I wonder how many dogs called Avon exist at this moment?

I didn’t always love dogs. I used to be petrified of them. If one would move across my path I’d stiffen up or go hide behind the nearest person or object I could find. Fear of being bitten, I guess. A gruff bark would stir some unknown terror inside of me and I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times as a child that an interaction with a dog left me in tears. It goes without saying that I was undeniably a total wuss when I was a kid. I don’t think I had any significant attacks, I don’t think I was mauled, but I think that even the potential for injury meant I kept all canines at more than arm’s length. A few scenes I can remember:

Walking down the street with my parents, age 4 or 5. Passing a large gate with a dog behind it, hand outstretched so as to pet it. It responded violently and loudly, gnashing teeth heading towards my receding digits. Trembling, holding onto my mum.

Leben’s house, maybe 8 years old. A new little excited puppy chasing me (underwear clad) around the house while I screamed. I’m sure there was laughter.

Another friend’s house. Similar age. They kept their dog in a shed outside the house, it was pretty vicious but I was determined to face my fear. I gingerly put my hand towards it, which was reciprocated by an angry lunge. I got the merest scratch and cried like a football player.

Age 10 perhaps. Another friend’s dog chasing me around the lounge. Collie, young and excited, not violent. I’m not sure I knew the difference, but I think I was starting to.

Later that year. Same dog, Max. Sitting for a picnic in Stafford park. Multiple blankets, I chose the one as far away from the dog as possible. It was sitting down calmly eating from a bowl. Friend’s mum called me over and told me to put out my hand slowly, facing the back of it towards Max’s snout. “Let Max get your scent, let him know you’re not a threat.” He sniffed my hand, licked it, then went back to his meal.

Later that day I played my first game of catch with a dog.

It’s a strange, almost entirely alien thing to me now. Friends will know that the way I go all gooey whenever I see a dog of almost any variety, the sheer amount of love and affection I have for them is a stark 180 degree turn from my childhood views. I’m almost clucky now. I get excited hearing about people’s new puppies. I play with them whenever I get a chance. I go out of my way to meet dogs who cross my path. I’m transfixed by them whenever I drive past. Whenever I see one an inner spark is ignited and I know that whatever the future holds, I want one to be a part of my life, a part of my family.

I’ve started planning out potential breeds that I’d want. I’m pretty sure I want a big black Newfoundland, because it’s the closest animal companion I could have to a bear. They’re awesome, slobbery, huge dogs. Friendly and playful towards kids. Eat heaps, swim at any chance they get. Even thinking of it conjures images of the far off future, white picket fence with a wife, 2.5 kids, comfy but worn couches with their fair share of dog hair and saliva. Days walking in the park, playing catch, going to the beach, sitting around by the fire. Going for long jogs in the evening. Children leaving the house, wife and I left with the family pet. Swims from time to time. Jogs becoming walks. Grey hairs growing around the muzzle. Vet bills. Not quite as active as it used to be, far more naps now. Things winding down. One last nap. Tears, plenty of those. A nice little plot in the backyard. Given time, a small lemon tree just behind it.

But I’ve got years of love to give before I get there.

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At times I wonder if I’m the asshole.

I don’t know how I became a Dad without having children. Something happened, I don’t know when it occurred, but I developed some unnatural attachment to the domestic sphere and gained a vast amount of pride in taking responsibility within it. At some point I begun gaining satisfaction in completing simple tasks around the home. I started ascribing value to having the simple building blocks of my life sorted. Laundry baskets separating lights and darks, floors clear of clutter and dishes stacked in a drying rack became the foundations of my feelings of self-worth. Maybe that’s going a bit far, but on some level I think I define myself as a responsible and worthwhile person because doing these things, making sure bills are paid ahead of time, having cash in the bank, fuel in the car, these things make me feel like life is heading steadily on track. I’ve got a well-used gym membership, varied groups of friends and a secure job with an abundance of funds. Fitter, happier, more productive and all that.

I like these things about myself, they make me feel better about where I’m headed. Like by achieving the multitude of small things in my life, it puts me into good stead to attack larger issues of self-satisfaction, loving oneself, ascending Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. “Be accountable” seems to have become my personal ethos as of late. Be accountable to yourself and others. If you say you’re gonna do something, deliver. Don’t let people down and be there when others need you to be. I’ve been trying to be this person for my friends, loved ones and especially for my own development, while looking hard for this quality in others. I can’t stand unreliable or flaky behaviour. When people don’t deliver, it gives me the shits. Little breaks my heart more than seeing people being consistently let down by the people they love and trust.

At the same time I know that somewhere deep inside, whether I’d like to admit it or not, it makes me judge people based on how together I see them being based on the frame of my own values. This doesn’t make me a good person, it only makes me truthful. I’m trying to be staunch in this area of “being accountable”, unflinchingly keeping myself honest and dependable, but at the same time I’m worried that it could leave me harsh and inflexible. Will I suddenly lose elements of basic compassion and not tolerate mistakes that are entirely unforgivable? Will I start to close myself off to people who don’t conform to my rigid standards? What kind of entitled, self-important shithead am I that I even consider aspects of people like these to be beneath me in any way? I definitely fuck up more than enough on my own and I’d think/hope I’d be able to admit this when it happens. I know that I’m no better than anyone else. I may happen to have some parts of my life sorted, responsibility and diligence, but I’m sure there are ten thousand and one areas in which I’m a complete fuck-up. How are these attitudes affecting others? Do I really know how I make people feel when I talk to them? Do people see me entirely differently when my back is turned than I think they do? I’m sure they do. Does this make me act differently? Should it? I don’t really have the answer there.

We live in such a complicated social mire of thoughts, feelings, aspirations and doubts. It’s crazy to think that these values I adhere to could be so starkly different to people that I hold so dear to me. How can we really know the innate beliefs and personal motivations of others when we seem to be constantly reinterpreting and coming to terms with our own? I feel like such a different person than I did even 2 or 3 years ago. I feel like I’m that much more in tune with who I desire to be, what I want to get out of life and the people I have around me. That being said, how do I know that the person I am now is at all related to the person I’ll be, the values I’ll hold in 5 years time? When do we stop changing? Do we? Would we want to? How much of the prize of our end goal is getting there and how much is discovering who we are and how we’ve evolved along the way?

Clearly this discussion has only just begun. I’ll revisit it further along the line, having changed.

Ever look up and think “How did I get here?”

I’m always amazed by the ability of the human mind to experience multiple feelings simultaneously. At the moment I’m shades of bored yet content, excited but relaxed and at peace. Easter holiday has begun, though as someone who normally doesn’t work Fridays, it shouldn’t feel any different than it normally would. But it does. I’m not really sure as to why, maybe because other people are around? I mean, I’m at home alone, prodding away at my keyboard as I would be otherwise. How is this an exception to any other Friday? Maybe it’s something rooted, subconscious. Maybe on some level I’m noting the increased traffic hurtling down our street. It’s nothing dramatically over the top, but it’s definitely heightened from the usual.

It’s one of those things that you really don’t notice until you make a point of it, then it’s inescapable. The sound of engines gently revving, tires gripping the road, each one a quiet Doppler that extends from the top of Maritime all the way past Little Shoal Bay. It’s like noticing the second hand on a clock, which infiltrates the subconscious and is suddenly offensively audible. If you’re anywhere in proximity the sound is impossible to avoid. Why? Does your brain have its own EQ filter that notches up specific frequencies? You’re watching TV and hear the pervasive ticking of a clock 10 metres away. Heavy thrashing music dominates the scene, but that tiny pathway has been opened up for the ticking to tock its way through and you just can’t rid yourself of it. Then as the seconds tick on, time passes and it gradually slips from your notice. Ticking in a way makes you “lose the game”?

It’s funny how once we’ve moved on from something, we tend to forget how it made us feel at the time. Obviously some things are more traumatic than others, but the weight we give something while it afflicts us often steps back to the furthest recesses of memory once it’s passed us by. At the moment I’ve torn my posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), a ligament in my knee. It hurts to walk, moving upstairs and downstairs are killers (especially when the fire alarm goes off and you’re refused lift access from the 8th floor). I wake up in the middle of the night in intense pain with an almost immovable joint. Most of my current gripes revolve around my lack of mobility. I certainly couldn’t give two tosses to the stuffed nose I had a few weeks ago and in a few months I’ll barely remember that I ever shambled like a zombie.

I don’t know how this makes me feel. On one hand it’s nice to think that as humans we can persevere and move on through afflictions and hardship, that if we keep following the light at the end of the tunnel we’ll emerge to a bright blue expanse. On the other hand it makes you think about how fleeting positive moments are. What chance are we giving love if our most tender and heartfelt moments are gonna be reduced to paper-thin sketches of how we felt at the time? What is the value of experiences if the colour drains and we’re left with a thin outline? Live in the moment? Carpe Diem? Hakuna Matata? YOLO? Hashtag? Why? Why bother if we’re setting ourselves up to be left with the blueprint?

Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I’m understating and undervaluing the necessity of human experience for growth. Sure it’s hard to recall all the vibrancy and warmth of a scene, but deep down they must be encoded into the  memories themselves. I can think of amazing experiences and while I lose the minutia, I can relive the overall feeling of the experience . Hitting a bulls-eye and the smell of gunpowder. Watching a dark sky light up as James Blake played in the background. Facing the brink of physical exhaustion but knowing that my body would keep going until my mind gave up, and the comforting reassurance that it wasn’t going to happen. The almost ascendant lightness as I left my last exam ever. The all encompassing feeling of joy when, 17 minutes through a Sufjan Stevens’ Impossible Soul, balloons cascaded from the roof and the crowd was filled with an unabashed elation. That brief heart-flutter when I first read of my Radio Award nomination. Certain intimate moments with certain intimate people during which reality shifted and in our transcendent state it almost felt like we were touching the divine.

Those memories are still there. Thank fuck. I don’t know who I’d be without them.

My internet is really slow today.

Excitement! For the first time in what seems far too long I’m filled to the brim with tangible, almost physically dense excitement.

I’m recording a podcast!

Well I’m sitting at a table of 5 raw/newbie comedians to hash out the world’s issues, threads, narratives and mock them mercilessly. Or at least provide humourous comment. I’m not putting status in the fact that I’m doing it, it’s purely for fun. I mean, I wasn’t asked to do it, it’s no performance, I went on their Facebook group and asked if I could participate. That’s it. However the lack of exclusivity doesn’t diminish my shining unadulterated excitement.

With the sheer number/volume of podcasts I listen to, I’ve got the chance to participate even minutely in a medium I almost fetishise. It’s like a film studies student participating in the creation of a movie, or an avid reader contributing to a book in some way. Like I said, it’s nothing important, groundbreaking or particularly amazing, but to be a part of something that I’m avidly interested in, that seems like an opportunity I’d be Rihanna-dumb to miss out on.

It seems so rare nowadays to actually be excited about something in that beautiful, innocent, childlike manner. Rising to adulthood brings a certain surety to life. You’ve got some measure of power or control over where your life is headed. You decide what you eat, when you sleep, how you fill your day. Mixed with that is a certain amount of responsibility and being accountable. You’ve gotta be at work on time, keep your bills in order and make sure you’re functioning on a reasonably regular clock to keep your life in line. This creates a certain mundanity to the path in front of you. Things fall into place eventually, then plod along in a steady fashion. Highs and lows still happen, but there’s a certain muteness to them. As if by managing your surroundings and steering towards certain outcomes, it lessens the impact of the results. You’re insulating yourself against disappointment, which in turn numbs excitement. Breaking out of that mould, even briefly, really stirs things up and allows for cracks in your armour.

For all I know this podcast adventure could be a disaster. I could stutter and stumble my way through the hour, rudely interrupting or dominating in a self-centred fashion. My jokes and witticisms might not land, or won’t transfer effectively from my mind to my mouth. Conversely I might just find something that I really enjoy. I mean, I can talk, right? I know how to hold a conversation, I know how to Yes, and… I know callbacks. This should be so far up my alleyway that it’s rolled into a rug in a rubbish skip.

Excitement! Buzzing!

I guess where I’m going with this whole thing is that even if it doesn’t go well or is utterly mediocre, it just feels amazing to find myself embracing something with an open heart, shunning the anti-disappointment wall I’ve constructed from bricks of embarrassment and mortar of shame. Awful, awful metaphor, but that’s why I’m doing this writing exercise, right? In the hopes that I’ll eventually improve? I feel like a teenager punch-drunk on the potential of a first kiss. I’m gonna look back on this entry tomorrow through jaded glasses and rue the shades of “uncool” emanating from it. Right now though, I don’t much care.

Because right now I’ve gotta get to a podcast.

The film Speed is a frightening allegory to Wheels on the Bus.

I actually like buses. Wait, I really like them. No, REALLY like them. Let’s see how far this emphasis thing goes… I *REALLY* like buses. I think that went too far. I mean, I like them, but not “like them” like them. Not in some kind of mechanophiliac type fashion. Maybe in more of a platonic way. I feel guilty now. Dear Buses, it’s not you, it’s me. There’s nothing wrong with you, I’m the one with the problem. Actually, there are problems with buses, a myriad of problems, but nothing that intrudes on the care and affection I feel for them.

Why am I so enamoured with this peacetime tank? Because I like me time. I can get on a bus bound to/from work and nothing else is relevant. I plug into my MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 player, open a good book and I’m on a different plane (as in metaphysical, etc. I transcend the physical world, not transport vessels). For that short time I can just leave everything and everyone else behind and be where I want to be. I like this, want this and need this in my routine. It helps greatly in staving off insanity (any “regular” readers will see this as quite the necessity) and keeps my youthful dour visage intact. I like being able to sit back in amongst my fellow citizens, surrounded by graffiti and pre-chewed wads of gum (once I even saw a rubber chair protector that’d been eroded down to the metal. Looked like some errant Street Shark got hungry) with no pretensions and just be comfortable in myself.

I got vacated from a bus in Vegas once because a homeless dude shat himself. I witnessed what looked like a Polynesian dude in his mid-30s garbed in a suit jacket, shorts and jandles, talking about his impending job interview while his mother clipped his toe-nails. I’ve seen a drunken high-schooler returning from after-ball unzip and let out a much needed stream, oblivious to the disgust shown and evasive measures taken by my seat neighbor and me. What I guess I’m saying is I’ve seen quite my share of things that can’t be unseen on these mustard-yellow dreadnoughts, yet I still keep coming back.

Jotting it down in front of me, it almost feels like I’m documenting an abusive relationship. I’ve faced some horrors, but I keep reminding myself that the good times exist. I’m fairly certain though (denial setting in?) that the good times outweigh the bad. Like the awesome bus driver who stopped for Mel and I while we were running for the bus, then turned to the rest of the cabin and, in his best stand-up impression, informed them that we probably wouldn’t have been so late if we’d spent less time “canoodling” at home. Love that guy. The “canoodling” bit became a bit tired after a while, like any good Dad joke. He’d bust it out to a shrinking reception each time. Thankfully the joke stopped after we broke up. That’d be awkward, sad and a little odd if it didn’t. The driver is still kind, courteous, stops for anyone he can see running behind and always tells me to “have a great day dude” when I step off the bus. The smallest of gestures, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t brighten my day that little bit.

Birkenhead Transport keeps me going. There’s just something lovable about the old tugboat that keeps tugging (?) away. Their buses aren’t always (ever) the nicest, some of their staff are a bit… quirky (here’s looking at you, mulleted Maori swastika tattoo guy!) and they refuse to change with the times (according to the clippings from my paper ticket I see cascading to the floor daily) but they’re like that slightly retarded, diarrhetic old dog that you can’t stay mad at. They very rarely break down (last week’s driver holding up the handbrake saying “we’re stopping, because I think this is meant to be attached to something”) and are almost eerily consistent. When I worked at Maxx I’d get numerous complaints for every other operator. Birkenhead Transport? Not a one. Was it because they were amazing? Or was it because we’d been had our expectations beaten out of us? No idea, all I know is that there’s a space for them in my heart and it looks a lot like that little embossed patch in their paper tickets.

Keep on truckin’ busing baby.

I can’t tell if this is heartfelt, sarcastic or both simultaneously.

My whole life I’ve been in the midst of a very complicated relationship. I devote so much time, energy and thought to it in a way that I don’t consider to be a healthy exchange. If I go too long without the object of my affections (“too long” being relative, but definitely a far shorter amount of time than you’d think) then I start suffering withdrawal. Other tasks move to the background as I begin to obsess and fixate. At this point, I’m almost afraid of the person I become. I’m too heavily invested and it’s having a negative effect on my psyche, body and general well-being.

My name is Leon and I’m addicted to food.

Part of me says that flippantly, but the larger part (no pun intended) knows that there’s more truth to that statement than I care to admit even to myself. I love it. I love eating probably more than any other thing in my life. Breathing is pretty necessary, but it’s not something that I get a great amount of pleasure out of. Maybe it is, but I don’t really appreciate until I don’t have it. Food on the other hand, I crave even while I’m in the midst of eating. I swear I could have a full plate of ribs in front of me and I’d be simultaneously enjoying my meal while dreaming of potential dessert accompaniments. I love thinking about foods I could eat, how they’d taste, great combinations of flavours, textures and colours. I love thinking about events I could structure around the sole act of eating and think about themed foods that guests could sample. Restaurants I have yet to try, the almost endless array of new exotic treats that I don’t even know exist.

I have so much discipline in so many areas of my life. None of those areas extend to anything culinary. For some reason my only response to anything unhealthy is utterly boolean. Either I eat something wholeheartedly or I cut it completely out. I used to love Mi-Goreng noodles until I was having them too often and in unnecessary amounts (think a bowl of two packets with two eggs, half a broccoli and any errant meats to throw in). Now I let myself have them maybe once a year, worried about a recurrence. I would eat huge amounts of corn until I found out about the high sugar content. Gone. I refuse to let myself have sweet things in the house that aren’t fruit. Then I eat too much of that too. This is just the tip. I get so worried about the potential to become addicted and overdo it that I completely shut myself off from the possibility. Then I have trace amounts of these exiled foods and it leads to eating two whole packets/tins/bushels, etc. I restrict myself entirely, play it safe then have massive blow-outs, simultaneously loving the experience and hating myself utterly before I’ve even finished the meal. I calorie count mercilessly, then as soon as I go over my set limits by even one calorie I add probably another 500, then attempt to justify it to myself somehow. I’m entirely aware that all of these things would be symptomatic of junkie behaviour.

Do you ever get to the point in a meal and think “that’s probably about as much as I need”? I do. Constantly. It’s probably at about 60% of the way through. It would be so easy to just stop, save the rest as leftovers and have it the next day. I’ve already even set aside a couple of dishes worth for the next meal, I could just add it to them. But then I think of how much I’m currently enjoying the meal. It won’t be as good the next day. I work hard keeping fit, I deserve it. There’s not really enough to save (there is. Clearly.) I might as well finish it. So I do. Then I hate myself and wallow in misery. 20 minutes later I sneak back upstairs and eat a little bit more of whatever is saved for tomorrow.

I feel like any kind of maturity over the whole thing would mean that I could pick and choose, take things in moderation and decide for myself when I’ve had enough. I seem to have control in my life when it comes to simple things like money, fitness, domesticity, personal and professional responsibility, interpersonal relationships, and just generally not being a shitty human being, why is it so hard to gain a modicum of control over what I ingest?

Half an hour isn’t nearly enough to broach this subject and look at the underlying reasons and motives behind my absurdly unhealthy relationship to food and how it makes me feel. It just so happened to be on my mind tonight (maybe because over the weekend Weezy and I ate every morsel that existed in Dunedin) but it clearly begs revisiting at some point.

Time is up says the phone.

On the importance of fiber.

30 minutes have begun. What does that mean precisely? It means I’m gonna sit here, locked in a prison cell with God and letting Him have His way with me as Dan Harmon might say and divest myself of whatever it is that’s rolling around in my grey matter for 30 minutes a day. Every day that is, “every day that ends in y” as some might say. I’d probably resent them for it too, so it’s good that I haven’t said it. Kind of did. Does paraphrasing count? Who’s counting? I still haven’t worked out my relationship with comedy tropes. I’ve got that strange affectation that if something seems obvious or an easy way out, I hold that slightest resentment towards it. I’m thinking ‘jokes’ like “No price? It must be free!” “…aaaand he’s standing right behind me, isn’t he?” Anything of that ilk. Cue subsequent entry to be filled to the gills with smelly fish guts of a trope-ical nature. See, I even find that to be a strange dichotomy; my hatred of tropes but love of puns. They’re both kind of Dad-joke-y in themselves, but I seem to be alright with the more groan-inducing of the two?

Wow, that got tangential quickly.

Anyway, as far as justification goes for whatever may follow, I’ve decided that I need some form of creative output. I don’t think I’m an amazing, astounding or even remotely good writer, but I don’t see that as a barrier/reason to not get better. It’s all gonna be stream of consciousness-ish and as such not overly organised. I just figure that if I concentrate on putting 30 minutes of words on a page every day that there’s a remote possibility I might eventually log my 10,000 hours. If I were better at maths or could be bothered burning that much of my devoted time I’d probably work out how many entries that’d be using only mind power, but the lazy option of a calculator sounds easier.

*Brief interlude*

…stupidly brief interlude, since I worked out that the answer was 20,000 entries before I had anything to key into the app. Silly fellow that I am. Of course that’d be if my only experience writing was in this blog, which it clearly isn’t. I’ve written a shopping list or two. Left my fair share of passive-aggressive post its (much like Phil Collins and jackets, no apostrophe required there. I think) and sent some texts. Do facebook statuses count Mr Gladwell? So basically I’ve got no possible way of calculating how much I’ve written in my life. Let’s just say I’ll go on with this project until I no longer go on with it. I give myself 3 days before the first missed entry. 2 weeks max until I abandon the project. Still, it’s worth setting myself up to fail if it holds a kernel of possibility for some cream to rise to the top. I may hash out some stuff that is halfway decent or leads me towards some material for something somewhere. So much conditional language is being thrown around, but I guess it’s just that I’m too wary of developing any kind of expectations over an enterprise that I’m sure I’ll fail. Wow, so negative before I’ve even made it through the first entry. Pessimism much?

What’s been happening lately with me? I’ve recently been afflicted with a massive influx of those thought-between-thought moments. I guess this blog started off as one. Thoughts-between-thoughts being those ideas that don’t even develop words in your head, but exist only as the briefest flashes of narrative. I’m thinking a kid drives by and your random instinct is wondering what’d transpire if you flipped him off or threw a rock, strange violent impulses that you’d never even consider doing. I’m pretty sure we all have those, right? Thoughts we’d never act on (that in itself being the difference between normality and psychosis maybe?), but give us quick amusement or surprise in our day. I’ve been focusing on them lately and given the right company, I occasionally give voice to them. Thus my impression (while hopefully I had no onlookers in the Dunedin airport) of a thalidomide fellow with a numb/relaxed sphincter, long fibrous turd extending from the ring to the ground, walking around bow-legged so as not to get any on his legs. In my mind it was kind of like the human version of a T-rex with a tail of faeces. Odd? Yes. Rude, obnoxious, cruel and kind of ignorant? That too. Do I harbour any ill feelings towards thalidomide sufferers? No. Did it seem humourous in the context? Very yes.

I feel like half the time spent on this project is gonna revolve around apologizing for thoughts I have. All helps add to the 10,000, right?

Whelp, that’s time. Farewell for now, see you tomorrow.
-Leon