Eat your heart out, Lou Reed. Wait, would that make him a zombie?

I know what I’m writing about tonight and I can’t decide what the leading reason is. There are two reasons that stick out in my head. 1) Because it’s something that’s important to me, I love celebrating successes and successful celebration. I think it’s important to commit this stuff to memory and have something to look back on. I’m also evidently big on cramming multiple things under one reason. 2) I’m fundamentally lazy, so I won’t have to think about it. Both of these reasons are important, but I have no earthly idea which is taking precedence.

I wanna talk about yesterday, my one year anniversary with my girlfriend. It’s notable because we made it this far, it seemed only to deepen our connection and it might have qualified as a perfect day.

As always, I’m far worse at sleeping than she is, so I awoke and rose to get a head start on the festivities. I made a simple honey/soy/garlic marinade for the pork loin and let it refrigerate for an hour before loading it into the slow cooker with a bunch of veggies. I wrote, so as to leave the day free from further responsibility and got stuck into Marvel Heroes 2015 for a few hours. A nice idyllic morning doing Leon stuff on my own, while she gently slumbered behind me.

She couldn’t sleep forever (well, she probably could), so she roused to consciousness around 1pm. While she absconded to the bathroom, I got her gift ready. Unbeknownst to her, I’d prepared. I’d been pretty secretive, talking to a bunch of friends and plotting in secret. I thought I’d figured out a neat idea, skewing sentimental without getting cheesy. Then again, that was for her to decide, not me.

She came out of the bathroom to see my lying in bed with a beautifully wrapped gift in front of me (I actually piked on the wrapping, paying some gift store people to do it for me. My wrapping skills are legendarily bad). She slowly made her way through the multitude of ribbons and tore it open. A plain black base. This told her nothing. She flipped it over to see a silver picture frame segmented into seven openings. In one was a short poem I’d written. She grinned, hugged me and said thank you, that it was one of the sweetest things anyone had gotten her. “The photos are all stock images, right?” she asked. I smiled and shook my head, not wanting to tip her off too much. “But they’re all black and white…” her voice trailed off, eyes widened. She turned to me, eyes welling up. I think I did good.

In each frame was a photo of the place where we had one of our firsts: The place we’d shared our first kiss. Where we first had sex. The restaurant where we first used the word “relationship”. Where we first said the words “I love you”. The cafe where we first talked about what a future together might look like. Five big firsts, for our first year together.

We cuddled, which moved on to great sex, buoyed by the rush of closeness and intimacy. Love only makes these things better, and I’d be almost surprised if our amorous feelings weren’t forming a visible, tangible aura.

By the time we moved out to get lunch, it was almost 4pm. Eschewing fancy clothes for yoga/track pants and comfy sweaters, we went for maximum coziness. We found a small, cosy sushi place and ordered a bunch of tasty rolls. That morning I’d thought back to an excellent list of questions I’d always considered going through with a partner. I brought it up and we jumped right in. Phenomenal questions, they fostered discussion and an even deeper understanding of each other’s values than we’d thought possible. I don’t know how it says it takes 45 minutes, we went for almost 2.5 hours and didn’t even finish the list. The questions were complex, layered and required thought. Her answers were on point, reaffirming just how much I lucked out in meeting her. She’s a special sort, which I knew, but didn’t know to quite that extent. It was hard to tear our eyes away from each other. To any bystanders we were probably just that gross mushy couple with the constantly misty eyes. Fuck ’em, we earned it.

Coming back home with tummies full of sushi, we slovenly fell upon the Lego I’d bought at a garage sale a few weeks prior. Creating space craft and alien pets, we worked out a brief narrative to attach to them. Next up, we had to fortify the bed with pillows to make a low level couch fort. We pulled the pork out of the slow cooker and served up dinner. After having crafted purpose built lounging stations on the bed, we settled down for dinner while watching one of my all time desert island top 5 movies: High Fidelity.

Best day. Love this woman. We do the good thing and we do it well.

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It was either this or a boom box outside your window, but it’s a bit cold outside today.

Does it seem peculiar to be writing an open letter to the woman sleeping behind me? Well we’ve always been left of normal, so contextually it’s not all that strange.

I can still clearly remember this day, one year ago. I’ve mentioned before how little that day seemed real to me. I was nursing a particularly difficult break up and just kind of drifting like a wayward spirit. I felt unsettled going out and definitely not ready to meet someone. Spoiler, I did. As if plucked from the ink of the most intricate writer (with a taste for the MPDG trope), you appeared. I was lost in the fog, you walked straight up to me and lifted me beyond the clouds. We started to date almost immediately and the fantasy façade began to fall away. You were real, you were here and you were someone I didn’t realise I’d been missing.

Of course it’s easy for me to say that in hindsight with the rose tinted glasses of amorous entwine. At the time I still had no idea what I wanted. So we danced small steps, ever drawing closer together. It was weird at first, I didn’t know what you wanted and I wasn’t ready for much in the way of commitment. We rolled with it. Adopting a more casual, free-form rhythm we found ourselves together, but in no way shackled. It was liberating and only sought to strengthen my ardour. We found each other, stretched and tested one another to see just how snugly we fit.

Then I met someone else and things got confusing. I felt buffeted and beaten down but you stayed, you held me fast and coached me through it. Your selflessness and openness throughout the ordeal gave a sudden direct clarity to my choice. My last vestiges of resistance faded and I plunged deep into everything we did together. I still have yet to surface for air.

Unlike anyone I’ve met, you’ve made me feel like I am who I’m meant to be. We communicate in ways I’ve never experienced. If anything contentious comes up, we talk it out. Issues haven’t risen, because together we’ve faced them and broken them down until they were easy enough to step over. You’ve given me stability and faith in myself to be better, to ask for help and take it. Being with you has made me better than I was and I hope I’ve given you even half of what you’ve given me.

Ok, did that sound stoic enough? Here goes.

I fucking love you, Lioness. You brighten up my days no matter how grumpy and sleep deprived I am. I’ve faced few challenges so overwhelming as keeping a sour demeanour in your presence, and you do it so effortlessly just by being who you are. You make me feel like we’re little kids who’re figuring out how to do this “adult thing” our way and that’s what I’ve wanted all along. We know how to play and we do. We never stop and I don’t ever want to. Around you I’m safe, warm, excited and hopeful. Other things exist in my life, but none of them feel remotely as special and rewarding as being with you. I might just be getting old and decrepit, but nobody else has honestly made me feel like a future together had grounds in reality. The kids, the house, the big fluffy dog. We’ve talked about it and know that it might be runaway sentiment, but there’s something special about it, like a dream that lingers long after you wake. You’re a gorgeous person inside and out and a lifetime getting lost in your eyes would be well spent.

But for now I’ll settle for a day of great food, better sex, Lego and movies in a couch fort. Happy first anniversary.

You can’t hide your lion eyes.

Happy Pride everyone.

I’m here today to talk about a subject that’s both relevant and dearly close to my heart: Lions. They’re one of the first things I tend to think of when I think of “pride”, because of the impeccably named Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride. Lions are majestic creatures who join butterflies, kingfishers and prawns through representation within a constitutional monarchy. That’s something to be proud of indeed. I don’t know about the other species I mentioned, but I like that lions pass down sovereignty through birth. Primarily because, like bears, baby lions are called cubs. I like to think of lions as the feline versions of bears, which makes me happy. Male lions have manes, which I tend to think make them look regal. Some humans try to ape this admirable style, but fail in comparison. I tend to think jocular male lions would refer to each other as their “mane man”, which makes them sound quite chummy.

Lions are pretty badass. I’m named after one (presumably who was named Leon), which fills me with no end of pride. I’d like to think I could beat a gazelle in a fight, which comes with the territory. Realistically though, unless I had tools I’d be woefully ill equipped to deal any real damage. Plus I’d never chase one down. Do you know fast those bastards run? I don’t, but Wikipedia says they can reach speeds of up to 97mph. I can run maybe 15mph for short bursts. No dinner for me. A lion on the other hand would pounce, latch on and tear that bastard asunder. Then you’ve got yourself a sweet feast, rending flesh from their bones and devouring it voraciously. That’s my idea of a party. Lions, you know what I like. Then again, lions often scavenge and pick up things left behind by others. Oh well, carrion my wayward sons.

So far I’ve covered virtually all my knowledge of lions. There is a lot I have yet to learn. The internet exists (hence your ability to read this sentence), which means knowledge is within my grasp. All I lack is the integrity to pursue that desire. I don’t know what lions do for fun. Seriously, do they wrestle? Braid each other’s manes? Participate in Game of Thrones style political maneuvering? I’m sure David Attenborough knows. What do lions think of relationships between genders? Given that they’re animals who operate upon instinct, do they just fuck to reproduce? Watching this video briefly (I’ve been watching porn for years, I’ve learned to skip the flimsy preamble and zone in on the best bits) it seems like a pretty unenthusiastic affair for all concerned. Then an awkward post coital period where the male lion isn’t sure how to express his apathy. I assume he asked her “was that as good for you as it was for me?” and her agreement didn’t mean it was anything special, merely providing solidarity in apathy. Well you know what, lions? If you spent more time thinking about each other and less time navigating your political landscape, you might just find a few ways to enjoy that special kind of wrestling a smidgeon more.

Wait, don’t lions spend most of their days sleeping? Maybe try sleeping with each other for a change. Geez.

Time to exercise those demons again.

Fuck. Fuck fucketty fuck. Fuckaroonie, fuckarizzle, fuckorangutan, fuckallamadingdong. Wait, did I just make a reference to llama penis in there? Maybe let’s rewind a bit.

I tried Marvel Heroes 2015. I like it. Now my life is ruined. Let’s rewind a bit more.

The scene opens on a sunny day in Auckland, New Zealand. The year is 2000, the light breeze and azure skies are fucking irrelevant, because I’m hunched in a chair staring at a screen. Diablo 2 was my mistress’ name and she was a cruel one indeed. Day after day, night after night, week after week and so on. I played it, I beat it, I played it again. All of the characters, over and over again. At some point in music class a bunch of us nerds jokingly wrote a simple strumming guitar song, never to be seen by an external audience. Then things abated for a little while. THEN Lord of Destruction came out and 2002 went the way of the dodo. At some point during university a friend introduced me to the Median XL mod and once more, I became a recluse. The gameplay was simple hack and slash. Levelling up, learning new skills, finding magical items and taking on hoards of demons, undead and other macabre monsters became as much a full-time profession as a high school student can have. It was fun, until it just became habit. Still I’d find a way to reinvigorate my interest.

Diablo 3 came out and I actually took a sick day from work. My flatmate and I played through it for hours. Fun and horrendously addictive, it sucked me right back in. I was older, more responsible (he says after admitting that he took a sick day to play a video game) and had less spare time to throw into the game. Its hold didn’t grasp me for quite so long. I played through a few times, hit max level and laid it to rest.

Marvel Heroes 2015 looks and feels like it’s gonna do exactly the same thing. It doesn’t help that one of the game’s lead designers is David Brevik, co-founder of Blizzard North, the company that made Diablo. It plays like Diablo and it’s exactly what I want out of a game. It’s not hugely cerebral, it’s adorned with flashing colours and sudden sounds that feed into all the stimulation centres in my brain. It has a massive roster of Marvel Comics heroes and encourages you to continue playing and levelling them all up. It’s free to play with micro transactions, but it’s entirely possible (if only more time consuming) to unlock everything without paying a cent. It entices you to log in every day by offering items and trinkets once per day. I happened to join during a birthday celebration, so there are tons of free giveaways that’ve kept me continually loogging back in. It’s ridiculous. I already stayed up later last night just to get the second day’s worth of stuff, then logged in this morning to top up. Fucking hell.

I have no idea if this is gonna pull back on my social commitments. I hope I’ve matured enough to not let something as ephemeral as a video game interfere with my life, but who knows how much I’ve actually progressed? Thankfully it’s my first anniversary with my girlfriend this weekend so that’ll help me keep my distance. Though combining the undesirable heat of summer with the fact that I’m not drinking right now, who knows if I’ll be able to resist the allure of web slinging around research facilities, cleaning up Hell’s Kitchen and no doubt experiencing intergalactic travel all in the name of procuring medula oblongatas for Venom to snack on. I’m no hero and I can only be so strong. Let’s hope my lack of attention span as I’ve aged will for once save me from my extremely low stakes crisis.

Still, llama penis? I’ve got no idea where that came from.

Character development.

I never grew up around my girlfriend. No girl next door scenario for this bloke. Given that we were born half a world away, we never met until I got into a plane and tumbled through a series of silly shenanigans and manic misadventures that had us coming together as mostly formed adult humans (my extra two arms have yet to manifest, but I’ll be a real boy soon enough). Last night however, I came as close as I ever will to having seen her grow up. Together we flicked through the pages of her compiled childhood photo album.

It’s a funny thing, watching someone age in an abstract fashion. I so many of the senses are missing, there’s no sound, no smells to recall. Nothing tactile. You’ve got a multitude of information in front of your eyes, but still it feels like there’s a world of experience missing. Knowing what I did before, this helped add character, to bulk out a few things. Seeing my beloved as an infant, ageing and slowly snowballing into finding personality was rewarding in itself. We tried to pick the age where signs of who she is actually shone through. A wide smile here, a characteristic pout. Maybe a few years in I started to see who she is in who she was. As she grew, her character only became more apparent. Her natural sweetness with a sprinkle of that all too loveable saltiness. Seeing her teenage self made me wonder how we would’ve reacted to one another had circumstance been different, had we grown up together. I stand by my assumption that as a comically loud beta male we would’ve been friends, but any romantic entanglement would be entirely unrequited. It takes a special breed of beta male to “friendzone” your teenage self in a fantasy scenario. I’m that special.

I thought back to family photos that I grew through. There are a ton of photos of me as a little dude. Family holidays, sleepovers with my best bud, giving the peace sign with one of our many Japanese au pair girls, old school pictures. Always smiling, always laughing. If I was ever a moody child, the pictures refuse to tell that tale. Teeth or not, there was always a grin. The most dated photo that springs to mind features a little Leon standing in my childhood bedroom. I’m flanked by hand-drawn Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pictures, a cardboard cutout of Spot the Dog and a Hulk Hogan picture ripped straight from the TV Guide. I was the early 90s.

From the age of 13 or so till the advent of Facebook, if photos are memories then I fail to exist. Fittingly the mantle passed from my parents to my friends to chronicle those ages. I spent less time with family and more time immersed in the world of my peers and the pictures tell that story. No longer centralised, I expanded out from my tighter circle into putting my trust and love into my teenage family. The photos exist, but they’re scattered like leaves upon the four winds. Or filling up shoeboxes in cupboards around Auckland.

It is apt, as a teen I retracted from my parents as we all do. My core friends haven’t changed since primary school, but post puberty I begun to invest mentally and emotionally in areas beyond the familial. My sphere of influence widened and I really started to grow. I mean, I also got surly as shit and intentionally pulled away from the idea of documenting tangible memories. Of course I won’t care about this shit when I’m older. None of it matters, life is an absurdist fantasy and we’re all just matter condensed. I wasn’t wrong, but perhaps a little impulsive. Oh snap, as the kids say.

Then again, what am I doing now? It’s like I’m writing my autobiography day by day, as if compensating for those lost years by filling in every inane detail of my mid-late 20s. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve sure painted a few with mine.

Some deep cutlery.

What the shit guys? How could nobody have told me that there’s a free to play Diablo style MMORPG set in the Marvel Universe? I can be Venom and everything. Not that I have much spare time, but clearly I desire nothing more than sinking my remaining leisure time into hack and slash, web and crush action. The story is written by Brian Michael Bendis too. That’s some pedigree. You haven’t just let me down, but you’ve let yourself down. Or it could just be that I’ve let myself down and I’m looking for a scapegoat. It’s ok if you’re gruff with me. Get it? Goats? Gruff? It’s ok, it was kind of junk. Which is what goats eat, right? EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED!

Went to an outstanding concert last night. Spoon, like The Tick‘s war cry. I was set to review them, but the accreditation fell through. No free show for me. Resigned to just not go, I sighed and considered alternate plans. A friend got in touch, mentioning she’d heard I’d planned to go and asked to come with. I thought about it again and considered it. If I didn’t have this reviewing thing, would I go anyway? It’s The Antlers, one of my favourite bands. It’s Spoon, who had one of the best albums of last year and I haven’t seen since 2007 or so. Have I become such a cheap-ass that I’m missing out on opportunities I would’ve taken otherwise just because I’ve stumbled into a position of privilege? Yes. I have become that cheap and frankly it’s absurd. I told my friend to grab those tickets and went along, transaction and all.

Here’s the difference in not paying for a ticket. I don’t have to bring along my dorky notebook. I don’t have to reframe the entire experience in my head into how it’ll look on a page. I can just enjoy the gig for everything it throws at me instead of plotting narrative strands and meticulously jotting down tracks, lyrics and finding themes. I can let the music wash over me and enjoy it like I always have. Live music has been an enormous part of my life for the past 10 years and in adopting this reviewer post, it has taken a little bit of the magic. One of my primary activities for blowing off steam has become an obligation. If I’ve got something on the line that responsibility is always gonna be floating at the back of my mind. Analysing it in lieu of experiencing it. It’s nice to be able to port my writing experience into a different context. It’s an amazing opportunity to gain access to that privileged side of media coverage. This reviewing thing is a huge boon and helped keep my sanity when times and dimes were tough. I can’t forget though that not landing a gig doesn’t disqualify me from attending. If I wasn’t doing this, I still would’ve paid.

Experiencing a heritage act like Spoon that just keeps reinventing themselves was almost surreal. The set was packed with a range of tracks from across their discography. My friend may well have evacuated her bowels when they dropped one of her favourite covers. I wasn’t nearly as familiar with their back catalogue, but found myself captivated with a slew of tracks I’d never heard. Such presence – the lead guitarist was wild, animalistic. He gave himself over to his craft, playing with an inhuman speed and fervour. There was almost a jamming tone to the whole set, like the basic structure of the songs was in-tact, but they weren’t afraid to mould it into a shape of their choosing. The lighting was exceptional, it felt like we were in a music video. Beams of light meeting at a central point and flicking between colours, silhouettes cast across the walls, interchanging overly saturated tones creating an eerie but enthralling atmosphere. Everything was notched right up and as a pure spectator, the result was mindblowingly compelling. Easily one of the best gigs I’ve seen over the past year and I’ve been to my share.

I’d eagerly see 10,000 Spoon concerts, though I wouldn’t say no to The Knife either.

It certainly wasn’t a bawdy language workshop. That wouldn’t be remotely safe for work.

How are you doing? How are you feeling. Hmm, I see. *Nods*.

Don’t mind me, I’ve just spent most of my day in a vocal and body language workshop, so I’m auditing everything I do and say. We looked at the connotations of body language, how we ourselves presented to the group and tried to decode deeper meanings behind the words. In all honesty, it was very much excellent.

We were asked to stand up in front of the room one at a time and say our name, our department and what we’d hoped to get out of the workshop. We then were then scrutinised and picked apart in the friendliest critical way possible. Some nitpicking involved deriding fidgeting, posture or foot shuffling. Some slumped or oscillated. Hands were held in “fig leaf” pose, clasped in front of their laps. Arms were folded or clenched, weight shifted between legs. As we went around the room, presentation picked up. The sacrificial lambs who went first gave guidance for those to follow. I’m used to public speaking. I like public speaking. Still, it felt like I was stepping up waiting for the axe to fall. It didn’t. I managed to survive as the only one unscathed by criticism. The accent wins again. Red faced and grinning, I took my seat.

The more we talked about posture, the further I tried to control mine. I’ve always been fascinated by body image and I’ve tried to pick tips to control my output. I’ve unabashedly used things like mirroring before to see if dates are interested. If we’re talking across the table from one another, I’ve tried shifting my posture or arm position to see if she follows. In an entirely non-empirical sense, it’s worked sometimes. So who knows? Sitting in the workshop though, I kept trying to adopt an open, non-confrontational stance that showed engagement. Shoulders and scapula back, sitting in my seat with my legs firmly planted on the ground. My hands were on the table, peaked in a steeple position. As soon as I found out this was meant to imply competence I tried opening them up further. I was trying to shift as far away from any arrogance as I could. I’m no expert, but I was keen to let the facilitator know that I was enjoying everything that was coming our way. Also the head of marketing was there, so I wanted to put forward a solid front. Meeting her for the first time, I think I made a good, confident impression. She seems like good people. She’s probably taken this workshop already.

An excellent refresher of things I haven’t touched since first year university. A slightly more complex version of my old favourite, the Sender/Message/Receiver model was in there, as well as an excess of amazing stock office photos. We had to look through a bunch of them and try to read how everyone was reacting, what they were feeling and if they were trying to hide anything. We had a fun exercise where someone would get up to tell two truths and a lie, we had to try calling them out on it. I can tell you one truth, I’m useless at poker. I’m fine managing my own communication and how I present myself, but when it comes to reading others… Well I’m not gonna run for Prime Minister any time soon. I don’t know what it says about me that learning all this stuff, well it seems like an amazing way to maneuver your way to a strong position. Maybe I should cut back on the House of Cards. This all seems so Machiavellian.

Yeah, I’m not gonna run for Prime Minister. How about that Presidential seat though?