just desserts on a lonely Saturday evening

zine: Tick Tock by Zoe Meagher & Eddie Edmends

drink: Henry Langdon vanilla chai latte (powder mix)

At the beginning of the year, I was housesitting near Castlemaine to try and get lots of reading and writing done (which totally happened!), and found this lush vanilla chai latte mix in a lovely tin at the town centre supermarket. Their newsagent also seemed ridiculously well-stocked in terms of lit mags!

Now that the weather is much chillier, I’ve been making myself these vanilla chai lattes (boiling water, top up with milk, sometimes flavour with maple syrup) especially when I’m feeling too sad to really eat anything substantial. It isn’t good form to miss meals when depressed, but I try to find something I know I will eat, rather than skip eating altogether. Tonight, that was Filipino cassava cake – reminds me a bit of a tougher, larger version of Portuguese custard tarts without the paper-thin pastry. The best bit is the burnt edges! Coconut milk, glutinous rice, slivers of cassava…blissful.

Interestingly, one thing me and my maternal grandfather have in common (aside from the obsession with music – he was a professional clarinettist, I did not quite make it there as much as I wanted to be profesh) is our love of burnt rice, which is called tutong in Tagalog. I had to look that up online because I never learnt to write Tagalog – only by ear when I lived there as a kid. It seems such a specific thing to love, but perhaps not to those who get it! Nutty, toasted…it smells so good if it’s not charcoal-burnt!

So yeah, dessert as dinner on a cold Saturday evening, chilling with my kitty, and reading an indie comic I picked up at All Star Comics a while back. The cover has a medieval gauntlet-clad arm, wearing a digital wrist watch. The back says:

A knight, a popstar and a qantasaurus walk into a bar.

Tick Tock is the only inter-temporal lounge destination officially sanctioned by the time-travel regulatory body.

Most time-travellers just stop by a for a drink or two. The unlucky ones (like Misty, Max and Elric) get trapped and have to pour the beer.

Eddie and Zoe collaborated on the story, then Zoe drew the pictures.

Okay, so they can do my beer drinking for me, for tonight, hehehe. The first panel is in the style of an Anglo-Celtic medieval tapestry – there’s fighting, looting, pillaging, and then a jump into a time portal. Elric happens on Misty, reading what appears to be a review of the Tick Tock bar loo, and they both realise he’s stuck. He doesn’t initially cope well with this.

Another trapped time traveller unable to return to their time of origin is not good for business. The landlords get called away to a spot that looks like Flinders Street Station (its clock, famous steps), and more adorable anachronistic hijinks ensue, like some sort of dino attack, and a cute bird that might be a dodo? The tale ends with Elric briefly evading Misty (we learn she used to be a singer/performer) to try and surf down escalators that you’d expect in Melbourne’s city loop train stations, and a flashback to the medieval scene where someone else is stuck in Elric’s time, in his place.

I really wish this story were longer, I’d love to read more issues! It’s hilarious, it’s smart and diverse without it feeling token or forced. Verily, it might be part of a series, whee-hee! Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot of about ekphrastic poetry, and how despite having written video game ekphrastic poems, I’m still not confident about how I’d do this for paintings in a gallery. Reading Tick Tock makes me want to try, but I think what I’d like to do is invent backstories for the people mentioned in this comic, or write an imaginary bar review for a poem of mine (it’s called ‘Red’) that I initially envisioned to be imagining what it’d be like to drink at a synaesthetic-laden bar.

One of the other reasons I’ve been thinking a lot about odd twists on concepts that already exist – which I think Tick Tock is a tantalising example of is that I’m a submission reader for an online speculative fiction journal called Syntax and Salt. I absolutely love reading speculative fiction, and short stories…but write very little of it myself (though I do try to incorporate it in my poetry. ‘Red’ is part of a much larger, probably lifelong work-in-progress). The very first longform piece I ever wrote (which took an age to find a home; wrote it as an undergrad) could possibly count as speculative in that it tries to be a very real biography/story about very imaginary-but-believable-in-our-world/time people. I mention this because it reminds me that speculative literature doesn’t have to be ‘longform’ or conventionally narrative — it could be creative non-fiction too, and most definitely poetry. There’s going to be a ‘staff’ issue and I’ve got a couple of ideas about what I’ll end up submitting but also think it might be nice to write newer work for it that doesn’t end up appearing too.

I’ve nearly finished my vanilla chai latte abomination (you can brew one with frothed milk as a treat – I just did half boiled water, half milk), so it’s time for this post to wrap up. This might sound silly, but though I don’t know Anthony Bourdain, his passing has hit me harder than expected. He sounded like a brilliant, generous, struggling human. I know I’m struggling with mental health stuff at the moment, but I’m going to keep reaching out to those I trust, and I’m never going to stop being grateful for having their love, friendship, support. Bourdain’s gone, but he’ll keep inspiring food hacks like me to revel in the few kernels of food culture I have. That’s also why this blog exists. Misfits finding or keeping their small spot in the world is never going to be easy — it isn’t.



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