Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cancer, Croce, and Cakapo*

Cakapo: a deliberate mis-spelling, just to maintain the eye-appeal of the capital Cs.

Patrick Swayze is dead, and the world is probably a lesser place because of it. He was an OK actor who could smoulder... and he danced like an angel. It's perhaps more accurate to call him a dancer who occasionally acted. He was an environmentalist before it became fashionable, and, it seems, a man who didn't feel the need to put a sticker in his car window about his emotional relationships. This is probably because if you do it, you don't have to boast about it. He probably was a bit of a promise-keeper, too. He died of pancreatic cancer, which is a particularly nasty one, and the lazy journalists once again jumped on the "died after a two-year battle with cancer" line. His official statement was far more truthful: he faced the challenges of the cancer. He didn't battle it. In fact, it made him angry and fearful. I do hate it when perfectly good people who do their best to die with a little dignity and nobility are demaned by that lazy catch-cry, but what can you do?

At least the god-awful "going forward" dribble is being forcefully, and hilariously, attacked. Let's celebrate the politician or rugby knothead who can get through a press conference without uttering the words "going forward".

Croce: I was listening to a CD of Jim Croce's best in the car this evening as I came home from another day's very rewarding work. I have a new short story from it, asnd must get onto it. But I was mainly struck by how strongly I was reminded of how it felt to be in love in my 20s. His music is very evocative of that time, and I could almost feel and taste the whole emotional roller-coasters I experienced at that time. It was sublime. If I were to pick music that carried the same internal symbolism of my love for Jenny, I think I'd be looking at Neil Young, and his Harvest Moon album. Actually, I think I'll put that on now.

Time has passed. Yep, Neil Young, Harvest Moon. I'll have a toon from that - probably "Such a Woman", or "Dreaming Man" - at my funeral, along with Jethro Tull's "Too Old To Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die", and Blood Sweat and Tears "And When I Die".

Saw a thing on Campbell Live this evening, re the Kakapo at the Auckland Zoo. I don't care how much we spend on out bird preservation and conservation schmemes, it's worth every penny, and more. I know the bill comes to the tens of millions. It should be hundredsof millions.

READING: No change. No time to read, and the Littell book is Big. Oh - I am dipping into a book of short "Hellboy" stories. Not comic book: actual words all connected together, and sorted into lines and everything. It's great!
LISTENING: Well, I've already told you. Pay attention.
WORD OF THE DAY: Oleagenous. Because.


“W. A. S. Wait And See. I have a plan,” I said, “and I will not allow my plans to be interfered with by meddling husbands who should know better.”
“Well, how long will I have to wait, then?”
“You'll find out after the game.”
“OK,” he said. Then he came up to me, put his arms around me, and kissed my neck. I told him to bugger off, then went to the loo to have a quiet, soft cry.
The day progressed, as days do. I gave a list to Useless, and got him to go around to see Joan, the costume lady at the local repertory. Then I went to the spare room to do some sewing work. It was while I was there that Treen and Chutty got together to make some lunch, and have a chat. Obviously, I wasn't there to hear the conversation, but Chutty told me about it the next day, and I had to laugh. Here's my version of what was said, reconstructed from what they've both told me. Oddly enough, I heard two wildly divergent stories.
“Fancy some chutney of your sandwich, Dad?”
“Yeah, too right love. Ta.”
Treen was making a couple of corned beef sandwiches for herself and her Father. They tried to make some time each week when they could be on their own and have a chat, and this was this week's time. I was in the spare room, sewing, and Useless was off at the local repertory, running an important errand for me.
“So, Dad. Are you going to wear that grotty old John Deere tee shirt to the Club, or are you going to get changed?”
He sighed. For the past god knows how long he'd had his Mum and me trying to direct his sartorial well-being, and now his daughter was adding her voice to the mix. “I was thinking of wearing my Taranaki jersey, if that's all right with you,”he said, with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“Goody!” she said. “I'll wear mine, too. Only.. Do you think it makes my bum look -”
He interrupted her before she could finish the sentence. “Hang on, love. There's a couple of things you have to learn. First – have you made my sandwich? Good. Ta. Now, listen to me.”
“Speak, oh wise and all-knowing Father, and I shall listen.” She settled down to much at her corned beef and chutney sandwich, and waited for her Dad to carry on.
“By crikey, your Nan knows how to make a good chutney, doesn't she? Now: you were about to ask me if your bum looked big when you wear that footy jersey, weren't you?”
“Yes.” She confirmed his suspicion.
“Now, look, love. You're seventeen now. That means your mum and I have been married what, just over 14 years?”
“Fourteen years, four months. And some days.”
“Crikey,” he laughed. “You probably know everyone's birthday, too. Anyway. In all that time your Mum's never asked me if I thought her bum was too big, or whether this or that colour suited her. Now, you're going to going off the Varsity soon, and that means you'll probably, well,you know, hook up with some bright young fellow.”
It was her turn to interrupt, now. “It's not as though I haven't been kissed, Dad.”
“Eh? Bloody hell. That's a thought. Anyway. There's a couple or three things I reckon you should never ask your boyfriend – or husband, when the time comes.”
“Two things I should never ask? Are there things he should never ask me?”
“Three things, and yeah, probably. When the time comes I'll have a word in his ear about that, too. Anyway: the first thing you should never ask a man is what you were about to ask me: does my bum look big in this? He can only answer in one of two ways. By telling you a porky, which you don't want... or by telling you the truth, which you may not like. If it does make your bum look big, and he says no, you'll be annoyed. If it does, and he says yes, then you'll be annoyed. Poor bugger hasn't got a chance.
“The next thing you shouldn't do is ask him what colour he reckons anything should be. The only reason our kitchen didn't get re-done ten years ago is because your Mum asked me what colour I wanted, and she didn't believe me when I told her I wanted a red one – and she never actually understood that I didn't actually give a big rat's bum what colour it was.”
Treen was laughing by now, and wiped her eyes, and asked her Dad what the third thing was.
“OK, now this is probably the most important thing of all: always operate on the suspicion that your boyfriend or husband doesn't have a clue about anything. That way you can't go wrong. Mostly because it'll be true.”
She looked at him seriously. He had a pensive, faraway look in his eyes, a look that made her shiver a bit. “So, just to clear it up,” she said, “I never ask him if I look fat in anything, never ask him about colours, and always think he's a bit thick. That it?”
“Yeah. You've got it. You know, with you going to Varsity, you're going to meet all sorts of chaps. Bright buggers with beards and scarves and duffel coats and interesting conversation. But underneath, when it comes to women they're all as dumb as a bag of hammers.” He chewed on his sandwich a moment, then continued. “You know, Treen: in some ways I've regretted marrying your Mum.”

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