Chad Parkhill

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Travel and Lifestyle Writing

What I’m Reading

Published by Meanjin (blog), 12 August 2013. Original post. Detail from The Grand Canal at the Salute Church by Canaletto (1730).

I’ve often envied the relationships that people who don’t work as writers or editors have with books. They seem to read more of them, or at least read them more completely: start to finish, without the distraction of another, competing book that has to be read for research or that long-form article everyone’s been tweeting about—without the hopelessly muddled association of pleasure with duty that characterises my own reading life. Every book you read in this state is an opportunity to dwell on the books you should be reading instead, or should have read long before. To further complicate matters, the reading I do in my professional life is about leisure: specifically, travel. My day job is at Lonely Planet, where I am part of a team of content digitisers whose remit is, broadly, to take the content in Lonely Planet’s well-known series of guidebooks, break it down into its smallest logical units, and organise that content by location and theme. This work itself involves a good deal of reading, since it’s impossible to know how and where to place the content without understanding its context.

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My Parched March

Published by The Lifted Brow, issue eighteen, July 2013. Purchase a copy.   Detail from ‘My Parched March’ illustration by Rosevitch.

Dry July. Ocsober. Febfast. The number of months of the year in which we’re encouraged to go without alcohol are steadily increasing. More surprising than their proliferation, though, is their popularity, which seems to have recently passed a critical point. Jill Stark’s book High Sobriety, a memoir of her own three-month dry spell—which shortly expanded into both an alcohol-free year and a book contract—has, in its turn, inspired any number of op-ed pieces and short-form memoirs about the virtues of quitting drinking (albeit only temporarily). And for every published piece about these holidays from alcohol there are ten or more blog posts or Facebook statuses, a trend encouraged by Hello Sunday Morning, a soi-disant movement of young people who abstain from drinking and use the provided social media platform to support each other through their voyage of sobriety. Several friends of mine have penned earnest paeans to the joys of quitting the demon drink, uploaded them to their blogs, and shared them on Facebook. It might not ever be cool to be teetotal—just as smoking cigarettes will always maintain a vestigial air of teenage rebellion—but if there was ever a moment in Australia’s history when sobriety was championed in the cultural mainstream, then we’re living in it.

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“Largely Superseded by Damp”

Mark Haskell Smith’s Heart of Dankness

Published by Lonely Planet (blog), 17 December 2012. Original post. Amsterdam coffee shop by Arthur Caranta (Creative Commons).

Heart of Dankness is a travelogue only by necessity; if Mark Haskell Smith had his way, he wouldn’t need to leave his home state of California to experience the specialised highs promised by Amsterdam’s competitive Cannabis Cup. Nor would he want you to have to leave your home town (or even your couch) for a similar experience. Since marijuana possession remains illegal throughout most of the world, however, Haskell Smith needs to travel to get his toke on. This is just as well, because his quixotic search for ‘dankness’ becomes a fascinating travelogue populated by a large cast of larger-than-life eccentrics united by their love of good dope.

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Vermouth

Published by The Lifted Brow, issue twelve, October 2011. Purchase a copy. Vermouth bottles by Justin Marrington.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience of walking into a liquor store to be confronted by a display rack of some shiny new beverage begging to be taken home. One of the tried and true methods of selling such a product—aside from getting well-endowed young women to hand out samples—is to knock out a quick little booklet with a potted history of the brand and a list of cocktails created to showcase the stuff. While some of these cocktails go on to have a long life—the erroneously-named French Martini, for example, was created by Chambord as a means of selling their venerable raspberry liqueur outside of France—most are hamfisted concoctions that use far too much of the product in question or just so happen to specify other ingredients from the same distributor’s portfolio. Other products need no such artificial push: recently both Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur and St-Germain elderflower liqueur have become near-ubiquitous in cocktail lists, to the extent that St-Germain is sometimes pejoratively called “bartender’s ketchup”. All of these liquor companies are hoping for a kind of immortality for their product: if one of these custom- made cocktails becomes immensely popular, you’ve suddenly made your product a must-have for any bar owner.

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