Is it time to give in and join a Bingo club?

Am I 30 going on 40 yet? Here I am on a Saturday morning garbed in my dressing gown and slippers. I got up bright and early just after 7am, had a bowl of oatmeal and tooled around on the internet watching Magic the Gathering draft recaps and Grand Prix Turin event footage. It’s basically the equivalent of a bloke in his 40s waking up with the sun to watch cricket reruns.

I think it was last night that truly did it. We went out to have dinner with old friends of my dad. One of his childhood mates was in town and he invited my girlfriend and I along to a family barbecue with some of his buds. It was like stepping into someone else’s life, and I mean that in the best way. I’d known my father’s good friend, but nobody else. He’d spent treasured years in Toronto back in his early 20s, before spending time with my dad in Montreal. I met my father’s friend’s partner (oh geez, just describing who these people are in relation to me is gonna take 500 words) for the first time, which blew me away. I couldn’t believe that in all these years she’d somehow never come into the picture. I mean, she knew me as a small child and my dad’s mate had come back to NZ a bunch of times. Odd that we’d never crossed paths once I was an adult. She was lovely and obviously knew my family pretty well. The rest of the table was (so much pipe to lay here) two more friends of my dad, one of whom owned the house. The house owning guy’s ex-wife (they’d divorced 30+ years ago but were still amicable. They had kids together), their daughter and her partner, plus their unfairly adorable three year old daughter (who instantly became BFFs with my girlfriend). We were ushered in the door for introductions, hugs and drinks. We perfectly timed our arrival (*cough*, accidental lateness) with the barbecue food being dished up, so we got to tuck right in.

A table full of cheer and delicious food. Lemon chicken, halibut skewers, teriyaki chicken, salmon skewers and prawn skewers. A big salad and corn cobbs (complete with those little corn forks). The food was great and the company was friendly all around. It was so interesting essentially being shoved into an unfamiliar but amicable situation and piecing together who everyone was from drips and drabs of information. That may have unintentionally rhymed. There were people who hadn’t seen one another in decades, there was the young family adding the generational component and, well, whatever my girlfriend and I were. By some stroke of magic, the conversation never really dipped into uncomfortable territory (as is almost always the case with disparate groupings) and instead just felt warm. We heard about how life was for these guys in 70s Toronto. Of old musical talents, with the home owner guy having written and performed a song for his wedding to his (present) ex wife. Of his daughter (who was big into choirs and musical theatre) then performing a song with her father at her own wedding.

After dinner was finished, the daughter and grand-daughter went off to hunt for her grandfather’s guitar (with her new BFF in tow – my girlfriend said the girl must’ve been enchanted by her long pink and green hair. Also she’s all kinds of nifty) for some post meal music. He performed a song, did another one with his daughter and the table all came together for The Beatles’ “Yesterday”. There was this open dynamic that welcomed participation. It also shone a light on what must’ve been a frequent ritual for this family in years past. It was so charming seeing all these threads from throughout the years come together across one table. The guitar was put away as the three year old was shuffled off home. Another guest took his leave and after a few rounds of hugs we followed soon afterwards (with leftovers thrust into our arms). Even TTCing back, we were home by 9pm on a Friday. It was early enough to go out for the night. Instead, as born again old folks, my girlfriend and I watched some TV in our spare room, falling asleep by 11pm or so.

It’s a long weekend. What’s on the docket? Well we might go grocery shopping tonight. Y’know, a little bit of excitement for a Saturday.

Advertisements

Frankly I’m shocked Uber hasn’t got a fleet of penny-farthing drawn rickshaws yet. What happened to capitalistic integrity?

Sorry, I lost myself for a minute there. I’ve been tumbling through time and it’s been quite the trip. I was checking out my girlfriend’s old Facebook photos because I thought it’d be neat to get a snapshot of who she was before we met. Also she was 100% babyfaced and adorable, which is quality shits and giggles fuel. Doesn’t everyone love a good round of Who would we be if we met back then? Come to think of it, in most cases my answers would’ve been buffoonish or drunk in an effort to hide crippling insecurities, so let’s stick with when we did. We’ve talked about it before, but I know she’s the kind of girl I would’ve developed a soul enveloping crush on in high school then failed to act on any of my feelings. It was a stroke of luck that we met once I was the right person in the right place (and hemisphere) to do something about it. Actually, that’s balls. She literally took me by the hand and made things happen, I can drop the unbecoming self-righteous rhetoric. That kind of stuff all comes out in the wash. How we met and who we were then matters not an ounce in a living, evolving relationship. Anyway, the point of this wasn’t to write yet another treatise on our relationship. I’ve got virtually every other entry for that.

No, I’m more interested in how it took me 29 years to discover the magical technology of photo albums.

I’ve eschewed it thus far and I’m not the type to take photos. Fortunately my friends were. Yes, I realise the rest of society has long held the secrets of time travel in those weighty glossy folders, but it still feels novel for me. With a scroll of the wheel I’m back at the time my two friends and I decided to arrive at a Disney themed birthday wearing identical Christopher Robin outfits. I’m reliving my 21st birthday. It’s evident that I’m so drunk pouring a glass of wine that my facial features are in danger of sliding off my head. The time we had a toasted sandwich party at the flat and forced each other to try increasingly ludicrous toasted sandwich samples. Nutella and olives was quite the taste sensation. Perhaps not a positive one. Shaving my head as part of an elaborate joke. The anthropomorphic fluff ball we made from my shavings.

The majority of photos are with the same friends. That core group of people who were instrumental in forming the “me” typing this. It’s theme party after theme party, whether “Rainbow Road”, “Hoedown” or “Worst Party Ever”. Beach holidays, batch getaways, Thailand and Australia, crossing the United States in a large RV (without any conflict driven manslaughter). So much alcohol. It’s weird to see us all age in reverse, for those layers of who we’ve all become to peel one by one. It’s strange to think that at each stage I felt so mature, like I’d come so far. Looking back now, see a bunch of kids. So cherubim and unaware, uncaring of where things are headed. My face has wrinkles that Leon at 20 didn’t see in the mirror. I also have knowledge that I lacked at 20. I’m wise enough now to know that I haven’t got a clue and that’s alright. It’s better than being a clueless know-it-all.

Man, photo albums are kind of neat. What’ll I try next?A penny-farthing?

Those rubber half-domes that popped up thought? I won’t hear a slight against them.

Quick, I need to get this down. There’s not much time left. Fighting against the encroaching darkness as sanity’s dying rays leave naught but the void. How much longer can I hold out? What resistance can I muster against overwhelming odds? Why not just submit and leave this fight for those younger, hardier or better equipped for the battle? So many before me have perished, who am I to think I can battle the rising tides of madness to stay afloat? What mettle have I that so many lost to time? Distance? Confusion? Why defy that which will eventually consume me? Does the fight itself justify what relevance I once had? Or is relevance an illusion we utilise to placate our meaningless struggle? With each keystroke, each character emblazoned on this page, time whittles down to naught. The more I contemplate my eroding mana, the less I can harness its dimming vigour. Here goes.

I think this notion that every new generation sucks is utter bollocks. Music is terrible now. When I was a kid our cartoons were much betterI can’t believe the garbage people read these days. “These days” “In my day” “What happened to?” Fuck you, more like. How can you feel so comfortable on your pedestal without understanding how you got there. I’m 28 now, I’m officially oldplustwo, but I’m not 30 yet goddammit. I’m too young to be spouting out such get off my lawn phrases as the latter few. The more people age, the less empathy they seem to have for those walking the path they’ve travelled. You’ve gotten to where you were, you had hardship and now you can look back with retrospect. Somehow retrospect (often perspective gained through struggle, loss or just plain annoyance) gives you the expectation that people should just be where you are in terms of comprehension because you’re there. How entitled and contrived is that? You have the view that you do because you lived your life. If someone is 10 years younger and hasn’t faced the things you have, how would you expect them to match your state of recognition? Not only that, but the rose-tinted glasses you wear come in at a solid #EF597B. There’s no opacity there, anything you view is just how things were in the mythical candyland of a past without fault. You can’t see the red zones of your history, because that damned bloody tint is blocking them out.

I’ve heard shit spouted on any number of things. Well fuck you, each generation has its shit it needs to own up to. You think you shat out gold? Think again. Have you been slagging off?

  • Justin Bieber? Aaron Carter, motherfuckers.
  • The Kardashians are a vapid waste of space? What about Everybody Loves Raymond? Its writing was no better than Keeping Up‘s is.
  • Annoying Orange? Street Sharks.
  • Angry Birds? Cool Spot, Global Gladiators, Fido Dido videogame. Corporate sponsors up the wazoo, and they weren’t teaching kids physics.
  • Nicki Minaj? First off, fuck you. She’s a talented as shit rapper. Secondly Milli Vanilli.

I’m not saying that this stuff that people get shitty about is the bastion of quality (except Nicki. She’s legitimately The Shit), but there were some pretty atrocious dregs back in each generation. I’ve gotta be somewhere right now, but I’ll revisit this at some point. There’s too much atrocious pop culture that people need to know about. Let’s not forget that the 90s existed, for fuck’s sake. Pogs were just cardboard circles.

POGS.

Boring: A hole in my brain.

I’m growing older with each passing second. We all are, of course. I’ll be a few seconds senior by the time I finish this sentence. I’ve got no home of racing Father Time, but this is really just a tangent from my through line of action. I had a minor revelatory moment while sitting in the throne of summer, that I’ve begun to age at a rate I thought impossible. Rather than physical deterioration, it’s a factor I have some modicum of control over. Man child as I am, I’m getting boring and sedentary. Here I was, lying on my towel while our group’s resident 4 year old wanted to play construction. He had a little tractor and demanded I helped out to bulldoze the future train station he was building. The largest part of me couldn’t be bothered, but it was hard to say no to a child’s ardent enthusiasm. I played along, dozing the sand into flat partitions he could then carve grooves into, but it felt half-hearted. Where has the joy of play gone? What is it that pulled me back from giving myself to the scenario?

If you’ve read any of my writing, you know there’s no chance that I’m too cool for something of this scale, so why couldn’t I jump in with both feet? We spent hours on the beach and aside from dancing, I found myself hesitant to actively engage in anything around me. I sat, observed and quietly kept to myself. Huge bubbles were to my right, aerial hoop lessons in front of me. There were friendly people everywhere to meet and chat with, water to splash and play in, a stack o’ hammocks, but I felt mildly paralysed by indecision and worry about doing something wrong. Is this a fear of failure? The perception of others? Why remain quiet and reserved when I could instead put myself out there and find the people who liked what I put out? It’s a trend of introversion I’ve found myself afflicted with over the past few months, like I’ve locked into a mindset that tells me not to push things, to turtle up and dip in toes rather than run and jump.

It doesn’t feel like me and I want to swing the pendulum back. I’m getting bored of who I’m becoming and I want to switch it up. I want to yes… and, to take on things I’m scared of and find out where exactly my limits lie. I rarely feared being ostracised when I was younger, why am I now skewing so conservative? Why care what others think when I’m crumbling my self-estimation instead? I hate how I seem to talk to people these days. I used to be inquisitive, curious, interested and invested. Now I feel safe, bland, insipid. There are infinite things to do and I’m increasingly finding excuses not to. Why? So I can be comfortable and boring? To limit my exposure to growth? That doesn’t sound like the person I’ve ever wanted to be. How do I curb it?

It’s no exaggeration that I’ve slipped away since I stopped drinking. For years it’s been a magical tonic that I’ve relied on to pique my fascination and extroversion. I don’t like that reliance, but without my crutch it’s been really hard to keep putting myself out there. I get tentative about surrounding myself with liquored merriment, which cuts out a huge amount of engagements. When I become used to quiet lulls, something in me sees that as the status quo and seeks to retain it. Things that don’t involve liquor still seem to evoke the same heightened state of excitement and that same brain compartment tosses it in the stack of things to avoid. It sucks and I’m hoping that when I get back to booze (less than a week) I can moderate my consumption while still upping my engagement. Because the myriad of activities I haven’t tried will surely hold a thing or two that ignite my passions. How do I know I’m not secretly a line dancing fiend just waiting to do-si-do my days away? I could be a master potter in the making or a rebel with an oar. I haven’t discovered a new band in yonks, where did that passion go? Remember when my weeks were crammed full with gigs and gig reviews? Now I’m down to around one review a week. At a time when you almost need to go out of your way to avoid events, why am I diverting my route? When did the effort of trying things become a roadblock? Is this really who I want to be by the time I’m 30? If the universe asks me to play, why the fuck would I say no?

I brought my knees in tight, but they’re right. The pelvic thrust made ALL the difference.

I’ve been dabbling in time travel as of late. Casting my sights back to 1997, I’ve been catching up on a much hallowed chapter of the 90s bible: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The series, not the 1992 film (which I mention only because as a child I was a massive fan. It was goofy and had great lines like “She ruined my new jacket. Kill her a lot.” Ok, my standards were lower sub-10 years of age). It’s dated, sure, but it holds up. I guess I’ve just heard it spoken of in such high regard that I’m willing to give it time to kick in. Most people say the first two or so seasons suffer from teething pains before it really sinks its teeth into the meaty stuff. So far it’s light-hearted enough that I’m having no trouble watching. I feel like I might’ve watched the first season when it originally aired, but given that 18 years ago was some time past (18 years past, in fact) it’s pretty hazy.

An episode planted the thought in my head of what it’d be like to put myself back in the shoes of my younger self. Given that I recently caved and bought a pair of comfy skate shoes (I’ve been trying in vain to be an adult), my younger shoes weren’t much different. These what ifs are so tempting (and nearly always go awry), but let’s outline some parameters here. I’m closing off the possibility of massive world changing behaviour. I’m not gonna use my knowledge of the future to make huge sums of money or drastically change events in my favour. The goal isn’t to leapfrog opportunities and skip schooling in favour of jumping straight to adulthood. Simmering in my years with the knowledge of life experience is the desired outlook. So if we plug those boundaries into our time machine, what happens?

I’ve landed right back where we’d all make our first stop. I’m a teenager. 16 in fact. As a time of great upheaval and emotional strife, it seems a tight bet to examine how perspective would change proceedings. Big change: Weight. I’d started working out as a teenager, but I was still chunky. At the peak of hormonal instability and the burgeoning of sexual interest, the stresses of an atypical body shape really dug deep. This is something I’m still unpacking, but I’ve dumped a ton of stuff I had yet to acknowledge back then. Having the maturity of my 28 year old self would push my ability to handle that situation by leaps and bounds. Confidence is so much of romantic entanglement. I’m not a big swinging dick kind of guy even now, but at least I have first hand knowledge of how to navigate a vagina. My 16 year old self still had a few years until that’d be a reality.

Confidence isn’t restricted to partnership though. I think my 16 year old self may have a few things to teach my present persona about that. At 16 I was far more spontaneous, louder, flashy and willing to put myself out there. I was deeply entrenched in the drama department, acting was my M.O. Reservations about others perceptions of me were non-existent. I was proud to be loud, bordering but just stepping back from the line of arrogance. I was probably more fun, easily more out there at 16. Perhaps as time has passed I’ve grown cantankerous and grumpy (or as a euphemism: quiet and contemplative).

Then again, my arrogance knew no bounds thinking of myself as a critic. My opinion was right, others were misguided. It’s ok though, I knew better and I wasn’t afraid to tell them. I’d love to say that’s shifted entirely, but we all know I can still mount my high horse every once in a while. Thrust back into my 16 year old body, maybe I’d ditch the Metallica and other angsty teen stuff. Maybe I’d realise it wasn’t too late and actually pick up an instrument (I mean, it’s still not too late (he says, knowing full well nothing will come of it)). Who knows though? I’d probably just be seen as pretentious.

Would I really navigate teen life any better than I did? Of course mentally I still had growing to do. Regardless of how much I’ve progressed, how would I really react if I got crammed back into the temperamental body of a teenager? I’d no doubt make better decisions, but what would be the point of missing those mistakes when they helped form the very essence of what I’ve become? I’m sure everyone saw that coming, right? We knew the Earth all along ending was coming here. It’s alright though, it’s just a thought experiment and we’ve all got the rest of our lives to play the what if game. We can look back over our rogues gallery of regrets at any time. We can think, we can wish, but we can’t do a single thing. It’s probably for the best.

Because frankly, there were too many ones that got away for any of them to have really mattered.

My gospel has already been written. Just google TV Tropes.

Just when I thought I was out…

Did I really think that I’d dropped Mad Men though? I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. Not even in a box, accompanied by a fox. The show is just too fucking intoxicating. Having not watched an episode since June 2013, I’d forgotten so much of what drew me into the show. When you watch something this good it pulls you in. You’re pulled closer to the characters, the intimately chosen shot selection putting you right where you need to be. You’ve seen these actors grow into their characters and, by season 7, infuse them with the life these roles need to breathe. At this point does anyone even remember little Sally Draper before she became the emotional power house that soaks up any scene she’s in? Seeing shades of Don we’ve never before been exposed to, watching Peggy step further and further into his shadow the more she seeks to move away. Watching dynamics of status and control exchanged like currency, actions betrayed by motivations, feelings, failings. Soaking in these impossibly beautiful people, echoing the golden days of an era long past. Instilling in me this undeniable Midnight in Paris style desire, knowing full well how much I’d hate it there. How the hell did I put this show off for so long? At this point I’m finding it hard not to skip sleep in lieu of catching up. Do I really have to be an adult tonight?

Stories. Stories have this power. Channelling our desires to quest beyond the tedium into lives so far removed from our own. Oh the places I’d go if dreams could manifest in reality. If life could mirror our thirst for adventure, our cravings to be something, everything we’re not. To live these tales simply because we haven’t. We fear conflict in our own lives, but in stories we drift to it like moths to flame. Survival instincts tell us to keep our head down, but what would happen if we stood up instead? In the map of infinite possibility there’s a timeline where we cast off the trappings of society and make our lives echo our desires. We envision where we could be if not for those shackles holding us fast. Fear. Fear for safety, security. We seek to ameliorate the hurt that happenstance throws our way by steeling ourselves. We so rarely look beyond our obstacles, instead finding ways to go around or avoid them. It’s usually only when we seek to go through them that we achieve something. We make ourselves proud by combating opposition. In doing so, we become the stories.

So often we don’t. We stay back, look for reasons to justify our lack of commitment, our refusal of the call to adventure. So somebody else accepts the journey instead. They face the unfamiliar and adapt to it. They find what they wanted and pay the price. They return having changed. We listen, having not. We worry for what we could achieve because of what we may not. Fear steals our words, our courage, our future. So that timeline winks out of existence. The story disappears. We seek out the stories of others for fear of our own potential. We all have stories to tell and so rarely we do. What story lies in front of you if only you choose to follow it? What obstacles do you face and what course of action could take you through them? What future casts you in the lead, striding forward with head held up instead of bowed? What do you need to do in order to become the person you want to be? To write a story you can be proud of? You’ve got a lifetime. Why not use it?

Also when the hell did I become some knockoff televangelist? Have I got time to write a new ending?

Variety maybe, but thyme is also the spice of life. And roasted meats.

Since I’m the preeminent late adopter, I just discovered Facebook’s On This Day function. As a complete and utter lover of nostalgia, it sent me back through the years, until I was reminded that on this day in 2010, I was nominated for a New Zealand Radio Award. This isn’t an entry about the past, this isn’t an entry about the future, but it’s an entry about time and how it passes.

Reading that post reminded me of the life I was going to have. Causality and coincidence interfered and the timeline that spread out in front of me took a divergent path. Or several. Back in 2010, by the time I was 28, I expected several things. I expected that I’d still be living in New Zealand. At this stage I would’ve clearly moved back from the small, touristy, stabby, infant mortality capital of the country, Rotorua, to my home city of Auckland. In this timeline, I did that, but by shortcutting the line. By taking this shortcut, instead of returning with my head held high, to take my coveted position as a production engineer for MediaWorks Radio Auckland, I left radio and gave television a try. As with most sidesteps, I left because of love. There’s nothing wrong with what I did, but because of that jump to the left, Leon at 28 is not recording voice, editing music and sound effects to create dense audio landscapes. I haven’t saved hard to own my own home. I’m not years into a successful, loving relationship, thinking about the boxes I have to tick to keep this pattern up. I also don’t have a New Zealand Radio Award.

It’s funny how we try to plan ahead in this life. If I do A, then B will happen. CF will fall into place naturally and we’ll be All G by the time the dust settles. But life isn’t as simple as the alphabet song. Letters arrange themselves into words and sentences. The conditional tense arises, creating alternate possibilities that themselves split into a series of paths, alleyways, tunnels, holes and hills. Obstacles shift your perspective, which alters your goals. Directions change and suddenly you’re not where you thought you were. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re lost, either.

When I was a teenager, I expected that by age 28 I’d have a wife and kids. I figured that I would’ve sorted my shit out and have become an adult. At age 28, I’m not even sure I know what being an adult means. I don’t feel like I’m at the stage where I would have enough knowledge, wisdom and suitable judgement to guide a child through their own pathway. I don’t know that I have the patience or understanding to commit to a partner enough to look towards the ideal of “forever”. As a teenager, I expected that by 28 I’d be a mature, pillar of society. At age 28, I’ve got scant maturity enough to realise that goalposts shift, that part of maturity is understanding how far your reach extends and incrementally dribble your way forward until you can shoot for things you can conceivably hit.

When I was 5 years old, I said I wouldn’t live in New Zealand as an adult. I had my eyes and heart set on Canada, a place of opportunity where I’d become the person I always wanted to be. I’m not 28 years old with a wife, kids, house or radio award. I don’t know if I’m an adult, but I do live in Canada. I don’t have a wife, but I have an overabundance of love in my life. I don’t have kids, but I have friends who guide me and teach me how ripe the future is with possibility. I don’t have a house, but I’ve found a home, communities and a place where I can grow to be the person I didn’t expect to be, but the person I’m choosing to be.

On this day I’m deciding to recollect the past, consider the future, but most of all, to respect the present. Because that’s where I live.