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By Johnny Abegg
 
Instead of getting good and wasted on New Year’s Eve like the rest of us, film-maker Johnny Abegg did the exact opposite. For two weeks, Johnny hiked solo through the Tasmanian wilderness with no one to keep him company except his HD digital camera. The result was an independent film project called just that - Two Weeks. Johnny’s intensely personal journey captures beauty in the Tasmanian wilderness that is as daunting as it is inspiring.

Two Weeks premiered in Johnny’s home town Byron Bay earlier this month and is set to tour the Australian indie film circuit. For a glimpse of Two Weeks, here’s a trailer backed by the ethereal sounds of guitarist Jack Bee.
 

Two Weeks... Byron Bay Film Premier with M. Jack Bee from Johnny Abegg Films on Vimeo.

The turn of the year in solitude, alone, while my friends at home are partying till the sun rises. The paths of choice, I could be there, wasted, enhanced, impure, and imperfect. To let loose and feel free, amidst an ecstasy high… Memories too close of a fake euphoria… of many a blurred NYE for me. I walk another path, to consume a natural high.

Three cold fronts and 30-40 knot Westerly winds greet me, I was in for a real taste of the real self and the real substance. A 5-6 hour walk lay ahead to get to a remote location, rain, wind and mud awaited my naïve self and the two backpacks of 35kgs stationed to my exterior.

The lung filled elation of the rainforest and lush surroundings where replaced with kilometers of knee high mud, rain and mind games. My spirit was tested, my body weary, did I really want to do this? I felt fear, I felt weak, I felt scared. This was the Tassie I remembered, wild and untamed.
 
 
The 5-6 hour walk turned into an eternity, I had no indication of time (no watch), except for the sun eclipsed by the rainsqualls. I was ready to give up, but I had come too far and it was getting dim.

Another creek, this one would take every bit of adrenalin to conquer. After getting saturated and fighting through trees, I got to the other side. I felt like crying. A sudden fear came over me. I knew something was wrong. I reached for my tent strapped to the side of my backpack… it was gone.

Panic set in, “no tent, no shelter, fuck, fuck, do I go back? I’ll leave my stuff… What if I can’t find it? Fuck, follow your gut Johnny”. I walked with haste… the creek, what if it’s floated downstream? As soon as I thought passed, there it was, jagged on a branch whilst the water gushed on by. The adventure was to continue.
 
 
I made it to a ford, it was overflowing but it was my last big hurdle to the other side where I could set up camp. I was fucked and beyond tired. It was New Years Eve and celebration was the last thing on my mind… I set up my tent while my mind pondered what I had just endured as the pitter patter of rain dampened all but my spirit.

Celebratory star sparklers and a quick tent party for the countdown (whenever that was as I had no watch). After 30 mins of doof dancing in my 3ft high tent and hopping outside in between the “pitter patter” for some star sparkler love… I called it a night and a “Happy New Year” to all, and me as I switched off my head torch.
 
 
Silence, darkness, rain drops, pitter patter, pitter patter… on the roof of a tent, a lining of fabric between me and the elements outside. Solitude. Alone in a forest, insignificant to the power of nature outside, humbled, unleashing a dark storm to accompany a darker individual.

The mind races, one can’t keep up. In silence we still have our thoughts, bombarded by a force usually numbed by our everyday. Madness or Clarity? Who knows. Maybe those that are considered mad aren’t crazy? Maybe they just think outside the bubble but no listens? Who Knows.

Voices, are those people outside? No, they are just the ones within… Or are they the trees? Are they talking to me, is nature talking to me? I’m talking, we are chatting, dissecting the experience… hallucinations or reality? Who Knows.

What I do know is… the night breeds another self, a darker one, a volatile one, a kinder one, a stranger one. Are they all the same?

Who Knows.

 
 
A new beginning, tired and weary from the timeless hike but content to be entering a New Year with a clear mind… Untouched by narcotics, alcohol and a false sense of camaraderie. I awake to the pitter patter of rain, I feel the raw energy, not the impure.

I lie within my tent, thoughtful… in one way I feel whole, yet empty in another. Adjusting. I’m used to waking up being vague, surrounded by friends of similar vague characteristics, instead I lie within a cocoon in the middle of an untamed wilderness.

I think of those at home, how are they feeling? What doubts riddle them? I thank myself for the clear mind, to divulge my insecurities, fears and strengths with only myself to blame. I am the master of my own happiness and demise; I sit alone yet in company of the elements… They are but my emotions reflected, the rain coming down, the moody clouds setting forth moments of sunshine and darkness.

I sit up, unzip my tent and feel the muddy floor, seeing a forest at first sight this New Years Day. I am wet, I am cold, but I am thankful, as what I feel is real. I am but nature and nature is but me… I am free, I am humbled, yet I have a lot to learn.

I am willing.
 
 

 
Ingrid Reynolds serves up another silver platter of sumptuous poetry for the T-Squat this issue. Another string to Ingrid’s bow is her blog Templesandbells. The blog features Ingrid’s photography as well as images by other artists on the subject of female sexuality. ‘I'd like my photographs to convey sex and sensuality mixed together. The aim is to create images that are startling, mysterious and free spirited’. Who knew poetry could be so damn sexy…
 
 
 
 

My Make Believe

In bohemian circles
of 'World as Stage'
I abandon all responsibility
to mis behave
in reckless carelessness of

A truth more clearly
Recognized.

I'm famous for it.
Collecting un fulfilled
romance like stamps
is hard to define or worse?
to deny.

I change my mind i change my mind I change my mind
Reactive. Intuitive
the pushing the pulling
A lover seduced.
Rejected then re embraced

as meat or leather or horn

A passive waiting.
Incubating
Swollen by Sensitivity
to a space we inhabit
 
 
 
 
 



Illusory

And they all go away
You all go away

I make you. I like it
Your aeroplane

And you all go away
All go away

Sweetly deceived
in my make believe

And in absence i find you
more touching than ever.
 
 
 


 
 
 
by The Void
 
 

"Tobacco, coffee, alcohol, hashish, prussic acid, strychnine, are weak dilutions. The surest poison is time." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The countryside is a beautiful place. Pure and simple on the surface or so we thought. Under the calm, pristine surface it can hide all sorts of oddities.

Every so often you stumble across one of these oddities, odd in the shape of a character; this character makes you think about the absurdity of life, its humour, its darkness, its tragedy. He comes in the shape of a six foot four Scotsman with a penchant for kinky sex, history, wine making, writing books, mind altering drugs, flying choppers and a daily heroin addiction that he somehow keeps in check.

I’m driving back to the city with the girlfriend and dog in tow after a cold late August weekend full of wine drinking, warming meals and getting my ass thrashed in scrabble (again). We decide to stop into one of the many wineries located in the region to finish off our country experience with a zing in the back of our throats.

After pulling off the main road and driving up the slippery driveway to the top of a hill we are welcomed to the winery by a muddy field that doubled as the car park. When we exit the car, we are greeted by two beautiful border collies who lead us into the tasting room. Walls littered with interesting art pieces, awards and featuring an obvious bar, the small room is empty of people. The familiar sound of Johnny Cash singing ‘Ring of Fire’ plays on a stereo.

In through the creaking door behind us an imposing figure wearing a black beanie and two weeks’ growth on his face appears. He greets us with a UK drawl and looks more like someone who just robbed your house than someone you would associate with wine tasting. He is a little weird as he goes through the spiel on the wines and we ask all the awkward, proper, sober questions that people might ask at a tasting when in truth they don’t really care. This is an award winning winery after all. The wine is good. Really good. The Shiraz and Cab Savs are rich and smooth.

Judging by his heightened mood it’s pretty obvious he has had a few drinks already. After about ten minutes of conversation something clicks between us. He has established that we are not enemies of his state, we are reasonably hip, not conservative, and we have half a brain. So he relaxes, starts to open up and is ready to tell us who he really is as though he really needs to, as if telling a Catholic priest at confession.

Please meet our host: A Scot, former medical student, prison inmate, award winning wine maker, writer, heroin addict, paramedic chopper pilot for the Royal Ambulance Service and overall supreme oddity.

The question just had to be asked, how the hell does he balance his life out especially being an ambo pilot with heroin? His answer: “Quite simply, I don't use it when I'm flying. I use it quite a lot at the winery; there isn't much that could go wrong. I might fall asleep on a customer but that's pretty unlikely”.

We usually associate heroin addicts with those guys with rotting teeth you ignore as they try and wash your windscreen when you stop at the lights. Why is heroin his drug of choice? “It's an oasis of calm in what is a pretty full on lifestyle”.

I had to guess that being a paramedic would give a guy an understanding of the fundamentals of opiates but when and why does one become a user of heroin? “About 3 years ago when I was an ALS paramedic. I found that alcohol couldn't be consumed in large enough quantities and started using it to relax on my days off. Of course the addiction bit rears its head pretty quickly and fucks that plan up the
arse”.

This guy has experience written all over him so the discussion delved into illicit drugs. “When I was younger and had the head space, I liked pot and acid. They open doors to new and wonderful places in the mind, but eventually they start to open doors that are closed for a good reason. I did lots of 2-3 methylenedioxymethamphetamine during the 90's, and have always had a very soft spot for methamphetamine. I'm sure I've had plenty of bizarre experiences but at the moment I've forgotten them all.”

Now things are getting interesting and I am thinking to myself this guy has a doctor’s knowledge as he talks about drugs I haven’t even heard of. It comes to my attention I am speaking to a former medical student with a very broad knowledge of drugs and medicine. Surely this helps with the winemaking process? “No. The yeast is the guy who makes the wine; I just keep an eye on him. It helps a bit in the other job though."

Being a paramedic is an intense profession, particularly when you're responsible for flying the choppers and the people in them. It’s usually a profession we completely take for granted unless we have just been hit by a semi trailer and are lying mangled in some gutter at 2am. What draws a person to this line of work? Does dealing with life and death situations on a regular basis give these people a kick, a thrill, a sense of gratification that comes from a deeper place other than just goodwill on humanity? I had to ask these questions.

“I do enjoy the interminable boredom punctuated with moments of terror that characterise being a paramedic. I always wanted to be a paramedic, even when I was at medical school. However my personal and financial circumstances only allowed it within the last decade. When I started, paramedics were the best paid. Nowadays they're the worst. Actually when I think about it, it doesn't give me a kick any more. Now I've seen the politics I'm more disgusted than anything else. The people you entrust with your loved ones' lives are underpaid, under equipped, overworked, exhausted and bullied to the extent that half of them don't give a fuck.”

It’s now pretty obvious that I have a live one on my hands, a fair bit of substance in this fella. My glass constantly stays filled to the brim with luscious Shiraz courtesy of our host. The conversation shifts to history and literature and I am informed that there is yet another layer to my complex friend. He is a writer.

“I wrote a book set in Edinburgh in the 1990s about a club called Serene and the people concerned, sort of a tragedy in that one of the main characters contracts HIV and eventually dies after being raped, but kind of fun as well and based on my own experiences to a great extent. Kind of 'Trainspotting' before Trainspotting, if you get my meaning. Although Irvine Welsh's efforts were a lot better than mine and justly rewarded- I'd have to count him as an influence. I don't know if I can cite a major influence - I've been influenced by every book I've read. Except maybe the bible.”

What happened to medical school I am now thinking? Well our friend did some time in jail for murder. A guy actually raped and killed his girlfriend, who called him on her phone whilst dying. So our friend turns up at this guy’s house to teach him a lesson he will never forget, the guy answers the door and is accidentally killed with one king punch. Culpable manslaughter they call it. Eighteen months in a London prison and the end of medical school. “Yes…. I killed a dude, but he'd just raped and stabbed my significant other so I wasn't too morally torn”.

As most conversations involving men drinking it then takes a downward spiral into the realm of the lowest common denominator we all love: sex. He talks of his prowess in the bedroom and the fact that his girlfriend is an ex St Kilda sex worker and drug dealer who is writing her own book.

“If she ever finishes her book (in progress) she'll be able to tell you herself. Her life story puts mine to shame - it's a wonder she's still alive. She can tell stories that make you physically cringe”.

By now it’s getting late and my girl and I realise we have been sitting at the bar with our friend for over two hours listening to his stories. After some local yokels drop into the tasting room for their weekly fix we exchange contact details, buy four bottles of his finest shiraz and say our goodbyes. As we pull out of the muddy driveway onto the highway, a small four-cylinder turns in, hiding a brunette behind the wheel. It’s his girlfriend on her way back from the city after scoring their white power of choice.

We drive home in the fading late winter night. I make a mental note that you never know what new oddity could be waiting around that corner. Waiting, swaying, interesting, ready to captivate.