Today was the day I became a man. My K Bar Mitzvah, if you will

I’d like to take a minute or 30 to talk about New Zealand snacks.

I caught myself in a rabbit hole last night, getting sucked into the myriad snack foods that defined my childhood. There were so many. NZ snacks are pretty adventurous, especially in comparison to those I find here in Canada. I don’t know, Kiwis really push the boundaries when it comes to flavour and texture. Don’t just take my word for it, read this sublime piece of NZ journalism (please do, it’s a fantastic piece and Madeline Chapman is a talented, hilarious writer) detailing the many many types of chips that line our supermarket shelves.

I feel like it’s important to mention NZ’s corn based snacks. Perhaps not because they’re the most hard baked part of our national moreish consciousness, but because I liked them a lot. Burger Rings. If that name means nothing to you, you’re likely sane. Burger Rings occupied a similar position as Funyuns and/or Bugles. They were tactile, and fancy as shit. As a kid, your fingers could be doused in cheeto-esque dust, as you displayed your abundant wealth for all to see. Looking down on all the playground plebs with their chicken chip bullshit. When they called them “rings”, they did not stutter. They were the perfect size, though presumably as an adult they’d fit as far as my nails. And the taste? Ostensibly “burger”, whatever that means. They had abundant tang with a sumptuous umami flavour. An excellent snack option.

There also were a bunch of corn/cheese options I fucking loved. Biguns. BIGUNS. The same kind of jewellery based shenanigans as Burger Rings, but with added CHONK. Imagine a cheese ball that could envelop your finger. That’s the magnitude of what you were dealing with. Dense but puffy corn resplendent with cheese dust. Packed right through with flavour. I fucking loved Biguns, and Cheezels, their more economical but less outrageous cousins. Oh, not to forget the bacon based Rashuns. Those were some DENSE chips. Goddamn Bluebird monopolised the 90s savoury snack market.

Truthfully, I was never much of a savoury snacker. I’m a sweet boy at heart. When it comes to lollies (the Kiwi word for “candy”), my heart was abundant. I never got much into Snifters, though as an adult I’d probably fall right in love. Snifters. A candy shell, chocolate layer, and chewy mint candy centre. K Bars were hard, chewable candy concoctions. They clung to your teeth, lest you forget that you’d just ingested pure sugar. They’d last for ages, a marvel considering they were dirt cheap. Jafas are the quintessential Kiwi movie candy, as far as I know. Not least because they became slang as nationwide disdain for Aucklanders (Just Another Fucking Aucklander). They had an orange candy shell and dark chocolate centre. Think a bite sized crunchy Terry’s chocolate orange.

I think it’s time we talk about the elephant in the room. Or rather, the fucking menace in the movie theatre. Stay with me. Tangy Fruits. Tangy Fruits were iconic for several reasons. They came in substantial little pottles, which were practically only available at movie theatres. They were dense but chewable, colourful fruit lollies. They were, much like K Bars, pure sugar. Now. I don’t think you can understand from that picture just how many there were in a pottle. There were too many, not just for a child, but straight up an unfathomable quantity of sweetness. Kids would get them for the movies and inevitably eat too many. Sugar crash, sickness, raging energy. Whatever it was, they made films damn near unwatchable. Not only would kids up the back do Tangy Fruit races down the aisles, but in the last third of the film, things would get batshit.

See, there was some combination of the lolly’s density and the big plastic pottle that gave it a loud and specific resonance when shook. Agitated and energetic kids would shake these containers so fucking hard, that it’d get difficult to follow the movie. Just a bunch of little fucking wildlings shaking these damn things around like the thunder of wardrums. Little shits everywhere disturbing the peace, with no regard for narrative structure. To be fair, if you had that much artificial energy coursing through your young veins in an enclosed space, what would you do? It’s a marvel we didn’t tear up the upholstery. I so dearly want some tangy fruits right now, always and forever, but nothing good lasts that long. Much like most great Kiwi candy, they’ve been discontinued and only live on in my deepest fantasies.

R.I.P. My childhood.

Advertisements

It’s finally Summer. Why don’t you slide?

It’s easy to forget simple pleasures.

I went swimming yesterday. I’m not talking arduous lap swimming, I’m talking splashing around in a community pool. It was awesome. The day was sunny, we had a bunch of friends there. Kids were playing all kinds of games, throwing balls, some form of tag, squirting each other with water guns. It was a fun, idyllic Sunday afternoon. I got there, found my mates and almost immediately was ushered off. “Dude, the slide is closing in two minutes. You gotta get on it.” My instant brain reaction was who the fuck cares? I’m an adult. Then I pulled my brain out of my arse and thought wait, why would being an adult make slides less fun? You know what? IT DOESN’T. Water slides confirmed still neato as an adult. I got in line just before it closed. An excited, husky kid behind me was thrilled to have gotten in before close. He was breathing heavily, having just run there, and it immediately reminded me of myself at that age. Endless enthusiasm. especially after the lifeguard stood at the bottom of the ladder behind us, telling people sorry, but these folks are the last for today. The slide was great. I crossed my arms across my chest coffin style, and whipped on down, pushed by rushing water. It really was a blast, and I figure it’d be silly of me not to take a day trip to a big water park over the summer.

My girlfriend and I got to be kids again. We went on the diving board and tried a bunch of dives. I’d never been one to do head/handfirst dives as a kid, so as an adult I gave it a go. It’s funny, knowing that I now have an adult body and greater understanding of movement, I still felt that tiny stab of fear standing on that board. What if I faceplanted? Or fell on my back? What if I slipped and hurt myself on the diving board? I know I used to be able to do front flips. Was it worth trying one? Or was that just a path to pain? I skipped the flips, but I did try a couple of traditional dives. I did some bombs (or what people here call “cannonballs”). I jumped really high and landed feet first, attempting to touch the bottom. The pool was 3.6m deep, far deeper than I’d expected. I touched the bottom, then pushed myself off, breaking through the surface of the water effortlessly. My body experienced all these familiar but long forgotten sensations. I had water burning through my nostrils. My ears popped underwater, then had trace amounts of water stuck in them. Not remotely pleasant sensations, but extremely nostalgic ones.

We played around, just being goofs. We got to do “horsey rides” and carry each other around. We dipped one another, we picked each other up. Basically the kind of shit you’d do to entertain a toddler. Y’know what? As an adult it was legitimately fun. I used to love being thrown around and picked up as a kid. Because of my large adult body, it’s rare that anyone can do that with me anymore. The weightlessness of water enabled a whole host of activities, even my girlfriend being able to legit pick me up. What a totally unexpected thrill, that was all too simple to access. I mean, I was always a water baby. Back home in NZ, it was everpresent. We spent so many summers in pools, going to the Glenfield Community Centre to ride their hydroslides. Waiwera Hot Pools was pretty far off, but they had so many great slides. The Point Erin Pools was another hot spot. My best friend and I would go there with my grandparents during the weekends. I rarely realise how important spending time in water is for me until I’m in it.

But mostly, waterslides still kick arse.

We re-laughed, re-loved, Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies

My workday was spent dealing with an IRL Surprised Pikachu meme. I don’t want to re-live it, so let’s go somewhere else.

What days would I want to re-live, and not change a thing?

I had this birthday once where I went to Rainbow’s End with friends. Rainbow’s End was a low rent theme park back in Auckland, that was the highest rent theme park we had as kids. There was a log flume with questionably macabre pirate statues, a Motion Master Ride that changed video very rarely, and a corkscrew coaster. I ate a ton of chips, then vomited mid corkscrew. It was awesome. As kids, rides had nigh unlimited replayability. We must’ve gone on that Motion Master like 7 times. It was probably one of the first days I was tall enough to ride everything, and I finally felt like an adult. I was likely 10 years old. What an awesome birthday.

I lived in this flat once with a bunch of university mates. It was my first time leaving home, and I couldn’t have found a better bunch. For some reason, my buddy and I were fucking around with nothing to do. We knew that one of our other flatmates was going out to pick stuff up, but was otherwise planning on coming back. We had this tiny room off the lounge, we saved it for friends who need to crash. For some reason my buddy and I decided it’d be hilarious to stay in there for ages, then pop out and scare our flatmate. Simple dumb prank. We parked the car on another street, so she wouldn’t know we were home. Then we snuck into the side room and waited, listening for her keys at the back door. It took ages, a comically long time. We assumed she’d be back in maybe 10 minutes, but I think it was at least an hour before we heard anything. We heard her walk into the lounge and sit down on the couch. We gave each other a countdown, then jumped out screaming “BOOOO”. Real creative stuff. She shrieked in delight, but we realised we’d spooked the wrong flatmate.

We all decided the prank wasn’t over, so the frightened flatmate came into the side room with us and we waited. It was once again, a Very Long Time. Eventually we heard her key in the backdoor. We heard humming and a shuffling of feet, her trademarks. Wide eyed with giddy excitement, we whispered to one another. What if we kept waiting, to make the spook even spookier? So we kept waiting. We were in that side room for maybe another 40 minutes, to really throw off our flatmate’s expectations. After time passed, we were ready. We signalled a 3, 2, 1 countdown, then jumped out screaming at the top of our lungs. Our target hit the fucking roof. She was terrified. We were gasping for air, that’s how hard we were laughing. We realised that she was actually legitimately shocked, so we chilled out and stopped laughing at her. Then we made a couch fort while our co-conspirator baked cookies, and we all enjoyed fort cookies as a family. It’s such a treasured memory, even if it is quite mean spirited. Those were the days. When we felt fine wasting many hours of the day on a dumb prank.

Y’know, it’s like by simply writing it down, I’ve re-lived it. I feel a lot better now.

Grade expectations

I was thinking about Intermediate School today.

It was what we, back in Middle Earth, called Middle School. I think. Honestly I still have yet to understand the North American schooling system. Not because it’s egregiously complicated, but because ours was. I devoted enough brain space to decode the intricacies of kindergarten, J1, J2, Standards 1-4 and Form 1-7 (which all later got overhauled into a system that just numbered Year 1-13). People will be like back in Grade 8″, which translates into me trying to revert to the Year 1-13 system, but forgetting that kindergarten in North America counts as schooling? Oh, and they don’t start until age 6 here? It’s complicated, and largely unimportant. Suffice to say that there’s a little sliver of separation between young adulthood and even younger adulthood. Children are just diminuitive adults, I guess is my hypothesis.

Intermediate was a weird time. By my own hand I got shipped off to a different school from most of my friends, primarily because I wanted to follow my best friend. He was in the year ahead, but luckily by the time he’d left, I’d picked up friends of my own. The school was actually pretty decent. The facilities were impressive, probably because of zoning and socioeconomic deciles. Teachers were generally nice, with one or two to watch out for. Children are great at spreading urban myths and legends about any figures of authority. One particular teachers was nicknamed The Dragon. A severe looking older lady with a frizzy afro of fiery red hair. In second year, she was my homeroom teacher.

It was mostly pretty uneventful. She yelled at us a handful of times, but things were mostly uneventful. Occasionally she’d get unnecessarily wound up about seemingly unimportant stuff. The Dragon wasn’t so bad. She was mostly just boring and incredibly out of touch. She didn’t have any idea how to talk to kids, and I have zero notion as to why she worked with them. I don’t have a ton of stories about her. I remember this one time though, we were doing an in-class Secret Santa. She lectured us all about gift giving. Her impression was that it would be a misguided idea to get something silly or entertaining, when in fact it was an excellent opportunity to find something useful. Like a highlighter. As I said, out of touch.

So we had our Secret Santa and, as always, nobody listened to her. There were games and toys, stickers, candy and novelty goods. The kind of shit that 12 year olds actually like.  Most people were pretty stoked. Most people. Our teacher, The Dragon, sat there holding a highlighter in her hands. Lips pressed tight, nostrils flared. I was stoked, I got exactly the reaction I’d been lookng for. Since this was back when parents bought gifts for students to give to teachers, I’d told my parents about my plans. They’d egged me on, knowing that this teacher was kind of a dick, and felt like it’d be good to give her a taste of her own bullshit. To be clear, I had parents who happily bought boxes of chocolate or cookie samplers for teachers as Christmas presents. I had a bunch of great teachers over the years, it was probably warranted. Plus I was a fucking nerd, I generally liked teachers and school.

Still, when it comes to memories of this teacher, the Secret Santa story is always a highlight.

Chalice in Wonderland

I’m leaving for the airport soon, so I want to get this over and done with. An auspicious start if ever I’ve written one. I’m gonna try commenter Miiesche‘s suggestion and go for random word association until half an hour is up.

Cups.

I’m particular about cups. Hell, what am I not particular about? Not not cups, that’s for sure. There’s a specificity of shape that’s important to me. A reassuring weight, dense and well-fitted to my hands. There’s something reassuring about it. Let’s see. If I’m drinking juice, I quite like having a small, thin plastic cup. Why? Juice definitely has diminishing returns for me. It’s delicious, to be sure, but the more I drink, the less exciting it is. Juice is a treat drink. A sometimes drink. Having a small cup allows for easy portion control. At the same time, a squat, wide cup makes me feel like I have less juice than I want. Why plastic? Because I’m a large child, and I used to have juice in plastic cups. It’s reassuring and I’m all about my creature comforts. As an corollary, if I’m having juice mixed with alcohol, all of the above goes out the window. Juice becomes a conduit for getting booze into my body. It’s less about the juice as a treat, and more as a delivery method. That’s juice.

When it comes to hot drinks, I’m all about a large, sturdy mug. Firstly, it means I can have more of the hot drink, and I’m never not a glutton. Secondly, given that hot drinks are usually comfort drinks, there’s a snugness to a mug you can wrap both hands around. Or, even better, one with a large handle capable of fitting all four of my fingers. One of my exes made me a mug years back. I love it. It’s my go to for always. It’s an earthy green, with an almost ribbed patterning. She got into pottery a while back, which means she was always looking to offload stuff. More specifically, she made the mug knowing all the things I liked about mugs. To this day, it’s one of the best gifts an ex has given me (alongside the fuzzy bathrobe I’m wearing right now, from another ex). I figure the fact that she’s so considerate is one of the reasons we’re still pals. Also she’s quite great. That too.

If I’m looking to drink water, my favourite kind of cup is a bottle. It just feels more convenient. I’ve got a bottle for home, a bottle for work, a bottle for the gym, all different. My home bottle is big and blue, with an inlaid straw. It’s emblazoned with an ankylosaurus sticker (which I guess was a gift from another ex). It used to have this cool function where you could clip down the straw to seal it up. Unfortunately, as you can tell from the past tense I just used, i’s been broken for many years. The straw is always up, ’cause I dropped it and something cracked. It still works to drink from, but it’s less snazzy and secretive. Also the straw periodically fills up with gross black mould and I have to clear it out. It’s pretty gnarly. I also dropped my work bottle, and it’s has a similarly diminished functionality. With all this droppage, do you get why I rarely use glasses for water? Plastic bottles bounce and spill less. Honestly, I don’t like my work bottle very much (even pre-drop), but until it dies for good, it’s been hard getting the incentive to buy a new one. My gym bottle is a special case, in that it’s constantly rotating because I keep losing them. I don’t care much about my gym bottles. I buy disposable ones, with the main proviso that they have coke-sized screw tops. See, we had this brand of bottled water back home called Pump, and I really love the lids. They click shut with a satisfying firmness, and I can pull/push them open/closed with my teeth. No screwing required. They don’t sell them in Canada, so I regularly get my mum to send them from New Zealand. Whenever I lose a bottle through negligence or even airport customs, I get a new one. Sometimes at customs they let me keep the lid, which is some mercy. In any case, I’ll stop off at a corner store and grab a new bottle until I lose it. Lather, rinse repeat.

So yeah, that’s cups.

Time out, be back later

I don’t know what happened to the past hour.

By all means I intended to start writing, but I didn’t. I had nothing to write about. Still don’t, by the way. I rarely do, which begs the question as to what was stopping me. I feel a tension in my body, and a general listlessness. My muscles are coiled tight, as if to react, but nothing is forthcoming. Days later, the Christchurch mosque attacks still inhabit my skin while my brain tries to work it out. My thoughts are scattered, my emotions are changing on a whim. Of course I’m still hurt and so, so angry. Concurrently, I don’t fully understand it.

This all fades, right? With time the wound will be less fresh. Why am I retaining it all? When will it dissapate? Am I just making it about me? Traumatic things happen all over the world every day. Shouldn’t I be over it by now? I’m all in a mental swivet at work, incapable of sustained conversation. At the same time, I don’t understand what I’m doing. It all seems purposeless, devoid of anything. Why is this all so affecting days later? Do I deserve to let go of it all? Do I even want to? Or has this tragedy put me in touch with a part of me that cares? After months of disconnect, I feel connected to the suffering. Is that something I even want to relinquish? To go back to numbness?

It’s been a weird few days of walking the knife’s edge. I’ve gone out to do activities. I’ve taken myself out for meals. I’ve had bubbles of sociability. I’ve done the same old menial tasks that I do in times of normalcy. There’s food in the fridge, my hygiene is as much up to spec as it ever is. I’ve messed around on the internet and tuned out in front of programming. I’ve inhabited my own sense of humour. In a sense, everything is as it always is, but it’s not. One thought can turn me, eyes dewy after reading a word that brings it all back. Moods fluctuating wildly. It’s grief by any other name, and it’s not going anywhere. In times like these, I don’t know how to relieve it. I’m worried about lashing out, tongue coiled like a viper waiting to strike. I’m mostly staying silent.

I told myself to just write about something else. There’s been enough ink spilled on this for a lifetime. I know, because I can’t stop myself from reading everything I come across. As if to make sense of it. The thoughts and doubts aren’t going anywhere. When it comes to writing, nothing else is coming to mind. Yesterday seemed so easy. It’s a holiday, just write about that. Perhaps this is catharsis, first and foremost. A way to expel the tension. A chance to let go and admit that it’s a struggle. People around me care, but it’s not enough. They can empathise, but it’s not the same as tacit understanding. I’m sure they’ve experienced grief, as have we all, but there’s something particular and local about this.

I’ve got no fresh ideas. Eventually I’ll be able to really talk about it, rid myself of those recursive thoughts. You know, in therapy or something. Until then, I guess I’ll just retain it all. Trickle out slowly. If only platitudes could kick this to the curb. Time heals all wounds, etc.

But as evidenced by my loss of the past hour, time’s not always easy to reckon.

More like Suds Patrick’s Day

I remember when I used to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

Back in university it was a Big Fucking Deal. The city came alive in a way I’d rarely seen. Queen Street, the Auckland CBD’s iconic centrepiece, was thrumming with bustle. Less on the hustle side, and more blatant revelry. Businesses seemed to knock off early, and pen pushers flooded the footpaths. It was a mass of humanity walking from bar to bar. Cheesy green beer flowed freely, and everyone was Irish for the day. A bunch of us had early classes, so by midday we were free to run wild. Weirdly, for a day filled with so much liquor, it’s all still pretty vivid. I had a characteristically oversized bag, and it became a conversational lodestone. Of course we were all looking to meet women, and we’d take anything we could get. One of our friends happened to be pretty fucking “studly”, and a ton of women talked to us almost exclusively because of it. We hardly complained. Frankly, it was just nice to meet people who were in a good mood.

I remember this bar that’d paid a little person to dress as a leprechaun and descend from the roof. It was a spectacle, to be sure, but we all felt a little uneasy about it. We talked to the dude to see what he thought. He was over the moon. Got paid around $300 to do it once or twice over the course of the day. Otherwise he was free to mill about and hang with others. He was a pretty sociable bloke, so we bought him a couple of beers and spent time learning more about him. He was a student just like us, was going to veterinary school. Sarcastic guy, a real charmer. He also gave me shit about my gratuitously sized bag. We left the bar buzzing, and joined the throngs of wandering souls looking for adventure down Queen St. We eventually made our way down to the Viaduct looking for hookups, but ended up chatting with a bunch of businessmen who bought us pints of Kilkenny and told us stories of their glory days. It was better than it sounded. St Patrick’s Day became one of my favourite holidays. Why not? To us it was just an excuse to drink. A lot.

This was over ten years ago. Still teenagers. The day has become less and less noticeable/desirable each year. There’s something about it that just seems hollow. I don’t have Irish culture. I don’t really even know Irish people. Why would I mindlessly jump into a day headfirst that has no real resonance for me? I know it’s not a big deal, but I do feel like a killjoy. I feel that with subsequent years, I lose something of myself. Whether naivety or a willingness to go with the flow. It used to be so easy to let loose, my hackles weren’t up about everything. I was still learning about the world, and it seemed rife with opportunity.

I don’t know that it’s all changed as substantively as it seems. Much as we’re on a 24 hour doom and gloom news cycle, the world probably has as much suffering as it ever did. As much joy and meaning as it did too. I don’t know when I stopped believing that the future was something to look forward to, that utopia was within the grasp of our lifetime. I did though. I thought that as the world grew, we’d grow together. United by purpose, to elevate humanity because we all saw a brighter tomorrow. I was raised as an idealist. To look for the good, the potential in everything. I still want to believe, to look past what we are, and think of what we could be. Because we could, and deep down I know it. We have more than we ever did, and we’re doing a lot less with it. But we don’t have to.

I’d raise a glass to that.