HELLO INTERNET BOY # 37: I am a writer

One of the things that I like about Patrick Lenton from the fantasy world of Aelyria is that he introduces himself as a writer. No vacillating, no ‘I’m a digital marketer but also an author’ no ‘oh you know… trying to be an author’. I suppose it would be weird claiming to be a digital marketer. What would be the Aelyrian parallel? Town crier of the… astral plane?

In my current storyline, I’m being asked by a gnome and a dog man what my occupation is, and that world’s Patrick Lenton is like ‘writer’. He is off to do some writing. And of course, I haven’t given that Patrick a day job. In Aelyria, he earns all his money from writing. This is a fantasy world, after all.

It was fun when I was travelling to experiment with saying ‘I’m an author’. I’d just had my book of short stories released, so it felt the truest it ever has. I managed to do it a couple of times without slipping up, but often I’d follow up with ‘not that it makes me any money’ or ‘you know, I work too.’

There’s a lot of well meaning and aspirational articles and memes aimed at writers that basically says ‘you ARE a writer, if you write, you are a writer, identify as a writer, asshole!’ and I agree to a certain extent. I do. I am a writer. But am I an author? Someone asked me the other day if my ultimate goal was to be a full time writer, and I paused. That’s the dream, I suppose. But I’ve worked in trade publishing for years – I know how difficult it is to make a living. Almost impossible, really. There’s no middle ground anymore, no mid-list. You have to be J.K. Rowling or nothing. So I’m ready to support myself to pursue my writing, that’s a reality I’m comfortable with.

I’m currently not comfortable with the amount I’m writing, the demands of a full-time job that I love meaning that my writing output is much less than I hope. I would like to solve this somehow, but that’s a different issue for a different day. Would upping the percentage of time I spend writing make me more comfortable in saying I was an author? How much? 60%? 80%? Or is it always going to be about how I make my living. I don’t know yet.

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.

 

 

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HELLO INTERNET BOY #35: Wizards… on the road

So, the adventures of “Patrick Lenton” the Aelyrian character have kicked off, in a suitably modest way – more in the style of Lord of the Rings, when Frodo is having breakfast for about 700 pages, but it’s a start. He’s on the road and he’s met a fast-talking Cether (Halfling or Hobbit analogue)named Oswald and his friend Ruffus, a tough-looking Dorin (dog person). Patrick does love dogs. The Cether has basically invited Patrick to travel with them the majority of the way to Port Alyx, and against his (my) better judgement, he has accepted.

You can read it here as it goes on, if you want.

I thought hard about this – I’ve been taking a lot of my narrative cues from longform improv rules lately, and I know the fastest way to stall this story would be to say ‘nope – not travelling with you’. I know that this kind of narrative is different, and there could be different consequences from saying no, but it feels like the very kind moderator who I’m writing this thread with has very clearly offered me a cue, and I have to say yes. I also think that in real life, there’s also a chance I would say yes. In the post, I am both suspicious of their motives, and also ill-at-ease with the idea of spending that much time with strangers – but I am also nervous about travelling in general, and I don’t believe in turning down help.

I wrote about it back at the beginning of my RL trip, but at LA airport, a guy who was on my plane, a kind of tall thin shabby guy, was standing at exactly the same junction as me, with the same confused, over-tired look on his face. We were trying to work out which branch of the confusing customs lanes we had to go down. He asked me if I knew which one, and together we (correctly) guessed and went down one. For the next couple of hours as we wandered around the labyrinth that is LAx, I already regretted being saddled with him. I was tired, so tired. I was starting to suspect he was racist and homophobic. But that said – I felt more secure. At one point I definitely would have had a small anxiety attack when collecting my luggage, because I was sure I’d made a wrong turn. He was able to point out a small sign that showed we were on the right track. I did basically the same thing for him in New York, and waited half an hour with him for his bags, and ended up finding them for him on a different carousel. We helped each other out. It was probably better than not.

That said, in New York, he told me that he was staying in Times Square, and that we should hang out. I didn’t want to do that. He kept pointing out black people, and trying to work out which of our fellow passengers were homos. So I gave him a wrong number.

So yeah – unless I get stabbed, I’m pretty sure Oswald and Ruffus are going to get hard-dropped somewhere around an old-timey ferry.

HELLO INTERNET BOY #34: adventure time

Patrick Lenton has made his first post on Aelyria. Patrick Lenton is leaving the city of Arconis and going out into the world. Patrick Lenton is an unnatural creature. After falling down a rabbit hole of research, I decided that my character lived in Arconis because it had a university and seemed sort of vaguely prosperous and safe. Although, it had recently suffered a pox, some kind of civil war which I can’t find any details about and something called the ‘giant siege’, which I know just enough about to realise it was a siege by actual giants, and not just a really big siege.

Patrick Lenton, a graduate of the Collegia of Arts, has received a grant to travel across Aelyria, researching his family for a book. This is the closest thing I could think of that mirrored this project. Like me, he feels unsure and unready about travelling. But whereas my fears centre on unclear administrative anxieties, his are probably things like: orc warbands, giant bug monsters, necromantic cults, hostile weather, the fact that he is completely untrained to defend himself in a world where there is magic. This seems pretty dumb to me. But I suppose people can kill other people just as easy in reality, with guns and knives and sick burns, and I’ve only got my two arts degrees to fend them off, so the parallel stands.

Yesterday I, the real me, the real Patrick Lenton was sitting in Hyde Park in Sydney, at lunch in the middle of the day, surrounded by hundreds of people, and while I was reading my book, a guy strode up to me and plucked my phone out of my hand and made to run off with it. I got to my feet, and then he proceeded to beat me up a little – put me in a headlock, punched me in the face and the stomach. I managed to disengage and he called me a ‘homo jew’ and told me to fight like a man. I have no real idea of how I did fight him, because he kept trying to put me in more headlocks. It felt like more of a tussle, but my memory of it is all super disjointed. At some point I did grab his arm with my phone and twist it, until he threw the phone away. Then he ran off, punching a lady and kicking a British boy in the chest, stealing something from a sunbathing couple further up. I believe during it, I said ‘give me my phone, fucko’ and ‘you bag of dicks’. I have ended up with the following unimpressive injuries: wrenched neck, sore back, bruise on my butt and a very bitten tongue.

What surprised me about all this is how I reacted. At no point was there conscious thought involved, my brain was just a kind of blowing void, full of instincts. And those instincts apparently told me that I will “fight” with a guy who is fighting me. I honestly assumed I would probably run or curl up into a ball. And it’s not courage or anything – as I said, there was no conscious thought involved at all. Nothing to be proud of. It’s like being proud of a fart – it was just weird bodily reaction. It actually worries me – I could have gotten hurt so much more, in so many different ways. I would have liked to think that I could always run. But until he actually fucked off, there was no way I was even present enough to think ‘run’. It’s like a stranger running your body.

So when and if a moderator picks up my travelling storyline on Aelyria, and attacks my helpless nerd with a bandit or a werewolf, I actually have a better idea about how Patrick Lenton will react to that. And he’ll probably die.

HELLO INTERNET BOY #32: where the hell do I come from?

I’ve been trying to do a lot of research into the world of Aelyria, in order to help create the fantasy version of Patrick Lenton, ie myself. And not fantasy in the sense that I have at least two abs and my adult-onset acne has cleared up, but fantasy in the sense that I rub shoulders with elves and could learn magic if I wanted to and there’s been a whole bunch of invasions by bug people recently which I need to somehow get my head around.

To start off the backstory, I want to work out where I’m from. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my exhaustive creative writing classes and watching The OC on repeat, is that your protagonist has to come from somewhere. In real life, I also come from somewhere, which may surprise anyone who thought I appeared only when you look into the bathroom mirror and say the word ‘dicksticks’ three times.

But it turns out it’s hard to make comparative choices between real world locations and places that literally don’t exist. My own background is this: I was born in Australia, I grew up for a time in a mining town in the desert, and then I spent the majority of my primary school years over in the Middle East. I then came back to Australia for high school and have lived in Sydney ever since.

So – the easier option is the Middle East part, because as with a lot of Tolkien-esque western style fantasy worlds, there is a clear ‘exotic Arabia’ counterpart. The city (and province?) of Arakmat will do. Pity it’s been in ruins for years, since a certain dude who I met IRL at the beginning of this project roasted it with his magic. Still, I can have grown up there. And not as a local.

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Finding a clear counterpart for Sydney is harder – how to reproduce all the different strains of identity that a city has on you? It’s looking more like I’ll have to settle on it being near the water, so perhaps Port Alyxandrya.

At the Junket conference I was at recently, I attended a discussion on Australian cultural identity. It was super interesting for me, because I discovered that the way I feel about being Australia is shared in one way or another by a lot of other people. It can be summarised as being ‘uncomfortable’ about it. I’ve always felt that having grown up overseas, I look at Australia very much from an outsiders point of view – however unlike a foreigner, I have nowhere that I actually feel comfortable calling home. This is further exacerbated by specifics – for example, where I went to high school in Sydney and lived for years with my family have the dubious honour of being the host of a big race riot. I’ve always felt the desire to separate any of my identity from that place. But I also discovered that lots of people having that discussion felt a dislocation – whether it was Indigenous Australian’s who felt like they were denied ownership of their identity, or immigrants who are treated as outsiders, or people from minorities who are viewed as different, which is more obvious. But the uncomfortable notion of Australian identity persisted – and I came to the realisation that instead of using this as a cue to write generally, to write in places that could be literally anywhere, to write in vague brushstrokes that could mean the US or the UK or maybe Australia why not, I should be navigating that feeling of uncertainty,  and writing about Australia from that perspective.

So yeah, Port Alyxandrya? I don’t know.

 

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.

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

HELLO INTERNET BOY #22: JAZZZZZZZZZ

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.

HELLO INTERNET BOY #21: Walmart

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.