Monthly Archives of: November 2010

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This may be disjointed because I wrote it really fast (mostly just to annoy Jef)

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It’s my birthday! Today I am 28 years old, which sounds like a REALLY BIG NUMBER, internet. Like, way bigger than last year. There is no longer any way to avoid that I’m in my LATE twenties, which really isn’t something I expected to happen to me. I’m now older than the optimum age at which to die tragically, which feels like a bit of a shame. I didn’t INTEND to become a game-changing musician and then kill myself, but it was nice to know I had the option.

I am writing this from my desk, which is in the same building I was born in. For a week or so my name was Geraldine (I assume because the nurses here REALLY DIDN’T LIKE ME), but despite this — and even though I had conjunctivitis and a lazy eye and cost twice what I should have — I somehow managed to acquire both a very nice family and a better name. (One day, internet, I will tell you the story about how my parents got a refund on me, because it is my FAVOURITE STORY, and my mum hates it. One of these may influence the other.)

I rocked that lazy eye.

And THEN, SOMEHOW, TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS PASSED.

TWENTY. EIGHT.

That is RIDICULOUS.

Usually on my birthday I write myself a letter (generally consisting mostly of hilariously optimistic creative goals, and a lot of promising to eat less KFC), but I’m not really in the mood to do that today. This year has been, to be honest, A BIT SHIT. A lot of it has been great, too, don’t get me wrong. I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot (and I drank a lot). Overall 27 is in the plus column, but letting go of Sparks was the hardest thing I’d ever done — right up until I started trying to write After, which leaves that experience for DUST.

I have been possessed of many EMOTIONS this year, not to mention riddled with insecurities, which I have thoughtfully placed on the internet for your consumption. (You’re welcome.) This has been hard for me (the emotions, not the over-share. I always over-share. Sometimes people tell me I’m brave for writing what I do here, which I always find somewhat concerning, since we are just CHATTING), as usually I am made of stone. Prickly stone. I don’t REGRET becoming a real boy… but it has yet to provide me any concrete benefits. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic. I expect one day to be rewarded with rainbows and unicorns and chardonnay falling from heaven, or whatever. Or by finishing a novel I can be proud of, which would actually be both nicer and less messy than a unicorn.

Most of what I learned this year was about letting go — I can’t control everything, as hard as I am sometimes prone to trying. Sometimes, writing just isn’t going to happen on my timetable. Sometimes I have to let ideas sit and brew. And most of the time, I have to live my life. It’s something I forget to do on occasion — I get so wrapped up in my writing, and in my GOALS and OBJECTIVES and TO-DO LISTS, that I forget to have any fun. I forget to go places and experience things, and guys, you cannot write of things if you have no frame of reference for them. Also, real things are the best things.

This is my reasoning for spending most of the last few months doing a lot of nothing much. But it has been FUN nothing much.

Most of what I screwed up with Sparks was in the emotions. The emotional drive was wrong, and I pulled back from writing FEELINGS because I don’t happen to like feelings very much myself. (Well, no, I LOVE feelings. I just like them to be felt by other people.) As may be fairly obvious, this doesn’t make a great novel. We read to feel. I should write to feel. I need to feel what I write.

Although After is currently ruining my life, at least it is ruining it because I want it to be BETTER. I want to FEEL IT. I want my characters to feel it. And that means I have to go to some places that I find VERY UNCOMFORTABLE, and then I have to stay there and FERRET ABOUT, mining out all those sticky, icky bits I tend to avoid in real life. I’m finding this harder than I can tell you, internet. But I know that it’s making me a better writer — and more than that, it’s making me a better PERSON.

Which is a long way of saying, MAN, YOU GUYS, sorry I’ve been such a whiner! Everyone I know has had to deal with a lot of my shit this year, and I really do appreciate it. One day it is all going to PAY OFF, and when I am super famous and awesome (ha HA HA) I will buy all of you a YACHT.

(To share. Not one each. Stop being so greedy.)

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Doug Rose – 1916-2010

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Last weekend, as I was cleaning out my room to move, I found the notes my grandad wrote for me when he was first teaching me to drive.

It took almost ten years, two other people and a river of tears before I actually got my licence, but I still remember that first lesson. It was in Grandad’s old Hillman, a lovingly maintained, boat-like monster with bench seats and no safety belts. In the 80s, when it was okay to do so, my grandparents would pack all us kids onto the sticky, overstuffed vinyl sofa of a back seat, and we’d trundle off to the Milk Bar for ice cream, or down to the river to catch whitebait. I loved that car, but trying to drive it was horrifying. It was massive and loud and unresponsive, and had the turning circle of a jumbo jet.

Grandad packed me in there anyway and white-knuckled the dashboard as we jerked and shuddered our way down to the beach and back. I remember grinding the gears around their lawn before dramatically giving up and refusing to get back in the car. I probably cried, because I don’t think I ever had a driving lesson where I didn’t (one time, my Dad and I almost drove off a cliff, and he sort of cried too), and Grandad patted me on the shoulder and shuffled off to his shed. Some time later he reappeared with the side of a box he’d torn up, on which he’d drawn me a series of diagrams about how gears worked, with numbered instructions of what to do and when.

I found that piece of box this weekend and packed it carefully to move — along with my tragically dramatic high school journals and pretty much every card anyone ever sent me — and I thought about how I wanted to write a blog about my grandparents while they were still alive to read it, because it seems insane to me that we wait until people die before trying to articulate what they mean to us.

The last few days, I’d been playing around with that idea. I have a half-written blog about moving, a finished but too depressing one about childhood dreams, several stunted moaning sessions about writing. Every time I opened this document to start writing, I’d end up messing around with something else instead. I had the blank file open in front of me on Wednesday afternoon when Dad called to tell me that Grandad had died.

—–

My grandparents are my favourite people. They have an acre of lawn and fruit trees cut out of the side of a farm in North Canterbury, and every summer my parents would ship my brother and me down there for six or seven uninterrupted weeks of parent-free swimming and climbing and making dams. When my mum and her brothers were young, the property was a strawberry farm. By the time we were born, the strawberry fields were lawn, but Grandad’s garden still covered a solid quarter of their land. I used to follow him around as he worked, and he’d talk me through splicing fruit trees or composting raspberries or training runner beans. We’d eat plums and apricots off the trees, and dig potatoes and carrots for Nana to clean for tea.

Grandad was a man of his generation — he went to war and he worked hard. He wasn’t overly affectionate or expressive with his emotions, but he had big, warm hands I liked to watch work, and he always talked to me like I understood what he was saying. He’d wind my nana up at dinner, and then tip me a big, grave wink over the gravy. He built us a rocking horse and an oven and a cot for my dolls, made and decorated my dollhouse — complete with little polka-dot curtains and tiny furniture — and, when we were older, helped my brother make the basketball hoop that’s still above their garage.

We used to be shorter.
He cleared us a badminton court and rigged up bikes and built a diving platform for the swimming pool, helped me make a hutt in the trees with walls and windows and an old toilet for a chair.

 I’ve let the housekeeping go a little lately.

Summers were different in the 80s. A kid with one eye and a big dog lived next door, and my cousins would come out to play Spotlight and Go Home Stay Home. Every so often Grandad would burn off the rubbish, since they lived too far out for it to be collected, and my brother and I would spend the afternoon drifting back and forth to poke at the fire, watching the smoke curl off into the sky. The lawn would turn brown and die in the sun, and we’d get sunburnt and scratched and callused and freckled, only coming inside to eat and sleep. I spent entire afternoons floating in the pool, pretending to be a mermaid. Sometimes, after everyone was asleep, I’d sneak outside and spin circles around the lawn in the dark, listening to the breeze whistle through the pine trees and the sheep shuffling sleepily behind the fence.

I had a rad bike in the 80s.

The property is getting run down now. The garden has been shrinking for years. The raspberry canes and strawberry patches are gone, and most of the fruit is eaten by the birds. The row of sheds and old chicken coops down the back are starting to fall apart, and the collection of bikes and cars and bottles and tyres that fill them are all dust-choked and rusted. The fireplace got replaced by electric heaters years ago, taking with it the huge stacked woodpile I spent days of my childhood climbing. The cover has fallen off the well in the field next door, and there are no kids around to collect up the sun-bleached sheep bones scattered under the trees.

The neighbours.

There’s a proper road to their gate now, instead of the little one-lane wooden bridge over the creek. We spent hours down there trying to dam the stream, or to catch its little flicky fish with our hands or butterfly nets. My grandparents’ mailbox has a number now and the street is full of other houses, but up until recently, Nana still made jam, and Grandad still shuffled around the garden with his walking stick.

In the last couple of years, though, he’d started to forget things — at first to get the mail or shut the door, but then how to work the toaster, how to tie his shoes. My nana looked after him as long as she could — people came to help him shower and dress, and to manage the gardens — and then he started spending a couple of days a week in the rest home, to give her a break. A couple of weeks ago their doctor intervened, and he was put into the home permanently. On Wednesday, while Nana was out with my uncle picking up some shopping before she went to visit him, he had a massive heart attack. He died quickly, before they could even get Nana on the phone. He was 94. A good innings, he might have said.

—–

I still don’t know how to feel. I’m sad that the last time I was in Christchurch I was sick, so I didn’t go and see him. I’m sad we didn’t have a conversation about how much he meant to me, and how much he and Nana defined my childhood. I’m sad that by the time I was old enough to want to hear his stories, he was too old to tell them. I’m sad that my nana will celebrate her 70th wedding anniversary alone in February.

But I’m glad he had a long life and a good life. I’m glad for all the summers we spent together, and all the afternoons I followed him around his garden, sitting by his heels as he talked me through weed spraying regimens or listed the various varieties of potato. He’d tramp around his sheds in ancient pants and a cardigan with holes in it, but he was always clean shaven, his white hair always slicked neatly back with Brylcreem. He told me about fixing planes, and boxing techniques, and cultivating strawberries. He tried to teach me to drive. He was a superb grandfather, and I’m lucky to have had him.

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I enjoyed the banks of unlabelled buttons and dials the most. Operating a spaceship must be HARD.

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Britt: Curiosity killed the cat.
Hank: Yeah, but I hear the cat had that shit coming.

(Terriers: still amazing.)

Last night I saw Alien for the first time. (As a fraidy-cat child, I spent most of the 80s watching The Care Bears Movie until the tape wore out. Don’t judge me. My cultural frame of reference is missing huge chunks because I tend to pick a movie and then watch it for a decade. The 90s were devoted almost exclusively to Point Break and Empire Records.)

You know the person who dies first in every horror movie because they WON’T LEAVE? The girl who goes towards the scary noise or the guy who insists on poking at the GIANT SECRETING ALIEN EGG?

Me. Totally me.

I would absolutely be that person. It sucks to know, because I’d like to believe I’d be the hero and save the day and, you know, LIVE. But the truth is that, in that scenario, I’d be the dude poking at the pulsating alien and saying stuff like, “but guys, it’s LEAKING! Hold up! Let me just sniff this…”

I’m a nosy person. It’s very close to being a compulsion. My friends know this, and frequently like to torture me with it. Rach likes to ask me on a regular basis if I want to smell her feet. Or her armpits. Or lick her face. Because she KNOWS that if she plants the idea in my head, I will feel obligated to follow through. In fact, it’s fair to say that I won’t be able to think about anything else until I do.

(This, in a round-about way, is how I ended up with two people trying to simultaneously hickey my legs last weekend. Which is COMPLETELY as weird as it sounds. There was a CONVERSATION, and it called for an EXPERIMENT, and I like concrete answers to these sorts of things.)

It’s kind of why I write, because I want to UNDERSTAND STUFF. I want to figure people out and experience things and have the freedom to discover the scent of unborn alien or what happens if a zombie eats your face. Or whatever.

Like, you know how when you’re standing on the top of a very tall building, all you want to do is jump off? Other people have this, right?

Thomas has taken to using this against me in a quest to systematically destroy any remaining shreds of innocence or hope I may possess. As a connoisseur of the sickest corners of the internet, he is working to show me things that will scar me for life. He wants my dreams to be haunted and my heart to be black. I’m finding it very hard, because even when I KNOW I do not want to see something — and may in fact be RUINED FOR LIFE by it — I still find it all but impossible not to look at it anyway. Or google it. Or research it extensively and then rock in a corner weeping and chewing on my fingers. He is promising to show me things that make 2 Girls 1 Cup look like the teddy bears’ picnic. I DO NOT NEED TO SEE THESE THINGS.

But part of me is curious.

So.

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Oddly, radio is the exception here. I don’t understand it either.

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I have a job interview today. I am VERY NERVOUS. As those of you who know me are aware (and those of you who don’t can probably guess, since, as the saying goes, [deity of choice] doesn’t give with both hands) I am CONSIDERABLY BETTER at writing than I am at speaking. MAKING SOUNDS is a messy and imprecise art that doesn’t give me time to properly ARRANGE MY THOUGHTS. They come out all willy-nilly and without proper structure, horrifying my internal editor.

It is my fondest desire that one day, when we all work remotely and making noises with your throat to communicate with your colleagues has become a quaint joke to share among friends — in much the same way as calling anyone who isn’t your mother on the phone is now — interviews can be conducted as a series of ESSAY QUESTIONS. Preferably (and I know this may not have a lot of popular support, but bear with me) UNDER EXAM CONDITIONS.

I WOULD BE SO GOOD AT THAT, YOU GUYS. I WOULD GET ALL THE JOBS.

As it is, I hope very much I do not tank. History suggests it’s even odds.

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Sincerely, me.

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Dear Lower Hutt,

I love you. I know you have a terrible reputation, but you’re the first place I’ve lived just because I wanted to live there, and I’ve enjoyed our time together a whole bunch. You may be full of teenage mothers in white pants and dudes with douchey rims, but you’re also full of cherry trees and wide, flat streets, and little rivers that meander about. I like rivers to meander. I also like old houses and deciduous trees, and you have both in abundance.

I’ll miss our wanders together, Hutt. I’ll miss finding one-eyed baby ferrets in the bush beside the river, and startling squadrons of ducklings out of the grass around Riverside Drive. I’ll miss the cats sunning themselves on the sidewalks and the random family of pukekos by that one bridge. I’ll miss the bookshops in Petone, even though I never remember to go to them, and I’ll miss the firebreaks, even though I hardly ever climb them.

I’ll especially miss the park outside the library — the empty aviary and the little stream, but mostly that ancient, crooked graveyard under those big old oaks. That’s my favourite place to write in the summer, tucked in the bowl of one of those trees with a bunch of long-dead settlers. I think well in cemeteries. My first novel (first first, not Sparks. You didn’t know there was one before that, did you? Ha! Trust me, you didn’t need to) was largely written in the cemetery at Vic, chain-smoking on top of a cracked mausoleum. (Unrelated story: I was there all day on 9/11, and thus managed to have NO IDEA about it until that night, when I stopped in at Scott’s work on my way home. At first I was convinced he was messing with me and I was watching a movie.)

It makes me sad to leave you, Hutt Valley. You’ve been good to me. But you’re not very practical and, frankly, the traffic on SH2 makes me want to AXE MURDER EVERYTHING. The mall is depressing, and how often I’m there is worse. Also, the white pants really are a problem.

I think I’ll probably be back one day. At a later date, in a different place, there’s a villa with a cherry tree with my name on it. But right now, I’m excited to move to a little castle in the sky — to be able to walk to work, and not worry about my car when I’m drinking, and go for steep, winding walks in the bush. I’m excited about the view and the native birds and summer in the city, and about the KITTEN I’m going to get next month.

I’m not excited about moving all my shit.

Neither is my dad.

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This one took a turn!

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Yesterday’s post was a little punch-in-the-face-y, right? That was unintentional. Sometimes my TONE gets away from me. I start to feel like words and I are in a FIGHT, or a complicated DANCE — snap! Step! Sharp left! Pow! — and I get so into the fancy footwork I don’t realise I’m shooting words at people like darts. Peppered like a pop gun. Other stuff that sounds good.

That paragraph isn’t finished. I expect I’ll just leave it there anyway. Something in me (the same thing that enjoys paragraphs that pack PUNCH?) gets a thrill out of that. My natural state is so anal-retentive about this stuff that I can’t read back old posts without editing them. It’s kind of EXCITING to leave an unfinished paragraph just SITTING THERE. Like I’m doing CRIME.

—–

I am already regretting saying I would try and blog every day. Yesterday that sounded like the best idea ever — I have so much to say! I could write SHORT blogs! I could write about SOCKS! Or MY LUNCH! I could bore everyone to tears and get away with it!

I forgot to consider that I’d also be boring myself. And that I eat the same lunch pretty much every day (I am a CREATURE OF HABIT, internet. A creature of habit and bagels). (Once, at my old job, I turned RIGHT instead of LEFT when I got out of the lift, and spent a week convinced that this meant I would be FIRED.)

All these promises I keep making are kind of like that first paragraph up there — in a weird way, I’m rebelling against myself. It makes me feel sick thinking about how I said I’d do all that STUFF yesterday, and how the odds of me actually being ABLE to do any of it are so slim as to be basically non-existent. Sometimes I feel like I throw these things out there because I can — because if I can break my own goals in front of everyone, they’ll lose their power over me.

I am, in all things, an over-achieving perfectionist. To the point where it basically crippled me for most of my childhood. I couldn’t bring myself to try new things or enjoy team sports or live with my mistakes. I had — and still have — a truly paralysing fear of failure that means that even blogging, to me, is like an extreme sport. For someone with an aversion to lying, I’ve always been a secretive person. It upsets a lot of my friends and family that I play anything that matters so close to the vest, but I need to be SURE I’m going to succeed before anyone knows there was a chance I could have failed.

The last couple of years, I’ve been actively trying to break myself of that. I tell people about job interviews before I have them. I talk about my feelings. I let people read my writing if they ask. I blog about a novel that currently sucks an entire mountain of ass. Little stuff. And the way I feel to do those things — to admit when I’m losing, to be open about disappointments, to let myself be rejected — is both unbelievably awful and an incredible high. Like the moment before a skydive when you’re dangling out of the plane, and your heart is hammering at your ribs because YOU CANNOT TAKE THIS BACK. The only way out is through.

The only way out IS through. It’s terrifying but it’s also freeing, to fail in public. To NOT be good enough. To promise the internet a bunch of stuff and then renege on it and appear to be an unreliable wastrel with a capslocking problem. Part of me gets a thrill out of that. Part of me feels like it’s a middle finger to my makeup; to the anal, narcissistic gnomes in my sternum that insist I will not be good enough until I am BETTER THAN EVERYONE AT EVERYTHING.

Those are the gnomes that still make me uncomfortable saying that I was a smart kid, because there was this ONE GIRL who beat me every single year, and SECOND IS NOT BEST. And I hated her, because she TRIED REALLY HARD. She worked for it and I didn’t, and my younger self truly and honestly believed that talent should trump effort. Effort was CHEATING, and as long as I never tested my limits, I could always have done better. This is also why it took me so long to finish a novel, because you cannot FAIL if you never try to succeed.

I don’t want to be that person. I’m not saying I want to be unreliable, or lose my ability to keep my promises or meet my goals. I’m happy to be AMBITIOUS — I just don’t want to be SCARED.

Guys, I crack my knuckles. I give the NW horoscope page WAY more credence than it deserves. Sometimes I’m REALLY LAZY, and when I’m drunk I snort when I laugh. Most of the time I don’t feel remotely equipped to write this book, and secretly I think everyone who tells me I’m pretty is either lying or wants something. I’m scared to be judged, to let people down, to be let down.

To let myself down.

I think what I’m learning, finally, is that it’s possible to admit I care about all of that without giving it power over me. I can fail and get back up. I can promise the internet stuff I can’t deliver. If people want to judge me or let me down, that’s okay. That’s their problem. I want trust to be something I choose to offer, rather than something I make people earn. I want to know that my confidence in myself isn’t dependent on the opinions of others; that I can take knocks and keep fighting. That fear isn’t holding me back.

—–

My dad just sent me an invitation to someone’s self-published, Secret-esque self-help book launch. Subject: would this be helpful?

Not really, father. But I appreciate the thought.

He is very old-guard about NETWORKING. I have tried to explain that Twitter is the old-boys network of the new generation, but as Twitter cannot provide a firm handshake or a lapel pin, he remains dubious.

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I should stop making empty promises in writing

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Internet, I tried to write for you on SERIOUS MATTERS. I really did. But I kept getting sidetracked by how much I hated the last episode of Glee–

(HOW, YOU GUYS, HOW IS THAT SHOW NOT ONLY STILL TRYING TO PORTRAY WILL SCHUESTER AS A GOOD GUY, BUT AS A ROLE MODEL? HOW. He makes my FLESH CRAWL. Also, Artie is a TOTAL COCK, and everyone seems to be letting it slide because he’s disabled. WHAT. THAT’S NOT OKAY EITHER! Kurt, why must I love you SO GODDAMN MUCH?)

–and then by over-sharing unattractive personality traits, such as how it is not so much that I do not like to lie, as it is that I do not like to NOT SAY THINGS IF THEY’RE TRUE. There is a difference, and the difference is knowing when to shut the fuck up. Which I don’t. (Obviously, since we are discussing this ON THE INTERNET.) So my views on frenemies, and on knights in shining armour and the general shittiness of waiting for external salvation as a plan, are now shelved for another time. Except for how I just managed to slide the gist of my opinion in there anyway. Zing!

—–

It’s my birthday at the end of the month.

This means I am having that pre-birthday crazy thing. You know that thing. The one where you decide to do EVERYTHING YOU MEANT TO DO ALL YEAR ALL AT ONCE RIGHT NOW, so you feel like it’s okay to get older because at least you ACCOMPLISHED STUFF?

This means that I intend to commit to writing 30,000 words this month, and to running that 10k, and to moving house, and MAYBE EVEN TO BLOGGING EVERY DAY, because that seems like it would be a fun thing to do and god knows I have A LOT OF FREE TIME.

In case it isn’t immediately clear, all of this will fall apart tomorrow. Potentially even later tonight, when I am supposed to go to the gym AND write 2,000 words AND actually cook dinner instead of subsisting solely on alcohol, couscous and canned chicken. AND PROBABLY ALSO SLEEP. GODDDDD. EVERY FUCKING NIGHT.

I also need to shoot a gun. I even found a handgun club in Wellington who take walk-ins on Sunday mornings — I just cannot seem to get there. My motivation for things that aren’t chardonnay or canned chicken has not been great, these last few weeks. I AM NOT PROUD.

But I AM often drunk. So.