Dinner in the middle of nowhere (#werk #trip #DaySix

We arrived in Ranfurly at 6pm, but it might as well been after midnight as the town was effectively asleep as the winter darkness had fallen fast. Tick off the usual suspects- Four Square, the local pub, the hotel restaurant, a small Indian place- they were all deserted.

We dropped our stuff off at the motel (amazingly well-appointed, the Hawkdun Lodge) and accepted the reality that we would be trying to organise dinner from stuff at the supermarket. The Ranfurly supermarket was also empty save for the lone person/cashier/attendant. She was nice enough to suggest Naseby which was a few kilometers away. The directions seemed straightforward enough but I trusted Google Maps more.

It was total darkness all the way and 12 minutes in, some houses came into view, their lights dull. Was there really something in this place?? We drove silently into the centre of town and the few buildings there- the post office, the museum- were art deco and the road lamps were replicas of gas lamps like you would find in Victorian England. It looked to me, so Jack The Ripperish except that, why would Jack go here? Condemned perhaps to a town in the middle of nowhere where he could do little mischief once he dispatched what few residents the town had?

As it turned out, Naseby has only a population of 100.

We find the pub called The Ancient Briton and actually had a pleasant evening...one more day to go and snow forecast for the morrow...

#werk #trip #DayFive

Strangely enough, the most interesting things of the day were dead and stuffed.

Bored out of our wits driving for hours on end between stops, we happened to see in Pleasant Point in Canterbury, a brightly-lit room filled with a menagerie of stuffed animals so we stopped.

The O'Rourke Brothers taxidermy has been doing taxidermy for almost 60 years and of a quality that is high enough for their work to be contracted by the likes of the Auckland Museum and the Department of Conservation.

The new owner (who still employs one of the O'Rourke Brothers) Rob Morrison has a direct connection to the business- he is an avid hunter- which is really the first stage in someone wanting an animal (which they have shot) to be stuffed. I guess you either eat it or put aside some serious cash (prices start at $1000 for game heads) to have it stuffed and mounted. Rob took me to the back to see how it's all put together and it's not pretty. But then there is nothing delicate about hunting, or even the processing of meat for food.

The back-end of the shop is literally a sort of butcher-shop; the animals after all, like any shot game, have to be prepared and prepped. For a moment, I thought I would puke at the smell of flesh, sinew and blood, but then I think- it's like when I was 15 again and my dad was teaching me how to de-feather and dress a snipe.

I expected to also smell again, the last part of that process when you singe the skin over a flame to burn off the nubs from where the feathers had been plucked. But there was none of that bitter, acrid fume. Instead, the smell was of cold death- he opens a walk-in freezer the size of a shipping container and brings out a fish waiting its turn to be reincarnated, the sallow flesh, resilient and shiny again like something fresh out of water. The container is filled with wrapped dead animals or parts of them as far back as I can see like some serial-killers grisly cache of unfortunate victims.

The waiting time to get a medium-sized animal done is 10-15 months.

Back in the front of shop, I spy a small fawn in a sitting pose- prices are also determined by how an animal is posed- and it looks unequivocally lifelike, perfect and immortal...I think we should consider ourselves lucky if we had the same fate.

#werk #trip #DayFour

Dear Lei; so basically going around New Zealand for a work project (never mind what it is exactly) which started up north and slowly making our way south. Our routine for the last four days is this; we wake up at 7am and get on the road by 8am or 8:30. We drive (well, the driver does, not me) an average of 200kms between places and it's equally exhausting just sitting down and making conversation (it's inexplicably getting harder trying to communicate with 30-year olds these days). There is nothing much to see in the interior of New Zealand; at some point, the endless stunning landscapes cease to be stunning and just become this blur. Read what you will of what it means to you but really it starts to mean nothing because there is no one there. Suddenly, the idea of someone actually living in the middle of this desolation is an exciting, disruptive prospect (I have fantasized about this so many times). Sorry, but I think I'm convinced that nature is NOTHING without humanity's touch, destructive or otherwise. 

I have slept in about four different motels/hotels. My single piece of luggage is open like a disemboweled thingy on the floor and who brings these many creams and shit?? (I do) Not to mention my normal medication and vitamins (there's this new thing with Garlic combined with zinc, vitamin C and horseradish to stop allergic reactions- seems to work because my nose has stopped itching).

In the next few days (we fly out, the rental SUV ditched, on Thursday), I might see snow and I'm looking forward to that. I have this belief that I have this affinity with the cold, with winter.

I am I think, trying hard to convince myself of that. I look in the mirror and see my skin struggling- needs more moisture I think; thank God I have enough creams in the world for that...


#werk #trip #DayThree

Rain, rain rain. We should have sacrificed a lamb or something for better weather.

#werk #trip #DayTwo

In a small country like New Zealand, it's harder to see the class divisions. The man in the nondescript simple merino top and cords may be seven-figures richer than the man in the slim-cut suit and well-worn Ferragamo shoes. Or vice versa- merino tops and corduroy pants may also mean what it looks which is a modest retirement and a worry about that hip-replacement surgery waiting list. When we passed by opulent small homes in the Bay of Plenty with their long driveways and architecturally landscaped grounds, I couldn't picture what kind of New Zealanders owned them or what jobs (or businesses) they had. What's even more confounding was when we got deeper into the interior where the small towns are, so small, that even the smallest of fast-food chains (a good indicator of population) are non-existent, and I think, how do people in these places make a living? 

I mean, list up the usual suspects- farming, livestock, repairs, medical- aside from these, what else could one do?

Every time I pass by a particularly desolate looking place I think, if I lived here, what would I do? And I imagine these scenarios where I conveniently take away the problem of what to do for a living and I think I would:

1. Try my hand at gardening
2. Finish three books a week
3. Start long-distance running again
4. Learn a new craft like sewing
5. run for office or apply for a community position or something
6. keep a pet like a big dog

Repost: Where were you when the rapture happened?

September 4th, 2011
Remember Google+??? I remember wasting half a day at work, sneaking between open browser pages, looking up for a way to get invited. I eventually got an invite from my best friend and again spent half a day at work building it up.

So much fun, like being asked to spruce up an entire empty floor of some building with your, well, crap. Of course it was crap. What else could it possibly be, just a bunch of cutesy posed pictures (made up some faces on my Mac and edited out my jowl lines, my tired, baggy computer screen scarred eyes) random video links (wohoo! Hollywood Tuna)  and ephemeral flotsam and jetsam. Just the digitized short-hand really of the generation. 

A generation that's gone and disappeared.

And I certainly played well into the night when I got home. It was Cindy's mother's birthday and I had a very handy and dignified excuse- who the hell got drunk on a Monday???? I loaded a box of lemon-cheesecake cupcakes that my daughter Chloe baked for her grand-nana into Cindy's battered Holden.

'Put real lemon there dad, like they did on Top Chef.' Chloe just turned 9 and was trying to run away from her childhood faster than her stints at her school's cross-country races. "I'm sure your grand-nana would appreciate the lemon better on her gin and tonic sweetie..'

'Oh dad!' Mock adult disgust and falling over me for a kiss, her lips bitingly cold on my cheek. 'Where's your jacket hun, it's gonna get real cold.' And out of nowhere, she whips out my worn leather bomber jacket which she puts over some top and leggings on semi-adult legs. And it's my turn for mock-anger, 'oi!' I grunt before Cindy steps in as she's wont to, the only true time it seems for genuine affection, lightning quick snatches of it, before everything falls into the abyss of second mortgages, an immature job as she has always called it and too much Facebook instead of getting our freaks on. 

Like can we do it now, right here on the driveway as she sidles up to me, locking her hips against mine, my hands settling comfortably on the rise of her buttocks.

'Yeah, tell Elaine you're down with the flu, really down with it' I bite her lower lip gently and she bites back, her face a blur, the scent of something richly sweet like dark chocolate on her breath. 

'Uhmm..when we come back, promise...promise..'

Those were my wife's last words to me.

They pause down the driveway just before plunging into the darkened street as a light, misty rain falls. The car's interior light opens and I see Chloe, rummaging for her stuff at the back as usual. She tries to see me through the window, squeezes her eyes into slits, probably couldn't but waves nonetheless at what she believes to be her father still watching her drive away.

I was and it is the last and most painful memory of my daughter.


How it happened, I really don't know. There was no rumbling, no fireworks in the sky, no choir of angels announcing the ascension of the blessed and the eternal isolation of the damned.

I went back to my Google + account and thought, what a refreshing change. Empty; just me and digital quietude. I puttered around in the kitchen, made chapati and cumin meatballs in a Japanese curry sauce. 

I think it was about 10:30 pm but I'm just guessing. I remember looking out the lounge sliding doors, through the smear of condensation and the fog outside. The street lamp just outside the gate was on and it looked to me 'sadly luminous'. I remember that description, sadly luminous and I did feel, like a sudden cascade of cold water had fallen over me and a seemingly infinite, weepy sort of sadness.

And the funny thing was that I never did know what I was sad about at that moment....

(he sends a text message that remains unsent, sitting in his draftbox. There is no mobile service, just a slight, unnerving humming at the end of the line. Television services stop at 3am, radio follows soon after. And yet there is still power even as public lights burn on throughout the day and night. The internet still functions to some degree and when he checks for some clues online, one thing is chillingly clear- status updates on Facebook have ceased just before 10:30pm, GMT. He doesn't sleep for 48 hours straight and walks all the way to his mother in law's house in the suburb of St. Heliers, marveling at a cityscape captured frozen in its tracks even as the day rolls by. Cars are packed at Elaine's expansive driveway. Inside Cindy's Holden is his bomber jacket and he cries and cries clutching it, because it smells of him and not of Chloe..)

Stuff I've eaten in the last 7 days

Repost: two untitled poems circa 2010

This is why I think photos are more reliable records. Even if you filter them, nothing is really altered and it captures that singular truth- that day was what it all was. It was sunny. It was raining. It was raining and you were wearing your new winter boots. It was sunny and you had brunch at that new city cafe; the eggs were runny, the multi-grain bread moist with butter. It didn't matter what you felt or what you were thinking at that moment because there is no record of them. You can put in what you thought you felt at that moment but it feels somewhat insincere. I found a couple of poems I had written while combing through the back-end of my blog and I honestly don't know the context of how and why they are written. The only reason I'm reposting them is that I think they're not that bad.

And maybe this is why I take a lot of pictures- its a cleaner, more truthful record. But what is truth in this day and age? As someone known for fantastic story-telling (for the record, I've never lied anything about my life- I simply do not volunteer information which is nobody's business), what has truth done for me? 

It was so easy,
that after all this time you thought,
it took leaps of faith,
a fortuitous hand
or maybe necessary deceit.
But love knows its way
even in the darkest of places
and I still remember your face
or what I remember of it
that even as I close my eyes
I can see you, as clear as daylight
and see that love
is not garishly bright
as I feared it to be

course love is selfish.
In the beginning, the universe closes in,
collapsing in on itself until
there's only that vision of sweat on the nape
as if your eyesight had suddenly acquired
macro-vision capability.

It was half past 10 when, spent, hungry,
we decided that it was impossible
to ignore the sunlight streaming into the room
which seemed more like the middle of March
rather than June.

You were tracing the veins right below my navel
and just above the line of pubic hair.
Everything does seem vulnerable at a certain point in time;
so clear and translucent
even when you're already half-clothed.
I gushed how wonderful Sundays were;
how carefree, slow and languid.
Today is Sunday, you said,
and I did realize that it was.

We rode the jeep, just the two of us then
and for the first 4 minutes, we cherished the thought
that 4 minutes would seem
like a postponement of the inevitable.
But of
course it wasn't.

We parted
and the rest of Sunday
was dark, closeted and long.

Mining old stuff

It's been a long, long time since I last felt literary. Lately, it's all been about work content; videos, marketing pitches, social media (ugh). So I logged back into my old Blogger account which is like going into that old room, that upstairs attic or basement and rummaging through 'old files'. There's not much there- the longest one is a mere 1,400+ words- but it gives me a picture of myself that I ironically, don't see anymore even with an almost daily record of photos.

I currently have over 23,000 images, a few thousand of which even pre-date the launch of Apple's iCloud (2011) and my suspicion is that when someone rifles through them, they would find someone utterly normal; someone who clearly has mastered the art of taking food photos, has good shots of everyday things, is not really vain (and because I'm not photogenic)  and... nothing much else. There is nothing wrong with normal- the problem is that I'm actually not. I believe I'm not. And I hate being just normal.

The photos don't do me justice in the sense of showing something other than the obvious. But I take them because it's easy- so in a sense it's somewhat true- it is an easy life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the easy life- the problem is that I know nothing is ever easy.

When you rest on easy, that's when everything starts to get fucked up.

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 10.01.22 PM.png

Season's best dressed

In my mind- and don't laugh, though I think you will- my face is pale white, lips half-frozen as I catch my 7AM train in the middle of winter. There are plenty of things in this mental image that is just wrong. My face has never been pale white- the New Zealand sun is harsh and there is less of the pollution that shields your face from darkening UV rays. Winter in Auckland is hardly ever that cold, not when you're talking an average of 7 to 8 degrees. You'll even see someone (usually a fat person) in nothing but a summer shirt, as Kiwis generally think that to be physically affected by the elements is a sign of weakness.

But this is my image, my truth. I am forever done with heat, and sweat and fitted clothes when your body is hardly ever fit for it. So I embrace the coming of the colder season with a cheery nonchalance even as my skin struggles, my nose bleeds and my wallet moans.

A work colleague laughs gently trying her best to indulge me when I say that a new pair of winter boots I had just bought arrives at the office by courier (you don't leave $350 leather boots sitting outside your door unguarded the whole day) is an 'investment'. 'Do you somehow get some money back?' she asks me as if I was dumb enough to use the word 'investment' in a context that was second-nature to her (she's an accountant). 

'Actually I do' I reply. "It makes me realise that I deserve the best things in life that I am able to get for myself." 

I actuall didn't really say that.

I just smiled and laughed sheepishly, indulging her in return; I don't really need to explain myself to anyone and that for me, is one priceless luxury I can afford to give myself again and again.

Red-Letter Day

Don't you hate it when how you feel doesn't match what is actually incontrovertible fact? Like your actual age. It could be plain denial, or worse, some sort of delusion.

My question is, when will both actually match-up? If ever. Does it happen naturally (didn't happen when I started medicating for blood pressure, cholesterol), or do we make that effort to somehow make peace with things we can't change? But in my defence, I'm not changing anything that I know I can't alter. 

I am simply living my best life, which sadly, does not merely involve affirmations of positivity, faith and a leave-it-to-God-kind of mentality. You need to exercise. You need to eat good, nourishing (and consequently expensive) food. You need to protect your skin, to dress comfortably so as not to be judged by an always judging world (and I do care about being judged).

You need to work at life, to develop and take advantage of the gifts and passions and flaws that were given to you. 

You need to ALWAYS give your best

If You Can’t Love Yourself How In The Hell Are You Gonna Love Somebody Else
— RuPaul

I did (inadvertently) gift myself last year with Apple products that totalled a low five figures so I don't think I can afford the same this year- there's always that year for more 'meaningful' gifts...

(after the holidays, what?) life just went on..

I need to get this post out...


Days feel like a time-lapse of sorts

New year happened

Everyone was a year older...


Summer was a record-scorcher


When I was a younger, I took New Year resolutions very seriously. One year it was, 'learn French' (never happened) and another year it was, 'change your body'- something which at my age, I am still learning how to do. I never look back which explains why there are literally years in which I have little memory of anything (like between 21 and 30?).

But really, all you need to remember about the past are the things you shouldn't be doing ever again. Always look ahead because that's the only direction you're headed.

Best Meals I had in 2017

If food was the enemy (health wise), it was also the saviour; a good, satisfying meal is confirmation that life is far too short to be spent being always cautious (photos taken using the iPhone 7plus). 

Christmas 2017

A bunch of firsts; first time to work until our office closed on the 22nd. First time to NOT stress on what to eat. First time to have a decent gift budget which I had half-saved for. And first time to be less nostalgic about the whole thing- and everything was just perfectly fine.

The year of the Apple

If there's one thing I've learned to be true is that you should take care of yourself first because if you don't, you won't be any good helping others. I think though that when this is extended to the issue of gifts-to-oneself, I have to admit that 2017 was pretty extravagant. So take me off your Christmas lists because I have that covered! 

I hate summer. Used to.

Maybe it's a change of perspective, maybe it's age. Maybe winter has become a bit too evocative of what old age would be like- when your spirit is willing, but your body feels half-frozen, fraught with all the signs of physical unravelling. When I was younger, with no friends and no confidence, summer was spent indoors reading book after book. To this day, it's hard to connect with people whose experiences and memories of summer are of easy, physical fun. 

I am still resentful of the heat (even if it's nothing compared to the Philippines); the yellowing of the armpits of my white shirts; the constant application of sunscreen; slight twinges of envy when I see fit people. But I smile a bit now when the sun is on my face- acceptance is such a life-altering thing..

Anxious. Must relax

1. Another year has past and your mind convinces you that last year was just last week. It never feels anymore that you have 365 days in one year, more like half that.
2. I tried to change out the template of this blog and couldn't make sense of the infrastructure. On one hand, what's the point- no one reads me.
3. I do have great ideas to better my diet, restructure my wardrobe, start a writing regimen, and I get a good head-start, but as with anything, sustaining it is the challenge.
4. Why do spend so much for the holidays? How can we get out of the spending cycle?
5. How do I NOT spend so much?
6. Met with my insurance broker/agent who also happens to be a financial adviser and again I have to remind myself- I'll never be rich, but I can enjoy a worry-free retirement (!!) at least from a financial perspective.
7. Speaking of finances, I spent over 10% of my income in 2017 on new Apple products
8. And these Apple products are my gifts to myself this Christmas
9. Looking forward to a quieter Christmas in New Zealand
10. Missing the hectic, surreal holiday festivities of home