Culture

What are you doing this weekend?

I hate Friday. Friday is when people ask you questions to which they don’t want answers. “Got any plans for the weekend?” They don’t give a shit.

This is, of course, not an original observation. But, sometimes we forget the important things about life, like why Fridays are shit.

We forget that when anyone asks us on a Friday for our next 48-hour itinerary, they don’t give a fuck. They’re just waiting for you to finish, so it won’t seem like bragging when they brag about going  to Cirque Du Soleil, or their grandmother’s 100th birthday party, or some other stupid shit.

cousin on ostritch

It’s annoying to answer that question, so my suggestion is a life-hack. And it’s free. When someone  corners you at the cooler, in the kitchen, in the middle of taking a shit and you’re like, “aw, fuck, it’s Friday”, YOU ASK THEM FIRST. Then, as they start going on about how their grandmother is turning 100, just walk away.

I tell you it works for me. Even after I lost my job, nobody has ever asked me what my weekend plans are. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m in business for myself now, and I work alone, in my home-office, and I haven’t had plans for the weekend since 1998. These days, an exciting weekend for me is “Liking” other people’s weekend plans as they get posted on Facebook.

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It’s fun, low-risk, weekend activity. Today, in fact, several members of my family are tentatively planning to get together. And it all happened in the comments of a Facebook post. I totally Liked that. And I would probably think of going for a few minutes if I lived in their city, and we were still on speaking terms. In any event, we can all learn something from me. You don’t have to have plans to enjoy your weekend. And you don’t have to work in an office to hate people. That’s what Facebook is for.

 

 

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Grafton’s despicable hordes

I never wanted to be a parent.

Kids just didn’t seem like anyone I’d want to spend time with. Don’t know why.

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It’s not that I despise children, with their exasperating need for constant attention, their volatile emotional states, their ‘live and let live’ approach to hygiene, their nonexistent social skills, and their psychotic conversations.

It’s just that, I despise children. How irritating, then, that I now live upstairs from a kindergarten.

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I know I’m coming across as a babbling old fart shouting tired clichés about kids playing on someone’s lawn, but there’s a very good reason for it, which I’ve now forgotten.

Oh, right: I like children as individual people. In fact, some of my best friends have children, as far as I’m aware. And all my nephews and nieces are cool beans.

It’s when kids form hordes, clamoring like armies of Orcs disguised as ugly children, that they become instantly despicable. Kids in groups are the people my parents instructed me to avoid when I was growing up. While other kids were outside doing sports or stealing shit from the deli, I was sitting quietly in my bedroom, hands folded on my desk, waiting to turn 18.

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It has taken me since that time to become an actual adult. I haven’t wet myself  in years, I rarely simper in public. And now Jacquie and I bought this flat.

My personal equity until last month had never matured so much as rocked back and forth in the fetal position. Owning a home has foisted great responsibility on my shoulders to convince other people that I’m mature. It’s a duty I take quite seriously.

 

Our apartment is a funky walk-up, a short walk to Karangahape Road, in one direction, and the Auckland Domain in the other. And as one reader pointed out, it’s a very convenient place to be hit by a bus, because Auckland hospital is right across the road. (I’ve already taken the time to introduce myself to the emergency room staff).

Our home would be perfect, if not for the horde of Orc-children downstairs.

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The other day, one of the them was shrieking and sobbing in the playground. For about six hours. I got so pissed off, I finally went to the window and screamed, “I’ll give you something to cry about.” Then I told her how much money was in my checking account. One of the teachers heard what I’d said and scolded me for scaring the children, who had all run inside. Mission accomplished.

After that, the teachers would shoot cold leers of indignation in my direction, whenever I happened to pass the window. They didn’t like my attitude toward the children, and they were furious last Monday, when I got a little drunker than usual for a work day at noon. A terrible commotion downstairs drew me to the window. One boy was beating up another, and that made me angry. So I lit a cigarette, topped up my Jack Daniels and marched right to the window and screamed at the bully.

“Leave that kid alone, you little bastard,” I said. Then I pointed to myself and said “This is you in 39 years.”

Then I tossed the Jack Daniels out the window, and it splashed all over the kid’s Spider Man costume.

Then I flicked my cigarette at him, hitting him in the eye. It was a lot of fun watching him try to explain to his teachers why he reeked of alcohol, to say nothing of the cigarette butt still smoldering at his feet.

Those teachers need to relax about the whole incident, because I was simply trying to illustrate that in New Zealand, anyone can grow up to be the kind of person who smokes cigarettes and drinks heavily in the middle of a work day.

So, not only did I stop the bully from beating his victim, I also put the fear of god in him, using my life as an example.

They should be paying me.

The Parnell version of nice

In my experience, it takes almost no effort to get Kiwis to love an American, particularly a New Yorker.

All you have to do is comment on whatever small change you’ve noticed in someone’s appearance, circumstance, or demeanor since the last time you saw them. That’s what makes me so popular in the shops on Parnell Road.

I’ll go to a cafe and say to the barista, “I see you’ve changed your hair color from Sky Blue to Traffic Cone Orange. It suits you.”

Bang, free coffee.

And at Subway, I make it a point to tell the cashier, “What a great suggestion: I will add cookies and a large soda to my order.”

Bang, extra napkins.

Downtown, Saturday afternoon

You could chalk this special treatment up to my Bronx accent. Aucklanders think it is mesmerizing and exotic (voted “Most Beautiful Accent of the English Speaking World” in several polls). More than that, Kiwis understand that, as a New Yorker, my life is more important and interesting than theirs.

They count themselves lucky simply to be in the same room, handing me extra napkins. I don’t blame them. I’d be the same way if they were interesting.

Being sweet to folk doesn’t just yield high returns in Social cache, at no risk. It is actually necessary for any society to function smoothly. That’s why I am a believer in the old saying, “you attract more flies with honey.”

Then again, you can probably attract just as many flies with a small pile of shit, or the carcass of a Toy Poodle.

So, on second though, fuck being nice to people. All this time I’m pouring honey all over the place when I could have just taken a much more satisfying dump.

Ferry Terminal, weekday afternoon

I have been too nice, too long. all I’ve gotten in return for it lately is grief from neighbors, plus a lot of napkins.

First, it was the sweaty, low-functioning, obese (ie, British) couple upstairs who didn’t appreciate me.

In fact, they wouldn’t to speak to me again after I said they resembled two partially melted, human sized Gummy Bears. That sounds like a bad thing, out of context, but it was just a harmless observation.

Instead of taking it as such, the low-functioning British couple returned to England the next day, for which I received this commendation from the Auckland City Council:

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It’s easy to say goodbye to obviously contemptible people like the British. But what about the nice couple across the road?

They live in the nice house across the road, a long-married, long-retired, elderly but not immobile Kiwi couple.

You can see their house with its red roofing in this animation:

The husband is a little frail, but he still gets around on his own two feet, while his energetic wife is a veritable fusion reactor. Together, they spend their sunset years writing angry letters to the editor about the need for public art, signing petitions against pollution in rivers. That’s how they give back to the community: by the wife sitting on a committee made up of other property owners, who all win commendations for their outstanding community service from other committees made up of other superannuated property owners who are in turn recognized for their public-mindedness in a never ending loop of mutual masturbation.

The image my neighbors project, and thus my impression of them until lately, has been one of, “We’re nice.”

Downtown, cruise ship, tourists

To a degree. For the past three months, contractors have been working on their house.

And for most of that time, the couple have been using traffic cones to reserve public parking spaces for their private contractors.

Despite their car port and driveway, they take up spaces at the curb in front of their manse, reserving it for days on end. They often need two spaces, and because Kiwis never question the authority invested in orange traffic cones, other frustrated neighbors have left the nice people alone.

Even the traffic wardens who ticketed me and Jacquie twice since December for our lack of a residency permit (one that Auckland Transport had told us didn’t exist), ignored what to me was a blatant arrogation of traffic laws.

And all the while that I cursed this couple under my breath, I kept my mouth shut, too. Because you’re not supposed to be assertive with nice, elderly people, even when they’re selfish pricks.

Civic Theatre, early Saturday evening

A few weeks back, after spending 15 minutes looking for a free space, I asked the wife how long they would continue reserving spaces for their contractors.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “A few weeks.”

“Because, you know, it has been kind of difficult to park here.”

“Oh, that’s terrible,” she said. She was very concerned.

I told her about the truck smashing the side of our car, causing $2,000 in damages. I told her about the time I had to spend filing the insurance claims. I told her about the time wasted looking for a space.

“Oh, you poor thing,” the woman said. She clucked her tongue and shook her head. I wondered if we were sharing the same conversation.

“Did you know about the contractor smashing our car?” I said.

“Oh, no, I didn’t,” she said. “You poor darling.”

I told her the name of the contractor. She said she’d never heard of it. Flustered by her apparent obliviousness to all the inconvenience she has caused her neighbors, I kind of got pissed off.

She wasn’t nice and sweet. She was an asshole.

“You realize that not everyone has parking around here,” I said, “and that not all of us own our houses or have driveways. I’m happy and proud and everything that you’re pouring a lot of value into your home equity, but I don’t think that justifies—”

“We are not  ‘pouring value’ into our equity,” she said. She leaped into defense, and her frail husband, who had been silently listening, scurried into the house.

You can't lose with a picture of Vince.

You can’t lose with a picture of Vince.

The woman was mad.

“I’ll have you know I’ve been very good to the renters on this block,” she said.

She explained how in 2009, she was the one who went to Auckland Transport to issue parking permits. When I told her AT no longer issued those permits, as far as I knew, she said to call over there and use her name. “They know me,” she said.

Which was about when I walked away. I wasn’t going to get anywhere with her. Her idea of nice wasn’t to be courteous about parking, or thoughtful about the troubles she’s caused. Nice, to her, is pimping out favors that only a white privileged, property-owning, self-righteous person believes is theirs to dole.

In other words, she’s really, really nice. In Parnell. And I hope that Jacquie and I never get that nice when we own property one day.

Hey, you’se, d’ere givin’ out cult-cha ovah d’ere

Boy, I sure have changed my mind about culture.

It’s fantastic.

I didn’t get much culture in the neighborhood where I grew up in the Bronx.

There was one time. My neighbor had bitten my forearm.

It was my fault, really. I’d moved my hand too suddenly and too close to his mouth.

Anyway, he broke the skin and my mom had to drive me to Montefiore Medical Center, with my hand dangling off my forearm by a single tendon.

The ER nurse injected me with a bacterial toxoid to prevent tetanus, then scooted me on home.

Technically speaking, then, it is possible to benefit from culture in the Bronx.

The overwhelming memory I have of the Bronx, however, is not so optimistic. The Bronx was a giant, graffiti-covered subway train grinding along the elevated tracks above houses made of burned-out cars held together by dried dog shit.

And that was hoity-toity Riverdale.

People around Castle Hill generally couldn’t afford dog shit.

People in such circumstances have inspired people like the Rockerfellars, Carnegies, and Michael Ovitz to subscribe to Noblesse Oblige: the bestowing of the fruits of private wealth upon the commonwealth to enrich and enlighten the public, by rubbing our faces in it.

Thanks to Noblesse Oblige, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan offered free drawing classes to city high school students.

We sketched works in the collection. Culture was never so fun. The occasional tourist got a thrill from poking our foreheads, to see if we were animatronic.

It was mostly free. Once a month, the students were asked to wash various stains out of Michael Ovitz’s tighty whities, to our edification. We learned how to scrub that underwear down from a Hans Hoffman to an Agnes Martin.

Not many people can make that claim.

My high school art teacher liked to help fill gaps in his pupil’s cultural appreciation.

He even invited me downtown to see Billy Budd for my 18th birthday.

It would be my first opera, but the experience kind of dashed my expectations. The atmosphere was lively, but I couldn’t understand what everyone was doing on stage. Opera turned out to be very confusing, and it made me think culture might be too complicated for me to acquire.

A few months later, I figured out that my teacher hadn’t taken me to Lincoln Center at all, but a place called Uncle Charley’s for a drag queen cabaret, which included my teacher’s friend, who went by Billy-Jean Budd.

True, there really isn’t much of a difference between drag queen cabaret and opera. But the experience put me off western orchestral composition completely.

Until Thursday, when Jacquie and I got to watch the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra perform.

We were strolling along Queen Street Thursday evening, looking for something to do.

As we passed the crowd heading into Town Hall for the APO’s final performance of the season, a well-dressed matron of the arts collapsed right there in front of us.

Jacquie, being a nurse, started to walk faster.

But I noticed that while everyone was giving this lady mouth-to-mouth, or whatever, nobody spotted the ticket that had slipped out of her hand.

“But what about me?” Jacquie said, as I headed in to find the lady’s seat.

As there was still 15 minutes before the concert, chances were we’d find another ticket.

Sure enough, right at that moment, another well-dressed matron of the arts collapsed.

Coincidentally, the two matrons must have known each other, because their seats were together.

As they EMTs wheeled them into the ambulance, we waved goodbye as a show of our gratitude.

And we still had enough time to get plastered before the show.

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The show really blew us away, especially the APO’s rendition of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

It was, and I’m not kidding, a thrill. When you hear something like that performed live, you realize what is missing from the recording you have heard is the physicality of the performance.

It’s a jagged, forceful, peripatetic work. It has been ripped off by every Hollywood composer ever tasked with building suspense into a score.

They also played Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, which I happened to be listening to in the car earlier that day.

And Night in the Gardens of Spain, an orchestral piece featuring Steven Osborne on Piano, by a Spanish composer I didn’t know, De Falla.

De Falla provided an interesting juxtaposition to Stravinsky, whose Rite of Spring made its infamous debut in Paris in 1913. If Stravinsky’s jagged edges anticipated the war that everyone knew was coming, De Falla was already pining for the old days when he finished the sentimental Night in the Gardens… in 1915, a year after the slaughter had begun.

I never would have thought about this stuff if those two elderly matrons of the arts hadn’t suffered cardiac events.

They didn’t get to see the show, but at least they got to spend time together in the ambulance.

Right after Night in the Gardens, the audience gave Steven Osborne a long and well-deserved round of applause.

Then, somewhat unexpectedly, a well dressed matron of the arts entered the stage to present Osborne with a huge bouquet.

It was fun to watch him being rewarded for a good job. The woman gave Osborne a kiss on the cheek and he accepted the bouquet and she walked off stage.

At this point, I’m kind of ready to stop clapping and get on with my life.

But everybody else kept going, as a new woman came out to deliver another bouquet with a kiss on the cheek.

The second woman left and we clapped some more and then two woman came out wheeling a service cart with a large covered platter on top of it.

They rolled the cart right in front of Osborne and lifted the cover to reveal a roast boar, which made Osborne laugh as he started to eat it.

So they kissed Osborne on the mouth, and left, and we clapped some more until we heard this very loud car engine from the back of the house.

We all turned to look as this monster truck came roaring down the center aisle, driven by an albino man in a leopard skin costume with a trained tiger riding shotgun.

Osborne, elbow deep in boar, was delighted, and laughed heartily as the albino drove the monster truck over the piano back and forth a dozen times until the instrument was completely flat.

Then the albino leaped out of the truck, along with the tiger, and they both proceeded to lick Osborne’s face, to the delight of some of the younger people in the audience.

The albino gave the pianist a set of keys, then trotted with his tiger back up the center aisle and out into a waiting taxi we could all see through a monster truck shaped hole where the doors used to be.

And on and on.

So, yeah, despite that little awkwardness, Jacquie and I are thinking we might subscribe to APO’s 2014 season.

Which I think would make my art teacher proud.

If nothing else, I can at least incorporate my rekindled love of culture in some kind of writing project.

Maybe I’ll start a blog.

Haunted menorah revitalizes NZ Halloween

Halloween is only two weeks away, and New Zealand is nowhere close to ready.

Back in America, they’re already piping Christmas elevator music at the Duane Reade.

We don’t even have a Duane Reade. Or elevators.

People, we are way behind.

Are we really going to do this again? Pretend nobody’s home on Halloween night, until the visitors give up and move on to Australia?

The least we could’ve done last year was put a bowl of candy out on the tarmac. It’s more than three hours to Sydney.

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You guys. We need to do some soul-searching.

We are too house proud to be known as the neighborhood party pooper.

We need a plan.

This isn’t about going over the top. It’s about finding the mid-point between what’s tasteful and what’s West Auckland.

Good taste isn’t everyone’s “thing” here. And I dig, man, given New Zealand’s reputation for working toward a fuller life, not simply for the festoons of wealth.

Shit, man. You are the thriftiest, most resourceful, self-sufficient sheep-fuckers anyone has ever met. Nobody’s arguing with you there.

Indeed, your pluck is the envy of the world. You’ve worked toward an easier life in New Zealand, whether you came here by waka, merchant vessel, or airplane under heavy sedation folded up inside some strange woman’s carry-on luggage.

That thing you did, turning most of the native brush into grazing land? Classic!

And wiping every Moa and Huia off the face of the earth? That’s the kind of do-it-yourself project that makes even America seethe with jealousy.

And that’s the only country in history to have vaporized two cities.

So what am I getting at?

Atomic weapons,  Halloween and Christmas decorations?

Well, I forgot.

Unlike some countries I’ve lived in, New Zealand does not rely heavily on ever-ballooning credit card debt to prop its economy.

That means, in short, there is no strong commercial motivation for retailers to shove the holiday spirit down your throat, no matter how much you want them to get you drunk.

It also means there is a relatively discrete level of holiday hard-selling in supermarkets and malls. Thus, fewer decorations. See?

You can wheel your cart down the aisles at Countdown oblivious to the calendar, which many Kiwis have been doing since the Muldoon years.

(Frankly, most Kiwis wheel their carts down the aisles oblivious to everything, which makes shopping so awful. I blame Muldoon.)

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That’s the opposite of what happens in America.

Last time I went Christmas shopping in New York City, back in 2007, it was very obnoxious.

This one store had a decorated tree, a children’s choir, and a security guard dressed as Santa, who held a gun to my head because I hadn’t bought enough shit.

“You get back in that fucking Duane Reade or so help me your brains will be all over the sidewalk, you hear me?” Santa came to say. “What kind of asshole gets ten-packs of Tic Tacs and nothing else for Christmas? That’s not a gift. That’s a stocking stuffer.”

“But I’m half Jewish,” I said.

“You stingy motherfucker,” Santa said. “You get back inside and look for the Hanukkah section.”

Then he cocked his side-arm and pressed the muzzle into my mouth. “You think I won’t? You think I won’t?”

I really don’t miss that retail aggressiveness. I mean the guard with the gun was ok, but did he have to dress as Santa? It’s too much.

Anyway, that’s the kind of shit that goes on in America, and it starts weeks before Halloween.

New Zealand needs something that isn’t over the top like in America, but isn’t too beige either.

That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Haunted Seven-Candle Menorah, now on display through Halloween. Only in Parnell.

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Halloween will never be the same again, with the establishment of the Haunted Seven-Candle Menorah.

As the only Haunted Seven-Candle Menorah display in the entire South Pacific, it’s certain to become not only a local feature of the Halloween season, but also a major tourist attraction.

Global demand for a Haunted Seven-Candle Menorah has never been higher.

Extensive market research via social media channels indicates that 85 percent of seven people around the world would “like” to see the only Haunted Menorah in the South Pacific.

Fifty-seven percent of those who would like to see it, would pay for it. Another 27 percent would pay, but only if admission included a complimentary fold-up laundry drying wrack.

The Haunted Menorah display is an unprecedented opportunity for New Zealand to celebrate its diversity, and tick off the Halloween box at the same time.

There is more to the Haunted Menorah than pumping up the tourism trade with “shock” “entertainment” “value” for the whole family.

Research also points to a unique cross-cultural, educational opportunity, a chance for New Zealand’s gentiles to add dimension to their dearly-held ethnic stereotyping of Jews. Indeed, according to the survey, 27 percent of respondents who would pay to see the Haunted Menorah, would also like to learn about its long, rich history, from its origin as a prop in the movie Frankenstein’s Bar Mitzvah to making landfall in Auckland in 2009.

What a history it has.

My part goes back to 2004.

Jacquie had recently been licensed to practice nursing in New York State.

Her first job was taking care of wretched, fossil-assed Park Avenue dandies, the only people in America who could afford Jacquie’s services.

Anyway, Jacquie was taking care of this 87-year-old British expat who’d suffered a series of bad strokes, and had to spend much of his time in bed because of the subsequent tennis elbow.

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One stormy night, the British guy fell asleep, and Jacquie went into his library to see if there were any books she wanted to steal.

Suddenly, the British guy appeared in the doorway, and started talking about the seven-candle menorah on one of the shelves.

Apparently, his father had been a producer at Hammer Studios, famous for its vampire-mummy-werewolf style horror movies.

He said the menorah was a prop from the studios never-released 1958 buddy-horror flick, Frankenstein’s Bar Mitzvah, starring Peter Cushing and Henny Youngman.

The studio lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on the doomed flick, and they blamed the menorah.

The bloke said it was his most prized possession.

Then he keeled over from a massive heart attack.

Acting solely on professional instinct, Jacquie leaped to his side, grabbed the menorah and ran.

And it’s been running with us ever since then.

The bottom line is, everyone is sick and tired of the same old haunted hay rides and corn mazes. New Zealanders and the world alike hanker after pointless, time consuming novelty.

So, America, listen up. If you don’t have any plans for Halloween, come on down and visit the Haunted Menorah. You’re not welcome inside my house, but there’s a backpacker’s hostel down the block.

Bumped into the doldrums

This past week pretty much blew chunks.

I quit smoking and haven’t had a cigarette in more than eight days. But that has nothing to do with how shitty I think everything is.

It’s sort of just the icing on the cake. Whatever the root cause, it’s been an unpleasant distraction.

Look at this picture, for example. It’s of a Beach Road business that offers a very special service.

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I haven’t a single god damned clue what ageaing is, but I’m totally against it.

You should always be suspicious of and hostile to words that sound funny. And then act violently toward it.

And it’s stupid things like that window which have filled my brain this past week. Also, for example

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The only people who would find this picture fascinating, and not always for different reasons, are mental patients and the unemployed.

I’m covered, in any event.

But why is this happening to me right now? I’ll tell you my theory. I’m in the doldrums. I’m unemployed, middle-aged, and I spend most of my waking hours having one way conversations with a cat. And despite all these advantages, I still feel like there’s something wrong.

Episodes of Tina? Finished. Advertising scripts? Done. There was nothing needed finishing. This post has been in draft since Tuesday. There was no wind in my sails.

Like all sailors before the steam ship, I literally was stuck in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, so to speak. (The fact that I also suffer from rickets is immaterial).

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But that still doesn’t answer how one gets stuck in the doldrums. In this day and age, with our modern satellites and mood stabilizing drugs.

The answer is you have to be put there. Something has to set you off.

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What did it for me. What really pushed me over the edge into a brown study.

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What really set me thinking that I’d hit rock bottom, and froze my career and my life in its tracks.

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Was the fact that I was bumped from an open mic for standup comedians.

Never in my entire three-and-a-half week standup comedy career have I been subjected to such contemptible treatment.

I didn’t even think it was possible to get bumped from an open mic. I thought the whole idea of an open mic was to give people a chance. Not to dash their dreams of one day co-starring in a movie with Rob Schneider.

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And what about my free speech rights, and my rights as an American citizen to get anything I want, whenever I want it?

Snatch needs to understand they didn’t just prevent an aspiring funny person from getting some microphone time. By denying me my rights, they are letting the terrorists win.

And we were doing so well until now.

Anyway, I think I have a solution that could benefit us all with a lot of free publicity. A frivolous lawsuit.

This is how it’s going to work. I’m going to tell the world that Snatch Bar bumped me from open mic because I’m Jewish. Voila. Instant publicity for everyone.

Our names will be in the news, but sadly, not as much as if I were a holocaust survivor, or even 100 percent Jewish for that matter. I’m sorry to report that my mother is gentile.

So when I hold my first press conference, I will explain that I am accusing you of semi-antisemitism. Or anti-semi-semitism. (I may use both.)

I think this fiasco would get Snatch a lot more than if someone, say, referred to Anne Frank as a slut.

Which I wouldn’t recommend.

So, let’s make this work, suing each other out of the doldrums.

A royal pain in the fanny

Kate Middleton’s water broke, flooding the internet with excitement.

I’ve tried to ignore the hyperventilated media coverage of the Duchess of Cambridge. The wedding. The pregnancy. The identity of the real father.

But, this topic is hard to avoid, man. It’s like the world has been taken over by extraterrestrial pod-people and I’m the last real human, because I’m the only one left that doesn’t give a shit about Kate Middleton’s foo foo or the thing that is scheduled to pop out of it shortly.

Leda and the Swan, Leonardo da Vinci, between 1505 and 1510.

Leda and the Swan, Leonardo da Vinci, between 1505 and 1510.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the occasional musing over adult female genitalia as much as the next lesbian, or heterosexual male.

What I don’t understand is why so many everyday people care what enters or exits this particular no-no zone.

Is it really huge? Will they be measuring the dilation in meters? Were its contractions somehow connected to the spate of earthquakes in New Zealand the other day?

Or is it the birthing process that intrigues people? You can go to any old dairy farm to watch a calving. You could probably even perform the insemination, if you paid the farmer enough.

But you don’t see a lot people going out of their way to ogle cows dropping placentas. Because that’s kind of gross.

Nor do you see Kate Middleton’s family letting any old guy off the street come into the house to inseminate her for a small fee.  Because Kate Middleton is considered oh so special.

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Is the fascination all because of the royal thing? I’m willing to entertain the idea that royal reproduction differs from human reproduction. In fact, if I knew that the blessed day would involve, say, the baby violently bursting from its host’s abdomen, I’d be obsessed over it, too.

I know. Not likely.

So, maybe the baby is something special, not the mother? Help me out here. Is this child expected to start talking as soon as the royal meat curtains are parted? Even before the Royal Tasters can lick the afterbirth from its skin? (ie, “Hey, you missed some.”)

Will it be able to control people with its telekinetic powers?

Village of the Damned

That would be cool. But also, not very likely. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if this baby didn’t even know how to wipe its own ass when it was born. It probably won’t ever have to, just like Justin Bieber.

At least that’s what we’re told by the media.

We have been deluged by the media with this stupid pregnancy. And a lot of people around the world are eating it up.

Paparazzi, pensioners and other social leeches have been camped for weeks outside the hospital where the Duchess was to spawn.

They are making this into a tawdry spectacle.

Frankly, I find the whole the spectator aspect tasteless.

I mean, look at this guy.

the royal fanny

Out of the way, you arse. You’re blocking our shot.

And whatever the media points to, the mindless hordes consume, without question.

For example, several stories about how the Middletons didn’t want to know the baby’s gender  have come out, leading to all kinds of speculation on social media.

Come on, people. Think. This baby is special. It’s not limited to one gender. If it wants to keep both genders for a while, and decide later, that’s its Royal prerogative.

Another outlet has gone so far as to predict that Prince William and the Duchess are going to be awesome parents. I really hope so. It’s very difficult balancing parenthood with doing fuck-all all day. It’s harder, still, when you’re living on a shoe-string budget of £36.1 million a year. And with all these austerity hawks running around the globe, I’d advise the Middletons to keep a low profile.

Why, just the other day, the New Zealand government cut benefits of 3000 people after it was discovered they were receiving money they were not entitled to.

I don’t know how the welfare system works in England. But if government officials there ever found out that the Middletons’ child was not ordained by god to be third in line to the throne, there could be some investigations. After all, the last thing any government wants to do in these dire economic times is give away public tax dollars to cheats that aren’t entitled to them.

Anyway, maybe the problem isn’t people who love the royal family. I come from America. The Founding Fathers there didn’t think that destiny of a people should rest in the hands of an elite, by some antiquated notion of the Divine Rights of the King.

The Founding Fathers knew that power should be shared universally. Among all white, gentile male, well-off merchants and plantation owners.

[[first draft, lightly proofed. I’m not getting paid for this, so sue me. Photo courtesy of Jeff Gaunt, taken at Comic Con in San Diego.]]

Backhouse

Not long after we moved to Parnell, the occupant of 19 Earle Street next door, Mindfood magazine, relocated a few blocks away to Augustus Terrace.

That vacancy was filled later in 2012 by Backhouse.

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It took me more than a year to realize that the name did not refer to the furnishing of gazebos. Backhouse actually is the family that owns the business, which sells well-designed office and home furniture to architects and interior designers. (When you grow up in the Bronx, you meet a lot more Finkelsteins and Rodriguezes than you do a Backhouse. The ratio is 2:1)

Backhouse participated in the annual Urbis Design Day a showcase of design shops around Auckland, quite a few of them in Parnell.

For their part, Backhouse set up a lawn out front, as part of a bringing the outside in.

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Which meant Vince had to assert himself.

Furbis Design Day

Michelle Weir of Backhouse was kind enough to share this photo with me.

The feat from 35,000 views

Earlier this month, the Internet shuddered at the news that Basement Life had received its 35,000th page view.

I know, right? Classic rags-to-riches tale. Like Horatio Alger, without the irritating lice-plagued newsies trying to impress everyone with their hustle-bustle.

That kind of in-your-face, sleeves-up initiative that Alger peddled makes everyone who reads him so nauseous that they vomit in their Barnes and Noble bags.

So, tell you what, my fine, ambitious guttersnipe: get with the times, get to the fat fryer, and get me my happy meal before I gouge out your eyes with a frozen chicken nugget.

Sorry. As you can plainly see, all this blog business has elevated my mood slightly.

I mean, it’s not every day you find out that it has taken you three years to get people to read your work, for free, 35,000 times. Sure, most of them came to the website by deceit, the biggest one being that “Justin Bieber Naked” tag I put on every new post.

Now, it doesn’t bother me if you people want to see Justin Bieber Naked pictures, be you a 13-year-old girl, or a 41 year-old-man. And it doesn’t even bother me that adolescent girls and middle-aged gay men share the same taste in pop stars.

I can deal.

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But I can’t live with the fact that I have duped you people on so many occasions. Truth be told, there never were any pictures of Justin Bieber Naked to be found anywhere on Basement Life. And I knew.let it happen. I know how frustrating it can be when the web page you find has nothing to do with what you really wanted, and you already have your pants down. Believe me, friend, I’ve been there. So I’m sorry that I put you through this. And I’m especially sorry to the return visitors who faithfully stopped by everyday, in the hope that I might have changed my mind and posted a Naked Justin Bieber picture, after all.

It was the life. I got carried away. I’m not making excuses, but you have to understand, I was raised from a very young child to be one thing: the world’s most famous blogger. When I started out three years ago, I would have done anything—anyyyyythiiiiing—to wrack up 35,000 page views in three years, the internet equivalent to “going platinum”.

I did what had to be done. I’m not proud. And I’m no hero, make no mistake. And I ain’t got no compass. And I don’t what’s what. And I don’t know much about geology, don’t know much about epistemology, but I do know that the long-anticipated thrill of success left me a little hollow. A little empty.

Someone posted this Don DeLillo quote on Facebook recently. A writer takes earnest measures to secure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it. If getting 35,000 visits to a website on the false pretense of viewing an image of Justin Bieber isn’t quintessentially “squandering”, then I don’t know what is. That is to say, I guess I’m just a writer, I suppose.

Sunshine and rubbish

Parnell gets the best light of anywhere in Auckland.

Situated on a ridge with a north-western exposure, Parnell today is considered one of the city’s oldest suburbs situated on a ridge with a north-western exposure. This combination of ridge-sitting and northwestern-facing-ness joins together to form the most unique blending anyone could ask for in a neighborhood.

Pinko-Commie-bastard Samuel Duncan Parnell was the first newcomer to acknowledge that “Parnell is chocka sunshine”.

Geyser Parnell at corner of Garfield Street

It’s a lot more fun walking in Parnell than in most other neighborhoods here, which tend to be huge stretches of dull, suburban landscapes, better to drive through than to walk.

The pedestrian-scale streets, bestride with both residential and commercial properties make you really believe that Auckland is a city, after all.

Parnell does a New Yorker’s heart good, especially the rubbish. Nothing is more urban-ish than trash. And nothing helps to create a better sense of neighborhood than picking through your neighbor’s garbage. We always did that growing up. Where else do you think we got all our furniture? (The old black-and-white set we found never worked, but we always got a kick out of the rat that was trapped behind the screen).

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It’s easy just to say, ‘hello’ to someone in passing on the way to work. But when you take the trouble to find out about somebody first, you turn a casual greeting into a powerful community building moment. In fact, just the other day, I was able to let the woman in Apartment 6 know that I was “there for her” when we saw each other in the laundry room.

“How are you going?” she said.

A lot better than you,” I told her. “Thank god for the morning-after pill, eh?”

Jacquie later explained to me that the reason why the woman in Apartment 6 ran off crying was probably because she felt embarrassed and vulnerable that I had been so prying as to look through her rubbish. I hastened to point out that, technically speaking, it wasn’t really “her rubbish” once it was in the rubbish bin, and that if she didn’t want the neighborhood nosing in her business, she shouldn’t have left her morning-after pill packaging lying around in the third bag from the top mixed in with some the remains of a Chinese take-away and a whole lot of used kitty litter.

If that’s how it’s going to be, then I won’t be doing much community building anymore. As Jesus said, a community builder is never welcome on his own block.

The trash problem isn’t always found in the rubbish bin, I’m afraid. As the New Zealand Herald reported two weeks ago, there was a bag of rubbish found on the street in Parnell. That was right outside our house. One morning, I went out there and it was right in the middle of the road, obviously tossed from the driver’s side of a moving car.

Stubborn as I am, I decided to give neighborhood-building one more chance. Against my better judgement, and feeling taken for granted, I decided to remove the litter.

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It was one of those plastic grocery bags, and from a distance, it seemed to be the remains of a meal from a Subway sandwich shop.

It turned out to be much more than that. It was a window into the mysterious Parnell folkways. Inside the bag with the Subway wrapper were also an empty can of Red Bull, a plastic baggy filled with the remains of a crystalline substance, and the crème de la crème, a used condom. All of which spilled through a previously undetected hole, and onto the road, splashing at my feet as I picked it up off the ground.

Needless to say, my community spirit began to flag. On the bright side, I found a used condom, and what a fascinating find it turned out to be. Through scientific methodology and analysis, one can determine what the typical date of a Parnell-couple consists of.

The single Subway sandwich wrapper is indicative of the sophistication and refined taste that Parnell is known for. What it also tells us is that the couple either shared a sandwich, or more likely, one part of the couple ate the sandwich while the other one was forced to watch. Washed down with a Red Bull, followed by the snorting and/or smoking of the crystalline substance, it was promising to be a very romantic evening, which is obviously where the condom comes in. Finally, the hole in the plastic bag, chucked out of the driver’s side window, was probably due to being dropped while at a high speed, a sure sign that the driver had an important engagement to attend to after dropping his or her partner off somewhere (presumably while the car was at a rest).