When employment isn’t working.

If there’s one thing I hate it’s wet socks. Your feet get all wrinkly and even the gossamer wings of a butterfly are enough to rip your soft skin to shreds. Then comes the stench. Suddenly you’re telling co-workers that you drunkenly ate a skunk whole because it’s less embarrassing than the possibility of your body being that appalling. The worst. If there are two things I hate, then job hunting gets the second slot.

It’s a constant parade of inviting your insecurities to ride shotgun on your back. For the past while, reading a job application has involved skipping over the duties straight to the qualifications. I pride myself on efficiency, so I cut right to the part where I’m not good enough in order to congratulate myself on being a failure. Ain’t no party like a pity party ’cause a pity party is another name for life. Not only does everyone still require ten years experience for entry level work, but the range of skills and expected aptitude for any job is ridiculous. Who do these people think I am? Somebody with self confidence?

An ex-girlfriend once gave me good advice re: job applications. She told me that the “requirements” for any position were a way to weed out excessive numbers of applicants, not a necessity to perform the job. Ex-employers have verified this, saying almost universally they’d rather have people they can train than people who know everything already. This way the new employee will be able to learn good habits from the boss, rather than that employer having to rid them of old unhelpful ones. Ex-bosses have also suggested that it’s risky to take overqualified people, as they could use it as a diagonal move and you’d be stuck having to employ someone new almost immediately. My ex told me that it wasn’t my job to tell them I wasn’t good enough, but to just say I could do everything and then learn to do it. You’re not lying if you’ll be able to do it by the time the start date rolls around.

So why not listen to any of this ex-cellent advise?

The sad truth is that it’s much easier to talk yourself out of something than put in effort. Heeding the call to adventure, then diving in headfirst seems like suicide if you’re sure the water will be filled with sharks. Could I do most of these jobs? Probably. Do I have proof of the skills they’re asking for? My problem is that I answer “no” instead of “not yet”. How do you get content creation experience? By creating content of course. The one thing standing between you and practice managing social media audiences and streams? BY INTERACTING WITH AUDIENCES OVER SOCIAL MEDIA.

There’s always gonna be an excuse, right? The path of least resistance is to do nothing. Being gainfully employed means that I can stay static without suffering huge consequences in the short term, but that’s a pretty limited view. Why should I need Fire underfoot or my back against the wall to get moving?

My socks aren’t even wet right now, so why the cold feet?

Number one on that list is swimming in jelly. What else would it be?

You know what? I like being an adult. I was primed to abhor all the responsibilities and stress of taking care of myself, but on the whole it’s better than it isn’t. I get to make up my own bedtime, eat whatever I want, manage my money on a larger scale and pay the consequences of failing all of the above. What’s not to love? Being a kid was rad too though. Even the ‘oft maligned’ school wasn’t a big deal for me. I got to see friends, sometimes we did field trips and failing anything else I had a jawsome lunchbox with segmented spaces for different kind of foods. Every day was basically a low key bento day.

I dunno, maybe I’m just a happy person?

I’m not one of those peaked-at-12 adults whose lives I assume consist of leaning on one elbow, looking to the upper left and sighing loudly ad infinitum. I don’t see the point in wistfully wishing for another era. I’m one of those fortunate snake people born without the spectre of military conscription on the horizon. Our forebearers died for just that reason. I make a point of going out and doing things that I enjoy. I try to spend time with friends when I can. I may have less of that time to go around, but I’ve got a shit ton of freedom to shape my meagre waking hours as I see fit.

Well, almost. If I truly had my way I’d spend more time playing Magic than reading about it.

I’m not a robot though. I can’t emphasise enough the extent to which I adored being a kid. I wouldn’t be the oversized child I am today without yearning for past experiences. Nigh universally it’s a lack of time that’s the issue. I’m sure if I had less of a life I’d find more space for excellent, intentional goofing around. What things did I do before adulthood that I wish I still did?

  • Reading. This has to be number one on the list. As a kid I’d read voraciously. I had a minimum wakeup time of 6am and I remember staring down the clock from 5am onwards so I could flick my light on and read. After discovering Roald Dahl I’d walk the half hour or so to school with my face buried in James and the Giant Peach or Danny, Champion of the World. I devoured generic fantasy novels. Anything with swords/dragons/magic really. These days I’ll read a book or two per year, that’s it. I get these brief resurgences of reading from time to time, but unless something really catches me I break from the fever dream.
  • Video Games. The hobby that defined so many of my childhood friendships. If they liked “spacies” then I liked them. Back when Sega/Nintendo were practically gang affiliations, I straddled the fence, playing anything I could get my hands on. At a time when the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis was all the rage, I still wouldn’t look past the simplistic Smurfs on ColecoVision. Ironically at a time when online gaming is gargantuan, I don’t have the time to get good at anything, so instead I skip it entirely.
  • Sports. Oh how I hated running at age eight. Now that I’m actually fit, I can’t find room in my life to join a league. I don’t have the gear to get casual games together. Plus I’m oh so much better at making excuses than I was as a child. In a truly dumb situation, the time I would spend playing sports is devoted to maintaining fitness instead. It costs money to join a league and the emotional energy of organisation to mobilise friends outdoors. I can’t just get my parents to pay for my entry into a space where everything’s sorted for me these days. Then again, I’m in Toronto now. People here love sports and probably own enough gear to get a pick up baseball game going. If I build it…
  • Being carried home from parents’ friends’ places. Of course these ran well past bedtime. It’s hard to forget the feelings of total safety and love that came with that floating sensation. I’d wake up somewhere between the house and car, barely conscious of anything but the knowledge I was cared for. I probably could’ve gotten up and walked myself, but why mess with serene catharsis? André the Giant is long gone, so I’m way too big for anyone to carry me like this. If anyone decides to make a functional shrink ray, a re-enactment of this will be on my shortlist.

As I write this there’s an adult diaper ad on TV. Clearly other people are already up on this reliving your childhood play.

Putting the “anal” into Merriweather Post-Analysis.

I’ve seen a fair amount of live music. Back when I lived in New Zealand I’d often drive two and a half hours north from Rotorua to Auckland mid-week to see a show, then back in the early hours of the morning to get to work. This possibly happened more weeks than it didn’t. From 2007-2012 or so, I attended a metric fuckton of gigs (which sadly did not include the band Metric). They varied in quality, as all things do. Some (like Grizzly Bear at Bruce Mason or The Mountain Goats at King’s Arms Tavern) left me with an exultant high while others were a flat out disappointment (TV on the Radio at Big Day Out comes to mind). The middle ground was composed of gigs that fluctuated between the marvellous and mediocre (Smashing Pumpkins at Vector Stadium) or those that weren’t bad so to speak, but different from what I’d been expecting/hoping for (Weezer at Vector Arena. Forgot how not into their newer material I was).

Then there was last night’s Animal Collective concert at The Danforth Music Hall.

I’ve been a huge fan of AC for years. In particular, Feels, Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavillion have been on constant rotation since they were released. I saw them live back at the Powerstation in the wake of their Fall Be Kind EP release. It was a sweet spot for the band. They’d crested the wave of critical adoration and brought out a similarly cherished bonus release. They sounded excellent and played a bunch of Merriweather stuff. Solid show that left me with a humming feeling in the core of my being. The kind of concert you dream of.

Last night’s gig was a mixed bag and I’m not entirely sure how to feel about it. I’ve been less than lukewarm on the band’s recent releases. They’ve felt fine for any other band, but lacking in that special harmony that seemed to epitomise their late 00s releases. The bulk of their material was from their 2016 album Painting With and the subsequent EP The Painters. They had a few Merriweather tracks plus a scattering of deep cuts and lesser known songs. As I said earlier, I’d consider myself a fan of the band, but I came away feeling sort of isolated.

On the other hand, they weren’t remotely phoning it in. Seeing them compose these hugely ambitious audio soundscapes was fascinating. The craft involved in shaping noise through a critical mass of effects pedals and gadgets boggled my mind. To conceive of sound in that way, taking a couple of notes, stretching and mixing in order to warp into a whole new atmosphere really took a shit ton of skill. A lot of it felt improvisational in nature and the chemistry of the band went a long way towards making the sound gel. It seemed in a sense like an electronic jam session, with band members bouncing off one another organically. That was pretty powerful to watch, seeing such a fluid working relationships (knowing full well of the band’s constant creative tensions). So much of the set seemed like they were out to challenge the audience, both in what they sought from a gig and how they perceived previously known pieces. Even when familiar tunes faded in, the tracks were entirely rearranged, taking aspects of the beloved material to recreate a starkly different piece. It made me begin to question the nature of what makes a song. How far can you go from a recorded piece, cherry picking elements to rework while still maintaining that it’s the same track? If it only casually resembles the former structure, what have you just heard? Experiencing songs I knew so well in a whole different light literally inspired awe in me. It recontextualised the piece entirely, crafting a meaningful memory of its own.

There’s been a lot of personal ownership so far. Defining this concert by how “I” felt. Looking around though, it was plain to see that the gig wasn’t what everyone had bargained for. Witnessing the almost desperate response to familiar material- feverishly energetic dancing, as if re-engaging calcified joints- I can’t have been the only one expecting a more crowd friendly set. I get it from the band’s perspective. Maybe they don’t like touring that much, but see it as a financial necessity. Perhaps they feel constrained by the rigid structures of their recorded material. They could even see delivering a polished, tight setlist as a method of giving up and phoning it in. Does a band owe anything to its audience? Is it fair for concertgoers to have expectations of what they’d hope to hear and, if those aren’t met, are they justified in feeling disappointed? Is it entitled to presume that the cost of a concert ticket implies walking away satisfied? Or is that a gamble inherent to the mercurial nature of a creative endeavour?

At what level can it be seen as self-indulgent to fly in the face of what your crowd seeks? There was a specific instance during a fantastic rendition of “Floridada” where Avery Tare seemed borderline antagonistic. Everything was humming away merrily, until he begun singing his part of the chorus in half-time, throwing off the rhythm of the track. It was in defiance of the rest of the band’s timing. How’s an audience meant to dance to that? Is a concert a performance or performance art? Something put out there to be critiqued, experienced or enjoyed? There’s no clear cut line, but it really begs the question: Who are you touring for? Yourself or adoring fans who’ve supported your career for years?

At this stage, I still have yet to determine how I really felt about the gig. Was that the point? We live in a world of nuance where it’s possible to hold a number of opposing views simultaneously. By the same metric, the next time Animal Collective roll through town I can’t say whether or not I’d want to go. This wasn’t a gig I’ll soon forget.

It’s not like fire doesn’t cut down on humidity.

I’m a huge fan of garage sales. Even if everyone else here seems to pronounce them “guh-raj sales” instead of the obviously correct “garridge sales”. I love finding affordable (dirt cheap) pre-loved (used) goods that hopefully still work. Hell, free shit is some of my top tier favourite stuff in the multiverse. It doesn’t always pan out (the broken microwave I carried about a kilometre that had a working light, but no heat, comes to mind), but sometimes it pans out entirely literally (the curbside cast iron frying pan for instance. Spent some time scrubbing off the rust and now it’s A+. Not even a nuke could ruin one of those babies). Throwing a few bucks on top of that can come with massive rewards. I had a $2 backpack that I used for about a year, some $4 pants that got a couple of years’ use. I mean, our bedside lamp, blender, large pan and food processor (to back up the blender’s blind spots) collectively cost us under $50. So much value I was in total Rapture.

Yesterday I found a great buy at a local (in direct line of sight from our place) garage sale. I mean, the place was swarming with neat stuff. There was a preserved scorpion paperweight, tons of old cameras and camera technology, clothes and books, etc. Then I saw an item I’d been thinking about for some time: A dehumidifier. We always grew up with one. It was a sturdy machine with a computerised display on the top. My favourite feature hands down of this old dehumidifier was the whale on the computerised display. A goddamn whale. This animated whale was an indicator of the humidity levels of the surroundings. If it was too humid, the whale made a frowny face with “x” eyes. If it was neutral, it had dot eyes and its mouth was pulled into a tight line (like thus: “-“). If the area was at low humidity, the whale would be stoked, mouth pulled into a huge smile with big smiley eyes. PLUS A BIG FUCKEN SPOUT OF WATER ON ITS BACK. I loved this whale possibly more than I loved the dehumidifier itself, even if the logic of it was pretty peculiar. Shouldn’t the whale be stoked with humidity? It lives in the ocean, basically the most humid place there is. I don’t know if this is one of those great white voluntary sand whales I’ve often heard tale of. Whatever it was, it liked its atmosphere like I like my gingerale: dry. Also maybe with whiskey, I’m not sure. It was a two dimensional whale, whatever its liquor preferences were, it was tight lipped.

This garridge sale didn’t have a whaleriffic dehumidifier, but it did have a $10 one. A bargain by any other name wouldn’t smell as cheap. Metaphorically. This thing had no particular odour. Frankly with a dehumidifier I’d take that as a warning sign. I asked the guy holding fat stacks of cash in his hand (I assumed he was one of the people running the sale) if there was anything wrong with it. According to him (and who wouldn’t trust a white male flashing large quantities of dollars?) it worked fine, they just upgraded to a bigger model for the family home. He said he was so sure that it worked that if I took it home and it didn’t work, I could bring it back and he’d swap it for his other one. Sounded completely un-suspicious. I bought it and carried it the 20 metres or so to our front door.

It worked. I plugged it in and it happily (I can only assume. No whale, remember?) did its thing. Within an hour or two, the humidity was down to the requisite level. Soothing. Later that evening I looked up the manual online to see if there was anything I needed to know about the unit. Googling the model number, the first couple of results were the same. PRODUCT RECALL. The model number was one of the many models recalled for potential fire risk. They’d apparently had some cases of the dehumidifier super-heating and exploding. DOUBLE PLUS UNGOOD. I wondered to myself, was it worth still running it? I asked my girlfriend, who was fine with taking a chance (humidity being the moral enemy of virtue, of course). I also thought, how much would they pay for a recalled unit? I had no proof of purchase and the recall was a few years ago. Still, could I get more than the $10 I paid for it? Would this be one of my many lucrative get rich quick schemes that didn’t pan out (curbside cast iron pan notwithstanding)? Or was the best option to keep using my cheap dehumidifier and turning it off once nobody was in the house? Thus preventing it from overheating after, I dunno, 24 hour use or something? Would you dice with the devil? Or go for the Faustian recall deal? The devil you know or the one you don’t?

Sounds like what we bought was really… a dehumidifire.

A brush with coat-dependence.

I’m an everyday illusionist. I wrap myself in layers of mystique set to misdirect and confuse those who cross my path. I carry with me a halo of competency that causes many to assume I’m a capable, competent individual. If they were to look closer they’d discover how very wrong their assumptions were. I run on a fake it till you make it platform. In truth, I don’t have a great many practical skills. If I were to find myself stuck in a forest alone I’d likely just wander around for a short while until I died, moaning about the lack of local pho restaurants. If anything goes wrong in the house, my default response is to wonder who I could convince through friendship or money to fix it. I’ve never had to do much in the way of manual labour, so the sight of me trying to accomplish anything constructive is laughable at best.

Which is why it was so odd for me to offer my services to friends with an overwhelming amount of home reno work to do. They’re moving soon and need all the help they can get making it look spiffy for potential buyers.

Truly I meant best, blindly flinging myself into their home before thinking of the havoc I could wreak. When my girlfriend and I arrived, I offered explicit instructions as to my use:

  • I don’t know how to do many things.
  • I will ask silly questions.
  • I will be incredibly slow at first.
  • By the time I’ve finished I will have gained some competency.
  • You will seriously wonder how I’ve survived life thus far.

My girlfriend is not an incompetent person. She’s done a ton of stuff before, so she was a lot easier to manage. They had a ton of projects for her, like sanding down a door, dusting its grooves and spray painting it. Useful stuff. Me on the other hand, they dumped on the floor and set to work. They were gonna paint the base boards/quarter rounds and needed it taped off. I also learned what base boards and quarter rounds were. Looking around my house now, I can see that they’re everywhere. I set to work right away applying masking tape to the floor and walls. At first it was significantly slow going. I was so set on getting everything tight up against the base boards/quarter rounds that I was taking an age to set anything down. I’d do small bits at a time, afraid of having even a speck exposed to potential paint. Or what if I left a smidgen of the baseboard covered? It’d never get painted and I’d no longer be trusted to help with anything, banished from their friendship for all eternity. THE WORST PUNISHMENT.

I got faster. After I’d done one corner I realised I’d need to start moving things out to get access. Their TV cabinet? Right in the middle of the floor. All those carefully wired speaker cords? GONE. I pulled out the nails they’d used to keep the cords in place, undoing all their hard work. In my head I told myself all this stuff needed to get done eventually, but it was hard to shake the idea that I was committing minor vandalism at a friend’s place. I moved around the living room putting tape down at the top and bottom of the baseboards/quarter rounds. My friend started following my work around the room, painting as she went. Eventually I finished up my taping and wanted more work to do. She instructed me to remove these box shelves on the wall then pull out the plastic screw covers drilled into the wall. There I was, balanced on a chair holding this shelf with one arm, cordless drill between my neck and left shoulder, holding a plastic zip lock bag in my left hand while carefully trying to drop the loose screw into the bag. As I said, I’m not a competent person. Though I did manage to pick up the drill between my big and index toe. That should count for something.

She had to leave to have lunch with her boyfriend, so told me to take over the painting that she’d started. Painting her house? She was trusting me? The only painting I’d done was as a child in school. I painted many shit things, the only highlights being a taniwha and myself as a werewolf. I reluctantly took up the call to adventure as she assuaged my fears. It was only the first coating, I couldn’t fuck up too bad. Had she met me? To be honest though, it wasn’t too difficult. I’m sure I wasn’t doing an amazing job, crawling on my side, but as a first attempt I think it was only slightly shabby.

Riding high on my relative success, I taped off another window alcove and set to painting. I tried to make sure I got all the corners, then got in there with a paint roller. After the handheld brush, the roller was a revelation. I made sure not to lay the paint on too thick and aimed for an even spread. By the time I’d finished, exhausted as I was, I had no concept of whether or not I’d done a good job. Then I thought hey wait a minute, this morning I didn’t know how to do any of this. The fact that I’ve done a job at all is progress enough. By the time I’d left, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction and pride.

So maybe there’s something lurking behind my illusion of competence after all.

How did I write this whole thing without one dick joke?

Do you ever look around and feel inquisitive about the size of things? In parallel universai (sticking with it), what size might they be? How would this affect the world around them? Could our existence improve from resizing them? What sized objects/living things do we take for granted? I’m not sure how often I ponder this, but I’m sure as fuck going to now.

  • Corn. If an ear of corn was the size of your arm, would we still be able to eat them in the same way? How tall would fields of maize have to be in order to cater to the larger crop? I’d wager that we’d see a lot more individual kernels used than ears. How big would that make each kernel? The same as a thumb joint? Or maybe similar to a single popcorn piece. On that note, would each piece of popcorn be like an apple? That sounds like a world I’d like to live in. Though a solid RIP to typewriter style consumption.
  • I would have a dog sized giraffe as a pet. No qualms about it. How fucking adorable would that be? LOOK HOW CUTE A NEWBORN GIRAFFE IS. Imagine that even more compact. Plus with a little leash for walkies. Their necks would be double plus huggable. Plus they’d be so good at frisbee. If I ever learn to travel universes, I’m bringing back a giraffe dog.
  • Insects are considered nightmarish to most people already. I admit I’d freak out interacting with any larger than my hand. At the same time I think they’re really fucking cool. What is it about insects that freak us out so much? Is it their bulbous/kaleidoscopic eyes? Their overabundance of legs? The venomous barbs/stingers/mandibles? Dense hairs covering their body? Is it even that we’re comparatively such simply laid out creatures and insects are nigh universally complex? Oh fuck, imagine a mosquito wielding a proboscis the size of your head. Now try sleeping ever again.
  • If bananas were the size of prawns, would they be worth the effort? I’d ask the alternative, but Morton Bay Bugs are already a thing.
  • If dandelions were larger, would there be fewer of them? Part of their ability to disperse is how they float in the air and that feels like a feature of their lightness. If they were larger their spread would likely be stymied by obstacles and hopefully that’d cut down on their proliferation.
  • Shark sized tartigrades and jellyfish would rule the oceans/world. Tartigrades are basically indestructible and jellyfish can revert to the polyp stage at any time, meaning they don’t die from old age. Imagine seas full of large translucent blobs. You’d think they were wave crests, but then your entire body would be enveloped in their all consuming sting. I can imagine urolagnia rapidly gaining in popularity.
  • How large would rabbits need to be before they’d become farmed en masse? Goose sized? Pig sized? I mean, they fuck like… well… them. If they weren’t harvested for meat, they’d no doubt be slaughtered as pests.
  • I wonder how larger coconuts would’ve influenced island society. Let’s say a metre in diameter. They’d be really durable for some building materials (roofing perhaps?) and are pretty buoyant. Could they have made some kind of coconut pontoon crafts?
  • One last thought: Apple. Sized. Blueberries.

I’m not sure how this world came to pass, but it tends to fit together pretty damn well. Three cheers to the architect, elsewise we’d all have perished from horse sized rats long ago.

Okay, so I looked up the word “irascible”. Get off my back. And lawn.

I’ve spent enough days staring at this blank page blankly to know that the best way to steer out of it is to merely start. I know that addressing a central theme is the easiest way to burst out of the gates exuding chutzpah, but when all else fails, simply taking the lead until an idea forms can suffice. By this point, four years in, I expected that daily writing would’ve gotten easier. Half the point of this exercise was to stimulate that forebrain and jog my front of mind-ed-ness. Given the past sentence, you can see that it hasn’t been a total success. Yes, I’ve written each day, but I’d hoped by now I would’ve found more improvement with the 1400+ entries I’ve committed to the page. That’s a lot of words, though how many of those are unique is another question entirely. I’ve written a lot, but my skills haven’t risen with the word count quite like I’d expected.

Of course, I’ve always fallen into the trap of expectations. As a kid I rarely had to struggle through work, which in turn failed to develop a backbone of discipline and effort in order to overcome tricky situations. Things kind of came naturally to me and even if I didn’t put in a heap of hard work, I’d usually do okay. As the years progressed life got more challenging and as a recurring theme, I stopped putting in effort. If I couldn’t simply roll up and do it, was it actually something I wanted to do? I’m not saying that I’m lazy in every aspect, but often when the going gets tough, I go elsewhere.

At the moment I feel like I’m stuck in some form of rut. This ain’t a unique moment. Rather, it seems like this vague ennui rolls around multiple times per year. My mindset right now is creatively, professionally, interpersonally and motivationally mired. While my job isn’t a shitshow, it’s very unfulfilling and easy to phone in because I’ve been doing it for so long. This results in a slog of a workday that feels like it’s chipping away at something inside. How long before I give up, buy a TV and watch reruns of Last Man Standing (too soon?)? Work bumming me out overflows insidiously into other areas of my life. The lack of creativity in what I do affects how I see myself represented. This digs at my self-confidence, skimming away at my seminal (screw me, I was looking for a synonym for “creative”) energy (plus “seminal energy” is fun to say. This is my circus and I’ll let it run rampant as I see fit). If I’m feeling shitty about how others may see me, I’m not raring to put myself out there for others to see. I withdraw from social obligations and turn into a irascible old hermit. I GET OLD SOMEHOW, YOU GUISE.

I always surface from this rut, but through distraction rather than progression. I’ve been trying to move into other avenues of work, potentially more fulfilling jobs. These attempts have come with multiple disheartening rejections. While my mind is screaming that I’m at an impasse, I’m sure this isn’t the case. I am however unsure of what to do. The answer is most likely to dig in and upskill, or put myself out there in my own time. The problem though is that these ideas smack of good honest hard work and that makes my brain crave familiar and safe spaces. Effort is difficult and failure is terrifying. Improvement doesn’t come easily, but continuing to go through the motions isn’t sending me anywhere help. Is this why people get life coaches? So someone else can do the hard yards of telling them what to do?

OH WAIT GUISE. WHAT IF I BECAME A LIFE COACH? THEN I COULD FEEL FULFILLED TELLING OTHER PEOPLE WHAT TO DO WHILE NOT HAVING TO MAKE ANY PROGRESS MYSELF.