Donald the Bitch

Words courtesy of Eminem, sentiment courtesy of everyone.

This the calm before the storm right here
Wait, how was I gonna start this off?
I forgot… oh, yeah…
That’s an awfully hot coffee pot
Should I drop it on Donald Trump? Prob’ly not
But that’s all I got ’til I come up with a solid plot
Got a plan and now I gotta hatch it
Like a damn Apache with a tomahawk
I’ma walk inside a mosque on Ramadan
And say a prayer that every time Melania talks
She gets a mou—ahh, I’ma stop
But we better give Obama props
‘Cause what we got in office now’s a kamikaze
That’ll prob’ly cause a nuclear holocaust
And while the drama pops
And he waits for shit to quiet down he’ll just gas his plane up and fly around ’til the bombing stops
Intensities heightened, tensions are risin’
Trump, when it comes to giving a shit, you’re stingy as I am
Except when it comes to having the balls to go against me, you hide ’em
‘Cause you don’t got the fucking nuts like an empty asylum
Racism’s the only thing he’s fantastic for
‘Cause that’s how he gets his fucking rocks off and he’s orange
Yeah, sick tan
That’s why he wants us to disband
‘Cause he can not withstand
The fact we’re not afraid of Trump
Fuck walkin’ on egg shells, I came to stomp
That’s why he keeps screamin’, “Drain the swamp!”
‘Cause he’s in quicksand
It’s like we take a step forwards, then backwards
But this is his form of distraction
Plus, he gets an enormous reaction
When he attacks the NFL so we focus on that in
-stead of talking Puerto Rico or gun reform for Nevada
All these horrible tragedies and he’s bored and would rather
Cause a Twitter storm with the Packers
Then says he wants to lower our taxes
Then who’s gonna pay for his extravagant trips
Back and forth with his fam to his golf resorts and his mansions?
Same shit that he tormented Hillary for and he slandered
Then does it more
From his endorsement of Bannon
Support from the Klansmen
Tiki torches in hand for the soldier that’s black
And comes home from Iraq
And is still told to go back to Africa
Fork and a dagger in this racist 94-year-old grandpa
Who keeps ignoring our past historical, deplorable factors
Now if you’re a black athlete you’re a spoiled little brat for
Tryna use your platform or your stature
To try to give those a voice who don’t have one
He says, “You’re spittin’ in the face of vets who fought for us, you bastards!”
Unless you’re a POW who’s tortured and battered
‘Cause to him you’re zeros
‘Cause he don’t like his war heroes captured
That’s not disrespecting the military
Fuck that! This is for Colin, ball up a fist!
And keep that shit balled like Donald the bitch!
“He’s gonna get rid of all immigrants!”
“He’s gonna build that thing up taller than this!”
Well, if he does build it, I hope it’s rock solid with bricks
‘Cause like him in politics, I’m using all of his tricks
‘Cause I’m throwin’ that piece of shit against the wall ’til it sticks
And any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his
I’m drawing in the sand a line: you’re either for or against
And if you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split
On who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this:
“Fuck you!”
The rest of America stand up
We love our military, and we love our country
But we fucking hate Trump

Writer vs South East Asia

PHNOM PENH.

It wasn’t until I was on the road out of Phnom Penh that my experience there really began to dawn on me; and it wouldn’t be until I left Cambodia later that week that the significance of my time in the country would begin to sink in.

When I first arrived in the Cambodian capital, fresh off the back of ten months in Wellington, I went for a walk around the streets, down a couple of alleys and backroads, making for the occasional landmark in the distance. It was on this first casual walk through the city that I began to feel an unnamed and unidentifiable gnawing sense of unease. Though I could not yet put my finger on it, it was as real as the tuktuk-polluted air I was breathing and the hot sun warming my skin. There was something in the corner of my eye, but whenever I turned to look at it – it was gone. It was as if the streets were filled with a piercing howl on mute.

If I hadn’t known any of the history of this country, I feel I would’ve suspected something terrible had happened fairly recently anyway. Though, those suspicions would’ve been woefully short of the imagination, sheer depravity, and total bizarre horror required to be anywhere near the truth of what had happened on these streets just 40 years prior to me walking them.

Knowing the history, or at least thinking I knew it, helped me understand why this looming shadow cooled the otherwise stifling hot urban hustle. Scooters and trucks, street food, the glaring sun, the crowds, the rush of South East Asian sprawling chaos – all the energies were there, and yet; an abject silence echoed in the streets of Phnom Penh.

Maybe I was just imagining it.

I passed gorgeous Buddhist temples and saw monks praying in silence. Candles burnt. Kids played tag as their parents cooked food. A couple of dogs lay dead in the street. Mechanics fixed the endless supply of motorbike engines in an endless supply of soot-covered workshops. People sat on the streets and smoked cigarettes. Fruit hung outside of stores. Some toddlers sat naked on busted concrete sidewalks. Trash was strewn so completely everywhere. Poverty and life mixed in hot sun. Thousands of scooters zoomed down long French avenues. The French were here once, not so long ago.

At some point on this first day, I met my buddy Jack who I had first met in Mexico City a year ago. We looked at each other with those same cool grins, as if to say, “Here we go again.” I was out of practice, I’d forgotten how to cross the road in a city so heaving in motion, so it was good to see a friendly face.

Over the next couple of days, Jack and I explored the city, with its temples and rivers and monuments, its people, food, the streets, bars, cafes, the traffic, the suffocating fumes of a million scooters all needing an oil change. I was finding my feet again; this is how you see the world. After ten months in Wellington, I had finally came back to life.

Then we visited the outskirts of the city. We made the unavoidable trip. I’d heard of the killing fields, I had a basic idea of who Pol Pot was, and I even knew a tiny bit about the Khmer Rouge, or so I thought.

Upon arriving at Choeung Ek, about a half hour tuktuk ride out of the city, I began walking towards a large tower in the distance. I saw other people walking towards it, so I thought nothing of it, it sort of looked like another temple, the kind I’d seen dotting many horizons. However, it wasn’t until I got closer to it that I saw them, when I was in the shade of them; the tower was full of human skulls. Hollow sockets of white bone staring back at me – thousands and thousands of them. I had to crane my neck back to see the top row of dead faces. The silent piercing howl coming into pitch, like a screech.

Walking around the fields themselves; the green fields were broken into ripples, waves, bumps in the grass made by mass graves, pits where countless lives were ended with hammers, axes, iron ox-cart axles, knives, shovels, hoes, and the razor sharp edges of the nearby trees. One tree, ‘the killing tree’, was used to smash babies against until they were dead. The executioners would simply hold them by a limb and bash them against the trunk. I stood underneath this tree and looked up at its leaves, watching the sunlight pass through them, unsure what to think. I walked around some more. The sun was shining, there was a lake nearby. It was a nice place, peaceful with farmlands and wetlands – but it was once the scene of misery and despair. You have to be careful walking in a place like this, even after the horror is over, not just because of the victims’ clothes and bones still on the ground, but because you have to make sure the ill feeling doesn’t snag inside you and linger, that it doesn’t attach itself to you, that you can walk away from it.

A man was begging behind a barbed wire fence by the lake. How did he get there? How did any of these people get to this calm and scenic and otherwise normal piece of countryside? The answer, as I would discover, is one of the most terrifying, absurd, insane, and dramatic human occurrences in history.

Saloth Sar, who had changed his name to Pol Pot, was like a night animal afraid of the light and kept such a low profile that not even his own family knew who this ‘Pol Pot’ was and were themselves subjugated to his communist party’s rule, the Khmer Rouge. He unleashed something so unusual and horrible, a new term had to be invented to describe it: ‘auto-genocide’; the genocide of a people by itself. Of all the events of the 20th century, this one manages to go beyond. Why would an ancient culture, a nation of millions, try to commit suicide? Why would people impose an apocalypse on themselves in such a complete and degrading way?

The Khmer Rouge referred to themselves as ‘Angkar’ (‘The Organization’). To simplify the history of how the Organization took control of Cambodia is to do a great disservice to the truth, but in essence: colonialism, communism, the Cold War, a proxy war, a civil war, and the deception of Pol Pot came together in 1975 to create a strange manifestation of absolute human misery. The Organization wanted a purely agrarian Cambodia where communes would be self-sufficient. Anything that threatened this was to be eradicated.

Anyone with a high school education was massacred, hacked, beaten, butchered; all the students, all the doctors, all the artists, all the engineers, all the nurses, all the teachers, all the scientists, all the monks, all the historians, all the accountants, all the politicians, anyone, anyone, who showed an interest in living in a more complex society, anyone with soft hands, anyone with glasses – auto-genocide, the suicide of a nation, the erasing of a people by themselves.

Thinking too much was outlawed. Family life was outlawed. The new family was the Organization. The citizens of Phnom Penh and the other urban centres had been driven into the countryside and were forced to farm. Farming was the only acceptable occupation now and because modern technology was considered evil, all the farming had to be done with basic equipment. The city dwellers didn’t know how to farm, least of all like degraded beasts, dragging ploughs across fields all day, everyday.

Thousands were worked to death. Thousands starved. Disease was rampant, but doctors were killed and medicine was not consistent with the ‘self-sufficiency’ manifesto of the Organization. Millions, between 25% and 30% of Cambodia, would not survive this insane incarnation of hell. Children who were young enough not to recollect too strongly how things had once been, in other words they were immune to so-called ‘memory sickness’, were ripped from their parents and turned into the brainwashed guards, torturers, and murderers of the Organization.

To quote the film The Killing Fields, “God is dead.”

One of the few buildings in Phnom Penh that still had people inside it was an old high school. It wasn’t a high school anymore, however, it was S-21; a torture and execution centre. It’s where Jack and I visited after the killing fields. It’s a museum now. It’s the darkest place on earth I’ve ever stood.

I read accounts of this place as I walked its rooms. I stood in a tiny cell and felt an awful pressure on my chest. I had to step out of the cell. Then I saw blood on the floor. There were rooms full of thousands of faces, photographs of the victims. I was familiar with only one, I had seen it before. I remembered his eyes.

The torture was extreme in this place. People lost names and became only numbers. Their number was decided upon based on their position shackled to an iron bar. The bar held four people, so you were one, two, three, or four. Wearing only a loin cloth and shackled to this bar with three other people, you had to lie down in silence on the floor in a room full of other four sets of people on the floor until it was your turn to be tortured. If you spoke or moved or your shackle made a noise while you waited, you would be beaten. The torture was to force an admission of your crimes against the Organization. It was sadistic. If you passed out from the pain, your face was submerged in human shit until you woke up, then you would be tortured some more. Once you made your confession, you would be sent to the killing fields. You were not allowed to cry or speak or scream.

But of course they cried. Of course they screamed. Leaving this place, I could finally hear the howls of agony of this city’s streets in full volume. Memory sickness. I finally understood why it had felt like so many people were in a state of PTSD. I understood why it felt like a place where people had gathered after an apocalypse – because it is. Everyone over 40 years old was there. Most are victims. Some are guilty. The Khmer Rouge regime only ended when it provoked Vietnam into invading it in 1979. However, Pol Pot escaped to the jungle and never faced justice. Before he died in 1998, he claimed that he was one of the most misunderstood people in history.

 

SIEM REAP.

Siem Reap was the exact opposite experience to Phnom Penh. After making the six hour drive from the capital through the flat green countryside to Siem Reap, I was immediately struck by how much brighter life felt here. It’s a smaller place, yet no less hectic. However, the light just seemed brighter, the air just seemed warmer, the pace felt a little slower, the trees looked a little greener, the people a little happier.

The contrast was so clear that I came to appreciate my time in Phnom Penh for what it had been. My time in Siem Reap would soon come to make me speechless, as the depth of what my Cambodian journey meant for me on a personal level became apparent. I was halfway to Vietnam when it hit me.

Walking through Siem Reap, I felt at home along the long avenues lined with tall trees. The French influence made me reminisce of New Orleans; that muggy, swampy fauna and those long streets of trees and romantic architecture. The ruins of Angkor, the ancient capital of the great Khmer Empire, were nearby and their presence attracted tourists like me in droves. Money, opportunity, and energy were pouring into Siem Reap. The long deceased ancestors of this devastated country were doing their best to help it come back to life. It’s a good place.

Jack and I checked out the markets (and ate scorpions and tarantulas!) and visited the local bars and nightlife. Bustling and frantic – yet the ease of life returning.

Over the next few days, we visited Angkor. Temples so majestic and intricate, wonderful and awesome, grand monuments to enlightenment and peace, surrounded by the thick green jungle humming with life and birdsong. The sun aged the stone as the jungle tried to reclaim it, but the figures of wisdom stood tall. Walls and corridors engraved in minute detail of patterns and story. The famous Angkor Wat, the reclusive and exquisite Ta Prohm, and the still beating heart of Cambodia – Bayon. At Bayon, enormous faces with calm smiles tower over the jungle canopy and point in the four directions of the earth, radiating peace and gentleness outwards. The faces seem so quietly certain that all can be overcome and everything, in the long end of time, will be alright.

I was speechless.

To see places of such sweeping and peaceful grandeur so soon after seeing the darkness I had seen in Phnom Penh was one of the most moving experiences of my entire life. The two halves of mankind; one presented in its tedious banality, only to be obliterated by the other, in all its endless love, light, truth, and goodness.

I was humbled by this experience of the Cambodian nation, traveling as I had down the road between these two opposite halves of human nature. I was honoured to have this experience. I felt privileged and eternally grateful.

I try not to be self-centered as I travel from place to place, but I couldn’t help it on this occasion. This experience forced me to reflect inwards and consider what had just been shown to me. You see, I tried to kill myself once. July 7th, 2009. I was 21 years old. I don’t talk about it often, but I think about it daily. Sometimes I write about it. Anyway, thankfully, I’m still here. Thankful is how I feel most of the time, but every now and then that nagging voice inside me makes itself known. I think this is why Cambodia shook me so deeply and why it’s taken me some weeks to write about. It was like visiting my own mind, my mind on a countrywide scale, with the pointless darkness in one place and the overwhelming light in another. It helped me reach the place of permanent light. Standing in Bayon, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt free of the darkness, at last.

As I say, I usually try to shy away from this level of self-centeredness, but my short week in Cambodia was the single most significant spiritual journey I’ve ever been on.

 

NHA TRANG.

By comparison to Cambodia, my time in Vietnam was a lot simpler. This is not to say it wasn’t interesting and exciting and wonderful, it was all of those things, but what happened to me in Cambodia is not something that could be repeated. Vietnam was a lot more relaxed. I had been through the emotional and spiritual gauntlet, so I spent a lot of time in my first Vietnamese stop, the coastal city of Nha Trang, simply enjoying life.

Jack and I had met a Vietnamese girl in Cambodia. She let us stay with her at her grandmother’s house in Cam Ranh. The three of us then booked a room in the tallest building in Nha Trang, overlooking the beach and distant curl of the blue horizon. I swam a lot in the ocean. I ran to the great white Buddha that watches over the city. I ate good food. I even met another cool Vietnamese girl, she showed me a good time. Rooftop bars, early morning sunrises, swimming in the South China Sea – Nha Trang was like a wonderful dream, the kind you try desperately to return to after you’ve woken up slightly and can feel it slipping away.

Nha Trang’s dreamlike quality is made so by a couple of really cool and rather unique features. Firstly, being a communist country, there’s the red flags of the defunct Soviet Union lining the streets, that crimson banner with the golden hammer and sickle. To add to this, there are flights direct from Moscow, so the entire city is full of Russian tourists. I never saw any Americans. It all combines to create an illusion that you’ve stepped into an alternate timeline where the Soviets won the Cold War. It’s totally fucking badass.

The other thing that makes Nha Trang not seem real is Vinpearl in the distance. Built on one of the islands in the distance, Vinpearl is a resort/tourist extravaganza. With a massive sign in the hills reading ‘VINPEARL’, an amazing ocean-crossing gondola connecting it to the mainland, several towering castle buildings, and a ferris wheel off to one side – it simply looks like a fantasy out at sea. Then at nighttime the lighting of it just renders the whole place unimaginably magic, like no place that can exist in the real world. All the while, you’re eating dinner on the warm sands of the mainland, looking out at a dream tethered to a fantasy.

 

HO CHI MINH CITY.

My last stop. Jack and I had parted ways in Nha Trang. Our paths will cross again. When and where? Who knows, but it’ll happen. I now understand his role in my life; he’s how I know I’ve been caught up again in that space where one truly comes to life – where real life becomes the dream, the mask, the thing that isn’t real, and the dream becomes what you’re living.

I wasn’t long in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon. Three nights. I ran a lot, looping around this noisy place, along the rivers, over bridges, around parks, ducking and weaving between the traffic which flows like a river of scooters. Caught up with an old friend from Wellington too. I visited the war museum but what comment on the war can I possibly make that you haven’t already heard?

I liked this city. I liked this country. I need to come back someday and see more of it. It has a lot of charm. So does Saigon. It’s like a dirty Tokyo. Tokyo with a bit of edge. And a shit load of scooters.

Goodnight Video

One of my favourite episodes of South Park is A Nightmare on Face Time, the one where Randy buys a video store and it’s full of ghosts because “video stores are so old now”. Little kids passing by don’t know what DVDs are and think the video store is creepy. It’s a great episode! (Ironically, you should totally check it out online!)

But it’s so sad that video stores are all but gone. I understand Netflix and Hulu et all are more convenient and don’t charge late fees, but there was something really magical about video stores. Check out Kathleen Winter’s short documentary DVD Dreams if you don’t believe me. And of course Michael Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind. Remember that annoying feeling when you got home and the VHS wasn’t rewound? Or even worse – the DVD was scratched?!

However, it wasn’t just the movies or being able to hold them in your hand that made video stores so wonderful, it was the people. I worked in two video stores in my time, one in Auckland and one in Wellington, and both brought me into contact with some of the nicest, strangest, and most hilarious and magnificent people I’ve ever met! Characters who themselves belong in movies.

SONY DSC

‘Working’ alongside my colleague Nic Sando in 2009

It also was the conversations that made video stores so great. I could talk for hours and hours to all sorts of people about all sorts of films, so much so that I probably got a better education in cinema from working in video stores than by going to film school. Quentin Tarantino famously learnt his craft by working in a video store and it was thanks to video stores that I learnt about him and Scorsese and Coppola, Godard, Almodóvar, Solondz, Paul Thomas Anderson, STANLEY KUBRICK.

But where can you go to have those conversations now? On social media? That horrific combination of websites that make celebrities of everyday people and everyday people of celebrities? The Internet, for all its accessibility and connectivity, has no heart. Netflix will never love cinema the way us weirdoes at the video stores of the world once did.

I suppose you can have those conversations at cinemas themselves or at festivals, but I dunno, it just doesn’t feel the same. Pale misfits don’t go much for networking and crowds. Cinemas are the book launch, you go in, get wowed, maybe make a passing comment to someone you know as you leave. But video stores were like the library.

Who knows, maybe they’ll come back someday? After all, record stores still exist.

I do know of a couple of people for certain, however, that definitely don’t share my nostalgia for video stores. And it isn’t because of their love of the relentless march of technology and change…

The first is a woman who I had to call because she had late fees. Usual call, “Hey, sorry to bother you, just ringing to let you know your videos are overdue.” At first I thought she was just playing dumb, “Sorry but I haven’t rented any videos.” Then she asked, “What are they?” I check her account and see that the overdue film is porno. There are some people milling about in the store, so I discreetly say, “Ah, it’s an adult film.” She seems genuinely surprised, “An adult film? I haven’t rented any adult films. What’s it called?” I go into her account and find out it’s The Cockfather.

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 8.54.18 PM

(Note: the hand usually holding the puppet strings symbolising of the nefarious power of the mafia is holding something else)

So, extra discreetly I tell her, “Ah, it’s called The Cockfather.” Her next question surprises me a little. “The Cockfather? Is it gay porn?” “Yeah, I think so. I mean, I haven’t seen it but I think so.” “Oh”, she says as though she’s been shot in the stomach with a shotgun, “It must be my husbands” – and then hangs up the phone! Did I just break up a family?!

The second story also involves The Cockfather. Seems it was a popular title. It was a new release and all new releases were kept behind the counter so people wouldn’t steal them, porn included. So this guy comes up to the counter with a stack of porn to rent, let’s call him Sam. It was a Friday night, the store is busy, I’m trying to do my job as fast as I can.

So Sam comes up, looking rather nervous, and puts his stack of porn on the counter. He gives me his membership card, I scan it, and immediately a notice for late fees pops up. “Oh, sorry dude, you’ve got some fines”, I tell him. His nervousness visibly increases, “Late fees? What for?” “Ah, it’s an adult film.” “Oh, what one?” “Um… Salad Eating Sluts…”

Yes, that’s a real film. I won’t post the cover here, but there are carrots. Google it if you must.

“Oh, yep”, says Sam, “I’ll pay that fine.” Poor guy. He was so accepting of this fine, almost as if he knew it wasn’t for the film being overdue at all, but rather the fine naturally incurred whenever you shamefully masturbate to women eating salad.

Anyway, I start scanning his DVDs and come to the empty case of The Cockfather. “I just have to get the disk for this one”, I tell him. He looks over his shoulder nervously as a line of other customers slowly begins to form. His eyes dart from his porn on full display to the floor. I feel his pain, so I quickly go to search for this apparent pornographic masterpiece, wondering if it also employs Gordon Willis’ dramatic use of darkness to illuminate. Only, I can’t find the damn thing! It’s not under C where all the other cock-titled films are! I search and search.

A female coworker eventually comes over and asks, “What are you looking for?” “The Cockfather“, I tell her, “I’m looking for The Cockfather.” “Have you looked under C?” she asks. “Yeah, but I can’t find it”, I say with an increasing sense of urgency. She starts looking too but she can’t find it either!

Maybe a minute later, or a hundred years, our manager came along. “What’s going on, guys?” he asks us. “We’re looking for The Cockfather“, I say in hushed desperation, “But it doesn’t seem to be anywhere.” “Have you looked under C?” he asks.

Meanwhile, back at the counter, Sam is starting to sweat bullets. The fluorescent lighting overhead and the gunfire coming form the nearby widescreen TV are only heightening his sense of paranoia, shame, and complete indignity. Then, to make matters worse, someone in the cue recognises him and picks this moment to engage in smalltalk. Let’s call her Sally.

“Oh, hey Sam! How are you?” “Sally! Hi! Hello, yeah, um, good. Yeah, I’m good. How, how are you?” “Same old really. DVD on a Friday night. What have you been up to?” “Oh, not much, not much.”

“Here it is!” my manager says as he finds the disk, “Someone put it under G.” He hands me the disk and I go back to the counter.

Sally’s eyes then clock Sam’s stack of porn with all that sweaty skin – a bit like Sam’s forehead. “Oh, right”, she says awkwardly.

I speedily complete the rest of Sam’s transaction of humiliation and ask him if he wants a bag for his… rentals. He says, “I’ve already got one”, and pulls out a scrunched up plastic bag from the pocket of his hoodie. I’d rather not touch this bag but I don’t have much choice. I go to put his DVDs in his bag – and there’s a tissue inside. He knows I saw it.

Then, to finish off this train wreck of an encounter, as he was leaving the store, I would’ve said it to everyone that night, it becomes habit, I said, “Have a good night, mate.”

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe it’s a good thing video stores are a thing of the past.

The Dogfight

It was brutal. Every bit as tough as I thought it would be – and then some.

Early on Sunday morning, my dad waited with me at the start line by the stadium for the Wellington marathon to begin. It was cold and the sun was still waiting to rise over the harbour in the east, but thankfully it wasn’t windy. Of all the things I was worried about, the infamous Wellington wind was the most uncontrollable. A strong gale force wind was my nightmare scenario, a nail in the coffin. Thankfully it was still, so the rest was going to be up to me.

Dad was walking the half marathon event which was starting an hour later, so as the race begun, I told him I would see him soon and set off.

Running down the empty quays of sleepy Wellington was lovely. My Uncle Nick in Tokyo, who had just completed an ultra marathon in South Africa, had been coaching me through the last few weeks and gave me a strict race plan to stick to. I wasn’t to run the first 10km in less than 70 minutes. I wasn’t to reach 20km until 2 hours, 15 minutes. I had to pace myself. He said a lot of people would pass me by and that that was fine. This race wasn’t about getting it done quickly, but simply getting it done. And if there is anything I’ve learnt from Japanese cinema, it’s that you must always listen to your sensei. I wrote his times and distances on the back of my hand before the race.

As I was coming around Oriental Bay, the sun finally broke free from the hills and the most amazing deluge of golden light covered the harbour. Everything was going to plan and I was feeling good. Around Evans Bay is when some of the characters started appearing. First, there was the guy running inside a cardboard aeroplane costume that he was carrying with his arms at his sides. Then there was the guy who was skipping instead of running. The ones that really got me though were the two women who were gossiping about their families as they ran. Their chatter was impossibly irritating, but thankfully they stopped at the first public toilet where they got into separate portaloos and kept fucking talking.

Anyway, I got to the 10km mark on schedule and started the Shelly Bay stretch of the race. This is where I first saw the two guys who were leading the race. They had already been to Scorching Bay and back. They looked like absolute machines. The winner ended up crossing the finish line in 2 hours and 22 minutes. Lightning.

I finally made it to Scorching Bay myself, the 15km mark, where I saw my mum and my sister Rachael waiting for me. Seeing them was great. I still had plenty left in the tank. The route of the Wellington marathon doubles back on itself a little in this patch, so I saw the leaders zip past me a second time before making it back to Shelly Bay and the 20km mark. Turning back around, I hit Scorching Bay for the second and final time, before running past mum and Rachael again and beginning the long haul back to the stadium.

I hit the 30km mark just 2 minutes behind schedule. My body was sore, it knew it had just run 30km, but it was still holding up. But something Uncle Nick had told me a few days ago ensured I didn’t drop my guard – “A marathon truly begins at 36km”.

This is where the ‘wall’ lies in waiting. It hit me like a black wave and nearly everything ground to a halt. Rachael and mum had driven to the 34km mark to cheer me on but I shook my head as I ran past them, letting them know I was hurting. They called out to say they’d see me at the stadium. If that was going to turn out to be true, I was going to have to break through the wall.

Most people who bail on a marathon do so at this point. I was bitterly close to quitting. It was devastatingly tough. My legs felt like they were about to collapse, my feet were blistered to hell, and to make the wall that much more solid – the Wellington wind arrived. I was now 30-40 minutes behind my time and the wind was slamming me head on. Every part of me wanted to give up. Somehow, I had to find the strength to keep running.

This is when I remembered why I was doing this crazy bastard of a run to begin with. Through the kindness of friends of family, I had raised over a thousand dollars for the Mental Health Foundation of NZ. But there was a reason I had chosen this charity to support. I have been in and out of the dumps of mental health issues for a decade and this was my way of proving to myself and everyone else that I will overcome this. One day at a time. One step at a time. There wasn’t going to be anybody on this stretch of the race to cheer me. This had to be done by me and by me alone.

I’m not really sure how, but I kept running.

Coming around the bend into Oriental Bay, where I could finally see the stadium on the other side of the harbour, Mt Victoria then gave me a sharp shelter from the wind. I saw a road marker that said ‘4km to go’ and for the first time began to think, “I might actually make it”.

Then, just like they did when they were born, my two little nephews, Thomas and Jack, appeared on the horizon and instantly made me feel a hundred times better. My other sister Nicola and her husband Nathan had waited to surprise me at Oriental Bay. As I ran past them, Thomas and Jack gave me high fives and called out, “Go Uncle Dave! We know you can do it! Keep going!”

That was when I finally thought, “I am going to make it”.

Slowly and painfully, I traipsed my way along the Wellington waterfront, passing all the Sunday markets and finally making it to the stadium. My dad had waited for me after his half marathon at the finish line. 4 hours, 59 minutes after I said I’d see him soon, I finally made it – and just under the 5 hour mark!

Looking back on it, the whole race was a perfect metaphor for my battle with mental illness. It was one ugly, grueling dogfight, but it was ultimately won by the support of my family, near and far, and the power of determination. It was a pretty amazing experience, one that’s slowly been sinking now that my legs are beginning to work again.

A lot of old truths were reaffirmed for me. The main one being that family is what gets us through life. But also; always listen to your sensei, you never know what’s around the corner, some people skip through life, some people carry loads we can’t imagine carrying ourselves, and some people never shut up.

Oh! And a picture says a thousand words.

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Like A Complete Unknown

I travelled to over fifty-something towns and cities last year. Maybe more. It was the greatest experience of my entire life. I’ve been home for about five months now, but there is never a minute of the day where my mind doesn’t venture back to someplace, or someone, on that incredible journey. Often, I find myself asking, “Was it even real?”

It must’ve been because I saw the unfathomable size of Tokyo with my own eyes, the city that bends the curvature of the earth. I saw the endless valleys of light in Mexico City, resting between the high mountains struggling to contain it. I met the Red Skywalker in Merida, she had red hair and came to me in a dream, only I didn’t realise who she was or what she was saying until I had woken up and she was gone, forever. I hobbled between blues bars in Chicago on a warm summer’s night before making my way down to jazz bars in New Orleans. I found myself once again cast into the ever-accelerating Manhattan stratosphere, the island that turns the world. I looked down in curious horror at the sprawling monster that is Los Angeles, the edge of the world and all of western civilization.

Of course, that was just last year. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel before then as well. I once went to San Francisco with a girl I loved. I once stood in the ruins of the Eternal City. I went to Dublin in the summertime of 2009, it rained everyday and everyday I drank pints of Guinness in old wooden pubs.

Drifting from place to place, I always heard the cutting words Bob Dylan sung in Like A Rolling Stone:

How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
A complete unknown, like a rolling stone

However, it’s Wellington that has always called me home. Or rather, it’s Wellington that I have always called home. She was recently named the best city in the world and New Zealand was ranked the most prosperous country on earth, so we must be doing something right down here in our quiet little corner of the South Pacific Ocean.

With all the exotic excitement of all the faraway places, it’s easy to forget the value of your own hometown sometimes. So, for my benefit as much as yours, allow me to share this unique collection of photos that I’ve taken over the years of my city.

 

The Russia

With the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the talk of nuclear weapons in North Korea, and the ever-rising tide of populist bullshit around the world, most recently in Turkey – not to mention, of course, the actual rising tides thanks to our catastrophic abuse of the environment – these feel like dark days on my home, planet earth.

In the face of such looming shadows, I often find myself wondering, “What the hell can I do?” All I can do, I think, is share the stuff that reminds me about the better parts of humanity, the stuff which confirms my belief that there is more that unites me to the others on this planet than could ever divide us.

Below is a picture of the earth from about six billion kilometers away. Earth is that white pixel in the sunbeam on the right. If you think the earth looks little, you’re right. If you think it’s just because this picture is taken from really far away, you’re wrong – it’s taken just past Neptune, our backyard. Check out Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.

Pale_Blue_DotI was recently given a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s monumental Howl and Other Poems. Here’s the opening to his poem America:

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.

And then this is how he closes that poem:

America you don’t really want to go to war.
America its them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.   
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.   
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.   
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Of course, today it’s not really ‘them Russians’ so much as it is ‘that Russian’ – that dickless piece of shit in Moscow who doesn’t deserve to have his name mentioned in the same breath as Carl Sagan’s nor Allen Ginsberg’s. Nor John Lennon’s.

G I V E   P E A C E   A   C H A N C E

Two, one-two-three-four!

Ev’rybody’s talking ’bout
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, that-ism, is-m, is-m, is-m

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

Hit it
C’mon, ev’rybody’s talking about
Ministers, sinisters, banisters and canisters
Bishops and Fishops and Rabbis and Popeyes and bye-bye, bye-byes

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

Let me tell you now
Ev’rybody’s talking ’bout
Revolution, evolution, masturbation, flagellation, regulation, integrations
Meditations, United Nations, congratulations

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

Ev’rybody’s talking ’bout
John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary, Tommy Smothers, Bobby Dylan, Tommy Cooper
Derek Taylor, Norman Mailer, Alan Ginsberg, Hare Krishna, Hare, Hare Krishna

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

From Homer to Homer

I haven’t blogged in ages! I’ve been reading a lot and working on a new manuscript but I’ve certainly neglected this space. I guess there’s not been much to write about. Well, apart from the fact the American president is basically a clown. Yeah, it’s essentially the most ridiculous thing that’s ever happened. The world of 2017 is rapidly losing context.

I did recently come across the concept of ‘oversimplified histories‘. They’re basically just compressed presentations of complex historical subjects with a strong focus on satire and sarcasm. Real nerdy. I love it. Ironically, you can’t really enjoy the true comedy of an oversimplified history unless you know the actual history, but I think a really well done oversimplified history should still be able to be appreciated even by people with a limited understanding of the given subject.

So, seeing as ‘Western Civilization’ – whatever the hell that phrase even means – is being steadily kicked in the balls of late, I decided to present ‘The Oversimplified History of Western Civilization’. I’ve chosen just two key images to bookend this concept as succinctly as possible.

V for Valentine

I don’t know what’s crazier; US President Fuckface Von Clownstick, or that I’m cheering the unholy powers of the US intelligence community.

Having seemingly given up on the Republican Congress, American spies appear to have leaked to the press perhaps the greatest Valentine’s Day gift in history – the means by which to undo Trump and halt Putin. V for Valentine.

History isn’t history and science fiction is… what a world we live in!

I caught myself listening to Bob Dylan’s Only A Pawn In Their Game the other day. Dylan, sadly, still hits the nail on the head. I think the feelings in that song are going to be important once all the dust settles in the US. You’re almost there, Yanks. Keep fighting the good fight. We’re rooting for y’all.

On a more personal note, Writer vs the World keeps being swiftly rejected by publishers. I’ve never had a manuscript be so quickly rejected by so many people. This can mean only one of two things; either it’s doing everything awfully wrong, or it’s doing something just right. In times as mental as these, it’s only logical to assume there could be a publisher somewhere out there mad enough to take me on.

This video is completely unrelated to everything but it’s awesome and its title is reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.

A New Dope

A lot has happened since I last blogged. So much, in fact, that it’s warranted a slight website update. Having received the last rejection letters for Joker, I decided to make it available for free online, alongside my other three unpublished manuscripts: The Virgins of Mars, Psych World, and The Candour – which, although it remains unpublished, is a piece of writing that could actually get me killed someday…

The book covers are pretty basic at the moment (that’s generous – they’re shit) because I did them myself on Microsoft Word. But I’ve promised an artist friend of mine some coffee, alcohol, and/or money in exchange for her designing me some proper covers, so both the books and the website should look a little cooler soon!

You may also notice that all the Writer vs the World blog entries have been taken down. I took them offline and have compiled them into a polished manuscript of the same name. I also added in various ‘incidences’ that I left out at the time. Some pretty crazy stuff went down. It’s a pretty compelling read, I think. Here’s hoping fifth time’s a charm. If not, I’ll make it available for free here too. I don’t write for the money – and it’s just as well!

I was tempted to add one final entry to that diary, an entry that would answer all the questions I left open. However, doing so was too painful. Suffice it to say – shit got real.

Besides, I feel that such an entry might actually make for an arresting opening to a sequel; Writer Reverses the World, or maybe I should just call it Writer vs the World 2? Whatever it gets titled, indeed wherever I go next, I need to save some money first before I can venture back out into the world and begin writing about it. I scored a cool job back at WingNut Films here in Wellington. There’s a map of the world on the wall by my desk…

unnamedThis is, of course, all assuming there’s still a world left to travel in now that we’ve entered the Trump era. I really wish I was kidding about this, but there’s been so much sensationalism, hysteria, and confusion lately, propelled by misinformation and disinformation, that making any sense of anything has become exhausting – and thus more than just a little frightening. On top of all this, it seems all reasonable dialogue has completely broken down between opposing sides, with people either fueling their anger or seeking refuge from it within their online and real life echo chambers. If things don’t calm down soon in the United States and around the world, it’s hard to imagine how a peaceful reconciliation might begin to occur.

Is the United States really witnessing a coup, or is this notion just yet more unhelpful hysteria? If it is a coup, it seems purely reliant on boiling frogs. Maybe that’s the only way such a stunt could be pulled off in 21st century America? Is this orchestration of Stephen Bannon’s really as nefarious as some people claim?

My two cents? There’s nothing sinister happening. All that’s taking place is an extreme faction of a far-right minority political party is seizing control of all branches of government of the most powerful industrial, economic, and military force the world has ever seen. Nope, nothing to see here