55) 2008-2010. Onkaparinga Crescent [REDUX], Kaleen ACT 2617

After returning to the Ponderosa, I lived there for another 21 months. It’s why, on the whole, I refer to having lived at the Ponderosa for a continuous period. In total, I was only away for nine nights: I’d stayed away longer on holidays.

The house welcomed me back under the warm, bosomy embrace of its scalloped white arches. That was a super weird sentence to type.

It was shaky and difficult at first, returning to Canberra and being terrified of life in general. It felt like I had to build everything back from the ground up: home, work, health, the works.

HOME
The home part was actually pretty easy: life at the Ponderosa became even better after my return. The first step was getting rid of that pesky fourth housemate. Tammy, Zak and I had always lived with a fourth housemate, because it was a four bedroom house and that was just the done thing. However, every person we got into that room turned out to be a complete oddball.

The first one went on an unstoppable drug bender on his first weekend in the house and decided he was definitely gay. We found him a deshevelled, bug-eyed mess on Saturday afternoon, sitting on the front steps with an open bottle of wine in one hand and his phone in the other, alternating between taking long swigs of wine and screaming into the phone. At one point he got confused and bellowed “WELL THAT’S JUST WHO I AM, DADinto the wine bottle. This guy would also slather himself in coconut oil every day before gingerly lowering himself into the pool with a high-pitched breathy squeal like he was having the world’s most delicate orgasm. This caused no end of frustration to Zak, who cleaned the pool, because all the coconut oil would immediately wash off, making the pool look like cold chicken soup.

The second one would not ever shut up about how great ALDI is. Like, ever. Every trip to the supermarket came with another breathless recital of the latest catalogue and how cheap everything was. He also had a girlfriend who only ever occupied two rooms of the house: his bedroom and the kitchen. She never ventured anywhere else, would never say hello, and occasionally he would spend hours out the lounge room with us while she stayed huddled up inside his room, hiding, like she was being smuggled across the Narrow Sea. Also, every time they cooked themselves dinner she would put the leftovers in a bowl, wrap it in Glad Wrap and then take that bowl to work the next day. We would never see it again. By the time the second one moved out we had gone from eight bowls down to two.

The third one never stayed in the house, choosing instead to house-sit for her cousin. And her room had nothing in it but a mattress on the floor and an Israeli flag that almost covered an entire wall.

In hindsight, perhaps our vetting process could have used some work.

When the the last oddball-du-jour moved out towards the end of 2008, Tammy, Zak and I decided to make life easier for ourselves by just absorbing the fourth person’s rent and living “on our own”. So then the Ponderosa was just the three of us, and our dynamic was never unbalanced again.

housemates

IF *THESE* PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE TOO WEIRD TO LIVE WITH, YOU REALLY NEED TO CHECK YOURSELF.

So with my home life back on track, it was time to work on the other pillars.

CAREER
When I was taken off breakfast in 2007, I was put on the evening shift. It was lonely and unfulfilling; sitting alone in the studio hours after everyone else had gone home, aimlessly pressing buttons to make sure the national shows beamed in from interstate went to air. I’d only just worked my way up to a real job before I left for Sydney. Now, having come back, I was straight back in the only position they had free: the evening button shift.

Partly to fill the long days (I didn’t start work until 3:30pm), and partly to raise extra money for an overseas holiday, for the last half of 2008 I started looking for a second job. I found one in the most unlikely place: Magnet Mart, a Bunnings-style hardware megastore.

mag_mart-001

Because you think of hardware, of DIY, of outdoors, of building and gardening and household repairs, you think ME, right?

For five months, Monday to Friday, 10am-3pm, I operated a cash register at Magnet Mart. How did someone who knew as little about hardware as I do manage to operate a cash register at a DIY megastore? EASY: my area of expertise was only the cash register. They had experts for every department, that was their job. It was literally store policy that I not deal with anything beyond the bench on which my cash register sat. It was perfect.

I gave away the Magnet Mart job at the beginning of 2009 when it looked like another spot might be opening up at the radio station’s Creative department, meaning I was back in the office working regular human hours. Things were picking up!

Later in 2009, I caught another break: I was invited to submit a writing audition to the head writer at weekly variety TV show Rove. Somehow, one of the jokes from my submission made it through to the final cut (I assume all the regular writers ate lunch at the same place and all got food poisoning and died?), and I ended up getting one of my jokes on air in the “news” segment.

kristy

I took a photo of my TV at the exact moment Kristy Warner delivered my very first TV punchline. LOOK HOW IMPRESSED SHE LOOKS WITH MY JOKE

With my audition clearly proving successful, I was invited to continue submitting jokes for the rest of the season. In my third week of submissions, George Negus was the guest newsreader. It’s because of me that one of Australia’s most respected media figures—a member of Australian television royalty—told a joke about environmentally friendly German sex workers.

I knew it was only a matter of time until I would be asked to join the team full time, and be able to move to Melbourne. So imagine my surprise in my fourth week of submissions when, at the end of the show, the host himself, Rove McManus, stood up in front of a nationwide audience and called out my name.

KIDDING. I’M KIDDING. He announced his retirement. Rove ended a week later. My career as a TV comedy writer was over in less than a month.

So it wasn’t all upward for my career, but hey: I still had my daytime office job back, and I still had my Magnet Mart staff discount card.

HEALTH
During the time we lived in Kaleen, Zak had become something of a regular at the local Kaleen Sports Club; the kind of semi-naff local bar/bistro/pokies venue that peppers Canberra suburbs. The Kaleen Club had meat tray raffles three times a week, and on at least one of these nights the three of us go down for dinner and to enter the meat raffles. Ten dollars bought ten tickets, and each ticket had five numbers on it, any one of which could win a tray.

Through either astounding luck, or the sheer number of meat trays the Kaleen Club gave away every night, we would win at least one meat tray between us every time we went. Our record was six meat trays, but we usually netted around two. The amount of meat we took home from the raffles meant that despite the number of social events we hosted (weekly, if not more frequently: we never went anywhere, because everyone always came to our house), we did not buy any meat in 2009*. Not at all. Not even once. At one stage the freezer of our second fridge was so chock full of frozen chicken wings (none of us particularly enjoyed chicken wings) that we had to start offering them to friends to give to their pets just so we could get the space back.

Okay so this isn’t a great depiction of “health”, but by gum I was never short of a rissole.

:+:+:+:+:+:+:

I moved out of the Ponderosa in March, 2010 when I moved to Melbourne. (I moved out reluctantly, but the siren-song of Melbourne was too strong to resist.) Tammy moved out in October 2010 when she moved to London. Zak stayed in the Ponderosa, and was still there in 2013 when Tammy came back to Australia moved back in. Tammy, Zak and I were under the same Ponderosa roof as recently as 2014 when I went up to visit: we had dinner at the Kaleen Sports Club, and I won a meat tray.

Only in May of 2015 did the Time of Ponderosa finally come to a close, when the house was sold and Tammy and Zak moved out. I’d been out of the house for five years by this point, but I still shed a sneaky tear when I heard the news.

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53) 2006-2010 (I KNOW, RIGHT?). Onkaparinga Crescent, Kaleen ACT 2617

Between the majesty of the Parthenon and the joy of cohabiting with my coworkers/family, it felt like we could have stayed in that house forever. But if we’d stayed there forever, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Plus I would never have invented my own sport, Rage Ball. So I suppose what happened next Happened For A Reason: after only eleven months, we got the dreaded letter informing us the house was going on the market. We were out.

Around the same time, Tammy got the opportunity to move to Melbourne and took it, while Joel decided he would finally move into the house he owned and had been renting out for years. Zak and I ended up moving in with our friend Gaff, who lived literally around the corner, in a huge house he shared with his friend Amy.

The Parthenon was disbanded. But out of The Parthenon’s ashes rose something greater: The Ponderosa.

onkaparingagsv

I could not be more excited about this photo, because something has happened that I had really hoped would happen at least one in this series. See the rear of that car in the driveway? The dark blue Corolla? THAT IS THE REAR OF *MY* DARK BLUE COROLLA. GOOGLE STREET VIEW HAS CAPTURED PROOF MY EXISTENCE IN AT LEAST ONE OF THE 60 ADDRESSES AT WHICH I’VE RESIDED.

With a total of four bedrooms, the house was similar in size to the Parthenon, but differed in some ways. It was only one storey instead of two, didn’t have a tiered backyard or blushingly heavy lemon tree, and the front yard was sadly without a little-boy-peeing water fountain. However, it did have two lounge rooms instead of one, ducted climate control, and a solar heated swimming pool. So, you know. Swings and roundabouts.

Who the fuck needs a roundabout WHEN YOU’VE GOT A POOL?! PS: in this photo, the pool has a cover on it: I swear the water was NOT, as a rule, lumpy.

The other major difference was that it had no Greek styling to it, so we couldn’t just call it Parthenon II. However, the kitchen was a weird colour of yellow, and the exterior of the house had this stucco scalloping all over, and the whole thing had, to the ignorant eye, a vaguely Mexican feel to it. And that’s how it became “The Ponderosa”.

Because our compulsion to give everything a name was matched only by our tone-deaf cultural stereotyping.

The reason I describe this house in so much detail is because The Ponderosa holds the record for being the place I have lived the longest, which I feel requires some attention. I lived there for three and a half years. The closest contender to that record is the one year and eight months I spent in Tin Can Bay; less than half the length of time spent in The Ponderosa. This is a big deal.

After the first six months or so, Amy moved out. By some wondrous, perfectly timed, only-happens-in-season-finales-of-TV-sitcoms miracle, Tammy returned to Canberra and moved back in with us. 75% of my Canberra family were reunited.

:+:+:+:+:+:+:

By 2007, Sarah and I were into our third year doing breakfast radio for 104.7. As always happens when a radio show starts to lose its new car smell, we had to start upping the ante in terms of “big events”. To that end, February 2007 became “Face Your Fears” month: a month of Sarah and I doing stunts that involved phobias. I faced my arachnophobia by holding a scorpion (NEVER AGAIN), my fear of falling by being forced off a 10m diving board…

NEVER AGAIN. 

…and my fear of pain by what else? Getting a tattoo, in the studio, live on air.

NEVER AG—actually this is negotiable. But I won’t be AT work, STILL WORKING during the next one.

After I got this tattoo I would loudly and obnoxiously tell anyone who would listen the same dumb joke over and over about how now Canberra FM could never fire me because I’d just shown such commitment and loyalty to my workplace. I had permanently marked myself for them. Technically they owed me for life. I was safe as houses! Untouchable! A platinum-level employee! And so on.

Do you see, perhaps, where this is going?

In April of 2007, the Sarah half of “Chris & Sarah for Breakfast” resigned. Commercial radio and commercial branding being what it is, without “Sarah” there was no “Chris & Sarah”, and so the entire show was iced.

Can you believe these two obvious consummate professionals didn’t go the distance? Astonishing.

In the space of one morning meeting, my six year friendship/working partnership with Sarah imploded, my career evaporated, and my sense of self worth plummeted. For six years I had been working at being an on-air comedian: first idly dreaming about it, then actively striving for it, then shaping my entire life around it. It had come to define my adulthood, and between 9:15am and 10:30am one April morning, it was all taken away.

I reacted to this change in my life the only way I could think of: I got super mad. I became a 24 hour sulk dispenser. Maybe all the teenage temper tantrums I’d neglected to have during my actual teens had came bubbling to the surface. Whatever it was, I spent the rest of 2007 careening down the slopes of a double black diamond hissy fit.

Despite the whole upending-my-career thing, the management at the radio station were exceedingly good to me. They found me another role on air, even though the usual course of action would have been to fire me. My new job was at the lowest rung of the on-air ladder; a battering for the old ego, having occupied the very top rung only days earlier, but it was better than unemployment.

Not only did the bosses at the radio station find a way to keep me on, but they said nothing during the extended period I spent a touchy, directionless, vibrating tumour of mournful anger. They waited patiently for six months. Only in the seventh month did they gently inquire if perhaps I wouldn’t mind acting like an actual human being in the workplace, please, as my endless stomping about was starting to dislodge the light fixtures.

I tried to channel my anger away from work, but the only other place I was ever at that wasn’t work was home. I channelled my anger home. And that’s how I invented Rage Ball.

Rage Ball involves two people standing in the pool at opposite ends, throwing a ball back and forth, aggressively complaining about life. As the game progresses, both the complaining and the throwing intensify, until eventually the players are simply pegging the ball at each other’s heads while screaming personal insults. Bonus points are available if, rather than hitting your opponent in the head, you hit the water in front of their face with enough force to splash chlorinated water into their eyes. The first person to rage-quit Rage Ball loses the game.

ponytantrum

Note that the rules of the game only dictate how a player loses: nobody ever wins.

:+:+:+:+:+:+:

By early 2008, having run out of things to be angry about, and having broken all the available balls in the house, I’d started to pull myself together. And I’d started thinking about my career again, using contacts I’d made while I was still working in breakfast radio. Every TV station, radio affiliate and gossip magazine we’d ever done business with as a breakfast show, I was hitting up for a job.

Somehow, this worked: in June of 2008, I was offered a job at a weekly gossip magazine in the role of Website Content Editor. It involved a huge payrise and a move to Sydney. It was perfect. Life was back on track.

So, on June 30, 2008, I said goodbye to The Ponderosa, to Zak and Tammy, and to my Canberra life. I climbed into my dark blue Corolla, and I drove away. I might have cried all the way to Goulburn, but I was still excited. And I was ready. Ready to start my new, high-paying, fancy-as-shit life of success in Sydney.

So why, then, if I moved to Sydney in June of 2008, does the heading of this story imply that I was still at The Ponderosa until 2010?

Life wasn’t quite as on track as I’d thought.

52) 2005-2006. Barwon Street, Kaleen ACT 2617

In October 2005, nine months after moving to Canberra, I finally got the hang of the city. I still felt entirely overwhelmed and fraudulent at my job, but I got the hang of being a person who lived in Canberra. This was helped, largely, by leaving behind my Dickson apartment and its revolving door of bizarre housemates.

Not an actual depiction. I did not live with Lionel Richie. I’m sure he’s a very considerate housemate who always hangs up his towel.

See, after Dual-WoW-Playing-Hai’s much talked about promotion finally came, it came with a relocation to Sydney. To replace D.WoW.P. Hai, Wannabe-Wife-Wendy moved in, and immediately started trying to nest with me. She kept asking me what “we” were doing on the weekend, and then suggesting couples stuff, like buying a blender. Okay, so I had not yet been part of a couple at that stage so I had no idea what couples did, but co-buying a blender seemed like a pretty big step. Perturbed by my refusal to raise her blender as my own, W.W. Wendy moved out and was replaced by Either-Frugal-Genius-Or-Shady-Fucking-Thief Tess. E.F.G.O.S.F.T. Tess kept trying to renegotiate the amount of rent she should pay weeks after signing the lease, was continually scamming rebates and discounts out of every company she dealt with, and definitely tried to screw W.W. Wendy out of her bond. (I bet a thousand dollars that today E.F.G.O.S.F.T. Tess is in jail for bank fraud. Don’t tell her about the bet; she’ll try to cheat me out of my winnings).

With the peaceful quiet of Dickson suddenly drowned out by the screaming of housemate alarm bells, I started spending as much free time as possible hanging out at the house of my workmates Zak, Joel and Tammy.

Zak, Joel, Tammy. Full-time idiots.

Zak, Joel and Tammy shared a smallish townhouse in Evatt that was already cramped with the three of them. With me cluttering up the joint even more every second day and most weekends, we started to make broad, grand plans for the four of us renting a mansion together: it was the solution to all our problems. They were always dumb, imaginary plans; like when you decide what you’re going to do with your lottery winnings.

At least they were imaginary, until one Thursday when Joel invited us to lunch at a “new place”. He gave us an address and told us to meet him there. The address was for a house that was for lease, and Joel had the keys for an inspection. He’d seen the “for lease” sign as he drove past that morning and decided, on a whim, to go for it.  It was the biggest house I’d seen in quite some time. One hour later we were filling out application forms. One day later I was using my clout as a local celebrity to give our application preference (this literally happened and it literally worked: they’d put our application in the bin because we weren’t a family, and only fished it out again when I called to be clumsily coquettish at them). One week later we were inappropriately using the radio station’s Black Thunder vehicle to move all our stuff in.

Tammy, who still lives in Canberra, took this photo for me on the weekend. The Google Street View shot was blurry and rubbish and featured a mangy stray dog in the middle of the driveway looking quizzically at the camera and RUINING MY SHOT.

Built by a Greek family in the early 1970s, the inside of the house was all columns and archways and elaborate chandeliers, so we affectionately called it The Parthenon. The Parthenon was fucking enormous. Four bedrooms upstairs, with a rumpus room and a fifth bedroom downstairs. The backyard was tiered, with huge patches of garden and a lemon tree that strained under the weight of its lemonly bounty. But the crowning glory of the Parthenon was the pond in the front yard,  featuring self-sufficient goldfish and a little-boy-peeing fountain statue. I’ve never lived anywhere so majestic. (The day we moved in, my inner six-year-old horse owner vanished forever. Now, in his place, there lives an inner 24-year-old frontyard water fountain owner. He has been disappointed in me ever since.)

Because I was the one with the 4am starts, I was given the master bedroom with en suite, because it meant I was free to shower or poop or scream with fatigue in the wee smalls without having to stomp through the rest of the house. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise considering the peeing statue fountain out front, but my en suite also had a bidet. It didn’t actually work, so it was really just a large porcelain bowl that jutted out of the floor. But still. I had a bidet. I used it as a chair.

Between the four of us, we had a sales manager, a promotions and marketing director, a traffic manager, and an on-air announcer. We could have started our own radio station at home, but we started a family instead (I mean the four of us were family: nobody got Tammy pregnant or anything). Tammy, Zak and Joel were, and remain, beloved members of my family. After Mum, Robby and Sarah, they get to claim a hefty chunk of credit for me being the person I am today. They were way better housemates to me than I was to them; hopefully I learnt from them how to be better. They remain among my dearest friends—Tammy and I have even travelled together. (Sort of. Well we met in a country that wasn’t either of our own for Christmas. We arrived separately and left separately but we were together for two weeks: does that still count as travelling together?)

It was at The Parthenon that the tradition of Fake Christmas was introduced. It started in 2005 as a way for us to exchange presents and get bollocking drunk in a Christmas Day manner without it actually being Christmas Day (because we all had our own actual families to go to for real Christmas – Tammy’s and Zak’s in New Zealand, Joel’s in Albury, mine in Queensland).

The residents of The Parthenon at 7:30am on the first ever Fake Christmas.

The same residents 18 hours later. Not a single person in this photo was still awake thirty minutes after this picture was taken.

It’s a tradition that’s held on: Fake Christmas has become an annual event, held every year since. I’ve only missed one in ten years.

:+:+:+:+:+:+:+:

It’s early 2006, which means it’s thirteen years since I had the car accident, and twelve and a half years since I got the (supposedly temporary) partial denture that replaced the teeth I left wedged in the side of that dude’s catamaran. I would have thought, after twelve and a half years, that I would be familiar with all the ins and outs of the dental plate by now, but apparently I was not, because one morning I woke up at my usual time of 3:45am to get ready for work, and it was gone.

GONE.

I don’t know how else to explain it. The plate wasn’t in my mouth. At first I thought maybe I’d bitten it in half in my sleep, somehow chewed through hardened plastic and metal wire, and swallowed it. But it would have ripped holes in my oesophagus all the way down, and I was neither in pain nor gushing blood, so that wasn’t it. I thought maybe I had taken it out overnight: when I first got it in 1994, I was told to put it in a glass of water before going to bed. I completely ignored this instruction because I was thirteen, not fucking ninety, but once a year or so I would try it for fun. Well, partially for fun and partially to really amplify my sense of self-loathing. At any rate, there was no glassware in my bedroom at all so that wasn’t the answer either. The plate was simply gone.

I ruffled through my bedclothes, I searched under my bed, I tore my entire bedroom upside down looking for the plate, and it was nowhere to be found. By this point it is 4:10am, and I have become hysterical because I have a giant gaping hole in my face. I was, and had always been, very sensitive about the whole false-teeth thing: very few people knew about it, and nobody had ever seen me without it. Nobody until Tammy, thirty seconds later, because my frantic ransacking had devolved into broken, hysterical sobbing, which had woken her up, and she’d burst in to ask what was wrong.

I scream my predicament at her, barely coherent above the rising panic. Well, rising panic and the fact that, without three of my front teeth, consonants are thirty per cent harder to say. Tammy helps me to search the room again. Still, the plate is nowhere to be found. It is now 4:30am, and I was expected at work half an hour ago. I call my co-host Sarah, still sobbing, and tell her that my teeth have gone missing and I can’t come into work, partly because I can’t talk properly and partly because if anyone were to see me in my grotesque state I’d surely chased out of the city and beaten with sticks by an angry, torch-wielding mob. Tammy, unable to help any further, leaves me to my wailing, and I hang up the phone and do what I have always done when faced with insurmountable distress: I curl into a ball and immediately go to sleep.

I wake up again at 8:20am, utterly disoriented. It’s the wrong time of morning to be asleep, why am I not at work, why does it feel so breezy behind my top lip…

I remember why I’m still at home, and begin sobbing again. Lying there, crying, I try to plan my day. I have to find a dentist, I have to pay however much money it will cost to fast-track a new plate, I have to figure out if a dentist can even make one from scratch, or if they’ll need my dental history from the shitty rural Murgon dentist who made the first one. I can’t go into work until it’s replaced. In fact I can’t go anywhere until it’s replaced: I’m a breakfast radio announcer in a relatively small city: I’m recognised everywhere I go. So I’m stuck. I can’t do my job or leave my house or bite an apple or say “Susan Sarandon”. I feel like I’m going to throw up. Stress and panic and sadness wash over me. I could definitely throw up. I’m so stricken with grief and panic I can’t even think about what the next step is.

Oh, wait, yes I can: I absolutely have to throw up.

I fling back the covers and leap out of the bed to race to the bathroom. As I do, something scratches my upper arm. Almost simultaneously, I see a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye and hear the soft, padded thud of something small landing on carpet. I look down and there, on the floor, is my plate. Just sitting there, like it had been there the whole time. Which it most definitely hadn’t. The nick in my arm had been from the wire of the plate as it fell to the floor. But fell from where? Then I saw the hole in my singlet. The hole that the plate wire had clearly been hooked through.

So, not only had my plate come out of my mouth while I slept, fallen down to my singlet and gotten itself hooked, it also managed to STAY hooked while I searched my room, twice, hysterical and crying and generally making a scene, and then still stayed in place when I went back to sleep for four more hours.

That day I learnt that an alarming amount of my self worth was tied up in that small arrangement of plastic and wire. And while it seems so simple now, at the time I honestly could not conceive how I would go about changing the situation. So I continued to live with the risk that at any moment a giant chunk of my humanity might flee from my gob and lose itself in my pyjamas. I lived with that risk for eight more years.

51) 2005. Challis Street, Dickson ACT 2602

Having worked solidly on building our experience on-air since the beginning of 2003—slowly creeping into better time slots, filling in for the regular breakfast show—after two years Sarah Robinson and I had made it to a place where we were able to take a huge next step: our own permanent full time positions. At the end of 2004, we signed contracts with 104.7 in Canberra to be their new breakfast show, with plans to start in early 2005.

On December 31, 2004, Sarah and I said goodbye to our friends and families, crammed everything we could fit into my 1981 Commodore, and made the 13 hour trip to Canberra. We nearly didn’t make the whole trip, because a 1981 Commodore doesn’t like doing that kind of thing on a whim. There was a real touch-and-go moment featuring a struggling radiator, a roadworks-induced traffic jam, and a heartbreakingly close but inaccessible BP: it nearly killed our careers, our friendship and the car. BUT: eventually we made it to the nation’s capital, ready to start our new lives.

Old Group Shot

104.7’s on-air line up for 2005. When we started, the station was mid-transition from a full on ROCK station to a pop-based “hit music” station. Sarah & I inadvertently became the face of this new brand, and a lot of people resented us for it. And not just listeners! The guy second from the left? He was so mad about the station’s new direction and on-air changes, for the first three months he flat out refused to speak to us directly. (But he became one of my closest friends, so clearly his convictions are paper thin.)

The whole experience was bizarre and intimidating. Even though we were still idiot kids from Brisbane who had no idea what we were doing (we tried to keep that quiet as long as we could, but eventually we had to actually go on the air), we were being treated like minor celebrities. High-spending clients of the radio station gave us the oddest free things, like gym memberships and meat trays (MESSAGE RECEIVED, CANBERRA #bodyshame). We had cocktail events held in our honour, did local TV commercials and “appeared” at events as if our being there was a big deal. On one occasion we were the “celebrity judges” for Fashions on the Field at a Race Day: that event currently holds the record for The Least Qualified I Have Ever Been To Do Anything, Ever.

The pièce de résistance, though? WE GOT OUR NAMES ON A FUCKING COFFEE MUG.

FullSizeRender (3)

THIS IS WHEN YOU KNOW YOU’VE MADE IT. (Yes, I took this photo just now, in June 2015. No, I didn’t even have to leave my room to get it. This mug and my tattoo (spoiler) are the only remaining links to my short time as a celebrity: I keep it with me always.)

The whole time this was happening; while we were being celebrated and paraded around like something worth seeing, we were completely befuddled. We didn’t feel like important people, we didn’t look like important people. It all felt so out of place. Not to mention that we were dead on our feet. With no budget for a producer, we were doing all the background work ourselves, and with no real clue what we were doing, all the background work took twice as long as it should have. Between interviews, planning meetings, pre-records, audio editing, writing, client call-outs and other show prep work, for the first several months we would start at 4:00am and not finish until around 4:00pm. Tired and confused: that sums up most of 2005.

Finding living arrangements befitting of this new life was at once very difficult and exceptionally easy. The difficult part was learning that Canberra was more expensive than I had realised. I had grown to love living alone since my time in Kelvin Grove, and was determined to do it again, but discovered I couldn’t afford to do it in Canberra. (Sidenote: This is not even a little bit true: I absolutely could have lived on my own in any number of places if I’d put more than five seconds thought into it. But remember: I was very tired.)

But once I’d come to terms with having to share, finding somewhere to live was the easy part. I wanted to be in the Ascot of Canberra. And I decided that the Ascot of Canberra was Dickson. Dickson is quaint and adorable and its main street looks like a movie set. It was pretty and central to my needs and I decided I was going to live there no matter what. (Sidenote: Dickson, while definitely lovely, is not the Ascot of Canberra. Kingston is the Ascot of Canberra, and is on the other side of the lake. I was way off. But remember: I was very tired.)

I’d even picked the building I wanted to live in: it was called Coventry.

From “The Tuscan Quarter” to “Coventry”. If you want to tour the world without a passport, I can highly recommend pretentious apartment building names.

Sitting above a startlingly dense collection of restaurants, “The Coventry” is part townhouse complex, part apartment complex, part secret hidden rooftop garden. The townhouses/apartments themselves form a border around the edge of the complex, while the middle is made up of an oasis of palm trees, water features and boardwalks.

dickson roof

This is on the ROOF. And yes, I did borrow this photo from a recent real estate listing. What? IT’S FREE ADVERTISING FOR MR BLACKSHAW.

I had to live there. I was going to live there. And I searched every corner of the internet looking for any sharehouse listing for 12 Challis Street.

I finally found one, which is how I ended up living with Hai. Hai mostly kept to himself playing World of Warcraft on two computers at once: His main character on his PC, and his secondary character “mostly for healing” which ran from a laptop on his knee. Hai was very friendly, though he was also a world class mansplainer. And he did do a lot of complaining (manmplaining?) about his impending promotion and how the move to six figures would push him up a tax bracket. Like, a lot of complaining. It dominated most conversations. But I would have happily listened to any number of complaints or unnecessary explanations of simple things if it meant getting to live in that building, which I was so in love with despite not once looking at any other place in any other suburb even for a single minute.

The apartment itself was glorious: two storeys, with each bedroom featuring its own full-sized bathroom. The shower took up one third of the entire room, so I could comfortably lie flat out on the shower floor without touching any surface (which, can I say: it cannot be overstated how handy that was for a hangover). Meanwhile, one entire wall of the bedroom—floor to ceiling—was glass. This was alarming at first; not just for me, but for the birds who flew headfirst into it on a semi-weekly basis.

dickson bedroom

That’s a LOT of window, right? And note the mirrored wardrobe doors. On no level was getting dressed in this room comfortable.

One time a magpie slammed straight into the glass right in front of my face as I was idly staring out the window. I didn’t know the true meaning of “high pitched squeal” until that day. And those stupid winding windows that only open a fraction meant I was never able to reach far enough to get all the feathers off the splat-mark.

Avian suicide attempts notwithstanding, the apartment was wonderful and the location was great. And I don’t just mean the location of the suburb within Canberra, I mean the location of the apartment: twelve feet above seven different restaurants. And it wasn’t even twelve feet of stairs: there was an elevator. As it was, the new hours I was working did not lend themselves to good choices, meal-wise:

4:30am: Ughhhh. Breakfast.
9:00am: Show’s over! Phew, I’m starving, it’s technically still breakfast time, yeah?
12:00pm: Oh my god I haven’t eaten since breakfast at 4:30am! Let’s have lunch!
3:00pm: I work so hard, I deserve a little treat.
5:30pm: No, see, because of how early I start, everything is earlier, so technically this is my dinner time.
8:00pm: Why yes, I’d love to meet you for dinner!

And so on. Combine that with living 27 seconds away from Chinese, Szechuan Chinese, Japanese, Ethiopian, a dessert place that only served frozen custard, the best Indian restaurant I’ve ever been to, and Dominos (and this isn’t counting the dozen or so other restaurants and fast food joints directly across the street) and it wasn’t long until things went south.

Well, not south. More like simultaneously east and west.

DSC_1506

Learn from my mistakes, young players: get your promo shots taken BEFORE you start eating like a hobbit.

:+:+:+:+:+:

Okay this isn’t part of the main story. This is a bonus. Consider it a thank you gift for staying with me for nearly one whole year. Like any fresh new radio show, we were thirsty for ratings. We were always looking for big stunts to do. Long story short: I lost a bet on air and my punishment was learning a cheer routine with the Canberra Raiders cheerleaders, and then performing said cheer routine at a game alongside the Raiderettes. Which is how, on April 10, 2005, I ended up at Canberra Stadium in front of 19,000 people looking like this:

Embed from Getty Images

You read that correctly; this image is embedded from Getty Images (which, incidentally, is why it is so inelegantly placed: thanks, rudimentary embedding code!). Getty Images’ one and only image of me is in drag and mid-cheer routine. Worse still? This photo has now been on the internet for TEN YEARS.