2009 was the busiest year of my life. I was doing everything. In the space of 12 months I made two albums, wrote and performed a new Comedy Festival show (which encored in Fringe Festival), orchestrated a national album tour, got a gig acting on John Safran’s TV show, wrote monthly columns for Frankie magazine,…
the heart of the bollocks
The lady in front of me was resting her head on some yarn. A good tip for first time travellers! Captured on a gorgeous day on Tasmania’s own Redline Coaches. It marks the final episode of my radio series The Heart Of The Bollocks. I recorded the secret life of buses for Triple J’s Morning…
My current existential crisis is a fascinating one. I feel original in my contempt for modern circumstances. I was always on the outside, feeling like something spectacularly unusual and formidable was occurring. The parallels between my twelve year old and forty two year old selves are intriguing as well as comforting. I can handle calamity,…
It started off innocently enough. One day, I found him sitting next to a fellow uni student mate of mine. From my glass collecting orbits, I could gather that Pat was a clingy old fullah, who appeared to be doing most of the talking and occasionally reaching for Bruce’s leg. Bruce, the cool customer, stared…
Ambient 🌫️ Birdbath
Anxiety, for the record, isn’t just a general state of feeling worried or uptight. It’s a physical thing. Like being softly electrocuted. It’s a black magic chain of thoughts that hijacks your thinking. It can make you act irrationally. It lives under the skin, like an alien. An agitated immersion in a strange, stricken brew.…
2022… all my ducks in a row
Ducks are my new favourite animal. (Soz cats.) I love them waddling about with their handsome metallic green necks and feathery brown pelts. It turns out Burnie has a large, healthy population at Romaine Park. I adore how they travel in pairs and huddle in groups. They are not afraid of people and snooze out…
All By My Shelf
“Just take those old records off the shelf. I sit and listen to them by myself.” Old time rock ‘n’ roll by Bob Segar. It’s a song about being by yourself. Solitude. This poor bloke, just wanting to listen to his nostalgic music collection. It’s uncanny that this song is one of my standout memories…
I’m Just Wild About Harry (as it happens)
I was definitely involved in this off-broadway prequel to the Cursed Child. photo: Jon Tjhia, The Wheeler Centre
How Do You Talk To A Depressed Person
At all. Say anything. Actually fucking talk to them, I would have thought. M e n t a l i l l n e s s is a desert. Communication is water. You can create water out of air, simply by saying ‘action’ and starring in a scene from your favourite film where the beautiful…
2009 was the busiest year of my life. I was doing everything. In the space of 12 months I made two albums, wrote and performed a new Comedy Festival show (which encored in Fringe Festival), orchestrated a national album tour, got a gig acting on John Safran’s TV show, wrote monthly columns for Frankie magazine, went in Comedy Festival Roadshow, moved house, broke up and fractured my humerus in a bicycle mishap.
I didn’t necessarily need a time intensive weekly sketch radio show to helm, but the thing was, I’d accidentally-on-purpose landed this dream opportunity to go wild creatively on a respected citywide platform.
I’d been going into Triple R a lot to appear on the spoken word show Aural Text, hosted by poet Alicia Sometimes. Each summer, the tradition was regular hosts took holidays and had a b-team fill in. I agreed to take on a four episode fill-in job for Aural Text, 12-2pm Wednesdays.
I gathered together a hit crew of my favourite alt-comedy pals. We wrote some sketches and ideas. We brought scripts in to perform live. We lined up interviews with local notables such as Marieke Hardy. While our interview skills left a lot to be desired, station manager Mick James was so impressed with our comedy that he had to stick his head in at one point to confirm we were actually busting it live.
“You’re the most organised summer-fill I’ve ever seen,” he said.
It boded well.
By the end of our month, Mick was a fan. He offered us our own regular timeslot. We ended up kicking out the long-running comedy show in the Monday 7pm slot. They weren’t exactly happy about it. They gave us six months. The show ran for five years.
Thrilled with this promotion, we went to town. Writing, recording and home-editing our own sketches. We would leave ourselves room to do a news and reviews segment live in the studio. Add in special comedy guests and maybe one silly song and you had the hour.
Damien Lawlor was the unofficial captain of the good ship weird. His unbridled tenacity single-handedly kept the thing alive. Charlie Brooker grade genius engine of under the skin, on the money, in your face segments including the long-running Hugh Jackman Diaries and hyper-local gems such as Punt Road & Music Snobs Through The Ages.
Josh Earl was his loyal lieutenant. He brought whip-smart pop-cultural satire smarts to add lightness to Damien’s odd nebula. Songsmith laureate Craig Lee Smith made up his own songs about towels & biscuits.
Hats off to Eva Johansen, member of cabaret comedy act Caravan Of Love. I think she is a vocal genius. One of the main reasons I’m kicking off this reel is to share her delightful talents.
Lime Champions! Sketch comedy for men and women. It was a lot of work. It was a lot of fun. It was on when people were getting tea ready. I’ve been carrying around a CD of my favourite originals. I think they’re okay.
LIME CHAMPIONS IS AVAILABLE ON BANDCAMP
(Bonus sketches available if you buy the little album.)
- For more LIME CHAMPIONS you can check out this sampler.
- Witness Tony Martin’s stunning cameo as Gary Sizzle.
- The more discerning / daring among you can investigate the arthouse disturbia of Damien Lawlor on the Lime Champs Channel.
the heart of the bollocks
The lady in front of me was resting her head on some yarn. A good tip for first time travellers! Captured on a gorgeous day on Tasmania’s own Redline Coaches. It marks the final episode of my radio series The Heart Of The Bollocks. I recorded the secret life of buses for Triple J’s Morning Show.
The wheels on the tape go round and round.
My playful docu-radio series from 2003 has been unearthed from the vaults. I’m not a has been, I just had early success at a time before social media, so a lot of my output aired once and never surfaced again. Can you imagine? Appointment radio. You’re either listening at 10:30 AM on a Wednesday or you’re toast as far as being an early adopter of visionary pioneer rapscallion Justin Heazlewood’s unique take on the vibe goes.
INSTAGRAM IN THE 1980s
All episodes are now available on bandcamp.
In 2003 I was keen to follow up my songwriting segment on Triple J’s Morning Show. There was a new team onboard and they didn’t have a lot of budget. I ended up doing a bit of work experience. I’d just moved to Sydney for a girl and was finding it all a tad overawing. To break the ice with my new city I felt like running around with a DAT recorder and using the authority of being ‘Justin from Triple J’ to create some casual, whimsical vignettes.
The Heart of the Bollocks features my original music and poetry – honed from regular appearances at Tug Dumbly’s alternative poetry night Bardfly’s at the Friend In Hand pub in Glebe. One of the punters there heard my segment and said he liked how it just washes over you.
Here is it, twenty years later – still sounding fresh i guess.
There were four in all. I will post a new one each week under this link so watch this space and subscribe to my channel, buster.
Produced by Justin Heazlewood in Sydney, 2003.
Hosted by Steve Cannane.
Commissioned by Kyla Slaven.
Cover photo by Tammy Winter.
Banks! contains a sample of Benito Di Fonzo’s poem “I’m frightened, and I want my money.”
Streets! contains a lyrical sample from “Feather In Your Cap” by Beck.
My current existential crisis is a fascinating one. I feel original in my contempt for modern circumstances.
I was always on the outside, feeling like something spectacularly unusual and formidable was occurring. The parallels between my twelve year old and forty two year old selves are intriguing as well as comforting. I can handle calamity, especially the internal interference kind.
Rage static. Panic shrapnel. Disquieting disbelief debris.
IF (and it’s a big if) there is some semblance of context or continuity to it.
Let’s say it’s a full-time job trying to make sense of my own life. My ‘predicament’ if you like. Less a lifetime than a social experiment playing out in semi-real mind-time.
(I am) So utterly alive, yet, disconnected from the safety of the social grid. A community outlier. Self-exiled sounds a little too convenient. ‘Post-romantic’ perhaps.
My early life could be divided into a youthful Romantic phase. When I believed that A led to B and that I might be participating in a rough and ready fantasy kingdom where all my toil and anguish was for a greater good. A time when there was surely something fantastic in store, just around the corner. Some brilliant future where talent and hard work would be rewarded by a wise, kind, vigilant industry.
Then, there is now. The post-romantic era.
The bit / part where I don’t believe in anything. I’m like John Lennon’s God song where he doesn’t believe in the Beatles or Dylan or God. He does, however, have a girlfriend. This is a palpable step up from me. John is an activist for love. The kind of love generated by a long-term relationship. An emotional business arrangement that makes each living, laughing day an investment in your shared future.
I am more like the Solo Man in the Solo Man ads from the 1980s. I’m kayaking down a hill for some reason. I’ve made sure to bring along my favourite can of lemon drink. I scull it passionately at the end, mugging for the universal camera that I believe still holds a vested interest in the forensic follies of my introverted outback existence.
The camera is inside my dreams.
Only last night I continued a recent trend of a dream category I would dub conversational.
The premise: I am so bereft of interactions with my own people that my subconscious has taken to synthesising realistic social situations in which I find myself nattering away about subjects of high interest and little consequence.
Last night I was on a bus with two college kids, a boy and a girl.*
* In the interests of the authors reputational dignity, I’ll omit any psychosexual anecdotes that present themselves. Suffice to say, there’s definitely an aftershock of ageing which ricochets through the lion’s share of one’s conscious fabric on a near bi-daily basis.
The boy and girl were laughing about something. The boy said “no one is called ‘bad’.”
I sprang to life.
“There is someone called ‘bad’ – the WWF wrestler Bad News Brown.” I then leant on my bank of childhood wrestling knowledge to impart the few wrestlers of colour from the ’80s. I’m thinking Koco B. Ware (who had a parrot on his shoulder), Mr T, Akeem the African Dream and Virgil (the bodyguard of ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase).
So, this dream – as weird and as cryptic and as recognisable as any other, had me simply telling these kids about this bit of trivia.
Something something. Maybe I had an erection.
Look. The point is (‘I can see your point. No, it’s just the way my trousers ruck up’ – now I’m quoting Rik Mayall from Bottom.) I’m so under stimulated intellectually and impoverished socially that sometimes I catch up with people more in my dreams than I do in real life.
Similar to how a sexual dream can offset ones frustration in a meaningful way, these ‘natter-mares’ service a submerged part of my neglected inner-self with intriguing precision. My ability to withstand social starvation is being tested on a near atomic scale. It has been this way for some time.
A perfect storm of isolation through no fault of my own.
Picture someone who is a lone wolf
wrestlerwriter. Take a personal memoir which they have to squirrel themselves away to write. Then add a pandemic where everyone burrows down for cover. Times it by being over 40 - a phase where virtually everyone you’ve ever known or liked disappears up their tree to nest, rendering themselves emotionally unavailable. Oh and here’s the clincher - view all of this through the lens of someone with a heightened sense of abandonment, who feels like they are watching every single person succumb to smart phone addiction at worst and socially acceptable distraction at best. The world used to be a party. Now it’s a series of messages in baby bottles. If you scrimp and save and wrangle an in-person catch up, you will bear witness to the eerily subtle degradation of interpersonal skills - forced to dig deep in your memory hive to recall whether there ever used to be a time when you would walk away from hangouts feeling remotely satisfied. See, it’s not even the technology but the structure of ‘mature age’ socialising that is flawed. In the golden days of uni and being in your twenties, you would see your favourite people all the time. You were on the same bus - the magical mystery tour. There was momentum. There were dynamics; harmony. These years, you don’t see people for months. You get one two hour catch up blast. These coffees and phone calls can feel oddly transactional. Our tired brains have to work hard to think of high quality abbreviated chunks of information about our by now, quite separate lives. Nothing really changes. None of our decisions involve the other directly. See, back in the day, you didn’t really ‘catch up’ you ‘hung out’ - the party was happening in real-time (even if the party was the pseudo prison of high school). There is something sadly / oddly (soddly?) nostalgic about a time when you were swimming in a temperate sea of social connections. Life was a project you worked on together.
Now? I’m f l o a t i n g i n s p a c e. It’s peaceful, sure. But a little cold. I communicate via my fishbowl helmet. Messages are delayed. Voices crackle back through static. There are atmospheres between us. The world looks small from up high.
I faintly dream that I might meet another astral surfer. Some like mind – that whole
I’m not sure how little I’m supposed to expect anything.
I daresay if my expectations fell any lower I’d be in need of medical attention.
And so, my friends, we enter into the post-romantic phase of life. I don’t overly expect anything.
I do, sort of
I have hope.
I just don’t pretend to cover up how angry I am. How disappointed. I’m still keeping up appearances. I wear sunscreen daily, mainly out of vanity. But – I’m self-serving to a fault. I am honest and protective in a manner I could only dream about when I was younger and being walked all over at regular intervals.
No, see, the fallout I feel is from actually having a healthy self-esteem and, god forbid, more room inside myself to share with another than I ever thought possible.
The cruel twist in this wild little tale is that at a time when I find myself growing into the ideal version of myself – there is absolutely no one around to take any interest whatsoever.
i never saw that one coming
I change my statement about being lonely.
I’m not lonely. I’m just alone.
There is and always will be a difference.
I would rather be bored than stressed.
CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF fuzzy logic GAZETTER & SUBSCRIBE.
NOTE: John Lennon doesn’t believe in yoga, but I do.
RELATED READING: i is the loneliest letter / all by my shelf / liquid mental
It started off innocently enough. One day, I found him sitting next to a fellow uni student mate of mine. From my glass collecting orbits, I could gather that Pat was a clingy old fullah, who appeared to be doing most of the talking and occasionally reaching for Bruce’s leg. Bruce, the cool customer, stared defiantly at his newspaper, occasionally making a laconical remark about sport or something irrelevant.
‘You’re a real nice bloke,’ Pat slurred from the bottom rungs of his nasal cavities. He had something wrong with his cleft palate, which left his face sort of crooked. His eyes were deep sea moons through powerful glasses.
‘Yeah you’d be really good for social work, you seem like a caring sort of person.’
I’d told him of my desires to enter the field. Then left, for fear he’d want to give me another handshake with the caressing thumb.
My shift finishes. With Pat in the toilets, I go over to Bruce. His lazy eyes roll over the pokie horizon.
‘He keeps on asking me to move in with him. I just keep staring off into the distance, in the hope that it looks thoughtful.’ Bruce demonstrates one of these stares. He does indeed look thoughtful – an expression of one who has done too much thinking.
Pat returns. He is having another beer. I don’t really want him to have another beer. He sings my praises again. And squeezes Bruce’s knee. Bruce does not flinch. Bruce goes to the toilet. Bruce is buying the next beer.
‘I wonder where he is?’ Pat says, checking his watch. I estimate Bruce has probably been gone fifteen minutes. Bruce isn’t coming back.
‘I’m not sure,’ I say in a tone that says I’m not sure about anything. The place smells of cigarette guts. I run my fingers up and down the material of my work pants. There’s hundreds of lint balls to pick off. A blind person could make a story out of them. There’s half a beer. Chit chat. Pat’s eyes are two blue torches in my face.
‘You’re a real nice bloke Justin, I’m so glad to have met you.’
‘I’m glad Pat, you’re a real nice bloke too.’
‘It’s been a year since my wife died.’
‘Oh really? I’m really sorry.’
‘Yeah, I dunno mate. It gets so lonely in the house now.’
‘Yeah, it must be hard.’
Another silence. Pat fills the silences by staring at me with a look of someone who can’t believe what is happening to them.
‘You know what Justin?’ He leans in. Then pulls away, as if in two minds. He shakes his head. It’s all too much. ‘I could very easily love you Justin. You’re the kind of person I could love. But for all the right reasons.’
Yep. My gentle skin is pricked with alarm ripples. From this point on there will be no more small talk between us – ever.
‘I’ve got a secret to tell you mate, and I’m not sure if I should. I’m scared what you’ll think of me.’
‘It’s okay Pat, I’m not going to judge you.’
‘Thanks mate, you’re a real beautiful person, you know that? You are.’
I’m blushing in my uniform.
‘Oh mate, it’s hard to say.’ Pat lights the cigarette he’s offered to me a couple of times. I should have accepted.
‘I’ve been married 38 years, to a really beautiful woman, and I’ve had two kids. And I miss her like hell. But all that time we were married, most of that’s been a lie.’
‘I’ve got a thing. And it’s really hard to live with.’
‘I like blokes mate.’
He likes blokes.
‘Does that change what you think of me?’
‘No Pat not at all, why should it? I’m not worried.’
I’m not worried. I have a sip of my beer. My other hand is engaged in a handshake with the thumb.
‘I love you and I respect you Justin. I respect you mate. And I wouldn’t ever do anything to hurt you.’
I’ve shut down. I’m smiling and nodding. Pat has broken me with his intensity. I’m waiting for my beer to drain and the club to explode me out onto the street. I am hungering the hazy Saturday sun.
‘I’ve really got to go Pat. I’m going to a concert tonight.’
‘Give me a call sometime Justin.’ Those eyes staring at me. Those glass globes.
‘Yeah I will. I’ve really got to go mate.’
At 4:17pm, on February 21st 2002, a youth and a gentleman hugged in the old lounge of the Canberra Labor Club. No one saw. No one knew. No one cared and nothing changed.
Three months later. Today. Pat still says ‘you’re a beautiful person’ to me and ‘I love you.’ Now he has added ‘I only come in here to see you.’
‘Why didn’t you fuckin’ call me?’
‘Pat, I saw you last Saturday.’ My tone is defensive, which it never usually is.
‘I think about you all the time mate. I really want to have a beer and a talk with you.’
A beer and a talk has been promised since February, but so far I’ve dodged it. My heart is turning into a spa bath of blood. Today I am on tray service to the poker machines. As I wait for the barman to get my drink I glare out the side of my glasses. Pat is badly pixilated in the distance. I can make out his red and black bomber jacket and a small head with two giant windows facing me.
I can’t see his eyes. I don’t know if he can see mine. I am ignoring him.
My head jeers me. ‘There’s your boyfriend…hey Justin, your boyfriend wants to see you.’ If any of the bar staff said that to me I think I’d have a stroke.
Pat says I love you, like others say how are you. His hand reaches out to me whenever I serve him at the bar. His grip traps mine while his thumb stretches around like a faceless worm.
Two days ago, when Pat came up to buy a VB, he asked what my last name was and walked away. The next time he asked where I lived. I said the street. He asked who I lived with. I said my girlfriend and best friend. Then, with the honesty trigger which continues to get me into trouble, I said I was thinking about moving.
‘Move in with me. No, I shouldn’t put that pressure on you. But I’d love it mate. I get so lonely, I’d love to take care of you.’
Beer pouring, head screaming. I don’t need you to look after me. I’m twenty one. Beer comes out. No words.
I am uncomfortable in my own workplace. I am thinking about Pat. His very presence smears my chest with something thick and unpleasant. I am angry.
After almost backing out, I take my lemon lime and bitters and walk towards him. There is another work mate with him, whom I use as a support.
‘You’ve got a break have you?’
‘Yeah, I thought I’d better give myself one.’ I’m desperate to keep things jammed in small talk.
The other worker returns to the bar, leaving Pat and I alone.
Silence. Here comes the handshake.
‘Andrew’s a top bloke. But he’s not very happy here.’
‘No, he hasn’t been since I’ve worked here.’ I’m surprised and ecstatic. I must keep Pat talking about something other than me.
‘The place just wouldn’t be the same without him.’
‘No, he’s a top bloke.’
I take a sip of the bitters. It is all rich fizz and lemon. I am never confident that I’ve made them properly. The silence is too long.
‘I’m sorry mate if I’ve come on too strong. You just tell me, you say ‘Pat, back off’ and I will.’
‘Yeah, well, I think you should.’ Toy guns are blazing.
‘I love you so much Justin. As the song says you’re always on my mind.’ His voice is a brown suitcase stereo.
‘Yes well I’m not necessarily comfortable with that.’
Why use necessarily… don’t hold back.
Pat leans back on his chair. His pursed lips sit a good five centimetres out of line with his nose.
‘I can’t help it. You’re a beautiful person mate. When you’re in the bar I sit here and I can see right into your soul.’
My guts are buzzing. It’s my pager, which means I have to go and get someone a drink.
‘I’ve got an order,’ I say.
Pat is smiling.
‘I know mate.’
I spend the rest of the shift hoping he will leave, otherwise I will have to confront him and avoid having a beer. Half an hour later I check, but he is not there. I am wary and sceptical. He could have gone to the toilet. Fifteen minutes pass and I go inside the toilets to check. There is one cubical that is engaged.
I am still not convinced. I consider peering down to see the shoes, but this day has been extreme enough already. Plus, I can’t think what shoes Pat wears.
With half an hour to go of my shift I check the toilets. All the cubicles are empty. Finally.
As I turn to leave the door swings open, like the final shock in a horror film.
I fully expect it to be Pat, but it’s a Chinese bloke. I see Pat’s empty chair and cannot control the peace and joy in my heart.
Ambient 🌫️ Birdbath
Do you have anxiety? If so, I’m sorry to hear that.
So dew eye, for what it’s worth. 👀
[Refer to the mockmarket of the soul and current value of a shitcoin]
2023 – could it be the year of beating anxiety?
I’d say ‘war on anxiety’ but that doesn’t sound much fun (or a change).
Pillow fight with mental health? Slightly sexy.
Passive aggressive standoff with your other half?
My point is, Moby has just dropped an ambient album. (Do you ‘drop’ ambient albums or release them as one might release a mist?) He says it’s about helping tackle his anxiety. A donation to the cosmos. Cool. I dig it.
Anxiety, for the record, isn’t just a general state of feeling worried or uptight. It’s a physical thing. Like being softly electrocuted. A black magic chain of thoughts that hijacks your thinking, making you act irrationally. It lives under the skin, like an alien. An agitated immersion in a strange, stricken brew. A cauldron of caution. A maelstrom of malady.
Ambient music is a perfect antidote. It’s slow, for starters. Anxiety travels at the speed of unsound. It doesn’t help that the pace of the world has been increasing (along with the temperature) for the past thirty years. In 1990 we had grunge music with a bpm in double figures. Folks now listen to podcasts at double speed. Cramming data isn’t precisely what consciousness evolved for.
Ambient music (also known as new age) may be an acquired taste. It might not be your cup of herbal tea. ☕
Ambient is spacious. It doesn’t have beats or lyrics, much. It’s a space, man. It doesn’t ask much from your mind. You can slip on your life cancelling headphones and soak in the sound. Let your thoughts play host to singular, spaced notes. Slow honey for a blow up head.
It’s a gentle suggestion. I’m a fan of Brian Eno and Harold Budd and Radiohead. The latter had a crack at ambient with ‘Treefingers’ from Kid A. It was pretty (chime) ballsy of them. That album was popular. This is probably my first ever experience with ambient music. YouTube comments suggest ‘Treefingers’ is “the one everyone skips.” Honestly, I would be included in that. Young men are not famous for their patience – but it wouldn’t surprise me if it made a comeback. The world is much more electronic instrumental savvy than it was in 2000.
Don’t worry if you don’t know where to start (or end). The beauty of Spotify is you only need one song to connect with and then select the radio for that song. That’s all I’ve been doing for five years really – unboxing a pandora’s pantheon of timestretched permusations.
Stockpiling chillout I can access in the fraction of a migraine. 🧠
Heck, sometimes technology works in favour of mental health. Maybe this is the only time. Perhaps you find success with meditation apps? Personally I can’t stand someone lecturing me. Having said that, Lemon Jelly do have a song called ‘Nervous Tension’ which is basically a meditation routine set to music.
From my new years meanderings I see there’s a recently released The Art Of Meditation by Sigur Ros. Electronic dude Jon Hopkins put out a Meditations single in 2020 & Music For Psychedelic Therapy in 2021 (the latter is a bit rich for my blood). Meanwhile, my good friend Conrad Greenleaf released the ambient album Dreamtape last year – so it’s in the zeitgeist, surely.
There’s even Tasmanian based ambient artists such as Leven Canyon & All India Radio.
Chillout was huge in 2000, so it might be experiencing a twenty year ambiversary.
If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air
Quaint little villages here and thereGroove Armada – At The River
There are other strategies to combat anxiety:
- A sleep routine.
- Talking to a psychologist.
- Lying in a dark space with a weighted blanket.
- Repetitive movements such as playing an instrument, walking, swimming or massage.
It’s worth trying everything. Make it your hobby – discovering pockets of air within your dark cloud.
Unrest is the best that life can offer, sometimes.
Make the most of finding a way to live with it.
Half the fun is remembering how to train it.
Finding the time to take it for walks.
You don’t have to meditate to listen to ambient music. You don’t need ambient music to meditate. Both are notoriously niche and slippery to appreciate. I file them under exercises for exhausted people. Or, there are 200k worse things you can do on your phone.
Take care in there.
Justin, 2023. *
- please see my little playlist elbow, I mean below.
…LATEST ISSUE OF MY fuzzy logic GAZETTE…
2022… all my ducks in a row
Ducks are my new favourite animal. (Soz cats.) I love them waddling about with their handsome metallic green necks and feathery brown pelts. It turns out Burnie has a large, healthy population at Romaine Park. I adore how they travel in pairs and huddle in groups. They are not afraid of people and snooze out in the open. It’s so trusting and meek, my heart melts.
Apparently ducks rest in groups for safety. The outside duck has one eye open to keep guard.
The quack community.
Little duck bums.
They generate happiness in me.
Well, it was a year. Chalk it up to experience. Downgrade my heart from spectacular. Surprise my mind.
Beautiful reluctance. Transcendental views. Average dates – (I’m looking at you October 7).
Dogs barked, muesli was eaten. Spotify playlisted and rage guest programmed.
Joy. Content. Heartbeats.
Dreams about…wriggly jigsaws and friendly abandonment. How am I here? Where am I there?
State hopping, spoken word performing, mental health monologuing, man about house.
I’ve had it all – a lifetime of moments. Set to the soundtrack of an infotainment hotshot cathedral.
Dress right. Knuckle down. Buckle up. Take off.
WHAT I CHOSE TO WRITE ABOUT:
Mental health mainly. My opening gambit i is the loneliest letter was partly inspired by trawling through my musical archive. I found a stripped back version of my song I’m So Lonely, written in 2008. Just another patented Saturn Returns soundtrack to a suddenly bottomless life. I was impressed. If nothing else, it’s comforting to be reminded that you aren’t some alien version of yourself, just a boat rockin’ riff on previous themes.
Then I suppose after that it was How To Talk To A Depressed Person.
I’ve never liked the question how are you.
Asking someone about their mental health is a confronting and private matter. It needs to be given the gentle, conscientious forethought of an orienteering operation. There’s strategy, tact, respect and craft. Instead, we get r u ok – (a high brow advancement on what r u lookin at?) – the grammatical nature of which is enough to pummel my inner harmony.
Never fear, my well-meaning diatribes are here.
This year was marked by the premiere of my one man show Get Up Mum in March. It was epic. It was profound. (It was quite long, to be fair). I hope to perform it again mid next year in Burnie and Melbourne. I was interviewed by my new friend Helen Shield. If you were wondering, one of the most uncomfortable aspects of broadcasting such personal work is seeing the inappropriate tags and disclaimers clogging up the footer. It’s bemusingly ironic that mental health is either cloaked in euphemism or clownishly signposted in bureaucratic overreach.
I had surgery. An ulnar nerve transposition on my right arm (as you do). I’m past 40 and abstractly vulnerable. Well, to be fair, I was once described as ‘intensely vulnerable’ by Fiona Scott-Norman in an article about stand-up comedy in 2007. So, artistically, I’ve worn my brain on a chain. Only now is my physical self catching up to the costume. What could go right.
I wrote an article titled Liquid Mental. It was sparked after walking along Romaine Park and seeing a teenage boy wandering along the fields. His head was lowered, having mastered the art of walking and scrolling. I was haunted. I had to write something and incorporate Terminator 2 and the music of SBS Chill regular Eric Hilton. It was fun.
I packed up my place in Melbourne to return to Tasmania. As I was sorting everything it occurred to me that it was twenty years since I became “The Bedroom Philosopher.” Oh well, said the diligently private person to themself, I guess we could use this as motivation to launch a light to moderate assault of content – I mean – art, on the unsuspecting consumers – I mean fanbase. I rekindled pleasure in reimagining my first album of light-hearted folk songs, cultivated during my accidental dream job of being the weekly songwriter for Triple J’s Morning Show in 2002.
It was a nice time in the archives. I liked who I was at 22. In a not dissimilar creative time travel to the way I hung out with my 12 year old self in Get Up Mum – I had a beer or two with my 22 year old self in the Living On The Edge…Of My Bed release and subsequent memory lane / cassette digitising sessions. I even cut together my own radio documentary on the origin story of how I went from winning ABCs Heywire to scoring the gig of a lifetime, without having performed a single comedy spot.
It wasn’t all beer and skittles in that career. Sometimes it was sarsaparilla and quoits. I love nothing more than bemoaning the clusterfluff of riding success while being a share-household name in Australia. I feel like I’ve had so many backward compliments and subtle cracks at me over the years I wear a technicolour raincoat in a fickle bid to thicken my skin. Anyway, blow off steam I must – it felt fitting to hold my own Depress Conference.
And so on and so forth. I had two pieces published in the mental health themed poetry anthology Admissions. I wrote a letter to schizophrenia, gave a talk at a mental health conference and rereleased / reimagined my first ‘proper’ album recorded on a four track at the end of Hellyer College, 1998. (Peppered with lil’ somethings recorded on my cassette walkman).
I was nominated for the most underrated book award in 2015. It was a relief to lose.
Birthmark by Phonze!
It was nice to receive a kind letter towards the end of the year. Thanks Lucy.
Thanks to like, anyone who has read my self-published dalliances and gained any insight into the cosmic beauty of our abstract depressions. Power to thee.
The key is to….keep going (apparently).
And try hard not to ask anyone if they are okay.
And if you’re talking to me, try and avoid the sentence “I found some of your posts worrying.” It’s sort of patronising, sorry.
Bonding on that private channel requires you to have prepared an application with a backpack full of context. Put thought into what you say – as opposed to the industry standard of little. Do your interpersonal homework. Like a good essay, support your statements with evidence.
If you are truly, lastingly concerned about them / me, just be brave and ring them up. Have a friendly chat.
Talk about the price of weather. Remind them they are cared about. It’s far too easy to forget. (If you are a bloke and can drop the ‘L’ bomb – well, good luck with that.)
Why the human heart is designed with affirmation amnesia I am uncertain. Perhaps we are animals after all; fitfully aware of the perilousness of our circumstances – the energy reserves required to survive in this befuddled bio-matrix claptrap of a bush doof. The casino of soft knocks and hard streams. It could not be more unnatural if it tried. One puts ones blinkers on. One runs ones own race. 🏇
Get human. Stay wobbly.
Love from planet Justin. 🪐
- The best way to stay tuned to anything I do is via my beloved mailing list Justin Heazlewood’s Fuzzy Logic.
(The latest one of these can be witnessed hither.)
I’ve just signed up and wanted to let you know how I’m enjoying all of this. Your writing is so entertaining – love the fast-paced, psychedelic imagery and invented words (autobiocracy!) I also dislike of the question “are you okay?” – not just because it’s a bit patronising but it is also such a non- question, it lacks real curiosity and just leaves you to reassure rather than reveal. I think if the asker really wanted to know, it wouldn’t be a closed question.
I also wanted to let you know how much I loved ‘Get Up Mum.’ I cried many tears for 12-year-old Justin, but found myself equally in awe of the creative, intelligent, sensitive and resilient kid he was too. I work with therapeutically with children and have on occasion with child carers and so this resonated strongly for me. Thank for for undertaking such creatively courageous work. Digging up and reworking childhood trauma can be therapeutic but it’s also painful and can’t go back to being unseen, which comes with its own complexities.
Your stuff on loneliness has been so inspiring and helpful for me at this particular time in my life, so thank you! When is your next book!?
Forgot to say before, the free-associative flow of your work is really enjoyable to read. I’m not sure how you feel about Helen Garner, but I love her autobiographical stuff for the same reason. The way she layers little snippets and details from daily life that sometimes almost seem random, but in accumulation hint towards an unbearable/unknowable emotional truth lying dormant in the background.
Looking forward to reading more Justin.”FROM LUCY, BY EMAIL
You are always stronger than you think.
You are always stranger than you feel.
All By My Shelf
“Just take those old records off the shelf. I sit and listen to them by myself.”
Old time rock ‘n’ roll by Bob Segar. It’s a song about being by yourself. Solitude. This poor bloke, just wanting to listen to his nostalgic music collection. It’s uncanny that this song is one of my standout memories from primary school. As juniors we would sit in a circle as our music teacher put it on.
“Now, just listen to it as an example of recorded music. What can you hear?”
Some funky low-end. That breakbeat drop out bit. A curmudgeonly old rocker that seems to have stayed the same age as I caught up. Thirty years later and I’d be the one taking old records (and old CDs) off the shelf. I’d also be in fair agreement that today’s music ‘ain’t got the same soul’ – caught in the double-bind that simply admitting that is some kind of cultural own goal – basically advertising your own irrelevance to the younger, hipper generations. But then, who needs words to do that when I have my colourless hair?
(Bob Seger is considered the godfather of belligerence. He was the first Boomer to slag off the generation after him, a sentiment now carried in alarming numbers across every second youtube comment on any song released before 1980. Is it fitting that the music he’s dissing is probably the very early 80s soft-rock that I now commandeer?)
There aren’t enough cool, tough songs that casually mention being by yourself. (“Maybe he’s born with it….maybe it’s Radiohead.”) 90% of songs are about love and 90% of those are propaganda for couples, basically saying ‘being alone is the price you pay for fucking up love. So… love…don’t fuck it up!’
I remember feeling haunted by music in the wake of my relationship
strike in 2009. Music became a surveillance ghost as tunes trailed me onto the bus.
“I can’t live if living is without you.”
“I know I’ll never find another you.”
“How am I supposed to live without you?”
I fought back with my first purchase of over-ear headphones and a predilection towards ambient electronic music. Boards of Canada, Four Tet, early Caribou – they had no words. I didn’t have any songwriters’ agenda being pushed onto me – like a liquified diary spray-painted on my garden wall.
Now, I’m sort of enamoured by mid 80s ballads that so brazenly and eloquently declare a stoically melancholic mood.
From the inappropriately boppy cover by Ace Of Base at my high school social*, to truly comforting black velvet cloud of nostalgia and ambience in my ballads playlist – this song has had a journey. I love that it’s by an artist known simply as Black.
* no wait, I’m thinking of the Ace Of Base song Beautiful Life – but then they did do a cover of Wonderful Life but not until 2002, when I heard it somewhere other than a high school social – you’d hope.
As a member of the solitude community, I deeply respect its acknowledgement of the simple truth that human life can be played out in relationship exile, through no particular design or fault of anyone. It’s a slight change from the default whitewash of families and couples that the large proportion of recorded advertising media is concerned with.
It has been suggested recently that there is still an obvious bias against single people. For example, theatre tickets are usually sold as pairs and sometimes single seats can’t be bought towards the end. (See: victory for spinster theatregoers)
Single people are assumed in deficit.
I’ve often thought, if you are by yourself and your main impression of this position is a sense of being incomplete, then how problematic is that?
(See: my 20s)
All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.French philosopher Blaise Pascal (in the 1600s)
When there’s nothing to lose and there’s nothing to proveBritish philosopher Billy Idol (in the 1980s)
Well, I’m dancing with myself
‘All By Myself’ ruined Christmas. It’s such a crass take on the quiet, moving, wryly sophisticated juxtaposition of ‘Wonderful Life.’ Lately I’ve thought that Cat Stevens’ ‘Another Saturday Night’ also does justice. It humanises the lonely characters’ plight.
As an aside, I don’t think I ever knew this was a cover.
A hit that was largely background to me now plays as a doom-pop appraisal of a sometimes weekly predicament. For most of my 20s and early 30s, Sunday afternoons were the hardest part of the week to trawl through. Something changed in my mid 30s. As I began to make peace with my childhood blues, I realised that a social deadzone for making plans with pals was Saturday night. And so, a sense of foreboding and pressure built up, so that each Saturday afternoon felt like a mini New Year’s Eve without the parties or fireworks.
It was as if I had a weekly reminder that I was single. ‘Just think Justin,’ the cruel checklist insisted, ‘all those lovely young things out there on dates, together. All those long-term couples, meeting up with the other couples. And you, buddy, here, in this room, by yourself – as proof you exist.’
Ah, but see, I was never alone. How can I be truly lonely when I have music?
Music is magic. Straight up.
And if music outstays its welcome then there’s always some kind of movie. And if that isn’t what the doctor ordered then surely beer rounds everyone up and wraps them in a team huddle and gives them enough of a pep talk to convince all the moving parts of the generous, loving, hope-drenched, melancholic_ambient person to crack on and forget about the flim-flam of the dickheads outside, that yabbering on is overrated and we have all the low-lighting and controlled-volume environment we could ever want right here.
It’s a wonderful, wonderful life with old time rock ‘n’ roll.
JJ Cale, he’s my man. The guy isn’t even alive anymore. What’s the point of meeting anyone, if I can’t even tell him how in awe I am of his music?
Related reading: i is the loneliest letter (2022) Thanks: Will Hindmarsh for suggesting 'Dancing With Myself.'
I’m Just Wild About Harry (as it happens)
I was definitely involved in this off-broadway prequel to the Cursed Child.
photo: Jon Tjhia, The Wheeler Centre
How Do You Talk To A Depressed Person
At all. Say anything. Actually fucking talk to them, I would have thought.
M e n t a l i l l n e s s is a desert. Communication is water. You can create water out of air, simply by saying ‘action’ and starring in a scene from your favourite film where the beautiful lead character reaches out and helps a friend. Sound fun? It’s not. It’s quite hard work, which is what actors usually say in interviews – and this movie is silent and in black and white and imaginary – but gosh, the rewards are colourful and the investment in your own hope and sense of wish fulfilment: golden.
Talk. Say words. Anything really. Except not anything because there is a right-ish and squeamish approach, which is why I’m writing this because I feel I can guide you in a general direction while still maintaining the simple rule that the best way to talk to a depressed person is by actually talking to them, if you catch my drift. As in, what use is my advice on what to say if you secretly never plan to push the boat out to water.
You see, I’m quite certain that due to the mild corruption of society (consumerism, the original popularity algorithm) and outsourcing malaise of social media, we have been essentially trained to keep quiet about emotional ailments and self-stigmatise common garden-variety troubles which we are all quietly going about dealing with on a daily basis. Depression, anxiety, mood swings, self-loathing, loneliness. I mean, how embarrassing is loneliness? Imagine actually trying to tell someone you know and respect that you have been feeling lonely and that it is becoming quite a problem lately.
i am cool
I would know, I tried. Well, I wrote about it on my website and that was a big step for me. This is another one. I’d like to involve you, radical magical mr / ms person whoever-you-are – let’s get married in a fiesta of concepts, I’ll let you keep your surname – I’ll permiss you to rely on your instincts, but I will carry a fairly big stick and give you a polite yoga master tap every now and then if I sense you falling into the bad habits that so many of our smart-pants-cynicool generation still do. Bad habits that result in my least favourite sound right now, especially when it comes to mental illness …
Polite silence. Sorry Justin, won’t be checking in on you there – you seem to have it all sorted.
Ah, mate, yeah, I was going to ask you about your Mum but I didn’t want to seem condescending as you are the expert on the matter and I’m only new to having a family member with schizophrenia.
Sure, the last one was a recent, real life example. Bless my friend. He said this by email. And honestly, it’s not even the novel concept of my biggest problem being that someone might appear condescending towards me – the thing that has me rushing out of bed to hammer this down is just the admission of a self-censoring subroutine. I mean, I get the sense that my friend is nowhere near alone. One thing we are probably all united in is a complex myriad of psychological excuses for getting out of doing really basic things like say – uh –
- Asking for help.
- Asking someone if they need help.
- Following up with a friend who is down.
- Admitting to being down.
Like, how many times have you maybe thought about toying with any of the above – only to let the faint, tickly trickle of pleasant endorphin based ‘get out of awkwardness jail free’ cards rain down like a hotbed of ghost lawyers dressed as you pouring your favourite cordial promising they can maintain these positive intentions of which you think while not actually placing you in harms way of ever having to carry them out.
👻 👻 👻 I don’t see why we should leave our comfort zone in this instance. I mean, what a week. We are tired and busy and this whole ‘talking about our feelings’ business will just complicate matters and could lead to an untenable situation of creating more work than we had anticipated and even the thought of this hypothetical botheration has us tensing up in the stomach. Nah, best to just pat yourself on the back and give yourself a little nod for being a decent enough person to have at least naturally conjured up the basic desire to help or reach out or connect while also maintaining the dignity, intelligence and street-smarts to not do anything rash like act on these impulses and reveal the pulsating, quivering tangle of nerves, bad dreams and unresolved conflicts that you actually are. 👻
So, now, I’m going to mention AA. No, not that AA.
The two A’s.
They go hand in hand, as far as I’m concerned. They are two peas in a pod and I want you to be aware of them.
Part one – Avoidance
It’s rife. We avoid situations that might make us stressed. We avoid interactions which could embarrass us socially. Fair enough.
If someone we know is depressed or down or not themselves or by themselves or not quite right or recently single or having a hard time, we are likely to sort of, well, avoid them. Not directly, not exactly, but not the opposite either. We siphon them off to a complex friendship ditch in the quarry of our minds. We could ring them but – yeah nah – maybe a text – a quick back and forth and – yeah – that’ll do, right? And distraction and smoke and mirrors and a hundred more tomorrows and nothing really changes.
You could barge on in and call someone. Yes, I mean type the actual numbers and ring them.
If you fall in the camp that perceives phone calls as anxious concepts then I suggest you try getting over this in any way possible. Why? Because some of us are in a co
mmunication connection drought and I am declaring a national emergency. You’ve read the articles, you’ve seen the stats. People are desperately unhappy and / or isolated in the nerve-control-inner-monologue-disaster-manipulation-self-destruct-bunkers of their sonic the groundhog twilight youth. It’s not pretty. I’ve been there. Some days I’m there still. And all I can say is that when someone calls me out of the blue I adore it.
Big Shout Out to all millennials and gen-z who have stopped reading at this point
Yeah, I was born in 1980. If you don’t like talking on the phone then remember that the very a c t i o n of reaching out to someone in a format that you are not completely versed in is in itself a powerful a c t. You can transmit power simply by proving that someone existed in your mind and their name was held by your hand. Words matter but actions rule. In this time of binge communication and lightweight haiku newsletters, how breathtakingly charming and dramatic the notion of a phone call.
Or a text, or a fax, or whatever. You do you.
Part 2 – Acknowledgement
You: How are you?
This is the point at which many people will baulk and retreat inside themselves. “Oh no,” they flail, “whatever will I say now. I’m not a trained psychologist. I was just eating an ice-cream when this compelling website implored me to phone a friend who has just lost their job and moved back in with their parents, and now here they are putting me under the pump with their gloriously honest answer to my classically mundane question. Quick, author of this post, or “ Justin” (or poor woman’s Tony Robbins) as you seem to go by these days, what would you have me say next wonderboy?”
Dude. It’s okay.
No, that is that you’d say to the person. ‘It’s okay.’
Or, how about ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’
Be brave. Remember love. Think slow.
There’s no rush. You don’t have to solve anyone’s problems.
Do you know what a sad person needs more than anything? Ice-cream, sure, but… they need understanding – and the golden child of this conversation – acknowledgement.
I can’t tell you how important it is to have your feelings validated by someone.
Me: I feel – lonely.
You: Justin, that must be hard.
Me: Yeah – it is. It’s just my thing.
You: How long has this been going on?
Me: Oh, gee. A long time. It’s just been lately that I’ve really noticed it. I know I’m by myself too much. I don’t know. Often it feels like everyone else has people around them all the time but I’ve ended up by myself and that seems unfair.
You: You know there are a lot of people in your position.
Me: Yeah, apparently.
You: It’s nothing you’ve done. It’s just….how life works out sometimes.
And so forth. So, my main point is that rather than jump in and …
Me: I’m feeling lonely.
You: Have you joined any sporting teams or gone on facebook and tried to start a bushwalking club?
Me: No. * feels twice as alone *
Like, we’re programmed to live in this quick-fix society where everything has a solution and maybe if I just pressed the right combo of buttons I could defeat this evil ‘self island’ game that seems to be hijacking my waking vibe and ability to feel confident and consistent.
Well, no, because we are people. We are not programs. We are not machines.
We are rainbow scented, space cadet, all-feeling all-fleshy
And we are struggling. And we need gentle, thoughtful, nurturing.
Yes, even you gavin. Especially the blokes! (No shit, I know – who knew…..)
And we need acknowledgement.
That means – the simplest, smallest action of all. Showing us that you are listening.
“ dat sounds hard. ”
“ i’s sorry to hear dat “
“ ooh dat sux ”
“ u poor fing ”
Well, maybe not the last one. Perhaps that could be construed as a bit condescending. Especially when gavin has pulled the mining truck over to tell bernedette that he’s been having panic attacks. I don’t know what kalgoorlie mining co’s policies are on hugs in the superpits, but I would probably suggest that a hug would suffice.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to tell someone that I’m feeling down and all I’ve really wanted is a pat on the head and a ‘there there’ and all I’ve gotten is a hardcore delivery of suggestions of ways I could go and fix my problem and all I’ve wanted to do is reverse myself into a sinkhole of melted soap mattresses and initiate myself into a tribe of sophisticated duck wizards who would tuck me in and quack me a bedtime story.
Failing that. I have my friends. My acquaintances. Many of which have had a crack at connecting with me, and, unfortunately, it seems like (in the pyramid of petty social conventions), left me with the unnerving impression that I will be a lot better suited to life if I can continue with my only-child training and adapt to be a largely self-soothing, self-serving, self-analysing unit of progress and production who occasionally sees a professional psychologist in secret and deals with my complex emotional affairs in a setting that won’t bend the day of my loved ones out of shape.
don’t you open that trapdoor
because there’s something down there
“How’s your depression?”
He said it so casually. It was right up there with ‘did you see the carlton game’ and ‘how’s the tour going’ – I was gobsmacked. Truly taken aback. It was a wonderful moment of feeling shame and elation. Shelation.
“Uh, yeah – it’s okay”
I bought myself some time to conjure articulation in a subconscious Atlantis beneath the sea of deadpan humour.
“I think it’s getting a bit…easier.”
Did I say that? I don’t know. Did I mean it? Possibly not. But I don’t think that’s the point. The point is that Bruce asked his question. And even if I didn’t convince myself with the answer, hearing yourself say a hopeful statement, when prompted, is a song that can keep you company through a week of grey thoughts.
It’s communication. It’s action. It’s the vibe.
Bruce talked to a depressed person. He just barrelled on in there and talked to me.
I know what you’re thinking. You think you’re going to offend the depressed person. You’re terrified that you’re going to, god forbid, make them worse with your incorrectly placed question. You might say the wrong thing? You might, what’s that word the kids like to use… ‘trigger’ them.
I’ll tell you what’s triggering.
I’ll tell you what’s offensive.
In a garden of night, be the candle we’ve forgotten how to light. 🕯️
Talk to a depressed person today. You don’t even have to know if they are sad, or lonely. Chances are your instincts are already spot on.
For you are the intelligent dreamer – and I trust you to carry the weight of your own lack of practice.
We can do this. We can train ourselves to be better.
We can reach. For the stars. For the truth inside.
For each other.
maxwell the morose party star of fitzroy sez:
“search for the hero inside yourself”
RESOURCES: Amanda FKING Palmer has a self-help book about asking for help, no less.