Leaving Town (By Town I Mean Website)

Hey guys,  I’ve set up a new website http://www.jeffreycharlescomedy.com and I’ll be blogging, putting videos, podcasts and generally trying (operative word) to make you laugh. You can can follow my shenanigans at my new site.

Cheers,

Jeff.

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The Playground

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Pretty strange that you’ll learn some valuable life lessons in a place that looks like this.

There is no better place for a kid to learn about life than the playground. It is a chaotic, fun and ruthless world where everyone is in it for themselves. People maintain some semblance of caring about others, but in reality you just wanna have fun and then get out there. Just like the world outside the playground, you can get very frustrated when you try to play by the rules and other people don’t give a shit.

Earlier today, my wife and I took our daughter to one of the local playgrounds in our area. It’s a great playground; it’s one of the newly renovated playgrounds (it should be because of the ridiculous rates that we pay) with that soft rubber on the ground that has superseded wood chips that double as a chocking hazard. The play equipment is new and embodies all the full spectrum of the rainbow. There isn’t any graffiti (yet). As I said earlier in the paragraph it’s pretty great. Why wouldn’t you take your kid to this playground? Answer: bad kids who are the result of lazy parenting.

The weather was good, so there were plenty of families at the playground. We’d taken our turn on the swing and we decided to let our 14-month-old daughter practice standing up in the middle carriage of a choo-choo train toy that she really enjoys. On the other side of the table in the middle of the carriage was a boy, who couldn’t have been much more than two, who was playing by himself. As my daughter began to steady herself the blonde haired little kid transformed into an overly aggressive football fan, slammed his hands on my daughter’s wrists, stared menacingly into her face and shouted ‘NO!’

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Before you criticise a kid like this, think of a time when you lost your shit at your football team, reality show or one of the Kardashians.

I was in a state of shock. Surprisingly, my daughter demonstrated such quiet resilience in the face of such poor behavior. She barely even flinched. She just stood there with a stoic determination that I truly admired; I moved the boy’s hand from my daughter’s and told him to “keep his hands to himself”. The blonde haired bully moved away when his father called him over. The father, who I thought was a weak as day old dishwater, momentarily lifted his big dumb face from his smart phone and told his “not to push people” in the weakest of tones. I’m not sure of the pathetic attempt to discipline his child was the result of his own ineptitude or apathy, but either way I was angry. He didn’t even apologise on his child’s behalf. I was in half a mind to tell him how to raise children in a way that takes in the considerations of the rest of the universe, but his wife moved over and I assumed that he was going to be read the riot act about his lax approach to supervision. Unfortunately, the mother and father just rhapsodized on the fact that their son was behaving in an unacceptable manner because “he was pushed over at day care”. The parents just sat there and mused on the fact that their son couldn’t behave himself without doing anything about it. My wife put it best, “it’s a café approach to raising your child”. You sit there, at your metaphorical table, while your children raise themselves in front of you.

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The father in question was as lazy as this guy, but nowhere near as handsome.

Look, I understand that raising kids is hard and that everyone’s circumstances are different. The kid, especially at an age where he can’t even count to seven, isn’t wholly responsible for his actions. A kid at that age is canvas with only a few layers, but the parents are the ones who are responsible for a child’s actions and behaviour. I’m not fully sure why I’m so upset about this. My daughter couldn’t have dealt with it in a better way, it’s probably down to the fact that someone I love was threatened and other people simply didn’t care. I reflected on my own experiences growing up, times when I was pushed around or bullied in some other fashion and others simply didn’t care. Another thing I learnt was what truly means to be a parent. You love someone more than you love yourself and feel every challenge that they experience as if it were magnified a thousand times.

The one positive I can gain from this experience is that I appreciate times when my parents went in to bat for me when I faced hard times as I was growing up. No one can fight every battle for you, but you sometimes need a helping hand to navigate the playground so that you can stand steadily and help someone else in the future.

¼ Life Crisis

 You hit your late twenties and everything you’ve been working towards doesn’t turn out the way you envisaged. You thought you had it all figured out and then it all comes crashing down, like when you’re older sibling destroys you in a game of Monopoly.  You tried to play the game and the game ended up playing you. Or, worst of all, you’re fired so quickly that Donald Trump would even pause for consideration. These events can cause what many young are now experiencing – the Quarter Life Crisis.

I’m sure if you’re a middle-aged reader then you’re having a good ‘lol’ (laugh out loud) at my generation’s expense. But before you turn back to a re-run of Midsomer Murders, have a read about the plight of the formerly ambitious Gen-Ys that are moping around your workplace (assuming they haven’t been fired). The generation that have been told that ‘you can have it all’ and that we’re ‘unique snowflakes’ are spinning out as they stumble through the adult world, like a bunch of extra-annoying Prince Hamlets with smart phones. Unfortunately, Gen-Y’s don’t have the luxury of buying a boost in the ego sports car, because they’re still trying to get a middle management position so that they can spin out again when they reach their mid-40s. Some of them can’t have an affair with secretary because they don’t have a secretary or even a girlfriend.

Look, I know Gen-Ys are annoying. I’m one of them. I look back at some of my behaviour (particularly during my early 20s) and cringe. I was like a spoiled Vaucluse brat, stomping through Toys R’ Us demanding to have the world’s biggest, fluffiest teddy bear, a choo-choo train set made of gold and so much candy that I would be forced into a diabetic shock. An ‘I want this now!’ attitude is something that is within my generation, but I’m not surprised considering that we’ve been force-fed with advertisements for Transformers, Hubba-Bubba, McHappy Meals and Air Jordans for as long as we can remember. We believed we could be Batman, crush the Joker and get the girl without any of the crippling factors that come with power, influence and responsibility. Essentially, we’ve been consumers our whole lives and we’ve eventually believed the lie that we’re customers that matter to the relevant purveyor of things we don’t need. Please don’t think that I’m blaming the Baby Boomer parents for our gold-fish attention spans and addiction to ultra-repetitive video games, this is the world we hurled into and it’s no-one’s fault, we just have to make some sense of the endless series of conflicting flashing lights. So, when you hit the ¼ Life Crisis, it isn’t really that much of a surprise. You can believe you can fly, like R.Kelly told us in Space Jam, but you may be stranded on the tarmac by the time you’re 28.

Above: R.Kelly clearly lied to us.  I believed when I was 12 and broke my leg when I jumped out my second story bedroom window. 

This experience is not unique to me. I know this because there are others that I’ve met in my travels who’ve gone through (or are still going through) their QLC. A friend of mine that I went to uni with, Lucinda, worked in a industrial/graphic design firm for a number of years. She was really good at what she did (I don’t exactly know what she was doing at one of those industrial design studios/firms that had a cool sound acronym) and she was getting handsomely remunerated. Lucinda was seriously cool. She dressed well, went to cool parties and met a lot of interesting, quasi-famous people in Sydney. For all intents and purposes, she was living the life. Somewhere in her late 20s she got fed-up with the vapid nature of her design job (probably the entire industry, too) and kicked it in, moved to Canberra and re-trained as a statistician. Strange, right? Well, she told me that the ‘numbers made a lot more sense’ and that the design world was ‘full of meaningless bullshit’. She did a complete 180’ and went into the most boring industry I can think of. She changed, too. No more rooftop parties in Potts Point or conversations with people who appeared on Offspring or The Secret Life Of Us, but she was happier in crunching those numbers that gave her an answer to a solution. She found solace in an Excel spreadsheet. Lucinda transformed (like Optimus Prime) and made it through her QLC before she was 32.

 

I don’t really chat with Lucinda anymore. It’s not the result of anything momentous, she’s busy with her numbers and I’m still wandering through the forest of my QLC. Speaking of my QLC, it led me to an unexpected place, a dingy room in a pub in Glebe and a microphone on a stage; too cryptic? About a year ago I started going to open mic nights. I suppose I felt that I needed a creative outlet; sometimes you ignore parts of yourself when you’re working hard at getting better at something new, like your first career. Throughout my teens and early twenties I played in bands and did bit of theatre. Then I thought to myself that it was time to ‘grow up’ and start a career.  

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Above:  A photographic representation of the most daunting thing that I have ever attempted.

In the broader context of those going through their QLC, I’m one of the lucky ones in that I still enjoy my job. Maybe I’m just hungry for new experiences and challenges? Like when you start a job for the first time and you’re learning everyday, trying new things and seeing what works (and what doesn’t). For me, comedy’s been a nice distraction and more recently it’s led me to this blog (again, I’d like to thank my five readers), as I don’t have as much time to venture into the city for open mic nights since my daughter was born. Performing at an open mic, in-front of anywhere between fifty or five people hasn’t yet given me an answer to the QLC, but has given me an opportunity to test myself in a different forum. (Perhaps that’s my answer?) The nights can be long, as you wait your turn for your four minutes of comedy. The MCs are usually really accommodating, they let the guys (and a few girls) who have to get up in the morning for work at or looking after the kids go on in the first bracket (usually before 9pm).  More than anything, comedy has provided me with a challenging environment where you can learn a new craft on the fly and have a bit of fun.   I’ve got some laughs here and there*, but I’ve tried some material and totally ‘bombed’ up there. That’s all part of the experience, though. It’s extremely daunting, but really rewarding, too. Getting some laughs from the audience is amazing feeling. It’s as if you’ve had liquid victory mixed with a shot of ecstatic joy injected straight into centre of your heart.

*When comedians get laughs they ‘kill’ (or are killing). This concept may get a little confusing for a serial killer who performs at open mics.

Interestingly, I met another young man, Bernard, who was going through his QLC. Like me, he had decided to try his luck in front of other sociopathic, wannabe comedians and random drunks. And sort-of-like Lucinda, Bernard had some experience with ones and zeroes. Bernard was a Financial Planner (I don’t really know what he did), but he did something with numbers and money. I get the impression that his job was more interesting but less demanding than Lucinda’s. Bernard, who is 27, had been ‘let go’ in one of the seemingly routine purges at the financial institution where he worked. He was searching for some way to explore his creative side, so he’d gone ‘all in’ with comedy. This involved doing multiple open-mics per week and receiving some financial assistance from ‘Centa’ (aka Centrelink) and dressing up as super heroes at kids’ birthday parties. Bernard was a good comic and if he’s still doing it now, I’m sure he’s probably even better. I haven’t been to an open mic for quite a while and people seem to come and go from the local scene. Surprisingly, there are a lot of people who are trying to ‘find their voice’ and also ‘find themselves’ on the stage.  

Unlike Lucinda, Bernard had his QLC forced on him. But rather than dusting himself off and having a crack at another investment firm, he’d decided to take the ‘road less taken’ and spend his nights working out his shtick (his comedic theme/edge). Bernard’s only a bit younger than I am and part of me admires his bravery. He’s intent on recreating himself, something quite common with Gen-Ys.     

Both Lucinda and Bernard seem to have figured out their answer to the seemingly omnipresent QLC (my bet is that Lucinda has probably found a more effective answer).  At times I feel a bit like Christopher Columbus, trying to find China, but in the process finds something else. Perhaps this QLC is simply ‘growing up’? I look at some of the Gen-Xs and Baby Boomers at work that have ‘hung in there’ and forged good careers and it’s doubtful that they had some sort of magic elixir to give them everything they wanted. Maybe we Gen-Ys need to shake the instant gratification facet of our nature and go with the flow and see where life/careers will take us?

Melbourne People Are Nice People

Hello blogosphere (aka my friends and family who read my blog).  No. Seriously, thanks to those people who started following the blog.  I’m sorry it’s been so long between drinks.  Things have been really busy, but I know that’s a poor excuse for not getting around to a blog update.

So, what’s been happening in my universe?  Well, the title sort of tells it all.  Ironically, I wasn’t in Melbourne to have this revelation, I was in North Queensland with my wife and daughter, enjoying a holiday.  We had some trips to the beach and I drank some XXXX (a beer that Queenslanders drink). It’s a crime in NSW to drink XXXX.  

 

Let me set this somewhat ironic scene:

Yes, I was in North Queensland.  For any overseas readers, this is the pretty much near the northern tip of Australia (on the East Coast).  It’s hot, most people have bleach-blonde hair and there’s a pub every 6 metres.  Aside from the hair colouring, this place was:
 

The strange thing was that nearly every holiday goer that we met was from Melbourne and people from Melbourne are ‘really, really, really nice’ (this is my Larry David-style catch phrase…I’m doubtful as to whether it will catch on).  Here’s a brief rundown of some Melbournites we met:

 

Melbournite #1:

I was in the flat as a tack ocean in NQLD and I was getting kind of bored due to the distinct lack of waves.  The water was a nice temperature despite the fact that the sky was overcast.  I sat there in the water-semi submerged so that I didn’t get cold.  A man around the same age as me (give or take a decade) was sit/standing in the ocean in a similar fashion.  I was bored so I struck up a conversation with the guy, Shane, who was standing next me.  I’ll be honest with you; I don’t mind the occasional chat with someone I’ve just met.  It’s not that I’m starved of human company, I always find people interesting.  Plus, it’s a great way to kill time when the water would destroy your iPhone.

Unfortunately I can’t give you the exact details of the conversation, but here’s what I could piece together:

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Me: Lovely day.

Melbourne guy:  Yeah. Shame the sun isn’t out.

Me: Totally (I lied because I hate excess sunshine and didn’t want to offend him).

Melbourne guy: How long have you been staying here?

Me:  My wife, child and I got here yesterday (just in case he was trying to get fresh with me in the tropical waters).

Melbourne guy: We’ve been here a week. You got lucky with the weather. It rained all last week.

 

Me: Yeah (I guess I should buy more lotto tickets).

Melbourne guy: Where are you from?

Me: Sydney (provide region where I live).

Melbourne guy: Oh, I love that area.  My wife and kids go there for holidays in January each year, such a great place.  Sydney’s great. Btw, I’m from (some suburb I’ve never heard of) Melbourne.

Me: I love that place (I probably would like it, I just don’t know anything about Melbourne). 

Melbourne guys: My family’s been coming here for years now.  Have a great holiday.

*****

In the parts of the conversation that I forgot/couldn’t be bothered to transcribe, Melbourne guy went on to demonstrate that he had a pretty reasonable level of knowledge of the NRL (rugby league) shattering my perceptions of AFL-centric Victorians, knew a bunch of nice places in Sydney and was happy to recommend plenty of hipster coffee joints that he frequented in Australia’s coolest city (his city, not mine).  I came to the realisation that he was nicer than I am and wasn’t interested in classifying me by post-code as much as I am with others (this isn’t a big thing of mine, but I find that lots of Sydneysiders do it).  He just seemed way more chilled out than I am and more chilled out than most of the people in my microcosmic bubble called Sydney.  Granted, he’d already been on holidays for a week, but he just seemed, I don’t know…nicer.

 

Encounter with Melbournite #2 (family):

 

At the resort (more of an apartment block, but with a pool!) there were a bunch of Melournite kids throwing a tennis ball to each other in the pool. My wife, baby and myself were playing in the shallow end of the pool and we were giving the best greasys we could to the kids.  The father of these tennis ball obsessed children sensed that we were getting concerned about a rogue tennis ball attack and he told his kids to get out of the pool and go to the beach.  Just like that.  I was amazed, because this isn’t my usual experience. 

 

Let me give a Sydney comparison.  We were taking our kid for a walk in the pram on a beautiful summer’s day at a nearby park. We sat down at a bench to feed the baby when a tennis ball went flying into my back.  It didn’t hurt, but it definitely could have hurt our baby.  We turned around and saw a geriatric with one of the plastic tennis ball launcher things.  Seriously, use your bloody arms.  We gave the guy a gob-full and he sort of apologised, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean to throw it there…’

It doesn’t matter where you meant to throw it, you shouldn’t be throwing tennis ball to your stupid dog (for the record I actually like dogs, but not cats {sorry cat-loving internet}) when there are people feeding a baby! 

 

Melbournite #3 (Blade Runner copies of ourselves):

This family was an exact Melbourne replica of my family: man, woman and young child.  Except the man had a better tan and better body than me.

Young Melbourne family were (surprise, surprise) really nice.  The woman in the family even offered to help pack up our beach tent for us.  We politely refused. My wife had it under control.  

 

In summary, people from Melbourne who are on holiday in Queensland are nice to talk to and generally considerate beings.  From what I could tell, they had less of the ‘f#ck you, I’m important and busy for no reason’ attitude that I come across in Sydney all the time.  Again, this zen Victorian thing could be a by-product of lazing about in the tropics in the dead of winter.  However, I’ll stand by the fact that Melbourne people are nice people.     

The Accidental Thief

I must confess: I stole something today.  This is the first time I have taken something (physically) from a store and not paid for it in about twenty years.

 

Why? I was doing some child-minding/shopping.  My partner has mastered this art, navigating a pram, shopping trolley and shopping list on an iPhone with such grace and poise. In stark contrast, I look like a 16 year-old learner driver trying to reverse park for the first time as I drift into other people’s shopping trolleys while trying to stop my daughter from crying.  This juggling act is really difficult.  To give you some context, I find shopping without the added stress of looking after a child challenging enough. I’ll always forget something on the list. I don’t mean to intentionally forget (is that even possible?), but it always happens.  I’m rather egalitarian in my omissions, meat, milk or some beauty product that I have no idea about; I’ve forgotten all of them.  When you add the whole stop the baby from crying/keep it alive scenario, its understandable if you purchase sour cream rather than lite sour cream.  You’ve gotta get out of the supermarket before you face one of the following scenarios:

  • Baby starts screaming – get out of there like you’re Ripley escaping LB426 in Aliens before the nuclear reactor blows up.

imgres-6Above: Ripley, from the film Aliens.  If Ridley was working security, you’d always pay for your toilet paper.  You may never need to use at the shopping centre if you get in an argument with her about whether the sun-dried tomatoes are Aisle 4 or 8.

  • A horde of zombie-like old people gather around your child and start touching its feet and kissing its hand.  Scenario 1 may emerge as a result of Scenario 2.  Escape is the same as Scenario 1, but you have the added complication of dealing with old people and their monotonous stories.
  • Navigating the trolley minefield – this has got to be the most annoying of the all.  People will not give way to you despite the fact that you’ve been charged with the duty of keeping a young person alive.  They’ll just barge through, without their children, while you’ve got the pram in one hand and basket full of overpriced groceries in the other.  To avoid this, you need to time your exit, so that you won’t have to push past a sea of soulless arseholes in the ‘baked goods’ aisle.

 

Fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with any of the above and I even managed to remember everything on the shopping list.  Unfortunately, I remembered one item, but forgot to pay for it.

 

 

 

What did I steal?  Before you get carried away, I didn’t steal an Aldi TV or an Omega watch, it was pretty banal, but still essential. Ok, here it is:

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Yeah, I know, I’m a real Thomas Crown type.  I think I’ve got to vary it up next time.  Maybe I’ll steal some tissues or even packet of Glad snap-lock bags.

 

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Above:  A photo of Pierce Brosnan playing Thomas Crown, a notorious art thief.  If were as handsome as Mr. Brosnan, I’d be stealing all sorts of stuff, including microwaves, Playstations, hamburgers..you name it, I’d be stealing it and looking damn good.

Thomas Crown, Jr, how did you do it?  Like any crime, it’s easier than it looks.  When you’re shopping with a baby in a pram, you have to utilise all of the storage space that you have available.  I had my right hand on the pram, in my left hand was the shopping basket and the groceries that couldn’t fit in the basket were progressively added to the enviro-bags that were hanging from the carabiner (hook-like implement) that was attached to the pram.  As you would have already worked out, I didn’t have room for a 12-pack of toilet paper rolls, so I stored the packet in the space that is underneath the seat of the pram.  I walked up to the cashier, had a lovely chat with a young man who is at university who has served me before (when I wasn’t stealing) and strolled straight out of the supermarket.

 

How do you feel, now that you’re a criminal? To be honest, I feel worse than I thought I would.  I’m nearly 30 and I’ve seen my fair share of things that didn’t go my way, so I thought I’d be able to justify my accidental larceny on the basis of some kind of stupid cosmic consumerist karma, “I get ripped off everyday living in Sydney, so I deserve free toilet paper!”  As we all know, the universe doesn’t really work like that.  Nobody gives you free toilet paper when you’re expected to pay for it.

 

Anyway, I felt worse than I thought I would.  I largely attribute this to my Christian upbringing.  Please don’t think that I’m saying that I feel bad about stealing solely because of the fact I’m a Christian. There are much better people than me that I know in my life, who live in a most honourable and respectable fashion, that are not aligned with any deity.  I’ve also met some seriously shonky Christians, who act in some ways that would make your skin crawl.  In my case, I think the guilt is largely the result of my belief system.  I’ve always had a hard time in justifying stealing, in any capacity.  There are people I know who try to justify torrenting movies from the Internet, “They (the people who pay money to make said film) charge us way too much for movie tickets!”  Please, give me a break.  If you’re going to steal movies, just be upfront about and say that it’s easier to download a movie than drive to the cinema, wait in line to purchase a ticket and you’re too much of a stingy arsehole to pay $18 to watch a movie that may be a piece of crap.    Keeping all this social commentary in mind, I was almost tempted to walk back up the street and pay for the toilet paper I’d stolen, but then I realised I couldn’t be bothered and I do pay a hell of a lot for my groceries!!

 

Was this the first time that you’ve stolen something?  No.  The first time I ever stole anything was way back when I was 8 years old.  I stole a Holden Commodore.  Kidding, it was even more run-of-the-mill:  way, way back in the early 90s, my brother and I used to go to a toy store called World 4 Kids, that was basically an exact replica of Toys R’ Us.  In the store, there was a self-serve lolly bay, where you could buy a bag of lollies, for something like $2, and give yourself early on-set diabetes with a bag full of cavity-causing sugary treats.  We knew that we weren’t going to be allowed to fill our stomachs with bag full of disgustingly sweet goodies (on account of the fact of good parenting), so we’d look over our shoulders, crawl up to the dispensers and pick out the crusty, dried sweets that had been left by some upright citizen.  I always liked the sugar encrusted coke bottles and the chewy treats that resembled a human maxilla.  We got away with GTL (Grand Theft Lolly) a bunch of times, until a teenager who worked in the lolly section, who looked more like a giant to us, told us that, ‘you’re supposed to pay for those lollies’.  The dream was over, and fortunately, we managed to get out of there without our Mum knowing about our fledging career as juvenile criminals.  This incident has been burned into my subconscious; it just keeps floating to the surface, especially when I walk past Toys R’ Us at Westfield.  In reality, it’s probably the fact that we got caught, rather than that we taking goods without paying for them that’s stuck with me.

Above: An advertisement promoting World 4 Kids.  I remember the jingle almost as vividly as I remember being chastised for stealing lollies by someone who couldn’t have been ten years older than me.  

So, if you accidentally steal something, I’m not going to judge you, especially if you have added responsibilities.  However, if you find yourself stealing confectionaries from a dispenser, you need to have to look at that crater-faced teenager that is working for minimum wage and know that you’re doing the wrong thing.

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Dodging Dog Shit In The City of Light

Dodging Dog Shit In The City of Light

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The 15 Great Dog Pisses of Paris, Brett Whiteley.

 

Above: Brett Whiteley’s visualization of my perception of Paris.

 

Ladies, hurl your stilettos at me now.  I hated Paris.  It was a completely underwhelming experience.  Although I’ve never been ‘in love’ with Paris, I was still let down by the French capital.  Let me give you some reasons as to why you will think I’m mad:

 

1.  The streets are literally covered in dog shit:  before actually going to Paris, I remembered seeing a Sex And The City episode where Carrie Bradshaw was wandering through an idyllic Paris cityscape and stepped in some dog’s waste. I thought to myself, that’s seriously gross.  However, in my naivety, I thought that this was an exaggeration for a comedy/drama (dramedy? crama?). You know, let’s see a ridiculously over dressed New Yorker fumble about in France.  Streets in the Marais can’t be that disgusting, right? Hell yes they can!  They were filthy.  It was like wandering through a poo-filled Bosnian minefield.  You couldn’t appreciate the beautiful 19th Century architecture that Haussman inspired, because the ‘City of Light’ has devolved to the ‘City of Shit’.  Seriously, the entire time I was there I had my eyes glued to the ground.  I’ve been on bush walks where I spent less time watching my steps.  I paid something criminal like $400 for these bloody walking shoes that could withstand the conditions on the surface of Mars, so I’d be damned if they’d be covered in the droppings of some pampered French pooch.

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Above: Carrie Bradshaw washes away the ‘dog poop’ from her expensive shoes.  Unlike Carrie Bradshaw, I’ve never worn stilettos and an American businessman didn’t come to rescue me from a bad time in Paris.

 

2. The Metro can be frightening:  Ok, I’ll admit it. I live a pretty sedate life.  I don’t take many risks, except for supporting teams like the Roosters and the Boston Celtics.  Adventure holidays have no appeal.  Why would I want to pay thousands of dollars climb across some rickety rope bridge and carry my own backpack?  If I want adventure, I’ll play Final Fantasy 10 (for the 6th time {please, don’t judge me}).  Keeping these factors in mind, I found the Metro frightening.  Firstly, nobody paid for tickets.  Parisians just jumped the inactive turnstiles.  Look, I’m a fan of liberté, but that’s a joke.  Secondly, some of the buskers were really aggressive.  I tried to take a photo of an African Frenchmen who was butchering some 12-Bar and he took (serious) umbrage.  I offered him a Euro and then he started screaming at us in some form of Frenglish, “d’argent! Not enough! More!”.  I curtly replied with a phrase in French that I won’t repeat in writing (thank you, HSC French), as we left the carriage.  Ok, so that incident was kind of my fault.  Anyway, this kind of stuff didn’t happen in other European cities, such as beautiful, slightly banal Berlin.

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Above: A photo of a ‘busker’.  If you’re as insane as the man in the photo, you will give him money as way of appreciating the ‘music’ he has created.

 

3.  Paris NYE Mega Let-Down:

 

When my partner and I planned a winter trip through Western Europe, we figured that NYE in Paris would be the go.  We’d had a lovely Christmas in Kent with some family friends and Paris would be the perfect setting for one of the most momentous nights of the year.  Again, we were wrong.  In the evenings, in Paris, the Eiffel Tower is lit by hundreds (if not thousands) of flashing lights, every hour.  The first time you see those flashing lights, your heart skips a beat.  Even for a grump like me, I was struck by how beautiful that scene was against the dark cityscape below.  Logically, you’d think that this would be the place to be for the dawning of a new year (in this case it was 2011).  I envisaged fireworks coming from each leg of the famous tower, with more conventional fireworks glittering behind.  What did we get? Flashing lights.  The exact same flashing lights that we watched at the turn of the previous three hours while we were waiting on the bank of the Seine.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the only bystander that felt like he’d been jipped, young people with strong French accents out were crying out ‘F#ck you, Zarcozy!!’ Now that I come to think of it, why were they swearing at the former French President in English?

 

Behind us (and the thousand or so other people on the river bank) were contingent of Parisian Policemen that were wearing riot gear that made them look like blue and black Ninja Turtles.  I tried to take a photo of one of these continental super heroes, but I was given a typically French response; a roll of the super-soldier’s eyes, a graceful shake of his head, his gloved left hand held in stop/halt fashion while his right kept hold of his assault rifle.  Between the French Super Police and me was a mob of heavily inebriated Spaniards.  Like everyone else, these Spaniards were extremely underwhelmed with the ‘festivities’ and vented their frustration by jumping on some parked cars and screaming indiscriminate phrase in ‘Dranish’ (Spanish spoken by drunks).  The gendarmerie responded in an instinctive fashion, belting these drunk Western Europeans with night sticks.  Nothing brings in the ‘New Year’ like police brutality. Needless to say, we got out of there as quickly as we could.    Just when we thought we were out of the woods we were accosted by a French speaking Indian man who jumped out from the bushes and asked if we had cigarettes to share with him.  Once again, my HSC French came in handy with a quick ‘je ne fume pas’ (Translation: I don’t smoke) and the bizarre little man retreated to his shrubbery.

armed and ready

Above:  Some policemen in Paris are trying to work out who most resembles Action Man: The Greatest Hero Of Them All.

 

So, these are just a few of the reasons why I didn’t like Paris.  Yeah, it’s beautiful, but it’s too chaotic for my liking.  Despite having written about a thousand words about how much I couldn’t stand the place, I can see myself going back there.  I’m the only man in my household – resistance against the allure of Paris is futile.   Everyone I meet disagrees with me when I talk about Paris.  They keep saying ‘Charlie, you’re an arsehole!’  They’re probably right.  Next time I go to Paris, I’m not taking the Metro, looking at the Eiffel Tower or walking the streets.  I’ll probably sit in an Australian themed bar on the Left Bank that is filled with lurid depictions of boxing kangaroos and images of Paul Hogan grinning at a room packed full of ex-pat drunks, and I’ll all do is whinge about how I cannot abide dirty footpaths.

Digital Friendship

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A while ago, my partner and I attended a birthday party for a one-year old (yes, this is our life nowdays).  This was before our daughter was born, I can’t exactly remember when we went to this particular infant’s birthday party, but it was a while ago.  At this manic party, where there was something like thirty toddlers packed into this tiny townhouse, a friend (named Patience) that we used to go to church with was there with her growing brood.  Before we had the chance to exchange pleasantries she exclaimed, ‘Charlie, you’ve shaved!’  I didn’t know how to respond.

I’ve been shaving since Year 10 (I maybe shaved once-per season in Year 10) and I was tempted to look at her legs and making some bitchy comment about shaving.  I resisted the urge and her legs were practically hairless anyway.  I stood there, giving her a rather perplexed look until she clarified her opening statement; ‘you’ve got a beard in your Facebook DP’ (Display Profile).

Photo on 31-03-14 at 7.18 PM #2Above:  A photo of me with a beard.

It was at this point that I realised how much Facebook maintains our relationships.  Please, don’t think that I’m lining this girl up, I’m guilty of this too.  A couple of years ago (around the same time as the anecdote in the previous paragraph) I went to my  high school reunion.  There was this girl that I went to school with who runs this drama academy for kids.  I know this because she keeps posting updates for performances on Facebook. Part of me finds these updates annoying, because I have no interest in seeing a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves being butchered by a bunch of atonal kids who couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag.  A group of us from my HSC class were chatting about what we’ve been getting up to since the early noughties and Anastasia (the girl who directs these ‘talented’ kids) was talking about her drama academy’s production of Jack and the Bean Stalk.  Before she could finish the story, I interrupted her and said, ‘that was the performance where The Giant and Jack got into an argument onstage, right?’  I’d committed the same sin as Patience, I’d taken someone’s life and put it together from a handful of status updates.  This seems to be all that anyone needs to form a valid friendship; a few selfies, a birthday notification and the occasional change in hairstyle.

Facebook isn’t inherently evil or anything like that. I know that there are the invasive elements that come with it and all, but I see Facebook as something like a government (or any other structure), it can operate in positive or negative fashion.  What it does is that it makes us lazier.  It’s easy to read about someone (aka stalk) and scroll through their photos than pick up the phone and have a chat.  I’m not trying to convert you to Neo-Luddism, but it’s interesting to see how Facebook has changed to the landscape of constitutes a ‘friendship’.  For example, there are people that I have crossed paths with that I was never in what could be defined as a classical friendship (eg, we never hung out or anything like that) in previous jobs, schools and social groups who remain as ‘digital friends’. I’m not having a dig at any of these people (especially if you’re one of my five readers), if I meet someone and they send me a request, I’ll probably get around to adding them. Although, I can be mighty slow in getting around to those requests (like many men, I’m extremely lazy).  There are even people I have known for a very brief period of time that are still on my Facebook page today.  These people are probably still because I’m lazy and cannot be bothered culling my ‘friends’.   Other people on Facebook announce their friend culling processes and I find this to be rather amusing.  For example, one person wrote, ‘If you’re reading this, then you’re still my friend!’  Wow.  I guess the good thing is that those who have been ‘deleted’ cannot read such a cold-hearted statement.  It as if someone has emerged from the wasteland stating, ‘half the people I knew are now dead’.  Can you imagine what Stalin’s status updates would have been like:  ‘Gonna send some douchebags to a gulag #lol #ihatetrotsky’.  What an evil man he was.  Thank the Maker that he didn’t have a twitter account.

Trotsky_Portrait

Above: Leon Trotsky probably would have been deleted from Stalin’s friend list before being assassinated.  However, he could have lived if Stalin had leaked his plans in a drunken tweet: ‘Just thought of a hilarious way to kill Trotsky #icepicktotheface#vodka’.

Maybe it’s a good thing that digital friendships are a fairly recent thing.