Fake space adventures & Alf’s soliloquy

This is the beginning of the family photo wall. I finally got around to it tonight. I’ve got about half as many photos again to find frames for, but it can wait. I seem to have already depleted The Warehouse’s halfway decent bargain bin photo frame stock. I calculate I spent about $3.79 per frame, stockpiling them over the course of a year or so. Less than $5.00 per unit, anyway. Apart from the one I spent $80 on, which sort of throws everything out. (See if you can guess which of these frames cost $80… Although a white frame is a white frame is a white frame, probably, at this distance.)

I got home before 6 this evening and had the rare pleasure of being drawn in by the end of Home and Away. The cliffhanger worked its full and gasp-worthy magic on me, even though I only caught the last 10 minutes, even though I haven’t watched Home and Away in many, many years. Alf’s soliloquy was particularly poignant. Good old Alf; he’s a stalwart with a dark secret and a checkered past that’s just gone and got all stirred up out of blimmin’ nowhere. Soap gold.

I guess the other thing of note from today was the astronaut thing. Downstage was doing a dress up as an astronaut and get your photo taken just like you’re in space one-day-only thing this evening. I really wanted to go and get my photo taken as an astronaut but I was too lazy. So instead I killed an idle 10 minutes crudely Photoshopping people’s faces onto an astronaut’s body. Like so:

I am not wise

I’m not.

Sometimes I think I am, and then something happens and I realise that I most categorically, definitively, am not.

Sometimes I think I have got it all going on. I surprise myself with supreme grown-upness, just sometimes. And sometimes for months on end I am a picture of profundity and calm.

When actually, all along, I am not wise.

I know a lot of things, but the more I know the more I know I don’t know, as my mother would say, and as my mother’s mother said before her.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I had major deja vu upon cutting my hand open a short while back. How I was teleported back through the years – exactly the same person, doing exactly the same thing, thinking in exactly the same way. I was not wise then, and I am not wise now.

I read something today. Writing is the urge to communicate and be alone at the same time. That has nothing to do with wisdom, as such, but it seemed to go some way towards explaining the strange mental quandary that writing creates.

Today I had a conversation with a friend about his impervious waistcoat. We threw some words around. Like invincible. We could have also gone further and used words like infallible and impregnable, but we had work to get back to.

I wish I had an impervious waistcoat. But I am not impervious, or infallible, or wise.

Don’t think I am being self-deprecating, or fishing for a compliment to make myself feel better. For starters, I don’t feel particularly bad about it (just a fraction contemplative in a wan, shadowy-eyed, Monday-eveningish kind of way). 

And, more to the point, may I be so blunt as to point out that you are not impervious, or infallible or wise either. Oh, unless you are Plato, or Confucius, or some kind of figment of your own imagination. Which – may I also bring to your attention – you are truly not.

So that makes us more or less the same, you and me (give or take all the oceans of difference and strangeness and whatever else that may come between us, should we ever actually come together in the first place).

Now I have consumed a touch too much Tiramisu and we are hoping for rain. It could go either way (the rain, I mean), so we’re not holding our breaths or anything.

There were some other things from the past week… I can’t remember them all now. I was in Auckland. I had a notebook with me, but all I wrote in it was I am not wise. Hence the title of this entry.

Thing # 1:

I cling to books because I cling to life.

We have the upstairs book collection and the downstairs book collection. Bedroom books are the ones that threaten to topple over on me and smother me as I sleep. I live to tell the tale, though.

At any given time I will always have about 22 x more books in my bedside pile than I could possibly read. I will attempt to read somewhere between three and five books simultaneously, poorly, and with the attention span of a sugar-rushing kid, and I will invariably fail (just as I am not wise) to see the finish line with approximately 66.6% of them.

The other day, Simon finished with a book I had also finished with (or dipped in and out of). He said shall I take this downstairs? And a sense of panic and finality came over me.

I should point out that our downstairs bookshelves are stacked three deep (I blame Simon’s vinyl collection for spreading) and I cant find anything any more.

The exact thought that came to me was: I may die and never have a chance to read this book again. This is the last time I will ever read – or even lay my hands on – this book.

I’m not sure where the thought came from, but it knocked me for six, as my father might say. And then I regained my composure and went to bed, clinging to a new book (for as long as it will have me).

The book was Jenny Bornholdt’s The Rocky Shore, in case you were wondering.

I also just finished reading Paul Auster’s Invisible. I even got up before work one day to finish it. I never get up before anything to finish anything, so let that be an indication of how much I enjoyed it.

I had some other thoughts, over the last week, but they’ll keep (as my father would also say… actually that’s not true – he usually says you’ll keep as a response to some impertinence).

Frankie now has eyes on her (even if they are sympathetic ones) and all of a sudden she has become a different beast, and so have I. More scrutinised, less free.

I need an impervious waistcoat. I need some pearls of wisdom.

an eternal flame

Sometimes Simon asks me to write something for his blog. Last night I did. The subject was bittersweet songs and what they dredged up from the dreaded memory files.

Tonight was going to be the night I wrote my long-awaited (ha ha, not really) Animals in our Art Collection post. But now I’m buying time and rehashing day-old writing. A little disappointing, I know, but it’s better than putting up a gone fishing sign, surely? (The fishing sign is on its way, don’t you worry about that.)

It means I can have a ‘working dinner’ – that’s what we have around here lately – and crack on with Frankie, who is positively bursting with new things to say right now.

Later on tonight we’re going to see Neko Case at San Fran Bath House, which will be ace. We went to see The Books and Camera Obscura last night. It was pretty cool. I was a bit sad that Camera Obscura didn’t do 80s Fan though, which is my favourite. So I bought one of their tote bags with a peacock on it, and all was well again. So shallow.

Right, here’s what I wrote yesterday, followed by the link to the full post. And I’m off to do the Frankie thing. Wish me luck.

Every time I hear Eternal Flame something weird happens to me. It’s not really what I’d call nostalgia – because that would imply a recollection of something pleasant – and it’s not like abject terror from an accidental confrontation with a suppressed childhood memory or anything. Maybe it’s somewhere in between the two things. Maybe there is a word for what I am about to explain, but if there is I don’t know it.
I’m sure it’s the same for everyone. I’m not really sure why it is that music is so evocative of time and place or, in this case, a particular memory. Why you can’t just listen to an old song, one you’ve known forever, without it being wrapped up in a whole heap of emotional stuff you thought you had jettisoned (when, little did you know, it was just sitting in your cerebral recycle bin all this time just waiting for its cue to resurface). Why even the slightest snatch of song can bring it all back, good or bad, vivid as the day it all happened.
[Actually, I do have a few theories on why this is, but this isn’t the place for them (and if I did take the risk of boring you with my bush lawyer approach to pop psychology right here I might not get invited back).]
So, a case in point. Eternal Flame. In what we used to call Form One back in the day, I wanted to be in the school choir. Or actually maybe it was the school production. They held auditions. St Cuthbert’s College music department, 1989. I remember the room, the layout of the room, the light in the room. I remember the angle of the piano and the colour of its wood. I think I even remember the texture of the carpet in the room. I don’t remember what was written on the blackboard in the room that day, but I don’t want to think too much about it. I think I could probably remember even that if I tried hard enough.
More than anything I remember how badly I wanted to be in the choir. Or the school production. Both, probably, but I think I have conflated two separate memories, rolled them up into one big eternal flaming.
I remember rehearsing in my bedroom. And I mean rehearsing a lot. I remember the nerves. But nervous as I was, all of 11, I was spurred on by a vision of greatness, by sheer determination and probably a good deal of weak-kneed naivety. 
I think you might know where this is heading. You know that feeling when you’re the last person picked for a team in gym (that was me, too, but that’s a whole other story, and one that has nothing to do with music). Or those scenes in American high school movies where they post a list of the chosen few on the bulletin board amongst the lockers in the corridor. Cheerleading or band camp or gridiron – the particular extracurricular activity doesn’t matter. What matters is the moment when you look for your name, starting from the bottom up, and it isn’t there. The moment when Eve is expelled from Paradise comes to mind. That might sound dramatic, but remember we’re dealing with an eleven year-old’s emotions here.
What I couldn’t see clearly then (but can now, of course) was that I was effectively tone deaf, heir to a strong and inescapable fortune of tone-deafness. The very fact that I even fronted for the audition was an act of sheer prepubescent stupidity that from that moment on I very quickly grew out of. With a couple of decades’ worth of water under the bridge, I now mark up the music teacher for keeping a straight face.
And that’s what I think of when I hear Eternal Flame. My very first rejection, the first dashing of hope.
As a postscript, after years of piano and violin tuition I managed to find the tune. If you are ever involved in an evening of Singstar with me and I won’t give the microphone back or play nicely, then now you know why. I do have something to prove.

Songs with a bittersweet taste (courtesy of Blog on the Tracks)

make it okay, II

Part 2 of the dredged up make it okay files. Not exactly what you’d call immensely readable, layout wise.

At times like these a bit of copy/paste comes works a treat. The non-squinty version bunged below:

my eyes are bright with tears & runway lights
I was a child bride, the little fish you should have thrown back. 
But I begged you to keep me. So you watched over me like an old sage, 
saw my hips fill out, my eyes bulge at the slippery oyster that was the world.
I adored you; you taught me everything I knew. You are wise & beautiful 
like an ancient axolotl. 
Your skin has worn more days than I could ever imagine. 
You showed me a person I could become, pointed her out & said: 
   the world is but a succession of tomorrows. 
   this could be you. 
   do you like the look of her?
    & I said yes, yes. I liked the look of her, 
    this unformed mannequin 
    giddy with potential’s aphrodisiac.
I am old now. Well, older. Those were heady days. 
After the day of the runway lights, we never met again. I saw your name 
on the divorce papers. Our lawyers met over boozy lunches 
& orchestrated our undoing. Our hearts filled with red tape.
I was a slip of a thing, your protégée. You saw something in me. 
I was unschooled in the ways of love & you were patient with me. 
I grew hungry for your gaze. & somewhere in it all I became a woman.
I lay beside you every night & thanked the Lord for the gift 
of your gnarled body.
I loved every one of your deformities, touched upon your sores lightly. 
I blossomed. 
You took me to the end of the pier & made me look at the ocean.
You said:  it is time.
   I do not have the right to keep you. 
   the future is bright; it beckons you.
 This was news to me. We passed through the fairground. I threw balls 
  into the stunned open mouths of painted clowns & did my best 
  to understand your meaning. I won a stuffed donkey 
  & gave it your name.
 My tears could have filled many thimbles; they were the ocean in miniature.

collecting stickers

This is just a selection of them. This was practically the best thing about the weekend just been. Finding Simon’s childhood sticker collection. That, and hanging out in a swimming pool. And Popcorn Chicken in Paraparaumu (technically outside Wellington, so I wasn’t breaking my no KFC in Wellington rule).

My childhood sticker collection has long since gone the way of gone things. Mine were delicate and shiny or furry and came on small sheets of paper. For a while there were scratch ‘n sniff. Mine were cute. Ducklings and bears. There were also scented rubber collections, pressed flower collections, stamp collections. For a while I think I also collected mini soft drink cans, the sort you used to get on planes on long-haul flights. I kept them in a special wooden display case, mounted to the wall.

Growing up I was a collector type, I guess (and by that I don’t mean butterflies, or a predilection for confined underground dwellings). I was a little bit haphazard or – shall we say – laissez faire with the whole thing. Fads came and went. Stickers and rubbers got swapped. Things got lost and demolished. I forgot about them. I grew up and then only suffered occasional pangs of nostalgia for things I fleetingly remembered and then forgot again.

Being the first of four voracious, hard-wearing children, not many kiddy trinkets survived to see my adult years. If they did, they were usually re-gifted, in whatever shabby state, or farmed out to clear garage space for golf shoes, defunct mobile phone accessories, old-model TV remotes, empty wine bottles and old framed school photos. Some of the hard-backed books escaped a Salvation Army fate. The dolls’ house did (but is in dire need of a 21st century interior re-fit). Franny Lanny the Cabbage Patch Kid did. Even if she is now scalped (someone cut off her yellow wool hair for finger-knitting) and one-armed, and vivid-stained, and smeared in glitter (god knows how the glitter happened).

Simon, on the other hand, has pristine evidence of his childhood pastimes. Toys still in their original boxes (eBay here I come). Complete collections of undefiled Golden Books, their spines still entirely functional. Boxes full of stickers. Stickers!

We had talked about our sticker collections, and collections in general, at length, but my eyes had never actually beheld the wonder that was (is) Simon’s sticker collection. Until this weekend. Ah, the elation! The immense affirmation I felt, knowing I have well and truly found my soulmate! Who else would collect the stickers that were never supposed to be collected? The blank tape stickers out of VHS boxes. The retail sale! stickers that really haven’t changed so much since the 80s. Plain red dots. Kiwis and sheep. Bumper stickers (including one that said: if you smoke after sex you’re doing it too fast, apparently won at the A&P fair, but Simon’s grandmother snaffled that one up, claiming she was going to stick it on her bedhead). Alf. Garfield. The usual suspects.

Now we collect other stuff. Books and wall adornments and music. And jugs. And cats’ eyes. Maybe not because we’re deliberately collecting, but more like hoarding in a very small house, because we can’t help it. It’s harmless, even if things sometimes fall out of the cupboards.

wild things and worried shoes

All is love

Hey, look, I can review music too!

That’s sort of a private joke, or a not-so-private joke. This won’t be a review, so much. Or it will be a review of my own kind and of my own making.

Today at work I had a musical uplift moment. I don’t know what else to call it. In some spells of life these moments – and not just in music – are dime a dozen. They buoy things along, create a sense of depth and resonance and connection. The world is plentiful and abuzz with meaning and magnificence.

And in some spells nothing happen at all, nothing whatsofuckingever. Even when you hang out on street corners looking for the connection, your hopeful epiphany.  But it’s like using damp tinder for fire. And the more you look, or hope, the less there is anything there to be found.

So. Long story. Short. Work is currently what you would call the latter kind of spell. I don’t know why I bothered to listen to music but I did. I think it was to submerge myself in something. To use those little white ear phones as my do not disturb sign. I wasn’t expecting much; I knew not to look for it.

I was listening to M. Ward. And then he did Rave On. I guess you could say I have a residual Beach Boys thing going on (even though Beach Boys didn’t do Rave On, I think they should have). Beach Boys = happy. I wanted to call my second book Kokomo. This is fraught with a number of complications; chief amongst them is the fact that I haven’t actually got anywhere near finishing my second book. Secondary complications include the fact that getting the rights to just that one word might cost me more than I could ever earn in royalties alone.

I listened to M. Ward and a perceptible mood change took place. I say perceptible, but what I really mean is imperceptible to the world at large but noticeably perceptible to me. It’s not like I took my headphones off and brought joy to the world or anything. But maybe the temperature in the room did rise a notch or two, who knows.

Where the Wild Things Are

Music is one of those things. I don’t know what it is. Okay, so I am married to a music freak, but if someone says to me yeah, I’m just not that into music I know that I will secretly look at them with my head on a bit of a slant and never have anything meaningful to do with them thereafter. To me, no feeling for music suggests a fundamentally bland soul. And I am not an especially judgemental person (unlike some I could name).

Not long after I listened to Rave On Si picked me up, we got fish and chips and I returned to work at the kitchen table. But it was tolerable work because I had saved the best until last, and I also had a glass of wine and fish and chips, which helped.

As a sidenote or segue into my next thought, maybe one day I will write a post about how I have been totally shortchanged on the mail front. All my mail comes with windows, unless it is something I have purchased from the biggest and most dangerous store of all – the internet.

[Simon, on the other hand, receives bundles of parcels every day. On days when there are no parcels he supposes that there must have been a customary courier bungle or that there’s a mail thief lurking in the neighbourhood.]

So, tonight, in one of the parcels that wasn’t for me was the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack by Karen O and The Kids. I’m on my third go round and I will probably go back for a fourth, before returning to M. Ward and then capping the evening off with some of the Beach Boys’ mellower repertoire. It’s great! And there’s my review.

Adventures of Max

But before I slink off to be with the Beach Boys, I should probably say that my favourite song thus far is the cover of Daniel Johnston’s song Worried Shoes.

Paper lyrics against white and nothing else always seem a little bit lacking to me (probably something to do with the fact that they’ve been stripped of the music), but I am going to replicate these, anyway.

I am not much of a shoe shopper, but I do have a pair of worried shoes.


I took my lucky break and I broke it in two
Put on my worried shoes
My worried shoes
And my shoes took me so many miles and they never wore out
My worried shoes
My worried shoes
oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo
My worried shoes
I made a mistake and I never forgot
I tied knots in the laces of
My worried shoes
And with every step that I’d take I’d remember my mistake
As I marched further and further away
In my worried shoes
oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo
My worried shoes
And my shoes took me down a crooked path
Away from all welcome mats
My worried shoes
And then one day I looked around and I found the sun shining down
And I took off my worried shoes
And the feet broke free
I didn’t need to wear
Then I knew the difference between worrying and caring
‘Cause I’ve got a lot of walking to do
And I don’t want to wear
My worried shoes

talking about getting stoned is the new getting stoned

disasters of a diarist

This is a page from my journal nearly 10 years ago. The polaroid is a picture of my face in the rear view mirror of the Fiat. I still have the polaroid (framed, directly above the kitchen light switch) but my face has faded from it. There’s just a cloudy greyness now. Kinda symbolic. Maybe me digitising this is a way of getting my face back. But that’s far too thoughtful for a Saturday night (especially for a Saturday night with a major rugby game going on [apparently]). So onto the next subject.

Something we’ve been discussing for a while now: talking about getting stoned is the new getting stoned. It’s something we do in the weekend. Talk about it, I mean. Like, what if we were stoned right now?

It’s the power of suggestion. Sometimes just talking about it makes me slightly heady, or lightheaded (are they the same thing – heady and lightheaded – or complete opposites?)

e.g. driving around Oriental Bay on a sunny Sunday. e.g. waking up from a Sunday nap, thinking what now?

To actually get stoned after all this talking about it might be an anticlimax. We’ve found our own weekend pastime/safe nostalgia, and I’m okay with that. Getting older makes for pretty good times, actually.

Oh, and we won the rugby. Convincingly, the internet tells me.

day 364

dorothy doldrumatic

 Today Patrick Swayze died. Today I have lived for 11679 days.

Most of those joke emails that go around aren’t funny and the truisms are lame but the other day I read one that said something like: life isn’t short; it’s the longest thing you will ever do.

Today (at 4.15am) our gas oven exploded.

Today, somewhere around 5am we watched an episode of Tru Blood with the window wide open. Wide awake, with wide-eyed cats prowling and unsettled.

Today there were three new murders reported. Today there was nothing much, and then more nothing much.

And then more.

I worked at a steady pace. I listened to Rhian Sheehan’s NZ Landscapes album on repeat. I especially liked the rain part. I could have listened it to all day long if pesky facetime hadn’t been called for.

For the second day in a row I forgot to hand in the wallet I found on Hania St in the weekend.

I got some cards in the mail, mostly from organisations I spend money with. Including Weightwatchers. Happy birthday, fatty. Nice marketing.

Our cleaner wrote me a note telling me off for letting terrorists loose in the microwave.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Lauren is making me strawberry tirimasu and I am looking forward to that part of my birthday immensely. Happy birthday, fatty.

I listened to Trini Lopez at the gym, on the stairwalker. Man, that dude is happy! My favourite song of his is him covering the one that goes if you want to be happy for the rest of your life don’t make a pretty woman your wife something something get an ugly girl to marry you. Not even Kanye West would get away with those kinds of lyrics these days.

There is something to be said for ugliness, though; I do believe that. It has greater integrity and a certain gravitas (or something) if done properly.

The girl in purple and blue is Dorothy. This won’t be the last you see of her.

Sayonara 31. You may or may not be missed (I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but it remains to be seen).