Reviews | Painting A Big Red Door

50057649_1538934839569962_3493609261370441728_o

This is the first in a series of reviews. As I described in my last post, these reviews won’t be overly review-y. Instead I’ll be using “review” as a loosely fitting descriptor to allow me to talk about a thing. Let’s see if it works.

++++

In another life I was a painter. The life in question was this one, just thirteen years ago, but as our cells are constantly dying and regenerating (excepting our neurons) let’s call it another life, as that person was mostly another me. This painter’s life began after I finished high school and, as I really had no idea what to do next, had decided to take a gap year (I still wouldn’t know after that year, but we can review the difficulty of choosing a life path at the ignorant age of eighteen another time). I chose to get a job and save some money, failing to realise this endeavour would be difficult as I lived in a country town with limited job opportunities available, and had zero experience; my resume was basically just my name and phone number.

Luckily, a family friend by the name of Angelo–think an italian Michael Scott with a Mario mustache–knew I was looking for work and had decided to take me on. I say decided because that’s how it felt, like he had made the decision and so now I was his apprentice, whether I wanted to be or not. He was aggressive in his kindness, and I’m glad he was.

Angelo worked as a handyman, with two other people working under him; one a carpenter, one a plumber, but all of them completing a variety of tasks. A lot of the work he picked up usually entailed painting at some stage or other, and so that was the skill Angelo decided to train me in. It also just happened to be the skill that fit my personality perfectly.

Painting is not for everybody. I’ve had different people tell me they loathe it for a number of reasons. Some have said it takes too long, others that it’s boring, or too messy, and one person told me the smell of paint makes them nauseous. I love it. Painting requires patience and time. It demands a focus, a concentration of attention so that the coloured liquid you’re pushing around only goes where you want it to go, and not where gravity would prefer to take it. Because of this focus I find it meditative. Often when I paint it’s just me, and it’s quiet, or I have some music softly playing, and I have one job to do, which is to slowly and carefully move the brush or roller around the room until the whole thing is coated with a fresh start. At the end of it I get the very visual satisfaction of a job completed, the clear mind of a focused worker, and the warm and worn muscles that come with physical work.

Fast forward a few years and I am no longer a painter. I miss it, but have other things in my life now, such as writing and a wife. However, every once in awhile someone I know needs some painting done, at which point I often raise an eager hand.

Enter, the big red door. Or rather, the big grey door that I would then turn red.

I occasionally do some work for a writing studio run by a friend of mine, and so when he put the call out for a working bee for the studio I replied that I would dust off my painting gear and bring it along. The studio exists in an old heritage building in the heart of Fitzroy, and stands tall, with thick wooden doors, years old. The doors were the only part of the studio that required a fresh coat. The coat in question would be a warm red one, as the studio has recently rebranded and this particular shade of red was their primary colour. The rest of the building is a mix grey and white and so I knew the red would look outstanding with them as a backdrop. First though was the question of prep work.

Like any job done well, painting requires a healthy amount of prep work before the fun part, the painting, can begin. Cracks need to be filled, imperfections sanded away, and flaking paint removed. These doors had a lot of flaking paint. The previous owners of the building had given it a facelift before passing it along, including a fresh coat of white on the insides of the doors. They had also unfortunately used an acrylic paint over the top of an enamel one, hence all the flaking. Acrylic doesn’t stick well to enamel, and so using just a fingernail I was able to strip a line of the white from its underlying base. That’s not meant to happen. It would all need to go. I got to work with a scraper and sander and soon sheets, chips, and chalky dust flakes of dry white paint were raining down upon me. I would say it was like snow but I’ve never really seen snow fall, living in Australia as I do, so instead I’ll say it was like a big cloud of dandruff drifting down from the head of some dry scalped giant. So not overly pleasant.

It takes a while to remove a whole coat of paint from a surface, especially one that has panels and trowels like these doors did, but eventually I got the majority of it off, cleaned up as much of it as I could–the wind keen to make the job as hard as possible–and then, finally, I was ready to begin.

As always the process forced a focus that stilled my mind and narrowed my world down to a brush, a bucket, and the surface I’m painting. The first coat is always a little patchy, especially with such a rich colour like the red coating the underlying lighter grey, but it didn’t take long before you could see the new door emerging from the old. Passerbys eyed the doors, often offering positives opinions about it, my favourite of which was when one man described them as “inspirational”. I liked that. I liked that a solo act of improvement could have further reaching influence. That when we do something positive its effect could ripple outwards causing change and motivations we might never know about. While it might be weird that a man would describe a set of doors an inspirational, it was a description I could get behind.

The second coat went on and with it the new door presented itself in all its glory, a small point of colour in a street full of concrete greys and bitumen black.

The idea that these big now-red doors could be inspirational stuck in my mind, and so, when a week later, I was leading a writing night at the very same studio, I decide to use those doors as the inspiration for a small writing challenge. I asked the writers there to write a quick piece that featured the doors in any way they liked, ensuring only that it would be engaging and leave me wanting to read more.

The results were excellent and varied. One was haunting and dark, another used the doors to lead us into the realms of fantasy, another still placed them in a nearby suburb in a story that felt rich and real. Another story made us laugh out loud, its protagonist the doors themselves, and another rhymed with silly fun. Five new stories, out in the world. Off to create ripples of their own.

All of them now existing due to the painting of a big red door.

++++

Talk soon

Damian

Advertisements

January 18, 2019 | Reviews

img_20190115_071352
With the grand adventures of last years travels and my recent wedding sitting comfortably in the pleasant recesses of my memory/the past/the pages of this website, I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to write about on the blog. Because, while this is ostensibly a journal, the truth is, minus a few exceptions here and there, my life is not that interesting. The big events of a three month trip across Europe and my wedding day are excellent fodder to keep a journal engaging, but I doubt I’ll get married again and I can not afford to consistently travel. Of course, the truth is, all life is interesting if looked at in the right way. But, while I could write about my day to day, and it might be interesting for a while, it would then get repetitive. Really repetitive. I am way too fond of a routine.

Instead I’ve come up with the idea to do reviews. About anything. A concept, an emotion, an object, a moment. Just something that’s crossed my path, worked its way into my head, and given me something to think about. I’ve also just lied to you, because the truth is that the idea is not really mine. I’m not so subtly ripping it off of John Green, the writer and you-tuber, who also has a podcast entitled The Anthropocene Reviewed. The podcast, which I highly recommend, is pretty much the idea I’ve just told you; although about more tangible things, specifically from within the Anthropocene time period, and intertwined with all the wonderful facts and research John Green is known for. It’s so good I wanted more of it, and so decided to emulate it in my own special way.

The reviews I’ll do doing will not be particularly helpful, by and large, but more a public way for me to figure out how I feel about a thing. I will not be giving a rating in my reviews, there will be no thumbs up or thumbs down, rather I’ll just be listing the pros and cons of any given thing, my thoughts about them, and any personal affiliations or connections I have with the subject being reviewed.

In other words I’ll be making it up as I go along.

But I think it’s a good format for me to write weekly in a way that will let me cover a range of different topics and avoid me repeating “this week I worked, did some writing, and went for a run”

Failing that, Holly and I will just have to get married again.

First one to come next Friday.

Talk soon

Damian

January 11, 2019

img_20181226_210728

On day two of this new year I was back at work and feeling pretty blue about it. I work three days per week from an atypical office I share with three other people. It is located in a pocket of Melbourne, just outside the CDB, populated with offices, apartment buildings, a couple of hospitals, and of course the university I work for. However it does also have some greenery, Melbourne’s good like that. There’s a rather large park down one of the major roads, perhaps two kilometers away, and a few smaller ones in opposite directions. And then there are the areas I think of as micro parks. Small patches of grass, wedged between dissecting back streets, hidden away behind the multistory behemoths. These tiny slices of land are mini oasis’s from the surrounding sea of traffic and enterprise, and it’s from one of these parks that I’m writing this now, its greenery making me feel less blue. Given the peace of this micro park it seemed like a good place to share some thoughts as we roll into the new year.  So let’s dig in.

++++

I use to look down upon new year’s resolutions, and new years as a celebration in general. It seemed arbitrary to my not-so-long-ago younger self. The parties never felt as fun as they should, resolutions can be made any day of the year, and it’s so close to Christmas; and you’re never going to be able to compete against Christmas when it comes to good ways to end off a year.

Now, I like New Years more. There are a number of reasons for this, but mostly it comes down to a matter of perspective.

I realised the mode of celebration was under my influence, and that I craved something more subdued and relaxed than an all out party, as that felt like a better was to step into a new year. This year, for example, started off great. I started it married. I started it on a beach with family watching illegal fireworks explode above us as the waves crashed gently against the shore. I started it with my wife sitting in front of me and a chest sore from laughing. We drank some spirits from the bottle, jokes flying between the five of us, played some good/bad music off of Holly’s phone, lay down on a too small blanket, looked up at the endless array of stars, and sang. While I did find sand in my hair the next morning it still seemed like if the rest of the year was an extension of that night, then 2019 would be just fine.

I also have my resolutions for the year, or goals as my brother Matthew prefers, as goals are changeable and adaptable, able to be altered to match whatever may come. The reason I have started this tradition is that while resolutions can be made any day of the year, while we can stop and evaluate our situations, decide upon changes we’d like to make then action them, we often don’t. New years works as a reminder that I have influence over my life, specifically my actions, and that if I want to make changes the first step is deciding on what they are. Even if I don’t want to make changes, it’s still good to stop and recognise that fact, appreciate the course I’m on and continue down it.

My four goals are much the same as last year, which boil down to Write more, Run more, Read more, and one new one, which is to pick up the guitar again and learn some new songs. All of these goals have definitive targets involved because I’ve found that’s what works best from me. They also have spreadsheets to track these targets because, again, that’s what works best for me. They’re also all goals I have control over. There’s no point me setting a goal like ‘get a story published’ because ultimately I can’t ensure that happens. I can write a story, find a publication to submit it to, and do the best job I can with the application, but that doesn’t mean I have any control over whether it gets published or not. Now, if my goal was to submit one story per week to a publication, then we have a tangible and achievable goal I have control over.

As for competing New Years against Christmas, then, yeah, no, New Years isn’t going to take that crown, at least not for me. But it’s not supposed to, they’re two different beasts, each with their own positives, and personally I’ve come to enjoy the contemplative aspect that New Years provides.

Whatever shape 2019 ends up taking I know I’m grateful to be living it, and hope that throughout the year I continue to look at the stars, laugh until my chest hurts, and sing bad songs. And, occasionally, find a quiet micro park to sit in, escape the world for a moment, and write down some words, much like these.

Talk soon,

Damian

January 4, 2019

48370945_2275225426068273_6618199858996051968_o

I have a new habit. When I’m bored, or thinking, or my fingers just need something to do, I turn a ring that sits at the base of my index finger around and around. The habit is new because the ring is new. It was given to me on the fifteenth of December in a stunning park near my house by a woman who I love while a hundred of our nearest and dearest watched.

In other words, I got married.

It was the cap on not only an amazingly big year, but an amazingly enriching and life-altering dating relationship. The day itself was beyond my imagining. I’ve never been one to believe that your wedding day is the happiest day of your life, that always seemed a little bleak to me. What about all the other days? All the ones where you fell a little more in love? All the ones that made the wedding day happen? And what about all the ones that come after? The ones where you grow old with that person beside you?

But saying all that, our wedding day was up there as one of the most joyous I have lived. There have been other days that have been as good, but few that were filled with so much love. And the thing that surprised me was that it wasn’t just mine and Holly’s love, it was all of it. It was my love of the people in the room, and their overwhelming love washing back. It was the community that had grown and surrounded us our whole relationship all in one room, all celebrating. It was my parents in the front row tearing up as we spoke our vows. It was my sister’s exuberant face, the effort and time she put into making us a beautiful mountain of a cake. It was my brothers, both those of blood and those bonded through friendship, as they stood beside me. It was the bridesmaids on the other side, women I had come to know and love, and who are my sisters whether they know it or not. It was the earnest congratulations from my aunties and uncles, the gleam in their eyes as they wished us so many good things. My three year old nephew on the dance floor, fists clenched, belting out every word of Ed Sheeran’s Castle on the Hill, while a crowd of adults gathered around him, cheering him on. It was the feel of Holly’s hands in mine as the celebrant said the words that would make us husband and wife. It was the awkward feeling of eyes as we swayed our way through our first dance. The cheer that went up as we were introduced as husband and wife. My Dad’s speech, thoughtful and honest. My new sister, Kerry, bringing tears to the eyes of many in the room. The uncontrollable laughs as my brother Jonathan delivered his words with the deadpan skill of a seasoned stand up comedian. The dancing, the singing, the songs from our youth that were so bad they’ve now become good. The group circle as we collectively sang the classics, all self-consciousness lost with the aid of love, comfort, and alcohol. The laughter as my wife and I skipped arm in arm with our bridal party through a public park. The overly squeezy hugs from my new sister-in-law as she said through joyfully gritted teeth ‘I love you so much’. My uni mates all huddled together, a mass of friendship as we shouted out the words to Rod Stewart’s Rhythm of my Heart. The dance moves; silly, fun, and over-the-top. It was Holly walking towards me, flowers in hand, smile on her face. The lump in my throat as I think about it even now. The photos, the kisses, the warm words. The moments I took with my new wife to stop and look around the room and just take all of it in.

It was our wedding day.

++++

To add to this wedding post I thought I’d share my vows with you all. Not only because I’m happy to declare them in front of a global digital audience, but because I’m proud of them, and proud of the woman I was lucky enough to say them to.

+

My love, you are such a warm wonderful beacon in my life. You fill my days, my thoughts, and my arms in the best way possible. The most Holly way possible. A way that makes me grateful. A way that makes me centred. A way that adds something special to any given day. 

I love the years we have spent together and the life we have built. I love you. Your inquisitiveness, your quiet strength, your easy company, your cheeks. I love what’s inside your head, and without it. You are my favourite person, and a life with you is the best life I can imagine.

So, I promise to climb mountains with you. Be they metaphorical mountains made up of life’s challenges or your personal goals, or real ones made of dirt and stone. Either way I promise to walk and climb along side you, encourage and support you, joke and mock insult you all the way up and down the other side.

I promise to have fun with you. Be it on a big badass adventure, or a quiet night at home. I promise to watch cartoons, go to parties, sing in cars, read books, have long chats, send you cute animal pictures, aggressively grab your butt, and kiss your face. I promise to do these things on the easy days, and, especially, on the hard ones.

I promise to be your partner. To do extra chores when I know you’re low on time. Help you look for something that you’ve lost. Give you a shoulder massage just because. To listen when you need to talk, have patience when you’re flustered, to use what small influence I have to make your life a little bit easier and a little bit better, and thank you when you do the same for me.

I promise to love you. To respect, appreciate, and value all the things that make you you. To squeeze you overly tight when I’m full to bursting with that love or to whisper it gently in a more restrained and less rib damaging way. To look for all the ways I love you and remind myself just how lucky a man I am.

And I promise to keep updating these promises. To add subsections and amendments and entirely new promises as our lives grow and change. To keep you and them always in my mind and my decisions and my actions.

I promise to choose you, every single day.

++++

Talk soon

Damian