Did I tell you I can dance again?

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

So, I'm trying to channel my inner writer yet again. I enjoy writing when i get into the groove of it, however in the past, I've tended to struggle with getting the momentum up for more expressive
and creative pieces. I dabbled in proposal writing for a bit, several years ago. Incidentally, that period of my life happens to be a subject of the following story, but thats not my interest at
this point.

I've been trying to "just get words down" each day for a few days now, away from the context of my usual combative reddit-beefing, but i've had mixed success. seems like a muscle needs to be
trained up somewhere. I'm sure with a bit of persistence, and hopefully some guidence from the locals around here, we'll get there soon enough.

Its all very rough, I started editing it, but partway through I backspaced out of the page i was writing on (rookie error, i know..) but I had a backup at hand. There's enough of a story arc here
that perhaps its starting to feel like a coherant piece of writing with something resembling a narrative structure, several distinct moments of emotion and so on, rather than the monodimensional
streams of consciousness and my last couple of days have produced.

I though it might be interesting to reach out for some criticism and perhaps become aware off/correct some bad habits at this early point.

I noticed that when i put it into Hemingway, it tells me around half the sentences are either hard to read, or very hard to read. Is that the human readers experience?? Or am I correct in assuming
that this is, partially, a peculiarity of Hemingway "simple, bold, clear" style preference??

On the flip side, it tells me I scored a readability: 7/good. how can half my sentences be "hard to read", but my overall readability score be "good"?

Anyway, here's my spontaneously written, very loosely autobiographical tale of failure and fortune. Don't mind any swearing or Australian turns of phrase you might find, I'm sure they're not
intentional ;)

Submitted: June 01, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 01, 2018



In my 20s, I spent my energy and my time paying little regard for my future or any notable career of substance, and instead devoted myself to the outdoor party scene. Scabbing tickets to parties I couldn't afford by volunteering, DJing (badly), working some casual jobs here and there that I'd inevitably bail on when my shifts happened to interfere with the next big festival that i'd decide on a whim to hitchhike across the country to attend, usually at the last minute. After a while, a little crew of us coalesced and we graduated to putting on our own events. We ran both legal, sanctioned festivals, sometimes of several thousand people, along with running smaller, illegal doofs (raves basically, Australian outdoor psytrance/techno parties, usually go for a couple of days, often much longer). This eventually lead to my falling into what might be loosely considered a career in the broader event industry as a ticketed rigger and lighting guy at the more mainstream concerts and functions around town... mostly so i could get staff discounts when hiring gear for my own gigs. Predictably, none of this was particularly lucrative.

(As an aside, the truth is running festivals can be VERY lucrative, however in the first few years, the need to be bigger and better each time eats up the proceeding years profit, and it's very easy to loose it all given the expenses involved, along with the very real potential for catastrophic and expensive acts of god... if you've spent half a million or so, and your 3 day event gets flooded out 2 days before the gates open, with a couple of thousand people and staff already on site, not only have you already coughed up for all of the construction and booking fees, you're also on the line for damages to the event site, damage to local roads and government infrastructure, along with what you loose to ticket refunds and credit card charge backs from irate punters, etc... It can be a fast track to bankruptcy if you're playing with your own capital.)


All these event-industry roles lead me to be in contact with a large number of professional artists, DJs, musicians and what not. As can probably be guessed, artists are notoriously poorly organized people, and generally quite bad at paperwork. Given I have a decent knack for language, and a borderline autistic bent for technical details and expression (apparently I'm on the spectrum, PDD-NOS they called it, whatever the hell that means), this put me in a position to both notice and fill a quite distinct and specific niche as a freelance professional writer, researching and applying for arts grants from the relevant government and altruistic bodies in my country.

My general model was to work pro-bono, and write myself into the grant as a secretarial fee, so if we didn't get the grant, the artist both wouldn't hadn't wasted anything other than a few hours of their time, nor would they be out of pocket. Certainly a positive selling point, given even the very best proposal writers only get a third to a quarter of the funding opportunities they're involved with applying for. Being a self taught hack, I was a long, long way from actually being particularly competitive in the field.

Usually i wrote in a 10%-15% writing/secretarial fee, meaning if we were going for a grant of say 20K, i'd get a couple of grand, not too extortionate given i had to cover all the proposals that inevitably failed, and given that part of the service i offered was being responsible for providing progress reports and milestone updates to the funding body in the event that our proposal was accepted.*

However the few times i was writing for a larger project i usually dropped the fee to something like 3 or 5%, because expending 50K on writing services for a 500K project seemed asinine, and likely to weaken the projects likelihood of being accepted... Certainly it doesn't take ten times longer to apply for ten times more money, indeed most funding application guidelines have a strict character limit in the guidelines, no matter the value.


Given there's only so many funding opportunities for the arts, it wasn't long until I basically knew of all the upcoming funding rounds and open RFPs (Request For Proposal) that were relevant to most of my clients, so I usually didn't have to spend a bunch of time looking for appropriate funding sources for a given artist. I could simply spend a few hours spitballing the artists idea with them, and getting a good idea of their vision. Once we were talking the same language, I'd throw around a few ideas on how to tweak it their project to make it fit an upcoming funding round enough to have a chance, and if the artist was happy enough with those tweaks, I could just sit down and start writing.

Once I settled into it, I'd usually be done in a day or two... which was lucky, because I wasn't exactly successful in gaining funding for anyone for quite a while. Regardless, it became increasingly easier to identify and write to the clients needs. On top of that, it turned out that a lot of people found a surprising amount of value in simply seeing their goals written out by a third party, as well as having an idea formulated into a document that they could cannibalize and re-purpose for promotion, or for work-shopping other projects.. Even when, as was the norm, the RFP submission itself was unsuccessful.

Given this, the zero-risk service I was providing was attractive to more people than I had anticipated. It was fun working with people from all over the country, including some who I knew of and who's work I had admired for years before. It was good networking for my own rather abortive music career as well. Despite not having too many actual successes in obtaining actual funding, and despite my "business" providing approximately zero financial benefit for the hours I was putting in, I enjoyed the process, and I definitely enjoyed the buzz of being sought out by people who I was often rather starstruck by.

After a while I started getting approached for all sorts of quite interesting projects, to the point where I had to start picking and choosing who to work with, despite the fact that I still wasn't making a whole lot of profit. Eventually, I received an email from a guy who'd heard, from a friend of a friend, that I was passable writer, and more importantly, flexible and easy to work with on weird and wacky projects. That I basically worked for free, given my rather naive and poorly thought out monetization strategy, didn't hurt either I'm guessing.

I'd never head of him, but some googling showed him to have a surprisingly impressive international career doing permanent public installations. Light sculptures mostly. Seemed a bit out of my league honestly, but i was starting to get cocky at this point, so I asked for his skype and got in touch. He wanted a formal write up for what was to my mind, a massive sponsorship opportunity he'd already been buttering up on his own, in order to exhibit at a large public-space art festival/lightshow we have here in Australia (Vivid festival, look it up, its pretty cool). I had some reservations about how much i could help, and the scope of the project was an order of magnitude higher than anything i'd worked on previously, but after I told him as much he didn't seem too worried, so I accepted the gig.


This random sponsorship application turned out to take a whole lot longer than i had expected, given it was being made to a large corporate not traditionally known for their altruism in the arts, and who wanted written assurances around protection of their brand, minimum levels of exposure of their advertising across a range of media, and all sorts of other arbitrary restrictions and caveats that i'd never had to navigate before. By the time I was finished, I was exhausted, and in my haste to get the proposal submitted by their deadline, I copy-pasted parts of my template into the costing document without paying too much attention, including putting my nominal place-holder 15% fee... onto a 1.4 million dollar proposal.

I figured that the likelihood of our proposal being competitive was slim to none as usual, given the relatively huge money at stake and therefore, I assumed, the likely caliber of the competition. So once it was submitted, I tried to forgot about it, beyond briefly musing on how i would apologize to the client about our failure, and went about my life.



About this time, i was working at an Elton John concert, and given the size of the event, we'd brought in an external crewing agency to help with bump in/bump out. These guys weren't regular employees, and apparently weren't covered by our companies insurance. Which was probably just fine, as long as they stayed out of the way and pushed boxes around as directed.

About 3AM, we were unpacking the last truck of the night and one guy from the external crewing agency kept trying to avoid the grunt work by insisting on being the "truck guy"... ie, he was standing by the truck and using the remote to raise and lower the tail lift as we brought stuff down. He was told multiple times to stop, not to touch the truck, he was even specifically told that given it counted as "operating heavy machinery", he wouldn't be covered by anybody's insurance if something went wrong.

Seemed like a pretty simple direction:

"Just leave the bloody truck alone, and go find a road case to put away, you lazy prick."

Seemed reasonable, really.

A few minutes later, I was standing at the back of the truck, keeping a few meat-racks of those old school iron PAR 64s with the heatsinks steady. The racks themselves were about 120kg, and, with 12 pars per side, by 2 sides to a rack, by 3 racks, i'd guess it added up to approximately a tonne of metal, on wheels, at about my chest height. Probably not something you want rolling about randomly.

Which is why I was standing there holding it. Not a problem.


I was looking over my right shoulder, waiting for my buddy to get back to the truck. On my left side was our lazy rent-a-hand, the same one who had been asked, not 5 minutes prior, not to touch the truck. Unnoticed by anyone, he sidled up to the lift again, grabbed the remote, and without a shred of protocol, nor the faintest warning, toggled the lift. Yet somehow, this time the lift tilted, and and a tonne of steel lurched at me.

I didn't have any choice but to try and catch them. At the time I think was just trying to save the parcans, But in hindsight, it was incredibly lucky that that was my reaction, because if I'd let them roll, there's not the slightest chance in hell that I'd have been able to get out from under them in time.If they'd picked up speed and hit me I'd likely either have been so badly crushed that I would have been a invalid for the rest of my days, or straight up dead. Game over. Thanks for playing.

Whatever the reason, I braced the racks with my entire body, and for a fateful 3 or 4 seconds, before everyone ran in to help, I had the vast proportion of that weight pushing on my spine.

People quickly grabbed the weight of the racks, Our lazy rent-a-hand got screamed out of the warehouse, and while I was a bit shaken, I was otherwise feeling OK. The shift supervisor suggests I go have a smoke and then sign the incident report log.

Cool. Except, office door's locked.

So i came back the next day, and, despite not being payday, I was given my pay, then told i couldn't sign the incident log because nobody currently in the office saw the incident.

OK, seemed.. odd, but whatever, I'll come back another day and do it with a witness.

But I never get another shift with them. They refused to answer my calls, and emails.

Hmm, very sketchy.

Whatever, I'm fine right? I get better shit to do than go to war with some sketchy ex-employer.



Fast forward a couple of years, and i started having intermittent episodes of not being able to stand up, along with shooting leg pain so bad that i couldn't sleep for days at a time. At first I was thinking that it was a sudden flareup of my usually mild but lifelong sciatica, however soon enough, severe back pain started to accompany each episode.

Doctors refused imaging or treatment of any kind, I guess mostly because I presented as a cliche of a malingering narcotics seeker: Complaining of severe back pain in my mid-twenties. "Naturally formed" (read: filthy and unkempt) dreadlocks (I was a trance hippie, remember?). Torn, grubby clothes mostly bought from festival stalls and which had seen many a dusty dancefloor since. An admitted history of recreational cannabis, ecstasy and LSD on record from previous visits. No recent injury event. Transient pain which seems to come and go every other fortnight (how convenient). Persistent and combative when told to get out.


Hell, I'd probably have made the same call if i'd never seen a fully fledged trance hippie before, and then had to deal with this one, who insisted on turning up in my nice clean doctors office over and over again, ofttimes barefoot, making the geriatric regulars uncomfortable and demanding "treatment" for implausible amounts of "back pain".

For what its worth though i never did once ask for drugs. I mean, its the 21st century. Getting drugs is easy.

Getting medical imaging?? Now THAT turned out to be a process with an unreasonable amount of gatekeepers.

Finally though. I manage to get an x-ray. Apparently it shows nothing. More doctors, more begging, more being written off as a junkie.

After maybe a year or so of intermittent spells, I was in a new city. Bigger city. Better healthcare services. Closer to the majority of my clients too.

Outwardly, I was no longer a feral trance hippie either. Trying to put forward a more professional face or something I guess.

But, the pain was, slowly, starting to get in the way of... life.  

Couldn't risk stomping about in the dirt when my back was going OK, let alone even making it to a party when my back was bad, so long dreamy days hanging out on my long beloved dancefloors were now a distant memory.. I couldn't accept bookings when there was an even chance that I'd be bed-bound when the gig rolled around, so my DJing was out the window too. I tried to stay positive and focus on my writing gig. I was living with a skilled brewer at this point, and I started drinking, fairly constantly. Started smoking way more weed than usual.. taking kratom, 1,4b, anything that dulled the pain.


But I no longer looked like a hippie, and so I tried a new doctor. I was in a new state, so she didn't have my patient history immediately at hand. She took me at face value and sent me for an MRI immediately.

Praise the fucking Lord.

Forget bulging or herniation, it turned out my L5-S1 disk had ruptured so severely that pieces of the disk were floating out of the joint and and going on leisurely jaunts around my spinal chord, intermittently impacting on the main nerves serving the lower body in several places. Several of the pieces of my disk were not even technically in my spine at this point, one fragment about the size of a fingernail had wandered almost an inch away from the disk and somehow gotten lodged next to the next disk down.

The doctor and radiologist had never seen anything like it before, and asked how i could still walk.

"Are you fucking serious?? I've been presenting for almost 2 years telling anyone that would even look at me that I CAN'T fucking walk half the time!!"

I went back, calmer, the next day. At last we had something resembling a diagnosis. The tax payer dime would run me through my beautiful countries benevolent public health system and this increasingly debilitation issue would be over very soon, i just knew it. Doctor even cleared people off her schedule to fit me in. Much longer appointment this time. Eventually, we pinned down the cause to the only possible thing. 3 AM in the warehouse, after the Elton John concert. Two, three years ago now, but its the only thing it could possibly be.

Surgery was on the cards. Only option really. Except.... because the pain and symptoms were transient, I'm told its considered elective surgery... and the public waiting list for elective spinal surgery is 3 years.

What. the. fuck. Seriously?

Or if I liked, I could pay $35K for a suite of reconstructive and rehabilitative procedures in the private system, there's a consultation available the next Monday...

Who the fuck has $35K?

I mean, the closest amount I'd ever had in hand at that point was maybe 30K after working the gate at a particularly kicking NYE party I'd thrown, and half of that had been spent on expenses and bills within 12 hours.

So at the doctors suggestion, I turned around to the workplace health and safety regulator and lodged an incident report. Much to my astonishment, I promptly found out that not only was i never insured through the company, in fact the they had no record of me even working at that company, despite holding dogging, rigging and working at heights certificates, all of which are roles that I was told required mandatory registration per employee. Oh, and the company appeared to be under investigation for several other incidents. Nothing that can be done until that investigation is completed, they told me.

Hmm, this is... problematic. To say the least. Guess its time to lawyer up.  



So, I won't bore you with the legalese, partly because I'm not sure how much i can or should talk about it, even in a pseudonymous narrative creative writing exercise years after the fact, and mostly because it was complicated and I don't pretend to understand more than a surface level of the relevant legislation. The upshot was the background of the next few years is a long, painfully slow, yet every present series of legal battles, initially against the shyster outfit i was working for, and eventually, against that shysters equally shyster insurance company.

While the wheels of justice creak slowly into gear, picture me rolling:

I can't work, i can barely walk half the time, physio is pointless, but i try it for a while. Mental health deteriorates, rapidly.. I stop writing, and start feeling distinctly hard-done by. I become an increasingly reclusive headcase. Issues with homelessness ensure. My friends stop trying, my mother doesn't know how to help. My father keeps telling me to come stay with him. Kicks out his housemate and pays double rent, keeping a room free for me, month after month, in the vain hope that I'll come to my senses.. but thats not an option. I can't get wasted so easily in a new city, and I'm sure thats the only thing keeping me together.

Doctor keeps trying to help, but until i get some surgery, theres not much she can do. At least I've got semi-decent painkillers now. Lyrica, Then Tramadol. Endone.

Then come the antidepressants. I can't stand them, they seem to make me more aware of the regular, nauseating pain. Keep filling the scripts to keep the doctor happy.

Months roll on and little changes, I am now a certified, A-grade arsehole. possibly with good reason, but.. It wasn't graceful.

I've come to terms with it and mostly forgiven myself at this point, but there are many people that will never forgive me, and i totally understand why. I'll always wince to look back at that period. I've seen people who have a whole lot more to complain about in life behave with far more dignity than i even momentarily attempted to do at this point in my life.

The next couple of years become a blur of pain, booze, lawyers, rage, doctors, more booze, more rage, and more pain. My initially studied, occasional, and intentionally sustainable dabbling in psychedelics and dance drugs has by this pointed devolved into staying as fucked up as pharmacokinetically possible, all day, every day, on everything i can get my hands on... Except opiates of course, need to keep my tolerance down so they work as intended when the pains out of control, yeah?

I'm a practical dude like that.

I get to the point where i have to stop smoking weed because because it brings out the meth paranoia. Turns out, meths a great painkiller. Who'd have thought. No cross-tolerance with painkillers either. Fantastic. Predictably, thats not a real good idea, and eventually I cause what could easily have become a national security incident in a major national airport on the way to see my lawyer. Woo, I'm on TV.

I have nothing but respect props to the supervisor and terminal staff that dealt with me so kindly and with such amazing compassion that evening, rather than palming me off to the cops for a good tazing, as they could so easily have done.

But, that was a wake up call. Shortly after, my father travels across the country and scoops me off the damp, overcast streets of Melbourne, and sticks me in his spare room in a new city, where i can't get drugs so easily. I really didn't have a choice in the matter this time. I cold turkey back to reality.


Thanks dad. You most likely saved my life.



Remember that funding application i wrote for Vivid?

Turns out, many months later, they accepted it. Fully funded, paid out over 3 rounds.

Shows been and gone, word is it was quite the success, and despite not having been there to write up progress reports, contractually, that moneys mine... 220K?? plus.. 14 months interest since the final payment?!? Really?!

Well, isn't THAT interesting.

From what i can gather, they'd been looking for me for months, and had even hired an investigator to track me down. Presumably they'd never been in a position of having someone they had a quarter million dollar account owing to just up and bail on them. I'd deleted the relevant email account that they'd been attempting to contact me on in some random fit of self-destruction well over a year beforehand. They only tracked me down because my name had finally come up in a google search listing a random supreme court mention as my injury litigation inexorably ground along.

The company contacts my lawyers, my lawyers verify that its mine and immediately take control of the cash because they decide I'm not mentally fit at that stage (good call). They stick it in a trust account. First I even know about it is an innocuous email months later, updating me on my costs, saying that since they now have a deposit, they're no longer charging me the speculative pro-bono loading on my spiraling legal costs.

My reply was something along the lines of;

"what the hell are you morons even talking about, i haven't sent you a cent.."

So, they explain the situation to me. I wasn't particularly happy that they had my money, but at this point they had gained power of attorney over my affairs, due to my now multiple years of drug and mental health issues, in order to be able to progress my lawsuit without my input.

Convenient, really.

Shortly after, they let about $45K go in order for me to have my back reconstructed, two days after my surgery a nurse comes into my room and tells me i can sit up now. OK, now put your feet on the floor.

Stand up and walk to the chair.

I wince. alright, if I have too...


i spend the next couple of hours walking around the hospital. strolling around. sauntering, swaggering. I'm doing pirouettes around the hallways. skipping and giggling like a schoolgirl. I'm literally laughing out loud. The staff decide I've had enough when they discover me dusting off my rad Melbourne shuffle stylez in the back garden and busting moves to the confused bemusement of several elderly palliative care patients. They send me back to my ward, and make me go back to bed. I don't even care, I can fucking DANCE again.

I'm fucking BACK baby!

And finally, a few months later, the wheels of justice finally ground to a decisive, welcome stillness. We recieve a settlement off. Maybe not enough to be pensioned off forever, given my injury was eminently treatable once i finally had enough cash to actually pay for it.

I was counseled that it was likely that the courts would consider my other problems to have been largely of my own making, and that although the possibility of being awarded damages for those issues were real, they were remote enough to not risk the settlement offer on the table, nor to engage in years more litigation. I readily agreed. Life's to short to spent the best years of your life in petty, vindictive penny-pinching squabbles in the courts.. but it was enough to retrain for another industry if i wanted. Enough to buy a house. Enough to start a business.

Enough, basically.

But really, enough to make a good go of it if I was willing to forgo some of the modern luxuries that I've never had, wanted, nor bothered to grow accustomed too when they were available. No car, for instance. I think drivings stupid. Always have. Yeah, lets cram ourselves into a piece of metal and accelerate it towards equally sketchy pieces of metal, coming towards us at an equally breakneck pace. Its like jousting for retards.

And in a stroke of spectacular fortune, given that my legal team spent the most costly part of my case treating me as a paying client rather than a pro-bono risk/charity case, their fees only cost me somewhere around 17% of my total gross settlement, unlike the 35-40% that they generally charged their pro-bono clients. which made a very significant difference, to the tune of around 200 grand.

I got sent off for an assessment as to whether I'd be capable of managing my own affairs, an amusing, awkward panel of questions and tests which i somehow stumbled through competently enough to be declared fit and proper to manage my own affairs.

I didn't much care. I walked in. I walked out. I could walk again, and that sensation of floating on my feet, light as a feather in the breeze was still a euphoric experience. It was all I had time for. Everything else was just noise.

"I can manage my own money? Of course I can, I'm magnificent! Check this out though, I can DANCE!"

A week or two after that, on a chilly afternoon in early Autumn, i sat down in front of my computer. I checked my bank account with the intention of scraping together enough money for a pizza (Delivery?? No thanks! Not when I can WALK down and pick it up!). Pizza options distracted me for several minutes, and it took me several moments to realise the significance of the string of numbers, sitting with little fanfare and less meaning on the screen in front of me once I'd absently flicked back to check if i could even buy a pizza.

It was rather surreal, and decidedly underwhelming.

I closed the browser, and walked down to pay for my pizza in loose change from the couch.

So within the space of 6 months, i went from a invalid basket case with several serious drug habits and what appeared like a deathwish, to a relatively sober, physically able, and freshly minted 30 year old, with all of life's opportunities waiting to meet me.

Long story short, I bought a house for my dad and I to live in, chucked some into crypto, bought some GPUs and a few toys then chucked the rest in a managed fund that caters to providing income streams for financially illiterate people (like me!) that need for their money to definitely still be around in a few decades. Its basically an in-house ETF. No fancy trading, no exorbitant management fees and reasonably paltry returns in the scheme of things... but hey, its security.

If i want money, there's nothing stopping me going and getting a job, albeit i'll never be working as a removalist or brickies laborer if i want my back to last another 50 years.




This is about the point where I start to wonder what I'm gonna do for the rest of my life, and quickly realize that I don't have to do jack shit ever again.

Between alleviating my rental burden by buying a cottage, and being judicious with the trickle coming in from the managed fund, my disposable income is, on average, now higher than it was at any time in my twenties, and I'm in a position, within reason, to do whatever i want, whenever i want.

So thats what i do. I make music. Recently I've been trying to write prose most days (hi!), with an eye towards perhaps getting published... one day. Its pretty bad. But so was my music ten years ago. I have faith. Occasionally I get baked and dream up stupid business ventures. I go bushwalking and hang out at the beach. Sometimes I just drink beer on my porch, watching a huge burning orb glide below the hills as though its simple, and obvious. And as the purple tendrils of night climb through the sky I wonder how I'm still alive, and then, I thank.. whatever this... thing.. that we are all a part of.. is, that I AM, with every part of my being. I don't get out too much, still a bit shy of humans after repeatedly torching and salting the earth of my previous social circles... But that suits me just fine right now. My psychologist says its PTSD. I'm ambivalent about labels, but having someone to talk to has been helpful.

I feel blessed. In this country, housing in insanely expensive, some of the least affordable in the world. A millennial owning a completely paid off house in a capital city is widely unheard of unless they come from money or have a seriously top-tier career in something incredibly lucrative.

What can I say.. its been a while coming, but life's good :) I have everything I need, and quite a lot of what I want, and I'm so very grateful for it.

I'm thinking of moving to Portugal at the end of the year, I just applied for my EU citizenship... I hear the festival scene in Europe is still pretty kicking? And right on cue, as though it wrote itself, I even seem to have a live set coming together that should rock just about any dancefloor.

Speaking of which.. did I tell you I can dance again?

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