Bright and sunny with cool breezes wafting through the millions of full-bloomed star jasmines all along the back of the House on The Hill, rustling the thousands of frangipani flowers adding their scent from the front and balcony
while an explosion of hundreds of gardenias perfume the air with their aroma from around the forest side surrounding the water tanks.. Almost smells like a funeral parlor with the conflicting floral odours, but I’m not dead yet! Came close though over the past couple years but fighting fit now as we say in Oz. Ready to roar again into 2018 having just crossed the 67 mark on the odometer of life.
I’ve faced some real physical challenges over the past three years–cardiac arrest resulting in a ten-minute death and successful revival, a mini-stroke that I worked through the left side wonkiness, speech abnormalities and balance woes as well as a broken arm which wouldn’t heal until general surgery a year later got it plated and fixed. Surprisingly though, I remain in good health having set upon a course of hour long morning walks along the foreshores and beaches at dawn,
growing a lot of my own food and eating healthy otherwise, reducing alcohol consumption to about a third of a bottle of red wine three times a week instead of more daily. I’ve not given up butter, cream, coffee, whole milk, bacon (always baked) or red meat. You have to have some vices and at least mine aren’t dope and debauchery.
I’m still delighting in making chilli concoctions, my latest being a nine-pepper salt (black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, ancho, pasilla, smoked paprika, Hungarian sweet paprika, red pepper flakes and chipotle) and also a four grape white wine vinegar (chardonnay, reisling, gewurtztramine and sauvignon blanc) brewed in the basement wine cellar using 50 bottles of older flabby whites and an apple cider vinegar mother. And I’ve recently been flavoring bottles with tabasco and cayenne peppers and letting them age into this spicy nectar.
And I’m still making vats of chilli oil nine gallons at a time with merely a kilo of four types of dried red chillis ( rocoto, cayenne, tabasco, Thai) and rice bran oil.
But because of light emphysema, I have to wear a double respirator mask when grinding and handling the dried red chillis making me look like a portly Walter White out of ‘Breaking Bad’. Does the job but makes the delivery guys who drop off cases of wine and other goodies believe I’m running a bikie meth lab up here on the hill. The welcoming signs of the road up the hill keep the Mormon missionaries and Jehovah’s Witnesses from coming up with the messgae, “Is There Life After Death? Trespass Here and Find Out!”
The final use of the yellow Peruvian, Mexican, Thai and Louisiana chillies is a rotating selection of hot sauces and spicy barbeque sauces which visitors to the house get to sample and maybe take away. Nothing too over the top, the hottest is habaneros though I have had a Bhut Jolokia plant whose dried pods were so fierce that a speck the xize of a full stop would induce ten minutes of agony on anyone foolish enough to be macho asking for a superhot.
While my friends share in the bounty from the land and pepper plot, this coming year I’ll be sharing some travel with my closest neighbours Tony and Jenn who I gifted a pair of Platinum badges for South by Southwest and invited along on a trip after the Festival down to Houston and Galveston, over to the bayous and swamps via Bolivar Ferry.
Then we go in separate cars up to Cajun Country for a run through the Boudin Belt plus the International Crawfish Etoufee Cookoff in Eunice Louisiana and then onward to New Orleans for a week before they head for Vegas and I get back home to the parrot.
As much as it pains me to be separated from Jackson the Eclectus for the six week jaunts I tend to take travelling, he revels in his time at Parrot Winter Camp with Zarita of Parrot Rescue Centre in the Gold Coast when I head for Hawaii from Brisbane and Parrot Summer Camp with Beata at Feathered Friends in Western Sydney for my SXSW trip. He’s a strapping healthy 18 years old now with a life expectancy of 40 years so he is likely to outlive me. He’s my Feather Kid and I’ve raised him from a six month old bappy and he’s the constant love of my life.
Speaking of love, there is no significant other and unlikely to be. At least my friends have stopped being mistakenly sorry for me thinking I’m a lonely old hermit, loveless and with no one to share my life. At least they’ve now exhausted their well intentioned attempts at hooking me up with their female friends who may be single, but I’m not going to be able to fill their lives with the companionship, love, money, comforts or empty any of the heavy baggage they seem to be schlepping. I’m quite overjoyed up here on The Hill in my solitude and happy to be alone, but never lonely.
What has been unusual if that this year, I’ve been ‘found’ by five previous girlfriends from up to 50 years ago–one from my high school days in Maine, one from my fine stone import (ahem*) dealing period in Atlanta, one from my rock ‘n’roll daze as a stage manager or tour manager and one ex only yesterday hailing from Tasmania. Having your own website with your name on it and an open Facebook page is just an easy invite to renew old acquaintances. But I can promise you that there are no reunions happening. I watch with horror the plight of a male friend who keeps contacting his old girlfriends and hopes that their re-uniting will spark the old fire, but he’s gotten shot down in flames more times than I can remember and it’s usually a horrible tale he recounts coming back from Bali, Hawaii or some other hoped for trysting trip. Yet here he is next week going back to Hawaii to meet up with and try to rekindle the romance of 30 years ago. Futile.
I certainly know that I’m no catch, other than to my parrot who loves me unconditionally and who I suspect may be bisexual as well. I’ve been lucky to have loved and married four fine ginger lasses, the last for close to 20 years with whom I still remain a close friend. Imagine this for irony… her lovely new hubby Paul is coming here next week for a five day holiday at my place, taking care of Jackson–who he loves to shower with and allow to shoulder surf–while I’m away in Sydney getting my second cataract operation to restore my sight. I have to be away for that period to be close to my surgeon and he volunteered to fly up, take time off work and hang out for some avian affection.
That coming operation ramps up the number of spare parts I have been getting all at government or insurance expense. Two hearing aids are the external tech that I have, Bluetooth compatible and controlled by an app too. The pacemaker/defibrillator I had implanted in Hawaii after the cardiac arrest is still ticking away and has at least ten years of battery life left according to test with no incidents having occurred. I’ve had iPod batteries that have lasted longer. The cool new update is a loud beep sequence that comes from the device in the chest if your heart stops and it has to kick in the rhythm shocks. Guaranteed to scare the shit out of you and gets you to call an ambulance immediately. Luckily, I’ve only had two demos of it, not in a real life situation.
Still driving the same Nissan X trail I bought in 2002 after a successful conference and it is just about to click over the 100K kilometer mark on the odometer. I gave it a wash, wax and detailing for my birthday. Come to think of it, I could probably use a detailing on my body vehicle. Certainly not a breast enhancement! At least all the parts underneath are still working despite the increasingly craggy exterior.
New technology rules my life up here. My biggest extravagence this year has been a Tesla Powerwall which, due to the massive solar system on my roof, will probably reduce my electricity bill to near zero, only the daily usage fee to stay connected to the grid and selling off my excess over storage. Quite cool.
The other tech adoption this year has changed my life for the better and it’s the artificial intelligence devices under the Amazon Dot and Echo brands and the Google Home. When I started using them a year ago, I marvelled at the communication skills and also the music choice and playback opportunity from both Amazon Music Unlimited (40M tracks) and Spotify Premium (about the same). But best of all I could load my entire 90,000 iTunes tracks stash into the former and listen to them wherever I am in the world. The Google Home device I use in the kitchen for mostly notes, lists, measurement conversions, timers, alarms, jokes, podcasts, news and weather, checking appontments and making verbal calendar entries and asking questions about all sorts of topics.
But I’ve embraced and immersed myself in the Dot/Echo Alexa Personal Digital Assistant language which I estimae saves me an average of two hours a day over manual switchng of things. It turns lights and appliances on and off remotely all around the house via Wemo, special lighting through Hue and as for the music, it’s magic. I’m constantly discovering new artists ad recordings and can for example simply ask it for “Play James Brown Live At The Apollo Theatre II” and it instantly starts the album at the introduction which I skip with the words “Alexa, Next” to go to the first music track. If I had to play the vinyl version, I’d have to go in the music room, look it up, pull it out, take it to the turntable, clean the record, start the system, drop the needle and then only get 20 minutes before turning it over, cleaning and dropping the stylus again. I can change albums, artists or songs with a simple voice command like “Alexa, play Malford Milligan’s new album.” And two seconds later it announces the title and the first track starts.
But best of all now, I have four Dots throughout the house wired into Bose Stereo systems and two Echoes in the Guest bedrooms so I can gang them all up together with a single command and have the same music in snyc throughout the house from the balcony to the back bedroom no matter where I am, adjusting individual volumes by voice as well as selections. Geeky I know but a lot of fun. And it sounds incredible with the soundtrack of my life.
Meanwhile Jackson’s new toys are intellectual. He has carbonate slotted balls. sliding drawer stack and other foraging tools filled with popcorn, corn chips and pistachios that he has to really work at to get the goodies out. Hours of fun for him and quite funny for me to watch him battle the toys. His Christmas present (remember I have no children or living relatives) are a new car (a Wingabago perspex car carrier actually) to replace his 15 year old model and a plexiglass viewing perch platform that sticks to the window called a Wingdow. He already loves sitting on perches in the sun and surveying his little bird fiefdom, chiding the 40 or so screeching chattering lorikeets and family of eight King Parrots that frequent the feeders over the balcony in front of him twice a day.
Well, I’m nearing the 2000 word mark on this screed as I await the newly cleaned velocipede to be delivered back, a ride to secure some birthday crustaceans, berries, a mango and a fresh bottle of Rose Champagne from the collectors series. Life is good up here living the dream of a house high up on The Hill, with no neighbours within earshot of the loud music and a view to the ocean every day for the dawn and the electrical storms that pass through from time to time. Surrounded by wildlife–kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, bush turkeys, gangs of yellow tailed black and sulphur crested white cockatoos, flocks of rosellas and rainbow lorikeets, pythons and goannas roaming the property along with a few deadly snake species and the koalas grunting at night up the hill during mating season, lying there stoned in the eucalyptus trees.