Sunday, January 30, 2011

Post One Hundred and Fourteen: Mt Koya-San - Be Mine.

I think I might poo my pants.

It's two weeks and two days until I fly to Japan. Only ten more working days! I've been wanting to go to Japan since I was a blastocyst. I'm pretty sure I was meant to be asian, considering my height and my reluctance to swim in the ocean.

For four weeks I'm conscientiously rampaging Tokyo, Nozawa (for some attempts at snowboarding and big-doodled snowman making), Osaka, Kyoto, Kanazawa, and Hiroshima. Besides these major stops I've planned some little day trips, my most anticipated being the trek to Mt Koya-san for the okunoin cemetery.

Okunoin is the site of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most revered persons in the religious history of Japan. It's also the largest buddhist cemetery in japan with something close to 200,000 tombstones.

Apparently, Kobo Daishi is believed to rest in eternal meditation at the cemetery and provides relief to those who ask for salvation. This being said, Okunoin is one of the most sacred places in Japan and I'm super keen to check it out. I'm staying in an actual temple with a koi garden. Most importantly I get to eat sumptous vegetarian delights, wear yukata and loudly hum without people assuming I'm nuts.

Peace. For reals.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Post One Hundred and Thirteen: Alcohol - Friend or Foe?

Word of advice for any aspiring morticians out there - NEVER EVER go to work hung over. Ever.

It's cruel to put yourself through the pain. Body bag experience one: gangrenous stump. Body bag experience two: stale urine soaked hair. And as the shift rolls on the cases don't ever get easier. When your stomach is already waving the white flag it takes an iron will to not end up on the grimey floor in tears rocking back and forth...

Yesterdays Australia Day celebrations consisted of a kiddie pool, great company, plentiful sangria and uninspiring radio programming. We debated whether or not alcohol was a help or a hinderence to creative writing. Personally, I love the honesty that only being totally messed up can bring. Even though I'm a miserable drunk, more relaxed inhibitions for someone with social anxieties isn't a bad thing. It's the whole Yerkes-Dodson Law I guess.

Another friend, a super smart and sassy young lass, says that she never writes drunk. Good writing takes concentration and skill and in her opinion alcohol just makes you sound like a sloppy idiot.

Alcohol. I love it. I also hate it. (This is the best I can do whilst hung over like a mofo...)


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Post One Hundred and Twelve: The Beginning.

It has started. The self replenshing coat of hair on my body has started to infiltrate the money maker. I found a rogue hair on my chin, and this guy wasn't pretty. A demon spawn of shiny black protein.

Before working in the mortuary I had some pretty lousy body image hang ups. I was just like any 20 something female, crawling out of the teen year trenches with mental bruises from pressures to be something other than what I am. My job then provided me with evidence to the odd addage "There's always someone worse off than you." It's fair to say that I'd rather have white skin and dark pubes than to be dead on a slab with white skin and dark pubes. Or just dead with any hair-istcal features.

Anyway, Sarah Silverman often talks about how hairy she is and she's still cool. (She doesn't look TOO hairy to me however.) It makes me feel a little better knowing that she shares the same miscreant enemy and might spend a small fortune on such hasty removal. If I ever find out that her claims are just a jab at her jewishness I'll be pretty dejected.

I wonder if this little hair was a reminder from God-o-evolutionary that however immature I might feel, 26 is definately in grown up territory. Will I blink and lose my bladder control? How long have I got until it's publicly acceptable to fart in public?


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Post One Hundred and Ten: An Experiment in Mediocre Public Speaking.

I'm not a fantastic public speaker.

In one high school english oral I remember freezing up seconds after commencing, causing me so much embarrasment that I ran out of the room close to tears. For the next three or four years, outside of my drama class of treasured rejected nerds and misfits, I blushed ferociously whenever any public attention focused on me. I don't know what the general public's perception might be of me now as an adult. On self assessment, I'm a socially anxious introvert stuck in a teenagers body that craves genuine intimacy with those that I value...yet I hate tedious small talk with others that I don't give a shit about. Maybe I put up a plausible self confidence.

I must. Fortunately? Unfortunately?

I'm heading to Melbourne in early April for the 2011 Australian Funeral Directors Association Conference. This is where hundreds of embalmers and funeral directors meet and participate in educational seminars, social events and random community building exercises to give the death care business some much needed TLC. I'm not only attending this conference though, I'm delivering the opening educational presentation. A four day long conference, and I start the whole darned thing off. Quietly quepping balls.

Because of my success with the AFDA scholarship last year I have to perform my winning presentation to this community, ALL of the most influential Australian funeral managers and directors. Many, many people. What happens if I lose it? Should I loosen up with a couple of Jager shots before I go on stage? Should I imagine the crowd in their tighty whiteys? How would that be relaxing!

One thing is for sure, and that's that this is a big learning curve for me. If I conquer this, I'll more than likely conquer the world. Prime Ministerism, Vegetarianism, Romantisism; anything I want I will do. And do with confidence.

I smell like fear already. Stay tuned over the next couple of months for continuing freak out posts as the conference looms closer.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Post One Hundred and Nine: The Meaning Of Life.

My ex boyfriend was and is a genius. He likes to talk about life and suffering ad nauseum. He is a crazy nut by today's contemporary societal standards; but a genius none the less. He holds social rules and manner systems with next to no regard. In fact, he is somewhat like a younger, more aggressive and scientifically obsessed Larry David, but without the charmed life and sardonic wit. I am yet to meet another person quite as annoying, but quite as brilliant.

This gent was a questionable partner for me, but I reflect and realise that amongst our relationships faults he taught me my most valuable lessons to date.

Working in a medical imaging clinic, he spends a substantial amount of time scanning dying and close to dying people. He is the guy that takes people in for their MRI's to see if their brain tumour has returned, or if the lump in a patients breast is malignant (a considerably more stressful position than the average $18/hour unqualified position).

Instead of blocking out the emotions involved in treating these patients he engages them introspectively. In his patients moment of naivity he encourages them to not be afraid of asking important questions about life and their own suffering. I can't imagine being one of his patients. I'd half want to smack him in the face, but then have him hold my hand through treatment to tell me that everything was going to be fine (although he'd probably say something wiser like, however it is it will be. That's not actually comforting in the slightest).

Anyway, I write about him because he asks everyone he meets, from the check-out chick at woolies to the dying patients in his hospital, "What has been the best day of your life?" and "What do you think is the meaning of life?". He asks everyone and anyone, weaving it into normal conversation as if he was complementing an outfit or commenting on the weather. Most people look at him and laugh, but he gets the information he needs and adds the reponse to his data.

It's interesting, because the majority of people (especially the dying) say that the best day of their life was either their wedding day or the birth of their first child. Then, when asked what the meaning of life, most will answer "family" or "alcohol".

So what's going to happen to me if I never marry and have children? Are my days any less sentimental than Bettie Crockers? I think not by comparison, but I guess I'd be ignoring a fairly significant statistical result if I valued this particular samples data.

Maybe it's those moments in life where we stop and say "oh fuck..." that we see meaning in what we do and why we do things. When we are challenged by illness and pain, we cling to those we love. When we lose someone, we reach out for help. When we are sad, we look to others to cheer us up. Maybe thats it, the meaning, maybe it's just....others.

One man sailing in a ship in the high seas, what does he have to live for if not for a return to share his experience one day with others? The whole theme of immortality in vampire fables is made all the more tragic because of loneliness and unshared introspection on the vampires behalf.

Am I on to something? Have I had too much coffee? OTHERS. That's my tentative meaning.

Add life to your days and not days to your life. (I don't know who wrote that but it's goooooood).

Peace and Love.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Post One Hundred and Eight: The Rains are Here.


Our main operational centre's garage in Brisbane is filled with staff members salvaged furniture. Some of us have either lost our homes or the waters are very seriously threatening to pull everything into the gurgler. Everyone has pitched in, using the transfer vans and coffin truck service to save what they can. This morning we attempted to salvage some computers and records from a branch office in Chelmer but we couldn't get in before road closures. We're almost certain the water will have hit the roof this afternoon.

I'm lucky, while the Brisbane river flows just a few kilometers away, I live perched up in a hill and my socks will stay dry tonight. Thanks meat cat!

Helicopters are flying overhead and nearly 95,000 homes are without power. What does this do to the funeral industry?

Families going through the grieving process already are now having to postpone burials, adding to the stress of losing their loved ones. Funeral directors are stuck in their homes. The coroners office is closed as the area has been evacuated. We have to ensure that the people who can't walk themselves to safety remain away from harm. Even if I have to piggy back the bodies through 4ft of water I will! (And wouldn't that be a sight to behold!). Corpse Girl Defies Brisbane Floodwaters to Save Viewing!

It won't get to that, but I'm ready if it does. Punching waves n sh*t.

Be safe Brisbane. x

P.S. How amazing is this picture below, the 1893 floods. If I was really really old, I wouldn't be surprised. 1893, 1974..I didn't know we were so flood hungry!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Post One Hundred and Seven: Movie Night Tonight?

I'm not going to make a dick of myself and attempt to be the next David or Margaret but I have to write briefly about a movie I watched last night.

'Departures' is the Japanese film that won the Oscar in 2009 for Best Foreign Language Film. Directed by Yojiro Takita it also won a gazillion other awards (and most rightly so). Centered around a super sexy yet adorably awkward young guy, the plot shows his embarkment into a career preparing the dead for funerals.

There are moments that are a tiny bit cringe-worthy and usually overly emotional films turn me off, but something about the extended gazes and sentimental moments make this film more charming. If you want to learn about Japanese cultural traditions regarding death I strongly recommend this little gem to you. It reconfirmed my aspirations and connection to my profession and that is nothing to sneeze at.

See it chumps. xx

Post One Hundred and Six: My little friend, Bastard.

The mortuary had a visitor today.

I was preparing to dress a little old man and whilst fumbling in a plastic bag for his undies and socks I came across a foreign being. A little gecko had made it through the security doors and cool room and into the peace and tranquility of hotel le death.

I'm guessing he came from the dead guys home, where his loved one had packed his things. I don't know how often lizards hang out in plastic bags but this guy was my most welcome visitor. Maybe he was a family pet, or a spirit in a reptilian body watching over the corpse. Who knows. Anything is possible when death is involved (apart from life?).

Anyway, I named him Bastard. I set him free.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Post One Hundred and Something: Dead People - Wholeheartedly Rejecting 2011.

I'm back, reluctantly. I love the mortuary but the Christmas and New Year break did me well. Pity brisbane pissed its sky-pants the whole time causing me to go stir crazy indoors...but it was glorious. Sorry for the blog break!

It's an interesting phenomenon but all morticians agree on the observation...the week before Christmas the fridge gets really quite and then BANG, everyone dies after Santa visits. It's almost as if Santa himself takes the grim reapings along with the cookies and milk. We think that maybe the human spirit kicks in and people on their death bed hang on to so they can spend the day with their families. The hopeful spirit sees the clock pass by Jebus's birthday and then POW, straight in the kisser. I'd say we get a 20% increase, and thats certainly statistically significant from what I can remember from my cloudy uni brain.

So, the last few days I've been trocar savvy. Staff is also at skeleton crew (puntastic!). A few fun moments have been had in between the insanity. One such experierince: I buried a man in an amazing pink one piece jumpsuit today, pretty much made my life complete.

Hope the resolutions have been set and the year has rolled off to a...rolling start?

Peace. x