Monday, August 30, 2004

Birthday Presence

You’ve been able to see the virtual tumbleweed drifting through Sucker Punch recently, haven’t you? That’s what happens when you have a job where they monitor your web activities, and you are about to become a father in three weeks. My leisure time has been greatly reduced recently, so I have to snatch my aimless fun when and where I can at the moment.

Almost two weeks into the new job now, and I am still firmly cast in the role of The New Guy. I am almost totally ignored by absolutely everyone in the company, I have little to no work to do at the moment, and I can’t kill time the way I used to (surfing for eight hours straight, interrupted occasionally with a bout of profane e-mails to friends). So, my working day consists of me badgering my superiors for work to do (I’d rather be bored and busy at the same time), being told that there’s nothing to do at the moment, looking like I’m busy by forcing my eyes to skim across techie websites, and making an occasional foray to the toilet or the kitchen. I spend my lunch hour sitting in the pub scrawling film reviews into note pads to keep my brain alive, reading, eating stodgy pub food. My working life is making me feel very restless and isolated at the moment, and I’ve never known such a massive discrepancy between my self-image (unshaven, foul-mouthed writer prowling the streets of London) and the reality (immaculately turned-out, mute IT wage-slave ambling through a green and pleasant land). It’s quite disconcerting. If things continue like this, I might snap. I’ll end up garrotting someone with my tie whilst telling them to choke on my fresh shit.

I went into Soho on Tuesday night for a press screening. It was great. It was like refuelling my tank with Distilled Essence of W1, and the minute Piccadilly Circus tube station vomited me up onto the street, the hum of humanity was incredibly energising. Everything was faster. The people, the traffic, my pulse. I walked around before and after the movie just soaking it all up. I reckon one pure hit of London lasts for a good two or three days before the shakes set in again, so I might have to make it a habit to go up (down?) there twice a week. It should stave off irreparable psychosis.

Last Friday was my birthday. 32 years and still going strong. The incomparable Mrs. AKA secretly orchestrated a blowout Thai meal in my old ‘hood Harrow, surrounded by my much-loved homies and an unending stream of potent beer. And she bought me The West Wing Season 3 boxset, and the Leone Dollars trilogy boxset on DVD. What a gal.

AND I finally got myself a car. Once the insurance is sorted, I can take to the roads at last. Be afraid.

The last two days, we have been continuing the endless preparation for the arrival of our little one, with dusting, vacuuming, washing, cleaning, tidying, throwing out shit…we eventually got to bed at 2am last night. There’s something almost Zen about hoovering in the early hours of the morning.

Got the house to myself today, so I can relax somewhat before the week begins in earnest. Going to write a film review or two, iron shirts for the week ahead (gah!), do some research on pain relief during labour, and then I can loll on the couch, crack open a can, and finally watch the Hellboy DVD that has been calling me from the shelf ever since I bought it a month ago.

On balance, all is good. And despite my grouches and grumbles, it always is in the end.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Lost in Vocation

You know that (as usual) exaggerated comment about the lowest lows towards the end of the last blog posting? Well, fuck all that. It’s not that interesting. Suffice to say, in the week and a bit off I had before my new job, I didn’t achieve nearly as much as I wanted to, and the anxiety of impending parenthood is affecting Mrs. AKA and I in unusual ways. I like to think of it as karmic rebalancing after the glorious three days I had before. Now, enough of that. There are more important matters to discuss.

Well, I’ve been at my new job for two days, and I’ve got a full clip of observations to unload on you. Let’s start with the short bit: the pros of the new job. After fifteen months at Feeble Business Evisceration plc, and being treated like the Office Bukkake Bitch, closing my eyes and opening my mouth to the showered offerings of my employers and co-workers, a few things are strangely pleasant. More cash, more holiday entitlement, they are offering to pay my full salary as paternity pay for two weeks (a big plus in their favour, seeing as they don’t know me from a hole in their ass), loads of training, they took me out for a swanky lunch on my first day…so far, I’m quietly impressed at the way they treat their staff. Ask me again in a week, though.

Here’s the down side. Shirt and tie. Every day. Dammit.

Never had to do this before. I pointed out that some elements of my job would require me to get a bit filthy. Their response? If I anticipate that that might happen, wear a polo shirt. Polo shirt! Why don’t I crack out the jodhpurs whilst I’m at it? Shiteaters! Do I look like Chris Eubank?

What else? No casual internet browsing, no checking online e-mail accounts, mobile phones must be turned off in the office. They may as well cut off one of my hands. Yes, I know this is not uncommon company policy in a lot of places, but I’m getting the distinct impression that these guys mean it.

Another discomforting oddity. I thought the office was deathly quiet in the last place I worked. That was fucking Mardi Gras every day compared to this morgue. I don’t even have the luxury of plugging in a CD and zoning out.

All the men talk in clipped middle England word-perfect BBC diction. All the women are shapeless blonde lumps squeezed into too small clothes with screechingly loud voices, fresh off the shelf from the Denise Van Outen clone factory, with a mid-90s Essex vintage.

You can take the boy out of London, and they seem to be trying their hardest to take the London out of the boy too. Will they succeed? They can suck on my balls. They will fail. Although it does feel a little weird to me. I’ve worked in London, and not lived there. I’ve lived in London, and not worked there. Most of the time, I’ve done both. This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve done neither. It’s almost as if I’m having a long-distance relationship with one of my deepest loves…

I’m not knocking the area. It’s the beautiful and sleepy village of Gerrards Cross. I don’t do sleepy too well. I need that ragged edge of anxiety, frustration and simmering anger to keep me going. It makes me feel alive. Walking through GX (as the locals are wont to call it) is like floating through the day without drinking enough coffee. It’s all too slow and gentle and green. I don’t want to be able to see the sky. I want the sky obscured by towering edifices, and crowded with pollution.

Now, beautiful, on the other hand. I can do beautiful. But beautiful to me is a bitterly cold night walking on the South Bank, the chill wind off the Thames cutting into my face, a busker playing Blue Moon on the sax, whilst the lights of my city dance on the black water. Beautiful to me is standing outside a Soho pub, watching the eyes of a complete stranger crinkle and smile in a private, conspiratorial, fleeting moment of connection, as a motorcycle courier gets knocked over by a cab reversing too quickly. Beautiful is sitting in the Empire, Leicester Square on a Tuesday afternoon, as the pin-prick lights on the ceiling twinkle, twinkle in the darkness briefly just as the curtains open, and a new adventure unfurls across the screen. Beautiful is the feeling that you know nothing, anything can happen, there are no certainties, and any minute now, you could be in the greatest moment of your life.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Curse my metal body

Well, that’ll learn me. After my tirade against boredom, fate intervened to smack me upside the head with a flurry of non-stop activity as my world shifted almost imperceptibly on its axis with changes, magic, celebration and adventure. This is a long one, so grab yourself a drink and find a comfy chair. Here’s what happened next:

Thursday

Even though my last day at work was Friday, I was wished farewell the afternoon before, so that the MD could tell me how great I was. I don’t blame her. I understood her overwhelming urge to foist a stream of platitudes upon me. And, of course, I am great. False modesty be damned.

Pleasantries were exchanged, and then she handed over my leaving gift. The Starsky & Hutch Season 1 DVD box set! It was just what I wanted! It was easy for them to get me just what I wanted, seeing as Beckett, Coupland and I had sneaked on over to the HMV Trocadero a couple of hours earlier, where I got to pick it out myself.

After I’d bagged my booty, I hustled my ass on over to the Metropolitan Bar on Baker Street to OD on lime-tinged beer. Five hours of drinking, bullshitting and spitballing ideas back and forth across the table in the company of my brothers.

I have an innate inability to get to sleep when Mrs. AKA isn’t at home, so I finally bedded down at 2.30am, catching four hours sleep before rousing at 6.30am for my last day.

Friday

Obviously, I was late for work. Not much they could do about it at that point. Wolfed down two sausage and egg McMuffins to settle my rebellious stomach. It wasn’t so much a hangover, as the queasy instability I usually feel when I haven’t had nearly enough sleep.

I compounded my culinary errors at lunchtime by forcing down a foot long Italian B.M.T with all the trimmings. ALL the trimmings. It sat in my stomach like a vicious meat demon kicking away for the rest of the afternoon, whilst I tried to distract my evil gut with a CD of Nigerian funk. Beckett & I spent the remainder of my last working day throwing bottles of mineral water down our throats in preparation for the evening’s festivities.

Which kicked off shortly after 5pm at the Glasshouse Stores. Far more people than I had expected to attend were there. No doubt due to the fact that word got out that the company credit card would also be making an appearance. And the boozing commenced, as I sat there with a beer in my hand and a bad case of the meat sweats.

As the booze flowed fast and furious, the artificial barriers of office politics melted away in the corrosive face of beer fumes, and home truths were spat out with humour and vitriol. It was awesome, watching people sliced and diced with the odd well-chosen putdown. I just sat back and enjoyed the show, with the Big Brother final lurking in the background on a muted TV screen.

Much later on, when we had all lost the ability to talk about anything coherently, I noted with as much detached coolness and nonchalance as someone as drunk as I was could muster up, the following observation: “That dude over there is C-3PO”. This was met with a combined chorus of “Bollocks!”, “Who?”and “So what?”. As usual, those who doubted my mutant ability to identify anyone remotely significant in the celluloid world would tremble at the truth of my words.

Anthony Daniels (for it was he) was a gracious, kind and erudite guest at our epic bacchanalian debauch, and we had to keep reminding ourselves that this man was the iconic Lucasfilm gaybot beloved by generations of Star Wars gazers.

He sat and drank with us for an hour (despite the best attempts of his Fox PR bodyguards to wrest him away from us), and regaled us with tales of galaxies far, far away. He was professional enough not to spill any plot details of Episode III, and we were smart enough not to ask. I like to think that we didn’t come across as a bunch of sweaty geeks. He may think differently.

At the end of the evening, he wished me good luck with my new job, and handed over a glossy picture of one of cinema’s most famous robots, emblazoned with the legend: “To AKA, with Force! Anthony Daniels.” It was a perfect end to a perfect evening.

Saturday

Normally, Saturdays are synonymous with lie-ins. Not then, though. For her birthday, I had purchased a maternity massage as a joint gift for Mrs. AKA and our soon-to-be bouncing bubba, so we had to get down to Marylebone High Street for midday.

Whilst Mrs. AKA was being pleasurably rubbed down by a pro, I bought a couple of second hand Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels, and then went and sat in the blazing dry heat outside a pub, with the previous night’s excesses oozing from my pores, gently sipping a Coke. (It was 32 degrees that day, for those of you with goldfish memories).

Following a phenomenally hearty lunch at Giraffe with my newly kneaded lifemate, we pounded the pavements shopping. Well, Mrs. AKA shopped. I carried the fruits of her spending.

As the sun set, we ended the day with Fahrenheit 9/11 and a curry. So far, I was batting three for three on the eve of my break between jobs.

But with the highest highs, sometimes follows the lowest lows. But I’ll save that for next time….

By the way, this blog posting is dedicated to the memory of his royal badness, the superfreak and underrated funkateer, Rick James. Long may he continue Bustin’ Out.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Writing Bored

There’s an old saying: “Only the boring get bored”. To that I say “BULLSHIT!” Whoever came up with that one is a complete doo-doo head. (Bear with me whilst I try and cut down on the amount of gratuitous swearing in this blog.)

I’m bored, bored, bored and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Because I’m stuck in the office marking time, trying to dodge work until the clock strikes five on Friday afternoon, and I can throw of my shackles and make a break for freedom for the very last time. Call me Kunte Kinte.

If I wasn’t stuck here, I could do anything my imagination could conceive of. Instead, this is the third day that I’ve sat here cooling my heels, fighting off deep vein thrombosis by jiggling my legs restlessly, and chewing on my nails to stop me from screaming in frustration. Two more days, two more days, two more days…it’s like a mantra buzzing in the back of my head.

I’ve been struggling to feed my restless mind with something, anything, all week.

I keep visiting all my favourite websites hoping that they’ve updated with something new for me to read. Doing it every five minutes and then wondering why there’s nothing new there.

I’ve entertained myself by trying to think of classic closing lines from movies. The horror, the horror. Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads. Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Well, nobody's perfect. Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly. Shut up and deal. That's right. That's right. Attaboy, Clarence.

Wrote a film review. Didn’t take as long as I thought it would, dammit.

Electronically shuffled money from one pile to another to keep my debtors at bay for another month.

Played with my Incredible Hulk action figure. He’s got a hell of a right hook.

Tried to crop image files using shit like Microsoft Paint, before realising that I’ve just wasted about an hour.

Listening to Eric Bogosian’s 1998 album of his stage show Pounding Nails in the Floor with my Forehead. Ironically, it's a recording of his show about frustration. It’s not helping.

Two more days, two more days, two more days…