Alexander: Perry vs. Bond

18 Sept. 2014

I’m sitting alone in a hostel which is blasting Tiger by Katy Perry and playing the James Bond film Live and Let Die on silent. The only way that combo could be more bizarre is if they were blasting the audio of Live and Let Die over the endlessly repeating music video for Tiger. The speaker above my head is deafening. I’m going to lose my hearing in a place that makes no sense.

Business suits, drunk girls, their gay friends, old men. Me with a notebook. Is this the saddest bar ever? Or is this the standard clubbing experience? Undecided. I just know that watching Roger Moore undo a dress zip with a magnet is not making the situation any less bleak. The waitress here is probably 20 but looks 40. All the attractive women here are standing outside, pretending they aren’t drinking here. As a non-drinker, am I worse for looking like I do drink here?

~

It seems weird calling people my age men and women – everyone still seems like boys and girls. There is no clear middle stage where you’re a young man or woman with no responsibility before you have kids or get married or start a career – there’s just being a boy or girl, then having kids and your life being over. That’s right, isn’t it? No one my age is an adult yet, even the ones with degrees and internships at Deloittes.

Coming to terms with being in control of my life is difficult when what I want to do is affected by the decisions of others. I’ve been turned down for both a comedy festival and a theatre job in the last two days. I’m listening to LMFAO and Lil Wayne blasting overhead and feeling like my heart wants to stop beating as a result, breath doesn’t want to come – my body is telling me it wants to die rather than listen to this music.

“If you ain’t getting drunk, get the fuck out the club!”
– Lil Wayne

“Here’s an idea: go fuck yourself Lil Wayne.”
– Me and anyone else with common sense

~

This is 70s James Bond. People are in flares. I’ve worn flares before; velvet ones with a matching jacket. Was I the most comfortable I’ve ever been? Yes. Did I look like a member of the Jackson 5? No, I’m not black and I can’t sing. But I still liked the pants. And am I the only person that thinks Roger Moore should have been shot several times in this film? And who does his hair? There is no way that guy is a spy.

The guy that played Jaws died this week.

~

Thsi place is literally all men. Music’s loud. Lights flashing.

~

Lots of black people in Live and Let Die, and Roger Moore is nowhere near as cool as any of them. Maybe I should be James Bond. Then I can wear my velvet 70s flare suit and me and the cast of James Bond can all party together. That would be fun. I really could be James Bond.
Probably not. I’m not English.
But neither is Sean Connery. I’ll bet Sean Connery never had to deal with shitty youth hostel bars. Maybe I should have been Scottish. Or Sean Connery.

~

Seriously, it’s all men. This sucks really really badly. That’s right, no comma in that last sentence – I wanted you to run it on with no breath to understand how dire the situation is.

I’m not saying women’s role in life is to entertain men by committing to at least a 50/50 ratio of females to males . . . but imagine if they did. It would make Katy Perry’s soundtrack to Live and Let Die acceptable.

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Alexander: Pudding Boy

Today was my first London show . . . as an assistant for escape artist, Tony Roberts!

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He didn’t die!

When I first arrived in London, I was drawn to Covent Garden; its atmosphere, its performers and lively crowds, and the fact it was near to where I was staying and free. (The last two facts were big contributors. But so was the atmosphere! Honestly though, the close and free part was a big part of it. But the atmosphere! It’s also free. Free is nice.)

I went there most days for the first week, and I watched many performers. Rather than going to big tourist attractions and waiting in lines, it makes so much more sense to get out £15 – 20 and watch pro performers for a day. If they’re good, I give them a note, if they’re ok, a few gold coins – as long as I’m supporting the show I’m watching, I’m ok. There are jugglers (almost everyone there juggles), balancing acts, gymnastics, escape artists, mimes, impersonators. Almost everyone combines their act with jokes, so there are comedians in the mix too. It’s an amazing place. (And free too, if you’re a cheapskate and don’t pay people – did you know that?)

~

Doing shows like my stand up, or de Sade, where I mercilessly pick on people, I forget what it’s like to be involved as a volunteer (‘volunteer’). Even being called on by a comedian is terrifying – Dan Nightingale (an English comic who regularly comes to New Zealand for the Comedy Festival) ripped on me for being served a blueberry meringue in the front row during the intro of his show. I ordered it 20 minutes before showtime and sat in the front row next to Mike and Ellie – the owner and barmaid at Cavern Club . . . where Dan had his 2013 Comedy Fest show.

10 minutes till showtime, no meringue. Five minutes and I’m sweating a bit. His voice over intro starts; no dessert, palms sweaty. He walks onstage, starts show. Nothing. Ten minutes into the show he’s hitting his groove and up the centre aisle walks the waitress with my food. Dan asks me what it is and I’m stunned into silence.
This is the worst thing ever.
The waitress yells, “It’s a blueberry meringue,” and I offer him some.
“I don’t want any of your bloody blueberry meringue – I’m doing a show!”

He called me pudding boy for the rest of the night.

~

Tony (the escape artist I didn’t kill) is Australian, saw me in the crowd and pulled me up in front of his crowd of hundreds at Covent Garden. For a performer, no problem. For a volunteer, minor problem. For a volunteer then told to chain up a man with the assistance of a German dude from the audience with no sense of humour. . . potentially a big problem.

With clear instructions, Tony told me how to tie him up, and I learned two things.
1. Being personable, and very precise with instructions makes audience participation very easy to manage – or at least it appears that way.
2. Chaining up a nearly naked dude in the middle of a public place with the help of a huge German guy with no social skills isn’t as gay as it sounds. (In this scenario, anyway.)

~

After watching several street performers, I found there are several things that get repeated:
1. Always include juggling.
2. Including a kid makes the crowd happy.
3. Giving the kid money makes the crowd want to give you money.
4. When asking for money, always say “When you’ve got your money out, fold it neatly . . .”
5. Then say, “You’re not laughing now, are you?”
6. Ask people to pay you after the show before your finale.

Once you’ve seen these same things again and again, you wonder why people don’t pick up on it – and it’s because street performers are meant to be watched for 5 – 30 minutes, not one after another for a day at a time. It means they can get away with using each others’ jokes, and the same show structure – in some cases almost the exact same show. This means anyone that watches it regularly will really notice when a performer of any time goes beyond expectations. Tony did this with his incredible escape from chains, and Dan Nightingale does it with his super fast reactions to the environment he’s in. Those names stand out to me and I won’t forget them.

~

I need a name that won’t be forgotten.

How about Pudding Boy?

Alexander: Kings and Peasants

London is a prohibitively expensive place – I knew that before I moved here but didn’t realise to what extent that would affect me. It means I’m in a scenario where I’m unsure how I can fund surviving, let alone extras like shows. Even travel is expensive, and if I can’t get to gigs, I can’t perform.

On the bright side, I’m not jetlagged.

Moving to London has been a long time coming. There’s so much here to see and do; opportunities to perform. Show seasons here last for three months, not two weeks like in New Zealand.
I nearly said back home, but that would be to admit that New Zealand is the place where I belong. Which option is better when choosing between the place where people know and love you (you hope, anyway), and where you can realistically follow your dream? At this stage, I’ve picked the latter – it’s important to take a gamble while the chance is there. No one will be surprised though if the findings eventually change though. Careers are important, but so are people.

~

I’m in a four bed hostel room about the size of my room in New Zealand. Instead of going up in the world, I’ve gone down (spacewise) by 75%. I have no record player or books; just a pen, paper, and computer. So far it’s been focusing on writing by hand, then transferring it electronically when I have the time. Getting out the events of the day, excitement, despair (not yet) out of my system is nice.

~

The word nice doesn’t mean anything. The problem is few other words get across the simplicity of good feeling in the same way. It’s not a heavily layered positive feeling; just free floating and pleasant. Just nice.

~

Street shows are the ultimate test for a performer because all the conventional barriers stopping audiences from leaving (that also almost force them to make an effort to enjoy themselves) are not there. Price of admission, allocated seating, a room of people to disrupt, a quiet space . . . none of those exist. With a positive outlook, they are restrictions that are lifted. Boundaries for the audience are not there, so they are also lacking for the street performer.
They can do what they want.
Think about how liberating that is. If someone heckles, or interrupts in any way, the retort does not need to be said through a mic. If someone walks through the show, or is talking during it, or in any other way affecting what is going on, the mic is not the only source of reply. Repartee is not necessarily needed. You can get right into peoples’ faces, you can impersonate them, or take the piss, make a fool of them. If done with the right amount of wit, you can win them over and make a friend. The options are yours.

~

I was talking to one guy after his show while another set up and started their own. I turned around in time to watch the new guy, and a crowd was lined up, row after row, from one end of the square to the other. By just being in the right place and having an interesting look, one man was able to stop a market place of people. Being behind him looking towards the crowd made it feel like I was onstage, and to see that amount of people gathered in public to watch must be the best feeling. For the 15 minutes he entertained the crowd, he was a king.

I watched another man crushed today as his show failed to impress, or even to attract, a crowd. The previous performer had hundreds of people watching him; this one had a crowd of tens. Maybe 25 in all (which, for Covent Garden, is atrocious). The crowd was either unimpressed or shy. I’m leaning towards the latter because while I wanted this guy to succeed, I also felt hesitant to be the only one loudly clapping or cheering. My lack of strong response contributed to his failure, but if he couldn’t attract a crowd, perhaps he shouldn’t have been performing in one of the best attended street performance spots in the UK.
He’d waited all day for the spot, and after the fifth trick failed to get a response, he gave up. Before he packed up though, he said something I’ll never forget: “I’m not doing this. I’m proud of this show. I’m proud of my show.” And he left.

His belief in the show, despite how badly it was going, impressed me. Rather than carrying on hopelessly, he maintained his dignity by taking a step back and saying he deserved better than the response he was getting. Whether the move he made was the right one or not, I can’t decide. He should be able to win back the crowd – but I should be able to sell out tours, and you should be a CEO, and our parents should have massive retirement funds. We have to come to terms with fact that we are not perfect. We have little right to step on those who are trying – and not always succeeding – to achieve their goals.

~

People think stand up is scary; doing it well is hard, but it isn’t scary. Scary is having no safety net, no opportunities to guide the audience’s expectations; trying to hold people through the appeal of your act. Having to literally stop people in the street and reel them in, make them stare, and then pay for the privilege of watching you. I think that is scary. That is a true skill, and one I’m looking at developing – potentially another asset to my shows with de Sade. Why not take every opportunity to improve the work I’m already doing, even if it puts me out of my comfort zone? The same question applies to you. Consider what you want and where you’re currently headed, change track if the one you’re on is leading in the wrong direction.

~

I saw a king and a peasant perform today – or that’s how it appeared to me. Everyone wants to be at the top, but the chance of hitting the bottom is there no matter how much we want to ignore it. Maybe we just need to keep looking up.

Alexander: The New Zealand Helen Keller

In the line for the departure lounge, I asked the Londoner behind me if I could take a soft drink on the plane. He didn’t hear me/understand me/ignored me . . . then looked as though he had the information I needed.

Then he told me how long I’d be in the departure lounge. Everything he said, he read off a sign directly in front of us. Either he thought I was stupid, or he didn’t know the answer. Third option, maybe he thought when I said, ‘can I take a can of soft drink onboard?’ he thought I said, ‘how long till we board the plane?’ It looks as though I’m going to struggle to be understood.

Maybe I should speak louder and he’ll understand my foreign dialect? I’m hoping for two things: being easily understood in the UK, and sitting next to literally anyone other than that guy on the plane. If things continued the way they’ve been going, life would fall apart. This is what it would be like meeting new people.
Me: “What’s your name?”
Guy: “The flight’s heading to London.”
Me: “Ok . . . what part of London are you from?”
Guy: “I’m having a beer, didn’t feel hungry.”
Me: “Oh, fuck off.”
Guy: *punches me in the face*
I will only be understood when I wish I hadn’t been.

~

There ended up being one seat between me and the guy that didn’t understand me. Success.

~

Because I’m arriving at 6am, I’m descending during sunrise. Friends have said they’re worth staying up for, and while I didn’t stay up for it intentionally, it’s still a great way to start a new adventure. As an unrelated sidenote, all the English people on this plane are either red-faced, super pale, or unnaturally tanned. These people have no middle ground. And neither do I. With my accent that renders me impossible to communicate with, I am New Zealand’s Helen Keller. (Admittedly I can see and hear, so it’s a slight exaggeration rendered almost completely false based on the lack of similarities between her and me, but it’s still true.)

Like her, I will be a hero. Like her, I will be a legend. Like her, I will overcome various struggles my disabilities have forced on me to become a renowned political activist and lecturer . . . or a comedian. Probably the latter.

Alexander: Moving to London Part Two

Everything I’ve been looking forward to in life – shows, festivals, interesting work, big opportunities – all are waiting in London. This is where I’m made or broken. That’s an intimidating thought because it means that rather than dreaming about making it big, I have to find out if that will actually happen.

In school, I was a winner. Top in drama, arts captain, arts colours. My last year at school was like being a king; I think all of us were, in a way. We’d reached the top of the school, we were all the best in our small pond at whichever talent we were working on. Leaving there meant going where no one knew who I was, working to make a name for myself; being a loser at times. Instead of winning festival awards like I won awards at school, I watched others win them. Its come to a point now where I’ve had to realise that awards are nice, but I have to focus on audiences numbers, and audience enjoyment. Once those two things are sorted, I’m automatically a winner.

~

A friend of mine recommended an ebook that teaches artists how to overcome their financial and time management issues in order to become happier and more successful individuals. If I wasn’t an artist, I wouldn’t have realised how skewed our priorities can become when we’re working towards a project deadline. Everything needs to be done at once, delegation never seems like a good idea, and it’s so easy to burn out. Having performed in many fringe and comedy festivals, I’m aware that goals can lead to trying to do everything and achieving nothing, or less than I’d expected.

With that in mind, it makes sense to set clear goals that allow me the opportunity to focus on what I love. Further, these goals are owned by me. I control the outcome. Rather than ‘I want to win this award’ (which I have no say in), I will focus on an end result I can guarantee . . . if I work hard enough.

1. Finish the Way of St James.
2. Perform 100 stand up gigs in London.
3. Get ‘de Sade’ into an English Theatre.
4. Perform ‘de Sade’ at Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
5. Publish my book (first drafted in 2011).

Here are five goals. Each requires an investment of time and effort; each will be rewarding. Most importantly, the results are in my control – while 3 and 5 rely on theatre managers and publishers, there are an infinite number of of them to which I can apply. One day my works will be seen in English theatres and bookshops.

These goals are seperate from other, potentially more ambitious dreams. ‘Dream’ is the word I’ll allocate to desired outcomes outside of my control. If a goal is to do 100 stand up gigs (as a starting point) in London, then a dream would be to appear on Live at the Apollo. The latter is out of my control, decided by the program owners . . . but my goals work towards that dream (amongst others) happening.

The flight is still in progress (of course). So it’s time to settle back and read. Or listen to Moby. Or both. Maybe I’ll write a review of Moby’s latest album, Innocents . . . the point I’ve been working towards and almost forgotten to mention is that I’m going to use this site for multiple blog posts(about my travels, my opinions, or the opinions of my good friend de Sade). If you’d care to join me, we will have one hell of a journey together.

Alexander: Dude In The Park

12 Sept 2014

I’m in a park writing next to my two bags of possessions and really, this is the high end version of being homeless. If the definition of the word is to be without a home then that is the situation I am in – the other words and ideas associated with the homeless don’t apply, like being dirty, begging, sleeping on a park bench, drinking meth, and so on. I’m not that bad, just in a situation where I can go wherever I want, which would be ideal if I was suited up, super rich, and carrying no bags. (These things are like carting around a dead body (they’re heavy enough) but police won’t take them off my hands like they would a corpse. Maybe I should have packed one of those instead of a laptop.)

Friends gave me a couple of good luck charms before I left – Rachel’s was a St Christopher’s medal/medallion (one sounds like something I don’t deserve, the other something I couldn’t pull off – which is it?), I’ve got it around my neck and almost forgot it’s there. Which makes sense. It would be weird to think investing thought in an object made it more lucky . . . imagine how many people would just sit and stare at their lotto tickets. Or their dicks.

People wear them when they travel (medallions, not dicks); I haven’t looked into the tradition or where it comes from, but it’s nice to know she’s wishing me luck – as opposed to giving me a St Antichristopher’s medallion, which would be really big and bring me bad luck. If I had one of those, I’d end up getting pimped out in an underground cavern in Ukraine. Hopefully the opposite happens since I’ve got the good luck one. (The opposite isn’t me pimping other people out in Ukraine; it’s something more fun/less evil somewhere more fun/less scary.)

~

There’s an old guy across the park that keeps spitting. He has a dark peach top, khaki shorts, walking shoes, and yet another terrible London haircut. People here are either well-dressed or think they’re well-dressed – in terms of haircuts, the difference is astronomical. I hope if I end up with hair like his, people tell me so I can do something about it; like shooting my hairdresser. I had a hairdresser in New Zealand called Vicky, she’s awesome. It would be a shame to shoot her, she’s a good person – but I don’t deserve a haircut like that. Lucky all this is hypothetical, because she’s only ever given me good haircuts and I’m more likely to cry in my room over a bad haircut than carry out any proposed threat involving a firearm. I’m anti firearms anyway, except when people that are pro guns accidentally shoot themselves in a superficial place, like their thumb or foot. Then I’m pro firearms.

The only thing stopping me going for a walk is the two really heavy bags sitting next to – you know the guy with a terrible haircut that kept spitting before? (If I didn’t tell you he keeps spitting: he keeps spitting). He got up, walked around a bit . . . then came sat next to me. My seat is in the sun, so that’s an excuse to move, but he does make me uncomfortable. Is it wrong to think that way, or am I justified because there’s heaps of seats here and he chose the one next to me? What’s going on? I want to read his thoughts so I know if I’m in danger or not.

~

Beefeaters were meant to be poor because they ate beef which was the cheapest animal, and calling someone a neckbeefeater is like calling them super poor because they eat the worst meat on the cheapest animal. It’s like calling someone chicken mcnugget. I think it’s easier to just call someone an arsehole and be done with it.

~

There’s millions of people in this city, including actors, dancers, models, beautiful women, people I look up to, people I’m friends with, people I know, people I wouldn’t mind knowing, and people I’m indifferent to . . . but it has to be this guy sitting next to me. All the pigeons look even more diseased than the ones in New Zealand. Maybe everything that is diseased in the UK is super diseased, like a multiplied version of everything where I’m from. If the guy next to me sneezes, will part of his brain fall out? I hope so, then he’ll stop trying to read my writing. That’s mean, he’s not trying to read my writing. But I bet he would if he could. Isn’t that a compliment to me? Not really. He freaks me out. I don’t want to judge, so I won’t.
Except for this occasion, where I judge and say that is a terrible, terrible haircut. I’ve finished now. No more judging.

I was finished, but then he spat again. Dude, can you just fuck off?

~

It’s another ridiculously hot, sunny day in London. Maybe that’s why people here have tans (some of them anyway), which I was not at all expecting. I should move into shade, and I would . . . if these bags didn’t weigh 27kg. I like them better on the ground than on my back. There are worse places they could be than on my back; like on my eyes. Then they’d pop and I wouldn’t be able to see. That would be worse. Seems unlikely though.

Phone’s out of battery, I have no idea what the time is, where I can charge my phone, which bag the charger is in, where the adapter is, or how long it would take to charge. Sometimes I think the phone would be better crushed underfoot, or thrown at the face of a gang member before quickly turning around so he thought it was thrown by the gang member from the opposing side that’s conveniently standing next to me, who he then attacks and punches in the gut before they grab each others’ lapels and roll into the Thames. I don’t think gang members have lapels, they have tracksuits and no teeth. I can dream though.

~

The guy next to me just took his shirt off. Damn it.

Alexander: Moby’s ‘Innocents’ Album Review

Short review
1. Would I recommend it? Yes, with every fibre of my being.
2. Who would I recommend it to? Anyone that needs to relax or that wants to discover the pleasure life can provide.
3. Highlights: Almost Home with Damien Jurado, Going Wrong, The Dogs
4 Low points: Don’t Love Me with Inyang Bassey

Long Review
The day I listened to Innocents for the first time should have been a day to remember. Until that point I had goals, ideas, and visions of what I wanted to do with my life. The drive was always there to entertain, and to a smaller degree to affect people in some way. I found that happening that day. That most important of days was the day I fell in love with Moby. His existence is the reason for mine. I exist only to revel in his excellence, his mastery of the emotions . . . his effect on my humanity.

Moby had never before registered in my life. I’d heard of him, and when I investigated, I found that I recognised one of his songs (Play‘s Honey from the soundtrack of Holes). While playing random albums at my work – while I was also filing photos of antiques – I stumbled across Play as a suggested link. My life changed that day, but the true revelation of Innocents was yet to come blow my metaphorical heart out of my chest and my eyes onto the table.

For my 21st birthday (we must skip now to the key parts of our story) I was given a $50  voucher for Mango Music by imminent book repair specialist Bill Tito and his wife, Jane. I rushed to buy Play (for a ridiculous $25 price tag, which is a lot for an old album – don’t be offended, great Moby, I will sacrifice all money to my passion for you) and the owner said, “you need to spend the whole voucher at once”. Together, reader, we want to beat this absurd man with sticks . . . but wait. At this moment I took a gamble on Moby’s Innocents. If it had not been for a superstar book repairman and his teacher wife – as well as the stupid owner of the (deservedly) now closed Mango Music, I would not have shaved my knees and superglued glasses to them in homage of my spiritual leader, the great Moby.

From the opening tones of Everything That Rises to the closing notes of The Dogs, my brain exploded and rearranged itself  in a hyper-relaxed, contemplative state of mind. My favourite songs (the word ‘song’ is an injustice to these masterpieces of spiritual ejaculation; tossed off at the peak of Moby’s earth shattering mental climax) are the choral Almost Home, the instrumental work Going Wrong, and the moody closing track The Dogs. These are merely personal highlights from a journey begging to be undertaken by the individual – each ear will bring different reactions from each soul. The collection is an immensely effective mixture of choirs, guest singers, the brooding vocals of my Lord Moby, and music that is apparently simple . . . but designed to complete you while also questioning how you possibly survived before this.

The tracks move from smooth number to smooth number with none of the more club like numbers fellow members of the congregation will recall from 1999’s Play. Some have publicly spoken out against the lack of thudding bass, and unto them I share from the words of my Divine Protector: “Why does my heart feel so bad?” Why, you ask? Because you have forsaken our saviour. Purchase Innocents, play it 25 times, and plead for forgiveness.

In short this is the only perfect album. The heights of musical achievement have been reached and there is no purpose in attempting to overtake it. Moby has emerged victorious and all of us must drink from the Innocents cup. Stop playing music and just listen. You hear that? It is perfection in the form of the Divine Moby’s open mouthed sound lick to your ear. (Not your rear.)

This is truly an album to behold (only metaphorically, if you’re holding it, it’s not in the CD player where it should be). Partake, friends, and be absolved of all your fears. Moby is within you.