Friday, June 23, 2017

The Day the Sky Caved In

Sometimes you get events happen to you that are, well, vaguely perturbing. 
It happened to me yesterday during what was supposed to be an uneventful trip to Auckland to interview someone for a story and to take my brother to tonight’s Warriors’ match.
I felt good, I felt confident, I had been saved from disaster (just) when I noticed a week earlier that my front tyres were in urgent need of replacement and would not have got me to Auckland. They were replaced in the nick of time.
Disaster averted.
Then disaster struck.
Five minutes north of Kaiwaka in driving rain I see a parked ute facing me, the oncoming traffic, with its lights flashing. Speed camera? Radar? Bloody stupid place to tell me. Then it struck me. Or I struck it. 
A sinkhole had opened up in the road, underscored by the wet weather. It took out both my passenger side wheels and tyres, shredding them. But I  was only fifteenth in line. Within 10 minutes, that one sinkhole took out no fewer than 24 vehicles with multiple punctures and wrecked wheels.
Twenty-four immobile vehicles on the side of the road, drivers and passengers watching destruction unfold around them.
And one AA Road Service Tow Operator. And he already had a wrecked car on his truck (more about that later). He did his best. He put spares on all the cars he could, making no distinction between AA members and non-members, and those with single punctures could at least move off.
He could do nothing for those with multiple punctures.
Except me.
I am an AA member, and my membership entitles me to a lift to my destination (Auckland) to get a rental and the return of my stranded car to a destination of my choosing (Kerikeri). The latter would have to wait because, remember, he had that car on the back. But if I climbed into his cab he would drive me down to Auckland, delivering that car to a house in Massey on the way.
So, for the next four hours I, with my prolapsed disc, sat in a cramped cab feeling every jolt and bolt, enlivened only by the amiability of my towie, Colin.
With some difficulty, we found the house in Massey. The car we carried had crashed the previous night in Maungaturoto. The owner had met Colin at the crash site that morning and paid him an undisclosed amount in cash to tow the car to the owner’s Massey home.
I was interested to note when we arrived that there was already no shortage of cars, and motorbikes there. There was also a Headhunters patch hanging in the garage.
But the guy seemed friendly enough. Even gave Colin a $100 tip.
It’s getting late.
AA has arranged a rental, to be picked up from the airport and hour and a half ago.
Colin and I are lost in Henderson. All of my stuff that I had put in the back of that car is now stacked on my lap and my back.
I don’t like Henderson.
Then the call comes.
Another towie.
He asks Colin where that car is.
Colin tells him.
Why does he want to know?
Because the bloody thing is apparently stolen.
Colin rings the police to confirm.
They do.
They too want to know where the car was delivered to.
I bet they do.
I simply want to know where I am—or where the airport is.
I don’t want to be lost in Henderson.
In fact, I want to go home.
I am beginning to hate the world.
Bad backs, munted tyres, sink-holes wrecked cars, stolen cars, Headhunters, Henderson, are not part of a world in which you can find anything to love.
Unless it’s for a Fryday.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dear God: The Trump Years #3


Trump Annex
Office of The President of the United States of America.
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500, USA
Telephone: You’re Crazy, right? Twitter: #millionsofpeopleloveme.

Dear God

Just got back from my tour of The Middle East and Israel.

I can’t say that I am too impressed by what you are doing over there. It seems to me that you and Jesus have lost control of the situation over there. Jesus in particular.

I know he is your son, but, God, I mean I can send in my son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to the Meddle East (LOL) and he does a deal with the Saudis immediately. A tremendous deal! Billions of dollars of arms sales! Then I send him to Iraq and he makes peace with them too. They love him. They really do. I am thinking of putting him in charge of making peace between the Israels and Palastines. If Jared can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can!

So, what has your son done in all this time? Nothing! Couldn’t even finish the wall. I know, I visited it. And don’t tell me He and You are leaving it to the Pope. He is useless. Visited him. Waste of time and space like most Mexicans.

What your son doesn’t realize is that you can’t just go in and do a deal and then leave the place. You have to keep going back to it. You have to keep control. Make sure that those you left in charge are doing the job you gave them or if not fire them. When was the last time Jesus was over there? Two thousand years. Right? Not great. Not great at all. If he was my son, I would fire him. I would.

And I would fire that Mexican, as well. Jared would make a better Pope. Even better, Ivanka! Good as Jared but with a better butt. Ha, Ha!

No, you are going to have to do something about the Middle East, God. Jared can’t do everything on his own. Time for you to send Jesus back. Tell him to get in touch with Jared—he’ll arrange it.

Talk to you tonight,

Donald J. Trump
President of the United States of America.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Media vesus Donald Trump

There are some astonishing stories coming out of America these days, aren’t there? Most involve their President and many are contradictory. So much so that a new phrase, alternative facts, has been coined.
But what—and who—are we in New Zealand to believe? And do we care? Well, to answer the second question first: yes, we care or should do. Whatever is going on in America at the moment will have global ramifications—at the very least economically and quite possibly and disastrously militarily. American “issues” have always impacted on the rest of the world. What is different now is that those issues seem to be out of control and so, seemingly, is the President. That is deeply disturbing and dangerous. Yes, we should care.
And who are we in New Zealand to believe? Sean Spicer? Fox News? Mike Pence? None of those, anyway. I honestly don’t think they believe in what they are saying—certainly Mike Pence doesn’t, and he has been openly contradicted by his President/boss. Some of the proclamations (are they anything else?) emanating from Fox News under the guise of “news” are at best opinions and at worst propaganda. Don’t even start me on Spicer—the antithesis of C.J. Craig (you had to be there). So, that is basically the Trump camp with little credibility.
But, what of the other side? The media. Can we believe them? They certainly seem determined to find, extract and exploit every weakness, lie, damage, insanity, misstep (choose your own word) from the Trump presidency. Maybe there is some truth in Trump’s statement yesterday that he is the victim of a witch hunt and that no previous politician has ever faced such a level of scrutiny.
However, that doesn’t mean what the media are saying—are reporting—is untrue. And that is the key, I believe. That is the difference. On the Trump side, we are offered more often than not denials, contradictions and hyperbole—and often offered them, if body language is any indication, with unctuous reluctance. On the media side, we are given facts, provable facts, often based on the utterances of Trump officials and mostly attributable. Yes, the media may be a little intense –even shrill—at times, but this shouldn’t obviate the innate truth of what they are saying.
That said, I don’t believe the media will drive Trump out of office, as they did to Nixon. They are up against too formidable and staunch an opponent, Trump’s ego, to do that. Nor do I think there is a smoking gun—an impeachable offence—of sufficient magnitude to do that. What I think will drive him from office, or at least restrain him from seeking reelection, is boredom. His own. I don’t think he wanted the presidency in the first place. I think he saw his campaign as something of a reality show driven in part by ego. In my opinion, I don’t think he was  prepared to go the distance; I think it was his intent to pull out of the race after fueling his ego on the big stage. But then momentum took over and he stayed the distance. He won, and now he’s saddled with a job that will tie him down for four years.
If I am right in that contention, President Donald Trump, forced into the job that he is, would likely not run full-term. I think he would like to get out of the job before that. And he and his advisors could easily come up with an excuse to do so.
But, here is the dichotomy: the media won’t let him.  I think Donald Trump is sitting there in the Oval Office (or, more often, Mar-a-Lago) backed into a corner (not that there are any in the Oval Office) because his ego won’t allow him to be hounded from office by the “criminal” media. In many ways, it is that media, and his ego, that are feeding an ill-advised determination to stay.
It could be said, and I never thought I would say it,  it might be best for Donald Trump, for the world and for us, if we just left him alone for a while.
Let’s pick on Wogistan instead.

Friday, May 12, 2017

I don't have a problem with homosexuals.

I don't have a problem with homosexuals.
I am not saying some of my best friends are gay. Fact is, I don't know. I don't ask, and I don't care.
What I do care about, however, is homosexual pimping of our language.
In earlier days, gay had a simple and joyous meaning. Gay, when used by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was immediately recognisable for what it was. Fitzgerald needed no further words, let alone explanation. And I do feel for those who are named Gay. "I am Gay," probably does require explanation. In spoken word, the capital G is not apparent.
I also have an issue with the cumbersome initialism LGBTIQ—Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer—which in length seems to be growing like a vociferous plaque. Even in its earliest evocation, it was the wholly unnecessary and duplicative LGB. If it grows much further and embraces zebras it will use nearly every letter in the alphabet.
But, the one high jacked word I most have a problem with is Rainbow. It is personal. A few years ago, just over ten years ago, I wrote a book called Ridin' the Rainbow. It isn't a gay book. Quite the reverse, so to speak—though I often say that some I interviewed for the book might have thought I was gay. Coming from Auckland and being a writer leads to that assumption.
No, it isn't a gay book. It is a great book, and you can currently buy it by searching on TradeMe.
The reason I am bringing up Ridin' the Rainbow (copy and paste for your TradeMe search) now is that I have been asked to write a sequel, which I am very much looking forward to.
Simple. It is the people. I met so many interesting people the first time around, and I look forward to meeting more this time. The history of the industry I wrote about—trailer manufacturing— is replete with wonderful characters. Here, by way of explanation and example, is an extract from the original book. It is about a guy called Dave Domett:
"Dave Domett was a generous host who liked to entertain. Friday nights at The Empire (Feilding) were Domett staff nights, and Dave was simply one of the boys. If a customer was visiting Feilding, the venue shifted to the Denbigh Hotel, which offered accommodation, home-cooked meals, a house bar which stayed open long after the 6 o'clock closing, and Dave Domett as the consummate and entertaining host.
"Dave is remembered as being able to hold his liquor with the best of them, though he was never a big or competitive drinker. What he preferred was to show his acumen in another area—trials of strength.
"In researching this book, I heard of—and had described to me by three sources—the Domett Door Feat. Physical prowess (and a high stud) is needed to accomplish it.
"It begins with an open door. Stand with your back to the edge of the door, and reach backwards over your head to grasp the top of the door with both hands; then, using arm strength (and possibly a little practiced technique) try to lift your body from the floor. Then in one fluid motion similar to a backward somersault lever your body up and over to end the feat sitting astride the top of the door.
"It needs to be remembered that Dave Domett was immensely strong. Whether the feat helped him directly with trailer building is questionable; that it was impressive, memorable and a colourful addition to the legendary status of Dave Domett is not."
I never met Dave. That feat and more I heard from others. But, I wish I had met him. I wish I were at The Empire or at The Denbigh. They must have been gay times, when gay simply meant great.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Hair Today

I have been corresponding with George Clooney lately. It has been a one-sided conversation, which I guess is not a conversation at all. George seems curiously reticent to respond to even the simplest question I have asked of him—that is, how does he keep his hair in great shape. It is important that I know. It is one the world’s great, yet largely unheralded, mysteries. Why? Well, think about it: when you and I get a haircut, it is plainly obvious. We have that recently shorn look, and there is nothing that even the best hairdresser can do to avoid that—and I have one of the best. Yet George Clooney doesn’t seem to have that problem. His hair always looks impeccable and, more important, exactly the same each and every day. How? Does he get his hair cut every day or every week? Does he have his own barber—sorry, hairdresser—on staff travelling with him? I imagine he could afford that. In George’s business looking well-groomed is of course important, unless you are Brad Pitt. In my business, it is not. My business is writing. And, as of today, it is a full-time business. Nobody much cares what a writer looks like. In fact, the dishevelled shambolic look is a popular conception of writers. It is, however, a misconception. Today’s writer—whether working in the commercial or creative sectors—must adopt and maintain a professional demeanour and approach to his or her work. Gone are the days when the popular conception, and expectation, of writers was a solitary soul starving in a garret.  That eroded the day Ernest Hemingway shot himself and ended with the advent of GST. All the best advice on writing, and that usually comes from, of all people Stephen King, is that writers must be highly disciplined and treat their “craft” as a job—a profession. If that means turning up to work at the same time every day and even wearing a tie—so be it. Gone too are the days of writing just for the sake of it without expectation of a productive outcome. A prime example being writing to George Clooney. The one resilient foible a writer will allow him or herself—other than the right and faculty to use the word foible—is that in the creative arena they can create worlds and escape into them at will. Though again, taking a pragmatic and professional approach, that facility should be enjoyed only sparingly, and only when wearing a tie as a reminder that there is also a real world. However, in all other respects writers are no different from anybody else. No different from carpenters, accountants, truck drivers or televangelists. They are different from politicians, but so is everybody else. In fact, if one was to look at it in that light your Fryday correspondent is virtually indistinguishable from Mr Clooney—apart from the hair of course.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Letter From Wogistan: Dear Kim

                                        The Democratic Republic of Wogistan (Inc.)
Office of the Foreign Secretary
123 Bruce Springsteen Boulevard (third door on right). Telephone: 125.

Presidente Kim Jong-Un
Presidente For Life
People’s Democratic Republic of North Korea
North Korea.

Greetings from the Peoples of Democratic Republic of Wogistan.

Our xalted leader, Presidente Yoseph Flagrantlie (God give him long life and much children), great admirer. He share many of your policys.

He want visit your kingdom for state visit. He say he will bring his family to meet what left of your family. He also bring natural wine of our country and prettiest sheep.

He show soldierarity with great peoples of Democratic Republic of North Korea against bad peoples of United States of America. Join you in parade.

Need name of your hair cutter two. Want appointment.

Please send plane, but not one built by your peoples who build your missiles.

Yoseph xxx
Yoseph Wankerstan
Foreign Secretary The Democratic Republic of Wogistan (Inc.)
Proprietor Spartacus Male Gym and Bathhouse.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Worst Ad Evever?

Political correctness, if not dead, is at least comatose. It was fun while it lasted, and a hobby for some, but it was not sustainable against the onslaught of derision brought on by its self-perpetuating stridency and farcicality. I think its nadir came with the 1979 edict (Radio New Zealand) that the term man-hole be replaced with person-hole. There are of course other examples. But, those are in the past. These days it appears that the final and sole bastion of the PC Brigade is food. There are still those who consistently and insistently tell us what is healthy and, more often, unhealthy for us to eat and drink. Even there it is often a moving feast, if you will forgive the play on words. This week a glass of red wine is good for us; next week, likely as not, it is not. However, one of the more consistent and possibly accurate targets for the PC Brigade is soft drink. I must admit that they have come up with a substantial body of evidence that excessive drinking of soft drinks is bad for us. Certainly, they have changed my thinking and I have moved from standard Coke to Zero, though I have never drunk much of any soft drink so any improvement is negligible. Still, I think they have a point. And that is why the following ad., reproduced lately on Facebook, would be so horrifying to them. In fact, I am prepared to say that even when it was first run in the 1950s it was so out of place, so inaccurate, so stupid, it was farcical and possibly dangerous. You wouldn’t be able to run it these days; possibly it shouldn’t have been allowed to have run in those days. But, Fryday is taking itself too seriously, just like the PC Brigade. Let’s just accept that this ad will never ever run again, and sit back and have a laugh at quite possibly the most stupid ad. ever inflicted on us.