Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Barcelona

For just a blink in time, you'll have a new life.

You’ll be surrounded by new, brilliant people. 

You’ll make lasting bonds faster than you thought possible.

You’ll be exposed to new, incredible stories. 

You’ll get a small glimpse of the vital pieces that really make a city tick.

You’ll make a fool of yourself with the language over and over again.

You’ll make a fool of yourself in general; it’s what you do.

Your liver will de-friend you on Facebook.

You’ll be happy. All of the money and hassle will have been worth it.

Your perspective and understanding will change forever.

Then, it will all be gone.



For the longest time, that was what travel was for me.

When you’re away from home and exploring the world, appreciation is on the clock. You have anywhere between a few days and a couple of weeks to take in everything you can before you go home or move on to the next adventure.

First impressions can last a lifetime. Everything you may ever see, touch and know about a city is crammed into your fleeting time there. 

I guess you can compare it to reading a new book.

After you’ve read through one, it goes on the shelf with the others, taking its place in your memory forever. Maybe you’ll read that same book again, maybe you’ll fly back, but more likely than not, you’ll go in search of new books, new countries and new stories.

Just like books, the greatest places in the world call out to be appreciated again and again.

The great cities - the ones you feel connected to - are hard to leave.

I once flicked through a few pages of Barcelona in 2009 while hungover and tired at the end of a European tour. 

What I remember is the sun, Gaudi and the festivals.

I also remember sangria. Dangerous, unfathomable amounts of sangria.

I loved it all, but I never thought I’d come back. 

Then opportunity knocked.

Barcelona is now the place I’m calling home for a while and one of the great flukes of my life.

I’ve been lucky enough to find great accommodation, work from home and use it as a base to explore this city, the country and re-visit some of my favourite spots in Europe. 

This has changed my experience of travel in the best way. I’m off the clock. I’ve found more time to appreciate everything - a little longer than the usual blink.

For the past couple of months, one of my challenges has been to try and explain to family and friends what living and working here is like.

I could tell them that the weather is perfect every day, that the people are beautiful, complicated and inspiring and that the history is more interesting than I imagined. 

I wouldn’t be the first, nor the last.

I could also tell them that grocery stores here do not bag your shopping - a true blow to the 10 people waiting behind me while, for the first time in my life, I had to figure out which arrangement wouldn't destroy my eggs, bread and $200 worth of supplies. I have a new-found respect for the staff at Coles. What a nightmare.

Until you see this city for yourself, what I say would never really do it justice.

But nuts to that: let me tell you about my new town and its people anyway…

Live music and art powers the city and is the pulse of its streets. During beautiful summer nights almost every street corner is a stage.



Rushing and urgency are not things that happen here - You go at your pace, I’ll go at my pace and we’ll all be happy, stress-free and really late together.

They smile like my late grandfather used to - as if they’ve been holding in a hilarious secret for months.

Children still play together outside. It’s a shock to the senses. There are mini-Messis playing soccer on my street every day, weaving through people and cars until the sun goes down. 

Large crowds of people drinking together outside is not an event that requires police attention. They abhor drunken violence and pity the tourists that try to introduce it to them.

Sleep is a myth. From what I could understand from one local, it was outlawed at some point in the 17th or 18th century and everyone seems to operate fine without it.

A 'normal' dinner time is not a concept that receives a lot of attention. Nor are street signs.

They’re kind. They’re impossibly-patient. They’re always willing to help. 

They’re passionate about the things that really matter and guard them fiercely. 

Almost everyone I’ve met speaks five or six languages. There's a point in most conversations that I sit in quiet awe, then feel like a simpleton with my almost-one-language.

Las mujeres. Wow. They’re fun, intelligent, independent and ambitious - just in case the unfair levels of natural beauty weren't enough. The local men are luckier than they will ever know. 

Even in a city teeming with thousands of tourists every day, there is a real sense of community - a sustained focus on being together as much as possible. The buildings, the streets, the festivals, it’s all designed to bring people closer together - to create an atmosphere where people feel they belong. 

The best things in life are to be shared with those you love. For better or worse, Barcelona shares better than any city I’ve ever seen.



Sitting on my balcony at ridiculous o’clock last week, watching my football team hurt my soul from half a world away, I saw a perfect example of what makes this city so unique.

Making her way past my building was a classy, beautiful woman in her mid-to-late 50s, dressed immaculately. I'm sure she had come from the ballet, the opera or the wedding of 15th century royalty.

If she wasn’t sitting in a shopping trolley, completely drunk with her husband pushing her along, she could have passed for royalty herself.

She’d had a big night, that much was clear. She was relaxed, giggly and did that classic drunk thing where her whispering was somehow louder than yelling. 

The husband, a silver fox dressed in an immaculate suit, tried to quiet her down, but gave up and joined in as she began to sing. 

What a picture they made. He pushed her along, expertly avoiding the rough bumps in the old concrete, looking down on his inebriated wife with that loving, proud look you may see from a parent appreciating a child’s first drawing.

I know you’re only two years old, but your picture looks nothing like our house and you somehow got paint on your Dad’s new television set honey. But, I love you and at this moment I can’t explain how happy I am that you’re here and that I’m the one who gets to see these ridiculous things. 

His look translated to:

I know you’re only 62 years old, but your singing makes no sense and it will be a miracle if we make it home without you being very, very sick. But, I love you and at this moment I can’t explain how happy I am that you’re here and that I’m the one who gets to sing with you and push your drunken, crazy ass home. 



When you think you have Barcelona figured out, when you think you’ve seen it all, this city will send a beautiful, old, classy, drunken trolley couple your way at 5am.

This is the scene that encapsulates the book I’ve been reading these last couple of months. 

A book I may never put down.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Another tangent

Women are bad at telling stories.

They're really, really bad - there's no sugarcoating it.

I'm not saying all women struggle with the skill, that may be a little sexist and ignorant. What I'm saying is that between 99-100% of women have almost no idea what they're doing.

Girls, please don't get me wrong - we love you.

We love how you magically make our apartments smell like the fancy parts of a shopping centre we know nothing about.

We love what you've done with yoga pants.

Healthy food? We would never have figured out that was a thing.

We love having fun with you. We love making fun of you. We love a good, passionate, meaningless argument that we're never a chance of winning.

You're smarter than us, you're more mature than us. You're stunning. You're beautiful.

We can't believe you're still willing to be seen with us in public. Even after that whole Tony Abbott thing.

You challenge us to be better and get the best out of ourselves. We need you more than we'll ever let on. We're almost nothing without you.


But...


I can't begin to describe how hard it is to sit through your stories.

They're almost always bad.

The problem is simple - it lies in the tangent. The simple and painful inability to stay on topic.

One minute you're telling us about your day and a story about your friend, then you drift off to a world where we can't follow.

"So then I caught up with Judy. No, the other Judy. We met her at the restaurant where Bill had his birthday. It was the same restaurant where Carol and Steve broke up. Do you know what happened to Steve? I think he sold his business and got into personal training after the divorce. You know who else is a PT? My friend's room-mate, Joe. I wonder if he'd give us a discount on a few sessions. I could stand to lose the five kilos I put on during the Bali trip, but I know if I start getting into fitness I'll lose the time I put into reading. I'm loving that new book I'm on - it's from the same woman who wrote the ancient mystery series I went through last month. I hear the movie rights have been sold already and Tom Cruise is playing the lead - I always liked him in that movie. What was it? No, the other one in space. Oh! you know who really loves Tom Cruise? Judy! No, the other Judy."

We men stand there, ask you about your day, look you in the eye and do our very best to follow.

But it's hard - it's just too hard.

For a long time, I thought these stories were a test.

Surely, no one could tell stories like that on purpose? It must be a ploy to see if we're paying attention, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Now, again, I can't cast assumptions on all women, but I think they talk like this because they really, really enjoy it.

Bless them, they get really excited over a good gossip and after holding in so many random thoughts throughout the day they need to get them ALL out at once - absolutely no holding anything back.

There's no filter. No real care factor for the male listener. No planned-out delivery. No thought to how they sound.


I've met some fine exponents of the tangent, but none of them come close to the Queen - the "Tangentator" - my dear old mum.

When I'm back at the homestead or I'm chatting to Mum on the phone, I want to listen to her stories. I convince myself I'm locked in and ready for the ride.

Then, like every other time, I can't make it to the end - I fall short. I'm just not strong enough.

Every story branches out to another. The plot lines become impossibly-long.

I start out optimistically, but my mind finishes up in turmoil:

Ok, this sounds interesting and it relates to that thing we were just talking about.

Denise, who's Denise? STOP! Don't ask her. Nod and laugh.

The back story of some random needed to be explained. I hope this is relevant later. Don't say anything yet.

CODE BLUE! She's broken story ranks!

Ok, I think she's back to the original story.

No, wait, she's gone again.

How did we get to New York? What possible connection does it have?

Who is Bill?

Go back to the story.

Tell her.

Tell her.

Go back to the story!

Why are we talking about Dad's back hair? HOW DID WE GET TO DAD'S BACK HAIR?

Then, I'm gone. It's all over. The rest is white noise.

There's been one exception to this trait. One call I won't forget.

In October of 2014 I had a call from Dad's phone at 4pm.

I should have known it was going to be serious, because 4pm is prime Facebook game time for my old man.

It was Mum - she was on the way back from the hospital with Dad after getting results from a test.

"The news isn't good, I've been diagnosed with breast cancer," she said.

No tangent. Nothing. Just the cold shock that accompanies the C-word.

Everything since that day has been a blur.

Mum is one of the very lucky ones. Early detection. Early surgery. Fantastic care from medical staff who are the best at what they do.

The old duck has been knocked from pillar to post for the last six months and stayed strong through it all - in time, with some luck, she'll be healthier than when this all started.

We all have family and friends who have gone through it. There's always someone fighting a battle tougher than our own.

When those battles come, when the support floods in, it's the making of you.

I've never been a big fan of labeling people who are sick as 'brave'.

Being sick doesn't make you brave - nor does having your sickness treated.

What makes you brave is how you choose to battle the illness, how you choose to accept the support and help thrown your way, how you lead your family, how you maintain who you are and how you keep finding reasons to laugh all the way through.

Mum has been brave - she's been fantastic.

I've seen how needy she gets when she has the sniffles, so I was a touch concerned for Dad when she was first diagnosed, but I'm incredibly proud of her.

One thing I've noticed with Mum while she's been through her treatments is that her stories aren't quite as long and painful as they once were.

At first, I thought the chemotherapy was doing miracles and the Tangentator was cured, but that's not quite the case.

For the longest time, she lost a bit of her spark. As she's been forced to take a break from work and her life, she's also been looked at differently by her husband, her children, her family and friends. She's had to lead a different life.

Today is a big day for her - she goes through her final chemotherapy treatment. That life is almost over and with some more luck she can return to the one she left behind.

The rest of us will wait as the last six months becomes nothing but a footnote to the big picture.

When she's ready and those painful, never-ending tangents return, this whole saga will be just another story.

A story she'll tell really, really badly.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Time Machine

It's a funny thing traffic.

Thousands of people, starting and finishing their day, coming together in shared frustration for a brief moment in time.

Or, if you're on Punt Road in Melbourne, not so brief.

Last fortnight I was stuck on the iconic traffic magnet at its worst. This happened because I never learn from my mistakes and I continue to believe I can beat this thing.

There was no movement ahead and I had resigned to being in my car for some time.

After waiting five minutes, there was a blissful period in which I got to take the foot off the brakes for 15 seconds. 

Yes. Almost home now.

As I made it under a passing bridge, I looked to my left and, like I usually do, studied the dozens of torn, faded, graffiti-covered posters promoting gigs around town.

Among the group was what looked more like street art than a poster. A lone white board painted on crudely with the question:

Why do you listen to music?

It piqued my interest. There wasn't much else going on in my mind – I had just enjoyed the sweet, sweet bliss of another five metres of car movement.

Apart from the obvious things – the shared experiences, the magic of live performance and the universal joy it brings – I've always thought about music as a time machine – each song unearthing a different memory from any time and place in your life and taking you right there.

With every listen, the memory can change. Some memories, featuring family, travel and women – can be more powerful and longer-lasting than others.

So, with that in mind, I threw my phone on random play and hoped to go somewhere else. 

Somewhere away from Punt Road.


I was sitting at my desk, working up the courage to quit my job. 

I hadn't typed a thing for hours. I was doing my best to look busy while reading the news and arguing with my sister on Facebook over whether or not I'd stolen her phone charger.

I definitely did take it without telling her – but that wasn't the point. The point was, I was angry that she accused me (of the thing I'd clearly done). Where was the misplaced sibling trust?

I couldn't bring myself to do anything constructive. I couldn't concentrate on anything any more – I hadn't done good work for weeks. My mind was elsewhere and nothing motivated me.

My life had stalled. I was 25 and had made some of the worst mistakes of my life.

This song started and by the time it ended, I'd made a decision. I got off my chair, walked towards my manager's office and changed things up.


I'm lying under a tree in Central Park by myself. It was a stinking hot day – the kind that seems to give fatter, older, awkward European men the opportunity to walk around topless. Pot bellies, grey hair and sagging man-breasts were just glistening in the sun.

Among the crowds I spotted what looked like a Buddhist monk just sitting quietly and completely still for hours. The whole world moved around him and he didn't budge.

I wondered what it would be like to shut out the world – to not notice the families, the fun and the pot bellies going on around him.

I wondered what was going through his mind.

Season four of Game of Thrones, surely.

Bon Iver - Holocene

I'm at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

It's a stunning autumn afternoon and a huge, beautiful crowd has assembled to see Bon Iver.

Beards and drugs are everywhere. The vibe is so peaceful, so happy. 

There's not a hint of anything but absolute love for what's happening on stage.

This song starts and you can feel the breath being taken away from the crowd.

This is one of the best shows of my life.

People are hanging on every word. Everyone is smiling. They're in the moment.

They're making a new memory.

Surprisingly, there are not that many people with a phone in front of their face. Good sign.

Half way through the song, just when you think you've reached a high point, the guy on the saxophone goes on an incredible two-minute solo. He refuses to take a breath throughout the whole thing and somehow doesn't faint. How the hell did he just do that?


When it's over, the crowd goes wild. 

I never want this night to end.

This could have been cheesy, but it wasn't - it felt like I was at a campfire.

A simple, intimate, perfect, 10,000-person campfire.



I'm on a beach in Vancouver, struggling to breathe because of the power of an intense hangover. The previous night was the stuff of legend. Sweet baby Jesus. Ouch. 

I'm slowly getting burnt as I underestimate the bite of a Canadian sun, taking in the beautiful surroundings in a world that doesn't seem real, even though I'm seeing it with my own eyes.

I'm fighting my stomach, aching for water with every fibre of my being, wondering if I'm going to make it back to the hostel. 

This song came on and lifted me out of the mire. It made me feel better. The best songs have a way of doing that – a way of making you happy, in any situation.

Frank Sinatra - Moon River


It's the beginning of a long weekend and my family is on the way to my grandparent's place in country town Wonthaggi.

Because everyone in Victoria has the same plan to escape to the coast for a mini-holiday, the traffic is absolute hell. 


It's a little like Punt Road. A little.

We're in Dad's new car - the first car the family had with a CD player - a magical wizard tool that we were fascinated with.  I still remember thinking we must have made it as a family. We were CD-player rich.

As owner and operator of the CD player mobile, Dad had control over what we listened to. 95 per cent of the time, it was the greatest hits of Frank Sinatra. Moon River always stuck with me.

I'm fighting with my brother. He's moving too much and touching my side of the chair. A criminal act on a long drive.

I complain to dad, but he's not paying attention to me at all. He can't even hear me.

We're moving 10 metres at a time and we've been on the road for two hours, but the traffic isn't bothering him. His kids aren't bothering him. There's a smile on his face. 

He's happy.

He's gone to another place.




Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Holiday Strut

The sun is slowly setting on a beautiful summer day in Melbourne.

This sunset is different than most. It’s transformed the blue sky into a fiery shade of red – illuminating a city in its prime, sending a message;

This is a day to get outside and do something with your short, ridiculous life while you still can. Listen, idiot, you're here for a second, then it's all over. Your couch, no matter how comfortable, understanding and forgiving, can wait till tomorrow. Run as fast as your legs will take you. Give the next person you see a cheeky smile and high five. Don't forget to put some oil and water in your car. Start thinking about another overseas holiday. Call your dad for no reason. Make sure you download that episode of New Girl I told you about, I love that show. Now GO!

The stupid sunset was right. I got off the comfortable couch, I downloaded the episode, I rang my dad – but with a reason – he had to remember to put oil and water in my car the next time I visited.

Son of the year. I know, I know.

When you remove all of the obvious benefits, advantages and blinding hatred-causing repercussions of running, I think the thing I like most is that it's time away from everything but the little voice in my head. It's just me, my childish thoughts and the city.

As I started my run, realising that numerous muscles on my legs no longer work the way they used to, I passed by a high school – one of the most beautiful and expensive schools in the country.

Students were finishing for the last time in 2013, walking over to their parent's incredibly-expensive cars and leaving for home – the summer holidays had begun.

No matter how old I get, I think summer will always be defined by that same walk to my parent's car.

I loved that walk, dressed in my ill-fitting school uniform, lugging my school bag that was bigger than me. I had worked hard all year for a break. The holidays had begun, filled with freedom, promise, backyard cricket and parties – much like they still are today, two decades later.

That walk – or what I like to call the holiday strut – is the most exciting time of year.

Whether it's finishing school for the year, stepping out of your office for annual leave or driving home in the sun with the window down and music blaring – it's a time when you truly believe that the days will soon belong to no one but yourself.

As I passed the students, reminiscing on those days, the first thing that came to mind was that giving the next person I saw a cheeky smile and high five was probably out of the question. On a scale of 1-10 on the creep scale, a stranger trying to give high five to kids outside of a school is a solid six. It's not as bad as people I've seen walking their cats on a leash (7.8) and certainly not in the realm of people who walk their children on a leash (a solid, unwavering 10), but it's still not cool.

People, if you're so hung up on having something to walk, stop living in denial and get a dog.

The second thing that came to mind was the magic behind the holiday strut.

Characterised by an improved posture, arched back, high knees, raised chin and enthusiastic arm swinging, the holiday strut is a thing of true beauty. Designed to inspire your fellow man and be the beacon of happiness.

I saw it all the time when I holidayed overseas. I loved watching it in airports when people were minutes away from boarding a plane. I remember my Dad used to break it out before a long family road trip. When I walked through Disneyland many moons ago, I didn't see one non-strutting person. Not one.

My Nonno has that same strut in summer, not because he's on holiday, but because it's tomato season – much more important.

Just as happiness cannot be defined without sadness, the holiday strut is nothing without the rat race crawl. Those suffering the rat race crawl will often feature blank, vacant eyes, stooped shoulders, dragging feet and a beaten, sullen overall look.

We put ourselves through the crawl to reach the heights of the strut. Those heights are nothing if you don't earn them and when you have earned them, hold onto them for as long as you can.

With that thought, I ran a little faster, a little harder – exaggerating the 'injured penguin' style that has become my hallmark. If the path to happiness – that feeling as I strut back to my parent's car at the end of a school year – was found through hard work, I was going to run until I couldn't feel my own legs – which won't be too long, as they were struggling to begin with.

Strut proudly friends. The days now belong to no one but us.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Push the envelope


When I was younger and filled with enthusiasm, optimism and Tiny Teddy biscuits, I used to love getting mail.

Mail represented hope. It represented fun, excitement and a connection to the outside world. 

There was something amazing about the potential in every envelope. One piece of paper could change your life in an instant.

Maybe I had won that cool prize-pack on Cheez TV. Maybe Luke Skywalker finally got my letters. Maybe the girl I had a crush on tracked down my address and was about to confess her love. Maybe, just maybe, Nintendo were going to hire me as their chief game-tester.

But, the dream that held a special place above the others was that one day, the Collingwood Football Club would write to my parents, asking if I could play for the Magpies.

"Mr. and Mrs. Ciconte, we’ve seen incredible potential in your son Dominic’s backyard kick-to-kick sessions and we’d like him to train with us and be a Collingwood footballer."

Fast forward 20 years and last week, filled with scepticism, bitterness and Tiny Teddy biscuits, I checked the mail

The mail now represents despair. It delivers bills, fines and bizarre religious pamphlets that offer to save my ‘eternal soul’. The fun and hope has been stripped away with the burdens and responsibilities of being an adult. 


Worst of all, there’s still no letter from Collingwood.

With every year that passes by, the chance of receiving that letter becomes less and less likely.

I'm starting to get old, my knees are not what they used to be, I haven't played football competitively for almost a decade and I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be coming in and easily taking a spot from professional athletes that have been training their whole lives for that opportunity – it would be selfish of me.

The dilemma made me think about the other things that may have passed me by. 

  • Yesterday robbed me of the chance to drink the now-expired milk in my fridge.
  • Last week saw me cross the vortex when non-contact for 12 months turns a friend into an ‘old friend’.
  • In my working life, I’ve had seven opportunities to legitimately use the excuse “it’s my first day” and I’ve wasted them all.
  • Last week I heard a sound bite of myself singing – I’ve since cancelled my plans for a world tour.
  • Almost a decade ago, I lost the opportunity to speak to the man I was named after ever again.

Every day provides an opportunity to do something great, something amazing, something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. But, for each opportunity you gain, one slips away.
 
The trick is to make sure that you are taking more from each day than it’s taking from you. 

For many of us, most of our (realistic) dreams will be achievable until the day we die, but, there are some dreams that will slip away well before we’re ready to let them ago.
 
I guess knowing the right time to let go is a skill you gain while growing up – somewhere in that time period between being excited by the mail and being disappointed by it.
There are some dreams I’m willing to let go of, but, it’s going to be a long time before I give up on that letter from Collingwood.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Say goodbye

In between the monotony of our lives in the rat race, every now and then we have a day that passes by like a dream.

Be it an incredible day that feels more like fantasy than reality, or a nightmare you’ve taught yourself to forget, these days provide an overload to the senses and experiences that we register differently to the rest.

The trick is to have as many of the good dreams as possible before the bad ones catch up.

The bad ones will always catch up.

Quit the job you hate, spend a day at the beach doing nothing, take your wife out and make her laugh until her stomach hurts, go on an adventure around the world and take as many stupid, exciting risks as possible.

Because, when the bad days come, you need to be content with your lot.

Last week I watched on as someone’s bad dreams caught up.

Relatives and friends from around the country had come together on a beautiful spring day. Everyone was dressed immaculately. People that hadn’t seen each other for years embraced, old stories were re-told and, as is custom with my relatives, the appropriate levels of guilt were sent my way because of my inability to visit everyone in the room on a weekly basis.

“Is there something wrong with your car Dominic?” asked my Uncle Cosmo, filled with genuine concern.

“No uncle, it runs fine,” I responded, like a sucker.

“Ah, so you just don’t visit me because you can’t be bothered!”

“No uncle! It’s not like that… I… ummm… I’m actually very busy and important at work!”

“Bah!”

I’m convinced that this older Italian generation was born with a special talent to create guilt. It’s a tool of oppression that works way too well.

It was a picture-perfect day. The perfect atmosphere for drinking, laughs, games and photos.

But, you can’t do those things at a funeral.

A much-loved and respected member of the family had passed away, leaving behind a great legacy and a loving family.

Throughout the day at the church, cemetery and wake, I took in all of the old traditions and thought to myself:

I wonder what Clarinda would say if she could have looked forward in time 60 years ago and seen all of this. 

I wonder how I’ll be sent off when it’s my time to go.
 

Wait a second… Why is there a statue over there of an adult Jesus holding baby Jesus?

What would a 26-year-old Italian girl, fresh off the boat in Australia, think of all this?

There was a packed church filled with people who loved her, four sons with great families of their own and a husband who was completely lost, looking into the distance, longingly, without the love of his life for the first time in 60 years.

What would she say if she could look forward and see this?

All of this is for me? What could I have possibly done during my life to deserve all of this fanfare?
 

What the hell are those metal flashy things people keep checking in their pockets? What’s with all the tattoos?
 

Wait a second… Why is there a statue over there of adult Jesus holding baby Jesus?

What would anyone say if they had a chance to say a few words at their own funeral?

This train of thought lead to my idea of the future funeral video – a film shot today for my future funeral, whenever that may be.

Here’s the script I’m working on:

Welcome to my funeral!

Firstly, I don't like the word funeral, so, let's call it Dom’s Deadsie Party.


I’m going to operate on the assumption that I survived to be old and grey – old enough to have my pants comfortably sit around my belly button and to have an opinion on the pension.


I’m also going to assume I managed to keep a few friends and family around– people who put up with my bad jokes and shit along the way. 


A few quick messages;


Any Collingwood supporters throw your hands up.  Can I get a high five for the 10-15 premierships we’ve clearly won by now!? Woo!


To my future, mythical wife:
If you exist and I didn’t die alone like the kid at McDonald's prophesised last week… you married me? Seriously? Wow, did I not warn you about my phobia of spiders or how easily I can get lost? Did you see me dance sober before the wedding? What was it that got you over the line? My awkward charm?
Thanks for coming on this ride with me, I’m sorry about my general cluelessness on most things in life – I can only assume that got worse than it is now.


If you exist, I'm sure the guy in the coffin over there would say you were the best thing to ever happen to him. I'm sure he would say that some of the best moments of his life featured sitting on a couch, doing nothing with you. I'm sure he would say that you're beautiful – that you’re a star. I'm sure he would say that he loved you... Or... he could have been a jerk and complained about your cooking. No one likes their eggs overdone, so if you’re keen on re-marrying, clean up your bloody act.


To my future, mythical kid/s:
I'll tell you what the guy in the coffin may have kept to himself:  there is a great chance you were 'pleasant surprises' – a drunken accident between your mum and I. Don't worry, we loved you anyway, except when you cried at 3am – I genuinely thought about donating you to scientific research during some of those nights.


Some of my happiest days in life were spent watching you play that sport/activity/hobby you love.


If I won the argument with your mum, you should be named Wheels, lightning or Flash – no need to thank me.


Just in case the old me left you nothing cool in his will, I have a backup plan for you. When I was 9 years old, your uncle Anthony and I buried 50 cents in our backyard. If my calculations from 1995 are correct, it should now be worth thousands of dollars. Break into the backyard in the house we grew up in, start digging behind the tool shed and buy yourselves something nice. You're welcome.


To my siblings, parents, cousins, uncles, aunties and any other family and friends that stuck by me throughout this whole life – especially that mid-life crisis I plan on having in my 40s – I always prided myself on surrounding myself with great people and you guys… were pretty great.

Have a drink tonight, take photos, play games and please, no one mention the story of how I walked into a streetlight pole in Rome.


Thanks chaps - my happiest days were spent having fun with the people in this room, when the days passed by like dreams.