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.


A quarter of the way over the river, I forced myself to look over the edge of the railings at the water and trees so far below us. I immediately got that sense of vertigo, like my head was huge and heavy and my feet were tiny and couldn’t possibly support me. The railing came up to my hips, and it felt like I only needed to lean against it and I’d flip right over and cartwheel into the West Virginian forest below. We also had harnesses with basically a dog lead connecting us to some wires. The vertigo stopped, and despite the feeling that this entire bridge would break and I’d be falling any moment, the view was beautiful, showing us rafters going down rapids and long coal trains and abandoned mines and falcons soaring below us and diving for prey. Trucks rumbled over the top of us, causing the walkway to shake, and my hands to grip the rusty railing so tightly that flecks of iron started to gather in the creases.

We are on a bridge walk near Fayetteville, West Virginia. It’s apparently one of the longest continuous suspension bridge walks in the world, and it spans the entire underside of the bridge, walking through the girders and suspension beams. Our guide was a young local comes back from college to work in the summer. He liked to tell stories about dangerous things that his “friends” had done on the bridge during high school, about sneaking onto the walkway without harnesses during the night and drinking hooch and throwing traffic cones into the river. ‘My friends are pretty crazy’ he says, but everyone knows that he was there too. As we walk along, he is entertaining and professional and slick – too slick, I decide. He points out the falcon nests in the bridge – they’d been bought in especially to kill all the pigeons that had been corroding the bridge with their acid poop. He talks about a year event called ‘Bridge Day’ when apparently there are people jumping off the bridge every twenty seconds. I imagine jumping off the bridge, and immediately get dizzy again.

Halfway across the bridge, Michelle and Lyndsay noticed that me and Steven are walking weird. The entire time we’ve kind of been shuffling forward like old people, hands always on the rusty railing like we’re learning how to walk again, head relentlessly forward. Lyndsay and Michelle in comparison are skipping around, sitting down and taking selfies.
‘Are you guys OK?’ they ask.
Me and Steven are both like ‘fine, but you know, scared of heights’.
Everyone laughs.

It’s been a few days now, and I feel like I get Steven more. He doesn’t always say a lot, and when he does, it’s usually a killer pun. He affects a kind of weary, sarcastic cynicism of everything, and talks about how much he hates everyone on the trip. I never believed that he actually hated anyone – it’s not like he was forced to come on this trip, but I couldn’t quite work out why this was happening. In improv, we’re taught to find ‘the game’ in the scene, which is the point of difference, the funny thing that you can use to facilitate dialogue and up the energy. I understood that the sarcastic pose was the game with Steven, and it was easy to play along with. But the question remained – was he an asshole trying to be entertaining, or was he a nice guy being entertaining by pretending to be an asshole? In Cincinnati when I first met him, I discovered a dog and somehow ended up cuddling the dog and rolling around with it, and it was amazing, and during this Steven just kinda walked away. ‘Not a dog person’ I decided, which kinda leant credence to the asshole theorum. But later I discovered that only a day or two earlier, his dog had died suddenly, and he was standing away because it hurt him. I’ll break any tension here – it turned out he is a super nice guy, like one of those extremely rare nice people.

Michelle, who was the designated trip-mom, and had single-handedly organised everything we were doing, kept asking us why we hadn’t said we were scared of heights before we climbed over some really really tall bridge. Steven and I just shrugged a lot. For me, I don’t really have acrophobia, but being up high kinda fits in with my general anxiety. Honestly, the thing I worried about the most the entire walk was my phone. Everyone was waving their phones around to take photos, and it just gave me the hibblies. I have phone-horror. But I’ve also never said no to any height based related activity, unless it’s stupid like skydiving or bungee jumping. I will climb your monument or stand on the glass floor of your tower, because it feels good to know that I am not defined by this fear. It feels better than doing something which comes easily to me. It’s a very similar feeling I had when I got on the plane to come over here.

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