Depression

Am I still a New Yorker?

The sound of gushing water interrupted my workflow this evening.

It came on suddenly, from behind one of the walls in the kitchen.

I ran over to see that puddles had already formed on the ground. It was coming through the ceiling and down the walls inside a cabinet we use to stow drinking glasses. The shelves also puddled and the glasses were filling up and overflowing to the lower shelves, ultimately to pool at my feet. The water was warm to the touch.

That’s exactly when I remember! My upstairs neighbor is pregnant. “Mazel Tov,” I shout to the ceiling. The young lady’s water has finally broken, her fluids cascading to the lower floors, for all to share in her joyful event.

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So I rush upstairs to wish her congratulations, just as her husband comes to the door.

“I know. We’re calling a plumber,” he says.

“OK, but wouldn’t you prefer a midwife or a maternity ward?”

“What are you talking about? The hot water pipe under our sink burst.”

“OHhhhh,” I said. “I thought maybe your wife’s water broke and that’s what was spilling into my kitchen, and I was going to say congratulations, and ask when she could clean it up.”

“My son was born a month ago,” this guys says, and then slams his door in my face. Can you believe that? For a joke, I go call the emergency operator to say my neighbor was going into labor again, second time in a month. But they weren’t buying my story about how it was a conjoined twin, but it was just coming a little later than his brother. Just like Jacob and Esau.

I can’t help thinking, after tonight’s social activity, that Auckland has turned me into a pussy. If this had happened in New York City, and my neighbor’s wife broke her water, and it flooded into my kitchen, and this shit was going on FOR A MONTH after the first conjoined twin was born, it would have been a lot more disagreeable, and thus a more hilarious outcome than having a door slammed in my face. We would have screamed at each other. Then the husband would have slammed the door in my face, and the plumber would have come an hour later to plunge the rest of the baby out of the clogged womb.

It feels bad when a good part of who you are begins to fade. Maybe not as bad as when a guy turns 60 or so and his penis starts to telescope back up into his pelvic delta like a scared turtle. But close.

New York city was my home, man. It was the Petri-dish in which my cells flourished, as if I were one huge aggregation of E Coli, bred in a research laboratory. But only as a side project for one of the technicians.

It’s been four-and-a-half years since my wife held me at gunpoint, hijacked a plane, and flew us to Auckland. And three and a half years since I was seized with Stockholm Syndrome. I guess this is how long it takes to start noticing when a part of you has died.

A couple weeks back, I had a chance to gauge my remaining New Yorkiness by a scientifically sound list I found on Buzzfeed.

It was a list of 35 things New Yorkers do, and I wanted to see if I still did them.

In the first place, when I lived in New York, I actively gave little to no fuck about Internet memes. So, one strike against me, and I haven’t gotten to the list. Seriously, I only yesterday learned about goatse.cx (circa 1999) from my friend and former colleague, Super Generic Girl, who emigrated here years before me, from a small peasant village on the Iberian peninsula.

The saddest realization an exiled New Yorker finds immediately are all the things they once enjoyed doing, but can’t now because they live at the last Rest Area before the Americas (for Australians that need to use the john, or to buy some crisps). Complaining about the cable provider (#1) is simply a cliche. I miss complaining about a lot of things, but that was never my biggest complaint. I mean as far as cable was concerned, I had more trouble explaining certain Pay-per-View purchases I made at my girlfriends’ apartments. It’s more about things like looking up at night to check what color the Empire State Building (#28) and trying to figure out what the display commemorates, as it changes from day to day. And riding over a bridge on the subway or in a cab, look at the skyline, and remember why you live here in the first place (#35) makes me cry. I know, it’s like the opening of Manhattan: saccharine, overly sentimental-ised, but fucking true.

Panorama of New York at Flushing Meadow. One of my favorite places in the city.

Panorama of New York at Flushing Meadow. One of my favorite places in the city.

There are a bunch of other things I can’t do because Auckland is so different from New York. I really can’t eat at “food trucks” (#10) because there’s, like, really just one, and that’s only there because the owner was a restraunteur who’d run out of petrol and said, “she’ll be right,” and set up shop right where he stopped. I also can not eat bagels as drunk food (#22) because I would not stick whatever passes for a bagel in New Zealand in my worst enemy’s mouth. Or in their bums. It would be a disaster. There might even be a diplomatic incident.

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Alley in the Bronx near my childhood home, which was in a different alley.

There are a lot of things on that list I never did, or stopped doing before we moved here in 2009. For example, use to complain incessantly about brunch, but still go to brunch ($4), but I stopped that a long time ago. Mostly because people didn’t usually invite me to brunch a second time.

Weather related complaints such as the lack of central AC in your apartment building (#26), irrationally angry tweeting every time it rains (#9) and always wishing it were another season (#12 and #13) don’t carry over, but do have distant cousins here. The folk-joke about Auckland’s temperamental, Ocean-powered climate is “Four Seasons in a Day” to which I sometimes add, “And all of them are winter”. So fuck you. I’ve got my own problems.

Videon's cute sense of humor. It's almost too cute.

Videon’s cute sense of humor. It’s almost too cute. This is a video rental place that makes me less homesick, especially for Photoplay in Greenpoint.

Which brings me, at last, to those things that I still do, those quintessential “New York” qualities that four years of New Zealand haven’t managed to leech out of me just yet.

The most obvious is cursing a lot (#7). As you might have gathered from reading thus far, I fucking curse more than fucking ever. I shit you not. Back in New York, Jacquie said everyone in New Zealand curses like a sailor who just found out that his favorite prostitute of seven years in one particular port has been a transvestite all along. That’s what I’m fucking talking about. I took Jacquie’s advice in my professional dealings, and I’ve had some pretty fucking colorful conversations with my contacts in the New Zealand IT business sector when I was editor for Reseller News. Which, now that I think of it, may explain why I’m currently unemployed.

I frankly can not see how a New Yorker can manage life in New Zealand without cursing a lot. Have you tried their bagels? Don’t even fucking bother.

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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.

How to tell your loved-ones that you’re out of a job

Well, the cat’s out of the bag.

A guy who works with my wife told Jacquie that I was getting canned. He’d read about it on my blog.

Thanks a lot, douche-bag. Do you realize the shit-storm you’ve caused? Jacquie didn’t even know I was writing a blog, let alone that I was being made redundant.

I hope your huge gaping mouth gets so cavernous that all your teeth fall out. Then I hope on your way to the dentist they jump back into your mouth. And then when you cancel your appointment, your teeth fall out again, and so on and so forth, in perpetuity, ad infinitum. No offense, but I’d watch that on TV. An endless loop of your teeth falling out of your mouth then jumping back in. That would amuse me.

Have you considered a career in children's parties, corporate functions, and gardens/

Who hasn’t considered a career in children’s entertainment, Renaissance Weekends, or just hanging around outside a stranger’s house all the time?  I can’t wait to discover the opportunities that await me when I wear red lipstick.

Now on top of all my other problems, I have to deal with Jacquie knowing about one of my problems?

For your information, you greasy rat-weasel, I was going to tell Jacquie. I have always said that the secret to a successful marriage is transparency. That’s why it’s crucial to open up and be honest with your partner as soon as you realize you’re about to be caught in a lie.

Anyway, this rat weasel co-worker of Jacquie’s has thrown my schedule off by months. I was going to break it to her in September. End-of-the year, at the latest.

I may have time to go back to weightlifting

I may have time to go back to weightlifting.

I had the story all worked out. With my redundancy pay coming in one lump sum next month, I’d have to account for the surge in our bank account. I’d tell Jacquie that it was from some freelance work I was doing for the Mongrel Mob, but it was nothing to be concerned about. It would be just, you know, a little money laundering. Because my employers required discretion, I would be forced to tell people I was an office administrator for the Mongrel Mob.

I would lead Jacquie to believe that the Mongrel Mob Human Resources Director was going to offer me a permanent role, and that this would be a more lucrative alternative to print media. Then when Jacquie noticed no income in September, I’d confess. I’d tell her the Mongrel Mob let me go for incompetency. Jacquie would totally buy that story. And being canned by the Mongrel Mob would make getting laid off by Fairfax as not such a bad thing after all. Not in the scheme of things.

I can forget that plan now. It would have worked. And I would have had three months of doing nothing but what I wanted to do. Hang around a random stranger’s house dressed as a Gnome.

Jacquie isn’t really keen on that idea, now that her asshole friend spilled the beans. She’s more concerned about my prospects, about being realistic. She wants me to find a balance between my dreams and the incredible amount of housework she expects me to do once I was fully fledged “redundo”, as my friend Craig calls it. (I prefer the term “differently abled” myself.)

She’s also worried that an unemployment-triggered downgrading of my mental health will become a nuisance, and perhaps interfere with her enjoyment of boring BBC costume dramas ultimately derived from Ford Maddox Ford’s fucked-up life.

“Don’t take this situation as an excuse to fall into a self-indulgent depression,” Jacquie says. “Because that would be annoying. I have enough to deal with at work.”

Which is exactly what Sylvia Tietjens said to Christopher Tietjens in Parade’s End, just after she cuts his penis off and tosses it from a moving train.

Jacquie didn’t stop there, and now that she’s found my blog and is reading over the archives, I feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg. I guess I know one thing I’ll be doing through my redundancy: accounting for my past sins.

Portrait of Jacquie

New management consultancy takes the workers’ side, for a change

Do you often daydream of the day “they” put you in charge for a while?

Are you frustrated by having your most brilliant ideas dismissed by your CEO, because they are “completely irrelevant to what we do as a company” supposedly?

Has your CIO instituted a BYOD policy, without explaining how it will impact your mobile workplace consumption of adult entertainment?

Are you looking to get the most out of your busy day, through the optimization of bathroom visits, coffee breaks and personal internet shopping?

A lot of consultants would be more than happy to answer these questions, for a price.

Air guitar businessman

And with an obvious agenda. The fact is, business consultants are in the business of helping other businesses do business better with better best-practices essential to a business’ core business. Their recommendations will always represent the interests of management, without taking into consideration the feelings of you, the every working stiffs of Parnell.

Let’s face it. Nothing you say or do will ever dissuade your employer of the absurd belief that he is the boss of you. There is a disconnect here. You are the boss of you! Everyone knows that. You’ve made this fact abundantly clear throughout your prolonged adolescence. But your boss doesn’t care.

In these difficult times (unlike all the other times, which passed so smoothly, we hardly noticed), everyday-working-Jo(e)s need an adviser, someone to help them navigate the treacherous currents of their dead-end careers. Someone who’s been there, and done that, and is willing to revisit the entire nightmare on behalf of people who don’t know what they’re in for. I want to be that person.

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I want to share with you my learnings from almost 20 years in the workplace. My core-competencies may have shifted over that time, but I think I have a good story to tell going forward. And I can tell it in the fresh, original language that only a storyteller with skin in the game can add value as we take this journey.

Occasionally, or probably never, I will post advice in response to the hot items that impact you, the cornflower-blue-collared Working-stiffs of Parnell. Drawing from an erratically elliptic career, bridging two centuries, I will tell you how to feign interest in workplace gossip; give you my top ten cyber-stalking do’s and dont’s; make an argument for wearing Birkenstocks to work every day (not just dress-down Friday); having fun with PowerPoint; and much, much more.

So stop by once in a while, in the off-chance that I actually follow-through with this dumb-ass idea.

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.

Midlife crisis, on the cheap

When I was nine or ten, I made a solemn vow.

“One day, long after I’ve grown into a man,” I pledged, “I will divorce my wife and run off with my secretary, who will be half my age.”

Reality, of course, does not always work out the way we plan. And there isn’t always a happy ending. And we learn to enjoy the contours of our lives, taking solace in those precious moments when we are alone and can sob bitter tears of regret over the dreadful hands that fate has cruelly dealt us. That’s called aging gracefully, the acceptance that we do not earn nearly enough money to afford a really awesome mid-life crisis.

Not like the ones our fathers and grandfathers took for granted.

If my generation was led at a very young age to believe the big lie, we have only our print media to blame. After all, the one thing I learned as a schoolboy from my friend’s father’s Playboy magazines, was that I would have it all. The cherry red mustang, the shapely college cheerleader, the pack of Newports with 17% less tar, and the bottle of Old Spice. It was all supposed to be there for the asking.

Since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, there has been a lot less home equity available to men of my age and older. Consequently, for the first time since the Great Depression, the average middle-class, balding, shriveled up, overweight heterosexual American male could not afford to sustain a respectable mid-life crisis. The men of my generation are only now confronting this shocking truth, right at the point in our lives when our penises are starting to slowly but inevitably telescope up into our abdomens, where they will eventually disappear altogether within the fleshy, adipose folds surrounding our crotches.

All is not lost, though. You can enjoy a decent midlife crisis without breaking the bank! You just have to think creatively. Instead of buying real Ray Ban sunglasses that can run as high as $900 a pair, just buy the $20 Ray Bans the next time you fill your car with gas. That’s how I’m doing it. Instead of a Mustang convertible, I roll down the window of my Honda Civic and stick my head out while I’m driving. Instead of a mistress, I have a kitty. And instead of a venereal disease, I have a feline venereal disease. Midlife crisis, with all the fixings.

You know how I know I’m middle-aged? Because today, someone posted this on Facebook.

And I realized that there would be a lot of people out there who wouldn’t get that joke. And that would be for most of them because they were born after me. A long time after me. Like, I was doing adult type shit before they even existed, and now I’m closer to dead than I am to childhood aspirations for satisfying mid-life crises. But they’re not.

But I took out my depression on two who were very dear to my heart. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. And I wrote horrible things about them on Facebook.

I wrote that Uncle Owen was a “martinet”, and that I was glad “they did him”. Uncle Owen was always like “Luke do this; Luke do that; Luke, there’s going to be hell to pay; Luke, it’s time for your colonic.” Poor Luke. And the worst part about it? Uncle Owen wouldn’t let Luke waste time with his friends picking up power converters at the Toshi Station, until all of Luke’s chores were done.

If I were Luke, I’d be like “fuck that” then use the force to put a cap in the motherfucker’s ass. Uncle Owen gets in my way? He’s got to fall. Because, let’s face it, that’s what Luke was like. “Toshi Station” and “power converters” were such a transparent euphemism for “losing one’s virginity at a whorehouse full of Jawas”.  Uncle Owen wasn’t a fool. He knew what went on at that cab stand. That’s why the chores were never-ending.

I could have continued. But a silence seemed to have descended over Facebook. It was as if nobody knew what I was talking about. And the only possible explanation for that, beyond the unlikely suggestion that I am incoherent, is that those people are too young to even understand.

Crowdsourcing shame and disgust

Never take it for granted that people are assholes.

Because there’s ample evidence to justify your bias.

Nobody knows this more than an ex-smoker like me.

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so hard for me to quit smoking, and why I ended up smoking two cigarettes this week, you don’t have to look far for the answer.

It’s your fault. For being an asshole.

You see, when a smoker gives up cigarettes, it’s like the scales fall from your eyes, man.

You start to perceive just how despicable everybody is. This new clarity of vision, curiously enough, improves in proportion to how much you want a cigarette. Who knew.

The fact is, everyone in your life, from your spouse and children, to your colleagues and friends, to your service professionals and spiritual advisers, is an asshole, more or less.

The active ingredient in tobacco, nicotine, is an insidious drug. It mimics Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter indirectly responsible for the idea that people you know are “not so bad”. This delusion metabolizes completely within 72 hours after your last cigarette. By a week in on your quit, your ability to perceive the truly insufferable character of everyone you knows has completely returned.

I’ve certainly noticed over the last week what many ex-smokers claim. Namely, that their ability to detect assholes is far keener than those who have never smoked.

I’ll give you an example. The dairy near my work. From August 2011 through Friday, October 12, I smoked just under a pack a day. Sometimes I’d go to the dairy near Fairfax media to buy some Marlboro Gold.

The place is owned by a recent immigrant family from somewhere in eastern Asia, probably China. Every time I came in, the entire family would stop what they were doing to greet me. The mother could be out back sorting stock, and the father in the toilet with diarrhea, and the cousin or daughter is in class down at Uni. When you come in they stop. Whatever they’re doing they’ll drop so they can come out to say hello. And you cannot proceed with any transaction until each member of the village is satisfied that they have made you feel at home in their shop.

The mother comes in from the stockroom saying hello, the father comes out of the toilet and says hello, and if the cousin or daughter can’t be there in person, she will at least call in to the store to make sure the customer understands just how seriously they take hospitality.

Back when I was a smoker, nicotine had me fooled into thinking this was a good thing. How thoughtful and caring did their small talk about the weather seem. Of course, now I realise how wrong I was. They weren’t being nice. They were cloying and solicitous and generally overbearing. They made the simple prospect of purchasing a tin of mints more like what I imagine the experience of being shivved in a prison exercise yard to be. And I owe this revelation to quitting cigarettes, which has given me an acuity few possess.

In the week since I’ve quit smoking, mostly, I’ve wondered, is it really necessary for the entire village to greet me every time I come in to purchase a $3.50 item? Wouldn’t it be preferable if there was a single representative to speak on behalf of the group, so as not to interrupt so many people in their work?

By the way, I suspect this is only partly due to cultural practices the family brought with them from China. The pervasive mercantile culture in Auckland ranges wildly. There are, of course, people that I like, such as the owner of Videon, and a few bartenders at the now re-done “Fat Controller”. But there are also people at clothing stores at the mall who say things like, “isn’t shopping at the mall great” ranging to a notorious real estate agent from Barfoot and Thompson,covering Mt Eden, Eden Terrace and Kingsland. If this agent shows you an apartment for rent, don’t ask her anything, like how many jackpoints are there, or what the square footage is, because her only answer is, “How should I know?”

This kind of insight has been opening my eyes since I mostly quit smoking. I say mostly because I did smoke a couple of cigarettes when I had to give a brief presentation on the sixth day since I’d gone cold turkey.

It was an awards presentation my magazine co-sponsored and I was meant to give a little pitch for the brand. The thing is that not only had nicotine sharpened my insight of the proclivity among all my acquaintances to being assholes.

My brain was also stirred with electrical activity. I became anxious, haunted by the strange thought that perhaps I should store my semen in a sperm bank, undergo a sex change operation, and have myself inseminated with my own seed, specifically so that I could claim both maternity and paternity leave and get the next 16 months off from work.

When I told Jacquie, a psychiatric nurse by profession, she wasn’t very surprised. But she did raise a good point.

“You might find that difficult,” she said. “How are you going to inseminate yourself when a sex change operation does not include a uterus?”

“I would insist on it,” I said.

And I would. Technically speaking, I was just asking for the right that every man and woman takes for granted whenever they successfully procreate: it’s the constitutional right to fuck myself by having a kid.

Plus, I’m a fighter. “Not without my child” is my motto.

Deep down, however, I knew Jacquie was right. The acquisition of a uterus was just a pipe dream.

It was in this nicotine-deprived and disappointed state of mind that I prepared my two-minute presentation for the awards show. I arrived for the rehearsal, which went by pretty quickly, and suddenly found myself with hours to kill before the event.

This wasn’t going to be a demanding presentation. But the idea of public speaking can sometimes have a deleterious effect on me. I count this as the main reason I never made it past the open mic circuit as a standup comedian. That, and I wasn’t funny.

This might have been because to cure stage fright, I would always drink heavily before my set. That way, by the time I got to the microphone, I was on the edge of blacking out. Which was really the most amusing part of my routine. It was just easy on Thursday to revert to my public presentation form. I drank two glasses of champagne before it was my turn to go up on stage.

The longer I waited the more anxious I became, and with these terrible thoughts off public embarrassment and asexual reproduction floating through my head, I caved, and purchased a $17 pack of cigarettes (not my brand) and smoked a cigarette, which immediately made me feel light-headed, but not quite euphoric, thanks to an overwhelming sense of nausea.

In fact, I was so green that during my two-minute presentation several member of the audience interrupted me, I think to see if I was ok or if I needed an ambulance. Pretty soon, it was over, though, and things returned to normal. Because I realized that everyone that interrupted my speech to see if were ok were actually a bunch of assholes.

Summer loving, had me a blast

I’m tired of people complaining about how crappy the summer has been in New Zealand.

Sure, the Kiwi capital, Wellington, has recorded the highest number of cloudy days since the Kelburn weather station started tracking them in 1928.

And, yeah, maybe this disruption to average days of sunlight, temperature and rainfall has flipped seasonal purchasing patterns on their heads.

But why should I waste my beautiful mind on any of that?

Instead of ruing the 20 percent year-over-year drop in sun-block and ice cream purchases, I choose to celebrate the 24 percent increase in over-the-counter cold remedies. Way to go, influenza.

An important thing to keep in mind is, technically, there are still a few more weeks before the autumnal equinox. So, don’t worry, New Zealand. There’s plenty of time to catch a nasty head cold.

What I can’t gloss over with my usual optimism and Pollyanna thinking is the fact that I can’t lay blame for this inclement summer on living in New Zealand. Typically, I find it quite easy to cast all of life’s irritations and setbacks on my decision to migrate here.

From my disgusting trichotillomania to the tattered remnants of my sense of humor, there isn’t one circumstance that I can’t find a causal relationship with this frontier existence. Yet, try as I might, I can’t say this weather stuff is a function of New Zealand’s oceanic isolation or Latitude, per se. The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research says we’re at the tail end of a La Niña weather pattern.

Meanwhile, back home in the US, the lower-48 states have experienced higher than average winter temperatures—the fourth warmest January in more than 100 years—and record low snowfalls. Alaska has gone the other way with record lows.

At the risk of appearing to mistake weather for climate, it is unlikely these unusual patterns are unrelated. Global Climate Disruption, (yes I’m going there), is a far better term than Global Warming, considering how easy it is for vested interests to distort science in the public imagination. But whatever you want to call it, the theory supports an increased disruption to average historic atmospheric patterns. The Royal Society climate page summarizes nicely:

It is certain that increased greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and from land use change lead to a warming of climate, and it is very likely that these green house gases are the dominant cause of the global warming that has been taking place over the last 50 years.

Whilst the extent of climate change is often expressed in a single figure – global temperature – the effects of climate change (such as temperature, precipitation and the frequency of extreme weather events) will vary greatly from place to place.

This is true regardless of how a vainglorious, hick demagogue edited his wildly popular yet utterly depressing movie, which I watched under the influence of a bottle of vodka, having just seen Children of Men the day before. (One of the few cases in cinema history where the movie is far superior to the book, especially when you watch the DVD extras with Slavoj Žižek).

That movie depressed the hell out of me, not only because Clive Owen was in it, but because of Alfonso Cuarón’s deft contextualization of contemporary crises within one of the best-made battle scenes ever.

But I was severely depressed back then. Now that I’m only mildly depressed, I spend my time looking on the bright side of life.

That video comes from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory YouTube channel, which I recommend. The SDO is a satellite fitted with cameras aimed at the sun, tuned to varying wavelengths.

The SDO’s mission is to help understand “the Sun’s influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously”, according to the SDO website. It also provides some spectacular images.

Watching these videos, I can’t think of a better way to pass the long, cold days of summer.

The lame, tiresome, obligatory year-in-review

I love end-of-the-year countdowns and retrospectives.

Recalling what happened in the last 12 months brings sepia-toned tears to my eyes.

When I go to the toilet, I get nostalgic for the last meal I ate.

But, as sentimental as I am, when it came to writing a retrospective blog post for Basement Life, I was of two minds.

On the one hand, every newspaper, magazine, television show and blogger does this sort of hackneyed thing.

On the other hand, I just drank a bottle of Glenfiddich.

I also have a couple draft blog entries I wanted to use up before the new year. You know, so I could start 2012 clean.

So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the exciting events of 2011.

A milestone

2011 was a year of anniversaries.

Every day, it seemed, was an anniversary of something.

But September 29 was the most special because Jacquie and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary on that day.

I wasn’t sure what the traditional gift for number four was so I played it safe and got her nothing.

But when I got home from work that night, I saw her through the window, preparing my favorite meal of salt.

I had to think quickly and get her something she desperately needed at that moment.

Parsley.

And a Nivea deodorant sampler, which I’d found on the street a few weeks before, but held on to just in case I ever decided to start using deodorant.

Dodged a bullet on that one.

Other notable milestones include December 21, the second anniversary of Basement Life; November 2, the second anniversary of our arrival in New Zealand; and that’s pretty much it.

…And a millstone

The other thing that happened this year was I watched the entire Star Trek franchise—after the Captain Kirk years, which I’d seen too many times already—from The Next Generation, to Deep Space Nine to Voyager to Enterprise.

As regular visitors to this blog may recall, I started down this path of misery in the throes of a deep depression at the start of 2011. I thought that I could numb myself to my suffering. It seemed to be helping. But by the time I reached the final series to witness Scott Bakula’s performance as Captain Jonathan Archer, I realized that I was no longer just depressed, but that I also had lost the will to live.

Luckily, heavy medication and an accidental chemical lobotomy, the details of which are too disgusting to get into right now, protected me and I was able to finish watching Enterprise and learn a valuable lesson, too.

Before this series, I assumed that the formula for a successful Star Trek spinoff was simple: feature an alien chick in a skin tight space suit emphasizing her prominent gazongas, and you’re golden.

That was based on the assumption that the average Star Trek viewer had never matured past the oral/anal stage of development.

Enterprise taught me that it takes a lot more than a pair of alien gazongas to keep a show aloft for more than four seasons. It takes at least two pairs of alien gazongas, some minimally engaging dialogue and story lines, and a compelling leader, since every spinoff pivots on the character of this or that captain.

While Enterprise does well in the gazonga department, it falls short in every other dimension, especially Archer’s character. Bakula gives this character no swagger or toughness, so instead of coming off like a ship’s captain, he seems more like the guy who changes the water cooler bottle at work and flirts harmlessly with the receptionist on the way out, while leaning on his idle hand truck.

One more thing

Another thing that happened to me this year was that I found out I am fat and boring.

In conclusion

And that’s pretty much it for the year. Apologies for the very lame blog post. I’m on holiday.

Have a happy new year, New Zealand and the rest of GMT+12.