Friday, June 29, 2012

The Dangling Conversation

A minor hit before for Simon & Garfunkel before the album "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme" was released in 1966, "The Dangling Conversation" tells the tale of a couple whose familiarity with each other has turned not into contempt, but rather into a rift that is so vast as to be practically invisible.
The theme of the song has nothing to do with today's blog. It's all in the title.
I was at a girls' school the other day (I shan't say which one). I was out of my magnificent chariot, making sure the School Bus signs were on display. As I walked back to the vehicle's front door from the rear, I was followed by to girls. Here's the fragment of conversation I heard:

GIRL ONE: I shaved my legs last night.
GIRL TWO: Really? Did you shave your vadge as well?
GIRL ONE: Shave my c*nt? No way...

I got on the bus and looked at them. I, of course, was invisible. I'm old, and a bus driver - guaranteed invisibility. They were 13, maybe 14, tops. On this, I merely report. I do not judge or comment. But I must add that I laughed like a drain. Oh - and I inserted the asterisk into the word because I know some of my readers find the whole word distasteful.

A couple of days later I was in Takapuna, and picking up four or five Chinese couples. They'd apparently been to a language class, and were eager to try out a few new words. They were happy, shy, and proud.
MAN ONE: Two stage tickets, PLease, for me and wife.
HIS WIFE (correcting him): MY wife!
PERSON ONE: Ah. Me and MY wife. Ha ha ha!
ME: Certainly, Sir. Well done! Welcome aboard.
MAN TWO: Good.... (asks wife question, in Chinese)
HIS WIFE: After-noon.
MAN TWO: Good after-noon. Two tickets for FoRRest HiLL, PLease. (laughs).
ME: Good afternoon, sir. Good afternoon, ma'am. And here are your tickets to Forrest Hill.

And so it goes, until the last passenger boards. She is a white lady, bottle-blonde, late 40s, perhaps early 50s. Nicely dressed.

ME: And good afternoon to you, ma'am. And where can North Star take you today?
LADY: Three stages please. And you do know, don't you, that there's no need to call them Sir or Ma'am, don't you? They're only Chinese.....

Again, I make no comment or judgement. But I do know who I'd rather have at my dinner table.

WATCHING: Bugger all. I've been doing a bunch of night shifts, starting at 2.00pm, finishing around 11.00.
READING: "Catching Fire", Suzanne Collins. The second part of the Hunger Games trilogy. Slower going than the fist one, but still...
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT: Ambrosia apples. I'm normally a Royal Gala kind of guy, but these are delicious.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The House of the Rising Sun

The House of the Rising Sun has a complicated history: it may be as much as 300 years old, telling a tale about a Soho brothel. What it's about is also speculative. One theory is that the actual House was an infirmary where prostitutes went to have their STDs cured. It's that interpretation that I'm leaning on today. The song was, of course, turned into a major hit by Brit band The Animals in 1964, although I first became aware of it when Dylan did a cover of it in 1962. I do prefer The Animals' version.

Anyway, I recently spent a short amount of time in a house of healing. The North Shore Hospital has a schizophrenic reputation. Many people moan about it. The service received by some individuals does seem to leave something to be desired. Many people also love it: I am included in that proud roster.

On my three different jaunts there, I have been hugely impressed. And my most recent stay has left me an avid fan of the nursing staff. Cheerful, good-humoured, knowledgeable, and working under what seems to be an incredible amount of pressure, they were always supportive, understanding, and - perhaps most importantly - very real and human. A few even laughed at my jokes, which is taking their duty to places it shouldn't have to go.

Nurse : Nurse and Skeleton

My health has taken a hammering lately. I went to hospital because I'd asked my new GP about a terrible pain I'd been experiencing in my face. She took blood pressure, and listened to various organs, and sent me to the House of the Rising Sun (yes, my ward window faced East, and I caught the full force of the dawn) because my heart was beating hugely irregularly. It carried on doing that for several days, which is apparently a wee bit dodgy.

My father used to call me Face Ache when I was a child. I suspect he called my siblings that, as well, when he forgot their names too. The heart nonsense (for which I am now taking a daily does of rat poison) had nothing to do with the face nonsense, which got forgot about. I figured it was just an infection, and had gone away under the threat of Drugs of Mass Destruction. Not so. While it didn't occur while I was in the House of the Rising Sun, it did re-occur when I had been released. Sigh.

I returned to the Doc, who whimpered that I needed to see a SuperDoc soonest. I did so, on Friday: a Neurologist, who made tut-tutting noises, and is moving the bureaucracy of the Auckland Hospital to get me an MRI within a week. As getting an MRI normally takes a year ( ! ) this could be a Sisyphean task.

The face business is painful. I never actually believed people could / would / do writhe in pain. I can reliably report to you that yes, they do. Or I do, anyway. It's some sort of nerve damage / disease thingy, and I have been prescribed Powerful Drugs to counteract the symptoms. I am a firm believer in the "Drugs Give Hugs" philosophy, but I am a little concerned at the cocktail of crap that I'm hurling down my neck. Arthritis drugs (yay!). Heart drugs (yay!). Now facey-nervey drugs...

I am wondering about Karma. Did I over-indulge in too many illegal recreational drugs when I was young and gorgeous? Am I paying a Karmic debt by having to take too many Big Pharma concoctions? Or is this the Revenge of a Jealous God, who's pissed at me because I am positive it doesn't exist?

None of the above, I'm sure.

Just one more observation: The House of the Rising Sun - or North Shore Hospital - may be also referred to as "The House of the Repetitive Questions". It seems that every time a nurse ( or any other hospital worker, for that matter ) approaches a patient, they automatically ask three questions: Will you confirm you name, please? And date of birth? And can you tell me the Patient Number that's on your hospital wristband..?

They could add a fourth question, I suppose, depending on circumstance: Which kidney / leg / eye is to be surgically removed?

Kidney : Digital illustration of kidney in colour background   Stock Photo

READING: Well, a lot. Currently, though: Stephen Hunter's "Tapestry of Spies". His first novel, which I'd never read. Very good. Interesting to see how writing styles develop. Also the second part of the "Hunger Games" trilogy. Fun. And I've cracked open Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" again.

WATCHING: Doctor Who and Fringe (of course), and Grimm might just be a starter as well.

PRODUCT RECOMMENDATION: IXL Strawberry Jam. Much better than Craig's, even better than Barker's and Anathoth. And it's the cheapest of the lot! It actually has big chunks of strawberries... Excellent jam.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

It Is What It Is

The Highwaymen released "It Is What It Is" a few million years ago, and while it wasn't a great song, it does have the great lyric "It is what it is / but it ain't what it used to be".

I really wanted to use "You Can't Always Get What You Want" as my lead today, but I couldn't make it work. Great song, though. Play it now, really loud.

I was chatting to a fellow driver the other day. He wanted to know my history, as one does when you're in the initial stages of getting to know the person you're yarning with.  But he couldn't work out why I enjoy this work so much, especially as I've worked in positions where I've met All Blacks, Prime Ministers, pop stars, wits, sages, Winston Peters and Paul Henry. He's a driver, but (like me) he's come to the job from something altogether different. He was in IT, made redundant, and fell into driving by chance and WINZ.

And he resents the fate that's led him here. A nice guy, but bitter about the road the brought him to his current stop.

All I could offer him was the line: it is what is is, my friend. To which the Highwaymen would add "but it ain't what it used to be". I have come to this acceptance not through any facet of wisdom, but more from an acknowledgement that the affairs of the world are, without, far bigger and more powerful than my own desires. It's also taken me a couple of years.

We humans are odd creatures. Impressively ego-centric, to the point that every one of us (if we are fortunate enough to enjoy three square meals a day) is certain in the belief that the world does, indeed, revolve around us. We are bound and confined not only by what we see, but by where we see it from. The world presents itself to us through the very intimate portal of our eyes and ears, connecting to our mind / brain which is central to our existence.

The debate still rages about the whereabouts of the human mind. I believe it is the organic brain. Religionists must insist that the mind is centred in the inorganic soul. Animists might believe the mind is centred in the heart. But I digress.

 We cannot help but be ego-and-self-centred. The species' survival wouldn't have been possible otherwise. But equally, our survival wouldn't have been assured unless there was a healthy dose of acceptance of the fact that the sabre-tooth tiger is a hell of a lot more powerful than an individual human. Nonetheless, if we're warm and well fed, it is hard to acknowledge the fact that the world really has no time for us as individuals. The macro-economics beats the snot out of micro-economics,  the Baron will always bugger about with the peasant, and sometimes the best thing to do is accept what we have (and in my case, I am severely wealthy in most ways that count) and make the most of where we are in our life's journey.

And where I am is this: I've worked hard to learn a new and dangerous skill. I have now spent five days driving transiting human beings about this wonderful city. Literally hundreds of people have granted me the privilege of trusting me to safely deliver them to their destination. I mean, really, how fucking cool is  that? It is what it is. It ain't what it used to be. And that's what is so excellent about my new circumstance.

READING (and read): I have read one astounding book in the past week - "Broken Jewels" by David L Robbins. Quite, quite extraordinary. And I'm reading another one: Donald Ray Pollock's "The Devil All The Time". Holy shit! I am amazed by this book. Many, many thanks to Gillian for recommending it.

LISTENING TO:  Florence + The Machine, "Ceremonials". I like this a great deal. Such a neat combination of 1980s Glam Rock and soul-searching chick singer-songwriter.

WATCHING:  Have seen "The Avengers". Simply excellent. On TV, I heartily recommend "Outnumbered", Prime TV, on Thursday. Outstandingly funny. Also "Fringe", which is so good that TVNZ put it on at 11.30. I've found it pays to check out the late listing on TV1 and TV2: that's when they put the good stuff on.