Thursday, September 22, 2016

Gretel - prologue to a graphic novel I'm working on


She couldn’t help it. It was part of her. It wasn’t something that she one day decided to do or something that she could turn on or off. All her life, people had told her to just ignore it. You couldn’t just ignore it. It was distracting. People were distracting. It wasn’t a simple thing to walk down to the shops for a newspaper. She liked to wear smudged sunglasses and an old cap low on her head to avoid any unwanted attention from people. She mostly wore drab grey loose clothing. Her eyes looked only a few steps ahead so she didn’t actively walk into someone. That would be the worst. Catching someone’s eye or having to engage in conversation was bad enough. Physical touch was too much.

She read somewhere that it had something to do with extra links in the brain. Doctors had wanted to study her brain but she had no interest in submitting herself to endless rounds of tests and scans. Letting her body go into one of those huge expensive machines wasn’t part of her plan. Not that she really had a plan. Her plans usually went as far as what work and other obligations she had that week. Family birthdays, sure, were kind of hard to get out of but she avoided appointments where possible. She hadn’t been to the dentist in five years and had started to worry if that sensitivity in her top right teeth was actually a problem. The thought of someone’s hands in her mouth was more than she could bare.

Who knows what the dentist or their assistant would taste like? Thirty year old carpet, skin that has spent too many hours in the sun all sweaty and salty or over-heated milk sickly sweet and sour. They never tasted like warm cherry pie or straight from the oven chocolate cookies. With all of the possible tastes in this world, why was it that she encountered more unpleasant than pleasant ones. Did other taste synesthetics experience the same thing? She didn’t know anyone else with her gift so couldn’t answer the question.

She’d never met another taste synesthetic. She first learned the term when she was a teenager. Wikipedia and internet chat rooms were her salvation. A doctor had declared his diagnosis one day after years of visits. Lexical-gustatory synaesthesia to be precise. As a baby, the notes on her Maternal Child record book noted that she had been ‘failing to thrive’. Her mother had always fussed over her poor eating habits as a child and hoped that things would improve when she started school. Surely her peer group would provide a positive influence. They didn’t.

 She was petit and found it easy to fade into the corners. At recess and lunch time she managed to appear occupied with packing up classroom activities, tidying her desk or taking a trip to the bathroom. Her teachers never seemed to notice that she spent more time unpacking her individually wrapped lunch items than she did consuming them.

The crackers and the carrot sticks had to be in separate containers. Cheese slices had to be a particular brand and kept cool. Cross contamination and possible food spoilage were easy excuses for food to be put in the large round file in the corner of the classroom. Other kids turfed their dry crusts and browned apple cores amongst the scrunched waxed paper and plastic scraps. Gretel became adept at hiding her mother’s homemade treats in between the foil and brown paper bags of the class’ detritus.

After school she would retire to her room and sit with her favourite blanket under the desk that her mother had kept from her own childhood. Her mother envisioned the little girl at the desk reading her beloved books saved from her own childhood, cutting and gluing artistic creations or drawing grand designs on endless supplies of paper. Instead, Gretel would sit leaning against the wooden desk, with the afternoon sun streaming through dusty net curtains onto her legs until she succumbed to snooze-land.

Her mother was grateful that Gretel didn’t come home from school and plop in front of the TV like other children she knew. She assumed that the school day exhausted her sweet little girl. Gretel lacked energy partly due to her lack of food consumption but also because she found interaction with other people so energy zapping. They were too stimulating, too distracting, too much. She couldn’t watch TV or go to the movies. All those people, all those words and sounds each with their own taste. Everything got too much. One would be lid ice-cream, another would be defrosted bread, synthetic maple syrup, damp grass, raw potato, and ear-wax or week old kitty litter.

She could understand the appeal of texture and temperature when it came to food but flavour as embodied in food was a foreign concept to Gretel. She would taste flavours thousands of times a day and so didn’t experience hunger as others did. Flavour went beyond sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. She had tried and failed to describe the taste of vinyl car upholstery after hours in the sun. Oily, sweaty and flaccid went only part way there. It was also earthy and sweet with a lingering hint of musty leaves. It was only the recurrent grumble of her stomach and weakness in her limbs that defined hunger for Gretel.

Her sixth grade teacher had tasted of vanilla ice cream. Mr Whitehall gave her a brain freeze. She found it difficult to concentrate as she held her head back, pressed her tongue to the roof of her mouth and covered her mouth and nose with her hands. WikiHow users voted these the most effective methods for dealing with brain freeze. She wasn’t so sure.





Tuesday, September 20, 2016

On travelling and returning home

On travelling and returning home

 When I travel I feel that I don’t belong, that I’m foreign, something other. I’m unknown and unseen. It is only when I break the unspoken but mutually understood codes that I find myself in the glare of the locals. It can be something as innocent as walking on the wrong side of the footpath. It took me travelling to a land where the traffic drives on the right not the left side of the road that I discovered pedestrians too are expected to follow the same directional flow. I couldn’t comprehend why everyone seemed intent on walking at me. Observations undertaken across a variety of countries have reinforced this notion that pedestrian traffic flow more or less is dictated by the motorised traffic direction.

 Crossing a street takes multiple swivels of the head left and right before I’m sure that it is safe to cross. Walking in New York City, and many other American cities in fact, takes things to the next level. I’ve had people walk right into me as I stopped at the edge of the footpath – sorry, pavement – in observance of the red don’t walk signal facing me. Only fools and foreigners wait for the white walk signal apparently.

As a visitor to a new city, I’ve also crossed boundaries into no-go zones, or the wrong side of the tracks. Sometimes I’ve sensed a subtle change in atmosphere or appearance of buildings. Other times it’s more overt like the frequency of daylight drug sales. When conversing with locals later on, I’ve heard more than once ‘oh you didn’t go there, did you?’ The names of these areas can sound so nice as well – Tenderloin, Mission District, Kings Cross, Sunshine.

As a traveller, I knowingly and actively cultivate my role an outsider. I eavesdrop on conversations in cafes or on public transport. I like to pick up the nuances in the way language is used differently to what I am familiar with.  Instead of the phrase ‘take-way’ when it comes to meals, I now know ‘take-out’ or ‘box it up’ if taking home the leftovers of a meal in the States. The words are the known but appear in new constructions. In Australia, an entrée is the first course but in America an entrée is the main meal. All the more confusing as I seem to recall that entrée in French means entrance which makes sense in referring to the start or entrance to a meal.

I vacillate between mimicking the local accent and phrases, and swinging right back into a strong Aussie vernacular. I find it incredulous that some people don’t pick me immediately as being from somewhere else. Others jump in and say ‘of course, you’re from Australia. I meant where in Australia exactly?’ before telling me about the time they spent three months in Byron Bay twenty years ago.

I like to ask waiters and bartenders where they like to eat or drink and what dishes should I try before I leave their fair city – it’s always ‘their fair city’. My travels are mostly defined by the food I eat and what and where I drink. I couldn’t imagine a trip to New York City without a slice of thin crust pepperoni pizza eaten off a too small paper plate. New Orleans now will always require a plate of fried crab claws, shrimp and oysters then a beer drunk from a plastic cup as I walk the French Quarter enjoying the street music.

So what happens when I return home? Exactly.

This time round I’m choosing to walk new streets and drink coffee from new cafes. I’m thinking of pretending that I’m from somewhere else and ask waiters and bartenders what I should do, try, eat, and drink in my home town of Melbourne. One the joys of travelling is returning home and finding yourself and your town the novelty.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Her Landscape - short fiction

Her Landscape - short fiction by Amanda Kennedy

Okay, I’m in bed.
It’s dark. It’s night.
I’m naked.

She curls her legs up instinctively and rolls to her right side.

Owww – that hurts. What the hell?

Her right hand finds her neck and firmly rubs the muscle as she turns her head first to the right and then to the left. Running her hands up through her hair she finds a large bruise on the crown of her head.  Cupping this egg, she realises that she has no idea how it got there.
Quickly she shoots a glance to her bedside table and is relieved to see her phone there plugged in.

That’s right, my phone battery died during the afternoon.

She checks the time. It’s 11.30. She can see a couple of missed calls and messages. She’ll check them later when she feels up to it.
Draining the last of the water in her glass, she feels the first bit of relief since she woke.

This is my bed. This is my room.

With the help of the street lights shining in through the open curtains she can see her shoes, her coat and her scarf on the floor next to her handbag. The clothes she had been wearing were draped across the chair as they were every evening. Swinging her feet onto the floor with some effort, she levers her body into a standing position.  Her full bladder starts to cause her discomfort.
At first she can’t stand to turn on the bathroom light so in the dark she slumps onto the toilet seat and lets her head hang into her hands.

Okay, right. What do I know? I went out in the afternoon. I met up with Rachel. We had a few wines. I had pink. She had white. Then I hopped on the train to come home around peak hour. That’s right the train was crowded – standing room only.

Flicking the fluorescent light on, she pays witness to what she sees reflected in the large wall mirror. Her eye make is smudged giving her panda eyes and her hair is certainly in need of at least a brush if not a wash. She turns to view her back in the mirror to take stock of her entire body, checking for any new marks or bruises.

Okay, that’s good. Nothing scary.

Opening the cabinet door, she fumbles for painkillers as she starts to fully accept the pounding present inside her head. The bright yellow cardboard box yields up its last two tablets from the foil sleeve. More water guzzled down. One. Two full glasses plus a refill for the bedside table.
She climbs back into the inviting warmth of her bed.

How much did I really drink that much? Two wines as we sat in the sun overlooking the river.  No, three wines. We had that other one after we moved inside away from the rain. Oh, yeah and the pork belly sliders. She then left to go that conference and I walked across the river to catch the train home like the sensible woman I was going to be. Oh yeah, I did stop at the new bar on the corner after I got off the train.

Of course, she was there too early and there was only one other person in the bar. An old guy in a dark blue leather jacket was propped up at one end of the bar, nursing his pint. Bowls of peanuts sat on the tables ready for the shelling. A thin white ponytail hanging down the middle of his back. She managed to cajole him to play a game of darts with her, not that she was any good but she liked the idea of being a darts fiend. He wanted to play billiards but she knew that would take too long and she was on her way home - just stopping in for a quick one to check this warehouse bar she had walked past often but never inside.
It was only happy hour for another 20 minutes so she finished up her pot of lacklustre tasting beer and offered to buy her new friend Nick another one. An hour later, the bar had filled up and she rugged up with her coat, scarf and gloves to brave the icy wind and drizzle outside.

It was dark and cold and I remember it had been raining. Was it actually raining when I walked home? I’m not sure. I don’t think so.

Reluctantly getting out of her nest again she checks through her clothes for clues. On her trousers she finds green marks at her knees.

Grass stains?

Her jacket has dust marks all over it. Her pale leather shoes are mostly clean though. Her handbag sits on the chair untouched and unmarked. She opens it up in a moment of panic but finds her purse, cash and credit cards intact.

 Jumper, singlet, bra - check.  Socks? Over there.

Picking up her scarf, a lone earring and a handful of empty peanut shells fall out onto the carpet. She surrenders, having accounted for her things, climbs back into bed and switches off the light wishing for the sweet nothingness of sleep.

Okay. I left the bar alone. I was tipsy sure but I wasn’t pissed. Yeah, I was definitely alone. It was dark. Not much street lighting so I crossed the road to make sure that I walked under the lights. I was being safe. So up to the end of the road, across the grass – was that where I fell? But my trousers would be wet and my shoes would be muddy. Maybe I tripped over one of those rocks by the start of the ramp?

She again rubs her legs and arms, this time finding a tender spot by her wrist. Holding the bruised top of her head, she fantasises about the oblivion state of sleep. No pain, no blank spots, no questioning monkey mind.
Slowly, gradually the colour of the sky changes as dawn takes over and she stops fighting for slumber. A large cup of tea helps lull her pounding head while she gathers the laundry and trudges down the stairs to the machine. Pausing to spray the grass stains on her trousers, her confusion doubles.

They’re not at all wet. Maybe it wasn’t grass?

Imagining talking to Rachel later that day she ran over the evening or what she could recount of it for sure.

I know I drank but really I only had what, five drinks over four or five hours. I wasn’t that drunk that I blacked out. Was I? We had food. Thank god, I’m mostly okay. Just my head really. My phone, my purse, my credit cards are all here.  I’ve gotta go walk my steps and see if I recall anything else.

Pulling on a different warm coat and long leather boots, she grabs her keys and heads out.

Wow at least I didn’t leave my keys in the door like I did that time we went to that gallery opening in Brunswick.

Locking the door behind her, she drags down her sunglasses as a barrier against unwanted conversation. Head down and off into the cold winter day she strides.

I remember how cold it was crossing the freeway last night. It’s always freezing up there on the overpass. Do I really remember or do I just want to remember?

After having crossed a few driveways, her eye catches something glinting in the small sliver of morning sun. Her earring. It’s broken. They were only a couple of dollars from the cheap Asian store but she liked them. People complimented her in them. She squats to pick it up and it is then that she notices the moss growing along the footpath. She touches it and it is cold and damp. She looks along the pavement and it’s then that she sees scuff marks in the slippery lichen covered concrete.






Thursday, August 4, 2016

Her Landscape - episode 3 of podcast The Middle Third

Forging ahead with my podcast, this is a short fiction piece about things that can and do happen to women I know in this day. I hope you enjoy it.
I'd love to hear from you so leave a comment here or on Facebook or send me an email at artbyamandakennedy@gmail.com

And here it is - Episode 3




All artwork original by me and for sale. Message me for details.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

episode 2 of the podcast

So I've uploaded a new episode of the podcast. That's exciting you say. Thanks - I think so.



In this episode I talk about the concept behind this podcast and also some possible episode ideas.

I also learn that I say 'ah' and 'umm' a lot. Someting to work on for sure. 

I would love to hear from you by either commenting at Podbean or on Facebook or send me an email - artbyamandakennedy@gmail.com

Here are the links to some articles that prompted thought.




Confronting but important interviews to watch. This one started it for me


and here's a pretty painting I did a few ago of a woman laying in some grass in the sun. My hands and feet are feeling the cold this winter and I can reminisce about how it feels for the sun's rays to warm your skin.





Monday, July 18, 2016

podcasting - I don't do this sort of thing

This is the only thing I've ever performed in public. I decided to record this as my first test for the podcast I wish to work on.
I'm trying to get over sounding like a twelve year old.

I'd love your constructive feedback whether the piece was to your liking or not.

Be gentle on me though please.
Yes, I need to get to know the software better, find some music (yes, I'm addressing my musical friends out there.) Some episodes will be pieces of short fiction, other personal essays and hopefully some relaxed conversations/ interviews.

I shall reiterate - it's the first of many steps

check it out here -  my first podcast

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Relationships

Some years ago, a significant relationship of mine broke apart. Although it was of my doing, it was still difficult and scarring. As with most things in life, I believe that you learn things about yourself if you’re willing.
So what did I learn from this – lots.
I learnt that I am a powerful sexual goddess.
I learnt that I do need time out alone.
I learnt that I am sex positive.
I learnt that I can share.
I learnt that I need to work on my communication to make sure what I’m trying to say is being heard.
I learnt that personal presentation does matter to me and proper diet and exercise is vital to maintain well-being.
From previous relationships, I have also learnt.
I learnt that I need someone who is willing to be a part of my greater family (and they are great).
I learnt that I need someone who stimulates my brain as well as my loins.
I learnt that I need someone I can laugh with.
I learnt that I want someone who is as (im)mature as I am and that is not always defined by age.
I learnt that I deserve to be considered.
I learnt that I am worthy of quality.
I learnt that I can’t cope with messy people.
I learnt that I want someone who is open-minded.
I learnt that I need someone who is on-track financially.
I learnt that I am attracted to intelligent, articulate people.
I learnt that I need someone who is generous of spirit.
Naturally, I hope to keep on learning.