t handle gluten, onions and garlic – ie everything good in the world.

When I booked my trip to New York, I had several people give me comprehensive and amazing lists of things to do. It was amazing, and super useful, considering I was travelling on my own. They also all included the food I should try, the amazing slices, the bagel houses, the burgers. But I wasn’t yet used to asking for things to be made to my specifications, and I was in a strange land, with a currency I was even more incapable of understanding. Instead, I basically didn’t eat anything that I didn’t make with my two stupid hands. I basically just ate eggs. One day during my improv class at UCB, I bought a tuna sandwich with some of my classmates, feeling so incredibly happy to talk to other humans. But while I was eating it, I realised that the bread wasn’t gluten free, and the tuna had onion in it. My stomach immediately twisted into the well-known, well travelled cramps I was used to, and I contemplated with dread having to spend another few days curled up in my makeshift bedroom, enduring the judgement of the Europeans hovering perpetually over me (I’d already spent three days in my first week with the flu). But then I realised it was impossible – there was no way that the poison had reached my bowels yet, no way they were sitting there like undigested bricks. It was all in my head. I still didn’t eat the sandwich though, after those first bites. I’d been in pain for so long that there was no way I could conceive of risking it. One of the guys asked me why I wasn’t eating it, and I told him I was allergic to onion. It just sounds cooler than IBS. More dangerous. ‘I could die’ automatically trumps ‘tong term intestine pain.’ On my last day I went to that famous pizza place in Brooklyn, and then looked at it and decided that it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t want to vomit all over the plane the next day.

The way I got over this fear, and actually started working through my limits was when I got to the South on the roadtrip. There was so much stuff made of corn that I started to get a little giddy, a little free with my choices. I learnt that I can handle a fair amount of gluten before getting ill (less if I’m drinking), a small amount of garlic, and a lesser amount of onion.

I’ve had a few conversations since I’ve gotten back about the food of New York, and I can never actually engage beyond vast amounts of candy and eggs, morning noon and night, eggs eggs eggs. And that’s why eggs reminds me of New York.


I went to #Junket and all I got was this massive feeling of hope

I’ve been at the Junket unconference over the last few days. You might be forgiven for thinking I’m having a mild stroke, because barely any of that sentence are words, but I promise you, I’m fine. I’m great. I’m uncomfortably full of hope and greatness and exhaustion. Junket was organised by Junkee, and billed as ‘gathering 200 of Australia’s best and brightest minds to share ideas, get advice, be inspired, innovate, teach, learn, network and have fun’ which is obviously a ridiculous peer group to aspire to. It was also described as ‘a getaway of Twitter’s most fabulous’ by Helen Razer, in what passes for a sick burn at the retirement home, but I found infinitely charming and complimentary.


And let me just start off by saying that I never lost that feeling, that sensation of being out of place. It was the weirdest thing in the world to chat to activists and horrifically young not-for-profit business creators who are literally changing the world and spokespeople and nuclear fission scientists and animal rights crusaders and incredible feminists and then having to explain that I wrote a book of short stories about a funny batman and that I also do marketing for books about space ships and people banging, often on space ships. Conversations would basically go like ‘Yes, I am an author and am very concerned with authorial problems and I am also on Twitter a lot, and oh look at that, you actually have your hand in someone’s ribcage right now and are keeping them alive by manually pumping their heart, hmm that’s fascinating.’

I attended “panels” (more like group discussions) on establishing queer communities, on the problem of masculinity, on diversity on Australian screen, on the idea of Australian cultural identity. My pitch to get into the conference was about using digital communities to broaden and expand Australian writers, and to deal with the kind of weird parochial idea of ‘Australian writing’. I now see that it was a very niche part of an overlying issue, and I was glad to have my scope expanded. I was also excited to discover that I’ve somehow become fairly cynical, and people were quick to puncture my negative-nancy comments with optimism and facts and goals and strategies. I v. quickly became the giant labrador of enthusiasm that I’ve always aspired to be.


I spent a lot of the conference being very tired, and a full night lying in bed completely over-stimulated, with Shania Twain’s ‘Still the One’ playing on loop in my head. I had a lot of fun, a lot of food and drink, and met and reconnected with some of the best people in the world. I got dizzy on some virtual reality goggles. I got to fall in love with Courtney Act. There’s no doubt about it that socially, Junket was a goddamn winner. Also, I got some real nice toiletries from Qantas, which is the quickest path to my dry-skinned heart.


you can’t see it, but I am trying to take a photo of how much moisturiser I just put on my entire body

I would like to think that I was able to add something to the scheduled conversations I attended. I hope that my experience with online communities came in helpful, that I was able to impart some knowledge or help someone reach an outcome or conclusion for the big issues they were tackling. But regardless of whether or not this happened, or whether my legacy was some pretty good drunken heckling, Junket for me was an unparalleled privilege for me to listen. Being able to sit and listen to people eloquently and passionately explain either their problems or their experiences, or the people or things or issues they are advocating for was humbling and inspiring. As a marketer I really had little to add to the issue of diversity on Australian screens. As a writer, probably very little either, unless I get my much agitated-for job on Neighbours. But maybe one day it will – maybe one day I’ll be able to make a difference. But everything I was able to absorb will inspire and dictate my own writing, my own creative philosophy. Likewise with the discussion of Australian cultural identity, where I learned that perhaps the only way to ‘feel’ Australian, is to feel uncomfortable about it, which is definitely something that I’ve felt as an Australian writer. Maybe it’s time to write about that too. I really wish there was some way all writers could go and experience this sort of thing, have access to all these voices. For various reasons, a lot of my life has become narrowed down to other writers. I still think writers are great people, but I cannot tell you how many people I talked to at this thing that instantly sparked into a story or a book or a character.

It’s such a small outcome, compared to people who will leave this conference and fold the experience into actionable plans and outcomes that will make the world a better place, but hopefully my next Gilmore Girls fanfiction will in some ways be massively better because of this experience.



At my sixteenth birthday, I invited my school friends to come to my house at Maianbar, which is a little town in the middle of the Royal National Park. To get to Maianbar is a long drive from the nearest point of civilisation, so my bright idea was to pick up people in my dad’s boat from Cronulla wharf, which would be both faster and also a fun boat adventure ride. I assumed we’d have to do two trips, but my mate Bob who also lived in Maianbar, offered to pick some people up in his tinny. My dad’s boat was a nice big smooth thing with seats, while Bob’s tinny was small and metal and sounded like a drum and a small dog. The people who got in my dad’s boat sped off into the distance, the boat cleaving through the water like a hot knife through yet more water. Bob’s boat however climbed the choppy waves and landed with a thump, forcing the terrified girls to scream and hold on desperately. I was in Bob’s boat, and remember thinking ‘Hmm, must be really choppy, what a shame.’ Eventually Bob hit a wave hard, and instead of climbing over it, we went through it, the entire ocean rushing into the boat, drenching everyone from head to toe. The girls in the boat shrieked, makeup running, clothes gone see-through immediately. It was a sunny, yet deeply chilly spring day. From then on, the entire trip was just the boat hitting wave after wave, the only sound the rush of sea-water, the struggle of the motor, the deep thumping of the boat’s metal hull slapping the water like a maritime themed Fifty Shades of Gray, and the sound of teenage girls screaming.

When we arrived, the girls were hustled off to find new clothes and Bob and I tied up the boat. “Wow, must have been super choppy’ I said to Bob. Bob shrugged. ‘Nah, I was just having fun driving the boat at the waves as fast as I could.’ This is one of my favourite memories of Bob, and also an accurate snapshot of his personality. Bob definitely has a tendency to drive his boat straight at the waves if he needs to. After lunch, my friend from school Danielle decided she wanted to go swimming. Nobody else wanted to go with her, because the water was freezing. This didn’t perturb her, and she put on her swimming costume and then looked at Bob, who she’d only just met, and said ‘Come swimming’. He did.

Now they are married and have two children. Yep, all thanks to me.

This story is relevant because as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Bob and I played Alleria together as teenagers, and both him and Danielle and I met people from the game together, travelling to Canberra for weird parties. He’s always been a part of the real life part of this journey, always been roughly an hour south from wherever I’m living. But now on Sunday, I’ll be farewelling Bob and Danielle and their kids as they leave the country to go and live in Seattle. They’ll be making the transition from friends who I always feel bad about not seeing very much who live super near, to friends separated by all the oceans in the world. They will be transferring from real life friend into digital, more people who will be on opposite routines, drinking alcohol when I wake up, waking up when I go to sleep.

I’m super, super excited for them, and quite in awe. Doing this kind of dramatic, life changing adventure is impressive enough, let alone with two small children who probably aren’t super helpful with moving large boxes. I don’t know. I plan to go and visit them in Seattle, at some murky, distant point in the future. I also feel that due to my family’s lifestyle, I expect people to go away for large periods of time – but it will be interesting watching this transition happen. It will be interesting watching them turn into internet people. I am going straight from their farewell lunch to a conference, so it will be interesting to see how I go. Historically I am very controlled at farewell parties because I don’t really believe they are happening, but also strangely emotional at farewell parties of people I don’t know well (why do I keep going to stranger’s farewell parties is another story).


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