Wearing your heart on your sleeve in the second person

You have an idea of who you are. You are a highly complex character, a unique product of your own existence and experience. Etched within the walls of your mind (Sorry Prof. Snape) are details as broad ‘not a dickhead’ and specific as ‘can be a dickhead but in a self-deprecating way if it gives others a laugh’ and ‘a bit pretentious; okay with it though.’

You take these details, these landmarks on the roadmap of your character, and you do your best to display and control them in a way which make you appear to family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers as the absolute best intimation of yourself. Except sometimes it becomes just an imitation of yourself.

Although you have not attempted to control the broadcast of your character to a point where you are infallible, without fault or flaw, you have attempted to control the flaws which you see as most desirable within yourself, those which do, paradoxically, make you more attractive to potential lovers, friends, employers. After all, you yourself are attracted to certain flaws and a vision of perfection is so subjective you believe it foolish to search for; at least at an aesthetic level.

Ideally you see yourself as someone who is genuine, kind, accepting, funny and weird in a way that draws people in. You are not someone to suffer the bullshit or idiocy of others; though you don’t become angry at stupid people, you attempt to emulate your father’s ability to tell people to go to hell, while having them look forward to the journey. Your ability to handle stress is one of your defining characteristics. You advocate knowledge and you rebuke those who preach ignorance through idealism. You are good at your job but you will not let it define you. You live for a lifestyle which allows you to both explore these aspects of your character and also ignore them for the sake of pleasure. You are outwardly happy, and if you are not inwardly happy you remove yourself from the company of others so as to not bring them down. You constantly question each of these aspects and every decision they lead to.

But right now you are sitting in on a couch in a library, mentally noting that if you were a parent on holidays in Margaret River on a 40 degree day you would totally take your kids to the library and give them a book and a beanbag. Man you’d be such a good Dad if you were remotely interested in ever having kids.

You are sitting here inwardly exploring in some kind of pseudo-intellectual philosophical ramble because you are on holidays, and you’ve allowed yourself the time to indulge in such nonsense. But you have to question why you’re on holiday, and you have realised it’s exactly because of a fault in the character you work so hard to not appear to work so hard at maintaining. You lost control; you lashed out; you became angry. You let an aspect of your job overwhelm and control you. At the time you thought your rant was eloquent and informative, controlled yet deservedly biting. But it was just angry, bitter and savage.

But you won’t dwell on that, you just need a little time away to indulge in sunshine, live music, art, surf and the beautiful people you surround yourself with. You deserve it, man. Motherfucker you just wrote two entire newspapers on your own, give yourself a high five. Better yet, tell someone else to high five you. Now stop talking to yourself, because this whole character control thing is becoming vaguely OCD. It’s okay though, because it’s self aware. Almost meta. Should probably talking to yourself though.

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Sharks, and facing danger with fear or respect

Saturday morning I woke early and fresh, having taken it unusually easy on Friday night. I stepped outside, noted the favourable winds, recalled the swell forecast from seabreeze.com.au, and for the first Saturday in at least a month, decided against joining the dawn patrol which would no doubt have already started rolling in to the Lefthanders’ car park, eyeing that wonderful stretch of coastline between Big Rock and Umbies.

I cruised in to town for a coffee. I noted the license plates of hire cars and tourists rolling in to town for the Gourmet Escape. I got to the gym when it opened at 9am, thinking a work out in the morning would serve me well, and that I’d cleanse my sweaty soul with a mal slide at Grunters that afternoon.

Fifteen minutes later I received a text from a colleague telling me there had been a shark attack. She had heard it was at Gracetown. She went to investigate. I carried on with my work out. Within the hour I had been told a man had died surfing at Umbies, the same break I had decided against surfing about four hours earlier.

By the end of the day the facts had outrun the rumour mill, Chris Boyd’s name had been released and it became clear I would not be able to distance myself from this death as a journalist, as a surfer, or even in my personal life. The social media tributes were flowing in, as is to be expected in a small town, from casual acquaintances, but also from colleagues, good friends, and surprisingly, from old high school friends back in Queensland.

Not only did Chris Boyd move in similar circles to me in Margaret River, but had also done so in Coolum in Queensland, a ten minute drive from my parents’ house and where I surfed throughout my teenage years, and still return to a couple of times a year. I realised it would be foolish and a lie to pretend my weight of grief, at whatever distance my life and Chris’s existed, was insignificant.

Is it arrogant of me to think I can speak to his, his friend’s, or his family’s experiences? Or would it be selfish to not use the access I have to a forum such as this to attempt to gather my thoughts and approach something that might resemble meaning? I can do it for myself, and hope that maybe it will do something for someone else.

Chris and I have friends in common, we’ve surfed together at the same breaks, and, although it was not uncommon, we have both made the journey from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and found ourselves at home in Margaret River, this beautiful surf mad town.

Now however, this beautiful town and surfing community is saddened and unsure of where to go or who to go to next.
The social media tributes have been replaced with social media debate which dissolve, occasionally, into impassioned vitriol.
Do we return to the ocean? Do we just find solace in each other? Do we arm ourselves to the teeth and hunt for the wretched beast for ruining so many lives? Or do we, while we can, live and let live, realising that the ocean is not our ocean, and the earth not our earth, despite the tragedies we face most definitely being our tragedies.

I can’t speak to Chris’s opinions, but the majority of watermen I know, have spoken to, and whose words I have read in recent days all throw about one word in particular on the subject of sharks and the dangers of the ocean: respect. Aside from the science, the opinions, the rhetoric and the politics there should only be respect.

To enter the Indian ocean requires a knowledge of those that have entered the Indian ocean before you, and the experiences they have shared, the stories they have told, the fates they have suffered. From this knowledge comes respect; respect of the ocean, respect of the creatures that call it home, and respect of those who join you each time you paddle out.

But you’re not full of yourself, or boastful that you can look such dangers in the eye and not let it stop you. You don’t just know the dangers, you embrace the dangers and accept fate, dropping down the face of that set wave you hung out slightly wider from the crowd for, watching it arc and peak ahead of you before it finally throws, tucking you inside that tunnel of lightest dark, and hoping it has hit the reef at just the right angle to hold you in there for so long you start to believe you won’t make it out the other end.

This week I am terrified of two things: I am terrified that the next time I go for a surf I won’t return to shore, but more than that, I am terrified that same fear will keep me from returning to the surf.

I am not religious, and I have no idea whether Chris thought he was headed somewhere whiter and brighter when he eventually departed these shores. But, to me at least, where he is now is irrelevant, because where he was was where he wanted to be, and I don’t think anyone can ask for anything more than that.

Your body may be gone, I’m gonna carry you in.
In my head, in my heart, in my soul.
And maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll both live again.
Well I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I hope so.

Modest Mouse – The Ocean Breathes Salty

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Sorry Mum, I’m not coming home just yet

You would be forgiven for thinking this website is written and managed by someone with, if not mild schizophrenia, at least the mind of a child. And the body of a child. And the attention span of a small bridge capable of producing it’s own tension. [Insert joke here.]
But no, the schizophrenia is yet to be diagnosed, adulthood was pronounced terminal nearly three years ago upon graduation from university, and you’re reading the words of a man fully capable of making his own indecisions; though he compensates with self-deprecation and hates it when people speak in the third person.
You would too though if you had the option of instead being self-referential in second person while throwing in a second punchline to a joke nobody noticed the first time around.
Long story short (story?) I am no longer leaving on the adventure of a life time by way of an antipodean intra-continental road trip before an intercontinental backpacking jaunt, because who needs the adventure of a lifetime if you’re already on the adventure of now? 
Aside from the schizophrenic aspect (or maybe exactly because of it?!) you should now be imagining the Brad Pitt to my Edward Norton telling me that this is my life, and it’s ending one moment at a time!
Fight Club may not be the most allegorically apt tex for my life right now, although surfing could be seen as the freedom of losing all hope, falling lower in the hope of flying higher and whatnot. And while there is a Marla she’s not an awful klepto; she’s actually quite sweet.
However I will be waking up in a different place, at a different time, but as just the same person throughout July and August when Splendour in the Grass and a snowboarding trip to New Zealand satiate any need I have to venture further afield.
Because seriously, have you been to the South West? Rich Wisken’s Brumby was fuelled by its own sense of self-satisfaction for having called this place its home.
If you need me, I’ll be here, watching 90s cult classics and doing exactly this with a self-satisfied grin I’ve modelled off Jeff Lebowski.

It's Blue Steel for hipsters.

It’s basically Blue Steel for hipsters.


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I was a 12-year-old Hellman

There I was, 12-years-old, in all my fluoro-helmeted, knee-padded glory, pacing along the top of the biggest vert ramp in the country, as far as I knew. As far as it mattered.
The other local skate rats were laughing and taunting; I wasn’t much of a skater, and certainly had never proven myself to be any chop in a half-pipe. Why did I suddenly think I could drop into a 12-foot vert ramp?
But then I took one step forward, locked the tail of my board on to the coping with my back foot, stepped forward with my front, and dropped in.
I fell completely free of the curve of the ramp and hit the flat shoulder and head first.
My board, surely in its final death throws after such a drop, came to rest a couple of metres away, and once the wheels stopped spinning, sounding the familiar hiss of abec-7 bearings, silence fell.
Briefly.
After a few seconds the horde of skate rats burst into laughter once more, having momentarily lapsed into silence as I fell down the face of my destiny.
I was on my feet and laughing with them soon after, oblivious to the fact I had essentially just thrown myself from a second story balcony on to hard ground head first, desperate to live up to a mantra I have held close to my heart since those days at Sunshine Beach skatepark; pain is temporary, glory is eternal.
I’m sure the glory from that well-padded, ill-advised dive into the open arms of vert ramp still exists in some mildly gaseous aura around me at all times, but I’ve never been sure quite how to utilise it.

In January of this year I was again pacing at the top of a vert ramp of sorts, albeit more metaphorical than physical.
I was in a comfortable job with little stress and, accordingly, very little excitement.
I pushed my board over the edge and locked it into the coping with my back foot, lining up a job outside of journalism and, importantly, a lifestyle outside of that job.
I leant forward with my front foot and dropped, quitting my reporter job and moving my life to the WA coast in search of good times and inspiration.
I think I may still be in freefall; not yet having hit head-first or stuck the landing.
I have put a lot more thought into technique and balance this time around, but that’s no guarantee I’ll get away with only temporary pain or intact glory.

I was still at it four years later, that bodes well for this metaphor, right?

I was still at it four years later, that bodes well for this metaphor, right?

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My ever changing surroundings

I just found this email I sent out to my extended family about a month before moving to WA two years ago. I wrote it before I knew I would be moving, or that I even had a reason to move there. I know I was in a pretty bad place mentally at the time, so it was interesting to see the change in perspective. Also, considering my previous post here was about rambling incoherently and Splendour in the Grass, it seems fitting that I was doing the exact same thing two years ago. The email’s subject was Don’t let my surroundings influence your opinion of me.

I’ve often heard that Starbucks restaurants in LA are crowded with young creatives hooked on to the life support of their wireless devices, waxing lyrical the merit of their new manuscripts, the ones that will make them.
The town dictates the territory traversed by the young patrons before they end up in Starbucks, or in my case, McDonalds, looking for a feed and some solitary socialising.
I’m sitting in the corner of this old Scottish franchise while some auto-tuned monstrosity invades every pore; I’m covered in salt from a hard morning tucking into glassy barrels at Sunshine Beach and I think that if I was able to get such good waves each day I’d probably be a lot more relaxed about this here existence.
I’ve taken this year as it has come, and expected at each bend something more than what has occurred.
But I guess what has come is a realisation, or at least a reality of something I already knew, that life isn’t simply going to happen. Or at least something similar just slightly less trite and cliched. But while I’ve still got a job, as Dad said, keeping the wolf from the door – and an extended family with whom I can share these experiences, from the mighty to the mundane, I should have little to complain about.
I guess that if I just do find myself with some time and some good feelings after a morning in the ocean, I should use this time as best I can.
On Wednesday I booked flights to Perth for the whole of December, to see Will graduate and become registered under the AVA, and also to hopefully scout out some of my own options.
Fight or flight.
In the mean time here are some rad photos my mate Flip took last weekend at Woodford’s Splendour in the Grass music festival. And here’s hoping that if I do come across as a pretentious young wank looking over proud of himself in a public place, that at least I might sometime soon have something real to tout.
Cheers!
Sandy. xo

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Two posts make a fence

A loosely metaphorical fence I can hide my blog’s shortcomings behind, briefly.

I understand it’s a basic concept as far as hosting a blog goes, but I’m not the first to blindly decide on a medium before a topic/target audience.
But I do know that this particular vacuum of incoherent rambling, the internet, thrives on just that. And publishing these ill thought out posts is better than a silent and empty field. Also it gives me scope to really stretch dubious metaphors to breaking point (like fencing wire!).
June marks my final month in WA. So I guess I am crossing that fence as I come to it (that was the last one, I promise.)
I have been here since September 9, 2011.
I will be loading up my Forester and crossing this wide brownish-green land, many of it’s borders (0r fences! I’m a liar), and winding my way home across the better part of the eponymous month in The Decemberists’ song July July. Months, am I right!?
It will be a bittersweet departure, devoid of symphony and arrogant englishmen. But I will be back eventually; if only to use a sadly neglected scuba diving voucher.
If you’d like to add to the advice I’ve already received about things to see, people to do etc. as I make the coming-of-age journey which Hollywood will surely commission a biopic of starring Emile Hirsch in the near future, let me know.
Also, if anybody can tell me any more about the Koonalda Homestead, a ghost town 80 kilometres off the highway just past the WA/SA border, and whether or not the bloke who told me about it will simply be waiting there to kill me a la Wolf Creek, let me know that, too.

Artist's impression of my entire July.

Artist’s impression of my entire July. That field needs a fence.

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Nothing Found

‘Nothing Found’ was sprawled across this page when I set it up, as nothing was yet published under the $99 banner that is now alexanderpowell.net.
It seemed like an apt title for a website from which most readers will find nothing of relevance or use.

For me though, and perhaps you; if your requirements and my skills align, this will be a place where my life, both professional and playful, will be digitised for our perusal.

Soon I will begin uploading some of my published writing and photographs, I just need to figure out how best to arrange them alongside more personal posts.

I was hoping I would be able to work a joke or two into this introduction. Oh well.

Here's me wearing my professional face in a cherry orchard.

Here’s me wearing my professional face in a cherry orchard.

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