Earle Street

Doing the Parnell bloke

A particular genre of masculinity prevails in New Zealand.

And it scares the shit out of me.

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A lot of New Zealand men are not merely men. They’re blokes.

Blokes are New Zealand’s “Regular Joes”. They enjoy being physical, building useful things, and just generally keeping active every frigging spare moment of their fricking lives.

Their weekends are spent deep-sea fishing, watching the rugby in the “man cave”, and getting strung-up naked by the wrists as their mates take turns thrashing their buttocks with a garden hose. And that’s just Saturday.

There isn’t anything wrong with any of that. It’s just blokes keeping busy and what-not.

My problem is how self-conscious I have become since moving to New Zealand of how alien the blokes and their folkways are to me.

It makes me realize that the only “man cave” I can accept is the one tucked safely away when I sit on my ass all day trying to think up new ideas for this lousy blog.

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My sense of masculinity is a case of nurture screwing with nature’s head, from a strictly cissexual perspective.

When you’re raised among sisters, your sense of gender-coding gets distorted by the colorful hand-me-downs you’re forced to wear. Boys on JV basketball don’t take you seriously when you show up to practice in the Osh Kosh overalls your sister was wearing the day before.

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None of that means anything. You’re still a man. With serious qualifications, sure.

But a man, nevertheless.

Just not a bloke.

How easy it is for a man like me (certain conditions apply) to feel a little less than a man when he’s around blokes. All eyes are on him as he returns from the bar with his shandy. Blokes laugh at him when they see him walk his cat at night. And he feels ashamed, even after his neighbor assured him that it is routine men to walk their cats, as long as they live in the confines of Parnell.

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This isn’t to say there aren’t blokes living in Parnell.

In fact, Parnell blokes sometimes display the one blokey quality I find intolerable.

It’s a juvenile, covetous fascination for other blokes‘ expensive cars.

I once saw some construction workers accidentally bury their foreman in cement because they were momentarily distracted by some wheels of desire. “Yeaah, awright,” they shouted, though it was unclear if they were cheering for the car or for what they did to their foreman.

This went on every day for more than a week, right here on Earle Street. One day, somebody parked a black, 2002 FERRARI 360 MODENA F1, I think they call it, right across the road from our building.

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The car was in front of Otis Elevator’s single-story building on Earle Street, in a yellow-marked loading zone with a five-minute parking limit during business hours.

Bloke after bloke, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends or family, stopped dead, looked the car over and said, “Yeah, that’ll do.”

These continuous displays of envy disquieted me, amusing as it could be. I’d watch the blokes passing, pumping their fists, audibly drooling. Then I’d look at the cat and he would look at me, then there’d be laughter and one of us (usually me) would say, “what a dick”. (After a pause for the dick in question to pass out of earshot. We don’t eat our own in Parnell).

Even more galling was the prospect of the owner himself. How could he get away with parking in a five minute zone for more than a week? Not one ticket on this car. When you buy a Ferrari, does the sticker price include a bribe to the local constabulary? Was the conventional wisdom true, after all, that men who own Ferraris are to generally assholes?

The Ferrari being there didn’t make any sense. Until I remembered how a couple days before the Ferrari showed up, there was an attempted break-in of one of the furniture shops on the street.

One of the owners told me the police thought it wasn’t a real attempt, but someone casing the block, testing which buildings had what kind of alarm systems.

The owner advised me to be watchful. I agreed and tried to leaven an otherwise dour and extremely boring conversation lighter with a stock “cat burglar” joke.

“It was probably just Vincent,” I said.

Followed by a comment about how self-conscious I get when I masturbate in front of him.

She did not respond or smile, but walked away briskly, watching me from the corner of her eye.

It took me ten minutes to realize that not only was I not standing there with my cat on the leash, as I had originally thought I had been doing, but that not every new person I meet knows that I’m talking about my cat when I use the name Vince. Go figure.

So, first the break-in attempt, then the Ferrari shows up. Was the car part of some kind of sting operation? Was it left there intentionally, with a tracking device hidden inside, to tempt presumptive burglars? The possibility made me feel sorry for the New Zealand police department for this flimsy operation. If the burglars were smart enough to case the neighborhood, wouldn’t they see the Ferrari as the “too good to be true” score that it was?

Do the police lump all criminals together in one big stereotype? I mean, do burglars even possess the requisite skill sets and core competencies that car thieve so often take for granted? Or are the business models so alike, they’re exchangeable?

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Perhaps the police meant the Ferrari as a warning to the burglars that the area was being closely watched. In which case, the police have made a big assumption. Just because you’re breaking into a building, doesn’t mean you’re a bloke that gives a shit about sports cars. This is Parnell, after all.

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And now the conclusion to Flight to Alcázar

Everyone in America knows Jacquie is gaseously challenged.

That didn’t bother me when we started dating. I mean, the asthma attacks, the burning eyes, the emergency room visits, and the flash fires, I could deal with all that. I just kept telling myself that some day I would be dead and it would all be over, and that made it all ok.

Besides, you have to put things in perspective. We lived in Greenpoint, a convenient few blocks away from New York City’s largest aggregation of excrement, the Newtown Creek Waste Treatment Facility, famous for its egg-like “digester tanks,” known to the locals as the Shit Tits.

Now how much more noxious, I used to ask myself, could Jacquie’s effluvium possibly be stacked up against those four giant Shit Tits?

A little, but that’s not the point. The point is, I held my nose and, because I wasn’t busy that Saturday, got hitched up to my special lady.

It didn’t take long, however, for the true dimensions of Jacquie’s intestinal character to manifest. One day, we were late heading to a friend’s party. As we rushed toward the turnstiles to catch an arriving subway train, Jacquie dropped her Metrocard. I got a little impatient.

“We’re going to miss the train,” I said.

“Don’t rush me,” she said. “You wouldn’t like me when I’m rushed.”

“If we’re late it’s your fault.”

She grit her teeth, snarled, and her irises turned yellow. From the sulfur. “I warned you,” she said. “I am Blastula.”

I was scared. I won’t lie. I watched Blastula bend to pick up her Metrocard. The resulting pressure in her abdominal cavity must have been too much. It squeezed out a fart that rocketed her over the turnstile and into the waiting subway train just before the doors closed behind her. The irony is, she got to the party on time, and I was late. But what I saw that day was something I never wanted to see again. Blastula is someone you don’t want to meet in a dark alley unless you have a match and you want to see a fireworks show.

So when Jacquie told me a few weeks back that we were being evicted thanks to Blastula, I didn’t want to believe her. I didn’t want Blastula back in my life, in our life. Ruining everything. If it were Blastula, we surely would be evicted, no question. But if it were something else, maybe I could convince our landlord to let us stay. So I waited for my flight to Auckland, thinking of possible alternative reasons for our landlord’s displeasure.

To be honest, Jacquie and I haven’t been the best of neighbors. Since we lived in Mt. Eden, property values have bottomed out, and we are not welcome in most shops. Because of the sulfur.

So, maybe if it were something else, some particular episode, we could apologize and make things right. I remembered:

1. The Girl Guide Episode

It was a cold, rainy afternoon, a typical summer day in New Zealand. There’s a knock at the door, and I open it and standing there are these 10-, 11-year-old girls that to my recollection looked a lot like the one in this police sketch:

I stifled my desire to scream in terror, fearing that it would only make matters worse to agitate the Girl Guides.

“Would you like to support the Girl Guides by buying some biscuits?” the leader said.

I thought the only way to get rid of these meth addicts would be to buy a couple of boxes. And thinking that the “Girl Guide” “biscuits” would be just like a Girl Scout cookies–you know, edible–I thought, everyone wins. But mostly me because I’d have a delicious cookie, and I would longer live in fear.

So I bought two boxes and sampled one of these “biscuits”.

“Oh, my god,” I said. I spat out half an uneaten cookie. “Girls, come back here a minute. Where did you make these cookies? In pottery class? I think you need to give me my money back.”

They were flummoxed, but I was able to get my money back when Jacquie threatened to fart near them.

2. The pet ducks episode

One day Jacquie wanted a pet duck.

She wouldn’t be dissuaded.

“I always had a duck growing up,” she said. “It had its own duck pond, but it liked to swim with us in the people pool and she and the hen used to clutch their eggs together and they were inseparable. We all had ducks growing up.”

So we went to Pet Stop, New Zealand’s one stop shop for all your pet needs.

“Oh, no, Jacquie, we’re too late.”

“I want a pet duck,” she said.

Her irises turned yellow. So we bought all the pet ducks that were hanging the shop window, plus a nice plastic pool for them to swim in.

Then we came home and let the ducks go free on the lawn we shared with our neighbors and their two young children who liked to play on that lawn.

But the ducks seemed unresponsive, and pretty soon, we lost interest in them, but our neighbors kept giving us looks, because every time they passed our door, Jacquie was passing gas.

3. The newspaper headline episode

One day I was sitting on the front step reading the local free newspapers, when Matt, the neighbor-husband came home from work.

“Simon, I’ve been meaning to ask what you planned to do with these, um, ducks you’ve left on the lawn.”

“Our pet ducks?”

“Pets?”

“Yes, well, they’re not much for pets now, ever since the rats got to them. Oh, there’s one now.”

“Yes, well, um.”

“You think we should take them to the vet? They look like they might have rabies.”

Matt was speechless, probably out of respect for our poor ducks, which at that very moment were being attacked by another wave of rats.

“Hey,” I said. “Cheer up. Check out this terrible headline.”

Matt read the headline. “What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s a lie. How in the world can lepers touch anything?”

“You’re a dick.”

Just then, there was an extended, muffled rumbling from within our flat.

****

So, the Girl Guides hated us, our neighbors hated us, and the lepers hated us. Not to be redundant.

And remembering all those episodes, I knew there would be no pleading. Blastula, I realized, was involved in every situation.

When I returned home, Jacquie was in high spirits.

“I’ve already found us an apartment, in Parnell.”

The highest concentration of wankers in New Zealand.

“You’ll love it,” Jacquie said. “It’s got a washing machine, and it’s in a historic deco building. Called Alcázar. Like in Spain. See?”

Cute.

Come back soon for the exciting epilogue to this incredibly stupid blog post.