In what can only be considered the perfect example of a double standard, women are practically wetting themselves at the sight of Channing Tatum and his spunky co-stars dropping trou in the movie Magic Mike. And yet, should a man cock an appreciative eyebrow at a comely lass, he is instantly labelled a boorish pervert.

When I confronted my female Facebook friends about their disgusting behaviour, the answers ran along the lines of “It’s our turn to leer.”

That’s all fine and dandy, but if women are suddenly so desperate to treat men as little more than meat puppets, so eager to demean us for the sake of their depraved fantasies, then the least I can do is give them something to stare at. Which is why I’ve decided to become a male stripper, um, exotic dancer.

I mean, seriously, how hard can it be? I’ve done my research – and by research I mean I’ve watched the trailer for Magic Mike – and have narrowed down the attributes a successful exotic dancer needs to a mere three.

One: The ability to dance. No problem: I’ve been wriggling my booty ever since the Frug was invented. Why, just the other day I was gyrating around the bedroom with a look of pure intensity on my face. The routine featured me hopping on one leg while clutching my other foot with both hands. That particular shimmy may have been the result of a close encounter between a baby toe and a bed post but picture that performed in a thong and suddenly it takes on a whole new context.

Two: Muscular build. According to Gray’s Anatomy (the medical research text, not the TV series), all men possess the same muscles. Some of us just prefer to keep our six-packs wrapped in several layers of protective insulation.

Three: Hairless body. OK, this one could be a bit trickier, especially for those whose body hair most closely resembles a pelt. Once considered a desirable indication of virility, back hair is now somehow considered, well, gross. Apparently 21st century women prefer their men as sleek as an otter. Or as a 10-year-old boy.

But how does one achieve a fur-less body? Lawnmower? Line trimmer? Secateurs? A female acquaintance recommended laser hair removal. A full-body Brazilian, as it were. Maybe I’ve seen Goldfinger one too many times, but just the mental image of a red-hot laser scorching one’s nether lands is enough to cause me to shrink in fear. However, if that’s what it takes to make women salivate, then let the zap-zap-zapping begin.

So there you have it: I’m turning in my journalist’s notebook for a spangled g-string and taking to the stage. Prepare to be astounded.

There is only one small detail I have yet to work out. Magic Mike is set in America, a country which still uses $1 bills, perfect for stuffing into skimpy outfits. But no matter how skilled I am as a dancer, I still may find it tricky to shake my money maker with my stubbies full of gold coins. And then there’s that whole chafing thing to consider.

It will all be worth it, of course, when the women start screaming. Too bad the music will be so loud I won’t be able to hear what they’re yelling.

This column originally appeared in the August 8 edition of the Napier (NZ) Courier.

Fifty shades of boredom

July 15, 2012

Photo: John Wesley Ireland

I’m not very good at sex. Wait . . . let me rephrase that: I’m not very good at writing about sex.

I have completed two novels and great chunks of two others. In those pages you’ll find well-rounded characters and witty dialogue and rousing adventure. You will not find much in the way of graphic intimacy. A few meaningful glances followed by clothes slipping to the floor followed by . . . fade to black.

As a writer, I believe sex, like toilet breaks, should happen off the page, which probably explains why I’ve sold several million fewer copies than EL James.

Unless you’ve had your head buried in a honey cave lately, you’ll know Ms James is the author of the Fifty Shades trilogy. And if you think a better title would be Filthy Shades, congratulations, you just read my mind.

I’m no prude – far from it. My copy of Rosemary’s Baby used to fall open of its own accord at the sex scene. But that was two paragraphs, as opposed to every second paragraph in the Fifty Shades collection.

Is there a plot lurking amidst all the pounding? Not that I’ve heard. One reader told me she was nearly finished the third book before any kind of story arc revealed itself. And the characters? Cardboard cutouts have more personality. The writing itself? Splendid, she noted, but only if you consider it high literature to have your lead character gasp “Holy cow” or “Oh my” at regular intervals.

The reader in question is, of course, Viking Woman. Her gender is the target audience for these books, which are a sordid example of a new genre dubbed ‘mummy porn’. (Note there is no such thing as ‘daddy porn’. Why would men strain their eyes reading about shenanigans when the internet is filled with such pretty pictures?)

EL James has not re-invented the wheel by any stretch of the imagination. She has simply wrapped it in leather, slapped it into submission and left readers panting for more. All while dropping more F-bombs than you’d hear at a wharfie convention.

Like The Da Vinci Code and the Millennium trilogy, the Fifty Shades books have ridden a tidal wave of media hysteria all the way to the top of the bestseller lists. People are reading them not so much because they want to (one lady said the books bored her silly; another said she only read the sex scenes, and then only sparingly) but because everyone else seems to be doing it. It’s the lemming effect and if I knew how it worked, I’d buy a jar and spread it all over my books. And then myself.

In the meantime, all I can do is try to take advantage of the phenomenon as best I can. If the Good Wife is reading about all that huffing and puffing, then surely she must be open to suggestion.

What I lack in the way of Christian Grey’s money and allure I more than make up for in movie trivia. Think about it – is there anything more erotic than the food-sex scene from Nine 1/2 Weeks? Not only did it practically melt cinema screens at the time, but it is incredibly easy to replicate.

And so one night recently, after emptying the fridge of its most mouth-watering contents, I appeared in the bedroom doorway wearing little more than a look of anticipation.

Only to find Viking Woman’s copy of Fifty Shades Freed lying splayed on the floor where it had fallen, and Viking Woman herself sound asleep with the lights on. Leaving me standing there holding my sausage roll.

There was nothing for it then but to return to the kitchen and, since the food was already out, indulge in a quick snack. My wife may be reading mummy porn, but the only thing I’m gettin’ is fat. Oh my, indeed.

A version of this column was originally printed in the July 11, 2012 Napier (NZ) Courier.

As thick as a Brick

July 3, 2012

In my family’s archives, there is a short video clip that an enterprising junior member has also posted to their Facebook page. There is no sound but the images clearly show my then-teenage daughter using a cellphone while she leans against my Buick Regal.

The video dates from the mid-’90s. I know this for a fact because the cellphone is bigger than my daughter’s head. In fact, it’s almost bigger than the Buick.

Those phones were called Bricks and you need no imagination whatsoever to understand why. They were massive and they were bulky and you could lose an eye to the fixed antenna and they came in any colour you desired just as long as that colour was grey.

But there were advantages to this i-sore, including the fact you could never misplace them because they were the size of a small dog and when was the last time your dog fell between the couch cushions. Plus you never had to worry about pocket-calling Uruguay because, let’s face it, no way was that monster going to fit in your pocket. They were also simplicity itself when it came to use. On, dial, off. No texting, no internet, no camera. Mainly because those gremlins had yet to be invented.

I miss my Brick and never more so than right now when, if I’ve interpreted the Telecom propaganda correctly, my wee Nokia is about to become obsolete. Something about format change or network change or something or other I have no hope of understanding because I’m not 12 years old.

I only bought the phone in the first place in case of an emergency. Except I already know, should I find myself dangling upside down from the seatbelt in an overturned car in a deep ditch, that will be the precise moment the battery will die.

“Just text me,” people tell me. And my first thought is not “good as gold” but, rather, “I have no idea how to do that” and then “I have no idea where my teeny, tiny phone is”.

I don’t want a new phone. I’ve had the Nokia for five years and have yet to figure out how it works, so why would I want a new one with upgraded features. At one time, such gadgets came with manuals which, being a man, I quickly shoved into a drawer and forgot about. Now those manuals are online, making them easier to ignore but adding an extra layer of technology should I actually have a question along the lines of “How do I turn this darn thing on?”.

Face it, this dog is too old for new tricks. I can barely function in this new hi-tech world of ours. I’ve seen youngsters text while riding a bike; a friend reports he once saw someone with a cellphone in each hand, texting on both of them. I used to think being able to chew gum and walk at the same time was an admirable skill. No more.

So how do these kids do it? How do they know to operate all these contrary contraptions? Do they have more time to figure them out because their lives aren’t taken up with such trivial pursuits as, say, working for a living or paying bills or keeping pirates from selling off the country’s assets? Is there something in the beef hormones that make them more tech-savvy? If I eat more burgers will that make me smarter or just fatter?

My guess is they’re born with the knowledge. I imagine little i-babies, tucked up in the womb, clutching a notebook or an i-Pad or a mobile phone. That’s not kicking, that’s an embryo using a Nintendo Wii.

I imagine an expectant mother receiving a text one evening after dinner and turning to her husband, her eyes wide in disbelief.

“It’s from the baby,” she’ll say, holding up her cellphone to show her partner.

“What’s he want now?”

“He says if I don’t stop eating spicy food, he’s going to pop out in middle of the game and teach us both a lesson.”

That scenario would never have happened in the ’90s, of course. Because there isn’t room inside the uterus for both a baby and a Brick.

A version of this blog posting appeared in the July 4, 2012 Napier (New Zealand) Courier.

Photo: Duncan Brown/Napier Courier

I originally interviewed Napier, New Zealand-based author Charity Norman for a story that was published in the May 2, 2012 edition of the Napier Courier. Charity, who is related to Virgina Woolf, chatted with me for nearly 30 minutes. I wasn’t able to fit all of Charity’s quotes into the newspaper and so, in the interest of the world-wide writing community, I’ve decided to put together this blog post based on our conversation.

Charity, 47, was born in Uganda but grew up in England. After turning her back on a career as a barrister to concentrate on her writing, Charity and her Kiwi husband, Tim Meredith, moved to New Zealand in 2002 and then to Napier three years ago. They have three children.

Her first book, Freeing Grace, was published in Australia and New Zealand by Allen & Unwin in 2010. Her second book, Second Chances, will be published on July 2.

BMM: Did you always want to be a writer?

CN: Yes. As a child, I lived in Yorkshire and my father is a vicar – like the Bronte sisters, whose father was also a vicar. My father had seven children and Patrick Bronte had a similar number. I thought I was Emily Bronte as a child. I used to make up really appalling poetry. But, as life went on, I realised I needed a proper career and proper money. I was a barrister for about 15 years or so in the northeast of England. I practised in crime and family, which feed into (Freeing Grace). The book is about adoption and so I was able to use a lot of my experiences in court and experiences with working for local authorities taking children away from their parents or acting for parents attempting to have their children not taken away. All of that has fed into this book and the next and, I suppose, into my life.

BMM: Tell us about your first foray into writing, after you and Tim moved the family to New Zealand.

CN: The intention was I would have time to write, because I’d always wanted to, and I’d started a book after I had one of the children. I finished that book, which is now in a drawer, and I just kept writing. It’s very difficult to write in a vacuum, not knowing if you’re wasting your time, if you’re being selfish in throwing away financial stability for no reason. And then I started worrying that I was setting a bad example for the children. And then finishing the book and finding an agent and a publisher is such an incredibly nailbiting business. It was a huge process, that first (published)book.

BMM: What was your reaction to receiving the email from an agent asking to see the full manuscript?

CN: It was like a miracle because you can’t really believe it’s going to happen. You’ve lived in this vacuum for so long and you start to lose confidence and have this niggling doubt that you might be rubbish.

BMM: You’ve said that the hardest part came after you signed with an agent.

CN: When I got the agent, I was so happy. She is excellent and I thought it would be easy from there but, in some respects, it actually got so much harder. They wanted it rewritten. I did that, sent it back to the agent’s editor and I got an email back saying it’s not ready, you’ve got to rewrite it again. By the time I sent it back, that editor had left and the new one wanted different changes. I think I had four different editors and all of that was quite soul-destroying. I spent two years rewriting, which was an anxious time as I didn’t know if I’d ever get it sold at the end of it. Every line has been rewritten; some may have been rewritten 50 times. I’m not complaining because I genuinely think it was good for me. It was a great exercise. It was a bit like doing a degree in being forced to continually look at every sentence.

When my agent finally sent the book out, it sold within a few months.

BMM: What originally attracted the agent to your manuscript?

CN: They liked the writing, they liked the story. I think a good agent knows what she likes in terms of writing style. I sometimes wonder if it isn’t a rewriting test. Agents and publishers like to see an author who is prepared to rewrite. I do think the biggest secret to being a published writer is being prepared to take constructive criticism onboard. You’ve got to be able to cross it out and start again.

BMM: How would you describe your genre?

CN: I am not fond of pigeonholes but (the publishers) call it as ‘upmarket women’s fiction’. I don’t really try to write literary, because that can be incredibly boring. I want what I write to be very readable. I want it to be fun. I do have things I want to say but I want it to be entertaining at the same time. Daphne du Maurier, for example, writes really good stuff, but thoroughly readable. Intelligent fiction doesn’t have to be turgid and impregnable, as some work is. I care about the writing but it shouldn’t get in the way of a good story.

BMM: Reviewers have generally been kind to Freeing Grace. How do you react to having strangers comment on your work?

CN: I’ve got better at it but you find yourself doing sad, sad, sad things like Googling your own name, Or getting your child to. Here, in New Zealand, there was much more interest in me than there was in the book, which is perhaps a cultural thing because I’m local.

BMM: Do you write for love or money?

CN: For the love. Although, if I didn’t think it was going to bring in something, I’d feel tempted to go back to what was a lucrative job, an interesting job. (The book) has started to make more –  in particular the French have been really good and have sold many thousands of copies. That’s started to make more sensible money but if I worked out how much I was paid per hour for writing that first book, I suspect it would be half a cent, or something ridiculous.

BMM: With Second Chances hitting bookstores in July, are you worried at all about the dreaded sophomore slump?

CN: (With the first book) it was such a long slog - so many false dawns, so many times I thought they’d say this time it’s ready and it wasn’t – all those constant disappointments give you a better attitude. Eight years ago, I would have been biting my nails but I’ve got so much better at thinking, ‘I’ll just keep going. If it’s not selling, don’t panic. You’re lucky to be published.’ And I do feel so incredibly lucky to be published at all.

BMM: Tell us about your writing routine.

CN: In theory, it starts as soon as the children go to school. And I carry on without stopping, at all, until they come home from school, and then I write at night. In theory, I can go from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. In practice, someone phones, someone comes to the door, my husband walks in and out of the house saying annoying things, I have to go do this or that – so it never works like I’m hoping it will. And so I end up doing an awful lot late at night. When I get really desperate, I go stay in a cabin belonging to some lovely friends. Twice I have gone up there and done nothing but write for a week and that really helps. That’s really good for getting you over the hump.

The owners of Thorps Coffee House (in Napier) have also been incredibly good to me. When my house is chaotic, the washing has piled across all surfaces, the phone won’t stop ringing and I am completely desperate, I can go down there. It’s a haven. They let me plug my computer into their power source. I have a quiet table at the back that I think of as my emergency office. That and several cups of coffee – to which I am addicted – normally gets 1,000 words written. In fact (Second Chances) owes a lot to them.

BMM: Where do your book ideas come from?

CN: I used to take very long walks and a lot of ideas would simply come to me. I think that was a better way to write, to have time to let ideas form. I should make myself do that now more. Snippets from newspapers. The library. People tell you stories or you hear of stories. When you are thinking of things you can write about, things take on a different meaning to you.

BMM: What advice can you offer to new writers?

CN: Keep writing. You’ve got to write. A lot. Hone that skill. Never assume that you are skilled enough. You can always get better. Keep reading and keep rewriting. If you are criticized constructively, be grateful.

HBTV’s Simon Nixon (left) interviews Brown Girls author John Wesley Ireland during the taping of an episode of Chatroom. (Photo: Warren Buckland/Napier Courier)

The last time I wore makeup was when two small children decided to dress me up as a woman. I only held still because I was trying to impress their mother. Considering their mother and I have now been together for 20 years, it would appear enduring the assault on my manliness worked a charm.

My most recent brush with cosmetics came when the lovely Vania applied powder to my face in an effort to make it appear less full-moonish. Needless to say, the procedure used up an alarmingly large amount of her supply.

The reason Vania was doing her utmost to make me look presentable was my first TV appearance since I hosted a news magazine programme for Cook Islands TV. This time, however, I would be answering questions instead of asking them.

The occasion was the taping of an episode of Chatroom for Television Hawke’s Bay. Going into the studio, I still wasn’t sure why anyone would be remotely interested in anything I had to say. But, apparently, station director Judith Sawyer is a fan of this column and thought her viewing audience might be entertained by a veteran journalist with a novel to promote.

While I awaited my turn on the brown couch, I watched host Simon Nixon on the monitor as he interviewed a lady about her anti-fracking stance. She was well-spoken, well-informed and well-dressed. That’s when the nerves kicked in and, for a brief, terrifying moment, I was positive I’d start sweating through my makeup to the point where it would look as if my face was melting.

“Please buy my book before my forehead sloughs into my lap” is probably not the ideal marketing campaign.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Simon and I hit it off right away and were soon nattering away like two old friends meeting in a cafe. If cafes came equipped with really bright lights and three large cameras and a microphone cord shoved down your shirt.

I told him about my journalism career and how I came to write my novel, Brown Girls, and why I’ve decided to market and sell it as an ebook through my own website.

The interview was divided into three segments, each consisting of eight minutes (commercials will fill out the rest of the 30-minute time slot), and my original fear of not being able to fill even one segment was quickly replaced by a fear of not having time to say everything I wanted to.

In the end, we never did talk about the Cook Islands photography book I hope to publish in an effort to raise money for the Red Cross.

Neither did I have the opportunity to mention the “A-ha!” moment.

This, of course, is not to be confused with the “Eureka!” moment or the “Woo-hoo!” moment. “A-ha!” is the noise I make when, while reading about a wildly-successful person, I come across the exact moment when they caught their big break. The hungry fashion photographer who drops into a fast-food outlet, only to stumble across the beautiful girl working behind the counter. Chris Klein charging around a corner in his high school and bowling over a talent scout looking to fill out the cast of American Pie.

We’ve all experienced such moments, the times where, for no good reason we can explain, we turned left when we had every intention of going right, and so met a future partner or the person who hired us for our dream job or somehow changed our lives.

Serendipity? Dumb luck? Good timing? Karma gods smiling? Best not to attempt to label it. Best to just sit back, hold on tight and enjoy the rocket ride to fame/success/riches/wild women.

I didn’t get to talk to Simon Nixon about “A-ha!” moments. Maybe because I’m meant to talk to him about that during our next interview. The one where, after this column is published, Brown Girls goes on to sell a million copies.

Someone should warn Vania she’s going to need a fresh supply of powder.

* The Chatroom interview featuring John Ireland will air Friday, May 11, 7.30pm on TVHB, UHF 51, and be re-broadcast the next day at 7.30am and 12.30pm. It will also be available for viewing at http://www.tvhb.co.nz

* For more information on Brown Girls, visit http://www.johnireland.co.nz

I’m guessing the first week of school after the Easter break in New Zealand was a quiet one, what with all the puberty-challenged girls having screamed themselves voiceless during the recent holiday break.

In what can only be described as teen idol overload, the nation’s tweeny population had barely packed away its homemade “I (heart) Reese” posters after the exit of Young Master Mastin when the lads from One Direction dropped by to be worshipped at the altar of estrogen. It was like being invaded by the Huns and Gauls in the same week. Where’s a good Hadrian’s Wall when you need it?

I saw them on the news, those hordes with their eyes blazing from adrenalin overload, their gaping mouths all a-silver with the best braces Daddy’s money can buy, their androgynous bodies quivering with what can only be described as mass hysteria.

What, I wondered, would they do if one of their plastic boys had actually stepped past the beefy security and waded into the crowd? What would their buzzy brains have thought to say? “OMG! LOL! Which Barbie shall we play with today? Oh, and can you help me with my homework? Starting with the correct spelling of ‘zealot’.”

Young females practically wetting themselves in the worship of music godlets is nothing new of course. They did it for Elvis. They did it for The Beatles. They will do it for someone else tomorrow.

I was 10 when A Hard Day’s Night came to the venerable Clova Theatre in Cloverdale, a dusty town known more for hosting one of North America’s largest rodeos than its appreciation of the arts. But the Clova was the closest cinema to my hometown and so one night my father bundled the family off to see the shaggy-haired Fab Four in their first flirtation with the silver screen.

The place was a madhouse, so full that the only empty seats available were in the “crying room,” a closed-in area off to the side where, behind layers of thick glass, mothers could deal to their cranky babies without disturbing the general audience. But even in an area designed to swallow the sounds of squalling bubs, we could hear the hysterical screams issuing from inside the theatre proper.

It was sheer pandemonium, absolute chaos, drowning out the film’s soundtrack and leaving my parents _ more accustomed to the soothing tones of crooners like Frank Sinatra and Perry Como and Nat King Cole _ shaking their heads in bewilderment.

While I will admit to singing along (very badly) at concerts, I have never _ ever _ felt the urge to scream like my hair was on fire.

Maybe it’s a man thing but I tend to save my lungs for events with the potential to forge history. Sporting events, for instance. And by sports I mean, of course, hockey.

 But even then, it’s not simple bellowing, but rather clever witticisms along the lines of “Hit him with your purse, ya wimp!” and “Hey ref, I found your guide dog!”. Loud, yes, but also supremely intelligent, as befits the male of the species.
I have no idea why young girls yelp at young men in mindless, gullible adoration, simply because said lads possess clear complexions, straight teeth and jeans so tight they threaten to cut off the circulation to their boy bits. Because we all know it’s less about pure talent and more about ‘there but for Simon Cowell go I’.

So here I sit, dazed and confused, curious as to why people who neither write their own songs nor play their own instruments manage to whip sweet young misses into whirling dervishes.

 I also can’t help but chuckle at the constant claims of how The Next Cute Thing is en route to becoming “bigger than The Beatles”. Justin Bieber was going to do that. So were the Bay City Rollers. Remember them? Yeah, neither do I.

Reprinted courtesy of the Napier (New Zealand) Courier.

They’re the words no journalist wants to hear.

“There’s a typo in your story,” said my colleague.

“What?” I quickly flicked through the newspaper to the indicated page. “That can’t be. I read that thing through at least a half dozen times.”

And yet there it was. My eyes zoomed right to it: an extra “s.” It could not have been more obvious if it were circled in cocaine and lit by a disco ball.

I’d written “professionals photographers” instead of “professional photographers.” Crap!

I know: it’s not the end of the world. But the reading public expects a newspaper’s content to be perfect. I’d let them down. On top of that, I imagined staffers at the The Competition shaking their heads, making a “tsk-tsk” sound and noting that “oh, so he’s not as perfect as he’d like everyone to believe.” Double crap!

It’s not the first time a typo has slipped through. Inevitably, and unfortunately, it won’t be the last. And, I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, an extra “s” is more sloppy than embarrassing.

If you’re looking for embarrassing, the king of them all is, of course, omitting the “l” from “public.”

“The mayor called for a pubic debate on the issue.” “The president was encouraged by pubic reaction to his speech.”

Ouch and double ouch. That is the epitome of cringe-worthy. And yet I have seen it done.

An interesting flip side to that was found in a magazine story I was reading about Brazilians. It read something like, “More and more men are opting to have the hair removed from their public areas.”

A typo in reverse. Now that’s a new one.

I was spurred to share these thoughts by a recent headline I spotted in one of our national newspapers.

It was datelined the United States and read “tenn girls murdered by ‘Speed freak killers’ named”.

My first thought was that the headline writer was using the abbreviation for Tennessee (Tenn.) and had simply forgot to uppercase the “T” and add the period. I was wrong. Because the third sentence in the story mentioned teen girls. So the headline should have read “Teen girls murdered . . . “

Somewhat less than professional, methinks.

Of course newspaper typos aren’t limited to journalists — sales reps have messed up as well. Viking Woman should know. In another life, she sold newspaper ads and told me the normal chain of command would involve a design person putting the ad together, which would then be proofed both by the sales rep and the person/company paying for the ad. So that’s three sets of eyes before the ad goes to print.

Which doesn’t explain how one supermarket ended up advertising a 99-cent deal on two-litre Cock. I’m going to guess that store manager sprayed Coke out his nose when he read that in the morning paper. On the bright side, he did report an upswing in the number of female customers. I guess size – and weight – does matter.

Another Viking Woman whoopsie involved a small classified ad that was supposed to read “some shift work required.” It appeared in the paper (after passing through the proofing process) as “some shit work required.”

Not exactly a laughing matter at the time but Viking Woman did hear from several sources that various staff room bulletin boards had that ad posted and circled with remarks along the lines of “So you think your job is bad.”

An extra “s”? Yeah, I’m not going to sweat it. But lesson learned: I will be more diligent in the future. Especially if the story involves someone drinking Cock in pubic.

The excitement around the office was palpable.

Another Mission concert! The crowds! The venue! The non-stop drinking! The music! The drinking!

Yes, sadly, it was the actual entertainment that was rated far down the list whenever war stories of past Mission mayhem were rehashed. One fellow employee recalled a pair of inebriated punters who passed out early and missed the entire concert.

My record of having never attended a Mission concert remains intact. Sliding around a grassy slope surrounded by 25,000 drunken louts spewing pre-digested alcohol on each other? Not gonna happen. It would take John and George returning from heaven’s rock’n’roll hall of fame for a Beatles reunion for me to even consider such an outing and even then I may just stay home and wait for the DVD.

 I don’t do live concerts anymore. I grew tired of scrambling for a parking spot, of elbowing my way into the venue, of being surrounded by mouth-breathing cretins, of coming home smelling like a grow op, of lying awake all night with my ears ringing, of doing the zombie shuffle at work after a hard day’s night.

Maybe I just grew old.

Maybe I’ve seen all I need to see. Springsteen: twice. (Best. Concerts. Ever.) Petty learning to fly. The Grateful Dead jamming for five hours straight. The Beach Boys when all three Wilson brothers were still alive.

The Beach Boys, in fact, broke my concert cherry. It was October 1973, the night before I flew to Europe for a six-month jaunt that lasted three weeks (some people say there was a woman to blame). We were crammed into some kind of performance hall at the University of British Columbia. The opening act was an obscure musician touring North America on the back of his first single, a little ditty called Piano Man.

“Billy Joel sucks!” some leather-lunged buffoon hollered from the cheap seats.

Years later, I saw Billy Joel in concert again. This time he was headlining and the crowd cheered his every song, his days of suckage obviously well and truly over.

The novelty of live performance came to an end for me in the ’80s. It was my daughter’s birthday. She was 10, or 11, or 12 or something. One of those ages when she still considered her old man cool. Especially when I bought tickets for her and a couple friends to see the New Kids on the Block at B.C. Place.

This is a venue custom-built for football and, as such, it works very well, what with its huge seating capacity. What the place doesn’t have is decent acoustics. Sound simply disappears into the far reaches of this covered dome, never to be heard again.

Not that it mattered to the thousands of pre-pubescent females in attendance. Their incessant screaming served to drown out whatever noise might have been issuing from the speakers.

I didn’t care about the music or the screams. Neither did the hundreds of other dads I met that afternoon. While Donnie Wahlberg and four nobodies shook their asses and yelped out songs they were four shades of Caucasian too white to own, I wandered through the covered concourse, looking at my watch, watching the other fathers — all of us reduced on that day to little more than chauffeur/chaperone status — and shaking our heads in sympathetic disgust whenever our eyes happened to meet.

It was painful at the time and the memory still haunts me. To paraphrase Rod the Mod himself, that last cut was the deepest.

The good news is that, some 25 years later, my eardrums hardly ever bleed anymore.

I flipped the bird to a lady this morning. I’m not proud of my actions, starting with the fact that I’m way too old to be indulging in such childish gestures.

In my defence, however, I was having rather a bad morning. It had rained during my it’s-still-bloody-dark-out walk and I had yet to have my fifth coffee of the day. Never a good combination.

Plus I felt this particular lady was acting like a total bitch.

The situation began when I dropped Viking Woman off at work. I had my signal on, so everyone knew what I was up to, the car was well clear of the traffic flow, and it was obvious by the fact I was sitting parallel to the road and not pulled into a parking space that I had no intention of doing anything but pausing.

I first spotted the lady when I glanced in my side mirror to ensure I was well and truly out of the driving lane. I could tell by her expression and the way she was yapping to herself that she wasn’t happy. I assumed she wanted the parking spot I was momentarily blocking.

Instead of pulling in behind me and waiting two seconds until I pulled back into traffic, she instead zipped around the corner. Which is where I encountered her, two seconds later, getting out of her parked car. She recognized my vehicle, of course, and carried on with her yapping, this time directed at me as I drove past.

I’ve never claimed to be a lip reader but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t saying “Have a nice day.”

Which is when I lost a bit of self-control and showed her the middle finger of my left hand. She wouldn’t need to be a lip reader either to understand the two words I mouthed right back at her.

I usually don’t give into road rage. Even if someone cuts me off, I rarely engage the horn. I figure if I have time to honk, I have time to brake.

I’m always nervous that two things will happen after I lean on the horn, wave my arms around and run through my entire vocabulary of curse words.

One: The offender and I will end up side-by-side at the next red light.

Two: The offender will be larger and more aggressive than me.

This concern about my personal safety probably dates back to an incident that incurred while I was working for the provincial Ministry of Highways. I was a flag man on this particular day, using my Stop/Go sign to direct traffic around some kind of roadworks.

No one likes to have their hectic/important schedule interrupted by construction, which probably explains why this one particular fellow zoomed right past my Stop sign.

“Asshole!” I yelled at the back of his car as he sped away.

Cue sudden squeal of brakes. Driver’s side door opening. Big glowering guy stomping in my direction.

I had time for three thoughts:

1)      For a guy who was  in such a big hurry, it’s amazing he now has time to deal to me.

2)      I’m almost positive my workmate will intervene. Any minute now. OK, now.

3)      I’m going to die.

Naturally – because that’s how these things work – Mr. Angry Face was taller than me. I’m not sure if my feet actually left the road surface but I know I was at least up on my tippy-toes when he grabbed the front of my safety vest and yanked me into his personal space.

“What did you call me?”

“Nothing,” I lied, momentarily interrupting my prayers.

He gave me one last shake, let go, stomped back to his car.

I straightened my vest, pretended all the other drivers who had actually managed to stop weren’t staring, and looked around for my partner. Turns out he was standing several feet away, well out of harm’s way.

“Where were you?” I asked.

“Watching,” he said.

I still shudder at the thought of how close I came to swallowing my own teeth. Which is why I make a point of never engaging with other drivers.

Unless I haven’t had my fifth coffee of the day.  And the other driver is a woman. And the lane ahead is clear of traffic, allowing me a quick escape.

All that glitters . . .

Pip is 22. She’s blonde and she’s comely and, except for a thin layer of paint and glitter, she’s also pretty much naked.

Welcome to the world of body art. Where bare skin is both  encouraged and celebrated.

Pip - who, just for the record, is also clad in nipple covers and black knickers – is a living canvas for Jakkii Goody, the owner of Fabart, one of only two national face and body art companies in New Zealand. Jakkii is preparing for the January 26-29 New Zealand International Body Painting Competition in Taupo by doing a practice run. Tonight she has covered Pip’s torso with the painted version of an Art Deco-themed flapper dress.

I’ve shown up out to do an interview and take photos and give a pair of local ladies some welcome newspaper coverage.

That the two have teamed up is an example of happenstance: they’d met at an earlier event and just clicked.

Talent met body. Cue the magic.

“You certainly have to consider the anatomy and the body shape of the model you’re working with,” says Jakkii. “The breasts and the hips become a really great feature of body art.”

Pip certainly has the body for body art. I’m doing my best to be discreet but it’s not every day that I am in the same room with a shapely young miss displaying this much skin. Even if it is covered by glitter

Am I embarrassed? Yeah, probably. A little bit.

I’m also shy. Pretty girls, even fully clothed, tie my tongue and my shoelaces. I stumble in their presence because they intimidate me. I am overwhelmed by their beauty. I know: typical man.

“Focus on the eyes,” is a standard mantra for photographers and it was never more truer than tonight.

I ask Pip if she’s cold. She says no, because it’s a warm summer evening.

I ask her about the first time she offered her body up to art. It was at the event where she met Jakkii. Pip and a friend served beer. I ask if sales were brisk. She said yes. I ask if any of her customers tipped her. She says yes.

Pip says she wasn’t embarrassed to be clad in little more than paint.

“I felt like a star,” she says. “Everyone wanted to have photos taken with me. Everyone was looking at me as I walked through the crowd.”

I ask if she knows why they were looking.

She says yes.

We shake hands, I wish Jakkii good luck in the competition and I leave. Later, on the drive home, I replay the encounter in my mind. Did I jabber on too much in an effort to mask my discomfort? Did I take too many photos? Do I have one that will illustrate the story without showing so much skin that it causes some pensioner to choke on her porridge when the paper lands on her breakfast table?

My secret goal has always been to be a fashion photographer, to take photos of beautiful women in interesting settings and poses.

Now I’m reconsidering that goal. Maybe I should stick to writing and leave the camera work to those who are not so easily rattled.

Several years ago, a newspaper photographer told me a story about how a young lady had come into the office to ask him about becoming a model. She followed him into the darkroom (I told you it was years ago) where the fellow was developing photos for the next day’s edition. When he turned away from his chemical trays and back to the woman, she was sitting on the counter, completely naked.

I forget now how his story ended, but I do remember having two reactions:

1) Oh, man, that is so cool.

and

2) Oh, God, I hope that never happens to me.

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