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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.