Somebody in Clifton loves me, and an Aussie abroad

I´d never heard of Clifton until I kept seeing the place as a permanent fixture in my analytics. Clifton, New Jersey, USA: a sleepy town whose only claim to fame seems to be “the Ripper, the deep-fried hot dog that was recently named the best in the nation by The Daily Meal.” At least, this is what I got from Jeff Edelstein´s article.

There´s a short story in there somewhere.

Speaking of short stories, the 15th International Conference on the Short Story in English will be held in Lisbon next northern summer. The website already has workshops up and its good to see that some familiar faces from the 2014 Vienna conference will be attending. Oh, and I just got the good  news that two of my stories previously published in two of the ICSSE anthologies have found their way “home” and will now both appear in the 20th anniversary anthology of the publisher of my 2007 IP-Oz collection Back Burning.  The anthology, for me, seems appropriately entitled: Just off Message.

I´m still not writing short stories but am pleased to say that a drabble (exactly 100 words) I started in Tania Hershman´s workshop at the inaugural Flash Fiction Festival in Bath earlier this year will appear in the Festival anthology due out in December. Then there was a flash that I was convinced would make the cut, but it bombed. So you never can tell.

Statue in Vienna´s Prater. Photo: Anton Martin

I had fun writing politics in German in Julya Rabinowich´s Schule für Dichtung workshop and see that I´m not alone in some of my takes on if, and how, different shades of blue can make a national light bulb work, humanely at least. When you mix the blue of the far right with the turquoise of the “new” conservative party, you still get blue. Don´t scratch it, though, for you might not like what you see when you turn on your history bytes.

As a non-Austrian, I cannot vote, but SOS Mitmensch  organised a symbolic vote for foreigners living in Austria. I´m so grateful for that because … well, here´s the story.

It was around 5pm when I showed my passport to be noted at the Heldenplatz (Heroes Square). “You´re the first Australian,” the chap said. Behind me a voice: “And I´m the second.” I turned, and we were off.

For a long time I thought I’d never be able to connect comfortably with another Australian beyond small talk and memories, with the notable exception of Anita Heiss, with whom I´ve been lucky to spend a little bit of time in Vienna and Sydney. Most of the Australians I knew both in Australia and abroad were not interested in politics. Many were not even interested in human rights. Most just didn´t want to have their boats rocked oblivious to the fact that such attitude contributed to other boats sinking, people dying.

In an interview in the Austrian paper, Kurier, the German writer, Andreas Altmann, says that many of my generation, the one of the age of Aquarius and all that hairy stuff, as we get older—and I count myself in because I know what he´s getting at and I don´t really want to go there—that we are responsible for preparing the way for the likes of the US Rumpasaurus, which to my mind includes the folly of Brexit, and the rejection of an Indigenous Voice in the Australian Parliament, inter alia. And the beat goes on. Forgive me for digressing.

The second Australian to cast a symbolic vote was not of my generation, but I felt so on her wavelength. We met again and swapped books. I have just started hers: Red Square Blues: a beginner´s guide to the decline and fall of the Soviet Union. I´ve put it here with its GoodReads ratings so you can see how it´s been received.

It was published in 2009, but helps me understand what is really at stake in today´s world where apprentices have become despots and believe any deluge can only be for the “other” and thus insist on making it so.

I´m looking forward to the music of future meetings with Kim Traill.

And so it´s with mixed feelings that I´m thinking about our upcoming trip to the Land of Oz. A big part of me is excited and happy to soon be connecting again with family and friends, but another part of me will, come what may, try and observe the country in which I grew up with wider-open eyes.

So until next, onwards!

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