Take-Away Is The New Restaurant


imgres-7Above:  I know this image is a little incongruous, but it reminds me of Seinfeld, so here it is.  Ironically, I’ve never had take-away (take-out for my American reader) from a container like this.

I remember restaurants.  Sitting at a table and waiting for food.  Surveying the other tables and imagining their life stories: whether the middle-aged couple were discussing the benefits and drawbacks of redrawing on their mortgage in order to buy an investment property in the city; the young lovers who caressed each others’ hands in a spiritual fashion, as if they were transferring currents of energy between themselves; the gentleman sitting alone, who was enjoying the cuisine and his privacy in a public setting.  I remember these experiences vividly because it is a true rarity to dine in a restaurant these days.

 

Parents out there will know what I’m talking about; you want to go to a restaurant, but it’s way too much hassle.  Admittedly, we’ve managed a few trips to restaurants.  Mostly low-key dining. There’s a great Vietnamese place that we go to that is relatively quiet, so we can manage that with the pram and everything.  The kind of place where your food appears within ten minutes, so you can wolf it down before it’s your turn to mind the baby.  There was this one rude guy at the Vietnamese restaurant who was giving my partner a ‘greasy’ (dirty look) because she was breastfeeding, despite the fact that she was using a feeding cape.  What a bastard.  Sadly, I didn’t give him a ‘greasy’ in return. I really could have because he was as ugly as hell and his face alone was ruining my meal.  Sometimes there’s no reward for taking the high road.

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Above: a prime example of a ‘greasy’. If you receive one, be sure to return the favour.

Another recent paradigm shift is that the concept of a ‘hot’ meal has taken on new meaning: stone cold has been upgraded to ‘warm’.  I was eating some steak the other day for a special birthday occasion and I was minding our daughter, whilst my partner took her turn eating her meal.  The wait-person asked if I’d like the food to be warmed up under the heat-lamp, but I was fine with my cold steak and mash.  You just get used to it.  Cold is better than going hungry.

As a result of these largely unsuccessful dining experiences I now get excited by take-away.  Whether it’s MSG-laden Chinese food, a gourmet pizza with so much topping that you can barely hold a slice without a landslide occurring or even run-of-the-mill Thai food; I don’t care, I love it.  This is the closest I can get to a restaurant experience.  I haven’t gotten to the stage of playing shitty smooth jazz and putting bad art on the walls of my apartment while we dine on our re-heated take- away….yet.  I’m this close to ordering a butter chicken and buying Harry Connick Jr’s Greatest Hits.

 

At the lunch table some of my colleagues were waxing lyrical about the latest new restaurant, Chiswick.  Apparently the décor is ‘Hamptonsesque’ and everybody who’s anybody is dining there.  Clearly, I am ‘nobody’.  I wasn’t offended or even jealous when this colleague was talking about the nouveau cuisine that is dished up at the restaurant du jour*.  In fact, I’m glad other people can enjoy these culinary delights, I really am.  The difference is that I’m a death row inmate when it comes to dining and I’m aware that like an inmate, my last meal will be take-away.

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Above:  A photo of Chiswick, a restaurant I hear about every 19 seconds.

*Good restauranteurs that run/own Chiswick, I’m sure your restaurant lives up to the hype.  I will arrange a baby sitter and eat at your restaurant if you would like to give my partner and I a complementary meal, in return for the shameless (albeit satirical) plug I have provided.  All seven of my readers (yes, I am one of them) will mention your restaurant in a water-cooler style context.

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The Support Act

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Above:  In a previous life, I played a number of gigs in front of less people than those depicted here.

Being a father is kind of strange.  Assuming you’re not the primary carer, you’re heavily involved in the process of raising your kids, but you’re the support-act rather than the main attraction.  You follow orders (as best you can) and step into new realms of cleaning-up and cooking that your partner may have covered pre-BCE (Before Child Era).

The worst part is when the support act has to substitute for the headliner, while my partner needs to get out of the apartment.  My baby can sense my fear and inadequacy, because she always screams like a black metal frontman when I’m in charge.

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Above: Dani Filth, the frontman of Cradle Of Filth, the world’s most famous (or infamous) black metal band.  My daughter’s crying/screaming is a lot scarier than this guy.

I try to do what I can, offer a bottle (of milk), go for a walk, sing Tool covers to her (her favourite is H, sans curse words) but she knows that I’m not the boss.  Don’t get me wrong, our daughter is a really well behaved baby, but whenever I’ve got the baby in my hands, she’s a loud baby.  I suppose it’s one of those things that parents and kids have to go through or maybe my daughter can sense that I’m somewhat apprehensive, secretly dreading the wailing and the tears.

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Above: A photo of me trying to tackle the challenges of parenthood in the modern world.  Well, I guess beer isn’t that modern, but Baby Bjorn’s and Sennheiser  can’t be more than a hundred years old (I’m more than happy to accept ‘gifts’ from Baby Bjorn, but I would much prefer a new set of speakers from Sennheiser).

When I see my partner caring for our daughter, I’m filled with admiration.  She’s like Luke Skywalker when he turns off the targeting computer during the raid on the Death Star trench; she knows exactly what to do, as if she can channel ‘the Force’.  In comparison, I’m like that idiot in the Y-Wing who keeps repeating ‘Stay on target!’ in a strange, robotic fashion.  I have a vague idea as to what is going on, but I’m no Jedi.  Being the co-pilot, like Chewbacca to Han, I’m happy to pitch in where needed, growl occasionally, walk around with a crossbow that shoots lasers and be the best co-pilot/support act father I can be.

 

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Above: My partner, Carla (right) and myself.  Raising children, smuggling spice and trying to save the galaxy.

How you know you’re getting old

imgres-5 Above: A generic photo of a gym that I stole from Google Image.  The gym I occasionally go to is not dissimilar to the one you see before you.

I went to the gym and couldn’t recognize at least 5 artists in the MTV Top 10.  They all sounded the same.  I recognised Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams, but the other artists appeared to be an endless cavalcade of identical R&B singers who sing these elongated chorus lines like, ‘WAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRR’.  What is this anorexic lady going to war about?  Is it a war against food?  I don’t understand.  She (whoever the girl was on MTV) probably doesn’t understand either.  Then again, she could be a Harvard Graduate who’s taking us all for ride?  Anyway, that song sounded like shit and I was angry myself for forgetting to bring my iPod.

imgres-6Above:  This may be the woman that appeared in the aforementioned video clip.  It was some generic Top 40 trash, performed by a woman.   

The other thing that makes me feel old at the gym is the fact that there are younger, fitter people with muscles that look they’re about to rupture.  I don’t want end up looking like a Sontaran, but I wouldn’t mind being a bit fitter.

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Above:  A Sontaran; a villainous race of super warriors from outer space (also from the planet Sontar, if my Dr. Who  knowledge serves me correct).  They’re generally aggressive, monosyllabic creatures, akin to what you may find in a gym.

I’m not Jabba the Hut, I’d just like to be a better specimen than I am at the moment.  These young people fill me with envy.  How can they be so fit?  Why do they look like Spartan warriors and I look like Woody Allen stunt double?  Then I start to think that they’re probably stupider than I am and I begin to feel good about myself.  I have no basis for making these assumptions.  The guy bench-pressing 120kg is probably an actuary and the guy who just did his twelfth chin-up is a neurosurgeon.  Also, intelligence is relative.  But I still go on with this process of self-aggrandisement. Part of me probably looks down on them because they’ve spent so much time crafting their bodies, which is ironic because I’d like to be fit and strong like them.  Some of these Adonises must have been nearly half my age and they were easily as twice as strong as I am.  This plunges me into a pit of mediocre despair, but it is remedied by the fact that I can’t be bothered spending enough time at the gym to exchange all my brainpower for muscle mass.

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Worth a trip ‘down south’.

TV is the new novel.  Rarely do people talk about their favourite novels.  I like to read, but I’d watch TV out of preference.  I often sit and have lunch with a friend from work and chat about our fave TV shows, most of which emanate from the creative wellsprings of HBO.  These conversations about the TV dramas that have caught our attention are something that I look forward to, yet another part of me acknowledges the fact that I should be reading (for pleasure) more.  I do get chances to read here and there, but I seem to fall into the trap of watching quality TV shows.  Speaking of quality, the writing in some of the better shows is so good that I can understand why more astute viewers are drifting away from the bookshelf.  There’s still trashy TV out there, plenty of it.  But these HBO et al gems seem to be providing a form of escapism that keeps your mind ticking over and leaving you salivating for the next episode to drop.  In between new episodes, I re-watched the True Detective ‘next episode’ trailers numerous times so that I could get some insight into the events that would unfold.

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Above:  Matthew McConaughey as the mesmerising Rust Cohle.

The focus of our lunchtime conversations is Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock or do not have access to the Internet (then, how are you reading this?  It must be a glitch in The Matrix!!), then you’ve probably heard something about the hottest show on TV.  No surprise, this show is another heavy hitter from the HBO stables and it is very much worth the journey (and time investment).

Admittedly, when I watched the trailers on Foxtel, I was skeptical.  When big-name stars are chucked into TV shows, I was suspect that the writing is poor and the celebrities are there to compensate.  Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The show is fantastic.  It’s engaging, dark and original.  I won’t give you an in-depth run-down of the series (which has recently finished its first season), but it’s definitely worth the eight-hour time investment.

The only criticism that has arisen in our TV-themed lunchtime chats is the slightly pretentious edge in the dialogue.  For a taste, see below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rfm3Iz92xA

To be honest, I actually love the dialogue in this show.  Yeah, it can get a bit cerebral, but it’s a refreshing change from the stock-standard cops and robbers shows that appear on multiple networks, every night.  In True Detective, there are plenty of interrogations, but they transcend the generic shouting matches in the interview room fare.  I like the fact that TV is becoming more of a medium where directors and writers are trying to stretch the boundaries as far they can.

In short, watch this show.  It will bore into the recesses of your sub-conscious, and I bet you’ll love it.  For example, I had some True Detective-themed nightmares after one of the episodes, but I don’t regret watching it for a second.

A night with ‘The Boss’.

Heritage acts (bands or solo-artists that had their hay day in the 80s or earlier) have this strange appeal.  A heritage act may be someone who you haven’t paid close attention to for a long, long time, but when they hit 60 and tour Australia, I seem to have this urge to see them.  I guess I’m worried that they may end up dead in a motel room, strewn with class-A drugs with a Willie Nelson song blaring whilst the bloated corpse of a former rock god lies on the floor.  This is why I go to heritage gigs.

Admittedly, I’ve never been a massive Springsteen fan.  I always felt that Neil Young deserved the Oscar for his song ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘The Boss’ earned the bacon with a catchier, more pop-friendly song of the same name.  When I think about this reasoning, I realize that it’s pretty stupid.  Springsteen’s ‘Philadelphia’ is a great song, worthy of winning an Oscar.  Neil Young’s track is also amazing; he just lost out to another great song, written by another great artist.  So, for this stupid reason, I’d turned my back on ‘The Boss’ for the best part of three decades.

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Above: Bruce Springsteen, aka ‘The Boss’, looking extremely bossesque.

I bit the bullet and saw ‘The Boss’ in an intimate setting, Allphones Arena.  Despite having a capacity of somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000, I quite enjoyed the gig and the venue.  It’s clean and surprisingly spacious.  Lots of hits were played and when played ‘Darkness At The Edge of Town’ (one of Springsteen’s seminal albums) from go to woe, I listened to the two tracks I recognised and then I popped out for coffee.  A true Philistine, right?  That’s what the Springsteen fanatic sitting behind probably thought, but I was there for the hits and I didn’t want to die of a micro-sleep and on the way home.

Overall, the gig was great.  Springsteen is a phenomenal performer and he belted out every track in a three-hour-plus show. The one thing that really got to me was man sitting next to me, who was continually clapping out of time. I hated it.  It’s so off-putting.  Look, if you’re at a Tool or Dream Theater gig, that is so choc-full of time changes that only people with their A-MusA can understand what the hell is going on, then you’re forgiven for mistiming a clap on the 1, 2 or 4.  But the ‘The Boss’ is writing anthems, not anything that’s unnecessarily complex.  The only thing that’s challenge is a bit of 6/8 and you can sway like a pendulum to that without too much trouble.  The bloke with the bad timing standing next to me, an aging rocker with a million silver rings on hands, did this weird dance to the up-tempo songs, such as ‘Dancing In the Dark’, where would shimmy from left-to-right whilst moving his hands in an arrhythmic fashion, as if he were a poorly trained Mo-Town back-up singer.  It was driving me insane.  Part of me wanted to show him how to clap on the 2 or the 4, so that he would magically forget his bizarre dance.  Strangely, the woman he was with, another ageing rocker, who resembled an even more frizzled out Stevie Nicks, had perfect timing and could sing in key to every track.  Why could she put with her husband’s strange, erratic shamblings?

Despite this annoying man and the Springsteen fanatic behind me who would whistle really loudly at the end of each song, it was a really good gig.  I’m glad I went because you never know how close your favourite artists from yesteryear are from the Great Gig In The Sky.

Embrace your negativity

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Above: The Roosters basking in the glory of being crowned ‘World (Club) Champions’.

I love and hate the sports teams I choose to follow.  It’s hard to explain why I feel this way; it’s most likely because I have invested far too much emotional energy into these teams.  Specifically, I have my lifelong love/hate relationship with the NRL team, the Sydney Roosters and a growing series of conflicting emotions directed at the NBA team I follow, the Boston Celtics.  The former has more emotional baggage attached to it than the latter, but dark negative energies are become stronger the more I think about the Boston Celtics’ tanking efforts and the numerous failures in the playoffs during the ‘Big 3’ era.

Let me tell you how negative I can get.  Several years ago, I bagged out the Roosters so much that I lost my voice.  Ironically, the Roosters ended up beating the Parramatta Eels in said game.  My negativity/hate has been so intense and confronting that some good friends of mine no longer want to go to games with me.  Part of me doesn’t blame them, because I imagine that they wouldn’t want to sit with a cantankerous grump like me.   You may think this may have prompted some change in my behavior, drawn me a little closer to the more common ground optimism (or at least pragmatism).  Sadly, I’m already set in my ways.  I both love and hate (in somewhat equal proportions) the teams I support.  To the outsider I probably seem like some sort of irrational lunatic, who enjoys abusing a highly-paid sportsmen, that I claim to support.   The truth is that I do love my teams, but I can’t look past the fact that they have let me down on so many occasions.  Sports teams are like that friend who arranges a catch-up and then takes a rain check.

Last month I went to see the Roosters play in the World Club Challenge.  The game is a concept where the reigning champion from the National Rugby League and the European Super League face-off to claim the title of the greatest rugby league club in the world.  This game is a big deal.  I’ve never seen (in the flesh) the Roosters compete in a game of this nature before.  The last time the Roosters appeared in the World Club Challenge was in 2003, in St. Helens, England.  This year’s WCC was played in Sydney, for the first time in two decades.  Honestly, I was happy, but I still couldn’t contain my negative energies.  I’m like Vegeta from Dragonball Z, I try to be good, but I end up lapsing into bad habits.

For the vast majority of the game the Roosters dominated proceedings.  However, I couldn’t shake my negative tendencies.  A family friend that was sitting in the row behind me asked what I thought of the first half the most positive comment I could muster was ‘I wish they wouldn’t throw the ball around so much.’  Conversely, my friend was very happy with how the Roosters played, with the comment that they’d ‘picked up where they’d left off’.  My friend was right, what should I expect in their first competitive game in over four months?  Also, the risky carefree plays is what made the Roosters such a dangerous team, but I can’t accept this because it does not fit into my safety first approach to football. To put the icing on the cake, my team was up 18-0 at half time and I still certain that the wheels were doomed to fall off. No team, not even the champions, could live up to my ridiculous expectations and I will dwell on every mistake, no matter how insignificant, that they make.  But there are benefits to being negative.

Benefits:

You are convinced that you’re team is going to lose, irrespective of the quality of the opposition, location of the game and how corrupt the referees are.

The highs amazingly high; if your team does win, they have managed to shut down every psychological barrier that you have put before them.

You expect and can therefore deal with failure.

You gain a perverse sense of pleasure at the fact that you are right about your team’s ineptitude.

Your negative anecdotes may provide some much needed laughter for other supporters while your team is being put to the sword.

Negatives:

You will annoy a lot of people.

You run the risk of being called a ‘fake supporter’ (if anyone calls you this, they obviously have something wrong with them in the basement of their soul).

If you expect that you will face a lot of mediocrity and failure in your vicarious sporting endeavours, I suggest that you embrace your darker, negative side.