Maine Coon Cats

Nice people are more than a nuisance

I’ve been on the job as a comedy writer full-time for more or less than a week now.

What a start to a wonderful new chapter in my life. Words fail.

Here is a picture to illustrate all the amazing developments so far.

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I know what you’re thinking. What did I expect? That it would be easy? That I’d just decide to become a comedy writer and presto I’d be rich and famous?

Of course I did. And between you and me, if I knew it was going to take longer than a week, I’d have gone with my original plan. DIY Family Dentistry. My motto was going to be “There’s nothing a little Number Eight wire can’t handle”. All my patients would be British expats because, let’s face it, how could I possibly make it any worse for them?

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Anyway, I’ve been giving a whole lot of thought as to why it’s taken so long for me to get a paid writing gig. It’s a complete lack of quality content on this blog.

This is obviously not my fault. Over the last week, I was forced to trash two hilarious blog posts that would have put me on the map. All because people turned out not to be the assholes I’d expected them to be. Assholes.

Yes, warm, friendly folk have found a way into my heart, thus destroying all my plans to write horrible things about them.

From now on, if you are nice and we meet, you should assume that it is my intention to write something bad about you on my blog. If you act accordingly, we’re fine. But if you are nice to me, you are actually being an asshole.

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But maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. Perhaps one can get mileage out of meeting nice people. Hell, everyday assholes make it easy. Perhaps the challenge is to discover what is so galling about nice people. Let’s take a look at one case study

A kindly old man walking dog

Sunday afternoon I was outside the flat supervising Vince in the vivisection of an earthworm.

An elderly gentleman approached walking his dog, startling us. The dog sent Vince running inside.

“Thanks, mister,” I said. “My cat needs to be put in his place from time to time.”

“That is a beautiful cat,” the old dude said.

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“Thanks, mister,” I said.

But as soon as I did, I wondered why. I didn’t have anything to do with Vince being beautiful. What was this moron trying to suggest? That I had consort with a feline, begetting this fine specimen? I’m not opposed to the idea. It’s just not likely, so why is this guy trying to ruin my life by making me say thank you for something I had nothing to do with. At best, he’s complimenting me on my selection of a pet, or maybe he doesn’t mean anything by it. Maybe it’s a tick. Maybe he’s always paying compliments, regardless of who’s around. “That is a nice telephone pole….what a nice cloud.” And I just happened to be in the way.

Whatever the case is, he was an asshole and I wish I had run up to him, pet his dog, stood up and knee’d him in the nuts. “That’s for being courteous and amiable and not providing me with decent material for my blog, douche bag.”

The guy did seem to linger. It felt like maybe he was holding on for me to pay him a compliment in return.

“And your dog is beautiful, too,” I said.

Which was a flat-out lie. His dog made me want to vomit. It looked like something that crawled out of the transporter device at the end of The Fly. Like a rat crossed with an old shag carpet. But I was just being nice.

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[[Rough draft, no proofing, Getting it trite the first time]]

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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.

A fate worse than walking your cat

A blogger risks his career, everything he’s worked his whole life for, when he begins to exploit his cat for new material.

His beautiful, luxurious and intellectually superior cat.

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What I’m saying is, posting shit like that places me squarely in the borderlands of the crazy-old-loner-guy from the creepy house down the street. Or from Apartment 16F, for you high-density urbanites reading. People, as a general rule, don’t like crazy-old-loner-guy. And that makes me sad. I’ve always known that one day I would become that guy. But I never dreamed it would happen before August. 

You don’t notice how quickly it ages you to post cat pictures and videos, until it’s too late. Suddenly, people stop visiting your blog. I got an email from my mom asking me how I was, and if I could somehow prevent Basement Life from reaching her computer.

The stats give testimony to the fact that my blog has become disconnected from its core audiences. According to WordPress analytics, those would be “depressed insomniacs” and “cats/infants messing around with the keyboard”.

In the past month alone, my daily average page-views total has plummeted a shocking 50 percent, from three to 1.5 now.  Which is about the same time I switched to the 24×7 cat programming format, when I started posting shit like this:

The problem, as you can see, extends well into the physical universe. The video was shot on the afternoon of Waitangi Day, a holiday in honor of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between Queen Victoria and many Iwis. It was the beginning of New Zealand. It was an important time for national reflection. And I used my time off work to shoot moronic video of my cat.

The shame. It piles up on me like so many dust bunnies regurgitated by your cat. Not only had the neighbors caught me surveilling Vince on video—a fate worse than being spotted by strangers with Vince on a lead—but then I gotta go post the video to YouTube, add tags, give it a title, and push the link on Twitter and Facebook. What kind of sick, pathetic person would go and do such a thing? The old creepy guy in apartment 16F, that’s whom. Think Gary Busey.

I have several good excuses for what I will call my ‘changing’. In the first place, it’s not my fault. I’m under the influence of a creature who has a far higher brain-to-body mass ratio than Jacquie’s and mine put together. Obviously, having more brain weight available for complex cognitive tasks always implies telepathic influence and control of others. Vince is fucking with our heads, man. Making us do things. Not any kind of inappropriate licking, mind you, just little things like making us open doors, feed him, and stabourselves in the eye with a fork while we’re trying to finish our dinner in peace. That sort of thing.

But I think I’ve turned into Gary Busey for a much more obvious reason. He’s so cute, I don’t mind damaging my sensitive tissue and organs with cutlery. Let alone, to post things like this next one.

To tell you the truth, I wanted to write something else today. About how I’d been in bed for most of the last six days because of an infection in my groin. But as much as I desire to be pitied, don’t feel bad for me because I’ve been sick. Feel bad for me because I’ve turned into an even bigger dork than you could ever imagine.

Walking your cat

I swore to Jacquie that I would sooner wax my privates on a regular basis than be observed walking a cat in public.

That was a long time ago. Circumstances change attitudes. I am now a cat-walker.

Jacquie makes fun of me any chance she gets

Incidentally, I did stay true to my oath about waxing. And now I can look down with humility and satisfaction. Take it from me, a tree does stand taller when it’s not in the middle of a forest.

My objection to walking Vince is simple. People who go out in public to take their cats for a stroll generally look like pretentious assholes.

Practicality has obviated my former bias. Over the months—as I’ve exploited Vince to plug a hole in my self-worth, and with luck, the even bigger hole in my net-worth—I learned something. Vince needed mobility and a modicum of independence, and we needed to make sure our expensive cat didn’t get run over by a truck. Vince and Jacquie and I reached a compromise in which Vince would be allowed to roam under supervision in the day time, but at night, he could only go out on a harness and lead.

It’s going to take a long time before we get this right, but I think we’re making progress.

Yet, despite the practical benefits of walking Vince, I can’t get over the public attention I’ve received.

Every night, someone says something, and I think my neighbors are starting to avoid contact with me.

So, it’s not all bad.

What bothers me are the strangers passing on the street. I don’t know if they’re going to punch me in the teeth or just laugh in derision until I start crying. Perhaps more the former, because it is the quickest way to make me cry. And there is no rule that says they can’t laugh derisively in addition to punching my teeth.

So far, my encounters have been less dramatic.

One night, this guy was heading toward the youth hostel down the road.

“Holy fuck, is that a cat?”

He was obviously dunk, or from Wales, based on his pattern of speech.

“Yeah, sorry.”

“No bro, that’s absolutely genius.”

“Oh, yeah, I like it a lot.”

“Brilliant.”

“Thanks man.”

“Yeah–”

Unfortunately, he fell down in the middle of the road before he could finish his sentence. But he turned out to be ok, I think, because I found him in the exact same place the next afternoon, with no visible signs of having been run over.

I’ve met other interesting people. A guy on a moped one night pulled into the driveway of the business next door. He got off his bike, unzipped his pants, and proceeded to urinate. He didn’t see me with Vince until after he was finished. He was startled and annoyed when he did see us, but I smoothed things over. I suggested that having his privates waxed on a regular basis would do him a world of good. He left without a word. Didn’t even thank me. But there was the unspoken agreement that if I didn’t say anything about his public urination, he wouldn’t tell the world about me walking a cat.

Agreed.

The Sixty-Second Promo

Just a few announcement to make. Listen up.

First, I want to say thanks to everyone who participated in my recent poll. I have no idea what the results are, but I’m sure your opinion still counts for something. To someone. Somewhere. Whatever. I myself voted three times. For ‘Cookie’. Which seemed to be the most logical option, really.

Alright. Next up is for those of you in the Auckland area. There is a show coming up at the Bath Street Gallery that everyone who likes painting should see. It promises to be very interesting. I will be attending the opening on Thursday, and posting about it shortly thereafter. The show looks promising on its own merit, but it also will make a great lead in to a discussion about the exhibition coming down on Tuesday.

One more item. We got a new kitten. He’s a six month old Maine Coon and his name is Vincent, but sometimes goes by Vince, or even just ‘meep’. In an upcoming post, I will be going more into his interesting story, his ideas about cat nip and the advantages of licking oneself over a shower, which in his imagination is far less hygienic. Somehow, I will tie this subject in with my recent, toxic exposure to popular culture, and why Madonna is worse than Whitney Houston, despite their music being equally unlistenable.

Lastly, does anyone object to me changing the name of this blog to BasemeNZlife.com?

All that, and more, in the next few weeks of Basement Life.

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