29 December 2006

Fast Away The Old Year Passes

Which reminds me, that was one Christmas carol I didn't hear a single time this year. However, Christmas in ancient history now; Sydney is all abuzz with New Year plans now, with little more than 24 hours remaining before a million or two people start their frenzied lemming-like migration down to Harbourside to try and find a suitable vantage point for watching the world's most spectacular fireworks display (in two installments, at 9 and midnight).
Considering that Sydney Harbour is absolutely massive, it wouldn't seem that getting to see the fireworks presented that much of a challenge, but when you consider the skyscrapers, the hills, the private properties, and the armies of drunks who occupy all the high ground, you'd be surprised. Put it this way: despite my best efforts, I have yet to see an unobstructed view of the midnight fireworks, and although I saw the 9 pm version pretty clearly last year, it was from out in Balmain, far enough removed that the heady sensation of bombs bursting in air all around you is more or less lost.

If you're willing to stake out a spot by Circular Quays at around 5 or 6 in the evening and then somehow occupy yourself for the next six hours while all around you the crowd gets thicker and drunker and crazier, you'll get the full effect of the pyrotechnic spectacular but, erm, I'm not. So unless one of us comes up with a better inspiration - and heads were being put together at sidewalk cafes all over town today trying to brainstorm this dilemma - it may well be Balmain again for me this year.

There's been very little in the papers of late other than a series of lists of somebody's best/worst movies/books/news events/fashion disasters/spiritual discoveries of 2006, and these seldom cease to annoy me. Not because I actually read them, which I don't, but because they take up space that might be dedicated to something worth reading. But since nobody in Australia - at least not anyone who has any control over the matter, which includes most media personnel - has done any meaningful work since well before Christmas, it's questionable that anyone would be around to write more interesting articles or, for that matter, to read them.

Yesterday one of my occasionally employed friends took me up to the north of Sydney, to the beginnings of the Central Coast, where the skies opened up with - surprise, surprise - a sudden burst of unexpected sunshine, enabling us to get in some quality beach time on one of the biggest, widest and longest beaches I've seen yet. The only trouble was the waves, which were rather taller than I was, and showed a distressing tendency to flatten people face first into the sand if they mistimed their approach into the water by so much as a millisecond. Needless to say, I never made it in past my knees, and even they got a sound thrashing from the swirling waters, but my friend, who's a rather keen and accomplished swimmer, still managed to get smacked down with sufficient vigour that he was still picking grains of sand out of his ears on the drive back to Sydney, by which time the weather had reverted to form, said form being thunder, lightning and copious amounts of rain.
Tonight I'm invited to some rather formal party out in the more or less posh suburb of Double Bay (formal by Sydney standards meaning that people are likely to eschew sandals and put on shirts that require buttoning), but haven't decided yet if this is something I want to get involved in. There actually is an ironing board and iron where I'm staying, but whether I want to plug it in and venture to use it is another matter altogether. I've been lugging my beach towel and swimmers around with me all day in what look to be vain hopes that the sun would put in enough of an appearance to make a beach trip worthwhile, but with the afternoon - like good old 2006 - fast waning, it doesn't look as though it's going to happen.
And with that, I guess I can't help being the kind of ponce I was railing against only a few paragraphs ago and cast a look back over the year. The thing is, inasmuch as I've kept up the radio and newspapers (oh yes, and the internet), it seems as though it must have been a perfectly dreadful year. Wars all over the place, people getting blown up and imprisoned and abused, politicians of unbelievable incompetence draining the Treasury for generations to come, the oil, the water, for all I know, even the air fast disappearing, and yet from a purely personal and selfish standpoint, I can't say it's been a bad year at all. I had similar experiences in the 1970s, when Nixon, Ford and Carter presided over ongoing political, financial and environmental disasters that had everyone in such an unrelenting funk that they resorted to dressing up in leisure suits and going to swingers' clubs, yet I personally prospered on a scale I could have never imagined. It probably didn't hurt that during much of this time I more or less ignored the news (very unusual for me, having been a current events and history junkie since around the age of 8 or 9), so when Reagan came along talking about how, "It's morning in America," I had to admit I'd never ever noticed it had been dark.
So I guess 2006 has been a bit of mini-version of that same phenomenon. Without wishing to downplay the personal or global tragedies experienced by so many, I have to confess that practically nothing more serious than the occasional inconvenience has befallen me during this year. I had an operation on my foot that seems to have turned out fine, I finally reached the decision (and took the action) to leave London and move to New York, I've had - as I have for the last few years - two summers, one on each end of the world, and though I did precious little work, my financial situation actually improved a bit.

My inbuilt Catholic guilt - which a commenter alluded to a few days ago - naturally makes me a bit alarmed at this, assuming as it does that even mild good fortune must inevitably be setting me up for a spectacular fall, but looked at from the other end of things, 2006 hasn't been anything that remarkable on the plus side, either. I haven't fallen in love - or seen so much as a smattering of a hint that such a thing might be possible, I haven't won the lottery (not that I play it, of course) or otherwise acquired a great fortune, I haven't even found the moderately well-paying job that I've been semi-actively looking for.

And at the moment my life is kind of in abeyance, suspended between two worlds, with my old home in London swiftly vanishing in the distance and my new one in New York still looming some way off in the distance. When I look at it that way, 2006 has been kind of like the last several "6" years, a period of retrenchment, marking time and gathering strength for the shocking and exciting changes to come in the following "7" year. It was definitely that way in 1996, when, at the end of my tether from trying to preside over the burgeoning Lookout Records empire, I was subconsciously laying the groundwork for my inglorious exit in the spring of 1997. In 1986 I was struggling back from the financial destitution of the year before, working on Lookout magazine, the Lookouts band, and helping to build Gilman Street (which celebrates its 20th anniversary tomorrow, hooray for them!), all of which contributed to making 1987 a banner year.

1976 was kind of lost in the haze of drug abuse and massive depression, but it was still comfortable and comparably noneventful, at least compared with the total upheaval of 1977, which saw me making more money and being more miserable than ever before, discovering punk rock, hating myself and everyone around me, and stumbling through a series of unmitigated disasters. So by that measure, 1976 wasn't bad at all.

The analogy falls down a bit when we get to 1966. True, once again I was being set up for a banner "7" year. I crammed more action and activity into 1967 than should be humanly possible, and it was nearly constantly thrilling, even though I was by almost any rational standard systematically ruining my life. But I'd been doing that in 1966, too, especially when I set fire to my college, got arrested for arson, and as a result ended up (oh, perhaps here's where the payoff comes in) getting disqualified from having to go to Vietnam and being put on Social Security disability, thus relieving me of the need to work for about 20 years. But let me tell you, it seemed pretty terrible at the time.

And 1956: absolute disaster from start to finish, except for our family's trip - the first proper "vacation" we'd ever taken - to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, which probably helped plant in me the wanderlust with which I've been afflicted ever since. It's the year I went off the rails at school, stopped getting mostly A's, started being an ill-tempered, self-pitying, mouthy brat, and dedicated my life to being an antisocial misfit. Which, while it didn't produce a very pleasant 1957 - the first and only time I had a mohawk and the first time I got called a "punk" by some kid attempting to ritually humiliate me - it apparently helped set me up for a lifelong and relatively profitable career.

Sorry for any of you who are actually getting into this, but I can't furnish any memories of 1946, and those of 1947 are hazy at best, since I was preoccupied with the minutiae of being born. So, back to the future: I'm quite looking forward to 2007, as I have this abiding and perhaps touching faith that it's going to be a great year, both here in Sydney for the next two and a half months, then in my new home of New York City. I'm even willing to take the risk of jinxing things to say so, and just think how much pleasure of the schadenfreude ilk you readers will be able to derive from my posts over the coming year should my prediction fail to come to pass.

1 comment:

Anna Louise said...

Although not quite as interesting as yours i have spent '06 learning what i need for my GSCE's and will spend the most part of '07 revising all of that so i can actually take them. Looking (slightly) furthur than that though, i have the first real decisions about my future to make,(college or 6th form etc) not sure quite how well i will cope with that, something tells me that '96/'97 was a little simpler for me, me being only 5/6 at the time. Where the biggest decision i had to make was what colour socks i wanted to wear.