Its been almost a month since leaving civilization I have (gone troppo)as they say in here in Australia, (gone bush) as they also say. I have left my senses in Europe! In truth, I have been spending too much time in cafes meeting different friends here and there, speaking of this and that.....re-learning the Australian language, usually that. In fact, I should really become more serious; (more conchy), if I want to return back to France with some decent work to show this summer. I have been filming my friend John Foss (aka Giacomo Fosscatti) who designs and builds motorized bicycles. He wants to put a small film clip to his web site of the new Billinudgel Bullet Flyer cruising through the Eucalyptus forests. Into the turns, knee extended out like a motorcycle racer from the fifties, he is flat out (like a lizard drinking).
But at the end of most afternoons I put on my bathing suit (budgie smugglers) and jump into the sea. There are often lots of surfers so one has to be careful, especially to avoid the novices (shark biscuits), a young boy of thirteen had his poor head cracked open last week here in Byron by a (shark biscuit) with a pointed surfboard. This raised the intellectual discussion around here of whether or not one really needs a pointed surfboard anyway?....
Two days ago was Australia Day, a day for national celebration, kind of like Bastille day, but without the Bastille (or anything to do with any of kind of revolution, as this is still a Monarchy, in theory anyway) A day of family picnics and fun. Also a day of drinking, excessive often, when mobs of hooligans (yobbos) dress up in Union Jack to go out and harass dark-skinned people. Its a kind of a National shame for everyone else, civilized or not. This happens even in the best and most open cultures, helas!
So, last night I stopped in a pub and had something cold before going home. Curious to see who was winning the Tennis match in Melbourne between the Frenchman and the the Serb. The pub was mostly empty, but of the two or three clients at the bar, I knew one of them who works in the local hardware store. A nice guy (bloke) wanted to buy me a beer (shout me) but as I don't drink I accepted a lime and bitters. He and his buddy were both a little drunk but in a friendly sort of way. They asked me what I got up to for Australia Day. Being a bit of a prankster (larrikin)I replied that I put dark shoe polish on my face, went out, and kicked some Aussie ass all day!! They nearly fell off their barstools. Fortunately though, they didn't know quite what to make of me so they laughed. In another kind of town I might not have made it out the door alive.
There's a Zen story in which a man is enjoying himself on a river at dusk. He sees another boat coming down the river toward him. At first it seems so nice to him that someone else is also enjoying the river on a nice summer evening. Then he realizes that the boat is coming right toward him, faster and faster. He begins to get upset and starts to yell,
"Hey, hey watch out! For Pete's sake, turn aside!"
But the boat just comes faster and faster, right toward him. By this time he's standing up in his boat, screaming and shaking his fist, and then the boat smashes right into him. He sees that its an empty boat.
This is the classic story of our whole life situation.
Two days ago my friend John F. took me over to Robert B.'s home near Byron Bay, a magnificent home finished only last year. He lives there with his wife and children surrounded by an even more magnificent collection of Artwork from all over the world with lots of Aboriginal work; bark paintings old and new, as well as paintings. I am rarely impressed by homes but am always surprised by a great collection of Art. Robert created Sotheby's in Sydney sometime back in the seventies, he welcomed us barefoot, wearing the ubiquitous cargo pants and tee shirt. This is how one dresses around here (de rigeur).He knows Aboriginal Art inside out and I marveled at listening to his explanations in front of them. His house goes on for kilometers, large wall-like windows with views of Cape Byron; and the sea, a long band of ultramarine blue stretching across the horizon. WoW! (Sacré Bleu!) These people know how to live down here!
My dear friend John and myself went for a swim afterwards, 'to crack a wave' as he puts it down here. I have been 'doing fuck all', also an Aussie expression meaning to 'do absolutely nothing' (que dalle).
I have set up an impromptu painting studio between two roofs. Weather has been very hot these last few days; little wind and ones sinks into lethargy just watching the clouds overhead.
The Australian landscape is intense here on the North Coast, as it is known. 800 killometers north of Sydney and a 2 hour drive south of Brisbane, this is rural country: farm country, cows and things. But also, lots of surprises for a visitor from the northern hemisphere to keep one always on edge. The celebrated snakes, spiders and sharks linger in one's imagination here in Australia.
The 'Aussies' love to pour it on of course (tirer la langue). The first weeks of my visit here 11 years ago had me frantically checking the insides of my shoes each morning for redback spiders. Eventually I began wearing rubber flipflops like everyone else around here. Stepping outside under the inky black sky is a real treat, for the southern sky seems so subtly similiar, yet it is naturally different. Being far from a city, the sky, in between the multitude of stars, spread out like fairy dust, is like the black found in a Chinese ink drawing. In the middle of the night one steps out onto a wooden deck in the darkness and feels something net-like enveloping one's face. Recoiling quickly, one turns the light on to see an enormous spider web made of nylon stretching across the deck. In it, sits the biggest, ugliest looking spider outside of Disney studios. Ouch! (Cricky!) (Putain!) The Aussie experiance has begun!
One quickly hears of the ferocious Brown snake (aggressive, not to be cuddled), the venomous but timid Black snakes; yellow and red bellied (they sunbath across the black tar roads under the noontime sun), The infamous Tiger snakes which come out at night and pack a nasty bite. I have a friend, an elderly woman who went out to her compost one night in the suburbs, by the time she had gotten back to her kitchen door she was already hyperventilating. She spent 7 days in hospital and months afterward recovering. Yikes!
Happily they aren't a lot of funnel-web spiders around here. They are mostly down south in Sydney. These critters don't like being stepped on (who does?) They are big ugly things which bite the exposed soles of feet, then, lean over to watch their victims hop around in pain. If the poor souls don't make it to the hospital within the hour, they forfeit their right, forever, of visiting a shoe store again. This is a wild place and not for the fainthearted by any means.
In any event I have settled in. I have set up a small space to paint out of doors but under a roof so I am curious to see what comes out for the next 3 months. My Hard Drive broke down so my computer was out of action for more than a week. It seems to be OK now. Hoping it lasts (pourvu que ca dure!)
Two nights in Paris which was great and where I stayed with friend Anne near Nation. First night to dinner at Clementine's, who, with her boyfriend Gérard D. (actor, and bonvivant extraordinaire) prepared an amazing risotto and fish dinner. Also there, Clem's mother Daisy, an old friend from New York who now lives in New Orleans. A great feast and tall tales.
Next morning to the Louvre where I had wanted to see the Tintoretto and Titians but the place was mobbed and I gave up and went back to Clem's on the rue de Lille. Gérard took me for a spin on his bike and showed me around the 6th and 7th arrondissments and to a Hotel he is creating. He doesn't understand what red lights are for apparently. The weather was quite cold and he doesn't wear gloves! Sacré bleu! Sacré Français!
I Met Anne in the early evening and we tried to wait in line to see James Thieree's new piece at Chatelet but were discouraged by the line and 2 hour wait. Instead we went for a long walk around the Isle St Louis and back up through le quartier Latin where we saw Le Ruban Blanc which was good but oppressive. Home late, and me, up early to catch a flight to Australia straight through.
Here near Byron Bay it is humid and hot, large mountains of grey cloud cross over the green landscape. I need a week to settle in as one's sleeping is disjointed after such a journey. Staying with Rolf, who is Swiss, and has a large house overlooking an open green valley full of many different birds.