Trust and affection


I went out for a drink last night with one of the women here. Spring only sprung a couple of days ago, but it’s started well. It was a balmy evening for this time of year and we sat atop the Rooftop Bar above Cookie and shared a few pints looking out over the city skyline.

The woman I went out with refers to me as her ‘boss’ to anyone who asks, though I only supervised her for a brief period. She’s a lovely, bubbly personality, good hearted and generous natured. She has a loud voice and a laugh that belies her small stature. She’s a fond character who tells me she ‘loves’ me, and that she’s ‘proud’ of me, and so on. Much of our relationship is me teasing her or her teasing me.

Last night’s drinks have been on the cards for a few weeks, but was hurriedly brought on by a strange rivalry with one of our co-workers. To hear her describe it it seems she and this other guy got to talking about me over lunch. Somehow it escalated into a competition between them as to who I liked more, who liked me more, and who had the earlier friendship. I had to ask her twice, but that appears to be the true story. Last night she took the opportunity to send triumphant messages to her rival, though I told him I was open to bribery.

Among the things discussed last night she told me that knowledge that I’d once been homeless was now reasonably general. I didn’t mind so much, but I was surprised. She was quick to tell me that it was nothing to be ashamed of and that everyone thought it was admirable how I had survived and recovered. That’s why she was proud of me.

I had lunch with the other woman yesterday, and we have a coffee date tomorrow. I didn’t have plan to have lunch with her, I saw her sitting downstairs and said hello and she asked me to join her. She told me a bit more of her story, advising she’s very careful who she shares it with. The obvious question then was why she was sharing it with me? I guess there might be an obvious answer to that, too, but still – she hardly knows me, she likes me for whatever reason, and what is the basis for her trust? Unless it’s a speculative gesture – I’ll trust you, this is who I am, how will you react, and what will you tell me? Not much, as it turns out, but only because the time wasn’t right and she had to go back to work.

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The work zoo


Friday was the last day for the man who got me my job, and there were drinks after work at a nearby bar. I was there for about 90 minutes, chatting with colleagues and drinking beer. It was fine without being anything special, up until the Sales guys turn up. They’re a very different crew.

It’s no secret that Sales and I have had our run-ins and have an uneasy relationship. There’s plenty of practical reasons for that as far as I can see. For a start, I’m ethically driven, and they couldn’t spell it. To them, everything comes second to making the sale. They’re happy to do over other parts of the business to achieve that, and have no regard for anyone – including the customer – once the sale is done. To someone like me – principled, standards-driven – that’s poison. And I guess that’s the fundamental issue. Put us on a line, and they’re pushing the edges at one end, and I’m doing the same on the other.

That counts when it comes to basic style, as well. I catch a glimpse of various Sales guys around the office (you can spot ’em a mile off), and it’s rare that the style snob in me doesn’t emerge.

Friday night was typical. Three of them came along, all burly types leading with their belly. They have a distinct manner, splay-footed, stomach pressed forward as if looking to intimidate with it, shoulders pushed back, walking in a swaggering shuffle. They greeted each other with a hug, though they’d just shared an office together a few hours before. Filtering through the ranks influences seem to range from gangsta and rap to the merely gauche (Peter Jackson suits). Many of them are outright lairy, right up to chunky jewellery and baseball caps. They’re a shallow, egocentric mob in general, lacking grace. (To be fair, there are some reasonable characters too – I have a mate working there, and some of the women are very nice). As a general rule, they don’t give a fuck about anyone else and do whatever they want. (They ignore the lines and colour wherever they wish).

It’s interesting to differentiate between the different personality types. There are Sales, but then now I’m working closely with Marketing, and they’re different again. They’re decent people in general, a tad overdrawn to my taste – a bit louder, a bit more emphatic with their words and gestures (but then I’m old-school hard-arse), a bit gushier. They’re more touchy, feely. More ethereal.

In IT, where I’m sitting, there are some classic IT geek types. There’re a couple of guys who I’ve barely heard a word out of and who avoid all social contact. Much of the floor is taken up with Indian developers, industrious and humble. They’re smiling and gracious when you stop to chat with them, always ready to take time out to talk about the cricket. My own team lead is as lovely a guy as you’d ever meet, more reserved and quiet than anyone from Sales or Marketing. He just gets on with it.

I’ve got some of that, but I’ve probably got a bit of everything here. I’ve got a bit of swagger, but balancing it out is a decent work ethic and a genuine interest in others. I’ll colour outside the lines myself occasionally, but only because I think the lines are in the wrong place (and I don’t always recognise arbitrary boundaries). I’m not as loud as marketing, but I can fire up and be just as smooth and extroverted as they are. What I have and they don’t is a touch of mongrel. I’m having my qualms these days, but even still it doesn’t stop me from being direct and focussed. I’m ideas-driven, and everything comes second to that.

I think back to where I’ve come from, and it feels disorganised and ineffectual. There’s a jobbing mentality. People come and go, and while there are some excellent performers, most are happy to turn up and go home. Even the management is amateur by comparison, lacking a framework and driven by individual whim.

It’s no surprise I left soon after Sales turned up on Friday. We shook hands warily, nodded heads, but we’re not for socialising together.

Father’s day


Maybe because it’s Father’s Day today I dreamt of dad last night. In the dream, I saw myself as he did: ever so reliable and intelligent, but prickly to boot.

I don’t know how true that is, but I’m sure it’s a true impression for some of me. If I am ever prickly then – I say – it’s in defence of my independence, or to assert a right. Or maybe to refute a nonsense I won’t abide.

As for dad, if he ever thought that, then the first part he took for granted while exaggerating the second.

Needless to say, I’m doing nothing for father’s day. I’m having lunch with him this week, I think. I think he’s mellowing.

Recency


I was over the Cheeses for dinner last night. Afterwards, we had a bottle of wine and settled down to watch a movie. The movie happened to be the recently released film about Laurel and Hardy (Stan and Oliver), plucked from a selection of movies to watch.

It was a pretty good movie, and affecting in ways, but the fascinating thing was that Cheeseboy, around my age but who grew up on the other side of the world from me, had basically the same memory of Laurel and Hardy as I did.

When I was a kid there’d often be old movies played in school holidays featuring comic performers of yesteryear. That’s how I discovered the Marx Brothers. I remember watching at least one W.C. Fields movie, there were Abbott and Costello, and the Three Stooges (I loved them), and Laurel and Hardy.

In the years since I don’t think I’ve seen anything of them except the odd Marx Brothers movie. They were of a time for me and when I was a kid, of a recency – say between 25-50 years prior – that they still had a general connection to the era I was growing up in, though times were very different.

Cheeseboy had a similar experience in Holland, it seems, though he never encountered the Three Stooges. Laurel and Hardy were his favourites back then, big in the Netherlands, it seems. He explained one of their famous scenes to us, the scene where they haul a piano up a long stairway before letting it slip and crash down at the foot of the stairs. I remember those sort of scenes myself. It was all slapstick and visual gags, facial expressions and body acting.

It seems to me that sort of humour has gone out of fashion. You don’t see much slapstick anymore. For us, watching as adults, there was a sense of childish glee and nostalgia as we watched. It’s innocent humour, and maybe that’s why it doesn’t happen so much now, because fewer people grow into the world innocent these days (though there’s no exemption for stupidity). As adults, it was refreshing.

Watching with us was Cheeseboy Jr. He hadn’t heard of Laurel and Hardy, and I wonder what he made of it, though he watched to the end. He probably we was a bit silly as we hooted occasionally, and told our stories. Unfortunately, this generation doesn’t have that experience, though maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s a Laurel and Hardy of the Z generation I don’t know about.

I sometimes wonder about the historical perspective the generations grow up with. I don’t mean the big stuff like the wars and shit like that, I mean the cultural stuff. I’m willing to accept that when I grew up, I may have been more alert and conscious of things that came before. I was curious and asked questions and read books. I’m Gen X, but I reckon my close cultural knowledge extended back probably to around the depression era – roughly speaking, to the beginnings of the talkies and the jazz age.

I knew a lot – still do – remember watching movies with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, the early Carey Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire (there were a lot of his movies being played back then), even Errol Flynn. I knew a lot of the music because mum was a music lover and a singer as well, and would go about the house singing old standards. My grandparents had grown up in that era, and though I don’t remember ever discussing it with them, I’m sure I must have absorbed some by osmosis.

By contrast, I recall a conversation I had about ten years ago with a very cool hipsterish dude at a party. He was about twenty years younger than me and was big into music. He raved about it as if it was his sole purpose. We talked a while about recent bands when for some reason, probably connected to what we were talking about, I made a reference to the Spencer Davis Group. They weren’t a huge band, but they were notable in the sixties scene, particularly in Britain, and spawned some significant careers out of it. They had some great tunes, a strong, funky groove and I think that’s probably what I was alluding to, comparing a band of the day back in time to the SDG.

The guy gaped at me. He’d never heard of the Spencer Davis Group. I was amazed. How could you be a serious music lover if you didn’t know the roots of it? Upon discussion, I found he had only a sketchy knowledge of the Beatles. Once more, I was astounded. I looked at him as if he was from outer space. He was an affable character smiling at me with curiosity, and so I showed him a clip on my phone of the Spencer Davis Group, Gimme Some Lovin’, or I’m a Man most likely, though maybe Keep on Running – great songs. He was blown away. “How’d I not know this stuff?” he exclaimed. I wondered the same.

I like to think in the years since he’s filled those gaps in his musical education, but the point is, recency means that our sphere of knowledge only goes so far back, and seems to be shrinking. What’s a reasonable period of time to have knowledge of before your birthdate? It was about 35 years for me (and, even so, decently sketchy understanding going back even further). Is it less now? It feels sometimes as if we are becoming goldfish in a fishbowl.

Courted


It seems apt to use what is an old-fashioned term when I say there’s a woman at work who is courting me. It’s not really what I’d call flirtation, though others might. Nor is it wooing (another archaic term), not in my books anyway. It’s slow and steady, a persistent and determined interest that translates into fascinated attention.

I refer to the woman who told me what an interesting CV I had, something she’s repeated about half a dozen times now, among other things.

I’m not sure how I feel about this attention. I never am. I’m a little bemused by it, wondering what the fuss is. These are intangible things, but what is it about me that triggers such interest? Surely it’s more than just a bunch of engaging work experiences? But, perhaps not – who can say? That is to say, this is entirely unexpected – which is odd because I seem to attract passing interest regularly. The difference, perhaps, is that mostly they are transient encounters, a moment or two in time. The difference is precisely in how I described it – courting, rather than chance flirtation.

There’s another aspect I often struggle with. As they say, it’s me. She’s smitten with me, it seems (another lovely phrase), but in my world, I’d generally prefer to be the smitten than the smittee*. The theory is that I can control it if the strong feeling is contained with me. That’s very often an erroneous theory, but it doesn’t stop me from sticking to it. In any case, once the boot’s on the other foot, I have very little chance of controlling it. I’m subject to the feelings of others, and that often makes me feel uncomfortable (that’s a conversation for another day).

The other thing, always relevant, is that I’m wary of becoming intimate with someone I work with.

As it happens, I like her. She’s a lovely, decent and intelligent woman. I’m briefly flattered by her interest, but that fades fast. Luckily, she’s an interesting woman with what appears to be an unusual outlook and back-story. That’s enough for me to be friendly, but no more at this point.

We had coffee yesterday. I suggested it, but only after she had reminded me a couple of times, she would be happy to have coffee with me. It seemed the polite thing to do. It was only 20 minutes, but it was fine. We’ve already got a coffee date arranged for next week. I’ll take it as it comes.

Which prompts me to reference the woman before, the woman I haven’t written of for months. I took the decision to take that offline, but in brief, I can say what had become a delicate relationship has repaired since. I discovered since there were cultural obstacles preventing anything more than that. I’m cool throughout.

*Yes, I know that’s not a real word. If you haven’t noticed already, I’m not above inventing my own words when it feels appropriate.

Still spry


On the train this morning a guy got on the stop after mine and sat next to me. He circled stiffly before he sat, easing himself down before collapsing into the seat. It got my attention because it seemed such a protracted and uncomfortable process, and undoubtedly, it was the same every time.

I looked him over from the corner of my eye. He was plump and red-cheeked. It was cold out, about 3 degrees, but the ruddy complexion seemed more a symptom of uncertain health. He had wispy fair hair that had gone grey. By my reckoning, he was about five years older than me, though he probably looked 15-20 years more. Imagine, I thought, feeling so constrained by your body, and with years to come – years in which further decline was inevitable.

I couldn’t help but compare him to myself. There was a warning in that, but also reassurance. That could be anyone if you let yourself go if you have bad luck, but it doesn’t have to be the case.

I’ve complained of health issues over the last six months, and it has hit my general fitness. But then I’m a million miles ahead of the guy who sat next to me. I can still run and jump. I may not be able to slam dunk anymore – I haven’t tried for a while – but I’m still limber, and I’ve got years of muscle on me. I’m as strong as an ox still, and regardless of recent inconveniences, still have a strong constitution. It’s probably overdue that I put it into perspective – I’ve experienced a dip, but there are no serious ailments diagnosed.

I guess this perspective reflects an improved sense of wellbeing over the last week. I’m sleeping better, almost back to normal. And I feel I have some control over my physical self, though a night out tasting wines might test that.

I did some reading during the week that made me realise how much the aging process has been slowed in me. I haven’t looked my age since I was about 24. At different stages, people guess my age at up to twenty years younger than I am. (Personally, I think 8-10 years is more accurate.) But also, after reading, I realised that so many alleged signs of aging haven’t hit me yet. I’ve got some grey hairs but haven’t lost any, and my skin is soft and wrinkle-free. I still carry a fair whack of muscle mass. I have my senior moments, but I’ve just as sharp as I’ve ever been. More than anything, I still have that go ahead attitude – and I reckon attitude is a big factor in keeping you youthful, as well as relevant.

But, let’s see what I think tomorrow after my night out on the wine!

True to the times


It’s 2019, winter here in Melbourne and there’s three of us setting out on Friday night to watch a movie set in LA in 1969.

In Melbourne, we collect for a drink first at a Highett bar. It’s dark and cold, and the road outside is wet with rain. The bar is filling. The bartender shrugs when asked if he expects a big night, the rain, he murmurs – and if not, the cold. It’s not yet 7pm though, and the place is half full. At our table, we consider getting a bar snack before figuring there’s not time for it. We scoff a pale ale each, then head off to the cinema.

At Southland, we circle the car park, one level at a time, before finding a spot somewhere completely different. We’ve pre-booked the tickets and stroll right in. There’s a big crowd. There’s been a lot of hype about the movie – Once Upon a Time In Hollywood – and good reviews, and it’s just the second night of release. JV pfaffs around a few minutes trying to buy something out of the vending machine with his credit card before we head into the movie. We’re sitting the second row from the front.

The movie takes us to a very different world, vividly drawn. The colours pop, the sounds – old radio ads and TV programs – have a ring of surreal authenticity, and the landscapes, familiar from other programs, seem more real. They’re my initial impressions and held throughout the movie. I’m drawn into this world, a sense of nostalgia even though I never experienced this – I know it, however, because it is a variation of what I do know. The world I know now, the world I live in with my mates, have evolved from this, and the antecedents are familiar.

For me, especially, there is something joyful in this. I am curious by nature. Give me a time machine, and I’d zip backwards and forwards in time, checking out great moments and events, but yes, sometimes just to walk the streets and live the life as it was then. And this world presented to me, so vivid I could feel it, captures that sense of time, and more particularly, a moment in time.

We come to these things generally with an intellectual overlay, aware that what we see is a representation, and that these times have passed. We know what happens after, all the years of moments since diminishing the weight of what we see. It turns out well, or poorly, but ultimately what was so real then is forgotten in the years after, and then we walk out of the cinema. And because of all that it’s rare as we watch that we live in that moment being represented.

It’s a very Tarantino gift that suspends that sense of dispassionate distance. He takes you back, standing on a street corner watching it all unfold. It did me, at least. He’s such an aficionado of pop culture that making a movie fifty years after the event feels more real than a movie made at the time. And that’s because he has an eye for the things we take for granted at the time, but resonate in the years after. In a way, it’s truer because what he captures is the essence that – too busy living – we fail to understand in real-time.

So that’s the first thing I want to say about this movie, how real it felt. Then there’s the rest of it, the story, the characters, the narrative arc. Both my friends thought the movie too long. I didn’t. Cheeseboy thought the first half was too slow, that there was too much character development and scene-setting. I understand that, but I enjoyed that generally, though there was always a sense of drawn-out anticipation knowing what was to come.

I thought both de Caprio and Pitt were fantastic. They were great characters. I think Margot Robbie is a star too, and she was luminous on screen in the role of Sharon Tate. She really liked her. And there was a grit to the story that gave it a human scale. Then there’s the Manson family, and they’re creepy.

All of it culminates in the ending you think you know, but then it dawns on you what the title means. This is the Hollywood ending, and though it’s characteristically violent, it’s hilarious. All three of us and much of the cinema were hooting with laughter. It’s wonderfully over the top, very Tarantino again. He’s got genius in him.

And that was the film.

I look forward to watching it a second time. I think I really enjoyed it, and might even enjoy it more with the anticipation defused. I’ll be able to enjoy it for what it is, rather than what it promises to be. And really, I’d have loved to have been there, to breathe in some of the air, and even some of the characters – especially Pitt’s stuntman, a very cool dude.

We walked out. Sun washed California became a Melbourne night, dark and cold. We were hungry, but the restaurants in the mall were closed. We drove a bit before finally stopping at a kebab van in Moorabbin where, after 11, we sat at a plastic outdoor table on a freezing night, a few drops of rain falling, and munched on our kebabs in relative silence. Cars stopped and parked up on the pavement, and people got out and at the window of the van ordered their midnight snack, while a tinny radio playing crap pop blasted out the soundtrack.

In a way, this is a scene very true of our time, Melbourne in winter, late Friday after a night out.