Monthly Archives of: September 2010

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True stories.

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ONE.

I once had a job as a porn reviewer. It was, in all honesty, the most boring job I have ever had, and I quit after a week. There’s only so many ways to describe genitalia.

TWO.

Due to an insanely sheltered high school experience, I didn’t have my first proper kiss until I was 18. It was at a house party thrown by a friend. The guy was 25, told me he was a pro golfer, and was so drunk that he passed out while we were making out, fell off the deck, and hit his head on a brick.

I am not making this up.

Once he came to, he tried to tell everyone that I’d punched him. This pretty much set the tone for my entire love life.

THREE.

For most of my childhood, I was convinced that anyone touching my skin could read my mind.

FOUR.

When I was about 11, I sent a handwritten letter to all the publishers I could find addresses for, asking them if they would please consider publishing the novel I was writing. Several of them wrote back, which was really quite nice of them.

The “novel” in question was, I think, a horror story about a guy named Smith and a beach house. I’m pretty sure it even had a sex scene — although, since I had a copy of ‘Why Was I Adopted?’ instead of ‘Where Did I Come From?’, at the time I was still missing some key details on the mechanics.

FIVE.

I first met my birth-mother when I was two. Despite knowing her my entire life, it took me until I was 15 to realise that I must also have a father. It occurred to me on my Nana’s driveway, as I was checking her mail. I was thinking about how, technically, Brad Pitt was old enough to be my dad.

SIX.

I didn’t get my driver’s licence until I was 25. In my first three months of having a car, I drove into three different stationary objects. I don’t mean that I nudged a stray recycling bin or clipped the curb — I wrapped my passenger side around a pole in a parking garage. And once I’d done it, I decided the fastest way to get out of it was just to keep going. So I accelerated, and crumpled the entire left side of my car. Part of me was relieved that at least this hid where I’d run into the lip of a ramp the week before.

I wrote my next car off when I rear-ended someone on the motorway while trying to charge my iPod off my laptop.

My insurance is very expensive.

SEVEN.

As a kid, I put a lot of effort into calculating how many wrong answers to give during standardised tests. I was terrified of being found out and made to skip a year, which seemed to me like being punished for retaining information.

I was also aware pretty early of the difference between book smart and street smart, and thought that the fact that I lost things and forgot to get off buses and thought I could fly should really trump being able to produce dates and numbers on request. I felt guilty when adults praised me for being smart — it was something I was, not anything I did — they were essentially congratulating me on being lazy.

—–

This morning, the oil light went on in my car. Once again, at almost 28, I have no idea how to live like an adult. Can I deal with this myself? Do I take my car somewhere? How much will it cost? Will my car eventually cease to run while I’m trying to figure it out? It’s a mystery! Yesterday I had to ask google whether it was okay to do yoga after giving blood. Google reminded me that I still have very little of what my mother calls nous.

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Here’s something I prepared earlier…

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I have a problem: I can’t fill up my day.

Seriously, you guys, my time management has turned to custard. For the last 10 months, I’ve been planning, outlining, researching, free-writing… I’ve got 72,000 words of background information (I counted. I was bored) and a clutch of scrawl-filled notebooks — I’m used to getting up, doing whatever has to be done to keep me alive and semi-presentable, heading to the gym, and being settled in at my café by lunch, where I play in my imaginary world until it’s time to go out. I do a solid four or five hours every Saturday and Sunday.

But now I’m writing, and I burn out after two.

I know my limits — I can do a thousand words in a stretch, and then my mind goes into standby. If I push it, I can sometimes squeeze out more, but it’s usually not much, and it’s always bad. So I write a thousand words a day… which doesn’t take that long.

This should be good. I know this should be good. But it turns out that there’s all these hours in days, and I don’t have anything to put in them. I’ve had three coffees. I’ve tried on every pair of ridiculous heels in the city. I’ve fed and watered and exercised myself. I wrote my shopping list and adjusted my budget and called my parents. I washed my hair, even though my hair didn’t need washing

I’ve officially killed all the time I feel capable of killing, and I’ve still got an hour until Sunday drinks kick off.

So I’m early. And I’m drinking. Alone. While blogging, longhand, IN A BAR.

I’m also hogging a four-person outdoor table to myself. Suck it, other patrons.

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Five good things

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I’m going to make another list today, because otherwise I will whine. And nobody likes a whiner. I’m tired, you guys, and my abs hurt, and I’m eating a carrot. A CARROT. If I let myself go, I will whine about how I have a cold that never goes away and I haven’t really slept in a year and a half and my skirt is sticking to my tights and I’m getting old, or SOFT, or something, because I can’t seem to write death and destruction while eating anymore and YOU GUYS, IF I CAN’T WRITE AT LUNCH AND DINNER I AM GOING TO HAVE TO SLEEP EVEN LESS. I DO NOT HAVE THE CAPACITY FOR EVEN LESS SLEEP. Also my hair is SO FUCKING FLAT AND SHINY I WANT TO DIE.

TO.

DIE.

I know, right? I know people who actively seek flat and shiny hair, and although I don’t understand them, I don’t want to upset them. Let’s not do this.

So here is a list. OF GOOD THINGS.

1. 

Who’s seen the pilot of Terriers? IT’S SO GOOD. It has the kind of clever, throwaway dialogue that I absolutely love — Hank asks Britt for a thousand dollars early in the episode, because he’s reading an upscale home-furnishings catalogue and thinks he needs new towels. “You want to be a drier person?” asks Britt, half-listening, and Hank replies, “I think maybe”. JUST. DELIGHTFUL. — and it has TIM MINEAR on the writing staff (Angel/Firefly/Drive/Dollhouse). Dude wrote “Out of Gas”, which is probably my favourite non-Whedon Whedon-show script. I AM A FAN OF HIS WORK. Like, I keep a copy of the screenplay in my room so I can read it when I want to feel bad about myself.

2.

Vampire Diaries continues to be the gooey caramel centre of my heart. As this review points out:

“If this keeps up, by episode five, she’ll have killed everyone on the show, erased the background scenery like she’s in Duck Amuck, devoured reality itself, and found herself stranded alone in a white wasteland, shirt ripped in half, bloody sword clutched in hand, accompanied only by Boone from Lost, who will be standing over in a corner kickboxing the sky (or whatever weird performance tic he’s picked up that week), and this will have become THE GREATEST SHOW ON TELEVISION.”

I ENDORSE THIS. (BUT IT IS ALREADY THE GREATEST SHOW ON TELEVISION.)

3.

Paranormalcy! I’ve been reading Kiersten White’s blog for a long time now, so I had high hopes for her first novel. I’m only halfway through it (it’s not out here yet, so I’m listening to the audiobook) but it’s… well, to appropriate an awful cliché, it’s everything I hoped it would be and more. It’s funny, smart and slick; the first post-Buffy post-Buffy-book that’s really hit the mark for me. The dialogue is snappy and hilarious without feeling forced, and the prose is tight and it moves. Kiersten gets that the best comedy is tragic and vice versa. Evie is a force of personality, and her world is so well-crafted I feel like I’ve been there. Like Evie and I hang out, sometimes. Which, maybe we do. YOU DON’T KNOW.

On Sunday I took the longest possible route into the city because I didn’t want to stop listening to it — so, basically, Kiersten White is also now partially responsible for my carbon footprint. Works for me!

4.

Yesterday, after three days of obsessing, I went and bought a big hunk of caramel slice from my coffee place. It cost me $3, and I took one bite out of it and then threw it out. This strikes me as possibly the most extravagantly privileged thing I could ever do, and I would feel bad about that if it hadn’t been AWESOME.

Of course, I then went out after work, drank three glasses of wine in rapid succession, and — once a two-year-old got done shoving all his stickers (aka “tickies”) in my mouth while giggling maniacally — I made some headway on a bag of Party Mix too. Healthy September, everyone!

5.

SUMMER IS COMING! I can feel it! Already there are whole hours in which it does not rain! Any month now there will probably be days. And at some point, with enough rotations of the earth, I WILL FINISH THIS FIRST DRAFT. And then I will never have to write the first draft of this book again! Ever!

This is very exciting.

First drafting is the devil’s work. Creating something out of nothing is crazy alchemy to me. Turning blank pages into story is hard. And sweaty. And it kinda hurts my tummy.

But editing those pages? Making something better? That’s where the magic is. (Until I get there, anyway, and then I will probably long for the salad days of the empty screen. Such is my curse.)

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This week in history

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Sometimes, when I’m bored or feeling itchy, I like to go back through old journals and see what I was doing a year ago, two years ago, five years ago. As it turns out, it was almost exactly three years ago that I kinda-maybe-sorta set off a quarter-life landslide among my friends when I sent out the following email:

i’m sick of being worried and anxious and weird. i want to stop worrying about stuff and have fun, but it’s hard to help it cos we’re all supposed to have careers and social lives and husbands and casual sex and houses and travel and children and freedom and hobbies and interests and health and exercise, and we’re supposed to have all of it simultaneously and with good makeup and no body hair, by the age of 35.

it’s actually not fair on anyone, all the stuff that is expected of us. we are all still so young and have so much left to live and do, and i think we all sometimes think we’re approaching a wall and our choices are going to end at 30. which is just completely untrue. we put this pressure on each other too, and get too preoccupied with what we don’t have. i know i get jealous sometimes of how sorted out and settled many of you are, and those who are settled probably get jealous that those who aren’t can buy frivolous things and travel on a whim. and of course i’m sure everyone is jealous of my superpowers and magic spells, and honestly i don’t blame any of you for that.

society and peer pressure say if you buy a house you should have travelled, if you travel you should have bought a house… if you have kids you’re letting your career down, if you don’t you’re faulty as a woman. if you work with kids you’re a bad mother, if you don’t work you’re lazy and oppressed. if you have a husband you should have got laid more, if you get laid you’re a slut, if you’re single you’re just faulty. if you’re successful you’re not feminine, if you’re not successful then you’re lazy… if you work overtime you have no life, if you don’t you have no work ethic…

none of this makes any sense! we only get one life and one chance to live it, and we’re so busy trying to have everything, we’re not enjoying what we have, or even realising that we can’t live up to all this crap that’s spouted at us.

i think we all need a wake up call that life is for living and if we’re so busy trying to have everything that we don’t enjoy what we have, we’re going to waste it. it’s IMPOSSIBLE to do all the things that are expected of us, especially i think as women. whichever way you play it, society will tell you you’re doing it wrong, or not enough, or shouldn’t do it.

i honestly feel this huge weight on me from every angle that i should have a career, but i should also have travelled, and be finding a husband and preparing for babies, but simultaneously working harder and making more money, and i should pick up a hobby and go to the gym more and lose weight and dress better and go out more and get more sleep… it’s never ending and it’s INSANE!

and it makes me miserable. i can’t enjoy anything properly at the moment cos i feel like i’m not doing anything right and if i don’t do all the things i should, i’ll never be happy. when actually, it’s feeling like you have to do all those things that MAKES you unhappy. and i think we’re all competing so hard to get somewhere (where exactly? i have no idea, but i’m trying pretty hard to go there anyway!) we forget to talk to our friends about it, and to take the time to appreciate each other and realise that friends and family are the most important things we will ever have.

who was the bastard who said your 20s were easy? cos i’m going to punch him in the nose.

[Poor grammar left intact for authenticity, although I did fix my spelling mistakes.]

That was some good advice, past-Katie! I’m glad I took it then, and know enough to remind myself of it now.

In the three years since, the recipients of that email went through:

  • 3 divorces 
  • 2 breakups
  • 3 engagements
  • 3 overseas experiences
  • 3 busted friendships
  • 2 babies
  • 6 career changes.

All these things would have happened anyway, but before I sent this email out I had no idea that my friends felt the same way I did. I felt like everyone was succeeding except me, and I was slowly drowning in their wake. I was too scared to leave Wellington and unable to see how I’d ever finish any original fiction. A lot of my friends, it turned out, were stuck in relationships they’d outgrown or careers they no longer wanted, but no one felt like it was okay to say so — or to try and change it. We were doing what we were supposed to be doing — getting married, getting promoted. Drinking better wine, buying nicer cars. All of us, it turned out, felt like we were stuck on a conveyor belt we couldn’t slow down.

From this email, we formed what we called the Quarter-Life Crisis Forum — a group of girls who could meet for dinner and talk about their lives. A year later I was living in Canada, and a year after that I was planning my second novel. It’s still a work in progress (which is sort of the point, right?) but I think we’re all in way better places now than we were three years ago. I know I am.

Thanks, ladies. I couldn’t have done it without you.

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Weird weekend.

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As everyone probably knows, there was a huge earthquake in Christchurch on Saturday morning. Both of my parents are from Christchurch and most of my family still lives there, and my brother and I spent pretty much all of our school holidays there growing up. I was down there visiting family a couple of months ago — it’s basically my adopted second home.

The quake woke me up, but by the time it made it up here it was almost out of steam. I actually thought “awww, it’s just a little BABY!” before I went back to sleep. I felt quite fond of that quake, you guys. In Lower Hutt it was soft and rolling, like being rocked in a kindly-intentioned boat.

Yeah. Not so much.

It’s amazing that nobody died. This quake was the same size as the one in Haiti — we’re lucky to have good building codes, and that it happened at 4am. All our family and friends are fine and were spared the worst of the damage, but my heart goes out to those who weren’t.

You can donate to the cleanup here: http://www.redcross.org.nz/donate

(Also, since there’s also been earthquakes in Hawke’s Bay and here in Wellington today, if the whole country should fall into the ocean tomorrow, I want my mother to know I loved her. And I’m sorry I didn’t listen when she told me to get an earthquake kit.)

—–

It was also Fathers’ Day last weekend, which makes it an appropriate time to talk about my dad. So I will.

I’m an unabashed daddy’s girl, internet. I love my dad. He’s the warmest person I know, and the kindest. He thinks he’s much funnier than he is, but his laugh is infectious. He’s a talker, my papa, who loves to meet people and get their stories. My brother inherited that (actually, all my family can talk. Growing up, people thought I was shy, but mostly, I just couldn’t get a word in) but I’d like to think some of his passion for people rubbed off in my writing.

 MY DAD.

Being adopted, I’m grateful every day to have the family I do. I know how lucky I am to have a good dad. A dad who came to all my sports games and made appalling carrot and vegemite sandwiches; who read us stories at bedtime that later turned out to be mostly made up, and (several moons later) didn’t tell Mum when he picked us up from parties drunk. He always had time to play catch or go biking or give unwanted life advice, and now that we’re adults, he likes to call us up to relay jokes he’s heard, only to forget the punchline halfway through or be unable to get it out because he’s laughing so hard.

He’s super cuddly, my dad, and at 6’4’’, his piggyback rides were always way cooler than rides from other kids’ dads. (Just saying.) My best friend in primary school used to call him Donny Johnny and climb in his lap for a hug — kids and animals have always liked him. He needs regular reminders that very large 64-year-old men can’t just pick up random toddlers for a cuddle, or engage pre-teen girls in one-on-one chit-chat. He’s the kind of guy who starts a conversation with every waiter or shop assistant who crosses his path, genially massaging total strangers out of their life stories. They end up dazed, powerless to resist the sheer weight of his cheerful interest. It drives my mother crazy.

When I moved back home after returning from Canada, Dad would ring me at two in the morning on weekends to check I could get home. He’d always offer to come and pick me up, no matter where I was. (Or that I was twenty-six.) That’s the kind of dad he is. He’s prone to turning up in the office of wherever I work, oblivious to security systems and reception desks, and demanding I take him for coffee. This is actually pretty annoying, but also kind of cute.

He’s nice. I like him.

Also my dad. It’s eerie.
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Shit my bag says

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There’s a meme (I hate that word. Hate it like brussel sprouts!) going around at the moment in which you itemise the contents of your handbag. I love this, because I am supremely nosy and derive great joy from the minutiae of other people’s lives. Also, I bought a new handbag last night, so I figured that I may as well participate since I had to take everything out of mine anyway.

In my bag:

  • 1 notebook.
  • 1 tin of mints (clicky lid > eating of mints).
  • 1 pair sunglasses and 1 pair actual glasses.
  • 1 reusable bag.
  • World’s oldest cellphone — it doesn’t even take pictures! What it does do, however, is make calls. And refuse to ever break. Sucks to be me.
  • 1 point-and-click camera, stored in old sock (see above re: crap phone).
  • World’s oldest iPod.
  • Black knit hat (useful for both rain and impromptu burglary).
  • Work ID and swipe card.
  • 2 Strepsils, 2 Nurofen, 3 Werthers.
  • 1 bunch keys with stuffed pukeko.
  • 4 assorted lip balm/gloss/sticks.
  • Hand cream and nail file.
  • 7 old receipts.
  • 1 wallet.
  • 2 sets of post-it flags.
  • 1 mechanical pencil (no lead).
  • 1 eraser for the mechanical pencil with no lead.
  • 4 highlighters.
  • 10 pens (assorted colours).

Obviously, all of these things are ENTIRELY NECESSARY. Especially the FIFTEEN different writing implements.

In my wallet:

  • Assorted bank, store and loyalty cards.
  • 3 out-of-date business cards (interestingly, zero current business cards).
  • A ticket to Wicked for January 2009 — in London.
  • A ticket to Hanson for September 2008 — in Seattle.
  • 70 cents and an American dime.
  • A bobby pin.
  • An underground ticket.
  • A subway ticket for an unknown city.
  • 11 different coffee cards.
  • A passport photo (just in case?).
  • A ticket to the Hospital ball (which was last Friday — but I designed the tickets, which makes it okay).
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Oh my God, it’s September? UNCOOL, WORLD.

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I’m having a spazzy day. I’m skipping over work like stones on a lake, bouncing off things and achieving nothing. My to-do list was abandoned mid-word; my last email mid-sentence. I keep leaving my lunch and coming back to it. Mouthful. Click on something. Wander off. Drink. Back to my lunch.

I need to run it out or write it out, but I don’t feel like doing either. Physically, I think I could fly apart at any minute, like my skin isn’t containing my insides anymore. I feel like I have a halo of wasted energy; a smudgy glow-in-the-dark outline. I’m pretty sure it would power your smaller appliances.

And… I just tipped my water all over the copy-edits of the document I’m laying out. Point made. Mess made. Where did my lunch get to?

—–

SEVERAL HOURS LATER:

Oh, right, this is what I was doing! Let’s talk about last weekend, also known as the Weekend of Stupid Rules. Because I said so, and today I don’t have to segue with any sense.

LIBRARY GUY: You can’t bring coffee into the library.
ME: But you have a café in the library.
LIBRARY GUY: I know. It’s just the rules.
ME: I’ve been taking coffee to other libraries without incident for several years now. I’m not even going to touch a book – I just need somewhere to write.
LG: Too bad. No coffee in the library.
ME: I assume there’s coffee IN THE CAFÉ?
LG: Yeah.
ME: Fine. I’m going to the café.
LG: You can’t…
Me: IF YOU TELL ME I CAN’T TAKE MY COFFEE TO THE CAFÉ, I WILL END YOU.
LG: Have a nice day.

PERSON ON DOORS AT CONCERT: There’s no pass outs.
US: We’re waiting on someone and all four of us are on this one ticket. Someone just needs to come downstairs and hand them the ticket when they arrive.
PODAC: No pass outs.
US: We don’t want to go OUT, just downstairs.
PODAC: No pass outs.
US: Will you hold the ticket for them, then?
PODAC: No. That will hold the line up.
US: You mean UNLIKE WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?
PODAC: One of you has to wait on this side of me until they arrive.
US: Yes. THAT makes way more sense.

WAITRESS: You can’t move that chair.
US: We moved it less than a foot.
WAITRESS: It’s a hazard.
US: There’s no one else here.

SHOP EMPLOYEE: You can’t bring your drink into the store.
ME: But your store sells food.
SE: It’s the rules.
ME: Wanna see something cool?

And then I killed her. True story.