Redneck Dad

The following content may offend some readers.

Be warned. I sit down on a sunny morning, surrounded by a slumbering household, as nothing more than master of this keyboard. An over-weight, balding, arthritic, white, middle class (I suppose) male. And somehow, I am supposed to be apologetic for that.

Because I am white, older and was born and bred in the South Island, I am racist, sexist, misogynistic, ultra conservative with a big red streak emblazoned across the back of my neck.
giphy (2).gif
I am the victim.
The victim of pigeon-holing. I have been labelled, my persona apparently so on display, the role I play in society can be summed up at a glance.

We all judge and are all judgmental. I get that. I do it too.
Everyone does and there doesn’t have to be any harm in doing so. If nothing else, it is a protective mechanism, one designed so we find ourselves in the company of like-minded people. An attempt, on the most part subconsciously, to group ourselves among our peers and avoid those with whom we may have some form of conflict. Sure, it is contrived, constructed, part of societal ‘norms’ we are conditioned to accept and rarely, if ever, question.

It means, because I hail from the south of this split nation and therefore my accent is different, I must be racist. It means, because I am of a certain age and skin colour, I must be conservative and materialistic.
It is assumed I am educated, have a job, am not divorced. It is assumed I drink Speights, when the reality is I have been steadily working my way through anything and everything crafty with a medal on it. I still like a cold Speights after a hard days work but given my middle aged spread, quality over quantity is a notion driven by health, as well as budget.
I am supposed to drive a hulking, modern, bright and shiny 4WD I don’t need, while the wife bops around in something eco-friendly, European. We might even have a boat or a bach or a combination of the two. Maybe even stocks and bonds, whatever that means, a rental property or two. Mum and Dad investors.
Our kids go to good schools and always have shoes on their feet and jackets to ward off the rain. They do, I was there when we purchased some of that stuff, but you try getting them to wear their protective layers when they are needed.
Basics, our budget is capable of that at least, even while we are not driving flash cars or taking island holidays.

Essentially, as my hair turns a distinguished shade of peppery gray (ok, what is left of it), because I can read and write, because I can spell and count, because I know how to communicate in full sentences using the English language, as my generation and the ones before recognise it, I must be a National Party voter. Or something like that.
One of my big regrets in life to date, is my inability to fluently speak another language or two, be it Te Reo or one of the romance languages. (If you can’t look sexy, why not sound it?).
No great dramas then. No real stresses. If I all I have to worry about is the my inability to babble away in another language, then there can’t be too much going wrong. Right?
Because, good people, their isn’t. Not really.

 Of course, this process works just as well in reverse. All Maori can sing. All Maori have rhythm and can dance. (I can play the drums, meaning I know and have rhythm, as white as I am, but man you don’t wanna see me dancing!)
Generalisations like this make our little clusters of society struggle to mingle. Instead of celebrating differences, we look to segregate and marginalize and the fault is as much with the so called minority, as often as not. I witnessed it with international students attending Otago University. There was a reticence to socialise outside of the small cultural circle these groups bought with them. If they did, it was with other students from foreign cultures.
New cultures can be daunting. Language barriers can seem insurmountable. Establishing yourself in a new and foreign environment, even if it is just the neighborhood across town, a new town, or on in a whole other island, is no easy thing and of course trying to be a part of an already settled group structure, the new kid on the block, is a daunting task.

We have moved around enough over the last few years to note it is the new kids on the block who have the least issue with the new and the untried.
They don’t see colour like we do, don’t hear a foreign tongue like we do.
Kids aren’t blind and deaf to differences, but they are far more accepting, less concerned about the difference and far more interested in common ground. Play, sport, the classroom are all great levelers and children find their fit in no time.
There is always the loner, the one who doesn’t fit, who stands out via their desperate attempt to do exactly the opposite.
Don’t worry about them until the the teen years and in this country, don’t worry too much. Our loner, social misfits don’t have access to automatic weapons.

Adults find it harder to meet and greet for some reason. Caught up too much, maybe, in the preconceived and the contrived.
Workplaces provide an avenue to find new faces but mostly, it is done through your children, around the school and the community which comes from that. You meet parents, teachers and principals and bus drivers and neighbours.
All these new people might see you as this or that or the next thing. They judge you.
Just as you are sizing them up at the same time. First impressions and all the stigma which comes with them.

Yes, I am Caucasian and I come from ‘regional’ New Zealand.
Yes, I have a level of tertiary education and I have full time employment.
Yes, we own two cars and yes, every now and then we can head out for lunch.
Am I a conservative capitalist? No.
I am a left of center idealist, one who would go a lot further left if I wasn’t cynical enough to realise it probably wouldn’t work.
Am I racist, bigoted, aggressively or even just assertively hardcore in particular view or assertion? No. I am too busy for any deep thought, any particular take on any given issue. Four kids remember. Have I ever mentioned that?!
Am I ignorant or worse, abusive of other beliefs of cultures. No.
Just no.

images

Confederate flags and muscle cars and sexist ideology aside, Dukes of Hazard was a cool show. I love pick-up trucks (utes) as much as the next man and will stamp my foot to country music if you’re going to play it.
That school community, those neighbours, will most likely see my wife and me as we are. First and foremost we are parents. Hard working, dedicated family folk.
Just like the ones sitting across from us at any given table, no matter where we came from and how we got there.

 

 

 

Summer Soundtrack

In a world where identity is constantly under question, bent by questions around gender and labels, transformed by changes in acceptable norms, is there a place anymore for individuality?

Everyone has the right to be different, has the right to be exactly who they see themselves as. It is no easy feat, being the the person you want to be, the person you are and perhaps it is that bit harder again, to be the person you wish others to see you as. Everyone forms impressions and makes judgments. Doing so gets harder, the more boundaries are shifted, but people will do it anyway.

We are conditioned by the culture we are raised in, the house we are bought up in, the education we receive, the books we read, the movies we watch and the music we listen to.
We want to fit in, want to branch out, find a new path. We want to recapture a feeling, a vibe, we want to be challenged, feel something original.
At least, that is how it always is for me and music.

I was always happy to let anything into my ears my ears didn’t object to. Pop, classical, reggae, electronica in all it’s forms, jazz and blues and soul and R&B and rock’n’roll, you name it.
I had my preferences of course, still do but I made a point of always allowing myself to be influenced by friends and family, by the radio, the television, open to advances from whatever culture or media I had access to.
As a young g fella, growing up in the South of New Zealand, Dunedin to be exact, my location as a youth was both a blessing and a hurdle.
Quite apart from being raised prior to the digital era, there was often a sense, certainly when I was young, that the ‘on-trend’ stuff was late to get to NZ, let alone find its way south. Maybe this was a perception thing but there was no doubting there was another hindrance to fully developing your own ear.
The Dunedin ‘sound’.

I was a small part of it. That sound. After the hey-day, but I made my contribution to the noise pumping out of various old pubs dotted around the ‘scene’
That recognised sound, the style and energy emanating from Dunedin, was distinctive and more than a little commercially successful. Although recognised as a ‘sound’ it was an era in New Zealand music and musicianship where there really was something new and innovative.
Even then, everything was a little bit the same, people seeking to fit the sound and scene. Seeking to find their place meant there was the chance for a bit of individuality to be expressed and there were pockets of it, heads popping up above the pulpit, doing things the same way everyone else was but doing it their way. The same, a bit like The Jam were doing in the England in the late seventies and early eighties, but different in a way Chris Knox was always going to be.

The point is, there was a clear pathway in Dunedin at the time for a musician, for a band. As a drummer, I didn’t set about re-inventing the wheel, I just went along for the ride with some like-minded guys and enjoyed every moment of it. Essentially, I hung out in rooms full of musicians and hit things.
We got to be heard by the right people, got to play in the right venues and did our thing, just like every body else. I had the feel, at times, if you didn’t adhere to that scene, be a part of the ‘sound’ in one way or another, then you were a little on the outer. Frowned upon if you were not listening to the right thing, shunned if you were too interested in anything popular or mainstream. Perhaps you weren’t quite ‘coo;’ enough. Maybe your were yet to prove yourself.

And then Nirvana.
A shift. A change. A thing all shiny and new.
I was drunk and stoned, laying in someone else’s waterbed in the wee small hours of the morning, when i first heard Nervermind.
Grunge was not new to me. I was already a fan of Pearl Jam, had heard Soundgarden and Mudhoney, was mad for Stone Temple Pilots and Alice In Chains. Grunge existed before Nirvana and Nevermind and I knew it.
Dunedin didn’t and it was no wonder. Indulging in my tastes meant boot legged recordings, often of poor quality, meaning it was difficult to let my influences feed through to others and no one got that I wanted to drum like it was Flea making up the other part of a dream rhythm section, a whole new direction it seemed I was destined to do solo if Dunedin was where I was doing it. The Chilly who? The Peppers what?

Dunedin and her sound was individual, peculiar to the region. Time and place. Seattle was the same. All sorts of other sounds and styles were developing or changing or warping, as all kinds of other peoples did their thing. Distinctive and new or the same but different.
It filtered to you, wherever you might be, or those sounds never made their respective way through the airwaves, the radios waves or via MTV, into your ears and your consciousness.
Then boom, the digital era. The internet. Music was everywhere, from everyone and there was no excuse not to miss a thing. Or to miss out anymore on the things you had already missed out on. Confused?
In fact, thanks to modern technology and how it has changed the way we communicate, the way we educate and ‘publish’ it becomes impossible to be ignorant of new sounds and new takes on old ones.
At the end of your fingers, anyone you want to hear, doing anything audible. And yet, there is a lumping, a grouping, of artists and their efforts, which inhibits individuality, identity, the same way it did in Dunedin, but different.

Spotify. Soundcloud. Before that, think I-Tunes. A new way our music was and is presented to us. For a nominal dollar figure, you can be listening to what you like, on what you like, when you like.
And the advent of the of the ‘playlist’ means the artist becomes anonymous.

I am a bit of a nerd  or geek or whatever. I hear a song I like, on an advert, the radio, a movie soundtrack or played by someone else and if it rings my bells, I check it out. But, I don’t stop there.
What album did that song come from? When was it released? Is it recent, or something from their back-catalogue? Most importantly, what do they sound like live?
That, to my ear at least, is the true test of any bands real ability and thanks to YouTube and the likes, it isn’t hard to find out. No need to fly to exotic locations, shelling out hundreds of dollars in the process.
That is me though. Not many are like me. Bothering to troll through Wikipedia and Spotify and Google and YouTube and Facebook and whatever, just because I liked that one song you did that one time.

Sometimes I just click play. If I am feeling really adventurous, I even click shuffle.
Spotify knows what I like. Algorithms or whatever. Based on what I have already clicked, it puts together a bunch of this and that’s which takes away the necessity for me to even go to that much effort. Searching. Clicking. Listening.
The latter part I still very much do and me being me, I will stop what I am doing and look deeper, further, if my ears have been tweaked.
But, like everyone else, beer in hand, good company to left and right, that playlist becomes little more than background. Daily Mix, or whatever.

And there it is. A band, an act, and artist, become a ‘sound’. Identity stripped from them, starved of individuality.
So do the artists a favour and yourselves while you are at it. Make your own playlist.
Right here is where I was tempted to post my taste in tunes, but I think that is your job.

Mixed tape anyone?

 

 

Cringe Factor

Have I fully of come of age? Because now, I am ‘That guy’. 

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with some of Claire’s family, down in the big smoke of Auckland.
Twenty five or so loosely affiliated kin, together for a laugh and a smile and to share a feed. Stressful for those at the helm, a good time for guests. For me, a headache waiting to happen, even if I managed to survive better than I thought I was going to to.

The hosts have a couple of sons. Great young me, one in his late teens and the other, early twenties. Friendly, open and engaging young people who are a pleasure to be around.
Hanging around with them, as much as you can between long sessions on their phones or in front of monitors, showed up a few things for me.
Firstly, it isn’t hard to work just where I stand physically these days. I am no Adonis, no shining light of what it means to be at peak physical fitness or health.
Wifey and I are working on it. Not some bullshit New Years resolution, not some fad diet or gym membership as good as money flushed down the toilet. A real and genuine desire, over a planned term, to make change, changes which are already happening.
The sad truth is though, I will never again be even on par with a 21 year old, when it comes to energy and vitality. Those days are gone and thankfully, I can accept that.

Other things stand out. I am not into the same cultural stuff; music, movies, I still read…you know, from pages full of the printed word.
The big standout was humour.
I am not going to be so harsh as to suggest younger generations don’t seem to have one, a sense of humour that is, but as far as I could see, it wasn’t readily prevalent.
There was the standard good natured bantering and put downs, over pool tables or dart boards or the obligatory outdoor/backyard games. You know the type, fun for the whole family and all that. It was OK to have a dig, to ridicule or embarrass or try and make a fool of someone. But a one liner?
No. Straight over their heads or seen as a deliberate attempt to offend someone. As for a drop of innuendo? Met with groans of derision.
Sure, a bit of sexual innuendo is a bit lowbrow. Not scrapping the barrel quite like toilet humour might be, but a sarcastic take on what someone else has said is hardly the epitome of comedy.

I tend to get my comedy fixes from the likes of Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Bill Burr and guys of that ilk. These are people who like to push a few boundaries, tell it like it is and have no compulsion about stepping all over people’s sensibilities.
I have heard Jimmy Carr say offense cannot be given, only taken. While I appreciate the reasoning behind such a statement, I get that deliberately trying to provoke a reaction is treading on dangerous territory. The whole ‘too soon’ argument for example, as guys like the aforementioned are quite topical with their material.
Timing and delivery are the key with humour apparently. If you are going to drop an off the cuff one-liner, you need to be as quick witted as you are alert and aware. It takes a level of intellect, even if your humour is cheap and crude.
Gauging your audience is key too I would assume. Everyone reacts differently and if you get a group offside, you are never going to get them back. A mob mentality and all that.

It seems a group of young men, aged somewhere between late teens and early twenties, are probably not my target audience. I am not saying I in anyway offended any one and in no way did I try to.
Yet the ‘audience’ plays it’s part too. The more these guys groaned, rolled their eyes or made derisive sounds and comments, the more I was inspired. While they got more laughs among themselves from put-downs, snide comments and cheap shots, shaming each other, I happily carried on dropping a line here and there, many of which I was becoming fairly certain were not going to go down well.
Which meant, they went down really well.

Does it sound strange that it felt good to be ‘that guy’?
That I was able to find the line others were not prepared to cross, so I could leap gleefully over it?
I guess I ran the risk of coming across like a jerk but the reality is, as far as those around me of a similar age bracket to me, I was only saying what most people were thinking.
At least, they were thinking it after I said it.

Future generations are getting taller. Younger people are developing physically, more so than those of my age did. Conversely, many of them are not using that physicality, preferring back lit screens and monitors.
What entertains those who came after me is changing too. Their levels of tolerance are different. At an age when they should be testing boundaries, threatening my sensibilities, it is instead them doing the cringing.
Is that the way it is supposed to be?
I don’t think so.

The next generation are the ones who are supposed to shock, to test the norms and boundaries and to change the parameters. They are the ones who are supposed to challenge current standards and seek to establish new settings.
Each generation should stand up to the things they feel are oppressive, should fight the good fight and all that. Our kids should break the rules we set, as we broke the ones set for us.
Is it the fault of political correctness? Have following generations become too sensitive, too aware of offending the sensibilities of others, one minority or another, one marginal group or another?

 Or maybe I should just stick to dad jokes.

download

 

 

 

 

Party Like It’s 1999

No, wait…Prince is dead. 

So many have passed and gone over the last couple of years, the icons and cultural leaders and luminaries of a generation. Such is the way with the passing of time and all that. It isn’t for me to wax lyrical about the influence many of these people exuded and how I, for one, feel their presence isn’t being adequately replaced.

Who is next, as the mouth pieces of a generation? Donald Trump has taken the spot left by Barrack Obama, a man who was an excellent orator but maybe missed the opportunity to really say something. And who are the pop-culture icons making the differences to the way we laugh and sing and play?
Where is Madonna and Michael Jackson? Where is Prince and Deborah Harry and Elvis Presley, where are the likes of Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie and Ghandi and Che Guavara, people that did it differently, did it, whatever it might have been, their way because they felt it was something which had to be done.

Right or wrong, there were iconic people doing and saying iconic things. JFK, Phil Spector, The Beatles, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hunter.S.Thompson …you could compile a never ending list.
Banksie? No doubting the creative genius, but an influencer? Al Gore? Yesterday’s news? Zuckerberg? Jobs? Gates? Tim Berners-Lee?

No doubting the impact such people have had, over generations of us now. I only question the type and scope some of this power, particularly of reach, has. To mind, the best thing, is to bring the major influences over future generations, closer to home. Back home.
Let Mum and Dad be the people who guide and train and teach.
Let Matua and Whaea and Mr and Ms, mold and shape in the classroom.
Let little Jimmy and Sally develop social norms and strictures in the playground and the park.

We, as a people, as a society, are changing and developing at a pace I struggle to comprehend. The technological revolution has been with us for a while now and it is a wonder if we were really ready for it. The way people interact, particularly the way they communicate, has changed and continues to do so. The world is suddenly a smaller place and terrifyingly, has become a whole lot bigger.
A good thing?
Certainly a new thing and tomorrow, new again. No good shunning it, no good turning your back on it. Change happens, whether you are a part of it, a builder of it, or a blocker.

Apologies. I am rambling. What has all the above got to do with partying?
Nothing really, but you can bet, as 2018 rolls to a close I will be sitting back on the deck, watching the last day of the year fade away, I’ll have a silent lament for those who have gone.
The next beer might lead to a red wine, which make take me to a scotch, which will take me to bed maybe long before midnight, such is the party life of a father of four young-uns. No matter what Prince tells us about end of era parties.
One place that beer will take me, is to thoughts of the coming year and the years beyond. When you have a brood of kiddies it is hard not to think of where they will be and just as importantly, how they will get there.
Their mother and I can only take them so far. Eventually, we are not the infuencers anymore. Nor are their teachers or junior sports coaches and tutors.

Muddy Waters, The Clash, the idealistic ramblings of Fidel Castro, influences over me as a younger man. Frankie Boyle makes me think and laugh these days while the biggest impact on how I live and think and act comes from my wife and children. Just the way it should be. A positive set of attitudes and personalities.

All I can hope is my wife and I are getting it right. Our influence so far, as the year closes, seems to have gotten things pretty spot-on. It pays not to question too heavily if what you do, say, think and act out is a good or a bad thing.
Most likely, like it or not, it is a combination of the two. There is no such thing as perfection and there is no way every little thing I do is of value or has any particular use.
As our kids grow, learning to think for themselves, they will employ a filtering system, finding the gems among all the dross. With a little more hope involved, ideally there will be less and less dross.

Go ahead and make your resolutions. Make 2019 the year you achieve all the things you want to, need to, feel you have to. Make it the year you actually do, instead of say.
I will resolve to keep doing, more or less, what I have been.
I want to be fitter, stronger, smarter.
I want to learn and grow and develop, the same things I want from and for my kids.
I want to be healthy and happy and I want to not be left wanting.

For me, for my family, 2019 is a time of change and a time for hard work.
New pathways and opportunities. Horizons. All of that and we are going to have to identify what we want, then set about achieving it. As individuals, as a team, supporting each other and backing each other up.
Living in the now but eyeing up the future.

Have a good party, even if it is just a party for one. Make it fun, special.
Invite Prince, he can be the DJ and we can all party like it is 1999.
Or whatever year your mind wanders too.
Get sunburned. Go swimming, drag sand onto the carpet when you get home.
Knock back a cold one. Or two, whatever is your tipple. Crank the BBQ, get together with loved ones and mates, tell some tales and yarns and lies and do it all with a smile.

End the year with a laugh.
Start the the new year the same way.

 

 

 

A New New Year

Good bye to Hoki Hubby.

As the new year rapidly approaches, Wifey and I split open box after never ending box, setting up our old life in a new environment.
We are still in Northland, not all that far from the place we called home for the last couple of years. The Mighty Hokianga Harbour, only an hour and a half or so up the road, suddenly feels like a world away. Because, it is.

On the outskirts of Whangarei, we are setting up in a house further away from neighbours than we had in the old place. But here, they feel so much closer. Less cars seem to go by, not like they did on the main drag of Rawene, on the hour every half hour. Here, there is no race to catch the ferry, a leisurely chug with or against the powerful tidal currents of the harbour waters, leaving behind the backdrop of New Zealand’s thrid oldest European settlement.
Better yet, approaching it, the joys of the boat shed cafe or No.1 Gallery cafe at the start of Parnell Street, a convenience store conveniently located on poles, balanced out over the ever changing tide, a pub with more history than you can shake the proverbial stick at. For a town with nothing going on, it is all happening.

But this is not a travel blog. I am not here to sell you on the wonders of the Hokianga, as you cruise through Rawene after alighting the ferry, head for the beaches of Opononi and Omapere, go further over the bumps and twists of State Highway 12 and delve into the native forests atop the hills, home to Tane Mahuta.
I don’t need to point out the stunning views, from sweeping sand dunes to glistening waters, the tempestuous Tasman Sea, making its presence felt on the wild west coast. There is no need to make mention of the native flora and fauna and in particular, there is nothing I need say about the dusk after dusk after stunning dusk, full of the most spectacular sunsets.
In it’s heyday, the Hokianga must have been a spectacular spot. That harbour, so alive and vital, surrounded by a crop of native trees the likes of which we will never see again. Because, sadly, crop is what those forest giants were viewed as and like so much of Aotearoa New Zealand.

This isn’t an environmental rant either. Nor is it a dig at the perils of post-colonization. So many wrongs were done, to the place and people of Aotearoa and so many of those wrongs will take multiple generations to put right, if ever. So many good things were achieved too but sadly, much of that either never reached the Hokianga, never took hold if it did, or was resoundingly rejected.
It’s easy to romanticise the region, casting it as some sort of frontier, shrugging off the trappings of a modern world as much as possible. Last of the wild west, NZ style.
The reality is, the Far North in general, and the Hokianga in particular, are forgotten zones, abandoned by central and local governments alike.
There are no rate payers, not many voters. Just miles of sandy beaches, warm blue waters and the homes and abodes of the disenfranchised.

Even that is a stretch. Never ‘franchised’ in the first place. Lost and forgotten peoples. And in many instances, that is just the way they like it.
Life in the Hokianga is maybe best described as relaxed. There certainly isn’t the pressures of city or metropolitan living, no commute from the burbs, no queuing.
The trade off? A lack of infrastructure and what there is, maintained at a bare minimum, if at all. The trade off is unemployment and therefore, poverty.
But hey, it’s the Hokianga. If you can’t afford a warrant on your car, don’t get one. If you can’t afford to register it, don’t bother fretting over it. While it is a shame there is runoff issues effecting the harbour waters, swim in it anyway. Eat from it anyway.
Relax. That is what the Hokianga seemed to be telling us, so that is exactly what we did.

We stayed relaxed about the holes forming in our children’s education. No hokey teams, no volleyball or netball or football or tennis or cricket or whatever other sport an energetic young kid might want to turn those energies to.
However, there were whole new avenues of learning being opened to them. Culturally the kids really swelled, embedded in an old school Kiwi culture and a deeper Maori one.  We stayed chilled about the lack of childcare, the lack of employment options, the near non-existence of extra curricular activities for our kids and for ourselves.
Like the populace around us, we were nonplussed. Maybe not as laid back as some of the locals…we put our kids in car seats and seat-belts, life-jackets and all the rest.
The trade off? Off they went, a little crew, down the street on their own, unaccompanied by adults, Number One in charge. No drama, no fear.
Safe. Everyone knew our kids and they knew most everyone. No motorways to go play on, no concrete jungles to get lost in.

Kia ora, G’day, Howzit, Hi.
Most everyone said hello, most everyone asked after your well-being and most everyone genuinely wanted to know. Maybe the guy asking if you needed a hand was diabetic, maybe he drank too much, maybe his diet was shocking, maybe he fished illegally. The point is, he was offering you a helping hand.
In the Hokianga, you pick people up and drop them down the road. You help lift this, carry that. You give of what you have no need for and people gladly take it. Koha. All that is asked in return, if anything is asked at all.
No one turns a nose up at the next-door neighbour. No one looks up or down at the next person. A handshake and hongi means something.
There is nothing golden, no matter the nostalgia, about the Hokianga and her people. Nothing special, or endearing, nothing wonderful going on the world could learn something from.
In fact, the place is broken, to an outsiders untrained eye flawed, badly in need of this, that and the next thing, to make it even close to ‘normal’.

I miss the place.
I miss the scenery, I miss the vibe, I miss the remoteness and I miss the smiles and laughter and good-natured jesting. I miss the helmet-less kids on bare back horses, the king tides and the pelting rain, thunder storms and lightening and sodden ground, water bubbling from beneath its surface everywhere. I miss the fresh air and the strong, drying winds and the birdsong, from nesting Herons to the silent, reproachful gaze of a perched Kingfisher.
I miss the spontaneity, the freedom, of having nothing particular to do and being able to do it where no one else is. I miss no one caring, no one around really giving a shit what you were doing or why. You just got on and did it, where, when and how you wanted to.
I miss the smiles and the open, gap-toothed, head back laughter.

I miss the sunsets.

20170823_175510.jpg

Fix the Hokianga.
Never change the Hokianga.

Bad Apples. Bad Man.

Grace Millane. Saddened? Hell yes. Sickened? You know it. Shocked? Unfortunately, no. 

I haven’t been on a date in a long time. Possibly because, as a forty something, hirsute, chubby, balding man with an empty wallet, I am far from desirable.
More likely my lack of recent dating experience is due to my long-term, happy marriage and the four kids produced. Wifey and I are lucky to see a movie on the couch together, uninterrupted, without one or the other of us falling asleep!

It stands to reason I therefore have little I can say about dating apps. Are they safe? No idea, I have never used one and am unlikely to at any time in the foreseeable future. Would I want my girls on one, using an app to source dates? Again, I have no authority from which to answer that question but I will anyway…
No.
I do not want my girls, young woman as they would be at that point, using something as anonymous as a dating app. While I understand that such apps are used as a convenience, rather than being a means purely for the desperate and needy to seek some sort of succour, the lack of real knowledge about who you are hooking up with is worrying to say the least. What on this earth is so wrong with face to face? Let’s get out and about again people.
Should users of such apps, particularly female, cease dating that way? Probably not. For every creep out there there will be dozens, hundreds, thousands of genuine, upstanding, ‘normal’ people.

millane

We have heard a lot about the hideous killing of Grace Millane. There can be no argument, two nations waited on tenterhooks while the police conducted their investigations and search.
Of course, as a country, we were appalled. It is sad to say though, in this day and age, it is no surprise.
How long has it been since a tourist was killed here? Not one engaged in some adventure tourism, choosing to put life and limb at risk leaping off a bridge or surfing a raging river. The Swedish couple immediately springs to mind, David Tamihere and all that confusion…

So it was coming. Law of averages and all that. We might think we live in paradise and we do, but eventually, we will fail to dodge the bullet. The reality is, this fair nation has it’s fair share of nutters. And when a nutter targets a nice, clean cut, educated, white middle-class young person, the world looks up and takes notice.
Too cynical? Maybe. I can’t help but think if the victim had been a toothless, over weight Maori diabetic with an alcohol problem, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Yesterday’s news.
A jaded old world view makes you think a bit like that, but it isn’t the point.

Get to it then, the point, if indeed you have one?
Thing is, I am not sure I do. The death of Grace and the inevitable opinions and attitudes which have been thrown up (it only takes a moment or two after a body washes up), merely raise a bunch more questions. What’s more, I do not believe I am the person best placed to respond to them.
Because I do get defensive. I do get my back up, as a man, when the finger is pointed.
I know it isn’t pointed at me. Not directly at least. I know it is more about language than accusation. There is no one out there, of either gender, claiming I, as an individual, have done any wrong, committed any crime.
Guilty by association? To an extent, yes. I am a man after all.

Articles by the likes of Cecile Meier do grate.
www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/motivate-me/109320099/grace-millane-women-cannot-live-in-fear

She begins by asserting the idea that we, women in particular, cannot live in fear.
Great, I should hope not. Everyone has to go on with their everyday lives, as if nothing has happened and nothing is going to happen.
Where danger is perceived, exhibit caution and care, be aware, alert and vigilant.
Don’t be scared, paranoid or tentative. Boldly go where women have gone before. Long shall they continue to.

Cecile Meier then goes on to say that men, though she does make the point that it isn’t all men, have to think of how they can do their bit. How they…yes, all men…are part of the problem if they don’t act against a mate at the bar touching up a woman.
Thing is ‘good men’ as they are referred to in the article, don’t have mates who grope ladies randomly in pubs and bars and nightclubs.
Good men don’t yell sexist slurs, don’t sexually harass in the workplace or anywhere and no, good men don’t stand by and allow any of it to happen, even if the chances of getting punched in the face heighten exponentially by stepping up.
Yes, I have laughed at rape jokes. The women sitting around me at the time have laughed along to. After all, man and woman alike purchased tickets to whatever event might have being taking place. You know, a comic for example.
Jokes like that are delivered by comedians working the shock factor, looking to explore limits and test boundaries. Told right, a joke can be about anything. That is the key to humour.
Jimmy Carr, one of my favourite comedians, is a prime example. He has stated that offense is taken, not given and I have to agree. In his way, in the way of comedy, expressing such topics in the form of humour is discourse, of a kind and the more of that, the better.
Does joking about that sort of thing ‘normalise’ the behaviour? Normalise rape?

No.
Because there is nothing normal about rape. Normal people, men, good men, don’t rape and nothing about my behaviour is going to stop a rapist from doing what he does, driven by whatever warped shit going on in his head inspiring him to do so.
Yes there is porn culture, thanks to the internet. Yes there is a throw back against the feminist movement, a backlash, small, isolated but unfortunately, relevant. Yes there is cultural clash, the globalization of nations meaning there is unavoidable difference, there is misunderstanding, there is expectation.
However, me being a good person, the one that I am already, the example I set for my children, will not stop any perpetrator of any bad deeds.
Do I, as a man, sound defensive? Possibly and many a reader (there aren’t many) may chose to interpret it that way. Or, is it more a case of reality. There is a limited sphere one individual can operate in and despite the realm of such good men’s spheres interacting, coercing, co-existing, there is little I or a collective we can do, unless we catch the bastard in the act.

Yes, some men violently attack women. Scummy, low-brow, socially retarded men.
Anecdotally, as someone who was once a young male, I can say the people most likely to suffer physical violence, are men. Males between the ages of say fifteen, through to their mid twenties. That is what I saw anyway and to be fair, not a great deal of it. What did happen and I suspect it is still a truth to this day, was fueled by alcohol.
Cecile Meier can bandy about vague stats, claiming one in two Kiwi women have been physically and psychologically abused by their partners.
I call bullshit.
If I am wrong, put the numbers up to prove it.

And this guy…www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/opinion/109363511/guys-we-need-to-talk-and-we-need-to-listen
Good points, many of them. However, men are not the only ones with locker rooms. Can’t we be different, can’t we ‘take the piss’. Isn’t that very much the Kiwi way?
Maybe the locker room joker is a rapist. Maybe he is making a misplaced attempt to fit in. Maybe he is divided by generational shifts, failing to move and change with times. Maybe he is a creepy jerk. Maybe, just maybe, repeating a line or a joke after a highly competitive squash doubles match or whatever, doesn’t make him a murdering rapist.
Both genders dig at each other. Jest and jibe and rib and whatever other sweet and endearing term you would like to place on the good ole NZ way of giving each other shit.

Things in New Zealand aren’t as paradisaical as many on these shores would like to think, but I am reckoning they are not as bad as is being alluded to. Society would have long since fallen apart if every second woman here was getting the bash.
And men, even these so called ‘good men’, are the only ones actively engaged in physical and mental abuse?
I have been punched, slapped, kicked, bitten and scratched, all the while screamed filth is yelled in my face.
I’ve punched this and battered that when a woman has frazzled me to my wits end. I am no angel. Burn my stuff, slice it to pieces with scissors or any other melodramatic cliched female response to drama…it’s my fault and I should not defend that. Threat and counter threat.

Women, go ahead and reclaim the night and all the rest of it. Best of luck to you. I wholeheartedly support the sentiment.
Sentiment won’t keep you save on the streets at night. The same way me waving a placard or lighting a candle, nodding sagely and wisely to the ‘opinion’ of a Cecile Meier, wiping a tear away as I listen to the speeches from women of influence and power, like Jacinda Ardern, isn’t going to stop the next bashing in the home, the next bit of sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond.
The next rape.

jacinda-ardern-1068x623.jpg

Ladies, I don’t want you to worry your pretty little heads, but ask yourself this one simple thing…who, as in what gender, has the greatest influence during the raising of our children?
Answer…you. Yes, you. Women. All the good and the bad of you.
Women dominate in our homes. They dominate in our preschools and kindergartens and play centers. They rule in the classroom at schools, right through all the education afforded to our children.
Part of another, wider debate for sure, but there needs to be a stronger, far more present, male influence in our schooling, in the raising of our tamariki. The good men.

We raise our children. You, me, my wife, the dude behind the counter at the local store, the teachers and coaches and the big brothers and sisters, uncles and aunties and neighbours and the surf life saving club and the volunteer this and the assistant that and whomever touches their lives.
As the Blues Bothers said: You, Me, Them, Everybody…

At the top of that list…
Women.
Our Mothers.
Our teachers.

Bad apples.
One of them fell from a tree, probably not too far and took out Grace Millane.
He’ll get his, such is fate. Don’t let the likes of him get yours and especially, don’t let the likes of yours be the likes of Grace Millane. Not that there is bugger all, as parents, you can necessarily do about it. Not, as men, either. There is as much inherent risk swiping right, as there is batting your eyelids across the bar, no matter your gender.
Let’s, as men, the good ones, stand by our women and help them make better people of all of us. And while we are at it, let’s not be afraid, yes afraid, to defend ourselves as the good people we are. Not just good men, but good people.
Because, let us not forget, good men are just like the majority of everyone the world over.

Good people.

 

 

 

Dish Drying Dreams

Soapy detergent suds and a setting sun, to the backing track of the Smashing Pumpkins. 

I hope everyone has a dishwasher.
Here, at my place, unless I can convince the girls it is their turn, then I am it. The Dishwasher. Not Harvey Keitel The Cleaner. Nothing as cool as that for me.

So I have to improvise. Tonight, the motivation I sought to stick my hands into the soapy sud kingdom of the kitchen sink, came courtesy of the Smashing Pumpkins.
Tonight Tonight was the tune as it happens, courtesy of Spotify and a wifi speaker. Thanks too, to a glass or two extra of cheap red.

Years ago, as a teen, I developed one cheesy crush after another. All teens do it I guess and for me, there was a theme. Early on there was Deborah Harry. Quite apart from Blondie banging out disco infused New York punk with a French Canadian twist which thoroughly raptured me, (aficionados will know what I did there) Deborah Harry was a gorgeous, explosive blonde. Fiery and devastating, without quite being bombshell, which would have most likely not done it for me.
There was a dirty mystique to Deborah Harry of the late seventies and early eighties that as a young fella, I could not quite define and still can’t to this day. And, it didn’t stop there. Terri Nunn fronting Berlin, a dalliance with a young Madonna, never going to last, before a flirtation outside the norm with Belinda Carlisle and then Wendy James. Oh yes, Wendy James.
Wendy!.jpg

Of  all of them, only Blondie really captured me and stayed with me. But, there had to be something, just a little thing, that meant more to me than just how this bevy of young songstresses looked.
Madonna had that thing, we all know it. Slutty I think it is called. For a young man, well not yet a man, from the southern most reaches of the world, there was no denying her impact. Sadly, for Madonna, her music didn’t do it for me and no matter how well presented the image, it wasn’t enough.
The same could be said for the Belinda Carlisle’s of this world. A husky sensuousness to her voice sure, an underplayed sexuality which went largely over my head.

Deborah Harry stayed there, the bench mark, seeing off flirtations with crops of newcomers, as an eighties pop explosion did detrimental harm to the world, damage we are still yet to recover from. But Debbie Gibson and Bananarama were never going to cut it for me. Babes to be sure, but where was the edge? Where was the challenge? Where was the musical integrity?
And then there was Wendy James. Maybe not the best vocalist. Maybe not the best songwriter or contributor of lyrics. Maybe she didn’t give the best interviews, maybe she didn’t have the greatest impression on me as a person, an individual, but the woman sure as hell made an impact on me. From my Dunedin-esque teenage perspective, here came a woman who was raw, true and honest and compelling and vital and real and so god damned sexy. Transvision Vamp were no Blondie, but bugger if they didn’t try hard to be, in their own way. I loved them for it.

Later, for a whole bunch of different, more mature, angsty reasons, was D’arcy Wretsky.
Siamese Dream was a piece of music, of art, which captured me.
I wasn’t alone. A seminal album, which managed to more than ‘say’ what a generation was feeling at a certain age, like Kurt Cobain did with Nirvana or the Smiths had done before them. Siamese Dream, Billy Corgan and co, made me feel.
I was a rugby playing, beach going lad. I was one of the boys, even if the guys and gals I hung with weren’t strictly the cool crowd. In reality, we were all cool, because we had each other and that was exactly the thing which made us cool. There was shared moments in time we were all experiencing, in our own ways, even while we were all doing it together.

At the time, early nineties, I was making a serious attempt to not take things seriously. In a way, I hope I still manage something close to that. I mean, I still rock. I let myself go, to the tunes that always did it for me, all the while seeking out the tracks which will do it all over again. My tastes have changed, my motivation has changed, my desires and wants and needs, everything is different yet somewhere and somehow, not a single thing is different.
My kids like ‘old man’ music. Every pop wonder hit they know is tempered by a Free Bird. Every cheesy one hit wonder of the day is countered by Rick Astley. Okay, maybe I am getting carried away. Did I mention the cheap red? Let’s try Heroes by Bowie instead

All that really matters, is while I have my hands softening under the effects of scented detergents, I am rocking out. I am in love with a bass player. I am in love with a grove, with a ‘feel’.
I am incredibly pleased to say I have not lost it. The ability to let go, knowing that no matter how ridiculous I look, how stupid and out of tune I sound, no matter the admonitions of my children, I can still rock like I just do not give a fuck.

D'arcy.jpg

D’arcy Wretsky arguably made a mess of her live, thanks to the wonders of opiates. I can’t say I am where I ever thought I would be, a big part of this being because I never really gave it, life, a great deal of thought. Thing is though, for a time, as fleeting as it may have seemed, D’arcy was my dream girl and she lived my dream. One of them anyway.
She had that moment, her fifteen minutes. Or maybe, a little slice of forever. I prefer to see it that way.
The joy is, I can still live those moments. Recapture those dreams, lost or not, with her. I can do it while I wash dishes, while I vacuum or hang out washing or sit here at a keyboard and make out like I have something worthy to offer. D’arcy offered and we accepted and she drove a wedge into me, placing her right next to Deborah Harry and Wendy James and just because I twirled a drumstick or two years ago, I feel I have been a little, tiny, insignificant part of it and damned if I am not going to rock the fuck out every now and then, just because I still can and still do.

Can you?

Do you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bah Humbug

Great, here we go again! Enforced festivity anyone?

December 1st.
That’s right, for all you international readers, it has already begun for us here in the shaky isles. Christmas cheer, seasons greetings and all that. Time to roll out the decorations, debate the virtues of real or fake trees, start compiling lists of the naughty and nice, stock up freezes and fridges and pantries.
Time for the marketers to bring out the tried and true sales gimmicks, the T.V execs to schedule the feel good factor day after monotonous day, time for parades and the obligatory work do. Time for fake Santa’s at school and Kindergarten’s, dishing out sugary treats and false bonhomie.

angry santa.jpg

At the end of our street there is a ferry, connecting one side of the harbour with the other. This time of year sees the route trundled by more and more camper vans and glorified station-wagons. There are day trippers, mostly oldies in their hybrid SUV or hatch, taking a jaunt from the other side of the island, where the power of the grey dollar means there is infrastructure, like sewage and electricity and roads without slips and slumps. Where there is employment and houses that don’t leak and aren’t infested with mold. Where there are holiday homes and touristy business and cafes and bars serving on trend craft beers to thirty something guys with tattoos and a beard, trialed by two gorgeous kids, one girl and one boy, accompanied by the wife wearing the hemp top and sarong over bikini bottom because after all, their parents bach is right on the beach.

Before I get too cynical, I should add that yes, my wife is gorgeous, as are my kids and yes, I too have tattoos and a beard. But at forty-five I am not sure if that makes me ‘on-trend’ or a trend setter? I am sure my kids have a firm opinion on where their Dad stands in the fashion stakes though.
And maybe, for me, it is more a case of jealousy, envy, than cynical sneering. While the baby booming holiday maker and their family take in the sights of the stunning Hokianga region, failing to scratch the surface of what life can really be like here for those born and raised to the area, it is the mid-life crises guys that are really starting to annoy me.

I am not talking the quaffed hair, convertible sports car type, demanding latte’s and Central Otago pinot’s everywhere they go. And I don’t want you imagining I am envious of the forty-something independent business owner, through years of hard work, dedication and toil and possibly some creative accounting, able to justify not saving for retirement and instead spending up large on hundreds of thousands of dollars on brand name boats like Stabicraft or McClay or Fyran and then of course, the grunty double cab ute to tow it.
No, the guys irritating me are the motorcyclists, dropping the gears as they reduce the revs, easing down the hill to catch the ferry. Not the Harley guys or the Indian riders or the Triumph’s or any other big thumper you can think of. They are more annoying alighting the ferry and roaring their way up the hill. Anyway, I feel sorry for them, clad in thick leathers, desperately keen to look the part despite the growing heat and humidity that is the north. Good luck to them I say.
It is the fellas on the dual purpose bikes, doing it tough on seats not designed to be sat on forever, battling wet then dry then wet roads on mud tyres, a bundle of whatever strapped on precariously behind them.

Big groups of them. Clubs maybe, a gathering of like minded individuals or just a few mates taking advantage of the warmer weather before the realities of the holiday season kick in and their one chance of selfish, self indulgent, youth recapturing escape, alludes them.
In a semi orderly row, or dribbling into and through town one after another, they come on down the hill, fairing splattered with mud and probably a touch of cow shit, distinguishing marks telling tales of off road adventure and journeys beyond tar seal and highway network.
At low speeds they stand to alleviate tired buttocks, shake hands and feet free to reduce the cramping effects of long stretches at the controls. When the helmets, gloves and jackets are off they want beers and pastry clad treats filled with approximations of meat.
Over their condensated pint glasses, necked in garden bars, flaky crumbs coating their weatherproof layers, the talk is of corners and cambers, of gear and power to weight ratios and holding the apex.
Sure, they are probably a bit whiffy. Despite the manufacturers claims of ‘breath-ability’, these guys sweat. Yes, they probably yell a bit, even the conscientious riders ears dulled by the long term thrum of four stroke engines directly below them something even earplugs cannot dull.
opo bikes.jpg

Back at home there must be indulging wives, quietly plotting their own girls trip, maybe to Bali in the new year, or an island getaway over the winter months. There will be envious work mates and colleagues, elderly mothers who just can’t stop themselves from worrying, mistrusting girlfriends regretting their decision never to learn to ride.
And for me, the whole convoy; from campers to caravans, converted buses with witty and whimsical names like Dreamchaser and Sunset Seeker, to motorbikes and cyclists, represents the beginning of the Christmas, summer and holiday seasons, all rolled into one.
For you it might be the decorations in the streets, the jingles on the radio and in the malls. It might be the smell of the baking and the wrapping and sending of presents. The whole silly season might not hit you until the rellies roll into town and start pitching tents in the backyard or Mum and Dad get stressed one morning, frantically loading the car, dropping the pets off at kennels and boarding houses good and early, in a futile bid to beat the holiday traffic, just like everyone else.
Maybe it the stress etched over the faces of those who simply can’t afford to spoil the kids, let alone themselves. The ones who dread having to take time off as their place of work shuts down, the weight of expectation too much on already stretched budgets. Perhaps this is a time fraught with anguish or loneliness or despair or just a general malaise, around a sense of duty imparted on us because of tradition and religion, ones we may not share, have never shared or have no desire to share in.

But, let’s not forget that there is good in it all, the fuss and the effort. Families can find an excuse to come together. There can be fun in the smiles and the laughter and the excess, whatever and however you make it. We are lucky, here in Godzone; the sun comes out, the days warm, the beaches swell with numbers and the water cools our sunbathed skin, as Dad tends the BBQ, Mum and Aunty do one of those leftover salads they somehow manage to make delicious and Uncle has one too many, falling asleep in a sagging deck chair under the shade of a Pohutakawa .
All good, get into it.

kiwi xmas.jpg

Somewhere at the back of a wardrobe I have an all weather riding jacket. I have helmet and gloves and pants and all the gear.
What I don’t have, is a motorbike.

Dear Santa…

 

Marvel-ous

Another one bites the dust.

At 95, it is highly unlikely anyone will be taken by surprise at the passing of Stan Lee. A good knock as ‘they’ say. And what else can’t be doubted is the influence the man had over so much of our modern culture.
One of the key people behind Marvel story-lines and their characters, Lee brought us many of the heroes we see on our big screens in just about every second blockbuster movie release.

fantastic four.jpg

The last couple of years have claimed the lives of a lot of the people who I looked at as the iconic figures in my cultural formation. The Bowie’s and Prince’s and Cohen’s and the rest. I was never a huge fan of comics as a kid, finding more depth and nuance in them as an adult reader, than you might have thought was there originally. So not a fan as such, even of the movies, once they started rolling across our screens. I like them for the action, the comic strip references, am not immune to the hype and will happily watch them with the kids, but pieces of cinematic mastery they are not.
Of course this doesn’t mean I am unsympathetic to the passing of Stan Lee. I watched the very cheesy Hulk television series when I was a boy, was taken to the Spiderman movies, watching graphics and effects which would pale in comparison by modern standards.

The crew who have followed me, Number’s One and Two, the E-Bomb and Wee-Man love a bit of bright, flashy, action packed, non stop craziness flicking across their screen. Big, bold, good looking people doing impossibly heroic things as they do battle with ever more ridiculous baddies. These movies are a fun, wild ride which try not to take themselves too seriously and thank goodness for that.
Stan Lee sometimes got a little darker with the characters and their story-lines than modern portrayals would suggest. Peter Parker could get very introspective and there some touchy bits and pieces of subject matter, current and topical.
maybe not so much for The Avengers, but there can be no doubt the likes of Captain America, Ironman and the Hulk had their demons.

Hulking-out

Perhaps the themes are generally lighter, fluffier, more action packed and less demanding. Maybe this is because I am getting older and need a bit more to stimulate me when I am seeking my entertainment package. I want the challenge of multiple layers in a movie or, god forbid, a book.
One sure sign Stan Lee’s passing is an indication of my own aging, is the fact he has been able to influence the characters who have infiltrated the lives of my children. A tribute to the longevity and success of what Lee was able to achieve, the ability to transcend generations an impressive feat.

They don’t quite get the significance of Lee’s passing, or the import of his wide spread and far ranging scope of influence on the entertainment industry and therefore, culture. But in Lee and his works was a guy responsible for much of my children’s escapism, there fantastical imaginings, even shaping some of their ideas of right and wrong, good and bad. Such a clear delineation between good and evil, those in the right and those in the wrong, would be a great thing in the real world. If only it was all that simple.

For kids, it is. That simple. Things are more black and white, the grey areas less domineering. The good guy might not always win but, he is always good.
Stan Lee gave the good guys a great bit chunk of cool. It makes them, the goodies, attractive, makes them something young kids might want to aspire to being.

Thanks for that Stan, you’ve made my job a little bit easier.

 

Creepy

What to do when your kids get spooky?

Culture has been a bit of a theme of late. The 31st of October does nothing to alter that.

Halloween is a tradition that might date all the way back to the Celts, but it is relatively new to New Zealand, courtesy of the the good ole U.S.A.
American television has made Halloween a thing which has caught on here, something that is growing in popularity year by year while some of the older traditions fade.
Something like Guy Fawkes was the go to in my day and while it is still celebrated, if that is the right word for commemorating the actions of the figure head for a band of terrorists, it is certainly not as popular as it used to be.

Regulation and political correctness and rules have sucked the life out of something as explosively fun as Guy Fawkes. Civil authorities still put on a show in many centers and good on them. For me, Guy Fawkes will always hold a special place as my birthday falls just a day or two before, meaning blowing things up in sparkly detonations takes on a dual importance.

All Hallows Eve doesn’t seem to hold the same inherent danger as igniting tubes full of phosphorous and gunpowder. Despite the lengths some families seem to go to in celebration of a 2000 year old bow to the spirits of the dead, said to return to earth on the 31st, no one seems to be worried enough to put a halt to things.
Now would be the time I could enter into a rant about the Americanisation of the western world in particular. How American culture, delivered to us through the television, is shaping and influencing us, particularly our youth culture.

I could, but I won’t.
Sometimes it is just fun. Instead I will share with you the fun my crew had with a bit of dress-up and some clever face-paint/makeup from their creative Mother.

 You have been warned!!

zombie 2

 

 

 

zombie 1

 

zombies

zombie princess.jpg