Migration

Slip, slop, slap and snow

A storm dropped six inches of snow on New York, plunging the temperature to 24 degrees.

It’s going to be a Currier & Ives Christmas for all you romantics and children at heart.

For you homeless, it’s going to be a special trip to the emergency room, to have your frostbitten toes snipped off.

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I don’t mean to seem callous. I speak from experience. I have personally felt the pain of homelessness.

I don’t mean that I was ever homeless, though my childhood house would make you wonder. We never got frostbite, at least.

I did suffer an amputation when I was young. It traumatized me. I can’t stop wondering how much bigger my penis would be if I hadn’t lost my foreskin.

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My true connection to the homeless, however, goes many winters back to a mid-December New York.

I was traipsing to work the morning after a ferocious ice storm. Waiting for a light to change, I looked down at my feet and screamed in horror.

My shoes had been totally ruined by rock salt stains.

Thank god Kenneth Cole was nearby. I bought a new pair, and went off looking for a homeless man to shod with my now useless ones.

Call it Kismet, call it Christmas, but as it turned out, three clerks were homeless. None of us could believe our luck.

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Unfortunately, the shoes were too small for the one guy in the trio. He said it didn’t matter; a few more frostbite emergencies, and they would fit perfectly.

Until then, he agreed to share the pair with the two homeless saleswomen, one shoe to each.

What a quintessential New York Christmas story, if I do say so myself as a half-Jew.

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You don’t catch wind of heart-warming Christmas stories like that in Auckland. Partly because the slack-jawed yokels that live here never wear shoes.

But mostly because, fuck snow. What’s that? It’s 24 degrees here too, New Yorkers. But in Centigrade, dumbasses. If America had switched to the metric system, New York wouldn’t be a frozen, piss encrusted slush pile right now.

You see, Christmas in Auckland isn’t about snowstorms.

It’s about a perpetually gobsmacked five-story Santa looking down on the perpetually gobsmacked Aucklanders as they waddle past the decorated windows at Smith & Caughey’s.

That’s what Christmas in Auckland is all about. That, and a UV Index through the roof. (Jafas: don’t forget to slip, slop, slap, especially around your slackjawed faces).

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I was out enjoying the weather recently, myself.

As I strolled through the city, meditating on what Christmas means to me, I had an epiphany.

I didn’t know what a hymen was.

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I used to think a hymen was the last obstacle–after dinner and a movie–to clear before you could unlock your achievement, and poke into the next level, a woman’s No No Zone.

I had to double check, though, and according to WebMD, the hymen is a thin membrane of tissue that surrounds and narrows the vaginal opening, which may be torn or ruptured by sexual activity or by exercise.

So, I was right.

Anyway, what do I know? Every No No Zone I’ve entered had been visited before. Sometimes after a long queue.

But what really bothered me was, this being Christmas and all, how it was that Jesus could escape the birth canal if Mary was a virgin with her hymen still intact? Here are some suggestions:

1. Jesus gouged out the hymen with his Jew horn, from within the birth canal. Which is how I’d do it from the outside, if given the chance.

2. Mary had a Super Vagina, with a retractable hymen that worked sort of like an automatic garage door opener.

3. Celestial c-section. Even in Roman times, they were forcing healthy young women to undergo unnecessary c-sections, so as to free up the manger for the next Virgin. Hail Caesarean.

4. More prosaically, one of the three Magi could have turned out to be a doctor. With a name like “Wiseman”, it’s a good chance at least one of them was at least a dentist, while the other two were probably CPAs.

Who knows. The possibilities are endless. The important thing is everyone has a good time, whether you’re shoveling snow out of your driveway, or heading out to enjoy a beer in the 75˚ sun.

Which reminds me, I’m running late.

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Flat-livin’ ain’t no Gummy Bear picnic

Our next-door neighbors are giant, anthropomorphized Gummy Bears.

Having Gummy Bears for neighbors is not what you’d expect.  They’re not playful or entertaining, as their varicolored luminescence suggests.

They don’t juggle, they don’t unicycle, and they most certainly do not shit bags of smaller Gummy Bears, as the landlord led me to believe they would.

Gummy Bears, in short, are just assholes.

Giant, anthropomorphized Gummy Bear assholes from England.

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Of course, Jacquie and I were happy to see the previous tenants leave.

They were a German-Kiwi couple, on the skids. The New Zealand-er tended to smash dishes and scream at the German every night.

I once thought it was because she was seriously bipolar, so I tended to avoid her.

Then I met her boyfriend: an over-disclosing, touchy-feely, Euro-dweeb.

We’d only known each other two minutes when he went into great detail about his moribund relationship with the Kiwi.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I just want to be loved. And she doesn’t want to give me any love. Is it too much to ask to be loved? I ask her to hug me. But she does not hug me.”

His sad story really moved me. All I wanted to do was smash plates over his head, and tell him to go fuck himself.

Obviously we were ready for new neighbors. Just not the ones we got.

Neighbor

Based on an actual photo.

I’ll never forget when the giant, anthropomorphized Gummy Bear couple took the place of the coo-coo and her deutsche-bag boyfriend.

When I saw them moving their stuff into the flat next door, I was like, Holy Shit! I didn’t know an acid flashback could be so realistic.

Or involve giant, anthropomorphized Gummy Bears.

The only thing about them that didn’t astonish me were their accents. Considering their brains consisted of corn syrup and rendered hooves, they could only be from Leicester.

Leicester gives Dayton, Ohio, a run for its money in the production of dumb, gelatinous people. That’s what makes England one the world’s leading manufacturer of ignorant, gelatinous people.

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Nobody in the block of flats was surprised they came from Leicester.

But we tried to make them feel at home, anyway. We made sure to speak slowly so they could follow along whenever we need to talk. It was difficult, because you could not tell from their accents if they understood you or not.

So, we developed a system the Gummy Bears grasped immediately: one stomp was “yes”, two stomps “no”, and three stomps, “I don’t know, please clarify”. (Nine stomps was “call the police”.

In short, we all developed a rapport with the Gummy Bears, and we learned to tolerate their ways. When they cleaned and dried all their shoes in the communal laundry, thus destroying both driers, we laughed it off as just another Gummy Bear frolic. Nothing a contracted serviceman couldn’t fix.

Early this year, I noticed the male Gummy Bear enjoyed going without a shirt in his apartment, in the common areas, and at work.

Basically, male Gummy Bears see clothing as hindering the complete articulation of their limits, which, let’s face it, isn’t much to begin with.

Other neighbors complained, but I stood in solidarity with our new neighbor.

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I’m the kind of person who’ll give any Gummy-body the benefit of the doubt.

But, I have to say, the other neighbors were right. It got kind of sickening to see this vaguely formed mass of cottage cheese everywhere.

It was hard not to gag when he stopped you in the alley for a long conversation about work.

“Evry’fing a’right, mate?” he would say.

“Yeah, yeah,” I’d say. “All good.”

Immediately, he would launch into his latest work troubles.

His prattling gave me time to muse on the unsavory image of in full view of all our neighbors.

We must have been a revolting sight. A partially-clad, glob of middle-age neglect, pretending to care what a man with huge tits has to say about selling gym equipment.

Mm-hmmm

Needless to say, I haven’t gone partial bare-chested since that disgusting evening.

But the continued exposure to the Gummy Bear man’s bare chest has given me PTSD.

My dad had ample man-boobs, and growing up with three sisters, I was conditioned to hope for man boobs myself, one day.

Seeing the Gummy Bear man’s tits on a daily basis has made me realize I’m never going to be more than an A-cup, despite my lavishly sedentary lifestyle.

It made me a little sad to think I would never have a bigger chest than my sisters or my wife, let alone this Gummy Bear man. He has to be a D cup, at least.

I don’t want to do what it takes for a guy to be a D-cup. Last week, I saw the Gummy Bear in his kitchen window, his capacious bosom covered in what looked to be blood.

“Are you alright, man?” I said.

Gummy Bear stamped three times.

“You look like you’ve been stabbed in the chest,” I explained.

Gummy Bear laughed and lifted into view the 18 inch pizza he was currently masticating by himself, whole.

He offered me some, but I politely declined, ran inside and dry heaved over the litter box.

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There have been other shocking incidents: an unreturned iron, a “borrowed” laundry basket, damage to appliances from excessive sneaker-washing, the extended stay of a Gummy she-Bear émigré, laundry left in the machine for hours, and on and on.

Honestly, retarded people would make far better neighbors. At least they master the basics in their Independent Living classes. And they understand shared spaces require courtesy. They get it. Believe me, I used to commute with a lot of them when I lived in New Jersey. Come to think of it, they were all retarded, which could mean only two things. I was riding the short bus. Or I lived in New Jersey, which I’m pretty sure I did.

Anyway, Gummy Bears, with their rudimentary central nervous system, are only vaguely cognizant that other entities exist, let alone have anything to do with them. So forget courtesy, they have no sense of responsibility. There’s a strong case for them to be in an assisted living situation.

Yet, somehow, they still qualified to foster dogs.

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This went on for months. They got a new dog every other week. They frequently let the dogs off their leashes to shit all over the place. Thankfully, I always made sure I knew where to step.

Especially after I found out some of the shit belonged to the Gummy Bears (which is how I know they don’t shit bags of smaller gummy bears).

Toward the end of their fostering careers, they had a run-in with a neighbor I’m friends with. He owns an old cat, was freaked after being chased by a succession of unleashed demon dogs.

“So,” my neighbor said to the Gummy she-Bear, “could you please make sure the dog is on a leash?”

“Wot the fuckin’ bloo’y hell business is’t o’ yours, you fucking batty geezer,” said the bear. “‘on’t yooo tell mee oy cain’t wawlk me poor dawgs from etting your feckin cat anyway.”

So, now I know what the she-Bear does for a living.

She teaches English as a Second Language to mentally challenged 18th century pirates.

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Which brings me to what got me thinking about all this in the first place.

Last Tuesday, I witnessed the Gummy Bear mentality in its full splendor, and it isn’t just mindless obliviousness that animates them. It’s sheer stupidity.

The Gummy Bears had parked their car in a driveway belonging to the private house across from our flats.

The Gummy Bears were sad. They had to go to Ellerslie, but someone had parked a station wagon in front of the driveway.

Their car was blocked in. They waited 20 minutes for the other driver to return. But they only got sadder.

And they were in a hurry. So they decided to squeeze the car out through the narrow gap between the station wagon and the neighbor’s wood fence.

To their credit, the idiots managed to accomplish this, in a complex, 170-point maneuver comprised of loud, public bickering.

They were getting ready to drive up when one of the four renters living in the house came out to talk to them.

“Don’t ever park in our driveway again,” he said.

“Wot the fuckin’ bloo’y hell business is’t o’ yours, you fucking batty geezer,” said the bear. “‘on’t yooo tell mee oy cain’t park me poor Toyota Cellica in your feckin’ space; I’s ‘ave pre-mission from the owner.”

“There is no owner,” the renter screamed. “It’s just us.”

The Gummy Bears repeated their story to me, about having permission from the owner, that is was their right, that they were English.

Of course, that’s not what the people who live there told me.

“Frankly,” said one of the guys, “I never cared much for Gummy Bears in the first place.”

A personal milestone

Working freelance after a full time job takes time.

I’ve done a number of contract projects since being made redundant in July.

Ad copy writing, corporate gigs, research projects: they’ve all been very interesting, and I’m learning new things as I go, even about myself.

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A contract worker, for example, must hone his business skills, even if he is “creative” or “stupid”.

This fact dawned on me a few days ago when I realized that I’m just as equipped to manage my own business as the next guy, who at that moment was a Down Syndrome-dude selling pencils on Queen Street.

Add business to my growing “incompetence list”, right up there with being a techno-tard, fuck-tard, bastard and leotard.

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Business is just not my thing. So yesterday, I finally got my ass over to a professional. I went to see an accountant.

This was a huge milestone for me because on the way to my appointment, I stepped in dog shit.

It was the first time I stepped in dog shit in New Zealand. Not only that, but it was also the longest I’ve gone without stepping in dog shit, by far (363 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 17 seconds).

I’m not ashamed to say I cried. I stood there on Dominion Road, my Birkenstocks tread-deep in dog shit, overwhelmed by tears pride my accomplishment.

In case anyone didn’t know or you forgot, I’m New Yorker. Asshole.

And everyone in New York is constantly stepping in dog shit. You’re lucky if you don’t step in shit before getting out of bed in the morning.

It’s not unusual for subway commuters to get to work completely covered in all kinds of shit. This means they have to go back home to clean up and change clothes.

The braver ones sometimes go back to work, only to go through the cycle all over again. Usually, we just call in sick, but if you’re in a union, you might get some annual “covered in shit” paid-leave days.

It took a while to sort out the mess. I didn’t want to start off a professional relationship with my feet covered in shit.

So I shuffled through some twigs for a while, and used a snot-rag I had in my pocket to clean the shit from between my toes, as I happened to be wearing Birkenstocks.

The accountant showed me into a conference room after arriving at his office. He was really helpful in giving me advice about starting my business.

But even though I’d cleaned myself thoroughly, there was still a foul smell in the air, faint but persistent. It seemed possible I was imagining things.

Then the accountant started finding one excuse after another to leave the room. Kiwis would rather do that than to openly acknowledge a problem. So he kept interrupting himself from giving me advice, staying away longer and longer.

The last time he was gone the longest, maybe three minutes, and when he sat down again I could see a bit of whatever he’d had for lunch on his now-stained tie.  (It sucks when you think you’ll make it to the toilet in time, but don’t.)

Then he asked me to leave and if I could show myself out.

Which I thought was a little on the unprofessional side. If he’d only asked, I could have told him about my milestone. But when I got home, I realized it wasn’t the dog shit I was smelling, but the natural odor of my feet. In which case, sorry, Mr Accountant. My bad.

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The misconstrued swelling

Regular visitors to this site will recall my serious brush with death several posts back.

Epidermis

The details aren’t important. I flatlined. Twice. Second time had the sense of being lifted, and joined with my paternal ancestors. I’m guessing it was them based on the amount of crazy babbling that seemed to echo all around me.

But, really, I’m fine It was nothing. Just a humungous swelling in my groin area that even had the medical community perplexed for a few hours. Needless to say, Jacquie and I had never seen anything like that anywhere near my groin region, ever. Many of the doctors wondered how that would be scientifically possible, given my grotesque physical state. One intern who arrived late wanted to call the time, until the resident proved to her that I wasn’t dead, by holding a mirror under my nose.

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It was this intern, among all the staff that had a look-see around my no-no zone, who first made the observation, “what do you know? Three testicles.”

Excuse me if I’m waxing a little too puerile for your sophisticated taste. But it pales in comparison to the real 400-pound vulgarity in the room here: the New Zealand health care system. No-good pinko-commie degenerates.

When Jacquie and I went to the ED, we had no idea we were supposed to bring along proof-of-residence. New Zealand will charge you for a visit to the ED, if you’re not qualified under national insurance. And if there’s blood dripping out of every one of your orifices, screaming “I want my blankie”, they will send you packing, with a bill.

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But some patients who owe are given an alternative payment method. And so, when I checked out last week, I agreed to occupy an exhibit in Auckland Hospital’s Museum of Medical Oddities, Curios, and Abominations.  Under the terms of the agreement, I would be “the guy with three testicles”, until the antibiotics got rid of the infection in my lymph node, which turned out to be the problem all along, by the way.

It’s been 24 hours now, since the node returned to normal. Funny, I’m already starting to miss the gang, down there at the old curio exhibit. But I think I’m going to miss Guy Coming off Heroin the most.

The bull-tide carol

People think we’re all great and shit just because we do stuff other animals wouldn’t dream of doing.

But, should we really be so proud of a species that has produced intercontinental ballistic missiles and Justin Bieber?

The problem is evolution and framing. People only live for 70, 80 years. They also tend to hang out together, and ponder their existence, which basically boils down to who has the biggest penis.

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So when people look upon their inherited advantages through the prism of their self-aggrandizement, they can’t help but think how much better they are than all the other animals, put together.

Shit, you don’t see monkeys coming up with 172 uses for corn. Sure, they may stick a cob up their ass after taking a dump. But that’s pretty obvious, don’t you think? The truth is, monkey probably don’t even like corn. Ergo, they must be stupid.

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That’s the current thinking, anyway. It’s like we’re saying, “The day a dolphin can take my order at a restaurant is the day I’ll stop asking for extra Bottlenose in my Tuna Nicoise.”

It’s a fantastic hierarchy that conveniently ignores the demonstrated truth that evolution is adaptive, not progressive. We are the children of organisms that were optimized to the likelihood of passing on their genes. The fact that so many people distort reality to fit their religious preconceptions on these matters, with all that we know to be true now pretty much demonstrates that we’re still just a bunch of hillbillies whose brothers are their uncles, and whose sisters you know are having their period because they’re only wearing one sock.

But it’s understandable. We’re proud of ourselves! And we should be. Wasn’t it just last week that we discovered fire? And didn’t that help us find our way to the computer in the dark room? And where would we be today had we not invented free internet porn yesterday? Yeah, we are pretty clever. Which makes it such a weird coincidence that some of our gods happen to look a lot like us. What are the chances? A universe with billions and billions of ways for a god to be, with so many varieties of environments, inhospitable to fragile man, but suited to an omnipotent entity. And he happens to look like Uncle Jesse from The Dukes of Hazzard. And he’s a He!

Let me ask a theological question for a moment. What the fuck does an eternal, omnipotent being need with a penis? Can you just clear that up?  I’m getting to the age where I’m wondering why have a penis. But if we’re made in god’s image, and god’s a man, then doesn’t that mean he has some kind of dick? You know what it means that god has a dick? It means it took him at least 13 billion years to get laid. And I thought I was a late bloomer.

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Sorry for that. I do tend to get a little carried away with the holiday spirit.

And that has been difficult this year. A friend of mine has a sister who teaches at the Sandy Hook school in Connecticut where the horrible massacre took place last week. It’s not that I’m friends with her, but there’s a personal dimension to this story for me.

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I’ve never really had much of an opinion about gun control, to be honest. I think I had one of those “liberal urban” consciences you can probably buy for $14 at Urban Outfitters. Didn’t like automatic weapons, but if you hunted, that’s cool, if you’re eating the meat.

I still think hunting for food is a worthy adaptation to preserve. I’m now, more than ever, opposed to automatic weapons, high-capacity cartridges, and a wild west mentality, both in attitudes and in the shameful multitudes of channels arms manufacturers now have to markets.

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I do have a solution to the issue, that I think should make everyone happy. I’ll agree to leave your guns alone. You can have as many weapons, in any style, with as many bullets as you can carry. Hell, you can even have your penis replaced with a bazooka. And probably best of all, we’ll makes sure the Stand Your Ground law is interpreted to include as a “threat” anyone who “You don’t like the look of.”

But there are a few conditions.

First, you all have to move to Utah. I’m sorry. That’s not even negotiable.

Second, when traveling to any of the 49 ‘sane’ States, you have to leave your weapons at the door. We may make exceptions for Civil War re-enactors.

And finally, you have to agree to have your testicles snipped, to decrease the chances that you’ll give birth to a mentally ill person with no access to medical care but plenty of access to your guns with which he goes to shoot up an entire classroom of children.

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So, yeah, we’re great and all. But we’re still subject to our primate heritage. But seeing as we’re so great at making AR-15s and high capacity cartridges, we must have the intellectual capacity to create institutions and methods by which to keep this shit from happening again.

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Especially because I’m flying into the States tonight, and I don’t want to get shot.

Jubilee-joobity-do

This is a special time for a special lady and the entire world is sitting up and taking notice, like a well-meaning but half-witted poodle.

It’s Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, and in New Zealand, everybody gets a three-day-weekend, as we also happen to be commemorating the monarch’s 86th birthday. Everybody wins. I get to sleep late, England gets to enjoy the illusion of its own significance, and the Queen gets to look back on another year of opulent sloth.

If I’m coming off as harsh, it’s only because I’m jealous. Most unemployed, inbred, octogenarian people with dumb accents spend their birthdays like any other day. By spitting tobacco juice out of their toothless gobs onto the heads of the grandchildren eating dirt in front of the porch and don’t even notice anyway. Oh, no. Not the Queen. That’s not her scene. No, Queen Elizabeth gets something special. A thousand-vessel flotilla up the Thames, including a waka.

I’m sorry. I guess I just don’t understand the royal prerogative. In America, we don’t have a person who inherits the mantle of statehood by dint of genetic composition; who earns, simply from having been born, the deference of a nation, and the power to rule it supremely, for life. In America, anybody can be a douchebag.

And most of us are. It is no glowing, jingoistic hyperbole, but a simple, historic fact the Declaration of Independence civilly GUARANTEES an individual’s inalienable right to being a douchebag, specifically in the pursuit of happiness. America has come through with flying colours, as far as I’m concerned, in the protection of THIS, OUR PREMIER among several DOUCHEBAG FREEDOMS. From slavery, to the Vietnam War, to American Idol, what happiness could be greater than the joy we take in the suffering of others? That’s why America rebelled in the first place: why should the Royal Family have all the Schadenfreude?

New Zealand never broke with the mother country the way America did. So it’s easy to understand why some Kiwis look to the throne with Britannic pride. She’s still Queen Regnant here, albeit more figurehead than executive, and the visit she made to New Zealand 60 years ago still makes the odd person stop in the middle of the street and break out in tears remembering the occasion. In fact, I had an experience the other day when I found this strange rock in the alley by our flat.

One of our neighbors told us that it was a coprolite. I was suddenly excited by my discovery. It touched my imagination. What ancient creature could possibly have generated this fossilized piece of crap? The neighbor, however, explained that it was not from any dinosaur, but it was from 1953, when the Queen paid a royal visit to the region, shitting everywhere she went, including New Zealand.

According to my neighbor, Elizabeth had tried to hold it in for as long as possible, so as not to have to use a toilet that someone else might have used. But two months is a long time, even for a royal sphincter. Also, Elizabeth was constantly being fed. And though she spat into a napkin as much of the food as she could without anyone seeing, it was obvious to her staff that she must evacuate her royal person, or die. Or die trying. They conferred, and seeing the royal doctor’s wisdom, she decided to shit as soon as she landed in Auckland. Her one caveat was that she still refused to sit on strange toilets, and when given the choice of having a new toilet manufactured for the occasion, or shit standing up, the queen chose the latter.

Whenever Elizabeth stopped to address a crowd, she would take that opportunity to shit and be adored by her subjects at the same time. My neighbor said some observant Aucklanders noticed and collected them as souvenirs of the royal visit.

“That’s amazing,” I said. “But how in the world did the Queen’s shit get fossilized in 60 years?”

My neighbor seemed perplexed.

“What do you mean ‘fossilised'” he said. “It came out that way.”

Still, Elizabeth’s reign is impressive. She’s spent more time doing nothing than any other monarch in British History, besides her great, great grandmother, Victoria, who celebrated her60th year of indolence in 1897. Considering this historic achievement, I think now’s a good time to write about my recent trip to Martha’s Backyard.

The last time I visited this emporium of American brands was a little more than two years ago, before it moved to Harvey Norman Plaza.

If you haven’t been there since the relocation, the new spot is a vast improvement. In the first place, it’s bigger, with wider aisles to accommodate the ample American ass. There are far more products in stock, apparently more staff who pay attention to inventory, and generally a superior, easier shopping experience than the last place. Best of all, it occupies a dominant corner of a soulless, suburban shopping center, with plenty of parking, which should satisfy many Americans’ nostalgia for the Old Country.

Actually, I got to Martha’s Backyard a little early the Saturday I went, so it was helpful to have a few other shops nearby to visit. I bought a rain jacket from a store where everything is made out of rubber, except the rubbers.

The day I went, I bought two jars of Vlasic pickles (Kiwis look at you funny when you mention savory pickles), a box of Cheerios, a box of Triscuits, some Mexican hot sauce, and something else, all of which I mixed into a bowl and dipped in a fat-fryer.

I didn’t get any Pop Tarts, but there is something at Martha’s Backyard for everybody. Even if you’re not from America. The day I went, I heard quite a few Kiwi accents talking about how they remembered this or that thing from when they’d visited the States. But even those who’ve never left New Zealand can find something in New Zealand to like.

There’s even an aisle that I think Bishop Brian Tamaki of the Destiny Church might be interested in.

Now that I look at these pictures again and think about the significance of the Diamond Jubilee, I’m compelled to make an observation.

The queen might have been big here 60 years ago, but with America’s cultural domination, political influence, and bullying of the local judiciary, as illustrated by the Megaupload case, I have just one thing to say to Her Majesty on behalf of America. Hands off, lady. New Zealand’s our bitch now.

The greatest depression ever

It’s only been in the last month or so that I started to recover from a severe and prolonged depression.

Next stop, Deliciousville. Things are looking up.

It was bad. A preoccupation with death, a constant flow of hateful self-talk, the lost ability to remember, to concentrate, to something else that slips my mind, continued unacknowledged and festering until the miserable condition became familiar, even comfortable.

It was really bad. It was as if one of Hieronymus Boschs demons was taking a six-month-long shit on my medieval tonsure and I liked it so much I massaged it into my scalp thinking it was ok because, hey, it’s organic. I lost interest in all those things that once animated me: reading, socializing and sexing.

Even writing blog-posts with my signature “Take my wife…please” sensibility (as humorous now as it was when it first circulated the Catskills 50 years ago), even those entered the endangered list, although they never went extinct. So my condition wasn’t just bad; it was schlocky.

Things got to such a low state that I fell into a habit more disgusting and pitiable than my obsessive eyebrow-hair plucking and chronically inadequate personal hygiene. I started to watch Star Trek, from the beginning of The Next Generation, to the end of Deep Space Nine.

Photo courtesy of the New Zealand Tourism Board.

Some people might ask, “Simon, what do you have to be depressed about? You live in New Zealand where shoes are optional, where people drive with their eyes closed, and where everyone is in bed by nine because what else are they going to do? Where it’s OK to be a grown adult and still talk in your outdoor voice throughout a live performance of Mary Stuart starring that lady from the second Lord of the Rings movie, true story. What could be so bad?”

Lieutenant Paris (right) reports to Captain Janeway and Commander Tuvok on his recent visit to Meat Plaza.

While it is true that I was feeling like shit before relocating, and that moving from Brooklyn to New Zealand temporarily elevated my mood to its jaunty “I-hate-the-world-and-everything-in-it” baseline, this reprieve did not last long.

So many factors played a part in the plunge I took in New Zealand that I cannot give them justice in one blog entry.

I will, however, mention here one factor contributing to my recent disposition, since it has weighed heavily on my mind: my colleagues at Fairfax Business Group. They are a mean-spirited, bullying lot that picks on me because I’m different, because I talk funny and come from America. They did terrible things to me. They made me watch them eat lunch, and they called me names like “Johnny Argyle” just because I happen to own one or two articles of clothing with that particular pattern.

Technically speaking, Johnny Argyle is a misnomer, since my entire argyle wardrobe consists in a zip-up jumper and a sock I found at the laundromat and took home with me, just in case I needed an extra sock.

I tried to complain about these malicious fiends to the Human Resources director. But I knew the company would have trouble seeing my side of things when I entered the director’s office and she said, “What can I do for you, Jimmy Argyle?”

I was mortified. “It’s not Jimmy,” I screamed. “It’s Johnny. Johnny Argyle.”

Then I screamed some more like I did when I was a little boy, which was exactly like a little girl. Then I ran to the restroom to have myself a good cry and there wasn’t a day that went by during my first six weeks at Fairfax that did not contain some element of wailing and/or gnashing of teeth, which will probably earn me a “needs improvement” on my next performance evaluation.

Of course, I have since reached a mutual sort of respect and understanding with my wonderful colleagues. They love Johnny Argyle. And Johnny Argyle loves them, and doesn’t even mind watching them eat their lunch any more. Mostly.

So, that’s just one example of the many things that have depressed the shit out of me.

But as I say, this subject is far too big to be wrapped up in one blog entry. Which is why I plan to return to this subject in the future, so that you might enjoy my recent, horrifying depression as much as I did.

Busy Town, Busybodies

My wife Jacquie lived in the States for eight years.

Every November, at least one American would ask, either from cultural myopia or absentmindedness, how people celebrated Thanksgiving back home.

The answer, of course, was obvious. People don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in New Zealand at all because (duh) Kiwis are deviant, godless ingrates. Which happened to be one of the strongest selling points for moving here.

I mean, Thanksgiving? Pshaw. Whenever someone says “all the trimmin’s” I want to give myself a lobotomy.

“That’s fine,” I bet you’re saying. “But who could tell the difference?”

Kiwis could. They may not be grateful, but they are very observant and they give a crap. Guaranteed, if you were stumbling aimlessly around Queen Street one afternoon after just having had your prefontal cortex severed, a Kiwi would say something. Not out loud, but they’d say it.

In my opinion, Kiwis care too much. For example, the day I landed my first full-time job, I was at a party for a friend Jacquie knew from her job. The party was in a crowded bar and most people there I’d never met before. Though I’d only just been hired that day, many of Jacquie’s coworkers seemed to know all about my employment situation.

One strange guy stepped up to me and shook my hand.

“Congratulations on your new job, mate,” he said. “Well done. Nobody thought you’d pull it off.”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“You know: because of your disgusting, slothful habits.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, sure, you spent eight months finishing your little novel and you did the odd freelance job and we all know how busy you are updating your blog every six-to-eight weeks. But a full-time job, for someone like you? Shocking. Well, anyway. Good luck.”

“Thanks,” I said. “And, so, I take it you work with Jacquie?”

“Who’s Jacquie?” the guy said. “I just came in for a pint.”

Then he went and sat by himself at the bar.

If that weren’t odd enough, the next day, I was in a cafe in Ponsonby I’d never been to before. There was a tip jar near the register. It’s rare to tip in New Zealand. Cafes and restaurants generally don’t expect it, let alone keep a tip jar near the register.

The barista served me my coffee and I left without dropping any change.

“There’s a fine howdy-do,” the barista told the cashier. “You’d think that now he was rolling in it, he’d at least drop a few cents.”

“I’m sorry, what was that?” I said.

“Don’t bother with that yank, Kiki,” the cashier said. “He isn’t worth it. New Zealand gives him all these great opportunities; just gives and gives and gives, and he just takes and takes and takes.”

“You’re right,” Kiki said. Then Kiki turned to me, and with the most sarcastic curtsy I’ve ever seen, she said, “I shan’t detain you longer, your highness.”

“OK,” I said.

Later that afternoon, still puzzled by these strange encounters, I went to a gas station in Mt. Eden to fill up my car. I went inside to pay for the gas and a bag of Cheezels I grabbed on the way to the counter. The cashier stared at me for a minute.

“Normally,” he said, “I’d offer you two bags of Cheezels for the price of one. But, no. Not this time. Not for you. Not after what you did to Kiki. Now, get out.”

“I don’t want two-for-one bags of Cheezels,” I said.

“That doesn’t matter because you wouldn’t get two-for-one bags of Cheezels if you wanted it. I wouldn’t even sell you one Cheezel.”

Oh, it was terrible. Later, there was a story about it on the evening news.

If I learned anything from these insane strangers, it was this: maybe I should be grateful. So on Thanksgiving, I took a walk through Auckland to count up all the things for which I’m thankful:

A giant "For Lease Now" notice consisting of free-standing wood letters, in a vacant commercial space window on Normanby Road.

Ball point pens and disposable razors.

A familiar logo in an unfamiliar pose.

The old Colonial Ammunition Company shot tower. A furnace at the top heated lead that would be "rained" in its molten state down to a cooling tank at the bottom, forming tiny spheres along the way, perfect for shot.

A copy of Michelangelo's Moses in Myers Park.

Roots.

"Downtown" Auckland

A giant Santa's reindeer on Whitcoulls corner.

Notice of Abandoned Property

This Thursday marks the first anniversary of my visit to the beautiful city of Linden, New Jersey.

You need to spend some time there if you’ve never been. It’s so much fun. Whether passing through at 80 mph on the New Jersey Turnpike or browsing the aisles of adult toys and pornography at Love Boutique, Linden offers something for the whole family.

Just thinking about Linden inspires the creative part of a person’s brain, provided the creative part of a person’s brain isn’t much bigger than the part of the brain that tells you when to urinate. To wit:

 

I do hope the mayor of Linden appreciates my sketch of the perfect Linden postcard. I don’t want to sound boastful, but I believe it reflects the feelings most people hold for Linden, NJ.

Linden was where I had to deliver the stuff we wanted to take with us to New Zealand. Jacquie and I had spent weeks prioritizing. We could only afford to ship our most-valued Earthly possessions: 36 boxes of Jacquie’s shoes.

We hired two guys with a panel truck to drive the shoes to our freight consolidator.

Jacquie's shoes began their journey to New Zealand here on Huron Street in Brooklyn, NY, roughly 26 miles northeast of Linden. The Ailanthus altissima was just a weed when we left. Now its offspring cover most of North America's blighted urban centers, especially Linden. (Photo by Matthew Everett, taken some time late summer, 2010)

 

 

Ha ha. See that traffic cone? I put that there in, like, December, 2006 when I thought I was getting a ten-speed bicycle for Christmas. Jacquie got me a curling iron instead. But my traffic cone remains and people still won't park in my bicycle space because of it. Suckers. (Photo by Matthew Everett) (Late Summer, 2010)

 

It was 9:30 a.m. when we arrived at their warehouse.

A man in a forklift saw me coming. He immediately shut down his machine and climbed out.  “Break time,” he said.

“How long?” I said.

“Hour, two hours.”

“My guys are on the clock here.”

There was a man at a desk in the middle of the warehouse floor. He waved me over. He was short and wore a shiny Jheri curl wig. He said his name was Alan. He seemed really sympathetic.

“Where’s your stuff headed, buddy?” he said. “You got your booking number?”

“I sure do, Alan,” I said.

I handed Alan my documents. He inspected them, nodded, dropped them on his desk, sat down and opened a drawer out of which he took out a large salad. The salad was one of those pre-made things you buy at the supermarket and it was filled with the more pointless vegetables, like iceberg lettuce. “Break time,” Alan said.

He enjoyed his salad.

“What about my boxes?” I said.

“How do you like that, Alan?” said the forklift guy. “It’s your break, but it’s his boxes. Can you believe he’s making you work on your break?”

“No, I cannot believe it,” Alan said. “I myself have trouble believing this.”

Alan wore glasses and had shiny green skin and his Jheri curl wig did not move in concert with his terrible  head. “Fine,” he said. “Have your guys unload your truck. How many pallets will you need?”

“Do I need pallets?” I said.

“It’s for your own protection,” he said. “You want your things to get there in one piece, is all I’m saying.”

Did I mention that Linden is the world capital of spontaneous, small-time extortion?

“How much is a pallet?” I said.

“Let’s say I make it $25 each,” he said.

 

I find it hard to believe, but this abandoned property notice has been in that window since last November and indicates, much to my surprise, that we must have left some of Jacquie's shoes behind, for which reason I hope to return to Huron Street one day. (Again. Matt Everett.)

 

 

Nobody home for a year and we still get junk-mail and flyers. I guess nothing drums up business faster than leafletting an abandoned building. (Photo: M. Everett)

 

So I paid for three pallets and that was that.

And later I went to East Rutherford to pay for the freight and I had a very disappointing slice of pizza near the railroad station.

 

It's sad to think how many people in Brooklyn have never been to Linden, NJ, despite the fact that it's only 26 miles away. A crowd outside the old local bookstore, Word. (Yep.)

 

 

You can take the boy out of Greenpoint, but you can't take the heavy metals and volatile organic compounds out of the boy.

 

How to Get Through the Coming Winter

New Zealand’s winter is over. Those seven months really flew by, thanks to activities (and activity-related activities), which made the time go faster.

Northern hemisphereans should start thinking of fun things to do when their winter arrives. New Zealanders plan winter activities early in autumn, a habit northern peoples are wise to adopt.

To begin planning, take time over the next few weeks to answer these key questions:

  • What are my fun-time winter activities?
  • How many hours should I set aside for each fun-time winter activity?
  • Will I need to prioritize or will there be ample time and opportunity to do all my winter activities before spring begins?

If you have trouble answering these questions at first, don’t worry. Just imagine yourself doing all your favorite warm weather activities, except now you’re wearing a coat. Many examples may come to mind, so unfortunately, you probably will have to prioritize.

Here’s how. Write the numbers 1 through 5 down the left side of a blank piece of paper. Then quickly jot down a winter activity next to each number as the activities come to mind. Chances are you’ll end up with your top five favorite fun-time winter activities, from most favorite to least, because the more favored the activity the sooner you’ll have jotted it down.

A Top-Five Fun-Time Winter-Activities List may look something like this:

  1. Sorting organic waste from recyclables and placing them in their proper containers.
  2. Decoupage.
  3. Visiting a theme park/attending a sports event/grabbing a coffee with friends.
  4. Volunteering.
  5. Signing up with an agency to be cast as an extra in a television show, movie or commercial.

Remember, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. Most likely, your top five will be different from other people’s, so there’s no reason to worry about “getting it right” or “keeping up with the Joneses.” The important thing is to have fun in the order in which you wrote down your fun-time winter activities, crossing each out one-at-a-time as soon as you’ve accomplished it. If you do this, your winter will go by in a speedy and orderly fashion.

Don’t believe me? Read my testimonial.

Signing up with an Extra Agency or How I Got to Meet Lucy Lawless: a Testimonial

My agency landed me three TV commercial auditions. I’ll never forget the first one because it was for a bread company and I really love bread.

I wanted the lead role of baker. The script called for the baker to “savor” a freshly-baked loaf. I would’ve been perfect. People always say I look like I’m savoring something. I have that look. I wouldn’t’ve even had to act. The agency, however, preferred I go out for the supporting Letter Carrier role, and I prepared for my audition with gusto.

My research consisted of opening, reading and discarding my neighbors’ mail indefinitely. I was already starting to think like a mailman. I studied mailman culture, eating only what mailmen eat, drinking only what mailmen drink and firing my automatic weapon at unsuspecting colleagues only at such times as mailmen do such things.

I did not get the part despite my preparations. It went instead to a German actor who arrived for his audition already wearing a mailman’s uniform. Typical German.

I didn’t have luck with my other two auditions, either and I was about ready to give up my extra career when the agency called one last time. They had a role for me, this time as a “featured extra” in an episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

I was cast as “Grain Merchant” and little did I know that my tiny part would grow to be a pivotal character upon which so many various plots turned, a role that was originally written for Russell Crowe––who happened to be busy that day––and that was slotted to be the title character of a spin-off series and feature-length movie (inspiring an inevitable porno version, The Groin Merchant, also written with Russell Crowe in mind.)

Little did the director know any of this either, so not everything went according to plan.

The day started ok. I arrived at the studio at 6:30 in the morning, quickly changed into costume and ate breakfast. As a featured extra, I was very good to the little people, the Non-Specificed Extras. I made tons of friends. I greeted younger extras with a comradely, “I’m wearing underwear older than you,” and I conveyed a certain bonhomie to the older female extras with shouts of, “Ready for your close-up, Gloria Swanson?” (Cougars. You gotta love ‘em.)

Then there was a snafu, and I ended up on set in the wrong location. I stood behind a table with two baskets filled with barley and blue peas. Behind me were a number of ewers on a plank dangling by two ropes from an upper room, the idea being that from my grains I brewed a mildly intoxicating beverage in an upper-room distillery I probably rented from a wealthier landlord. I was no longer a Grain Merchant but a Retail-Level Value Added Reseller of Grains and Grain-Products.

As things turned out, my “wrong” location was right where characters played by Lucy Lawless and Jaime Murray were supposed to turn a corner, so the director had no choice but to include me in at least some of the shots, a chance I  wouldn’t have gotten had I been standing where I was supposed to stand.

Lucy Lawless and Jaime Murray spent a lot of time there, too, obviously. They were very nice and chatted with the extras but after a take, an assistant director told me to “try not to look so terrified” as they passed. Later, Lucy Lawless heard my accent and asked where I was from and what I was doing there and instead of saying “selling grain,” like Jacquie later suggested I should have said, I gave the boring truth and, feeling ashamed of my boring answer, I tried to recover by pretending I had an OCD issue with the grain.

It was pretty lame and Lucy Lawless quickly lost interest and later I enjoyed a delicious roast vegetable casserole for lunch.