Christmas came early to our house this year.
It arrived way ahead of New Year’s Eve.
But not before St. Patrick’s Day stopped in for a beer just because it “happened to be in the neighborhood.”
This made Christmas very uncomfortable, of course, after their ugly fight at Thanksgiving.
They had exchanged…words that wound.
The flowers of the pohutukawa tree. The pohutukawa ("drenched with mist" in Maori) is sometimes referred to as the New Zealand Christmas Tree.
Now the two sat in the lounge for what seemed like an eternity of stilted, awkward conversation.
Christmas couldn’t take any more. It got up to leave, insisting it had a million “little chores” to do at home.
Which was all for the better, frankly, seeing how the holiday had caught me off guard.
I’d forgotten to get Jacquie a present.
It's beginning to look a lot like the Nihotupu track in the Waitakere Ranges. This stream feeds the Upper Nihotupu reservoir, part of Auckland's water system.
Jacquie handed me a small object wrapped in colorful paper, with a fussy little ribbon.
“What’s the occasion?” I said.
“Ha ha, Simon, you’re so funny,” she said. “You’re the funniest person in the world. I don’t know why people don’t walk up to you on the street and give you a million dollars and name their children after you. And you’re so nice and considerate and you never use words that wound. Open your present.”*
It was an iPod Nano (6th generation).
I was touched. But that was beside the point. I was moved. This was a surprising gift. I hadn’t owned a personal listening device in ages.
“Where’s the cassette go?” I said.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I know it takes CDs.”
The Upper Nihotupu reservoir has a capacity of 336,000,000 gallons. Dam, that's a lot of water. Here the liquid passes through a pipe, as you can see. I'd been carrying 0.079251616 gallons of what you see there until just before this picture was taken.**
The device, as it turned out, imposed a steep learning curve that taxed all my faculties.
After six hours of screaming, one sprained wrist, third-degree burns all about my face and torso, a torn ligament and 25 mg of Valerian, I finally managed to upload a single tune.
Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean.
The situation was turning ugly.
I know what you're thinking. So I'm going to come out and say it to clear the air of...words that wound. This isn't a Hobbit hole, ok? That's just such a stupid, obvious joke. This is a damned tunnel. Alright? Just a tunnel. Not a nasty, dirty, wet tunnel, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy tunnel with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat. It's a tunnel that passes under the MAXX rail-bed and leads from the east side of Auckland Domain to Parnell (where the wankers dwell.) Hobbits use this tunnel to commute to work, and to sell drugs and sexual services to one another.
I called technical support.
I told them I was having trouble manipulating the controls on Nano’s little touch-screen.
“I see what the problem is, sir,” the tech support person said.
“Yes. Your fingers are the size of Hungarian sausages. Lay off the Ring Dings, if you can be bothered, and maybe in a few years you’ll be able to enjoy one of our fine products.”
I was going to yell at the tech support guy for using…words that wound.
But on second thought, he made a valid point as far as my physique was concerned.
You see, my Nano had gone missing for a while that day.
Jacquie and I looked everywhere. Things seemed hopeless. I tossed my head back in Joan of Arc fashion and just as I did that, the Nano popped out from a fold of adipose tissue between my second and third chin. We figured it must have slipped in there while I was eating a Ring Ding.
“You’re probably right,” I said. “Got any other helpful tidbits?”
“Yes,” the tech dude said. “Your blog is getting lame, bland and repetitive.”
“Bravo,” he said. “Well done. Didn’t see that one coming. Please, no more. I don’t want any part of it. That whole ‘Christmas came early this year’ bit as a segue into this Nano routine? Nuh-uh. Total crap.”
“I know what you mean,” I said.
A disused railroad siding in a layer of adipose tissue between Auckland Domain and Parnell, near the Hobbit tunnel. (Note Hobbit feces). "Look," I said to Jacquie. "It's the G train. Finally." Even the Nano tech dude would have to admit this was a very humorous comment because the G train is a subway line in New York notorious for long waits, unannounced disruptions, and mildly irritating graffiti featuring...words that wound. Thus the implication here is that the "G train " was so tardy in its arrival that the motorcar corroded to the level of decay (pictured), making for a whimsical moment of absurdist satire that sophisticated people on one-and-one-fifttieth continents can enjoy. Note the added layer of humor in the suggestion that a NYC subway line could be extended to NYC's near-antipode, which would be highly impractical even if it were technically doable.
I couldn’t think what else to say.
Tech dude’s cherished yuletide sentiments had wounded me in the sebaceous area between my second and third chins.
I threw my head back in pain, adding my trademark Joan of Arc flourish. A Nano shot out of my adipose folds, soaring through the air, smashing against a Ring Ding.
I was about to hang up on the tech dude when Jacquie furiously grabbed the phone out of my hand.
“I just wanted to say one thing to you,” she screamed. “Merry Christmas.”
Then she hung up.
Then she turned to me.
Then she screamed again.
Then she said “Well, do you have a gift for me?”
Traffic signs in New Zealand often provide confusing or self-contradicory information, resulting in hundreds of thousands of wounds and deaths, costing the nation a few hundred dollars in lost productivity every year. But sometimes you come across a traffic sign that is relatively clear. New Zealand's written driver's exam always has at least one question regarding what to do when approaching the sign pictured above.
As a matter of fact, I did have time to prepare something.
“Here you go honey,” I said.
I handed her an envelope.
She was getting all teary eyed.
She opened the envelope, pulled out a note I’d written, and read out loud.
“‘I.O.U. one fantastic gift,’” she said. She looked at me, astonished. “But that’s what you got me for my birthday.”
“Not exactly,” I said. “This time the note was written on toilet paper.”
Jacquie was disgusted. She used several “words that wound,” alluding to uncomfortable-sounding objects orienting themselves in time and space to my nether region.
Then she smelled the IOU toilet paper and gagged. “Is that brown ink or is that what I hope it isn’t?”
“I’ll never tell,” I said. “But I’ll say one thing: getting a Hobbit to take stool-softener and spell out a letter with his own excrement is not as difficult as everyone makes it out to be.”
This microscope is an inexplicable part of the penguin habitat exhibit at Kelly Tarlton's, a sort of combination aquarium, wildlife exhibit, children's museum and, at night, corporate event venue. My new employer held its Christmas party there.
Then the doorbell rang. It was the Apple tech guy.
“Would you please, please, end this stupid post now?” he said. “It’s terrible and nobody’s read this far because it’s Christmas and you’re already at like 1,250 words.”
They served a buffet dinner that included several kinds of meat.
“I’ll think about it,” I said.
A segment of tentacle at Kelly Tarlton's has absolutely no friends. It's not attached to anyone. It just likes to hang out in formaldehyde.
“OK,” I said. “You’re right.”
“Thank you,” the tech guy said.
Another fine specimen. Although it has nothing to do with this picture, Kelly Tarlton was the inventor of the underwater viewing tubule used by many modern aquariums.
* Quote taken verbatim.
**Because I pee’d in the reservoir.