26 October 2007
Been a really busy couple of week, during which time I've been...well, busy...really. Before I flew out of London the company had a consultant networking day where they sat 250 of us in ampitheatre and blew smoke up our arses...golden smoke. Then we spent the day in groups working up proposals for senior execs about policies to improve life at The Company. How can I achieve my career goals and get MSN messenger on my Company laptop? Yawn. How about you drink a nice tall glass of shut the feck up, corporate robot! At the end of the day we had the head of The Company in the UK and 3 of the top execs on stage answering questions from the floor. You know what people asked? How can I achieve my career goals at The Company and how can I get MSN messenger on my laptop? For feck's sake. So when they asked for one last question I put my hand up and asked the following:
"We've heard a lot of talk about values today and the importance of being a good corporate citizen and a good global citizen. Given that our main goal at The Company is to make money, do we draw a moral line about the kind of clients we'll do work for?"
You should have seen them squirm! What annoys me most about this company is the hypocracy. Admitedly, they do a lot of good charity work and free consulting in poor and developing countries, but there's no point bragging about how you're trying to make the world a better place when the vast majority of your gloabl profit comes from oil and tabacco companies. Somehow I don't think I'm on the fast track to partner...
The highlight of the day was that they booked out the London Aquarium and put on free drinks and fish and chips. Oh the greasy delicious irony! I learned two important things that night: 1) my phone takes really shit pictures, and 2) not even a dark aquarium and free booze is enough to make me attractive to english women. Siiiiiiigh...
So I arrived in Chicago on Sunday afternoon. America is such an iconic place, even if you've never been here you kinda know what it's going to be like because you've seen it all your life on tv and movies. And the place definitely meets all of your expectations, but so much more than you could imagine. It starts the minute you get off the plane: everyone in the airport has a gun! The information desk lady, the guy who tells you what line to stand in, the dude in the passport control booth, even the Peurto Rican janitor who sold me some blow...they're all armed (I'm kidding about the last one...he was Mexican). The most unnerving thing about it is that these people are obviously so used to carrying guns that they are completely calm and unfazed and almost blase, which only served to freak me out more. One false move and you'll be up to your neck in flip.
American people are actually a lot cooler and nicer than I thought they'd be. They're obviously very confident and patriotic, but it's not arrogance so much as assuredness; it's not that they think America is the greatest country in the world, they KNOW it is. And much to my surprise, there's actually a lot to like about the place. Seeing as this is my first time in america, everything I do is a unique experience. Whenever I do something significant, I imagine James Brown singing about it in my head to the tune of "Livin' in America". For instance, when I arrived I was busting for a crap so James sang "Shittin' in Ameeeeeeeericaaaaah!" It works best if the activity rhymes with "livin' " but it's kind of hard to find appropriate examples. "Shivin' " is a good one but I think I'll save a prison stretch for my next visit.
The training facility is in a place called St Charles which is about an hour or so west of Chicago. I was hoping to get a limo but the selfish bastards organised a bus for us so I had to go cattle class with everyone else. It was a weird feeling driving out here from the airport. I've seen these landscapes all my life on tele and in movies and even though this is my first time here it feels familiar, like coming home. The wide streets and rows of identical two-storey clapboard houses and flat square treeless lawns are so iconic as to be anachronistic...like life imitating art imitating life. And everywhere you go flags flags and more flags. It's almost like the average american is scared of forgetting which country they come from. Or perhaps, more likely, they're afraid their neighbours will think they've forgotten and blow their heads off for being a communiss or a terroriss. As I sat there on the bus watching this parallel tv universe go by, I imagined myself as a lonely drifter with a chequered past and an uncertain furture coming to a new city where no one knows my name to make a new name for myself. Maybe I'll get a job at the bakery or washing dishes in the diner where I'll meet a strong young woman who quit college to come and run the family business when her dad had that stroke. In fact, with my sexy new khaki coat that I bought before I left, I looked kinda like Bill Bixby from The Incredible Hulk tv show. I could almost hear the theme music swelling as we cruised along the highway towards my destiny...
The facility, or campus as they call it, is like a cross between summer camp and the Overlook Hotel from the Shining. Lots of sprawling, echoey corridors and decor from the 70's. We've each got a room with a single bed and a colour teevee. There's two ballrooms, a huge auditorium, a barber shop, two bars and shitloads of bad carpet. And the food is wicked! Being america everything's a buffet, of course, and there's tons of it, all smothered in processed cheese. I had some chilli cheese fries at the club house , which was an experience. It's extremely difficult to eat something that looks like it's already been removed from someone else's body.
We had lots of planned social activites which were thinly-veiled excuses to get pissed...my favourite kind! We had free drinks at the Tuesday night Enchantment Under the Sea Dance mixer follwed by Irish Car Bombs in the Clubhouse. Needless to say, I struggled to get out of bed on Wednesday morning. Added to my dillema was the fact that on the Comedy Channel at 6.30am they were showing Ski School, so I seriously considered blowing off the day and staying in my room watching bad 80's movies. But I refused to let these american marshmellows accuse me of being soft. Just in case you started to think that my life was no longer a bad 80's moofie, consider this: they play music constantly in this place and the first three days I was here when I hit the breakfast buffet they were played, respectively, the following songs: 'What a Feeling' from Flashdance, 'Footloose' from that moofie with Kevin Bacon in it, and 'Head Over Heels' by Tears for Fears. Radical! So for the rest of the day I imagined we were all in a bad 80's moofie called Consultant School and tried to pick which actors would play our little band of misfits, getting up to all sorts of baudy M-rated highjinks while sticking it to the establishment and trying to get laid. Conveniently, the dudes I was drinking with were living sterotypes so it was pretty easy. Patrick is John Belushi, Amy is Jeneane Garofalo, and Jaye is the korean-american nerdy football playing geek. My character was a little bit harder; I'm the fish out of water who comes from humble beginnings and fought hard to get where I am, torn between denying my working-class upbringing and the lure of new money and upper class prep-school T&A. I struggled to find our antagonists, the preppy stuck-up rich guy jocks who make our lives hell and have all the hot girlfriends, but it turns out it's a guy called Geoff (pronounced "Joff") who has just been promoted to manager, knows everything and only wears Company-branded clothing. Ooooh, that Geoff! Living off Daddy's trust account, driving his Arrock and skiing in Aspen. He's never had to struggle, he's never been an outcast. I can't wait to take him down at the end of the moofie and steal his girlfriend who shouldn't really be with him anyway cos they've nothing in common...she and I are more alike than we think. If only I could find someone to play her role...
As you can probably tell, I didn't get a whole lot of work done that day. But the plot thickened on Wednesday night at the Networking Dinner where I met a gorgeous swedish girl called Elisabet who rides a motorcycle and I knew I'd found my girl. This woman was incredible! She's so far out of my league I'd need binoculars to see the place I'd have to stand in order to see her disappear over the horizon through a high-powered telescope. She's just moved to London so I offered to do the 'Strangers in a Strange Land' thing and have coffee sometime. My new American chums praised me for having "big game" before reminding me that I was punching so far above my weight it was like Mike Tyson fighting a premature baby. Thanks, dudes. Little did they know that she is engaged and very much in love with her fyonsay (selfish biatch!).
On Thursday night a bunch of us hired a limo and went on a road trip. We put the stereo on loud and flashed our boobs at passing cars and I impressed the shit out of everyone with my story of seeing Nirvana live at the ANU. At about 10pm we hit The Cadillac Ranch, which looks exactly the way you're imagining it does. It's a real live American bar, a living stereotype, and when it's jammed packed with drunk people and the 80's music is blaring it's the most awesome vibe ever. Picture hundreds of highly-intelligent, highly-paid, extremely drunk consultants standing in a circle, drinking Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and Coke and screaming along to "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey and "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi. Jealous? Yeah, you are...you totally are.
I'm reading this awesome book Called 'The Devil in the White City' about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the architects who designed it. It also tells the story of America's first urban serial killer, eerily named H.H. Holmes, who used the World's Fair to lure young women visitors into his custom-built house of horrors where he butchered them and burned their remains in a specially-made kiln. Nice...
Can't believe it, I left my super dooper camera back in London so I'll have to make do with my crappy phone camera. Will try and get pics up soon and send another update from the Windy City.
15 October 2007
We're drowning in a sea of hyperbole over here. Every new musical is "amazing!" or "the best in the land!" or "best ever in the history of anything!", and every new film is "a masterpiece!" or "best film of the year!" or "best performance of his career!" or " so fucking good I've run out of over-blown adjectives and will never again be able to describe anything ever!"
As I've mentioned before, London is a city of contrasts. But none so apparent as that of the English peoples' attitude. They've a real chip on their shoulder, a sense of superiority to the rest of Europe and indeed the world. Apart from the fact that it's undeserved, I sense it's the English desperately clinging to their faded empirical glory. They used to run the world and they're not going to let anyone forget it. The hubris is as thick as BO in a comic shop as they go on and on about how wonderful it is to live here and how lucky they are to be British. But then they go whingeing about everything all the time and letting american chain stores come in and take over and eastern europeans come in and "take British jobs" in the service industries...never mind that the British won't do those jobs because they feel it's beneath them. English culture seems to consist entirely of complaining, baked beans, getting pissed and being uncomfortable.
Check out the new photos of my new house and the surrounding area (http://picasaweb.google.com/blind.phineas). I took another route (ooh err!) and found a choice little cafe the next street over which does a wikkid eggs benedict. The street goes all the way down to the Thames and you can walk all the way along it into the city. I discovered some really lovely places along the way, like the farm...yes! a frickin' farm!...about 10 minutes from my house. And there's a huge park (Southwark) park at the end of my street with huge expanses of grass and oak trees and pagodas and hardly any people. Bliss!
I realised that the new house is only a 20 minute walk or so from the Tate museum, so I toddled off there on Sunday to check out an exhibition by Louise Bourgeois, a French sculptor, figuring that as most successful female artists have sex and death as their main themes it was a good opportunity to catch a perv at some nork and vag. The only downside to this is that it was abstract expressionist nork and vag, and therefore a little disgusting and unsettling. I don't want to contemplate the juxstaposition of mortality and carnality...I just wanna perv! Clearly I wasn't the only one affected by the display, as a hot young spanish couple were making out like nobody's business on the lawn out front afterwards. I mean REALLY making out...chikka bow-bow type stuff. Normally this would be a source of endless ridicule and mirth-making, but sadly the whole affair just left me wistful and envious and painfully aware of how lonely and h0rny I am...siiiiiiiiiiiiigh.
I'm off to Chicago for a week of training on Sunday, which I'm pretty psyched about. My next project has been delayed somewhat so I'm gonna take a few extra days to look around. I'll have to find some spats and a violin case if I'm really gonna look the part, though. Yooooo...doity rat!
With any luck my next missive should be from the other side of the Atlantic. Be good, y'all, and keep those emails coming.
8 October 2007
Smoke lingers 'round your fingers...Train heave on to Euston...Do you think you've made the right decision this time? Oh...
Feels a bit weird to be back in London living and working. I don't feel like I've put down roots yet but it does feel kinda like being home. I think finally having my own space really makes a difference. I'm loving the new house. The landlords are really splurging on the back yard and are doing it up all fancy like. When we first moved in it was just a mudpatch but in a couple of weeks we'll have decking and grass and heaps of plants and rock gardens and even a mature Japanese maple up the back. It's gonna be tres bonza.
The new neighbourhood is something of a paradox. Our street has been yuppified and gentrified and is pretty nice. Just down the street we've some wikkid cool shops and pubs and a HUGE Tesco's just near the station ("If anyone asks, I didn't get 'em at Tesco's, ok?"). But just one street over are council estates and scrap yards and burnt out shops and gangs of hooded kiddies on bmx's with metho on their breath and a glint of hate in their eye. Or it could just be conjunctivitis. And everywhere redolent with the stench of wee. Or maybe that's just my room...
I heard an awesome new term the other day to describe a half aussie / half kiwi, such as myself. We're called "quassi's".
Went to my first West End show last week. It was called "Bill Hicks: Slight Return" and involved this english actor pretending to be possessed by the ghost of Bill Hicks and returning to earth to continue preaching his philosophy of indiscriminant drug use and dick jokes. At first I thought it would be naff cos it would just be a dude trotting out Bill's old material, but even that would have been awesome compared to what it actually was. This guy was pretending to be Bill Hicks and was doing NEW material (what?) but he had neither the intelligence, the charisma, the anger or the cutting wit that made Bill Hicks great. He just came across as an arrogant fanboy riding on the coattails of a far superior talent.
This weekend I went to the 2nd Annual International Tattoo Convention, which was wild. It was this dingy warehouse in a dingy part of East London on a dingy street called Brick Lane. The place was jam packed with tattoos and piercings and plugs and scarring and body mods and shaved bits from arsehole to breakfast. Never have I seen such a collection of the weirdest, sketchiest, dodgiest people imaginable...kinda like the crowd from every metal gig you've ever been to...or all of Paul's girlfriends. Seems like the big thing in tattoo fashion right now is Punkabilly and head tattoos. That's right, tattoos ON your head. The highlight for me was hanging out at the Suicide Girls booth (now there's some ladies you'd wanna take home to meet your mum), and the lowlight was accidentally brushing up against some fat sweaty leathery 60 year old dude with his shirt off and getting his nipple rings caught on my bag. Ewwwww! It was like touching a suitcase from a porn0 shoot...but less hot. I managed to meet a NZ tattoo artist who works in a studio here in London and her work is awesome. I'm all lined up to get my Belco Metal tatt done, so Paul and Azza better remember our drunken pact or there'll be trouble.
There's so many awesome live gigs coming up: Bill Bailey (Manny from Black Books), Ardel O'Hanlon (Dougal from Father Ted), Ross Noble (curly-haired Scouser comedian of triple J fame). There's a live performance of Jeff Wayne's musical version of War of the Worlds at the O2 stadium where The Company have a corporate box. Remember being scared shitless when your dad played that album in the 70's? Wikkid. One of my flatmates, Chloe, works for a theatre producer and they're currently running Footloose: The Musical. She's getting free tickets for the house and we're all gonna go along, but frankly the rest of them are all just a bunch of tourists cos I was the only one who can actually remember the 80's...I'm the only one who can legitimately pick up their sunday deuce.
So any word on when the election is gonna be called? I'm itching to unleash my overseas voter fury in the anihillation of those Liberal feckers...not that I'm being political or nuthin'...I just hate arrogant twats.
I've got 2 weeks "on the bench" as we call it, then off to Chicago for a week and then I start my new project with reviewing a new CRM system for some company's newly-formed broadband division. Should be a hoot! Beats working on tax stuff. How's that for a joke: I leave the Salt Mines so I don't have to work for The Company over there, and when I start work for The Company over here the first project they put me on is with the Irish Salt Mines. You don't need to be Alanis Morriset to appreciate the irony in that.
Hope you're all fit and well and bristling under Howard's yoke. Drop me a line sometime...let me know you're all still alive...it's lonely out here.
2 October 2007
Friday was my last day in Dublin and it was actually quite sad to leave. Everyone here has been so nice to me and made me feel welcomed and part of the team even though I was just a floater and a sarcastic flinty-hearted jerk off. But I think that's why I like the Irish so much...they're sarcastic and droll and always ready with a cutting remark to put you in your place. They're just like me! I feel like John Malkovich when he went inside his own head in Being John Malkovich and everyone in the world was John Malkovich. Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich!
The folks in The Teenage Disco had "buns at the desk" which is a tradition when people leave. And no, Paul, it doesn't mean a rim job with the cleaning lady after hours, you sad pervy. It was cakes and sticky buns with the whole team and they bought me a going away present and made me do a speech and everything. It was lovely. I've only been here for 6 weeks but it feels like so much longer. I've made some really good friends here and in typical Littlest Hobo fashion I'm buggering off and will probably never see them again. We went out on Friday night for drinkies and as you can imagine things got a bit wey hey and "geez I luv youse". So wey hey and geez I luv youse, in fact, that I had to change my flight from saturday to sunday because I was unable to get out of bed. But it was mighty good craic and they're a grand bunch of langers.
I got tickets to Bill Bailey's live show, Tinselworm, at Wembley Arena this month! Woot! That guy rocks and I'm super pumped about seeing him. The only downside is I had to buy two tickets and I've got no one to take with me cos I'm a sad loser. I'll either have to fashion a papier mache companion or invite some homeless skank. Either way you KNOW I'm gettin' some after the show.
So back in London now and had the day off work yesterday to move into my new place. It's in Surrey Quays which is over on the South East side in an up-and-coming area. In London-speak, up-and-coming means "ridiculously over-priced and superficially trendy and if you're stupid enough to believe the hype then you're rich enough not to care about getting ripped off". But then, that's London all over, really. What a city! There's six of us in the house and not only am I the only male, I'm also the only person over 25. Awesome! I've gone from the Teenage Disco to Disney's PMT High School Musical. They seem ok, though, and the house is brilliant so maybe things will be alright. If not, it's only for 3 months and I can find somewhere else. Plus, I'm hardly ever going to be there if things go the way they have been so far with travel and stuff.
Speaking of which, I'm off to Chicago in 3 weeks for training. How rad! The Company have this training facility over there and everyone has to go along and attend their core training school for a week. Oh well, alright, if I must. Apparently it's a wicked sweet good time. I'm gonna stay over for a few days afterwards and check out the windy city. It's supposed to be a bit chilly this time of year but I think a free flight is worth a bit of shrinkage, don't you? Of course you do, you sycophant!
So what's all the goss from back on the homestead? Seems I started a trend and everyone's leaving their jobs for greener pastures. Good for youse! Youse were so under-valued in
Looking forward to Chrissie with each passing day. I've been over here for two months now, can you believe it? And yesterday would have been my 13th wedding anniversary had we been living in a parallel bizarro universe...shudder!
Don't go changin'!