Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Drinks at E55 - 3/12/2014

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We have drinks at E55 on Elizabeth street for our first date, I might look back at that as portentous one day. Well everything about a first date becomes significant if the first date itself becomes a 'first' date, retroactively. I didn't put much thought into the location, maybe this is a bad sign. Truth is it's a thoughtless choice, just easy. E55 is in the city, central, unpretentious, music is low volume, it's always open, not particularly popular, crowded hipsters nor bogans, easy to get a couch, and easy to bail on if any of the above proves wrong. But still, I'm not putting much thought in. The date is Thursday, June 20th 2013.

I don't remember meeting you, but we have before tonight, guess about a month earlier. And yeah you know I have forgotten and you are too shy or embarrassed or insulted or awkward or whatever to tell me. It was after a poetry gig, a big one, where I'd performed. One Night Stanza with Anis Mojgani. Like hundreds of people there, all mainly to see him. When we met in the lobby after the show, you said (apparently, because I don't remember this...) that I was so funny that you nearly pissed your pants. Exclamation mark. And apparently you meant that literally. And (again, apparently) I said oh that's nice and thanks for listening and more or less just walked off.

Later I will explain to you that I never remember talking to people after performing at poetry gigs. I'm in a blur. I don't pay attention to people or what they say to me. Especially I don't pay attention to girls who talk to me after I perform and especially-especially I don't pay attention to -pretty- girls who talk to me after I perform. Pretty girls who talk to you at a poetry gig are only interested in one thing- talking. And I've learned that fucking lesson over and over. And yeah, no wonder I forgot I mean look, you are a pretty girl.

You're not drunk now, on the couch facing mine at E55, but that took a lot of convincing from me. This afternoon you finished work early, were nervous about meeting up finally and you wanted to get really smashed before having to deal with this live situation. You kept kept insisting over messages that you wanted to be drunk before hand. We've been exchanging messages constantly for weeks now, after getting acquainted online through that poetry event's Facebook page, of course I was going to ask you out eventually. Neither of us have used the word date.

The last few hours I'm nervous too, figuring you'll cancel with a lame excuse, and this whole I-need-to-get-drunk thing I was reading seems to be heading there. I've been almost begging, imploring you not to, and I am pretty sure I did this by being positive and reassuring you it's cool, and I didn't just say hey yeah I really don't want to meet someone blind drunk on a date. A capriciously first date, after all. Already my role as the patient reassuring older figure is being defined. So I'm relieved and excited you're now actually, totally,and as I far as I can tell,  soberly here. A couches length away.

I have groomed myself right down to plucking the goatee hairs from my lower lip. I'm wearing the black box wars T shirt, the size too small one that makes my neck, shoulders and arms look magnificent. But this is a mistake because I know I can't show off these things without being categorized as a macho douchebag. Things like being cut have to be noticed, or discovered by a girl like, not signposted by me. You're a woman, you'll be looking at me, sizing me up anyway. The t shirt was too much and I immediately regret the choice the minute I left the house. Oh and the house, incidentally, is immaculate. I have vacuumed, artfully rearranged, folded, aired-out, wiped down and topped up everything in the place. Y'know just in case.

Yeah, wrong t shirt, I was thinking, and I resolve to keep my jacket on, so I don't look like a metrosexual thug to you. I hope it doesn't get hot in there.

I remember a couple of pints. I'm sure you can out drink me, so I have to go slow in these, but not so slow as you get to sober, freak out and leave, which I think you might have wanted to. I explain all this, desperate deconstructing everything in order to cheat through it, not get caught in it.

I say I'm happy to get drunk now, as something we can do together, not some sober spectacle I would've had to witness. I explain then- well if you had turned up drunk... and I just getting here completely sober, well, the date would've been over.

Yeah I'm serious. A pause there. You look at me eskew. But then we keep drinking. And drinking.

You're bubbly and your smile is something I want to lick and your hair is fantastic and we talk over the presents we've just exchanged. I brought you a copy of Scarface on DVD and you gave me Clockwork Orange, the book. And I hate being given books because I'll never get to reading it in time before you feel put off or insulted, and this title doesn't interest me much, but of course I feign enthusiasm and thumb through it's yellow greasy third hand pages. It's a pretty cool book. Guess I'll have to read it now.

Scarface though, that's what did it. I start doing my Tony Montana impression (which is terrible, mostly just a grimace) and you lose your shit. Doubled over laughing and I look down your top and I keep doing the voice and shrugging and somewhere amongst it all my jacket has come offand the hours have piled on. Long stretches of full-bladder but neither of us wanting to break the momentum of our conversation by getting up to take a leak on those filthy restrooms.

But we must have because yeah I remember coming back from one all boozy-brazen saying so hey when are we gonna kiss already and you don't flinch just shrug like it was an actual question that needed answering because at this point I want you and you want me. We've established that guy in all your Facebook photos isn't a boyfriend, and we've established that no, I didn't like all that earnest slam poetry from that night we met either, and yes I shouldn't have taken off my jacket but I felt good and this shirt hugs my skin and makes me feel sexy and I want you to touch me and then I have your lips against mine and that thought, that same thought everytime, that rushes through my head when I kiss someone for the first time.

It's relief. Oh sure there's excitement, but relief comes first. In those breaths we're now obliged to share. -phew- aaaaaaaaah you. Yes. You. Like. Me. Too. Eyes close themselves. Music doppler shifts away. Fingers reach for cheeks, for hair. The smell of warm skin enters nostrils

It was easy. It's always easy when it's right. And it felt right. Because I laugh when I make you laugh, and I know you're intimidated by me, and you know I'm infatuated by your immaturity. And I'm too old for you at nine years, 33 to your 24. But maybe not and that's just how it is. I get better with age because I'm a guy. And my last girlfriend was 40 when I was 32 and man she was too to handle and don't think about that now, because I want to get you back to my place and maybe that's because I know we're not actually couple material but we're a great great grand one night stand not waiting to happen. And if only I wasn't working tomorrow. Not that that should stop us. And it won't.

Nothing stops us. We keep going. And it is good. Except I will end going to work the next morning. Which is a shame because I am better in the morning. Or so I think. But I will come away from tonight wanting more. You will be less sure, as you tell me later.

We will have an awkward follow up day-time date on Saturday, where we even talk about our old one night stand stories. You'll tell me you've only ever had a few before and you will obviously be lying. I will sit on the grass with you, behind Abbotsford convent, and I'll th ink to myself you aren't quite as pretty with your hair tied back, and I'll be disappointed that I can't make you laugh as much as Thursday, but we will keep going. Because why not. It will be good.

Good will become really good. This will became what we are in the weeks and then months that follow this first date, we will steadily became us.

Us will be you and me and that's really good and when something is really good you don't stop. When someone becomes a part of you and your life and you love having them around I guess it means you love them. I will love you. I will think about it a long time before I say it, think about what 'Us' is.

In the next year that follows, Us won't prove in explosive roaring torrents of passion, but it won't be headfuck mind games, jealousy or screaming matches, either. Us will not be lack-of-space or itime. Us will suit me. Us will be- I can't wait to tell you this thing and show you this thing. Us will be you going somewhere insane when we make love and I won't understand everything about you and your traumatic past and you won't understand everything about me and my worldly life experiences but we will continue meeting in the middle and you will stuck around and I will stick around. Us will change us, you and I. You will stop seeing a counsellor weekly and taking anti depressants. I will, in parallel break away from the toxicity of a lot of the poetry community. And I will be unable to imagine being without you around now. And that's, yeah that is, has to be: I love you.

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- - -

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As I write this tonight, it was two months ago since you texted saying we had to talk but not right now because you're drunk.

Didn't for a minute think back to our first date and the juggling act I'd done that night trying to talk you down from getting drunk before we met as an act of self-sabotage. But nevertheless like that night I knew you were wanting to be drunk for a reason. The us had run out. October 3rd, 2014.

It had been sixteen months ago, this night you texted me to 'talk', and I didn't give a shit if you were drunk or not because you can't just text something like that. So-fuck-you-I-called-you.

The talk was brief, I was in Newcastle, already having been away from Melbourne, from you, one month and a bit. Our relationship was open because I'm traveling and you're traveling soon and we're awesome and you've hooked up with someone and I've hooked up with someone and yes I am sure that I'm okay with that because I'm not possessive, and I know you're not always what I fantasize about but you're always what I want to come home to, and I've gotten way too comfortable with that idea and you haven't and somewhere between this phone call and the last you fell in love. Big big love. Love new and improved, potent and passionate and dangerous as you're leaving Melbourne yourself and it swept you away just as it wiped me off the face of your world, in one fell swoop.

Two months ago tonight, that call. Last time I heard your voice. Over three months since I saw your face, longer since we were last intimate. And the bumpy-ride it's taken my bike ride on. Like so much extra weight to carry, and with a much poorer sense of direction on the road ahead.

I've never written about you directly, so you turn up everywhere in every fucking thing I write, because you're nowhere I could get at you.

So here you are, this is where I'll put you. Right here in this context. Not because you especially deserve that, but the journal you've been overshadowing does.

You and I are both crowded to capacity in our own feelings, you with self absorption, I with hurt. Both having absolutely no room left for one another in our lives, paradoxically making those last sixteen months feel hugely empty.

You were so much a part of me and you erased me out of your life so quickly and completely that the emptiness is just too much to bridge with the light hearted friendship you want to put in it's place. I'm about to go tackle some real emptiness, geographic, and I can't take you with me, so I put you here in the journal, I'll put you back to a Thursday night eighteen months ago in a tight black T shirt, too small for me.

It was a fun night. There were lots more that followed. Even though it would've prevented all this pain I've been through subsequent, y'know... I'm still glad you didn't self sabotage the date by turning up at E55 that night, blind drunk.

I mean, that really would've sucked.

- - -

So I'm sorry to have neglected this blog for so long, but lord knows I've certainly been writing. However it's all confined to Facebook, or what filters through the Twitter feed there on thr right-hand column.

I'm really enjoying the longer form of writing, and speaking more directly to my thoughts without the stylistic symbolistic poetry stuff. It's taken me years to build up the confidence to do this. I guess in that way its like the cycling, with more confidence and experience comes bigger and more ambitious goals snd destinations.

Anyway, if you'd like to see what's going on directly on.my Facebook page, go to- 

https://m.facebook.com/randallsreallybigbikeride


And please donate what you can to the cause-

http://personalchallenge.gofundraise.com.au/page/Randall_Stephens



Friday, November 21, 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Howling at The Moon - 25/10/2014

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Your brokenness unattractive, your attempts at attractiveness broken.

Built you for quick damage and slow healing, fragile enough that living itself is a constant danger.

Somehow that made you strong. Far stronger than most.

Strength, it is that which attracts you. What you are attracted to being.

You are not broken. You've seen the real broken types, and that ain't you.

Nothing so far has truly broken you. Nothing can. So give yourself a break.

Because no one else can do that.

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_____________

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-Peace.
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Friday, October 24, 2014

all of the cyclists, all of the time - 25/10/2014

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You can ride bike with your gloves on all of your hands some of the time.

You can lick your fingers after eating all of a drippy kebab some of the time,

but you can't lick any of your fingers any of the time you are wearing bike gloves.

Ever.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Crash Landing - 24/10/2014

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and in the morning
oscillate between wanting to quote
Ani Franco and Travis Bickle
between wanting to run through walls
in a muscle hurricane
and wanting rest quiet
like the old mountains do

wanted to wake up next to you
and not apologise for it
sorry
we didn't do anything
which means me not doing anything wrong
was going to come away regretful
either way

sorry, I'm a mess
trailed in all this mud
from other states I've been in
still raw to the touch and smell
hands are dirty with top soil
from holding my ground

there's a trick to this
you overshare
but never actually give an inch
you can hide yourself
in plain sight

though
not you nor them
will know
the growth
from the damage

will go to the grave
with nothing left to say
It'll be awkward like ...uh yeah

before then,
like in six days actually
will leave here
start my riding back home
in both cases
I will take my sweet time

getting there

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__________________
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-Peace.




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If I Were You - 25/10/2014

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not to sound ungrateful
but sometimes
your well-meant advice
comes across
as a note left
with a wrench dropped
in my otherwise empty food bowl
saying

"go ahead, fix yourself some dinner"

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___________________
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-Peace.

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Shot down - 23/10/2014

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0:59am.

On the porch. After a careful dissection of all the issues in play, and several shots of tequila, we have clearly identified and discussed maturely, the fact that she will not be sleeping with me. I have in turn acknowledged I should probably leave now, but for some reason all this makes an interesting conversation in the unpacking. So I'm still here. All too drunk in my honesty. She has gone inside to get us more beer. While she's gone I piss on her front garden. She comes out with more shots instead.

There's no moon tonight.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday October Twenty First

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Probably starts in the head, but there's a hollow ache in my chest, it goes down to my stomach sometimes. It's there now. It doesn't know where else to go. It doesn't know any of the reasons.

It doesn't understand how the love could be snatched away so quickly, and so completely. Makes it feel like there was none there all along.

It doesn't know why I am on this trip. You can't explain inspiration and aspirations and personal challenge, to a hollow lonely ache that only wants to go away. You can't talk about profound life experience to it. It's had plenty of those and it knows none of it keeps people from leaving you, or gives you people to talk to. It's waiting for their knives to come out.

It knows there's no whore/madonna/princess in shiny amoŕe coming to save you. It knows you will have months ahead of you of no one to hold, nights of touchless pain.

It's a belly that wants to do bad things. It knows exile, and anger, for fuel, it wants to push every one away before they have the chance to take more things from it. It feels like something not felt since I was a teenager. I guess that makes it juvenile.

When I cycle it doesn't feel so bad, for a few moments. I don't want to stay like this, once I'm back in the tent I'll start to get better, I think. Meanwhile, it seems important to document it now. Something tells me I will need to be able to look back and reflect/remember this. It will be important. I don't know why. Probably just so I don't return here. Writing, right now gives me something to do.

If nothing else.

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__________________
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-Peace.



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Monday, October 13, 2014

the moving on - 14/10/2014

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after I went
she left me
for someone else
then she went away

lost her
somewhere back
down a road that closed
behind me
this isn't the way
it was supposed to go

somewhere in the folds
of this over-fondled old map
have to find some place
where I can accept
rejection

it's marked poorly
unsealed road and
and there's some long ways to go
a-head
getting there

really don't know where
the end of this journey lies
the only fixed point
I had for it

is now broken

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____________________


-Peace


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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Break up poem #12,553

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my life is adequately expressed as:

the coffee I order for takeaway
then drink it as have-here

within my contradiction
I'm just trying to hold on
to the warmth
though in the process

I end up creating garbage

.
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_________________

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October 13th, 2014. I have been alive for 12,553 days. And it's not even 5pm yet.

-Peace

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Tattoo - 10/10/2014

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It's inked right here on my arm-
"Everything that has a beginning has an end."

No words, but a picture/symbol representation from that movie no one likes. (The Matrix: Revolutions). Here at the end, I should remember what's written on my skin, know this thing bodily.

Should anyone ever ask, that's what this tattoo means. It's here so I can remind myself of endings, impermanence, finite mortality and infinite applicability. I will say all this when asked, I will sound wise.

I'll be lying to them.

Right now I am one of two people scrambling desperate to rewrite their own personal histories to make all the jagged pieces fit, outside of a relationship.

Previous decisions made are now continually repositioned around the room, for decorative taste and illuminations sake, but mostly for convenience. Why I was wronged, stopped, shut down, held back, put upon, turned off, suffocated, by the the partner drawn second-draft.

I liked playing the villian, til I got type cast.

Now every failure I've had as a boyfriend, a man, a lover is a self prescribed hand-drawn blemish on my surface that I want to call something else. Tidy up the truth and make it mean more than it did.

It's why I write-it-out here, in my head I can lie, get lost in the elephant grass growing there, refight every battle so it looks like I won. What a loser.

Writing is the only thing keeping me honest right now.

I got this tattoo in Singapore in July 2011, with a friend, he and I about to go our separate ways. He got the same design, in the middle of his chest. Simpler times except they weren't. And we were good mates when we didn't annoy each other. At least that's how I like to remember it.

It's a joke. On the basis of the irreconcilable fact that I like those movies so very much even though they're terrible. Funny when we were drunk. For some reason. The truth is, this tattoo doesn't mean shit. Shoulder that.

Everything that has a beginning has...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Unfinished Foundation - 8/10/2014

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hard part will come after the blast
when the smoke clears
the air no longer choking on clouds
of cement dust and debris
the clearer picture will cut into you
deeper than the initial damage

ground has shifted hard
cracks opened up underneath
angry lines like a kid trying to cross-out in crayon
start to see where you went wrong
what weaknesses you built upon
apparent structure merely painted on

you were trying to live inside an intellectual property
but never laid your foundations properly

you can see now
it was never going to take much
to bring the whole place down
all it took was one spark, a bang
and everything collapsed

all the experts have their take
already talking blame
before we've seen how many bodies come out

can't deconstruct til we clear the rubble
demolish down what's left in the layers
hard part will come after the blast
when the smoke clears

start again from scratch
no choice but to rebuild
build it back up to last
make it stronger
make it better
after all,
this might be a massive mess now

but that's always been where you've lived.

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_______________________

-Peace

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Grows in the telling - 3/10/2014

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Sometimes I keep the story simple. It goes: Melbourne. Then being a Haemophiliac. Having a bicycle. And bad knees. And taking pilates classes. With a holiday. Sitting on the bike seat.

Other times it's an extended cut. Nine years of welfare work. Performing poetry. Some place to hide. An empty desert flat.  Head full of holes. Fundraising. Thin skin. Slippery grip on a will to live. Awareness.

There are other angles on the same journey, Hepatitis C. Interferon. Sore thighs. Hollow eyes. Lonely hands. Strange spaces. Urban exploration. Restricted areas. Dark. Discovering the muscles.

There are small parts made large. Inhibitors anti-bodies, relationships open, solipsism, my weight, how much I still carry, temperature ranges, a disassembling cycle. The parts exposed.

Your story is what you leave you out, how you collect and display the details, what questions the tale asks, what answers it seeks.

The best stories don't answer all your questions, or tell you what to think. Sometimes the writing tells too much, and the pacing drags.

Your story is always the short version. Life is written that way. Don't lose your authors voice in the details.

Above all, you gotta keep it interesting.

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____________________
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-Peace.
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Muslims in Australia - 29/09/2014

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Muslims in Australia. (Nobody asked me for this, but here's a story from Uncle Randall...)

I first got to know some Muslim people when I worked at the Telstra call centre in Burwood, back in 1999.

I was nineteen years old. Very angry and withdrawn teenager, dyed hair, baggy punk/work clothes,carrying around and art folio covered in offensive slogans and  band names, telemarketing for a corporate giant. Go ahead, tell me you don't like how I look, or what's written on my bag. Hated it there.

Other than one friend, the only people I really talked to there were some of the Muslims. There were dozens of Muslims working there, don't know why. Telstra was hiring lots and lots of people, from what I gathered, word had got around at a few mosques, a lot of people had applied. Many of these men and women all seemed to know each other.

Of course, at first I never made any remarks, asked any questions. The hallmark of political correctness would seem to be to simply not notice someone's appearance, clothing, skin colour, disability, gender.

What I knew of Islam came from the Spike Lee film on Malcolm X, dramatising his discovery of orthodox Islam, from his originally distorted/ bigoted representation of it.

From hip hop I knew about five percenters, (thanks to groups like Public Enemy and Brand Nubian). So there was something tangentially cool, to me, about muslims. A vague connection to the rap culture I still admired.

Months into working with some of these folks I eventually started asking some of the women in my team those questions, the ones you want to but can't because you'll look stupid, or racist, or sexist.

Why do you wear that... y'know, that uh stuff? Doesn't it bother you? Isn't it weird to be surrounded by other women who don't. Do people give you a hard time?

Without exception, each person I asked was happy to talk about it. This wasn't some cult or club or secret gang, these things represented their beliefs, how they saw and understood the world, their families and community.

This dialogue continued into year 2000. My teammates/friends Waleed and Susan (an engaged couple) understood my lack of understanding, I stopped being embarrassed. I would greet people at work 'asama mulakim/malakim salam'. Got such a kick out of that.

I swapped my friend Anthea a copy of her family's Qu'ran for my paperback copy of The Big Questions (Philip Adams in conversation with cosmologist Paul Davies).

The book she gave me was beautiful, hardbound leather, embossed wih gold trimming, annotated pages, Arabic and English side by side, the works. Not the sorta thing I could slug in my backpack and read on the train.

I took so long reading it, Anthea said I could keep it. She was so happy I was taking interest to read it. I, frankly, took a lot of pride in doing so. I couldn't wait to add it to my bookshelf, and vainly show off that I'd read it. I never finished reading it. (Eventually getting the more-portable penguin paperback version, and read that copy whole). I still have it though.
I read other books too. The Hadith. The book of Taweed. Another whose name I can't recall (lots of apostrophes).
I watched Terry Jones' 4 part series on the Crusades, and Waleed lent me his tape of the 3 part Empires series shown on SBS. I learned about Moors and Caliphs and Mongols and King Baybars (badass).

In early 2001, I found out a high school friend I was still in touch with, Rabbi, was becoming Muslim. He gave me lots of material from IISNA, an organization dedicated to putting out lectures and argumentative pamphlets to convert people.

As a disaffected youth with some pretty heavy medical problems, I thought about Islam as something that actually might be for me, maybe. The people at work were so much more intellectually switched on and less-judgemental than the Caucasian Aussies. Their reassured certainty about the hows and whys of the universe appealed to me.

I even started learning some Arabic (both spoken and written), so I could one day read the Qu'ran in the original language it was created/written down.

It was Rabbi who put me off, ultimately. He had a convert's zealousness, always trying to get me to come down to his mosque. He also talked about how western philosophers were all wrong and rejecting a whole bunch of other stuff I still thought was awesome. My friends at work didn't pull that shit.

Then one of Rabbi's other friends started calling me, telling me at length down the phone how much happier he is now. Since he converted. Too. How excited he was that I had been talking to Rabbi about Islam. It creeped me out. Cult people have a way of doing that.

I started to see, for me, some holes in the story, some stuff that didn't fit me right. Also, as my medical situation improved, I less and less needed that overarching cosmological determinism. I remain an atheist to this day.

But nothing changed. My friends were still my friends and I still had a young person's voracious curiosity for knowledge. Historical, scientific, philosophical, and you can't avoid religion if you're serious about any of those three fields.

September 11th 2001.

Everything changed. Nothing changed for me. Every idiot never saw how bad the USA had it coming. Overnight everyone is renting 'The Siege' (Bruce Willis, Denzel Washington), no one is touching Rambo III.

The news starts saying all types of shit. I was already living out of home (from parents) so no broadcast TV, but when I would see the news, I knew it was... wrong.

I remembered asking Susan at work if she was getting any flack of people in the street for being a Muslim, she looked down and said this "nothing physical". She didn't want to say anything else.

It was like she had shrunk into her headscarf. But it wasn't the hajib that her free humanity was suffocating under, it was what Australia was putting onto her hajib.

Coincidentally, I ended up leaving that job not too long after 9/11. Telstra pulled back it's casual telemarketing stuff, so we could all watch dust clouds over New York for weeks.

But I never forgot the people I worked with (and to my delight, years later I saw Waleed pop up as a presenter/journalist for SBS).

In those years since Telstra I've travelled in 5 countries with Islamic populations since then. I've met many Muslim poets. Some individuals I met were easy not to like, most were hard to dislike.

No-thing ever put on a television can take away my years of experience working/talking to/travelling/performing with Muslim people.

It's not "them" I recoil from, firebrand racist Aussie, it's you. You're the one who tries to run my bicycle off the road, bug my phone, copy my hard drive, dismantle my employment prospects. Lie to my face. Make my life harder. You are not my friend, or my protection.

None of thr Muslim ever looked twice at my bleached hair, or told me off for my offensive art folio.

I'm appalled by what I see going on in this country at the moment.

I'm not threatened by something I don't agree with, or don't share in. Today I'm no fan of any religion, but I understand that people are not solely their beliefs or the books they hold dear.

Islam isn't going away. From the many Muslims I met, the stories they've shared, I know these communities are resilient enough to survive your bullying, your violence and intolerance.

I'm not going to say I have 'faith', I just know people. It was on that term, as people, that I first got to know Muslims.

Peace be unto you, salam.

-Randall Stephens, September 2014.

______________________

Reposted from my Facebook page. Please feel free to share around, if you think it will help.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

At Your Disposal - 18/09/2014

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honesty
is the rubbish I'm left with
each day after living

words
are the nearest bin I can find

what happens
with all that trash
afterwards

is someone else' fucking problem

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__________________
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-Peace.




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