Halloween night in New Orleans

It’s going to be a long night.

That’s not hard to figure out. There’s a group of about eight or nine of us, all staying at the hostel or working there or both, and we hit Bourbon street not long before midnight. Late in some cities, early in others, and in New Orleans it’s right on time.

I’ve actually dressed up (to my great shock) and there’s fake blood liberally splattered beneath my mouth, through my beard, and strategically painted across my face. I’m going for a vampire look – the violent, brutal extensions of eastern European myths and metaphors for sexually transmitted diseases kind of vampire, not the sparkly kind – and I think I pull it off. I even bought some fangs, but the instructions were more complicated than I was expecting. After about ten seconds of consideration I said “fuck it” and just touched up the blood on my neck.

We don’t care much about Halloween in Australia. Truthfully I don’t think many countries do. From what I’ve seen of the world so far Canada cares a fair bit and that’s about it. Maybe Mexico does as well, what with the Day of the Dead happening at the same time, but I’d want to ask a Mexican about that before making any claims. For the rest of us it’s just another excuse to drink (as if we needed an excuse), maybe an excuse to drink in a shitty costume that we’ve applied the bare minimum of imagination to creating. Maybe.

But in New Orleans Halloween is an event, a party that stretches across the week and weekend before until all involved are exhausted and badly hung over. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Lights on, shirts off, knickers most decidedly in a twist as they creep up the bum of a rather sexy looking nun.

We hit the street, most of us having put some bit of effort into their costumes, one person running through the usual range of typically Aussie jokes that border on the dad-territory to laugh off not bothering (“I’m dressed as a bloody legend!” etc.) I laughed, so I guess it worked.

Bourbon Street is bedlam. Hundreds of people out and about, enjoying the last night (the actual night) Halloween. We spot a dozen Where’s Wallies (he’s usually much better at hiding) and at least two popes. Suicide Squad style Harley Quinn’s and Jokers are the most common, and that’s a little disappointing as a fan of the character. I feel better when I see a more traditional Harley roaming the streets with a Poison Ivy. Not even five minutes in there’s a drink in everyone’s hand (except one guy who doesn’t drink) and we’re crossing between bars, yelling in each others ears and watching the crowd. Up on the rafters people are screaming at random passers-by and hurling beads almost at random. A guy flashes his tits and gets a handful of beads as well. None of the female revellers are quite so bold, surprisingly enough. Or not surprising. It’s not fucking Mardi Gras. Still they get beads tossed at them by strangers, and I can’t help but feel people have a real misunderstanding of demand-side economics.

Someone swears creatively enough to get everyone’s attention and we turn to see three people in a group human centipede costume being led on a leash by a fourth. They’re bloody and wearing naught by bandages, noses near enough to each other’s arses that they’d know the exact moment the person in front of them last showered. The most frightening thing is that they’re on their hands and knees, crawling along the road. Crawling along fucking Bourbon Street, with its eternal puke and trash puddles, studded with broken glass and plastic. They’re gonna be sick tomorrow. But it’s a calculated risk, ‘cause they immediately draw a circle of admirers getting following along and trying to get that perfect shot. Good for them.

We get into a bar and there’s a band playing, a cowboy is singing and a ghoul is playing a mean guitar. One of the female singers is wearing a leather boob-tube and briefs. The cowboy remarks that he has no idea what she was dressed as, but it doesn’t matter. She still looks great. They play covers, play them well, and we pile onto the dance floor, bouncing in that way that people do when they’re trying to avoid spilling drinks. I’m on my second or third since hitting Bourbon Street, with a few before that.

It’s going to be a long night.

I fucking love New Orleans. It’s a filthy, dirty city with an incomparable life of its own. It’s a tourist town, most definitely, but one that people actually live in. There’s construction all over the place, honest industry and all that jazz (heh). More than that people are good in this city. They nod and smile as you walk past, are quick to shoot the shit and unafraid to help a stranger with a foreign accent.

And it is absolutely bonkers at the best of times, only growing more insane during its festivals and holidays and parades. The night after Halloween the local bicycle club rode past the hostel. Dozens of bikes lit up with neon and carrying blaring music from speakers on trailers or hitched to the seats. I mean, that just doesn’t happen in other cities, at least not in the same way because this, this is normal.

What’s also normal is drinking. We pass from one bar to another, hopping over puddles and picking our way through the crowd and debris of a city wide party. More bands, more music, more alcohol. Our group gradually dwindles, as is inevitable on any pub crawl. People get tired, people get too drunk and high, people need to go to work the next day (massive respect to the Brazilian who needed to attend a convention the next morning – and did – but still made it to three in the morning).

I’m on the rye and ginger ale, which I’ve got a taste for at the moment. Probably go back to scotch and cokes when I get back to Australia (can’t ever shake those bogan beginnings) but for now I’m enjoying the smooth sweetness. I flirt with people unsuccessfully. We keep drinking. It’s as easy as breathing, what with the ability to walk the streets legally with your grog in hand and the low, low prices (even in the tourist areas). I mean, it’s not always cheap, but you get a high alcoholic content for your buck (I nearly gagged on one drink that was mostly bad whiskey).

Eventually I get separated from the group. Long story that’s not very interesting. Time to make a decision. We’ve been making our way down Bourbon, with the intention to make our way to the party on Frenchman but we haven’t even made it halfway down. So that’s the way I head.

It’s not so much that the party’s winding down so much that it’s settling down. Folk have paired off or found the bar or event they want to end the night on. The crowd on the street is thinning, leaving a thicker layer of refuse than what I imagine is normal. More great costumes though, more to be seen and done.

It’s still going to be a long night.

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Thoughts at work: Mr Bean

So about a week back a friend comes into the bar I work at – the girl who taught me how to sling drinks properly in fact – for a sneaky bellini (in Vancouver that means an alcoholic peach slushy) and a quick chat. We hadn’t been able to talk much since she’d had to leave the restaurant (hospitality industry leads to some fucked up hours) so it was nice to catch up. Anyway, she told me a story a few stories about her recent adventures cat-sitting. Nothing crazy, mostly “I told my [family member] not to pay me so she filled the fridge with gourmet food that I have to eat before it goes bad” and the like, but one thing made me laugh.

My friend had been shopping (groceries) and had some other things that she needed to bring up to her [family member’s] apartment. Not wanting to make more than one trip (because no one ever wants to make more than one trip) she’d managed to sling all the bags and such over her shoulders until she resembled a hippopotamus waddling around on its hind legs, only to realise that she’d parked like an asshole (I’m using the North American spelling since she’s Canadian). Still within the lines but close enough to the person on her passenger side would have trouble opening their door. Like an asshole.

Now my mate, who actually tries not to be an asshole when she can, decides to move her car little to the side. Good on her. What she doesn’t want to do is put all the stuff she’s carrying down though. It took ages to load herself up and she doesn’t want to go through packing her shoulders and arms up all over again. So my friend does the only thing that makes sense at the same time. She swings the door open as wide as she can and stands half outside the car while she moves it. One hand, one foot inside the vehicle, the other foot on the street and the other hand sticking up into the air to keep a mess of shopping bags slipping off. And she got the bastard moved.

At this point in the telling of the story I’m watching her demonstrate the manoeuvre in the bar (it’s late and the place is basically empty) and I give her the best possible compliment I can think of.

“That is some Mr Bean shit right there.”

And it was, specifically reminding me of that time he bought a new chair. If you don’t know the one I’m talking about don’t worry. I got you covered.

Excuse me for four and a half minutes while I laugh my arse off (notice the proper spelling there).

Alright, I’m back.

One of the all time great role models, amiright? No, seriously. Mr Bean is great role model. I mean, I’m not gonna start suggesting you tie a sofa chair to the top of a mini and ride it home. Or blow up a paint can in order to rapidly redecorate. Or one of the many other ridiculous things that Rowan Atkinson’s incredible character has done. Seriously, don’t blow up paint cans when you want to redecorate. But if you’re looking for an example of ingenuity, determination, being able to both plan ahead and deal with crises on the fly, and – most importantly to an Aussie like me – practicality, then you can find no better.

So if I ever compare you to Mr Bean, there is a very good chance that it’s unironically one of the nicest things I could think of.

A Quick Heads Up

So, today’s not only my birthday (well, technically yesterday was because of timezones) but my parents – the ones I haven’t seen in nearly fifteen months – are arriving. I’m so very fuckin’ excited. This is my excited face. I know you can’t see my excited face, but that’s okay because it is basically just my normal face with slightly raised eyebrows. I know few of you know what I look like, and that’s also okay. I have a limited ability for outwardly displaying emotions and I’d prefer to leave it to your imaginations. Point is excited face. ‘Cause not only are my parents coming to Vancouver, we’re going to climb on a plane together and go bum around New York for a week. Gonna be sweeeeet.

Anyway, in the words of Busdriver – the immortal black astronaut – “So, what does this mean for you?”

It means I’m gonna be pretty incommunicado for the next week or two. That means no Irrational Irritations and Life in the Avenger’s Barracks this week coming, possibly no Old School Movie Review next week (we’ll see what my schedules like). I tried to build up a buffer but a couple of long shifts at the day job made it pretty impossible, especially with the sheer amount of writing it required.

And that segues nicely into the second thing I wanted to talk about. I’m gonna have to cut back on the scheduled posts. Right now it will probably just be Irrational Irritations going on sort of hiatus or semi-regular scheduling. Old School Reviews are easier to write up normally, and I don’t want to make Life in the Avenger’s Barracks take any longer that it has to (we’re eight chapters in and nobody’s even died yet). It’s become a much bigger project than I planned it to be originally – which is great because I’ve learnt so much from it – and it’s eaten away at all my writing time. So, until it’s done? We’ll see what I can get written up.

Thanks to those who read this and have a great week or two. Talk soon!

Irrational irritations and other Unnecessary Issues (29/3/16)

So, Canadian coins are a little stupid. So are American coins, since they’re basically the same (aside from the fact that the Yanks haven’t gotten around to getting rid of the penny or the dollar bill like normal countries), but I live in Canada and use Canadian coin to give Canadian change to Canadians so this is going to be a more specific rant about Canadian currency (Canada!).

I don’t have a problem with the one and two dollar coin. Those are fine, and I’ve even gotten used to calling them loonies and toonies. They’re a good size and feel pretty substantial. Good shit. No, I’m talking about the silver. Well, technically I’m talking about the nickel-plated steel, but silver sounds so much cooler. Anyway, there are two things that piss me off in particular: size discrepancies and making change.

Size-wise I am of course talking about the nickel and dime. Why the bloody fuck is the Canadian ten cent piece so much smaller than the five cent piece? Why is the more useful, more numerous larger denomination the more inconsequential of the two? I don’t know why and, quite frankly, I don’t want to know. What I do want to know is why you haven’t changed this Canada? Is it because they’re basically the same size as the American nickel and dimes and you’re worried that it might hurt tourism if you got your own currency Canada? Is that it? You don’t want to confuse poor American tourists? Well guess what, Americans don’t fucking care. The smart ones expect foreign-looking coinage in foreign lands and the stupid ones are too mesmerised by the fact that you have your own currency at all to care. Make your ten cent pieces bigger!

As for the second item on the list, making change, you need to ditch this whole ‘quarter’ nonsense and pick up on the Australian and New Zealand system of having a twenty and fifty cent system. Yes, I know it means printing a whole new coin (is it still printing if it’s not a note or bill, or is it called, like, stamping? Stamping new coins? Forging new coins? Can someone google this for me?) but guess what, you’ll need fewer coins in the system because shops, restaurants banks will need fewer coins in the till. Let me explain. Let’s say you need to give someone seventy cents change. Now to do that in Canada you need a minimum of four coins, two quarters and two dimes. In Australia on the other hand (with a fifty, twenty, ten and five cent piece available) you need a minimum of just two coins, a fifty and a twenty. And Australia beats or breaks even with Canadian on all but two occasions, twenty-five cents (a single quarter in Canada, a twenty and a five cent in Australia) and thirty-five cents (a quarter and a dime in Canada, a twenty, a ten and five cent in Australia). All the others are either ties or Australia wins. Need to give someone ninety cents? In Canada you need a minimum five coins, in Australia you need a minimum of three. Forty cents? Three in Canada, two in Australia. Fifty cents? Two and one. Less coin, more easily broken. Ipso facto, quarters are stupid as well.

Now, do I believe that Canada should change its money on my say-so alone? Of course I do. I’m fucking brilliant. But do your projections, work out your costs, mine your data. You’ll see I’m right, and you’ll regret not listening to me sooner. Because I’ll already be gone, back to the sunburnt land and our superior, grown-up currency!

Seriously though, loonies and toonies? Perfectly acceptable currency, very functional and I like the fact that you’ve given them nicknames. Also, thank God you got rid of the penny. Man, fuck the penny.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (15/3/16)

Yesterday was the fourteenth of March, 14.3 for most of the world but 3.14 for these arrogant North American wankers. Now I can complain long and hard about the American system of dating things, and I will at some point in the not too distant future, but this time I want to talk about something else. Y’see, thanks to the entirely irrational dating system used in North America yesterday was Pi day. Y’know, π. That number that ‘geniuses’ on TV use to prove that they’re geniuses by quoting it to the sixty-third decimal or some such bullshit, but us mere mortals usually round up to 3.14 (but never to exactly 3).

So yesterday was Pi day and that seems as good as any reason to complain about the lack of pies in Canada. The edible kind, not the numerical kind.

Well, there are pies up here in the northern hemisphere I suppose. I had pumpkin pie for the first time last Thanksgiving. It was alright, tasty enough, though it still doesn’t quite feel like it should be a dessert if you get my meaning. And other dessert pies aren’t unusual. It’s possible to get the occasional shepard’s pie floating around, made with mince that might even have come from a cow and reconstituted potato.

But I’m not talking about any of that, I’m talking about the proper Aussie meat pie. The kind that comes in a foil tin, fits in your hand and available from anywhere with a power outlet to plug in one of those mini-ovens (for keeping things warm and on display). Fuck 420, I wanna fuckin’ Four’N Twenty meat pie at that perfect temperature where the heat brings out the flavour of the beef and gravy but doesn’t burn the roof of your mouth. Mrs Mac or Sargents, drenched in tomato sauce (not ketchup, bloody tomato sauce) I wanna walk into a Vietnamese bakery (they don’t seem to have those here either, damnit) and a grab a steak and pepper pie on my way home from work, or suddenly realise that since I’m in Newtown I can sneak into a gourmet bakery and switch things up with a curry chicken or lamb and rosemary pie. I wanna goddamn meat pie. And a lamington. But mostly a goddamn meat pie.

There are a few places around that cater to the Aussie palate, but the only one that’s worth getting from a pie from is all the way up in Whistler (Peaked Pies, give it a go if you’re up there). Not surprising given the concentration of Australians up in Whistralia, but not a practical option down here in Vancouver. The other places just tasted… not good… enough? Yeah, not good enough. Like the meat was worse than the lowest grade horsemeat put into a service station pastry or the gravy tasted chalky and had the consistency of flubber or the pastry lacked the structural integrity to hold everything together or some combination of things. Just, not good enough. And still difficult to get to.

But good god I miss pies.

Irrational Irritations and other Unnecessary Issues (1/3/2016)

You know what I don’t actually mind anymore? People taking pictures of their food. Seriously, if you want to take pictures of that salad on your table and put it on Instagram that is not just completely okay with me, but these days I will defend you for doing so. No one is more surprised that I just typed out that last sentence more than me.

Now, it used to annoy me. Back home when I was out with friends we’d see someone holding their phones above their plates we’d have a good laugh at these ridiculous people letting their food go cold. If you were one of our friends there was a good chance we’d relentlessly mock you to your face, or at least share a groan at the sight of yet another picture of a steak sandwich appearing on your social media wall of choice. I mean, why would you be taking a photograph when you could be eating it? There are starving children all over who dream of that linguini in that bowl and here you are putting a picture of it up on the internet for them to see, rubbing it in.

Not surprising that I’d have a problem with something like this, at least initially. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’ll make broad judgements based on trivial and inconsequential things that have no real effect on me.. I’m half-a-hipster, so a complete arsehole. Shit, that’s what these posts are basically here for. Working at a restaurant you’d think that I’d only get more and more annoyed by people taking pictures of their food. Apparently, you’d be wrong.

Y’see I like the place I work at, I like the food, and I like that other people like the food. I may not be the one in the kitchen prepping calamari or flipping burgers, but I feel a certain pride in the quality of the meals we provide. They look good, they smell great, they taste amazing. Seeing someone who is so excited by the sight of one of our burgers that they want to create a permanent memory with their friends and share it with their mates appeals to that pride. It’s a fucking compliment, how could I be annoyed at that?

But it goes beyond pride at work. About a week after I arrived in Canada I went to a bar that I’d eventually become a regular at and began working my way through the cocktail menu. It’d only been a short while but I was already missing the people I’d left back home, and that night I was missing one of best mates in particular. Back home I’d have been at that new bar with him, ordering the whiskey and rum based while he’d be getting into the gin and vodka drinks. I missed that, so when I got a delicious twist on an old fashioned I did something I don’t normally do. Snapped a picture and tagged him with it on Instagram. Sharing a drink with my mate the only way I could. God bless social bloody media and all that.

So yeah, I get it. I appreciate it. I’m sorry to the people I made fun of. If you wanna take a picture of that lovely looking banana split you’re having for breakfast (yolo) than do it. I can’t guarantee I’ll ‘like’ it, mind you, but I’ll defend your right to put it on Facebook.

Still not a fan of gym selfies though. Fuck’em.

Bad behaviour for all the world to see: A thought on how social media might affect employment

So it was the end of my shift at work and I was taking a quick glance through Facebook while waiting something to eat. Between the obligatory pictures of people’s pet, distant parties, workout selfies and one awesome video of two kangaroos fighting in the middle of a school (with the usual “meanwhile, in Australia…” tag) were a whole heap of unusual posts and changes by one of my good mates. Strange stuff, like switching his gender from “he” to “she,” sharing a page about veganism, changing his profile pic and cover photo to something less than flattering and making it clear that he would no longer be shoving his thumb up his bum. This last one was quite clever, since it involved changing his employment status to “bum thumb” and then quitting it, thereby adding “Quit bum thumb” onto his timeline with a little comment. Now, the easy assumption to make is that his Facebook was taken over by someone that was not my mate. Maybe a tech-savvy enemy had broken through Facebook’s security to play havoc with his life. More likely he’d left his phone or computer unlocked and Facebook logged in and a cackling friend had gone to town. Where I come from both circumstances would be referred to as getting “hacked” so that’s the language I’m gonna use here. Now, he might not have been hacked. He might have become a transgender vegan since I last saw him a few days ago. I doubt it though. I mean transgender maybe, but vegan? No way, no how, no matter the preferred pronoun. I also can’t see him doing this to himself. So he must have been hacked. And that got me thinking.

One of the biggest issues that our generations moving forward are going to have to deal with is employers (current and prospective) going through our social media accounts and using that information to decide continued or prospective employment. It’s happening now, it’ll continue to happen, there’s nothing we can do about it. Except bitch and moan when an employer uses a picture from Facebook or Instagram of us passed out on the lawn surrounded by empty tequila bottles and a stolen hills hoist as an excuse to fire our drunken arses. Well, that and keep those pictures off the publicly viewable internet. If social media is an extension of an individual’s personality then companies have a right to base their decision upon whether or not that personality meets their standards, image and brand. On the other hand, do we as individuals not have the right to keep our personal and professional lives and views separate? But that’s a discussion for another time. What I began to wonder, and wonder if anyone else had begun to wonder, was if anyone had looked at a hacked account and decided that, no, this person isn’t for us?

Y’see, I spent a few years as a bank teller. Banks, you should know, care quite a bit about security and privacy. That meant not leaving personal information about clients lying where they could be seen (and preferably locking it away), not talking about our customers, changing our passwords regularly and, most importantly, logging out or locking our computers whenever we stepped away from them even if it was only one step. It meant that no one could access them when we weren’t looking, learn someone else’s personal details or deposit twenty grand that didn’t exist into their accounts. “Lock your computers” was a mantra amongst the management of most of the branches I worked at and failing to do so was a fast way to get in a lot of trouble. Fun times. And banks aren’t the only organisations concerned about security and privacy, just the one I was a low level customer service drone for.

Now companies and the people that handle employment are increasingly social media-savvy. Someone working for a corporate HR department would, looking through my friend’s Facebook page (and those of people like him) and guess, like I did, that he was hacked. That most likely he’d left his computer unlocked and his Facebook open and someone had taken the opportunity to take the piss. Now, let’s say this has happened obviously more than once. Might this HR person then conclude that (aside from not having mates who necessarily have their best interests at heart) this person has bad habits regarding their own security and privacy? Poor security awareness? Maybe. Maybe that otherwise harmless joke costs them an interview, under the assumption that bad personal habits make bad professional habits.

I’m not saying this does happen now. I’m not an employer, I’m not interviewing anyone, I’m not working for a company that seems to worry about employees social media accounts, I’m careful about what I post anyway. I can’t say I’ve heard about this happening to anyone yet so maybe I’m just, as I said, overthinking. But as social media comes to dominate more and more of our private and professional lives, we’re going to have to think about things like this. Because other people already are.

So, y’know, maybe next time you see your friend’s left his computer unlocked and Facebook open don’t declare their new found sexuality with a bunch of homophobic slurs. It might make them look bad in more ways than one.