Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rave: Friends

If you read this blog on the regular, you will know already that I'm pretty finnicky. I'm like an old farmhouse cat perched on a windowsill, swiping angrily at people's nether regions as they try to take a quiet whizz in an outhouse bathroom (What?! This may, or may not, have happened to me recently).

But every once in while, once in a blue moon, someone comes along and does something that makes you believe that they really care. Something that touches the deepest regions of your cold, dead heart. This happened to me today, readers. 

My wonderful coworker got me a gift because, in her words, "When I saw it, it just spoke of you. It was made for you and expresses your essence to the world." Well, she was right. Behold, my essence in a button:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rant: Bangs

I just got bangs. I think I look like Brenda Walsh:

* Yowser!

But the Manimal keeps calling me "Crom". 
Some googling alerted me to the fact that this may not be some cute nickname but rather an allusion to the fact that I look like an extra from Conan the Barbarian:

Well, I am not in the Cult of Doom, is that clear?! If anything I am one step closer to being Dylan McKay's obsession! Take that, Manimal!

Bucket List: Make Your Own Hell (Limit Three Toppings)

Note: If you're new to this particular feature (ie. my friend Big D and I's project to make a reverse bucket list of all of my past occupations so he can reverse-replicate my life) I suggest you catch up here, hereand here. Oh, and here.

Midtown Deli
* This is the actual deli where I worked. Yikes!

After my failed dalliance in the arts, I went back to my roots: food service. I saw an ad in the paper for someone who "speaks English and has flexible hours" or something to that effect. Since I could manage both of those things, I took a chance and went to the address on 46th Street. It turned out that it was an interview to work at a fast-paced Deli. For those of you not in the know, no-one eats real lunches in New York City during the week. Most people just sprint into a cavernous deli where they either pick out some pre-made panninis with names very loosely linked to their fillings (like the Wild West Santa Fe Peyote Fiesta Chicken Salad or the Lady Liberty Ellis Island Immigrant Pastrami Playground) or, if they're feeling feisty, tackle the Make Your Own Salad Bar where, if you take more than three nanoseconds to order, they will spit in your face.

We then take our $11 sandwich/salad back to work where we choke it down at our desk before resuming work. U!S!A!

Anyway, I went in and interviewed with a surly Irish woman named Mary. She asked me two questions: "Can you be here by 7am?" and "Are you illegal?" when I answered "Yes" to both of them, she offered me the job. Things were looking up! She gave me a soiled purple bow tie and told me to report back the following morning.

After my first day on the job I realized that Mary actually means "Satan" in Irish. I also realized why being an under-the-table employee was an asset: everyone there was deathly afraid of being reported. Mary ruled over her motley crew of illegals with an iron fist. She only allowed us to go the bathroom once per shift, and only with her begrudging permission. She also smoked incessantly in the kitchen, ashing in the "chili" with the "chef" who was a terrifying ogre of a man. (I apologize for the abundance of quotation marks, but until the English language gets its shit together and agrees upon punctuation for sarcasm, that's all I got. As an aside, you should probably read about my  heroes in this field Henry Denham and Alcanter de Brahm.)

As I was a native English speaker I managed to get the relatively "cushy" job of telephone delivery order taker. In other words, I was required to speak to pissed off secretaries and take hundreds of orders, each with more substitutions than a hockey match. The opportunity to make an error, and suffer a verbal keelhauling from Mary, was high considering I was fielding approximately a call a minute. Readers, this job marked the beginning of my deep seated mistrust of human beings. Oh, the things I saw! I felt like I had been sent undercover to expose the seedy side of deli work, like I was the Upton Sinclair of sandwich making. People regularly abused us with no shame. Stupid PR "darlings" in cut-price designer duds looked down on us as we scurried to fetch their spinach salads with dressing on the side. Douchebag tourists wasted our time with their inane questions, and by searching for their wallets in backpacks-worn-on-their-fronts. Sallow, portly men in suits avoided eye contact and barked orders for egg white omelets while questioning their life decisions.

All the while, the noble serfs of the deli proved themselves to be better human beings than any of these supposedly "high achievers", toiling and striving every day, our sad little bow ties wilting from the heat of the panini press. Sometimes Samir would risk Mary's ire and "accidentally" make too much of a smoothie. On these glorious days he would deliver the leftovers to us in tiny salad dressing containers so our illicit libation could be downed quickly and without a trace. Sometimes I think back to Samir and the others, their paper hats like flimsy crowns, and hope they eventually made it to a greater glory like private catering, or breakdancing in the subway.

Deli work just wasn't my thing. After I kind of peed my pants one time when Mary screamed at me I left, searching for my next travail. As the brisk city air dried Mary's spittle on my cheeks I pressed on, undaunted and unsubmitted, the memory of my deli time remaining indelibly stained on my psyche, like a picked beet dropped on a silk tie.

Next up: Nepotism and label making in Florida and the seamy underbelly of the hotel industry.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bucket List Pt 3: Pain, Nudity and a Capuchin monkey

Note: If you're new to this particular feature (ie. my friend Big D and I's project to make a reverse bucket list of all of my past occupations so he can reverse-replicate my life) I suggest you catch up here, here, and here.

I had begun the hunt for my first under the table job. Pre 9-11 , New York wasn't the judgey, "everything's above board, nothing to see here, move along" place it is now. Today, I feel bad for the up 'n coming illegals who have to battle with the Internet and databases which will bust them in an instant. I still had the ability to walk into various shady operations and try out my luck. Aside from being illegal, I had the added disadvantage of having approximately no skills (unless you count my fruit picking prowess or my mini donut frying talents). As you can imagine, this limited the job pool quite substantially.

Artist's Model
The first job I found involved nudity, pain and a Capuchin monkey.

The Manimal has many hidden talents (including but not limited to: lancing boils, creating snake oil type "elixirs", flying into rages, staring, building model airplanes and facial hair landscaping) but his greatest skill is, in fact, painting. Here, check it out:

* That ain't no photograph.

When we met, Manimal was honing his craft at art school, his gold chain glinting erroneously amongst all the wallet chains. One day I was waiting for him to finish cleaning up his brushes after a class when I saw the saggy old man who had just been posing in the raw receiving a crumpled wad of Benjamins from the teacher.

I have had many bad ideas in my lifetime, like the time I pushed my brother down the stairs in his stroller, or when I convinced the special needs girl in high school that a) I was invisible and b) that I communicated with Jonathan Brandis on my "hand fax"(hey, it was the 90s!). However, deciding to make a living as a nude artists' model when I was, in fact, a highly repressed Australian illegal immigrant with crippling insecurities may top the list.

* Stop judging me, Brandis.

I arrived for my "audition" in a dark basement on Spring Street unsure of what was coming. Varied and sundry other "models" loitered about butt nekkid, encompassing the full spectrum of human lunacy. In terrifying addition, there were about 30 people with easels and art materials who were about to render, in great detail, the nooks and crannies of my shame. A bell rang and we all had to disrobe and begin a grueling series of 5 minute poses. It was like nude voguing. Being New York City the place where the best of everything (dog walkers, insane people, hipsters) come to claim their place at the top, these models were serious. All of the participants wanted to be the best and most interesting nude. One dude seemed to be doing some sort of x-rated downward dog. Another woman was splayed out on the floor, legs akimbo.

"Holy crap," I thought as I basically did variations on a contrapposto in an attempt to hide my bits as best as I could. I was channeling Botticelli's Birth of Venus but I looked more like someone unfortunate caught in the background of a domestic raid on C.O.P.S. I wish I could say that after finding my inner goddess I rose phoenix-like and performed pose after pose, culminating in a spirited slow clap from my inspired audience.

* This was not me

Sadly, instead I slinked off stage and awkwardly put on my clothes in a dirty corner. It was terrible. You know when you go to hastily put on your clothes in a locker room so you don't moon people and then you fall over while putting on your socks, or get your legs twisted in your pants? I was doing all of those things but in front of a room of clothed people. I was also distracted by my concerns about being attacked by a Capuchin monkey. It had been perched on one man's shoulder while we were modeling and Manimal had told me it had viciously attacked him one time simply because he was wearing a hood. I did not want to be the victim of a Travis the Chimp situation. 

Thankfully, I made it past the irate simian by avoiding eye contact.  Then the witchy lady who ran the artist's group bid me adieu, gave me $30 and sent me back out on to the grey streets of Manhattan, still unemployed.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bucket List Pt.2: Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams: Illegal Alienhood in Manhattan

Note: If you're new to this particular feature (ie. my friend Big D and I's project to make a reverse bucket list of all of my past occupations so he can reverse-replicate my life) I suggest you catch up here and here .

So, I had absconded from Dunedin and its itinerant work and, after a brief sojourn in the Orient where my father was living, I decided to move on. But to where? I had had enough of 18 year-old solo travel and my gap year was coming to a quick end.

Anyone who has read this blog more than one time will know the obvious and logical answer to this question. Has there ever been born anyone with a more hearty love of the U!S!A! than me, Veronica Montebellucci?

Who secretly, and creepily, had decided that Astoria, Oregon was their personal Arcadia at age 10 and then later made a pilgrimage there nigh on 20 years later to circle the Goonies house seven times? Whose number one best memory is eating Space Dogs at the whimsically named "Lunch Pad" at Cape Canavral?
*Permission to lunch!

Who, in elementary school, purposely became friends with the American exchange student, Corey, who then invited us over for a sleep-over and then her mom was so nice (like a movie Mom) and let us have PANCAKES AND DONUTS FOR BREAKFAST!!

Who is heartily in favor of those 72oz Coca Cola growlers that they sell at the Maryland House rest stop? That's right, the answers are me, me, me and me.

This love of Los Estados Unidos runs in the family. My brother, Dr. Poobelle and I were essentially latchkey children, raised on a steady diet of American programs. Every day we used to loudly perform a duet to the theme song from Step by Step. Hell, when it was the height of "Cool Britannia" in 1990s Melbourne

Poobelle unapologetically wore Charlotte Hornets basketball gear when everyone else thought the NBA meant the National Bogan Assocation. He subsequently got rolled by some teenaged thugs from Frankston for his metal plated baseball hat. Sadness.

**It was a fine hat, to be sure, exactly like this one my man Vanilla Ice is sporting. On a side note, I'm glad Madonna seems to have dropped the zero and got with a hero here.

I believe that I have already mentioned the time we went on a 36-hour Dr. Pepper binge before it was commercially available in Australia and got to the point where we actually thought we were invincible.  In fact, when in Texas 7 years later, we made it a point to go to Waco, its pet cemetary and the Dr. Pepper factory.

* I didn't say we actually stopped there...

Yes, I am the preeminent yankophile and so I booked that ticket for New York Fricken City.

* Look at my city, doin' its thing!

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "New York is a sucked orange". Ralph clearly wasn't tripping the light fantastic in 1990s Gotham. If he were, his metaphor might have been "New York is a pancake-wrapped sausage on a stick". It was glorious. I flew in to the pre-revamped JFK international "airport" which, if anyone remembers, was like a dystopian wasteland. After being greeted with the customary berating by disgruntled TSA workers, I fought off a crackhead, grabbed my luggage from a pile on the floor, dodged something on fire and beat a path to Manhattan. On my first night, something marvelous and utterly life changing happened. No, I didn't eat my first 6-foot hoagie; I met The Manimal! While that's a story for another day, needless to say New York had delivered.

Now that I had found the Manimal of my dreams, there was only the pesky problem of how I was going to stay in the land of the free. I was on a visa waiver which basically meant if I didn't leave in 60 days, a pack of overzealous minutemen would come to my illegal Harlem sublet and deport me. It also meant that I couldn't be legally employed. Being 18 and full of good ideas, I decided the logical solution was to find illegal, underground work. Yes, I was going to become an illegal alien.

Next Episode: Nudity, Pain and a Capuchin monkey....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

RIP Roberts Blossom

It is a sad day here at ijustwanttoconquerpeopleandtheirsouls. Roberts Blossom gentleman, poet and all around BAMF died yesterday. Sadness.

Those regular readers will recall my heartfelt ode to the Salt Man, and my general hero worship of the man who taught Kevin Mcallister (and us, dammit) about the power of forgiveness and demonstrated,  with a well-wielded snow shovel, the importance of vigilante justice.

Rest in peace, good sir. I hope the pavements of heaven are salted with diamonds.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rant: Tom's of Maine

In my last post I waxed amorous about the King of all seasons: Summer. Things I enjoy about summer include (but are not limited to):
- fireflies
- reveling in becoming mahogany rather than sullenly accepting my usual skin tone
- ending my work at the human processing factory for 67 glorious days that leads into...
- my annual self-dubbed "Summer of Me" which essentially consists of me pretending I am Dickie Greenleaf from The Talented Mr. Ripley:

* Now there's a man who knows how to mahoganize

One thing I do not enjoy about summer is stinky pits. Which brings me to the latest in my seemingly neverending list of embarrassing life moments. 

Recently, I made a pilgrimage "out west" (like Sal Paradise, or actually more like an unchaperoned Lennie) to Portland, Oregon. While in Rip City, I began to change and morph into a different, gentler Ronnie. Maybe it was the quinoa flakes I was eating for breakfast, or perhaps the hemp milk I was forced to douse them with, but I became obsessed with the idea that I should transcend judgment and, you know, "the man" and revert back to a healthy, natural state. One revelation I came to was that my deodorant was trying to kill me. Not a John Matrix-style redemption death or a T2000-sent-back-through-time-to-destroy-me-for-the-good-of-the-future kind of thing. No, more like a slow, soul sucking, malignant death. Like quietly realizing that you have become that person who exclusively eats Kraft cheese singles in the dark for dinner.

I asked the people around me for advice. As they dusted the amaranth flakes off their holey thrift store cardigans, they all told me the same thing: aluminum is the Devil's anti-persirant. If you put it pit-side you will get cancer. And die. 

I rushed to my trusted Lady Mitchum "powder fresh" scented gel, scanned the back and sadly discovered that which I had been dreading: the "A" word. What to do? The Good Lady (as I call her) has always treated me well. In exchange for some cancer and outrageous pit stains from her oxidization, The Mitch has seen me through such sweaty endeavors as navigating a 120 degree Laotian death march, a gazillion job interviews, my wedding, skydiving and making Dan Merino a martini with cocktail onions. Her self proclaimed guarantee, "So Effective You Could Skip A Day" is true, guys!

* If you don't want to stink when you finally meet Hightower from Police Academy in person, this is your answer (tried and tested).

But what to use instead? The Portlandians suggested "crystals". Ugh. In order for me to even consider using crystals to contain my stench, it would have to be some sort of crystal mined from the depths of the River Styx or one forged by Sauron himself.

* Something like this...
Confused about my next steps I made my fatal error: I asked The Manimal.

Those of you who keep up with this weblog know that Manimal is a complicated fellow. On one hand, Manimal has precious little time for the flippant whims of dandies and "girly men". He has been known to burn the undesirable parts of himself off with computer keyboard cleaner. He also advocates using electrical tape to solve almost any problem, be it corporeal or domiciliary. However, on the flip side, Manimal is also strangely obsessed with natural remedies, Asian medicine and "wellness". In addition to drinking a secret homemade "elixir" each morning, he also uses natural products exclusively and brushes his teefs with a toothbrush made completely of "boar bristles".

* It kind of looks like this...

This, readers, is the single grossest toothbrush I have ever used. When you apply even the slightest pressure, the bristles fall out in your mouth causing the unfortunate effect of having to pick wild pig fur out of one's teeth at inopportune moments throughout the day. So, foolishly, I overlooked his personal predilictions and asked Manimal for counsel on the deodorant quandry. After about 15 minutes of prattle that I blocked out, he stated, "Tom's. Tom's of Maine."

According to their website, "Tom's of Maine was founded by Tom and Kate Chappell in 1970 with just USD $5,000. The company is based in Kennebunk, Maine...The company's products are intentionally made without ingredients that are either artificial, have a negative environmental impact, or are tested on animals." Well, I'm not surprised their products fall into Manimal's favored list, however I wasn't so sure. I generally prefer to rely on things that are made in a lab like Ambien, or Anthrax. This is why I like the U!S!A; back home in Australia you practically have to sign over the deed to your house to get some fricken Sudafed. When I had a cold there, instead of riding the green dragon (my beloved NyQuil) I was forced to take some bullshit like St. John's Wart and sniffle in misery until daybreak. 

Also,  people seemed to think a lot of dubious things were a good idea back in the 70s. To wit:

* Mmmmm, delicious

Or how about this:

* So tasteful. Carpet was a good idea too.

And if I have to explain why EXPOLODING AN 8 TON WHALE CARCASS WITH DYNAMITE IN ORDER TO DISPOSE OF IT is a bad idea guaranteed to go horribly wrong, then I don't know how to help you.

* This is the best video ever made.

I should have listened to my misgivings about applying a deodorant that is vegan (good lord) but I dutifully selected the "Lavender 24 hour odor protection"; it sounded the most delightful of the options. "Great", I thought to myself, "I'll smell like the English countryside on a late Summer's afternoon." The next day was forecast to be 90 degrees and humid. Perfect. As Tom's website helpfully noted, my deodorant wouldn't have any problems standing up to Helios' fury because: "Hops inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Sourced from castor beans and the mineral zinc, zinc ricinoleate is known to help trap odor molecules and absorb bad smells. Natural fragrance helps mask odor". Castor beans didn't sound quite as promising as the pharmaceutical fortitude of Aluminum but I was still happy I was giving the Big C the middle finger.

*OK, castor beans, treat me right.

I engaged in my usual toilette which consists of standing, shivering, under a modest trickle of tepid Brooklyn water wondering if today would be the day that I will finally jump victoriously out of the way before the water turns Napalm hot. It wasn't. After toweling off, I applied my Tom's. First off, know this readers: Tom's goes on all foamy. So, instead of dressing, you have to just linger there for a few minutes until it dries, arms hoisted overhead. Kind of like you're in an imaginary nude stick-up.

Once I got over that hurdle everything seemed to be going fine. I followed my usual morning routine (stomping angrily to the subway, hating strangers with the intensity of ten thousand suns, questioning my life decisions and then arriving to work where I refuse to look at, or speak to, my young charges until a loud bell signals that, sadly, I must) until 10 am when I realized something - I stank! I was as redolent as the Manimal after his wrassling. I smelled as funky as our laundry bag at the end of a week. I reeked.

After a day spent clenching my arms violently by my sides, I'd had enough. At around 2 pm, I had to HIDE IN MY CLOSET AND SPRAY DR. SCHOLL'S FOOT POWDER ON MY PITS because the smell was emanating and I had no other options. Foot powder! On my ocksters! In hiding! How the mighty had fallen. Tom - j'accuse! Damn you! Damn you to Hell! What kind of sick madmen do you have in your employ? How could you inflict this on a fellow human being? You think a bit of hops and some castor beans are enough to stop the runaway train of odor that is my pits? No, sir, it is not.

And while I'm ranting, let's look at some of Toms' other "products" shall we?
Really? Are you serious? "Cinnamint" toothpaste with "propolis and Myrrh"? Well, I guess if it's good enough for Baby Jesus, it's good enough for the rest of us. It can't possibly get any grosser than this. Oh wait, yes it can. 
FENNEL flavor! Sick! I'm sure my fellow commuters will really enjoy my fennel-and-coffee scented hot-ass breath wafting over them on the 4 train at 8 am each morning.

Buyer Beware! Tom's of Maine is officially the worst thing EVER

4 things I hate less than Tom's of Maine:
1. Misused apostrophes

2. "Life is a Highway" by Tom Cochrane

3. When Kelly got with Dylan

* Noooooooooo!!! Brenda forever!

4. When I was cornered and forced to listen to a co-worker's poem that included an extended metaphor comparing her clitoris to a clownfish.

* "Oh, hai. I'm just going to make you feel awkward now."

Readers, do yourself a favor. Use any other deodorant than Tom's. Hey, you may get cancer but at least you'll have friends. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rave: Randall's Animal Planet

Hola readers!

Yes it's been a while. Last time we spoke I was desperately trying to keep a lid on my hate jar, while the world around me succumbed to the cruel icy stylings of Old Man Winter. We all know my feelings on winter but yesterday was the first day over 85 degrees and my reptilian heart began to thaw. 

* summersummersummersummer!

Yesterday was like when you're waiting for a blind date and they're really late. You've ordered a drink but you can't drink it too fast or you'll look like a sad alcoholic and you wish you had a goddamned smartphone to play with. Finally, your blind date appears and is so smoking hot that you immediately forget that you were recently wishing that their progeny would be conjoined twins (who were also giant ranga douches who can't spell). Yesterday was like that; so glorious that I would have forgiven it even if it had chosen to end with a Devil's Whirl

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that I am finally crawling out of my funk, coming out of hibernation if you will. I finished getting my learn on at Katherine Gibbs for this semester, and my work at the Department of Engineering a Terrifying Tomorrow is going on its annual summer hiatus - so I'm free! Freer than that crazy, shoe-licking man on the subway!

* This beats Manimal's famous spit shine, no question

So expect plenty of posts coming your way. I'm having a staycation this summer, no going rogue for me. In the meantime, enjoy a new favorite of mine: a man named Randall who narrates nature videos the way they should be narrated all the time. He is basically my id.

**Honey Badger don't give a shit.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bucket List Pt.1: Itinerant Worker and Miniature Donut Maker

For those of you not aware of my latest theme, see the previous post. I am currently bringing you on a tour of my life through my many varied and strange jobs. This very journey is being undertaken as part of a quasi "Bucket List" by my friend Big D who will attempt to get his mojo back by living my life in reverse.

Let's kick it off with the one that started it all.
1. Itinerant Worker:

When I was 17, my mother moved me and my brother from the most hoity-toity suburb of Melbourne to the boganiest suburb in the greater Melbourne area. I have mentioned before this municipality's notions on crime prevention and culture so i won't rehash all that here. All I will say is thank god for Melbourne's "Zone" system which tells you exactly how undesirable you are. We essentially moved from Zone 1 to "grey shaded area".

* The white part is the ocean...

I wasn't upset with losing the upscale neighborhood because I was in the midst of a very 90s obsession with cloaking myself in Led Zeppelin T-shirts and filth while being aggressively glum. I was however against being heckled from speeding Holden Commodores and being threatened with physical violence on my daily 2 hour (!) commute because I wore the (undeniably tauntable) school blazer.

* Oh no, no-one would *ever* make fun of a purple and gold uniform with a giant lion sewn on the pocket. Look at these poor Samoan exchange students hating life. She's crying on the inside...

I will say that this move prompted me to find a way out with the intensity of a thousand fiery suns. I redirected all the energy I had once spent on yelling at my mother and listening to Dinosaur Jr. into my escape. With a combo of birthday and Christmas money and savings I bought a round the world ticket for a year beginning on the day after graduation.

*An aside: There are many instances of teenaged assholery that I regret, but the one which I believe truly reflects how much of a jerk I was is that I made an "uncomfortable mix tape" especially for the already poignant ride to the airport with my mother. This cassette included the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" and "Cat's in the Cradle". I know, I know, I will definitely paying for that karmically at some point.

But, just because i had this ticket didn't mean my problems were over. No sir! I had to find a way to earn the funds to help me make absconding a feasible reality. Cue my Auntie G.

Before we go any further, it is important for you to understand the dichotomy which exists within my family. One the one side are the ne'er do wells (namely me) who were raised to be "ragbags" under the tutelage of my father. No disrespect, I think he was right. Ragbags are awesome. However, on my mother's side is a veritable ocean of piety and goodness. My Auntie G and her husband live on an idyllic farm, are local pillars of the community and have raised three strapping lads who help old ladies with their groceries and rescue children from burning buildings. They were even featured in a real documentary entitled "Knee benders and elbow benders" which highlighted the difference between their pious, righteous lives and those of the local pub dwellers. 

* They live here.

I have long harbored a sneaking suspicion that I am the Antichrist because very time I have gone to their house I have become violently ill for no reason. I'm talking hives and projectile vomiting the moment i get out of the car but which magically cease once we hit the city limits.

Anyhoo, Auntie G heard of my plight and told me that the kids were all going to spend the summer fruit picking in Southern New Zealand to raise money for the coming year. "Wizard!" I said. And so, I packed up my Doc Marten boots, my velvet choker and my bootleg flare jeans and headed off into the unknown.

This would be me and my cousins - the apple pickin' gang- having the time of our lives, makin' memories etc.

Apple picking turned out not to be the ideal first job. We were expected to pick approximately 1 million apples in 4 hours just to make enough money to buy a pie and a ginger ale from down the street for lunch. The day would begin with a 45 minute uphill bike ride to the farm because my cousins didn't have cars and were also as fit as tri-athletes. I, however, was coming off a few years where my only forms of aerobic exercise were running for the train, straining my upper body in order to blow illicit cigarette smoke out of my bedroom window and wrestling my brother for the best spot in front of the television. I had to take a nap under my apple tree when I got there.

Needless to say, my cousins were the superstars of the apple picking community, making cash hand over fist and tucking in to bed early after singing a few rounds of Kumbayah. I, however, was about as happy as a vegan at the Big Texan. So, the next day, when I was befriended by the locals (or "townies" as I believe they are referred to in the U!S!A!) I was ecstatic. Things were looking up! They would give me a lift to work every day in their hotted up, marijuana-scented bogan-mobile which they had taken the mufflers off of to increase their nuisance quotient:

Every lunch time they would come and collect me, and we would go to the pub to fill up what they told me were called "riggers" which were essentially empty 2 liter coke bottles that the pub would fill from the keg for a discounted rate. Once you got your rigger, you were mobile and could proceed to the park, abandoned golf course or out by the dam and be "no good kids" with ease.

Needless to say, this arrangement did not bode well for my apple picking job. Around week two, my boss took all of the kids who weren't cut out for doing the job (which I believe machines have been invented for already) and gently told us that we should look down other avenues of employment. I think my cousins were promoted.

I needed to find a new way to make that paper. Luckily, the townies knew everyone in the fruit picking game and quickly arranged for me to work in another arena of nomadic employment: raspberry picking.

While apple picking was the New Zealand option for middle-class white kids fresh out of high school to learn responsibility before heading off to their tertiary studies, raspberry picking was a major step down the ladder. When I arrived at work, I realized that this was hardcore. First, raspberries grow on bushes, bushes with ouchy prickly velcro leaves. Also, raspberries are very difficult to pick without smooshing. If you smoosh them, you get in trouble with the bossman. Incidentally, the bossman down at casa de raspberry was quite different from my old apple boss. Whereas Appleman was a ruddy-cheeked jolly farmer, Raspberryman was more like Boss Godfrey:

Speaking of Cool Hand Luke, here's a treat for all of you ladies out there:

* You're welcome

Do you know how many raspberries you have to pick to fill a bucket? A shit ton, that's how many. It also doesn't help that raspberries are possibly my favorite fruit of all time. In New Zealand during summer you can buy a kilogram of raspberries for a pittance. When I was little, I routinely ate an entire kilo by myself and each time would be crippled by gastrointestinal distress. It never made me slow down. I would eat raspberries like it was my business. Anyway, you can imagine how I spent the first few hours of my new job:

* One for you, one for me...

Later, as I lay clutching my belly, lips and fingers stained a dark purple, I began to notice the other workers around me. They didn't look like future college students, or even families picking fruit in a banal attempt to "do something together for once, goddammit". No, these were pros. I watched as they toiled under the midday sun, their nimble fingers pulling perfect raspberries off the bushes and dropping them into their overflowing buckets. They also ran the gamut from very old to well below the legal working age. They even had little foetuses using their webbed fingers to clutch onto the low hanging fruit.

After making some inquiries, I learned that I was working with illegal Cambodian refugees. They had probably escaped the horrors of Pol Pot's killing fields in order to make a better life. Every time a helicopter would fly overhead, they would get very antsy. Here I was, a privileged asshole with no idea how to pick fruit, eating all of their possible profits with a cavalier disregard for my own employ. No wonder I had no friends.

I immediately felt highly out of place. The fetus was giving me a bitchy side-eye glance every time I placed another stone in my bucket to weight it down. "Shame on you," it seemed to be saying, "I came out early, and do what needs to be done for my family to survive and you have a big fat mouth like a monster. I hope you die." Well, with the stones and gorging, my stint as a pro-raspberry picker was doomed from the outset and I was summarily given the heave ho. 

2. Miniature Donut Maker at a Country Fair.

After the fruit picking debacle, i was desperate for another means by which to make money. Luckily for me, my bogan friend's Uncle Wayne owned a miniature donut truck which he would operate at local fairs, sporting events and in abandoned train station parking lots. He heard I was after work and offered me a weekend gig in the cart. So, I arrived one dreary saturday morning, donned a hairnet and waited for instructions which were (verbatim):

"Melt the lard 'til it bubbles then make sure none of the batter clogs, or you're fucked." 

Readers, I have felt the sweet sting of sizzling oil hitting human flesh. Repeatedly. I still harbor scars on my knuckles from it. When I was in there, watching helplessly as mini-donut after mini-donut plopped out of the machine, each betraying me anew by allowing its delectable body to launch into the bubbling oil and sting me with its deadly splash, I couldn't help but identify with Tupac who sagely noted, "My only fear of death is to be reincarnated".

It was like a bizarre form of Chinese water torture except with cinnamon sugar and rendered animal fat. Needless to say, I didn't re-up for another tour.

Next up:
"Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams: Illegal Alienhood in the Big Apple".

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rave: My Bucket List


While I may now be in a period of stable employ, it has not always been this way. Luckily for me, the large urban bureaucracy which hired me has more than enough psychos to keep them busy before they get to an insignificant curmudgeon like myself.

However, before landing in this coven of uselessness (where even I look like I dwell in the upper echelons of effectiveness) I toiled in a mindblowing array of menial jobs.

In fact, readers, I am a little like the Imelda Marcos of jobs: collecting positions and stashing the memory of them in my own mental walk-in closet of nightmares. My experience is so vast and varied that (to extend the previous metaphor) to retrieve the memory of a specific job I would require one of those Clueless-style wardrobe computers to sort through my past jobs based on categories like "hemisphere", "level of meniality", and "humiliation?" before it would hit a match and the electric motor would whirr, bringing the long forgotten profession back to the surface of my consciousness.

A little while ago my good friend, who I'll name Big D, was a little bored with life. You know that feeling, when you're pondering throwing it all in and becoming a traveling Luke Perry Impersonator, or joining the Cambodian Landmine Victims' Orchestra, just for a change of air. Big D wasn't ready to make such a drastic life decision as all that, but he was itching for some way to feel alive again.

I was wondering how I could make his trials all about myself when I stuck upon a brilliant idea: I would fashion a "Bucket List" for Big D to follow! For those of you unfamiliar with the 2007 Nicholson/ Freeman vehicle of the same name (which imdb synopsizes thusly: "Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die") a "Bucket List" is an inventory of dreams, desires and flights of fancy which people hope to achieve in order to make their life seem less worthless. This was the perfect way to rejuvenate Big D's spirit! But what could it be made of? I didn't want anything crazy like "Kill a man just to watch him die" or "Eat the 72-ounce 'Big Texan' in Amarillo, Texas" (plus, those are both on my own bucket list).

* I got this, no problem

I needed it to be something achievable and worthy of a man whose defining quality is that he brings mirth and laughter to every single person he meets. He can, as he says, understand a person's "essence" and appreciate them for it. This Bucket List, as I envisioned it, should expose him to the maximum variety of people, situations and essences that he could explore.

One day, my wife was talking about itinerant workers when I chimed in with my experiences picking raspberries with some refugees whose work ethic far eclipsed my own. Well accustomed to my various employment-related anecdotes, my wife just rolled her eyes and continued with her point. But suddenly, an idea came to me with a lightening clarity similar to the one which had told me to weigh down my raspberry bucket with stones in order to get some extra dollars.

* Dollar dollar bills y'all! Wearing a money diaper *and* a case of Natty Ice? Will you marry me?

I would make Big D's Bucket List a list of all of my old jobs. He would have to try to cross as many off as possible (with some wiggle room in terms of duration of employ, location and pay). This way, he could live an alternate life. My life! Me, me, me, me, meeeee! My whole plan, because I have seen far too many Hollywood movies, was that Big D would realize that to search for his heart's desire he should never really go beyond his own back yard. If he couldn't find it there, I reasoned, he'd never really had it to begin with. He would be rejuvenated! Failing that, at least he might have some good times with some winged monkeys and an androgenous man in a shiny grey suit.

So, now you are prepared for where we are about to go. You best get your popcorn and slanket because we're going to be here for a while. In each new post, I will be taking you on a tour of my life, through that very list that I fashioned for Big D all those days ago.

I will regale you with tales including, but not limited to:
- The time I dabbled in nude artist's modeling.
- My forays into illegal alien-hood at a midtown deli.
- Suffering third degree burns while making miniature donuts in a rusty van.
- Learning how to abuse children and stalk their dreams at an underground Russian daycare
- Being part of the seamy underbelly of a "luxury" hotel where I had the honor of delivering room service to Australian musical legend Kamahl.

Part 1: Itinerant Worker, coming soon!