Parnell life

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.

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A man, technically

Sometimes I wish I had a job.

I mean: a man’s job. Or a woman’s job.

Someone’s job. It doesn’t matter, as long as they let me have their job.

But only if it requires physical strength and good problem-solving ability.

It also should present a modicum of danger.

I’m thinking I’d like to be an “electrical contractor”.

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Look at all those cables and stuff, and that thing people use to climb places.

That’s the accoutrement of a man’s job. Or a woman’s. Doesn’t matter. If you’re an electrician in New Zealand, you’re a sparky.

“Sparky”. Typical. If there is a cutesie way to describe something, Kiwis will use it. You watch.

Here’s an example:

The arvo went pear-shaped when the sparky made his wees on a 10,000 volt power line. But she’ll be right, he had two bikkies for brekkie, and they were yum.

When Kiwis talk like that, I wonder why the other Commonwealth nations don’t slap New Zealand upside the head.

Then I hear Australians talk, and I remember the lingual bar for entry into the British Commonwealth is low, probably somewhere at the bottom of the Kermadec Trench.

Plus, Australians are assholes.

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Two things get in the way of me being a sparky.

I have no desire to urinate on live electric wires.

I also have no idea what any of the tools are called, or how to use them.

I’ve lost count how many times an implement ended up puncturing my colon because of my complete lack of tool skills.

I guess I’m just not a man’s man. I don’t know from tools. I hate sports.

Plus, men are assholes. A lot of what men do is just foreign to me.

Of course, regular readers will know me as a ladies man. But the man part is more of an honorarium than anything else.

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The most I can say is I’m a man, technically speaking.

Which means I’m going to have to work at being a man.

Especially in light of our new neighbors.

Nobody knows much about them, except they like to have sex a lot. This is public knowledge, I swear.

They leave their door open, and all their windows, and the woman is quite enthusiastic in the vocalization of her pleasure-taking.

Some days, it’s so loud, it sounds like a David Attenborough special on Bonobos, but with a classic porn soundtrack (our neighbors are always playing funk).

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Jacquie got the idea to take revenge.

We were the best qualified couple in the area to teach these newcomers how embarrassing it is to hear other people have sex.

The next time we did it, we left all the windows up, and the door open, and we amplified the noises we normally made.

It was a lot of fun, but how many times was I supposed to shout, “ow, not there; ow, not there,” to get the point across?

I wasn’t used to this sort of thing. Usually, I just bite my pillow.

Doesn’t matter because the exercise was lost on the neighbors. If anything, their romps got louder and more public.

First it was the laundry room, then it was by the rubbish bins, once inside their car, twice inside ours, and I even saw them do it in the queue while I was waiting to buy soda water at the shop.

To tell you the truth, I was starting to feel self-conscious. Was I performing my functions adequately as a man? Should I cry less or more during the act?

This was turning into a crisis.

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To make things worse, the new guy-neighbor started building furniture because they didn’t have anything for the apartment.

Every time I passed him working those tools, my penis retracted another centimeter into my pelvic region. Another two weeks and I’ll have a vagina.

This guy needed furniture, never picked up a tool in his life, went out and got everything he needed, and voila. He saw a problem, and fixed it, like a man.

It was clear that my status as alpha male of all Parnell was being challenged by this upstart.

I had to compete on his level, so I wracked my brain to come up with a DIY project of my own.

The first step was to identify something that needed fixing. What problems were there around the house that Jacquie has been complaining about for a while?

After much soul-searching I realized what needed to be fixed. Me.

I have been successful thus far in my five or six year sex-life to keep my man-pollen sequestered, far away and safe from the Death Star (ie., Jacquie’s egg sacks).

But the only way to full-proof against accidental contamination is to cut the essence off at its source.

So, I decided to give myself a vasectomy.

In retrospect, I probably should have thought twice before taking that old fashioned Kiwi “No. 8 wire” approach to major surgery.

Not because I actually went through with it. Jacquie made sure of that when she caught me naked in the bathroom with a 500-foot spool of No. 8 wire.

But more because I was so threatened by this guy, I told him on the spot, “Hey, big shot, you think you’re a man because you can build a shelf? I’m going to cut my own balls off. How do you like that, pansy?”

Well, I’m not sure what to do, because he made me promise to show him the results.

I’m going to have a lot of egg on my face when he sees close up that I’m still a man, right where it counts.

People like me

A car beeped me as I crossed Parnell Road this morning.

It was one of the owners of the cafe near where I used to work.

I smiled at him, and walked faster.

Pussc planet

But Mick wanted a chat. He felt the most effective way to begin was to stop in the middle of the road.

That way, he could block traffic for however minutes we wished to shoot the breeze.

I admired his moxie. And I happened to agree with his thinking.

“Why do it the easy way, if doing it the hard way inconveniences a lot more people?” is my motto.

Self portrait, Parnell

“How you doin’, Mick?”

“We miss you,” he said. “You have to visit. We have so many dumplings to sell you since you left.”

I wasn’t sure what Mick was getting at.

Did he really think I was going to schlep to Kingsland to buy three months worth of his disgusting slop?

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I always liked Mick. He was soft-spoken, and friendly, and always had a smile.

They used to show his photographs on the wall.

They were all for sale, mostly pictures of ducklings tooling around the pond at the Auckland Domain.

Immigrants 2

It was nice that Mick recognized me and thought to say hello.

How many guys would bring Parnell traffic to a halt just to catch up on old times? Mick didn’t care about the drivers behind him.

“Fuck off,” he told them, “we’re talking over here.”

You don’t hear that kind of talk nearly enough in Parnell.

Mick made me feel I was back in New York again, and he was a potential john, and we hadn’t settled on the price yet, but I was willing to negotiate.

So anyone could understand why I wanted to break it gently to my good friend that there was absolutely no way I’d ever go to his cafe again.

Clean interiors

Honesty would have been too brutal. There are at least 78 cafes between my house and Mick’s cafe.

A rat would have to masturbate in my soy latte in each and every one of those 78 cafes before there was a good reason to go back to Mick’s.

I had to find a way to let him down easier than that.

“Lots of business closed,” Mick was saying. “Nobody comes in anymore. Buy coffee. We miss you.”

“To tell you the truth, Mick, I live and work in Parnell, and I’m almost never in Kingsland.”

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“I understand,” said Mick. “Can’t blame me for trying.”

We laughed and shook hands, then he put the car into drive.

“I’m late for my next appointment, asshole,” Mick said.

And he ran over my foot.

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.)

shopper

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.

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.

Arms-leicester

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.”

Mission to the indiscrete chemists

My mother sent me an urgent email today.

Terrible news. Everybody in her household is constipated all at once.

My mom, my sisters, my brother-in-law, and all the kids, and all the dogs, have been constipated for almost four days now. It seems as if it will continue indefinitely, because they are all too embarrassed to ask a pharmacist for laxative suppositories.

Refusing to eat roughage, and having no friends in a 1200 mile radius willing to risk the shame of asking a pharmacist for suppositories, my mother reached out to me. She had no other option. The problem was getting worse. Each day, the family ate their regular meals, while expelling…nothing.

My mother was giving me a mission. She wanted me to cast aside my own feelings about suppositories, and buy some at the pharmacy, and express mail it to her as soon as possible.

So, I put on my sunglasses, my Boston Red Sox hat, my loud scarf, and my bright suede jacket, and shod in my trusty Birkenstocks, I made my stealthy way along a rainy winter sidewalk at lunchtime.

My biggest fear was that one of my readers would recognize me if I weren’t dressed so hip and urban. I didn’t want them to know about the horrid, but necessary task I faced. My mother, sisters, brother-in-law, and nephews and niece and their dogs were counting on my discretion in the matter.

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It was nice to be among people in action, for the moment at least. About a dozen people were passing to and fro, as two EMTs hopped out of their ambulance, parked at the curb on Parnell Road, between Garfield and Windsor streets.

It was then I first noticed at least three pedestrians that seemed in need of immediate intervention from the health care sector. There was an obvious drunk, a guy shouting at a fire hydrant, and a guy hunched over, with his knees bent together, hobbling down the road.

I wondered how the EMTs knew which one they’d been dispatched to pick up. Or did they conduct regular sweeps and force every sick-looking person into their ambulance. The thought scared me because I am certain that I look like someone in need of immediate physical and/or psychological intervention. Was I going to be caught in the dragnet as well? Almost one millisecond later, I realized I had it all wrong when I saw the EMTs popped into the Subway for their lunch. Maybe they figured, you know, the deformed guy walking with his knees together, he can’t get too far, too fast. Why not pop in for a sandwich first?

Then I looked at this guy and the way he was walking, and I thought, maybe that’s what happens when you’re constipated but too embarrassed to buy laxative suppositories at the pharmacy.

I had to hurry. My family needed me.

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I got to the pharmacy. I wasn’t sure where to look for this product. Was there an aisle for things that you put up your ass? I’ve never had to think about this kind of stuff before.

A sales clerk finally decided to do something about the dumbfounded look on my face.

“Can I help you?” the sales clerk said.

This was the moment I dreaded. The first encounter with the chemist in regard to something you put up your bum. It’s a delicate situation. You never know how they’ll react. And this one was young, with a first-generation Chinese retailer’s concept of friendly customer service. Lots of smiles and boisterous hellos. I thought the best tack to take was to be direct. “I’m looking for Dulcolax suppositories.”

The clerk didn’t know the brand and made me spell it out. She didn’t find it on the computer. I had to explain to her in detail what it was for. She repeated everything I said, in a very loud voice.

Then she said maybe they had a similar product and she looked in a drawer and screamed, “Oh, we do have Dulcolax suppositories after all.”

While I waited to be rung up by the cashiere, the sales clerk went to another customer who whispered something.

“FOR BLISTERS?” the sales clerk screamed. “LET ME SEE…”

I walked quickly out of the store, and ran all the way home, covered in shame.

But I got home in time to send off the care package.

And in a few days, way back home in the US, an entire household of constipated loved-ones with finally have their relief.

The third prong

Back when I was a pack-a-day cigarette smoker two weeks ago, the worst thing in the world to me was running out of cigarettes after the dairies have closed.

For those of you from out of town, in New Zealand, grocery stores are called “dairies”. And the store clerks are called “milk cows” and can work the registers for many, many lactations.

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The problem is that most dairies in Auckland close long before the cows come home.

So if you run out of cigarettes after a certain hour of the night, your options are limited. And one option more dreadful than the other: you can drive to a gas station, or, like an adult, you can delay gratification and wait until the dairy opens in the  morning.

Fuck that “being adult about it” bullshit. I want my wah-wah. So it sucks to be a Parnell smoker in the wee hours of the morning. I myself was caught with my pants down on more than a few similar occasions. Each time, as I pulled my pants back up, I discovered that I was out of cigarettes. Not only was my bum sore. Not only was I out $5. But I had nothing to smoke. So I was fucked coming and going. Of course, I’m speaking figuratively here, you all understand.

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A few months ago, I discovered the Juice Bar, the live performance venue attached to the Windsor Tavern.

The shows I caught were actually kind of fun, funky cover bands that dropped phat beats. A bouncer at the door saw me reach for my wallet to show him my ID and started laughing.

I could see why when I went in and started feeling my own mortality choking me about my double chin, making my gray stubble stand on end.

It’s chilling to be 42 and standing in a room full of sexually charged 20-somethings in Sunday best, and drunk/drugged out of their heads.

So naturally I start bobbing my head in rhythm to the music. That way I start to blend in. I don’t want to tip my hat that the only reason I’m there is to buy cigarettes. I look around, pretend to be judging the scene for coolness, to see if Juice is up to my high standard of cool. Because if it isn’t, I’m splitting. It’s the last thing the Windsor wants to see happen. A trendsetting blogger, yawning and walking out.  But it was OK. Because I liked the music, and it felt good to bob my head in tempo. I felt like a big, fat spasticated bower bird failing at his mating dance. Naturally, it took some time to acclimate to the sensual/erotic atmosphere engendered by relatively new model humans. So I noticed these two young ladies standing next to me. And in the coolest voice I’ve ever heard coming out of my mouth, I said, “Don’t you love this kind of music?” or something along those lines.

Long story short, eight seconds later, I was at the bar, buying my cigarettes.

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Of course that’s all in the past. Because as of August 2, I don’t smoke cigarettes.

I had gone into this thing with the idea that I’d use the patches and once in a while I’d resort to the e-cig.

Instead, I went the first few days without the patch, and have so far been patchless the entire two weeks.

Unfortunately, I have relied heavily on the e-cigarette to ease me through the occasional pangs.

It’s not a great idea for two reasons. E cigarettes prolong your chemical and psychological dependence on nicotine.

But worse than that, you look so cool using an E cigarette that you catch people’s attention.

I went to the St. Luke’s Westfield the other day. God knows why. To cash in on a gift certificate.

Malls in general are painful disasters of social architecture. Mostly because the chicks you see there have huge asses. It’s depressing.

So, yesterday, after about 30 minutes of looking around the shops for something buy with my gift certificate, I found myself just staring down from the second floor to the people eating and browsing in the food court, and the thought came to me that the worst thing about the Cold War was that we didn’t nuke each other.

Anyway, as I stood there, pondering, I took out my e-cigarette and started puffing away.

These two older chicks, maybe in their late 40s, early 50s, spotted me and started whispering to each other, but in a stage whisper.

“My god, is he smoking?” one said.

“What is that, a cigarette,” the other said.

“That’d better not be a cigarette.”

“Is he smoking a cigarette inside the mall.”

So I turned to face them, and show that it was an e-cigarette,

“Oh, it’s one of those electronic cigarettes,” the one said to the other, completely ignoring me,

“Is he allowed to do that?”

“Nobody’s stopping him.”

“Somebody should stop him.”

And on an on. The chicks’ whispering reminded me of a horror movie when demons start hissing to each other.

So, I had a few choice words with the two old bags, and before I knew it the three of us were in a hotel room making an adult video.

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The point of all this is manifold. In my first month of unemployment, I’ve made some progress in establishing a sound business case for me getting paid to be a funny person.

I know, I know. Everyone, except for maybe a severely retarded person or a United States Postal worker, thinks they are funny enough to entertain people, and make money doing it.

I may be retarded in many vast areas of my life, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think I’m funny. I do think I’m funny.

I just don’t know how to convince anybody else that.

So, in this, the incipient stages of what is probably going to be a very long-ass, painful and largely unrewarding experience (much like watching a Peter Jackson trilogy, but a lot more expensive), I am hoping to add to my developing repertoire.

In addition to doing stand up and pursuing any creative writing assignments that come my way, I have been convinced to compile a book of essays, perhaps based on what I’ve written on this blog, but printed in large type so my grandmother can read it.

Jacquie and my friend Sabine have given me several reading assignments to familiarize myself with the essay form that I’d like to write: David Sedaris, David Rakoff, Sarah Silverman, and Lance Armstrong.

That’s right. I’m going to be a famous non-fiction, personal essayist/humorist.

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Ginga, please.

And this blog, for the moment, is the link that feeds the other pursuits. So, while I talk about my essay writing project here, when I do stand up, I can make jokes about how my blog is about my book of essays.

And, to bring it full circle, I can talk about how my standup routines are all about my blogs being about my essays.

Constantly recycling material from one state to the next in a perfectly homeostatic system of funny shit.

I like to think of it as Ouroboros, a very ancient symbol that stands for “synergizing your core competencies into a multi-platform, multi-channel marketing strategy that will have you rolling in the dough and retired before know it.”

The only thing is, I have to get it started, by talking about what I know. Me. I’m basically going to become everyone’s worst first date. I’m going to drone on and on and on about myself. And I’m going to stick you with the bill at the end.

Which is why this blog was mostly about e-cigarettes.

So, if you see me doing standup, or if you buy my book some time down the road, and it all seems familiar, it is.

NOTE: A special shout out to Anthony Wilson, a funny comedian whom I interviewed a few weeks ago, after he MC’d a very tough room: I have been too lazy to write it up man…but I will…soon.

[[second draft. deleted phrase. very little subbing. Fuck you. You sub it.]]

What it feels like to quit smoking

Quitting cigarettes is like hanging out with a casual acquaintance who doesn’t realize how boring she is and not being able to kick her out.

Decades ago, when I sometimes did this sort of thing, I lost 12 hours to such a person.

It was one of those nights that fell prey to the cocaine-and-vodka-cranberry lifestyle of the mid-to-late 90’s Brooklyn, northwest vintage.

Not to speak ill of that lifestyle. It’s just that the extremely boring person who I lost half a day to was the one supplying the cocaine.

What a drag. The only way my friends and I would get some as if we pretended to be interested in her featureless existence.

So we sucked it up.

being awesome

She told us she’d done some modeling on the side. And almost every time she leaves her apartment, she gets stalked by a talent scout.

She wanted to “go pro”. But there was still so much she wanted to accomplish as a certified public accountant.

It wasn’t until years later when she suddenly turned into a Buddhist, that we found out she had worked for Arthur Andersen on the Enron account.

With her conversion, she was doubling down on a boring life.

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But back then, she was just a run-of-the-mill coke-head. I can’t say if my friends and I that ever got used to this woman’s droning that night.

But as the 11th hour approached, and the cocaine vanished, we all realized at once that she had been talking the entire time. We didn’t even know she was still in the apartment, to be frank.

Now we were very aware, which meant the cocaine was wearing off, and fast.

And now this chick was going on about how a reverse triangular merger is simpler to accomplish than a direct merger because its subsidiary only has one shareholder, namely the acquiring company.

You try listening to that shit when the drugs just wear off.

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And that is exactly what it feels like to go through nicotine withdrawal, in case you haven’t known the pleasure.

It’s that moment when you realize the CPA is still talking. And she uses the term “flow-through entity”, but not in a sexy way.

That’s what this quit has been like. It was worse the first day.

Friday afternoon, I found out that the e-cigarette I was going to use to “mist” my way to cigarette-freedom, didn’t actually work.

So I went to the Hydro website for a list of retailers.

And for reasons that are hazy to me, I ended up in one of the worst places in the world.

A mall.

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Shit. It’s Friday night and I’m at the Westfield in Newmarket. How did I let things slip to this state?

This was not an ideal situation. Here I was lost, desperately craving a nicotine mist-fix. Nicotine, the drug that allowed me to spend time around people who like the mall without openly despising them, was losing its potency. I would soon be hating everyone, out loud. And I was in a fucking mall, where human contact was not out of the question.

I was angry. And confused. And somewhat looking forward to screaming obscenities in public.

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I knew I was in trouble and out of place. The few times I’ve been to a mall without Jacquie, the same thing always happens.

A concerned-looking mother will come up to me and ask if I were by myself, and if my daddy and mommy were nearby.

I was preparing an answer. Until I realized, I was alone. Nobody in the mall but me.

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Anyway, I don’t really want to talk about this anymore, because it took me about an hour to find the exit. Which is kind of embarrassing, when you think about it.

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But that’s just what happens when you’re withdrawing. You lose track of time. You have bouts of violent impulses. You eat.

And it’s had an impact on my writing. Until this afternoon, I’ve found it too distracting to focus on writing for very long.

So at least it’s getting better. Now that I’m misting.

Can you see the real me?

I had a disturbing thought.

If you’re reading this, chances are I know you personally.

I wish that wasn’t true.

Not that I wish I didn’t know you personally. For the most part. But that you regulars are people that knew me already. And I need fresh meat.

I categorize all of you in one (or more) of the following cohorts of PEOPLE WHO…

…SAY I REMIND THEM OF WOODY ALLEN

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Give me a break. Friends back in the US have made this comparison. Inevitably, after a few minutes, they realize how horribly wrong they are.

I’m much more of an Adam Sandler.

I haven’t known any Kiwis long enough for them to figure that out yet. Not even Jacquie.

Since I moved here in late 2009, I’ve had a few encounters in which someone I met eight seconds ago says I’m just like Woody Allen.

Why? Because I’m a fucking pedophile who married my own adopted daughter? Or because the smattering of good movies I’ve made floats on a sea of laborious filmic masturbation?

Hey. I’ve got another theory. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because I look like this:

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I’ll admit it. I have a big, fat, juicy, honking Hebrew-style schnoz. It is the only human feature in the world the same shape and size as the state of Israel.

Granted, not a lot of people in New Zealand know from Jewish. They haven’t had a lot of experience in handling Jews.

So, what do they do when they meet one for the first time? They reach for the most accessible likeness in their minds.

“You remind me of Woody Allen.”

They don’t mean anything by it.

But I hope they’ll consider something for the next time we meet. While it is true that I resemble something from a 1936 Nazi propaganda poster, that misshapen globulous bit at the end there comes from my maternal grandmother. Who happened to be of Swedish descent. And currently missing the tip of his nose.

So next time you see me, do our relationship a favor. Tell me I look like one the guys from ABBA.

The one that doesn’t smoke.

….POLITELY IGNORE MY NOSE

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but my nose is probably the most prominent feature on my head.

It insults my intelligence when you act like it’s not even there.

I can always spot them. They’re the ones that use the phrase, “cut off your nose to spite your face” in passing.

Then they immediately start to blush.

They should be embarrassed. If I were to cut off my nose, it wouldn’t just spite my face. It would rip that bitch from my skull. It’s so deeply entrenched, it would take part of my brain with it.

So do me a favor next time you see me. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room.

Call a schnoz a schnoz.

And tell me you’re proud I’ve given up smoking.

3….HAVE TRIED TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH ME ABOUT RELIGION OR POLITICS.

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Some of you know me as “that angry, belligerent drunken bastard”. Perhaps you saw me at a party. Or you simply passed me on the street, and relaxed once you realized I’d only been screaming at myself.

No matter how hard you’ve tried to reason with me, there’s nothing you can do to calm me down.

There’s no use even trying. By the time you distract him with a fresh martini, “that angry, belligerent, drunken bastard” has already been replaced by “that angry, sobbing, ex-boyfriend” or “that angry, drunken guy vomiting on the coats piled up in the bedroom”.

So, be vigilant around me. Sensitize yourself to those subtle changes to my personality. And offer me a drink.

But never ever after Friday, August 2, offer me a smoke.

4. …TOLERATE ME FOR PRETENDING TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SCIENCE, ART OR LITERATURE.

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Others have had the pleasure of experiencing my pontification on subjects I know nothing about.

I thank you, especially.  You’re the ones who always stand by my side the whole way. You always wait until I’ve run out of breath, before you start in on whatever tedious subject you want to prattle on about.

A thousand times, thank you.

But the next time I run out of breath, don’t you dare fucking interrupt me like that again.

And if I’m smoking, you can call me an asshole. Because I’m not smoking anymore.

Not after Friday.

5…HAVE TRIED TO ENJOY A MEAL WHILE SITTING ANYWHERE NEAR ME.

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These people face some very conflicted feelings whenever they sit down for a meal with me.

On the one hand, watching me feed myself is a horrific experience. And I’m always shocked at how people can tolerate it.

I eat fast. It comes from growing up in a big family with sometimes limited resources. Family meals could get pretty hairy, growing up. One of my sisters stabbed one of my brothers to death in a fight over an Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookie. That’s the sister that is missing most of her right index finger, from the time she was eating a sandwich so fast, she didn’t notice she’d been biting off her digit until well after the second knuckle.

That’s because the only alternative to fighting was to eat as quickly as possible. To this day, I can’t view a dinner invitation as anything but a hostile gesture. To me, that’s just an invitation to Thunderdome. Two hands in, one hand out.

You don’t ever put that kind of conditioning behind you.

Which is why watching me eat is like watching one of those nature shows about the animals of the Serengeti. It’s the scene where millions of migrating gazelles have to ford this alligator-infested river. The only way to get through is to be quick and outrun. In the TV shows, they always show the few that do get snagged. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a cautionary tale for the other gazelles.

But watching me eat is even worse than the TV show. Because me eating is like there’s one huge Jewish looking alligator waiting for the gazelles. And he eats each one. And they all gladly leap to their death. Because it is delicious. And because they are thrilled to serve such an important role in the ecosystem, they run faster and faster, eager to join their friends that have gone before them.

On the other hand, you can’t smoke when you’re eating.

You may have noticed a pattern emerging in this post: I’m an absolute narcissist.

But I’m also a cigarette smoker. And I don’t want to be anymore. And as of Friday, August 4, I won’t be.

It doesn’t matter how you know me, but you’ve all helped me out before, in one way or another, and now I’m asking for your help, once again.

Help enforce my quit by the potential for shame.

Keep coming back here. Tell people what I’m doing. Leave a comment, or even just to click on the link, and move on.

You don’t have to read, but I will be blogging about my quit as much as possible. Jacquie will enforce transparency, so if I smoke, you will know.

And you’ll have a chance to tell me what you think about it.

I’m doing other things to quit, but I’m hoping the potential for shame will help.

The more people that come here, the more I will feel compelled to stay quit and save face.

Such as it is.

Thanks for your help, once again. I appreciate the support.

[[Fourth draft, it’s 3:36 in the morning]]

The daily grind of a working class stiff

An Otis employee  was tooling up and down the street in a forklift this afternoon.

There weren’t any delivery trucks at the freight bay of the single-story NZ headquarters for the supposed elevator manufacturer.

So what was this guy doing in the forklift? He was just having fun.

Who knew work could be so awesome?

At one point, he drove by, saw me and honked.

“I shouldn’t even be driving this,” he screamed. “I don’t even have a forklift license.”

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Which I guess was a problem, but not as immediate a concern as him driving against traffic on a one way street.

I was left wondering why I couldn’t have a forklift for my new job? Back when I used to work in an office, more than two weeks ago, this was exactly the kind of thing that could get you fired.

If you were spotted driving a forklift to work, and you didn’t have a license, that was pretty much the only excuse they needed to fire you on the spot.

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But every once in a while, some clown had to test the boundaries. The last guy had a giant scissors lift. He did donuts in the car park, and then, without anyone’s permission, he started washing then second floor windows.

Predictably, he did not have a full license to operate a large scissor lift, unless accompanied by an already-licensed scissor lift operator. Which he was not.

I’m not sure what exactly I would use a forklift for in my current role. (I’m unemployed). But, shit, I do want to have fun while I’m working.

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It has been fun. Working, I mean. Despite no steady income flowing, I have been able to weasel my way onto some interesting projects, which I’m hoping will lead to something else.

Like more projects. I’ve written a few episodes of a prospective web series, and I am likely to play one of the characters when it goes into production.

And, for those of you in the market for writing services, I am available for various writing assignment work, from press releases to web content, to marketing materials and case studies. Affordable rates! A better-than-most-eighth-graders’ command of the English language! Smart stuff, delivered in time. (contact: simon.eskow@gmail.com)

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Holy crap. I just turned this blog post into an infomercial.

The great thing is I do have a few projects going. But I don’t have any projects that require me to drive a forklift or a scissors lift, without a license, and for no good reason.

So, please, remember me the next time you need a contractor, especially if I can have a crack at some kind of machinery that I am not qualified to use.

I welcome all assignments involving radial saws, jackhammers, or any equipment that could make me seem even slightly more masculine than I am.

Fire. I like fire.

Because even if I’m unemployed, I never want to be idle.

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