30 January 2007

29 Jan--Jamie and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

The day had been challenging enough without forgetting the house alarm code, Jamie thought. But there he was, standing perfectly still, hoping the breeze blowing in wouldn't trip the motion sensors. With his fingers hovering over the keypad (3425? 2543?), he quietly remembered how long his day had been, beginning with leaving his mobile on his bedside table.

Then Ami decided she would take the car to work. Jamie wanted to take the car to work. "No," Ami said, "You can take the train." Jamie stood on the platform and listened to the voice telling commuters that all the trains today would be delayed . . . indefinitely.

At work, a "very important project" landed on Jamie's desk. "We need these projects displayed as Gantt charts by 3pm. We heard you knew Photoshop." When middle managers and project managers say "Photoshop," they mean "miracle-working." They continued, "We saw someone do it once in PowerPoint, but we need to print this out and have it take up the whole wall." No matter how many times Jamie explained the concept of bitmaps and pixels and their relative inflexibility, they wouldn't budge.

Jamie had to work through lunch. By the end of the day, a knot the size of a lemon had formed beneath his shoulder blade (on a side note, he now truly empathised with Ami).

Then Jamie couldn't find the right book for Ami's dad's birthday. The extra time he took going to a third bookstore made him late for his train home. He boarded the 6:00 and waited for it to pull out. After it had moved 500 meters, it stopped, and reversed back to the station. "We're sorry," the announcement apologised, "but all trains are delayed . . . indefinitely." Without a mobile, Jamie was forced to hunt down a pay phone. He found one tucked behind the station's pub, near the rubbish bins, but soon discovered it wouldn't take his credit card. He rummaged through his pocked and found some change. Ami didn't answer. She was at a going away party for a friend. Sitting in a loud bar, she never heard it ring. He left a message, but lost his change for it.

And now it was 8:00. He was standing in his hallway staring at the alarm's keypad, his mind a complete blank. He imagined he might be able to sneak, spy-like, into his room to recover his phone and thus ring Ami for the code, but realised he'd never make it. No--he was lucky to have walked this far without tripping the sensors. 1325? 2531? He leaned his head against the wall and wished he was on a beach in Australia.

25 January 2007

24 Jan--We Lost a Friend

The Sand Castle

            --for Chris

Fore and aft cannons: good idea. Defense

against the sea (then, you said, "the enemy")--

unpredictable, yes, but at least you see it coming.

With colour and a grin and a look like the look of a man

who's been there, you move earth as though you knew it.

Of course there is going to be a pool. A white spindle shell

too shy to mimic oceans, beer bottle forests. Planted

into your drawbridge one leaf of grass: not a thing

built for lifting, it's thin frame holds and with the tide remains

a buoyant, wholly remarkable life.

23 January 2007

20 Jan--So unfair; so natural

A day begins with the best intentions. Hour upon hour, however, it loses its grip and crumbles into night. As long as there is time there will never be enough.

19 January 2007

19 Jan--Carrying on the zombie thread . . .

If one is serious about the imminent threat of zombies (for those living in Kansas, I fear it may be too late. Seek shelter. Buy bullets. Steer clear of churches--they gather there.), one should begin by visiting this website.

18 January 2007

18 Jan--Wellington Streets, pt 5

. . . which is why Wellington employs the zombie death squad. Thanks, ZDS!

17 Jan--Wellington Streets, pt 4

Few things are more unnerving than a zombie in undying pursuit. . .

16 January 2007

16 Jan--Wellington Streets, pt 3

Sometimes Jamie finds himself shopping for miso and fresh tofu at an Asian food store when he is suddenly struck with the urge to hit a few balls at the driving range. Lucky for him, Wellington has just the spot.

15 Jan--Wellington Streets, pt.2

Some images go beyond graffiti and become a prelude either to something remarkable or to something very, very silly.

14 January 2007

14 Jan--Wellington Streets, pt 1

To begin with, few are signposted. This seems to be a non issue for locals, yet for visitors and new arrivals, navigating Wellington is frustrating at best. Jamie is reminded of this as he sips a pint of Mac's Golden on the balcony of a central pub. Various backpack-laden people walk up and down the same street two or three times--they look down at the map, up to where a signpost SHOULD be, then, confused, back to the map. They appear to bounce from corner to corner like rats in the proverbial maze. He watches as they ask for directions, twice (hearing "oh, that restaurant is on the corner of Courtenay Place and Taranaki" means little when neither street makes itself known.)

Just to add to the fun of watching confused tourists, some streets have different names depending on which way traffic is flowing. One street (two?) that runs next to the now-famous Embassy theatre (site of the world premier of Lord of the Rings) is named Kent Terrace for traffic flowing south, and Cambridge Terrace for traffic flowing north. Jamie wishes someone would explain this to him.

On many occasions, after failing to find his destination, Jamie would simply wander up and down the streets taking snapshots of graffiti, advertisements, and stencil art spray-painted to the odd cornerstone.

One of his favourites is by a local artist named Otis Chamberlain. Chamberlain's work can be seen as stencil, graffiti, and, lately, on a drink ad. In the coming days, Jamie will notice and photograph other gems tucked into the concrete corners of the city.

13 Jan--An Observation

It soon occurs to Jamie that any inherent element of "cool" in a person is all but completely extinguished during the act of learning how to lasso.

13 January 2007

12 Jan--The Book of Cool

The Book of Cool is a combination book and DVD. Inside lies the mystery of being so chick-scoringly cool it is a wonder the price tag is a mere $54.95. Not that Jamie would pay to be cool, of course. No. Never.

He would, however, borrow the chance.

The Book of Cool demonstrates in colourful, documented steps how to perform acts of coolness in many disciplines including, but not limited to, skateboarding (ollies, heel flips), soccer (many juggling tricks), shuffling cards, spinning pens/pencils around one's fingers, mixing drinks, pool trick shots, Frisbee, roller blading, and juggling (Jamie knows from experience what a pull juggling can be at a party).

He sleepily flicks through the book; the DVD in its case, unopened. He indulges for a moment in the fantasy that if he should learn even one cool point, he would invite himself to as many parties as he possibly could. He stops flicking the book at the chapter on juggling and decides to begin here.

He looks at the page, and a photo of a man throwing chainsaws into the air looks back.

"Cool." Jamie observes, and he begins.

The first sentence of the chapter reads, "Mad Chad is a professional juggler . . . You are NOT Mad Chad."

Here Jamie stops. The blunt truthfulness of this sentence smacks him in the face. Who am I kidding, he thinks? I've never been cool--beginning now would be pouring lemon juice on the wound.

He flicks quickly through the book with the intention of closing it when he notices a different chapter.

"What's this?" Jamie says, noticing the heading of the chapter. It reads, Lassoing.

"Much better," He says out loud and races down to the garage to find the nylon rope. "There might just be cool in me yet."

11 January 2007

11 Jan--Senior's Menu

Darrell, Karen, and Peter (Jamie's father, mother, and brother respectively) are moving to Dunedin. Their initial efforts to find a house were fruitless, but their luck changed yesterday when they found a place in St. Clair that boasted views of both the city and the sea. It could hardly get any better.

The three of them decided to eat out in celebration, understandably. Choosing Cobb & Co. (New Zealand's version of The Black Eyed Pea or Chilis or Ruby Tuesday or Amarillo Grill or any theme-oriented, family-friendly, mass produced franchise restaurant) was more a result of Peter's insatiable desire for cheese-laden meat food than a desire to find a nice meal. While perusing the menu, the waitress approached the table and rattled off a few specials, most of which fell into the cheesy meat, or meaty pasta.

"And the fish of the day is blue cod," she chipper, youthful tone.

"Blue cod," Karen thought, biting her tongue, "how . . . special."

The waitress began to walk away, but suddenly spun on her heel as if she'd forgotten to tell them something, which she had. She reached over Darrell's shoulder and pointed to the menu in his hand. "Oh, and the senior's menu on page three. It's there for people 55 and over, so you might want to think about that."

Darrell was ropable. With each shade of red his face darkened, Karen laughed harder.

"What the hell did she say to me? Senior's menu?!" Darrell whispered loudly.

"Look," Karen offered, wiping the tears from her face, "most of the items come with a straw!"

They hooted and howled, forgetting for a moment the move, their quest for a house, even their surroundings. It was good to laugh again.

08 January 2007

8 Jan -- Peter and the Sundial of Human Involvement

Peter Love regards the world with what is best described as sincere honesty. He gives every situation the benefit of the doubt, whether it be a conversation or a television commercial (indeed, he will sometimes comment in all seriousness on our need to investigate the possibility of buying new carpet after witnessing with what ease red wine is lifted from a StainMaster brand rug on TV). Peter will strip away cynicism and clever marketing and regard a message in its own dumb nakedness. Sarcasm, far from being misunderstood, is simply ignored. This is illustrated no better than in the case of Peter and the Sundial of Human Involvement.

In the leafy centre of Wellington's Botanical Gardens there sits the Sundial in question. A sign invites passers by to stand in the middle, thrust one's arms into the air, and create a human sundial. Most participants who do so enjoy a laugh or a bit of self-deprecating humour. Peter, however, carefully read the instructions and stepped into the sun.

"It says you need to stand on today's date, Pete." John, Peter's brother, shouted as he read further. On the ground was a figure-eight in stone with various calendar dates. For the dial to work, the person needed to be on the correct day to take into account the tilt of the earth.

"Today's date isn't here." Peter replied, pointing to the evidence.

"Well, I guess you'll just have to get close." John replied.

"Hardly accurate." Peter shot back.

Never one to let an obstacle like the existence of a day stop him, Peter places his hands together and raised them over his head. His body was straight and motionless, for a moment you could almost see the shadow moving slyly across the number's face.

"What time is it?" Jamie asked. His question was met with silence as Peter interpreted his position.

"2:20." Peter said firmly.

Jamie looked at his watch.

"Nope. It's a quarter-to-three." He said.

"That's a shame." Peter replied, his arms flopping to his side. "It was such a good idea. This really could have caught on."

07 January 2007

7 Jan--A quick reflection on the weekend

Jamie's friend Scot got married to Holly (Ami, Jamie's partner, is Holly's sister) on Saturday, and Jamie was lucky enough to be invited to the wedding. Despite the pastor's waffling incoherently and completely misinterpreting the story of the Wedding at Caana (My take: Jesus didn't turn water into wine. Let's be serious for a moment--the bartender was holding back, telling everyone there was no more so they wouldn't get into his good stash. When he heard that some fella was going to pour water into his casks, he quickly brought them to the surface. Oh! A miracle! We DO have wine!), the wedding was a lovely one. More importantly, though, the reception was legendary. As soon as Jamie sees the photos, he'll be able to remember what happened. Until then, he'll have to live with the colourful events that zip briefly through his memory: Champagne on the beach, a meatball, potatoes roasted by babies, shouting his lungs out to Bon Jovi covers, why is there chalk in my mouth?, the congo line through Michelle's kitchen while the B-52's blared on a hijacked stereo . . . on second thought, Jamie may not need the pictures after all.

Congratulations Holly and Scot.

03 January 2007

Returning to work, Jamie finds his desk exactly as he left it: a music magazine lay flat next to a small shelf of Web Design books, site navigation maps are tucked underneath his phone, a wind-up alarm clock with Chairman Mao painted on the face sits silently near his monitor. Although it has been a mere ten days since he left, he walked in thinking something would be different, but nothing is. The calendar on the wall still displays December 2006. In the corner a tired, plastic Christmas tree leans against the wall, its pipe-cleaner branches clinging defiantly to the garland. All the while the air conditioning haunts the room with a low, steady whisper. Soon the place will yawn to life: more people will shuffle to their desks, and keyboards will chatter under the electronic burble of telephones. Talk will be of the holidays: how they were spent and how they will spend the next one. Whatever transpired during the previous days is for most little more than a residue--it sits unused, waiting to be washed away.

Jamie, on the other hand, is more comfortable loitering about the long halls of his memory. Reflection is half the fun of living, he's decided. Over the next few days he will try to bring to light moments heavy with meaning, moments of impact, and moments of hopeless frivolity. The reader, he hopes, will not be able to tell the difference.