The list in full

1 Sep

Anyone who’s quit booze et al will have encountered that “a lifetime suddenly feels really long” feeling. Cruelly, it kicks in just after the belief that you’ve reinvented the wheel wears off.

Back in 2010, eighteen months after quitting booze, I decided I urgently needed to come up with plan to ward off depression. I set myself the mission of trying something new every day for a year. I nicked the title from an Eels song: Hey Man, Now You’re Really Living.

To quote another Eels song, I’m tired of the old shit, let the new shit begin. In this case, the new shit meant anything from jumping out of a plane, to riding a camel, to working on train tracks in the rain. Developing new habits – or learning new things – is an excellent way to reroute neural pathways in the brain and get your mind off alcohol and drugs.

I distracted myself every day for 365 days. After a bit of a break I even did half of a second year, but I’ve taken those posts down as they didn’t have the same sense of wide-eyed wonder about them. I guess creating new routines had by then itself become an old routine. Here’s the full list of tasks…

SEPTEMBER 2010

Giving meditation a whirl

Ending every email with a compliment

Giving and receiving a home tattoo

Letting strange girls dress me

Enjoying an NRL game

Taking a walk down Port Phillip Bay Pier

Having a Eureka moment

Getting tea leaves read

Suffering acupuncture

Mopping my floors

Eating seafood

Going to Camberwell Market

Becoming an organ donor

Baking muffins

Wearing Ben Wa balls to a Metallica show

Asking strangers to pray for me

Trying Pilates

Riding a steam engine

Lobbing a message in a bottle

Getting the internet to read my runes

Riding the roller coaster at Luna Park

Learning not to intimidate men sexually

Harassing a salty seadog

Making pictures in coffee

Having a go on a horse

Handling a snake

Making a last will and testament

Suffering Zumba!

Following hot guys around the airport

Having a knee trembler on a Yamaha FZ1N

OCTOBER

Getting a publicist to make all my decisions

Going to the Deni Ute Muster with PMT

Hugging a tree (and wailing)

Watching Foxtel at Fed Square with a free toastie

Gathering people’s philosophies

Asking the Oracle

Learning about bees

Swimming in the Indian Ocean in my undies

Swimming in the Indian Ocean with dolphins

Examining Perth’s penal system

Shaking at a detox

Making a gnome run

Getting critiqued on a poetry website

Buying and using tools

Analysing my co-worker’s handwriting

Learning to ACT Mindfully

Staring out to sea

Getting sautéed in a Japanese bath house

Ogling workmen

Starting a rabbit fancier’s group

Introducing conker fighting to Strayans

Learning to drive without bursting into flames

Building a fire pit

Being a good neighbour

Taking other ladies’ clothes

Getting a rebetika education

Learning The Secret

Mugging for a magazine cover

Making curtains

Cooking seafood

NOVEMBER

Learning the ukulele

Learning about immigration

Surrendering to mindless gossip

Performing a cleansing ritual

Getting a helicopter view of the world

Piloting a plane

Building and lighting a fire, totally unsupervised

Walking around a cemetery before work

Taking the Melbourne Town Hall tour

Learning about the local Sudanese community

Learning tolerance at the Crown Casino

Seeking anger management

Looking after a real life child

Volunteering with the local steam train fanciers

Creating a ‘quit smoking or die, fool’ plan

Checking out station pier

Going to the rock chicks exhibition

Turning my head into a Girl’s World

Hanging on, on a Harley

Losing in the National Klop Championships

Shooting Glocks, Magnums, Rugers, shotguns and stuff

Thrashing around at Vaughan Springs

Passing my hazard test, despite Richard Marx’s best efforts

Writing thank you notelets like Mum used to make us do

Choosing my motorbike that I can’t afford for a few years, nor ride yet

Running my driving instructor’s car off the road

Working on a chain gang

Giving my libido a right flogging

Going to the cops museum

Giving my house a grown woman’s touch

DECEMBER

Being at the business end of a baby

Living at the mercy of fortune cookies

Taking the Fed Square tour

Getting electrocuted by reiki

Paddle-boarding through jellyfish

Tripping over the Garfield water wheel

Learning an amazing fact at the Bendigo Visitor Information Centre

Getting Bette Davis eyes

Testing out a cow-hugging ruse

Getting breathalysed

Asking, what would Oprah do?

Flying through the air like a flying pretzel

Perusing the Art Gallery of NSW

Failing my driving test over the most minor of details

Stomaching dinner theatre

Discovering, and claiming, my own beach

Entering a mosh pit stone cold sober

White knuckling in the St Kilda Spinner Jet Boat

Sketching burlesque ladies

Having horrible things done to my head

Rehearsing for my NYE super-task

Updating my vocabulary

Becoming more observant

Threewheel burning

Making a Sudanese feast

Becoming overlord of the fire

Squalling in the surf

Confessing online

Having breakfast with the ducks

Going fishing

Leading the zombie parade to death and/or glory

JANUARY

Sending the smokes up in smoke

Writing to people in the news

Getting spooked at a haunted pub

Gambling alone

Going to see a psychic

Peering at crime scenes

Nosing around the Castlemaine Museum

Indulging in a spot of Sunday afternoon circle work

Joining the Country Women’s Association

Putting my life in the hands of weak-wristed amateurs

Laughing solo

Becoming a psycho Chiko chick

Mining the past

Soft porn and hard landings

Training for a Chinese lion dance

Learning how to find north

Fearing heights real bad

Baring my soul on a dunny wall

Consulting the I Ching

Deciding whether the country-side is a) sinister, or b) non-sinister

Gouging eyes and kicking groins

Being grip and boom girl on set

Picking up domestic skills at Kyneton Museum

Eating curious things

Having breakfast at Vic Markets

Fine-tuning my handshake

Being silly at a tattoo convention

Going horse trekking with a naughty horse

Stalking bats and other stuff

Getting my motherfuggin’ ute

FEBRUARY

Playing bingo with Andrew WK

Learning to crack a whip

Going to psychic and parma night in Frankston

Putting my stamp on everything

Nailing down my psyche

Dancing go-go

Leaving cryptic messages

Pulling off a complex trapeze move

Getting spooked sideways at the Castlemaine Theatre Royal

Rolling a fag

Healing my embittered soul with song

Staying at the Hotel Windsor for no good reason

Talkin’ bout you and me and the games people play

Kung fu fighting

Streaking in the rainforest

Getting sucked by a leech

Firing a rifle blindly at stuff

Getting my chops with a chainsaw

Bulldozing shit

Milking filthy cows

Driving a 4WD

Hitting the wall with a quadbike

Having my life ruined by jaywalkers

Illustrating a children’s book

Dancing under the stars

Making an outdoor cinema on top of a mountain

Bidding at a country auction

MARCH

Getting a good snig

Getting Catherine Deveney to teach me how to tell a good yarn

Pulling off a trapeze somersault dismount

Bogging someone’s ute

Playing croquet

Playing at mechanic

Washing a dirty dog

Perfecting how to wave on country roads

Sending a photo of my undies somewhere random

Learning poetry for those after dinner soirees

Piggybacking an adventurer

Diving in a kelp forest

Breaking into Hanging Rock

Learning how to reduce a traffic fine

Soliciting a letter from a stranger

Wrestling

Stalking stinky seals

Crewing in a yacht race

Conquering the quad bike in reverse

Drawing naked commuters

Forcing berets down people’s throats

Learning how to talk to boys

Skipping stones

Driving with my knees

Rock, paper, scissoring a route around Tasmania

Dancing like Jackie Wilson

Being a watergirl at a country footy match

Inventing a phrase and getting it in the public vernacular

Tying knots

APRIL

Separating art from pretension

Playing two-up school

Being taught pool techniques

Going go-karting with a r’n’r band

Trying automatic writing and freaking out

Submitting a picture to Boars and Whores

Naming someone’s puppy

Baking bread

Cracking a wishbone

Flagellating myself

Getting a makeover in a department store by someone half my age

Getting a gong bath

Trying tai chi

Braving bongos

Roasting things

Bathing in minerals

Laughing boisterously at comedy

Making a graffiti tag

Appearing in someone’s memoir

Learning Indian head massage

Having a go in a glider

Driving in the gutter

Learning how to trespass responsibly

Conducting the birds

Pulling a pot in a country pub

Holding my first wild snake

Getting busted by the pumpkin cops

Having a good old streak in the desert

Bothering bees

Jumping the border

MAY

Eating an eel

Putting gas in my ute and watching it leak back out again

Learning to drum unmolested

Going to glee club

Writing a murder ballad about Hamilton and being nice to Nhill

Trying African food

Buying some art from a homeless bloke

Getting my portrait drawn

Being more welcoming

Having my first feijoa

Learning about the Australian bush

Stalking people

Drinking in a pub in a paddock

Driving naked

Making a wish at St Columba Falls

Restoring a swamp forest floor

Laying bush tracks

Hooning around an Arabian stud farm

Wearing fish socks

Shooting arrows

Getting cupped within an inch of my life

Sliding five storeys through a shopping centre

Getting my ears candled

Being a barber

Getting my dream analysed by It’s Fate magazine

Having my fortune told by the Mouth of Truth

Penning a cautionary tale

Recreating an old family snap

Racing crabs

Getting life tips from an Idler

Doing a prayer in a Catholic church

JUNE

Bounding up buildings

Tapping for worms

Beating my brother at something

Unearthing my first love letter

Retaking my Brownie Guide vows

NOT exploding with rage at my disconnected upload

Geocaching at the seaside

Getting allergy tested

Getting my face read

Making a snowdog

Smashing a telly

Cutting hair in a rainforest

Diagnosing psychopaths

Making a vision board

Holding a garage sale

Thanking a Gloria Jean’s franchise profusely

Going to a rally

Cuddling pigs

Writing to the prime minister

Letting a newspaper dictate my destiny

Tapping myself with Emotional Freedom Techniques

Being taught the Fibonacci Sequence

Inviting readers to design my bumper sticker

Joining the Real Hot Bitches ’80s dance troupe

Writing to a stranger in a magazine

Going to work in the nuddy

Going to work on my self-righteousness

Learning etiquette from a piss peddler

JULY

Going gospel

Gawking at Viennese art & design

Going down the Royal Derby

Prompting curious outbursts in other people

Going to see the alpacas

Roadtesting an anti-energy drink

Putting my sleep spindles to work

Throwing myself a pity party

Replying to sex spam

Being in a Hello magazine-style shoot

Shellacking my nails

Visiting the Pancake Parlour

Employing a personal shopper

Booking a flight at random

Writing inspirational stuff on public toilet walls

Stalking my lost youth down Luna Park

Streaking in Streaky Bay

Driving in SA and WA

Making a Wolf Creek contingency plan

Seeing a UFO

Becoming a human lie detector

Riding a camel

Getting marooned on a deserted island

Going somewhere that sounds interesting (but isn’t) just for the hell of it

Going to Hooters

Visiting 52 Suburbs

Recreating Puberty Blues

Going to the Justice & Police Museum

Rooting ’round Razorhurst

Going to the Aroma Festival

AUGUST

Reassessing the ibis

Documenting my day in haiku

Going to mass

Hanging out with marines

Pootling down the Brisbane River

Going to a suitcase rummage

Going to GreazeFest

Getting stroked to death in my lunch break

Wearing high heels to work

Eating sea urchin

Eating jellyfish

Going to a peep show

Going to the ban live export rally

Sulking at drag queen karaoke

Riding on a ride-on lawnmower

Touring Sydney fish market

Having Tantric sex

Sharpening knives so that I might prepare for a dystopian future

Totally banning ‘x’, ‘o’ and ‘;)’

Entering competitions

Getting psyched at a university opening day

Being blooded into Dungeons & Dragons

Giving my roadworthy vehicle its first bath

Learning three important life lessons from Bear Grylls

Making beer at Mountain Goat

Riding a Jet Ski

Having my aura read

Kayaking all over the place

Falling out of a plane

Blowing shit up

DAY 365: Blowing shit up

31 Aug

DAY 1 of Hey Man, Now You’re Really Living began with meditation – snore – so I wanted to go out with a bang.

After putting the word about, I was introduced to explosives expert, Bouncing Betty. Not her real name.

Bouncing Betty turns up to an undisclosed Melbourne location, loaded up with highly flammable paraphernalia and a large plastic receptacle on wheels, of which she has spent the afternoon cutting out a window with power tools, “so that we can see.” Fortunately, she and her mother have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy.

“You guys are so antsy,” she tuts as our host, Uncle Rocket, shoots me a mean look and fetches a fire extinguisher from his car.

There are a few false starts as Bouncing Betty can’t get the bugger lit with matches. “It won’t start,” she observes, peering in as the photographer and I yelp.

“We’ll leave natural selection to run its course,” mutters Uncle Rocket.

With the aid of a big stick dipped in petrol, the receptacle starts making ominous noises and I retreat to observe behind the shelter of a jasmine twig.

The thing goes off like a frog in a sock. Following the sparkle show (BB’s secret ingredient), we’re treated to a 100ft pillar of flame. There are five massive explosions, if you don’t count the smaller bangs of metal missiles landing on the roof.

We’ve barely time to ooh and ahh before Uncle Rocket’s neighbours are shouting over the fence to see if we know what just made their whole house shake. That’s pretty cool – it must have been a real Donnie Darko moment for them.

Keeper? Afterwards Bouncing Betty admits her explosive expertise hasn’t extended to a missile of this size before, but no harm done. Apart from that lawn.

Always keep a small plastic bucket to hand

DAY 364: Falling out of a plane

30 Aug

TALKING of being an agnostic at Christmas (as we were, a couple of days ago), I was fully expecting to be hypocritically praying for my life today, or at least screaming FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK.

In actual fact, there’s just one solitary “oh fuck” as I’m shoved out of a plane door with a thrust of my tandem instructor’s hips and we do a violent forward roll into nothing, then curiosity takes over. Skydiving’s not nearly as scary as I thought.

When Larrikin Larry, the unofficial mayor of Hervey Bay, suggested it, I thought yep: I’m in exactly the right sort of mood to hurl myself out of a plane. How often is that going to happen?

The next morning it’s just me and a new divorcee, Amy, picked up in a van with no seatbelts, I notice. At the airfield, we’re strapped into our harnesses, a long and intimate process, and talked through the jump by our instructors, who have totally mastered the well-polished bad jokes and slightest-hint-of-a come-on peculiar to the tourism trade.

There’s barely enough room for the four of us on the floor of the plane, and I’m sitting on Travis’s lap for half of it as he keeps checking my straps, or something. My back’s up right against his chest and I can feel his heart beating fast. Next to my hip, his finger is drumming a tattoo on the ground, and every now and then he takes a really sharp breath. Hopefully it’s just performance anxiety that’s making him antsy, because I’m feeling fine about all this.

Nothing prepares you for the temper tantrum of the plane door opening at 13,000 feet, though. The wind slaps in, and it’s thunderous. Amy starts freaking out and holding on to the doorframe. Thankfully her instructor gives her a shunt and they disappear.

Travis and I scoot over to the door; I swing my feet over the wheel and wait for him to push me out.

It doesn’t feel like you’re falling, but the wind pummels you in the face and knocks your body about. You can’t breathe. It’s like belly-flopping into a pool of caustic chlorine and feeling it rush up your nose. I’m not having the I’m-falling-through-the-sky brain freeze we were warned about, but I am looking forward to the parachute bit kicking in.

When it does I totally forget you get yanked violently back up through the sky, so there’s a bit of a wail, but still no promises to behave if only I will be delivered through this, etc. The wind’s assault on your ears stops abruptly and everything’s peaceful. Travis points out various parts of Fraser Island, and his hometown of Bundaberg. Down below everything looks like Toytown, with Fuzzy-Felt grass.

The touchdown’s gentle and bang on course, and when I stand up I’m neither shaking nor shaken. A good half of the year’s challenges had my palms sweating, maybe because I had to trust myself for those, rather than blindly put my trust in someone else, which I enjoy.

These guys must clean up in the pubs of Hervey Bay.

Keeper? Definitely; whenever I want to kick heads.

DAY 363: Kayaking with stingrays

29 Aug

Warning: humour-free, sickeningly sappy entry.

Day 2 in Hervey Bay and I’m already calculating how long it would take me to sell my house. You can get a three-bedroom pad here for $250k and all you’d have to do is eat seafood, swim in glassy waters and hoon around on jet skis all day; maybe a bit of bar work. I can’t think of any low punches I could pull to describe the place for your amusement; it’s pretty good.

Today’s a scorcher. I head out to Fraser Island and hire a kayak, to paddle around a part of the island with still, clear waters that Aboriginal settlers used as training ground for their most inept canoeists. I’m pleased to find I’m naturally good at kayaking, though – the downside about doing something new every day is that you’re usually terrible at it.

I’m skimming over so many stingrays I lose count, and schools of hardy heads arc over the surface of the water like tiny silver dolphins. I follow a path through the mangroves, watching the water get darker, and thick with the scum of tea trees. I’m keeping an eye out for carpet pythons, but also a rare spider flower. A local guide told me about it earlier. Shaped like an avocado inside, Aboriginal women used to drink a shot glass-worth when they were in labour. It would essentially poison them, acting as a sedative, while hastening their contractions. Half an hour later they’d either have a baby in a fraction of the usual time, or be dead. I’m guessing in very small doses it could be interesting.

I’ve also been told mangrove mud is sold in swanky spas for extortionate prices and that it’s the best thing you can put on your skin, so by the time I paddle back to the hire place I’ve got so much smeared on me I look like a swamp creature. I hope it wasn’t a joke.

Keeper? Yes. Sand-chafed, ravenous and stupidly happy. What’s more, I have a feeling I am going to be a champion kayaker one day.

DAY 362: Getting my aura read

28 Aug

THE hotel I’m staying at has a Psychic Expo on. Regular readers of Hey Man will be aware my faith in psychics runs as deep as a puddle, but like an agnostic at Christmas, I can’t resist getting my aura photographed.

I interviewed a healer last week for an article, and she told me, just by looking, that I had a red/orange aura, which means I am fiercely driven by my base urges.

Sounds about right. Now, of course, I feel obliged to get a second opinion – purely in the name of journalism.

For a mere $40, Konnie from the Psychic Expo sits me in front of a weird camera and gets me to put my paws on hand-shaped metal sensors either side of me. She shines a bright light at me and takes the picture.

It should pain me to admit that the results are pretty similar to the healer’s description last week, but I’m actually quite excited, and I’m relieved it’s not black. We’ve got exactly three minutes before my adventure bus comes, but Konnie scans the picture and tells me that oranges and reds are quite common in the youngish, as they represents drive and ambition. The lighter patches are an indication of spirituality. “You should trust yourself more,” she reprimands.

The green patches are lower down because they’re on their way out of my life. “That’s about letting go of a past problem and starting something new,” Konnie says, fixing me with a beady eye. “Go down to the sea and bury it in the sand. Let the surf wash it away. Get rid of it.”

Keeper? Sage advice. Might have to get a third opinion on auras though.

DAY 361: Riding a jet ski

27 Aug

Death Cheata.

I’VE come to Queensland’s Hervey Bay for hols, and ol’ larrikin Larry of the local watersports joint has taken me under his wing. (“He reckons he’s mayor of Hervey Bay,” someone grumbles to me later.)

First off, he gets me a jet ski, chucks in some free kayaking, and suggests a spot of free falling.

“Bear Grylls broke his back in three places free falling,” I lisp.

“I’ve broken my back in four places,” he immediately scoffs, leaning jauntily on the desk. “I did it when I was running prisons. Anyone can do it. The point is, you probably won’t.”

Once out on the jet ski, I relive all my childhood A*Team fantasies. I am escaping from a baddie. No. I am chasing a baddie. At the top permitted speed of 30 knots I’m unlikely to catch the baddie, but I do discover that accelerating swiftly from 0 to 30 knots over and over is good fun.

After half an hour I return the jet ski to Larry, who shouts me a latte and settles in to tell me about his time in the rodeos.

Keeper? Yes.

DAY 360: Making beer at Mountain Goat

26 Aug

I DON’T drink beer, but upon arriving at Mountain Goat microbrewery in Richmond, I’m moved to admit a beery workforce is a happy workforce.

Sloshing around in hops slops and digging encrusted barley out of fermentation tanks with a cheerful industriousness hitherto only seen in Fraggle Rock, everyone’s relaxed and chipper – and then they get to go home smelling nice.

Cofounder Dave Bonighton is giving me a few lessons in beer making today. Dave went to economics school in the US for three years and travelled back via Europe, sampling the real ales of the UK and Belgium en route. Returning to the sparkling lagers of Australia – and a boring job – was something of a comedown. Inspired, he started making homebrews in a disused town hall in country Victoria and, after some scrambling for funding, he and business partner Cam established Mountain Goat.

Stare-off in front of the fermentation tanks.

One of the staff – they’re encouraged to experiment – is tinkering with using rye. A new success story is Seedy Goat – a coffee IPA. Another is experimenting with wine yeast, which is more tolerant to alcohol. Since alcohol’s a toxin, if you try and brew past eight per cent strength using normal beer yeast, it starts poisoning itself. Use a hardier yeast and you’ll end up with a thicker, stronger beer.

TASK ONE is to simultaneously sterilise one keg with caustic cleaner, while filling another with frothy nectar. Luckily, all I have to do is load the kegs up and press a couple of buttons, and a machine called Gunther (he’s from Germany… all the machinery have names here, like Bender and Patrick) does the grunt work. Only one of us screams when high-pressure beer slops comes shooting out of a nearby grate though.

TASK TWO is to measure the pressure and temperature. I fail at this task, as I’m not strong enough to work the gizmo.

TASK THREE is to test the pH and temperature of a random bottle with a probe. I succeed at this, and so does the beer, which clocks in at around 4pH.

Dave won’t go so far as far as to say his beer’s good for you, but it is preservative-free, with no stabilisers or head enhancers.

You can get your own free guided tour at 6.30pm on Wednesdays, or just drop into the bar for a pizza. And a beer.

Keeper? Probably not the career for me, but good to try.