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

Boy, I sure have changed my mind about culture.

It’s fantastic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that was hoity-toity Riverdale.

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

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

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

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

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

Not many people can make that claim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacquie, being a nurse, started to walk faster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And on and on.

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

Which I think would make my art teacher proud.

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

Maybe I’ll start a blog.

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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.

Fact: Aspiration equals bifurcation

Freelancers often have extra time on their hands waiting for the next gig.

I spend my hiatuses thinking up facile little sayings that will be short enough for even my readers to memorize, and tailored to suit their vapid sensibilities.

These things just kind of flow through my brain. I don’t even know what any of them mean.

Like when I was taking a dump this morning, I came up with “aspiration equals bifurcation.”

I have no clue what that means. I was just passing the time. And a turd.

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Am I crazy or is there really a nugget of wisdom here.

Yes, and before I flush, I’d like to share with you my Business Learnings on the matter.

This one is quite obvious and simple.

If you’re not doing what you love for a living, and you’re not loving what you do for a living, but you want to do what you love for a living, you have to do what you do for a loving after you do what you do for a living, until such time as you can make doing what you love to love to do what you also love to do for a living.

Vince in Grey Lynn

If what I’m saying rings a bell, then you don’t need me to tell you that you’re in for a lot of hard work.

It’s going to be two full-time careers for a while, most likely until you’re dead.

A lot of entrepreneurs simply start out by putting in 18 hour days for months straight, just to get their startup off the ground.

That means it’s hard, but it can be done.

So don’t fret. When you are ready to swing from your occupational vine to the vine of your true calling, you can count on me for a tortured metaphor.

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What’s true for the business entrepreneur is true for the ambitious creative type.

Let’s say your day-job is ventriloquist dummy busker. Sure, it pays the rent, which because you live in a cardboard box means you have plenty of money for booze.

But when you tuck yourself in at night, you feel like something’s missing. No, your flask isn’t empty.

It’s the hollow feeling you get because you’ve always dreamed of being a famous mime.

Your real job begins at five o’clock. You rehearse all night, and you hone your performance on the open mime circuit, where you network with other mimes, but without ever saying a word

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That’s just an example. Frankly, I would love to see an open mime night, if it literally meant gutting mimes at the end of their bit.

It would have the added benefit of discouraging other people from becoming mimes. But if they still wanted to do the open mime night, and they don’t mind dying by evisceration, who are we to say no?

The real eye opener in this Business Learnings is why I would even bother making a joke about mimes.

When does anyone actually see a mime in Auckland? Except when Cirque du Soleil is in town, but that doesn’t count because they’re a bunch of pretentious Euro-twats.

But the bottom line remains the same. “Aspiration equals bifurcation” makes a lot of sense.

So, I haven’t completely lost my mind, is what I’m telling you.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Glenn Taylor, the quintessential American

What a beautiful day it was in Auckland.

Obviously, I’m displeased.

You can’t extract decent blog material from a sunny, warm, afternoon that puts everyone in a good mood. There’s no fucking punchline.

A good punchline would be if the day ended in emergency surgery, for example.

Sadly, not everyone ended up in emergency surgery today.

The best I could hope for was one of my pasty-faced British neighbors got third-degree sunburns. I’d blog that.

But the day never got to that high laughs-per-minute level. Bummer.

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It did turn to shit though.

Earlier, I thought I’d go out while there was still plenty of daylight to work on my third-degree sunburn.

Before leaving, though, I made the mistake of checking Facebook.

Like a schmuck, I watched this:

How could I enjoy my day knowing these kinds of American fucktards are allowed to breed, lead a Boy Scout troop, or form the Tea Party?

Thanks to the questionable judgement of New Zealand’s most sadistic standup comedian Simon McKinney, I was made to confront the American psyche in all the High-Fructose, Saturated Fatty-assed magnificence on display in this video.

Really appreciate you introducing me to that video, Simon.

How about I make you take a long hard look at your country’s disturbed psyche?

There, now I ruined your beautiful Sunday. Not so fun confronting the ugly truth, is it, Simon?

Now you know how I’ve felt since watching Dave Hall, Glenn Taylor, and Dylan Taylor destroying a 200 million year old rock formation in the Goblin Valley, Utah.

Just because, you know, it was there.

And because Glenn Taylor has eaten so many Big Macs this week, he has unlocked the “Obese, dumb-ass American” achievement badge, and wanted to show off his new powers.

There’s been quite a public back lash in the US.

Which really confuses me. I thought America elevated “proud stupidity” above all other American virtues.

Why else do 79 percent of you think humans were created by god, with 37 percent of you saying humans were created by god as they are right now?

How could half of you believe an inside-the-Beltway-haircut like Obama represented “change”? How could the other half of you get away with calling him a “socialist”, bandying the epithet around like a chimpanzee who just found an inflatable baseball bat?

Obviously, because you’re stupid.

So, Glenn Taylor knocked down some stupid rock formation some so-called scientists estimate to have been there for 200 million years.

Big fucking deal. Glenn shouldn’t be publicly shamed. He should be lauded for destroying one of the lies that Satan has planted to confuse us about how the world works.

Everyone knows god created the Universe 6,000 years ago.

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America should adore Glenn. He’s American Superstar material.

He’s morbidly obese enough to make people feel better about eating that second cake for desert.

And Glenn has proven conclusively that he’s brutish, ignorant, and asinine, which seals the Fox News audience.

And Glenn’s buddy, the guy on the camera? His bland taste in music will secure the American Idol crowd.

You see where I’m going with this, Glenn? You have the audience. Now you just need your own TV show.

Every week, you and your friends will go to a different national park, and deface it in a spectacular way that only a fat, ignorant American can come up with.

And your friend can sing all the crappy, canned club music from the mid-1990s that he can recall.

Next week, you should go to Yellowstone and plug up Old Faithful with cement. That would be awesome.

With any luck, you’ll inspire other people to record their own vandalism in national parks. That way, you can segue your show into a reality TV competition.

Hosted by Donald Trump.

It could be anything, really. Setting fire to Yosemite. Spray-painting “LOL” underneath Lincoln’s head at Mt. Rushmore. Buying 500,000 gallons of crude oil and dumping it somewhere in Alaska.

Honestly, the possibilities are endless.

All we need now is some critical mass.

So America. Get the word out. Tweet it, put it on Facebook. Hell, ask Jesus to come into the heart of a TV producer to make this happen.

And it’s going to happen.

Let’s go, Glenn!

Haunted menorah revitalizes NZ Halloween

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

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

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

People, we are way behind.

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

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

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

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

We need a plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what am I getting at?

Atomic weapons,  Halloween and Christmas decorations?

Well, I forgot.

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

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

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

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

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

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That’s the opposite of what happens in America.

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

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

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

“But I’m half Jewish,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a history it has.

My part goes back to 2004.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bloke said it was his most prized possession.

Then he keeled over from a massive heart attack.

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

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

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

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

Pep for a dry spell

A contractor’s life takes so many sharp turns and spins, it makes you want to vomit on your computer.

But you stop yourself because you remember it will be hours before Jacquie comes home from work to clean up the mess.

You swallow your apprehension, along with some partially digested Weet-Bix, and you take your new freelance life one day at a time.

What other choice do you have?

Take a look in the mirror. What do you see?

A consummately unemployable wreck of an early middle-aged proto-carcass with awkward teeth and smallish man-boobs?

It should be. That’s what you are, my friend.

You are no doubt flinching in disgust. We all are.

But it’s just us talking, making candid assessments of ourselves. (Thus the mirror imagery).

So swallow your pride, along with some twice-digested Weet-Bix, and face the facts.

You’re a freelancer because nobody will tolerate working in the same building with you.

Fair enough. They have their own Weet-Bix to digest, a process that could only be hindered by your physical presence.

Plus, everyone knows you wear Birkenstocks.

Your career, you see, is exactly where it needs to be. At home, with the blinds shut, handcuffed to the bathroom radiator except for two 15 minute breaks for breakfast and lunch.

Look at yourself in the mirror again.

But this time, with as much dignity as you can muster, gaze into your own eyes and shout:

“I am a leper.”

Now let’s connect the two metaphoric images central to this post.

As I’ve so ingeniously demonstrated, the contractor’s life is a curvy, bumpy, quaggy slog.

When you’re working, the stretches are sometimes smooth, sometimes tough to navigate.

But when there isn’t any new work coming in, you’re spinning your wheels in a rut, doing nada but make the mud fly.

You shut off your engine. You shake your head, and you catch yourself in the side view mirror.

Then you look at yourself, and smile with pride, as you scream:

“I am a leper. And my car is stuck in the mud. Can someone please help? You wouldn’t have to come in direct with my hideous putrefaction. Just call the automobile club. I’d do it myself, but I’m afraid to lose what’s left of my last finger-stump. You know, because I’m a leper.”

There. Was that so hard? Even if it was, it’s better if you come to terms with your present, grim circumstances.

Because now you can look at the bright side.

You’ll be tempted to feel sorry for yourself. Work has slowed down, you’re unemployable, and frankly, when I see you coming toward me on the street, I duck into a nearby shop to hide.

Only then do I realize that I’m in Auckland, and the nearest shop is a 27 minute bus ride away. So, I’m fucked, because you’ve already seen me and hooked me into this stupid conversation.

You’re “sad because the work isn’t as predictable and safe as you’d like, despite getting some pretty interesting assignments that you’d never have gotten before had you not become a freelance writer?”

Which is what I’m saying out loud as I type this, in a mock baby voice.

In other words, you know what your problem is, you big baby?

You see your situation as a glass half-empty.

That could be a good thing if the glass is half-full of arsenic-laced Diet Coke.

Or just Diet Coke.

But for the purposes of this metaphor, let’s say the liquid in question is water. Mmm. You like water, right? Everyone loves water.

Are you seriously going to tell me that you won’t drink up that water because you think the glass is half empty, knowing all too well that the glass is half full (and not with a poisonous substance, at least not beyond human tolerance, you know this to be true)?

If that’s really how you feel, you need a spanking.

And I can’t wait to give you one.

Figuratively, I think.

Maybe your problem comes from you not looking hard enough in the mirror.

When I look at you looking at yourself in the mirror, I see a person who is completely self-absorbed.

Why are you still looking at yourself the mirror? That bit is dead. Deader than dead. Was probably stillborn. But in any case. Dead.

If you tried looking on the bright side for a change, instead of in the mirror like you always do, you’d see you’re not in a quagmire. You’re on an adventure.

Uncertainty is an acceptable price to pay for the relative freedom, and variety, that comprises the contractor’s work life.

To enjoy being what you do for a living isn’t enough to keep your business afloat, however.

This might be a drag to you, but you are running a business. A business called Me, Myself and I, for which there is no such thing as down time.

There are always plenty of things to do when you’re not working on a money-making project.

It can be bookkeeping, marketing efforts, picking out an ergonomic chair, getting into a dispute with a call center employee because they no longer sell the ergonomic chair you want in puce, and so much more.

In my downtime, I like to demonstrate my superior writing capability and lord its brilliance over my trembling readers.

That’s one of the reasons I keep this blog, obviously: to demonstrate to potential business partners that I’m the best source of the best creative shit to ooze out of a person’s brains ever.

You know what I mean?

So, for instance, today I wrote this poem, which I call Introductory Rates for First-time Clients:

I am a leper.

My car is stuck in the mud.

Can you help me?

Will you help a struggling leper?

I can help you.

I have metaphors, such as my career is like a car stuck in the mud, and when I look at myself, I see a self-absorbed person looking back, but with much of his face missing.

I am a leper.

My car is stuck in the mud.

Wink.

I’m on an adventure!

Will you help me help you?

Now you are saying yes.

Now I am locking my car and I am coming to you with an invoice, already.

Now you are pointing to my shoe, which I left stuck in the mud behind me

with my foot still inside

so, easy come easy go.

I’m a leper on an adventure.

Introductory rates apply!

The people seem to love it.

I post it on my blog, sit back, and watch the monie$ roll in.

Incidentally, I ran into the male Gummy Bear today.

He seems to have misgivings about his current sales role, cold-calling people to buy I forget what.

He told me that although he sometimes calls some of the women back after the shift to just “listen to their voices”, he doesn’t find the job challenging.

“Wha’ I go’ si’ behoind a desk for all day?” said the bear. “Leicester pe’pl are pe’pl pe’pl, if y’g’t m’y me’n’ng.”

“Yes, yes of course.”

And who could argue with him? He’s a big guy. He’s massive. He can lift a Sumo wrestler riding a giant pink unicorn named Sassafras.  At least that’s what his Linkedin profile says.

“I’m loo’n’g for another jawb now, but I’m ofa-quawified,” said the bear. “So I’s can take a break and rest me weary ‘ead wi’ a game of ‘Double Solitaire.'”

What the fuck is “Double” Solitaire? I saw an ad on Facebook for a game app by that name.

Usually I play solitaire by myself. As the name suggests.

Solitaire is French for “stupid, tedious game for people who need a life.”

Obviously, I play it all the time.

 But Double Solitaire?

Are there people so bored, who’ve given up on life so much that they will double-up on Solitaire?

Double Solitaire sounds like a game a giant anthropomorphized Gummy Bear would play.

It’s hard to imagine there are that many Gummy Bears running around, downloading Double Solitaire.

So, maybe there are other people in the target market.

People with split personalities, for instance.

It’s bad enough if you have more than one personality, but you’re extra screwed if all your personalities are the kind of loser who would play Double Solitaire.

But then if Double Solitaire were for people with multiple personalities, the makers would have to realize that each personality is a potential customer.

And if that were the case, why would they call it Double Solitaire. They’d do better if they called it Deluxe Party Solitaire with a note saying, “Great with 6 to 12 players!”

Oh, fuck. Where was I?

Right. Long story short, I was glad to have run into the Gummy Bear. He reminded me that as much as you worry about where your next gig is coming from, your work life is no longer highlighted by the brainless memes, game apps and office gossip that too often characterizes a nine-to-five job. Anything to break up the tedium of downtime.

So it isn’t so bad to be a leper after all.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

[[First draft. No pics. Light proofing. Pics later]]

Trains, yachts, and automobile shops

People overseas probably don’t understand how big the Americas Cup yacht race was in New Zealand.

I don’t either.

Kiwis viewed the race as some kind of Cinderella story for the nation.

Could our team of Kiwi, Australian, and English yachtsmen, flying the flag of one of the world’s largest airlines, beat the team of Kiwis, Australians and English sailing for one of the biggest software makers in the world?

We didn’t know. We wouldn’t know until it got closer to the end. That’s how time works, dip-shit.

New Zealand astronautscongratulations

Our eyes were glued to our computer screens, throughout the race. Our asses were screwed to our chairs, our fingers frozen on the refresh button.

We had a lot of explaining to do when the paramedics showed up.

Was the self-mutilation worth it? Millions of Kiwis are into yachting. And millions more are into self-mutilation. So pretty much everyone had a good week there.

Not me. I was disappointed. Americas Cup, my ass. If it was the “Americas” cup, why were there no shots fired? Oracle could have demonstrated what makes the US the greatest nation in history: our eternal commitment to wanton gun violence.

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Instead, Oracle relied on top equipment, good management, and excellent team work to take the Cup. Well.

That’s not the America I know and love.

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New Zealand has a lot more interesting things going on than coming in second place in a corporate sea-spectacle.

And by “a lot” I mean, in this instance, they have a nice train station.

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That’s the award winning New Lynn intermodal transportation depot, designed by Architectus and Brewer Davidson Architects.

As Architectus writes on its website, “Modal priority in interchanges should follow the principle of having the most efficient and sustainable modes given the most prominent location.”

And how.

And how in the world did I end up passing through there in the first place?

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It’s a funny story. Remember a few years ago when I had some prominent, non-speaking cameos in Spartacus: Sand and Blood and Shortland Street? And remember when I promised I’d never do that kind of shit-work again? And remember when I said I’d rather eat raw sewage than to spend any time in New Lynn?

I was working as an extra in New Lynn.

Juxtaposing buildings, one under construction.

Buildings off the  New Lynn memorial plaza.

It was for a TV commercial being filmed on location at a mechanic’s shop near the depot.

At first, the producers wanted me to play a happy customer.

But after a few takes, they realized they would not be able to get my whole nose into the frame without a more expensive lens.

The director saw me smiling and decided the best solution would be to have me play a jack-o-lantern in the background, as long as she only got me head-on.

It was easy work, and it had some perks.

The day before, we were shooting on location at a cafe and we got tons of free coffee.

The mechanic was equally generous and gave us tons of free coffee mugs filled with motor oil.

As I didn’t have my car with me, I felt obligated to drink some of it, so as not to come off as ungrateful.

Then I went home.

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Auckland’s historical suburban development does not lend itself to beautiful, or even remarkable public spaces.

The New Lynn station is one of them.

Light imbues warmth to even the most institutional materials necessary to meet the fire code.

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The main escalators are sided with clear and opaque glass, allowing light to penetrate to the lower level of the terminal.

The escalator leads to the waiting area, which connects commuters to a major bus terminal outside, to buses and a taxi stand.

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The bus stops and taxi stand on the street would not have made sense without the trench, which allows for surface traffic to move unencumbered by passing rail traffic.

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Details in the trench walls convey a sense of animation to passengers in trains leaving and entering the station.

But they are also reminiscent of contour maps, a reference to Auckland geography, adeptly contrasting a human relationship with motion and stillness

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The contours may also cushion the noise from passing trains, while at same time giving bored passenger who forgot their kindles something to look at that won’t drive them completely insane.

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The design is conscious of light throughout, with a pleasant lattice forming between the shelters and cross braces and the platform below.

If you were tripping on LSD, you’d probably think you were standing on a sun-speckled forest floor.

Or you might think you were a nectarine. It all depends.

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Anyway, here come choo choo.

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Or as the judges of the New Zealand Architecture Awards said:

As a hub for a catchment benefitting from improved transit-oriented catchment for public transport, the hub performs a welcome place-making function in a part of Auckland ill-served by a generation of car-focused planning.

By lowering the rail track beneath road level, the architects have untangled local infrastructural knots and provided ample space for a user-friendly platform. A successor to the noble tradition of railway architecture, this project is a beacon of quality in a sea of indifferent buildings and a benchmark for future development.

Like I said, “Here come choo choo.”

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.”