Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A Boston travel story - Nick Fury

My mate Nick in Sydney sent me this story today. I love it. It's very Nick.
I'd been in transit from Rome via Madrid and New York for maybe 20 hours when finally, at 11pm, I got to Logan Airport. I'd been in contact with my Australian friend Andy, a native of Boston who was coincidently there at the same time and he might be there to pick me up. Im tired and jet lagged,  No Andy… okay, I'll make my own way.  Change money somewhere and get some coins to make a call in a local pay phone. Its a dollar a go. Three go's; nah, incomprehensible. Foreign country. Try the nice lady at the information desk. My first experience of service in America: impressive: and now I'm speaking to sleepy Andy… "Oh I thought you were getting in tomorrow night… " its actually my mistake: l gave him the right day but the wrong date. It happens. His house is thirty miles away and I don't want him to come out at  this hour so he tells me I can jump the Logan Express and take it all the way to the end, to a place called Framingham where he'll pick me up. 
The nice lady tells me there one due in eight minutes. Trip will take half an hour, so see you in forty minutes at Framingham. Sure enough in eight minutes the Logan Express pulls up and there's a big loud lady bus driver who enjoys my accent. I take a seat and watch Boston go by in the night.  I'm the last one left as the bus pulls up at….Braintree…. Oh, you want the red Logan express, this is the green Logan Express…. By now its 12.30am and despite it being her last ride of the night, amazingly she offers to take  me all the way back to the airport. I'm grateful, apologetic and worried that by this time Andy will be at Framingham wondering where I am with no way to contact me. Its dark, the bus terminal is deserted but my driver says "wait a minute, I've got an idea…" She comes back in a couple of minutes. "I've got some good news and some bad news" she says "the bad news is that you are at the opposite end of the city to where you want to be and it will cost you a hundred and ten bucks to get there in a cab, the good news is that this guy (she points to a  shabby car across the road) will do it for fifty five." 

The guy is clueless. I give him the address and he's got no idea. We look for it on google maps on his smart phone but no luck. We call one of his buddies who has a rough idea. I've got Andy's Boston landline, but I know he'll be at the bus stop, waiting for me.  I try it anyway (borrowing the driver's phone) and thank god, his partner Judith picks up. She's from Australia too and can't direct me, but says she'll call Andy at the bus stop and tell him what's going on.  Cut to a bit of the story I heard later:  Andy gets the call and gets the wrong idea, thinking the  driver is dropping me at the house, so he leaves the Bus stop and heads home, twenty minutes away. When he arrives Judith is perplexed: "wheres Nick? 
At roughly the same time me and the driver have found our way to Framingham  and we are driving around in circles looking for the bus stop. They have these humungous sprawling shopping malls in the US  and they're not multi storied like here, they just spread out over acres with massive parking fields  that go on to the horizon. The put down point is somewhere in the parking lot, but no sign of Andy.  We do a couple of circuits, nothing. then eventually spot Andy arriving outside of a Denny's dinner. Much gawping, hugs, thank you's and confused apologies. Feels so good to be in the front seat of a car being delivered to a shower and a warm bed.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Avid Writer

Fiona at Avid Reader
Lucky? Deserving? Humbled! Hopeful!
I'm sitting in a small storeroom upstairs at the Avid Reader bookshop in inner city Brisbane. I'm feeling a little like a fraud but at the same time I can hardly believe my good fortune. A few weeks ago I summoned up the courage to offer the early chapters of my "Lorenzo" manuscript to Krissy Kneen for her comments. Krissy works at Avid and has been closely involved with the Qld Literary Awards.  

I was considering quitting my long time job and I knew I had to make some plans to ensure my sanity over the next phase of my life. I was looking for a shared working space - a 'co-working' space, as they are known, in which to write. There are a few around Brisbane. Places where one rents a desk at a daily or weekly rate and shares an open plan space and a kitchen with kindred spirits. My nephew runs one in Sydney called "Home Work" - neat name. 

I could write at home but my experience has been that I am way too ill-disciplined and succumb to every distraction available. Emails, the garden, checking the letter box, coffee, tea, another snack, a bit of googling, maybe a swim and before I know it it's three pm and I go into a panic and write furiously (and guiltily) for a couple of hours. I knew if I was paying for a space I would feel obliged to use it.

Anyway Krissy and I had a coffee. I was pretty apprehensive. What I feared was one of those awkward situations where Krissy would be really polite, trying to avoid telling me my writing was fine for family but shite as a publishable manuscript. The other element to this is that I am 20 years older than Krissy and once lectured at the institution where she was an undergraduate. A few years later I chaired her great little youth arts organisation, the beautifully named "S'not Arts." It was a role reversal.

We ordered a coffee, engaged in a bit of avoidance chit-chat and then went for the jugular. 'Sooooooo, what do you reckon Krissy? ' says I, quickly jumping in to add 'You can be honest. I'm ready.' 

'You write like you've been writing for a while. It's good. I was pleasantly surprised.' says she. I felt like I was at school getting a report from the teacher. I tried to act relaxed but even though I was excited by her response I was fumbling for words. Was the conversation as awkward as it felt?

'Just finish the bloody thing!' 

Good advice.

I shared with her my quest for a work space and asked her advice and ..... well here I am in the Avid Attic. Owner, Fiona Stager, took Krissy's word that I was on the path to become a real writer and has offered this space for the next few months to get my shite together. What was, last week, a storage room is now a writing room full of me and Avid stuff which I have reorganised into the corners and towards the ceiling. It has a window, power, a door and a key. There's a coffee shop downstairs which serves food where I buy lunch in lieu of rent.and it's in walking distance of my home. When I need some research material I can be home and back in ten minutes - though I have already discovered the dangers of doing this - a cup of tea, a quick look at my emails, check the letter box (read mail). Still I am on my way. 

Krissy Kneen
I have a debt to pay. I have set myself until March next year to get a rough draft completed. That gives me time to get some feedback and begin the second draft in June, maybe in Malta overlooking the Mediterranean in a small apartment close to coffee shops and food outlets, history, secluded bays,the odd swim, some walking, a visit to Sicily ..............................another coffee......